Greek Mythology and Poetics

2024.05.21 | By Gregory Nagy

Online version, 2024, of the first edition, originally printed 1990 (minus the original Foreword and Acknowledgments).

The featured image here replicates the image that appeared on the cover of the paperback version, published in 1992, of the original hard-cover version published in 1990. This image, designed by Steve Dinneen for the paperback cover, is based on a close-up from an ancient Greek painting that narrates the murder of the ancient Greek hero Atreus. The artist is known to art historians as “the Darius Painter,” whose work stems from the Greek South Italian Late Classical Period, dated around 340–330 BCE. The place of manufacture was Apulia in Italy. The painting graces a vase (specifically, an amphora) once housed at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, in a Collection named after Shelby White and Leon Levy. The vase was a gift from the Jerome Levy Foundation. Thanks to the advocacy of my late colleague Emily Vermeule, the Museum had kindly given  Cornell University Press permission to feature the present closeup of this painting by the Darius Painter as the cover illustration for the printed paperback. On September 21, 2006, the vase itself was deaccessioned by the MFA for transfer to the Republic of Italy. Details in

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction, pp. 1–5
  2. Part I: The Hellenization of Indo-European Poetics
  3. Chapter 1. Homer and Comparative Mythology, pp. 7–17
  4. Chapter 2. Formula and Meter: The Oral Poetics of Homer, pp. 18–35
  5. Chapter 3. Hesiod and the Poetics of Pan-Hellenism, pp. 36–82
  6. Part II: The Hellenization of Indo-European Myth and Ritual
  7. Chapter 4. Patroklos, Concepts of Afterlife, and the Indic Triple Fire, pp. 85–121
  8. Chapter 5. The Death of Sarpedon and the Question of Homeric Uniqueness, pp. 122–142
  9. Chapter 6. The King and the Hearth: Six Studies of Sacral Vocabulary Relating to the Fireplace, pp. 143–180
  10. Chapter 7. Thunder and the Birth of Humankind, pp. 181–201
  11. Chapter 8. Sêma and Nóēsis: The Hero’s Tomb and the “Reading” of Symbols in Homer and Hesiod, pp. 202–222
  12. Chapter 9. Phaethon, Sappho’s Phaon, and the White Rock of Leukas: “Reading” the Symbols of Greek Lyric, pp. 223–262
  13. Chapter 10. On the Death of Actaeon, pp. 263–265
  14. Part III: The Hellenization of Indo-European Social Ideology
  15. Chapter 11. Poetry and the Ideology of the Polis, pp. 269–275
  16. Chapter 12. Mythical Foundations of Greek Society and the Concept of the City-State, pp. 276–293
  17. Chapter 13. Unattainable Wishes: The Restricted Range of an Idiom in Epic Diction, pp. 294–301
  18. Bibliography, pp. 303–327


[In this on-line version, the page-numbers of the printed version are indicated within braces (“{” and “}”). For example, “{69|70}” indicates where p. 69 of the printed version ends and p. 70 begins. These indications will be useful to readers who need to look up references made elsewhere to the printed version of this book.]

This book concentrates on what ancient Greek society inherited through its language, described by linguists as belonging to the Indo-European language family. The span of time covered is roughly between the eighth and the fifth centuries B.C. My emphasis on the language of the Greeks, calling for comparison with the testimony of related Indo-European languages including Latin, Indic, and Hittite, reflects my long-standing interest in Indo-European linguistics, a discipline that has in the past been successfully applied to the systematic study of society in such pioneering works as Emile Benveniste’s Le vocabulaire des institutions indo-européennes. [1] This discipline of Indo-European linguistics aims to reconstruct, from various related Indo-European languages, a proto-language once described as “a glorious artifact, one which is far more precious than anything an archaeologist can ever hope to unearth.” [2] To put it in more modest terms: the attempt to reconstruct a proto-language translates into an attempt to recover various patterns in society as articulated by language. Throughout the pages that follow, the primary aim is to examine the Greek language, by way of comparison with cognate languages, as a reflection of Greek society, with special attention to the function of language as a vehicle of mythology and poetics.
The emphasis of this book, however, is not on the Indo-European heritage of the Greek language. Rather, it is on the forces that transformed this Indo-European heritage into a distinctly Greek heritage; let us call it Hellenism. As for the process of transformation, let us call it {1|2} Hellenization. Hence the titles of the three parts into which the book is divided:
    • I: The Hellenization of Indo-European Poetics
    • II: The Hellenization of Indo-European Myth and Ritual
    • III: The Hellenization of Indo-European Social Ideology
The use of such terms as “poetics,” “myth,” “ritual,” and “social ideology” will be brought into sharper focus as the discussion proceeds, but another question of meaning must be addressed at the very start. The term “Indo-European” will never be used here as any sort of racial or ethnic classification: to say that something is Indo-European is merely to reconstruct an aspect of that thing by way of comparing cognate languages, inasmuch as language is a reflection of society and its institutions. [3]
In the case of ancient Greek society—and the same goes for the Romans and the Hittites and so on—it is misleading to speak of it as “Indo-European” just because comparative linguistics has established that the Greek language is predominantly Indo-European in nature. Still, the story of Hellenization can be at least partly retold in the history of an Indo-European language that has settled into a Mediterranean setting.
In the historical context of the ancient Greeks, the Indo-European heritage of their language can be expected to elucidate some, though hardly all, the inherited institutions of their society. Other institutions will have been inherited from layers of language speakers that preceded the Indo-European layer. Still others will have been borrowed at different times from different societies. One thing is sure: all Greek social institutions, whatever their provenience, will have continued to interact and change in the course of history. That process of interaction and change I am describing as Hellenization. In this book, the distinctive Hellenism or “Greekness” of Hellenization is the decisive empirical given. [4]
It follows that there can be no such thing as a controlling Indo-European model for the Greek heritage of mythology and poetics. In particular, the influence of the Near East is pervasive in the ongoing process of Hellenization. In the poetics of Sappho, for example, as we shall see in Chapter 9, the Indo-European myths about the Morning Star and Evening Star have merged with the Near Eastern myths about the Planet {2|3} Ištаr, known to the Greeks as the Planet Aphrodite, and to us as the Planet Venus.
A particularly valuable contribution to the issue of cultural interaction in ancient Greece is the work of Walter Burkert, who has consistently mined the vast testimony of the Near East for valuable parallelisms with various Greek institutions that have long defied our understanding. [5] For example, he can show that the various myths and rituals of the Greeks connected with the goddess Demeter are closely matched by the patterns inherent in the Hittite Telepinu- and the Mesopotamian Inanna/Ištar figures. [6] Call it Urerlebnis or archetype, the fact is that in this particular case Burkert finds no other closely corresponding figures as he surveys other cultures of the world in search of further matches. It is difficult, then, to resist the conclusion that we are dealing here with some sort of contact or borrowing; further analysis of such parallelisms may benefit from techniques of investigation that have been employed by linguists in studying the phenomenon known as Sprachbund. [7]
Mention of the myths and rituals connected with the goddess Demeter brings us to a major problem in the history of classical scholarship, where studies of myth and ritual have tended to be segregated. For example, the longtime standard work on Greek religion, Martin Nilsson’s reliable Handbuch, [8] studiously avoids any consideration of myth as it relates to ritual, with the one notable exception being the myths of Demeter, which even Nilsson cannot divorce from the corresponding rituals. [9] In Chapter 1, I offer working definitions of myth and ritual. For now, however, I stress only the methodological need to treat them as interrelated phenomena in society, along the lines of Burkert’s hand book, Greek Religion. [10] {3|4}
To grasp the essence of Greek religion, I suggest, is to understand the relationship between myth and ritual in the historical context of ancient Greece. [11] Moreover, it is at times impossible to achieve an understanding of a given myth without taking into account a corresponding ritual, or the other way around: in the myths and rituals of Adonis, for example, we can see clearly that the factor of sacrifice in ritual corresponds to the factor of catastrophe in myth, and that “play acting” the catastrophe of Adonis in sacrifice is supposed to avert catastrophe for the sacrificers. [12]
The relationship of myth to ritual can have a direct bearing on poetics. In the myth of the Divine Twins, for example, the rituals connected with these figures are a key to understanding not only the historical setting of the dual kingship at Sparta but also the poetics of Alcman PMG 7, concerning the alternating kôma of the Twins, their death-sleep. In the case of the Adonis myth, for another example, the connections of this figure with rituals of mourning are pertinent to a general anthropological assessment of mourning as demonstrative self-humiliation and self-aggression. [13] Further, these connections are pertinent to the poetics of Sappho, where the explicit theme of mourning for Adonis may be connected with the implicit theme of Sappho’s self-identification with Aphrodite. [14] In this context, we may note Burkert’s observation that the standard mythmaking sequence, as formulated by Vladimir Propp, of a successful quest ending in marriage finds its inverse in Sappho’s poetry as the disquieting and Adonic sequence of love’s abruptly ending in failure. [15]
Some of the essays collected in this book took shape some years ago. The  essay on Sappho, for example, was published  as early as 1973 (recast as Chapter 9). Another of the essays appeared more recently, in 1987 (recast as Chapter 12). For this reason and for the purposes of the ensemble in general, there has had to be a great deal of reorganization and rewriting. New references to additional secondary sources, however, have been kept to a minimum. Such new references as there are tend to concentrate on those works that had a role in reshaping various specific lines of argumentation. There are undoubtedly many other works that should have played a role, but some of these have been saved for future reference in altogether new projects to be undertaken. [16] {4|5}
The frequent cross-references to the author’s other publications, most of which represent later work, are intended as a continuation and reinforcement of the arguments here presented, not as empty self-advertisement. With the publication of Greek Mythology and Poetics, in combination with the books published in 1974, 1979, 1985 (with T. J. Figueira), and 1990 (Pindar’s Homer: The Lyric Possession of an Epic Past), as listed in the Bibliography, all of the author’s major works from 1973 to date have become easily available. {5|6}


[ back ] 1. Benveniste 1969.
[ back ] 2. Haas 1969.34; cf. Watkins 1969.хх, 1973b.
[ back ] 3. Here again I look to the démarche of Benveniste 1969.
[ back ] 4. I stress the distinctness or “otherness” of Hellenism, not its perceived affinities with “Western Civilization.” Such perceptions lead to the impulse of “Orientalism,” as dissected by Saïd 1978.
[ back ] 5. Cf. Burkert 1984 on the era stretching between roughly 900 and 600 B.C.
[ back ] 6. Сf. e.g. Burkert 1979a.139.
[ back ] 7. Jakobson 1931. In the work of Burkert 1984, I note in particular the emphasis on Lhe role of itinerant artisans, who are described as dēmiourgoí ‘artisans in the community [dêmos]’ at Odyssey xvii 381-385. (On dêmos ‘administrative district, population’ in archaic Greek poetic diction in the sense of ‘local community’, with reference to a given locale’s own traditions, customs, laws, and the like, see N 1979a.H9 §11n6; also Donlan 1970.) The professions listed in that passage are the aoidós ‘singer, poet’, the mántis ‘seer’, the iētḗr ‘physician’, and the téktōn ‘carpenter’; elsewhere, the term dēmiourgós applies to the kêrux ‘herald’ (Odyssey xix 135), and we may compare other passages where the aoidós is juxtaposed with the téktōn and the kerameús ‘potter’ (Hesiod Works and Days 25-26). Such a class of artisans was socially mobile not only within the Greek-speaking area (on which sec further at N pp. 233-234) but also far beyond, and we must also take into account the possibilities of inter-changeability between Greek and non-Greek artisans.
[ back ] 8. Nilsson 1967/1974.
[ back ] 9. Discussion in Burkert 1979a.138.
[ back ] 10. Burkert 1985.
[ back ] 11. A crucial work in this regard: Burkert 1970.
[ back ] 12. Cf. Burkert 1979a.121.
[ back ] 13. Burkert 1979a.99-122, esp. p. 121. A definitive work on the Greek institutions ofmourning: Alexiou 1974.
[ back ] 14. See pp. 259ff.
[ back ] 15. Burkert 1979a.121-122.
[ back ] 16. Notable examples: Gamkrelidze and Ivanov 1984, Witzel 1984.

Part I: The Hellenization of Indo-European PoeticsChapter 1. Homer and Comparative Mythology, pp. 7–17

Chapter 1. Homer and Comparative Mythology

Still under the spell of Heinrich Schliemann’s rediscovery of Troy, students of ancient Greece have been accustomed to regard the Greek epic tradition of Homer as a reporting of events that really happened in the second millennium B.C., the Mycenaean Bronze Age. [1] This view must be modified by the perspective of comparative mythology, as most clearly articulated in a three-volume series, Mythe et épopée, by Georges Dumézil. [2] This perspective takes the methodology of Indo-European linguistics beyond the level of pure language and applies it on the level of myth as expressed by language. In this sense, it is appropriate to think of comparative mythology, more broadly, as comparative philology:

One of the services that “comparative philology” can render the “separate philologies” [as, for example, Classical philology] is to protect them against their own unchecked attitudes concerning “origins,” to orient them toward the kind of empirical process, positive or negative, that goes beyond the uncertainty and consequent arbitrariness that can result from evaluating facts purely from a Greek or Roman or Indic or Scandinavian point of view. [3]

Just as the Greek language, is cognate with other Indo-European languages, including Latin, Indic, and Old Norse, so also various Greek institutions are cognate with the corresponding institutions of other peoples speaking other Indo-European languages. In other words, such {7|8} diverse groups as the ancient Greek and Indic peoples have a common Indo-European heritage not only on the level of language but also on the level of society. To appreciate the breadth and the depth of this Indo-European heritage in Greek institutions, one has only to read through the prodigious collection of detailed evidence assembled by Emile Benveniste in Le vocabulaire des institutions indo-européennes. [4] For now, however, we shall concentrate on Dumézil’s argument that one such Indo-European institution is the tradition of epic as reflected, for example, in the Indic Mahābhārata. The comparative approach, as we shall see, gives a vision of epic that is significantly different from the picture emerging from a “separatist” approach that restricts the field of vision to Homeric standards.

What comparative philology teaches us is that epic is a reflection not so much of historical events as of myth. According to this scheme, epic allows myth to take precedence over reality as we know it. Even where epic utilizes the raw material of real events, the argument goes, it will reshape these events to accommodate the requirements of myth.
This insight from comparative mythology concerning myth is a far cry from our own contemporary usage of the word “myth,” which conveys the opposite of reality. Myth, in societies where it exists as a living tradition, must not be confused with fiction, which is a matter of individual and personal creativity. Rather, myth represents a collective expression of society, an expression that society itself deems to be true and valid. From the standpoint of the given society that it articulates, myth is the primary reality. [5] For the purposes of the present argument, then, “myth” can be defined as “a traditional narrative that is used as a designation of reality. Myth is applied narrative. Myth describes a meaningful and important reality that applies to the aggregate, going beyond the individual.” [6]
The links between myth and epic are explored from another angle in the researches of Milman Parry and Albert Lord on the nature of traditional oral epic poetry. [7] From their fieldwork in the living South Slavic oral poetic traditions, we can witness directly how the composition and performance of epic are aspects of the same process, how myth is literally re-created in each new performance, and how there can be {8|9} countless variations in tradition without any deviation from tradition itself. Parry and Lord have successfully applied to the Homeric Iliad and Odyssey the criteria that they developed from their experience in field-work, and their demonstration that these marvels of Western literature are composed in the traditions of oral poetry may further justify applying the criteria that Dumézil has developed from his experience in the systematic comparison of surviving epic texts. [8] As we can ascertain independently with Parry and Lord, Homer is a master of mythe et épopée.

There are serious problems, however, in connecting the epic traditions of ancient Greece with those of other societies belonging to the Indo-European language family. Dumézil himself gives the clearest account of these problems, which can be summarized as follows: [9]

    1. generally, it is difficult to connect the narrative of the Homeric poems with the basic patterns of Indo-European society as reconstructed from comparable narratives in languages related to Greek;
    1. specifically, the themes associated with the major Homeric heroes seem not to match the themes associated with gods—at least, they do not match as they do, for example, in the clearly Indo-European epic traditions of the Indic Mahābhārata. [10]
A solution to these problems may be found in archaeology—not in the evidence of the second millennium B.C., the represented era of the Homeric heroes, but in the evidence of the eighth century B.C., the era of the incipient Homeric audience. Whereas the archaeology of the second millennium has encouraged students of Hellas to concentrate on the historical realities found in Greek epic, the archaeology of the eighth century may lead them to perceive the mythmaking framework that integrates these realities.
A 1971 book by Anthony Snodgrass, The Dark Age of Greece, has made it plain that the eighth century B.C., the era in which the Iliad and Odyssey were reaching their ultimate form, is as important for our understanding of Homeric poetry as is the late second millennium B.C., the era that provides the overt subject matter for both of these epics. [11] Granted, Homeric poetry draws on details that archaeologists can indeed assign to the late second millennium. [12] But the point is that it also reflects the {9|10} overall orientation of the eighth century, which is a watershed for the evolution of Hellenic civilization as we know it: in this era, alongside the phenomenon of the pólis ‘city-state’, the heir to localized traditions in cult, law, and so on, there emerged a complementary phenomenon of pan-Hellenism, formalized in such institutions as the Olympic Games, the Delphic Oracle, and the Homeric poems themselves. [13]
In fact, Homeric poetry is a formalization of both these phenomena; it synthesizes the diverse local traditions of each major city-state into a unified pan-Hellenic model that suits the ideology of the polis in general, but without being restricted to the ideology of any one polis in particular. [14] Perhaps the clearest example is the Homeric concept of the Olympian gods, which incorporates yet goes beyond the localized religious traditions of each polis; the pan-Hellenic perspective of Homeric poetry has transcended local phenomena such as the cult of gods, which is functional only on the local level of the polis. [15] By “cult” I mean a set of practices combining elements of ritual as well as myth. For a working definition of “ritual,” I choose the following formulation: “Ritual, in its outward aspect, is a programme of demonstrative acts to be performed in set sequence and often at a set place and time—sacred insofar as every omission or deviation arouses deep anxiety and calls forth sanctions. As communication and social imprinting, ritual establishes and secures the solidarity of the closed group.” [16] The insistence of ritual on a set order of things should not be misunderstood to mean that all rituals are static and that all aspects of rituals are rigid. Even in cases where a given society deems a given ritual to be static and never changing, it may in fact be dynamic and ever changing, responding to the ever-changing structure of the society that it articulates.
Besides the cult of gods, another example of interplay between polis and pan-Hellenism in Homeric poetry is its attitude toward the cult of heroes. Erwin Rohde’s monumental book Psyche remains one of the most eloquent sources for our understanding the hḗrōs ‘hero’ as a very old and distinct concept of traditional Greek religion, requiring ritual practices that were distinct from those associated with the gods. [17] What archaeology now tells us is that this Hellenic institution of hero cults, without much difference from what we see attested in the Classical period of the fifth century, is shaped in the eighth century B.C., the same {10|11} era that shaped the Iliad and Odyssey. [18] It is of course tempting to explain the upsurge of hero cults throughout the city-states as a phenomenon motivated by the contemporaneous diffusion of Homeric poetry, [19] but it would be better to follow Snodgrass in looking for a more comprehensive explanation. [20] Again, the key is the twin eighth-century phenomena of the polis on one hand and pan-Hellenism on the other. I cite Rohde’s thesis that the cult of heroes was a highly evolved transformation of the worship of ancestors—a transformation that took place within the social context of the polis. [21] This thesis, perhaps most appealing from the viewpoint of cultural anthropology, [22] allows room for considering the constituent elements of hero cults to go back far beyond the eighth century. [23] In other words, we can posit a lengthy prehistory for not only the epics of heroes but also the cults of heroes, with this qualification: the ultimate forms of the epics and of the cults were definitively shaped in the eighth century. The strong eighth-century upsurge in the local cults of heroes can thus be viewed as a phenomenon parallel to—rather than derivative from—the pan-Hellenic epics of heroes, namely, the Iliad and Odyssey.
Thus the ideological heritage of Greek heroes may still in principle be reconstructed as Indo-European in character. But there are problems in extracting comparative evidence about the hero from Greek epic, especially about the religious dimension of the hero. It is worth stressing that the hero as a figure of cult must be local because it is a fundamental principle in Greek religion that his supernatural power is local. [24] On the other hand, the hero as a figure of epic is pan-Hellenic and consequently cannot have an overtly religious dimension in the narrative. Still, we may expect to find at least latent traces of this religious dimension within the Homeric poems. I have in fact produced a book with this expectation in mind. [25] Even further, it can be argued that these latent traces have cognates in the comparative evidence of other Indo-European epic traditions.
Both the Iliad and the Odyssey reveal a pervasive theme that implicitly tells of a hero’s parallelism, not only in character but also in action, with a corresponding god. This theme is particularly manifest in the case of {11|12} Achilles and Apollo in the Iliad. For example, both the hero and the god have mênis ‘anger’ (I 1/I 75) that inflicts álgea ‘pains’ (I 2/I 96) so as to be a loigós ‘devastation’ for the Achaeans (I 341/I 97). [26] Moreover, the hero and the god are traditionally represented as look-alikes, for example both appearing unshorn in the manner of a koûros ‘uninitiated male’. Their physical parallelism has led Walter Burken to describe Achilles as a Doppelgänger of Apollo. [27] We see here a remarkable analogue to the five epic heroes known as the Pāṇḍava-s in the Indic Mahābhārata, heroes whose parallelism with corresponding gods (Dharma, Vāyu, Indra, and the two Aśvin-s) has been traced in detail by Dumézil. [28]
In Greek epic there is a consistent pattern of mutual antagonism between a god and the hero who is parallel to him, Moreover, this pattern of antagonism on the level of myth is matched by a pattern of symbiosis on the level of cult. [29] As a case in point, I cite the relationship of Apollo with Pyrrhos/Neoptolemos, son of Achilles: this hero is killed by the god himself within his own divine precinct (e.g. Pindar Paean 6.117-120), the very place where Pyrrhos/Neoptolemos is believed to be buried and where he is worshiped as the chief cult hero of Delphi (e.g. Pindar Nemean 7.44-47). [30] This and many other similar themes of god-hero antagonism suit an Indo-European pattern documented by Dumézil, who links the story patterns of the Old Norse hero Starkaðr, the Indic hero Śiśupāla, and the Greek hero Herakles. With the myth of Herakles, Dumézil himself has admirably demonstrated that the Indo-European pattern of god-hero antagonism is indeed attested in the realm of Greek myth. What I would add here is that this same pattern is central to the narrative traditions of Greek epic in particular, as exemplified in the Iliad and Odyssey. [31] In fact, the compressed retelling of the Herakles story in Iliad XIX 95-133 is a clear attestation of the same Indo-European pattern that Dumézil has reconstructed from such nonpoetic retellings as in Diodorus Siculus (4.8-39). [32]
The claim can be made, then, that the themes associated with the major Homeric heroes do indeed match the themes associated with {12|13} gods, and that Dumézil’s doubts about the applicability of his reconstructions to Greek epics can in the end be dispelled. Moreover, since the Greek evidence shows parallelisms of god and hero attested even on the level of cult, Dumézil’s vision of epic as structured by myth may even be extended one level further: from epic to myth to ritual.
There is a striking attestation of all three levels in the Homeric Hymn to Herakles (Hymn 15), which can be described as a brief and stylized prayer in worship of the hero Herakles, invoked as the son of Zeus (verses 1 and 9) and implored to grant success and wealth (9). Within this prayer Herakles is described as áristos ‘best’ among the epikhthónioi ‘earth-bound men’ of Thebes (1-2), and each of these words conjures up a specific heroic theme. Considering epikhthónioi first, we note that this word can mean more than ‘earth-bound men’ pure and simple: it is also attested in the context of designating heroes as worshiped in cult (e.g. Hesiod Works and Days 123). [33] As for áristos ‘best’, it serves as a formal measure of a given hero’s supremacy in his own epic tradition, as we see from the deployment of the expression áristos Akhaiôn ‘best of the Achaeans’ in the Homeric poems: the Iliad and the Odyssey each appropriate this epithet to fit the central figures Achilles and Odysseus, respectively. [34]

There are other epic touches as well in Homeric Hymn 15, as for example in these verses describing the Labors of the hero Herakles:

πλαζόμενος πομπῇσιν ὑπ’ Εὐρυσθῆος ἄνακτος
πολλὰ μὲν αὐτὸς ἔρεξεν ἀτάσθαλα, πολλὰ δ’ ἀνέτλη

Homeric Hymn to Herakles 15.5-6
Set off-course on missions at the direction of Eurystheus the king,
many are the reckless [atásthala] things that he did, many the things that he endured.

Let us compare the verses beginning the Odyssey:

ἄνδρα μοι ἔννεπε Μοῦσα πολύτροπον ὃς μάλα πολλὰ
πλάγχθη, ἐπεὶ Τροίης ἱερὸν πτολίεθρον ἔπερσε.
πολλῶν δ’ ἀνθρώπων ἴδεν ἄστεα καὶ νόον ἔγνω,
πολλὰ δ’ ὅ γ’ ἐν πόντῳ πάθεν ἄλγεα

Odyssey i 1-4
About the man sing to me, Muse, the one of many turns [polú-tropos] the {13|14} one who many times
was set off course after he destroyed the holy citadel of Troy.
Many are the men whose cities he saw, and he came to know their way of thinking,
and many are the pains that he suffered at sea.

In the Hymn to Herakles, the anaphora of πολλᾲ…πολλᾲ ‘many things…many things’ at verse 6 in the context of πλαζόμενος ‘set off-course’ at verse 5 is parallel to the anaphora of πολύτροπον…πολλὰ/πολλῶν…/πολλὰ ‘the one of many turns’…’many’/’many’ …/’many’ at Odyssey 1/3/4 in the context of πλάγχθη ‘was set off course’ at I 2. Further, the expression πολλὰ…ἀνέτλη ‘he endured many things’ at Hymn 15.6 describing Herakles is parallel to πολλὰ…πάθεν ἄλγεα ‘he suffered many pains’ at Odyssey i 4 describing Odysseus, while the ἀτάσθαλα ‘reckless’ deeds of Herakles at Hymn 15.6 correspond to the characterization of Achilles in his own dark moments of savagery as ἀτάσθαλος (e.g. XXII 418). [35]

The study of the diction in Hymn 15 could be taken much further, but the point has already been made: this composition is not only a functional prayer to a hero in his capacity as a cult figure but also a glorification of his epic attributes—the very same epic attributes that seem to be divided up between Achilles and Odysseus in the overall epic diction of the Iliad and Odyssey. [36]
It is as if the epic figures of Achilles and Odysseus resulted from a split of characterizations that we can find in one heroic figure, Herakles. In light of Dumézil’s work on Herakles in Mythe et épopée II, [37] we see that Herakles is in fact far closer to an Indo-European model of the hero than is either Achilles or Odysseus. We may even add another factor, this time in light of Dumézil’s work in Mythe et épopée I. [38] Such heroes as the five Pāṇḍava-s in the Indic Mahābhārata are not only each parallel to specific gods in traits and actions: they are also sired by these very same gods. [39] So also with Herakles: the best of heroes, as he is described in the Homeric Hymn To Herakles (15.1-2), is sired by the best of gods. By {14|15} contrast, most Homeric heroes are several generations removed from divine parentage, just as they are several stages removed from the Indo-European model of the hero.
There is a striking reflex of this state of affairs on the formal level of poetic diction. The word in question is hēmí-theoi (ἡμίθεοι) ‘demigods’, which as we see from Hesiod F 204.100 MW and elsewhere clearly denotes direct divine parentage on one side (ἡμίθεοι at verse 100 = τέκνα θεῶν at verse 101), not simply semidivine status. [40] In Hesiod Works and Days 160, this same word hēmí-theoi designates the heroes of the generations that fought at Thebes and Troy. [41] Yet Homeric diction consistently refers to this same generation of heroes as hḗrōes (ἥρωες) ‘heroes’, not hēmí-theoi (ἡμίθεοι) ‘demigods’. The only exception is at Iliad XII 23, where hēmí-theoi does indeed refer to the Achaean heroes who fought at Troy—but the reference here is made from the standpoint of the Homeric audience, as it looks back, centuries later, at the remains of the Trojan War (see especially Iliad XII 26-32). [42] The point remains, then, that Homeric poetry—unlike other traditional forms of poetry—cannot as a rule designate its own heroes as hēmítheoi ‘demigods’, being restricted instead to the word hḗrōes. It is as if the Indo-European model of hero were no longer appropriate for the Homeric tradition of epic narrative, whereas it remained so for other poetic traditions such as the Hesiodic. [43]
I return to Hesiod F 204 MW for a remarkable illustration of this principle. At verses 95 and following, we find a tightly compressed narrative about the beginnings of the Trojan War: how the Olympian gods were split into pro-Achaean and pro-Trojan factions ever since the éris ‘strife’ at the Judgment of Paris (verses 95-96), [44] how the Will of Zeus ordained the deaths of heroes in the Trojan War (96-123). By good fortune, a corresponding passage is attested in a fragment from the epic Cycle, specifically from the beginning of the epic Cypria (F 1 Allen). Here, too, we find a reference to éris ‘strife’, this time designating the Trojan War itself (Cypria F 1.5), and how it was the Will of Zeus that heroes should die at Troy (F 1.6-7). [45] So much for the convergences. One major divergence, however, is that the heroes of the Trojan War are called hḗrōes in the Cyclic version (F 1.7 Allen) but hēmítheoi ‘demigods’ in the Hesiodic (F 204.100 MW). It appears that the epic format is more specialized, {15|16} more restricted, than other forms of poetry, and that it cannot easily tolerate the semantics of an Indo-European model that contradicts the genealogies of its own more specialized, more restricted heroes.
And yet the general themes shared by these Cyclic and Hesiodic passages are distinctly Indo-European in character. Even if the Cyclic Cypria avoids calling its heroes hēmítheoi ‘demigods’, these epic figures nonetheless share a vitally important theme with their distant Indic cousins, the divinely sired Pāṇḍava-s of the Mahābhārata: Zeus brings the éris ‘strife’ of the Trojan War because he intends to depopulate the Earth of the myriad heroes that weigh upon her (Cypria F 1.1-6 Allen). Similarly in the Mahābhārata, the war of the Pāṇḍava-s is a divine solution to the overpopulation of heroes weighing upon the earth. [46] In this way the major epic narratives of the Greek and the Indic peoples are inaugurated with a cognate theme, and it is hard to imagine more compelling evidence for the Indo-European heritage of the epic traditions about the Trojan War. [47]
A related theme, equally important as evidence for an Indo-European heritage in Greek epic, is apparent in the Iliad’s own compressed reference to the beginnings of the Trojan War—a theme elaborated in detail by the Cypria. We have already seen that the war itself is an éris ‘conflict’ (Cypria F 1.5 Allen), just as the Judgment of Paris is an éris (Hesiod F 204.96 MW). The éris that marks the beautiful shepherd’s judgment took the form of neîkos (νεῖκος) ‘quarreling’ (Cypria/Proclus summary p. 102.15 Allen), and the Iliad itself refers to the whole affair as éris (III 100) or neîkos (XXII 116). I emphasize the words éris ‘strife’ and neîkos ‘quarreling’ not only because of their thematic importance as a plot motivation of epic but also because of their programmatic significance beyond epic. It so happens that the language of Greek praise poetry designates its own converse, blame poetry, with these very words, éris and neîkos. [48] Moreover, epic itself uses the word neikéō as ‘blame’ in opposition to ainéō ‘praise’ (e.g. Iliad 249-250). [49]

This opposition fits the larger pattern of a complementary interplay between praise and blame, particularly on the level of poetry, in such Indo-European societies as the Italic, Celtic, and Indic. [50] Marcel Detienne has extended the comparison to the Greek evidence, [51] and I in turn have described in detail the diction of praise and blame specifically {16|17} in Greek poetry. [52] The point to be made now, however, is more fundamental: as we can see from the Iliadic references to the Judgment of Paris, Greek epic presents its own genesis in terms of the opposition between praise and blame. As the Iliad puts it, the Judgment of Paris entailed the blaming of the goddesses Hera and Athena along with the praising of Aphrodite:

ὃς νείκεσσε θεάς, ὅτε οἱ μέσσαυλον ἵκοντο,
τὴν δ’ ἤνησ’ ἥ οἱ πόρε μαχλοσύνην ἀλεγεινήν

Iliad XXIV 29-30
[Paris] who blamed [verb neikéō ] the goddesses [Hera and Athena], when they came to his courtyard,
but he praised [verb ainéō ] her who gave him baneful sensuality.
Thus the primary narrative of Greek epic, which is the Trojan War, is self-motivated by the Indo-European social principle of counterbalancing praise and blame.
It is precisely in this theme, the Judgment of Paris, that Dumézil has found the most overt Greek example of a general Indo-European social ideology that he describes as trifunctionalism. In Dumézil’s formulation, society as reflected by the Indo-European languages tends to divide along the following three lines of ideological organization: (1) sovereignty and the sacred, (2) warfare, (3) agriculture, herding, and fertility in general. [53] The theme of the Judgment of Paris reflects this pattern of trifunctionalism. Paris the herdsman is being offered a gift from each of the three functions: (1) sovereignty, from Hera; (2) military supremacy, from Athena; and (3) sexual relations with Helen, the most beautiful woman on earth, from Aphrodite. [54]
Thus the Judgment of Paris, the ultimate point of departure for the narrative traditions that we know as Homer’s epics, can itself be judged as an epic theme with an Indo-European foundation. More broadly, Homer can be judged an authoritative source for the myths inherited by and through the Greek language. {17|18}


[ back ] 1. A noteable example is Page 1959.
[ back ] 2. Dumézil 1968, 1971, 1973.
[ back ] 3. Dumézil 1985.15 (my translation).
[ back ] 4. Benveniste 1969.
[ back ] 5. Cf. N 1982b, reviewing Detienne 1981, and Martin 1989. On the truth-value of myth: Leach 1982.2-7.
[ back ] 6. My translation, with slight modifications, of Burkert 1979b.29. Although I recognize the need for the additional term “legend,” besides “myth,” in the work of others, I find it unnecessary for the purposes of this book.
[ back ] 7. The basics: Parry 1971 (collected works) and Lord 1960.
[ back ] 8. Cf. also Martin 1989.1-42.
[ back ] 9. Dumézil 1969.580-581; cf. also 1982.8, 52, 112-113.
[ back ] 10. Throughout this book, I use the word “theme” (and “thematic”) as a shorthand reference to a basic unit in the traditional subject patterns of myth. My model for a sensible deployment of this word is Lord 1960.68-98.
[ back ] 11. Snodgrass 1971 (see esp. pp. 421, 435; also pp. 352, 376, 416-417, 421, 431).
[ back ] 12. Again, Page 1959.
[ back ] 13. Snodgrass 1971.421, 435. Hereafter, the word pólis will appear in plain roman print: polis.
[ back ] 14. Cf. N 1979a.115-117.
[ back ] 15. Rohde 1898.1:125-127.
[ back ] 16. Burkert 1985.8
[ back ] 17. Rohde 1898; for a survey of Rohde’s treatment of hero cults, see N 1979a.115-117.
[ back ] 18. Snodgrass 1970.190-193. Cf. Snodgrass 1987, esp. pp. 160, 165.
[ back ] 19. Cf. Coldstream 1976.
[ back ] 20. Snodgrass 1971.398-399; also Snodgrass 1987, esp. pp. 160, 165, and Morris 1988.754-755. For a reappraisal, stressing regional variations, see Whitley 1988.
[ back ] 21. Rohde 1898.1:108-110.
[ back ] 22. Cf. Brelich 1958.144n202 and Alexiou 1974.19.
[ back ] 23. Cf. again Snodgrass 1971.398-399.
[ back ] 24. Rohde 1:184-189.
[ back ] 25. N. 1979a. Cf. also Vernant 1985.101, 104, 106.
[ back ] 26. Further discussion in N 1979a ch.5.
[ back ] 27. Burkert 1975.19; cf. N 1979a.142-143.
[ back ] 28. Dumézil 1968.33-257.
[ back ] 29. Cf. Burkert 1975.19; cf. N 1979a ch. 7.
[ back ] 30. Cf. N 1979a ch. 7.
[ back ] 31. On the antagonism of Achilles and Apollo, I refer again to N 1979a ch. 7; on the antagonism between Odysseus and Poseidon, see Hansen 1977. It is fitting that a complex figure like Odysseus should have more than one divine antagonist. On the implicit antagonism between Odysseus and Athena, see Clay 1984.
[ back ] 32. See Davidson 1980.
[ back ] 33. N 1979a.153-154. Cf. also Vernant 1985.101, 104, 106.
[ back ] 34. N 1979a ch. 2.
[ back ] 35. For more on the thematic connection of Achilles with the epithet ‘reckless’, atásthalos (ἀτάσθαλος) see N pp 163ff.
[ back ] 36. The nonspecialization of the Herakles figure in comparison with the main heroes of attested Greek epic suggests that the Herakles theme may be appropriate to poetic forms other than epic: cf. Burkert 1979a.94.
[ back ] 37. Dumézil 1971.
[ back ] 38. Dumézil 1968.117-132.
[ back ] 39. The father/son combinations (to repeat: in each case the fathers are gods and the sons are mortals): Dharma/Yudhiṣṭhira, Vāyu/Bhīma, Indra/Arjuna, the two Aśvin-s/Nakula and Sahadeva.
[ back ] 40. Cf. West 1978.191.
[ back ] 41. More on these heroes at p. 126.
[ back ] 42. More on this passage in N 1979a.159-161. Cf. also Vernant 1985.101, 104,106.
[ back ] 43. More at p. 126 on the Hesiodic visualization of heroes.
[ back ] 44. More in N pp. 219-221.
[ back ] 45. On the Will of Zeus theme as represented in the Iliad (I 5), see N p. 82 § 25n2, with further references.
[ back ] 46. See Dumézil 1968.168-169.
[ back ] 47. Cf. Vian 1970, esp. p. 55.
[ back ] 48. N 1979a ch. 11-ch. 15.
[ back ] 49. N pp. 34-35, 240.
[ back ] 50. Dumézil 1943; updated in Dumézil 1969.
[ back ] 51. Detienne 1973.
[ back ] 52. N 1979a ch.11-ch.15.
[ back ] 53. See Dumézil 1958.
[ back ] 54. Dumézil 1969.580-586. For further important observations on the Judgment of Paris theme, see Dumézil 1985.15-30.

Chapter 2. Formula and Meter: The Oral Poetics of Homer

Since the discoveries of Milman Раrry [1] and Albert Lord [2] about the nature of “oral poetry,” some problems have developed over how to define the formula. Parry’s own definition will serve as a useful point of departure: the formula is “a group of words which is regularly employed under the same metrical conditions to express a given essential idea.” [3]
It is pointless here to launch into a bibliographical survey of scholars’ reactions; I propose instead to consider some of the general problems to be found in the definition itself. The most important of these, one that requires extensive discussion, has to do with Parry’s original frame of reference. To put it simply, Parry was basing his definition on one body of evidence alone, the Homeric corpus (that is, the Iliad and Odyssey). If we look again at Parry’s words, we see that he actually prefaced his definition with “The formula in the Homeric poems may be defined as…” [4]
In fact, it is fair to say that the study of oral poetry down to our time has been destined to develop in a certain direction and almost in a certain order not so much because Homeric poetry had been a preeminent topic of academic interest for centuries but rather because Milman Parry in particular based his initial findings exclusively on Homeric poetry. As late as six years after publication of his two fundamental French theses {18|19} (Parry 1928a, b), at a time when he was already starting fieldwork on South Slavic oral poetry, Раrrу was still relying on criteria based squarely on Homeric poetry. Albert Lord gives us a fascinating glimpse of this stage in his teacher’s thinking when he quotes statements like the following from Parry’s own field notes (dictated at Dubrovnik, from December 1, 1934, to February 2, 1935): “for some reason, that does not exist for the South Slavic poetry, there existed for the Greek heroic songs a fixity of phrasing which is utterly unknown in the South Slavic.” [5] Much more fieldwork was yet to follow, and the subsequent research of both Parry and Lord has led to an entirely different conclusion, that the fixity of phrasing in South Slavic oral poetry is in fact all-pervasive. [6]
The experience of fieldwork, then, has here ultimately corrected an initial impression induced under the Homeric influence. It should be emphasized, however, that Homeric poetry did not mislead the field-worker about Homeric poetry; rather, it misled him about South Slavic poetry. And yet, why should one archaic text, the Homeric corpus, have had more to say about the nature of oral poetry than the myriad songs sung by singers in the living South Slavic tradition? The answer is simple: one knew a great deal more about the Homeric tradition. Centuries of philology had already passed in pursuit of every imaginable aspect in the evolution of the Iliad and Odyssey. Prodigious efforts at discovering the genesis of Greek epic had a way of inspiring confidence that one was on the track of its essence as well. No matter what we call this quest—the “Homeric Question” or whatever—the assumption is there: essence through origins.
Here the evolution of another field of study, that of linguistics, teaches the student of oral poetry an important lesson: searching for origins does not necessarily lead to our grasping the essence. In the nineteenth century the study of language was preoccupied mainly with its genealogy rather than its structure. Historical linguistics took precedence over other approaches, as we can see from Pedersen’s eloquent account in The Discovery of Language (1931). But historical linguistics is by no means adequate as the sole approach to language. For example, we will not really know the Latin language simply by tracing it back to an Indo-European protolanguage—even though the technique of reconstructing Latin and all the other Indo-European languages to a common prototype has been justifiably called, by a prominent linguist who was not even an Indo-Europeanist himself, “more nearly perfect than that of any other science dealing with man’s institutions.” [7] Granted, {19|20} reconstructed protolanguage may perhaps justifiably be called “a glorious artifact, one which is far more precious than anything an archaeologist can ever hope to unearth.” [8] Nevertheless, the point remains that reconstruction cannot yield all the answers. What is also needed is a thorough description of the structure of a given language as it exists at a given time and place. Since the influential work of the linguist Ferdinand de Saussure, such a perspective on language has been called “synchronic,” in contrast to the “diachronic” perspective, where we see the structure of a language as it evolves through time. [9] For solving most problems of language, it is now generally recognized that both perspectives are needed. [10]
These concepts of synchronic and diachronic are readily applicable to the study of oral poetry. What I propose to do throughout this presentation is to stress their abiding usefulness. But first, let us quickly compare the history of oral studies with the history of linguistic studies. Fieldwork on South Slavic epic, which is an example of synchronic analysis, came about much later than philological research into the genesis of the Homeric corpus, which is clearly diachronic analysis. In general, then, the evolution of linguistics and oral studies is parallel. In particulars, too, it was the historical perspective, I submit, that had led Parry at the outset of his fìeldwork to believe that South Slavic oral poetry lacked the degree of fixity in phrasing that could be found in the Iliad and Odyssey. Let it not go unsaid, though, that Parry’s own approach to the Homeric corpus was strictly synchronic: he was studying its formulas as blocks of a real system of traditional diction. My point is simply that Parry’s initial impressions of South Slavic oral poetry were influenced by the diachronic standpoint of his Homerist predecessors. Once his own synchronic perspective took hold, the essence of South Slavic oral poetry presented him with an altogether different picture.
The synchronic approach, however useful it has been for Parry when he was analyzing Homeric poetry, was even more effective as a tool for analyzing South Slavic oral poetry. In the ease of the Iliad and Odyssey, Parry had to confront the philological problem of a fixed text containing a finite length of discourse—vestiges of an oral tradition long dead even by the time of Plato. Moreover, we know precious little even about the setting of ancient Greek oral poetry—beyond what we learn from the texts themselves. By contrast, Parry’s fieldwork in Yugoslavia was an open-ended situation: here he had access to as many performances as {20|21} he could record from as many singers as he could find who practiced the living tradition of oral poetry. It is in fact from the synchronic fieldwork of Parry and Lord that we gain the most important new fact about oral poetry—one that we could perhaps never have learned from philological work on the Homeric texts alone. Each and every performance that Parry recorded from the singers of the living tradition turned out to be, as he discovered, a distinct composition. Lord sums it up this way: “Singer, performer, composer, and poet are one under different aspects but at the same time. Singing, performing, composing are facets of the same act.” [11]
This aspect of oral poetry, which Parry learned from his fieldwork in Yugoslavia, had vital significance for Parry’s concept of the formula. The Homeric evidence had taught him that the formula is a traditional group of words regularly recurring in a given rhythmical framework, that is, in given metrical slots. Now he learns from the South Slavic evidence that oral poetry may require you to compose while you perform, perform while you compose. Such a medium, it follows, puts pressure on the poet/singer to have a ready-made phrase available to fill every position in the verse, which is the overall frame for his phraseology. Then too, the singer has to make verse follow verse rapidly. As Lord puts it, “the need for the ‘next’ line is upon him even before he utters the final syllable of a line. There is urgency. To meet it the singer builds patterns of sequences of lines, which we know as the ‘parallelisms’ of oral style.” [12]

We may all follow intuitively such observations offered by Parry and Lord about the demands made by performance on composition. But the Hellenist who has been reared on the classical approaches to the Iliad and Odyssey begins to wonder how an oral system so seemingly automatic could still result in compositions that seem so integral—so premeditated esthetically, even psychologically. He wonders even more when he reads some other Hellenists who have championed the findings of Parry. For example, defining what he calls Parry’s “law of economy,” Denys Page says the following about the Homeric formula: “Generally speaking, for a given idea within a given place in the line, there will be found in the vast treasury of phrases one formula and one only.” [13] Page then goes on to give a particularly elegant illustration of this principle of thrift by examining all the Homeric attestations for “the sea.” I quote his conclusions in full: [14]

{21|22} For this one idea, “the sea,” and for its expression in noun + epithet phrases only, he [the poet] relied upon his memory to provide him with a ready-made formula for almost every requirement; and the traditional vocabulary was now so highly developed, so refined and reduced, that for each requirement he found never, or hardly ever, more than one single formula. He has no freedom to select his adjectives: he must adopt whatever combination of words is supplied by tradition for a given part of the verse; and that traditional combination brings with it an adjective which may or may not be suitable to the context.

Such assertions about “metrical utility as a primary determinant in the choice of words” [15] have vexed legions of Homerists devoted to the artistry of the Iliad and Odyssey.

Most of the outraged reactions, however, are based on overinterpretation of the Parry-Lord theories. To infer that “Homer” cannot do this or that—even against his own artistic wishes—is to misunderstand Parry and Lord altogether; a careful rereading of Albert Lord’s Singer of Tales chapter 3 (“The Formula”) is then in order. [16] What Parry was saying is that the Homeric language is “free of phrases which, having the same metrical value and expressing the same idea, could replace one another.” [17] Moreover, the context of Parry’s statement is a discussion of fixed epithets that are distinctive rather than generic, like πολύτλας δῖος ‘much-suffering brilliant’, which is applied to Odysseus only, ποδάρκης δῖος ‘swift-footed brilliant’, applied to Achilles only, μέγας κορυθαίολος ‘great flashing-helmeted’, to Hektor only, and so on. [18] Let us pursue the distinction between generic and distinctive epithets. The former class of adjectives is appropriate to any hero, under the right metrical conditions. Where the generic and the distinctive epithets have the same metrical shape, either can be applied to the hero, depending on the requirements of the theme at hand. [19] When we add this regular Homeric phenomenon of interchange between generic and distinctive epithets to the sporadic phenomenon, as also noted by Parry himself, of interchange among distinctive epithets, [20] we begin to see more clearly that the Homeric “thrift {22|23} of expression,” to use Parry’s own words, [21] is not really a conditioning principle.
In fact, it can be argued that the principle of economy is not a cause but an effect of traditional diction. From the diachronic standpoint, we can imagine a scenario for the development of a distinctive into a generic epithet. Suppose that a traditional theme about one given hero with a given epithet becomes applied and reapplied to a succession of other heroes. Within parallel epic actions, then, his epithet would follow these other heroes. If the theme is broad enough, and influential enough, it may in time accommodate a whole class of heroes, such as the figures assigned by tradition to the times of the Trojan War. By then, one original hero’s epithet may have become appropriate to a whole set of other heroes cast in the same epic mold, so to speak.
As for epithets that still function in a distinctive phase, one sees them from the diachronic standpoint as capsules of traditional themes associated with the noun described. A distinctive epithet is like a small theme song that conjures up a thought-association with the traditional essence of an epic figure, thing, or concept. To cite an example that has deservedly become a commonplace: Odysseus is πολύτλας ‘much-suffering’ throughout the Iliad because he is already a figure in an epic tradition about adventures that he will have after Troy. My saying “after” here applies only to the narrative sequence: the Iliad is recording the fact that Odysseus already has an Odyssey tradition about him—which is certainly not the final Odyssey, the fixed text that has come down to us. In sum, the diachronic viewpoint suggests that the prime regulator of Homeric epithet in particular and formula in general is traditional theme rather than current meter. [22]

Of course, a great deal remains to be said about meter and its synchronic/diachronic relation to formula. For now, however, the point is simply that the gaps in the Homeric principle of thrift prove nothing more than the fact that meter does not automatically trigger ready-made words. The ready-made words are determined by the themes of the composition, and the degree of thrift that we do find is due to a long-term streamlining of these themes in the context of the metrical frame. In this connection, the evidence of the Hesiodic corpus helps supplement what we know about the Homeric corpus. From the important work of G. P. Edwards, we learn that Hesiodic poetry is just as formulaic as the Homeric, and that here, too, we can find regular instances where the {23|24} principle of economy is observed and sporadic instances where it is not. [23] Significantly, the areas of nonobservance in Homeric and Hesiodic poetry often differ. [24] From the diachronic point of view, we may wish to posit here the factor of chronological variation, where the principle of economy is waived in order to leave room for an older or newer expression that is more apt for an older or newer theme. There may also be regional variation; the inherited themes of Homeric and Hesiodic poetry must have been filtered through different traditions from different places. As the boasting Aeneas says to the boasting Achilles in a mutually menacing encounter:

ἐπέων δὲ πολὺς νομὸς ἔνθα καὶ ἔνθα

Iliad XX 249
There is a great range of epics from place to place.

I will defer the reasons for my translating as I did until later. For now, the argument is simply that both the regular observance and the sporadic nonobservance of the thrift principle may reflect the force of traditional themes. Finally, considering all the instances of nonobservance and following Roman Jakobson’s useful concept of distinguishing poetic trends from constants, [25] I will henceforth refer to the “trend toward thrift” instead of “law of thrift/economy.”

On the subject of thrift, we may develop a better synchronic insight from the fieldwork of Parry and Lord in South Slavic poetry. Their findings suggest that there is a trend toward thrift that is parallel to what is found in the Homeric corpus—but primarily on the level of the individual singer’s composition. Lord puts it this way: “Indeed, it seems to me that the thriftiness which we find in individual singers and not in districts or traditions is an important argument for the unity of the Homeric poems. Homer’s thriftiness finds its parallel in the individual Yugoslav singer, but not in the collected songs of a number of different singers.” [26] An important amplification seems in order: from the synchronic evidence of South Slavic oral poetry, where we see that composition and performance are one, we may also infer that the composition of the Iliad and that of the Odyssey are also a matter of performance. Homeric poetry is a performance medium, no matter how difficult it is for us to imagine any {24|25} possible context for actual recitation of epics that size. [27] Otherwise such Homeric phenomena as the strong trend toward thrift would be absent. Having discounted meter as the primary cause of fixity in formulaic behavior, we may now attempt to take a diachronic look at the evolution of formula systems. Lord’s fundamental observations about the formula in Singer of Tales, [28] though they are based on the synchronic perspective of his experiences in the field, are also replete with valuable diachronic insights. In what amounts to a manifesto, he declares: “For the singing we hear today, like the everyday speech around us, goes back in a direct and long series of singings to a beginning which, no matter how difficult it may be to conceive, we must attempt to grasp, because otherwise we shall miss an integral part of the meaning of the traditional formula.” [29]
He considers the genesis of formulas not only within the tradition at large but also within the individual singer: [30] “Even in pre-singing years rhythm and thought are one, and the singer’s concept of the formula is shaped though not explicit. He is aware of the successive beats and the varying lengths of repeated thoughts, and these might be said to be his formulas. Basic patterns of meter, word boundary, melody have become his possession, and in him the tradition begins to reproduce itself.” Surely the dictum applies: ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny. [31] How, then, does tradition generate formulas in the singer? The key, it seems, is to be found in the traditional themes inherited by the singer: [32] “The fact of narrative song is around him from birth; the technique of it is in the possession of his elders, and he falls heir to it. Yet in a real sense he does recapitulate the experiences of the generations before him stretching back to the distant past.” Accordingly, although I agree with Lord’s statement that, in making his lines, “the singer is not bound by the formula,” [33] I would also add that the singer is indeed bound by the traditional theme. The theme, I submit, is the key to all the other levels of fixity in oral poetry—including both the formulaic and the metrical levels.

The degree of the singer’s adherence to the traditional theme can best be shown by examining the content as well as the form of epic. It is particularly instructive to consider the evidence from Homeric poetry and beyond, as we see from Marcel Detienne’s careful investigation of {25|26} the attitude of Hellenic society toward the aoidós ‘singer’ and the attitude of the singer toward his craft. [34] The traditional boast of the Hellenic singer, as an individual performer, is that he preserves the truth about heroic actions without having to be an eyewitness. Instead, the truth is his simply by virtue of his hearing from the Muses what they saw. As the singer declares at the beginning of the Catalogue,

ὑμεῖς γὰρ θεαί ἐστε, πάρεστέ τε, ἴστέ τε πάντα
ἡμεῖς δὲ κλέος oῖov ἀκούομεν οὐδέ τι ἴδμεν

Iliad II 485-496
You [Muses] are gods: you are there [when things happen] and you know everything.
But we [singers] know nothing: we just hear the kléos.

The claim of knowing nothing masks a highly sophisticated boast. From its etymology, we know that the Greek word κλέος (kléos) was originally an abstract noun meaning simply “the act of hearing.” The word came to mean “fame” because it had been appropriated by the singer in his traditional role as an individual performer to designate what he sang about the actions of gods and heroes. The meaning “fame” betrays merely the consequences. It shows the social prestige of the poet’s art form. The actions of gods and heroes gain fame through the medium of the singer, and the singer calls his medium kléos, from “the act of hearing.” [35] Since the singer starts his performance by asking his Muse to “tell him” the subject, his composition is in fact being presented to his audience as something that he hears from the very custodians of all stages of reality. The Muses are speaking to him, and they have the ipsissima verba of the Heroic Age.

The poet’s inherited conceit, then, is that he has access not only to the content but also to the actual form of what his eyewitnesses, the Muses, speak as they describe the realities of remote generations. I should emphasize that this conceit is linked with the poet’s inherited role as an individual performer, and that “only in performance can the formula exist and have clear definition.” [36] The formulas are the selfsame words spoken by the Muses themselves: they are recordings of the Muses who were there when everything happened. In fact, the frame in which these formulas are contained, the dactylic hexameter, was actually called {26|27} ἔπος (épos) by the composer/performer himself, as Hermann Koller has argued in detail. [37] Since the dactylic hexameter, as well as all verses, has an inherited tendency to be syntactically self-contained, [38] the épos is truly an epic utterance—an epic sentence—from the standpoint of the Muses or of any character quoted by the Muses. The word introducing Homeric quotations is in fact regularly épos. There are even some subtle grammatical distinctions, in traditions of formulaic behavior, between the épos that the Muses quote and the épos that they simply narrate. [39] In a medium that carries with it such inherited conceits about accuracy and even reality, we can easily imagine generations after generations of audiences conditioned to expect from the performer the most extreme degree of fixity in content, fixity in form.

Of course, different audiences in different places may be raised on traditions that are variants. When the heroic figures of Aeneas and Achilles meet on the battlefield (Iliad XX), they try to intimidate each other by boasting of the variant epics serving as background for their heroic exploits. Aeneas tells Achilles not to try to frighten him with the épea (XX 200-201)—let us call them his “epics.” There is further allusion to the power of épea as Aeneas continues:

ἴδμεν δ’ ἀλλήλων γενεήν, ἴδμεν δὲ τοκῆας
πρόκλυτ’ ἀκούοντες ἔπεα θνητῶν ἀνθρώπων
ὄψει δ’ οὔτ’ ἄρ πω σὺ ἐμοὺς ἴδες οὔτ’ ἄρ’ ἐγὼ σούς

Iliad XX 203-205
We know each other’s birth, we know each other’s parents,
hearing the famed épea from mortal men.
And yet you have never seen my parents, nor I yours.

There are, as Aeneas warns Achilles, variant épea about the same heroes:

στρεπτὴ δὲ γλῶσσ’ ἐστὶ βροτῶν, πολέες δ’ ἔνι μῦθοι
παντοῖοι, ἐπέων δὲ πολὺς νομὸς ἔνθα καὶ ἔνθα
ὁπποῖόν κ’ εἴπῃσθα ἔπος, τοῖόν κ’ ἐπακούσαις

Iliad XX 248-250
The tongue of men is twisted, and there are many words there
of every kind; there is a great range of épea from place to place.
{27|28} The kind of épos that you say is the kind of épos that you will hear in turn about, yourself.

The most striking feature of this Aeneas/Achilles episode is that the Iliad in Book XX actually allows part of the Aeneas tradition to assert itself at the expense of Achilles, who had taunted Aeneas by predicting that he will never replace Priam as king of Troy (XX 178-183). The god Poseidon himself then predicts the opposite (XX 302-308); the dynasty of Aeneas will prevail in the Troad, and there will be a vindication of his mênis ‘anger’ against King Priam (XIII 460-461)—a theme that finds a parallel in the mênis ‘anger’ of Achilles against King Agamemnon in Iliad Book I, verses 1 and following.

One of the most obvious traces of a variant epic tradition in Iliad XX is the surprising rescue of Trojan Aeneas by one of the most pro-Achaean Olympians, the god Poseidon. From the researches of Felix Jacoby [40] and others, [41] we can reconstruct a motivation for the use of such a tradition. During the times that our Iliad was evolving into its ultimate form, there may well have existed a special cult affinity between the god Poseidon and a dynasty of Aeneadae claiming descent from Aeneas. In Iliad XX (302-308) as well as in the Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite (196-197), the contemporary importance of such a dynasty is being retrojected into the Heroic Age by such epic devices as the prophecy to Aeneas that his descendants, not Priam’s, will be the ones who are to hold sway in the Troad. [42] What has not been sufficiently stressed in previous studies, however, is that the traditions about the Aeneadae must themselves have been transmitted through the medium of epic. [43] In other words, the wording of the Aeneas/Achilles episode shows that there had been a regional epic tradition about Aeneas that was destined to glorify the Aeneadae—to give them kléos. [44]
I have gone to such lengths in discussing this particular Homeric scene in order to illustrate how regional variations may result in oral traditions with different themes appropriate to different places; and the different themes can in turn lead to corresponding differences in formulaic behavior. In other words, fixity of form in oral poetry should not be confused with uniformity. {28|29}
Lack of uniformity is caused by the dimension of time as well as that of space. Although the medium of oral poetry may look upon itself as containing the original, actual words of the Heroic Age, “irreplaceable and immortal,” [45] its Dichtersprache will nevertheless undergo change in time, much as everyday language does. Since, however, epic deliberately resists change in order to preserve the ipsissima verba, the linguistic innovations that do occur in its Dichtersprache will not keep apace with the linguistic innovations of the everyday language from which it evolves. Consequently, the language of a body of oral poetry like the Iliad and Odyssey does not and cannot belong to any one time, any one place: in a word, it defies synchronic analysis. [46] Such chronological stratification in form can surely be expected to affect content. Meanwhile, content, too, can be expected to shift with the passage of time—even if the actual shifts in the presentation of a given traditional theme to audiences from one generation to the next might be too subtle for detection at any one occasion of performance/composition. Change is possible even if both performer and audience expect strict adherence to the traditional theme.
Once having made due allowances for some degree of evolution and variation in traditional theme, I must now return to emphasizing its remarkable stability and archaism. The fixity of phrasing in oral poetry, as I have argued, is actually due primarily to the factor of traditional theme rather than meter. Accordingly, I now offer a working definition of the formula that leaves out the factor of meter as the prime conditioning force: the formula is a fixed phrase conditioned by the traditional themes of oral poetry. Furthermore, I am ready to propose that meter is diachronically generated by formula rather than vice versa.
By applying the linguistic techniques of comparative reconstruction [47] to the fixed phraseology of native Greek and Indic poetry, I have argued elsewhere [48] that it is possible to find cognate phrases containing identically shaped rhythms. The existence of such comparanda would corroborate the theory that the speakers of these two Indo-European languages have preserved two cognate poetic systems. [49] In the oldest attested phases of Indic poetry, moreover, it can be shown that phraseology is regular even where meter is irregular. [50] This set of facts can be {29|30} supplemented with the discovery, made by Antoine Meillet, [51] that in early Indic poetry metrical trends do not create new phrases. Rather, there are traceable tendencies of preferring phrases with one kind of rhythm over phrases with other kinds of rhythm. Predictable patterns of rhythm emerge from favorite traditional phrases with favorite rhythms; the eventual regulation of these patterns, combined with regulation of the syllable count in the traditional phrases, constitutes the essentials of what we know as meter. Granted, meter can develop a synchronic system of its own, regulating any new incoming phraseology; nevertheless, its origins are from traditional phraseology. In short, the comparative evidence of Indic poetry leads to a parallel formulation about meter and traditional phraseology in early Greek poetry. [52] In this case, however, we may specify “formula” instead of the more general “traditional phraseology.”
The comparative approach, to be sure, allows us to extend our notions about phraseology and meter only to a degree. The metrical perspective in this case is restricted to those features of meter in general that the cognate Greek and Indic poetic material in particular happen to preserve as cognate phenomena, namely isosyllabism, regular patterning of long and short syllables, and so on. [53] The additional perspective on phraseology [54] is likewise restricted, at least for the moment, to what the evidence from the cognate Greek and Indic material reveals. Ideally, the comparative method requires at least three cognate systems. [55] With these allowances duly recorded, an important point can still be made simply by combining the diachronic with the synchronic view of Greek and Indic poetic phraseology. From a synchronic study of cognate Greek and Indic phrases as they are found functioning independently in each of the two poetic traditions, we discover that the regularities governing the behavior of the given phrases are also cognate; furthermore, in the case of the Greek evidence, the regularities are formulaic. [56] Accordingly, the comparative method suggests that the cognate regularities in Indic poetry, most notably in the Rig-Veda, are also formulaic. [57]
If indeed Rig-Vedic poetry is formulaic, may we therefore call it oral poetry? In order to answer such a question, we shall have to reckon at a later point with a problem peculiar to the Rig-Veda, to wit, that we see {30|31} here a fixed text with a nonwritten transmission extending over what appears to have been immense stretches of time. [58] As we shall see, there is an analogous problem with Homeric and Hesiodic poetry. [59]
Throughout this presentation I have allowed myself to make reference to meter as something that contains or frames formulas. Such a point of view, however, is strictly synchronic. From the diachronic point of view, I have now also maintained that formula generates meter. A demonstration is far easier on the basis of the Indic material than on that of the Greek, mainly because Indic meters tend to be so much simpler in structure and because their origins are consequently so much easier to trace. For example, the short verse lengths in Rig-Vedic poetry regularly coincide with syntactical phrase or clause lengths, [60] whereas Greek hexameter is such a comparatively long verse that it regularly accommodates two phrases and over, or even two clauses and over. In this connection, it is pertinent to cite Hermann Fränkel’s theory that the Greek hexameter is innately divisible into four “cola,” and that the divisions are determined by (1) the places where the verse begins and ends with word-breaks, (2) the places within the verse where word-breaks predictably recur (that is, caesuras and diaereses). [61]
Word-breaking, however, is only a surface phenomenon. What is really going on is that the colon lengths regularly coincide with syntactical phrase or clause lengths. [62] Of course, even before the colon theory had ever been propounded, Parry himself had shown the way when he observed that the canonical word breaks of Greek hexameter mark the places where formulas begin and end. [63]
We come back, then, to the question posed at the outset: how are we to imagine the strict correlation between formula and meter as part of a here-and-now poetic process, where the performer is actually composing? The imagination boggles at the degrees of formal strictness that we discover from reading a book like J. B. Hainsworth’s The Flexibility of the Homeric Formula, concerning the interaction of Homeric formula and meter. [64] The key word in this book’s title, flexibility, is a counterweight to Parry’s original definition of the formula, with its overemphasis on {31|32} identical metrical positioning and identical phrasing. [65] And yet, flexibility should not be confused with irregularity. Hainsworth’s study of flexibility in Homeric phraseology shows really just the opposite of irregularity, in that the processes whereby one formula is transformed into another, with different metrical position, inflection, qualifier, and so on, are themselves highly regulated. The flexibility is also regular. In other words, the variations on the regularities are also regular. The strictness is still there, and the synchronic perspective is simply not adequate to account for all its aspects.
Here is where the diachronic approach is needed. It is from this perspective, as we see implicitly from the work of Russo and others, [66] that the interaction between formula and meter can be best understood. The colon system of Greek hexameter, Russo argues, is correlated with a formula system that in turn is correlated with a syntax system. Russo here is intuiting something about the evolution of traditional Greek poetry that can be seen readily from the comparative evidence of Indic poetry. (As in linguistics, the comparative method is invaluable for the diachronic perspective.) In the Rig-Veda we find that the correlations between metrical units (verse) and syntactical units (phrase or clause) are much more simple and basic than those in Greek epic. Furthermore, as a synchronic examination will show, the regularities of meter are clearly subordinate to the regularities of phrasing; the inference, then, is that metrical units were diachronically generated from phraseological units. [67] Meter may then become a viable structure in its own right, and it may even develop independently of traditional phraseology. The Greek hexameter, as I have argued elsewhere, is an example of such a development; it is built from smaller inherited meters, and thus it can regularly accommodate two formulas and over. [68]
Even if formula lengths do not correspond to the overall verse lengths of the Greek hexameter, they do correspond to the metrical components of the verse length, namely, the cola. Such correspondences are verifiable from a synchronic description, [69] but it is important not to overemphasize the factor of cola and underemphasize the factor of formulas. Again, the diachronic perspective suggests that formula shapes generated colon shapes, not vice versa. [70] Accordingly, from the {32|33} synchronic perspective, we can expect formula structure to be regular even where colon structure is irregular. [71] Where a structure В evolves diachronically from structure A, the patterns of A are not automatically predictable from those of B. Certain patterns in A will seem irregular in terms of B, which has evolved beyond A in the continuing process of regularization.

For an illustration, I cite the following two verses from the Odyssey, using Fränkel’s notation for the relevant colon junctures: [72]

ἄνδρα μοι ἔννεπε Μοῦσα (B2) πολύτροπον (C2) ὃς μάλα πολλὰ

Odyssey i 1

Tell me, Muse, of the man of many turns, who in very many waysἦ σύ γ’ ‘Οδυσσεύς ἐσσι (Β2) πολύτροπος (С2) ὅv τε μοι αἰεί

Odyssey x 330
You must be Odysseus of many turns, whom to me always

From the standpoint of pure phraseology, the combinations

  • πολύτροπον (accusative) + ὅς (nominative)
  • πολύτροπος (nominative) + ὅν (accusative)

seem to be part of a formulaic unit that bridges the colon juncture labeled C2 above. From the standpoint of meter, on the other hand, the same combinations have a break at the same colon juncture C2, and this metrical break is even accompanied by a syntactical break. Because meter in this instance seems at odds with phraseology, there is some concern whether we have here “a chance combination or a formula.” [73] On the basis of this and other examples, it has been suggested that the Homeric corpus may contain some repetitions that are simply “due to chance.” [74] Instead, I would suggest that any phraseological “spilling” over caesuras, diaereses, or even verse junctures may be traditional rather than innovative. In Homeric diction, the traditional phraseology can reflect rhythmical patterns older than the current norms of the hexameter. [75] Then, too, in the case at hand, the adjective πολύτροπος {33|34} (polútropos) ‘of many turns’ is functioning in place of the generic epithet διίφιλος (diī́philos) ‘dear to Zeus’, ready-made for the slot ᴗ-ᴗᴗ between B2 and C2. [76]

The formulaic nature of this adjective πολύτροπος (polútropos) ’of many turns’ is made apparent in the Homeric Hymn to Hermes, where we see its placement in exactly the same slot ᴗ-ᴗᴗ between B2 and C2 of verses 13 and 439. In both these verses, it serves as the epithet of Hermes, god of mediation between all the opposites of the universe. As mediator between light and dark, life and death, wakefulness and sleep, heaven and earth, and so on, Hermes is πολύτροπος (polútropos) ’of many turns’. The application of this traditional Hermetic characterization to Odysseus in line 1 of Book i in the Odyssey, by virtue of its very prominence, sets an overall tone for the multiple (self-) characterizations of Odysseus that will follow in this epic. The second and only other application, in 330 of the Odyssey, reveals just as much in particular as the first application had in general. The immediate context becomes clear when we reexamine the verse in combination with the verse that follows:

ἦ σύ γ’ Ὀδυσσεύς ἐσσι (Β2) πολύτροπος (C2) ὅν τε μοι αἰεὶ
φάσκεν ἐλεύσεσθαι χρυσόρραπις ἀργειφόντης

Odyssey x 330-331
You must be Odysseus polútropos [= of many turns], about whose
future coming he used to talk to me always—the one with the golden rod, the Argeiphontes.

The subject is Hermes, and the speaker is the beautiful witch Circe, whose wiles have just been overcome by Odysseus with the help of Hermes. She actually identifies Odysseus on the basis of knowledge from and of Hermes. Here again, then, we see traditional theme motivating formula, which in turn motivates meter or—if we want to become more specific—the presence of a colon juncture at C2 in verses i 1 and x 330 of the Odyssey. Such a minute metrical detail is but a trivial consequence in the overall hierarchy of the traditional epic diction. As Gerald Else has said of the Greek bards, “their language and their narrative technique has a structure, is a structure, which gives more than firmness to their work. The qualities which Matthew Arnold attributed to ‘Homer’ are in the main a function of the technique.” [77] {34|35}

I close with a general statement that again links the study of oral poetry with linguistics. In the intellectual history of linguistics as an academic discipline, the diachronic approach preceded the synchronic. For the actual methodology of linguistics, it is now recognized that the synchronic analysis of language must precede the diachronic. For solving the manifold mysteries of language, however, the synchronic approach is not sufficient and must be supplemented with the diachronic approach. I am proposing the same program for solving the problem of formula and meter in the study of oral poetry. The synchronic approach, although it is the essential first step, is not sufficient. As Albert Lord says about traditional poetry, [78]

It cannot be treated as a flat surface. All the elements in traditional poetry have depth, and our task is to plumb their sometimes hidden recesses; for there will meaning be found. We must be willing to use the new tools for investigation of multiforms of themes and patterns, and we must he willing to learn from the experiences of other oral traditional poetries. Otherwise “oral” is only an empty label and “traditional” is devoid of sense. Together they form merely a façade behind which scholarship can continue to apply the poetics of written literature. {35|36}


[ back ] 1. Parry 1928a, b. The writings of Parry were collected by his son, Parry 1971. I will follow the pagination of this edition, placing in square brackets the original dates of publication (notably 1928a, b; 1930).
[ back ] 2. Esp. Lord 1960.
[ back ] 3. Parry 1971 [1930].272.
[ back ] 4. Parry p. 272.
[ back ] 5. Lord 1968.33.
[ back ] 6. See esp. Lord 1960.47.
[ back ] 7. Sapir 1929.207.
[ back ] 8. Haas 1969.34.
[ back ] 9. Saussure 1916; new ed. 1972.117. For a particularly accessible discussion of these concepts, with essential bibliography, see Ducrot and Todorov 1979.137-144.
[ back ] 10. Cf. Watkins 1973b, 1978b.
[ back ] 11. Lord 1960.13.
[ back ] 12. Lord p. 54.
[ back ] 13. Page 1959.224.
[ back ] 14. Page pp. 225-226.
[ back ] 15. To borrow the apt phrasing of Holoka 1973.258.
[ back ] 16. Lord 1960.30-67.
[ back ] 17. Parry 1971 [1930].276 (emphasis mine).
[ back ] 18. Cf. Parry [1930].276-278. On the distinction between generic and distinctive types of epithets, see Parry [1928a].64. Both generic and distinctive epithets belong to the larger category of fixed epithets, as distinct from particularized epithets, on which see Parry [1928a].153-165. For a useful bibliographical survey of recent work on the subject: [M.W.] Edwards 1986.188-201.
[ back ] 19. Cf. Parry [1928a].149.
[ back ] 20. Parry [1929a].177-180.
[ back ] 21. Parry [1930].279.
[ back ] 22. For a particularly elegant illustration in detail, I cite the work of Shannon 1975 on the Homeric epithets describing ash spears (for an important earlier work using similar methodology, see also Whallon 1961).
[ back ] 23. Edwards 1971.
[ back ] 24. Edwards pp. 55-73, ch. 5: “The Principle of Economy.”
[ back ] 25. Jakobson 1952.
[ back ] 26. Lord 1960.53.
[ back ] 27. For a discussion of such contexts, see p. 38.
[ back ] 28. Lord 1960.30-67.
[ back ] 29. Lord p. 31.
[ back ] 30. Lord p. 32.
[ back ] 31. It is also from the present vantage point that I find it pertinent to adduce the “generative” theory of Nagler 1967 and 1974.
[ back ] 32. Lord 1960.32.
[ back ] 33. Lord p. 54.
[ back ] 34. Detienne 1973.
[ back ] 35. For an extended discussion, see N 1974a.244-252; on the cognate Slavic words slava ‘glory’ and slovo ‘word, epic tale’, see N 1979a.16 § 2n3.
[ back ] 36. Lord 1960.33.
[ back ] 37. Koller 1972.
[ back ] 38. Cf. N 1974a.143-145.
[ back ] 39. Cf. Kelly 1974.
[ back ] 40. Jacoby 1961 [1933] 1:39-48, 51-53.
[ back ] 41. Most notably Donini 1967.
[ back ] 42. This is not to say that the Hymn to Aphrodite, let alone the Iliad, was expressly composed for an audience of Aeneadae; for further discussion, with bibliography, see N 1979a.268-269.
[ back ] 43. Further discussion N pp. 268-269.
[ back ] 44. N pp. 268-269.
[ back ] 45. In the words of Page 1959.225.
[ back ] 46. Cf. Householder and Nagy 1972.738-745.
[ back ] 47. Cf. Meillet 1925 for the most elegant model.
[ back ] 48. N 1974a.
[ back ] 49. Cf. Meillet 1923, Jakobson 1952, Watkins 1963 and 1982a, West 1973a and 1973b, N 1974a and 1979b, Vine 1977 and 1978.
[ back ] 50. N 1974a.191-228.
[ back ] 51. Meillet 1920.
[ back ] 52. N 1974a.140-149.
[ back ] 53. For bibliography, see n49.
[ back ] 54. N 1974a.
[ back ] 55. Meillet 1925.38.
[ back ] 56. Cf. N 1974a.103-117.
[ back ] 57. For another example of the comparative approach to formulaic analysis, see Sacks 1974 on the subject of cognate Old Norese and Old English formulas in cognate metrical contexts.
[ back ] 58. See p. 41.
[ back ] 59. See p. 41.
[ back ] 60. Cf. Renou 1952.334.
[ back ] 61. Fränkel 1960.
[ back ] 62. Cf. Russo 1966. A similar point is made by Ingalls 1972 in his discussion of how to define the formula. He implicitly takes up Russo’s suggestion that there is an intimate relation between metrical blocks (cola) and syntactical blocks (formulas). Cf. the bibliographical discussion in [M.W.] Edwards 1986.188-201.
[ back ] 63. Parry 1928b.
[ back ] 64. Hainsworth 1968.
[ back ] 65. Cf. Ingalls 1972.111-114.
[ back ] 66. Russo 1966. For earlier works leading in the same direction, I cite O’Neill 1942 and Porter 1951.
[ back ] 67. N 1974a.140-149.
[ back ] 68. N pp. 49-102, modified in N 1979b.
[ back ] 69. Cf. Ingalls 1972.
[ back ] 70. N 1974a.49-82.
[ back ] 71. N pp. 82-102
[ back ] 72. Fränkel 1960.
[ back ] 73. Ingalls 1972.120.
[ back ] 74. Ingalls p. 121.
[ back ] 75. Cf. N 1974a.82-98.
[ back ] 76. Parry 1971 [1928a].156-157.
[ back ] 77. Else 1967.348.
[ back ] 78. Lord 1968.46.

