previous next

1-50. The removal of the arms from the “μέγαρον” to an inner “θάλαμος” has already been mentioned in 16. 281-298. The two passages are to some extent identical, the nine lines 19. 5-13 being a repetition of 16. 286-294. Ancient and modern critics are generally agreed in regarding 16. 281-298 as an interpolation, founded upon the present passage, and intended to lead up to it. They argue that Ulysses would not be likely to think of the arms in the “μέγαρον” until he came to the palace himself: that exact directions, such as he gives for an answer to the Suitors, are more appropriate at the later stage: that the phrase “μαλακοῖς ἐπέεσσι παρφάσθαι” (16. 286) comes awkwardly after “μειλιχίοις ἐπέεσσι παραυδῶν” in 16. 279: and that the injunction to keep two sets of arms for himself and Telemachus, which does not recur in the 19th book, is inconsistent with the subsequent story. It has also been pointed out that the words in 16. 283 “νεύσω κτλ.” refer to a signal to be given by Ulysses to Telemachus while the Suitors are in the hall, whereas the removal of the arms could only be carried out while they were absent. Finally, the repetition of the formula “ἄλλο δέ τοι ἐρέω κτλ.” (16. 281, 299) is strongly suggestive of insertion.

On the other hand it is maintained by Kirchhoff (Odyssee, p. 560) that the passage in the 16th book is genuine, and is the source from which the passage before us was derived. His arguments turn upon minute points of comparison between the language of the two places. Thus in 19. 10 the unusual construction “ἐνὶ φρεσὶν ἔμβαλε” is best accounted for by supposing that the vague phrase “ἔμβαλε δαίμων” was substituted for “θῆκε Κρονίων”, which is the reading in 16. 291. Again, 19. 4 gives in one line the substance of the two lines 16. 284-285, and has probably been abbreviated from them. The speech of Ulysses in 19. 4 ff. begins abruptly, and is not clear by itself: e. g. the words “κατθέμεν εἴσω” are only intelligible if they recall 16. 285 “ἐς μυχὸν ὑψηλοῦ θαλάμου καταθεῖναι”. And “χρὴ κατθέμεν” is not so Homeric as the use of the infinitives “καταθεῖναι” and “παρφάσθαι” as imperatives.

These considerations, if not all equally decisive, show at least that we cannot be content simply to bracket 16. 281298. But other reasons lead rather to the conclusion that both passages are additions to the original context.

(1) If the repetition of “ἄλλο δέ τοι ἐρέω κτλ.” is suspicious, the same may be said with still greater force of 19. 1-2 and 51-52. And it may be noticed that “αὐτὰρ ἐν μεγάρῳ ὑπελείπετο δῖος Ὀδυσσεύς” is more correct in l. 51, when Ulysses is left quite alone, than in l. 1, when Telemachus is still with him.

(2) The speech which Telemachus is to make to the Suitors (16. 286-294= 19.5-13) does not fall in with the course of events. He is here furnished with the answer to be given to them when they notice the absence of the arms. This leads us to expect that the Suitors, when they come to the palace next day, will at once ask about the arms, and receive the preconcerted answer, repeated in the Epic manner. But no such incident takes place.

(3) One of the reasons which Telemachus is to give is that arms tempt men to use them. This assumes that the Suitors were otherwise unarmed: whereas (as we presently find) every one had his sword by his side. It would seem, then, that this argument was suggested in an age when the habit of wearing arms no longer prevailed.

(4) The proverb “ἐφέλκεται ἄνδρα σίδηρος” is a similar anachronism. It belongs to a period when iron was the chief or only metal of which weapons were made. But although the use of iron was well known in the time of the Odyssey, it was evidently still rare in comparison with bronze. Not only do we never hear of iron spears or swords, but the word “χαλκός” is often used of weapons generally, like “σίδηρος” here: cp. Od.4. 226, 700, 743., 11. 120, 519, 535., 13. 271., 14. 271., 17. 440, &c.

(5) The vocabulary in the two passages in question has a post-Homeric stamp. This applies to “κατῄκισται” (for “κατηϝείκισται”), “τρώσητε” (for “τρώσετε”), “χρύσεον” as a spondee, “λύχνον”. See also the note on l. 48.

There are however two passages in the 22nd book, and one in the 24th, which seem to imply that the arms had been removed from the “μέγαρον”.

(1) 22. 23-25, where the “μνηστηροφονία” begins by the slaying of Antinous, and the others start up in excitement “πάντοσε παπταίνοντες ἐϋδμήτους ποτὶ τοίχους, οὐδέ πῃ ἀσπὶς ἔην οὐδ᾽ ἄλκιμον ἔγχος ἑλέσθαι”. These words however, as Kirchhoff has happily shown, do not suit the context. They imply that the Suitors looked for arms for their combat with Ulysses. But the Suitors did not yet expect any combat. They thought that the stranger had killed Antinous by accident, and did not dream of the fate that was hanging over them. Hence these lines are an interpolation, and prove nothing about the removal of the arms.

(2) 22. 140-141 “ἐκ θαλάμου: ἔνδον γάρ, ὀΐομαι, οὐδέ πῃ ἄλλῃ τεύχεα κατθέσθην Ὀδυσεὺς καὶ φαίδιμος υἱός”. These words are generally taken to mean that Melanthius would bring arms from the “θάλαμος”, since it was there, and nowhere else, that Ulysses and Telemachus had put them. But as Kirchhoff points out, that cannot be the true sense. The word “ἔνδον” does not mean ‘there,’ but ‘within’ (opposed to ‘without’), hence ‘at home,’ ‘in their place.’ What Melanthius wishes to say is that the arms will be found in their proper place, the “θάλαμος” —that Ulysses and Telemachus have not put them anywhere else (which they might have done as a precaution). The passage therefore is really a confirmation of the view that the whole incident of the removal of the arms is a later addition.

We may go further, and conjecture that it was the misunderstanding of this passage that gave the incident its place in the existing narrative.

(3) The removal of the arms is also mentioned in 24. 164-166. The fact may rank with other indications of the later date of that book. It is worth while noticing that the words “ἀλλ᾽ ὅτε δή μιν ἔγειρε Διὸς νόος” (24. 164) recall 16. 291 “ἐνὶ φρεσὶ θῆκε Κρονίων” (16. 291), and “ἀείρας” in 24. 165 must come from 16. 285. Possibly the author of the 24th book knew 16. 281-298, but not 19. 1-50.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide References (9 total)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: