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Assembly and hospitality in the Cyclopeia.

When Odysseus tells the Phaeacians his story of Polyphemus in Odyssey 9, he sets his account of violated hospitality within the framework of a Homeric assembly. On a contextual level, the conflation of type-scenes furthers the hero's mission of self-aggrandizement. Consistent with the poetics of "traditional referentiality," in which derogatory comments on the Ithacan's physique invoke his compensatory prowess as an assembly speaker, Odysseus responds to Euryalus' mocking of his appearance (Od. 8.158-64) with an account of himself as towering over the Cyclops in a would-be assembly. On a poetic level, the same conflation serves narrative ends of the Odyssey-poet that transcend those of his hero. To the external audience, the Cyclopes who convene outside the cave only to disperse recall the assembled Ithacans of Book 2, who disband without helping Telemachus. The poet establishes an "Ithacans as Cyclopes" analogy in which Ithacans emerge as monstrously indifferent to the suitors' violation of xeneia. Invading Polyphemus' cave, furthermore, Odysseus displays distinctly Ithacan behaviors and incurs not only the wrath of Poseidon but also the punishing justice of Zeus Xenios.

"They have neither assemblies for deliberation nor any established laws. Instead, they dwell in hollow caves on the peaks of lofty mountains, where each one sets laws for his wife and children, and they have no regard for one another." Thus, Odysseus' blanket condemnation of the Cyclopes in Odyssey 9.112-15. As the Cyclopeia unfolds, he documents this assessment with an account of the monsters' haphazard efforts to assemble. Near the end of the episode, the blinded Polyphemus cries out, awakening his neighbors from their "ambrosial night's" sleep (9.404). But their subsequent inquiry into why he has called them suggests an interest in helping that is at odds with Odysseus' declaration of their social apathy. Asking specifically if anyone is stealing Polyphemus' sheep or trying to harm him "with treachery or force" (9.405-06), they imply that they might be able to assist. When they hear that "No One" is stealing his sheep and "No One" is hurting him, they conclude that their neighbor is afflicted with a Zeus-sent illness, which only gods can cure. They therefore depart with advice that he pray to his "father and lord Poseidon" (9.412). Perhaps more civilized neighbors would have had him pray to the supreme Olympian, but not these monsters who "are far stronger (poly pherteroi, 9.276) than Zeus and have no regard for him." For in this oecocentric culture, each household acknowledges no higher authority than the father. As the neighbors walk away, therefore, Odysseus' listeners--i.e., his Phaeacian hosts and the poem's external audience--may wonder about his assessment of these savages. The Cyclopeia demonstrates that they are indeed socially incohesive, but their very attempt at assembly suggests that they may not be all that contemptuous of one another or lacking in neighborly compassion.

It is curious that Odysseus frames his story of Polyphemus with references to assembling. The episode as a whole has been largely studied as a hospitality-scene gone awry: Odysseus' uninvited entrance into his "host's" cave, Polyphemus' inquiring after his "guest's" name before offering a meal, the monster's eating of his visitors instead of feeding them, and his guest-gift of promising to consume "No One" last have all been examined in ways that heighten our appreciation of the narrative. (1) These studies have shown that, in many respects, the Cyclopeia is an exercise in non-xeneia, the poet raising audience expectations of a hospitality-scene and manipulating them for heightened effect. But no consideration has been given to the assembly-motif attached to this jarring account of a host-guest interaction. Beginning with Odysseus' prejudicial preface and ending in a description of neighbors who convene only to disperse, this episode is also an exercise in non-assembly. This paper will address questions arising from this conflation. On the contextual level, how do Odysseus' references to assemblies affect the internal audience of Phaeacians and the poem's external listeners? On the level of poetics, what does the conflation of hospitality and assembly reveal about both the composition and the reception of traditional oral poetry?

The Assembly as Type-Scene

The Homeric assembly was first identified as a type-scene by Walter Arend, who provided a working outline of its essential elements: (1) a summons is issued; (2) the people take their seats; (3) speakers take turns, standing to talk and sitting when finished; (4) the group is summarily dismissed. (2) Subsequent studies of assemblies in the Iliad and Odyssey, including those that do not address type-scenes per se, have generated insights that enable us to flesh out Arend's original diagram. Most recently, for example, Deborah Beck (2005, 191) observes that (in step 1) assemblies are usually convened by heralds, and that (in step 2) all members of the community are called. Unlike councils (tliakoi), therefore, assemblies (agora!) are full-community gatherings that are publicly proclaimed. She also notes that, during the speakers' presentations (step 3), a scepter may be featured. Not all assemblies include a scepter, but when one is mentioned, she notes, "No formulaic language ... pertains to any aspect of how the skeptron behaves. ... Whatever the function of the skeptron may be, it does not play a crucial role in ordering the turns in an assembly" (193). In addition, Samuel E. Bassett (1931, 459), writing shortly before Arend, suggests that the dismissal of an assembly (typically indicated in a line or less: step 4), is not a formal adjournment: an assembly breaks up suddenly, as soon as the last speaker finishes.

Herbert Bannert (in Bremer 1987, 16) and Adele Haft (1992) observe that some assemblies occur at crucial points in the plot, preparing the audience--and characters in the poem--for developments of significant import. Specifically, it is in assemblies that prophecies which characters may have forgotten are recalled. Thus, the assembly in Iliad 2 provides the context for the recollection of Calchas' now ten-year-old prediction that Troy would fall in ten years (Il. 2.299-332). Similarly, in the Ithacan assembly in Odyssey 2 Halitherses interprets the omen of quarreling eagles as confirming the prophecy he issued twenty years ago that Odysseus would return in twenty years (Od. 2.161-76). Assemblies lend a tone of urgency to predictions that predate the events of the narrative. On a metapoetic level, it is interesting to note, a character's announcement of a distant prophecy to an assembly mirrors the poet's declaration of the same information to the external audience: in each case, the audience is made aware of something the poet-prophet considers particularly worthy of attention. (3)

Recent studies of Homer based on oral theory have demonstrated that a skilled poet performing before an audience enjoys remarkable flexibility in working with type-scenes. (4) From a compositional perspective, the ordered sequence of steps holds high mnemonic value: the arrangement of events as established by tradition helps the poet organize the vast amount of material lying at his disposal. He may expand or embellish some steps and condense or bypass others as he follows a familiar and reliable pattern. From the perspective of audience reception, the same predictable sequence sustains their engagement with the narrative. On detecting a particular type-scene, listeners anticipate the fulfillment of expectations based on the tradition(s) surrounding that type. Beck notes,"In an environment where a pattern has been strongly established, it can be effectively exploited as a recognizable point for the audience from which to depart in unusual directions" (2005, 204).

Let us survey how the poet plays on audience expectations arising from assembly-scenes. In the first step, as noted, heralds summon the entire community. Typically, a formula emphasizes their stentorian voices. Thus Agamemnon responds to the dream from Zeus:

But he ordered the clear-voiced heralds (kerukessi ligyphtongoisi)

To publicly call (kerussein) the long-haired Achaeans to the assembly. (Il. 2.50-51)

The same formula appears in Od. 2.6-7 when Telemachus orders heralds to convene the first assembly in that poem. This Odyssean reference to civilian Ithacans as long-haired Achaeans who must come from great distances on such short notice has struck some critics as out of place, perhaps better suited to the Iliad. (5) But it may be more reasonable to posit that the poet invokes the formula to announce the commencement of a distinct type of scene.

Indeed, assembly-scenes traditionally begin with a raised voice. In Il. 19.41, to cite a variation on the use of heralds, Achilles "cries his terrible cry" as he single-handedly convenes the Achaeans: famed for his war-cry and now primed for combat in Hephaestus' armor, he has the lung power of a host of heralds. This departure from the expected draws audience attention to the momentous commencement of Achilles' long-awaited aristeia. This unusual heralding is itself a variation on a variation. In Il. 9.10-12 Agamemnon had called the assembly by "ordering the clear-voiced heralds to summon. ..." But the poet interrupts the formula after the first line, explaining that Agamemnon orders them to summon " ... each man by name, but not to shout. He himself toiled with the foremost." Rather than issue a clarion call, these heralds make the rounds in muted voices. This departure heightens our awareness of the extreme danger in which the Achaeans find themselves on the eve of the embassy: the Trojans have drawn so near the ships that the troops must be convened in whispers. Taken together, the variations on the use and non-use of heralds in Iliad 9 and 19 heighten our perception of how the situation has changed: the Achaeans who before were cowering in silence now find Achilles calling them in full voice. His cry heralds both the beginning of his aristeia and the promising reversal of the Achaeans' fortunes. In terms of audience expectations, therefore, an assembly-scene is indicated when a character, either on his own or through heralds, raises a piercing cry.

It is also possible to detail Arend's first step ("a summons is issued") by recasting it in the active voice. For the convener is typically the one in need of group deliberation. Agamemnon responds to Zeus' disturbing dream by calling the assembly in Il. 2.50-393. In Il. 9.9-10 the same Agamemnon, "stricken in his heart with great grief," initiates the assembly that will deliberate on bringing Achilles back into battle. In Il. 19.40-41, Achilles does the summoning since he is now ready to resume fighting. The pattern applies to Odyssean assemblies: the distraught Telemachus has heralds summon the Ithacans in Od. 2.6; the suitors, anxious over the failure of their plot against Telemachus, convene on their own in Od. 16.361; and the "heart-broken" relatives of the slain suitors bring themselves together outside Odysseus' palace in Od. 24.420. (6) Thus, in terms of audience expectations arising from the type-scene, we recognize the poet's declaration of an assembly when "a character in urgent need raises a cry, either on his own or through heralds, to call the community together." (7)

In the second step, the troops or townsfolk flock to the meeting place "at once" (mal' oka Il.2.53, Od. 2.8). Since the full community responds, the hurried moment is marked by loud confusion as droves converge from all points. Before taking their seats, the people typically speculate about the issue at hand. In Il. 2.87-98, the Achaeans summoned by nine heralds rush in like swarming bees, abuzz with "Rumor, spreading like wildfire and goading them along." In Odyssey 2 the aged Aegyptius expresses his amazement:

But who has summoned us here? Who among our young men or elders

Is overcome with so pressing a need?

Could it be chat he has received news of the army's return

That he wants to make public after first hearing of it himself?

Or could it be that is he proclaiming some other community concern? (Od. 2.2.8-32)

The speculation ceases only when, after the herald calls for silence, the convener rises and speaks.

Again, deviations from the pattern of "boisterous speculation by rushing attendees" draw audience attention to something noteworthy. In Il. 19.40-55, all the Achaeans answer Achilles' cry in an unprecedented turnout, as even helmsmen, ship-stewards, and rations-dispensers leave their posts. We might therefore expect this crowd to be especially loud.8 The poet makes no mention, however, of frenzied rushing or droning speculation. Instead, he describes Odysseus and Diomedes as limping in even as the wounded Agamemnon, "last of all" (deutatos, 19.51), feebly makes his way to his seat. Achilles may be in full voice but the Achaeans, now crippled by defeat, neither rush nor speculate in this most plenary of sessions. In Od. 24.413-14, personified Rumor herself spreads news of the slaughter of the suitors and convenes the Ithacans in front of Odysseus' house. Before deliberations begin, they silently carry out the corpses: the ghastly sight renders the crowd speechless precisely at the moment we expect humming speculation. (9)

Once the attendees sit, the sequence of speakers is orderly (step 3) but open-ended. Neither the external audience nor the poem's characters know how long an assembly will last or what action will ensue as a result. The fact that the group may suddenly disperse after any speech gives the poet an exceptionally wide range of options and engenders an anticipation of unpredictable events that may lead to a surprise ending. The type-scene, for all its fixed sequencing, thus generates a suspense that is built into its very structure. (10) Within this context, the scepter plays a special role. Beck's observation (2005, 193) that no formulaic language or pattern dictates "bow the skeptron behaves" may be precisely the point: passing from one man's hand to another's in no set sequence, the scepter functions as a marker of unpredictability. Such unpredictability may be heightened when attention is drawn to the prop itself: either the poet or a speaker in the poem may deliver an ekphrasis describing its fabrication, or a character may do something unusual with it. When Agamemnon convenes the troops in Il. 2.50, for example, it is clear to the kings he has just consulted and to the external audience that his testing of the army will take time. The poet prepares us for a long meeting by describing the Hephaestus-fashioned scepter that has passed from Zeus to the line of Atrcus (Il. 2.101-09). (11) Thus ceremoniously decorated, the convener delivers his opening remarks as prelude to an orderly discussion in which other speakers will presumably rise, each recognized by the scepter as it is placed "in his hand" (cf. Il. 10.328, 18.505, 23.568; Od. 2.37). But to Agamemnon's surprise (as well as to ours and the kings'), his 32-line address triggers a riotous exodus, as the men begin dragging ships into the sea. The lord of men stands speechlessly by as the crowd disintegrates, only to be reconvened by Odysseus, who takes the staff from Agamemnon's hand (Il. 2.186) and uses it to restore order. Only after this false ending and second start is the purpose of the assembly achieved. At the meeting's true end, the men again return to their ships, but now in orderly fashion to don armor for the poem's first formal military engagement. The poet uses the same moment to mark his impressive and exceptionally well-ordered catalogue of ships. In this convergence of context and poetics, the Achaeans are "put in their places" by Agamemnon even as the poet neatly sets a thousand ships in order and names all their commanders in 275 verses (Il. 2.484-759), no small feat by any count. (12)

Only two other Homeric assemblies follow a stop-and-start course similar to the one in Iliad 2, and both draw special attention to a scepter. In Il. 1.233-46 Achilles swears by the scepter that the Achaeans will rue the day they dishonored him. He underscores his oath with a history of the staff's fabrication: a tree trunk was cut from its roots and coated with bronze, never again to sprout leaves. (13) Overcome with rage, he dashes the staff to the ground before taking his seat. This jarring gesture breaks the flow of speeches, for Agamemnon does not rise to respond. Instead, Nestor--who has thus far not spoken--stands up as intercessor to repair the interrupted sequence. (14) The assembly continues for another fifty lines before finally dissolving (lysan d' agoren, 1.305), at which point Agamemnon and Achilles go their separate ways in a breach portending widespread disaster. Likewise in Od. 2.80, Telemachus bursts into tears and throws down the scepter after his opening remarks. Awkward silence falls on the crowd, broken only when Antinous rises and brazenly fixes the blame on Penelope. Despite the omens and prophecies that ensue, the assembly eventually disbands without offering to help. Thus, in terms of audience expectations, the prominence of a scepter presages a breakdown in communication that will be resumed by a third party who has thus far not spoken.