Chapter 3. Hesiod and the Poetics of Pan-Hellenism

The Hesiodic Question

From the vantage point of the ancient Greeks themselves, no accounting of Homer is possible without an accounting of Hesiod as well. In the fifth century B.C., Herodotus was moved to observe (2.53.2) that the Greeks owed the systematization of their gods—we may say, of their universe—to two poets, Homer and Hesiod. The current fashion is to argue, from the internal evidence of their poetry, that both lived sometime in the latter half of the eighth century, roughly three hundred years before Herodotus composed his Histories—although there is considerable controversy about which of the two was earlier. For Herodotus, as for all Greeks of the Classical period, however, the importance of Homer and Hesiod was based not on any known historical facts about these poets and their times. Whatever Homer and Hesiod may have meant to the eighth century, the only surviving historical fact about them centers on what their poems did indeed mean to the succeeding centuries extending into the historical period. From Herodotus and others, we know that the poems of Homer and Hesiod were the primary artistic means of encoding a value system common to all Greeks. [1]
In this connection it is worthwhile to correct a common misconception: Homer is not simply an exponent of narrative any more than Hesiod is an exponent of purely didactic poetry. [2] The explicitly narrative {36|37} structure of epic, as is the case with myth making in general, frames a value system that sustains and in fact educates a given society. [3] Conversely, as we shall see, the teachings of Hesiod frame an implicit narrative about the poet and his life.
The question is, why were these two poets universally accepted by the Greeks of Classical times? Such acceptance is especially remarkable in view of the striking diversity that characterizes Greece throughout this period. Each polis or ‘city’ was a state unto itself, with its own traditions in government, law, religion. Moreover, the diversity that prevailed among the many city-states of Greece had already taken shape by the eighth century, the very era that scholars agree in assigning to Homer and Hesiod. How, then, could the diversification of the Greeks coincide with the consolidation of their poetic heritage? The evidence of archaeology helps provide a partial answer. In the eighth century the emergence of distinct city-states with distinct localized traditions was simultaneous with a trend of intercommunication among the elite of these city-states—the trend of pan-Hellenism. [4] The patterns of intercommunication were confined to a few specific social phenomena, all datable starting with the eighth century: the organization of the Olympic Games; the establishment of Apollo’s sanctuary and oracle at Delphi; organized colonizations (the Greek word for which is ktísis); the proliferation of the alphabet. [5]
Another phenomenon that may be included is Homeric and Hesiodic poetry, featuring overall traditions that synthesize the diverse local traditions of each major city-state into a unified pan-Hellenic model that suits most city-states but corresponds exactly to none. [6] Erwin Rohde cites in particular the Homeric and Hesiodic concept of the Olympian gods, which transcends the individual concepts of these same gods as they are worshiped on the level of cult in the localized traditions of the city-states. [7] We have in this example what amounts to internal evidence corroborating the external evidence summed up in Herodotus’ statement: Homeric and Hesiodic poetry systematized the city-states’ diverse ideologies about the gods into a set of attributes and functions that all Hellenes could accept. (The earliest unambiguous attestation of the word panéllēnes in the sense of “pan-Hellenes” or “all Greeks” is in Hesiod Works and Days 528.) {37|38}
The notion that the Homeric and Hesiodic poems were a pan-Hellenic phenomenon going back to the eighth century leads to the tempting scenario of connecting a likewise pan-Hellenic phenomenon, alphabetic writing: the formative stage of the Greek alphabet, after all, is dated to the eighth century. According to this scenario, the Homeric and Hesiodic poems were enshrined for the Greeks because they were written down, thus becoming fixed texts that proliferated throughout the Hellenic world. The problem is, how exactly are we to imagine this proliferation? It is clear that literacy was a tenuous phenomenon at best throughout the archaic period of Greece, and the pan-Hellenic spread of the Homeric and Hesiodic poems during this period stretching from the eighth to the fifth century could hardly be attributed to some hypothetical circulation of manuscripts. To put it bluntly: it seems difficult to imagine an incipient eighth-century reading public—let alone one that could have stimulated such widespread circulation of the Homeric and Hesiodic poems.
The argument for an archaic reading public is actually rendered pointless by the historical fact that the medium of transmitting the Homeric and Hesiodic poems was consistently that of performance, not reading. One important traditional context of poetic performance was the institution of pan-Hellenic festivals, though there may well have been other appropriate public events as well. [8] The competing performers at such public events were called rhapsōidoí ‘rhapsodes’ (as in Herodotus 5.67.1), one of whom has been immortalized in Plato’s Ion. We learn that the rhapsode Ion has come from his home in Ephesus to compete with other rhapsodes by reciting Homer at the Feast of the Panathenaia at Athens, after having already won at another festival, the Feast of Asclepius in Epidauros (Ion 530ab). In the dialogue as dramatized by Plato, Socrates ascertains that Ion is a specialist in Homer, to the exclusion of Hesiod and Archilochus (Ion 531a and 532a)—the implication being that there are other rhapsodes who specialize in these other poets. [9] Socrates and Ion then go on to discuss the different repertoires required for the rhapsodes’ recitation of Homer and Hesiod (see especially Ion 531a-d). In fact, Plato elsewhere presents Homer and Hesiod themselves as itinerant rhapsodes (Republic 600d). The examples could be multiplied, but the point is already clear; the proliferation of the Homeric and Hesiodic poems throughout Greece in the archaic period (and beyond) did not depend on the factor of writing. {38|39}
Even if Homer and Hesiod were meant to be heard in performance, not read, there are those who insist that writing was an essential factor at least in the composition and transmission of their poetry. Here we must turn to the study of oral poetry, as perfected by Milman Parry and Albert Lord. [10] The fieldwork of these scholars was based on the living poetic traditions of the South Slavic peoples, and the theories that were developed from their fieldwork were then tested on Homeric—and later on Hesiodic—poetry. [11] The findings of Parry and Lord have on occasion been viewed with suspicion by prominent Hellenists, who fear that the analogy between the typical South Slavic guslar and a Homer demeans the latter and overly exalts the former. This is to misunderstand the intellectual basis of fieldwork—and of anthropological research in general. The mechanics of living traditions, however lowly they may seem to Hellenists, can provide indispensable information for extensive typological comparison with those of other traditions, living or dead.
We learn from the experience of fieldwork that composition in oral poetry becomes reality only in performance, and that the poet’s interaction with his audience can directly affect the form and content of composition as well as of performance. Moreover, the actual workings of formulaic diction are to be ascertained directly in the dimension of performance—a dimension that is of course now extinct in the case of the Homeric and Hesiodic texts. In studying this factor of performance as reflected by the living South Slavic traditions, Parry and Lord worked out criteria of formulaic behavior that, when applied to the Homeric text, establish it, too, as oral poetry. For example, one reliable indication of oral poetry is the principle of economy as it operates on the level of each individual performance; each position in the verse tends to allow one way, rather than many ways, of saying any one thing. [12] As it turns out, this principle is at work in Homeric poetry as well, which suggests that the composition of the Iliad and the Odyssey is also a matter of performance. [13] The principle of economy, as G. P. Edwards has demonstrated, [14] is also at work in Hesiodic poetry; moreover, both Homeric and Hesiodic poetry reveal parallel patterns of general adherence to and occasional deviation from this principle. [15]
If, then, the Homeric and Hesiodic poems are reflexes of oral poetry, we can in theory eliminate writing as a factor in the composition of these {39|40} poems, much as we have eliminated it as a factor in their performance. The absence of writing would suit, at least superficially, the findings of Parry and Lord: in the South Slavic traditions, oral poetry and literacy are incompatible. But now we have to reckon with a new problem, one raised by the study of oral poetry itself. The findings of Parry and Lord also suggest that composition and performance are aspects of the same process in oral poetry, and that no poet’s composition is ever identical even to his previous composition of the “same” poem at a previous performance, in that each performance entails a recomposition of the poet’s inherited material.
The problem, then, is this: how could the Homeric and Hesiodic poems survive unchanged into the historical period without the aid of writing? One solution is to posit that the poems were dictated by their illiterate composers. But we have already noted that the hypothetical existence of fixed texts in, say, the eighth century cannot by itself account for the proliferation of Homeric and Hesiodic poetry throughout the city-states. That process, as we have also noted, must be attributed long-range to the recurrent competitive performances of the poems over the years by rhapsodes at such events as pan-Hellenic festivals. Thus we must resort to positing the existence of early fixed texts only if the competing rhapsodes really needed to memorize written versions in order to perform, and for this there is no evidence.
On the contrary, there is evidence that the rhapsodes preserved in their performances certain aspects of poetic diction that would not have been written down in any early phase of the textual transmission. In the postclassical era of the Alexandrian scholars, when accentual notation was for the first time becoming canonical, it was observed that rhapsodes maintained in their recitations certain idiosyncratic accent patterns that did not match current pronunciation. [16] We now know from cognate accentual patterns in Indo-European languages other than Greek that these aspects of rhapsodic pronunciation are deeply archaic—surely the heritage of Homeric and Hesiodic diction. [17] To repeat, there seems no way for these patterns to be preserved textually from the archaic period, and we are left with the conclusion that the rhapsodes were much more than mere memorizers of texts.
True, the rhapsodes were not oral poets in the sense that this concept is defined by Parry and Lord on the basis of their fieldwork on South Slavic traditions; by the time of Plato rhapsodes seem to have been performers only, whereas the oral poet technically performs while he {40|41} composes, composes while he performs. Looking beyond Yugoslavia, however, we find oral poetic traditions in other cultures where the factor of performance has become separated from that of composition—as revealed, for example, in the Old Provençal contrast of trabador (composer) and joglar (performer). There are also oral traditions, like those of the Somali, where composition may precede performance without any aid of writing. These and other examples are discussed in Ruth Finnegan’s Oral Poetry, [18] which is useful for its adjustments on the Parry-Lord theories, though it sometimes confuses oral poetry with the kind of free-associative improvisations that mark certain types of modern poetry in the West.
“Improvise” is a particularly pernicious word when applied to traditional oral poetry—including that of Homer and Hesiod. An oral poet in a traditional society does not “make things up,” since his function is to re-create the inherited values of those for whom he composes/performs. As perhaps the most striking available example, I cite the Vedas of the Indic peoples—a vast body of sacred poems displaying the strictest imaginable regulation in form as well as content—and formalizing the ideology of the priestly class without perceptible change for well over two millennia. It should be added that, despite the availability of writing, the authority of the Vedas to this day abides in the spoken word, not in any written text. Moreover, the Vedas have been transmitted unchanged, as a fixed “text,” for all these years by way of mnemonic techniques that had been part of the oral tradition. [19] Given the authority of the Homeric and Hesiodic poems by the time they surface in the historical period of Greece, it is not unreasonable to suppose that their rhapsodic transmission entailed comparable mnemonic efforts—which need not have required writing at all. In theory, though, written texts of the Homeric and Hesiodic poems could have been generated at any time—in fact, many times—during the lengthy phase of rhapsodic transmission.
In the case of Homeric and Hesiodic poetry, composition and proliferation need not have been separate factors. It is not as if a composition had to evolve into perfection before it was disseminated throughout the city-states. Rather, in view of the pan-Hellenic status ultimately achieved by the Homeric and Hesiodic poems, it is more likely that their composition and proliferation were combined factors. These poems, it appears, represent the culmination of compositional trends that were reaching their ultimate form, from the eighth century onward, in the context of competitive performances at pan-Hellenic festivals and other {41|42} such events. By way of countless such performances for over two centuries, each recomposition at each successive performance could become less and less variable. Such gradual crystallization into what became set poems would have been a direct response to the exigencies of a pan-Hellenic audience. [20]
Recalling the testimony of Herodotus and others to the effect that Homer and Hesiod provide a systematization of values common to all Greeks, we may go so far as to say that “Homer” and “Hesiod” are themselves the cumulative embodiment of this systematization—the ultimate poetic response to pan-Hellenic audiences from the eighth century onward. An inevitable consequence of such evolution from compositional trends to set poems is that the original oral poet, who composes while he performs and performs while he composes, evolves with the passage of time into a mere performer. We must not be too quick to dismiss the importance of the rhapsode, however: he must have been a master of mnemonic techniques inherited directly from oral poets. Even in such minute details as accentual patterns, as we have seen, he preserved the heritage of a genuine oral poet. The etymology of rhapsōidós ‘stitcher of songs’ reveals a traditional conceit of the oral poet as overtly expressed by the poet himself in cognate Indo-European poetic traditions. [21] There is, then, no demotion implicit in the formal distinction between rhapsōidós and aoidós ‘singer’—which is the word used by the Homeric and Hesiodic poems to designate the genuinely oral poet. [22] It is simplistic and even misleading to contrast, as many have done, the “creative” aoidós with the “reduplicating” rhapsōidós. We must keep in mind that even the traditional oral poet does not really “create” in the modern sense of authorship; rather, he re-creates for his listeners the inherited values that serve as foundations for their society. Even the narrative of epic, as we have noted, is a vehicle for re-creating traditional values, with a set program that will not deviate in the direction of personal invention, away from the traditional plots known and expected by the audience. [23] If, then, the aoidós is an upholder of such set poetic ways, he is not so far removed from the rhapsōidós as from the modern concept of “poet.”
The more significant difference between aoidós and rhapsōidós lies in the nature of their respective audiences. The rhapsōidós, as we have seen, recites the Homeric or Hesiodic poems to Hellenes at large—to listeners from various city-states who congregate at events like pan-Hellenic {42|43} festivals—and what he recites remains unchanged as he travels from city to city. On the other hand, the typical aoidós as portrayed in, say, the Odyssey (ix 3-11) sings to a strictly local community. As the studies of Wilhelm Radloff concerning the oral poetry of the Kirghiz peoples have made clear, the oral poet in a local situation will of course adjust his composition/performance to the nature of his audience. For example, the presence of rich and distinguished members of society will prompt the Kirghiz akyn ‘poet’ to introduce episodes reflecting traditions that glorify their families. [24] Now, the local audiences of Greece in the eighth century must have challenged the poet with a veritable kaleidoscope of repertoires; each city would have had its own poetic traditions, often radically different from those of other cities. We have a reference to the regional variety of poetic repertoires in the Iliad (XX 249). [25] Moreover, even the traditions of any given city could change radically with successive changes in population or government; the genre of ktísis ‘foundation’ poetry seems particularly vulnerable. [26]
The obvious dilemma of the oral poet is that each of the various local traditions in his repertoire will have validity only when it is performed in the appropriate locale. With the surge of intercommunication among the cities from the eighth century onward, the horizons for the poet’s travels would continually expand, and thus the regional differences between one audience and the next would become increasingly pronounced. The greater the regional differences, the greater the gap between what one community and another would hold to be true. What was held to be true by the inhabitants of one place may well have been false to those of another. What is true and false will keep shifting as the poet travels from place to place, and he may even resort to using alternative traditions as a foil for the one that he is re-creating for his audience. This device is still reflected in Homeric Hymn 1, where the poet declares in his prayer to Dionysus that the god was not born in Drakanos or in Ikaria or in Naxos or by the banks of the Alpheios or even in Thebes (verses 1-5), and that those who claim any of these proveniences are pseudómenoi ‘lying’ (6); he goes on to say that the god was really born at the mountain Nyse (6-9; compare Hymn 26.5). The localization of this Nyse is a separate problem, and the point now is simply that various legitimate local traditions are here being discounted as false in order to legitimize the one tradition that is acceptable to the poet’s audience. {43|44}

There is a parallel poetic device that inaugurates the Theogony of Hesiod, at verses 22-34, which we will understand only by first examining the testimony of Homeric poetry about poetry itself. In the Odyssey Odysseus himself tells stories like an oral poet who has to keep adjusting his composition/performance to the exigencies of his diverse audiences, [27] and in such contexts the resourceful hero is explicitly likened to a poet (xi 368, xviii 518). It is in the manner of a poet that he tells his “Cretan lies” (compare xvii 514, 518-521). As he finishes telling one such Cretan tale to Penelope, Odysseus is described in these words:

ἴσκε ψεύδεα πολλὰ λέγων ἐτύμοισιν ὁμοῖα

Odyssey xix 203
He spoke, assimilating many falsehoods [pseúdea] to make them look like genuine things.

Earlier, Eumaios had described other wanderers who, just as the disguised wanderer Odysseus is doing now, would come to Penelope with stories about Odysseus that are calculated to raise her hopes:

ἀλλ’ ἄλλως κομιδῆς κεχρημένοι ἄνδρες ἀλῆται
ψεύδοντ’, οὐδ’ ἐθέλουσιν ἀληθέα μυθήσασθαι

Odyssey 124-125
It’s no use! Wanderers in need of food
are liars [pseúdontai], and they are unwilling to tell true things [alēthéa mūthḗsasthai].

Odysseus himself fits this description: before telling his major tale of the Odyssey in the court of Alkinoos, he asks the king to let him eat first, since his gastḗr ‘belly’ is making him forget his tales of woe until it is filled with food (vii 215-221). Such a gambit would be typical of an oral poet who is making sure that he gets an appropriate preliminary reward for entertaining his audience. [28]

The root for ‘forget’ in this last passage is lēth– (lēthánei vii 221), the functional opposite of mnē– ‘remember, have in mind’, a root that can also mean ‘have the mnemonic powers of a poet’ in the diction of archaic poetry. Mnēmosúnē ‘Memory’, mother of the Muses (Theogony 54, 135, 915), is the very incarnation of such powers. The conventional {44|45} designation of poetic powers by mnē– has been documented by Marcel Détienne, who also shows that the word alēthḗs ‘true’ is thus originally a double-negative expression of truth by way of poetry. [29] The wanderers who are described in the passage above as being unwilling to tell the truth, alēthéa mūthḗsasthai, are cast in the mold of an oral poet who compromises poetic truth for the sake of his own survival. Similarly in the court of Alkinoos, Odysseus as poet is implicitly threatening to withhold the truth of poetry by explicitly blaming his gastḗr ‘belly’. [30]

With these passages in mind, we come finally to Theogony 22-34, retelling Hesiod’s encounter with the Muses. These goddesses, as daughters of Mnēmosúnē ‘Memory’, not only confer the mnemonic powers of poetry on the poet of the Theogony but also offer to endow his poetry with truth, as they themselves announce to him:

ποιμένες ἄγραυλοι, κάκ’ ἐλέγχεα, γαστέρες οἶον,
ἴδμεν ψεύδεα πολλὰ λέγειν ἐτύμοισιν ὁμοῖα,
ἴδμεν δ’, εὖτ’ ἐθέλωμεν, ἀληθέα γηρύσασθαι

Theogony 26-28
Shepherds living in the fields, base objects of reproach, mere bellies [gastéres]!
We know how to say many falsehoods [pseúdea] that look like genuine things,
but we can also, whenever we are willing, proclaiming things [alēthéa mūthḗsasthai].

“Truth,” which itinerant would-be oral poets are “unwilling” to tell because of their need for survival (oud’ ethélousin at Odyssey xiv 124-125), may be “willingly” conferred by the Muses (ethélōmen). We see here what can be taken as a manifesto of pan-Hellenic poetry, in that the poet Hesiod is to be freed from being a mere “belly”—one who owes his survival to his local audience with its local traditions; all such local traditions are pseúdea ‘falsehoods’ in face of the alēthéa ‘true things’ that the Muses impart specially to Hesiod. The conceit inherent in the pan-Hellenic poetry of Hesiod is that this overarching tradition is capable of achieving something that is beyond the reach of individual local traditions. As in the Homeric Hymn 1 to Dionysus, the mutually incompatible traditions of various locales are rejected as falsehoods, in favor of one single tradition that can be acceptable to all. In the case of Hymn 1 this {45|46} goal seems to be achieved by assigning the remotest imaginable traditional place of birth to the god (Nyse is pictured as “near the streams of Aigyptos,” verse 9). In the case of the Theogony we see this sort of process in a global dimension: the many local theogonies of the various city-states are to be superseded by one grand Olympian scheme.

As we have noted already, the Olympus of Hesiodic and Homeric poetry is a pan-Hellenic construct that elevates the gods beyond their localized attributes. It is a historical fact about Greece in the archaic period that whatever can be classified as religious practice or ideology was confined to the local level, and a survey of the attested evidence, as gleaned from sources like Tansanias or epichoric inscriptions, reveals clearly that each city had a very distinct pattern of cults. A given god as worshiped in one city could be radically different from a god bearing the same name as he was worshiped in another city.
Under these circumstances, the evolution of most major gods from most major cities into the integrated family at Olympus amounts to a synthesis that is not just artistic but also political, comparable with the evolution of the pan-Hellenic games known as the Olympics, another crucial phenomenon originating in the eighth century. As in any political process, the evolution of the pan-Hellenic poems would afford some victories and many concessions on the part of each region; some one salient local feature of a god may become accepted by all audiences, while countless other features that happen to contradict the traditions of other cities will remain unspoken. For example, Cythera and Cyprus may well be recognized as places that the newborn Aphrodite first visited (the narrative specifies that she did so in that order, see Theogony 192-193), but very little else about their local lore will ever come to the surface in Hesiodic and Homeric poetry.

The oral poet as represented by the poetry itself is one who can sing both epics and theogonies, as we learn in this description of the poetic repertory of Phemios:

ἔργ’ ἀνδρῶν τε θεῶν τε, τά τε κλείουσιν ἀοιδοί

Odyssey i 338
the deeds of men and gods, upon which the singers confer glory [kléos]

So also in this description of a generic poet:

αὐτὰρ ἀοιδὸς
Μουσάων θεράπων κλεῖα προτέρων ανθρώπων {46|47}
ὑμνήσει μάκαράς τε θεοὺς οἳ Ὄλυμπον ἔχουσιν

Theogony 99-101
But when a poet,
attendant [therápōn] of the Muse sings the glories [kléos plural] of earlier men
and the blessed gods who hold Olympus.

In view of the diversity that existed among the cities, an oral poet would have needed for his repertoire a staggering variety of traditions for composing epics and theogonies, which could in the end be rejected as pseúdea ‘falsehoods’ by the poets of the ultimate epic and ultimate theogony, Homer and Hesiod. Pan-Hellenic poetry can still tell us how an actual epic was being composed by Phemios in the Odyssey (i 326-327), or how Hermes composed a theogony for Apollo in the Hymn to Hermes (425-433). Yet such pan-Hellenic poetry, ascribed to the ultimate poets, is itself no longer oral poetry in the strict sense: it is being performed by rhapsodes. In the case of the Homeric poems, the compositions have even become too long for any single performance. [31] Moreover, oral poetry, at least in the form represented by the medium itself, has not survived. The emergence of a monumental marvel like the uniquely “truthful” and pan-Hellenic Theogony of Hesiod from among countless “deceitful” and local theogonies of oral poets entails not only the crystallation of the one but also the extinction of the many.

Hesiod, Poet of the Theogony

It would be simplistic to assume that the “truth” of the Muses about the genesis of all the gods the Greeks have in common would ever be conferred upon just any poet. Hesiod’s Theogony in fact presents its composer as the ultimate poet. The very name Hēsíodos at Theogony 22 means something like ‘he who emits the Voice’. The root *i̯eh1– of Hēsi– recurs in the expression óssan hieîsai ’emitting a [beautiful/immortal/lovely] voice’, describing the Muses themselves at Theogony 10/43/65/67, while the root *h2uod- of –odos recurs as *h2ud- in audḗ ‘voice’, designating the power of poetry conferred by the Muses upon the poet at Theogony 31. [32] {47|48} In this way Hēsíodos embodies the poetic function of the very Muses who give him his powers. [33]
Also, the generic poet’s epithet, “therápōn [attendant] of the Muses” (Theogony 100), literally identifies Hesiod with these divinities and implicitly entails not only his ritual death but also his subsequent worship as cult hero. [34] The poetic word therápōn, conventionally translated as ‘attendant’, is apparently borrowed from an Anatolian word, attested as Hittite tarpan-alli– ‘ritual substitute’. [35] We may compare the generic warrior’s epithet, “therápōn [attendant] of Ares” (Iliad II 110, VI 67, for instance), which identifies the hero with the god of war at the moment of his death. [36] Although the Homeric poems offer little direct testimony about the cults of dead warriors, they reveal extensive indirect references to the ideology of hero cults. The actual evidence for the existence of hero cults in the eighth century and thereafter comes from archaeology, [37] and there is reason to believe that the historically attested cults of the Homeric heroes are no mere reflex of Homeric poetry; rather, both the cults and the poetry represent interacting aspects of a broader phenomenon. [38] By the same token, it appears that an ideology reflecting the cult of the poet Hesiod is built into the poetry of Hesiod. [39]
This statement would of course be an absurdity were it not for the fact that the very identity of Hesiod within his poetry is consistently determined by the traditions that are the foundation of this poetry. As we are about to see time and again, the persona of Hesiod as reflected by his poetry is purely generic, not historical. This is not to say that Hesiod is a fiction: his personality, as it functions within his poetry, is just as traditional as the poetry itself, and he is no more a fiction than any other aspect of Hesiodic poetry. [40] A word more suitable than “fiction” is “myth”—provided we understand genuine mythmaking to be a traditional expression of a given social group’s concept of truth. [41] {48|49}
Of course, Hesiodic poetry refers to itself not as the gradual evolution of poetic traditions into compositions on a pan-Hellenic scale but, rather, as the one-time creation of one ultimate poet whose self-identification with the Muses, for him both a bane and a blessing, makes him a cult hero. Besides the poet’s name and the epithet “therápōn of the Muses,” the most striking sign of Hesiod’s stance as hero is dramatized in the scene describing his first encounter with the Muses. The goddesses are antagonistic to the poet’s local origins but aid him anyway by transforming his repertoire from localized “falsehoods” into the “truth” that all Hellenes can accept; they give Hesiod a skêptron ‘staff, scepter’ as an emblem of his transformation from shepherd to poet (Theogony 30).
This narrative is typical of traditional Greek myths that motivate the cult of a poet as hero. In the Life of Archilochus tradition, for example, the diffusion of which can be historically connected with the actual cult of Archilochus as hero on his native island of Paros from the archaic period onward, [42] we find another story about the poet and the Muses. The paraphrase that follows is from the Mnesiepes Inscription (Archilochus T 4 Tarditi). On a moonlit night young Archilochus is driving a cow toward the city from a countryside region of Paros known as the Leimȏnes ‘Meadows’ when he comes upon some seemingly rustic women, whom he proceeds to antagonize with mockery. [43] The disguised Muses respond playfully to his taunts and ask him to trade away his cow. Agreeing to do so if the price is right, Archilochus straightaway falls into a swoon. When he awakens, the rustic women are gone, and so, too, is the cow; but in its place Archilochus finds a lyre that he takes home as an emblem of his transformation from cowherd to poet.
The similarities between Archilochus and Hesiod extend further. As a clue, we note that the epithet “therápōn of the Muses” is applied to Archilochus precisely in the context of the story retelling the poet’s death (Delphic Oracle 4 PW). Then again, just as Archilochus was worshiped as cult hero in his native Paros, so was Hesiod in Askra—until his homeland was obliterated by the neighboring city of Thespiai, and the reputed remains of the poet were transferred by the refugees from Askra to a new cult precinct at Orkhomenos, a rival of Thespiai (Aristotle Constitution of the Orkhomenians F 565 Rose; Plutarch by way of Proclus commentary). According to another tradition, contradicting the one emanating from Orkhomenos (Plutarch Banquet of the Seven Sages 162c), Hesiod was {49|50} buried and venerated as hero in the cult precinct of Zeus Nemeìos at Oineon in Ozolian Lokris (Contest of Homer and Hesiod p. 234 Allen; cf. Thucydides 3.96). [44] In the myth that serves to validate this tradition, the murdered poet’s corpse is said to have been originally cast into the sea, only to be carried ashore on the third day by dolphins (Contest of Homer and Hesiod p. 234.229-236 Allen)—a narrative scheme that is particularly appropriate to a cult hero in whose honor a festival is founded, as in the case of Melikertes and the Isthmian Games. [45]
In short, the lore about Hesiod fits a general pattern that is characteristic of a local cult hero. [46] The parallelism of Hesiod and Archilochus in this regard becomes even more noteworthy. The local cult of Archilochus at Paros, as we have seen, is the actual source of the myth about the poet’s transformation from cowherd into poet. In the case of Hesiod’s transformation from shepherd into poet, however, the myth is built into the Theogony itself. Since the hero cult of Hesiod is just as much a historical fact as the cult of Archilochus, and since both these cults are deeply archaic in nature, it is possible that the Hesiodic cult is ultimately a locus of diffusion for the Hesiodic poems, just as the Archilochean cult seems to be for the Archilochean vita.
Moreover, the Archilochean vita tradition may well have been the actual context for the preservation of Archilochean poetry itself, with a narrative superstructure about the poet’s life serving as a frame for “quoting” the poet’s poems; there is a comparable pattern of “quoting” Aesop’s fables in the Life of Aesop tradition. [47] This arrangement is in fact suggested by the format of the Mnesiepes Inscription (Archilochus T 4 Tarditi), the Parian document that proclaims the hero cult of Archilochus and then proceeds to tell the story of his life (starting with the incident of the cow and the lyre). Granted, this document is late (third century B.C.) and may reflect literary mannerisms characteristic of the Hellenistic era. It is also true that the genre of any archaic poet’s vita in general tends to degenerate—from traditional narratives that are parallel to the poems into what can only be called fictions that are arbitrarily derived from the poems. [48] Still, the program of the Mnesiepes Inscription is to document and motivate cult practices in a sacred precinct that {50|51} is actually named after Archilochus (the Arkhilókheion), and in such an ancestral religious context invention seems out of the question.
The relevance of this information about Archilochus to Hesiod becomes clear when we consider the name of the man to whom Apollo is said to have given the command to institute the hero cult of Archilochus: Mnēsi-épēs, meaning ‘he who remembers the word(s) [épos]’. It seems as if the foundation of the poet’s cult goes hand in hand with remembering the poet’s words. [49] Given the historical fact that the poems of Archilochus, like those of Homer and Hesiod, were recited at public competitions by rhapsodes (Athenaeus 620c, Clearchus F 92 Wehrli, Plato Ion 531a and 532a), we may envision a pattern of evolution parallel to that of the Homeric and Hesiodic poems. In other words, the oral poetic traditions of Paros could eventually have become crystallized into a fixed collection of poems retrojected as creations of the ultimate poet Archilochus and disseminated by way of rhapsodic transmission in the context of the poet’s hero cult. We may directly compare the Homērídai ‘sons of Homer’ (Strabo 14.1.33-35 C 645; Pindar Nemean 2.1, with scholia; Plato Phaedrus 252b; Contest of Homer and Hesiod p. 226.13-15 Allen) [50] and the Kreōphuleîoi ‘sons of Kreophulos’ (Strabo 14.1.18 C638; cf. Callimachus Epigram 6 Pfeiffer), [51] organizations of reciters whose very names imply that their “founding fathers” were cult heroes. [52]
In this connection a brief word is in order about a pan-Hellenic tendency inherent in all archaic Greek poetry—not just the Homeric and Hesiodic. It is a historical fact that each major poetic genre in the archaic period tends to appropriate the surface structure of a single dialect to the exclusion of all others. For example, the elegiac poetic of even the Doric areas is characterized by Ionic diction, as we see in the poems of Theognis of Megara and Tyrtaeus of Sparta; conversely, the diction of choral lyric will be a synthetic form of Doric even for Ionic poets like Simonides and Bacchylides.
Before we consider any further the evolution of the local Boeotian poetic traditions of Hesiod into the Ionic hexameters of the pan-Hellenic Theogony, it is instructive to ask this related question: why should the local Doric traditions of a city like Megara evolve into the Ionic elegiacs of a Theognis? The answer is given by the poetry itself: {51|52} the goal of this poetry, the poet says, is to be heard by all Hellenes everywhere (Theognis 22-23, 237-254). It seems as if such a goal can be reached only with the evolution of the local poetry into a form that is performable at pan-Hellenic events. In the case of the elegiac, that form would be Ionic. And such evolution entails, again, the eventual crystallization of oral poetic traditions into the kind of fixed poems that are the repertoire of rhapsodes. Who, then, is the poet? As we shall observe in the next section, Theognis too—like Archilochus and other masters of lyric—may be considered an idealized creation of the poetry in which he has an integral function—and which he is credited with creating.
There is an important difference, however, between the poems of a Hesiod, on the one hand, and of a Theognis or an Archilochus, on the other. The difference is one of degree: these three figures, among others, seemingly have in common an intent to address all Hellenes, but Hesiod has far more authority than all the other poets. A Theognis or an Archilochus speaks from the perspective of his own city, though the localized aspects of the city are shaded over and the pan-Hellenic aspects are highlighted. In the case of Hesiod, however, the perspective is meant to be that of all cities. This transcendence is of course facilitated by the historical fact that the figure of Hesiod has no native city to claim him, since Askra was destroyed by Thespiai. Because Askra is no more, its traditions need not infringe on those of other cides. By allowing Hesiod to speak as a native of Askra, the pan-Hellenic tradition is in effect making him a native of all Greek cities, as we shall see in our survey of the Works and Days. The Theogony, too, expresses this transcendence, in two interrelated ways: the form in which the Muses are invoked and the nature of the gift that they confer on Hesiod.
We begin with the second. Whereas the mark of Archilochus’ transformation from cowherd to poet in his nighttime encounter with the Muses is a lyre, Hesiod’s transformation from shepherd to poet in his likewise nighttime encounter (Theogony 10) is marked by their gift of a skêptron ‘staff, scepter’ (verse 30). There has been much fruitless debate over such questions as whether this gift implies that Hesiod had not learned how to play the lyre, and not enough attention has been paid to the implications of the word skêptron as it is actually used in archaic poetry. The skêptron is a staff held by kings (Iliad I 279, II 86), by Chryses as priest of Apollo (I 15, 28), by Teiresias as prophet (Odyssey xi 90), by kḗrūkes ‘heralds’ (Iliad VII 277), or generally by one who stands up to speak in the agorā́ ‘assembly’ (Iliad 218, XXIII 568). [53] {52|53}
Perhaps the most revealing example of such an agorā́ is in the Iliad (XVIII 497), where it is presented as the context of an archetypal neîkos ‘quarrel’ (497) visualized on that timeless microcosm of a frozen motion picture, the Shield of Achilles. [54] While the two nameless litigants are seen formally quarreling with one another, partisans of each side shout their preferences (Iliad XVIII 502), and each of the seated gérontes ‘elders’ at the assembly waits for his turn to stand up with skêptron in hand and speak in favor of one side or the other (XVIII 505-506). As each elder speaks, taking the staff from the attending heralds, he is described as rendering díkē ‘judgment/justice’ (XVIII 506); moreover, a prize awaits the one who ‘speaks díkē in he most straight manner’ (XVIII 508).
Such an elder is the equivalent of the generic basileús ‘king’ as described in the Theogony (80-93). Moreover, the king’s function of speaking díkē at the agorā́ ‘assembly’ is in fact a gift of the Muses, as the Theogony itself tells us. The just king is imbued, from childhood on, by the Muses (Theogony 81-84), and he decides what is thémis ‘divine law’ (85) byway of ‘straight díkē (plural)’ (86)—in the context of the agorā́ ‘assembly’ (ἀγορεύων 86, ἀγορῆφι 89, ἀγρομένοισιν 92).
In sum, the skêptron given to Hesiod by the Muses indicates that the poet will speak with the authority of a king—an authority that emanates from Zeus himself (Theogony 96; Iliad I 238-239, IX 97-99). The point is, just as Zeus has authority over all other gods, so also the poet who formalizes this authority by telling how it all happened thereby implicitly has authority over all other poets.
Next we turn to the invocation of the Muses in the Theogony. Our first impression may be that Hesiod might not fit the image of a poet whose authority transcends that of all other poets. He is situated in Askra (Works and Days 640), a remote Boeotian settlement at the foot of Mount Helikon, which in turn is described as the local cult place of the Muses (Theogony 1-7). Such a localization, as well as the poet’s self-identification as Hesiod, has conventionally been interpreted as a primitive assertion of individualism in contrast with Homer’s elevated anonymity.
This is to misunderstand the inherited conventions of the Theogony. As we can see from the theogony performed by Hermes himself to the accompaniment of his lyre in the Homeric Hymn to Hermes 425-433, the traditional format of such a composition is that of a prelude (the Classical Greek word for which is prooímion). There is considerable internal {53|54} evidence for this format in the actual words used by poetry in referring to it. [55] A prominent example is the expression amboládēn ‘playing a prelude’ in the Homeric Hymn to Hermes 426. It is crucial to note that the Homeric Hymns, including the Hymn to Hermes, are also preludes (thus Thucydides at 3.104.4 refers to the Homeric Hymn to Apollo as a prooímion). The conventional closure of the Hymns, metabḗsomai állon es húmnon (as at Hymn to Aphrodite 293), literally means ‘I will move on to the rest of my song’ (not ‘to another hymn’, as most translators render it). [56] The rest of a performance introduced by a prelude may be technically any poetic/musical form, but the one form that is specified by the Homeric Hymns themselves is the érga/érgmata ‘deeds’ of heroes (Hymn 31.19, 32.19)—which would be some form of epic (cf. kléa phōtôn … | hēmithéōn ‘glories [kléos plural] of men who were demigods’ at Hymn 32.18-19) or catalogue poetry (cf. génos andrôn | hēmithéōn ‘genesis of men who were demigods’ at Hymn 31.18-19).
Still, the fact is that the Iliad and the Odyssey have survived without any fixed preludes, although the availability of such preludes is documented by Crates of Pergamon (Vita Homeri Romana p. 32 Wilamowitz). The prelude is the prime context—practically the only context—for the archaic poet to identify himself, speak in his own persona, and describe the circumstances of his performance (cf. Theognis 22; Alcman PMG 39); even in choral lyric it is the prelude in which the first person is more appropriate to the poet than to the chorus. Thus the notorious distinction, claimed by generations of scholars, between Hesiodic self-identification and Homeric anonymity is invalid—if indeed the self-identification of Hesiod is happening within a prelude. Moreover, the self-identification of Homer is attested in another genuine prelude, the Homeric Hymn to Apollo (166-176). [57]
The proposition that the Theogony can be classified, from a purely formal point of view, as a complex prelude that invokes all the gods can be tested by adducing the larger Homeric Hymns as simplex preludes, each of which invokes one god. Admittedly these Hymns are unwieldy as functional preludes precisely because of their sheer size, and there may well be an element of ars gratia artis in their evolution. Since preludes traditionally appear in a variety of metrical forms, [58] the fact that the Homeric {54|55} Hymns were composed in hexameter suggests that they were closely affected by the specific form of the epic poetry that they preceded; moreover, if the epic compositions were to evolve into monumental size, then so could the preludes that introduced the epic performances. Despite the monumental size of the larger Hymns, however, the point remains that they maintain the traditional program of a functional prelude, one that is worthy of pan-Hellenic performance. This program can be divided into five stages:
  • The invocation proper; naming of the god.
  • Application of the god’s epithets, conveying either explicitly or implicitly his/her efficacy on the local level of cult.
  • A description of the god’s ascent to Olympus, whereby he/she achieved pan-Hellenic recognition.
  • A prayer to the god that he/she be pleased with the recognition that has been accorded him/her so far in the performance.
  • Transition to the rest of the performance.
These fives stages may or may not be explicit in any given Hymn. For instance, in the shorter Hymn to Hermes (18.5-9) the admission of Hermes as an Olympian god (stage 3) is suggested by way of mentioning the delay of his admission during the confinement of Maia in her cave; in the longer Hymn to Hermes (4.5-9), by contrast, the closely corresponding mention of this delay is followed by a lengthy narrative that elaborates on the god’s subsequent admission. This narrative in the longer Hymn takes us all the way to verse 578, where we finally reach stage 4; by contrast, stage 4 in the shorter Hymn To Hermes is reached by verse 10.
Such an example of extreme length and brevity in two Homeric Hymns to the same god, achieved by expansion and compression, respectively (the mechanics of both phenomena are a clear indication of oral poetics), [59] can be compared with the length of the Theogony and the brevity of Homeric Hymn 25. Technically, both Hymn 25 and the Theogony are hymns to the Muses, and the first six hexameters of the seven-hexameter prelude have direct formal analogues in the longer:
  • Hymn 25.1          Theogony 1
  • Hymn 25.2-5       Theogony 94-97
  • Hymn 25.6          Theogony 963 {55|56}
Whereas the short hymn is a simplex prelude that motivates the genesis of the Muses, the long hymn is a complex prelude that first motivates the genesis of the Muses, who are then invoked to motivate the genesis of all the gods, which is the theogony proper. But from verse 964 onward, the Theogony is no longer formally a theogony, in that the subject matter shifts from the theôn génos ‘genesis of gods’ (as at Theogony 44, 105; cf. 115) to the genesis of demigods born of gods who mated with mortals (cf. Theogony 965-968); the latter theme, which amounts to catalogue poetry about heroes and heroines, is actually expressed as génos andrôn | hēmithéōn ‘genesis of men who were demigods’ at Homeric Hymn 31.18-19—a theme to which Hymn 31 announces itself as a formal prelude.
To repeat, verses 1-963 of the Theogony are from the standpoint of form a hymn to the Muses, serving as a prelude to the catalogue of heroes and heroines that survives at verses 965-1020 of the Theogony—and that interconnects with Hesiod fragment 1 MW. [60] The significant modification in this hymn to the Muses is that it becomes primarily a monumental hymn to Zeus and all the Olympian gods; thus at stage 4, where the poet may be expected to pray that the Muses be pleased with what has been composed so far, he in fact prays to win the pleasure of all the Olympians generated in his Theogony.
Thus verses 1-963 of the Theogony are not a single, but rather a composite, hymn in comparison with most Homeric Hymns. The hymn proper is at verses 36-103, culminating at 104 in a separate stage 4 in which the poet prays exclusively to the Muses; then, starting at verse 105, the expected stage 5 of transition (to whatever composition might follow the prelude) is implicitly postponed and replaced by a reapplied hymn to the Muses running all the way to verse 962, followed at last by a reapplied but cumulative stage 4 at verse 963. We may compare Hymn to Apollo 165-166, a stage 4 appropriate to Apollo as he is worshiped in the pan-Ionian context of his birthplace Delos: the poet first prays to Apollo and then greets the Deliades, a chorus of female singers/dancers [61] who seem to be a local manifestation of the Muses, with a formula that elsewhere conveys a stage 4 prayer. Then, at verses 177-178, the expected stage 5 of transition is explicitly postponed and followed at verses 179-544 by a reapplied hymn to Apollo as he is worshiped in the pan-Hellenic context of his abode at Delphi; there is a reapplied stage 4 at verse 545, where the poet again prays to Apollo, followed at last by the stage 5 of transition at verse 546. {56|57}
In the case of the Theogony, verses 105-962 amount to an expanded variant of the compressed hymn at verses 36-103, just as verses 179-544 in the Hymn to Apollo amount to an expanded variant of the compressed hymn at verses 1-165. There is an important formal difference, however, between the compressed version at verses 36-103 of the Theogony and the expanded version of verses 105-962: whereas both are simultaneously a prelude and a theogony—just like the composition performed by Hermes in Hymn to Hermes 425-433—the compressed version is more of a prelude and the expanded version is more of a theogony.
The expanded version is the Theogony proper, told by Hesiod in his own persona and “retelling” what the Muses had told him. The compressed version, on the other hand, is told only indirectly: in this case the theogony related by the Muses to Hesiod is merely paraphrased, as it were, in the context of describing what the goddesses sang as they went tip to Mount Olympus.
Verses 1-21 of the Theogony present yet another indirect version (thus there are altogether three versions of theogony in the Theogony). Here, too, the theogony related by the Muses is paraphrased, this first time in the context of describing what the goddesses sang as they came down from Mount Helikon. In this version the Muses are invoked as Helikonian (Theogony 1-2), not Olympian as everywhere else in the Theogony. Moreover, the thematic order of the Muses’ theogony, which they sing and dance (Theogony 3-4) as they come down from the summit of Mount Helikon, is the inverse of what they sing and dance (Theogony 70) as they go up to the summit of Mount Olympus (which is stage 3 in the program of a pan-Hellenic hymn).
In the first theogony, at Theogony 11-20, the Muses are described as starting their narrative with Olympian Zeus (11) and moving their way “down” from the other Olympian gods—Hera, Athena, Apollo, Artemis, Poseidon (11-15)—all the way to the previous divine generations (16-19) and then to the primordial forces, Earth, Okeanos, Night (20). These same Muses, after they encounter Hesiod at the fool of Mount Helikon, are described in the second theogony (Theogony 36-52) as starting their narrative with Earth/Sky (45) and moving their way “up” to the Olympian gods, culminating with Zeus himself (47; the word deúteron ‘next’ here denotes merely the order of this theogony and therefore does not slight the importance of Zeus). It is important that this narrative direction of the Muses’ second theogony, which determines the direction of Hesiod’s third and definitive theogony at verses 105-962, corresponds to stage 3 in the program of a pan-Hellenic hymn, the ascent to Olympus of the divinity who is being praised.
We see here a transformation of the Muses from local goddesses on Mount Helikon into pan-Hellenic goddesses on Mount Olympus. As {57|58} they start their way down the slopes of Helikon, they are described as énthen apornúmenai ‘starting from there’ at Theogony 9—corresponding to énthen apornúmenos (same meaning) at Hymn to Apollo 29, where the verse goes on to proclaim the transformation of Apollo from lord of his native Delos into lord of all mankind. In their local setting the singing and dancing Helikonian Muses resemble the Deliades of the Hymn to Apollo. Like the Muses (for example, Hymn to Apollo 189-190), the Deliades are Apollo’s attendants (157), and the poet seems to be praying to them and Apollo together at stage 4 of his hymn (177-178). Further, the Deliades, too, seem to sing and dance (cf. khorós at Thucydides 3.104.5; cf. also Euripides Herakles 687-690); it is as if the performances of the Helikonian Muses and the Deliades were envisioned as lyric rather than hexameter poetry.
Moreover, the relationship of Hesiod to the Helikonian Muses parallels the relationship of Homer to the Deliades (the Hymn to Apollo unmistakably claims Homer as its composer). [62] The self-dramatized encounter of Homer with the Deliades leads to the poet’s promise that he will spread their kléos ‘glory’ by mentioning them in his poetry as he travels throughout the cities of mankind (Hymn to Apollo 174-175; compare verse 156, where this kléos is already presented as a fait accompli); in other words, the Deliades will have a place in pan-Hellenic poetry. [63] Similarly, the encounter of Hesiod with the Helikonian Muses leads to the poet’s glorifying them with the Theogony, which is technically a pan-Hellenic hymn to the Muses; in this way the local goddesses of Helikon are assimilated into the pan-Hellenic goddesses of Olympus.
We may also compare Hermes’ miniature theogony as paraphrased in the Hymn to Hermes 425-433; this theogony is technically a hymn to the mother of the Muses, Mnēmosúnē (429), who is described as the deity presiding over and defined by the characteristics of Hermes (for the diction, cf. Callimachus Hymn to Apollo 43). In the same way the Helikonian Muses preside over and are defined by the characteristics of Hesiod—characteristics that they themselves had conferred upon him.
And here we finally see why it is essential for the Theogony that Hesiod should have his local origins at the foot of Mount Helikon. As an expression of the Helikonian Muses, he possesses characteristics that are beyond the immediate sphere of the Olympian Muses. As we have noticed, the goddesses confer upon him a staff (Theogony 30), an emblem of authority that is the province of kings and that emanates from Zeus himself. Also, as his very name Hēsíodos proclaims, the Muses {58|59} of Helikon endow the poet with audḗ (Theogony 31), a special voice that enables him not only to sing a theogony (33-34) but also to tell the future as well as the past (32). Whereas the generic protégé of the Olympian Muses and Apollo is an aoidós ‘poet’ who composes the equivalent of Homeric epos and hymns (cf. Homeric Hymn 25.2-3 and Theogony 94-103), Hesiod as protégé of the Helikonian Muses has the powers not only of a poet but also of what the Greeks would call a kêrux ‘herald’ and a mántis ‘seer’.
The Indo-European heritage of Greek poetry goes back to a phase where the functions of poet/herald/seer are as yet undifferentiated. Traces of such a phase survive not only in the characterization of Hesiod as protégé of the Helikonian Muses but also in the paradigm of Hermes as protégé of Mnēmosúnē. By virtue of singing a theogony, Hermes is said to be kraínōn ‘authorizing’ the gods (Hymn to Hermes 427). The verb kraínō denotes sovereign authority as exercised by kings and as emanating from Zeus himself. [64] It conveys the notion that kings authorize the accomplishment of something and confirm that it will be accomplished (as at Odyssey viii 390). A cross-cultural survey of ritual theogonic traditions throughout the world reveals that a basic function of a theogony is to confirm the authority that regulates any given social group. [65] By singing a theogony and thus “authorizing” the gods, Hermes is in effect confirming their authority.
Hermes later enters into an agreement with Apollo whereby the two gods divide their functions between themselves, and in the process Hermes gives Apollo his lyre along with the powers that go with it (Hymn to Hermes 434-512), while Apollo gives Hermes a rhábdos ‘staff’ described as epi-kraínousa ‘authorizing’ the themoí ‘ordinances’ [66] that Apollo has learned from Zeus himself (531-532). While granting this much authorization to Hermes, Apollo specifically excludes the sphere of divination that is appropriate to the oracle at Delphi (533-549); but Apollo does include the sphere of divination that is appropriate to the Bee Maidens of Mount Parnassos (550-566). These Bee Maidens also kraínousin ‘authorize’ (559): when they are fed honey, they are in ecstasy and tell alētheíē ‘truth’ (560-561), but they pseúdontai ‘lie’ when deprived of this food (562-563). Such ecstatic divination is achieved with fermented honey—a pattern typical of an earlier phase when aoidós ‘poet’ and mántis ‘seer’ were as yet not differentiated. [67] When the Bee Maidens are in {59|60} ecstasy, they kraínousin ‘authorize’ by telling of future things that will really come to pass.
The division of attributes between Apollo and Hermes dramatizes the evolutionary separation of poetic functions that are pictured as still integral at the time when Hermes sang the theogony. But then Hermes cedes the lyre to Apollo and confines himself to the primitive shepherd’s pipe (Hymn to Hermes 511-512) so that Apollo can take over the sphere of the aoidós ‘poet’. Apollo also takes over the sphere of the mántis ‘seer’ on a highly evolved pan-Hellenic level (his oracle at Delphi), leaving to Hermes the more primitive sphere of the mántis ‘seer’ as a local exponent of the sort of alētheíē ‘truth’ that is induced by fermented honey. But the “newer” god’s dramatized affinity with the more primitive aspects of poetry and his actual inauguration of Apollo’s poetic art by way of singing a theogony indicate that Hermes—not Apollo—is in fact the older god, and that his “authorizing” staff and his “authorizing” Bee Maidens are vestiges of an older and broader poetic realm. From a historical point of view, Apollo and his Olympian Muses are the newer gods: they represent a streamlining of this older realm into the newer and narrower one of pan-Hellenic poetry.
Similarly, Hesiod’s relationship with the Helikonian Muses represents an older and broader poetic realm that the poet then streamlines into the newer and narrower one of a pan-Hellenic theogony by way of synthesizing the Helikonian with the Olympian Muses. The skêptron ‘staff’ and the prophetic voice that Hesiod receives from the Helikonian Muses, speakers of both falsehoods and truth, are analogous to the Hermetic rhábdos ‘staff’ and Bee Maidens, likewise speakers of both falsehoods and truth. It seems as if the Muses of Olympus inherit the genre of theogony from the Muses of Helikon, just as Apollo gets the lyre from Hermes, composer of the first theogony. For a pan-Hellenic theogony to happen, the Muses have to come down from Helikon and go up to Olympus, through the intermediacy of Hesiod.
Just as Hermes is the archetypal kêrux ‘herald’ and mántis ‘seer’, so Hesiod embodies these two functions along with that of the aoidós ‘poet’ by way of the Helikonian Muses. (These local Muses, as Pausanias 9.29.2-3 reports, are Meletḗ ‘practice’, Mnḗmē ‘memory’, and Aoidḗ ‘song’; these names correspond to the processes involved in the composition and performance of oral poetry.) [68] The figure of Hesiod requires these local Muses in order to compose a theogony, but he also requires the Olympian Muses in order to compose pan-Hellenic poetry. His own implicit reward for assimilating the Helikonian Muses into the Olympian {60|61} is that his local gifts, a staff and a voice that are both appropriate to a local theogony, become in a pan-Hellenic context the emblems that establish his ultimate authority as poet, emanating from the ultimate authority of Zeus as king.

The Language of Hesiod

The figure of Hesiod can proudly announce his local origins and still speak in a language that has evolved to match the language of pan-Hellenic hymns, which in turn have evolved to match the language of the epics that they inaugurate. The poet of the Theogony can even equate the artistry of composing a pan-Hellenic theogony with that of composing an epic (100-101)—and the ritual context that a local theogony would surely entail is for us all but forgotten.
In fact, the diction of Hesiodic poetry is so akin to the Homeric that its self-proclaimed Boeotian provenience would be nearly impossible to detect on the basis of language alone. What is more, the Ionic phase of evolution and eventual crystallization is actually even stronger in the Hesiodic tradition than in the Homeric. [69]
Granted, there have been attempts to establish linguistic differences between Homer and Hesiod, the most interesting of which is the finding that the first- and second-declension accusative plural endings -ās and -ous occur in preconsonantal position far more often in Hesiodic than in Homeric diction; also, that in prevocalic position they occur less often. [70] This phenomenon has been interpreted to mean that we are somehow dealing with the native speaker(s) of a dialect in which these accusative plurals, have been shortened to -ăs and -ŏs; this way the beginning of the next word with a consonant would not matter because the resulting –ăs C and – ŏs C [71] do not produce overlength, whereas -ās C- and -ous C- do. Now, it is true that Homeric diction tends to avoid overlength (V̄C C- as distinct from V̆C C- or –V C-), but it does not follow that Hesiodic diction should neatly match this tendency; rather, in line with the fact that the formulaic behavior of Hesiod generally reveals fewer constraints, and hence less archaism, than that of Homer, it could be that the higher proportion of preconsonantal -ās and -ous in Hesiod reveals simply a greater tolerance for this type of overlength than in Homer. {61|62}
As it happens, accusative plurals ending in -ăs and -ŏs are decidedly not a feature of the Boeotian dialect. As for the sporadic occurrences of first-declension –ăs before vowels, it is not true that this phenomenon is limited to Hesiodic diction, as is generally claimed. There are sporadic occurrences in Homeric diction as well, including the Hymns (for instance, at Iliad V 269, VIII 378; Odyssey xvii 232; Hymn to Hermes 106). It is difficult, granted, simply to rule out the possibility that this phenomenon is a reflex of Doric dialects, where first- and second-declension – ăs V- and -ŏs V- are indeed attested. Still, it seems preferable to account for the entire problem in terms of the Ionic dialects, which represent the final and definitive phase in the evolution of both Homeric and Hesiodic poetry. The formulaic evidence could go back to a pre-Ionic stage common to all Greek dialects, with accusative plurals ending in
  • ăns V-      –ăns C-
  • ŏns V-      –ŏns C-

Then we may posit an intermediate stage common to all dialects (and still attested in some) with

  • ăns V-      –ăs C-
  • ăns V-      –ŏs C-

In the final Ionic stage, prevocalic – ăns/-ŏns became -ās/-ous, which were extended to preconsonantal position as well:

  • ās V-       –ās C-
  • ous V-     –ous C-
But the intermediate stage, by way of formulaic repositionings of words from prevocalic to preconsonantal contexts and vice versa, could have left sporadic traces of “contaminations”:
  • ăs V-      –ās C-
  • ŏs V-      –ous C-

There would be more such traces in Hesiodic than in Homeric poetry simply because the Hesiodic reflects a longer span of evolution in the Ionic hexameter tradition. The point remains: not only does Hesiodic poetry implicitly claim to be like Homeric poetry (as at Theogony 100-101) but it also shares extensively in its formal heritage.

Even within Homeric poetry, the Odyssey is perceptibly different from {62|63} the Iliad in featuring more instances of preconsonantal -ās / -ous and fewer instances of prevocalic -ās / -ous, although this gap between the Odyssey and the Iliad is not nearly as great as the one between the Hesiodic poems, on the one hand, and the Homeric, on the other. [72] Still, these data correspond to an overall pattern, as established on the basis of several other linguistic criteria: the Odyssey had a longer span of evolution in the Ionic hexameter tradition than the Iliad, while the Hesiodic poems combined had an even longer span than the Odyssey. [73]
The pervasive Ionic heritage of Hesiodic poetry extends from form to content. The one month name overtly mentioned in the Works and Days, Lēnaiṓn (504), happens to occur in many Ionian calendars (though not in the Athenian), and even the morphology (ending in -ṓn) is distinctly Ionic. Now, each city-state had its own idiosyncratic calendar, and there were significant variations in the naming of months even among states that were closely related; it comes as no surprise, then, that the overt mentioning of month names was generally shunned in archaic Greek poetry, with its pan-Hellenic orientation. Thus it is all the more striking that an exclusively Ionic name should surface in the poetry of Boeotian Hesiod. At best, we can justify the name Lēnaiṓn as tending toward a pan-Hellenic audience in that it is native to most Ionian cities at least; moreover, the meaning of the name is transparent, in that it is derived from lênai ‘devotees of Dionysus’. Even so, the name and its form are more pan-Ionian than pan-Hellenic. Moreover, the description of the wind Boreas as it blows over the sea from Thrace in the verses immediately following the mention of Lēnaiṓn reflects a geographically Ionian orientation parallel to what we find in the Iliad. [74]
In sum, not only does Hesiodic poetry implicitly claim to be like Homeric poetry, but it also shares its predominantly Ionic formal heritage.

Hesiod, Poet of the Works and Days

Hesiod’s ultimate authority as poet, emanating from the ultimate authority of Zeus as king, is put to the test in the Works and Days. In the prelude to the poem (1-10), which is formally the equivalent of a hymn to Zeus, the supreme god is implored to “straighten the divine laws [thémis plural] with your judgment [díkē]” (9) while the poet proceeds to {63|64} say etḗtuma ‘genuine things’ to his brother Perses (10). Thus the actions of Zeus and the words of Hesiod are drawn into an explicitly parallel relationship.
The actions of Zeus are a model for the ideal king as visualized in the Theogony: imbued by the Muses (80-84), he “sorts out the divine laws [thémis plural] with straight judgments [díkē {plural}].” (85-86). Thanks to his straight judgments, the king is also able to bring to an end even a great neîkos ‘quarrel’ (87). We are reminded of the neîkos pictured on the Shield of Achilles (Iliad XVIII 497), adjudicated by elders who pronounce díkē ‘judgment’ with skêptron in hand (505-508). [75] Curiously, the idealized king in the Theogony is not represented as holding a skêptron; instead, this symbol of the authority that emanates from Zeus is conferred by the Muses upon Hesiod (Theogony 30). It is as if the Muse-imbued king were cast in a mold that could fit the poet.
This is not to say that Hesiod is a king; rather, as we shall see, the Works and Days elaborates an authority that replaces and transcends that of kings. The impetus for the entire poem is in fact a neîkos ‘quarrel’ between Hesiod and Perses (35), but this quarrel will not be stopped by any ideal king; the poet wishes that he and his brother would settle it themselves (35), “with straight judgments [díkē plural], which are the best, being from Zeus” (36). The original cause of the quarrel between the two brothers is this: after they had divided up their inheritance from their father (37), Perses forcibly took some of Hesiod’s fair share (38), thereby enhancing the prestige of greedy kings “who wish to pronounce this judgment [díkē]” (38-39). These kings, characterized by Hesiod as dōrophágoi ‘gift-devouring’ (39, 221, 264), are anything but ideal, and the poet threatens that they will be punished for their “crooked judgments [díkē plural]” (250, 264).
As we shall see, what ultimately settles the quarrel of Hesiod and Perses is not any king, but the Works and Days itself, elaborating on the concept of díkē in the sense of ‘justice’. So far, the translation offered for díkē has been ‘judgment’, which is how we must interpret the word in the immediate contexts of Works and Days 39, 249, and 269. In each of these instances, an accompanying demonstrative (tḗnde, see also táde ‘these things’ at 268) forces a translation such as ‘this judgment’, referring short-range to the unjust pronouncement that the greedy kings wish to make. Such contexts even help us understand the etymology of díkē: the ideal king ‘sorts out’ (verb diakrī́nō, at Theogony 85) what is thémis ‘divine law’ and what is not (85) by way of díkē (86), which is an indication (as in Latin indic-āre, where –dic– is cognate with Greek díkē), hence {64|65} ‘judgment’. Long-range, however, any ad hoc ‘judgment’ can be turned into ‘justice’ by Zeus, who is the authority behind all human judgments. Thus, when Hesiod implores Zeus to “straighten the divine laws laws [thémis plural] with díkē” (Works and Days 9), the supreme god’s ‘judgment’ is the same as ‘justice’. This action of Zeus, to repeat, is coefficient with the words of Hesiod to Perses (10), in the context of a neîkos ‘quarrel’ that the two of them must ‘sort out’ for themselves (verb diakrī́nō again, this time in the middle voice; verse 35).
The figure of Hesiod resorts to words in reacting to the violent seizure of his property by Perses. First he tells Perses the story of Prometheus and Pandora (Works and Days 42-105), motivating the prime theme of man’s inherent need to work the land for a living. Then he tells Perses the myth of the five generations of mankind (106-201), which shows in detail how mankind becomes elevated by díkē ‘justice’ and debased by its opposite, húbris ‘outrage’. [76] The fifth and present generation, which is the Age of Iron, is a time when díkē and húbris are engaged in an ongoing struggle. As happens elsewhere in myths about the ages of mankind, the present encompassed by the final age merges with the future and becomes a prophecy: [77] in a deeply pessimistic tone Hesiod predicts that díkē will finally lose to húbris (Works and Days 190-194). Next, Hesiod tells the fable of the hawk and the nightingale (202-212), addressing it to kings whom he diplomatically presupposes to be phronéontes ‘aware’ (202). Again the tone is pessimistic, at least in the immediate context: the hawk seizes the nightingale, described as an aoidós ‘singer’, that is, ‘poet’ (208), simply because he is more powerful (206, 207, 210), and he boasts of having the ultimate power of either releasing or devouring his victim (209).
At this point Hesiod turns to Perses and, applying all that he has just told him, concludes by urging his brother to espouse díkē and reject húbris (Works and Days 213). He warns that the fulfillment of díkē is an eventual process, and that díkē will in the end triumph over húbris (217-218). Personified as a goddess, Díkē will punish greedy men who “sort out divine laws [verb krīno; noun thémis] with crooked judgments [díkē plural]” (220-223), and “who drive her out, making her not straight” (224; cf. Iliad XVI 387-388). Then follows the paradigm of the two cities: the polis of díkē becomes fertile and rich (225-237; cf. Odyssey xix 109-114), while the polis of húbris becomes sterile and poor (238-247). {65|66}
Having defined justice as an eventual process (Works and Days 217-218), Hesiod invites the greedy kings to reconsider “this judgment [díkē]” (269) that they had wanted to pronounce in response to the forcible taking of Hesiod’s property by Perses (39). We now see that kings who make “this judgment [díkē]” (269) are thereby making the goddess Díkē “not straight” (224), and that the goddess will eventually punish such men through the power of her father, Zeus (220-224, 256-269). The eventuality of Díkē is also clearly defined in the poetry of Solon: men who forcibly take the property of others (F 4.13 W) are thereby guilty of húbris (4.8) in violating the foundations of Díkē (4.14), who will come to exact just punishment “with the passage of time” (4.16).
The Works and Days dramatizes the actual passage of time required for the workings of Díkē. At the beginning of the poem we find the goddess implicitly violated through the forcible taking of Hesiod’s property by Perses and through the crooked judgment pronounced in the unjust brother’s favor by the greedy kings. At verse 39 “this judgment [díkē]” is still implicitly crooked as the poet begins to teach about Díkē, and the initial teachings are still pessimistic about the outcome of the struggle between húbris and díkē, as also about the power of the hawk/king over the nightingale/poet. By the time we reach verses 249 and 269, however, “this judgment [díkē] is seen in the light of the vengeance that Díkē herself will take on those who violated her. Perses is now urged to espouse díkē in the sense of ‘justice’ (275), since those without it will devour each other like wild beasts (275-278).
The “moral” of the fable about the hawk and the nightingale hereby becomes explicit: the hawk/king who threatens to devour the nightingale/poet as proof of his power is utterly disqualified as an exponent of díkē ‘justice’. Moreover, since only those kings who are phronéontes ‘aware’ will understand the fable (202; cf. the idealized kings at Theogony 88, who are ekhéphrones ‘aware’), the greedy kings are implicitly disqualified even from understanding the “moral,” in view of their general ignorance (see Works and Days 40-41). [78] And if the kings cannot be exponents of díkē, they are utterly without authority and their raison d’être is annihilated. In fact, after verse 263, the kings are never heard of again in the Works and Days.
As for Perses, he is being taught that, in the end, it is the man of díkē who gets rich (Works and Days 280-281), while the man who forcibly takes the property of others (320-324) will have wealth “only for a short while” (325-326). By the time we reach verse 396 of the Works and Days, {66|67} Perses has been reduced to utter penury and “now” comes to beg from Hesiod. But the poet refuses to give him anything, teaching him instead to work the land for a living (396-397). While the authority of díkē as emanating from Zeus and as represented by Hesiod is eventually taking hold, even the sense of indignation originally felt by the poet against his brother begins to recede; already by verse 286 he is expressing his good intentions toward Perses. Toward the latter half of the poem, the figure of Perses recedes in favor of a generalized second-person singular: it is as if Perses were now tacitly ready to accept the teachings of his righteous brother.
In the end, then, díkē ‘justice’ is totally vindicated in the Works and Days, and its eventual triumph is dramatized in the time that elapses in the course of the poem. Moreover, the function of the basileús ‘king’ as the authority who tells what is and what is not thémis ‘divine law’ by way of his díkē ‘judgment’ is taken over by the poem itself. The vantage point is pan-Hellenic, in that all the cities of the Hellenes arc reduced to two extreme types, the polis of díkē (225-237) and the polis of húbris (238-247). Even the consistently plural use of basileîs ‘kings’ in the Works and Days suggests a pan-Hellenic perspective: from the Homeric tradition we see that each city is ruled by a single king.
With the elimination of kings, the Works and Days can address itself to any polis of, say, the eighth century or thereafter—whether its government is an oligarchy, a democracy, or even a tyranny. And what the poem in effect communicates is the universal foundation of the law codes native to each Greek city-state.
Even in a democracy like Athens, the laws of Solon, as his own poetry proclaims, are founded on the authority of Zeus as king (F 31 W). Just as Zeus is the one who “straightens what is crooked and withers the overweening” (Works and Days 7), as he is implored by Hesiod to “straighten the divine laws [thémis plural] with díkē” (9), so also Solon’s Eunomíā ‘good government by way of good laws’ is a goddess who “shackles those without díkē” (F 4.33 W), “blackens húbris” (4.34), “withers the sprouting outgrowths of derangement” (4.35), and “straightens crooked judgments [díkē plural]” (4.36). In the Theogony we find that Zeus himself fathered Eunomíā, as well as Díkē (902); moreover, their mother is Thémis, the incarnation of divine law and order (901), and it is significant that Zeus married her after defeating Typhoeus and swallowing Metis, the last two remaining threats to cosmic order.
Assuming the stance of a lawgiver, Solon says in his poetry that he “wrote down” his thesmoí ‘laws’ after having adjusted “a díkē that is straight” for the noble and the base alike (F 36.18-20 W). But besides this written law code, we must also keep in mind the poetic traditions attributed to Solon; and in these traditions the figure of Solon functions {67|68} not only as a lawgiver, as we see here, but also as a personal exponent of díkē by virtue of his life as dramatized through his poetry. In one poem, for example, Solon prays to the Muses that they give him wealth and fame (F 13.1-4 W), and that they should allow him to help his friends and hurt his enemies (13.5-6). He yearns to own khrḗmata ‘possessions’ but renounces any thought of forcibly taking any from others, which would be “without díkē” (13.7-8); sooner or later díkē would have revenge (13.8). More specifically, deeds of húbris will surely be punished by Zeus, who appears like a violent wind (13.16-25; cf. again Iliad XVI 384-392).
In the poetic traditions of the city-state of Megara, as represented by the figure of Theognis, we find a remarkable parallel: here, too, the poet prays to Zeus that he may help his friends and hurt his enemies (Theognis 337-338). If Theognis could only exact retribution, by the time he dies, from those who had wronged him, then he would have the fame of a god among men (339-340). [79] We may note the similarity between this aspiration and what happens to Lycurgus of Sparta: this lawgiver is declared to be like a god by Apollo’s oracle at Delphi (Herodotus 1.65.3) and is made a cult hero after death (1.66.1). [80] Theognis goes on to say how he has been personally wronged: his possessions were forcibly taken from him (Theognis 346-347). So, too, with Hesiod: Perses had forcibly taken some of his possessions (Works and Days 37, in conjunction with 320).
Like Hesiod, moreover, Theognis initially admits pessimism about any success at retribution (Theognis 345), and in his apparent helplessness he expresses the ghastly urge to drink the blood of those who had wronged him (349). The cryptic mention here of a daímōn ‘spirit’ who would supervise such a vengeance (349-350) reminds us of the countless invisible phúlakes ‘guardians’ of Díkē who stand ready to punish wrongdoers in Works and Days 249-255 and who are identical to the daímōnes or stylized cult heroes at verses 122-126. [81] The guardians of díkē ‘justice’ are described as coefficients of the personified goddess Díkē, who is likewise pictured as standing ready to punish wrongdoers (Works and Days 256-262); similarly in the poetry of Solon, it is Díkē who in due time punishes wrongdoers (F 4.14-16 W). Theognis, however, has conjured up the starker alternative of a bloodthirsty revenant, who may even turn out to be the poet’s own self after death. [82] {68|69}

Although the particulars may vary, Theognis, like Hesiod and Solon, is presented through his poetry as a personal exponent of díkē by virtue of his life as dramatized through his poetry. But, unlike Solon’s poetry, which can refer to the díkē of a written law code as well (F 36.18-20), the poetry of Theognis can refer only to the díkē that emerges from his teachings, addressed to his young hetaîros ‘comrade’ Kyrnos and to various minor characters. Still, this díkē has the force of a law code handed down by a lawgiver, as Theognis himself proclaims: [83]

χρή με παρὰ στάθμην καὶ γνώμονα τήνδε δικάσσαι
Κύρνε δίκην, ἶσόν τ’ ἀμφοτέροισι δόμεν,
μάντεσί τ’ οἰωνοῖς τε καὶ αἰθομένοις ἱεροῖσιν,
ὄφρα μὴ ἀμπλακίης αἰσχρὸν ὄνειδος ἔχω

Theognis 543-546
I must pronounce this díkē, Kyrnos, along [the straight, line of] a carpenter’s rule and square,
and I must give to both sides their equitable share,
with the help of seers [mántis plural], portents, and burning sacrifice,
so that I may not incur shameful reproach for veering.

