Friday, July 25, 2014

Haven’t we had this discussion before? Iris’s message and the Trojan assembly

Just as the Catalogue of Ships is much longer and more elaborate than the catalogue of the Trojans and their allies, so it seems that my posts will be shorter than Casey’s. But the Iliad’s oral, traditional poetry shows us that such compression for what comes second is part of the poetics. In addition to the example of the two catalogues, we can also compare the version in the Venetus A of the arming of Paris and Menelaos for their duel. (Lord used this example for illustrating compression and expansion, Lord 1960/2000: 89–91.) Paris’s arming scene is composed in 11 lines (Iliad 3.328–338), detailing each piece of equipment he dons, while Menelaos’s is summed up in just one line “Similarly Ares-like Menelaos put on his war gear as well” (Iliad 3.339). [I specify the Venetus A’s version has only one line because P40 records three partial lines following this one in which Menelaos putting on some war gear is described!] The benefit for me in going second is that I can likewise refer back to Casey’s masterly explanations in what I am addressing. 

For example, Casey noted in her latest post that the evolution of the epic over time allows for it to organically recompose themes and episodes that in other ways of telling the story would happen earlier within the narrative than the tenth year of the war. Thus the Catalogue of Ships, or any roster of fighters, might be though of as appropriate to the beginning of the war, but it can be (and has been!) recomposed to become a integral part of the Iliad. I of course agree completely with what Casey is saying, and I want to extend the discussion by noting that the traditionality of the theme or episode allows  it to evoke those other ways of using it as well. That is, the Catalogue of Ships certainly is integrated into the narrative of the Iliad in the tenth year of the war, but if it was ever sung as part of the telling of the beginning of the war, it can also maintain that trace of those earlier events within the current performance. The Catalogue comes at a point in this tenth year when the Achaeans could have left, but instead they renew their commitment to the war and resume the fighting. Thus the war “restarts” and the contingents fighting for both sides are recomposed into this action sequence. 

In my last post, I examined the lines in which the Trojans are introduced to us with the arrival of the divine messenger Iris and looked at the meanings of the formulas “ἠμὲν νέοι ἠδὲ γέροντες” (2.789) and “ἀγγελίῃ ἀλεγεινῇ” (2.787) and the deeper connections they create by way of their other uses in the epic. Now I will continue looking at the message Iris brings, to see how it, too, is both organic within this narrative and also possibly evokes ways of singing such an episode at the very beginning of the war. So what I hope to show here is that (1) Iris’s message to and about the Trojan assembly both belongs to the tenth year of the war and evokes the very beginning of the war through its deployment of its traditional language, And (2) that it can do both simultaneously adds depth of meaning (a phenomenon we see frequently with traditional language).  Here is the fuller passage, again using the Venetus A manuscript’s version:

786 Τρωσὶν δ᾽ ἄγγελος ἦλθε ποδήνεμος ὠκέα Ϊ῀ρις
787  παρ Διὸς αἰγιόχοιο σὺν ἀγγελίῃ ἀλεγεινῇ·
788  οἱ δ᾽ ἀγορὰς ἀγόρευον ἐπὶ Πριάμοιο θύρῃσι
789  πάντες ὁμηγερέες, ἠμὲν νέοι ἠδὲ γέροντες·
790  ἀγχοῦ δ᾽ ἱ¨σταμένη προσέφη πόδας ὠκέα Ϊ῀ρις·
791  εἴσατο δὲ φθογγὴν· υἱέϊ Πριάμοιο Πολίτῃ
792  ὃς Τρώων σκοπὸς ΐζε ποδωκείῃσι πεποιθὼς.
793  τύμβῳ ἐπ ακροτάτῳ Αἰσυήταο γέροντος
794  δέγμενος ὁππότε, ναῦφιν ἀφορμηθεῖεν Ἀχαιοί·
795  τῷ μιν ἐεισαμένη προσέφη πόδας ὠκέα Ϊ῀ρις·
796  ὦ γέρον. αἰεί τοι μῦθοι φίλοι ἄκριτοί εἰσιν·
797  ὥς ποτ᾽ ἐπ᾽ εἰρήνης. πόλεμος δ᾽ ἀλίαστος όρωρεν·
798  ἤδη μὲν ῆ μὲν δὴ μάλα πολλὰ μάχας εἰσήλυθον ἀνδρῶν.
799  ἀλλ᾽ οὔ πω τοιόνδε τοσόνδέ τε λαὸν ὄπωπα·
800  λίην γὰρ φύλλοισιν ἐοικότες ἢ ψαμάθοισιν
801  ἔρχονται πεδίοιο μαχησόμενοι περι προτι ἄστυ·
802  Ἕκτορ· σοὶ δὲ μάλιστ᾽ ἐπιτέλλομαι· ὧδε δὲ ῥέξαι·
803  πολλοὶ γὰρ κατὰ ἄστυ μέγα Πριάμου ἐπίκουροι
804  ἄλλη δ᾽ ἄλλων γλῶσσα πολυσπερέων ἀνθρώπων·
805  τοῖσιν ἕκαστος ἀνὴρ σημαινέτω οἷσί περ ἄρχει·
806  τῶν δ᾽ ἐξηγείσθω κοσμησάμενος πολιήτας·

[786] To the Trojans Iris with wind-swift feet came as a messenger
[787] from aegis-shaking Zeus with a troubling message. 
[788] They were speaking in assembly at the doors of Priam,
[789] all of them gathered together, both young men and old.
[790] Swift-footed Iris stood close by and spoke,
[791] and she likened her voice to that of the son of Priam, Polites,
[792] who was sitting as a lookout for the Trojans, confident in the swiftness of his feet,
[793] on the highest point of the burial mound of the old man Aisyetes
[794] awaiting the time when the Achaeans would make a start from their ships.
[795] Resembling him, swift footed Iris spoke:
[796] “Old man, always dear [philos] to you are words [muthos] without decision,
[797] so it was once in peacetime, but unavoidable war has come about.
[798] Indeed [v.l. Already] so many times I have entered battles with men,
[799] but not yet have I seen so many and such great warriors.
[800] As numerous as leaves or grains of sand
[801] they come across the plain to fight around [v.l. against] the city.
[802] Hektor, to you most of all I give commands: do the following.
[803] Since there are throughout the great city of Priam many allies,
[804] and the language of one group differs from the language of the other men from all over,
[805] let each man give signals to those whom he rules.
[806] And once he has arrayed his citizens, let each be the leader of them.”

