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Thematic Structure in the Odyssey

In this chapter we shall examine narrative structure in the Odyssey at the level of what has been called the theme or typical scene , seeking to establish the identity and morphology of this traditional unit in ancient Greek epic. A selective review of the most significant scholarship in the area will be followed by a brief section on what our earlier studies of traditional phraseology would lead us to expect of thematic structure in the Odyssey . The third part of the chapter will be devoted to example analyses of the Bath, Greeting, and Feasting themes, with special attention to the issues of shared idea-sequence and verbal correspondence among instances. There we shall also have the opportunity to consider the artistic dimensions of Homeric traditional structure by closely examining both the generic and individual qualities of particular occurrences of these themes.

Prior Scholarship

The history of research on this aspect of traditional structure is a history of studies related by their general concern with narrative patterns but differentiated by their specific definitions and assumptions.[1] Scholars customarily designate Walter Arend's Die typischen Scenen bei Homer (1933) as the origin of interest in typical scenes, perhaps as much because of Milman Parry's famous response (1936) as because of the painstaking taxonomic presentation of the study itself.[2] What Arend provided was a first sketch of the narrative morphology behind such scenes as arrival, sacrifice and feast, departure (of ships


and other vehicles), armor and dressing, sleep, pondering, oath, and bath. Parry praised the philological acumen exhibited by this analysis but, fresh from his fieldwork among the Yugoslav guslari , criticized the accompanying explanation of scenic morphology: rather than agree with Arend's "philosophic and almost mystic theory" (1936, in 1971, 405), he ascribes thematic structure to the poetic tradition. But, although post-Parryan scholars have universally concurred with the explanation from oral tradition (whether or not they view the Homeric poems in their surviving form as oral in origin), Arend's sturdy little volume did help to focus attention on the narrative equivalent to formulaic structure, and it still has value today.

Fifteen years after Parry's review proposed a new explanation for what Arend had uncovered, Albert Lord (1951a, 73) described the unit of the theme or typical scene in Homer and Serbo-Croatian epic: "The theme can be identified as a recurrent element of narration or description in traditional oral poetry. It is not restricted, as is the formula, by metrical considerations; hence, it should not be limited to exact word-for-word repetition." Giving examples from Avdo Medjedovic's[*] The Wedding of Smailagic[*] Meho , he argues (p. 80) that "the singer's themes aid his 'memory' and, what is just as important, leave him free to concentrate on the general complex structure of his story." Later on, in his classic The Singer of Tales (1960), Lord would expand on the nature of this narrative structure as documented in Yugoslav epic and extended to the Homeric poems.[3]

With Bernard Fenik's 1968 study of the scenes of battle in the Iliad , we come upon the first divergence in nomenclature and therefore the first problem with results. The author himself (p. 2) stresses that the large masses of details and incidents in which he is interested are not typical scenes or themes in the sense employed by Arend and by Parry and Lord, but rather larger narrative patterns that nonetheless show the familiar play of variation within traditional limits.[4] In this and other similar studies,[5] levels of structure above the theme or typical scene, reaching all the way to story-pattern (as discussed in chapter 10), are probed and explained. This kind of research on larger patterns is important, since it extends the principle of multiformity beyond the level of the Parry-Lord theme and illustrates how traditional structure is operative at all levels of the oral and oral-derived epic, from the microcosmic level of


sound patterning and phraseology up through the mythic sequences embedded in story-patterns or tale-types. Of course, as the unit under consideration becomes larger and more comprehensive, the possibility of a regular, repeating verbal component lessens. Or, to put the same matter differently, while relatively close repetition—within tradition-dependent rules—serves an important function for the smaller traditional units, the larger, more comprehensive units must be more and more abstract in order to fulfill their function of templates for greater and greater multiformity. For our present purposes, then, we shall confine the discussion to the smaller, more tightly knit structures first mentioned by Arend and by Parry and Lord.

Another aspect of the variance of definition of themes and type-scenes in the work of different scholars may be traced to the general attempt to loosen what were felt to be the too confining bonds of compositional technique proposed by Parry and Lord. Symptomatic of this point of view is Joseph Russo's ( 1968, 281-88) argument for a spectrum of thematic units, which would include four categories of multiforms: (1) the verbatim repetitions, plus or minus varying additional lines; (2) recognizably traditional scenes that are nonetheless handled creatively; (3) "scenes where the stock pattern or type is handled rather loosely, or distorted to such an extent that the poet gives the impression not of depending on the existing type scheme to keep his narrative going, but of twisting some traditional elements into quite new meanings under the impulse to innovate" (p. 286); and (4) those which show an almost complete lack of repetition. Whether or not this particular taxonomy fits with our ideas about traditional narrative structure and the role of the individual poet, it is well to note Russo's helpful suggestions toward a spectrum of typical scenes. For in their eagerness to demonstrate thematic structure and continuities, scholars have at times tended to overlook the fact (demonstrated in fine in Arend's seminal work and observed in Lord 1951a as well) that instances of a theme can vary considerably from one occurrence to the next and that, consequently, we should not expect in all cases a simple list of composite motifs or a certain verbal correspondence.[6]

Another step forward in thematics was taken by David M. Gunn a few years later, in his articles on narrative inconsistency (1970) and thematic composition and Homeric authorship (1971). These papers have the advantage of a comparative perspective, with Gunn using the Serbo-Groatian material as an analogy to aid solution of certain long-debated problems in Homeric studies. Employing Lord's definition of the theme, he is able in the former piece to discriminate what he interprets as a singer's inconsistencies in the Iliad and Odyssey and thus to distinguish Homer from a "memorizer" (p. 202):


For the latter [an oral singer] depends not upon a rather circumscribed ability to string together large memorized slabs of narrative but upon the versatility , in the face of the varied circumstances of performance, that comes with his familiarity with, and mastery of, a formulaic diction and the content and patterns of themes (including some which he is able to repeat verbatim or to "modify" at will).

This same notion of a plastic compositional unit, augmented by an appreciation of the differences between the units employed by different singers and in different local traditions, also underlies Gunn's discussion of the likely authorship of the Homeric poems.[7]

The next major theoretical advance was made by Michael Nagler (1974), who described the units of "motif" and "motif sequence." In concert with his view of Homeric phraseology as both traditional and spontaneous—that is, as generated from traditional habits of thought and articulation to suit the needs of the moment—Nagler (p. 82) understands the typical scene not as a fixed sequence of words or ideas but as "an inherited preverbal Gestalt for the spontaneous generation of a 'family' of meaningful details." As to the matter of ideational structure or diction shared among instances of such a unit, he argues that "in practice... not only are no two passages normally the same verbatim , they need not be of a pattern (an identical sequence of elements) in order to be recognized as the same motif." The elements Nagler speaks of are in turn quite abstract narrative features (examples include procedo, non sola , and ancillae ) that may be realized in many different expressive forms; far from requiring any particular formulaic content or verbal correspondence, then, he opens up the definition of the motif and typical scene to allow for the widest possible range of association and referentiality.[8] The "motif sequence," in turn, is "a recurring sequence of common motifs—each subdivisible into elements and capable of functioning independently—which seems to acquire a meaning of its own" (p.112).


Whereas Nagler's approach consisted of a search for units that have no necessary sequential structure or verbal identity, contemporary studies by Lord (1975), Peabody (1975), and later G. Nagy (1979) stressed the importance of the phraseological dimension of the theme. In his article "Perspectives on Recent Work on Oral Literature" and in response to Donald K. Fry's research on Old English themes and type-scenes (1968a), Lord (1975, 20) stressed the phraseological part of the concept he had developed in The Singer of Tales :

if by theme one means a repeated narrative element together with its verbal expression, that portion of a poem, an aggregate of specific verses, that tells a certain repeated part of the narrative, measureable in terms of lines and even words and word combinations, then we find ourselves dealing with elements of truly oral traditional narrative style.

Drawing the model for themes from the Serbo-Croatian material, Lord describes self-contained narrative units with semi-independent lives of their own in the tradition, units that depend on both idea-pattern and verbal correspondence for their identity and function.

Peabody's five-level system of traditional structure includes a similar unit, also called a theme, in ancient Greek epos. It exists alongside song in the narrative structure of Hesiodic and Homeric poetry, and is understood as the actual expression of traditional ideas (1975, 214):

One level is generative of the textual fabric itself. It is functionally self-sufficient and requires no additional controls. This level consists of traditional thought and is called theme. The other is a diachronic metalevel, one which cannot generate traditional discourse—for if it generated text, it would produce unstable prose. This level is associated with the feedback of memory and provides the parameters of associational decorum in a bard's composition. This level is called song .

