ὁπλοτάτη, ‘youngest’ is perhaps connected with “ἁπαλός”. The part which women are in the Odyssey represented as taking in the ‘bathing’ of men, has been variously commented upon; and lastly by Gladstone (Homeric Age, 2. 513). The leading loci are (1) the present passage vv. 464-467; (2) the formula where slaves only are mentioned, Od.4. 48; 17. 88 “ἔς ῤ̔ ἀσαμίνθους βάντες ἐυξέστας λούσαντο”.“τοὺς δ᾽ ἐπεὶ οὖν δμωαὶ λοῦσαν καὶ ἔχρισαν ἐλαίῳ κ.τ.λ.”; (3) Helen's account of what she did for Odysseus, Od.4. 252“ἀλλ᾽ ὅτε δή μιν ἐγὼ λόεον καὶ χρῖον ἐλαίῳ”,
“ἀμφὶ δὲ εἵματα ἕσσα κ.τ.λ.”: (4) the description of Odysseus in Scheria, Od.6. 209-222 “ἀμφίπολοι . . λούσατέ τ᾽ ἐν ποταμῷ . . πὰρ δ᾽ ἄρα οἱ φᾶρος τε χιτῶνά τε εἵματ᾽ ἔθηκαν”,
“δῶκαν δὲ . . ἔλαιον”,
“ἤνωγον δ᾽ ἄρα μιν λοῦσθαι κ.τ.λ.” Compare Odysseus' own account of the same transaction ( Od.7. 296) “καὶ λοῦσ᾽ ἐν ποταμῷ καί μοι τάδε εἵματ᾽ ἔδωκεν”. (5) The scene at Circe's house, Od.10. 361“ἔς ῤ̔ ἀσάμινθον ἕσασα λὄ ἐκ τρίποδος μεγάλοιο”,
“θυμῆρες κεράσασα, κατὰ κρατός τε καὶ ὤμων”
. . “αὐτὰρ ἐπεὶ λοῦσέν τε καὶ ἔχρισεν λίπ᾽ ἐλαίῳ”,
“ἀμφὶ δέ με χλαῖναν καλὴν βάλεν ἠδὲ χιτῶνα κ.τ.λ.”; and (6) the washing of Odysseus in his own palace, Od.19. 317“ἀλλά μιν, ἀμφίπολοι, ἀπολούσατε . . 357 ἀλλ᾽ ἄγε νῦν ἀνστᾶσα περίφρων Εὐρύκλεια”,
“νίψον σοῖο ἄνακτος ὁμήλικα . . 392 νῖζε δ᾽ ἄρ᾽ ἆσσον ἰοῦσα ἄναχθ᾽ ἑὸν, αὐτίκα δ᾽ ἔγνω”
“οὐλήν . . 467 τὴν γρηὺς χείρεσσι καταπρηνέσσι λαβοῦσα”
“γνῶ ῤ̔ ἐπιμασσαμένη κ.τ.λ.” (but here the question is only of “ποδάνιπτρα”).
Mr. Gladstone urges that “λούειν” and “ἀμφίβαλλειν” mean only ‘cause to bathe,’ ‘cause to put on;’ that is, to supply the requisites for bathing and for dressing. This interpretation is grammatically sound; just as Od.10. 366“εἷσε μ᾽ ἐπὶ θρόνου” is ‘bade me sit.’ Mr. Gladstone compares our own idiom of ‘feeding the poor.’ But, beyond this, he shows that in instance (4), this interpretation is absolutely forced upon us; since Od.7. 296“Ναυσικάα λοῦσ᾽ ἐν ποταμῷ” is the account which Odysseus gives of a transaction which circumstantially was as follows: Nausicaa, (6. 210) addressing her “ἀμφίπολοι”, with reference to Odysseus, says, “λούσατέ τ᾽ ἐν ποταμῷ”, and accordingly they “πὰρ δ᾽ ἄρα οἱ φᾶρός τε χιτῶνά τε εἵματ᾽ ἔθηκαν”, “δῶκαν δὲ . . ἔλαιον”,
“ἤνωγον δ᾽ ἄρα μιν λοῦσθαι”. To this we may add an argument from instance (2), which first informs us that the men “λούσαντο” (‘washed themselves,’ the line is frequent in the Iliad where there is no question of women), and then, immediately after, identifies this with “δμωαὶ λοῦσαν”. A certain reservation is made necessary by instance (5); on which Mr. Gladstone justly observes: ‘1. The statement that the water was poured over his head and shoulders, as he sat in the bath, evidently implies that what may be called essential decency was preserved. 2. Even if it were not so, we could not in this point argue from the manners and morals of a Phoenician goddess to those of a Greek damsel. 3. She gave him water to wash with, pouring it over his head and shoulders, and then leaving to him the substance of the operation which was not completed by this mere act of affusion.’ It may be added that the scantiness of light in Homeric rooms was itself a veil—a consideration applicable to all the cases of in-door bathing, whatever we take the women's part to have been. ‘It would appear therefore,’ says Mr. Gladstone, ‘that the statements of Homer give no ground whatever for sinister or disparaging imputation. His pictures do not entirely correspond with modern ideas: but they may well leave on our minds the impression that, in the period he describes, if the standard of appearances in this department was lower, that of positive thought and action was higher, as well as simpler, than in our own day.’
See the question amusingly treated by Prof. Buchholz, Hom. Real. II. 2. § 10, who contrasts ‘der Naivetät des homerischen Weibes’ with the ‘zierpuppenhafte Verschämtheit unserer modernen Dämchen.’ The supposition of indelicacy is indeed broadly inconsistent with the sentiment expressed by Odysseus ( Od.6. 218) “ἀμφίπολοι, στῆθ᾽ οὕτω ἀπόπροθεν, ὄφρ᾽ ἐγὼ αὐτὸς” “ἅλμην ὤμοιιν ἀπολούσομαι . . ἄντην δ᾽ οὐκ ἂν ἐγώ γε λοέσσομαι: αἰδέομαι γὰρ”
“γυμνοῦσθαι, κ.τ.λ.”, and again ( Od.19. 344) “οὐδὲ γυνὴ ποδὸς ἅψεται ἡμετέροιο”
. . “εἰ μή τις γρηῦς ἔστι παλαιὴ, κεδνὰ ἰδυῖα”, which last passage is the more forcible, because the refusal must have been in unison with custom, else it would have betrayed the underlying motive which Odysseus had of concealment.
The various suppositions, that it was the business of the lord's daughter specially to attend to the bath, or that here is signified a distinguished mark of attention paid by Polycasta to Telemachus, or that female slaves performed the duty only in default of a daughter of the house, are none of them consistent with all the instances. The truth is, that as the bath was a primary feature in the guest's welcome, and as the household arrangements were superintended either by the mistress or by the grown-up daughter, upon whom she had devolved her duties, we naturally find one of these to be giving orders for the bath; and the orders are carried out by female slaves. Hence in some passages the bath is said to have been provided by the mistress, or her daughter, e.g. instances (1), (3), (5); in others by the “ἀμφίπολοι”, under mother's or daughter's orders, (4), (6); or lastly, by “δμωαί”, without such orders, (2).