Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2011.01.06

James H. Dee (ed.), Iuncturae Homericae: A Study of Noun-epithet Combinations in the Iliad and the Odyssey. Part I: Repertories I-III. Alpha-Omega 256.   Hildesheim/Zürich/New York:  Olms-Weidmann, 2010.  Pp. xvi, 487.  ISBN 9783487143408.  €128.00.  

Reviewed by Mark W. Edwards, Stanford University (

This is the latest in the series of repertories of particular features of Homeric diction that Dee has produced over the last sixteen years. He began by listing epithetic phrases for the Homeric gods (1994), and then in successive volumes extended this to cover epithetic phrases for the heroes (2000), a revised edition of the work on the gods (2001), a volume of word-frequency lists (2001), a listing of descriptive expressions for Homeric things and places (two volumes, 2002), and a repertory of Homeric hexameter patterns (two volumes, 2004).1 The volume under review elaborates upon one of the sections which recurs in several of the previous works: details of what Dee calls the iuncturae, a term which (despite this volume's title) includes a good deal more than noun-epithet combinations.

Dee has been using the term iunctura since his 1994 volume, defining it there as "any collocation of divine names, epithets, and epithet-like expressions in a common syntactical unit." He considers a iunctura "clearly not a real entity in Homeric composition but merely a tool of convenience" and includes in it "terms [which] are in the previous or following hexameter and thus would not appear in the old single-line concordances" (1994: xix). By 2000, in his work on epithets for heroes, Dee admits he is rather overwhelmed by the amount of material, by "the full terrifying force of a sprawling and irreducibly polymorphous monster named Epic Diction" (2000: xxii), and finds "The primary source of difficulty is the poet's fondness for an enormously wide variety of phrasal clusters and appositional, frequently asyndetic, concatenations that baffle any attempt to reduce them to simple rules." Experto crede. Nevertheless, he included iuncturae in the second edition of his work on the gods (2001), with a list of those shared by gods and humans, and in the volume on things and places (2002) he even expands the category to include cases where a noun is accompanied by other nouns or phrases not grammatically dependent on it.

In this new volume, Dee "attempts to provide a comprehensive synthesis of the varied and disparate materials found in the (?) three previous works....Its aim is to bring together items that were scattered throughout those books and present them under several new rubrics, thereby revealing, in some cases, new categories of information about the complex world of Homeric diction" (p. ix ). In detail, "Repertory I distributes these iuncturae into seven sections, based on the types of metrical placements in which they occur and subsorted by the metrical location of the first word in the iunctura. Repertory II sorts the iuncturae by frequency of occurrence within four main groups: Koina (for iuncturae occurring at least once in each epic), Ilias and Odysseia (for phrases occurring only in the one epic or the other), and Hapax ezeugmena (for expressions found only once overall). Repertory III: Index of Epithets & Iuncturae resembles those of the foregoing volumes, gathering the iuncturae in two alphabetical sequences: A, those which, in the Homeric corpus, are joined with only one referent-noun (called 'bound' here and 'fixed' in Milman Parry's terminology), and B, those which are 'unbound', i.e. found with more than one such referent." As the "Contents" page makes clear, actually the seven sections of Repertory I are more specific and useful than they may sound in the description above. Items with a two-word nucleus (i.e., adjacent words) are divided into four subsections (A - D) according to whether they occur together in one place in the verse, in more than one place, whether one of the two words is fixed but the other may be shifted in sequence or one or more other words added (e.g. βοῶπις preceding πότνια Ἥρη) , and a fourth subsection covering expressions which occur anywhere in the verse. Two further subsections (E and F) cover cases of two-word expressions where the words are not adjacent but one is always fixed and the other may follow, precede, or be augmented by other words; and a final subsection G including all iuncturae that do not fit within the other categories.

As Dee points out in his Introduction (p.x), of the total 5,966 iuncturae listed, 2,697 (45.21%) are composed of two words which never occur separated or augmented and always in the same part of the verse; and of these 2,697 never-changing expressions no less than 1,798 (66.67% of them) are found only once-and so by the usual definition would not be called "formulae". In the group of iuncturae where one of the two words is fixed and the other is never adjacent to it (subsection E ), the proportion of unique occurrences is even higher, 1,231 out of 1,533 (80.30%). This gives an unexpected picture of the poet's creativity.

This impression of a highly creative poet is confirmed here in Repertory II, the listings of frequency of occurrence, where the fourth subsection (D), termed "hapax ezeugmena ", contains iuncturae that occur only once. Dee stresses the large size of this subsection, notes that the overwhelming majority of the entries do not contain a hapax word, and suggests that "isolating and presenting the hapax ezeugmena will be judged the chief contribution of this volume to the field of Homeric scholarship, for it fills the gap between the individual words that occur once... and the recurrent formulas " (p. xiii ). As he says, this view of the Homeric creativity has been anticipated on different grounds by J. B Hainsworth and W. M. Sale (p. xiii n. 13 ). It is good to have it re-affirmed here.

As in his other volumes, Dee's introduction contains a rather frighteningly detailed account of the difficulties he faced in grouping his material and in fitting it on to the page, and his description of each section can be somewhat daunting. But one quickly becomes accustomed to the set-up and sequence of the presentation. In the space available here I can only mention a few things of interest that struck me browsing through.