Iris comes in the guise of Polites, son of Priam, who is acting as a lookout. It certainly makes sense to have lookouts posted for the movements of the Achaeans even now in the tenth year of the war, so that the Trojans can be alerted when they are on the attack, but the details of what Iris says evoke the Achaeans’ very first landing at and attack against Troy. She contrasts “peacetime” with the fact that war is now upon them (Iliad 2.797)—a contrast easily made at the beginning of a conflict with a call to action. Another detail that recalls the beginning of the war is when she says that she has never seen so many or such great warriors (Iliad 2.799). Since the Trojans, including Polites, have been seeing these warriors for over nine years now,  this description of the overwhelming force of the Achaeans, like the renewed commitment to the war on the Achaeans’ part earlier in Book 2 that prompts the Catalogue of Ships, similarly conjures up the beginning of the war, when the arrival of the Achaeans could have been announced in this same language. As Casey was pointing out about the Catalogue itself, this statement’s evocation of the beginning of the war does not mean it is inappropriate or poorly integrated here, but rather that traditional language can operate on both levels simultaneously. (David Elmer [2013: 102] also shows how the poetry can operate at the levels of the past and present at the same time when he argues that the Catalogue of Ships becomes the “ultimate emblem” of order and the epic tradition as it “appears to describe not just the various components of Agamemnon’s fleet when he sailed for Troy but also the units into which the leaders divide the army on the present occasion.” The Catalogue, Elmer goes on to say, “also exhibits the poetic order imposed by the narrator with the help of the Muses.”)

One other aspect of Iris’s speech also suggests the way the language here could have been used to sing the beginning of the war, and, if it had been used in such a way, could for a traditional audience bring to mind that episode. David Elmer’s work brought my attention to Iris’s opening description of this Trojan assembly, where their words are ἄκριτοι (2.796, “without decision” in my translation, “that do not arrive at a result” in Elmer’s, 2013: 134). Elmer contrasts this habitual lack of consensus and decision-making among the Trojans that Iris describes (instead, right after her speech, Hector alone makes a decision and takes action) with the collective decision making of the Achaeans (Elmer 2013: 134–135). (Elmer also notes the communication problem of speaking different languages that Iris points to at 2.803–806 as part of the problem for “true collective action” among the Trojans.) This contrast, Elmer points out, is similarly seen in Iliad 7 when both the Achaeans and the Trojans hold assemblies after the day’s battle has been concluded. The Achaean leaders all express their approval of Nestor’s suggestion to build their defensive wall (Iliad 7.344), and meanwhile, the Trojans hold an assembly that is “angry and full of discord” (Iliad 7.345–346, Elmer’s translation of δεινὴ τετρηχυῖα, 2013: 133). 

What the Trojans discuss at that discordant assembly in Iliad 7 brings me back to how Iris’s characterization of Priam’s speeches as “without decision” can evoke the beginning of the war. In the assembly in Iliad 7, the proposal discussed (and rejected by Paris) is the return of Helen to the Achaeans. If the Trojans were in assembly when Polites or Iris brought the message that the Achaeans had arrived (for the first time) to make war on Troy, we can imagine that the subject of deliberation was whether or not to return Helen. That their public speeches (μῦθοι) then were also ἄκριτοι is evidenced by the fact that they are still in the tenth year considering whether they should return Helen, as seen both in the assembly in Iliad 7 and in the words of the Trojan elders in Iliad 3, who when they see Helen say that she is worth fighting for, but even so, she should go back in the ships and not remain with them (Iliad 3.154–160). We are not told in this scene in Iliad 2 what the Trojans were discussing in their assembly—but its associations with other Trojan assemblies (such as that in Iliad 7) and the whole scene’s associations with the beginning of the war draw our attention to that crucial decision that the Trojans could never make, even to save themselves. Iris’s message therefore gives not only a sense of that first landing of the Achaeans at Troy but also fulfills her opening description— it tells us that no matter how many times the Trojans deliberate over how to prevent or to end this war, their speeches are always without a collective agreement, without a final decision about what to do about Helen. Thus the assembly in the past, when the Achaeans first arrived, and this assembly in the present when the war is renewed, can use the same traditional language and themes and thereby give us a sense of the war at those two points in time—and even as a repeating continuance from the beginning to the “now” of the story. 

Work cited:
Elmer, David F. 2013. The Poetics of Consent: Collective Decision Making & the Iliad. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Walk On Characters in the Iliad

[494] Of the Boeotians Peneleos and Leitos were the leaders...

The first entry in the Catalogue takes us immediately into questions that have fascinated and confounded scholars since ancient times. It would be impossible for me to address all of the controversies in one post, so I will just note a few here and will plan to focus on these and other questions in more depth in other posts. Since my primary interests are in the poetics of the catalogue, its relation to the larger epic tradition, and the workings of oral poetry, I will be devoting most of my commentary to aspects of the catalogue that touch on those themes.

While I am less interested in the relationship between particular eras of history and the composition of the Catalogue, we will see (here, but more so in subsequent posts) that how we think about such questions does affect our understanding of the poetics and the oral traditional system within which the Catalogue was composed. In addition to my debt to the scholarship of Milman Parry and Albert Lord, my thinking on this topic has been most influenced by the work of two particular scholars, namely E. S. Sheratt, and her article “‘Reading the Texts’: Archaeology and the Homeric Question” (Antiquity 64 [1990]:807-24) and Gregory Nagy’s evolutionary model for the crystallization of the Homeric epics over time. (See, e.g., Nagy, Homeric Questions [Austin 1996]. Nagy has continued to refine the theory in subsequent publications.) Both scholars conceive of the Iliad as a work that evolved (with no teleology implied) over many centuries in a song tradition that dates at least as far back as the early palatial period of the Mycenaean Bronze Age, if not earlier. The work of both authors makes clear that the process by which earlier and later material became incorporated into and integral to the oral formulaic diction resulted in a system from which it would be impossible to separate out and isolate poetry of different eras. Sherratt vividly illustrates that even within a single passage of the Iliad (for example an encounter on the battlefield) different eras of material culture are inextricably intertwined. Likewise the diction of Homeric poetry cannot be separated into distinct layers, even though it is clear to linguists that some formulas are earlier than others and were composed in different dialects at different eras. (See especially the classic treatment by Milman Parry, “Studies in the Epic Technique of Oral Versemaking. II. The Homeric Language as the Language of Oral Poetry” [Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 43 (1932):1–50]; Reprinted in A. Parry, ed., The Making of Homeric Verse [Oxford, 1971], 325–64.)

