The Best of the Achaeans
Concepts of the Hero in Archaic Greek Poetry
Revised Edition
Gregory Nagy

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Chapter 3

A Conflict between Odysseus and Achilles in the Iliad

§1. As we have already seen, some experts argue that the quarrel of Achilles and Odysseus in Odyssey viii is a pastiche actually based on the opening of our Iliad, where Achilles and Agamemnon have their memorable quarrel.[1] But in this line of reasoning there is a flaw that we have yet to single out: it presupposes that one text (the Odyssey) is here referring to another text (the Iliad). The same sort of flaw afflicts the argument of other experts who seek to show that the Odyssean passage in question refers to some lost passage in the Homeric Cycle (specifically, the Cypria).[2] Even if we were to accept for the moment the dubious notion that parts of the Homeric Cycle are drawn from some text that predates our Iliad and Odyssey, the fundamental objection remains the same: when we are dealing with the traditional poetry of the Homeric (and Hesiodic) compositions, it is not justifiable to claim that a passage in any text can refer to another passage in another text. Such a restriction of approaches in Homeric (and Hesiodic) criticism is one of the most important lessons to be learned from the findings of Milman Parry and Albert Lord on the nature of traditional "oral" poetry.[3]

§2. I will confine myself, then, to examining whether a poem that is composed in a given tradition may refer to other traditions of composition. Thus, for example, our Odyssey may theoretically refer to traditional themes that are central to the stories of the Cypria--or even to the stories of the Iliad, for that matter. But even in that case, such traditional themes would have varied from composition to composition. There may theoretically be as many variations on a theme as there are compositions. Any theme is but a multiform, and not one of the multiforms may be considered a functional "Ur-form." Only by hindsight can we consider the themes of our Iliad to be the best of possible themes.

§3. In the specific case of Odyssey viii 72-82, we do indeed see what amounts to an Iliadic overture in the thematic combination of Achilles, Agamemnon, grief for Trojans and Achaeans, involvement of Apollo, and the Will of Zeus. Nevertheless, we may not infer that these themes were based specifically on the opening of our Iliad.[1] There are traditional elements in the epic opening reported by Odyssey viii 72-82 that go beyond the scope of the opening in Iliad I. These elements may still be considered "Iliadic" only in the sense that clear traces of them are indeed to be found in our Iliad. But they are not within the actual opening of Iliad I; instead, they surface here and there in the rest of the composition.

§4. For a striking illustration, I begin with the reference in Odyssey viii 78 to the quarreling Achilles and Odysseus as "the best of the Achaeans" (aristoi Akhaiôn), where the context of their quarrel is a dais 'feast' (viii 76). Let us compare a scene in Iliad VIII, where Agamemnon seeks to revive the fighting spirit of the demoralized Achaeans. He stands on the ship of Odysseus (VIII 222), which is exactly halfway between the ships of Ajax on one extreme and Achilles on the other (VIII 223-226),[1] and begins his speech with these words:

adw, Argeoi, kk' lgxea, edow ghto:
p ban exvla, te d fmen enai ristoi,
w pt' n Lmn keneauxew gorasye,
syontew kra poll bon ryokrairvn,
pnontew krhtraw pistefaw onoio,
Trvn ny' katn te dihkosvn te kastow
stsesy' n polm: nn d' od' nw jio emen
Ektorow, w txa naw niprsei pur khl.

Shame, Argives! Though splendid in appearance, you are
base objects of blame.[2]
Where have the boasts gone, when we said that we are the best [aristoi]?[3]
These boasts you uttered, saying empty words, at Lemnos,
when you were eating the abundant meat of straight-horned oxen
and drinking from great bowls filled to the brim with wine,
how any one of you could each stand up against a hundred or even two hundred Trojans
in battle. But now we cannot even match one of them,
Hektor, who is about to set fire to our ships with burning fire.
VIII 228-235

In verses 231-232, we note that the setting for this scene of boasting is equivalent to a dais, which in viii 76 had served as the setting for the scene of quarreling between Odysseus and Achilles. In the present passage, the key words for understanding its affinity with viii 72-82 are at VIII 229: aristoi 'best', in collocation with the plural noun eukhôlai 'boasts', derived from the verb eukhomai 'boast'. Agamemnon's own claim to be "best of the Achaeans" is in fact formulated with this same verb:

