The Iliad of Homer

Page: 345

This sceptre, like that of Judah (Genesis xlix. 10), is a type of the supreme and far-spread dominion of the house of the Atrides. See Thucydides i. 9. "It is traced through the hands of Hermes, he being the wealth giving god, whose blessing is most efficacious in furthering the process of acquisition."—Grote, i. p. 212. Compare Quintus Calaber (Dyce's Selections, p. 43).

"Thus the monarch spoke,
Then pledged the chief in a capacious cup,
Golden, and framed by art divine (a gift
Which to Almighty Jove lame Vulcan brought
Upon his nuptial day, when he espoused
The Queen of Love), the sire of gods bestow'd
The cup on Dardanus, who gave it next
To Ericthonius Tros received it then,
And left it, with his wealth, to be possess'd
By Ilus he to great Laomedon
Gave it, and last to Priam's lot it fell."

Grote, i, p. 393, states the number of the Grecian forces at upwards of 100,000 men. Nichols makes a total of 135,000.

"As thick as when a field
Of Ceres, ripe for harvest, waving bends
His bearded grove of ears, which way the wind
Sways them."—Paradise Lost," iv. 980, sqq.

This sentiment used to be a popular one with some of the greatest tyrants, who abused it into a pretext for unlimited usurpation of power. Dion, Caligula, and Domitian were particularly fond of it, and, in an extended form, we find the maxim propounded by Creon in the Antigone of Sophocles. See some important remarks of Heeren, "Ancient Greece," ch. vi. p. 105.


It may be remarked, that the character of Thersites, revolting and contemptible as it is, serves admirably to develop the disposition of Ulysses in a new light, in which mere cunning is less prominent. Of the gradual and individual development of Homer's heroes, Schlegel well observes, "In bas-relief the figures are usually in profile, and in the epos all are characterized in the simplest manner in relief; they are not grouped together, but follow one another; so Homer's heroes advance, one by one, in succession before us. It has been remarked that the Iliad is not definitively closed, but that we are left to suppose something both to precede and to follow it. The bas-relief is equally without limit, and may be continued ad infinitum, either from before or behind, on which account the ancients preferred for it such subjects as admitted of an indefinite extension, sacrificial processions, dances, and lines of combatants, and hence they also exhibit bas-reliefs on curved surfaces, such as vases, or the frieze of a rotunda, where, by the curvature, the two ends are withdrawn from our sight, and where, while we advance, one object appears as another disappears. Reading Homer is very much like such a circuit; the present object alone arresting our attention, we lose sight of what precedes, and do not concern ourselves about what is to follow."—"Dramatic Literature," p. 75.


"There cannot be a clearer indication than this description —so graphic in the original poem—of the true character of the Homeric agora. The multitude who compose it are listening and acquiescent, not often hesitating, and never refractory to the chief. The fate which awaits a presumptuous critic, even where his virulent reproaches are substantially well-founded, is plainly set forth in the treatment of Thersites; while the unpopularity of such a character is attested even more by the excessive pains which Homer takes to heap upon him repulsive personal deformities, than by the chastisement of Odysseus he is lame, bald, crook-backed, of misshapen head, and squinting vision."—Grote, vol. i. p. 97.


According to Pausanias, both the sprig and the remains of the tree were exhibited in his time. The tragedians, Lucretius and others, adopted a different fable to account for the stoppage at Aulis, and seem to have found the sacrifice of Iphigena better suited to form the subject of a tragedy. Compare Dryden's "Æneid," vol. iii. sqq.


Full of his god, i.e., Apollo, filled with the prophetic spirit. "The god" would be more simple and emphatic.


Those critics who have maintained that the "Catalogue of Ships" is an interpolation, should have paid more attention to these lines, which form a most natural introduction to their enumeration.


The following observation will be useful to Homeric readers: "Particular animals were, at a later time, consecrated to particular deities. To Jupiter, Ceres, Juno, Apollo, and Bacchus victims of advanced age might be offered. An ox of five years old was considered especially acceptable to Jupiter. A black bull, a ram, or a boar pig, were offerings for Neptune. A heifer, or a sheep, for Minerva. To Ceres a sow was sacrificed, as an enemy to corn. The goat to Bacchus, because he fed on vines. Diana was propitiated with a stag; and to Venus the dove was consecrated. The infernal and evil deities were to be appeased with black victims. The most acceptable of all sacrifices was the heifer of a year old, which had never borne the yoke. It was to be perfect in every limb, healthy, and without blemish."—"Elgin Marbles," vol. i. p. 78.


Idomeneus, son of Deucalion, was king of Crete. Having vowed, during a tempest, on his return from Troy, to sacrifice to Neptune the first creature that should present itself to his eye on the Cretan shore, his son fell a victim to his rash vow.


