Micro-multiformity and Tradition: Clues to the Odyssey’s Composition

Justin Arft


In Homer, words matter. [1] And not just the words of the text, but even ones in the margins. This essay investigates two sets of manuscript variations at Odyssey 1.93/1.285 and 13.152/158 for their concordance with larger multiforms in the Homeric tradition. [2] Specifically, I contend these Odyssean micro-multiforms are compelling signifiers of the Odyssey’s own intratextual strategy for uniquely defining Odysseus amid larger, traditional macro-multiforms. While these manuscript variants do not signal dramatic or uncharacteristic alteration of the architecture of the Odyssey as we now have it, they do signal multiform trajectories that may have had a life of their own within epichoric or localized performance arenas. Amid the possibility of these alternatives, the thematic and intratextual consistency of our Odyssey allows the vulgate readings to remain perfectly resonant with Homeric tradition in both cases, but the Phaeacian variant in particular becomes viable in a variety of diachronic receptions due to a poetics of suspense, delay, and memorialization already at work within the Odyssey tradition, the goal of which is to render a particular version of Odysseus.


Traditional multiformity raises hosts of questions about the Homeric manuscript tradition, textual fixity, canonicity, and the like. [3] Regarding the variants considered in this paper, I isolate just a few features of textual variants and traditional multiforms in order to offer a working framework for their origination. [4] Traditional formulae and composition in performance are ways to explain performance variability, wherein multiformity is present in a range of expressions, from the noun-epithet formula to an entire story pattern. [5] Manuscript variants, then, could be a vestige of these traditional performance units rendered by the hands and ears of later editors. [6] If a variant is not simply a traditional formulaic substitution, there is possibility of its origin at a “later” stage where non-formulaic expressions were used to fill gaps left from traditional formulaic systems—a combination of tradition and innovation. [7] Finally, a textual variant could simply be the result of error or conjecture, a misrepresentation of either Homer or Alexandrian editors altogether. The options in this spectrum are not exhaustive, but in each case, the textual variant is judged against metrical, morphological, and aesthetic categories to determine if the variant is viable, let alone multiform. [8] If a textual variant is deemed authentic, thereby traditional, [9] the variant’s relation to larger multiforms—from phraseological alternatives to whole story patterns—must be considered. [10]

3.The Variants

In 2004 Gregory Nagy isolated four such variants that represented “a most rewarding new line of research.” [11] Two of these four are the focus of this study: one attested by Zenodotus at both Odyssey 1.93 and 1.285, alluding to the so-called Cretan Odyssey, and another at Odyssey 13.152/158 [12] where Aristophanes of Byzantium suggests the Phaeacians are to be covered by “no mountain” rather than the “big mountain” of the Aristarchan vulgate.
For reference, the passages are as follows:

Σ in Hom. Odyssey 1.93 and 3.313 offer the variant:

πέμψω δ’ ἐς Κρήτην (variant)
πέμψω δ’ ἐς Σπάρτην (vulgate)

Σ in Hom. Odyssey 3.313 attests a similar variant at 1.285:

κεῖθεν δ’ ἐς Κρήτην τε παρ’ Ἰδομενῆα ἄνακτα (variant)
κεῖθεν δὲ Σπάρτηνδε παρὰ ξανθὸν Μενέλαον (vulgate)

Σ in Hom. Odyssey 13.152 attests Aristophanes’ variant against Aristarchus’ commentary:

μὴ δέ σφιν [ὄρος](variant)
μέγα δέ σφιν ὄρος (vulgate)
Strong arguments can be made for the traditional authenticity of these variants. [13] Their authenticity, then, not only begs questions of their traditional origination, but also raises questions as to the stability of the Homeric text. Along these lines, Stephanie West calls the Cretan variants “disconcertingly suggestive,” [14] and the Phaeacian variant is equally unsettling for a fixed version of either the Phaeacian’s fate or the Homeric text.
I suggest these two variants do at least broadly represent traditional multiforms and are also unified under an even broader multiform inherent to any traditional rendering of the hero Odysseus. The Odysseus of the Odyssey was not the only version of our hero in archaic tradition, [15] and as a mythical figure, Odysseus emerges from a wider tradition. The Odyssey creatively distinguishes its own Odysseus by leveraging traditional inertia onto a path unique to the poem’s telos, and a host of characters within the poem—gods and humans included—play a role in determining this path for the hero. Given the compositional self-awareness of the Odyssey, one of the most basic ways of highlighting Odysseus’ multiformity is simply asking for his identity.
Particularly, the formulaic question τίς πόθεν εἰς ἀνδρῶν … (Who, and from where, are you among men? … ) recurs seven times in the Odyssey, five times directed at Odysseus. [16] An examination of these recurrences reveals that this question, while rooted in the hospitality type-scene, bears an illocutionary force that effectively means “which Odysseus are you?” and establishes a dialogue between Odysseus and his interrogator. Odysseus answers in performance to reveal something of his developing identity, and if his tale is well-received, he gains a critical ally in his nostos. Each instance of the question cannot be considered here, but two specific instances and two overlapping contexts are pertinent. The two instances are Odysseus’ lying tale to Eumaius (correlative to the Cretan variant) and his extended “truth tale” to Arete, including the Catalogue of Heroines (correlative to the Phaeacian variant). As for the recurring contexts of this interrogation, the question most often results in a lying tale or the question is put to him by a powerful, nostos-determining woman. The internal audience’s need to interrogate Odysseus mirrors the external audience’s curiosity as to how the tale will unfold as well.

4.Cretan Lies

Odysseus’ lie to Eumaius represents one such response to this formulaic interrogation and also serves in part as (internal) evidence for a Cretan Odyssey suggested by the Cretan variants. Christos Tsagalis’ and Steve Reece’s treatments of this lie’s extratextual features are quite comprehensive, as are their general treatments of the Cretan Odyssey. [17] Of relevance here is the notion that the lying tales represent a window into alternate traditions or “competing” narratives surrounding the identity of Odysseus. [18] As Tsagalis demonstrates, the entirety of Odysseus’ lie to Eumaius periodically alludes to alternate tales, even alternate personae of Odysseus.
Within the two-part lie itself, after Odysseus renders his first tale, Eumaius expresses skepticism about proclamations of Odysseus’ return because an Aitolian man once deceived him with similar tales (Odyssey 14.360–389). Specifically, he perceives Odysseus story to be “out of order” [19] and even suggests Zeus’ disfavor with such lies. [20] Odysseus adjusts and re-tells his tale, shifting focus to Odysseus’ clever besting of the same Aitolian man, wherein Odysseus gifts the duped Aitolian’s mantle to the Cretan persona narrating the account (Odyssey 14.485–506). The second tale demonstrates Odysseus’ tis and xenia, an ainos that speaks to Odysseus’ character and even cleverly mirrors the unfolding exchange between Eumaius and the disguised Odysseus. While this tale may negatively allude to extratextual tradition, [21] in the positive, the second tale that Eumaius ratifies as “blameless” (αἶνος ἀμύμων) and “not at all out of order” (οὐδέ τί πω παρὰ μοῖραν, Odyssey 14.508–509) [22] is accepted because it establishes something positive of Odysseus’ identity—the “right” answer to the question τίς πόθεν εἰς ἀνδρῶν.
This particular lying tale signals toward a potential multiform of Odysseus’ return via Crete, [23] and if the Cretan variants at Odyssey 1.93 and 1.285 represent a traditional memory of Telemachus’ journey to Crete, the pathways of each set of stories might conjoin in the ether of the Cretan Odyssey’s traditional architecture. While we cannot be certain of the shape, size, or even existence of a particular Cretan version of Odysseus’ nostos, the Cretan persona he adopts within his lying tales is an expression of the wandering multiform within the epic itself. If an allusion to alternate tales, a suppression—or at least transformation—of its manifestation is necessary to allow the Odyssey’s own navigation to emerge, a distinct pathway amid the various journeys that even the proem admonishes. The variants alone suggest these problems in as much as a word, and the Odyssey’s internal handling of Cretan lies expands upon and perhaps redefines the extratextual Cretan multiform, bringing it into the orbit of the very poem that disallows its fruition or operative role in Odysseus’ particular nostos. [24]
Reece lays out evidence for Crete being part of a much older stratum of the Odyssey tradition, but also notes the possibility of still-multiform traditions circulating in the Hellenistic era. [25] As Tsagalis works out as well, Cretan tales or similar variants could inhabit any number of layers in the tradition. [26] Out of these considerations an important question of synchronic and diachronic referentiality arises: namely, do the Cretan variants as remembered by Alexandrian editors represent more recent, synchronic alternates against which the Odyssey alludes, competes, and shapes itself, or does Crete represent a much older stage in the diachronic development of Homer, essentially standing in as “other” at a certain point in the tradition’s development? I do not have a clear answer at the moment, but further considerations of these variants as compared to the Phaeacian variant may help answer this question, or at least reshape it. [27] More pertinent to this analysis, however, is the intratextual manner in which the Odyssey uses questions of Odysseus’ identity as a formulaic sign of compositional navigation, where positive statements of Odysseus’ identity both plot the course of the poem and align Odysseus with the themes and trajectory of the tale at hand. Just as Eumaius suppresses one variation for its incompatibility with the hero he knows and needs, the poet does the same for the audience.