The Cyclopeia as Assembly

Let us apply these findings to the Cyclopeia, Blinded by the stake, the monster "with a loud voice called the Cyclopes who lived in caves roundabout on windy heights. Upon hearing him, they came rushing from their scattered locations" (Od. 9.399-401). The verb describing Polyphemus' "calling" (epyo) appears also in Od. 10.83, where it describes Laestrygonian herdsmen "calling out to" shepherds who set out at dawn. Two features are noteworthy about the parallel. First, this verb describes social exchanges within shepherd communities. Despite Odysseus' claim that the Cyclopes have no regard for one another, these sheep-herders observe at least a modicum of civility. Polyphemus issues no aimless cry: he specifically "calls" his neighbors (who are expressed in the accusative case as direct object) and they respond. (15) Second, the verb specifically describes giants who hail one another from a distance. It is suggestive of loud voices. (16)

Modified by the adverb "greatly" (megala), this shouting is loud even by gigantic standards. The cry originates within a sealed cave and penetrates into distant lairs. All the inhabitants are awakened, and the first question they ask is, "Why on earth, Polyphemus, have you raised such a loud cry (Polyphem', aremenos hod' eboesas, 9.403) through the ambrosial night and roused us from sleep?" This is the first time in the Cyclopeia that the monster is called by name. Since Odysseus has thus far referred to him merely as "Cyclops," the name "Polyphemus" may strike the Phaeacians as significant: to them, it may sound like a nickname ("Mr. Magnavox"?) assigned by neighbors expressing annoyance at being so rudely awakened. (17) Indeed, the adjective polyphemos is an epithet of boisterous assemblies: in Od. 2.150, eagles soar over "the loud-voiced assembly" (agoren polyphemon). (18) This play on the Cyclops' name is apposite since assemblies are typically called by someone in urgent need who, either himself or through heralds, raises a cry for all to hear. The Cyclopes have no heralds, but "Loud-Mouthed Polyphemus" can call his own convention.

On reaching the cave, the neighbors stand outside (histamenoi, Od. 9.402) and openly speculate why he has called them,
 Could it be that some mortal man is driving off your sheep against
 your will?
 Could it be that someone is trying to kill you with guile or violence?
 (Od. 9.405-06)


The neighbors' response is consistent with the type-scene: they come running on the spot and hum with speculation before taking their seats. The syntax of their musings, two deliberative questions in succession ("Could it be this ... could it be that ...?), is identical to the dual speculation of Aegyptius as the Ithacans assemble in Od. 2.30-32. At this point, therefore, we expect the Cyclopean assembly to commence: after calling his community together, the convener is now to rise and announce his agenda. What ensues, however, is a non-speech. For Polyphemus, in no condition to stand, cannot even come out from his cave.(19) Lying on the ground in agony, he bellows out a single line, "No One, friends, is trying to kill me by guile or violence" (9.408). Like a well-delivered joke, this verse constitutes the climax of Odysseus' protracted trick with his name. Indeed, the one-liner works only because Polyphemus now has neighbors within earshot. On a pragmatic level, Odysseus-the-jokester requires an audience.

But the line also constitutes Polyphemus' sole speech. He has called everyone together only to proclaim that No One is bothering him. This meeting disintegrates before it begins. It may therefore occur to an audience familiar with type-scenes that, at this moment, a third party will now emerge to salvage the situation. This possibility is suggested by a gruesome analogy: Polyphemus has just wrenched the stake from his gushing eye with flailing arms (Od. 9.396-98). The fabrication of the weapon has been vividly described: like Achilles' scepter (Il. 1.234-39), a vibrant and leafy tree that was stripped of bark and will never sprout again, the Cyclops' cudgel originated as a tree trunk that was green (chloron, 9.320) when he cut it (ektamen, 9.320) so that, when seasoned, it might serve as his club.(20) Elsewhere in assemblies, the scepter on the ground signals a breakdown in communication that will soon be restored. But no third party comes forward since "No One" is in the cave.

It is therefore noteworthy that the Cyclopes now draw attention to Polyphemus' isolation: "If indeed No One is doing you violence, alone as you are (oion eonta, Od. 9.410), it is impossible to ward off an illness from mighty Zeus. Pray to your father, the lord Poseidon." Assemblies typically end without notice, but this one disbands before it even starts. The trick with the name "Otitis" thus extends into the assembly-motif and takes on an added dimension in this context: the monster's powerful voice is itself indicative of his authority. Richard Martin (1989, 51) observes that, in Homeric speech-acts, a speaker's loudness stands in direct proportion to his social prominence. But this "volume," as the English word suggests, exists on two levels: one who speaks at high volume is expected to issue voluminous words. Thus, Polyphemus' cry raises expectations among the audience--i.e., among the Phaeacians, the Cyclopes, and us--of a lengthy agenda-speech. But when he fails to deliver, he emerges as the very caricature of a public speaker who, for all his booming, has nothing to say. Unable to hold forth after such a buildup, he loses face among neighbors who, instead of listening intently, walk away. The monster's status is thus diminished also in the eyes of the poem's internal and external audiences. Odysseus utilizes the assembly type-scene to make the giant look laughably small. (21)

When Odysseus finally discloses his real name, he activates the only element thus far missing in the type-scene. On hearing the name "Odysseus," Polyphemus recalls a prophecy he had long forgotten,
 Alas! Now the age-old prophecies are coming to me!
 A great wise seer was once here,
 Telemus Eurymides, who excelled in prophecy
 And grew to a ripe old age among the Cyclopes.
 He told me that all these things would be accomplished in the future,
 That I would be robbed of my sight at the hands of an Odysseus.
 But I always expected that some large and handsome man
 Would come here, endowed with bodily strength.
 But as it is, some weakling of a runt, a nobody,
 Has stolen my sight after overpowering me with wine. (Od. 9.507-16)


The Cyclops here delivers a retort to Odysseus' joke. The stranger who had called himself "No One" (Outis) has now revealed his true identity. Polyphemus answers that Odysseus, whatever he calls himself, is indeed a "Nobody" (outidanos) of a physical specimen. This name-calling would surely have amused the mountain-sized Cyclopes and perhaps even roused a laugh.(22) But the Cyclops' timing is off: the audience went home long ago, and No One is around to hear him. The miscalculation of his joke matches his recollection of the prophecy. For prophecies are typically recalled in assembly when they are on the verge of fulfillment. But Polyphemus' memory is jogged only after the assembly has disbanded and only after the prediction has come true. Context and poetics converge once again as the monster fruitlessly recalls a prophecy in an assembly that falls outside the pattern of its own type-scene. Odysseus-the-quick makes his opponent look slow.

Odysseus and the Phaeacians

In his discussion of traditional referentiality, John M. Foley posits that an oral poem's structural elements "reach out of the immediate instance in which they appear to the fecund totality of the entire tradition [and] . . . command fields of reference much larger than the single line, passage, or even text in which they occur" (1991, 7). The skilled listener therefore associates the scene at hand with a repertory of analogous scenes as vast as the traditional material lying at the poet's disposal. The same dynamic informs the audience's reception of "discrete songs" that focus on individual heroes. Foley insists that such songs, far from "discrete," constitute a "tradition ... of songs or, preferably, stories about a limited number of heroes, tales that overlap and intertwine, in such a way that in the experience of both the singer and his traditional audience any one traditional song can evoke subconsciously a large group of other songs, or stories, in the tradition" (23) (11). In these "metonymic poetics," in which the part stands for the whole, the mnemonic power of the tradition operates on two fronts: the poet orders material according to a typical sequence of steps or in keeping with established elements surrounding a particular hero's exploits, while the listener receives the account within a referential context that embraces the same extensive tradition. This intersection of the poet's creativity with traditional material, on the one hand, and the listener's "traditional receptivity" of a new narrative, on the other, provides for an exceptionally rich experience in terms of both performance and reception. Let us examine the informed reception which the Phaecaians, as traditional listeners, give to the assembly motif with which Odysseus, as a traditional narrator, frames the Cydopeia.

It deserves mention from the outset that the Phaeacians are themselves experienced in assemblies. When Nausicaa directs Odysseus to the palace, she describes the landmarks he should follow. The city will be recognizable by the fortress walls looming over the harbor, "where their assembly place is" (Od. 6.266). Once received by the king and queen, furthermore, his request for escort is made public. Alcinous conflates hospitality with assembly when he interrupts his hosting duties to call an assembly to arrange the convoy. Once this now-public matter is addressed, he resumes his welcome by inviting the princes to an indoor feast in honor of the stranger. The conflation of assembly and hospitality is peculiar to the Phaeacians. Odysseus, who throughout his travels has never experienced the publication of his private petition for gifts and escort, may observe this proclivity as distinctive of these people. In the first major adventure of his apologue, therefore, he caters to their preferences by portraying his arch-foes as abhorring the very form of social discourse in which the Phaeacians exult. Like a traditional poet, Odysseus tailors his narrative to a specific audience--but with a story about himself.

Odysseus knows that his listeners are familiar with stories from the Trojan War, an event now ten years out. Demodocus' first song (Od. 8.73-82) relates the quarrel between Odysseus and Achilles, and his third (8.499-520) celebrates the Wooden Horse. The fact that the Phaeacians recognize him and Achilles as figures in these accounts is not lost on this astute observer. These listeners are clearly conversant enough in oral poetry to receive with understanding songs about their heroic guest whose fame has reached the heavens (9.20). Odysseus may therefore safely deduce that they know other tales of his accomplishments arising from his stint at Troy. (24) This is to say that Odysseus knows that he figures as a traditional character in stories the Phaeacians have heard. Finding himself before a traditional audience, he composes his narrative in the manner of a traditional poet, manipulating his and their familiarity with the totality of traditions surrounding his name. (25)

Another aspect of the setting of the apologue deserves mention. Sitting before these listeners, Odysseus is acutely aware of the image he strikes. Although Athena has increased his height and broadened his shoulders to make the Phaeacians respect and fear him (Oct. 8.18-23), he has recently been mocked by Euryalus for lacking in aristocratic and athletic stature: far from cutting a heroic figure, he resembles the common deckhand of a merchant crew (8.158-64). He replies that, although he is eager to prove his mettle in any sport, the years at sea have so weakened his legs that he can no longer run a footrace (8.230-33).Though offended by Euryalus, therefore, he is not surprised. For he knows that, within his own tradition, he looks noticeably different from other Achaeans. In the teichoskopeia in Il. 3.191-224, Anterior and Priam comment on how stocky he is next to his comrades. With his armor piled on the ground, he reminds Priam of a deep-fleeced ram marshalling rows of sheep. Antenor reports that, in assemblies, Odysseus and Menelaos present a study in contrasts. Broad-shouldered Odysseus looks the more lordly when the two are seated, but Menelaos is the more impressive when he stands, although he speaks briefly and rapidly. Short-statured Odysseus, by contrast, shines on his feet when he speaks: holding his scepter motionless and fixing his eyes dully on the ground, he spews blizzards of words that enchant his onlookers and compel their admiration.

The image of Odysseus as an outstanding performer in assembly is part of the traditional stories surrounding him, especially those that draw attention to his non-heroic physical attributes. The two qualities--exceptional speaking skills and shortness of stature--comprise an inseparable pair: wherever the tradition cites his unimpressive physique, it compensates by highlighting his brilliance in speech. (26) Sitting, not standing, before the Phaeacians, Odysseus now finds himself without his armor, wearing the civilian clothes of one of Nausicaa's brothers (Od. 7.238). He therefore knows that he looks especially unimposing. But in the pars pro toto dynamic of these poetics, this very awareness brings his verbal prowess to the forefront of his own mind. Indeed, his initial response to ' insult is to boast that an insignificant-looking man can "deliver a flawless speech (asphaleos agoreuei, 8. 17 1) to assembled onlookers who gaze on him as if he were a god." If, furthermore, the Phaeacians are traditional receptors, it may dawn on him that their memories of the same tradition have likewise been activated by their kinsman's remarks. Odysseus takes advantage of the moment by manipulating these associations: the mere mention of his physique triggers awareness, in both himself and his audience, of his excellence as a public speaker. For this reason he frames the Cyclopeia as an assembly-scene: aiming to elevate his stature before the Phaeacians, he accomplishes with words what Athena effects with magic. He establishes a traditional context in which he can shine because (1) his listeners, traditional receptors, expect as much and because (2) he himself, a traditional narrator, is thinking in such terms in response to what he has just heard. (27) His courage in adopting this frame for the Cyclops story, in particular, borders on the audacious: the shortest of the Achaeans will make himself appear larger in his listeners' eyes than giants who are as tall as mountains.