w nn polln ristow Axain exetai enai

who now boasts to be by far the best of the Achaeans
I 91

w mg' ristow Axain exetai enai

who boasts to be by far the best of the Achaeans
II 82

From the intensive studies of Leonard Muellner on the behavior of eukhomai 'boast' and its substitute phêmi 'say' in Homeric diction, we know that these words are used by or of a hero to express his superiority in a given area of heroic endeavor.[4] Take, for example, V 171-173, where we hear that no one in Lycia can boast (eukhetai: 173) to be better than Pandaros in archery (171), and that the hero thus gets kleos in this area of endeavor (172).[5] We may compare kleos at Odyssey viii 74, correlated with neîkos 'quarrel' between the aristoi Akhaiôn 'best of the Achaeans', Odysseus and Achilles himself (viii 78). Granted, the scene of eukhôlai 'boasts' at Lemnos is presented at VIII 228-235 not as a quarrel among various Achaeans with various areas of heroic superiority but rather as a collective affirmation of the Achaeans' superiority over the Trojans. Such a perspective of collectivity stays in effect, however, only so long as the narrative remains general by not quoting any individual hero. Once the Homeric narrative quotes a hero as he actually eukhetai 'boasts', the factor of comparison and even rivalry with other heroes becomes overt.[6] Ironically, the boasts of all the other Achaeans during their onetime feast at Lemnos now sound empty because the hero who is "best" when all heroic endeavors are taken into account is not at hand to stop the overwhelming might of Hektor.

§5. Among the areas of heroic endeavor that serve as conventional points of comparison when a hero boasts, we actually find biê 'might' (e.g., XV 165) and the equivalent of mêtis 'artifice, stratagem' (e.g., XVII 171).[1] In this connection, we may note again that the reference in Odyssey viii 78 to the quarreling Achilles and Odysseus as the "best of the Achaeans" seems to be based on an epic tradition that contrasted the heroic worth of Odysseus with that of Achilles in terms of a contrast between mêtis and biê. The contrast apparently took the form of a quarrel between the two heroes over whether Troy would be taken by might or by artifice. The scholia to Odyssey viii 75 and 77 point to such an epic tradition, where Achilles is advocating might and Odysseus, artifice, as the means that will prove successful in destroying Troy.[2] We have also considered the testimony of the scholia (A) to Iliad IX 347, from which we learn that Aristarchus apparently thought this particular Iliadic passage (IX 346-352) to be an allusion to precisely the same tradition that we are now considering, namely, the rivalry of Achilles and Odysseus as indicated in Odysseyviii 72-82.[3] In Iliad IX 346-352, we find Achilles in the act of rejecting the request of Odysseus that he rescue the hard-pressed Achaeans:

ll', Oduse, sn so te ka lloisin basilesi
frazsyv nessin lejmenai don pr.
mn d mla poll ponsato nsfin meo,
ka d texow deime, ka lase tfron p' at
erean meglhn, n d sklopaw katphjen:
ll' od' w dnatai synow Ektorow ndrofnoio

Let him [Agamemnon], Odysseus, along with you
and the other kings
devise a way[4] to ward off the destructive fire from the ships.
He has indeed labored greatly in my absence,
and he has even built a wall and driven a ditch around it
--wide and big it is--and he has fastened stakes inside.
Even so he cannot hold back the strength of Hektor the man-killer.
IX 346-352

In effect, the words of Achilles defiantly and ironically challenge Odysseus, Agamemnon, "and the other kings" (IX 346) to rely on artifice at the very moment when they are desperately in need of his might.

§6. There are still further allusions to the theme of a dispute over might against artifice. Our Iliad preserves, in evocative contexts, the very words which must have signaled the rival means to a common end. The word biê 'might', on the one hand, is a conventional Iliadic measure of Achilles' superiority, as in the following juxtaposition:

presbterow d s ssi: b d' ge polln menvn

You [Patroklos] are older; but he [Achilles] is much better in biê
XI 787

The word mêtis 'artifice, stratagem', on the other hand, characterizes Odysseus in particular: in the Iliad and the Odyssey, only he is described with the epithets polumêtis 'of many artifices' and poikilo-mêtis 'of manifold artifices'. He is frequently called Dii mêtin atalantos 'equal to Zeus in artifice'. The polarity of biê 'might' and mêtis 'artifice' is clearly visible in old Nestor's advice to his son about the art of chariot racing:

ll' ge d s, flow, mtin mblleo yum
pantohn, na m se parekprofgsin eyla.
mti toi drutmow mg' menvn bhfi:
mti d' ate kubernthw n onopi pnt
na yon ynei rexyomnhn nmoisi:
mti d' noxow periggnetai nixoio.

Come, my philos, put in your thûmos every sort of mêtis,
so that prizes may not elude you.
It is with mêtis rather than biê that a woodcutter is better.
It is with mêtis that a helmsman over the wine-dark sea
steers his swift ship buffeted by winds.
It is with mêtis that charioteer is better than charioteer.
XXIII 313-318

In such a traditional celebration of mêtis 'artifice' at the expense of biê 'might', we see that superiority is actually being determined in terms of an opposition between these qualities.

