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Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 August 2017

F.S. Naiden
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
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A generation ago Moses Finley said that the councils and the assemblies in the Homeric poems were not genuine deliberative bodies but looser, less productive gatherings. Finley and others regarded these bodies as transitional, so that regular councils and assemblies appear only later, in systems like those identified with Lycurgus and Solon. In recent years scholars have returned to an older view that Homeric deliberative bodies were well enough organized to make decisions, even if leaders or dissenters could undermine these decisions. Differences between councils, on the one hand, and assemblies, on the other, have not been prominent in this scholarship. The noteworthy exception is Fabian Schulz's 2011 dissertation on parallels between Homeric councils and the Spartan Gerousia, in which he draws several comparisons between βουλαί and ἀγοραί.

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1 For a survey of older scholarship on this question, see Hammer, D., The Iliad as Politics (Oklahoma City, 2002)Google Scholar, ch. 1, especially 20–6, where he surveys anthropological interpretations of Homer that minimize the role of deliberative bodies, most famously Μ. Finley, The World of Odysseus (New York, 1979 2), 34 Google ScholarPubMed.

2 E.g. Carlier, P., ‘ Basileus in the Homeric poems’, in Deger-Jalkotzy, S. and Lemos, I. (edd.), Ancient Greece from the Mycenaean Palaces to the Age of Homer (Edinburgh, 2006), 101–9Google Scholar. An earlier treatment emphasizing continuity: Scully, S., ‘The polis in Homer: a definition and interpretation’, Ramus 10 (1981), 134 CrossRefGoogle Scholar. For other writing in the same vein, see the survey in Raaflaub, K., ‘Homeric society’, in Morris, I. and Powell, B. (edd.), A New Companion to Homer (Leiden, 1997), 624–49CrossRefGoogle Scholar, at 645–8.

3 Decisions sometimes undermined by Agamemnon: W. Allan and Cairns, D., ‘Conflict and community in the Iliad ’, in Fischer, N. and van Wees, H. (edd.), Competition in the Ancient World (Swansea, 2011), 113–46Google Scholar, at 115–17. Decisions modified by persistent dissent: Barker, E., Entering the Agon: Dissent and Authority in Homer, Historiography, and Tragedy (Oxford, 2009), 4089 CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

4 The most recent treatment of these differences: Elmer, D., The Poetics of Consent (Baltimore, 2013), 113–25Google Scholar, with no distinction between Nestor and other elders, or between the roles that γέροντες play in the two deliberative bodies. Raaflaub (n. 2), 634 stresses competition among the councillors and thus assimilates the council to the assembly.

5 Schulz, F., Die homerischen Räte und die spartanische Gerusie (Düsseldorf, 2011), 3570 Google Scholar, but speaking of age only briefly at 62.

6 See Richardson, B., Old Age Among the Greeks (Baltimore, 1933), 17 Google Scholar, 35; Calhoun, G., ‘Polity and society (i) The Homeric picture’, in Wace, A. and Stubbings, F. (edd.), A Companion to Homer (London, 1962), 431–52Google Scholar, at 451; Ruzé, F., Délibération et pouvoir dans la cité grecque de Nestor à Socrate (Paris, 1997), 52Google Scholar; Kapparis, K., ‘The law on the age of speakers in the Athenian assembly’, RhM 141 (1998), 255–9Google Scholar, at 258. See especially Raaflaub (n. 2), 643, referring to ‘a recognizable hierarchy of speaking’, though he does not elaborate. Similarly, Schulz (n. 5), 48 speaks of a ‘privilegierter Teil’ of speakers in councils, and Osborne, R., ‘Homer's society’, in Fowler, R. (ed.), A Cambridge Companion to Homer (Cambridge, 2004), 206–20CrossRefGoogle Scholar, at 212 speaks of unspecified ‘conventional rules’.

7 Lib. Arg. D. 24, where the term is used to describe the order of speakers in joint suits at Attic law; Eust. Od. 1.78 ed. Stallbaum uses the word in the same sense.

8 A starting point for sociological realities: Geschnitzer, F., ‘ BASILEUS. Ein terminologischer Beitrag zur Frühgeschichte des Königtums bei den Griechen’, in Festschrift für L.C. Franz (Innsburck, 1965), 99112 Google Scholar, at 101–5. Examples of the more recent interest in cultural realities: Haubold, J., Homer's People (Cambridge, 2000), 62–7CrossRefGoogle Scholar, and Naiden, F., ‘Gods, kings, and lawgivers’, in Hagedorn, A. and Kratz, R. (edd.), Law and Religion in the Eastern Mediterranean (Oxford, 2013), 79104 CrossRefGoogle Scholar, both on ‘shepherds of the people’.