Like Solon, who protects “both sides” and allows “neither side” to win (ἀμφοτέροισι/οὐδετέρους at F 5.5/6), Theognis presents himself as giving an equal share to “both sides” (ἀμφοτέροισι at 544 above), elsewhere advising Kyrnos to walk “the middle road” (219-220, 331-332) and to give to “neither side” that which belongs to the other (μηδετέροισι 332). The fact that Theognis pronounces “this díkē” (verse 544) in a setting of sacrifice and ritual correctness (545) is significant in view of Hesiod’s instructions in the latter part of the Works and Days, where moral and ritual correctness are consistently made parallel. At verses 333-335 Hesiod’s concluding moral injunction to shun “deeds without díkē” is followed up by further advice, this time a ritual injunction:

κὰδ δύναμιν δ’ ἔρδειν ἱέρ’ ἀθανάτοισι θεοῖσιν
ἁγνῶς καὶ καθαρῶς, ἐπὶ δ’ ἀγλαὰ μηρία καίειν·
ἄλλοτε δὲ σπονδῇσι θύεσσί τε ἱλάσκεσθαι,
ἠμὲν ὅτ’ εὐνάζῃ καὶ ὅτ’ ἂν φάος ἱερὸν ἔλθῃ,
ὥς κέ τοι ἵλαον κραδίην καὶ θυμὸν ἔχωσιν, {69|70}
ὄφρ’ ἄλλων ὠνῇ κλῆρον, μὴ τὸν τεὸν ἄλλος

Hesiod Works and Days 336-341
To the best of your ability, sacrifice to the immortal gods
in a holy and pure manner, burning sumptuous thigh-portions;
and at other times propitiate them with libations and burnt offerings,
both when you go to bed and when the holy light comes back,
so that they may have a gracious heart and disposition,
and so you may buy another man’s holding, rather than have him buy yours.
As the Works and Days proceeds, the advice becomes more and more meticulous: for example, one must not cut one’s nails at a “feast of the gods” (742-743). Or again, a man must not urinate while standing up and facing the sun (727), or in a road (729), or into rivers or springs (757-758). We may compare the parallel advice in the Indic Law Code of Manu 4.45-48: “Let him not void urine on a road…nor while he walks or stands, nor on reaching the bank of a river…Let him never void faeces or urine, facing the wind, or a fire, or looking towards a Brahman, the sun, water, or cows.” [84]
The legal traditions of the Indic peoples are clearly cognate with those of the Greeks, and in this connection it is especially interesting to observe the uses of memnēménos ‘being mindful’ at Works and Days 728, in the specific context of the injunctions now being considered, as well as elsewhere (Works and Days 298, 422, 616, 623, 641, 711). The root *men-/*mneh2– of memnēménos recurs in the Indic name Mánu-, meaning ‘the mindful one’: this ancestor of the human race gets his name (which is cognate with English man) by virtue of being ‘mindful’ at a sacrifice. Manu is the prototypical sacrificer, whose sheer virtuosity in what Sylvain Lévi has called “the delicate art of sacrifice” confers upon him an incontestable authority in matters of ritual. [85] Since ritual correctness is the foundation of Indic law, the entire Indic corpus of juridical/moral aphorisms is named after him.
There is a parallel thematic pattern in the Precepts of Cheiron, a poem attributed to Hesiod (scholia to Pindar Pythian 6.22) in which Cheiron the Centaur instructs the boy Achilles. The one fragment that we have (Hesiod F 283 MW) contains the initial words spoken by the centaur, in which he tells Achilles that the very first thing the young hero must do when he arrives home is to sacrifice to the gods. In a fragment from the {70|71} Epic Cycle (Titanomachy F 6 p. 111 Allen), Cheiron is described as the one who “led the race of mortals to justice [dikaiosúnē] by showing them oaths, festive sacrifices, and the configurations [skhḗmata] of Olympus.” There are also parallel formal patterns shared by the Precepts and by the Works and Days (336-337, 687-688), as well as by Theognis (99-100, 1145 in conjunction with 1147-1148).
The interaction between Cheiron and Achilles in the Precepts of Cheiron is so strikingly similar to the one between Hesiod and Perses and the one between Theognis and Kyrnos that F. G. Welcker was led to propose, in the preface to his 1826 edition of Theognis, that Perses and Kyrnos are generic figures whose dramatized familiarity with Hesiod and Theognis makes it possible for these poets to offer well-intended advice to their audiences, who really consist of strangers. [86] Such Near Eastern typological parallels as Ahiqar and Nadan and the Proverbs of Solomon add to the probability that these figures are indeed generic. [87] Nevertheless, at least in the case of Perses, scholars resist accepting this probability, primarily because the historicity of even Hesiod is thereby endangered, “and no one supposes Hesiod himself to be an assumed character.” [88]
Throughout this presentation it has been generally argued that the persona of the poet in any given archaic Greek poem is but a function of the traditions inherited by that poem; accordingly, the assumption of Hesiod’s historicity, as in the statement just quoted, requires no ad hoc rebuttal here. Suffice it for now to observe that there are analogues to the complementary characterizations of Hesiod and Perses even in Homeric poetry. One example is the challenge issued by Odysseus to the suitor Eurymakhos at Odyssey xviii З66-375: [89] the resourceful king, disguised as beggar-poet, [90] is challenging the idle usurper of his possessions to a hypothetical contest (the word for which is éris ‘strife’ at xviii 366; cf. Works and Days 11-26, especially 26) in the activity of ‘working the land’ (the word for which is érgon, again at xviii 366, and also at xviii 369; cf. Works and Days 20).
Or again, there are analogues to the complementary characterizations of Theognis and Kyrnos in the Works and Days. For example, Hesiod pointedly teaches that one should not make one’s hetaîros ‘comrade’ equal to one’s own brother (707). This negative injunction then becomes an excuse for displaying the poetic traditions available for teaching a hetaîros instead of a brother, since Hesiod goes on to say in {71|72} the next verse: “but if you should do so [make your hetaîros equal to your own brother], then . . .” (708). What follows in the next several verses is a veritable siring of aphorisms that deal precisely with the topic of behavior toward one’s hetaîros (708-722), and there are numerous striking analogues to the aphorisms explicitly or implicitly offered by Theognis to his hetaîros Kyrnos (for instance, Works and Days 710-711, 717-718, 720 and Theognis 155-158, 945, 1089-1090, respectively). Conversely, Theognis pointedly defines a true phílos ‘friend’ as a man who puts up with a difficult hetaîros as if he were his brother (97-100 = 1164a-d). By implication, one simply has to put up with a difficult brother. Theognis is uncertain whether his being a phílos ‘friend’ to Kyrnos is actually reciprocated: he challenges the fickle youth either to be a genuine phílos (89 = 1082e) or to declare that he is an ekhthrós ‘enemy’, overtly stalling a neîkos ‘quarrel’ between the two of them (89-90). We may compare the neîkos between Hesiod and Perses, which is indeed overt (Works and Days 35) but at least is settled in the course of the poem. By contrast, no overt neîkos ever develops between Theognis and Kyrnos, and neither is Theognis ever assured that Kyrnos is a genuine phílos.
In reckoning with different samples of archaic Greek poetry, we must of course avoid the assumption that parallel passages are a matter of text referring to text; rather, it is simply that any given composition may refer to traditions other than the ones that primarily shaped it, and such different traditions may be attested elsewhere. Still, it is almost as if Theognis here were alluding to Perses, or as if Hesiod were actually giving advice on how to treat a fickle Kyrnos.
Hesiod and Perses are not the only key characters in the Works and Days. Their father’s very essence retells some of the key themes that shape the composition. He came from Kyme in Asia Minor (636), sailing the seas in an effort to maintain his meager subsistence (633-634), until he settled on the mainland at Askra, a place that is harsh in the winter, unpleasant in the summer—in short, never agreeable (639-640).
This description of Hesiod’s Askra, generally accepted as empirical truth by scholars from Strabo onward, seems exaggerated at best: the region is in fact fertile, relatively protected from winds, replete with beautiful scenery, and actually mild in the winter as well as the summer. [91] Why, then, does Hesiod present a deliberately negative picture of his native Askra? The answer emerges when we reconsider the city of Kyme, which, in sharp contrast with Askra, is the place that Hesiod’s father left, “fleeing from poverty [peníā] not from wealth” (Works and {72|73} Days 637-638). We see here a pointed contrast with a theme characteristic of ktísis (‘foundation’) poetry, a genre that concerned itself with the great colonizations launched toward distant lands from cities of the mainland and its periphery. [92]
One of the thematic conventions of foundation poetry is that the great new cities that sprang up in Asia Minor and elsewhere in the era of colonizations were founded by intrepid adventurers fleeing from the poverty that overwhelmed them in the old cities. A worthy example is Kolophon, one of whose founders was ‘the man in rags’, Rhákios, who got his name “because of his poverty and shabby clothes” (scholia to Apollonius of Rhodes 1.308). [93] So also in the poetic traditions of Megara, which celebrated the city’s role as starting point for the foundation of many great cities, including Byzantium, in the era of colonizations. [94] Theognis of Megara urges that one must travel over land and sea in search of relief from baneful peniā ‘poverty’ (Theognis 179-180). Ιn sum, when Hesiod’s father traveled all the way to Askra from Kynie, thereby fleeing peníā ‘poverty’ (Works and Days 638), he was in effect reversing the conventional pattern of colonization as narrated in ktísis poetry.
To repeat, we have here a pointed negative reference as well: Hesiod’s father fled from peníā ‘poverty’ (Works and Days) and did not flee from wealth (637). The theme of wealth conjures up a distinctive feature of foundation poetry, where the colonizers advance from rags to riches, eventually making their new cities fabulously wealthy. [95] Again a worthy example is the city of Kolophon, which in time grew excessively rich (Athenaeus 526a, quoting Xenophanes of Kolophon F 3 W). From Theognis 1103-1104 we learn that the mark of this excess was húbris ‘outrage’, which led to Kolophon’s utter destruction. This fate, as the poet warns, is now looming over Megara as well. Further, we see that the húbris afflicting Megara is manifested specifically as greed for the possessions of others, and that it brings about the ultimate debasement of the city’s nobility (Theognis 833-836).
Such warnings about debasement and even destruction by húbris recall the Hesiodic scheme of the two cities: while the city of díkē becomes fertile and rich (Works and Days 225-235), so that no one needs to sail the seas for a living (236-237), the city of húbris becomes sterile and poor (238-247), and its people are afflicted either by wars (246) or by the storms that Zeus sends against them as they sail the seas {73|74} (247). From the standpoint of ktísis poetry, as we have seen in the instance of Kolophon, the same city can begin at one extreme and end at the other. As he leaves Kyme, Hesiod’s father flees the poverty of a city implicitly ruined by húbris (Works and Days 637-638), and he is in effect fleeing from the debris of what had been the golden age of colonization (for a Homeric reference to foundation poetry, specifically to narrative conventions that picture colonization in a golden age setting, see Odyssey ix 116-141). [96]
Settling down in Askra, Hesiod’s father has found a setting marked by a stylized harshness that conjures up the iron age. [97] Whereas díkē and húbris characterize the golden and the silver ages, respectively (Works and Days 124, 134), both characterize the iron age simultaneously. So, too, with Askra: it is neither a city of díkē nor a city of hubrìs. Still, the place is full of characteristics that pull in one direction or the other. For example, the name Askrā itself means ‘sterile oak’ (Hesychius, s.v. Ἄσκρη· δρῦς ἄκαρπος). While barrenness marks the city of húbris (Works and Days 242-244), a fertile acorn-bearing oak is a prime image in the city of díkē (232-233: note here the phonetic similarity of drûs ákrē ‘top of the oak’ with Askrē). The local lore as reported by Pausanias (9.29.1) has it that Askra was founded by Oioklos (‘he who is famous for his sheep’: cf. Works and Days 234 and Theogony 26), son of a personified Askra who mated with Poseidon; and that it was also founded by Otos and Ephialtes, who were the “first” to sacrifice on Helikon to the Muses. These two brothers, however, are elsewhere clearly exponents of húbris (Odyssey xi 305-320, especially 317 in conjunction with Works and Days 132, preliminary to the destruction of the Silver Generation because of their húbris, verse 134).
As we have seen earlier, the struggle of díkē against húbris in the iron age of mankind appears at first to be a lost cause, but the corresponding struggle, in Askra, of Hesiod as exponent of díkē against Perses, as exponent of húbris turns into a universalized triumph for justice and for the authority of Zeus. In this light we may consider the meaning of the name Pérsēs. Since this character, unlike Hesiod, is confined to the Works and Days, the meaning may have something to do with the central themes inherited by this composition. Now, the form Pérsēs is a residual variant, through a split in declensional patterns, of Perseús, and we may compare such other formal pairs as Kíssēs (Iliad XI 223) and Classical Kisseús. [98] Moreover, the form Perseús is related to the compound formant {74|75} persi– of the verb pérthō ‘destroy’, [99] and it is not without interest that the direct objects of pérthō are confined in Homeric tradition to pólis ‘city’, its synonyms ptolíethron and ástu, or the name of a polis. Since Perses is primarily an exponent of húbris in the Works and Days, we may recall the traditional theme expressed in the poetry of Theognis: hubrìs destroys the city (1103-1104, for example).
Of course húbris destroys cities only figuratively: more precisely, it is Zeus who destroys cities because of their húbris—which is actually what he does to the archetypical city of húbris at Works and Days 238-247 (especially 239, 242). In this sense the name Pérsēs formalizes the negative side of what Zeus does to those mortals who are marked by húbris. Thus it may be significant that Perses is addressed as dîon génos ‘descendant of Zeus’ by his brother Hesiod at Works and Days 299—and that this title is elsewhere applied only to the children of Zeus (for instance, Artemis at Iliad IX 538). Moreover, from the fifth century onward, the name of the father of Hesiod and Perses is attested as Dîos (see, for example, Ephorus of Kyme FGH 70 F 1). Thus the split between Hesiod and Perses as exponents of díkē and húbris, corresponding to the split between the city of díkē and the city of húbris, is genetically reconciled in a figure whose name carries the essence of Zeus, much as Hesiod and Perses become reconciled in the course of the Works and Days through the utter defeat of húbris by the díkē of Zeus.
Hesiod’s pervasive affinities with Zeus, as with Apollo and his Olympian Muses, are paralleled by his affinities with the goddess Hekate as she is celebrated in Theogony 404-452. Like Zeus, this goddess is an ideal paradigm for the pan-Hellenic nature of Hesiodic poetry. Thanks to the sanctions of the supreme god (Theogony 411-415, 423-425), Hekate has title to a share in the divine functions of all the gods (421-422). Accordingly, the invocation of Hekate at a sacrifice is tantamount to a blanket invocation of all the other gods as well (416-420). Because of her relatively recent, maybe even foreign, origins, [100] this synthetic goddess Hekate is an ideal pan-Hellenic figure (we may compare the choice of “foreign” Nyse as the genuine birthplace of Dionysus in the Homeric Hymn to Dionysus 1.8-9): she can manifest even her ritual dimensions in Hesiodic poetry, unlike the historically older gods who are each worshiped in different ways by each city-state—and whose ritual dimensions are therefore consistently screened out by the pan-Hellenic poems of Hesiod as well as Homer. {75|76}
The parallelism of Hekate with Apollo and his Muses also has a bearing on the pan-Hellenic authority of Hesiod. We start with the fact that Apollo and Hekate are actually cousins: their mothers, Leto and Asteríā, are sisters (Theogony 405-410), and the latter name is identical to the “god-given” name of Delos, Apollo’s birthplace (Pindar Paean 5.42 in conjunction with Callimachus Hymn 4.36; also Pindar F 33с.6 SM). The shared grandparents of Apollo and Hekate are Phoíbē and Koîos; the first name is the feminine equivalent of Apollo’s primary epithet Phoîbos (as at Theogony 14), while the second is cognate with the Indic kaví– ‘poet/seer’ [101] (we may compare the discussion, above, of Apollo’s relationship to the generic aoidós ‘singer/poet’ and mántis ‘seer’). The name Hekátē is the feminine equivalent of Apollo’s epithet Hékatos (as at Hymn to Apollo 1). Most important, the name of Hekate’s father, Pérsēs (Theogony 409), is identical to that of Hesiod’s brother.
Hekate is the only legitimate child of Perses the god, and as such she is mounogenḗs ‘only-born’ (Theogony 426, 448). By contrast, Perses the man is distinctly not the only child of Dîos, being the brother of Hesiod, who in turn implicitly wishes he were an only child: he advises that the ideal household should indeed have a mounogenḗs ‘only-born’ to inherit the possessions of the father (Works and Days 376-377). What would happen if Hekate were not mounogenḗs is suggested by the story about the birth of Eris ‘Strife’ in Works and Days 11-26, presented as a traditional alternative to the story reflected in Theogony 225. The Works and Days affirms that there is not just a moûnongénos ‘single birth’ of Eris (11), the version that we see in the Theogony (225), but that there are in fact two Erides (Works and Days 11-12). The younger and secondary one of these Erides is negative in her stance toward mankind, but the older and primary one is positive: she instills the spirit of competition that motivates even the idler to work the land for a living (Works and Days 12-24). In that Eris is parent of Neîkos ‘quarreling’ (Theogony 229), the neîkos between Hesiod and Perses (Works and Days 35) is motivated by Eris. At first it seems as if it had been the maleficent and secondary Eris that had done so, but, as the neîkos eventually reaches a resolution with the triumph of Hesiod’s díkē over Perses’ húbris in the Works and Days, we realize that it must have been the beneficent and primary Eris all along. [102] The point is, just as an undivided negative Eris can split into a primary positive and secondary negative pair, so also an undivided positive Hekate could by implication split into a primary negative and a {76|77} secondary positive pair. Thus it is beneficial for mankind that Hekate should remain an only child: the primary child in a hypothetical split of the mounogenḗs Hekate figure would presumably take after the father Pérsēs, whose name conveys the negative response of gods to the húbris of mankind. [103] Similarly, Hesiod and Perses themselves are a primary positive and secondary negative pair, while the secondary child Pérsēs has a name that conveys, again, the negative response of Zeus to the húbris of mankind. As for the father of Hesiod and Perses, his name, Dîos—to repeat—carries the essence of Zeus.
The special thematic relationship of Hesiod with the figure of Hekate raises questions about a revealing detail in the Works and Days. Despite all the advice given by Hesiod to Perses about sailing, the poet pointedly says that he himself has never sailed on a ship except for the one time when he traveled from Aulis to the island of Euboea (650-651). There follows a pointed reference to the tradition claiming that the Achaean expedition to Troy was launched from Aulis (651-653). The Iliad acknowledges Aulis as the starting point of the Trojan expedition (II 303-304), and according to most versions it was there that Agamemnon sacrificed his daughter Iphigeneia to Artemis (for instance, Cypria Proclus summary p. 104.12-20 Allen). In the Hesiodic Catalogue of Women (F 23a.15-26 MW), we read that the sacrificed Iphigeneia (here called Iphimede, verses 15, 17) was thereupon made immortal by Artemis, and that, as a goddess, Iphigeneia became Artemis-of-the-Crossroads, otherwise known as Hekate (Hesiod F 23b = Pausanias 1.43.1).
Hekate, as the Theogony (435-438) tells us, aids those who compete in contests, and the poet cites athletic contests in particular. When Hesiod crosses over from Aulis to Euboea, he is traveling to an occasion of contests, the Funeral Games of Amphidamas at Chalkis (Works and Days 654-656). Moreover, Hesiod competes in a poetic contest at the games—and wins (656-657). He goes home with a tripod as prize and dedicates it to his native Helikonian Muses (657-658). Finishing his narrative about the prize that he won in the poetic contest, Hesiod pointedly says again that this episode marks the only time that he ever made a sea voyage (660).
Hesiod’s only sea voyage is ostentatiously brief, with the distance between Aulis and Euboea amounting to some 65 meters of water. [104] There is a built-in antithesis here with the long sea voyage undertaken by {77|78} the Achaeans when they sailed to Troy. Perhaps the antithesis was meant to extend further: Aulis is an original setting for the Catalogue of Ships tradition, transferred to a Trojan setting in the Iliad only because this particular epic starts the action in the final year of the war. But even the Iliad acknowledges Aulis as the starting point of the Achaean flotilla. Moreover, the strong Homeric emphasis on navigation as a key to the Achaeans’ survival (for example, Iliad XVI 80-82) [105] is in sharp contrast with the strong Hesiodic emphasis on the poet’s personal inexperience in navigation—especially in view of Hesiod’s additional emphasis on Aulis as the starting point for not only his short sea voyage but also for the long one undertaken by the Achaeans. Perhaps, then, this passage reveals an intended differentiation of Hesiodic from Homeric poetry.

In this light it is not out of place to consider a variant verse reported by the scholia at Works and Days 657. In this variant we find Hesiod declaring that his adversary in the poetic contest that he won was none other than Homer himself:

ὕμνῳ νικήσαντ’ ἐν Χαλκίδι θεῖον Ὅμηρον

variant at Works and Days 657
defeating god-like Homer in song, at Chalkis

instead of

ὕμνῳ νικήσαντα φέρειν τρίποδ’ ὠτώεντα

Hesiod Works and Days 657
winning in song, [I say that I] carried away [as a prize] a tripod with handles on it

There is no proof for the conventional explanation that this variant verse is a mere interpolation (with the supposedly interpolated verse matching a verse found in an epigram ascribed to Hesiod in Contest of Homer and Hesiod p. 233.213-214 Allen). Also, to argue that this verse may be part of a genuine variant passage is not to say that the surviving version about the tripod is therefore not genuine. In archaic Greek poetry, reported variants may at any time reflect not some false textual alteration but, rather, a genuine traditional alternative that has been gradually ousted in the course of the poem’s crystallization into a fixed text. [106]

Furthermore, there is an attested traditional story that tells of the contest of Homer and Hesiod (Contest pp. 225-238 Allen), juxtaposing the {78|79} Life of Homer and the Life of Hesiod traditions. In its present form it is a late and accretive reworking that has generated much controversy about its authorship, a problem that cannot be addressed here. [107] One thing is sure, however: the basic premise of the story—that Homer and Hesiod competed in a poetic contest—exhibits the characteristics of a traditional theme. This theme, moreover, corresponds to a basic truth about archaic Greek society: the performance of poetry, from the days of the oral poets all the way to the era of the rhapsodes, was by its nature a matter of competition. [108]


To treat Hesiod simply as an author will only accentuate our inability to appreciate fully his poems, in that he represents a culmination of what must have been countless successive generations of singers interacting with their audiences throughout the Greek-speaking world. Whatever poetic devices we admire in the poems have been tested many thousands of times, we may be sure, on the most discerning audiences. Even the unmistakable signs of a Hesiodic poem’s structural unity are surely the result of streamlining by the tradition itself, achieved in the continuous process of a poem’s being recomposed in each new performance. Instead of referring to a poem in such a context, moreover, it would be better to speak in terms of a tradition of performing a certain kind of poem.
With the important added factor of pan-Hellenic diffusion, the successive recompositions of Hesiodic poetry could in time become ever less varied, more and more crystallized, as the requirements of composition became increasingly universalized. Of course the rate of such crystallization, and even the date, could have been different in each poem or even in different parts of the same poem. From this point of view, we can in principle include as Hesiodic even a composition like the Shield of Herakles, though it may contain references to the visual arts datable to the early sixth century. Scholars are too quick to dismiss this poem as not a genuine work on the basis of the dating alone, and it then becomes all the easier for them to underrate its artistic qualities on the grounds that it is merely an imitation of Hesiod. {79|80}
Critics also have noticed that the conclusion of the Theogony at verses 901-1020 is formally and even stylistically distinct from the previous part of the poem. [109] But this part is also functionally distinct from the rest, and we may note in general that different themes in oral poetry tend to exhibit different trends in formal—even linguistic—development. To put it another way: different contexts are characterized by different language. An explanation along these lines is surely preferable to a favorite scenario of many experts, in which the Theogony was somehow composed by a combination of one Hesiod and a plethora of pseudo-Hesiods. Worse still, some will even attribute the constitution of the poem to a dreary succession of redactors. Whatever the arguments for multiple authorship may be, there is predictably little agreement about how much or how little can be attributed to the real Hesiod. In sum, it seems preferable to treat all Hesiodic poems, including the fragments, as variable manifestations of a far more extensive phenomenon, which is Hesiodic poetry.
Another obstacle to our understanding of Hesiodic poetry, perhaps even harder to overcome, is the commonplace visualization of Hesiod as a primitive landlubber of a peasant who is struggling to express himself in a cumbersome and idiosyncratic poetic medium clumsily forged out of an epic medium that he has not fully mastered. Hesiod’s self-dramatization as one who works the land for a living is thus assumed to be simply a historical fact, which can then serve as a basis for condescending speculations about an eighth-century Boeotian peasant’s lowly level of thinking. It is as if the poetry of Hesiod, and of Homer, for that matter, were primitive raw material that somehow became arbitrarily universalized by the Greeks as a point of reference for their poetry and rhetoric in particular, and as the foundation of their civilization in general. Of course, if critics go on to treat such poetry as a producer rather than a product of the Greek poetic heritage, it is easy to find fault whenever we fail to understand. Over the years Hesiod especially has been condemned for many offenses against the sensibilities of modern literary critics. Perhaps the most shortsighted of the many charges leveled against him is that he is, on occasion, capable of forgetting his starting point.
There are, to be sure, those who have articulately conveyed the cohesiveness and precision of Hesiodic poetry. I single out the work of Jean-Pierre Vernant, whose findings about such key Hesiodic themes as Prometheus and the ascendancy of Zeus are so definitive that no attempt need be made here to offer a summary. [110] There is also the work of {80|81} Peter Walcot, whose repertoire of Near Eastern parallels to aspects of the Theogony and the Works and Days serves to illuminate the inner workings of Hesiodic composition. [111] The value of these analogues is not to be underrated, and the absence of any mention of them up to this point can be remedied by citing Martin West’s commentaries, which contain an illustrative collection of references. [112] It is worth noting, however, that such Near Eastern parallelisms may in any given instance be a matter of typology rather than of direct borrowing. Given the pervasiveness of cross-cultural parallelisms in patterns of mythmaking, even the most striking convergences in detail may turn out to be nothing more than a typological analogue: I cite for example the Inca parallels to the Pandora myth, [113] which seem closer to the Hesiodic version than do some of the Near Eastern parallels generally cited as Hesiod’s “sources.”
One of the most neglected areas in the general study of Hesiod, as also in this specific presentation, is the artistry of the poems. With our fragmentary understanding of the Hesiodic tradition, some special effects that would have delighted the intended audience will be forever lost to us, while others will emerge only in their barest outlines. It seems appropriate to bring this survey to a close with one such dimly perceived set of special effects, illustrating simultaneously the richness of the poetry and our own poverty of understanding.
In Works and Days 504-563, a portrait of winter and its harshness, the North Wind is described as it descends upon trees along the side of a mountain, penetrating the skin of all living things in its path with its cold blast (507-518). The imagery here is pointedly sexual, as a study of parallel imagery in other Indo-European tradition clearly shows. [114] Then follows (519-525) the contrasting image of a sensuous young girl taking a bath in her warm and comfortable boudoir, safely sheltered from the piercing wind and “not yet knowing the ways of golden Aphrodite” (521); meanwhile, the anósteos ‘boneless one’ is gnawing at his own foot in his cold and wretched haunts (524-525). Now, the Greek word anósteos has an Indic cognate anasthá– ‘boneless one’, a kenning for “penis,” [115] while the Greek word for ‘gnaw’, téndō (525), is related to the Irish teinm (laído), ‘gnawing [of marrow]’, a magical process leading to knowledge by divination. [116] Thus the ‘boneless one’, by gnawing his foot, {81|82} is one who “knows,” in contrast with the inexperienced young girl, who does not “know” (εἰδυῖα 521).
But the allusiveness extends even further. The ‘boneless one’ is also to be understood as an octopus (compare the syntax of Works and Days 524, containing anósteos, with that of Hesiod F 204.129 MW, containing átrikhos ‘hairless one’ = snake), an animal that is conventionally pictured in Greek lore as eating its own feet when it is hungry. [117] The hungry octopus gnawing at its foot is described as living in cold and wretched haunts (Works and Days 525), and this image of poverty takes us back to an earlier image of a poor man in winter, holding his swollen foot in his emaciated hand (496-497); the Proclus commentary here cites an Ephesian law to the effect that a child could not be exposed until his father’s feet were swollen with famine. [118] Our thoughts turn to Oidípous ‘he whose feet are swollen’, and the story of his exposure.
In this connection we come to yet another occurrence of the word poús ‘foot’ in this passage about winter: at Works and Days 533-535, the winter storm is described as making everyone hunch over like a trípous ‘three-footed’ man (533; compare 518). This kenning, which designates a man leaning on a walking stick, corresponds to the aínigma ‘riddle’ of the Sphinx as solved by Oidípous (Sophocles Oedipus Tyrannus 393, 1525). [119] Like the ‘boneless one’ who ‘gnaws’ his foot (Works and Days 524) and thereby knows by way of divination, Oedipus knows by virtue of solving the riddle of the Sphinx. The oracular tone of this passage is sustained later (at Works and Days 571) with another kenning, pheréoikos ‘he who carries his house’ (= snail), which is introduced by the expression all’ hopót’ an ‘but whenever…’ (571), a frequent introductory phrase in oracles. [120]
This much said, we are still typically far from understanding all the implications of this passage, just as we are far from understanding all that can be understood about Hesiod and his world.
A definitive assessment of Hesiod’s poems is elusive, since we still know so little about their background. The best hope is that there will be further progress in rigorous internal analysis and in systematic comparison with other attested Greek poetic traditions, so that tomorrow’s reader may better appreciate the mechanics and esthetics of Hesiodic poetry. Even so, we shall always fall far short, unable ever to recover all that this poetry presupposes of its own audience at large. {82|83}


[ back ] 1. Cf also Xenophanes B 10 DK on Homer, Heraclitus B 57 DK on Hesiod.
[ back ] 2. On Hesiodic poetry as a type of “Mirror of Princes,” see Martin 1984a; cf. also Watkins 1979.
[ back ] 3. See pp. 8ff.
[ back ] 4. See pp. 9ff.
[ back ] 5. Cf. Snodgrass 1971.421, 435.
[ back ] 6. Cf. N 1979a.7.
[ back ] 7. Rohde 1898 1:125-127. Cf. pp. 10ff.
[ back ] 8. Cf. N 1979a.8 § 15n1.
[ back ] 9. For more on the rhapsodic recitation of the poetry of Archilochus, see e.g. Clearchus F 92 Wehrli.
[ back ] 10. Parry 1971 and Lord 1960.
[ back ] 11. See pp. 18ff.
[ back ] 12. See pp. 21ff.
[ back ] 13. See pp. 21ff.
[ back ] 14. Edwards 1971.
[ back ] 15. See pp. 23ff.
[ back ] 16. Wackernagel 1951.1103.
[ back ] 17. Wackernagel p. 1103.
[ back ] 18. Finnegan 1977.71-87.
[ back ] 19. Kiparsky 1976.99-102.
[ back ] 20. Further discussion in N 1979a.5-9.
[ back ] 21. Durante 1976.177-179.
[ back ] 22. For internal evidence, see e.g. N 1979a.15-20.
[ back ] 23. Cf. N pp. 265-267.
[ back ] 24. Radloff 1885.xviii-xix. See also Martin 1989.6-7.
[ back ] 25. See pp. 27-28.
[ back ] 26. N 1979a.140-141, 273.
[ back ] 27. N 1979a.233-237.
[ back ] 28. Cf. Svenbro 1976.50-59. See also pp. 274-275 below.
[ back ] 29. Detienne 1973.
[ back ] 30. Svenbro 1976.54; for other passages concerning the poetic gastḗr ‘belly’, see N 1979a.229-233, 261 § 11n4.
[ back ] 31. N 1979a. 18-20.
[ back ] 32. N 1979a.296-297, following DELG 137-138, 417. On possible explanations for the fact that there is no trace of laryngeal *h2 in such forms as Hēsíodos, see Peters 1980.14 and Vine 1982.144-145. Another possible factor: laryngeals (*h1, *h2, *h3) are frequently lost without trace in the second half of compounds (see Beekes 1969.242-243 for a list of examples; also Mayrhofer 1986.125, 129, 140).
[ back ] 33. For similar implications as built into the name Hómēros, see N pp. 297-300
[ back ] 34. N p. 297.
[ back ] 35. Van Brock 1959. Further details at pp. 129-130 below.
[ back ] 36. N pp. 292-295. Cf. p. 135n58 below.
[ back ] 37. Snodgrass 1971.191-193, 398-399.
[ back ] 38. See pp. 9-11 above; see also N 1979a.115 § 28n4.
[ back ] 39. N pp. 296-297.
[ back ] 40. I do not deny the notion of “poets within a tradition,” as advocated by Griffith 1983.58n82. I am not arguing generally, as Griffith claims, that tradition creates the poet, but I am arguing specifically that the pan-Hellenic tradition of oral poetry appropriates the poet, potentially transforming even historical figures into generic ones who merely represent the traditional functions of their poetry. To put it another way: the poet, by virtue of being a transmitter of tradition, can become absorbed by the tradition (detailed examples in N 1985a).
[ back ] 41. See pp. 8ff.
[ back ] 42. N 1979a.303-308.
[ back ] 43. Cf. Herodotus 5.83 for a reference to the ritual insulting of local women by choral groups.
[ back ] 44. Commentary in Pfister 1909 1:231n861.
[ back ] 45. On which see Pfister pp. 214-215n788. For more on the myths concerning the death and revival of Hesiod: Scodel 1980, especially with reference to the epigram in Life of Hesiod p. 51.9-10 Wilamowitz (1916), comparable with Plato Comicus F 68 Kock, a passage concerning the death and revival of Aesop. More on the Life of Aesop tradition in N 1979a.279-316.
[ back ] 46. Brelich 1958.322.
[ back ] 47. N 1979a.279-288.
[ back ] 48. N p. 306.
[ back ] 49. N p. 304§4n3.
[ back ] 50. For other references to the Homeridai of Chios, see Acusilaus FGH 2 F 2, Hellanicus FGH 4 F 20 (both by way of Harpocration s.v.); Isocrates Helen 65; Plato Republic 599d, Ion 530c.
[ back ] 51. The basic testimonia are conveniently available in Allen 1924.228-229 and Burkert 1972.76n10. Cf. N 1979a.165-166.
[ back ] 52. Brelich 1958.320-321; cf. N pp. 8-9.
[ back ] 53. For an Indic parallel to the skêptron ‘staff, scepter’: Minkowski 1986.49-78.
[ back ] 54. On the connection of this neîkos ‘quarrel’ with the one between Achilles an Agamemnon in Iliad I: N 1979a.109, following Muellner 1976.105-106.
[ back ] 55. Cf. Koller 1956.
[ back ] 56. Detailed discussion in Koller pp. 174-182. Koller p. 177 stresses that húmnos is the totality of performance; cf. ἀοιδῆς ὕμνον ‘húmnos of the song’ at Odyssey viii 429. Of course, the “rest of the song” that supposedly follows each of the Homeric Hymns may be a stylized formal convention rather than an actual sequel.
[ back ] 57. N 1979a.5-6, 8-9.
[ back ] 58. Koller 1956.170-171.
[ back ] 59. On the potential for expansion and compression in oral poetics, see Lord 1960.99-123.
[ back ] 60. On the interconnection: N 1979a.213-214 § 3n1, n3.
[ back ] 61. Cf. Thucydides 3.104.5.
[ back ] 62. N 1979a.5-6, 8-9.
[ back ] 63. N pp. 8-9.
[ back ] 64. Benveniste 1969 2:35-42.
[ back ] 65. Cf. West 1966.1-16.
[ back ] 66. Cf. Hesychius s.v. θεμούς· διαθέσεις, παραινέσεις.
[ back ] 67. Scheinberg 1979.16-28.
[ back ] 68. Cf. Detienne 1973.12.
[ back ] 69. Janko 1982.85, 197.
[ back ] 70. Edwards 1971.141-165.
[ back ] 71. In what follows, C = “consonant,” V = “vowel.”
[ back ] 72. Data in Janko 1982.
[ back ] 73. Ibid.
[ back ] 74. West 1978.27.
[ back ] 75. See p. 53.
[ back ] 76. N 1979a.151-165, following Vernant 1960, 1966. See also the updated observations of Vernant 1985.101, 104, 106.
[ back ] 77. West 1978.176.
[ back ] 78. On the importance of ornithomanteíā ‘divination by birds’ in the whole poem, cf. Works and Days 828 in the context of the comments by West 1978.364-365.
[ back ] 79. Commentary in N 1985a.68-74.
[ back ] 80. N p. 69.
[ back ] 81. N pp. 72-73. Cf. also Vernant 1985.101, 104, 106.
[ back ] 82. N p. 73.
[ back ] 83. Commentary in N pp. 37-38.
[ back ] 84. Cf. West 1978.334-335; cf. Watkins 1979.
[ back ] 85. Lévi 1966 [1898].121. Cf. N 1985a.38-41. See also pp. 110-111 below.
[ back ] 86. West 1978.33-34.
[ back ] 87. West p. 34.
[ back ] 88. West p. 34.
[ back ] 89. On which see Svenbro 1976.57-58.
[ back ] 90. Cf. N 1979a.228-242.
[ back ] 91. Wallace 1974.8
[ back ] 92. For a collection of fragments and commentary, see Schmid 1947.
[ back ] 93. Schmid pp. 28-29.
[ back ] 94. See Hanell 1934.95-97.
[ back ] 95. N 1985a.51-60.
[ back ] 96. Cf. N 1979a.180-181.
[ back ] 97. Cf. West 1978.197.
[ back ] 98. For these and other examples, see Perpillou 1973.239-240.
[ back ] 99. Perpillou p. 231.
[ back ] 100. West 1966.278.
[ back ] 101. DELG 553 (cf. also Greek koéō ‘perceive’, Latin caueō ‘beware, take precautions, provide guarantees’).
[ back ] 102. N 1979a.313-314.
[ back ] 103. On the maleficent aspects of Hekate, as represented in archaic Greek iconography: Vermeule 1979.109.
[ back ] 104. West 1978.320.
[ back ] 105. Commentary in N 1979a.333-347.
[ back ] 106. Cf. Lamberton 1988.45-48.
[ back ] 107. See janko 1982.259-260n80; cf. also Dunkel 1979.252-253. For a useful perspective on the problem: Lamberton pp. 5-10.
[ back ] 108. Detailed discussion in Durante 1976.197-198. Cf. also Dunkel 1979 and N 1979a.311 § 2n6. For an example of a myth about such a competition, I cite the story of a contest between Arctinus of Miletus and Lesches of Mytilene, two of the poets of the Epic Cycle (Phaenias F 33 Wehrli, in Clement Stromateis 1.131.6).
[ back ] 109. West 1966.398.
[ back ] 110. Vernant 1974.103-120, 177-194.
[ back ] 111. Walcot 1966.
[ back ] 112. West 1966, 1978.
[ back ] 113. Sinclair 1932.13.
[ back ] 114. Watkins 1978a.231.
[ back ] 115. References in Watkins p. 233.
[ back ] 116. Watkins p. 232.
[ back ] 117. References in West 1978.290.
[ back ] 118. West p. 284.
[ back ] 119. Cf. Asclepiades FGH 12 F 71 and the comments of West 1978.293.
[ back ] 120. West p. 302.

Part II: The Hellenization of Indo-European Myth and Ritual

Chapter 4. Patroklos, Concepts of Afterlife, and the Indic Triple Fire

The rituals occasioned by the Funeral of Patroklos, as narrated in Iliad XXIII, have been compared with the royal funerary rituals of the Hittites. [1] The parallelisms in details and in ideology suggest a common Indo-European heritage, in view of additional comparative evidence available from the Indic traditions. [2] If indeed the Funeral of Patroklos reflects an ideology so early as to be of Indo-European heritage, then a basic criterion for the dating of narrative traditions in the Homeric poems has to be revised. Archaeologists tend to interpret the cremation of Patroklos in particular and of Homeric heroes in general as inspired by practices that went into effect only in the first millennium B.C., when cremation and inhumation are found to exist side by side; in this respect, then, Homeric poetry is supposed to reflect a near-contemporary state of affairs, as opposed to a more archaic heritage dating back to the Mycenaean era of the second millennium B.C., a period when cremation is sporadic and inhumation is the norm. [3] The comparative evidence, on the other hand, now suggests that the procedures and ideologies of cremation as attested in Homeric poetry are in fact so archaic as to predate the second millennium B.C., thus reflecting—albeit distantly—customs that go back to a time even before the entry into Greece, in the beginning of the second millennium, of the Indo-European language that {85|86} ultimately became the Greek language. Even more important for my purposes, the comparative evidence also suggests that the cremation of Patroklos is a traditional theme founded upon concepts of afterlife beyond Hades.
For the moment, I choose the word “afterlife” instead of “rebirth” or “eschatology.” These other words too are pertinent to my inquiry: as we shall see in what follows, the Indo-European languages, Greek included, abound with earlier patterns of thought concerning life after death. [4] Still, it is useful to start with the most general term possible.
The concept of afterlife, as I argue, is implicit in the Homeric narrative of the cremation of Patroklos. Comparable concepts, as we shall see, are explicitly attested in Indic institutions, especially as represented in prayers to the god Savitr̥ and in rituals involving the so-called Triple Fire. After a detailed exposition of the Indic evidence, soon to follow, we shall also see that closely analogous concepts are represented—albeit indirectly—in the Greek evidence, specifically in the diction of Homeric poetry. [5]
In correlating various concepts of afterlife with the practice of cremation, I am not about to claim that cremation was the definitive Indo-European funerary ritual. I argue only that cremation was clearly one of perhaps several different types of Indo-European funerary ritual. In any discussion of differences in funerary practices, as in the case of cremation and inhumation, I wish to stress from the start that no universals can be assumed for the thought-patterns—let us continue to call them ideologies—traditionally associated with such practices. The ritual dimensions of cremation and inhumation may “mean” different things in different societies or in different phases of the same society. [6] Where the two practices coexist in one society, they may conceivably convey two distinct meanings. [7] In other situations, coexistence may reflect a blurring of distinctions. [8] In some contexts, a practice like inhumation may not even imply anything about a given society’s concepts of afterlife. [9] In other contexts, however, there is good reason to think that the same {86|87} practice of inhumation does indeed imply the concept of rebirth. [10] To take the stance of doubting in general the presence of such an ideology, on the grounds that “a simple inhumation without the accompanying idea of rebirth is often found,” [11] seems to me unjustified. [12]
Let us begin with the briefest possible summary of the evidence from the Indic Vedas, representing the oldest attested Indic concepts of afterlife. [13] Before death the realm of consciousness, of both rational and emotional functions, is the mánas-. When death occurs, this mánas- is separated from the body, and in the process of this separation mánas- can be either equated or paired with the word ásu-. After death, mánas- and ásu– designate the disembodied conveyor of the dead person’s identity, sometimes represented as a frail and vulnerable homunculus who is a miniature vision of the deceased as he seemed in life. [14] Eventually, mánas– and/or ásu– arrive at the “third sky,” where the pitŕ̥̥-s ‘ancestors’ abide. [15] The mánas- and/or ásu– are destined to be reintegrated with the body, and cremation of the body is the key to this eventual reintegration. [16]
From a preliminary comparison with the archaic Greek evidence, we see some striking convergences and divergences. Before death the realm of consciousness, of rational and emotional functions, is the thūmós, [17] which can be paired in this context with the word ménos. [18] {87|88} When death occurs, the thūmós is separated from the body, and in the process of this separation thūmós can be paired with the words ménos or psūkhḗ. [19] After death, psūkhḗ designates the disembodied conveyor of the dead person’s identity, sometimes represented as a homunculus who is a miniature vision of the deceased as he seemed in life. [20] I should stress that the psūkhḗ is merely a conveyor of identity, not the identity itself: in Homeric diction, the word autós ‘self’ actually designates the body, which the psūkhḗ leaves behind when the hero dies (e.g. Iliad I 3-4). [21]
Before death, the word psūkhḗ is as a rule excluded from designating the realm of consciousness, of rational and emotional functions; [22] after death, the words thūmós and ménos are as a rule excluded from designating the disembodied conveyor of the dead person’s identity. [23] Only in the process of death can all three words thūmós/ménos/psūkhḗ be fully synonymous. [24] As they are separated from the body, they head for Hades. {88|89}
In some Homeric variations, however, arrival at Hades may be delayed. For example, after the psūkhḗ of Patroklos has been separated from his body by death (Iliad XVI 856), it leaves for Hades (XVI 856), but is thwarted from entering (XXIII 72-74); in a vision (XXIII 65ff.) the psūkhḗ of Patroklos asks Achilles to give his body a funeral in general (XXIII 71) and a cremation in particular (XXIII 76), so that his psūkhḗ may finally enter Hades (XXIII 71, 75-76). Achilles is astounded that the psūkhḗ of Patroklos has phrénes (XXIII 103-104). [25] We must note that this word phrénes designates the physical localization of thūmós [26] and ménos [27] in the living. Indeed, what the psūkhḗ of Patroklos says to Achilles in Iliad XXIII 65-92 are the words of one who appears to be conscious of himself, in possession of his rational and emotional faculties. [28] By implication, the psūkhḗ of Patroklos can become detached or distinct from his thūmós/ménos and become free to enter Hades only after his body is cremated. [29]
On the surface, then, it seems as if the Homeric poems point to Hades as the ultimate destination of the psūkhḗ. Moreover, once the process of cremation enables the psūkhḗ to arrive at Hades, it is liable to lose consciousness as well as rational and emotional faculties, and we are left with the initial impression that the dead person stays dead forever. Here we see a major divergence from the Indic formulation, where the mánas– and/or ásu- not only preserve consciousness and the faculties but also become eventually reintegrated with the body by way of cremation. Yet the divergence lies not in what the Greek formulation says about the afterlife but rather in what it leaves unsaid. Let us keep in mind that, conscious or unconscious, the psūkhḗ is a conveyor of identity. Thus the door is still left open for the possibility that the psūkhḗ may yet be reintegrated with the body. A word like thūmós or like ménos may at first seem from our point of view more appropriate for designating the aspect that is separated and then hypothetically reintegrated with the body, since both thūmós and ménos designate consciousness and the faculties. In fact, as we have just noted, thūmós and ménos are synonymous with psūkhḗ at the moment of death. Yet these very words thūmós and ménos cease to apply to the identity once it passes through the gates of Hades; from here on, {89|90} the identity is conveyed by psūkhḗ only. This suspension of synonymity is itself telling us something: that the psūkhḗ once had an affinity with consciousness and the faculties—an affinity which is then suspended in Hades.
My interpretation here differs from the view that any absence of synonymity between “Ichseele” (e.g. thūmós/ménos) and “Psycheseele” (e.g. psūkhḗ) in the mythopoeic thinking of any “primitive” culture invariably implies an original distinctness between the two concepts. [30] What I propose is that the distinctness, as in the case of thūmós/ménos on one side and psūkhḗ on the other, may be a secondary development—a matter of secondary specialization. In other words, the convergence in meaning between thūmós/ménos and psūkhḗ may be primary and the divergence, secondary. Then we can account for such rare “exceptions” as Iliad VII 131 (where the thūmós goes to Hades) and XXI 569 (where the psūkhḗ abides in a living hero) as residual traces of an earlier ideology where thūmós/ménos and psūkhḗ were as yet undifferentiated in realms where they are later differentiated.
My interpretation is also at odds with the view that the Homeric psūkhḗ is not a “Psycheseele” but a mere “Totengeist.” [31] The reasoning behind this disputed view is based on the conventional diction describing the swooning of a hero: the psūkhḗ is regularly envisaged as leaving the body, but it is never mentioned as returning when the hero revives. [32] Only the thūmós or ménos are mentioned as returning to the hero when he is revived. [33] For some, this restriction in diction means that “Homer” did not know of any function that could be attributed to psūkhḗ in the living hero—that the word psūkhḗ simply did not denote consciousness. [34]
And yet, as even those who prefer this explanation have to concede, [35] the concept of psūkhḗ is indeed derived from the concept of breathing (cf. Homeric psúkhō ‘blow’, with “wind” as subject, at XX 440), the loss of which is the primary manifestation of death in the conventional Homeric descriptions. The words thūmós and ménos are also associated with breathing. [36] Accordingly, the descriptions of both swooning and {90|91} dying as a loss of thūmós/ménos/psūkhḗ are physiologically appropriate and proper, and yet the regaining of the hero’s breath after swooning is restricted in Homeric diction to thūmós/ménos, with psūkhḗ excluded. The reason for this exclusion is surely not physical but ideological. To repeat, it has been argued that psūkhḗ is excluded because it does not denote consciousness, whereas thūmós/ménos regularly do. But this argument is predicated on the assumption that psūkhḗ is distinct from thūmós/ménos at the moment when they become separated from the body. This is to confuse words with concepts, and I must insist here on returning to the facts of Homeric diction. What leaves the body at the moment of dying or swooning is functionally expressed as thūmós and/or ménos and/or psūkhḗ. At the moment of dying or swooning, all three words are formulaically interchangeable synonyms, expressing the same concept. [37]
If, then, the word psūkhḗ is excluded in descriptions of revival from swooning, it is because this synonym of thūmós/ménos at the moment of dying and swooning has at other moments a meaning that goes beyond the concept of breath or even the concept of consciousness. Some would argue that this meaning is simply that of ‘ghost’: once the psūkhḗ is in Hades, the reasoning goes, it cannot return to the body of someone who has swooned because the psūkhḗ would already be a ghost—and its owner would already be dead. [38] Yet, this reasoning again fails to account for the fact—as established by observation of Homeric diction—that psūkhḗ is synonymous with thūmós/ménos at the moment of dying or swooning. It cannot simply be assumed that psūkhḗ should mean one thing when a hero swoons and another thing when he is revived.
There may be a more sublime reason for the avoidance of the word psūkhḗ in Homeric descriptions of a hero’s revival. As we have noted, the synonymity of thūmós/ménos/psūkhḗ at the moment of death implies an affinity of psūkhḗ with consciousness—an affinity that is then suspended in Hades. If it is simply a matter of suspension, however, then the door is left open for imagining an eventual restoration of synonymity, with all three words thūmós/ménos/psūkhḗ once again capable of designating the identity of the deceased. The setting for such a restoration is, I submit, the eventual reintegration of the psūkhḗ and body, when the deceased comes back to life. In that case, the avoidance of the word psūkhḗ in descriptions of a hero’s revival from a swoon would be motivated by a need to keep this theme distinct from the theme of a hero’s revival from death. Elsewhere, I have attempted to document this theme, the hero’s {91|92} revival from death, on the basis of the internal evidence available in the diction in Greek poetic traditions. [39] In that effort, however, I did not confront what the Iliad has to say, albeit indirectly, about the afterlife of Patroklos. Which is the problem at hand—a problem that may be solved, I submit, by now pursuing even further the semantics of thūmós/ménos/psūkhḗ.
Exceptionally, the restoration of synonymity for thūmós/ménos/psūkhḗ can happen in Hades itself. The psūkhḗ of the seer Teiresias (Odyssey x 492) is described as the only one in Hades to be endowed with phrénes (x 493), which as we have seen is the physical localization of thūmós and ménos. [40] Accordingly, the psūkhḗ of Teiresias is the only one in Hades to recognize Odysseus without having to drink blood (xi 91). To be contrasted are the other psūkhaí who are as a rule without faculties” (aphradées xi 476) except whenever they get to drink a libation of blood (xi 147-149). [41] The reason for my drawing attention at this point to the exceptional psūkhḗ of Teiresias has to do with yet another crucial word, one that serves to explain why Teiresias has phrénes even in Hades: Persephone had given him nóos (x 494). This word, which here epitomizes the synonymity of thūmós/ménos/psūkhḗ, [42] is as a rule used in Homeric diction to designate the realm of rational functions only, [43] whereas thūmós is used to designate the realm of both rational and emotional functions. [44] As such, nóos represents a mere subcategory of thūmós in the living Homeric hero. Why, then, should this word be a key, in Odyssey x 494, to the synonymity of thūmós/ménos/psūkhḗ and, by implication, to the reintegration of consciousness and body?
The etymology of nóos provides an answer. As the researches of Douglas Frame have established, [45] the root of nóos is *nes-, which means not just ‘return home’, as attested in Greek néomai (verb) and nóstos (noun), but also ‘return to light and life’, as apparently attested in Indic {92|93} Nā́satyau, an epithet of the Indic Divine Twins, the Aśvin-s who bring mortals back to life and who bring about sunrise after the night brought on by each sunset. [46] As Frame also shows, there is in fact a pervasive interplay between the themes of nóos and nóstos in the Odyssey, so that the fundamental meaning of the root *nes-, ‘return to light and life’, is reenacted within the overall structure of this epic; in other words, the Odyssey itself is built on the symbolism of rebirth from death, as visualized in the dynamics of sunrise after sunset and as verbalized in the nóos/nóstos of Odysseus himself. [47] Within the space of the present discussion, I cannot do full justice to the evidence and arguments that Frame adduces. Rather, I am simply confining myself to the problem of connecting the death of Patroklos with the semantics of thūmós/ménos/psūkhḗ. Still, the etymology of nóos, which functions in Homeric diction as a subcategory of thūmós and as a principle that reunites thūmós/ménos/psūkhḗ in synonymity, can serve as an ideal point of transition to the main part of this presentation—a survey of assorted evidence available in Indic traditions that may throw light on the afterlife of Patroklos. If this evidence will help strengthen Frame’s own arguments, then I hope that he will accept my efforts here as a tribute to his own.
Indic traditions formalize the theme of returning to light and life in more ways than one. Besides the Nā́satyau, I cite a Vedic sun-god called Savitŕ̥-, appropriately meaning ‘the vivifier’ (root sū- ‘vivify’). As we shall see, Savitr̥’s solar journey enables the aspects of man that leave the body at death to be reintegrated in the realm of the pitŕ̥-s ‘ancestors’. Since the comparative evidence of the Savitr̥ tradition is both ample and complex, it may be best to anticipate here the conclusions that I plan to draw from this evidence at a later point. What will emerge is that the Indic words designating the aspects of man that leave the body at death, mánas– and ásu-, are actually cognate with the Homeric noun + epithet combination ménos ēú (μένος ἠύ), designating in general the energetic faculties of heroes (e.g. Iliad XX 80) and, in particular, the aspect of Patroklos that has been lost as a result of death (XXIV 6).
The correspondence between the Indic noun mánas– and the Greek noun ménos is overt. As for the Indic noun ásu– and the Greek adjective {93|94} ēú (ἠύ), the correspondence on the levels of both form and meaning is complicated, and further discussion is useless until we can review the comparative evidence preserved in Iranian traditions. [48]
Suffice it now to add another overt comparandum besides Indic mánas- on one side and Greek ménos on the other: the Indic word pitŕ̥– ‘ancestor’ is directly cognate with the Greek element patro– of Patro-kléēs, a name that literally means ‘he who has the glory [kléos] of the ancestors [patéres]. [49] In view of Erwin Rohde’s observation that the Funeral of Patroklos in the Iliad bears the distinct features of hero cult [50] and that the cult of heroes is itself an institution that evolved from the worship of ancestors, [51] we may recover an Indo-European theme in comparing the association of ménos ēú (= μένος ἠύ) and Patrokléēs in the context of that hero’s death with the association of mánas/ásu- and the pitŕ̥-s ‘ancestors’ in the context of their coming back to life after death.
Having anticipated my conclusions from the comparative Indic evidence about Savitr̥ and his role in bringing the dead back to life, I will now present this evidence to the extent that I am able to sketch it without oversimplifying its rich complexities. [52]

As we begin to examine the traditions about this specialized sun-god Savitr̥, we note that there are contexts of darkness as well as brightness. Savitr̥ protects the righteous at night (Rig- Veda 4.53.1) and wards off the demonic Rakṣas-es all night (1.35.10). [53] The time of these Rakṣas-es is the {94|95} night (7.104.18); in the east they have no power, because they are wiped out by the rising sun (Taittirīya-Saṃhitā As the Rig-Veda makes clear, the daily breakthrough to light in the east is caused by Savitr̥ (10.139.1). How, then, can the sun-god Savitr̥ be present at night? As we see from Rig-Veda 1.35, the Savitr̥ Hymn, the god reverses the course of his chariot with each sunrise and sunset: he travels through the brightness at day and then through the darkness at night. During the night trip, he is the good aspect of darkness, just as he is the good aspect of brightness during the day trip. The night trip of Savitr̥ is especially precarious for mortals not only because of the darkness but also because the daylight course of the sun is reversed. After the forward course of the chariot at daytime comes the backward course at nighttime. This forward /backward movement of Savitr̥ is expressed in terms of downstream/upstream, the words for which are pravát/udvát-: [54]

yā́ti deváḥ pravátā yā́ty udvátā

Rig-Veda 1.35.3
The Deva [god] goes downstream, goes upstream. [55]

It remains to ask where it is that Savitr̥ travels “upstream,” from west {95|96} to east, during the night. [56] The Rig-Veda is ostentatiously cryptic about the sun’s whereabouts at nighttime, offering only such indications as in the following verses of the Savitr̥ Hymn:

kvèdā́anīm sū́ryaḥ káś ciket
katamā́m dyā́m raśmír asyā́ tatāna

Rig-Veda I.35.7
Where is the sun now? Who knows?
Which sky has its ray reached?

A further indication about this unmentionable sky occurs in stanza 6 of the same Savitr̥ Hymn, where Savitr̥ is described as having two skies. From such indirect mystical hints we may surmise that the sky of this our world is matched by another sky, of the underworld. Furthermore, there is a third sky mentioned in the same stanza (Rig-Veda 1.35.6), this one belonging to Yama rather than Savitr̥; it is in this third sky that immortal things abide (amŕ̥tā́dhi taṣḥur), and

ihá bravītu yá u tác cíketat

Rig-Veda 1.35.6
whoever knows it should say it here.
The name Yama refers to the king of the pitŕ̥-s ‘ancestors’ (Rig-Veda 10.14 passim), particularly the Aṅgiras-es (10.14.3, 5), and his path is death (1.38.5). He is the first person ever to experience death (AtharvaVeda 18.3.13), and he is specifically addressed as “our pitŕ̥” (Rig-Veda 10.135.1). Yet the abode of Yama and the pitŕ̥-s is in the midst of the sky (10.15.14), in the highest sky (10.14.8), in the third sky which has eternal light and where the sun was placed (9.113.7-9). The abode of the pitŕ̥-s is the highest point of the sun (9.113.9), and they are in communion with it (1.125.6, 10.107.2, 10.154.5). Thus, the third sky of Yama could be visualized as above the first sky of Savitr̥, who goes pravát– ‘downstream’ during the day; come sunset, Savitr̥ reaches the dreaded second sky of the lower world, where he travels udvát– ‘upstream’ during the night.

How, then, did Yama the primordial mortal reach the third sky? {96|97} Come sunrise, he ascends along with the sun, traveling pravát– ‘downstream’:

pareyivāṃsam praváto mahī́r ánu
bahúbhyaḥ pánthām anupaspaśānám

Rig-Veda 10.14.1
having gone along the great pravát– streams,
having discovered a path for many.

In the AtharvaVeda (6.28.3, 18.4.7), Yama is described as the first ever to have gone along the pravát-. Before reaching the third sky with the coming of sunrise, it may be that Yama, the first person ever to experience death, is imagined as having to traverse the unmentionable second sky with the corning of sunset. A model and guide for this kind of trip could be Savitr̥ himself.

The role of Savitr̥ as psychopomp is illustrated by such passages as Rig-Veda 10.17.3-6: according to the Kalpa to Taittirīya-Āraṇyaka 6.1.1, this text is a prayer for the dead at the ritual of cremation; Savitr̥ is implored to place the dead man into the abode of the pitŕ̥-s:

yátrā́sate sukŕ̥to yátra té yayús
tátra tvā deváḥ savitā́ dadhātu

Rig-Veda 10.17.4
where the doers of good abide, where they have gone,
there may the Deva [god] Savitr̥ put you [the dead man]. [57]

In the function of psychopomp, Savitr̥ has a thematic correlate called Pūṣan; in the same Savitr̥ passage (10.17.5) this Pūṣan is implored to guide the dead man “along the least dangerous path” (ábhayatamena), being a “bestower of well-being” (svastidā́). [58] Like Savitr̥, Pūṣan is associated with the path of the sun (Rig-Veda 2.40.4-5, 6.56.3, 6.58.2); in fact, it is the theme of the sun’s path that makes Savitr̥ and Pūṣan overlap in identity: {97|98}

utá pūṣā́ bhavasi deva yā́mabhiḥ

Rig-Veda 5.81.5
and you, Deva [the god Savitr̥] become Pūṣan by your movements.

Previously, the movements of Savitr̥ had just been described:

utá rā́trīm ubhayátaḥ páriyasa

Rig-Veda 5.81.4
and you [Savitr̥] go around the night on both sides.

From the other contexts, [59] we may assume here that Savitr̥ goes east to west when night is below us and west to east when night is above us. Savitr̥ and Pūṣan are correlates elsewhere, too, in the Rig-Veda (3.62.9-10, 10.139.1), but it will suffice here to consider only their correlation in solar movement. [60]

In the same hymn where Savitr̥ and Pūṣan function as correlate psychopomps, the solar movements of Pūṣan are described in the following mystical language:

prápathe pathā́m ajaniṣṭa pūṣā́
prápathe diváḥ prápathe pr̥thivyā́ḥ
ubhé abhí priyátame sadhásthe
ā́ ca párā ca carati prajānán

Rig-Veda 10.17.6
at the extremity of paths was Pūṣan born,
at the extremity of the sky, at the extremity of the earth;
over both most dear sadhástha-s
he goes to and fro, knowing [the way].

Two basic questions are: (1) what is the extremity of sky/earth and (2) what are the two sadhastha-s ‘abodes’ of the sun?

A bivalent answer can he derived from the Indic concept of Sky and Earth as surrounded by Ocean, on all sides. This concept is implicit in a Rig-Vedic theme that has it that all streams and rivers flow into the Samudra ‘Ocean’ (1.32.2, 1.130.5, 2.19.3), as also in another theme, {98|99} which has it that there is an East Ocean and a West Ocean (10.136.5), or that there are four Oceans (9.33.6). These concepts seem to be based on mythopoeic patterns of cosmic order rather than geographical experience, so that there is room for believing also in an upper Ocean matching the Sky as well as a lower Ocean matching the Earth (cf. 10.98.5, 12). But this distinction is just a sophisticated elaboration: the basic idea remains that the Ocean comes between where the Earth stops and the Sky begins. It follows, then, that the sun submerges in the Ocean at sunset and emerges from it at sunrise; in fact, this concept is explicit in the testimony of the Taittirīya-Āraṇyaka (4.42.33) and the Aitareya-Brāhmaṇa (4.20.13; cf. also AtharvaVeda 13.2.14). Thus the birth of Pūṣan from the extremity of Sky/Earth (again, Rig-Veda 10.17.6) must mean that the sun was born of the Ocean. [61] It must be for this reason that Pūṣan’s solar correlate Savitr̥ is specifically called apā́ṃ nápāt ‘progeny of the waters’ (1.22.6); furthermore, Savitr̥ as Apām Napãt even knows such secrets as where the fountainhead of the Ocean gushes forth (10.149.2). As for the two sadhástha-s ‘abodes’ of Pūṣan (10.17.6), they must be the Sky and the Ocean: as he travels to and fro (ā́ ca párā ca carati), he goes cast to west in the Sky at day and, somehow, west to east at night after having plunged into the Ocean.
To be contrasted with the two sadhástha-s of Pūṣan are the three sadhástha-s of the fire-god Agni (Rig-Veda 3.20.2, etc.); in fact, one of Agni’s epithets is tri-sadhasthá– ‘having three sadhástha-s’ (5.4.8, etc.). Unlike the fire of the sun, which has abodes only in the sky and in the water, Agni as sacrificial fire abides also on earth. The word agní– itself means ‘fire’, cognate with Latin ignis. Agni as god links the microcosm of sacrificial fire with the macrocosm of celestial fire. As sacrificial fire, Agni is kindled on earth at dawn so that the sun may rise (4.3.11, 5.6.4). If there were no sacrificial fire at dawn, there would be no sunrise (ŚatapathaBrāhmaṇa From a cosmic point of view, Agni himself caused the sun to rise (Rig-Veda 10.156.4). [62]

The three sadhástha-s ‘abodes’ of Agni correspond to three different proveniences of Agni, and the Rig-Veda reveals them in the following order (10.45.1): [63] {99|100}

First, Agni is born in the Sky, as lightning; [64]
Second, Agni is born on Earth, as sacrificial fire;
Third, Agni is born in the Ocean, as the risen sun.
Let us examine in more detail the third provenience of Agni. Like the sun-god Savitr̥, the water-born third Agni is also called apā́ṃ nápāt ‘progeny of the waters’ (Rig-Veda 3.1.12-13, 3.9.1, etc.). Elsewhere, Apām Napāt seems to exist as a separate entity (10.30.3-4, etc.); he is celebrated in one whole hymn (2.35), but even here he is identified with Agni in the last stanza. Just as Savitr̥ as specialized sky-god has features derivable from Dyaus ‘Sky’ [65] so also Apām Napãt: whereas Savitr̥ is called the prajā́pati-, the creator of the universe (4.53.2), [66] Apām Napāt is described as the one who “created all things” (víśvānibhúvanā jajāna 2.35.2). [67]
The Vedic figure Apām Napāt is so ancient that there is a formal analogue in the Iranian evidence: the Avestan figure Apąm Napå. [68] While other thematic evidence about Apąm Napå is elusive, he is known to have the epithet auruuat̰-aspa– ‘having swift horses’ (Yašt 19.51); [69] otherwise, this word serves only to describe the huuar– ‘sun’ (Yašt 10.90, etc.). There is a thematic parallel in the Rig-Vedic word āśuhéman– ‘driving swift horses’, which serves as epithet for Apām Napāt (2.31.6, 2.35.1, 7.47.2); he is transported by horses as swift as thought itself (1.186.5). [70]
In Rig-Veda 1.162, a hymn celebrating the sacrificial horse, it is specifically Pūṣan’s goat that leads the horse to its immolation (stanzas 2-3). In fact, Pūṣan’s chariot is regularly drawn by goats (1.138.4; 6.55.3-4, 6; 6.57.3; 6.58.2); by contrast, Savitr̥’s chariot is drawn by {100|101} horses (7.45.1; cf. 1.35.3, 5). Therefore, the ritual symbolism of having the sacrificial goat of Pūṣan precede the sacrificial horse can be related with mythological symbolism: just as the goat is the horse’s guide in ritual, so also Pūṣan is Savitr̥’s guide in myth. From the conventional association of Indic Apām Napāt and of Iranian Apąm Napå with horses, it follows that the designation of Savitr̥ the sun-god as Apām Napāt (1.22.6) is old enough to be a part of the shared Indo-Iranian heritage and is due to his own solar association with horses (7.45.1); by contrast, Pūṣan is called Apām Napāt nowhere in the Rig-Veda, presumably because he is associated with goats, not horses. In their function as solar psychopomps, Savitr̥ and Pūṣan may be correlates, [71] but not so in terms of the epithet Apām Napāt: the inherited phraseology of this expression requires association with horses, not goats.

When it comes to the death and rebirth of man, Apām Napāt serves as a solar model rather than solar guide. The celestial fire plunges into the waters at sunset, only to be reborn from them at sunrise. As a parallel, the sacrificial horse is immolated so that it may draw the chariot of the sun come sunrise, but its guide is the goat. In the Rig-Vedic hymn to Apām Napāt, sun and horse are parallel as they rise at dawn:

áśvasyā́tra jánimāsyá ca svàr

Rig-Veda 2.35.6
There [in the waters] is the birthplace of the horse and this sun. [72]

For the function of enacting man’s rebirth after death, there is an element missing in the figure of Apām Napāt; as the hymn composed specially for him makes clear, Apām Napāt is Apām Napāt only in the waters and in the sky, but on earth he becomes someone else:

só apā́ṃ nápād ánabhimlātavarṇo’
‘nyásyevehá tanvā̀ viveṣa

Rig-Veda 2.35.13
Apām Napāt, with imperishable radiance,
is at work here [on earth] with the body of another.

This “other” is then identified in the last stanza of the hymn as Agni himself, in his function as sacrificial fire (2.35.15). Thus whereas Agni is {101|102} Apām Napāt, Aparn Napāt is not Agni in all respects. Specifically, Apām Napāt lacks one of Agni’s three aspects; he is not at work on earth.

To round out this complex picture of the tripartite Agni, let us briefly consider his first provenience. Besides the earth-born Second Agni of the sacrificial fire and the water-born Third Agni of the sun, there is also the sky-born First Agni of lightning (Rig-Veda 10.45.1-3; also 1.143.2, 3.2.13, 6.6.2). While the water-born Agni has two sadhástha-s ‘abodes’, Sky and Ocean, the sky-born Agni in the form of lightning can go directly from Sky to Earth through the antárikṣa– ‘intermediate space’ (6.8.2, 10.65.2).
The tripartite distribution of Agni is subject to a number of confusions. As lightning, sky-born Agni qualifies as being in the third sky (Rig-Veda 1.143.2, etc.); yet the sky-born Agni is the first Agni, Also, with the concept of celestial waters matching terrestrial waters (1.32.2, 12, etc.), it may seem tempting to imagine the water-born Agni as not only the sun but also lightning; and yet, Indic ritual shows that water-born Agni was basically incompatible with the fire of lightning: according to the ŚatapalhaBrāhmaṇa (; cf. AitareyaBrāhmaṇa 7.7), “the Agni in the waters” must be expiated if fire from lightning has been mixed with sacrificial fire. [73]

Lightning, however, is not the only form in which Agni comes from Sky to Earth. We are now about to see the purpose of Agni’s tripartition, which links the mystery of afterlife with the mystery of terrestrial fire’s origin from celestial fire. We begin with the Vedic concept of human reproduction, where the male plants the gárbha– ‘embryo’ in the uterus of the female: thus when Sky impregnates Earth with rainwater, the embryo is none other than “the Agni in the waters,” and this embryo is then lodged within the plants that grow out of the impregnated Earth (Rig-Veda 7.9.3, 8.43.9, 1.141.4, etc.). [74] One of the designations of Agni within plants is actually apā́m gárbha– ‘embryo of the waters’ (7.9.3); one of the designations of “plant” is óṣadhī-.

apsv àgne sádhiṣ ṭava
saúṣadhīr ánu rudhyase

Rig-Veda 8.43.9
Your station is in waters, Agni;
you grow into óṣadhī-s. {102|103}

Etymologically, óṣadhī– may be interpreted as being composed of roots uṣ– and dhā-, meaning ‘light-emplacement.’ [75]

The one who brought fire from the Sky to the Earth is called Mātariśvan, messenger of Vivasvat (Rig-Veda 6.8.2; also 1.93.6, 3.2.13, 1.143.2). Elsewhere, the messenger of Vivasvat is specified as Agni himself (1.58.1, 8.39.3, 10.21.5), and the word mātaríśvan– actually serves as Agni’s epithet (1.96.4, 3.5.9, 3.26.2). “Though the myth of Mātariśvan is based on the distinction between fire and a personification which produces it, the analysis of the myth shows these two to be identical.” [76] It remains to ask how Mātariśvan brought celestial fire to Earth: he produced fire by friction, expressed with verb forms of the root manth– (as in 1.71.4, 1.141.3, 1.148.1, 3.9.5). In the language of the Rig-Veda, fire is produced by the manth– ‘friction’ of fire-sticks called the aráṇi-s: [77]

ástīdám adhimánthanam
ásti prajánanaṃ kr̥tám
etā́ṃ viśpátnīm ā́ bhara
agním manthāma pūrváthā
aráṇyor níhito jātávedā
gárbha iva súdhito garbhíṇīṣu

Rig-Veda 3.29.1-2
This is the friction-place,
birth-giving, it has been prepared;
bring the viśpátnī [mistress of the household];
as before, let us rub fire.
Agni the Jātavedas has been emplaccd in the two aráṇi-s
well-placed like the embryo in pregnant females.

The fire latent in the wood of the aráṇi-s is born as terrestrial fire, and we note that the Agni-epithet Mātariśvan is etymologically appropriate to the theme of latent fire: mātarí– ‘in the mother’ and –śvan– ‘swelling’ (from root śū– ‘swell’). Here, then, is the key to the mystery of how the terrestrial fire of sacrifice was produced from celestial fire. Agni descends from the Sky as an embryo in rainwater. Then lie is lodged in the plants that grow from the impregnation of Earth with rain. Finally, he is {103|104} rubbed out of wood, thus becoming terrestrial fire. The link between celestial and terrestrial fire is Agni Mātariśvan, messenger of Vivasvat. (6.8.2, etc.).

As for Vivasvat, he is the first to receive fire on earth by virtue of being the first to sacrifice on earth, and he is the ancestor of humans (MaitrāyaṇīSaṃhitā 1.6.12, TaittirīyaSaṃhtiā, ŚatapathaBrāhmaṇa [78] To say sádane vivásvataḥ ‘at the place of Vivasvat’ (Rig-Veda 1.53.1) is the same as saying ‘at the sacrifice’. [79] Vivasvat, father of Yama (10.14.5, 10.17.1) is formally and thematically cognate with the Avestan figure Vìvahvant, father of Yima, who was the first person ever to prepare Haoma (Yasna 9.3-4). The association of Vīvahvant with Haoma is important because Soma/Haoma constitutes the Indic/Iranian sacrifice par excellence, [80] and the Vedic Vivasvat also has special associations with Soma (Rig-Veda 9.26.4, 9.10.5, etc.). In the context of the breaking dawn, uṣás-, the word vivásvat– also occurs as an epithet of Agni, meaning ‘shining’:

ámūraḥ kavír áditir vivásvān
susaṃsán mitró átithiḥ śivó naḥ
citrábhānur uṣásām bhāty ágre
apā́m gárbhaḥ prasvà ā́ viveśa

Rig-Veda 7.9.3
The unerring seer, the Aditi, the Vivasvat,
the Mitra of good company, our kind guest,
with majestic brightness he shines in front of the dawns,
the embryo of the waters has lodged in pregnant plants.

Such thematic connections (cf. also 1.44.1, 1.96.2, 3.30.13) serve as confirmation of the etymology: the vas– of vivásvat– is derived from the verb vas-/uṣ– ‘shine’, and so, too, is the uṣ– of uṣas– ‘dawn’. Furthermore, the vas– of vivásvat– is cognate with the Latin ues– of Vesta, Roman goddess of the domestic fireplace. [81] As for the domestic aspect of Vivasvat, it is best understood in relation to the Indic Triple Fire. Matching the tripartite nature of Agni, there evolved certain Indic cult practices that involve a triple sacrificial fire, as documented in minute detail by the Brāhmaṇas. Whereas the single sacrificial fire is suitable for domestic purposes, the triple sacrificial fire is a priestly institution associated with {104|105} the cult centers of the Indic peoples (cf. ŚatapathaBrāhmaṇa Some sacrifices, such as the offerings at sunrise and sunset, can he enacted with either a single or a triple fire, but others are restricted to one or the other: for example, rites related to family life belong to the single fire, whereas Soma-rites are restricted to a triple fire. [82]

Among the three fires of the Triple Fire, one is still specifically associated with the domestic aspects: it is the Gārhapatya, meaning ‘fire of the gr̥hápati-’. The word gr̥hápati-, like viśpáti-, means ‘lord of the household’; both are common Rig-Vedic epithets of Agni. Significantly, if the fire of the Gārhapatya is extinguished, it must be rekindled with aráṇi-s (ŚatapathaBrāhmaṇa By contrast, if another of the three fires, the Āhavanīya (from preverb ā– plus root hav– ‘pour libation’), is extinguished, it is to be relit from the fire of the Gārhapatya (ŚatapathaBrāhmaṇa The specific association of the Gārhapatya with the aráṇi-s (see also ŚatapathaBrāhmaṇa is parallel to the association of Vivasvat with the aráṇi-s:

In the Mātariśvan myth, Agni is produced with manth– ‘friction’. [83]
Mātariśvan is the messenger of Vivasvat. [84]
Vivasvat is the first, to receive fire by virtue of being the first sacrificer on earth. [85]
Agni is produced with the manth– ‘friction’ of fire-slicks called aráṇi-s in Rig-Veda 3.29.1-2. [86]

We note that the fire apparatus in the latter passage, Rig-Veda 3.29.1-2, [87] is called viśpátnī ‘mistress of the household’: here, too, the domestic implication is pertinent to the function of the Gārhapatya. Finally, besides the aráṇi-s, still another feature of the Gārhapatya links it to the Mātariśvan myth: it is the designation of its enclosure as the yóni– ‘uterus’ (ŚatapathaBrāhmaṇa [88]

The connection between Indic Vivasvat/Mātariśvan/Gārhapatya and Italic Vesta extends beyond the general feature of the domestic fireplace. Even in such specific details as the relighting of the Gārhapatya with the {105|106} friction of wood, the cult of Vesta affords specific parallels. The fire in the Roman sanctuary of Vesta was supposed to be kept going at all times (cf. Cicero Philippics 11.10), and it was a grave matter if it ever went out:

ignis Vestae si quando interstinctus esset, uirgines uerberibus adficiebantur a pontifice, quibus mos erat tabulam felicis materiae tamdiu terebrare, quousque exceptum ignem cribro aeneo uirgo in aedem ferret.
Paulus ex Festo 94 ed. Lindsay
Whenever the fire of Vesta was interrupted, the Virgins were beaten by the pontifex; their custom was to bore a tabula of fēlix māteria until a fire could be taken and brought in a brazen cribrum to the sanctuary by a Virgin. [89]

We note that the wood used here is called māteria, a noun apparently derived from māter ‘mother’, and that māteria is qualified as fēlix, an adjective appropriate to the theme of fertility. Immediately comparable in theme are the name mātariśvan– ‘swelling in the mother’ [90] and the name for the enclosure of the Gārhapatya, yóni– ‘uterus’. [91]

If the fire of the Gārhapatya went out, it was likewise a grave matter: the fire must not be relit by borrowing from the fire of the Āhavanīya, nor by substituting the Āhavanīya for the Gārhapatya; rather, fire must be rubbed from the aráni-s (ŚatapathaBrāhmaṇa [92] This ritual hierarchy reflects symbolically the Indo-European custom of borrowing fire from the domestic fireplace of a fellow member of a community: we may compare such expressions as Greek πῦρ αὔειν/λαβεῖν, Lithuanian ùgnį im̃ti, Latin ignem accipere, Italian fuoco prendre, all meaning ‘take fire’; as Wilhelm Schulze has noticed, the contexts of these expressions point back to the same ancestral custom. [93] The point remains that the Gārhapatya, by virtue of being the domestic fire, is the central point from which all other fires emanate. [94]

Having observed the primacy of the Gārhapatya, let us examine how the distinction between the Gārhapatya and the Āhavanīya symbolizes the distinction between terrestrial and celestial fire. To repeat, whereas terrestrial fire is obviously incompatible with its opposite element, water, the nature of water-born celestial fire is different in Indic myth: {106|107}

  • —the sun plunges into the waters of the west only to be reborn the next day from the waters of the east;
  • —celestial fire is hidden in raindrops will impregnate the earth; it remains hidden in plants dial grow out of the earth; then it is rubbed out of wood as terrestrial fire.

The distinction in myth, as we shall now see, is partially conveyed by the interplay of the Gārhapatya and the Āhavanīya.

The fireplace of the Gārhapatya is set up in a circular enclosure, with the space on the inside representing the earth and the space on the outside representing the ocean around it (these ritual symbols are definitively and explicitly recounted in ŚatapathaBrāhmaṇa, 13); the enclosure, set off with bricks, is circular because the shape of the earth is circular ( We note that the waters are symbolized, as being outside the enclosure that is to receive the terrestrial fire, the Gārhapatya.
By contrast, the fireplace of the Āhavanīya is set up in a quadrilateral enclosure representing the dyáus ‘sky’, with a lotus leaf placed inside the enclosure for the specific purpose of representing the waters (again, these symbols are definitively and explicitly recounted in ŚatapathaBrāhmaṇa The enclosure of the Āhavanīya is quadrilateral because the four directions—north, south, east, west—can be ascertained from the dynamics of the sky (the sun’s path, the stars’ positions); orientation comes from the sky, not from earth—which is therefore symbolized as circular, that is, without directional coordinates of its own. We note that the waters are symbolized as being inside the enclosure that is to receive the celestial fire, the Āhavanīya. Unlike terrestrial fire, celestial fire is compatible with its opposite element, water; in macrocosm, the sun dips into the waters of the west only to be reborn the next clay in the waters of the east.

While duly taking into account the distinctions between the cults of the Indic peoples, attested at a nomadic stage, and the cults of the Italic peoples, attested at a sedentary stage of development, Georges Dumézil [95] has noticed a remarkable parallelism between the Indic Āhavanīya and the ordinary Roman templum, a quadrilateral precinct drawn along the lines of the four cardinal points of the sky (cf. Vitruvius 4.5); also between the Indic Gārhapatya and the aedēs of Vesta, with its foundations built in the shape of a circle (hence the designation aedēs instead of templum). Just as the Gārhapatya represents the domestic {107|108} aspects of fire, so also the Roman Vesta is the goddess of the domestic fireplace. Dumézil has also noticed further parallelisms. Just as the Gārhapatya is incompatible with water, so also aedēs of Vesta: in the course of the rituals that take place within the aedēs no water may touch the ground, not even if it is put down in a container. In line with this prohibition is the essence of a water jar called the futtile, derived from the adjective futtilis (‘which is poured’); besides the radical variant fu-t-, Latin also preserves fu-d– as in fundō ‘pour’). The use of this jar is explicitly described as follows:

futile uas quoddam est lato ore, fundo angusto, quo utebantur in sacris Vestae, quia aqua ad sacra Vestae hausta in terra non ponitur, quod si fiat, piaculum est. unde excogitatum uas est, quod non stare posset sed positum statim effunderetur.
Servius on Aeneid 11.339
The futtile is a container with a wide mouth and a narrow base which they used in the rites of Vesta, since water drawn for the rites of Vesta is not put down. And if it does happen, it is a matter for expiation. Hence the invention of a vase which could not stand up and which, once it is put down, would immediately spill.
The third aspect of the Indic Triple Fire has yet to be mentioned: besides the Gārhapatya situated toward the west and the Āhavanīya toward the east, there is also the Dakṣiṇa toward the south. Meaning ‘the right-hand one’, the Dakṣiṇa serves primarily to ward off the evil spirits from the sacrifice (ŚatapathaBrāhmaṇa, Given the associations of the earth-born Agni with the Gārhapatya and of the water-born Agni with the Āhavanīya, it follows that the sky-born Agni of lightning should be associated with the Dakṣiṇa.

While the Gārhapatya symbolizes earth and the Āhavanīya symbolizes the sky plus ocean, the Dakṣiṇa symbolizes the antárikṣa– ‘intermediate space’ (as explicitly affirmed in the ŚatapathaBrāhmaṇa The sky-born Agni is specifically described as protecting the sacrificial ordinances and spanning the antárikṣa-.

ṣa jā́yamānaḥ paramé vyòmani
vratā́ny agnír vratapā́ arakṣata
vy àntárikṣam amimīta sukrátur
vaiśvānaró mahinā́ nā́kam aspr̥śat

Rig-Veda 6.8.2
Born in the highest sky,
Agni the ordinance-guardian watches over the ordinances; {108|109}
the Sukratu, he spans the intermediate space;
the Vaiśvānara, he touches the sky-vault with his greatness.

The antárikşa– is the context for a fusion of Agni with Indra in the act of smiting the demon Vr̥tra in a stylized thunderstorm:

antárikṣam máhy ā́ paprur ójasā

Rig-Veda 10.65.2
they [the gods] filled the intermediate space with their ójas-.

The root of ójas– ‘power’ (*h2eu̯g-) is cognate with that of vájra– (*h2u̯eg -), the name of Indra’s thunderbolt, [96] which is conferred upon him by Agni:

ā́ bāhvór vájram índrasya dheyām

Rig-Veda 10.52.5
I [Agni] will put the vájra- in the arms of Indra.

In fact, the epithet vájrabāhu– ‘he who holds the vájra– in his arms’ is applied to the fused figure of Indra-Agni (Rig-Veda 1.109.7) as well as to Indra alone (1.32.15, etc.). [97] To conclude: since the Dakṣiṇa symbolizes the antárikṣa– ‘intermediate space’, it follows that it is proper to the sky-born Agni of lightning.

We are now in a position to summarize the symbolism of the Indic Triple Fire:
  • 1. Dakṣiṇa: sky-born Agni, lightning
  • 2. Gārhapatya: earth-born Agni, fire
  • 3. Āhavanīya: water-born Agni, sun

The three fires have been listed here to match the order of Agni’s three births, as revealed by Rig-Veda 10.45.1. [98] This Rig-Vedic order of Agni’s three births is significant because it helps account for the interpretation of the name Trita Āptya as the watery ‘third one’. [99] It is also significant {109|110} because it corresponds to the order in which the Deva-s [100] had set up the Triple Fire:

  • 1. Dakṣiṇa
  • 2. Gārhapatya
  • 3. Āhavanīya

By contrast, the antagonists of the Deva-s, the Asura-s, [101] had set up the Triple Fire in the following order:

  • 3. Āhavanīya
  • 2. Gārhapatya
  • 1. Dakṣiṇa

The myth of these rival orders is recorded in the TaittirīyaBrāhmaṇa (, where it is added that the fortunes of the Asura-s or ‘demons’ consequently went backward and they lost all, while the fortunes of the Deva-s or ‘gods’ went forward and they prospered. But the Deva-s were not to have any progeny; in this respect, the Deva-s are then contrasted with Manu, whose sacrifice brought him both prosperity and progeny. Throughout the Brāhmaṇa-s, this Manu is the ideal sacrificer and the ancestor of the human race. In Sylvain Lévi’s description, Manu is the hero of the śraddhā [102] given that this Vedic word designates the sacrificer’s attitude toward his sacrifice. As ancestor of the human race, Manu would naturally have the same order of fire placement as that practiced by the Indic peoples; throughout the Rig-Veda, whenever a sacrificer kindles fire, he does so manuṣvát– ‘like Manu’ (1.44.11, etc.). Here is the order in which the Indic sacrificer sets up the Triple Fire:

  • 2. Gārhapatya
  • 3. Āhavanīya
  • 1. Dakṣiṇa

The key to Mann’s success in progeny—where even the gods have failed—is that he started the order of fire placement with the Gārhapatya, where Agni is born like a human: as the mātaríśvan-, the one ‘swelling in the mother’, Agni is born of the Gārhapatya’s yóni– ‘uterus’. [103] From the Rig-Veda, we know that it was Mātariśvan who gave {110|111} Agni to Manu (1.128.2, 10.46.9), and that Agni abides among the offspring of Manu (1.68.4).

