Saturday, March 21, 2009


More on Proleptic Adjectives

From an email:
Dear Mr Gilleland,

If I may say so, I don't think Perrin (and by extension you) are right where Odysseus is concerned:

(1) Polutlemon is *not* used of Odysseus in the Iliad. In the Iliad this adjective occurs just once, used impersonally of thumos (7.152). In the Odyssey Odysseus uses it of himself just the once, but when he is in disguise as the beggar (18.319). It does not relate to O's own travails, but to the beggar's undertaking to stay awake and keep the lights burning.

(2) Ptoliporthos *is* used of Odysseus, in both the Iliad and the Odyssey -- but in the Iliad it is also used of e.g. Achilles (8.372, 15.77, 21.550, 24.108), who of course dies before the fall of Troy. I would therefore suggest that its scope is in every way, including temporally, broad.

With best wishes,

David Whitehead
Professor Whitehead is correct that πολυτλήμων is not used of Odysseus in the Iliad. However, its synonym πολύτλας (derived, as is πολυτλήμων, from πολύς + τλάω) is used of Odysseus in the Iliad, always in the formula πολύτλας δῖος Ὀδυσσεύς (Iliad 8.97, 9.676 = 10.248, 23.729, 23.778).

As to the force of the epithet, there are some interesting remarks in The Making of Homeric Verse: The Collected Papers of Milman Parry (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1971; rpt. 1987), p. 131:
It would be appropriate here to cite a passage of Hesiod, which illustrates for us how this indifference to the particularized meaning of the epithet existed only when the tradition was in its prime. The Berlin papyri 9739 and 10560 give us a fragment which we know by a reference in Pausanias to have been attributed in antiquity to Hesiod. The fragment tells of the suit for Helen by the princes of Greece. Line 21 reads
ἐκ δ' Ἰθάκης ἐμνᾶτο Ὀδυσσῆος ἱερὴ ἴς.
In Homer the expression πολύτλας δῖος Ὀδυσσεύς appears 38 times, 5 times in the Iliad, and in neither poem is it replaced, although it is obvious that in the Iliad Odysseus has been tried by suffering no more than any other Achaean chief. But the author of the fragment felt that it would be awkward to give this title to Odysseus as a young man, and so put in another expression, even though the new expression involved two metrical errors.
This suggests to me that an ancient reader might have felt that πολύτλας was oddly proleptic when used of Odysseus before his Odyssey.

I concede that πτολίπορθος was probably not felt to be proleptic.

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