9 Examples of a βασιλεύς as a ‘king’ are numerous, but for ‘leader of a community’ see Finley (n. 1), 83–4 and Geschnitzer (n. 8), 101–5. In the context of a council meeting, the term γέρων is practically synonymous with βασιλεύς, as noted by C. Ulf, Die homerische Gesellschaft. Materialen zur analytischen Beschreibung und historischen Lokalisierung (Vestigia 43) (Munich, 1990), 78–9Google Scholar.

10 Agamemnon's summons or instructions: Il. 2.53–4, 9.89–90, 10.194–5. A tacit summons: 7.313, after the Achaeans bring Ajax to Agamemnon's hut. Priam's presumed summons: 22.119, although Hector will evidently share responsibility. Alcinous: Od. 6.54–5.

11 Except for Schulz (n. 5), no schematic treatment of councils exists; treatments of assemblies begin with Arendt, W., Typische Scenen bei Homer (Berlin, 1933), 116–21Google Scholar. Noticing both deliberative bodies but only in Iliad 9: Lohmann, D., Die Komposition der Reden in der Ilias (Berlin, 1970), 214–27CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

12 Il. 2.76–7.

13 Il. 2.53, 2.55.

14 Il. 14.52. Diomedes: 14.109. Agamemnon: 14.64, 14.103, 14.134. Odysseus’ formula (14.83) is discussed below.

15 Summoning: Il. 10.195. The cited lines: 10.202–3.

16 Il. 7.324–5 = 9.93–5. The third occasion: Il. 4.433.

17 Ruzé (n. 6), 66–8.

18 Il. 9.679–713.

19 At Il. 3.146–9 eight councillors meet, or at least gather in one place, but no individual speaks.

20 Il. 22.114–21.

21 Il. 3.148. Il. 10.299–331 seems to be a Trojan council but is a meeting of warriors (10.336). For Antenor's speaking first at a Trojan assembly, 7.347–53, see below.

22 Od. 21.21.

23 Od. 7.155–7. For the resemblance between the Scherian council and Greek councils, see Bannert, H., ‘Versammlungsscenen bei Homer’, in Bremer, J., de Jong, I. and Kalff, J. (edd.), Homer: Beyond Oral Poetry (Amsterdam, 1989), 1530 Google Scholar, at 24 but without comment on the possible order of speakers.

24 Od. 11.342–3.

25 Il. 23.39–41.

26 Nestor if the lines are regarded as spurious, as they were by Aristarchus, who thought that Agamemnon should have this right, as W. Leaf, The Iliad of Homer (London, 1900), ad loc. also thought; otherwise Agamemnon; Agamemnon at Il. 14.134.

27 Il. 9.170; 2.441–2. The council in the Doloneia is not formally concluded, but the last reported act is the arming of the heroes at the suggestion of Odysseus (Il. 10.254). In Book 7, there is no information whatever (344). At the end of Book 9, however, Diomedes speaks last (9.710–13).

28 Il. 14.112.

29 Il. 10.218–19.

30 Diomedes as young as Antilochus: Il. 9.57–8. Antilochus, in turn, as the youngest of all the Achaean heroes: Il. 15.569.

31 Il. 7.398–9, 9.29–31.

32 Twice: Menelaus (Il. 3.95–6, 7.92–4, neither occasion being a meeting).

33 Il. 2.402–8.

34 Idomeneus: Il. 13.361. Laertes and Dolius: Od. 24.499.

35 Ajax ‘the Lesser’ or Teucer: an ambiguity noted by Wackernagel apud Kirk, G.S., The Iliad: A Commentary Volume 1: Books 1–4 (Cambridge, 1985)CrossRefGoogle Scholar, ad 2.404.

36 Merely ‘Ajax’ vs ‘Lesser’ : Il. 2.557 vs 2.528.

37 Il. 23.789, 15.569.

38 Il. 8.271–2.

39 Il. 13.91–5. Periboea or Eriboea first: Apollod. 3.12.6. Concubine Theaneira or Hesione: Apollod. 2.6.4, Diod. Sic. 4.32.

40 Il. 9.57–8.

41 Ad Il. 2.405–9. So also Eust. ad loc.

42 The critical attitude: Il. 14.83, with Holoka, J., ‘Looking darkly (ὑπόδρα ἰδών): reflections on status and decorum in Homer’, TAPhA 113 (1983), 117 Google Scholar.

43 Od. 3.127. Or, as the T scholia put it, Nestor, the best council-speaker, comes at the beginning, and Odysseus, the best assembly-speaker, comes at the end.

44 Il. 9.168–9.

45 Il. 1.16.

46 Il. 6.53–65.

47 Kirk (n. 35), ad 2.404–9 follows the T scholia in holding that age determines the order only of Nestor and Idomeneus, and that Ajax ‘the Greater’ and Diomedes are mentioned for their martial qualities. Kirk makes no remark on the other members of the list, except Odysseus. Latacz, J., Homers Ilias Gesamtkommentar (Munich, 2003)CrossRefGoogle Scholar, ad 2.404–9 says ‘der Reihenfolge’ after Idomeneus ‘dürfte versifikatorisch bedingt’, perhaps referring to the weak caesuras in all these lines. La Roche, J., Homers Ilias, Gesang I-IV (Berlin, 1870)Google Scholar, ad 2.408 says that Menelaus ranks too high to need an invitation.

48 Il. 13.91–5.

49 A different view: Hainsworth, B., The Iliad: A Commentary Volume III: Books 9–12 (Cambridge, 1993)CrossRefGoogle Scholar, ad 10.219–32, saying that here, as at 7.162–8, the most eager volunteer first.

50 Various but not all. When heroes volunteer to fight Hector (Il. 7.162–8), the order is not even partly determined by age: Agamemnon, Diomedes, two Ajaxes, Idomeneus, Meriones, Eurypylus, Thoas, Odysseus.

51 Agamemnon 100, Nestor 90, Idomeneus 80, Achilles 50, Ajax 12; the middle-aged Odysseus also 12.

52 Eating on three occasions: Il. 7.313–44, 9.89–178 and the feast at 2.404–40. No eating: 2.53–86, 10.202–53, 14.27–134.

53 Agamemnon having them sit down: Il. 2.53. Sitting down of their own accord: 10.202. For sacrificial meals, see Od. 3.37–40, 4.51–6, both mentioning chairs or fleeces for the guests, and then hosts or servants putting food on a table. Il. 9.89–91 and Od. 7.174–6 do not mention furniture or fleeces but otherwise are the same.

54 Royal hut: Il. 7.313, 9.90. Nestor's hut by his ships: 2.53.

55 Il. 7.339–44; 9.112–13, 9.121–34; 2.437–40; 10.204–32.

56 Il. 2.79–86.

57 Only additional statements: Il. 9.115–61, 10.218–53, and the disagreement at 14.64–132. So also Schulz (n. 5), 52.

58 Nestor ahead of Agamemnon: Il. 9.96–113 vs 9.115–61. Nestor alone: Il. 2.432–40, 7.327–46.

59 Nestor's last word: Il. 2.84; 2.440; 7.343; 9.172. Diomedes has the last word at 14.132, as noted by Ruzé (n. 6), 58, and at 9.709. Odysseus’ last word: 10.253.

60 Il. 14.63 vs 14.128, 14.133.

61 A negative general view of Nestor's initiatives: Kirk (n. 35), ad 7.327–43 and ad 10.204–10.

62 Il. 15.721–5.

63 So also P. Roussel, Étude sur le principe de l'ancienneté dans le monde hellénique du Ve siècle av. J.-C. à l’époque romaine (Mémoires de l'institut national de France 43.2) (Paris, 1941), ch. 1; more briefly Ruzé (n. 6), 64–5; and Ulf (n. 9), 82–3. No such tension among the Trojans, all of whose councillors are truly old: Sale, W., ‘The government of Troy: politics in the Iliad ’, GRBS 35 (1994), 5102 Google Scholar, at 61.

64 Detienne, M., ‘En Grèce archaïque: géometrie, politique, et société’, Annales ESC 20 (1965), 425–41Google Scholar. Support for the idea, and some background: Cartledge, P., ‘Writing the history of archaic Greek political thought’, in Fisher, N. and van Wees, H. (edd.), Archaic Greece: New Approaches and New Evidence (London, 1998), 379401 Google Scholar, at 384–6.

65 Il. 1.54–305, 2.95–398, 7.381–412, 9.9–79, 19.40–276. Similar: 1.12–34, 9.669–712. Cf. Arendt (n. 11), Table 9.

66 For brief treatment of the topic, see Ruzé (n. 6), 48–52, referring to Combellack, F., ‘Sceptres and speakers in Homer’, CJ 43 (1948), 209–17Google Scholar, reporting the analysts’ doubts, which he shared, at 216 n. 5. Agamemnon's sceptre: Il. 2.45–6.

67 Il. 1.305, 19.276.

68 Achilles: Il. 1.54, 1.59. Agamemnon: 2.73–5, 2.110. Agamemnon: 9.9–10, 9.17. Achilles: 19.45–6, 19.56. No information: 7.382–3.

