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

Copyright © 1980, 1997 The Johns Hopkins University Press. All rights reserved. First edition 1979. Revised edition 1999. This document may be used, with this notice included, for noncommercial purposes within a subscribed institution. No copies of this work may be distributed electronically outside of the subscribed institution, in whole or in part, without written permission from the JHU Press.

Go to Next chapter; Table of Contents


The 1999 second edition

§1. The Best of the Achaeans is intended for both non-specialists and specialists in Homer and in other forms of archaic Greek poetry.[1] More generally, it is for non-Classicists as well as Classicists (that is, those who study Greek and Roman antiquity). All quotations from the ancient texts are translated, and all cited words are defined in context.

§2. This book is about how to read Homer--both the Iliad and the Odyssey--and various related forms of Greek poetry in the archaic period, most notably the Hesiodic Theogony and Works and Days and the Homeric Hymns, especially the Apollo, the Demeter, and the Aphrodite. Other related poetic forms include the praise poetry of Pindar and the blame poetry of Archilochus. The readings are infused with references to non-canonical traditions as well, especially women's laments and the earliest attested versions of Aesop's fables.

§3. The object of all the readings is to understand simultaneously the form as well as the content of a wide variety of traditional media conveying various basic concepts of the ancient Greek hero. The most basic of all these concepts is a single all-pervasive historical fact of the archaic period and beyond: the cult of heroes. Heroes were not only the subjects of narrative and dramatic media but also the objects of worship. This book integrates heroic song, poetry, and prose with the ancestral practices of a wide variety of hero-cults (Introduction.§16-19). More generally, it explores the heroic tradition within the cultural context of Panhellenism, to be defined as an early form of Hellenism that eventually became the nucleus of Classicism (Introduction.§13-15).

§4. The Best of the Achaeans was completed in 1978 and first published in 1979. Now, twenty years later, I have a chance to revisit. The present foreword highlights the specifics of what has changed and what remains stable.

§5. I start with the main points of consistency. This 1998 edition is "archaeological," adding to the general argumentation only the essentials for supplementing what I knew twenty years ago. I have preserved the original text and page-numbering of the 1979 edition for the introduction and for all the chapters as well as the appendix. The Bibliography has been updated with additions. Here too, however, I have maintained an "archaeological" stance, concentrating on research that directly follows up on the arguments made in the 1979 edition. The addenda in the text proper of this second edition, which are mostly cross-references to new points raised in this Foreword or to new entries in the Bibliography, have been inserted at the ends of the 1979 footnotes. The corrigenda in the text proper of this second edition, mostly minor, have been entered without further comment.

§6. There is not much in the book, I find, that needs to be corrected for factual mistakes, and there is practically nothing in the contents that I would wish to retract. There are, however, things that needed to be restated, and this Foreword addresses that need. [1] There is also a great deal that could be added. Much of that has been done in a 1990 book providing additional context, Pindar's Homer.[2] The argumentation has been developed further in two 1996 books, Homeric Questions and Poetry as Performance: Homer and Beyond. [3]

§7. Homeric and Hesiodic poetry are the focus of chapters 1-10 and 20. That set of chapters can be read independently of the rest, yielding a more compressed book of 240 pages. For those who wish to concentrate on Homer alone, the book can be compressed further: chapters 1-8 and 20 are likewise self-contained--a total of 180 pages. I worry that some readers of the first edition may have stopped at chapters 8 or 9 and never made their way to chapter 20, where I offer retrospectives and overviews essential to my argumentation about Homer. My hope, in any case, is that the reader will take on the whole book, which addresses a variety of topics that are essential for understanding archaic Greek poetry.[1]

§8. For my reading of Homer and other forms of archaic Greek poetry, I rely on the traditional methodology of Classicists, combined with other empirical methods drawn from research in anthropology, linguistics, and oral poetics. This combination of approaches occasionally makes my specific readings different, in varying degrees, from those of my immediate predecessors. Such differences help explain some problems of reception, especially in the earlier years that followed initial publication. Over the last two decades, however, the argumentation of Best of the Achaeans has held up. Citations of the book in ongoing research reflect its expanding influence,[1] and much of what seemed controversial then is no longer so now.[2]

§9. Debate persists, however, on various levels. Some of it goes back to negative reactions at the time of initial publication. The sheer animosity of a few of the criticisms directed at my work surprised me at first. After all, I consistently avoid personal polemics in Best of the Achaeans. Why, I asked myself, has this book made some critics so angry? One answer, shaped by years of retrospection, is that it all comes down to assumptions that I challenge in the book. As I look back at the subtitle of my introduction, "assumptions, methods, results," I now see in this wording a clue to a source of provocation.

