Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2003.05.25

Michael Reichel, Antonios Rengakos, EPEA PTEROENTA. Beiträge zur Homerforschung. Festschrift für Wolfgang Kullmann zum 75. Geburtstag.   Stuttgart:  Franz Steiner Verlag, 2002.  Pp. 246.  ISBN 3-515-07980-7.  EUR 48.00.  

Contributors: E.J. Bakker, W. Burkert, A. Dihle, J.M. Foley, J.P. Holoka, I.J.F de Jong, E. Lefèvre, F. Létoublon, F. Montanari, G. Nagy, H.-G. Nesselrath, M. Reichel, A. Rengakos, S.L. Schein, M.West, M. Willcock, G. Wöhrle, B. Zimmermann

Reviewed by Andrew Faulkner, Merton College, Oxford (
Word count: 1958 words

On the occasion of his 70th birthday in 1997, Hans-Christian Günther and Antonios Rengakos presented Wolfgang Kullmann (K.) with a festschrift in celebration of his significant contributions to classical scholarship.1 That volume was devoted to the study of ancient philosophy, and in particular to Aristotle, to whom K. has dedicated so much attention. At the time, R.A.H. King noted in his review of the book that 'Homer is not the subject of any of the articles in the volume', despite the fact that Homer, along with Aristotle, has been a dominant figure in K.'s scholarly life.2 The present volume, this time on the occasion of his 75th birthday, is devoted entirely to Homer, and so five years later Reichel and Rengakos honour the other half 'der beiden zentralen Bereiche des wissenschaftlichen Werkes von Wolfgang Kullmann' (p.9).

The volume is made up of eighteen contributions, which offer a broad spectrum of Homeric scholarship. The articles range from more traditional philological observations, to studies of narratology, and even incorporate a look at gender relationships in Homer. References to K. throughout these diverse pieces show how wide the scope and influence of his own scholarship have been. Given the breadth of the topics which this book presents, this review will not attempt to treat each individual offering in detail, but will instead deal with two articles in particular, those of Burkert and West. Before turning to these, however, a summary of what is offered should direct readers to articles of individual interest:

E. J. Bakker (pp.11-30) looks at the concept of time in Homer and its relationship with κλέος, in an attempt to explain the limited mention of the term χρόνος in the Iliad and Odyssey; W. Burkert (pp.31-4) confronts the origin of the word ὁπλότερος; A. Dihle (pp.35-51), beginning from the disputed attribution to Porphyrius of the pseudo-Plutarchian text on the life and work of Homer ( De Homero, examines the tradition of allegoresis, extending from exegesis of Homer to Origen and early Christian Bible exegesis; J.M. Foley (pp.53-62) casts a fresh eye over the relevance of south Slavic oral epic for Homeric studies; J.P. Holoka looks at the life and work of Simone Weil; in the wake of her new narratological commentary,3 I.J.F. de Jong (pp.77-91) discusses how the Odyssey uses and develops narrative techniques found in the Iliad, and points to the value of narratology for literary history; E. Lefèvre (pp.93-98) looks at how the humanist Antonio Beccadelli cleverly uses Homer and Martial in a literary plea for a manuscript from the well-known collector of his time Giovanni Aurispa; F. Létoublon (pp.99-117) examines maritime adventure and storm scenes in the Odyssey, pointing to their illumination of narrative technique and psychological interest in the epic; F. Montanari (pp.119-40), in light of recent scholarship on the topic, clarifies his stance on how the Alexandrian philologists worked on the Homeric texts, the form of the ekdosis and the nature of variant readings;4 G. Nagy (pp.141-50) treats the implications in Homer of the performance aspect of the word ὑποκρινέσθαι; H.-G. Nesselrath (pp.151-162) looks at the fantastic meeting between 'Lucian' (as narrator) and Homer on the Isle of the Blessed in the Verae Historiae II 20, paying particular attention to the Homeric scholia; M. Reichel (pp.163-172) re-examines the interpretation of Il. 2.356=590 τείσασθαι δ' Ἑλένης ὁρμήματά τε στοναχάς τε, blending linguistic considerations with those of Helen's character -- a willing partner to Paris or a captive?; A. Rengakos (pp.173-191), touching upon some of the same ground as de Jong and Létoublon, discusses narratology, structure, literary models and metapoetics in the Odyssey; S.L. Schein (pp.193-205) looks at the presence of Achilles' horses in Book 17 of the Iliad, and their role as intermediaries between the divine and mortal world; M. West (pp.207-219) examines the extent to which epic poetry was available to the Lesbian poets; M. Willcock (pp.221-229) offers a convincing interpretation of Il.17.580-1, as the point where Menelaos pulls Patroklos' body back from the Trojans, against the prevailing view that it is Podes' body he drags; G. Wöhrle (pp.231-38), with an admittedly open definition of the concept, discusses 'sexual aggression' as a motif in the Homeric epics; and B. Zimmermann (pp.239-46) then closes the book with an examination of how Sophocles recalls Homeric epithets and content in order to aid the characterisation of his solitary and manic Ajax.