5.Phaeacian Truths

The Phaeacian variant is less obviously connected to Odysseus’ traditional or developing identity, but a brief examination of Queen Arete, [28] both as interrogator of Odysseus and “queen of the curse” [29] makes plain the relationship. As noted above, powerful women are formulaic interrogators of Odysseus, and within the chronology of Odysseus’ own story, Circe is the first to question him, then Arete, followed by Penelope. Penelope’s interrogation of Odysseus is well-known for its initiation of his penultimate recognition scene, [30] but it also results in a lying tale, just as the instances involving Eumaius and Laertes.

Circe’s and Arete’s interrogation of Odysseus do not result in lying tales or typologically exact recognition scenes, [31] although they are just as effective in both signaling and calibrating Odysseus’ identity as he progresses in his journey. Arete’s interrogation is the focus here, but briefly, it should be noted that immediately after Circe interrogates Odysseus (keeping in mind that Odysseus is narrating this tale)—before Odysseus even has a chance to “perform” an answer—she notes his inability to be charmed and interrupts him:

330 ἦ σύ γ’ Ὀδυσσεύς ἐσσι πολύτροπος, ὅν τέ μοι αἰεὶ
φάσκεν ἐλεύσεσθαι χρυσόρραπις Ἀργεϊφόντης,
ἐκ Τροίης ἀνιόντα θοῇ σὺν νηῒ μελαίνῃ

330 YOU are the much-shifting Odysseus—the one whom always
the golden-staffed Argeiphontes kept telling me would come,
upon leaving from Troy with his swift black ship.

Odyssey 10.330-332

Given the illocutionary effect of the formulaic question, I have emphasized the “always” in line 330 in that Odysseus’ tale up to this point is relatively fated, or fixed, from a narrative point of view—or at least the Odyssey presents it this way by disallowing Odysseus to speak of his identity in this interrogation. If there is to be an alteration or re-presentation of a nostos-multiform involving Circe and Odysseus’ identity, it does not occur here. Odysseus typically lies in response to this interrogation on Ithaca but remains mute here, suggesting no need for a calibration, but also no chance to overcome the traditional inertia of his path at this point in his nostos.

In fact, Arete’s interrogation of Odysseus at 7.238 represents the one time in the epic where Odysseus responds “truthfully” to this question, at least in terms of where the narrative has been (and also in response to the clothing he received from Nausikaa). [32] She asks: τίς πόθεν εἰς ἀνδρῶν / τίς τοι τάδε εἵματ᾽ ἔδωκεν; (“What man, and from where, are you among men, / and who gave you these clothes?” Odyssey 7.238). Arete’s problematic reputation in the Odyssey revolves around the perceived oddity of her delayed interrogation of Odysseus and her alleged disappearance from the epic thereafter. [33] A growing body of scholarship, however, recognizes her thematic fit and significance to the epic, [34] especially in relation to her role as audience to Odysseus’ Catalogue of Heroines. [35] Much more could be said about Arete, but the essential point for the moment is that the intervening moments of silence between a) Arete’s interrogation, b) Odysseus’ performance of the Catalogue of Heroines, and c) Arete’s response in the intermezzo mirrors the interrogation-performance-ratification sequence seen in the lying tale to Eumaius. [36]

More specifically, Arete’s entanglement with the curse of Poseidon connects her directly to the Phaeacian variant at Odyssey 13.152/158. This variant in placed in reference to Nausithous’ prophecy wherein the Phaeacians will someday be “covered” or “concealed” by Poseidon’s “big mountain” for offering “painless” conveyance [37] to outsiders. Alcinous first presents the curse at 8.567–571 in curiously contingent terms:

       φῆ ποτε Φαιήκων ἀνδρῶν εὐεργέα νῆα
ἐκπομπῆς ἀνιοῦσαν ἐν ἠεροειδέι πόντωι
αίσεσθαι, μέγα δ᾿ ἡμῖν ὄρος πόλει ἀμφικαλύψειν.
570 ὣς ἀγόρευ᾿ ὁ γέρων. τὰ δέ κεν θεὸς ἢ τελέσειεν,
ἤ κ᾿ ἀτέλεστ᾿ εἴη, ὥς οἱ φιλον ἔπλετο θυμῷ

He [Nausithous] clamed that someday a well-made ship of Phaeacian men
after returning from an escort upon the misty sea
would be shattered, and a great mountain would conceal our city.
570 Thus declared the old man. The god could either fulfill these things
Or they could be left open-ended, in whatever way it was pleasing to his heart.

Odyssey 8.567-571
This element uncertainty makes the variant outcome at Odyssey 13.152/158 even more compelling as a multiform. [38] Additionally, Alcinous’ missteps in xenia throughout the Phaeacian episode [39] are consistent with his failure to see Odysseus as the very conveyee who might enact the prophecy. Arete, on the other hand, may understand exactly what is at stake, and Athena is certain to inform Odysseus of her importance. Odysseus especially understands the ramifications of Poseidon’s wrath, and the subtle network of diction and cues throughout the episode highlights both Odysseus’ and Arete’s role in the curse upon the Phaeacians. [40]
Arete is first introduced to Odysseus by Nausikaa, then Athena, and is described in favorable, powerful terms, especially in regard to her control over Odysseus’ homecoming. [41] Athena offers a more formal introduction of the Phaeacians and the queen herself when Arete is introduced by means of a genealogical catalogue. [42] Her relationship to Nausithous and Poseidon are foregrounded, [43] making further mention of Arete “tagged’ with the cumulative associations of nostos, Poseidon, and Nausithous. So, when Alcinous casually mentions the prophecy to Odysseus, all becomes clear: if Arete can send him home, she will enact the curse upon the Phaeacians, especially for Poseidon’s hatred toward Odysseus.
The stakes are high, and Odysseus, just as he answered Eumaius’ formulaic interrogation carefully, must answer Arete likewise. In terms of Odysseus’ identity rather than merely his name, [44] I contend that Odysseus’ famous declaration of this name in Book 9 is only part of the answer to Arete’s initial question at 7.238, and his revelation of identity—that of “which Odysseus are you?”—continues into his performance of the Catalogue of Heroines. Just as Odysseus crafts a targeted, revelatory performance in his lying tales, he does the same here in response to Arete. Thus, the Catalogue of Heroines, as an ehoie-poem, [45] is carefully constructed from the relevant bits of Arete’s genealogy and character given to him up to this point in the narrative.
While much can be said about the complex structure and placement of the Catalogue of Heroines, [46] a few relevant themes and characters are relevant to the curse’s outcome. First, the theme of Zeus’ will [47] against Poseidon, already made known in book 5’s divine council to send Odysseus home, subtly reappears in the Catalogue of Heroines. Prior to meeting the royal court, Nausikaa has already mentioned Zeus’ protection of strangers upon meeting Odysseus, (Odyssey 6.205–208) a protection he may need from the apparently dangerous Phaeacians [48] who are descended from Poseidon. Given the multiple ways in which Poseidon could further enact his wrath, Odysseus must carefully invoke Zeus’ protection. Within the Catalogue of Heroines, then, Lillian Doherty has noted that the story of Tyro is a subtle tale of disobedience toward the will of Poseidon. [49] Further, Zeus’ will and especially his progeny are emphasized over and against Poseidon. [50] An act of conveyance granted by the queen will certainly provoke Poseidon, and Zeus’ protection may lessen the blow, so to speak.
Secondly, Odysseus presents both Epicaste and Eriphyle as positive and negative exemplars for Arete’s decision. That is, even a queen such as Epicaste, who is entangled in her own familial curse, can be made an object of praise by Odysseus the praise-poet, but Eriphyle, the only negative entry in an otherwise praiseworthy list, remains a baneful destroyer of husbands, and within the frame of the Odyssey’s return-tale motif, Eriphyle is thematically (and phraseologically [51] ) aligned with Clytemnestra as representative of the “bad ending” that must be avoided at all costs in our epic. [52] In sum, Odysseus is using ehoie-poetry as a special mode of communication to Arete [53] wherein he is both beseeching her help but also subtly suggesting that Zeus’ influence is stronger than Poseidon’s. Arete must be offered some kind of recompense for enacting Poseidon’s wrath, and Odysseus’ ability to confer praise along with Zeus’ support may suffice.

