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Recognition and the forgotten senses in the Odyssey.


Recognition in the Odyssey typically hinges on a visual or visualizable sign of some sort. There are, however, three recognition scenes--between Odysseus and his dog, his Nurse, and his bow--which turn instead on nonvisual triggers. Touch occasions Eurycleia's recognition of her master, as it does Odysseus's reunion with his bow, while there are strong hints that his sharp sense of smell is what enables Argus to detect his master behind the ragged appearance of a beggar. These three scenes, based as they are on senses other than sight, expose the fissures in Odysseus's otherwise flawless disguise, and reveal his surprising vulnerability.

As David Howes (2005, 10) observes in Empire of the Senses, how the senses are valued in any given society is not only culturally determined but also hierarchical:
   The senses are typically ordered in hierarchies. In one society or
   social context sight will head the list of the senses, in another
   it may be hearing or touch. Such sensory rankings are always allied
   with social rankings and employed to order society. The dominant
   group in society will be linked to esteemed senses and sensations
   while subordinate groups will be associated with less-valued or
   denigrated senses. In the West, the dominant group--whether it be
   conceptualized in terms of gender, class, or race--has
   conventionally been associated with the supposedly 'higher' senses
   of sight and hearing, while subordinate groups (women, workers,
   non-Westerners) have been associated with the so-called lower
   senses of smell, taste, and touch.

The gendered social valuation of the senses in the Odyssey is in line with what Howes describes as typical for Western societies: sight and sound are allied with social prestige, while touch and smell are more prevalent among subordinate groups, particularly women and animals. Argus and Eurycleia mobilize these 'lower' senses during their interactions with Odysseus. Women, moreover, are often the first to notice bodily semata, perhaps because of their involvement in rituals of hospitality which brings them into close contact with the physical self. (1) And as weavers, women are practitioners of a supremely tactile art. (2) This may mark them as closer to 'nature' and supposedly less suited for positions of political power, but their tactile expertise is also what allows female characters in Homer to 'see through' the superficially altered appearances that confound their male counterparts. (3)

Even Odysseus, a hero of metis (cunning) rather than bia (force), resorts to uncharacteristic aggression when he is confronted with Eurycleia's discerning touch. The forgotten senses of touch and smell thus reinforce, at the same time that they call into question, the Odyssey's gendered and political status quo. By pointing up the dangers of discovery that Odysseus barely escapes, such seemingly loose ends in the 'disguise' strand of the epic hint at alternative outcomes to the hero's nostos. Odysseus's is a homecoming whose precarious reliance on the dynamics of vision-centered reintegration could easily have been overwritten by a single sleight of hand or nose.

Recognition and the Senses

There are two main types of recognition in the Odyssey, each of which performs a distinctive narrative function. I refer to these as anagnorisis and noesis, even though those particular nouns do not occur in Homer. (4) Recognition scenes involving anagnorisis tend to be framed by a social relationship that requires reactivation. Through the agency of a visualizable sign (e.g., a particular bodily form [demas]-, the shape of the head, hands, or feet; a scar; a special token; or the smooth surface of a weapon), a connection is re-established between Odysseus and some member of his domestic inner circle. (5) The scar on his thigh is the sign (sema) that is most often summoned to confirm recognition (anagnorisis) of Odysseus; as such, it is an externalization of a durative social identity. The scar contains a twofold story--the history of Odysseus's naming by his grandfather, Autolycus, and his wounding by a boar on Parnassus as part of a coming-of-age hunting expedition. But the scar itself cannot speak. It needs a narrator, someone who also remembers Odysseus in connection with these key rites of passage. The scar thus serves not only as a definitive 'sign' of an otherwise unidentifiable man; it also prompts a narrative flashback to another time and place, not covered by the Odyssey proper. As Terence Cave (1988, 22) remarks, recognition "always reaches back analeptically to earlier narratives."

Odysseus points to the same scar on his thigh in proving his identity to Eumaeus, Philoeteus, and his father, Laertes (21.217-20; 24.331-5). The herdsmen and Laertes do not discover the sign for themselves. They have never been involved, like Eurycleia, in the care of Odysseus's physical self. It is far less likely, therefore, that they would breach Odysseus's disguise, unprompted. (6) Indeed, Odysseus first tests the mind (noos) of the herdsmen, asking them if they would support the suitors or Odysseus, should the latter return. Testing is one of the distinctive stages of the recognition scene, a move signaling to the audience that recognition may be imminent. (7) The cowherd responds immediately, although he does not yet realize to whom he is speaking: "You would know my strength and my hands would follow" ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], 21.202). The swineherd agrees and prays for Odysseus's nostos.

The semata requiring anagnorisis thus evoke memories of pre-established personal relationships. (8) They are also, for the most part, visual signs. The vocabulary of 'knowing,' however, is so closely correlated with that of 'seeing' that it tends to be internalized as sensorily unmarked. Indeed, the verb [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], which is central to the discourse of 'recongition' in the Odyssey, can function as a synonym for seeing. (9) Only when the same sign (i.e., the scar) turns into a tactile clue does one become aware of sight as the default sensory mechanism for recognition.