§7. With these passages serving as background, we now move back to the evidence of IX 346-352,[1] where Achilles is defiantly challenging Odysseus and the other Achaean chieftains to survive the Trojan onslaught without the benefit of his own might. As his speech draws to a close, the final words of Achilles to Odysseus can be understood as conveying an underlying awareness and even bitterness. Let the Achaeans, Achilles tells Odysseus, devise "a better mêtis" to ward off the fire of the Trojans and thus save the Greek ships:

fr' llhn frzvntai n fres mtin menv,
k sfin nw te sa ka lan Axain
nhusn pi glafurw, pe o sfisin de g' tomh,
n nn frssanto me pomhnsantow.

that they should devise[2] in their thoughts another mêtis that is better
and that will rescue their ships and the host of the Achaeans
who are at the hollow ships. For this one [this mêtis],
which they now devised[3] during the time of my anger, does not suffice.
IX 423-426

The reference is to Nestor's original stratagem to build the Achaean Wall, and this stratagem actually is designated in that context as mêtis (VII 324). Ironically, Nestor's later stratagem, to send the Embassy to Achilles, is also designated in the narrative as mêtis (IX 93). Ironically too, Odysseus is the one who is pleading for what the Achaeans most sorely need at this point, the might of Achilles. For the moment, the mêtis 'artifice' of Odysseus (and Nestor) is at a loss, and the biê 'might' of Achilles is implicitly vindicated.

§8. Of course, the primary and central grievance of Achilles in our Iliad is against Agamemnon; any grievance of his against Odysseus that may have surfaced in Book IX must be secondary and marginal, as we can see clearly in IX 346-352.[1] Furthermore, even when we accept as traditional the theme of a quarrel between Achilles and Odysseus, we must keep in mind that the quarrel between Achilles and Agamemnon in Iliad I is in all likelihood an equally traditional theme.[2] It would be useless to argue that one theme or the other was older. All we can say is that the quarrel of Achilles and Odysseus is an alternative traditional theme that would have been suitable for testing the heroic worth of Achilles in a different dimension. Whereas the conflict of Achilles and Agamemnon contrasts martial with social superiority,[3] the conflict between Achilles and Odysseus is on a different axis of opposition: biê 'might' against mêtis 'artifice'. I submit that the epic theme of such a conflict is maintained as an undertone in Iliad IX, by means of including Odysseus in the Embassy to Achilles.

§9. In fact, this theme may help account for a notorious problem involving the Embassy Scene of Iliad IX. The problem is, simply put, that this passage features some dual constructions in places where we might have expected the plural.[1] Instead of plunging into the vast bibliography on the subject,[2] I propose simply to examine the passage anew, attempting to correlate how the dual constructions are deployed in the story with how the story itself applies to the tradition of a conflict between Odysseus and Achilles. I should note at the outset, however, that the evidence for this conflict has already been established in the preceding discussion and stands by itself. It does not depend on the discussion that follows. As for what I am about to argue, there is considerable room for disagreement. But I hope to show, at the very least, that the Embassy Scene as we have it is not a clumsy patchwork of mutually irreconcilable texts but rather an artistic orchestration of variant narrative traditions.

§10. We take up the story at a point where King Agamemnon and the Achaeans finally despair of resisting the onslaught of Hektor and the Trojans without the aid of Achilles, who has withdrawn from the fighting. At a meeting of the elders, Nestor suggests that an embassy be sent to Achilles, bringing to him an offer of settlement from Agamemnon (IX 93-113). Agamemnon agrees and makes a lavish offer (IX 114-161), whereupon Nestor suggests that there be three emissaries: Phoinix, Ajax, and Odysseus (IX 162-172). Nestor's original plan calls for Phoinix to go first, followed by Ajax and Odysseus, followed by the heralds Odios and Eurybates:

e d' ge, tow n g picomai, o d piysyvn.
Fonij mn prtista Di flow ghssyv,
atr peit' Aaw te mgaw ka dow Odussew:
khrkvn d' Odow te ka Erubthw m' psyvn.

But come, let those upon whom I am looking take on the task.
First of all, let Phoinix, dear to Zeus, take the lead;
and after him the great Ajax and brilliant Odysseus,
and of the heralds let Odios and Eurybates accompany them.
IX 167-170

The crucial expression is Fonij ... ghssyv at verse 168: "let Phoinix ... take the lead." As the emissaries proceed on their way to Achilles, the one who actually takes the lead is not Phoinix but Odysseus:

t d bthn protrv, geto d dow Odussew.