Arete’s response in the intermezzo (Odyssey 11.336–341) closes her initial interrogation at 7.238 and fulfills a Penelope-like role the return-tale. As noted, Odysseus abruptly ends his catalogue with Eriphyle who metonymically represents a compressed tale of bad-return. Upon ceasing his story, the audience is described with a highly encoded, traditional phrase ὣς ἔφαθ’, οἱ δ’ ἄρα πάντες ἀκὴν ἐγένοντο σιωπῇ (“So he spoke, and and they all became silent, without words”). The traditional encoding of this formula [54] introduces a proposal that must not be enacted for its detrimental effect on the tale. Further, the person who responds out of the silence does so authoritatively and offers a rebuke or alteration of the proposal. In this case, it is Arete who responds to Odysseus’ performance, as if to rebuke the stunned assembly, even, for allowing the closure to linger. She says:

“Φαίηκες, πῶς ὔμμιν ἀνὴρ ὅδε φαίνεται εἶναι
εἶδός τε μέγεθός τε ἰδὲ φρένας ἔνδον ἐΐσας;
ξεῖνος δ’ αὖτ’ ἐμός ἐστιν, …

“Phaeacians, how does this man appear to you—
his nature, his stature, and the measured mind within?
Again, he is my guest, …

Odyssey 11.336–338
This speech act not only allows for the continuation of Odysseus’ tale, but also guarantees him the gifts he needs, all within the proper sequence of guest-host type scene, [55] and most importantly, identifies him as a xeinos, a status critical to his developing identity in the Odyssey and requisite for his return to Ithaca. [56] As with the other instances of the formulaic question, once Odysseus has performed appropriately, his identity is calibrated—or in this case even defined—in a manner that allows him to proceed.

6.Big Rock, No Rock?

The above excursus on Arete and her interrogation of Odysseus, a complex negotiation in its own right, provides a deeper intratextual context for understanding the negotiation between Zeus and Poseidon, the outcomes of which are significant not just for their indication of micro-multiformity in the manuscript tradition, but for the internal and external audiences’ fate as well. In short, there is an inherent uncertainty, suspense, and tension throughout several moments of the Phaeacian episode where the external audience witnesses Odysseus negotiate his conveyance amid potentially dangerous, nostos-terminating moments. Even if successful, the bittersweet ramifications of Odysseus’ conveyance is the destruction, or at least shutting-off of the Phaeacians, bringing us to the variant in question.
If the Cretan variants and Cretan tales represent alternate routes that have no organic fit within the architecture of the Odyssey itself (hence their re-presentation in the context of a lying tale), the variant at 13.152/158 is more at home with an opening or indeterminacy concerning the fate of the Phaeacians—an organic question mark within the Odyssey’s structure. Thus, if the lying tales offer a manipulation or even negation of epichoric or Cyclic tradition, [57] Arete and the Phaeacians are positioned to ratify a positive identification of the type of man who will return to Ithaca, and this choice bears metapoetic consequences on the identity of Odysseus, in that the poet and audience can only ever hear one version of a tale at a time. The choices of both the poet and the external audience, then, function similarly to the divine councils within the narrative that effect the nostos of the hero. The variant and the vulgate, then, resonate with a feature of dynamic performance traditions that dealt with the consequences of getting Odysseus to Ithaca.
Apart from the multiformity suggested by the variant alone, the alterability of the tale at the close of the Phaeacian episode reflects more broadly on the metapoetic relationship between text, performance, and audience. Doherty and Peradotto see this narrative opening to be consistent with a dialogue between audience and performer, [58] suggesting a complicity in shaping the story. Rather than having tales rhetorically arranged by Odysseus the liar, The external audience, much like Arete, is asked to endorse a portrait of Odysseus that accords with his “true” identity, not unlike Penelope’s eventual recognition of the hero. Moreover, Depending on which manuscript variant at 13.152/158 we consider to be “active,” dramatic, tempered, or even suspended consequences result from the audience’s assistance of Odysseus. [59] The vulgate reading of μέγα ὄρος (great mountain) presents Zeus deferring to Poseidon’s will and endorses the harshest punishment on the Phaeacians—erasure and annihilation. While this outcome is fitting with Odysseus as a hero who causes pain, [60] the alternate reading of μὴ δέ … ὄρος (no mountain) is more consistent with Arete’s definition of Odysseus as a xeinos and Zeus’ will across the epic. [61] Arete’s acceptance of a particular version of Odysseus, just like the audience’s, could be rewarded with a relatively more favorable ending, [62] thematically consistent with both the will of Zeus and the particular nostos of our Odyssey. This lenient theodicy, even if favored by poet and audience, is not the only traditional option—as explored below, it still remains perfectly “reasonable” for Poseidon to fully annihilate the Phaeacians as well—a threat that would keep a traditional audience on the edge of their seat in the face of another, perhaps preferred outcome.
Thematic arguments from within the Odyssey can be made to support either reading of the text at 13.158—whether this is a problem for the narrative or a feature of the tradition is the question at hand. Further, thematic ambiguity within the Odyssey and even across the Homeric tradition supports alternate interpretations of the epic’s theodicy. As mentioned, a tempered reaction by Poseidon is consistent with the prevalence of Zeus and Athena’s plan across the epic, and implies a “win” for the justice of Zeus’ xenia, both in the relenting of Poseidon’s anger against Odysseus and the sparing of the Phaeacians for assisting the hero who will enact divine retribution on the suitors as a result of his return. [63] However, Poseidon could just as easily be thought of as a persistent antagonist to Athena (and the plan of Zeus), representing an unrestrained biē enacted against the Phaeacians who become personae non gratae to the poem past book 13, leaving them to suffer Poseidon’s paternalistic anger that is also consistent with his nature. [64] In this case, Poseidon’s wrath stands and Zeus complies.
The varied outcomes and readings of the episode’s culmination—as invited not only by the variants but the tradition itself—present a problem to the audience. In what follows, I argue that this problem is really not a problem at all, but a poetic strategy at work in the Odyssey tradition—a tradition that is both inherently fluid as a result of its traditional, thus multiform nature, but also one that is aware of the variability of nostos pathways and audience expectations to the point of exploiting them for poetic effect. In this case, variation need not automatically be assigned to diachronic stages of development or synchronic variability in performance tradition, but rather can be assigned to a poetics of suspense that relies on immanently variable outcomes existing simultaneously in performance, at least until the poet provides the appropriate “signs” that allow for a more complete interpretation.

7.Textual Variance and Traditional Flexibility: Political or Poetic?

As discussed above, the Homeric poems emerge from a fluid, multiform tradition wherein fixity only emerges over time as dictated by a variety of performance situations and textualization(s), including but not limited to the political, cultural, and religious context of said performances or textualizations. [65] Within this framework, Nagy is comfortable with the dual outcomes of the Phaeacian variant existing symbiotically within a tradition that is both diachronic in development and synchronic in reach—the signs of which are captured in the transmission of the text; as Nagy states: [66]

All this is not to say that we must ultimately choose between these two versions … It is only to say that both variants were still available to the Homeric tradition of epic as it evolved into the Classical period and beyond. And it is to ponder the power of epic—and of the Classical—either to close down or to open up its pathways to the present.

Nagy’s view is attentive to the multiform nature of the Homeric tradition and he sees this multiformity persisting in the reception of the tradition via textual transmission. His view of the variants places them in distinct stages of development amid this process. So, even if symbiotic, they are chronologically, geographically, and aesthetically distinct.

