Homer's 'Iliad' and 'Odyssey' in social and historical context

Chris Gray concludes his study of Homer's world-shaping epic.The full version will soon be available from the CPGB website in pamphlet form

As indicated in the first part of this article, Homer’s poems are built up from formulary phrases, set descriptions and stock themes reworded to suit the poet’s immediate topic. The Iliad and the Odyssey have a rich selection of formulary phrases, or formulae if you prefer. Naturally enough, given the geography of Greece and the subject matter of the poems, the sea is a prime example as subject. Here are nine variations:

Speech is another unavoidable occasion for formulae: eg, the lines: TÄ“n d’ apameibomenos prosephÄ“ podas ōkys Akhilleus (“Swift-footed Achilles spoke in answer to her”)[10]; kai min phōnÄ“sas (w)epea pteroenta prosÄ“uda (“He spoke and addressed him with winged words”);[11] and the unforgettable: AtreidÄ“, poion se (w)epos phygen herkos odontōn? (“Son of Atreus, what word has escaped the fence of your teeth?”[12]

The most memorable formulary phrases are probably the one-liners: eg: Ä“mos d’ Ä“rigeneia phanÄ“ rhododaktylos Ēōs, traditionally Englished as: “When early-born and rosy-fingered Dawn appeared”.[13] Fine, except that rhododaktylos has quite different associations from ‘rosy-fingered’, since daktylos means (1) finger and (2) a particular poetic foot - a long syllable followed by two shorts, and does not have the pejorative associations of the English word ‘finger’.

A variant of this formula occurs at Iliad viii, I: Ēōs min krokopeplos ekidnato pāsan ep’ aian (“Dawn the saffron-robed was spreading over the whole earth”). Which is paralleled in Shakespeare:

But look, the morn in russet mantle clad
Walks o’er the dew of yon high eastern hill.[14]

As noted above, rhododaktylos Ēōs can be found in both poems, whereas the characteristic one line formula of the Iliad is probably: doupÄ“sen de pesōn, arabÄ“se de teukhe’ ep’ autōi (“He fell with a thud, and his armour clanged about him”).[15]

Homer clearly grasped the need for variety here, as witness: hōs pesen, amphi de hoi brakhe teukhea poikila khalkōi (“So he fell, and about him rang his armour inlaid with bronze”).[16]

Two final examples come from the Odyssey and mark memorably the passage of time: viz: all’ hote dÄ“ etos Ä“lthe periplomenōn eniautōn (“but when the year of [ie, in] the revolving years came round”).[17]

And: Dyseto t’ hÄ“elios, skioōnto te pāsai aguiai (“The sun set, and darkness fell upon all the streets”).[18]


The formulas are the stock-in-trade of the aoidos (singer), but Homer also makes use of the simile. Similes are particularly important in the Iliad because they are a means of enlivening what would otherwise be a very repetitive selection of battle encounters.

At its best the simile is a vehicle of realism, based on direct observation: eg, at Iliad iv, 482 a certain Simoeisios is struck on the right of his chest beside the nipple (mazon) by a spear which passes through his shoulder, and he falls in the dust aigeiros hōs, like a black poplar felled by a chariot-maker’s iron axe - a fall characteristic of those struck on the head or chest.[19] Similarly Ekhepolos, hit on the forehead, falls like a tower (hōs hote pyrgos)[20].

Sometimes the simile is quite elaborate and intricate: the Trojan Pandaros wounds Menelaos earlier in the same book iv with a arrow through his belt; the effects are concealed:

“As when some woman of Maeonia or Caria stains ivory with scarlet, to make a cheek piece for horses, and it lies in a treasure chamber, though many horsemen pray to wear it; but it lies there as a king’s delight, both an ornament for his horse and a glory to its driver; even so, Menelaos, were your thighs stained blood, and your legs and your fair ankles beneath.”[21]