And the two were moving along, and brilliant Odysseus led the way.
IX 192

The word geto here at IX 192 is in direct contrast with the corresponding ghssyv of IX 168 ("he led the way" compared to "let him lead the way" respectively). In contradiction of the original plan, Odysseus is now leading the way instead of Phoinix.

§11. As we consider the dual construction t d bthn protrv 'and the two were moving along' here in the second passage (IX 192), let us not immediately assume that we are dealing with the emergence of an earlier version involving two emissaries as opposed to the first passage (IX 167-170), which is supposed to present a later version involving three emissaries. Instead, at least for the moment, let us take the thematic progression from the first passage to the second passage as a given of the narrative at hand. In that case, the dual in the second passage must refer to Ajax and Phoinix, not to Ajax and Odysseus. The plan of the first passage had called for Ajax and Odysseus to be led by Phoinix. Instead, we now see Ajax and Phoinix being led by Odysseus. See now Foreword §29n40.

§12. Rather than assume that Phoinix, in Denys Page's words, "mislaid himself"[1] in the forgetful mind of the composer, let us suppose that Odysseus simply asserted himself in the actual narrative of the composition. Old Nestor, as the originator of the plan to send an embassy, had after all made a point of stressing the role of Odysseus when the emissaries were sent off:

tosi d pll' ptelle Gerniow ppta Nstvr,
dendllvn w kaston, Oduss d mlista,
peirn w pepyoien mmona Phlevna.

And the Gerenian horseman Nestor gave them many instructions,
making signs with his eyes at each, especially at Odysseus,
that they try to persuade the blameless son of Peleus.
IX 179-181

§13. The self-assertion of Odysseus goes beyond taking the lead in the procession to the tent of Achilles. When the emissaries are about to deliver their message to Achilles, Ajax gives Phoinix the signal to begin, but it is Odysseus who takes the initiative:

nes' Aaw Foniki: nhse d dow Odussew

Ajax nodded to Phoinix; and brilliant Odysseus took note ... [1]
IX 223

Instead of Phoinix, it is Odysseus who now gives the first speech (IX 225-306); only then does Phoinix speak (IX 434-605), then Ajax (IX 624-642). In the end, Phoinix stays behind with Achilles, and it is Odysseus who leads the Embassy back to the tent of Agamemnon:

... o d kastow ln dpaw mfikpellon
spesantew par naw san plin: rxe d' Odussew.

... and they each took a double-handled cup
and made a libation; then they went back to the ships, and Odysseus led the way.
IX 656-657

As the leader of the Embassy, it is he who reports to Agamemnon the reply of Achilles (IX 673 ff.).

§14. This pattern of self-assertion on the part of Odysseus reflects in particular on one of his many traditional roles, that of the trickster. By taking the lead among the emissaries, he puts himself in the position of being the one who actually delivers the terms of compensation proposed by Agamemnon for settlement with Achilles (IX 260-299, reporting IX 120-158). In doing so, Odysseus makes a significant adjustment to Agamemnon's original message by failing to repeat Agamemnon's reaffirmation of social superiority over Achilles (IX 160-161). As Cedric Whitman argues, the acceptance of such compromised terms by Achilles would thus have aborted his heroic stature in the Iliad.[1] The success of Odysseus in the Embassy would have entailed the failure of Achilles in his own epic. Accordingly, the suspicion of Achilles upon hearing the speech of Odysseus seems justified:

xyrw gr moi kenow mw Adao plsin
w x' teron mn key n fresn, llo d ep

For he is as hateful [ekhthros] to me as the gates of Hades,
whoever hides one thing in his thoughts and says another.
IX 312-313

§15. These strong words are framed by Achilles' outright rejection of the speech by Odysseus (IX 308-311, 314-429). Moreover, even before he heard the offer that he rejects so forcefully, Achilles may have already considered Odysseus to be the sort of ekhthros 'hateful one, enemy' that is described in IX 312-313. We come back to the moment when Achilles sees the Embassy approaching:

stn d prsy' atoo: tafn d' nrousen Axillew
at sn frmiggi, lipn dow nya yassen.
w d' atvw Ptroklow, pe de ftaw, nsth.
t ka deiknmenow prosfh pdaw kw Axillew:
"xareton: floi ndrew kneton: ti mla xre.
o moi skuzomn per Axain fltato ston."