I would like to begin my investigation of how the Catalogue fits in to such a system with a preliminary exploration of the function of the Catalogue. Why narrate a roster of the combatants in the tenth year of the war? It is a question that has been posed time and again of various episodes in the Iliad, such as the duel between Paris and Menelaos for Helen in Book 3 and the teikhoskopia (“viewing from the walls,” also in Book 3), in which Helen points out and describes, as if for the first time, the Greek soldiers fighting before the walls of Troy. Scholars (especially by those of the Analyst and Neo-Analyst school of thought) have wanted to see such episodes as borrowings by the poet of our Iliad from the poems of the Epic Cycle. (On the relationship between the Iliad and the Epic Cycle from the perspective of Neo-analysis see Jonathan Burgess, The Tradition of the Trojan War in Homer and the Epic Cycle [Baltimore, 2001]. For more on how such borrowings would work within an oral tradition, see Burgess, “Neoanalysis, Orality, and Intertextuality: An Examination of Homeric Motif Transference” [Oral Tradition 21 (2006):148–189].)

Mabel Lang has offered a different explanation for these seeming chronological inconsistencies. In her argument, the Iliad has its origins in a linear telling of the Trojan War. Over time it came to be a song about Achilles’ wrath, and parts of the earlier tradition were arranged to fit it. For example, the so-called teikhoskopia by Helen and Priam seems to belong more naturally to the beginning of the war than its tenth year, according to Lang, but this scene was then fitted to the “restart” of the fighting after Achilles’ withdrawal. (See “War Story into Wrath Story.” In J. B. Carter and S. P. Morris, eds., The Ages of Homer: A Tribute to Emily Townsend Vermeule [Austin, 1995], 149-62.)

Lang's arguments are more in keeping with my own understanding of the Iliad as a poem that evolved over the course of many centuries—one that is not the creation of one particular poet, who "borrows" material from other poems, but is rather the collective creation of the sum total of generations of singers, all composing in performance within the same traditional system. I would formulate the process slightly differently than Lang, in that I see the transformation of the linear narrative as being natural and organic, occurring gradually as the poem was recomposed in performance over the course of centuries, rather than an inorganic process by which earlier episodes were "made to fit." (In saying this, I don't mean to deny that certain cultural forces or institutions, such as the regulated performances of the Iliad at the Panathenaia, contributed to the shaping of the Iliad as we now have it.)

Another episode whose placement has troubled scholars is the building of the Achaean wall in Iliad 7 and the fight that takes place before it in Iliad 12 (see, e.g., Leaf's introduction to book 12 in his commentary on the Iliad [New York, 1900]). Even professed oralists have speculated that the episode of the wall has been somehow artificially inserted into its present place (see Timothy Boyd, "A Poet on the Achaean Wall" [Oral Tradition 10/1 (1995): 181-206] and James Porter, "Making and Unmaking: The Achaean Wall and the Limits of Fictionality in Homeric Criticism" [Classics@ 3]). But as Corinne Pache has demonstrated, the poetics of the building, battle before, and future destruction of the wall are both deeply ingrained in the Iliad itself and also resonate powerfully with those of the larger epic tradition. (See Pache, "Theban Walls in Homeric Epic," forthcoming in C. Tsagalis, ed., Theban Resonances in Homeric Epic, Trends in Classics 6 [2014].) She writes:
"The Theban tradition may also be key to understanding the role of the wall in the narrative. The Iliad may be deliberately vague about the number of gates, but, as others have noted before, the wall is crucial in allowing the poet to turn the longest day of battle at Troy (books 11-18) into an unexpected kind of narrative, one that portrays the Greeks as defenders rather than besiegers, an obvious connection with Theban epic: the Greeks, like the Trojans, and like the Thebans before them, are put in the position of defending their wall. The building, and eventual destruction, of the Achaian wall are also both included in the poem, transforming the few days of battle witnessed by the Iliad into a narrative of a city’s symbolic foundation, siege, and destruction."
What Pache shows is that the building of the Achaean wall is not an earlier episode that has been awkwardly (or inventively, depending on the scholar) worked into a later poem, but a traditional theme that would have deeply resonated with an ancient audience. So too do I think we need to try to understand the Catalogue of Ships, regardless of how it may have functioned in an earlier stage of the tradition, as an organic component of the Iliad as we have it, and one that evolved as the poem evolved over the course of many centuries.

As many have noted, our Catalogue is aware of what has come before and what will come after in the narrative. The entry for Achilles is a perfect example:

Νῦν, αὖ, τοὺς ὅσσοι, τὸ Πελασγικὸν Ἄργος ἔναιον
οἵ τ᾽ Ἄλον οἵ τ᾽ Ἀλόπην· οἵ τε Τρηχῖν’ ἐνέμοντο
οἵ τ᾽ εἶχον Φθίην ἠδ᾽ Ἑλλάδα καλλιγύναικα
Μυρμιδόνες δὲ καλεῦτο καὶ Ἕλληνες καὶ Ἀχαιοὶ.
τῶν αὖ πεντήκοντα νεῶν ἦν ἀρχὸς Ἀχιλλεύς.
ἀλλ᾽ οἵ γ᾽ οὐ πολέμοιο δυσηχέος ἐμνώοντο·
οὐ γὰρ ἔην ὅς τί σφιν ἐπὶ στίχας ἡγήσαιτο·
κεῖτο γὰρ ἐν νήεσσι ποδάρκης δῖος Ἀχιλλεὺς
κούρης χωόμενος Βρισηΐδος ἠϋκόμοιο
τὴν ἐκ Λυρνησσοῦ ἐξείλετο πολλὰ μογήσας
Λυρνησσὸν διαπορθήσας καὶ τείχεα Θήβης·
καδ δὲ Μύνητ᾽ ἔβαλεν καὶ Ἐπίστροφον ἐγχεσιμώρους
υἱέας Εὐηνοῖο, Σεληπιάδαο ἄνακτος·
τῆς ὅ γε κεῖτ᾽ ἀχέων. τάχα δ᾽ ἀνστήσεσθαι ἔμελλεν·
(Iliad 2.681-694)

[681] Now however many inhabited Pelasgian Argos,
[682] and those who possesed Alos and Alope and Trachis,
[683] and those who held Phthia and Hellas of the beautiful women,
[684] and were called Myrmidons and Hellenes and Achaeans,
[685] of these Achilles was the leader of fifty ships.
[686] But they did not have in mind grievous war.
[687] For they did not have anyone to lead the troops.
[688] For swift-footed radiant Achilles lay among his ships
[689] furious over the girl Briseis with the beautiful hair,
[690] whom he took from Lyrnessos with great toil,
[691] when he sacked Lyrnessos and the walls of Thebe
[692] and he slew the spear-fighters Mynes and Epistrophus,
[693] the sons of the lord Euenus, who was the son of Selepius.
[694] He lay grieving because of her, but he was soon to rise up.

