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Mythological Paradeigma in the Iliad

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 February 2009

M. M. Willcock
Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge


AN inquiry into the use of paradeigma in the Iliad must begin with Niobe. At 24. 602 Achilles introduces Niobe in order to encourage Priam to have some food. The dead body of the best of Priam's sons has now been placed on the wagon ready for its journey back to Troy. Achilles says (I paraphrase), ‘Now let us eat. For even Niobe ate food, and she had lost twelve children. Apollo and Artemis killed them all; they lay nine days in their blood and there was no one to bury them, because Zeus had turned the people into stone. On the tenth day the gods buried them. But she managed to eat some food, when she was tired of weeping. And now among the mountains, although turned into stone, she still broods over her sorrows. But come, let us also eat. You can weep for your son again later’ (24. 601–19).

Research Article
Copyright © The Classical Association 1964

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page 141 note 1 Following Öhler, R., Mythologische Exempla in der alteren griechischen Dichtung (Diss. Basel, 1925), pp. 57,Google Scholar and Kakridis' own article in Rh. Mus. Ixxix (1930), 113–22.Google Scholar

page 141 note 2 Wehrli (R.-E. Suppl. v. 575 s.v. Leto [1931]) and Schadewaldt (Sitzb. Heidel. Ak. xxiv [1933/4], 3- 31 n- 0 agree that Niobe's eating is an invention of the poet of the Iliad.

page 141 note 3 e.g. the Deucalion story (), and what Perseus did to Polydectes and his unfortunate companions. For Zeus acting in this way compare 2. 319

page 141 note 4 The petrifaction of Niobe does still oc cur in Homer's version as we have it, side by side with the petrifaction of the people. Beginning with the Alexandrian scholars many have considered these lines (614–17) interpolated. The strongest arguments against them are that they are inconsistent with the point of Achilles' story, and that they ‘break the ring’ (see n. 3 below). Von der Miihll, however (Kritisches Hypomnema zur Ilias [1952], p. 385), argues that 614–17 are not wholly out of place. Niobe dries her tears and eats, but she will weep again later, just as Priam is told in line 619 that he will have the opportunity to weep later.Google Scholar

Whether 614–17 are interpolated or not does not affect the fact of the transfer of the motif of petrifaction from Niobe to the people.

page 142 note 1 Lord, , The Singer of Tales (1960), p. 97.Google Scholar

page 142 note 2 The term ring-composition seems to have originated with H. Fränkel (N.G.G. [1924], p. 97 n. 4). On its use, particularly in paradeigma, see Öhler, op. cit., p. 7, Fränkel again in Gnomon iii (1927), 569, and Nestle in Hermes lxxvii (1942), 66 n. 3.Google Scholar

page 142 note 3 For the scheme to be exact it helps to omit 614–17 as interpolated. It is how ever a question whether we ought to re quire mathematical exactness in a matter like this.

page 143 note 1 Theseus (line 265) may be an Athenian- inspired interpolation, as no doubt Aristar- chus believed. Discussion and references will be found in Von der Mühll (op. cit., p. 24 n. 29).

page 143 note 2 It is generally assumed that there was heroic poetry about Nestor which is ex tensively quoted from in the Iliad. Nestor has four long speeches in which he recounts the events of his youth: 1. 254–84 (the Lapiths); 7. 124–60 (Ereuthalion); 11. 656–803 (wars at Pylos); 23. 626–50 (athletic successes). These speeches are full of corroborative de tail, most of it unconnected with the per sonages and events of the Iliad. I do not wish to discuss them further here, only to make a general point. Leaf (Commentary, i. 239) says, ‘We … see reasons for believing that a speech by Nestor about his youthful prowess offered a convenient opportunity for later interpolation’. Leaf was an analyst. I would rather say that a speech by Nestor about his youthful prowess offered a con venient opportunity for the invention of the poet.

page 143 note 3 Mulder, D., Die Ilias und ihre Quellen (1910), p. 47, and Von der Mühll (p. 24 n. 29) agree that Nestor's presence with the Lapiths is an impromptu poetic invention.Google Scholar

page 143 note 4 For the beginning of the paradeigma compare 21. 475–7. In that passage Apollo has just properly refused to fight against his uncle Poseidon. Artemis is annoyed and uses a paradeigma, ‘Let me never again hear you boasting in my father's house, as you have in the past, that you are prepared to fight against Poseidon’. Aristarchus athetized these three lines on the ground that they contradict the character of Apollo and his previous behaviour. They do. And thus they betray the fact that they are sheer invention with no other basis than the needs of the moment. The poet uses the same method in the two passages (1 396 f.) and (21.475 f.) .

page 144 note 1 For this acute observation I am indebted to Mr. C. J. Carter of St. Andrews University. The Scholia, among many explanations, offer something like this, namely that these are the Achaean gods, mentioned by name in order to influence Zeus to listen to Thetis. Wackernagel, J., Sprachliche Untersuchungen zu Homer (1916), p. 233, thinks 400 interpolated, but ascribes to the interpolator the motive that I here ascribe to the author, namely to mention the gods who would object to Thetis influencing Zeus.Google Scholar

page 144 note 2 Van Leeuwen, ad loc, and Von der Mühll, p. 27, also think diat 404 may be a reminiscence of that tale about Thetis' fated son.

page 144 note 3 Robert, C., Die griechische Heldensage, m. III, p. 932, discusses this question.Google Scholar

page 145 note 1 Polyphontes was taken over by later writers. Aeschylus makes him one of the Theban seven (Sept. 448); the mythographers give the name to the herald of Laius (Robert, in. i, p. 890 n. 2).

page 145 note 2 Op. cit., 41 f.

page 145 note 3 Dichtung und Philosophic des friihen Grie- chentums (1951), p. 106 n. 10.Google Scholar

page 145 note 4 Murray, Gilbert, The Rise of the Greek Epic (1924), p. 180; Von der Mühll, p. 97.Google Scholar

page 146 note 1 See Leaf's notes on 135 and 149.

page 147 note 1 6. 136 and 18. 398 .

page 147 note 2 A. B. Lord, ‘Composition by Theme in Homer and Southslavic Epos’, T.A.P.A. lxxxii (1951), 71–80; and chapter IV of The Singer of Tales.

page 147 note 3 The pattern of points C, D, E suggests to me an individual poet. The Odyssey does not offer comparable examples.

page 147 note 4 The story of Meleager in the speech of Phoenix has been among the most discussed passages of the Iliad during this century. The following seem to me the most valuable for the present-day reader: Robert, C., Die griechische Heldensage (1920), i, pp. 88100;Google ScholarHowald, E., ‘Meleager und Achill’, Rh. Mus. Ixxiii (1924), 402–25;Google ScholarBethe, E., ‘Ilias und Meleager’, Rh. Mus. lxxiv (1925), 112;Google ScholarSachs, E., ‘Die Meleagererzahlung in der Ilias’, Philologus Ixxxviii (1933), 1629;Google ScholarSchadewaldt, W., Iliasstudien (1938), 137–43;Google ScholarM. Noé, Phoinix, Ilias und Homer (1940), 5489;Google ScholarKraus, W., ‘Meleagros in der Ilias’, Wiener Stud, lxiii (1948), 821;Google ScholarKakridis, J.T., Homeric Researches (1949), pp. 1164.Google Scholar

page 148 note 1 Kolf, Van der, R.-E. s.v. Meleagros (1931), 448; Schadewaldt, p. 141; Kakridis, P. "3.Google Scholar

page 148 note 2 Op. cit. p. 10.

page 149 note 1 Finsler, , Homer (1914), i. 39;Google Scholar Öhler, op. cit. (p. 141 n. 1),p. 14; Van der Kolf, op. cit. (p. 148 n. 1), p. 448; Kraus, p. 14; Kirk, , The Songs of Homer (1962), p. 166.Google Scholar

page 149 note 2 e.g. Bothe, Fäsi, Pierron, ad loc.

page 150 note 1 Leaf, ad loc; Robert, p. 90; Howald, p. 406; Öhler, p. 15; Van der Kolf, p. 447; Kraus, p. 15.

page 150 note 2 So Noé, p. 78.

page 150 note 3 Op. cit. pp. 19 ff.

page 150 note 4 Howald, p. 411, first suggested that the name Patro-klos had been formed from the name Kleo-patra. Ohler, p. 16, was pleased with the suggestion, but had to reverse it, because he (rightly, as I think) made the Iliad story the original, Phoenix' tale of Meleager the copy. Thus he argued that Kleo-patra was an invention, based on Patro-klos. I should not even mention this improbable theory were it not for the fact that Schadewaldt, p. 140, and even W. Theiler (‘Die Dichter der Ilias’, in Festschrift für E. Tièche [1947], p. 164 n. 61) have followed Ohler. Kakridis, p. 29, and Kraus, p. 17, argue convincingly against.Google Scholar

page 151 note 1 Apollodorus 1. 8. 3; Antoninus Liberalis 2 (from Nicander).

page 151 note 2

page 151 note 3 For discussion of these see the Appendix.

page 151 note 4 Apollo in the Iliad is the defender of Troy. When Diomedes rushes on the god at 5. 432 ff., Apollo pushes him back three times, and the fourth time he says (5- 440) .