§10. The methods of Best of the Achaeans not only achieve new results: they also call into question various assumptions essential to the Homeric interpretations of various critics. Ironically, much of the initial criticism leveled against the book was based on the same assumptions that my methods and results have challenged. There is a further irony: a few continue to assert these assumptions as if they were facts. Another reaction is to say, in effect, that no one has made such arguments before, and what right does anyone have to make them now? I resist using up this space with a bibliography of such polemics, since I hope to keep this second edition free, like the first one, of the ephemeral.[1] Rather, I concentrate on the actual assumptions that caused the problem in the first place. These assumptions have taken on many forms, but they all come down to a simple enough notion: that oral poetry is lacking in cohesion and artistry. Therefore, the thinking goes, Homeric poetry must be explained in terms that transcend oral poetry.

§11. Here I revisit the basic questions, starting with the basic fact that drives these questions: a major challenge to our reading of archaic Greek poetry, especially Homer, is its heritage as oral poetry. Oral traditions, including oral poetry, depend on performance. In oral poetry, unlike written poetry, performance is a necessity, not an option. Moreover, the ongoing empirical study of a wide variety of living oral traditions makes it clear that any given performance becomes an occasion for some degree of recomposition-in-performance (the actual degrees of recomposition will of course vary in different contexts or phases).[1] How, then, do we read something that was meant to be performed, not read from a book? How do we read something that is subject to change in each performance? These are the questions that I seek to answer in Best of the Achaeans, focusing on two key Homeric passages as my starting point: the first song of Demodokos in Odyssey viii and the "embassy scene" in Iliad IX.

§12. Mention of the word "passages" raises an even more basic question, stemming from an obvious fact: Homeric poetry survives because it was written down. The question, then, is as obvious as the fact: how did archaic Greek poetry, especially Homer, get written down in the first place? As of now, no direct answer is available. Nor is there any consensus about why or how or even when Homeric poetry was written down. One thing and one thing only, it seems to me, is certain: no one has ever been able to prove that the technology of writing had been necessary for either the composition or the performance of Homeric poetry.[1]

§13. So much for the negative side. On the positive, I argue that Homeric poetry (by which I mean the Iliad and Odyssey combined) is a system, and that this system can be explained consistently in terms of oral poetics. The application of linguistics is vital for the argument.[1] The Homeric textual tradition is the primary evidence for this system, but it cannot be equated with the system itself.[2] My linguistic approach to the poetic and textual traditions of Homer extends to the other forms of archaic Greek poetry as well. Here is how James Redfield describes my methodology:

His concern is not with particular works per se but with the underlying system of meanings common to the epic tradition and inherited by Greek poets down to Pindar. This is a system, not as geometry is a system, but as a culture is a system; there is a high degree of redundancy, of alternative ways of expressing the same or similar ideas, of making similar distinctions. Terms are not connected by relations of identity but of analogy; themes are displayed through their variations. [3]

§14. My reading of Homer, especially of the passages in Odyssey viii and Iliad IX, has occasionally been disputed on the grounds that it gives the impression of literary rather than oral poetics. Such an impression, however, stems from unjustified negative assumptions about oral poetics. There is no evidence for assuming that oral poetry is by nature unsystematic. The results of my readings, which add up to show that Homeric poetry is indeed a system, cannot be used as ammunition for claiming that Homer is therefore not "oral."

§15. The results of my readings show also that the Homeric Iliad and Odyssey are complementary, and that this complementarity is itself a system in its own right. [1] Here again, I resist the assumptions of critics who try to explain this system in terms that transcend oral poetry. The first song of Demodokos in Odyssey viii and the "embassy scene" of Iliad IX provide striking examples of the system at work. Throughout Best of the Achaeans, I explain the organic complementarity of the Iliad and the Odyssey precisely in terms of oral poetics.[2]

§16. A central theme unites the Homeric Iliad and Odyssey: just as Achilles emerges as the "best of the Achaeans" in the Iliad, so too Odysseus becomes "best of the Achaeans" in the Odyssey (Ch.1§13). Moreover, the kleos or epic glory of Achilles in the Iliad is both complemented and contested by the kleos of Odysseus in the Odyssey (Ch.2§§10-18).[1] A key is the Odyssean theme of nostos in the sense of 'song about a homecoming', not just 'homecoming' (Ch.6§6n2). Ironically, as I argue, Odysseus achieves the kleos or epic glory of the Odyssey not because he destroyed Troy (a feat heralded at the very start of his epic) but because he achieves a nostos in both senses of the word: he comes home and thereby becomes the premier hero of a song about homecoming (Ch.2§11).[2]

§17. There are further related ironies. Achilles has to choose between kleos and nostos, forfeiting nostos in order to achieve his kleos as the central hero of the Iliad (Ch.2§11), but Odysseus must have both in order to merit his heroic status in the Odyssey (Ch.2§§12-16). The narrative of the kleos that Odysseus earns in the Odyssey cannot be the Iliad, which means "Troy Tale" (Ilion is the other name for Troy). The Iliad establishes Achilles as the central hero of the story of Troy, even though he failed to destroy the city. Because of the Iliad tradition, "the kleos of Odysseus at Troy was preempted by the kleos of Achilles" (Ch.2§17).[1]

§18. There is a final irony, developed in the narrative of the Odyssey (xi 489-491): Achilles in Hades seems tempted to trade epics with Odysseus (Ch.2§11).[1] This he will never do, of course, in his own epic. As Achilles himself predicts in the Iliad (IX 413), the kleos of his own song will be áphthiton 'unwilting' (Ch.2§3).

§19. My arguments about the patterns of complementarity between the Iliad and the Odyssey can be extended much further. There are also patterns of complementarity between Homeric and Hesiodic poetry, adding up to an even more generalized unity.[1] The compressed narrative about epic heroes in the Hesiodic Works and Days, for instance, complements the ultimately expanded narrative of the Homeric Iliad (Ch.9§29).[2] Herodotus, the "father of history," describes the unity of Homer and Hesiod in cultural terms that convey the sum total of Greek civilization (2.53.1-3).[3] In any case, this unity can be described as an overall cultural system, which needs to be "read" as an oral tradition mediated by a script tradition.[4] Here we see the foundations of Panhellenism (Introduction §§14-16). [5]

§20. Even more generally, it is possible to argue that all forms of archaic Greek poetry complement each other. Cases in point are the relationship of epic and praise poetry (Ch.12), of praise and blame poetry (Ch.14). The patterns of complementarity emerge from reading the ipsissima verba, the words of the tradition themselves. That is how Milman Parry and Albert Lord, my teacher, have read Homer. At the very start of my book, I invoke their favorite words for form and content, "diction" and "theme" (Introduction §1), in arguing that the diction of archaic Greek poetry is a most accurate expression of its themes. The Introduction goes on to describe this fundamental stance ironically as "literal minded" (§7). The irony has been lost, I notice, on a few literal minded critics.

§21. What has given my book its staying power is that it strives to achieve a coherent picture of a coherent system of ancient Greek poetics, to the degree that each detail of my analysis is meant to stay true to each constituent detail of that system. The coherence of the book results not from the sequencing of contents page by page but from the coherence of the system that emerges cumulatively from an overall reading.

§22. For my reading of Homer, I do not invoke theories of intertextuality.[1] Instead, I have developed what I call an evolutionary model for the textualization of Homer, without presupposing that the actual composition of the "text" required the medium of writing .[2] According to this model, there were at least five distinct consecutive periods of Homeric oral | written transmission, "Five Ages of Homer," as it were, with each period showing progressively less fluidity and more rigidity. [3] I argue that our Homeric text results from a "transcript tradition" that recorded the final or near-final stages in an evolving process of oral poetic recomposition-in-performance.[4]

