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Philological Museum vol 2/On the Homeric Use of the word Ἥρως

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ON THE HOMERIC USE OF THE WORD ἭΡΩΣ.




The word ἥρως occurs at least 110 times in the Iliad and Odyssey, and once in the hymn to Aphrodite. If we could ascertain the sense in which the author or authors of these poems used it, we should, I am persuaded, be able to apply this knowledge to our enquiries into the state of society in the times to which the poems refer, or at any rate in the times at which the author or authors lived. Besides, I suspect it would throw some light on a very interesting question,—the state of the great national families which ultimately constituted the mixed body of the Greeks, as these families stood at a very early age, though not the earliest known to us in the Greek traditions. The age in question, too, is one which exhibits strong and interesting analogies to particular eras in the history of many other nations; and, besides this, it is an age as to which we have, through the Homeric poems, a very vivid picture of the habits and feelings of those who acted in it; so that the enquiry has a historical and moral, as well as a philological interest.

But unfortunately I must begin by owning that my researches on the subject have not satisfied me. On the one hand, I have been unable to verify some notions which have been adopted by scholars of eminence; and, on the other, I have succeeded in completely overturning four or five hypotheses of my own. That which I shall hereafter submit to the reader is a very vague one, and I have but little confidence in it. If, however, we cannot get at the truth, we may at least get rid of some errors.

I need scarcely remark that, as we are enquiring into the Homeric use of the word, we have nothing to do with the acceptation of it which prevailed in a later time, and which is mythological. Such is the account which Hesiod gives of the fourth race of mankind, himself living, as he says, with the fifth race.

AvTap eirel Kai tovto yepo^ Kara yaia KaXv^j/e^ avOis €T aWo TerapTov eirl '^Oovi 7rovvj3oT€iprf 7j€v^ Kpovlcrj^ 7roLr]a€ CLKaioTepov kul apeiov^ avdpwv f]p(0(vv Oelov y€P09^ ol KaXeovTac rj/uiiOeoL Trporeprj yeverj kut aireipova yaiav. Kac Tov^ juev TroXejio^ tg /ca/co? kol (pvXoTri^ alvrj^ Tov^ juev €(p eTTTaTrvXcp Orjl3ri^ Kacfju^loi yairj^ coXeae [xapvanievov^ juirjXwi^ €V€k OldiTrocao' T0V9 ce Kal ev vrjeacnv virep jueya XaiTixa OuXdaaf]^ €9 I poiriv a^aY^*^ tjAevrjs evetz r^VKO/ULoio. €v6 rjTot Tov^ fxev Oavdrov reXo? aimCpeKaXvyj/e' T0L9 oe 01'^ avupcoTTcov fjLOToi^ Kai f]U6 OTracrcra^ Xev^ Kpopiorj^ Karevacrae TraTtjp €9 TreipaTa yairj^. Kal Tol jmev vaiovaiv aKrjcea Ov/mov hy^ovre^ €v i*.aKap(jov vriaoLcn^ Trap QKeavoi^ I3a0udivrjv, bXpLOL 7]p(joe^* Toicnv jmeXiricea Kapirov Tph *eT€o<$ ddXXovTa (pepei ^eiocopo^ hpovpa* E. Kal 'H. 155—171.

I have given this whole passage, in order to com- prehend the last lines, which exhibit so very striking a contrast to the Hades in which the Homeric heroes are placed^, and which Lucian considers so base a condition of existence^. Menelaus, it is true, had a peculiar fate*^ ; but it seems that he was not to die at all. These notions of the dignity of a preceding race belong to an early state of so- ciety ; and, as civilization advances, more time is conti- nually required to throw the preceding age sufficiently far backward. As men grow more sharpsighted, the distance must be increased in order to produce the mystic effect. When the worship of heroes became a recognized practice, the greater part of them were as early at least as the Tro- jan times. I put out of the question any instance v/here the making a hero of a conteynporary was a mere piece of flattery : any hero so created has of course no mytho- logical rank, properly speaking. Thus the two annual sacri-