Especially noteworthy in Odysseus' story of the Cyclopes is his open acknowledgment of a tradition that draws such an unflattering portrait. Without apology, he "owns" his image as a burly ram on a literal level. As if in confirmation of Priam's ram-analogy, he describes in graphic detail how he clung bare-fisted all night long to the underside of Polyphemus' prize animal. His comrades, by contrast, were each strapped with ropes to three smaller rams (Od. 9.425-36). This picture, consistent with the known portrait of him as, a ram among sheep, is immediately recognizable because it "fits" the tradition. But the tableau is also novel, for in this version the squat Odysseus emerges--to our and the Phaeacians' surprise--as the one endowed with greater strength and stamina. Like the ram to which he clings, he is three times more physically magnificent than his lesser comrades. He literally embraces his own unflattering tradition and turns it to inverse effect as he aggrandizes himself.

The same dynamic informs his owning of Antenor's description of his shortness. Relating Polyphemus' recollection of Telemus' prophecy, Odysseus has the monster call him a runt, a nobody, and a weakling (oligos te kai outidanos kai akikys, Od. 9.515).The Cyclops is as crudely derisive as Euryalus, and Odysseus relates Polyphemus' abuse verbatim to refresh his listeners' memory of what has just transpired in their own hall. For at this point in his narrative, the story-teller has become a towering figure, taller than the giant he has reduced with wit and wine, and more physically and verbally impressive than the handsome Euryalus whom he has cut down to size with discus-throwing and story-telling. He invokes the traditional image of his shortness, paradoxically, to further the new image of his magnificence.

Though bold, the feat he accomplishes among the Phaeacians is credible because it fits the tradition: in keeping with the orator known to Antenor, he releases artful words that inspire awe (Il. 3.216-224) in a new audience who, in a pattern marking Odysseus-stories, are charmed into silence (Od Il.333-35). But even as he invokes the tradition, he modifies it to suit his narrative ends: for up to this point, accounts of his verbal prowess tell of his rising to speak before onlookers. But now he works his magic from a seated position in Alcinous' hall. In this update, Odysseus rises to new heights without even getting up! This innovation itself becomes part of an expanding tradition in which Odysseus the vertical orator takes a seat as he assumes the guise of a sedentary poet who charms with words: in 17.513-21 Eumaeus will tell Penelope of the ragged beggar in his hut whose enchanting stories are as credible as those of a singer taught by gods. (28)

Odysseus may also assume a Phaeacian familiarity with the fecund tradition of his versatility with a scepter. According to Antenor, he holds the scepter still and speaks without establishing eye contact with his listeners. (29) Quite a different picture is drawn in Il. 2.185-206, where he puts the staff to a variety of uses. Speaking persuasive words to his fellow kings, he displays Agamemnon's scepter to impress upon them that royalty do not follow commoners in flight. The scepter reminds the leaders of their kingliness. Confronting the troops, by contrast, he cracks the staff as if it were a disciplinary whip, verbally chastising the soldiers as he smacks them with a physical reminder of their non-regal status. Once all are reassembled, he puts the prop to its most memorable application. Standing before the seated troops, he is ready to speak when Thersites interrupts with a flood of abuse. The hero puts a quick stop to the disorderly conduct by landing the scepter with such force on the reviler's back that it raises a bloody welt. The sight restores the spirits of all onlookers, who praise Odysseus for striking the best blow of his life (Od, 2.265-77). Never before in an assembly has a speaker converted a scepter into a club.

As Odysseus describes his actions in the Cyclops' cave, he invokes this tradition of his skillfulness in putting the same piece of wood to multiple uses. Spying the mast-long club (mega rhopalon, Od. 9.319) of olive wood. lying in the cave, he cuts it to a fathom's length and sharpens the end. He then treats it as if it were metal as he heats the tip in fire. When he spins it into the monster's eye, he likens it to a drill boring a hole in a ship's timber (9.382-88), an analogy sure to resonate with the seafaring Phaeacians. On hearing the blood hiss on contact with the glowing point, he recalls the sound a smith hears on plunging hot iron into cold water to temper an axe or adze (9.391-94). Odysseus thus converts a club into a ship's mast, a spear, a drill, and two iron tools. (30) By the end of the Cyclopeia, he turns it into yet another artifact. As Polyphemus wrenches the stake from his eye and throws it down "with his hands" (chersin, 9.398) to summon neighbors, the narrating hero recasts it as a scepter that signals the breakdown of an assembly. For all its shocking novelty, this presentation of the protean stake is credible because it fits the tradition on which it is based. In the Iliad, Odysseus uses the scepter as if it were a club. Now, he reverses the roles, turning a club into a scepter. Wielded by this particular storyteller, the scepter is indeed a marker of narrative unpredictability.

Framing his account of the Cyclopes with references to assembly, if we may summarize, Odysseus furthers his narrative agenda in many respects. First, he ingratiates himself with an audience that is particularly fond of assemblies. Second, he renders Euryalus' derision as laughable in Phaeacian eyes while he augments his own stature. Indeed, Euryalus' abuse triggers memories in Odysseus and his audience of a tradition that pits his appearance against his verbal prowess. Third, Odysseus gleans from Demodocus' songs that the Phaeacians are themselves traditional receptors of stories that celebrate his exploits. Treating them as cognizant of the tradition, he flatters them, for the Phaeacians boast of their unsurpassed accomplishments in the fine arts (cf. Od. 8.252-55). The hero openly acknowledges their being "in the know" when it comes to oral epic by telling them a story about himself that meets their informed expectations. As he accesses the total tradition about his very self, finally, he turns it to narrative ends that are dual in scope. In the short term, he makes himself look like a giant next to the Cyclopes and will soon so enchant his audience that he will receive gifts of such abundance that the donors will tax the deme to recoup their losses (13.1 4-15). In the long term, he takes control of a tradition that both celebrates and belittles him: he openly acknowledges the entirety of his tradition in order to move it forward, transforming negative aspects about himself into positive. In the process, he gives rise to a new tradition in which he will be seen as enchanting as a divinely inspired singer. This emerging picture is credible because it fits the tradition on which it is based and from which it departs.

The OdysseY-Poet and His Audience

Many of these observations concerning Odysseus and the Phaeacians apply to the relationship between the Odyssey-poet and us, who are likewise traditional receptors. Aware of Odysseus' prowess in assembly from sources outside the Cyclopeia, we delight with the Phaeacians in his manipulation of type-scenes and his innovations based on familiar accounts of his physique, his rhetorical prowess, and his versatility with scepters. As external listeners, however, we enjoy a broader perspective than the Phaeacians: for we hear the voice of the Odyssey-poet even as we hear the internal narrator. Unlike the Phaeacians, we include the Odyssey itself within the totality of our experience.

In particular, the Phaeacians have not heard those parts of the poem that deal with events in Ithaca. Although Odysseus knows that his hosts recognize him as a figure in traditional stories, he describes the location and topography of his island (Od. 9.21-28) in such detail as to suggest their unfamiliarity even with its whereabouts. He is obliged to tell them that Ithaca is the most western-situated of a cluster of wooded islands in the vicinity of windy Neriton. The other islands in the group, he continues, are near one another and well-populated, whereas Ithaca is removed from the rest. More rocky than wooded, this island prides itself on producing young men of exceptional stamina. It thus appears, both to Odysseus and to us, that the Phaeacians are not informed about Ithaca. It also appears that, for all their professed accomplishments in musical arts (8.252-55), they are not up-to-date with songs celebrating the aftermath or even the end of the Trojan War. If we can judge from the enthusiastic reception they give to Demodocus' songs, it appears that they are only now beginning to learn of the fall of Troy, a ten-year old event. Their bard's first song (8.73-82) celebrated a quarrel between Odysseus and Achilles that portended the end of the war. The fact that the Phaeacian lords "take delight in his words" (8.91) suggests that they are hearing this story for the first time. The same audience, with the sole exception of Odysseus, also enjoys the tale of the Wooden Horse (8.538, 542-43), presumably because it too is new to them. (31) Living on the edge of the world, the Phaeacians are only now catching up on the conclusion of the war and remain unaware of post-war nostoi and of subsequent events in the heroes' hometowns. (32)

We, by contrast, already know about Ithaca and the shameful situation there. So do the Greek characters within the poem. In Pylos, Nestor reports to Telemachus that "people say" (phasi, Od. 3.212) that Odysseus' house has been overrun by intruders. Odysseus learns the same information from Tiresias in the underworld (11.115-18). Thus, an oral tradition of"Ithaca stories" has spread throughout the Greek world during the hero's absence. The suitors have been laying siege to his palace for four years (2.107), and reports of their misbehavior have circulated far and wide. Through the vehicle of the poem itself, this tradition now reaches us, the external audience, but it has not gone so far as the remote Phaeacians who remain embedded in the narrative. The totality to which we (i.e., the ancient audience and, to a lesser extent, modern receptors) and the Odyssey-poet have access is therefore larger than the totality accessible by the Phaeacians. (33)

This distinction has a particular bearing the poet's agenda which, while embracing the hero's mission, transcends it. Odysseus is content to augment his reputation, memorializing how he achieves his feats, but the poet raises the ethical question of why things in the poem happen as they do (34) The proem declares that the sailors' deaths are due to their disobedience of the divine prohibition against Hyperion's cattle (Od. 1.7-9). This moral--that reckless men bring upon themselves "miseries that transcend their fate" {hyper moron algea, 1.34)--is reinforced by the poem's opening tableau, in which Zeus complains that mortals unfairly blame the gods for woes caused by their own folly Although gods display "good intentions" (agatha phroncon, 1 .43) and dispatch messengers and omens to deter wrongdoing, willful tools ignore the signs and blame the Olympians when painful consequences ensue. In declaring that men "say" (phasi, 1.33) that their miseries are sent by capricious gods, Zeus alludes to an apparently widespread oral tradition of god-blaming that he wishes to correct. This may be the very tradition, furthermore, circulated and perpetuated by poets and their songs. For when, in 1.336-44, Penelope asks that Phemius silence his heart-rending song of the grievous nostoi that "Pallas inflicted on the Achaeans,"Telemachus chastises her by saying, "The singers are not to blame (aitioi,2.34H), but Zeus is responsible (dittos, 2.348), since he is the one who gives as he pleases to suffering mankind." Telemachus' declaration clearly echoes and confirms Zeus' complaint that "mortals blame the gods" (theous brotoi aitioantai, 1.32). The Odyssey-poet seems to be in agreement with Zeus' ethical stance. (35) Zeus cites Aegisthus, who ignored Hermes' warnings and thereby caused his own ignominious death at the hands of Agamemnon's avenging sou (1.35-43). The Odyssey'-poet presents the parallel story of the suitors who, repeatedly defying human and divine warnings to quit the palace, bring about their own horrific slaughter by Odysseus (24.351-52). Likewise, the crewmen on Thrinacia eat to their death in ignoring warnings to avoid Hyperion's cattle. (36)

Two of the poem's key events, however, are not so conveniently explained. First, there is the question of the inconsolable grief that the suitors" deaths bring on relatives and neighbors. All of Ithaca is engulfed in mourning as a result of the hero's drastic measures. How is the poet to reconcile the suffering of the entire community with Zeus' theodicy? Aside from the suitors, the Ithacans are not criminals. Second, there is the matter of the tribulations of Odysseus himself. We admire him for how he overcomes his trials, but we wonder why he suffers as he does. Athena poses this very question, drawing attention to the inapplicability of her father's theodicy to a man of impeccable piety (Od. 1.44-62). (37) Whatever Odysseus' missteps, they arc not of the magnitude of the suitors' or sailors' crimes. Zeus' explanation that Odysseus enraged Poseidon by blinding Polyphemus leaves us especially dissatisfied since, as the Cydopcia makes clear, the hero has no other choice in the cave.38 The poet confronts both of these questions, I suggest, by conflating hospitality and assembly in Books 2 and 9. Of the many type-scenes at his disposal, assembly and hospitality are ideally paired to convey Zeus' (and the poet's) message of cosmic justice. In a world overseen by Zeus Xenios, the violations of a single household engender community-wide consequences. Hospitality and assembly are conflated on a poetic level because, on a contextual level, oikos and polis are inseparable.

In our survey of assembly-scenes, we observed similarities between the Cyclopeia and the Ithacan assembly in Book 2. These similarities are so pronounced as to suggest that the Odyssey-poet composes the one episode with the other in mind. On hearing that Telemachus has called a town-meeting, the elder Aegyptius proclaims:
 Fellow Ithacans, pay heed to what 1 will say:
 We have held neither an assembly nor a council
 Since godlike Odysseus set foot on the hollow ships. (Od. 2.25-27)


In a seemingly extraneous but also discordant poetic aside, the speaker is identified as the inconsolably grief-stricken father of Antiphus, who was "killed when the savage Cyclops prepared his final meal in the hollow cave" (Od. 2.19-20). With this detail, the poet invokes the Cyclopes--and the totality of traditions surrounding them--when he initiates the Ithacan assembly. (39) Likewise, when Odysseus declares in 9.112-15 that the Cyclopes hold no assemblies, the poet activates our memory of Book 2, in which the Ithacans break their twenty-year neglect of public and civic discourse. These parallels direct our attention to something Ithacans and Cyclopes have in common: both societies are incohesive and prone to lawlessness. But the Phaeacians, we must note, are not privy to these traditions of "Ithacanism." Still catching up on stories of the fall of Troy and uninformed about this particular island, they cannot detect the poet's references to a specifically Ithacan series of songs.

