Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2003.05.18

Machi Païsi-Apostolopoulou (ed.), Eranos. Proceedings of the 9th International Symposium on the Odyssey (2-7 September 2000).   Ithaca:  Centre for Odyssean Studies, 2001.  Pp. 512.  ISBN 960-85093-4-3.  EUR 30.00.  

Contributors: F. Adrados, D. Maronitis, G. Anastasiou, M. Païsi-Apolostolopoulou, A. Athanassakis, M. Christopoulos, W. Kullmann, M. Hirshberger, I. F. de Jong . G. Danek, S. Hagel, M. Gigante, V. Gigante Lanzara, A. Rozokoki, F. Léblouton, K. Alexopoulou, D. Lohmann, D. Basakos and K. Paschalides, E. Bakker, O. Tsagarakis, F. Manakidou, S. Schein, A. Zervou, V. Pantazis, Ch. Tsitsiou-Chelidone, Ph. Kakridis

Reviewed by Ruth Scodel, Ann Arbor (
Word count: 2275 words

This is a classic specimen of the conference volume. It includes 10 papers in modern Greek (with abstracts in English, French, or German), 10 in English, 2 in German, 2 in Italian, and one in French. In a different typology, two papers are on ancient reception (Lycophron and Ovid); one is on modern reception (Homer in 18th century Greek schools); two are about recent archaeological discoveries on Ithaca. The single largest group concerns various aspects of Homeric narrative. Some papers are abundantly documented, others barely at all. Some are very good. Some have good ideas but are weakened by insufficient attention to existing scholarship or a lack of focus. I offered to review this book without considering that a large portion of it would be in modern Greek, a language in which I am very weak. I almost sent it back, but it then occurred to me that many potential readers have even less ease in the language than I, so that I would make a useful tester. It is, however, possible that I have misunderstood some of the Greek. The helpfulness of the abstracts varies considerably. Basakos and Paschalides' summary on new sites on Ithaca is good; Kontorle-Papadopoulou's abstract, also on Ithacan archaeology, says only that recent excavations in North Ithaca have led to new approaches towards the early habitation and Homeric identity of the island, without the slightest hint of what these new approaches might be. On pp. 327-28, there is a Greek summary of the four sites (Pelicata, Stavros, Tris Langadhes, and Aghios Athanasios) discussed so that anyone who knows classical Greek could manage with a bit of effort; but it ought to have been included in the abstract. Several of the papers in English are by non-native speakers, and most of their authors have clearly not had them corrected by a native speaker, but the papers, though often unidiomatic, are intelligible.

The opening essay, by F. Adrados, on "The Odyssey as Comedy," discusses in general what is comic about the poem. Adrados is interested in the "comic spirit" (p. 14), but is most interesting when he points to direct parallels with Old Comedy. D. Maronitis compares physical transformations in the Iliad and the Odyssey, arguing that in the latter Athena's disguises are thematically linked to Odysseus' disguises. The beautifications of Odysseus and the members of his family are restorative. The characters look as they would if they were not exhausted. G. Anastasiou examines assemblies, stressing both their function in opening lines of narrative development and their presentation as dramatized actions (rather than third-person narratives). The paper seeks a general typology of assemblies and does not closely examine the Diapeira, as the bibliography might lead a reader to expect. M. Païsi-Apolostolopoulou examines teachers' and students' notebooks from 18th century Corfu. Of 90 notebooks containing Homer, 81 have the Iliad, 6 have the Odyssey, 3 have both (the summary gives only percentages, which is pointless with such small numbers). A. Athanassakis discusses Illyrian elements connected with Achilles, arguing that Nereus and Thetis could be Illyrian names, and that Achilles' horse "Balios" has an Illyrian name. I am unconvinced by the arguments that Achilles' family had moved from Dodona to Phthia because Achilles alone refers to Dodona and the Acheloos, since he alone likewise refers to Egyptian Thebes (and the Acheloos of 24.616 is in Lydia). M. Gigante discusses the overall treatment of Odysseus, beginning from Markwald's article on "Odysseus" in the Lexikon des frühgriechischen Epos. He sees no opposition between the Odysseus of the two epics.