The Odyssey with its greater variety in topics - Telemakhos in search of news of Odysseus at Pylos and in Lakedaimon, Odysseus’s wanderings, his return to Ithaca and the battle in the palace as climax - does not require such a wealth of similes in order to relieve the monotony, and there are indeed fewer of them, but the same ingenuity is evident: eg, at the beginning of book xx, where Odysseus, enraged at the thought the activities of the suitors, some of whom have been sleeping with his serving-maids, plots his revenge:

“The thought made him snarl with fury, like a bitch that snarls and shows fight as she takes her stand above her helpless (tender) puppies when a stranger comes by.”[22]

He controls himself, but then the poet caps the description with a further simile of him tossing and turning in his bed in the palace portico:

“Just as a paunch stuffed with fat and blood is tossed this way and that in the blaze of the fire by a cook who wants to get it quickly roasted, so he twisted and turned from one side to the other.”[23]

A beautifully humorous simile, ’s wit ... could be.

Plot control

Aristoteles - or, if you insist, Aristotle - made a basic point when he praised Homer for observing the principle of unity in the plots of both poems. The Iliad is really “the wrath of Achilles”, as we have already noted. The relevant section of the Poetics (‘Peri PoiÄ“tikÄ“s’) runs in translation:

“A plot is not unified, as some think, if built round an individual [only]. Any entity has innumerable features, not all of which cohere into a unity; likewise an individual performs many actions which yield no unitary action. So all those poets are clearly at fault who have composed a Heracleid or Theseid, and similar poems: they think that, since Heracles was an individual, the plot [of his life] too must be unitary. But Homer, in keeping with his general superiority, evidently grasped well, whether by art or nature [Ä“toi di tekhnÄ“n Ä“ dia physin] this point too: for, though composing an Odyssey, he did not include every feature of the hero’s life (eg, his wounding on Parnassus, or his feigned madness in the call to arms) [a reference to Odysseus’s supposedly feigning madness in order to avoid having to take part in the expedition against Troy], where events lacked necessary or probable connections; but he structured the Odyssey round a unitary action of the kind I mean, and likewise with the Iliad. Just as, therefore, in the other mimetic arts a unitary mimesis [imitation of reality] has a unitary object, so, too, the plot, since it is mimesis of an action, should be of a unitary and indeed whole action; and the component events should be so structured that, if any is displaced or removed, the sense of the whole is disturbed and dislocated: since that whose presence or absence has no clear significance is not an integral part of the whole.”[24]

The philosopher explains what he means about the Odyssey a bit further on:

“The Odyssey’s story is not long: a man is away from home many years; he is watched by Poseidon, and isolated; moreover, affairs at home are such that his property is consumed by suitors, and his son conspired against; but he returns after shipwreck [autos de aphikneitai kheimastheis], allows some people to recognise him and launches an attack, which brings his own survival and his enemies’ destruction. That is the essential core; the rest is episodes.”[25]

It was doubtless this integrated overall conception which gave rise to the excellently handled introduction and dramatic development process in book 1.[26]

Fictional worlds

There are parallels and contrasts in the various devices used to diversify the content of both poems and hold the audience’s attention anew, as we have already seen in the case of similes. Such examples include descriptions of activity on the part of the gods, and also the creation of offstage stories and fictional or idealised worlds. Examples of the latter are the famous Shield of Achilles, forged for him by the smith-god Hephaistos in the Iliad and the land and court of the Phaiakians (Phaeacians) in the Odyssey.

The Shield of Achilles is in a sense the pièce de résistance of the Iliad - certainly a tour de force. I cannot believe that the celebrated Homer himself was not its author, and, if so, that may be an argument for accepting a relatively late date for Homer within the approximate 950-750 BCE bracket. The shield, even though it is described as a sakos mega[27] - ie a traditional Mycenaean-style body shield - must surely have been round, because: “On it he [Hephaistos] set also the great might of Ocean River around the outermost rim of the strongly made shield.”[28]

More relevantly, it has been claimed that the design of the shield fits the “later geometric and early orientalising” period of Greek art:

“Some shields and some silver and bronze bowls with ornamentation comparable ... are known from this period [two references follow] ... Both shields and bowls are round, with pictorial designs appearing in concentric bands. There can be no doubt that this is the sort of thing Homer had in mind, although his description of the scenes on the shield far surpasses anything these human artists could achieve. The technique of metal inlay, however, which Hephaistos uses, adding colour to the pictures on the shield, is not contemporary with Homer but must go back to the Mycenaean Age [more references].”[29]

“We must ... imagine a round shield, with the designs symmetrically placed in concentric rings, the sun, moon and stars evidently being on the boss at the centre, and the river Ocean forming the rim of the shield, as the Ocean itself was thought to run round the perimeter of the world. A possible distribution of the figures is suggested ”[30]

So we have sun and moon and certain stars - Pleiades, Hyades, Orion and the Bear or Wagon (Hamaxan) “that circles ever in its place, and watches Orion, and alone has no part in the baths of Ocean [ie, it never disappears over the horizon in these northern latitudes].”

These decorate the shield’s central boss. Surrounding them, two cities are depicted, representing the two poles of the life of the Greek polis: peace and war.

The city at peace features dancing at a wedding and an assembly of the people for the purpose of resolving a dispute about the honour-price of a slain man (heineka poinēs andros apoktamenou),[31] emphasising the need for the suppression of blood feuds - in all 18 lines. The city at war is under siege by an army on either side of it.[32] The besieged refuse to take this lying down, but send out a force in ambush, and battle is joined.[33]

Next we have ploughed land, where the ploughmen are rewarded with a cup of wine after they have successfully ploughed a whole field, followed by a king’s estate (temenos basileion) being harvested: the harvest is followed by a communal feast with the sacrifice of an ox, in the king’s presence. The inclusion of this scene suggests that Homer himself was composing in a period when monarchy was still the established norm. Towards the middle of the 8th century BCE royal rule began to give way to aristocratic rule[34] and the king became either one magistrate

“All aristocracies were oligarchical, rule being vested in the few, but the degree of oligarchy varied. In the narrowest aristocracies a monopoly of office was secured by the family in which the hereditary kingship had been vested. At Corinth, for instance, the Bacchiadae [the ruling clan] were descended ... from a distinguished king of Corinth, Bacchis. The immediate successors of Bacchis were kings, but from c747 the Bacchiadae ruled as a group, electing from itself an eponymous official of the year probably entitled basileus and intermarrying entirely within its own branches.”[35]

This view has been challenged by Robert Drews.[36] Whatever the truth of the matter, however, there was clearly a trend towards diversification of political offices running parallel with the development of the city-state. What the common people thought of these changes is probably impossible to determine, but the Boiotian peasant poet, Hesiod, exhorts the ‘kings’ (and by implication the aristocracy as a whole) to deal justly and resolve disputes fairly (the tone is reminiscent of the English mediaeval poet, William Langland):

“Bear this is mind, kings, and straighten your discourses, you gift-eaters, and put crooked judgements quite out of your minds.”[37]

Following the description of the temenos we have a vineyard bearing black grapes, then a herd of cattle - unfortunately these are attacked by lions, then (briefly) a sheepfold, and finally a dance of young people. Note the total absence of any reference to commerce.

All in all, a beautiful conception of an idealised city - presumably it finds a place in the Iliad as a picture of what the Greeks were supposedly fighting for. But then, if that is so, it is hard to view the Trojans as fighting for anything different.

The land of the Phaiakians (or Phaeacians in their Latinised English form) can also be seen as a kind of utopia - it has its miraculous aspects - but the treatment is rather more ironic than one of simple praise, and coverage is greater than that of the shield, extending to the whole narrative of books vi, vii and viii of the Odyssey.