As the Ithacan assembly unfolds, striking similarities with the Cyclopes come to the fore. If the suitors were locally contained, Telemachus explains, he could go up and down the island demanding compensation from the culprits' families. Explaining that the absence of his father compels him to call on neighbors, Telemachus must enlist community support if he is to receive justice from those whose sons have now invaded from surrounding islands. He faults the suitors for not petitioning Icarius directly for his mother's hand, but Antinous and Eurymacbus retort that Telemachus must first return Penelope to her own father (Od. 2.85-128, 195-207). Chaos now rules on this island where, in Cyclopean fashion, "each [father] sets laws for his own wife and children." Even as their own fathers give them free rein, the suitors brazenly demand that Penelope's father take control of her. To the suitors, the violation of Telemachus' house remains a domestic problem for Odysseus since, in this oecocentric system, neighbors have no authority or obligation to protect another man's house or to tell neighbors' fathers how to discipline their sons. The suitors thus have a convenient excuse for their lawlessness even as the Ithacans remain complacent in their passivity. A social problem has indeed broken out from the chaos in a single house but, in the twenty years that have elapsed since their last assembly, these islanders have lost the ability to function as a community. Their social apathy has swollen to Cyclopean proportions.

So inwardly-focused are the Ithacans that they feel no shame. It is to no avail that Telemachus begs them to (Od. 2.65-66) "feel shame (aideisthete) before our neighbors who dwell roundabout- Fear the nemesis of the gods."' Odysseus issues the same plea to the Cyclops in 9.269-71: "For all your strength, feel shame (aideio) before the gods. We are your suppliants, and Zeus is the protector of suppliants and guests." Cyclopes and Ithacans are equally lacking in aides, "the cement of Homeric society." (40) When the Ithacans fail to issue even a reprimand, Mentor rails (2.239-41), "I am indignant (nemesizomai) at the deme: you all sit here in silence.You far outnumber the few suitors, and yet you do not issue even a verbal rebuke!" In their collective strength, the citizens could indeed do something, but they do not care enough to act. Like the Cyclopes, they "have no regard for one another."

The Ithacan and Cyclopean disdain for neighbors is an expression of their contempt for Zeus and the civility he oversees. Moral arguments carry no persuasion in either society. On Ithaca, Mentor's indignation that the fair-minded Odysseus does not command a modicum of gratitude from his subjects is met with derision when Leocritus calls the old man "crazy in the head" (phrenas elee, Od. 2.243) for picking a fight with so many men "over a meal" (peri daiti, 2.245). Exulting in the numbers of his accomplices, this suitor boasts that Odysseus would come to "an unseemly end" (2.250) if indeed he were to return. Polyphemus feels the same way about Zeus Xenios. In response to the warning to heed Zeus' patronage of guests, the monster calls Odysseus a fool (nepios eis, 9.273), boasting that the Cyclopes are "far stronger." The Ithacan contempt for Zeus engenders a dismissal of the god's omens that is analogous to Polyphemus' disdainful neglect of Telephus' prophecy. When Halitherses interprets the eagles (2.146-47), the suitors threaten to inflict bodily harm on Telemachus and to penalize the seer with a fine. Halitherses explains specifically:
 Odysseus will not long be apart from his dear ones. He is already
 At hand, planting seeds of death and destruction
 For everyone. Doom will fill on many others
 Who dwell on sunny Ithaca. But let us
 Deliberate far in advance (poly prin) how to prevent it. And let the
 suitors themselves
 Stop what they are doing. (Od. 2.164-69)


Neither Ithacans nor Cyclopes give heed to divine signs until it is too late. Though amply warned by a well-intentioned Zeus and an unambiguous prophet, the Ithacans obstinately allow their assembly to disintegrate. In so disbanding, they commit an act of reckless folly, establishing the preconditions that will allow the looming disaster within the palace to engulf the entire community.

These parallels serve the poet's purpose of having us react to the assembled Ithacans as if they were monsters. Indeed, Ithacans outstrip Cyclopes in lack of civility. For, as we reflect on their similarities, we observe telling differences. The Cyclopes do indeed keep to themselves but, unlike Ithacans, they do not invade neighbors' houses or consume others' livestock: Cyclopean fathers seem to keep their sons in check. When, furthermore, they ask Polyphemus if anyone is stealing his sheep or trying to do him physical harm, they imply that they can help. They walk away not out of indifference but because they have no knowledge of medicine. The theft of livestock and the threat of bodily injury, however, are precisely the dangers that Telemachus articulates to his townsmen. Ignoring problems for which even the antisocial Cyclopes would have offered aid, the Ithacans emerge in our eyes as even more monstrous. (41)

When, therefore, at the poem's end, Odysseus' mass execution engulfs in grief "many others who dwell on sunny Ithaca," we experience no pity for a single bystander. For pity is aroused by the sight of undeserved suffering (Aristotle, Poetics 1453a5). The mourning relatives and neighbors bear as much responsibility for the catastrophe as do the youths themselves. The entire community is guilty of recklessness, for they were duly warned in an assembly. The Odyssey-poet, I suggest, paints the Ithacans as more abhorrent than the Cyclopes in order to explain why the islanders incur their grief. Though irrelevant to Odysseus' narrative agenda with the Phacacians, the "Ithacans as Cyclopes" parallel is central to the mission of the Odyssey-poet in validating Zeus' theodicy. In a single narrative, the poet addresses his external audience with a message of import even as the internal narrator speaks to his audience with a message of relevance to them. Odysseus and the Odyssey-poet alike adeptly tailor their song to match their specific audience. With remarkable flexibility, the same poetic text says different--but equally engaging--things to different listeners.

Sacrilege as Sacrifice: An Ithacan Peculiarity

In the course of the Ithacan debate we observe another peculiarity that piques our--but not the Phaeacians--curiosity. As Telemachus lays out his agenda, he calls the suitors' consumption of his livestock a "consecration":
 Ranging in and out of our house day after day and
 Consecrating (hiereuontes) oxen and sheep and fatted goats,
 They feast and drink our sparkling wine
 In utter wastefulness. Great quantities are being consumed.
 (Od. 2.55-58)


It is possible that Telemachus is being ironically hyperbolic here, trying to rouse his neighbors' indignation: there is nothing remotely pious about eating a stranger out of house and home. But he may also be alluding to a peculiarity so fixed in Ithacan mores as to be formulaic. Penelope repeats the passage verbatim in Od. 17.534-37 when she orders Eumaeus to tell the beggar of the outrages in the house: the suitors conserve their own animals at home while wastefully "consecrating" (hiereuontes) Odysseus' livestock. Indeed, the consecration metaphor is invoked in the poem's every reference to the suitors' eating. In 14.28 an unwilling Eumaeus sends a hog to the palace for the suitors to "sacrifice" (hiereusantes) as they glut their appetite for meat. In 14.94, he complains that the suitors wastefully "sacrifice" (hireuoust) several animals at a single sitting. In 17.180 the suitors "have been sacrificing" (hieruon) full-grown sheep, goats, several fatted hogs, and a heifer, while in 20.3 Odysseus sleeps on the fleeces of the many sheep the suitors "have been sacrificing" (hireueskon). Even away from home, Ithacans call the consumption of someone else's meat a "sacrifice." After a month of living off fish and birds on Thrinacia, Eurylochus finally encourages his fellow-sailors:
 But come, let us round up the best of the oxen of Helios
 And sacrifice (rhexomen) them to the immortal gods who hold the broad
 heavens. (Od. 12.343-44)


The parallels are telling, for in every instance an Ithacan refers to the consumption of huge amounts of stolen meat as if it were a sacred act.

The traditional language of consecration and sacrifice is marked by such verbs as hiereuo, rhezo, and thyo. On hearing these technical terms, an audience of traditional receptors finds their thoughts directed to the fecund totality of epic sacrifice and feasting. But the Odyssey-poet invokes the tradition to draw our attention to something unusual. With the sole exception of the suitors and crewmen, sacrifices in the Odyssey are performed by hosts who slaughter large numbers of their own animals to show honor to a guest. In Od. 8.59-60 Alcinous "sacrifices" (hiereusen) twelve sheep, eight boars, and two cows for Odysseus' welcome-feast. In 13.24, he hosts the departure-feast, "sacrificing" (hiereuse) a bull to Zeus. In 14.74 Eumaeus "sacrifices" (hiereusen) two young porkers as dinner for himself and the beggar, and he later (14.414) "sacrifices (hiereuso) the best of the hogs, to honor a guest from far away." In 16.454 Odysseus and Telemachus "jointly sacrifice" (syn hiereusantes) a yearling pig to mark the father's homecoming and reunion with his son. Whether performed as an act of devotion to the gods or extended as hospitality to a guest, Homeric sacrifice is always an expensive proposition for the donor: the very parting with personal wealth substantiates the piety and generosity of the act. (42) Within this referential context, the Odyssey-poet's allusions to the suitors and sailors as "sacrificing" droves of livestock that does not belong to them makes us, the external audience, see their actions as egregious. Although the enormous quantities consumed are reminiscent of a bountiful sacrifice, these men who behave as if they were hosts by helping themselves to what lies at hand are not even welcome guests. The poet's use of traditional diction to describe such manners is unique to the Odyssey: when it comes to behavior in a stranger's house, the Ithacans are uniquely aberrant.

The possibility that such atrocious manners are specifically ingrained in Ithacans is raised also by Athena-Mentes on visiting Telemachus. Seeing that the suitors are enjoying neither a wedding feast nor a subscription banquet, she asks him to "explain precisely" (atrekeos katalexon, Od. 1.224) what kind of meal this is. Her attention is drawn at the entrance to a sight she has never seen: young men waiting to be served food and drink while "seated (hemenoi, 1.108) on the skins of animals they themselves have killed." Though disturbingly novel, the scene is described in traditional language. Throughout hospitality-scenes in the Odyssey, the participle hemenos (typically enjambed, as here) describes a guest who has been "seated" by a host and offered a meal. The seating of guests on chairs is a sign of honor. In 4.596 Telemachus is "seated" (hemenos) while enjoying Menelaus' hospitality; in 9.8 Odysseus recounts the joy of banqueters who are "seated" (hemenoi) while listening to the singer; in 1 5.392 the beggar is "seated" (hemenos) as a guest by the swineherd; in 18.224,19.322, 21.100, and 21.425 the disguised Odysseus is "seated" (hemenos) to eat in his own house. An account of diners seated by hosts is a traditional feature of a hospitality-scene, particularly in the Odyssey(43) Athena is therefore understandably jarred by what she sees: the young men of Ithaca have hosted themselves by strewing animal hides on the ground and taking their seats as they wait to be served. The poet makes sure that we hear the travesty of xeneia that the goddess sees: he employs traditional diction from a type-scene to draw our attention to "nonverbal behavior" that is glaringly atypical. (44)

The irregularity of the suitors' sitting on the ground is highlighted by yet another incongruity: they sit on the hides of animals "they themselves have killed." In hospitality-scenes, a host may spread a cover on the guest's chair, but such covers always lie among the host's stores. They are never make-shift. In Od. 1.130, for example. Telemachus spreads a linen cloth on the seat he offers Athena-Mentes. Where chairs are not available, the host spreads a readily-available ground-cover, since sitting directly on the earth or floor is a sign of abject humiliation, appropriate only for a suppliant. (45) In the outdoor feast in Pylos (3.36-39), Nestor's son spreads "soft fleeces" so that Telemachus and Athena-Mentor can sit on the sand. Likewise in the swineherd's hut, Eumaeus piles a seat of brushwood for the stranger, covering it with the skin of a wild goat (14.50) that lies at hand. The mention of the suitors sitting on skins of animals they themselves have slaughtered thus underscores another flagrant violation of xeneia: only on Ithaca do intruders make their own cushions. Curing and strewing the hides of animals they have stolen and slaughtered, they arrogate unto themselves the duties and even the preparations of a host. For the fact that the fleeces have not been provided by a host from his stores is further proof that these squatters have not been officially welcomed: they are invaders and occupiers of a dwelling from which the owner has long been absent.

It may therefore be a detail of no small import when Odysseus, recounting his actions in the Cyclops' cave, explains:
 Then, after lighting a fire, we .sacrificed and, on our own,
 Reaching for the cheeses, ate and waited inside for him
 As we seated ourselves. (Od. 9.231-33)


Unfamiliar with the Ithacan idiom that equates the consumption of forbidden meat with sacrifice, the Phaeacians are unlikely to pause over what they hear. But we, the external audience, register a different response. "Sacrificing" in a dwelling from which the owner is absent and "seating himself" on the ground, Odysseus invokes the totality of the new and Ithacan tradition of domestic intrusion, wrongful eating, and self-accommodation. Behaving like the suitors, he recounts his steps in words that match the poet's account of what Athena sees on Ithaca. In an oxymoron found only in 1.108 and 9.233 does the honorific participle "seated" (hemenoi) describe people, specifically Ithacans, sitting on the ground. We therefore wonder if, in his laconic and euphemistic gloss, Odysseus takes one or more of the Cyclops' bountiful sheep, lights a fire, and cooks it/them. After eating, he sits and waits for the master, sitting on the skin(s) of the animal(s) just consumed.

