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Title: Studies on Homer and the Homeric Age, Vol. 3 of 3

Author: W. E. Gladstone

Release Date: September 7, 2016 [EBook #53004]

Language: English

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Plenius ac melius Chrysippo et Crantore.Horace.


[The right of Translation is reserved.]








Plenius ac melius Chrysippo et Crantore.Horace.


[The right of Translation is reserved.]



Since the Sections which relate to Ethnology passed through the Press, the First Volume of Mr. Rawlinson’s Herodotus has appeared. Earlier possession of this important Publication would have emboldened me to proceed a step further in the attempt to specify the probable or possible form of the original Ethnic relation between the Pelasgians and the Hellenes of the Greek Peninsula, but designating the latter as pure Arian, and the former as Arian, with a residue or mixture of Turanian elements.

It has also been since the ‘Olympus’ was printed, that I have become acquainted with Welcker’s recent and unfinished ‘Griechische Götterlehre,’ (Göttingen, 1857.) I could have wished to refer to it at various points, and especially to avail myself of the clearer view, which the learned Author has given, of the position of Κρόνος.

Founding himself in part on the exclusive appropriation by Homer of the term Κρονίδης to Jupiter, he enables us to see how Jupiter may have inherited the sole use of the title as being ‘the Ancient of days;’ and how Κρόνος was a formation in the Mythology wholly secondary and posterior to his reputed son. (Welcker, sectt. 27, 8. pp. 140-7.)

Another recent book, M. Alfred Maury’s Histoire des Religions de la Grèce Antique, undertakes the useful task of unfolding largely the relations of the Greek religion to the East. But the division of it which deals with Homer specifically is neither complete nor accurate, and affords a new illustration of the proposition which I chiefly desire to establish, namely, that Homer ought to be treated as a separate and independent centre of study.

11, Carlton House Terrace, London,
March 15, 1858.



Political ideas of later GreecePage 1
Their strong development in Heroic Greece2
Germ of the Law of Nations4
Grote’s account of the Heroic Polities5
Their peculiar features, Publicity and Persuasion6
Functions of the king in the Heroic Polities8
Nature of the Pelopid Empire9
Degrees in Kingship and in Lordship10
Four forms of Sovereignty12
First tokens of change in the Heroic Polities12
Shown by analysis of the Catalogue14
Extended signs in the Odyssey17
Altered sense of Βασιλεὺς or King18
New name of Queen20
Disorganization caused by the War21
Arrival of a new race at manhood22
Increased weight of the nobles24
Altered idea of the kingly office25
The first instance of a bad King27
Further change in the time of Hesiod28
Veneration long adhering to the name31
Five distinctive notes of Βασιλῆες in the Iliad32[viii]
The nine Greek Βασιλῆες of the Iliad35
The case of Meges36
Of Phœnix37
Of Patroclus and Eurypylus38
Conditions of Kingship in the Iliad39
The personal beauty of the Kings40
Custom of resignation in old age40
Force of the term αἴζηος41
Gymnastic superiority of the Kings44
Their pursuit of Music and Song45
Ulysses as artificer and husbandman46
The Kings as Gentlemen47
Achilles in particular48
Tenderness and tears of the Greek chiefs49
Right of hereditary succession50
Right of primogeniture52
The Homeric King (1) as Priest55
(2) as Judge56
(3) as General57
(4) as Proprietor: the τέμενος58
His revenues, from four sources in all59
Burdens upon them61
The political position of Agamemnon62
The governing motives of the War64
Position of Agamemnon in the army66
His personal character67
The relation of sovereign and subject a free one67
The personal attendants of the King69
The Aristocracy or chief proprietors69
The Trades and Professions70
The Slaves of the Homeric age72
The θῆτες or hired servants74
Supply of military service75
Whether there was a peasant-proprietary77
Political Economy of the Homeric age78
The precious metals not a measure of value81
Oxen in some degree a measure of value82
Relative scarcity of certain metals84
Mode of government of the Army85
Its military composition88
Chief descriptions of fighting men91[ix]
The Battle and the Ambuscade92
The Βουλὴ or Council of the Greeks94
It subsisted in peace and in war97
Opposition in the Βουλὴ98
Agamemnon’s proposals of Return99
The influence of Speech in the Heroic age102
It was a subject of regular training103
Varied descriptions of oratory in Homer104
Achilles the paramount Orator105
The orations of the poems106
The power of repartee108
The power of sarcasm109
The faculty of debate in Homer111
The discussion of the Ninth Iliad111
Function of the Assembly in the Heroic age114
The formal use of majorities unknown116
The great decisions of the War taken there117
It was not summoned exclusively by Agamemnon118
Opposition in the Agorè by the chiefs119
Opposition by Thersites120
Grote’s judgment on the case of Thersites123
How that case bears witness to the popular principle126
As does the Agorè on the Shield126
Mode of addressing the Assembly129
Its decisions in the Seventh and Ninth Iliads129
Division in the Drunken Assembly130
Appeal of Telemachus to the Ithacan Assembly132
Phæacian Assembly of the Eighth Odyssey134
Ithacan Assembly of the Twenty-fourth136
Councils or Assemblies of Olympus137
Judicial functions of the Assembly139
Assembly the central point of the Polity140
The common soul or Τὶς in Homer141
Imperfect organization of Heroic Polities143[x]
Relationship of Troy and Greece twofold145
Greek names of deities found also in Troas147
Include nearly all the greater deities150
Worship of Vulcan in Troas151
Worship of Juno and Gaia in Troas153
Worship of Mercury in Troas154
Worship of Scamander155
Different view of Rivers in Troas158
Essential character of Trojan River-worship160
Trojan impersonations from Nature rare162
Poverty of Mythology among the Trojans165
Their jejune doctrine of a Future State166
Redundance of life in the Greek system168
Worship from hills169
The nations compared as to external development of religion.—
1. Temples170
2. As to endowments in land, or τεμένεα172
3. As to Groves’ ἄλσεα173
4. As to Statues of the Gods174
5. As to Seers or Diviners177
6. As to the Priesthood: Priesthood in Greece179
Priesthood in later Greece183
Priesthood among the Trojans184
Comparative observance of sacrifice187
The Trojans more given to religious observances189
Homer’s different modes of handling for Greece and Troy190
Moral superiority of his Greeks on the whole192
Homer’s account of the abduction of Helen193
The Greek estimate of Paris197
Its relation to prevailing views of Marriage200
And to Greek views of Homicide202
The Trojan estimate of Paris205
Public opinion less developed in Troy206
The Trojans more sensual and false207
Trojan ideas and usages of Marriage210[xi]
The family of Priam211
Stricter ideas among the Greeks215
Trojan Polity less highly organized216
Rule of Succession in Troy217
Succession to the throne of Priam219
Paris, most probably, was his eldest son221
Position of Priam and his dynasty in Troas223
Meaning of Τροίη and of Ἴλιος224
Evidence from the Trojan Catalogue225
Extent of his sovereignty and supremacy228
Polity of Ilios: the Βασιλεύς232
The Assembly232
The greater weight of Age in Troy234
The absence of a Βουλὴ in Troy236
The greater weight of oratory in Greece239
Trojans less gifted with self-command242
And with intelligence generally244
Difference in the pursuits of high-born youth245
Difference as to αἰδὼς246
Summary of differences247
Why it deserves investigation249
Principal heads of the inquiry251
The two Spheres of Inner and Outer Geography252
Limits of the Inner Geography255
The intermediate or doubtful zone257
The Sphere of the Outer Geography260
The two Keys of the Outer Geography261
The traditional interpretations valueless262
Manifest dislocations of actual nature263
Postulates for examining the Outer Geography264
The Winds of Homer265
Special notices of Eurus and Notus267
Of Zephyr and Boreas268
Points of the Compass for the two last270
For the two first272
Scheme of the four Winds273
Signification of Eurus273[xii]
Homeric distances and rates of speed275
Particulars of evidence on speed277
The northward sea-route to the Euxine280
Evidence from Il. xiii. 1-6281
From Od. vii. 319-26282
From Od. v. 44-57283
From Od. xxiv. 11-13285
Amalgamated reports of the Ocean-mouth287
Open-sea passage to the Ocean-mouth289
Homeward passage by the Straits, why preferred290
Three maritime routes to the Ocean-mouth291
Its two possible originals in nature292
Straits of Yenikalè as Ocean-mouth294
Summary of facts from Phœnician reports295
Two sets of reports are blended into one296
The site of Ææa; North-western hypothesis298
North-eastern hypothesis300
Argument from the Πλαγκταὶ302
From the Island Thrinacie302
Local notes of Ææa303
Site of Ogygia304
Argument from the flight of Mercury305
From the floatage of Ulysses306
From his homeward passage308
Site of Scylla relatively to the Dardanelles309
Why Ææa cannot lie North-westward311
Construction of Od. xii. 3, 4312
Construction of Od. v. 276, 7315
Genuineness of the passage questionable316
Its real meaning317
Homer’s indications of geographical misgivings318
Stages of the tour of Ulysses to Ææa (i-vi.)320
Ææa and the Euxine (vi-viii.)325
Remaining stages (viii-xi.)327
Directions and distances from Ææa onwards329
Tours of Menelaus and Ulysses compared331
The earth of Homer probably oval334
Points of contact with Oceanus337
The Caspian and Persian Gulf belong to Oceanus338
Contraction and compression of the Homeric East340
Outline of Homer’s terrestrial system342
Map of Earth according to Homer343[xiii]
Parentage and Extraction of Minos.
On the genuineness of Il. xiv. 317-27344
On the sense of the line Il. xiv. 321346
Collateral testimony to the extraction of Minos347
On the line Odyss. v. 277.
Points of the question stated349
Senses of δεξιὸς and ἀριστερὸς350
Illustrated from Il. xiii352
On the force of the Homeric ἐπὶ354
Force of ἐπὶ with ἀριστερὰ356
Illustrated from Il. ii. 353. Od. xxi. 141358
From Il. i. 597. vii. 238. xii. 239, 249359
From Il. xxiii. 335-7360
From Il. ii. 526362
Application to Od. v. 277364
Another sense prevailed in later Greek365
On the Plot of the Iliad.
The Theory of Grote on the structure of the poem366
Offer related in the Ninth Book and its rejection369
Restitution and gifts not the object of Achilles371
The offer was radically defective373
Apology needed in particular375
Consistency maintained in and after Il. ix377
Skilful adjustment of conflicting aims379
Glory given to Achilles380
Glory given to Greece380
Trojan inferiority mainly in the Chiefs382
But it pervades the poem384
In the Chiefs it is glaring385
Conflicting exigencies of the plan387
Greeks superior even without Achilles388
Harmony in relative prominence of the Chiefs389
Retributive justice in the two poems392
The sufferings of Achilles394
Double conquest over his will395[xiv]
The Sense of Beauty in Homer: human, animal, and inanimate.
His sense of Beauty alike pure and strong397
Degeneracy of the popular idea had begun398
Illustrated by the series of Dardanid traditions, (1) Ganymede398
(2) Tithonus, (3) Anchises400
(4) Paris and Venus401
Homer’s sense of Beauty in the human form402
His treatment of the Beauty of Paris402
Beauty among the Greek chieftains404
Ascribed also to the nation405
Beauty of Nireus406
Of Nastes and of Euphorbus407
Beauty placed among the prime gifts of man408
Homer’s sense of Beauty in animals409
Especially in horses410
As to their movements411
As to their form and colour413
Homer’s sense of Beauty in inanimate nature416
The instance of Ithaca417
Germ of feeling for the picturesque in Homer419
Close relation of Order and Beauty420
Causes adverse to the development of the germ421
Beauty of material objects absorbed in their Life423
Homer’s perception and use of Number.
The traditional character of aptitudes425
Conceptions of Number not always definite in childhood427
Nor even in manhood428
No calculations in Homer430
Greek estimate of the discovery of Number431
Enumerative addition in Od. iv. 412, 451432
Highest numerals of the poems432
The three hundred and sixty fat hogs434
The Homeric ἑκατομβὴ435
The numerals expressive of value436
His silence as to the numbers of the armies439
Especially in the Greek Catalogue440[xv]
Case of the Trojan bivouac442
Case of the herds and flocks in Od. xiv.443
Hesiod’s age of the Nymphs444
Case of the cities of Crete445
No scheme of chronology in Homer446
Case of the three Decades of years448
Meaning of the γενεὴ of Homer449
Homer reckons time by generations451
Some difficulties of the Decades taken literally452
Uses of the proposed interpretation455
Homer’s Perceptions and Use of Colour.
Modern perceptions of colour usually definite457
Signs of immature perception in Homer458
His chief adjectives of colour459
His quasi-adjectives of colour460
Applications of ξανθὸς, ἐρυθρὸς, πορφύρεος460
Of κύανος and κυάνεος462
Of φοίνιξ465
Of πόλιος466
The quasi-adjectives of colour; χλωρὸς467
The αἰθαλόεις of Homer468
The ῥοδόεις and ῥοδοδάκτυλος469
The ἰόεις, ἰοειδὴς, ἰοδνεφὴς470
The οἴνοψ and μιλτοπάρηος472
Αἴθων and its cognates; also ἀργὸς, αἴολος473
Γλαυκὸς, γλαυκῶπις, γλαυκιόων474
Χάροπος, σιγαλόεις, μαρμάρεος, ἠεροειδὴς475
Conflict of the colours assigned to the same object475
Great predominance of white and black476
Remarkable omissions to specify colour477
In the case of the horse among others479
In the case of human beauty, and of Iris482
In the case of the heavens483
Causes of this peculiar treatment of colour483
License of poetry in the matter of colour484
Illustrated from Shakespeare485
Homer’s contracted means of training in colour487
His system one of light and dark488
Colour in the later Greek language491[xvi]
Greek philosophy of colour493
Nature of our advantage over Homer495
Note on κύανος and χαλκός.
Meanings for κύανος heretofore suggested496
Probably a native blue carbonate of copper497
Χαλκὸς to be understood as hardened copper499
Homer and some of his successors in Epic Poetry; particularly Virgil and Tasso.
Milton’s place among Epic poets500
Difficulty of comparing him with Homer501
The same as to Dante501
Æneid and Iliad; their resemblances and contrasts502
Contrast between form and spirit in the Æneid503
Catalogue in the Iliad and in the Æneid504
Character of Æneas in the Æneid505
Character of Æneas in the Iliad507
The fine character of Turnus508
The false position of Virgil before Augustus509
Difficulty of learning the poet from the poem510
His false position as to religion, liberty, and nationality511
Untruthfulness hence resulting512
Homer is misapprehended through Virgil513
In minor matters, e. g. Simois and Scamander513
Νεκυΐα of Homer and of Virgil515
Ethnological and genealogical dislocations516
Action of the Twelfth Æneid520
Unfaithful imitations of details521
Maltreatment of the Homeric characters522
And of the Homeric Mythology and Ethics523
Æneas and Dido in the Shades beneath525
The woman characters of Homer and Virgil527
Virgil’s insufficient care of minor proprieties528
And of the order of natural phenomena529
Use of exaggeration in Homer and in Virgil530
Contrast of principal aims respectively531
Character of the Bard; not found in Virgil532
Post-Homeric change in the idea of the Poet’s office533
Virgil’s poetical disadvantages534[xvii]
Comparison of the Trojan War with the Crusades535
Rinaldo and Achilles535
Exaggerations of bulk in Homer and in Tasso536
Mr. Hallam’s judgment on the Jerusalem537
Tasso’s poetical disadvantages538
The man Achilles in relation to the Iliad539
Liberation of the Sepulchre in relation to the Gerusalemme540
Intrusion of incongruous elements542
Relative prominence of Tancredi and Rinaldo543
The Woman-characters of Tasso544
The Armida of Tasso545
Her resemblances and inferiority to Dido546
Her passion ill-sustained546
Obtrusiveness of the amatory element548
The Affront of Gernando549
Difference in modes of describing personages551
Battles and Similes of Tasso552
Inferiority of the Return in the Gerusalemme553
Tasso’s greatness except as compared with Homer554
Some principal Homeric Characters in Troy.
Hector: Helen: Paris.
Homer’s character-drawing power555
Corruption of the later tradition556
Why specially destructive in his case557
Mure’s treatment of the Homeric characters558
The character of Hector set off with generalities558
It became the basis for that of Orlando559
The martial heroism of Hector second-rate559
His boastfulness his only moral fault561
Hectoring and Rodomontading562
Hector’s sense of the guilt and shame of Paris563
His responsibilities beyond his strength565
Brightness of his character as to the affections567
His piety, gentleness, and equity568
Inequality of his character as a whole569
Apparent reason for it569
Opposite views of the character of Helen571
Homer’s intention with respect to it572
Two adverse mentions of her only574[xviii]
Homer’s epithets and simile for Helen575
The case of Bathsheba576
As to the free agency of Helen577
Picture of Helen in Il. iii.572
In Il. vi., Il. xxiv., Od. iv.581
The marriage with Deiphobus583
General estimate of the Homeric Helen584
The character of Paris585
His apathy, levity, and selfishness586
His place in the War587
Relation of his intellect to his morality588
The declension of the great Homeric Characters in the later Tradition.
Physical conditions of the Greek Theatre590
Absolute dependence on the popular taste592
General obliteration of the finer distinctions593
Mutilation of the Helen of Homer593
The Helen of Euripides595
Of Isocrates and of Virgil597
Characters of Achilles and Ulysses in Homer598
Mutilation of the Ulysses of Homer601
Of the Achilles of Homer602
The Achilles of Statius604
Homeric characters in Seneca605
New relative position of Trojans and Greeks606
Trojanism in England608
Imitations of Homeric characters by Tasso609
The Troilus and Cressida610
Shirley’s Ajax and Ulysses612
Racine’s Iphigénie613
Racine’s Andromaque614


It is complained, and perhaps not without foundation, that the study of the ancient historians does not supply the youth of England with good political models: that, if we adjust our sympathies and antipathies according to the division of parties and classes offered to our view in Rome, Athens, or Sparta, they will not be cast in an English mould, but will come out in the cruder forms of oligarchic or democratic prejudice. Now I do not wait to inquire how far these defects may be supplied by the political philosophers, and in particular by the admirable treatise of Aristotle. And it certainly is true, that in general they present to us a state of political ideas and morals greatly deranged: the choice lies between evil on this side in one form, and on that side in another form: the characters, who can be recommended as examples, are commonly in a minority or in exile. Nor do I ask how far we ought to be content, having an admirable range, so to speak, of anatomical models in our hands, to lay aside the idea of attaching our sympathies to what we see. I would rather incite the objector to[2] examine and judge whether we may not find an admirable school of polity, and see its fundamental ideas exhibited under the truest and largest forms, in a quarter where perhaps it would be the least expected, namely, in the writings of Homer.

As respects religion, arts, and manners, the Greeks of the heroic age may be compared with other societies in the infancy of man. But as respects political science in its essential rudiments, and as respects the application of those principles by way of art to the government of mankind, we may say with almost literal truth that they are the fathers of it; and Homer invites those who study him to come and view it in its cradle, where the infant carries every lineament in miniature, that we can reasonably desire to see developed in manhood.

Strong development of political ideas.

I cannot but deprecate the association established, perhaps unintentionally, by Grote, where, throwing Homer as he does into hotch-pot, so to speak, with the ‘legendary age,’ he expresses himself in his Preface[1], as follows. ‘It must be confessed that the sentimental attributes of the Greek mind—its religious and poetical vein—here appear in disproportionate relief, as compared with its more vigorous and masculine capacities—with those powers of acting, organizing, judging, and speculating, which will be revealed in the forthcoming volumes.’ If the sentimental attribute is to be contra-distinguished from the powers, I will not say of speculating, but of acting, organizing, and judging, then I know of nothing less sentimental in the after-history of Greece than the characters of Achilles and Ulysses, than the relations of the Greek chiefs to one another and to their people, than the strength and simplicity which laid in those early times the foundation-stones of[3] the Greek national character and institutions, and made them in the social order the just counterparts of the material structures that are now ascribed to the Pelasgians; simple indeed in their elements, but so durable and massive in their combination, as to be the marvel of all time. The influences derived from these sources were of such vitality and depth, that they secured to an insignificant country a predominating power for centuries, made one little point of the West an effective bulwark against the East, and caused Greece to throw out, to the right and left, so many branches each greater than the trunk. Even when the sun of her glory had set, there was yet left behind an immortal spark of the ancient vitality, which, enduring through all vicissitudes, kindled into a blaze after two thousand years; and we of this day have seen a Greek nation, founded anew by its own energies, become a centre of desire and hope at least to Eastern Christendom. The English are not ashamed to own their political forefathers in the forests of the Northward European Continent; and the later statesmen with the lawgivers of Greece were in their day glad, and with reason glad, to trace the bold outline and solid rudiments of their own and their country’s greatness in the poems of Homer. Nothing in those poems offers itself, to me at least, as more remarkable, than the deep carving of the political characters; and what is still more, the intense political spirit which pervades them. I will venture one step farther, and say that, of all the countries of the civilized world, there is no one of which the inhabitants ought to find that spirit so intelligible and accessible as the English: because it is a spirit, that still largely lives and breathes in our own institutions, and, if I mistake not, even in the peculiarities of those institutions. There[4] we find the great cardinal ideas, which lie at the very foundation of all enlightened government: and then we find, too, the men formed under the influence of such ideas; as one among ourselves, who has drunk into their spirit, tells us;

Sagacious, men of iron, watchful, firm,
Against surprise and sudden panic proof.

And again,

The sombre aspect of majestic care,
Of solitary thought, unshared resolve[2].

It was surely a healthful sign of the working of freedom, that in that early age, despite the prevalence of piracy, even that idea of political justice and public right, which is the germ of the law of nations, was not unknown to the Greeks. It would appear that war could not be made without an appropriate cause, and that the offer of redress made it the duty of the injured to come to terms. Hence the offer of Paris in the Third Iliad is at once readily accepted: and hence, even after the breach of the Pact, arises Agamemnon’s fear, at the moment when he anticipates the death of Menelaus, that by that event the claim to the restoration of Helen will be practically disposed of, and the Greeks will have to return home without reparation for a wrong, of which the corpus, as it were, will have disappeared[3].

Before proceeding to sketch the Greek institutions as they are exhibited in Homer, I will give a sketch of the interesting account of them which is supplied by Grote. I cite it more for contrast than for concurrence; but it will assist materially in bringing out into clear relief the points which are of the greatest moment.


Grote’s account of the Heroic Polities.

The Greek States of the historic ages, says Grote, always present to us something in the nature of a constitution, as the condition of popular respect towards the government, and of the sense of an obligation to obey it[4]. The man who broke down this constitution, however wisely he might exercise his ill gotten power, was branded by the name of τύραννος, or despot, “as an object of mingled fear and dislike.” But in the heroic age there is no system, still less any responsibility[5]: obedience depends on personal reverence towards the king or chief. Into those ‘great individual personalities, the race or nation is absorbed[6].’ Publicity indeed, through the means of the council and assembly, essentially pervades the whole system[7]; but it is a publicity without consequences; for the people, when they have heard, simply obey the orders of the king[8]. Either resistance or criticism is generally exhibited as odious, and is never heard of at all except from those who are at the least subaltern chiefs: though the council and assembly would in practice come to be restraints upon the king, they are not so exhibited in Homer[9], but are simple media for supplying him with information, and for promulgating his resolves[10]. The people may listen and sympathize, but no more. In the assembly of the Second Iliad, a ‘repulsive picture’ is presented to us of ‘the degradation of the mass of the people before the chiefs[11].’ For because the common soldiery, in conformity with the ‘unaccountable fancy’ which Agamemnon had propounded, made ready to go home, Ulysses belabours them with blows and[6] covers them with scornful reproofs[12]; and the unpopularity of a presumptuous critic, even when he is in substance right, is shown, partly by the strokes that Ulysses inflicts upon Thersites, but still more by the hideous deformities with which Homer has loaded him.

It is, I think, in happy inconsistency with these representations, that the historian proceeds to say, that by means of the Βουλὴ and Ἀγορὴ we are enabled to trace the employment of public speaking, as the standing engine of government and the proximate cause of obedience, ‘up to the social infancy of the nation[13].’ But if, in order to make this sentence harmonize with what precedes and follows it, we are to understand that the Homeric poems present to us no more than the dry fact that public speaking was in use, and are to infer that it did not acquire its practical meaning and power until a later date, then I must include it in the general protest which I beg leave to record against the greater part of the foregoing propositions, in their letter and in their spirit, as being neither warranted in the way of inference from Homer, nor in any manner consistent with the undeniable facts of the poems.

Their use of Publicity and Persuasion.

Personal reverence from the people to the sovereign, associated with the duties he discharges, with the high attributes he does or should possess, and with the divine favour, or with a reputed relationship to the gods, attaching to him, constitutes the primitive form in which the relation of the prince and the subject is very commonly cast in the early stages of society elsewhere than among the Greeks. What is sentimental, romantic, archaic, or patriarchal in the Homeric polities is common to them with many other patriarchal or[7] highland governments. But that which is beyond every thing distinctive not of Greece only, but of Homeric Greece, is, that along with an outline of sovereignty and public institutions highly patriarchal, we find the full, constant, and effective use, of two great instruments of government, since and still so extensively in abeyance among mankind; namely, publicity and persuasion. I name these two great features of the politics and institutions of the heroic age, in order to concentrate upon them the marked attention which I think they deserve. And I venture to give to this paper the name of the Ἀγορὴ, because it was the Greek Assembly of those days, which mainly imparted to the existing polities their specific spirit as well as features. Amid undeveloped ideas, rude methods, imperfect organization, and liability to the frequent intrusion of the strong hand, there lies in them the essence of a popular principle of government, which cannot, I believe, plead on its behalf any other precedent so ancient and so venerable.

As is the boy, so is the man. As is the seed, so is the plant. The dove neither begets, nor yet grows into the eagle. How came it that the prime philosophers of full-grown Greece gave to the science of Politics the very highest place in the scale of human knowledge? That they, kings in the region of abstract thought, for the first and perhaps the only time in the history of the world, came to think they discerned in the turbid eddies of state affairs the image of the noblest thing for man, the noblest that speculation as well as action could provide for him? Aristotle says that, of all sciences, Πολιτικὴ is ἡ κυριωτάτη καὶ μάλιστα ἀρχιτεκτονική[14]; and that ethical science constitutes but[8] a branch of it, πολιτική τις οὖσα. Whence, I ask, did this Greek idea come? It is not the Greece, but it is the Rome of history, which the judgment and experience of the world has taken as its great teacher in the mere business of law and political organization. For so lofty a theory (a theory without doubt exaggerated) from so practical a person as Aristotle, we must assume a corresponding elevation of source. I cannot help believing that the source is to be found rather in the infancy, than in the maturity, of Greek society. As I read Homer, the real first foundations of political science were laid in the heroic age, with a depth and breadth exceeding in their proportions any fabric, however imposing, that the after-time of Greece was able to rear upon them. That after-time was in truth infected with a spirit of political exaggeration, from which the heroic age was free.

We shall have to examine the political picture presented by the heroic age with reference to the various classes into which society was distinguished in its normal state of peace: to the organization of the army in war, and its mixture of civil with military relations: to the institutions which embodied the machinery of government, and to the powers by which that machinery was kept in motion.

Functions of the King.

Let us begin with the King; who constituted at once the highest class in society, and the centre of its institutions.

The political regimen of Greece, at the period immediately preceding the Trojan war, appears to have been that described by Thucydides, when he says that the tyrannies, which had come in with the increase of wealth, were preceded by hereditary monarchies with[9] limited prerogatives[15]: πρότερον δὲ ἦσαν ἐπὶ ῥητοῖς γέρασι πατρικαὶ βασιλεῖαι. And again by Aristotle; βασιλεία ... ἡ περὶ τοὺς ἡρωικοὺς χρόνους ... ἦν ἑκόντων μὲν, ἐπὶ τισὶ δὲ ὡρισμένοις· στρατηγὸς γὰρ ἦν καὶ δικαστὴς ὁ βασιλεὺς, καὶ τῶν περὶ τοὺς θεοὺς κύριος. The threefold function of the King was to command the army, to administer justice chiefly, though not exclusively, between man and man, and to conduct the rites of religion[16].

Independently of sovereignties purely local, we find in Homer traces of a maritime Cretan empire, which had recently passed away: and we find a subsisting Pelopid empire, which appears to have been the first of its kind, at least on the Greek mainland. For the Pelopid sceptre was not one taken over from the Perseids: it was obtained through Mercury, that is, probably through contrivance, from Jupiter: and the difference probably consisted in one or both of these two particulars. It comprehended the whole range of continental Greece, πᾶν Ἄργος, to which are added, either at once or in its progressive extension, the πολλαὶ νῆσοι (Il. ii. 108) of the Minoan empire. Besides this, it consisted of a double sovereignty: one, a suzerainty or supremacy over a number of chiefs, each of whom conducted the ordinary government of his own dominions; the other, a direct, though perhaps not always an effective control, not only over an hereditary territory, but over the unclaimed residue of minor settlements and principalities in the country. This inference may, I think, be gathered from the fact that we find the force of Agamemnon before Troy drawn exclusively from his Mycenian dominions, while he had claims of tribute from towns in the south-west[10] of Peloponnesus, which lay at some distance from his centre of power, and which apparently furnished no aid in the war of Troy.

The Pheræ of Diocles lay on the way from Pylos to Sparta: and Pheræ is one of the towns which Agamemnon promised to Achilles. It should, however, be borne in mind that, as the family of names to which Pheræ belonged was one so largely dispersed, we must not positively assume the identity of the two towns.

Degrees in Kingship and in Lordship.

Kingship in Homer is susceptible of degree; it is one thing for the local sovereignties, such as those of Nestor or Ulysses, and another for the great supremacy of Agamemnon, which overrode them. Still the Greek βασιλῆες in the Iliad constitute a class by themselves; a class that comprises the greater leaders and warriors, who immediately surround Agamemnon, the head of the army.

Of by much the greater part even of chiefs and leaders of contingents, it is plain from the poem that though they were lords (ἄνακτες) of a certain tribe or territory, they were not βασιλῆες or kings.

These chiefs and lords again divide themselves into two classes: one is composed of those who had immediate local heads, such as Phœnix, lord of the Dolopes, under Peleus at Phthia, probably Sthenelus under Diomed, and perhaps also Meriones under Idomeneus: the other is the class of chieftains, to which order the great majority belong, owning no subordination to any prince except to Agamemnon. Among these, again, there is probably a distinction between those sub-chiefs who owned him as a local sovereign, and those who were only subject to him as the head of the great Greek confederation.

It is probable that the subordination of the sub-chief[11] to his local sovereign was a closer tie than that of the local sovereign to the head of Greece. For, according to the evidence supplied by the promises of Agamemnon to Achilles[17], tribute was payable by the lords of towns to their immediate political superior: not a tribute in coined money, which did not exist, nor one fixed in quantity; but a benevolence (δωτίνη), which must have consisted in commodities. Metals, including the precious metals, would, however, very commonly be the medium of acquittance. Again, we find these sub-chiefs invested with dominion by the local sovereign, residing at his court, holding a subaltern command in his army. All these points are combined in the case of Phœnix. On the other hand, as to positive duty or service, we know of none that a sovereign like Nestor owed to Agamemnon, except it were to take a part in enterprises of national concern under his guidance. But the distinction of rank between them is clear. Evidently on account of his relation to Agamemnon, Menelaus is βασιλεύτερος, higher in mere kingship, or more a king, than the other chiefs: Agamemnon boasts[18] that he is greatly the superior of Achilles, or of any one else in the army; and in the Ninth Book Achilles seems to refer with stinging, nay, rather with slaying irony, to this claim of greater kingliness for the Pelopids, when he rejects the offer of the hand of any one among Agamemnon’s daughters; No! let him choose another son-in-law, who may be worthy of him, and who is more a king than I[19];

ὅστις οἷ τ’ ἐπέοικε, καὶ ὃς βασιλεύτερός ἐστιν.

But although one βασιλεὺς might thus be higher than another, the rank of the whole body of Βασιλῆες is, on the whole, well and clearly marked off, by the[12] consistent language of the Iliad, from all inferior ranks: and this combination may remind us in some degree of the British peerage, which has its own internal distinctions of grade, but which is founded essentially upon parity, and is sharply severed from all the other orders of the community. We shall presently see how this proposition is made good.

It thus far appears, that we find substantially, though not very determinately, distinguished, the following forms of larger and lesser Greek sovereignty:

I. That held by Agamemnon, as the head of Greece.

II. The local kings, some of them considerable enough to have other lords or princes (ἄνακτες) under them.

III. The minor chiefs of contingents; who, though not kings, were princes or lords (ἄνακτες), and governed separate states of their own: such as Thoas for Ætolia, and Menestheus for Athens.

IV. The petty and scattered chiefs, of whom we can hardly tell how far any account is taken in the Catalogue, but who belonged, in some sense, to Agamemnon, by belonging to no one else.

First tokens of change in the Heroic Polities.

There are signs, contained in the Iliad itself, that the primitive monarchies, the nature and spirit of which will presently be examined, were beginning to give way even at the time of the expedition to Troy. The growth of the Pelopid empire was probably unfavourable to their continuance. In any case, the notes of commencing change will be found clear enough.

Minos had ruled over all Crete as king; but Idomeneus, his grandson, is nowhere mentioned as the king of that country, of which he appears to have governed a part only. Among obvious tokens of this fact are the following. The cities which furnish the Cretan contingent are all contained in a limited portion of[13] that island. Now, although general words are employed (Il. ii. 649.) to signify that the force was not drawn from these cities exclusively, yet Homer would probably have been more particular, had other places made any considerable contribution, than to omit the names of them all. Again, Crete, though so large and rich, furnishes a smaller contingent than Pylos. And, once more, if it had been united in itself, it is very doubtful whether any ruler of so considerable a country would have been content that it should stand only as a province of the empire of Agamemnon. In the many passages of either poem which mention Idomeneus, he is never decorated with a title implying, like that of Minos (Κρήτῃ ἐπίουρος), that he was ruler of the whole island. Indeed, one passage at least appears to bear pretty certain evidence to the contrary. For Ulysses, in his fabulous but of course self-consistent narration to Minerva, shows us that even the Cretan force in Troy was not thoroughly united in allegiance to a single head. ‘The son of Idomeneus,’ he says, ‘endeavoured to deprive me of my share of the spoil, because I did not obey his father in Troas, but led a band of my own:’

οὕνεκ’ ἄρ’ οὐχ ᾧ πατρὶ χαριζόμενος θεράπευον
δήμῳ ἔνι Τρώων, ἀλλ’ ἄλλων ἦρχον ἑταίρων[20].

So likewise in the youth of Nestor, two generations back, Augeias appears as the sole king of the Epeans; but, in the Catalogue, his grandson Polyxeinus only commands one out of the four Epean divisions of ten ships each, without any sign of superiority: of the other three, two are commanded by generals of the Actorid family, which in the earlier legend appears as part of the court or following of Augeias[21]. And wherever we[14] find in the case of any considerable Greek contingent the chief command divided among persons other than brothers, we may probably infer that there had been a breaking up of the old monarchical and patriarchal system. This point deserves more particular inquiry.

Shown by analysis of the Catalogue.

In the Greek armament, there are twenty-nine contingents in all.

Of these, twenty-three are under a single head; with or without assistants who, where they appear, are described as having been secondary.

1. Locrianswith 40ships.
2. Eubœans40
3. Athenians50
4. Salaminians12
5. Argives80
6. Mycenians100
7. Lacedæmonians60
8. Pylians90
9. Arcadians60
10. Dulichians &c.40
11. Cephallenians12
12. Ætolians40
13. Cretans80
14. Rhodians9
15. Symeans3
16. Myrmidons50
17. Phthians of Phylace40
18. Phereans, &c.11
19. Phthians of Methone &c.7
20. Ormenians &c.40
21. Argissans &c.40
22. Cyphians &c.22
23. Magnesians40


Under brothers united in command, there were four more contingents:

1. Of Aspledon and Orchomenus,with 30ships.
2. Of Phocians40
3. Of Nisuros, Cos &c.30
4. Of Tricce &c.30

In all these cases, comprising the whole armament except from two states, the old form of government seems to have continued. The two exceptions are:

1. Bœotians; with 50 ships, under five leaders.
2. Elians; with 40 ships, under four leaders.

It is quite clear that these two divisions were acephalous. As to the Elians, because the Catalogue expressly divides the 40 ships into four squadrons, and places one under each leader, two of these being of the Actorid house, and a third descended from Augeias. As to the Bœotians, the Catalogue indicates the equality of the leaders by placing the five names in a series under the same category.

An indirect but rather strong confirmation is afforded by the passage in the Thirteenth Book[22], where five Greek races or divisions are engaged in the endeavour to repel Hector from the rampart. They are,

1. Bœotians.

2. Athenians (or Ionians), under Menestheus, seconded by Pheidas, Stichios, and Bias.

3. Locrians.

4. Epeans (of Dulichium &c.) under Meges, son of Phyleus, with Amphion, and Drakios. The addition of the patronymic to Meges seems in this place to mark[16] his position; which is distinctly defined as the chief one in the Catalogue, by his being mentioned there alone.

5. Phthians, under Medon and Podarces. These supplied two contingents, numbered 17 and 19 respectively in the list just given; and they constituted separate commands, though of the same race.

It will be remarked that the Poet enumerates the commanders of the Athenians, Epeans, and Phthians; but not of the Locrians and Bœotians. Obviously, in the case of the Locrians, the reason is, that Oilean Ajax, a king and chief of the first rank, and a person familiar to us in every page, was their leader. Such a person he never mixes on equal terms with secondary commanders, or puts to secondary duties; and the text immediately proceeds to tell us he was with the Telamonian Ajax[23]. But why does it not name the Bœotian leader? Probably, we may conjecture, because that force had no one commander in chief, but were an aggregation of independent bodies, whom ties of blood or neighbourhood drew together in the armament and in action.

Having thus endeavoured to mark the partial and small beginnings of disorganization in the ancient form of government, let us now observe the character of the particular spots where they are found. These districts by no means represent, in their physical characteristics, the average character of Greece. In the first place, they are both on the highway of the movement between North and South. In the second, they both are open and fertile countries; a distinction which, in certain local positions, at certain stages of society, not only does not favour the attainment of political power, but almost precludes its possession. The Elis of Homer is marked[17] by two epithets having a direct reference to fertility of soil; it is ἱππόβοτος, horse-feeding, and it is also εὐρύχορος, wide-spaced or open. Again, the twenty-nine towns assigned in the Catalogue to the Bœotians far exceed in number those which are named for any other division of Greece. We have other parallel indications; such as the wealth of Orchomenos[24]; and of Orestius with the variegated girdle. He dwelt in Hyle, one of the twenty-nine, amidst other Bœotians who held a district of extreme fertility[25], μάλα πίονα δῆμον ἔχοντες. Now when we find signs like these in Homer, that Elis and Bœotia had been first subjected to revolution, not in the shape of mere change of dynasty, but in the decomposition, so to speak, of their ancient forms of monarchy, we must again call to mind that Thucydides[26], when he tells us that the best lands underwent the most frequent social changes by the successions of new inhabitants, names Bœotia, and ‘most of Peloponnesus’ as examples of the kind of district to which his remark applied.

Upon the whole, the organization of the armament for Troy shows us the ancient monarchical system intact in by far the greater part of Greece. But when we come to the Odyssey, we find increasing signs of serious changes; which doubtless were then preparing the way, by the overthrow of old dynasties, for the great Dorian invasion. And it is here worth while to remark a great difference. The mere supervention of one race upon another, the change from a Pelasgian to an Hellenic character, does not appear to have entailed alterations nearly so substantial in the character and stability of Hellenic government, as did the Trojan expedition; which, by depriving societies of their natural heads, and[18] of the fighting men of the population, left an open field to the operation of disorganizing causes.

Strabo has a remarkable passage, though one in which he makes no particular reference to Homer, on the subject of the invasions and displacements of one race by another. These, he says[27], had indeed been known before the Trojan war: but it was immediately upon the close of the war, and then after that period, that they gained head: μάλιστα μὲν οὖν κατὰ τὰ Τρωικὰ, καὶ μετὰ ταῦτα, τὰς ἐφόδους γένεσθαι καὶ τὰς μεταναστάσεις συνέβη, τῶν τε βαρβάρων ἅμα καὶ τῶν Ἑλλήνων ὁρμῇ τινὶ χρησαμένων πρὸς τὴν τῶν ἀλλοτρίων κατάκτησιν. Of this the Odyssey affords some curious indications.

Extended signs in the Odyssey.

Among many alleged and some real shades of difference between the poems, we may note two of a considerable political significance: the word King in the Odyssey has acquired a more lax signification, and the word Queen, quite unknown to the Iliad, has come into free use.

Altered meaning of ‘King.’

It will be shown how strictly, in the Iliad, the term βασιλεὺς, with its appropriate epithets, is limited to the very first persons of the Greek armament. Now in the Odyssey there are but two States, with the organization of which we have occasion to become in any degree acquainted: one of them Scheria, the other Ithaca. Of the first we do not see a great deal, and the force of the example is diminished by the avowedly mythical or romantic character of the delineation: but the fact is worthy of note, that in Scheria we find there are twelve kings of the country, with Alcinous[28], the thirteenth, as their superior and head. It is far more important and historically significant that, in the limited[19] and comparatively poor dominions of Ulysses, there are now many kings. For Telemachus says[29],

ἀλλ’ ἤτοι βασιλῆες Ἀχαιῶν εἰσὶ καὶ ἄλλοι
πολλοὶ ἐν ἀμφιάλῳ Ἰθάκῃ, νέοι ἠδὲ παλαιοί.

His meaning must be to refer to the number of nobles who were now collected, from Cephallonia and the other dominions of Ulysses, into that island. The observation is made by him in reply to the Suitor Antinous, who had complained of his bold language, and hoped he never would be king in Ithaca[30]:

μὴ σέ γ’ ἐν ἀμφιάλῳ Ἰθάκῃ βασιλῆα Κρονίων
ποιήσειεν, ὅ τοι γενεῇ πατρώϊόν ἐστιν.

It is, I think, clear, that in this place Antinous does not mean merely, ‘I hope you will not become one of us,’ which might be said in reference merely to the contingency of his assuming the controul of his paternal estates, but that he refers to the sovereignty properly so called: for Telemachus, after having said there are many βασιλῆες in Ithaca, proceeds to say, ‘Let one of them be chosen’, or ‘one of these may be chosen, to succeed Ulysses;’

τῶν κέν τις τόδ’ ἔχῃσιν, ἐπεὶ θάνε δῖος Ὀδυσσεύς.

‘but let me,’ he continues, ‘be master of my own house and property.’ Thus we have βασιλεὺς bearing two senses in the very same passage. First, it means the noble, of whom there are many in the country, and it is here evidently used in an improper sense; secondly, it means the person who rules the whole of them, and it is here as evidently employed in its original and proper signification. It seems very doubtful, however, whether, even in the Odyssey, the relaxed sense ever appears as a simple title in the singular number. The only signs of it are these; Antinous is told that he is like a king[31] in[20] appearance; and he is also expressly called βασιλεὺς in the strongly and generally suspected νεκυΐα of the Twenty-fourth Book[32]. So again, the kingly epithet Διοτρεφὴς is not used in the singular for any one below the rank of a βασιλεὺς of the Iliad, except once, where, in addressing Agelaus the Suitor, it is employed by Melanthius, the goatherd, one of the subordinate adherents and parasites of that party[33].

This relaxation in the sense of βασιλεὺς, definite and limited as is its application in the Iliad, is no inconsiderable note of change.

New name of Queen.

Equally, or more remarkable, is the introduction in the Odyssey of the words δέσποινα and βασίλεια, and the altered use of ἄνασσα.

1. δέσποινα is applied, Od. iii. 403, to the wife of Pisistratus, son of Nestor; to Arete, queen of the Phæacians, Od. vii. 53, 347; to Penelope, Od. xiv. 9, 127, 451; xv. 374, 7; xvii. 83; xxiii. 2.

2. ἄνασσα is applied in the Iliad, xiv. 326, to Ceres only; but in the Odyssey, besides Minerva, in Od. iii. 380, Ulysses applies it twice to Nausicaa, in Od. vi. 149, 175; apparently in some doubt whether she is a divinity or a mortal. I would not however dwell strongly on this distinction between the poems; for we seem to find substantially the human use of the word ἄνασσα in the name of Agamemnon’s daughter, Ἰφιάνασσα, which is used in Il. ix. 145.

3. Βασίλεια is used many times in the Odyssey; and is applied to

a. Nausicaa, Od. vi. 115.

b. Tyro, daughter of Salmoneus, Od. xi. 258; but only in the phrase βασίλεια γυναικῶν, which seems to resemble δῖα γυναικῶν.


c. Arete, queen of the Phæacians, Od. xiii. 59.

d. Penelope, Od. xvi. 332, 7: and elsewhere.

Now it cannot be said that the use of the word is forborne in the Iliad from the want of fit persons to bear it; for Hecuba, as the wife of Priam, and Helen, as the wife of Paris, possibly also Andromache, (though this is much more doubtful[34],) were all of a rank to have received it: nor can we account for its absence by their appearing only as Trojans; for the title of βασιλεὺς is frequently applied to Priam, and it is likewise assigned to Paris, though to no other member of the Trojan royal family.

We have also two other cases in the Iliad of women who were queens of some kind. One is that of Hypsipyle, who apparently exercised supreme power[35] in Lemnos, but we are left to inference as to its character: the other is the mother of Andromache[36],

ἣ βασίλευεν ὑπὸ Πλάκῳ ὑληέσσῃ.

She was what we term a Queen consort, for her husband Eetion was alive at the time. In the Odyssey we are told that Chloris, whom Neleus married, reigned at Pylos; ἡ δὲ Πύλου βασίλευε, Od. xi. 285. In this place the word βασιλεύειν may perhaps imply the exercise of sovereign power. Be this as it may, the introduction of the novel title of Queen betokens political movement.

There are other signs of advancing change in the character of kingship discernible from the Odyssey, which will be more conveniently considered hereafter. In the meantime, the two which are already before us are, it will be observed, exactly in the direction we might expect from the nature of the Trojan war, and from the tradition of Strabo. We have before us an[22] effort of the country amounting to a violent, and also an unnaturally continued strain; a prolonged absence of its best heads, its strongest arms, its most venerated authorities: wives and young children, infants of necessity in many cases, remain at home. It was usual no doubt for a ruler, on leaving his country, to appoint some guardian to remain behind him, as we see from the case of Agamemnon, (Od. iii. 267,) and from the language of Telemachus, (Od. xv. 89); but no regent, deputy, or adviser, could be of much use in that stage of society. Again, in every class of every community, there are boys rapidly passing into manhood; they form unawares a new generation, and the heat of their young blood, in the absence of vigorous and established controul, stirs, pushes forward, and innovates. Once more, as extreme youth, so old age likewise was ordinarily a disqualification for war. And as we find Laertes and Peleus, and Menœtius, with Admetus, besides probably other sovereigns whom Homer has not named to us, left behind on this account, so there must have been many elderly men of the class of nobles (ἀριστῆες, ἔξοχοι ἄνδρες) who obtained exemption from actual service in the war. There is too every appearance that, in some if not all the states of Greece, there had been those who escaped from service on other grounds; perhaps either from belonging to the elder race, which was more peculiarly akin to Troy, or from local jealousies, or from the love of ease. For in Ithaca we find old men, contemporaries and seniors of Ulysses, who had taken no part in the expedition; and there are various towns mentioned in different parts of the poems, which do not appear from the Catalogue to have made any contribution to the force. Such were possibly the various places bearing the name of Ephyre, and with higher likelihood[23] the towns offered by Agamemnon to be made over to Achilles[37].

Disorganization caused by the War.

Again, as Cinyres[38] the ruler of Cyprus, and Echepolus[39] the son of Anchises, obtained exemption by means of gifts to Agamemnon, so may others, both rulers and private individuals, have done. But the two main causes, which would probably operate to create perturbation in connection with the absence of the army, were, without much doubt, first, the arrival of a new race of youths at a crude and intemperate manhood; and secondly, the unadjusted relations in some places of the old Pelasgian and the new Hellenic settlers. Their differences, when the pressure of the highest established authority had been removed, would naturally in many places spring up afresh. In conformity with the first of these causes, the Suitors as a body are called very commonly νεοὶ ὑπερηνορέοντες[40], ‘the domineering youths.’ And the circumstances under which Ulysses finds himself, when he has returned to Ithaca, appear to connect themselves also with the latter of the above-named causes. But, whatever[24] the reasons, it is plain that his position had become extremely precarious. Notwithstanding his wealth, ability, and fame, he did not venture to appeal to the people till he had utterly destroyed his dangerous enemies; and even then it was only by his promptitude, strength of hand, and indomitable courage, that he succeeded in quelling a most formidable sedition.

Nothing, then, could be more natural, than that, in the absence of the sovereigns, often combined with the infancy of their children, the mother should become the depositary of an authority, from which, as we see by other instances, her sex does not appear to have excluded her: and that if, as is probable, the instances were many and simultaneous, this systematic character given to female rule should have its formal result on language in the creation of the word Queen, and its twin phrase δέσποινα, or Mistress. The extension of the word ἄνασσα from divinities to mortals might result from a subaltern operation of the same causes.

In the very same manner, the diminished force of authority at its centre would increase the relative prominence of such among the nobles as remained at home. On reaching to manhood, they would in some cases, as in Ithaca, find themselves practically independent. The natural result would be, that having, though on a small scale, that is to say, so far probably as their own properties and neighbourhoods respectively were concerned, much of the substance of sovereignty actually in their hands, they should proceed to arrogate its name. Hence come the βασιλῆες of Ithaca and the islands near it; some of them young men, who had become adult since the departure of Ulysses, others of them old, who, remaining behind him, had found their[25] position effectively changed, if not by the fact of his departure, yet by the prolongation of his absence.

The relaxed use, then, of the term βασιλεὺς in the Odyssey, and the appearance of the term βασίλεια and of others in a similar category, need not qualify the proposition above laid down with respect to the βασιλεὺς of the Iliad. He, as we shall see from the facts of the poem, stands in a different position, and presents to us a living picture of the true heroic age[41].

Altered idea of the Kingly office.

This change in the meaning of the word King was accompanied by a corresponding change in the idea of the great office which it betokened. It had descended from a more noble to a less noble type. I do not mean by this that it had now first submitted to limitations. The βασιλεὺς of the Greeks was always and essentially limited: and hence probably it was, that the usurper of sole and indefinite power in the state was so essentially and deeply odious to the Greeks, because it was felt that he had plundered the people of a treasure, namely, free government, which they and their early forefathers had possessed from time immemorial.

It is in the Odyssey that we are first startled by meeting not only a wider diffusion and more lax use of the name of king, but together with this change another one; namely, a lower conception of the kingly office. The splendour of it in the Iliad is always associated with duty. In the simile where Homer speaks of[26] corrupt governors, that draw down the vengeance of heaven on a land by crooked judgments, it is worthy of remark, that he avoids the use of the word βασιλεύς[42]:

ὅτε δή ῥ’ ἄνδρεσσι κοτεσσάμενος χαλεπήνῃ,
οἳ βίῃ εἰν ἀγορῇ σκολίας κρίνωσι θέμιστας.

The worst thing that is even hinted at as within the limits of possibility, is slackness in the discharge of the office: it never degenerates into an instrument of oppression to mankind. But in the Odyssey, which evidently represents with fidelity the political condition of Greece after the great shock of the Trojan war, we find that kingship has come to be viewed by some mainly with reference to the enjoyment of great possessions, which it implied or brought, and as an object on that account of mere ambition. Not of what we should call absolutely vicious ambition: it is not an absolute perversion, but it is a clear declension in the idea, that I here seek to note

ἦ φῂς τοῦτο κάκιστον ἐν ἀνθρώποισι τετύχθαι;
οὐ μὲν γάρ τι κακὸν βασιλευέμεν· αἶψά τέ οἱ δῶ
ἀφνειὸν πέλεται, καὶ τιμηέστερος αὐτός.[43]

This general view of the office as one to be held for the personal enjoyment of the incumbent, is broadly distinguished from such a case as that in the Iliad, where Agamemnon, offering seven cities to Achilles[44], strives to tempt him individually by a particular inducement, drawn from his own undoubtedly rather sordid mind;

οἵ κέ ἑ δωτίνῃσι θεὸν ὣς τιμήσουσιν.

The moral causes of this change are in a great degree traceable to the circumstances of the war, and we[27] seem to see how the conception above expressed was engendered in the mind of Mentor, when he observes[45], that it is now useless for a king to be wise and benevolent like Ulysses, who was gentle like a father to his people, in order that, like Ulysses, he may be forgotten: so that he may just as well be lawless in character, and oppressive in action. The same ideas are expressed by Minerva[46] in the very same words, at the second Olympian meeting in the Odyssey. It would therefore thus appear, that this particular step downwards in the character of the governments of the heroic age was owing to the cessation, through prolonged absence, of the influence of the legitimate sovereigns, and to consequent encroachment upon their moderate powers.

Instance of a bad King.

And it is surely well worthy of remark that we find in this very same poem the first exemplification of the character of a bad and tyrannical monarch, in the person of a certain king Echetus; of whom all we know is, that he lived somewhere upon the coast of Epirus, and that he was the pest of all mortals that he had to do with. With great propriety, it is the lawless Suitors who are shown to be in some kind of relation with him; for in the Eighteenth Odyssey they threaten[47] to send Irus, who had annoyed them in his capacity of a beggar, to king Echetus, that he might have his nose and ears cut off, and be otherwise mutilated. The same threat is repeated in the Twenty-first Book against Ulysses himself, and the line that conveys it reappears as one of the Homeric formulæ[48];

εἰς Ἔχετον βασιλῆα, βροτῶν δηλήμονα πάντων.

Probably this Echetus was a purchaser of slaves. It[28] is little likely that the Suitors would have taken the trouble of sending Irus away, rather than dispose of him at home, except with the hope of a price; as they suggest to Telemachus to ship off Theoclymenus and Ulysses (still disguised) to the Sicels, among whom they will sell well[49].

Kingship in the age of Hesiod.

The kingship, of which the features were so boldly and fairly defined in the Homeric age, soon passed away; and was hardly to be found represented by any thing but its φθορὰ, the τυραννὶς or despotism, which neither recognised limit nor rested upon reverence or upon usage, but had force for its foundation, was essentially absolute, and could not, according to the conditions of our nature, do otherwise than rapidly and ordinarily degenerate into the positive vices, which have made the name of tyrant ‘a curse and a hissing’ over the earth. In Hesiod we find what Homer nowhere furnishes; an odious epithet attached to the whole class of kings. The θεῖοι βασιλῆες of the heroic age have disappeared: they are now sometimes the αἰδοῖοι still, but sometimes the δωρόφαγοι, the gift-greedy, instead. They desire that litigation should increase, for the sake of the profits that it brings them[50];

μέγα κυδαίνων βασιλῆας
δωροφάγους, οἳ τήνδε δίκην ἐθέλουσι δικάσσαι.

The people has now to expiate the wickedness of these corrupted kings;

ὀφρ’ ἀποτίσῃ
δῆμος ἀτασθαλίας βασιλέων·

A Shield of Achilles, manufactured after the fashion of the Hesiodic age, would not have given us, for the pattern of a king, one who stood smiling in his fields[29] behind his reapers as they felled the corn[51]. Yet while Hesiod makes it plain that he had seen kingship degraded by abuse, he has also shown us, that his age retained the ideas both that justice was its duty, and that persuasion was the grand basis of its power. For, as he says in one of his few fine passages[52], at the birth of a king, the Muses pour dew upon his tongue, that he may have the gift of gentle speech, and may administer strict justice to the people. He then, or the ancient writer who has interpolated him, goes on to describe the work of royal oratory, in thoughts chiefly borrowed from the poems of Homer. But the increase of wealth, and the multiplication of its kinds through commerce, mocked the simple state of the early kings, and tempted them into a rapacity, before which the barriers of ancient custom gave way: and so, says Thucydides[53], τὰ πολλὰ τυραννίδες ἐν ταῖς πόλεσι καθίσταντο, τῶν προσόδων μειζόνων γιγνομένων. The germ of this evil is just discernible in the Agamemnon of the Iliad: and it is marked by the epithet of Achilles, who, when angry, still knows how to strike at the weakest point of his character, by calling him δημόβορος βασιλεὺς[54], a king who eat up, or impoverished, those under his command. Whether the charge was in any great degree deserved or not, we can hardly say. Helen certainly gives to the Achæan king a better character[55]. But however that may be, the reproach was altogether personal to the man. The reverence due and paid to the office must have been immense, when Ulysses, alone, and armed only with the sceptre of Agamemnon, could stem the torrent of[30] the flying soldiery, and turn them back upon the place of meeting.

Veneration long adhering to the name.

Even in the Iliad, indeed, we scarcely find the strictly patriarchal king. The constitution of the state has ceased to be modelled in any degree on the pattern of the family. The different classes are united together by relations which, though undefined and only nascent, are yet purely political. Ulysses, in his character of king, had been gentle as a father[56]; but the idea which makes the king even metaphorically the father of his people is nowhere, I think, to be found in Homer: it was obsolete. Ethnical, local, and dynastic changes, often brought about by war, had effaced the peculiar traits of patriarchal kingship, with the exception of the old title of ἄναξ ἀνδρῶν; and had substituted those heroic monarchies which retained, in a larger development, so much of what was best in the still older system. As even these monarchies had begun, before the Trojan war, to be shaken here and there, and as the Odyssey exhibits to us the state of things when apparently their final knell had sounded, so, in the age of Hesiod, that iron age, when Commerce had fairly settled in Greece, and had brought forth its eldest-born child Competition[57], they had become a thing of the past. Yet they were still remembered, and still understood. And it might well be that, long after society had outgrown the forms of patriarchal life, men might nevertheless cling to its associations; and so long as those associations were represented by old hereditary sovereignties, holding either in full continuity, or by ties and traditions not absolutely broken, much of the spirit of the ancient system might continue to subsist; political free[31]dom respecting the tree, under the shadow of which it had itself grown up.

It should be easier for the English, than for the nations of most other countries, to make this picture real to their own minds; for it is the very picture before our own eyes in our own time and country, where visible traces of the patriarchal mould still coexist in the national institutions with political liberties of more recent fashion, because they retain their hold upon the general affections.

And, indeed, there is a sign, long posterior to the account given by Hesiod of the heroic age, and distinct also from the apparently favourable notice by Thucydides of the πατρικαὶ βασιλεῖαι, which might lead to the supposition that the old name of king left a good character behind it. It is the reverence which continued to attend that name, notwithstanding the evil association, which events could not fail to establish between it and the usurpations (τυραννίδες). For when the office of the βασιλεὺς had either wholly disappeared, as in Athens, or had undergone essential changes, as in Sparta, so that βασιλεία no longer appears with the philosophical analysts as one of the regular kinds of government, but μοναρχία is substituted, still the name remained[58], and bore for long long ages the traces of its pristine dignity, like many another venerable symbol, with which we are loath to part, even after we have ceased either to respect the thing it signifies, or perhaps even to understand its significance.

Such is a rude outline of the history of the office.[32] Let us now endeavour to trace the portrait of it which has been drawn in the Iliad of Homer.

Notes of Kingship in the Iliad.

1. The class of βασιλῆες has the epithet θεῖοι, which is never used by Homer except to place the subject of it in some special relation with deity; as for (a) kings, (b) bards, (c) the two protagonists, Achilles and Ulysses, (d) several of the heroes who predeceased the war, (e) the herald in Il. iv. 192; who, like an ambassador in modern times, personally represents the sovereign, and is therefore Διὸς ἄγγελος ἠδὲ καὶ ἀνδρῶν, Il. i. 334.

2. This class is marked by the exclusive application to it of the titular epithet Διοτρεφής; which, by the relations with Jupiter which it expresses, denotes the divine origin of sovereign power. The word Διογενὴς has a bearing similar to that of Διοτρεφὴς, but apparently rather less exclusive. Although at first sight this may seem singular, and we should perhaps expect the order of the two words to be reversed, it is really in keeping; for the gods had many reputed sons of whom they took no heed, and to be brought up under the care of Jupiter was therefore a far higher ascription, than merely to be born or descended from him.

3. To the βασιλεὺς, and to no one else, is it said that Jupiter has intrusted the sceptre, the symbol of authority, together with the prerogatives of justice[59]. The sceptre or staff was the emblem of regal power as a whole. Hence the account of the origin and successive deliveries of the sceptre of Agamemnon[60]. Hence Ulysses obtained the use of it in order to check the Greeks and bring them back to the assembly, ii. 186. Hence we constantly hear of the sceptre as carried by kings: hence the epithet σκηπτοῦχοι is applied to them[33] exclusively in Homer, and the sceptre is carried by no other persons, except by judges, and by herald-serjeants, as their deputies.

4. The βασιλῆες are in many places spoken of as a class or order by themselves; and in this capacity they form the βουλὴ or council of the army. Thus when Achilles describes the distribution of prizes by Agamemnon to the principal persons of the army, he says[61],

ἄλλα δ’ ἀριστήεσσι δίδου γέρα, καὶ βασιλεῦσιν.

In this place the Poet seems manifestly to distinguish between the class of kings and that of chiefs.

When he has occasion to speak of the higher order of chiefs who usually met in council, he calls them the γέροντες[62], or the βασιλῆες[63]: but when he speaks of the leaders more at large, he calls them by other names, as at the commencement of the Catalogue, they are ἀρχοὶ, ἡγεμόνες, or κοίρανοι: and, again, ἀριστῆες[64]. In two places, indeed, he applies the phrase last-named to the members of that select class of chiefs who were also kings: but there the expression is ἀριστῆες Παναχαιῶν[65], a phrase of which the effect is probably much the same as βασιλῆες Ἀχαιῶν: the meaning seems to be those who were chief over all orders of the Greeks, that is to say, chiefs even among chiefs. Thus Agamemnon would have been properly the only βασιλεὺς Παναχαιῶν.

The same distinction is marked in the proceedings of Ulysses, when he rallies the dispersed Assembly: for he addressed coaxingly,

ὅντινα μὲν βασιλῆα καὶ ἔξοχον ἄνδρα κιχείη,

whatever king or leading man he chanced to overtake[66].


5. The rank of the Greek βασιλεῖς is marked in the Catalogue by this trait; that no other person seems ever to be associated with them on an equal footing in the command of the force, even where it was such as to require subaltern commanders. Agamemnon, Menelaus, Nestor, Ulysses, the two Ajaxes, Achilles, are each named alone. Idomeneus is named alone as leader in opening the account of the Cretans, ii. 645, though, when he is named again, Meriones also appears (650, 1), which arrangement seems to point to him as only at most a quasi-colleague, and ὀπάων. Sthenelus and Euryalus are named after Diomed (563-6), but it is expressly added,

συμπάντων δ’ ἡγεῖτο βοὴν ἀγαθὸς Διομήδης.

Thus his higher rank is not obscured. Again, we know that, in the case of Achilles, there were five persons, each commanding ten of his fifty ships (Il. xvi. 171), of whom no notice is taken in the Catalogue (681-94), though it begins with a promise to enumerate all those who were in command of the fleet (493),

ἀρχοὺς αὖ νηῶν ἐρέω νῆάς τε προπάσας;

and in the case of the Elians he names four leaders who had exactly the same command, each over ten ships (618). It thus appears natural to refer his silence about the five to the rank held by Achilles as a king.

So much for the notes of this class in the Iliad.

Though we are not bound to suppose, that Homer had so rigid a definition of the class of kings before his mind as exists in the case of the more modern forms of title, it is clear in very nearly every individual case of a Greek chieftain of the Iliad, whether he was a βασιλεὺς or not.

The Nine Greek Kings of the Iliad.

The class clearly comprehends:


1. Agamemnon, Il. i. 9, and in many places.

2. Menelausfrom Il. xix. 310, 311, where they remain with Achilles, while the other βασιλῆες, ver. 309, are sent away. Also for Ulysses, see xiv. 379; and various places in the Odyssey.
3. Nestor
4. Ulysses
5. Idomeneus

6. Achilles, Il. i. 331. xvi. 211.

7. Diomed, Il. xiv. 27, compared with 29 and 379.

8. Ajax Telamonius, Il. vii. 321 connected with 344.

9. Ajax, son of Oileus.

Among the indications, by which the last-named chief is shown to have been a βασιλεὺς, are those which follow. He is summoned by Agamemnon (Il. ii. 404-6) among the γέροντες ἀριστῆες Παναχαιῶν: where all the abovenamed persons appear (except Achilles), and no others. Now the γέροντες or elders are summoned before in ver. 53 of the same book, and are called in ver. 86 the σκηπτοῦχοι βασιλῆες. Another proof of the rank of Oilean Ajax is the familiar manner in which his name is associated on terms of equality, throughout the poem, with that of Ajax Telamonius.

But the part of the poem, which supplies the most pointed testimony as a whole with respect to the composition of the class of kings, is the Tenth Book.

Here we begin with the meeting of Agamemnon and Menelaus (ver. 34). Next, Menelaus goes to call the greater Ajax and Idomeneus (53), and Agamemnon to call Nestor (54, 74). Nestor awakens Ulysses (137); and then Diomed (157), whom he sends to call Oilean Ajax, together with Meges (175). They then conjointly visit the φύλακες or watch, commanded by Thrasymedes, Meriones, and others (ix. 80. x. 57-9). Nestor gives the watch an exhortation to be on the alert, and[36] then reenters within the trench, followed by the Argeian kings (194, 5);

τοὶ δ’ ἅμ’ ἕποντο
Ἀργείων βασιλῆες, ὅσοι κεκλήατο βουλήν.

The force of the term βασιλῆες, as marking off a certain class, is enhanced by the lines which follow, and which tell us that with them, the kings τοῖς δ’ ἅμα, went Meriones and Thrasymedes by special invitation (196, 7);

αὐτοὶ γὰρ κάλεον συμμητιάασθαι.

Now in this narrative it is not stated that each of the persons, who had been called, joined the company which visited the watch: but all who did join it are evidently βασιλῆες. But we are certain that Oilean Ajax was among them, because he is mentioned in ver. 228 as one of those in the Council, who were anxious to accompany Diomed on his enterprise.

Ajax Oileus therefore makes the ninth King on the Greek side in the Iliad.

These nine King-Chiefs, of course with the exception of Achilles, appear in every Council, and appear either absolutely or almost alone.

The line between them, and all the other chiefs, is on the whole preserved with great precision. There are, however, a very few persons, with regard to whom the question may possibly be raised whether they passed it.

Certain doubtful cases.

1. Meges, son of Phyleus, and commander of the Dulichian Epeans, was not in the first rank of warriors; for he was not one of the ten who, including Menelaus, were ready to accept Hector’s challenge[67]. Neither was he a member of the ordinary Council; but on one occasion, that of the Night-council, he is summoned. Those who attended on this occasion are also, as we have[37] seen, called kings[68]. And we have seen that the term has no appearance of having been loosely used: since, after saying that the kings followed Nestor to the council, it adds, that with them went Meriones and Antilochus[69].

But when Diomed proceeds to ask for a companion on his expedition, six persons are mentioned (227-32) as having been desirous to attend him. They are the two Ajaxes, Meriones, Thrasymedes, Menelaus, and Ulysses. Idomeneus and Nestor are of course excepted on account of age. It seems plain, however, that Homer’s intention was to include the whole company, with those exceptions only. He could not mean that one and one only of the able-bodied warriors present hung back. Yet Meges is not mentioned; the only one of the persons summoned, who is not accounted for. I therefore infer that Homer did not mean to represent him as having attended; and consequently he is in all likelihood not included among the βασιλῆες by v. 195.

2. Phœnix, the tutor and friend of Achilles, is caressingly called by him Διοτρεφὴς[70] in the Ninth Book; but the petting and familiar character of the speech, and of the whole relation between them, would make it hazardous to build any thing upon this evidence.

In the Ninth Book it may appear probable that he was among the elders who took counsel with Agamemnon about the mission to Achilles, but it is not positively stated; and, even if it were, his relation to that great chieftain would account for his having appeared there on this occasion only (Il. ix. 168). It is remarkable that, at this single juncture, Homer tells us that Agamemnon collected not simply the γέροντες, but the[38] γέροντες ἀολλέες, as if there were persons present, who did not belong to the ordinary Council (Il. ix. 89).

Again, in the Nineteenth Book, we are told (v. 303) that the γέροντες Ἀχαιῶν assembled in the encampment of Achilles, that they might urge him to eat. He refused; and he sent away the ‘other kings;’ but there remained behind the two Atreidæ, Ulysses, Nestor, and Idomeneus, ‘and the old chariot-driving Phœnix.’ The others are mentioned without epithet, probably because they had just been described as kings; and Phœnix is in all likelihood described by these epithets, for the reason that the term βασιλῆες would not include him (xix. 303-12).

On the whole then, and taking into our view that Phœnix was as a lord, or ἄναξ, subordinate to Peleus, and that he was a sub-commander in the contingent of Achilles, we may be pretty sure that he was not a βασιλεύς; if that word had, as has I think been sufficiently shown, a determinate meaning.

3. Though Patroclus was in the first rank of warriors he is nowhere called βασιλεὺς or Διοτρεφής; but only Διογενὴς, which is a word apparently used with rather more latitude. The subordinate position of Menœtius, the father of Patroclus, makes it improbable that he should stand as a king in the Iliad. He appears to have been lieutenant to Achilles over the whole body of Myrmidons.

4. Eurypylus son of Euæmon[71], commander of a contingent of forty ships, and one of the ten acceptors of the challenge, is in one place addressed as Διοτρεφής. It is doubtful whether he was meant to be exhibited as a βασιλεὺς, or whether this is a lax use of the epithet; if it is so, it forms the only exception (apart from[39] ix. 607) to the rule established by above thirty passages of the Iliad.

Upon the whole, then the evidence of the Iliad clearly tends to show that the title βασιλεὺς was a definite one in the Greek army, and that it was confined to nine persons; perhaps with some slight indistinctness on the question, whether there was or was not a claim to that rank on the part of one or two persons more.

Conditions of Kingship in the Iliad.

Upon viewing the composition of the class of kings, whether we include in it or not such cases as those of Meges or Eurypylus, it seems to rest upon the combined basis of

1. Real political sovereignty, as distinguished from subaltern chiefship;

2. Marked personal vigour; and

3. Either, a. Considerable territorial possessions, as in the case of Idomeneus and Oilean Ajax;

b. Extraordinary abilities though with small dominions, as in the case of Ulysses; or, at the least,

c. Preeminent personal strength and valour, accepted in like manner as a compensation for defective political weight, as in the case of Telamonian Ajax.

Although the condition of commanding considerable forces is, as we see, by no means absolute, yet, on the other hand, every commander of as large a force as fifty ships is a βασιλεὺς, except Menestheus only, an exception which probably has a meaning. Agapenor indeed has sixty ships; but then he is immediately dependent on Agamemnon. The Bœotians too have fifty; but they are divided among five leaders.


Among the bodily qualities of Homeric princes, we may first note beauty. This attribute is not, I think, pointedly ascribed in the poems to any person, except those of princely rank. It is needless to collect all the instances in which it is thus assigned. Of some of them, where the description is marked, and the persons insignificant, like Euphorbus and Nireus[72], we may be the more persuaded, that Homer was following an extant tradition. Of the Trojan royal family it is the eminent and peculiar characteristic; and it remains to an observable degree even in the case of the aged Priam[73]. Homer is careful[74] to assert it of his prime heroes; Achilles surpasses even Nireus; Ulysses possesses it abundantly, though in a less marked degree; it is expressly asserted of Agamemnon; and of Ajax, who, in the Odyssey, is almost brought into competition with Nireus for the second honours; the terms of description are, however, distinguishable one from the other.

Again, with respect to personal vigour as a condition of sovereignty, it is observed by Grote[75] that ‘an old chief, such as Peleus and Laertes, cannot retain his position.’ There appears to have been some diversity of practice. Nestor, in very advanced age, and when unable to fight, still occupies his throne. The passage quoted by Grote to uphold his assertion with respect to Peleus falls short of the mark: for it is simply an inquiry by the spirit of Achilles, whether his father is still on the throne, or has been set aside on account of age, and the question itself shows that, during the whole time of the life of Achilles, Peleus, though old, had not been known to have resigned the administra[41]tion of the government. Indeed his retention of it appears to be presumed in the beautiful speech of Priam to Achilles (Il. xxiv. 486-92).

Custom of resignation in old age.

At the same time, there is sufficient evidence supplied by Homer to show, that it was the more usual custom for the sovereign, as he grew old, either to associate his son with him in his cares, or to retire. The practice of Troy, where we see Hector mainly exercising the active duties of the government—for he feeds the troops[76], as well as commands them—appears to have corresponded with that of Greece. Achilles, in the Ninth Iliad, plainly implies that he himself was not, as a general, the mere delegate of his father; since he invites Phœnix to come and share his kingdom with him.

But the duties of counsel continued after those of action had been devolved: for Priam presides in the Trojan ἀγορὴ, and appears upon the walls, surrounded by the δημογέροντες, who were, apparently, still its principal speakers and its guides. And Achilles[77], when in command before Troy, still looked to Peleus to provide him with a wife.

I find a clear proof of the general custom of retirement, probably a gradual one, in the application to sovereigns of the term αἴζηοι. This word is commonly construed in Homer as meaning youths: but the real meaning of it is that which in humble life we convey by the term able-bodied; that is to say, those who are neither in boyhood nor old age, but in the entire vigour of manhood. The mistake as to the sense of the term has created difficulties about its origin, and has led Döderlein to derive it from αἴθω, with reference, I suppose, to the heat of youth, instead of the more obvious derivation form α and ζάω, expressing[42] the height of vital power. A single passage will, I think, suffice to show that the word αἴζηος has this meaning: which is also represented in two places by the paraphrastic expression αἰζήιος ἀνήρ[78]. In the Sixteenth Iliad, Apollo appears to Hector under the form of Asius (716):

ἀνέρι εἰσάμενος αἰζηῷ τε κρατερῷ τε.

Now the Asius in question was full brother to Hecuba, the mother of Hector and eighteen other children; and he cannot, therefore, be supposed to have been a youth. The meaning of the Poet appears clearly to be to prevent the supposition, which would otherwise have been a natural one in regard to Hector’s uncle, that this Asius, in whose likeness Apollo the unshorn appeared, was past the age of vigour and manly beauty, which is designated by the word αἴζηος.

Force of the term αἴζηος.

There is not a single passage, where this word is used with any indication of meaning youths as contra-distinguished from mature men. But there is a particular passage which precisely illustrates the meaning that has now been given to αἴζηος. In the Catalogue we are told that Hercules carried off Astyoche[79]:

πέρσας ἄστεα πολλὰ Διοτρεφέων αἰζηῶν.

Pope renders this in words which, whatever be their intrinsic merit, are, as a translation, at once diffuse and defective:

‘Where mighty towns in ruins spread the plain,
And saw their blooming warriors early slain.’

Cowper wholly omits the last half of the line, and says,

‘After full many a city laid in dust’....


Chapman, right as to the epithet, gives the erroneous meaning to the substantive:

‘Where many towns of princely youths he levelled with the ground.’

Voss, accurate as usual, appears to carry the full meaning:

‘Viele Städt’ austilgend der gottbeseligten Männer.’

This line, in truth, affords an admirable touchstone for the meaning of two important Homeric words. The vulgar meaning takes Διοτρεφέων αἰζήων as simply illustrious youths. What could Homer mean by cities of illustrious youths? Is it their sovereigns or their fighting population? Were their sovereigns all youths? Were their fighting population all illustrious? In no other place throughout the Iliad, except one, where the rival reading ἀρηιθόων is evidently to be adopted, does the Poet apply Διοτρεφὴς to a mass of men[80]. If, then, the sovereigns be meant, it is plain that they could not all be youths, and therefore αἴζηος does not mean a youth. But now let us take Διοτρεφὴς in its strict sense as a royal title only; then let us remember that thrones were only assumed on coming to manhood, as is plain from the case of Telemachus, who, though his father, as it was feared, was dead, was not in possession of the sovereign power. ‘May Jupiter,’ says Antinous to him, ‘never make you the βασιλεὺς in Ithaca: which is your right,’ or ‘which would fall to you by birth[81]:’

ὅ τοι γενεῇ πατρώϊόν ἐστιν.

When Telemachus answers, by proposing that one of the[44] nobles should assume the sovereignty. Lastly, upon declining into old age, it was, for the most part, either as to the more active cares, or else entirely, relinquished. Then the sense of Il. ii. 660 will come out with Homer’s usual accuracy and completeness. It will be that Hercules sacked many cities of prince-warriors, or vigorous and warlike princes.

Thus, then, it was requisite that the Homeric βασιλεὺς should be a king, a könig, a man of whom we could say that actually, and not conventionally alone, he can, both in mind and person. Such was the theory and such the practice of the Homeric age. There is not a single Greek sovereign, with the honourable exception of Nestor, who does not lead his subjects into battle; not one who does not excel them all in strength of hand, scarcely any who does not also give proofs of superior intellect, where scope is allowed for it by the action of the poem. Over and above the work of battle, the prince is likewise peerless in the Games. Of the eight contests of the Twenty-third Book, seven are conducted only by the princes of the armament. The single exception is remarkable: it is the boxing match, which Homer calls πυγμαχίη ἀλεγεινὴ[82], an epithet that he applies to no other of the matches except the wrestling.

But his low estimation of the boxing comes out in another form, the value of the prizes. The first prize is an unbroken mule: the second, a double-bowled cup, to which no epithet signifying value is attached. But for the wrestlers (a contest less dangerous, and not therefore requiring, on this score, greater inducement to be provided,) the first prize was a tripod, worth twelve oxen; and the second, a woman slave, worth four.[45] What, then, was the relative value of an ox and a mule not yet broken? Mules, like oxen, were employed simply for traction. They were better, because more speedy in drawing the plough[83]; but, then, oxen were also available for food, and we have no indication that the former were of greater value. Without therefore resting too strictly on the number twelve, we may say that the prize of wrestling was several times more valuable than that of boxing. Again, the second prize of the foot-race was a large and fat ox, equal, probably, to the first prize of the boxing-match[84]. Epeus, who wins the boxing-match against the prince Euryalus, third leader of the Argives, was evidently a person of traditional fame, from the victory he obtains over an adversary of high rank. But Homer has taken care to balance this by introducing a confession from the mouth of Epeus himself, that he was good for nothing in battle[85];

ἦ οὐχ ἅλις, ὅττι μάχης ἐπιδεύομαι;

an expression which, I think, the Poet has used, in all likelihood, for the very purpose of shielding the superiority of his princes, by showing that this gift of Epeus was a single, and as it were brutal, accomplishment.

Accomplishments of the Kings.