Manu can be described as a specialized multiform of Vivasvat: both figures are primordial sacrificers, both are ancestors of the human race, both have special affinities with Mātariśvan and the Gārhapatya. In fact, Manu is in some versions the “son” of Vivasvat and thus bears the epithet Vaivasvata (ŚatapathaBrāhmaṇa, etc.). Also “son” of Vivasvat is Yama (Rig-Veda 10.14.5, etc.), who likewise bears the epithet Vaivasvata (10.14.1, etc.). As the first person ever to experience death, Yama Vaivasvata is ruler of the dead, while Mann Vaivasvata is ruler of the living sacrificers (ŚatapathaBrāhmaṇa
The etymology of mánu– is transparent: it is derived from the verb man– ‘to have in mind’. The meaning of Manu as ‘the mindful one’ is appropriate to the theme of Manu: as Sylvain Lévi points out, his sheer virtuosity in “the delicate art of sacrifice” confers upon him an incontestable authority on matters of ritual. [104] There is no sacrificial error for which he does not know a remedy (TaittirīyaSaṃhitā, etc.). To the degree that ritual was the informing principle of law in the social history of the Indic peoples, Mann’s authority was further extended: he was also regarded as a sort of lawgiver, and it is for this reason that the Indic corpus of juridical and moral aphorisms is named after him. [105]
The semantics of Mánu– go beyond the theme of being ‘mindful’ at a sacrifice. The broader implications are visible in another derivative from the root man-, the noun mánas-. As we shall see, mánas- conveys both the mental power of prayer at sacrifice and the cosmic power triggered by such prayer. It also conveys, along with the noun ásu-, the aspect of man that survives death. [106] Just as Mánu– assures the perpetuity of the human race by way of sacrificial fire, so also mánas- assures the regeneration of the individual human—again by way of Agni as sacrificial fire. [107] {111|112}
How, then, is this regeneration concretely visualized with an abstract noun like mánas-? As we shall see, the concrete imagery associated with mánas– (and with ásu-) is vision and breath in microcosm, sun and wind in macrocosm. The focus of this imagery is Agni’s aspect as terrestrial fire, which provides the dead with a direct link to Agni’s aspect as celestial fire, namely, the sun. The sun-gods Savitr̥ and Pūṣan can be psychopomps only because Agni himself is a psychopomp, by virtue of cremating the dead. Agni is the supreme model and guide of rebirth.

The cremating fire of Agni ultimately confers upon the dead a communion with the sun:

sū́ryaṃ cákṣur gacchatu vā́tam ātmā́

Rig-Veda 10.16.3
may the eye go to the sun and the breath to the wind [108]

Here we see the elements of vision and breath absorbed into the macrocosm of sun and wind. Elsewhere too, the theme of wind is correlated with that of the sun:

sū́rya ātmā́ jágatas tasthúṣaś ca

Rig-Veda 1.115.1
sun, the breath of everything moving and unmoving

Such correlations of wind with sun can be derived from the microcosm of sacrificial fire: its air-suction and exhaust are simply transferred to the macrocosm of the sun. [109]

Turning now to the associations of these concrete images with the abstract noun mánas-, let us examine the deployment of this word in Vedic diction. As “thought” or “power of thought,” mánas- has speed comparable with that of the Aśvin-s’ horse team (Rig-Veda 1.181.2, 6.62.3, 4). These Aśvin-s are the Nā́satyau, [110] sons of Dyaus ‘Sky’ (1.183.1, etc.), {112|113} consorts of the sun-goddess Sūryā (4.43.6) and fathers of Pūṣan (10.85.14); their sunlike chariot (8.8.2) is set in motion by Savitr̥ before the dawn (1.34.10). They appear as the sacrificial fire is kindled and as the sun rises (1.157.1, 7.72.4, etc.). The frequent Rig-Vedic theme that their chariot is faster than mánas- ‘thought’ (1.117.2, etc.) implies a comparison of mánas- with wind. In the hymn to the Sacrificial Horse, the victim’s thought is specifically likened with vā́ta-, the wind (1.163.11); the epithet for vā́ta– here is dhrájīmat– ‘rushing’, which occurs elsewhere only once:

áhir dhúnir vā́ta iva dhrájimān

Rig-Veda 1.79.1
The raging serpent, like the rustling wind

The raging serpent here is none other than the fire-god Agni himself,

The Greek cognate of mánas-, ménos (μένος), generally means not ‘thought’ or ‘power of thought’ but ‘power’, by way of a basic meaning ‘having in mind, reminding’ common to both Indic mánas- and Greek ménos. For instance, the goddess Athena reminded (hup-é-mnē-sen) Telemachus of his father, thereby giving him ménos:

τῷ δ’ ἐvὶ θυμῷ
θῆκε μένος καì θάρσος, ὑπέμνησέν τέ ἑ πατρὸς
μᾶλλον ἔτ’ ἢ τὸ πάροιθεν

Odyssey i 320-322
In his thūmós
she had put ménos and daring; and she had reminded him of his father,
more than before. [111]

Besides the contextual guarantee from the verb root *men-/*mn-eh2– in hup-é-mnē-sen (ὑπέμνησεν) here, there is also a thematic guarantee for the interpretation of ménos as ‘reminding’: in order to put ménos into Telemachus, Athena has assumed the form of a hero called Méntēs (Μέντης i 105ff.), a name that literally means ‘the reminder’. [112] {113|114}

The precise transmission of divine ménos is by breathing, as the gods blow it (ἐμπνεῖν) into the hero (Iliad X 482; XV 59-60, 262; XX 110; Odyssey xxiv 520). Consequently, warriors eager for battle are literally “snorting with ménos,” that is, μένεα πνείοντες (Iliad II 536, III 8, XI 508, XXIV 364; Odyssey xxii 203). The gods also breathe ménos into horses:

ὣς εἰπὼν ἵπποισιν ἐνέπνευσεν μένος ἠύ

Iliad XVII 456
So saying he [Zeus] breathed good ménos into the horses.

Parallel to this μένος ἠύ ‘good ménos’ blown by Zeus is the “good mánas-’ that Agni is implored to blow into the sacrificers: [113]

bhadráṃ no ápi vātaya mánaḥ

Rig-Veda 10.20.1
blow us a good mánas-!

Besides heroes and horses, other entities, too, can have ménos, such as the sun (Iliad XXIII 190), fire (VI 182, XVII 565), moist winds (Odyssey xix 440), and streams (Iliad XII 18). Like heroes, cosmic forces have to be reminded of their power, and this is precisely what sacrificers have to do. One Vedic word for this reminder is mánas-, as when the priests (vípra-s) hitch up mánas– and thoughts at the coming of the sun-god Savitr̥:

yuñjáte mána utá yuñjate dhíyo

Rig-Veda 5.81.1
they hitch up mánas– and they hitch up thoughts

The time of Savitr̥’s coming is sunrise (Rig-Veda 5.81.2), and his function as daily “vivifier” (the actual meaning of Savitr̥-) [114] is duly recounted (5.81.2-5). By hitching up mánas-, the priests indirectly hitch up the dhī́yas ‘thoughts, consciousness’ of mankind, insomuch as they have reminded Savitr̥, whose daily function it İs to rouse men by awakening them at sunrise (4.53.3, 6.71.2, 7.45.1). Specifically, it is the consciousness of men that Savitr̥ rouses: {114|115}

tát savitúr váreṇyam
bhárgo devásya dhīmahi
dhíyo yó naḥ pracodáyāt

Rig-Veda 3.62.10
May we receive this choice light
of the Deva Savitr̥,
who will rouse our thoughts.

This stanza is the celebrated Sāvitrī, [115] with which Savitr̥ is invoked at the inception of one’s Vedic study. Again, the word for “thoughts” is dhī́yas, which was the correlate of mánas– in Rig-Veda 5.81.1, quoted above. [116] From such contextual evidence, İt is possible to infer that not only Savitr̥ but also mánas– is connected with awakening from sleep as well as resurrection from death. In Greek usage, too, ménos is an element that is lost during sleep:

οὐ γὰρ πανσωλή γε μετέσσεται, οὐδ’ ἠβαιόν,
εἰ μὴ νὺξ ἐλθοῦσα διακρινέει μένος ἀνδρῶν

Iliad II 386-387
There will not be a pause for rest [from battle] in between, not a bit,
unless the night comes and separates the ménos from the men.
We come back, then, to our original starting point: that the Greek word ménos is synonymous with thūmós and psūkhḗ at the moment of death in particular and of losing consciousness in general. Now we see from the comparative evidence of the Indic cognate mánas– that this Greek word has a heritage of leaving open the possibility of reawakening from death on the model of reawakening from sleep or a swoon. In Indic traditions the context of this reawakening is the realm of the pitŕ̥-s ‘ancestors’. We also come back, then, to the collocation of the expression ménos ēú with the name Patrokléēs ‘whose glory is that of the ancestors’ in a context where the expression designates the aspect of Patroklos that is separated from his body by death (Iliad XXIV 6).
The comparative evidence of the Indic cognate mánas– can tell us still more about Greek ménos: we now see that there is an inherited affinity between the ménos of the sun (Iliad XXIII 190) or wind (Odyssey xix 440) and the ménos of a hero whose name conveys the glory of the ancestors. {115|116} Through the intermediасу of the fire that cremates the body, vision and breath can become one with sun and wind. [117] It is therefore a vital fact that the fire of cremation is itself called “the ménos of fire” in Iliad XXIII 238 and XXIV 792; moreover, in the first passage, the body that is being cremated is that of Patroklos himself. [118] By way of this intermediасу, we can now see how a verb like psū́khō, which designates the blowing of winds at Iliad XX 440, has a noun-derivative psūkhḗ that can function as the synonym of ménos at the moment of dying. Or again, we now see how the Indo-European verb root *an- (*h2enh1-), as attested in Indic ániti ‘blows’, leads to noun-derivatives like both ánemos ‘wind’ in Greek and animus ‘spirit’ in Latin. Significantly, the word ánemoi (plural) in Greek can also designate ‘spirits of the ancestors’ (e.g. Suda s.v. tritopátores, etc.). [119] Further, Latin fūmus and Indic dhūmá-, both meaning ‘smoke’, are cognate with Greek thūmós: again, we can better understand such semantic specializations when we envision the exhaust of sacrificial fire as it transforms the breath of life into wind (and we have already witnessed this theme in an earlier passage). [120]
We are still left, however, with the problem of the epithet ēú in the Homeric expression ménos ēú (μένος ἠύ). Semantically, ēú corresponds to bhadrám ‘good’ in the Vedic expression bhadrámmánas. [121] Formally, as we shall now see, ēú corresponds to the noun ásu-, which is used in combination with mánas– to designate the conveyors of identity after death. Before we can examine this formal connection, however, we shall have to survey the concrete visualizations of ásu– at the moment of cremation and thereafter. {116|117}

As we have already seen, the setting sun can be envisioned as taking along the breath and vision cosmically absorbed from the cremated dead. [122] Significantly, a goat has been cremated together with the corpse (Rig-Veda 10.16.4). With the goat as warrant of divine guidance, the righteous dead must travel along the way of the ancestors, the pitŕ̥-s, who have reached the ásu– and who have been avr̥kā́s ‘unharmed by the wolf’:

ásuṃ yá īyúr avr̥kā́ r̥tajñā́s

Rig-Veda 10.15.1
who have reached the ásu-, unharmed by the wolf, knowing righteousness

Not only the cremation of the goat but also the threat of the wolf point to the psychopomp Pūṣan: it is he who fends off the wolf from the traveler’s path (Rig-Veda 1.42.2). Another threat are Yama’s hounds, who are asutŕ̥pāásu-robbers’ (10.14.11). It is because of these hounds that the following prayer must be recited:

tā́v asmábhyaṃ dr̥śáye sū́ryāya
púnar dātām ásum adyéhá bhadrám

Rig-Veda 10.14.12
may these two [hounds], so that we may see the sun,
give us back, here today, our good ásu

Thus “good ásu-” with the same epithet bhadrá– ‘good’ that we have already seen applied elsewhere to mánas-, [123] is a key to the vision of sunlight.

With Agni/Savitr̥/Pūṣan as psychopomp, the dead must travel along the ásunīti– ‘path leading to ásu– (Rig-Veda 10.12.4, 10.15.14, 10.16.2); elsewhere, ásunīti– is personified as a goddess, implored to give bach to the dead their vision of sunlight (10.59.5-6). As the dead near the end of their trip from west to east, sleepers are ready to waken and Uṣas ‘Dawn’ is awaited:

úd īrdhvaṃ jīvó ásur na ā́gād
ápa prā́gāt táma ā́ jyótir eti
ā́raik pánthāṃ yā́tave sū́ryāya {117|118}
áganma yátra pratiránta ā́yuḥ

Rig-Veda 1.113.16
Arise! The living ásu– has come to us;
darkness has gone away, light draws near;
she [Uṣas] has made free the path for the sun to go;
we have arrived where they continue life.

At the same moment that sleepers awake, the dead are resurrected. After the righteous dead have successfully traveled along the underworld path, they rise with the sun on the pravát– stream, following the example of Yama, to the abode of the pitŕ̥-s ‘ancestors’, the highest point of the sun (Rig-Veda 9.113.9), where they may stay in communion with it (1.125.6, 10.107.2, 10.154.5).

A suitable psychopomp for the ascent (with Yama: 10.14.8) into the abode of the pitŕ̥-s is the sun-god Savitr̥ himself (10.17.4). [124] Or Agni can serve as a cosmic model, in the function of Apām Napāt. [125] There is even a variant of apā́ṃ nápāt that is specially applicable to Agni, namely, praváto nápāt ‘progeny of the pravát– stream’ (AtharvaVeda 1.13.2). We may also compare this declaration in the Vedas:

pravát te agne jánimā

Rig-Veda 10.142.2
The pravát- stream is your birthplace, Agni!

Since ásu– in the highest heaven is the ultimate goal of the righteous dead, it is significant that every time Agni is lit again on the sacrificial altar, he himself returns to his own ásu-:

devó yán mártān yajáthāya kr̥ṇnván
sī́dad dhótā pratyáṅ svám ásuṃ yán

Rig-Veda 10.12.1
When the Deva [Agni] helps mortals sacrifice,
abiding as Hotr̥, returning to his ásu-…

When flames die down, it is Agni who quickens them with ásu-: {118|119}

tā́sāṃ jarā́m pramuñcánn eti nā́nadad
ásuṃ páraṃ janáyañ jīvám ástr̥tam

Rig-Veda 1.140.8
taking away from them their oldness, he comes roaring,
producing a higher, living, unsurpassable ásu

There is an Iranian cognate for the expression ásuṃ páram ‘higher ásu-’ here: it is Avestan parāhu– ‘higher existence’ (Yasna 46.19), describing the place where the righteous dead abide. The translation of parāhu– as ‘higher existence’ is warranted by the synonym parō.asti– ‘higher existence’ (Yašt 1.25). [126] These Iranian formations *para-ahu- and *para-asti- both seem to be noun-derivatives of the verb *(h1)es-, namely, *es-u- and *es-ti-, in terms of Indo-European morphology. [127] If indeed Iranian ahu– and Indic ásu– are cognates derived from *es-u-, then it is possible to translate ásu– in a passage like Rig-Veda 1.140.8, quoted immediately above, as ‘existence’.

That Indic ásu– and Iranian ahu– are truly cognates is suggested by other evidence as well. [128] For example, in the same passage that contained the collocation of pára-and ásu– (Rig-Veda 1.140.8), [129] corresponding to Avestan parāhu– (Yasna 46.19), there is also the collocation of jīvá– ‘alive, living’ and ásu-, [130] corresponding to the Avestan expression juiiō aƞhuš ‘living ahu-’ (Hadōxt Nask 2.2). Moreover, there is the collocation of verb jan– ‘produce, beget’ and ásu– (again, Rig-Veda 1.140.8), [131] corresponding to the Avestan expression aƞhə̄uš ząθōi ‘in the begetting of ahu-’ (Yasna 43.5). I draw attention to the context of the last expression, where the supreme god Ahura [132] is being described as the primal being ‘in the begetting of essence [ahu-]’. The identical expression aƞhə̄uš ząθōi ‘in the begetting of ahu-’ occurs elsewhere (Yasna 48.6) in a description of Ahura as he causes the plants to grow at the begetting of primaeval essence (ahu-), and we may compare a stanza immediately preceding the one where the collocation of pára– and ásu– occurs (Rig-Veda 1.140.8): [133] here we find a description of Agni as he causes the plains to grow (1.140.7). {119|120}

The Avestan ahu– ‘essence’ of afterlife is ambivalent: for the good, it is vahištaahu– ‘best essence’ (Yasna 9.19, etc.), while for the bad it is acištaahu– ‘worst essence’ (Yasna 30.4, etc.). There is a semantic parallel in the Vedic combination of ásu– and the epithet bhadrá– ‘good’ (Rig-Veda 10.14.12). [134] In the Indic evidence, the contexts of ásu– are one-sidedly good. It happens, however, that the Avestan analogue to the Rig-Vedic combination of ásu– plus root – ‘lead’ (as in ásunīti– ‘path leading to ásu-) [135] is in an evil context: tə̄m…ahūm…naēsat̰ ‘may it lead to such an [evil] ahu-’ (Yasna 31.20). As for the good essence, another term for it is ahumanahiia– ‘essence of manah-, spiritual essence’ (Yasna 57.25, etc., as opposed to the negative ahuastuuant– ‘essence of bones’, Yasna 28.2, etc.). Not only is Avestan ahu– cognate with Vedic ásu– but Avestaıı manah– is cognate with Vedic mánas-, and it is these two Vedic words, ásu– and mánas-, that designate the elements of afterlife in the Indic traditions. [136] Furthermore, just as Vedic ásu– and mánas– can function as correlates (AtharvaVeda 18.2.24, etc.), so also Avestan ahu– and manah-: [137]

yaθācā aƞhat̰ apə̄mǝm aƞhuš
acištō drǝguuatąmat̰ ašāunē vahištǝm manō

Yasna 30.4
as the ahu– will be finally.
It [the ahu-] of the unrighteous will be the worst [acišta-],
But the righteous will have the best [vahišta-] manah
The Iranian comparative evidence, where we see not only noun manah– coordinated with noun ahu– but also the adjective of noun manah– subordinated to noun ahu– (ahumanahiia-), helps account for the Greek evidence, where the adjective ēú (ἠύ) is subordinated to the noun ménos (μένος) in the expression ménos ēú (μένος ήύ, as in Iliad XX 80, XXIV 6). [138] In brief, then, we find coordination and subordination in Iranian (manah– plus ahu-, manahiia– plus ahu-), but only coordination in Indic (mánas– plus ásu-) and only subordination in Greek (ménos ēú). The directions of subordination, moreover, are reversed in Greek and Iranian. {120|121}
Even if we may not be certain about the precise phonological prehistory of Greek ēú (ἠύ) in comparison with Indic ásu– and Iranian ahu-, one thing seems certain: that all are derived from root *es- ‘to be’. The semantic specialization of ‘good’ in adjectival derivatives of *es- is commonplace: we have only to cite the Greek adjective es-thlós (ἐσθλός) ‘good’ as perhaps the most immédiate example. [139]
In the case of ménos ēú (μένος ήύ) in Iliad XXIV 6, where the expression applies to the aspect of Patroklos that has been lost as a result of death, I propose that we arc witnessing an archaic context where the meaning ‘good’ for ēú is only on the surface. Beneath the surface, we find the echo of a Homeric hero’s afterlife. {121|122}


[ back ] 1. Christmann-Franck 1971, esp. pp. 61-64; cf. Vieyra 1965. The edition of the Hittite royal funerary texts: Otten 1958.
[ back ] 2. Cf. Lowenstam 1981.152 on RigVeda 10.16.4 and 10.16.7 as compared with Iliad XXIII 167-169; in both the Indic and the Greek passages, the corpse is covered with layers of the fat of sacrificial animals.
[ back ] 3. Cf. Andronikos 1968, esp. p. 76.
[ back ] 4. For an introduction to the topic of “Indo-European eschatology,” cf. Lincoln 1986.119-140.
[ back ] 5. My comparative approach leads to conclusions that differ, at least in part, from those of some more recent studies on the Greek concept of the “soul,” such as Claus 1981 and Bremmer 1983. For an accounting of these works, as well as those of Ireland and Steel 1975, Darcus 1979ab, and Garland 1981, I cite the dissertation of Caswell 1986, to be published as a monograph.
[ back ] 6. Cf. Bremmer 1983.94-95.
[ back ] 7. Cf. Bérard 1970.48-53, with reference to archaic Eretria.
[ back ] 8. Cf. Bremmer 1983.95.
[ back ] 9. Bremmer p. 95.
[ back ] 10. Cf Bérard p. 52 on the inhumation of children in archaic Eretria.
[ back ] 11. Bremmer 1983.97.
[ back ] 12. More on distinct ideologies associated with cremation, inhumation, and exposition in chapters 5 and 6 below.
[ back ] 13. For a most useful synthesis, see Arbman 1926/1927. These articles also offer important typological observations on the Greek evidence. For bibliography surveying the influence of Arbman’s work on further scholarship: Bremmer p. 10.
[ back ] 14. In the story of Sāvitrī, for example (Mahābhārata 3.281, critical ed.), Yama the king of the ancestors and god of the dead extracts from the body of Sāvitrī’s husband a thumb-sized person, whereupon the body’s breathing stops and symptoms of death appear. See the commentary by Arbman 1927.79, 105-106, 110.
[ back ] 15. For a collection of passages, see Oldenberg 1917.533-534. See also his pp. 527-528 for a survey of passages in the AtharvaVeda where incantations are offered for the dying: it is a persistent theme that mánas– and ásu– must stay in the body for the dying to stay alive.
[ back ] 16. See Arbman 1927.90-100, esp. p. 93. This reintegration of body and mánas-/ásu– is envisioned as an eschatological process. In JaiminīyaBrāhmaṇa 1.49.1 and following, for example, the identity of the deceased leaves the body and “goes from the smoke into the night” (dhūmād vai rātrim apy eti) by way of cremation, then moving from the night into the day and then into the dark half of the month and then into the light half of the month and then into the month itself, whereupon the body and ásu– are finally reunited. Note that the original separation of identity and body is here simultaneous with cremation, whereas in other versions it is simultaneous with the moment of death. For more on the theme of dhūmá– ‘smoke’ in the fire of cremation, see pp. 115-116.
[ back ] 17. See Arbman 1926.185-191 and Böhme 1929.69-74.
[ back ] 18. Instances of thūmós and ménos paired: Iliad V 470, VI 72, XI 291, etc. See also N 1979a.136-137 on Iliad XX 174 as contrasted with 171. Both words embrace physical as well as mental aspects: on thūmós see Redfield 1975.173 and on ménos see N 1974a.266-269. Further work on thūmós: Caswell 1986.
[ back ] 19. See Warden 1971 for a list of Homeric attestations. It has been argued that ménos does not technically leave the body at death, in that the verb λύθη ‘was set loose’, for which ménos serves as subject in passages like Iliad V 296, conveys “a metaphor comparing the collapsing of the dead with the collapsing of horses when they are unharnessed after a tiring ride” (Bremmer p. 76). But we should note the pairing of ménos with psūkhḗ as a correlative subject in this and other passages such as Iliad VIII 123, 315; the fact is, the psūkhḗ is indeed regularly conceived as leaving the body at the moment of death (e.g. XVI 856). So, too, with the other potential correlate of ménos, that is, thūmós: it, too, leaves the body at the moment of death (e.g. XXIII 880). Moreover, the act of releasing a horse, as conveyed by the verb lúō ‘set loose’, can be a matter of starting to drive it away (as e.g. at Iliad X 498), not just stopping it after having driven it (as e.g. at V 369). In other words, the combination of λύθη ‘was set loose’ with ménos as subject may imply that the horse races off while the chariot from which it has just been unharnessed is left behind. Similarly in metaphorical descriptions of fatigue, ménos can be visualized as becoming separated from the body (cf. the collocation of dia-kr*no ‘separate’ with ménos at II 387).
[ back ] 20. For representations of the psūkhḗ of Patroklos and even of Achilles as such homunculi in Black Figure iconography, see Stähler 1967, esp. pp. 32-33, 44. On the Münster Hydria (inv. no. 565), the miniature figure of Patroklos is actually labeled ΦΣΥΧΕ ‘psūkh ’: Stähler p. 14. On pp. 28-29, Stähler argues cogently that such iconographical representations of psūkh have a “pre-Homeric” heritage. See further at p. 220 below.
[ back ] 21. Cf. N 1979a.208. The concept of psūkh has a built-in tension between identity and nonidentity, as Jean-Pierre Vernant (1985 [1962].330) observes in connection with the psūkh of Patroklos when it appears to Achilles: “c’est la presence de l’ami, mais c’est aussi son absence irrémédiable; c’est Patrocle en personne, mais aussi bien un soufflé, une fumée, une ombre ou l’envol d’un oiseau.”
[ back ] 22. See Arbman 1926.191-198. I disagree, however, with the argument against any connection between psūkh and the semantic sphere of breathing: see pp. 90-91.
[ back ] 23. See Arbman 1926.185-191 and 1927.165. Consider also the Homeric expression νεκύων ἀμενηνὰ κάρηνα ‘persons of the dead, without ménos’ (Odyssey x 521, 536; xi 29, 49). On the Greek visualizations of “head” as “person,” see Warden 1971.97.
[ back ] 24. Cf. Böhme 1929.103; also Schnaufer 1970.180.
[ back ] 25. See Schnaufer pp. 77-79 for an interpretation of these two verses; the ἀτάρ of verse 104, as he shows, indicates the unexpected and contradictory factor (that is, the presence of phrénes). Achilles is in effect saying: “So there really is a psūkhḗ, even outside of Hades, a mere image—and yet it is conscious (= has phrénes)!”
[ back ] 26. E.g. Iliad X 232, IX 462, XIII 487, etc.
[ back ] 27. E.g. Iliad I 103, XXI 145; Odyssey i 89, etc.
[ back ] 28. Moreover, the psūkhḗ of Patroklos is at this time not miniature (Iliad XXIII 66).
[ back ] 29. At p. 87n16, we have seen a corresponding Indic theme, that the identity of the dead person is separated from his body by way of the dhūmá– ‘smoke’ of cremation.
[ back ] 30. E.g. Arbman 1927.159-160.
[ back ] 31. Böhme 1929.124.
[ back ] 32. See Schnaufer 1970.194-195 for a useful chart of passages.
[ back ] 33. For thūmós see Iliad XXII 475; Odyssey v 458, xxiv 349; for ménos see Iliad XV 60 and 262 as discussed by Schnaufer pp. 192-193.
[ back ] 34. Böhme 1929.111, 124.
[ back ] 35. Böhme pp. 22 and 124, pace Arbman 1926.194-195; for a fuller discussion see Schnaufer 1970.198-201.
[ back ] 36. Consider the collocation of ἄμπνυτο ‘he breathed again’ with the revival of the thūmós at Iliad XXII 475, Odyssey v 458, xxiv 349; also the collocation of ἐμπνεύσῃσι/ἐνέπνευσε ‘he [Apollo] breathes/breathed’ with object ménos [into Hektor] at Iliad XV 60 and 262 (cf. n33).
[ back ] 37. For an instant demonstration, see tables 1, 2, and 3 in Warden 1971.102.
[ back ] 38. Cf. Schnaufer 1970.201.
[ back ] 39. See e.g. N 1979a.165-168 (also p. 208) on Odyssey iv 561-569, xi 601-604, and Hesiod F 25.25-28 MW. In the case of anaps*khein ‘reanimate’ at Odyssey iv 568, the themes of revival from death and revival from a swoon actually converge: N 1979a.167-168 * 28n2. Cf. also p. 142 on Iliad V 677 (Sarpedon is revived from a swoon by a blast from Boreas the North Wind).
[ back ] 40. See p. 89.
[ back ] 41. Cf. Schnaufer 1970.67.
[ back ] 42. See also Iliad XVIII 419, where nóos is explicitly said to be localized in the phrénes. As Böhme 1929.65 puts it, nóos can designate the ego while phrénes designates “the organ of the ego.”
[ back ] 43. See Böhme p. 75. The description “rational” may be too broad here: cf. Fritz 1943. Such words as “intuitive” or “perceptive” may be more appropriate.
[ back ] 44. For a list of attestations where rational functions are attributed to thūmós in Homeric diction, see Böhme p. 72n1; as for the emotional functions, see his pp. 69-71.
[ back ] 45. Frame 1978.
[ back ] 46. For a collection of these themes in Indic lore, see Frame pp. 134-152; cf. also Güntert 1923.253-276 and n 1979a.198-200. On the morphology of Indic Nā́satyau, see Frame pp. 135-137; cf. Greek Lampetíē, as discussed at p. 249n80. (The attestation of disyllabic scansion for the first vowel of Nā́satyau [naasatyau] remains a problem.) For a survey of the Indo-European myth of the Divine Twins, see Ward 1968; cf. also Joseph 1983 and Davidson 1987. Further discussion of the Divine Twins, including the Greek Dioskouroi, at pp. 255-256.
[ back ] 47. Frame pp. 34-80. For other aspects of the theme of rebirth in the S, see Newton 1984.
[ back ] 48. See pp. 118ff.
[ back ] 49. For patéres as ‘ancestors’, see e.g. Iliad VI 209; for more on the semantics of Patrokléēs, see N 1979a.102ff.
[ back ] 50. Rohde 1898 1:14-22, esp. p. 16n1. See also Stähler 1967.32, who argues that the picture on the Münster Hydria (p. 88n20 above) represents the beginning of the hero cult of Patroklos.
[ back ] 51. Rohde 1:108-110; see also N 1979a.114-115. Cf. p. 116n119 for thematic connections between the concept of ‘ancestor’ and the actual word hḗrōs (ἥρως) ‘hero’. In view of the inherited relationship of this word with hṓrā (ὥρα) ‘season, seasonality, timeliness’ (on which see Pötscher 1961), we may compare the Indic representation of seasonal eschatology as outlined at p. 87n16.
[ back ] 52. The patterns that I have found are clearly no the only ones attested in Indic traditions. I am persuaded by the account, in Witzel 1984, of alternative traditions, featuring alternative visualizations, especially with regard to the “backward” or “reversed” course of celestial bodies, the “oceans” of the sky, and the abode of Yama.
[ back ] 53. In both these passages, Savitr̥ is invoked as Asura (ásura-). In a future project, I hope to show in detail that this epithet was primarily appropriate to Dyaus (dyáus) ‘sky’ personified, cognate of Greek Zes (Ζεύς), in contexts where the god Dyaus is ambivalently beneficent or maleficent (cf. the applications of ásura– to dyáus at RigVeda 1.122.1, 1.131.1, 8.20.17, etc.). As Dyaus becomes obsolescent, specialized sky-gods like Savitr̥ inherit the epithet Asura in contexts of ambivalence. In the plural, however, Asura becomes one-sidedly bad, designating demons only, while Deva (devá-), derivative of Dyaus (dyáus), becomes one-sidedly good, designating gods only. In the Iranian traditions of the Avesta, on the other hand, the original sky-god remains head of the universe, but only under the name of Ahura-, cognate of the Indic ásura-; meanwhile, the Iranian cognate of Indic Dyaus (dyáus) survives only in a derivative form, daēuua-, cognate of Indic devá-. Moreover, all daēuua-s are bad, demons only. I follow Schlerath 1968.144-145 in interpreting the morphological segmentation of Indo-Iranian *ásura– to be *asura-, the root of which I am inclined to reconstruct as Indo-European *es– ‘to be’. I agree with Schlerath that *ásura– is not derived directly from Indo-Iranian *ásu-; going beyond Schlerath’s own arguments, I venture to propose that both forms *ásu– and *ásura– are derived from the root *as– (Indo-European *es-, that is, *h 1 es-). For more on Indo-Iranian *asu– (Indic ásu-, Iranian ahu-), see pp. 118ff.
[ back ] 54. Cf RigVeda 5.31, where Indra is represented as driving the chariot of the sun (stanza 11) as he repels the darkness (stanza 3, etc.), and where he specifically makes his chariot go pravát– ‘downstream’ = ‘forward’: [ back ] índro ráthāya pravátaṃ kr̥ṇoti [ back ] RigVeda 5.31.1 [ back ] Indra drives the chariot forward [ back ] At Rig-Veda 1.18.3, Indra’s chariot is described as pravátvant– ‘moving downstream’. Elsewhere in the RigVeda, as at 7.50.3, pravát means not the downstream specifically but simply the stream: here ‘downstream’ is further specified as nivát-, as opposed to udvát– ‘upstream’. Just as the unmarked path of the sun is simply the path of the sun, so also the unmarked downstream is simply the stream. One need specify ‘downstream’ only in opposition to ‘upstream’: otherwise it is just ‘stream’.
[ back ] 55. On the word devá– ‘god’, see p. 94n53. It is in the precarious nighttime context of the sun’s direction reversed that Savitr̥ is euphemistically called sunīthá– ‘heading in the good direction’ (RigVeda 1.35.7, 10). It is precisely in this ambivalent context (1.35.10) that Savitr̥ is called Asura (on which see again n53).
[ back ] 56. The patterns that I have found in answer to this question, as I outline them in what follows, are clearly not the only ones attested in Indic traditions. Again I refer to Witzel 1984.
[ back ] 57. On the word devá– ‘god’, see again p. 94n53.
[ back ] 58. Cf. the semantics of sunīthá– ‘heading in the good direction’ (RigVeda 1.35.7, 10), as discussed at p. 95n55.
[ back ] 59. See pp. 94ff.
[ back ] 60. Since Savitr̥ is called Asura specifically in the context of his movements (Rig-Veda 1.35.10), it is important to stress that Pūṣan, too, is called Asura (5.51.11). See again p. 94n53.
[ back ] 61. There is a cognate theme in Greek traditions: the sun rises from and sets into the Okeanós ‘Ocean’ (e.g. Iliad VII 421-423 and VIII 485 respectively), visualized as a cosmic river that surrounds an Earth that is round and flat; for further discussion, see N. 1979a.195ff. In the death wish of Penelope, Odyssey xx 61-65, the thūmós ‘spirit’ after death is visualized as traveling to the far west, where it is plunged into the Okeanos: see p. 237. This plunge implicitly parallels the plunge of the sun itself: p. 246.
[ back ] 62. For further discussion of this theme: pp. 147ff.
[ back ] 63. Cf. also RigVeda 8.44.16, 10.2.7, 10.46.9.
[ back ] 64. Cf. RigVeda 1.143.2, 3.2.13, 6.6.2, etc.; cf. also Agni’s common epithet Vaidyuta ‘he of the vidyút– [lightning]’ in the Brāhmaṇa-s.
[ back ] 65. See pp. 94n53.
[ back ] 66. According to the TaittirīyaBrāhmana (, Prajāpati became Savitr̥ and created the universe.
[ back ] 67. This creation of all things by Apām Napāt is done asuryàsa mahnā́ ‘with the greatness of Asura-power’ (Rig-Veda 2.35.3). Like the sun-god Savitr̥, Agni too is called Asura (4.2.5, 5.15.1, 7.2.3, etc.).
[ back ] 68. Just as the Indic Apām Napāt uses the greatness of Asura-power (see n67), so too the Iranian Ap*m Napå is called bǝrǝsantǝm ahurǝm ‘the high Ahura’ (Yasna 2.5, etc.). On the Indic/Iranian correspondence os Asura/Ahura, see p. 94n53.
[ back ] 69. The context of the epithet ‘having swift horses’ is this: the fire-god Ātar and the demon Dahāka have been fighting to a standstill over xvarǝnah– ‘brilliance of glory’; then Apąm Napå, the auruuaṯ-aspa- ‘having swift horses’, seixes the xvarǝnah– and takes it to the bottom of the Ocean. For parallel themes in Persian epic traditions, most notably in the Shāhnāma of Ferdowsi, see Davidson 1985.88-103. For Celtin parallels, see Dumézil 1973.21 and following.
[ back ] 70. Cf. the Laconian custom of sacrificing horses to Helios the sun-god on a peak of Mount Taygetos (Pausanias 3.20.4). On the solar symbolism of horses in Greek mythology: N 1979a.198-200, 209-210 § 50n2.
[ back ] 71. See p. 97.
[ back ] 72. On a cognate theme in the Iliad: N 1979a.209-210 §50n2.
[ back ] 73. Also in the AtharvaVeda, there is an explicit distinction between the Agni-s of the waters and the Agni-s of lightning (3.21.1, 7;; 8.1.11;12.1.37).
[ back ] 74. Cf. Bergaigne 1878 1:17, Oldenberg 1917.113-114.
[ back ] 75. For a survey of the etymological possibilities of óṣa-dhī ‘plant’, including the one chosen here, see Minard 1956.268. For more on this etymology, see p. 150n.25.
[ back ] 76. Macdonell 1897.71.
[ back ] 77. On the etymology of aráṇi as the ‘nurturing, nourishment’ of the fire, see p. 156.
[ back ] 78. See Dumézil 1954.34-35.
[ back ] 79. Cf. Dumézil p. 42n43.
[ back ] 80. Cf. Oldenberg 1917.281-283.
[ back ] 81. Dumézil 1954.33-34. Cf. p. 146ff. below.
[ back ] 82. Cf. Oldenberg 1917.347-348.
[ back ] 83. See p. 103.
[ back ] 84. See p. 103.
[ back ] 85. See p. 104.
[ back ] 86. Quoted at p. 103.
[ back ] 87. See again p. 103.
[ back ] 88. On the etymology of aráṇi-, which reveals a semantic parallelism with yóni-, see pp. 156ff.
[ back ] 89. The details of the tabula and the brazen cribrum will be taken up at pp. 168-169, where this same passage will be reexamined at greater length.
[ back ] 90. See p. 103.
[ back ] 91. See p. 105.
[ back ] 92. See Dumézil 1954.30.
[ back ] 93. Schulze 1966 [1918].189-210.
[ back ] 94. For further details: Dumézil 1961.252-257.
[ back ] 95. Dumézil 1954.27-43.
[ back ] 96. On the vájra-: pp. 192, 197.
[ back ] 97. On the Indo-Iranian pedigree of the theme conveyed by vájrabāhu-: Benveniste 1968.74.
[ back ] 98. See pp. 99-100.
[ back ] 99. See Rönnow 1927, esp. p. 178.
[ back ] 100. On whom see p. 94n53.
[ back ] 101. On whom see again p. 94n53.
[ back ] 102. Lévi 1966 [1898].120. See also p. 70 above.
[ back ] 103. Cf. p. 105.
[ back ] 104. Lévi 1966 [1898].121. Also p. 70 above. See Christensen 1916 for further documentation of the ubiquitous mythological type that equates the first man with the first sacrificer. In this connection we may note that Mánu-, the name of the primordial Indic man, is cognate with English man. In Germanic lore, as we hear from Tacitus (Germania 2), the first man was Mannus, son of Tuisto; the etymology of the latter name reveals the meaning ‘twin’, and we may compare the meaning of Yamá-, Manu’s “brother”; it is likewise “twin’. For documentation, see Güntert 1923.315-343; also Puhvel 1975. On the variation between brother-brother and father-son dyads, see further Davidson 1987.
[ back ] 105. Cf. Lévi p. 121.
[ back ] 106. See p. 87.
[ back ] 107. Keeping in mind not only the connection between Indic mánas– and Mánu– as ‘man’ (see n104) but also the cognate relationship of mánas– with Greek ménos (μένος), we note that the ménos ēú (μένος ἠύ) of Patroklos at Iliad XXIV 6 is in collocation with his androtḗs ‘manhood’ (ἀνδροτῆτά τε καὶ ηένος ἠύ).
[ back ] 108. The following verses of this stanza present a variant theme that is beyond the scope of this presentation—one that I hope to examine in a projected study of the óṣadhí.
[ back ] 109. In the Brāhmaṇa -s, the sacrificial South Fire of the pitṛ-s ‘ancestors’ is designated as Vāyu, name of the wind-god (TaittirīyaBrāhmaṇa, etc.), and Vāyu frequently forms a triad with Agni and Sūrya the sun-god (Taittirīya-Saṃhitā 3.1.6b, 3.2.4h, etc.). The association of the South Fire with the pitṛ-s is “natural” because their abode is the highest point in the sky (cf. p. 96), and this position in the Northern Hemisphere can be represented as south in terms of east and west. Further details in Hillebrandt 1927 1:103nn2, 3.
[ back ] 110. See pp. 92ff.
[ back ] 111. We note that Telemachus gets the ménos placed in his thūmós (Odyssey i 320); elsewhere in Homeric diction, thūmós can function not only as the localization of ménos but also as its synonym (see pp. 87ff.).
[ back ] 112. N 1974a.266-269. See also p. 210n22 below. On Greek and Hittite thematic parallels from the same root, cf. Watkins 1985b.
[ back ] 113. Cf. Schmitt 1967.115.
[ back ] 114. See p. 93.
[ back ] 115. Cf. also the name of the epic character discussed at p. 87n14.
[ back ] 116. See p. 114.
[ back ] 117. See p. 112.
[ back ] 118. In this connection, let us recall that ménos in Homeric diction applies not only to heroes like Patroklos but also to horses (see p. 114). At Iliad XVII 456, moreover, Zeus blows ménos into horses that are immortal and that belong to Achilles himself. Further discussion in N 1979a.209-210 § 50n2, where I argue that Xanthos the immortal horse of Achilles is presented by the Iliad as a model of solar rebirth. Xanthos and the other horses of Achilles are represented on the Münster Hydria (see p. 88n20), and it is argued by Stähler (1967.44ff.) that these horses function there as symbols for the death of Patroklos. In view of the semantic range inherited by the word ménos, which extends to the sun itself (Iliad XXIII 190), I would add that these same horses also function as symbols for the afterlife of Patroklos and of Achilles. Cf. RigVeda 2.35.6, as quoted at p. 101.
[ back ] 119. For documentation, see Rohde 1898 1:247-249, esp. pp. 248-249n1. In view of Rohde’s analysis of hero cult as a transformation of ancestor worship in the context of the polis or city-state (see p. 93 above), we may compare the word tritopátores (τριτοπάτορες e.g. Photius s.v., Suda s.v.), as discussed by Rohde, with the Linear B word ti-ri-se-ro-e = *tris hērōei (dative; Pylos tablets Fr 1204, Tn 316.5); cf. Homeric trìs mákar (τρὶς ηάκαρ), as discussed by Sacconi 1960.171ff.
[ back ] 120. See p. 87.
[ back ] 121. See p. 114.
[ back ] 122. See p. 112.
[ back ] 123. See p. 114.
[ back ] 124. Quoted at p. 97.
[ back ] 125. See pp. 100ff.
[ back ] 126. Schlerath 1968.149.
[ back ] 127. Schlerath p. 149. Cf. EWA 147.
[ back ] 128. Schlerath pp. 147-148, 152.
[ back ] 129. Quoted immediately above.
[ back ] 130. Quoted immediately above.
[ back ] 131. Quoted immediately above.
[ back ] 132. On whom see p. 94n53.
[ back ] 133. Quoted immediately above.
[ back ] 134. See p. 117.
[ back ] 135. On which see p. 114.
[ back ] 136. See p. 87.
[ back ] 137. Schlerath 1968.153.
[ back ] 138. See pp. 93ff.
[ back ] 139. For more on es-thlós (ἐσθλός): Watkins 1972, 1982b.

Chapter 5. The Death of Sarpedon and the Question of Homeric Uniqueness

It has been argued often, and in many ways, that the poetry of Homer is unique, transcending his poetic heritage. The point of departure for this presentation is a confrontation with one such argument, concerning the meaning of the Homeric expression kléos áphthiton ‘fame…imperishable’ at Iliad IX 413, cognate with the Indic expression śrávasákṣitam ‘fame…imperishable’ at Rig-Veda 1.9.7. I stress, at the very beginning, my own conclusion about these two expressions, following a long series of previous works leading to the same conclusion: [1] that Greek kléos áphthiton and Indic śrávasákṣitam are reflexes of a common Indo-European poetic expression. [2] An article concerning these two cognate expressions, however, stresses the differences between the Greek and the Indic contexts, concluding that the Homeric vision of imperishable fame is distinct and therefore unique to Homer. [3] In {122|123} reacting to this conclusion, I shall argue that, even if the Homeric expression kléos áphthiton ‘fame…imperishable’ has a distinctive meaning in comparison with the corresponding Indic expression, such distinctiveness can be explained nonetheless in terms of the actual traditions inherited by Homeric poetry. In other words, the themes underlying the Homeric expression kléos áphthiton, even if they have become semantically specialized in the overall context of the Iliad, may still reflect an Indo-European heritage. I shall also argue that these themes center on the concept of immortalization, transcending concerns about material wealth and security. Finally, I shall examine in detail, as further illustration of these themes, the Homeric story about the death and funeral of the Anatolian hero Sarpedon, as narrated in Iliad XVI.

Let us begin with the kléos ‘fame’ that Achilles predicts will he áphthiton ‘imperishable’ for him, in the sense that the reputation of this hero as conferred by epic poetry will survive him and last forever: [4]

εἰ μέν κ’ αὖθι μένων Τρώων πόλιν ἀμφιμάχωμαι,
ὤλετο μέν μοι νόστος, ἀτὰρ κλέος ἄφθιτον ἔσται·
εἰ δέ κεν οἴκαδ’ ἵκωμαι φίλην ἐς πατρίδα γαῖαν,
ὤλετό μοι κλέος ἐσθλόν, ἐπὶ δηρὸν δέ μοι αἰὼν
ἔσσεται, οὐδέ κέ μ’ ὦκα τέλος θανάτοιο κιχείη

Iliad IX 412-416
If I stay here and fight in the siege of the city of the Trojans,
my homecoming [nóstos] is destroyed, but my fame [kléos] will be imperishable [áphthiton].
But if I return home to the beloved land of my ancestors,
then my genuine fame [kléos] is destroyed, but I will have a lengthy lifetime [aiṓn],
and my end in death will not overtake me quickly.

By contrast, it seems at first glance that the śrávas ‘fame’ for which the priests are praying in stanza 7 of Hymn 1.9 of the Rig-Veda is to be ákṣitam ‘imperishable’ only in the sense that it should last for a lifetime. In this instance, it has been claimed, the fame is contemporary, manifested in {123|124} “secure material possessions, festive celebrations, long life.” [5] The same claim is made for the related Indic expression ákṣiti śrávas at Rig-Veda 1.40.4, 8.103.5, 9.66.7. [6]

If, then, we are to defend the basic idea that Greek kléos áphthiton and Indic śrávasákṣitam are reflexes of a common Indo-European poetic expression, we must confront such claims of semantic differences between them. Let us for the moment concede that these differences do in fact exist. On the basis of such posited differences, it has been argued that “the Vedic pattern may actually be closer to the original meaning of the formula.” [7] According to this argument, the emphasis on material security in the context of Indic śrávas…ákṣitam follows an Indo-European model, whereas the context of Greek kléos áphthiton in the Iliad supposedly represents something of a Homeric innovation, as we witness Achilles deliberately rejecting the material security of a nóstos ‘homecoming’ (the word is used at IX 413) in favor of a transcendent “fame,” a poetic tradition that will survive him and will sing his glory forever.
This view concerning the distinctness of kléos áphthiton in Iliad IX 413 is at odds with the one that is advanced in my monograph on Greek and Indic meter, where I take the position that not only the Greek kléos áphthiton but also the Indic śrávasákṣitam convey the transcendent notion of a poetic tradition that will last forever, beyond today’s material wealth and security, and that this notion is in fact an inherited Indo-European poetic theme. [8] The disagreement can best be summed up by observing two different interpretations of viśvā́yur, one of the three epithets—besides ákṣitam—that qualify śrávas ‘fame’ at lines b and с of Rig-Veda 1.9.7. [9] Whereas I translate viśvā́yur as ‘everlasting’, [10] it has been suggested that the more appropriate rendering would be ‘lasting our lifetime.’ [11] Two other epithets are cited in support of the second interpretation: at line a of the same stanza, Rig-Veda 1.9.7 śrávas is also {124|125} qualified as vā́javat ‘rich in booty’ and gómad ‘rich in cattle’. It seems pertinent that Achilles himself, speaking of booty in general and mentioning cattle in particular at IX 406-407, goes on to say that all the booty that could be seized from Troy or Delphi is not worth as much as his own life (IX 401-405, 406-409), but that he will nevertheless lose his life in order to get something else that is indeed worth it, namely, kléos áphthiton (IX 413). By contrast, the śrávasákṣitam of Rig-Veda 1.9.7 is manifested precisely in the material security of booty in general and cattle in particular.
This disagreement over interpreting the Indic word viśvā́yur as epithet of śrávas ‘fame’ could be resolved by considering the etymology of the element –ā́yur, derived from –ā́yu-/ā́yus-, a noun meaning ‘lifetime’ on two levels, the human and the cosmic. In an important article, Emile Benveniste establishes the formal relationship of this Indic noun, along with its Greek cognate aiṓn, also meaning ‘lifetime’, with such other words as Greek aieí ‘forever, always’, Latin aeternus ‘eternal’, Avestan yauuaētāt– ‘eternity’, and so on. [12] It is not without interest that Greek aiṓn ‘lifetime’ occurs at Iliad IX 415, in the context of contrasting, on the one hand, the kléos that will outlast Achilles (Iliad IX 413) and, on the other, the material security that would be his if he went home (IX 414; the theme of material security here is made explicit at IX 400). The nóstos ‘homecoming’ of Achilles (IX 413) is associated with material security as expressed by aiṓn (IX 415), and yet, to repeat, this same word aiṓn is related to another word aieí which actually means ‘forever’! Moreover, the formulaic combination áphthiton aieí is attested in Homeric diction (II 46, 186; XIV 238), and there is even an instance of the combination kléos áphthiton aieí in archaic piece of poetry inscribed in the seventh century B.C. (κλεFος απθιτον αιFει: DGE no. 316).
It seems safe to conclude, then, that from the standpoint of the Indo-European language family the notion of material wealth and security is not incompatible with the notion of eternity. To put it another way: the transcendent notion of eternity is actually visualized in terms of the material. Thus, for example, the word aiṓn, which is to be realized for Achilles in his possession of material wealth after a safe homecoming, has a built-in temporal sense by virtue of designating the vital force that keeps one alive and without which one would not be alive. [13] The notion of ‘duration’ extends to ‘age’, ‘generation’, with an open-ended perspective on the future: the cosmic vital force maintains an unending succession of generations, as we see clearly from the semantics of the Latin {125|126} cognate aetas/аеternus. [14] The Greek adverb aieí corresponding to the noun aiṓn is ‘forever’ in the original sense of a perpetual starting over (e.g. Iliad I 52). [15] Such a perpetual starting over can be described as an “eternal return.” [16]
Moreover, the theme of personal immortalization is conventionally expressed in archaic Greek poetry by images of material wealth and security: witness the epithet ólbioi ‘blessed’ (from ólbos ‘wealth’) as applied to the immortalized heroes of the fourth generation of mankind (Hesiod Works and Days 172). [17] To cite another example: when the mortal Ino becomes immortalized as the White Goddess after death, she gets a bíotos ‘life’ that is áphthitos ‘imperishable’ (Pindar Olympian 2.29). [18] Similarly, whenever one’s aiṓn is threatened by destruction, this threat can be expressed by verbs with root phthi– ‘perish’ (Odyssey v 160, xviii 204). Further, just as áphthito– ‘imperishable’ can express personal immortalization, it can combine with kléos ‘fame’ to express the perpetuity of the poetic tradition that glorifies the one who is immortalized. Thus, for example, Ino not only gets a bíotos ‘life’ that is áphthitos ‘imperishable’: she also gets a kléos ‘fame’ that is, again, áphthitos (Hesiod F 70.7 MW).
By contrast, Achilles must give up his aiṓn ‘lifetime’ (IX 415), dependent on his nóstos ‘return, homecoming’ (IX 413), if he is to achieve a kléos that is áphthiton (IX 413). And yet, the word aiṓn, to repeat the conclusions of Benveniste, conveys the theme of an “eternal return.” [19] This theme of returning into an afterlife is also pertinent to the word nóstos ‘return, homecoming’, as the work of Douglas Frame has shown. [20] Here, then, is the basic difference between the kléos áphthiton of Iliad IX 413 and the śrávas…ákṣitam of Rig-Veda 1.9.7: Homeric poetry has separated not so much the theme of material wealth from the theme of perpetuity but rather the theme of personal immortalization from the theme of immortalization by way of poetry. Achilles is in effect saying {126|127} that he chooses immortality as conferred by the Iliad over immortality as conveyed by the material visualizations of aiṓn and nóstos. [21]
The point remains, however, that the themes of material wealth and security, as conveyed by the epithet áphthito– ‘imperishable’, are in fact compatible with the themes of transcendent personal immortalization. [22] If the kléos áphthiton ‘fame…imperishable’ of Achilles is to be considered distinct, it is so only to the extent that this hero of the Iliad places the importance of his being immortalized by epic even higher than the importance of his own personal immortalization.
This is not to say, however, that the theme of personal immortalization is minimized by Homeric poetry. Given the specialized value system of Achilles, we may note that the Iliad itself provides the backdrop of a more generalized outlook where the theme of personal immortalization is clearly not incompatible with the theme of immortalization by epic in general and by the Iliad in particular. The case in point is the death and funeral of the Lycian hero Sarpedon, as narrated in the Iliad.
In considering this narrative about Sarpedon, I shall adduce three general principles established in three distinct fields, each of which has a direct bearing on the question of Homeric uniqueness. The fields are: (1) archaeology, (2) comparative linguistics, and (3) the study of “oral poetry.” I propose to outline the three principles field by field, and then to correlate them with the passage describing the death and funeral of the hero Sarpedon, Iliad XVI 419-683.
First, we consider archaeology. We have already seen that the eighth century B.C., the era in which the Iliad and Odyssey were reaching their ultimate form, is as important for our understanding of Homeric poetry as is the late second millennium B.C., the era that provides the overt {127|128} subject matter for both of these epics. [23] What archaeology tells us is that the Hellenic institution of hero cults is shaped in the eighth century B.C., the same era that shaped the Iliad and Odyssey. [24] As Erwin Rohde emphasizes, the hero as a figure of cult must be local because it is a fundamental principle in Greek religion that his supernatural power is local. [25] On the other hand, the hero as a figure of epic is pan-Hellenic and consequently cannot have an overtly religious dimension in the narrative. [26] Such a restriction on the self-expression of Homeric poetry led Rohde to misunderstand the elusive evidence of the Iliad and Odyssey on heroes as cult figures. His belief was that the general Homeric silence on the subject of hero cults implies an absence of even the ideological background. [27] And yet, even Rohde had to admit that a central scene like the Funeral of Patroklos in Iliad XXIII preserves pervasive and unmistakable signs of cult. [28]
In fact, a general argument can be made that Homeric poetry is permeated with references—direct as well as oblique—to heroes in their religious dimension as figures of cult. [29] For the moment, however, I confine myself to citing the one central scene that Rohde himself acknowledged as just such a reference. This scene, the Funeral of Patroklos in Iliad XXIII, happens to be an ideal point of transition to the second of the three principles to be considered in evaluating the narrative about the death and funeral of Sarpedon in Iliad XVI. This time the field is comparative linguistics. As for the principle in question, the briefest of summaries will suffice: as we have already seen, not only is the Greek language cognate with other Indo-European languages such as Hittite and Indic, but also various Greek institutions are cognate with the corresponding institutions of other peoples speaking other Indo-European languages. [30] The case in point is one particular set of details where the evidence about a Greek institution can be matched with corresponding evidence attested in other societies with an Indo-European linguistic heritage. I refer to the Funeral of Patroklos in Iliad XXIII, as compared with the royal funerary rituals that are recorded in official Hittite documents. [31] The convergences in detail between the Iliadic scene and the standard Hittite ritual are so strikingly close as to {128|129} suggest a common Indo-European heritage. [32] When we add the comparative evidence of funerary rituals and ancestor worship in the Indic traditions, the thesis of a common Indo-European heritage is further reinforced. [33]
The relevance of the Hittite and the Indic comparative evidence to the archaeologist’s perspective cannot be emphasized enough: for instance, the evidence of cognate Hittite and Indic procedures in cremation makes obsolete the archaeological controversy over the cremation of Patroklos. Since inhumation seems to have been the standard procedure for the Hellenic people in the second millennium B.C., with cremation becoming common only in the first millennium, the cremation of Patroklos and other heroes in Homeric poetry has been interpreted as a phenomenon characteristic of the first millennium from the archaeological point of view. [34] The evidence of comparative linguistics, however, suggests that the procedures of cremation as attested in Homeric poetry are in fact so archaic as to reflect customs going back to a time even before the entry into Greece, in the beginning of the second millennium, of the Indo-European language that ultimately became the Greek language. [35] To put it another way: the literary testimony of Homeric poetry is in this case far more archaic than the archaeological testimony of Mycenaean civilization.
This is not to say, however, that the evidence of comparative linguistics on matters of ritual simply bypasses the second millennium B.C. I cite the Greek word therápōn, which is a borrowing, sometime in the second millennium, from one of the Indo-European languages spoken at that time in the area of Anatolia. [36] The given language may have been Hittite, Luvian, or some unattested near-relative, but in any case the evidence that we have for the word that was borrowed as therápōn comes primarily from Hittite: there the word appears as tarpan(alli)- or tarpašša-, corresponding to Greek therápōn and its by-form theráps respectively. In Hittite the word means ‘ritual substitute’. The entity requiring substitution is as a rule the king himself, and tarpan(alli)-/tarpašša-his alter ego (“un autre soi-même”), a projection upon whom the impurities of the king and of the community that he represents may be ritually transferred. [37] Here again the evidence is applicable to the death and {129|130} funeral οf Patroklos; there is a Greek reflex of the Hittite semantics in the Iliadic application of the title therápōn to Patroklos (Iliad XVI 244, etc.), the hero who was killed while wearing the armor of Achilles and who functions in the Iliad as the actual surrogate of Achilles. [38]
Mention of the Greek word therápōn is pertinent to the focus of this presentation in what follows, namely, the death and funeral of Sarpedon in Iliad XVI. We shall have occasion to see the deployment of another key word that is, again, of Anatolian origin, and again this word conveys the ritual dimension of the hero in epic. Before we can examine the word in question, however, the actual tradition of the Sarpedon story in the Iliad has to be defended. Some influential Homerists have cast doubt upon the authenticity of this tradition, arguing that the death of Sarpedon in Iliad XVI is a derivative story modeled on the death of Memnon as reflected in the Aithiopis. [39] This point of view has been seconded on an iconographical as well as literary basis by those who argue that the theme of the dead Memnon’s removal by Eos is a basic and pervasive tradition among the Hellenes, and that the parallel theme of the dead Sarpedon’s removal by Apollo seems by comparison marginal and flawed by artistic inadequacies. [40]
Such a line of argumentation, however, misses one of the most basic principles to be learned from the fieldwork of Milman Parry and Albert Lord in the realm of “oral poetry.” This principle is also the third and last of the three principles to be considered and then applied to the Iliadic passage describing the death and funeral of Sarpedon. To put it briefly: in oral poetry, a given theme may have more than one version or variant, but such multiplicity of thematic variants does not mean that any one of them is somehow basic while the others are derivative. In terms of any operating system of oral poetics, each thematic variant is but a multiform, and not one of any variants in a given isolated grouping may be treated as a sort of Ur-form. [41] The same principle applies also to the study of myths in general. In the case of the Sarpedon story, to prove that it has artistic inadequacies that do not exist in the Memnon story is not the same thing as proving that one was modeled on the other. Each multiform can be expected to have its own inadequacies, and all we can say is that some may have more inadequacies than others. But even this value judgment may be a matter of cultural bias: it is possible that the very criteria of adequacy and inadequacy are in this and other instances {130|131} too narrowly based on the vantage point of one particular multiform that has for whatever reason become canonical.
The kind of reasoning that leads to the discounting of one variant as an invention based on another variant is but a symptom of a more general oversight that commonly afflicts the study of Homer; in our struggle to come to terms with the concept of “oral poetry,” we tend to forget something more fundamental, that oral poetry is traditional poetry. An oral poet does not make up stories: rather, he retells stories that his audience has heard before and expects to hear again. As Albert Lord observes, “The picture that emerges is not really one of conflict between preserver of tradition and creative artist; it is rather one of the preservation of tradition by the constant re-creation of it. The ideal is a true story well and truly retold.” [42]

With these thoughts in mind, we are ready to consider the Greek word of Anatolian origin that occurs in the lliadic passage telling of the death and funeral of Sarpedon, son of Zeus himself. After this prominent Lycian prince dies at the hands of Patroklos, the plan of Zeus is that Apollo should remove his body by having the twins Húpnos ‘Sleep’ and Thánatos ‘Death’ convey it to his homeland of Lycia (Iliad XVI 454-455, 671-673). At this point, the following sequence of events is to happen:

ἔνθα ἑ ταρχύσουσι κασίγνητοί τε ἔται τε
τύμβῳ τε στήλῃ τε · τὸ γὰρ γέρας ἐστὶ θανόντων

Iliad XVI 456-457 = 674-675
and there his relatives and comrades will give him a funeral [verb tarkhúō]
with a tomb and a stele, for that is the privilege of the dead.

The conventional translation, ‘give a funeral to’, for the verb tarkhúō is inadequate, as we shall presently see. If indeed this story of Sarpedon—as also other Homeric stories—is a faithful retelling of a genuine tradition, then its Lycian setting assumes added significance. As it happens, the Lycian language is Indo-European in origin and closely related to Hittite and Luvian. In Lycian, there is a word trqqas, which designates a god described as one who smashes the wicked; [43] this form is directly related to Luvian Tarḫunt-, which is the name of the storm-god who is head of the Luvian pantheon. [44] There is also a Hittite version, attested as {131|132} Tarḫu– in theophoric names; it is also attested as the adjective tarḫu-, meaning ‘conquering, victorious’. [45] This whole family of noun-formations stems from the verb tarḫ– ‘conquer, overcome’, which can be reconstructed as the Indo-European root *terh2-. [46]

To sum up the point of this brief etymological survey: all indications are that the Greek verb tarkhúō is a second-millennium borrowing from an Anatolian language, and that the form borrowed was something like tarḫu– ‘conquering, victorious’. This explanation of tarkhúō has been tentatively accepted in Pierre Chantraine’s authoritative Dictionnaire étymologique de la langue grecque. [47]

We are still left, however, with the problem of translating Greek tarkhúō. Since the form tarḫu-, as we have seen, can designate a divinity in the Anatolian languages, Chantraine follows Paul Kretschmer’s example in interpreting the Greek expression ἔνθα ἑ ταρχύσουσι at Iliad XVI 456 = 674 as ‘and there they will treat him like a god’. [48] We may compare the Hittite expression designating the death of a king or queen in the royal funerary ritual: DINGIRLIMiš kišat ‘[he or she] becomes a god’. [49] The adverb ἔνθα ‘there’ in the Greek expression ἔνθα ἑ ταρχύσουσι refers to the dêmos ‘district’ of Lycia (Iliad XVI 455, 673; cf. 683). [50] I draw attention to this word dêmos in the context of the aforementioned fact that cult is a localized phenomenon in archaic Greek religion. I also draw attention to the following Homeric expression involving this same word dêmos:

…θεὸς δ’ ὣς τίετο δήμῳ

Iliad V 78, Χ 33, XI 58, XIII 218, XVI 605
…and he got tīmḗ [honor] in the dêmos, like a god

The verbs tī́ō/tīmáō ‘honor’, and the corresponding noun tīmḗ ‘honor’, are crucial, since one of their uses in Greek is to designate the ‘honor’ that a god or hero gets in the form of cult; this usage is not recognized as a distinct category in the dictionary of Liddell and Scott, although it is richly attested in the language of archaic poetry and prose. [51] If indeed {132|133} cult is also implied in the Homeric formula presently under consideration, then we could immediately justify Chantraine’s interpretation of ἔνθα ἑ ταρχύσουσι at Iliad XVI 456 = 674 as ‘and there they will treat him like a god’: in the dêmos of Lycia, Sarpedon will get tīmḗ ‘honor’ just as a god would. [52]

What still stands in the way, however, is that the Homeric formula θεὸς δ’ ὣς τίετο δήμῳ ‘and he got tīmḗ [honor] in the dêmos, like a god’ applies in each attestation to a hero who is still alive, whereas Sarpedon has already died. In fact, the procedure designated by the verb tarkhúō at Iliad XVI 456-674 is equated at Iliad XVI 457 = 675 with the procedure of providing the dead Sarpedon ‘with a tomb and a stele, for that is the privilege of the dead’. We should keep in mind the archaeological evidence of the second millennium B.C. and thereafter, which suggests that a tomb and a stele are indeed standard features that mark the burial of the dead. [53] The problem is, how to reconcile this perspective of the hero as an apparent figure of cult with that of the hero as a figure of epic?
The solution to this problem, I suggest, lies in the actual contexts of the formula announcing that a given hero ‘got tīmḗ [honor] in the dêmos, like a god’ (Iliad V 78, X 33, XI 58, XIII 218, XVI 605). In each of these contexts, the hero appears in the function of either priest or king:
  • V 77-78          Dolopion as priest of Skamandros
  • X 32-33          Agamemnon as king of all the Argives
  • XI 58-60         Aeneas as grouped with the Antenoridai; at II 819-823 he and the Antenoridai are described as joint leaders of the Dardanians
  • XIII 216-218   Thoas as king of the Aetolians
  • XVI 604-605   Onetor as priest of Zeus Idaios

The sacral aspect of priests is in these cases overt, but not that of kings. As we turn from Homeric to Hesiodic poetry, however, we find an overt attestation showing that kingship is not only sacral but also intrinsic to the hero as a cult figure who gets his due tīmḗ.

The passage in question is the Hesiodic description of the Gold and Silver Generations of mankind, Works and Days 109-142. As Erwin Rohde has shown, the essence of the Gold and Silver Generations is that {133|134} together they form a complete picture of the generic cult hero. [54] A review of the manifold details would go far beyond the scope of this presentation, [55] and I confine myself here to the themes of kingship and tīmḗ.

After the death of the Gold Generation is narrated (Works and Days 116, 121), they are described as possessing what is called the géras basilḗion ‘honorific portion of kings’ (γέρας βασιλήιον 126). We have already seen the word géras ‘honorific portion, privilege’ in a context where it designates the funerary honors accorded to the corpse of Sarpedon—honors that included the procedure designated by the verb tarkhúō:

ἔνθα ἑ ταρχύσουσι κασίγνητοί τε ἔται τε
τύμβῳ τε στήλῃ τε· τὸ γὰρ γέρας ἐστὶ θανόντων

Iliad XVI 456-457 = 674-675
and there his relatives and comrades will give him a funeral [verb tarkhúō]
with a tomb and a stele, for that is the privilege of the dead.

It is worth noting in this connection that the Gold Generation ‘died as if overcome by sleep’ (θνῇσκον…ὥσθ’ ὕπνῳ δεδμημένοι Works and Days 116), whereas the corpse of Sarpedon was flown to Lycia by Húpnos ‘Sleep’ and Thánatos ‘Death’, who are described as “twins” (Iliad XVI 672). Since the word géras ‘honorific portion, privilege’ in Hesiodic diction and elsewhere represents a specific manifestation of tīmḗ (as in Theogony 392-396), [56] we can correlate what is said at Works and Days 126 about the Gold Generation’s royal géras with what is said later about the Silver Generation: after the death of this next generation is narrated, they are described as

δεύτεροι, ἀλλ’ ἔμπης τιμὴ καὶ τοῖσιν ὀπηδεῖ

Hesiod Works and Days 142
second in rank—but nevertheless they too get tīmḗ.

The irony here is that the Silver Generation, which represents the nega{134|135}tive and latent side of the cult hero, earned an untimely death from Zeus for the following reason;

οὕνεκα τιμὰς
οὐκ ἔδιδαν μακάρεσσι θεοῖς οἳ Ὄλυμπον ἔχουσιν

Works and Days 138-139
because they did not give tīmḗ [plural] to the blessed gods who control Olympus.

This theme, that a hero gets tīmḗ even though he failed to give tīmḗ to the gods, is a key to understanding the religious ideology of god-hero antagonism, but a proper treatment of this subject would again go far beyond the scope of this presentation. [57] It will suffice for now to observe that the Silver Generation’s failure to give tīmḗ to the gods is in part equated with their failure to make sacrifice to them:

ὕβριν γὰρ ἀτάσθαλον οὐκ ἐδύναντο
ἀλλήλων ἀπέχειν, οὐδ’ ἀθανάτους θεραπεύειν
ἤθελον οὐδ’ ἔρδειν μακάρων ἱεροῖς ἐπὶ βωμοῖς,
ἣ θέμις ἀνθρώποισι κατ’ ἤθεα

Hesiod Works and Days 134-137
for they could not keep wanton outrage [húbris]
from each other, and they were unwilling either to be ministers to [verb therapeúō] the immortals [58]
or to sacrifice on the altars of the blessed ones ,
which is the socially right thing for men, in accordance with their local customs.

In other words, the factor of tīmḗ is here expressed directly in terms of ritual sacrifice.

Our survey of formulas involving the concepts of tīmḗ and dêmos leads to the following conclusion: the hero who gets tīmḗ from the dêmos is said to be “like a god” because he is thereby being treated as a cult figure. In Homeric poetry, of course, the generic hero is predominantly a figure of {135|136} epic, and his dimension as figure of cult has to be latent—basically because he is still alive. Once he is dead, however, the perspective may change, as in the case of Sarpedon: the verb tarkhúō, designating what his relatives and comrades do to the dead hero, conveys the notion that he is being treated like a god—which is the epic way of saying that he is being treated like a cult figure.
It does not follow, however, that we may dismiss as poetic fancy the traditional notion that a hero is being treated like a god by virtue of getting tīmḗ from the dêmos. The institution of hero cult is visualised, from the religious standpoint of the institution itself, as a form of immortalization after death. In the Homeric Hymn to Demeter, for instance, the young hero who is protégé of the goddess loses his chance to be exempt from death (verses 260-264) but is offered as compensation a tīmḗ that is áphthitos ‘imperishable’ (verse 263). [59] In the following three verses, the ritual form of this tīmḗ is then actually made explicit: the youths of Eleusis will hold a festival of mock battles at a given season every year for all tīmḗ to come (265-267). In other words, the cult hero is being awarded the permanent institution of a yearly ritual in his honor. [60] It is not without interest that the name of this young protégé of Demeter who becomes a cult hero is Dēmophóōn (e.g. 234), which apparently means ‘he who shines for the dêmos’. [61]
If we now contrast Demophon as hero of cult with Achilles himself as a hero of epic, we can see more clearly the Homeric perspective on the very nature of being a hero. Whereas Demophon gets as compensation for his mortality a tīmḗ that is áphthitos ‘imperishable’, Achilles says that he will get as compensation for his own untimely death a kléos ‘fame’ that is áphthiton ‘imperishable’ (Iliad IX 413). As we have already seen, this word kléos designates the ‘fame’ that a hero gets specifically by way of poetry. [62] The ultimate hero of the Iliad is in effect saying that he will be immortalized by his own epic tradition. We have here the essence of the Homeric perspective: the theme of a hero’s immortalization has been shifted from the realm of cult to the realm of epic itself. Accordingly, Homeric poetry tends not to speak in a direct fashion about immortalization because Homeric poetry presents itself as the very process of immortalization.

This is not to say, however, that Homeric poetry ignores the dimension of cult: rather, it places itself above cult. The kléos that the hero {136|137} earns in Homeric poetry by way of valor in battle serves to validate and even justify the tīmḗ, ‘honor’ that he gets at home from his dêmos ‘district’. While he is still alive in the Iliad, Sarpedon himself says so:

Γλαῦκε, τίη δὴ νῶι τετιμήμεσθα μάλιστα
ἕδρῃ τε κρέασίν τε ἰδὲ πλείοις δεπάεσσιν
ἐν Λυκίῃ, πάντες δὲ θεοὺς ὣς εἰσορόωσι,
καὶ τέμενος νεμόμεσθα μέγα Ξάνθοιο παρ’ ὄχθας,
καλὸν φυταλιῆς ἀρούρης πυροφόροιο;
τῶ νῦν χρὴ Λυκίοισι μέτα πρώτοισιν ἐόντας
ἑστάμεν ἠδὲ μάχης καυστείρης ἀντιβολῆσαι,
ὄφρα τις ὧδ’ εἴπῃ Λυκίων πύκα θωρηκτάων
“οὐ μὰν ἀκλεέες Λυκίην κάτα κοιρανέουσιν
ἡμέτεροι βασιλῆες, ἔδουσί τε πίονα μῆλα
οἶνόν τ’ ἔξαιτον μελιηδέα‧ ἀλλ’ ἄρα καὶ ἲς
ἐσθλή, ἐκεὶ Λυκίοισι μέτα πρώτοισι μάχονται.”

Iliad XII 310-321
Glaukos, why is it that you and I get the most honor [verb tīmáō, from tīmḗ] of all,
with a special place to sit, with choice meats, and with full wine-cups,
in Lycia, and everyone looks at us as gods,
and we are allotted a great témenos [sector of land] at the banks of the Xanthos,
fine land, orchard and wheat-bearing ploughland?
And so it is our duty to take our stand in the front ranks of the Lycians, and to meet blazing battle head-on,
so that one of the heavily armored Lycians may say of us: “Indeed it is not without kléos that our kings
are lords of Lycia, who feed upon fat sheep
and drink choice sweet wine, since they have genuine strength
and since they fight in the front ranks of the Lycians.”