Peabody introduces "phonic clumps" as the textual, aural data of his theme, extending the importance of patterns of sound from the level of phraseology to that of thematics.

Starting his investigation with the hard data of formulaic patterns, Nagy projects pre-formulaic themes that regulate the deployment of phraseology. Using the methods of comparative reconstruction, he finds (1979, 2) that

certain noun + epithet combinations in Homeric diction go back to a time that predates the very existence of the Greek hexameter; further,... the choice of epithet is ultimately determined by themes that can be reconstructed all the way to a period when Greek was not yet differentiated from its sister languages in the Indo-European family.

This reasoning leads him to conclude that while phraseology is certainly regulated by meter from a descriptive or synchronic perspective, it is regulated


historically or diachronically by theme.[9] Nagy's explanation of the art of the Homeric poems is thus based first and foremost on their traditional nature.

Some of the most useful recent work on themes or typical scenes has been done by Mark Edwards (esp. 1975, 1980a,b), who insists on a rather strict model for the unit, at least in terms of its narrative structure. Following Arend, Fenik, and Lord, he explains discrepancies in the story as a whole by reference to the unitary, integral nature of type-scenes, which may occur in a variety of contexts and occasionally contain details in conflict with (or at least oblique to) their surroundings. In addition, Edwards (1975, 71-72) sees no conflict between his position and that of scholars who prescribe a more abstract, generative model for the theme:

I fully accept the possibility of superb artistic skill, of the kind Nagler persuasively identifies, in the design of the epics on both the large and the small scale. Nevertheless, I hold that, just as much of the time the common formulae are used automatically, even if occasionally imperfect adjustment results in a metrical anomaly, so too the regularity of common type-scenes exerts a compelling force on the poet which can sometimes be seen to result in awkward transitions.[10]

Edwards demonstrates the utility of his approach in his study "Convention and Individuality in Iliad 1" (1980a), in which each scene in the first book is related to the type-scene that underlies it. Here the emphasis is on the importance of bringing to the individual instance of a thematic unit the richness of traditional association as glimpsed in the rest of the Homeric poems. For Edwards (P. 1) what was once a compositional technique has developed in Homer's hands into an aesthetic instrument, for "the major means of giving dignity, color, and emotional impact to the narrative is by controlled elaboration of details of the type-scenes, by skillful selection of the amount of elaboration in a particular instance and of its nature and relevance to the situation." In his view the traditional techniques apparent in the Iliad can and often do show the influence of the individual craftsman at work.[11]

Expectable Phraseological Makeup

As noted above, we shall be concerned in this chapter with the theme as defined and illustrated by Arend, Lord, and Edwards, that is, as a self-contained


unit describing a single event. The more extensive patterns, from Fenik's more heterogeneous "typical scenes" of battle to Hansen's "narrative sequences" and on to the tale-type or "story-pattern," lie beyond the scope of this chapter.[12] Although these other patterns are worthy subjects and, to the extent that they also illustrate the central role of multiformity in oral and oral-derived epic, are certainly relevant to the concerns of the present volume, we shall be concentrating on scenes that are readily comparable to the units found in Serbo-Croatian and Old English epic, and thus shall limit our analysis to the theme in the more restricted sense of the term.

Returning now for a moment to the findings of chapter 4 on Homeric phraseology, let us consider what we might be able to predict about the verbal dimension of these narrative structures. We established that the diction of the Odyssey , which developed in symbiosis with the hexameter, was a tradition-dependent diction that took its shape from the idiosyncratic prosody to which it was partner. Thus the phraseology was shown to be based on the inner metric of the hexameter, a complex poetic line with a complicated system of colonic shapes.

While the normative unit of meter turned out to be the colon, the minimal normative unit of phraseology proved to be the hemistich. Nonetheless, our analyses of elements of diction were unanimous in denying primacy to any one "length" for either "the formula" or "the formulaic system." From epea pteroenta through the twenty-one-line passage from Book 5, the evidence was the same: the diction simply could not be fairly reduced to a single type of phraseological pattern but had instead to be understood as a spectrum of phraseology. Hemistich, whole-line, and multi-line units were encountered; what is more, in many cases a given line seemed to be related to more than one of these levels in the diction, so that it was impossible to point to any single phrase as the primary unit, the core around which the others were formed.

Since (quite arbitrarily) denominating one level of structure as primary necessarily meant shortchanging the relative importance and the dynamics of other levels, I proposed a new solution to the riddle of the phraseology that avoided giving false prominence to any one proposed configuration and thus avoided reducing the plasticity and vitality of Homeric diction to a collection of mechanical parts. This solution involved the derivation of a number of traditional rules for the formation and maintenance of the phraseology from the principles of comparative prosody developed in chapter 3. Along with the Indo-European principle of right justification, we demonstrated the significance of word-type localization for the structure of hexameter phraseology. It was observed that these rules allowed us to explain the shape of formulaic


and (on available evidence) non-formulaic lines from the Odyssey , and in so doing to reach well beyond conventional formulaic analysis.

Of course, Homeric phraseology, like other traditional phraseologies treated in this volume, was in a constant state of evolution, and we recognized this developmental fluidity by noting cases in which formulaic structure has superseded minimal word-type localization. In these cases, usage has created families of formulaic elements or patterns that in their group coherence deflect the percentage occurrence figures for certain words away from the average percentages for overall word-types. That is, the individual lexical elements that make up these formulas and systems, although admitted to the phraseology on the basis of traditional rules, now skew the average figures because of the utility of the larger phrases in which they are embedded. This phenomenon also contributes to the varied spectrum of traditional phraseology.

Thus, in turning to the three analyses of thematic structure to follow, we may conceive of the verbal data for those narrative units as a spectrum of different kinds of elements rationalized by traditional rules. These rules provide the matrix through which all phraseology must pass in order to enter the tradition; they will call for right justification, word-type localization, and observance of the other features of the hexameter's inner metric.[13] Once having entered, these elements may evolve in virtually countless ways: they may form composite phrases, formulas, and systems; they may remain in their original form, at least for a time; they may disappear from the repertoire of a singer, local tradition, or the tradition at large; or—perhaps—they may come to be marshaled by thematic structure.[14] Whatever the individual case, we may be sure that the general relationship between thematic structure and phraseology will be at least as complex and many-sided as the diction itself, and further that the diction used to express the traditional ideas of themes will be overseen by traditional rules.

Three Thematic Analyses

In this section I shall present three examples of thematic morphology in the Odyssey : Bath, Greeting, and Feast. In each case the goal will be to determine the extent to which the theme is dependent (a) on a definite grouping of actions or elements and (b) on a recurrent phraseological content. Especially in the third example, that of the feasting scenes, we shall also be concerned with the flexibility of the multiform, and thus with the ways in which Homer manipulates a generic pattern to adapt it logically and aesthetically to the given situation.


The Bath

This theme or typical scene was first noted and analyzed by Arend (1933, 124-26), who in his customary fashion reported the most consistently realized (feste ) form and then went on to describe related occurrences that shared only a few details or lines. For the purposes of this first illustration, let us consider chiefly the most consistently realized instances of the "Bath"; in this way we can investigate both the structural and phraseological dimensions of a closely knit multiform. Later on we shall look at a multiform whose instances are much less closely or obviously correspondent, so that both ends of the spectrum will be covered.

According to Arend, the action of this theme or typical scene consists of "washing, anointing, and donning new clothes." This is a fair characterization of the general outline of the sequence, which varies from four to eleven lines in the seven instances he cites as the most consistent representations (3.464-69, 4.48-51, 8.449-57, 10.360-67, 17.85-90, 23.153-64, 24.365-71).[15] It proves to be a very adaptable multiform, one that can be used in many different situations. The first example occurs just after the elaborate slaughter and sacrifice at Nestor's palace, the second after Telemachos and Peisistratos arrive at Menelaos's home, the third following the heating of water and laying out of clothes for Odysseus at Alkinoos's palace, and the fourth on Kirke's island after four maids have prepared bed, bath, food, and drink. In Book 17 Telemachos rebukes Penelope before entering the bath, in Book 23 singing and dancing precede Odysseus's cleansing, and in the final book of the Odyssey the returned hero and his father Laertes converse before the latter's bath.

Just as telling as the variety of situations in which the Bath theme may be included is the limited set of possibilities to which it leads. In all but one of the seven instances, the Bath serves as an exordium for a feast. Although conversation and, in one example, other actions may intervene, the Bath seems to be conventionally associated with a following feast. Any departure from, or even delay in fulfilling, this sequence thus constitutes a special case; whatever material intercedes between the Bath and the traditionally consequent feast will be foregrounded and will take on special significance.

Before looking at the morphology and dynamics of the theme as a whole, however, let us consider the structure and phraseology that underlie its recur-


rence in these seven instances. The first occurrence (3.464-69) demonstrates a core of diction repeated in other instances:

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Meanwhile lovely Polykaste, who was the youngest
of the daughters of Nestor, son of Neleus, had bathed Telemachos.
But when she had bathed him and anointed him sleekly with olive oil ,
She thaw a splendid mantle and a tunic about him ,
and he came out from the bath looking like an immortal
and came and sat down beside Nestor, shepherd of the people.[16]

The first of the underlined hexameters describes the washing and anointing, and it recurs verbatim in the Bath sequence in Book 10 (line 364) at Kirke's home. In that situation it is followed by a verbatim repeat of the next line (3.467 = 10.365). But we cannot so easily dismiss the phraseology expressing what Arend terms the "Waschen, Salben" action of this theme, for in the other five instances the same action is expressed in the hemistich inline imageinline image("she/they bathed and anointed [him] with olive oil"). Thus either the whole-line formula or the second-hemistich phrase, the latter of which is of course open to variation in the first hemistich, can carry the burden of traditional meaning for the theme.

The second-hemistich phrase, in turn, combines with one of two sorts of partners, either the general expression inline image ("Now when the maidservants... them/him"), which occurs in three of the five examples (4.49, 8.454, and 17.88), or the more specific designation of a particular maidservant who performs the ablutions: inline image ("the house-keeper Eurynome"; 23.154) and inline image ("the Sicilian attendant"; 24.366). This selection of expressions for washing and anointing, along with the selection of partners (B1 first hemistichs composed according to traditional rules),[17] gives some idea of the plasticity within limits that characterizes Homeric phraseology. Additionally, the focus on two phrases—the whole-line


and hemistich versions—begins to indicate the kind of pressure for selection a theme can impose on diction.

Both versions, it should be stressed, depend on traditional rules for their shape and texture. In the case of the whole-line expression inline imageinline image all major elements (the verbs lousen and echrisen , the nouns lip ' and elaiôi ) occupy favored positions for their word-types. But the degree of fossilization of the phrase is more apparent in the localization of what amounts to a single "word": the dative phrase lip' elaiôi , which as a composite belongs to the pattern inline image, occurs at 12; and line-end turns out to be the only spot at which metrical words of this kind appear.[18] As for the hemistich version of this expression, inline image, once again the main elements occupy some of the metrically favored positions, and once again a composite "word"—chrisan elaiôi in the shape of an adonean inline image—reveals right justification and fixity in its occupation of line-end position.[19] As observed in chapter 4, Homeric phraseology is governed by traditional rules, and even diction that is further focused by a well-defined theme obeys the same strictures.

In the occurrence in Book 3 quoted above, one notices that the whole-line phrase for washing and anointing and the hexameter used to express the donning (of a cloak and tunic) are followed by a third underscored line, inline imageinline image . Here another another dimension of multiformity begins to emerge, for this line does not occur with its two partners in their only other appearance together (10.364-65). Rather, it follows a simile in the instance of the Bath theme in Book 23, the most idiosyncratic of the seven occurrences. True, in Book 23 we also find the "donning" line present in precisely the same form as in Books 3 and 10, but (a) the "donning" and "godlike" phrases are separated by eight lines, none of which are associated with this theme, and (b) in Book 23 the "washing and anointing" are expressed in the hemistich rather than the whole-line version.

The Bath theme in Book 4 (lines 48-51) illustrates some further dimensions of multiformity:

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They stepped  into the bathtubs smooth-polished and bathed there.
Then when the maids had bathed them and anointed them with oil ,
and put cloaks of thick fleece  and tunics upon them , they went
and sat on chairs beside Menelaos the son of Atreus.


In the second line we recognize the hemistich version of "washing and anointing," wholly underscored here to indicate its recurrence two additional times with the same partner. The remaining correspondences are not quite as straightforward. Line 4.48 includes a first hemistich that can appear in modified form either at the commencement of the scene (with es , "into") or at its close (with ek , "from"); in all cases except one it follows the pattern es/ek hr'/d' asaminthous/-on/-ou/-ôn + some form of bainô . To illustrate the wide variety of partners that combine with this phrase, I list below all of its thematic occurrences:

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This group of lines exemplifies a familiar phenomenon in Homeric phraseology. The hypothesis of a "core" hemistich cannot explain the two whole-line formulas (3.468 = 23. 163 and 4.48 = 17.87) except by extension, while those two whole-line expressions cannot by themselves account for the five other lines that show no mutual pattern past the first hemistich.

By viewing this set of lines, particularly the opening sections, as the product of traditional rules and formulaic association, however, we can rationalize the heterogeneity. First, we can easily see how the ek/es hr'/d' asaminth- + bainô phrase, once established, would tend to remain stable; the A caesura is blocked by the "heavy word" at position 4 and thus would not be amenable to substitution or other types of variation. The question is how it entered the phraseology initially, since it is so metrically unlikely at 4, its word-type noisily occurring only at line-end. The answer seems to be found in the localization of the participle bantes , which, while permitted as a word-type in many positions, is as a part of speech consistently "backed up" against the mid-line caesura. While the general pattern inline image is of coupe permitted at many places in the hexameter,[20] this particular word occurs seven of eight


times at 51/2, whether as part of this hemistich phrase or not.[21] Given also that two of the four non-formulaic occurrences of bantes are preceded by an adverbial phrase of direction similar to ek/es asaminth- , we may conclude that the hemistich phrase entered the diction through the fixation of bantes at  and the analogy of the adverbial phrases for direction. With the participle against the mid-line caesura, the proclitic es or ek , with metrical lengthening via the following particle, combined with asaminth- to yield a pattern that fit the hemistich perfectly. Once formed around the right-justified kernel bantes , this hemistich then took on a life of its own and, by a second step in analogy—and this time quite clearly under traditional rules—then acquired an identity as a whole-hemistich "word." From that point it was only a small step to changes in the morphology of bainô and thus to the selection of B z and B2 hemistichs listed above.[22]

These hemistich phrases are quite consistently associated with the Bath theme. In five of the seven instances, the ek (or "from") version of the phrase occurs at or near the end of the scene. In the two remaining instances of the theme (Books 4 and 10), the es (or "to") form introduces the sequence of actions.[23] Additionally, the es and ek forms of the phrase can bound the theme in an example of the very typical structural pattern of ring-composition.[24]

It would be quite possible to continue with this sort of analysis of the phraseology shared by the seven examples of the Bath scene, but perhaps the foregoing is sufficient to demonstrate that the actual verbal expression of this theme consists not of a completely fossilized run of hexameters but rather of a fluid collection of diction that can take on numerous different forms. Although the thematic "deep structure"—Arend's "washing, anointing, and donning of new clothes" as a first approximation—surely focuses the verbal component and attracts traditional phraseology, it does not exist in a one-to-one relationship with a single inviolate phraseological component. Ideas are expressed in diction that follows traditional rules and exhibits formulaic structure, but that expression can take on a variety of forms.

In order to gain a complementary perspective on this process and its importance for a given narrative situation, let us examine more closely a single instance of the theme. For this purpose I choose Odysseus's bath in Book 23,


which (we note here for later reference) occurs just after a celebration involving singing and dancing and just before the riddle of the olive-tree bed is solved and the rapprochement is complete.

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Now the housekeeper Eurynome bathed great-hearted
Odysseus in his own house, and anointed him with olive oil,
and threw a beautiful mantle and a tunic about him;              155
and over his head Athene suffused great beauty, to make him
taller to behold and thicker, and on his head she arranged
the curling locks that hung down Eke hyacinthine petals.
And as when a master craftsman overlays gold on silver,
and he is one who was taught by Hephaistos and Pallas Athene              160
in art complete, and grace is on every work he finishes;
so Athene gilded with grace his head and his shoulders.
Then, looking like an immortal, he strode forth from the bath,
and came back then and sat on the chair from which he had arisen,

Lines 153-54 form a two-line unit that recurs in slightly modified form in Book 24 (lines 365-66):

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Since this combination occurs nowhere else, and in fact since the second hemistich in the first line occurs nowhere else, we may be tempted to think of the couplet as a traditional unit associated with the Bath theme. But our earlier demonstration of the flexibility of the second line stands as evidence against that hypothesis, and we once more see how the phraseology, though focused by the Bath theme, still remains flexible and recombinative.[25]

Line 155 occurs verbatim at 3.467, with related lines in each of the other


instances of the theme.[26] In each case the verse expresses what Arend called "donning new clothes," and the mix of phraseology is similar to that involving 23. 154 and its counterparts. Line 156 shows very little that could be interpreted as formulaic, although it does obey traditional rules for formation (e.g., the placement of Athênê at line-end). Line 157 , however, begins a six-line section that finds a virtually exact counterpart at 6.230-35, the only variation being the prefix in the two verbs pericheue and katecheue . These six lines in both cases follow a scene of bathing and anointing, although the episode in Book 6 is otherwise different enough in action and phraseology to raise the question of whether it is truly the same or an alternate Bath theme. As is customary, the occurrence in Book 6 leads eventually to a feast, albeit a modest one, for Odysseus has just washed up onto Phaeaecia and his brief scene of grooming prepares the way for a one-man dinner. After this special inset describing Athena's gifts to Odysseus, the Bath theme in Book 23 moves toward closure with line 163 , which has a verbatim repetition at 3.468 as well as the phraseological relatives discussed above. In accordance with the limits prescribed for the other examples, I have ended the passage at line 164 , which, although it has three other related occurrences in the Odyssey , does not seem to be conventionally associated with the Bath theme.[27]

This closer examination of 23.153-64 gives some idea of the morphology of a theme in the Odyssey , even one as brief as the Bath. Certain core ideas that consistently make up the scene (or at least this version of the scene) attract to them a regular means of expression, so that we can demonstrate a verbal correspondence among instances. But that verbal correspondence is not simply a "run" of hexameters; rather, it consists of a collection of phrases that share important aspects of diction without being reducible to one primary means of expression and some variants.

In addition to these regular phraseological dimensions that stem from the repetition of core actions, we notice lines that particularize this instance, that color the generic scene of the Bath in individualized hues and suit it to context. These phrases, like line 156 or the six-line set-piece on Athena's gifts, enrich the scene at hand with details that are not as regular as the central actions of washing, anointing, and donning new clothes. While these lines themselves are demonstrably traditional in that they can be shown to be formulaic or, at minimum, to follow traditional rules, their function in this theme is not traditional.

Scholars will differ over the exact boundaries of the Bath and other themes, and that is no doubt as it should be: no poetry worth the name should be


too readily dismemberable.[28] Given the scope I have prescribed by making these selections, however, I would add a few details to Arend's "Waschen, Salben, Anlegen reiner Kleidung" core. First, the Bath is embedded in the ritual of hospitality, the common Homeric portrait of xeiniê .[29] But although this association exists, it is not totally prescriptive: the theme can occur in a number of different narrative situations and is not confined to following any single scene. Second, the Bath theme customarily leads to a consequent feast scene, whether that feast is expressed through the theme we shall study below or in a shorter, non-conventional form. For example, the Feast theme follows the Bath in Books 4, 10, and 17, while only simple dinner episodes, often merely a few lines long, occur in Books 3, 8, and 24. Although it would be difficult to explain the reason for this variance in the usual terms, since we would be ascribing an intentionality to the poet which comparative oral studies do not universally support,[30] we might note that in Book 3 the abbreviated feast may be a compensatory response to the elaborate slaughter and sacrifice that precede the Bath. Likewise, in Book 8 Demodokos's singing is the more important narrative event following Odysseus's bath, and in Book 24, the occurrence at Laertes' home, one cannot imagine a full feast taking place in the relative poverty of the surroundings.

The Bath-Feast sequence in Book 10 offers an interesting example of how Homer fleshes out a traditional genetic structure to suit the specific situation. Here the Bath scene leads, as would be expected, to the preparatory lines of the Feast theme (10.368-72), but no further. The actual feasting, in other words, is apocopated. This delay in fulfillment of the action creates a tension of expectation, and into the breach is inserted the description of Odysseus's seeking and obtaining his men's release from captivity as swine. When Kirke asks the hero why he is not partaking of the sumptuous food and drink set before him (that is, as the narrative asks why the traditional coda has been suspended), he replies that he cannot think of such things while his companions are in such miserable condition. This response prompts Kirke to take pity and to free the companions, an action that allows closure of the Bath-Feast sequence (467-68), albeit with lines other than those conventionally used for the purpose in the Feast theme.

A small but significant action performed by Kirke reinforces the traditional nature of this sequence. After the captives have been changed back from swine


and before the long-delayed feasting takes place, she performs the traditional preparatory ritual for them, just as she did for their leader some lines before.

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Meanwhile, within the house, Kirke with loving care the rest of
        my companions
attentively  bathed and anointed sleekly with olive oil ,              450
and threw cloaks of thick fleece and tunics upon them .
We found them all together, feasting well in the halls.

In both a narrative and a traditional sense, this second, more abbreviated occurrence of the Bath theme prepares the way for the feast that has been expected for almost one hundred lines. With this washing, anointing, and donning of new clothes, not only Odysseus but also his companions who have been suffering under Kirke's spell are ritually cleansed and made ready for the culmination of Homeric hospitality—the Feast.[31] Thus the entire scene, from the first Bath through the long-awaited dinner and drink, is opened up to accommodate the story of Odysseus's freeing his men through the agency of his goddess-lover Kirke. The particularizing detail is important, since it allows the story to be told, but the scene would lack tension and power were it not for the traditional underlay that serves as a backdrop and creates the expectation of a conventional series of events.

In addition to these larger dimensions, we may take note of a third narrative detail that seems to be associated with the Bath: the seating of the protagonist among his fellows. Between the Bath and Feast the hero is conveyed to a seat of prominence, where he stays for the duration of the festivities. This is a small detail, and one that is expressed in no special formulaic phrase, but it does assist in moving the action along between the two themes.[32] In five of the seven passages examined, the "seating" takes place immediately after the Bath is complete, and this seems to be the expected configuration. We see another example of Homer's suspension of closure and insertion of particularzing features in the remaining two instance. In Book 8 some fourteen lines elapse before the exacted seating, during which time Nausikaa gazes fondly on Odysseus, bids him farewell, and the hero gives her thanks for her role in his deliverance. In the final book, Laertes' moving reminiscence over


his younger days as a proud warrior who could have aided his son and grandson in their battle against the suitors intervenes between Bath and seating.[33]

Finally, we should confront the major discrepancy in the occurrence of the Bath-Feast sequence in Book 23. Put most simply, this is the only one of seven instances that has no feast, whether of the formal thematic variety or the compressed, descriptive sort. After the Bath and seating, and in traditional expectation of the sharing of a meal and all that it implies within the conventions of Homeric hospitality, Penelope poses the riddle of the olive-tree bed, a riddle she knows only her husband can solve. With his careful exposition of the fashioning of the bed,[34] husband and wife are reunited and the telos , as the ancients called it, toward which the Odyssey has been moving for more than twelve thousand lines, is imminent. It is a measure of Homer's profoundly traditional art, I suggest, that the Feast is this time a celebration not of eating and drinking but of long-sought reunion and fulfillment, not of consuming elaborately prepared foodstuffs but of finding once again the feast of love and tenderness that had been denied for twenty years. For in a vital sense, this instance of the pattern shows not a deviation from expectation but an augmentation of the conventional sequence, and its extraordinary make-up derives directly from the traditional expectation on which Homer, or his poetic tradition, has so brilliantly built.

The Greeting Theme

For a second example of thematic structure in the Odyssey I turn to what Edwards has called the "greeting type-scene," the action of which he defines thus (1975, 55): "usually a person hands a cup of wine to another, and with words of welcome, farewell, or honor (often deidisketo or some other form of the verb, and chaire ) makes a prayer or wish for him; sometimes he invites the other to make a libation and pray." Edwards locates five full realizations of this pattern in the Odyssey , in Books 3 (lines 41-50), 4 (59-64), 13 (56-62), 15 (150-59), and 18 (119-23, 151-52).[35]

These instances of "Greeting" occur in various narrative contexts. In Book 3 it constitutes Peisistratos's welcoming of "Mentor" (Athena) and asking her to offer a prayer to Poseidon, during whose festival he (she) has arrived. The


second instance, in the fourth book, is Menelaos's invitation to Telemachos and Peisistratos to eat; it occurs between Bath and Feast. The next, near the opening of Book 13, is Odysseus's parting salute to Queen Arete as he prepares to leave Phaeaecia. In Book 15 the Feast theme (which we shall examine in the next section) precedes the Greeting theme, which involves Menelaos's libation for the return journey about to be undertaken by Telemachos and Peisistratos; Telemachos's thanks, wish for the homecoming of his father, and an omen indicating the vengeful nature of that homecoming follow. The last of the five full occurrences of the type-scene involves Amphinomos's greeting to the disguised Odysseus, about which variation we shall have more to say later on.