Tydeus' son, i.e. Diomed.


That is, Ajax, the son of Oileus, a Locrian. He must be distinguished from the other, who was king of Salamis.


A great deal of nonsense has been written to account for the word unbid, in this line. Even Plato, "Sympos." p. 315, has found some curious meaning in what, to us, appears to need no explanation. Was there any heroic rule of etiquette which prevented one brother-king visiting another without a formal invitation?


Fresh water fowl, especially swans, were found in great numbers about the Asian Marsh, a fenny tract of country in Lydia, formed by the river Cayster, near its mouth. See Virgil, "Georgics," vol. i. 383, sq.


Scamander, or Scamandros, was a river of Troas, rising, according to Strabo, on the highest part of Mount Ida, in the same hill with the Granicus and the OEdipus, and falling into the sea at Sigaeum; everything tends to identify it with Mendere, as Wood, Rennell, and others maintain; the Mendere is 40 miles long, 300 feet broad, deep in the time of flood, nearly dry in the summer. Dr. Clarke successfully combats the opinion of those who make the Scamander to have arisen from the springs of Bounabarshy, and traces the source of the river to the highest mountain in the chain of Ida, now Kusdaghy; receives the Simois in its course; towards its mouth it is very muddy, and flows through marshes. Between the Scamander and Simois, Homer's Troy is supposed to have stood: this river, according to Homer, was called Xanthus by the gods, Scamander by men. The waters of the Scamander had the singular property of giving a beautiful colour to the hair or wool of such animals as bathed in them; hence the three goddesses, Minerva, Juno, and Venus, bathed there before they appeared before Paris to obtain the golden apple: the name Xanthus, "yellow," was given to the Scamander, from the peculiar colour of its waters, still applicable to the Mendere, the yellow colour of whose waters attracts the attention of travellers.


It should be "his chest like Neptune." The torso of Neptune, in the "Elgin Marbles," No. 103, (vol. ii. p. 26,) is remarkable for its breadth and massiveness of development.

"Say first, for heav'n hides nothing from thy view."

—"Paradise Lost," i. 27.

"Ma di' tu, Musa, come i primi danni
Mandassero a Cristiani, e di quai parti:
Tu 'l sai; ma di tant' opra a noi si lunge
Debil aura di fama appena giunge."

—"Gier. Lib." iv. 19.


"The Catalogue is, perhaps, the portion of the poem in favour of which a claim to separate authorship has been most plausibly urged. Although the example of Homer has since rendered some such formal enumeration of the forces engaged, a common practice in epic poems descriptive of great warlike adventures, still so minute a statistical detail can neither be considered as imperatively required, nor perhaps such as would, in ordinary cases, suggest itself to the mind of a poet. Yet there is scarcely any portion of the Iliad where both historical and internal evidence are more clearly in favour of a connection from the remotest period, with the remainder of the work. The composition of the Catalogue, whensoever it may have taken place, necessarily presumes its author's acquaintance with a previously existing Iliad. It were impossible otherwise to account for the harmony observable in the recurrence of so vast a number of proper names, most of them historically unimportant, and not a few altogether fictitious: or of so many geographical and genealogical details as are condensed in these few hundred lines, and incidentally scattered over the thousands which follow: equally inexplicable were the pointed allusions occurring in this episode to events narrated in the previous and subsequent text, several of which could hardly be of traditional notoriety, but through the medium of the Iliad."—Mure, "Language and Literature of Greece," vol. i. p. 263.


Twice Sixty: "Thucydides observes that the Boeotian vessels, which carried one hundred and twenty men each, were probably meant to be the largest in the fleet, and those of Philoctetes, carrying fifty each, the smallest. The average would be eighty-five, and Thucydides supposes the troops to have rowed and navigated themselves; and that very few, besides the chiefs, went as mere passengers or landsmen. In short, we have in the Homeric descriptions the complete picture of an Indian or African war canoe, many of which are considerably larger than the largest scale assigned to those of the Greeks. If the total number of the Greek ships be taken at twelve hundred, according to Thucydides, although in point of fact there are only eleven hundred and eighty-six in the Catalogue, the amount of the army, upon the foregoing average, will be about a hundred and two thousand men. The historian considers this a small force as representing all Greece. Bryant, comparing it with the allied army at Platae, thinks it so large as to prove the entire falsehood of the whole story; and his reasonings and calculations are, for their curiosity, well worth a careful perusal."—Coleridge, p. 211, sq.


The mention of Corinth is an anachronism, as that city was called Ephyre before its capture by the Dorians. But Velleius, vol. i. p. 3, well observes, that the poet would naturally speak of various towns and cities by the names by which they were known in his own time.