In his contribution to the book Die Waffen und die Jungen: Homerisch οπλοτεροι, W. Burkert attempts to trace the meaning of this word, which signifies 'younger'in Homer, back to the famous first line of the Epigonoi -- νῦν αὖθ' ὁπλοτέρων ἀνδρῶν ἀρχώμεθα, Μοῦσαι. The accepted derivation of the word in antiquity was from ὅπλον, 'weapon', the younger being those who are more able to fight and bear arms (see EM 628, 24ff.. Burkert points out that both these meanings are visible in the first line of the Epigonoi, if, as was suggested by Rzach (RE XI 2377), the verse is understood in reference to the earlier epic poem the Thebais (p.34): one can translate either 'wiederum von Waffenträgern', or in light of the earlier poem ''wiederum von Kämpfern'', aber eben von der, 'jüngeren' Generation.' On this point he is surely correct. Aristophanes even parodies this line when he plays upon the militaristic etymology of the word at Pax.1270. But could this line have been the 'Weiche...die ein neues Gleis der Bedeutung erschloss' (p.34)? Certainly when we have a famous line such as this, which could have served as such a point of change in meaning for a particular word, it is worthy of serious attention. We should not, as he points out, simply assume that developments in a word's meaning lie 'weit züruck in den nicht fassbaren mündlichen Bereich.' Nonetheless, the simple lack of available evidence in the field of early epic makes it very difficult to come to any firm conclusions about the role of a single line in a word's development. A particular problem in this case, which Burkert acknowledges extensively, is that the word, also in its superlative form, is used in the Homeric epics of female characters who have no connection whatsoever with weapons. If the first line of the Epigonoi was the point of change for this word, the transformation seems rather abrupt over a few generations of singers. One might expect the semantic switch from young male heroes to young female virgins to be more cautious, but it is not; there are numerous cases of the word used of females, and one even finds it used of the immortal Charites at Il.14.267. Nor is there any case in extant epic where the term is used without the implication of youth. The example he points to of ἀταλάφρων from the famous Hector-Andromache scene of Il.6, a possible point of pivot from the meaning 'nicht standhaft' to the 'kindlich' found in early Athenian inscriptions (p.33), offers no parallel for this switch of gender, mortality, or indeed for the frequency of later use in epic literature. In fact, the necessary conclusion which Burkert comes to in support of the first line of the Epigonoi as a pivot for the meaning of the word ὁπλότερος, namely that it must have existed in a relatively fixed form well before the Iliad and Odyssey (p.34), argues against the free form required for a marked change such as this to have taken place. He comments as a result of his suggestion that 'die Epen homerischen Stils in ihrer mündlichen Vorform waren dann stabiler, als die strenge Oral-Poetry-Theorie es annehmen möchte'; in this case at least, stability and radical change do not fit well together. Nonetheless, his repeated point that scholars should not use the murky past of oral-poetry as a convenient void should be heeded. The famous first line of the Epigonoi certainly represents a stage in the development of this word, and it may well have exerted influence on subsequent generations, as Burkert suggests; perhaps its author was aware of the same double-entendre which Aristophanes makes some centuries later.

The article of M. West is an excellent overview of how the fragmentary remains of the works of the two famous Lesbian poets Sappho (S.) and Alcaeus (A.) reflect knowledge of early Greek epic poetry. Drawing upon the extremely valuable work of N. Spencer,5 he makes the important point that for Lesbians, 'the Troad was no mythical country but an area they knew close at hand' (p.208). For this reason, an interest in Greek epic was not merely an academic exercise for the Lesbian poets, but one fuelled by a sense that the heroes of Greek epic constituted part of their heritage. As to their acquaintance with specific Greek epics, he is justifiably cautious given the limited evidence which remains on both the sides, but he is also probing. One of the more certain connections he suggests is between the Lesbian poets and the extant Homeric Hymns. His list of similarities includes connections between A.'s hymn to Dionysos and the fragments of the first H.H., A.'s hymn to Hermes and the H.H. to the same god, A's hymn to the Dioskouroi and the 33rd H.H. to the pair of divinities, and finally the oath of virginity of Artemis in Alc. 304 L.-P. (attributed by some to S.) and the very similar swearing of an oath by Hestia in the H.H. to Aphrodite. These lead him to comment that 'we must at least say that the melic and hexameter hymns stand in a common tradition'. Other similarities between the Homeric Hymns and the Lesbian poets could have been added: for example, the rare word σατίινη 'chariot' used in line 13 of the H.H.Aphr, appears elsewhere before Anacreon (PMG 388.12) and Euripides (Hel.1311 only in S.'s narration of the wedding of Hector and Andromache (fr. 44.13-17, L.-P.); a fact which might not be accidental.6 If the two uses are linked, it is worth noting that this word of eastern origin is perhaps more at home in the Trojan world of Hector's marriage than it is in the H.H.Aphr., where it is used in connection with Athena. Although this example is full of uncertainty, again due to the lack of surviving evidence, it nonetheless suggests that West's comment that 'Alcaeus will hardly have been the model for the hexameter poets' (p.217) should be treated with caution. In the case of the other similarity between the H.H. to Aphrodite and Lesbian poetry mentioned above, the oaths of virginity of Artemis and Hestia, West admits that the uniqueness of the Hestia episode in the H.H.Aphr. makes it improbable that the Lesbian poet used the hymn as a direct source. He instead supports the existence of an earlier hymn to Artemis, which served as a model for both poets. A common exemplar is an attractive solution, but there is also nothing a priori which denies the possibility of a hexameter poet borrowing from a Lesbian source; in light of the H.H.Aphr., and the similarities between the clearly later H.H.Herm. and A. which West mentions, the idea at least deserves open consideration. Nonetheless, what is most important is the recognition that these hymnic poems should be seen in a common tradition. This discussion, along with West's article in general, is a valuable contribution to a field which is deserving of further enquiry.

A few short comments in conclusion. Apart from the occasional typo such as 'zeifellos' for 'zweifellos' on p.177, and the unfortunate misspelling of K's name on the cover page (Kullmannn) the book is very well edited. This volume has a lot to offer a wide audience of scholars and many will want to have a look. It is by all means a fitting dedication to K., and with two fine editions now in hand we can eagerly await his 80th Geburtstag.


1.   Günter, H.-C. and Rengakos, A., Beiträge zur antiken Philosophie. Festschrift für Wolfgang Kullmann, Stuttgart, 1997.
2.   Bryn Mawr Classical Review 1999.06.10.
3.   de Jong, I.J.F., A Narratological Commentary on the Odyssey, Cambridge, 2001.
4.   This article is discussed by A. Rengakos in his review of West, M.L, Studies in the Text and Transmission of the Iliad, Munich-Leipzig, 2001 (Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2002.11.15). He deals with Montanari's view, contra West, that Zenodotus, Aritophanes and Aristarchus did rely to some degree on manuscript authority.
5.   Spencer, N., 'Early Lesbos between East and West', BSA 90 (1995), 269-306.
6.   cf. Janko, R., Homer, Hesiod and the Hymns. Diachronic Development in Epic Diction, Cambridge, 1982.

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