As with the games, so with the more refined accomplishments. There are but four cases in which we hear of the use of music and song from Homer, except the instances of the professional bards. One of these is the boy, who upon the Shield of Achilles plays and sings, in conducting the youths and maidens as they pass from the vineyard with the grapes. It is the bard, who plays to the dancers; but his dignity, and the composure always assigned to him, probably would not[46] allow of his appearing in motion with such a body, and on this account the παὶς may be substituted; of whose rank we know nothing. In the other cases, the three persons mentioned are all princes: Paris is the first, who had the lighter and external parts of the character of a gentleman, and who was of the highest rank, yet to whom it may be observed only the instrument is assigned, and not the song. The second is the sublime Achilles, whose powerful nature, ranging like that of his Poet through every chord of the human mind and heart, prompts him to beguile an uneasy solitude by the Muse; and who is found in the Ninth Iliad[86] by the Envoys, soothing his moody spirit with the lyre, and singing, to strains of his own, the achievements of bygone heroes. Again, thirdly, this lyre itself, like the iron globe of the Twenty-third Book, had been among the spoils of King Eetion.

But the royal and heroic character must with Homer, at least when exhibited at its climax, be all comprehensive. As it soars to every thing above, so, without stooping, must it be master of every thing beneath it. Accordingly, the Poet has given it the last touch in the accomplishments of Ulysses. As he proves himself a wood-cutter and ship-builder in the island of Calypso, so he is no stranger to the plough and the scythe; and he fairly challenges[87] Eurymachus the Suitor to try which of them would soonest clear the meadow of its grass, which drive the straightest furrow down a four-acre field.

So much for the corporeal accomplishments of the Greek kings and princes; of their intellectual powers we shall have to treat in considering the character of the governments of the heroic age.


The Kings as Gentlemen.

But these accomplishments, mental and bodily, are not vulgarly heaped upon his characters by Homer, as if they were detailed in a boarding-school catalogue. The Homeric king should have that which incorporates and harmonizes them all: he should be emphatically a gentleman, and that in a sense not far from the one familiar to the Christian civilization of Europe. Nestor, Diomed, Menelaus, are in a marked manner gentlemen. Agamemnon is less so; but here Homer shows his usual discrimination, for in Agamemnon there is a sordid vein, which most of all mars this peculiar tone of character. It is, however, in the two superlative heroes of the poems, that we see the strongest development of those habits of feeling and action, which belong to the gentleman. It will be admitted that one of these traits is the love of that which is straightforward, truthful, and above-board. According to the vulgar conception of the character of Ulysses, he has no credit for this quality. But whatever the Ulysses of Virgil or of Euripides may be, the Ulysses of Homer, though full of circumspection, reserve, and even stratagem in dealing with enemies and strangers, has nothing about him of what is selfish, tricky, or faithless. And, accordingly, it is into his mouth that Homer has put the few and simple words, which rebuke the character of the informer and the tale-bearer, with a severity greater perhaps even than, under the circumstances, was necessary. When he is recognised by Euryclea, he strictly enjoins upon her the silence, on which all their lives at the moment depended. Hurt by the supposition that she could (in our homely phrase) be likely to blab, she replies that she will hold herself in, hard as stone or as iron. She adds, that she will point out to him which of the women in the palace are faithful, and which are[48] guilty. No, he replies; I will observe them for myself; that is not your business[88]:

μαῖα, τίη δὲ σὺ τὰς μυθήσεαι; οὐδέ τί σε χρή·
εὖ νυ καὶ αὐτὸς ἐγὼ φράσομαι καὶ εἴσομ’ ἑκάστην·
ἀλλ’ ἔχε σιγῇ μῦθον, ἐπίτρεψον δὲ θεοῖσιν.
Achilles as a Gentleman.

As Homer has thus sharply exhibited Ulysses in the character of a gentleman with respect to truth[89], so he has made the same exhibition for Achilles with respect to courtesy: protesting, as it were, in this manner by anticipation against the degenerate conceptions of those characters, which were to reproduce and render current through the world Achilles as a brute, and Ulysses as a thorough knave. But let us see the residue of the proof.

In the first Iliad, when the wrath is in the first flush of its heat, the heralds Talthybius and Eurybates are sent to his encampment, with the appalling commission to bring away Briseis. On entering, they remain awe-struck and silent. Though, in much later times, we know that

The messenger of evil tidings
Hath but a losing office,

he at once relieves them from their embarrassment, and bids them personally welcome;

χαίρετε, κήρυκες, Διὸς ἄγγελοι, ἠδὲ καὶ ἀνδρῶν·
ἆσσον ἴτ’[90]·

And he desires Patroclus to bring forth the object of their quest. More extraordinary self-command and[49] considerateness than this, never has been ascribed by any author to any character.

Again, when in the Ninth Book he is surprised in his seclusion by the envoys Phœnix, Ulysses, and Ajax, though he is prepared to reject every offer, he hails them all personally, without waiting to be addressed and with the utmost kindness[91], as of all the Greeks the dearest to him even in his wrath; he of course proceeds to order an entertainment for them. But the most refined of all his attentions is that shown to Agamemnon in the Twenty-third Book. Inferior to Ajax, Diomed, and Ulysses, Agamemnon could not enter into the principal games, to be beaten by any abler competitor, without disparagement to his office: while there would also have been a serious disparagement of another kind in his contending with a secondary person. Accordingly, Achilles at the close makes a nominal match for the use of the sling—of which we never hear elsewhere in the poems—and, interposing after the candidates are announced, but before the actual contest, he presents the chief prize to Agamemnon, with this compliment; that there need be no trial, as every one is aware already how much he excels all others in the exercise.

Yet these great chiefs, so strong and brave and wise, so proud and stern, so equipped in arts, manners, and accomplishments, can upon occasion weep like a woman or a child. Ulysses, in the island of Calypso daily pours forth his ‘waterfloods’ as he strains his vision over the sea; and he covers up his head in the halls of Alcinous, while Demodocus is singing, that his tears may flow unobserved. And so Achilles, fresh from his fierce[50] vengeance on the corpse of Hector, yet, when the Trojan king[92] has called up before his mind the image of his father Peleus, at the thought now of his aged parent, and now of his slaughtered friend, sheds tears as tender as those of Priam for his son, and lets his griefs overflow in a deep compassion for the aged suppliant before him. Nor is it only in sorrow that we may remark a high susceptibility. The Greek chieftains in general are acutely sensible of praise and of blame. Telemachus[93] is delighted when Ægyptius commends him as a likely looking youth: and even Ulysses, first among them all in self-command, is deeply stung by the remark of the saucy Phæacian on his appearance, and replies upon the offender with excellent sense, but with an extraordinary pungency[94]. A similar temper is shown in all the answers of the chieftains to Agamemnon when he goes the round of the army[95].

Rights of Hereditary Succession.

The hereditary character of the royal office is stamped upon almost every page of the poems; as nearly all the chiefs, whose lineage we are able to trace, have apparently succeeded their fathers in power. The only exception in the order, of which we are informed, is one where, probably on account of the infancy of the heir, the brother of the deceased sovereign assumes his sceptre. In this way Thyestes, uncle to Agamemnon, succeeded his father Atreus, and then, evidently without any breach of regularity, transmitted it to Agamemnon.

And such is probably the reason why, Orestes being a mere child[96], a part of the dignity of Agamemnon is communicated to Menelaus. For in the Iliad he has a qualified supremacy; receives jointly with Aga[51]memnon the present of Euneus; is more royal, higher in rank, than the other chieftains: we are also told of him[97], μέγα πάντων Ἀργείων ἤνασσε; and he came to the second meeting of γέροντες in the Second Book αὐτόματος, without the formality of a summons.

In a case like that of Thyestes, if we may judge from what actually happened, the uncle would perhaps succeed instead of the minor, whose hereditary right would in such case be postponed until the next turn.

The case of Telemachus in the Odyssey is interesting in many ways, as unfolding to us the relations of the family life of the period. Among other points which it illustrates, is that of the succession to sovereignty. It was admitted by the Suitors, that it descended to him from his father[98]. Yet there evidently was some special, if not formal act to be done, without which he could not be king. For Antinous expresses his hope that Jupiter will never make Telemachus king of Ithaca. Not because the throne was full, for, on the contrary, the death of Ulysses was admitted or assumed to have occurred[99]; but apparently because this act, whatever it was, had not been performed in his case.

Perhaps the expressions of Antinous imply that such a proceeding was much more than formal, and that the accession of Telemachus to the supreme dignity might be arrested by the dissent of the nobles. The answer too of the young prince[100] (τῶν κέν τις τόδ’ ἔχῃσιν) seems to be at least in harmony with the idea that a practice, either approaching to election, or in some way involving a voluntary action on the part of the subjects or of a[52] portion of them, had to be gone through. But the personal dignity of the son of Ulysses was unquestioned. Even the Suitors pay a certain regard to it in the midst of their insolence: and when the young prince goes into the place of assembly[101], he takes his place upon his father’s seat, the elders spontaneously making way for him to assume it.

Rights of primogeniture.

It may, however, be said with truth, that Telemachus was an only son, and that accordingly we cannot judge from his case whether it was the right of the eldest to succeed. Whether the rights of primogeniture were acknowledged among the Greeks of the heroic age, is a question of much interest to our own. For, on the one hand, there is a disposition to canvass and to dispute those rights. On the other hand, we live in a state of society, to which they probably have contributed more largely than any other specific cause, after the Christian religion, to give its specific form. Homer has supplied us with but few cases of brotherhood among his greater characters. We see, however, that Agamemnon everywhere bears the character of the elder, and he appears to have succeeded in that capacity to the throne of Atreus, while Menelaus, the younger, takes his inheritance in virtue of his wife. Tyro, in the Eleventh Odyssey, is said to have borne, on the banks of the Enipeus, the twins Pelias and Neleus. In this passage the order in which the children are named is most probably that of age[102]. We find Pelias reigning in Iolcus, a part of the original country of the Æolids: while Neleus emigrates, and, either by or before marrying Chloris, becomes king of Pylos in the south of Greece[103]. Of the two brothers Protesilaus and Podarces, the former, who is also the elder, com[53]mands the force from Phylace. He was, however, braver, as well as older. This statement of the merits, ages, and positions of the two brothers raises a question applicable to other cases where two brothers are joined without ostensible discrimination in command. Of these there are four in the Catalogue. The first is that of Ascalaphus and Ialmenus, whom their mother Astyoche bore clandestinely to Mars, ὑπερώϊον εἰσαναβᾶσα. The expression seems to imply, that it was at a single birth. But even by this supposition we do not get rid of the idea of seniority in this case; nor can we suppose all the pairs to have been twins. We naturally therefore ask, whether this conjunction implied equality in command? We may probably venture to answer, without much doubt, in the negative. On the one hand, there is nothing unlikely in the supposition that the first named of two brothers was the eldest, and had the chief command. While on the other hand it is certain, that there is no case of two coequal commanders except it be among these four, which are all cases of brothers; and which, under the interpretation which seems the most natural one they can receive, would bear fresh testimony to the prevalence of the custom of primogeniture. Again, among the sons of Nestor, who are exhibited to us as surrounding him in the Third Odyssey, we may perhaps find, from the offices assigned to them at the solemn sacrifice and otherwise, decisive signs of primogeniture. Pisistratus steps forward to greet Telemachus on his arrival, and leads him to his seat[104], sleeps near him under the portico, and accompanies him on his journey. But these functions appertain to him because he was the bachelor (ἠΐθεος) of the family,[54] as we are appropriately told in reference to his taking a couch near the guest, while the married persons always slept in some separate and more private part of the palace[105]. Pisistratus, therefore, was probably the youngest son. But it is also pretty clear that Thrasymedes was the eldest. For in the sacrifice he strikes the fatal blow at the ox: while Stratius and Echephron bring it up, Aretus holds the ewer and basin, Perseus holds the lamb, Pisistratus cuts up the animal and Nestor performs the religious rites of prayer and sacrifice[106].

And again, when Pisistratus brings up Telemachus and the disguised Minerva, he places them, evidently as in the seat of honour, ‘beside his brother Thrasymedes and his father.’

This is in perfect consonance with our finding Thrasymedes only, together with Antilochus who fell, selected for service in the Trojan war.

Upon this question, again, an important collateral light is cast by Homer’s mythological arrangements. They are, in fact, quite conclusive on the subject of primogeniture among the Hellenes. The Olympian order is founded upon it. It is as the eldest of the three Kronid brothers, and by no other title, that Jupiter stands at the head of the Olympian community. With respect to the lottery, he is but one of three. His being the King of Air invests him with no right to command the King of Sea. In the Fifteenth Book, as he is of nearly equal force, Neptune declines to obey his orders until reminded by Iris of his seniority. The Erinues, says the Messenger Goddess, attend upon the elder. That is to say, his rights lie at the foundation of the moral order. Upon this suggestion, the[55] refractory deity at once succumbs[107]. And, reciprocally, Jupiter in the Thirteenth Odyssey recognises the claim of Neptune to respect as the oldest and best (of course after himself) of the gods[108].—

Thus exalted and severed in rank, thus beautiful in person, thus powerful in hand and mind, thus associated with the divine fountain of all human honours, the Greek Βασιλεύς of the Iliad has other claims, too, to be regarded as representing, more nearly perhaps than it has ever been represented by any other class of monarchs, a benignant and almost ideal kingship. The light of these great stars of heroic society was no less mild than it was bright; and they might well have supplied the basis of that idea of the royal character, which has given it so extraordinary a hold over the mind of Shakspeare, and led him to adorn it by such noble effusions of his muse.

Function of the King as Priest.

The Homeric King appears before us in the fourfold character of Priest, Judge, General, and Proprietor.

It has already been remarked, that no priest appears among the Greeks of the Troic age; and, in conformity with this view, we find Agamemnon in the Iliad, and Nestor in the Odyssey, charged with the actual performance of the rite of sacrifice; nor is it apparently committed to any other person than the head of the society, assisted by his κήρυκες, officers who acted as heralds and as serjeants, or by his sons.

But while this was the case in regard to what may be called state sacrifices, which were also commonly banquets, we likewise learn, as to those of a more private character, that they must have been performed[56] by the head of the household. To slay an animal for food is in every case to sacrifice him (ἱερεύειν) whether in the camp, the palace of Nestor, the unruly company of the Suitors, or the peaceful cottage of Eumelus; and every animal ready for the knife was called an ἱερήϊον[109].

As Judge and as General.

The judicial office of the king is made known to us, first, by the character of Minos. While on earth, he had direct communications from Jupiter, which probably referred to the administration of justice; and, in the Shades beneath, we find him actually exercising the office of the judge. Nothing with which we become acquainted in Homer has the semblance of criminal justice, except the fines for homicide; and even these have no more than the semblance only. The punishment was inflicted, like other fines, as an adjustment or compensation[110] between man and man, and not in satisfaction of the offence against public morality, peace, or order.

In the Second Iliad, the remonstrance of Ulysses with the commonalty declares that it is the king, and to the king alone, to whom Jupiter has committed the sceptre and the administration of justice, that by these he may fulfil his regal office[111]:

εἷς κοίρανος ἔστω,
εἷς βασιλεὺς, ᾧ ἔδωκε Κρόνου παῖς ἀγκυλομήτεω
σκῆπτρόν τ’ ἠδὲ θέμιστας, ἵνα σφίσιν ἐμβασιλεύῃ.

Now the sceptre is properly the symbol of the judicial authority, as we know from the oath of Achilles[112]:

νῦν αὖτέ μιν υἷες Ἀχαιῶν
ἐν παλάμῃς φορέουσι δικασπόλοι, οἵτε θέμιστας
πρὸς Διὸς εἰρύαται.


From the combined effect of the two passages it is clear that the duties of the judicature, the determination of relative rights between the members of the community, constituted, at least in great part, the primary function of sovereignty. Still the larger conception of it, which includes the deliberative office, is that presented to us in the speech of Nestor to Agamemnon, on the occasion of the Council which followed the Night-assembly[113].

καί τοι Ζεὺς ἐγγυάλιξεν
σκῆπτρόν τ’, ἠδὲ θέμιστας, ἵνα σφίσι βουλεύῃσθα.

The judicial function might, however, even in the days of Homer, be exercised by delegation. For in the Assembly graven on the Shield, while the parties contend, and the people sympathize some with one and some with the other, it is the γέροντες, or elders, who deliver judgment[114]. Of these persons each holds the sceptre in his hands. The passage, Il. i. 237, seems to speak of one sceptre held by many persons: this scene on the Shield exhibits to us several sceptres. In the simile of the crooked judgments, a plurality of judges[115] are referred to. But as we never hear of an original and independent authority, like that of Il. ii. 204, in the senators or nobles, it seems most likely that they acted judicially by an actual or virtual delegation from the king.

The duty of the king to command his troops is inscribed on every page of the Iliad; and the only limit to it seems to have been, that upon the approach of old age it was delegated to the heir, or to more than one of the family, even before the entire withdrawal of the sire from public cares. The martial character of[58] the sovereign was indeed ideally distinguishable from his regal one; for Agamemnon was[116]

ἀμφότερον, βασιλεύς τ’ ἀγαθὸς, κρατερός τ’ αἰχμητής.

Still, martial excellence was expected of him. When Hippolochus despatched his son Glaucus to Troy, he enjoined him always to be valiant, and always to excel his comrades in arms[117].

Lastly, the king was a proprietor. Ulysses had very large landed property, and as many herds and flocks, says Eumæus in a spirit of loyal exaggeration, as any twenty chiefs alive[118]. And Homer, who always reserves his best for the Lycians, has made Sarpedon declare, in an incomparable speech, the virtual condition on which estates like these were held. He desires Glaucus to recollect, why it is that they are honoured in Lycia with precedence at banquets, and with greater portions than the rest, why looked upon as deities, why endowed with great estates of pasture and corn land by the banks of Xanthus; it is that they may the more boldly face the burning battle, and be great in the eyes and in the minds of their companions. So entirely is the idea of dignity and privilege in the Homeric king founded upon the sure ground of duty, of responsibility, and of toil[119].

What Hippolochus taught, and Sarpedon stated, is in exact correspondence with the practical part of the narrative of Glaucus in the Sixth Book. When Bellerophon had fully approved himself in Lycia by his prowess, the king of the country gave him his daughter in marriage, together with one half of his kingdom; and the Lycians presented him with a great and fertile demesne.


As proprietor; the τέμενος.

This estate is called τέμενος; a name never applied in Homer but to the properties of deities and of rulers. He uses the word with reference to the glebe-lands of

Spercheius, Il. xxiii. 148.
Venus, Od. viii. 362.
Ceres, Il. ii. 696.
Jupiter, Il. viii. 48.

And to the domains of

Bellerophon, Il. vi. 194.
Æneas (promised by the Trojan community if he should slay Achilles), Il. xx. 184.
Meleager, Il. ix. 574.
Sarpedon and Glaucus, Il. xii. 313.
The βασιλεὺς on the Shield, Il. xviii. 550.
Iphition (πολέων ἡγήτωρ λαῶν), Il. xx. 391.
Alcinous, Od. vi. 293.
Ulysses, Od. xi. 184, and xvii. 299.

On the other hand, the merely rich man (Il. xi. 68) has an ἄρουρα, not a τέμενος; and the farm of Laertes is called ἀγρὸς, not τέμενος. And why? Because it was a private possession, acquired by him apparently out of savings (Od. xxiv. 206);

ὅν ῥά ποτ’ αὐτὸς
Λαέρτης κτεάτισσεν, ἐπεὶ μάλα πόλλ’ ἐμόγησεν.

The word τέμενος is probably from τέμνω, or from the same root with that verb, and signifies land which, having been cut off from the original common stock, available for the uses of private persons, has been set apart for one of the two great public purposes, of government or of religion.

Revenues and burdens on them.

Besides their great estates, the kings appear to have had at least two other sources of revenue. One of these was not without resemblance in form to what we now call customs’-duties, and may have contained their[60] historical germ. In the Book of Genesis, where the sons of Jacob go down to buy corn in Egypt, they carry with them a present for the ruler; and doubtless the object of this practice was to conciliate the protection to which, as foreigners, and perhaps as suspected persons, avowedly seeking their own gain, they would not otherwise have had a claim. ‘Take of the best fruits of the land in your vessels, and carry down the man a present; a little balm, and a little honey, spices, and myrrh, nuts, and almonds[120].’ In conformity with the practice thus exemplified, when Euneus in the Seventh Iliad despatches his ships from Lemnos to sell wine to the Greek army, in return for which they obtain slaves, hides, and other commodities, he sends a separate supply, χίλια μέτρα, as a present to the two sons of Atreus[121]. Agamemnon indeed is, in the Ninth Book, slily twitted by Nestor with the largeness of the stores of wine, that he had contrived to accumulate.

So likewise we find that certain traders, sailing to Scheria, made a present to Alcinous, as the sovereign, of the captive Eurymedusa. When we compare this with the case of Euneus, the gift obviously appears to have been a consideration for permission to trade[122].

The other source of revenue traceable in the Iliad was one sure to lead to the extensive corruptions, which must already have prevailed in the time of Hesiod. It consisted in fees upon the administration of justice. In the suit described upon the shield, the matter at issue is a fine for homicide. But quite apart, as it would seem, from this fine, there lie in the midst, duly ‘paid into court,’ two talents of gold, to be given at the close to him, of all the judges, who should deliver[61] the most upright, that is the most approved, judgment[123]:

τῷ δόμεν ὃς μετὰ τοῖσι δίκην ἰθύντατα εἴποι.

However righteous the original intention of a payment in this form, it is easy to estimate its practical tendencies, and curious to remark how early in the course of time they were realized.

On the other hand, the great possessions of the king were not given him for his own use alone. Over and above the general obligation of hospitality to strangers, it was his duty to entertain liberally the principal persons among his subjects. Doubtless this provided the excuse, which enabled the Suitors to feast upon the stores of Ulysses, without the shame, in the very outset, of absolute rapine. And it would appear from the Odyssey that Alitherses[124] and other friends of the royal house, frequented the table there as well as its enemies, though not perhaps so constantly.

In the Seventh Iliad, after his fight with Hector, Ajax[125] repairs, not invited, but as if it were a matter of course, to share the hospitality of Agamemnon. In the Ninth Book, Nestor urges Agamemnon to give a feast to the elders, as a duty of his office:

ἔοικέ τοι, οὔτοι ἀεικές[126],


πολέεσσι δ’ ἀνάσσεις[127],

and then to take their counsel. But perhaps the ordinary exercise of this duty is best exhibited in the case of Alcinous, who is discovered by Ulysses on his arrival entertaining his brother kings in his palace[128].

I have not here taken specific notice of the δώτιναι, or tributes, which, as Agamemnon promised, Achilles[62] was to receive, from the seven cities, that it was proposed to place under his dominion. The expression is[129],

οἵ κέ ἑ δωτίνῃσι θεὸν ὣς τιμήσουσιν,
καί οἱ ὑπὸ σκήπτρῳ λιπαρὰς τελέουσι θέμιστας.

The connection of the ideas in the two lines respectively would appear to show, that the δώτιναι may be no more than the fees payable to the sovereign on the administration of justice.

Thus then the king might draw his ordinary revenues mainly from the following sources:

First and principally, the public τέμενος, or demesne land.

Next, his own private acquisitions, such as the ἀγρὸς of Laertes.

Thirdly, the fees on the administration of justice.

Fourthly, the presents paid for licenses to trade.

The position of Agamemnon.

The position of Agamemnon, the greatest king of the heroic age, constitutes in itself too considerable a feature of Greek polity at that period to be dismissed without especial notice.

He appears to have united in himself almost every advantage which could tend to raise regal power to its acmè. He was of a house moving onward in its as yet unbroken career of accumulating greatness: he was the head of that house, supported in Lacedæmon by his affectionate brother Menelaus; and the double title of the two was fortified with twin supports, by their marriages with Clytemnestra and Helen respectively. This family was at the head of the energetic race which ruled, and deserved to rule, in the Greek peninsula; and which apparently produced such large and full developments of personal character, as the world has never[63] seen, either before or since, at so infantine a stage of civilization. There were various kings in the army before Troy, but among them all the race of Pelopids was the most kingly[130]. Agamemnon possessed the courage, strength, and skill of a warrior, in a degree surpassed only by the very greatest heroes of his nation; and (according to Homer) evidently exceeding that of Hector, the chief Trojan warrior opposed to him. He must have been still in the flower of his age; and though neither gifted with extraordinary talents, nor with the most popular or attractive turn of character, yet he possessed in a high degree the political spirit, the sense of public responsibility, the faculty of identifying himself with the general mind and will. Avarice and irresolution appear to have been the two most faulty points in his composition.

His dominions were the largest which, up to that time, had been known in that portion of the world: including Greece, from Mount Olympus to the Malean Cape, reaching across to the islands on the coast of Asia Minor, and even capable of being held to include the island of Cyprus. Before Troy, his troops were πολὺ πλεῖστοι καὶ ἄριστοι (Il. ii. 577), which must imply, as his ships were not greatly more numerous than those of some other contingents, that they were of large size; and he also supplied the Arcadians, who had none of their own, (v. 612.) Lastly, he bore upon him the mellow brightness of the patriarchal age, signified by the title ἄναξ ἀνδρῶν.

Thucydides was not an antiquarian, or he would have left on his history more marks of his researches in that department. But he seems to have formed with care[64] the opinions which he expresses on archaic Greece, in the admirable introduction to his great work. Among them he says that, as he conceives, the fear of Agamemnon operated more powerfully than the oath given to Tyndareus[131], or than good will, in the formation of the confederacy which undertook the war of Troy.

It seems clear from Homer, that the name and fame of Agamemnon were known far beyond the limits of Greece, and that the reputation of being connected with him was thought to be of value. For Menelaus, on his return from Pharos to Egypt, erected there a funeral mound in his honour[132], ἵν’ ἄσβεστον κλέος εἴη; which he would not have done in a country, to whose inhabitants that monarch was unknown. And again, when Ulysses is challenged by the Cyclops to declare, to what and to whom he and his crew belong, he makes the reply, that they are the subjects of Agamemnon, the son of Atreus[133]:

λαοὶ δ’ Ἀτρείδεω Ἀγαμέμνονος εὐχόμεθ’ εἶναι,
τοῦ δὴ νῦν γε μέγιστον ὑπουράνιον κλέος ἐστίν.

Ulysses evidently conceives the fame of the great monarch, thus enhanced by success, to have been likely to supply any one who belonged to him with a defence against the formidable monster, before whom he stood.

Governing motives of the War.

The statements of Homer respecting the position of Agamemnon and the motives of the war, fall short of, but are not wholly at variance with, the opinion which has been expressed by Thucydides. Of the oath to Tyndareus Homer knows nothing: but he tells us of the oath, by which the Greek chieftains had bound themselves to prosecute the expedition. Before setting out, they had a solemn ceremonial at Aulis; they offered[65] sacrifices, they made libations, they swore, they pledged hands[134], they saw a portent, and had it interpreted by Calchas[135]. But all this only shows that the Atreidæ were conscious how formidable an enterprise they were about, and how they desired accordingly that their companion kings should, after having once embarked, be as deeply pledged as possible to go forward. It does not tell us what was the original inducement to enter into the undertaking. Again, it does not appear that the Greeks in general cared much about the abduction or even the restoration of Helen. The only passage directly touching the point is the one in which Agamemnon[136] expresses his opinion that, if Menelaus should die of his wound, the army would probably return home. It seems as if Agamemnon thought, that without doubt they would then be in honour released from their engagement, and that they would at once avail themselves of their freedom. The hope of booty, however, would do much; and the members of a conquering race unite together with great facility for purposes of war, through a mixture of old fellow-feeling and the love of adventure, as well as through anticipation of spoil. On the other hand, it was evidently no small matter to organize the expedition: much time was consumed; a friendly embassy to Troy had been tried without success; the ablest princes, Nestor and Ulysses, were employed in obtaining cooperation. The general conclusion, I think, is, that a combination of hope, sympathy, respect, and fear, but certainly a very strong personal feeling, whatever its precise ingredients may have been, towards the Pelopid house, must have operated largely in the matter. And it is in this spirit that we should construe the various declarations of[66] Homer respecting those who came to the war, as courting the Atreidæ, and as acting for their honour; namely these,

χάριν Ἀτρείδῃσι φέροντες. Od. v. 307.
Ἀγαμέμνονι ἦρα φέροντες. Il. xiv. 132.
τιμὴν ἀρνύμενοι Μενελάῳ σοί τε, κυνῶπα. Il. i. 159.

Before Troy, Agamemnon is always regarded by others as responsible for the expedition, and it is plain that he so regards himself. The use of his sceptre by Ulysses in the great effort to stem the torrent of the retiring multitude, is highly significant of the influence belonging to his station; and when Ulysses argues with the leaders, he rests his case on the importance of knowing the whole mind of Agamemnon, while he strongly dwells on his royal authority, and on the higher authority of heaven as its foundation.

His position, however, did not place him above the influence of jealousy and fear: for he was gratified when he saw Achilles and Ulysses, the first of his chieftains, at variance[137]. And his weight and authority depended for their efficacy on reason, and on the free will of the Greeks. Agamemnon takes Briseis from Achilles by an act of force; but he nowhere seeks to move the army, or the individuals composing it, upon that principle; nor does the prolongation of the service appear to have been placed beyond the judgment of the particular chiefs and of the troops. Achilles not only declares that he will go, but says he will advise others to go with him[138], and asks Phœnix to remain in his tent for the purpose. The deference paid to the Head is a deference according to measure; and the measure is that of his greater responsibility, his heavier stake in the war[139].[67] His functions in regard to the host are, to think for and advise it in council, and to stimulate it by exhortation and example in the field. If we may rely on Homer, it was essentially, so far as regarded the relation between the general in chief and the rest of the body, a free military organization.

Personal Character of Agamemnon.

The Agamemnon of Homer does not appear to be intended by the Poet for a man of genius. But on this very account, the dominance of political ideas in his mind is more remarkable. On political grounds he is ready to give up Chryseis[140]. On political grounds he quells his own avarice, and slays Trojans instead of taking ransom for them[141]. He deeply feels the responsibilities of his station, and care banishes his sleep. The amiable trait in his character is his affection for Menelaus, and in this, as in many other respects, he recalls the Jupiter of Homer, whose selfishness is nowhere relieved, except by paternal affection.

Further, Agamemnon, though without genius, is a practitioner in finesse. In his love of this art, I fear, he resembles the tribe of later politicians. He resembles them, too, in outwitting himself by means of it: he is ‘hoist upon his own petard.’ This seems to be, in part at least, the explanation of his unhappy device in the Second Iliad, to prepare the people for an attack on Troy, by counselling them to go home forthwith. The breakdown of his scheme is, as it were, the first-fruits of retribution for his ἄτη in the First Book.——

As, upon the whole, there is no idea of selfishness involved in the prerogatives of the Homeric king, so is it clear that, except as against mere criminals, there is no general idea of coercion. The Homeric king reigns with the free assent of his subjects—an assent inde[68]terminate, but real, and in both points alike resembling his kingly power. The relation between ruler and ruled is founded in the laws and condition of our nature. Born in a state of dependence, man, when he attains to freedom and capacity for action, finds himself the debtor both of his parents and of society at large; and is justly liable to discharge his debt by rendering service in return. Of this we have various indications in Homer, with respect to parents in particular. Those who die young, like Simoeisius by the hand of Ajax[142], die before they have repaid to their parents the cost, that is the care, of their education (θρεπτρά). In a most remarkable and characteristic passage. Phœnix describes how, when he was young, some deity restrained his wrath against his father, and shows the infamy that would attend the taking away of that life, in a country where voluntary homicide, in general, was regarded more as a misfortune than a crime[143]:

ὅς ῥ’ ἐνὶ θυμῷ
δήμου θῆκε φάτιν, καὶ ὀνείδεα πόλλ’ ἀνθρώπων,
ὡς μὴ πατροφόνος μετ’ Ἀχαιοῖσιν καλεοίμην.

The reciprocal obligations of father and son are beautifully shown by Andromache in her lament over Hector, when she speaks of her child[144]:

οὔτε σὺ τούτῳ
ἔσσεαι, Ἕκτορ, ὄνειαρ, ἐπεὶ θάνες, οὔτε σοὶ οὗτος.
The relation of sovereign and subject free.

As to the relation between the subject and the sovereign authority, it seems everywhere to be taken for granted. In the Twenty-fourth Odyssey, the object of those who march against Ulysses is not to put down authority, but to avenge the deaths of their sons and brothers. But there appears nowhere in Homer the[69] idea that in this relation could be involved a difference of interest, or even of opinion, between class and class, between governors and governed. The king or chief was uplifted to set a high example, to lead the common counsels to common ends, to conduct the public and common intercourse with heaven, to decide the strifes of individuals, to defend the borders of the territory from invasion. That the community at home, or any regularly subsisting class of it, could require repression or restraint from the government, was an idea happily unknown to the Homeric times.

Those classes, indeed, were few and simple. There was, first of all, the king; and round him his family and his κήρυκες, the serjeants or heralds, who were his immediate, and apparently his only immediate, agents. They conveyed his orders; they assisted him in the Assembly, in sacrifice, and in banquets. They appear to be the only executive officers that are found in Homer. With these was the Bard, apparently also an indispensable member of royal households. Both were recognised among the established professions.

Next to the kings and other sovereigns, we must place the chief proprietors of the country. In the Odyssey, we find the members of the aristocracy having their own estates and functions, and sustaining the part of γέροντες, or leaders in the Assembly. The judicial office, as we have seen from the Shield and otherwise, was in their hands, probably by delegation. But it would appear, that the distinction between them and the sovereign family was rather a broad one; since, in almost every case, we seem to find the prince contracting a marriage beyond his own borders. Laertes brings Anticlea[145] from the neighbourhood of Parnassus; The[70]seus marries Ariadne from Crete; Agamemnon and Menelaus, belonging to Mycenæ, are united to the daughters of the king of Sparta; of the two daughters of Icarius, Ulysses in Ithaca married Penelope, and Eumelus in Pheræ married Iphthime (Od. iv. 797); one of the two, at least, and perhaps both, must have married from a considerable distance; Menelaus sends his beautiful daughter Hermione to be the wife of Neoptolemus in Thessaly: and the only instance, even apparently in the opposite sense, seems to be that of his son Megapenthes, who married a Spartan damsel, the daughter of Alector. But then Megapenthes was not legitimate; he was born of a slave-mother, and therefore he was not a prince[146]. All these facts seem to show us that the royal houses formed a network among themselves, spread over Greece, and keeping pretty distinct from the aristocracy: a circumstance which may, in some degree, help to explain the wonderful patience and constancy of Penelope.

Other classes of the community.

Next to the nobles, and in the third place, we may class what we should now call trades and professions: observing, however, that, in Homer’s time, both the useful arts and the fine arts had a social dignity, as compared with that of wealth and station, which the former have long ago lost, and which the later have not retained in as full manner as perhaps might be desired, not for their own advantage merely, but to secure due honour for labour, and the humanizing effect of this kind of labour in particular for society at large. I draw the proof of their estimation in the heroic age, first, from the manner in which they are combined under the common designation of δημιοεργοὶ, and ar[71]ranged in a mixed order, the preference being only given by a more emphatic description to the bard[147]:

τῶν, οἳ δημιοεργοὶ ἔασιν,
μάντιν, ἢ ἰητῆρα κακῶν, ἢ τέκτονα δούρων,
ἢ καὶ θέσπιν ἀοιδὸν, ὅ κεν τέρπῃσιν ἀείδων;

Here I take τέκτονα δούρων to represent the entire class of artificers, of whom many are named in Homer; in a poor country like Ithaca, depending very much on the use of boats for fishing and for its communications, the carpenters might naturally represent the whole.

And next, from the manner in which these arts were practised by princes, it seems plain that there was nothing in the pursuit of them inconsistent with high rank. The physicians, or surgeons rather, of the Greek army, Podaleirius and Machaon, were themselves princes and commanders of a contingent: and even Paris, who was not the man to demean himself by employments beneath his station, seems to have taken the chief share in the erection of his own palace[148]:

τά ῥ’ αὐτὸς ἔτευξε σὺν ἀνδράσιν, οἳ τότ’ ἄριστοι
ἦσαν ἐνὶ Τροίῃ ἐριβώλακι τέκτονες ἄνδρες.

Again, the bard of Agamemnon was appointed quasi-guardian[149] to Clytemnestra in her husband’s absence: and Phemius, the bard of Ulysses[150], proceeded to the Assembly of the Twenty-fourth Odyssey in order to prevent any tumult, together with Medon the herald, who addressed the people accordingly. The heralds, or serjeants, are also recognised as δημιοεργοί[151]. Again, Alitherses, being the μάντις or seer of the island, and apparently the only one, takes part in the debates both of the Second and of the Twenty-fourth Books.


The professions, then, thus far are five:

1. Seers.
2. Surgeons.
3. Artificers.
4. Bards.
5. Heralds.

We may remark the absence of priests and merchants. Not that merchants were unknown: we find them mentioned by Euryalus the Phæacian, as πρηκτῆρες, but their business was esteemed sordid; it too much resembled that of the kidnapper or swindler, and it is the reproach of seeming to belong to this class that smartly stings Ulysses[152]. And even the merchant Mentes, whose form was assumed by Pallas, belonged to the Taphians, a tribe of pirates[153]. As yet, neither the order of priests would seem to have been completely taken over from the Pelasgians, nor the class of merchants formed in imitation of the Phœnicians.

Slaves in the Homeric age.

After the classes we have named, come the great mass of the population, who till the ground and tend the live stock for themselves or their employers, if free, and for their lords if slaves. The fisherman, too, is distinctly noticed[154] in Ithaca. Mr. Grote classes with the free husbandmen the artisans[155], and separates both of them from the θῆτες, or hired labourers, and the slaves. It appears to me, however, that we ought to distinguish the artisans from the mere husbandmen, as having been in a higher station. On the other hand, I see no passage in Homer which clearly gives to the husbandmen as a class a condition superior to that of the hired servants, or even, perhaps, the slaves. The evidence of the poems is not clear as to the existence or extent of a peasant proprietary. We must beware of confounding those conceptions of a slavery maintained whole[73]sale for the purposes of commerce, which our experience supplies, with its earliest form, in which the number of slaves would seem to have been small, and their ranks to have been recruited principally by war, with slight and casual aid from kidnapping. In those times, the liability to captivity would seem to have affected all men alike, independently of all distinctions whether in rank or in blood. The sons of Priam were sold into slavery like any one else: the only difference was, that, in proportion to the wealth of the parents, there was a better chance of ransom. It would appear that the slaves of Homer were properly, even when not indoor, yet domestic. The women discharged the indoor and household offices: except that a few men performed strictly personal services about their masters, as δρηστῆρες and as carvers[156] (θεράποντε δαήμονε δαιτροσυνάων). But the men-slaves were more largely employed out of doors in the care of flocks and herds, fields and vineyards. Thus, the slaves were in a different position apparently from the freemen, for they seem to have been gathered as servants and attendants round the rich. It would appear, however, from the case of Eumæus, who had a slave of his own, Mesaulios[157], that they might hold property for themselves. Again, not Eumæus only, but in the Twenty-fourth Odyssey Dolius and his six sons, sit down to table together with Ulysses, and fondly clasp his hands. They bear arms too; and this could not have been very strange, for Homer describes the arming of the sons without remark, while he calls both the father and Laertes, on account of their old age[158],[74] ἀναγκαῖοι πολεμισταί. The moral deterioration of slaves is noticed very strongly by Eumæus himself[159], though not with reference to himself. We have, however, no reason to suppose that their outward condition was inferior to that of the free labouring population in any thing, except that we must presume they did not take part in the assemblies or in war. When Achilles[160] in the infernal regions compares the highest condition there with the lowest on earth, he does not choose the slave, but the labourer for hire (θητεύεμεν is his expression), as the type of a depressed condition upon earth. The state of the hired servant probably resembled that of the slave in being dependent upon others, and fell beneath it in the point of security. This is the more likely, because the point of the passage turns on the poverty of the employer,

ἀνδρὶ παρ’ ἀκλήρῳ, ᾧ μὴ βιοτὸς πολὺς εἴη,

as constituting the misery of the servant.

Indeed, if we consider the matter a little further, we shall perhaps see the greater reason to think, that the expression θητεύεμεν has been chosen otherwise than at random. What do we mean by a hired servant, at a period in the movement of society when money did not exist? We can only mean one who was paid by food, clothes, and lodging, like a slave, but who was not, like a slave, permanently attached to his master or his master’s estate. The difference between the two would thus lie in the absence of the permanent tie: a difference much more against the θὴς, than in his favour.

The position, then, of the slaves was probably analogous to that of domestic servants among ourselves, who practically forfeit the active exercise of political privileges, but are in many respects better off than the[75] mass of those who depend on bodily labour. It doubtless grew out of the state of things in which slaves were practically servants, and servants of the rich, that masters, or ἄνακτες[161], were regarded as constituting the wealthy class of the community.

Supply of military service.

I stop for a moment to observe, that the view here taken of the comparatively restricted numbers and sphere of the slaves in heroic Greece may serve in some degree to answer the question, why do we not hear of them in the army of the Iliad? As men of equal blood with the Greeks themselves, they would perhaps be dangerous comrades in arms. As persons established in charge of the property of the lord, there would be a strong motive to leave them behind for its care. It is very difficult to judge how far the state of heroic Greece bore any resemblance to the feudal system of the later middle ages, and whether it did not present a more substantial correspondence with the allodial system of the earlier. We have before us a large number of independent proprietors, each bound by usage probably to render personal service, but we have nothing that resembles the obligation to bring so many retainers into the field with reference to the size of the estate. And accordingly, in the Iliad we do not find many merely personal retainers. The menial services in the tent of Achilles are performed by the women-captives, or by Patroclus in person. After Patroclus was dead, his tent was attended only by Automedon, his charioteer, and by one other warrior. Agamemnon had no other male attendants that we hear of, except his two herald-serjeants, Talthybius and Eurybates, who discharged a double function[162]:

τώ οἱ ἔσαν κήρυκε καὶ ὀτρηρὼ θεράποντε.


We may infer from the poems, that each independent family furnished one or more of its members, drawn by lot, to serve in the expedition[163]. Such is the declaration of the pseudo-Myrmidon to Priam: and again, in the Odyssey we find Ægyptius[164] of Ithaca had sent one son to Troy, while he kept three at home. The inference is strengthened[165] by the negative evidence of the Twenty-fourth Odyssey. There[166] Dolius the slave appears with no less than six sons: but no mention is made of any member of his family as having attended Ulysses to Troy, although, if there had been such a person, some reference to him here, in the presence of Ulysses just returned, would have been most appropriate. Indeed, the six are introduced as ‘the sons’ of Dolius, which of itself almost excludes the idea of his having sent any son to the war.

Again, we see that the whole mass of the soldiery attended the assemblies, and were there addressed by kings and chiefs in terms which seemed to imply a brotherhood. They are ‘friends, Danaan heroes, satellites of Mars[167],’ and it is hard to suppose such words could be addressed to persons held in slavery, however mild, familiar, or favourable. The employment of these terms may suggest a comparison with our own modes of public address, according to which the word ‘Gentlemen’ would be commonly used, though the audience should be composed in great part of the humbler class. But all these words are so many proofs of that political freedom, pervading the community and the spirit of its institutions as a whole, which exacts this kind of homage from the great and wealthy on public occasions.


It was a natural and healthful sign of the state of political society, that slavery was held to be odious. But it was odious on account of its effects on the mind, and not because it entailed cruelty or oppression. There is not, I think, a single passage in the poems which in any degree conveys the impression either of hardship endured, or of resentment felt, by any slave of the period.

As to a peasant proprietary.

Neither, as has been said, is there any thing in Homer, which clearly exhibits to us a peasant-proprietary; or entitles us positively to assert that the land was cultivated to a great extent by small proprietors, each acting independently for himself. On the one hand, as has been remarked, we do not find large numbers of personal retainers and servants about the great men: but, on the other hand, Homer does not paint for us a single picture of the independent peasant. In the similes, in the legends, on the Shield of Achilles, in Ithaca, we hear much of large flocks and herds, of great proprietors, of their harvest-fields and their vineyards, but nothing of the small freeman, with property in land sufficient for his family, and no more. The rural labour, which he shows us in action, is organized on a large scale.

The question, what after all was the actual condition of the Greek people in the age of the Troica, is thus left in great obscurity. It is indeed at once the capital point, and the one of which history, chronicle, and poem commonly take the least notice. Upon the whole it would appear most reasonable, while abstaining from too confident assertion, to suppose,

1. That, as respected primogeniture and the disposition of landed property, society was aristocratically organized.

2. That this aristocratic organization, being founded[78] on military occupation, embraced a rather wide range of greater and of smaller proprietors.

3. That these proprietors, by superior wealth, energy, and influence, led the remainder of the population.

4. That there may have existed a peasant-proprietary class in considerable numbers, neither excluded from political privilege nor exempt from military service, but yet not combined, under ordinary circumstances, by any community of interest or of hardship; led, not unwillingly, by the dominant Achæan race; and by no means forming a social element of such interest or attractiveness, in the view of the Poet, as to claim a marked place or vivid delineation, which it certainly has not received, on his canvass.

5. That the cultivation of the greater estates was carried on by hired labourers and by slaves, between which two classes, for that period, no very broad line of distinction can be drawn.

It is not within the scope of this work to enter largely upon the ‘political economy’ of the Homeric age. But, as being itself an important feature of polity, it cannot be altogether overlooked; and this appears to be the place for referring to it.

Political Economy of the Homeric age.

There has been, of late years, debate and research respecting the name given to the important science, which treats of the creation and distribution of wealth. The phrase ‘political economy,’ which has been established by long usage, cannot be defended on its merits. The name Chrematistic has been devised in its stead; an accurate, but perhaps rather dry definition, which does not, like the names Πολιτικὴ and Ἠθικὴ, and like the exceptionable title it is meant to displace, take the human being, who is the real subject of the science, into view. Homer has provided us beforehand[79] with a word which, as it appears to me, retrenches the phrase ‘economy’ precisely in the point where retrenchment is required. The Ulysses of the Fourteenth Odyssey, in one of his fabulous accounts of himself as a Cretan, states[168],

ἔργον δέ μοι οὐ φίλον ἔσκεν
οὐδ’ οἰκωφελίη, ἥτε τρέφει ἀγλαὰ τέκνα.

And I believe that, were it not too late to change a name, ‘political œcophely’ precisely expresses the idea of the science, which, having its fountain-head in good housekeeping, treats, when it has reached its expansion and maturity, of the ‘Wealth of Nations.’

It was not surprising, that the Greeks of the heroic age should have a name for the business of growing wealthy; for it was one to which Hellenes, as well as Pelasgians, appear to have taken kindly. Of this we find various tokens. Though the spirit of acquisition had not yet reached the point, at which it becomes injurious to the general development of man, we appear to have in the distinguished house of the Pelopids at least one isolated example of its excess. We have the friendly testimony of Nestor, as well as the fierce invective of Achilles[169], to show that in Agamemnon it constituted a weakness: and he is distinguished in war from the other great chieftains[170], by his habit of forthwith stripping those whom he had slain. But Ulysses also, to whom we may be certain that Homer did not mean in this matter to impute a fault, was, according to Eumæus[171], richer than any twenty; and after making every allowance for friendly exaggeration, we cannot doubt that Homer meant us to understand that, in the wealth of those[80] days, he was very opulent. The settlement from time to time of Phœnicians in Greece, and the ready docility of the Hellenes in the art of navigation, are signs to the same effect. The idea of wealth again is deeply involved in the name of ὄλβος, which appears to mean a god-given felicity: and μάκαρ is the epithet in common of the gods, the rich man, and the happy man[172]. Not that the Greeks of those times were, in a greater degree than ourselves, the slaves of wealth, but that they spoke out in their simplicity, here, as also with other matters, what we keep in the shade; and thus they made a greater show of particular propensities, even while they had less of them in reality.

But, even more than from particular signs, I estimate the capacity of the Homeric Greeks for acquisition from the state of facts in the poems. Here we observe a remarkable temperance, and even a detestation of excess, in all the enjoyments of the senses, combined with the possession, not only of a rude abundance in meat, corn, and wine, but with the principle of ornament, largely, though inartificially, established in their greater houses and gardens; with considerable stores of the precious as well as the useful metals, and of fine raiment; and with the possession of somewhat rich works of art, both in metal and embroidery. This picture seems to belong to a stage, although a very early one, in a process of rapid advance to material wealth and prosperity. The wealth and the simplicity of manners, taken together, would seem to imply that they had not yet had time to be corrupted by it, and consequently that, by their energy and prudence, they had gathered it promptly and with ease.


The precious metals not a measure of value.

The commercial intercourse of the age, however, was still an intercourse of barter. There can hardly be a stronger sign of the rudeness of trading relations, than the Homeric use of the word χρεῖος. It signifies both the obligation to pay a debt regularly contracted for value received (Od. iii. 367), and the liability to sustain retaliation after an act of rapine (Il. xi. 686, 8). The possession of the precious metals was probably confined to a very few. Both these, and iron, which apparently stood next to them in value, formed prizes at the Games; in which, speaking generally, only kings and chiefs took part. A certain approximation had been made towards the use of them as money, that is, as the measure of value for other commodities. For, as they were divided into fixed quantities, those quantities were in all likelihood certified by some mark or stamp upon them. Nor do we ever find mere unwrought gold and silver estimated or priced in any other commodity. The arms of Glaucus are indeed ἑκατομβοῖα[173], and they are χρύσεα. But this means gilded or adorned with gold; an object made of gold would with Homer be παγχρύσεος. Such are the θύσανοι, the gold drops or tassels of Minerva’s Ægis; each of which is worth an hundred oxen. Thus gold, when manufactured, even if not when in mass, had its value expressed in oxen[174].

It is possible that gold and silver may, to a limited extent, have been used as a standard, or as a medium of exchange. The payment of the judge’s fee in the Eighteenth Iliad suggests, though it does not absolutely require, this supposition. Like writing in the Homeric age, like printing when it was executed from a mould among the Ancients, the practice may have[82] existed essentially, but in a form and on a scale that deprived it of importance, by limiting its extent.

Oxen in some degree a measure of value.

The arms of Glaucus and Diomed, and the drops of Minerva’s Ægis, are, as we have seen, valued or priced in oxen. The tripod, which was the first prize for the wrestlers of the Twenty-third Book, was valued at twelve oxen: the captive woman, who was the second, accomplished in works of industry, was worth four[175].

But Laertes gave for Euryclea no less than twenty oxen, or rather the value of twenty oxen (ἐεικοσάβοια δ’ ἔδωκεν, Od. i. 431). We need not ascribe the difference in costliness to the superior merit of Euryclea; but we may presume the explanation to be, that Laertes, in time of peace, paid for Euryclea the high price of an importing market; whereas the Greeks, in a state of war before Troy, had probably more captives than they knew how to feed. They were, at any rate, in the country of production: and the price was low accordingly.

When we find it said that a woman slave was estimated at four oxen, we are not enabled at once to judge from such a statement whether oxen were a measure of value, or whether the meaning simply was, that a man, who wanted such a slave, would give four oxen for her. But the case of Euryclea clears up this point. For what Laertes gave was not the twenty oxen, but something equal to them, something in return for which they could ordinarily be had. Again, Lycaon brought Achilles the value of a hundred oxen, a hundred oxen’s worth[176]. In this case, then, oxen are used as a medium for the expression of value.

In a passage of the Odyssey, we find that the Suitors,[83] when they try to make terms with Ulysses in his wrath, promise as follows by the mouth of Eurymachus[177];

τιμὴν ἀμφὶς ἄγοντες ἐεικοσάβοιον ἕκαστος,
χαλκόν τε χρυσόν τ’ ἀποδώσομεν, εἰσόκε σὸν κῆρ

This has been rendered as a double engagement to pay the oxen and the metals. It seems to me, from the construction of the passage, as if it would be more properly understood to be a declaration, that they would each of them bring him a compensation of the value of twenty oxen in gold, and in copper. If Eurymachus had meant to express the restoration of the live stock of Ulysses, it is not likely that he would have spoken of oxen only, especially in the goat-feeding and swine-feeding Ithaca.

There is another passage in the poems, which seems to carry a similar testimony one point further. When Euneus sends ships with wine to the Greek camp, the Greeks pay him for his wine, some with copper, some with iron, some with hides, some with slaves, and some with oxen. Slaves, as we have seen, would probably be redundant in the camp. The same would be eminently the case with respect to hides; since they would be redundantly supplied by the animals continually slaughtered for the subsistence of the army. Even as to the metals, we need not feel surprise at the passage; for they were acquired largely by spoil, and not greatly needed by the force, since wear and tear scarcely constitute an element in the question of supply for those times. But it is certainly more startling that any of the Greeks should have sold oxen to the crews of Euneus. Neither in that age nor in this would any merchants carry away oxen from a vast and crowded[84] camp, where they would be certain to be in the highest demand. I therefore presume the meaning to be as follows; that those particular Greeks, who happened to have more oxen than they wanted at the moment, sold them to the people of the ships; and that the people of the ships took these oxen, in exchange for wine, not intending to carry them away, but to sell them again, perhaps against hides or slaves on the spot, as the live cattle would be certain to find a ready and advantageous market among other Greeks of the army.

Oxen therefore, in that age, seem to have come nearer, than any other commodity, to the discharge of the functions now performed by the precious metals: for they were both used to express value, and probably purchased not for use only, but also with a view to re-sale. Thus the Homeric evidence, with respect to them, is in conformity with the testimony of Æschylus in the Agamemnon, who seems to represent the ox as the first sign imprinted upon money[178].

The precious metals themselves were much employed for both personal ornament and for art. This was, no doubt, their proper and established application; and when they are stored, they are stored in common with other metals not of the same class, and with a view, in all likelihood, to manufacture.

Relative scarcity of metals.

It appears clear, from the Homeric poems, that silver was more rare than gold. It is used, when used at all, in smaller quantities: and it much more rarely appears in the accounts of stored-up wealth. A like inference may be drawn, perhaps, from the books of Moses; and it corresponds with the anticipations we should reasonably form from the fact that gold is found in a native[85] state, and, even when mixed with other material, is more readily fitted for use. The extensive employment of silver only arrives, when society is more advanced, and when the use of money is more familiar and minute. Payments in the precious metals on a somewhat large scale precede those for smaller transactions. We are not however to infer, from the greater rarity of silver, that it was more valuable than gold: the value depending, not on the comparative quantities only, but upon the compound ratio of the quantities as compared with the demand. It would however appear from a passage in the account of the funeral games, that gold, if not silver, was then much less esteemed than it now is. For, while a silver bowl was the first prize of the foot-race, a large and fat ox (perhaps worth three ordinary ones) was the second, and a half talent of gold was only the third[179].

The position of iron, however, relatively to the other metals, was very different in the heroic age from what it now is: and probably its great rarity was due, like that of silver, to the difficulty of bringing the metal into a state fit for use; which could more readily be effected with copper, with tin, or with κύανος, in whatever sense it is to be interpreted. Iron, however, would appear to have been more valuable than these metals; greatly more valuable, in particular, than copper, which is now worth from fifteen to twenty times as much as iron. A mass of crude iron is produced at the funeral games as a prize; and iron made into axe-heads forms another. No other metal, below the rank of gold and silver, is ever similarly employed in an unmanufactured state.—

Let us now turn to a brief view of the polity and organization of the army.


We perceive the organization of the Greek communities in a double form: both as a community, properly so called, in time of peace, a picture supplied by the Odyssey; and likewise as an army, according to the delineations of the Iliad.

Mode of government of the army.

The differences are worth noting: but they do not seem to touch fundamental principles. Agamemnon governed the army by the ordinary political instruments, not by the rules of military discipline. Aristotle[180] quotes from the Iliad of his own day and place, and as proceeding from the mouth of Agamemnon, the words,

πὰρ γὰρ ἐμοὶ θάνατος·

and Grote founds upon this citation the remark, that ‘the Alexandrian critics effaced many traces of the old manners.’ But was this really a trace of the old manners? Is there a single passage now remaining of the Iliad, a single thought, a single word, which at all corresponds with the idea that Agamemnon had in his own hands, in the shape of a defined prerogative, the power of capital punishment? Aristotle certainly accepts the passage, and contrasts this military power of Agamemnon with the restraints upon him in the peaceful sphere of the ἀγορή; but I am by no means sure that English institutions do not afford us the aid of far more powerful analogies for appreciating the real political spirit of the Homeric poems, than any that even Aristotle could draw in his own day from the orientalizing government of Alexander. I do not, however, so much question the passage, as the construction put upon it. The prerogatives of the Greek kings were founded in general duty and feeling, not in law. When Ulysses belaboured Thersites, it was not[87] in the exercise of a determinate right, but in obedience to the dictates of general prudence, which, upon a high emergency, the general sense approved. Doubtless, if Agamemnon had caught a runaway from the ranks, he might have slain him; but is it supposed that Ulysses might not? What was the meaning of the advice of Nestor, to put the poltroons in the middle of the ranks, but that their comrades about them should spear them if they should try to run? There is no criminal justice, in the proper sense of the term, though there is civil justice, in either of the Homeric poems; the wrongs of man to man are adjusted or requited by the latter form of remedy, but the ideas on which the former rests were unknown: there is no king’s peace, more than there is a king’s highway: the sanctions of force are added upon occasion to the general authority of office by those who bear it, according to the suggestions of their common sense. Had it been otherwise, Ulysses would never have put the wretched women in his household, who could not, like the Suitors their paramours, be politically formidable, to a death, which fully entitled him to say with the Agamemnon of the citation, πὰρ γὰρ ἐμοὶ θάνατος. The general reverence for rank and station, the safeguard of publicity, and the influence of persuasion, are the usual and sufficient instruments for governing the army, even as they governed the civil societies of Greece. In the Assembly of the army, the quarrel with Achilles takes place: in the Assembly arises the tumultuary impulse to return home: in the Assembly, that impulse having been checked, it is deliberately resolved to see what they can do by fighting: in the Assembly it is determined to ask a truce for burials, and to erect the rampart: in the nocturnal Assembly that Council is appointed to sit, which[88] sends the abortive mission to Achilles. Every great measure affecting the whole body is, as we shall find, adopted in the Assembly: and, finally, it is here that Agamemnon explicitly confesses and laments his fault, and that the reconciliation with Achilles is ratified.

We may therefore take the polity, so to speak, of the Greek army into a common view with that of the Ithacan ἀγορή; but first it will be well to sketch its military organization.

Its military composition.

Next to the βασιλῆες came the ἔξοχοι ἄνδρες (Il. ii. 188), or ἀριστῆες, of the Greek army. They are pretty clearly distinguished from the kings in the speech of Achilles (ix. 334); when, after describing the niggardliness of Agamemnon with respect to booty, he goes on to say,

ἄλλα δ’ ἀριστήεσσι δίδου γέρα καὶ βασιλεῦσιν·

which I understand to mean, he gave to these two classes prizes different, i. e. proportioned to their respective stations.

The language of the Catalogue pointedly marks the same distinction in other words. At the beginning, the Poet invites the Muses to tell him (ver. 487),

οἵτινες ἡγεμόνες Δαναῶν καὶ κοίρανοι ἦσαν,

and at the close he says (ver. 760),

οὗτοι ἄρ’ ἡγεμόνες Δαναῶν καὶ κοίρανοι ἦσαν.

These two verses appear to be in evident correspondence with each other: and if so, we may the more confidently rely on the language as carefully chosen to describe the two classes, first the kings as κοίρανοι (cf. Il. ii. 204, 207), and, secondly, the ἀριστῆες as ἡγεμόνες.

This class, it is probable, consisted,

First, of the leaders of the minor and less significant contingents.


Secondly, of lieutenants, or those who are named in the Catalogue as holding inferior commands under the great leaders (such as Meriones, Sthenelus, and Euryalus).

But, below the ἡγεμόνες of the Catalogue, there would appear to have been several grades of minor officers, in command of smaller subdivisions of the army. These would seem to have been described by a general name, ἡγεμόνες. When Nestor (ii. 362) advises the distribution of the army according to φῦλα and φρήτραι, it will, he says, have the advantage of showing not only which of the soldiers, but which of the officers were good, and which bad. Probably therefore there were officers of each φῦλον, if not even, under these, of each φρήτρη.

Of the Greeks nine are named in Il. xi. 301-3, who were slain by Hector at once, before he went among the privates (πληθύς). Of these nine no one is mentioned in any other part of the poem; and since at the same time they are expressly declared to be ἡγεμόνες, we may safely look upon them as examples of the class of minor or secondary officers. From their names, which have a strong Hellenic colour[181], we may venture at least to conjecture, that this class was chiefly Achæan, or of Achæan rank, and that the Pelasgian blood of the army was principally among the common soldiers.

The maritime order of the armament, which required a commander for each vessel, necessarily involved the existence of a class of what we may call subaltern officers.

When Helen describes the chieftains to Priam from[90] the tower, of whom Idomeneus is one, she proceeds (Il. iii. 231);

ἀμφὶ δέ μιν Κρητῶν ἀγοὶ ἠγερέθονται.

Again, when Achilles went with fifty ships to Troy, he divided his 2500 men under five ἡγεμόνες, whom he appointed to give the word of command (σημαίνειν) under him. The force thus arranged formed five στίχες or ranks, Il. xvi. 168-72: and here the private persons are expressly called ἑταῖροι (ver. 170). Most probably these ἀγοὶ of the Cretans, and these five Myrmidon leaders, are to be considered as belonging to a class below the ἀριστῆες, yet above the subalterns.

Lastly, we have to notice the privates, so to speak, of the Greek army, who are called by the several names of λαὸς (Il. ii. 191. i. 54), δῆμος (ii. 198), and πληθὺς (ii. 278).

In their military character they are indeed a mass of atoms, undistinguishable from one another, but yet distinguished by their silence and order, which was founded probably on confidence in their leaders.

The descriptions of fighting men.

No private or nameless[182] person of the Greek army, however, on any occasion performs any feat, either great or small: these are always achieved by the men of birth and station: and the three designations we have mentioned, the only ones which are used to designate the whole mass of the soldiery, represent them to us as a community bearing arms, rather than as an army in any sense that is technical or professional.

All these were entitled to attend the ἀγορὴ, or Assembly, if they pleased. And accordingly, on the first Assembly that Achilles attended after renouncing his[91] wrath, we find that, from the great interest of the occasion, even those persons were present who did not usually appear: namely, the pilots of the ships, and others who probably had charge of them while ashore, together with those who managed the provisioning of the force (ταμίαι), or, in our language, the commissariat (Il. xix. 42-5).

In their strictly military capacity they were, however, divided into

1. ἱππῆες, who fought in chariots, commonly (Il. xxiii. 334-40) with two horses. When there were three (xvi. 467-75), the outrunner was called παρήορος. The chariot of Hector was drawn by four horses (viii. 185), but we have no such case among the Greeks. Two persons went in each chariot; of whom the inferior (ἠνίοχος) drove, and the superior (παρέβασκε) stood by him free to fight. But probably none of these ἱππῆες were of the mere πληθὺς of the army, or common soldiery.

2. ἀσπισταί, the heavy-armed, of the σταδίη ὑσμίνη. These use the longer spear, the axe, the sword, or the stone.

3. ἀκοντίσται, using the lighter spear (Il. xv. 709. xxiii. 622. Od. xviii. 261).

4. τοξόται (Il. ii. 720. iii. 79).

Again, the men are distinguished by epithets according to merit; each being ἔξοχος, μεσήεις, or χερειότερος (Il. xii. 269), or even κακός; and with the last-named the precaution is taken to place them in the midst of their comrades.

The policy of Nestor, which recommended the muster of the whole army, with a view to stronger mutual support among those who had peculiar ties, was entirely in harmony with what we meet elsewhere in the[92] poems. For instance, in the defence of the rampart in the Thirteenth Book, we find Bœotians, Athenians, and Locrians[183], who were neighbours, all mentioned as fighting side by side.

All ranks apparently went to the Assemblies as freemen, and were treated there by their superiors with respect. It was not those of the common sort in general, but only such as were clamorous for the tumultuary breaking up of the Assembly, that Ulysses went so far as to hit (ἐλάσασκε) with the staff he bore, the supreme sceptre of Agamemnon. In addressing them he used the word δαιμόνιε, the same word which he employed to their superiors, the kings and chiefs (Il. ii. 190, 200). When they heard a speech that they approved of, they habitually and immediately shouted in applause[184],

Ἀργεῖοι δὲ μέγ’ ἴαχον ...
μῦθον ἐπαινήσαντες Ὀδυσσῆος θείοιο·

and they commented freely among themselves on what occurred (Il. ii. 271 and elsewhere).

The modes of warfare in the heroic age were very simple: the open battle was a battle of main force, as regarded both the chieftains and the men, relieved from time to time by a sprinkling of panics. But besides the battle, there was another and a more distinguished mode of fighting: that of the λόχος or ambuscade. And the different estimate of the two, which reverses the popular view, is eminently illustrative of the Greek character.

The λόχος or ambuscade.

In that epitome of human life, which Homer has presented to us on the Shield of Achilles, martial operations are of course included. The collective life of man is represented by two cities, one for peace and the[93] other for war. Two armies appear beneath the walls of the latter; and one of these takes its post in an ambush[185]. Whenever persons were to be appointed out of an army for this duty, the noblest and bravest were chosen. Hence Achilles launches the double reproach against Agamemnon, that he has never had spirit enough to arm either with the soldiery at large for battle, or with the chiefs and prime warriors for ambuscade[186]. And the reason why the ambuscade stood thus high as the duty and the privilege of the best, is explained in an admirable speech of Idomeneus. It is simply because it involves a higher trial, through the patience it requires, of moral as opposed to animal courage.

The Cretan leader supposes the case to have occurred, when all the flower of the army are picked for an ambush. ‘There,’ he says, ‘is the true criterion of valour;

ἔνθα μάλιστ’ ἀρετὴ διαείδεται ἀνδρῶν·

and there it soon appears who is the hero, and who the coward; for the flesh of the poltroon turns to one colour and another, nor can he settle his mind so as to sit quiet, for his knees yield under him, and he shifts from resting on one foot to resting on the other; his heart is fluttering in his breast, and his teeth chatter, as he gives himself up for lost: but the brave man, from the moment when he takes his place in the ambush, neither changes colour, nor is over nervous; but only prays that the time may soon come for him to mingle in the fearful fight[187].’ Then he goes on to commend Meriones as one suited for such a trial.

In exact conformity with what we should expect from these descriptions, it appears that Ulysses was[94] the warrior who was preeminent in the λόχος, while Achilles towered so immeasurably above all others in the field. When the Greeks were concealed in the cavity of the Horse, and Helen came down from the city imitating the voices of their wives, Menelaus and Diomed were on the point of either going forth, or answering; but Ulysses restrained them. One Anticlos was still unwilling to be silent; and Ulysses, resolutely gagging him with his hand, ‘saved the lives of all the Achæans[188].’ In all this we again see how the poems of Homer are, like the Shield, an epitome of life. All the points of capital and paramount excellence, for which he could find no place in the hero of the one poem, he has fully represented in the hero of the other; and he has so exhausted, between the two, the resources of our nature, and likewise its appliances as they were then understood, that, had he produced yet a third Epic, not even he could have furnished a third protagonist to form its centre, who should have been worthy to count with Achilles and Ulysses among the undying ideals of human greatness.

We have now considered the Greek community of the heroic age, as it was divided in time of peace into classes, and as in time of war it resolved all its more potent and energetic elements into the form of a military order.

We have also examined the position and functions of the king; who was at once a person, a class, and a great political institution. It remains to consider two other political institutions of heroic Greece, which not only, with the king, made up the whole machinery both of civil and military administration for that period, but likewise supplied the essential germ, at least, of that[95] form of constitution, on which the best governments of the continent of Europe have, two of them within the last quarter of a century, been modelled, with such deviations as experience has recommended, or the change of times has required. I mean the form of government by a threefold legislative body, having for one of its members, and for its head, a single person, in whose hands the executive power of the state is lodged. This form has been eminently favoured in Christendom, in Europe, and in England; and it has even survived the passage of the Atlantic, and the transition, in the United States of America, to institutions which are not only republican, but highly democratic.

The Greek Βουλὴ or Council.

Of these two Greek institutions, we will examine first the βουλὴ, or Council.

It was the usage of the Greeks to consider, in a small preliminary meeting of principal persons, which was called the βουλὴ, of the measures to be taken in managing the Assembly, or ἀγορή.

To the persons, who were summoned thither, the name of γέροντες appears to have been officially applied. It had thus become dissociated from the idea of age, its original signification: for Nestor was the only old man among the Greek senators. Idomeneus, indeed, was near upon old age: Ulysses was elderly (ὠμογέρων[189]), apparently not under fifty. The majority would seem to have been rather under middle life; so that γέρων was, when thus employed, a title, not a description. The βουλὴ was composed of the men of greatest rank and weight; and no more required an advanced age among the qualifications for it, than does the presbyterate of the Christian Church, though it too signifies eldership.

Before the great assembly of the Second Book, we[96] are told, not that Agamemnon thought it would be well, as it were for the nonce, to consult the kings or seniors of the expedition; but, in language which indicates a fixed practice, that the choice of the place for the meeting was on this occasion by the ship of Nestor, whose great age possibly either made nearness convenient, or entitled him to this mark of honour:

βουλὴ δὲ πρῶτον μεγαθύμων ἷζε γερόντων
Νεστορέῃ παρὰ νηῒ Πυλαιγενέος βασιλῆος. Il. ii. 53.

These γέροντες were summoned[190] again by Agamemnon before the sacrifice of the Second Book, which preceded the enumeration. On this occasion they are not called a βουλή; probably because they were not called for consultation.

The Council meets again in the Ninth Book[191], by appointment of the Assembly, and sends the mission to Achilles[192]. In the same night, and perhaps under the same authority, the expedition of Ulysses and Diomed is arranged.

There is no βουλὴ indeed in the First Book, and none in the great Assembly of the Nineteenth: but then both of these were summoned by Achilles, not by Agamemnon, and neither of them were called for properly deliberative purposes[193].

Again, Ulysses, in urging the Greeks not to quit the assembly of the Second Book prematurely, reminds them that they ought to know fully the views of Agamemnon, and that they have not all had the advantage of learning those views in the βουλή.

In the Seventh Book, the Council held under the roof of Agamemnon forms the plan for a pause to bury the dead, and erect the rampart. Accordingly, when[97] just afterwards a herald arrives with a proposal from Troy, he finds the Greeks in their Assembly, doubtless an Assembly held to sanction the project of the kings. That this amounted to an institution of the Greeks, we may further judge from the familiar manner, in which Nestor mentions it in the Odyssey to Telemachus, on seeing him for the first time, (Od. iii. 127). ‘Ulysses and I,’ he says, ‘never differed:’ οὔτε ποτ’ εἰν ἀγορῇ δίχ’ ἐβάζομεν, οὔτ’ ἐνὶ βουλῇ[194].

Among other causes, which might tend to promote the establishment of the Greek βουλὴ or Council, we may perhaps reckon with propriety the inability of the old to discharge the full duties of sovereignty in the heroic age. Bodily force usually undergoes a certain amount of decay, before the mind has passed out of its ripeness; and both kings and subordinate lords, who had ceased to possess the strength that was requisite for bearing the principal burdens of government, might still make their experience available for the public good in the Council; even as we find that in Troas the brothers of Priam, with others advanced in life, were the principal advisers of the Assembly[195].

The βουλὴ in time of peace.

I admit that we have no example to give of the use of the βουλὴ by the Greeks during peace, so precise as those which the Iliad supplies for time of war. But even in war we do not find it except before Assemblies, which had deliberative business to transact. Now the only deliberative Greek ἀγορὴ which we meet with in time of peace is that of the Twenty-fourth Odyssey. The absence of a sovereign and a government in Ithaca at that time, and the utter discord of the principal persons, made a Council quite impossible, and left no measure open except a direct appeal to the people.


It appears however clear, that the action of the βουλὴ was not confined to war. For we not only find the γέροντες on the Shield[196], who sit in the ἀγορὴ, exercising exclusively the office of judges, but they are also distinctly noticed as a class or order[197] in the Ithacan Assembly, who had a place in it set apart for themselves. Nor are we without a proof which, though conveyed in few words, is complete, of the conjunction of the Council with the sovereign in acts of government. For when Ulysses in his youth undertook the mission to Messene, in the matter of the sheep that had been carried off from Ithaca, he did it under the orders of Laertes, together with his council[198]:

πρὸ γὰρ ἧκε πατὴρ ἄλλοι τε γέροντες.

And Nausicaa meets her father Alcinous, on his way to the βουλὴ of the Phæacians.

Upon the whole, the βουλὴ seems to have been a most important auxiliary instrument of government; sometimes as preparing materials for the more public deliberations of the Assembly, sometimes intrusted, as a kind of executive committee, with its confidence; always as supplying the Assemblies with an intellectual and authoritative element, in a concentrated form, which might give steadiness to its tone, and advise its course with a weight adequate to so important a function.

Opposition in the βουλή.

The individuals who composed this Council were of such a station that, when they acted separately, King Agamemnon himself might have to encounter resistance and reproof from them in various instances. Accordingly, upon the occasion when Agamemnon made a survey of the army, and when he thought fit to rebuke Ulysses for slackness, that chieftain remon[99]strated with him something more than freely (ὑποδρὰ ἰδὼν) both in voice and manner. So far from trusting to his authority, Agamemnon made a soothing and even an apologetic reply[199]. Again, when on the same occasion he reproved Diomed[200], Sthenelus defended his immediate Chief in vainglorious terms. These the more refined nature of Diomed himself induced him at once to disclaim, but they do not appear to have been considered as involving any thing in the nature of an offence against the station of Agamemnon. Again, though Diomed on this occasion restrained his lieutenant, yet, when he meets Agamemnon in the Assembly of the Ninth Book, he frankly tells him that Jupiter, who has given him the honours of the sceptre, has not endowed him with the superior power that springs from determined courage[201]; and even the passionate invectives of Achilles in the First Book bear a similar testimony, because they do not appear to have been treated as constituting any infringement of his duty.

In the βουλὴ[202], Nestor takes the lead more than Agamemnon. As to the Assembly, the whole plan in the Second Iliad is expressly founded upon the supposition, that the army was accustomed to hear the chiefs argue against, and even overthrow, the proposals of Agamemnon. His advice that they should return home, which Grote[203] considers only an unaccountable fancy and a childish freak, is however capable of being regarded in this view, that, before renewing active operations without Achilles, it was thought wise to test the feeling of the army, and that it could not be more effectually tried than by a recommendation from the commander-in-chief that they should re-embark for[100] Greece. The plan was over-refined; and it may even seem ridiculous, because it failed, and simply kindled an ungovernable passion, which would not listen to debate. But the proposal does not bear that character in the Ninth Book, where the same suggestion is renewed, without the previous knowledge of the chiefs, in the same words, and at a time when the Greeks were in far worse condition.

When Agamemnon made it in order to be overruled it took effect: when he made it in good earnest, it failed. If then the Greeks could be retained contrary to his wish in the Ninth Book, it might be misjudged, but could hardly be absurd, to expect a similar result in the Second, when they had less cause for discouragement.

And why did it take effect? Simply because the Assembly, instead of being the simple medium[204] through which the king acted, was the arena on which either the will of the people might find a rude and tumultuary vent, or, on the other hand, his royal companions in arms could say, as Diomed says, ‘I will use my right and resist your foolish project in debate; which you ought not to resent.’

Ἀτρείδη, σοὶ πρῶτα μαχήσομαι ἀφραδέοντι,
ἣ θέμις ἐστὶν, ἄναξ, ἀγορῇ· σὺ δὲ μή τι χολωθῇς.

The proposal of Agamemnon had been heard in silence[205], the mode by which the army indicated its disinclination or its doubt. But the counter proposal of Diomed, to fight to the last, was hailed with acclamation[206];

οἱ δ’ ἄρα πάντες ἐπίαχον υἷες Ἀχαιῶν,
μῦθον ἀγασσάμενοι Διομήδεος ἱπποδάμοιο·


so that the Assembly was then ripe for the plan of Nestor, which at once received its approval[207]:

ὣς ἔφαθ’· οἱ δ’ ἄρα τοῦ μάλα μὲν κλύον, ἠδ’ ἐπίθοντο.

Subsequently, in the βουλὴ of the same Book, Nestor tells Agamemnon that it is his duty to listen as well as to speak, and to adopt the plans of others when they are good (100-2). At the same time, the aged chieftain appears to submit himself to the judgment of Agamemnon in the Council[208]. His expressions are perhaps matter more of compliment than of business; and at any rate we do not find any like terms used in the Assembly.

It was a happy characteristic of heroic Greece, that while she abounded in true shame, she had no false shame. It was not thought that a king, who had done wrong, compromised his dignity by atonement; but, on the contrary, that he recovered it. So says Ulysses, in the Assembly of the Nineteenth Iliad[209];

οὐ μὲν γάρ τι νεμεσσητὸν βασιλῆα
ἄνδρ’ ἀπαρέσσασθαι, ὅτε τις πρότερος χαλεπήνῃ.

This passage at once establishes in the most pointed manner both the right to chide the head of the army, and the obligation incumbent on him, as on others, where he had given offence to make amends.

Thus then a large liberty of speech and judgment on the part of the kings or chiefs, when they differed from Agamemnon, would appear to be established beyond dispute, a liberty which in certain cases resulted in his being summarily overruled. I cannot therefore here subscribe even to the measured statement of Mure, who, admits the liberty of remonstrance, but asserts also the sovereignty of the will of Agamemnon. Much less to the very broad assertions of Grote, that the resolutions of Agamemnon appear uniformly to prevail in the[102] Council, and that the nullity of positive function is still more striking in the Agorè[210].

To that institution it is now time for us to turn.

Influence of Speech.

The trait which is truly most worthy of note in the polities of Homeric Greece, is also that which is so peculiar to them; namely, the substantive weight and influence which belonged to speech as an instrument of government; and of this power by much the most remarkable development is in its less confined and more popular application to the Assembly.

This power of speech was essentially a power to be exercised over numbers, and with the safeguards of publicity, by man among his fellow-men. It was also essentially an instrument addressing itself to reason and free will, and acknowledging their authority. No government which sought its power in force, as opposed to reason, has at any time used this form of deception. The world has seen absolutism deck itself with the titles and mere forms of freedom, or seek shelter under its naked abstractions: but from the exercise of free speech as an instrument of state, it has always shrunk with an instinctive horror.

One mode of proving the power of speech in the heroic age is, by showing what place it occupied in the thoughts of men, as they are to be gathered from their language. Another mode is, by pointing to its connection, in practical examples, with this or that course of action, adopted or shunned. A third is, by giving evidence of the earnestness with which the art was prosecuted, and the depth and comprehensiveness of the conceptions from which it derived its form.

We shall presently trace the course of public affairs, as they were managed by the Greeks of the heroic age[103] in their public assemblies. For the present, let us endeavour to collect the true sense of Homer respecting oratory from his language concerning it, from the characters with whom he has particularly connected it, and from the knowledge which he may be found to have possessed of its resources.

