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[53] δέσποιναν. The word is not found in the Iliad for this reason, that the relation it denotes is a domestic one. The point of this simple line has been generally mistaken, through a misinterpretation of κιχήσεαι. Thus Bothe, ‘thou art to make thy suit first to the queen:’ but (1) an interpretation which takes the word out of its obvious sense, and gives the tense, instead of its proper force, that of a virtual imperative, is harsh: and (2) it would be clumsy to make Athena, in her directions here, go over the same ground as Nausicaa has already insisted upon. Nitzsch, foreseeing perhaps the latter objection, subordinates this line to the next, thus:—‘the queen whom thou art to approach first is named Arete:’ but he is still open thus to the first objection, and besides to a new one, for “μέν” and “δέ” permit no such subordination in the pair of clauses they connect. There is no reason to look so curiously for the meaning which lies on the surface. κιχήσεαι is a simple future, and means not ‘approach’ nor ‘make suit to,’ but ‘find.’ (That πρῶτα qualifies “δέσποιναν” we are led to infer from the parallel passage, Od.13. 226τὴν δ᾽ Ὀδυσεὺς γήθησεν ἰδὼν καὶ ἐναντίος ἦλθε”,

καί μιν φωνήσας ἔπεα πτερόεντα προσηύδα:
φίλ᾽ ἐπεί σε πρῶτα κιχάνω τῷδ᾽ ἐνὶ χώρῳ”, where “πρῶτα” must refer to “σε”: cp. also Od.3. 419, etc.) In what sense then was the queen the first person Odysseus was to find? The only sense in which any one entering a room containing a large company could be said to ‘find’ one person before another, would be that of his eye first resting upon such an one: ‘thine eye will rest first upon the queen of all that are in the hall.’ This intimation is quite consistent (1) with Nausicaa's direction to push past the king to the queen, so long as κιχήσεαι does not mean ‘shalt come to;’ and also (2) with the statement in v. 49 “δήεις δὲ διοτρεφέας βασιλῆας κ.τ.λ.”, for this would be satisfied by a general consciousness of their presence; and, further, although “δήεις” (being quite general, of the finding of things as well as persons, whether expected or not) might have been used in the place of “κιχήσεαι”, it is no less true that “κιχήσεαι” (being only used of finding a person who is an object of search) could only properly be used of Arete and Alcinous. It is also consistent (3) with the account of Odysseus' actual proceedings, inf. 136 foll. “εὗρε δὲ Φαιήκων ἡγήτορας ἠδὲ μέδοντας . . αὐτὰρ βῆ διὰ δῶμα . . ὄφρ᾽ ἵκετ᾽ Ἀρήτην τε καὶ Ἀλκίνοον βασιλῆα”, for it is most reasonable to suppose that he would mark Arete at his first entrance, and then, in spite of finding himself among the chiefs, make his way to her.
It may be added, that a stranger was regarded as the suppliant specially, with all the rights implied in the word, of the person with whom he first established relations: cp. inf. 301; Od.13. 226-8 (quoted above), Soph. O. C.85ἕδρας

πρώτων ἐφ᾽ ὑμῶν τῆσδε γῆς ἔκαμψ᾽ ἐγώ”. Hence Arete says, Hom. Od.11. 338ξεῖνος δ᾽ αὖτ᾽ ἐμός ἐστιν”.

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hide References (4 total)
  • Commentary references from this page (4):
    • Homer, Odyssey, 11.338
    • Homer, Odyssey, 13.226
    • Homer, Odyssey, 3.419
    • Sophocles, Oedipus at Colonus, 85
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