As for political variance that could account for the existence of either variant, Marks and Nagy have both argued that the Phaeacian variant represents performance multiformity situated in a Panhellenic political environment, specifically involving the Corcyrans who once traced their lineage to the Phaeacians. [67] Within such an environment, Nagy presents the variants as “compositional alternatives,” [68] and Marks similarly defines the variation as a “ … a kind of narrative ‘switch’ that regulated, during each performance of Odyssey 13, both the tenor of interactions between mortals and immortals and the interface between Homeric and epichoric tradition.” [69] That is, local concerns could account for any number of performance variations as early as the late eight century BCE; [70] however, it should be noted that by the time Athenian imperial pressure would play a role in the formation of the Homeric text, we are in later phases of Homeric textual fixity, raising questions as to the scope and impact of the variation. [71]
More recently, Nagy has incorporated Frame’s ideas on the Panionian origins of Homer into his original formulations concerning the fate of the Phaeacians. [72] Frame’s hypothesis assumes an early, formative phase of development in the Homeric corpus (circa eighth–seventh centuries BCE), not unlike the earlier evidence proposed by Nagy in 2002 based in Hoekstra and Howie’s analysis. [73] Frame’s argument concerning the Panionia and the emergence of the Homeric corpus is lengthy and complex; pertinent here, however, are his considerations of the performance arena and length of the performance units.
If a long, whole performance of the Homeric epics emerged from the Panionian context that Frame imagines, we might expect some kind of unifying principle or thematic consistency across such a poem—especially if political motive or audience self-representation is a motive for compilation. Shorter performances deployed in localized contexts, ones that do not overtly juxtapose or “mark” the content of the performance against a wider stretch of material (additional recurrences of phrases, type-scenes, themes, motifs, etc.) could be interpreted in a less contextualized, unspecified, and more “local” manner, as suggested in an epichoric or local model [74] (hence, the political motives discussed by Marks and Nagy for rendering the variant “μὴ δέ … ὄρος”). Even the Byzantine vulgate or Koine of Aristarchus represents some kind of thematic consistency as understood by editors and scholars over time. This is, of course, not to say that any one performance or textual version represents a correct or authoritative version of “the story,” but they do all represent “a story,” and even textualized versions that can be described as a “performance on paper.” [75]
Considerations of the political or performative emergence of specific variations in the text is important, but in the scenarios presented by Nagy, Marks, and Frame, we are left with a potential conflict in poetic terms: that is, if Aristophanes’ more temperate variant is enacted in performance for the purposes of appealing to a particular audience, this would be a fluctuation from the “vulgate,” which is possibly the product of Frame’s Panionian compilation. Thus, the vulgate outcome could have remained active for the Ionians of the Dodecapolis who, according to Frame, are modeled the Phaeacians on themselves, which raises the question as to why they would actively perform their own destruction—that is, unless the more traditional version even precedes an Ionian context. I do not mean to call any particular analysis into question but merely raise a question that emerges in assigning these variants to specific political, temporal, and performative contexts. [76]
In the face of this important, but perhaps impossible problem, I seek an intratextually consistent poetic impetus that accounts for each textual variant in terms of the whole narrative of the Odyssey (as we have it) and the wider Homeric tradition. That is, can the poetics of the Odyssey itself be used to explain the oddity of either set of variants? Compositional flexibility, existing traditional pathways, and the varieties of performance arena—not to mention the inherent indeterminacy of the return tale [77] —all lend themselves to a poetics of suspense exploited by the Odyssey poet. [78] More specifically, internal evidence within the Odyssey displays an indeterminacy and narrative uncertainty surrounding the Phaeacian episode itself, even without the presence of the manuscript variation. Among the episodes that demonstrate this phenomenon are the “loophole” left at the first mention of Nausithous’ prophecy [79] (Odyssey 8.570–571), the abrupt closure of the episode (Odyssey 13.187), and especially the indeterminate nature of both Poseidon’s disappearance and Alcinous’ hurried, last-minute offering (Odyssey 13.180–187), all of which provide a sense of uncertainty and suspension to the whole episode. And, as we have seen in Arete’s speech and actions, suspense and delay are not only keynotes of the Phaeacian episode, but are techniques found across the Homeric tradition. [80] The inherently unresolved nature of the Phaeacian episode itself, then, allows for this flexible “reading” of the multiforms—if not inviting it altogether in subsequent acts of reception. While Aristophanes’ variant alone raises questions of alternate paths for the Phaeacians, the architecture of the episode does as well. Suspense, delay, false-starts, and even threats allow the poet an important tool for navigating a well-developed and well-known tradition. In what follows, I consider the Achaean wall of the Iliad in similar terms and ultimately argue that poetic deceptions, suspensions, and even symbolic destructions are all ways for the poet to voice what seems a contraction in terms: innovation built from tradition.

8.The Achaean Wall: Memory, Destruction, and the Poet

Despite the open nature of the Phaeacian episode’s close, an Iliadic parallel rings in our ears, suggesting what may happen if Poseidon comes back to culminate his destructive punishment. The construction and destruction of the Achaean wall provides—if not resolution to the problem—some insight into Poseidon’s anger and Zeus’ council, which are the very elements subject to determination depending which Phaeacian “text” (variant vs. vulgate) is adopted. Scholarship on the Achaean wall is rich, [81] but a few relevant points of comparison between the destruction of the Achaean wall and the potential destruction of the Phaeacians are pertinent here. [82] In both episodes, 1) Poseidon is offended by human challenge to his honor and kleos, 2) divine council is sought from Zeus, and 3) Zeus allows Poseidon to take action. Aside from these parallels, there are significant differences—but the most significant difference is actually left open-ended in consideration of our variant: Zeus either a) advocates a total destruction that would accord well with the Iliad’s presentation of Achaean wall’s destruction or b) proposes a mollification of the harsher option, allowing the Phaeacian isle to remain, suggesting an Odyssean variation on the traditional Iliadic account. [83] In both cases, however, the Phaeacians are still “shut off” from the world, or at least their abilities to effect the fate of heroes’ nostoi by means of painless conveyance is abolished. In this manner, too, both episodes are quite similar in their nullification of characters’ ability to perform memorializing acts on par with the gods. The question remains, however, as to who has the final say on the fate of the Phaeacians and the poem itself. While the poet presents a divine trajectory at work in the path of Odysseus, the poet alone retains the ability to shape—or suspend—the outcomes of the poem; and within a tradition that is susceptible to change itself, the poetics of suspense create tension with a poetics of closure.
Iliad 7 and 12 contextualize the Achaean wall as a memorial for human achievement [84] especially in relation to the dios boulē in the poem. In short, Hector’s [85] and Nestor’s proposals in book 7 would amount to a change of course or challenge to the plan of Zeus. Iliad 12.1–33 presents a future account of the wall’s destruction, [86] only to return to the battle (12.35) and eventually present Zeus’ absence and Poseidon’s prominence up to book 15. Zeus’ return from absence in Iliad 15 represents a dramatic reinstatement of the plan of the poem, leaving behind a particularly bitter Poseidon. [87] Amid these characteristic challenges to the will of Zeus (and thus the plan of the poem), the physical monument of the wall is unequivocally destined to be destroyed and presumably left to poetic memory. [88] Thus, the Iliad poet is able to offer his audience a privileged account of this event, implying a more certain control over the poem than even Zeus exhibits at times. Ford describes this metapoetic phenomenon as an emblem of “vulnerability” that reflects on the inherent impermanence of performance; the monument only lasts as long as the performance, and the poet and gods alike retain the power to create and destroy. [89]
The trajectory of the Odyssey’s plan is less straightforward than the Iliad’s initial pronouncement of the dios boulē, [90] and the divine struggle over the outcome of Odysseus’ nostos not only presents a different relationship between Zeus and Poseidon in the Odyssey, but mirrors the poet’s own challenges in navigating the sea of available Odysseus tradition. Ford discusses the destruction of the Phaeacian isle in the context of the Odyssey’s memorializing impulse, similar to the Iliad’s, as a “refusal to present us with a great sêma for its hero.” [91] Like Scodel (1982) and Strauss Clay (2011), Ford sees the Achaean wall’s similarity to the punitive mountain (μέγα ὄρος) upon the Phaeacian, going as far as to call it the Odyssey’s “version” of the Achaean wall. Although the mountain is created rather than destroyed, it functions similarly in cutting off the audience from “direct, tangible contact.” [92]
Consistent with his larger observations about physical objects, poetic memory, and the semata that bind them, Ford focuses on what Odysseus brings back with him to Ithaca and deposits in the cave of the Nymphs, only to be hidden away, for “the Odyssey prefers the telling of tales to the reading of history in objects; it prefers keeping its hero in constant motion … his fame resides in performance and action, not inscription.” [93] I generally agree with this sentiment, but we must consider the most important “object” brought back from the Phaeacians, and that is Odysseus the quasi-poet. If the Phaeacians do have a future, within the world of the Odyssey it lies squarely on Odysseus’ shoulders to tell the tale, and his series of stories on Ithaca, including his Cretan lies and even his recapitulation of events to Penelope demonstrate this ability. His Cretan lies, then, are a strategic reordering of a variety of materials that demonstrate his mastery over his own poetic past, whereas and the “truth” of the Apologue is less in the details and more in the thematic presentation: Odysseus is a man of pain, the Trojan war is in the past, and he seeks homecoming in the face dangers to himself and others.
Just as the external audience is left to wonder if Poseidon will return to destroy the Phaeacians, they are left to wonder if Odysseus will similarly create or destroy the Phaeacians by means of poetic memory. While Odysseus could have never witnessed the particular event concerning the ὄρος, he could both anticipate it and tell it in the manner of a poet. The variability in their fate, then, is not merely the result of alternate readings in manuscript tradition but is consistent with the ambiguities and uncertainties implicit to the Odyssey’s poetic strategy. Arete becomes paradigmatic of the vulnerability of memory in that she is tacitly offered a place in praise poetry even after her people are destroyed; and yet, she is omitted in Odysseus’ recapitulation of his nostos to Penelope—not something we expect of a woman who effects the nostos of Odysseus and acts in alignment with the plans of Zeus and Athena and against those of Poseidon. If Odysseus fails to memorialize her, then it becomes incumbent on the poet to do so. I contend this is exactly why the poet presents the queen as powerful, efficacious, and liable to destruction: where doubt is cast on Odysseus’ ability to fully account for the his own nostos, the task is left to the poet who reminds us, even when Odysseus is unaware, that important events are unfolding.
As for the alternate outcomes suggested by the variants, I feel it is traditionally expected that the Phaeacians would be destroyed [94] and left for the poet to memorialize. I also believe the poet suspends closure of the episode, thereby leveraging the audience’s traditional expectations against the eventual outcome the poet has planned. Just as Odysseus feigns, feints, and obfuscates his own revelations of identity and recognitions—and just as the members of his oikos play his own past against him to gain recognition, the poet acts in like manner by summoning traditional motifs of destruction and alternate nostoi. Sudden shifts in course or scrambled details of familiar tales lend a sense of déjà vu or even disbelief to the listening audience. If Penelope seems uncertain of Odysseus’ identity until the very end, the audience remains similarly uncertain of how to read the Phaeacian destruction.