There has been some speculation that the Phaiakians, via etymology, have some connexion with the realm of the dead: “Welcker observed that the word phaiax is derived from phaios, ‘grey’, ‘dusky’, and so was led to the conclusion that the Phaiakians were at bottom no other than the dark Ferrymen of the Dead, familiar personages in folklore. They convey the slumbering Odysseus after all his labours and ”[38]

In contrast, Samuel Butler argued that the Phaiakians were actual Greek settlers at a place called Drepanē (modern Trapani) in western Sicily, a part of the island which the Greek colonisers failed to hold because it was too close to Carthage, which proceeded to establish its domain over the extreme west of the island. (The traditional date for the foundation of Carthage - Qart Khadascht, the New City - is 814 BCE). Butler studied charts and did his best to argue the case for this particular location, but it must be said that he does not show his working in the way that Robert Bittlestone does in arguing in detail for the Paliki peninsula of Cephalonia (ancient Kephalonia) as the true Ithaca of the Odyssey.[39] Butler could be right about Drepane, but the hypothesis remains unproven.

In any case, such speculation is really a minor concern. Much more interesting is the organisation of the Phaiakian realm itself. What stands out is the prominence of women in its direction. Alkinoos is the nominal ruler, but his daughter Nausikaa, who meets Odysseus in sensational circumstances while she is out by the seashore overseeing the washing of the palace’s linen, makes clear that it is Queen AretÄ“ (AretÄ“ means ‘Virtue’) who wears the trousers, and indeed that is what we find as the poem unfolds.

Princess Nausikaa emphasises the far-away, withdrawn nature of the Phaiakian realm, its ‘other-worldly’ status: “We dwell far off in the surging [stormy] sea, the most distant, nor does any other mortal have dealings with us.”[40]

She and her attendants preside over the transformation of Odysseus from a naked, shipwrecked mariner into a presentable guest, and she goes on to direct him to her father’s estate (patros emou temenos), allowing her own party time to return ahead. Her detailed instructions indicate quite clearly that it is the queen to whom he must appeal for help:

“Go quickly through the great hall, till you come to my mother; she sits at the hearth, in the light of the fire, spinning the sea-purple wool on the distaff, a wonder to behold, leaning against a pillar, and her serving-maids sit behind her. There too my father’s throne leans against the same pillar, and on it he sits and drinks his wine like an immortal. Pass him by, and clasp my mother’s knees in supplication, that you may quickly see and rejoice in the day of your homecoming, even if from far away. If she thinks kindly towards you in her heart, there is then hope that you will see your friends and regain your well-built house in your native land.”[41]

Odysseus goes to the Phaiakian palace, which is described in detail in vii, 81-132 - not forgetting the 50 slave women who grind grain or weave fabrics, since “As much as the Phaiakian men are skilled above all others at speeding a swift ship on the sea, so are the women cunning workers at the loom; for Athene has given them above all others knowledge of beautiful handiwork, and excellent faculties.”[42]

We get the idea that the Phaiakian community is a partnership between the sexes, even if the women (despite queen AretÄ“’s exalted status) are in an inferior position. But truly the Phaiakians are close kin to the gods - agkitheoi gegaasin[43] - and their ships have the speed of computers: “their ships are swift as a bird or a thought”.[44]

What is more, their fruit crop never fails: “The fruit of these [their trees] does not perish or fail, winter or summer, year on year, but always the west wind, as it blows, quickens some fruits and ripens others.”[45]

There is yet more: the Phaiakian ships have a system which allows them to operate by automatic pilot: “For the Phaiakians have no steersmen, nor do they use rudders such as other ships have, but the ships know by themselves the intentions and minds of men, and they know the cities and rich fields of humans, and they pass over the gulf of the sea very quickly, concealed in mist and cloud, with no fear of damage or wreck.”[46]

The whole set-up seems altogether too good to be true, and the poet seems to know this, for he (she?) gets in a satirical side-swipe at Alkinoos by making him interrupt Odysseus’s story of his adventures so that he may persuade him to stay another day beyond the time agreed - after his queen has already suggested this very course of action.