Even from this brief description, it should be clear that, unlike the Bath theme, Greeting has no particular association with other themes in the tradition. Not only is the material preceding it quite different from instance to instance, but it seems to lead not to one but to a wide variety of consequent actions. To be sure, it is associated with the general situations of coming and going, that is, of arriving and taking leave, but there is no traditional link to another theme that would create an expectation of what should precede or follow. Such ubiquitous character is quite at odds with the Bath-Feast linkage, and this difference begs the question of whether we are dealing with the same sort of unit and, further, whether the themes will reveal other divergences as well.

To answer these questions, let us consider the two axes of correspondence among occurrences of Greeting: narrative pattern and verbal correspondence. First, the general nature of Edwards' description of the actions entailed in this theme or type-scene argues a somewhat less specific idea-structure than underlay the Bath. The Greeting scene may involve welcome, farewell, or honor, or a combination of either of the first two with the last; it may comprise a prayer or wish for someone; it may include one person's speech or that speech plus the other's reply.[36] In short, as the two following examples testify, this particular theme is simply not as tightly organized around discrete actions as is the Bath.

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But great Odysseus stood up
and put the handled goblet into the hand of Arete,
and spoke to her aloud and addressed her in winged words, saying:
"Farewell to you, O queen, and for all time, until old age
comes to you, and death, which befall all human creatures.              60
Now I am on my way; but have joy here in your household,
in your children and your people, and in your king, Alkinoos."

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Amphinomos, taking
two loaves of bread out of the basket, set them before him,              120
and drank his health in a golden cup and poke to him, saying:
"Your health, father and stranger; may prosperous days befall you
hereafter; but now you are held in the grip of many fortune."
So he spoke, and poured, and drank the honey-sweet wine, then
put the cup back into the hands of the lord of the people;

It would be difficult to imagine two more divergent uses of the same type-scene. In Book 13, Odysseus's farewell to Arete is full of respect, admiration, and thanks; she and her husband, Alkinoos, have served an essential function in helping the hero toward his homeland of Ithaka. There is no explicit reply, as occurs in many of the Greeting, although king and queen send escorts and gifts for Odysseus as he strides down to the shore and enters the fleet Phaeaecian craft. The Book 18 exemplar, while following the general pattern of salute, salutation, and wine drinking, reverberates with foreboding. Although Amphinomos is the favored suitor, and perhaps the only honorable one in the lot, his apparently sincere toast of the disguised Odysseus is qualified by his last few words; indeed, more than he knows, the man he salutes is "held in the grip of many fortune."

Specifically, then, we can agree with Edwards's definition of the Greeting theme: it does involve "words of welcome, farewell, or honor," it does include the speaker "mak[ing] a prayer or wish," and it does (optionally) involve a reply in the form of a libation or prayer. All of the instances cited also feature one person handing a cup of wine to another, or some cline variation of that action. But there the definition of this type-scene must end, for we find no series of actions both as differentiated and as integrated into a logical, recurrent series as is the group of "washing, anointing, and donning new clothes" that


makes up the body of the Bath theme. Once again, then, is this difference enough to demand separate taxonomies for scenes like Bath on the one hand and Greeting on the other?

Consider first that both patterns serve at least two functions: they are compositionally useful and connotatively dynamic, in that some degree of expectation is created by their appearance in a narrative. While the Bath is more prescriptively conventional and specifically echoic because its structure is fighter and more integrated, in its own way each theme assists the poet and provides him with an instrument that carries with it institutionalized associations. We may add to this comparison the fact that the greater structural flexibility of the Greeting, as well as its lack of definite attachments to other themes or narrative situations, confers on it a kind of utility that is lacking in the Bath theme. In short, on the basis of narrative pattern alone, Bath and Greeting seem both to reveal thematic structure, even if the dimensions and implications of that structure vary somewhat.

This last point may be most clearly made through reference to an example. The instance of Greeting in Book 18, as quoted above, consists of Amphinomos's actions and speech and, after an ellipsis not designated as part of the type-scene by Edwards,[37] the closure in Odysseus's drinking of the wine and passing of the cup back to the suitor. So far the generic form of the pattern is observed. But in between these two sections (lines 124-50) lies what in other occurrences of the same type-scene proves to be the gracious response of the person saluted.[38] Here, however, the disguised stranger offers no simple thanks to his host or server, but rather a praise of the man himself coupled with a warning of what may befall him as part of the troop of suitors:

"Amphinomos, you seem to me very prudent, being              125
the son of such a father, whose excellent fame I have heard of,
Nisos, that is, of Doulichion, both strong and prosperous;
they say you are his son, and you seem like a man well spoken.
So I will tell you, and you in turn understand and listen.
Of all creatures that breathe and walk upon the earth there is nothing              130
more helpless than a man is, of all that the earth fosters;
for he thinks that he will never suffer misfortune in future
days, while the gods grant him courage, and his knees have spring
in them. But when the blessed gods bring sad days upon him,
against his will he must suffer it with enduring spirit.              135


For the mind in men upon earth goes according to the fortunes
the Father of Gods and Men, day by day, bestows upon them.
For I myself once promised to be a man of prosperity,
but, giving way to force and violence, did many reckless
things, because I relied on my father and brothers. Therefore              140
let no man be altogether without the sense of righteousness,
but take in silence the gifts of the gods, whatever they give him.
Even so, now, I see the suitors, their reckless devisings,
how they show no respect to the wife, and despoil the possessions
of a man who, I think, will not for long be far from              145
his country and friends. He is very close by. But I hope your destiny
takes you home, out of his way. I hope you will never face him,
at the time he comes back to the beloved land of his fathers.
For I believe that, once he enters his halls, there will be
a reckoning, not without blood, between that man and the suitors."              150

We recall the instance of the Bath theme in Book 10, at Kirke's home, in which the conclusion of the pattern was suspended in favor of the inserted episode of Odysseus's freeing of his men from the witch's magic spell. Once they were freed and suitably washed and anointed, the expected feast could—narratively and traditionally—take place. The situation involving Amphinomos and Odysseus in disguise is not dissimilar in structure and effect, for once again the expected closure is suspended while a unique, non-traditional insert is related. That is, Homer interrupts the pattern and rhythm of the theme, thus creating the same kind of tension described in relation to the Bath on Aiaia, and into this environment places a speech that bears only a formal resemblance to what traditional structure leads us to expect. The praise of Amphinomos seems genuine, but is overshadowed by an excursus on the gods and fate followed by a less than thinly veiled prediction of the slaughter that Odysseus—not yet a real presence—will perpetrate on those whose company the otherwise admirable Amphinomos has been keeping. As in the Kirkean Bath scene, the force of the whole is to foreground that which is unexpected—thematically untraditional, here—so that the philosophizing and dire prediction grate more harshly against the narrative situation than they would if they were spoken outside of the traditional theme of Greeting. Even if Greeting has proved less structurally bound than Bath, it still has thematic pattern, which is useful compositionally, and thematic connotation, which is crucial to the aesthetics of traditional poetry.

As for the phraseological component of these five instances of the Greeting type-scene, they share virtually nothing outside of the chaire and deidisketo forms cited by Edwards in his definition. That is to say, there seems to be no core of verbal correspondence traditionally associated with the ideas in this pattern, no two- or three-line segment or collection of related phraseology


that conventionally expresses Greeting. In those four of five occurrences in which some form of chaire or its functional equivalent[39] appears, a vocative phrase follows; but none of these phrases are formulaically related. The remainder of the examples vary widely from one to another, the consistency of the scene being measured almost entirely according to its idea-pattern rather than its phraseology.

Nonetheless, although Greeting does not closely marshal an assigned core of diction, it is composed, as is all of Homeric epic, of traditional phraseology. The difference is that that phraseology is not further focused—in this particular case—by the theme. To illustrate this difference, let us analyze the occurrence of Greeting in Book 15 (lines 150-59).[40]

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He stood before the chariot and pledged them:              150
"Farewell, young men; give my greeting to the shepherd of the people,
Nestor, for always he was kind to me like a father,
when we sons of the Achaeans were fighting in Troy land."
        Then the thoughtful Telemachos said to him in answer:
"Surely, illustrious sir, when we arrive we shall tell him              155
All that you say, and I wish that even so I too, arriving
in Ithaka, could find Odysseus there in our palace,
and tell him I was resuming from you, having had all loving
treatment, and bringing many excellent treasures given me."