Again, when Patroclus attacks the wall of Troy, carried away by his success, in 16. 698 ff., Apollo pushes him back three times, and the fourth time he says (16. 707) .

I have no doubt that in one version at least of Achilles' death (dare I say the Aethiopis ?) Apollo pushed Achilles back three times, and the fourth time said or

(Quintus Smyrnaeus agrees: says Apollo just before Achilles' death, [Q..S. 3. 40]). But Achilles, unlike Diomedes and Patroclus, disobeyed the god. Finally, I should not be surprised if, in some epic version of the fight between the Curetes and the Aetolians, Meleager came up against Apollo in the battle and heard the words of the god or .

Although Apollo's clash with Achilles had a much more central significance in the Trojan legend than that with either Diomedes or Patroclus, it is not the purpose of this note to support the theory that the Aethiopis provided the themes of the Iliad (on which see U. Hölscher's admirable review of Schadewaldt's Von Homers Welt und Werk in Gnomon xxvii [1955], 385 ff.;Google Scholar and, more recently, D. L. Page's review of Schoeck, G., Mas und Aithiopis, in C.R. N.s. xiii [1963], 2124);Google Scholar but to suggest how composition by theme might involve certain formulas associated with that theme.

page 152 note 1 Only Bethe, p. 7, seems to have cast doubts. Robert, p. 88, Schadewaldt, p. 139, Noé, p. 56, Kraus, p. 14, and Kakridis, pp. 14 ff., are quite certain. Kakridis' arguments are particularly convincing on this point.

page 152 note 2 See p. 151 n. 2.

page 152 note 3 e.g. Howald, p. 408, Kraus, p. 11, Von der Mühll, p. 177 n. 49.

page 152 note 4 Finsler put this theory forward (cf. op. cit. [p. 149 n. 1], p. 41 : ‘Ohne den Zorn des Meleagros gäbe es keinen Zorn des Achil- leus’). He has been followed by Howald, p. 409, Cauer, , Grundfragen der Homerkritik (1921), p. 265,Google Scholar and Sachs, p. 20. Wilamo- witz (Ilias und Homer, p. 335) and Page (History and the Homeric Iliad, p. 329 n. 9)Google Scholar are sympathetic, but personally non-committal. Kakridis argues that this pre-existing ‘Meleagris’ was the model for several different incidents in the Iliad, but (p. 60 n. 22) ‘does not dare to express a view’ on the main question of the connexion between Meleager's wrath and Achilles'.

page 152 note 5 Robert, p. 91, Drerup, , Das Homer-problem in der Gegenwart (1921), p. 66,Google Scholar Bethe, p. 11, Schadewaldt, p. 141 n. 4, Noe, p. 75, Von der Mühll, p. 176.

page 152 note 6 Withdrawal from the battle because of anger is ascribed in the Iliad to Paris (6. 326) and Aeneas (13. 460) as well as to Achilles and Meleager. (In Proc. Camb. Phil. Soc. 184 [1956/7], 23–24, I argued that the unmotivated of Paris in 6. 326 was caused by the regularity of die theme as a reason for a hero being absent from the battle.)

Famous quarrels among the Greek heroes at Troy (apart from Agamemnon-Achilles) are

Agamemnon-Menelaus (Od. 3. 136)

Achilles-Odysseus (Od. 8. 75)

Ajax-Odysseus (Od. 11. 544)

Diomedes-Achilles (Q..S. 1. 768)

One might add the sudden outburst between Ajax son of Oileus and Idomeneus in Il. 23. 450–498.

page 153 note 1 Bethe, p. 1 o, Van der Kolf, op. cit. (p. 148 n. 1), p. 449, Schadewaldt, p. 139 (‘ein sehr unorganisches Etwas’), Kraus, p. 15, and Von der Mühll, p. 177 all make this point.

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