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Published online by Cambridge University Press: 08 May 2015
It is evident’that references to eyes and vision in Homer are mainly formulaic. However, in a stimulating article J.P. Holoka discussed the Homeric formula ύπόδρα ίδών showing that ‘In all instances, the facial gesture ύπόδρα ίδών charges the speech it introduces with a decidedly minatory fervency and excitement: a threshold has been reached and such inflammable materials as wounded pride, righteous indignation, frustration, shame, and shock are nearing the combustion point.’ Homeric facial gestures may thus reflect aspects of character and reveal psychological situations; they may, in a way, substitute for acts and above all for words. This study, therefore, will attempt to concentrate, or rather to focus attention, on the eyes of Homeric heroes—and in some cases on those of gods—and where it is possible on their reflections of characters. In certain cases the way the Homeric heroes see and the subsequent details add one more dimension to the depiction of their characters; that is, the supplement to their acts and sayings3 makes for a better understanding of them.
1 Kirk, G.S., IC 2.82Google Scholar (on 5.212): ‘Verbs of seeing accompanied by όφθαλμοίσιίν) are common in both epics—it was a favourite and indeed formular epic redundance.’ The same applies to other terms meaning eyes in the Homeric poems, such as άσσε and όμματα. Homer uses various terms for eyes in both the Iliad and the Odyssey. These are οφθαλμοί,öaae and όμματα, all attested in both poems, as well as фа’еа which occurs three times in the Odyssey (16.15; 17.39; 19.417Google Scholar) in a context of social ritual (including gestures—like the kissing of the head, of both eyes and the hands—related to arrival scenes and welcome greetings), and finally αύγαί in the expression διόςαύγάς (Il. 13.837), indirectly referring to Zeus’ eyes or rather the ‘invisible rays coining from the eyes’ of the supreme god: see Janko, R., IC 4.148Google Scholar (on Il. 13.837). But see also S. Constantinidou, ΆύγήΙαύγαί: Some Observations on the Homeric Perception of Light and Vision’, δωδώνη 22.2 (1993) 95-6Google Scholar on the interpretation of διός αύγάς as the lightened kingdom of Zeus, the realm of Olympos, which is compatible with the idea of hearing expressed in the same verse (13.837: ήχή 6’ αμφοτέρων ί’κΐτ’ αιθέρα και διός αύγάς), which presupposes a receiver of sound such as eyes cannot be. For verbs denoting the operation of sight and the various types of vision that each designates in this early period see Snell, B., The Discovery of the Mind (transl. Rosenmeyer, T.G.) (Berkeley 1953) 1–5.Google Scholar
2 ‘“Looking darkly” (ύπόδρα ίδών): Reflections on Status and Decorum in Homer’, ТАРА 113 (1983) 1–16Google Scholar (see especially 16).
3 Cf. Owen, E.T., The Story of the Iliad (Toronto 1946Google Scholar; repr. Bristol & Naucouda 1989) 5: ‘… Homer merely sets the scene, puts his persons into it, and leaves it to them, being what they are, to carry the action forward; and we get to know them from what they do and say.’ Homer’s ‘art of poetry’ is praised by Aristotle (Poetics 1460a) in association with the role that the poet assigns to his characters, ‘as he alone among all epic poets is well aware of the part he should have in his poem: that is, the poet himself should say very little for this is not the way that a poet is μιμητής … Homer’s narrative [or his coming forward as a person] is reduced to the minimum and immediately introduces a man or a woman or some other persona and none of them characterless but each one with character’: . See Janko, R., Aristotle, Poetics I. With the Tractatus Coislinianus. A Hypothetical Reconstruction of Poetics II, and the Fragments of the On Poets (Indianapolis-Cambridge 1987)35Google Scholar (translation), 37. See also Richardson, N.J., ‘Aristotle’s Reading of Homer and Its Background’ in Homer’s Ancient Readers. The Hermeneutics of Greek Epic’s Earliest Exegetes, ed. Lamberton, R. and Keaney, J.J. (Princeton 1992) 30–40Google Scholar. esp. 36-9.
