ἀστέρα ἧκε: so MSS.; Bentley “ἀστέρ᾽ ἕηκε”. The place, just before the caesura “κατὰ τρίτον τροχαῖον”, is the most unlikely for an hiatus, so that the conjecture is almost certainly right. See 2.87. It is not easy to make out exactly what the people saw and marvelled at (79); the metaphor clearly indicates more than the mere swiftness of descent, and implies at least a visible flash, though we cannot suppose that Athene actually changed herself into a ‘fire-ball’ or meteorite; but on the other hand Homeric gods are not in the habit of appearing to multitudes in their own person. Of course the sparks in 77 are merely part of the description of such a meteor, and do not belong to the comparison. A very similar passage is 17.547 sqq., which describes the descent of the same goddess clothed in a cloud like a rainbow, spread by Zeus “τέρας ἔμμεναι ἢ πολέμοιο ἢ καὶ χειμῶνος”. 82 shews that the people did not know what had happened, but only expected some divine interference in a decisive way, whether for good or ill. The edd. compare Hymn. Apoll. 440 —“ἔνθ᾽ ἐκ νηὸς ὄρουσεν ἄναξ ἑκάεργος Ἀπόλλων ἀστέρι εἰδόμενος μέσωι ἤματι: τοῦ δ᾽ ἀπὸ πολλαὶ σπινθαρίδες πωτῶντο, σέλας δ᾽ εἰς οὐρανὸν ἷκεν”, where Apollo is actually surrounded by a blaze of fire; the author of these lines, however, clearly had the present passage in his mind.
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