Although we find no formulaic relatives for line 150, proparoithe consistently seeks position at , thus filling the colon bounded by the A2 and B2 caesuras (in eleven of twelve occurrences in the Odyssey ), and prosêuda is found in its regular position at line-end.[41] Traditional rules are observed, in other words, and the participle dediskomenos , one of the few verbal signals consistently associated with Greeting, appears. As noted previously, there are no formulaic relatives demonstrable for the various forms of chaire , as in line 151 (chaireton ), and we may add that the vocative phrase ôkourô is similarly without an


obvious family of diction. Nevertheless, all instances of chair- occur in initial position and are followed by a vocative, and all resultant first hemistichs are governed by traditional rules.[42] The second hemistich is classically formulaic, the adonean formula poimeni laôn occurring a total of nine times in the poem.[43] The rule of right justification, which on one level means that the second half of the line is more usually formulaic than the first, also manifests itself in line 152 . For although there is nothing in the Odyssey that seems to be phraseologically associated with the opening hemistich, the latter one is repeated three times verbatim: thus "he was always kind to me like a father" appears in Telemachos's speech to the suitors, in reference to his father (2.47); in "Mentor's" speech about Odysseus (2.234); and in Athena's speech to Zeus and the other gods, again about Odysseus (5.12). We cannot link this hemistich formula to Greeting, to be sure, but there is no denying its traditional structure and deployment.[44]

Right justification is also evident in line 153 , which belongs to a collection of phrases that include an exact whole-line repetition (13.315),[45] a second-hemistich repetition (14.240), and five additional occurrences of huies Achaiôn . The most stable part of the line, in other words, is the ending clausula, with more flexibility as one moves toward the beginning of the hexameter. Line 154 is a much-repeated line of introduction (forty-three occurrences in the


Odyssey ; see chapter 4) with no special attachment to any narrative situation. The most consistent clement in line 155 is of course the adonean, hôs agoreueis , with six additional instances, but we also find evidence of a second-hemistich structure (24.122)[46] and of patterning in the opening part of the line.[47]

Line 156, like many of the hexameters analyzed in chapter 4, has no formulaic relatives whatever; all of the individual constituents up to the bucolic diaeresis are, however, located in favored word-type positions.[48] The closing phrase of line 157, eni oikôi , recurs thirty-three additional times, always in the same position, but, given the variety of syntax and vocabulary associated with it, we would no doubt do better to consider it a composite "word" that follows traditional rules rather than the core of an extremely plastic formulaic system.[49] All other elements also occupy the favored positions for their word-types, with the quite explicable exception of the elided form Odusê '.[50] The rather loose aggregation that makes up line 158 likewise has no formulaic relatives, but once again its individual constituents do follow traditional rules. Finally, line 159 presents a typical collection of phrases that demonstrate some genetic relationship, but it is not possible to show any one of them to be primary; there are five total instances of polla kai esthla , involving the clausula as well as an exactly repeated second hemistich (19.272) that could also be interpreted as part of a whole-line system.

In short, what our analysis of the Greeting type-scene reveals is a generic mold or matrix of actions that individually and collectively are less distinct than the discrete actions that compose the Bath theme. Nonetheless, as has


been discussed, Greeting creates some degree of expectation within its own boundaries (although not as unambiguously as does the Bath, which leads to the feast); and the instance in Book 18 illustrates the power of that expectation and the effect of its frustration. In addition to the narrative structure of the Greeting pattern, we have seen that this theme exerts no special pressure on its expression in the phraseology (other than the inclusion of chaire and deidisketo or some other form of the same verb), so that the bound diction associated with the Bath, for example, has no counterpart in this other theme. As we would expect, the actual phraseology used shows the usual mix of classically formulaic diction with lines that are simply composed according to traditional rules but that have not, on available evidence, evolved true formulaic structure.

These two themes were not chosen at random but were selected to exemplify the range of brief, compact narrative structure in the Odyssey . There exist both more and less obviously stable patterns, as well as the great number that fall somewhere in between these two examples, but our two illustrations make the point that thematic structure is not all of a piece. Like traditional phraseology, traditional thematics cannot be captured or accounted for by one exclusive definition; to prescribe or proscribe too absolutely is to lose the ability to sense the different kinds of multiformity that make up the traditional foundation of the Odyssey , and in the end to lose as well the basis for faithful aesthetic inquiry. As we move on to a third example of the Homeric theme, we would do well to keep in mind the range and power of thematics, both as a traditional compositional technique and as a vital force in the art of the Odyssey .

The Feast Theme

Feasts in the Odyssey can take a number of forms, depending, as we shall see, on the narrative circumstances. For the purposes of the present analysis we shall be concerned not with all scenes of feasting (or of simply eating) in the poem, but with a recurrent theme or type-scene of Feasting that has both a definite (though flexible) narrative structure and an associated phraseological dimension that recurs along with that idea-pattern. In the course of discussing this theme, there will be reason to make reference to non-thematic portrayals of feasting and eating in the Odyssey , but these moments are not our primary focus.

Given what we have discovered in the first two sections about the Bath and Greeting themes, we shall be asking three interrelated questions or sets of questions about Feasting. First, what is the narrative structure of this traditional unit? How definite are the actions and how regularly do they occur? Second, to what extent does the thematic pattern marshal or determine phraseology? Is the phraseology bound to this particular theme or is it more generally traditional? Third, how does Feasting compare to Bath and Greeting as a traditional multiform?


To begin, let us specify the occurrences of Feasting in the Odyssey . The passage below (1.125-57) represents the first such scene in the poem, and will serve as the point of reference or comparison for the other five instances. As the diagram to the right of the passage indicates, each of the other occurrences shares a certain amount of exactly correspondent phraseology with the Feast in Book 1.




































































So speaking he led the way, and Pallas Athene followed him.              125
Now, when the two of then were inside the lofty dwelling,
he took the spear he carried and set it against a roll column
in a rack for spears, of polished wood, where indeed there were other
spears of patient-hearted Odysseus standing in number,
and he led her and seated her in a chair, with a cloth to sir on,              130
the chair splendid and elaborate. For her feet there was a footstool.
For himself, he drew a painted bench next m her, apart from the others,
the suitor, for fear the guest, made uneasy by the uproar,
might lose his appetite there among overbearing people,
and so he might also ask him about his absent father.              135
A maidservant brought water for them and poured it from a splendid
and golden pitcher, holding it above a silver basin
for them to wash, and she pulled a polished table before them.
A grave housekeeper brought in the bread and served it to them,
adding many good things to it, generous with her provisions,              140
while a carver lifted platters of all kinds of meat and set them
in front of them, and placed beside them the golden goblets,
and a herald, going back and forth, poured the wine for them.
        Then the haughty suitors came in, and all of them Straightway
took their places in order on chairs and along the benches,              145
and their heralds poured water over their bands for them to wash with,
and the serving maids brought them bread heaped up in the baskets,
and the young men filled the mixing bowls with wine for their drinking.
They put their hands to the good things that lay ready before them.
But when they had put away their desire for eating and drinking,              150
the suitors found their attention turned to other matters,
the song and the dance; for these things come at the end of the fearing.


A herald put the beautifully wrought lyre in the hands
of Phemios, who sang for the suitors, because they made him.
He played his lyre and struck up a fine song. Meanwhile              155
Telemachos talked to Athene of the gray eyes, leaning
his head dose to hers, so that none of the others might hear him:

The idea-pattern for this theme, as opposed to the structure of other expressions of feasting, may be described as a series of discrete actions that collectively embody a sumptuous Homeric feast.[51] After the "seating" (line 131) of the protagonist(s), which as we have seen usually intervenes between the Bath and the Feast, the actions are:

1. A maidservant brings water for washing (136-37)

2. A table is placed before guest(s) and host (138)

3. A housekeeper provides bread and other foodstuffs (139-40)

4. A carver passes out meat and golden cups (141-42)

5. The diners eat (149)

6. The diners are satisfied (150)

An "optional" line (1.145; cf. 15.134) detailing the seating of guest(s) and host on benches and chairs also seems to be associated with the theme, although not as regularly or institutionally as are some other lines. This action may occur either at the beginning of or during the Feast theme, and thus lacks the participation in a definite sequence shown by the other recurrent actions.

Of course, as Lord has shown in respect to the unit of theme in Serbo-Croatian epic, all actions need not occur in every manifestation of this multiform, and the diagram opposite the above passage illustrates the variance among instances. As with the Bath theme, the central actions are mostly repeated verbatim in phraseology associated exclusively with Feasting, but even some of these lines have wider application within the poetic tradition, as we shall see below. And as noted above, there are indeed other ways to express the idea of dining or feasting in Homer. What is more, this traditional and generic cluster of ideas and lines is susceptible to a more particular focus through context-dependent description added to the scene, so that instances of the same theme may look (and actually be) very different.