9. Conclusion

As for single words with matter, the first word of the epic, ἄνδρα, embodies the traditional challenge of both formally and aesthetically reconfiguring a traditional hero such as Odysseus. The Odyssey seeks to define Odysseus in its own manner, and the uncertainties evoked by these variants fall under the wider multiformities of the wandering hero’s identity, the traditional return tale, and the theoxenic stranger. He begins as a blank slate that must be carefully constructed by the poet, out of tradition, and in concert with an audience. Poet and audience alike continually navigated paths for Odysseus, and even if in the margins of the text, the vestiges of these navigations remain and resonate with tradition.
The Cretan and Phaeacian variants as discussed in this paper can very much be considered “micro-multiformities” in the sense that they point toward possible multiforms or even alternate traditions that the wider archaic song tradition would be capable of producing. However, if a Cretan tradition did in fact exist, the probable outlines of the narrative path taken in a Cretan story do not accord with the Odyssey as we have it. So, while editorial memory of a Cretan formula or even alternate tale is likely, its placement at Odyssey 1.93 and 1.285 would not represent a viable point of departure, so to speak, for the Odyssey tradition because of its radical realignment of the narrative that is carefully plotted by the Odyssey poet.
While it may seem contrived to simply assert that changing the Odyssey makes it “not-the-Odyssey,” it is a necessary assertion if we treat the Odyssey as both traditional and particular. Our epic’s fixation in text and manuscript betrays its sense of vulnerability, and while the components themselves may be traditional, its arrangement comes in and out of existence in performance, making the vulgate and the variables equally semblant until they are either fortified with traditional resonance or recorded in the margins. By placing “vulgate” in opposition to or in accordance with “variant,” we risk asserting a false relationship, seeking a particular development or dependence between Homer and not-Homer. Rather, it may be best to leave the variants as signs of a process, not indicators of alternate realities. As such, the Phaeacian variant seems to be more at home with the poetic process already present in the episode and the whole epic—a poetics of suspense and delay. The episode itself is likely to invite alterity, and in the Odyssey’s later receptions—including performance tradition and textual transmission—it would make a fine moment to leave things hanging, even if for political or poetic motive. The shift of a single word at this moment allows for an alternate understanding of the event without betraying the poetics of the Odyssey or even the narrative at large since we are waiting—perhaps forever—on Odysseus’ own rendition of the Phaeacians’ fate. Since Odysseus is an impossible witness of their last moments, the poet becomes our only authority, and the poet defers.

