At Odyssey 18.163, achreion is best etymologized as being derived
from achri "until". There is thereby an explicit indication
that Penelope is "biding her time" when she appears before the
Suitors. Subsequently, at 19.250, 23.94-95, 23.206, and 24.346, there
are four references to recognition. Against the perspective of Linear B,
a Bronze Age writing system, "read" emerges as a potentially
defining nuance for forms of anagigno*sko* "recognize" in
these passages. One of the four, 23.94-95, has regularly been considered
from a perspective of non-recognition; however, agno*saske, the verb
form which supposedly indicates this, is unparalleled in Homer. It is
therefore reasonable to consider reading aggno*saske, viz., a form, with
apocope, of anagigno*sko*. Corroborating the importance of Mycenaean
Greek for the Odyssey are various Iliad parallels, especially the ivory
simile associated with the wounding of Menelaos at Il. 4.139-147; this
resonates both with various Knossos tablets which combine ivory and
crimson and with Od. 23.200-201, describing how Odysseus's and
Penelope's bed was decorated. Finally, book 24 rounds out the
treatment of recognition and suggests an identification of Aktoris, who
had been mentioned at 23.228, as Dolios' wife.
1. The Meaning of achreion at Od. 18.163.
At 18.163, Penelope laughs achreion just before speaking (164-68)
of her intention to appear before the Suitors. Achreion, which appears
also at Il. 2.269, is pretty clearly a neuter adjective used
adverbially. Forms of the word also occur at Hesiod, Works and Days, 403
and in various later passages, in most of which an interpretation as a
compound of a- (negative prefix) with chreos (Homeric chreios)
"need, needful matter, business matter, debt" seems likely;
correspondingly, "useless," "unprofitable," and
"helpless" are representative of the definitions offered by
LSJ (Liddell-Scott-Jones) for achrelos.
At Od. 18.163, though, "uselessly" seems out of place.
Instead, something like "anticipatory glee," mentioned by
Hewitt (1927-28, 441) and cited with apparent approbation by Levine
(1983, 174), seems better. Such a nuance would fit much better with our
hearing or reading the situation in terms of Penelope's realizing,
from the Stranger's actions in book 17 (cf. Vlahos's
discussion) that he is really Odysseus, who has finally retuned home.
But how could such a nuance for achreion be etymologically
justified? As far as I know, the suggestion has not been previously
made, but I submit that there is a connection of this word with achri
"until". The only complication would be the phonological
development of -i- to -ei-, and for this a good parallel is provided by
the place-name Ampheia. Pausanias (second century CE), in his
Description of Greece, at 4.5.9, lines 3 and 7, describes Ampheia as
lying on the border between Laconia and Messenia. Consequently, a
derivation of the name from amphi "around / on both sides" and
a corresponding meaning on the order of "Border Town" seems
plausible. With a comparable derivation from achri "until,"
the adjective achreios will mean "waiting until / biding one's
There is, to be sure, an alternative derivative amphion from amphi,
with a sense of "garment, clothing" (i.e., something that is
around its wearer). In view of (1) the existence of this form and (2)
the fairly ubiquitous conflation of -ei- and -i- in post-Classical
Greek, it might be thought that Pausanias's Ampheia is some sort of
mistake for a more "correct" Amphia. The genuineness of the
spelling with the diphthong, though, is supported by the appearance of
Ampheia in a list of formations in -ei- given by the ancient grammarian
Herodian, de prosodia catholica, 277.20.
2. Other Uses of achreios.
It is also a fairly straightforward matter to explain the pervasive
post-Homeric use of achreios as "useless." In Homer, there are
four occurrences of achri(s) and only two of an alternative word for
"until," viz., mechri(s). The pattern of distribution is
sharply the reverse, though, in other archaic writers. Through the sixth
century BCH, TLG (Thesaurus Linguae Graecae) gives only four additional
occurrences of achri(s) "until," but 61 other occurrences of
mechri(s) "until." Inasmuch as achri was evidently becoming a
more or less obsolete form, the usage of achreios can readily have been
displaced from achri in post-Homeric times and instead associated with
Despite a preponderance of instances, though, in which achreios
fairly clearly means "useless" or the like, there are also a
couple of post-Homeric passages in which a different analysis is likely.
In Aeschylus's Prometheus Bound, the title character refers to
Typhon with the word achreion. (2) The immediate context
(Prometheus's and others' punishment by Zeus) might suggest
that "useless" or "helpless" would be perfect here,
and Grene so translates achreion (italics added to highlight the word):
The original trilogy itself, though, included Prometheus's
release--which must constitute, in some sense, his victory over Zeus. In
connection with Typhon too, a comparably more positive treatment is
evident within Prometheus Bound itself, inasmuch as the next few lines
go on to state that Typhon's pent-up rage will, on occasion, break
out in a volcanic eruption, described in lines 367-72. In view of this,
then, one could recast Grene's translation as follows (suggested
change in italics):
Still another Attic passage involves the compound achreogelo*s, in
which -gelo*s must be connected with the stem of geldo*
"laugh." (3) It thus parallels Od. 18.163, in which the
reference is to Penelope's laughing in an achreion fashion.
According to LSJ, achreogelo*s means "untimely laughing." At
fr. 360 of the comic dramatist Cratinus, though, the context appears to
be one of the dramatist's appealing to his audience as appreciative
critics of his poetic skill. To refer to presumably sophisticated
critics as laughing at the wrong time seems pointless. Instead, Cratinus
is much more likely to be saying that his audience is composed of
critics who are biding their time until his play emerges victorious in
the dramatic competition at Athens and so gets the last laugh at the
expense of other, inferior plays.
3. The Rest of the Homeric Evidence.
Even more important as evidence for the meaning of achreion at Od.
18.163 is a Scholion on Il. 2.269b: epi de tes Pe*nelope*s
"achreion de gilasse," epiplaston kai hupokekrimenon mechri
tod ta chelle* motion dianoigein. "But in connection with
Penelope's achreion de gelasse, 'feigned and made up until
only opening the lips."' (4) In this comment, the phrase
"feigned and made up" would be entirely compatible with the
idea of "biding one's time" as a translation of
Penelope's achreion de gelasse; in fact, the Scholion actually goes
on to include mechri "until," which is regularly used in
post-Homeric times as the equivalent of Homeric achri.
The Scholion on Il. 2.269 appears to contrast the Iliad and Odyssey
usages of achreion, assigning the meaning "feigned and made
up" only to the Odyssey. Both Homeric passages, though, can be
considered from the same general perspective. The Iliad setting is that
Thersites has been railing against Agamemnon. Finally, Odysseus
intervenes. He beats up Thersites, who then looks achreion and sits
down. Murray and Lattimore respectively translate this as "with
helpless looks" or "looking helplessly." The immediately
following line (Il. 2.270), however, states that the Achaian army
remains bothered, even as Thersites has been silenced. Like Prometheus
Bound, then, in which there is a reference to a volcanic eruption in
connection with Typhon, we may hear the Iliad passage in terms of the
Achaians' being afraid that Thersites is somehow "biding his
time" as he glares at them.
There is also a connection of the Iliad passage with laughter, just
as both Od. 18.163 and the Cratinus fragment are so connected. As my
student W. Gerald Heverly points out, the Iliad scene has been
introduced in terms of Thersites's liking to create situations that
he thought would be laughable--geloiion (2.215). As the scene develops,
this point seems completely sidetracked, from Thersites's point of
view, since the Achaians' laughter is directed at him (2.270),
rather than at his target, Agamemnon. Despite this seeming denouement,
though, it would still be possible, through the adverb achreion, to
allude to Thersites's imagining that he will have the last laugh on
some future occasion.
4. Penelope Recognizes Signs in Book 19.
Od. 19.249-250 reports as follows concerning Penelope's
reaction to "Aithon", the disguised Odysseus:
Murray's translation is as follows:
Since the exact phrasing of the second line, 19.250, reappears at
23.206--a passage that many critics take to refer to Penelope's
definitively recognizing Odysseus--the passage in book 19 might also
seem to refer to this. Mention of the two passages together, though,
raises a seeming paradox: If there is recognition in book 19, why would
Penelope need to recognize Odysseus for what would then be a second time
in book 23? (5)
5. Homer and Writing.
As a means of dealing with this seeming paradox, it will be helpful
to consider Homer's stance vis-a-vis writing--a point that too
often gets lost when one approaches this author from the vantage point
of oral tradition.