^ Od. XI. especiaHy v. 487, foil. 2 Dial. Mort. Achill. et Aiitil. ^ Od. iv. 561. Vol. II. No. 4. K fices offered by the Sicyonians at the tomb of Aratus, as mentioned by Plutarch in his life of Aratus, the sacrifices and honours paid to Brasidas by the Amphipolitans (Thu^ cyd. V. 11.) W9 rjp^h the honours shewn at Calauria to the tomb of Demosthenes (if that be the meaning of the passage in Pausanias, ii. c. 34.) cannot be considered as implying any belief in the mythological character of the object of the ceremony. The latest mythological heroes perhaps were those who fell at Marathon. ^Pausanias says, ^e(iovTai ^e o MapaOcopioi tovtov<$ re^ dl irapa tyjv ^a^tjv aireOavov^ 7]pa)a^ oVo/xa^orT69, kul MapaOwva^ a(p ov rep ^f]/ucp TO ovofxa eari, kol ^HpaKXea. From the company in which we find these heroes, and the legends peculiar to the place, it is clear that they had acquired a mytho- logical rank. Sounds of tumult and battle were nightly heard there by any who had not come for the purpose of listening; and there was a hero Echetlaeus (or, as the name is elsewhere written, Echetlus^), a mysterious champion at the battle of Marathon, like the Dioscuri at the battle of the lake Regillus% or St lago at that between the Spa- niards and Moors ; he also was worshipped at Marathon. In the seventy-first Olympiad we have a hero formally created after this wise"^. One Cleomedes of Astypalaea killed a man at the Olympic games, boxing with him. The Hellanodicse refused him the prize, whereupon he went mad, and, going back to Astypalaea, pulled down a school-house upon the heads of abovit sixty children. At this the people of Asty- palaea were going to stone him ; but he fled into the temple of Athene, got into a chest there, and shut down the lid. The people tried to open it for a long while, and at last forced it, but there was no Cleomedes. They sent to Delphi, to have this explained, and received this response,

YcTTaro? rjpoocov KXeofjifjSrjs * AarvTraXaiev^^ OP Ouaiai^ Ti^aO w^ fxrjKeri Ovy}tov eoVra.

This creation, or canonization, of a hero shews that the mythological rank had by that time (if the storv be really

^ Attic. I. 32. § 4. 5 Pausan. Attic. 1. 15. § 4. 6 Cic. Nat. Deor. in. 5. 11. 12, Dion. Hal. Ant. Rom. vi. 13. ^ Pausan. vi. 9. § 3. as old as Pausanias makes it) become defined and technical, like the degree of a Doctor, conferred by royal mandate. The age before the heroes, in Hesiod, is the age of the giants ; afterwards, the heroes themselves had the attribute of great size. Thus Pausanias^ says of Pulydamas, fxeyicTTo^ airavTwv eyeveTo avupcoircov^ TrArju twv rjpoooov KaKovimevooVy Kai €L crj TL aKKo rjv irpo twv rjpcocov uvr]Tov yevo^.

I can find no traces whatever of this use of the word in the Homeric Poems. They were composed (I do not speak of the hymns) at a time when the heroes were living and acting beings, or so very soon after, that no mystical associations had become connected with the name. There is no passage in them from which a mythological or tradi- tionary dignity must necessarily be inferred : the only ones to which we can apply such notions are the following. Posidaon, on beholding the bulwarks of the besiegers, com- plains:

Tov o TfTOL /cXeo9 hcTTai baov t eTrLKiovaTai rjai^' Tov o eTriXyjaoPTat^ 6 t eyco kul OoTpo9 AttoWooi^ rjpcp AaofxehovTL TroXiacra/uev aOXfjaavTe- H. vii. 451^ — 3.

This passage certainly proves nothing ; all that can be said is, that if we knew, from other sources, that Laomedon was a mythological hero, we should recognise the connection between him and the building of the walls by the gods, as a natural and consistent tradition. But the passage is gene- rally considered to belong to a later time than the body of the Iliad ; and so is the corresponding one at the begin- ning of the 12th book, in which the poet, after saying that the works of the besiegers would not long resist the Trojans, tells us that they were built without due honours being paid to the gods, and that after the destruction of Troy they were swept away by natural convulsions which the gods produced, and, among these, by the overflowing of the rivers ; and there he speaks thus of Simois,

Kal St/Jtoe^s, O0C TToXXa (ioaypia kol TpvCpaXeiac KCLTTTreaov ev KovLrjcri^ Kal rjixtOeijov yevos avopaii/. II. XII. 22 — 3.

This last expression is exactly in the spirit of the passage

8 Pausan. vi. 5. § 1. from Hesiod before cited, and may be added to the other arguments against the genuineness of this part of the Iliad9.

In Phœnix's speech to Achilles, this passage occurs:

ovTvo KOL Tcov TTpocrdev eTrevOo/meOa KXea avopcjov rjpcjooov, IK IX. 524.

Here the i^pooe^ might, or might not, be considered as more than common men : to be the subjects of Kkea^ or ballads of renown, must have been a common expectation with the warriors of Homer : Odysseus hears a kKgos about himself in Phseacia10.

There are two passages in the account given by Odysseus of his visit to Hades, which, in the same way, will suit the hypothesis of an old race of heroes of renown, and somewhat mythological character, but which do not necessarily require it. The first is this:

Hacra? o ovk av €y(v ^vOj^crojuat^ ovo ovo^nrjvct), bcraa^ i^pcocov dXo'^ov^ 'loov rfce OvyaTpa^, Od. xi. S2S,

The second occurs at the end of the scene.

