There can be no doubt that the gods are supposed by the poet to take the forms of birds. Some have understood ἐοικότες to mean ‘after the manner,’ not ‘in the likeness,’ of birds, a translation which might be supported by 2.337. But there is certainly no gain of dignity in supposing the gods to sit in human form at the top of a high tree. A similar transformation of Athene into a swallow takes place in Od. 22.240, and cf. also 14.289 where Sleep sits in a tree “ὄρνιθι λιγυρῆι ἐναλίγκιος κτλ.” Other similar passages are Od. 1.319, Od. 3.371, Od. 5.51, 337, 15.236, in some of which there seems to be implied the form of a bird, in others the comparison is only to the bird's flight. αἰγυπιός is a poetical name which seems to include both eagles and vultures, for the “αἰγυπιός” eats live birds (17.460, Od. 22.302) as well as carrion. The name is commonly taken to be for “αἰγιγυπιός”, goat-vulture, cf. Lämmergeier. But Thompson (Glossary, s.v.) suggests that the “αἰ-”, which is very common in bird-names, contains an element akin to avi-s, Skt. vi-s (cf. “ἀετός”), and that “γύψ” is a shortened or derived form.
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