Alkinoos declares: “But let our guest, despite his longing to return, therefore nonetheless remain until tomorrow, when I shall make our gift to him complete. His conveyance shall be the men’s concern, all of them, but of me especially: for mine is the power in the land.”[47]

We have here an ironic echo of a famous passage in the Iliad, the speech of Hektor to Andromakhe, where he says: “But go into the house and busy yourself with your own tasks, the loom and the distaff, and tell your handmaids to set to work; war will be the concern of men, all those who live in Ilios, and mine especially.”[48]

This is actually the second instance in the Odyssey where our attention has been drawn to these verses: right at the beginning, in book 1, Telemakhos picks up the same theme when voicing his “declaration of independence” from his mother. Penelopeia, upset by Phemios’s recital of the Akhaians’ return (Akhaiōn noston), calls on him to stop, but Telemakhos intervenes, telling her not to be angry with the minstrel , whose tale is a popular one. Then he tells her to mind her own female business in almost an exact replica of Hektor’s words, ending with: “Story-telling will be the concern of men, and mine especially, for I am master here.”[49]

Just as Telemakhos’s remarks reveal a great deal about his situation, so Alkinoos’s concern for the conveyance (pompÄ“) of Odysseus homewards reveal him as somewhat ... pompous ...

Humour in the epics

Another virtue of the poems is their humour. In the Iliad the principal sources are the Olympian gods and the old warrior, Nestor, who is not backward at coming forward with a recital of his exploits as a young man whenever the occasion arises.

It is difficult for us, reared in a Judaeo-Christian tradition - and it must be just as difficult for devout Muslims - to envisage a situation where divine beings ostensibly behave in an all too human fashion, but such is the Mount Olympos portrayed by the Iliad poet. Akhilleus’s divine mother, Thetis, accedes to her son’s request to get Zeus to help the Trojans, and so remind the Greeks that they stand in need of help from their foremost fighter; Zeus undertakes to do it, but is immediately confronted by his wife Hera (HerÄ“), who accuses him of plotting with some immortal. Zeus gets angry and threatens violence. The gods become anxious, and the smith-god Hephaistos, who is Hera’s son, tries to persuade his mother to mollify the king of the gods:

“Then the gods of heaven were troubled in Zeus’s palace, and among them Hephaistos, the famed craftsman, was first to speak, to please his mother, the white-armed Hera: ‘This will be ruinous work, unendurable, if you two wrangle over mortals like this, and set the gods in tumult; nor will there be any joy in the excellent feast, since evil prevails.’”[50]

As Samuel Butler puts it brilliantly, “a god will not be able to get his dinner in peace.”[51]

Hephaistos defuses the situation by serving all the gods and goddesses wine: “And unquenchable laughter arose among the blessed gods, as they saw Hephaistos bustling about in the palace (or, as the Loeb translator puts it, “puffing through the palace”).[52] A gem, is it not?

Nestor, “the clear-voiced orator from Pylos” (ligyn Pyliōn agorÄ“tÄ“n) is another of Homer’s favourite characters. He gives good advice at two points: namely, that the Akhaians should build a wall and a trench to protect their ships and that, since Achilles refuses to fight, Patroklos should put on Achilles’s armour and pretend to be him. Nonetheless Homer gets as much comic mileage as he can out of Nestor: not only is he given to reciting the exploits of his prime at the drop of a hat, but there is also a piece of comic business involving Nestor in book viii, when the Trojans mount a strong attack, forcing

“Then neither Idomeneus dared remain, nor Agamemnon, nor yet the two Aiantes, attendants of Ares; only Nestor of Gerenia remained, the guardian of the Akhaians, and he not willingly, but his horse was wounded, since the noble Alexander, husband of fair-haired Helen, had struck him with an arrow.”[53]

Incidentally, this passage bears out the contention of Drews that chariots were vulnerable to archery, if the archers could get within range.

Some of the humour in the Odyssey we have already had occasion to notice: viz the likening of Odysseus tossing and turning on his bed to a piece of meat being roasted on a fire[54] and Alkinoos’s role as king of the Phaiakians. Samuel Butler indicates a possibility that Alkinoos’s generosity has landed him in difficulties; according to him, what with “toping like an immortal god, swaggering at large, and open-handed hospitality, it is plain and by no means surprising that Alcinous is out at elbows.”[55]

What Butler does not emphasise, however, is that, if this is the case, it is not an insuperable problem. The common people will stump up the necessary wherewithal: “But come now, let us give him a great tripod and a cauldron, each man of us, and we in turn will gather the cost from among the people and repay ourselves, for it would be hard for one to give so freely, without requital.”[56]

It should perhaps be stressed that all the gift-giving in the Iliad and the Odyssey happens in the expectation that, when the roles are reversed and the giver is visiting the recipient of the gift, he or she will get something in return, as in the Odyssey, where the goddess, Athene, disguised as the Taphian leader, Mentes, thanks Telemakhos for his offer of a gift, but asks him to give it to him when he returns: “It shall bring you its worth in return”.[57]

Another example of humour in the Odyssey is the question frequently asked in the poem of visitors to Ithaca - eg, by Telemakhos of the supposed Mentes in the opening book: “But, come, tell me truly who you are and where you come from. What city are you from? What sort of ship did you come on? How did the sailors bring you to Ithaca? Who did they claim to be? For I don’t suppose you came here on foot.”[58]

The repetition of this last line must surely have moved the Ithacan audience to hoots of laughter.

Last but not least in this survey of Homer’s humour, we note the encounter with PolyphÄ“mos, where Odysseus cunningly tells the giant that his name is Outis - ‘No man’ or ‘No one’. This stands him in good stead when Polyphemos calls out to his fellow giants for help with the immortal words: “No man is killing me by guile and not by force.”[59]

They tell him there is no problem, saying, in effect, ‘Well, if that’s all, we can go back to bed now.’

Homer’s compassion

The poems depict a society which is certainly not free of acts of barbarism, but what stands out, at least in the Iliad - and even in the Odyssey, one could argue (Odysseus shows compassion for Penelope at the end, by ceasing to be angry with her) - is the poet’s fundamental humanity.

There are two major examples of this in the Iliad. The first is Hektor’s speech in book vi, which we have already touched on; there is much more to it than the part which is guyed in the Odyssey. Hektor knows that Troy will eventually fall, and its people will either be killed or pass into exile:

“For I know this well in heart and mind: the day will come when sacred Ilios will fall, and Priam, and the people of Priam of the good ashen spear. But not so much does the grief the Trojans shall have move me, neither Hecabe’s own, nor king Priam’s, nor that of my brothers, many and noble, who will fall in the dust at the hands of their foes, as does your grief, when some bronze-clad Akhaian will lead you away weeping and rob you of your day of freedom. Then perhaps in Argos you will weave at another woman’s bidding, or carry water from Messeis or Hypereia, most unwillingly, with strong necessity laid on you. And someone will say, as he sees you shedding tears, ‘That is the wife of Hektor, who was pre-eminent in battle of all the horse-taming Trojans, when they fought around Ilios.’ So he will say, and for you there will be fresh grief for your lack of a man like me ”[60]     

The second instance is the climax of the poem. Priam visits Achilles, asking for the body of his son, Hektor, for burial. Priam asks Achilles to remember his own father, Peleus, and then compare his fate with Priam’s - Priam already having lost many sons in the fight for Troy. The appeal works:

“So he spoke, and roused the desire in Achilles to weep for his father ... So the two of them remembered - the one remembered man-slaying Hektor and wept loudly, collapsed at Achilles’ feet, but Achilles wept for his own father, and then again for Patroklos; and the ”[61]

Thus moved, Achilles accepts the ransom Priam has brought for the body and lets him have it back, and the poem ends with the simple, dignified funeral rites for Hektor, which the Trojans perform.[62]

By way of a conclusion I offer two judgements by two eminent scholars.

Moses Finley: “The genius of the Iliad and Odyssey does not lie primarily [my emphasis - CG] in the individual pieces, or even in the language, for that was all a common stock of materials available to any bard in quantity. The pre-eminence of a Homer lies in the scale on which he worked; in the elegance and structural coherence of his complex narrative; in the virtuosity with which he varied the repeated, typical scenes; in his feeling for tone and tempo, his interruptions and retardations, his long similes without parallel in the history of literature - in short, in the freshness with which he both invented and manipulated what he had inherited. Paradoxically, the greater the mass of accumulated materials, the greater the poet’s freedom, given a desire and the ability to exercise it.