At Il. 6.145-211, we hear how the wife of the Argive king Proitos
made the false accusation that Bellerophon had sexually assaulted her.
(Actually, she had propositioned Bellerophon, and he had rebuffed her.)
Believing his wife, but regarding Bellerophon as his guest and hence
under his protection while in Argos, Proitos sends Bellerophon off to
Lykia with a folded tablet, on which there are some se*mata lugra
"baleful / destructive signs." Upon his arrival, Bellerophon
is straightway sent on various dangerous tasks, pretty clearly as a
result of the Lykian king's perusal (6.176-178) of the tablet.
(Bellerophon, though, survives all these tasks and eventually the king
makes him his son-in-law.)
The ancient Scholiasts' first suggestion in dealing with Il.
6.168-169 is in terms of grdmmata "letters," implying,
apparently, something on the order of the Classical Greek alphabet;
however, they also go on to mention zo*idia "pictures (of
animals)" and eido*la "pictures." Eustathius, in his
Iliad commentary (2.272), specifically rejects an interpretation in
terms of grdmmata, as being anachronistic for Homer, and instead focuses
on the Scholiasts' interpretation in terms of zo*idia or eido*la.
Likewise, in discussing Il, 7.189, in which various Achaian warriors put
their own mark on some token, Eustathius once again (2.437) specifically
says that grdmmata would be inappropriate in a Homeric context. For a
long time, the line of thought that was suggested by Eustathius
dominated modern treatment of the Iliad. Instead of real writing,
scholars had in mind something more like the buffalo hides, decorated by
American Indians and found in various museums, which have pictures
representing the major events of one year or another. Supposedly,
Proitos sent something of this sort along with Bellerophon.
Such "picture-writing," though, is pretty hard to imagine
in connection with the Bellerophon story. The buffalo hides just
mentioned, for example, seem to have functioned more as mnemonic devices
for one individual than as a means of conveying a message from one
person to another. In the case of the Iliad, that would work in book
7--but not in book 6. Accordingly, with the development, in the second
half of the twentieth century, of a better view of the history of Greek
writing, Willcock 1978 suggests that Il. 6.168-69 incorporates a
"dim memory, preserved in the poetic tradition, of the Mycenaean
syllabic script." (6)
The Mycenaean script to which Willcock refers is Linear B. In his
early twentieth-century excavations at Knossos in Crete, Sir Arthur
Evans identified two types of second millennium BCE writing. He called
the earlier of these systems Linear A (in the opinion of most, this
remains undeciphered), and he used the term "Linear B" for the
later system. In the early 1950s, this was deciphered as an early form
of Greek by Michael Ventris. (7)
Linear B utilizes a separate, distinct symbol for each syllable.
Some readers will be familiar with such a system of writing as
manifested by Japanese. Sequoyah's system for writing Cherokee is
also somewhat similar in basis. For these languages, a syllabic system
of notation works fairly well, and this was probably also the case with
the non-Greek language for which Linear A, the predecessor of Linear B,
was devised. For Greek, though, quite a few problems arise, inasmuch as
the only syllables that are specifically represented in Linear B are (1)
vowels and occasionally diphthongs and (2) sequences of consonant plus
vowel or diphthong. E.g., the five vowels a, e, i, o, u and the d-
series, da, de, di, do, du are written with ten different symbols all
together. Also, a few symbols seem to represent CCV (consonant +
consonant + vowel) combinations, such as pte. There was, however, no way
of representing most syllable-final consonants. As a result, there is
quite a bit of potential ambiguity. For example, the combination that is
regularly transcribed by modern scholars as pa-te, can be pate*r
"father" (so PY An607) or pantes "all" (so KN
Since Linear B had long gone out of use by the eighth century BCE,
Homer can scarcely have known specific details, such as the preceding,
concerning it. Another syllabic script, though, was still in use in his
time. The Cypriote syllabary is not as familiar to most Classicists as
Linear B is. Quite a few signs, though, are very similar in the two
syllabaries. For example, for na, pa, po, se, ti, and we the Linear B
and Cypriote forms are very similar. (9) In view of these and other
similarities, there must have been some continuous tradition of syllabic
writing in Cyprus from the Bronze Age to the early Hellenistic period,
when the Cypriote syllabary finally ceased to be used. We can therefore
imagine a Cypriote visitor to Ionia around 725 BCE showing off his own
kind of writing to Homer, as something much more ancient than the
alphabet, which was then first coming into use in the Greek world.
Moreover, our hypothetical visitor from Cyprus could have quite
legitimately referred to his script as a heritage from the heroic past
and so have vivified for Homer the "dim memory ... of the Mycenaean
syllabic script" that Willcock suggests.
6. The Meaning(s) of the Verb anagigno*sko*.
The ordinary Classical Greek way of expressing the concept
"read" is with the compound verb anagigno*sko*. The literal
meaning of this is "know again" (gigno*sko* "know,"
combined with the prefix ana-), and the word itself is attested from an
early period with the meaning "recognize." The secondary
meaning "read," though, is regularly thought to be first
attested in the fifth century BCE (Pindar, Olympian 10.1); for this, see
the entry s.v. anagigno*sko* in LSJ.
The semantic development from "know again / recognize" to
"read" would, however, fit Linear B better than it would
alphabetic writing, which, in most of the Greek world, had completely
replaced the ancient syllabary by Pindar's time. In view of the
frequent ambiguity in Linear B, a typical scenario for working with it
must have been that an individual scribe would go back to his own ledger
to corroborate or "know again" the details concerning the
personnel on call somewhere, or what stores of goods or equipment were
available or were supposed to be distributed, or whatever, rather than
that another individual, unfamiliar with the details, would read the
document, getting information from it from scratch, so to speak.
Correspondingly, the extension of meaning of the compound of ana +
gigno*sko* ("know again") to the semantic area
"read" seems more appropriate to dealing with Linear B than to
alphabetic writing, which is more comprehensive in representing
consonant clusters, etc. (10)
7. "Reading" at Od. 19.250, etc.
An early date for "read" as a meaning for anagigno*sko*
also provides a solution to the paradox, previously noted, that arises
from juxtaposing Od. 19.250 and 23.206. In both passages, Penelope could
be reading / pondering something, instead of actually recognizing
anything. I.e., "Aithon"-Odysseus presents information which
Penelope ponders, and correspondingly, in book 23, Penelope will somehow
weigh what Odysseus has said; it is not a matter of her actually
recognizing Odysseus on either occasion. With this in mind, then, one
could rewrite Murray's translation of 19.249-250 as follows (change
in the second line is indicated in italics):
Besides fitting the overall setting in both 19.250 and 23.206, a
Linear B/ Mycenaean background for the scene in book 19 is also
suggested by the fact that various tablets (such as KN Ld571, included
at Colvin 2007: 73-74) refer to stores of clothing (pa-we-a2 or pa-we-a
"cloaks, etc."), just as "Aithon" has focused on
Odysseus's clothing at 19.225-26 and 232-35. Although not knowing
specifically of such tablets, Homer can have been familiar with
traditions, stretching back hundreds of years, concerning the opulence
of Bronze Age palaces as manifested in their rich sartorial resources.
Even more specifically, various tablets refer to clothing as
ke-se-nu-wi-ja (so KN Ld573, Ld574, Ld585, and Ld649+8169) or
ke-se-ne-wi-ja (so KN Ld649+8169). Both terms apparently mean
"appropriate for guests" (cf. Ventris and Chadwick 1973: 318
and 487) and so attest to the distribution of clothing to guests--a
point raised by "Aithon" at 19.236-240-as a feature of
Mycenaean culture. Moreover, the "meeting" of
"Aithon" and Odysseus, recounted in book 19, took place at
Knossos--which happens to be the place of provenance for these various
clothing tablets. This point is not, perhaps, entirely serendipitous,
inasmuch as, in the traditions available to Homer, Knossos may very
naturally have featured prominently, as a preeminent example of Bronze
Before we leave consideration of book 19, we should perhaps glance
at the widely-held assumption that the scribes who were skilled in
Linear B were male. For example, the cover of Chadwick's more or
less popularizing 1976 work, The Mycenaean World, depicts a bearded
scribe. If this sort of mindset was also Homer's, should we find
him ascribing the "reading" of "signs" to a woman?
There is not, I would say, any real difficulty. In fact, at Od.
18.266-268, Homer has already prepared us for 19.250 through
Penelope's report that Odysseus had turned over the management of
the household to her; accordingly, it is entirely reasonable to
associate her, in Book 19, with the kind of record-keeping that one
finds in Mycenaean palaces.
8. Penelope's Stance at 23.94-95.
After the slaughter of the Suitors, Penelope goes down to the great
hall to look at Odysseus, perusing the situation as follows:
Lattimore translates this as follows:
About ten lines later, though, at 23.106-107, Penelope says that
she cannot look at Odysseus (oude ti ... dunamai .. /. eis opa idesthai
enantion). This seems in direct contradiction with the verb esidesken
(Lattimore's "she would look at him") in 23.94. Moreover,
Odysseus appears to confirm Penelope's own words (as contrasted
with the bard's previous report at 23.94) when he says (23.115-116)
that Penelope fails to recognize him because of his foul clothing.
The solution to the apparent contradiction lies, I submit, in
For the form immediately preceding esidesken in line 94, most
manuscripts have eno*pidio*s, but some have eno*padio*s. The latter
reading, although occurring in only a few manuscripts, has regularly
been preferred by editors, and it was accordingly printed at the
beginning of this Section. Apparently, editors' preference for it
arises from the existence of various other eno*pad- words in later epic,
such as eno*padls "before / in one's face" in Apollonius,
Argonautica 4.354 and eno*padon (similar meaning) in Quintus of Smyrna,
Post-Homerica 2.84. (12) There is not, however, any intrinsic
"correctness" about eno*padio*s itself, inasmuch as neither
this form nor eno*pidi*s appears anywhere in ancient Greek literature
except at Od. 23.94 and in Scholiastic comments on the Homeric passage.
At one stroke, we can (1) correlate 23.94 quite closely with
23.106-07, and yet (2) work in terms of the predominating manuscript
tradition in 23.94. Dividing the alternative (and better attested)
reading eno*pidio*s into two words, we get enop' idio*s, with two
perfectly reasonable Homeric forms. Inasmuch as the text was originally
written without word breaks or diacritical marks, the change is pretty
much just a matter of typography. In essence, it would simply mean
retaining the reading ENOPIDIOS, which must lie behind the eno*pidio*s
of most of our manuscripts, and correspondingly dismissing ENOPADIOS,
which is represented (as eno*padio*s ) in only a few manuscripts, as an
ancient, but essentially spurious emendation. (13)
Both enop' and idio*s make good sense as Homeric forms. Enopa
"before/ in one's face" (for which enop' will be a
regular elision) is paralleled at Il. 15.320, where the reference is to
the god Apollo looking straight at the Danaans (Greeks). (14) Equally,
the adjective idios "private, one's own" appears at Od.
3.82 and 4.314 in reference to Telemachos's coming on private
business, not public, to Pylos and Sparta respectively. Combining the
Iliad and Odyssey uses, the effect of enop' idio*s at Od. 23.94
will be that Penelope, while indeed "looking directly"
(enop') at Odysseus, is doing so "privately" (idio*s).
She could therefore subsequently speak at line 107 of being unable to
look at Odysseus, without fearing that anyone in her audience would
regard this as a false statement. We, the bard's audience, though,
should know that she is somehow prevaricating.
9. The Verb in 23.95.
The second line of the passage quoted at the beginning of the
preceding section apparently indicates that, although part of
Penelope's activity, indicated by allote "sometimes" in
line 94, was the observation of Odysseus's countenance, at other
times (second allote, in line 95), she "kept on not
recognizing" the stranger because of his clothes. Stanford 1962:
2.394, for example, says "sometimes she failed to recognize him
because he wore vile clothes," Heubeck (1992, 322) uses the word
"causal" of the participle echonta, and Murray's
translation "for that he had upon him mean raiment" likewise
includes a causal sense.
Lattimore's translation (previously cited), on the other hand,
uses just the prepositional phrase "in the foul clothing he
wore". Although this may seem unduly imprecise, some justification
for Lattimore's seeming vagueness comes in the fact that a causal
nuance at 23.95 seems entirely out of character for Penelope. At
21.205-25, Odysseus had readily convinced Eumaios and Philoitios of his
real identity, underneath the rags he is wearing, and at 22.497-501 the
serving-women likewise have no trouble recognizing him. In light of
these passages, would it not be strange that Penelope should be caused
by something superficial--his clothing--to fail to recognize her
The solution, I suggest, lies in reconsidering the morphology of
agno*saske, found at 23.95. The regular assumption has been that this is
a form of the negative compound agnoieo* "not know, not
recognize." Homer, though, elsewhere always has -oi- before the
tense or mood sign in agnoieo*; see Il. 1.537, 2.807, and 13.28, and Od.
5.78 and 24.218. In view of these other passages, we might expect
agnoie*saske at Od. 23.95, with -oie*- in place of -o*-, if we are
really dealing with the negative compound. An alternative explanation of
the Homeric form that is transmitted to us as agno*saske is by way of
emending to--or rather, reading--aggno*saske. The change results in a
form of anagigno*sko* "recognize / read", with apocope of ana-
to an- and then assimilation to ag- before the following -g-. (A
comparable apocope appears in the Homeric form agkremasasa "hanging
up, suspending", found at Od. 1.440 instead of anakremasasa.) Much
as with my posited change in the preceding line, this is more a matter
of interpreting the letters in the original form of the manuscript,
rather than of emendation per se, inasmuch as a gamma-gamma combination
is likely to have been written originally as a single gamma. (15)
The change would also parallel one proposed for another author by
Wasserstein 1982. As Wasserstein observes, translations of Pindar,
Olympian 13.3 (for which our manuscripts have gno*somai, a form of
gigno*sko* "know") on the order of "I will come to
know" are distinctly awkward. Wasserstein therefore transfers the
alpha at the end of the preceding word to the verb and adds a gamma,
giving aggno*somai, a form of anagigno*sko*. Wasserstein's
resulting translation is as follows (italics added to highlight his
translation of aggno*somai): "As I praise the house thrice
victorious at Olympia, ... I shall also include in the proclamation of
the victor the name of his city, blessed Corinth. ... "The reading
is attractive, and there is also a further point, which Wasserstein does
not make, viz., that "read" would be perfectly reasonable as a
meaning for his restored aggno*somai; i.e., one could change the latter
part of Wasserstein's translation of Olym. 13.3-4 to "I shall
also read the name of the victor's city, blessed Corinth. ...
10. How aggno*saske Fits Into the Odyssey as a Whole.
From the perspective of probably all modern translations of the
poem, an interpretation of Od. 23.95 in terms of apocope (aggno*saske)
instead of alpha-privative may seem a blatantly self-serving attempt to
deal with an obvious stumbling-block to Penelope's "early
recognition" of Odysseus. In fact, it might call to mind the quip,
"What part of 'no' didn't you understand?"
In addition, though, to correlating well with "early
recognition," there is also a more specific connection with the
rest of the Odyssey, if we read aggno*saske at Od, 23.95. Four Books
previously, at 19.250, Penelope was reading the poorly dressed
Aithon-Odysseus's description of his own sumptuous clothing in the
past. Now, in book 23, Penelope would again have good reason to be
reading--trying to comprehend--the same Odysseus's clothing. The
others who were involved in the slaughter of the Suitors (Telemachos,
Eumaios, and Philoitios) have already (22.478) washed off the grime from
the fighting. In tandem with this, Eurykleia, just a few lines later
(22.487-89) tells Odysseus that it would be nemesse*ton "a cause
for indignation" if he does not put on fresh clothes. Evidently, he
does not do so. Telemachos, though, who has already spruced up, must
already be present in the megaron when Penelope comes down to survey the
situation at 23.85, inasmuch as he will speak at 23.97ff. In view of
Telemachos's presence, then, Penelope has the appearance of someone
else, who was, almost as much as Odysseus himself, involved in the
slaughter of the Suitors, against which to be "reading"
Odysseus's squalid appearance at 23.95.
There is also a fairly specific Mycenaean pattern to associate with
Penelope's "reading" Odysseus's clothing at this
point. Several tablets (PY Sa682, Sa790, etc.) record chariot-wheels
that are "worthless"/ "unusable" (no-pe-re-a2,
roughly equivalent to Classical ano*phelea "unprofitable,
useless"). There are also some, such as PY Sa787 and Sa793, that
specify that wheels are pa-ra-ja ( = Classical palaia) "old."
(For both no-pe-re-a2 and pa-raja, cf. Ventris and Chadwick 1973:
374-375 and 519.) There do not seem to be any comparable Linear B
references to "worthless clothing," but the wheel tablets are
sufficient to indicate that both old and even worthless items could be
recorded in Linear B. Especially the latter notation,
"worthless," was, presumably, intended to contrast the present
state of various wheels with their condition in the past, and so report
on what the full, proper complement of usable wheels should be.
Likewise, "worthless clothing" might equally have been part of
a scribe's adumbrating what the full complement of some wardrobe
should be. Transferred to the poetic arena, this will be exactly what
Penelope is doing vis-a-vis Odysseus's clothing at 23.95.
In place of what was cited at the beginning of Section 8, then, I
suggest the following for 23.94-95 as a whole (reanalysis is indicated
by underlining, in both text and translation):
To be sure, Odysseus himself will appear to confirm, just a few
lines later, at 23.115-16, the contrary idea that Penelope fails to
recognize him because of his foul clothing. In answer to this seeming
objection, I would say that Odysseus could be as much taken in by
Penelope's stance, as expressed in the narrative description at
23.94-95 and by what she says at 23.106-07, as modern scholars have
11. The Interchange between Penelope and Odysseus in Book 23.
After Odysseus bathes and puts on fine clothes at 23.153-63,
Penelope somehow tests him (so 23.181). Right off, the presence of
additional testing, immediately following a dramatic improvement in
Odysseus's appearance, indicates that his disreputable clothes, by
themselves, could not have caused Penelope to fail to recognize him at
It is also important to consider how the scene of testing proceeds.
It has regularly been thought to revolve around the immovable nature of
the bed. Actually, though, Odysseus continues to speak for an additional
dozen or so lines, after a group of references to the idea of the bed
being moved (allose at 23.184 and alle*i at 23.186, both meaning
"elsewhere," and metochlisseie "move with a lever or
crowbar" at 23.188), before Homer describes Penelope's
reaction as follows:
In the material leading up to this, Odysseus has described the
construction of the bed (23.189-99), along with mention of its gold,
silver, ivory, and crimson decoration (23.200-01). Although critics
generally focus on the first part of this, I submit that the various
details of construction narrated by Odysseus (how he placed stones
around the bed chamber, smoothed the bed with a plane, bored the holes
for fitting planks to it, etc.) would be more or less irrelevant for
Penelope. All that work almost certainly took place before
Penelope's arrival in Ithake. Instead, the decoration on the bed,
described at 23.200-201, after Odysseus's overall description of
his activities as a carpenter, would be more specifically relevant as
information with which Penelope would be familiar. This decoration is
described as follows:
Once again, there is also important evidence in Linear B. Knossos
tablet Sd4401, in describing i-qi-jo ( = Classical hipplo*, a dual form)
"two horse-chariots", combines e-re-pa-te ( = Classical
elephantet) "[inlaid] with ivory" with po-ni-ki-. The tablet
is broken at this point, but a restoration as po-ni-ki[-jo]
(phoinikio*i) "[painted] purple / crimson / red" seems fairly
straightforward; cf. Ventris and Chadwick (1973, 366) and Colvin (2007,
74-76). There is also another tablet, KN Sd4450, with po-ni-ki-ja, along
with e-re-pa-te. In this tablet, the latter word was erased. This fact,
however, actually makes it all the more important for us. Apparently,
the scribe first wrote po-ni-ki-ja "red"; then, he (or she?)
added e-re-pa-te--more or less unthinkingly--but then realized that the
object which was being catalogued did not, in fact, include ivory. So
reconstructed, the scribe's mistake attests to some
"automatic" association of "red" and
"ivory," and so suggests that this was a traditional
combination and correspondingly something that Homer could allusively
bring in at Od. 23.200-201. (18)
There is also crucial evidence in the Iliad. When Menelaos was
struck by an arrow, blood stained his thighs, like an ivory cheek-piece
for a horse, dyed by a Meionian or Karian woman and stored in a palace:
The artifact described in the simile is exactly parallel to Knossos
tablet Sd4401, with its reference to equine accoutrements, consisting of
ivory dyed red, stored in a palace. It therefore gives us, within
Homer's own oeuvre, the precise sort of traditional source on which
Od. 23.200-01 could draw, as Odysseus mentions ivory first (23.200) and
then, in the next line (23.201), how the associated oxhide thong on the
bed was colored.
12. Ivory and Penelope's Bed.
Probably the best known Homeric passage involving ivory is the
reference at 19.560-69 to gates of horn and ivory, through which dreams
of various sorts pass. In connection with that passage, two recent
articles, Vlahos (2007) and Haller (2009), more or less relegate ivory
to the background, developing instead an association of Odysseus with
horn, and so with the bow (made of horn or horns), as what Penelope is
recommending to Odysseus. I agree that Penelope is telling Odysseus that
the bow can lead to fulfillment in dealing with the Suitors.
Additionally, though, we should fill out Penelope's advice with a
complementary and equally important association of the speaker herself
with ivory. In the immediate context, ivory is specifically connected
with deception (so 19.564-65), and when we connect this with Penelope,
the result is an allusion to the fact that she is deceptively concealing
her intention from others, the maidservants, who are still present.
The connection with Penelope is also suggested by the fact that,
after two passages of a different sort in the first half of the poem,
all the other references to ivory have some connection with her. (First,
though, at Od. 4.73, ivory constitutes part of the decoration of
Menelaos's dwelling, and at 8.404, ivory is part of a scabbard.)
The association of Penelope with ivory is initiated at 18.196, as Athena
beautifies Penelope, making her appearance whiter than newly sawn ivory.
Toward the beginning of the next Book, at 19.56, Penelope's
footstool has ivory decoration, and then, after Penelope's mention
of gates of horn and ivory at 19.560-69, when she subsequently follows
through with the bow contest (announced at 19.570-81), part of the key
with which she opens the storeroom to get Odysseus's bow is made of
The next and final ivory passage is Od. 23.200-01, quoted in the
middle of Section 11. Crucial in understanding these two lines are the
temporal specifications that are included in Penelope's subsequent
remarks at Od. 23.225-30. Following the phrase se*mat' ariphradea
katilexas "you (Odysseus) described very evident signs" in
line 225, Penelope refers in lines 228-29 to Aktoris. She alone, along
with Odysseus and Penelope, has seen the signs under consideration. She
is described as follows: (1) Penelope's father sent her with
Penelope when she came here (to Ithake) and (2) she "guarded"
(ehuto) the "doors of the well-built bridal chamber" (thuras
pukinoil thalarnoio). Taken together, the references clearly allude to
Penelope's wedding night, and if we but consider the Iliad, the
imagery of Il. 4.141-47, with blood streaming down Menelaos'
thighs, resonates powerfully with the consummation of Odysseus's
marriage with Penelope, whose appearance had been compared to ivory at
Beyond the basic physical image of Il. 4.141-47, an important
subsidiary point, viz., that many desire the object that is stained with
crimson, but that it is reserved for a king, comes across clearly in
Lattimore's translation. In an Ithakan context, "king"
would of course equate with Odysseus, and at Od. 23.200-01 it would be
appropriate for him to allude to the Iliadic pattern as adumbrating a
crucial dimension of Penelope's relationship with him.
There is also an important additional point that is not so evident
in translation. This is that the artifact in the Iliad passage is stored
en thalamo*i "in an inner room," with the same word that
appears at Od. 23.229 to refer to Penelope's bridal chamber. Of
course, thalamos can be used more generally than it is at Od. 23.229. At
Od. 1.425, for example, the word is used of Telemachos's room and
at 2.348 of the storeroom from which he gets supplies for the journey to
Pylos. Actually, though, in the Iliad, most of the occurrences of
thalamos are in connection with a conjugal bedroom, as for example at
Il. 3. 142,174,382,391, and 423 (various references to Alexandras
[Paris] and Helen). Next, we have the ivory simile in book 4. Then, a
couple of books later, at 6.288, although one might say that thalamon
refers just to the storeroom to which Hekabe goes to get a robe for
Athena's statue, this thalamos is immediately (289-92) described as
containing the rich goods that Paris brought to Troy along with Helen.
Against this pattern, then, the use of thalamos at Il. 4.143 stands out
as somehow different, and so as something that could all the more have
resonated for Homer's audience as they heard Od. 23.200-01.
There is also a potentially significant amphiboly in Od. 23.225,
confirming a poetically allusive analysis of 23.200-01. In its context
at 23.225, the aorist verb katelexas means "you said /
described" (signs), with a derivation from kata (prefix) +
lego*"say." There is, however, another verb stem lech-
"lie, lie down, etc." for which the aorist forms are
homophonous with those of leg-. In Homer, forms of lech- are usually
middle, as with katelekto at Od. 13.75 (Odysseus was lying down on the
Phaiakian ship) or katalexai at 19.44 (Odysseus tells Telemachos to go
to bed), whereas katelexas at Od. 23.225 is active. There are, however,
two active occurrences in the Iliad of the simplex form lego* in a
causative sense "lay down, cause to lie." At Il. 14.252,
Hypnos (Sleep) uses the first singular aorist elexa, saying, "I
caused Zeus to sleep," and at 24.635 Priam, using the imperative
lexon, requests Achilleus to give him a place to sleep. In view of these
Iliad passages, we can correspondingly hear an important subtext at Od.
23.225:The signs to which Penelope refers had been made manifest by
Odysseus, not only through speaking in the present context (stem leg-),
but also through putting to bed in the past (stem lech-).
13. Od. 18.187-96.
Important as background to book 23 is the passage five books
previously, viz., 18.187-96, in which Athena casts sleep over Penelope
and beautifies her by making her whiter than ivory. Upon awakening, her
beauty enhanced by Athena, Penelope says, malakon peri kom'
ekalupsen "soft sleep hid around me" (18.201). The same phrase
(although with first person ekalupsa instead of third person ekalupsen)
appears also at Il. 14.359, and the Iliad passage provides a clearly
sexual resonance for what Penelope says. The Iliadic speaker is Hypnos
"Sleep," speaking of how he poured sleep around Zeus, in
connection with his wife Hera's love-making with him, as stated in
the next line, Il. 14.360. Correspondingly, in the Odyssey, Penelope
refers to soft sleep, and she follows this with the phrase posios
potheousa philoio "longing for a dear husband." (19)
Within 18.201-05, though, there is the seemingly anomalous fact
that, between awakening and speaking of Odysseus, Penelope wishes for
death at Artemis's hands (202-03). A comparable despondency also
appears in book 20, with fundamentally parallel patterning, as Penelope
(1) awakens at 20.56, (2) wishes for swift death at Artemis's hands
at 20.61-65, and (3) speaks of a dream of Odysseus lying beside her at
20.87-90. Often, the passage in book 20 has been seized on by opponents
of Penelope's "early recognition" of Odysseus. Russo, for
example, in presenting a more or less standard commentary on the
Odyssey, observes concerning 20.80 that this passage "confirms the
fact that she has no suspicion that her husband has already returned in
the disguise of the beggar." (20) If one were so inclined,
18.202-204 could likewise be pounced on as evidently inconsistent with
the idea that Penelope had decided at 18.158-163 to appear before the
Suitors because she is, as suggested in Sections 1 and 3, simply
"biding her time", knowing that Odysseus has already returned
The apparent anomaly in Od. 18.202-04 recedes, though, when it is
heard against Il. 4.141-42. In the Iliad, both Agamemnon and Menelaos
are initially frightened (Il. 4.148-82, immediately following the ivory
simile of 4.141-47), but then Menelaos says (4.183-88) that the wound is
clearly not mortal. With this as background, we can hear Penelope's
association with death, as stated at Od. 18.201-05, just after Athena
has made her "whiter than new-sawn ivory," simply in terms of
some momentary fear, followed by more sanguine, hopeful reflection. Two
books later, the hearer or reader, upon encountering a parallel
patterning in book 20, can still have in mind the progression of thought
that was presented at 18.187-205. Likewise, the combination of seemingly
facing physical danger and yet being safe will also be appropriate at
23.200-01, as its reference to ivory and crimson harkens back to the
time of Penelope's marriage.
14. Book 24 As Confirmation and Elucidation of Previous Patterns.
At Od. 24.345-46, the lines that had appeared as 23.205-06 are
repeated, with minimal grammatical change, since the addressee is no
longer Penelope, but instead Laertes, Odysseus' father: (21)
In the section leading up to this, Odysseus had referred (331-35)
to his distinctive scar, and then supplemented this by cataloguing
(336-41) Laertes's transfer of thirteen pear trees, ten apple
trees, and forty fig trees to his son many years before, concluding with
mention of an additional fifty vines (341-44).
Once again, there are Mycenaean parallels, inasmuch as various
tablets deal with trees and vines (cf. Ventris and Chadwick [1973,
272-74]). Moreover, Odysseus's mix of numbers, viz., one odd one
(13) and three different tens (10, 40, and 50), would readily pass
muster in Linear B. At PY Cn04, for example, there is a list of rams,
ewes, and she-goats. Seventeen of the entries are multiples of ten,
ranging from 30 to 180, but eight are a hodge-podge of other numbers,
viz., 54, 91, 27, 44, 24, 73, 163, and 55; cf. Ventris and Chadwick
According to Od. 24.336-44, Laertes first gave some trees and
additionally said that he would give Odysseus 50 vines. The sequence has
not been much commented on. Heubeck (1992, 399,) for example, cites
"336-44" as a single lemma, calling this passage "the
second sema" following the mention of the scar. This overall
procedural matter, though, very well adumbrates an important point about
Odysseus's character, viz., his acquisitiveness.
An interest in material possessions is pretty much a commonplace of
Odyssean criticism. Eustathius, for example, observes at 2.179, in
commenting on Od. 18.281-81, that Odysseus is pleased with
Penelope's acquiring gifts from the Suitors, because he himself had
been similarly concerned about getting gifts from the Phaiakes. Other
instances of Odysseus's evident interest in material possessions
are (1) his reference at 23.357-58 to both additional plundering on his
part and to getting gifts from the Achaians, and (2), within the very
passage under consideration in book 24, his reference (24.331-35) to
visiting Autolykos so as to get gifts which his grandfather had promised
him. In view of passages such as these, then, a plausible deduction from
24.336-44 is that Laertes gave Odysseus various trees, but Odysseus
wanted more, and Laertes therefore said that he would add fifty vines to
the transfer of agricultural property to his son.
15. The Resonances of puthmen elaie*s "trunk of an olive"
Odysseus's acquisitiveness is also an important perspective
against which to consider the previous Book. At Od. 23.204,
Odysseus's concluding statement to Penelope, just before she
reads/recognizes signs, had raised the question of whether some man had
cut the stump of the olive-tree around which he constructed their
marriage-bed. This might seem to introduce, as a jarring subtext here,
some lingering suspicion of Penelope. I submit, though, that that cannot
really be the dominant resonance here--Penelope's virtue is too
well established for it to be a concern. Instead, the phrase
puthmen' elale*s "trunk of an olive" is likely to be
significant, in and of itself. Appearing at Od. 23.204, the phrase has
occurred in two other passages in the Odyssey, both in book 13. At
13.122, it is beside a "trunk of an olive" that the Phaiakes
stow Odysseus's treasure upon conveying him to Ithake, and the
phrase reappears at 13.372, after he and Athena have more securely
hidden this same treasure. In view of these passages, Odysseus's
characteristic acquisitiveness, exemplified in his concern for the
Phaiakian gifts, emerges as an important resonance of the phrase, which,
coming at the very end of Odysseus's speech, immediately precedes
Penelope's reaction, as described in lines 205-06.
To be sure, the events of book 13 are ones that Penelope would not
be specifically familiar with; hence, a captious critic might say that
there is, strictly speaking, no resonance with book 13 for Penelope to
hear at 23.204. Even if absent from Penelope's purview at this
point, though, mention of the Phaiakian gifts reemerges at 23.341 as the
concluding item in Homer's report of Odysseus's report to
Penelope of his adventures and so serves to round out this section of
Also, even more strongly, the acquisitive dimension of
Odysseus's personality is highlighted for Penelope just a few lines
later, after Odysseus has concluded the account of his adventures. At
Od. 23.350-65--which constitutes his last reported communication with
his wife in the poem--Odysseus tells her to remain inside, while he
takes care of things, restoring his possessions to their former extent
(23.356-58). Remarkably, Odysseus winds up his instructions to Penelope
Through the contest of the bow, proposed in book 19 and brought to
fruition in book 21, Penelope has made possible Odysseus's success
against the Suitors. Now, though, he pretty summarily shoves her into
the background as he attends to acquiring additional possessions.