I have written about these lines elsewhere (Dué, Homeric Variations on a Lament by Briseis [Lanham, 2002]) as an illustration of the way that epic narratives can be greatly expanded (to a poem the scale of the Iliad) or highly compressed (as here) within an oral performance tradition. If the Iliad did not survive and these lines were found in another epic about another warrior at Troy, today’s readers would find the references to Achilles’ anger and the capture of Briseis at Lyrnessos obscure. But for a traditional audience, the mênis of Achilles would be called before their eyes, and that compressed narrative would resonate within its context. Briseis' own personal history is now largely lost to us, but it was the aim of my 2002 book to show that ancient audiences most likely knew at least one expanded version, and possibly more than one version, of her story.

We can see that, as in the episode of the Achaean wall, the entry for Achilles within the Catalogue of Ships connects both backwards and forwards and outwardly to the larger tradition. The Myrmidons are without a leader because of the events of Iliad 1. It is also noted that he is going to return - an event that will not occur for another seventeen books. At the same time, events outside the scope of our Iliad are likewise referenced, namely the sack of Lyrnessos and the capture of Briseis. The sack of Lyrnessos and the taking of Briseis were narrated in the Cypria according to our ancient sources. The Iliad can refer to this poetic tradition and it can be assumed that the audience will be familiar with the expanded narrative.

I find it helpful to think of each entry in the catalogue—and indeed all named figures in the Iliad—as being like an index entry, with the epic tradition as a whole being the work to which it refers. (Compare, for example, Milman Parry on πολύμητις Ὀδυσσεὺς: “δῖος and πολύμητις, for the audience, describe the Odysseus of all the epic poems which sang his deeds” [Parry 1971:171]. See also Dué,  “Agamemnon’s Densely-packed Sorrow in Iliad 10: A Hypertextual Reading of a Homeric Simile” [In C. Tsagalis, ed., Homeric Hypertextuality, Trends in Classics 2 (2010)], especially pp. 280-281.) The audience has, at least as a notional entity, read the entire “book.” Because we are so far removed from the historical performance contexts of the Iliad and Odyssey – and all other epics that existed in antiquity – we modern readers of the epics have, in most cases, read only the index entry.

And so I'd like to turn now then to the first named characters in the Catalogue, the leaders of the Boiotians, Peneleos and Leitos. These heroes play only a small role in the Iliad as a whole, they are walk on characters, if you will. They appear again together in Book 13 (91–125), where Poseidon, after first inspiring the two Ajaxes, exhorts Peneleos and Leitos to fight, along with Teucer, Thoas, Deipyros, Meriones, and Antilokhos, all of whom are resting near the ships. Their inclusion among some of the foremost fighters of the Achaeans is suggestive, but there is otherwise little to be learned about them in this passage.

In 14.487ff., however, Peneleos avenges the death of the warrior Promakhos at the hands of Akamas. (It would appear that Promakhos and Peneleos are related, on which see the scholia of the Venetus B ad 2.494 [urn:cite:hmt:msB.31v] and Kirk's commentary ad 14.449.) Akamas retreats unharmed, but Peneleos kills the Trojan Ilioneus, an only son whose head Peneleos lifts up "like the head of a poppy" and boasts over it:

Πηνέλεῳ δὲ μάλιστα δαΐφρονι θυμὸν ὄρινεν:
ὁρμήθη δ᾽ Ἀκάμαντος: ὃ δ᾽ οὐχ ὑπέμεινεν ἐρωὴν
Πηνελέωο ἄνακτος: ὃ δ᾽ οὔτασεν Ἰλιονῆα
υἱὸν Φόρβαντος πολυμήλου, τόν ῥα μάλιστα
Ἑρμείας Τρώων ἐφίλει καὶ κτῆσιν ὄπασσε:
τῷ δ᾽ ἄρ᾽ ὑπὸ μήτηρ μοῦνον τέκεν Ἰλιονῆα.
τὸν τόθ᾽ ὑπ᾽ ὀφρύος οὖτα κατ᾽ ὀφθαλμοῖο θέμεθλα,
ἐκ δ᾽ ὦσε γλήνην: δόρυ δ᾽ ὀφθαλμοῖο διὰ πρὸ
καὶ διὰ ἰνίου ἦλθεν, ὃ δ᾽ ἕζετο χεῖρε πετάσσας
ἄμφω: Πηνέλεως δὲ ἐρυσσάμενος ξίφος ὀξὺ
αὐχένα μέσσον ἔλασσεν, ἀπήραξεν δὲ χαμᾶζε
αὐτῇ σὺν πήληκι κάρη: ἔτι δ᾽ ὄβριμον ἔγχος
ἦεν ἐν ὀφθαλμῷ: ὃ δὲ φὴ κώδειαν ἀνασχὼν
πέφραδέ τε Τρώεσσι καὶ εὐχόμενος ἔπος ηὔδα:
εἰπέμεναί μοι Τρῶες ἀγαυοῦ Ἰλιονῆος
πατρὶ φίλῳ καὶ μητρὶ γοήμεναι ἐν μεγάροισιν:
οὐδὲ γὰρ ἣ Προμάχοιο δάμαρ Ἀλεγηνορίδαο
ἀνδρὶ φίλῳ ἐλθόντι γανύσσεται, ὁππότε κεν δὴ
ἐκ Τροίης σὺν νηυσὶ νεώμεθα κοῦροι Ἀχαιῶν.
(Iliad 14.487-505)

But he [Akamas] especially stirred the heart [thumos] in keen-spirited Peneleos
and he started for Akamas. But he [Akamas] did not wait for the onrush
of the lord Peneleos. And he [Peneleos] wounded Ilioneos,
the son of Phorbas of many flocks, whom especially
of the Trojans Hermes loved and granted property.
To him his mother had born Ilioneos as an only child,
and him at that moment he [Peneleos] wounded under the eye-brow in the roots of the eye
and he pushed the eye-ball from it. Right through the eye came the spear
and it went through the occipital bone, and he [Ilioneos] sat down, stretching out his hands,
both of them, while Peneleos drew his sharp sword
and drove it in the middle of his neck, and to the ground he struck off
his head together with its helmet. The mighty spear still
was in his eye. And he [Peneleos] holding it up like the head of a poppy
signaled to the Trojans and boasting spoke a word:
"Tell for me, Trojans, illustrious Ilioneus'
dear father and mother to lament in their halls.
For the wife of Promakhos the son of Alegenor
will not be gladdened by her dear husband coming home, whenever
the sons of the Achaeans return from Troy with their ships."