“Through his genius, a Homer could create a remarkably coherent world, on the one hand different in details, and even in some essentials, from what older bards had passed on to him, and on the other hand still within the fixed path of bardic tradition, retaining a large part of that traditional world.”[63]

Finally Joachim Latacz: “The Greeks have looked upon Homer as not only their first, but their greatest poet. The history of the reception of both works justifies this. The extent, duration and intensity of this reception have no parallel. Greeks, Romans and the European modern age have all fed on Homer, learnt from him, used him to develop their own poetry and poetic studies, imitated him, sought to outdo him and to shake him off - and admired him. Poetry which lacks substantial quality can have no such reception.”[64]


  1. Iliad i, 34.
  2. Iliad i, 141.
  3. Iliad i, 157.
  4. Iliad i, 350; ii, 613; Odyssey ii, 421.
  5. Iliad i, 312.
  6. Iliad xiii, 352.
  7. Odyssey iv, 432.
  8. Odyssey viii, 49.
  9. Odyssey xv, 294.
  10. Iliad i, 201.
  11. For example, Iliad ii, 7.
  12. Iliad iv, 350.
  13. For example, Iliad i, 477 = Odyssey iv, 306.
  14. Hamlet act 1, scene 2.
  15. For example, Iliad iv, 504.
  16. Iliad xiii, 181.
  17. Odyssey i, 16.
  18. Odyssey ii, 388.
  19. See MM Willcock A companion to the Iliad  Chicago 1976, p52.
  20. Iliad iv 462.
  21. Iliad iv, 141-47 - Menelaos is here addressed directly to get a short syllable for metrical purposes at the end of his name.
  22. Odyssey xx, 14-16.
  23. Odyssey xx, 25-28.
  24. Aristotle Poetics (Loeb translation), pp57-59.
  25. Ibid p91.
  26. See Denys Page’s description in The Homeric Odyssey, Oxford 1935, pp59-60.
  27. Iliad xviii, 478.
  28. Iliad 607-08.
  29. MM Willcock A companion to the Iliad Chicago 1976, p209.
  30. Ibid p210.
  31. Iliad ii, 498-99.
  32. Iliad ii, 509-10.
  33. Iliad ii, 504-540, 36 lines in total.
  34. JB Bury History of Greece London 1959, p75; NGL Hammond History of Greece London 1959, pp142-45.
  35. NGL Hammond History of Greece London 1959, p143.
  36. R Drews Basileus New Haven 1983, p143.
  37. Erga kai Hemerai 263-64.
  38. JAK Thomson Studies in the Odyssey London 1914, p96.
  39. See S Butler Odysseus unbound Cambridge 2005.
  40. Odyssey vi, 204-05.
  41. Odyssey vi, 304-15.
  42. Odyssey vii, 108-11.
  43. Odyssey v, 35.
  44. Odyssey vii, 36.
  45. Odyssey vii, 117-19.
  46. Odyssey viii, 557-563.
  47. Odyssey xi, 350-53.
  48. Iliad vi, 490-93.
  49. Odyssey i, 358-9.
  50. Odyssey i, 570-6.
  51. AC Fifield The humour of Homer and other essays London 1913, p67.
  52. Odyssey i, 599-600.
  53. Odyssey viii, 78-82.
  54. Odyssey xx, 25-28.
  55. Butler 1913, p94.
  56. Odyssey xiii, 13-15.
  57. Odyssey i, 318.
  58. Odyssey 1, 220-27.
  59. Odyssey ix, 408.
  60. Iliad vi, 447-463.
  61. Iliad xxiv, 507, 509-12. The reasons why Achilles wept for his father we learn further on at lines 534-42.
  62. Iliad xxiv, 788-804.
  63. M Finley The world of Odysseus New York 2002, p22.
  64. J Latacz Troy and Homer Oxford 2004, pp152-53.