Although it is common to regard the Iliad as a poem having battle for its theme, yet it is in truth not less a monument of policy than of war; and in this respect it is even more broadly distinguished, than in most others, from later epics.

The adjectives in Homer are in very many cases the key to his inner mind: and among them all there is none of which this is more true, than the grand epithet κυδιάνειρα. He confines it strictly to two subjects, battle and debate, the clash of swords and the wrestling of minds. Of Achilles, he says in the First Book[211], (490)

οὔτε ποτ’ εἰς ἀγορὴν πωλέσκετο κυδιάνειραν,
οὔτε ποτ’ ἐς πόλεμον.

In every other passage where he employs the word, it is attached to the substantive μάχη. Thus with him it was in two fields, that man was to seek for glory; partly in the fight, and partly in the Assembly.

The intellectual function was no less essential to the warrior-king of Homer, than was the martial; and the culture of the art of persuasion entered no less deeply into his early training. How, says Phœnix to Achilles, shall I leave you, I, whom your father attached to you when you were a mere child, without knowledge of the evenhanded battle, or of the assemblies, in which men attain to fame,

οὔπω εἰδόθ’ ὁμοιΐου πολέμοιο
οὐτ’ ἀγορέων, ἵνα τ’ ἄνδρες ἀριπρέπεες τελέθουσιν.


So he sent me to teach you the arts both of speech and fight[212],

μύθων τε ῥητῆρ’ ἔμεναι, πρηκτῆρά τε ἔργων.

Even so Ulysses, in the under-world, relates to Achilles the greatness of Neoptolemus in speech, not less than in battle, (Od. xi. 510-16.)

Nay, the ἀγορὴ of little Ithaca, where there had been no Assembly for twenty years, is with Homer the ἀγορὴ πολύφημος[213]. In a description, if possible yet more striking than that of Phœnix, Homer places before us the orator at his work. ‘His hearers behold him with delight; he speaks with tempered modesty, yet with confidence in himself (ἀσφαλέως); he stands preeminent among the assembled people, and while he passes through the city, they gaze on him as on a god[214]. From a passage like this we may form some idea, what a real power in human society was the orator of the heroic age; and we may also learn how and why it was, that the great Bard of that time has also placed himself in the foremost rank of oratory for all time.

It is in the very same spirit that Ulysses, in the same most remarkable speech given in the Odyssey[215], sets forth the different accomplishments by which human nature is adorned. The three great gifts of the gods to man are, first, corporeal beauty, strength and bearing, all included in the word φύη; secondly, judgment or good sense (φρένες), and thirdly, the power of discourse, or ἀγορητύς. To one man, the great gift last named is the compensation for the want of corporeal excellence. To another is given beauty like that of the Immortals; but then his comeliness is not crowned by eloquence: ἀλλ’ οὔ οἱ χάρις ἀμφιπεριστέφεται ἐπέεσσιν. For χάρις in Od. xi. 367 we have μορφὴ ἐπέων.


Varied descriptions of Oratory.

In full conformity with this strongly developed idea, the Poet places before us the descriptions of a variety of speakers. There is Thersites[216], copious and offensive, to whom we must return. There is Telemachus, full of the gracious diffidence of youth[217], but commended by Nestor for a power and a tact of expression beyond his years. There is Menelaus, who speaks with a laconic ease[218]. There are the Trojan elders, or δημογέροντες, who from their experience and age chiefly guide the Assembly, and whose volubility and shrill small thread of voice[219] Homer compares to the chirping of grasshoppers. Then we have Nestor the soft and silvery, whose tones of happy and benevolent egotism flowed sweeter than a stream of honey[220]. In the hands of an inferior artist, Phœnix must have reproduced him; but an absorbing affection for Achilles is the key-note to all he says; even the account in his speech of his own early adventures is evidently meant as a warning on the effects of rage: this intense earnestness completely prevents any thing like sameness, and thus the two garrulities stand perfectly distinct from one another, because they have (so to speak) different centres of gravity. Lastly, we have Ulysses, who, wont to rise with his energies concentrated within him, gives no promise of display: but when his deep voice issues from his chest, and his mighty words drive like the flakes of snow in winter[221], then indeed he soars away far above all competitors.

It is very unusual for Homer to indulge thus largely in careful and detailed description. And even here he has left the one superlative, as well as other considerable, orators, undescribed. The eloquence of Achilles is left[106] to describe itself; and to challenge comparison with all the choicest patterns both of power and beauty in this kind, that three thousand years since Homer, and all their ebbing and flowing tides, have brought within the knowledge of man. Although he modestly describes himself as beneath Ulysses in this accomplishment, yet in truth no speeches come near to his. But Homer’s resources are not even now exhausted. The decision of Diomed, the irresolution of Agamemnon, the bluntness of Ajax, are all admirably marked in the series of speeches allotted to each. Indeed Homer has put into the mouth of Idomeneus, whom he nowhere describes as an orator at all, a speech which is quite enough to establish his reputation in that capacity. (Il. xiii. 275-94.)

In reviewing the arrangements Homer has made, we shall find one feature alike unequivocal and decisive. The two persons, to whom he has given supremacy in oratory, are his two, his only two godlike heroes (θεῖοι), the Achilles and the Ulysses, each of whom bears up, like the Atlas of tradition, the weight of the epic to which he principally belongs.

How could Homer have conceived thoughts like these, if government in his eyes had rested upon either force or fraud? Moreover, when he speaks of persuasion and of strength or valour, of the action of the tongue and that of the hand, he clearly does not mean that these elements are mixed in the ordinary conduct of a sovereign to his subjects: he means the first for peace, the latter for war; the first to be his sole instrument for governing his own people, the latter for their enemies alone.

If, again, we endeavour to estimate the importance of Speech in the heroic age by the degree in which the faculty was actually cultivated, we must take the achievements of the Poet as the best indicators of the[107] capacities of the age. The speeches which Homer has put into the mouths of his leading orators should be tolerably fair representatives of the best performances of the time. Nor is it possible that in any age there should be in a few a capacity for making such speeches, without a capacity in many for receiving, feeling, and comprehending them. Poets of modern times have composed great works, in ages that stopped their ears against them. ‘Paradise Lost’ does not represent the time of Charles the Second, nor the ‘Excursion’ the first decades of the present century. The case of the orator is entirely different. His work, from its very inception, is inextricably mixed up with practice. It is cast in the mould offered to him by the mind of his hearers. It is an influence principally received from his audience (so to speak) in vapour, which he pours back upon them in a flood. The sympathy and concurrence of his time is with his own mind joint parent of his work. He cannot follow nor frame ideals; his choice is, to be what his age will have him, what it requires in order to be moved by him, or else not to be at all. And as when we find the speeches in Homer, we know that there must have been men who could speak them, so, from the existence of units who could speak them, we know that there must have been crowds who could feel them.

The orations of the Poems.

Now if we examine those orations, we shall, I think, find not only that they contain specimens of transcendent eloquence which have never been surpassed, but likewise that they evince the most comprehensive knowledge, and the most varied and elastic use, of all the resources of the art. If we seek a specimen of invective, let us take the speeches of Achilles in the debate of the First Iliad. If it is the loftiest tone of terrible declamation that we desire, I know not where[108] (to speak with moderation) we can find any thing that in grandeur can surpass the passage (Il. xvi. 74-9) beginning,

οὐ γὰρ Τυδειδέω Διομήδεος ἐν παλάμῃσιν
μαίνεται ἐγχείη, κ. τ. λ.

But if it is solemnity that is sought, nothing can, I think, excel the ναὶ μὰ τόδε σκῆπτρον. (Il. i. 233-44.)

What more admirable example of comprehensive statement, which exhausts the case, and absolutely shuts up the mouth of the adversary, than in the speech of Ulysses to Euryalus, who has reproached him with looking like a sharper? That speech consists of twenty lines: and I think any one who attempts to give a really accurate summary of it will be apt to find that his epitome, if it be at all complete, has become unawares a paraphrase. Nor is Homer less successful in showing us, how he has sounded the depths of pathos. For though the speeches of Priam to Achilles in the Twenty-fourth Iliad are spoken privately, and from man to man only, and are therefore not in the nature of oratory properly so called, they are conclusive, a fortiori, as to his knowledge of the instruments by which the human affections might be moved so much more easily, when the speaker would be assisted at once by the friendliness and by the electric sympathies of a multitude.

Repartee and Sarcasm.

All these are direct instruments of influence on the mind and actions of man. But of assaults in flank Homer is quite as great a master. He shows a peculiar genius for that which is properly called repartee; for that form of speech, which flings back upon the opponent the stroke of his own weapon, or on the supplicant the plea of his own prayer. There was one Antimachus, a Trojan, who had grown wealthy, probably by the bribes[109] which he received from Paris in consideration of his always opposing, in the Trojan Agorè, the restoration of Helen to the Greeks. His sons are mastered by Agamemnon in the field. Aware that he had a thirst for money, they cry, ‘Quarter, Agamemnon! we are the sons of rich Antimachus: he will pay well for our lives.’ ‘If,’ replies the king, ‘you are the sons of that Antimachus, who, when Menelaus came as envoy to Troy, advised to take and slay him, here and now shall ye expiate your father’s infamy[222].’ Compare with this the yet sharper turn of Ulysses on Leiodes in the Odyssey: ‘Spare me, Ulysses! I have done no ill in your halls; I stopped what ill I could; I was but Augur to the Suitors.’ Then follows the stern reply. ‘If thou dost avow that thou art Augur to the Suitors, then often in prayer must thou have augured my destruction, and desired my wife for thine own; wherefore thou shalt not escape the painsome bed of death[223].’

But the weapons of sarcasm, from the lightest to the weightiest, are wielded by Homer with almost greater effect than any others. As a sample of the former, I take the speech of Phœnix when he introduces, by way of parable, the Legend of Meleager. ‘As long as Meleager fought, all was well; but when rage took possession of him—which (I would just observe) now and then bewilders other great minds also—then,’ and so onward.

But for the great master of this art, Homer has chosen Achilles. As with his invectives he grinds to powder, so with the razor edge of the most refined irony he cuts his way in a moment to the quick. When Greece, in the person of the envoy-kings, is at his feet, and he has spurned them away, he says, ‘No: I will go home:[110] you can come and see me depart—if you think it worth your while.’

ὄψεαι, ἢν ἐθέλῃσθα, καὶ αἴ κέν τοι τὰ μεμήλῃ.

Of this passage, Il. ix. 356-64, the following translation may give a very imperfect idea[224]:

Of fight with Hector will I none;
Tomorrow, with the rising sun,
Each holy rite and office done,
I load and launch my Phthian fleet;
Come, if thou thinkest meet,
See, if thou carest for the sight,
My ships shall bound in the morning’s light,
My rowers row with eager might,
O’er Helle’s teeming main.
And, if Poseidon give his grace,
Then, with but three revolving days,
I see my home again;
My home of plenty, that I left
To fight with Troy; of sense bereft!

The plenty of his house (ἔστι δέ μοι μάλα πολλὰ) is the finishing stroke of reply on Agamemnon, who had thought that his resentment, unsatisfied in feeling, could be appeased with gifts.

In the same speech occurs the piercing sarcasm[225]:

ἦ μοῦνοι φιλέουσ’ ἀλόχους μερόπων ἀνθρώπων


The Greeks had come to Troy to recover the wife of Menelaus: and while they were there, Agamemnon took for a concubine the intended wife of Achilles. Was it, he asks, the privilege of the sons of Atreus alone among mankind to love their wives? Agamemnon, too, being the chief of the two; who had laid hold on Briseis, as he had meant to keep Chryseis, in disparagement of his own marriage bed. Nor can the reader of this passage fail, I think, to be struck with the wonderful manner in which it combines a stately dignity, and an unimpeachable solidity of argument, with the fierceness of its personal onslaught.

The faculty of debate in Homer.
If the power of oratory is remarkable in Homer, so likewise is the faculty of what in England is called debate. Here the orator is a wrestler, holding his ground from moment to moment; adjusting his poise, and delivering his force, in exact proportion to the varying pressure of his antagonist. In Homer’s debates, every speech after the first is commonly a reply. It belongs not only to the subject, but to the speech that went before: it exhibits, given the question and the aims of the speaker, the exact degree of ascent or descent, of expansion or contraction, of relaxation or enhancement, which the circumstances of the case, in the state up to which they were brought by the preceding address, may require. In the Assembly of the First Book, five, nay, six, successive speeches of Achilles and Agamemnon[226] bring their great contention to its climax. But the discussion with the Envoys deserves very particular notice.
The discussion of the Ninth Iliad.
Ulysses begins a skilled harangue to the offended hero with a most artful and well-masked exaggeration of the martial fury of Hector. He takes care only to present it as part of a general picture, which in other[112] parts is true enough; but he obviously relies upon it as a mode of getting within the guard of Achilles. He next touches him upon the point, to which Priam afterwards made a yet higher appeal; the tender recollection of his father Peleus, who had warned him how much more arduous was the acquisition of self-command, than that of daring. He then recites the gifts of Agamemnon: and, encouraged perhaps by the kind greeting that, with his companions, he had received, he closes by urging that, however hateful Agamemnon may be, yet, in pity for the other Greeks, both high and low, and in anticipation of their gratitude, he ought to arm. I shall not attempt to analyse the wonderful speech of Achilles which follows, and to which some references have already been made. Suffice it to say, that it commences with an intimation to Ulysses that it will, in the opinion of the speaker, be best for all parties if he tells out his mind plainly: an indirect and courteous reproof to Ulysses for having thought to act upon him by tact and by the processes of a rhetorician. After this follows such a combination of argument, declamation, invective, and sarcasm as, within the same compass, I do not believe all the records of the world can match. But the general result of the whole is the announcement that he will return to Phthia the very next morning; together with an absolute, unconditional rejection of all gifts and proffers, until the outrage of Agamemnon is entirely wiped away[227]:
πρίν γ’ ἀπὸ πᾶσαν ἐμοὶ δόμεναι θυμαλγέα λώβην.

When he has concluded, all his hearers, abashed by his masculine wrath, are silent for a while. Then Phœnix, in the longest speech of the poem, pours forth his unselfish[113] and warm, but prolix and digressive affection. This speech displays far less of rhetorical resource, than that of Ulysses. Ulysses had conceded, as it were, the right of Achilles to an unbounded resentment against Agamemnon (300): Phœnix, on the contrary, by parable, menaces him with retribution from the Erinūs, unless he shall subdue the mighty soul within him. But Achilles, touched in his better nature, gives way a little to the more ethical appeal, where he had been inflexible and invulnerable before the intellectual and rhetorical address. He now bids Phœnix come himself, and sleep in his encampment: there they can consider together, in the morning, whether to go or to stay (618). Still he announces, that nothing will induce him to quit the ships for the field (609). Next comes blunt Ajax into the palæstra; deprecates the wasting of time; is for taking back the answer, bad as it may be: Achilles has evidently made up his mind; and cares not a rush for all or any of them. ‘What,’ says the simple man-mountain, ‘the homicide of a brother or child is atoned for by a fine, and yet here is all this to-do about a girl. Aye, and a single girl; when we offer seven of the very best, and ever so much besides.’ Having thus reached the acmè of his arts, he now aims at the friendly feeling of Achilles, and in a single word bids him be placable to men whom he has admitted beneath his roof, and whom he owns for as loyal friends as the whole army could find him.

The leverage of this straightforward speech, which is only saved by kindliness from falling into rudeness, again produces an initial movement towards concession on the part of the great hero. He replies in effect to Ajax, ‘You have spoken well: I like your way of going[114] to work: but my heart swells and boils with the shame inflicted on me before the Greeks by Agamemnon. Tell them then’—there is now no announcement of setting sail; nay, there is no longer any need for debate in the morning whether to set sail or not—‘tell them that I fight no more, till Hector, carrying slaughter and fire, shall reach this camp, these ships. Keen as he may be, it will then be time enough for ME to stay his onward path.’

Such is the remarkable course of this debate. But Ulysses, when they return to Agamemnon—meaning probably to bring him and all the Greeks fairly to bay—takes no notice of the partial relaxations of the iron will of Achilles, but simply reports that he has threatened to set sail. Then comes the turn of Diomed. ‘You were wrong to cringe to him. Of himself, he is arrogant enough: you have made him worse. Let him alone; he will come when he thinks proper, or when Providence wills it; and no sooner. My advice is that we sleep and eat now, and fight at dawn. I, at any rate, will be there, in the foremost of the battle.’

Function of the Assembly.

We will now proceed to consider the nature and place of the ἀγορὴ or Assembly, in the heroic age: and a view of the proceedings on several occasions will further illustrate the great and diversified oratorical resources of the Poet.

A people cannot live in its corporate capacity without intermission, and the king is the standing representative of the community. But yet the ἀγορὴ, or Assembly, is the true centre of its life and its vital motion, as the monarch is of its functional or administrative activity; and the greatest ultimate power, which[115] the king possesses, is that of influence upon his subjects collected there, through the combined medium of their reverence for his person, and of his own powers of persuasion. In the case of the army before Troy, to the strength of these ordinary motives is added, along with a certain spirit of resentment for injury received in the person of Helen, the hope of a rich booty on the capture of the city, and the principle of pure military honour; never perhaps more powerfully drawn than in the Iliad, nor with greater freedom from extravagances, by which it is sometimes made to ride over the heads of duty and justice, its only lawful superiors.

First, it would appear to have belonged to the Assembly, not indeed to distribute the spoil, but to consent to its distribution by the chief commander, and his brother-leaders. To the former it is imputed in the Ninth Book. But in the First Book Achilles says to him in the Assembly, We the Greeks (Ἀχαιοὶ) will requite you three and four-fold, when Troy is taken[228]. It is probable that he here means to speak of the chiefs alone, (but only so far as the act of distribution is concerned,) because Thersites uses the very same expression (ἅς τοι Ἀχαιοὶ πρωτίστῳ δίδομεν[229]) in the Second Book. Therefore the division of booty was probably made on the king’s proposal, with the aid of the chiefs, but with the general knowledge and consent of the army, and in right of that consent on their part.

It must be remembered all along, that the state of political society, which Homer represents to us, is that in which the different elements of power wear their original and natural forms; neither much altered as yet by the elaborate contrivances of man, nor driven[116] into their several extremes by the consequences of long strife, greedy appetite, and furious passions, excited by the temptations which the accumulation of property presents.

In those simple times, when the functions of government were few, and its acts, except perhaps the trial of private causes, far between, there was no formal distribution of political rights, as if they could be made the object of ambitious or contentious cupidity: but the grand social power that moved the machine was in the determinations of the ἀγορὴ, however informally declared.

Grote has observed, that in the Homeric ἀγορὴ no division of affirmative and negative voices ever takes place. It would require a volume to discuss all that this remark involves and indicates. I will however observe that the principle surely cannot be made good from history or in philosophy, that numbers prevail by an inherent right. Decision by majorities is as much an expedient, as lighting by gas. In adopting it as a rule, we are not realizing perfection, but bowing to imperfection. We follow it as best for us, not as best in itself. The only right to command, as Burke has said, resides in wisdom and virtue. In their application to human affairs, these great powers have commonly been qualified, on the one hand by tradition and prepossession, on the other hand by force. Decision by majorities has the great merit of avoiding, and that by a test perfectly definite, the last resort to violence; and of making force itself the servant instead of the master of authority. But our country still rejoices in the belief, that she does not decide all things by majorities. The first Greeks neither knew the use of this numerical dogma, nor the abuse of it. They did not employ[117] it as an instrument, and in that they lost: but they did not worship it as an idol, and in that they greatly gained. Votes were not polled in the Olympus of Homer; yet a minority of influential gods carry the day in favour of the Greeks against the majority, and against their Head. There surely could not be a grosser error than to deny every power to be a real one, unless we are able both to measure its results in a table of statistics, and to trace at every step, with our weak and partial vision, the precise mode by which it works towards its end.

Great decisions all taken there.

We have seen, in the first place, that all the great decisions of the War were taken in the Assembly of the Greeks. And here the first reflection that arises is, how deeply this method of political action must have been engrained in their habits and ideas, when it could survive the transition from peace to war, and, notwithstanding its palpable inconveniences in a camp, form the practical rule of its proceedings under the eye of the enemy.

The force of this consideration is raised to the utmost height by the case of the Night Assembly in the Ninth Book. The Trojans, no longer confined to their walls, are lying beside a thousand watch-fires, just outside the rampart. Some important measure is absolutely demanded on the instant by the downcast condition of the less than half-beaten, but still thoroughly discouraged army. Yet not even under these circumstances would Agamemnon act individually, or with the kings alone. He sends his heralds round the camp (Il. ix. 11),

κλήδην εἰς ἀγορὴν κικλήσκειν ἄνδρα ἕκαστον,
μηδὲ βοᾶν·

to summon an Assembly noiselessly, and man by man. Can there be a more conclusive proof of the vigour,[118] with which the popular principle entered into the idea of the Homeric polities? If it be said that such an operation could hardly be effected at night without stir, I reply that if it be so, the argument for the power and vitality of the Assembly is but strengthened: for Homer was evidently far more careful to speak in harmony with the political tone of his country than to measure out time by the hour and minute, or place by the yard, foot, and inch; as valuing not the latter methods less, but the former more.

The Greek army, in fact, is neither more nor less than, so to speak, the State in uniform. As the soldier of those days was simply the citizen armed, so the armament was the aggregate of armed citizens, who, in all except their arms and the handling of them, continued to be what they had been before. But when we find that in such great emergencies political ideas did not give way to military expediency, we cannot, I think, but conclude that those ideas rested on broad and deep foundations.

It further tends to show the free nature of the relation between the Assembly and the Commander-in-chief, that it might be summoned by others, as well as by him. We are told explicitly in the First Book, that Achilles called it together, as he did again in the Nineteenth for the Reconciliation. On the second of these occasions, it may have been his purpose that the reparation should be as public as had been the insult: at any rate there was a determination to make the reconciliation final, absolute, and thorough. But, at the former time, the act partook of the nature of a moral appeal from Agamemnon to the army. It illustrated, in the first place, the principle of publicity so prevalent in the Greek polities. That which Calchas had to de[119]clare, he must declare not in a ‘hole and corner,’ but on his responsibility, liable to challenge, subject to the δήμου φάτις if he told less than the truth, as well as to the resentment of the sovereign if he should venture on divulging it entire. But secondly, it shows that Achilles held the Greeks at large entitled and bound to be parties to the transaction. He meant that the Greeks should see his wrong. Perhaps he hoped that they would intercept its infliction. This at any rate is clear: he commenced the debate with measured reproofs of Agamemnon[230]; but afterwards he rose, with a wider scope, to a more intense and a bitterer strain[231].

When he found that the monarch was determined, and when he had repressed the access of rage which tempted him to summary revenge, he began to use language not now of mere invective against Agamemnon, but of such invective as tended to set him at odds with the people. Then further on, perhaps because they did not echo back his sentiments, and become active parties to the terrible fray, he both taunts and threatens them. For he begins[232], ‘Coward that thou art! Never hast thou dared to arm with the people for the fight, or with the leaders for the ambush.’ And then[233]. ‘Devourer of the people! over what nobodies thou rulest! or surely this would be the last of your misdeeds.’ Again, in the peroration[234], ‘By this mighty oath, every man among you shall lament the absence of Achilles.’

Opposition in the Agorè.

It has often been asserted that the principle of popular opposition in debate is only represented by Thersites. But let us proceed step by step. It is at any rate clear enough that opposition by the con[120]federate kings is at once sufficiently represented in Achilles; and that it is not represented by him alone, since in the Assembly of the Ninth Book, Diomed both strongly reprehended Agamemnon, and proposes a course diametrically the reverse of his; which course was forthwith adopted by the acclamations of the army.

The case of Thersites.

Let us now pass on to Thersites. There is no more singular picture in the Iliad, than that which he presents to us. It well deserves examination in detail.

Homer has evidently been at pains to concentrate upon this personage all that could make him odious to the hearers of his song, while nevertheless he puts into his mouth not only the cant of patriotism, but also a case that would perhaps have been popular, had he not averted the favour of the army by his insolent vulgarity.

Upon its merits, too, it was a tolerable case, but not a good one; for he was wrong in supposing Achilles placable; and again wrong in advising that the Greeks, now without Achilles, should give way before the Trojans, to whom they were still superior in war.

He is in all things the reverse of the great human ideals of Homer. As, in the pattern kings and heroes, moral, intellectual, and corporeal excellences, each in the highest degree, must be combined, so Thersites presents a corresponding complication of deformities to view. As to the first, he is the most infamous person (αἴσχιστος) in the army; and he relies for his influence, not on the sense and honour of the soldiers, but on a vein of gross buffoonery; which he displays in the only coarse allusion that is to be found in all the speeches of the poems. As to the second head, his voluble speech is as void of order as of decency[235]. As to the[121] third, he is lame, bandy-legged[236], hump-backed, round-shouldered, peak-headed, and lastly, (among the καρηκομόωντες,) he is bald, or indeed worse, for on his head a hair is planted here and there[237]. Lastly, hateful to all[238], he is most of all hateful to, as well as spiteful against, the two paramount heroes of the poems, Achilles and Ulysses: an observation inserted with equal ingenuity and significance, because Homer, by inserting it, effectually cuts off any favour which Thersites might otherwise have gained with his hearers from seeming to take the side of the wronged Achilles. It is also worthy of note, as indicating how Homer felt the strength of that bond which unites together all great excellences of whatever kind. Upon a slight and exterior view, the two great characters of Achilles and Ulysses appear antagonistic, and we might expect to find their likes and dislikes running in opposite directions. But as, in the Ninth Book, Ulysses is declared by Achilles to be one of those whom he loves best among the Greeks[239], so here they are united in carrying to the highest degree a common antipathy to Thersites.

While depriving the wretch of all qualities that could attract towards him the slightest share of sympathy, Homer has taken care to leave Thersites in full possession of every thing that was necessary for his trade; an ample flow of speech (213), and no small power of vulgar invective (215).

Again, the quality of mere scurrility assigned to Thersites, and well exemplified in his speech, stands alike distinguished in Homer from the vein of fun, which he[122] can open in the grave Ulysses of the Odyssey, even while he is under terror of the Cyclops; and from that tremendous and perhaps still unrivalled power of sarcasm, of which we have found the climax in Achilles.

In the short speech of Thersites, Homer has contrived to exhibit striking examples of malice (vv. 226, 234), coarseness (232), vanity (vv. 228, 231, 238), cowardice (236); while it is a tissue of consummate impudence throughout. Of this we find the finest stroke at the end of it, where he says[240],

ἀλλὰ μάλ’ οὐκ Ἀχιλῆϊ χόλος φρεσὶν, ἀλλὰ μεθήμων·
ἦ γὰρ ἂν, Ἀτρείδη, νῦν ὕστατα λωβήσαιο[241].

For here the wretch apes Achilles, whom (for the sake of damaging Agamemnon) he affects to patronize, and, over and above the pretension to speak of his feelings as if he had been taken into his confidence on the occasion, he actually closes with the very line which Achilles, at the moment of high passion, had used in the Assembly of the First Book (i. 232).

If we consider the selection of topics each by themselves, with reference to effect, the speech is not without a certain εὐστοχία: he hits the avarice of Agamemnon hard (226); and his responsibility as a ruler (234): while pretending to incite the courage of the Greeks (235), he flatters their home-sickness and faint-heartedness by counselling the return (236); and, in supporting Achilles, he plausibly reckons on being found to have taken the popular side. But if we regard it, as every speech should be regarded, with reference to some paramount purpose, it is really senseless and inconsequent. Dwelling as he does upon the[123] wrong done to Achilles, and asserting the placability of that chieftain, he ought to have ended with recommending an attempt to compensate and appease him; instead of which he recommends the Return, which had been just abandoned. But the real extravagance of the speech comes out only in connection with his self-love; when, like many better men, he wholly loses whatever sense of the ridiculous he might possess. It is not only ‘the women whom we give you’ (227); ‘the service which we render you’ (238), but it is also ‘the gold[242] that some Trojan may bring to ransom his son, whom I, or else some other Greek, may have led captive.’ I, Thersites, or some other Greek! The only Greek, of whom we hear in the Iliad as having made and sold on ransom captives during the war, is Achilles[243]; and it is with him that Thersites thus couples himself. Upon this, Ulysses, perceiving that he stands in opposition to the prevailing sentiment of the Assembly, silences him by a judicious application of the sceptre to his back and shoulders: yet not even Thersites does he silence by force, until he has first rebuked him by reasoning[244].

Such are the facts of the case of Thersites. Are we to infer from it, with Grote, that Homer has made him ugly and execrable because he was a presumptuous critic, though his virulent reproaches were substantially well founded, and that his fate, and the whole circumstances of this Assembly, show ‘the degradation of the mass of the people before the chiefs[245]?’

In rallying the Greeks, says the distinguished historian[246], Ulysses flatters and soothes the chiefs, but drives[124] the people with harsh reprimand and blows. Now surely, as to the mere matter of fact, this is not quite so. It is not the people, but those whom he caught carrying the matter by shouts, instead of returning to hear reason in the Assembly, that he struck with the sceptre[247]:

ὃν δ’ αὖ δήμου τ’ ἄνδρα ἴδοι, βοόωντά τ’ ἐφεύροι·

and it may be observed, that he addresses all classes alike by the word δαιμόνιε[248]; which, though a term of expostulation, is not one of disrespect.

If Thersites represented the principle of reasoning in the public Assembly, we might well see in the treatment of him the degradation of the people. But it is railing, and not reasoning, that he represents; and Homer has separated widely between this individual and the mass of the army, by informing us that in the general opinion Ulysses had rendered a service, even greater than any of his former ones, by putting down Thersites. ‘Ulysses has done a thousand good things in council and in war: but this is the best of all, that he has stopped the scoundrel in his ribaldry[249].’

Thersites spoke not against Agamemnon only, but against the sense of the whole army (212); and the ground of the proceeding of Ulysses is not laid in the fact of his having resisted Agamemnon, or Agamemnon with the whole body of the kings; but in the manner of his speech, and in his having acted alone and against the general sentiment. Above all, we must recollect the circumstances, under which Ulysses ventured to chastise even this rancorous and foul-mouthed railer. It was at a moment of crisis, nay, of agony. The rush from the Assembly to the ships did not follow upon an orderly[125] assent to a proposal, such as was generally given; but it resulted from a tumultuous impulse, like that of blasts tossing the sea, or sweeping down upon the cornfield (Il. ii. 144-54). If therefore Ulysses employs the sceptre of Agamemnon to smite those who were shouting in aid of this ruinous tumult (ii. 198), we need not take this for a sample of what would be done in ordinary circumstances, more than the fate of Wat Tyler for a type of British freedom under the Plantagenets. Odious too as was Thersites, yet the army, amidst a preponderating sentiment of approval, still appear to have felt some regret at his mishap[250];

οἱ δὲ, καὶ ἀχνύμενοί περ, ἐπ’ αὐτῷ ἡδὺ γέλασσαν·

for the first words would suggest, that they knew how to value the liberty of thought, which had been abused, disgraced, and consequently restrained, in his person. Surely it would be most precipitate to conclude, from a case like this, that the debates of the Assemblies were formal, and that they had nothing to do but to listen to a sham discussion, and to register or follow decrees which were substantially those of Agamemnon only.

I believe that the mistake involved in the judgment we have been canvassing is a double one: a mistake of the relation of Agamemnon to the other kings and chiefs; and a mistake of the relation of the sovereigns generally to their subjects. Agamemnon was strong in influence and authority, but he had, as we have already seen, nothing like a despotic control over the other kings. The kings were strong in personal ability, in high descent, in the sanction of Jupiter, in possession, and in tradition: but all their strength, great as it was, lay as a general rule in the direction of influence, and not in that of violence.


I do not think, however, that we ought to be contented with the merely negative mode of treatment for the case of Thersites. I cannot but conceive that, upon an impartial review, it may teach more, than is drawn from it by merely saying that it does not prove the Assembly to have been an illusion. We must assume that Homer’s picture, if not historical, at least conformed to the laws of probability. Now, what is the picture? That the buffoon of the army, wholly without influence, capable of attracting no respect, when the mass of the people had overcome their homeward impulse, had returned to the Assembly, and were awaiting the proposition of the kings, first continues to rail (ἐκολῴα) while every one else is silent, and then takes upon himself the initiative in recommending the resumption of the project, which they had that moment abandoned. If such conduct could be ascribed by the Poet to a creature sharp-witted enough, and as careful as others of his own back, does not the very fact presuppose that freedom of debate was a thing in principle at least known and familiar?

Agorè on the Shield in Il. xviii.

In the scene depicted on the Shield of Achilles, new evidence is afforded us that the people took a real part in the conduct of public affairs. The people are in Assembly. A suit is in progress. The matter is one of homicide; and the guilty person declares that he has paid the proper fine, while his antagonist avers that he has not received it. Each presses for a judicial decision. The people sympathizing, some with one, and some with the other, cheer them on.

Λαοὶ δ’ ἀμφοτέροισιν ἐπήπυον, ἀμφὶς ἀρωγοί·
κήρυκες δ’ ἄρα λαὸν ἐρήτυον[251].

I understand the latter words as declaring, not that[127] the heralds forbade and put a stop to the cheering of the people, but either that they kept it within bounds, or rather that, when the proper time came for the judges to speak, these, the heralds, procured silence. According to the meaning of ἐρητύω in Il. ii. 211,

ἄλλοι μέν ῥ’ ἕζοντο, ἐρήτυθεν δὲ καθ’ ἕδρας.

Now of the cheering of the people I venture to say, not that it raises a presumption of, but that it actually constitutes, their interference. The rule of every tolerably regulated assembly, charged with the conduct of important matters, is to permit no expressions of approval or otherwise during the proceedings, except from the parties immediately belonging to the body. The total exclusion of applause in judicial cases belongs to a state of mind and manners different from that of the heroic age. But the exclusion of all applause by mere strangers to the business rests upon a truth common to every age; namely, that such applause constitutes a share in the business, and contributes to the decision. It will be remembered how the cries of the Galleries became one of the grievous scandals of the first revolution in France, and how largely they affected the determinations of the National Assembly. The irregular use of such a power is a formidable invasion of legislative or judicial freedom: the allowed possession of the privilege amounts to participation in the office of the statesman or the judge, and demonstrates the substantive position of the λαὸς, or people, in the Assemblies of the heroic age.

But apparently their function was not completed by merely encouraging the litigant, with whom each man might chance to sympathize. For we are told not only that the Judges, that is to say, the γέροντες, delivered their opinions consecutively, but likewise that there lay[128] in the sight of all two golden talents, to be given to him who should pronounce the fairest judgment (xviii. 508);

τῷ δόμεν, ὃς μετὰ τοῖσι δίκην ἰθύντατα εἴποι.

Thus it is plain that the judge who might do best was to get the two talents: but who was to give them? Not the γέροντες or elders themselves, surely; for among them the competition lay. There could be but one way in which the disposal of this fee could be settled: namely, by the general acclamation of the people, to be expressed, after hearing the respective parties, in favour of him whose sentiments they most approved. And those, to whom it may seem strange to speak of vote by acclamation, should remember, that down to this day, in all deliberative assemblies, an overpowering proportion of the votes are votes by acclamation, or by the still less definite test of silence. The small minority of instances, when a difference of opinion is seriously pressed, are now settled by arithmetic; they would then have been adjusted by some prudent appeal to the general will, proceeding from a person of ability and weight. Indeed even now, in cases when the numbers approximate to those of the Greek army, there can be no bonâ fide decision by arithmetic. The demand, however, that dissension shall be the only allowed criterion of liberty, is one which really worsens the condition of human nature beyond what the truth of experience requires.

Decisions in Assemblies of Il. vii. and ix.

And finally, what shall we say to the direct evidence of Agamemnon himself? Idæus[252], the Trojan herald, arrives with the offer to restore the stolen property, but not Helen. He is received in dead silence. After a pause, Diomed gives utterance to the general feeling. ‘Neither will we have the goods[129] without Helen, nor yet Helen with the goods. Troy is doomed.’ The Assembly shouts its approbation. Agamemnon immediately addresses himself to the messenger; ‘Idæus, you hear the sense of the Achæans, how they answer you; and I think with them.’ At the least this is a declaration as express as words can make it, and proceeding out of the mouth of the rival authority, to the effect that the acclamation of the Assembly was, for all practical purposes, its vote, and that it required only concurrence from the king, to invest it with the fullest authority. In the Ninth Iliad, as we have seen, the vote held good even without that concurrence[253].

We may now, I hope, proceed upon the ground that we are not to take the ill success of a foulmouthed scoundrel, detested by the whole army, as a sample of what would have happened to the people, or even a part of them, when differing in judgment from their king. But what shall we say to the argument, that no case is found where a person of humble condition takes part in the debates of the Assemblies? No doubt the conduct of debates was virtually in the hands of those whose birth, wealth, station, and habits of life gave them capacity for public affairs. Even in the nineteenth century, it very rarely happens that a working man takes part in the proceedings of a county meeting: but no one would on that account suppose that such an assembly can be used as the mere tool of the class who conduct the debate, far less of any individual prominent in that class. If we cannot conceive freedom without perpetual discord, the faithful performance of the duty of information and advice without coercion and oppression, it is a sign either of our narrow-mindedness, or of[130] our political degeneracy; but a feeble eye does not impair the reality of the object on which it may happen to be fixed.

Still we may admit that among the numerous assemblies of the Iliad, there is no instance where assent is given by one part of the Assembly, and withheld by the other. There is, as we have seen, a clear and strong case where the opinion of the commander-in-chief is rejected, and that of an inferior commander adopted in its stead. This in my opinion goes far to prove all that is necessary. We have from the Odyssey, however, the means of going further still.

Only, before leaving the Iliad, let us observe the terms in which the Greek Assemblies are addressed by the kings: they are denominated friends and heroes; names which at least appear to imply their title to judge, or freely to concur, at least as much as such a title was recognised in the ancient councils and assemblies of the Anglo-saxons. Was this appearance a mockery? I do not say we should compare it with the organized, secure and regular privileges of a few nations in modern days. But it would be a far greater mistake to treat it as an idle form, or as otherwise than a weighty reality.

Division in the Drunken Assembly.

From what is related in that poem to have occurred after the capture of Troy, it becomes abundantly clear that the function of the Greek Assembly was not confined to listening. The army met in what, for the sake of distinction, we may call the Drunken Assembly[254]. Now, the influence of wine upon its proceedings is amply sufficient to show that its acts were the acts of the people: for Homer never allows his chiefs to be moved from their self-possession by the power of liquor.


There was a marked difference of opinion on that occasion: the people took their sides; δίχα δέ σφισιν ἥνδανε βουλή (Od. iii. 150). One half embarked; the residue staid behind with Agamemnon (155-7). The moiety, which had sailed away, split again (162); and a portion of them went back to Agamemnon. We see, indeed, throughout the Odyssey, how freely the crews of Ulysses spoke or acted, when they thought fit, in opposition to his views. If it be said, we must not argue from the unruly speeches of men in great straits at sea, the answer is, first, that their necessities might rather tend to induce their acquiescence in a stricter discipline; and secondly, that their liberty, and even license, are not out of keeping with the general tone of the relations between freemen of different classes, as exhibited to us elsewhere in the Homeric poems.

It may, indeed, be said, that the divisions of the Greeks in the final proceedings at Troy were divisions, not of the men, but of the chiefs. This, however, upon the face of the text, is very doubtful. We see from the tale of the Pseudo-Ulysses, in the Thirteenth Odyssey (265, 6), that there were parties and separate action in the Greek contingents: and it is probably to these that Nestor may allude, when he recommends the Review in order that the responsibility of the officers may be brought home to them individually. Now, in the case before us, the first division is thus described. Menelaus exhorted all the Greeks (πάντας Ἀχαιοὺς) to go home: Agamemnon disagreed (141, 3): while they were contesting the point, the Assembly rose in two parties (vv. 149, 50);

οἱ δ’ ἀνόρουσαν ἐϋκνήμιδες Ἀχαιοὶ
ἠχῇ θεσπεσίῃ· δίχα δέ σφισιν ἥνδανε βουλή.

There is no intimation here that the people in di[132]viding simply followed their chiefs. Nay, the tone of the description is such as obliges us to understand that the movement was a popular one, and took its rise from the debate: so that, even if the chiefs and their men kept together respectively, as they may have done, still the chiefs may probably have followed quite as much as they led. Again, when the second separation takes place, it is thus described, ‘One portion returned, under Ulysses, to Agamemnon. Prognosticating evil, I made sail homewards with the whole body of my ships, which followed me. Diomed did the same, and (ὦρσε δ’ ἑταίρους) invited his men (to do it). And after us at last came Menelaus.’ (vv. 162-8). Now here instruction is given us on three points:

1. Diomed urged his men; therefore it was not a mere matter of course that they should go.

2. Nestor mentions especially that his division all kept together (σὺν νηυσὶν ἀολλέσιν); therefore this did not always happen.

3. It is very unlikely that the part, which is first named as having returned with Ulysses, should have been confined to his own petty contingent.

Thus it is left in great doubt, whether the chiefs and men did uniformly keep together: and the tenour of the narrative favours the supposition, that the men at least contributed materially to any joint conclusions.

Ithacan Assembly of Od. ii.

As, in the first Assembly of the Iliad, Achilles acts his personal quarrel in the public eye, and lodges a sort of tacit appeal against Agamemnon, so, in that of the Odyssey, Telemachus does the like with reference to the Suitors. It is there that he protests against their continued consumption of his substance; that he rejects their counter-proposal for the dismissal of his mother on their behalf, and that he himself finally pro[133]pounds the voyage to the mainland[255]. There too we find a most distinct recognition by Mentor, his guardian, of the powers and rights of the people; for he loudly complains of their sitting silent, numerous as they are[256], instead of interposing to rebuke the handful of Suitors that were the wrongdoers. But if, according to the genius and usages of the heroic age, the people had nothing to do but to listen and obey their betters, the expectation that they should have risen to defend a minor against the associated aristocracy of the country would have been absurd, and could not have been expressed, as we find it expressed, by Mentor.

It is true indeed, as has been observed by Tittmann[257], that this Assembly makes no effective response to the appeal of Telemachus; and that the Suitor Antinous is allowed to declare in it his own intention, and that of his companions, to continue their lawless proceedings. But what we see in the Odyssey is not the normal state of the heroic polities: it is one of those polities disorganized by the absence of its head, with a people, as the issue proves, deeply tainted by disloyalty. Yet let us see what, even in this state of things, was still the weight of the Agorè. First, when Telemachus desires to make an initial protest against the acts of the Suitors, he calls it to his aid. Secondly, though at the outset of the discussion no concession is made to him, yet he gains ground as it proceeds. The speech of Antinous, the first Suitor who addresses the Assembly (Od. ii. 85-128), is in a tone of sheer defiance, and treats his attempt as a jest and as an insult (v. 86). The next is that of Eurymachus; who, while deriding the omens, yet makes an advance by appealing to Telemachus to take the matter into his own hands, and induce[134] his mother to marry one among them (178-207). The third, that of Leiocritus, contains a further slight approximation; for it conveys an assent to his proposed voyage, and recommends that Mentor and Alitherses shall assist him in making provision for it (242-56). Thus even here we see that progression, which may always be noticed in the Homeric debates; and the influence under which it was effected must surely have been an apprehension of the Assembly, to which both Telemachus, and still more directly Mentor, had appealed.

Thirdly, however, we perceive in this very account the signs of the disordered and distracted state of the public mind. For, beyond a sentiment of pity for Telemachus when he bursts into tears (v. 81), they make no sign of approval or disapproval. We miss in Ithaca the well-known cheers of the Iliad, the

οἱ δ’ ἄρα πάντες ἐπίαχον υἷες Ἀχαιῶν.

They are dismissed without having made a sign; just as it is in the Assembly of the First Iliad (an exception in that poem); where the mind of the masses, puzzled and bewildered, is not in a condition to enable them to interfere by the distinct expression of their sympathies[258].

There are, however, two other instances of Assemblies in the Odyssey.

Phæacian Assembly of Od. viii.

The first of these is the Assembly of the Phæacians in the Eighth Book; which we may safely assume to be modelled generally according to the prevailing manners.

The petition[259] of Ulysses to Alcinous is, that he may be sent onwards to his home. The king replies, that he will make arrangements about it on the following day[260]. Accordingly, the Assembly of the Phæacian[135] people is called: Minerva herself, under the form of the herald, takes the pains to summon the principal persons[261]. Alcinous then proposes that a ship shall be got ready, with a crew of fifty-two picked men[262]. For his part he will give to this crew, together with the kings, an entertainment at the palace before they set out[263]. This is all done without debate. Then comes the banquet, and the first song of Demodocus. The company next return to the place of assembly, for the games. It is here that Ulysses is taunted by Euryalus[264]. In his reply he appeals to his character as a suppliant; but he is the suppliant of the king and all the people, not of the king, nor even of the king and his brother kings, alone[265];

ἧμαι, λισσόμενος βασιλῆά τε, πάντα τε δῆμον.

We must therefore assume that Alcinous, in his proposal, felt that he was acting according both to precedent and the general opinion. He does not order any measure to be taken, but simply gives his opinion in the Assembly about providing a passage, which is silently accepted (ver. 46). Yet I cannot but take it for a sign of the strong popular infusion in the political[136] ideas of the age, when we find that even so slight a measure, as the dispatch of Ulysses, was thought fit to be proposed and settled there.

But we have weightier matter disposed of in the Twenty-fourth Odyssey, which affords us an eighth and last example of the Greek Assembly, its powers, and usages.

The havock made of the Suitors by Ulysses is at last discovered after the bodies have been disposed of; and upon the discovery, the chiefs and people repair in a mass to the open space where Assemblies were held, and which bears the same name with them[266]. Here the people are addressed on the one side by Eupeithes, father of the leading Suitor Antinous, on the other, by Medon the herald, and Alitherses, son of Mastor the Seer. And here we are supplied with further proofs, that the Assemblies were not wholly unaccustomed to act according to their feelings and opinions. There is no sign of perplexity or confusion; but there is difference of sentiment, and each party acts upon its own. More than half the meeting loudly applaud Alitherses, and break up, determined not to meddle in the affair[267]. The other party keep their places, holding with Eupeithes; they then go to arm, and undertake the expedition against Ulysses. Having lost their leader by a spear’s throw of Laertes, for which Minerva had supplied him with strength, they fall like sheep before the weapons of their great chief and his son. Yet, though routed, they are not treated as criminals for their resistance; but the poem closes by informing us that Minerva, in[137] the form of Mentor[268], negotiated a peace between the parties[269].

Councils or Assemblies of Olympus.

Since the Assemblies of Olympus grow out of the polytheistic form of the Greek religion, we must treat them as part of its human element, and as a reflection of the heroic life. There will therefore be an analogy perceptible between the relation of Jupiter to the other Immortals in the Olympian Assembly, and that of the Greek Sovereign to all or some of those around him. But as the deities meet in the capacity of rulers, we should seek this analogy rather in the relation between Agamemnon and the kings, or between the local sovereign and his elders (γέροντες), than between either of the two respective heads, and the mass of those whom he ruled. This analogy is in substance sustained by the poems. The sovereignty of Jupiter undoubtedly stands more elevated, among the divinities of Olympus, than that of Agamemnon, or any other of his kings, on earth. It includes more of the element of force, and it approximates more nearly to a positive supremacy. Accordingly, whatever indicates freedom in Olympus will tend a fortiori to show, that the idea of freedom in debate was, at least as among the chiefs, familiar here below. Yet even in Olympus the other chief deities could murmur, argue, and object. The power[138] of Jupiter is exhibited at its zenith in the Assembly of the Eighth Iliad, when he violently threatens all that disobey, and challenges the whole pack to try their strength with him. The vehemence with which he spoke produced the same intimidatory effect upon the gods, as did the great speech of Achilles upon the envoys: and the result upon the minds of the hearers in the two cases respectively, is described in lines which, with the exception of a single word, precisely correspond[270]. Still, immediately after Jupiter has given the peremptory order not to assist either party, Minerva answers, Well, we will not fight—which she never had done—but we will advise; and this Jupiter at once and cheerfully permits[271]. But there is more than this. Be the cause what it may, the personal will of Jupiter, fulfilled as to Achilles[272], is not fulfilled as to Troy. The Assembly of the Fourth Book is opened with a proposal from him, that Troy shall stand[273]. From this he recedes, and it is decided that the city shall be destroyed; while the only reservation he makes is not at all on behalf of the Trojans, but simply on behalf of his own freedom to destroy any other city he may mislike, however dear it may chance to be to Juno.

The position of Agamemnon, of which Jupiter is in a great degree a reflection, bears a near resemblance to that of a political leader under free European, and, perhaps it may be said, especially under British, institutions. Its essential elements are, that it is worked in part by accommodation, and in part by influence.

Besides its grand political function, the ἀγορὴ is, as we have seen, in part a judicial body. But the great[139] safeguard of publicity attends the conduct of trials, as well as the discussion of political affairs. The partialities of people who manifest their feelings by visible signs is thus prevented, on the one hand, by the cultivation of habitual self-respect, from passing into fury, and on the other hand, from degenerating into baseness.

It is perhaps worthy of notice, as assisting to indicate the substantive and active nature of the popular interest in public affairs, that where parties were formed in the Assemblies, those who thought together sat together. Such appears to be the intimation of the line in the Eighteenth Iliad (502),

λαοὶ δ’ ἀμφοτέροισιν ἐπήπυον, ἀμφὶς ἀρωγοί.

As the ἀμφὶς ἀρωγοὶ expresses their sentiments, ἀμφοτέρωθεν can hardly signify any thing other than that they sat separately on each side of the Assembly. A similar arrangement seems to be conveyed in the Twenty-fourth Odyssey, where we find that the party of the Suitors remained in a mass (τοὶ δ’ ἀθρόοι αὐτόθι μίμνον, v. 464.) I think this circumstance by no means an unimportant one, as illustrative of the capacity, in which the people attended at the Assemblies for either political or judicial purposes.

Judicial functions of the Assembly.

The place of Assemblies is also the place of judicature. But the supremacy of the political function is indicated by this, that the word ἀγορὴ, which means the Assembly for debate, thus gives its own designation to the place where both functions were conducted. At the same time, we have in the word Themis a clear indication that the original province of government was judicial. For that word in Homer signifies the principles of law, though they were not yet reduced to the[140] fixed forms of after-times; but on the other hand Themis was also a goddess, and she had in that capacity the office of summoning and of dissolving Assemblies[274]. Thus the older function, as often happens, came in time to be the weaker, and had to yield the precedence to its more vigorous competitor.

But in Homer’s time, though they were distinguished, they were not yet divided. On the Shield of Achilles, the work of Themis[275] is done in full Assembly: and this probably signifies the custom of the time. But in the Eleventh Iliad, Patroclus passes by the ships of Ulysses[276],

ἵνα σφ’ ἀγορή τε θέμις τε

And, in the description of the Cyclopes, the line is yet more clearly drawn; for it is said[277],

τοῖσιν δ’ οὔτ’ ἀγοραὶ βουληφόροι, οὔτε θέμιστες.

In that same place, too, the public solemnities of religion were performed: and though in the Greek camp it was doubtless placed at the centre of the line with a view to security, its position most aptly symbolized also its moral centrality, as the very heart of the national life. At the spot where the Assemblies were held were gathered into a focus the religious, as well as the patriotic sentiments of the country.

The fact is, that everywhere in Homer we find the signs of an intense corporate or public life, subsisting and working side by side with that of the individual. And of this corporate life the ἀγορὴ is the proper organ. If a man is to be described as great, he is always great in debate and on the field; if as insignificant and good for nothing, then he is of no account[141] either in battle or in council. The two grand forms of common and public action are taken for the criteria of the individual.

When Homer wished to describe the Cyclopes as living in a state of barbarism, he says, not that they have no kings, or no towns, or no armies, or no country, but that they have no Assemblies, and no administration of justice, which, as we have seen, was the primary function of the Assemblies. And yet all, or nearly all the States had Kings. The lesson to be learned is, that in heroic Greece the King, venerable as was his title, was not the fountainhead of the common life, but only its exponent. The source lay in the community, and the community met in the Agorè. So deeply imbedded is this sentiment in the mind of the Poet, that it seems as if he could not conceive an assemblage of persons having any kind of common function, without their having, so to speak, a common soul too in respect of it.

The common Soul or Τὶς in Homer.

Of this common soul the organ in Homer is the Τὶς or ‘Somebody;’ by no means one of the least remarkable, though he has been one of the least regarded, personages of the poems. The Τὶς of Homer is, I apprehend, what in England we now call public opinion. We constantly find occasions, when the Poet wants to tell us what was the prevailing sentiment among the Greeks of the army. He might have done this didactically, and described at length the importance of popular opinion, and its bearings in each case. He has adopted a method more poetical and less obtrusive. He proceeds dramatically, through the medium of a person, and of a formula:

ὧδε δέ τις εἴπεσκεν, ἰδὼν ἐς πλήσιον ἄλλον.

It may, however, not seem worthy of remark, considering the amount of common interest among the[142] Greeks, that he should find an organ for it in his Τίς. But when he brings the Greeks and Trojans together in the Pact, though it is only for the purpose of a momentary action, still he makes an integer pro hâc vice of the two nations, and provides them with a common Τὶς (Il. iii. 319):

ὧδε δέ τις εἴπεσκεν Ἀχαιῶν τε Τρώων τε.

We find another remarkable exemplification in the case of the Suitors in the Odyssey. Dissolute and selfish youths as they are, and competitors with one another for a prize which one only can enjoy, they are nevertheless for the moment banded together in a common interest. They too, therefore, have a collective sentiment, and a ready organ for it in a Τὶς of the Odyssey (Od. ii. 324), who speaks for the body of Suitors:

ὧδε δέ τις εἴπεσκε νέων ὑπερηνορεόντων.

All these are, in my view, most striking proofs of the tenacious hold, which the principle of a public or corporate life for all aggregations of men had taken upon the mind of Homer, and upon Greece in the heroic age. Nor can I help forming the opinion, that in all probability we may discern in the Homeric Τὶς the primary ancestor of the famous Greek Chorus. It is the function of the Chorus to give utterance to the public sentiment, but in a sense apt, virtuous, and pious. Now this is what the Homeric Τὶς usually does; but of course he does on behalf of the community, what the Chorus does as belonging to the body of actors.

It is then surely a great error, after all we have seen, to conclude that, because the political ideas and practices of those times did not wear the costumes now in[143] fashion, they were without their own real vitality, and powerful moral influence upon the minds and characters of men.

Imperfect organization of the Heroic Polities.

But, on the other hand, in repelling these unsound and injurious notions, we must beware of assuming too much of external resemblance between the heroic age and the centuries either of modern Christendom or even of historic Greece and Rome. All the determinate forms of public right are the growth of long time, of dearbought experience, and of proved necessity. Right and force are supplements to one another; but the proportions, in which they are to be mingled, are subject to no fixed rule. If the existence of rights, both popular and regal, in the heroic age is certain, their indeterminateness is glaring and conspicuous. But the shape they bore, notwithstanding the looseness of its outline, was quite adequate to the needs of the time. We must not, in connection with the heroic age, think of public life as a profession, of a standing mass of public affairs, of legislation eternally in arrear, of a complex machinery of government. There were no regular regencies in Greece during the Trojan war. There was no Assembly in Ithaca during the long absence of Ulysses[278], before the one called by Telemachus, and reported in the Second Book of the Odyssey. We have seen, however, in what way this lack of machinery told upon the state of Greece by encouraging faction, and engendering revolution. The strain of the Trojan expedition was too great for a system so artless and inorganic. The state of Ithaca in the Odyssey is politically a state almost of anarchy; though the symptoms of that disease were milder by far then, than they could now be. The condition of the island shows us what its polity[144] had been, rather than what it was. But for all ordinary occasions it had sufficed. For Assemblies met only when they had something to do; and rarely indeed would such junctures arrive. Infractions of social order and social rights, which now more commonly take place by fraud, were then due almost wholly to violence. And violence, from its nature, could hardly be the subject of appeal to the Assembly: as a general rule, it required to be repaid on the instant, and in the same coin. Judicial questions would not often be of such commanding interest, as to divide a people into two opinions; nor the parties to them wealthy enough to pay two talents to the successful judge. Great controversies, affecting allegiance and the succession, must of necessity in all ages be rare; and of a disputed succession in Greece the poems can hardly be said to offer us an instance. We find, however, in the last Book of the Odyssey, that, according to the ideas of that period, when a question as to the sovereignty did arise, the people needed no instructor as to the first measure they were to take. They repaired, as if by a common and instinctive impulse, to the Agorè; in which lay deposited their civil rights and their old traditions, like the gems of the wealth of Greece in the shrine of the Archer Apollo[279].



We have perhaps been accustomed to contemplate the Trojans too exclusively, either as enemies of the Greeks, or else as constituting, together with them, one homogeneous chapter of antiquity, which we might be content to examine as a whole, without taking notice of specific differences. Let us now endeavour to inquire what were the relations, other than those of mere antagonism in the war, between the two nations; what points they embraced, and what affinities or discords they disclose. The direct signs of kindred between Troy and Greece have already been considered; but the examination into points of contrast and resemblance as respects religion, polity, and character, will assist us in judging how far a key to those affinities and discords is to be found in the different interfusion and proportion, in the two cases, of ethnical elements which they possessed in common.

We have seen in another place[280] that the Greeks, or Achæans, and the Trojans, were akin by the Hellic element, which appears to establish a connection chiefly as regarded the royal house, and other ruling houses, of Troy. On the other hand it has seemed clear, from many sources, that the main affinity between the bulk[146] of the two nations was Pelasgian. As respects the ethnological question, the supposition most consonant to the evidence as a whole appears to me to be, that in Troas we find Hellic families, possessed of dominion over a Pelasgian people: in Greece we find Hellic tribes, placed in dominant juxtaposition with Pelasgic tribes, of prior occupancy; constituting, as is probable, whole classes of the community, and mingling with and powerfully modifying the aggregate composition so as to produce a mixed result; while in Troy, though the ruling houses are probably a different order, and there may be found here and there the tokens of this influence, yet the general face of society, and the substance of manners and institutions, are Pelasgian. It will be recollected, that even in Greece we trace two forms of Hellic diffusion. Sometimes the descendants of the Helli appear as single families, like the Æolids; sometimes as races, like the Achæans. The state of facts here supposed as to Troy is in accordance with the former class of indications within Greece itself.

Upon the footing supplied by these assumptions, I shall treat the comparison of the two countries as to religion, policy, social usages, and moral ideas and practice.

We have already been obliged, in considering the respective shares of the Hellenic and Pelasgian factors in the compound Greek character, to anticipate in some degree the conclusions with regard to the religion of the Trojans in its general character, which I will now proceed more fully to explain and illustrate.

We have found three conspicuous deities, of worship apparently supreme and universal: Jupiter, Minerva, and Apollo. After these comes Neptune, of a more doubtful position when we pass out of the Hellenic[147] and Phœnician circles; and Latona with Diana, who, doubtless from the vantage ground of early tradition, take rank alike with an Hellenic and a Pelasgian people. We have also supposed Ceres to be of immemorial standing as a deity of the Pelasgians; and Venus to have made great way among them.

Greek names of deities found also in Troas.

Passing on from the consideration of Pelasgian religion at large, it will now be requisite to show, with particular reference to Troy, how far we find the names of the Greek divinities recognised there; nor must we omit to consider, in what degree identity of name implies identity of person and function.

1. Jupiter had a τέμενος, or portion of consecrated land, on Mount Gargarus; and there Onetor was his priest[281]. He is, with the Trojans as with the Greeks, the first and greatest of the gods[282]. He himself attests their abundant liberality in sacrifices offered to himself[283]. The Greek Jupiter is Olympian; the Trojan Jupiter is Jupiter of Ida. Except as to abode, there is no difference to be discerned between the features of the two.

2. We have no direct indication, in the Iliad, of the worship of Neptune by the Trojans. But the legend of his employment under Laomedon must be taken to imply that his divinity was acknowledged in that country: confirmed as it is by his sharing with Jupiter and Apollo the destruction of the Greek rampart after the conclusion of the war[284].

3. In the case of Juno, I have elsewhere noticed[285] the three passages, which alone appear to establish a faint connection between her and the Trojans.


4. Minerva had a temple on Pergamus; and was served there by a priestess, Theano; who, as the wife of Antenor, was of the very next rank to Priam and his house. The goddess is addressed, on the occasion of the procession of the Sixth Book, in a strain which seems to acknowledge her possession of supreme power[286]: the defender of cities, excellent among goddesses, she is entreated to have pity on Troy, to break the lance of Diomed, and to grant that he himself may fall.

5. Apollo would appear to be the favourite among the great deities of the country. He, like Minerva, has a temple in the citadel[287]. Chryses is his priest at Chryse, and there too he has a temple. He is the special protector of Cilla and of Tenedos[288]. With Minerva, he is indicated as the recipient of supreme honour[289]. The Lycian name, so prevalent in Troas, establishes a special connection with him. In the Iliad, he seems to be the ordinary and immediate Providence to the Trojan chiefs, as Minerva is to the Greek ones. At the same time, he carries no sign of exclusive nationalism; he bears no hatred to the Greeks; but, after the restitution and propitiation, he at once accepts the prayer, and stays the pestilence[290].

6. Latona must have been known among the Trojans; because Homer has represented her as contending on the Trojan side in the war of the gods, and as engaged in tending the wounded Æneas within the temple of Apollo on Pergamus.

7. The same reasons apply also to Diana: and we moreover find, that she instructed the Trojan Scamandrius in the huntsman’s art[291].


8. Venus is eminently Trojan. Her relation to this people is marked by her favour towards Paris: her passion for Anchises: her sending a personal ornament as a marriage gift to Andromache; her ministerial charge over the body of Hector (Il. xxiii. 184-7); her being chosen as the model to which Trojan beauties are compared, while Diana is the favourite standard for the Greek woman. It is also marked by her zealous, though feeble, partizanship in favour of Troy among the Immortals: and by the biting taunts of Pallas, of Helen, and of Diomed[292].

9. Vulcan is not only known, but has a cult in Troy: for Dares is his priest, and is a person of great wealth and consideration; one of whose sons he delivers from death in battle, to comfort the old man in his decline[293].

10. Mars. Of this deity it would seem, that he has been given by Homer to the Pelasgians, mainly because of his so strongly marked Thracian character, and his want of recognition among the Hellenes, who had a higher deity of war in Minerva. I have touched elsewhere upon his equivocal position as between the two parties to the war. It corresponds with that of the Thracians, who appear to form a point of intersection, so to speak, for the Hellic and Pelasgian races. Those of the plain of Adrianople are, like the Pelasgi, horse-breeders, dwelling in a fertile country: the ruder portion are among the mountains to the north and west.

11. Mercury. One sign only of the ordinary agency of this deity in Troas is exhibited; he gives abundant increase to the flocks of Phorbas[294].

12. Earth (Γαῖα) would appear to have been recognised as an object of distinct worship in Troas: for[150] when Menelaus proposes the Pact, he invites the Trojans to sacrifice a black lamb to her, and a white one to the Sun; while the Greeks will on their part offer up a lamb to Jupiter. The proposal is at once accepted; and the heralds are sent by Hector to the city for the lambs[295], which seems to be conclusive as to the acknowledgment of these two deities in Troy.

13. The Sun. Besides that the passage last quoted for Earth is also conclusive for the Sun, we have another token of his relation to Troy, in the unwillingness with which he closes the day, when with his setting is to end the glory of Hector and of his country[296].

We have thus gone through the list of the greater Greek deities, and have found them all acknowledged in Troas, with the following exceptions: 1. of Ceres, whom we may however suspect, from her Pelasgian character, to have been worshipped there under some name or form; 2. of Aidoneus; and 3. of Persephone. These exceptions will be further noticed.

Again, among the thirteen who have been identified as objects of Trojan worship, we find one, namely, Γαῖα, of whom we can hardly say that she was worshipped in Greece; though she was invoked, as by Agamemnon in the Nineteenth Book, and by Althea in the Ninth, to add a more solemn sanction to oaths.

14. Together with her, we may take notice of a fourteenth deity, apparently of great consideration in Troy, namely, the River Scamander. He bears a marked sign of ancient worship, in having a divine appellation, Xanthus, as well as his terrestrial one, Scamander. He had an ἀρήτηρ, by name Dolopion. To him, according to the speech of Achilles, the Trojans sacrificed live horses. He enters into the division of parties among[151] the gods about the war, and fights vigorously against Achilles, until he is at length put down by Hephæstus, or Vulcan. As a purely local deity, however, he has of course no place in the Greek mythology.

15. Though we have no direct mention of the translation of Tithonus by Ἠὼς, or Aurora, yet, as Homer gives Tithonus a place both in the genealogy of the Dardanidæ, and likewise by the side of Aurora, we may consider that, by thus recognising the translation, he also points out Aurora as an acknowledged member of the supernatural order in Troas.

Several among these names call for more particular notice: especially those of Vulcan, Earth, and Scamander.

Worship of Vulcan in Troas.

The case of Vulcan, and his place in Troy, may serve to remind us of a proposition somewhat general in its application; this namely, that, in classifying the Trojan divinities, Homer need not have intended to imply that the same name must in all cases carry exactly the same attributes. We must here bear in mind, that probably all, certainly almost all, of the properly Olympian gods, were Greek copies modified from Oriental or from traditive originals. But as these conceptions were propagated in different quarters, each country would probably add or take away, or otherwise alter, in conformity with its own ruling tendencies. Hence when we find a Vulcan in Greece, and a Vulcan in Troas, it by no means follows, that each of them presented the same features and attributes. If Homer believed them to be derived from a common original in Egypt or elsewhere, that would be a good and valid reason for his describing them by the same name, though the Trojan Vulcan might not present all the Hellenic traits, nor vice versâ. In some cases, such as[152] those of Jupiter, Apollo, Minerva, Diana, and Venus, there is such a correspondence of attributes entering into the portraiture of the respective deities in the two countries, that their identity, at least so far as the evidence goes, seems quite unimpaired and unequivocal. But we have no means of showing from the poems, that the Trojan Hephæstus corresponded with the Greek one. Indeed when we find no mention of his being actually worshipped in Greece, and at the same time learn that he had a priest in Troas, the presumption arises, that different conceptions of him prevailed in the two countries. Again, there is nowhere assigned to him as a Greek deity any such exercise of power, as that by which he saves Idæus, a son of his priest Dares, from imminent death on the field of battle.

These general considerations, which tend to show that the identity of name in a Trojan and a Greek deity may be compatible with much of dissimilarity in the popular development of the functions, will relieve us from difficulties, which we should otherwise have had to meet, in accounting for the place of some of the Olympian divinities in Trojan worship. We have found reason to suppose, that Vulcan may have come into Greece through Phœnicia. But the Trojans appear to have had very little connection with Phœnicia. The precious κειμήλιον of Priam, the cup that he carried to Achilles, was not Phœnician but Thracian[297]. The only token of intercourse mentioned is, that Paris brought textile fabrics from Sidon[298]. Again, Vulcan was especially worshipped in Lemnos, and had his terrestrial abode there. But this goes more naturally to account for the works of metal in Thrace, than for the position of Vulcan in Troas; higher as it was, appar[153]ently, than in Greece. Again, it is worth notice, that the Vulcan of the Romans was, like their Mars, one of the old gods of Etruria, a country stamped with many Pelasgian characteristics. It may be, that we ought to look back to Egypt for the origin of all these Vulcans. In the time of Herodotus[299], the Egyptian priests claimed him as their own: and Phtah, the principal deity of Memphis, was held by the later Greeks to correspond with their Ἥφαιστος. Even the two names carry tokens of relationship. From that fountain-head might be propagated diverging copies of the deity: and, as far as we can judge, the Vulcan worshipped in Troy was much more like the common ancestor, than the highly idealized artificer of Olympus, upon whom the Poet has worked out all his will[300].

Worship of Juno and Gaia in Troas.

There is another of its points of contact with the Olympian system, in which this list of Trojan deities is remarkable. While investigating the Greek mythology, we have found reason to suppose that Juno, Ceres, and Gaia are but three different forms of the same original tradition of a divine feminine: of whom Ceres is the Pelasgian copy, Juno the vivid and powerful Hellenic development, and Gaia the original skeleton, retaining nothing of the old character, but having acquired the function of gaol-keeper for perjurors when sent to the other world[301]. In the retention however of all three within the circle of religion, we see both the receptiveness and the universalism of the Greek mythology. Now, in Troy, where there was less of imaginative power, the case stands very differently. Of Ceres, who represents the Pelasgian impression of[154] the old earth-worshipping tradition, we hear nothing in Troas. Probably she was not there, because Gaia, her original, was still a real divinity for the Trojans. But how are we to explain the fact that Gaia and Juno are both there? I venture to suggest, that it is because these are different names, the foreign and the domestic one, for the same thing. When Hector swears to Dolon, it is by Jupiter, ‘the loud-thundering husband of Here:’ which almost appears as if Juno held, in the Trojan oath, a place more or less resembling the place occupied in the Greek oaths (where Juno does not appear at all) by Gaia.

Again, it is obvious that, if this relation exists between Gaia and Juno, it explains the fact that we do not find both, so to speak, thriving together. In Troas Gaia is worshipped, but Juno scarcely appears. In Greece Juno is highly exalted, but Gaia has lost all body, and has dwindled to a spectral phantasm. It is the want of imagination in the Trojan mythology, which makes it a more faithful keeper of traditions, stereotyped in the forms in which they were had from their inventors.

Worship of Mercury in Troas.

Next, as to Mercury. I have already adverted to the fact that Priam[302], notwithstanding his obligations to Mercury in the Twenty-fourth Iliad, takes no notice of his divinity. I think that a close examination of the narrative tends to show, that the Greek Mercury was not worshipped in Troy; and leaves us to conclude that Homer uses a merely poetical mode of speech in saying that this god gave increase to the flocks of Phorbas[303]: even as when he makes Priam call Iris an Olympian messenger[304].

He appears before Priam and his companion Idæus,[155] when they are on their way to the Greek camp, in the semblance of a young and noble Myrmidon. There were, we know[305], certain visible signs, by which deities could in general be recognised or, at least, guessed as such. Both Idæus, however, and Priam himself, saw nothing of this character in Mercury, and simply took him for a Greek enemy[306]. Mercury, after some genial conversation, conducts his chariot to the quarters of Achilles, and then, before quitting him, announces himself. Not, however, like Apollo to Hector (Il. xv. 256), and Minerva to Ulysses (Od. xiii. 299), simply by giving his name: but he also declares himself to be an Immortal, θεὸς ἄμβροτος (460). This unusual circumstance raises a presumption, that he was not already known as a divinity to Priam; and the presumption seems to become irrefragable, when we find that Priam, though given to the observances of religion, uses no act or expression of reverence or even recognition to his benefactor, either on his first declaration and departure (460, 7), or upon his second nocturnal appearance (682), followed by a second and final flight to Olympus (694).

The case of Scamander will require particular notice: because it is immediately connected with the question, whether the Trojans partook of that tendency to a large imaginative development of religion, which so eminently distinguishes the Grecian supernaturalism.

We will therefore consider carefully the facts relating to this deity, and such other kindred facts as Homer suggests.

He speaks of Dolopion as follows[307];

ὑπερθύμου Δολοπίονος, ὅς ῥα Σκαμάνδρου
ἀρητὴρ ἐτέτυκτο, θεὸς δ’ ὣς τίετο δήμῳ.


This is entirely in keeping, as to particulars, with the Pelasgian and Trojan institutions. The ἀρητὴρ of Homer is apparently always the priest. Dolopion was a man in very high station and honour, like the priests of Rome, and of early Ætolia[308]; but not like those of later Greece. And he had been ‘made’ or ‘appointed’ priest; as Theano was chosen to be priestess by the people. The priesthood of the Homeric age never appears as a caste in these latitudes. The only approximation to caste is in the gift of the μάντις, which, as we find from the Odyssey, was hereditary in the family of Melampus[309]. Thus far, then, the evidence respecting Scamander certainly would appear to belong to the category of Homer’s historical statements.

Beyond this, everything assumes a figurative stamp. Scamander fights as a deity with Achilles, and his waters are so powerful that they can only be subdued by the immediate action of the god of fire. The hero, too, is aided by the powerful blasts of Zephyr and of Notus, whom Juno rouses up to scorch the Trojans[310]. As we can hardly doubt, that the plague in the First Book represents some form of marsh-fever, so here it appears likely that the Poet takes very skilful advantage of a flood, caused by summer rains, which had annoyed the Greeks, and which had been followed by the subsidence of the waters upon the return of hot weather.

Scamander is very great in the Iliad, but with a purely local greatness. As a person, he speaks both to men and to gods. He addresses Simois as his beloved brother; but it is entirely on the affair of the deluge and the heat. Though he takes part in the war, the distinction is not awarded to him of being a member of[157] the smaller and select Olympian community: he merely stands included by presumption in the general category of Rivers[311].

Worship of Scamander.

We have a description from the mouth of Achilles of certain sacrifices, as belonging to the worship of Scamander[312]:

οὐδ’ ὑμῖν ποταμός περ ἐΰῤῥοος ἀργυροδίνης
ἀρκέσει, ᾧ δὴ δηθὰ πολέας ἱερεύετε ταύρους,
ζωοὺς δ’ ἐν δίνῃσι καθίετε μώνυχας ἵππους.

This offering of live horses is peculiar, and unlike anything else represented to us in the Homeric poems. Not only the youths, but even the dogs, whom Achilles offers to the Shade of Patroclus, are slain before they are cast into the fire. The same thing is not mentioned with respect to the four horses, who are also among the victims; but it is probably, even from the physical necessities of the case, to be presumed.

It may, perhaps, be argued, that this speech of Achilles partakes of the nature of a sarcasm. The fine Trojan horses were reared and pastured on the river banks; taunts often pass between the warriors of the two sides: the δὴ δηθὰ may have had the force of forsooth. Some doubt may attach to the evidence, which the passage gives, on this ground; and also from the singularity of the practice that is imputed. It is, on the whole, however, safest to assume that it is trustworthy.

The case will then stand thus; that we have apparently one single case in Troy of a pure local impersonation of a power belonging to external nature. Now this might happen under peculiar circumstances, and yet a very broad distinction might subsist between the religion of the two nations as to imaginative development.


Scamander was indeed a great power for the Trojans; it was the great river of the country, the μέγας ποταμὸς βαθυδίνης. The child of the great Hector was named by him Scamandrius, while Simoeisius[313] was the son of a very insignificant person. Another Scamandrius was a distinguished huntsman, taught by Diana, in a country where the accomplishment was rare[314]. His floods, however useful in time of war, would in time of peace do fearful damage. It is possibly the true explanation of the last among the lines quoted from the speech of Achilles, that he carried away, in sudden spates, many of the horses that were pastured on his banks. The Trojans, then, may have had strong motives for deifying Scamander, and particularly for providing him with a priest, who might beseech him to keep down his waters. And it will be remembered, from the case of Gaia, that the Trojan religion was, without doubt, favourable to the idea of purely elemental deities: what lacked was the vivid force of fancy, that revelled in profuse multiplication.

Different view of Rivers in Troas.

For we cannot fail to perceive, that the idea of a river-god did not enter into the Trojan as it did into the Greek life. Ulysses, when in difficulty, at once invokes the aid of the Scherian river[315], at whose mouth he lands. Now the Trojans are driven in masses into the Scamander by the terrible pursuit of Achilles, and they hide and sculk, or come forth and fight, about its banks and waters. Yet no one of them invokes the River, although that River was a deity contending on their side. So entirely was he without place in their consciousness as a power able to help, even though he may have been publicly worshipped in deprecation of a calamity, which he was known to be able to inflict.


With this remarkable silence we may compare, besides the prayer and thanksgiving of Ulysses, the invocation of Achilles to Spercheius[316]. On his leaving home, his father Peleus had dedicated his hair as an offering to be made to the River on his return, and to be accompanied by a hecatomb. This would have been a thank-offering; and as such, in accordance with the prayer of Ulysses, it implies the power of the River deity to confer benefits. Nor is that power rendered doubtful by the fact, that in the particular case the prayer is not fulfilled, and that the hair is therefore devoted to the remains of Patroclus. We may remark, again, the sacrifice offered, apparently almost as matter of course, by the Pylian army to Alpheus, on their merely reaching his banks[317]. And, as a whole, the multitudinous impersonations of natural objects in the Greek mythology are, both with Homer and in the later writers, of a benign and genial character. This bright and sunny aspect is in contrast with the formidable character of Scamander, and of the worship offered to him.

There is, perhaps, enough of resemblance between the Scamander of the Trojan mythology, and the Spercheus or Alpheus of the Greek, to suggest the question, whether the deification of this river may possibly have been due to the Hellic influences, which resided in the royal houses of the country. There are not wanting signs, that the family of Priam was closely connected with the river and its banks. The name given to Hector’s child is one such token; and we know that the mares of Erichthonius were fed upon the marshes near Scamander[318]. It is also worth observation that the Priest of Scamander was called Dolopion, while Dolops was the name of a son of Lampus, a Trojan of the highest[160] rank, brother to Priam, and one of the δημογέροντες of Troy[319].

But though there may be a special relation between the worship of Scamander, and the influence of the royal family, I think the explanation is chiefly to be sought in the specific differences which separate it from River-worship, as generally conceived in the Olympian system.

There is another aspect of River-worship in Greece, with which it seems to have more affinity. There is the terrible adjuration of Styx, which implies its vindictive agency[320]. This river is represented on earth by a branch from itself, called Titaresius, near the Perrhæbian Dodona[321]. The Rivers are expressly invoked, in this character, by Agamemnon in the adjuration of the Pact: and are associated with the deities that punish perjury after death. Moreover, it is curious that, when Agamemnon makes an adjuration before Greeks alone, he omits the appeal to the Rivers, whom he had named when he was acting for the two peoples jointly[322]. This seems to show that the invocation of Rivers, or of some class of Rivers, in a retributive capacity, was familiar, and may have been peculiar, to the Trojans.

True aspect of Trojan River-worship.

In effect, then, the grand distinction seems to be this. The worship of Scamander in Troas belonged to the elemental system and earth-worship, which the Greeks, for the purposes of their Olympus, had refined away into a poetical vivifying Power, replete with more bland influences: retaining it, more or less, for the purpose of adjuration, in the darker and sterner sense. Accordingly, while Scamander, who is also called Xanthus, has,[161] as a god, a mark of antiquity in the double name[323], he shows none of the Greek anthropophuistic ingredients. Even for speech and action, he does not take the human form; but he is, simply and strictly, the element alive.

The species of deification, implied in earth-worship, scarcely lifted the objects of it in any degree out of the sphere of purely material conceptions. Thus, while Scamander, from his superior power, is no more than Nature put in action, all the other Rivers of Troas exhibit to us Nature purely passive, a blind instrument in the hand of deity. The total silence and inaction of Simois[324], after the appeal of Scamander, makes his impersonality more conspicuous, than if he had not been addressed. Again, when the Greeks have quitted the country, Apollo takes up the streams of the eight rivers that descend from Ida, including great Scamander, like so many firemen’s hose, and turns them upon the rampart to destroy it. We have no example in Homer of this mechanical mode of handling Greek rivers.

