The Iliad of Homer

Page: 340

"Sing, heavenly Muse, that on the secret top
Of Horeb, or of Sinai, didst inspire
That shepherd."

Latona's son: i.e. Apollo.


King of men: Agamemnon.


Brother kings: Menelaus and Agamemnon.


Smintheus an epithet taken from sminthos, the Phrygian name for a mouse, was applied to Apollo for having put an end to a plague of mice which had harassed that territory. Strabo, however, says, that when the Teucri were migrating from Crete, they were told by an oracle to settle in that place, where they should not be attacked by the original inhabitants of the land, and that, having halted for the night, a number of field-mice came and gnawed away the leathern straps of their baggage, and thongs of their armour. In fulfilment of the oracle, they settled on the spot, and raised a temple to Sminthean Apollo. Grote, "History of Greece," i. p. 68, remarks that the "worship of Sminthean Apollo, in various parts of the Troad and its neighboring territory, dates before the earliest period of Aeolian colonization."


Cilla, a town of Troas near Thebe, so called from Cillus, a sister of Hippodamia, slain by OEnomaus.


A mistake. It should be,

"If e'er I roofed thy graceful fane,"

for the custom of decorating temples with garlands was of later date.


Bent was his bow "The Apollo of Homer, it must be borne in mind, is a different character from the deity of the same name in the later classical pantheon. Throughout both poems, all deaths from unforeseen or invisible causes, the ravages of pestilence, the fate of the young child or promising adult, cut off in the germ of infancy or flower of youth, of the old man dropping peacefully into the grave, or of the reckless sinner suddenly checked in his career of crime, are ascribed to the arrows of Apollo or Diana. The oracular functions of the god rose naturally out of the above fundamental attributes, for who could more appropriately impart to mortals what little foreknowledge Fate permitted of her decrees than the agent of her most awful dispensations? The close union of the arts of prophecy and song explains his additional office of god of music, while the arrows with which he and his sister were armed, symbols of sudden death in every age, no less naturally procured him that of god of archery. Of any connection between Apollo and the Sun, whatever may have existed in the more esoteric doctrine of the Greek sanctuaries, there is no trace in either Iliad or Odyssey."—Mure, "History of Greek Literature," vol. i. p. 478, sq.


It has frequently been observed, that most pestilences begin with animals, and that Homer had this fact in mind.


Convened to council. The public assembly in the heroic times is well characterized by Grote, vol. ii. p 92. "It is an assembly for talk. Communication and discussion to a certain extent by the chiefs in person, of the people as listeners and sympathizers—often for eloquence, and sometimes for quarrel—but here its ostensible purposes end."


Old Jacob Duport, whose "Gnomologia Homerica" is full of curious and useful things, quotes several passages of the ancients, in which reference is made to these words of Homer, in maintenance of the belief that dreams had a divine origin and an import in which men were interested.


Rather, "bright-eyed." See the German critics quoted by Arnold.


The prize given to Ajax was Tecmessa, while Ulysses received Laodice, the daughter of Cycnus.


The Myrmidons dwelt on the southern borders of Thessaly, and took their origin from Myrmido, son of Jupiter and Eurymedusa. It is fancifully supposed that the name was derived from myrmaex, an ant, "because they imitated the diligence of the ants, and like them were indefatigable, continually employed in cultivating the earth; the change from ants to men is founded merely on the equivocation of their name, which resembles that of the ant: they bore a further resemblance to these little animals, in that instead of inhabiting towns or villages, at first they commonly resided in the open fields, having no other retreats but dens and the cavities of trees, until Ithacus brought them together, and settled them in more secure and comfortable habitations."—Anthon's "Lempriere."


Eustathius, after Heraclides Ponticus and others, allegorizes this apparition, as if the appearance of Minerva to Achilles, unseen by the rest, was intended to point out the sudden recollection that he would gain nothing by intemperate wrath, and that it were best to restrain his anger, and only gratify it by withdrawing his services. The same idea is rather cleverly worked out by Apuleius, "De Deo Socratis."


Compare Milton, "Paradise Lost," bk. ii:

"Though his tongue
Dropp'd manna."

So Proverbs v. 3, "For the lips of a strange woman drop as an honey-comb."


Salt water was chiefly used in lustrations, from its being supposed to possess certain fiery particles. Hence, if sea-water could not be obtained, salt was thrown into the fresh water to be used for the lustration. Menander, in Clem. Alex. vii. p.713, hydati perriranai, embalon alas, phakois.


The persons of heralds were held inviolable, and they were at liberty to travel whither they would without fear of molestation. Pollux, Onom. viii. p. 159. The office was generally given to old men, and they were believed to be under the especial protection of Jove and Mercury.


His mother, Thetis, the daughter of Nereus and Doris, who was courted by Neptune and Jupiter. When, however, it was known that the son to whom she would give birth must prove greater than his father, it was determined to wed her to a mortal, and Peleus, with great difficulty, succeeded in obtaining her hand, as she eluded him by assuming various forms. Her children were all destroyed by fire through her attempts to see whether they were immortal, and Achilles would have shared the same fate had not his father rescued him. She afterwards rendered him invulnerable by plunging him into the waters of the Styx, with the exception of that part of the heel by which she held him. Hygin. Fab. 54


Thebe was a city of Mysia, north of Adramyttium.


That is, defrauds me of the prize allotted me by their votes.


Quintus Calaber goes still further in his account of the service rendered to Jove by Thetis:

"Nay more, the fetters of Almighty Jove
She loosed"—Dyce's "Calaber," s. 58.