Avrap eywv avTov (Jievov hfXTredoi^^ el tl^ ct hXOot avopwv rjpcoaw^ at ct] to Trpoauev oaovto. KUL vv K eTL irporepov^ 'loov avepa^^ ovs eOeXou irep' ^Qr]aea TieLpiQoov t€, Oewv epiKvdea re/ci^a.] aXa irpiv ewl eOve ay eipe to juvpia veKpwVy rjX^ OeGTrecriri, Od. xi. 62S 6SS.

This is perhaps the strongest passage : the line about Theseus and Pirithous is indeed suspectcB Jldei; but the opposition of the heroes to the vulgar ghosts, eOrea {jLvpta veKpvov^ is re- markable. Lastly, the speech of Antinous to Odysseus, in the Odyssey, when he tells the story of the Lapithae, con- tains the word ^^ ijpcoa^ applied to the Lapithae, who, it might be contended, had a mythological character.


9 Perhaps I ought to allude to the passages where the great feats of strength of some distinguished warriors are spoken of as being such as to require two of the poet's time. Such are II. v. 303. xii. 383. 449. But these seem to me to prove very little, and I much doubt whether we are to infer from them that ordinary men of the Trojan era were meant to be represented as superior to ordinary men of the poet's time. The men of the present time are mentioned merely as furnishing the' most intelligible and familiar units for the calculation.

10 Od. VIII. 73. For a comment on the expression Kea dvSpaiv the reader need only be referred to Mr Frere's very interesting article in the Museum Criticum, Vol. II. p. 243.

11 Od. XXI. 209. These are the only passages I can discover, to which the mythological notion seems applicable; and I think it may be safely asserted that, if we had the word no where else, these would not have been sufficient to establish, or even suggest, such an interpretation. We shall soon find that we must give the title a much humbler meaning. Before going further, I will refer to the interpretations offered by Damm^^. He says it is honoris vocabulum^ and that heroes were to men much as Oeol to Sai/more^* This analogy of ratios comes, in fact, from Eustathius, whose words I transcribe. ^^' Hp(joa<$ tj iraXaia aocbia y€vo9 tl Oeiov elvai co^oCgl^ liecfov Oecov kul avOpojTrwv. Kcu to juev Oeiov (pvXov 669 deov^ oiaipel Kal caiijiova^. . . . toils' oe av9pco7rov<^ et9 xe rjpcoas Kal €t9 avTo tovto avOpcoTTOvs. Kal vTrofjejoT^Kei^ac fX€V (prjai Oeo^^ caijuova^j, dvOpooTrovs oe rjpijocnVy 01/9 Koi e/c Oeiov Kai avOpcoTriuov crc0/uaTO9 (pvvai Xeyovai. Ato Kai 'Hcrto^o9 rit^ideov^ avrov^ XeyGi. This, as I observed before, belongs to an age later than that of the Homeric poems. The heroes, says Damm, were usually of divine blood, but the principal warriors got the name also. " In Homero autem omnes fortes bellatores et viri, si sunt illustres natalibus, dicuntur heroes.'"' He makes dpd-, prayer or imprecation, the theme, and places i^pcos between the words dper}]^ apiaTo^^ and so on, and ea^dpa. He also suggests that it may be derived from one of the following words ; epa^ the earth ; €0^9 ; di^p ; i6i0O9. Some of these he seems to me to have taken from the scholiasts on the passage of Hesiod. Proclus says ^^'QcTTrep ra dWa yevrj awo ttJ^ Trepi avra uXi]^ e/ca- Xccrei;, y^pvaovv Kal apyvpovv^ ovto) Kai tovto airo ttj^ yv^^ hv tjpiOLKOv. ' EjOa yap rj yrj, Kai rjpta ra ywfxaTa' wpoei- prjKe oe otl 6 Z61/9 eKeXevaei/ ' H^aicrroi/,

TrepiKXvTOV OTTL TayjLCTTa yaiav voet (pvpeiv.

referring to the 60th line of the '^Epya Kal rjinepat. Tzetzes says as follows : ^^Uptjoe^ XeyovTai rj ctTro Tr}^ hpas^ rjyovv t^s 7^9, KaTd ^idXeKToV e^ >}9 7ra9 dvOpcowo^ 7]p(o^ dv Xe^^Oeir],

12 V. //>a)s. 13 Ad 11. A. p. 17—135 36.

14 Schol. Hes."E. /earn. 15H.

15 Schol. in Hes."E. AcarH. 158. ^H CLTTO Tov aepos' at f/v')(aL yap tcou dyaOcou avupcvTrwv CLoXvyelcTai acoiJidrcov Kaff KWriva^^ tov depa TrepntoXovaaif €(popw(TL Tct TrjSe. '^H CLTTO Tfj? * ApeTjjs^ (^S (prjcTiu ' 0p(p€vs* (Al9. 63.)

yirjTepa o rjpaxjov ' ApeTYJv airaTepOe kKvovt€^

'H airo Tf]^ epdaeco^ Kal [xc^eco^ twv Oecov' Xrjpovai yap on o Oeoi OvrjTals yvvai^l lunyvvuxevoi^ Kal apopaai Oeai^ eiroiovv TO TWV rjpcooDv yevo^. Damm also suggests that the Latin herus^ and the German herr^ come from the same root : I am told that the real root exists in the Sanscrit sūras.