The distinction of treatment seems to be due to a difference in the mythology of the two countries as its probable source. And I find an analogous method of proceeding with reference to the Winds. In the Iliad they are deities, addressed in prayer, and capable of receiving offerings. In the Odyssey they are mere senseless instruments of nature, under the control of Æolus. But then in the Iliad Homer deals with them for a Greek purpose (for I do not except the impersonation of Boreas, Il. xx. 203, where the Dardanid family is concerned): it is Achilles who prays to them: it is the Greek war-horse that they beget. In the Odyssey he introduces them amidst a system of foreign, that is to say, of Phœnician traditions.


Turning now to other objects, let us next see whether further inquiry will confirm the suggestions, which I have founded on the cases of Gaia and of Scamander.

At the head of Scamander are two fountains, and hard by them are the cisterns, which the women of the city frequent for washing clothes. Thus the spot is one of great notoriety; yet there is not a word of any deity connected with these fountains. This is in remarkable contrast with what we meet in Homer’s Greek topography. Ulysses[325], immediately on being aware that he has been disembarked in Ithaca, prays to the Nymphs of the grotto, which was dedicated to them. There they had their bowls and vases, and their distaffs of stone, with which they spun yarn of sea-purple[326]. And the harbour, in which he was landed, was the harbour of Phorcys, the old man of the sea[327]. So again at the fountain, where the people of the town drew water, there was an altar of the Nymphs that presided over it, upon which all the passers-by habitually made offerings[328]. Nor could this be wonderful, as all groves, all fountains, all meadows, and probably all mountains, had their proper indwelling Nymphs according to the Greek mythology; while the Rivers were impersonated as deities, and the sea too teemed at every point with preternatural life.

Trojan impersonations from Nature rare.

Homer has named many, besides Scamander, of the rivers of Mount Ida; but to none, not even to Simois, nor again to Ida or Gargarus themselves, does he assign any of these local inhabitants.

There are, however, three curious cases of Nymphs assigned by him to Troas. The νύμφη νηῒς, called Abarbaree, bears two sons to Bucolion[329], a spurious child of[163] Laomedon; and another nymph of the same class bears Satnius to Enops[330]. A third similar case is recorded in the Twentieth Book[331]. These would appear to be simple cases of spurious births, and to have no proper connection with mythology. For the mother of Satnius is called ἀμύμων; a name never applied by Homer to the Immortals. If, however, the Nymphs be deities, they mark another difference between Greece and Troy: for Homer never attributes lusts to the Nymphs of the Greek Olympus.

Amidst the whole detail of the Iliad, in one instance only have we Trojan Nymphs conceived after the Greek fashion: it is when those of the mountains, according to the speech of Andromache, planted elms round about the fresh-made tomb of her father Eetion.

As a general rule, no Trojan refers in speech either to any legend, or to any intermediate order, of supernatural beings. Destiny, named by Hecuba, is, as we have seen, a metaphysical idea, rather than a person[332].

The very name of Olympus itself is a symbol of nationality; and around it are grouped the forms, which either the popular belief, or the imagination of the Poet, incorporated into the company of objects for worship. They form a body wonderfully brilliant and diversified. They pervade the Greek mind in such a way, as to appear alike in its didactic, and its most deeply pathetic moods. The speech of Phœnix gives us the Parable of Ἄτη and the Λιταί: then the episode of Meleager, which is founded on the wrath of Diana: but into this legend itself, inserted into the speech, is again interpolated the separate legend of Apollo and Alcyone[333]. The speech of Agamemnon, in the Nine[164]teenth Book, affords us another example[334]. The case is the same in the most pathetic strains. Achilles, in the interview with Priam, exhorts him to take food by the example of Niobe, and appends her tale[335]: Penelope, praying to Diana in the extremity of her grief, recites the tale of the daughters of Pandareus[336]. Even the Suitor Antinous points his address to Ulysses with the semi-divine legend of the Centaurs and Lapithæ[337]. Everywhere, and from all the receptacles of thought, mythology overflows. But in Troy the case is quite different. There the human mind never seems to resort to it, either for food or in sport. We find deities, priests, prophets, ceremonial, all apparently in abundance: in all of these, except the first, the Greeks are much poorer; but each of them, in and for himself, is in contact with an entire supernatural world, the creation of luxuriant and energetic fancy, which ranges alike over the spheres of sense and of metaphysics. Andromache, virtuous and sincere as Penelope, has no such mental wealth; her thoughts, and those of Hecuba and Priam, both ordinarily and also on the death of Hector, are limited to topics the most obvious and primitive, with which society, however undeveloped, is familiar. From this limitation, and from the nature of those legends respecting deities, of which the scene is laid in Troas, it seems reasonable to believe that the mythological dress is of purely Hellenic origin.

The dedication to Jupiter of the lofty and beautiful chestnut-tree[338] near Troy, is in correspondence with the oak of Dodona, and indicates quite a different train of thought from those which conceived the Greek Olympus. It is probably both a fragment of nature-worship[165] in its Oriental form, and likewise a portion of the external and ritual development, in which the religion of Troy was evidently prolific enough. And in this case the negative evidence of Homer is especially strong; because the great number of the particular spots on the plain of Troy, which he has had occasion to commemorate, constitute a much more minute topography there, than he has given us on any other scene, not even excepting Ithaca: so that he could hardly have avoided showing us, had it been the fact, that the religion of Troy entered largely into what Mr. Grote has so well called ‘the religious and personal interpretation of nature.’

Next as to those divine persons of the second order, who are so abundantly presented to us by Homer in relations with the Greeks. Iris visits the Trojans thrice. First, she repairs to their Assembly in the form of Polites. Secondly, she appears to Helen, as her sister-in-law Laodice. She delivers her message to Priam in the Twenty-fourth Book without disguise; perhaps because it was necessary[339] that he should have the assistance of a deity seen and heard, in order to embolden him for a seemingly desperate enterprise. But there is nothing in his account of the interview, which requires us to suppose that the person Iris was known to Priam. The expression he uses is[340]

αὐτὸς γὰρ ἄκουσα θεοῦ καὶ ἐσέδρακον ἄντην.

And again, he calls her an Olympian messenger[341] from Jupiter. Another passage carries the argument a point further, by showing us that the appearance of this benignant deity was alarming, doubtless because it was strange, to him. When she arrives, she addresses him[166] very softly τυτθὸν φθεγξαμένη (170): but he is seized with dread;

τὸν δὲ τρόμος ἔλλαβε γυῖα·

an emotion, which I do not remember to have found recorded on any apparition of a divinity to a Greek hero.

Poverty of Trojan Mythology.

Thus far then it would appear probable, that in the Trojan mythology the list of major deities was more contracted than in Greece, and that the minor deities were almost unknown. But perhaps the most marked difference between the two systems is in the copious development on the Greek side of the doctrine of a future state, compared with the jejune and shadowy character of that belief among the Trojans.

Jejune doctrine of a Future State.

In the narrative of the sack of Hypoplacian Thebes, and again in her first lament over Hector, Andromache does indeed speak of her husband, father, and brothers, respectively, as having entered the dwellings of Aides[342]. But these references are slight, and it may almost be said perfunctory. Not another word is said either in the Twenty-second Book, or in the whole of the Twenty-fourth, about the shade of Hector.

When Pope closed his Iliad with the line

And peaceful slept the mighty Hector’s shade,

it probably did not occur to him, that he was not merely altering the poetry of Homer, but falsifying also his picture of the Trojan religion; which had indeed its funeral rites, but so described as to leave us no means of concluding, that they were in any degree directed to procuring the comfort and tranquillity of the dead. The silence observed about the spirit of Hector is remarkable from the contrast with the case[167] of Patroclus. Both are mourned for passionately, by those who love them best: but the shade of Patroclus is the great figure in the mourning of Achilles, while Hector’s existence after death is but once owned, faintly and in the abstract. Nor, as we see from the Odyssey, was this homage to the shade of Patroclus a thing occasional or accidental. We there meet the souls of all the great departed of the War, in the under-world. That region, opened to Ulysses, had formerly been opened to Hercules. Even the dissolute Suitors cannot be dismissed from life, without our being called to accompany their spirits past the Leucadian rock to the place of their destination. The warriors slain in battle with the Cicones are thrice invoked by the survivors[343]. Nay Elpenor himself, most insignificant of men, is duly brought before us in his last home[344].

We are, however, enabled to open another chapter of evidence, that bears upon this interesting subject. It is obtained through the medium of the oaths of the two nations respectively.

Displacing the elemental powers from their ordinary religion, the Greeks made them gaolers, as it were, of the under-world, and gave them this for their proper business. Hence they are paraded freely in the Greek oaths[345]. Agamemnon before the Pact invokes, with Jupiter, the Sun, the Rivers, the Earth, the infernal gods. In the Nineteenth book, the same; omitting however the Rivers, and naming, instead of simply describing, the Erinües[346]. In the Fourteenth Iliad, Juno apparently swears by Styx, Earth, Sea, and the infernal gods[347]. In the Fifteenth, by Earth, Heaven, Styx, the head of Jupiter, and their marriage bed[348]. Calypso[168] swears, for the satisfaction of Ulysses, and according to his fashion as the imponens, by Earth, Heaven, and Styx[349]. Thus the Greeks made an effective use of these earthy and material divinities, in connection with their large development of the Future State, by installing them as the official punishers of perjury. Now the Trojans appear, from what we have seen, to have worshipped this class of deities; but as super-terranean, not as sub-terranean gods. Had they not been thus worshipped at the least, Agamemnon could not have included them in the Invocation of the Pact, where he had to act and speak for both nations[350]. And while we see they sacrificed lambs to Earth and Sun, still we have a curious proof that these deities were not worshipped in Troy as avengers of perjury. For when in the Tenth Book Hector swears to Dolon, he invokes no divinity, except Jupiter the loud-thundering husband of Juno. There may, as we have seen here, be a faint reference to the earthy character of the Trojan Juno; but there is no well-developed system, which uses a particular order of powers for the punishment of perjurors in a future state. We can hardly doubt that this was primarily because the doctrine of the Future State was wanting in deep and practical roots, so far as we can see, among the Trojans. A materializing religion seems essentially hostile to the full development of such a doctrine. And it is not a little curious to find that in this same country, where the oath was less solemn than in Greece, and the life after death less a subject of practical and energetic belief, perjury and breach of faith should have been, as we shall find they were, so much more lightly regarded.

For the sake of realizing to ourselves the contrast[169] between the religious system of Troy, as we thus at least by glimpses seem to perceive it, and the wonderful imaginative richness of the preternatural system of the Greeks as exhibited in Homer, it may be well to point briefly to a few cases, which are the more illustrative, because they are the accessories, and not the main pillars of the system. Take, then, the personifications of all the forms of Terror in the train of Mars: the transport, by Sleep and Death, of the body of Sarpedon to his home; the tears of blood wept by Jupiter; the agitation of the sea in sympathy with Neptune’s warlike parade; the dread of Aidoneus lest the crust of earth should give way under the tramp of the gods in battle; the mourning garb of Thetis for the friend of her son’s youth; the long train of Nymphs, rising from the depths of the sea to accompany her, when she mounts to visit the sorrowing Achilles; the redundant imagery of the nether world; the inimitable tact with which he preserves the identity of his great chieftains when visited below, but presents each under a deep tint of sadness. All this makes us feel not only that war, policy, and poetry, are indissolubly blended in the great mind of Homer, and of his race, but that the harmonious association of all these with the Olympian religion was the work of a vivifying imagination, which was a peculiar and splendid part of their inheritance.

Worship from the hills.

There is a more marked trace in the Trojan worship, than is to be found among the Greeks, of the practice of the Persian; who paid homage to the Deity,

To loftiest heights ascending, from their tops,
With myrtle-wreathed tiara on his brow[351].

For Hector offered to Jupiter sometimes (which may[170] be referred to a different cause) on the highest ground of the city, sometimes on the tops of Ida[352]:

Ἴδης ἐν κορυφῇσι πολυπτύχου, ἀλλότε δ’ αὖτε
ἐν πόλει ἀκροτάτῃ.

At all events we may say, that the only sign remaining in Greece of this principle of worship, was one common to it with Troy, and seen in the epithet ὑψίζυγος applied to Jupiter, as well as in the association between the seats of the gods, and the highest mountains.

On the other hand, the religion of the Trojans appears to have abounded more in positive observance and hierarchical development, than that of the Greeks.

This subject may be considered with reference to the several subjects of

1. Temples.
2. Endowments (τεμένεα).
3. Groves.
4. Statues.
5. Seers or Prophets.
6. The Priesthood.

Troy and Greece as to Temples.

It has been debated, whether the Greeks of the Homeric age had yet begun to erect temples to the gods.

The only case of a temple, distinctly and expressly mentioned as existing in Greece, is in the passage of the Catalogue respecting the Athenians, on which there hangs a slight shade of doubt. But another passage, though it does not contain the word, seems to be conclusive as to the thing. It is that where Achilles mentions treasures, which lie within the stony threshold of Apollo at Pytho[353]:

οὐδ’ ὅσα λάϊνος οὐδὸς ἀφήτορος ἐντὸς ἐέργει,
Φοίβου Ἀπόλλωνος, Πυθοῖ ἔνι πετρήεσσῃ.

Though there may have been treasuries which were not temples, they could hardly have been treasuries of the gods: for in what sense could treasures be placed[171] under their special protection, unless by being deposited in places which were peculiarly theirs?

In the Odyssey, Eurylochus promises to build a temple to the Sun, on getting safe to Ithaca[354]; and Nausithous[355], the father of Alcinous, built temples of the gods in Scheria. Now Scheria was not Greece; yet it was more akin to Greece than to Troy.

It is, on the other hand, observable that, though under these circumstances we can hardly deny that temples existed among the Greeks, yet we have no case in Homer of a temple actually erected to a purely Hellic deity.

Our clear instances are, in fact, confined to the temples of Minerva at Troy and Athens, and the temples of Apollo at Troy, Chryse[356], and Pytho: and when we see old Nestor performing solemn sacrifice in the open air at Pylos, himself, too, a reputed grandchild of Neptune, we cannot suppose that it was usual with the Hellenes to worship Hellenic gods in temples. It is possible, though I would not presume to say more, that Apollo and Minerva may have been the only deities to whom it was usual in that age to erect temples, whether in Greece or Troy.

I must not, however, presume to dismiss this subject without noticing the line, Od. vi. 266;

ἔνθα δέ τέ σφ’ ἀγορὴ, καλὸν Ποσιδήϊον ἄμφις.

This verse is often interpreted as ‘the place of assembly round about the beautiful temple of Neptune.’ So Eustathius[357]: so one of the scholiasts: the other interprets it to mean a τέμενος only. Nitzsch, Terpstra[358] and Crusius take it for a temple. The word Ποσιδήϊον without a substantive is a form found nowhere else in[172] Homer: so that we have only the aid of reason to interpret it. Now, this ἀγορὴ was the place of the public assemblies for business. It is surely improbable, that there could have been a roofed temple in the midst of it, which would interrupt both sight and hearing. On the other hand, we know that before Troy the altars were in the ἀγορὴ of the camp[359]: and this would cause no inconvenience. It would seem then, that Ποσιδήϊον means not a covered temple, but a consecrated spot, in all likelihood inclosed, on which an altar stood.

I would not, however, argue absolutely upon the word νηὸν, in cases where it is found without a word signifying to construct, or other signs marking it as a building. For its resemblance to νήϊον raises the question, whether it may not originally have meant the consecrated land which passed under the name of τέμενος. If so, it may have had this sense in a passage like that of the Catalogue; where the epithet joined to it (ἑῷ ἐνὶ πίονι νηῷ) is one more suitable to the idea of a piece of ground, than of a temple; though applicable by Homeric usage to the latter too, and though sufficiently supported by μάλα πίονος ἐξ ἀδύτοιο. (Il. v. 512.)

2. The derivation of τέμενος is supposed, by some philologists, to be the same with that of templum. And if so, there is a marked analogy between this association and that of νηόν with νήϊον. Each would seem to indicate the customs of a race, which had both dedicated lands and a priesthood, before it began to raise sacred edifices.

As to endowments in land.

As respects the endowment in land, which was sometimes consecrated to the gods, and was called τέμενος, I presume we must conclude that, wherever such an endowment was found, there must have been a priesthood supported by it. For it is difficult to conceive what other[173] purpose could have been contemplated, at such a time, by such an appropriation of land. And again we may assume that, where the τέμενος or glebe existed, there would be if not a temple yet at least an altar, something which localized the worship in the particular spot.

It is indeed much more easy to suppose a temple without a priesthood, than a glebe. And here it is again remarkable, that we meet with no example in Homer of a glebe set apart for an exclusively Hellic god.

The cases of glebes, with which he supplies us, are these:

1. Of Ceres, a Pelasgian deity, in Thessaly, Il. ii. 696;

2. Of Jupiter, on Mount Gargarus in Troas, together with an altar, Il. viii. 48;

3. Of Venus, a Pelasgian deity, at Paphos in Cyprus, with an altar, Od. viii. 362;

4. Of Spercheius in Thessaly, with an altar, Il. xxiii. 148. As respects this case, we have indeed found, that the imaginative deification of Nature appears to have been Hellenic, and not Pelasgian. Still, with the case of Scamander before us, and considering that we find the τέμενος attached to Spercheius in an eminently Pelasgian district, while there is no example of such an inheritance for the deities among the Hellic tribes, it seems most rational to consider the appropriation of it as belonging to the Pelasgian period, and as having simply lived over into the Hellenic age.

3. The ἄλσος of Homer appears to be quite different from the τέμενος: and to mean rather what we should call a site for religious worship, as distinguished from an endowment which, as such, would produce the means of subsistence. Such places were required by the spirit of Hellenic religion, as much as by the Pelasgian wor[174]ship, and we find them accordingly disseminated as follows: we have

1. In Scheria, the ἄλσος of Minerva, Od. vi. 291, 321.

2. At Ismarus, the ἄλσος of Apollo, in which dwelt Maron the priest, Od. ix. 200.

3. In Ithaca, the ἄλσος of the Nymphs, with an altar, beside the fountain, where all passers-by offered sacrifice, Od. xvii. 205-11.

4. In Ithaca again, the ἄλσος of Apollo, where public sacrifice was performed in the city on his feast-day, Od. xx. 277, 8.

5. In Bœotia, Onchestus is called the ἄγλαον ἄλσος of Neptune, Il. ii. 506.

6. The ἄλσεα of Persephone are on the beach beyond Oceanus, and are composed of poplars and willows, Od. x. 509.

7. In the great Assembly of gods before the Theomachy, all the Nymphs are summoned, who inhabit ἄλσεα as well as fountains and meadows, Il. xx. 8. But here the meaning includes any grove, dedicated or not. And again,

8. The attendants of Circe are such as inhabit ἄλσεα, groves, or fountains, or rivers, Od. x. 350.

Thus the ἄλσος, when used in the religious sense, means a grove or clump of trees, sometimes with turf, or with a fountain; set apart as a place for worship, and inhabited by a deity or his ministers, yet quite distinct from a property capable of supporting them. These clumps appear to be so appropriated more commonly by Hellenic, than by Pelasgian practice.

As to statues of the gods.

4. We will take next the case of statues of the gods.

In the opinion of Mure, the metaphor which represents human affairs as resting in the lap of the gods (θεῶν ἐν γούνασι), gives conclusive evidence that the custom of[175] making statues of the deities prevailed among the Greeks. I do not however see why this particular figure should bear upon the question, more than any of the other very numerous representations which treat them as endowed with various members of the body. If this evidence be receivable at all, it is overwhelming. But it is open to some doubt, whether, because gods are mentally conceived according to the laws of anthropomorphism, we may therefore assume that they were also materially represented under the human form.

We have, I believe, no more than one single piece of direct evidence on the subject, and it is this; that, when the Trojan matrons carry their supplication to the temple of Minerva, together with the offering of a robe, they deposit it on her knees (Il. vi. 303), Ἀθηναίης ἐπὶ γούνασιν ἠϋκόμοιο. This appears to be quite conclusive as to the existence of a statue of Minerva at Troy: but it leaves the question entirely open, whether it was an Hellenic, as well as a Pelasgian, practice thus to represent the gods.

It is quite plain, I think, that the practice was not one congenial or familiar to the mind of Homer. Had it been so, he surely must have made large poetic use of it. Whereas on the contrary it is by inference alone, though certainly by unavoidable inference, from language which he uses without that intention, that we become assured even of their existence in his time. He speaks, indeed, more than once of placing ἀγάλματα in temples, or of suspending them in honour of the gods[360]: but our title to construe this of statues appears to be wholly conjectural.

It would seem inexplicable that a poet, who enlarges with so much power, not only on the Shield of Aga[176]memnon and the Arms of Achilles, but on the ideal Ægis of Minerva, the chariot of Juno, the bow of Apollo, and the metallic handmaids of Vulcan, should entirely avoid description of the statues of the Olympian gods, if they were habitually before his eyes.

I have argued elsewhere that we see in Homer the Hellenic, not the Pelasgian, mind. And if it be so, then I think we are justified in associating with his Hellenism, as one among many signs, this remarkable silence. The ritual and external development of Pelasgian religion would delight in statues as visible signs: the Hellenic idealism would not improbably eschew them. Hence we may treat this practice of the period as belonging to Pelasgian peculiarities.

If this be so, then I think we may pass on to the conclusion, that the original tendency to produce visible forms of the Divinity was not owing to, and formed no part of, the efforts of the human imagination, so largely developed in Homer, to idealize religion, and to beautify the world by its imagery. But, on the contrary, so far as we can judge from Homer, it first prevailed among a race inclined to material and earthy conceptions in theology, and from them it spread to others of higher intelligence. It was a crutch for the lameness of man, and not a wing for his upward aspirations.

And indeed, as it appears to me, this proposition is sustained even by the past experience and present state of Christendom. When faith was strongest, images were unknown to the faithful. Nor is it art, which produces them: it is merely a kind of corporal and mechanical imitation. No considerable work of art is at this moment, I believe, in any Christian country, an object of religious worship. The sentiment which craves for material representations of such objects in order to worship[177] them, appears also commonly to exact that they should be somewhat materialized. The higher office of art, in connection with devout affection, seems to be that it should point our veneration onwards, not arrest it. It holds out the finger which we are to follow, not the hand which we are to kiss.

As to Seers or Diviners.

The order of Seers or Diviners was common to Greeks, Trojans, and probably we may add, from its being known among the Cyclopes, to all contemporary races. It is singular that we should find here, and not among the priesthood, the traces of caste, or the hereditary descent of the gift. In all other points, this function stands apart from hierarchical developments. For the μάντις, except as to his gift, is like other men. Melampus engages to carry off oxen. Polypheides migrates upon a quarrel with his father. Cleitus is the lover of Aurora. Theoclymenus has committed homicide[361]. Teiresias is called ἄναξ, a lord or prince[362]. We do not know that Calchas fought as well as prophesied, but it may have been so, since Helenus, the son of Priam, and Eunomus, the Mysian leader, were seers or augurs not less than warriors. But the most instructive specimen of this order among the Greeks is the Suitor Leiodes[363], who was also θυοσκόος, or inspector of sacrifices, to the body of Suitors. Now Ulysses had, in consideration of a ransom, spared Maron the priest of Apollo at Ismarus[364]. But, far from recognising in the professional character of Leiodes a title to immunity, he answers the plea with characteristic and deadly repartee. And this, notwithstanding that Leiodes was, as we learn, distinguished from the rest of the Suitors by the general decency of his conduct.


The θυοσκόος apparently inspected sacrifices, but did not offer them; for this character is clearly distinguished in the Iliad[365] from that of the priest. Indeed, the word θύειν in Homer appears properly to apply to those minor offices of sacrifice, which did not involve the putting to death of victims; as in Il. ix. 219, where, it may be observed, the function is not performed by the principal person, but is deputed by Achilles to Patroclus. The inspection of slain animals would probably stand in the same category, among divine offices, as the interpretation of other signs and portents.

The members of this class are, upon the whole, as broadly distinguished from the priests in Homer, as are the prophets of the Old Testament from the Levitical priesthood.

They were called by the general name of μάντις, or by other names, some of them more limited: such as θεόπροπος, ὑποφήτης, οἰωνόπολος, ὀνειρόπολος. They sometimes interpreted from signs and omens; sometimes, as in Il. vi. 86, and vii. 44, without them.

The diffusion of the gift among the royal house of Troy, where Polydamas had it as well as Helenus, and possibly also Hector, is less marked than the great case of the family of Melampus. The augur was in all respects a citizen, while possessed of a peculiar endowment: and the ὑποφῆται[366] mentioned in the invocation of Achilles, whether they were the royal house, or persons dispersed through the community, evidently formed a more conspicuous object among the Helli than we find in any Pelasgian race. Again; in Greece we find the oracles of Delphi and Delos, as well as of Dodona; but there is no similar organ for the delivery of the divine will reported to us in Troy.


As to the Priesthood.

We come now to the last and most important point connected with the outward development of the religious system, that of the priesthood: and here I shall endeavour to describe distinctly the evidence with regard to both nations. First, let us consider the case of priesthood as it respects the Greeks.

We have at least one instance before us in the Iliad, where a combined religious action of Greeks and Trojans is presented to us. In the Third Book, Priam comes from Troy to an open space between the armies, and meets Agamemnon and Ulysses. The honour of actually offering the sacrifice is allotted to the Greeks. No priest appears; and the function is performed by the King, Agamemnon. It is therefore natural to suppose that the Greeks have with them in Troas no sacrificing priest. On every occasion, the Greek Sovereign offers sacrifice for himself and for the army. So also do the soldiery[367] at large for themselves;

ἄλλος δ’ ἄλλῳ ἔρεζε θεῶν αἰειγενετάων.

There was an altar[368] for the very purpose in the part of the camp appropriated for Assemblies; a fact which, though it does not demonstrate, accords with the union of the regal and sacerdotal functions. Nor can we account for the absence of priests from the camp, on the same principle as for that of bards; since poems were a luxury, but sacrifices a necessity. And we find Calchas representing the class of religious functionaries that the Greek nation did acknowledge; namely, the Seers, who interpreted the divine will, without any fixed ministry belonging to any particular place, although the gift was generally derived from Apollo, as one among his peculiar attributes.

In the remarkable passage, which enumerates for us[180] the principal trades and professions of Greece in the heroic age[369], we find mentioned the prophet, the physician, the artificer, the divinely prompted bard; but not the priest. Yet, had such an order existed, it could not well, on account of its importance, have been omitted. For in truth this enumeration is, as we have before seen, nearly exhaustive, as applied to an age when there was no professional soldier, when the husbandman, fisherman, or herd, could not be called a δημιοεργὸς, for he had no relation to the public, and when commerce was confined to foreigners like the Phœnicians, or pirates like the Taphians, and formed no part of the business of the settled communities of Greece.

On the other hand, in the Legend of Phœnix concerning Meleager, we have a notice of priests as having existed at that time in Ætolia. The embassy, which was sent to conciliate Meleager, consisted of elders and of the best, or most distinguished, among the priests;

τὸν δὲ λίσσοντο γέροντες
Αἰτωλῶν, πέμπον δὲ θεῶν ἱερῆας ἀρίστους. Il. ix. 574.

Now, the word Αἰτωλὸς, I apprehend, indicates an Hellenic race, for Tydeus is Αἰτώλιος; and it is worth notice, that in this passage the elders are called Ætolian, but not the priests.

Again, this event took place during the reign of Œneus, two generations before the Trojan war[370]. At that time the Hellenic influence was quite recent in Middle and in Southern Greece. The family of Sisyphus had indeed arrived there at least two generations before, but it disappeared, and it had never risen to great power. It was the date of Augeias, of Neleus, and of Pelops; all of them, apparently, the first of their respective families in Peloponnesus. So again the name[181] Portheus, assigned to the father of Œneus, probably marks him as the first Hellenic occupant of the country.

Plato observes, that new settlers might naturally remain for a time without religious institutions[371] of their own.

The Hellenes, then, had recently come into Ætolia at the time, and even on this ground were less likely to have had priests of their own institution. But it is not to be supposed that, finding a hierarchy among the Pelasgian tribes, devoted to the worship of such deities (Minerva and Apollo for example) as they themselves acknowledged, they would extirpate such a body. The most probable supposition is, that it would continue in all cases for a time. The person of Chryses, the priest of Apollo, was respected, at least for the moment, even by Agamemnon[372] in his displeasure. Fearless of his threats, the injured priest immediately appealed to his god for aid. We cannot doubt that interests thus defended would be generally left intact. Still, as priests were, in the language of political economy, unproductive labourers, and as they seem to have held their offices not by descent but by election, we can easily perceive a road, other than that of violence, to the extinction of the order among a people that set no store by its services.

There is yet another place, in which the name is mentioned among the Greeks. It is in the Assembly of the First Iliad, held while the plague is raging. Achilles says, ‘Let us inquire of some prophet, or priest, or interpreter of dreams (for dreams too are from Jupiter), who will tell us, why Apollo is so much exasperated[373].’ But the allusion here seems plainly to be to Chryses, who had himself visited the camp, and had appeared with the insignia of his priestly office in[182] a previous Assembly of the Greeks[374]. Being now in possession of the whole open country, they of course had it in their power to consult either him or any other Trojan priest not within the walls. We cannot, therefore, argue from this passage, that priesthood was a recognised Hellenic institution at the period.

In the Odyssey, we find Menelaus engaged in the solemn rites of a great nuptial feast; and Nestor in like manner offering sacrifice to Neptune, his titular ancestor, in the presence of thousands of the people. In neither of these cases is there any reference to a priest: and on the following day Nestor with his sons offers a new sacrifice, of which the fullest details are given.

Again, had there been priests among the Homeric Greeks, it is hardly possible but that we must have had some glimpse of them in Ithaca, where the order of the community and the whole course of Greek life are so clearly laid open.

An important piece of negative evidence to the same effect is afforded by the great invocation of Achilles in the Sixteenth Iliad. It will be remembered, that we there find the rude highland tribe of the Helli in possession of the country where Dodona was seated, together with the worship of the Pelasgian Jupiter; and themselves apparently exercising the ministry of the god. Now that ministry was not priesthood, but interpretation; for they are ὑποφῆται, not ἱερῆες[375].

It therefore appears clear, that the Hellenic tribes of Homer’s day did not acknowledge a professional priesthood of their own; that there was no priest in the Greek armament before Troy; that the priest was not a constituent part of ordinary Greek communities: and that, if he was any where to be found in the[183] Homeric times, it was as a relic, and in connection with the old Pelasgian establishments of the country.

At a later period, when wealth and splendour had increased, and when the increased demand for them extended also to religious rites, the priesthood became a regular institution of Greece. It is reckoned by Aristotle, in the Politics, among the necessary elements of a State; while he seems also to regard it as the natural employment of those, who are disqualified by age from the performance of more active duties to the public, either in war or in council. The priest was, even in Homer’s time, a distinctly privileged person. Like other people, he married and had children: but his burdens were not of the heaviest. He would live well on sacrifices, and the proceeds of glebe-land: and it is curious, that Maron the priest had the very best wine of which we hear in the poems[376]. The priest formed no part of the teaching power of the community, either in this or in later ages. Döllinger makes the observation[377], that Plutarch points out as the sources of religious instruction three classes of men, among whom the priests are not even included. They are (1) the poets, (2) the lawgivers, and (3) the philosophers: to whom Dio Chrysostom adds the painters and sculptors. So that Isocrates may well observe, that the priesthood is anybody’s affair. Plato[378] in the Νόμοι requires his priests, and their parents too, to be free from blemish and from crime: but carefully appoints a separate class of ἐξηγηταὶ, to superintend and interpret the laws of religion; as well as stewards, who are to have charge of the consecrated property.

The priest of the heroic age would however appear[184] to have slightly shared in the office of the μάντις, although the μάντις had no special concern with the offering of sacrifice. The inspection of victims would fall to priests, almost of course, in a greater or a less degree; and there is some evidence before us, that they were entitled to interpret the divine will. It is furnished by the speech of Achilles[379], which appears to imply some professional capacity of this kind: and, for Troy at least, by the declaration[380] of Priam, who mentions priests among the persons, that might have been employed to report to him a communication from heaven.

We have now seen the case of priesthood among the Greeks. With the Trojans it is quite otherwise. We are introduced, at the very beginning of the Iliad, to Chryses[381] the priest (ἱερεὺς) of Apollo. In the fifth Iliad we have a Trojan[382], Dares, who is priest of Vulcan; and we have also Dolopion, who, as ἀρητὴρ[383] of the Scamander, filled an office apparently equivalent. Chryses the priest is also called an ἀρητήρ[384]; and though, on the other hand, it was the duty of Leiodes in the Odyssey to offer[385] prayer on behalf of the Suitors, yet he is never termed ἀρητήρ. In the Sixth Iliad appears Theano, wife of Antenor, and priestess of Minerva[386]. And in the Sixteenth, we have Onetor[387], priest of Idæan Jupiter. Again, while Eumæus in the Odyssey does not recognise the priest among the Greek professions, but substitutes the prophet, Priam, on the contrary, in the Twenty-fourth Iliad, says he would not have obeyed the injunction to go to the Greek camp if conveyed to him by any mortal, of such as are in these professions[388],

ἢ οἳ μάντιές εἰσι, θυοσκόοι, ἢ ἱερῆες,


where it might be questioned, whether μάντις and θυοσκόος are different persons, or whether he speaks of the μάντις θυοσκόος; but in either case it is equally clear that he names the priest, ἱερεὺς, apart from either. The speech of Mentes, in Od. i. 202, probably suffices to draw the line between the μάντις and the θυοσκόος.

It further appears that among the allies of Troy, as well as in the country, the priest was known; for in the Ninth Odyssey we find Maron, son of Euanthes the priest of Apollo at Ismarus[389], among the Cicones. The city they inhabited was sacked by Ulysses on his way from Troy, and on this account we must infer that, as they were allies of Troy (Il. ii. 846), so likewise they belonged to the family of Pelasgian tribes.

To these priests, personally engaged in the service of the deities, a personal veneration, and an exemption from military service, appear to have attached, which were not enjoyed by the μάντιες. This is plainly developed in the case of Chryses. The offence is not that of carrying off a captive, for there could be no guilt in the act, as such matters were then considered, but rather honour: it is the insult offered to Apollo in the person of his servant, by subjecting his daughter to the common lot of women of all ranks, including the highest, that draws down a frightful vengeance on the army. So, again, the priest never fought; Dolopion, Dares, and Onetor, all become known to us through their having sons in the army, whose parentage is mentioned. And as to the priest Maron, Ulysses says he was spared from a feeling of awe towards the god, in whose wooded grove, or portion, he resided[390]:

οὕνεκά μιν σὺν παιδὶ περισχόμεθ’ ἠδὲ γυναικὶ
ἁζόμενοι· ᾤκει γὰρ ἐν ἄλσεϊ δενδρήεντι
Φοίβου Ἀπόλλωνος.


But it does not appear that the μάντις, though he was endowed with a particular gift, bore, in respect of it, such a character, as would suffice to separate him from ordinary civil duties, and to make him, like the priest, a clearly privileged person.

Upon the other hand, we should not omit to notice that we are told in the case of Theano, though she was of high birth and the wife of Antenor, that she was made priestess by the Trojan people. The same fact is probably indicated in the case of Dolopion, who, we are told, had been made or appointed ἀρητὴρ to Scamander (ἀρητὴρ ἐτέτυκτο Il. v. 77). And the appearance of the sons of priests in the field appears to show, that there was nothing like hereditary succession in the order; which was replenished, we may probably conclude, by selections having the authority or the assent of the public voice. Thus the body was popularly constituted, and was in thorough harmony with the national character. It does not, on that account, constitute a less important element in the community, but rather the reverse.

Now, whatever might be the other moral and social consequences of having in the community an order of men set apart to maintain the solemn worship of the gods, it must evidently have exercised a very powerful influence in the maintenance of abundance and punctuality in ritual observances. There can be no doubt, that the priest lived by the altar which he served, and lived the better in proportion as it was better supplied. Besides animals, cakes of flour too, and wine, were necessary for the due performance of his office[391]; and in the case of Maron this wine was so good, that the priest kept it secret from his servants, and that it has drawn forth the Poet’s most genial praise[392]:

ἡδὺν, ἀκηράσιον, θεῖον ποτόν·


He was rich too; for he had men and women servants in his house. So was Dares, the priest of Vulcan[393]. So probably was Dolopion, priest of Scamander; at any rate his station was a high one; as we see from the kind of respect paid to him (θεὸς δ’ ὡς τίετο δήμῳ); and we have another sign in both these cases of the station of the parents, from the position of the sons in the army, which is not among the common soldiery (πληθὺς), but among the notables. The sons of Dares fight in a chariot; and the name of Hypsenor, son of Dolopion, by its etymology indicates high birth.

Comparative observance of Sacrifice.

In point of fact the Homeric poems exhibit to us, together with the existence and influence of a priestly order, a very marked distinction in respect to sacrifice between the Trojans and the Greeks: a state of things in entire conformity with what we might thus expect.

In no single instance do we hear of a Trojan chief, who had been niggardly in his banquets to the gods. Hector[394] is expressly praised for his liberality in this respect by Jupiter, and Æneas by Neptune[395]. The commendation, however, extends to the whole community. In the Olympian Assembly of the Fourth Book, Jupiter says that, of all the cities inhabited by men, Troy is to him the dearest; for there his altar never lacked the sacrifice, the libation and the savoury reek, which are the portion of the gods[396]:

οὐ γάρ μοί ποτε βωμὸς ἐδεύετο δαιτὸς ἐΐσης,
λοιβῆς τε κνίσης τε· τὸ γὰρ λάχομεν γέρας ἡμεῖς.

But the Greeks, thus destitute of priests, often fail, as we might expect, in the regularity of their religious rites. Ulysses[397], indeed, is in this, as in all the points of excellence, unimpeachable. But his was not the rule[188] of all. Œneus, two generations before the Troica, while sacrificing to the other deities, either forgot or did not think fit (ἢ λάθετ’ ἢ οὐκ ἐνόησεν) to sacrifice to Diana[398]; hence the devastations of the Calydonian boar. Nor is his the only case in point.

The account given by Nestor to Telemachus in the Third Odyssey is somewhat obscure in this particular. He says that, after the Greeks embarked, the deity dispersed them; and that then Jupiter ordained the misfortunes of their return, since they were not all intelligent and righteous[399]. It appears to be here intimated, that the Greeks in the first flush of victory forgot the influence of heaven; and that an omission of the proper sacrifices was the cause of the first dispersion.

After they collect again in Troas, the Atreid brothers differ, as Menelaus proposes to start again, and Agamemnon to remain, and offer sacrifices in order to appease Minerva; but, as Nestor adds, the deities are not so soon appeased. Agamemnon, therefore, seems to have been too late with his celebration; and Menelaus, again, to have omitted it altogether.

The party who side with Menelaus offer sacrifices on their arrival at Tenedos, seemingly to repair the former error: but Jupiter is incensed, and causes them to fall out anew among themselves. A portion of them return once more to Agamemnon[400].

Menelaus finds his way to Lesbos, and then sails as far as Malea. Here he encounters a storm, and with part of his ships he gets to Egypt: where he is again detained by the deities, because he did not offer up the proper hecatombs[401]. Such remissness is the more re[189]markable, because Menelaus certainly appears to be one of the most virtuous characters in the Greek host.

The course, however, of the siege itself affords a very marked instance, in which the whole body of the Greeks was guilty of omitting the regular sacrifices proper to be used in the inauguration of a great undertaking. In the hasty construction of the trench and rampart, they apparently forgot the hecatombs[402]. Neptune immediately points out the error in the Olympian Court; and uses it in aid of his displeasure at a work, which he thinks will eclipse the wall of Troy, executed for Laomedon by himself in conjunction with Apollo. Jupiter forthwith agrees[403], that after the siege he shall destroy it. And the Poet, returning to the subject at the commencement of the Twelfth Book, observes that the work could not last, because it was constructed without enlisting in its favour the good will of the Immortals[404]. This omission of the Greeks is the more characteristic and remarkable, because the moment when they erected the rampart was a moment of apprehension, almost of distress.

Thus, then, it appears that, as a nation, the Trojans were much more given to religious observances of a positive kind, than the Greeks. They were, like the Athenians[405] at a later epoch, δεισιδαιμονέστεροι. And, again, as between one Greek and another, there is no doubt that the good are generally, though not invariably, scrupulous in this respect, and the bad commonly careless. Thus much is implied particularly in Od. iii. 131, as well as conclusively shown in the general order of the Odyssey. But, as between the two nations, we cannot conceive that the Poet had any corresponding[190] intention. Although a more scrupulous formality in religion marks the Trojans than the Greeks, and although in itself, and cæteris paribus, this may be the appropriate sign of piety, yet it is a sign only; as a sign it may be made a substitute, and, as a substitute, it becomes the characteristic of Ægisthus and Autolycus, no less than it is of Eumæus and Ulysses. As between the two nations, the difference is evidently associated with other differences in national character and morality. We must look therefore for broader grounds, upon which to form an estimate of the comparative virtue of the two nations, than either the populousness of Olympus on the one side, or the array of priests and temples on the other.

Nowhere do the signs of historic aim in Homer seem to me more evident, than in his very distinct delineations of national character on the Greek and the Trojan part respectively. But this is a general proposition; and it must be understood with a certain reservation as to details.

Two modes of handling for Greece and Troy.

It does not appear to me that Homer has studied the more minute points of consistency in motive and action among the Trojans of the poem, in the same degree as among the Greeks. He has (so to speak) manœuvred them as subsidiary figures, with a view to enhancing and setting off those in whom he has intended and caused the principal interest to centre; not so as to destroy or diminish effects of individual character, but so as to give to the collective or joint action on the Trojan side a subordinate and ministerial function in the machinery of the poem. As Homer sung to Greeks, and Greeks were his judges and patrons as well as his theme, nay rather as his heart and soul were Greek, so on the Greek side the chain of events is closely knit; if its[191] direction changes, there is an adequate cause, as in the vehemence of Achilles, or the vacillation of Agamemnon. But he did not sing to Trojans; and so, among the Trojans of the Iliad, there are as it were stitches dropped in the web, and the connection is much less carefully elaborated. Thus they acquiesce in the breach of covenant after the single combat of the Third Book, although the evident wish among them, independent of obligation, was for its fulfilment[406]. Then in the Fourth Book, after the treachery of Pandarus, the Trojans not only do not resent it, but they recommence the fight while the Greek chiefs are tending the wounded Menelaus[407]; which conduct exhibits, if the phrase may be permitted, an extravagance of disregard to the obligations of truth and honour. Hector, in the Sixth Book, quits the battle field upon an errand, to which it is hardly possible to assign a poetical sufficiency of cause, unless we refer it to the readiness which he not unfrequently shows to keep himself out of the fight. Again, there is something awkward and out of keeping in his manner of dealing with the Fabian recommendations of Polydamas when the crisis approaches. Some of these he accepts, and some he rejects, without adequate reason for the difference, except that he is preparing himself as an illustrious victim for Achilles, and that he must act foolishly in order that the superior hero, and with him the poem itself, may not be baulked of their purpose.

Thus, again, Homer has given us a pretty clear idea even of the respective ages of the Greek chiefs. It can hardly be doubted that Nestor stands first, Idomeneus second, Ulysses third: while Diomed and Antilochus are the youngest; Ajax and Achilles probably the next. But as to Paris, Helenus, Æneas, Sarpedon, Poly[192]damas, we find no conclusion as to their respective ages derivable from the poem.

Yet though Homer may use a greater degree of liberty in one case, and a lesser in another, as to the mode of setting his jewels, he always adheres to the general laws of truth and nature as they address themselves to his poetical purpose. Thus there may be reason to doubt, whether he observed the same rigid topographical accuracy in dealing with the plain of Troy, as he has evinced in the Greek Catalogue: but he has used materials, all of which the region supplied; and he has arranged them clearly, as a poetic whole, before the mental eye of those with whom he had to do. Even so we may be prepared to find that he deals with the moral as with the material Troas, allowing himself somewhat more of license, burdening himself with somewhat less of care. And then we need not be surprised at secondary or inferential inconsistencies in the action, as respects the Trojan people, because it has not been worth his while to work the delineation of them, in its details, up to his highest standard; yet we may rely upon his general representations, and we are probably on secure ground in contemplating all the main features of Trojan life and character as not less deliberately drawn, than those of the Greeks. For, in truth, it was requisite, in order to give full effect among his countrymen to the Greek portrait, that they should be able, at least up to a certain point, to compare it with the Trojan.

Moral superiority of his Greeks.

Regarding the subject from this point of view, I should say that Homer has, upon the whole, assigned to the Greeks a moral superiority over the Trojans, not less real, though less broad and more chequered, than that which he has given them in the spheres of[193] intellectual and of military excellence. But, in all cases alike, he has pursued the same method of casting the balance. He eschews the vulgar and commonplace expedient of a formal award: he decides this and every other question through the medium of action. The first thing, therefore, to be done is, to inquire into the morality of his contemporaries, as it is exhibited through the main action of the poems.

It is admitted on all hands that, in the ethical picture of the Odyssey, the distinctions of right and wrong are broad, clear, and conspicuous. But the case of the Iliad is not so simple. The conduct of Paris, which leads to the war, is so flagrant and vile, and the conduct of the Greeks in demanding the restoration of Helen before they resort to force, so just and reasonable, that it is not unnaturally made matter of surprise that any war could ever have arisen upon such a subject, except the war of a wronged and justly incensed people against mere ruffians, traitors, and pirates. The Trojans appear at first sight simply as assertors of a wrong the most gross and aggravated, even in its original form; their iniquity is further darkened by obstinacy, and their cause is the cause of enmity to every law, human and divine. Yet the Greeks do not assume to themselves, in connection with the cause of the war, to stand upon a different level of morality: and the amiable affections, with the sense of humanity, if not the principles of honour and justice, are exhibited in the detail of the Iliad as prevailing among the Trojans, little less than among the Greeks.

Now, let us first endeavour to clear away some misapprehensions that simply darken the case: and after this let us inquire what exhibition Homer has really given us of the moral sense of the Greeks and the[194] Trojans respectively, in connection with the crime of Paris.

In the first place, something is due to the falsification by later poets of the Homeric tradition: and to the reflex affiliation upon Homer of those traits which, through the influence first of the Cyclic poets, probably exaggerating the case in order to conceal their relative want of strength, and then of the tragedians and Virgil, have come to be taken for granted as genuine parts of the original portraiture.

According to the Argument of the Κύπρια Ἔπη, as it has been handed down to us, Paris, having been received in hospitality by Menelaus, was left by him under the friendly care of his wife, on his setting out for Crete. He then corrupted Helen; and induced her, after being corrupted, to elope with him, and with the greater part of the moveable goods of Menelaus.

Upon this tale our ideas have been formed, and, this being so, we marvel why Homer does not make the Greeks feel more indignation at a proceeding which simply combined treachery, robbery, and adultery. As he prizes so highly the rights of guests, and pitches their gratitude accordingly, we cannot understand how he should be so insensible to the grossest imaginable breach of their obligations.

Homer’s account of the abduction.

Homer is here made responsible for that which, in part, he does not tell us, and which is positively, as well as inferentially, at variance with what he does tell us. He tells us absolutely, that Helen was not inveigled into leaving Sparta, but carried off by force: and that the crime of adultery was committed after, and not before, her abduction.

This difference alters the character of the deed of Paris, in a manner by no means so insignificant ac[195]cording to the heroic standard of morality, as according to ours. As it seems plain from Homer’s expression, ἁρπάξας[408], that Paris carried off Helen in the first instance by an act of violence, so also it is probable that, when the first adultery was committed in the island of Cranae, he was her ravisher much more than her corrupter. Her offence appears to have consisted mainly in the mere acceptance, at what precise date we know not, of the relation thus brought into existence between them, and in compliances that with the lapse of time naturally followed, such as the visit to the Trojan horse. It would have been, however, under all the circumstances, an act of superhuman rather than of human virtue, if she had refused, through the long years of her residence abroad, to recognise Paris as a husband: and accordingly the light, in which she is presented to us by the Poet, is that of a sufferer infinitely more than of an offender[409].

When we regard Helen from this point of view, we perceive that Homer’s narrative is at least in perfect keeping with itself. The Greeks have made war to avenge the wrongs of Helen not less than those of Menelaus: nay, Menelaus himself, the keenest of them all, is keen on her behalf even more than on his own[410]. He regards her as a person stolen from him: and the Greeks regard Paris only as the robber.

We have no reason to suppose the Cyprian Epic to be a trustworthy supplement to the narrative of Homer. We have seen some important points of discrepancy from the Iliad. And there are others. For instance, this poem makes Pollux immortal and Castor only mortal, while Homer acquaints us in the Iliad with the interment of both, and in the Odyssey with their restoration[196] on equal terms to an alternate life. It gives Agamemnon four daughters, the Iliad but three. It brings Briseis from Pedasus, the Iliad brings her from Lyrnessus. And there is other matter in the plot, that does not appear to correspond at all with the modes of Homeric conception[411]. Had Homer told us the same story as the Cyprian Epic, he would perhaps have made his countrymen express all the indignation we could desire.

And now let us consider what is the view taken of the abduction in the Iliad by the various persons whose sentiments are made known to us: and how far that view can be accounted for by the general tone of the age, or by what was peculiar to the character and institutions of each people respectively.

Helen herself nowhere utters a word of attachment or of respect to Paris. Even of his passions she appears to have been the reluctant, rather than the willing instrument. She thinks alike meanly of his understanding[412] and of his courage[413]: and he shares[414] in the rebukes which she everywhere heaps upon herself; though, with the delicacy and high refinement of her irresolute but gentle character, she never reproaches him in the presence of his parents, by whom he continued to be loved.

To the Trojan people he was unequivocally hateful[415]. They would have pointed him out to Agamemnon, if they could: for they detested him like black Death. It was by a mixture of bribery and the daring assertion of authority, that he checked those movements in the Assembly, which had it for their object to enforce the restoration of Helen to Menelaus[416]. Of all his countrymen,[197] Hector appears to have been most alive to his guilt, and is alone in reproaching him with it[417]. It is under the influence of a sharp rebuke from Hector, that he proposes to undertake a single combat with Menelaus[418].

The Greek estimate of Paris.

The only persons on the Greek side, who utter any strong sentiment in respect to Paris, are Diomed and Menelaus. This is singular; for when we consider what was the cause of war, we might have expected, perhaps, that recurrence to it would be popular and constant among the Greeks. Nor is this all that may excite surprise. Diomed is unmeasured in vituperating Paris, but it is for his cowardice and effeminacy. The only word, which comes at all near the subject of his crime, is παρθενοπῖπα: and by mocking him as a dangler after virgins, the brave son of Tydeus shows how small a place the original treachery of Paris occupied in his mind.

Menelaus, indeed, has a keen sense of the specific nature and malignity of the outrage. He beseeches Jupiter to strengthen his hand against the man who has done such deadly wrong, not to him only, but to all the laws which unite mankind:

ὄφρα τις ἐρρίγῃσι καὶ ὀψιγόνων ἀνθρώπων
ξεινοδόκον κακὰ ῥέξαι, ὅ κεν φιλότητα παράσχῃ[419].

But then Homer has already, in the Catalogue, introduced Menelaus to us as distinguished from the rest of his countrymen, by his greater keenness to revenge the wrongs and groans of Helen[420]. Accordingly, the injured husband returns on other occasions to the topic: calls the Trojans κακαὶ κύνες, and invokes upon them the anger of Ζεὺς ξείνιος, the Jupiter of hospitality[421];


οἵ μευ κουριδίην ἄλοχον καὶ κτῄματα πολλὰ
μὰψ οἴχεσθ’ ἀνάγοντες, ἐπεὶ φιλέεσθε παρ’ αὐτῇ.

Thus it is plain, that Menelaus resents not only a privation and an act of piracy, but a base and black breach of faith. It is quite plain, on the other hand, that in this respect he stands alone among his countrymen. They, regarding the matter more crudely, and from a distance, appear to see in it little beyond a violent abduction, which it is perfectly right, for those who can, to resent and retrieve, but which implies no extraordinary and damning guilt in the perpetrator.

Hence probably that singular appearance of apathy on the part of the Greeks, which might at first sight seem to entail on them a moral reproach, in some degree allied to that which justly attaches itself to the Trojan community. It is not possible, indeed, to take a full measure of their state of mind in regard to the crime of Paris, without condemning the views and propensities to which it was due. But the causes were various: and the blame they may deserve is both very different from that which must fall upon the Trojans, and is also different in a mode, which may help to illustrate some main distinctions in the two national characters.

I speak here, as everywhere, of the adjustment of acts and motives in the poem as poetical facts, that is to say, as placed relatively to one another with care and accuracy in order to certain effects; and as liable to be tried under the law of effect, just as, in a simple history, all particulars alleged are liable to be tried under the law of fact. The assumption of truth or fable in the poem does not materially widen or narrow the field of poetical discussion. The critic looks for consistency as between motive and action, causes and effects, in the[199] voyage to Lilliput or Laputa, as well as in Thucydides or Clarendon. The difference is that, in the one case, our discussion terminates with the genius of the inventor; in the other we are verifying the life and condition of mankind.

If then we admit the abduction, and inquire for what probable cause it is that the wrong, being so obvious and gross, was not more prominent in the mind of the people who had endured it, a part at least of the answer is this. We do not require to go back three thousand years in the history of the world in order to learn how often it happens that, when a conflict has arisen between nations, the original causes of quarrel tend irresistibly to become absorbed and lost in its incidents. As long as honour and security are held to depend more on strength than on right, relative strength must often prevail over relative right in the decision of questions, where the arbitrement of battle has been invoked. Both the willingness of the Trojans to restore, and the willingness of the Greeks to accept the atonement, may be expedients of the Poet to give a certain moral harmony to his work; of which it is a marked feature that it artfully divides our sympathies throughout, so far at least as is needed for the interest of the poem. On the one side, the ambition and rapacity of Agamemnon may have induced him not only not to seek, but even to decline or discourage accommodation; which, we may observe, he never promotes in the Iliad. Having got a fair cause of war, he may have been bent on making the most of it, and confident, as Thucydides believes he was, in his power to turn it to account. While, on the other hand, Troy was not so far from or so strange to Greece, as to be exempt from the fear of appearing afraid; and,[200] until it had become too late, she may have thought her safety would be compromised by the surrender of Helen.

Here may be reasons why restitution was neither given on the one side, nor steadily kept in view on the other: especially as it was of course included in the idea of the capture of the city. But it is not clear that this was enough to account for the apathy of the Greeks in general with respect to the crime of Paris, which we might have expected to find a favourite and familiar topic with his enemies at large, instead of being confined, as it is, to the immediate sufferer by the wrong.

Its relation to prevailing views of marriage.

Now, the answer to this question must after all be sought partly in the prevalent ideas of the heroic age; and partly in those which were peculiar more or less to the Greek people.

According to Christian morality, the abduction and appropriation of a married woman is not simply a crime when committed, but it is a crime that is aggravated by every day, during which her relation with her seducer or ravisher is continued. This was not so in the heroic age.

We have examples in the poems of what Homer considers to be a continued course of crime. Such is the conduct of the Suitors in the Odyssey, who for years together waste the substance of Ulysses, woo his wife, oppress his son, and cohabit with the servants. This was habitual crime, crime voluntarily and deliberately persevered in, when it might at any time have been renounced.

This vicious course of the Suitors is never called by Homer an ἄτη; it is described by the names of ἀτασθαλίαι and ὑπερβασίη[422]. So likewise the series of enor[201]mities committed by Ægisthus, the corruption of Clytemnestra, the murder of her husband, the expulsion of Orestes and prolonged usurpation of the throne; these are never called by the name of ἄτη; but ἄτη, and not one of the severer names quoted above, is the appellation always given by Homer to the crime of Paris.

The ἄτη of a man is a crime so far partaking of the nature of error, that it is done under the influence of passion or weakness; perhaps excluding premeditation, perhaps such that its consequences follow spontaneously in its train, without a new act of will to draw them, so that the act, when once committed, is practically irretrievable. Something, according to Homer, was evidently wanting in the crime of Paris, to sink it to the lower depths of blackness. Perhaps we may find it partly in the nature of marriage, as it was viewed by his age.

Having taken Helen to Troy, he made her his wife, and his wife she continued until the end of the siege. We should of course say he did not make her his wife, for she was the wife of another man. But the distinction between marriage de facto and marriage de jure, clear to us in the light of Divine Revelation, was less clear to the age of Homer. Helen was to Paris the mistress of his household; the possessor of his affections, such as they were; the sole sharer, apparently, of his dignities and of his bed. To the mind of that period there was nothing dishonourable in the connection itself, apart from its origin; while, to our mind, every day of its continuance was a fresh accumulation of its guilt. The higher wrong of wounded and defrauded affections was personal to Menelaus. In the aspect it presented to the general understanding, the act of Paris, once committed, and sealed by the establishment of the de facto conjugal relation, remained an act of plunder and nothing else.


And to Greek views of homicide.

To comprehend these notions, so widely differing from our own, we may seek their further illustration by a reference to the established view of homicide. He, who had taken the life of a fellow creature, was bound to make atonement by the payment of a fine. If he offered that atonement, it was not only the custom, but the duty, of the relations of the slain man to accept it. So much so, that the blunt mind of Ajax takes this ground as the simplest and surest for argument with Achilles, whom he urges not to refuse reparation offered by Agamemnon, in consideration that reparation (ποίνη) covers the slaughter of a brother or a son. Beforehand, the Greek would have scorned to accept a price for life. But, the deed being done, it came into the category of exchangeable values. Even so the abstraction of Helen, once committed, assumed for the common mind the character of an act of plunder, differing from the case of homicide, inasmuch as the thing taken could be given back, but not differing from it as to the essence of its moral nature, however aggravated might have been the circumstances with which it was originally attended.

Now, wherever the moral judgment against plunder has been greatly relaxed, that of fraud in connection with it is sure to undergo a similar process; because, in the same degree in which acts of plunder are acquitted as lawful acquisition, fraud is sure to come into credit by assuming the character of stratagem. We may, I think, find an example of this rule in the Thirteenth Odyssey; where, with an entire freedom from any consciousness of wrong, Ulysses feigns to have slaughtered Orsilochus at night by ambush, in consequence of a quarrel that had previously occurred about booty[423].

Here then we reach the point, at which we must[203] take into view the peculiar ideas and tendencies of the Greek mind in the heroic age, as they bear necessarily upon its appreciation of an act like that of Paris. The Greeks, of whom we may fairly take Diomed as the type, detest and despise him for affectation, irresolution, and poltroonery: these are the ideas uppermost in their mind: we are not to doubt that, besides seeking reparation for Menelaus, they condemned morally the act which made it needful; what we have to account for is, that they did not condemn it in such a manner as to make this moral judgment the ruling idea in their minds with regard to him.

We have seen that, according to Homer, instead of Helen’s having been originally the willing partner of the guilt of Paris, he was, under her husband’s roof, her kidnapper and not her corrupter. Her offence seems to have consisted in this, that she gave a half-willing assent to the consequences of the abduction. Though never escaping from the sense of shame, always retaining along with a wounded conscience her original refinement of character, and apparently fluctuating from time to time in an alternate strength and weakness of homeward longings[424], the specific form of her offence, according to the ideas of the age, was rather the preterite one of unresisting acquiescence, than the fact of continuing to recognise Paris as a husband during the lifetime of Menelaus. It was the having changed her husband, not the living with a man who was not her husband; and hence we find that she was most kindly treated in Troy by that member of the royal house, namely Hector, who was himself of the highest moral tone.

The offence of Paris, though also (except as to the[204] mere restitution of plundered goods) a preterite offence, was more complex. He violated the laws of hospitality, as we find distinctly charged upon him by Menelaus[425]. He assumed the power of a husband over another man’s wife. This he gained by violence. Now, paradoxical as it may appear, yet perhaps this very ingredient of violence, which we look upon as even aggravating the case, and which in the view of the Greeks was the proper cause of the war, (for their anxiety was to avenge the forced journey and the groans of Helen,) may nevertheless have been also the very ingredient, which morally redeemed the character of the proceeding in the eyes of Greece. This it might do by lifting it out of the region of mere shame and baseness, into that class of manful wrongs, which they habitually regarded as matters to be redressed indeed by the strong hand, but never as merely infamous. Hence, when we find the Greeks full of disgust and of contempt towards Paris, it is only for the effeminacy and poltroonery of character which he showed in the war. His original crime was probably palliated to them by its seeming to involve something of manhood and of the spirit of adventure. So that we may thus have to seek the key to the inadequate sense among the Greeks of the guilt of Paris in that which, as we have seen, was the capital weakness of their morality; namely, its light estimation of crimes of violence, and its tendency to recognise their enterprise and daring as an actual set-off against whatever moral wrong they might involve.

The chance legend of Hercules and Iphitus, in the Odyssey, affords the most valuable and pointed illustration of the great moral question[426] between Paris and Menelaus, which lies at the very foundation of the[205] great structure of the Iliad. For in that case also, we seem to find an instance of abominable crime, which notwithstanding did not destroy the character of its perpetrator, nor prevent his attaining to Olympus; apparently for no other reason, than that it was a crime such as had probably required for its commission the exercise of masculine strength and daring.

There remained, however, even according to contemporary ideas, quite enough of guilt on the part of Paris. The abduction and corruption of a prince’s wife, combined with his personal cowardice, his constant levity and vacillation, and his reckless indifference to his country’s danger and affliction, amply suffice to warrant and account for Homer’s having represented him as a personage hated, hateful, and contemptible. But while the foregoing considerations may explain the feelings and language of the Greeks, otherwise inexplicable, there still remains enough of what at first sight is puzzling in the conduct, if not in the sentiments, of the Trojans.

The Trojan estimate of Paris.

We ask ourselves, how could the Trojans endure, or how could Homer rationally represent them as enduring, to see the glorious wealth and state of Priam, with their own lives, families, and fortunes, put upon the die, rather than surrender Helen, or support Paris in withholding her? The people hate him: the wise Antenor opens in public assembly the proposal to restore Helen to the Greeks: Hector, the prince of greatest influence, almost the actual governor of Troy, knew his brother’s guilt, and reproached him with it[427]. How is it that, of all these elements and materials, none ever become effective?

We must, I think, seek the answer to the questions[206] partly in the difference of the moral tone, and the moral code, among Greeks and Trojans; partly in the difference of their political institutions.

We shall find it probable that, although the ostensible privileges of the people were not less, yet the same spirit of freedom did not pervade Trojan institutions; that their kings were followed with a more servile reverence by the people; that authority was of more avail, apart from rational persuasion; that amidst equally strong sentiments of connection in the family and the tribe, there was much less of moral firmness and decision than among the Greeks, and perhaps also a far less close adherence to the great laws of conjugal union, which had been violated by the act of Paris. Indeed it would appear from the allusion of Hector to a tunic of stone[428], that Paris was probably by law subject to stoning for the crime of adultery: a curious remnant, if the interpretation be a correct one, of the stern traits of pristine justice and severity, still remembered amidst a prevalent dissolution of the stricter moral ties.

Although it results from our previous inquiries that the plebeian substratum, so to speak, of society, was perhaps nearly the same in both countries, yet the opinions of the masses would not then have the same substantiveness of character, nor so much independence of origin, as in times of Christianity, and of a more elaborate development of freedom and its main conditions. Then, much more than now, the first propelling power in the formation of public opinion would be from the high places of society: and in the higher sphere of the community, if not in the lower, Greece and Troy were, while ethnically allied, yet materially different as to[207] moral tone. It is remarkable, that there is no Τὶς in Troy.

The Trojans more sensual and false.

If we may trust the general effect of Homer’s representations, we shall conclude that the Trojans were more given to the vices of sensuality and falsehood, the Greeks, on the other hand, more inclined to crimes of violence: in fact, the latter bear the characteristics of a more masculine, and the former of a feebler, people. In the words of Mure, the contrast shadows forth ‘certain fundamental features of distinction, which have always been more or less observable, between the European and Asiatic races[429].’

On looking back to the previous history of Troy, we find that Laomedon defrauded Neptune and Apollo of their stipulated hire: and Anchises surreptitiously obtained a breed of horses from the sires belonging to Laomedon, who was his relative[430]. The conditions of the bargain, under which Paris fought with Menelaus, are shamelessly and grossly violated. Pandarus, in the interval of truce, treacherously aims at and wounds Menelaus with an arrow; but no Trojan disapproves the deed. Euphorbus comes behind the disarmed Patroclus, and wounds him in the back; and even princely Hector, seeing him in this condition, then only comes up and dispatches him. That these were not isolated acts, we may judge from the circumstance that Menelaus, ever mild and fair in his sentiments, when he accepts the challenge of Paris, requires that Priam shall be sent for to conclude the arrangement, because his sons—and he makes no exceptions—are saucy and faithless, ὑπερφίαλοι καὶ ἄπιστοι[431]. This must, I think, be taken as characteristic of Troy; though he mildly proceeds to take off the edge of his reproach by[208] a γνώμη about youth and age. But the most scandalous of all the Trojan proceedings seems to have been the effort made, though unsuccessfully, to have Menelaus put to death, when he came on a peaceful mission to demand the restoration of his wife[432].

Nothing of this admiration for fraud apart from force appears either in the conduct of the Greeks during the war, or in their prior history: and the passage respecting Autolycus, which, more than any other, appears to give countenance to knavery, takes his case out of the category of ordinary human action by placing it in immediate relation to a deity; so that it illustrates, not the national character as it was, but rather the form to which the growing corruptions of religion tended to bring it. Yet, while Homer gives to the Trojans alone the character of faithlessness, he everywhere, as we must see, vindicates the intellectual superiority of the Greeks in the stratagems of the war. And if, as I think is the case, I have succeeded in proving above that the doctrine of a future state was less lively and operative among the Trojans than among the Greeks, it is certainly instructive to view that deficiency in connection with the national want of all regard for truth. This difference teaches us, that the imprecations against perjurers, and the prospects of future punishment, were probably no contemptible auxiliaries in overcoming the temptations to present falseness, with which human life is everywhere beset.

As respects sensuality, the chief points of distinction are, that we find a particular relation to this subject running down the royal line of Troy; and that, whereas in Greece we are told occasionally of some beautiful woman who is seduced or ravished by a deity, in Troas we find the princes of the line are those to whose[209] names the legends are attached. The inference is, that in the former case a veil was thrown over such subjects, but that in the latter no sense of shame required them to be kept secret. The cases that come before us are those of Tithonus, who is said to become the husband of Aurora; of Anchises, for whom Venus conceives a passion; and of Paris, on whom the same deity confers the evil gift of desire[433], and to whom she promises the most beautiful of women, the wife of Menelaus. All these are stories, which seem to have tended to the fame of the parties concerned on earth, and by no means to their discredit with the Immortals. And again, if, as some may take to be the case, we are to interpret the three νύμφαι[434] of Troas as local deities, how remarkable is the fact that Homer should thus describe them as tainted with passions, which nowhere appear among the corresponding order within the Greek circle! There, male deities alone are licentious. Juno, Minerva, Diana, and Persephone, whom alone we can call properly Greek goddesses of the period, have no such impure connection with mortals, as the goddesses both of the Trojan and of the Phœnician traditions.

We hear indeed of Orion[435], who was also the choice of Aurora: but we cannot tell whether he belonged more to the Trojan than to the Greek branch of the common stem. To the Greek race he cannot have been alien, as he is among Greek company in the Eleventh Odyssey: but then he is not there as an object of honour; he appears in a state of modified suffering, engaged in an endless chase[436]. We also find Iasion, probably in Crete, who is reported to have been loved by Ceres[437]: but he was immediately consumed for it by[210] the thunderbolt of Jupiter. And so the detention of Ulysses by the beautiful and immortal Calypso is not in Homer a glory, but a calamity; and it allays none of the passionate longings of that hero for his wife and home.

The marked contrast, which these groups of incidents present, is perhaps somewhat heightened by the enthusiastic observation of the Trojan Elders on the Wall in the Third Iliad[438]. Though susceptible of a good sense, yet, when the old age of the persons is taken into view, the passage seems to be in harmony with the Trojan character at large, rather than the Greek: and perhaps it may bear some analogy to the licentious glances of the Suitors[439]. If so, it is very significant that Homer should assign to the most venerable elders of Troy, what in Greece he does not think of imputing except to libertines, who are about to fall within the sweep of the divine vengeance.

The difference between the races in this respect seems to have been deeply rooted, for there is evidently some corresponding difference between their views and usages in respect to marriage.

Trojan ideas and usages of marriage.

The character of Priam, which has been so happily conceived by Mure[440], undoubtedly bears on its very surface the fault of over indulgence, along with the virtues of gentleness and great warmth and keenness of the affections. But it may be doubted, whether the poems warrant our treating him as individually dissolute. His life was a domestic life: but the family was one constructed according to Oriental manners. According to those manners, polygamy and wholesale concubinage were in some sense the privilege, in an[211]other view almost the duty, of his station; confined, as these abuses must necessarily be from their nature (and as they even now are in Turkey), to the highest ranks wherever they prevail. The household of Priam, notwithstanding his diversified relations to women, is as regularly organized as that of Ulysses: and when he speaks of his vast family, constituted as it was, he makes it known to Achilles, in a moment of agonizing sorrow, and evidently by way of lodging a claim for sympathy[441], though the effect upon modern ears may be somewhat ludicrous. ‘I had,’ he says, ‘fifty sons: nineteen from a single womb: the rest from various mothers in my palace.’ He might have added that he had also twelve daughters[442], whom he probably does not need to mention on the occasion, as in this department he was not a bereaved parent.

Hecuba, the mother of the nineteen, was evidently possessed of rights and a position peculiar to herself. The very passage last quoted distinguishes her from the γυναῖκες, and throughout the poem she moves alone[443].

The family of Priam.

Of the children of Priam we meet with a great number in various places of the poem.

There are, I think, five expressly mentioned as children of Hecuba.

Hector, Il. vi. 87.
Helenus, ibid.
Laodice, vi. 252.
Deiphobus, Il. xxii. 333.
Paris, (because Hecuba was ἑκυρὴ to Helen,) Il. xxiv.

Next, we have two children of Laothoe, daughter of Altes, lord of the Lelegians of Pedasus.

Lycaon, Il. xxi. 84.
Polydorus, ibid. 91.


Next Gorgythion, son of Kastianeira, who came from Aisume, (Il. viii. 302).

Then we have, without mention of the mother,

Agathon Il. xxiv. 249-51.

Cassandra, xxiv. 699.
Mestor, xxiv. 257.
Troilos, Il. xxiv. 257.
Echemmon[444], v. 159.
Chromios[444], ibid.
Antiphos, iv. 490. xi. 101.
Cebriones, viii. 318.
Polites, ii. 791.

And, lastly, illegitimate (νόθοι),

Isos, Il. xi. 101.
Doryclos, xi. 489.
Democoon, iv. 499.
Medesicaste, xiii. 173.

The most important conclusion derivable from the comparison of the names thus collected is, that the children of Priam, and consequently their mothers, fell into three ranks:

1. The children of Hecuba.

2. The children of his other wives.

3. The children of concubines, or of chance attachments, who were, νόθοι, bastards.

The name νόθος with Homer, at least among the Greeks, ordinarily marks inferiority of condition. The mothers of the four νόθοι are never named. This may, however, be due to accident. At any rate Lycaon appears to have the full rank of a prince: he was once ransomed with the value of a hundred oxen, and, when again taken, he promises thrice as much; again, in describing himself as the half-brother of Hector, he avows nothing like spurious birth. The reference[213] to him by Priam explains his position more clearly, and places it beyond doubt that Laothoe was recognised as a wife, for she brought Priam a large dowry[445]; and if her sons be dead, says the aged king, ‘it will be an affliction to me and to their mother.’ The language used in another passage about Polydorus is also conclusive[446]. He is described as the youngest and dearest of the sons of Priam, which evidently implies his being in the fullest sense a member of the family. Again, in the palace of Priam there were separate apartments, not for the nineteen only, but for the fifty. Thus they seem to have included all the three classes. So that it is probable enough that the state of illegitimacy did not draw the same clear line as to rank in Troy, which it drew in Greece.

Laothoe, mother of Lycaon and Polydorus, was a woman of princely rank: and when Lycaon says that Priam had many more besides her[447],

τοῦ δ’ ἔχε θυγατέρα Πρίαμος, πολλὰς δὲ καὶ ἄλλας,

he probably means many more of the same condition, wives and other well-born women, who formed part of his family.

So that Homer, in all likelihood, means to describe to us the threefold order,

1. Hecuba, as the principal queen.

2. Other wives, inferior but distinctly acknowledged.

3. Either concubines recognised as in a position wholly subordinate, or women who were in no permanent relation of any kind with Priam.

Beyond the case of Priam, we have slender means of ascertaining the usages and ideas of marriage among the Trojans. We have Andromache, wife of Hector; Helen, a sort of wife to Paris; Theano, wife to Antenor,[214] and priestess of Minerva; who also took charge of and brought up his illegitimate son Pedæus[448]. The manner in which this is mentioned, as a favour to her husband, certainly shows that the mark of bastardy was not wholly overlooked, even in Troy. But, besides this Pedæus, we meet in different places of the Iliad no less than ten other sons of Antenor, all, I think, within the fighting age. This is not demonstrative, but it raises a presumption that some of them were probably the sons of other wives than Theano; who is twice described as Theano of the blooming cheeks, and can hardly therefore be supposed to have reached a very advanced period of life[449].

But it is clear from the important case of Priam, even if it stands alone, that among the Trojans no shame attaches to the plurality of wives, or to having many illegitimate children, the birth of various mothers. It is possible that the manners of Troy, with regard to polygamy, were at this time the same (unless as to the reason given,) with those which Tacitus ascribes to the Germans of his own day: Singulis uxoribus contenti sunt; exceptis admodum paucis, qui, non libidine, sed ob nobilitatem, plurimis nuptiis ambiuntur[450]. We must add to this, that Paris, in detaining as his wife the spouse of another man still living, does an act of which we have no example, to which we find no approximation, in the Greek manners of the time. Its significance is increased, when we find that after his death she is given to Deiphobus: for this further union alters the individual trait into one which is national. Her Greek longings, as well as her remorse for the surrender of her honour to Paris, afford the strongest presumption[215] that the arrangement could hardly have been adopted to meet her own inclination; and that it must have been made for her without her choice, as a matter of supposed family or political convenience.

We seem therefore to be justified in concluding that, as singleness did not enter essentially into the Trojan idea of marriage, so neither did the bond with them either possess or even approximate to the character of indissolubility. The difference is very remarkable between the horror which attaches to the first crime of Ægisthus in Greece, the corruption of Clytemnestra, though it was analogous to the act of Paris, and the indifference of the Trojans to the offence committed by their own prince. We have no means indeed of knowing directly how Ægisthus was regarded by the Greeks around him, during the period which preceded the return and murder of Agamemnon. But we find that Jupiter, in the Olympian Court, distinctly describes his adultery as a substantive part of his sin[451];

ὡς καὶ νῦν Αἴγισθος ὑπέρμορον Ἀτρείδαο
γῆμ’ ἄλοχον μνηστὴν, τὸν δ’ ἔκτανε νοστήσαντα.

And I think we may rest assured, that Jupiter never would give utterance on Olympus to any rule of matrimonial morality, higher than that which was observed among the Greeks on earth.

So again, it was a specific part of the offence of the Suitors in the Odyssey, that they sought to wed Penelope while her husband was alive[452]; that is to say, before his death was ascertained, though it was really not extravagant to presume that it had occurred.

Stricter ideas among the Greeks.

From both these instances, and more especially from the last, we must, I think, reasonably conclude that the moral code of Greece was far more adverse to the act[216] of Paris, considered as an offence against matrimonial laws, than the corresponding rule in Troy.

In connection with this topic, we may notice, how Homer has overspread the Dardanid family, at the epoch of the war as well as in former times, with redundance of personal beauty. Of Paris we are prepared to hear it as a matter of course; but Hector has also the εἶδος ἀγητόν[453]; and, even in his old age, the ὄψις ἀγαθὴ of Priam was admired by Achilles[454]. Deiphobus again is called θεοείκελος and θεοειδὴς[455], and on two of Priam’s daughters severally does Homer bestow the praise of being each the most beautiful[456] among them all. With this was apparently connected, in many of them, effeminacy, as well as insolence and falseness of character; for we must suppose a groundwork of truth in the wrathful invective of their father, who describes his remaining sons as (Il. xxiv. 261.)

ψευσταί τ’ ὀρχησταί τε, χοροιτυπίῃσιν ἄριστοι,
ἀρνῶν ἠδ’ ἐρίφων ἐπιδήμιοι ἁρπακτῆρες.

An invective, which completely corresponds with the Greek belief concerning their general character in the Third Book[457]. The great Greek heroes are also beautiful; but their mere beauty, particularly in the Iliad, is for the most part kept carefully in the shade.

Trojan polity less highly organized.

We will turn now to the political institutions of Troy. Less advanced towards organization, and of a less firm tone than in Greece, they will help to explain how it could happen that a people should bear prolonged calamity and constant defeat, and could pass on to final ruin, for the wicked and wanton wrong of an individual prince.

It has been noticed, that the idea of hereditary suc[217]cession was definite, as well as familiar, in Greece. In Troy it appears to have been less so. And this is certainly what we might expect from the recognition in any form, however qualified, of polygamy. It tends to confound the position of any one wife, although supposed supreme, with that of others; and in confounding the order of succession, as among the issue of different wives, it altogether breaks up the simplicity of the rule of primogeniture.

And again, if, as we shall presently see, the Trojan race had a less developed capacity for political organization, they would be less likely to establish a clear rule and practice of succession, which is a primary element of political order in well-governed countries.

The evidence as to the Asiatic rule of inheritance is, I admit, indirect and scanty: nor do I attempt to place what I have now to offer in a rank higher than that of probable conjecture.

1. Sarpedon was clearly leader of the Lycians, with some kind of precedence over Glaucus.

The general tenour of the poem clearly gives this impression. He speaks and acts as the person principally responsible[458]. But by birth he was inferior to Glaucus; for he was the grandson of Bellerophon only in the female line through Laodamia, while Glaucus stood alone in the male line through Hippolochus. I do not venture to rely much on the mere order of the names; and therefore I do not press the fact, which indeed is not needed for the argument, that it makes Laodamia junior to Hippolochus. It will be said that Sarpedon was in chief command, because he was of superior merit. But among the Greeks we have no instance in which superior merit gives preeminence as[218] against birth. And the reputation of divine origin clearly could not put aside the prior right of succession.