Some signs successfully reactivate a 'dormant' philia relationship by indexing defining characteristics of a person (e.g., Odysseus's scar); others call to mind an experience or shared piece of knowledge. The 'sign' of the bed, through which Penelope seeks to trip up any false pretender to her husband's identity, is useful as a testing device because the knowledge of the bed's unusual production history is restricted to a mere three individuals. (10) When, on the other hand, a host meets a guest for the first time, there is no expectation that he will have any prior, direct knowledge of his guest. The good host looks not for signature marks, since he has no repertoire of remembered signs against which to compare his present observations. Rather, he keeps an eye and an ear trained on whatever social cues are furnished by his guest's behavior.

To take just one example. Among the Phaeacians, Alcinous is well on his way to deciphering his guest's identity when he notices, for the second time ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], 8.94 and 533), his guest weeping in response to the song of Demodocus. (11) Shortly afterwards, he asks to be told his guest's name. Alcinous's hospitality, as well as his astute perception (noesis) of his guest's behavior, makes him ideally suited for being entrusted with Odysseus's name and its accompanying story. If Alcinous and Odysseus were to meet again after a long separation, they would carry out a new sequence of recognition 'moves,' typically performed by those who must deceive and test one another before ultimately renewing their friendship through anagnorisis. (12) In this way, the work of noesis lays the foundations for a future anagnorisis.

Consider also what happens when Telemachus suddenly realizes that the guest, Mentes, with whom he has been conversing, is actually a god--his recognition occurs as a form of noein (1.322). (13) It is not a recognition proper (i.e., not an anagnorisis), for Telemachus has never before met Athena (at least not in this form). He is not recalling fixed signs of her divinity, but rather interpreting new data as they are given to him. He uses noesis to determine that the bird-figure is a god (1.322-3), though only a short time later he identifies her through anagnorisis (1.420) as the divinity he has already encountered. (14) Telemachus's initial, unmediated identification of something he has never seen before is characteristic of noetic recognition.

Concealing Odysseus in mist, Athena makes him "unrecognizable" ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]), to both his family and other inhabitants of the island (13.191). She later turns him into an old man, aging his skin, thinning his hair, dimming his eyes, and making his clothing ragged (13.397-403). Yet ineradicable traces of Odysseus's former self remain, ever threatening to undermine the hero's carefully orchestrated reentry and his plan to first test his friends and family for loyalty before revealing who he is. (15) The cognitive capacities normally activated in the Odyssey s scenes of recognition tend to track the visible surfaces of things and people. During his extended homecoming, Odysseus withholds knowledge of himself from those who are in the best position to exploit it. It is a tightrope act of visual-verbal dissimulation, followed by carefully calibrated revelation. Yet hiding in plain view are alternative ways of affirming that the hero has returned. When they are juxtaposed with the 'official' scenes where Odysseus is reunited with members of his oikos, these moments illuminate the contingency and fragility of the Odyssey as a narrative structure, hinting at the other directions in which the story might have gone, and thus delineating how deeply intertwined the poem's plot is with its sensory poetics.

Scar and Bow: Recognizing through Touch

There are certain moments in the Odyssey where touch fills the gap left by sight, tactile perception trumping visual. In Book 8, for example, the brash Phaeacian Euryalus challenges Odysseus to a discus-throwing contest. Odysseus is delighted when Athena, disguised as a young man, announces that his throw has far exceeded all the others (8.195-7): "Stranger," she says, "even a blind man would be able to judge this by feeling for the mark [[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]], since yours is not mixed in with the rest, but by far the first." (16) Her purpose in drawing an analogy with the blind man is to bring home the huge distance that separates Odysseus's throw from those of his Phaeacian competitors. Implicitly, however, the analogy between touch and blindness reinforces the normative, evaluative role of sight: Odysseus is so far ahead of the rest that even a blind man could make this call.

So often, in fact, does sight supply the metaphors for critical inquiry that it has become all too easy to ignore the other sensory realms from which literary works and their worldviews are crafted. In her exploration of Herodotus as a "sensuous geographer," Alex Purves (2013b, 33) notes the places in the Histories where Herodotus "stresses his own physical presence at the scene," and where touch detects what the eyes cannot. Gyges' illicit gaze does not escape Candaules' wife, whose skin, Purves (2013b, 40) suggests, "is responsive enough to feel the 'palpable' look of Gyges upon it." Here, touch senses what sight is in no position to see.

Touch is similarly privileged in the cave of the Cyclops where a blinded Polyphemus places his hands inquiringly on the fleecy backs of his sheep, seeking their help in tracking down the man who has wounded him: [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (9.441). As his favorite ram saunters past, Polyphemus substitutes a gesture for the eye contact combined with vocal utterance that normally signals conversational turn-taking in Homer: 'And touching him, powerful Polyphemus addressed (the ram)" ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], 9.446). The formulaic utterance [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (and in reply he addressed him) has here been notably modified, with [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] filling the same metrical slot as [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. The Cyclops's reliance on touch is a necessity foisted upon him by his blindness. In this regard, the scene reinforces that hands are less discerning than eyes--Polyphemus does not discover Odysseus clinging to the belly of the ram. The inferiority of haptic cognition in the Odyssey is elsewhere belied, however, by the cleverness of Eurycleia's touch, which facilitates an instantaneous anagnorisis, similar to the one experienced by Candaules' wife.

