Monday, May 07, 2012


Dressed to Kill

Guy Davenport (1927-2005), "Narrative Tone and Form," in The Geography of the Imagination (San Francisco: North Point Press, 1981), pp. 308-318 (at 312-313):
The action of the Iliad lasts fifty-five days. The twenty-eighth day (Book X), or time-center of the epic, finds the Argives on their night raid into the Trojan lines. Agamemnon dresses in a lionskin, Menelaos in that of a leopard; Odysseus wears the helmet of his thieving grandfather Autolykos (The Wolf). Dolon, the Trojan spy they encounter, wears a wolf's hide. Greek and Trojan alike have become stalking nocturnal animals. Homer has measured out the days of his poem so that there are twenty-seven days + a day on which men dress as animals and act with brutal cunning + twenty-seven days.
One might get the impression from Davenport's words that Agamemnon, Menelaos, and Odysseus went on the night raid. But of course the raiding party in the Doloneia consisted only of Odysseus and Diomedes. The teeth of a boar decorated Odysseus' helmet (10.263-265). Diomedes not only wore a lionskin (10.177-178), but is explicitly compared to a lion during his killing spree (10.485-488). In addition to a wolf's hide (10.334), the Trojan spy Dolon also wore a cap made from the skin of a marten (10.335), a small but fierce animal. After Odysseus and Diomedes captured and interrogated Dolon, they killed him and took his outfit (wolf's hide and marten-skin cap) as spoils to dedicate to the goddess Athena (10.458-464, 10.570-571). 

As for Odysseus and his grandfather Autolycus ("Wolf Himself" or "Very Wolf"?), George Melville Bolling, "The Etymology of ΟΔΥΣΣΕΥΣ," American Journal of Philology 27 (1906) 65-67, conjectured that the name Odysseus is derived from the name Autolycus. A howling wolf lurks behind my own last name.

I haven't seen Louis Gernet, "Dolon the Wolf," in The Anthopology of Ancient Greece, tr. John Hamilton and Blaise Nagy (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1981), pp. 125-139.

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