Neo-Analysis and its relatives are well represented. M. Hirshberger, "Die Erzählungen der Frauen in der Nekyia der Odyssee," argues that well-known stories are adapted to suit the women who tell them. The paper is very intriguing, though I find some cases (Tyro) more convincing than others (Ariadne). G. Danek treats how the poet turns the Wrath of Achilles story into the Trojan Story through the Plan of Zeus (which he thinks was clearly identified in earlier tradition with the destruction of humanity): "the fate of the best of the Achaeans becomes only a small part of the big plotting of Zeus" (177). E. Bakker treats the Odyssey and "Gilgamesh." Although he apparently sees a far more direct relationship than I find likely, his parallels are interesting. Ph. Kakridis suggests that the Cicones-episode is a re-working of a traditional attack by Odysseus on Ismarus during the Trojan War. S. Schein shows how the bow of Odysseus sets the hero in a complex relationship with the earlier and transgressive heroes Heracles and Erytus.

Other papers are more generally narratological. F. Manakidou argues that Athena's visit to Telemachus in Od. 1 teaches him to be crafty in dealing with both friends and enemies, and that his cunning, not sincere, in 3.241-42. A. Rozokoki surveys prophecies in the Iliad, asking "under which conditions are they told and what purpose do they serve?" The paper does not contribute much on the second point, but has some good comments on the motives that inspire non-specialists to speak as if they knew the future. A. Zervou treats "the play of reciprocity," This is not "reciprocity" in the usual sense. She is interested in how the poet both gives the central hero some poetic qualities, but also keeps himself separate from Odysseus-as-narrator. The treatment of Od. 8. 521-31 and the Phaeacians as internal audience is sensitive and perceptive (416-18). There is also some discussion of how the poet relies on the hearer's competence to fill in material the narrative treats quickly and to generate ironies; this is not very new for a reader familiar with the scholarly literature.

W. Kullmann, in "Hidden Thoughts in the Homeric Epics", discusses the limited repertory of means the poet has for telling us what characters are thinking: monologues, brief narratorial comments, and short indirect speech. He argues against de Jong that the scar narrative is not focalized by Eurycleia, and that the poet does not have a good way to indicate what Penelope really thinks when she appears before the suitors or plans the bow-contest, and "makes a virtue of necessity" by leaving her motives obscure. I agree on the first point (and have argued it fully in Epea and Grammata).1 I. F. de Jong partially answers the second in her paper on "'Emancipation of Speech' in the Odyssey," in which she shows how the Odyssey, far more than the Iliad, gives new information in character-speeches.2 De Jong discusses mainly how this technique surprises the audience, but it also places a greater interpretive burden on them. I would add that Kullmann seems to be limited by the narratological frame he criticizes. As he himself notes, prayer can be a vehicle for revealing inner thoughts. Narrators can manipulate what characters say, in what circumstances, and to whom (consider the confidants who enable the French classical dramatist to reveal exactly what characters think without soliloquy). Penelope could pray, or speak confidentially to Eurynome, or speak in intense anger. I do not believe that the poet's evasiveness about her motives is at all determined by the narrative means he has available. Léblouton treats the relationship between monologue and indirectly reported internal dialogue, suggesting (hesitantly) that the latter presents thought that the character does not explicitly formulate. I do not believe that this is usually so, but there are instances where it might be (Il. 2.3-5), and the question deserves more thought.

M. Christopoulos treats "Nostos by Sea and Poetic Structure"; the most interesting section of this paper deals with the relation between Odysseus and the mast and sail of his ship, and the connections between these and weaving. D. Lohmann argues that the appearances of "rosy-fingered Dawn" reveal careful structuring and adaptation to context rather than mindless formularity. P. 303, a chart of the fomula, is perhaps the most charming visual presentation of information I have ever seen: it has stylized rising suns for the formula and hearts for sexual relations in the narrative. The paper is directed at a "hard Parryite" treatment of formula that seems to me a straw man, and I am not convinced that the groupings he finds are quite as significant as he claims, but his treatment of the variants in erotic scenes in Homer is perceptive. S. Hagel criticizes Jahn's widely accepted argument that the Homeric words for mental organs are basically synonyms within the formulaic system, using Jahn's numbers to show that rationality, emotion, and will are by no means randomly associated with each.3 The paper is convincing as far as it goes, but it does not go beyond the numbers either to examine the relation between the statistics and the formulaic system or the implications of his own results, which do indicate a difference between thumos and phrenes, but a difference that is not always maintained.

O. Tsagarakis looks at so-called "suspended time" and the old question of simultaneous action. I find this paper in some ways confusing, even though he is surely right much of the time, because scholars have not clearly defined "action," and the paper does not fix this problem. The Homeric poems allow simultaneous actions where one is "routine"; possible exceptions are open to debate. When Tsagarakis says that "a portion of the action has been lost" when the poet uses "fill-in" technique--for example, what Odysseus and Chryseis did on his journey to Chryse--the formulation is odd. Generally, if the narrator chooses not to tell us about such "actions," we are to assume that whatever happened was not important, unless and until the narrator or a character mentions events that took place during this "blank" time. Tsagarakis argues that some actions that have been thought to be simultaneous cannot be: At the beginning of Iliad 8, for example, the council of the gods and Zeus' trip to Ida must take some time; but when the poet turns to the army, it is having breakfast (8.53). If the gods' morning and the humans' morning were simultaneous, things in the camp would need to be farther along. This is right, surely, but also peculiar, since gods and mortals "ought" to start the day at the same time, since Dawn brings the same light to both. So the question is whether the poet and his audience were aware of the forward movement of time as a convention that displaced a more "realistic" time in which things described as sequential are "actually" simultaneous. The paper as a whole does not, in my opinion, add much to the discussion of "fill-in" and "interlace" technique and small-scale simultaneous action in de Jong's Narratological Commentary.(xiv, 589-90) and the older bibliography cited there.

K. Alexopoulou treats temporality in a broader sense, in relation to personal responsibility and cause-and-effect. I had great difficulty with this essay, and I do not think that this is entirely the fault of my poor Greek. The paper is only eight pages long, and it is very ambitious; it reads as if it were a summary of a much longer work. The abstract is relatively full (two pages), but I did not understand it, and reading the essay itself did not help (the abstract seems to be an accurate summary). The essay suggests three "modes" (tropos) of temporality. The first, the "aesthetic," consists in the recurrent appearances of Dawn and the frequent references to significant days ("day of freedom/slavery"). The latter implies human action and responsibility. The second is the "dialectical": when Odysseus tries to persuade Achilles in the Embassy of the Iliad and when Odysseus speaks with Achilles in the Nekyia, the heroes see themselves and their choices introspectively. The third is "anthropological." There are four possibilities inherent in the two main heroes' lives: sudden death; a life in accordance with a limit--the return of Odysseus at the lykabas and Achilles' short life; winning glory; and being fortunate. Finally, the paper suggests that the first mode governs how human responsibility and the epic action develop. On the other hand, the incorporation of the memory of a hero's life into the complete epic memory is not the subject of personal responsibility. I simply do not know what the author means here. Throughout, I am confused about why these are significant categories or what the author's method is. Yet I sense some very interesting ideas that are obscured by the brevity and abstraction of the discussion.

V. Pantazis looks at Homeric place-names. Here, again, there is a chart putting Homeric names in four categories relative to later localizations: those where a historical place's identity with one in Homer was never disputed; those where the "real" location of the Homeric name was unknown; those where it was disputed; and those where a historical place adopted a Homeric name. The paper suggests that the political geography of the poems is coherent, but is not as the historical period understood it (Homer's "Mycenae" is not what we know as "Mycenae"). Some of the problems are clearly real, but the paper ignores all other evidence and becomes eccentric in claiming on this basis that a single poet must have composed the epics at a much earlier date than is usually thought.

V. Gigante Lanzara treats Lycophron's version of the Odysseus-story. The essay traces Lycophron's constant allusion to the Homeric model even as he deviates from it. Ch. Tsitsiou-Chelidone looks at Ovid's Nestor, arguing that Nestor is not a parody of the Homeric hero, but an internal narrator who distances himself from the Homeric Nestor and who is analagous with the poet. The effect is not necessarily anti-augustan.

Publishing conference papers without having them refereed by outsiders or edited is a custom more honored in the breach than the observance.


1.   "Homeric Signs and Flashback Memory," in Epea and Grammata (Leiden 2002) 99-116.
2.  She also treats this topic in A Narratological Commentary on the Odyssey (Cambridge, 2001) on 1.400-11, but this paper is fuller.
3.   T. Jahn, Zum Wortfeld "Seele-Geist" in der Sprache Homers = Zetemata 83 (Munich 1987).

Read Latest
Index for 2003
Change Greek Display
Books Available for Review

HTML generated at 13:28:36, Friday, 03 April 2009