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[ back ] 1. Words of thanks are due here, especially to Effimia Karakantza for her organization of the 2nd annual Kyklos teleconference and her continued insights and collegiality, to Jonathan Burgess for his incisive response to my oral presentation of this essay that resulted in important revisions, to Jim Marks and David Schenker for their helpful comments in the same forum, and to Claudia Filos for opportunities to present these ideas in the forge of the Hour 25 community at CHS. In addition to the aforementioned, this essay results partly from ongoing dissertation research on Arete, and all errors, inaccuracies, or otherwise blameworthy assertions are entirely my own.
[ back ] 2. Greek text of the Odyssey is from von der Mühll 1962 and scholia are from Dindorf 1855. Translations, unless otherwise noted, are my own.
[ back ] 3. Cf. Finkelberg 2000 and Nagy 2001 for a summary (and bibliography) of the issues and arguments concerning the significance of manuscript variation in Homer, especially the problem of the textual fixation of Homer’s textual fixity and contested uniformity. See also Nagy 2009, Jensen 2011, and Janko 1988 as an entry to these larger problems with Homer’s text.
[ back ] 4. For the most part, I refer to variants as fixed, textual entities on a manuscript and multiforms as more fluid, traditional entities. Cf. Nagy 2004:24–25 for a discussion of this terminology.
[ back ] 5. For Milman Parry’s work see Parry 1971 and Foley 1988:19–35. On Lord, see Lord 2000 and Foley 1988:36–56. For an appraisal of the Parry-Lord thesis in light of oral-comparative theory see Foley 1999:39–45. See Finkelberg 1989 on how Parry’s system can be extended to verbal systems, and Foley 1992 on how the traditional signification inherent to formulae—or rather “structural integers”—can extend to type-scenes and story patterns, wherein each entity can be considered a “word.” For more on “words” as units of utterance, see Foley 1999:66–88, 201–237. On the story pattern as a word-unit, see Foley 1999:86–87, 92–93, 242–244. See also Jensen 2011:48–72 for oral-formulaic theory “revisited,” and especially 2011:60–61 for Foley’s work in context.
[ back ] 6. Cf. Nagy 2009:1–73 (Prolegomena) for a detailed excursus on the manner in which Alexandrian editors would have compiled variants and especially Aristarchus’ methodology for judging the quality and appropriateness of variants in his Koine (vulgate) text of Homer. See also Nagy 1996b:135–139 for arguments in favor of trusting Alexandrian variants as traditional reports from extant manuscripts rather than editorial conjecture.
[ back ] 7. Cf. Finkelberg 1989 on this phenomenon. See also Foley 1999:18–20 on how tradition and innovation intertwine within the framework of traditional referentiality. Finkelberg (1989) notes that this kind of idiomatic creativity is a tool at the hands of a poet, and Foley’s work suggests that this phenomenon of using tradition for artistic innovation are two sides of the same token (cf. Foley 1991), nor does this kind of creativity need to be a “later” phenomenon in the development of Homeric performance—it simply indicates a relatively greater or lesser adherence to a particular register.
[ back ] 8. Cf. Nagy 1996b:132–133 for helpful comments on the difference between a variant’s status as “traditional” rather than “correct” (133): “To repeat my previous point, the empirical methods of comparative philology and the study of oral tradition can be used only to defend a variant reading as traditional, not to establish it as the superior reading—let alone the correct reading.” For even more detailed analysis on this process, see Nagy 2009:59–66 on Aristarchus’ process for selecting among traditional variants, including listening to aural variants by means of a reader (anagnōstēs).
[ back ] 9. Here, I refer to Nagy 1996b:149 on the problems in assessing the better or worse reading rather than simply identifying it as authentic or traditional.
[ back ] 10. Cf. Nagy 2004:38 and 2001 in support of performance multiformity being represented in manuscript variants—even if relatively small in scope. See also 1996:150–153 for a similar argument in the context of a more detailed discussion on manuscript variation and textual fixity.
[ back ] 11. Cf. Nagy 2004:38–39 and Nagy 2001:119 for three of the four variants (the Cretan variant excluded in 2001).
[ back ] 12. Although the variant is presented in the scholion for Odyssey 13.152, the variant most likely belongs to Odyssey 13.158. Throughout this essay, I present the variant as “Odyssey 13.152/158”; however, I agree that it should be placed at 13.158. Cf. Friedrich 1989:396n2, Marks 2008:55n20, and Nagy 2002:84n65 for a fuller discussion on arguments in favor of placing the variant at 13.158 rather than 13.152. In short, Allen preserves the scholion’s placement at 152, but Nauck and von der Mühll adopt the emendation for 13.158, “since it would be out of place for Poseidon to propose not to do something” (Marks 2008:55n20).
[ back ] 13. On the Cretan variant, see Tsagalis 2012:316; S. West 1981:173–174; Nagy 2004:39. On the Phaeacian variant, see Nagy 2002:88–89, especially notes 87–88.
[ back ] 14. Cf. S. West 1996:27, 1998:43
[ back ] 15. The Iliad’s heroic rendition of Odysseus is unique in this regard, and the proem of the Odyssey is suggestive of the wandering hero’s multiformity as well. This question of variability in Odysseus’ tale is further addressed throughout this essay.
[ back ] 16. Recurrences in the Odyssey: 1.170 (Telemachus to Athena), 7.238 (Arete to Odysseus), 10.325 (Circe to Odysseus), 14.187 (Eumaius to Odysseus), 15.264 (Theoclymenus to Telemachus), 19.105 (Penelope to Odysseus), 24.298 (Laertes to Odysseus). See also Iliad 21.150. Modified forms of the question occur at HHDem 113 (τίς πόθεν ἐσσί, γρῆυ, παλαιγενέων ἀνθρώπων;) and HHApollo 452. See Odyssey 9.252 and 3.71 for a pluralized variation. Odyssey 16.57–59 is of note as well, when Telemachus questions Eumaius about the Cretan stranger’s identity. For an introduction to scholarship on this formulaic question, see Reece 1993:54, 103 and Webber 1989.
[ back ] 17. For more on the Cretan Odyssey, especially evidence for its existence and an outline of the tale, see Tsagalis 2012:313–319 and Reece 1994. Included in Reece and Tsagalis’ considerations is the formative study by Stephanie West (1981). For more on “alternate” Odysseys, see Marks 2003, 2008:83–111, and Danek 1998. Reece 1994:157–159 is especially helpful for conceptualizing Homer as inheritor of traditional tales, particularly how the stories may show up as “traces” in the contents of the lying tales.
[ back ] 18. As Tsagalis sums up (2012:344), “the false tales constitute one of the most extensive epic quotations (Zitat) embedded in the Odyssey, an intertextual window to alternate oral traditions of Odysseus’ return.” On the whole, Tsagalis sees this lying tale as a “deauthorization” of the Epic Cycle, consistent with a view that Homer represents a more Panhellenic narrative against rival and competing localized, epichoric traditions, including those represented by the Epic Cycle. As Adrian Kelly remarks at the conclusion of a study involving the lying tales (2008:199), “so Homer is concerned not to damn entirely these alternative models of poetic authority, just to advertise and assert his own superiority in that regard.”
[ back ] 19. Odyssey 14.363, οὐ κατὰ κόσμον.
[ back ] 20. Odyssey 14.389, Δία ξένιον δείσας. The particulars that Eumaius perceives to be “out of order” may very well be commentary on events that cannot happen according to the telos at hand, for instance the details of Odysseus returning with comrades (14.332), which would dramatically alter the shape of his return, no less the mnesterophonia.
[ back ] 21. See Marks 2003:216.
[ back ] 22. ὦ γέρον, αἶνος μέν τοι ἀμύμων, ὃν κατέλεξας, / οὐδέ τί πω παρὰ μοῖραν ἔπος νηκερδὲς ἔειπες.
[ back ] 23. Although Tsagalis (2012) and Reece (1994) provide a coherent reconstruction of a sequence of events that could account for a tale that the Odyssey poet knows, I cautiously place the lying tales within the Odyssey and the reconstructed alternatives in juxtaposition, primarily because of the operative traditional multiformity inherent to any of these traditions that would provide a slim guarantee that a particular version is being referenced at any one time, either by the variants or the lying tales.
[ back ] 24. See Reece 1994:170–171 for a similar view.
[ back ] 25. See Reece 1994:160-165.
[ back ] 26. See Tsagalis 2012:309–315.
[ back ] 27. More specifically, the question will arise in relation to the Phaeacian variant at Odyssey 13.152/158 as to whether the Cretan variant plays a similar “trigger-like” role in the architecture and flow of the narrative or whether it is preserved as a vestige of a less active alternate possibility, at least compared to the thematic shape of the Odyssey as we now have it.
[ back ] 28. This section on Arete, her interrogation of Odysseus, and her role in Odysseus’ nostos is part of ongoing dissertation research and is also presented in part in Arft forthcoming in my treatment of Theban resonances in the Odyssey.
[ back ] 29. I must credit Benjamin Sammons in part for this clever title; he referred to Arete as “lady of the curse” in our conversations about Arete, and the more alliterative option has since taken over.
[ back ] 30. See Gainsford 2008 for an extended discussion on recognition scenes in the Odyssey and their distinguishing characteristics, particularly as related to the conventional moment of interrogation within the hospitality type-scene (see also Reece 1993:25–28).
[ back ] 31. See Gainsford 2008 for a formal analysis of recognition scenes in the Odyssey, which according to his typology only happen in the last half of the poem. Similar to Gainsford, it is my contention that reintegration into the oikos is central to recognitions of Odysseus, and while Circe and Arete mirror Penelope in their role as gatekeepers to Odysseus’ nostos, they are technically unable to enact a formal recognition scene as they are not members of the household, nor do they have access to a household history of Odysseus that can be summoned as a basis of recognition. Rather, Circe relies on prophetic knowledge of Odysseus, and Arete presumably relies on traditional tales as would have been known to Demodocus. In this context, the Apologue becomes an “updated” history by which his identity can be judged, especially by Arete. Nonetheless, both Circe and Arete play formative roles in the formation of Odysseus’ identity even if they do not invoke formal recognitions.
[ back ] 32. Cf. Minchin 2007:87, 128 on the rhetorical power of Arete’s interrogation. As Minchin explains (2007:128), this kind of “control question” issued in the Odyssey is usually the domain of Odysseus, but the question issued by Arete in 7.238, when she breaks the formula and abruptly asks about the clothing, functions in the same manner. Further, Minchin places Arete’s question to Odysseus within a class of interrogation where explanation is not offered prior to questioning, thereby exhibiting power over the person being interrogated (2007:87). Fenik, although he terminates Arete’s efficacy at her response to the royal clothing, also sees the pointedness of her “abrupt and menacing” words that “place the knife, as it were, right at Odysseus’ throat” (1974:128).