Although Homeric scholars have been reluctant to entertain the possibility that Odysseus commits the audacious act of eating the Cyclops' sheep, an audience of traditional receptors would find two aspects of the account suggestive of this very deed. (46) First, the mention of sequential "fire building" (pyr keantes), "sacrificing" (ethysamen) and "eating" (phagomen) triggers in the listener's mind the typical sequence of the slaughtering and roasting of an animal, followed by the slicing and the heaping of meat on platters for the guests' enjoyment. (47) In the metonymic poetics of oral tradition, in which the part stands for the whole, the juxtaposed words "fire-sacrifice-eat" are code for a communal meal of fresh meat, even if a full-blown description is not explicitly provided. This is what we understand when the suitors, in a single word, "consecrate" (hiereuontes) Odysseus' livestock. This is also what we understand when the sailors "sacrifice" (rhexomen) Hyperion's cattle, in a passage that includes a detailed account of the slaughter, flaying, butchering, roasting, and eating of the animals (Od. 12.353-365). (48) Odysseus' use of the verb thyo in 9.231 is especially telling. A scholiast (ad 9.231) likens the passage to Il.9.220, in which Achilles orders Patroclus to prepare a meal for the suppliant embassy Patroclus sets a huge chopping block "in the glow of the fire" (en pyros augei, 9.206) and lays the back of a sheep, the back of a goat, and the chine of a pig on top. He spits skewered meat over the hot coals and then serves the bread while Achilles distributes the meat. Only after Patroclus "sacrifices to the gods" (theoisi de thysai anogei, 9.219) by "tossing the sacrificial bits into the fire" (en pyri balle thyelas, 9.220) do the diners "lay their hands on the ready fare before them" (ep' oneiath' hetoima prokeimena cheiras iallon, 9.221). The same sequence is found in the second meal Eumaeus provides for the beggar in Odyssey 14: he casts tufts from the boar "into the fire" (en pyri balle, 14.429) and "sacrifices the firstlings to the immortal gods" (argmata thyse theois aieigeneteisi, 14.446), after which the beggar heeds the command, "Eat, my dear guest" (esthie, daimonie xeinon, 14.443).

When, therefore, Odysseus states in Od. 9.231-33 that he and his men lit a fire, sacrificed and ate--in that order (pyr keantes ethysamen kai ... phagomen)--the external audience understands that he followed the sequenced steps of a traditional thysia and slaughtered at least one animal. (49) This conclusion is inescapable for an audience of traditional receptors: for there can be no thysia in epic diction without a slain animal. The conclusion is especially compelling for listeners of the Odyssey itself, who are by now familiar with the peculiar way Ithacans refer to the consumption of stolen meat. As with the deeds of the suitors and sailors, the Odyssey-poet employs traditional language to describe an abomination particular to people from this island. Like a typical Ithacan, Odysseus invades an empty dwelling and assumes the duties of a host as he helps himself to a meal and a seat.

Second, the image of Odysseus eating before the arrival of his host evokes the particularly fecund tradition of his inability to postpone a meal. In the Iliad Agamemnon chastises Odysseus and Menestheus for holding back from battle:
 The two of you are the first to hear of a feast
 Whenever we Achaeans host a banquet.
 That is where you love to eat the roast meat and down cups
 Of honey-sweet wine to your fill, (Il. 4.343-46)


Likewise in Il. 19.155-83, it is Odysseus who urges the Achaeans to down a hearty meal of meat and wine before returning to battle: the men hunger to fight, but Odysseus knows that fighting on an empty stomach leads to disaster. The tradition abounds with stories of Odysseus as a "hero of the belly." (50) Because these tales stress Odysseus' passion for roast meat, in particular, it is worth recalling that his interest in visiting the Cyclopes is triggered by the sight of "smoke from their fire, the sound of their own voices, and the bleating of their sheep and goats" (Od. 9.167). In Odysseus' perpetually hungry estimation, these are the raw ingredients of a free meal provided by a foreign host. (51) As narrator of his own story, therefore, he finds his own associations activated by what he says. Just as the external audience cannot escape the disturbing conclusion that Odysseus behaves atrociously in the cave, he himself cannot resist performing a sacrifice--and indulging in the meal that follows--when he is in the vicinity of bleating livestock and smoking fires. (52)

This is the tradition invoked by the Odyssey-poet when Odysseus enters the cave. But the passage is received differently by the Phaeacians, and Odysseus knows as much. For, as we have noted in our discussion of assembly-scenes, he tailors his narrative to a specific audience, matching his words to their experience in order to cultivate their good will and augment his status. He knows, and indeed has been forewarned by Athena and Nausicaa, that these people are unusual hosts, harboring uneven attitudes toward strangers. (53) Most significantly for this carnivorous Achaean, he observes that the Phaeacians do not attach an urgent importance to meat. The first meal Alcinous offers him consists only of bread and "numerous tidbits" (eidata polla, Od. 7.176) set forth by a maid. The appetizers are followed by a libation of wine to Zeus, poured by the host as he marks the end of the meal (7.179-85). In all Odyssey hospitality-scenes that mention eidata, the appetizers are followed by generous platters of meat served by male stewards. The libation of wine in honor of the gods, when mentioned, comes at the meal's conclusion. This sequence is observed in 1.140, where the household stewardess serves eidata to Athena-Mentes before sliced meat is served by carvers. In their first meal at Sparta (4.56), Telemachus and Athena-Mentor are treated to platters of mixed meats after first eating the eidata. The full sequence is observed in their final meal at the same location: Menelaos pours a libation (15.147-153) after Eteoneus serves the meat (15.140) that follows the"abundant eidata" (15.139). In 17.95 the disguised beggar is served eidata by a maid before he sets out to beg for meat from the male suitors.

But Odysseus on Scheria is offered no meat after the eidata, and Alcinous' libation to Zeus strikes us--and him--as premature. Only on the second day does Alcinous, after calling the assembly, provide a bountiful feast of roast sheep, boars, and cows. The Odyssey-poet assures that we, the external audience, notice the anomaly: this is the only instance in the poem in which eidata (and the formulaic phrase eidata poll' epitheisa) are not followed by meat platters. Again, the poet employs traditional diction to draw our attention to something non-traditional. As Odysseus studies his audience, therefore, he knows that he can safely say that he "ate" in the cave without raising their suspicions of his eating meat. (54) Indeed, the plural eidata and singular eidar seem to be vegetarian fare. (55) Odysseus tailors his narrative to fit his audience's experience: when he tells them "we laid our hands on the cheeses and ate" (tyron ainymenoi phagomen, 9. 232), he makes them envision him eating the same kind of pre-meal they served him only yesterday. The emerging portrait of an Odysseus who does not cat meat corresponds to their experience and is, for this reason, credible in their estimation.

As traditional receptors familiar with Odysseus' exploits in assembly and war, however, the Phaeacians are surely also familiar with his legendary appetite. In our earlier discussion, we observed that the hero "owns" the familiar but unflattering portrait of himself as short and stocky in order to forge a new image of himself. He does something analogous with the unbecoming reputation he holds for impatience in the presence of food. He knows that even Phaeacians, behind the times though they be, would find it hard to believe that he spent any length of time in the cave without eating at all: the picture of a patiently hungry Odysseus surrounded by food does not fit the Iliad-based tradition that seems to be well-established in the Phaeacians' minds. He therefore structures his syntax in such a way that they will hear only that he ate cheese: "... and, reaching out for the cheeses, we ate." He implies that, although he lit a fire and sacrificed, he did not eat the meat. For this new image of him as suppressing his carnivorous urges and contenting himself with less substantial fare is consistent with his first meal among the Phaecaians. (56)

In addition, the new image matches the conduct he exhibits in their hall. When he is finally served meat on the second day, he shares his portion of honor with Demodocus in the evening meal. In a bold move, surely designed to impress the Phaeacians who are openly fond of their singer, he rises from his seat and moves to the center of the hall, where he personally cuts the chine from the roast boar and gives it to a steward with orders to serve it to the minstrel. The Phaeacians, aware that their guest is the most avid meat- lover of the Achaeans, would have been exhilarated at the sight of him, in particular, lavishing his portion of honor on their adored singer. But we, the external audience, recognize a distinctly Ithacan move: this guest arrogates unto himself the duties of a host when he rises from his seat to carve the boar and then issues an imperative ("serve this meat:" touto pore kreas, Od. 8.477) to the waiter.

Odysseus also knows that the Phaeacians do not find his uninvited entrance into the cave an aberration. Again, he matches his narrative to their immediate experience. Only yesterday he entered Alcinous' palace without waiting at the doorway. Enveloped in Athena's cloud of invisibility, he walked straight in to supplicate the royal couple. Only then did the cloud dissipate, leaving onlookers awestruck (Od. 7.144-45) and wondering if he was a god (7.199). He did not wait to be lifted by the hand and offered a seat. Instead, he rolled to the hearth, sitting directly on the ground--without a fleece or bide--in the ashes of the fireplace (7.153-54), presenting himself as an abject suppliant. In Phaeacian eyes, Odysseus is no violator of protocol: he is just an exceptionally fast mover. When he recounts his actions in the cave to these particular listeners, therefore, he is confident that they will find nothing untoward in his conduct: his bold and unhesitating stepping into the cave, his eating a seemingly meatless meal that precedes an entree of meat that will come later (and for which the hero of endurance can wait), his positioning himself at the hearth, and his final sitting on the ground are all consistent with what the Phaeacians have recently witnessed. Listening to his story, they picture him on the bare ground in the cave because they only yesterday saw him sitting in the ashes of their own hearth, just as Alcinous and Arete welcomed the lowly suppliant, this audience now expects the Cyclops-host to receive the stranger who has humbled himself with the same gesture. But in the eyes of the external audience, who are informed about Ithacan behaviors, Odysseus sits on the skins of the animals he has just consumed after he has brazenly broken into and occupied the dwelling of an absent owner and feasted himself, without invitation, on stolen fare. For we are aware of the hero as equally quick in words as in deeds: in a mere two lines, he describes a complete banquet, appetizers and all. This fast mover is also an unsurpassed fast talker.

If indeed Odysseus exhibits Ithacan behavior in the cave, we receive his account of violated hospitality in a new light. Modern critics comment with dismay on Polyphemus' inquiry into the stranger's name before offering something to eat. (57) It is unlikely, however, that the Phaeacians would have been so offended. For Arete asked Odysseus his name on the first day after he had eaten only eidata (Od. 7.237-39). The real moment of shock for the Phaeacians comes when the monster grabs and eats the men (9.288-98). In the eyes of the internal audience, as guided by Odysseus, the Cyclops emerges as a horrible violator of his guests--as indeed he is. But they also see Odysseus doing nothing to warrant such a response since his behavior in the cave is just like his behavior with them. In their eyes, Odysseus is an innocent victim of a monstrous host who commits the first shocking deed of eating his guests for no apparent reason. This is precisely the image the hero wants them to see.

But it occurs to the external audience, our eyes guided by the Odyssey-poet, that the Cyclops acts in response to a first offense committed by the' intruder. The monster does not offer a meal because he suspects, perhaps even knows, that Odysseus has already eaten his fill. On returning from pasture, Polyphemus takes inventory as he milks his ewes and goats, placing each lamb and kid under its own mother. (58) The Cyclops knows every animal in his flock, and he may ascertain that one or more are missing. (59) When he suddenly turns from his counting to ask (Od. 9.252), "O strangers, who are you? What watery ways have you crossed?" he poses the very question a host asks after a guest has eaten a complete meal. In the poet's presentation, therefore, Odysseus is the first violator of hospitality, and his conduct is recognizably Ithacan. (60) Polyphemus, in a paradoxical fashion, picks up the hospitality-sequence at the point set by the type-scene by inquiring after his "guest's" name. (61) The Phaeacians, by contrast, have no such reference point and take their guest's story at face value. This is precisely the image the Odyssey-poet wants us to see.

In his arresting account of an Ithacan "sacrifice" in the cave, the Odyssey-poet accomplishes two amazing feats. On the one hand, by putting these words into the hero's mouth, he allows Odysseus to further his own mission of impressing the Phaeacians: in their eyes, a punctiliously pious guest honors the gods with a sacrifice, only to receive a most ungodly reception. On the other hand, the poet furthers his larger narrative mission and upholds Zeus' declared theodicy: in the eyes of the external audience, Odysseus commits the same recklessness as the suitors back home and as the crewmen on Thrinacia. In all three cases, enormous sufferings arise "over a meal" (peri daiti, Od. 2.245) that should never have been eaten. Like all Ithacans who suffer in the poem, Odysseus commits an offense that calls for expiation because he ignored clear warnings. He had his chance to flee the cave before the monster returned: his comrades urged him to beat a hasty retreat with as many lambs and cheeses as they could carry. (62) In retrospect, he confesses that he should have listened: "But I was not persuaded, although it would have been far more profitable had I listened" (9.228). Odysseus' brazen entry into the cave and his headstrong insistence on remaining there in defiance of all pleas constitutes the same kind of recklessness as committed by all his forewarned compatriots: the suitors refuse to quit the palace which they have occupied, the townsmen refuse to authorize their own assembly to restore civility to the island, and the sailors on Thrinacia defy the gods when they eat forbidden meat and call their crime a "sacrifice." Herein lies the reason for the hero's delayed homecoming and the troubles in his house. Zeus gave Athena but a partial answer: the hero incurs divine wrath when he blinds Poseidon's son, to be sure, but his conduct in the cave prior to the blinding constitutes an offense against Zeus Xenios. (63)

For this reason, the final scene of the Cyclopeia is especially revealing of the Odyssey-poet's agenda. On returning to his fleet and "sacrificing" (rhexas, Od. 9.553) to "Zeus who rules over all" the magnificent purple ram he has just stolen, Odysseus notes:
 He gave no heed to the offering
 line was already making plans for the destruction of all my
 Well-benched ships and the death of all my rowing companions.
 (Od. 9.553-55)


This is a unique moment in narrative patterns describing rejected prayers. When a speakers prayer is denied, the poet typically delivers an aside such as, "So he prayed in fervor, but the god denied him." (64) Here, however, the poet places the aside in the character's own mouth, in so doing, he draws our attention to the totality of the tradition, voiced by Zeus himself, in which reckless men "say" (phasi) that the gods are to blame for sufferings they bring on themselves. The hero of the poem thereby joins the ranks of mortals who unfairly point an accusing finger at Mt. Olympus. (13) Thus, the report of Zeus' rejection of the sacrifice serves two narrative ends. On the one hand, Odysseus voices these lines as he ingratiates himself ever more deeply with the Phaeacians. Taking his words at face value, his internal listeners so pity him as a victim of divine malice that they will shower him with "gifts of bronze and gold and woven fabrics in such abundance as he would never have taken as his share of plunder from Troy, it he had reached home unscathed" (5.38-41).The Phaeacians will restore to Odysseus everything he has lost on his way home--with interest. On the other hand, the Odysscy-poet uses the same narrative to signal to the external audience that Odysseus' allegation of Olympian ill will actually validates the poem's program as announced by Zeus. For the poet shows to us--but not to the Phaeacians--that Odysseus is indeed responsible for his non-fated miseries and that he unfairly blames Zeus for sufferings that could have been avoided with more prudent behaviors. The fact that the Phaeacians believe their guest's allegations indicates that, as an audience, they are behind the times: they are yesterday's listeners registering a common response to a worn refrain. But the Odyssey-poet flatters us by letting us in on this newest of songs which, for the first time in oral tradition, attributes epic sufferings of heroes to their own thoughtless deeds. The newly proclaimed theodicy of Zeus does indeed apply to Odysseus, just as it applies to the suitors, the sailors, and the Ithacan community. We, the external audience "get it," while the out-of-touch Phaeacians do not.