On one level, the examples of tīmḗ recounted by Sarpedon to Glaukos can function as attributes of a living epic hero who happens to be a king; on another level, however, each example can be matched with a corresponding sacral honor accorded to a cult figure. As we know from Greek religious practices attested in the historical era, cult heroes receive libations, [63] choice cuts of meat placed on a special table, [64] and {137|138} the allotment of a témenos in the sense of ‘sacred precinct’. [65]

From the standpoint of the Iliad, then, Sarpedon’s goal is to get a kléos that matches the tīmḗ that he already has at home in Lycia. From the standpoint of cult, however, this tīmḗ would be possible only after he dies, so that the epic perspective has the logical sequence reversed: by placing epic above cult, Homeric poetry allows the hero, even before he dies, to have the kind of tīmḗ that befits a cult hero. What he still has to earn by dying is kléos itself.
Sarpedon then goes on to say that he and Glaukos should be prepared to die in battle at Troy (Iliad XII 326-328), and that he would choose to escape from battle only if escaping entailed immortality (322-325). The implication seems to be that the welcoming of death may succeed in bringing immortality where the avoidance of death has failed: after all, both tīmḗ and kléos, which are in store respectively for the hero of cult and the hero of epic after death, are áphthito– ‘imperishable’ (τιμὴ…ἄφθιτος Homeric Hymn to Demeter 263; κλέος ἄφθιτον Iliad IX 413).
The same sort of implication can be found in the words of Hera at Iliad XVI 440-457, where she tells Zeus that he must not permit Sarpedon to escape death in battle and thus send him back home to Lycia alive (see especially line 445). Implicitly, Sarpedon would then have tīmḗ without having had to experience death. The exemption of Sarpedon from death in battle, Hera says to Zeus, would be without precedent: in her words, “beware lest some other divinity may wish to send his or her son back home, away from the battle” (Iliad XVI 446-447). Instead, Hera suggests, Zeus should let his own dear son die at the hands of Patroklos, after which Thánatos ‘Death’ and Húpnos ‘Sleep’ will take Sarpedon’s body back home to the dêmos ‘district’ of Lycia (XVI 450-455). Immediately after these verses, we come upon the verse that describes the ritual performed on Sarpedon’s corpse, as designated by the verb tarkhúō (XVI 456, repeated at 674). From the context of Hera’s words, we now see that the action conveyed by this verb is presented as a compensation for the death that Sarpedon must experience. From the other contexts that concern the theme of compensation for mortality, we also see that the verb tarkhúō entails the theme of immortalization after death—in a way that is yet to be defined. That is to say, the verb tarkhúō indicates not only that the relatives and comrades of Sarpedon will treat him like a cult figure but also that he will thereby attain some form of immortalization after death. [66] {138|139}
The explanation of tarkhúō that I have just offered is corroborated by the evidence of comparative linguistics. The Indo-European root *terh2-, which survives as Hittite tarḫ– ‘conquer, overpower, overcome’, also survives as Indic tar(i)- ‘overcome, cross over’, which takes the shape –tur– in compounds (e.g. aptúr– ‘crossing over the water’). The latter formation corresponds to the –tar– of Greek néktar, the substance that sustains the immortality of the Olympian gods; furthermore, the root nek– in néktar is the same as in Latin nex ‘death’ and Greek nékus/nehrós ‘corpse’. [67] Thus the word néktar must once have meant something like ‘overcoming death’; in fact, there is a kindred combination of concepts, even words, in archaic sacral Indic poetry, where the verb tar(i)- ‘overcome’ is actually attested in a context where mr̥tyú– ‘death’ is its direct object (AtharvaVeda 4.35.1d-6d). [68]
This evidence not only provides yet another argument for the heritage of an Indo-European poetic language. [69] More immediately, it also gives us a broader perspective on the semantics of Greek tarkhúō. To put it another way: the meaning of Greek –tar– in néktar, where the root is directly inherited from Indo-European, may help us comprehend the meaning of Greek tarkhúō, where the stem tarkhu– is indirectly inherited from Indo-European by way of a Greek borrowing from the Anatolian language family. [70] I draw special attention to the corresponding Anatolian form tarḫu– as it appears in Hittite tarḫu– ‘victorious’ and in Luvian Tarḫunt-, the name of the storm-god who is head of the Luvian pantheon—and who wields the thunderbolt: as his attribute. [71] Perhaps these formations convey the theme of overcoming not just evildoers or other such immediate obstacles, but also the ultimate obstacle of death itself. [72]
Let us look for a parallel in the figure of Zeus himself, head of the Greek pantheon and wielder of the thunderbolt in his own right. With {139|140} his thunderbolt, Zeus can cause both the death and the immortalization of heroes. We may take for example the poetic tradition that tells how Semele became immortalized as a direct result of dying from the god’s thunderbolt (Pindar Olympian 2.25, in conjunction with Hesiod Theogony 942). [73] Then there is the case of Herakles, son of Zeus, who is struck by the thunderbolt of his divine father and thereby elevated to Olympus as an immortal (Diodorus Siculus 4.38.4-4.39.1). [74] Finally, we may consider yet another son of Zeus, none other than the Lycian king Sarpedon, whose dead body undergoes a process designated by the verb tarkhúō. I submit that this process entails immortalization of the hero after death.
The fundamental difference, however, between the explicit immortalization of Herakles and the implicit immortalization of Sarpedon is that the first is narrated as an event on the level of myth whereas the second is narrated as an event on the level of ritual. Still, the myth and the ritual are complementary aspects of one ideology. The rituals of cult are a code that can convey the same message as that conveyed by the code of the myth. On a formal level, we can see most clearly the complementary function of myth and ritual in expressing the theme of immortality by considering the name Ēlúsion ‘Elysium’. We may turn to the renowned passage in Odyssey iv 561-569 where this name designates a special place of immortalization for heroes, and indeed the concept of Elysium has become a permanent fixture of Western civilization. But we seldom hear of what ancient commentators on Greek religion have to say about élúsion as a plain noun. In the Alexandrian lexicographical tradition (Hesychius s.v. Ἠλύσιον), the word is glossed as κεκεραυνωμένον χωρίον ἢ πεδίον ‘a place or field that has been struck by the thunderbolt’, with this added remark: καλεῖται δὲ καὶ ἐνηλύσια ‘and it is also called enēlúsia’. This definition is confirmed by the testimony of Polemon (F 5 Tresp), who explains that enēlúsion is a place made sacred by virtue of having been struck by a thunderbolt; also, the adjective enēlúsios is attested in Aeschylus TGF 17 as an epithet of the hero Kapaneus, who was struck dead by the thunderbolt of Zeus. [75] We may compare the semantic relationship of enēlúsios/enēlúsion with that of hierós/hierón ‘sacred’/’sacred place’. Moreover, the body of the thunderstruck Kapaneus is described as hieró– ‘sacred’ in Euripides Suppliants 935. [76] {140|141}
Besides Ēlúsion, there is also another example of a form that serves to designate both a place of immortalization on the level of myth and a cult site on the level of ritual. In Hesiod Works and Days 171 we hear of a place called Makárōn nêsoi ‘Islands of the Blessed’, where heroes who fought in the Theban and Trojan wars are immortalized after death (167 and following). [77] But there is also a tradition according to which the name Makárōn nêsos ‘Island of the Blessed’ was actually applied to the old acropolis of Thebes, the Kadmeion; specifically, the name designated the sacred precinct where Semele, the mother of Dionysus, had been struck by the thunderbolt of Zeus (Parmenides in Suda and in Photius s.v. Μακάρων νῆσος; Tzetzes on Lycophron 1194, 1204). [78]
Let us return for one last viewing of the corpse of Sarpedon. It is appropriate to notice that the Iliad contains other indications of his impending immortalization besides the verb tarkhúō at XVI 456 = 674. Each of these indications requires a discussion that would go beyond the scope of this presentation, and I will content myself with merely listing them as signposts for future elaboration:
  • Apollo bathes the body of the dead hero Sarpedon in a river (Iliad XVI 669 and 679). [79]
  • Apollo anoints the body of Sarpedon with ambrosíē ‘ambrosia’ (XVI 670 and 680) [80] and clothes it in vestments that are ámbrota ‘immortalizing’ (same line). [81]
The name Sarpēdṓn applies not only to the hero but also to various places associated with the mythological theme of abduction by winds or by birdlike Harpies. [82] This theme is expressed by way of various forms containing the verb-root harp– ‘snatch’ (as in hárpuia ‘Harpy’ and harpázō ‘snatch’), which may be formally connected with the element sarp– of Sarpēdṓn. [83] In this connection, I cite the following observation: “It is not too surprising that Homer makes Sarpedon the subject of the only big {141|142} snatch in the Iliad, though he transformed the carriers from lady birds to Sleep and Death, to match more familiar configurations of epic mortality.” [84]
The snatching of Sarpedon’s body by Húpnos ‘Sleep’ and Thánatos ‘Death’ (XVI 454, 672, 682) can he correlated with the manner in which the hero faints and dies. As in the case of other Homeric heroes, Sarpedon loses his psūkhḗ when he dies (XVI 453) as also earlier when he falls into a swoon from a terrible wound (V 696). Nowhere in Homeric poetry, however, is a hero ever described as regaining his psūkhḗ when he is revived from a swoon. [85] This rigorous stricture in Homeric diction implies that the reintegration of the psūkhḗ with the body is understood as immortalization, the overt expression of which is programmatically avoided in the Iliad and Odyssey. [86] Still, the manner in which Sarpedon recovers from his swoon seems to be a latent expression of this hero’s destiny of immortalization: Sarpedon is revived by a blast from Boreas the North Wind (V 697). We note that it was to a rock named Sarpēdṓn that Boreas snatched Oreithuia away (scholia to Apollonius of Rhodes 1.211 = Pherecydes FGH 3 F 145). [87]
Coming now to the end of this inquiry into the death of Sarpedon, we are left perhaps even more mystified than ever by this uncanny Anatolian analogue of a Herakles. There are so many ramifications waiting to he explored that this presentation amounts to a set of questions more than answers. But this much at least is certain: Homeric epos is a repository of secrets about life and death—secrets that it will never fully reveal. In the case of Sarpedon, his Anatolian heritage allows a glimpse behind the veil of Homeric restraint—and the secrets are almost given away. {142|143}


[ back ] 1. For a thorough bibliographical dossier, see Schmitt 1967.61-71.
[ back ] 2. N 1974a, esp. pp. 140-149, 244ff. On the metrical factors that may be involved in the tmesis of śrávas and ákṣitam, see N 1979b.630n6.
[ back ] 3. Floyd 1980. The germ of the present chapter is derived from the article N 1981, which was written in response to Floyd’s arguments. There is another article that goes further than Floyd, Finkelberg 1986 (who cites Floyd 1980 but not N 1981a), claiming that the Homeric expression kléos áphthiton at Iliad IX 413 is not even an inherited formula. For a critique of Finkelberg, see [A.T.] Edwards 1988; also Watkins 1989. In response to Finkelberg’s argument that kléos áphthiton as used at Iliad IX 413 is not a “self-contained unit,” I point to the discussion in N 1974a.104-109, where the relationships that link the phrase-types κλέος ἄφθιτον ἔσται (as at IX 413), κλέος ἔσται (as at VII 458), and κλέος ἄφθιτον (as at Sappho F 44.4 V) are explored from the perspective of a less narrow understanding of “formula.” I agree with Finkelberg that κλέος ἄφθιτον ἔσται at IX 413 is coefficient with κλέος οὔποτ’ ὀλεῖται as at II 325. I can also accept the possibility that κλέος οὔποτ’ ὀλεῖται does not occur at IX 413 because ὤλετο is already present at the beginning of the line. But I disagree with her inference that the presence of κλέος ἄφθιτον ἔσται instead of κλέος οὔποτ’ ὀλεῖται at IX 413 is an innovation; it could be an archaism that survives precisely for the stylistic purpose of avoiding word duplication. As a general approach to poetics, I suggest that allowance should always be made for the possibility that more archaic forms can be activated in situations where the more innovative device is inappropriate. For an illuminating discussion of the usage of relatively older and newer forms in poetics see Meillet 1920.
[ back ] 4. See N 1974a.244-255.
[ back ] 5. Floyd 1980.135.
[ back ] 6. Floyd p. 135.
[ back ] 7. Floyd p. 139.
[ back ] 8. N 1974a.244-255. For an effective answer to those who question the antiquity of this theme, see Risch 1987, esp. p. 4, where he points out a crucial oversight on the part of most experts who have expressed their views on the Greek epithet áphthito– ‘imperishable’ and its Indic cognate ákṣita-. Cf. also Watkins 1989.
[ back ] 9. I follow Schmitt 1967.19n114 and 73n446 in interpreting the form viśvā́yur at RigVeda 1.9.7 as the neuter of viśvā́yus-, agreeing with śrávas ‘fame’, rather than viśvā́yu-, supposedly agreeing with índra. Granted, there are passages where viśvā́yu– is indeed attested as agreeing with índra– (e.g. RigVeda 6.34.5), but there are also clear attestations of neuter viśvā́yus– (Wackernagel and Debrunner 1939.291; concerning the tendency for –ā́yu to be displaced by –ā́yus– in the second part of compounds, see Wackernagel and Debrunner 1954.479). For a reading of viśvā́yur at RigVeda 1.9.7 as agreeing with índra, see Watkins 1989.
[ back ] 10. N 1974a.110.
[ back ] 11. Floyd 1980.136n6.
[ back ] 12. Benveniste 1937. Not cited by Floyd 1980.
[ back ] 13. Benveniste p. 109.
[ back ] 14. Benveniste pp. 105, 109.
[ back ] 15. Benveniste pp. 105, 109.
[ back ] 16. Benveniste p. 100.
[ back ] 17. See N 1979a.169-170 §30n2. On heroes as portrayed in the Works and Days, cf. also Vernant 1985.101, 104, 106. I interpret the μὲν at line 166 of the Works and Days as parallel to μὲν at lines 122, 137, 141, 161, not to μὲν at line 162 (pace West 1978.192). The discussion of cyclical regeneration at N pp. 168-172 is in line with Benveniste’s notion (p. 112) that aiṓn is visualized as the synthesis of the finite and the infinite in the form of a circle.
[ back ] 18. See N pp. 175 § 1n4, 203 § 41n2.
[ back ] 19. Benveniste 1937.110
[ back ] 20. Frame 1978. See also pp. 92ff.; the discussion here of the relationship between nóos/nóstos and psūkhḗ is pertinent to the expression ψυχὴ πάλιν ἐλθεῖν ‘that the psūkhḗ come back’ at Iliad IX 408. The observations of Frame pp. 145-152 about the links between the themes of immortality and cattle in Indo-European poetic traditions are pertinent to the discussion above of the epithet gómad ‘rich in cattle’ at RigVeda 1.9.7.
[ back ] 21. For more on the Iliadic theme of Achilles’ immortalization by way of epic, see n 1979a.174-210. Note, too, that the hero Odysseus, unlike Achilles, achieves both a kléos and a nóstos (N pp. 36-41). From this point of view at least, the epic about Odysseus may indeed be considered to be closer to the Indo-European pattern. Moreover, in light of the connotations of the epithet ólbioi ‘blessed’ as discussed above, we may note in passing the expression lāoì… | ólbioi at Odyssey xi 136-137, mentioned in the context of Odysseus’ ultimate ‘homecoming’: the setting of Odysseus’ future death implies rebirth into an Elysian status, parallel to the status of the immortalized heroes on the Islands of the Blessed (as at Hesiod Works and Days 172, cited above). For other aspects of the theme of rebirth in the Odyssey, see Newton 1984.
[ back ] 22. In the course of arguing that kléos áphthiton is a Homeric innovation, Finkelberg 1986.5 asserts that the application of áphthito– to an “incorporeal entity” like kléos ‘fame’ is a “semantic innovation”; at p. 4 she argues that, on the grounds that áphthito– applies mostly to “material objects,” the “concrete associations of the term must have been the original ones.” I question such a weighing of statistical predominance in determining what is “original.” And I point out a salient feature, not noted by Finkelberg, in the contexts where áphthito– applies to “material objects”: the concrete associations are otherworldly ones (cf. N 1974a.244-255).
[ back ] 23. See pp. 9-10.
[ back ] 24. See pp. 10-11.
[ back ] 25. Rohde 1898 1:184-189.
[ back ] 26. Cf. N 1979a, esp. p. 342.
[ back ] 27. For a sensible critique, see Hack 1929.
[ back ] 28. Rohde 1898 1:14-22.
[ back ] 29. N 1979a.69-117.
[ back ] 30. See p. 2.
[ back ] 31. As edited by Otten 1958.
[ back ] 32. See p. 85.
[ back ] 33. See p. 85.
[ back ] 34. E.g. Andronikos 1968.76.
[ back ] 35. As I stressed in ch. 4, I do not claim that cremation was the definitive Indo-European funerary ritual. I argue only that cremation was clearly one of perhaps several different types of Indo-European funerary ritual.
[ back ] 36. Van Brock 1959; cf. N 1979a.33, 292-293; also p. 48 above.
[ back ] 37. Ban Brock p. 119.
[ back ] 38. Householder and Nagy 1972.774-776; cf. also Sinos 1980 and Lowenstam 1981.
[ back ] 39. E.g. Schadewaldt 1965.155-202.
[ back ] 40. Clark and coulsen 1978.
[ back ] 41. Cf. Lord 1960.100.
[ back ] 42. Lord p. 29.
[ back ] 43. Laroche 1958.98-99; Heubeck 1959.32-35.
[ back ] 44. Laroche pp. 98-99; cf. Watkins 1974.107.
[ back ] 45. Laroche pp. 90-96.
[ back ] 46. Laroche p. 96. Also Watkins 1990.
[ back ] 47. DELG 1095.
[ back ] 48. DELG 1095; Kretschmer 1940.103-104.
[ back ] 49. Otten 1958.119-120.
[ back ] 50. For the semantics of dêmos as ‘district’, see DELG 273-274; by extension, the word comes to mean ‘people of the district’ (e.g. Odyssey vii 11).
[ back ] 51. Prose: cf. the use of tīmḗ at Herodotus 1.118.2 (cult of god) and 1.168 (cult of hero); cf. also the use of tīmáō at 1.90.2, 2.50.3, 2.75.4, 5.67.4-5. Poetry: cf. the use of tīmḗ in the Homeric Hymn to Demeter 311-312, where the theme of the gods’ getting “honors” is correlated explicitly with the observance of their cults by mortals (also lines 353, 366-369); for commentary, see Richardson 1974.260-261. For more evidence from poetry, see Rudhardt 1970.6-7. See also in general Rohde 1898 1:99n1.
[ back ] 52. See Kretschmer 1940.104 on the later literary and epigraphical evidence for the local cult of Sarpedon and Glaukos as heroes in Lycia. In Lycian Xanthos, there is also epigraphical evidence for a dêmos ‘deme, district’ named Sarpēdónios (Kretschmer p. 104).
[ back ] 53. Andronikos 1968.114-121.
[ back ] 54. Rohde 1898 1:91-110.
[ back ] 55. I have attempted such a review in N 1979a.151-173.
[ back ] 56. Benveniste 1969 2:43-50.
[ back ] 57. See N 1979a.118-150.
[ back ] 58. The use of therapeúō ‘be a therápōn [minister]’ may have deeper significance. As Sinos 1980 has shown, the therápōn in Homeric narrative is an inferior look-alike who can function as the equal of his superior look-alike and thus be invulnerable—so long as he serves him. Once he leaves his superior look-alike and acts on his own, however, the therápōn loses his invulnerability and dies, thus fulfilling his function as ritual substitute; see p. 48 above.
[ back ] 59. On the semantics of áphthito-, see pp. 124ff.
[ back ] 60. Richardson 1974.245-248.
[ back ] 61. Fuller discussion in N 1979a.181-182. In Greek vase inscriptions, the form ΔΕΜΟΦΑΟΝ is actually attested: see Richardson pp. 236-237.
[ back ] 62. See p. 26.
[ back ] 63. Burkert 1985.194, 205.
[ back ] 64. On the practice of trapezṓmata, see Gill 1974. Sarpedon’s royal diet of mutton (Ili ad XII 319) may be correlated with archaeological discoveries at Eretria showing that sheep are the usual victims sacrificed to heroes (see Hadzisteliou Price 1973.136).
[ back ] 65. On the témenos as a sacred precinct, see Burkert 1985.84-87; on the precincts of Pelops and Pyrrhos, see Burkert 1983.93-103 and 119-120, respectively.
[ back ] 66. This interpretation can be extended to the only other Homeric attestation of tarkhúō besides Iliad XVI 456 = 674, namely, Iliad VII 85. The dead body in this case is that of the hypothetical hero who is to answer Hektor’s challenge to fight whoever is the “best of the Achaeans” (see VII 50) in one-to-one combat (VII 67-91). Elsewhere, I argue that the words of Hektor ironically apply to Achilles himself (N 1979a.26-41), and that Achilles himself is destined for personal immortalization in alternative epic traditions that are implicitly recognized by the Iliad (N pp. 174-210 and 317-347).
[ back ] 67. Thieme 1952. See also Schmitt 1967.186-192. The objections raised against this etymology have been convincingly refuted by Schmitt 1974.
[ back ] 68. Schmitt 1967.190.
[ back ] 69. Schmitt pp. 190-191; cf. Householder and Nagy 1972.771-772.
[ back ] 70. DELG 1094 at least allows for the possibility that the Greek word tárīkhos ‘smoked fish, mummy’ is a related borrowing. In Herodotus 9.120 the word is applied to the corpse of the hero Protesilaos, who in this context is believed to be endowed with supernatural powers. See N 1987c.
[ back ] 71. On Tarḫunt– and the thunderbolt, see Laroche 1958.95.
[ back ] 72. Cf. the contexts assembled by Laroche pp. 90-91.
[ back ] 73. In the Pindaric narrative, Semele’s abode of immortality is Olympus itself. See also Diodorus Siculus 5.52, Charax FGH 103 F 14.
[ back ] 74. Cf. Rohde 1898 1:320-322.
[ back ] 75. Burkert 1961.
[ back ] 76. Cf. also the testimony of the Thurian gold leaves at A1.4, A2.5, A3.5 (Zuntz 1971.301-305), where the persona of the dead man is represented as declaring in each instance that his immortalization was preceded by death from the thunderbolt.
[ back ] 77. On the association, at Hesiod Works and Days 172, of the word ólbioi with the heroes who inhabit the Islands of the Blessed, see N 1979a.170 §30n2.
[ back ] 78. Burkert 1961.212n2.
[ back ] 79. Cf. the theme of the “baths of Okeanos” at Iliad XVIII 489 = Odyssey v 275, as discussed in N 1979a.201-204. In the case of Iliad XVI 669 and 679 it is possible that these verses referred originally to the local waters of the Lycian river Xanthos (cf. Iliad II 877, V 479, VI 172).
[ back ] 80. Note that ambrosíē is used in Homeric diction as a synonym of néktar; in other words, ambrosia and nectar do not seem to be specialized always as food and drink respectively (see Schmitt 1974.158).
[ back ] 81. On the use of ámbroto– and its derivatives to designate the notion of ‘immortalizing’ as well as ‘immortal’, see Thieme 1952.
[ back ] 82. See Vermeule 1979.242n36 and 248n36 on the “Harpy Tomb” of Xanthos. On the theme of death/immortalization in the form of abduction by winds, see N 1979a.190-203.
[ back ] 83. On the morphology of –ēdṓn, see Risch 1974.61. More on Harpies at pp. 243ff. below.
[ back ] 84. Vermeule 1979.169.
[ back ] 85. See p. 90.
[ back ] 86. See pp. 90ff.
[ back ] 87. Cf. Vermeule 1979.242n36.

Chapter 6. The King and the Hearth: Six Studies of Sacral Vocabulary Relating to the Fireplace

In the Electra, of Sophocles, Clytemnestra dreams that Agamemnon has come back from the dead to the realm of light (417-419; ἐς φῶς 419). The king seizes the skêptron ‘scepter’ (σκῆπτρον 420) that had once been wielded by him, but which is now held by the usurper Aegisthus (420-421), and he places it firmly into the royal hearth, the hestíā (ἐφέστιον | πῆξαι 419-420). From the hearth, there then grows out of the scepter a shoot so vigorous that it covers with its shade all the kingdom of Mycenae (421-423). [1] The focus in the inquiry that follows is this very symbol of the hestíā ‘hearth’ as the generatrix of the authority that is kingship.
The general symbolism of the Greek noun hestíā and of the goddess Hestia, who is the personification of the hearth, has been studied by Jean-Pierre Vernant as a model of Greek society in general and of the family in particular. [2] Vernant draws our attention to the traditional themes of Hestia’s virginity (Homeric Hymn [5] to Aphrodite 21-32) and immobility (e.g. Homeric Hymn [29] to Hestia 3). [3] He explains these themes in terms of the exogamous and patrilocal ideology of Greek society at large. Whereas in real life women are as a rule mobile, being {143|144} shifted from hearth to hearth in the exogamous pattern of Greek marriages, myth presents an opposite image, that of the virginal and immobile goddess Hestia, who conveys the ideal, the myth, of an unbroken male line, an ever-renewed cloning of the father, by way of the paternal hearth. [4] On the level of family, the very legitimacy of generation, of reproduction, is warranted by the paternal hearth of the family. [5]
On the level of archaic Greek society in general, legitimacy is seen as a prolongation of the paternal line. Legitimacy is a global symbol for society, inasmuch as the body politic is embodied in kingship. The symbolism is at work in the vision taken from Clytemnestra’s dream, where the legitimate king is seen as sprouting from the hearth. And we must keep in mind that the Mycenaean Royal Hearth, as pictured in this dream, is destined to become the Public Hearth of the polis. [6] It is in fact a distinguishing feature of the Classical city-state that the Public Hearth is housed in the prutaneîon ‘presidential building’: [7] in Athens, for example, the arkhon’s authority is said to be derived from the Common Hearth (Aristotle Politics 1322b), and he actually resides in the prutaneîon (Aristotle Constitution of the Athenians 3.5). [8]
This symbolism of the Greek hestíā ‘hearth’ as the generatrix of authority is a matter of Indo-European heritage. Turning to the evidence of other Indo-European languages, specifically the hieratic diction of such disparate organizations as the Atiedian Brethren of Umbrian Iguvium and the Brahmans of the Indic Vedas, we shall find some striking convergences with the Greek model. Since we are dealing with societies that spoke cognate languages, I am encouraged to see in such convergences the actual traces of cognate religious attitudes, or even of cognate institutions.
The form that is central to my six studies of sacral vocabulary relating to the fireplace is the Indo-European root *h2es-. As a verb, *h2es- must have meant something like ‘set on fire’—or so we might infer from the comparative evidence of various Indo-European languages that we are {144|145} about to examine. Let us begin with the Hittites. Purely on phonological grounds, we may expect the root *h2es- to survive in the Hittite language as ḫaš-, and there is indeed an attested Hittite noun ḫašša– meaning ‘sacrificial fireplace’. [9] This noun, it is generally agreed, is related in form to Latin āra ‘sacrificial fireplace, altar’. [10]
The problem is, there is also a Hittite verb ḫaš– meaning not ‘set on fire’ but ‘beget’. [11] Despite this semantic anomaly, I propose to relate this Hittite verb has- ‘beget’ to the noun ḫašša– ‘sacrificial fireplace’. As I hope to show in due course, the actual context for a semantic relationship between the concepts of “beget” and “fireplace” may be latent in the heritage of myth and ritual.
There is a related problem, I suggest, in the semantics of the Hittite noun ḫašša-, meaning ‘king’, which has been connected in some studies with the verb has- ‘beget’. [12] In what follows, I shall be arguing that both this noun and ḫašša– ‘sacrificial fireplace’ are derived from the same Hittite verb has- ‘beget’. [13] Already at this point, we may note an analogous semantic relationship, even if we fail to understand as of now the precise application of the notion “beget.” The English noun king and the German cognate König stem from a Germanic formation *kuningaz. This noun is a derivative of *kun- (as in Gothic kuni ‘race, family’), a root with cognates in Latin gēns, genus, gignō, etc. [14] We may note especially the meaning of gigno as ‘beget’ (e.g. Ennius Annals 24S). As I also hope to show in due course, the actual context for a semantic relationship between the concepts of “beget” and “king” may be latent in the heritage of myth and ritual. {145|146}

Greek Hestia, Latin Vesta, Indic Vivasvat

According to Georges Dumézil, the root *u̯es- of Greek hestíā ‘hearth’ (ἑστία) and Latin Vesta, Roman goddess of the hearth, has a cognate in the Indic form vivásvat-. [15] The mythical figure Vivasvat (vivásvat-), as we have already seen, is the first person ever to receive fire on earth, by virtue of being the first sacrificer on earth; he is ipso facto the ancestor of the human race. [16] In Vedic diction, to say sádane vivásvataḥ ‘at the place of the Vivasvat’ (RigVeda 1.53.1, etc.) is the same as saying ‘at the sacrifice’. Vivasvat, father of Yama (10.14.5, 10.17.1), is formally and thematically cognate with a figure in the Zoroastrian Avesta, Vīvahvant-, father of Yima. Vīvahvant was the first person ever to prepare Haoma (Yasna 9.3-4). The association of Iranian Vīvahvant with Haoma is crucial because the Indic Vivasvat likewise has special associations with Soma (RigVeda 9.26.4, 9.10.5, etc.), and, further, because Soma/Haoma (from Indo-Iranian *sauma) constitutes the Indo-Iranian sacrifice par excellence. [17]

The Indic form vivásvat– is an adjective derived from the verb vas-, with the attested meaning ‘shine’. [18] The Vedic god of sacrificial fire, Agni himself, is called the Vivasvat at the morning sacrifice, as Uṣas the goddess of dawn appears (RigVeda 1.44.1, 7.9.3). [19] Uṣas the Dawn is in turn called the feminine equivalent, Vivasvatī:

dídr̥kṣanta uṣáso yā́mann aktór
vivásvatyā máhi citrám ánīkam

RigVeda 3.30.13
at the coming of Uṣas from the darkness,
they yearn to see the great shining visage of Vivasvatī

When the fire-god Agni begot the human race, his “eye” was vivásvat-:

imā́ḥ prajā́ ajanayan mánūnām
vivásvatā cákṣasā dyā́m ca apáś ca

RigVeda 1.96.2 {146|147}
he [Agni] begot this progeny of men [and]
with his shining [vivásvat-] eye, the sky and the waters

In Vedic diction, the causative stem janáya– is used indifferently to denote either ‘beget’ or ‘create’. For another example of janáya– in the sense of ‘create’, I cite the following verses, again concerning the fire-god Agni:

tvám bhúvanā janáyann abhí krann
ápatyāya jātavedo daśasyán

RigVeda 7.5.7
your sound is heard, as you create the world,
O Jātavedas [Agni], helpful for progeny

The macrocosmic principle inherent in Agni, god of sacrificial fire, is anchored in a belief that the rising of the sun is dependent on the kindling of the sacrificial fire. The sacrificers pray as follows:

ā́ te agna idhīmahi
dyumántaṃ devājáram
yád dha syā te pánīyasī
samíd dīdáyati dyávi

RigVeda 5.6.4
may we, Agni, kindle
your bright, ageless fire,
so that your wondrous brand
may shine in the sky

In fact, it is Agni whom the sacrifìcers implore to make the sun ascend the sky (RigVeda 10.156.4). The ŚatapathaBrāhmaṇa puts it even more bluntly ( without the morning sacrificial fire, there would he no sunrise. The macrocosmic cákṣas– ‘eye’ of Agni in the passage cited above, RigVeda 1.96.2, is clearly the sun (cf. also 6.7.6). With the sun, Agni ajanayat ‘created’ or ‘begot’ the world and mankind. To repeat, the epithet of this solar symbol cákṣas– is vivásvat-, derived from the verb vas– ‘shine’.

By now we have seen three important contexts for the adjective vivásvat– in Vedic poetry:

  • epithet of Agni, god of sacrificial fire
  • epithet of Agni’s eye, the sun, when he begot, mankind {147|148}
  • name of the first sacrificer on earth, ancestor of mankind

From these Vedic contexts of vivásvat-, then, it appears that the usage of the Indic verb vas– was appropriate to three parallel themes: the shining of the sun, the kindling of the sacrificial fire, and the begetting of progeny. Furthermore, as we have also seen, vas– implied creation as well as procreation.

To repeat, Dumézil argues that the root of this Indic verb vas– is cognate with the root *u̯es- of Greek hestíā ‘hearth’ (ἑστία) and of Latin Vesta, Roman goddess of the hearth. [20] Going beyond Dumézil’s position, we may consider the possibility that this root *u̯es- could be reconstructed further as *h2u̯es-, despite the absence of any phonological trace of word-initial *h2 before *u̯ in Greek *u̯estiā, whence hestíā ‘hearth’ (ἑστία). [21] This reconstruction is not essential to the main points still to be raised. Still, if it turns out to be valid, then the root *h2ues- of the Greek noun hestíā ‘hearth’ may possibly be interpreted as a variant of the root *h2es- as in the Hittite noun ḫašša– ‘hearth’—and, I would add, in the Hittite verb ḫaš– ‘beget’. Such a root-variation *h2es- vs. *h2u̯es-would be in line with an Indo-European pattern attested in a series of possible examples {148|149} shaped CeC(C)- vs. Cu̯eC(C)-. [22] To repeat: given that Indic vas– ‘shine’ conveys simultaneously the themes of the shining sun, the kindling of sacrificial fire, and the begetting of progeny, the reconstruction *h2u̯es- of this root, entertained here simply as a remote possibility, would make it a formal variant of *h2es-, as in Hittite ḫaš– ‘beget’ and ḫašša– ‘sacrificial fireplace’. [23]
The Indic verb vas– ‘shine’, which I have tentatively reconstructed as *h2u̯es-, has a noun-derivative uṣás– ‘dawn’, which in turn can be reconstructed as *h2us-os-. There is an e-grade variant, h2eus-os-, attested in Latin aurōra ‘dawn’ and in Greek aúōs/ēṓs (Aeolic αὔως/ Ionic ἠώς) ‘dawn’. [24] According to this scheme, there is a possibility that both Latin and Greek have words for the macrocosm of ‘dawn’ built from the root *h2eu̯s- and for the microcosm of ‘sacrificial fireplace’ built from the same root, but with a different configuration: *h2u̯es- as in Greek, hestíā (ἐστία) and Latin Vesta. [25] {149|150}

The semantic connection between the macrocosm of dawn and the microcosm of the sacrificial fireplace is explicit in the RigVeda, where the coming of dawn is treated as an event parallel to the simultaneous kindling of the sacrificial fire (1.124.1, 11; 5.75.9; 5.76.1; 5.79.8; 7.41.6; etc.). The link or dūtá– ‘messenger’ between dawn and the sacrificial fireplace is the fire-god Agni:

tvā́m íd asyā́ uṣáso vyùṣṭiṣu
dūtáṃ kr̥ṇvānā́ ayajanta mā́nuṣāḥ

RigVeda 10.122.7
at the lighting-up of this dawn [uṣás-],
men [= “descendants of Manu”] [26] have sacrificed, making you [Agni] the messenger [dūtá-]

In the stanza immediately following (RigVeda 10.122.8), the Vasiṣṭha-s (‘the Best’) are described as archetypal sacrificers who summoned Agni to the sacrifice. These same priestly Vasiṣṭha-s are also the first to waken Uṣas ‘Dawn’ with their songs of praise (7.80.1). Elsewhere in the RigVeda, it is Uṣas who awakens men for the morning sacrifice (e.g. 1.113.8-12), as opposed to the converse theme where the sacrificers awaken Uṣas:

yāvuyád dveṣasaṃ trā
cikitvít sunr̥tāvati
práti stómair abhutsmahi

RigVeda 4.52.4
by songs of praise, with awareness,
we awakened you [Uṣas]
who ward off the foe, O Sūnr̥tāvatī! [27] {150|151}

Radical *h2es- and Latin āra

Hittite ḫašša– is comparable in both form and meaning to Italic *āsā/*ăssā ‘sacrificial fireplace, altar’, as in Latin āra, Umbrian asa, Osean aasaí (locative). [28] The length of the radical vowel, guaranteed by Latin āra and Osean aasaí, may be a secondary Italic development. [29] If the original Italic root is *ăs-, we may then reconstruct *ăs(s)-ā- from *h2es(s)-oh2-, vs. *h2os(s)-o-, as in Hittite ḫašša-.
Also apparently related to Latin āra and Hittite ḫašša– is a series of Germanic derivatives nouns with root *as-/*az- (from *h2es-). The following list shows some of the most plausible examples:
  • Old Norse arinn ‘sacrificial fireplace’, from *az-ina- (cf. also the Finnish borrowing arina ‘hearthstone’);
  • German Esse ‘smith’s fireplace’ = ‘forge’, from *as-jōn; likewise Old High German essa, Old Norse esja (cf. also the Finnish borrowing ahjo ‘fireplace’);
  • English ash (es), from *as-kōn; likewise Old English aesce, Old Norse aska, Old High German asca.
For the meaning of English ashes, we may compare the Indic cognate, ā́sa– ‘ashes’. [30] This masculine noun can be reconstructed as *h2os-o-, {151|152} which also fits Hittite ḫašša– ‘sacrificial fireplace’. [31] For a parallel to the semantic contrast of ḫašša– ‘sacrificial fireplace’ vs. ā́sa– ‘ashes’, we may compare Lithuanian/Latvian pēlenas/pȩlns ‘domestic fireplace, hearth’ (singular) vs. pelenaĩ/pȩlni ‘ashes’ (plural).

Another possible reflex of the root *as- (from *h2es-) occurs in Greek ásbolos/asbólē, traditionally translated as ‘soot’. [32] A clear example is the following passage, where a woman is being blamed for laziness about her household tasks:

οὔτε πρὸς ἰπνὸν ἀσβόλην άλευμένη

Semonides F 7.61-62 W
Nor would she sit by the oven, [thus] avoiding the asbólē.
The preceding survey of noun-derivatives of root *h2es- points to the basic form of a verb. The intransitive sense of this verb, I suggest, is ‘be on fire’, as we may infer from the following correspondences in the Indic evidence:
  • kā́ma– ‘desire’   from   kam– ‘be desirous’
  • śā́ka– ‘power’    from   śak– ‘be powerful’etc.
  • ā́sa– ‘ashes’      from   *as- ‘be on fire’ (?)

We may consider the following semantic parallel in Lithuanian and Latvian;

  • pelenaĩ ‘ashes’  from   *pel- ‘be on fire’ [33]
  • pȩlni ‘ashes’
There is another possible attestation of root *h2es- as verb in Latin {152|153} ardeō, ardēre ‘be on fire’, which can be reconstructed as *ā̌s-edh- [34] plus stative suffix *-ē-. [35] Similarly, I reconstruct Latin āreō, ārēre ‘be dry’ as *ās plus stative suffix -ē-, without the segment *-edh-. We may compare the reconstructed doublet *ā̌s-edh- (ardeō, ardēre ‘be on fire’) vs. *ās- (āreō, ārēre) with Greek phlegéthō (φλεγ-έθ-ω) vs. phlegō (φλέγ-ω), both meaning ‘be on fire’; also the solar names Phaéthōn (Φαέθ-ων) vs. Pháōn (Φά-ων), both meaning ‘bright, shining’. [36] Within the semantic framework of cause, that is, fire, and effect, that is, no water, it is easy to imagine a development in the meaning of *ās-ē- from ‘be on fire’ from ‘be dry’. In Tocharian there is a verb as– (presumably from *h2es-) meaning ‘become dry’. [37] For another aspect of the semantic factor “no water” in *ā̌s-, we may consider the usage of the original participle of Latin ardēre, that is, assus, which means ‘roasted, broiled’, that is, ‘cooked without water’ as opposed to ēlixus ‘boiled’. [38]
An alternative reconstruction of ardēre, *ā̌si-dhē-, is disadvantageous because there is no convincing morphological justification for an *-i-. [39] Nor will it do simply to assume that ardēre is derived from āridus ‘dry’, by way of a syncope of –i-. In attested Latin, the formal and functional correlates of stative adjectives in –idus stative verbs in –ēre, not -(i)dēre:
  • calidus ‘hot’       calēre ‘be hot’        (calor ‘heat’)
  • tepidus ‘warm’   tepēre ‘be warm’    (tepor ‘warmth’)
  • āridus ‘dry’        ardēre ‘be on fire’   (ardor ‘burning’)

I fail to see how an adjective āridus meaning ‘dry’ could motivate a derivative ardēre meaning ‘be on fire’, especially when there already exists a stative verb ārēre meaning ‘be dry’: [40]

The semantic distinction between {153|154}
  • ardēre ‘be on fire’     from     *ā̌s-edh-ē-
  • ārēre ‘be dry’            from     *ā̌s-ē-

would be an illustration of Kuryɫowicz’s so-called Fourth Law of Analogy, [41] in that the more evolved form has the basic meaning and the basic form has the more evolved meaning. The basic form in this case, however, that is, *ā̌s-, may still retain the basic meaning of ‘burn’ in the noun-derivative ārea, which means ‘ground, space free of buildings or trees’. The association of this word with trees seems to be the earlier situation, as in the following context:

liber ab arboribus locus est, apta area pugnae

Ovid Fanti 5.707
the place is free of trees, an area suited for battle

Presumably, the ārea was originally a place where trees and bushes had been burned clear for the purpose of farming. We may compare Lithuanian ìšdagas ‘arable land’, derived from the verb dègti ‘burn’. [42]

Besides retaining the basic notion of ‘burn’ in the Latin nominal derivative area, the root *ā̌s- also retains this notion in the Latin noun-derivative āra ‘sacrificial fireplace, altar’; attested with the same meaning are the Oscan cognate aasaí (locative singular) and the Umbrian cognate asa. The Italic form *ā̌ssā-, which I reconstruct further as *h2es(s)oh2-, [43] is directly comparable with the Hittite form ḫašša– ‘sacrificial fireplace’, from *h2os(s)o-. [44]

Like Hittite ḫašša-, Latin āra is consistently associated with fire, as in this example:

adolescunt ignibus arae

Virgil Georgics 4.379
the altars light up with the fires {154|155}

The Oscan cognate of Latin āra, namely āsā-, is actually combined with an explicit adjectival derivative of pūr– ‘fire’ (cognate of Greek pûr– = πῦρ ‘fire’) in the locative phrase aasaí purasiaí ‘on a fiery āsā– (147 A 16, В 19 Vetter). We may compare, too, the Umbrian sacral formula pir ase antentu ‘let him put fire on the ā̆sā in the Iguvine Tables (IIa 19-20, III 22-23).

Latin altāria and adolēre

There is a latent trace of the connection between fire and Latin āra in the formation altāria ‘sacrificial fireplace, altar’. This neuter plural noun arose from an adjectival altāri-; the first part is traditionally connected with the root of adoleō, while the second is explained as the adjectival suffix –āli-, with dissimilation of the –l-. [45] Instead, I propose that altāria is a Bahuvrīhi compound meaning ‘whose *ā̌s- is nurtured’. I note the incidental explanation in Paulus ex Festo 5 ed. Lindsay: altare, eo quod in ilio ignis excrescit ‘called altāre because fire develops there’; to be contrasted is the folk etymology recorded in Paulus ex Festo 27: altaria ab altitudine dicta sunt ‘called altāria on account of the altitude’.
As justification for my interpretation of the alt– in altāría as the verbal adjective of alō ‘nurture’, I cite the common Latin expression ignem alere ‘nurture fire’, that is, ‘keep the fire going’. [46] The posited Bahuvrīhi compound *al-to- + *ā̌s-i- ‘whose *ā̌s- is nurtured’ has numerous morphological parallels in Indic, of the type hatámātr̥– ‘whose mother is killed’; [47] among the examples from the RigVeda, I single out the semantically crucial iddhā́gni– (1.83.4, 8.27.7), analyzed etymologically as *idhta– + *agni [48] and meaning ‘whose fire is kindled’. Some morphological parallels in Latin itself are such compounds as uersipellis ‘whose skin is changed [literally ‘turned’]’. In Plautus Amphitruo 123, Jupiter is so described for having assumed human form; elsewhere, uersipellis designates ‘werewolf (Pliny Natural History 8.34; Petronius 62). We may compare too the epithet altilāneus ‘whose wool is nurtured’, a specialized word used in the Acts of the Arval Brethren to describe sacrificial sheep {155|156} (a. 183 I 24 ed. Henzen). In Virgil Aeneid 12.169-170, a sacerdōs ‘priest’ is sacrificing an intosam bidentem ‘unshorn sheep’, and the setting is flagrantibus aris, ‘flaming altars’ (ārae). The Servian commentary adds (ad locam) the following explanation: quam pontífices altilaneam uocant ‘and the priests [pontífices] call it [the unshorn sheep] аltilānеа’. For the reconstructed notion of lānam alere ‘grow wool’ underlying the compound altilāneus, we may compare the attested notions of capillum alere ‘grow hair’ (Pliny Natural History 24.140) and pilos alere ‘grow hair’ (35.47).
As for the attested Latin notion of ignem alere ‘nurture fire’ = ‘keep the fire going’, I have found at least three parallels in the Indic traditions. The first of these is an abstract noun derived from *al- ‘nurture’, which has survived passim in the RigVeda with the specialized sense of designating the wood with which the fire is kindled. The word for such wood is aráṇi-. From the etymological point of view, I am proposing that the aráṇi– is the ‘nurturing, nourishment’ of the fire. [49] Since Latin alō can be used in the sense of ‘nurture [the embryo] within the uterus’ (e.g. Varro De re rustica 2.4.13, Gellius 12.1.6, Paulus ex Festo 8, etc.), it may be viewed as a comparable theme that the fire-god Agni of the RigVeda is born daily from firesticks called aráṇi-s (3.29.2, 7.1.1, 10.7.9, etc.). [50] Produced from the aráṇi-s, Agni is a newborn infant, hard to catch (5.9.3-4). [51] An epithet of Agni is mātaríśvan– (1.96.4, 3.5.9, 3.26.2), which means ‘swelling inside the mother’ (śvan– from śū– ‘swell’); as the Mātariśvan, Agni “was fashioned in his mother” (ámimīta mātári 3.29.11). [52] In short, I conclude that the aráṇi– is the alma māter, as it were, of fire. {156|157}
This theme brings us to the second of the three Indic parallels to the Latin notion of ignem alere ‘nurture fire’ = ‘keep the fire going’. There is a neuter noun alāta– ‘firebrand, coal’, attested for example in the Mahābhārata, which can be interpreted etymologically as ‘the nurturing one’, derivable from an earlier form *ala-. [53] As the third and final example, I note that the Indic root *al- survives in the post-Vedic word for ‘fire’, anala-, which has been interpreted as an original adjective meaning ‘insatiable’; [54] we may compare Greek ánaltos (ἄν-αλτος) ‘insatiable’, as in Odyssey xvii 228. There is ample thematic evidence that Indic poetic traditions represent fire as the prime insatiable element. [55] As long as a fire is kept going, it must be fed, and it always needs more: hence anala-, ‘the insatiable one’.
I reconstruct the –al– of Greek ánaltos ‘insatiable’ as *h2el- (the án– would reflect *n̥- added at a stage when initial *h2– was already lost). This root is also to be found in the causative formation *оl-éi̯-е/о- attested in Latin adoleō and Umbrian uřetu. [56] In the case of Latin adoleō, the sequence ol presents a phonological problem: word-medial ol should survive as ul, as we see from the borrowings crāpula from κραιπάλη and anculus from ἀμφίπολος. In archaic Latin, granted, we do see sporadic traces of ol for ul (popolom, Hercolei, etc.), but the consistency of the form adoleō and the total absence of *aduleō is puzzling. There is a similar crux with subolēs and indolēs. Faced with these phonological problems, one expert finds himself forced to assume morphological interference with phonological change, in that subolēs ‘offshoot’ and indolēs ‘inherent nature’ must be derivatives of olēscō ‘increase, be nurtured’. [57] In Festus 402 (ed. Lindsay), we read suboles ab olescendo, id est crescendo, ud adolescentes quoque, et adultae, et indoles dicitur ‘subolēs: from olēscō; as also adolēscentēs, adultae, indolēs’, an explanation followed by illustrative citations from Lucretius (4.1232) and Virgil (Eclogues 4.49).

We now turn to the actual meaning of adoleō, as also of Umbrian uřetu. Although this verb is visually translated as ‘burn’, Latin adoleō am be interpreted etymologically as ‘nurture’ in terms of a causative formation. As contextual affirmation of this etymology, let us test this transla{157|158}tion in the following passages, where we should note as well the consistent collocation of adoleō with derivatives of the root * ā̌s-:

cruore captiuo adolere tiras

Tacitus Annals 14.30
nurture the āra-s with the blood of captives

igne puro altaria adolentur

Tacitus Histories 2.3
the altāria are nurtured with pure fire

sanguine conspergunt aras adolentque altaria donis

Lucretius 4.1237
they sprinkle the ārа-s with blood and they nurture the altāria with offerings

castis adolet dum altaria taedis

Virgil Aeneid 7.71
while…nurtures the altāria with pure pitch-pine [58]

I propose that the idea behind these expressions involving adoleō is that the sacrificial fireplace is being “nurtured” by being kept lit with flames and, indirectly, with the material consumed by the flames. Where adol is actually combined with altāria, the collocation of –ol– vs. alt– can be said to reflect an inherited figura etymologica. We may compare the definition in Paulus ex Festo 5 (ed. Lindsay): altaria sunt in quibus igne adoletur ‘altāria are places in which there is adolēre with fire’. For the sense of “nurture,” we may compare the use of adoleō with penātēs, a name for the gods of one’s native sacrificial fireplace:

flammis adolere penates

Virgil Aeneid 1.704
to nurture the penātēs with flames

Servius explains (ad locum) that the verb adolēre is equivalent in usage to {158|159} augēre ‘increase’: adolere est proprie augere. We may compare, too, the formal opposite of abaleō, adaleō, meaning ‘cause to atrophy, check the growth of, abolish’.

In Umbrian, the causative formation *ol-éi̯-e/o- is attested in the sacral formula

pir persklu uřetu

Iguvine Tables III 12; cf. IV 30
with a prayer, let him nurture the fire
The  imperative uřetu corresponds formally to Latin (ad-)olētō; for the change from -l- to -ř-, we may compare Umhrian kařetu ‘let him call’, from *kal- as in Latin calāre ‘call’. Semantically, Umbrian pir…uřetu is comparable with the Latin combination ignem alere. [59]
In the case of Latin adoleō, its formal and functional connection with alō became eroded, so that the contextual association of adoleō with the notion of burning promoted a less restricted and etymologically inaccurate usage. Consequently, adoleō in the simple sense of ‘burn’ became capable of taking direct objects designating material meant to be burned, as in the following:

uerbenasque adole pinguis et mascula tura

Virgil Eclogues 8.65
burn fertile boughs and male frankincense
Besides the formation *ol-éi̯-e/o- of adoleō, which we are translating as ‘nurture’, Latin has also preserved a stative-intransitive type *ol-ē-, plus iterative suffix *-sk-e/o-, in the verb adolēscō ‘become nurtured, grow’; the stative-intransitive *ol-ē- is also attested in adolēfaciō ‘cause to be nurtured’, which occurs specifically in the context of thunderstruck trees in the Acts of the Arval Brethren (arborum adolefactarum, a. 224.16). Even the verb adolēscō is attested in the context of burning:

adolescunt ignibus arae

Virgil Georgics 4.379
the altars are nutured [= light up] with the fires
We may compare also the Swedish verb ala ‘be on fire’.
The participle of adolēscō ‘bесоme nurtured, grow’ had evolved in meaning to become adolēscēns ‘adolescent’, and in this function a clearly attested formal variant adulēscēns has been preserved. [60] Thus the function of the word as a noun tolerates the expected phonological development from ol to ul that is suppressed in the function of the word as an adjective, a participle.

Latin focus

Besides the designation of “sacrificial fireplace” by way of āra, a less specialized designation for “fireplace” is focus, which is attested in not only sacral but also domestic contexts:

inde panem facito, folia subdito, in foco caldo sub testu coquito leniter
Cato De re rustica 75
make a loaf, place loaves, and bake slowly on a warm hearth under a crock

In this case Cato is giving a recipe for making the cake called libum (cf. also De re rustica 76-2). Another clear example of focus meaning ‘domestic fireplace, hearth’ is the following:

munda siet. uillam conuersam mundeque habeat. focum purum circumuersum cotidie priusquam cubitum eat habeat
Cato De re rustica 143.2
She [the uilica ‘housekeeper’] must be neat, and keep the farmstead neat and clean. She must clean and tidy the hearth every night before she goes to bed.

As for the sacral rises of the focus, we may consider the testimony of Varro:

sane Varro rerum diuinarum refert inter sacratas aras focos quoque sacrari solere, ut in Capitolia Ioui lunoni Мinervuае, nес minus in plurimis urbibis oppidisque, et id tam publice quam priuatim solere fierinec licere uel priuata uel publica sacra sine foco fieri. quod hic ostendit poeta
Servius Auctus on Virgil Aeneid 3.134 {160|161}
Indeed, Varro (Rerum diuinarum) reports that amidst the ārae that are consecrated, focī too are regularly consecrated, as in the Capitolium to Jupiter, Juno, Minerva; likewise in most cities and towns; and that this is regularly done both publicly and privately;…and that it is not allowed to perform public or private sacrifices without a focus. Which is what the Poet [Virgil] shows here.

Varro’s report on the use of the focus in the Capitolium can be directly linked with the mention of the derivative word foculus in the Acts of the Arval Brethren, year A.D. 87: the setting is in Capitolio (a. 87 I 2), and the promagister of the brethren is presiding (I 2 and following); after the preliminary sacral proceedings (I 2- 7), “on the same day and in the same place” (eodem die ibidem in area I 18), the same promagister does the following:

ture et uino in igne in foculo fecit
Acts of the Arval Brethren a. 87 I 19 ed. Henzen
he made a sacrifice with incense and wine on the fire on the foculus

In the Acts of the Arval Brethren the uses of the āra and the foculus, both located in luco ‘in the grove’, are in complementary distribution when it comes to the sacrifice of pigs and cows: the porcae piāculāres are regularly immolated at the āra and the uacca honorāria, at the foculus. [61] We may compare the following statement:

quae prima hostia ante foculum cecidit
Valerius Maximus 1.6.9
the first sacrificial animal that fell before the foculus

Unlike the āra, the focus/foculus is optionally movable, [62] as the following passages attest:

adde preces positis et sua uerba focis

Ovid Fasti 2.542

add prayers and the appropriate words at the focī that are set down {161|162}posito tura dedere foco

Ovid Fasti 4.334

a focus was set down and they offered incense [63] crateras focosque ferunt

Virgil Aeneid 12.285
they take away the craters and foci
praetextatum immolasse ad tibicinem foculo posito
Pliny Natural History 22.11
to make an immolation while wearing the praetexta to the accompaniment of a reed-player, with a foculus set down
bona…conserauit foculo posito in rostris adhibitoque tibicine
Cicero De domo sua 123
he consecrated the possessions…,with a foculus set down at the rostra and with a reed-player summoned for the occasion
tu…capite uelato…foculo posito bona…consecrasti
Cicero De domo sua 124
you consecrated the possessions…with head veiled and with a foculus set down
Liberalia dicta, quod per totum oppidum eo die sedent sacerdotes Liberi anus edera coronatae cum libis et foculo pro emptore sacrificantes
Varro De lingua latina 6.14
Festival of Liber: throughout the town on that day, the priestesses of Liber, old women wearing ivy on their heads, sit with cakes and a foculus, and they sacrifice [the cakes] for any purchaser.

The nature of the focus/foculus is strictly ad hoc. In Cato’s De re rustica, for example, the foculus is catalogued simply as a rustic utensil (11.4, 16.3). Any place or thing on which a fire is started qualifies as a focus, as we see from the following summary: {162|163}

quidquid ignem fouet, focus uocatur, siue ara sit siue quid aliud in quo ignis
Servius on Virgil Aeneid 12.118
Whatever fosters [fouet] a fire is called a focus, whether it be an āra or anything else in which fire is fostered [fouetur]. [64]

Such a wide range of applications is also illustrated by the semantic development of Latin focus into the Romance word for “fire” itself, as in French feu, Italian fuoco, Spanish fuego, and so on.

In light of what we have already seen of this Latin noun focus, with its strikingly expansive semantic range of contextual settings, I bring this section to a close by taking note of a striking gap in the history of the Latin language. That is, there is no known etymology for focus. [65] Without making the results of the preceding observations on focus depend in any way on what now follows, I suggest that there may be an etymological connection between the noun focus, this premier word for ‘fireplace’, and the verb faciō, which not only means ‘do’ or ‘make’ in a secular dimension but also serves as a premier word for ‘sacrifice’ in the dimension of the sacred. This is not to say that focus can be explained as a direct reflex of a primary Indo-European noun-formation. Rather, the point is that focus may perhaps represent a secondary Italic noun-formation, just as the present tense of the verb faciō represents a secondary verb-formation. The -c- of the present-tense faciō is a secondary extension from the -c- of the primary perfect formation, fēcī, direct cognate of Greek thêka (θῆκα) ‘placed’. The inherited meaning of ‘set, put, place’, as explicitly preserved in the Greek cognate, helps explain the meaning of ‘sacrifice’ in faciō (e,g. Virgil Aeneid 8.189), and in the compound sacrificō (e.g. Plautus Poenulus 320). More important for now, it also helps explain the traditional collocations of focus with verbs meaning ‘set, put, place’, as we have seen immediately above in the list of contexts illustrating the movable nature of the focus. If we are to explain focus as a {163|164} noun somehow derived from the verb faciō, we have to posit the generalization of the secondary -c- as part of the verb-stem fac– at an early enough stage that it could generate noun-derivatives of the type focus. [66] Moreover, we would have to posit that the -o- of focus is secondary as well, since there seems to be no way to derive a sequence like foc– directly from the Indo-European root *dheh1(-k-)/*dhh1(-k-). Still, there is room for positing an Italic or even Latin stage of derivation, with the secondary -o- of focus being perhaps shaped by analogy. [67]

Umbrian ahti– and aso

Corresponding to Latin focus, the Umbrian word for “movable fireplace” is ahti-, [68] which is etymologically an abstract noun *ag-ti- meaning ‘carrying’ (from a verb cognate with Latin agō, agere); for the form and the semantics, we may compare Latin uectis ‘bolt, lever’, which is likewise an original abstract noun *u̯egh-ti- ‘carrying’ (from the verb attested as uehō, uehere). The usage of the word ahti– as ‘movable fireplace’ is not necessarily a feature of the Umbrian language in general: rather it is a specialized feature of the repertoire of sacral texts managed by the Atiedian Brethren of the Umbrian city of Iguvium, as recorded in the set of inscriptions known as the Iguvine Tables. The ahti– is central to the religious life of Iguvium, as is evident from the rites {164|165} described in Iguvine Tables III 1 and following. After pir ‘fire’ is kindled on the way leading arven ‘to the field’ (III 11-12), and after this fire is later placed ase ‘on the altar’ which is vuke ‘in the grove’ (III 21-22), then a sacrifice is made iuvepatre ‘to Jupiter’ at the right side of the altar (III 22-23) on behalf of the following:
  • fratusper atiieřies      ‘for the Atiedian Brethren’
  • ahtisper eikvasatis    ‘for the ahti-s eikvasatis
  • tutaper iiuvina           ‘for the people of Iguvium’
  • trefiper iiuvina           ‘for the tribus of Iguvium’ [69]

Such a hierarchy of values is a most dramatic illustration of the importance of the ahti– to the community. This Umbrian collocation of vuke ‘in the grove’/ase ‘on the altar’ with ahtisper ‘for the portable fireplaces’ is comparable to the Latin collocation of in luco ‘in the grove/in ara ‘on the altar’ with in foculo ‘on the portable fireplace’ in the Acts of the Arval Brethren. [70]

In what we have just seen quoted from the Iguvine Tables, the ablative plural ahtis is combined with the postposition –per, which is parallel to the Latin preposition prō ‘for, on behalf of’. This combination of ahti– and –per is semantically parallel to the Latin phrase prō ārīs focīsque, as in the following examples:

sibi pro aris focisque et deum templis ac solo in quo nati essent dimicandum fore
Livy 5.30.1
that they were going to have to fight it out on behalf of the ārae&focī, the sacred precincts of the gods, and the soil on which they were born
pro patria pro liberis pro aris atque focis suis cernere
Sallust Catiline 59.5
to fight it out on behalf of the patria, the household-members, and their ārae&foci {165|166}

We may also compare the highly emotional and affective tone of ārae&focī, as in Against Catiline 4.24; De domo sua 106, 143; In Pisonem 91; Pro Sestio 90; and so on.

The sacral importance of the movable fireplace in Umbrian society is apparent not only from the euphemistically abstract etymology of ahti– and from the importance of the ahti– in the hierarchy just quoted from Iguvine Tables 23-24; it is apparent also from the usage of the word in the Atiedian fire ritual. The Iguvine Tables contain two versions of this ritual, one written in the native Umbrian alphabet (Ib 10-16) and the other, in the Latin alphabet (VIb 48-53). A careful study of the parallel texts reveals several new details about the sacrificial fireplace in Italic ritual. For the sake of convenience, the texts are divided here into sections A’ to H’ (native alphabet) and A to H (Latin alphabet), on the basis of inherent divisions in subject-matter. In what follows, I print the Latin alphabet in italics, and the native alphabet in roman, marked off by brackets.

VIb 48-53
Ib 10-16A pone poplo afero heries
A’ {pune puplum aferum heries}When he wishes to perform a lustration
When you swish to perform a lustration of the peopleB avif aseriato etu
B’ {avef anzeriatu etu}He shall go and observe the birds
Go and observe the birdsCa ape angla combifianšiust
C’ {pune kuvurtus}when he has announced the angla
When you have returnedCb perca arsmatiam anouihimuHe shall put on the perca arsmatiaDa cringatro hatu
D’ {krenkatrum hatu}He shall hold the cringatro
Hold the {krenkatrum}Db destrame scapla anouihimuHe shall put it on the right shoulderE pir endentu
E’{enumek pir ahtimem ententu}He shall place fire
Then place the fire in the {ahti-}Fa pone esonome ferar pufe pir entelust
F’{pune pir entelus ahitmem}When that in which he has placed the fire is brought to the sacrifice
When you have placed the fire in the {ahti-}Fb ere fertu poe perca arsmatiam habiestThe one who has the perca arsmatia shall carry itFc erihont aso destre onse fertuThe same shall carry the aso on his right shoulderG ennom stiplatu parfa desua
G’ {enumek steplatu parfam tesvam}Then he shall pronounce a parfa-bird on the right
Then pronounce a {parfa}-bird on the right {166|167}H seso tote iiounine
H’ {tete tute ikuvine}For himself and the people of Iguvium
For yourself and for the people of Iguvium

Here ends the fire ritual. Then follows the banishment ritual at Acedonia, starting with ape acesoniamebenust ‘when he has come to Acedonia’ in the Latin alphabet (VIb 52-53), matched by {pune menes akeřuniamem} ‘when you come to Acedonia’ in the native alphabet (Ib 15-16).
There are several details to be noted about the fire ritual. To begin, the expression poe perca arsmatiam habiest ‘the one who has the perca arsmatia’ (Fb = VIb 50) is a tabu periphrasis occurring elsewhere, too (VIb 53, 63; VIIa 46, 51), to designate the arsfertur/{ařfertur}, who is the chief sacrificer in the cult of the Atiedian Brethren (VIa 2, etc.). Henceforth, he will be designated as “Adfertor,” the latinized equivalent of the Umbrian title. [71] The perca of the Adfertor is something that he wears, as is evident from the use of perca with anouihimu ‘put on, wear’ (Cb and Db, = VIb 49) and from its association with ponisiater/{puniçate} (VIb 51/Ib 15), a word apparently related to Latin pūniceus ‘dyed with purple’. [72] In the fire ritual described at Ib 10 and following, two officials called {prinuvatu} are to accompany the Adfertor, and they are to have {perkaf…puniçate} (Ib 15). Likewise, in the fire ritual described at VIb 48 and following, two prinuatur are to accompany the Adfertor, and they are to have percaponisiater (VIb 51); meanwhile, the Adfertor himself has perca arsmatiam (VIb 49, 50). The periphrasis designating the Adfertor as ‘the one who has the perca arsmatia’ is restricted to those parts of the Iguvine Tables that are written in the Latin alphabet. From those parts written in the native alphabet, the identity of the {ařfertur} with this man ‘who has the perca arsmatia’ (poe perca arsmatiam habiest) becomes obvious: in Ib 41-42 (native alphabet), it is the {ařfertur} who chases a sacrificial heifer while the two {prinuvatu} chase two; in VIIa 51-52 (Latin alphabet), the sacrificial heifers are chased by poe perca arsmatiam habiest ‘the one who has the perca arsmatia’ and the prinuatur.
In the parallel texts for the fire ritual presently under consideration, the tabu periphrasis poe perca arsmatiam habiest in the Latin alphabet version (A-Η) cannot be contrasted directly with a counterpart in the native alphabet version (A’-H’), since in one case the Adfertor is instructed in the grammatical third person (A-Η) whereas in the other he is instructed in the second person (А’-H’). There is, however, a direct contrast in the {167|168} devices used by the two texts in referring to the movable fireplace: version A-Η, which shows a reluctance to name the chief sacrificer of the Atiedian Brethren by title, also shows a reluctance to use the brethren’s word ahti– ‘movable fireplace’, the equivalent of Latin focus. As we have seen, section E has pir endendu ‘he shall place fire’ while section E’ has {enumek pir ahtimem ententu} ‘then place fire in the {ahti-}’. We should note, too, the tabu periphrasis in section Fa, pufe pir entelust, in place of the word ahti-: instead of some direct statement, such as “when the ahti– is brought to the sacrifice,” we see in section Fa this periphrasis: pone esonome ferar pufe pir entelust ‘when that in which he has placed the fire is brought to the sacrifice’. In the version with the Latin letters, then, specific words dealing with the cult officers and cult objects of the Atiedian Brethren are treated with special caution; perhaps the same factor of caution explains the regular use of the third person in instructing the Atiedian sacrificers, as opposed to the second person in the version with native letters.

Besides being more circumspect, the instructions in version A-Η are also more precise and detailed than in version A’-H’. Greater detail may imply less familiarity with the prescribed way of doing things; consider section Db, where it is specified that the sacrificer must place the garment cringatro on his right shoulder; in section D’, by contrast, it had sufficed to prescribe that the sacrificer must hold the {krenkatrum}. (This garment cringatro/{krenkatrum} is comparable to Latin cinctus or cingulum.) Presumably, the stark prescription of section D’ was enough of a reminder about what to do next; section Da, by contrast, also prescribes that the sacrificer must hold the cringatro, but further specification has to follow in Db about what to do with it, namely, to put it on. The reason for putting the cringatro specifically on the right shoulder becomes apparent later: the sacrificer who puts on the cringatro/{krenkatrum} is none other than the arsfertur/{ařfertur} ‘Adfertor’ (cf. Cb: the same sacrificer is putting on the perca arsmatiam). The Adfertor then proceeds to place fire in the ahti– ‘movable fireplace’ (cf. E/E’, Fa/F), which at that point “is brought to the sacrifice” (esonome ferar: Fa). The one who brings the ahti– to the sacrifice is the Adfertor himself (cf. Fb), and he carries it on his right shoulder (cf. Fc). It appears, therefore, that the garment called cringatro/{krenkatrum} may have served to shield the Adfertor’s right shoulder from the heat of the ahti– which he was to carry. Presumably, this ahti– was some kind of brazier: we may compare the brazen cribrum used by the Vestal Virgins as a movable fireplace, described as follows:

ignis Vestae si quando ìnterstinctus esset, uirgines uerberibus adficiebantur a pontifice, quibus mos erat tabulam felicis materiae tamdiu terebrare, quousque {168|169} exceptum ignem cribro aeneo uirgo in aedem ferret
Paulus ex Festo 94 ed. Lindsay
Whenever the fire of Vesta was interrupted, the Virgins were beaten by the pontifex; their custom was to bore a tabula of fēlix māteria until a fire could be taken and brought in a brazen cribrum to the sanctuary by a Virgin.
We may compare the usage of tabula ‘board’ here with the following instruction In Iguvine Tables IIb 12: {tafle e pir fertu} ‘саrrу the fire there on a tafla’, where Umbrian tafla is the equivalent, of Latin tabula. We may note too that the wood used to kindle the fire is called māteria. The form of this noun suggests that it is derived from māter ‘mother’. [73] In addition, the māteria is described with the word fēlix, an adjective designating fertility and the power of nurturing. Immediately comparable in theme is the expression ignem alere ‘nurture fire’ [74] and the cognate Indic theme of the fire-god as Mātariśvan, that is, the one who is nurtured inside the mother. [75] We may note too that the enclosure of the Indic Gārhapatya, the domestic fireplace, is actually called yóni– ‘female genitalia’ (ŚatapathaBrāhmaṇa [76]

In the same set of instructions where the text of the Iguvine Tables, quoted above, studiously avoids use of the Atiedian word ahti– to designate ‘movable fireplace’ (E-F), there does occur a synonym, spelled aso:

Fc erihont aso destre onse fertu
Iguvine Tables VIb 50
the same [= the Adfertor] shall carry the aso on his right shoulder

Because of the specification of the right shoulder in section Fc, what is not directly mentioned by name in Fa (pufe pir entelust ‘that in which be has placed the fire’) has to be mentioned, again, and this time it is done not by periphrasis but by use of an equivalent word for ‘movable fireplace’. This Umbrian word aso is apparently not part of the Atiedian sacral vocabulary, and it is probably for this reason that it could be written out in the tabu-conscious ritual instructions of VIb 48-53, whereas ahti– was not mentioned directly but by periphrasis. [77] Just as Umbrian asa {169|170} (Iguvine Tables IIa 38, etc.) can be reconstructed as *ā̌ssā-, so also aso (VIb 50) from *ā̌sso-. Removing the factor of geminated *s, we may reconstruct *aso– as *h2es-o-; in other words, I propose that Umbrian aso is the cognate of Hittite ḫašša– ‘sacrificial fireplace’.

The Meaning of Hittite ḫaš-/ḫašša-/ḫaššu– from the Standpoint of Myth and Ritual

Among the noun-reflexes of the Indo-European root *h2es-, our survey has suggested that the semantic basis is the notion of ‘fireplace’:
  • Hittite ḫašša–                     sacrificial fireplace
  • Indic ā́sa–                          ashes
  • Old Norse arinn, etc.         sacrificial fireplace
  • German Esse, etc.            smith’s fireplace
  • English ashes, etc.            ashes
  • Greek ἀσβόλη ἄσβολος     soot
  • Latin āra, altāria                 sacrificial fireplace, altar
  • Oscan aasa–                      sacrificial fireplace, altar
  • Umbrian asa                      sacrificial fireplace, altar
  • Umbrian aso                      sacrificial fireplace, altar (movable)

The semantically anomalous reflexes of *h2es- remain the Hittite verb ḫaš– ‘beget’ and noun ḫaššu– ‘king’. In light of the myths and rituals that we have surveyed, however, these meanings fit the broader context of the sacrificial fireplace as the generatrix of kingship and the authority of kingship, which has been all along the focus of this inquiry.

In this connection, we may add that the formula which the Hittite ḫaššu– uses in referring to himself is dUTUši ‘my sun’, as in the Autobiography of King Ḫattušiliš III (passim). This usage seems distinctly Hittite, in that there is no corresponding mechanism for designating “ego” + first person singular in Akkadian texts (where the expected form would have been ŠAMŠI ‘my sun’ + third person singular). In the Royal Funerary Ritual of the Hittites, [78] which features the cremation of the ḫaššu– ‘king’ and offerings at the ḫašša– ‘sacrificial fireplace’ (passim), one of the prime recipients of these offerings is the great state god dUTU ‘sun’; after the ḫaššu– has died, he joins this very god dUTU. [79] In fact, after the ḫaššu– has died, he himself becomes a god. [80] This belief also seems {170|171} distinctly Hittite, as we may see from the attenuated Akkadian translation of the following Hittite statement spoken by King Muršiliš II:


Otten 1958.120
[when] my father became a god

We may contrast the parallel Akkadian version:


Otten 1958.120
when my father went to his destiny

We may compare also the following prayer:

n[u?]karuú ma aḫḫaan annaza ŠÀza ḫaša[a]nza ešuun n[um]ukán DINGIR-YA aappa apuuunZIan anda taaI [num]u tuel ŠA DINGIR-YA ZI-KA ammuuk [ ] IGI-anda [a]ttamaaš annaaš ḫašaannaaš x x x [Z]IḪI.A kišaantaru
Otten 1958.123-124
Already when I was begotten [ḫaš-] from the inside of my mother, then you, my god, put this “animus” [ZI = ištanza-] in for me; and may your divine “animus” become for me the “animī” of my father, mother, and “gēns.”
This theme brings us back to our starting point, that is, the Indo-European pattern of thought that links the rising of the sun at dawn as parallel to the kindling of the sacrificial fire. This parallelism, as we have seen, is explicit in the ritual language of the Vedas and it is implicit in the possible affinity between Indo-European roots in words for ‘dawn’, notably Greek ēṓs and Latin aurōra, and in words for ‘hearth’, notably Greek hestíā and Latin Vesta. In other words, the possibility remains that the macrocosm of dawn and the microcosm of sacrificial fire are designated with variants of the same root, with *heu̯s- for ‘dawn’ and *hu̯es- for ‘fireplace’. {171|172}
If indeed the Hittite ḫaššu– ‘king’, as we have just, seen, considers his identity to be that of the sun, it follows that the begetting of the king is parallel to the kindling of the sun; in that case, the Hittite verb ḫaš– ‘beget’ is thematically connected to the Hittite noun ḫaššu– ‘king’. From the etymological point of view, ḫaš– may then be translated as ‘kindle, light up’. For an example of the reverse in semantic development, we may consider English kindle, which had meant ‘beget’ (Middle English), then ‘set on fire’; another example is Old Norse kveikja ‘beget, kindle’ (the noun kveika means ‘fuel’). Finally, we may compare the Latin noun adulēscēns/adulēscēns ‘young man’, the participial origin of which reveals the built-in metaphor that we have already examined in detail: ‘becoming nurtured as fire becomes nurtured’.

Such an etymological interpretation of Hittite ḫaššu– as the ‘one who is lit up, kindled’ is reinforced by a well-known theme in Italic myth, concerning ritual fire. The protagonist of this myth is the Roman king Servius Tullius, whom Georges Dumézil has singled out as representing the features of the ideal king from the standpoint of patterns in Indo-European mythmaking. [81] If indeed it is valid to claim that Latin āra is related to Hittite ḫašša– ‘sacrificial fireplace’ and that Latin focus is the functional correlate of the āra, then the following myth of Servius and the focus is decisive:

non praeteribo et unum foci exemplum Romanis litteris clarum: Tarquinio Prisco regnante tradunt repente in foco eius comparuisse genitale e cinere masculi sexus eamque, quae insederat ibi, Tanaquilis reginae ancillam Ocresiam captiuam consurrexisse grauidam; ita Seruium Tullium natum, qui regno successit; inde et in regia cubanti ei puero caput arsisse, creditumque Laris familiaris filium; ob id Compitalia ludos Laribus primum instituisse.
Pliny Natural History 36.204
I will not pass over a famous example of the focus in Roman literature. In the reign of Tarquinius Priscus, they say that there suddenly appeared in his focus a genital organ of male sex out of the ashes, and that it impregnated Ocresia, who had sat there. She was an enslaved handmaiden of Queen Tanaquil. Thus was Servius Tullius born, and he succeeded to the kingship. When he was a boy sleeping in the palace, his head caught on fire, and he was believed to be the son of the Lār familiāris. For this reason he was the first to institute the Compitalia Games for the Lārēs.

This version can be supplemented with another: {172|173}

namque pater Tulli Volcanus, Ocresia mater praesignis facie Corniculana fuit.
hanc secum Tanaquil sacris de more peractis iussit in ornatum fundere uina focum.
hic inter cineres obsceni forma uirilis aut fuit aut uisa est, sed fuit illa magis.
iussa foco captiua sedet. conceptus ab illa Seruius a caelo semina gentis habet.
signa dedit genitor tunc cum caput igne corusco contigit, inque comis flammeus arsit apex.

Ovid Fasti 6.625-634
For the father of Tullius was Vulcan, and Ocresia of
Corniculum, distinguished in beauty, was his mother.
When the sacred rites were enacted, according to tradition,
Tanaquil ordered her to pour wine into the ornate focus.
At this point, among the ashes, there was, or seemed to be,
the male form of something indecent. More likely there was one.
Ordered to do so, the slave girl sat at the focus. Conceived
by her, Servius has the seeds of his gēns from the sky.
His father gave a sign, at the time when he touched his head
with flashing fire, and a flame lit up in his hair.

In this remarkable passage the preoccupation of the myth with a ritual context is especially clear. There is also a lengthy account of the same myth in Dionysius of Halicarnassus Roman Antiquities 4.2.1-4. Romulus and Remus themselves were begotten likewise, according to a myth recorded by Plutarch (Romulus 2.4-8). The same goes for Caeculus, founder of Praeneste and ancestor of the distinguished gēns Caecilia (Servius on Virgil Aeneid 7.678). [82]

I close by citing once more a striking detail from the myth about the begetting of Servius, the Italic king par excellence, from the sacrificial fireplace. As we have seen in both versions just quoted, there is an outward sign that warrants the truth of the king’s being generated from the embers of the hearth. To mark the moment that his kingship is revealed, the head of Servius literally lights up. The radiant visage of the king, the ideal human, is a theme that may be linked with the etymology that I have already suggested for Greek ánthrōpos (ἄνθρωπος) ‘human’, that is, {173|174} ‘he who has the looks of embers’. [83] In line with a ubiquitous theme of myth making, that the first human is the first king, [84] this image of the king with a visage glowing from the fire of the hearth is a symbol for the never-ending search of myth to grasp the celestial affinities of humankind. [85] We come back, full circle, to Clytemnestra’s dream in the Electra of Sophocles (417-423): in the vision, to repeat, the king of Mycenae places his scepter into the royal hearth (419-420), and from it grows a shoot so vigorous that it covers with its shade all the kingdom of Mycenae (421-423). The hearth, as we have seen, is the focus for reveries about the father’s generation of a son without the exogamous intermediacy of a female outsider. The female insider, the ultimate generatrix, is in such reveries the hearth itself, and from it emanates the essence of authority, made manifest in the radiant visage of the ideal king.

Appendix. Conflicting Semiotics of Cremation, Inhumation, Exposition: An Iranian Case in Point

In Avestan usage, the root *ā̌s- (from *h2es-) is attested as the component *ah-(ya-) in the compounding of sairiia– plus *ahiia– = sairiie.hiia-. The word sairiia– designates the dried manure used as a proper funerary resting place for the corpse, Vendidad 8.8; the word sairiie.hiia– is attested only once, Vendidad 8.83. It has been traditionally interpreted to mean ‘apparatus for drying manure’, [86] where the semantics of root *ā̆s- correspond to what we find in Latin ārēre ‘be dry’, Tocharian as– ‘dry’, and so on. [87] I propose an alternative explanation of sairiie.hiia-, interpreting its etymology as ‘apparatus for burning manure’. As we shall see, this interpretation helps explain some crucial details of conflicting Iranian ideologies concerning the funerary practices of cremation, inhumation, and exposition. {174|175}
According to Zoroastrian precepts, exposing a corpse to be eaten by dogs and birds is the proper funerary procedure, rather than cremation or inhumation (Vendidad 8 passim). I draw attention here to the contrast with the Indic custom of cremation (e.g. RigVeda 10.16, etc.), [88] and with the Greek customs of cremation and inhumation, as discussed earlier. [89] More specifically, I also draw attention to the contrast, established in the Iliad, between the sacredness of cremating a corpse, which I have argued is considered the key to successful afterlife, [90] and the abomination of exposing a corpse to be eaten by dogs and birds, a custom cited at the very beginning of the Iliad (I 4-5) and pervading the rest of the epic as the ultimate image of inhumanity, a symbolic threat to the very afterlife of the deceased. [91]
Zoroastrian ideology, in symmetrical contrast, not only sanctions the exposition of the corpse to dogs and birds; it also singles out the custom of cremation as an abomination, and there are elaborate protective rituals for the true believer to follow in the event that he should come upon ātrǝm nasupākǝm ‘a corpse-cooking fire’ (Vendidad 8.73 and following). Such clear provisions for the eventuality of discovering the practice of cremation suggest that this funerary procedure, though forbidden by the Zoroastrian norm, was widespread m various areas of Iranian society.

In one instance the people of an entire region are singled out for traces of this particular aberration from orthodoxy: in the first book of the Vendidad, a tract against daēuua-s ‘demons’, the Zoroastrian religious community is represented by sixteen regions of Iranian society, and from among these, the thirteenth “best” region, called Čaxra ‘The Chariot-Wheel’, is described as being tainted with the practice of “corpse cooking” (Vendidad 1.16). We may compare these other aberrations from Zoroastrian orthodoxy:

The tenth “best” region, called Haraxvaitī (= Old Persian Harahuvatī in the Behistun Inscription, = Arachosia), is tainted with the practice of corpse burying, that is, inhumation (Vendidad 1.12).
The sixth “best” region, called Harōiuua (= Old Persian Haraiva, = latter-day Herāt), is tainted with the practice of keening or funeral dirges (Vendidad 1.8; sraskǝmča driuuikāča ‘weeping and howling’). {175|176}
In the latter case we may note again a symmetrical contrast with Greek customs, as reflected in the Iliad, which not only describes the practice of keening or funeral dirges as the norm but equates the very essence of this institution with the characterization of its main hero, Achilles, that man of constant sorrow. [92] The Zoroastrian ideology shows the converse, where the very building that is designated for the exposition of the corpse is conceived as the Tower of Silence in Parsee usage. [93]
At the end of the first book of the Zoroastrian Vendidad (1.20), it is pointed out that there are other regions in the Zoroastrian community-at-large besides the sixteen that are formally listed. As for the choice of the sixteen “best” regions and their arrangement in descending order of value, the desired effect is to symbolize the geographical spread of Zoroastrian orthodoxy. [94]
At the top of the list in Vendidad 1 are those regions that were the first to accept Zoroastrian orthodoxy:
  • 1st:       Airiianǝm Vaējah = Ariana
  • 2nd:      Suγδa = Sogdiana
  • 3rd:       Mouru = Margiana
  • 4th:       Bāxδī = Bactriana
  • 5th:       Nisāiia
  • 6th:       Harōiuua = Arīa

It has been argued the best Zoroastrian region of all, “the Aryan Vaējah,” homeland of Zaraθuštra = Zoroaster, is to be identified as Xvārizm = Chorasmia. [95] The Avesta explicitly connects Zaraθuštra with “the Aryan Vaējah” (Yašt 5.17-18, 104), and it was at the river Dāitiiā, closely associated with this region, that Zaraθuštra made sacrifice (Yašt 5.104, 15.2). The precise localization of “the Aryan Vaējah,” which counts as the sacred space of Zoroastrianism itself, seems to have varied in the course of time, following the shifting localizations of power and influence, and it seems clear that Chorasmia, even if it merits the title “the Aryan Vaējah,” was not the only region to be described this way. [96] The point remains, in any case, that the six regions heading the list of Vendidad 1 are apparently to be located in East Iran, visualized as contiguous with {176|177} each other, and that they are the nucleus of Zoroastrian orthodoxy, from where it spread to regions such as Čaxra.