And they stood in front of him, and Achilles jumped up, amazed,
still holding the lyre, leaving the place where he was sitting.
Likewise Patroklos, when he saw the men, stood up.
Greeting the two of them, swift-footed Achilles said:
"Hail to the two of you: you have come as friends. I need you very much--
you two who are the dearest to me among the Achaeans, even now when I am angry."
IX 193-198

The last three verses of this passage all contain dual constructions, as if there were only two emissaries rather than three. Furthermore, the two are addressed by Achilles as "most dear [philos]" to him among all the Achaeans, Axain fltatoi (IX 198).[1] If indeed Achilles later implies that Odysseus may be an "enemy" (ekhthros) to him, is Odysseus being excluded from his greeting? Certainly the definition that we find for ekhthros 'enemy' in IX 312-313[2] --a definition framed by the words of Achilles himself--applies to the epic behavior of Odysseus. As we see most clearly in his own epic, the Odyssey, he continually says one thing and means another.[3]

§16. Let us pursue the hypothesis that the duals in IX 196-198[1] refer to Ajax and Phoinix, and that Odysseus is being excluded by Achilles in his reference to the Achaeans who are "most dear [philos]" to him (fltatoi : IX 198). On the level of form, we can say that the dual pronoun t of IX 196 recapitulates the t of IX 192,[2] which immediately precedes in the narrative. In IX 192, the dual t sets off Ajax and Phoinix from Odysseus; as I have already argued, it is here that Odysseus first seizes the initiative and takes the lead in the Embassy, with his fellow emissaries being relegated to the dual t .[3] Now the dual t in IX 196 takes up where the last dual left off in IX 192, and we may continue with the understanding that it refers to Ajax and Phoinix.

§17. On the level on content, this interpretation is viable if an "Embassy of Ajax and Phoinix to Achilles" had been a stock theme of Greek epic tradition and if the story of an enmity between Odysseus and Achilles had likewise been traditional. If we find evidence to support these two propositions, then we could also claim that the Embassy episode of Iliad IX has, from the standpoint of, say, an audience in the eighth century B.C., much higher artistic merit than what we can see in a text without attested precedents. Then we could confidently reject any superficial impression of ours that the Embassy is an imperfect story, marred by a clumsy deployment of misplaced duals.

§18. If the stock theme of an "Embassy of Ajax and Odysseus to Achilles" had been original to the Iliadic tradition for this particular period in the course of the Trojan War narrative--as Page and other analysts infer--then the final Iliadic treatment that we see attested in Book IX, with the "Embassy of Ajax, Odysseus, and Phoinix to Achilles," should have required the conversion of all duals into plurals, especially at the moment when Achilles greets the emissaries (IX 193-198). Instead, Achilles greets them in the dual! The purported grafting of Phoinix into this scene is thus only partially successful, in that the role of Phoinix fails to get its proper due. As Page exclaims, "Unhappy Phoenix, Achilles' oldest friend, not a single word of you!"[1] We are left with the impression that the story has faults beyond remedy.

§19. If, on the other hand, the stock theme of an "Embassy of Ajax and Phoinix to Achilles" had been traditional, then we see in Iliad IX the insertion of Odysseus on the level of form and the self-assertion of Odysseus on the level of content. Of course, we may in the meantime reject the assumption of some analysts that any such insertion is a textual phenomenon: all we need say is that the composition integrates another traditional element. If, in turn, the insertion of Odysseus into the Embassy story carries with it the traditional theme of an enmity between him and Achilles, then the narrative of Iliad IX may allow the retention of duals referring to the pair of Ajax and Phoinix when the time comes for Achilles to greet the Embassy. For an audience familiar with another version of the story where Achilles had only two emissaries to greet, the retention of the dual greeting when Odysseus is included in the Embassy surely amounts to an artistic masterstroke in the narrative. The exclusion of Odysseus in the dual greeting would serve to remind the audience of the enmity between him and Achilles.

§20. We should consider whether there are any formal traces of material for a traditional story where only Ajax and Phoinix are emissaries to Achilles. For this purpose, let us contrast the way in which the narrative in Book IX handles the pair of Ajax and Phoinix with the way in which it handles the pair of Ajax and Odysseus. When Odysseus is set off from Ajax and Phoinix, the latter pair is designated in the dual. This is what I propose to be the case in IX 192[1] and 196-198.[2] Conversely, when the narrative overtly sets off Phoinix from Ajax and Odysseus, it designates this pair consistently in the plural. Besides IX 656-657,[3] I can also cite the following:

ll' mew mn ntew ristessin Axain
ggelhn pfasye--t
gr graw st gerntvn--

But you must go back to the chieftains of the Achaeans
and give them this message--for that is the privilege of the Elders--[4]
IX 421-422

The mew mn ... here is immediately contrasted with Fonij d ( ) ... , which follows at IX 427. Achilles is asking Phoinix to stay with him, while the other emissaries are to go back carrying the message of his refusal. Elsewhere too, Achilles distinguishes Phoinix from the others, to whom he refers not in the dual but in the plural:

otoi d' ggelousi, s d' atyi ljeo mmnvn
en ni malak

These men will take the message; but you must stay here
and lie down on the soft bed.
IX 617-618