As an example of this flexibility in the narrative idiom, we may compare the feast in Book 1 with that in Book 4. The earlier scene, quoted above, is filled with the tension created by the suitors' arrogant presumptions. With Odysseus absent and Telemachos only on the verge of manhood, the unwelcome guests abuse the rituals of hospitality with impunity and Penelope and Telemachos are virtually held hostage to their unreasonable demands. The feast at Menelaos's home, however, presents us with the icon of civility and serenity, in stark


contrast to the tensions underlying the Ithakan scene. After the Bath and seating of the guest, Telemachos, the Feast appears as follows (4.52-70):

A maidservant brought water for them and poured it from a splendid
and golden pitcher, holding it above a silver basin
for them to wash, and she pulled a polished table before them .
A grave housekeeper brought in the bread and served it to them ,              55
adding many good things to it, generous with her provisions ,
while a carver lifted platters of all kinds of meat and set them
in front of them, and placed beside them the golden goblets .
Then in greeting fair-haired Menelaos said to them:
"Help yourselves to the food and welcome, and then afterward,              60
when you have tasted dinner, we shall ask you who among
men you are, for the stock of your parents can be no lost one,
but you are of the race of men who are kings, whom Zeus sustains,
who bear scepters; no mean men could have sons such as you are."
        So he spoke, and taking in his hands the fat beef loin              65
which had been given as his choice portion, he set it before them.
They put their hands to the good things that lay ready before them .
But when they had put away their desire for eating and drinking ,
then Telemachos talked to the son of Nestor, leaning
his head dose to his, so that none of the others might hear him:              70

The underscored lines are those conventionally a part of the Feasting theme, and may be compared with corresponding verses in Book 1 or any of the other instances of Feasting in the poem. But apart from these core actions that identify the pattern as a compositional unit and carry with them larger traditional connotations, numerous context-specific details help to focus this scene and distinguish its singularity against the backdrop of the generic unit. In Book 4 the guests are not merely welcomed but honored, both with Menelaos's cordial greeting fulfilling the ritual of Homeric hospitality and with his gesture of placing the loin section in front of Telemachos and Peisistratos. Even the whispered speech that follows this scene contrasts directly with Telemachos's earlier conversation with Mentor.[52] In Book 1 the talk was of the presumptuousness of the suitors and general disarray of the Ithakan household, while in Book 4 the same Telemachos can only wonder at the magnificence of the household in which he is such an honored guest.

These two instances of the theme serve as an example of the plasticity of a pattern that, although it consists of several discrete actions and not a few precisely repeated lines, can still be shaped not just to fit but to aesthetically embody quite disparate narrative situations. And, as noted above in respect


to the Bath and Greeting, the scenes draw their power as much from the genetic traditional matrix of ideas and phraseology as from the unassociated actions and lines that individualize them. It is the combination of the genetic and particular, the traditional and the context-specific,[53] that underlies the Homeric aesthetic.

Thus the narrative pattern of Feasting proves to consist of a set of discrete, self-contained actions that cohere in a definite series and sequence. Each of these actions is appropriate to a quite elegant feast, and the description as a whole takes on a traditional resonance that can be heard in each occurrence. Nonetheless, each instance also includes a number of actions and lines that, although they are in themselves traditional, are also not conventionally associated with this narrative pattern. As in the examples from Books 1 and 4 discussed above, the combination of the generic mold and the particularizing actions produces an individual, context-sensitive scene that resonates against the timeless pattern of Feasting. The outrages of the suitors are ever more apparent against this traditional background, and the order and hospitality of Menelaos's splendid feast are likewise foregrounded. This is the kind of compositional flexibility and traditional connotation available in the narrative structure of Feasting.

From the idea-pattern we turn now to our second question` that concerning the nature of the phraseology used to express those ideas. For the purposes of this analysis, I have chosen the occurrence of the theme from Book 1. In what follows I shall examine selected lines from the passage quoted above, with special attention to their conventional use and deployment in the Odyssey .[54] Thus we shall be looking both at some verses conventionally associated with Feasting and at others that are not so bound, the object being to assess the role of verbal correspondence in the dynamics of this Homeric theme.

Line 125 is a situation-specific rather than a generic line; that is, it serves a narrative purpose unassociated with Feasting. Nonetheless, like others in its category, it reveals a traditional heritage in the highly recurrent phrases hôs eipôn (thirty-five instances in the Odyssey , all at this position) and Pallas Athênê (eighteen instances, all at this position). The clue to line 127 lies in the fact


that all five occurrences of kiona are as part of the phrase, or composite "word," pros kiona makrên/-on . In the former configuration, the phrase ends with a longum and occurs only at 12 (2 × ), while in the latter it terminates in a breve and occurs only at 91/2 (3 ×). As would be expected from our findings in chapter 4, the second of these possibilities, which features a blocked C caesura,[55] participates in the more stable second-hemistich configuration (pros kiona makron ereisas , 3 ×). One of these three formulaic occurrences, 17.29, helps to describe Telemachos's standing of his spear by the pillar on his arrival home and might thus be suspected of being associated with the idea of feasting as in Book 1. But, on the evidence of other instances of the thematic pattern and of the detachability of this action from those that follow it, I would argue that the idea and phraseology of 1.127 are not thematically associated with Feasting.[56]

At line 129 we encounter an example of a formulaic phrase with applicability to a variety of narrative situations. The epithet talasiphronos is restricted to Odysseus and to position 8 in the hexameter, where the noun-epithet combination occurs a total of eleven times in the Odyssey . This placement blocks the A caesura and creates a following adonean, with the result that a large variety of two-syllable increments precede the formula and a similarly large variety of clausulae follow it. And although there is evidence of one whole-line phrase (1.87 = 5.31), we find no trace of other more extensive phraseological relatives. Line 131 , in contrast, can boast an interesting range of formulaic kin in the poem. The entire line is repeated verbatim twice in Book 10 (lines 315 and 367), with the only change being one of inflection (gen. s. kalou daidaleou ). Likewise, the second hemistich recurs in other combinations (4.136; cf. 19.57). But what is most telling about this line is the fact that both 10.315 and 10.367 are preceded by lines that also describe the seating of the protagonist, which, as we have seen, is an action intermediary between Bath and Feast, or at least associated with the one if the other is not part of the story at that point.[57] This correspondence thus serves as an example of optional ways to express a given traditional idea, that is, of partial flexibility of actual diction. While 1.131 cannot be shown to be an integral part of the Feasting pattern, its action, though separate, is traditionally associated with the onset of the theme.[58]


Line 135 is unrelated to the action of the Feasting theme, so its recurrence at 3.77 must be ascribed to the shared feature of Telemachos's asking about his lost father, an inquiry perfectly appropriate to the exchange of information that customarily takes place during such an event (but that is not part of the thematic pattern). Other clues that this near-whole-line formula does not participate in the particular narrative structure under consideration include the fact that in Book 3 it actually follows rather than precedes the main action of the feast. The role of sequence, as illustrated above, is important in Homeric patterns. Additionally, in Book 3 this line is necessarily enjambed with what precedes and unnecessarily enjambed with what follows, while in Book 1 the verse is unnecessarily enjambed with what precedes and not enjambed at all with what follows.

No such variance marks the next five lines, 136-40 , which make up the heart of the feasting theme. As documented above, these lines express discrete actions: a maidservant brings water for washing (136-37), a table is placed before guest(s) and host (138), and a housekeeper provides bread and other foodstuffs (139-40). Each of these actions occurs in all six manifestations of Feasting in the Odyssey , in the same order and precisely the same diction. No lines are added to or interspersed in this series, and the group of lines may accurately be termed a unit in itself. Lines 141-42 , repeated verbatim and in the same position in Book 4, may also be considered a part of the same core. They express an associated action—a carver passes out meat and golden cups[59] —and, in the two cases in which they appear, contribute to the formarion of a seven-line version of the core unit in this theme.

The fact that this ordered sequence of discrete but (both socioculturally and traditionally) related actions can take two forms, one of five and the other of seven lines, may at first seem curious. The conventional explanation, of course, would posit a synchronic flexibility in the unit, with a basic kernel and some optional additions. But this kind of explanation misrepresents the traditional character of this multiform. Like the collection of lines whose formulaic "core" cannot be unearthed, this kind of thematic variance cannot be rationalized by a simplex/variation model. All six forms of this inner sequence—whether with five lines or seven—are equally legitimate manifestations of the traditional idea-pattern. Just as formulaic phraseology cannot be reduced to schemata but must be understood in terms of traditional rules that underlie formulaic structure, so the recurrence of these lines must be seen as an aggregation of ideas whose bound, invariant phraseology happens to reflect that aggregation monolithically. If the carver is not a part of any given Feast, the scene


is no less a Feast for his absence. And there is no reason to view the five-line sequence as "lesser" or "apocopated," any more than we would characterize a hemistich (rather than a whole-line) formula as "lesser." No matter which form it takes, this group of ideas remains the kernel of the Feasting theme and thus offers to the poet both its compositional utility and an opportunity for particularized elaboration on a generic and highly resonant multiform.