On the steppes of Central Asia in general, of which East Iran forms a part, the poorly wooded terrain makes cremation impractical, and it is no coincidence that the alternative custom of exposition is a characteristic feature of the peoples living in the Central Asiatic steppes, including the Mongols. [97] Since the nucleus of Zoroastrian orthodoxy is to be located in the East Iranian steppes, it follows that the Zoroastrian custom of exposition was an areal feature acquired by the East Iranians from their Central Asiatic neighbors. As Zoroastrian orthodoxy spread, the custom of exposition came into conflict with that of cremation, such as practiced by the people of Čaxra. The specific mention of “corpse cooking” as the plague of Čaxra (Vendidad 1.16) suggests that the inhabitants clung to an older custom that was difficult to uproot. [98] Given the clearly attested Indic custom of cremation (e.g. RigVeda 10.16, etc.), [99] the Iranian attestations of non-Zoroastrian “corpse cooking” suggest an Indo-Iranian pedigree for the custom of cremation as opposed to exposition.
There is also direct evidence that the Zoroastrian custom of exposition was generally preceded by that of cremation; the actual Zoroastrian word designating the place built for exposing the corpse is daxma (Vendidad 5.14, 8.2), which from an etymological point of view means “burning” (whence “place for burning, cremation”) from verb dag– ‘burn’ (as attested in Yasna 71.8, etc.). In other words, I am arguing that the original place of the funeral pyre was converted into the place of exposition, without so much as a change in the word used to designate the place itself. [100] There are instances where the word daxma at least implies a {177|178} place of cremation: in Vendidad 7.49-58 (cf. also 3.13), we see variations on the theme of an “illegal” daxma, described as a place frequented by (daēuua-s ‘demons’, fiends who are the primordial enemies of Ahura, head of the pantheon. In line with the opprobrium of “corpse cooking,” it seems that the daēuua-s, are being described as actually devouring the dead who are “cooked” at the daxma (Vendidad 7.55).

The fact that Zoroastrian teaching holds cremation to be an abomination has a bearing on the context of sairiie.hiia– in Vendidad 8.83. In Vendidad 8.81-9, there is a catalogue of merits to be gained by bringing various kinds of fire to the central fire of purification; the more impure the fire, the greater the merit. The reasoning behind this mentality, as reflected to this day by the ritual practices of the Zoroastrian Parsees, has been described as follows: [101]

Since the goal of all these procedures is to obtain a fire that is as pure as possible, the question remains why it is necessary to use for the procedures, among other things, the fire that is the most impure that one can imagine, that is, the fire that has burned a cadaver. Clearly, the reason is that the goal is also to deliver the fire from its impurity, to save it.

In Vendidad 8, the most impure fire of them all is “corpse-cooking” fire:

yō atrǝm nasuta dāitīm gātum auui auua.baraiti

Vendidad 8.81
who brings corpse-cooking fire to the prescribed place…

In this case, the person who brings such impure fire to the central fire of purification merits 10,000 firebrands.

The second in rank among all impure fires is described as follows:

yō atrǝm uruzdipākǝm dāitīm gātum auui auua.baraiti

Vendidad 8.82
who brings fluid-cooking fire to the prescribed place…

In this case, the person who brings such impure fire to the central fire merits 1,000 firebrands. The reference to “fluid” here seems to concern fluids emanating from the body: Dēnkart 8.46 offers the explanatory description hixr pāk ‘excrement cooking’. [102] {178|179}

The third in rank among all impure fires is described as follows:

yō atrǝm sairiie.hiiaṯ hača dāitīm gātum auui auua.baraiti

Vendidad 8.83
who brings fire from the sairiie.hiia– to the prescribed place…

In this case, the one who brings such fire merits 500 firebrands.

From then on, the catalogue lists fires destined for secular uses, such as the fire from a potter’s fireplace (Vendidad 8.84), from a goldsmith’s fireplace (8.87), from a baker’s fireplace (8.91), and so on. Last on the list is the fire that is easiest to bring, namely, “from the nearest place”:

yō atrǝm nazdištat hača dāitīm gātum auui auua.baraiti

Vendidad 8.96
who brings fire from the nearest place to the prescribed place…

In this case, the bringer merits 10 firebrands.

The essential question remains: why does fire from the sairiie.hiia– rank so high in degree of abomination that it should be listed directly after fire for burning the body and after fire for burning fluid discharge from the body? The answer may well be concealed in the use of sairiia– ‘manure’ as a resting place for the corpse:

auua.hē gātūm baraiiǝn ātriiehe vā sairiiehe vā

Vendidad 8.8
they should bring for him [= the corpse] as a place either ashes or manure

The context shows that this practice follows the dictates of Zoroastrian orthodoxy, just like the practice of exposing the corpse in the daxma. Yet the daxma, if my argument holds, was at an earlier stage the place of cremation, not exposition. Similarly, I propose, sairiia– ‘manure’ was at an earlier stage a fuel, or an ingredient in the fuel, for cremation. In the Zoroastrian orthodoxy, use of the term daxma was retained but converted to designate the place of exposition rather than cremation. Similarly, I suggest, any use of manure as fuel for cremating the corpse would have to be converted: the body is to be laid out on manure, but neither the body nor the manure may be burned. We must note that the custom of using manure as an ingredient for cremation lies survived in latter-day {179|180} India. [103] Moreover, manure is the common domestic fuel in latter-day India. If the custom of using manure for fuel is of Indo-Iranian provenience, then Avestan sairiie.hiia– may have at an earlier stage designated simply a place where manure was burned.

To sum up: Zoroastrian orthodoxy prescribes manure as a resting place for the corpse; since corpse burning is forbidden, it follows that manure burning should also be forbidden because of the surviving association of manure with the resting place of the corpse. Because of this association, the use of manure for secular fuel may be forbidden along with its use for cremating the corpse.
In fact, the custom of burning manure may be of Indo-European provenience: we may consider the Latin noun fimus ‘manure’, apparently derived from –fiō as in suffiō ‘fumigate’ (Cato De re rustica 113.1 ) or ‘burn for the purpose of fumigation’ (Pliny Natural History 28.42, etc.); we may compare the root-formation *dhu̯Ǐ- of suffiō with the *dhū- of fūmus ‘smoke’. [104] We may note also the reports about the stercus ‘manure’ that is ritually swept out of the precinct of Vesta, Roman goddess of the domestic fireplace (Varro De lingua latina, 6.32 Festus 344 Lindsay). [105]
The subject of fumigation brings this presentation to a close. And aptly so, since the very concept of fumigation is pertinent to the focus of the entire study, the setting of the sacrificial fireplace. I cite the formation of fūmigo ‘fumigate’, which happens to be parallel to pūrgō ‘purify’, from an earlier pūrigō (as in Plautus Miles 177). [106] Following Rudolf Thurneysen, [107] I interpret pūrgō/pūrigō ‘purify’ as derived from an underlying expression *pūr agere ‘carry fire’, formally parallel to rēmigō ‘row’, derived from an underlying expression rēmum agere by way of the intermediate formation rēmex, rēmigis. Against the conventional rejection of Thurneysen’s positing an underlying *pūr agere ‘carry fire’, [108] I cite the Umbrian collocation pir ahtimem ententu ‘place fire in the ahti-’ in Iguvine Tables Ib 12, where pir (<*pūr) is combined with the abstract noun ahti– (<*agti-) derived from a verb surviving in Latin as agere. [109] The Umbrian ahti-, receptacle of the sacred fire, is the source of purification for the community. {180|181}


[ back ] 1. In Iliad I 233-237, this same skêptron ‘scepter’ is viewed as a thing of nature that has been transformed into a thing of culture; commentary in N 1979a.179-180, 188-189. Here in Sophocles Electra 421-423, the transformation is in the other direction. On the cult of Agamemnon’s skêptron at Khaironeia, where its local name is the dóru ‘wood, shaft’, see áphthiton ‘imperishable’ as applied to the skêptron at Iliad II 46, 186.
[ back ] 2. Vernant 1985, esp. pp. 165-169; cf. also Gernet 1968.387.
[ back ] 3. Vernant pp. 156-157.
[ back ] 4. Vernant pp. 163-165.
[ back ] 5. Concerning the ritual of Amphidromia, where the naming of the newborn child literally revolves around the hestíā, see Vernant pp. 189-195: for the naming to be formalized, the father runs around the hearth carrying his new baby on the fifth day after birth and then sets down the child in the sacred area thus circumscribed (scholia to Plato Theaetetus 160e; Hesychius s.v. Δρομιάμφιον ᾖμαρ; scholia to Aristophanes 758). On the Eleusinian ritual concept of the παῖς ἀφ’ ἑστίας ‘boy from the hearth [hestíā]’ (Harpocration s.v. ἀφ’ ἑστίας Anecdota Graeca 204.19 ed. Bekker), see the discussion of in Vernant pp. 164-168 and the updating of sources in Burkert 1983.280n31.
[ back ] 6. Vernant p. 187.
[ back ] 7. Vernant pp. 181, 186.
[ back ] 8. Vernant p. 186.
[ back ] 9. Cf. Beneviste 1962.14.
[ back ] 10. Benveniste p. 14.
[ back ] 11. For a survey of various etymologies that have been proposed for this Hittite verb, see Tischler 1983.191-194.
[ back ] 12. See the survey in Tischler pp. 207-209, who lists other suggested etymologies as well.
[ back ] 13. The Hittite verb ḫaš– ‘beget’ is spelled with a single s in the third person singular (ḫaaši) and with a double s in the third plural (ḫašaanzi). Such derivatives as ḫaššatar ‘begetting, gēns’ show double s (ḫašatar) and so too the proposed derivative ḫaššu– (ḫašu-). By contrast, consider the Luvian and Palaic adjective wašu– ‘good’, with single s, which seems to be derived from the verb wašš– ‘be agreeable’, attested in Hittite with double s. Instead of wašu-, however, the Hittite word for ‘good’ is aššu-, with double s. Even if we are not prepared to explain them, it is important to note the existence of such s/ss variations. I find a similar s/ss problem in the contrast of Latin āra and Umbrian asa, both meaning ‘sacrificial fireplace, altar’. Like Latin, Umbrian rhotacizes single intervocalic *-s-, so that we have to reconstruct an inherited Italic contrast of *āsā vs. *ā̆ssā in order to account for the respective Latin and Umbrian forms. Again, I merely note the existence of this s/ss variation, rather than attempt an explanation.
[ back ] 14. Benveniste 1969 2:85.
[ back ] 15. Dumézil 1954.34-35.
[ back ] 16. See p. 104.
[ back ] 17. See pp. 104ff.
[ back ] 18. Dumézil 1954.34.
[ back ] 19. Cf. p. 104, where RigVeda 7.9.3 is quoted.
[ back ] 20. Dumézil 1954.34-35. In Ionic and Other Greek dialects as well, there is a variant of Attic hestíā (ἑστία) namely histíā (Ionic ἱστίη): see DELG 379. I draw attention to the raising of *e by *i after the labial *u̯ in histíā, to be reconstructed as *u̯istíā. Such replacement of *e by *i in the vicinity of labials is a feature of the “standard” Mycenaean dialect: see Householder and Nagy 1972.784-785. In other words, there is a possibility that the variant form histíā is a reflex of the “standard Mycenaean” dialect of the second millennium B.C. For a working definition of “standard Mycenaean,” see Risch 1966 (updating in Risch 1979). For an alternative explanation of the *i in histíā, see Vernant 1985.199-200.
[ back ] 21. The absence of *h2 before *u̯ in a hypothetical Greek formation *u̯estiā may conceivably be explained on the basis of a combination of morphological and phonological factors. First, the morphology: the suffix-formation of *u̯estiā, as DELG 379 points out, suggests that this noun is derived from an adjective *u̯esto-, or possibly from *u̯estā-. Formations like *u̯esto- are typical of what we find in the second half of compounds. Which brings us to the second consideration that of phonology. It appears that laryngeals (*h1, *h2, *h3) can disappear without trace in the second half of compounds (see Beekes 1969.242-243 for a list of examples; cf. Mayrhofer 1986.125, 129, 140). If, then, we accept the argument in DELG that the Greek noun *u̯estiā may be a derivative of compound-formations, then we may expect phonological instability in the retention of laryngeal reflexes. Even more important, there is another factor leading to a pattern of phonological instability in Greek *u̯estiā: in many inscriptions featuring dialects that normally retain initial *u̯, the expected digamma (= *u̯) of *u̯estiā is not spelled out (DELG 379). What seems to be at work here is the force of analogy: we may posit a pairing, in Greek usage, of hestíā (ἑστία) with another word designating ‘fireplace’, eskhára, (ἐσχάρα); it is clear that never had an initial *u̯, as DELG 379 makes clear. Besides the semantic convergences between these two words for ‘fireplace’, hestíā and eskhára, we should note, already at this point, an important divergence that is pertinent to the semantics of other words for ‘fireplace’ to be studied later on in this presentation: unlike the hestíā, the eskhára is potentially moveable: see Risch 1981 [1976].537 (also DELG 379-380).
[ back ] 22. Where C = consonant. For the formulation of this Indo-European pattern of root-variation, see Kuryɫowicz 1927 (pace Benveniste 1969 1:22-25). Some suggested examples of CeC(C)- vs. Cu̯eC(C)-: *h1esu- vs. h1u̯esu-, as in Greek ἐυ- ‘good’, Hittite aššu– ‘good’, vs. Indic vásu– ‘good’, Iranian (Avestan) vohu– ‘good’, Luvian and Palaic wašu– ‘good’; *teks- vs. *tu̯eks-, as in Indic takṣ– ‘fashion’ vs. Indic tvakṣ– ‘fashion’, Iranian (Avestan) θuuaxš– ‘fashion’: *h1ers- vs. *h1u̯ers, as in Indic arṣ– ‘flow’, Hittite arš– ‘flow’ vs. Indic varṣ– ‘rain’, Greek ἕρση/ἐέρσν ‘dew’, Hittite warša– ‘dew’.
[ back ] 23. Moreover, the reconstruction *h2u̯es- may possibly fit the Hittite ḫuiš– ‘live’ (if, however, Luvian ḫuit– is a cognate, on which see Tischler 1983.264-266, then this connection is to be rejected). If Hittite ḫuiš– is conceivably cognate with Indic vas– ‘shine’, the meaning ‘live’ rather than ‘shine’ would be in line with the semantics of Hittite ḫaš-, meaning ‘beget’ rather than ‘set on fire’, despite the meaning of ḫašša– ‘sacrificial fireplace’. We may note that the suffix of the Hittite adjective ḫuišwant– ‘alive’ is cognate with that of the Indic adjective vivásvat-. The root *h2u̯es-, this hypothetical reconstruction from Greek hestíā ‘hearth’ (and conceivably from Hittite ḫuiš– ‘live’), is not to be confused with the *h2u̯es- of the Greek aorist áesa (ἄεσα) ‘spend the night’, which is a variant of *h2eu̯s- as in the Greek present iaúō (ἰαύω) ‘sleep’. The distinctness of the roots is reflected in Indic, where vas– ‘spend the night’ (present third singular vásati) is conjugated differently from vas– ‘shine’ (present third singular uccháti).
[ back ] 24. Alternatively, we may conceivably reconstruct Greek aúōs/ēṓs as *h2us-os- instead of *h2eu̯s-os- (cf. Peters 1980.31-32). In any case, the spelling of Aeolic αὔως reflects an underlying *au̯u̯ōs; the gemination of *u̯ reflects the Aeolic device for poetic lengthening of initial syllables with shape *Vu̯- (where V = vowel), on which subject one of the most informative works remains Solmsen 1901. By constrast, the Attic-Ionic device for poetic lengthening of initial syllables with shape *Vu̯- is not gemination of the *u̯ but lengthening of the *V-: *hau̯ōs to *hāu̯ōs to ἠώς in Ionic (Homeric), ἕως in Attic. For a summary of the diachronic motivations for poetic lengthening of the initial syllable, see Kuryɫowicz 1956.264-269; also Householder and Nagy 1972.754. Alternatively, *au̯u̯ōs and *āu̯ōs may perhaps be direct phonological reflexes of *ausōs.
[ back ] 25. Just as the posited root-variant *h2ues- may have survived in Greek as hestíā ‘hearth’ (ἑστία), without a phonological trace of *h2 (see n21), so also the root-variant *h2eu̯s- apparently survives as heúō (εὕω) ‘singe’, again without a trace of *h2. Cognates of Greek heúō are Latin ūrō ‘burn’ and Indic óṣati ‘burn’. In this case the loss of *h2 in the Greek reflex of the posited root *h2eu̯s- may be attributed to the secondary nature of e-grade formations of the type heúō/ūrō/óṣati, apparently built on the zero-grade of the root (on such a pattern of derivation, see Kuryɫowicz 1969.221). Parallel to secondary verb-formations of the type óṣati ‘burn’, Indic preserves secondary adjective- and noun-formations of the type –óṣa-, as in duróṣa– ‘hard to kindle’ and óṣadhī ‘plant’. I interpret the latter form as a compound consisting of the roots uṣ– (from *h2us-) ‘light’ and dhā– (from *dheh1-) ‘put, place’, meaning something like ‘light-emplacement’; see p. 103. For thematic evidence in support of this etymology, see pp. 102ff. For a survey of the etymological possibilities of óṣadhī ‘plant’, including the one suggested here, see again Minard 1956.268. We may compare the semantics of the English idiom “set on fire.”
[ back ] 26. More on Manu at pp. 110ff.
[ back ] 27. The root nr̥t– ‘dance’ in the epithet of Uṣas, sūnr̥tāvati may be compared with the collocation of khoroí ‘dances’ and Ēṓs ‘Dawn’, as at Odyssey xii 4. For more on the goddess Eos ‘Dawn’ and her relation to the dance, see Boedeker 1974.58-63, 87-88.
[ back ] 28. Cf. p. 145n13 above.
[ back ] 29. As we may possibly infer from such contrasts as in Latin ăcuō vs. ācer.
[ back ] 30. For an especially interesting attestation, let us consider the context of ā́sa– ‘ashes’ at ŚatapathaBrāhmaṇa, where ā́sa– is being described as a creative substance. The ā́sa– is what becomes of the aṅgā́ra-s ‘coals’ mentioned in ŚatapathaBrāhmaṇa, where the aṅgā́ra-s are in turn described as the creative substance from which the priests known as the Áṅgiras-es originate (cf. EWA 48). Cf. also AitareyaBrāhmaṇa 3.34, and ŚatapathaBrāhmaṇa,, We may compare the forms and meanings of Indic aṅgā́ra– ‘coal’ and Áṅgiras-, the name for the fire-priests, with the forms and meanings of Greek ánthrax ‘coal’ and ánthrōpos ‘human’, which I interpret etymologically as ‘he who has the looks of embers’. In a future study I hope to connect this proposed etymology with the context of thūmálōps ‘piece of burning wood, charcoal’ in Aristophanes Acharnians 321, which may be a veiled reference to a local anthropogonic tradition; see especially ánthrakes ‘charcoal’, as associated with the Acharnians, at lines 34, 332. On the anthropogonic theme of First Man as First Sacrificer, see pp. 70, 110-111. (On the possibility of a related theme, that of First Man as First Mántis ‘Seer’, see p. 198n120.) I draw attention to two of the mock-names of members of the chorus of Acharnians: Marīládēs ‘son of embers’ (Acharnians line 609), derived from marī́lē ‘embers of charcoal’ (as at line 350: see p. 198n120), and Prīnídēs ‘son of holm oak’ (line 180; on the connections of anthropogony with the material of wood, see p. 198n120). The latter description of the Acharnians is coupled with stiptoí ‘tough’ (line 180), in the sense of “compressed by treading down,” like the charcoal used by smiths (Theophrastus On fire 37; cf. Sommerstein 1980.176); moreover, the ánthrakes ‘charcoals’ are described as prī́ninoi ‘made of holm oak’ (ἀνθράκων πρινίνων 668). Thus the “tough stuff” that men are made of is also the stuff of charcoals (on the wood used for charcoal by the Acharnians, see also Sommerstein p. 171). A pervasive theme of the Acharnians of Aristophanes is the ridiculing of the Acharnians’ feelings of solidarity and even affection toward the ánthrakes ‘charcoals’ (325-341), which they treat as animate beings, as their dēmótai ‘fellow district-members’ (349; cf. 333).
[ back ] 31. The lengthening of the radical vowel in ā́sa– is secondary: see Kuryɫowicz 1968.282-283 on the phenomenon known as Brugmann’s Law.
[ back ] 32. I accept the etymological interpretation “Aschen-wurf”: Schwyzer 1939 1:440; for the absence of -o- between -ἄσ and βολος-, cf. ἐπεσ-βόλος, κερασ-βόλος.
[ back ] 33. As in Old Church Slavonic polěti ‘be on fire’.
[ back ] 34. For an example of a Latin form in which rhotacism precedes syncope, cf. ornus ‘mountain-ash tree’, from *Ŏrenos from *Ŏsenos (cf. Old Slavonic jasenĭ ‘ash tree’), on which see DELL 469. Also Leumann 1977.96, 99, who contrasts the type ornus with the type pōnō (from *po-sinō). Consider also Falernus (from *Falis-isnos; cf. Falis).
[ back ] 35. The Indo-European stative *-ē- is familiar even from the internal evidence of Latin: calēre ‘be hot’, tepēre ‘be warm’, albēre ‘be white’, etc.
[ back ] 36. Cf. p. 235. For other such doublets, see Schwyzer 1939.703.
[ back ] 37. We may compare the secondary length in the perfect and causative as ās– (vs. present as-) with the long radical vowel of Latin ārēre.
[ back ] 38. Cf. DELL 51-52.
[ back ] 39. This rejected etymology figures among those entertained by Sommer 1914.66-67; note Sommer’s argument that arfet, putatative formal equivalent of ardet, is a textual corruption.
[ back ] 40. Granted, a verb like gaudēre presupposes an original formant *gāu̯id-, latent in the participle gauīsus; note, however, that there is no trace of any *ārid- in the original participle of ardēre, which is, to repeat, assus (again, DELL 51-52).
[ back ] 41. J. Kuryɫowicz’s “Fourth Law”: “Quand à la suite d’une transformation morphologique une forme subit la différentation, la forme nouvelle correspond à sa fonction primaire (de fondation), la forme ancienne est réservée pour la fonction secondaire (fondée).” Quoted from Kuryɫowicz 1966 [1945-1949].169.
[ back ] 42. For further semantic analogues, cf. Reichelt 1914.313-316; Reichelt’s interpretation of āra differs from the one presented here.
[ back ] 43. For the secondary character of the lengthened radical vowel overt in Latin and Oscan, cf. the lengthening in ārēre; also, cf. again such ă/ā variations as in ăcuō vs. ācer, etc.
[ back ] 44. Cf. pp. 144-145.
[ back ] 45. DELL 24.
[ back ] 46. Cf. Cicero De natura deorum 3.37; Livy 21.1.4; Pliny Natural History 2.236; Ovid Metamorphoses 10.173, Remedia Amoris 808; Tacitus Germania 45, Annals 15.38, Histories 3.71; etc.
[ back ] 47. Cf. Whitney 1896.446. For the phonological development from *alto- ā̌si- to altāri-, with deleted *-o-, cf. the types magnanimus, rēmex, etc.
[ back ] 48. Whether Indic agní– ‘fire’ originates from *egni- or *n̥gni- is irrelevant to the reconstruction of iddhā́gni-.
[ back ] 49. The derivation of aráṇi from *al- ‘nurture’ is communicated as a possibility by R. Hauschild to M. Mayrhofer; cf. KEWA s.v. (this possibility is more recently rejected in EWA s.v.). There are numerous morphological parallels to the proposed derivation of aráṇi-, in the reconstructed sense of ‘nurturing, nourishment’, from *al- ‘nurture’: I cite for example Rig-Vedic dhumáni– ‘blowing’, from dham– ‘blow’ (for a list of other such examples, cf. Wackernagle and Debrunner 1954.207); cf. also p. 186n37 below. For an interesting analogue to the proposed semantic specialization of an abstract noun like aráṇi– into the concrete designation of the wood with which the fire is “nurtured,” I cite the post-Vedic meaning of taráṇi-: it is no longer abstract ‘crossing’—from root tar– ‘cross’—but rather concrete ‘ship’ or concrete ‘sun’. In other words, the abstract notion of the act of crossing becomes specialized as the concrete notion of the means of crossing. (For a discussion of the process whereby abstract nouns become concrete, see N 1970.63-65, 68-70; cf. also Ernout 1954.179-83 ch. 6, “Passage de l’abstrait au concret.”) On the mythical themes of the sun’s crossing from the realm of light to the realm of darkness and back, see N 1979a.192.210.
[ back ] 50. RigVeda 3.29.2 is quoted at p. 103.
[ back ] 51. I note in passing that there are comparable themes concerning the infant Hermes in the Homeric Hymn to Hermes.
[ back ] 52. More on Mātariśvan at pp. 103ff.
[ back ] 53. For morphological parallels, cf. the Rig-Vedic derivative śáryāta– from śárya– ‘reed, arrow’; the derivational expansion of the base from –a– to –āta– is especially marked in names of plants or trees, as in āmrāta– ‘Spondias mangifera’, derived from āmrá– ‘mango’ (cf. Wackernagel and Debrunner 1954.269).
[ back ] 54. Schulze 1966 [1927].215-216. Cf. EWA 70.
[ back ] 55. Schulze pp. 215-216.
[ back ] 56. The *h2 disappears before *o. The etymology of Umbrian uřetu as *olētōd, equivalent of Latin (ad-)olētōd ‘let him burn’, is suggested en passant by Thurneysen 1907.800.
[ back ] 57. Leumann 1977.86.
[ back ] 58. A sacrifice is being described, at which Lavinia’s hair seems to catch on fire.
[ back ] 59. Note, however, the absence of Latin “ignem adolēre.”
[ back ] 60. Cf. DELL 23.
[ back ] 61. Acts of the Arval Brethren aa. 90.49-50; Domitian-era C I 2-5; 105 II 7-9; 118 I 59-62; 120.36-37; 155.32-34; M. Aurelius-era E 1-2; 183 II 21-22; 218 a 17-19; 240 (= Dessau 9522) II 4.
[ back ] 62. For a standard accounting from an abidingly useful manual: Wissowa 1912.475.
[ back ] 63. Context: before sailing on, the retinue of Claudia Quinta pauses to sacrifice a heifer.
[ back ] 64. The words fouet and fouetur here imply an etymological connection between verb foueō ‘foster’ and noun focus; but note the lengthened o in fōculum, the derivation of which from foueō seems assured by the collocation of the two words in Plautus Captivi 847. Thus we must distinguish between fōculum, derivative of foueō, and fŏculus, derivative of focus (as in Cato De re rustica 11.4). For attestations showing the distinct vowel lengths, see DELL s.v. foueō. The meaning of fōculum, conveying the notion of “fostering” or “nurturing” fire, is analogous to that of altāria as discussed above. Perhaps the phonological closeness of fōculo– and fŏculo– is influenced by their semantic parallelism, in that both words designate a movable fireplace. It is conceivable that this parallelism masks an earlier form *faculus, derived from *facus, and that *facus was reshaped as focus on the model of an analogized foculus. In which case, focus could perhaps be explained as a secondary derivative of faciō, meaning something like ‘setting’. More on this possibility in the discussion that follows.
[ back ] 65. DELL 243.
[ back ] 66. Cf. Umbrian façia, faç(i)u, fakust, facurent, which are functional equivalents of Latin faciat, facere, fēcerit, fēcerint respectively. Moreover, there may be a trace of e-grade in the Umbrian imperative fetu, also spelled feitu. This form cannot correspond to Oscan factud, the Umbrian cognate of which would be *faitu: we may compare the Umbrian imperative aitu with the corresponding Oscan actud. Thus it is possible to reconstruct Umbrian fe(i)tu as *fekitōd. An argument against the alternative possibility, *fēkitōd, is that the inherited ē of Umbrian is regularly spelled i in the Latin alphabet as opposed to e in the native Umbrian alphabet (e.g. filiu in the Latin alphabet vs. feliuf in the Umbrian). Yet, what corresponds to the native Umbrian spelling fetu/feitu is the Latin spelling fetu/feitu/feetu, never *fitu.
[ back ] 67. See n64. Furthermore, the possible derivation of focus from the root of fac may have a formal parallel: the noun iocus ‘jesting word(s)’ can be derived from the verb iaciō ‘throw, hurl’, with root *i̯eh1(-k-) as in the perfect iēcī. For the semantics, we may compare Greek epesbólos, literally ‘thrower of words’, as in Iliad II 275: here the epithet is applied to Thersites as an exponent of blame poetry, which is characterized by words of damaging ridicule (on which subject see N 1979a.253-264, esp. p. 264). The *-k- of zero-grade *i̯h1(-k-) in present-tense iaciō is again a secondary extension from the perfect iēcī, just as in faciō and fēcī. Even in Classical Latin, iaciō is frequently used with direct objects denoting things said (e.g. contumeliam ‘insult’ in Cicero Pro Sulla 23). On the semantics of Umbrian iuka ‘sacred words, formula’: Poultney 1959.199 and Borgeaud 1982.190. Lithuanian juõkas may be a borrowing from German jōk, in turn a borrowing from Latin by way of Studentensprache: LEW 197.
[ back ] 68. For my interpretation of ahti-, I have been guided by the critical discussion of textual evidence in Devoto 1937.267-268, 385-386; also Poultney 1959.165.
[ back ] 69. On the Umbrian word trifu– ‘tribe’ (cognate of Latin tribus), see p. 278.
[ back ] 70. See p. 161. For other parallelisms between the Iguvine Tables and the Acts of the Arval Brethren, see Vine 1986.
[ back ] 71. For Celtic parallels to the Italic concept of “Adfertor”: Borgeaud 1982.31, with bibliography.
[ back ] 72. See Ernout 1961.126.
[ back ] 73. See p. 106.
[ back ] 74. See p. 155.
[ back ] 75. See p. 156; also, p. 106.
[ back ] 76. See pp. 105-106.
[ back ] 77. This interpretation of Umbrian aso is offered as an alternative to the one found in the handbooks, where aso is understood as ‘roast meat’ or the like (cf. Latin assum). The contextual disadvantages of the latter interpretation are apparent from the discussion by Devoto 1937.268-269 and Ernout 1961.111.
[ back ] 78. The texts of the Royal Funerary Ritual have been collected by Otten 1958. For a survey of the specific passages dealing with the afterlife of the king, see Otten pp. 113, 119-120.
[ back ] 79. Otten pp. 113, 119-120.
[ back ] 80. Otten pp. 113, 119-120.
[ back ] 81. Dumézil 1943.
[ back ] 82. For a conscientious collection of testimonia about the Italic myths, see Alföldi 1974.182-185; also Bremmer and Horsfall 1987.49-53. Cf. Brelich 1949.70, 96-100; also Dumézil 1966.69n1, 320-321, who adduces Indic parallels; for example, one particular epic figure is begotten by the fire-god Agni in the Gārhapatya ‘domestic fireplace’ (Mahābhārata 3.213.45ff).
[ back ] 83. See p. 151n30.
[ back ] 84. A classic on this subject is the two-volume work of Christensen 1918 and 1934.
[ back ] 85. Such a theme may prove to be the key to understanding the etymological relationship of Greek anḗr (ἀνήρ) ‘man’ with nṓrops, a Homeric adjective glossed as λαμπός ‘bright’ in Hesychius (e.g. s.v. νῶροψ) and used as a formulaic synonym of aíthops ‘with looks of fire, fiery-looking’ in Homeric diction (e.g. postvocalic νώροπι χαλκῷ vs. postconsonantal αἴθοπι χαλκῷ. On the presence and absence, respectively, of initial a as reflex of laryngeal *h2 in e-grade anḗr (*h2ner-) and o-grade nōr– (*h2nor-), see Beekes 1969.75-76.
[ back ] 86. Bartholomae 1904.1565.
[ back ] 87. At pp. 153ff., I have argued that the semantics of Latin ārēre ‘be dry’ are secondary, and that the root *ā̌s- of this verb can be reconstructed as meaning ‘burn’, as reflected in the derivative noun ārea.
[ back ] 88. Cf. Caland 1896. This is not to say, of course, that cremation is the only type of Indic funerary practice.
[ back ] 89. See pp. 85, 129.
[ back ] 90. See pp. 86ff.
[ back ] 91. Cf. N. 1979a.224-227.
[ back ] 92. Full presentation of the argument in N 1979a.94-117.
[ back ] 93. Cf. Humbach 1961.99.
[ back ] 94. Cf. Nyberg 1938.313-327. There is considerable disagreement about the precise location of many of the places mentioned in Vendidad 1; cf. e.g. Gnoli 1980.23ff.
[ back ] 95. E.g. Nyberg p. 326.
[ back ] 96. Cf. Davidson 1985.93-94, 101, with further bibliography (esp. Duchesne-Guillemin 1979.63; also Gnoli 1980.91ff).
[ back ] 97. Nyberg p. 310.
[ back ] 98. Nyberg. pp. 321-322.
[ back ] 99. Cf. Caland 1896. To repeat, this is not to say that cremation is the only type of Indic funerary practice.
[ back ] 100. The standard etymology of daxma as “burning” (whence “place for burning, cremation”) from verb dag– “burn”, as we find it in e.g. Bartholomae 1904.676, has been challenged by Hoffmann 1975 [1965].338, on the basis of arguments presented by Humbach 1961, who shows that daxma in e.g. Vendidad 7.49 and following designates something like a “mausoleum,” that is, a roofed and sealed building in which the corpse is sheltered from the elements, as distinct from the open-sky format required by the orthodox Zoroastrian place of exposition. And yet, Humbach himself points out (p. 1010) that daxma in e.g. Vendidad 5.14, 8.2 designates an orthodox Zoroastrian place of exposition. In other words, the referent of this word daxma in the language of the Avesta can very from the orthodox place of exposition to the anti-orthodox “mausoleum” (for examples of New Persian daxma in this sense of “mausoleum” in the epic tradition of the Shāhnāma of Ferdowsi, see Humbach p. 100). Given this range of variation, we may continue to posit yet another nonorthodox variant among the referents of daxma, that is, a place where the corpse is cremated rather than exposed to the elements. And I am arguing that this particular variant represents the earliest meaning of daxma.
[ back ] 101. Duchesne-Guillemin 1962.82 (my translation).
[ back ] 102. Bartholomae 1904.1533.
[ back ] 103. Cf. Dubois 1924.485; also Gonda 1960.130.
[ back ] 104. Cf. DELL s.v. suffiō.
[ back ] 105. Cf. Dumézil 1959a.97-98.
[ back ] 106. In this connection, we may compare the obscure gloss exfir in Paulus ex Festo 69 Lindsay, where pūrgāmentum seems to be equated with suffitiō: [ back ] exfir, purgamentum, unde adhuc manet suffitio
[ back ] 107. Thurneysen 1912-1913.276-281; cf. Leumann 1977.550.
[ back ] 108. E.g. DELL s.v. pūrgō.
[ back ] 109. See pp. 164ff.

Chapter 7. Thunder and the Birth of Humankind

In the myth making traditions of a wide variety of societies, there is a convergent pattern of thought concerning the origin of fire: that a stroke of thunder can deposit fire into trees or rocks and that this fire of thunder is extracted whenever friction is applied to these materials. [1] Oftentimes the god of the thunderbolt is pictured as being actually incarnated within the material. [2] There are also numerous occurrences of a related line of thought, equating the friction of making fire with the friction of making love. Besides the ample documentation of this equation in the lore of diverse societies, [3] we may consider the formulation of the philosopher Gaston Bachelard, who views the metaphorical syntax of sexual arousal as the inspiration, as it were, for Man’s discovery of how to make fire by friction. [4] Theories aside, it can he argued that the infusion of fire into wood and stone is a sexual and anthropogonic theme in the logic of myth. What follows is an attempt to present such an argument, with special reference to the anthropogonic traditions of the Greeks. In the course of examining the pertinent myths, we shall see that the stroke of the thunderbolt may be viewed as not only destructive but also pro-creative. Furthermore, the concept of procreation can presuppose that of creation itself. [5] {181|182}

Two key words in this presentation will be Baltic (Lithuanian) perkū́nas and Slavic perunǔ, both meaning ‘thunderbolt’. [6] In examining the formal and semantic connections between these two words, we shall discover a pervasive association of the concept of “thunderbolt” with traditional lore about two particular kinds of material that attract the thunderbolt, that is, wood and stone. We shall further discover that the very forms of these nouns, perkū́nas and perunŭ, are related to the forms of other nouns that actually designate wood, especially oak wood, and stone—not to mention still other nouns designating elevated places that attract the thunderbolt, such as mountains, boulders, or wooded hilltops. Even further, we shall see the emergence of a neat pattern of parallelism linking myths about thunderbolts and oaks with myths about thunderbolts and rocks. Finally, we shall consider another dimension of this parallelism, that is, in myths about the creation of humankind. Such myths, as we shall see, are reflected by a Greek proverb that refers to ancient myths of anthropogony with a distancing attitude of indifference, as if humans had originated from either oaks or rocks. When Penelope challenges the disguised Odysseus to reveal his hidden identity by revealing his lineage (xix 162), she adds the following words:

οὐ γὰρ ἀπὸ δρυὸς ἐσσὶ παλαιφάτου οὐδ’ ἀπὸ πέτρης

Odyssey xix 163
For surely you are not from an oak, as in the old stories, or from a rock.

To begin at the very beginnings is to begin with the oak and the rock, at least in the logic of the proverb, and it is for this reason, as we shall see, that the persona of Hesiod, reproaching himself for lingering too long at the beginning of beginnings in the Theogony, finally declares, with impatience:

ἀλλὰ τίη μοι ταῦτα περὶ δρῦν ἢ περὶ πέτρην;

Hesiod Theogony 35
But why do I have these things about the oak or about the rock?

In the interest of making our own beginning, let us without further delay proceed to the Baltic and the Slavic evidence. {182|183}

In Slavic, perunŭ designates both ‘thunderbolt’ and ‘thunder-god’. [7] By “thunder” I mean both thunder and lightning, in the spirit of the older expression “thunderstruck” as opposed to the newer “struck by lightning.” In the case of the Slavic form perunŭ, the meaning ‘thunderbolt’ is basic in the attested Slavic languages (Russian perun, Czech perun, Polish piorun, and so on), while the meaning ‘thunder-god’ is residual. The second meaning is least obscure in the Russian evidence, where the word perun ‘thunderbolt’ survives also as one of the names constituting the native heathen pantheon. The Old Russian Chronicles [8] tell of wooden idols in the image of the god Perun, set up on hills overlooking Kiev and Novgorod. They also tell how the people of Kiev wept as the Christianized Prince Vladimir had the idol of Perun east down into the Dnepr River. At Novgorod, too, the god was toppled. And yet, as his idol was floating downstream in the Volxov River, Perun took revenge: people believed that he hurled his mace at a bridge, hurting some and frightening the others. [9] The Perun figure has survived also in the folklore of Byelorussia. [10] He is Piarun, who lives on mountain-tops and smites the Serpent. [11] He even made the first fire ever: it happened accidentally, when he struck a tree in which the Demon was hiding. [12]
In the Baltic languages there is a word that seems formally similar to the Slavic perunŭ and that likewise means both ‘thunderbolt’ and ‘thunder-god’. In Baltic languages, unlike Slavic, however, we cannot immediately arrive at a common Baltic form. In Lithuanian the word is perkū́nas, in Latvian it is pērkōns (standard spelling for pḕrkuons). For the Old Prussian forms we have the testimony of the Elbing Glossary: the entry percunis is glossed as ‘thunder’. Formal problems aside, there are striking thematic parallelisms between the Baltic and Slavic figures. Like Slavic Perun, the Latvian Pērkōns hurls a mace. [13] Like the Slavic Perun, the Baltic Perkū́nas of Lithuanian folklore dwells on lofty mountaintops: such places are called Perkūnkalnis ‘summit of Perkūnas’, and brazen idols of the god are sure to be there. [14] Also, Perkūnas strikes oak trees, which have fire stored up inside. [15] {183|184}
The personification of perkū́nas, as we have just seen, is closely associated with the oak tree. Moreover, while the derivative noun perkū́nija means ‘thunderstorm’, as Perkū́nija it can also designate the name of a place where a great oak stood; underneath this oak was an idol of Perkūnas. [16] The diction of Lithuanian folklore frequently yields the expression Perkūno ąžuolas ‘oak of Perkūnas,’ [17] which is matched by Latvian Pērkōna ōzōls ‘oak of Pērkōns’. [18] From story to story, the stroke of Perkūnas either seeks out oak trees or specifically avoids them. [19] Either way, the point remains that there is a thematic link between oaks and the stroke of Perkūnas. There even exist accounts of old Lithuanian rituals involving Perkūnas and oak trees. [20] Finally, Simon Grunau’s description of Old Prussian customs (written in the early sixteenth century) tells of a sacred oak with a hollow containing an idol of Perkūnas. [21]
Likewise in Slavic lore, Perun is associated with the oak. Besides the old Russian expression Perunov dub ‘oak of Perun’, [22] there is the additional evidence of a frequently attested Byelorussian folk theme, with Piarun violently striking oak trees. [23]
From both the Baltic and the Slavic evidence, it is clear that the god of the thunderbolt is associated with rocks as well as oaks. In Lithuanian folklore, for example, we find instances where Perkūnas is associated {184|185} with striking rocks instead of oaks. [24] Also, in a late seventeenth-century account of a heathen Lithuanian ritual involving Perkūnas, the sacral site features a rock and an oak situated five paces apart, [25] Similarly, the Byelorussian Perun (Piarun) goes about smiting not only oaks but also rocks. [26]
Obviously, all this thematic evidence makes it tempting to trace the Baltic and Slavic words for ‘thunder’/’thunder-god’ to a common formal source. The task is forbidding, however, as we may see from the skepticism recorded in the standard etymological dictionary of Russian. [27] The received opinion here is that perunŭ has the common Slavic agent suffix –unŭ and is probably derived from the verb *per- as in old Church Slavonic perǫ/pĭrati ‘strike’. [28] While the Slavic perunŭ looks like a deverbative meaning ‘the striker’, the form of Lithuanian perkū́nas looks like a denominative. On the basis of such formations as Latin Portūnus (from *portūnos), derived from the u-stem noun portus, Lithuanian perkū́nas has been reconstructed as *perkwūnos, derived from *perkwus. [29] Such a u-stem noun *perkwus is actually attested in Latin quercus ‘oak’. [30] Even without the comparative evidence, it seems that perkū́nas is a denominative. Other attested Lithuanian nouns with the suffix –ū́nas are known to be derived from u-stem nouns; [31] only nouns with the suffix –ūnas may be derived from verbs. [32]
Despite such internal evidence for the derivation of perkū́nas from *perkwu-, we find skepticism in the standard etymological dictionary of Lithuanian, [33] where perkū́nas is linked with the verb per̃ti ‘strike’, cognate with Old Church Slavonic perǫ/pǐrati ‘strike’. It is argued that Lithuanian could have preserved a radical variation of *per- (as in per̃-ti) and *per-kw– (as in perkū́nas, with extension of the root by *-kw-). [34] We may compare the radical variation of *per- and *per-g- as attested within the conjugation of an Armenian verb meaning ‘strike’, hari (aorist) vs. {185|186} harkanem (present). [35] The form *per-g- also survives in Indic Parjánya-, which serves as the Rig-Vedic name for the god of the thunderstorm. [36] Also, the internal evidence of Indic suggests that the formation of Parjánya– is deverbative. [37]
In short, the comparative evidence is ambivalent about the etymology of Lithuanian perkū́nas. Forms like Latin Portūnus suggest that perkū́nas is derived from a noun *perkwu- as in Latin quercus ‘oak’. Forms like Slavic perunŭ and Indic parjánya-, on the other hand, imply that the root *per-kw– of perkū́nas is a variant of *per-/*per-g-, meaning ‘strike’. The solution, as Roman Jakobson saw, is that *perkwu- had not always meant ‘oak’. [38] Rather, the noun *perkwu- is derived from a verb *per-kw-’strike’. The oak is named *perkwu-, as in Latin quercus, because it is the tree consecrated to the god who strikes with the thunderbolt. [39] The thematic association of Baltic Perkū́nas and Slavic Perunŭ with the oak serves as corroboration. [40]
The form *perkwu- is also attested in the Old Norse name Fjǫrgyn (feminine), by way of the intermediate form *perkwunī-; the ‘son’ of Fjǫrgyn is Thor the thunder-god (Vǫluspá 56.10, etc.). [41] Considering the thematic associations of the thunder-god Perkūnas with mountaintops, we must also compare the Gothic form fairguni, to be reconstructed as *perkwuni̯o- ‘mountain, mountain-range’. [42] Its form is matched by a {186|187} Celtic name transliterated as Ἑρκυνιο-. [43] Strabo uses the expression Ἑρκύνιος δρυμός ‘Hercynian woodlands’ in referring to the central mountain-range of Germany (4.6.9 C207; 7.1.3, 5 C290, 292). There is also a celebrated reference by Caesar to the Hercynia silva (Bellum Gallicum 6.24.2, 25). The semantic common denominator for the reconstruction *perkwuni̯o- (and feminine *perkwunī/*perkwuni̯ā-) seems to be ‘wooded mountain’. As in the case of oak trees in particular, we may suspect that wooded mountains were likewise consecrated to the god of the thunderbolt. There is also a suggestive morphological parallel, as V. V. Ivanov saw, [44] between *perkwuni̯o- and *meldhuni̯o-: this second formation survives as Old Norse mjǫllnir, the name of Thor’s Hammer. [45]
Roman Jakobson has argued convincingly for another parallel to the Celtic and Germanic reflexes of *perkwuni̯o -, in the Slavic word for ‘wooded hill’, *pergynja from *pergwūni̯ā. [46] We see reflexes in Old Church Slavonic pregynja ‘wooded hill’ and Old Russian peregynja (and various tabu-deformations) ‘wooded hill’, as well as in the Polish and Ukrainian toponomastic evidence. [47] Most important of all, we have it on record in East Slavic documents that Christian churchmen took pains to condemn the actual worship of wooded hills. [48] We may compare the Lithuanian toponym Perkū́nija, designating a spot where a great oak stood and where an idol of Perkūnas was venerated. [49] Besides the thematic parallelism between the Baltic and Slavic words, there is a formal parallelism as well. Both Baltic perkū́nija and Slavic *pergynja have *-ūn- in the suffix and both feature an extension of the root *per-’strike’. The important difference is that the radical extension is *-kw– in Baltic (*per-kw-ūn-) and *-gw-in Slavic (*per-gw-ūn-).
In the Old Russian Chronicles there is an interesting Slavic word closely parallel to the reconstructed *pergynja namely, perynja, along with two variants, реrynǐ and perunǐ; all three are attested in the locative {187|188} expressions na perunĕ, na peryni, na peruni respectively. [50] The usage of these expressions in the chronicles reveals a highly suggestive context: they refer to a hill overlooking Novgorod, on top of which was a sanctuary that harbored, as the chronicles tell us, the idol of Perun himself. [51] Archaeologists have actually found this sanctuary (1951): it is four kilometers south of Novgorod, situated on top of a hill surrounded by the Volxov River, its tributary, and a swamp. [52]
With this much contextual evidence, we can safely follow Roman Jakobson and V. V. Ivanov in linking the Slavic formations perunŭ, perynja/perynĭ/perunĭ, and *pergynja. I should add that we may abandon the notion that perunŭ is a deverbative agent noun. A variation like perynĭ/perunĭ strongly suggests the prehistoric existence of a *perynŭ matching perunŭ. [53] It also suggests, in my opinion, that we are dealing with denominative rather than deverbative forms, built directly from a u-stem noun. [54] We may compare the Latvian variation pḕrkūns/pḕrkuons/pḕrkauns ‘thunderbolt’, [55] The variation pḕrkūns/pḕrkuons in {188|189} Baltic (Latvian) corresponds to the variation perynǐ/perunǐ in Slavic, which in turn implies a variant *perynŭ for perunŭ. [56] In sum, we may reconstruct an underlying noun *peru-/*pergwu- in Slavic, and *perkwu- in Baltic.
The chain of derivation that I have posited for Slavic, verb *per- to noun *peru- to noun *perōuno-, has a close parallel in Hittite: verb tarḫ– to noun tarḫu– to noun tarḫuna-. [57] The verb tarḫ– ‘conquer, overpower, overcome’, comparable in meaning to *per- ‘strike’, has a u-stem derivative tarḫu-, as attested in the derivative tarḫuili– ‘heroic’. [58] The u-stem noun is also attested as Tarḫu-, the name of the Storm-God, who is head of the Luvian pantheon. [59] Moreover, the name Tarḫu– has a derivative, with the same meaning, shaped Tarḫuna. [60]
The derivation of tarḫu– from verb tarḫ– follows a familiar Hittite pattern: we may compare parku– ‘elevated’ from verb park– ‘lift’, ḫuišu– ‘alive’ from verb ḫuiš– ‘live’, and so on. [61] As for the derivation of Tarḫuna– from Tarḫu-, we may compare the form peruna– ‘rock’, derived from peru-’rock’; [62] both forms are used with the prefixed Sumerogram NA4, which also designates ‘rock’ or ‘stone’. The declension of Hittite peru– ‘rock’, {189|190} as we see from dative/locative peruni, reveals an r/n-stem added to the u-stem. [63] Hittite peru– ‘rock’ is cognate with Indic párvan– ‘joint [e.g. of sacrificial animal], knot [in plant]’. [64] The Indic noun can be explained as a derivative of the verb-root *per- ‘go to the end point, go over to the other side, arrive at the other side’, [65] with special reference tο the successful piercing through or cutting through of the body ‘s joints in the context of sacrifice. [66] We may compare the Greek verb peírō, which can mean either ‘pierce’ when the object is the body of a victim or ‘cross over’ when the object is a body of water (as reflected in such derivative nouns as póros). [67] These meanings are pertinent to the semantics of the Hittite verb tarḫ– ‘conquer, overpower, overcome’, from which the name of Tarḫu– the Storm-God is derived: the Indo-European root *terh2– underlying this Hittite verb also carries the meaning ‘cross over’ as in the Indic aptúr– ‘crossing over the water’, [68] and this meaning applies also in specific contexts of immortalization, as in the Greek néktar. [69] Given the parallelism between the sense of ‘cross over’ in the verb-root *terh2– and the sense of ‘go to the end point, go over to the other side, arrive at the other side’ in the verb-root *per-, we arrive at a better understanding of the etymology of Greek Ēlúsion, designating both the place where a thunderbolt has struck and the place of immortalization, ‘Elysium’: [70] this noun-formation is derived from –ḗlutho-, from the conjugation ἔρχομαι/ἐλεύσομαι in the sense of ‘arrive’. [71] Also, given the parallelism between the Hittite forms Tarḫu-/Tarḫuna-, designating the Storm-God, and peru-/peruna-, meaning ‘rock’, we may be ready to connect Hittite peruna– ‘rock’ with Slavic perunŭ ‘(god of) thunderbolt’, just as we have connected Latin quercus ‘oak’ with Baltic (Lithuanian) perkū́nas ‘(god of) thunderbolt’. As we have already seen, rocks as well as oaks were sacred to the god of the thunderbolt. [72]
The cognate of Hittite peru– ‘rock’, to repeat, is Indic párvan– ‘joint [e.g. of sacrificial animal], knot [in plant]’, derived from the verb-root *per- meaning ‘go to the end point, go over to the other side, arrive at {190|191} the other side’, with special reference to the successful piercing through or cutting through of the body’s joints in the context of sacrifice. Given the implication of sacred violence in this meaning, we may be justified in identifying this verb-root *per- with the verb-root *per- that we have been defining up to now simply as ‘strike’, attested in the Baltic and the Slavic verbs that yield the words for ‘(god of) thunderbolt’ in these languages. Although I know of no verb shaped *per- in Hittite, we may still cite parḫ-’chase, drive, make (a horse) gallop’. Justas tarḫ– ‘conquer, overpower, overcome’ is traced back to the root *terh2-, so also parḫ– might stem from *perh2-, with radical extension *-h2– added to the *per- which hypothetically survives as peru– ‘rock’. The attested meanings of parḫ– might be secondary to a primary meaning ‘strike’; we may compare the semantics of Lithuanian gìnti ‘chase, drive (cattle) to pasture’, [73] cognate with Indic hánti ‘strike, kill’, Hittite kwenzi (same meaning), and so on.
In further support of the derivation of Hittite peruna– from a verb-root *per- ‘strike’, we may consider the Hittite epithet kunkunuizi– (with prefixed Sumerogram NA4 designating ‘rock’ or ‘stone’) as applied to the megalithic monster Ullikummi, who was himself born of a huge piruna– (= peruna-) ‘rock’. [74] The form kunkunuzzi– is an instrument-noun derived from the verb kwenzi ‘strike, kill’. [75] In the Indic RigVeda the cognate verb hánti ‘strike, kill’ regularly denotes the action of the thunderbolt. [76] For the reduplication in kunkunuzzi-, we may compare a South Slavic form related to perunŭ, perperuna, which is a name for a virgin chosen to dance for rain: [77] “nude and draped with flowers she whirls ecstatically in the middle of a ring, invoking in song the sky or Elijah to moisten and fructify the earth.” [78] To repeat; kunkunuzzi– is an instrument-noun; [79] accordingly, we might have expected the word to designate a weapon—maybe even a projectile at that. Instead, it designates an animated boulder that is destined to be smitten by the Storm-God. [80]
There is a comparable ambiguity in Old Norse: hamarr may mean ‘rock, boulder, cliff’ as well as ‘hammer’; the former meaning is attested {191|192} in toponyms like Hammerfest. Conversely, Lithuanian akmuõ ‘rock, stone’ is cognate with Greek ákmōn, which means not ‘hammer’ but ‘anvil’. To complicate matters further, there are traces of the meaning ‘thunderbolt’ in the usage of ákmōn in Homeric and Hesiodic diction. [81] We even hear of a god Akmōn, father of Ouranós ‘Sky’ (Alcman PMG 61). Also, in a sixteenth-century account of pagan Lithuanian practices, there is a god (mentioned alongside Perkūnas himself) who is named Akmo and who is described as saxum grandius. [82] Amidst all this complicated evidence, we must keep in mind the basic ambiguity, namely, that the word for the thunder-weapon is being applied to the thunder-target itself; also, that the meaning may become simplified to the extent of designating merely the weapon or the target, without any overt message about the thunderstroke itself.
As further illustration of the weapon/target ambiguity, we may consider the Indic noun áśman-, cognate of Greek ákmōn and Lithuanian akmuõ. This word is used in the RigVeda to designate the weapon of Indra (2.30.5, 4.22.1, 7.104.19). The activities of Indra, this national war-god, are as a rule described in a specialized language that is so highly stylized that it tends to blur the naturalistic aspects of his background as thunder-god, more visible in his counterpart Parjánya-. [83] Nevertheless, the basic naturalistic attributes of Indra persist in the RigVeda: he gives rain (4.26.2, etc.), lightning comes from him (2.13.7), he is likened to a thundering cloud-driver (6.44.12), and he is specifically described as equal to Parjanya at raintime (8.6.1). Indra’s weapon is predominantly called the vájra-, which, in keeping with the stylistic specialization of his descriptions, has become Indra’s personal distinguishing feature in the diction of the RigVeda. Like its owner, however, the vájra-, too, has natural attributes that persist: it thunders (1.100.13) and roars (2.11.10). With this vájra– of his, Indra conventionally strikes boulders and thereby releases water or light—a theme so common that any listing of the attestations would be superfluous. [84] Suffice it to note here that one of the words for ‘boulder’ in the RigVeda is áśman– (1.130.3, etc.), the same word that can also designate Indra’s weapon (again, 2.30.5, etc.). [85] {192|193}
In addition, we should consider a far more common word for ‘boulder’ in the RigVeda, a word that is actually derived from párvan-, the Indic cognate of Hittite peru– ‘rock’. [86] The word in question is párvata-’boulder’. The párvata– that Indra strikes with his vájra– is often a metaphorical substitute for ‘cloud’. [87] In the diction of the RigVeda, the description of streams that burst forth from a smashed boulder is conventionally made parallel to the description of rain flowing from clouds. [88] In the description of rain, the expression ā́divó br̥hatáh ‘from the high Heaven’ is parallel to parvátādā́ ‘from the Boulder’ (5.43.11). [89] Indra conventionally smites (verb hánti) the Serpent on the párvata– (1.32.1, etc.), which in such contexts İs traditionally rendered as ‘mountain’. [90] In fact, párvata– is frequently in apposition to the noun girí– ‘mountain’ (1.37.7, etc.). Alternatively, it is the Demon called Vr̥tra whom Indra smites (verb hánti) on the párvata-; in the process, Indra İs also described as smashing the párvata– directly and thus bringing water (1.32.1, 1.57.6). [91]

The mighty Indra not only smashes the párvata-: at times he is actually likened to it, as in the expression

párvato dharúṇeṣu ácyutaḥ

RigVeda 1.52.2
like a párvata-, unshakable in his fortifications

There is also a personified Parvata, who is Indra’s alter ego (RigVeda 1.32.6, etc.) or his antagonist (8.3.19). Finally, párvata– may refer to Indra’s weapon itself: {193|194}

abhí jahi rakṣásah párvatena

RigVeda 7.104.19
smite [verb hán-] the demons with your párvata [92]

As Louis Renou remarks in his study (with Emile Benveniste) of Vr̥tra and Vr̥trahan in the RigVeda, there is a curious fact about the attributes proper to Indra the Vr̥trahan or ‘Vr̥tra-killer’: these same attributes are also proper to his arch-antagonist, V̥rtra. [93] I would add, from a distinct set of myths, the case of párvata-, a word that stands for either Indra’s target (‘rock, boulder, mountain’) or his weapon [94] and which is also suitable for comparison with the very likeness of the fulminating Almighty in the myths of the Indic peoples. [95]

No survey of forms related to Baltic (Lithuanian) perkū́nas and Slavic perunŭ can be definitive without mention of the Greek form keraunós, which likewise designates not only the thunderbolt but also the god of the thunderbolt. At Mantineia in ancient Arcadia, for example, Keraunós was the epithet of Zeus himself (IG V 2.288). From not only the functional but also the formal point of view, it has been observed, keraunós seems parallel to Slavic perunŭ. [96] One explanation that has been offered is to reconstruct perunŭ as *peraunos, to which keraunós would correspond as a tabu rhyme-word of the type Donnerledder for Donnerwetter. [97] According to this scheme, keraunós consists of root *ker- as in keraízō ‘destroy, ravage’ plus the suffix *-aunos, which is patterned to rhyme with the *-aunos of *per-aunos; [98] the earlier suffixal pattern, the argument goes, is *ker-u- as in Indic śáru– ‘missile, arrow’. [99]
I see at least two disadvantages to this explanation. First, the reconstruction *au in *per-aunos is puzzling from the standpoint of Indo-European morphology. Second, we can account for the *au of keraunós {194|195} more easily in terms of the Greek language itself. The noun keraunós may be formed from the base *kerau̯- as attested in the Homeric verb keraízō ‘destroy, ravage’. [100] The base *kerau̯- (from *kerh2u-) contains the root *kerh2-, [101] clearly visible in the Indic verb śr̥ṇā́ti ‘shatter’ (from *kr̥-n-eh2-ṷ). [102] In RigVeda 3.30.17, this verb actually denotes the action of Indra’s bolt against his adversaries, described in metaphorical language that pictures them as trees rather than men. Finally, we may note the apparent formal parallelism between Greek keraunós (from *kerh2-ṷ-) and Hittite tarḫuna– (from *terh2-u̯-).
Even if keraunós may not be formally connected with Baltic perkū́nas and Slavic perunŭ, perhaps teipikéraunos can. Like Homeric argikeraunós ‘he whose thunderbolt shines’ (Iliad XX 16, XXII 178), terpikeraunós too seizes exclusively as an epithet of Zeus himself (VIII 2, XII 252, etc.). In fact, the two epithets are formulaic variants. We may note, too, the synchronic morphological parallelism between terpi– and argi– (from *h2ergi-; cf. Hittite ḫarki– ‘bright’). If we set up a reconstruction *kwerpi- for terpi-, then we may recover an earlier *perkwi- by way of metathesis. [103] If argikéraunos means ‘he whose bolt shines’, perhaps terpikéraunos means ‘he whose bolt strikes’. [104]
The time has come to ask why oaks and rocks should be singled out for a sacral affinity with the thunderbolt to such an extent that their designations are interchangeable in various Indo-European languages. From our own secular standpoint, it is obvious that rocks, boulders, trees, hills, or mountains are targets of lightning by virtue of their elevation or prominence. But there are other factors as well in attracting the stroke of lightning. I would be out of my field in attempting a strictly scientific discussion about these other factors, but they can be in any case easily intuited even by the unscientific mind. For example, it is an observable fact that different kinds of trees have significantly different degrees of susceptibility to being struck by lightning. In a quaint experiment conducted by the Lippe-Detmold’sche Forstverwaltung over the years 1879 to 1890, the following statistics emerge for the susceptibility, {195|196} in a given forest, of certain species of tree to lightning strikes:

% of all trees in forest
number of lightening strikesoak
3 or 4fir
20 or 21

We may observe especially the dramatic contrast between oaks and beeches—a contrast that was already observed ages earlier through the medium of folklore. In Nordic mythology, for example, Thor the thunder-god smites the giants when they hide under an oak, but he has no power over them when they hide under a beech. [105]
In the logic of myth there is an inference built into the known attraction of oaks to the thunderbolt. There must have been something intrinsic in oak trees that is like the thunderbolt and that therefore attracts it. Also, rocks must have some kindred quality. This quality, I suggest, is potential fire. The Lithuanian thunder-god Perkūnas, for instance, was believed to strike oak trees that have fire stored up inside. [106] Or again, the prime material for the heathen German Notfeuer, equivalent of English willfire, which may be produced only by friction, was oak wood. [107] As for rocks, we may consider again the Byelorussian tradition that pictures Piarun (Perun) rubbing two gigantic millstones together, thus producing thunder and lightning. [108] Indra too brings forth fire áśmanor antár ‘between two rocks’ (RigVeda 2.12.3). [109] In sum, those earthbound things that we use to kindle fire and that also attract the thunderbolt must tell us something, by dint of their celestial affinity, about how the fire of the thunderbolt comes about. Conversely, the fact that we can rub fire out of wood and rock suggests that these materials were once infused, perhaps even impregnated, with the stroke of some thunderbolt. [110]
As we shall now see, the infusion of thunder-fire into wood and stone is a sexual and anthropogonic theme. Let us begin with instances of overtly creative themes associated with the thunderbolt. In Indic {196|197} mythology, for example, Indra’s vájra-, his stylized thunderbolt, is not only destructive but also procreative. [111] The Iranian cognate, vazra-, forms a derivative vazraka-, which means ‘endowed with generative power’ in Old Persian. [112] The radical *u̯eg- of vájra/vazra– recurs in the Rig-Vedic word vā́ja– ‘generative power residing in vegetation, cattle, etc.’. [113] It also recurs in Latin uigeō ‘thrive’ and uegeō ‘quicken, arouse’. [114] We may note in this connection the Old Norse lore about Thor’s Hammer, which hallows the laps of brides and has the power of bringing his dead goats back to life. [115] Or we may note a Lithuanian belief, reported by the cleric Matthäus Praetorius (late seventeenth century), that lightning could beget human children in the vicinity where it strikes. [116] Or again, if lightning strikes in the daytime as a child is being born, he will thrive; if it strikes at night, the child will die. [117] If a man is struck down in a thunderstorm that is heading west, he dies as a favorite of God; if the thunderstorm was heading east, he has died on account of his sins. [118] Within the framework of this presentation, however, I cannot do justice to the vast subject of the thunderbolt’s destructive/creative ambivalence in Indo-European lore. [119] My main purpose instead is to explore specifically the Indo-European traditions concerning the association of the thunderbolt with trees and rocks, and how the action of a thunderstroke on these materials was believed to be sacral and, more than that, creative.
A belief in the creative and even anthropogonic powers of trees or rocks is indirectly attested in a Greek proverb: surely you or I or anyone else today, the saying has it, were not created either from oaks or from rocks (e.g. {197|198} Plato Apology 34d, Republic 544d; Plutarch Consolation to his Wife 608c; Philostratus Images 2.3.1). By implication, as we shall see, earlier humans had just such origins.

Let us return to our starting point, the passage in the Odyssey where Penelope challenges the disguised Odysseus to reveal his hidden identity by revealing his lineage (xix 162). She adds the following words:

οὐ γὰρ ἀπὸ δρυὸς ἐσσὶ παλαιφάτου οὐδ’ ἀπὸ πέτρης

Odyssey xix 163
For surely you are not from an oak, as in the old stories, or from a rock.

The context of Penelope’s utterance reveals a detached attitude, on her own part, toward an old myth. The narrative that frames Penelope’s words is itself merely alluding to a theme, without going into details that seem inappropriate to an epic situation. The epithet palaíphatos ‘spoken of a long time ago’, which may be interpreted as referring to both ‘oak’ and ‘rock’, is a self-conscious poetic allusion to a genre other than epic. Elsewhere in Homeric diction, the adjective palaíphato– is used exclusively to describe thésphata, which may be defined as ‘words of a mántis [seer] or of one who functions as a mántis’. [120]

In Hesiodic poetry as well, there is a fastidious attitude toward treating the theme of oaks and rocks with any references that would go beyond mere allusion. There is a passage in the Theogony (31-34) where the poet has just told how the Muses infused in him the power to sing about {198|199} past and future things, and about the origins of the gods; also, to start and end the song by singing of the Muses themselves. The poet then breaks off with these words:

ἀλλὰ τίη μοι ταῦτα περὶ δρῦv ἢ περὶ πέτρην;

Hesiod Theogony 35
But why do I have these things about the oak or about the rock?

With this utterance, the narration is pausing to take a self-conscious look at the point that has been reached so far in the composition of the Theogony. In the next verse, the break is followed up with Μουσάων ἀρχώμεθα ‘let us start with the Muses’, the same expression that had inaugurated the Theogony at verse 1. Thus the narration has come full circle from Theogony 1 to 36, and Hesiod “has to make a fresh start on the same lines as before.” [121] Verse 35 actually anticipates that Hesiod is about to make this fresh start with verses 36 and following. For Hesiod to ask in verse 35 why he has “these things about [= going around] [122] the oak or about the rock” is the equivalent of asking why he has lingered at the beginning of beginnings. “Why am I still going around, as it were, the proverbial oak or rock? Let me proceed at last by starting out again!”

Finally, we may consider the passage in Iliad XXII where Hektor is deliberating whether he should throw himself at the mercy of Achilles. He then decides against taking this course of action, saying to himself:

ἀλλά τίη μοι ταῦτα φίλος διελέξατο θυμός;

Iliad XXII 122
But why do I have these things to talk about with my spirit [thūmós]?

Hektor recognizes that Achilles will be merciless and will surely kill him (XXII 123-125). At this point, Hektor expresses his loss of hope in terms of the proverb:

οὐ μέν πως νῦν ἔστιν ἀπὸ δρυὸς οὐδ’ ἀπὸ πέτρης {199|200}
τῷ ὀαριζέμεναι

Iliad XXII 126-127
It is by now impossible to converse with him, starting from the oak or from the rock. [123]

In other words, it is no use to begin at the beginning with Achilles. There is no more time to make a fresh start of things.