Again, both Sarpedon and Glaucus are both expressly called βασιλῆες[459], kings. Now, they were first cousins, and they belonged to the same kingdom. Hippolochus was perhaps still alive[460]; for he gave Glaucus a parting charge, and his death is not mentioned. In Greece we find the heir apparent called king, namely, Achilles: but the title is never given to more than one person standing in the line of succession. A possible explanation, I think, is, that the Lycian kingdom had been divided[461]: but if this be not so, then the use of the term seems to prove that in Asia all the children of the common ancestor stood, or might stand, upon the same footing by birth: and as if it was left to other causes, instead of to a definite and single rule, to determine who should succeed to the throne.

2. In a former part of this work[462], I have stated reasons for supposing that Æneas represented the elder branch of the house of Dardanus. But, whether he did so or not, it is sufficiently clear from the Iliad that he was not without pretensions to the succession. The dignity of his father Anchises is marked by his remaining at Dardania, and not appearing in the court of Priam. Æneas habitually abstains from attending the meetings or assemblies for consultation, in which Priam, where they are civil, and Hector, where they are military, takes the lead. Achilles taunts him expressly with looking forward to the succession after the death of Priam, and with the anticipation of public lands which he was to get from the Trojans forthwith, if he could but slay the great Greek warrior. The par[219]ticular succession, to which the taunt refers, is marked out; it is the dominion, not over the mere Dardanians, but over the Τρῶες ἱππόδαμοι[463]. In following down the genealogy, Æneas does not adhere to either of the two lines (from Ilus and Assaracus respectively) throughout, as senior, and therefore supreme; but, after putting the line of Ilus first in the earlier part of the chain, he places his own birth from Anchises before that of Hector from Priam.

Apart from the question which was the older line, the effect of all these particulars, taken together, is to show an indeterminateness in the rule of succession, of which we have no indication among the Greeks. Even the incidental notice of the right of Priam to give it to Æneas, if he pleased, is as much without example in anything Homer tells us of the Greek manners, as the corresponding power conferred by the Parliament on the Crown in the Tudor period was at variance with the general analogies of English history and institutions.

Succession to the Throne of Priam.

3. The third case before us is one in the family of Priam itself. It appears extremely doubtful whether we can, upon the authority of the poems, confidently mark out one of his sons as having been the eldest, or as standing on that account in the line of succession to the throne of Priam. The evidence, so far as it goes, seems rather to point to Paris; while the question lies between him and Hector.

Theocritus[464] indeed calls Hector the eldest of the twenty children of Hecuba. But this is an opinion, not an authority; and the number named shows it to be unlikely that he was thinking of historic accuracy, for Homer says, Hecuba had nineteen sons, while she had also several daughters[465].


There can be no doubt whatever, that Hector was the most conspicuous person, the most considerable champion of the city. He was charged exclusively with the direction of the war, and with the regulation of the supplies necessary to feed the force of Trojans and of allies. Polydamas, who so often takes a different view of affairs, and Sarpedon, when having a complaint to make, alike apply to him. Æneas is the only person who appears upon the field in the same rank with him, and he stands in a position wholly distinct from the family of Priam. As among the members of that family, there can be no doubt of the preeminence of Hector. He was, indeed, in actual exercise of the heaviest part of the duties of sovereignty. Æneas, in the genealogy, finishes the line of Assaracus with himself; and, to all appearance, as not less a matter of course, the line of Ilus with Hector[466]. Again, the name Astuanax, conferred by the people on his son, appears to show that the crown was to come to him. But all this in no degree answers the question, whether Hector held his position as probable king-designate by birth, or whether it was rather due to his personal qualities, and his great and unshared responsibilities and exertions. There are several circumstances, which may lead us to incline towards the latter alternative.

(1.) When his parents and widow bewail his loss, it is the loss of their great defender and chief glory[467], not of one who by death had vacated the place of known successor to the sovereignty.

(2.) Had Hector been by birth assured of the seat of Priam, his right would have been sufficient cause for giving to his son at once the name of Astuanax. But this we are told the people did for the express[221] reason, that Hector was the only real bulwark of Troy. It seems unlikely that in such a case his character as heir by birth would have been wholly passed by. The name, therefore, appears to suggest, that it was by proving himself the bulwark of the throne that Hector had become as it were the presumptive heir to it[468].

When Hector takes his child in his arms, he prays, on the infant’s behalf, that he may become, like himself[469],

ἀριπρεπέα Τρώεσσιν,
ὧδε βίην τ’ ἀγαθὸν, καὶ Ἰλίου ἶφι ἀνάσσειν·

that is, that he may become distinguished and valiant, and may mightily rule over the Trojans. This seems to point to succession by virtue of personal qualities rather than of birth.

Paris most probably the eldest-born.

There are also signs that Paris, and not Hector, may have been the eldest son of Priam, and may have had that feebler inchoate title to succession, which, in the day of necessity, his brother’s superior courage and character was to set aside.

This supposition accords better with the fact of his having had influence sufficient to cause the refusal of the original demand for the restitution of Helen, peacefully made by the Greek embassy; and the endurance of so much evil by his country on his behalf.

It explains the fact of his having had a palace to himself on Pergamus; a distinction which he shared with Hector only[470], for the married sons as well as daughters of Priam in general slept in apartments within the palace of their father[471]. And also it accords with his original expedition, which was evidently an affair of great pains and cost; and with his being plainly next in military rank to Hector among the sons of Priam.


Further, it would explain the fact, otherwise very difficult to deal with, that alone among the children of Priam, Paris or Alexander is honoured with the significant title of βασιλεύς. Helenus is called ἄναξ, and Hector ποίμην λαῶν, but neither expression is of the same rank, or has a similar effect. This exclusive application of the term βασιλεὺς is a very strong piece of evidence, if, as I believe to be the case, it is nowhere else applied in the Iliad to a person thus selected, without indicating either the possession, or the hereditary expectancy of a throne.

And indeed, even if we could show that Homer had applied the name βασιλεὺς to two brothers in one family, the result would be the same, as far as the main argument is concerned, for there is no such pronounced mark of equality found among brothers in any of the royal families of Greece.

Again; in considering the law of succession among the Greeks, we have found four cases in the Catalogue, where contingents were placed under the command of two leaders seemingly co-ordinate; they are in every instance brothers, and the four dual commands occur in a total of twenty-nine. Or let us state the case in another form, so as to include the cases of Bœotia and Elis. Among sixteen Trojan contingents, there are but six where the chief authority is plainly in a single hand; out of twenty-nine Greek contingents, there are twenty-three, and, of the remaining six, four are the cases of brothers. This fact is material, as tending to show a looser and less effective military organization in the ranks of the Trojans and their allies, than in those of the Greeks; a circumstance which does not prove, but which harmonizes with, the hypothesis that they were wanting also in a defined order of succession to the seat of political power.


There are other reasons, immediately connected with Hector, for supposing that Homer intended to represent Paris as older than his brother[472]. Paris had been in manhood for at least twenty years, according to the letter of the poem, which must at least represent a long period of time. But Hector has one child only, a babe in arms, which is in itself a presumption of his being less advanced in life. Again, we must suppose his age probably to be not very different from that of Andromache. But it is quite plain that she was a young mother; since after the slaughter of Eetion, her father, Achilles shortly took a ransom for her mother, who thereupon went back to the house of her own father, Andromache’s maternal grandfather, and subsequently died there[473]. If then the grandfather of Andromache was alive when Thebe was taken, and Hector’s age was in due proportion to her own, he must in all likelihood have been younger than Paris. Again, it may be noticed that the term ἥβη is nowhere ascribed to Paris, but it is assigned to Hector at his death[474]. Notwithstanding its complimentary use for Ulysses in Od. viii. 135, that word has a certain leaning to early life. But we have a stronger, and indeed I think a conclusive argument in the speech of Andromache after his death[475];

ἆνερ, ἀπ’ αἰῶνος νέος ὤλεο.

Thus he is distinctly called young. And we may consider it almost certain, under these circumstances, that Paris was the first-born son of Priam[476], but that his right of succession oozed away like water from a man’s hand.

The relations of race between the Trojans and the Greeks have already been examined, in connection[224] with the great Homeric title of ἄναξ ἀνδρῶν[477]; under some difficulties, which resolve themselves into this, that Homer, on almost every subject so luminous a guide, is in all likelihood here, as it were, retained on the side of silence; and that we have no information, except such as he accidentally lets fall. But he was under no such preoccupation with regard to the institutions of Troy; so that, while he had no occasion for the same amount of detail as he has given us with reference to the Greeks, or the same minute accuracy as he has there observed, enough appears to supply a tolerably clear and consistent outline.

We have been accustomed too negligently to treat the Homeric term Troy, as if it designated only or properly a single city. But in Homer it much more commonly means a country, with the city sometimes called Troy for its capital, and containing many other cities beside it. The proper name, however, of the city in the poems is Ἴλιος, not Τροίη. Ilios is used above an hundred and twenty times in the Iliad and Odyssey, and always strictly means the city. The word Τροίη is used nearly ninety times, and in the great majority of cases it means the country. Often it has the epithets εὐρεῖα, ἐρίβωλος, ἐριβώλαξ, which speak for themselves. But more commonly it is without an epithet; and then too it very generally means the country. When the Greeks speak, for example, of the voyage Τροίηνδε, this is the natural sense, rather than to suppose it means a city not on the sea shore, and into which, till the end of the siege, they did not find their way at all[478].

Priam and his dynasty in Troas.

According to the genealogical tree in the Twentieth Iliad, Dardanus built Dardania among the mountains:[225] his son Erichthonius became wealthy by possessions in the plain; and Tros, the son of Erichthonius, was the real founder of the Trojan state and name[479].

Τρῶα δ’ Ἐριχθόνιος τέκετο Τρώεσσιν ἄνακτα.

Thus the name of Troes at that time covered the whole race. But the town of Ilios must, from its name, have been built not earlier than the time of Ilus, the son of Tros. And now the dynasty separates into two lines, as Assaracus, the brother of Ilus, continues to reign in Dardania. Thus the local existence of the Dardanian name is prolonged; for it is plain that the Dardanian throne was associated, at least in dignity, with a rival, and not a subordinate, sovereignty. Still it does not extend beyond the hills. It was over these that Æneas fled from Achilles[480]. But even the Dardanians did not wholly cease to be known by the appellation of Trojans; for not only does Homer frequently use the dominant name Troes for the entire force opposed to the Greeks, which is naming the whole from the principal part, but he also uses the word Troes to signify all that part of the force, which was under the house of Dardanus in either branch; and he distinguishes this portion from the rest of the force described under the name ἐπίκουροι, at the opening of the Trojan Catalogue:

ἔνθα τότε Τρῶές τε διέκριθεν, ἠδ’ ἐπίκουροι[481].

This line is followed by an account of the whole force opposed to the Greeks, in sixteen divisions. Of these the eleven last bear each their own national name, beginning with the Pelasgians of Larissa, and ending with the Lycians; and they are under leaders,[226] whom the whole course of the poem marks as not being Trojan, but independent. These eleven evidently were the ἐπίκουροι of ver. 815.

The five first contingents are introduced and commanded as follows:

1. Troes under Hector[482]:

Τρωσὶ μὲν ἡγεμόνευε μέγας κορυθαίολος Ἕκτωρ.

2. Dardanians, under Æneas, with two of the (ten) sons of Antenor, Archelochus and Acamas, for his colleagues[483]:

Δαρδανίων αὖτ’ ἦρχεν ἐῢς παῖς Ἀγχίσαο.

3. Trojans of Zelea, at the extreme spur of Ida, under Pandarus[484]:

οἳ δὲ Ζέλειαν ἔναιον ὑπαὶ πόδα νείατον Ἴδης

4. People of Adresteia and other towns, under Adrestus and Amphius, sons of Merops of Percote[485]:

οἳ δ’ Ἀδρήστειάν τ’ εἶχον, κ. τ. λ.

5. People of Percote and other towns, under Asius:

οἳ δ’ ἄρα Περκώτην, κ. τ. λ.

And then begins the enumeration of the Allies, each under their respective national names.

It seems evident, that these five first-named contingents comprise the whole of the subjects of the race of Dardanus. First come the Trojans of the capital and its district, under Hector. Then, taking precedence on account of dignity, the Dardanian division of Æneas. In the third contingent the Poet returns to the name Troes, which, I think, plainly enough overrides the fourth and fifth, just as in the Greek Catalogue the name Pelasgic Argos[486] introduces and comprehends a[227] number of contingents that follow, besides that of Achilles.

There are several reasons, which tend plainly to this conclusion. The sense of διέκριθεν (815) and the reference to the diversity of tongues spoken (804) almost require the division of the force between Troes and allies; it is also the most natural division. The fourth and fifth contingents are not indeed expressly called Troes, but this name, already given to the third, may include them. We must, I think, conclude that it does so, when we find clear proof that they were not independent national divisions: for the troops of Percote were in the fifth, but the sons of Percosian Merops command the fourth, a fact inexplicable if these were the forces of independent States, but natural enough if they were all under the supremacy of Priam and his house.

In the great battle of the Twelfth Iliad, the Trojans are πένταχα κοσμηθέντες (xii. 87). Sarpedon commands the allies with Glaucus and Asteropæus (v. 101), thus accounting for eleven of the sixteen divisions in the Catalogue. Æneas, with two sons of Antenor, commands the Dardanians, thus disposing of a twelfth. Again, Hector, with Polydamas and Cebriones, commands the πλεῖστοι καὶ ἄριστοι, evidently the division standing first in the Catalogue. This makes the number thirteen. The three remaining contingents of the Catalogue are

1. Zelean Troes, under Pandarus, (since slain,) Il. ii. 824-7.

2. Adresteans &c. under Adrestus and Amphius, (828-34,) both slain, Il. v. 612. vi. 63.

3. Percotians &c. under Asius (835-9).

These three remaining divisions of the Catalogue evi[228]dently reappear in the second and third of the five Divisions of the Twelfth Book. The Second is under Paris, with Alcathous, son-in-law of Antenor, and Agenor, one of his sons. In the command of the Third, Helenus and Deiphobus, two sons of Priam, are associated with, and even placed before, Asius. The position given in these divisions to the family of Priam appears to prove, that the troops forming them were among his proper subjects.

Again, the territorial juxtaposition of these districts, between Phrygia, which lay behind the mountains of Ida, on the one side, and the sea of Marmora with the Ægæan on the other, perfectly agrees with the description in the Twenty-fourth Iliad[487] of the range of country within which Priam had the preeminence in wealth, and in the vigour and influence of his sons. Strabo quotes this passage as direct evidence that Priam reigned over the country it describes, which is rather more than it actually states; and he says that Troas certainly reached to Adresteia and to Cyzicus.

Again, we have various signs in different passages of a political connection between the towns we have named and the race of Priam. Melanippus, his nephew, was employed before the war at Percote[488]. Democoon[489], his illegitimate son, tended horses at Abydus; doubtless, says Strabo[490], the horses of his father.

The partial inclusion of the Dardanians within the name of Troes is further shown by the verse[491],

Αἰνεία, Τρώων βουληφόρε·

and by the appeal of Helenus to Æneas and Hector jointly, as the persons chiefly responsible for the safety[229] of the Troes and Lycians: the name Lycians being taken here, as in some other places[492], to denote most probably a race akin to and locally interspersed with the Trojans.

But the Dardanians have more commonly their proper designation separately given them. It never includes the Troes. And we never find the two appellations, Troes and Dardans, covering the entire force. Whenever the Dardans are named with the Troes, there is also another word, either ἐπίκουροι, or Λύκιοι.

The word Troes, it is right to add, is sometimes confined strictly to the inhabitants of the city: but the occasions are rare, and perhaps always with contextual indications that such is the sense.

Another sign that Priam exercised a direct sovereignty over the territory which yielded the five contingents may perhaps be found in the fact, that we do not find any of his nephews in command of them. They were led by their local officers, while the brothers of Priam constituted a part of the community of Troy, and chiefly influenced the Assembly: and their sons, though apparently more considerable persons than most of those local officers in general, simply appear as acting under Hector without special command. The brothers of Priam are Lampus, Clytius, and Hiketaon. His nephews and other relatives are Dolops the son of Lampus; Melanippus the son of Hiketaon; Polydamas, Hyperenor, and Euphorbus, the sons of Panthous and his wife Phrontis.

Had the senior members of the family held local sovereignties, we should have found their sons in local commands. But we find only two sons of Antenor in command, as either colleagues or lieutenants of Æneas,[230] over the Dardans, whom we have no reason to suppose they had any share in ruling.

Strabo, indeed, contends, that there are nine separate δυναστεῖαι immediately connected with Troy[493], besides the ἐπίκουροι. Of these states one he thinks was Lelegian, and was ruled over by Altes, father of Laothoe, one of Priam’s wives. Another by Munes, husband of Briseis. Another, Thebe, by Eetion, father of Andromache. Others he considers to be represented by Anchises and Pandarus: but this does not well agree with the structure of the Catalogue. He refers also to Lyrnessus and Pedasus; which are nowhere mentioned by Homer as furnishing contingents, but they had apparently been destroyed, as well as taken, by Achilles. He places several of the dynasties in cities thus destroyed: and they all, according to him, lay beyond the limits marked out in the Twenty-fourth Iliad.

This assemblage of facts appears to point to a very great diversity of relations subsisting between Priam, with his capital, and the states, cities, and races, of which we hear as arrayed on his side in the war. There are first the cities of Troas, or Troja proper, furnishing the five, or if we except Dardania four out of the five, first contingents of the Catalogue. Over these Priam was sovereign.

There are next the cities, so far as they can be traced, under the δυναστεῖαι mentioned by Strabo, such as Thebe, and the cities of Altes and Munes. These were probably in the same sort of relation to the sceptre of Priam, as the Greek states in general to that of Agamemnon.

Thirdly, there are the independent nations. Of these eleven named in the Catalogue; others are added as[231] newly arrived in the Tenth Book[494], and further additions were subsequently made, such as the force under Memnon, and the Keteians under Eurypylus[495]. Nothing perhaps tends so much, as the powerful assistance lent to Priam by numerous and distant allies, to show how justly in substance Horace has described the Trojan war as the conflict between the Eastern and the Western world. The two confederacies, which then came into collision, between them absorbed the whole known world of Homer; and foreshadowed the great conflicts of later epochs.

Political institutions of Troy.

We may now proceed to consider the political institutions of the kingdom of Priam, which has thus loosely been defined.

The Βασιλεὺς of the Trojans is less clearly marked, than he is among the Greeks: for (as we shall find) they had no Βουλὴ, and therefore we have not the same opportunities of seeing the members of the highest class collected for separate action in the conduct of the war. Still, however, the name is distinctly given to the following persons on the Trojan side, and to no others.

1. Priam, Il. v. 464, xxiv. 630.
2. Paris, iv. 96.
3. Rhesus, x. 435.
4. Sarpedon, xii. 319. xvi. 660.
5. Glaucus, xii. 319.

Among the Trojans, as among the Greeks, it was the custom for the kings, as they descended into the vale of years, to devolve the more active duties of kingship on their children, and to retain, perhaps only for a time, those of a sedentary character. Hence Hector at least shares with Priam the management of Assemblies, as it is he[496] who dissolves that of the Second[232] Book, and calls the military one of the Eighth. Hence, too, he speaks of himself as the person responsible for the burdens entailed by the war upon the Trojans. ‘I did not,’ he says to the allies, ‘bring you from your cities to multiply our numbers, but that you might defend for me the wives and children of Trojans; with this object in view, I exhaust the people for your pay and provisions[497].’ Hence we have Æneas leading the Dardanians, while his father Anchises nowhere appears, and, as it must be presumed, remains in his capital. Hence, while ten or twelve sons of Antenor bear arms for Troy, and two of them are the colleagues of Æneas in the command of the Dardanian contingent, their father appears among the δημογέροντες, who were chief speakers in the Assembly within the city. We do not know that Antenor was a king; more probably he held a lordship subordinate to Priam, in a relation somewhat more strict than that between Agamemnon and the Greek chieftains, and rather resembling that between Peleus and Menœtius; but the same custom of partial retirement seems to have prevailed in the case of subaltern rulers, as indeed it would be dictated by the same reasons of prudence and necessity.

The βασιλήϊς τιμὴ of Troy was not, any more than those of Greece, an absolute despotism. In Troy, as in Greece, the public affairs were discussed and settled in the Assemblies, though with differences, which will be noticed, from the Greek manner of procedure. It was in the Assembly that Iris, disguised as Polites, addressed Priam and Hector to advise a review of the army[498]. And it was again in an Assembly that Antenor proposed, and that Paris refused, to give up Helen: whereupon Priam proposed the mission of Idæus to[233] ask for a truce with a view to the burial of the dead, and the people assented to the proposal[499];

οἱ δ’ ἄρα τοῦ μάλα μὲν κλύον ἠδ’ ἐπίθοντο.

It was in the Assembly, too, that those earlier proposals had been made, of which the same personage procured the defeat by corruption.

Lastly, in the Eighth Book, Hector[500], as we have seen, holds a military ἀγορὴ of the army by the banks of the Scamander. At this he invites them to bivouac outside the Greek rampart, and they accept his proposal by acclamation. This Assembly on the field of battle is an argument a fortiori to show, that ordinary affairs were referred among the Trojans to such meetings. We have, indeed, no detail of any Trojan Assembly except these three. But we have references to them, which give a similar view of their nature and functions. Idæus, on his return, announces to the Assembly that the truce is granted[501]. It is plain that the restoration of Helen was debated before, as well as during the war, in the Assembly of the people; because Agamemnon slays the two sons of Antimachus on the special ground that the father had there proposed that Menelaus, if not Ulysses, should be murdered[502], when they came as Envoys to Troy, for the purpose of demanding her restoration. This Antimachus was bribed by Paris, as the Poet tells us, to oppose the measure[503]. Again, Polydamas, in one of his speeches, charges Hector with having used him roughly, when he had ventured to differ from him in the Assemblies, upon the ground that he ought not, as a stranger to the Trojan δῆμος, to promote dissension among them[504].


Trojan institutions do not, then, present to our view a greater elevation of the royal office. On the contrary, it is remarkable, that the title of δημογέρων, which Homer applies to the chief speakers of the Trojan Assembly, not being kings, is also used by him to describe Ilus the founder of the city[505]. It is, however, possible, perhaps even likely, that this title may be applied to Ilus as a younger son, if his brother Assaracus was the eldest and the heir[506].

But although it thus appears that monarchy was limited in Troy, as it was in Greece, and that public affairs were conducted in the assemblies of the people, the method and organization of these Assemblies was different in the two cases.

1. The guiding element in the Trojan government seems to have been age combined with rank; while among the Greeks, wisdom and valour were qualifications, not less available than age and rank.

2. The Greeks had the institution of a βουλὴ, which preceded and prepared matter for their Assemblies. The Trojans had not.

3. The Greeks, as we have seen, employed oratory as a main instrument of government; the Trojans did not.

4. The aged members of the Trojan royal family rendered their aid to the state, not as counsellors of Priam in private meetings, but only in the Assembly of the people.

A few words on each of these heads.

The greater weight of Age in Troy.

1. The old men who appear on the wall with Priam, in the Third Book, are really old, and not merely titular or official γέροντες; they are[507],

γήραϊ δὴ πολέμοιο πεπαυμένοι.

There are no less than seven of them, besides Priam.[235] Three are his brothers, Lampus, Clytius, Hiketaon; the others probably relatives, we know not in what precise degree: Panthous, Thymœtes, Ucalegon, Antenor. They are called collectively the Τρώων ἡγήτορες, as well as the ἀγορηταὶ ἐσθλοί; and they were manifestly habitual speakers in the Assembly.

There is nothing in the Greek life of the Homeric poems that comes near this aggregation of aged men. Now we have no evidence, that their being thus collected was in any degree owing to the war. Theano, wife of Antenor, was priestess of Minerva in Troy; which makes it most probable that he resided there habitually, and not only on account of the war.

The only group at all approaching this is, where we see Menœtius and Phœnix at the Court of Peleus; but we cannot say whether this was a permanent arrangement. Phœnix, as we know, was lord of the Dolopians, and if so, could not have been a standing assistant at the court of Peleus; we do not know that the Trojan elders held any such local position apart from Troy, even in any single case; and on the other hand, we have no knowledge whether Phœnix and Menœtius, even when at the court of Peleus, took any share in the government of his immediate dominions. The name γέροντες, as usually employed among the Greeks to describe a class, had no necessary relation to age whatever.

Of the respect paid to age in Greece, we have abundant evidence; but we find nothing like this gathering together of a body of old men to be the ordinary guides of popular deliberation in the Assemblies.

It is true that we hear by implication of both Hector and Polydamas, who were not old, as taking part in affairs: but all the indications in the Iliad go to show that Hector’s share in the government of Troy, though[236] not limited to the mere conduct of the forces in the field, yet arose out of his military office, and probably touched only such matters as were connected with the management of the war. Polydamas evidently was treated as more or less an interloper.

But even if it were otherwise, and if the middle-aged men of high station and ability took a prominent part in affairs, the existence of this grey-headed company, with apparently the principal statesmanship of Troy in their hands, forms a marked difference from Greek manners. For in Greece at peace we have nothing akin to it; while in Greece at war upon the plain of Troy, we see the young Diomed as well as the old Nestor, and the rather young Achilles and Ajax, as well as the elderly Idomeneus, associated with the middle-aged men in the government of the army and its operations.

The absence of a Βουλὴ in Troy.

First then, I think it plain that the Trojans had no βουλὴ, for the following reasons:

1. That although we often hear of deliberations and decisions taken on the part of the Trojans, and we have instances enough of their holding assemblies of the people, yet we never find mention of a βουλὴ, or Council, in connection with them.

2. In the Second Book, Homer describes the Trojan ἀγορὴ thus (Il. ii. 788, 9):

οἱ δ’ ἀγορὰς ἀγόρευον ἐπὶ Πριάμοιο θύρῃσιν
πάντες ὁμηγερέες, ἠμὲν νέοι ἠδὲ γέροντες.

This latter line is only to be accounted for by the supposition, that Homer meant to describe a difference between the usages of the Trojans, and those of the Greeks; whose γέροντες were recognised as members of the βουλὴ, even when in the Assemblies.

Of the separate place of the Greek γέροντες in the[237] Assemblies, we have conclusive proof from the Shield of Achilles (xviii. 497, 503):

λαοὶ δ’ εἰν ἀγορῇ ἔσαν ἄθροοι·

and afterwards,

οἱ δὲ γέροντες
εἵατ’ ἐπὶ ξεστοῖσι λίθοις, ἱερῷ ἐνὶ κύκλῳ.

And again, where the Ithacan γέροντες make way for Telemachus, as he passes to the chair of his father.

But in Troy the γέροντες (such is probably the meaning of Il. ii. 789.) have no separate function: the young and the old meet together: while in Greece, besides distinct places in the Assembly, the γέροντες had an exclusive function in the βουλὴ, at which they met separately from the young.

3. It would appear that the ἀγορὴ was with the Trojans not occasional, as with the Greeks, for great questions, but habitual. And this agrees with the description in Il. ii. 788. For when Jupiter sends Iris to Troy, she finds the people in Assembly, but apparently for no special purpose, as she immediately, in the likeness of Polites, begins to address Priam, and we do not hear of any other business. So, when Idæus came back from the Greeks, he found the Trojan Assembly still sitting. All this looks as if the entire business of administering the government rested with that body only.

I draw a similar inference from the remarkable expression in Il. ii. 788, ἀγορὰς ἀγόρευον. This seems to express that there was a standing, probably a daily, assembly of the Trojans, not formally summoned, and open to all comers, which acted as the governing body for the state. The line would then mean, not simply ‘the Trojans were holding an assembly,’ but ‘the Trojans were holding their assembly as usual.’

The names βουλευτὴς and ἀγορητὴς appear to have[238] been merely descriptive, and not titular. Both are applied to the Trojan elders.

And so βουλαὶ, βουλεύειν, βουληφόροι, are constantly used without any, so to speak, official meaning. In Il. x. 147, the expression βουλὰς βουλεύειν can hardly mean ‘to attend the βουλὴ,’ for the singular number would be the proper term for the βουλὴ specially convoked: and I interpret it as meaning, to attend at or to hold the usual council. This is among the Greeks. Among the Trojans, in Il. x. 415-17, Dolon says,

Ἕκτωρ μὲν μετὰ τοῖσιν, ὅσοι βουληφόροι εἰσὶν,
βουλὰς βουλεύει θείου παρὰ σήματι Ἴλου,
νόσφιν ἀπὸ φλοίσβου.

Now the word βουληφόρος is applied, Il. xii. 414, to Sarpedon, as well as in xiii. 463 and elsewhere to Æneas. Neither were among the γέροντες βουλευταί. But further, it is applied, Od. ix. 112, to the ἀγορὴ itself:

τοῖσιν δ’ οὔτ’ ἀγοραὶ βουληφόροι, οὔτε θέμιστες

And therefore the word, though it means councillor in a general sense, does not mean officially member of a βουλὴ, as opposed to an ἀγορὴ or Assembly.

The phrase βουλὰς βουλεύει, in the passage Il. x. 415-17, does not oppose, but supports what has now been said. It is quite plain that this of Hector’s was a small military meeting, or council of war, just as in viii. 489 he held an ἀγορὴ, or assembly of the army, both Trojans and allies; it was not a meeting of a βουλὴ of Troy, because it was held in the field, far from the city, and without any of the Elders, who were the great ἀγορηταὶ and βουλευταὶ of Troy; for Hector had already arranged (Il. viii. 517-19) that the old men should remain in the city, to defend the walls from any night attack: most of all however because, as we hear of no[239] βουλὴ before the military Assembly in the Eighth Book, so we hear of no Assembly following the meeting for deliberation in the Tenth. Generals in modern times hold councils of war: but no parallel can be drawn between them, and Councils for dispatching the affairs of a State.

As we never have occasion to become acquainted with Trojan politics in peace, we can only argue the case as to the nonexistence of a council from the state of war. But in Greece, it will be remembered, both war and peace present their cases of the use of this institution, as one regularly established, and apparently invested with both a deliberative and an executive character.

The greater weight of oratory in Greece.

It is next to be inquired, whether the Trojans, like the Greeks, employed eloquence, detailed argument as furnishing, and the other parts of oratory, a main instrument of government.

I think it is plain, that the decisions of their Assemblies were governed rather by simple authority; by the ἀναποδεικταὶ φάσεις, the simple declarations, of persons of weight.

The report of the re-assembled ἀγορὴ of the Greeks in the Second Book begins with the 211th line, and ends with the 398th: occupying 188 lines. But the Trojan ἀγορὴ of the same Book is despatched in twenty-one lines (788-808).

A more remarkable example is afforded by the second Trojan Assembly (Il. vii. 345-379). For this ἀγορὴ is described as δεινὴ, τετρηχυῖα; and well it might be, in circumstances so arduous. The Elders in the Third Book were of opinion that, beautiful as Helen was, it was better to restore her, than to continue the sufferings and dangers of the war. Accordingly, Antenor[240] urged in this Assembly that she should be restored, together with the plundered property. He referred also to the recent breach of a sworn covenant on the Trojan side, and said no good could come of it. This he effects in a speech of six lines; the first of which is the mere vocative address to the Assembly, and the last is marked as surplusage with the obelos (348-53).

Paris, the person mainly concerned, replies. He does not address himself to the Assembly at all, but to Antenor: and he disposes of the subject of debate in eight lines (357-64). Four of them are given to the announcement of his intentions, and four to abuse of Antenor.

It was impossible to conceive a subject more likely to cause debate; and excitement we see there was, but after the speech of Paris, nothing more was said about Helen, either for or against the restoration. Priam then arose, and in a speech of eleven lines (368-78) laid down another plan of proceeding, namely, by a message to the Greeks for a truce with a view to funeral obsequies, which was at once accepted.

Oratory of greater weight in Greece.

Nowhere, in short, among the Trojans have we any example, I do not say of multiplied or lengthened speeches, but of real reasoning and deliberation in the conduct of business: though Glaucus tells his story at great length to Diomed on the field of battle (Il. vi. 145-211), and Æneas to Achilles (Il. xx. 199-258) nearly equals him. Indeed, it may almost be said, the Trojans are long speakers when in battle, and short when in debate: the Greeks copious in debate, but very succinct in battle.

Again, we may observe the different descriptions which the Poet has given of the elocution of Nestor, and of that of the Trojan δημογέροντες in their re[241]spective ἀγοραί. To Nestor (Il. i. 248, 9) he seems to assign a soft continuous flow indefinitely prolonged. Theirs he describes as resembling the ὄπα λειριόεσσαν of grasshoppers (Il. iii. 151, 2), a clear trill or thread of voice, not only without any particular idea of length attached to it, but apparently meant to recall a sharp intermittent chirp. Yet there is an odd proof that to Priam at least, as one of these old men, there was attached, by the younger ones, the imputation of favouring either too many or else too long orations. For, in the ἀγορὴ of the Second Book, Iris in the character of Polites, though there is no account of what had preceded her arrival, objurgates Priam as both then encouraging what may be called indiscriminate speaking, and as having formally, before the war, been addicted to the same practice[508];

ὦ γέρον, αἰεί τοι μῦθοι φίλοι ἄκριτοί εἰσιν,
ὥς ποτ’ ἐπ’ εἰρήνης.

Upon the whole, I think it must have been Homer’s intention, while representing both Trojans and Greeks as carrying on public affairs in their public Assemblies, to draw a very marked distinction between them in regard to the use of that powerful engine of oratory, which played so conspicuous a part in the former, as well as in the later stages of the Greek history.

And it is important, that nowhere does a sentiment escape the lips of a Trojan chieftain, which indicates a consciousness of the political value of oratory. Ulysses, in a state of peace, describes before the Phæacians beauty and eloquence as the noblest gifts of the gods to man[509]: and employs ἔπεα and νόος, eloquence and intelligence, as convertible terms. Polydamas, when rebuking Hector in the Thirteenth Iliad, delivers a pas[242]sage in many respects strikingly analogous. He speaks, however, of νόος and βουλὴ, mind and counsel[510]; he does not drop a word relating to public speech or to eloquence as instruments of government, though he describes the mental quality and the habit which he names as of priceless value for the benefit of States.

The phrases applied to the Trojan elders appear to indicate, that they derived their political character from taking a prominent part in the Assembly, and from that alone. For the word δημογέρων indicates an elder acting in and among the δῆμος, or people. And this name the Poet uses but twice: once in Il. iii. 149, where he enumerates the eight persons, who bore that character in Troy; and once with reference to Ilus (Il. ii. 372). Homer nowhere employs this term for any of the Greeks.

The want of the βουλὴ shows us, that there was no balance of forces in the Trojan polity, less security against precipitate action, more liability to high-handed insolence and oppression of the people, and, on the other hand, unless the danger had been neutralized by mildness or lethargy of character, likewise in all likelihood to revolutionary change.

Trojans less gifted with self-command.

Again, on the Trojan side we do not find the silence and self-possession of the Greeks. After the enumeration in the Third Book, at its opening, we find that the Trojans marched with din and buzz:

Τρῶες μὲν κλαγγῇ τ’ ἐνοπῇ τ’ ἴσαν, ὄρνιθες ὥς·

but as to the Greeks, we are told that they marched in profound silence: and the Poet skilfully heightens the contrast by mentioning that they breathed forth[243] what they did not articulate, and that they were steeled with firm resolution to stand by one another[511]:

οἱ δ’ ἄρ’ ἴσαν σιγῇ μένεα πνείοντες Ἀχαιοὶ,
ἐν θυμῷ μεμαῶτες ἀλεξέμεν ἀλλήλοισιν.

We are finally told that each leader indeed gave the word to his men, while all beside were mute[512]:

οἱ δ’ ἄλλοι ἀκὴν ἴσαν, οὐδέ κε φαίης
τόσσον λαὸν ἕπεσθαι ἔχοντ’ ἐν στήθεσιν αὐδὴν,
σιγῇ δειδιότες σημάντορας·

but from the Trojans there arose a sound, like that of sheep bleating for their lambs[513]:

ὣς Τρώων ἀλαλητὸς ἀνὰ στρατὸν εὐρὺν ὀρώρει.

And, again, we find the relation of the burning of the dead given with the usual consistency of the Poet. The men of the two armies met: and on both sides they shed tears as they lifted their lifeless comrades on the wagons: but, he adds, there was silence among the Trojans,

οὐδ’ εἴα κλαίειν Πρίαμος μέγας·

and it was because the king had felt that there would be indecency in a noisy show of sorrow: while the Greeks needed not the injunction (Il. vii. 426-32), from their spontaneous self-command.

When the Poet speaks of the Trojan Assembly in the Seventh Book as δεινὴ τετρηχυῖα, he evidently means to describe an excitement tending to disorder: and one contrasted in a remarkable manner with the discipline of the Greeks, who were summoned to meet silently in the night, that they might not, in gathering, arouse the enemy outside the ramparts. Even in their respective modes of expressing approbation, Homer makes a shade of difference. When the Greeks applaud, it is ἐπίαχον υἷες Ἀχαιῶν, or what we call loud[244] or vehement cheering: but when the Trojans, it is ἐπὶ δὲ Τρῶες κελάδησαν, which signifies a more miscellaneous and tumultuous noise.

In short, it would appear to be the intention of Homer to represent the Greeks as possessed of a higher intelligence throughout. In the Odyssey, we find that Ulysses made his way into Troy disguised as a beggar, communicated with Helen, duly informed himself (κατὰ δὲ φρόνιν ἤγαγε πολλήν[514]), and contrived to despatch certain of the Trojans before he departed. In the Iliad we are supplied with abundant instances of the superior management of the Greeks, and likewise of their auxiliary gods, in comparison with those of the Trojans. Juno outwits Venus in obtaining from her the cestus, and then proceeds to outwit Jupiter in the use of it. Minerva, on observing that the Greeks are losing, (Il. vii. 17) betakes herself to Troy, where Apollo proposes just what she wants, namely, a cessation of the general engagement, with a view to a personal encounter between Hector and some chosen chieftain: she immediately adopts the plan; and he causes it to be executed through Helenus. It both stops the general havoc among the Greeks, and redounds greatly to the honour of their champion Ajax. At the end of the day, however, Nestor suggests to the Greek chiefs, on account of their heavy losses (Il. vii. 328), that they should, on the occasion of raising a mound over their dead, likewise dig and fortify a trench, which might serve to defend the ships and camp. In the mean time the Trojans are made to meet; and they send to propose the very measure, namely, an armistice for funeral rites, which the Greeks desire, in order, under cover of it, to fortify themselves (Il. vii. 368-97). And this[245] accordingly Agamemnon is enabled to grant as a sort of favour to the Trojans (Il. vii. 408):

ἀμφὶ δὲ νεκροῖσιν κατακαιέμεν οὔτι μεγαίρω.

This superior intelligence is probably meant to be figured by the exchange of arms between Glaucus and Diomed. And, again, when Hector attempts anything in the nature of a stratagem, as the mission of Dolon by night, it is only that he may fall into the hands of Diomed and Ulysses. But there does not appear to be in any of these cases a violation of oath, compact, or any absolute rule of equity by the Greeks.

Of all these traits, however, it may be said, that they are of no value as evidence, if taken by themselves. They are means which would obviously occur to the Poet, zealous for his own nation. It is their accordance with other indications, apparently undesigned, which warrants our relying upon them as real testimonies, available for an historic purpose.

Difference in pursuits of high-born youth.

Although, on the whole, we seem to have the signs of greater wealth among the Trojans than the Greeks, yet in certain points also their usages were more primitive and simple. Thus we find the youths of the house of Nestor immediately about his person; and Patroclus, as well as Achilles, was apparently brought up at the court of Peleus. Again, the youthful Nestor travels into Thessaly for a campaign: Ulysses goes to hunt at the Court of his grandfather Autolycus. The Ithacan Suitors employ themselves in manly games. But we frequently come upon passages where we are incidentally informed, that the princes of the house of Dardanus were occupied in rustic employments. Thus Melanippus, son of Hiketaon, and cousin of Hector, who was residing in Priam’s palace, and treated as one of his children, had before the war tended oxen in[246] Percote[515]. Æneas, the only son and heir of Anchises, had been similarly occupied among or near the hills, at the time when he had a narrow escape from capture by Achilles[516]. Lycaon, son of Priam, was cutting the branches of the wild fig for the fellies of chariot-wheels when Achilles took him for the second time: on the first occasion, he had been at work in a vineyard[517]. Antiphos and Isos, sons of Priam, had been captured by Achilles whilst they were acting as shepherds[518]. Anchises was acting as a herdsman, when he formed his connection with Venus[519]. The name of Boucolion, an illegitimate son of Laomedon, seems to indicate that he was bred for the like occupation[520].

From the force, variety, and extreme delicacy of his uses of the word, it is evident that Homer set very great store by the sentiment which is generally expressed through the word αἰδώς, and which ranges through all the varieties of shame, honour, modesty, and reverence. Though a minute, it is a remarkable circumstance, that he confines the application of this term to the Greeks; except, I think, in one passage, where he bestows it upon his particular favourites the Lycians[521], and a single other one, where Æneas[522] employs it under the immediate inspiration of Apollo, with another sense, in an appeal to Hector and his brother chiefs, not to the soldiery at large.

With the Greeks it supplies the staple of military exhortation[523] from the chiefs to the army; Αἰδὼς, Ἀργεῖοι.

But quite a different form of speech is uniformly addressed to the Trojans proper: it is


ἀνέρες ἔστε, φίλοι, μνήσασθε δὲ θουρίδος ἀλκῆς,

which is below the other, and appeals to a less peculiar and refined frame of intelligence and of sentiment.

Summary of differences.

Whatever may be thought of the degree of detail into which (guided as I think by the text) I have ventured to carry this discussion, and of the particularity of some of the inferences that have been drawn, I venture to hope few will quit the subject without the conviction that Homer has worked with the purpose and precision which are his wont, in the diversities which mark the general outline of his Greeks and his Trojans, and of the institutions of each respectively; and that he has not altogether withheld from his national portraits the care, which he is admitted to have applied to his individual characters on both sides with such extraordinary success. If we look to the institutions of the two countries, although the comparison is diversified, we must upon the whole concede to the Greeks, that they had laid more firmly than their adversaries those great corner stones of human society, which are named in their language, θέμις, ὅρκος, and γάμος. In the polity of Troy we find more scope for impulse, less for deliberation and persuasion; more weight given to those elements of authority which do not depend on our free will and intelligence, less to those which do; less of organization and of diversity, less firmness and tenacity of tissue, in the structure of the community. We are told of no φῦλα and no φρῆτραι, no intermediate ranks of officers in the army; no order of nobles or proprietors, such as that which furnished the Suitors of Ithaca. There are, in short, fewer secondary eminences; it is a state of things, more resembling the dead level of the present Oriental communities subject to a despotic throne, though such was not the throne of Priam. Among the[248] people themselves, there is more of religious observance and apparatus, but not more of morality: less tendency indeed to crimes of violence and turbulence, but also less of truth, of honour, above all of personal self-mastery and self-command. The Greeks never would have produced the Paris of the Iliad; for on behalf of no such dastard would they have been induced to bleed. But if they had engendered such a creature, they would not have paid the penalty: for man in the Trojan type would not have had the energy to recover it from the warrior-statesmen of the Achæan race, and under no circumstances could the really extravagant sentiment put by Virgil into the mouth of Diomed[524] have been fulfilled:

ultro Inachias venisset ad urbes
Dardanus, et versis lugeret Græcia fatis.



The legendary Geography of the Odyssey may in one sense be compared with that of Ariosto, and that of Bojardo. I should be the first, indeed, to admit that a disquisition, having for its object to establish the delimitation of the Geography of either of those poets, and to fix its relation to the actual surface of the earth, was but labour thrown away. For two thousand years, however, perhaps for more, the Geography of the Odyssey has been a subject of interest and of controversy. In entering upon that field I ask myself, why the case of Homer is in this respect so different from that of the great Italian romancers? It is not only that, great as they were, we are dealing with one before whom their greatness dwindles into comparative littleness. Nor is it only, though it seems to be in part, because the adventures of Ulysses are, or appear to be, much more strictly bound up with place, than those of Orlando, Rinaldo, or Ruggiero. The difference, I think, mainly lies in this, that an intense earnestness accompanies Homer every where, even through his wild and noble romance. Cooped up as he was within a narrow and local circle—for such it was, though it was for so many centuries the centre of the whole greatness of the world—here is his effort to pass the horizon ‘by strength of thought;’ to pierce the mist;[250] to shape the dim, confused, and conflicting reports he could pick up, according to the best of his knowledge and belief, into land and sea; to people its habitable spots with the scanty material he could command, every where enlarged, made good, and adorned out of the wealth of his vigorous imagination; and to form, by effort of the brain, for the first time as far as we know in the history of our race, an idea of a certain configuration for the surface of the Earth.

Hence, perhaps, may have flowed the potency of the charm, which has attended the subject of Homer’s Outer Geography. The subject has, however, in my belief, its utility too. It is rarely otherwise than well worth while to trace even the erroneous thoughts of powerful minds. But, moreover, in the present instance, I apprehend we can learn, through the Outer Geography of Homer, important and interesting matter of history, which is not to be learned from any other source. For the Poet has embedded into his imaginative scheme a multitude of real geographical and physical traditions; and by means of these, upon comparing them with their proper originals, we can judge with tolerable accuracy what were the limits of human enterprise on the face of earth in the heroic age.

The question before us is, what map of the earth did Homer shape in his own mind, that he might adjust to it the voyages and tours of his heroes Menelaus and Ulysses, particularly the latter? And in order to a legitimate inquiry the first step to be taken is negative. Do not let us engage in the vain attempt to construct the Geography of the Odyssey upon the basis of the actual distribution of the earth’s surface. Such a process can lead to no satisfactory result. Whatever materials Homer may have obtained to assist him, we[251] must consider as so many atoms; I speak of course, as to all that lay beyond the narrow sphere of his Greek knowledge and experience. He had no adequate means of placing the different parts of the accounts which reached him in their true geographical relations to one another. The outer world was for him broken up into fragments, and these fragments were rearranged at his pleasure, with the aid of such lights only, as his limited physical knowledge could afford him.

Principal heads of the inquiry.

Assuming for the present that the Phœnicianism of the Outer Geography has been on the whole sufficiently proved, I proceed to a more exact examination of the subject itself; and I propose to inquire into the following questions.

1. Has Homer two modes of dealing with the subject of locality, considered at large? if so, can it be shown that he applies them to two distinct geographical regions; one the circumscribed central tract of land and sea within which he lived, the other a wider and larger zone, which lay beyond it in all directions; and can a line be drawn with reasonable confidence and precision between these geographical regions accordingly?

2. If it be established that Homer has a system of Outer Geography, severed by a sufficiently-defined barrier from his Inner Geography, then are there any, and if so what, keys, or leading ideas of local arrangement for the former scheme, which, themselves derived from the evidence of his text, should be used for the adjustment of its details?

3. Under the system thus ascertained, what was the route of Menelaus, and more especially of Ulysses, as these presented themselves to the mind of Homer?

I set out from the proposition, which, as I conceive, rests upon universal consent, that within a certain[252] sphere the poems may be considered as a record of experimental geography; and one sometimes carried down into detail with so much of accuracy, that it embraces even the miniature of that branch of knowledge, to which we usually give the name of topography.

By way of example for the former, I should say that when Homer describes the Bœotian towns, when he measures the distance over the Ægean, nay, when he makes Ulysses represent that he floated in ten days from some point near Crete to the Thesprotian coast, he is a geographer. Again, in his variously estimated account of the interior of Ithaca, he is a topographer. He is the same on the whole, though probably with greater license, when he is dealing with the Plain of Troy.

The two spheres of Geography.

In speaking of the experimental geography of Homer, of course I do not intend to imply that he had, even within his narrow sphere, the means that later science has afforded of establishing situations and distances with absolute precision. He could only proceed by the far ruder testimony of the senses, trained in the school of experience. Neither do I mean that the experience was in every case his own, though to a great extent his geographical information was probably original, and acquired by him principally in the exercise of his profession as an itinerating Bard. But by the experimental and real geography of Homer, I mean these two things; first, that the Poet believed himself to be describing pro tanto points upon the earth’s surface as they actually were; secondly, that his means of information were for practical purposes adequate. The evidence of the passage containing the simile of the Thought (Il. xv. 580) would suffice, were there none other, to show that he was himself a traveller; he also lived among a people already accustomed to travel, and[253] familiar with the navigation of a certain portion of the earth’s surface. In a former part of this work I have given several instances to illustrate the disposition of the early Greeks with respect to travel[525]. A people of habits like theirs was well qualified to supply a practical system of geography for the whole sphere with which it was habitually conversant.

But the boldness and maturity of navigation may be measured pretty nearly by the length of its voyages. The geographical particulars of the Wanderings, however dislocated and distorted, show us that the people who had supplied them had acquired a considerable acquaintance with all the waters within, and probably also, nay, I should be disposed to say certainly, some that were without, the Straits of Gibraltar. But in all the poems of Homer we find the traces of Greek knowledge and resort become fainter and fainter, as we pass beyond certain points. On the Greek Peninsula, to the south of the Ambracian gulf on the west and of Mount Olympus on the east, we have the signs of a constant intercourse to and fro. The same tokens extend to the islands immediately surrounding it, and reaching at least as far as Crete. Indeed, apart from particular signs, we may say that, without familiar and frequent intercourse among the members that composed it, the empire of Agamemnon could not have subsisted.

But, at certain distances, the mode of geographical handling becomes faint, mistrustful, and indistinct. Distances are misstated, or cease to be stated at all. The names of countries are massed together in such a way as to show that the Poet had no idea of a particular mode of juxtaposition for them. Topographical or local features, of a character such as to identify a descrip[254]tion with some particular place or region as its prototype in nature, are erroneously transposed to some situation which, from general indications, we can see must be upon a different and perhaps distant part of the surface of the globe. Again, by ceasing to define distances and directions, he shows from time to time that he has lost confidence in his own collocation, that he is not willing to challenge a comparison with actual nature, and that, from want of accurate knowledge, he feels he must seek some degree of shelter in generalities.

It is obvious that, under the circumstances as they have thus far been delineated, the geography of the poems, with a centre fixed for it somewhere in Greece, say at Olympus or Mycenæ, might be first of all divided into three zones, ranging around that centre. The first and innermost would be that of the familiar knowledge and experience of his countrymen. The second would be that of their rare and occasional resort. The third would be a region wholly unknown to them, and with respect to which they were wholly dependent on foreign, that is on Phœnician, report; much as a Roman, five hundred years ago, would practically depend upon the reports of Venetians and Genoese mariners for all or nearly all his ultra-marine knowledge.

Now, though we may not be able to mark positively at every point of the compass the particular spot at which we step from the first zone to the second, and from the second to the third, yet there is enough of the second zone discernible to make it serve for an effectual delimitation between the first and the third; between the region of experience and that of marvel; of foreign, arbitrary, unchecked, and semifabulous report. Just as we are unable to fix the moment at which[255] night passes into dawn, and dawn into day; but yet the dawn of morning, and the twilight of evening are themselves the lines which broadly separate between the day and the night, lying respectively at the extremities of each. So with the poems of Homer, it may be a question whether a given place, say Phœnicia, is in the first or the second zone; or whether some other, such as Scheria, or as the Bosphorus, is in the second or the third; but it will never be difficult to affirm of any important place named in the poems either that it is not in the zone of common experience, or else that it is not in the zone of foreign fable.

Limits of the Inner Geography.

Let me now endeavour to draw the lines, which thus far have been laid down only in principle.

1. And first it seems plain, that the experimental knowledge of Homer extended over the whole of the continental territory embraced within the Greek Catalogue, including, along with the continent, those islands which he has classed with his mainland, and not in his separate insular group[526].

2. It may be slightly doubtful whether he had a similar knowledge of the islands forming the base of the Ægean. There is a peculiarity in the Cretan description (Il. ii. 645-52), namely, that after enumerating certain cities he closes with general words (649),

ἄλλοι θ’, οἳ Κρήτην ἑκατόμπολιν ἀμφενέμοντο.

Still he uses characteristic epithets: and in another place (Od. xiv. 257), he defines (of course by time) the distance from Crete to Egypt. So again in Rhodes (656), Camirus has the characteristic epithet of ἀργινόεις. On the whole we may place this division within the first zone of Homeric geography.

3. Homer would appear to have had an accurate knowledge of the positions of the islands of Lemnos,[256] Samothrace, Imbros, Lesbos, Samos, and Chios[527]. These we may consider, without further detail, as answering practically for the whole Ægean sea.

4. Homer knew the positions of Emathia and Pieria, relatively to one another and to Greece; and the general course of the southern ranges of the Thracian mountains[528]. The Trojan Catalogue appears to show that he also knew the coast-line westward from the Dardanelles, as far as to the river Axius. There we may consider that his Pieria begins, with Greece upon its southern and western border.

5. It would appear that Homer had a pretty full knowledge of the southern coast-line of the Propontis. He seems to place the Thracians of the Trojan Catalogue on the northern side of that sea, but his language is quite general with respect to this part of it. On the south side, however, and in the whole north-western corner of Asia Minor, we appear to find him at home[529]. Thus much we may safely conclude from the detail of the Trojan Catalogue; from the particular account of the Idæan rivers in the Twelfth Iliad[530]; from the latter part of the journey of Juno in the Fourteenth[531]; and from the speech of Achilles in the Twenty-fourth[532], which fixes the position of Phrygia relatively to Troy.

6. From the point of Lectum to the southward, Homer shows a knowledge of the coast-line as far as Lycia in the south-western quarter of Asia Minor. But here we must close his inner sphere. The Solyman mountains supply the only local notice in the poems which can be said to belong to the interior country, and of these his[257] conceptions are evidently as far as possible from geographical. In the Sixth Iliad[533] he appears to conceive of the Solyman people as bordering upon Lycia. Although the name has suggested to some a connection with Jerusalem, we ought to consider it as representing that for which it stands in geography, a part of the grand inland mass of Asiatic mountains. But from the proximity of the Solymi to Lycia, Homer would appear to have moved them greatly westward. Again, when Neptune in the Fifth Odyssey sees Ulysses from the Solyman mountains on his way from Ogygia, we must suppose that Homer conceived them to command some point of a neighbouring and continuous line of sea, which would allow of such a prospect. He would hardly have made Neptune see Ulysses from Lycia, or from a point across the mountains of Thrace, or from one on the other side of the actual Mount Taurus.

We have now, I think, made the circuit of the whole zone, and it is a small one, of the real or experimental geography of Homer.

The intermediate or doubtful Zone.

Let us take next the intermediate zone, which marks the extreme and infrequent points of Greek resort.

Beginning in the west and north-west, we have found Sicania (now Upper Calabria), Epirus, and the country of the Thesprotians[534], marking the points of this intermediate region. To the northward, we may fix it at Emathia. In the north-east, it seems to be bounded by the northern shore of the Sea of Marmora. The Thracians of Homer inhabit a country which he calls ἐριβώλαξ, Il. xx. 485, and which the Hellespont enclosed (ἐέργει), that is to say, washes on two sides at least. The Hellespont, as in this place it is termed ἀγάῤῥοος, signifies to the Eastern part of its waters in[258] particular; and the name probably includes the Propontis (which he might well suppose to have a strong current throughout, like the Straits of Gallipoli), together with the northern Ægean between Chalcidice and the Thracian Chersonese. He has described these Thracians in very vague terms[535], and without any local circumstance, in the Catalogue: but the form of the coast-line apparently implied in the word ἐέργει, and the epithet of fertility, appear to indicate the plain of Adrianople and the Maritz. But this inclosure on two sides terminates when the northern shore begins to trend directly to the eastward: and the Πλαγκταὶ, or Bosphorus, which no man but Jason ever succeeded in passing, are to be considered as in the zone of a semifabulous or exterior chorography.

When we pass into the south-east, we find that Cyprus, Phœnicia, and Egypt may perhaps most properly be placed in the doubtful zone. We have seen that Cyprus was known as a stage on the passage to the East, and as within the possible military reach of Agamemnon. But its lord did not join in the war: and Homer has no details about the island, beyond the specification of Paphos as the seat of the residence, and of the principal worship, of Venus.

We have no instance of any visit paid by Greeks to Phœnicia under ordinary circumstances. The tour of Menelaus is, like that of Ulysses, outside the sphere of ordinary life. He describes himself in it to Telemachus as πολλὰ παθὼν καὶ πόλλ’ ἐπαληθεὶς[536], which may be compared with Od. i. 4. respecting Ulysses. We hear of the Taphians there; for it was at Sidon that they kidnapped the nurse of Eumæus. Piracy in those times probably reached somewhat further than trade.[259] These same Taphians appear to be of doubtful Hellenism. On the one hand, Mentes their leader was a ξεῖνος to Ulysses[537]. But (1) we thus find them in Phœnicia[538], which is not a place of usual Greek resort. (2) They sail to Temese in foreign parts, ἐπ’ ἀλλοθρόους ἀνθρώπους (Od. i. 183), which we do not find elsewhere said of Greeks. The case of the pseudo-Ulysses cannot stand as a precedent for the rest of Greece, nor even for the rest of Crete[539]. (3) The father of Mentes had given Ulysses poison for his arrows, which Ilus, the Hellene, had from motives of religion refused him. This at once supplies a particular reason for the xenial bond between them, and suggests that this Taphian prince may have been, though a ξεῖνος, yet of a different religion and race. (4) The absence of the Taphians from the war, especially as a tribe so much given to navigation, further strengthens the presumption that they were not properly Greeks.

Phœnicia, then, hangs doubtfully on the outer verge of the Greek world, and belongs to the intermediate zone. Yet more decidedly is this the case with Egypt. For Ulysses means something unusual, when he describes the voyage as one lasting for five days across the open sea, even with the very best wind all the way, from Crete; and it is elsewhere described as at a distance formidably great. Such is the idea apparently intended by the statement, that the very birds do but make the journey once a year over so vast a sea[540]. No ordinary Greek ever goes to Egypt: and when the pseudo-Ulysses planned his voyage thither, it was under a sinister impulse from Jupiter, who meant him ill[541]:

αὐτὰρ ἐμοὶ δειλῷ κακὰ μήδετο μητίετα Ζεύς.


Again, the Poet appears to have entirely misconceived the distance of Pharos from the coast. He places it at a day’s sail from Αἴγυπτος, meaning probably by that name the Nile. Vain attempts have been made to get rid by explanation of this geographical error. Nitzsch[542] says truly, that for the geography of this passage Homer was dependent on the gossip of sailors, and compares it with that of Ogygia, Scheria, and the rest. When Menelaus went to Egypt, it was involuntarily, as we are assured by Nestor[543];

ἀτὰρ τὰς πέντε νέας κυανοπρῳρείους
Αἰγύπτῳ ἐπέλασσε φέρων ἄνεμός τε καὶ ὕδωρ.

Beyond the circumscriptions which have thus been drawn, lie the countries of the Outer Geography. Outwards their limit in the mind of Homer was either the great River Ocean, or else the land immediately bordering upon it. Their inner line, that is, the line nearest to the known Greek or Homeric world, may be defined by a number of points specified in the poems. We have, for example, the Lotophagi and Libya in the south; the land of the Cyclops on the west; (I pass by Sicily, because it can, I think, be shown, that Homer transplanted it into another quarter;) Scheria to the north-west, the Abii, Glactophagi, and Hippemolgi, to the north. Then come the Strait of the Πλαγκταὶ, or Bosphorus, pretty accurately conceived as to its site; next towards the east, the Amazons and the Solymi with their mountains; in the south-east the Ἐρεμβοὶ, and then the widely spread Αἰθίοπες. All the places and people visited by Ulysses after the Lotophagi, that have not been named, must be conceived to lie yet further outwards.

I have now explained the grounds on which I assume[261] the existence of two great zones, the one of a real, the other of an imaginative, fluctuating, and semi-fabulous Geography in Homer; and of a third zone, drawn as a somewhat indeterminate border-ground between them.

Sphere of the Outer Geography.

I come now to consider what are the keys or leading ideas of local arrangement which we can first obtain from the particulars of the Outer Geography of Homer, and which we may then apply to the solution of such questions of detail as it presents.

It is plain that we have real need of some such keys. To ascertain the general direction of the movements of the Wanderings of Ulysses, and the general idea entertained by the Poet of the distribution of land and sea, is an essential preliminary to the solution of such questions as, Where were the Sirens? or, Where were the Læstrygones? According to the statement I have recently given, many of the points, that Ulysses in the Wanderings visited by sea, would appear to have been so fixed by Homer, as to imply his belief that the chieftain sailed over what we know to be the European continent.

The two propositions, which I have already ventured to state as being the keys to the Outer Geography of the Odyssey, are in the following terms[544]:

1. That Homer placed to the northward of Thrace, Epirus, and the Italian peninsula, an expanse, not of land, but of sea, communicating with the Euxine; or, to express myself in other words, that he greatly extended the Euxine westwards, perhaps also shortening it towards the East; and that he made it communicate, by the gulfs of Genoa and Venice, with the southern Mediterranean.

2. That he compounded into one two sets of Phœnician traditions respecting the Ocean-mouth, and fixed the site of it in the North-East.


In the first place, I assume that it would be a waste of time to enter upon an elaborate confutation of the traditional identifications, which the pardonable ambition of after-times has devised for the various points of the wanderings. According to those expository figments, we must believe that the land of the Cyclops is an island, that it is the same island which reappears at a later date as Thrinacie, that Æolia is Stromboli in sight of that island of the Cyclops, (though it took Ulysses nine days of fair wind to sail from it to within sight of Ithaca,) and that Ulysses could sail straight across the sea from Æolia to Ithaca. We must look for the Læstrygones and their perpetual day in the latitudes of the Mediterranean. We must either place the ocean northward, (but wholly without any prototype in nature,) and the under-world on the west coast of Italy, where there is no stream whatever, and seek, too, for fogs and darkness in the choicest atmospheres of the world; or else we must remove the Ocean-mouth to a distance about four times as far from the island of Circe, as that island is from Greece, whereas the poem evidently presumes their comparative proximity. But in truth, it is useless to go on accumulating single objections, for it is not upon these that the confutation principally depends. The confutation of these pardonable but idle traditions rests on broader grounds. The grounds are such as really these, that in no one particular do these Italian fables—for such I must call them, notwithstanding the partial countenance they receive from the chaotic and seemingly adulterated parts of the Theogony of Hesiod[545]—satisfy the letter of the text of Homer; that in the attempt to give it a geographical character, they misconceive its spirit; and that they oblige us to override and nullify not only the facts of actual geography, for that[263] we might do without violating any law of reason and likelihood under the conditions of the case, but also the positive indications which Homer has given us from phenomena that lay within his knowledge and experience. In fact, they would oblige us to condemn Homer as geographically unworthy of trust, within the sphere of the every day life and resort of the Greeks, as well as in regions, which he and his countrymen never visited.

And the result of all the violence thus done to Homer would be, that we should have sacrificed at once his language and his imagination, in the attempt to struggle with contradictions to the actual geography which defy every attempt at reconciliation.

At the outset, according to my view, both admissions must be made, and principles must be laid down, as cardinal and essential to the conduct of the inquiry we have now in hand.

Dislocation of actual nature.

It must, I think, be admitted,

1. That Homer has dislocated or transplanted the traditions he had received. For example, he has either carried the Bosphorus westwards[546], or else the Straits of Messina eastwards.

2. That therefore as we are on this occasion inquiring not into the geographical information Homer can give us, but into the errors he had embraced, we must not be surprised if we fail to arrive at any conclusions, either wholly self-consistent or demonstratively clear. We must exact from his text, with something less than geographical rigour, even the conditions of inward harmony.

It may then reasonably be asked, if this be so, how are we to find any clue to his meaning.

My answer is, by laying down rules which will[264] enable us to discriminate between his primary and his secondary statements; between the results of his knowledge, and the fruits of his fancy.

By his knowledge I mean, what he had seen, what he had travelled over, what was familiarly and habitually known to his countrymen, so as to give him ample opportunities of refreshing recollection, of enlarging knowledge, and of correcting error.

By the fruits of his fancy I mean, the forms he has thought fit to give to statements of geography lying outside the world of his own experience, and that of the Greeks in general. These statements, gathered here and there as time and opportunity might serve, he could hardly have moulded into a correct and consistent scheme. Emancipating himself wholly from obligations which it was impossible for him to fulfil, he has treated them simply as the creatures of his poetic purpose, and has analysed, shifted, and recombined them into a world of his own, in the creation and adjustment of which, the principal factor has of necessity been his own will.

Postulates for the inquiry.

I therefore lay down the following postulates:

1. That, Homer having an Inner or known and an Outer or imagined world, between which a line may be drawn with tolerable certainty, the voyage of Ulysses, from the Lotophagi to Scheria inclusive, lies in the Outer world.

2. That we may not only implicitly accept the geographical statements of Homer, when they lie within his own horizon or the Inner world, but may fearlessly argue from them.

3. That arguments so drawn are available and paramount, as far as they go, for governing the construction of passages relating to the geography of the Outer world.


4. That we have no title to argue, when we find a point in the Outer world described in such a manner as to correspond with some spot now known, that Homer gave to that tract or region in his own mind, the site which we may now know it to occupy, but that he is quite as likely to have placed it elsewhere.

5. That arguments grounded on the physical knowledge of the Poet are to be trusted. I would name by way of example, (subject only to a certain latitude for inexactness,) such arguments as are drawn from the directions of winds, and from other patent and cardinal facts of common experience, for example, the distances which may be traversed within given times.

6. So likewise are the indications, which harmonize with known or reasonably presumed historical and ethnological views, to be trusted as good evidence on questions relating to his geographical meaning.

In order, however, to be in a condition to make use of indications supplied by the Winds, we must consider what the Winds of Homer are.

The Winds of Homer.

The Winds of Homer are only four in number, and the manner of their physical arrangement is rude. It by no means corresponds with our own, but varies from it greatly, just as his points of the compass varied from ours. And though he names only four winds, yet I apprehend we must consider that upon the whole he uses them with such latitude, as to express under the name of some one of them every gale that blew.

As to some of these winds, Homer has provided us with an abundance of trustworthy data for their point of origin: and through them the evidence as to the rest may be enlarged.

Homer’s governing points, from which to measure[266] arcs of the horizon were, as is evident, the sunrise and the sunset. This is clearly shown by his expressions, such as πρὸς ἠῶ τ’ ἠέλιόν τε, for the east, and then in opposition to this, ποτὶ ζόφον ἠερόεντα[547] for the west. Again, when Ulysses urges upon his companions that he has lost all means of forming a judgment of their position, his mode of expression is this, that he does not know where is dusk or where is dawn; where the joy-giving sun rises, or where he sinks[548]. We must therefore dismiss from our minds the four cardinal points to which we are accustomed. They were not cardinal points for Homer. We must also remember not only (1) that Homer had only two[549], but also (2) that his two did not correspond with any of our four, and (3) that from the variation of sunrise and sunset with the seasons of the year a certain amount of vagueness was of necessity introduced into his conceptions of the point of origin for each of the different winds.

We should not, however, exaggerate this vagueness. It had its cause in the variations of the ecliptic, and, like its cause, it was limited. I suppose, however, that the eye guesses rudely at the deviations of the ecliptic, and that we must take N.W. and S.E. for the two cardinal points of Homer.

Homer’s west then ranged to the north of west, and Homer’s east to the south of east. But although this must be borne in mind when we translate his winds[267] into our language, yet of course the winds themselves were arranged, not technically so as each to cover a certain arc on the horizon, but with reference to the directions in which they were found by experience commonly to blow. And in associating each wind with a particular point of the horizon, we must bear in mind that such a point is to be regarded as its centre, and that the same name would be given to a wind within a number of points on either side of it.

As to the respective prevalence of the different winds, the criterion is certainly a rude one, still it is a criterion, which is provided for us by the comparative frequency of the occasions on which they are mentioned. Eurus is mentioned in the poems seven times, Notus fifteen; Boreas twenty-seven, subject to a small deduction for cases where he is simply a person; and Zephyr twenty-six. The latter pair are the leading Winds of the poem: not necessarily that they indicated the prevailing currents of air, but that they represented such currents of air as usually prevailed with force sufficient to make them good poetical agents.

We may also learn, from the epithets given to the winds, the impressions which they respectively made upon the mind of Homer.

Eurus never has a character attached to it. Notus seldom has any epithet; but still it is mentioned, by the comrade of Ulysses in Od. xii. 289, as one of the most formidable winds. This may probably have been on account of its direction relatively to the place of the speaker; because from that point it blew right upon Scylla[550]. Again, as Zephyr and Notus are nowhere else associated by the Poet, the presumption arises on that ground also that here Notus is put in for a special[268] and local reason. It is called ἀργέστης, and is so essentially allied with the idea of moisture, that νότιος stands simply for wet (νότιος ἱδρὼς, Il. xi. 810).

The characteristic epithets of Boreas are μέγας, ὀπώρινος, and αἰθρηγένης. The first of these indicates that he blew hard: and we know the same thing from the facts, that Achilles desired him to contribute towards rapidly consuming the pyre of Patroclus, and that he is often used for a storm[551].

But, of all the winds, the Zephyr evidently was the most prominent in the view of Homer. It is μέγας (Od. xiv. 458), λαβρὸς ἐπαιγίζων (Il. ii. 148), κελαδεινὸς (Il. xxiii. 208), δυσαὴς (Il. xxiii. 200, and Od. xii. 289), κεκληγὼς (Od. xii. 408); and it alone of the winds roars, ζεφύροιο ἰώη (Il. iv. 276). In Od. xii. 289, it is mentioned with Notus: they are the winds most apt to destroy ships even despite or without the gods. For Notus, as I have said, this character seems to be local: but the Zephyr is here called δυσαὴς, and the sense of the passage is in accordance with his general reputation. He, with Boreas, is invoked for the pyre of Patroclus: and these two are the only winds which are ever employed singly to make foul weather. Homer’s other modes of creating a tempest by the agency of the winds are (1) to make a combination of all or several of them, (2) to cover the matter in a generality by speaking of the ὀλοοὶ ἄνεμοι without distinction.

There is, however, in Homer a faint trace of the milder character, which was afterwards more fully recognised in Zephyr, when he had moved down from the north, and become a simple west wind. In the description of[269] the Elysian plain, we find that it is never vexed with tempest or with rain, but that the happy spirits dwelling there are incessantly refreshed with the Zephyrs which spring from Ocean[552]. But even here the breezes are λιγυπνείοντες: and this word means what is called blowing fresh. And the conception of the wind here is rather as a sea-wind, and therefore not a cold one, than as being soft and gentle.

Of these four Winds, Homer has made, on various occasions, two couples. He repeatedly associates Boreas and Zephyr in the same work[553]:

ὡς δ’ ἄνεμοι δύο πόντον ὀρίνετον ἰχθυόεντα,
Βορέης καὶ Ζέφυρος, τώτε Θρῄκηθεν ἄητον.

And again, for the purposes of Achilles, the two come together over the sea, and quickly fall to, that the pyre may be consumed; even as the prayer of the hero had been addressed to them in common[554].

In the same way, Eurus and Notus are associated together as exciting the Icarian Sea. This passage is curiously illustrative of Homer’s distinctions between the winds. He has two successive similes, both describing the agitation of the same Assembly[555]. In the first it is compared to the Icarian Sea lashed by Eurus, and by Notus charging from the clouds. In the second, to a corn-field, on which Zephyr powerfully sweeps down[556].

From a just consideration of these passages, it becomes clear that the four winds of Homer were not at equidistant points of the compass, but that each two[270] of them were capable of association, while neither member of one pair is ever described, except in a single passage, which I will presently notice, as cooperating with one of the other. Of course I do not refer to those cases, where the Poet raises all the four winds at once, simply to create a hurricane; no bad conjecture, I will add, for those times, in anticipation of the modern discovery that hurricanes are eddies, and that it is their circular motion which makes them seem to blow almost simultaneously in all directions[557].

Let us now inquire what can be done towards ascertaining more particularly the leading points of these winds, of which we have surveyed the general descriptions.

Points of origin for Zephyr and Boreas.

I begin with the more prevailing pair, Zephyr and Boreas.

There can, I think, be no hesitation in deriving Ζέφυρος from ζόφος. It may be well to remind the reader that ζόφος is the same word in substance with κνέφας and νέφος[558].

Thus the north-west is his cradle. But he is so closely associated with Thrace and with Boreas, the former being his residence, and the latter[559] his companion, that though he may mean any wind from west up to north, we must consider him as usually leaning from the north-west towards the north, while he properly belongs to the north-west rather than any other given point of the compass.

The position of Boreas is the best defined of all the winds of Homer. He cannot come from any point to the west of due north: for all that space is appro[271]priated to Zephyr. He is equally well defined on the other side. For he blows from Thrace, both generally, as in Il. ix. 5, and particularly on the Plain of Troy[560]. I hold to be of no authority, as fixing the direction of this wind, the Boreas which carries the pseudo-Ulysses from Crete to Egypt[561]: for there Homer is already beyond the Inner World, and he only knows the position of Egypt from Phœnician report. But we have other trustworthy indications from within the sphere of Greek nautical knowledge, in his carrying Hercules from Ilium to Cos[562], in his preventing a voyage from Crete to Ilium[563], and in the fate of Ulysses, who, in rounding Malea, is carried off by Boreas to the westward of Cythera[564]. All these operations can be performed only by a wind blowing from the quarter between east and north-east.

Putting together these indications, I think we must conclude that the Boreas of Homer is a wind to the east of north. But it seems plain that he does not embrace nearly the whole quadrant from north to east. For, like and even more than Zephyr on the other side of the pole, he has a leaning towards the polar side, and, in the absence of more particular marks, Homer should be taken to mean by him a N.N.E. wind, that is, a wind ranging principally or wholly from N. to N.E.

I take the line Il. ix. 5, which many have treated as a difficulty, for a sound and valuable geographical indication. Boreas and Zephyr blow from Thrace. To a Greek, say at Mycenæ, Thrace, which reaches from the Adriatic to the Euxine, covers more than ninety degrees of the horizon. It is from within those ninety degrees that every Boreas, and probably every Zephyr,[272] of Homer can be shown to blow. These are facts which we may hold in deposit, ready for service in the explanation of the movements of the Outer Geography.

And along with them we must keep in mind the Homeric affinity and sympathy established between Boreas and Zephyr. It is so considerable, and they are especially in such local proximity, that practically we should not go far wrong were we to say Homer divides the whole circumference of his horizon into three nearly equal arcs of 120 degrees, more or less. The first of these, beginning from due west, is given to Zephyr and to Boreas. The next, reaching to within 30° of the South Pole, to Eurus: and the third, embracing the residue of the circle, to Notus.

Points of the Compass for Notus and Eurus.

Notus is the great southern wind, Eurus being comparatively of little account. Now, one of the chief data applicable to determining the direction of these winds is the passage Il. ii. 144-6. Here they are described as disturbing the Icarian Sea, which was within the sphere of Greek navigation. Now the position of that sea, on the coast of Asia Minor to the south of Samos, shows,

1. That both these winds in Homer have a decidedly southern character.

2. That one, of course Eurus, must come from the east, and the other, Notus, in that place, from the west of south. Because the conflict of the two winds presumes a considerable space between the points from which they blow, while the position of the Icarian Sea requires both to be southern. But in the Fifth Odyssey, too, Notus is treated as the proper antagonist of Boreas. His centre therefore lies a little to the westward of due south; but Eurus does not approach the South Pole, and every wind from about[273] S.S.E. to W. will probably fall within the Homeric description of Notus.

The associations of Notus and Eurus are frequent[565]. On one occasion, however, Notus is combined with Zephyr, though there is no corresponding case of junction between Eurus and Boreas. Notus and Zephyr are sent from the sea by Juno to blast the Trojan army with heat. Boreas would of course be a cold wind: and Eurus would be cold on the plain of Troy, from passing over the chain of Ida: though in Greece he melts the snow that Zephyr has brought. Differences of season, as well as of situation, may have to do with these varieties of operation.

Though less strong than Zephyr and Boreas, Notus is a stronger wind than Eurus. And though generally the counterpart of Boreas, his power of cooperating with Zephyr shows that he must reach over the quadrant from the South pole to West, whereas we have no Boreas coming down from the North pole as far as East.

As the opposite of Zephyr, Eurus blows principally from the south-eastern quarter; and hence is in frequent cooperation with Notus, but never with any other wind. He must, however, be understood to cover the whole space from the rigidly northern Boreas down to Notus, or from about N.E. to within 30° of the South pole. Boreas is inflexibly confined by all the evidence of the poems to a very narrow space: and Eurus, his neighbour eastward, does not much frequent those points of the compass that lie nearest to him.


winds and directions

The accompanying sketch expresses what I believe to be in the main Homer’s arrangement of the Winds. At the same time, I do not know that we have any practical example of any wind in Homer which blows from within forty-five degrees on either side of due East, or from within about the same number of degrees on either side of due West. Perhaps it was from their local infrequency, that he does not appear to have put such winds in requisition[566].

The name Eurus is further attached to the point of sunrise by the root ἔως, to which it is traced[567]. The[275] tracts of Aides are with Homer σμερδάλεα εὐρώεντα (Il. xx. 65). May not this εὐρωεὶς come from the same source? The Cimmerian darkness of Homer is close to the mouth of Ocean, and near that chamber of the Sun, which is at Ææa[568]. Viewing dawn as the middle point between night and day, Homer possibly connected it with each. It seems further possible, that he connected the Eastern with the Western darkness: both because this would bring his two regions of the future world into relations with each other, and because he makes the Sun disport himself with his oxen on the same spot in Thrinacie after his setting in the evening, and before his rising in the morning: a passage, which for its full explanation might require the supposition, that Homer believed the earth to be cylindrical in form, and thus the extremes of East and West to meet[569]. There will shortly be occasion to revert to this subject, in further considering what were the constituent parts of Homer’s East.

Homeric distances and rates of speed.

I shall trust mainly then to winds, thus ascertained from Homer’s Inner world, as the means of indicating the directions of the movements described in his Outer one. But besides directions, we have distances to consider. And here too we have some evidence, supplied by his experimental knowledge, to guide us.

By combining the inner-world data of distance with those of direction, we shall obtain the essential conditions of decision for the outer-world problems. Conditions both essential and sufficient, when we can lay hold upon them; but we shall still have to contend with this difficulty, that in one or two remarkable cases the Poet takes refuge in language wholly vague, and[276] leaves us no guide for our conjectures, except the rule of making the unascertained conform in spirit to what has been made reasonably certain.

The distances of which I now speak are sea-distances. It is a somewhat remarkable fact, that Homer scarcely gives us land-distances at all. Telemachus and Pisistratus drive in two days from Pylus to Sparta: but it is not the wont of the Poet to describe places, which communicate over land, by the number of days occupied in travelling between them. This circumstance is illustrative of a trait, which assumes great importance in Homer’s Outer Geography, namely, the miniature scale of his conceptions as to all land-spaces; a trait, I may add, to which we shall have occasion to revert.

The sea-distances of Homer are performed in no less than six different modes.

