Friday, June 6, 2014

TFBT: The Doloneia

 I finished reading Interpreting Iliad 10: Assumptions, Methodology, and the Place of the Doloneia within the History of Homeric Scholarship by Casey Dué and Mary Ebbott.  If I hadn’t thought there was something fishing about the Doloneia before, I do now.  The gist of the article is that every Homeric expert since the beginning of written history (and maybe a few experts before then) doubt the appropriateness of the Book X of the Iliad.  The exception to this rule seem to be less than a handful. 

For those that don’t know the story; Odysseus and Diomedes sneak across enemy lines in the dark, capture and slay a Trojan trying to do the same, kill King Rhesus and his companions in their sleep and steal their horses. 

Hour 25 discussed the “Poetics of Ambush” during the Nagy and Friends” dialogue yesterday.  As listened, I wondered what the whole point of the Doloneia was plot wise.   I recalled something Warren Beatty said.  Yeah,  Warren Beatty. 

During the filming of the documentary “Truth or Dare” Madonna chose to talk to her doctor on camera rather than privately.  “Beatty chides ‘You don’t want to talk off camera.  You don’t want to live off camera.  There’s nothing to say off camera.  Why would you say something off camera?”  (“Picture Perfect: Life in the Age of the Photo Op” by Kiku Adatto)

Likewise, why would Odysseus and Diomedes do anything “off-camera”?  If the point of epic is “unwilting glory” what is the point of doing anything in the dark.  The Muses can’t see in the dark, even Hecate who lives in darkness carries around a torch or two.  If the poets and your peers can’t see you in action and immortalize the event in word and son, what is the point of doing it?  What is the point of the Doloneia in the song about Achilles building a name, “whose short-lived splendor shall outlast the world.“  (A. G. Butler)


  1. In the preface to my translation of the Iliad, the Doloneia is also called a later intercalation, but unfortunately no arguments are given.

    A commenter points out its exceptional feature without mentioning its authenticity debate: "The warriors are so impulsive and so immediately candid about their feelings about themselves and others, without the guile we often associate with maturity. No human being in the Iliad intentionally tells a successful lie. That would require a consciousness, an inner awareness of the difference between the spoken words and the truth. No one has any inner secrets. The closest we come to any form of double-dealing is Odysseus' treatment of Dolon in Book 10..."

    Anyway, after reading your post, I cannot help pitying poor Agamemnon. I is not easy to command an army when your subordinates (who don't even consider themselves subordinates but equals) have such motivation.

  2. Maya,

    That immediacy, that lack of self-consciousness in the characters is one of the things I like about the Iliad. I wonder if that relects a time in human history when we didn't have filters,. When everyone just blurted out whatever came to mind.