§23. Here I apply a distinction made by Ferdinand de Saussure: linguistic analysis requires both synchronic and diachronic perspectives.[1] For Saussure, synchrony and diachrony designate respectively a current state of a language and a phase in its evolution.[2] I draw attention to Saussure's linking of diachrony and evolution, a link that proves to be crucial for understanding Homeric poetry in particular and archaic Greek poetry in general. This link led to my evolutionary model for the oral traditions that shaped Homeric poetry. According to this model, the "making" of this poetry needs to be seen diachronically as well as synchronically, if we follow Saussure's sense of diachrony. My primary premise is that synchronic approaches to Homer cannot succeed without the integration of diachronic approaches, just as diachronic approaches cannot succeed without the integration of the synchronic. My secondary premise is that the synchronic analysis of Homeric poetry can succeed only when that poetry is viewed as a system rather than a text. To repeat: Irefer to the system in question simply as "Homeric poetry."

§24. Applying these premises, I argue against the assumption that the Homeric text of the Iliad and Odyssey, as reconstituted in various editions both ancient and modern, can be viewed synchronically as a cross-section that represents a single real composition or performance. In other words, the Homeric text (or texts) is not the same thing as Homeric poetry.

§25. In this connection, we need to confront the general phenomenon of meaning in the media of oral poetics. On the basis of my own cumulative work, I have become convinced that meaning by way of reference in oral poetics needs to be seen diachronically as well as synchronically: "each occurrence of a theme (on the level of content) or of a formula (on the level of form) in a given composition-in-performance refers not only to its immediate context but also to all other analogous contexts remembered by the performer or by any member of the audience."[1] The corpus of Homeric poetry cannot be reduced to the single occasion of an utterance that is self-contained at any one time and place--or even of a recording of such an utterance.[2] I must add that I use diachronic and synchronic not as synonyms for historical and current respectively. Diachrony refers to the potential for evolution in a structure. History is not restricted to phenomena that are structurally predictable.[3]

§26. These perspectives are essential for understanding the most visible aspect of linguistic methods in this book: my extensive exploration of tymologies.[1] The etymologies of words, and even of names, can help explain traditional poetic contexts; conversely, these same poetic contexts can help explain the etymologies. "The purpose of connecting the etymology of a Homeric word with its current usage in the Homeric poems is to establish a continuum of meaning within tradition. An etymology may be a 'key' to the diachronic explanation of some reality, as in the case of a cultural continuum, but it cannot be equated with some clever novelty in literary criticism."[2]

§27. In this context, some have misunderstood my view of oral tradition as a regulator of meaning (Introduction §§4-11).[1] My approach to continuities (and discontinuities) of meaning within tradition is anything but absolutist:

Whereas a given tradition may be perceived in absolute terms within a given society, it can be analyzed in relative terms by the outside observer using empirical criteria: what may seem ancient and immutable to members of a given society can in fact be contemporary and ever-changing from the standpoint of empiricist observation. Moreover, I recognize that tradition is not just an inherited system: as with language itself, tradition comes to life in the here-and-now of real people in real situations.

§28. The phenomenon of meaning by way of reference in oral poetics leads to more specific questions about Homeric "cross-references." Here again, I apply the diachronic perspective of my evolutionary model:

It is from a diachronic perspective that I find it useful to consider the phenomenon of Homeric cross-references, especially long-distance ones that happen to reach for hundreds or even thousands of lines: it is important to keep in mind that any such cross-reference that we admire in our two-dimensional text did not just happen one time in one performance--but presumably countless times in countless reperformances within the three-dimensional continuum of a specialized oral tradition. The resonances of Homeric cross-referencing must be appreciated within the larger context of a long history of repeated performances.
[1] To put it most succinctly: "the referent of a reference in oral poetics is not restricted to the immediate context but extends to analogous contexts heard in previous performances."[2]

§29. The evolutionary model can be applied to justify, in terms of oral poetics, the artistic subtleties of cross-reference in the "embassy scene" of Iliad IX, and it helps further refine my proposed solution to the notorious problem of dual-for-plural usages in that passage (Ch.3§§9-20). [1] The same model can also account for the poetic subtleties of the first song of Demodokos in Odyssey viii 73-82 (Ch.1§8):

The Muse impelled the singer to sing the glories [kleos plural] of men,
from a story-thread[2] which had at that time a glory [kleos] reaching the vast heavens:
the quarrel of Odysseus and Achilles son of Peleus,
how they once upon a time [pote] fought at a sumptuous feast of the gods. ...
... For then [tote] it was that the beginning of pain [pêma] started rolling [kulindeto]
upon both Trojans and Danaans, on account of the plans of great Zeus.