In Repertory I A, i.e. two linked words whose position never changes and which are never amplified, the first large section is expressions filling the last five syllables of the verse--215 of them (the total obvious, Dee numbering each one), filling nearly 12 pages. Larger still is the list of iuncturae found after the first syllable of the fourth foot (249 in all), and here in some cases the user must show caution and intelligence. Dee's practice is that "the core epithetic words are printed in boldface, but not lesser words, even when in grammatical agreement" (p.xi), and so here one finds ἀγαθὸς (#407) even though always preceded by βοὴν , and κομόωντες [-ας] Ἀχαιοι [-ούς] (#401) , always preceded by κάρη , not among the 381 iuncturae beginning after the 3rd-foot feminine caesura; and Menelaus, as βοήν ἀγαθός as Diomedes , is placed in Repertory I C (#2941), 100 pages further on, because this iunctura is sometimes augmented (e.g. by Ἀτρείδης, beginning the verse).

Similarly, it is surprising to find ταχὺς Αἰας (#82) as a iunctura beginning in the fifth foot, though always preceded by Ὀϊλῆος Such cases, however, can be found in the Index. And in the section on iuncturae beginning after the third foot feminine caesura it is surprising to find συβώτης ὄρχαμος identified in boldface (# 1031) but not the invariably-following ἀνδρῶν, and ἀμύμονα ἔργα in boldface without concluding ἰδυίας (#1086). Here one notes a large number of expressions (especially proper names) which begin after the initial two, three or four syllables of the verse and run to the bucolic diaeresis, thus bridging the mid-verse caesura.

Dee comments (p. x ) on the smallness of the set placed in Repertory I B, i.e . iuncturae which never change in form but are found in several positions; in fact they number 167 and fill about 17 pages. Many of the expressions are found almost always in one position and only ocasionally in another; and of course (as the Index reveals) some very common formulae never move (e.g. δῖος Ἀχιλλεύς, though it may be augmented by immediately-preceding ποδάρκης). The final section in this repertory, G, comprises 27 pages of 822 expressions which fit nowhere else, "not found in settings of less than three words, multi-noun clusters, and all-adjective clusters" (p.x). As usual Dee first lists expressions with a noun at verse-end, so for an example we may quote #5160, the familiar ἔγχος βριθὺ μέγα στιβαρόν, found in this precise form only twice in the Iliad, but once amplified by an immediately preceding δολιχόσκιον and a following κεκορυθμένον, once by a preceding non-adjacent πατρώιον, and twice where ἔγχος itself is placed earlier in the verse (once alone, once qualified with two epithets) before the usual three enjambing epithets. This well shows the resourcefulness and flexibility of the poet's technique.

Repertory II, listing the frequency of occurrence in each epic, is likely to be enormously useful. But care must be taken in drawing conclusions from words and formulae which occur in only one epic (see Douglas Young in Greece and Rome 6 (1959) 96-108 on Denys Page's conclusions in his The Homeric Odyssey (Oxford 1955) 149-157), but one finds many surprises here. For instance, despite the differences in characters and themes in the two poems, I was surprised to see listed, in the Iliad only, ἄλκιμος υἱός (15x), φαίδιμα (7x), ἁλὸς πολιῆς (6x), μέγα κράτος (6x), ἀεικέα λοιγόν (6x), ὄσσε φαεινώ (6x), υἱὸν ἀμύμονα (6x), ἄλκιμον ἦτορ (5x), and in the Odyssey only, τετληότι θυμῷ (9x), κλέος εὐρύ (7x), ἀντιθέοις ἑτάροισι and ἐϋκνήμιδης (5x). Many years ago I noted with surprise that the useful padder-epithet διῒ φίλος , found useful 17 times in the Iliad, played no part in the Odyssey, but many more such cases are readily accessible here.

In Repertory III, the division between “bound” and “unbound” epithets often makes it necessary to check both parts to find the epithet desired. Of necessity the arrangement is somewhat complex, but diligence will find what one wants, and one must congratulate Dee and his computer programs for making such a resource available.

As in his earlier volumes, Dee's Introduction contains many remarks of interest: besides what I have noted above, he is good on "under-represented formulae" (p. xiii n. 12) gives a good bibliography and credits J. R. Tebben's concordances. And as usual he includes a list of corrigenda to this and earlier volumes. The only practical difficulty I noted was in Dee's account (pp. xi-xii) of the new system he uses for identifying the metrical position of the initial syllable of an expression. His code for each metrical position is short, simple and clear; but I wish he had stated categorically that the expression coded for a position has its first syllable occupying that position, not following that position.

It is good to see that Dee plans a further volume, which will "discuss in detail and from a number of interpretative standpoints the thousands of iuncturae gathered here" (p. x ) and do more work on the hapax ezeugmena . So this is fortunately not yet the culmination of his contributions to Homeric scholarship.


1.   The titles are too unwieldy to quote here, and they can easily be found using worldcat (e.g.). The 1994 volume was reviewed by me (BMCR 95.02.20; the 2000 volume by D. Lateiner (BMCR 2001.01.14; and the 2004 volume by Lateiner (BMCR 2004.11.24. I reviewed the revised work on the gods (2001) and that on things and places in IJCT 12 (2005-06) 290-3. Dee has also published repertories of the hexameter patterns in Vergil (2005; not reviewed in BMCR) and in Ovid's Metamorphoses (2006; reviewed by J. A. Richmond in BMCR 2006.10.31).

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