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.