16. The Implications of a Pylos Tablet and the Idalion Bronze for
Pylos tablet Un718, which deals with various contributions of
wheat, wine, cheese, and the like, has do-se "will give" (=
Classical Greek do*sei) at lines 3 and 9 and o-da-a2 at lines 7 and 11.
The interpretation given for the latter form by Ventris and Chadwick
(1973, 282-83) is "and similarly," with "will give"
understood from the other lines. The first part of this explanation of
o-da-a2 seems straightforward enough, viz., ho*"thus /
similarly", followed by d' as a post-positive connective.
After this, though, the Ventris and Chadwick explanation more or less
breaks down, with only a pretty ad hoc explanation of what the remaining
item, aha, would mean. As I have argued previously (Floyd
1978)--without, at that time, any specific treatment of Odyssean
recognition--it is better to take -da-a2 as a single item, viz., a verb
form, complementing do*sei "will give." My alternative
explanation is that da-a2 = dahan represents the ancestor of Classical
dosan "they gave" (unaugmented aorist, as is regular in Linear
B and also frequent in Homer). (22)
Fast forwarding to the fifth century BCE (a couple of centuries or
so after Homer) brings us to the Idalion Bronze. This is a Cypriote
syllabic tablet, dealing with payments to a family of physicians who had
cared for the wounded in a conflict with the Persians. Apparently, a
monetary payment was promised, but replaced with agricultural land--but
in the future, if the fields are expropriated, the money is to be paid.
Nothing exactly comparable is attested from eighth-century BCE
Cyprus, but inasmuch as PY Un718 from twelfth-century BCE Pylos and the
Idalion Bronze in the fifth century BCE both deal with some kind of
combination of current contributions/payments, along with future
alternatives, this emerges as a continuing concern of syllabic Greek
texts, extending over many centuries. We could therefore plausibly
appeal once again to the hypothetical Cypriote visitor to Ionia,
considered in Section 5, as having mentioned this to Homer as the sort
of text that could be written in an ancient heroic script and
subsequently read. Possibly reflecting some such cultural interchange,
we have, in Odyssey, book 24, a fairly specific verbal parallel to the
Pylos combination of do*sei and dahan in the sequence edo*kas "you
gave," dokas "you gave" and do*sein "to give in the
future," found in lines 337, 340, and 342, followed at line 346 by
a reference to Laertes's "reading" what Odysseus had
Of course, our hypothetical eighth century interlocutors will not
have known of anything exactly like PY Un718, or a fortiori, the Idalion
Bronze, from after their time. Whatever the precise nature of any
conversation which Homer may have had concerning syllabic texts, though,
we find, within his poetic oeuvre itself, an important parallel for a
culturally deeply ingrained concern for how past and future
distributions are coordinated with one another.
I refer to Iliad, book 1, in which Achilleus wants the distribution
of booty to stand, just as the sons of the Achaians gave it. Agamemnon,
though, wants to take Briseis for himself--and on some future occasion
he will instead give some additional prize(s) to Achilleus. In
expressing his views of the matter, Achilleus exasperatedly asks, at Il.
1.123, pos do*sousi "how will they give?," paralleling the
future form do-se of PY Un718, lines 3 and 9, and then, in reference to
the Achaians' previous distribution of spoils, he uses dosan
"they gave" at 1.162, paralleling the equally unaugmented
aorist form dahan, which is likely in the Pylos tablet. Also, about 100
later, Nestor picks this up the same idea at 1.276 with the actual
combination ho*s ... dosan "as ... they gave," exactly
paralleling ho dahan in the Pylos tablet.
The parallel use of verb forms at Od. 24.347-42 also serves to
round out the entire Homeric oeuvre. Iliad, book 1, contrasts Achilleus
and Agamemnon, and the Odyssey as a whole can be thought of as
contrasting two heroic styles--Achilleus's and Odysseus's.
Correspondingly, it is appropriate that in the concluding book of the
Odyssey, various changes are rung on forms of dido*mi "give,"
viz., edo*kas, dokas, and do*sein, paralleling Achilleus's and
others' use of language in Iliad, book 1.
Even though Penelope had been more or less summarily dismissed by
Odysseus at Od. 23.364-65, her name reappears three times in book 24.
The first is in Agamemnon's well-known praise of her at
24.192-202. As Wender (1978, 38) observes, "Penelope here gets her
long overdue encomium ... until this point in the story she has received
no word of praise for her part in the revenge plot, no proper panegyric
for her long years of faithfulness." (24)
The second is at 24.294, in Laertes's statement that it was
not granted to Penelope to lament properly for her husband, since
nothing definite is known of his fate. This second reference in book 24
to Penelope has not been as much commented on as the preceding one;
among other points, though, it places Penelope in a more central
position, vis-a-vis Odysseus's putative funeral, than even his
father, the speaker of this passage, would have.
Finally, the third and last mention of Penelope in book 24 (and
hence, in the Odyssey too) is in connection with Laertes's
attendant Dolios. At 24.386-93, Dolios and his sons greet Odysseus
joyfully, and at 24.400-05 Dolios asks if Penelope knows that Odysseus
has returned home. Odysseus replies in just a single line:
Heubeck (1992, 404) comments on this line as follows: "The
line is modelled on Il. xiii 275; the reply sounds more abrupt than
intended." Through his own brevity, I would say, Heubeck misses an
important point, or at least fails to convey it clearly. This is that in
the corresponding Iliad passage (13.275), Idomeneus is telling his
companion Meriones that (1) he indeed knows what sort of man Meriones is
with respect to arete*, and (2) since he knows this, there is no need to
elaborate on the matter. With this as background for Od. 24.407, there
emerges (1) a sense that Penelope's arete* "excellence"
is so well known that there is no need to say more about it, and (2) a
parallel suggestion that her recognition of Odysseus was pretty obvious
and there is therefore no need to inquire about this. (25)
In Section 12, my treatment of Aktoris pretty much leap-frogged
over the question of who she is. In doing so, I was merely following
other critics, who likewise have concentrated just on Odysseus and
Penelope as the "only" ones cognizant of the signs which are
mentioned at 23.225 - despite the fact that Aktoris is equally mentioned
at that point. (26) Now, as we consider Dolios's role in book 24,
it behooves us to remember that Penelope had stated, back at 4.736, that
her father had sent Dolios with her when she came to Ithake. The only
variation between this and the reference to Aktoris at 23.228 is that in
book 4 the introductory word "whom" in the phrase hon moi doke
pate*r Hi deuro kiouse*i "whom my father gave to me before I came
here" is hon (masculine), but at 23.228 it is he*n (feminine).
Heubeck (1992, 338) mentions the parallelism, but does not develop it
further. Once we juxtapose the two passages, though, it is clear that
Dolios and Aktoris came to Ithake together, on the occasion of
Penelope's marriage. From this, it is not too great a stretch of
the imagination to deduce that Aktoris is Dolios's wife, of whom we
hear at 24.389.
Nor is there, in my opinion, any reason to be alarmed about the
span of 9000 lines or so separating 4.736 and 23.228. As Vlahos points
out, "Homer often raises questions early in the poem and provides
answers later; at other times he reverses the process by giving us
answers early to questions that will come up later" (2011, 10).
Ancient Homeric criticism was also cognizant of this feature of
Homer's style, summing it up in the phrase paraleipein kai husteron
phrazein "to leave out and discuss later," found in a Scholion
to Il. 17.24-27. Heubeck (1992, 383) discusses this Scholiastic
principle specifically in connection with the presentation of
Dolios's wife in book 24. (He does not, however, bring the name
Aktoris into the equation). First, as early as Od. 1.191, the old woman
who takes care of Laertes is mentioned; then, Dolios is mentioned at
4.736, in close proximity to a mention of Laertes (4.738); next,
Dolios's name appears again at 17.212 and 18.322, in connection
with his (Dolios's) children; and finally the wife of Dolios is
variously mentioned at 24.211, 222, and 386-90.