Conclusion

The conflation of assembly and hospitality type-scenes in the Cyclopeia serves a wide range of functions in the Odyssey and offers insights into how the poem is experienced by its poet and its audience. The fact that Odysseus' tale is embedded within the Odyssey-poet's total narrative is especially revealing, for it allows the external audience to hear two voices, while the internal listeners have access only to what their guest tells them. As a result of these dual perspectives, a tension is created as we attempt to resolve apparent inconsistencies and distinguish the voice of the hero from that of the poet. This tension is indicative of the tension that Zeus identifies as the poem's program in Od. 1.32-34: the complaints that mortals level against the gods for ostensibly unwarranted sufferings are misdirected, for all those who endure miseries "beyond their fate" commit reckless deeds which they either fail or refuse to acknowledge. Odysseus' account of his actions in the Cyclops' cave, far from an exception, is a case in point: this consummate Ithacan is convinced that he does nothing wrong and tailors his narrative in such a way as to win the sympathy and admiration of his Phaeacian listeners. He augments his standing in their eyes by invoking the oral tradition of which he knows they are aware, and he so wins their favor that they shower him with gifts of unprecedented abundance.

The Odyssey-poet, by contrast, has an agenda that incorporates but also transcends that of his hero. He too invokes the tradition of which we are aware and turns it to further his narrative ends and, indeed, to enhance his standing in our estimation. For, just as Odysseus himself paradoxically embraces the tradition of his short stature--which he finds offensive--only to aggrandize himself in his audience's eyes, so does the Odyssey-poet embrace the very tradition of god-blaming poetry--whose moral message is offensive to Zeus--only to turn it on its head. In one and the same narrative, the poet presents the hero of the poem as responsible (aitios) for his non-fated sufferings and as convinced that the gods are against him. The poet thus acknowledges, honors, and extends the tradition of god-blaming poetry in a poem replete with characters, including the hero himself, who suffer grievous woes and bemoan divine hostility. At the same time, however, the poet parts from the tradition in which his poem is based by demonstrating that such time-sanctioned attitudes characterize poetry that is now passe. For the Odyssey, while deeply rooted in oral tradition, is "the newest of poems" (neo-tate aoide) within a tradition that survives and thrives only by reaching beyond itself. In a remarkably facile fashion that is worthy of Odysseus himself, the poet uses the very narrative he assigns to his hero (which Odysseus puts to self-congratulatory ends) in order to present the cleverest of the Achaeans as unwittingly confirming Zeus' theodicy. Odysseus may be the most impressive word-master on the heroic roster, but the poet now emerges in our estimation as even more accomplished, for he surpasses his hero in ethical storytelling! For the poet's stance on the hero's countless sufferings is identical to that of Zeus himself, epic tradition's ultimate and irrefutable voice. If Odysseus' tale inspires his Phaeacian listeners to shower him with more gifts than all of Troy could have provided, what might the Odyssey-poet expect from us?

Notes

(1) For the most recent study, with bibliography, of the Cyclopeia as a hospitality type-scene, see Reece (1993, 123-43).

(2) Arend (1933, 116-21). Edwards (1992, 311) summarizes Arend's schema and cites relevant later studies. See also Herbert Bannert's embellishments of Arend's outline, emphasizing the flexibility of this particular type-scene, in Bremer (1987, 15-29).

(3) Indeed, we cannot rule out the possibility that the poet uses the assembly motif in order to contextualize a prophecy he fabricates for his own narrative purposes so that he can imbue his innovation with greater authority. Investigation into Haft's findings reveals that all eight fully-described assemblies in Homer incorporate prophetic or divine utterances in one form or another. In I1. 1.92-100, Calchas interprets the plague as issuing from the wronged Apollo, while later in the same assembly (1.206-14) Athena promises Achilles that the Achaeans will repay him three times the worth of Briseis. Agamemnon proclaims to the assembly in 9.17-28 that he now views Zeus' earlier dream as prophetic of disaster. In the final assembly of that poem (19.40-276, esp. 95-133), a repentant Agamemnon recounts how even Zeus was deluded by Hera after prophesying the greatness of the as-yet unborn Heracles. In Od, 8.11-14, a divine voice is heard when Athena summons the Phaeacians to arrange for Odysseus' predestined conveyance to Ithaca (cf. 5.36-40). In 16.400-05, Amphinomus implores the suitors to consult Zeus' oracle before acting on the motion to murder Telemachus. When, in 24.420-62, the relatives of the slain suitors plot to kill Odysseus, the herald Medon declares that he beheld a god assisting Odysseus in the slaughter. Halitherses confirms the epiphany as proof that his forgotten predictions have now come to pass. In light of this survey, it is reasonable to include "mention of a prophecy or oracle" as something that typically occurs during assembly speeches.

(4) See Edwards in Bremer (1987, 47-60), Edwards (1987, 45-54, 71-77), and Foley (1999, 169-99). Contrast the earlier assessment of type-scenes as "rigid" in Nagler (1974, 68).

(5) See Stephanie West's comment (Heubeck 1988, 129) on Aristarchus' verdict that the lines, while inoffensive, are more fitting in the Iliad: "the poet was not particularly interested in the details of summoning the assembly; he was content to use a ready-made description."

(6) A variation occurs in Od. 8.7-10: Athena, not Alcinous, summons the Phaeacians by disguising herself as a herald. Throughout the poem (cf. 1.44-95), Athena is keenly intent on securing homecoming for her favorite. Another variation occurs in Il. 1.54-56: after nine days of plague it is Achilles, not the "leader of men," who is prodded by Hera to summon the assembly. This departure raises our awareness of Agamemnon's deficiencies in leadership. It may also explain Agamemnon's impatience from the outset: the "best of the Achaeans" has usurped the authority of the commander-in-chief and must be put in his place. Richard Martin surmises that "Agamemnon must interpret [Achilles' divinely prompted calling of the assembly] as a grab for power by one pretending piety" (1989, 1 16).

(7) I posit that the summoning of an assembly is more an expression of an urgent need on the part of the convener than a mark of his actual or presumed political authority, as is suggested by Finley: "The assembly was normally summoned by the king at his pleasure ... yet others were seemingly empowered to call one had they so wished" (1982, 77-78).

(8) See Arend (1933, 117-18): not a single Achaean wants to miss the meeting between Agamemnon and Achilles that is about to take place.

(9) A variation on the summoning of the entire community occurs in Od. 16.36162, where the suitors call an assembly only for themselves, "allowing no one else, either young or old, to take a seat" (cf. Aegyptius' reference to "young and old" in 2.29: Ithacan assemblies are apparently inclusive of all age groups). Intent on forestalling the full assembly the Ithacans will doubtless call in response to Telemachus' return, the suitors lay siege to the public meeting site, preempting a legitimate convocation. In this way, the poet draws attention to the suitors' wrongful occupation of civic space. Just as these ruffians have occupied Odysseus' palace, they now appropriate the center of town for their criminal purposes. Brazenly heedless of all boundaries, these men are unsurpassed in the violation of arenas public and domestic.

(10) Of the four assemblies in the Odyssey, three arc under fifty lines long (8.4-47, 16.361-408, 24.420-66). The assembly called by Telemachus in 2.6-259 lasts 253 lines, Iliadic assemblies, by contrast, are longer rather than shorter: three range from 236-348 lines (1.54-305,2.50-398, 19.40-276), while one (9.9-79) occupies seventy lines.

(11) Such seemingly digressive ekphraseis in Homer heighten the scene's importance and raise the external audience's expectations of a sequential narrative: see Austin (1966).

(12) For a proposed etymology of the name Howeros as meaning "one who sews together/stitches the song," see Nagy (1996, 74-76).

(13) Schein (1984,89-99) reads Achilles'account of the "vegetal" staff encrusted in bronze as symbolic of the mortal but "cultured" hero's own body covered in armor.

(14) On Nestor as intercessor, see Dickson (1992).

(15) Cf. Beck: "The . . . assembly is a gathering of people engaged in 'civic debate,' which means that the group of people has some kind of identity as a group beyond the fact that they have been gathered together on a given occasion to discuss an issue that affects them" (2005, 191). It may also be significant that the Cyclopes refer to Polyphemus' cry with the verb eboesas in Od. 9.403. In his study of formulaic phrases that include this verb, Nagler notes that "boao, in the epics, meant 'call to one's aid' as opposed to merely 'make a shout.' . . . Latent in these expressions [is] ... a poetically important suggestion of the finite verb,'make (human) contact'" (1974, 30).

(16) When applied to inanimate objects, the verb describes shrill sounds: wind whistling through oak trees (Il. 14.399), and the music of a lyre penetrating the walls of the bouse (Od. 17.271).

(17) On "significant names"in Homer, see Heubeck (1988, 121-22) and Aristotle, Poetics 1451bl 1.

(18) The Homeric phrase polyphemos aoidos, traditionally understood as referring to a singer who either "knows many songs" (i.e., pollai phemai) or "enjoys/bestows great fame" (i.e., polle pheme) also allows the definition "of resounding voice." Singers throughout the Odyssey are endowed with exceptionally penetrating voices: in 1.325-36, Phemius song in the hall is heard by Penelope in her upstairs chamber; in 17.260-63, Odysseus and Eumaeus hear Phemius tuning his lyre before they even reach the palace; in 22.376, Odysseus tells the polyphemos aoidos to wait outside the door and later enlists him (23.130-40) to strike up an indoor wedding song that passersby will bear outside. In 10.221, Circe's song as she weaves within her cave is heard by Odysseus' comrades outside. Martin suggests that, in relaying characters' speech-acts, the poet may modulate his voice, increasing his own volume when characters shout (1989, 34). Odysseus' pun on the name "Polyphemus" would therefore be particularly audible to the Phaeacians if he were to raise his voice at this point in his narrative. Likewise, the external audience would hear the same pun if the poet-in-performance were to raise his voice to indicate Odysseus' own loud replication of Polyphemus' piercing cry.

(19) Similarly, in Il. 19.76-77, Agamemnon is forced by his wounds to address the assembly from a seated position.

(20) A weapon is used as it it were a speaker's staff also in Il.8.493-96: Hector addresses the assembled Trojans as he leans not on a scepter but on his long spear.

(21) In heroic society which raises men to be "speakers of words and doers of deeds" (Il. 9.443), the assembly is as agonistic as the competitive battlefield. In 1.490-92. Achilles refrains from the "assembly where men win glory (agoren kudianeiran) and from battle," (see Edwards 1987, 89). Within the context of the heroics of speaking, it is interesting to note that the Odyssey's caricature of Polyphemus as an assembly-speaker with nothing to say provides a mirror-like reversal of the caricature of Thersites in Il. 2.225-42. No tongue-tied Polyphemus,Thersites delivers a rambling and overblown harangue that, according to Martin, "goes too far without a limit imposed by proportionate heroic deeds" (1989,12). Martin counts the correptions in Thersites' "slurred speech" and observes that "Thersites ... is quite literally without meter in his performance" (1989, 113). Polyphemus and Thersites thus stand at the opposite ends of the spectrum of failed speakers. It is especially interesting to note that it is Odysseus, assembly-speaker par excellence, who publicly shames them both.

(22) For the contempt expressed by outidanos in Il. 1.231 and 293, see Newton (2009,76-77).

(23) Cf. Nagy (1996, 50):"Each occurrence of a theme (on the level of content) or of a formula (on the level of form) in a given composition-in-performance refers not only to its immediate context but also to all other analogous contexts remembered by the performer or by any member of the audience."

(24) For an interpretation of oime as a continuous band or path along which a forceful and momentum-bearing motion takes place, see Thornton (1984, 148-49). Cf. also Nagy on song as "a continuum . . . an uninterrupted sequence ... that draws toward a definite goal" (1996, 44-48). If these readings are correct, Demodocus' "excerpts" constitute a continuous and unbreakable sequence of Trojan War stories that sweep up the poet as well as the audience.

(25) See Nagy: when the poet performs he validates not only the tradition that he celebrates but also the audience before whom he sings. This "reciprocal authorization" between poet and listeners implies "a dialogue with the audience who is being addressed" (1996,20-38).