As she bathes the beggar, Eurycleia feels through his disguise, thanks to something that, elsewhere in the poem, functions as a visual sign of identity: his scar. (17) At first only vaguely aware of a resemblance between the stranger and her master, Eurycleia achieves cognitive certainty as her hands make contact with familiar form of the scar: [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] ... (Grasping it with the flats of her hands she recognized it [i.e., the scar] through touch, and let his foot fall forward, 19.467-8).

Eurycleia confirms that touch has been the key component, using the verb [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (to feel all around), the same verb used of the blind man "feeling for the mark" in Athena's speech: [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Indeed you are Odysseus, my child. And I did not recognize you at first, not, at any rate, before feeling my master, 19.474-5). Earlier, Odysseus had anticipated that Eurycleia might notice his scar while bathing him ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], 19.390-1); [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] in this context is sensorily ambiguous, but Odysseus's gesture of turning toward the shade is not (19.389). He clearly anticipates that the old woman may see his scar. Whether or not Eurycleia's initial recognition, expressed as [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (19.392-3), is by sight or by hand, she affirms her diagnosis through physical contact (19.474-5). (18)

Helen was also at one point able to circumvent Odysseus's disguise, when he entered Troy disguised as a beggar. As she relates with relish to Telemachus in the Odyssey, "I alone recognized what sort of man he was" ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], 4.250). Helen's familiarity with the qualitative distinctiveness of Odysseus ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) may reflect the fact that he was one of her suitors in the past. (19) Odysseus allowed her to bathe, oil, and dress him. And from these intimate gestures, we are made aware of Helen's power to refashion Odysseus, perhaps even by dressing him in clothes she herself has made. (20)

Odysseus may not have taken adequate precautions at Troy, but what are we to make of the weaknesses of his disguise on Ithaca? Has Athena simply forgotten the other senses? Why does she not anticipate that the sound of his voice, or the feel of his scar, may give him away? Touch occupies only a very minor part in the Odyssey's sensory terrain overall. But where it does rise to the surface, one can be sure that the stakes are quite high. Eurycleia's unexpected realization nearly derails Odysseus's plan and the poem's plot; it requires sharp and swift action on Odysseus's part--as well as divine intervention by Athena, who turns Penelope's mind ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], 19.479), so that she does not notice Eurycleia trying to signal to her. Using physical strength rather than cunning, Odysseus matches Eurycleia touch for touch, grabbing her by the neck in a gesture that brutally reciprocates Eurycleia's contact with his scar ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], 19.480). It may also evoke an episode from his past when Odysseus saved the Achaeans hidden inside the wooden horse by stifling a cry from Anticlus, placing his hands around the other man's throat (Od. 4.287). The gesture in Odyssey 19 moots the disruptive potential of Eurycleia's earlier touch, and ensures that the memory of the scar's origin, relayed as a narrative digression by the bard, remains unvoiced by the character herself. An alternative nostos plot has in this way been forcefully averted.

A different type of tactile reunion occurs when Odysseus's bow, the weapon he will use to execute the suitors, is at long last placed in his hands. Here the covert recognition works in the hero's favor. Odysseus's first contact with his bow after long years of separation takes on the contours of a formal recognition scene. Even though it is not usually classified as such, the emotional intensity and reversal of action entailed by such scenes is certainly present here, suggesting that what takes place between the master and his bow should be considered a kind of haptic anagnorisis, for in yielding to, and only to, the pressure of Odysseus's hands, the bow declares him its rightful master. At the same time it proves, if proof be needed, that it is truly Odysseus who has returned.

When he first takes hold of the weapon, Odysseus is still physically disguised as a beggar. Yet already his pensive handling of the bow signals his difference from the other suitors. He appears to be searching for something as he turns the bow over and over again in his hands, as if conducting a silent conversation. The doors to the megaron have been shut, and the household attendants instructed not to open them for anyone, regardless of the commotion they may hear from within. Philoeteus the cowherd, seated on a stool, watches Odysseus as he handles the bow (21.393-400). Odysseus himself is searching for where worms may have eaten into the horn. (21) It is a variation on the 'testing' phase of the recognition scene. For their part, the suitors can only watch and wonder. Is this man an 'admirer' of bows? Is he a thief?

The cognitive gap between the visual and the tactile widens in the next part of the episode. The bow yields to the touch of its master--precisely what it did not do while it was being manhandled by each suitor individually. They applied heat and other softening agents (e.g., 21.245-6), but the weapon remained intractable, accessible only as a seen artifact; their manipulation failed to bend the bow. But Odysseus, like a musician stringing his phorminx, skillfully and effortlessly ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], 409) touches the sheep-gut string and pulls it back. Tactile words abound in this passage: [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (393), [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (394), [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (394), and [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (400).