4 Although the Odyssey is not entirely excluded from this investigation, the persistent focus on the Iliad throughout this essay is due to the emphasis given to the heroic situation reflected in the descriptions of eyes in this epic.
7 He means rather Odysseus’ physical appearance and external behaviour. Cf. Od. 6 where, on the contrary, Odysseus is tall and handsome, partly because of his own body structure (6.225) but mainly because of divine intervention as Athene made him look taller and more vigorous: 6.229-30, 235, 237, 242-5; 8.457-9; his appearance and more specifically his handsomeness caused Nausikaa’s admiration and her wish that he stay and become her husband. Hainsworth, J.B., CO 1.308Google Scholar sees a symbolic function in Odysseus’ appearance before Nausikaa, i.e. that of a bridegroom underlying the poet’s mind (the hero is described along similar lines in book 23, before his reunion with Penelope). In addition, however, it is interesting to cite here Polyphemos’ description of Odysseus in Od. 9.513-6Google Scholar: αλλ ‘ atei τινα φώτα μέγαν και καλόν έδέγμην I ένθάδ’ έλεύσεσθαι, μεγάλψ έπιειμένον άλκήν I νΰν δε μ ‘ έών ολίγος те και ούτιδανός και άκικνς I οφθαλμού άλάωσεν, ènei μ ‘ έδαμάσσατο οΐνω: ‘But I always expected that a tall and handsome man would come here, with a great might; but now a small and contemptible and weakling (man) has blinded me by overcoming me with wine.’
8 Much has been written on this epithet’s meaning and function, which expresses an intellectual quality mainly applied to Odysseus. ‘Cunning intelligence’ seems to be the most appropriate meaning of the word (Détienne, M. and Vemant, J.-P., Cunning Intelligence in Greek Culture and Society [Hassocks 1978]Google Scholar; orig. title Les ruses de l’intelligence: la mitis des Grecs [Paris 1974])Google Scholar. On the meaning of m?tis in general and on Odysseus’ mētis in particular see also Lesher, J.H., ‘Perceiving and Knowing in the Iliad and Odyssey’, Phronesis 26 (1981) 19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
11 On ётгеа wrepóevra see J. Russo’s excellent discussion inCO 3.22-4.Google Scholar But see also Parry, Milman, ‘About Winged Words’ in The Making of Homeric Verse. The Collected Papers of Milman Parry, ed. Parry, A. (Oxford 1971) 415-8,Google Scholar where it is argued that ‘Homer uses this phrase just because it is useful, and without thought for any particular meaning which the epithet “winged” might have.’
13 That Homer refers to the fast and softly falling snow rather than to any other characteristic of snow is, I think, very clear. We may compare it with the simile at 19.357 ff., for which see Edwards, M.W.’ commentary (IC 5.276 on 19.356-64).Google Scholar
14 See Kirk, , IC 1.287Google Scholar: “The choice of Odysseus for description in detail is not surprising in view of his complex and contradictory character and his rôle both in the preparation for war and in the ultimate fall of the city.’ On Odysseus πολνμητις, as well as on other aspects of his character, see Pucci, P., Odysseus Polutropos. Intertextual Readings in the Odyssey and the Iliad (Ithaca and London 1987) passim.Google Scholar
15 See also Stanford, W.B., The Odyssey of Homer 2 (edited with general and grammatical Introduction, Commentary, and Indexes) 1: (Books I-XII) (London 1959) 313-4Google Scholar (on 6.149 ff.). For Odysseus’ character in the Odyssey see Griffin, J., Homer, The Odyssey (Cambridge 1987)Google Scholarpassim; id. Homer on Life and Death (Oxford 1980) 24-5, 28-9, 62-3;Google Scholar P. Pucci (see previous note) on intertextual readings in the Odyssey and the Iliad and thus also on intertextual readings of their characters with special reference to Odysseus: see esp. ch. 20 (Odysseus, Reader of the Iliad’), 214-27. On the hero’s name and its relation to his character and his epic destiny see a very interesting discussion in CO 3.97Google Scholar. See also I.Th. Kakridis, , To μήνυμα του ομήρου (αθήνα 1985) ch. V: ‘ ‘’ 69–72Google Scholar, and Monsacré, H., Les larmes d’Achille. Le héros, la femme et la souffrance dans la poésie d’Homère (Paris 1984) 151-7Google Scholar, for Odysseus’ emotions as a hero of Troy and as the king of Ithake”.
16 See Griffin, J., ‘Words and Speakers in Homer’, JHS 106 (xs1986) 43CrossRefGoogle Scholar: ‘As “looking ύπόδρα” is confined to narrative, so is the statement that the eyes of an angry person “flashed with fire” or “burned” (Il. i 104 etc.). Seven times is this idea used, and not in a formulaic phrase, except in as far as fire is always predicated of ôaue, never of οφθαλμοί; and it is never applied by one character to another. Only the narrator avails himself of it.’ On fire similes in general and their role in characterisation see C. Moulton’s admirable analysis, Similes in the Homeric Poems (Göttingen 1977) 106-13Google Scholar. See also Leinieks, V., ‘The Similes of Iliad Two’, Classica et Mediaevalia 37 (1986) 6–9Google Scholar: fire similes, which occur in other books of the Iliad, are the first category of similes that are examined here.
19 On φρένες άμφιμέλαιναι see Kirk, ibid. On φρένες see also W.B. Stanford (above, n. 15) 286 (on 4.661). See also CO 1.234-5 for άμφιμέλαιναι as reflecting ‘the effect of strong emotion’.
21 Cf. Il. 13.53Google Scholar: (‘Here this firebrand, rabid Hector leads the charge …’): see Janko, IC ad loc.: ‘the metaphor of Hektor as a “rabid” dog, λυσσώδης, and comparison of him to a flame, are key images in the poem, especially in this battle … they culminate in his burning frenzy at 15.605-9 and the burning ship at 16.122 ff. The flame image develops that of 39 …’; 13.39: : ‘But the Trojans swarmed like flame, like a whirlwind’ (translation by R. Fagles, Homer, The Iliad: translated by Fagles, R.. Introduction and notes by Knox, B. [Harmondsworth 1990]).Google Scholar
22 This passage is full of an idea of brightness; cf. Il. 19.356 ff., and Edwards, IC 5.276. At Iliad 22.134 ff. Achilles' appearance like Ares, wearing his armour, gives the impression of blazing fire or rising sun: thus the bronze armour which covered him was flashing (: 22.134-5), and terrified Hektor as he caught sight of him (136-7). This glaring appearance of Achilles, created by his armour, probably alludes to the divine origin of its craftsmanship, to the work of Hephaistos himself. Moreover, the bronze armour acquires a symbolic meaning—both in its making and in the depiction of the scenes as well as in its use—in view of Achilles' forthcoming death: see Edwards, IC 5.8.
23 For type-scenes of the ‘arming of a warrior’ see Edwards, IC 5.11Google Scholar ff., and 169 ff. (on Il. 18.203Google Scholar ff.), where there is also relevant bibliography. For the symbolic power of armour see Il. 17.210Google Scholar ff., where Zeus makes Hektor’s armour fit closely to his body so that he is possessed by war-spirit: Fenik, B.C., Typical Battle Scenes in the Iliad [Hermes Einzelschriften, 21] (Wiesbaden 1968) 170.Google Scholar
24 Vemant, J.-P. (La mort dans les yeux: Figures de l’Autre en Grèce ancienne: Artémis, Gorgô [Paris 1985Google Scholar], also included in English translation and with some alterations as far as the organisation of the chapters and their content is concerned in Vernant, J.-P., Mortals and Immortals. Collected Essays, ed. Zeitlin, F.I. [Princeton 1991]Google Scholar; the ch. on Gorgô is entitled ‘Death in the Eyes: Gorgô, Figure of the Other’, 111-38) underlines those features that characterise the sight/face of the warrior who is seized by war-fever, features that have analogies to Gorgô’s fierce-looking face: see esp. 41-2.