Line 145 presents an example of an idea that can logically attach itself to scenes of feasting, but that does not seem to be regularly associated with this particular theme.[60] Exact repetitions occur at 3.389, a version of greeting or wine drinking different from that examined above, and at 24.385, an abbreviated feast at Laertes' home. Five additional instances of the second hemistich, kata klismous te thronous te , combine with different partners, and their distribution and placement are interesting. Three of these occurrences (17.86, 17.179, and 20.249) take the whole-line form inline imageinline image ("they laid down their mantles along the chairs and benches") and introduce the action of laying down robes before the bath. In 10.233 the hemistich appears just before the fateful, enchanting feast served by Kirke, and at 15.134 it is part of Menelaos's festive meal for Telemachos and Peisistratos. Only in the last of these instances is the hemistich associated with the theme under examination.

Although we may be tempted to include line 145, or at least its second part, in Feasting on the premise that, like 141-42, it plays a role in the traditional group of ideas associated with the event, I would contend that the verse and its parts are more generally (and thus non-thematically) associated with feasts and baths. Their occurrence at 1.145 and 15.134, in other words, may be more accurately traced to the ubiquitousness—and compositional utility—of the "seating" idea that we first encountered during our study of the Bath theme. At this point the major and characteristic actions of the Feast have been carried out for Mentor's benefit, and with this second "seating" line (cf. 1.131) the arrogant suitors enter and begin a second and quite uncharacteristic dinner of their own, the untraditional nature of which stands in marked contrast to the ritual of hospitality and guestship embodied in the Feasting theme.

Other traditional diction not conventionally associated with this theme but with attached structures of its own includes lines 146 and 148 . In Book 1 only these two lines occur, but in Books 3 (preparatory to a libation being poured


before going to bed) and 21 (preparatory to the disguised Odysseus asking for the bow, lines 270-73) a four-line sequence repeats nearly verbatim:[61]

inline image

The heralds poured water over their hands to wash with,
and the young men filled the mixing bowls with wine for their drinking,
and passed to all, after they had offered a drink in the goblet.
But when they had poured, and drunk, each as much as he wanted,

Once again we have a typical mix of phraseology, with considerable flexibility in the make-up of the multi-line unit. And although this group of lines is not thematically linked to the Fearing theme, its general applicability to various kinds of ritual events makes it a frequent enough companion of ideas and phraseology that are traditionally bound to Feasting.[62]

The theme comes to a formal close with lines 149-50 , which appear in four of six instances. First the guest(s) and host lay their hands on the food brought before them; the second line, always a dependent clause that leads into a new section of the narrative, indicates that the diners have "thrown off the eros" of eating and drinking. Quite clearly, because of both the recurrence and the nature of these complementary actions, we must interpret them as part of the Footing theme. But, as with colonic or hemistich phrases that recur both in their simplex forms and as part of larger combinations, these same lines have an identity outside of Feasting. In addition to the thematic instances, the first line, for example, appears seven times in the Odyssey , always verbatim. Six of these are associated with feasting or at least eating of some kind, and range from the meal of the gods offered to Odysseus by Kalypso (5.200) to the much humbler repast in Eumaios's hut (16.54); the seventh (4.218) is preparatory to the washing of hands and pouring of a libation at Menelaos's home.[63] The important point here is that, whether or not the context is that of the theme


we have been examining, this line and the action it expresses are associated with feasting scenes of some sort.[64]

Closure of feasting scenes may involve both lines 149 and 150, as in five cases in addition to the thematic occurrences, or it may be accomplished simply by the latter member of the pair, as in six other instances.[65] No matter what the configuration, however, it is important to note that closure of a feast is virtually the sole function of both of these lines and, further, that the Feasting theme proper uses them both in four of six occurrences. This distribution then begs the question of how the thematic occurrences in Books 7 and 10 reach closure, since neither typical line is observed at their terminations. In the former case, Feasting is augmented with Alkinoos's instructions to mix a wine bowl, which in turn leads to the king's speech about helping his guest, Odysseus's reply, and the narrative equivalent of the more familiar closure (7.228). Likewise, in Book 10 the Feast is interrupted, as discussed above, and formulaically unrelated but narratively equivalent lines again end the action (10.469-70).

Lint 152 presents another possibility for formulaic irony. Its second hemistich, ta gar t' anathêmata daitos , seems quite appropriate to its position in Book 1, although it would be difficult to argue on available evidence that the idea encoded in this hemistich ("these things [singing and dancing] are the glories of the feast") is thematically associated with Feasting. In its only other occurrence (21.430), this same hemistich appears in a related verse with slightly different syntax: inline image. This latter line and the two that precede it refer, of course, to the "feast" of blood and revenge that Odysseus has planned for his "guests" the suitors. But we need not posit a non-traditional kind of irony in this passage, for once the poetic association of this final feast of the suitors with the traditional idea of the Feast has been made, the association through actual phraseology is natural and institutionalized. The convergence of slaughter and dining, in other words, takes place by means of the poetic melding of ideas that, being associated within the tradition with certain phraseology, then find expression in a particularly poignant and ironic way.


That this association of ideas is more than a momentary turn of phrase is evident from the terrible, and prefigurative, feast of Book 20. In this last sharing of food and drink before the wrath of Odysseus takes over in the next book, the portrait of the arrogant, presumptuous suitors modulates horribly:

In the suitors Pallas Athene              345
stirred up uncontrollable laughter, and addled their thinking.
Now they laughed with jaws that were no longer their own.
The meat they ate was a mess of blood, their eyes were bursting
full of tears, and their laughter sounded like lamentation.

The prophet Theoklymenos explicitly makes the traditional connection that Odysseus repeats in capsule form at lines 21.428-30, reading the prefiguration of inescapable carnage and death in the aberrant scene before him. Whatever the source of the linkage, and it may well predate even the Odyssey story, it joins a traditional association to the revenge that the story-pattern would lead one to expect, and does so in a memorable and moving fashion.

In summary, our example analyses of Bath, Greeting, and Feasting have illustrated that thematic structure in the Odyssey cannot be forced into a single narrow definition or a restrictive category. Traditional narrative pattern manifests itself in different ways—sometimes in an ordered and tightly knit series of discrete actions (as in parts of the Bath and Feasting multiforms) and sometimes in a looser aggregation of general outlines that leave more room for individualized variation (as in the Greeting). Even when the actions are discrete and ordered, however, there is always the opportunity for shaping the generic commonplace to its context, as the comparison of feasts in Books 1 and 4 has shown. From the point of view of idea-pattern, then, our conclusion about the Homeric theme must be that the consistency with which the narrative superstructure is observed from instance to instance varies with the individual theme. Some units are simply more focused than others, no doubt for compositional reasons. But whether a given theme or type-scene tends more toward the "fixed" or the "flexible" end of the spectrum, it carries with it both compositional utility and aesthetic referentiality.

The other chief aspect of thematic structure, verbal correspondence among instances of a given multiform, also varies from one theme to the next. We have seen that Greeting has no particular phraseological component, the only conventionally associated diction being at the level of two single words.[66] However, the core actions of the Bath are expressed in formulaic language, as are the major ideas of Feasting; of course, in both these latter cases we find many additional, interspersed lines that do not repeat from instance to


instance, since the ideas they express are not traditionally associated with Bath and Feasting. In addition, our analyses have also revealed that the "particularizing" verses, those that suit the generic mold to its narrative position, arc themselves quite as traditional as any other lines in Homer. In concert with the findings in chapter 4, we discovered that these lines cannot always be shown to be formulaic in the classic sense, but that they arc consistently structured in accordance with traditional rules. Indeed, this last point also means that there exists both bound and unbound phraseology in the Odyssey , that is, that some diction is exclusively tied to one thematic structure, some is tied to one or more narrative events but not necessarily to a particular theme, and some is largely free of thematic association.

Thus it appears that the best explanation of Homeric thematic structure, and therefore the truest basis for aesthetic inquiry, is the positing not of a single model but of a spectrum of traditional narrative patterning. Themes in the Odyssey vary in the consistency of both narrative structure and verbal correspondence; by conceiving of this dimension of traditional structure as a spectrum, it becomes possible to sense the compositional utility and aesthetic power of themes or type-scenes without having either to eliminate certain examples or to erect over-elaborate taxonomies that separate patterns which should be considered together. In the end, such a spectrum will also furnish the key to aesthetic interpretation, because it will rationalize the differences among narrative multiforms in Homeric tradition and refocus our attention on the continuity of traditional narrative structure.


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