The fact that no one besides Odysseus can string the bow, though the suitors try their best to soften its taut fibers, confirms the uniqueness of the weapon as a gift. Having received the bow from his now deceased guest-friend, Iphitus, Odysseus left it behind when he journeyed to Troy. It is now this weapon that authenticates Odysseus, revealing him as the true husband of Penelope. Telemachus is the only other contestant who comes close to stringing the weapon, but he is prevented from doing so by a nod from Odysseus. (22) The bow's accompanying biography, told by the poet when Penelope retrieves it from the storeroom, turns the poem's audience into insiders who correctly interpret the otherwise mysterious gesture of a beggar inquisitively caressing a long stored-away weapon. But unlike the visual signs of anagnorisis proper, the cryptic signs through which Odysseus communicates with his bow, dependent as they are on the intimacy of touch, remain beyond the reach of the casual onlooker. This sort of symbiotic dependency evolves out of a weapon's unique biography, and is often enhanced (though not in this case) by the close physical contact of combat, as well as by longevity of ownership.

Eurycleia's touch prompted a narrative digression that took the listener all the way back to the scar's origin, relating its biography before returning to the actual moment of recognition. (23) In contrast, the recognition that takes place in the moment of contact between Odysseus and his bow is void of narrative content. Maud Ellman and Irene de Jong have both described the narrative turn of events brought about by Eurycleia's discovery as a flashback (or analepsis). "It is as if Odysseus' scar had scarred the narrative itself, which plunges into memory and self-dismemberment," writes Ellman (1982, 82). (24) At moments of anagnorisis, when a character "recognizes" (amgignoskein) a sign, memories of the past, sometimes explicit, are focalized through that character's recognition. (25) Some hundred verses of 'flashback' to Odysseus's youthful past are framed by the moment itself of physical contact. (26) At the socio-cognitive level, recognition confirms that nothing has changed in the time between 'knowing' and 're-knowing.' Prompted by touch, the recognition is verbally related by the bard, the missing links of analepsis supplied through a narrative digression (in the case of the Nurse's recollection) or told proleptically (in the case of the history of Odysseus's bow) as a biographical detail whose relevance becomes clear only later. Touch, then, pulls the narrative back into the past. (27) In contrast, smell (a sense closely correlated with noesis), underpins the cognitive processes attuned to the present and imminent future. (28)

A Dog's Nose Knows: Recognizing through Smell

Dogs in the Odyssey see what humans do not (e.g., Athena's presence in Book 16 and Odysseus's arrival home in Book 17). (29) There are, however, strong hints that their visual acuity may in fact not be sight-based at all. Mention of Argus's excellent tracking skills suggests that the dog's sense of smell has been assimilated to the human sense of sight. Ancient readers were already attuned to this conflation. As a scholiast to 17.291 deduced of Argus's recognition of his master, he "knew him by his scent" ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]). (30)

Sight may be the undisputed king of the senses in Western cultures, yet its failings are also widely acknowledged: Diderot perhaps said it best, when he named the eye as the most "superficial" of the senses. (31) The Odyssey in its own way makes the case that the eye's attachment to surfaces precludes a deeper knowledge. The encounter between Hermes and Calypso in Odyssey 5 illustrates how different divine recognitions are from those between mortals (or between a god and a mortal). (32) As is remarked of Calypso's immediate identification of Hermes, "The lovely goddess did not fail to recognize him when she saw him, for the immortal gods are not unknown to one another [[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]], not even if they live far apart" (5.77-80). Distance is no obstacle: Hermes puts on his magic sandals and flies straightaway to Calypso's remote island ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], 5.55). Nor does the passage of time in any way impede the ability of these gods to know each other. Calypso herself remarks on the infrequency of Hermes' visits ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], 5.88). It has likely been many years since they last met, and yet she knows him immediately. Mortals have circuitous ways of securing the obvious truths that gods take for granted. (33) The need for sign-based recognition is in this sense symptomatic of the perceptual shortcomings of humans, who need reminding (through visible signs) of what they once knew.

All the more striking, then, is it when the formulaic nature of sign-based recognition gets disrupted by a dog. (34) The only member of Odysseus's household to identify Odysseus immediately and unproblematically is his dog Argus. (35) Nor is this mere sentimentality. (36) Argus is the only dog in the Odyssey to be named. (37) It is perhaps for this reason that critics have tended to focus on the animal's human qualities, noting for instance that Argus and Odysseus have in common several character traits and life experiences. (38) As James Redfield (1994, 279 note 42) points out, the verb used of Argus's canine perception is [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]: "Noein is used of the dog Argos at the moment he recognizes Odysseus (xvii.301). This is no exception; the dog in effect performs a human mental act." (39)

One can certainly grant Argus his exceptionalism, but it is important also to acknowledge that the way in which his recognition is narrated brings Argus closer to the divine model of cognition than to the human. (40) The dog knew immediately when he was in the presence of Odysseus ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], 301). He recognized him without any of the visual or verbal tokens humans rely on to supplement their less proficient perceptual apparatus. (41) If Argus were truly being anthropomorphized, as Redfield and others have assumed, one would, furthermore, expect a form of [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], the verb used of every other human who recognizes Odysseus. Among the Odyssey's visually anchored recognition scenes, Argus's noesis stands out. Just as Eurycleia's touch penetrated deeper than sight when it came to anagnorisis, smell trumps sight in this instance of noesis. Interpretation in the moment, which requires decoding the details of the plot in motion, is a special marker of noetic recognition. There is no overt reference to the olfactory nature of Argus's recognition, but dogs-hunting dogs in particular--were valued for their "good noses," as Xenophon writes in his treatise on hunting with dogs (Cyn. 4.2). Odysseus's Argus was reportedly once a formidable tracker: "No creature which he pursued in the vales of the deep forest could escape him," Eumaeus boasts of the now filth-encrusted dog; "For he knew his way well around tracks" (17.316-7). Rather than ascribing anthropomorphic traits to Argus's recognition, on the assumption that only humans are capable of noesis, we should treat the dog's instantaneous awareness of his master as what it literally is: a perfectly canine event. The scene subtly depicts the animal relying on olfaction. Because smell is not a highly developed sense among humans (in fact, it is never explicitly mentioned as such), Argus's recognition assumes a paradigmatic quality. It offers a blueprint for how humans might, but ordinarily cannot recognize one another. The dog is being presented as a model for human noesis.