69 Il. 1.74; 2.225; 7.400 and 9.32; 19.78. For a different view, see Calhoun (n. 6), 437, saying that ‘[w]hen on occasion the folk are called together …. [t]he first to speak is usually the eldest of the gerontes or the king’. Calhoun perhaps believed Agamemnon when he says at 2.73 that it is θέμις for him to summon an assembly. It was not θέμις for Agamemnon alone. So also Hainsworth (n. 49), ad 9.9–78, saying that Achilles’ summoning the assembly in Book 19 is a ‘departure’ from convention.

70 Nestor: Il. 9.79; Nestor in tandem with Agamemnon, who endorses him: 2.362–3, 2.370. Agamemnon and Achilles: 1.304–5. Agamemnon: 7.405–12, followed by dispersal at 7.419–20. Achilles: 19.276. A similar summary: Schulz (n. 5), 37–8, 57–8.

71 The distinction between what is or may be normative and what is reported: Elmer (n. 4), 67–71, who applies this distinction to awkward pauses ([n. 4], 28–9) but not to the assembly protocol.

72 A different view: C. Ulf, ‘Homerische Strukturen: Status, Wirtschaft, Politik’, in A. Rengakos and B. Zimmermann (edd.), Homer Handbuch: Leben, Werk, Wirkung (Stuttgart, 2011), 257–78, at 270, holding that those called βασιλεύς speak first.

73 Trojan: Il. 7.345–80, beginning spontaneously and ending on Priam's say-so; 7.414–18, beginning spontaneously and ending with the return of the herald Iris; 18.246–313, beginning spontaneously and ending on Hector's say-so. Called and brought to a close by Hector: 8.489–544.

74 Thus Mackie, H., Talking Trojan: Speech and Community in the Iliad (Lanham, MD, 1996), 23Google Scholar.

75 Od. 8.5–45; 16.342–408, 20.240–6.

76 Il. 24.420–66.

77 The one assembly that does follow a meal: Od. 3.137–40, condemned by Nestor, the narrator.

78 Od. 2.37.

79 Il. 19.77, with Kirk (n. 35), ad loc.

80 Il. 7.347–53.

81 Il. 18.254–83.

82 Od. 2.157; 24.463–4. Perhaps only a minority follow Halitherses, as at Heubeck, A., A Commentary on Homer's Odyssey , vol. 3 (Oxford, 1992)Google Scholar, ad loc., preceded by Stanford, W., Homer Odyssey I-XII (Bristol, 1996 2)Google Scholar and von der Mühll, U., Homeri Odyssea (Basil, 1963)Google Scholar, ad loc.

83 Il. 1.286 vs 1.293–303.

84 Lohmann (n. 11), 173–4.

85 Il. 9.56–7.

86 Il. 19.155–74.

87 Il. 9.14; 19.41; Od. 2.24.

88 Il. 3.148–52.

89 Il. 7.348–53 (Antenor), 7.355–64 (Paris) and 7.368–78 (Priam).

90 Schol. ad Pind. Pyth. 5.103.

91 Both ἄρχειν and μῦθος or μῆτις at Il. 2.433, 7.324, 9.93; ἄρχειν alone at 10.203.

92 Similarly, they are reserved for Athena and Poseidon in gatherings of the Olympians. Athena: Il. 5.420. Poseidon: 7.445, 21.287.

93 Both ἄρχειν and μῦθος: Od. 1.367 (Telemachus), 15.166 (Pisistratus).

94 Od. 7.157.

95 Homer is less chary with ἄρχειν, used of several assembly-speakers and of the god Hephaestus: Aegyptius (Od. 2.15), Telemachus (22.461), Eurymachus (16.345, 18.349, 20.359), Hephaestus (Il. 1.571). Another view of these combinations of words: Martin, R.E., The Language of Heroes: Speech and Performance in the Iliad (Ithaca, NY, 1989), 37 Google Scholar.

96 Il. 7.123; similar is 10.233. Menelaus: 7.94. Nestor's formula is also somewhat similar to a formula used of Achilles (1.58, 19.55).

97 Il. 1.253 and 2.283. Calchas: 1.73. Thoas: 15.285. Polydamas: 18.253, after another formula containing ἄρχειν (249). Priam: 7.367.

98 Il. 7.324–6 = 9.93–5.

99 For the common speaking formulas, see Parry, M., ‘Whole formulaic verses in Greek and South-Slavic heroic song’, TAPhA 64 (1933), 179–97Google Scholar, esp. 183–8 =  The Making of Homeric Verse (Oxford, 1971), 376–91Google Scholar. Parry does not notice the ἄρχειν formulas peculiar to Nestor, nor does the most recent study of speaking formulas, Riggsby, A., ‘Homeric speech introductions and the theory of Homeric composition’, TAPhA 122 (1992), 99115 Google Scholar, except in passing at 108.