§30. In this book, I read the adverb tote 'then' of verse 81 as a cross-reference to the adverb pote 'once upon a time' at verse 76. [1] By virtue of cross-referring to a specific point in epic time, the wording tote gar 'for then it was...' at verse 81 cross-refers also to a specific point in a notionally total and continuous narration extending into the current narrative.[2]

§31. To "return to the time-frame introduced by the earlier temporal adverb" is a matter of performance, not just composition. That is, the cross-reference represented in this story-within-a-story is performative as well as compositional. The blind singer is here being represented as cross-referring by way of performance.

§32. Contact is being made between the micro-narrative of Odyssey viii 72-83 and the macro-narrative of the Iliad. A key is the word pêma 'pain' in Odyssey viii 82. This "pain" signals an Iliadic theme, which can be summarized as follows: Achilles is a pêma for the Trojans when he is at war and a pêma for the Achaeans both when he withdraws from war and when he dies (Ch.4§6). In our Iliad, this "pain" is realized in the death of Patroklos, which foretells the death of Achilles himself (Iliad XVII 685-690):

Come, so that you may learn
of the ghastly news, which should never have happened.
I think that you already see, and that you realize,
that a god is letting roll [kulindei] a pain [pêma] upon the Danaans,
and that victory belongs to the Trojans; the best of the Achaeans has been killed,
Patroklos, that is; and a great loss has been inflicted on the Danaans.
Like some colossal boulder that has just broken loose from the heights above, the pain is now rolling precipitously and inexorably downward, heading straight at the doomed Iliadic warriors down below. This powerful metaphor of epic doom, resonating through the fine-tuned words of Homeric song, evokes the grand images that link the first song of Demodokos with the ultimate song of Achilles, the Iliad.

§33. I can only repeat a conclusion reached twenty years ago (Ch.4§8), but this time with a pronounced shift in emphasis, highlighted by underlines:

An Iliad composed by Demodokos would have been a poem with a structure more simple and more broad, with an Achilles who is even perhaps more crude than the ultimately refined hero that we see emerging at the end of our Iliad. I have little doubt that such an Iliad was indeed in the process of evolving when it was heard in the Odyssey tradition which evolved into our Odyssey. Demodokos had heard the kleos and passed it on in song.


§1n1. By "archaic" I mean the historical period extending roughly from the second half of the eighth century B.C. through the second half of the fifth. As for "Homer", I invoke the name as a metonym for "Homeric poetry."

§6n1. My present Foreword is a substitute for the original 1979 foreword written by James M. Redfield, which I will treasure forever. I have exchanged here the old gold for new bronze, which I need as armor for restating my own case.

§6n2. Nagy 1990a (hereafter PH), as listed in the updated Bibliography of this second edition. Note too the electronic edition of PH, as also indicated in the Bibliography below. Another book supplements the 1979 edition: Nagy 1990b (hereafter GM), especially Ch.2 ("Formula and Meter: The Oral Poetics of Homer"), Ch.3 ("Hesiod and the Poetics of Pan-Hellenism"), and Ch.5 ("The Death of Sarpedon and the Question of Homeric Uniqueness").

§6n3. Nagy 1996a and 1996b in the updated Bibliography, hereafter PP and HQ respectively. Although HQ covers the earlier phases of the Homeric tradition and PP the later, HQ is marked 1996b in the bibliography because it was published several months after PP, which is marked 1996. HQ cross-refers extensively to PP, while the first edition of PP has no direct cross-references to HQ as a book version.

§7n1. One such topic, which is vitally important for my overview of archaic Greek poetry, is the genre of "lives of poets," on which see below at Ch.7§9n1, Ch.13§13n, Ch.16§§5-6, Ch.17§§7-8, and all of Ch.18 (especially §4n4 and §7). My approach to the "vita" traditions of poets is meant as an alternative to the outlook represented by Lefkowitz 1981. See also PH 80, 322-326, 333, 363-365, 392, 395-397, 412, 419-423.