25 Janko, , IC 4.295Google Scholar (on 15.610 ff.). See also Edwards, , IC 5.7Google Scholar: ‘But Homer … sets limits, and his large-scale foreshadowing is confined to a few major characters and themes, and appears with its greatest force as the action approaches its climax.’ However, Achilles is one of the Homeric characters to whom foreshadowed death is especially confined, from the beginning of the Iliad right to the end, through his own words but also through the words of others (1.417-18, 505-6; 19.412-16; 22.358-60). An increasing intensity in the foreshadowing of his death is found in book 18, as the death of Patroklos brings an end to Achilles’ withdrawal from war and marks his determination to take vengeance, despite the fact that such an act would mean his end too; his approaching fate of death is often recalled from now on (Il. 18.35-7, 51-72, 88 ff., 95-6) and reaches its climax at Hektor’s death when the countdown has already begun (Il. 22.358-66); Achilles’ fate is closely bound to that of Patroklos and Hektor (since Patroklos is dead so must Hektor be; therefore, Achilles must die too): see Edwards, , IC 5.7 ff., 139-40, 157-63.Google Scholar On the other hand Hektor’s fate is not known to him but it is the poet and the gods that let us know in advance about his forthcoming death. This ignorance by Hektor of his imminent death as contrasted to Achilles’ awareness of his own death (even foreshadowed by himself), is thus explained by Edwards (ibid. 9): ‘Partly through these different types of foreshadowing, the poet has contrived that our emotional involvement with Akhilleus and with Hektor is of an entirely different kind.’ To my mind, however, this is not the only reason for this different response, although we, the readers of the Iliad, share equally our sympathy for both heroes. What is clear, I think, in our thoughts, is that the one is superior to the other; he is after all the child of a goddess; this is why Achilles is in a position to know about his death and even to foreshadow it. See also Redfield, J.M., Nature and Culture in the Iliad: The Tragedy of Hector (Chicago and London 1975) (passim), esp. 27-9;Google Scholar Constantinidou (above, n.l) 103 f.
27 See Vernant, , Mort (above, n.24), 40Google Scholar. See also Hainsworth, J.B., IC 3.220Google Scholar-1. For the various connotations of the Homeric δέρκεσθαι, which means ‘to have a particular look in one’s eyes’, i.e. an uncanny glint, a terrifying glance like that of Gorgô, a fire-look etc., and not the operation of sight, see Snell (above, n.1) 2-3.
28 See Vernant, J.-P., ‘Death with Two Faces’ in Humphreys, S.C. and King, H. (eds.), Mortality and Immortality: The Anthropology and Archaeology of Death (London and New York 1981)Google Scholar (appeared also in Vernant, J.-P., L’individu, la mort, l’amour. Soi-même et l’autre en Grèce ancienne [Paris 1989] 81-9) 290Google Scholar. See also Detienne, M. and Vernant, J.P, Cunning Intelligence (above, n.8) 181Google Scholar-2. For the figure of Gorgon see Vernant, J.P., Figures, idoles, masques (Paris 1990) 85–137Google Scholar, esp. 90-3, who distinguishes ‘deux caractéristiques fondamentales de la représentation de Gorgô. D’abord la fontalité … Ensuite la “monstruosité”‘.
29 See C. Moulton (above, n.16) 122 ff. For S.H. Lonsdale (above, n.26) 40, this simile, which is the longest in the Iliad, serves as a model and ‘has the important function of mobilizing Achilles as an active fighter, as well as characterizing the bestial fury that motivates his revenge’. For other lion-similes in the Iliad see also ibid. 44-5, 50,68-9.
