Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2003.11.32

Robert Zaborowski, La crainte et le courage dans l'Iliade et l'Odyssée.   Warszawa:  Stakroos, 2002.  Pp. 373.  ISBN 83-86700-20-3.  EUR 15.00.  

Reviewed by Stephen Evans (
Word count: 2563 words

This inexpensive book 'Fear and Bravery in the Iliad and the Odyssey' is packed with information, bibliographies, tables and analyses. It constitutes a major 'lexico-graphical contribution to the Homeric psychology of emotions'. It is usefully summarised in English, Polish and French at and at where the reader can also find instructions for obtaining the book. Zaborowski (henceforth Z.) has selected fear and bravery from a palette of thirteen emotions that he fears would have taken up to 1,500 pages of text.

Z. originally planned a full-scale treatment of the Homeric view of human personality and psychology and on p. 53 confesses to hesitation over selecting his title. He admits that the Iliad and Odyssey are epic poems with literary descriptions of the world, not systematic treatises containing clinical analyses of the world, but the works nevertheless allow scope for the reconstruction of an Homeric psychology. Reading between the lines of both text and footnotes one can easily sense echoes of the originally larger scheme of things. As the book stands, its introduction rehearses earlier work on Homeric psychology, zooming in with a socio-historical and epistemological approach to the Homeric psyche. Z. starts his work with analysis of the Greek vocabulary related to what makes the Homeric hero tick, then moves onto the categories of these emotions and finally analyses words describing the emotions themselves and their seats, φρένες, καρδίη and so forth. Z. aims to define the Homeric conception of emotionality and penetrate the Homeric conception of ψύχη. Z. is surely right to proceed from Greek to other languages, not vice versa. T. Jahn, by way of contrast, in his 'Zum Wortfeld "Seele-Geist" in der Sprache Homers', 1987, lists in German 37 psychic experiences that he subsequently relates to Greek terms, thus converting German concepts into ancient Greek ones. Z. is correct in being meticulous about the shifts of meaning between ancient Greek and modern languages and, for example, about how to translate 'Erlebnis' into French or English. The difficulties are compounded when Greek concepts of emotion are discussed in ten different modern languages.

Z.'s introduction retells the debate aroused by B. Snell, 'The Discovery of the Mind. The Greek Origins of European Thought', translated by T.G. Rosenmeyer, 1960, originally published as 'Die Entdeckung des Geistes' in 1947. This was refined by, for example, E.R. Dodds, 'The Greeks and the Irrational', 1957. Z. also makes good use of D.L. Cairns, 'Aidos: the Psychology and Ethics of Honour and Shame in Ancient Greek Literature', 1993, C. Gill, 'Personality in Greek Epic, Tragedy and Philosophy. The Self in Dialogue', 1995 and A.W.H. Adkins, 'Values, Goals and Emotions in the Iliad', CPh 77, 1982. It is stimulating to see Nissen (1924) and von Erffa (1937) alongside Lateiner and de Romilly (both 1995). Z. starts by demolishing Snell's monopoly of the Greek soul and cites twenty different sources to back up his perspective, parading those 'who work the Snell side of the street or the Dodds side'. It is a typical trait of Z.'s work that he thoroughly covers previous work on every emotion he deals with. One of his distinctions is how an emotion can appeal to and attract somebody or something or how it can repulse and repel people or objects, but his use of the terms 'clitic/klitic' for 'appealing' and 'enclitic/ekklitic' for 'repulsive' I find hard to accept. Other distinctions are collectivity and individuality, the cause, subject, result, seat, association, embodiment of an emotion and how it contrasts to other feelings. On the last pages of the book (pp.336-337), Z. conjectures that fear could well be opposed to madness, anger or desire and courage to shame. This interesting conclusion might well have been discussed earlier in the book.

Z. closely analyses certain passages which highlight the conception of the soul, ψύχη, in Homer (XVII,538-539 and XIII,414-416),1 in particular the famous section about drinking blood (see esp. 11,96 and 11,148 in connection with Teiresias, 11,153-154 for Odysseus' mother, 11,582 for the suffering of the souls of Titytus, 11,582 Tantalus, and 11,593, Sisyphus). He then goes to delineate the scope of his present research with an initial sketch of earlier work on particular emotions in Homer. He expresses his frustration at having to limit his topic -- 'Mais comment choisir?' (p.39). He sets out his reasons for picking on fear and bravery. He then describes his adopted method, his chief thesis, the nature of emotion, its domain, the interpretation of parataxis, categories of his analysis, reconstruction and hypothesis. The bulk of the second half of the book is a detailed catalogue of fear and bravery according to the Greek verbs and nouns employed. Z. cites a line from Homer and then paraphrases it in French, sometimes with skilful avoidance of parataxis and fruitful comparison to Italian and English translation. The book ends with a bibliography relating to the Homeric psychology of emotions.