Even though the account of Ilioneos' death is followed by a boast, in which the grief of his parents is treated as just compensation for the grief of the widow of Promakhos, we can see in that account a kind of mourning for Ilioneos and great compassion for the suffering of his Trojan parents. This passage closely resembles others found throughout the Iliad that introduce warriors just before they die. As Mary Ebbott and I have argued elsewhere (C. Dué and M. Ebbott, Iliad 10 and the Poetics of Ambush [Center for Hellenic Studies 2010], 322–323) these highly compressed biographies would likely have served a commemorative function, and, compressed though they are, often share themes and imagery (especially botanical imagery) with traditional female laments, such as those sung by Andromache, Briseis, and Achilles’ mother Thetis in the Iliad. Many of these passages seem to be focalized through the eyes of a mother or widow. In Iliad 11.221–228, we hear the story of Iphidamas, who leaves behind his bride and half-built house to “go after the kleos of the Achaeans.” In Iliad 4.473–489, we learn how Simoeisios comes to be named by his parents, and that he dies before he can repay their care in raising him. He is compared to a felled poplar, a use of plant imagery that is also common in lament. The death of Gorgythion at Iliad 8.302–308 is another particularly beautiful example of this kind of passage, for which we cite the evocative translation of Samuel Butler:

ὃ δ’ ἀμύμονα Γοργυθίωνα
υἱὸν ἐῢν Πριάμοιο κατὰ στῆθος βάλεν ἰῷ,
τόν ῥ’ ἐξ Αἰσύμηθεν ὀπυιομένη τέκε μήτηρ
καλὴ Καστιάνειρα δέμας ἐϊκυῖα θεῇσι.
μήκων δ’ ὡς ἑτέρωσε κάρη βάλεν, ἥ τ’ ἐνὶ κήπῳ
καρπῷ βριθομένη νοτίῃσί τε εἰαρινῇσιν,
ὣς ἑτέρωσ’ ἤμυσε κάρη πήληκι βαρυνθέν.

The arrow hit Priam’s brave son faultless Gorgythion in the chest. His mother, fair Kastianeira, lovely as a goddess, bore him after she had been married from Aisyme, and now he bowed his head as a garden poppy in full bloom when it is weighed down by showers in spring—even thus heavy bowed his head beneath the weight of his helmet. (translation based on that of Samuel Butler)

We­ can easily imagine these words spoken in the first person by Kastianeira upon learning of the death of her son in battle. Indeed, epic poetry is infused with the imagery, themes, and language of lament, so much so that a number of scholars have speculated that women’s lament traditions played a crucial role in the development of epic. Epic poetry narrates the glory of heroes, the klea andrōn, but it also laments their untimely deaths and the suffering they cause. That these lament-filled passages are more often than not sung for the death of the Trojans and their allies is a testament to the remarkable parity of compassion that underlies the Iliad. Both sides are mourned equally. (See Dué and Ebbott 2010: 323 for additional bibliography on the relationship between lament and epic, women’s songs and men’s songs, the mortality of the hero as a central theme of epic, and passages that lament the death of heroes in a highly compressed form, such as the one quoted from Iliad 8 here).

I have dwelled for so long on Peneleos' killing of Ilioneus simply to point out that we have ample evidence for the traditionality of such passages, and that though his role is small, Peneleos is as integrated into the system as any other warrior. We may compare Book 6.35–36, where this time Leitos kills Phylakos in the midst of a list of warriors who get their man (Φύλακον δ᾽ ἕλε Λήϊτος ἥρως/φεύγοντ᾽). And much as in the Ilioneus passage, in the lines just before the death of Phylakos we find yet another highly compressed biography for a fallen warrior:

        Ἔλατον δὲ ἄναξ ἀνδρῶν Ἀγαμέμνων:
ναῖε δὲ Σατνιόεντος ἐϋρρείταο παρ᾽ ὄχθας
Πήδασον αἰπεινήν.

        And Lord of men Agamemnon killed Elatos
who inhabited, by the banks of the wide-flowing river Satnioeis
sheer Pedasos.

Here we are not told anything about Elatos' parents or any other details of his life (such as we find in the other passages cited here), but his home town is remembered along with some geographical details that connect him to a particular place and add to the sense of loss that accompanies his death.

In Book 16 (335–344) Akamas and Peneleos are once again to be found in close proximity to one another on the battlefield. This time Peneleos kills Lykon, while Meriones chases down Akamas and kills him. In Book 17 (597–621), however, Peneleos and Leitos' role in the fighting comes to an end: both Peneleos and Leitos are wounded, one right after the other. Leitos, wounded at the wrist, is permanently disabled from fighting, while Peneleos is struck by Polydamas with a deep wound to the shoulder. Neither warrior is mentioned again in our Iliad.

Like Briseis, Peneleos and Leitos each have a story, one that is known to the larger epic tradition, from which the poet draws the details of his narrative. Neither is a major character in our Iliad, but that does not mean that they never were—or that they did not play a larger role in other epic narratives. And in fact, it seems very likely that these two did play such a role in another epic tradition: they are included in a list of the Argonauts at Apollodorus 1.9.16 (See Lang 1995: 161). If the Argonautic epic tradition (referred to as "a concern for [i.e., known to] all" at Odyssey 12.70) survived for us today along with the Iliad and Odyssey, we would no doubt have a much better understanding of their expanded story, and we would not have to wonder why these two of all the warriors who fought at Troy are named first in the Catalogue. And so once again I return to the idea of the index. A traditional audience, like the oral epic poet, has access to the notional totality of the Epic Tradition, and unconsciously connects to the expanded narrative each time that Peneleos and Leitos appear, however briefly. Without knowing more about their Argonautic exploits, it would be difficult for us modern readers to reconstruct how such knowledge on the part of the audience would have affected the poetics and the reception of the scenes in which they appear, but I would argue that they are necessarily affected. (Cf. C. Tsagalis, "The Dynamic Hypertext: Lists and Catalogues in the Homeric Epics" [in Tsagalis 2010], who writes: "By selecting a name the bard opens a path to the hypertextual web of myth" [Tsagalis 2010: 323]. Tsagalis concludes: "catalogues have no end, only 'endings', whose plurality is an invitation to the audience to go on in their own mind, to conjure up more information from other traditions or sources, to be alert to the existence of a totality that song can never fully achieve" [Tsagalis 2010: 347].)