"Adam, the goodliest man of men since born,
His sons, the fairest of her daughters Eve.'

—"Paradise Lost," iv. 323.


Æsetes' tomb. Monuments were often built on the sea-coast, and of a considerable height, so as to serve as watch-towers or land marks. See my notes to my prose translations of the "Odyssey," ii. p. 21, or on Eur. "Alcest." vol. i. p. 240.


Zeleia, another name for Lycia. The inhabitants were greatly devoted to the worship of Apollo. See Muller, "Dorians," vol. i. p. 248.


Barbarous tongues. "Various as were the dialects of the Greeks—and these differences existed not only between the several tribes, but even between neighbouring cities—they yet acknowledged in their language that they formed but one nation were but branches of the same family. Homer has 'men of other tongues:' and yet Homer had no general name for the Greek nation."—Heeren, "Ancient Greece," Section vii. p. 107, sq.

The cranes.
"Marking the tracts of air, the clamorous cranes
Wheel their due flight in varied ranks descried:
And each with outstretch'd neck his rank maintains,
In marshall'd order through th' ethereal void."

Lorenzo de Medici, in Roscoe's Life, Appendix.

See Cary's Dante: "Hell," canto v.

Silent, breathing rage.
"Thus they,
Breathing united force with fixed thought,
Moved on in silence."

"Paradise Lost," book i. 559.

"As when some peasant in a bushy brake
Has with unwary footing press'd a snake;
He starts aside, astonish'd, when he spies
His rising crest, blue neck, and rolling eyes"

Dryden's Virgil, ii. 510.


Dysparis, i.e. unlucky, ill fated, Paris. This alludes to the evils which resulted from his having been brought up, despite the omens which attended his birth.


The following scene, in which Homer has contrived to introduce so brilliant a sketch of the Grecian warriors, has been imitated by Euripides, who in his "Phoenissae" represents Antigone surveying the opposing champions from a high tower, while the paedagogus describes their insignia and details their histories.


No wonder, &c. Zeuxis, the celebrated artist, is said to have appended these lines to his picture of Helen, as a motto. Valer Max. iii. 7.


The early epic was largely occupied with the exploits and sufferings of women, or heroines, the wives and daughters of the Grecian heroes. A nation of courageous, hardy, indefatigable women, dwelling apart from men, permitting only a short temporary intercourse, for the purpose of renovating their numbers, burning out their right breast with a view of enabling themselves to draw the bow freely; this was at once a general type, stimulating to the fancy of the poet, and a theme eminently popular with his hearers. We find these warlike females constantly reappearing in the ancient poems, and universally accepted as past realities in the Iliad. When Priam wishes to illustrate emphatically the most numerous host in which he ever found himself included, he tells us that it was assembled in Phrygia, on the banks of the Sangarius, for the purpose of resisting the formidable Amazons. When Bellerophon is to be employed in a deadly and perilous undertaking, by those who prudently wished to procure his death, he is despatched against the Amazons.—Grote, vol. i p. 289.


Antenor, like Æneas, had always been favourable to the restoration of Helen. Liv 1. 2.

"His lab'ring heart with sudden rapture seized
He paus'd, and on the ground in silence gazed.
Unskill'd and uninspired he seems to stand,
Nor lifts the eye, nor graceful moves the hand:
Then, while the chiefs in still attention hung,
Pours the full tide of eloquence along;
While from his lips the melting torrent flows,
Soft as the fleeces of descending snows.
Now stronger notes engage the listening crowd,
Louder the accents rise, and yet more loud,
Like thunders rolling from a distant cloud."

Merrick's "Tryphiodorus," 148, 99.


Duport, "Gnomol. Homer," p. 20, well observes that this comparison may also be sarcastically applied to the frigid style of oratory. It, of course, here merely denotes the ready fluency of Ulysses.


Her brothers' doom. They perished in combat with Lynceus and Idas, whilst besieging Sparta. See Hygin. Poet Astr. 32, 22. Virgil and others, however, make them share immortality by turns.


Idreus was the arm-bearer and charioteer of king Priam, slain during this war. Cf. Æn, vi. 487.


Scaea's gates, rather Scaean gates, i.e. the left-hand gates.


This was customary in all sacrifices. Hence we find Iras descending to cut off the hair of Dido, before which she could not expire.


Nor pierced.

"This said, his feeble hand a jav'lin threw,
Which, flutt'ring, seemed to loiter as it flew,
Just, and but barely, to the mark it held,
And faintly tinkled on the brazen shield."

Dryden's Virgil, ii. 742.


Reveal'd the queen.

"Thus having said, she turn'd and made appear