To Fates averse. Of the gloomy destiny reigning throughout the Homeric poems, and from which even the gods are not exempt, Schlegel well observes, "This power extends also to the world of gods— for the Grecian gods are mere powers of nature—and although immeasurably higher than mortal man, yet, compared with infinitude, they are on an equal footing with himself."—'Lectures on the Drama' v. p. 67.


It has been observed that the annual procession of the sacred ship so often represented on Egyptian monuments, and the return of the deity from Ethiopia after some days' absence, serves to show the Ethiopian origin of Thebes, and of the worship of Jupiter Ammon. "I think," says Heeren, after quoting a passage from Diodorus about the holy ship, "that this procession is represented in one of the great sculptured reliefs on the temple of Karnak. The sacred ship of Ammon is on the shore with its whole equipment, and is towed along by another boat. It is therefore on its voyage. This must have been one of the most celebrated festivals, since, even according to the interpretation of antiquity, Homer alludes to it when he speaks of Jupiter's visit to the Ethiopians, and his twelve days' absence."—Long, "Egyptian Antiquities" vol. 1 p. 96. Eustathius, vol. 1 p. 98, sq. (ed. Basil) gives this interpretation, and likewise an allegorical one, which we will spare the reader.


Atoned, i.e. reconciled. This is the proper and most natural meaning of the word, as may be seen from Taylor's remarks in Calmet's Dictionary, p.110, of my edition.


That is, drawing back their necks while they cut their throats. "If the sacrifice was in honour of the celestial gods, the throat was bent upwards towards heaven; but if made to the heroes, or infernal deities, it was killed with its throat toward the ground."— "Elgin Marbles," vol i. p.81.

"The jolly crew, unmindful of the past,
The quarry share, their plenteous dinner haste,
Some strip the skin; some portion out the spoil;
The limbs yet trembling, in the caldrons boil;
Some on the fire the reeking entrails broil.
Stretch'd on the grassy turf, at ease they dine,
Restore their strength with meat, and cheer their souls with wine."

Dryden's "Virgil," i. 293.


Crown'd, i.e. filled to the brim. The custom of adorning goblets with flowers was of later date.


He spoke, &c. "When a friend inquired of Phidias what pattern he had formed his Olympian Jupiter, he is said to have answered by repeating the lines of the first Iliad in which the poet represents the majesty of the god in the most sublime terms; thereby signifying that the genius of Homer had inspired him with it. Those who beheld this statue are said to have been so struck with it as to have asked whether Jupiter had descended from heaven to show himself to Phidias, or whether Phidias had been carried thither to contemplate the god."— "Elgin Marbles," vol. xii p.124.

"So was his will
Pronounced among the gods, and by an oath,
That shook heav'n's whole circumference, confirm'd."

"Paradise Lost" ii. 351.


A double bowl, i.e. a vessel with a cup at both ends, something like the measures by which a halfpenny or pennyworth of nuts is sold. See Buttmann, Lexic. p. 93 sq.


"Paradise Lost," i. 44.

"Him th' Almighty power
Hurl'd headlong flaming from th ethereal sky,
With hideous ruin and combustion"

The occasion on which Vulcan incurred Jove's displeasure was this—After Hercules, had taken and pillaged Troy, Juno raised a storm, which drove him to the island of Cos, having previously cast Jove into a sleep, to prevent him aiding his son. Jove, in revenge, fastened iron anvils to her feet, and hung her from the sky, and Vulcan, attempting to relieve her, was kicked down from Olympus in the manner described. The allegorists have gone mad in finding deep explanations for this amusing fiction. See Heraclides, 'Ponticus," p. 463 sq., ed Gale. The story is told by Homer himself in Book xv. The Sinthians were a race of robbers, the ancient inhabitants of Lemnos which island was ever after sacred to Vulcan.

"Nor was his name unheard or unadored
In ancient Greece, and in Ausonian land
Men call'd him Mulciber, and how he fell
From heaven, they fabled, thrown by angry Jove
Sheer o'er the crystal battlements from morn
To noon he fell, from noon to dewy eve,
A summer's day and with the setting sun
Dropp'd from the zenith like a falling star
On Lemnos, th' Aegean isle thus they relate."

"Paradise Lost," i. 738


It is ingeniously observed by Grote, vol i p. 463, that "The gods formed a sort of political community of their own which had its hierarchy, its distribution of ranks and duties, its contentions for power and occasional revolutions, its public meetings in the agora of Olympus, and its multitudinous banquets or festivals."


Plato, Rep. iii. p. 437, was so scandalized at this deception of Jupiter's, and at his other attacks on the character of the gods, that he would fain sentence him to an honourable banishment. (See Minucius Felix, Section 22.) Coleridge, Introd. p. 154, well observes, that the supreme father of gods and men had a full right to employ a lying spirit to work out his ultimate will. Compare "Paradise Lost," v. 646:

"And roseate dews disposed
All but the unsleeping eyes of God to rest."

Dream ought to be spelt with a capital letter, being, I think, evidently personified as the god of dreams. See Anthon and others.

"When, by Minerva sent, a fraudful Dream
Rush'd from the skies, the bane of her and Troy."

Dyce's "Select Translations from Quintus Calaber," p.10.

"Sleep'st thou, companion dear, what sleep can close
Thy eye-lids?"

—"Paradise Lost," v. 673.


This truly military sentiment has been echoed by the approving voice of many a general and statesman of antiquity. See Pliny's Panegyric on Trajan. Silius neatly translates it,

"Turpe duci totam somno consumere noctem."

The same in habit, &c.

"To whom once more the winged god appears;