He first takes on 'fear', examining Greek verbs and their compounds. This part of the book forms a useful and handy reference work. 'Fear' for 'crainte' δέος (Pol. lek) is uncomplicated and can de defined as 'painful emotion caused by impending danger or evil, state of alarm, dread'. It does have a second meaning of 'the state of fearing something, especially a mingled feeling of dread and reverence towards God or any higher authority'. Z. identifies 43 terms from 22 families for fear, anxiety, timidity or dread from 1052 contexts, 617 of which he has analysed. Z. stumbles upon interesting collocations of specific Greek words for fear δέος, φόβος, θάμβος, τάρβος, ἀτυζέσθαι, ρίγεῖν and how these individual words differ or, for instance, are used more for the entire army or for individual soldiers. Throughout the book he compares a French, an Italian and a Polish translation of the Iliad and the Odyssey. For translations of Greek words he uses LSJ for English, two French and two Polish dictionaries together with an Italian one. He fluently quotes French, Italian, Spanish, Polish, English and German sources, though he tends to use English translations of a German work, if available. He adds a conclusion on lexemes for fear in Homer.

Then he moves onto 'bravery' about which, he admits, there is less to sound the drum. I maintain that the French word 'courage' (Pol. 'odwaga') is better rendered as 'bravery' in modern English. Both English and French 'courage' are derived from the earlier version 'corage', unforgettably in Chaucer: 'smale fowles maken melodie..So priketh hem nature in here corages,' where the meaning is clearly 'disposition, mind, nature'. Curiously enough, the expression 'Dutch courage' reveals an acceptable rendering of the French word. Nevertheless the English 'bravery' clearly expresses 'brave conduct' or 'daring, courage, fortitude' as a good quality.

For bravery or pluck, Z.'s toll is 14 items from 10 families in 429 contexts, of which he treated 232, i.e. one third of the catch for 'fear'. This ends with a discussion of θῦμος and μένος in Homer. He rounds off with a conclusion on bravery and a general conclusion, a general bibliography, an index of authors cited and a Polish summary. Z. demonstrates that 'fear' (617 analysed contexts, 42 terms) is more fully developed and documented than 'pluck' (232 contexts, 14) in the Iliad and Odyssey, yielding a ratio of 2,66:1 and 3:1 for terms. On p.307 Z. admits that it would be impossible to analyse all the contexts of θῦμος and μένος. He concludes after a short examination of these terms that they constitute energies and dynamisms.

This book boldly sails into two interdisciplinary and frighteningly technical domains of research -- Homeric studies and human psychology. As Zielinski used to say (p.336) : 'Que nul n'entre ici s'il n'est psychologue' (Let no man set foot here unless he is a psychologist). Z., who is clearly an extraordinarily widely read polymath and polyglot, proudly bears the legendary mantle of Zielinski, backed by the horror punch of Polanski.. The book is very much a work of reference where contexts of fear and bravery in the Iliad and Odyssey are compared and analysed, sifted and sorted, weighed and found viable or wanting. Contexts of fear are found to be optical, acoustic, sensory, group, individual, ekklitic or clitic. He can move nimbly from Kierkegaard, Shay, Descartes, Nietzsche to Snell, Lateiner or Dodds. From an Homeric philosopher it is refreshing to hear quotations from Mann, de Saint-Exupéry or Sartre. This wide literary and philosophic bias compensates for a certain flatness in French style.

Z. mentions Jahn's views en passant (pp.10-11 and in footnotes on pp.12 and 18) and does not confront his position, expressed on pp.254-257 of his 'Zum Wortfeld "Seele-Geist" in der Sprache Homers', that the various words and phrases Homer uses for the seat of the emotions φρένες, καρδίη, θῦμος etc. all have different metrical shapes and observe Milman Parry's principle of economy, and so, in Jahn's opinion, are almost certainly chosen for metrical rather than semantic value. Jahn's observations could be seen to have undercut much of the previous scholarship on the expression of emotions in Homer. Jahn's views have been criticised by A.A. Long (Class. Rev. 42,1992, pp.3-5) and by S.D. Sullivan (Phoenix 45, 1/1991, pp.66-68) as they negate the subtility of Homeric psychology. Z.'s book is a powerful argument for the richness of Homeric emotional description against assertions of pure mechanical and metrical convenience, though he might well have taken into consideration the possible consequences of hard-line Parryist interpretation.

The busy reader could skip over the following numbered points and proceed to my concluding paragraphs.

(1) The book is printed on inexpensive paper with no blurb on the back cover and with no preface, which lends a rather dispassionate or clinical aura to this treatment of emotions. Z. actually had no editor or Francophone proof-reader to help him, so that the production of this book is a heroic triumph. The book is nevertheless a welcome addition to Francophone Homeric scholarship, as is also the more recent 'Les phases de l'évolution de la langue épique', 2003, by the Norwegian Dag Haug, who perhaps sets a higher standard of fluency.

(2) Reading the tables almost requires a magnifying-glass. Future editions could show more mercy to the short-sighted.