Returning then to the Catalogue of Ships, I'd like to conclude by suggesting once again that this roster of names and places is the closest thing that the Iliad has to an index for itself, and for the larger tradition on which it draws. Each entry signals to the audience an awareness of and respect for a whole host of epic narratives associated with those names and places. (See also Lang 1995, 161: "Speculative in the extreme? Yes, but sensible if ones sees the Catalogue of Ships not as a survey of actual political geography, but as a poetic attempt to list as many famous heroes as might possibly have fought in the Trojan War, although in the Iliad at least, several have little or no part. These heroes must have been known to the bards, complete with epithets and epitheted place-names, from their local exploits.") Not every warrior named will play a major role in this epic, but the role they play in other traditions, be they local or more Panhellenic in nature, adds to the richness of the narrative and the poetic resonance of every scene in the Iliad in which they appear.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Introducing the Trojans

Casey’s last post beautifully examined the invocation of the Muses that launches the catalog of the Achaeans and their ships and how this traditional language is used elsewhere in the poem. She inspired me to look at how the Trojan catalog in Iliad 2 is introduced. I will make a few initial observations on this introduction now, and follow up with further thoughts in subsequent posts. I will also look at the various contingents in this Trojan catalog as we continue to explore the oral poetics of Iliad 2.

As the Achaeans, once again assembled for battle, move from the ships toward the city of Troy in their attack, our view of the action moves along with them and then keeps on moving into the city of Troy itself. (This Greek text of Iliad 2.784–789 is a transcription of the lines as they appear in the Venetus A manuscript.)

784  ὡς ἄρα τῶν ὑπὸ ποσσὶ μέγα στεναχίζετο γαῖα
785  ἐρχομένων· μάλα δ᾽ ὦκα διέπρησσον πεδίοιο·
786  Τρωσὶν δ᾽ ἄγγελος ἦλθε ποδήνεμος ὠκέα Ϊ῀ρις
787  παρ Διὸς αἰγιόχοιο σὺν ἀγγελίῃ ἀλεγεινῇ·
788  οἱ δ᾽ ἀγορὰς ἀγόρευον ἐπὶ Πριάμοιο θύρῃσι
789  πάντες ὁμηγερέες, ἠμὲν νέοι ἠδὲ γέροντες·

[784] Just so the earth groaned loudly under their feet
[785] as they went. And they were swiftly crossing the plain.
[786] To the Trojans Iris with wind-swift feet came as a messenger
[787] from aegis-shaking Zeus with a troubling message.
[788] They were speaking in assembly at the doors of Priam,
[789] all of them gathered together, both young men and old.

The swiftness of the motion of the Achaeans is transferred to the swift motion of Iris. If we think of a cinematic  “tracking shot” as we watch the massive forces of Achaeans rush toward Troy, we then easily continue our view over the walls into Troy to the place of assembly in front of Priam’s doors, taking on the motion of Iris herself arriving in Troy. (It comes as no surprise, then, that I disagree with Kirk [1985:244, at 2.786–787] that this change of scene is “abrupt”: there has to be a transition to the Trojans at some point, and the motion described helps move us along with it.)

This is the first time that we see the Trojans in the sequence of our Iliad. In Iliad 1, there is both an assembly of the Achaeans and a meeting among the gods, so our first glimpse of the Trojans in assembly creates a parallel among the three groups involved in this war, illustrating the balance that Lord observed oral poets strive for in their compositions (see especially Lord 1960/2000: 68–98). When we look at how the formula used to describe the assembly of Trojans as composed of “both young men and old men” (2.789) is used in other contexts, we find that it designates “all men of a certain group who count.” In Iliad 9 Diomedes uses this formula to say that all men of the Argives who count know how Agamemnon spoke to Diomedes earlier (ταῦτα δὲ πάντα / ἴσασ’ Ἀργείων ἠμὲν νέοι ἠδὲ γέροντες, Iliad 9.35–36). And Odysseus reminds Achilles that his father Peleus advised him to avoid strife so that all the men of the Argives who count would honor him (ληγέμεναι δ’ ἔριδος κακομηχάνου, ὄφρά σε μᾶλλον τίωσ’ Ἀργείων ἠμὲν νέοι ἠδὲ γέροντες, Iliad 9.257–258). Although the Trojans who count are said to be all there, we will see (in later posts) that there will be a need to gather and draw up the allies, who are not at this assembly.

I will also have more to say about Iris in subsequent posts, but I want to note now that her message is characterized as “troubling” or “painful,” ἀγγελίῃ ἀλεγεινῇ in 2.787. A wide variety of things can be described as ἀλεγεινός in Homeric epic, including the waves of the sea (κύματα, Iliad 24.8; Odyssey 8.183, 13.91, 13.264), a spear point (αἰχμὴ, Iliad 5.658), battle (μάχη, Iliad 18.248, 19.46, 20.43), and the transgression of the suitors (ὑπερβασίη, Odyssey 3.206). But there is another message in the Iliad that is qualified this way, and that is the message that Antilochos brings to Achilles that Patroklos has been killed (τόφρά οἱ ἐγγύθεν ἦλθεν ἀγαυοῦ Νέστορος υἱὸς / δάκρυα θερμὰ χέων, φάτο δ’ ἀγγελίην ἀλεγεινήν· Iliad 18.16–17). Both troubling messages portend death for the one receiving it: the renewed commitment of the Achaeans to the war ultimately means the deaths of those Trojans hearing the message from Iris, just as the news that Patroklos is dead will make Achilles himself return to battle, sealing his own death at Troy. Lord describes how themes and formulas of oral traditional poetry, such as this of delivering a troubling message, gain meaning through repeated use and the experience of both poet and audience with them (Lord 1960/2000: 148). The resonance between these two uses of the formula of a “troubling message,” where the first troubling message begins the war again without Achilles and the second sets in motion his return, leading to his own death as well as the death of Hector, and eventually the death of Priam and the destruction of Troy, is an example of the deep meaning formulas can accrue through their recurrences.

Works cited
Kirk, G.S. 1985. The Iliad: A Commentary, Vol. 1. Cambridge.
Lord, A.B. 1960/2000. The Singer of Tales. Cambridge, MA. (2000, 2nd edition, eds. S. Mitchell and G. Nagy. Cambridge, MA).