100 Od. 2.16.

101 They do on the shield of Achilles (Il. 18.503–5). At Il. 19.50 Odysseus and Diomedes sit together, but no other γέροντες are said to sit with them.

102 Od. 2.15, 2.25.

103 Aegyptius: Od. 2.39–40. Halitherses: 2.157. Mentor: 2.226, unless this is Laertes, as in Stanford (n. 82), ad loc.

104 Eurymachus and Antinous: Od. 1.394–5, where Telemachus is speaking to Antinous as he refers to numerous kings on Ithaca.

105 Od. 2.28, 2.41, the verb being ἀγείρειν.

106 Od. 2.82–3.

107 Od. 2.84–128.

108 See Od. 4.629, 16.358–63, where he again takes the lead. However, Eurymachus takes the lead at 16.342–51 and again at 18.349–50, 20.358–9.

109 Od. 2.129–45.

110 Od. 2.46–76.

111 Od. 2.177–207.

112 Telemachus: Od. 2.208–23. Mentor: 2.224–41.

113 Other views of the structure of the scene, both with less emphasis on conflict: Osborne (n. 6), 212 and Bannert (n. 23), 22–3.

114 Od. 2.25, 161, 229 vs 2.40, 85, 130, 178, 209, 243. S. West in Heubeck, A., West, S. and Hainsworth, J.B., A Commentary on Homer's Odyssey Volume I Introduction and Books I-VIII (Oxford, 1990)Google Scholar, ad 1.25 notices the first three passages in this list.

115 Od. 2.212–13.

116 Od. 2.243–5.

117 Od. 2.257. Cf. Apollon. Lex. Hom. 17.20, λῦσαν, saying that Leocritus had no power to dissolve the assembly. Yet, several who do not convene assemblies dismiss them; see nn. 71–2 above.

118 Four occasions in all: Od. 2.399–401, 4.653–5, 22.205–6, 24.546–8.

119 Antinous slain by Odysseus (Od. 22.15–16), Eurymachus by same (22.81–3), Amphinomus by Telemachus (22.89–93); then a group, Demoptolemus by Odysseus, Euryades by Telemachus, Elatus by Eumaeus, and Peisander by Philoetius (22.266–70); then a second group, Eurymedon by Odysseus, Amphimedon by Telemachus, Polybus by Eumaeus (22.283–4) and Ctesippus by Philoetius (22.285–6); and lastly, Damastorides by Odysseus (22.292–3) and Leocritus by Telemachus (22.294–6). In the two groups, the order of Odysseus, Telemachus, Eumaeus and Philoetius is determined by status, which puts the two βασιλεῖς first, and by age, which puts Odysseus ahead of Telemachus and Eumaeus ahead of Philoetius. Similarly, Eumaeus and Philoetius dispatch Melanthius, whereas Odysseus and Telemachus busy themselves with the suitors (24.170–99).

120 The aegis: Od. 22.297–9.

121 So also Schulz (n. 5), 46–7.

122 Bloch, M., ‘Symbols, song, dance, and features of articulation: is religion an extreme form of traditional authority?’, Archives Européennes de Sociologie 15 (1974), 5581 CrossRefGoogle Scholar, at 64, though Bloch distinguishes between resistance and ‘revolution’, a term inappropriate to Homer.

123 Rappaport, R., Ritual and Religion in the Making of Humanity (Cambridge, 1999), 34 CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

124 Il. 1.533–5.

125 Il. 5.18–31, 7.442–64.  Later literature felt free to turn them into jurors: Dem. 23.66, Eur. Or. 1650–2. Homer speaks of all the gods—and thus of an assembly—only at Il. 20.4–5.

126 Assembly: Kapparis (n. 6). Councillors: Xen. Mem. 1.2.35. The ἐφέται were also required to be 50: Suda, Phot. s.v. ἐφέται.

127 See Kapparis (n. 6); and two broader treatments, Sealey, R., ‘ Probouleusis and the sovereign assembly’, ClAnt 2 (1969), 247–69Google Scholar, and Timmer, J., Altersgrenzen politischer Partizipation in antiken Gesellschaften (Berlin, 2008), 2867 Google Scholar. I thank William Race and the anonymous reader at CQ for their criticisms, and I most especially thank John Morgan, who brought πρωτολογία to my attention some years ago and has frequently written to me about it.

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