In these three poetic contexts the proverbial oak or rock connotes not only temporal but also cultural remoteness. In all three instances elaboration on the theme is studiously avoided as if it were inappropriate, perhaps even too primitive. The theme is indeed “primitive,” in the sense that we can find it commonly attested in the widest spectrum of societies. In the mythmaking traditions of many peoples of the world, it is a recurrent theme that humankind originated from trees or rocks. [124] A comparable theme can be reconstructed in the traditions of Indo-European languages as well. [125] From the Germanic evidence, we may note in particular the following reflexes of the root *perkw-: Old Norse fjǫr ‘life’; Old English feorh ‘life, soul’ and fíras ‘men’; and so on. [126] From the Celtic, there are such examples as the Old Irish name Macc Daro ‘son of oak’, Mace Cairthin (also the Ogam genitive Maqi Cairatini) ‘son of rowan-tree’, Macc Ibair ‘son of yew’, and so on. [127] There is also a wealth of further evidence, such as the testimony of Lithuanian folk songs. [128]
Instead of going further with illustrations, however, I simply return to the cenital point lo be made. We have observed an ambivalence in the application of Indo-European *per(kw)u- to oaks in some languages {200|201} (Latin quercus) and to rocks in others (Hittite peru). This etymological ambivalence, we now see, is matched by the thematic ambivalence in the obsolescent ancient Greek proverb alluding to the myth that humankind originated either from oaks or from rocks—whichever of the two. The unifying theme that resolves these two cases of ambivalence, I am suggesting, is the creative action of the Indo-European thunder-god, whose very name is formed from the derivatives of *per(kw)u- in Baltic (Perkū́nas) and Slavic (Perunǔ). {201|202}


[ back ] 1. Frazer 1930.224-225; also 90, 92, 151, 155 (trees) and 106, 131, 187-188 (rocks/stones).
[ back ] 2. Frazer p. 90.
[ back ] 3. Cf. Frazer pp. 220-221.
[ back ] 4. Bachelard 1949, esp. pp. 45-47.
[ back ] 5. Cf. Dworak 1938, esp. p. 1.
[ back ] 6. For the difficult task of establishing the etymological links between these words, I cite the parthfinding work of Ivanov 1958 and Ivanov and Toporov 1970, folloing Jakobson 1950, 1955; cf. Watkins 1966.33-34, 1970.350, 1974.107. Book-length treatment in Ivanov and Toporov 1974.
[ back ] 7. Cf. REW s.v. perún.
[ back ] 8. The testimonia have beeen assembled by Gimbutas 1967.741-742.
[ back ] 9. Cf. Darkevič 1961.91-102.
[ back ] 10. Cf. Ivanov and Toporov 1968, 1970.
[ back ] 11. Ivanov and Toporov 1970.1182.
[ back ] 12. Seržputovski 1930.26 (I no. 268); cf. Ivanov and Toporov p. 1194.
[ back ] 13. Cf. the expression Pērkōns męt savu milnu ‘Pērkōns throws his mace’ (Ivanov and Toporov p. 1195). Note that milna ‘mace’ is related to Old Norse mjǫllnir, the word for the hammer of Thor the thunder-god. Note, too, that Thor’s mother is Fjǫrgyn (from *perkunī). On these forms: Ivanov 1958.104.
[ back ] 14. Balys 1937.163 nos. 233-236; also p. 149 nos. 4-5. Cf. Ivanov Toporov p. 1182.
[ back ] 15. For an attestation of this believ, see the first-person account of the cleric Matthäus Praetorius (late seventeenth century) of his encounter with some Lithuanian woodcutters, as reprinted in Mannhardt 1936.533-535. For the relative reliability of Praetorius, see Mannhardt pp.519-520.
[ back ] 16. Balys 1937.163 no. 246; cf. Ivanov and Toporov p. 1184.
[ back ] 17. Balys p. 163 no. 241; cf. Ivanov and Toporov p. 1184
[ back ] 18. Šmits 1940.1401; cf. Ivanov and Toporov p. 1184
[ back ] 19. Balys 1937.158 no. 141 and p. 197 no. 802; cf. Ivanov and Toporov pp. 1193-1194.
[ back ] 20. For a detailed account by Matthäus Praetorius, see Mannhardt 1936.539-540 (cf. Ivanov and Toporov p. 1189). Perkūnas was venerated with perpetual fires fueled by ‘oak wood (for documentation, see Mannhardt pp. 196, 335, 435, 535, etc.). When Christian zealots extinguished such perpetual fires, the natives believed that Perkūnas would freeze (Mannhardt p. 436).
[ back ] 21. Mannhardt p. 196; cf. Ivanov and Toporov p. 1187. For a balanced account of Grunau’s basic reliability, see Krollmann 1927.14-17. Without reading Krollmann, we would be prone to overinterpret the severe judgment of Jaskiewicz 1952.92-93, who was primarily concerned with the unreliability of a later writer, Jan Lasicki (late sixteenth century). Krollmann argues cogently the unlikelihood of Grunau’s having “invented” a Prussian system of gods modeled on a Nordic scheme. It strains credulity to imagine that this wandering beggar-monk (who even spoke Prussian himself) would have created a pastiche based on Adam of Bremen (Krollmann pp. 15-17). Krollmann’s inference, however, that the Prussian religious practices described by Grunau were borrowed from Nordic culture (p. 17) is gratuitous, As for Jaskiewicz, I find in his brief discussion of Grunau no facts to support his contention that Grunau’s account of Perkūnas and the ‘oak is mere phantasmagoria (pp. 92-93). For a balanced evaluation of Grunau’s reliability, see Puhvel 1974.
[ back ] 22. Ivanov and Toporov pp. 1183-1184.
[ back ] 23. Seržputovski 1930.9 no. 49; cf. also p. 8 nos. 37-48. Cf. also Ivanov and Toporov pp.1193-1194.
[ back ] 24. Balys 137.159 nos. 155-164; cf. Ivanov and Toporov p. 1194.
[ back ] 25. Mannhardt 1936.539-540.
[ back ] 26. Ivanov and Toporov p. 1193.
[ back ] 27. REW s.v. perún.
[ back ] 28. Also Russian peru/prat’, Czech peru/prati, etc.; cf. Lithuanian per̃ti ‘strike’. For a typical example of the agent-suffix –unŭ, cf. Russian begún ‘runner’ from begat’ ‘run’.
[ back ] 29. Schulze 1929.287. Cf. also Latin tribūnus from tribus, lacūna from lacus, and so on.
[ back ] 30. DELL, s.v. For a survey of Germanic cognates meaning ‘oak’ or ‘fir’, see the discussion of Friedrich 1970.136-137. For the semantic shift from ‘oak’ to ‘fir’, see Friedrich p. 13Gn30; also Vendryes 1927.314-315 and Güntert 1914.214.
[ back ] 31. Specht 1932.215: e.g. karaliū́nas ‘prince’ from karãlius ‘king’.
[ back ] 32. Otrębski 1965.206; the suffix –ūnas too may be denominative (Otrębski p. 207), but the point remains that –ū́nas cannot be deverbative.
[ back ] 33. LEW s.v.
[ back ] 34. LEW s.v.; cf. Meillet 1926.171.
[ back ] 35. Meillet p. 171 and LEW s.v. For the derivative orot ‘thunder’, see Lidén 1906.88ff.
[ back ] 36. Meillet p. 171 and KEWA s.v.
[ back ] 37. We may note that –áni– is a deverbative formant of abstract nouns and adjectives, suchas śaráṇi– ‘malice’ from śr̥– ‘destroy’ and sakṣáni– ‘overpowering’ from sah– ‘overpower’.For more examples, see Wackernagel and Debrunner 1954.207, where it is pointed out that abstract nouns in *eni- arc also a productive category in Germanic. (The type –áni– becomes infinitival in Indic, and some nouns in –ani– seem to be formed by way of infinitives in –áni-: see Renou 1937, esp. pp. 73-78.) There are two especially interesting examples: áni– ‘thunderbolt’ and aráṇi– ‘wood for obtaining fire by friction’ (on which see p. 156). In neither case has the respective verb of these derivatives even survived in Indic. Sometimes the suffix –áni– is found with the accentuation –aní-, as in kṣipaní– ‘stroke of the whip’ from kṣip– ‘hurl’ and dyotaní– ‘brightness’ from dyut– ‘shine’. The point is, the suffixes –anyà– (= –anía-) and –ánya– seem to be derivatives of –aní– and –áni– respectively. (For the derivation of i̯o-stems from i-stems, cf. Wackernagel and Debrunner pp. 778, 804, 816-817; also Benveniste 1935.73-74.) For examples of the suffix –anya-, we may adduce nabhanya– ‘bursting forth’ from nabh– ‘burst’ and abhyavanyà– ‘apportioning’ from abhyavadhā– ‘apportion’; cf. Wackernagel and Debrunner p. 212. In sum, I interpret parjánya– as ‘striking, the striker’, from *perg- ‘strike’.
[ back ] 38. Jakobson 1955.
[ back ] 39. Jakobson 1955. LEW 574 also connects the following words containing the root *per-: Lithuanian pérgas ‘Einbaum, Fischerkahn’, Old English fercal ‘bolt’, Latin реrgula ‘projection from an edifice’. We may perhaps add Czech prkno ‘board’. For the semantics, cf. Trautmann 1906. On Indic parkatī, see KEWA s.v.
[ back ] 40. Here we have the central point of Ivanov and Toporov 1970.
[ back ] 41. Meid 1957.126; Ivanov 1958.105; Güntert 1914.213.
[ back ] 42. Ivanov 1958.104-104, 107; for a discussion of related forms in Germanic, see Feist 1939 s.vv. fairguni and fairhvus; I draw attention to the delabialization of *kw to *k: *perkwun- to *perkun-.
[ back ] 43. Ivanov 1958.104-105, 107; Watkins 1966.33-34; Meid 195.284-285.
[ back ] 44. Ivanov 1958.104.
[ back ] 45. Cf. p. 183n13. The formal type *perkwŭ-ni̯o- is worth contrasting with the type *perkwū-no- as in Lithuanian perkū́nas, where the derivation from *perkwu- is accompanied by lengthening of the *-u-. The same kind of lengthening, as we have already noted, occurs in Latin: Роrtūnus from portus, tribūnus from tribus, and so on. A comparable kind of non-lengthening pattern as in *perkwŭ-ni̯o- is evident in Indic: árjuna– ‘bright’ (cf. Greek árgǔros, árgǔphos); cf. also the inner-lndic derivative patterns śmaśrǔ– ‘bearded’ from śmaśrǔ-’beard’, dārúna-’sturdy’ from dā́ru– ‘wood’, etc. (cf. Wackernagel and Debrunner 1954.485-486, 734; Meid 1956.270, 280).
[ back ] 46. Jakobson 1955; cf. also Ivanov 1958.107-108, pace Vaillant 1948.
[ back ] 47. Jakobson 1955.
[ back ] 48. Mansikka 1922.305; Jakobson 1955.616.
[ back ] 49. See p. 184.
[ back ] 50. Ivanov 1958.107.
[ back ] 51. Mansikka 1922.65, 380; Ivanov p. 107.
[ back ] 52. Jakobson 1955.615, Gimbutas1967.742.
[ back ] 53. Ivanov 1958.106-107. We may compare the variation in the Slavic word for ‘wormwood’, *pelynŭ/pelunŭ, as attested in Old Church Slavonic pelynŭ, Polish piołyn/piołun, Czech pelyn/pelun, and so on. Cf. Būga 1959 [1921].332; cf. also Meid 1956.273-274.
[ back ] 54. I reconstruct Slavic –ynŭ/-unŭ as *-ūnos/*-ōunos, on the basis of comparative evidence from Baltic, especially Latvian. For the clearest example available, I note that the Latvian u-stem noun vìrsus ‘summit’ has the variant derivatives vìrsūne and vìrsuone, both likewise meaning ‘summit’ (LDW 4:616). We may compare Lithuanian viršū́ne ‘summit’, from viršùs ‘summit’. Such an alternation –ūn-/-uon– clearly suggests an earlier *-ūn-/-ōun- (Endzelin 1923.235, 240; cf. Meid 1956.276 on the type υἱύς/υἱωνός; the negative arguments of Schmeja 1963.40-41 are based mainly on the relative dearth of positive evidence in Greek). Latvian also shows a third variant, vìrsaune (LDW 4:610-611), which is significant because inherited *ōu has a bivalent reflex in Baltic, au as well as uo (Stang 1966.47-48, 75-76). We see the ū/uo/au alternation not only in derivatives of u-stems such as vìrsūne/vìrsuone/vìrsaune but also in the actual declension of both Lithuanian and Latvian u-stems (Slang pp. 75-76). And it so happens that we find the same ū/uo/au alternation in the attested Latvian variants of the word for ‘thunderbolt’, pḕrkūns/pḕrkuons/pḕrkauns (LDW 3:208-209); besides these o-stems, we also find the i̯о-stems pę̄ rkūnis/pę̄rkuonis/pę̄rkaunis (LDW 3:208-209).
[ back ] 55. See the previous note. Of these three formations, it is pḕrkuons that prevails in the standard language (spelled pērkōns), largely because agent-nouns in –uons are a productive category in Latvian (the suffix –uonis is likewise productive in Latvian; cf. Lithuanian –uonis, which is produtive, whereas –uonas, cognate of Latvian –uons, is not). Specht I932 (240-241, 259, 264-265, etc.) has demonstrated that the suffix –uons of such agent-nouns is derived ultimately from *-ōn- (as in Greek -ων); the *-ōn- is clearly attested in older Lithuanian –; the replacement pattern that prevailed in this language is not the o-stem –uonas but the i̯o-stem –uonis (unlike Latvian, where –uons and –uonis coexist). Specht’s demonstration, however, need not lead to the inference that Latvian pḕrkuons, as distinct from pḕrkūns, is not an inherited form. It is simply a matter of phonological ambiguity in Baltic (both *ōu and *ō yield uo), which has led to a morphological reinterpretation. The variant pḕrkuons prevails over pḕrkūns because its suffix –uons, which I reconstruct as *-ōunos, now has the same familiar shape as the productive formant of agent-nouns, –uons as derived from *-ōnos. Let us contrast a situation where we find no such inherent parallelism, as in the case of vìrsūne/vìrsuone/virsaune, discussed in the previous note: bere the form that prevails is vìrsaune, not vìrsuone (for all the forms, see LOW 4:610-611). In considering the displacement of pḕrkūns by pḕrkuons in Latvian, we should note, too, that this language does not have a productive category of agent-nouns in –ūns. Conversely. Lithuanian perkū́nas can prevail over perkuonas because the language has no productive category of agent-nouns in –uonas (from *-ōnos); rather, the productive suffixes are –uonis and –ūnas. For vestiges of perkuonas (and viršuone) in Old Lithuanian, see Specht p. 265.
[ back ] 56. Just as Latvian pḕrkuons prevails over pḕrkūns because of the productive agent-suffix –uons (see previous note), so also we may say that Slavic perunŭ prevails over *perynŭ because its suffix –unŭ, which I reconstruct as *-ōunos, is shaped like an agent-suffix that is productive in Slavic, –unŭ. In this case, I prefer to reconstruct the deverbative agent-suffix also as *-ōunos, the same suffix that is derived from u-stem nouns. In other words, deverbative –unŭ was once denominative (cf. Specht 1932.268). We may compare Lithuanian –ūnas and –uonis, which are still denominative as well as deverbative, as distinct from –ū́nas, which is formally marked for an exclusively denominative category (cf. Specht pp. 240-241; also Meid 1956.268-270).
[ back ] 57. This is not to say that e.g. *terh2u- cannot be a verb-formation (cf. Hittite tarḫuzzi, Indic tárute, tū́rvati, etc.).
[ back ] 58. Laroche 1958.90. Also Watkins 1990.
[ back ] 59. Laroche pp. 91-95; on Tarḫunt– and the thunderbolt, see Laroche p. 95. Cf. Watkins 1974.107. Cf. also p. 131.
[ back ] 60. Laroche pp. 93, 94.
[ back ] 61. Laroche p. 90. As for the vocalism of tarḫ-, etc., Kuryłowicz 1958.228 observes that roots ending in –erC tend to generalize the zero-grade in Hittite (-R̥C> –arC, where R = r, l, m, n and C = other consant).
[ back ] 62. Laroche p. 90. Also spelled piruna– and piru-.
[ back ] 63. Hoffmann 1975 [1974].332,336.
[ back ] 64. Hoffmann pp. 332, 336.
[ back ] 65. Bergren 1975.62-101, esp. p. 95.
[ back ] 66. Bergren pp. 67-78, esp. pp. 68-69 on RigVeda 1.61.12, where Indra hurls his thunderbold at Vr̥tra in order to sever his joints (noun párvan), much as the joints of an ox are severed; cf. also Hoffmann 1975 [1974].332.
[ back ] 67. Cf. DELG 871. Detailed discussion of the semantics in Bergren pp. 95-101.
[ back ] 68. See p. 139.
[ back ] 69. See p. 139. Cf. aso. p. 156n49 on Indic taráni– in the sense of ‘ship’.
[ back ] 70. See p. 140.
[ back ] 71. On the level of form, this derivation of Ēlúsion is corroborated by DELG 411; my interpretation of the meaning, however, differs from that of DELG.
[ back ] 72. See pp. 184ff.
[ back ] 73. Cf. also the derivative naktìgonis ‘night-herder of horses’: LEW 152.
[ back ] 74. For the Ullikummi texts, see Güterbock 1952, esp. pp. 37, 146-147.
[ back ] 75. Ivanov 1958.110, Ivanov and Toporov 1970.1196-1197.
[ back ] 76. Grassmann 1873 s.v. han-, the attestations labeled “1.”
[ back ] 77. Jakobson 1955.616, with a list of tabu-variants.
[ back ] 78. Jakobson 1950.1026.
[ back ] 79. For another example of Hittite instrument-noun in –uzzi-: išḫuzzi– ‘belt’, vs verb išḫiya– ‘bind’.
[ back ] 80. Sec Güterbock 1952.6. The Storm-God is written with the Sumerogram dU, but the Ullikummi texts (as well as others) reveal the Hittite ending –unaš; сf. Güterbock p. 4n14. The full form is probably Tarḫunaš (Laroche 1958.94-95).
[ back ] 81. Whitman 1970, esp. pp. 39-40.
[ back ] 82. Rostowski’s history of the Jesuit Order in Lithuania (1538): see Mannhardt 1936.435 and Reichelt 1913.26. On the related subject of Iuppiter Lapis, see Schwenck 1859.393-394. Cf. also the Laconian cult stone known as Zeùs Kappṓtās (Pausanias 3.22.1).
[ back ] 83. On this figure, see p. 180. For a balanced discussion of the naturalism surrounding the Parjánya– figure, see Lommel 1939.38—44. For a contrast of the naturalistic/nonnaturalistic descriptions of Parjanya/lndra, see Oldenberg 1917.137. The relative dearth of naturalism in descriptions of Indra results from intense stylistic elaboration and evolution, not shared by the far less developed Parjanya figure.
[ back ] 84. For a survey, see Rechelt 1913.34-37.
[ back ] 85. In RigVeda 2.12.3, Indra brings forth fire áśmanor antár ‘between two rocks’. Ivanov and Toporov 1970.1195-119 compare the Byelorussian theme where Perun (piarun) rubs two gigantic millstones together, thus producing thunder and lightning.
[ back ] 86. See pp. 189ff.
[ back ] 87. See again Lommel 1939.42-43. In a few passages, áśman– allows the interpretation‘sky’ (e.g. RigVeda 7.88.2; but see Geldner 1951 2:259 and Kniper 1964.111n80). Reichelt1913 has argued that áśman– could be used with the meaning ‘sky’ as well as ‘stone’ becausethe sky was thought to have a stone vault once upon a time. We may compare especiallyAvestan asan-/asman’rack, stone, sky’ (Bartholomae 1904.207-208). For typological parallels from Africa, see Baumann 1936.146-147. Although Reichelt’s presentation is persuasive, there is another way to explain the meaning ‘sky’. If ‘rock’ equals ‘cloud’ by way of metaphor, the notion of ‘cloud’ could easily evolve into ‘sky’. We may compare Hittite nepiš ‘sky’ and Slavic nebo ‘sky’ vs. Indic nábhas ‘cloud’ and Greek néphos ‘cloud’; cf. alsoMiddle English sky ‘cloud’ or ‘sky’.
[ back ] 88. For Slavic parallels: Ivanov and Toporov 1970.1193. For typological parallels in African myth and ritual: Hocart 1936.56.
[ back ] 89. Lommel 1939.42-43.
[ back ] 90. See Geldner 1951 1:36, etc.
[ back ] 91. See Benveniste and Renou 1934.147n1.
[ back ] 92. In the same stanza, Indra’s weapon is called áśman-: see Reichelt 1913.44-45. Cf. also RigVeda 2.30.5, 4.22.1. On the Germanie theme οf the whetstone as a symbol of authority, see Mitchell 1985.
[ back ] 93. Benveniste and Renou 1934.138.
[ back ] 94. For Slavic parallels, see Ivanov and Toporov 1970.1193-1195.
[ back ] 95. Ivanov 1958.110 adduces the name of the Anatolian deity Pirwa– (on whom see Otten 1951), deriving it from *peru̯-o-. We may note too the Hittite collocation ḫékur irwa (cf. Goetze 1954.356n54), with the ḫékur preceded by the Sumerogramd, which designates ‘rock’ or ‘stone’, and will) irwa once preceded by the Sumerogramd; the noun ḫekur means ‘summit, mountain’.
[ back ] 96. Güntert 1914.215-216.
[ back ] 97. Güntert pp. 215-216, 221.
[ back ] 98. Güntert p. 216. Outside of keraunós, we find no instance of suffixal –aunos in Greek. The word púraunos (Pollux 6.88, 10.104) must be a compound formed with the verb aúō (on this word see Borthwick 1969).
[ back ] 99. Güntert p. 216.
[ back ] 100. DELG 519. From the evidence of such pairs as daíō (from *dau̯i̯ō) vs. daízō, we may expect an earlier form *kerau̯i̯ō: cf. GEW 822.
[ back ] 101. For reflexes of *h2u̯- as au in Greek roots, cf. both GEW and DELG s.v. kaíō (cf. also the discussion of Schmeja 1963.29-32).
[ back ] 102. See KEWA s.v. śr̥nā́ti.
[ back ] 103. Cf. artkópos ‘baker’ from *artokwopos, by metathesis from *artopokwos (on which see DELG 118)
[ back ] 104. Alternatively, terpikéraunos may be explained as the reflex of an expressive reduplication *kwerpi-ker(p)aunos, with the dissimilation of *kw…*kw to *kw…k, from an earlier form *kwer(p)aunos, which in turn would be a tabu-metathesis of *per(kw)aunos (cf. Watkins 1970.350).
[ back ] 105. Grimm 187 3:64. For a survey of connections between the oak and Thor (as well as other Germanic equivalents), see Wagler 1891 2:43-46.
[ back ] 106. See p.183.
[ back ] 107. Kuhn I886, with a discussion of the evidence collected by J. Grimm.
[ back ] 108. See pp. 192-193n85; Ivanov and Toporov 1970.1195-1196.
[ back ] 109. Ivanov and Toporov pp. 1195-1196.
[ back ] 110. In the case of wood, we have just noted a pattern of preference for oak wood as the sacral material for rubbing fire, a pattern that can be correlated with the observably stronger attraction of oak trees to lightning.
[ back ] 111. Survey of relevant passages in Gonda 1954.32-55, esp. pp. 36-37.
[ back ] 112. Liebert 1962.127, who also refutes the reinterpretation as vazarka– (e.g. Bartholomae 1904.1389-1390).
[ back ] 113. Gonda 1954.43ff; Liebert p. 145. Otherwise Watkins 1986.325 and 327, with the· references at n10.
[ back ] 114. Gonda pp. 43ff. For the vocalisms uig-/ueg-, see Watkins I973a.
[ back ] 115. Davidson 1965.11-14.
[ back ] 116. Reprinted in Mannhardt 1936.538.
[ back ] 117. Mannhardt p. 538.
[ back ] 118. Mannhardt p. 538.
[ back ] 119. More on this subject in Gonda 1954.36-37. Also, we may note that the derivation of neuter śárīra– ‘body’ from the root *kerh2– of śr̥nā́ti ‘shatter’ is accepted as plausible in KEWA s.v. śárīra– (on the associations of the verb śr̥nā́ti ‘shatter’ with the thunderbolt at RigVeda 3.30.17, see p. 195). We may compare the etymological explanation of Latin corpus as if derived, albeit indirectly, from the root *per-kw– (see Vendryes 1927.315). It may be possible to link the verb śr̥nā́ti not only with śárīra– ‘body’ but also with śáru– ‘missile, arrow’ (on which see p. 194), a word used for comparisons with the thunderbolt in the RigVeda (1.172.2, etc.). Perhaps also with śará– ‘reed’ and śáras– ‘ashes’ (cf. KEWA s.v.). In view of the latter meaning, ‘ashes’, it may be pertinent to cite the reflex of the root *perkw– in Lithuanian pir̃kšnys ‘glowing ashes’ (cf. LEW s.v. pir̃kšnys) and possibly also in Old Irish richis ‘glowing coals, live ember’.
[ back ] 120. See Odyssey ix 507, xiii 172. For the mantic connotations of thésphata, see especially ix 507, xi 151. In connection with the mantic concept, we may note the form of the place-name, Perkṓtē, as attested at Iliad II 835. A mántis ‘seer’ by the name of Mérops is identified as Perkṓsios ‘from Perkṓtē̕ at Iliad 831-832 (Μέροπος Περκωσίου, ὃς περὶ πάντων | ᾔδεε μαντοσύνας). The form Perkṓtē perhaps be reconstructed as *perkō[u]tā (for the phonology, cf. Vine 1982.42-43 on Greek plōtḗr), to be derived from an earlier u-stem noun *perku- (from *perkwu-) ‘oak’, We may note too that méropes is a common Homeric epithet for ánthrōpoi ‘humans’ (cf. Koller 1968) and that the sons of Mérops Perkṓsios are said to hold sway over a place called Pitúeia, at Iliad II 829. The latter name is surely derived from the noun pítus ‘pine’. We may perhaps compare the semantic oscillation between ‘oak’ and ‘fir’, on which see p. 185n30. What we see in these associations are perhaps traces of an ancient local myth that equated the First Man with the First Mántis ‘Seer’. On the anthropogonic theme of First Man as First Sacrificer, cf. pp. 110 and following. Given the anthropogonic themes inherent in the possible etymology of ánthrōpos as ‘he who has the looks of embers’ (p. 151n30), we may consider the possible etymology of mérops as ‘he who has glowing looks’; cf. Merópē as the name of a star at Hesiod F 169.3 MW. I suggest that Μαῖα, the name of another star mentioned in Hesiod F I69.3, be emended to Μαῖρα = Maîra, from root *mer- as in marmaírō ‘glow, flash’; cf. maī́rlē ‘embers of charcoal’. The proposed explanation of mérops as ‘he who has glowing looks’ may be pertinent to the discussion of Indic márya– at p. 250.
[ back ] 121. West 1966.170.
[ back ] 122. West p. 169 argues that περί + accusative regularly conveys a positional (‘around’) rather than a conceptual (‘about’) sense in early poetic diction. Perhaps such a formulation is too restrictive: the second sense can he a metaphorical derivative of the first.
[ back ] 123. What follows at Iliad XXII 127-128 is a description of sweet-talk between unmarried lovers, as if such a pair would take their conversation all the way back to the oak and the rock.
[ back ] 124. There is a multiude of African examples collected by Baumann 1936.224-235 (trees), 219-220 (rocks). For a survey οf European examples, cf. Vadé 1977. For traces in Semitic myth: Dirlmeier 1955.25-26. For a convenient bibliography on the general theme of Petra Genitrix, see Eliade 1962.208.
[ back ] 125. Specht 1944. Cf. also Lincold 1985.188n29, with emphasis on parallelisms between cosmogonic and sociogonic themes, especially in Germanic traditions.
[ back ] 126. See also Vendryes 1927.
[ back ] 127. Cf. Loth 1920.122.
[ back ] 128. Cf. Meulen 1907.55-72, 121-169. For a useful statement on tree animism, see esp. his p. 127. For a discussion of myths where humankind originates from the ash tree, see Shannon 1975.44—48, 57, 70. Shannon’s book shows convincingly that such myths are linked to the theme of Achilles’ ash spear in the Iliad. He also points out that, in the Hesiodic Work and Days, it is the gods in general who create the first and second generations of humankind (109-110, 127-128), but it is Zeus in particular who creates the third generation, and this third creation emerges specifically out of ash trees (143-145). Such an association of Zeus himself with the process of creation out of ash trees is significant in view of his epithets keraunós, terpikéraunos, and argikéraunos, as discussed at pp. 194-195.

Chapter 8. Sêma and Nóēsis: The Hero’s Tomb and the “Reading” of Symbols in Homer and Hesiod

The word semiotic—and se mantic, for that matter—may be perceived in a new light if we look again at its Greek origins. The basic form in Greek is sêma ‘sign’, a neuter action-noun built on a root-verb that is no longer attested in the language. There is a cognate of Greek sêma in the Indic branch of the Indo-European linguistic family. The form is dhyāma ‘thought’, a neuter action-noun, attested only in the late Indic lexicographical tradition. [1] This poorly attested noun is built on a root-verb that is well attested in early Indic. The root is dhyā– ‘think’ (variant of dhī– ‘think’). Even though the morphological relationship of dhyā– and dhyāma is transparent in Indic, and even though Indic dhyāma and Greek sêma would have to be considered cognates on the basis of their parallelism on the level of morphology, students of language are troubled by the apparent lack of parallelism on the level of semantics: how could the meaning ‘sign’ of Greek sêma be connected with the meaning ‘thought’ of Indic dhyāma? [2]
This presentation is an attempt to show that the semantics of sêma are indeed connected with the semantics of thinking. The overall approach will emulate that of Emile Benveniste’s Vocabulaire des institutions indoeuropéennes, [3] in that the given word will be examined not only in context but also specifically in the contexts of its behavior within the formulaic systems of archaic Greek poetic diction. [4] What will emerge is that the key {202|203} to understanding sêma as a word connected with the semantics of thinking is to be found in its working relationship with another word connected with mental activity, namely, the noun nóos ‘mind, sense, perception’, along with its derivative verb noéō ‘perceive, take note, think, think through’ (whence the derivative noun nóēsis—and the second part of the title for this presentation). In order to grasp the semantic range of this difficult word nóos and its derivatives, it will he necessary to consider also its etymology, as explored in a seminal work by Douglas Frame, who traces it back to an Indo-European root *nes- meaning something like ‘return to light and life’. [5] Ultimately, then, the etymology of both sêma and nóos will shed light, on the working relationship of these words as reflected in poetic diction. And this working relationship will in turn, it is hoped, shed light on Greek concepts of cognition. [6]
It seems easiest to begin with illustrations of sêma as the key to a specific aspect of cognition, namely, recognition. In particular, Homeric diction deploys sêma as the conventional word for the signs that lead to the recognition of Odysseus by his phíloi, those who are ‘near and dear’ to him. [7] Thus, for example, the scar of the disguised Odysseus is specified by him as a sêma for his old nurse Eurykleia (Odyssey xxiii 73), for his loyal herdsmen Eumaios and Philoitios (xxi 217), and for his aged father Laertes (xxiv 329). An appropriate word for the ‘recognition’ of this sêma is the verb anagignṓskō (ἀναγνόντος xxiv 329, in the case of Laertes). The same verb recurs in the context of Penelope’s ‘recognizing’ (ἀναγνούσῃ xxiii 206) the sḗmata (plural, same line) of the marital bed; similarly, she ‘recognizes’ (ἀναγνούσῃ xix 250) as sēmata (same line) the clothes specified by the disguised Odysseus as the clothes given to the real Odysseus by Penelope herself (that the clothes are the sêma is confirmed at xix 255-257).
In all these instances the narrative features the recognition of the sêma ‘sign’ as the crucial prerequisite for the recognition of Odysseus himself. [8] Moreover, the recognition of the sêma implicitly requires an act of interpretation. For example, there is the sêma sent by Zeus to the {203|204} Achaeans, as reported in Iliad II (308): the event of a snake’s devouring eight nestlings and their mother (II 308-319) requires the mantic interpretation of Kalkhas the mántis ‘seer’, who recognizes it as a portent of Troy’s impending destruction (II 320-332). Or again, there are all the Homeric instances of lightning sent by Zeus as a sêma (II 353, IX 236, XIII 244, xxi 413, etc.)—one might say as a code bearing distinct messages that are to be interpreted in context by both the witnesses and the narrative itself.

The word that conveys this basic faculty of recognition and interpretation is nóos. As the Trojan hero Polydamas says to Hektor…

οὕνεκά τοι περὶ δῶκε θεὸς πολεμήια ἔργα,
τοὔνεκα καὶ βουλῇ ἐθέλεις περιίδμεναι ἄλλων·
ἀλλ’ οὔ πως ἅμα πάντα δυνήσεαι αὐτὸς ἐλέσθαι.
ἄλλῳ μέν γὰρ δῶκε θεὸς πολεμήια ἔργα,
ἄλλῳ δ’ ὀρχηστύν, ἐτέρῳ κίθαριν καὶ ἀοιδήν,
ἄλλῳ δ’ ἐν στήθεσσι τιθεῖ νόον εὐρύοπα Ζεὺς
ἐσθλόν, τοῦ δέ τε πολλοὶ ἐπαυρίσκοντ’ ἄνθρωποι,
καί τε πολέας ἐσάωσε, μάλιστα δὲ καὐτὸς ἀνέγνω.
αὐτὰρ ἐγὼν ἐρέω ὥς μοι δοκεῖ εἶναι ἄριστα

Iliad XIII 726-735
Hektor, there is no way you can be helped [9] to heed persuasive words.
Just because the god granted that you excel in deeds of war
you wish also to excel in planning [boulḗ] by knowing more than others. [10]
But there is no way you can get everything all to yourself.
The god grants that one man excel in deeds of war
and another in dancing and another in playing the lyre and singing.
And for yet another man, far-seeing Zeus places nóos in his breast,
a genuine [11] one; and many men benefit from such a man,
and he saves many of them, and he himself has the greatest powers of {204|205}
recognition [verb anagignṓskō]
But I will tell you what seems best to me.

It is nóos, then, that enables one to ‘recognize’ (verb anagignṓskō). [12]

To come back to the clothes of Odysseus as a sêma for recognition (xix 250): the narrative suggests that, in order for the clothes to be a sêma, Odysseus himself has to notice them as such:

τὸν δὲ χιτῶν’ ἐνόησα

Odyssey xix 232
…and I noticed [verb noéō] the tunic…

Odysseus here is speaking in a disguised persona as he calls attention to the tunic. In his false identity, he is calling attention to his true identity by way of a sêma, and in noticing it first himself within his own narrative, he shows by example what Penelope and the Homeric audience must notice on their own. The verb here for ‘notice’ is noéō, derivative of the noun nóos.

In like manner, the appropriately-named Alkínoos is said to ‘notice’ (verb noéō) the weeping of Odysseus, and he thereby discovers a sign that leads to the recognition of the hero. Alkinoos is the only one of the Phaeacians to notice, two times, that the disguised Odysseus weeps whenever the blind bard of the Phaeacians sings tales about the Trojan War:

Ἀλκί-νοος δέ μιν οἶος ἐπεφράσατ’ ἠδὲ νόησε

Odyssey viii 94 and 533
Alkí noos was the only one who observed [13] and noticed [verb noéō] him.

The ensuing speech of Alkinoos at viii 536-638 calls on the disguised Odysseus to reveal his identity—which is precisely what then happens at the beginning of Book ix.

There are several passages that show how the verb noéō conveys simultaneously the noticing of signs and the recognition of what they mean. Those in particular who have mantic powers will instantly recognize the facts of a matter simply by noticing a portent. The ultimate mántis ‘seer’ {205|206} is of course Apollo himself, and the following example of Apollo’s mode of thinking as he spots a bird flying in the sky can serve as an ideal illustration:

οἰωνòν δ’ ἐνόει τανυσίπτερον, αὐτκα δ’ ἔγνω
φηλητὴν γεγαῶτα Διὸς παῖδα Κρονίωνος

Hymn to Hermes 213-214
He noticed [verb noéō] a long-winged bird, and he recognized [verb gignṓskō] instantly
that the thief was the child of Zeus the son of Kronos.

In such contexts, the verb noéō is actually synonymous with gignṓskō in the sense of ‘recognize’. Similarly, when old Priam notices (= verb noéō: νοήσας XXIV 294, 312) a bird sent by Zeus, he implicitly recognizes the signal to approach the ships of the Achaeans. Or again, in response to such ominous signals as the uncontrollable laughter of the impious suitors (xx 346) and the ghastly suffusion of the walls with blood (xx 354), the seer Theoklymenos prudently decides to leave the banquet-hall:

…ἐπεὶ νοέω κακòν ὔμμιν

Odyssey xx 367-368
since I notice [verb noéō] that evil fortune is coming upon you. [14]

The translation ‘recognize’ for noéō here would be just as appropriate as ‘notice’. By contrast, the suitors themselves fail to recognize the many signs that signal their doom. Even when the disguised Odysseus kills their leader, appropriately named Antínoos (xxii 8-30), they still fail to have nóēsis (verb noéō: οὐκ ἐνόησαν xxii 32).

All these signs, of course, seem more or less arbitrary. A signal like “bird flying in the sky,” for example, may correspond to the declarative message “Hermes is the thief” in one context, or to the imperative message “Priam must go to Achilles” in another. But a true recognition of the sign, a true nóēsis of the sêma, can be achieved only by recognizing the internally coherent system of signals: it is not just a matter of “bird flying in the sky,” for example, but rather, of 1 2 3…n different kinds {206|207} οf birds flying α β γ…ω different ways in the sky. The bird that Priam saw was flying in a right-hand direction (XXIV 294, 312); if it had been flying in a left-hand direction, however, the signal would presumably correspond to a message such as “Priam must not go to Achilles”! To cite another example: in order to recognize the Dog Star as a sêma (XXII 30) bearing a yearly message of the parching in store for mankind (XXII 30-31), one has to know its relation to the other stellar sḗmata in the sky, and whatever messages they in turn may bear. [15] Or again, in order to recognize the baleful sḗmata that were scratched by Proitos on the tablet that the hero Bellerophon took with him to the king of Lycia (VI 168/176/178), the king has to know their relation to the other sḗmata in a system of markings and the relation of these markings to a set of meanings. Whether these markings are ideograms or runes or even letters, the point is that the king has to “read” them. And the present argument is that nóos would be an appropriate word for designating such “reading,” such recognition of the system. The code composed of elements such as А В Г … Ω could be decoded by the nóos of the king of Lycia, just as it was encoded by the nóos of Proitos.

There is a striking analog in Latin, which also has a bearing on another importam word in the realm of semiotics. The word in question is signum ‘sign’, [16] and the context in question concerns the use of the word by the Roman army in battle. In the parlance of strategy, the Latin phrase for ‘obey orders’ is signa sequī—literally, ‘follow the signs’ (e.g. Livy 3.28.3, 22.2.6, 23.35.7, 24.48.11, 30.35.6, 42.65.12). Synchronically, the word signum in these contexts refers to a military standard carried by the signifer ‘standard-bearer’. Diachronically, however, signum refers to ‘that which is followed’: if we follow Benveniste in reconstructing this noun as *sekw-nom, then it is actually derived from the verb sequi ‘follow’. [17] Thus signa sequi would be a figura etymologica that encompasses the system of traditional Roman military maneuvers:

  • signa subsequi          ‘keep in order of battle’
  • ab signis discedere   ‘desert’
  • signa figere               ‘encamp’
  • signa mouere            ‘decamp, break up the camp’
  • signa inferre              ‘attack’
  • signa constituere       ‘halt’ {207|208}
  • signa proferre            ‘advance’
  • signa conuertere        ‘wheel, turn, face about’
  • signa conferre            ‘engage in close fight’
  • etc.

The signum in isolation is arbitrary, but each signal in the left column above is part of an internally cohesive system or code. For the Roman soldier, each signal corresponds to a message in the right column above, a particular military action. Thus when the signum ‘standard’ is planted into the ground by the signifer ‘standard-bearer’, the soldier encamps; when it is taken out again, he decamps; and so on. One might say that the Roman soldier recognizes his commands because he recognizes the system of signals. He can effectively obey individual commands because he grasps the overall code. [18]

While such codes as the Roman system of military signa leave little room for interpretation on the part of the destined recipients of their messages, there are other codes that require prodigious feats of interpretation. For example, here is the reply given by the disguised Odysseus to a command given him by Eumaios:

γιγνώσκω, φρονέω· τά γε δὴ νοέντι κελεύεις

Odyssey xvii 281
I understand [verb gignṓskō], I am aware. You are commanding these things to one who recognizes [verb noéō].

Yet the command of Eumaios is in this case hardly precise: he had told the disguised Odysseus not to dally outside the palace lest ‘someone’ injure him or chase him away, adding the general command that Odysseus should ‘be observant of these things’ (xvii 279: pronoun , verb phrázomai). [19] Odysseus is in effect replying that he can obey successfully because he can recognize the essence of ‘these things’ that Eumaios had told him (xvii 281: pronoun ), and his recognition is expressed by the verb noéō (same line).

A given sêma will not, of and by itself, explicitly declare or command. To make sense of the message, one must have recognition (noun nóos, verb noéō) of how the sêma works within its code. There is an admirable {208|209} illustration in the Homeric narrative of the Chariot Race in the course of the Funeral Games of Patroklos (Iliad XXIII). To enable his son Antilokhos to win a prize in the race (XXIII 314), old Nestor gives him a lesson in mêtis ‘artifice, stratagem’ (313, in the context of 315-318). [20] As the key to victory, Nestor gives his son a sêma ‘sign’ (326): when Antilokhos reaches the térma ‘turning point’ in the race, he must risk getting as close to it as possible, making the right side of his chariot’s horse-team go faster and the left side, slower—thus effecting the quickest possible turn around the térma (327-345):
diagram of the chariot route
Earlier, Nestor also tells his son that the skilled charioteer keeps his eye on the térma as he heads toward it (323), watching for an opportunity to pass a faster chariot (322-325) that is driven without such a sense of goal-directedness (319-321). Antilokhos indeed finds such an opportunity, quickly passing and almost “fishtailing” the faster chariot of Menelaos (417-441). In this context, Antilokhos himself uses the verb noéō to express what he is doing (νοήσω 415). What, then, makes Nestor’s sêma work as a key to victory? It is the ability of his son to recognize how the sêma works within its code, which is equated with simply noticing it. And the word for this noticing/recognition is noéō.

Nestor did not have to tell his son explicitly what to do and when to do it. All he did was to give him a sêma, and Antilokhos could then take the initiative by way of recognizing and interpreting it correctly (verb noéō). [21] The relationship of sêma and nóēsis is in this passage formally enacted by way of a phrase combining a negative with the verb lḗthō ‘escape the mind of’ (XXIII 326, 414-415): {209|210}

σῆμα δέ τοι ἐρέω μάλ’ ἀριφραδές, οὐδέ σε λήσει

Iliad XXIII 326
I [Nestor] will tell you a sêma , a very distinct one, and it will not escape your mind.ταῦτα δ’ ἐγὼν αὐτὸς τεχνήσομαι ἠδὲ νοήσω
στεινωπῷ ἐν ὁδῷ παραδύμεναι, οὐδέ με λήσει

Iliad XXIII 414-415
And I myself [Antilokhos] will devise these things and recognize [verb noéō] how to pass him at a narrow pan of the road, and it will not escape my mind.

As we see in the second example, this negative phrase is synonymous with the verb noéō. This same phrase, which links the noun sêma with the verb noéō, recurs where Nestor is describing how a skilled charioteer keeps his eyes on the térma ‘turning point’ as he heads toward it:

αἰεὶ τέρμ’ ὁρόων στρέφει ἐγγύθεν, οὐδέ ἑλήθει
ὅππως τὸ πρῶτον τανύσῃ βοέοισιν ἱμᾶσιν,
ἀλλ’ ἔχει ἀσφαλέως καὶ τὸν προὔχοντα δοκεύει

Iliad XXIII 323-325
…always keeping his eye on the térma , he makes a tight turn, and it does not escape his mind,
as soon as he pulls at his ox-hide reins,
but he holds his pace steady, stalking the front-runner.

In view of Nestor’s specifically saying that the sêma ‘sign’ of victory (326) centers on the way in which Antilokhos is to make his turn around the turning point (327-345), and in view of the linkage between this sêma ‘sign’ (326) and this térma ‘turning point’ (323) by way of the formula οὐδέ σε/ἑ λήσει/λήθει ‘and it will/does not escape your/his mind’ (326/323), it is significant that the narrative raises the possibility that the térma is itself a sêma (σῆμα 331/τέρματ’ 333). But here (331) the word sêma has the specific meaning of ‘tomb’, a meaning that cannot be discussed until later. For now it will suffice to stress again the connection of the noun sêma with the verb noéō by way of this phrase combining a negative with the verb lḗthō ‘escape the mind of’. [22] {210|211}

There are two other instances of this phrase that merit special notice:

πάντα ἰδὼν Διὸς ὀφθαλμὸς καὶ πάντα νοήσας
καί νυ τάδ’ αἴ κ’ ἐθέλησ’ ἐπιδέρκεται, οὐδέ ἑλήθει
οἵην δὴ καὶ τήνδε δίκην πόλις ἐντὸς ἐέργει

Hesiod Works and Days 267-269
The Eye of Zeus [23] sees everything and recognizes [verb noéō] everything.
If it so pleases him, he casts his glance downward upon these things as well, and it does not escape his mind
what kind of justice [díkē] is this that the city keeps within it.σῆμα δέ τοι ἐρέω μάλ’ ἀριφραδές, οὐδέ σε λήσει

Odyssey xi 126
I will tell you a sêma , a very distinct one, and it will not escape your mind.

From the previous instances of the formula ‘and it will not escape my/your/his mind’, it is to be expected, in the first passage, that the cognition of Zeus is linked with the sêma; and, in the second passage, that getting the sign is linked with its recognition (noun nóos or verb noéō).

To take the first passage first: there are indeed sḗmata linked with the cognition of Zeus, but such sḗmata are encoded rather than decoded by his nóos. Thus, for example, a violent storm can be a sign sent by Zeus to manifest his anger against a city over the violation of díkē ‘justice’ (XVI 384-393; díkē at 388); and the most visible manifestation of violent storms is generically the lightning, which is in fact the most ubiquitous sêma of Zeus (e.g. XIII 244). [24] What humans must do is to decode the various signs encoded by Zeus, which is a hard thing to do:

ἄλλοτε δ’ ἀλλοῖος Ζηνὸς νόος αἰγιόχοιο, {211|212}
ἀργαλέως δ’ ἄνδρεσσι καταθνητοῖσι νοῆσαι

Hesiod Works and Days 483-484
The nóos of aegis-bearing Zeus is different at different times,
and it is hard to recognize [verb noéō] for mortal men.

In this very context Hesiod gives an example: when the sound of the cuckoo is first heard across the land, that is a sign for rainstorms that allow spring ploughing (Works and Days 485-492). These instructions are then summed up as follows:

ἐν θυμῷ δ’ εὖ πάντα φυλάσσεο· μηδέ σε λήθοι
μήτ’ ἔαρ γινόμενον πολιὸν μήθ’ ὥριος ὄμβρος

Hesiod Works and Days 491-492
Keep all these things well in mind, and let them not escape your mind
—either the coining of gray [25] spring or the seasonal rainstorm.

The expression ‘and let them not escape your mind’ implies, again, that the word sêma is understood. There is in fact a parallel Hesiodic passage where the word sêma is overt: when the sound of the migrating crane is for the first time heard across the land (Works and Days 448-449), this is a sêma ‘sign’ (450) for rainstorms that allow autumn ploughing (450-451).

Now to take the second passage: in this instance, the seer Teiresias is giving a sêma to Odysseus (xi 126), and, to repeat, the follow-up expression ‘and it will not escape your mind’ (same line) raises the expectation that getting the sign is linked with its recognition (noun nóos or verb noéō). The word noós is indeed overtly linked with the concept of sêma here, but again the attention is as much on the encoding as on the decoding of the sign. The narrative stresses that Teiresias, who is giving the sêma to Odysseus (xi 126), is exceptional among the psūkhaí Hades in that his cognitive faculties—or phrénes—are intact (x 493): it is because Persephone had given him nóos (x 494). [26] This sêma, then, is implicitly encoded by the nóos of Teiresias—and presumably must be decoded by the nóos of Odysseus.
The message of the sêma ‘sign’ given by Teiresias to Odysseus is actually twofold. Before exploring this sign any further, however, it will be {212|213} useful to reconsider a sêma ‘sign’ given by Hesiod, namely, the sound of the migrating crane, which signals the season of autumn ploughing (Works and Days 450-451). As it turns out, this sêma is itself twofold, for the time when one must plough in the autumn is the same time when one must not sail the seas (Works and Days 618-623). Besides the contrast of the negative “do not sail” (622) with the positive “do plough” (623), the latter teaching is reinforced with the expression memnēménos ‘being mindful’ (623, picking up from memnēménos arótou ‘being mindful of ploughing’ at 616), which is the positive equivalent of the negative oudé me/se/he lḗtheiand it does not escape my/your/his mind’. [27] One who is memnēménos ‘mindful’, then, is by implication one whose nóos reads the sêma of the crane and perceives that it is time to plough and time not to sail. [28] Similarly with the sêma of Teiresias, the expression oudé se lḗseiand it will not escape your mind’ (xi 126) is by implication challenging the nóos of Odysseus with a twofold message: what is an oar for seafarers is a winnowing shovel for inlanders (cf. xi 121-137, xxiii 265-284).

The message of this sêma, however, is twofold neither for the seafarers nor for the inlanders, since the former can surely distinguish oars from winnowing shovels while the latter are presented as knowing only about winnowing shovels. Rather, the message is twofold only for Odysseus the traveler, since he sees that the same signal has two distinct messages in two distinct places: what is an oar for the seafarers is a winnowing shovel for the inlanders. In order to recognize that one signal can have two messages, Odysseus has to travel through the cities of many men. In all his travels he will have come to know a wide variety of signs:

πολλῶν δ’ ἀνθρώπων ἴδεν ἄστεα καὶ νόον ἔγνω

Odyssey i 3
He saw the cities of many, and he came to know [gignṓskō] their nóos . {213|214}

This verse is suitable for describing what Odysseus would have to do in following the instructions of Teiresias:

ἐπεὶ μάλα πολλὰ βροτῶν ἐπὶ ἄστε’ ἄνωγεν ἐλθεῖν

Odyssey xxiii 267-268
…since he [Teiresias] instructed me [Odysseus] to go to very many cities of mortals

Moreover, the gesture of planting the handle of his oar into the ground (xi 129), which is what Odysseus is instructed to do when he reaches a place where the natives mistake his oar for a winnowing shovel, is itself the bearer of a twofold message. To plant the handle of a winnowing shovel in a heap of grain at a harvest festival is a formal act symbolizing that the winnower’s work is finished (e.g. Theocritus 7. 155-156). [29] And to plant the handle of an oar in the ground İs to symbolize that the oarsman’s work is likewise finished—as in the case of Odysseus’ dead companion Elpenor, whose tomb is to be a mound of earth with the handle of his oar planted on top (xi 75-78, xii 13-15). [30] So also with Odysseus: he too will never again have to sail the seas. Moreover, Odysseus’ own oar planted in the ground is a stylized image of his own tomb! And yet, this “tomb” is situated as far away from the sea as possible, whereas Odysseus’ death is to come ex halós ‘out of the sea’ (xi 134). There is no need to argue on this basis that the phrase ex halós somehow means ‘away from the sea’. [31] Rather, the twofold semantic nature of the sêma for Odysseus is formalized in the coincidentia oppositorum of his finding the sign for his death from the sea precisely when he is farthest away from the sea. [32] {214|215}

The question remains to be asked: why should the sêma ‘sign’ (xi 126) given by Teiresias to Odysseus take the form of a stylized tomb? For an answer, it is necessary to reconsider the word’s meaning. The word sêma bears not only the general meaning of ‘sign’ but also the specific meaning of ‘tomb’, which is conventionally visualized as a mound of earth (e.g. XXIII 45, the sêma ‘tomb’ of Patroklos, and xi 75, the sêma ‘tomb’ of Elpenor). It has in fact already been noted [33] that the meanings ‘sign’ and ‘tomb’ can converge. When Nestor gives his son Antilokhos a sêma ‘sign’ (XXIII 326) that will enable him to win a prize in the chariot race, the message of this sign centers on the way in which Antilokhos is to make his turn around the térma ‘turning point’ (XXIII 327-345), and it is significant that the narrative itself ostentatiously raises the possibility that this turning point is a sêma ‘tomb’:

ἤ τευ σῆμα βροτοῖο πάλαι κατατεθνηῶτος,
ἢ τό γε νύσσα τέτυκτο ἐπὶ προτέρων ἀνθρώπων,
καὶ νῦν τέρματ’ ἔθηκε ποδάρκης δῖος Ἀχιλλεύς.

Iliad XXIII 331-333
It is either the tomb [sêma] of a man who died a long time ago,
or it was a turning post in the times of earlier men.
Now swift-footed brilliant Achilles has set it up as the turning point [térma plural].

Аs Dale Sinos points out, [34] the turning points of chariot racecourses at the pan-Hellenic Games were conventionally identified with the tombs of heroes: Pausanias (6.20.15-19) reports that the spirit of one such hero was called Taráxippos ‘he who disturbs the horses’, and that the Taraxippos often causes the chariots to crash (6.20.15, 19). [35] So also with the chariot race in honor of the dead hero Patroklos: the turning point is the place where Antilokhos must take care not to let his chariot crash (XXIII 341-345).

Sinos also points out that the hero’s tomb, from the standpoint of Homeric epos, is a physical manifestation of his kléos ‘glory’ as conferred by poetry (e.g. iv 584). [36] The tomb shared by Achilles and Patroklos, which is to be visible not only for men of their time but also for the generations of the future (xxiv 80-84), along with the Funeral Games for {215|216} Achilles (xxiv 85-92), are the two explicit reasons for the everlasting kléos of Achilles (xxiv 93-94). In this context the etymology of sêma ‘sign, tomb’ can be brought to bear; as a ‘sign’ of the dead hero, the ‘tomb’ is a reminder of the hero and his kléos. Thus the sêma ‘tomb’ of ‘a man who died a long time ago’ (XXIII 331) is appropriate for Achilles to set as a turning point for the chariot race in honor of the dead Patrokléēs ‘he who has the kléos of the ancestors’. [37] This meaning of the name of Patroklos converges with the connotations of ἐπὶ προτέρων ἀνθρώπων ‘in the times of earlier men’ at XXIII 332, describing the heroic era that may have been the setting for the use of the turning point, which in turn may have been a sêma ‘tomb’ belonging to someone described as βροτοῖο πάλαι κατατεθνηῶτος ‘a man who died a long time ago’ at XXIII 331. Dale Sinos has written of this passage: [38]

The sêma of the dead man will turn out to be the realization of the hint, the sêma of Nestor to his son. The latent function of sêma ‘tomb’ thus becomes overt: the ‘hint’ becomes the ‘tomb’. Likewise, the ‘tomb’ becomes a ‘hint’ of a Dead Man’s presence, invoked by Achilles. Can one connect this presence of a long-dead hero with the newly dead hero of Iliad XXIII? The very name Patrokléēs helps provide an answer to this question. Patroklos re-enacts the eternal scheme of attaining kléos, and his name provides the present epic situation with the past glories of the ancestors. The Patroklos figure validates the Iliad by establishing the link with the eternal values of kléos. From our point of view, even the name Patrokléēs is a sêma, as it were, for these eternal values. His role enacts his name, and his name is a key to the tradition which gives kléos to Achilles and marks the Iliad as the heroic present with an eternal past. Tradition is dependent on the continuation of ancestral values by their re-enactment in the present. In mythos, the ancestor functions as hero, operating as he does in a timeless scheme. From the standpoint of mythos, the Dead Man of XXIII 331 and the Patroklos of Book XXIII in toto are parallel figures with parallel functions.
The narrative of the Iliad emphatically maintains, to repeat, that the turning point for the chariot race in honor of Patroklos had been in the past either just that, a turning point, or else a sêma ‘tomb’ (XXIII 331-332). The ostentatiously presented alternative of a sêma ‘tomb’ (331), in view of the sêma ‘sign’ of Nestor to his son only five verses earlier (326), bears its own message: not only the tomb is a sign but the very mention of the tomb may be a sign. To put it another way: a sêma is a {216|217} reminder, and the very use of the word is a reminder. But the attitude of the narrative is one of “take it or leave it.” If you reject the alternative that the turning point is a sêma ‘tomb’ of a dead man, then the sêma ‘sign’ of Nestor to Antilokhos has a simplex message about how to take a turn; if you accept it, on the other hand, then the same sêma ‘sign’ has an additional message about the sêma ‘tomb’ as a reminder of kléos.

There is reason to think that Antilokhos is to recognize the turning point as both a turning point and a tomb by virtue of the sêma given him by Nestor, just as Odysseus is to recognize the oar as both an oar and a winnowing shovel by virtue of the sêma given him by Teiresias. The key is nóos. To begin, the cognition of Nestor and Antilokhos in encoding and decoding the sêma, respectively, is a matter of nóos:

μυθεῖτ’ εἰς ἀγαθὰ φρονέων νοέοντι καὶ αὐτῷ

Iliad XXIII 305
He [Nestor] spoke to him [Antilokhos], having good intentions toward him, and he [Antilokhos] too was aware [verb noéō].

The kaì ‘too’ of ‘he too was aware’ here stresses that the decoder has nóos too, not just the encoder. When the time comes for Antilokhos to take the initiative, in a situation not specifically anticipated by the instructions of Nestor, he says: ‘I will have nóos ’ (νοήσω [verb noéō] XXIII 415). Then he executes the dangerous maneuver of passing the faster chariot of Menelaos (XXIII 418-441), in an impulsive manner that is condemned by Menelaos as lacking in good sense (XXIII 420; cf. the diction of 320-321). The self-acknowledged impulsiveness of Antilokhos at this point of the action is then counterbalanced by his clever use of verbal restraint after his prize is challenged by an angry Menelaos, who is thus flattered into voluntarily ceding the prize to Antilokhos (XXIII 586-611). [39] The impulsiveness and restraint of Antilokhos in action and in speech, respectively, as Douglas Frame pointed out to me viva voce, years ago, correspond to the speeding up and the slowing down of his right- and left-hand horses, respectively, as he rounds the sêma—which is the feat of nóos that Nestor had taught him. [40] Winning his prize, {217|218} Antilokhos then hands it over to a companion who is appropriately named Noḗmōn (XXIII 612)—a form derived from the verb noéō. Another appropriate name is that of Nestor himself, the man whose nóos encodes the message decoded by Antilokhos. As Douglas Frame has argued convincingly, the form Néstōr is an agent-noun derived from the root *nes-, just as nóos is an action-noun derived from the same root. [41] Significantly, Nestor, too, gets a prize from Achilles, even though the old man had not competed in the chariot race. And the purpose of this prize, Achilles says, is that it will be a mnêma ‘reminder’ of the funeral of Patroklos (Πατρόκλοιο τάφου μνῆμ’ ἔμμεναι XXIII 619)! Thus the narrative comes full circle around the sêma of Nestor: the encoder had given a sêma ‘sign’ to Antilokhos about the turning point, which may have been used in the chariot races of ancestral times, ἐπὶ προτέρων ἀνθρώπων ‘in the times of earlier men’ (XXIII 332), or which may have been the sêma ‘tomb’ of someone described as βροτοῖο πάλαι κατατεθνηῶτος ‘a man who died a long time ago’ (XXIII 331), and this hint about Patrokléēs ‘he who has the glory of the ancestors’ is then formalized in the prize given by Achilles to Nestor as a mnêma ‘reminder’ of Patroklos’ funeral.

The question is: what do these associations of sêma have to do with the semantics of nóos? As Frame argues in the course of his illuminating hook, nóos is an action-noun derived from the Indo-European root-verb *nes- meaning ‘return to light and life’. This meaning is possibly still attested in Indic Nắsatyau, a name of the Divine Twins who bring about sunrise after the night brought on by each sunset. [42] The root-verb *nes-is attested in Greek as néomai, but in this case means simply ‘return’, not ‘return to light and life’. One derivative of néomai is nóstos ‘return, homecoming’—and another is nóos! As Frame also argues, the theme of ‘return to light and life’ is recovered by way of the pervasive interplay between the themes of nóos and nóstos within the overall framework of the Odyssey: the key to the nóstos ‘homecoming’ of Odysseus is his nóos, and the nóstos is endangered whenever the nóos is threatened by lḗthē ‘forgetfulness’, as in the story of the Lotus-Eaters. [43] There are in fact two aspects of nóstos in the Odyssey: one is of course the hero’s return from Troy, and the other, just as important, is his return from Hades. Moreover, the theme of Odysseus’ descent and subsequent nóstos ‘return’ from Hades converges with the solar dynamics of sunset and subsequent sunrise. [44] The movement is from dark to light, from unconsciousness to consciousness as expressed by nóos. In fact, the hero is asleep as he floats {218|219} in darkness to his homeland, and sunrise comes precisely when his boat reaches the shores of Ithaca (xiii 79-95). [45]

But the question still remains: how does the story of Nestor’s sêma pertain to the semantics of nóos? A partial answer is to be found in juxtaposing the semantics of sêma and nóstos, the overt derivative of root *nes-. Just as sêma has the general meaning of ‘sign’ and the specific meaning of ‘tomb’, so also nóstos has the general meaning of ‘return’ (from Troy) and the specific meaning of ‘return to light and life’ (from Hades). [46] This specific meaning of nóstos seems to match that of the root *nes- as attested in the verb néomai itself in this striking phrase from the poetry of Pindar:

ἀφνεὸς πενιχρός τε θανάτου παρὰ | σᾶμα νέονται

Pindar Nemean 7.19-20
Both rich and poor rеturn [vеrb néomai] by going past the sêma of Death.

The language is that of chariot racing, it seems, with the verb néomai ‘return’ connoting the “home stretch” after rounding the turning point. Here, too, as with Nestor’s sêma, the turning point is not just a ‘sign’: it is a “sign of Death”-or, to use the Homeric application, a ‘tomb’.

But the sêma of the chariot race in honor of the dead Patroklos is not just a ‘tomb’ that serves as a ‘reminder’ of ‘a man who died a long time ago’. It is also a ‘sign’ that was encoded by the nóos of Néstōr ‘he who brings about a return’ [47] (cf. again XXIII 305). [48] And the word nóos conveys life after death, not only by virtue of its etymology ‘return to light and life’ but also by virtue of its usage in Homeric diction: nóos is the quality that allows the psūkhḗ to be cognitive even after death, as in the case of the seer Teiresias (x 492-494). [49] In other words, nóos is the quality that reintegrates the psūkhḗ of the dead with thūmós and ménos, the physical manifestations of consciousness in the body, and in this sense nóos is the quality that can reintegrate psūkhḗ and body. [50] Thus the sêma is not just the ‘sign’ of death, it is also the potential ‘sign’ of life after death. In this light, it may be possible to interpret the Pindaric phrase above as follows: ‘Both rich and poor return to light and life by going past the sêma of Death’. In any case, the sêma is a signpost for nóos. There is, for {219|220} example, the sêma ‘tomb’ of Ilos, local hero of Troy, which is where Hektor ‘plans his plans’ (boulàs bouleúei: X 415). [51] Or there is the sêma of ‘a man who died a long time ago’, upon which Antilokhos must fix his eyes as he approaches with his chariot (XXIII 323), waiting for an opportunity to use his nóos. Or again, there is the sêma of Achilles and Patroklos at the Hellespont, which is tēlephanḗs ‘shining from afar’ as a beacon of salvation for sailors at sea (xxiv 80-84, in conjunction with XIX 374-380). [52] In the Black Figure iconography of the Münster Hydria, [53] this very sêma is visualized against a red background as a gleaming white egg-shaped mass rising out of the ground, with the psūkhḗ of Patroklos himself hovering over it (the homunculus is actually labeled in the picture, with the lettering ΦΣΥΧΕ); meanwhile, the chariot of Achilles is racing around it, counterclockwise, with horses at full gallop—and with Achilles himself running alongside. [54]
In sum, it seems as if the contextual connections of sêma and nóos reflect not only the etymology of nóos as ‘return to light and life’ but also the etymology of sêma as a cognate of Indic dhyāma ‘thought’. The related Indic form dhīyas ‘thoughts’ is in fact attested as designating the consciousness of man in awakening and reminding the sun, by sacrifice, to rise, as well as the consciousness of man in being reminded by the rising sun to awaken and sacrifice. [55] This theme is in turn closely linked with Indic concepts of life after death. [56]

It bears repeating that it was Achilles himself who had chosen the would-be sêma ‘tomb’ as the turning point for the chariot race (XXIII 333). Upon receiving the prize from Achilles, Nestor remarks that he rejoices

ὥς μευ ἀεὶ μέμνησαι ἐνηέος, οὐδέ σε λήθω {220|221}
τιμῆς ἧς τέ μ’ ἔοικε τετιμῆσθαι μετ’ Ἀχαιοῖς

Iliad XXIII 648-649
because- you always keep me in mind, benevolent that I am, and I do not escape your mind
when it comes to the honor that is my due among the Achaeans.

By implication, then, Achilles himself had nóos both in choosing the turning point and in rewarding Nestor for having the nóos to recognize this turning point as a sêma ‘tomb’. Nestor prays that the gods reward Achilles for having rewarded him (XXIII 650), and the narrative then concludes his speech by calling it an aînos (XXIII 652). This is not the place to attempt a thorough definition of this poetic form called aînos, and it will suffice here to offer a summary: the aînos is a complex poetic discourse that is deemed worthy of a prize or reward, which is meant specifically to praise the noble, and which bears two or more messages within its one code. [57] In the last respect, the aînos of Nestor matches the sêma of Nestor.

It could even be said that the aînos of Nestor is a sêma, and that poetry itself can be а sêma. [58] Homeric diction makes this clear by occasionally equaling an épos ‘utterance’ with a sêma. For example, Odysseus prays to Zeus for both a portent and a phḗmē ‘prophetic utterance’ as indications of his future success against the suitors (xx 98-101). In response, Zeus sends both lightning (103-104) and a phḗmē (105). The phḗmē lakes the form of words spoken by a slave woman who is grinding grain with her mill, and she prays to Zeus to punish the suitors, who have made her work so hard (105-119). The narrative introduces her words by calling them an épos (111), which is specifically identified as a sêma for Odysseus (same line). The poetic format of what the woman says is apparent not only from such parallels as Carmina Popularia PMG 869 but also from the use of épos, which is attested in archaic poetic diction as meaning not just ‘utterance’ but also specifically ‘poetic utterance’. [59] And again, the faculty for encoding the verbal sêma is nóos: [60] thus after Zeus expresses his Will by way of nodding his head (I 524-527) , Hera goads him for not telling what it is, that is, for not making an épos out of what he has in his nóos (verb noéō, I 543). Zeus replies that the mûthos ‘utterance’ that he has in his nóos (verb noéō; I 549) is for him alone to know. But of course {221|222} the Homeric audience knows, since the Iliad declares programmatically that its plot is the Will of Zeus (I 5). [61] In this sense the entire Iliad is a sêma reinforcing the Will of Zeus.
The end of this presentation is by necessity also a prelude to other presentations, in that the testimony of Greek poetry about sêma and nóēsis turns out to be a lesson in how to read this poetry: the Greek poem is a sêma that requires the nóēsis of those who hear it. [62] {222|223}


[ back ] 1. KEWA 2:114.
[ back ] 2. See DELG 998.
[ back ] 3. Cf. esp. Benveniste 1969 2:58.
[ back ] 4. For an attempt to outline this methodology: N 1979a.1-11.
[ back ] 5. Frame 1978; cf. pp. 92ff. and 126 above. Also Svenbro 1988a.31n79.
[ back ] 6. Cf. Svenbro 1988a, esp. p. 53.
[ back ] 7. 7 On the translation of phílos as ‘near and dear’, cf. Jones 196157-58, commenting on Aristotle’s definition of anagnṓrisis ‘recognition’ (Poetics 1452аЗО-32) as a shift from ignorance to knowledge, which matches a shift to philíā ‘nearness and dearness’ (or to its opposite). Schwanz 1982 argues that phílos is derived from locative phi, cognate of English by in the sense of ‘near’; such a notion of nearness or closeness, if indeed it is built into the word phílos, can be connected with the concept of an “ascending scale of affection,” which is a mode of self-identification discussed at N 1979a. 103-113.
[ back ] 8. In other instances the narrative may omit the intermediate stage of recognizing the sêma before recognizing the person: thus at iv 250 Helen ἀνέγνω (verb anagignṓskō) ‘recognized’ Odysseus (direct object) when he slipped into Troy in disguise. It seems no accident that this particular stretch of narrative is highly compressed.
[ back ] 9. On the semantics of amḗkhanos ‘irremediable’ and the pertinence of this epithet to the present context, see Martin 1983.18.
[ back ] 10. Hektor not only yearns to excel in boutḗ ‘planning’: he is formally a paragon of mêtis ‘artifice, stratagem’, even earning the epithet ‘equal to Zeus in mêtis’ (VII 47, XI 200). This quality, however, ultimately brings him into conflict with Athena, the goddess of mêtis incarnate. Hektor even yearns to have the same tīmḗ ‘honor’ as Athena and Apollo themselves (cf. VIII 538-541, XIII 825-828), and his mortality is thereby underscored as he falls victim to death precisely because his mệtis had in the end gone bad (κακὰ μητιόωντι XVIII 312): Athena herself takes away his senses (XVIII 311). See N 1979a.144-l47, where it is also argued that the excellence of a hero in a given pursuit is precisely what draws him into a forcefield of antagonism with a corresponding god. The excellence of Polydamas in the realm of planning and stratagem (in this passage as also at XVIII 251-252) is not central: it simply highlights, by way of contrast, Hektor’s ultimate failure as he pursues excellence in this very realm.
[ back ] 11. On the semantics of esthlós: Watkins 1972, 1982b.
[ back ] 12. For a variation on this theme, see xxi 205; Odysseus ἀνέγνω ‘recognized’ (verb anagignṓskō) the nóos of Eumaios and Philoitios. Then at xxi 217 he specifies for them the sêma of the scar. In other words, Odysseus here recognizes the nóos that is capable of recognizing the sêma.
[ back ] 13. On phrázomai as a verb that denotes the activity of mêtis ‘artifice, stratagem’: Detienne and Vernant 1974.25n32.
[ back ] 14. For the diction, cf. Solon F 13.54 W [= F 1 GP]: ἔγνω δ’ ἀνδρὶ κακὸν τηλόθεν ἐρχόμενον ‘he [= a generic mantis ‘seer’] recognizes [verb gignṓskō ] a misfortune, even as it is heading toward a man from afar’ (commentary in N 1985a.25).
[ back ] 15. Consider also the message of the constellations Arktos and Orion for Odysseus: Odyssey v 271-277, in conjunction with v 121-124 (N 1979a.202-203).
[ back ] 16. For a survey: Benveniste 1969 2:255-263.
[ back ] 17. Benveniste 1948.122-124.
[ back ] 18. Note especially the expression at Livy 23.35.7: signa sequi et in acie agnoscere ordines suos ‘to follow the signals and to recognize their positions in the battle line’. The system (or ordines) of the acies ‘battle-line’ depends on the system of the signa. To recognize (or agnoscere) the system of the signa is to recognize the ordines of the acies.
[ back ] 19. On phrázomai as a verb of mêtis: p. 205n13.
[ back ] 20. For more on this passage: N 1979a.47.
[ back ] 21. On noéō in contexts of taking the initiative, see N 1979a.51n. Cf. sêma at xxi 231 and the contexts of nóēsis at xxi 413-414, 431; xxii 129.
[ back ] 22. The negative plus the root lēth– is a litotes for the root mnē– ‘have in mind’. (On the central role of the root mnē– in Indo-European poetic diction, see Watkins 1987.270-271.) Note the collocation of noéō and mnē– at xx 204-205 (…ὡς ἐνόησα, δεδάκρυνται δέ μοι ὄσσε | μνησαμένῳ Ὀδυσῆος) Note also the contexts of lḗthē as the opposite of nóos, surveyed by Frame 1978.36-37, 75-76.
[ back ] 23. On the Indo-European heritage of the theme “Eye of Zeus,” see the discussion of West 1978.223-224. It should be noted, however, that his discussion does not cover the ethical implications of this theme.
[ back ] 24. In this passage the stylized expression ἀρίζηλοι δέ οἱ αὐγαί ‘and his flashes of light are very clear to see’ might be connected with the theme “Eye of Zeus” (as at Hesiod Works and Days 267; see the previous note).
[ back ] 25. The epithet πολιόν ‘gray’ seems to suggest ‘overcast’ (pace West 1978.279), reflecting the rainy days, as opposed to an epithet like λευκόν ‘bright’ (e.g. Theocritus 18.27), reflecting the clear days.
[ back ] 26. For further discussion: p.92.
[ back ] 27. See pp. 210-211n22.
[ back ] 28. Cf. Theognis 1197-1202: the poet hears the sound of the crane (1197-1198), which signals the season of autumn ploughing for men (1198-1199). But the poet is sad and helpless: he has lost his lands because of a sea voyage, which now weighs on his mind (μνηστῆς…ναυτιλίης 1202). In line with the present interpretation of Hesiod Works and Days 450-451/618-623, the root mnē– expressing ‘on my mind’ here (Theognis 1202) implies that the sound of the crane is a sêma ‘sign’. For more on the sound of the migrating crane as а sêma, see the commentary at N 1985а.64-68 on Theognis 1197-1202 and related passages.
[ back ] 29. Hansen 1977.38-39.
[ back ] 30. Hansen pp.38-39.
[ back ] 31. Pace Hansen pp. 42-48.
[ back ] 32. For other instances of coincidentia oppositorum as a characteristic of Odysseus stories, see N 1979a.206. Compare also the factor of coincidentia oppositorum in the latter-day Demotic stories of Saint Elias, whose shrines are in fact on tops of hills and mountains, far away from the sea, but who had lived the life of a seaman; for an acute analysis of these stories about Saint Elias and the oar, strikingly parallel to the story about Odysseus and the oar, see Hansen pp. 27—41. Hansen also calls attention to an ancient shrine on a mountain in landlocked Arcadia, said to have been founded by Odysseus in gratitude to Athena Sṓteira ‘Savior’ and Poseidon (!) after the hero returned safely from Troy (Pausanias 8.44.4). So also with Saint Elias: his chapels are built on tops of hills and mountains, the story goes, because it was on top of a mountain that his oar was mistaken for a “stick” (Hansen p. 29). On the apparently symbiotic relationship of Odysseus here with Poseidon and Athena on the level of cult, as opposed to his antagonistic relationship with them on the level of myth, cf. N 1979a.121, 142-152, 289-295. The antagonism of Odysseus and Athena is of course for the most part latent in the Odyssey, but it must have been overt in some Nostoi traditions (even reflected by the Odyssey: iii 130ff., xiii 221ff.).
[ back ] 33. See pp. 209-10.
[ back ] 34. Sinos 1980.53n6.
[ back ] 35. Rohde 1898 1:173 and n1.
[ back ] 36. Sinos 1980.47.
[ back ] 37. For more on the meaning of Patrokléēs as ‘he who has the kléos of the ancestors’: N 1979a.102-103, 111-115, 177, 319. Cf. also p. 94 above.
[ back ] 38. Sinos 1980.48-49.
[ back ] 39. Ironically it is the nóos of Antilokhos that Menelaos calls into question (XXIII 604, in response to the clever self-deprecation of Antilokhos himself at XXIII 590). I agree with Detienne and Vernant (1974.22-24, 29-31, pace Lesher 1981.19 and 24n38) that Antilokhos has succeeded rather than failed in accomplishing a feat of mêtis.
[ back ] 40. See pp. 208ff. I note with interest a parallel theme in the iconography of the Münster Hydria (published in Stähler 1967): the turn of the chariot team is counterclockwise in this Black Figure representation (on the image of the turning point, see further at p. 220), and the right-hand horses have their heads thrust farther ahead than the left-hand horses, as if the impulse and the restraint were greater on the right and the left, respectively.
[ back ] 41. Frame 1978.81-115. See also pp.225ff. below.
[ back ] 42. Frame pp. 134-152. Cf. pp. 92ff. above.
[ back ] 43. Cf. pp. 210-211n22.
[ back ] 44. See N 1979a206; cf. N 1985a.74-76.
[ back ] 45. Frame 1978.75-76, 78. Cf. Segal 1962.
[ back ] 46. N 1985a.74-81, adducing Theognis 1123-1125 and related passages.
[ back ] 47. For the active diathesis of Néstōr. Frame 1978:96-115.
[ back ] 48. As quoted at p. 217.
[ back ] 49. For a fuller discussion: pp.92ff.
[ back ] 50. See pp.92ff.
[ back ] 51. For more on the boulḗ ‘planning’ of Hektor, see p. 204n10.
[ back ] 52. See N 1979a.338-341. In this connection, we may note with the greatest interest the description of cult heroes in Pausanias 2.12.5: their gravestones are visible from afar, located on top of a hill, and before the celebration of the Mysteries of Demeter, the natives are described as specifically looking at these mnḗmata ‘monuments’, ἐς ταῦτα βλέποντες τὰ μνήματα, as they invoke the heroes to attend the libations.
[ back ] 53. Published in Stähler 1967.
[ back ] 54. See Stähler pp. 15, 32-33, 44, who argues that the represented activity of racing around the tomb of Patroklos, with the chariot rider jumping off and running alongside, can be conceived simultaneously as an athletic event and a ritual act of hero worship; cf. also p. 88n20. The athletic event, as featured for example at the Panathenaia, involves the feat of leaping in full armor from a racing chariot and then leaping buck оn again; the athlete who performs this feat is the apobátēs (cf. Dionysius of Halicarnassus 7.73; Harpocration s.v.; also the bibliography assembled in Connor 1987.45).
[ back ] 55. See pp. 114ff.
[ back ] 56. See pp. 114ff.
[ back ] 57. See N 1979a.235-241.
[ back ] 58. Similarly in the case of the Indic cognate dhyā-/dhī– ‘think’ and its derivative dhīyas ‘thoughts’: these words can designate the inspiration of poetry (see pp. 114ff.).
[ back ] 59. See Koller 1972; also N 1979a.236.272.
[ back ] 60. For other instances of encoding words, as expressed by noéō, see VII 358, XII 232.
[ back ] 61. On which see N 1979a.81-82n2 and the references there.
[ back ] 62. The same applies to the poetic utterances of the Orarle· of Apollo at Delphi: cf. Theognis 808 and Heraclitus B 93 DK. There is also an example where the poem seems to be implicitly a sêma not only in the sense of ‘sign’ but also in the sense of ‘tomb’: in Theognis 1209-1210 (quoted at pp. 273-274 below) the poet seems to be saying that this poetry is his sêma ‘tomb’ (commentary in N 1985а.76-81). Сf. Svenbro 1988, esp. p. 96.

Chapter 9. Phaethon, Sappho’s Phaon, and the White Rock of Leukas: “Reading” the Symbols of Greek Lyric

In the arcane Greek myths of Phaethon and Pinion there are latent themes that help resolve three problems of interpretation in Greek poetry. The first of these problems is to be found in the Parthaneion of Alcman (PMG 1). It concerns a wondrous horse conjured up in a simile describing the beauty of the maiden Hagesikhora, center of attention in the song-and-dance ensemble:

δοκεῖ γὰρ ἤμεν αὔτα
ἐκπρεπὴς τὼς ὥπερ αἴτις
ἐν βοτοῖς στάσειεν ἵππον παγὸν ἀεθλοφόρον καναχάποδα
τῶν ὑποπετριδίων ὀνείρων

Alcman PMG 1.45-49
For she appears
outstanding, as when someone
sets among grazing beasts a horse,
well-built, a prize-winner, with thundering hooves,
from out of those dreams underneath the rock.

So the problem is, what is the meaning of ὑποπετριδίων? I translate ‘underneath the rock’ following the scholia of the Louvre Papyrus, which connect this adjective with πέτρα = pétrā ‘rock’ and quote the following passage from the Odyssey,

πὰρ δ’ ἴσαν Ὠκεανοῦ τε ῥοὰς καὶ Λευκάδα πέτρην {223|224}
ἠδὲ παρ’ Ἠελίοιο πύλας καὶ δῆμον ὀνείρων

Odyssey xxiv 11-12
And they passed by the streams of Okeanos and the White Rock [Leukàs pétrā]
and past the Gates of the Sun and the District of Dreams.

This interpretation has been rejected by Denys Page, who argues: “The reference to [Odyssey] xxiv 11f is irrelevant; nothing is said there about dreams living ‘under rocks’.” [1] Instead, Page follows the Etymologicum Magnum (783.20), where we read ὑποπτεριδίων ‘sustained by wings’, so that the wondrous horse being described would be something ‘out of winged dreams’; in support of this interpretation, Page adduces passages where dreams are represented as winged beings (e.g. Euripides Hecuba 70). [2] All the same, Page retains the reading ὑποπετριδίων in his edited text, so that we are left to assume some sort of ad hoc metathesis of ὑποπετριδίων to ὑποπτεριδίων, as if the local Laconian dialectal pronunciation of the word for ‘wing’ were petr– rather than pter-. Other experts, though hesitantly, go along with the interpretation ‘under rocks’, allowing for some vague notion of dreams abiding underneath some mysterious rock in the Laconian poetic imagination. [3] In the most accessible chrestomathy of Greek lyric, the editor chooses to take ὑποπετριδίων at face value: “the dreams are those of siestas taken underneath a shady rock’. [4]

The second problem of interpretation, then, is the significance of the White Rock, Leukàs pétrā, in Odyssey xxiv 11. This mysterious place has to be viewed in the overall context of Odyssey xxiv 1-14, describing the passage of the spirits of the suitors of Penelope, who have just been killed by Odysseus, into the realm of the dead. This description, known as the Introduction to the Second Nekyia, represents a distinct subgenre of Greek epic. It is replete with idiosyncrasies in both theme and diction, [5] and its contents afford a precious glimpse into early Greek concepts of {224|225} afterlife. Nowhere else in Homeric diction do we find the puzzling expressions Ἠελίοιο πύλας ‘Gates [púlai] of the Sun’, δῆμον ὀνείρων ‘District [dêmos] of Dreams’, and Λευκάδα πέτρην ‘While Rock [Leukàs pétrā]. On the level of content, however, there do exist Homeric parallels to the first two of the three expressions.

In the instance of Ἠελίοιο πύλας ‘Gates [púlai] of the Sun’, there is a thematic parallelism between púlai ‘gales’ and Homeric Púlos ‘Pylos’. As Douglas Frame has demonstrated, the royal name Néstōr and the place-name of King Nestor’s realm, Púlos ‘Pylos’, are based on mythological models. [6] I should stress that Frame’s arguments are used not to negate a historical Nestor and the historical Pylos, but rather to show that the kernel of the epic tradition about Nestor and Pylos was based on local myths linked with local cults. The clearest example is a story, represented as Nestor’s own tale within the Iliad, that tells of the hero’s retrieving the cattle of Pylos from the Epeians (XI 671-761). Frame argues convincingly that the retrieved cattle are a thematic analogue to the Cattle of the Sun. [7] The etymology of Néstōr, explained by Frame as ‘he who brings back to light and life’, is relevant. [8] We have already noted the association of words built out of the root *nes- with the theme of sunrise. [9] In fact, the entire plot of Odysseus’ travels is interlaced with diction that otherwise connotes the theme of sunset followed by sunrise. To put it more bluntly, the epic plot of Odysseus’ travels operates on an extended solar metaphor, as Frame argues in adducing the internal evidence of Homeric theme and diction. [10] Likewise, when Nestor returns the cattle to Pylos, it is implicit that Pylos is the Gate of the Sun and an entrance to the underworld. [11] There are survivals of this hieratic connotation in the local Pylian lore of classical times (Pausanias 4.30.2-3). [12] In a Homeric allusion to the myth about Herakles’ descent into the underworld and his wounding of Hades (Iliad V 395-404), the name Pylos actually serves to connote the realm of the otherworld rather than any realm of this world: {225|226}

ἐν Πύλῳ ἐν νεκύεσσι

Iliad V 397
in Pylos, among the dead

Hades himself is the pulártēs ‘gate-closer’ (Iliad VIII 367, etc.). In short, the thematic associations of Púlos imply that the Gate of the Sun is also the Gate of the Underworld, and thus we have a parallel to the context of Ἠελίοιο πύλας ‘Gates [púlai] of the Sun’ in xxiv 12. Accordingly, a Homeric expression like πύλας Ἀίδαο περήσειν ‘pass by the gates of Hades’ (V 646; cf. XXIII 71) implies that the psūkhaí ‘spirits’ of the dead traverse to the nuclei-world through the same passage traveled by the sun when it sets.

In the instance of δῆμον ὀνείρων ‘District [dêmos] of Dreams’ (Odyssey xxiv 12), the concept of a community of dreams situated past the Gates of Hades is thematicully consistent with other Homeric expressions involving dreams, After a person dies, his psūkhḗ ‘spirit’ flies off ἠύτ’ ὄνειρος ‘like a dream’ (xi 222). Hermes, who is conducting the psūkhaí of the dead suitors (xxiv 1), is also the conductor of dreams, ἡγήτορ’ ὀνείρων (Hymn to Hermes 14). Since it is Hermes who leads the psūkhaí of the suitors past the Gates of the Sun (xxiv II), it is significant that another of his inherited epithets is pulēdókos (Hymn to Hermes 15), to be interpreted as ‘he who receives [the psūkhaí] at the Gates’. [13] These are the Gates of Hades, or we may call them the Gates of the Sun. But there is also another name available. Since Hermes conducts dreams as well as the ghosts of the dead, and since dreams move like ghosts, it is not surprising that dreams, too, have gates (Odyssey xix 562; cf. iv 809). [14] Since the Ἠελίοιο πύλας ‘Gates [púlai] of the Sun’ are already mentioned in xxiv 12, we may expect δῆμον ὀνείρων ‘District [dêmos] of Dreams’ in the same line to be a periphrastic substitute for a redundant concept ‘Gates of Dreams’.
In the instance of Λευκάδα πέτρην ‘White Rock [Leukàs pétrā]’ (Odyssey xxiv 11), we find no parallel in Homeric theme and diction. All we can say about the White Rock at this point is that its collocation with δῆμον ὀνείρων ‘District [dêmos] of Dreams’ (xxiv 12) seems parallel to the {226|227} expression ὑποπετριδίων ὀνείρων ‘from dreams underneath a rock’ in Alcman’s Partheneion (PMG 1.49).