Unlike the visual element of recognitions that transpire through the verbs sharing the gno- root, Hoe-based recognitions do not require visual signs. Could another sensory faculty, such as smell, lie at the root of this type of cognition? Who better than a dog to know by the nose? (42) Dogs in the Odyssey, just like gods, can avoid the extended social interactions required by humans. Eumaeus's dogs charge savagely at the beggar when he approaches the swineherd's residence in Book 14. Barking loudly, they communicate clearly to their master that a stranger is at hand, one who may be a threat to his penned pigs (14.29-31). Two books later, these same dogs respond very differently to Telemachus, showing they know him by not barking but instead "fawning" around him ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], 16.4-5). Noticing their markedly different behavior, Odysseus concedes to Eumaeus: "It will be either one of your companions coming here, or some other familiar person [[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]], for the dogs do not bark" (16.9). Their non-barking is a clear sign, one correctly interpreted by Odysseus, that these dogs have sensed a familiar presence. They also hold their barking when Athena alights at Eumaeus's hut in the form of a beautiful young woman (16.157-8). Telemachus, who does not even look in her direction, fails to see her ("for the gods do not reveal themselves to all," 16.161), but both Odysseus and the dogs do. Once again, Eumaeus's dogs do not bark but instead retreat "with a whimper to the other side of the hut" (16.163).

Gods and dogs enjoy a clarity of cognition that mortals can only approximate with their sign-mediated anagnorisis. It is worth emphasizing, however, that the dog's 'recognition' is narrated, not as a mnemonic flashback, but in terms of his externalized behavior. Dogs, moreover, are represented as responding primarily to the distinction between 'stranger' and 'friend.' Argus surely knows that the beggar before him is his master Odysseus, but we are not told any of the specifics of Argus's 'memory' of Odysseus--except, rather obliquely, through Odysseus's own reflections. What we are shown instead is the dog's extreme reaction, his externalized behavior indexing a recognition whose mnemonic component is never relayed verbally.

The narrative does, however, establish a strong link between Argus's death and his master's nostos. It is a moment of intense, mutual recognition and emotion, but unlike the official recognition scenes, these feelings are pushed underground; they are conveyed only through non-verbalized gestures. Argus recognizes his master with a wag of the tail and movement of his ears, while Odysseus secretly wipes away a tear, the only visible slippage in his calculatedly impassive demeanor (17.301-5). Yet Argus's death upon sighting his master ("and then in turn as soon as he saw Odysseus [[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]] in the twentieth year, his portion of black death took hold of Argus," 17.326-7) occasions one of the clearest articulations of Odysseus's return, with the poet's phrase "in the twentieth year" substituting for Odysseus's own formulaic words. For each time one of his philoi recognizes him, Odysseus performatively proclaims, "I have come back in the twentieth year to my fatherland [[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]]." (43)

While Odysseus's human philoi--his wife, son, father, and retainers-will need to be subjected to an intense round of testing before their loyalty can be vouched for, with Argus, as with Eurycleia and also with Odysseus's bow, there is an immediacy and transparency to the proceedings-even if (or precisely because) Odysseus has been caught off guard, his disguise 'seen through' by one of the socially less acclaimed senses. Marked .at the surface level of the narrative by the poem's own formulaic language of nostos, these recognitions nevertheless remain hidden from view. Not being sight-based, they are never openly acknowledged by other characters in the poem. These unauthorized recognition scenes mobilize the forgotten senses, their below-the-radar quality being effectively communicated by the fact that where they do occur, they threaten to subvert the main narrative action, disrupting the epic as we know it. (44)


When a god assumes the likeness of a mortal, her or his disguise operates at the level of "bodily form and voice" ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]). (45) Athena, in her own disguise, takes on Mentor's form and voice ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]). (46) The same formulaic line, describing Athena's appropriation of Mentor's identity, occurs five times: [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (2.268, 2.401, 22.206, 24.503, 24.548). Odysseus, by contrast, keeps his own body and voice. His disguise consists instead of the accelerated aging of his other attributes. Rather than taking on another's features, he remains on the spectrum of self-sameness. (47) Even when he is a beggar, Odysseus's own voice appears not to have undergone any significant alteration. Yet on its own it hardly furnishes a cue strong enough to trigger recognition, even in those who would know him by his voice. As Eurycleia says when she first encounters the beggar, "I swear that never have I seen a man who, in form, voice, and feet, so resembles Odysseus as you do" ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]). Athena has altered neither Odysseus's demas nor his phone, despite her effort to make him unrecognizable (agnostos).