[ back ] 33. On Arete as a problematic figure in the Odyssey see Fenik 1974:7–17, 105–130; Heubeck and Hoekstra 1989:316–319; Austin 1975:196–197; Garvie 1994:2, 22–23; Reece 1993:107–108.
[ back ] 34. For diverse views on Arete’s significance, see Doherty 1995:76–126; Louden 1999:1–14, 119n39, 140n35; Skempis and Ziogas 2009; Whittaker 1999; Minchin 2007:87, 112, 128; Frame 2009:2–3, 338–393 = §§3.1–38.
[ back ] 35. On Arete as audience to the Catalogue of Heroines, see Doherty 1995:65–86, 90, 96–99; Slatkin 1996:228–230; Wyatt 1989:239; Tsagarakis 2000:83; Sammons 2010:83–84; Skempis and Ziogas 2009:239; Barker and Christensen 2008:10n43.
[ back ] 36. See Rabel 2002:87–88 for a sophisticated view of the intermezzo as structurally consistent with the interruption sequences in the Odyssey, thereby connecting books 7 and 11 by means of Arete’s speech acts.
[ back ] 37. Cf. Odyssey 8.566, πομποὶ ἀπήμονές.
[ back ] 38. Nagy refers to this uncertainty as a “loophole” for its ability to provide the poet a choice in composition; Cf. Nagy 2002:85–86.
[ back ] 39. For example, Alcinous fails to offer xenia to Odysseus upon his sudden appearance in the Phaeacian palace and begins to interrogate him before his meal is finished. For more on Alcinous’ breaches or near-breaches of proper hospitality, see Rose 1969:390–391, 396, 402–403; and Reece 1993:104–06.
[ back ] 40. Arete’s role is explored below. It should be noted that the language of the curse, especially the verb amphikaluptō, is used to describe Odysseus upon his arrival to Scheria, (Odyssey 5.491, φύλλοισι καλύψατο [he concealed himself in leaves]; Odyssey 5.493, φίλα βλέφαρ’ ἀμφικαλύψας [covering his beloved eyes]) and Demodocus, perhaps unwittingly, describes Odysseus as a concealed danger within the Trojan horse. In both cases, the image of the buried ember and the man hiding in the horse highlight Odysseus’ danger to the Phaeacians, and the repetitive use of amphikaluptō makes clear the connection to the fate of the Phaeacians.
[ back ] 41. Cf. Odyssey 6.303–315 (in Nausikaa’s introduction) and 7.73–77 (in Athena’s introduction).
[ back ] 42. Arete’s etymology, as related to forms of ἀράομαι, signals her role in the curse, and the manner in which her name is foregrounded in Athena’s genealogy signals it as an entry that is to be expanded upon by the details that follow, including the references to Poseidon and Nausithous. See Skempis and Ziogas 2009 on Arete’s etymology. On the association of Arete as “cursed,” see Peradotto 1990:108, 138–142.
[ back ] 43. Cf. Odyssey 7.54–77.
[ back ] 44. Webber 1989 makes a similar observation, but pays little attention to Arete and focuses on Alcinous’ interrogation of Odysseus’ name. I contend here and in ongoing dissertation research that the name of Odysseus signals not only danger, but references wider, known traditions that already have the name Odysseus attached to them. Just as Circe and Polyphemus recognize Odysseus as a product of prophecy, Demodocus only knows of Odysseus’ past. In a way, asking for Odysseus’ name obscures the developing identity of the hero in this version of his story. As such, the Apologue can be viewed as a clarification to the stories they seem to already know of the hero. Odysseus is clarifying his identity, and the tenor and subject matter of the Catalogue of Heroines and Arete’s response to it establishes Odysseus as a man who causes pain and man who needs to return home. For this essay, it is enough to consider the multiplicity of Odysseus’ identity as signal for alternate, competing, or traditional versions of Odysseus’ tale.
[ back ] 45. On the Hesiodic Catalogue’s relationship to the Odyssey’s Catalogue of Heroines, see M. L. West 1985:32n7; Barker and Christensen 2008:10n42; Doherty 1995:66n4; Osborne 2005:17; Irwin 2005:49; Tsagarakis 2000:11–12. See Tsagalis 2010:326–328 on the structure of the Catalogue of Heroines as it relates to the Hesiodic Catalogue.
[ back ] 46. Cf. Fenik 1974:145–146; Frame 2009:225–254 = §§2.100–116; Doherty 1995:66–68, 87–126; Sammons 2010:74–102; Larson 2002; Gera 1997:48–50.
[ back ] 47. See Marks 2008 for a fuller handling of Zeus’ will in the Odyssey, especially pp. 36–61 as it relates to Poseidon and the Phaeacians.
[ back ] 48. Cf. especially Rose 1969 and more recently Aronen 2002.
[ back ] 49. See Doherty 1995:124–126.
[ back ] 50. Cf. Odyssey 11.253–257 where Pelias and Neleus become therapontes of Zeus after Poseidon leaves Tyro; Amphion and Zethus are presented as sons of Zeus as well as those who built the protective walls of Thebes (Odyssey 11.260–265), not unlike the walls built by Nausithous for the Phaeacians; Heracles is emphasized as child of Zeus (Odyssey 11.267–268); At Odyssey 11.297, near the end of the brief Melampus interlude, Zeus’ will is presented as being accomplished (Διὸς δ’ ἐτελείετο βουλή, Cf. Iliad 1.5); Finally, in Odyssey 11.298–328, Zeus’ twin sons Castor and Polydeuces are presented as a contrast to the wanton twins of Poseidon Otus and Ephialtes who are killed by Apollo before they are able to carry out war on Olympus.
[ back ] 51. Eriphyle’s baneful epithet (στυγερήν τ’ Ἐριφύλην, Odyssey 11.326) resonates with Clytemnestra’s “baneful song” (Odyssey 24.200, στυγερὴ δέ τ’ ἀοιδὴ) and reminds the audience of Clytemnestra as “baneful mother” at Odyssey 3.310 (μητρός τε στυγερῆς). See Arft forthcoming (2014) for more on Eriphyle and Clytemnestra’s resonance within the Odyssey and in extratextual tradition and the material record.
[ back ] 52. Cf. Arft forthcoming (2014) for a detailed argument regarding Eriphyle and Epicaste as exemplars for Arete in the Catalogue of Heroines.
[ back ] 53. Cf. Skempis and Ziogas 2009.
[ back ] 54. This phraseology has been analyzed by John Foley (1995), Andrew Porter (2011), and David Elmer (2013:28–29), all of whom note the traditional mechanism enacted by the formula.
[ back ] 55. Arete, unlike Alcinous, questions the stranger at the appropriate time, and offers gifts and conveyance in like fashion. See Reece 1993:141, 212–215 on the various rearrangements and inversions of the guest-host type-scene throughout the Odyssey. In an epic practicably composed of incomplete offerings of xenia, it is incumbent upon Odysseus to become the ideal xeinos, eventually a theo-xeinos.
[ back ] 56. Cf. Murnaghan 2011:69–85 on the idea that Odysseus must become a proper guest to become a suitable husband to Penelope.
[ back ] 57. Cf. Tsagalis 2012; Kelly 2008.
[ back ] 58. On the audience in this episode, see Peradotto 1990:78–90, who also sees a redefinition of Odysseus’ identity at this midpoint in the epic. See especially Peradotto 1990:83: “Reflection on the alternatives for concluding the narrative becomes itself an integral component of the narrative, a device in fact for evading conclusion to achieve, however tenuously, a union of its oppositions, a ‘dialogic’ text.” See also Doherty 1995:125–26 and 188–193 on this performer-audience relationship.
[ back ] 59. Cf Marks 2008:48–49, especially for Danek’s commentary in note 11 (Cf. Danek 1998:266), regarding the fatedness of Odysseus’ return. On the “suspended” punishment, see Buchan 2004:46–49, 80–88. For Buchan, the indeterminacy of the episode, rather than being a problem, plays a role in determining the new identity of the Phaeacians after their encounter with Odysseus. The mountain is suspended over them, a constant reminder of their new role: once limitless and all-seeing, they are now subject to a more “human” reality and its attendant limitations.
[ back ] 60. As implied in his naming by Autolycus in Odyssey 19.406–412. On the name of Odysseus, see Cook 1999:151n10 for attendant bibliography (including Dimock 1956, Strauss Clay 1983, and Peradotto 1990) along with Austin 1972 and Brown 1966. Also, see Cook 1999 on the hero who causes pain and Buchan 2004, especially pp. 46–49 and pp. 80–88 on this particular episode. See Higbie 1995:190–191 on the “talismanic” quality of Odysseus’ name.
[ back ] 61. Like Friedrich (1989), Nagy (2002), and Cook (1995), I suggest that Aristophanes’ reading of “μὴ δέ” is more appropriate to an outlook that highlights either a softened theodicy or the hospitality of Zeus, especially in this particular performance, wherein Odysseus impresses himself upon the Phaeacians as a good guest. See Friedrich 1989 for a detailed analysis of the variation at hand. In short, Aristarchus supports the vulgate reading of “μέγα” and Aristophanes of Byzantium presents a reading of “μὴ δέ.” See Marks 2008:55n21 and Nagy 2014 for a rather comprehensive treatment of those who either favor or argue against the vulgate reading. Friedrich supports Aristophanes’ “μή” on the grounds of Zeus’ more lenient theodicy. See also Cook 1995:124n36. Cook holds that this reading is important for the overall trajectory of the epic, especially in regard to Zeus and Poseidon, an interpretation with which Nagy agrees (2002:87n81). For Marks (2008:57) the variability represents, among other things, “narrative choices over which Zeus presides in Homeric epic.”
[ back ] 62. Jim Marks’ comments here are especially pertinent (2008:56–57): “Approached this way, the multiple readings at Odyssey 13.158 could represent, in the context of the textual tradition, a locus of multiformity that arose in the context of the performance tradition. Thus, if destruction of the Phaiakes would not offend the sensibilities of a given audience, a singer might exploit it in order to emphasize the inevitability of prophecy and the consequences of failure to heed it, to generate shock and pathos, to engage with extra-Odyssean traditions, or any combination thereof. Under different performance circumstances, before audiences that might find the Phaiakes’ destruction objectionable, a singer could have Zeus intercede for them in the face of the elemental hostility of Poseidon.”
[ back ] 63. for More on Zeus and Athena’s role in driving the plot of the Iliad, see Marks 2008, especially pp. 36–61 and 132–146.
[ back ] 64. See especially Cook 1995:5–14, 123–127, et passim on this antagonism between Athena and Poseidon, and more specifically p. 124n36 on Cook’s reading of this variant. Ultimately, Cook accepts “μὴ” (1995:124n36) whereby Zeus “mitigates a punishment which he finds excessive.” For an entry into the complex and wide scholarship on the Odyssey’s theodicy, see Segal 1992; Cook 1995; Allan 2006:15–25; Aronen 2002. More generally on Poseidon’s nature as wild and forceful, see Aronen 2002:99–100.
[ back ] 65. For Nagy’s evolutionary model (that is a basis of his understanding of multiformity, performance, and fixation of the tradition), see Nagy 1996a:109–114 and 1996b:29–112 and Thalmann 1998:300–301. See also Nagy 1996b:29–112 on the Homeric tradition’s increasing relative fixity after the eighth century BCE.
[ back ] 66. Quotation is from Nagy 2002:91; cf. pp. 88–91 on the coexistence of both variants.
[ back ] 67. See Marks 2008:57–59; Nagy 2002:89–91.
[ back ] 68. See Nagy 2002:89.
[ back ] 69. Cf. Marks 2008:57.
[ back ] 70. See Nagy 2002:90 for more on this date.