An important corollary point, inherent in the preceding list of
passages, is that Aktoris is in all likelihood the mother of Melantho,
inasmuch as at 18.322 Melantho is introduced into the narrative as
Dolios's daughter. Mentioned by name only in books 18 and 19,
Melantho is nevertheless an important character in the Odyssey. As
Vlahos (2011, 38), following Winkler (1990, 1.49), points out, the
phrase mega ergon "monstrous deed," used in connection with
her at 19.92, serves to indicate that she is the faithless maidservant
who told the Suitors of Penelope's ruse with the loom. One point,
though, is left unanswered in book 19: If Melantho is indeed the
faithless maidservant, is it not surprising that she is still in
Penelope's household? The answer, I suggest, lies in
Melantho's family tie, not only to Dolios, but also to the even
more trusted servant Aktoris, who had guarded Penelope's bridal
chamber (as we will learn in book 23). Against this background, it is
understandable that Penelope had brought up Melantho almost as her own
child (as stated at 18.321-23), and it is also reasonable that Penelope
has continued to tolerate her presence, even after the betrayal to the
Suitors of her mistresses' ruse with the loom.
Besides being the father of Melantho, Dolios is also the father of
the similarly named Melanthios. He too had cooperated with the Suitors,
and, after the slaughter of the Suitors themselves, he is killed by
Telemachos, under the general direction of Odysseus (22.474-77).
Melantho is also surely one of the faithless maids who were hanged at
22.457-72, just before Melanthios is dealt with. Two books later,
though, as Wender (1978, 54-56) observes, we find Odysseus sitting down
at a "jolly meal" at 24.394-411 with the family (father,
mother, and brothers) of those who were summarily punished just the day
before. Wender's solution to this seemingly awkward development
rests on the fact that Dolios has other children--six sons, who are free
from association with the Suitors. Since an armed confrontation with
some of the Suitors' relatives is looming (such a possibility has
already been mentioned by Odysseus at 23.117-22), it will be in
Odysseus's interest to retain Dolios and his six trustworthy sons
as loyal supporters; accordingly, he says nothing, for the time being,
that might alienate Dolios's family. Additionally, I would say, one
aspect of Odysseus's strategy is that he is brief in what he says
about Penelope, thereby cutting off any further discussion of the
situation back at the palace. (27)
20. Concluding Observations Concerning Odysseus and Penelope.
Odysseus's succinctness in dealing with Dolios's question
about Penelope is also arguably manifested in his attitude toward
At 19.92, Penelope had made a kind of threat to Melantho, as she
speaks of her mega ergon, ho sei kephalei anamaxeis "great /
monstrous deed, which you will wipe off on your head." Accordingly,
when Odysseus subsequently instructs (22.440-45) Telemachos, along with
Eumaios and Philoitios, to see to the slaughter of the faithless maids,
one could say that that he is merely following what Penelope had already
suggested concerning one of them, Melantho. Moreover, the fact that a
dozen faithless maids are dealt with in book 22 is consistent with the
fact that Penelope had made a plural reference at 19.154 to
"careless/heedless bitches" (kunas ouk alegousas) who had
betrayed her. (Melantho, though, would appear to be the main culprit,
inasmuch as Penelope focuses specifically on her at 19.92; also, both
Antinoos at 2.108 and Amphimedon at 24.144 use a singular tis ...
gunaikon "one of the women" in connection with the
Suitors' learning of Penelope's ruse.) Despite all this,
though, the punishment of the evil maids, as carried out in book 22, is
something that Penelope herself is not consulted about; moreover,
Odysseus's peremptory and exclusionary treatment of the matter is
specifically brought to our attention at 22.431-32, when he tells
Eurykleia not to disturb Penelope vis-a-vis the maids who have consorted
with the Suitors.
One could, I suppose, say that at 22.431-32, Odysseus was properly
leaving Penelope out of the rather nasty picture of how to deal with
Melantho. Then, toward the end of book 23, when he summarily tells
Penelope at 23.364-65 to go upstairs and keep to herself, not inquiring
about anything, Odysseus would simply be acting in the same spirit. At
both points, though, Odysseus is, in some sense, intruding into his
wife's domain, taking over from her the management of her own
household. An apparent disdain for Penelope had also been displayed in
his neglecting Eurykleia's observation at 22.489 that it would be
nemesse*ton "a cause for indignation" if he does not put on
For some readers, I suspect that all this may unexpectedly
complicate our view of Odysseus. If there is any such reaction, I would
answer that these various passages should instead increase our
admiration of Penelope's acumen in dealing with Odysseus, as, for
example, she "reads" his disreputable clothing at 23.95 and
then speaks at 23.107 of not being able to look at him, thereby
deceiving even the clever Odysseus.
(1) The present article owes much to John Vlahos's 2011
College Literature article and to e-mail correspondence with him and
with Kostas Myrsiades. Together, they have convinced me of the scholarly
viability of "early recognition" in the Odyssey. I have also
worked up some material from oral presentations made at the
International Linguistic Association, Toronto, 2002, and New York, 2004,
on the linguistic and Mycenaean pre-history of the Odyssey; at the
American Philological Association, Montreal, 2006, on Pindar, Olympian
10 and the etymology of "read" in Greek; and to the Classics
Club of Franciscan University, Steubenville, Ohio, on Od. 23.94-95,
concerning which Professors Declan Lyons and Joseph Almeida made
valuable suggestions. Finally, some additional points were broached at
presentations to the University of Pittsburgh Classics Department and
(2) In recent years, the question of the authenticity of Prometheus
Bound as a work by Aeschylus has been considerably bruited about. Even
if not genuinely Aeschylean, though, the play is clearly ancient--almost
certainly fifth century BCE.
(3) As will already have been evident, my argument will fairly
often refer to specific Greek words and phrases. For many readers,
transliteration is probably in order, except in a few instances in which
the original appearance of the text is somehow important. A bare bones
equivalence in Latin letters, though, can often be misleading. I have
therefore transliterated eta and omega as e* and o* respectively, except
when the vowel length is already indicated by a circumflex accent. The
results, I hope, will be fairly transparent to the student of Greek and
not too distracting to the general reader.
(4) The translation is mine, as will be the case with other
passages too, except as otherwise noted. (Previously, though, I cited
Grene's translation of Prometheus Bound, as representing a fairly
standard handling of the passage; for comparable reasons, I will
sometimes cite Murray and/or Lattimore for various Homeric passages.)
(5) Harsh (1950, 11) connects 19.250 and 23.206. He does so,
however, without developing any idea of paradox, as far as I can see.
(6) Willcock (1978-84: 1.245). A contrary view, though, more along
the lines of "picture-writing," is still presented by Powell
(1991,198-200). (Also, see Powell [2009, 29-32] for discussion of the
American Indian buffalo hides as mnemonic devices.)
(7) Although it is expansive--if not indeed rambling at times--the
best introduction to Linear B probably remains that in Ventris and
Chadwick, originally published in 1956 and reprinted with extensive
additions, just by Chadwick, in 1973. (Ventris had tragically died in an
automobile accident in 1956.) There is also a convenient, up-to-date
summary of information concerning Linear B in Colvin (2007, 3-15 and
(8) For pa-te, see Ventris and Chadwick (1973, 567 and 569). Also,
see their vocabulary generally (528-94) for various other possibilities
for ambiguity, such as ke-ra, ki-ri-ta, ko-wo, o-no, o-pe-ro, and pa-si.
(9) See Ventris and Chadwick (1973, 64) for the Cypriote syllabary
and for Linear B (in material updated by Chadwick [1976, 385]), and for
comparison of the two (388). Also, Colvin 2007: 20 briefly discusses the
Cypriote syllabary and its origin.
(10) For this distinction between syllabic and alphabetic writing
and the unsuitableness of the former to essentially original
composition, cf. Powell (1991, 109-18). Powell does not, however,
discuss the specific etymology of anagigno*sko* in this connection; in
fact, at Powell (2002, 109), he connects anagigno*sko* with the process
of "figuring out" alphabetic writing, so as to get the exact
flow of speech--consonants and vowels together--that the original author
intended. "Know again," though, gets one closer to the
etymological heart of the word than Powell's "figure
(11) Although otherwise following the text as regularly printed, I
have, for ease in typography, shifted the location of the diaeresis in
(12) In discussing the Odyssey passage, Merry mentions both
eno*padls and eno*padon, while Heubeck mentions just eno*padon.