Athena's modus operandi is to amplify or diminish a character's native charisma. She pours kharis over Telemachus (17.63) and Odysseus (23.153-63) to make them more beautiful. Earlier she had scaled back Odysseus's natural physical assets to the point where he resembled an aged beggar. Disguise, whether an enhancement or degradation, is a matter of degree, making the subject of the metamorphosis more or less himself. Athena's disguising of Odysseus is in this respect inherently flawed. Certainly, his is a less perfect cover than her own. It was never designed to protect him from the discerning nose or hand.

The Odyssey's rhetoric of knowledge and perception ultimately reinforces sight's dominant position among the five senses, masking, in turn, the degree to which the other senses contribute to the cognitive insights for which the eyes tend to be given full credit. By focusing on their sensory underpinnings, I have tried to disentangle the more familiar anagnorisis from the less familiar, but no less poetically significant, noesis. The point has not been to downplay the importance of anagnorisis, but rather to contextualize it--and similarly to explore the different sensory experiences at the core of each type of cognition. Whereas touch, with its memory-specific analepsis, offers an idealized representation of the socio-cognitive discernment captured by anagnorisis, the acts of recognition that fall under the lexical rubric of noesis are more closely aligned with the cognitive profile of smell.

The haptic recognitions of Eurycleia and the bow, and the olfactory recognition of Argus, constitute important exceptions to the Odyssey's sight-centric poetics. We have seen that the memories and powerful emotions accompanying anagnorisis and noesis are among the primary potentialities of touch and smell. Taken together, the unauthorized recognitions we have examined point the way to a counterfactual Odyssey whose barely averted (alternative) plot lines sensitize listeners to what might have been, and to what almost was. Odysseus himself meets the challenges of recognition, both planned and unplanned, by relying on instinct as much as on any known criteria of analysis. Biographical details and familiar roles are placed temporarily on hold until something more elemental is secured: bodily integrity and like-mindedness. It may be that it is so difficult to catalogue the objects of noesis because they remain fundamentally unknowable--like the future itself. Nevertheless, the stakes of successful noetic apprehension are just as high, if not higher than the analeptic diversions of anagnorisis. (48)

Works Cited

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(1) See Pedrick 1988 and Lyons 2012, 53-76 on the gendered aspects of Homeric xenia and Winkler 1990, 162-6 on the cultural "bilingualism" of women in ancient Greece.

(2) Dionysius of Halicarnassus calls attention to a passage from the Iliad on weighing wool (II. 12.433-5) to make the case that the "counting out of metra (whether four or six) replicates the woman's careful quantifying of wool and weight": see Purves 2013a.

(3) On the history of the denigration of touch in the Western world, see Le Guerer 1992, 141-54, 159-63; Jutte 2005; Paterson 2007, 100; and Reinarz 2014, 5-15. According to Jutte 2005, 69, "The sense of touch is the extremist among the senses, for it has frequently been ranked both at the bottom and at the top of the scale of esteem. This apparent contradiction goes back to its variable status in Aristotle, for, while ranking it fifth in order of merit (after sight, hearing, smell and taste), the treatise on the soul also describes it as a sense that reaches its highest form of development in man (De Anima, 421 a, 22)."

(4) The preferred verb in Homer for the identification of discrete objects is [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], whereas realization of a previously unfamiliar fact or situation is more often expressed as a form of [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]: see von Fritz 1943 and 1945. But Lesher (1981, 9-10) offers counterexamples, both from the Iliad, where [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] conveys "realization" of a situation and [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] is used to "identify" a particular object of recognition. I have not found similar uses of these verbs in the Odyssey.

(5) On recognition and hospitality, see Murnaghan 1987, 22 and Reece 2003. Cave (1988) seems to mean by "recognition scene" nothing more than "narrative of recognition," although he rightly, in my view, defines both "re-cognition" and "ana-gnorisis" as "a recovery of something once known rather than merely a shift from ignorance to knowledge" (33). Walter (1992, 62) also assumes a one-to-one correspondence between "recognition scene" and anagnorismos. Gainsford (2003) reserves "recognition scene" for narrative episodes in the second half of the Odyssey.

(6) See, however, Bader 1976, 26-9 on the parallel actions of the good herdsmen and the good female servants.

(7) Gainsford (2003, 42) outlines the four moves as follows: (1) testing: Odysseus tests the addressee's loyalty; (2) deception: Odysseus deceives the addressee; (3) foretelling: Odysseus, disguised, foretells the return of the real Odysseus; and (4) recognition: Odysseus reveals his true identity and a full reunion takes place. Recognition itself, although it is the telos of the entire sequence, does not actually need to occur for the recognition scene to exist, for "even when the recognition move is absent, it is still in a sense there, and not just as an unfulfilled possibility, but as a tension that is actively involved in shaping the unfolding of the scene" (Gainsford 2001, 4, and see his note 3 for additional bibliography on the recognition scene). Thus, according to Gainsford's typology (2001,4 note 5), the Cyclops and suitors are nowhere to be found among the recognition scenes (that is, those that contain at least one of the four constitutive "sequences of motifs"). In all the scenes Gainsford surveys, the protagonist (disguised Odysseus) is already familiar to the one who is expected to recognize him--anagnorisis cannot take place between strangers. For an eight-move sequence, see Emlyn-Jones 1984, 6-7.