1. By ordinary sailing.
2. By ordinary rowing.
3. By rafts, Od. v. 251.
4. By drifting on a timber, Od. xiv. 310-15.
5. By floating and swimming, Od. v. 374, 5, 388, 399.

Sixthly, and lastly, the ships of the Phæacians perform their voyages by an inward instinct, and with a rapidity described as marvellous.

Evidence as to rates of motion.

The language of the poems nowhere takes cognizance of any difference in speed as between sailing and rowing. For example, when Achilles speaks of the time of his voyage to Phthia as dependent upon εὐπλοίη, which the favour of Neptune could give, he evidently means a good sea and the absence of tempest, and does not at all bargain for a wind from a particular quarter, which was not a matter lying within Neptune’s especial province. Nor does there seem to be, on general grounds, any cause for assuming a difference[277] between the average speeds of rowing and of sailing, when we consider, in favour of the first, that the crew rowed almost to a man, with little cargo to carry; and, to the prejudice of the second, that the science and art of building quick sailers could not then have been understood. I therefore take rowing and sailing as equal in celerity. So that we have in reality no more than five different cases to consider.

But, again, I think there is no reason why we should assume a difference in speed between drifting on a piece of timber, and making way by floating and swimming only. In practicability there may be a considerable difference: but that is not the point before us.

The four methods now remaining seem to require the assumption of different speeds respectively.

Now Homer has supplied us with the times necessary for performing known distances in two cases; and has also given us a third case, which may be used for checking one of the other instances.

A case of known distance is that from the mouth of the Straits of Gallipoli to Phthia. This, according to Achilles in the Ninth Iliad[570], would, with favourable weather, be performed so as to arrive on the third day. It may amount to a little more than three degrees, and may be taken at two hundred and twenty miles. The time is three days and two nights. So that, for ordinary sailing or rowing, a day and a night may be taken at about ninety miles, of course without any pretension to minute accuracy.

Secondly. With a good passage, a ship sailing from Crete to Egypt arrives on the fifth day (Od. xiv. 257). But we cannot consider Homer’s opinion of the distance between Crete and Egypt as entitled to the full[278] weight of his experimental knowledge. Again, it is to be borne in mind, that here the north wind, which carries the ship, was a prime one (ἀκραὴς καλὸς, 253). Lastly, much might depend on the part of Crete, from which we suppose the vessel to have sailed.

As respects the last-named question, we must, from the habits of ancient navigation, suppose the eastern extremity of the island to have been the point of departure; because no sailor would have committed himself to Boreas on the open sea, as long as he could make way under cover of a shore lying to windward.

The distance between the eastern point of Crete and the western mouth of the Nile is about three hundred and fifty miles; the time five days and four nights. This would give a somewhat less rate of progress per diem than the last case; but then it is likely that Homer took the distance to be greater in that almost unknown sea (see Od. iii. 320.) than it really is; so that we have cause to view the two computations as in substance accordant. And even if they had clashed, the former would still be entitled to our acceptance.

What, however, does appear to be the case is, that Homer mistook the course from Crete to Egypt. It is really S. W.: he has defined it by the wind Boreas, which never blows from a point westward, or at the very uttermost never from one materially westward, of N. So that the course must have been about S. Now, as Homer knew the position of Crete, this would show that he brought Egypt too much to the westward, by shortening the eastern recess or arm of the Mediterranean; an error in exact conformity, I conceive, with all his operations in imagining the geography of the east. But this by the way.

The third test of sea-distances is supplied by the[279] pretended passage of Ulysses, on a mast, from a point just out of sight of Crete[571] to Thesprotia[572]. He arrives on the tenth night. The distance exceeds, by about one half, the voyage from Troas to Phthia. The time is nearly four times as long. But then some allowance may be made for delay on the score of the irregular winds (ὀλοοὶ ἄνεμοι) which prevailed. We may therefore justly calculate the rate of a floating or drift-passage at about one half that of a sailing passage, or two miles an hour instead of four. And here our direct evidence closes.

At an intermediate point between these, we may place the mode of passage by raft, which brought Ulysses from Ogygia. For merchant ships were built broad in the beam; and the raft was as broad as a merchant ship[573]. Thus constructed, and with its flat bottom, it must have been very greatly slower than an ordinary sailing vessel, and I venture to put it by conjecture as low as two and a half miles an hour.

Lastly, we have to consider the rates of the Scherian ships. About these the only thing that is clear is, that Homer meant to represent them as far exceeding all known speed of the kind. They went, says Alcinous, to Eubœa, or as the verse may be rendered, to Eubœa and back, in a day[574]: they are like a chariot with four horses scouring the plain; the hawk, swiftest of birds, could not keep up with them[575]. We cannot, I think, pretend to appreciate with great precision Homer’s meaning in this point; but it is plain that, as he had a map of some kind in his head, he must have had some meaning with respect to the distance performed by the ship from Scheria, though probably a vague one. I think we may venture to take it at three times the[280] speed of the ordinary sailing vessel, or at about twelve miles an hour.

Thus, taking drift-speed for our unit, we have the following scale approximately established:

1. Drift = 2 miles per hour = 48 miles per day of 24 hours.

2. Raft = 1¼ drift = 2½ miles per hour = 60 miles per day of 24 hours.

3. Sailing or rowing ship = 2 drift = 4 miles per hour = 96 miles per day of 24 hours.

4. Hawk-ship of Scheria = 3 sailing ship = 6 drift = 12 miles per hour = 288 miles per day of 24 hours.—

Let us next proceed to consider, whether there are any cardinal ideas of particular places or arrangements in the Outer Geography of Homer, which govern its general structure. For such ideas may, together with the data that we have now drawn from the circle of his Inner or Experimental Geography, assist us in the examination of what undoubtedly at first sight appear to be almost chaotic details.

Northward sea-route to the Euxine.

Setting out from this point, my first business is to show, that Homer believed in a sea-route from the Mediterranean to the Euxine, other than that of the Straits of Gallipoli and the Bosphorus. This route was formed in his mind, as I shall endeavour to prove, by cutting off the land from east to west, a little to the north of the Peninsula of Greece, all the way from the Adriatic to the Euxine. Thus we practically substitute an expanse of sea for the mass of the European continent; and we must not conceive of any definite boundary to this θάλασσα, other than the mysterious one which may finally separate it from Ocean. Or, in other words, we must give to the Black Sea an indefinite extension to the west and north-west, perhaps also shortening it in the direction of the East. This is the one master variation from nature[281] in Homer’s ideal geography[576]; and, when his belief on this subject has been sufficiently proved, almost every thing else will fall into its place with comparative ease.

I will endeavour to illustrate and sustain this hypothesis from the positive evidence, either direct or inferential, of the poems: and I hope to show that it stands upon grounds independent of the negative argument, that it is absolutely necessary in order to supply a key to the Wanderings. At the same time, I hold that that negative argument, if made good, would suffice: for, though we do no violence to probability in imputing to the geography of the Odyssey any amount of variance, however great, from actual nature, yet we should sorely offend against reason, if we supposed that Homer had constructed a route so elaborate and detailed, without laying it out before his own mental vision, and presenting it to that of his hearers, after the fashion of something like a map. This was alike demanded by the realism (so to speak) of the time, and needful for the complete comprehension and easy enjoyment of the romance.

The indications on this subject, apart from the evidence of the Wanderings themselves, are as follows:

1. When, in the Thirteenth Iliad[577], Jupiter turns away his eyes from the battle by the Ships, he turns them towards the north-east: in the direction, that is, in which, according to the hypothesis above stated, there was for Homer not, as we now know to be the case, a wide expanse of land capable of containing a countless multitude of tribes, but, after a certain interval, a vast and unexplored sea. Now the Poet tells us, not that Jupiter looked over an indefinite mass of continent, or the[282] ἀπείρονα γαῖαν; but that he looked over the country of the Thracians, the Mysians, the Hippemolgi, the Glactophagi, and the Abii. Moreover, he indicates, by giving characteristic epithets to each of these nations, that they lay more or less within the sphere of contact with Greek intercourse and experience, and therefore at no great distance to the northward: for not only are the Thracians riders of horses, but the Mysians are fighters hand to hand, the Hippemolgi are formidable or venerable, and the Abii are the most righteous of men. The Glactophagi are defined by their name as feeders upon milk. This limited and characteristic enumeration is in conformity, at the very least, with the hypothesis, that Homer imagined in that direction no continuous succession of land and of inhabitants, but a sea circumscribing the country of Thrace to the north.

2. A more marked indication is, I think, yielded by the passage of the Odyssey, in which Alcinous says to Ulysses, ‘We will convey you to your home, even though it should be more distant than Eubœa, the furthest point that has been visited by our people; of whom some saw it, when they carried Rhadamanthus thither, in the matter of Tityus, son of the Earth[578].’

It appears to me evident, that Homer means in this place to suppose a maritime route between Scheria and Eubœa, to the North of Thrace. He is not, we must remember, experimentally informed as to the position of Scheria itself, and probably he conceived it to lie quite outside the sphere of Greece, at a considerable distance to the northward. Though he brings Ulysses from thence to Ithaca in a day, this is effected by the privileged and miraculous rapidity of passage, which was the distinguishing gift of the Phæacians, as the kin of the Immortals. They are indeed in contact, according[283] to the poem, with the habitable world, but they are strictly upon the outer line of it. They are of the race of Neptune: related to the Cyclops and the Giants: their ordinary life and their maritime routes could not, without doing utter violence to the conceptions of the Poet, be brought within the sphere of ordinary Greek experience. We cannot, therefore, be intended to suppose them to have carried the ancient Rhadamanthus past every known town, port, and point in Greece; past Ithaca, Dulichium, the Cephallenes, Pylus, and the rest. Nor would Eubœa, thus approached, be to Ulysses, who had himself visited Aulis on his way to Troy, a good type of remoteness: nor does it answer that description for the Phæacians themselves, if we consider it according to geographic prose; for though the way to it is long, it is not so distant in a direct line as other parts of Greece, Crete for example; and any people who had made a voyage to Eubœa by sea, round the peninsula, would know very well that the proper way to it was by land. We must, in short, presume such a position for the Scheria of Homer, as to imply a communication by sea between it and Eubœa, other than that through the known waters of Greece.

But if we suppose a maritime passage from the Adriatic round Thrace to exist, then we keep the Phæacians entirely in their own element, as borderers between the world of Greek experience, and the world of fable. They still, when they carry Rhadamanthus, as in all other cases, hang upon the skirt, as it were, of actual humanity. And, thus viewed, Eubœa might fairly stand for a type of extreme remoteness.

3. Another passage of Homer, when understood according to its geographical bearings, appears to me, of itself, nearly conclusive upon this question.


When Mercury is ordered to carry the message of the gods from Olympus to Calypso[579], his proceedings are carefully described. He equipped himself with his foot-wings (Od. v. 44), took in hand his wand (47), and got upon the wing (49). The next step in the narrative is,

Πιερίην δ’ ἐπιβὰς, ἐξ αἰθέρος ἔμπεσε πόντῳ· (50.)

He then bounded along the wave (51), reached the remote island (55), landed on the beach (56), and finally arrived at the cave (57). I think no one can read this description, which extends over sixteen verses, without feeling that it is meant to convey to us, that Mercury moved with great rapidity in a right line, the shortest by which he could reach his destination. But now, if this be so, then, as Pieria lies to the northward of Olympus, we have only to ask how does he pursue his further route? From Pieria he sweeps down upon the sea, and rides upon the waves (54) all the way to Ogygia. It is hopeless to fit this even by a moderate deviation either way to any existing sea: we have only, therefore, to conclude, in conformity with the other indications, that Homer believed in a θάλασσα to the northward of Pieria. We cannot take refuge in the plea, that Homer did not know where Pieria lay. First, because it was on the Olympian border of Thessaly, and as Homer knew that region well, he must have known that Pieria lay to the north of it. Secondly, it was probably within the circle of Greek traditions; since it is sometimes read for Πηρείῃ in Il. ii. 766, and at any rate they seem to be in all likelihood different forms of the same word. Thirdly, a complete proof is given by the route of Juno in the Fourteenth Iliad. She passes, in accordance with the actual geo[285]graphy, from Olympus to Pieria, from Pieria (apparently verging eastwards) to Emathia, and so by the Thracian mountains, evidently of Chalcidice, to Lemnos[580].

4. There is another passage which may be cited in direct corroboration of these views[581]. The spirits of the Suitors passed (1) the stream of Ocean, and (2) the Leucadian rock; and also passed (3) the gates of the Sun, and (4) the people of Dream Land.

Northward route to the Euxine.

Now it may be observed, that to pass the Leucadian rock is not the way from Ithaca to the Straits of Gibraltar: the course would lie round either the north or the south point of Cephallonia. Neither is it the way to the Bosphorus and Black Sea; which must be sought by steering first in a southerly direction. But it is the way to Ocean, and the nether Shades, if I am correct in my belief that Homer believed the route to lie along the Adriatic, and round the north of Thrace. Nor am I aware of any other view of his geography, on which this passage can be explained. The evidence, which it affords, is at first sight conclusive in support of the proposition, that Homer’s route to the Ocean-mouth lay up the Adriatic. But there are two grounds, on which a scruple may be felt about its reception. First, it stands in the second Νεκυΐα, the only considerable portion of either poem which appears, to me at least, open to the suspicion that it may have been seriously tampered with. Secondly, the order of the passage is singular, as it runs thus: they passed, or they went towards, the channels of Ocean, and the Leucadian rock, and the gates of the Sun: while, according to Homer’s geography, the Leucadian rock would come first, the gates of the Sun second, and Ocean-mouth would be the last of the three points.


But in answer to the first, the suspicions affecting this passage are too vague and indeterminate to warrant our rejecting its evidence, where it is in harmony with the general testimony of Homer. Even if these lines were interpolated, they would be remarkable as embodying an ancient, probably a very ancient opinion, as to Homer’s geographical view on the point at issue.

As regards the second, we may cite the parallel case of Menelaus in his narrative of his own tour. After Cyprus and Phœnicia, he describes his visits in the following order: (1) Egypt, (2) Ethiopians, (3) Sidonians, (4) Erembi, (5) Libya. It is evident that this cannot be intended to be understood as the order in which the several places were actually visited[582].

We have thus, I hope, secured for Ulysses, without drawing upon the Wanderings for testimony, what seamen call a good or wide berth; room enough for the disposition of his marvels, and the mystery of the distances between them. In this northern division of the θάλασσα we may imagine Homer to have placed, without any impropriety, or any violence done to his experience of his own latitude, both the double day of the Læstrygones, and the fogs of the Cimmerians. Into it he might well drive Ulysses by the force of the south wind[583], and from it bring him back by the strength of Zephyr or of Boreas[584]. Lastly, by means of this θάλασσα, we can avoid placing Circe and the Sunrise to the west of Homer’s own country; and we are not obliged to find his representation of the Πλαγκταὶ involving him in the hopeless absurdity of contradiction to his own experimental knowledge of the general direction of Jason’s course with the ship Argo.


Amalgamated reports of the Ocean-mouth.

I now pass on to the second of the two propositions, on which it appears to me that a reasonable interpretation of the Outer Geography is to be founded.

It is this: that the Poet has compounded into one two sets of Phœnician traditions respecting the Ocean-mouth, one of them originally proceeding from, or belonging to, the West, and the other to the North-east: and that he has chosen the north-eastern site as the ground on which to fix the scene of his amalgamated representation.

The argument, which has recently been adduced for another purpose from the Twenty-fourth Odyssey, is available to show that the Ocean-mouth of Homer is towards the north: but it does not suffice to decide the question between North-east and North-west, nor does it decide whether Homer simply transplanted the Straits of Gibraltar, or whether he mixed together the accounts of it and of some other strait, and welded them into one.

This question we must examine from the evidence concerning the Ocean-mouth supplied by the Wanderings themselves.

Ulysses and his companions, when they enter the great River Ocean, enter it at a point far north, by the city and country of the Cimmerians, who are enveloped in cloud and vapour[585]: and they are carried up or against the stream (παρὰ ῥόον), by the breath of Boreas[586], to the mouth of the Inferno. Returning from thence, they come down the stream (κατὰ ῥόον Od. xi. 639) back to the sea (θάλασσα); and they there find themselves at the isle of Circe, where is the dwelling of Ἠὼς, and where is also the couch, from which the sun rises in the morning.


In this account it is not difficult to trace certain outlines of truth. The ideas of Homer respecting the gates of Ocean would be drawn from reports which may have related primâ facie to any one of several geographical points; to the Straits of Gibraltar, to the Bosphorus, to the Straits of Yenikalè leading into the Sea of Azof, or to all the three. At one and all of these there appears to be a continual stream flowing inwards in the direction of the Mediterranean or θάλασσα. One and all, as sea-straits, present the character of a vast marine river. In exact accordance with these physical facts, Homer makes the ship of Ulysses, entering the great River Ocean, sail up the stream. We may observe in passing, that he describes his θάλασσα as εὐρύπορος, in evident contrast with the Ocean, which is marked, therefore, by a contraction of shores.

Further, Homer had conceived the existence of what we may call ultra-terrene parts, both westwards and eastwards. On the one hand, Menelaus, after death, is to be carried to the Elysian plain, where Zephyrs continually blow, springing fresh from the bed of western Ocean. On the other hand, the groves of Persephone are on the beach of Ocean, but in the furthest East.

Still it does not at all follow from this, that he had in his mind the idea of a double egress from the Mediterranean, or, the θάλασσα at large, to the Ocean. On the contrary, we never hear of any mode of access to it except one; and his placing the point where Ulysses enters it amidst mist and cloud, and his calling in the aid of Boreas to carry the ship to the groves of Persephone and mouth of the Shades (which he probably intended to be the exact counterpart in position of the Elysian plain), lead to the belief that his egress from sea to Ocean was in the north, and that the further[289] route to the Shades lay, for the most part, in a southerly direction.

Open-sea Passage to Ocean-mouth.

The reader of the Odyssey will observe, that Ulysses encounters on his passage tempests indeed, but yet nothing in the nature of a dangerous maritime passage, before he has entered the Ocean-river, and then, completing his excursion to the nether world, has returned to the island of Circe[587]. Therefore we may say with certainty, that the mouth of Oceanus is, according to the ideas of Homer, accessible by the broad and open sea. Thus we have attained a first condition for the determination of its site.

But, before he sets out a second time from Ææa, Circe, now his friend, directs him as to his onward and homeward course. First, he was to reach the island of the Sirens[588]. After passing beyond this, the deity no longer lays before him a single and continuous route[589]: but indicates to him two alternatives, each involving a most dangerous passage. The first is described in the lines Od. xii. 59-72, beginning ἔνθεν μὲν γάρ. The second, which she recommends in vv. 73-110, begins with οἱ δὲ δύω σκόπελοι: where the δὲ is the apodosis to the μὲν of v. 59. Now, it must be remembered, that physically there was nothing to prevent his returning by the way he came, and thus avoiding both of these passages. Why then does Homer expose him to such extraordinary danger, leaving him no option but either total destruction, or the certain loss, at the least, of six men of his crew[590]?

The voyage of Ulysses might have been given us by the Poet as the execution of a divine plan, comprehensively premeditated as a whole: but it is not so: it is shown us as simply prolonged from time to time by[290] some error of his own or of his companions, or by the spite of Neptune, or by the vengeance which the Sun demanded and obtained[591]. At Ææa he has nothing to do, but to take the best way home. Tiresias had indeed prophesied that he would come to Thrinacie[592], but nowhere intimates that he was to be divinely compelled to do this, or that he would take that route for any other reason than according to his own best judgment. Why then does he not return, as he had come, by the open sea, instead of tempting either of the two passages of peril?

The answer I believe to be this. He was subject to the resentment of Neptune, who operates by storm in the open sea. Otium divos rogat in patenti prensus Ægæo. As in the heroic age, every wound, generally speaking, is death, so storm either invariably or commonly means foundering or shipwreck. Thus then Ulysses might prudently keep to landlocked waters and narrow seas, even with a crisis of great danger before him, rather than face the angry Sea-god on the long passages over the open main, by which he had come to the land of the Cyclops, and so onwards to Ææa.

Rationalized, and reduced to its simplest form, this seems to imply that the routes pointed out to him by Circe, and perhaps especially that which he was to prefer, were short cuts either to his home, or at least back into the Inner or Greek world. And in conformity with this supposition, the whole prediction of Circe appears to presume that a passage of moderate length would bring him back within the known world; for it never speaks of the breadth of any unknown sea to be crossed, which to the navigators of that day was always its most formidable feature.


In the mental view of Homer, then, the passage of Scylla could not lie much beyond the horizon of his own Greek world and of geography proper. This was the more eligible of the two routes. The other was that of the Πλαγκταὶ, or Bosphorus. It was rejected as involving certain destruction: for only Jason had safely passed it by the aid of Juno, and Pallas was not now at hand to succour Ulysses; since he was outside that Greek world, to which her action has been restricted, generally speaking, and in all likelihood for poetical reasons, in the Odyssey. Now, since both these passages are spoken of as apparently lying near the island of the Sirens, which is itself separated, as far as we can judge, by no long interval from Ææa and Circe, the next inferences we have to draw are two of very great importance. The first is, that although the one strait of Homer physically corresponds with the Straits of Messina, while by the other he plainly means the Bosphorus, yet he conceived of these as within no great distance of one another. The second inference is that, according to the belief of Homer, the waters beyond the Bosphorus were accessible by some channel other than that of the Dardanelles and Sea of Marmora: for otherwise Ulysses could not have placed himself on the farther side of those terrible narrows, except by navigating one of them.

Three maritime routes to Ocean-mouth.

There were therefore three maritime routes by which Homer conceived that mouth of Ocean, which Ulysses entered, to be approachable:

1. The route by which the hero actually arrived there:

2. The route of Scylla and Charybdis, by which he returned from it:

3. The route of the Bosphorus, by which Jason had[292] passed, and which Ulysses might, according to the description of Circe, have attempted.

But now, what in the view of Homer was this mouth of Ocean? that is, on what geographical basis rested the reports or descriptions which he adopted for the groundwork of his picture? We cannot but admire, as we pass along, the manner in which the Phœnicians guarded the treasures of their distant markets: no way lay to them except through a choice of terrors; terror in the boundless expanse of devouring waters; terror in shipwreck by the Πλαγκταὶ, which none but Jason (so says Circe, the Phœnician witness) had escaped; terror in certain loss of men by the voracious maw of Scylla. What, however, was this Ocean-mouth that lay beyond them?

My answer is, that there are two mouths of Ocean, either of which might tolerably correspond with the Homeric picture, if tried only by its relation to the intermediate points that are represented by these dangerous passages.

Firstly, the Straits of Gibraltar, leading to the Atlantic.

Secondly, the Straits of Kertch or Yenikalè, leading to the Sea of Azof.

Straits of Gibraltar as Ocean-mouth.

1. As regards the Straits of Gibraltar, they correspond with the Homeric description in respect of their great distance from Ithaca: of their current ever setting inwards to the Mediterranean: of their being accessible, without previously leaving the wide or open sea for any narrow passage: of their being, we may confidently believe, within the maritime experience of the Phœnicians. Further, on the route to them there lies an island triangular in form, which was already described by the name Thrinacie[593]. Again, it would appear that[293] there were other islands between Thrinacie and this Ocean-mouth. For both Circe and the Sirens inhabit islands. Even the nearest of the Balearic isles, namely, Ibiza, is from the Straits of Gibraltar about as far as Crete from Egypt, which we know to have been estimated by the Poet at five days’ sail. It seems, however, not unlikely that Homer, having received a notice of the Balearic isles in the Phœnician reports concerning the Pillars of Atlas, carried them over, together with Atlas himself, into the eastern situation, where he blends two sets of traditions into one. He may therefore have been supplied from this source with materials for his island of Circe and island of the Sirens.

Lastly, although the misty Cimmerians are close by the Ocean-mouth, while the atmosphere of Gibraltar is warm and sunny, yet even the fogs may find their prototype in St. George’s Channel[594], or in the Straits of Dover, and it may also be said that, in the hazy distance of a Phœnician captain’s tale, they might from Homer’s point of view seem to stand nearly together. But still this is a difficulty. There are other more serious impediments, which make it absolutely impossible for us to say that the Homeric mouth of Ocean corresponds with the Straits of Gibraltar. This one especially: that he has, by a multitude of ties, fastened down his mouth of Ocean to an eastern rather than a western site; for there, at least hard by, is the dwelling of Aurora; there is the morning couch of the Sun; there is Circe, sister of Æetes, to whose country Jason sailed through the Bosphorus; and these both have had the Sun for their father, and Perse, daughter of Ocean, without doubt an eastern and not a western personage, for their mother[595].[294] The site of Ææa will, however, together with that of Ogygia, receive presently a fuller consideration.

Straits of Yenikalè as Ocean-mouth.

Let us turn then to the other alternative in the inquiry.

2. As the Straits of Gibraltar offer a resemblance to the Homeric picture, by their lying beyond the Straits of Messina, so do the Straits of Yenikalè, by their lying beyond the Bosphorus. The perpetual current inwards[596] is another feature of correspondence, such as may apply to both the cases, and such as probably assisted the process at which I shall presently glance. The whole group of Oriental conditions, attaching to Homer’s Ocean-mouth, appear to be exactly realized in the straits of Yenikalè.

The Cimmerian country of Homer is represented down to the present day by the Crimea, one of the most ancient passages from Asia into Europe, and probably known to the Phœnicians, who could well enough pass the Bosphorus themselves, while making it a bugbear to others. The cloud, in which these Cimmerians are wrapped, finds its counterpart in the notoriously frequent winter fogs of the Euxine. The peninsula, lying on the very Straits themselves, is in exact correspondence with the passage (Od. xi. 13),

ἡ δ’ εἰς πείραθ’ ἵκανε βαθυρρόου Ὠκεανοῖο·
ἔνθα δὲ Κιμμερίων ἀνδρῶν δῆμός τε πόλις τε.

The only point of the description which is less faithfully represented at this point than at the other, is the epithet βαθύρροος. This agrees better with the deep water of Gibraltar, than with the (now at least) shallow current of Yenikalè[597].

Nor is it unnatural, that near the Cimmerian darkness he should place the home of Aurora and the[295] Eastern Sun: for it is out of darkness that dawn and day must ever rise; and we have occasion to notice, in various forms, the association in Homer’s mind of ideas belonging to darkness with the East. Again, there is a combination of a northerly with an easterly direction in the conditions of the Homeric description, which is exactly met by the position of these Straits relatively to Greece.

But if we say, that these Straits form the single prototype of the Homeric description, we are again met by hopeless contradictions. For there does not lie any triangular island close by the Bosphorus, which might answer to Thrinacie: and there is no free maritime passage whatever, other than the Bosphorus, by which the Ocean-mouth, that is, the mouth of the Palus Mæotis, can be attained by a person who has Troy for his point of departure.

These facts appear to direct us plainly towards one satisfactory, and as it seems inevitable, conclusion. It is exhibited in the sentences that immediately follow.

First, it seems at once clear that Homer either knew, or else dimly figured to himself by Phœnician report, certain geographical facts, including those which follow:—

1. That there was an island, whose figure was defined by a word signifying three promontories, and which was accessible by a passage on the western side of Greece.

2. That near this island, there lay on one side the jaw of a dangerous narrow.

3. That either on the other side of it or in some other neighbouring quarter lay the open sea, and a route along it, by which the further side of the island might be reached, without traversing the narrow.

4. That at a point beyond both these openings (I say[296] nothing for the present of the points of the compass) there lay a great stream such as he called Ὠκεανὸς, flowing always inwards to the θάλασσα, which he supposed to be fed by it (Il. xxi. 196).

5. That there was likewise a passage, which Homer called the Πλαγκταὶ, accessible from the eastern side of Greece; and through which Jason, and as he believed Jason alone, had sailed.

6. That at a point beyond this passage too, there lay an expanse of sea, θάλασσα, and again a great stream, such as he called Ὠκεανὸς, flowing always inwards to the θάλασσα.

Now we have seen that he gives us in the poem one mouth, and one mouth only, of Ὠκεανὸς, which corresponds with every one of these propositions taken singly: it is, according to him, beyond Thrinacie, beyond the Straits of Scylla and Charybdis, attainable by an open sea passage, and beyond the Πλαγκταὶ or Bosphorus.

It seems to follow almost mathematically, that he believed in an open sea route, which must have lain to the north, and which established a communication, independent of the Bosphorus, between the Mediterranean and the Euxine.

He blends two sets of reports into one.

It also hereby appears that he had received from the Phœnicians two sets of reports, one relating to western, and the other to north-eastern navigation, but both involving a description of a great inward flowing stream as an ultimate point, agreeably to his idea of the River Ocean. These two ulterior points, obtained respectively from each set of reports, Homer, led by the similarity of features, has blended into one. We can even now take his untrue representation to pieces, and can see where and how it separates into two, each of them geographically true. In his one mouth of Ocean[297] he has combined the conditions, that in nature belong to two separate geographical points. Both the north-eastern report and the western report he has amalgamated, by carrying the remote point of the former round, so to speak, in order to meet the latter: and having thus made his Ocean-mouth northern, as well as eastern, he consistently calls in Boreas to take the ship of Ulysses to the mouth of the Shades below, so as to fix that point in the east, because it was the counterpart to his Elysian fields which lay in the west. The two sets of Phœnician reports are in this way oddly brought to integrate one another. The Ocean mouth in the Euxine gets the benefit of the open sea route; and the Ocean mouth at Gibraltar has credit for being placed in a northern latitude and eastern longitude; each report thus throwing its own separate attributes into the common stock.

The effect of thus forcing Yenikalè and Gibraltar to meet, naturally enough brings the Faro of Messina and the Bosphorus near to one another: and hence Circe, in the Twelfth Book, names them to Ulysses as alternative routes, both apparently lying in the same region.

But again I say, that in order to comprehend the Outer or imaginary geography of the Odyssey, we must entirely dismiss from our minds the map of Europe as it is. We must treat as having been a real map to Homer only the little sphere which was embraced within the resort of ordinary Greek navigation. Beyond that narrow range, we must consider him as distributing land and sea in the manner he best could, by the aid of reports, necessarily in that age most indistinct, and in all likelihood exaggerated, and even wilfully darkened to boot, by trading craft. Sometimes[298] therefore he puts a people upon poetical terra firma at points, where it fortunately but accidentally turns out that nature has provided an antitype for the imagery of the Poem. Sometimes he lodges them where there is none; ubi nîl nisi pontus et aer. But though details are to be thus disposed of, still the one master variation from actual nature is this; the sea extended from the Mediterranean to the Euxine, behind, i. e. to the north of, the Bosphorus and of Thrace. This gives us that open passage into the Euxine, by which Homer supposed Ulysses to have reached the maritime region, that Jason had sought and found through the Bosphorus.

In sum; it is too plain to require much of the detailed proof which I have tried to give, that Homer believed in a great expanse of waters lying somewhere to the north. The probability is, that from some Phœnician source he had heard rumours of the great German Ocean. It need not to us appear strange that his mind did not readily conceive an extent of land like that of the continent of Europe, when we notice that his experience made him conversant partly with islands, partly with countries in minute subdivisions, and of small breadth from sea to sea. This great imaginary mass of waters he included within the θάλασσα, to which everything belonged as far as the point where the great River Oceanus was reached.

I think then that we have now found the two keys to the Outer Geography,

1. In the sea-route north of Thrace;

2. In the amalgamation of the western with the north-eastern report of the Ocean-mouth.

From the site of the Ocean-mouth of Homer, we may most naturally proceed to examine the site of[299] Ææa; which, as being within one day’s sail, is a kind of porter’s lodge to it[598], and is a point of the utmost importance in the system. Hitherto I have proceeded only by assertion, so far as the site of the Homeric Ææa is conceived. But to defend the second main proposition or key to the system, in the face of counter-theories, it will be necessary to examine, with as much care as may be, all the Homeric evidence that bears either upon this question, or upon the kindred one of the site of Ogygia.

We have then to inquire, subject to the rules which have been laid down, first, whether Ææa, the island of Circe, is to be placed, its northward direction being generally admitted, in the north-west or in the north-east?

Secondly, as dependent very much upon the prior question, and as entering at the same time largely into the proof of it, what is the site of Ogygia, the island of Calypso?

North-western hypothesis for the site of Ææa.

Now I think that the arguments, which have been used for the north-western theory, have been principally founded,

1. Upon precipitate inferences, drawn from some one or more of Homer’s outer-world statements, and then illegitimately used in order to govern the rest of them;

2. Upon the course of the later tradition, which was led, probably by the course of colonization, to identify and appropriate the particulars of the Outer Geography rather in the West than in the East. For Sicily and Italy became at an early period familiar to the Greeks; but it was long before they grew to be well acquainted with the more dangerous, remote, and isolated navi[300]gation of the Black Sea[599]. Perhaps, indeed, the main reason for placing the tour of Ulysses all along in the West has been no better than this; that Homer has given us an account of an island apparently corresponding in form with Sicily; which it may very well do, and yet the conception of the site may be totally erroneous. Again, with respect to traditional authority, I apprehend it may be asserted, that the Fragment of Mimnermus[600], which carries Jason to the East, to the chamber of the Sun, and to the city of Æetes, as to one and the same point, expresses an universal tradition, so far as the voyage of the Argonauts is concerned. And I would also observe, that the current local appropriations about the coast of Italy seem to be given up on all hands as geographically worthless: the only question is, not so much that of removal, as into which of two quarters they shall be transplanted. On the other hand, the principal arguments for the north-eastern hypothesis are, as I conceive, founded upon legitimate inferences, drawn from the inner-world or experimental statements of Homer, and then applied, by a law essentially sound, to determine the cardinal problems of his Outer Geography.

North-eastern hypothesis.

For example, much will depend upon the answer to the question, whether we are to carry the Straits of Messina, or rather the fable of Scylla and Charybdis, taken to represent them, eastwards, or whether we are in preference to move the Bosphorus westwards.

I answer without hesitation, that it is much more reasonable to construe Homer as shifting essentially the site of Scylla and Charybdis, than the site of the Bosphorus; and for the following reasons.

We have not the slightest reason to suppose that[301] either Sicily or the Scylla passage came within the experimental knowledge of Homer and the Greeks of his time, either as to the island and the Strait themselves, or as to the direction in which they lay.

We find indeed that a continuance of winds, which ranged between E. and S. W. detained Ulysses in Thrinacie or Trinacria. It has from this been, as I think by much too hastily, inferred that Thrinacie lay to the north-west of Ithaca[601]. Even if it did so, we should still miss the true bearing of Sicily, which is west, with all inclination to the south, and not north-west, from Ithaca. But the assumption is in fact unwarranted. The wind, which principally held Ulysses fast in Thrinacie, was, as is evident from the passage, Notus, a southerly wind. Eurus plays a secondary part there[602]. Besides this, the wind, which Ulysses needed, may have been needed to bring him not to Ithaca, but to some point on his way to Ithaca, from whence his bearings would be known; to some point at which, from the Outer, it would have been practicable for him to re-enter the Inner or Greek world. The needful conditions would be satisfied if, for instance, Thrinacie lay either north-west or north-east from the Dardanelles; and then Ulysses would want either Zephyr or else Boreas to get there. And the opposite theory proceeds upon the entirely arbitrary, nay, untrue, assumption, that the way back through the Narrows was, like the way by which Ulysses had come to Ææa, an open-sea route, and not one in which the course would have to be governed by fixed points of land lying along the course.

There is then no middle term between Thrinacie[302] and any fixed point of the Inner Homeric world, from which we can by direct inference argue as to its site. And the winds, which detain Ulysses in Thrinacie, go far of themselves to show that this island is not on the site of Sicily.

The case is far otherwise in regard to the Bosphorus, or Πλαγκταὶ, of the Odyssey. For here we know,

1. That Homer was familiar with the Dardanelles, a stage on the way to it, and not very far from it:

2. That he makes Jason pass the Bosphorus:

3. That he also makes Jason settle at Lemnos, and become sovereign of the island, evidently in connection with his route from Thessaly to the East.

But Thessaly, and Lemnos too, are places of the inner world: with Lemnos the Poet appears to have been accurately acquainted; and the line between that island and the home of Jason determines absolutely so much as this; that the general direction of his voyage was known by Homer, at least up to this point, to have lain to the north-eastward through the Straits of Gallipoli.

I hold therefore that the passage of the Πλαγκταὶ is fixed immovably, by known-world evidence, as to its general direction: that to transplant it to the west, is to break up the foundations of Homer’s experimental knowledge, which is always to be trusted: whereas to move his Thrinacie eastward is merely to suppose that he gave the site which was poetically most convenient to a tradition which, as it came to him, had no site at all, no positive local or geographical determination.

Character and site of Thrinacie.

Again, I take the island Thrinacie by itself; and I contend that, although the report on which this delineation was founded may probably have had its origin in Sicily, yet the Thrinacie of Homer is associated rather with the East than with the West.


For, though he has given us no geographical means for directly determining the site, he has supplied us with other means that belong, not to Phœnician rumour or fireside tale, but to his own knowledge and experience. Since nothing can be more certain, than that the leading local association of the Sun, for Homer as for all mankind, is with the east. It is true that he is in the west just as often as in the east; but we certainly hold Napoleon to belong more to Corsica than to Saint Helena; and so the mind connects the Sun with the place of his daily birth, and not with that of his daily death. Now, without entering upon any other question for the present, I only observe, that in Thrinacie are the oxen with which the Sun disports himself when not engaged in his daily labours; that is, as he himself supplies the explanation, both before they begin, and after they are ended[603]. In deference, then, to those associations, founded on actual nature, which for the present purpose are strictly facts, I cannot hesitate to maintain, that the island of Thrinacie is upon the whole, relatively to Greece, an eastern island.

A like inference may be drawn from the names Lampetie (λάμπειν) and Phaethusa (φάος), which he has given to the Nymphs of the Sun. Had the island been in his intention western, he would have called them by names of a different etymology.

And as the Scylla passage, which is on its coast, is near the Πλαγκταὶ, I think we shall pretty closely conform to the views of Homer, if we make Thrinacie form the western side of the Bosphorus, and if we separate it by an imaginary or poetical Scylla from the main land of Turkey in Europe.

Again, it is admitted that Αἰήτης has his name from[304] Αἰαίη. From the personal relations of Æetes, as well as from those of his daughter Circe, we may therefore argue respecting the site of Ææa, provided we can attach them to any known and fixed point of the system of Homeric ideas.

Now their parentage furnishes a point of this kind, on both the father’s and the mother’s side. Their father is the Sun: a divinity not, like the Apollo or Minerva[604], de-localized, but one having his daily sojourn (out of work-hours) in the east. The mother is Perse: and enough, I think, has been shown with respect to the import of this name for the Achæan mind[605], to make it pretty certain that, when Homer gives a residence to the children of Perse, he intends it to be in the east.

It is now time to bring more directly into the discussion a point much contested—the situation of the island of Calypso. The usual modes of solution, which place the original of this picture on the Bruttian coast or in Malta[606], are inadmissible in spirit as well as in the letter. For very great remoteness is the most essential point in the description, and to bring it near would wholly change its character. It requires eighteen days of favourable wind[607] to come by raft within sight of Scheria from Ogygia: while even the distance from Crete to Egypt, a greater one than from the Bruttian coast to Greece, might be performed, as Homer thinks, in five[608]. It is the midpoint, or ὄμφαλος[609], of a vast expanse of sea: and Mercury, passing thither from[305] Olympus, mentions the route as one which traverses a mighty space of water, without habitations of men between[610]. Again, the name of Calypso (καλύπτειν) places it wholly beyond the circle of Greek maritime experience: as does her relation to Atlas, who holds the pillars, that is, stands at the extremity, of earth and sea. The first and cardinal point to be fixed therefore is its decided, if not extreme remoteness.

Next, if it is thus remote, we find by a process of exhaustion that it must be in the north. As far as we know, Homer recognised the African coast by placing the Lotophagi upon it, and the Ethiopians inland from the East all the way to the extreme West. In that direction there is no more θάλασσα, or sea. And again, as Nitzsch truly remarks, Scheria is on the proper homeward line of the voyage of Ulysses[611]. Consequently he cannot pass, nor can he even approach, Ithaca while on his way to Scheria: I add, he must come to it down the Adriatic on his way to Ithaca.

Site of Ogygia to the East of North.

Now we are provided with an important argument, drawn, like some preceding ones, from what we may fairly call Homer’s experience, and tending to fix the site of Ogygia in the north or north-east. It is derived from the route taken by Mercury, when he carries the message of the Immortals to Calypso, which in another point of view we have already had to examine[612]:

Πιερίην δ’ ἐπιβὰς, ἐξ αἰθέρος ἔμπεσε πόντῳ.

We are obliged to suppose, as has been observed, that Mercury, who does not march, but flies like a bird wont to hunt for fish[613], must move in a direct line towards his object. But Pieria is a district stretching along[306] the shore of Macedonia; it begins in the south, to the eastward of Olympus, and then extends due north of it. Its limits are variously defined[614]; but the only question about it could be, whether it verges, not to the westward, but to the eastward of North. Again, from the route of Juno in the Fourteenth Iliad[615], no question can arise, except what would tend to give Pieria an eastward turn.

A line drawn from Olympus over the centre of Pieria would carry Mercury to the North. It might, consistently with the condition of crossing Pieria, diverge a little either to the east or the west of due North, but only a little. Consequently the island of Calypso may be affirmed to be, according to the intention of Homer, in the North, and not very far from due North.

This conclusion is confirmed by two other arguments; which are both of the class which I have described as legitimate, because they are founded on Homer’s physical knowledge of the direction of the winds.

After the storm has destroyed the ship of Ulysses to the south of Thrinacie, Notus, a wind of decidedly southerly character, carries him back again to Scylla, Od. xii. 426: and again, when he has passed it, he proceeds thus[616]:

ἔνθεν δ’ ἐννῆμαρ φερόμην, δεκάτῃ δέ με νυκτὶ
νῆσον ἐς Ὠγυγίην πέλασαν θεοί.

Now there is no mention between these two passages either of any change of wind, or of any particular wind. Consequently it seems rational to assume that Homer meant us to understand a continuance of the wind just named, namely Notus. Even independently of this collocation, we should be thrown back upon the general[307] rule of the Wanderings, which is that southerly winds blow Ulysses away from home, while northerly ones bring him back again.

Consequently, the natural construction to put upon the passage is, that it was a south wind, whether a little east or west of south matters not much, which continued to blow, and which drifted Ulysses away from Ithaca to the island of Calypso. This is in entire accordance with the passage which describes him as windbound by Eurus and Notus at Thrinacie; since the way from home is presumably the exact reverse of the way towards it. But it will be said, this implies that he made westing on his way to Ogygia from Ææa. I answer, that this is probably so: for Circe is described as immediately connected with the east, while Calypso is far, as Mercury complains, from all land and habitation: so that apparently her island is, in the intention of Homer, materially to the westward, as well as greatly to the northward, of Ææa. But the main direction taken from Scylla is northward; and, since Scylla is near the Πλαγκταὶ, and the Πλαγκταὶ are the Bosphorus of actual nature, it must be taken from a point near the Bosphorus, along the imaginary expanse of an enlarged and westward-reaching Euxine.

According to this argument, then, Ogygia might lie upon a line drawn from Mount Olympus in a direction not very wide either way of St. Petersburgh.

Nor are we wholly without means of measuring the distance. He floats (from Scylla) for nine days, and arrives on the tenth. Now this is just what happened to the pseudo-Ulysses[617], who in the same space of time drifted from a point near Crete to the country of the[308] Thesprotians. We may therefore fix Ogygia as (in the intention of the Poet), at about the same distance from Scylla, which we measure from the south of Epirus to a point near, yet not in sight of, Crete. But this in passing.

The corresponding argument is derived from the homeward passage of Ulysses, and stands as follows:

For seventeen days Ulysses pursues his raft-voyage from Ogygia to Scheria; and the raft threatens to founder on the eighteenth. He then floats, by the aid of the girdle he had received from Ino. Up to this point there is no positive indication of the wind; the argument from the relation between his course and the stars I will consider shortly. But after he has put on the girdle, and when Neptune withdraws his persecution, since he is now approaching the horizon of the Inner world again, Minerva’s agency revives, and she sends a north wind or a north-north-east wind, Boreas, to bring him to Scheria.

Now there is no reason for our supposing that Homer meant to represent Ulysses as changing his general direction at this particular point. The orders of Circe with respect to the stars all indicate a single right line from Ogygia to Scheria, and neither the wind nor his course alter, until he has seen the island on the far horizon. The natural inference therefore is, that Boreas, the N. or N. N. E. wind, which at last drifted him in, was the wind which had brought him all the way from the island of Calypso, over an unbroken and unincumbered expanse of sea.

We appear to have seen, thus far, that Ogygia is greatly to the northward, and probably somewhat to the westward, of the Strait of Scylla. We shall obtain further light upon the site of that island, if we can[309] more precisely define the position of Scylla with regard to what lay southward, as well as with respect to what lay northward, from it.

Our data are as follows:

1. Thrinacie appears to be close to Scylla, for it is reached αὐτίκα (xii. 261).

2. The comrades of Ulysses, when they arrive at the island, and when he attempts to dissuade them from landing, reply by asking what is to become of them if they set sail at night, and are then caught by a squall of Eurus or of Zephyr (284-93).

3. The ship is windbound in Thrinacie for a month by Eurus and Notus; which may be taken in Homer as the winds that cover the whole horizon from a point north of east to the western quarter[618].

4. When they finally set sail, we are not told with what wind it was: but, after they have got out of sight of the island, the sky darkens, and mischief follows[619];

αἶψα γὰρ ἦλθεν
κεκληγὼς Ζέφυρος, μεγάλῃ σὺν λαίλαπι θύων·

and the ship goes to pieces in the tempest. At length Zephyr ceases, and Notus blows Ulysses back upon Scylla.

5. If it was the intention of Homer to place Thrinacie by the Bosphorus, then the next point which Ulysses had to make was the Dardanelles.

Scylla and the Dardanelles.

The question therefore is, what conclusion can we draw from the evidence now before us as to the position of Scylla relatively to the Dardanelles? I think a pretty clear one.

We have at least two of those statements, which may be called experimental, now before us. Homer knew the[310] position of the mouth of the Dardanelles. He knew the nature of the wind Notus. And there is a third piece of evidence not unimportant, which we may here properly bring into view. We have seen that, in Il. ii. 845, Homer confines or contains his Thracians (ἔντος ἐέργει) by the Hellespont: and the Hellespont with him means all the waters from the Sea of Marmora to the northern Ægæan inclusive. Now by this he intends only a part of the Thracians, those, say, of the plain of Adrianople. It is presumable therefore that he believed the configuration of the coast at the two extremities of the Dardanelles to be something like at least two of the sides of a square, running N. and W. respectively: for unless it formed a portion of some marked figure, it would not answer his description of including a certain district, and the words would become applicable to the whole of Thrace alike. Therefore it appears that Homer thought the northern coast of the Sea of Marmora trended, from its western point, more rapidly to the north, than is really the case.

The most decisive evidence, however, is that which had been previously named.

When the storm came, which shattered the ship, Ulysses was on the true course from Thrinacie to the Dardanelles. But if we know the point for which he was making in a right line from point x, and if we also know the wind which carried him back to point x, then the line on which point x itself lies is also known. In other words, as Notus, or say the S.S.W. wind, carried him back upon Scylla, Scylla lies to the N.N.E. of the inner mouth of the Dardanelles: and the unnamed wind which takes him back to Scylla is Notus, which we are entitled to consider as blowing (even as Boreas, its counterpart, blows from due N. to the eastward) from[311] any point between the limit of Eurus on the East of South, and 45 or even 90 degrees beyond South to the westward.

Ææa, then, is in the East; with somewhat of an inclination, as measured from Greece, towards the north. Ulysses has much westing to make, in order to get to Scheria. Part of this is made on his passages between Ææa and Ogygia in the farther north. The rest in the course of his long seventeen days’ voyage from the north, which is propelled, as it would appear, by Boreas, and therefore includes also a slight westerly inclination.

All these arguments converge towards the same conclusions, and all of them are mainly founded, not on Homer’s outer-world representations, but upon indications drawn from his knowledge of nature, or else from his experimental or otherwise familiar acquaintance with the Inner world: that is, they are built not on the figures of his fancy, but on the facts of his own and his countrymen’s every-day experience.

And now let us consider the adverse construction put upon the text of the Odyssey; particularly with regard to the island of Ææa.

Why Ææa cannot lie North-westward.

It is quite plain, from the accounts given of the route both ways, that the Ocean-mouth is meant by Homer to be near the island of Ææa; that is, within a day’s sail[620] of that island. How is this reconcilable with the doctrine, which places the island in the far north-west? In the north-east we have an Ocean-mouth, the situation of which the Poet, guided up to a certain point by his inner-world knowledge, has not very inaccurately conceived. In the north-west there is no Ocean-mouth. The Straits of Gibraltar, though they lie rather to the south of west from Ithaca, must[312] be carried far into the north for the purpose; in what form, or with what accompaniments, it is hard to conceive. To attempt such a transposition would involve the complete abandonment of all actual geography, and would after all leave us involved in hopeless confusion in the effort to construct any tolerable scheme from the text of Homer.

Construction of Od. xii. 3, 4.

At the mere transportation, indeed, we need not scruple overmuch, if we could justify the proceeding by other clear indications of Homer’s intention. But there is no such justification. It is hardly possible to exaggerate the violence done to the text of Od. xii. 3, 4, by the interpretation which Nitzsch (following, as I admit, Eustathius), puts upon it. The ship, leaving the stream of Ocean, reaches the sea and the island[621]:

νῆσόν τ’ Αἰαίην, ὅθι τ’ Ἠοῦς ἠριγενείης
οἰκία καὶ χοροί εἰσι, καὶ ἀντολαὶ Ἠελίοιο.

The ἀντολαὶ, the rising, or rising-point of the sun, does not, he says, mean the east, but only the first appearance of the sun on their return from darkness, which is a kind of dawning on them. And the dwelling of the early-born Dawn, and the place (such appears to be the meaning of χόροι) of the Dances of her kindred or attendant Nymphs—who in later mythology became the virgin train of Hours, that now delight us in the frescoes of Guido and Guercino—not only do not mean anything eastern, but apparently in this place are conceived to have no meaning whatever, and to be an idle, indeed a most inconvenient and bewildering, pleonasm. And thus the magic poetry of this passage and all the curious traditions it involves, are destroyed, in order to make room—for what? For the hypothesis[313] that Homer places the dwelling of Morning and the chamber of the rising Sun far to the westward of the country that he himself inhabited[622]!

There is, I confess, something almost of naïveté in the confession of Nitzsch, that ‘it sounds rather strange to interpret ἀνατολαὶ without any reference to sunrise, since it is the customary counterpart to δύσις, the sunset.’ But fortunately there is no Homeric evidence against it: as indeed there cannot well be, since the word occurs in no other passage. With respect to Ἠὼς, Nitzsch contends that it means not dawn, but light: and he quotes the passages which say, ‘your glory shall reach as far as Ἠὼς,’ and ‘horses, the best to be found beneath the Sun and Ἠώς.’ Certainly it is most allowable, (though I by no means think the sense of dawn inadmissible in these two passages,) especially as day goes nowhere except preceded by dawn, to generalize the word Ἠὼς so as to make it equivalent to light. But the fatal flaw in the interpretation is this, that when Ἠὼς is thus used, it is invariably apart from any circumstances which can give a local colour to its meaning. But wherever there is any thing local implied, as is admitted to be in the case before us, the ἠὼς uniformly means the east, though with a certain indefiniteness perhaps as to northward and southward inclination. For instance, when Homer speaks of omen-birds flying eastwards, he describes them as flying πρὸς ἠώ τ’ ἠέλιόν τε, and the opposite movement as ποτὶ ζόφον, which here evidently means north-west, although it too may[314] signify darkness in general. The whole aim of the passage (Od. xii. 1-5) is, to fix locality; and it is in the teeth of all Homeric usage to deprive ἠὼς in such a passage of local force, while it confessedly can have no local meaning but an eastern one.

To me, I confess, it appears that Homer has nowhere done more, and rarely so much, in a single passage, as in this, with a view of declaring his intention. The island Ææa, irrespective of all geographical argument, is, as we have seen, directly bound and fastened to an eastern site by four separate cords. First, as the rising point of the Sun. Secondly, as the residence of Dawn. Thirdly, because Circe, its mistress, has the Sun, the most eastern of all mythological conceptions except the Dawn, for her father. Fourthly, because she has also Perse, whose name indicates a trans-Phœnician origin, for her mother. And further, I am convinced we cannot alter the place of Ææa without uprooting the whole Phœnician scheme of the Outer Geography.

The scope and range thus given to the adventures of Ulysses confines them without doubt to the northern semi-circle, but allows them to reach, within that semi-circle, to its eastern and to its western extremities, as they are imagined by the Poet. Æolus and the Læstrygonians are evidently placed by him in the north-west. The hypothesis, which has here been maintained for Ææa and Calypso, supplies an effectual counterpart, and properly fills up the eastern corner. But, independently of all other objections, the north-western hypothesis for these islands jumbles them, if I may so speak, in one heap with the others, and leaves the eastern quarter towards the North wholly unoccupied. And yet that East was, for a Greek, the source and the scene of the richest legendary and mythological repre[315]sentations. Such an incongruous view of the question would not, I think, be at all in keeping with Homer’s ordinary modes of conceiving, handling, and presenting his materials.

Construction of Od. v. 276, 7.

But I am aware that, up to this time, we have left out of view a passage, of which I freely admit that the prevailing, and in so far the most obvious, interpretation is against me. Ulysses sails over the sea from Ogygia, governing the rudder of his raft with art, and watching the stars, especially the Great Bear; which at that period, I believe, was nearer the Pole, and was a more conspicuous and splendid astronomical object, than it now is. It was with respect to this constellation that he had received a particular order from Calypso[623]:

τὴν γὰρ δή μιν ἄνωγε Καλυψὼ, δῖα θεάων,
ποντοπορευέμεναι ἐπ’ ἀριστερὰ χειρὸς ἔχοντα.

Or, according to the common construction of the words, he was to keep that constellation on the left during his voyage. But if his course lay in the direction of a right line drawn from St. Petersburgh to Corfu, it appears that Arctus, when visible to him, would be visible on the right, and not on the left.

I could not, however, accommodate myself to this passage at such a cost as that of oversetting an interpretation of the general scheme, which is so deeply rooted both in the letter and spirit of the poem, as is the eastern, and likewise somewhat north-eastern, hypothesis for Ææa, together with a northern site for Ogygia. These two, it may be observed, stand together. It is plain, from the times occupied by the several stages between Ææa and Ogygia, and from the language used where no precise time is stated, that the Poet conceived the distance between them to be limited,[316] though very considerable. And indeed the north-western hypothesis for Ææa would do nothing for the passage I have quoted, unless we also carry Ogygia into the north-west, in order that Ulysses, on his way home from it, may have Arctus on his left. Inasmuch, however, as the admission of the received sense for the lines would involve us in a new series of the most complicated and hopeless contradictions, we must look for relief in some other direction.

On the genuineness of the passage.

I desire to eschew, as a general rule, the dangerous and seductive practice of questioning the genuineness of the text because it seems to stand in conflict with a favoured interpretation. I may however state, without unduly relying on them, one or two particulars which, drawn from the poem itself, may show that these two lines are not unjustly open to the suspicion of interpolation.

1. The two lines are wholly void of any necessary connection with what precedes and follows them, and the text is complete without them. We should not break up the passage generally by removing them. This argument, however, is one purely negative.

2. These lines tell us, that Calypso had bid Ulysses keep Arctus on his left. Now Homer has given us a speech of Calypso[624] on the subject of this voyage, in which she promises to send, from behind him, a breeze which shall carry him home. But there is in this speech no order to him whatever about observing the stars; and the promise of the wind in some degree, though not perhaps quite conclusively, tends to show that no such injunction was needed. For it is plain that, if the wind blew fair across the open sea, he did not depend at all upon the helm, and noticing the stars would be of no assist[317]ance to him. I rely, however, more upon this, that there is here a sort of patchwork, very unlike Homer’s usual method, in the mode in which the injunction is recorded. Clearly, if Calypso gave a direction respecting the stars, the proper place for it was in the speech where she delivered to Ulysses what may be called his general instruction for the voyage. And I am not sure whether another instance can be found in the whole of the poems, where an omission of something relevant and material in one of the speeches is supplied by a recital in the subsequent narrative. It is wholly contrary to the manner of Homer, who so uniformly throws into speech and the dramatic form whatever is susceptible of being thus handled.

3. The expression ἐπ’ ἀριστερὰ χειρὸς is found nowhere else in Homer, though the phrase ἐπ’ ἀριστερὰ occurs many times.

4. There is no other passage in the Wanderings, or elsewhere in the poems, which describes the conduct of navigation by means of the stars. In the Iliad we have the mention of a star in connection with sea-travelling; but it is simply as a portent, (ναύτῃσι τέρας, Il. iv. 76). On this, however, if it stood alone, I should place no commanding stress: and it should also be observed that the objection is one which, if admitted, would displace eight lines.

So much for the genuineness of the passage.

As respects the grammatical meaning of the phrase, I have endeavoured to discuss it at large in a separate paper; and to show that its real sense is in fact the reverse of that which is ordinarily assumed. It means, I believe, a star looking towards the left, and therefore a star looking from and situated on the right hand in the sky.


In no case, however, can I admit it to be the true meaning of Homer, that Ulysses is to follow a south-westward course from Ogygia to Scheria; because this is at variance with all the trustworthy, I must add with the consentient, indications of Homer’s intention in the whole arrangement of the tour, as well as in the particular description of Circe’s island. It is also in contradiction to those indications, drawn from his inner or experimental geography, which determine at certain points the bearings applicable to the Outer or Phœnician sphere.

Before proceeding to draw up in propositions the whole outline of the interpretation which I venture to give to the route of Ulysses, I would call attention to the means, which the Poet has adopted to signify to us his own doubt and incertitude respecting its actual bearings at several important points.

By means of the wind Boreas he indicates to us the direction, not however the distance, of the Lotophagi. After leaving them, he tells us nothing either of distance or direction between their country and that of the Cyclopes. From this point he provides us with certain aids until we reach Æolia. When in Æolia, Ulysses is to the north-west of Ithaca: for the Zephyr given by Æolus, he says, would have carried him home. From this isle, six days of rowing take him to Læstrygonia. Another passage of indefinite length next carries him to Ææa; and, arriving here, he is entirely out of his bearings; he cannot tell where is east or west[625], the point of dusk or the point of dawn, until he has been duly instructed by Circe: but he sees an unbounded sea (πόντος ἀπείριτος) on every side of him.

Homer’s geographical misgivings.

This expression of ignorance, put into the mouth of Ulysses, probably conveys the true sense of the Poet;[319] who, more or less puzzled with even his own method of harmonizing the Phœnician reports, and suspecting that it might not bear the test of application to actual nature, shielded himself by anticipation, through giving us to understand that he did not mean to submit Circe’s isle to the strict rules of geographical measurement.

And indeed it was no wonder that he felt some diffidence, when we recollect that he had to concentrate in a single point facts or traditions that embraced east, north, and west. Eastern his site must be to allow of the rising of the sun, and the accompanying legends: he may have had misgivings, lest his Thrinacie, and also other traditions of which he had to work up the materials, should in reality lie westward from Greece: lastly, an appreciable northern element was involved in the general direction of the navigation through the Bosphorus, which in fact supplies a kind of meeting-point for the two former. The remedy is, thus to hang the island of Circe in a vague and shadowy distance, which gives the nearest practicable approach to an exemption from the laws imposed by any determinate configuration of the earth.

Nor are these the only cases, in which Homer has afforded us tokens of his own want of clear knowledge and confidence in regard to the scenes through which he has carried his hero. On the contrary, he has indicated the haziness of his views, and the insecurity of the ground he trod, by forbearing in several other instances to fix with precision the particular winds which favoured or opposed the voyage of Ulysses, or to particularize the distances he travelled.

Homeward route of Ulysses.

We are now at liberty to approach the last portion of our subject. We have, I trust, fixed the distinction of the Inner and Outer Geography; ascertained the[320] keys of the outer system, and fixed its governing points. It remains to inquire what, according to the data ascertained, did the Poet intend to be the route of Ulysses over the face of his ideal map; and then, finally, to show its relation to that of Menelaus, and to Homer’s general conception of the configuration and distribution of the surface of the earth.

I. His first halting-place, after quitting Troy, is with the Cicones, in Thrace. This visit was paid with scarcely a deviation from his homeward route: and therefore it does not belong to the Outer Geography. The Cicones of the Odyssey were probably placed near the northernmost point of the Ægæan sea (Od. ix. 39).

II. From the country of the Cicones, he sails southward, under a heavy north-north-east gale (Od. ix. 67), which lasts for three days. He has then fair weather, till he gets to Cape Malea. But, as he is rounding Cape Malea, the north-north-easter returns, and drives him down the west coast of Cythera (now Cerigo), and so out to sea (79-81). After nine days’ sail, with ὀλοοὶ ἄνεμοι, he reaches the land of the Lotophagi (82-4). Now, as it took five days of the best possible wind to sail from Crete to Egypt (Od. xiv. 253), we may perhaps assume that, in the ten days of veering gales, about an equal distance was made in the general direction of south-south-east indicated for us by the Boreas of v. 82. This will place the Lotophagi on the Syrtis Major, now the Gulf of Sidra. Here the region of the marvel-world begins: and the mention of the ὀλοοὶ ἄνεμοι, in lieu of the pure Boreas, may be taken as fair notice from the Poet, that he had no precise knowledge on what portion of the coast of Africa Ulysses was to set his foot.

The Lotophagi are full of Egyptian resemblances:[321] and it appears that, as Egypt and Phœnicia were for Homer the two greatest border-lands between the real and the imagined worlds, therefore Ulysses makes his first step into the Outer world through a quasi-Egyptian people, and his last step out of it among a quasi-Phœnician people.

III. The voyage from the land of the Lotophagi to the next stage, the country of the Cyclopes, is without the smallest indication either of distance or direction (103-5). But as, within the Outer sphere, northern winds are always homeward, and southern ones carry Ulysses outward, we may assume that Homer here intended some southern wind; though, as he breaks at this juncture the last link with the known world, he could not venture to state any thing like the precise point of the compass.

Shall we place the Cyclopes of Homer on any point of terra firma, or must we imagine a country for them?

Tradition has answered this question by commonly placing them in Sicily. But a vague tradition, as we have seen, is of little authority in regard to Homeric questions; and in this instance, I think, it may be shown to be in error, for the following reasons:

1. The country of the Cyclopes is not an island: it is mainland (γαίη Κυκλώπων, 106), with an island near to it, 105. By the expression γαίη, Homer sometimes means a great island such as Crete: but we have no authority for supposing he would apply it to Sicily.

2. It can hardly be doubted that the little which Homer probably did know of Sicily is represented to us by his Thrinacie. And all this consists in two points: the first, that it was an island (Od. xii. 127): the second, that it was triangular, and derived its name from its form. But his Thrinacie he has given to the[322] oxen of the Sun: and therefore he certainly does not mean it to be the land of the Cyclopes, or he would have given it the same name on both occasions. Indeed, on the contrary, he has actually given another name to the land of the Cyclopes: it is the εὐρύχορος Ὑπέρεια of Od. vi. 4. I may add, that the epithet εὐρύχορος is not generally applicable to Sicily, which is channelled all through with hill and dale, and which nowhere, unless perhaps between Syracuse and Catania, seems to present any great breadth of plain.

3. Besides this, Ulysses traverses very long distances[626], in order to reach Ææa from Hypereia: but Thrinacie, on the other hand, is very near Ææa, so that he has not retraced his distance, and therefore cannot be in Sicily.

Where then were situated these Cyclopes, to whose country Ulysses came after quitting the Lotophagi? It is plain that they were not within the Greek maritime world, or Homer would, we may be sure, have indicated their position by the time of the voyage, or by the quarter from which the wind blew to take him there.

I submit that Homer meant to place the Cyclopes in Iapygia, the heel of Italy; a region nearly corresponding, on the west of the Ionian sea, with the position of Scheria on the east. This hypothesis is consistent with the whole evidence in the case, and might well stand on that ground only. But it is, I think, also sustained by a separate argument from the migration of the Phæacians[627].

The Phæacians, descended like the Cyclopes from Neptune, were recent inhabitants of Scheria; they formerly dwelt near the Cyclopes in Hypereia, and were dislodged from thence by the violence of their brutal[323] neighbours. They removed under Nausithous, and settled in Scheria.

They were flying from a race who had no ships with which to follow them. If Hypereia in which they lived was Iapygia, any place in the situation of Scheria, or near it, would be a natural place of refuge for them. But if they had been in Sicily, Homer in all likelihood would not have carried them beyond the neighbouring coast of Italy, which would have afforded them the security they desired.

IV. From Iapygia or Hypereia, the country of the Cyclopes, Ulysses proceeds to pay his double visit to Æolia. We are not assisted in the first instance (Od. ix. 565. x. 1.) by any indication of wind or distance. It is not unfair to presume that Stromboli, with its active volcano, was the prototype of this gusty island. But, like other places, it is not on the site of its prototype. For Æolus gives Ulysses a Zephyr or north-west wind, which would have carried him home, had it not been for the folly of his comrades (Od. x. 25, 46). The Æolia of Homer then must conform to these two conditions:

1. It must lie north-west of Ithaca.

2. There must be a continuous open sea between them; and one uninterrupted by land, so that one and the same wind may carry a ship all the way.

To meet these conditions, we have only to move Æolia northward. For the northern part of Italy has no existence in the Outer Geography. It is swept away, along with the great mass of the European continent, and the θάλασσα covers all.

After the opening of the bag (x. 48, 54) the ship is driven back by a θύελλα upon Æolia. But here we have had another valuable indication. They had en[324]joyed the Zephyr nine full days, and they were in sight of home on the tenth (v. 28, 9), when the folly was committed. Therefore Æolia is between nine and ten days’ sail to the north-west of Ithaca: or, with an allowance of fifty miles for the distance to the horizon, there will be about one thousand miles between them.

V. The fifth stage is Læstrygonia: and it is reached after seven days’ rowing (x. 80). There is no indication of direction in the voyage: but we have a sure proof that the prototype of this place was far north; namely, that there is here perpetual day;

ποιμένα ποιμὴν
ἠπύει εἰσελάων, ὁ δέ τ’ ἐξελάων ὑπακούει.

It cannot, I think, be doubted that Homer obtained information of a region displaying this natural peculiarity from Phœnician mariners, who had penetrated into the German Ocean to the northward of the British Isles. His retentive mind has, then, made an early record of this, along with so many other singular reports, out of which a large proportion have been verified.

There is another proof that we are here nearly, or rather quite, at the furthest bound of distance ever reached by Ulysses. For the united distances (1) from within sight of Ithaca to Æolia, and (2) from Æolia to Læstrygonia, make seventeen days, the same number occupied in a much slower craft on the voyage from Ogygia to Scheria.

It will be found, under the rules of calculation which have been adopted, that we may place Læstrygonia at near seventeen hundred miles from Iapygia. If we are to suppose that by the name Artacie, given to the fountain in Læstrygonia, he means an allusion to a place of that name in the Euxine, I take this as a new sign of his dim and confused extension of that sea to the westward.


The name Læstrygonia appears to belong to a city, not to a country. It is τηλέπυλος, and it is also Λάμου αἰπὺ πτολίεθρον. Homer avoids calling it either a land (γαίη) or an island (νῆσος). By the former term he sometimes designates large islands as well as portions of a continent. The epithet αἰπὺ points to a steep and rocky site: but his forbearing to fix it as continent or island seems to show, that he was himself in doubt upon the point. The trait of perpetual day, however, speaks most explicitly for the bona fides of the tradition on which the Poet proceeds, and for the latitude from whence it came: and it seems far from improbable that Iceland may have been the dimly perceived original of Læstrygonia; of which the site in the Odyssey is near the actual site of Denmark.

VI. The sixth stage is Ææa. This could only be reached by a long passage from Læstrygonia. The Poet has not ventured to define its extent or direction. But he leaves himself an ample margin by the declaration from the mouth of Ulysses, that he knew nothing on his arrival of the latitude or longitude (Od. x. 190-2): and he is content with planting it immovably near the point of sunrise, though with a great vagueness of conception (Od. x. 135-9; xii. 1-4).

There is indeed something near a verbal contradiction between the declaration of Ulysses in Od. x., that he, being then at Ææa, did not know where to look for sunrise or for sunset, and his narrative in xii. 3, 4, where he so directly associates the island with the land of sunrise. But he had remained there a full year in friendly company with Circe (x. 466-9), and he was instructed by her as to his movements, so that we may, I presume, fairly consider that during that time he learned what on his first arrival was strange to him.

The course from Læstrygonia to Ææa is primâ facie[326] conjectural: but it is not really so, for Læstrygonia is fixed by the times and winds from Hypereia; and Ææa is practically determined by its local relations to Ocean-mouth, Thrinacie, and the Bosphorus.

The Euxine does not abound in islands, such as we might appropriate to Circe and the Sirens: for it is little likely that a rock like the Isle of Serpents, which on a recent occasion acquired a momentary notoriety, should have been noticed particularly in the navigation of the heroic age. It is much more likely, that Homer brought his islands for the Euxine from among the materials provided by his western traditions. We may however reasonably presume that Homer meant to place Ææa at the east end of the Euxine, not far perhaps from the Colchis of Æetes: and in that neighbourhood I shall venture to deposit three islands, vaguely corresponding with the Baleares, which may have been transplanted into this vicinity together with the other traditions of the western Ocean-mouth.

(1) From hence, under the directions of Circe, they sail for one day with a toward breeze, to the Ocean-mouth, hard by that abode of the Cimmerians, which is wrapt in perpetual mist and night (Od. xi. 1-19). Circe promised them the aid of Boreas, when Ulysses, alarmed at the unusual journey he was to make, asked who would guide him. I therefore infer that Boreas was to blow not before, but after, they had entered the Ocean-mouth, and was to carry them up the stream. Before reaching it, we may assume that, as usual on his way outwards, he was sailing with a wind from some southern quarter.

(2) In the Ocean-river, they haul their vessel high and dry, and proceed by land up the stream to the mouth of the Shades or under-world (Od. xi. 20-2).

(3) From the mouth of the Shades they return to their ship, and in it down (κατὰ) the Ocean stream,[327] and to the Ææan island. They go first by rowing, and then by a favourable breeze, of which the direction is not mentioned (Od. xi. 638-40; xii. 1-3: also xxiii. 322-5.)

VII. Σειρήνων νῆσος. This island is reached with an ἴκμενος οὖρος; the quarter is not named, nor is the distance, but from the terms of the passages it would appear to have been very short. (Od. xii. 149-54, 165-7; also 39, and xxiii. 326.)

VIII. Avoiding the Πλαγκταὶ, the hero passes between Scylla and Charybdis, to Thrinacie, the island of the Sun. The strait is reached forthwith, αὐτίκα (Od. xii. 201), after leaving the island, and Thrinacie is reached forthwith in like manner (αὐτίκα v. 261) after leaving the strait (Od. xi. 106, 7; xii. 262; xxiii. 327-9. The last passage appears to place the Πλαγκταὶ and the Scylla passage close together, as it says that he came to them both, though he passed only through Scylla).

In Thrinacie he is detained by Notus, blowing for a month, and by the total absence of any wind but Notus and Eurus. The common point of these winds is, that they are chiefly in the southern hemisphere. Also it would seem from this part of the Fourth Book that Boreas was evidently the wind that Ulysses required to help him forward on his way home, rather than Zephyrus: for it was the latter wind that caught them when they were already on their passage, and brought the hurricane in which the ship went to pieces (Od. xii. 408).

Accordingly, as the Bosphorus is geographically fixed, I place Thrinacie beside it, and Scylla beside Thrinacie.

It will be observed that, after allowance is made for too much northing in the north coast of the Propontis,[328] the mouth of Scylla will be at the point, from which a N. N. E. wind would have brought Ulysses to the Dardanelles, and would thus have placed him, by the shortest cut, at the very gate of the Ægæan, and of the known route to his home.

The Crimea has so much the character of an island, and its south-eastern face appears to be both in scenery and climate so delightful, while again its proximity to the Ocean-mouth of the Odyssey is so suitable, that we might be tempted to consider it as representing the abode of the Sirens. But it is too large for one of Homer’s νῆσοι. Probably, too, the isle of Sirens should lie on the direct route from Ææa to the Straits.

IX. When out of sight of the island (403), the ship encounters a violent Ζέφυρος, and founders. Ulysses mounts on a couple of spars (424). In one night Notus drifts him upon the passage of Scylla and Charybdis, which he traverses in safety (427-30, 442-6), and then drifting on, apparently with the same wind, he reaches, on the tenth day, the island of Calypso, Ὠγυγίη νῆσος (xii. 447, 8; xxiii. 333), which is the ὄμφαλος or central point of the θάλασσα (Od. i. 50): that is to say which, as nearly due north from Greece, not only is conceived to be alike removed from the supposed eastern and western Ocean, but also if not equidistant, yet very distant, at all points from main land.

X. The next stage to Ogygia is Scheria, Σχερίη (Od. vi. 8), or the γαίη Φαιήκων (Od. v. 345). Leaving Ogygia on his raft (v. 263 and seqq.), he keeps Arctos set on his right, and looking towards his left hand, till on the eighteenth day (v. 278), he arrives in sight of Scheria. Neptune, coming up from among the Ethiopians, discerns him afar, from the Solyman mountains (282). The storm rises, and the raft is tossed in a[329] hurricane of all the winds (293 and 331, 2). At length it founders (370): Minerva sends a brisk Boreas, and the hero drifts to Scheria, arriving on the third day (382-98). Homer gives to Scheria the name of ἤπειρος (Od. v. 348, 50); and it does not appear clear that he considered it as an island. At the same time, the term ἤπειρος may mean the shore: and the word γαίη may be used, like Κρήτη τις γαί’ ἐστιν, for an island, if it be presumed to be of extraordinary size.

XI. Ἰθάκη. The living ship of the Phæacians leaves somewhat early in the day, after the proper rites; the goods having been stowed at daybreak (Od. xiii. 18, and seqq.) No wind is named: but, with a speed more rapid than that of a hawk, the vessel, propelled by oars, reaches Ithaca before the next dawn. Od. xiii. 78, 86, 93-5.

Directions and distances from Ææa.

We have however still to consider the directions and distances of the tour, from Ææa onwards, on the way home.

Homer plainly intends to describe very short passages, first to the island of the Sirens, next from that island to Scylla, and then from Scylla to the landing on the coast of Thrinacie. They are not defined: but they by no means correspond with the very considerable eastward stretch of the Euxine from the Bosphorus.

It has already been observed that Homer shortens the eastern recess of the Mediterranean, and brings Egypt nearly to the southward of Crete: and that this is part of a system of compression which abbreviates all the distances of his Outer geography eastward from Lycia. We have now come to another example of the working of this idea in his mind: placing Ææa and the Sirens so near the Bosphorus, he plainly curtails the eastward Euxine, like the eastward Mediterranean.


Ten days floatage northwards from Scylla would give us a distance of nearly five hundred miles in that direction, up to the point where we should fix the island of Calypso.

But from Ogygia to within sight of Scheria, Ulysses occupies eighteen days in sailing by raft: which will give us for the whole distance at sixty miles per diem, with an allowance of fifty miles, as the distance from which Ithaca had become visible, about eleven hundred and thirty miles. We have also to consider the further question, how far Scheria is to be placed from Ithaca. We must reckon the time occupied by the hawk-like ship at not less than sixteen hours; and we cannot reckon the distance below one hundred and eighty or ninety miles. Thus Ogygia ought to be reckoned at fully thirteen hundred miles from Ithaca. Læstrygonia is, as we have found, nearly seventeen hundred from Ithaca. And the site of Ogygia will be upon the point which is both at the distance of five hundred miles from the Homeric or transposed Scylla, and of eleven hundred and thirty miles from the Homeric Scheria. This point will, I think, lie a little to the west of the real site of Kieff.

The actual distance from Ithaca to the middle point of Corfu may be about eighty miles. Corfu is said to resemble in its natural features the Scheria of Homer. But if this be admitted, we must remove the site of the island in the direction of Dalmatia to more than double its real distance from Ithaca, so as to satisfy the conditions of the Phæacian voyage. It will then be near the point where we may, consistently with all the representations of Homer, cut off the Greek peninsula, and substitute for the northward land the great spaces of his sea.


The island of Calypso, thus determined, will satisfy in a great degree the conditions of the ὄμφαλος θαλάσσης. It may be nearly equidistant from Ææa and the Cimmerian country in the south-east, from Scylla in the south, and from the possible extension of the Cimmerian country to the north. Towards Æolia and Læstrygonia on the west the distances will indeed be greater; but as among very great distances Homer may naturally fail to maintain the close measurements of small ones.

Tours of Menelaus and Ulysses compared.

Thus, then, we have brought Ulysses home; and now let us proceed to examine the undeveloped, but still rather curious, relation between the tours of the two chieftains, Ulysses and Menelaus.

The readers of Dante will recollect with what complex precision, as a poetical Architect, he has actually, for the purposes of his work, built an Universe of Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise. Every line of his poem has a determinate relation to a certain point in space, fixed in his own mind; but whether every such point be fixed or not in nature is no more material, than if it were simply one to be determined by axes of coordinates. Intricate as the fabric is, this great brother of Homer in his art never for a moment lets drop the thread of his labyrinth, but holds it steadily from the beginning of the first canto to the end of the hundredth. Homer, composing for a younger world, had to deal with all ideas whatsoever in simpler forms; but, I think, it is discernible that in his way he, too, made a systematic distribution of the Outer Earth, as he had rather vaguely conceived it in his teeming imagination.