As we begin to examine the attestations of Leukàs pétrā ‘White Rock’ beyond Homer, we come upon the third problem of interpretation, concerning the While Rock and a figure called Phaon:

οὗ δὴ λέγεται πρώτη Σαπφὼ
τὸν ὑπέρκομπον θηρῶσα Φάον’
οἰστρῶντι πόθῳ ῥῖψαι πέτρας
ἀπὸ τηλεφανοῦς. ἀλλὰ κατ’εὐχὴν
σήν, δέσποτ’ ἄναξ, εὐφημείσθω
τέμενος πέρι Λευκάδος ἀκτῆς

Menander F 258 K [15]
where they say that Sappho was the first,
hunting down the proud Phaon,
to throw herself, in her goading desire, from the rock
that shines from afar. But now, in accordance with your sacred utterance,
lord king, let there be silence throughout the sacred precinct of the head-land of Leukas.
This fragment, alluding to a story about Sappho’s jumping into the sea for love of Phaon, is from a play of Menander’s entitled The Leukadia. We infer from Menander’s lines that Sappho leapt off the While Rock of Leukas in pursuit of Phaon. It is to Strabo that we owe the preservation of these verses (10.2.9 C452). He is in the process of describing Cape Leukas, a prominent white rock jutting out from Leukas into the sea and toward Kephallenia. [16] From this rock Sappho is supposed to have jumped into the sea after Phaon. Strabo goes on to describe a shrine of Apollo Leukatas situated on Cape Leukas and an ancestral cult practice connected with it. Every year, he reports, some criminal was cast down from the while rock into the sea below for the sake of averting evil, ἀποτροπῆς χάριν (ibid.). Wings and even birds would be fastened to him, and men in fishing boats would be stationed below the rock in order to retrieve the victim after his plunge (ibid.).

As Wilamowitz has convincingly argued, [17] Menander chose for his play a setting that was known for its exotic cult practice involving a white rock and conflated it in the quoted passage with a literary theme likewise {227|228} involving a white rock. There are two surviving attestations of this theme. The first is from lyric:

ἀρθεὶς δηὖτ’ ἀπὸ Λευκάδος
πέτρης ἐς πολιὸν κῦμα κολυμβῶ μεθύων ἔρωτι

Anacreon PMG 370
One more time taking off in the air, down from the White
Rock into the dark waves do I dive, intoxicated with lust.

The second is from satyr drama:

ὡς ἐκπιεῖν γ’ ἂν κύλικα μαινοίμην μίαν
πάντων Κυκλώπων <μὴ> ἀντιδοὺς βοσκήματα [18]
ῥῖψαί τ’ ἐς ἅλμην Λευκάδος πέτρας ἄπο
ἅπαξ μεθυσθεὶς καταβαλών τε τὰς ὄφρυς.
ὡς ὅς γε πίνων μὴ γέγηθε μαίνεται

Euripides Cyclops 163-168
I would be crazy not to give all the herds of the Cyclopes
in return for drinking one cup [of that wine]
and throw myself from the white rock into the brine,
once I am intoxicated, with eyebrows relaxed.
Whoever is not happy when he drinks is crazy.
In both instances, falling from the white rock is parallel to falling into a swoon—be it from intoxication or from making love. As for Menander’s allusion to Sappho’s plunge from a Leukás ‘white rock’, Wilamowitz reasonably infers that there must have existed a similar theme, which does not survive, in the poetry of Sappho. Within the framework of this theme, the female speaker must have pictured herself as driven by love for a certain Phaon, or at least so it was understood by the time New Comedy flourished. [19] So the third and the last of the three problems is, why should Sappho seem to be in love with a mythical figure?
About Phaon himself we have no reports beyond the meager fragments gathered in Sappho F 211 V. It appears that he was an old porthmeús ‘ferryman’ who was transformed into a beautiful youth by Aphrodite herself; also, the goddess fell in love with this beautiful Phaon {228|229} and hid him in a head of lettuce. Besides specifically attesting the latter myth in Cratinus (F 330 Kock), Athenaeus (69d-e) also cites striking parallels in Eubulus (F 14 Kock) and Callimachus (F 478 Pfeiffer), where we see that Adonis, too, was hidden in a head of lettuce by Aphrodite. This thematic parallelism of Aphrodite and Phaon with Aphrodite and Adonis becomes more important as we come to another myth about the second pair.
According to the account in Book VII of the mythographer Ptolemaios Chennos (ca. A.D. 100; by way of Photius Bibliotheca 152-153 Bekker), [20] the first to dive off the heights of Cape Leukas was none other than Aphrodite herself, out of love for a dead Adonis. After Adonis died (how it happened is not said), the mourning Aphrodite went off searching for him and finally found him at ‘Cypriote Argos’, in the shrine of Apollo Eríthios. She consults Apollo, who instructs her to seek relief from her love by jumping off the while rock of Leukas, where Zeus sits whenever he wants relief from his passion for Hera. Then Ptolemaios launches into a veritable catalogue of other figures who followed Aphrodite’s precedent and took a ritual plunge as a cure for love. For example, Queen Artemisia I is reputed to have leapt off the white rock out of love for one Dardanos, succeeding only in getting herself killed. Several others are mentioned who died from the leap, including a certain iambographer Charinos, who expired only after being fished out of the water with a broken leg, but not before blurting out his four last iambic trimeters, painfully preserved for us with the compliments of Ptolemaios (and Photius as well). Someone called Makēs was more fortunate: having succeeded in escaping from four love affairs after four corresponding leaps from the white rock, he earned the epithet Leukopetrās. We may follow the lead of Wilamowitz in questioning the degree of historicity in such accounts. [21] There is, however, a more important concern. In the lengthy and detailed account of Ptolemaios, Sappho is not mentioned at all, let alone Phaon. From this silence I infer that the source of this myth about Aphrodite and Adonis is independent of Sappho’s own poetry or of later distortions based on it. [22] Accordingly, the ancient cult practice at Cape Leukas, as described by Strabo (10.2.9 C452), may well contain some intrinsic element that inspired lovers’ leaps, a practice also noted by Strabo (ibid.). The second practice seems to be derived from the first, as we might expect from a priestly institution that becomes independent of die social context that {229|230} had engendered it. Abstracted from their inherited tribal functions, religious institutions have a way of becoming mystical organizations. [23]
Another reason for doubting that Sappho’s poetry had been the inspiration for the lovers’ leaps at Cape Leukas is the attitude of Strabo himself. He specifically disclaims Menander’s version about Sappho’s being the first to take the plunge at Leukas. Instead, he offers a version of the arkhaiologikṓteroi ‘those more versed in the ancient lore’, according to which Kephalos son of Deioneus was the very first to have leapt, impelled by love for Pterelas (Strabo 10.2.9 C452). Again, I see no reason to lake it for grained that this myth concerning historical Leukás had resulted from some distortion of the cult’s features because of Sappho’s literary influence. [24] The myth of Kephalos and his dive may be as old as the concept of Leukás, the White Rock. I say “concept” because the ritual practice of casting victims from a white rock such as that of Leukas may be an inheritance parallel to the epic tradition about a mythical White Rock on the shores of the Okeanos (as in Odyssey xxiv 11 ) and the related literary theme of diving from an imaginary White Rock (as in the poetry of Anacreon and Euripides). In other words, it is needless to assume that the ritual preceded the myth or the other way around.
Actually, there are other historical places besides Cape Leukas that are associated with myths about diving. For example, Charon of Lampsakos (v B.C., FGI-I 262 F 7) [25] reports that Phobos, of the lineage Kodridai, founder of Lampsakos, was the first to leap ἀπὸ τῶν Λευκάδων πετρῶν ‘from the White Rocks’, located apparently on the north shore of the Smyrnaean Gulf, not far from Phokaìa. [26] We may compare, too, the myth about the death of Theseus. He was pushed by Lykomedes and fell into the sea from the high rocks of the island Skûros (Heraclides by way of Pausanias 1.17.6; scholia to Aristophanes Ploutos 627). The island derives its name Skûros from its white rocks (LSJ s.vv. skûros and skîros/skírros). [27] In fact, the entire Theseus myth is replete with themes {230|231} involving names derived from skûros/skîros. Even the “grandfather” of Theseus is Skū́rios (Apollodorus ,1.15.5), while Theseus himself casts Skī́rōn off the Skīrōnídes pétrai (Strabo 9.1.4 C391; Plutarch Theseus 10; Pausanias 1.83.8). [28] For the moment, I merely note in passing the ritual nature of the various plunges associated with Theseus and his “father” Aigeus, [29] and the implications of agonistic death and mystical rebirth in both ritual and myth. [30]
A more immediate concern is that the mythological examples I have cited so far do not attest the lovelorn theme as a feature of the plunges from while rocks. There is, however, a more basic sexual theme associated with the Thoríkios pétros ‘Leap Rock’ of Attic Kolonos (Sophocles Oedipus at Colonus 1595). Kolonos itself, meaning ‘summit’, is proverbially white or shining-bright (ἀργὴς κολωνός Sophocles Oedipus at Colonus 670). As for the name Thoríkios, it is formally derivable from the noun thorós ‘semen’ (e.g. Herodotus 2.93.1 ) by way of the adjective thorikós; the noun thorós is in turn built on the aorist thoreîn of the verb thrṓiskō ‘leap’. [31] Even the verb can have the side-meaning ‘mount, fecundate’ (Aeschylus Eumenides 600). From the form Thoríkios itself, it is difficult to ascertain whether the name may connote leaping as well as fecundating. And yet, thematic associations of the formally related name Thoríkios suggest that leaping is indeed involved. The provenience of Kephalos, son {231|232} of Deioneus, the figure who leapt from the white rock of Leukas (Strabo 10.2..9 C452), is actually this very Thorikos, a town and deme on the southeast coast of Attica (Apollodorus 2.4.7). [32]

The sexual clement inherent in the theme of a white rock recurs in a myth about Kolonos. Poseidon fell asleep in this area and had an emission of semen, from which issued the horse Skīrōnítēs:

ἄλλοι δέ φασιν ὅτι περὶ τοὺς πέτρους τοῦ ἐν Ἀθήναις Κολωνοῦ καθευδήσας ἀπεσπέρμηνε καὶ ἵππος Σκύφιος ἐξῆλθεν, ὁ καὶ Σκιρωνίτης [33] λεγόμενος
Scholia to Lycophron 766
Others say that, in the vicinity of the rocks at Athenian Kolonos, he [Poseidon], falling asleep, had an emission of semen, and a horse Skúphios came out, who is also called Skīrōnítēs.

The name Skironites again conjures up the theme of Theseus, son of Poseidon, and his plunge from the white rocks of Skyros. [34] This Attic myth is parallel to the Thessalian myth of Skúphios ‘Skyphios’:

Πετραῖος τιμᾶται Ποσειδῶν παρὰ Θεσσαλοῖς, …ὅτι ἐπί τινος πέτρας κοιμηθεὶς ἀπεσπερμάτισε, καὶ τὸν θορὸν δεξαμένη ἡ γῆ ἀνέδωκεν ἵππον πρῶτον, ὃv ἐπεκάλεσαν Σκύφιον
Scholia to Pindar Pythian 4.246
Poseidon Petraîos [= of the rocks] has a cult among the Thessalians…because he, having fallen asleep at some rock, had an emission of semen; and the earth, receiving the semen, produced the first horse, whom they called Skúphios.

There is a further report about this first horse ever:

Φασὶ δὲ καὶ ἀγῶνα διατίθεσθαι τῷ Πετραίῳ Ποσειδῶνι, ὅπου ἀπὸ τῆς πέτρας {232|233} ἐξεπήδησεν ὁ πρῶτος ἵππος
Scholia tο Pindar Pythian 4.246
and they say that there was a festival established in worship of Poseidon Petraîos at the spot where the first horse leapt forth. [35]

The myth of Skironites/Skyphios, featuring the themes of leaping, sexual relief, and the state of unconsciousness, may help us understand better the puzzling verses of Anacreon, already quoted:

ἀρθεὶς δηὖτ’ ἀπὸ Λευκάδος
πέτρης ἐς πολιὸν κῦμα κολυμβῶ μεθύων ἔρωτι

Anacreon PMG 370
One more time [36] taking off in the air, down from the White
Rock into the dark waves do I dive, intoxicated with lust.

The theme of jumping is overt, and the theme of sexual relief is latent in the poetry, [37] while the situation is reversed in the myth. In the poem the unconsciousness comes from what is likened to a drunken stupor; in the myth it comes from sleep. [38] As for the additional theme of a horse in the myth, we consider again the emblem of Hagesikhora’s charms, that {233|234} wondrous horse of Alcman’s Laconian fantasy, who is ‘from those dreams under the Rock’, τῶν ὐποπετριδίων ὀνείρων (PMG 1.49).

We may note that, just as Poseidon obtains sexual relief through the unconsciousness of sleeping at the white rocks of Kolonos, so also Zeus is cured of his passion for Hera by sitting on the white rock of Apollo’s Leukas (Ptolemaios Chennos by way of Photius Bibliotheca 152-153 Bekker). At Magnesia, those who were hieroí ‘sacred’ to Apollo would leap from precipitous rocks into the river Lēthaîos (Pausanias 10.32.6). This name is clearly derivable from lḗthē ‘forgetfulness’. In the underworld, Theseus and Peirithoos sat on the θρόνος τῆς Λήθης ‘throne of Lḗthē’ (Apollodorus Epitome 1.24; Pausanias 10.29.9). I have already quoted the passage from the Cyclops of Euripides (163-168) where getting drunk is equaled with leaping from a proverbial white rock. We may note the wording of the verses that immediately follow that equation, describing how it feels to be in the realm of a drunken stupor:

ἵν’ ἔστι τουτί τ’ ὀρθὸν ἐξανιστάναι
μαστοῦ τε δραγμὸς καὶ παρεσκευασμένου
ψαῦσαι χεροῖν λειμῶνος, ὀρχηστύς θ’ ἄμα
κακῶν τε λῆστις

Euripides Cyclops 169-172
where it is allowed to make this thing stand up erect,
to grab the breast and touch with both hands
the meadow [39] that is made all ready. And there is dancing and
forgetting [lêstis] of bad things,

Again, we see the theme of sexual relief and the key concept lêstis ‘forgetting’.

In short, the While Rock is the boundary delimiting the conscious and the unconscious—be it a trance, stupor, sleep, or even death. Accordingly, when the Suitors are led past the White Rock (Odyssey xxiv 11), they reach the dêmos oneírōn ‘District of Dreams’ (xxiv 12) beyond which is the realm of the dead (xxiv 14).
Even with the accumulation of this much evidence about the symbolism of the White Rock, it is still difficult to see how it relates to the mythical figure Phaon and how he relates to Sappho. One approach that might yield more information is to study the mythical figure Phaethon, who shares several characteristics with Adonis and Phaon. For now, I postpone the details and citations, offering only the essentials. Like {234|235} Adonis and Phaon, Phaethon is loved by Aphrodite, and like them, he is hidden by her. Like Adonis, Phaethon dies. Like Phaon, Phaethon means ‘bright’ (for the morphology of Pháōn/Phaéthōn, we may compare Homeric phlégō/phlegéthō ‘burn’). [40] Unlike Phaon, however, about whom we have only meager details, the Phaethon figure confronts us with a wealth of testimony, much of it unwieldy and conflicting; we now turn to this testimony.
In the commentary to his edition of the Hesiodic Theogony, Martin West observes that Phaéthōn (line 987), like Huperíōn, is a hypostasis of the sun-god Hḗlios. [41] The thematic equation of Helios with Huperíōn and Phaéthōn is apparent in epic diction, where huperíōn ‘the one who goes above’ (Odyssey \ 8, etc.) and phaéthōn ‘the one who shines’ (Iliad XI 735, etc.) are ornamental epithets of Hḗlios. The mythological differentiation of identities is symbolized in genealogical terms: in one case, Huperíōn is the father of Hḗlios (Odyssey xii 176, Hesiod Theogony 371-374), while in the other, Phaéthōn is the son of Hḗlios. The latter relationship is a basic feature of the myth treated by Euripides in the tragedy Phaethon. [42] What follows is an outline of the myth as found in the Euripidean version.
Phaethon, the story goes, was raised as the son of Merops and Klymene. His real father, however, is not the mortal Merops but the sun-god Helios. At his mother’s behest, Phaethon travels to Aithiopia, the abode of Helios, in a quest to prove that the Sun is truly his father. He borrows the chariot of Helios for a day; driving too near the earth, he sets it afire, Zeus then strikes him dead with his thunderbolt, and Phaethon falls from the sky. [43]
A cross-cultural perspective reveals many myths, indigenous to a wide variety of societies, that are analogous to this Greek myth. There are parallels, for example, in the myths of the Kwakiutl and Bella Coola Indians, British Columbia. From the traditions collected by the anthropologist Franz Boas, [44] the following outline emerges. The Sun impregnates a woman, who bears him a son (called Born-to-be-the-Sun in the Kwakiutl version). When the boy goes to visit his father, he is permitted to take the Sun’s place. Exceeding his limits, the boy sets the earth on fire, whereupon he is cast down from the sky. [45] {235|236}

There seems to be, a priori, a naturalistic element in these myths. The personalized image of the sun’s surrogate descending from the sky is parallel, let us say, to the actual setting of the sun. In the specific instance of the Phaethon myth, his fall has indeed been interpreted as a symbol of sunset. [46] I intend to adjust this interpretation later, but at the moment I am ready to argue that there is at least a thematic connection between the Phaethon story and the actual process of sunset as described in Greek epic diction. An essential link is the parallelism between Okeanos and Eridanos, the river into which Phaethon falls from the sky (Choerilus TGF 4; Ion of Chios TGF 62). By the banks of this river Eridanos, the Daughters of the Sun mourn for the fallen Phaethon:

ἀρθείην δ’ ἐπὶ πόντιον
κῦμα τᾶς Ἀδριηνᾶς
ἀκτᾶς Ἠριδανοῦ θ’ ὕδωρ,
ἔνθα πορφύρεον σταλάσ-
σουσ’ εἰς οἶδμα τάλαιναι
κόροι Φαέθοντος οἴκτῳ δακρύων
τὰς ἠλεκτροφαεῖς αὐγάς

Euripides Hippolytus 735-741
Let me lift off, heading for the seawave
of the Adriatic headland and the water of Eridanos,
where the wretched girls, in sorrow for Phaethon,
pour forth into the seething swell
their shining amber rays of tears.
To understand the meaning of the Eridanos, we must review the role of Okeanos in epic diction. Before I even begin such a review, I wish to outline the eventual conclusion. Like the White Rock and the Gate of the Sun, the Okeanos and Eridanos are symbolic boundaries delimiting tight and darkness, life and death, wakefulness and sleep, consciousness and unconsciousness. Birth, death, and the concept of *nes-, which Frame explains as ‘return to life and light’, [47] are the key acts that cross these boundaries. {236|237}
The river Okeanos marks the extremities beyond Earth and seas (cf. Iliad XIV 301-302). It is from Okeanos that Helios the Sun rises (VII 421-423; cf. Odyssey xix 433-434); likewise, it is into Okeanos that the Sun falls at sunset (VIII 485). Thus Okeanos must surround this our world. [48]
The thūmós ‘spirit’ of one who dies is visualized as traveling to the far west and, like the sun, plunging into Okeanos (xx 63-65). [49] Bordering on the Okeanos is the land of the Aithiopes (Iliad I 423-424, XXIII 205-207). Just as the Okeanos flows both in the extreme east and in the extreme west, so also the land of the Aithiopes is located in the two extremities (Odyssey i 23-24). This instance of coincidentia oppositorum, a mythological theme where identity consists of two opposites, [50] is reinforced thematically in Odyssey xii 1 and following. In this passage there are two opposite places that add up to the same place. From the overall plot of the Odyssey, we know that Odysseus is wandering in the realms of the extreme west when he conies upon the island of Aiaie (x 135). It is from Aiaie, island of Circe, that Odysseus is sent on his way to the underworld by traveling beyond the sea until he and his men reach the Okeanos (xi 21-22). [51] Later, on the way back from the underworld, the ship of Odysseus leaves the Okeanos and returns to Aiaie, which is now described as situated not in the extreme west hut in the extreme east. In fact, Aiaie now turns out to be the abode of Eos and sunrise (xii 1-4). [52] The head-spinning directional placements of mythical Okeanos in the epic tradition lead to confused and divergent localizations in later traditions. I cite for example Pindar Pythian 4.251, where the Argonauts reach the Red Sea by way of Okeanos. On rational grounds, Herodotus ridicules the concept of an Okeanos surrounding Earth (4.36.2), and he uses the name to designate the seas in the vicinity of Gades/Cadiz (4.8.2), thus clearly distancing himself from the mythical sense of ‘cosmic river’ and approaching the still-current geographical sense of ‘ocean’.
Similarly with Eridanos, there are several exotic localizations of this mythical river. The poetry of Aeschylus places it in Spain and identifies it with the Rhone (TGF 73; cf. Pliny Natural History 37.31-32), [53] while the words of Euripides, in the passage quoted above, picture it emptying {237|238} into the Gulf of Venice (Hippolytus 736-737). Rejecting still another such contrivance, Herodotus specifically volunteers that Eridanos is myth rather than reality (3.115; cf. Strabo 5.1.9 C215). The basic différence in the post-epic treatments of Eridanos and Okeanos is that the former still counts as a river whereas the latter, thanks to expanding geographical information about the Atlantic, came to designate the varied concepts of ‘ocean’ in the current sense of the word.
From the standpoint of Homeric diction, however, the Okeanos is a potamós ‘river’ (Iliad XVIII 607, Odyssey xi 639; cf. Hesiod Theogony 242); it surrounds the Earth, and for that reason the macro- and microcosmic visual themes on the Shield of Achilles are actually framed by a pictorial Okeanos along the circular rim (Iliad XVIII 607-608; cf. Hesiodic Shield 314). To repeat, the Sun plunges into the Okeanos (Iliad VIII 485) and rises from it (Iliad VII 421-423, Odyssey xix 433-434); ultimately, all rivers and streams flow from it (Iliad XXI 195-197). With such a thematic heritage from the Iliad and Odyssey, it is not surprising that the name Okeanos came to designate the ‘ocean’ in post-Homeric times.

From the standpoint of epic in general, the more obscure Eridanos is thematically parallel to Okeanos. In fact, Eridanos is the “son” of Okeanos, according to Hesiod (Theogony 337-338); this relationship would be insignificant, since Okeanos sired several major rivers, [54] if it were not for other special features of Eridanos. Besides the distinction of being mentioned straightaway in the first line of the catalogue of rivers (Theogony 338 in 338-345), Eridanos gets the epithet bathudī́nēs ‘deep-swirling’, which is otherwise reserved for Okeanos himself in the Theogony (133; also Works and Days 171). [55] There is another example of Eridanos in a variant verse of the Iliad. For the context, I cite the following verses describing the birth of the magic horses of Achilles:

τοὺς ἔτεκε Ζεφύρῳ ἀνέμῳ ἅρπυια Ποδάργη
βοσκομένη λειμῶνι παρὰ ῥόον Ὠκεανοῖο

Iliad XVI 150-151
Their father was the wind Zephyros and the mother who conceived them was the Harpy Podarge [Podárgē = ‘bright/swift of foot’], [56]
as she was grazing in a meadow on the banks of the stream Okeanos. {238|239}

There survives a variant reading for Ὠκεανοῖο ‘Okeanos’ in this passage, namely, Ἠριδανοῖο ‘Eridanos’. We may note the thematic parallelism of Ōkeanós/Ēridanós here with the Thoríkios pétros ‘Leap Rock’: [57] wondrous horses were born at, either place, and the name Skīrōnī́tēs conjures up a mythical White Rock. [58]

I turn now to parallelisms between Okeanos and Eridanos that relate directly lo the Phaethon figure. We know from Pliny’s testimony (Natural History 37.31-32) that in Aeschylus’ treatment of the Phaethon myth, the daughters of the Sun were turned into poplars on the banks of the Eridanos (TGF 73), into which river Phaethon had fallen (Choerilus TGF 4; Ion of Chios TGF 62). [59] There is a parallel association in the Odyssey, where poplars grow on the hanks of the Okeanos, at the edge of the underworld (x 508-512). Like Okeanos, Eridanos, too, is associated with the theme of transition into the underworld. Besides the specific instance of Phaethon’s death, there are also other attestations linking Eridanos with the underworld. For example, in the Codex Vaticanus 909 of Euripides’ Orestes, there is a scholion to verse 981 that reads εἰς τὸν Ἠριδανὸν ποταμὸν κρέμαται ὁ Τάνταλος ‘Tantalos is suspended at the river Eridanos’. [60]
I conclude from such parallelisms between Eridanos and Okeanos that, the fall of Phaethon into the Eridanos is an analogue to the fall of the sun into the Okeanos at sunset, as in Iliad VIII 485. There is also a genealogical dimension to this mythological analogy: just as Phaethon is the son of Helios, so also Eridanos is the son of Okeanos (as in Theogony 337-338). In a pseudo-rationalist story of the mythographer Dionysius Scytobrachion (ii/i B.C.), who seems not concerned with the ties that bind myth to ritual and to the general notion of the sacred, Helios himself is cast in the role of plunging to his death in the Eridanos (Dionysius F 6 Rusten, by way of Diodorus 3.57.5).

It does not necessarily follow, however, that the Phaethon myth merely represents the sunset. I sympathize with those who are reluctant to accept the theory that “Phaethon’s fall attempts to explain in mythical terms why the sun sinks blazing in the west as if crashing to earth in flames and yet returns to its task unimpaired the following day.” [61] One counterexplanation runs as follows: “Phaethon’s crash is an event out of {239|240} the ordinary, a sudden and unexpected calamity, occurring once and not daily.” [62] In such matters, however, I would heed the intuitively appealing approach of Lévi-Strauss. A myth, he concedes, “always refers to events alleged to have taken place long ago.” [63] Nevertheless, “what gives the myth an operational value is that the specific pattern described is timeless; it explains the present and the past as well as the future.” [64] Accordingly, I find it unnecessary to entertain the proposal, based only on naturalistic intuition, that the Phaethon myth represents the fall of a meteorite. [65] The meteorite explanation, as also the sunset explanation, operates on the assumption that the message of the Phaethon myth is simply a metaphorical expression of some phenomenon that occurs in the sky. I disagree. The Phaethon myth presents a problem, not a solution. Furthermore, this problem addresses the human condition, not just celestial dynamics. We may consider again the analogues of the Phaethon myth from British Columbia. In the Bella Coola version, the boy is angry because other children laugh at him for claiming that his father is the sun. In the Kwakiutl version, Born-to-be-the-Sun, as yet unaware of his true identity, weeps when his playmate laughs at him for not having a father. The parallel Angst of Phaethon, ridiculed by his youthful friend, is well known from Ovid’s treatment:

erubuit Phaethon iramque pudore repressit

Ovid Metamorphoses 1.755
Phaethon blushed and in his shame held back his anger
We must not confuse the code of a myth with its message. Whatever its message, the Phaethon myth operates on a code of solar behavior combined with human behavior. For example, the theme of riding across the sky counts as a solar function for Helios but as a human deed for Phaethon. Phaethon may re-enact what Helios does because his father is the Sun, but he fails in his solar role because his mother is human. The Phaethon figure projects a crisis of identity. He seeks proof that his father is really the Sun, according to what he suspects, what his own name suggests, and what his mother actively affirms. This dilemma is fundamental to the myth dramatized by Euripides. Phaethon’s mother, Klymene, assures him that Helios rather than Merops is his real father, and that Phaethon is entitled to one request {240|241} from Helios. She promises Phaethon that, if his request is granted, he will have proof that his origin is divine (θεοῦ πέφηκας Euripides Phaethon 48). Phaethon wavers (51) but finally decides to go to Helios (61-62). His one request, to drive the chariot of Helios, is of course granted by his father. Ironically, however, this proof of his divine nature, inherited from his father, leads to fiery death. His death in turn is proof of his human nature, inherited from his mother. The self-delusion of Phaethon is that he overrated the relationship with his father. His real identity is composed of two ingredients, part “father” = immortal, part “mother” = mortal, but his imagined identity is all “father,” that is, he imagines that he can function as an immortal since his father is immortal. His imagined identity impels him to assume the solar role of his father, but his real identity, part mortal, destines him to fail and die. Viewed from a standpoint outside the myth, Phaethon’s real identity is indeed that of the Sun, by way of hypostasis. Inside the myth, however, this identity is simply Phaethon’s imagination, and his real identity is only partially solar. The self-delusion of Phaethon is comparable to that of another tragic figure, Oedipus. The delusion of Oedipus is that he underrated the relationship with his wife. His real identity is both “husband” and “son” of the same woman, but his imagined identity is only “husband.” [66] A basic distinction between the delusions of Phaethon and Oedipus is that one forgets his real identity whereas the other is unaware of it. Forgetting that his mother is human, Phaethon tries to be the Sun. Not knowing who his mother is, Oedipus marries her. In both cases, the imagined identity is then tragically shattered.
Aside from telling us about the dilemma of being human, the Phaethon myth also tells us something about the mystery of the sun. A priori, we expect Helios the sun-god to be immortal. In the diction of Greek epic, he is counted among the ranks of the immortal gods. Yet the movements of the sun suggest the theme of death and rebirth. With the waning of day, the old sun submerges beyond the horizon into the west Okeanos; then, after night has passed, a new sun emerges from the east Okeanos with the waxing of another day. Given the inescapable fact of human mortality, the fundamental dichotomy of man vs. god extends into the dichotomy of man = mortal vs. god = immortal, as we see throughout Greek epic diction: athánatoi ‘immortals’ is a synonym of theoí ‘gods’. Accordingly, it becomes inappropriate to associate any inherent death/rebirth of the sun directly with Helios the sun-god, who {241|242} must be immortal. The Phaethon myth fills a gap. At sunset, when the sun undergoes a process naturally suggestive of death, it is personified not as Helios the sun-god but as Phaethon, child of the immortal Helios, also child of a mortal. The father Helios represents the divine permanence of the sun’s cycle, while his child Phaethon represents the mortal aspect of the sun’s alternating death/rebirth cycle. This dichotomy accommodates the traditional veneration of Helios as sun-god, still reflected in Homeric diction. We may contrast the contrivance of Dioiiysius Scytohrachion (F 6 Rusten, by way of Diodorus 3.57.5): no longer concerned with any inherent divine element in the sun, he imagines Helios himself in the role of Phaethon, and we are left with a secularistic allegory about sunset,
There is another Phaethon myth, preserved in Hesiodic poetry, which is preoccupied with both aspects of the solar cycle, not only with death but also rebirth. In this myth Phaethon is the son not of Helios but of Eos the dawn-goddess (Theogony 986-987). In the same context we hear first that Eos mates with Tithonos, bearing Memnon, king of the Aithiopes, and Emathion (984-985); then she mates with Kephalos, bearing Phaethon (985-987); then Aphrodite mates with Phaethon (988-991), having abducted him (990). [67] The parallelism between the mating of Eos with Kephalos and the mating of Aphrodite with their son, Phaethon, is reinforced in the Hymn to Aphrodite, when Aphrodite seduces Anchises, the goddess herself cites the abduction of Tithonos by Eos as precedent (218). There are also other parallels, as when a hero called Kleitos is abducted by Eos (Odyssey xv 250-251). Or again, the nymph Kalypso cites the abduction of the hero Orion by Eos as a precedent for her abduction of Odysseus (v 121-I24). [68]
Traditional poetic diction presents traces, albeit indirect, of the manner in which such abductions were envisaged. For a clearer impression, though, let us first examine the following verbs that designate the events:
  • Aphrodite abducts Phaethon, Theogony 990: anereipsamènē ‘snatching up’
  • Eos abducts Kephalos, Euripides Hippolytus 455: anḗrpasen ‘snatched up’
  • Eos abducts Tithonos, Hymn to Aphrodite 218: hḗrpasen ‘snatched’
  • Eos abducts Kleitos, Odyssey xv 250: hḗrpasen ‘snatched’
  • Eos abducts Orion, Odyssey v 121: héleto ‘seized’ {242|243}

There is another abduction that is parallel to these, that οf Ganymedes. The parallelism is explicit in the Hymn to Aphrodite, where Aphrodite herself cites the fates of Ganymedes (202-217) and Tithonos (218-238) as a precedent for the fate of Anchises. We may note that, when the gods abduct Ganymedes for Zeus, it is for the following reason: κάλλεος εἵνεκα οἷο, ἵν’ ἀθανάτοισι μετείη ‘on account of his beauty, so that he may be with the immortals’ (Iliad XX 235). Similarly, when Eos abducts Kleitos, it is for the following reason: κάλλεος εἵνεκα οἷο, ἵν’ ἀθανάτοισι μετείη ‘on account of his beauty, so that he may be with the immortals’ (Odyssey xv 251). These thematic parallelisms of Ganymedes/Tithonos and Ganymedes/Kleitos are important because the verb used in the Iliad to designate the abduction of the Ganymedes figure is anēreípsanto ‘snatched up’ (XX 234), aorist indicative corresponding to the aorist participle anereipsamènē ‘snatching up’, which designates the abduction of the Phaethon figure (Theogony 990). Furthermore, in the Hymn to Aphrodite the verb used to designate the abduction of Ganymedes is anḗrpase ‘snatched up’ (208). Only, the subject here is more specific than the general theoí ‘gods’, subject of anēreípsanto ‘snatched up’ in Iliad XX 234:

ὅππῃ οἱ φίλον υἱὸν ἀνήρπασε θέσπις ἄελλα

Hymn to Aphrodite 208
where the wondrous gust of wind [ áella ] snatched up [ anḗrpase ] his son

Not only bere but also in every other Homeric attestation of anēreípsanto ‘snatched up’ besides Iliad XX 234, the notion ‘gusts of wind’ serves as subject of the verb. When Penelope bewails the unknown fate of the absent Telemachus, she says that it was thúellai ‘gusts of wind’ that anēreípsanto ‘snatched up’ her son (Odyssey iv 727). When Telemachus bewails the unknown fate of the absent Odysseus, he says that it was hárpuiai ‘snatching winds, Harpies’ that anēreípsanto ‘snatched up’ his absent father (i 241). The identical line is used when Eumaios bewails the unknown fate of his absent master Odysseus (xiv 371 ) .

The meaning of thúella ‘gust of wind’ is certain (cf. ἀνέμοιο θύελλα VI 340, etc.). As for hárpuia ‘snatching wind, Harpy’, there is further contextual evidence from the only remaining Homeric attestation of the verb anēreípsanto ‘snatched up’. When Penelope prays that Artemis smite her dead and take her thūmós ‘spirit’ straightaway, she adds:

ἢ ἔπειτά μ’ ἀναρπάξασα θύελλα
οἴχοιτο προφέρουσα κατ’ ἠερόεντα κέλευθα, {243|244}
ἐν προχοῇς δὲ βάλοι άψορρόου Ὠκεανοῖο

Odyssey xx 61-65
or, after that, may a gust οf wind [thúella]
carry me off, taking me down the misty paths,
and may it plunge me into the streams of the backward flowing Okeanos.

As precedent for being snatched up by a gust of wind and cast down into the Okeanos, she invokes the fate of Pandareos’ daughters:

ὡς δ’ ὅτε Πανδαρέου κούρας ἀνέλοντο θύελλαί

Odyssey xx 66
as when gusts of wind [thúellai] seized [anélonto] the daughters of Pandareos

We may compare the use of anélonto ‘seized’ here with that of héleto ‘seized’ when Eos abducts Orion (Odyssey v 121). After further elaboration in the story of the daughters of Pandareos, the central event is presented with the following words:

τόφρα δὲ τὰς κούρας ἅρπυιαι ἀνηρείψαντο

Odyssey xx 77
then the Harpies [hárpuiai ‘snatching winds’] snatched up [anēreípsanto] the girls

So much for all the Homeric attestations of anēreípsanto ‘snatched up’ and the solitary Hesiodic attestation of anereipsaménē ‘snatching up’. As for hárpuia ‘snatching wind, Harpy’, the only other Homeric attestation besides those already surveyed is in the Iliad, where the horses of Achilles are described as follows:

Ξάνθον καὶ Βαλίον, τὼ ἅμα πνοῇσι πετέσθην,
τοὺς ἔτεκε Ζεφύρῳ ἀνέμῳ ἅρπυια Ποδάργη
βοσκομένη λειμῶνι παρὰ ῥόον Ὠκεανοῖο

Iliad XVI 149-151
Xanthos and Batios, who flew with the gusts of wind.
Their father was the wind Zephyros and the mother who conceived them was the Harpy [hárpuia ‘snatching wind’] Podarge [Podárgē =‘bright/swift of foot’], {244|245}
as she was grazing in a meadow on the banks of the stream Okeanos. [69]
Finally, we may consider the Hesiodic description of the hárpuiai ‘snatching winds’ or ‘Harpies’, two in number, in Theogony 267-269: one is called Aellṓ (267, from áella ‘gust of wind’), and the other, Ōkupétē, the one who is ‘swiftly flying’ (267). In short, the epic attestations of hárpuia betray a regular association with wind. Furthermore, this noun may be formally connected with the verb transmitted as ἀνηρείψαντο ‘snatched up’ and ἀνερειψαμένη ‘snatching up’ in Homer and Hesiod, respectively, as we may infer from the variant arepuîa, attested in the Etymologicum Magnum (138.21) and on a vase inscription from Aegina. [70]
The prime significance of this contextual survey is that it establishes how Phaethon, Kephalos, Tithonos, Kleitos, Orion, and Ganymedes were abducted in the poetic imagination: they were snatched away by a gust of wind. The imagery is most explicit in the story of Ganymedes. The immediate agent of the abduction is a gust of wind, and Ganymedes’ father does not know where the áella ‘gust of wind’ has ‘snatched up’ his son, anḗrpase (Hymn to Aphrodite 208). We should observe, however, that the ultimate agent is Zeus himself, who is the subject of the verb hḗrpasen ‘snatched’ designating the abduction of Ganymedes (Hymn to Aphrodite 202-203). As compensation for the abduction of Ganymedes, Zeus gives to the boy’s father a team of wondrous horses (Hymn to Aphrodite 210-211), who are described as having feet of wind (ἀελλοπόδεσσιν 217). In this instance, both themes, of taking and giving in return, center on the element of wind.
After having ascertained how the likes of Phaethon were abducted, we may still ask where they were taken. The most explicit Homeric imagery about this aspect of thúellai/hárpuiai, the snatching gusts of wind, occurs in the passage already quoted from the Odyssey, where Penelope wishes for a gust of wind to snatch her up and drop her into the Okeanos (xx 63-65). [71] The immediate agent is the thúella ‘gust of wind’ (xx 63), but the ultimate agents are the gods themselves (xx 79). In this connection, we may note again that it is on the hanks of the Okeanos that the hárpuia ‘Harpy’ called Podarge [Podárgē = ‘bright/swift of foot’] gave birth to the wind-horses of Achilles (Iliad XVI 149-151). And we may also note again that the variant reading for Ὠκεανοῖο ‘Okeanos’ at Iliad XVI 151 is Ἠριδανοῖο ‘Eridanos’. [72] {245|246}
By dying, Penelope will have the experience of having her thūmós ‘spirit’ plunge into the Okeanos (Odyssey xx 65), but later there is a further detail, that she will have gone underneath the earth (xx 80-81). These themes of (1) falling into Okeanos and (2) going underneath the earth also apply to the movements of the sun itself (e.g. Iliad VIII 485, Odyssey x 190-193). [73] For humans, Okeanos has a function that can be described as follows; when you die, a gust of wind carries your spirit to the extreme west, where it drops you into the Okeanos; when you traverse the Okeanos, yon reach the underworld, which is underneath the earth. For the sun itself, Okeanos has an analogous function: when the sun readies the extreme west at sunset, it likewise drops into the Okeanos; before the sun rises in the extreme east, it stays hidden underneath the earth. When the sun does rise, it emerges from the Okeanos in the extreme east (Iliad VII 421-423; cf. Odyssey xix 433). Thus the movements of the sun into and from the Okeanos serve as a cosmic model for death and rebirth. From the human standpoint, the sun dies in the west in order to he reborn in the east. Since Okeanos is thematically parallel with Eridanos, the sunset theme of a dead Phaethon falling into Eridanos implies an inverse sunrise theme of a reborn Phaethon emerging from Eridanos.
In this respect, a detail about Phaethon’s mother Ēṓs ‘the Dawn’ becomes especially significant. Homeric Eos has a fixed epithet ērigéneia ‘early-generated’ (or ‘early-generating’) that is exclusively hers (e.g. Odyssey ii 1). This epithet is built on what survives as the old locative adverb êri ‘early’, and Homeric diction actually preserves êri in collocation with ēṓs ‘dawn’ (xix 320). This form ērigéneia is comparable to Ēridanós, the first part of which is likewise built on êri; the second part –danos seems to mean ‘dew’ or ‘fluid’ (cf. Indic dā́nu– ‘fluid, dew’). [74]
We come now to the association of Phaethon with Aphrodite in Theogony 988-991. It arises, I propose, from a sexual theme implicit in a solar transition from death to rebirth. In the logic of the myth, it appears that the setting sun mates with the goddess of regeneration so that the rising sun may be reborn. If the setting sun is the same as the rising sun, then the goddess of regeneration may be viewed as both mate and mother.
Such an ambivalent relationship actually survives in the hymns of the RigVeda, where the goddess of solar regeneration, the dawn Uṣas, is the wife or bride of the sun-god Sū́rya (1.115.1, 7.75.5, etc.) as well as his mother (7.63.3, 7.78.3). [75] In the latter instance, the incestuous {246|247} implications are attenuated by putting Uṣas in the plural, representing the succession of dawns; similarly, Uṣas in the plural can designate the wives of Sūrya (4.5.13). Yet even if each succeeding dawn is wife of the preceding dawn’s son, the husband and son are always one and the same Sūrya, and the basic theme of incest remains intact.
This comparative evidence from the RigVeda is important for understanding the Greek evidence, because Indic Sū́rya– ‘Sun’ and Uṣás-’Dawn’ are formally cognate with Greek Hḗlios ‘Sun’ und Ēṓs ‘Dawn’; [76] furthermore, the epithets of Uṣas in the RigVeda, divá(s) duhitár– and duhitárdivás, both meaning ‘Daughter of the Sky’, are exact formal cognates of the Homeric epithets Diòs thugátēr and thugátēr Diós, meaning ‘Daughter of Zeus’. [77] The Homeric hexameter preserves these epithets only in the following patterns:
  • A. —⏔—⏔— | θυγάτηρ Διός | —⏑⏑—⏓ 6 times
  • B. —⏑ Διὸς θυγάτηρ | ⏔—⏔—⏑⏑—⏒ 8 times
  • C. —⏔—⏔—⏑ | Διὸς θυγάτηρ ⏑⏑—⏓ 18 times

We see from this scheme that it is cumbersome for the meter to accommodate the name of Eos, Ἠώς, in a position contiguous with these epithets. Thus it is not surprising that Eos is not combined with these epithets anywhere in attested Greek epic, despite the comparative evidence that such a combination had once existed, as we see from the survival of the Indic cognates divá(s) duhitár– and duhitárdivás in the RigVeda.

Within the framework of the Greek hexameter, we may have expected at least one position, however, where the name of Eos could possibly have been combined with thugátēr Diós ‘Daughter of Zeus’:

    D. *—⏔—⏔—⏔— | θυγάτηρ Διὸς Ἠώς

And yet, when Ἠώς ‘Dawn’ occupies the final portion of the hexameter and when it is preceded by an epithet with the metrical shape ⏑⏑—⏑⏑, this epithet is regularly ῥοδοδάκτυλος ‘rosy-fingered’ (or ‘rosy-toed’), not θυγάτηρ Διός = thugátēr Diós ‘Daughter of Zeus’. I infer that the epithet θυγάτηρ Διός = thugátēr Diós ‘Daughter of Zeus’ in position D must have been ousted by the fixed epithet ῥοδοδάκτυλος ‘rosy-fingered’, as in the familiar verse {247|248}

ἦμος δ’ ἠριγένεια φάνη ῥοδοδάκτυλος Ἠώς

Iliad I 477, etc.
when early-born rosy-fingered Dawn appeared…

In short, for both metrical and formulaic reasons, Greek epic fails to preserve the combination of Ēṓs ‘Dawn’ with Diòs thugátēr and thugátēr Diós, meaning ‘Daughter of Zeus’. [78] By contrast, when the name Aphrodī́tē occupies the final position of the hexameter, her fixed epithet is Diòs thugátēr:

— ⏔—⏔—⏑ | Διός θυγάτηρ Ἀφροδίτη

Iliad III 374, etc.
…Daughter of Zeus, Aphrodite

From the standpoint of comparative analysis, then, Aphrodite is a parallel of Eos in epic diction. Furthermore, from the standpoint of internal analysis, Aphrodite is a parallel of Eos in epic theme. Just as Eos abducts Tithonos (Hymn to Aphrodite 218), Kleitos (Odyssey xv 250), Orion (v 121), and Kephalos (Euripides Hippolytus 455), so also Aphrodite abducts Phaethon (Theogony 990). When Aphrodite seduces Anchises, she herself cites the abduction of Tithonos by Eos for an actual precedent (Hymn to Aphrodite 218-238), as we have already seen. Throughout the seduction episode, Aphrodite is called Diòs thugátēr ‘Daughter of Zeus’ (Hymn to Aphrodite 81, 107, 191).

The archaic parallelism of Eos and Aphrodite suggests that Aphrodite became a rival of Eos in such functions as that of Diòs thugátēr ‘Daughter of Zeus’. From the comparative evidence of the RigVeda, we would expect Eos to be not only mother but also consort of the Sun. There is no such evidence in Greek epic for either Helios or any hypostasis such as the Phaethon figure. Instead, the Hesiodic tradition assigns Aphrodite as consort of Phaethon, while Eos is only his mother (Theogony 986-991). In other words, the Hesiodic tradition seems to have split the earlier fused roles of mother and consort and divided them between Eos {248|249} and Aphrodite respectively. This way, the theme of incest could he neatly obviated.

There are, however, instances in Homeric diction where the relationship of Ēṓs and Phaéthōn is directly parallel to the relationship of Uṣas and Sūrya in the RigVeda. We have already noted the fact that phaéthōn ‘the one who shines’ is an ornamental epithet of Hḗlios (Iliad XI 735, etc.). Moreover, the name Phaéthōn is assigned to one of the two horses of Eos:

Λάμπον καὶ Φαέθονθ’ οἵ τ’ Ἠῶ πῶλοι ἄγουσι

Odyssey xxiii 246
Lámpos and Phaéthōn, the horses [pôloi] that draw Ēṓs

We may note that Lámpos, the name of her other horse, is also associated with the notion of brightness. [79] There is a striking parallel in the RigVeda: Sūrya the sun-god is called the ‘bright horse’, śvetám…áśvam, of the dawn-goddess Uṣas (7.77.3; cf. 7.78.4).

There is also, within Greek epic, an internal analogue to the combination of Phaéthōn and Lámpos in Odyssey xxiii 246. The names for the daughters of Helios the sun-god are Phaéthousa and Lampetíē (Odyssey\n 1 32), which are feminine equivalents of Phaéthōn and Lámpos. [80] Again we may note a striking Indic parallel: in the RigVeda the name for the daughter of Sūrya– the sun-god is Sūryā́ (1.116.17), which is a feminine equivalent of the masculine name.
The comparative evidence of this contextual nexus suggests that the Horses of the Dawn in Odyssey xxiii 246 had once been metaphorical aspects of the Sun. As in the RigVeda, the Sun could have been called the bright stallion of the Dawn—by such names as Phaéthōn or Lámpos. Once the metaphor is suspended, then the notion ‘Horse of the Dawn’ must be taken at face value: if the Dawn has a horse, she will actually require not one but two for a chariot team, and the two kindred solar aspects Phaéthōn ‘bright’ and Lámpos ‘bright’ will do nicely as names for two distinct horses. Yet the surviving role of Phaéthousa and Lampetíē as daughters of Helios serves as testimony for the eroded personal connotations of the names Phaéthōn or Lámpos. By contrast, the metaphor is maintained in the RigVeda, where Sūrya the sun-god is both bridegroom {249|250} and horse of the dawn-goddess Uṣas. There is even a special word that incorporates both roles of Sūrya, namely, márya– (1.115.2, 7.76.3). [81] In fact, the metaphorical equation of stallion and bridegroom is built into various rituals of Indic society, such as those of initiation, and a key to this equation is the same word márya– and its Iranian cognates. [82]
Significantly, there is a corresponding Greek attestation of such a metaphorical equation, in the hymenaeus ‘wedding-song’ of Euripides Phaethon 227-235, where the pôlos ‘horse’ of Aphrodite (234) is the hero Hymen himself. [83] We have seen the same word pôlos designating the horses of Eos, Phaethon and Lampos (Odyssey xxiii 246), [84] Hymen’s epithet νεόζυγι ‘newly yoked’ in Euripides Phaethon 233 marks him as Aphrodite’s bridegroom (compare the diction in Aeschylus Persians 514-515; Euripides Medea 804-805; TGF 821). As for the appositive σῶν γάμων γένναν ‘offspring of your wedding’ (Phaethon 235), it conveys that Hymen is not only the bridegroom but also the son of Aphrodite. We may note in this connection that the hymenaeus ‘wedding-song’ in Phaethon 227-235 is being sung in honor of Phaethon, and that his bride-to-be is in all probability a Daughter of the Sun. [85] Finally, we may note that Aphrodite functions in this context as τὰν Διὸς οὐρανίαν ‘the celestial daughter of Zeus’ (Phaethon 228).
Besides Eos and Aphrodite, other Homeric goddesses, too, qualify as Diòs thugátēr/thugátēr Diós ‘Daughter of Zeus’: they are Athena (Iliad IV 128, etc.), the Muse of the Odyssey (i 10), Atē (Iliad XIX 91), Persephone (Odyssey xi 217), Artemis (xx 61), and Helen (iv 227). [86] It is beyond the scope of this investigation to examine the contexts of Diòs thugátēr/thugátēr Diós ‘Daughter of Zeus’ and to correlate them with the contexts of the Rig-Vedic cognate divá(s) duhitár-/duhitárdivás ‘Daughter of Sky’, which applies only to Uṣas the dawn-goddess. [87] Instead, I confine myself here to observations that relate to the theme of abduction.
The Rig-Vedic Uṣas is an overtly beneficent goddess, well known for her function of dispelling the darkness (1.92.5, 2.34.12, etc.). Yet her epithet divá(s) duhitár-/duhitár divás is ambivalent. In a hymn that is part of the Vedic liturgical canon for animal sacrifice, Uṣas combined {250|251} with the Night are together called divó duhitárā (RigVeda 10.70.6). In other words, both Dawn and Night are Daughters of the Sky, Indic Dyáus (cognate of Greek Zeús). When Dawn drives away the Night, the latter is actually called her sister (RigVeda 1.92.11, 4.52.1). There is a parallel ambivalence in the cognate epithet Diòs thugátēr/thugátēr Diós. In one instance, it can describe a beneficent Athena who has just rescued Menelaos and who is compared to a mother fostering her child (Iliad IV 128). This function of the Diòs thugátēr/thugátēr Diós as patroness of the Hero is typical. [88] In another instance, however, the epithet describes a maleficent Persephone, goddess of the dead (Odyssey xi 217). In still another instance, it describes Artemis when Penelope wants to be shot and killed by her (xx 61).
Although the epithet Diòs thugátēr/thugátēr Diós does not survive in combination with Eos, the goddess herself is in fact likewise ambivalent, Homeric diction features her snatching up youths as if she were some Harpy, and yet she gives them immortality. For review, the example of Kleitos will suffice (xv 250-251). [89] Such an ambivalence inherent in the Eos figure is so uncomfortable that it tends to be attenuated in the diction. For instance, the verb used to describe the abduction of Orion by Eos is not the concretely violent hḗrpasen ‘snatched’ but the more abstract héleto ‘seized’ (Odyssey v 121). [90] Once the wording hḗrpasen ‘snatched’ is removed, the connotation of death from Harpies disappears and a new theme is introduced, death from Artemis (Odyssey v 121-124). We may note that death is at least not violent at the hands of Artemis (ἀγανοῖς βελέεσσιν ‘with her gentle darts’ v 124). Similarly, when Penelope wants to be killed by Artemis, the death is implicitly gentle (xx 61-65).
The alternative to a gentle death from Artemis is a violent abduction by a thúella ‘gust of wind’ (Odyssey xx 63), the action of which is described as anarpáxāsa ‘snatching up’ (ibid.). As precedent for being abducted by a gust of wind and plunged into the Okeanos, Penelope’s words evoke the story of the daughters of Pandareos, abducted by thellai ‘gusts of wind’ (xx 66), the action of which is described as anélanto ‘seized’ (ibid.). This mention of abduction is followed by a description of how the daughters of Pandareos had been preserved by the Olympian goddesses (xx 67-72); the preservation of the girls is then interrupted by death, at the very moment that Aphrodite is arranging for them to be married (xx 73-74). Death comes in the form of abduction by hárpuiai {251|252} ‘snatching winds’ (xx 77), the action of which is now described as anēreípsanto ‘snatched up’ (ibid.). [91]
In this story about the daughters of Pandareos (Odyssey xx 66-81), we see a sequence of preservation followed by abduction/death. [92] In the story about Orion and Eos (v 121-124), by contrast, the pattern is abduction/preservation followed by death, in that Eos abducts and preserves the hero while Artemis arranges for his death. [93] Finally, the story about Aphrodite and Phaethon (Hesiod Theogony 986-991) presents yet another pattern, that of abduction/death followed by preservation. [94] In each of these narrative patterns, we see various patterns of differentiation in the ambivalent function of Eos as the undifferentiated agent of abduction, death, and preservation.
The abduction of Phaethon by Aphrodite is most directly comparable to the abduction of Kleitos by Eos (Odyssey xv 251-252), where again we see the pattern abduction/death followed by preservation. The Kleitos figure is represented as son of Mantios (xv 249) and grandson of the seer Melampous (xv 242). As Frame has shown, the Melampous myth centers on the theme of retrieving the Cattle of the Sun. [95] The solar function of the Melampous figure and his genetic affinity with the Kleitos figure imply a solar affinity as well. The wording hḗrpasen for the abduction of Kleitos at Odyssey xv 251 implies that he was taken by a maleficent Harpy and dropped into the Okeanos. This theme of death is parallel to sunset. On the other hand, the subject of hḗrpasen is Eos herself, and the theme of sunrise is parallel to rebirth. Since the abductor of Kleitos is represented as the Dawn, it is at least implicit that Kleitos is to be reborn like the Sun and thus preserved.
So long as the Dawn is present, the day waxes. Once the Sun reaches noon, however, the Dawn ceases and the day wanes. This vital role of Eos is explicit in Homeric diction (e.g. Iliad XX 66-69). Implicitly, the Sun is united with the light of Dawn until noon; afterwards, the Sun descends into the Okeanos, only to be reborn the next day. In the story of Eos and Kleitos a parallel death and rebirth are implied. The sequence of events, to repeat, is abduction/death followed by preservation. [96] In the {252|253} Orion story (Odyssey v 121-124), on the other hand, the sequence is the inverse: abduction/preservation followed by death. [97] We may note that Orion’s relation to the Dawn is the inverse of the Sun’s. Translated into the symbolism of celestial dynamics, Orion’s movements are accordingly astral, not solar, and we see an astral representation of the Orion figure already in Homeric poetry (v 274; Iliad XVIII 488). [98] Like the Sun, the constellation Orion rises from the Okeanos and sets in it (v 275, Iliad XVIII 489), but, unlike the Sun, it rises and sets at nighttime, not daytime. In the summer, at threshing time, Orion starts rising before Dawn (Hesiod Works and Days 598-599). In the winter, at ploughing time, Orion starts setting before Dawn (Works and Days 615-616). In summer days the light of Dawn catches up with the rising Orion, and he can be her consort in the daytime. [99] In winter days the light of Dawn arrives too late to keep Orion from setting into the Okeanos. One related star that does not set, however, is Arktos (v 275 = Iliad XVIII 489). The Arktos ‘Bear’ watches Orion, dokeúei (v 274 = Iliad XVIII 488), and the verb dokeúei implies doom. In Homeric diction it is used when marksmen or savage beasts take aim at their victims (Iliad XIII 545, XVI 313, XX 340). [100] As for the Arktos ‘Bear’, the name implies the goddess Artemis. [101] In other words, the astral passages of Odyssey v 273-275 and Iliad XVIII 487-489 implicitly repeat the theme of Orion’s dying at the hands of Artemis, explicit in Odyssey v 121-124. [102] The latter passage involves two goddesses, a beneficent Eos and a maleficent Artemis. [103] We may contrast the passage about Kleitos, involving an ambivalent Eos who is both maleficent and beneficent (Odyssey xv 251-252). [104] The theme of death is implicit in hḗrpasen ‘snatched’ (251), while the theme of preservation is explicit in ἵν’ ἀθανάτοισι μετείη ‘so that he may be with the immortals’ (252).
Similarly, Aphrodite is ambivalent in the Hesiodic passage about Phaethon (Theogony 989-991). Again, the theme of death is implied in anereipsaménē ‘snatching up’ (990). The epithet daímōn ‘supernatural being’ (991), on the other hand, implies divine preservation, as we see from the context of daímōn in Works and Days 109-126. [105] We may {253|254} compare, too, the preservation of the hero Erechtheus by Athena in Iliad II 547-551, where the goddess is explicitly described as Diòs thugátēr ‘Daughter of Zeus’ (548). The preservation of both Phaethon and Erechtheus is represented in these passages in terms of hero cult. [106] If the hero is situated in a sacred precinct and if he is propitiated at set times, then he İs being treated like a god and it follows that he must be like a god; thus he must be in some sense alive. [107] From the standpoint of myth, he is explicitly dead, but from the standpoint of cult, he is implicitly reborn and thus alive. Myth has it that, like Phaethon, Erechtheus, too, had once been struck dead by the thunderbolt of Zeus (Hyginus 46). It is clear that Erechtheus has an underworld phase, in that he is described as hidden in a χάσμα…χθονός ‘chasm of the earth’ (Euripides Ion 281). Similarly, the adjective múkhios ‘secreted’ describing Phaethon in Theogony 991 implies a stay in the underworld, as we see from the usage of múkhios ‘secret place’ in Theogony 119. As for Aphrodite, the goddess who abducted Phaethon and made him múkhios, she herself is known as Mukhíā in the context of one of her cults (as at Gyaros: IG XII v 651; cf. Aelian De natura animalium 10.34). [108] Another such cult title of Aphrodite, again implying an underworld phase, is Melainís ‘the dark one’ (Pausanias 2.2.4, 8.6.5, 9.27.5). In the Phaethon myth preserved by Euripides, even the mother’s name Kluménē connotes the underworld. The masculine equivalent, Klúmenos, was a euphemistic epithet of Hades himself, as in the epichoric cults of Hermione (Pausanias 2.35.9). Behind the Hermionian precinct of Khthoníā ‘the chthonic one’ is the ‘Place of Klúmenos’, and in this place is a γῆς χάσμα ‘chasm of the earth’ through which Herakles brought up the Hound of Hades (Pausanias 2.35.10). Accordingly, I am inclined to view Phaethon’s Kluménē as a hypostasis of chthonic Aphrodite.
To sum up: like Eos, Aphrodite is both maleficent and beneficent in the role of abductor, since she confers both death and preservation, When Phaethon’s parents are Helios and Klymene, the stage is set for his death, implicit in the Klymene figure. When his parents are Kephalos and Eos, the stage is set for both his death and his preservation, implicit in the Eos figure as well as in her alternate, Aphrodite. Thus, I disagree with the spirit of the claim that “on the evidence available to us the son of Helios and the son of Eos and Cephalus must be pronounced entirely different persons.” [109] Such an attitude is overly prosopographical. We {254|255} are dealing not with different persons, but with different myths, cognate variants, centering on the inherited personification of a solar child and consort.
Since the epithet múkhios ‘secreted’ as applied to Phaethon in Theogony 991 implies that he was hidden by Aphrodite, we see here an important parallelism with Phaon and Adonis, who were also hidden by Aphrodite. [110] Just as Phaethon implicitly attains preservation in the cult of Aphrodite, so also Adonis in the cult of Apollo Eríthios. [111] As for Phaon, he explicitly attains preservation in the myth where lie is turned into a beautiful young man by Aphrodite (Sappho F 211 V). From the myths of Phaethon, we see that the themes of concealment and preservation are symbolic of solar behavior, and we may begin to suspect that the parallel myths of Phaon and Adonis are based on like symbolism.
The very name Pháōn, just like Phaéthōn, suggests a solar theme. [112] His occupation too, that of ferryman (Sappho F 211 V), is a solar theme, as we see from the studies of Hermann Güntert on other mythological ferrymen. [113] As an interesting parallel to Phaon, I single out a solar deity in the RigVeda, Pūṣan, [114] who regularly functions as a psychopomp and who is at least once featured as traveling in golden boats (6.58.3); he is the wooer of his mother (6.55.5) and the lover of his sister (6.55.4, 5). A frequent and exclusive epithet of Pūṣan is ā́ghr̥ṇi– ‘glowing, bright’, comparable in meaning to Pháōn and Phaéthōn.
In light of these characteristics associated with the specialized Indic sun-god Pūṣan, we may note that the standard Indic sun-god Sūrya in the RigVeda is both son and consort of the dawn-goddess Uṣas (8.63.3, 7.78.3; 1.115.2, 7.75.5, etc.). [115] The ‘fathers’ of Pūṣan, the solar Divine Twins known as the Aśvin-s (RigVeda 10.85.14), share with Pūṣan his affinity with boats; they, too, are described as traveling about in boats (1.116.3). [116] The Aśvin-s are described as ‘born differently’ (nā́nā jātáu 5.73.4) and born ‘here and there’ (ihéha jātā́ 1.181.4); one is the son of Súmakha– ‘Good Warrior’ and the other, the son of Dyáus ‘Sky’. [117] In Yāska (Nirukta 12.1), a passage is quoted about the Aśvin-s where “one is {255|256} called the son of Night, the other the son of Dawn.” I view these images as solar symbols of day/night, bright/dark, immortal/mortal, alive/dead. When the two Aśvin-s are treated as a pair, on the other hand, only one side of their split personalities is revealed. [118] Accordingly, the two of them together are the sons of Dyáus ‘Sky’ (1.182.1, etc.) and the sons of Uṣas (3.39.3, to be supplemented by the comments of Sayana concerning this passage).
As solar ligures, Aśvin-s also represent the morning/evening star. [119] The female solar divinity Sūyrā, Daughter of the Sun, relates to the Aśvin-s in their astral function, much as Uṣas the dawn-goddess relates to them in their solar function. The Aśvin-s are Sūryā’s two husbands (4.43.6). As Douglas Frame has argued, the Twins’ epithet Nā́satyau means ‘retrievers’, because they retrieved the light of the sun. [120] The essence of the Nā́satyau theme is that the morning star, as it rises from the horizon, ‘recovers’ the light of the sun, represented by Sūryā. The night before, the evening star had dipped beyond the horizon, plunging after the sinking sun, in order to effect its recovery, another morning, by the alter ego, the morning star. [121]
The Indic Aśvin-s are parallel to the Greek Díoskouroi, Diòs koûroi ‘sons of Zeus, Dioscuri’. [122] Just as the Aśvin-s are named after the word for ‘horse’, áśva-, the Dioskouroi are known as leukópōloi ‘bright horses’ (e.g. Pindar Pythian 1.6u). [123] We may note that the Dioskouroi have a horse called Hárpagos ‘snatchcr’, son of Podárgā ‘bright/swift of foot’ (Stesichorus PMG 178.1); the latter name may be compared with that of the Harpy Podárgē = ‘bright/swift of foot’ who bore the horses of Achilles at the banks of Okeanos/Eridanos (Iliad XVT 150-151). [124] We may note, too, a Laconian ensemble of priestesses called Leukippídes ‘bright horses’ (Pausanias 3,16.1), who are associated with the cult of Helen (cf. Euripides Helen 1465-1466); Helen in this context functions as a dawn-goddess, analogous to or perhaps even identical with the dawn-goddess Aōtis in Alcman PMG 1.87. [125] {256|257}

To return to our current center of attention, the solar figure Phaon in the poetics of Sappho: another solar theme associated with Phaon is his plunge from a white rock, an act that is parallel to the solar plunge of Phaethon into the Eridanos. We have seen that the Eridanos is an analogue of the Okeanos, the boundary delimiting light and darkness, life and death, wakefulness and sleep, consciousness and unconsciousness. We have also seen that the White Rock is another mythical landmark delimiting the same opposites and that these two landmarks are mystical coefficients in Homeric diction (Odyssey xxiv 11). Even the Phaethon figure is connected with the White Rock, in that his “father” Kephalos is supposed to have jumped off Cape Leukas (Strabo 10.2.9 C452) [126] and is connected with the placename Thórikos (Apollodorus 2.4.7). [127] The theme of plunging is itself overtly solar, as we see from Homeric diction:

ἐν δ’ ἔπεσ’ Ὠκεανῷ λαμπρὸν φάος Ἠελίοιο

Iliad VIII 485
and the bright light of Helios plunged into the Okeanos.

In the Epic Cycle the lover of Klymene is not Helios but “Kephalos son of Deion” (Κεφάλῳ τῷ Δηίονος Nostoi F 4 Allen), [128] a figure whose name matches that of Kephalos son of Deioneus, the one who leapt from the white rock of Leukas (Strabo 10.2.9 C452) and who hails from Thorikos (Apollodorus 2.4.7). [129]

If indeed the Phaon and Adonis myths operate on solar themes, it remains to ask about the relevance of Aphrodite. Most important of all, how do we interpret Aphrodite’s plunge from the White Rock? We hear of her doing so out of love for Adonis (Ptolemaios Chennos by way of Photius Bibliotheca 152-153 Bekker), [130] and the act itself may be connected with her known function as substitute for the Indo-European dawn-goddess of the Greeks, Eos. As we have seen, Aphrodite has even usurped the epithet of Eos, Diòs thugátēr ‘Daughter of Sky’, as well as the roles that go with the epithet. From the Homeric standpoint, Aphrodite is actually the Diòs thugátēr par excellence, in that even her “mother’s” {257|258} name is Diṓnē (Iliad V 370, 381). It still remains, however, to explain Aphrodite’s plunge from the White Rock as a feature characteristic of a surrogate Indo-European dawn-goddess.
Here we may do well to look toward Aphrodite’s older, Near Eastern, heritage. As the Greek heiress to the functions of the Semitic fertility goddess Ištar, Aphrodite has as her astral symbol the planet of Ištar, better known to us as Venus. [131] The planet Venus is of course the same as Hésperos the Evening Star and Heṓsphoros (‘dawn-bearer’, Ēṓs-bearer’) the Morning Star. In the evening Hesperos sets after sunset; in the morning Heosphoros rises before sunrise. We have the testimony of Sappho’s near contemporary, Ibycus (PMG 331), that Hesperos and Heosphoros were by this time known to be one and the same. From the Indo-European standpoint, on the other hand, Hesperos and Heosphoros must be Divine Twins, as represented by the Dioskouroi, the Greek ‘Sons of Zeus’ who are cognates of the Indic Aśvin-s. [132] At the bat tle of Aigospotamoi, there is supposed to have been an epiphany of the Dioskouroi in the form of stars, on either side of Lysander’s admiral ship; after their victory the Spartans dedicated two stars of gold at Delphi (Plutarch Lysander 12, 18).

In the poetics of Sappho, the Indo-European model of the Morning Star and Evening Star merges with the Near Eastern model of the Planet Aphrodite. On the one hand, Sappho’s Hesperos is a nuptial star, as we know directly from the fragment 104 V and indirectly from the celebrated hymenaeus ‘wedding-song’ of Catullus 62, Vesper adest. Since Hesperos is the evening aspect of the astral Aphrodite, its setting into the horizon, beyond which is Okeanos, could have inspired the image of a plunging Aphrodite. If we imagine Aphrodite diving into the Okeanos after the sun, it follows that she will rise in the morning, bringing after her the sun of a new day. This image is precisely what the Hesiodic scholia preserve to explain the myth of Aphrodite and Phaethon:

ὁ ἡῷος ἀστήρ, ὁ ἀνάγων τὴν ἠμέραν καὶ τὸν Φαέθοντα

Scholia to Hesiod Theogony 990
the star of Eos, the one that brings back to light and life [verb an ágō] the day and Phaethon, Aphrodite [133]

For the mystical meaning of anágō as ‘bring back the light and life [from {258|259} the dead]’, I cite the contexts of this verb in Hesiod Theogony 626 (εἰς φάος ‘into the light’), Plato Republic 521c (εἰς φῶς ‘tο light’), Aeschylus Agamemnon 1023 (τῶν φθιμένων ‘from the realm of the dead’), and so on. [134]

From Menander F 258K, we infer that Sappho spoke of herself as diving from the White Rock, crazed with love for Phaon. The implications of this ¡mage are cosmic. The “I” of Sappho’s poetry is vicariously projecting her identity into the goddess Aphrodite, who loves the native Lesbian hypostasis of the Sun-God himself. By diving from the White Rock, the “I” of Sappho does what Aphrodite does in the form of Evening Star, diving after the sunken Sun in order to retrieve him, another morning, in the form of Morning Star. If we imagine her pursuing the Sun the night before, she will be pursued in turn the morning after. There is a potential here for amor uersus, a theme that haunts the poetry of Sappho elsewhere:

καὶ γὰρ αἰ φεύγει, ταχέως διώξει

Sappho F 1.21V
for even if she now flees, soon she will pursue

Sappho’s special association with Aphrodite is apparent throughout her poetry. The very first poem of the Sapphic corpus is, after all, an intense prayer to Aphrodite, where the goddess is implored to be the summakhos ‘battle-ally’ of the poetess (F 1.28 V). The “I” of Sappho pictures herself and Aphrodite as parallel rather than reciprocal agents:

ὄσσα δέ μοι τέλεσσαι θῦμος ἰμέρρει, τέλεσον

Sappho F 1. 26-27 V
and however many things my spirit [thūmós] yearns to accomplish [verb teléō , active], I pray that you [Aphrodite] accomplish [verb teléō , active]

I draw attention to the wording τέλεσσαι ‘to accomplish’, an active infinitive instead of the expected passive τελέσθην ‘to be accomplished’. [135] If someone else needs something done by Aphrodite, {259|260} Sappho’s poetry opts for the passive infinitive τελέσθην ‘to be accomplished’, not active τέλεσσαι ‘to accomplish’:

Κύπρι καὶ] Νηρήιδες ἀβλάβη[ν μοι
τὸν κασί]γνητον δ[ό]τε τυίδ’ ἴκεσθα[ι
κὤσσα Ϝ]οι θύμῳ κε θέλῃ γενέσθαι
πάντα τε]λέσθην

Sappho F 5.1-4 V
Aphrodite and Nereids, grant that my brother
come back here unharmed,
and that however many things he wishes in his spirit [thūmós] to happen
may all be accomplished [verb teléō , passive]

The figure of Sappho projects mortal identity onto the divine explicitly as well as implicitly. I cite the following examples from one poem:

πόλ]λακι τυίδε [ν]ῶν ἔχοισα
σε θέᾳ σ’ ἰκέλαν ἀρι-
γνώτᾳ, σᾷ δὲ μάλιστ’ ἔχαιρε μόλπᾳ
ε]ὔμαρ[ες μ]ὲν οὐ[κ] ἄ[μ]μι θέαισι μόρ-
φαν ἐπή[ρατ]ον ἐξίσω-

Sappho F 96.2-5, 21-23 V
Many times turning your attention [nóos] in this direction
you, a likeness of the well-known goddess.
And it is in your song and dance that she delighted especially.
It is not easy for us
to become equal in lovely shape
to the goddesses

An even more significant example is Sappho F 58.25-26 V, two verses quoted by Athenaeus 687b. Sappho is cited as a woman who professes not to separate tò kalón ‘what is beautiful’ from habrótēs ‘luxuriance’:

ἐγὼ δὲ φίλημμ’ ἀβροσύναν, […] τοῦτο, καί μοι {260|261}
τὸ λά⌊μπρον ἔρως [136] ἀελίω καὶ τὸ κά⌋λον λέ⌊λ⌋ογχε

Sappho F 58.25-26 V
But I love luxuriance [(h)abrosunā]. …this,
and lust for the sun has won me brightness and beauty. [137]

From Oxyrhynchus Papyri 1787 we can see that these two verses come at the end of a poem alluding to mythical topics. According to Lobel and Page, verses 19 and following refer to Tithonos (F 58 LP). Be that as it may, we do see images about growing old, with hair turning white and the knees losing their strength (Sappho F 58.13-15 V). The fragmentary nature of the papyrus prevents certainty about the speaker and the speaker’s predicament, but somebody is feeling helpless, asking rhetorically what can be done, and bemoaning some impossibility (58.17-18). Also, the Lesbian Eos is mentioned: βροδόπαχυν Αὔων ‘rosy-armed Dawn’ (58.19).

As a coda to this poem, the last two verses, which I interpret as proclaiming Sappho’s ‘lust for the sun’, amount to a personal and artistic manifesto. The (h)abrosúnā ‘luxuriance’ of Sappho transcends the banal discussion of Athenaeus, who quotes these two verses. For Sappho, (h)ábrōs ‘luxuriant’ is the epithet of Adonis (F 140 V), as also of the Kharites ‘Graces’ (128 V), on whose chariot Aphrodite rides (194 V). At Sappho F 2.13-16 V, (h)ábrōs (14) is the adverb describing the scene as Aphrodite is asked to pour nectar. The use of (h)ábrōs ‘luxuriant’/(h)abrosúnā ‘luxuriance’ in Sappho reminds us of the Roman neoterics and their allusive use of lepidus/lepos in expressing their artistic identity. As for Sappho’s ‘lust for the sun’ and ‘love of (h)abrosúnā [luxuriance]’, these themes combine profound personal and artistic ideals. In verses preceding the coda, the words of Sappho perhaps alluded to Phaon as an old man, compared with Tithonos. Or perhaps Phaon was son of Tithonos. We do hear of a myth where Phaethon is son of Tithonos (Apollodorus 3.14.3); just as Phaethon was son of Ēṓs ‘Dawn’, perhaps Phaon was son of the Lesbian cognate, Aúōs ‘Dawn’ mentioned in the same poem, Sappho F 58.19. The expression ἔσχατα γᾶς φέροισα[ ‘[she], taking to the ends of the earth’ in the following {261|262} verse 20 of this poem, along with ἔμαρψε ‘snatched’ in the following verse 21, remind us of Okeanos/Eridanos and Harpies.
In any case, the fact remains that there is a Lesbian myth about Phaon as an old man (Sappho F 211 V); significantly, in this same myth Aphrodite herself assumes the form of an old woman, whom the old Phaon generously ferries across a strait (ibid.). I suspect that the figure of Sappho identifies herself with this figure of an old woman. Similarly, we may compare the myth of the mourning Aphrodite’s plunge from the White Rock out of love for the dead Adonis (Ptolemaios Chennos by way of Photius Bibliotheca 152-153 Bekker) [138] as pertinent to the poetics of Sappho, where the explicit theme of mourning for Adonis (F 168 V) may be connected with the latent theme of Sappho’s self-identification with Aphrodite.
In short, there is a mythical precedent for an aging lady to love Phaon. The implicit hope is retrieved youth. After Aphrodite crossed the strait, she became a beautiful goddess again, conferring youth and beauty on Phaon, too (again, Sappho F 211 V). For all these reasons, perhaps, Sappho loves Phaon. {262|263}


[ back ] 1. Page 1951.87.
[ back ] 2. Page p. 87.
[ back ] 3. Wilamowitz 1897.252n2.
[ back ] 4. Campbell 1976.203. I infer that the editor had in mind passages like Hesiod Works and Days 588-589.
[ back ] 5. For a survey, sec Page 1955.116-119. For some, including Page, such idiosyncrasies mean that the passage is an insertion and does not intrinsically belong where it is found in the text. I disagree, believing that the epic genre consists of several subgenres, and that each subgenre has its idiosyncrasies in theme and diction. For a survey of the principle that each epic subgenre (such as that of similes) has its own distinctive archaisms as well as innovations, see Householder and Nagy 1972.741-743.
[ back ] 6. Frame 1978.81-115.
[ back ] 7. Frame pp. 87-90, 92. Just as Nestor brings his cattle back to Pylos, so also another figure, Melampous, on whose solar significance see Frame pp. 91-92.
[ back ] 8. See p. 218.
[ back ] 9. See p. 218. Cf. also pp. 92ff., with reference to Frame’s (1978) demonstration of the traditional theme that represents sunrise as symbolically parallel with a return to consciousness, the Greek word for which is nóos.
[ back ] 10. Note esp. Frame pp. 75-76, 78 on Odyssey xiii 79-95, where the ‘return’ of Odysseus coincides with sunrise, at which point the hero can finally awaken from the deathlike sleep that had held him for the duration of his nighttime sea voyage homeward. Cf. p. 218. Also Segal 1962.
[ back ] 11. Frame pp. 92-93.
[ back ] 12. For details, see Frame pp. 90-91.
[ back ] 13. This epithet serves as a counterexample to the argument of Page 1955.117 that in Homeric poetry Hermes functions as psychopomp only in Odyssey xxiv. Cf. also Whitman 1958.217-218 on Iliad XXIV.
[ back ] 14. As for the epithet ἀμενηνῶν ‘without vital force [ménos]’ applied to ὀνείρων ‘dreams’ here at Odessey xix 562, we may note that it is applied in the Odyssey exclusively to the dead throughout its other attestations (νεκύων ἀμενηνὰ κάρηνα at x 521, 536; xi 29, 49).
[ back ] 15. This passage must have belonged to the introductory anapests play (scholia A to Hephaestion περὶ ποιημάτων 6.3).
[ back ] 16. Corinthian settlers called the entire territory Leukas, after Cupe Leukas; cf. Strabo 10.2.8 C452.
[ back ] 17. Wilamowitz 1913.25-10.
[ back ] 18. For a discussion of the restoration <μὴ>, see Wilamowitz pp. 30-31n2; following Wilamowitz, Dieterich 1913.vii retracts his earlier reading without <μὴ>.
[ back ] 19. Wilamowitz pp. 33-37.
[ back ] 20. Westermann 1843.197-199.