30 See Nagy, G., The Best of the Achaeans (Baltimore 1979) 39Google Scholar. See also Silk, M., Homer, The Iliad (Cambridge 1987) 29Google Scholar; on heroism and heroic ideology in the Iliad see ibid. 69-73, 96-7. On ‘the importance of the concept of individual honour in the complex structure of “Homeric values’” and ‘the presence in the poem of complex and critical attitudes to “heroic”, honour-based values and their tragic consequences’ see Fisher, N.R.E., Hybris: A Study in the Values of Honour and Shame in Ancient Greece (Warminster 1992) 151 f.Google Scholar
32 For an evaluation of the ‘anagnorisis’ scene in this passage of the Odyssey, see CO 3.94Google Scholar ff. See also Auerbach, E., ‘Odysseus’ Scar’ in Steiner, G. and Fagles, R. (eds.), Homer. A Collection of Critical Essays (Engelwood Cliffs, N.J. 1962) 19–37Google Scholar, esp. 35 for an explanation for the incorporation of this ordinary, domestic scene into ‘the sublimity and the tragedy’ of the Odyssey
33 (Above, n.30) 71.
34 C. Moulton (above, n.16) 108. For example at the end of Iliad 19 the arming of Achilles is illustrated by light similes (a light created by fire, by the moon, by a star, by the sun), creating an impressive and splendid image dominated by an idea of brightness. Thus the warrior’s martial power is implicitly combined with fire and light imagery in a book where the foreshadowing of his death has been clearly uttered by his beloved horse Xanthos (19.409-17). Cf. ibid. 110: ‘Toward the end of XXI, a comparison which associates Achilles with the smoke rising from a burning city confirms that fire serves, not only as an image for Achilles’ own destructive ability in warfare, but as a more general symbol for the fall of Troy itself (XXI.522-525).’ For the blaze of fire itself, of eyes which bum with fire, and the gleaming armour of warriors as images of destructive forces, see V. Leinieks (above, n.16) 6 ff. and 19, where it is argued that foreshadowing the outcome of the war and the course of its events is one of the basic functions of the Homeric similes.
36 This means that the goddess appears without any disguise, in her full form. This is consistent with Hera’s statement at Il. 20.131Google Scholar
37 See Kirk, , IC 1.73Google ScholarHooker, J.T., “The Visit of Athena to Achilles in Iliad I’, Emerita 58 (1990) 21–32CrossRefGoogle Scholar argues that the intervention of a divine power is necessary here, for Achilles seems to have reached his decision to kill Agamemnon as he had already drawn his sword. For Hooker Athena’s appearance in Iliad 1 should not be explained in psychological or religious terms but should be understood literally and according to the structure and the economy of book 1 and the poem as a whole., that ‘the gods are terrible in the appearance of their forms’ where it is suggested that the gods appear in their recognisable divine figures: P. Pucci (above, n.14) 111 n.3. In other cases, however, in the Odyssey, the expression phainesthai enarges means ‘becomes visible’ rather than in an ‘undisguised form’ (ibid. 110 ff.: ch. 9 ‘More Light in the Epiphany, Less Light in the Text’). Pucci suggests that the word enargts in divine epiphanies has not always the same but contradictory meanings: ‘… In its five occurrences in Homer, the word always refers to a divine presence (II. 20.131; Od. 3.420, 7.201, 16.161) or to a divinely inspired and transmitted dream (Od. 4.481)’: 110 n. 1 and 111 n.4 (for the various meanings of enarges in divine epiphanies). See also Anastasiou, I., 22.2 (1993), 31–48Google Scholar, for the various functions of the ‘double’ in Homer, i.e. those instances where ‘a mortal or a god, under certain circumstances, is believed to be or is perceived as someone else (or as something else in the case of gods) than he is in reality …’. However, this is not the case here, for Achilles has a direct knowledge of the divine appearance. But see also R. Janko’s discussion (IC 4.3–4)Google Scholar on whether gods really existed in Homeric thought (that of the poet and his audience) or divine interventions were artificial and in fact a poetic convention, ‘a mere externalization of normal human feeling’. However, Janko’s cited examples show clearly that in many actions of the gods their physical existence is involved or presupposed.