§8n1. The updated Bibliography below tracks some of the progress in reception: see for example Bakker 1997, Burgess 1996, Calame 1995, Detienne 1993, Dumézil 1982, Easterling 1989, Hainsworth 1991, Janko 1992, Koenen 1994, Loraux 1994, Lord 1991 and 1995, Martin 1983 and 1989, Morris 1986 and 1993, Muellner 1996, Palmer 1980, Pinney 1983, Pucci 1998, Seaford 1994, Segal 1994, Slatkin 1991, Snodgrass 1987, Svenbro 1993, Vernant 1985.

§8n2. Patterns of avoidance persist in the publications of a few Classicists. At times the avoidance takes the shape of shifting the point of reference from my initial observation to someone else's restatement.

§10n1. Separate bibliographies of various polemics, along with my counterarguments, is offered in PP 1-3 and HQ 129-145 (with pp. 19-27). For a different set of polemics, see also GM 294-301.

§11n1. For comparative perspectives drawn from a variety of non-Greek cultures, see HQ Ch.2.

§12n1. HQ 31.

§13n1. HQ 9-10; also GM 18-35.

§13n2. PP 107-152, with full argumentation.

§13n3. Redfield 1979.vii. The phenomenon of poetic variation is in fact the central topic of one of my books (PP).

§15n1. GM 7-17. Also part of the system are compositions like the Homeric Hymn to Apollo (see Introduction §13-15). On the cultural construct of Homer as author of this Hymn, see PH 375-377, PP 81-82.

§15n2. I find it absurd that some Homeric bibliographies classify my book as if it concerned only the Iliad, not the Odyssey.

§16n1. On kleos 'glory' as conferred by poetry, see Ch.1§2n3. Some critics undervalue the traditional poetic implications of this word: for further argumentation and select bibliography, see PH 3n10 and 244-245n126. For a similar semantic pattern, where the overall concept of the medium subsumes individual contexts within it, see PH 218-219 on the usage of apo-deik-numai in the sense of 'perform'.

§16n2. A key to the epic success of Odysseus is his wife, Penelope. At Ch.2§13n, I argue that the ultimate referent of kleos at Odyssey xxiv 196 is the song of Odysseus, the Odyssey, even if the immediate referent is Penelope. The relationship between the kleos of Odysseus and the kleos of Penelope is metonymical and reciprocal. See also Raphals 1992.206.

§17n1. Iliadic themes are a threat to Odysseus in the Odyssey: see Ch.20§4 on the nightmarish Iliadic implications of Odyssey x 198-202. See also Ch.15§7n4 on the Song of the Sirens in Odyssey xii 189-191: when they tempt Odysseus by promising songs about the Tale of Troy, they speak the language of Muses. If Odysseus were to fall permanently under the spell of such Iliadic songs in his own Odyssey, he would forfeit his nóstos and thereby his only remaining access to kléos. For more on the Iliadic implications of the Sirens, see Pucci 1979 and 1998.

§18n1. The ironies of kléos in the Odyssey are developed explicitly in Best of the Achaeans (especially in Ch.2§11). There is a great deal of further elaboration by Segal 1983. See also Ch.6§9 below on the simile of the lamenting captive woman in Odyssey viii 523-531: this passage is crucial for my overall argumentation about Iliadic resonances in the Odyssey.

§19n1. Slatkin 1987 and Muellner 1996.45 (also all of his Ch.4). I offer a general introduction to Hesiodic poetry in GM Ch.3 ("Hesiod and the Poetics of Panhellenism'; see especially p. 53n54).

§19n2. See GM 126n17 on the interpretation of the pivotal word men in Works and Days 166 as parallel to men at lines 122, 137, 141, 161, not to men at line 162 (pace West 1978.192; more on men in Bakker 1997.80-85, especially p. 81).

§19n3. See PH 215-215. For more on Homeric and Hesiodic complementarity, see also PH 73n106 and GM 15-16 on Hesiod fr. 204 (cf. Finkelberg 1988).

§19n4. PP Ch.5-7.

§19n5. PH Ch.2-3, GM Ch. 1 and 3. On models of Panhellenism extending to modern times, see Leontis 1995.