Whatever the etymology of the word may be, I think I shall shew that even the most extensive interpretation here given to it is too confined.

Wachsmuth says that the hero is every one who in any way stands out from the mass, as, for instance, even a herald ^^ Even this depends upon what the mass is. Is it the mass of the army before Troy ? or the mass of man- kind ? in the latter case, every one mentioned might be a hero ; for he probably would be mentioned for something remarkable in him, something worth mentioning.

The persons who are called heroes in Homer comprehend the following mixture. Laomedon^^, Alcathous the son in law of Anchises^^, Eurypylus the leader of the Cetians^^, Adrestus ^^ the commander of the Trojan auxiliaries from Adrestia, Agastrophus ^^ the son of Paeon, Menoetius^^ the father of Patroclus, Peneleos ^^ the leader of the Boeoti, Cebriones^^ the charioteer of Hector, Deiphobus^^, Laertes % Machaon% Helenus^®, Demodocus^^ the bard at the court of Ithaca, Meriones^^, Agamemnon ^^, Protesilaus ^^, Pirous^^ the leader of the Thracians, Menelaus^, ^neas^" Sthenelus^^, Leitus^^ one of the leaders of the Boeotians, Diomedes^, Odysseus ^^, Eurypylus^^ the commander of the troops from

16 Hellen. Alt. i. Th. i. Abth. § 16. 17 II. VIII. 453. 18 II. XIII. 428. i9 Od. xi. 520. 20 II. VI. 63. 21 II. XI. 339. 22 II. XI. 770. 23 II. XIII. 92. 24 II. XVI. 781. 25 II. XXII. 298. 26 Od. 1. 188. 27 II. IV. 200. 28 II. XIII. 582. 29 Od. VIII. 483. 30 II. XXIII. 893. 3» II. i. 102. 32 II. II. 708. 33 II. II. 844. 34 II. ijj 377^ 35 II. V. 308. 36 II. V. 327. 37 II. vj 35 38 11. X. 154. 39 11. XI, 483. ^0 n. XI. 810. 11. 736. Page:Philological Museum v2.djvu/89 Page:Philological Museum v2.djvu/90 Page:Philological Museum v2.djvu/91 Page:Philological Museum v2.djvu/92 Page:Philological Museum v2.djvu/93 Page:Philological Museum v2.djvu/94 Page:Philological Museum v2.djvu/95 Page:Philological Museum v2.djvu/96 Page:Philological Museum v2.djvu/97 Page:Philological Museum v2.djvu/98 Page:Philological Museum v2.djvu/99 Page:Philological Museum v2.djvu/100 Page:Philological Museum v2.djvu/101 The fourth condition would be fulfilled by a natural consequence of the same feeling. The soldiers of these free bands would feel respect for the title, and would hardly employ it when they wanted to abuse one another.

As to the disappearance of the common use of the word, we must recollect that the race which supplanted the Ἀχαιοὶ, however nearly allied to them by blood, was altogether alien and hostile to them at the time. The manner in which the Ἀχαιοὶ were driven up into Ægialia, shews clearly that the Heracleid invaders made what is called clean work. There is nothing remarkable therefore in the disappearance of the word from common use: neither is it strange that, when the new settlers began to look back for stories of glory and feats of arms, their attention should fall, almost as a matter of course, upon that generation whose exploits had been perpetuated, either by the greatest of poems ever composed, or by the noblest collection of legends which the world has ever seen.

Even if these conditions are satisfied, the hypothesis still rests upon very slight evidence. They are not sufficiently inconsistent at first sight, to make it very remarkable that a hypothesis should be capable of being shaped into conformity with all of them. However, it may be said that it is a hypothesis which has no improbability a priori: such people as composed these bands did exist, we know; it is likely that they should have a peculiar name; and we find, I think, no other name for them.

I have only to add that I have taken the whole of the Iliad and Odyssey as safe authority. If we believe them to be the work of a great number of poets, the evidence as to the use of any word found in them generally, or of any habits appearing consistently throughout, is still stronger than if we consider the whole as the work of a single author.

T. F. E.

 



This work was published before January 1, 1924, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.