38 Kirk, , IC 1.74Google Scholar. On Athena’s epiphanies see Pucci (above, n.14) 110-23, and 83-97 on ‘Disguise and Recognition’. See also Hooker (see previous note) 28: “The invisibility of the goddess to all except Achilles is absolutely necessary, given the situation. Athena is intent on maintaining the status of Achilles, which has been grievously undermined by Agamemnon’s threat.’
41 See CO 3.76Google Scholar (on 19.36-40): ‘It is the goddess’ own presence, and not the lamp, that fills the hall with a supematurally intense light. Here the light acquires the symbolic suggestion of forthcoming victory for Odysseus, a common metaphor in heroic epic …’. On the foreshadowing function of fire light or armour gleam see above, n.34.
42 Zeus is delighted at hearing the tumult of the battle and watching the gods rushing into conflict against each other: 21.388-90. It is beyond our scope to give here any detailed analysis of the nature and function of the Homeric gods apart from quoting briefly what Finley, M.I. said in The World of Odysseus, 2nd edn. (London 1977) 132Google Scholar: ‘One element which deserves particular notice is the complete anthropomorphism. God was created in man’s image with a skill and a genius that must be ranked with man’s greatest intellectual feats. The whole of heroic society was reproduced on Olympus in its complexities and its shadings.’ See also Finley’s bibliographical essay (183-4) on Homeric religion. There is a rich bibliography on the Homeric gods; see most recently Kirk, , IC 2.1-14Google Scholar (Introduction: 1 ‘The Homeric Gods: Prior Considerations’) and Janko, R., IC 4.1–7Google Scholar (Introduction: 1 ‘The Gods in Homer: Further Considerations’).
43 See Janko, , IC 4.39Google Scholar; see also 41 on the importance of the same book for the story of the Iliad: ‘Book 13 exemplifies both how well the poet handles traditional themes, motifs and narrative techniques, and how subtly he gives them the moral depth so plain to the ancients and so typical of both his epics.’
44 Ibid. 43: “This is attractive: Zeus, weary of the squabble at Troy, gazes at peoples who live together with no violence or injustice (on his concern for justice see 16.384-93 n.)’. Lloyd-Jones, H., The Justice of Zeus, 2nd edn. (Berkeley, Los Angeles and London 1983) devotes his first chapter (1-27) to the justice of Zeus in the Iliad.Google Scholar
45 For gods’ shining eyes see II. 14.236 (ζηνός ύπ’ όφρύσιν όσσε φαεινώ), 16.645, and 21.415 (ως άρα φωνήσασα πάλιν τρέπεν άσσε φαεινώ), where they are predicated of the supreme god and his daughter Athena. Epithets associated with shining eyes are γλαυκώπις and έλίκωπες (έλίκωπες αχαιοί is a formula found six times in the Iliad, but έλικώπιδα in II. 1.98 may apply to Chryseis’ charming eyes). See also other references to beautiful eyes which apply to όμματα as well as to άσσε: Od. 1.208: αίνώς μεν κεφαλήν τε και όμματα καλά εοικας; 13.401, 433: όσσε πάρος περικαλλε” έόντε; II. 3.397: όμματα μαρμαίροντα; 23.66: πάντ’ αύτω μέγεθος τε και όμματα κάλ ‘ έ’ίκυΐα. Terribly shining eyes can reveal the identity of a goddess like Athena (II. 1.200), or the beauty of Aphrodite (II. 3.396-7: καί ρ ‘ ώς οΰν ένόησε θεάς περικαλλέα δειρήν I στήθεά θ’ ίμερόεντα και όμματα μαρμαίροντα). On γλανκώπις Athena (Il. 1.200, 551 etc.) see Kirk, 1С 1.74 (on II. 1.200). See also ibid. 110 (on 1.551) for the possibility of such epithets as γλαυκώπις and βοώπις belonging to ‘a theriomorphic stage’ of Greek religion, which Kirk thinks doubtful.
47 On Sleep and Death, the twin brothers, and their function in the epic see Emily Vermeule’s admirable treatment in Aspects of Death in Early Greek Art and Poetry (Berkeley, Los Angeles and London 1979) 145 ff.Google Scholar
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