We are apt to forget, from the comparatively summary manner in which the subject is dismissed by the Poet, that the voyages and travels of Menelaus occupy[332] a time almost as long as those of Ulysses. He has but recently returned, says Nestor to Telemachus, in the last year of his father’s wanderings[628]: and Menelaus himself states, that he came home only in the eighth year after the capture of Troy[629]. And as in point of time, so likewise they are geographically in correspondence. To Menelaus Homer has given, in outline, the southern world from east to west, and to Ulysses, in detail, the northern world from west to east. It is true that he made Ulysses begin his Wanderings, properly so called, with the Lotophagi in Africa: but this is because it was necessary to throw him at Malea, by some wide and irrecoverable deviation, off his route to Ithaca. So Menelaus loses his course at the very same critical point, the Malean Promontory[630]. Then the two strike off to the opposite ends of the diameter: Menelaus to Crete, for Cyprus, Phœnicia, and Egypt, in the south-east; Ulysses to Africa, for the Cyclopes, Æolia, and Læstrygonia, in the north-west. Again, Menelaus visits Libya to the westward, where, it will be remembered, he is to find his home after death in the Elysian fields. The counterpart of this is in the eastward movement of Ulysses along a northern zone to the isle of Circe, and in his visit to the Shades. Again, it is Phœnicia, which in the south-east forms a kind of boundary line between the known and the unknown world. Accordingly Homer has given us an idealized Phœnicia on the north-western line. Perhaps only partial, but still perfectly real, resemblances of character establish a poetical relation between the Φοίνικες and the Φαίηκες. Other parts of the Phæacian character might seem to have been borrowed from the Egyptians. No one, I think, can doubt that Homer[333] had the Phœnicians to some extent in his mind, when he invented the Phæacians. But he has given us another etymological sign of the connection. The Φοίνικες stand in evident connection with Συρίη[631]. Who but they could give that name to the island where Eumæus was born? an island with which we see them to have been in relations by a double token; the first, a Phœnician slave carried thither by the Taphians; and the second, Eumæus as a boy carried off thence by the Phœnicians, who had paid it a visit with a cargo of fine goods. The island of Ψυρίη, lying north-west from Chios, probably owed its title to the same source: if not also Σκῦρος, corrupted from Συρός. Surely then, like Φαίηκες from Φοίνικες, so Homer made Σχερίη from Συρίη. It being always remembered that Scheria is for Homer, like Phœnicia, a maritime land. It is nowhere called an island; from which we know, that Homer either believed it to be attached to the continent, or to form, like Crete[632], a continent of itself.

The Erembi of Menelaus are generally understood to be the Arabians. The Æthiopes, whom he also visits, extend from the extreme east to the furthest[334] west of the surface of the earth; and they possibly may have a counterpart in the Cimmerians of the north. In the same zone with the Æthiopes, on the borders of Ocean to the south, a passage of the Iliad places the ἄνδρες Πυγμαῖοι[633]. Herodotus supports Homer in this, as in most other particulars. And the researches of the most recent travellers sustain the assertion of these two old ethnologists of Greece, that there are dwarfed races in the interior of Africa, accessible from Egypt.

Thus, then, it would appear in general that the voyage and travels of Menelaus, together with those of Ulysses, including in the former his final passage to Elysium, cover the entire surface of the earth, such as Homer had conceived it. This, however, can only be taken generally, and tells us little of what Homer thought concerning the actual form of the earth’s surface, while it leaves untouched various questions regarding its distribution in detail. With some of these let us now endeavour to deal.

And first, what was Homer’s belief concerning the form of the earth?

Earth of Homer probably oval.

The passage of the poems which bears most directly upon the solution of this question is that which describes the Shield of Achilles. We here learn that, in finishing his work, Vulcan gave it the great River Ocean for a border[634]. From this it follows conclusively, that the form of the Shield was that which Homer also conceived to be nearest to the form of the surface of the Earth.

The question then arises, what was the form of the Shields treated of by Homer? And it is one not easy to answer. Homer compares the light of this very Shield of Achilles in a subsequent passage to that of[335] the moon[635]: but he does not say the full moon, and the moon in certain stages might suggest the oval, although when full it would require the circular shape. The epithets which he uses do not solve the question: for some of them appear to agree better with the one supposition, and some with the other. The ἄσπις ἀμφιβρότη, for instance, in Il. xi. 32, suggests a shape adapted in a great degree to that of the human form. The ποδηνεκὴς of Il. xv. 646 appears absolutely to require it. No circular shield, which reached down to the feet, could have been carried on the arm. But, on the other hand, Homer calls the shield εὔκυκλος[636] and παντόσε ἴση, which certainly at first sight favour the idea of a circular form. Shall we then suppose that both forms prevailed? And if so, which of the two shall we assign to the Shield of Achilles?

It appears that in the military system of historic Greece the round shield chiefly prevailed; but for the time of Homer I cannot help leaning to the supposition that the Shield was oval. For I do not know any explicit testimony, with respect to its primitive form, that can weigh against the lines of Tyrtæus[637];

μήρους τε, κνήμας τε κάτω, καὶ στέρνα, καὶ ὤμους
ἀσπίδος εὐρείης γαστρὶ καλυψάμενος.

Another strong testimony to the same effect is borne by the ancient custom of bearing the dead warrior upon his shield, whence came the old formula of the Spartan mothers, ἢ τὰν, ἢ ἐπὶ τάν; Bring it, or be brought upon it[638].

With respect to the Homeric epithets, it is impossible to reconcile those which favour the oblong form[336] with the rival sense: but the παντόσε ἴση might apply to any regular figure, and the εὔκυκλος is hardly strained if we understand it of an oval pretty regularly formed.

To a certain extent, the natural form of the hides of animals affords an indication; they were worn as cloaks coming down to the heels, and they would properly cut into the oblong form[639]. Again, in the expression σάκος σακέϊ προθελύμνῳ[640], I understand the epithet to mean that the shields were rested on the ground in front of the bearers of them. The meaning common to it, in the three places where Homer uses it, seems to be ‘from the ground,’ or ‘from the base.’

It would not be satisfactory to assume that the two forms prevailed, but that they had, though different, been confounded by Homer; and on the whole we shall perhaps do best to consider the σάκος as an oval.

It follows that such was, in Homer’s estimation, the form of the world. And this interpretation agrees with the other Homeric indications on the subject.

We must, I think, take Homer to have supposed something like an equal extension of the earth northward and southward from Greece. But, whether we judge from the Tours of the Odyssey or from the general indications of the poems, we have, I think, no sign of an extension correspondingly great either eastward or westward. The flights of migratory birds, and the prevailing winds, are both evidently from the poles or from the quarters near them. The only great positive developments of distance in the Odyssey are those towards Læstrygonia and Ogygia, both of which lie in the north; the latter, as an ὄμφαλος, with a sea stretching far beyond it. All appearances, too, go to show that the Eastern Ocean was in Homer’s view at no[337] great distance; and I apprehend we should consider the Western one as being on his map about equally remote from Greece. Now the oval figure will give us what we thus appear to want, namely a shorter diameter of the earth from east to west, than the diameter from north to south. Some other particulars of evidence will appear as we proceed.

Points of contact with Oceanus.

In conformity with his declaration, that the Ocean-River surrounds the earth, he as it were realizes his belief in it, by giving us instances of actual contact with it at very many points of the compass. Thus the Pigmies in the South are visited by the cranes, on their way to the Ocean in the South[641]. The gods feast with the Ethiopians by the Ocean, and this must be in the S. E., as Neptune takes the Solyman mountains (which are in immediate association with Lycia, a point of the inner world) on his way back to the Thalassa[642]. Ulysses visits Ocean, as we have seen, in the East. The Great Bear escapes dipping into its waters in the North[643]. Menelaus is destined to the Elysian plain beside the Ocean, at the point from which Zephyr blows, therefore between West and North[644].

The Caspian Sea and Persian Gulf.

This noble conception of a great circumfluent River was doubtless founded upon reports of two classes which had reached Homer. One class would be reports of streams flowing from some great outer water into the Thalassa, and seeming to feed it. The other class might be formed by reports of waters outside the Thalassa, and not known to communicate with it, which Homer would at once very naturally reckon as portions of his great world-embracing Stream. With the former class we have already dealt largely in dis[338]cussing the Ocean-mouth. To the latter one, Phœnician sailors might contribute reports of the Atlantic and German Oceans. And particularly in the east, I think, we cannot doubt that, along with the rumours and traditions of Arabians, Ethiopians, Persians, and Cimmerians, Homer cannot but have received other vague rumours of waters as well as lands; of waters exterior to his Thalassa (which included the Mediterranean and the Euxine), waters of which two would clearly be the Caspian Sea, and the Persian Gulf. On these two I wish to fix attention; and indeed the only other water he was likely to have heard of would probably be the Red Sea. Now it will be observed upon any map, 1. that the Caspian lies north and south; 2. that a line prolonged from N. to S. down the Caspian will strike the Persian Gulf. In conjunction with this, let the reader observe the course of Ulysses. Quitting the Euxine at the Ocean-mouth, or Straits of Yenikalè, he turns round to the right by the Sea of Azof, enlarged so as to join the Caspian. In the interval between them there is still a low salt valley, which may in Homer’s time have been a water-way[645]. He is thus in a condition to proceed southward towards the dwelling of Persephone, which I have already shown some cause for placing in the east and to the south. Now the provision of wind, which Homer has made for his hero, is precisely that which this hypothesis requires[646]:

τὴν δέ κέ τοι πνοιὴ Βορέαο φέρῃσιν.

In other words, from Homer’s use of Boreas in this place it appears that he meant to describe the course of his Ocean-stream at this quarter as from south to north, or thereabouts; and this is the line actually formed by the junction of the Persian gulf and the[339] Caspian, which I submit that we may accordingly with propriety consider as genuine fragments of geography, incorporated into his fabulous conception of the Ocean-stream.

It is indeed true that the vague accounts, which had probably reached Homer of these two waters, must be supposed not to have included the indispensable element of a current. The same remark, however, will apply to whatever he may have heard of the German or Atlantic Oceans. But in dealing with these shadowy distances, his inference would be amply warranted, without the means of complete identification, if he had heard of any waters in positions agreeing with that of his ideal Ocean, capable of communicating easily with its mouth, and, above all, independent of the Thalassa.

One word before we finally quit the subject of the enchanted River; in order to complete the chain of connection between the Persephone of Homer and the waters of the Persian gulf, in the character of a part of Ocean, at that point upon the beach, which so well balances the Elysian plain in the west.

I have already endeavoured to make use of the names Perseus, Perse, and Persephone, as evidences which attach the Persians to the eastern extremity of Homer’s ideal world, and which connect the Greek race with a Persian origin. But here we have a geographical trait, which deserves further consideration. The groves of Persephone are on the shore of Ocean, in the east, and to the south of the sunrise. What is the meaning of these groves? We are compelled, by unvarying analogies of signification, to understand them as both the symbols and the sites of a certain organized worship, which was paid to Persephone. But if paid, then paid by whom? Certainly not by the nations of[340] the dead: for the place, where these groves were, was not within the kingdom of the goddess, but it was on the shore of Ocean. Ulysses, too, was to haul up his ship there, and only then to enter into the abode of king Aidoneus. It therefore seems to follow, that the Poet meant us to understand this as a place where Persephone was habitually worshipped by a portion of the human race, which could only be his Persians or his Ethiopians. I do not say that the two were sharply severed in his mind; but here the race to which he chiefly points appears to be the Persian race[647].

There are even etymological signs, independent of Homer, which deepen the association between the East and the Under-world. Some writers have compared the name Cimmeria with the Arabic word kahm, black, and ra, the mark of the oblique case in Persian: Mæotis with the Hebrew Maweth, meaning death: and have treated the ancient Tartarus as equivalent to the modern Tartary, and as formed by the reduplication of Tar, in Tarik, the Persic word for darkness[648].

Contraction of the Homeric East.

Next let me wind up what relates to the contraction and compression of the Homeric East.

Homer’s experience did not supply him with any example of a great expanse of land: but the detail and configuration of the countries, with which he was acquainted, was minute. This probably was the reason why he so readily assumed the existence of that sea to the northward of Thrace, in which he has placed the adventures of Ulysses. To that sea, as we perceive from the terms of days which he has assigned to the passages of Ulysses, he attached his ideas and his epithets for vastness; epithets, which he never bestowed[341] on regions of land; and ideas, which were sure, indeed, to form a prominent feature in the Phœnician reports, that must have supplied him with material. Acting on the same principle, it would appear that he greatly shortens the range of Asia Minor eastwards. Through the medium of the Solymi (Il. vi. 184, 204) he appears to bring the Solyman mountains close upon Lycia. A chain now bearing that name skirts the right bank of the Indus: but it is probable that Homer identified, or rather confounded, them with the great chain of the Caucasus between the Euxine and the Caspian, and with the Taurus joining it, and bordering upon Lycia: for, on the one hand, we cannot but connect them with the Solymi, the warlike neighbours of the Lycians: and on the other, since Neptune, from these mountains, sees Ulysses making his homeward voyage from Ogygia, it follows that they must have been conceived by Homer to command a clear view of the Euxine, and of its westward extension. Thus he at once brings Egypt nearer to Crete (helping us to explain the Boreas of Od. xiv. 253), and Phœnicia nearer to Lycia: and it is in all likelihood immediately behind Phœnicia that he imagined to lie the country of the Persians and the ἄλσεα Περσεφονείης (Od. x. 507), on the shore of that eastern portion of Oceanus, for which the reports both of the Caspian and of the Red Sea, probably, as we have seen, have formed parts of his materials. Thus we find much and varied evidence converging to support the hypothesis, that Homer greatly compressed his East, and brought Persia within moderate distance of the Mediterranean.

In the obscure perspectives of Grecian legend, we seem to find various points of contact between Egypt, Phœnicia, and Persia; and each of these points of con[342]tact favours the idea that Persia and Phœnicia were closely associated in Homer’s mind.

Proteus, a Phœnician sea-god, is placed only at a short distance from the Egyptian coast. Helios, strongly associated with Egypt through his oxen, is associated with Phœnicia and with the remoter east by his relationship to Circe, and by his residence, the ἀντολαὶ Ἠελίοιο. And again, from the family of Danaus, a reputed Egyptian, descends Perseus, in whose name we find a note of relationship between the Persians and the Greeks. Lycia, too, is near the Solymi, and the Solyman hills are really Persian. Here is a new ray of light cast on Homer’s passion for the Lycians of the War[649].

A few words more will suffice to complete a probable view of the terrestrial system of Homer.

The Ocean surrounds the earth. On its south-eastern beach are the groves of Persephone, and the descent to the Shades: on its north-western, the Elysian plain. The whole southern range between is occupied by the Αἰθίοπες, who stretch from the rising to the setting sun[650]. The natural counterpart in the cold north to their sun-burnt swarthy faces is to be found in the Cimmerians, Homer’s Children of the Mist[651]. Accordingly, they are placed by the Ocean mouth, hard by the island of Circe and the Dawn; nearly in contact, therefore, with the Ethiopians of the extreme east. Two hypotheses seem to be suggested by Homer’s treatment of the north. Perhaps Homer imagined that the Cimmerians occupied the northern portion of the earth from east to west, as the Ethiopians occupied the southern: a very appropriate conjecture for the disposal of the country from the Crimea to the Cwmri.[343] On the other hand, it seems plain that Homer must have received from his Phœnician informants two reports, both ascribed to the North, yet apparently contradictory: the one of countries without day, the other of countries without night. The true solution, could he have known it, was by time; each being true of the same place, but at different seasons of the year. Not aware of the facts, Homer has adopted another method. While preserving the northern locality for both traditions, he has planted the one in the north-west, at the craggy city of Lamus; and the other in the north-east, together with his Cimmerians.

Outline of his terrestrial system.

On the foundation of the conclusions and inferences at which we have thus arrived, I have endeavoured to construct a map of the Homeric World. The materials of this map are of necessity very different. First, there is the inner or Greek world of geography proper, of which the surface is coloured in red.

Next, there are certain forms of sea and land, genuine, but wholly or partially misplaced, which may be recognised by their general likeness to their originals in Nature.

Thirdly, there is the great mass of fabulous and imaginative skiagraphy, which, for the sake of distinction, is drawn in smooth instead of indented outline.

The Map represents, without any very important variation, the Homeric World drawn according to the foregoing argument. To facilitate verification, or the detection of error, I have made it carry, as far as possible, its own evidences, in the inscriptions and references upon it.

of the
Outer Geography of the Odyssey
Form of the Earth



In former portions of this work, I have argued from the name and the Phœnician extraction of Minos, both to illustrate the dependent position of the Pelasgian race in the Greek countries[652], and also to demonstrate the Phœnician origin of the Outer Geography of the Odyssey[653]. But I have too summarily disposed of the important question, whether Minos was of Phœnician origin, and of the construction of the verse Il. xiv. 321. This verse is capable grammatically of being so construed as to contain an assertion of it; but upon further consideration I am not prepared to maintain that it ought to be so interpreted.

Genuineness of Il. xiv. 317-27.

The Alexandrian critics summarily condemned the whole passage (Il. xiv. 317-27), in which Jupiter details to Juno his various affairs with goddesses and women. ‘This enumeration,’ says the Scholiast (A) on verse 327, ‘is inopportune, for it rather repels Juno than attracts her: and Jupiter, when greedy, through the influence of the Cestus, for the satisfaction of his passion, makes a long harangue.’ Heyne follows up the censure with a yet more sweeping condemnation. Sanè absurdiora, quam hos decem versus, vix unquam ullus commentus est rhapsodus[654]. And yet he adds a consideration,[345] which might have served to arrest judgment until after further hearing. For he says, that the commentators upon them ought to have taken notice that the description belongs to a period, when the relations of man and wife were not such, as to prevent the open introduction and parading of concubines; and that Juno might be flattered and allured by a declaration, proceeding from Jupiter, of the superiority of her charms to those of so many beautiful persons.

Heyne’s reason appears to me so good, as even to outweigh his authority: but there are other grounds also, on which I decline to bow to the proposed excision. The objections taken seem to me invalid on the following grounds;

1. For the reason stated by Heyne.

2. Because, in the whole character of the Homeric Juno, and in the whole of this proceeding, it is the political spirit, and not the animal tendency, that predominates. Of this Homer has given us distinct warning, where he tells us that Juno just before had looked on Jupiter from afar, and that he was disgusting to her; (v. 158) στυγερὸς δέ οἱ ἔπλετο θυμῷ. It is therefore futile to argue about her, as if she had been under the paramount sway either of animal desire, or even of the feminine love of admiration, when she was really and exclusively governed by another master-passion.

3. As she has artfully persuaded Jupiter, that he has an obstacle to overcome in diverting her from her intention of travelling to a distance, it is not at all unnatural that Jupiter should use what he thinks, and what, as Heyne has shown, he may justly think, to be proper and special means of persuasion.

4. The passage is carefully and skilfully composed; and it ends with a climax, so as to give the greatest force to the compliment of which it is susceptible.

5. All the representations in it harmonize with the manner of handling the same personages elsewhere in Homer.

6. The passage has that strong vein of nationality, which is so eminently characteristic of Homer. No intrigues are mentioned, except such as issued in the birth of children of recognised Hellenic fame. The gross animalism of Jupiter, displayed[346] in the Speech, is in the strictest keeping with the entire context; for it is the basis of the transaction, and gives Juno the opportunity she so adroitly turns to account.

7. Those, who reject the passage as spurious, because the action ought not at this point to be loaded with a speech, do not, I think, bear in mind that a deviation of this kind from the strict poetical order is really in keeping with Homer’s practice on other occasions, particularly in the disquisitions of Nestor and of Phœnix. Such a deviation appears to be accounted for by his historic aims. To comprehend him in a case of this kind, we must set out from his point of departure, according to which, verse was not a mere exercise for pleasure, but was to be the one great vehicle of all knowledge: and a potent instrument in constructing a nationality. Thus, then, what the first aim rejected, the second might in given cases accept and even require. Now in this short passage there is a great deal of important historical information conveyed to us.

We may therefore with considerable confidence employ such evidence as the speech may be found to afford.

Let us, then, observe the forms of expression as they run in series,

οὐδ’ ὁπότ’ ἠρασάμην Ἰξιονίης ἀλόχοιο[655].
οὐδ’ ὅτε περ Δανάης καλλισφύρου Ἀκρισιώνης[656].
οὐδ’ ὅτε Φοίνικος κούρης τηλεκλείτοιο[657].
Sense of Il. xiv. 321.

Taken grammatically, I presume the last verse may mean, (1) The daughter of the distinguished Phœnix: or (2) The daughter of a distinguished Phœnician: or (3) A distinguished Phœnician damsel.

a. Against the first it may be urged, that we have no other account from Homer, or from any early tradition, of this Phœnix, here described as famous.

b. Against the second and third, that Homer nowhere directly declares the foreign origin of any great Greek personage.

c. Also, that in each of the previous cases, Homer has used the proper name of a person nearly connected in order to[347] indicate and identity the woman, whom therefore it is not likely that he would in this single case denote only by her nation, or the nation of her father.

d. Against the third, that, in the only other passage where he has to speak of a Phœnician woman, he uses a feminine form, Φοίνισσα: ἔσκε δὲ πατρὸς ἐμοῖο γυνὴ Φοίνισσ’ ἐνὶ οἴκῳ (Od. xv. 417). But Φοίνιξ is grammatically capable of the feminine, as is shown by Herod. i. 193[658].

e. Also that Homer, in the few instances where he uses the word τηλεκλειτὸς, confines it to men. He, however, gives the epithet ἐρικυδὴς to Latona.

The arguments from the structure of the passage, and from the uniform reticence of Homer respecting the foreign origin of Greek personages, convince me that it is not on the whole warrantable to interpret Φοίνιξ in this place in any other manner, than as the name of the father of Minos.

The name Φοίνιξ, however, taken in connection with the period to which it applies—nearly three generations before the Troica—still continues to supply of itself no trifling presumption of the Phœnician origin of Minos.

It cannot, I suppose, be doubted that the original meaning of Φοίνιξ, when first used as a proper name in Greece, probably was ‘of Phœnician birth, or origin.’ But, if we are to judge by the testimony of Homer, the time, when Minos lived, was but very shortly after the first Phœnician arrivals in Greece; and his grandfather Phœnix, living four and a half generations before the Troica, was in all likelihood contemporary with, or anterior to, Cadmus. At a period when the intercourse of the two countries was in its infancy, we may, I think, with some degree of confidence construe this proper name as indicating the country of origin.

Collateral evidence.

The other marks connected with Minos and his history give such support to this presumption as to bring the supposition up to reasonable certainty. Such are,

1. The connection with Dædalus.

2. The tradition of the nautical power of Minos.


3. The characteristic epithet ὀλοόφρων; as also its relation to the other Homeric personages with whose name it is joined.

4. The fact that Minos brought a more advanced form of laws and polity among a people of lower social organization; the proof thus given that he belonged to a superior race: the probability that, if this race had been Hellenic, Homer would have distinctly marked the connection of so distinguished a person with the Hellenic stem: and the apparent certainty that, if not Hellenic, it could only be Phœnician.

The positive Homeric grounds for believing Minos to be Phœnician are much stronger, than any that sustain the same belief in the case of Cadmus: and the negative objection, that Homer does not call him by the name of the country from which he sprang, is in fact an indication of the Poet’s uniform practice of drawing the curtain over history or legend, at the point where a longer perspective would have the effect of exhibiting any Greek hero as derived from a foreign source, and thus of confuting that claim to autochthonism which, though it is not much his way to proclaim such matters in the abstract, yet appears to have operated with Homer as a practical principle of considerable weight.



I have the less scruple in making the verse Od. v. 277 the subject of a particular inquiry, because the chief elements of the discussion are important with reference to the laws of Homeric Greek, as well as with regard to that adjustment of the Outer Geography, which I have supported by a detailed application to every part of the narrative of the Odyssey, and which I at once admit is in irreconcilable conflict with the popular construction of the account of the voyage from Ogygia to Scheria, as far as it depends upon this particular verse.

The passage is[659] (the τὴν referring to Ἄρκτον in v. 273)

τὴν γὰρ δή μιν ἄνωγε Καλυψὼ, δῖα θεάων,
ποντοπορευέμεναι ἐπ’ ἀριστερὰ χειρὸς ἔχοντα.

The points upon which the signification of the last line must depend, seem to be as follows:

1. The meaning of the important Homeric word ἀριστερός.

2. The form of the phrase ἀριστερὰ χειρὸς, which is an ἅπαξ λεγόμενον in Homer.

3. The force of the preposition ἐπὶ, particularly with the accusative.

The second of these points may be speedily dismissed. For (1) the only question that can arise upon it would be, whether (assuming for the moment the sense of ἀριστερὸς) ‘the left of his hand’ means the left of the line described by the onward movement of his body, or the left of the direction in which his hand, that is, his right or steering hand, points while upon the helm; which would be the exact reverse of the former. But, though the latter interpretation would be grammatically accurate, it[350] is too minute and subtle, as respects the sense, to agree with Homer’s methods of expression. And (2) some of the Scholiasts report another reading, νηὸς, instead of χειρὸς, which would present no point of doubt or suspicion under this head.

We have then two questions to consider; of which the first is the general use and treatment by Homer of the word ἀριστερός.

Senses of δεξιὸς and ἀριστερός.

It appears to me well worth consideration whether the δεξιὸς and ἀριστερὸς of Homer ought not, besides the senses of right and left, to be acknowledged capable of the senses of east and west respectively.

The word ἀριστερὸς takes the sense of left by way of derivation and second intention only.

The word σκαιὸς is that, which etymologically and primarily expresses the function of the left hand. The use of this as the principal hand is abnormal, and places the body as it were askew (compare σκάζω, scævus, schief)[660]. In Homer the only word used singly, i. e. without a substantive, to express the left hand is σκαιός. At the same time, we cannot draw positive conclusions from this fact, because ἀριστερὸς could not stand in the hexameter to represent a feminine noun singular, on account of the laws of metre, which in this point are inflexible.

Σκαιῇ means the left hand in Il. i. 501. xvi. 734. xxi. 490. This adjective is but once used in Homer except for the hand: viz., in Od. iii. 295 we have σκαιὸν ῥίον for ‘the foreland on the left.’ But Σκαιαὶ πύλαι may have meant originally the left hand gates of Troy.

The application of δεξιὸς to the right hand (from which we may consider δεξιτερὸς as an adaptation for metrical purposes), is to be sufficiently accounted for, because it was the hand by which greetings were exchanged, and engagements contracted[661]. But it is not so with ἀριστερός: and while we contemplate the subject in regard only to the uses of the member, the word σκαιὸς remains perfectly unexceptionable, and even highly expressive and convenient, in its function of expressing the left hand.

It appears that the Greek augurs, in estimating the signifi[351]cation of omens, were accustomed to stand with their faces northwards; or rather, I presume, with their faces set towards a point midway between sunset and sunrise. The most common descriptions of omen in the time of Homer appear to have been (1) the flight of birds, and (2) the apparition of thunder and lightning. The test of a good moving omen was, that it should proceed from the west, and move to the east; and of a bad moving omen, that it should proceed from the east, and move to the west. Possibly we may trace in this conception the cosmogonical arrangement, which planted in the West the Elysian plain, and in the East the dismal and semi-penal domain of Aidoneus and Persephone. Possibly the brightness of the sun, which caused the East to be regarded as the fountain of light, may be the foundation of it: together, on the other hand, with that close visible association between the West and darkness, which the sunset of each day brought before the eyes of men; so that to lie πρὸς ζόφον meant to lie towards the West, and was the regular opposite of lying towards the sun[662].

Whatever may have been the basis of the doctrine of the augurs, there grew up an established association (1) between the west and what was ill-omened or evil, and through this (2) between what was ill-omened or evil and the left side of a man. The west was unlucky, because the science of augury made it so. The left hand was unlucky, because in the inspection of omens it was western. One half of the objects in the world, and of the actions of the human body, thus lay, from their position relatively to omens, under an incubus of ill-fortune. It was retrieved from this threatening condition, by an euphemism; by the application of a word not merely innocent[663], but preeminently good. Everything covered by the blight of evil omen was to be, not only not harmful, but ἀριστερὸς, better than the best. Consequently it would appear that the word ἀριστερὸς probably meant westerly, before it could mean on the left hand: because not the left hand only, but everything westerly, was within the range of the evil to which it was intended to apply a remedy.

In a passage like Il. vii. 238, the meaning of δεξιὸς and [352]ἀριστερὸς is, plainly, right and left. But what is it in the speech of Hector, where he tells Polydamas that he cares not for omens[664],

εἴτ’ ἐπὶ δεξί’ ἴωσι πρὸς Ἠῶ τ’ Ἠέλιόν τε,
εἴτ’ ἐπ’ ἀριστερὰ τοίγε ποτὶ ζόφον ἠερόεντα.

In the first place, it is a more appropriate, because more direct, method of description with respect to birds of omen to say, they fly eastward or westward, than that they fly to the right or the left hand: since the sense of right and left has no determinate standard of reference, but requires the aid of an assumption that the person is actually looking to the north, so that the words may thus become equivalent to east and west. But in this case, which is one of warriors on the battle-field, would there not be something rather incongruous in interpolating the suggestion of their turning northwards as they spoke, in order to give the proper meaning to these two words? We must surely conceive of Hector standing on the battle-field with his face towards the enemy, if we are to take his posture into view at all. If he stood thus, he would look, as far as we can judge, to the west of north. Now the ζόφος was the north-west with Homer, and not the west: and, conversely, the Ἠὼς inclined to the south of east. In this way he would nearly have his face to the former, and his back to the latter; and if so the meaning of right and left would be not only farfetched, but wholly improper, while the meaning of east and west would be no less correct than natural.

I must add, that there are other places in Homer where difficulty arises, if we are only permitted to construe δεξιὸς and ἀριστερὸς by right and left. I will even venture to say, that there are passages in the Thirteenth Book which render the topography of the battle that it describes, not only obscure, but even contradictory, if ἀριστερὸς in them means left; and which become perfectly harmonious if we allowed to understand it as signifying west.

Illustrated from Il. xiii.

These are respectively Il. xiii. 675 and 765.

In order to apprehend the case, it will be necessary to follow closely the movement of the battle through most of the Book.


1. Il. xiii. 126-9: The Ajaxes are opposed to Hector, νηυσὶν ἐν μέσσῃσιν, 312, 16.

2. The centre being thus provided for, Idomeneus proceeds to the left, στρατοῦ ἐπ’ ἀριστερὰ (326), which is the station of Deiphobus; and makes havock in this quarter.

3. Deiphobus, instead of fighting Idomeneus, thinks it prudent to fetch Æneas, who is standing aloof, 458 and seqq.

4. Summoned by Deiphobus, Æneas comes with him, attended also by Paris and Agenor, 490.

5. They conjointly carry on the fight at that point, with indifferent success (495-673), but no decisive issue.

6. Hector, in the centre, remains ignorant that the Trojans were being worsted νηῶν ἐπ’ ἀριστερὰ by the Greeks, 675.

7. By the advice of Polydamas he goes in search of other chiefs to consider what is to be done; of Paris among the rest, whom he finds, μάχης ἐπ’ ἀριστερά (765). With them he returns to the centre, 753, 802, 809.

Now the following propositions are, I think, sound:

1. When Homer thus speaks of ἐπ’ ἀριστερὰ in Il. xiii. 326, 675, and 765, respectively, he evidently means to describe in all of them the same side of the battle-field. Where Idomeneus is, in 329, thither he brings Æneas in 469, who is attended at the time by Paris, 490; and there Paris evidently remains until summoned to the centre in 765.

2. If Homer speaks with reference to any particular combatant, of his being on the left or the right of the battle, he ought to mean the Greek left or right if the person be Greek, and the Trojan left or right if the person be Trojan.

3. This is actually the rule by which he proceeds elsewhere. For in the Fifth Book, when Mars is in the field on the Trojan side, he says, Minerva found him μάχης ἐπ’ ἀριστερὰ, Il. v. 355. What is the point thus described, and how came he there? The answer is supplied by an earlier part of the same Book. In v. 35, Minerva led him out of the battle. In v. 36, she placed him by the shore of the Scamander; that is to say, on the Trojan left, and in a position to which, he being a Trojan combatant, the Poet gives the name of μάχης ἐπ’ ἀριστερά.

Now ἐπ’ ἀριστερὰ is commonly interpreted ‘on the left.’ But if it means on the left in Il. xiii., then the passages are contra[354]dictory: because this would place Paris on both wings, whereas he obviously is described as on the same wing of the battle throughout.

But if we construe ἀριστερὸς as meaning the west in all the three passages, then we have the same meaning at once made available for all the three places, so that the account becomes self-consistent again; and if the meaning be ‘on the west,’ then we may understand that Idomeneus most naturally betakes himself to the west, because that was the quarter of the Myrmidons, where the Greek line was deprived of support. If, however, it be said, that the Greek left is meant throughout, then the expression in v. 765 is both contrary to what would seem reasonable, and at variance with Homer’s own precedent in the Fifth Book.

Thus there is considerable reason to suppose that, in Homer, ἀριστερὸς may sometimes mean ‘west.’ So that if ἐπὶ in Od. v. 277 really means ‘upon,’ the phrase will signify, that Ulysses was to have Arctus on the west side of him, which would place Ogygia in the required position to the east of north.

The force of ἐπὶ in Homer.

The point remaining for discussion is at once the most difficult and the most important. What is the true force of the Homeric ἐπί?

I find the senses of this preposition clearly and comprehensively treated in Jelf’s Greek Grammar, where the leading points of its various significations are laid down as follows[665]:

1. Its original force is upon, or on.

2. It is applied to place, time, or causation. Of these three, when treating of a geographical question, we need only consider the first with any minuteness.

3. Ἐπὶ, when used locally, means with the genitive (a) on or at, and (b) motion towards a place or thing. With the dative (a) on or at, and (b) by or near. With the accusative (a) towards, and (b) ‘extension in space over an object, as well with verbs of rest as of motion.’ Of this sense examples are quoted in πλεῖν ἐπὶ οἴνοπα πόντον for verbs of motion, and ἐπ’ ἐννέα κεῖτο πέλεθρα for verbs of rest. Both are from Homer, in Il. vii. 83, and Od. xi. 577.


The Homeric ἐπὶ δεξιὰ and ἐπ’ ἀριστερὰ are also quoted as examples of this last-named sense. But in Od. v. 277, if the meaning be on the left, it is plainly quite beyond these definitions: for so far from being an object extended over space, the star is, as it appears on the left, a luminous point, and nothing more. It was an extension over space, such as the eye has from a window over a prospect; but then that space is the space which lies over-against the star; so that if the space be on the left, the star must be looking towards the left indeed, but for that very reason set on the right. The difference here is most important in connection with the sense of the preposition. If ἐπ’ ἀριστερὰ means on the left, it is only on a single point of the left; if it means towards or over-against the right, it means towards or over-against the whole right. Now, the former of these senses is, I contend, utterly out of keeping with the whole Homeric use of ἐπὶ as a preposition governing the accusative: while the latter is quite in keeping with it.

Force of ἐπὶ with ἀριστερά.

The idea of motion, physical or metaphysical, in some one or other of its modifications, appears to inhere essentially in the Homeric use of ἐπὶ with the accusative. In the great majority of instances, it is used with a verb of motion, which places the matter beyond all doubt. In almost all other instances, either the motion of a body, or some covering of space where there is no motion, are obviously involved. Thus the Zephyr (κελάδει[666]) whistles ἐπὶ οἴνοπα πόντον. A hero, or a bevy of maidens, may shout ἐπὶ μακρόν[667]. The rim of a basket is covered with a plating of gold, χρυσῷ δ’ ἐπὶ χείλεα κεκράαντο: that is, the gold is drawn over it[668]. Achilles looks[669] ἐπὶ οἴνοπα πόντον. The sun appears to mortals ἐπὶ ζείδωρον ἄρουραν[670]. Here we should apparently understand ‘spread,’ or some equivalent word. We have ‘animals as many as are born’ ἐπὶ γαῖαν[671]. Or, again, we have ‘may his glory be’ (spread) ἐπὶ ζείδωρον ἄρουραν[672]. Again: ἐπὶ δηρὸν δέ μοι αἰὼν ἔσσεται is, ‘I shall live long[673].’ And Achilles seated himself θῖν’ ἐφ’ ἁλὸς πολιῆς[674].[356] A dragon with a purple back is[675] ἐπὶ νῶτα δάφοινος. The shoulders of Thersites, compressed against his chest, are, ἐπὶ στῆθος συνοχωκότε[676]. The horses of Admetus stand even with the rod across their backs[677], σταφύλῃ ἐπὶ νῶτον ἐΐσας. I have not confined these examples to merely local cases, because a more varied illustration, I think, here enlarges our means of judgment. In every case, it appears, we may assert that extension, whether in time or space, is implied; and the proper word to construe ἐπὶ (except with certain verbs of motion, as, ‘he fell on,’ and the like) will be over, along, across, or over-against. Further, we have in Il. vi. 400, according to one reading, the preposition ἐπὶ combined with the verb ἔχειν, and governing the accusative. Andromache appears,

παῖδ’ ἐπὶ κόλπον ἔχουσ’ ἀταλάφρονα.

The recent editions read κόλπῳ: I suppose because the accusative cannot properly give the meaning upon her breast. But we do not require that meaning. The sense seems to be, that Andromache was holding her infant against her breast; that is, the infant was held to it by her hands from the opposite side. The idea of an infant on her breast is quite unsuited to a figure declared to be in motion. But the sense may also be, stretched over or across her breast. Thus we always have extension involved in ἐπὶ with the accusative, whether in range of view or sound, steps of a gradual process, actual motion, pressure towards a point which is initial motion, or extension over space. But the Homeric use of ἐπὶ with the accusative will nowhere, I think, be found applicable to the inactive, motionless position of a luminous point simply as perceived in space. And if so, it cannot be allowable to construe ἐπ’ ἀριστερὰ χειρὸς ἔχων, having (Arctus) on his left hand.

The nearest parallel that I have found to the phrase in Od. v. 277, is the direction given by Idomeneus to Meriones, who had asked him (Il. xiii. 307) at what point he would like to enter the line of battle. Idomeneus, after giving his reasons, concludes with this injunction:

νῶϊν δ’ ὧδ’ ἐπ’ ἀριστέρ’ ἔχε στρατοῦ.


In the Odyssey, the order is to keep Arctus ἐπ’ ἀριστερὰ χειρός. Here it is to keep Idomeneus (and Meriones himself, who preceded him), ἐπ’ ἀριστερὰ στρατοῦ. The parallel is not complete, because in the latter case the object of the verb moves; in the former it does not move. Let us, however, consider the meaning of the latter passage, which is indisputable. It is ‘hold or keep us,’ not on the left, but ‘towards, looking and moving towards, the left of the army.’ Probably then they were coming from its right. Therefore, if for the moment we waive the question of motion, the order of Calypso was to keep Arctus looking towards the left of the ship: and accordingly Arctus was to look from its right.

We must, I apprehend, seek the key to the general meaning of this phrase from considering that idea of motion involved in the ordinary manifestation of omens, which appears to be the basis of the phrase itself. Now, it seems to be the essential and very peculiar characteristic of this phrase in Homer, and of the sister phrases ἐπιδέξια (whether written in one word or in two) and ἐνδέξια, that they very commonly imply a position different from that which they seem at first sight to suggest. For that which goes towards the left is naturally understood to go from the right, and vice versâ.

‘To’ and not ‘on’ is the essential characteristic of the Homeric ἐπὶ with the accusative. Accordingly, where ἐπὶ is so used with the words δεξιὰ or ἀριστερὰ, we may often understand an original position of the person or thing intended, generally opposite to the point or quarter expressed. In such a case as εὗρεν ... μάχης ἐπ’ ἀριστερὰ we should join ἐπ’ ἀριστερὰ with the subject of εὗρεν, and not with its object. Not A found B on the left, but A (coming) towards the left found B (there). Again, in Il. xiii. 675, νηῶν ἐπ’ ἀριστερὰ should, I submit, be construed towards the left, or in the direction of the left.

Now, while there is not a single passage in Homer that refuses to bear a construction founded on these principles, an examination of a variety of passages will, I believe, supply us with instances to show, that there is no other consistent mode of rendering the phrases ἀστράπτειν ἐπιδέξια; [358]ἐέργειν ἐπ’ ἀριστερά; οἰνοχόειν, αἰτεῖν, δεικνύναι, ἐνδέξια; ἀριστερὸς ὄρνις, δεξιὸν ἐρώδιον, and others.

And although in some of these phrases the idea of motion is actually included, while the motion of omens was the original groundwork of them all, yet, as frequently happens, the effect remains when the cause has disappeared. A bird called δεξιὸς is one moving ἐπὶ δεξιά; and this, according to the law of omens, is usually a bird from the left moving towards the right. And thus, by analogy, a star ἐπ’ ἀριστερὰ is a star on the right not moving but looking towards the left. Once more, when we recollect that ἐπ’ ἀριστερὰ habitually or very frequently means on the right as well as moving towards the left, it is not difficult to conceive so easy and simple a modification of this sense as brings it to being on the right, while also looking, instead of moving, towards the left. Lightning, which had appeared on the right, would I apprehend be ἀστραπὴ ἐπ’ ἀριστερά: Ἀρκτὸς ἐπ’ ἀριστερὰ would be ‘Arctus on the right;’ and the introduction of the word ἔχειν cannot surely reverse the signification.

In later Greek, the expressions ἐνδέξια and ἐπιδέξια, with ἐπαριστερὰ, which seems to be the counterpart of both, the preposition ἐπὶ sometimes being divided from and sometimes united with its case, appear to be equivalent to our English phrases ‘on the right,’ and ‘on the left.’ But not so in Homer.

Illustrated from Il. ii. 353. Od. xxi. 141.

Let us now examine various places of the poems, where ἐνδέξια and ἐπὶ δεξιὰ (single or combined) cannot mean on the right, but may be rendered either (1) from the left, or (2) towards the right. Thus we have, Il. ii. 353,

ἀστράπτων ἐπιδέξι’, ἐναίσιμα σήματα φαίνων.

This means lightning on and from the left, so that the lightning passes, or seems to pass, towards the right. The analogy of this case to that of the star is very close; because it is rarely that lightning gives the semblance of motion: and this expression precisely exemplifies the observation, that these phrases often really imply a position of the subject exactly opposite to that which at first sight would be supposed.

Again, when Antinous bids the Suitors rise in turn for the trial of the bow, he says, Od. xxi. 141,

ὄρνυσθ’ ἑξείης ἐπιδέξια, πάντες ἑταῖροι·


and he goes to explain himself beyond dispute, by referring to the order observed by the cupbearer at the feast;

ἀρξάμενοι τοῦ χώρου, ὅθεν τέ περ οἰνοχοεύει. (142)

His meaning evidently is, Rise up, beginning on or from the left.

From Il. i. 597. vii. 238. xii. 239, 249.

The practice of the cupbearer is stated with respect to Vulcan, Il. i. 597:

αὐτὰρ ὁ τοῖς ἄλλοισι θεοῖς ἐνδέξια πᾶσιν

So the κήρυξ (Il. vii. 183) goes round ἐνδέξια with the lots for the chieftains to draw. The beggar[678] in making his round follows the supreme law of luck, and goes ἐνδέξια. And as this meaning seems to be established, we must give the same sense, in Il. ix. 236, to ἐνδέξια σήματα φαίνων ἀστράπτει, as to the ἐνδέξια in Il. ii. 353, namely, that Jupiter displayed celestial signs on the left.

Again, Hector boasts of his proficiency in moving his shield so as to cover his person, Il. vii. 238,

οἶδ’ ἐπὶ δεξιὰ, οἶδ’ ἐπ’ ἀριστερὰ νωμῆσαι βῶν.

We should translate this probably without much thought ‘to the right and to the left.’ But when we consider what sense is required by the idea to be conveyed, it is evident that ἐπὶ δεξιὰ means, from the left side of his person towards the right, and ἐπ’ ἀριστερὰ from the right side of his person towards the left. That is to say, the first position before and during the motion, in each case, is at the side opposite to that indicated by the adjectives respectively.

Again, in a well known passage (Il. xii. 239.) Hector tells Polydamas that he cares not for omens, be they good or bad;

εἴτ’ ἐπὶ δεξί’ ἴωσι πρὸς Ἠῶ τ’ Ἠέλιόν τε,
εἴτ’ ἐπ’ ἀριστερὰ τοίγε, ποτὶ ζόφον ἠερόεντα.

Apart from the question, whether the sense of right and left is suitable to this passage at all, and assuming it to be so, the meaning is from the left for ἐπὶ δεξιὰ and from the right for ἐπ’ ἀριστερὰ, on their way in each case to the opposite quarter.

Again, the portent which had drawn forth the observation of Hector was, (Il. xii. 219,)


αἰετὸς ὑψιπέτης, ἐπ’ ἀριστερὰ λαὸν ἐέργων,

namely, an eagle appearing on the right and then moving towards the left. Now ἐέργω is not properly a verb of motion; and yet we see that ἐέργειν ἐπ’ ἀριστερὰ means to close the army in from the right; that is to say, the eagle, which does the act ἐπ’ ἀριστερὰ, is itself on the right.

There were in fact three things, which originally might, and commonly would, be included in each of these phrases. For example, in ἐπ’ ἀριστερὰ,

1. Appearance at a particular point on the right;
2. Motion from that point towards the left;
3. Rest at another point on the left.

Of these the second named indicates the first and principal intention of the word; but when it passes to a second intention or derivative sense, it may include either the first point, or the third, or both. In the later Greek it appears rather to indicate the point of rest; but in the Homeric phrases of the corresponding word δεξιὸς, οἰνοχοεῖν ἐνδέξια, δεικνύναι ἐνδέξια, αἰτεῖν ἐνδέξια, ἀστραπτεῖν ἐπὶ δεξιὰ, ἐέργειν ἐπ’ ἀριστερὰ, the starting-point, and not the resting-point, is the one brought into view. It is the commencement of the motion, in every one of these cases, which is indicated by the phrase, and not its close.

Being engaged upon this subject, I shall not scruple to examine one or two remaining passages, which may assist in its more thorough elucidation.

From Il. xxiii. 335-7.

I therefore ask particular attention to the passage in the Twenty-third Book of the Iliad, where Nestor instructs his son concerning his management in the chariot-race. On either side of a dry trunk upon the plain, there lay two white stones (xxiii. 329). They formed the goal, round which the chariots were to be driven, the charioteer keeping them on his left hand. The pith of the advice of Nestor is, that his son is to make a short and close turn round them, so as to have a chance of winning, in spite of the slowness of his team. The directions are (335-7):

αὐτὸς δὲ κλινθῆναι ἐϋπλέκτῳ ἐνὶ δίφρῳ
ἦκ’ ἐπ’ ἀριστερὰ τοῖϊν· ἀτὰρ τὸν δεξιὸν ἵππον
κένσαι ὁμοκλήσας, εἶξαί τέ οἱ ἡνία χερσίν.


It is clear from the last line and a half that the goal was to be on his left hand. But what is the meaning of κλινθῆναι ἐπ’ ἀριστερὰ τοῖϊν? Nothing can be more scientific than the precept. The horses are to make a sharp turn: the impetus in the driver’s body might throw him forward if he were not prepared: he is to do what every rider in a circus now does, to lean inwards; and that is expressed by leaning ἐπ’ ἀριστερὰ, of the goal—for τοῖϊν must, I apprehend, be understood to agree with the dual λᾶε (329), and not the plural ἵππους (334); particularly because the word ἵππος is repeated immediately after it. The meaning then is, that he is desired to lean to the left of the goal, while all the time he keeps on its right. We should under the same circumstances say, ‘Lean gently towards the right side of the goal, as you are about to turn round it.’ He, meaning the same thing, says, ‘Lean towards the left; that is, lean from the right, or while keeping on the right, of the object named. Now this I take to be exactly the sense of Od. v. 277. Ulysses was bid to sail, having the Great Bear placed on his right, but looking from his right, and towards his left, as every star looks towards the quarter opposite to that in which it is itself seen. He is to have the star e dextrâ, because from that point it looks ad sinistram. It looks across him towards his left, just as Antilochus was to lean in the direction across the goal towards its left.

The whole of this interpretation without doubt depends upon the word τοῖϊν; and I do not presume to say that it is necessarily, under grammatical rules, to be understood of the goal, and not of the horses. But it is the more natural construction: and Homer often reverts merely by this demonstrative pronoun, without further indication, to a subject which he has only named some time back[679].

But if grammar leave that question in any degree open, I apprehend that physical considerations must decide it. It is impossible for the driver to lean to the left of his horses as they are rounding the goal. To the left of his chariot he may lean, as he stands upon it: but to their left he cannot,[362] for they are considerably in advance of him; and in order to make the turn at all, they must, at each point of the curve, which is a curve to the left, be much further along the curve, and consequently much further to the left, than he can possibly be. It would be a parallel case, if there were two riders round a circus, one following the other, and the rider of the after horse were told to lean to the right of the fore horse. Therefore the word τοῖϊν can, I submit, only refer to the two stones, which form the goal.

From Il. ii. 526.

A line in the Greek Catalogue will enable us to carry the question still further. In Il. ii. 517, after the two Bœotian contingents, come the Phocians: and the Poet says, ver. 526,

Βοιωτῶν δ’ ἔμπλην ἐπ’ ἀριστερὰ θωρήσσοντο.

I see that this is translated even by Voss ‘on the left.’ Now is not this contrary to all likelihood? Was not all propitious movement with Homer from left to right? Has not this been proved by the cases of the Immortals, the Omens, the Cupbearer, the Beggar, and the Herald? Is it likely, or is it even conceivable, that Homer should depart from this principle in his order of the army? Surely the meaning is this: Having fixed for himself geographically the order of his contingents, he has likewise to state their order of array upon the field; and accordingly by this line he informs us, that the Phocians, who were the second of the races he mentions, stood ἐπ’ ἀριστερὰ of the Bœotians: he of course means us to understand that the Abantes, the third race, were ἐπ’ ἀριστερὰ of the Locrians, and so on through the whole: or in other words, that he informs us he does not forget to follow, amidst the multitudinous detail of the Catalogue, the established, the religious, and the propitious order of enumeration, namely, the order which begins from the left, and moves towards the right.

Thus we must in this place translate ἐπ’ ἀριστερὰ ‘towards, that is, looking towards the left of the Bœotians;’ or ‘looking to the Bœotians on their left,’ i. e. of the Phocians; the Phocians being, whichever construction we adopt, on the right, actually on the right, not the left of the Bœotians. The real force of the expression probably is this: that the Bœotians, having taken their ground, the Phocians came up and took theirs next to them on their right.


Application to Od. v. 277.

Now this case is precisely in point for Od. v. 277: because θωρήσσεσθαι is not properly a verb of motion: and in all likelihood it may be relied on independently of further details from Homer, because it brings the matter to an easy test, through the certainty which we may well entertain, that Homer would have the order of his army begin from left to right, like every other duly and auspiciously constituted order.

There is, however, another interpretation proposed as follows: they, the Phocians, took ground next (ἔμπλην) to the Bœotians on the left, i. e. of the army; the two together, as it were, forming its left wing. To this construction there seem to be conclusive objections:

1. Why should Homer tell us that the Bœotians and Phocians together constituted a division of the army, when he tells us nothing similar respecting any of the twenty-six contingents that remain? Neither of these races were particularly distinguished either politically or in arms.

2. It appears clear that the Bœotians and Phocians did not together form a division of the army: for, in the Thirteenth Book, the Bœotians fight in company with the Athenians or Ionians, the Locrians, Phthians, and Epeans, but not with the Phocians. Il. xiii. 685, 6.

3. Neither did the Bœotians belong to the left wing of the army at all: for they are found defending the centre of the ships against Hector and the Trojans, with the two Ajaxes in their front. Il. xiii. 314-16, 674-84, 685, 700; 701, 2; 719, 20.

4. There is nowhere the smallest sign, that the Greek army was divided into wings and centre at all.

5. The order of the Catalogue is a geographical order, and not that of a military arrangement. Therefore it was requisite for Homer to tell us how the troops were arranged in the Review. This he has effected by telling us that the Phocians, the second of his tribes, drew up on the right of the Bœotians: which we have only to consider tacitly repeated all through, and the order is thus both complete and propitious. But, according to the other construction, the Poet begins with an arrangement by wings, of which we hear nowhere else: and then he forthwith forgets and abandons it.


6. I do not think ἐπ’ ἀριστερὰ can be construed to the left of the army. The army has nowhere been named. The phrases ἐπὶ δεξιὰ and ἐπ’ ἀριστερὰ require us to have a subject clearly in view. It is frequently named, as in ἐπ’ ἀριστερὰ μάχης. When it is connected with omens, it means to the west, and ἐπιδέξια the reverse. Again, οἰνοχοεῖν ἐπιδέξια is to begin pouring wine from the left, and towards the right end of the rank whom the cupbearer may be serving. The ‘army’ has not been mentioned since the reassembling in v. 207.

These objections appear to me fatal to the construction now under our view. They do not indeed touch the question whether ἐπ’ ἀριστερὰ should be interpreted on the left, or (on the right and) towards the left. That must, I think, be decided by the general principles of augury duly applied to order and enumeration.

On the whole, then, I contend that it is wrong to construe Od. v. 277, ‘to sail with Arctus on his left hand.’ It would be much more nearly right, and would, in fact, convey the meaning, though not in a grammatical manner, if we construed it ‘to sail with Arctus on his right hand.’ But the manner of construing it, grammatically and accurately, as I submit, is this: ‘to sail with Arctus looking towards the left (of his hand, or his left hand);’ that is to say, looking from his right. And generally, that the proper mode of construing ἐπ’ ἀριστερὰ and ἐπὶ δεξιὰ in Homer is, towards the left, towards the right; or, conversely, from the right, from the left.

This meaning is in exact accordance with the North-eastern, and is entirely opposed to the North-western, hypothesis. And I venture to believe that, itself established by sufficient evidence from other passages in the poems, it enables us to give a meaning substantially, though perhaps not minutely self-consistent, though of course one not based upon the true configuration of the earth’s surface as it is now ascertained, to every passage in Homer which relates to the Outer Geography of the Odyssey.

Both ἐπ’ ἀριστερὰ and ἐπ’ ἀριστερὰ χειρὸς are used repeatedly in the Hymn to Mercury[680]. One of the passages resembles[365] in its form that of the eagle, Il. xii. 219. It is this:

κεῖτο, χέλυν ἐρατὴν ἐπ’ ἀριστερὰ χειρὸς ἐέργων.

And probably the basis of the idea is the same. The really correct Greek expression for ‘on the left hand’ I take to be χειρὸς ἐξ ἀριστερᾶς, which is used by Euripides[681].

Sense altered in later Greek.

But in the later Greek the idea of the point of arrival prevailed over that of the point of departure: and, conventionally at least, the ἐπιδέξια, with its equivalent ἐνδέξια, came to mean simply ‘on the right,’ and ἐπ’ ἀριστερὰ, ‘on the left.’ It is worth notice, that we have a like ambiguous use in English of the word towards. Sometimes towards the left means being on the left: sometimes it means moving from the right in the direction of the left: and a room ‘towards the south’ means one with its windows on the north, looking out over the south, like as the star Arctus looks out towards the left of Ulysses[682].



Sect. I.
On the Plot of the Iliad.

Theory of Grote on the Iliad.

Although the hope has already been expressed at the commencement of this work, that for England at least, the main questions as to the Homeric poems have well nigh been settled in the affirmative sense; yet I must not pass by without notice the recently propounded theory of Grote. I refer to it, partly on account of the general authority of his work; for this authority may give a currency greater than is really due to a portion of it, which, as lying outside the domain of history proper, has perhaps been less maturely considered than his conclusions in general. But it is partly also because I do not know that it has yet been treated of elsewhere; and most of all because the discussion takes a positive form; for the answer to his argument, which perhaps may be found to render itself into a gratuitous hypothesis, depends entirely upon a comprehensive view of the general structure of the poem, and the reciprocal relation and adaptation of its parts.

Grote believes, that the poem called the Iliad is divisible into two great portions: one of them he conceives to be an Achilleis, or a poem having for its subject the wrath of Achilles, which comprises the First Book, the Eighth, and all from the Eleventh to the Twenty-second Books inclusive; that the Books from the Second to the Seventh inclusive, with the Ninth and Tenth, and[367] the two last Books, are portions of what may be called an Ilias, or general description of the War of Troy, which have been introduced into the original Achilleis, most probably by another hand; or, if by the original Poet, yet to the destruction, or great detriment, of the poetic unity of his work.

In support of this doctrine he urges,

1. That the Books from the Second to the Seventh inclusive in no way contribute to the main action, and are ‘brought out in a spirit altogether indifferent to Achilles and his anger[683].’

2. That the Ninth Book, containing a full accomplishment of the wishes of Achilles in the First, by ‘atonement and restitution[684],’ is really the termination of the whole poem, and renders the continuance of his Wrath absurd: therefore, and also from the language of particular passages, it is plain that ‘the Books from the Eleventh downwards are composed by a Poet, who has no knowledge of that Ninth Book, (or, as I presume he would add, who takes no cognizance of it[685].’)

3. The Jupiter of the Fourth Book is inconsistent with the Jupiter of the First and Eighth.

4. The abject prostration of Agamemnon in the Ninth Book is inconsistent with his spirit and gallantry in the Eleventh.

5. The junction of these Books to the First Book is bad; as the Dream of Agamemnon ‘produces no effect,’ and the Greeks are victorious, not defeated[686].

6. For the latter of these reasons, the construction of the wall and fosse round the camp landwards is out of place.

7. The tenth Book, though it refers sufficiently to[368] what precedes, has no bearing on what follows in the poem.

Grote has argued conclusively against the supposition that we owe the continuous Iliad[687] to the labours of Pisistratus, and shows that it must have been known in its continuity long before. He places the poems between 850 and 776 B. C.[688]; admits the splendour of much of the poetry which he thus tears from its context[689]; yet he apparently is not startled by the supposition, that the man, or the men, capable of composing poetry of the superlative kind that makes up his Achilleis, should be so blind to the primary exigencies of such a work for its effect as a whole, that he or they could also be capable of thus spoiling its unity by adding eight books, which do not belong to the subject, to fifteen others in which it was already completely handled and disposed of. And though our historian leans to the belief of a plurality of authors for the Iliad, he does not absolutely reject the supposition that it may be the work of one[690].

Offer of Il. ix. and its rejection.

As to the Ninth Book[691], he refers it more decisively to a separate hand; and he makes no difficulty about presuming that the Homerids could furnish men capable of composing (for example) the wonderful speech of Achilles from the 307th to the 429th line. Happy Homerids! and felix prole virûm, happy land that could produce them!

It appears to me that these are wild suppositions. Against no supposition can there be stronger presumptions than against those which, by dissevering the prime parts of the poem, produce a multiplication of Homers; and however Grote may himself think that enlarge[369]ments such as he describes, do not imply of necessity at least a double authorship, few indeed, I apprehend, will be found, while admitting his criticisms on the poem, to contend that it can still be the production of a single mind. Still less can I think that any one would now be satisfied with the sequence of Books proposed, or with the mutilated proportions, any more than with the reduced dimensions, of the work as a whole.

I will say not that the propounder of such a theory, but that such a propounder of any theory, is well entitled to have the question discussed, whether those proportions are indeed mutilated by the change, or whether they are, on the contrary, restored. Let me observe, however, at the outset, that it is the general argument with which only I shall be careful to deal. I do not admit the discrepancies[692] alleged; but neither is it requisite to examine each case in detail, since Grote concedes, that his own theory does not relieve him from conflict with particular passages of the poem.

As respects the Ninth Book, this theory seems to proceed on a misconception of the nature of the offence taken by Achilles; as respects the others, upon a similar misconception of the measure which the Poet intends us to take of his hero’s greatness, and of the modes by which he means us to arrive at our estimate.

It takes time to sound the depths of Homer. Possibly, or even probably, many may share the idea that what Achilles resents is the mere loss of a captive woman, and that restitution would at once undo the wrong. But they misconceive the act, and the man also, to whom the wrong was done. The soul of Achilles is stirred from its depths by an outrage, which seems to him to comprehend all vices within itself. He is wounded in[370] an attachment that had become a tender one; for he gives to Briseis the name of wife (ἄλοχον θυμάρεα), and avows his care and protection of her in that character. A proud and sensitive warrior, he is[693] insulted in the face of the army; and to the Greeks, whose governing sentiment was αἴδως, or honour, insult was the deadliest of all inflictions. Further, he is defrauded by the withdrawal of that which, by the public authority, presiding over the distribution of spoil, he had been taught to call his own; and he keenly feels the combination of deceit with insolence[694]. Justice is outraged in his person, when he alone among the warriors is to have no share of the booty. In this he rightly sees an ingratitude of threefold blackness; it is done by the man, for whose sake[695] he had come to Troy without an interest of his own; it is done to the man, whose hand, almost unaided, had earned the spoil which the Greeks divided[696]: lastly, it is done to him, on whose valour the fortunes of their host with the hopes of their enterprise principally depended, and whose mere presence on the field of itself drives and holds aloof the principal champions of Troy[697]. And, lastly, while the whole army is responsible by acquiescence and is so declared by him, (ἐπεί μ’ ἀφέλεσθέ γε δόντες, Il. i. 299,) the insult and wrong proceed from one, whose avarice and irresolution made him in the eyes of Achilles at once hateful and contemptible[698].

Such is the deadly wrong, that lights up the wrath of Achilles. And, as he broods over his injuries, according to the law of an honourable but therefore[371] susceptible, and likewise a fierce and haughty nature, the flame waxes hotter and hotter, and requires more and more to quench it. Thus there is a terrible progression and expansion in his revenge: and by degrees he arrives at a height of fierce vindictiveness, that minutely calculates the modes in which the suffering of its object can be carried to a maximum, yet so as to leave his own renown untouched, and open the widest field for the exercise of his valour. It is not vice, nor is it virtue, which Homer is describing in his Achilles; it is that strange and wayward mixture of regard for right and justice with self-love on the one side, and wrath on the other, which are so common among us men of meaner scale. The difference is, that in Achilles all the parts of the compound are at once deepened to a superhuman intensity, and raised to a scale of magnificence which almost transcends our powers of vision. We must, indeed, no more look for a didactic and pedantic consistency in the movement of his mind, than in shocks from an earthquake, or bursts of flame from a volcano. But a real consistency there is; and doubtless it could be measured by the rules of every day, if only every day produced an Achilles.

Let us now follow his course with close attention.

Restitution not the object of Achilles.

It can hardly fail to draw remark, that the spirit of Achilles never from the first moment fastens on mere restitution, or on restitution at all, as its object. With his knowledge of his own might, which was enough to prompt him, had he not been restrained from heaven, to assail and slay Agamemnon on the spot, he nevertheless does not so much as entertain the thought of fighting to keep Briseis. His thought is far other than this: ‘I will not lift a finger against one of you for the girl, since you choose to take from[372] me what you gave (298, 9). I will not hold what you think fit to grudge.’ While he adds, that they shall not touch an article of what is properly his own[699]. Not that he cares for mere possession or dispossession. Were that his thought, he would have lifted up the invincible arm for the retention of Briseis. But his thought is this, ‘One outrage you have done to justice and to me, and, encouraged as well as commanded by great deities, I bear it; but not even under their promises and injunctions will I endure that you shall sin again.’ The loss he had suffered now became quite a subordinate image in his mind; punishment of the offenders, and not restitution, was ever before his view. His first threat is that of withdrawal (Il. i. 169): which, he conceives, will put a stop to Agamemnon’s rapacious accumulations. Next (233) he swears the mighty oath that every Greek shall rue the day of his wrong, and look in vain to Agamemnon for protection against the sword of Hector. Again, in his prayer to Thetis, he intreats that she will induce Jupiter to drive the Greeks in rout and slaughter back upon the ships and the sea. He never dreams of the mere reparation of his wrong: when he refers to Briseis in the great oration of the Ninth Book, it is for the purpose of a slaying sarcasm against the Atreidæ; his soul utterly refuses to treat the affair in the manner of an action at law for damages; he looks for nothing less than the prostration of the Grecian host and its being brought to the very door of utter and final ruin, with the compound view of avenging wrong, glorifying justice, enhancing the sufferings of his foe, and magnifying the[373] occasion and achievements of his own might, to be put forth when the proper time shall come.

The offer radically defective.

The hero withdraws, and remains aloof. The Greeks, after a panic and a recovery, determine to carry on the war without him. But the hostile deities, less under restraint than the friendly ones, give active encouragement to the Trojan chiefs and army in the fight. They are discerned by the Greeks, who accordingly recede[700]. Finding that, instead of driving the Trojans to the city, on the contrary, even before the single fight of Hector and Ajax, they themselves had suffered loss, they supply their camp with the defences, which it had never needed while the name of Achilles and his prowess kept the enemy either within their walls, or in the immediate vicinity of the city. This happens in the Seventh Book, and it is the first note of the consequences of the Wrath. In the Eighth, they are more decidedly worsted under a divine influence, and are driven back upon their works, while the Trojans bivouac on the place of battle. The army had suffered no heavy loss: yet the infirm will of Agamemnon gives way: and, portending greater evils, he a second time counsels flight[701]. The advice is warmly repudiated by Diomed and the other chiefs. Still the course of their affairs is now by undeniable signs altered for the worse. Hereupon, Nestor advises an attempt to conciliate Achilles by offers of restitution and of gifts, with close union and incorporation into the family of Agamemnon. Now it is most important that we should observe, that gifts and kind words were the beginning and the end of this mission. There was no confession of wrong authorized by Agamemnon, or made by the Envoys, to Achilles. The woes of the Greeks are described:[374] Achilles is exhorted to lay aside his Wrath: he is told of all the fine things he will receive upon his compliance: but not one word in the speech of Ulysses conveys the admission at length gained from Agamemnon in the Nineteenth Book, that he has offended. Therefore Achilles is not appeased: but, I must add, neither is justice satisfied, nor right re-established.

Apology needed also.

Presents and promises were not what Achilles wanted. On the contrary, to his inflamed and inexorable spirit, being less than and different from the thing he sought, the very offer of them was matter of new exasperation. The very offer of them thus made seemed, and in some degree rightly seemed, to imply that they who tendered it must take him for a man, whose mind was cast in the same sordid mould as that of the king, who had given the offence. Gifts indeed Achilles must have, and abundance of them, when he is at last to be appeased: but it is not in order to swell an inventory of possessions: it is that the memory of them may dwell in his mind, and stand upon the record of his life, like the golden ornaments that he wore upon his manly person, namely, to exhibit and to make felt his glory.

I do not indeed presume to say we have evidence to show that Achilles would have relented at the period of the mission, if a frank confession of wrong, and apology for insult, had been made together with the proffer of the gifts. On the contrary, with his higher sentiments there mingled a towering passion of a vindictive order. It was as it were the corruption or abuse, not the basis, of the mood of the estranged Achilles: but it was there, and there, like everything Achillean, in colossal proportions. Still I think it has not been sufficiently observed that, as matter of fact, the proceeding of the Ninth Book was radically de[375]fective, because it treated the affair as (so to call it) one of mere merchandize, to be disposed of like the balance of an account.

When Achilles finds that the desire to avenge the death of Patroclus has become paramount within him, and in consequence renounces the Wrath[702], it is true that he does not stipulate for an apology. But neither does he stipulate for the gifts. Both however are given, and the apology comes first in the faltering speech of Agamemnon[703], who distinguishes between two kinds of atonement;

ἂψ ἐθέλω ἀρέσαι, δόμεναί τ’ ἀπερείσι’ ἄποινα.

Were there any doubt about the reality of this distinction, it might be removed by evidence which the Odyssey supplies. Eurualus, who appears to have been one of the secondary kings in Scheria, had not yet atoned for his insult to Ulysses, when Alcinous recommended that all the twelve, who belonged to that order, should make a present to the departing stranger. But from Eurualus, he observes, something more is requisite; he must offer an apology as well as a gift[704];

Εὐρύαλος δέ ἑ αὐτὸν ἀρεσσάσθω ἐπέεσσιν
καὶ δώρῳ· ἐπεὶ οὔτι ἔπος κατὰ μοῖραν ἔειπεν.

And this is done accordingly, in the amplest and frankest manner.

All this should be borne in mind, when we estimate the consistency of the Poet through the medium of the conduct of Achilles.

It was not a moment’s light apprehension, suffered by Agamemnon and the army, that could avail to obliterate his resentment. They had scarcely tasted of the cup of bitterness; he required that they should drain it to the dregs. He will not hear of the return[376] of Briseis: τῇ παριαύων τερπέσθω[705]. With a mixture of close argument, terrible denunciation, and withering sarcasm, he overpowers and silences the Envoys. Only Phœnix can address him, and that after a long pause and in tears.

Yet the mighty spirit of Achilles sways to and fro in the tempest of its own emotions. Again he has threatened to depart: bidding them, with a bitterness that mounts far away into the region of the sublime, come the next day and see, if they think such a sight can be worth their seeing, his fleet speeding homeward across the broad Hellespont; or north Ægean. But this course of action would have balked his appetite for glory; which, as he knew[706], he could only buy, and that with his life, at Troy. Perhaps, too, he was softened by the respect of the Envoys, who were personally agreeable to him; perhaps grimly pleased with the awe that his Titanic passion had inspired; perhaps affected with a sympathetic feeling of regard by the straightforward bluntness of Ajax. At any rate it is plain that there followed upon the speech of the Telamoniad chief[707] a greater sign of yielding, than any which the paternal exhortations of Phœnix, or those most artfully drawn pictures by Ulysses[708] of the rage and fury of Hector, had sufficed to produce. In answer to Ulysses, to the bottom of whose astuteness his clear eye had pierced, he says, ‘I shall go[709].’ In answer to Phœnix[710], ‘To-morrow we will decide, whether to go or stay.’ In answer to Ajax, he makes a more sensible advance. He now so far relents as to tell them, he will bethink himself of battle; yet it shall only be when the hand of Hector, dealing death to Greeks, and flame to their[377] vessels, shall have reached the tents and ships of the Myrmidons. Then it will be time enough: for then, at his encampment and by his dark ship, he trows that he will stay the course of Hector, however keen for fight[711].

Consistency maintained in and after Il. ix.

Thus far, then, we surely have no pretext for saying that Homer has departed from the purpose of his poem, of which the man Achilles is the centre and animating principle, and his Wrath with its terrible effects the theme. These effects are now developed up to a certain point: not such a point as really to endanger the army, or excite strong sympathy or apprehension on its behalf, but yet such a point as entirely to tame the irresolute egotism of Agamemnon, and drive his but half-masculine character into efforts again to lay hold upon the prop, which he had so rashly and lightly, as well as selfishly and unjustly, put away.

If we were to consider Achilles as engaged in a mere personal quarrel, we must condemn him, without any qualification whatever, for not accepting the reparation now tendered by Agamemnon. But if we bear in mind that the wrong done was a public wrong, that no confession of this wrong was made, that the other kings and leaders, and the whole army, became in some degree parties to it by their acquiescence, and that he was thus as much or more the vindicator of great public rights than the mere avenger of a personal offence, it is not so clear that the conduct of Achilles after the mission of the Ninth Book is incapable in principle of justification, according to the moral code of Greece. It must, however, undoubtedly remain amenable to severe censure on the score of excess: a culpability, for the penal notice of which Homer has made abundant provision in the sequel of the poem.


But this question is by the way: the main issue raised is as to the poetical consistency and effect of the structure, which Homer has chosen for his work. Upon this there is surely little room for doubt.

From the Ninth Book we commence afresh: Achilles in his moody seclusion, the Greeks in a manful determination to do their best; even Agamemnon is now roused to feel what he has brought upon the army, thrown back from his moral irresolution as a chief upon his personal courage as a soldier, and resolved to appear in the field, that he too may earn his laurels there.

And these intentions are gallantly fulfilled. The night foray of Diomed and Ulysses stands well, as one of the minor but safe measures, by which a skilful generalship often makes its first efforts to raise the spirits of a downcast army. Agamemnon then appears, and shows himself to be a warrior of a high, nay of the highest order of strength and valour. The other kings exert themselves with their wonted chivalry. But the decree of Jove, working through the accidents of war, drives three of the four great champions from the field, and leaves only Ajax; who, invincible wherever he is found, yet cannot be everywhere, nor, single handed, govern the result of battle along the whole extent of the line. And now come the great exertions and successes of the Trojans, especially Sarpedon and his Lycian contingent, Hector playing rather a conventional than a real part. Now it goes hard indeed with the Greeks; the fire touches the ships; Patroclus must go forth and die; and the Wrath is at an end, for it is drowned in the bitterness of the tears of Achilles.

With reference, then, to the main purpose of the poem, it proceeds regularly to its climax, and there is no limb of the Iliad separable from the body without[379] destroying the symmetrical, masculine, and broad development of its general plan. I speak now of the principal fabric of the poem. Few who are not prepared to pull that in pieces will, I apprehend, accede to the proposal to shear it of the two last Books, which therefore hardly require a separate defence.

Skilful adjustment of conflicting aims.

To me it appears well worthy of remark, with what extraordinary skill Homer has contrived to adjust his poem to the several aims which he had to keep in view. The grand one doubtless was the glory of his country in the person of Achilles[712]. Still he was bound not to sacrifice poetically the martial fame of the rest of Greece even to the first among them, whatever calamities he might make the army suffer on his account. To avoid this sacrifice, he was obliged to uphold the military character and power of the Greeks in their struggle with the Trojans, even when deprived of the prowess of their great champion Achilles. And yet he could not degrade Hector and the Trojans, or he would have reached the lame conclusion of adorning his own country’s heroes with a poor and unworthy triumph. Thus his course was to be steered among a variety of difficulties, all pressing upon him from opposite quarters.

We see at once how steadily he kept in view his pole-star; how he handled the events and characters of his poem so as to give the most powerful, or rather it may be said the most overpowering, impression of the great[380]ness of his hero, which is lifted higher and higher by the whole movement of the work as it proceeds. Let us now examine whether, in giving full scope to his main purpose, he has been obliged to sacrifice others which were also important, nay, if the highest excellence was his aim, even indispensable.

The paramount glory of Achilles is established by this: first, that in the Ninth Book the whole army, as it were, lies at his feet, and is spurned from thence: secondly, that when he finally comes forth, it is not in deference to those who have insulted him, but it is under the burning impulses of his own heart. Let us now proceed to inquire whether the Poet has or has not satisfied two other great demands. Has he, as a Greek, done all that was required to glorify Greece, and is Achilles its crown only, or is he its substitute? Has he, as a man, vindicated the principles of the moral order, and of that retributive justice which, even in this world, visibly maintains at least a partial balance between human action and its consequences to the agent?

Glory given to Greece.

We should look in vain, I think, for a finer and subtler exercise of poetic art, than in the mode in which Homer has contrived to convey to us, both the general, and in particular the military inferiority of the Trojans, as compared with the Greeks. Hardly any reader can be so superficial in his observation of the poem, as not to rise from it with this inferiority sufficiently impressed upon his mind. Yet there is not a passage or a word throughout, in which it is asserted. And why? Because every direct assertion that the Trojans were less valiant or less strong than their antagonists, would have been so much detracted from the glory of overcoming them. It was essential to the work of the Poet, that he should represent the contest as an[381] arduous one. He might have done this in the coarse method, for which his theurgy would have afforded the materials: that is, by converting his Trojans into mere puppets, whose arm, at every turn of the narrative, merely represented the impelling force of some deity or other, and, independently of such extraneous aid, was powerless. But this would have destroyed the full-flushed humanity of Homer’s poem.

As it is, he has availed himself of the divine element to make up by its assistance for the comparative weakness of the Trojan chiefs: but it is only a subdued and occasional assistance, so that there is no glaring difference in point of free agency between the two parties. Nor can it be without a purpose, that the two deities, who appear in the field on behalf of the Trojans, namely, Venus and Mars, are sent off it both wounded, the one whining, and the other howling, by the prowess of Diomed. If the Greeks are to suffer by the gods, he takes care that it shall not be by those gods who are the mere national partisans of Troy, but by a higher agency; by the decree of Jupiter, now temporarily indeed, but effectively, set against them.

It is by an indefinitely great number of strokes and touches each indefinitely small, that Homer has gained his object. The Trojan successes are always effected with the concurrence of supernatural power; the Greeks not unfrequently without, and sometimes even against it[713].

He as it were sets up the Trojans, so to speak, by generalities; but he gives to the Greeks, with certain occasional exceptions, the whole detail of solid achievement. Sometimes he allows a panic of doubt and fear to seize their host, but he takes care to make the sentiment only flit like a momentary shade over the sun.[382] Thus, when the assembled chieftains of the Greek army hesitate to accept the challenge of Hector[714],

αἴδεσθεν μὲν ἀνήνασθαι, δεῖσαν δ’ ὑποδέχθαι.

But after a short interval, and a proper appeal, nine champions appear, each and all burning to meet Hector in single combat. Sometimes he contrives to direct his praises to martial appearance and exterior, but carefully avoids the real touches of heroic character; as when he bestows on Paris the noble simile of the στάτος ἵππος. Generally he pays off, as it were, the Trojans with high-sounding words, and reserves nearly all the true qualities of heroes, as well as their exploits, for the Achæans. With them are the sagacity, consistency, firmness, promptitude, enterprise, power of adapting means to ends, comprehensiveness of view, as well as main strength of hand. But by the expedients I have mentioned, the Trojans are raised to, and kept at and no more than at, the level necessary to make them worthy and creditable antagonists. One other engine for the purpose has been employed by him, namely, the real valour and manhood of the Lycian kings and forces[715], with whom he had evidently a strong and peculiar sympathy; whose chief, Sarpedon, is really a better man in war than Hector, though much less pretentious; and who, under this prince, achieve the only real, great, and independent success that is to be found on that side throughout the whole course of the poems, namely, the first forcing of the Greek entrenchments[716].


The Trojan inferiority indeed lies very much more palpably in the chiefs, than in the common soldiers. Between the bulk of the army on the one side and on the other, Homer represents no great—at least no glaring difference. Sometimes the fight is carried on upon terms purely equal[717], as during the forenoon of the day in the Eleventh Book: where there is superiority, it is assigned to the Greeks[718] or to the Trojans[719], according as the exigencies of the poem may require. Still he contrives some note of difference so as to draw a line between the merit of the respective successes; thus, when the Trojans turn the Greeks to flight, there is commonly an intimation, in more or less general terms, of a divine agency stimulating them. Hostile weapons are indeed often turned aside on behalf of Greeks: but only in one instance, I think, do the Greeks derive decided advantage from a panic divinely inspired: it is when, in the Sixteenth Book, Jupiter instils into Hector the spirit of fear[720].

This absence of broad contrast between the two soldieries is in entire accordance with what we have seen reason to presume as to their composition; namely, that the rank and file on both sides was in all likelihood composed from kindred and Pelasgian races.

Yet a strong jealousy on behalf of his country is ever the predominant sentiment in the Poet’s mind; and accordingly he insinuates, with much art, suggestions which keep even the Trojan soldiery somewhat below the Greeks; while to the chieftains of the Greek army, though his laudatory epithets are nearly as high on the one side as on the other, he assigns in action an enormous superiority, both military and intellectual. Accordingly, when we come to cast up the results of the actual[384] encounters, we are astounded at the littleness, the almost nothingness, of the Trojan achievements, and at the large havock wrought by their opponents, even during the period when Achilles was in estrangement[721].