(26) Cf. Stanford: "There is something a little unaristocratic, or at least non-Achaean, in this portrait, contrasting with the tall, long-limbed stature of the other heroes. ... It may be intended as an indication of some racial difference between Odysseus and the other Achaeans" (1978, 67). This reading of Odysseus as a different "type" of hero does not take into consideration the fact that the "metonymic" epic tradition consistently juxtaposes non-flattering accounts of the Ithacan's physique with comments on his exceptional verbal skills: the mention of the one characteristic necessarily invokes the other. In Il. 19.216-20, for example, Odysseus admits that, although he is physically inferior to Achilles, he is superior to the Myrmidon "in words" (mythoisin).

(27) What Thornton observes of the composition of the Iliad applies also to Odysseus as composer of his own narrative: "the poet [responds] to the exigencies of his own story-telling" (1984, 100).

(28) In presenting Odysseus as elevating his status to that of a divine singer, the Odyssey-poet simultaneously elevates his own standing among his audience, sharing in his hero's heroism. Especially significant in this context is Alcinous' last-minute addition to the Phaeacians' parting gifts.The large tripod and cauldron he orders from each of his noble subjects (Od. 13.13) are perhaps more appropriately viewed as prizes awarded to winners of musical contests than as typical xeineia: cf. Hes. Op. 657.

(29) Martin sees Odysseus' unconventional non-gesturing with the scepter as a "strategy for capturing his audience, a style that plays off the shared knowledge of conventions, and therefore foregrounds Odysseus' rhetorical act. By creatively modifying traditional material (the way one holds a scepter), Odysseus brings about a memorable performance. He creates a contrast between his appearance and the reality of his oratorical power" (1989, 96). Even as he plays off audience expectations that are based in "shared knowledge of conventions," however, Odysseus also plays off his own variations. The image of him swinging and smacking with the scepter in Iliad 2 presents a divergence not only from conventional use of the staff but, more importantly, from Odysseus' own unique divergence from convention.

(30) For the effect of these similes in heightening the contrast between the forces of "civilization and savagery," see Dimock (1971,204) and Podlecki (1971,82-83). For the use of similes in the Iliad in drawing audience attention to "violent juxtaposition," see Porter (J 972).

(31) Cf. Od. 1.351-52: Telemachus tells Penelope that people prefer to hear "the most recent song going around" (aoide[n] . . . neotate amphipeletai). Therefore, on Ithaca, Phemius entertains the suitors with an account of the homecomings of the Achaeans. Such songs hold high interest for an audience whose king has yet to complete his nostos. Like Penelope with her itinerant visitors (14.126-30), the suitors listen for fresh information from their entertainer. In similar fashion, Orestes' now three-year-old slaying of Aegisthus has spread to Pylos (3.304-10) and Sparta (4.546-47) and become a kleos. For interpretations of the Odyssey's use of the term kleos to describe such recent and ongoing events as news-like updates and even current rumors (in contrast with the Iliad's emphasis on events from the distant past), see Mackie (1997.78-83) and Olson (1995. 1-23).

(32) Of. Mackie: "Perhaps the Phaiakians are--by Odyssean standards--even a little behind the times. Geographically remote and consequently isolated from world events, they are still entertained by tales of the Trojan war. Meanwhile the more sophisticated audience on Ithaka has already graduated to songs dealing with the returns of the Akhaian heroes from the war. Odysseus brings the Phaiakians up to date when he takes over from Demodokos as performer and entertains them with the newer tale of his own return" (1997, 81).

(33) The Odyssey-poet thereby sends a message to his audience: his song of Ithaca is not old but, rather, now being told for the first time--and to us. The external audience can therefore pride itself on being more up-to-date than the hyper-civilized Phaeaeians. The poet flatters his external audience, even as Odysseus flatters the internal audience with his allusions to and manipulations of traditional tales.

(34) For the Odyssey as an "ethical" poem, see Aristotle, Poetics 1453a32 and Else: "Not only is the Odyssey full of the character of Odysseus--'wise,' brave, enduring, just, faithful--but that character wins the success it deserves [italics in original|. The ending of the Odyssey is in accordance with character: it is, as we say, 'moral'" (1967, 531).

(35) Cf. the famous verdict of Dodds that the Zeus-passage is "programmatic" (1951, 32). Martin also suggests that, among performers of speech-acts in epic, Zeus carries the most authoritative voice: this god is never gainsaid (1989, 51-56). It is therefore not to be unexpected that the Odyssey-poet would align his own ethical message to coincide with that uttered by the supreme Olympian. It is interesting to note, for example, that in many passages of the poem in which characters charge the gods with malice or indifference, the human speakers are either corrected by a god-m-disguise or belied by the context of their comments. For example, in Od. 3.230-31 Athena-Mentor chastises Telemachus in Nestor's presence for voicing despair over ever seeing his father again "even if the gods will it;" in 1.231-51, Telemachus' declaration to Athena-Mentes that "the gods have devised evils" for his father is belied by the fact that the youth is speaking to the very goddess dispatched by Zeus to bring his father home; Nestor's assertion in 3.269 that the "fate of the gods" (moira theon) willed the murder of Agamemnon by Aegisthus stands in direct contradiction to Zeus' account of the same incident in 1.35-43; Odysseus' complaint that Zeus maliciously willed the loss of 72 sailors to the Ciconians (kake Dios aisa, 9.52) is belied by the folly of the men and Odysseus' own failure to rein them in. For Odysseus' culpability in the Ciconeia, see Newton (2005).

(36) The proem's suggestion that Odysseus lost all or most of his comrades on Thrinada is misleading. Fewer than 50 men were left by that point, the bulk having been harpooned by the Laestrygonians: see Newton (2009, 80-85). On the Odysscypoet as a "devious narrator" who instills his narrative with the inconsistencies and concealments that Odysseus employs in his interactions with characters within the poem, see Richardson (2006).

(37) See Clay for a frank discussion of the apparent contradictions in Zeus' statement and the "monumental discrepancy in the religious and moral perspective of the poem" (1983, 21 3-39). She concludes that "the ethical consistency we desire eludes us from the beginning" and posits a "double theodicy" for the poem: the gods are dispensers of cosmic justice in their dealings with the suitors but remain subject to "caprice and whim" when it comes to the sufferings of Odysseus and even those of the sailors on Thrinacia who are divinely tempted into eating the cattle (219). See also Mackic (1997, 93).

(38) See Yamagata addressing Zeus' indulgence of Poseidon's persecution of Odysseus: "Zeus, though credited by Odysseus for his successful revenge against the Cyclops, is later said by the same hero not to have accepted his thanksgiving but devised the ruin of his ship and companions (9.550-5). Zeus does nothing which we would expect from a 'moral' god, such as to remind the furious Poseidon that his son not only violated the code of hospitality but also insulted the gods by boasting" (1994, 7).

(39) Heubeck comments on the incredibility of 2.19-24: the reason given for Aegyptius' inconsolable grief is "more than Aegyptius himself or anyone else in Ithaca knew" (1988,130). Reports of what transpired in the cave clearly cannot have reached Ithaca at this point, and so Aegyptius cannot yet be aware of his son's fate. But the very lack of verisimilitude may be intended by the poet as a sign-post directing the listener and even himself to the upcoming Cyclopeia. See Thornton commenting on a similar crux in Il. 7.76-86:
 For the poet ... attention to the goal of his story is more important
 than the creation of an illusion of verisimilitude. His attention to
 the goal of the narrative has two aspects. It relates to himself as a
 performer of a long poem, and to his audience as taking it in. He
 himself in singing has to keep the goal in mind in order to keep
 his story moving steadily in the right direction. He therefore puts
 words into Hector's mouth at the early stage, that is, in the first
 night of the singing, the meaning of which will become crucial much
 later, in the third night of singing. By doing so he puts down in
 actually sung words a 'Leitmotif' in his own aural memory in order to
 prepare for the further reaches of his song, or, in different
 imagery, a 'signpost' to mark the direction of his path."
 (Thorton 1984, 68)


If Thornton is correct about Il. 7.76-86, this reading of Od. 2.19-24 may also be correct: in his first night of singing (Book 2), the Odyssey-poet establishes the "signpost" of Aegyptius which then guides him in a much later part of his song (Book 9), where he will establish a connection between the non-assembling Cyclopes and Ithacans. The poet, in a sense, introduces a discordant note (for both himself and his audience) early in his narrative which he later harmonizes into the fuller composition. Even as he performs his song of the Ithacan assembly, therefore, he has the Cyclopeia in mind (and vice versa).This Leitmotif, of course, is lost on the Phaeacians, who have not heard the Odyssey.

(40) See Cairns: "for some, the threat of divine displeasure may be the only effective sanction; but for others, the notion that the gods disapprove of certain conduct is taken as a reinforcement of values which one has already internalized and accepted" (1993, 87-123, especially 107). Ithacans and Cyclopes alike are lacking in internalized communal values.

(41) Odysseus, aware of the Cyclopes' disdain for assembly, knows that his fellow Ithacans are also slow to take community action. He turns this awareness into a delay tactic when he reunites with Penelope: in Od. 23.133-40 he orders the minstrel to strike up a wedding song to inspire gossip that will retard the spreading of the news of the slaughter. As neighbors pass by from outside the palace (ektosthen, 23.148), they censure Penelope for her premature remarriage. In thus walking by without stopping to inquire, the Ithacan neighbors impress the external audience again as more aloof than the Cyclopes, who did indeed stop and investigate the cries emerging from the cave.

(42) The expense incurred by the sacrifant in exchange for something especially dear is stated or implied in Il. 6.94, 6.275, and 6.309 (Hecuba promises to sacrifice 12 heifers to Athena to persuade the goddess to save the Trojans); Il. 7.314 (Agamemnon sacrifices a 5-year old ox to Zeus, which the soldiers then feast on); Il. 23.147 (Pete-us vows to sacrifice 50 rams to the River Spercheios upon the return of his son to Phthia); Il. 21.131 (Achilles mockingly tells Lykaon to sacrifice bulls to the river if he wishes to save his life). Similarly, in Od. 13.182 Alcinous orders a sacrifice of 12 bulls to appease the angry Poseidon.

(43) The participle may also describe hosts who are seated beside their guests: in Od. 8.95 and 8.534 Alcinous is "seated" next to Odysseus. An interesting variation appears in 17.506: Penelope, a necessarily absent hostess to the beggar, is "seated" in her bedroom while maids downstairs offer Odysseus a proper meal.

(44) For an intriguing analysis of the body-language of the suitors, see Lateiner (1993) and Lateiner (1995, 203-42). In 13 of its 14 occurrences in the Iliad, the participle hemenos describes seated gods or kings, i.e., individuals in positions of honor (1.330, 358, 498; 5.753; 7.100; 8.480; 14.158; 15.153; 18.36; 20.23, 155; 21.389; 24.209). The "lofty" associations of the participle are conveyed in 5.771, where it describes a watchman overlooking the sea from an elevated position on the ship. The Iliad does not apply the word to seated guests. The Odyssey's application of a verb that the Iliad reserves for divinity and royalty may therefore suggest that the Odyssey-poet assigns xenoi a regal, even sacred, status. But the suitors make a mockery of this sanctity. They behave as if they were gods, for example, in assigning the nickname of Iros to heir hefty messenger Arnaeus (18.1-7)

(45) See Hainsworth in Heubeck: "sitting on the ground is an expression of misery or despair" (1988, 331). On his return visit to Aeolus in Od. 10.62-63, an ashamed Odysseus crouches on the threshold of the palace porch; in 14.30-31, the disguised beggar squats on the ground to fend off a dog attack; in 17.339, Odysseus sits on the threshold of his own palace before begging for alms at the feet of the banqueters; in 4.716-20, the distraught Penelope collapses on the threshold of her own bedchamber. On Odysseus' manipulation of his suppliant status as he sits in the ashes of Alcinous' hearth (7.153), see below in this paper.

(46) See the scholium in Od. 9.231: "we made a sacrifice from the cheeses: for it was an ancient custom to make an offering of the first fruits." This suggestion, based on an otherwise unattested tradition of cheese-sacrifice in the ancient world, has been accepted by Merry (1899, 106). Clay suggests that the peculiar cheese-sacrifice "emphasizes the absence of ... political and religions institutions among the Cyclopes" (1983,117). We should note, however, that it is the civilized Odysseus, not the primitive Cyclops, who oversees the rites. Polyphemus' cave houses the essential ingredients: live animals and fire-wood.

(47) See Arend (1933, 64-78) and Edwards (1992, 314).

(48) In Od. 5.102, Hermes uses the single verb rhezousi when be complains to Calypso that, on his long flight to Ogygia, he did not pass one city that offered sacrifices. The youthful god seems to long for a whiff of roast meat.

(49) A fragment surviving from Philoxenus of Cythera's (455-380 BCE) dithyramb Cyclops suggests that Odysseus' "sacrifice" in the cave referred to his consumption of Polyphemus' livestock. See Edmonds (1959, 390-39; fragment 10 Edmonds = 3 Diehl = 8 Hiller-Crusius = 10 Bergk).The two-word fragment preserved, with commentary, in the Suda (ethysas; antithysei: "You sacrificed? You will be sacrificed in turn") is "said by the Cyclops to Odysseus in Philoxenus. It seems that they took Homer's words 'then we kindled fire and sacrificed' to be said of the lambs and not to mean merely 'to offer firstlings.'" The entry also includes the scholiast's comparison of Odysseus' sacrifice to the thyelai in Il. 9.219: "thysai 'to sacrifice' is .not sphaxai 'to immolate' as Timotheus and Philoxenus took it in our present usual sense, but 'to make offering' simply, and because by thyelai are meant the offered firstlings." These comments indicate that there was scholarly disagreement in antiquity concerning exactly what Odysseus ate in the cave. The scholiast, we should note, does not observe that the thyelai in Il. 9.219 do indeed consist of roast meat, the first fully-cooked tidbits to emerge from the fire. Similarly, the "firstlings" (argmata) that Eumaeus tosses into the fire in honor of the gods in Od. 14.446 arc bits of meat. The fact that Philoxenus' audience would have presumably understood the Cyclops' mocking of Odysseus' claim to "sacrifice" suggests that the reading put forth here may have occurred to audiences in the classical period. I thank my colleague Jennifer Larson for bringing the Philoxenus fragment to my attention.