(3) There are a few typos that could be corrected in future editions: p.69 where Z.'s own work is listed, 'Kalava' for 'Kalawa'. On p.52, n.1 in quoting and altering Lateiner, Sardonic Smile p.194, n.40 'pose' should be 'poses' with a singular subject. On p. 289 l.3 'steels' for 'steel' as in the following line. On. p.76 'ils ne peuvent' for 'il ne peuvent'. On p.232 'collectif' for 'collecif'. On p.200 'anthropologique' for 'anthopologique'. Greek accents could have been checked more thoroughly.

(4) Z.'s use of question marks, both following complete sentences and in parenthesis after individual words, gives the impression that he is not quite sure of his word choice, definitions or in general about what he wants to say. If one then combines the two uses, a large part of the book seems to be conjecture. It is as if he is asking the reader to make up his mind for him. Note on p. 53 his hesitation over the title. On the other hand, Z. is ready to ask all kinds of questions and in this way provokes the reader to think for himself.

(5) The French or English reader will not readily appreciate the words 'enclitic' and 'clitic' being foisted upon him or her. Z. following Monakov and Mourgue uses the nouns 'klisis` and 'ekklisis' with the adjectives 'klitic' and 'ekklitic'. The terms will simply not do, even though they have been coined by Monakov and Mourgue. An example of an ecclitic act (submission, obedience, inhibition, end of combat, self-concealment) can be found at I,33 Chryses -- seized by fear obeys Agamemnon (=XXIV,571 where Priam seized by fear obeys Achilles). A clitic act is a prayer, an appeal for help, an order or simply respect: in its individual dimension fear, δέος, for instance, more often produces the 'clitic act' than fear in its collective dimension. If, however, 'ekklisis' includes both submission and self-concealment, then its agenda is too broad. I would recommend resorting to 'submission' in lieu of 'ekklisis'.

(6) Z. could be more consistent in refering to authors and to their works. Although mention of an author's full Christian name draws attention to the author, this reviewer finds mention of E.R. Dodds' first name(s) in full a trifle unnecessary. Similarly in reference to works, the author's surname and the year of publication would have sufficed, since there are two full bibliographies. Z.'s habit of citing three or four words from the title, followed by three dots, is a little untidy. Several times I had to consult both bibliographies. Their combination into a single bibliography would facilitate reference.

(7) Z. has a penchant for oddly coined words such as 'théométrique' and 'anthropométrique' where nothing is being measured as such. I find no fault with 'divine' for 'theometric' or 'theocentric', the latter being preferable to 'theometric' or with 'human' for 'anthropometric'. Fortunately he uses the word 'animal', not 'zoométrique'! Similarly Z. overuses the word 'somatisation' which is, as one French informant put it, 'péri-médical'. One Francophone adviser recommended 'les manifestations de somatisation' and another 'les manifestations physiologiques' for Z.'s choice of 'somatisation'. The French verb 'somatiser' is much commoner than the substantive 'somatisation'. I would argue that the run-of-the-mill English-speaking Homerist would certain use 'psycho-somatic' for paleness of the skin as a physical manifestation or expression (not 'somatisation') of fear or panic.

The book will give all Homerists plenty of food for thought on emotions in Homer, and on the seat of these feelings. Beginners will find an introduction to concepts such as θῦμος, φρένες, κραδίη, νόος, ἦτορ, σπλάγχνα while the seasoned connoisseur will enjoy balanced consideration of consternation and trepidation or of grit and mettle. Those parts of the book that are rich in footnotes are a joy to read as a whole kaleidoscope of views is given. The second half of the book is difficult to read at one sitting and functions more as a work of reference on specific lexical terms of fear and bravery. I refer the reader to the author's own internet summary, mentioned in my opening paragraph.

For my own part, I have begun to rethink Chryses' fear at I,33 ἔδδεισεν δ' γέρων or Astyanax as he shrinks back in fear of Hector's helmet at VI,469 ταρβήσας χαλκόν or how Odysseus emotionally reacts to Demodocus' singing and Nausicaa's coyness on the beach in Odyssey 6. Z. usefully catalogues the various verbs used in each case. There is a slight lameness in his French paraphrase of the Greek, but beyond doubt Z. has written what should become a standard work of reference for passages relating to panic and pluck in Homer. Although one could debate how necessary word-painting is to the scholar, there is at times a stark contrast between the spicy language Z. quotes in footnotes and his own plodding prose. Z. will have plenty of work to continue with if he succeeds in comparing Homeric psychology to that of Aristotle, Thomas Aquinus, Descartes, Spinoza, Ribot or Sartre (p.336). I look forward to reading more of his work on, for instance, the 'wrath' that explodes in the first word of the Iliad, the 'desire' inspired by Aphrodite or the 'madness' that leads Odysseus' crew to their doom.


1.   Following Zaborowsky I have used Roman numerals in reference to the Iliad and ordinary ones for the Odyssey.

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