(8) Nagy (1990, 203-5) discusses some of the semata that are objects of [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], mentioning the scar and clothes of Odysseus in particular; but he does not classify these signs as categorically similar, on account of the decoder's preexisting knowledge of both the signs and the character whom these signs are meant to identify.

(9) See Snell 1976, 20-3. On the derivative sense of [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] to mean "read," see Allan 1980.

(10) See Kahane 2005, 110-1 on how Aktoris's knowledge of this secret sign means that "the sign in which we and Penelope invest our trust is marked with doubt, but that doubt is not challenged" (111). On this scene, see esp. Emlyn-Jones 1984; Katz 1991; Felson 1997 [1994], 38-9; and Zeitlin 1995.

(11) Alcinous is seated next to his guest and can also hear him groaning (8.95); on Odysseus's aesthetic response, see Peponi 2012, 44-69. Ahl and Roisman (1996, 74-7) downplay the significance of Alcinous's "recognition," but suggest that Demodocus may have recognized Odysseus already, to judge by the bard's choice of song. Aristotle, on the other hand, mentions Odysseus's weeping from memory at the song of Demodocus as the source of his recognition by Alcinous (Poet. 1454b37-1455a3).

(12) See note 7 above.

(13) On the poetics of noein, see Nagy 1990; Redfield 1994 [1975], who suggestively describes noos as "anticipatory vision" (176) and as "a kind of metaperception" (177); and Bakker 2002, 78-80, observing that "[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] denote, in epic Greek, a special awareness of the beyond, of the metaphysical" (78).

(14) Actual re-cognition (as distinct from noesis) in the Odyssey occurs always as an aorist form of [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (4.250, 11.144, 19.250, 21.205, 23.206, 24.346) or [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (1.420, 7.234, 10.397, 11.91, 11.153, 11.390, 11.471, 13.188, 13.299, 13.321, 16.458, 19.392, 19.468, 19.475,21.217, 24.102). Lesher(1981, 11) similarly describes [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] as "the specific realization that the x presently encountered is the same x or the same kind of x as one already known to us."

(15) On Odysseus's homecoming adopting the pattern of a theoxeny, with anagnorisis among his friends following the model of divine epiphany, see Segal 1962; Kearns 1982; and Murnaghan 1987, 14-5.

(16) I am grateful to Lilah Grace Canevaro for drawing my attention to this passage.

(17) On the tactile nature of Eurycleia's recognition, see Clayton 2004, 75-7 and Montiglio 2012 and Forthcoming.

(18) On the words for "thick frequencies and folds that characterize the scenery in which the scar first forms," see Purves 2014, 60.

(19) Odysseus's simulated madness, when he is called upon as one of Helen's former suitors to join the forces setting out for Troy, is recounted in the Cypria-, see West 2012, 102, noting also a hint of the story at Od. 24.115-9.

(20) Helen's interest in circulating her own name (kleos) by means of clothing is made explicit in Book 15, where she gives Telemachus a robe for his future wife. Her gift, she says, will function as a "monument to the hands of Helen" ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], 15.126). See further Mueller 2010.

(21) Odysseus searches for crevices in his bow, checking to see if worms have eaten the bow's horn "during its master's absence" ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] 21.395).

(22) After three tries Telemachus deliberately gives up, though the narrator reveals that he "would have succeeded on the fourth" (Od. 21.125-9). On this moment of ritual antagonism between father and son, see Bakker 2013, 100.

(23) Segal 1994, 49: "The recognition by Eurycleia and the narrative of the scar (19.392-475) bring back not only his early youth but his birth and infancy, memories shared with the nurse who placed him on his grandfather's knees to be named (399-412)." De Jong (2001) describes the narrative that intervenes between recognition and reaction as "Eurycleia's embedded focalization" (477): "This is what goes through her mind the moment she sees the scar."

(24) Cf. Henderson 1997, 88 on the recognition between Laertes and Odysseus in the orchard: "[T]he very same memory that fixes an identity round the marks left by life on the body takes shape in the insistence of signs and meanings as a 'scarring' of the mind."

(25) De Jong 1985 and 2001, 476-7.

(26) Purves (2014, 44), writing on the scene's temporal depth and spatial expansiveness, notes that "the intimate space marked out by the coordinates of Odysseus' chair, the fire, and Eurycleia's touch expand[s] out from the space of the house ... to reach as far as a lair hidden in the wooded depths of Mount Parnassus."

(27) 1 concentrate here on touch as the sense enabling Eurycleia's recognition, but for the narrative texturing and "thick poetics" of the flashback, see Purves 2014.

(28) See von Fritz 1943, 93 for the suggestion that if Schwyzer's etymology, deriving vo- from the snu (sniff) root is correct, "the most primitive function of the [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] therefore would have been to sense danger and to distinguish between friend and enemy."

(29) Od. 16.160-3 ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], 162) and 17.326-7 ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]).

(30) Dindorf 1855, ad loc., a lemma quoted in Rohdich 1980, 35 note 3. The scholiast was also apparently confused by how the dog was able to recognize his disguised master: [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]; In this context, he speculated that the dog must have used olfaction ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]).