(13) Archaic inscriptions were regularly written in capitals and
with no word breaks or diacritical marks. Presumably, the earliest
manuscripts were also of this nature. For a fanciful but instructive
reconstruction of the "original" manuscript of Hesiod, Works
and Days along these lines, see West (1978, 60,) and, for a comparable
presentation of the beginning of the Iliad, Powell (1991, 65 and 2009,
(14) Many texts (followed by LSJ in their entry under katino*pa)
combine enopa in the Iliad passage with the preceding kat', thus
eliminating enopa as a Homeric word. Recently, though, both Janko (1992,
262) in his commentary and West in his text (1998-2000) adopt the
reading with enopa as a separate word.
(15) For the archaic writing of double consonants with a single
letter, cf. the reconstructions provided by West (1978, 60) and Powell
(1991, 65 and 2009, 243), in which words such as a*rrhe*toi (Works and
Days, 1.4), and pollas, kunessin, and Achilleus (Iliad, 1.3, 4, and 7)
are written with single consonants.
(16) Such a translation would parallel Pindar's usage at
Olympian 10.1, where the meaning "read" for the imperative
anagno*te is regularly recognized by scholars.
(17) For a parallel instance of Penelope somehow being more clever
than Odysseus, cf. Vlahos's discussion (2011, 44) of
Penelope's dissembling remark at Od. 19.257-258 that Odysseus will
never return: "Evidently, this unexpected remark catches Odysseus
(18) For KN Sd 4450, which neither Ventris and Chadwick nor Colvin
includes, see Chadwick, Killen, and Olivier (1971, 288).
(19) For a somewhat parallel discussion of the passage, cf.
Vlahos's reference (2011, 30) to it as presenting Penelope as
"glowing, in effect, like a bride."
(20) Also, if it be permitted to insert personal anecdote in this
article, this may be the place to note that on various occasions, in
conversation with distinguished colleagues, objection has been raised
against my support of "early recognition," with the passage in
book 20 being cited as premier "proof" against this view.
(21) Some readers may be nonplussed to see book 24 introduced as
having any substantive connection with other parts of the Odyssey,
inasmuch as this book used to be regarded as somehow inauthentic. More
recent scholarship, however, has regarded book 24 more favorably; cf.
Heubeck (1992, 353-55).
(22) On my interpretation, the subject of the plural dahan in line
7 will be the singular noun da-mo (i.e., damos = Classical damos
"people"); although morphologically singular, demos
occasionally takes a plural verb, as at Homeric Hymn to Demeter, 272,
just as in English we say "the people have given", rather than
"the people has given".
(23) For translation along these lines, see Colvin (2007, 87-88).
(24) For additional discussion of Agamemnon's praise of
Penelope, see Heubeck, (1992, 380-81).
(25) Some readers may believe that a leap from male to female
arete* requires some justification. Arete* is of course primarily a male
quality ("manliness, courage, etc.") in archaic and Classical
Greek literature. The application of the word to Penelope, though, is
readily demonstrated within the Odyssey by Penelope's mention of
her own arete* at 18.251 and 19.124. Also, Agamemnon's references
to arete* at 24.193 and 197, not much more than 200 lines before
Odysseus's reply to Dolios, would almost certainly seem to be in
connection with Penelope's excellence; cf. Heubeck's notes
(26) For further, but inconclusive discussion of Aktoris, see
Heubeck (1992, 338).
(27) Some scholars claim that there must be at least two different
individuals named Dolios--one the father of Melanthios and Melantho, and
a different one, who is positively presented in Book 24. The theory of
multiple Dolioi, though, seems unlikely, as Wender (1978, 54-56),
Heubeck (1992, 385), and Haller (2008) all point out.
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Koine. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
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commentarii ad Homeri Odysseam, 2 vols. Ed. G. Stallbaum. Leipzig:
Weigel. (Reprint, 2 vols. in 1, Hildesheim: Olms, 1970).
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Haller, Benjamin S. 2008 "Duplicitous Dolios? Conditioning
audience response to deceit through two kinds of deception in the
back-story of the Odyssey," abstract at
--. 2009. "The Gates of Horn and Ivory in Odyssey 19:
Penelope's Call for Deeds, not Words." Classical Philology
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XIII-XVI." Vol. 4. In The Iliad: A Commentary. 6 vols, ed. G. S.
Kirk. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
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Cambridge, MA: Harvard University. Press.
Powell, Barry B. 1991. Homer and the origin of the Greek alphabet.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
--. 2002. Writing and the Origins of Greek Literature. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press.
--. 2009. Writing: Theory and History of the Technology of
Civilization. Maiden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.
Russo, Joseph. 1992. "Commentary on Odyssey, Books
XVII-XX," In A Commentary on Homer's Odyssey. 3 vols, ed.
Alfred Heubeck. Oxford: Clarendon Press..
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Oxford: Oxford University Press. (Reprint, Amsterdam: Hakkert, 1962).
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Ed. H. Erbse. Berlin: De Gruyter.
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Grammatical Introductions, Commentary and Indexes. 2nd ed. Reprinted
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Test of the Bed." College Literature 34:107-31.
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Edwin D. Floyd teaches Classics at the University of Pittsburgh.
His main research interest is the "pre-history" of Greek
literature--the importance of both an Indo-European and a Mycenaean
background for understanding authors such as Homer and Pindar.
now a sprawling mass
useless he lies, hard by the narrow seaway
pressed down beneath the roots of Aetna. (Prometheus Bound, ll. 363-65)
"now a sprawling mass
biding his time he lies, hard by the narrow seaway
pressed down beneath the roots of Aetna." (Prometheus Bound, 11.
Ho*s phato, tei d' eti mallon huph' himeron orse gooio,
se*mat' anagnouse*i, ta hoi empeda pephrad' Odusseus.
So he spoke, and in her heart aroused yet more the desire for weeping,
as she recognized the sure tokens that Odysseus told her.
So he spoke, and in her heart aroused yet more the desire for weeping,
as she read the sure tokens that Odysseus told her.
opsei d' allote men min eno*padlo*s esidesken,
allote d' agno*saske kaka chroi heimat' echonta. (Od. 23.94-95) (11)
Sometimes she would look at him, with her eyes full upon him,
and again would fail to know him in the foul clothing he wore.
opsei d' dilate men mm enop' idlo*s esldesken,
dilate d' aggno*saske kakd chroi helmat' echonta. (Od. 23. 94-95)
(With her glance, she sometimes privately looked straight at him and
at other times she kept on reading the fact that he was wearing foul
clothing on his skin.")
ho*s phato, tes d' autou luto gounata kai philon etor,
se*mat' anagnouse*i, ta hoi empeda pephrad' Odusseus. (Od. 23.205-06)
(Thus he spoke, and straightway her limbs and dear heart were loosened,
when she read the clear signs that Odysseus presented to her.")
daidallo*n chrusoi te kai arguro*i e*d' elephanti;
en d' etanuss' himanta bods phoiniki phaeinon. (Od. 23.200-01)
(Decorating with both gold and silver and ivory;
And on it I stretched a thong of oxhide shining with crimson.)
Ho*s d' hote tis t' elephanta gune* phoiniki mie*ne*i
Me*ionis e*e Kaeira, pare*ion emmenai hippo*n;
keitai d' en thalamo*i, polees te min e*re*santo
hippies phoreein; basile'i de ketiai agalma,
amphoteron kosmos th' hippo*i elateri te kudos;
toioi toi, Menelae, mianthe*n halmati me*roi
euphuees knemai te ide sphura kal hupenerthe. (Il. 4.141-47)
(As when some Maionian or Karian with purple colours ivory, to make
it a cheek piece for horses; it lies away in an inner room, and many
a rider longs to have it, but it is laid up to be a king's treasure,
two things, to be the beauty of the horse, the pride of the horseman:
so, Menelaos, your shapely thighs were stained with the colour of
blood, and your legs also and the ankles beneath them (Lattimore's
ho*s phatio, tou d* autou luto gounata kai philon etor,
semat' anagnontos, ta hoi empeda pephrad' Odusseus. (Od. 24.345-46)
(Thus he spoke, and straightway his limbs and dear heart were loosened,
when he read the clear signs that Odysseus presented to him.)
eis huperoi' anabasa sun amphipoloisi gunaixin,
hesthai, me*de tina protiosseo me*d' ereeine. (Od. 23.364-65)
(Going up to your upper chamber with your attendant maids,
sit, and do not look at or inquire of anyone.)
o geron, e*de* oide; ti se chre* tauta penesthai? (Od. 24.407)
("Old man, she already knows. What need is there for you to trouble
yourself about this?")