Monday, April 21, 2014

Invoking the Muses

Iliad I-2.484ff. (Greek text is that of the Venetus A manuscript)

484 ἔσπετε νῦν μοι Μοῦσαι Ὀλύμπια δώματ᾽ ἔχουσαι·
485 ὑμεῖς γὰρ θεαί ἐστε πάρεστέ τε ἴστε τε πάντα·
486 ἡμεῖς δὲ κλέος οἶον ἀκούομεν οὐδέ τι ἴδμεν·
487 οἵ τινες ἡγεμόνες Δαναῶν καὶ κοίρανοι ἦσαν·
488 πληθὺν δ᾽ οὐκ ἂν ἐγὼ μυθήσομαι οὐδ᾽ ὀνομήνω
489 οὐδ᾽ εἴ μοι δέκα μὲν γλῶσσαι· δέκα δὲ στόματ᾽ εἶεν·
490 φωνὴ δ᾽ ἄρρηκτος. χάλκεον δέ μοι ἦτορ ἐνείη·
491 εἰ μὴ Ὀλυμπιάδες Μοῦσαι Διὸς αἰγιόχοιο
492 θυγατέρες μνησαίαθ᾽ ὅσοι ὑπὸ Ἴλιον ἦλθον·
493 ἀρχοὺς αὖ νηῶν ἐρέω νῆάς τε προπάσας.

[484] Tell me now, Muses who have homes on Olympus,
[485] for you are goddesses and are present for all and know all things,
[486] whereas we only hear the fame [kleos] and do not know anything,
[487] who were the leaders of the Danaans and their commanders?
[488] I do not have the words [muthos] to describe the multitude nor could I name them,
[489] not even if I had ten tongues and ten mouths,
[490] and an unbreakable voice, and the heart in me was made of bronze,
[491] if the Olympian Muses who of aegis-shaking Zeus
[492] are the daughters did not remind me how many came beneath Ilion.
[493] I will speak then the leaders and all the ships.

The Catalogue of Ships is preceded by an invocation of the Muses, which seems to have been a traditional feature of catalogues, as for many types of Archaic Greek hexameter poetry, including the Iliad and Odyssey themselves. The ἔσπετε of verse 2.484 is an aorist form of the same verb that we find in the first verse of the Odyssey: ἄνδρα μοι ἔννεπε μοῦσα... . The ἔσπετε formula does not seem to be a random variation, but actually serves a different purpose from the verses that open the Iliad and Odyssey. Whereas the Iliad and Odyssey each signal the driving theme of the entire epic by means of the very first word, a noun in the accusative singular (μῆνιν and ἄνδρα), the ἔσπετε formula, with the verb in first position, seems specially suited to asking a question that begins a catalogue.

The Muses were the immortal daughters of Memory (Mnemosyne; see Hesiod, Theogony 53ff.) and had the power to recall everything that has ever happened and put it in the poet's mind, as here. (The name Muse may be etymologically connected to words with the root men-, but the connection is by no means certain. For the linguistic difficulties, see Chantraine ad μοῦσα.) The enormous task of correctly recalling and narrating the catalogue only becomes possible with the Muses' mnemonic help. At the same time, the process is depicted as an oral and aural one: unlike the Muses who know all and have witnessed the events, the poet "hears the kleos" and would need an unbreakable voice in order to be able to name everyone who fought at Troy.  (See Nagy, Best of the Achaeans, chapter 15 §7.)

As Kirk has pointed out, verse 2.484 can be found in three other places in our Iliad, two of which involve catalogue-like lists. In Iliad 11.218 Agamemnon's aristeia begins:
ἔσπετε νῦν μοι Μοῦσαι Ὀλύμπια δώματ᾽ ἔχουσαι
ὅς τις δὴ πρῶτος Ἀγαμέμνονος ἀντίον ἦλθεν
ἢ αὐτῶν Τρώων ἠὲ κλειτῶν ἐπικούρων (Iliad 11.218-220) 
Tell me now, Muses who have homes on Olympus,
who was the first to come face to face with Agamemnon,
either of the Trojans themselves or their allies in fame?
Likewise at 14.508 we find the formula used to begin a list of those who are successful against their Trojan opponents once Poseidon has turned the tide of battle in favor of the Achaeans:
ἔσπετε νῦν μοι Μοῦσαι Ὀλύμπια δώματ᾽ ἔχουσαι
ὅς τις δὴ πρῶτος βροτόεντ᾽ ἀνδράγρι᾽ Ἀχαιῶν
ἤρατ᾽, ἐπεί ῥ᾽ ἔκλινε μάχην κλυτὸς ἐννοσίγαιος. (Iliad 14.508-510)
Tell me now, Muses who have homes on Olympus,
the bloody spoils: who was the first of the Achaeans
to take them, once the famous earth shaker had turned the battle?
The passage at 16.112, however, seems to be of a different sort. Here the Muses are asked to tell how fire fell on the Achaean ships:
ἔσπετε νῦν μοι Μοῦσαι Ὀλύμπια δώματ᾽ ἔχουσαι,
ὅππως δὴ πρῶτον πῦρ ἔμπεσε νηυσὶν Ἀχαιῶν. (Iliad 16.112-113) 
Tell me now, Muses who have homes on Olympus,
how fire first fell on the ships of the Achaeans.
Kirk reconciles the anomaly by saying that the formula is "used to mark a solemn moment (or one that needs to be made solemn), usually involving a list of some kind" (Kirk 1985 ad 484).

If we broaden our perspective, however, and look at what immediately follows verses 16.112-113, we can see that there is a resemblance to the previous instances:
ἔσπετε νῦν μοι Μοῦσαι Ὀλύμπια δώματ᾽ ἔχουσαι,
ὅππως δὴ πρῶτον πῦρ ἔμπεσε νηυσὶν Ἀχαιῶν.
Ἕκτωρ Αἴαντος δόρυ μείλινον ἄγχι παραστὰς
πλῆξ᾽ ἄορι μεγάλῳ αἰχμῆς παρὰ καυλὸν ὄπισθεν (Iliad 16.112-115) 
Tell me now, Muses who have homes on Olympus,
how fire first fell on the ships of the Achaeans.
Hektor, standing close, the ash spear of Ajax
struck with his great sword behind the spear-point, at the end of the shaft
The name of Hektor in the nominative in the first position, as if in answer to the question posed by 16.113, resembles 11.221 and 14.511 respectively:
Ἰφιδάμας Ἀντηνορίδης ἠΰς τε μέγας τε
ὃς τράφη ἐν Θρῄκῃ ἐριβώλακι μητέρι μήλων (Iliad 11.221-222) 
[It was] Iphidamas, the son of Antenor, good and tall,
who was raised in fertile Thrace the mother of sheep 
Αἴας ῥα πρῶτος Τελαμώνιος Ὕρτιον οὖτα
Γυρτιάδην Μυσῶν ἡγήτορα καρτεροθύμων (Iliad 14.511) 
Ajax [was] the first, the son of Telamon—he wounded Hyrtios
the son of Gyrtios, the leader of the strong-hearted Mysians.
If Kirk's interpretation is correct, the solemnity of the occasion has called for an invocation of the Muses, which in turn leads to the use of a verse structure that is often found in catalogues (which are likewise preceded by invocations of the Muses). A slightly different way to look at it is to say that the poet here is signaling that the difficulty of narrating the burning of the Achaean ships is akin to the difficulty of correctly narrating a catalogue (as we find it expressed in the Iliad 2 passage). The daunting task causes the poet to ask the Muses for help, as he would with a catalogue, which in turn naturally leads to the use of formulaic diction associated with catalogue poetry. (For a discussion of other places in which catalogue poetry and battle narrative overlap in Homeric diction, see C. R. Beye, “Homeric Battle Narrative and Catalogues” [Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 68 (1964): 345-73].)