As regards the armies at large, observe the similes used in the Fourth Book[722]. The Greeks move in silence and discipline, like the swelling waves when the tempest is just beginning to gather: the Trojans, like innumerable sheep, who stand bleating in the fold while they are being milked[723]. In the Fifth Book, while it is mentioned, as if casually, that Apollo, Mars, and Eris, were stirring and keeping up the Trojans, it is subjoined, without ostensible reference to this intimation, but plainly in artful contrast with it, that the Greeks found sufficient incentives in the exhortations of the two Ajaxes, of Ulysses, and of Diomed[724]. Again, when Hector returns, after his battle with Ajax[725], to his comrades, we are told that they rejoiced in finding him restored to them in safety, contrary to their expectation, ἀέλπτοντες σόον εἶναι. On the other hand, it is added, the Greeks led Ajax to Agamemnon, exulting in his victory over Hector (κεχαρηότα νίκῃ). The Greeks feel no thankfulness, because they had, we are evidently to understand, felt no fear. And the chief rejoices in his victory, which it really was. It was, indeed, ended as a drawn battle, though Ajax had had the best of it at every stage; but not so much for the honour of Hector, as for the purposes of the poem, since Hector had to meet Achilles in the field, and he would have been degraded by encountering an antagonist that anybody else had palpably worsted. To state the paradox as Homer had to[385] confront it, the problem was to make Ajax conqueror, without letting Hector be conquered.

Inferiority glaring in the Chiefs.

When we look to the case of the chieftains as a whole, the contrast is glaring. No first rate, or even second rate, Greek chieftain is ever killed in fair field: Tlepolemus, slain by Sarpedon, comes the nearest to that rank, but is not in it. Patroclus is only slain after being disarmed by Apollo: and here it seems to me as if for once the Poet had a little overshot his mark; for the artifice is gross, and covers the pretended exploit of Hector with indelible disgrace. In fact, Hector never once achieves a considerable success in the field: though only Achilles, the first Greek warrior, is allowed completely to overcome him[726], yet he is decidedly inferior in fight to both Diomed and Ajax, who jointly occupy the two next places, but as between whom Homer has not decisively marked the claim to precedence. In general terms, he gives it to Ajax more emphatically[727], but he details more and greater acts of prowess in favour of Diomed.

Even with Agamemnon Hector is admonished, on the part of Jupiter, not to contend: and he follows the advice. Of the Trojan chiefs who really fight, a large proportion are slain; Glaucus, Æneas, Deiphobus, and Polydamas are the most considerable who survive. No eminent Trojan in fact is ever allowed to display real heroism, except under circumstances where the issue is quite hopeless: accordingly Homer has never surrounded Hector with true heroic grandeur, in deed as well as word, until his final battle against Achilles, when he is at last brought to bay, and when his doom is certain. All the considerable injuries inflicted upon[386] great Greek chieftains are from causes not implying personal prowess in their rivals: from the arrows of Pandarus or of Paris, or by the chance hit of some insignificant, or at the least secondary, but desperate Trojan, such as Socus, or such as Coon, struck even as he is himself receiving or about to receive his own death-blow[728]. But for these ignoble wounds, which were inflicted on many chiefs, including three prime heroes, Agamemnon, Diomed, and Ulysses, the Greeks, according to the agency of the poem as it stands, never would have been driven back upon their ships at all.

Conflicting exigencies of the plan.

Now Homer’s difficulty in this matter was not simply that which has been heretofore pointed out, or which has been commonly supposed. His aim, says Heyne[729], in representing the disasters of the Greeks is, ut per eas Achillis virtus insigniatur, quippe quâ destituti Achivi succumbunt, eâdem redditâ vincunt. But this is surely a misstatement of the case. Homer has not represented the Greeks plus Achilles as superior to the Trojans, and the Greeks minus Achilles as inferior to them. This was what a vulgar artist, whose mind could only hold one idea at a time, would have done; nay, what it was difficult to avoid doing, for it was vital to Homer’s purpose that the vengeance of Achilles should be completely satiated: it was not to be thought of that this transcendent character, this ideal hero, should be balked by man of woman born; the whole web of the Poet’s thought would have been rent across, had there been failure in such a point. What was needful in this view could only be accomplished by the extremest calamities of the Greeks. These calamities he had to bring about, and yet to give to the Greeks a real su[387]periority of military virtue. We have seen already how he effected the latter: how did he manage the former? Partly by giving Achilles, in right of his mother Thetis, such an interest in the courts of heaven, as to throw a preponderating divine agency for the time on the side of the Trojans; partly by a skilful use of the chances of war, in assigning to Troy a superiority in the comparatively ignoble skill (as it was then used) of the bow. Thus he causes the Greeks to be worsted, notwithstanding their superiority: by their being worsted, he satisfies the exigencies of his plot; by exhibiting their superiority, he fulfils the conditions of his own office as a national poet. To speak of the ingenuity of Homer may sound strange, for we are accustomed to associate his name with ideas of greater nobleness; but still his ingenuity, in this adjustment of conflicting demands upon him, appears to be such as has never been surpassed.

Greeks superior even without Achilles.

And here I, for one, cannot but admire the way in which Homer has made purposes, which others would have found conflicting, to serve as reciprocal auxiliaries. The Embassy of the Ninth Book certainly glorifies Achilles: but let us ask, does it not help also to glorify Greece? Let us consider what had happened. The withdrawal of Achilles was at once felt as a great blow; and it acted on the whole tone of the army. This appears in various ways. We read it in the home-sick impulses of the Second Assembly (b. ii.); in the advice of Nestor to take measures for securing the responsibility of officers and men (ii. 360-8); in the slackness of various chiefs during the Circuit of Agamemnon (b. iv.); in its being recorded to the honour of that leader (iv. 223) that he did not flinch from his duty; lastly, in the momentary reluctance of the Greek heroes[388] to encounter Hector (vii. 93). All this is thoroughly natural. Having leant upon a prop, they were not at once aware of their remaining and intrinsic strength. They, like all persons who have not learned the habit of self-reliance, required to learn it with pain. Hence, after the very first touch of comparative weakness in the field, they conceive the idea of the rampart. They had not really been worsted: but their enemies had learned to face them; their position was now no longer what it had used to be, when Hector did not venture out in front of the Dardanian Gate. But the building of the rampart produced, as was natural, an increased weakness. Besides this, Jupiter, seeing that the tendency of events was not to give a sufficiently rapid and decisive triumph to Achilles, now inhibited those deities, who were friendly to Greece, from taking part, while he himself (viii. 75) alarmed and abashed the Greeks with his thunder. They thus feel themselves thrown one full stage further into weakness. What more natural, than that they should turn to Achilles, and try his disposition towards them? This is effected in the Ninth Book. They then become acquainted practically, for the first time, with the fierceness of the seven times heated furnace of the Wrath. This experience teaches them, that they must do or die. So at last, the bridge behind them being broken, Greece is put upon her mettle. The gallant Diomed becomes the spokesman at once of chivalry and of common sense. ‘You should not have asked him. By asking, you have emboldened and hardened him. Let him alone. Rely upon yourselves. Refresh yourselves with sleep and a good meal, and then, order out the troops, and have at them: I for my part will be found in the van[730].’ Then it is that[389] the Greeks understand their position, and, casting off hope from Achilles, place it in themselves. Hence that great development of valorous energies in the Eleventh Book, which proves that in equal fight, even though Achilles were absent, Troy had not a hope: so that the expedient of chance-wounds, disabling all the prime warriors but Ajax, is absolutely necessary in order to bring about the required amount of disaster. It appears to me, I confess, that this is a masterly adjustment, alike true in nature, and high in art.

But first, after the great repulse, comes the pilot-balloon, the tentative effort, of the Doloneia.

Next to the skill and power with which the Poet has discriminated the characters of his greater Greek heroes, I am tempted to admire the circumspection and precision, with which he has assigned their relative degrees of prominence in the action. To those who complain of the Doloneia for want of a purpose, I would reply that, in the first place, besides its merits as an operation with reference to the circumstances of the moment, (for it feeds the army, as it were, with milk, when they were not yet ready for strong meat,) it remarkably varies the tenour of the action, which without it would have fallen into something of sleepy sameness, by substituting stratagem for force, and night-adventure for the conflicts of the day. Let those who doubt this strike out the Tenth Book, and then consider how the course of the military transactions of the poem would stand without it: how much more justly the first moiety of the military action of the poem would stand liable to the imputation of monotony, which even now is of necessity the besetting danger of the whole poem. But more; I contend that the Doloneia constitutes, in the main, the ἀριστεῖα of Ulysses. His distinguished[390] part in the Second Book is political only, and has no concern with his military qualifications. His ordinary military exploits elsewhere are secondary, and also scattered. To assign to him a great share in the field operations would have been a much less fine preparation, than the Iliad now affords, for his appearance in the Odyssey; and it would also have hazarded sameness as between his achievements and the other ἀριστεῖα of the great chiefs. Besides, there was little room in the field, as the martial art was then understood, for his distinctive qualities, self-reliance, presence of mind, fertility in resource. But military distinction, even in the time of Homer, lay in two great departments, one known as the fight (μάχη), the other as ambush (λόχος). The latter was of fully equal, nay, on account of its sharper trial of moral courage[731], it was even of still greater honour. To this class the night adventure essentially belonged. Here Ulysses is thoroughly at home. In the Doloneia, Diomed is merely the sword in the hand of Ulysses; who directs the operation, and overrules his brave companion when he thinks fit, as, for example, in the matter of the slaughter of Dolon. In what other way could Homer have given us an equally characteristic illustration of the military qualities of Ulysses?

Harmony in relative prominence of the Chiefs.

Now this view of the Doloneia fills up, I think, what must otherwise be admitted to be a gap in the poem. It being thus filled up, let us observe the accuracy with which shares in the action of the poem are assigned to the respective chiefs. Nestor has his own place apart as universal counsellor. Ulysses also, who, as the great twin conception to Achilles, must never[391] be allowed to appear in a light of inferiority to any one, is so managed as not to eclipse the might of Ajax or the bravery of Diomed; and yet he has all his attributes kept entire for the great part he had to play in the Odyssey, and is never beaten, never baffled, never excelled. Then Ajax, Diomed, Agamemnon, Menelaus, even elderly Idomeneus, have each the stage made clear for them at different times, and with scope proportioned to their several claims upon us. The very intervals between their several appearances are made as wide as possible: for Diomed is in the Fifth and Eleventh Books, Ajax in the Seventh, Agamemnon in the Eleventh, Idomeneus in the Thirteenth[732], Menelaus in the Seventeenth. Ajax excels in sheer might, Diomed in pure gallantry of soul, and what is called dash; Agamemnon’s dignity as a warrior is most skilfully maintained, yet without his being brought into rivalry with those two still greater heroes, by Hector’s being counselled to avoid him. Menelaus, secondary in mere force, though with a spirit no less brave than gentle, is carried well through by the care taken that he shall only meet with appropriate adversaries, and the same pains are employed on behalf of Idomeneus. For Patroclus, as the friend and second self of Achilles, Homer’s fertile invention has secured a kind of distinction, which does not displace that of others, and which, notwithstanding, is eclipsed by none of them. He turns the Trojan host; he slays the great Sarpedon; he is himself slain only by foul play. I cannot vindicate the clumsy intervention of Apollo, and the meanness of the part played by Hector in this cardinal passage of his career; still I find it curious and instructive to observe in all this a new instance of the intense care, with[392] which the Poet watches over the character especially of his Achilles. He exalts him, by exalting first those secondary eminences, far above which he keeps him towering. Therefore he would have Patroclus slain indeed, but not defeated, by Hector; and to this capital object he appears to have made, perhaps unavoidably, considerable sacrifices.

Upon the whole, then, it would seem that Homer had to maintain a complex regard to a variety of objects. First of all there was the relation to observe between Achilles and all the other personages of his poem on both sides of the quarrel. Then in distributing his minor Alps, the other prime or distinguished Greek warriors, about this great Alp, he had to keep in mind and provide for their relations to one another, as well as to him. Lastly, he had to carry Hector and the Trojans so high, that to overcome their chief should be his crowning exploit, and yet so low, that they should not stand inconveniently between the Greeks and the view of such national heroes as Ulysses, Diomed, Ajax, and Agamemnon. Like Jupiter on Ida[733], from none of these objects has he ever removed his bright and watchful eye; for all of them he has made a provision alike deliberate and skilful.

It only remains to consider the outline of the plot in reference to the Providential Government of the world, and the administration of retributive justice; a subject which has been ably handled by Mr. Granville Penn[734].

I am not able to admit that broad distinction, which is frequently drawn between the provision made for satisfying this great poetical and moral purpose in the[393] Iliad and in the Odyssey respectively. In each I find it not only remarkable, but even elaborate. In each poem, Homer exhibits, above all things else, one chosen human character with the amplest development. But diversity is the key-note of the development in the Odyssey, grandeur or magnitude in the Iliad. The hurricane-like forces, that abound in the character of Achilles, entail a greater amount of aberration from the path of wisdom. But there is not wanting a proportionate retributive provision. Ulysses, after a long course of severe discipline patiently endured, has awarded to him a peaceful old age, and a calm death, in his Ithaca barren but beloved, with his people prospering around him. Achilles, on the other hand, is so loaded with gorgeous gifts that, wonderful as is their harmony in all points but one, that one is the centre. He has not the same unfailing and central solidity of moral equipoise. In himself gallant, just, generous, refined, still indignity can drive him into an extremity of pride and fierceness, which call for stern correction. Hence it comes about that, while the adversity of Ulysses is the way to peace, the transcendent glory of Achilles is attended by a series of devouring agonies; the rival excitements of fierce pain and fiercer pleasure accompany him along a path, which soon and suddenly descends into the night of dismal death. Alike in the one case and in the other, the balance of the moral order is preserved; and that Erinūs, who, in so many particular passages of the poems, makes miniature appearances in order to vindicate the eternal laws, such as the heroic age apprehended them, likewise presides in full development over the general action of each of these extraordinary poems.

Retributive justice in the two poems.

Retributive justice, inseparably interwoven with hu[394]man destiny (for thus much the Erinūs signified) tracks and dogs Achilles at every stage. Take him, for instance, as the Ninth Book shows him, at the very summit of his pride. It is in no light or joyous mood, that he repels the Envoys. Who among readers does not seem to see his spirit writhe, when he describes the hot and bursting resentment in his breast, the stinging recollection of the outrages he has undergone[735]. Even by the irrepressible curiosity, which compels him to mount upon his ship for view, and to send out Patroclus to learn the course of the battle, Homer has shown us how false was any semblance of peace, that he could even now enjoy in his giddy elevation.

The rampart is pierced, the ships are reached, the firebrand is hurled, and the first Greek ship burns. Achilles must not depart from his word: but his restlessness now conceives an expedient, the sending forth of Patroclus to the fight. At the same time, he takes every precaution that sagacity can suggest: he clothes his friend in his own armour, exhorts the Myrmidons to support him, above all enjoins him to confine himself to defensive warfare, and not to follow the Trojans, when repulsed, to the city. What then happens to him? That which often befalls ourselves: that when we have turned our back upon wisdom, wisdom turns her back upon us. Achilles insisted upon the disaster of his countrymen. When it came, it constrained him to send out his friend: and the calamity he had himself invoked was death to the man that he loved better than his own soul.

And why did Patroclus die? It was not that Achilles imprudently exposed him to risks beyond his strength. He was abundantly able to encounter Hector. Hector[395] had no care, so long as the battle was by the ships, to encounter this chief. And Achilles had enjoined him to fight by the ships only, lest, if he attempted the city, a deity should take part against him[736]. Patroclus disobeyed, and perished accordingly. As Achilles had refused to follow the laws of wisdom for himself, so, when he carefully obeyed them, they were not to avail him for the saving of his friend. Heaven fought against Patroclus; Jupiter, after deliberation, tempted him from the ships, by causing Hector to fly towards the city; and the counsel of Achilles was now baffled as he had baffled the counsels of others, the dart was launched that was to pierce his soul to the quick.

Double conquest over Achilles.

Thus his proud will was doomed to suffer. The suffering is followed by the reconciliation, and by the climax of his glory and revenge in the death of Hector. How in these Books we see him moving in might almost preternatural, with the whole world as it were, and all its forces, in subjection to his arm! But he has only passed from one excess of feeling into another: from a vindictive excess of feeling against the Greeks, to another vindictive excess of feeling against Hector. The mutilation and dishonour of the body of his slain antagonist now become a second idol, stirring the great deep of his passions, and bewildering his mind. Thus, in paying off his old debt to the eternal laws, he has already contracted a new one. Again, then, his proud will must be taught to bow. Hence, as Mr. Penn has well shown, the necessity of the Twenty-fourth Book with its beautiful machinery[737]. Achilles must surrender the darling object of his desire, the wreaking of his vengeance on an inanimate corpse. On this[396] occasion, as before, he is subdued: and both times it is through the medium of his tender affections. But in both cases his evil gratification is cut short: and the authority of the providential order is reestablished. The Greeks pursue their righteous war: the respect which nature enjoins is duly paid to the remains of Hector, and the poem closes with the verse which assures us that this obligation was duly and peacefully discharged.

With these views, I find in the plot of the Iliad enough of beauty, order, and structure, not merely to sustain the supposition of its own unity, but to bear an independent testimony, should it be still needed, to the existence of a personal and individual Homer as its author.


The sense of Beauty in Homer; human, animal, and inanimate.

The idea of Beauty, especially as it is connected with its most signal known manifestation in the human form, and again the φθορὰ, or corruption of that idea, have each their separate course and history in the religion and manners, as well as in the arts, of Greece. By the idea of Beauty, I mean here the conception of it in the human mind as a pure and wonderful essence, nearly akin to the Divine; derived from heaven, and both continually and spontaneously tending to revert to its source. By the corruption of that idea, I mean the conception of it either mainly or wholly with reference to animal enjoyment; sometimes within, and sometimes beyond, the laws of Nature.

In the works of Homer, we find the first of these conceptions exceedingly prominent and powerful. It approaches almost to a worship: and yet is scarcely at all tainted with the second, scarcely presents the smallest deflection from the very loftiest type. In Homer, that is to say, in the Homeric descriptions of human characters and life, we never find Beauty and Vice pleasurably associated: he seems to have felt in the sanctuary of his mind as much at least as this, if not more; that a derogation from purity involved of itself a descent from the highest to a lower form of beauty: and therefore he never associates his highest descriptions of beauty with vice: differing in this not[398] only from so many heathen, but even from many Christian authors.

The Dardanid traditions.

But yet it is most remarkable that, even in Homer’s time, the level of popular tradition on the subject of beauty had begun to descend, and though he had escaped the taint, yet it had touched his age. Let us, for example, take that most striking series of traditions in the Dardanian royal family, which are recorded in the poems of Homer. That family appears to have had personal beauty for an almost entailed inheritance. Not only Hector, Deiphobus, Æneas, as well as Paris, possessed it, but Priam, even in his old age and affliction, was divinely beautiful as he entered the apartment of Achilles; and, as they sat at meat, and he admired Achilles, Achilles returned his admiration[738].

The line of traditions in this family, to which I now refer, affords the best illustration of the idea of beauty as ever striving, by an inner law, to rise to a heavenly life. There are four of these traditions: and as we pass from the older to the more recent, at each step that we make, we lose some grain of the first ethereal purity. The earliest of them all is the translation, since coarsely and without ground called the rape, of Ganymede: consistently indeed so called, according to the idea of the fable which has prevailed in later ages, but most absurdly, if it be applied to the tradition in the shape in which it stands with Homer. With him the tale of Ganymede is the most simple and perfect assertion of the principle that beauty, heavenly in its origin, is heavenly also in its destiny; and that the heaven-born and heaven-bound should contract no taint upon its intermediate passage. There were three sons, says Homer, born to Tros; Ilus was one, Assa[399]racus another: and the third was Ganymede, a match for gods. Ganymede, the most beauteous of men, whom, for his beauty, and seemingly before he had come to maturity for succession, the gods snatched up and made the cupbearer of Jupiter, that he might dwell for ever among the Immortals[739]:

ὃς δὴ κάλλιστος γένετο θνητῶν ἀνθρώπων·
τὸν καὶ ἀνηρείψαντο θεοὶ Διὶ οἰνοχοεύειν
κάλλεος εἵνεκα οἷο, ἵν’ ἀθανάτοισι μετείη.

The idea of sanctity, indeed, is not to be discovered here; its traces can only be found among the inspired records; the resemblance to the deity does not reach beyond the flesh and mind; yet the sum of the tale is full of interest. The other sons grew up, and became kings; he, that he might not linger, might not suffer, might not contract taint or undergo decay on earth, was taken up to that sphere, which is the proper home of all things beautiful and good.

The thought is somewhat related to that of the following remarkable lines by Emerson:

Perchance not he, but nature ailed;
The world, and not the infant, failed.
It was not ripe yet to sustain
A genius of so fine a strain,
Who gazed upon the sun and moon
As if he came unto his own:
And pregnant with his grander thought,
Brought the old order into doubt.
His beauty once their beauty tried;
They could not feed him, and he died,
And wandered backward, as in scorn,
To wait an Æon to be born.

Far as the tradition of Ganymede, according to Homer, is below that of Enoch, it is set by a yet wider distance[400] above the later version of the same tale. Thus, in Euripides, we find him the Διὸς λέκτρων τρύφημα φίλον (Iph. Aul. 1037): and what is more sad is to find, that this utterly debased and depressed idea prevailed over the original and pure one, even to its extinction, and was adopted and propagated by the highest and the lowest poets of the Italian romance[740].

Next in order to the tradition of Ganymede comes that of Tithonus, who, on account of his beauty, was carried up, not by the gods at large, to be as one of them, but by Aurora to become her husband, in which capacity he remained in the upper regions[741]. This is a step downwards; but the next is a stride. In the third tradition, so far as is known from the authentic works of Homer, Æneas is the son of Venus and Anchises, but without their standing in the relation of husband and wife. The particulars of the narrative are supplied in the early Hymn, which perhaps was the more readily ascribed to Homer, because it was believed to embody a primitive form of the tradition. Jupiter inspired Venus with a passion for Anchises, and, after having arrayed herself in fine vestments and golden ornaments, she presented herself to him as he was playing the lyre in solitude on Ida; when the connection was formed that gave birth to Æneas[742].

The next fall is the greatest of all: according to the later tradition, Venus, to obtain a favourable judgment from Paris (of the next generation to Anchises), pro[401]mised him a wife of splendid beauty and divine extraction, whom he was to obtain by treachery and robbery, as well as adultery; and filled him with what Homer pronounces an evil passion[743].

The Poet, indeed, tells us nothing of this promise, which appears to imply powers far greater than any that the Homeric Aphrodite possessed. But he mentions the contest, informs us that Venus was the winner, makes Paris boast of her partiality, and introduces her as mentioning her own favours to Helen[744].

Such was the downward course of all in the nature of man that belonged to the moral sphere, apart from the cherishing power of Divine Revelation; for the chronological order of these legends is also that of their descent, step by step, from innocence to vice.

Homer, as we have already seen, represents a very early and chaste condition of human thought. We have now to observe how strong and genuine, as well as pure, was his appetite for beauty.

Since here, as elsewhere, it is not the Poet’s usage to declare himself by express statements and elaborate descriptions, we must resort in the usual manner to secondary evidence; which, however, converging from many different and opposite quarters upon a single point, is perhaps more conclusive than mere statement, because it shows that we are not dealing with a simple opinion, but with a sentiment, a passion, and a habit, which penetrated through the Poet’s whole nature.

I shall notice Homer’s sense of beauty with reference, first and chiefly, to the human countenance and form; next, with respect to animals; and thirdly, with respect to inanimate objects and to combinations of them.


As regards the first and chief branch of this inquiry, we must notice to what persons, and in what degrees, Homer assigns beauty, from whom he withholds it; and how far he considers it to give a title to special notice, in cases where no other claim to such a distinction can be made good.

We may then observe that Homer does not commonly assign personal beauty to any human person, who is morally odious. In any questionable instance where he does so assign it, he seems to follow an historical tradition, or to be constrained by his subject. He has covered Thersites with every sort of deformity; and in the description of the persons and of the twelve dissolute women among the fifty domestic servants of Ulysses, there is barely a word that implies beauty[745].

Melantho indeed, the most conspicuous offender, is called in the Eighteenth Odyssey[746] καλλιπάρῃος. But it seems probable, that he followed a local tradition concerning her; for, if she had been simply a creation of his own, he certainly would not have represented her as the daughter of the old and faithful Dolius[747], who, with his six sons, bore arms for Ulysses.

Treatment of the beauty of Paris.

So also the beauty of Paris was an inseparable incident of the Trojan tale. Yet it is remarkable how little it is brought into relief. Where he is called beautiful, it is by way of sarcasm and reproach[748],

Δύσπαρι, εἶδος ἄριστε.

The only passage, in which his beautiful appearance is described at all, is from the mouth of Venus[749], to whom Homer never intrusts anything, to be either said or done, that he wishes us to regard with favour.

Compelled, however, to set off the imposing exterior[403] of this prince, if only for the purpose of heightening the contrast with his cowardice in action, he introduces him flourishing his pair of spears at the commencement of the Third Iliad; and what is more, when he again goes forth in his newly burnished arms at the close of the Sixth, bestows upon him one of the very noblest of his similes, that of the stall-kept horse, high fed and sleek in coat, who having broken away from his manger rushes neighing over the plain[750].

It was necessary, in order to make up the true portrait of Paris, that his exterior should be thus splendid, and his movements imposing; and it was also a part of the subtle plan, by which Homer made use of words and appearances to bring up the Trojan chieftains and people to some kind of level with the Greek. Yet there is something singular in the fact that Homer, who does not, I think, repeat his similes in any other remarkable case, reproduces the whole of this splendid passage in the Fifteenth Iliad for Hector[751]. There is here, we may rely upon it, some peculiar meaning. Possibly he grudged the exclusive appropriation of so splendid a passage to so despicable a person. There is also another singularity in his mode of proceeding. The simile is given to Hector without addition, and the poem proceeds

ὣς Ἕκτωρ λαιψηρὰ πόδας καὶ γούνατ’ ἐνώμα.

But where he applies it to Paris, immediately after the conclusion of the noble passage he subjoins (Il. vi. 512.),

ὣς υἱὸς Πριάμοιο Πάρις κατὰ Περγάμου ἄκρης
τεύχεσι παμφαίνων, ὥστ’ ἠλέκτωρ, ἐβεβήκει.

What is the meaning of ἠλέκτωρ? It is commonly taken as equivalent to ἠλέκτωρ Ὑπερίων, which means the Sun. I cannot but believe that Homer means by[404] it to signify the cock, called in Greek ἀλέκτωρ. The ἠλέκτωρ Ὑπερίων, is used as a simile for Achilles; and it would be much against the manner of Homer to use the same simile for a Trojan, and that Trojan Paris. Whereas by the strut of the cock he may mean to reduce and modify the effect of the noble figure of the stall-horse.

Beauty of the Greek chiefs and nation.

Achilles, who is not only the bravest but by far the most powerful man of the host, is also by far the most beautiful; and the very strongest terms are used to describe the impression which his appearance produced on Priam amidst the profoundest sorrow[752];

θαύμαζ’ Ἀχιλῆα,
ὅσσος ἔην, οἷός τε· θεοῖσι γὰρ ἄντα ἐῴκει.

It may be doubted, whether any other Poet would have ventured to combine the highest and most delicate beauty, with a strength and size approaching the superhuman. It was requisite for Achilles, as the ideal man, not only to want no great human gift, but also to have in unmatched degrees whatever gifts he possessed. The beauty of Achilles is the true counterpart to the ugliness and deformity of Thersites.

It appertains to the character of Ulysses, who comes next to Achilles, that he too should not be wanting in any thing that pertains to the excellence of human nature; while completeness and manifoldness is the specific character of his endowments, as unparalleled splendour is of those possessed by Achilles. Ulysses[753], therefore, is also beautiful. Again, the office and function of Agamemnon require him to be an object capable of attracting admiration and reverence. He, accordingly, is of remarkable beauty, but of the kind of beauty that has in it most of dignity[754];


καλὸν δ’ οὕτω ἐγὼν οὔπω ἴδον ὀφθαλμοῖσιν,
οὐδ’ οὕτω γεραρόν.

Homer never absolutely withholds beauty from any of his Greek heroes, yet he does not always expressly state that they possessed it. This endowment is, for instance, never given to Diomed, but it is ascribed to Ajax in the Eleventh Odyssey[755];

ὃς ἄριστος ἔην εἶδός τε, δέμας τε,
τῶν ἄλλων Δαναῶν, μετ’ ἀμύμονα Πηλείωνα.

It is probably because Diomed equals Ajax in chivalry, and very far excels him in mental gifts, that Homer has thrown weight into the scale of Ajax by assigning to him expressly, while he is silent about Diomed, the gift of a beautiful person.

As with individuals, so does Homer deal with masses. It may be observed that he has a lower class of epithets for the Trojans than the Greeks, and never allows them the benefit of the same national designations. Individual beauty in men is confined on both sides to the higher ranks; but no Trojan, however beautiful, is ever honoured with the title of ξανθός. Again, while he never gives to the Trojans as a body any epithet which describes them as possessed of beauty, he has assigned several expressions of this order to the Greek race. Such are the epithets καρηκομόωντες and ἑλίκωπες, and the phrase εἶδος ἀγητοὶ, (Il. v. 787. viii. 228.)

Beauty of Nireus and others.

We have yet to examine how far Homer makes beauty a title to distinguished notice on behalf of those who have no other claim. The passage in the Catalogue, where Nireus is named[756], is highly curious with reference to this part of the subject. It is as follows:


Νιρεὺς αὖ Σύμηθεν ἄγε τρεῖς νῆας ἐΐσας,
Νιρεὺς, Ἀγλαΐης υἱὸς Χαρόποιό τ’ ἄνακτος,
Νιρεὺς, ὃς κάλλιστος ἀνὴρ ὑπὸ Ἴλιον ἦλθεν
τῶν ἄλλων Δαναῶν, μετ’ ἀμύμονα Πηλείωνα·
ἀλλ’ ἀλαπαδνὸς ἔην, παῦρος δέ οἱ εἵπετο λαός.

These five lines form the largest of the merely personal descriptions contained in the Catalogue. Yet they are given to a man, of whom we are frankly told that he was a poor creature, and that he had but a small following. Even this does not show the whole strength of the case.

1. His ships were only three: no other commander, having so few, is named at all. The next smallest number is seven: these were the vessels of Philoctetes, and they seem to be named on account of his peculiar history and great merit.

2. This is the only instance, in which the contingent supplied by a single and wholly insignificant place is named by itself.

3. This is also one among very few cases of an ordinary birth, where the mother (Aglaïe) is named as well as the father (Charopos): the others are usually cases of reputed descent from deities or heroes.

4. The names given to both parents are taken from their personal beauty. They thus enhance the title of the son; and, as we cannot well suppose them connected with history, they were probably invented by the Poet for that purpose.

5. The repetition of the name of Nireus thrice, and in each case at the beginning of the verse, the most prominent and emphatic part of it according to the genius of the Greek hexameter, is plainly intentional.

6. All this care is taken in the most ingenious[407] manner to mark a man, who did nothing to enable Homer to name him in any other part of the Iliad.

One and one only key is to be found, which will lay open the cause of these singular provisions: it is Homer’s intense love of beauty, which made it in his eyes of itself a title to celebrity. So he determined, apparently, that the paragon of form should be immortal; and he has given effect to his determination, for no reader of the Iliad can pass by the place without remembering Nireus.

In a less marked manner, he has given a kindred emphasis to the case of Nastes, who wore golden ornaments, and therefore was presumably of strikingly handsome person. With his brother Amphimachus he commanded the Carians, and his name is mentioned thrice (but that of his brother twice only), together with the fact that he wore gold like a girl[757].

There is something, as it appears to me, most tender and refined, in this mode used by Homer of fastening attention through repetition of the word, which he wishes gently but firmly to stamp upon the memory. We have another instance of it in Il. xxii. 127,

ἅτε παρθένος ἠΐθεός τε,
παρθένος ἠΐθεός τ’ ὀαρίζετον ἀλλήλοιϊν.

There is yet another passage which affords a striking proof of what may be called the worship of beauty in Homer. In the Seventeenth Iliad, Euphorbus, the son of Panthoos, falls by the hand of Menelaus. Homer gives him great credit for charioteering, the use of the spear, and other accomplishments; but he performs no other feat in the poem than that of wounding in the back the disarmed, and astounded, and heaven-deserted[408] Patroclus. At best, we must call him a very secondary personage. Though his personal comeliness was not defaced like that of Paris by cowardice or vice, still he was of the same race that in Italy has taken its name from Zerbino. Yet Homer adorns his death with a notice, perhaps more conspicuous than any which he has attached to the death of any warriors of the Iliad, with the exceptions of Hector, Sarpedon, and Patroclus. Ten of the most beautiful lines of the poem are bestowed in lamenting him, chiefly by an unsurpassed simile, which compares the youth to a tender olive shoot, the victim, when its blossoms are overcharged with moisture, of a sudden hurricane. The Poet was moved to this tenderness by the remembrance of his beauty, of his hair, like the hair of the Graces, in its tresses bound with golden and silver clasps[758].

Beauty placed among the prime gifts.

Although it is true that Homer eschews with respect to beauty, as well as in other matters, the didactic mode of conveying his impressions, yet he has placed them distinctly on record in the answer of Ulysses to Euryalus. Speaking not at all of women, but of men, he places the gift of personal beauty among the prime endowments that can be received from the providence of the gods, in a rank to which only two other gifts are admitted, namely, the power of thought (νόος or φρένες), and the power of speech (ἀγορητύς). In the idea of personal beauty, conveyed under the names εἶδος, μορφὴ, and χάρις, evidently included vigour and power, for it is to his supposed incapacity for athletic exercises[759], that the discourse has reference. Nor can it be said, that this full and large appreciation by Homer of the[409] value of bodily excellence, was simply a worldly or a pagan, as opposed to a Christian, view.

It is not true, on the one hand, that when we cease to entertain sufficiently elevated views of the destiny and prerogatives of the soul, our standard for the body rises either in proportion or at all. Nor is it true, on the other, that when we think highly of the soul, we ought in consequence to think meanly of the body, which is both its tabernacle and its helpmate. In truth, a somewhat sickly cast seems to have come over our tone of thought now for some generations back, the product, perhaps, in part of careless or emasculated teaching in the highest matters, and due also in part to the overcrowding of the several functions of our life. But Homer distinctly realized to himself what we know faintly or scarce at all, though nothing is more emphatically or conspicuously taught by our religion, namely, that the body is part and parcel of the integer denominated man.

But the quality of measure ran in rare proportion through all the conceptions of the Poet. Stature was a great element of beauty in the view of the ancients for women as well as for men: and their admiration of tallness, even in women, is hardly restrained by a limit. But Homer, who frequently touches the point, has provided a limit. Among the Læstrygonians, the women are of enormous size. Two of the crew of Ulysses, sent forward to make inquiries, are introduced to the queen. They find her ‘as big as a mountain,’ and are disgusted at her[760]:

τὴν δὲ γυναῖκα
εὗρον ὅσην τ’ ὄρεος κορυφὴν, κατὰ δ’ ἔστυγον αὐτήν.

The large humanity of Homer is also manifested, among other signs, by his sympathy with high qualities[410] in the animal creation. There is no passage of deeper pathos in all his works, not Andromache with her child, not Priam before Achilles, than that which recounts the death of the dog Argus[761]. The words too are so calm and still, they seem to grow faint and fainter, each foot of the verse falls as if it were counting out the last respirations, and, in effect, we witness that last slight and scarcely fluttering breath, with which life is yielded up:

Ἄργον δ’ αὖ κατὰ Μοῖρ’ ἔλαβεν μέλανος θανάτοιο,
αὐτίκ’ ἰδόντ’ Ὀδυσῆα, ἐεικοστῷ ἐνιαυτῷ.

We may also trace the same sympathy in minor forms. As, for instance, where he says Telemachus went to the Ithacan assembly not unattended[762]:

βῆ ῥ’ ἴμεν εἰς ἀγορὴν, παλάμῃ δ’ ἔχε χάλκεον ἔγχος,
οὐκ οἶος.

We are certainly prepared to hear that some adviser, either divine or at the least human, some friend or faithful servant, was by his side: but no—it is simply that some dogs went with him:

ἅμα τῷγε κύνες πόδας ἀργοὶ ἕποντο.

There is no sign, however, that Homer attached the peculiar idea of beauty to the race of dogs in any remarkable degree. Indeed, it is only in certain breeds that the dog can be called by comparison a beautiful animal. What he always commends is their swiftness; and Homer’s ideas of beauty were nowhere more lively than in regard to motion. But we see the Poet’s feeling for form much more characteristically displayed in the case to which we shall now proceed.

Beauty in animals, especially horses.

Among other inferences which the poems raise in respect to Homer himself, it can hardly be doubted that he was a great lover of horses, and felt their beauty,[411] partially in colour, much more in form, and in movement most of all.

This was quite in keeping with the habits of his country and his race. Both the Trojans and the Greeks appear not only to have employed horses in such uses as war, journeys, races, and agricultural labour, but to have given attention to developing the breeds and points of the animal. In his Catalogue, Homer, at the close, invokes the Muse to inform him which were the best of the horses, as well as of the heroes, on the Greek side. He constantly uses epithets both for Trojans and Greeks connected with their successful care and training of the animal: εὔιππος, εὔπωλος, ταχύπωλος, ἱππόδαμος.

He not only treasures the traditions connected with the animal, but treats them as a part of history. Accordingly, when Diomed desires Sthenelus to make sure of the horses of Æneas he carefully proceeds to state, that it is because their sires were of the race that Jupiter gave to Tros. To them Anchises, without the knowledge of their owner Laomedon, brought his own mares, and so obtained a progeny of six: of whom he kept four himself, and gave two to his son Æneas (Il. v. 265-73) that he might take them to Troy.

Nay he goes back further yet: where, except in Homer, should we find a tradition like that of the mares of Erichthonius, fetched from a time five generations before his subject? Their children had Boreas for their sire. Three thousand mothers ranged over the plains of the Troad, and made their lord the wealthiest of men. So light was their footstep, that if they skimmed the sea it touched the tips only of the curling foam; and if they raced over the cornfield, the ripe ears sustained their tread without one being broken[763].


As to movement, form, and colour.

In other places Homer describes with no less of sympathetic emotion the vivid and fiery movements of the animal. The most remarkable of all is the noble simile of the stall-kept horse, whom every reader seems to see as with proud head and flowing mane, when he feels his liberty, he scours the boundless pastures.

That adaptation, or effort at adaptation, of sound to sense, which with poets in general (always excepting especially Dante and Shakespeare,) is a sign that they have applied their whole force to careful elaboration, is with Homer only a proof of a fuller and deeper flow of his sympathies: wherever we find it, we may be sure that his whole heart is in the passage. In this very simile how admirable is the transition from the fine stationary verse that describes the charger’s customary bathe,

εἰωθὼς λούεσθαι ἐϋρρεῖος ποταμοῖο,

to his rapid and easy bounding over the plain, when every dactyl marks a spring[764];

ῥίμφα ἑ γοῦνα φέρει μετά τ’ ἤθεα καὶ νόμον ἵππων.

For this adaptation of metre to sense in connection with the movement of horses, we may take another example. To describe Agamemnon dealing destruction among the routed Trojans on foot, we have a line and a half of somewhat accelerated but by no means very rapid movement[765];

ὣς ἄρ’ ὑπ’ Ἀτρείδῃ Ἀγαμέμνονι πῖπτε κάρηνα
Τρώων φευγόντων.

But when he comes to the Trojan horses in their flight, we have two lines, dactylic to the utmost extent that the metre will allow, except in one half-foot;

πολλοὶ δ’ ἐριαύχενες ἵπποι
κείν’ ὄχεα κροτάλιζον ἀνὰ πτολέμοιο γεφύρας,
ἡνιόχους ποθέοντες ἀμύμονας.


Then, coming back to the dead charioteers, he visibly slackens again;

οἱ δ’ ἐπὶ γαίῃ
κείατο, γύπεσσιν πολὺ φίλτεροι ἢ ἀλόχοισιν.

To exhibit numerically the relative distribution of times in these members of the sentence, we have these three very different proportions;

In the first, 13 long syllables to 8 short.

In the second, 16 long syllables to 22 short.

In the third, 11 long syllables to 10 short.

He has imparted much of the same glowing movement to the speech, which in the Nineteenth Iliad is assigned to the Immortal horses of Achilles; though the subject includes a reference to the death of their master[766]. In nearly every line, throughout the passage, that relates to their own motion, the number of dactyls is at the maximum, and in the ten lines there are eighty-six short syllables to sixty long ones; a proportion, which I doubt our finding elsewhere in Homer, except it be among the similes, to which Homer seems in many cases to give a peculiarly elastic prosodial movement.

Rhesus, king of the Thracians, who arrives at Troy after the commencement of the Wrath, becomes sufficiently distinguished for the central point of interest in the Doloneia, by virtue chiefly of his horses. They are the most beautiful, says Dolon, and the largest that I have ever seen[767];

λευκότεροι χιόνος, θείειν δ’ ἀνέμοισιν ὁμοῖοι.

The justice of this panegyric is corroborated by the emphatic expression of Nestor, who pronounces them,

αἰνῶς ἀκτίνεσσιν ἐοικότες ἠελίοιο·

and their unparalleled excellence forms the subject[414] of the speech of the old king, on the return of Ulysses and Diomed to the camp[768].

It is not only, however, in elaborate pictures that Homer shows his feeling for horses, but also, and not less markedly, in minor touches. Does he not speak with the manifest feeling of a skilled admirer of the animal, when he describes the pair driven by Eumelus, rapid as birds, the same in shade of colour, the same in years, the same to a hair’s breadth in height across their backs[769]?

ποδώκεας, ὄρνιθας ὣς,
ὄτριχας, οἰέτεας, σταφύλῃ ἐπὶ νῶτον ἐΐσας.

Again, we are met by the same feeling which, in a bolder flight, made the horses of Rhesus weep, when Pandarus falls headlong from the chariot of Æneas, and his arms rattle over him in death. The horses, instead of plunging or starting off, with a finer feeling tremble by the corpse[770];

παρέτρεσσαν δέ οἱ ἵπποι

We may trace the same disposition, under a lighter and more amusing form, in what had already passed between Æneas and Pandarus. Pandarus had excused himself for not having brought a chariot and horses to Troy, on account of his fears about finding forage for them where such crowds were to be gathered into a small space; at the same time describing, rather boastfully, his father Lycaon’s eleven carriages with a pair for each. (Il. v. 192-203.) Æneas replies by inviting him into his chariot when he will see what Trojan horses are like. Then, he continues, do you fight, and I will drive; or, as you may choose, do you drive, and I[415] will fight. Pandarus immediately replies, that Æneas had better by all means be the driver of his own horses.

Then again, Homer will have the utmost care taken of them; and, so to speak, he looks to it himself. When he describes them as unemployed, he specifies their food; those of Achilles during the Wrath stand[771],

λωτὸν ἐρεπτόμενοι ἐλεόθρεπτόν τε σέλινον.

But those of Lycaon, which had remained at home, were[772]

κρῖ λευκὸν ἐρεπτόμενοι καὶ ὀλύρας.

To each he gives the appropriate provender: to the former, in an encampment, what the grassy marsh by its side afforded: to the latter, in a king’s palace, the grain, or hard food, of their proper home.

And so in the night-adventure of the Tenth Book, when Ulysses drags away the bodies of those Thracians whom Diomed has slain, it is to make a clear path for the horses of Rhesus which were to be carried off, that they may not take fright from treading on corpses[773];

νεκροῖς ἀμβαίνοντες· ἀήθεσσον γὰρ ἔτ’ αὐτῶν.

Throughout the chariot-race, in the Twenty-third Book, we find them uppermost in the Poet’s mind, though the drivers, being his prime heroes, are not wholly forgotten.

Even as to colour, of which Homer’s perceptions appear to have been so vague, it may be remarked, that he employs it somewhat more freely with reference to horses, than to other objects having definite form or powers of locomotion.

But his liveliest conceptions of them are with respect to motion, form, and feelings: and I suppose there is[416] no poem like the Iliad for characteristic touches in respect to any of the three.

Beauty in inanimate nature.

It has been much debated whether the ancients generally, and whether Homer in particular, had any distinct idea of beauty in landscape.

It may be admitted, even in respect to Homer, that his similes, to which one would naturally look for proof, less commonly refer to the eye than to other faculties. They commonly turn upon sound, motion, force, or multitude: rarely, in comparison, upon colour, or even upon form; still more rarely upon colour or form in such combinations as to constitute what we call the picturesque.

It seems to me, that we may draw the best materials of a demonstration in this case from comparing his descriptions of the form of scenery by means of the outlines of countries, with his use of other epithets which he employs to denote beauty.

The country of Lacedæmon was mountainous, and it is hence termed by Homer in the Odyssey and in the Catalogue, κοιλή. (Il. ii. 581, Od. iv. 1.)

But it is also termed by him ἐρατεινὴ (Il. iii. 239), and this, it may be observed, in a speech of Helen’s; to whom, while she was at Troy, the image of it in memory could hardly, perhaps, be agreeable from any moral association. We are, therefore, led to refer it to the physical conformation or beauty of the district.

Next, we have pretty clear proof that in Homer’s mind the epithet ἐρατεινὴ was one proper to describe beauty in the strictest sense. For he says of Helen, with regard to her daughter Hermione[774]:

ἐγείνατο παῖδ’ ἐρατεινὴν,
Ἑρμιόνην, ἣ εἶδος ἔχε χρυσῆς Ἀφροδίτης.


‘She had a lovely (ἐρατεινὴν) daughter, endowed with the beauty of golden Aphrodite.’ And I observe but few passages in Homer, perhaps only one (Od. xxiii. 300), when ἐρατεινὸς does not naturally and properly bear this sense. A sense etymologically analogous to our own use of the word lovely, which we employ to indicate not only beauty, but a high degree of it.

It therefore appears to be clear that Homer called Lacedæmon ἐρατεινὴ, because it was shaped in mountain and valley, and because countries so formed present a beautiful appearance to the eye, as compared with countries of other forms less marked. It is applied to Emathia (Il. xiv. 225) and to Scheria (Od. vii. 79), both mountainous; to the city Ilios, (Il. v. 210), which stood on ground high and partially abrupt near the roots of Ida; and I do not find it in any place of the poems associated with flat lands.

The other instance which I shall cite seems to present the argument in a complete form, within the compass of a single line.

When describing Ithaca in the Odyssey, Telemachus says it is[775],

αἰγίβοτος, καὶ μᾶλλον ἐπήρατος ἱπποβότοιο.

Here we may assume that by αἰγίβοτος, goat-feeding, he means mountainous, and even sharp and rocky; moreover consequently, in comparison, barren, so that it could not be agreeable in the sense of being profitable. On the other hand, the horse is an animal ill-suited to range among rocks; and by ἱππόβοτος Homer always means a district or country sufficiently open and plain to be suitable for feeding horses in numbers. Now, in saying that Arran is more ἐπήρατος than southern Lancashire, we should leave no doubt upon the mind of[418] any reader as to the meaning; which must surely be that it offers more beauty to the eye. Just such a comparison does Homer make of the scenery of Ithaca as it was with what it would have been, if the island had been flat.

I ought however to notice the very forced interpretation of Damm, which is this: μᾶλλον ἐπήρατος, sc. ἐμοὶ, nam est patria mea; et ad μᾶλλον subintelligit τοῦ σοῦ Ἄργεος φίλη μοι ἔστι.

Homer was better versed in the art of wedding words to thought, than such an interpretation supposes. For, according to it, the thought of Homer was this; ‘Though you rule over broad and open Argos, my mountainous Ithaca is dearer to me, because it is my country.’ So that he has left out the point of the sentence, without the faintest trace to guide his reader. The idea of the sentence, which is prolonged through many verses, turns entirely on the difference between an open and a steep rocky country as such, and not in the least on native attachments. And Telemachus, who is lauding the richness and fertility of Argos, and apologizing for the barrenness of Ithaca, not ungracefully, in passing, throws in, by way of compensation, the element of beauty, as one possessed by Ithaca, and as one which it must miss if it were flat.

Indeed, we here trace the usual refinement of Homer in this, that Telemachus does not say, True, your Argos is rich, but my Ithaca is picturesque: but, after commending the fertility of broad Argos, he says, ‘In Ithaca we have no broad runs[776], and nothing like a meadow: it will feed nothing but goats, yet it is more[419] picturesque than if it, a little speck of that kind, were flat and open.’

The word ἐπήρατος is less frequently used in Homer than ἐρατεινός; but we have it in six places besides this. There is only one of them where it is capable of meaning dear, in connection with the idea of country[777]. In another it means enjoyable or splendid, being applied to the banquet[778]. In the other places it is applied to a town on the Shield, a cavern in Ithaca (twice), and the garments put upon Venus in Cyprus; and in those four places it can only mean fair or beautiful.

We are not, then, justified in limiting Homer’s sense of natural beauty to what was associated with utility[779]. On the contrary, it appears plainly to extend to beauty proper, and even to that kind of beauty in nature which we of the present day most love.

I have dealt thus far with the most doubtful part of the question, and have ventured to dissent from Mr. Ruskin, whose authority I admit, and of whose superior insight, as well as of his extraordinary powers of expression, I am fully conscious.

Germ of feeling for the picturesque.

Mr. Ruskin thinks[780] that ‘Homer has no trace of feeling for what we call the picturesque’; that Telemachus apologizes for the scenery of Ithaca; and that rocks are never loved but as caves. I think that the expressions I have produced from the text show that these propositions cannot be sustained. At the same time I admit that the feeling with Homer is one in the bud only: as, indeed, until within a very few generations, it has lain undeveloped among ourselves. Homer may[420] have been the father of this sentiment for his nation, as he was of so much besides. But the plant did not grow up kindly among those who followed him.

I assent entirely, on the other hand, to what Mr. Ruskin has said respecting his sense of orderly beauty in common nature. The garden of Alcinous is truly Dutch in its quadrangular conceptions; but it is plain that the Poet means us to regard it as truly beautiful[781]. Symmetry, serenity, regularity, adopted from the forms of living beauty which were before him, enter largely into Homer’s conceptions of one form, at least, of inanimate beauty.

The scenery of the cave of Calypso[782] is less restrained in its cast, than is the garden in Scheria; but even here Homer introduces four fountains, which compose a regular figure, and are evidently meant to supply an element of form which was required by the fashionable standard.

Another element of landscape, as we understand it, is, that the natural objects which it represents should be in rather extensive combination; and our established traditions would also require that the view of them should be modified by the rendering of the atmosphere, especially with reference to the scale of distances.

It is very difficult to find instances of extended landscape in Homer. But I think that we have at least one, in the famed simile, where he compares the Trojan watchfires on the plain to the calm night, which by the light of moon and stars exhibits a breadth of prospect to the rejoicing shepherd’s eye. Here are certainly tranquillity and order; but with them we seem also to have both extent and atmosphere; to which even bold and even broken outline must be added by[421] those who, like myself, are not prepared to surrender to the destroying ὄβελος the line[783]

ἔκ τ’ ἔφανεν πᾶσαι σκοπιαὶ, καὶ πρώονες ἄκροι.

Upon the whole, considering Homer’s early date, and the very late development among the moderns of a taste for scenery of the picturesque and romantic order, I do not know that we are entitled even at first sight to challenge him as inferior to any modern of analogous date in this province. Yet we may fairly pronounce that he is inferior to himself; that is to say, he appears to have a sense of beauty, in the region of inanimate nature, certainly less keen in proportion than that, with which he looked upon the animated creation.

What is deficient in him with respect to landscape may however, in all likelihood, be more justly referred to positive than to negative causes.

Causes adverse to a more developed feeling.

It may be questioned whether the disposition to appreciate still nature, especially in large and elaborated combinations, may not in part depend upon conditions that were not to be found in the age of Homer. I should say, if the expression may be allowed, that we of this generation take landscape medicinally. Human life grows with the course of ages; and, especially in our age, it has grown to be excited and hurried. But nature has a reacting tendency towards repose; and, even in the case of the grosser stimulants, it seems to be their soothing power which most helps to recommend them. Besides the fact, however, that we have wants which the Greeks had not, this subject may be regarded in a broader view.

The mind of Homer and the mind of his age were not addicted even to contemplation, far less to introspection. Of ideas properly subjective there are very[422] few indeed to be found in the poems. We have one such furnished by the passage where he equates thought to a wing, in a simile for the swift ships of the Phæacians,

ὡσεὶ πτέρον ἠὲ νόημα.

And another, the most remarkable that he supplies, when in more detail he uses the motion of a thought for an illustration of the rapid flight of Juno[784].

Even when it became speculative, the Greek mind did not give a subjective turn to its speculations. It was probably Christianity which, by the stimulus it applied to the general conscience, first gave mankind the introspective habit on a large scale; and mixed causes may often render the tendency excessive and morbid. But the tendency of the heroic age, standing at its maximum in Homer, was to pour life outward, nay almost to force it into every thing. The fountain from within overflowed; and its surplus went to make inanimate nature breathe. The profuse and easy fertility of Homer in simile surely of itself demonstrates a wonderful observation and appreciation of nature; but, as has been remarked, these similes are very rarely indeed still similes. They delight in sound, in multitude, above all in motion. The automatic chairs of Vulcan, the living theatre of the Shield of Achilles, that oldest mirror of our world, the bounding armour of the same hero, what are all these but the proofs of that redundant energy of life, whose first resistless impulse it was to carry the vital fire of Prometheus into every object that it encountered, and which, not yet having felt the palsying touch of exhaustion, lay under no necessity of curative provisions for repose? Therefore, while admitting the defect of Homer with respect to colour, and admitting also that[423] landscape (if we are to understand by it the elaborate combination of natural objects reaching over considerable distances) is a great addition to the enjoyment and wealth of mankind, I think the capital explanation of the question raised is to be found, not in the want of any space, or of any faculty, in the mind of Homer, but in the fact that the space and the faculties were all occupied with more active and vivifying functions; that the beautiful forms in nature, which we see as beautiful forms only, were to him the hem of the garments, as it were, of that life with which all nature teemed. Accordingly, the general rule of the poems is, that where we should be passive, he is active; that which we think it much to contemplate with satisfaction, he is ever at work, with a bolder energy and a keener pleasure, to vivify. We deal with external nature, as it were unrifled; he saw in it only the residue which remained to it, after it had at every point thrown off its cream in supernatural formations. His uplifting and vitalizing process is everywhere at work. Animate nature is raised even to divinity; and inanimate nature is borne upward into life.

If, then, Homer sees less in the mere sensible forms of natural objects than we do, it probably is in a great degree because the genius of his people and his own genius had taught him to invest them with a soul, which drew up into itself the best of their attractions. Mr. Ruskin most justly tells us, with reference to the sea, that he cuts off from the material object the sense of something living, and fashions it into a great abstract image of a sea-power[785]. Yet it is not, I think, quite true, that the Poet leaves in the watery mass no element of life. On the contrary, I should say the key to his[424] whole treatment of external nature is to be found in this one proposition: wheresoever we look for figure, he looks for life. His waves (as well as his fire) when they are stirred[786], shout, in the very word (ἰάχειν) that he gives to the Assembly of Achæans: when they break in foam, they put on the plume of the warrior’s helmet[787] (κορύσσεσθαι): when their lord drives over them, they open wide for joy[788]: and when he strides upon the field of battle, they, too, boil upon the shore, in an irrepressible sympathy with his effort and emotion[789].


Homer’s perceptions and use of Number.

While the faculties of Homer were in many respects both intense and refined in their action, beyond all ordinary, perhaps we might say beyond all modern, examples, there were other points in which they bear the marks of having been less developed than is now common even among the mass of many civilized nations. In the power of abstraction and distinct introspective contemplation, it is not improbable that he was inferior to the generality of educated men in the present day. In some other lower faculties, he is probably excelled by the majority of the population of this country, nay even by many of the children in its schools. I venture to specify, as examples of the last-named proposition, the faculties of number, and of colour. It may be true of one or both of these, that a certain indistinctness in the perception of them is incidental everywhere to the early stages of society. But yet it is surprising to find it where, as with Homer, it accompanies a remarkable quickness and maturity not only of great mental powers, but of certain other perceptions more akin to number and colour, such as those of motion, of sound, and of form. But let us proceed to examine, in the first place, the former of these two subjects.

It may be observed at the outset, that probably none of us are aware to how great an extent our aptitudes with respect to these matters are traditionary, and dependent therefore not upon ourselves, but upon the[426] acquisitions made by the human race before our birth, and upon the degree in which those acquisitions have circulated, and have been as it were filtered through and through the community, so as to take their place among the elementary ideas, impressions, and habits of the population. For such parts of human knowledge, as have attained to this position, are usually gained by each successive generation through the medium of that insensible training, which begins from the very earliest infancy, and which precedes by a great interval all the systematic, and even all the conscious, processes of education. Nor am I for one prepared by any means to deny that there may be an actual ‘traducianism’ in the case: on the contrary, in full consistency with the teaching of experience, we may believe that the acquired aptitudes of one generation may become, in a greater or a less degree, the inherited and inborn aptitudes of another.

We must, therefore, reckon upon finding a set of marked differences in the relative degrees of advancement among different human faculties in different stages of society, which shall be simply referable to the source now pointed out, and distinct altogether from such variations as are referable to other causes. It is not difficult to admit this to be true in general: but the question, whether in the case before us it applies to number and colour, can of course only be decided by an examination of the Homeric text.

Yet, before we enter upon this examination, let us endeavour to throw some further light upon the general aspect of the proposition, which has just been laid down.

Of all visible things, colour is to our English eye the most striking. Of all ideas, as conceived by the English mind, number appears to be the most rigidly definite,[427] so that we adopt it as a standard for reducing all other things to definiteness; as when we say that this field or this house is five, ten, or twenty times as large as that. Our merchants, and even our schoolchildren, are good calculators. So that there is a sense of something strikingly paradoxical, to us in particular, when we speak of Homer as having had only indeterminate ideas of these subjects.

Conceptions of Number not always definite.

There are however two practical instances, which may be cited to illustrate the position, that number is not a thing to be as matter of course definitely conceived in the mind. One of these is the case of very young children. To them the very lowest numbers are soon intelligible, but all beyond the lowest are not so, and only present a vague sense of multitude, that cannot be severed into its component parts. The distinctive mark of a clear arithmetical conception is, that the mind at one and the same time embraces the two ideas, first of the aggregate, secondly of each one of the units which make it up. This double operation of the brain becomes more arduous, as we ascend higher in the scale. I have heard a child, put to count beads or something of the sort, reckon them thus: ‘One, two, three, four, a hundred.’ The first words express his ideas, the last one his despair. Up to four, his mind could contain the joint ideas of unity and of severalty, but not beyond; so he then passed to an expression wholly general, and meant to express a sense like that of the word multitude.

But though the transition from number definitely conceived to number without bounds is like launching into a sea, yet the conception of multitude itself is in one sense susceptible of degree. We may have the idea of a limited, or of an unbounded, multitude. The essen[428]tial distinction of the first is, that it might possibly be counted; the notion of the second is, that it is wholly beyond the power of numeration to overtake. Probably even the child, to whom the word ‘hundred’ expressed an indefinite idea, would have been faintly sensible of a difference in degree between ‘hundred’ and ‘million,’ and would have known that the latter expressed something larger than the former. The circumscribing outline of the idea apprehended is loose, but still there is such an outline. The clearness of the double conception is indeed effaced; the whole only, and not the whole together with each part, is contemplated by the mind; but still there is a certain clouded sense of a real difference in magnitude, as between one such whole and another.

And this leads me to the second of the two illustrations, to which reference has been made. That loss of definiteness in the conception of number, which the child in our day suffers before he has counted over his fingers, the grown man suffers also, though at a point commonly much higher in the scale. What point that may be, depends very much upon the particular habits and aptitudes of the individual. A student in a library of a thousand volumes, an officer before his regiment of a thousand men upon parade, may have a pretty clear idea of the units as well as of the totals; but when we come to a thousand times a thousand, or a thousand times a million, all view of the units, for most men, probably for every man, is lost: the million for the grown man is in a great degree like the hundred for the child. The numerical term has now become essentially a symbol; not only as every word is by its essence a symbol in reference to the idea it immediately denotes; but, in a further sense, it is a symbol of a[429] symbol, for that idea which it denotes, is itself symbolical: it is a conventional representation of a certain vast number of units, far too great to be individually contemplated and apprehended. As we rise higher still from millions, say for example, into the class of billions, the vagueness increases. The million is now become a sort of new unit, and the relation of two millions to one million, is thus pretty clearly apprehended as being double; but this too becomes obscured as we mount, and even (for example) the relation of quantity between ten billions of wheat-corns, and an hundred billions of the same, is far less determinately conveyed to the mind, than the relation between ten wheat-corns and one. At this high level, the nouns of number approximate to the indefinite character of the class of algebraic symbols called known quantities.

In proportion as our conception of numbers is definite, the idea of them, instead of being suited for an address to the imagination, remains unsuited for poetic handling, and thrives within the sphere of the understanding only. But when we pass beyond the scale of determinate into that of practically indeterminate amounts, then the use of numbers becomes highly poetical. I would quote, as a very noble example of this use of number, a verse in the Revelations of St. John. ‘And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne, and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands[790].’ As a proof of the power of this fine passage, I would observe, that the descent from ten thousand times ten thousand to thousands of thousands, though it is in fact numerically very great, has none of the chilling effect of anticlimax, because these numbers[430] are not arithmetically conceived, and the last member of the sentence is simply, so to speak, the trail of light which the former draws behind it.

Now we must keep clearly before our minds the idea, that this poetical and figurative use of number among the Greeks at least preceded what I may call its calculative use. We shall find in Homer nothing that can strictly be called calculation. He repeatedly gives us what may be termed the factors of a sum in multiplication; but he never even partially combines them, even as they are combined for example in Cowper’s ballad,

John Gilpin’s spouse said to her dear,
Though wedded we have been
These twice ten tedious years, yet we
No holiday have seen.

Reference has been made to the convenience which we find in using number as a measure of quantity, and as a means of comparing things of every species in their own kind. But we never meet with this use of it in Homer. He has not even the words necessary to enable him to say, ‘This house is five times as large as that.’ If he had the idea to express, he would say, Five houses, each as large as that, would hardly be equal to this. The word τρὶς may be called an adverb of multiplication; but it is never used for these comparisons. Indeed, Damm observes, that in a large majority of instances it signifies an indefinite number, not a precise one. Τετράκις is found only once, and in a sense wholly indeterminate: the passage is[791] τρισμάκαρες Δαναοὶ καὶ τετράκις. Πεντάκις does not even exist. Ajax lifts a stone, not ‘twice as large as a mortal of to-day could raise’, but so large that it would require two such mortals to raise it. All Homer’s numerical expressions are[431] in the most elementary forms; such forms, as are without composition, and refuse all further analysis.

Greek estimate of the discovery of Number.

His use of number appears to have been confined to simple addition: and it is probable that all the higher numbers which we find in the poems, were figurative and most vaguely conceived. If we are able to make good the proof of these propositions from the Homeric text, we shall then be well able to understand the manner in which Numeration, or the science of number, is spoken of by the Greeks of the historic age as a marvellous invention. It appears in Æschylus, as among the very greatest of the discoveries of Prometheus[792]:

καὶ μὴν ἀριθμὸν, ἔξοχον σοφισμάτων,
ἐξεῦρον αὐτοῖς·

he goes on to add,

γραμμάτων τε συνθέσεις.

So that the use of numbers by rule was to the Greek mind as much a discovery as the letters of the alphabet, and is even described here as a greater one: much as in later times men have viewed the use of logarithms, or of the method of fluxions or the calculus. In full conformity with this are the superlative terms, in which Plato speaks of number. Number, in fact, seems to be exhibited in great part of the Greek philosophy, as if it had actually been the guide of the human mind in its progress towards realizing all the great and cardinal ideas of order, measure, proportion, and relation.

Up to what point human intelligence, in the time of Homer, was able to push the process of simple addition, we do not precisely know. It is not, however, hastily to be assumed that, in any one of his faculties, Homer was behind his age; and it is safer to believe[432] that the poems, even in these points, represent it advantageously. Now, in one place at least, we have a primitive account of a process of addition. The passage is in the Fourth Odyssey, where Menelaus relates, how Proteus counted upon his fingers the number of his seals[793]. That it was a certain particular number is obvious, because when four of them had been killed by Eidothee, their skins were put upon Menelaus and his three comrades, and the four Greeks were then counted into the herd, so that the word ἀριθμὸς here evidently means a definite total. This addition by Proteus, however, was not addition in the proper arithmetical sense, and would be more properly called enumeration: it was probably effected simply by adding each unit singly, in succession, to the others, with the aid of the fingers, (proved through the word πεμπάσσεται,) but not by the aid of any scale or combination of units, either decimal or quinal. In the word δεκὰς we have, indeed, the first step towards a decimal scale; but we have not even that in the case of the number five, there being no πεντὰς or πεμπτάς. The meaning of πεμπάσσεται evidently is, not that he arranged the numeration in fives, but that, by means of the fingers of one hand, employed upon those of the other, he assisted the process of simple enumeration.

Highest numerals of the poems.

Homer’s highest numeral is μύριοι. He describes the Myrmidons as being μύριοι[794], though, if we assume a mean strength of about eighty-five for their crews, the force would but little have exceeded four thousand: and at the maximum of one hundred and twenty for each ship, it would only come to six thousand. Again, Homer uses the expression μύρια ᾔδη, to denote a person of instructed and accomplished mind[795].


Next to the μύρια, the highest numerals employed in the poems are those contained in the passage where the Poet says that the howl of Mars, on being wounded by Diomed, was as loud as the shout of an army of nine thousand or ten thousand men[796]:

ὅσσον τ’ ἐννεάχιλοι ἐπίαχον ἢ δεκάχιλοι
ἀνέρες ἐν πολέμῳ.

But it is clear that the expressions are purely poetical and figurative. For he never comes near the use of such high numbers elsewhere; and yet it obviously lay in his path to use these, and higher numbers still, when he was describing the strength of the Greek and Trojan armies.

The highest Homeric number, after those which have been named, is found in the three thousand horses of Erichthonius. This we must also consider poetical, because it is so far beyond the ordinary range of the poems, and in some degree likewise because of the obvious unlikelihood of his having possessed that particular number of mares[797].

Only thrice, besides the instances already quoted, does Homer use the fourth power of numbers; it is in the case of the single thousand. A thousand measures of wine were sent by Euneos as a present to Agamemnon and Menelaus. A thousand watch-fires were kindled by the Trojans on the plain. Iphidamas, having given an hundred oxen in order to obtain his wife, then promised a thousand goats and sheep out of his countless herds[798]. In all these three cases, it is more than doubtful whether the word thousand is not roughly and loosely used as a round number. The combination of the thousand sheep and goats with the hundred[434] oxen, immediately awakens the recollection that even the Homeric hecatomb, though meaning etymologically an hundred oxen, practically meant nothing of the kind, but only what we should call a lot or batch of oxen. Again, it is so obviously improbable that the Trojans should in an hurried bivouac have lighted just a thousand fires, and placed just fifty men by each, that we may take this passage as plainly figurative, and as conveying no more than a very rude approximation, of such a kind as would be inadmissible where the practice of calculation is familiar. It is then most likely, that in the remaining one of the three passages, the Poet means only to convey that a large and liberal present of wine was sent by Euneus, as the consideration for his being allowed to trade with the army. There is certainly more of approximation to a definite use of the single thousand, than of the three, the nine, or the ten: but this difference in definiteness is in reality a main point in the evidence. Most of all does this become palpable, when we consider how strange is in itself the omission to state the numbers of the combatants on either side of this great struggle: an omission so strange, of what would be to ourselves a fact of such elementary and primary interest, that we can hardly account for it otherwise than by the admission, that to the Greeks of the Homeric age the totals of the armies, even if the Poet himself could have reckoned them, would have been unintelligible.

Among all the numbers found in Homer, the highest which he appears to use with a clearly determinate meaning, is that of the three hundred and sixty fat hogs under the care of Eumæus in Ithaca[799];

οἱ δὲ τριηκόσιοί τε καὶ ἑξήκοντα πέλοντο.


The reason for considering this number as having a pretty definite sense in the Poet’s mind (quite a different matter, let it be borne in mind, from the question whether the circumstance is meant to be taken as historical) is, that it stands in evident association with the number of days, as it was probably then reckoned, in the year. It seems plain that he meant to describe the whole circle of the year, where he says, that for each of the days and nights which Jupiter has given, or, in his own words[800],

ὅσσαι γὰρ νύκτες τε καὶ ἡμέραι ἐκ Διός εἰσιν,

the greedy Suitors are not contented with the slaughter of one animal, or even of two. Eumæus then gives an account of the wealth of Ulysses in live stock, both within the isle and on the mainland, from whence the animals were supplied: and adds, that from the Ithacan store a goatherd took down daily a fat goat, while he himself as often sent down a fat hog. I have dwelt thus particularly on the detail of this case, because it may fairly be inferred from the correspondence between the number of the hogs and the days of the year, that for once, at all events, the Poet intended to speak, though somewhat at random, yet in a degree arithmetically, and that of so high a number as 360.

There are other cases of lower numbers in different parts of the poems, where it may be argued, with varying measures of probability, that Homer had a similar intention.

The ἑκατομβὴ and numerals of value.

The word ἑκατομβὴ, without doubt, affords a striking proof of vagueness in the ideas of the heroic age with respect to number: and this vagueness extends, yet apparently in varying degrees, to the adjective[436] ἑκατομβοῖος. I have elsewhere[801] referred to adjectives of this formation as indicative of the fact, that for those generations of mankind oxen may be said to have constituted a measure of value; and this fact certainly involves an aim at numerical exactitude. It seems, indeed, on general grounds far from improbable, that the business of exchange may have been the original guide of our race into the art, and thus into the science, of arithmetic.

In the description of the Shield of Minerva, which had an hundred golden drops or tassels, we are told that each of them was ἑκατομβοῖος, or worth an hundred oxen. This use of the word must be regarded as strongly charged with figure. Minerva was arming to mingle among men upon the plain of Troy[802], and it is not likely, therefore, that the Poet would represent her in dimensions utterly inordinate. He judiciously reserves this license of exaggeration without bounds for scenes where he is beyond the sphere of relations properly human, as for example, the Theomachy and the Under-world. Now we may venture to take the Homeric value of an ox before Troy at half an ounce of gold. In the prizes of the wrestling match, where a tripod was worth twelve oxen, a highly skilled woman (πολλὰ δ’ ἐπίστατο ἔργα) was worth four[803]. Two ounces of gold would be a low price for such a person in almost any age. According to this computation, each drop on the Ægis of Minerva would weigh fifty ounces: the whole would weigh above 300 lbs. avoirdupois, and if we were to assume the purely ornamental fringe in a work of this kind to weigh one tenth part of the whole, the Ægis itself would weigh nearly a ton and a half. Primâ facie, this is susceptible of explanation in either of two[437] ways: the one, that the numbers are used poetically and not arithmetically; the other, that of sheer intentional exaggeration in bulk. The rules of the Poet, as they are elsewhere applied, oblige us to reject the latter solution, and consequently throw us back upon the former.

The numerals of value.

Again, we are told that, when Diomed obtained the exchange of arms from Glaucus, he gave a suit of copper, and obtained in return a suit of gilt[804];

χρύσεα χαλκείων, ἑκατόμβοι’ ἐννεαβοίων.

Here there seems to be a mixture of the metaphorical and the arithmetical use. For, on the one hand, it is singular that he should have chosen numbers which require the aid of a fraction to express their relation to one another. He could certainly not have meant to say that the values of the two suits were precisely as 100:9, or as 11⅑:1. And yet, on the one hand, he could scarcely use the term ἐννεαβοῖα, except with reference to the known and usual value of a suit of armour, while the ἑκατομβοῖα, from its use in other places, must be suspected of having no more than a merely indeterminate force.

With this fractional relation of 100:9, may be compared the arrangement at the feast in Pylos, where each division of five hundred persons was supplied with nine oxen. These numbers, however, are probably less vague than in some other cases: for the provision stated, though large, is not beyond what a rude plenty might suggest on a great public occasion.

Again, Lycaon, when captured for the second time by Achilles, reminds that hero of what he had fetched or been worth to him on the former occasion[805]: ἑκατόμβοιον δέ τοι ἦλφον. Here we have a decisive proof of the figurative use of number. Had the young prince[438] been ransomed by Priam, a great price, no doubt, would have been given. But Achilles sold him into Lemnos, ἄνευθεν ἄγων πατρός τε φίλων τε: and to the Lemnians he could hardly have value but as a labourer, although indeed it chanced that he was afterwards redeemed, by a ξεῖνος of Priam[806], at a high price. We cannot, then, suppose that he had brought any such return as would be represented by a full hundred of oxen.

The evidence thus far, I think, tends powerfully to support the hypothesis, that there is an amount of vagueness in Homer’s general use of numbers, unless indeed as to very low ones, which cannot be explained otherwise than as metaphorical or purely poetical: and that his mind never had before it any of those processes, simple as they are to all who are familiar with them, of multiplication, subtraction, or division.

I admit it to be possible, that his manner of treating number may have been owing to his determination to be intelligible, and to the state of the faculties of his hearers, as much as, or even more than, his own. But to me the supposition of the infant condition even of his faculties with respect to number, though at first sight startling, approves itself on reflection as one thoroughly in conformity with analogy and nature. Indeed the experience of life may convince us that to this hour we should be mistaken, if we supposed arithmetical conceptions to be uniform in different minds; that the relations of number are faintly and imperfectly apprehended, except by either practised or else peculiarly gifted persons; and that, in short, there is nothing more mysterious than arithmetic to those who do not understand it. As one illustration of this opinion, I will cite the difficulty which most educated persons, when[439] studying history, certainly feel in mastering its chronology; while to those who are apt at figures it is not only acquired with ease, but it even serves as the nexus and support of the whole chain of events.

There were several occasions, upon which it would have been most natural and appropriate for Homer to use the faculty of multiplication; yet on no one of these has he used it. He constantly supplies us with the materials of a sum, but never once performs the process.

Silence as to the numbers of the armies.

The first example in the Iliad is supplied by that passage of the unhappy speech of Agamemnon to the Assembly in the Second Book, which causes the fever-fit of home-sickness. He compares the strength of the Greek army with that of the Trojans; and he only effects the purpose by this feeble but elaborate contrivance. ‘Should the Greeks and Trojans agree to be numbered respectively, and should the Trojans properly so called be placed one by one, but the Greeks in tens, and every Trojan made cupbearer to a Greek ten, many of our tens would be without a cupbearer[807].’ In the first place, the fact that he calls this ascertaining of comparative force numbering ἀριθμηθημέναι is remarkable; for it would not have shown the numbers of either army; nor even the difference, by which the Greeks exceeded a tenfold ratio to the Trojans; but simply, by leaving an unexhausted residue, the fact that they were more, whether by much or by little, than ten times as many as the besieged. Secondly, it seems plain that, if Homer had known what was meant by multiplication, he would have used the process in this instance, in lieu of the elaborate (yet poetical) circumlocution which he has adopted; and[440] would have said the Greeks were ten times, or fifteen times, or twenty times, as many as the inhabitants of Troy.

After this, Ulysses reminds the Assembly of the apparition of the dragon they had seen at Aulis. The phrase χθιζά τε καὶ πρώιζα, which he employs, may grammatically either belong to the epoch of the gathering at Aulis, or to the time of the plague, which had carried off a part of the force a fortnight or three weeks before. In whichever connection of the two we place it, it affords an instance of extreme indefiniteness in the use of two adverbs which are at once expressive of time and of number; for on one supposition he must use them to express whole years, and on the other they must mean near a fortnight, and therefore a certain number of days.

The next case is remarkable. It is that of the Catalogue.

The resolution, which introduces it, was not a resolution to number the host; but simply to make a careful division and distribution of the men under their leaders, with a view to a more effective responsibility, both of officers and men[808]. But when the Poet comes to enumerate the divisions, it is evidently a great object with him to make known the relative forces, and thus the relative prominence and power, of the different States of Greece. Yet nothing can be more imperfect than the manner in which the enumerating portion of his task is executed. In the first place, we trace again the old habit of the loose and figurative use of numbers. For Homer could hardly mean us to take literally all the numbers of ships, which he has stated in the Catalogue: since, in every case where they come up to or[441] exceed twenty, they run in complete decades without odd numbers; subject to the single exception of the twenty-two ships of Gouneus. Podalirius and Machaon have thirty, the Phocians forty, Achilles fifty, Menelaus sixty, Diomed eighty, Nestor ninety, Agamemnon an hundred: the only full multiple of ten omitted being the utterly intractable ἑβδομήκοντα. But again, he gives us no effectual clue to the numbers of the crews. Each of the fifty ships of the Bœotians had one hundred and twenty men, and each of the seven ships of Philoctetes had fifty[809]. Thus he supplies us with the two factors of the sum, which would find the number of men, in each of these two cases; but in neither case does he perform the sum; and such is the uniform practice throughout the poems. For the Greek force generally, he has not even given us the factors. It has indeed been conjectured, that fifty may have been the smallest ship’s company, and one hundred and twenty the largest: but this is mere conjecture; and even if it be well founded, still we do not know whether the generality of the ships were about the mean, or nearer one or the other of the extremes. Again, it would appear probable from the Odyssey, that these numbers, of fifty and one hundred and twenty, are exclusive at least of pilots and commanders, if not also of the stewards[810] and the minor officers[811]; for the number mentioned by Alcinous[812] is fifty-two; and although he says that all were to sit down to row, the texts when compared cannot but suggest, that the number fifty was an usual complement of oars, and that the two were the captain and pilot respectively[813].

Plainly, there must have been very great inequalities[442] in the crews of the Greek armament; or Homer could not have said, after giving Agamemnon an hundred ships, that he had by far the largest force of all the chiefs[814];

ἅμα τῷγε πολὺ πλεῖστοι καὶ ἄριστοι
λαοὶ ἕποντ’.

For Diomed and Idomeneus have each eighty ships, and Nestor has ninety, so that their numbers would come very near Agamemnon’s, unless their ships were smaller. But to sum up this discussion. It is evident that, if only we suppose the Greeks of Homer’s time to have had a definite and well developed sense of number, the mention by Homer of the amount of force in the Trojan expedition would have been a fact of the highest national interest and importance. Yet he has left us nothing, which can be said even definitely to approximate to a record of it, though the enumeration of the Catalogue appears almost to force the subject upon him. The fair inferences seem to be, that he did not understand the calculative use of numbers at all, or beyond some very limited range; and that, even within that range, he for the most part employed them poetically and ornamentally; they were decorative and effective, like epithets to his song, but they were not statistical; as expressions of force they were no more than (as it were) tentative, and that but very rudely.

I am further confirmed in the belief of Homer’s indeterminate conception of number, from the strange result to which the contrary opinion would lead. He tells us of the Trojan bivouac[815];

χίλι’ ἄρ’ ἐν πεδίῳ πυρὰ καίετο· πὰρ δὲ ἑκάστῳ
εἵατο πεντήκοντα.


In this case he has given us again the factors of a sum in multiplication, though not the product. Did he mean them to be taken literally? If he did, then it is indeed strange that, although he says nothing whatever on the subject of number in the Trojan Catalogue, yet he has here supplied us with all the particulars necessary for estimating the Trojan force, while as to the Greek army, we re