In sum, dual constructions fail to appear in every triadic situation where Ajax and Odysseus are explicitly set off from Phoinix. This evidence, then, goes against the possible counterclaim that the dual constructions of IX 192 and 196-198[5] might refer implicitly to Ajax and Odysseus. It therefore remains tenable to claim that they refer instead to Ajax and Phoinix. Furthermore, these references may be explicit in the narrative of Book IX, if indeed there existed a traditional epic story that told of Achilles being angry at Odysseus. Then the dual constructions of IX 196-198 express a pointed exclusion of Odysseus from those who are "most dear [philos]" to Achilles (fltatoi : IX 198).[6]

§21. This much said, I leave the problem of the dual constructions in Iliad IX and return to the broader problem of establishing the relationship between the expanded passage of the Embassy Scene and the compressed passage of Odyssey viii 72-82. So far we have been dealing with only one specific theme that seems to be shared by these two passages, namely, a conflict between Achilles and Odysseus. Besides this theme, however, there are a number of accessory themes that also seem to be shared by these two passages. Let us examine these comparable themes by using as our frame of reference the compressed narrative of Odyssey viii 72-82.

  1. The dispute of Achilles and Odysseus took place at a sacrificial feast or dais (yen n dait yale : viii 76). Compare this setting of a dais 'feast, portion' with the first words of Odysseus to Achilles in the Embassy Scene:

    xar', Axile: daitw mn shw ok pideuew
    mn n klis Agammnonow Atredao
    d ka nyde nn: pra gr menoeika poll
    danusy': ll' o daitw phrtou rga mmhlen,
    ll lhn mga pma, diotrefw, esorvntew

    Hail, Achilles! You will not be without a fair dais
    either in the tent of Agamemnon son of Atreus
    or here and now. There is at hand much that would suit you,
    for you to have as dais. But the concern is not about a pleasant dais.
    Rather, we are facing a great pêma [pain], O diotrephês,
    and we are in doubt.
    IX 225-230

    The sacrificial nature of the dais 'feast' in the tent of Achilles is implicit (IX 219-220),[1] and the triple reference to the procedure of a dais within the first four verses of the speech by Odysseus to Achilles may suggest an echo of a well-established theme.[2]

  2. The dispute of Achilles and Odysseus was an omen that Troy would be destroyed--but not before enormous grief, pêma, afflicted not only the Trojans but also the Achaeans (pmatow rx : viii 81). Compare the pêma that afflicts the Achaeans at IX 229.[3]
  3. The omen that Troy would be destroyed was predicted for Agamemnon by Phoebus Apollo "at holy Delphi, when he [Agamemnon] had crossed the stone threshold to ask the oracle" (viii 79-81). Compare the incidental reference of Achilles to Delphi in his answer to Odysseus:

    od' sa lnow odw ftorow ntw rgei,
    Fobou Apllvnow, Puyo ni petrhss

    nor all the things contained within the stone threshold of the Archer, Phoebus Apollo, in rocky Delphi.
    IX 404-405

    This passage contains the only reference to Delphi in our Iliad (except for the purely geographical reference in the Great Catalogue, II 519).

  4. The quarreling Achilles and Odysseus are called "best of the Achaeans" (ristoi Axain : viii 78). Compare the speech of Phoinix, where he calls the emissaries the "best" (rstouw : IX 520) as well as the "most dear [philos]" to Achilles among all the Argives (fltatoi Argevn : IX 522). These two superlatives, however, both seem to be only partially applicable to the three emissaries. The title "best" may suit Ajax and Odysseus but not necessarily Phoinix.[4] The title "most dear," on the other hand, may well apply to Ajax and Phoinix only, with the exclusion of Odysseus. On this basis alone, the ethical stance of the Embassy may well be undermined--from the heroic perspective of Achilles.

§22. Taken separately, any one of these four convergences in detail between the compressed narrative of Odyssey viii 72-82 and the expanded narrative of the Embassy Scene in Iliad IX is not enough to make a case for the existence of a common epic heritage. Taken together, however, all four of them serve to corroborate the argument that both the compressed and the expanded narratives draw from a stock epic theme--details and all--about an enmity between Achilles and Odysseus. Even without these four convergences, we have strong evidence for this theme in a fifth convergence. As we have already observed in the Embassy Scene, Achilles replies to Odysseus with an ad hoc definition of ekhthros 'enemy' that actually fits the epic role of Odysseus, the consummate dissembler (IX 312-313).[1] The words of Achilles and the corresponding epic actions of Odysseus combine to make the message of Iliad IX explicit. As in Odyssey viii 72-82, the first song of Demodokos, a traditional enmity exists between these two preeminent heroes of Greek epic.


§1n1. See Ch.1§§10-11.

§1n2. Ch.1§10.

§1n3. The lesson has not yet been learned, I fear, by what still seems to be a majority of Homerists. To list some prominent examples would be unproductive. Instead, I send the reader to the collection of Parry's writings (1971) and to Lord's synthesis (1960), which remain indispensable. For a useful formulation rejecting the methodology of positing exemplum and imitatio on a textual level, see Edwards 1971.189: "Given two poems A and B, now in a written text, however well a word or phrase fits its context in A, it is impossible to prove that it was invented for that place at the moment when the text of A became fixed. We can never rule out the existence of an older place X, which provided a common source for both A and B at the lines in question, so making their chronological relationship impossible to determine. This remains true even if X was only an older version of A." Instead of the wording "older place," however, I would prefer to substitute a phrase that does not connote the existence of an older text. See now Foreword §§22-24.

§3n1. Marg 1956 takes the position that the neîkos 'quarrel' of viii 72-82 must be an "invention" based on the opening of the Iliad, since such a neîkos between Achilles and Odysseus is not directly attested anywhere else. This position is challenged by Maehler 1963.27n1, who points out that this argument from silence fails to take into account the traditional nature of such quarrel scenes between prominent Achaeans. On the topic of traditional quarrel scenes in epic, I find the discussion by Girard 1902.249 particularly suggestive. I would add that narratives about quarrels allow the genre of epic to accommodate the diction of other genres that are otherwise unsuitable to it, such as the diction of blame poetry--a genre that functions as the converse of praise poetry. Discussion at Ch.12§6.

§4n1. I feel tempted to compare this arrangement with the relative ranking of Achaean heroes in the Iliad and the Odyssey traditions: Achilles and Ajax are best and second-best in the former, while Odysseus is best in the latter. See again Ch.2, esp. §6n2.

§4n2. Cf. Ch.14§14, esp. n3.

§4n3. On the use here of phêmi 'say' (fmen ) as a substitute for eukhomai 'boast': Muellner 1976.83.

§4n4. Muellner, pp. 81-83.

§4n5. Discussion by Muellner, p. 82.

§4n6. See again Muellner, pp. 79-83.

§5n1. See Muellner, p. 83; for phrenes 'thinking' as an attribute of mêtis, consider the epithet epiphrôn 'having phrenes' as applied to mêtis at xix 326.

§5n2. See Ch.1§11. Cf. Rüter 1969.249-251, Marg 1956.22, Girard 1902.253. These discussions do not raise the possibility, as I do here, that there was indeed an epic tradition--independent of our Iliad and Odyssey--about a quarrel between Achilles and Odysseus. Marg in fact explicitly rejects the possibility (p. 20). As I am about to argue, however, the internal evidence of Iliad IX contains clear traces of such an independent epic tradition. The information of the scholia, on the other hand, is admittedly garbled except for the clear delineation of "might" compared to "artifice": ndrea /snesiw , bizesyai /dl metelyen (scholia ad viii 75), svmatik /cuxik , ndrea /mhxan ka frnhsiw (scholia ad viii 77).

§5n3. See Ch.1§11. Cf. Lehrs 1882.174.

Scholia (A) ad IX 347:

prw t n Odusse& zhtomenon "nekow Odussow ka Phledev Axilow," ti mfanei ka nn nairn tn pixerhsin tn per Odussa, legntvn boul ka lg areysesyai tn plin: nn gr oon pisarkzvn lgei.

§5n4. On phrazomai as a verb that denotes the activity of mêtis: Detienne/Vernant 1974.25n32 (in connection with Hesiod W&D 85-86). Cf. §7n2 below.

§7n1. §5.

§7n2. Compare the use of phrazomai 'devise' here at IX 423 and 426 with its use at IX 347. At §5n4, we have noted that this word functions as a verb of mêtis.


§8n1. §5.

§8n2. For a discussion of epic precedents: Davidson 1975.26-28 on the role of atê in Iliad XIX 95-133, parallel to I 410-412.

§8n3. On the traditional nature of this contrast, see again Davidson, pp. 26-28 on the Indo-European epic theme of an opposition between dux and rêx; cf. also Muellner 1976.83n27.

§9n1. Besides the various interpretations of Book IX based on the premise that the dual constructions designate an actual pair, we also come upon the argument that these dual forms may have a plural function. There is, however, no grammatical justification for such a claim, and the sporadic instances in Homeric poetry where duals may seem to function as plurals cannot be cited as parallels to the situation in Book IX. In each instance, there is an ad hoc explanation available, so that the theory of dual-for-plural remains unproved. See Page 1959.324-325 for discussion and bibliography.