(31) Diderot 1972 [1751], 99: "I found that of all the senses the eye was the most superficial, the ear the most arrogant, smell the most voluptuous, taste the most superstitious and capricious and touch the most profound, the most philosophical."

(32) See Rose's (1959, 66-8) intriguing suggestion that semi-divine mortals have an easier time recognizing gods because they are, as it were, part of the same family (e.g., Achilles' recognition of Athena at II 1.199-200, and Helen's of Aphrodite at II. 3.386-98).

(33) Clay 1983, 15: "In their ability to recognize each other ... the gods demonstrate their absolute superiority over mortals."

(34) The appearance and death of Argus are preceded by several other 'dog' scenes, including the description of the dogs guarding Alcinous's palace (7.91-3), the dog-like wolves in front of Circe's palace (10.214-9), and Eumaeus's dogs (13.29-31, 16.4-6). See Edwards 1987, 54 and Said 2011 [1998], 60.

(35) On whose singular recognition from a distance Goldhill (1988, 17) writes: "... each of the recognitions between Odysseus and the human members of the household is surrounded by ironies, delays and tests that contrast with the immediate mutual recognition of dog and master."

(36) Goldhill 1991, 12.

(37) See Lilja 1976, 31.

(38) For the ancient belief that dogs resembled their masters, see Plato, Resp. 8.563c and Beck 1991, 158-9, with further bibliography; on specific resemblances between Odysseus and Argus, including their bond of suffering, see Segal 1962, 52; Rose 1979, 223; Goldhill 1991, 13; and Steiner 2010, 117.

(39) Cited in agreement by Goldhill 1988, 14.

(40) Cf. Marg 1973, 9 on the superiority of canine to human cognition; and Mainoldi 1984, 115 on Argus's domestication: "Les autres chiens de garde, dont on a des descriptions soigneuses dans l'Odyssee, s'ils accomplissent leur service avec beaucoup de zele, montrent parfois un acharnement redoutable, presque sauvage."

(41) In tragedy, the presence of certain gods can be sensed through their aroma: Hippolytus, for example, deduces that Artemis is near by her "divine fragrance" ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], he says at Hipp. 1391) while Prometheus picks up a scent he describes as "faint but heavenly" at PV 114-5 ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) and which turns out to belong to the Oceanid Chorus. On the pleasant fragrance of the Greek gods and Mount Olympus, see Claasen et al. 2002, 45-7. The thematic of divinities announcing their presence through scent is developed extensively by the Christian writers; see Harvey 2006 and Reinarz 2014, 35-8. Yet the ability to distinguish scents is also characteristic of animals. According to Aristotle (De an. 421a9-13), the human sense of smell is underdeveloped, in comparison with other animals; Theophrastus comments, in On Odors (De odoribus), on the remarkable ability of animals who "smell the barley of Kedropolis and refuse to eat it because of its evil odor." See Einarson and Link 1989-1990, 331 and Le Guerer 1992, 141.

(42) Von Fritz's (1943, 92) etymology for vo- from a root snu (to sniff), although not viable on linguistic grounds (it is not even mentioned by Chantraine or Frisk, though see Schwyzer 1926, 247), would offer a tantalizing trace of the instinctual, non-rationalistic experience at the heart of noesis. Other etymologies include derivations from veogat from which Frame (1978) and, more recently, Bonifazi (2009) argue for a connection with nostos and [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII].

(43) Odysseus utters this formulaic line following his recognitions by Telemachus (16.206), Eurycleia (19.484), Eumaeus and Philoetius (21.208), and Laertes (24.322); cf. de Jong 2001,396. Austin's (1975, 87) observation about the measurement of days may be equally applicable to the years of a nostos: "On land, numbered days mark a waiting period; at sea they are a measurement of space."

(44) Another important exception to the dominance of sight is discussed by Telo 2013, who reads Athena's beautification of Odysseus at Od. 23.153-63 as having a strong olfactory component.

(45) There are three instances from the Iliad, all using the same formulaic language, where gods liken themselves to humans in voice and build: Poseidon assimilating to Calchas at 13.45 ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]), Athena to Phoenix at 17.555 ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]), and Athena to Deiphobus at 22.227 ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]). At 20.81, Apollo takes on the vocal likeness of Lycaon (though apparently not his build): [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII].

(46) Clay (1974) argues that since aude is used for the human vocal register, Athena has modulated her divine voice so that it can be understood by mortals, Telemachus specifically. I would emphasize rather that she has not fully abandoned her divine vocal modality--aude is comprehensible to humans, but does not represent an exclusively human register--as she does in the case of her assumption of Deiphobus's phone, which sounds authentically human to Hector's ears in the Iliad. On epic words for "voice," see Ford 1992, 172-97.

(47) Because he does not borrow another man's appearance, Odysseus's anonymity in disguise turns out to be yet another variation on the 'nobody' theme, which is so prominent a feature of his encounters with strangers in foreign lands, particularly the Cyclops and Phaeacians; see, e.g., Schein 1970.

(48) Many thanks to Silvia Montiglio and Alex Purves for sharing unpublished work with me, and to Egbert Bakker, Lilah Grace Canevaro, Pauline LeVen, Alex Purves, Antonia Syson, Mario Telo, Steve Oberhelman, and the two anonymous readers for Helios for very helpful comments.
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