§22n1. I spell out my reasons in PH 53-54. For a model of intertextual approaches to Homer, see Pucci 1995 and 1998.

§22n2. HQ Ch.2 ("An Evolutionary Model for the Making of Homeric Poetry"); also Ch.3 ("Homer and the Evolution of a Homeric Text"). See below at Ch.1§§6-7 ("evolved"/"evolving"). See also Seaford 1994, especially p. 144. My evolutionary model differs from various specific "dictation-theories," most notably those of Janko (1982.191), Jensen (1980.92), and West (1990.34). It is not at odds, however, with the more general dictation theory of Lord 1953 (reprinted 1991). For further bibliography on dictation theories, see Nagy 1997d.

§22n3. HQ 41-42, with details in HQ Ch.3; also PP 110, with details in PP Ch.5-7. The HQ and PP discussions emphasize respectively the earlier and later phases of my evolutionary model. See also Sherratt 1990, especially pp. 817-821.

§22n4. See also PP Ch.5 ("Multiform epic and Aristarchus' quest for the real Homer"); Ch.6 ("Homer as script"); Ch.7 ("Homer as 'scripture'"). On hermeneutic models of "transcript," see PP 110-113 and Bakker 1997.208n3.

§23n1. Saussure 1916.117. See GM 20

§23n2. Saussure, ibid.: "De même synchronie et diachronie désigneront respectivement un état de langage et une phase d'évolution."

§25n1. PP 50.

§25n2. HQ 17, 20.

§25n3. PH 21n18, following Jacopin 1988.35-36, who adds: "Both synchrony and diachrony are abstractions extrapolated from a model of reality."

§26n1. In this book, a model for linguistic research in etymologies is Benveniste 1969. See below at Ch.6§13. See also in general GM 1-2.

§26n2. HQ 9. See especially Ch.5 below, "The Name of Achilles," including the supplement at pp. 83-93, "The Name of the Achaeans." See also the Appendix, concerning the morphological parallelism Akhaio- / krataio-. I argue there that this parallelism, linking the name of the Achaeans with a word conveying the "zero-sum" mentality of heroic victory or defeat, is crucial for understanding the epic themes linking the hero Achilles with the host of warriors who claim him as one of their own. See now also Nagy 1994.5, with further elaboration on combining methods of etymological and formulaic analysis.

§27n1. HQ 15n8, with bibliography.

§27n2. HQ 15. Also PH 57-61, 70-72 (cf. also pp. 349, 411). At HQ 15n8, I add: "there can be different levels of rigidity or flexibility in different traditions, even in different phases of the same given tradition."

§28n1. HQ 82.

§28n2. HQ 82n53.

§29n1. For the inner logic of reference and cross-reference in the "embassy scene," see in general HQ 138-145, especially p. 144n133 (pace Griffin 1995.52). In the French edition of Best of the Achaeans (Nagy 1994b.75), I added the following remarks at the end of §11 in Ch.3, (where I mark the point of addition with an asterisk in the margin): Earlier, before Odysseus had taken the lead, the dual construction could still imply Ajax and Odysseus (IX 182): "And the two were going by the shore of the much-roaring sea." At this point,a dual reference to Ajax and Odysseus would pick up the reference to these two heroes at IX 169, where the leadership of Phoinix is still presupposed (IX 168).

§29n2. On the metaphorical world of oímê, which I translate here as 'story-thread' see PP 63n19, n20.

§30n1. Pelliccia 1985 (185-186) collects evidence to show that tote 'then' in such contexts as viii 81 serves "to return to the time-frame introduced by the earlier temporal adverb." In this case that temporal adverb is pote 'once upon a time' at verse 76.

§30n2. On the essential notion, inherent in oral poetic traditions, of a total and continuous narration, of which any given performance is but a part, see HQ 77-82. For comparative evidence on the notional totality of epic performances, see Flueckiger 1996.133-134. See already Ch.1§6 below: "the traditions of the Iliad and the Odyssey constitute a totality."

Go to Next chapter; Table of Contents; Information

Copyright © 1980, 1997 The Johns Hopkins University Press. All rights reserved. This document may be used, with this notice included, for noncommercial purposes within a subscribed institution. No copies of this work may be distributed electronically outside of the subscribed institution, in whole or in part, without written permission from the JHU Press.