πείρατα. Most lexicographers find such apparent incongruity in the various usages of this word, that they treat of two distinct forms; one signifying ‘end,’ the other ‘rope.’ Liddell and Scott's Lexicon rightly brings all the meanings under a single head; though Döderlein declares that all attempts at reconcilement are futile. However, the simple interpretation of the Etym. Mag. “πεῖραρ, πέρας—τέλος— τὸ πέρας τοῦ σχοινίου” will be found quite satisfactory.In such phrases as “πείρατα Ὠκεανοῖο” Od.11. 13, “πείρατα γαίης” Il.8. 478; 14. 200, 301; Od.4. 563; 9.284; there is nothing to suggest any deviation from the meaning of ‘boundaries’ or ‘ends.’ Nor indeed should the difficulty arise in such expressions as “ἐπὶ πείρατ᾽ ἀέθλων” “ἤλθομεν” Od.23. 248, or “ὀλέθρου πείραθ᾽ ἵκηαι” Il.6. 143; 20.429. “Πεῖραρ ὀιζύος” or “ὀλέθρου” is very needlessly rendered, e. g. by Autenrieth, (Hom. Lex.) and others, as ‘laquei exitii’ or ‘miseriae;’ it is really completely illustrated by “τέλος γάμοιο, θανάτοιο”, meaning the ‘realisation’ or ‘consummation;’ when anything has reached its destination or achieved its purpose; a meaning that comes out very strikingly in “πεῖραρ ἑλέσθαι” Il.18. 501.It may be doubted whether “χαλκήια, πείρατα τέχνης” ( Od.3. 433) means the smith's tools, as the highest ‘accomplishments’ of art, or whether, with a slightly changed point of view, they are regarded as the ‘accomplishers,’ cp. Il.23. 350.We may next pass to an usage apparently different. In Il.13. 358 the action of Zeus and Poseidon, in determining the destinies of the contending hosts, is thus described: “τοὶ δ᾽ ἔριδος κρατερῆς καὶ ὁμοιίου πολέμοιο”
“πεῖραρ ἐπαλλάξαντες ἐπ᾽ ἀμφοτέροισι τάνυσσαν”,
“ἄρρηκτόν τ᾽ ἄλυτόν τε”. Here the word “τανύειν” and the use of the two epithets make it certain that the deities are dragging with all their power at either end of a rope—a common trial of strength, as in the familiar game of ‘French and English,’ or its more modern form, ‘The Tug of War.’ Possibly the same idea of a rope is contained in the phrase “ἀλλὰ ὕπερθεν”
“νίκης πείρατ᾽ ἔχονται ἐν ἀθανάτοισι θεοῖσιν”. At least this interpretation is suggested by the graphic “ὕπερθεν”, otherwise we might well be content to render, ‘the issues of victory.’ But this interpretation is not necessary in “Τρώεσσιν ὀλέθρου πείρατ᾽ ἐφῆπται” Il.7. 402; 12. 79, for “πείρατα” retains its real meaning there, like “τέλος θανάτοιο”, as may be inferred from the variant of the same expression, in “Τρώεσσι δὲ κήδἐ ἐφῆπται” Il.2. 15.In the present passage, where Odysseus is lashed to the mast, no one will pretend that “πείρατα” does not contain the notion of ‘ropes;’ indeed in h. Hom. Apoll. 129 we find “οὐδ᾽ ἔτι δεσμά σ᾽ ἔρυκε, λύοντο δὲ πείρατα πάντα”. But the solution is, that “πείρατα”, in this usage, signifies exactly the ‘rope-ends,’ not the whole length of the rope, except by implication. This meaning is remarkably illustrated by the technical use of ἀρχή for a ‘rope-end.’ If I think of such an end as the furthest piece of the cord, I regard it as “πεῖραρ”, if I take it as the end nearest my hand, it seems to be “ἀρχή”. See Act. Apost. 10. 11 “σκεῦός τι ὡς ὀθόνην μεγάλην τέσσαρσιν ἀρχαῖς δεδεμένον”, where “ἀρχαί” are not ‘corners,’ as in V.E. , but ropes. So Sicul. Diod. (1. 104), speaking of the method of taking the hippopotamus with harpoons, says, “εἶθ᾽ ἑνὶ τῶν ἐμπαγέντων ἐνάπτοντες ἀρχὰς στυπίνας ἀφίασι μέχρις ἂν παραλυθῇ”, and Lucian too has (t. 3. p. 83) “δεσμῶν ἀρχάς”. Markland, on Eur. Hipp.761 translates “ἐκδήσαντο πλεκτὰς πεισμάτων ἀρχάς” by ‘tortas funium extremitates;’ quoting Herodot. 4. 60, where the victim is thrown to the ground by twitching the end of a rope fastened round his fore-feet, “σπάσας τὴν ἀρχὴν τοῦ στρόφου καταβάλλει νιν”. Thus we have in Il.13. 358(sup.) the gods dragging at the ends of a rope; and, here, the free ends of the cords with which Odysseus is tied are secured to the mast. No doubt “πείρατα” became a familiar word for ‘ropes’ generally, just as ‘endje’ is used in German vernacular for a piece of rope (Lucht, das Schiff, p. 29). Perhaps we may detect another familiar usage in the word ‘orae;’ cp. Livy 28. 36 ‘oras et ancoralia praecidunt.’
For a description of the ἱστοπέδη see Appendix on the Ship; and with ἀνήφθω ἐκ cp. “πέτρης ἐκ πείσματα δήσας” Od.10. 96.