Tuesday, September 20, 2016

TFBT: Homeric Conversation II

On Tuesday, September 27 at 11 a.m. EDT. Hour 25, will be discussing with Deborah Beck Homeric Conversation. 

Members of the Best On-line Community for Hellenic Studies took specific chapter so read and report while all read the introduction.  I have a slight advantage over my fellows, in having read the book before.  At the time I’d just presented a paper on how to initiate a proper one-on-one Homeric conversation.  So many of my notes from the first reading reflect on thinking at the time and what was happening in my life.  At least the notes below for the “Introduction” 

Random notes on the Introduction  

We may understand the verb (ἀμειβ-) as meaning take one’s turn by speaking,  rather than reply in turn, as it is often translated: a reply is a turn,”  I thought immediately of Nestor’s famous turning post, envisioning a conversation racing back and forth across the plain before the doomed city of Troy.  

“if no one speaks for any extended period of time, this may be … as some kind of mistake or problem in the conversation that needs to be rectified or otherwise addressed…and if one speaker interrupts another or no one responds after someone has finished speaking, that is cause for surprise or even chagrin.”  We still follow these rules today!

“Hera is giving Athena a command (couched as a hortatory subjunctive: ἀλλ’ ἄγε δὴ καὶ νῶι μεδώμεθα θούριδος ἀλκῆς [Come then, let us rather think of our own stark courage], 5.718)…At the end of Hera’s speech, the narrator says, ὣς ἔφατ’, οὐδ’ ἀπίθησε θεὰ γλαυκῶπις Ἀθήνη (So she spoke, nor did the goddess grey-eyed Athene disobey her, 719). This full-verse formula frequently occurs in the Homeric poems and it generally indicates that a particular speech will not receive a reply, whether the speech itself is a single speech or the last one in a conversation.”  I guess I never figured out that “hortatory” speeches “Come on gang! Let’s…” are rhetorical and that my boss doesn’t want to hear my opinion on the topic.  

“Initial speeches can only be distinguished retroactively from single speeches.”   

Then Beck presents the various conversational and speech formulas.  I really like her style here.  Her formulae are so clear and concise as to appear mathematic.  Finally in Speech Conclusions she points out; “separate verses that say something like, thus s/he spoke and something else happened next, generally occur at the end of a conversation or after a single speech.  They are almost never found during one-on-one conversations.” 

Random Notes on Chapter 3. One-on-one Conversations (Iliad) 

Hector and Andromache: Book 6. The conversation is so emotional and moving that I never I never noticed it was actually a speech and a lament. 

Priam and Achilles: Book 24.  Another incredibly moving scene in the Iliad.  As a writer I appreciate Beck’s technical details explaining how the Poet made the story so moving.

Hera and the Seduction of Zeus: Book 14.  Beck explains that δολοφρονέουσα means “being tricky-minded,”;   

"The point that this word makes is not that Hera is δολοφρονέουσα by nature, but that she is so in this particular context. Not only that, but the speeches introduced by the δολοφρονέουσα verse have a common thread: they are all actively deceptive utterances. As we will see, when Hera tells the truth during this episode, the “tricky” verse does not appear."   

My question for Deborah Beck; is this sort of thing true of polymetis Odysseus in his epic?  Or clever Zeus, Cronus and Prometheus in Hesiod?


  1. The expression is used to describe Prometheus in the Theogony 550, immediately after he offers Zeus to choose his share.

    I like this episode very much. The analog of Eve outreaching for the apple. However, the latter scene has been presented countless times, while the former one is neglected. Maybe because a nude young woman picking an apple looks more attractive than two guys engaged in verbal warfare over a disemboweled ox. As Terry Pratchett remarked, entrails are never shown by artists, presumably are difficult to draw.