If this is indeed the case, we can view the verse ἔσπετε νῦν μοι Μοῦσαι Ὀλύμπια δώματ᾽ ἔχουσαι  (and the ensuing question and answer) as essentially a compression of the more expanded invocation that we find in Iliad 2. As I have written about elsewhere in connection with similes (see especially “Agamemnon’s Densely-packed Sorrow in Iliad 10: A Hypertextual Reading of a Homeric Simile” in C. Tsagalis, ed., Homeric Hypertextuality, [Trends in Classics 2 (2010): 279-299]), for a traditional audience even a highly compressed formula has the power to evoke more expanded versions of that same formula. (Mary Ebbott and I have also discussed expansion and compression in terms of theme: see the discussion of arming scenes in Dué and Ebbott 2010: 54-55.) In these examples from Iliad 11, 14, and 16 a single verse conjures for the ancient audience (and, of course, the singer) more expanded invocations and catalogues of the larger epic tradition, including the Catalogue of Ships. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

"Live" blogging the Catalogue of Ships

About eight years ago I began translating Book 2 of the Homeric Iliad as part of a translation project I was working on together with Mary Ebbott, Doug Frame, Lenny Muellner, and Greg Nagy at the Center for Hellenic Studies. These were the operating principles we set for ourselves:
1. Same word translated the same way each time [except in the case of glossary words, which are included in brackets]. 2. For glossary words in brackets, one form of the Greek word for all derivatives 3. Include plus verses. 4. We try to follow Greek word order. 5. We substitute names for pronouns when the reference is not obvious. 6. We respect the integrity of the line even at the expense of the distinction between active and passive voice.
Here is a sample that illustrates these principles and several other practices we adopted:


[1] The anger [me>nis] of Peleus' son Achilles, goddess, perform its song --
[2] disastrous anger that made countless sufferings [algos pl.] for the Achaeans,
[3] and many steadfast lives [psukhe> pl.; n:v.l. heads] it drove down to Hades,
[4] heroes' lives, but their selves [note needed about body vs. soul and identity] it made prizes for dogs
[5] and for all birds [n: v.l. a feast for birds], and the plan of Zeus was being fulfilled [telos] --
[6] sing starting from the point where the two first clashed [eris],
[7] the son of Atreus, lord of men, and radiant Achilles.

We wanted our translation to reflect the oral traditional system within which the Iliad was composed, and we were willing to compromise, within reason, on many things (meter, English word order, elegance) in order to make this happen.

We managed to translate several books of the Iliad this way as a group, but eventually we decided, because of our slow rate of progress, that we would each take on individual books, and then submit them to the group for approval. I can't remember how or why I came to be assigned Book 2, but the fact is I never finished my translation. I didn't even come close.

I would like to return to this project, but in a way that goes beyond translation. I'd like to take the opportunity to better understand the place of the Catalogue of Ships within the oral epic tradition. I have written about the textual transmission of the Catalogue here, but what I would like to do now is approach the text that has been transmitted to us as an organic part of the system that is Homeric poetry, exploring its interconnections with the rest of the Iliad and the epic tradition as a whole (to the extent that we can reconstruct it).

I am happy to report that Mary Ebbott will once again be my partner in this work. Each of us will contribute individual posts on the oral poetics of Iliad 2 to this blog, as we have the time and inclination, and we will no doubt also collaborate on particular entries as we have in the past. It is our hope that in working together in this way we will be able to learn more about the poetics of Iliad 2 and its place in the epic tradition than we otherwise could have on our own.

Our plan is to translate brief passages in the order they have been transmitted, and then to research those passages as we go along, drawing on previous commentaries and scholarship (such as the commentaries of Leaf and Kirk, important monographs such as Hope Simpson and Lazenby 1970, and more recent discussions of Catalogue poetry by other scholars) and our own knowledge of the epic tradition. To what extent we can contribute new research on the many questions raised by the Catalogue, we will, but where we will most noticeably depart from the work of previous scholars is in our approach. Much as we did in connection with the so-called Doloneia in our book Iliad 10: and the Poetics of Ambush, we will approach the Catalogue as oral traditional poetry composed within the same system that gave rise to the rest of the Iliad. In other words, rather than seek to show how the Catalogue is different from the rest of the Iliad, we will emphasize the commonalities, and attempt to understand the Catalogue organically. As always, the comparative fieldwork of Milman Parry and Albert Lord, and the work of subsequent scholars who have built upon that fieldwork, will serve as the foundation for our understanding of how oral poetry operates.

There is still a tendency in Homeric Studies, inherited from the 18th and 19th centuries, to look at the Iliad as an assemblage of pieces, and to perceive some of the pieces as being more "Homeric" than others. Even scholars that see a single oral poet as being responsible for the version of the Iliad that has come down to us speak of the Catalogue as being a separately composed piece that has been reworked for its present place. (See e.g. Kirk ad 2.494-495.) We see the text as layered, linguistically and poetically and in its references to material culture, but the layers cannot be separated from one another, so perhaps layered is not the best metaphor to use. (See especially E.S. Sherratt, "'Reading the Texts': Archaeology and the Homeric Question," Antiquity 64 [1990]: 807-824.) As formulaic language entered the system and displaced other language and the poem evolved, these formulas became inextricably bound up with one another. We feel that it is worth studying particular passages and formulas within those passages as individual units in order to learn more about the oral tradition, how our Iliad came to be, and how various passages might have been understood in particular ways in different times and places, but we do not seek to show that some parts of the poem are somehow more valid than others on the basis of antiquity of the formulaic language or any other criteria. In focusing in on particular parts, we seek to better understand the system of Homeric poetry as a whole.

In the next few months I plan to return to my translation work after a long break, and I will be posting my preliminary translations and research findings here, as I go along. I hope it won't be another eight years before I have completed my translation of Iliad 2, but I am not making any promises. Mary plans to start posting on the poetics of Iliad 2 later this year.