§9n2. For a conscientious survey, I cite Lesky 1967.103-105. Segal's (1968) comparison of the compressed Embassy Scene of Iliad I (320-348) with the expanded scene of Iliad IX helps us understand better the traditional narrative themes that are deployed (see especially his p. 104), but his discussion leaves room for disagreement on the question of the dual constructions in IX.

§12n1. Page 1959.298.

§13n1. For the use of noeô 'take note, think' in contexts of "taking the initiative," see especially X 224-226, 247; V 669 (with reference to Odysseus); also IX 104-108 (with reference to Nestor). For the traditional combination of neuô 'nod' and noeô'take note' in situations where signals are sent and received respectively, see Odyssey xvi 164-165 (Athena nods to Odysseus, who gets the message and then takes the initiative); also xvi 283. Cf. Köhnken 1975.32. For an important study of Homeric noos and related words, I cite again Frame 1978.

§14n1. Whitman 1958.191-192; cf. Rosner 1976.320.

§15n1. For the function of the untranslatable word philos 'dear, friend' and its derivatives in Homeric narrative, see Ch.6§13; see also Sinos 1975.65-81 on the ethical principle of philotês that informs our Iliad.

§15n2. §14.

§15n3. See again §14; this trait of Odysseus corresponds to his epithet poluainos (Ch.12§19n1).

§16n1. §15.

§16n2. §10.

§16n3. Granted, the subject + verb construction of Odussew + geto 'Odysseus led the way' at IX 192 does not by itself rule out the possibility that Odysseus is included in rather than excluded from the dual construction that immediately precedes. Köhnken (1975.35) argues for inclusion, citing XXIV 95-96: there Iris is the leader (geto ) of two, Thetis and herself. But I must point out that this situation is not directly analogous, since the actions of the other member of the pair, Thetis, are designated in the singular, not the dual. Thus I am still bound to understand the dual constructions of IX 192 as referring to Ajax and Phoinix. On the other hand, Köhnken's citing of get (o ) `led the way' at XXIV 96 is useful for our understanding of IX 657, where Odysseus leads (rxe ) the Embassy back to the tent of Agamemnon. Besides himself and the heralds, only Ajax is left.

§18n1. Page 1959.300.

§20n1. §10.

§20n2. §15.

§20n3. §13.

§20n4. We may note with interest the collocation of gerôn 'elder' with geras 'privilege, honorific portion' at IX 422.

§20n5. §§10 and 15 respectively. see now Foreword §29n40.

§20n6. There is an ad hoc explanation for the duals in the Homeric Hymn to Apollo (verses 456, 487, 501) that may be pertinent to the problem of the duals in Iliad IX. These dual constructions in the Hymn to Apollo occur in the quoted words spoken by the god to the Cretans. The narrative is presenting a dialogue between Apollo and the "leader of the Cretans" (Krhtn gw : 463), who is speaking on behalf of the other Cretans. Accordingly, Apollo's random dual references to them may be elliptic: the leader (A) plus the others (B). Elliptic duals (A+B instead of A+A) and elliptic plurals (A+B+C ... instead of A+A+A ... ) are an Indo-European heritage in the Greek language; see Schwyzer/Debrunner 1950.50-52. Conceivably, Achilles may be "grammatically correct" when he gives a dual greeting to the leader of the Embassy (A) plus the others (B) at IX 196-198. Cf. Thornton 1978. But the ambiguities remain: maybe someone is still being excluded. Cf. also Köhnken 1978, replying to Thornton's article.

§21n1. See further at Ch.7§19.

§21n2. Again, Ch.7§19.

§21n3. Quoted at item (1) above.

§21n4. One of the main points made by Köhnken (1975) is that the reference by Phoinix to the "best" (rstouw : IX 520) applies more to Ajax and Odysseus than to himself. But we also have to reckon with the reference, again made by Phoinix, to the "most dear" (fltatoi : IX 522), which in turn seems to apply more to Ajax and himself than to Odysseus. Thus the problem of the dual greeting by Achilles remains (IX 197-198), since the emissaries are called "most dear of the Achaeans" here (Axain fltatoi : IX 198). Even if the greeting by Achilles were casual, it would be hard to justify the exclusion of his beloved mentor. Besides, Köhnken's own catalogue of other Iliadic passages where Phoinix is mentioned (p. 28) shortens the gap between the heroic stature of Ajax and Odysseus on the one hand and that of Phoinix on the other.

§22n1. §14.

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