(50) For a reading of Odysseus as a "hero of the gaster" who is contrasted with Achilles, "'hero of the thymos," see Pucci (1987, 173-87).

(51) The hero's chronic and intense longing for cooked meat (as triggered by the sight of smoke rising from hearth-fires, the sounds of bleating animals, and audible human voices) may explain why, upon arrival among the Lotus Eaters (Od. 9.82-104), Odysseus does not himself venture out to explore the territory. He contents himself with dispatching scouts into this land of vegetarians while he waits by the ships.

(52) The "exigencies of [the poet's] own story-telling" to which Thornton (1984, 100) refers (see above, note 27) may cut across two levels. We observed earlier that Odysseus responds to Euryalus' abuse in a manner consistent with the oral tradition that associates the hero's physique with his rhetorical prowess: the narrator thus responds to what he hears in performance, shaping his song to fit a particular audience. But Odysseus also responds to what he himself says in the course of his narrative: upon mentioning sheep, goats, fires, and presumably human inhabitants, he is unavoidably led by his own words to recall a sacrifice type-scene. In terms of poetics, a symbiosis arises between the poet and his tradition, perhaps to the extent that the poet's persona (the singer) merges with the tradition (the song). On the impossibility of distinguishing the poet from his tradition, see especially Foley (1999, 56-61).

(53) For conflicting accounts within the poem of Phaeacian hostility toward and overly generous reception of strangers, see Od. 7.32-33, 7.226-27, 8.387-97, 11.339-41, 13.172-83. For the scholarly debate over Phaeacian hospitality, see Segal (1962), Rose (1969), De Vries (1977) and, most recently, Reece (1993, 101-21).

(54) Odysseus employs a similar duplicity (cf Il. 9.312-13) in Od. 12.208-16 when he encourages his crew to brace for the upcoming encounter with Scylla. He announces that this difficulty will be "no worse than when the Cyclops trapped us in his cave," implying that they will successfully extricate themselves this time as well. For the men who are left on the ship were not killed by Polyphemus. But the hero knows from Circe (12.116-26) that Scylla's six heads will each claim one victim, resulting in the unavoidable loss of six more comrades, the identical number of casualties sustained in the Cyclops' cave. The manner of death will also be the same: the victims will be snatched up without warning and devoured alive. Odysseus' advance notification to us and the Phaeacians of the threat posed by Circe thus gives us an experiential reference point that is denied to the crewmen. As a result, the narrator's different audiences hear different messages: the sailors expect that they will all come out alive (just as they were ultimately unscathed by the Cyclops), but we and the Phaeacians brace ourselves for the report of a half-dozen more gruesome deaths.

(55) This word describes the flowers consumed by the Lotus Eaters (Od. 9.84), the ambrosial fodder of Ares' and Poseidon's divine horses (Il. 5.369, 13.35), leftover crumbs on a table (Od. 21.20, 85), and even the bait used by the meat-deprived sailors on Thrinacia to catch small fish (12.252). It may also be significant that eidata are consistently served by women. Since the preparation of meat is a responsibility that falls exclusively on men, Circe and her maids set out only bread and "abundant eidata" for Odysseus in 10.372. The poet plays on audience associations with the hospitality type-scene by having Odysseus refuse to touch the enchantress' eidata until she restores his comrades (10.383-87). His delay tactic in not touching the appetizers forestalls the otherwise inevitable next step in the sequence: the preparation, cooking, and serving of the meat which, in this particular case, would be his own "animalized" companions.

(56) It is only after his encounter with the Cyclops that Odysseus learns the importance of controlling his appetite. After a month on Thrinacia, his comrades are unable to endure living off of fish and fowl and fatally succumb to the temptation of Hyperion's cattle. Odysseus, by contrast, goes off to pray for divine assistance and falls into a deep sleep (Od. 12.324-39) which may actually be the gods' answer to his prayer: sleep would lower his metabolism and enable him to prolong his endurance. Perhaps for this reason he is also able to endure his first meatless meal on Scheria. But in the Cyclops' cave, he gives no signs of struggling with his carnivorous urges. For Odysseus' growth as a hero of endurance (tlemosyne) on Thrinacia, see Friedrich (1987a, 393-94).

(57) See, for example Reece: "It is not the content of the question but its position in the sequence of typical elements that make up the scene that is remarkable: Polyphemus is inquiring into his guest's identity on first sight ... even before offering him a meal" (1983, 132). In a similar vein, Schein views the blinding of Polyphemus as fitting punishment for his violation of xeneia (1970, 82).

(58) Somewhat curiously, accounts of property-owners "taking stock" of their holdings punctuate the poem. When Odysseus finally arrives on Ithaca, the moment he awakens he "counts" (arithmeso, Od. 13.215; erithmei, 13.218) his Phaeacian gifts to ascertain that none are missing. In similar fashion, Eumaeus brags to the newly-arrived stranger of his master's huge livestock inventory: hired hands on the mainland oversee twelve herds/flocks each of cows, sheep, pigs, and goats, while on Ithaca proper eleven herds of goats are maintained, plus the swine kept by Eumaeus himself (14.99-108).The fact that on Ithaca there are only eleven (not twelve) herds of goats suggests that the suitors have already made inroads into their numbers (with the full cooperation of the ruffian goatherd Melanthius),just as they are rapidly consuming the pork. In a similar vein, Menelaos confesses to Telemachus in 4.97, after recounting the precious gifts he amassed on his homeward journey, that he would gladly trade a "third portion" (triten ... moiran) of his pre-war estate for the sight of his companions who fell at Troy. It is therefore interesting to speculate whether oral tradition preserves a motif of "returning hero takes stock of his property upon arrival." If this is the case, the inventory recited by Eumaeus occurs at the very point we expect it: Odysseus has just come home and, through his swineherd, takes stock of his possessions. The catalogue appears to be motivated by a tradition that the poet manipulates as he plays on the expectations of an audience familiar with such patterns. Likewise, when Polyphemus counts his sheep, his actions may suggest to the external audience that he--like Odysseus himself--returns home to find that intruders have reduced the size of his flock.

(59) As he draws near to the cave from a day of shepherding his flocks, Polyphemus may find his suspicions aroused by the scent of roasting meat (knife). Throughout the Odyssey, the aroma of cooked meat is particularly penetrating. When Odysseus approaches his palace for the first time in Od. 17.270, he smells the knise of his own livestock from a distance. In 10.10, as he draws near to Aeolus' palace, he smells meat cooking. While he sleeps on Thrinacia, he is awakened by the smell of Hyperion's roasting cows (12.369), In Il. 1.317, 8.549 kise is described as wafting to the sky, and in Il. 1.66 Achilles states that gods enjoy the fragrant smoke of hecatombs. When Hermes complains to Calypso in Od. 5.101-02 that he did not pass a single city of mortal men who offered sacrifices or hecatombs, the flying god may be alluding in playful fashion to the tradition of knise as wind-borne. On the parallels between Odysseus returning to Ithaca and Polyphemus returning to his own cave--in each case, a host finding his domicile overrun by gluttonous intruders, see Newton (1983).

(60) In the Homeric concept of justice, the first offender is viewed as the guilty party: Od. 20.392-94 states explicitly that the suitors must die "since they were the first to commit improprieties." Cf. Il. 3.351, 4.70-72, 4.237, 4.271. Austin cites Odysseus as the initial violator of xeneia because he eats at all in the cave before the arrival of the master (1983,12-16). Similarly Friedrich (1991) finds Odysseus'behavior in the episode hybristic but is reluctant (Friedrich [1987b] 128) to acknowledge that the hero ate meat, noting that "if Austin and Newton were right, the entire ethos of the Cyclopeia would have to be seen differently."

(61) Indeed, Odysseus' answer to Polyphemus' question continues the predictable sequence. His declaration, "We are Achaeans, driven off course from Troy by all sorts of winds over the great expanse of sea," (Od. 9.259-60) sounds like a variation of his post-meal declaration to the Phaeacians, "A wind wafted me from Troy to the land of the Ciconians" (9.39). As among the Phaeacians, Odysseus may here be planning to regale the Cyclops with a long post-banquet story of his adventures. But Polyphemus cuts him off by eating the men.

(62) See Friedrich for a succinct definition of what constitutes an act of reckless ness (atasthalia): "There must be (I) a warning so that the transgressors know what they are doing, and (2) a path for alternative action and behaviour so that those warned have a chance to heed the warning" (1987a, 392).

(63) This reading relocates the gravamen of Odysseus' hybris. Most critics cite the hero's reckless blurting out of his name to Polyphemus as the act that results in his ten years of wandering, the loss of his comrades, and the troubles he finds in his house: see Bradley (1968), Brown (1966), and Dimock (1971). According to these views, Odysseus could have avoided trouble if he had not spoken out. I suggest, however, that the release of his name to Polyphemus provides merely the vehicle (the "how") through which the curse sticks. The content of Odysseus' transgression (the "why") lies in the first steps he takes when he enters the cave. Odysseus' offense against Poseidon in the blinding of bis son is therefore secondary to his prime offense against Zeus Xenios. It is especially interesting to note that Polyphemus' curse explicitly invokes the hero's fate in Od. 9.532 ("but if it is his moira to see his loved ones and return home . .."). Even the brutish Cyclops knows that he cannot override fate. His words echo Zeus' own pronouncement in 5.41-42 that it is Odysseus' "moira to see his loved ones and reach home."The poet thereby makes it clear to the audience that the troubles Odysseus endures are "beyond his fate" (hyper moron) and are brought about through his own atasthaliai, even as the hero himself blames a hostile Zeus.

(64) For the poet's commentary on prayers that are denied (described with the verb ananeuo ["nod up"] or a negation of epikraino ["grant"]) without the knowl edge of the speaker, cf. Il. 2.419-20, 3.302, 6.311,16.250-52. There is an element of blasphemy, furthermore, in Odysseus' application of the verb empazomai to describe Zeus' not "heeding" his sacrifice. When this verb describes communication between men and gods, it applies to mortals who "heed" what the gods tell them either directly or through signs or prophets. Cf. Il. 16.50 (Achilles heeds a prophecy); Od. 1.271, 305 (Telemachus heeds Athena), 415 (Telemachus heeds a prophecy); 2.201 (suitors refuse to heed a prophecy). In proper epic diction, men "heed" gods, not vice versa. When Odysseus therefore claims that Zeus gave no "heed" to his sacrifice (with empazomai rather than epikraino) . he arrogates unto himself the very position that Zeus describes as offensive in 1.32-34.

(65) Friedrich finds Odysseus' attitude toward Zeus in this scene particularly bothersome:
 He aggrandizes his very personal triumph by elevating his heroic
 tisis to a victory of Zeus' order. It must greatly irritate Zeus that
 such a claim should be made by a man who, by entering the Cyclops'
 abode in his absence and helping himself to uninvited food
 (ix 231-32), was the first to violate the very code he now boasts to
 have vindicated. (Friedrich 1991, 26)


By the end of the poem, I argue elsewhere, Odysseus acknowledges his hybtis and becomes a spokesman for Zeus' worldview (Newton 1997). His silencing of Eurycclia's jubilant cry at the sight of the slain suitors in Book 22 stands in stark contrast to his reckless vaunting over the blinded Polyphemus in Odyssey 9, in which he presumptuously boasted that "Zeus and the other gods punished" the monster (9.479). Most significantly, when he explains to the nurse that "these men were brought to ruin by the fate of the gods (moira . . . theon) and by their own wretched deeds (kai schetlia erga)" in 22.413, he expiates his prior hybris and echoes the words and sentiment of Zeus from 1.32-34, When he personally fumigates his blood-soaked house with fire and sulfur in 22.490-94, furthermore, the ensuing scent replicates the effects of Zeus' thunderbolt that strikes the ship after Thrinacia in 12.415-1 9. In the justice of Zeus which the poem upholds, the disobedient sailors had to be punished, just as the reckless suitors had to be destroyed. Odysseus' keen intelligence and heroic powers of endurance enable him to learn from his sufferings and, as a result, to see the hand of the god in all that has happened: he no longer arrogates divine will unto himself.

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--. 2005. "The Ciconians, Revisited (Homer, Odyssey 9.39-66)." In Approaches to Homer: Ancient and Modern, ed. Robert J. Rabel. Swansea: Classical Press of Wales: 135-46.

--. 2009. "Geras and Guest-Gifts in Homer." In Reading Homer in the Twenty First Century, ed. Kostas Myrsiades. Fairleigh Dickinson University Press (forthcoming).

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Rick M. Newton is professor Emeritus of Classical Studies at Kent Stale University in Kent, Ohio. His articles on Homers Odyssey have appeared in Classical Journal, Classical World, Greek, Roman and Byzantine Studies and the MLA volume, Approaches to Teaching Homer's Iliad and Odyssey.
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Title Annotation:Essays
Author:Newton, Rick M.
Publication:College Literature
Article Type:Critical essay
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 22, 2008
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