[ back ] 71. Nagy provides an additional perspective for the variant accepted by Aristophanes by considering the “Homerus Auctus,” a non-Koine version of the Homeric text favored by Callimachus (2009:590–592). As Nagy states (591): “But the Koine version of Homer negates such an identification of Scheria with Corcyra. I interpret this negation in terms of politics as well as poetics. The political terms correspond to the imperial design of Athens in the era of the democracy. If the mythical Scheria can be sealed off from the historical Corcyra, it is owned by Athens; if it is not sealed off, it is owned by Corcyra.”
[ back ] 72. See Nagy 2014, notes from a lecture wherein he uses Frame 2009 to expand his original thesis in Nagy 2002.
[ back ] 73. See Nagy 2014, a lecture given in Athens that references a forthcoming work on the topic at hand. See Hoekstra 1989:174 and Howie 1989:29 for Nagy’s 2002 evidence for the possibility of a Corcyran self-identification with the Phaeacians. More recently as a point of departure, Nagy (2014:1) proceeds from Frame’s assertions about the Phaeacians as a “self-representation, as it were, of the Ionians of the Ionian Dodecapolis in its heyday, dating back to the late eighth and early seventh century BCE.” For Frame this self-representation is tied to his larger reconstruction of the emergence of all 48 books of Homer at the Panionia of the Dodecapolis. (For Frame’s formulation, see 2009:§4.1–71, espec. §4.37–42; See also Frame 2012 for a distillation of this argument). Frame admits his scenario to be conjectural (§4.71), and his reconstruction is of Homer’s transmission and fixation is provocative, but plausible at least as a model for how a large-scale oral composition could be textualized in a single setting (Cf. Jensen 2011:Chs. 6–10, espec. 329–362 for a review of the many important works since Lord 1960 that have addressed this issue, especially Finnegan 1977, Nagy’s numerous works on his evolutionary model [2011:214–217], Janko 1988, and Honko 1998 and 2000). On Frame’s assertions that the Phaeacians, Arete, Alcinous, and even Laodamas represent a real, historical set of people, see 2009:§§4.4–5, 49–55. Here, I stress the difference between self-identification and self-representation. Politically, the self-identification could suggest a kind of independence, but poetically it risks dangerous associations for its implications in Poseidon’s full wrath. It is of course possible that an older, pre-Ionian version reflected a theodicy of complete destruction (μέγα ὄρος), and—if Frame’s model is considered—the softened variant (μὴ δέ … ὄρος) could emerge from the audience of the Dodecapolis. As Homer is transmitted beyond the 8th–7th century into an increasing Panhellenic world, then to imperial Athens and eventually Alexandria, both variants could represent much older memories that could be employed in a variety of performance arenas. This argument is also conjectural, but it raises questions concerning what we consider to be the “whole” performance of Homer, and demands that we consider thematic consistency as a criterion of evaluation for the viability of textual variants. These ideas and considerations remain part of my own ongoing dissertation research on Arete and her role in the epic.
[ back ] 74. Here, I do not exclude the impact of conferred, traditional meaning that is “immanent to” any and all traditional performances (Foley 1991:xiv–xv, 9–10, 29). Conferred meaning, however, is not immune to reception and poetic artistry, and even if traditional instances are employed in the course of a poem, their meaning can resonate intratextually to create a “new” meaning. The question of traditional adherence vs. poetic innovation occupies an enormous place in Homeric scholarship, but for some more recent and pertinent discussions, see Danek 2012:116–121 on this kind of creative refashioning, Jensen 2011:109–144 on the “the flexible oral epic,” Pucci 1989:87–130, and Bakker 2013:157–69 on “interformularity.”
[ back ] 75. Cf. Foley 2002:45–78 for the ways in which oral-derived texts like the Odyssey, as “voices from the past” can exhibit characteristics of oral performance even within the medium of writing. See also Nagy 2009:43–59 for more direct evidence of this phenomenon in the editorial process of Aristarchus.
[ back ] 76. As for the poetic vs. political considerations necessary for understanding the reception of the variations in the Homeric tradition, I need not add much to Nagy’s contribution (2002 and 2014); rather, I hope to offer additional insight into the Odyssey’s poetics of suspense, delay, and deferral.
[ back ] 77. Cf. Foley 1999:115–168 on the return tale as it relates to Penelope and the Homeric tradition.
[ back ] 78. See especially notes 58—60 above for analyses by Buchan, Doherty, and Peradotto on the open and indeterminate nature of the Phaeacian episode’s closure. Nagy, too, makes note of Peradotto’s observations and diverges from them (2002:86), emphasizing his own evolutionary model as a means of understanding the variant outcomes within the Homeric tradition. While I note Peradotto’s poetic rationale for the Odyssey’s maintenance of simultaneous fates for the Phaeacians, my own emphasis on a poetics of suspense or indeterminacy is based in different evidence as demonstrated in the argument that follows. More specifically, the negation of any resolution—rather than an eternally suspended binary—forces the audience to ask questions about poetic memorialization.
[ back ] 79. Cf. Nagy 2002:85–86 on this “loophole.”
[ back ] 80. See Fenik 1974:61–104 and Rabel 2002 on this well-known poetic strategy in the Odyssey.
[ back ] 81. See Kirk 1990:276–278 for a host of textual and compositional issues in the introduction of the wall in book 7 and Hainsworth 1993:316–321 for an overview on the wall’s destruction in book 12. On the Achaean wall’s relationship to memory, relics, and poetic glory see Grethlein 2008:33–36, especially p. 35 for his response to Ford (1992:150) who interprets the wall metapoetically in relation to the Iliad itself. Related to the issues raised by Ford and Grethlein, see Porter 2011, especially pp. 32–33 on the wall as a “sublime object.” See also West 1969; Tsagarakis 1969; Scodel 1982; Maitland 1999; Clay 2007 and 2011. Nagy (2002:80–81; 1979/1999:159–161) and Scodel (1982:33–40) consider the Achaean wall as a demarcation of mythic time, especially as suggestive of a more distant, heroic age as conceptualized by HesiOdyssey
[ back ] 82. See Maitland 1999:9–11 and Ford 1992:163–164 for a analysis of similarities between episodes. See also Scodel 1982:34–36 (cf. p. 35: “The oddities of the sequence are magnified rather than decreased by its having a near parallel in the fate of the Phaeacians in the Odyssey [8.564–570; 13.125–187]). Strauss Clay 2011:59n42 calls attention to the parallel as well. Special thanks is owed to Jonathan Burgess for suggesting this correlation to me.
[ back ] 83. I assume this dependence here for the sake of argument. My inclination is to assume that the Odyssey is “reading” the Iliad’s account of the Achaean wall, but the motif of divine councils between Zeus and Poseidon and the destruction of mythical items or locales could very much remain traditional multiforms accessible to either the Iliad or Odyssey.
[ back ] 84. Especially in relation to Hector’s doomed proposal of a sema in attempting to effect the direction of the war and the subsequent proposal of Nestor to build the wall directly upon the semata of the Achaean warriors. The wall, then, as memorial to human achievement not only represents a challenge to the kleos of the gods, but also represents an attempt to circumvent the dios boulē in the Iliad, which is quickly reinstated upon Zeus’ return from absence in book 15. See Maitland 1999:7–9 and Grethlein 2008:32–35 on the thematic correlation between the episodes in book 7 and 12 of the Iliad.
[ back ] 85. Cf. Iliad 7.67–91 for Hector’s proposal to end the war with single combat, and the formulaic response of the crowd at 7.92, ὣς ἔφαθ’, οἱ δ’ ἄρα πάντες ἀκὴν ἐγένοντο σιωπῇ (“thus he spoke, they all became silent, without words”). As noted above, this formula marks the proposal that precedes it as one that cannot proceed or one in need of qualification (Foley 1995a:14–15). In this context, I treat the formula as an indicator of the “meta-narrative” impossibility of Hector’s success, that is, from the poet’s point of view in planning the trajectory of the poem.
[ back ] 86. The transition here is stunning in its sudden movement from the war’s cessation upon the shores of Troy to the jarring clamor of battle. Broadly speaking, the poet uses sensory and temporal disruption here in similar fashion to Odysseus’ own abrupt transition from the close of the Phaeacian episode to his arrival on Ithaca, woken from sleep mid-line—a curious feature of the transition between episodes (Odyssey 13.187). On the abruptness of this transition at Odyssey 13.187, see Nagy 2002:86 and Peradotto 1990:81. See also, as noted by Nagy 2014:8n15, Martin 1993 on the manner in which Odysseus’ return serves as a temporal break between the heroic age and the “present” of Homer.
[ back ] 87. This potentially contrasts with the resolution of the divine councils in Odyssey 5 and 13. Similarly, Poseidon returns from absence to find his plan altered in book 5. If we accept Artistophanes’ variant, however, Poseidon leaves the narrative somewhat satisfied and compliant with the will of Zeus—a very different Poseidon than that of Iliad 15.185–217, where Poseidon only reticently and bitterly concedes to the will of Zeus, even asserting his equality to his brother. In Odyssey 13.147–152, rather, Poseidon voices his desire to consult Zeus even after he has been given permission to destroy the isle! In a way, this scene in Odyssey 13 is an amalgam of Poseidon’s consultations and frustrations in Iliad 7, 12, and 15.
[ back ] 88. For more on the wall’s destruction as a metapoetic emblem of Homeric poetry’s ability to remember the past, see Grethlein 2008:32–35, Porter 2011:32–33, Strauss Clay 2011:56–57, Ford 1992:147–157. More broadly on Homer’s ability to encode memory in physical objects, see Grethlien 2008. More specifically on tombs as memorials in the contexts of cultural memory and the Trojan war, see Minchin 2012; see also Burgess 2009:111–126 on the tomb of Achilles as related to cult activity. Ford’s comments on the Achaean wall’s destruction and disintegration as “antifuneral” (1992:153–154, drawn from Redfield 1975:167–169) are helpful for contextualizing the wall’s physical collocation with grave monuments in book 7.
[ back ] 89. See Ford 1992:152 for more on this “vulnerability.”
[ back ] 90. Cf Marks 2008:1–2.
[ back ] 91. Ford (1992:163) is more specifically referring to Tiresias’ prophecy of the oar marking Odysseus’ grave. See Purves 2006, Nagy 1990:231–232, and Peradotto 1990:158–163 for extended discussions and bibliography on this problematic sign.
[ back ] 92. See Ford 1992:163–164 on these terminologies.
[ back ] 93. See Ford 1992:166.
[ back ] 94. See Allan 2006, especially pp. 18–20 for support of this view. See Also Nagy 2002:86–87 in reference to Howie’s similar pronouncement on the Phaeacian’s destruction (1989:31).