Catalogue of Ships

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The Catalogue of Ships (Ancient Greek: νεῶν κατάλογος, neōn katálogos) is an epic catalogue in Book 2 of Homer's Iliad (2.494–759), which lists the contingents of the Achaean army that sailed to Troy.[1] The catalogue gives the names of the leaders of each contingent, lists the settlements in the kingdom represented by the contingent, sometimes with a descriptive epithet that fills out a half-verse or articulates the flow of names and parentage and place, and gives the number of ships required to transport the men to Troy, offering further differentiations of weightiness. A similar, though shorter, Catalogue of the Trojans and their allies follows (2.816–877). A similar catalogue appears in the Pseudo-Apollodoran Bibliotheca.

Historical background[edit]

In the debate since antiquity over the Catalogue of Ships, the core questions have concerned the extent of historical credibility of the account, whether it was composed by Homer himself, to what extent it reflects a pre-Homeric document or memorized tradition, surviving perhaps in part from Mycenaean times, or whether it is a result of post-Homeric development.[2] Dörpfeld notes that while in Odyssey Odysseus's kingdom includes Ithaca, Same, Dulichium, and Zacynthus, the Catalogue of Ships contains a different list of islands, again Ithaca, Same, and Zacynthus but now also Neritum, Krocylea, and Aegilips. The separate debate over the identity of Homer and the authorship of the Iliad and the Odyssey is conventionally termed "the Homeric Question".

The consensus before the mid-twentieth century was that the Catalogue of Ships was not the work of the man who composed the Iliad,[a] though great pains had been taken to render it a work of art;[b] furthermore, that the material of the text is essentially Mycenaean or sub-Mycenaean, while disagreement centers largely on the extent of later additions.

If taken to be an accurate account, the Catalogue provides a rare summary of the geopolitical situation in early Greece at some time between the Late Bronze Age and the eighth century BCE. Following Milman Parry's theory of Homeric oral poetry, some scholars, such as Denys Page, argue that it represents a pre-Homeric recitation incorporated into the epic by Homer.[6] A few argue that parts of the recitation, such as the formulae describing places, date as early as the time of the Trojan War in the mid-13th century BCE, or possibly before. Others contend that the Catalogue is based on the time of Homer himself in the eighth century BCE and represents an anachronistic attempt to impose contemporary information on events five centuries earlier.[citation needed]

An intermediate theory is that the catalogue developed through a process of accretion during the poem's oral transmission and reflects gradual inclusion of the homelands of local sponsors by individual singers[citation needed]. In the most recent extended study of the Catalogue, Edzard Visser, of the University of Basel, concludes that the Catalogue is compatible with the rest of the Iliad in its techniques of verse improvisation, that the order of the names is meaningful and that the geographical epithets evince concrete geographical knowledge. Visser argues that this knowledge was transmitted by the heroic myth, elements of which introduce each geographical section.[7] W. W. Minton places the catalogue within similar "enumerations" in Homer and Hesiod, and suggests that part of their purpose was to impress the audience with a display of the performer's memory.[8]

The most striking feature of the catalogue's geography is that it does not portray Greece in the Iron Age, the time of Homer. By then a tribal identity called the Dorians had enveloped western Greece, the Peloponnesus and Crete, while the shores of Ionia were densely populated by a people claiming to descend from families in the now-Dorian regions of Greece. The whole northwestern part of Greece is not mentioned and it is these peoples (Epirotes, Macedonians, some Thessalians etc.) who are thought to be of Dorian descent.

Instead the catalogue portrays a loose union of city-states, mostly in mainland Greece, ruled by hereditary families under the overlordship of the High King (ἄναξ, ánax) of Mycenae. Hardly any of them are Dorian.[citation needed] The Ionian Greeks are mainly missing.[citation needed] This political snapshot is possibly one intended to be of Late Bronze Age Greece[citation needed].

The Catalogue was an important source for solving geopolitical matters. When the Athenians claimed Salamis they cited the Catalogue of Ships which listed it among the Athenian troops, as proof of its moral allegiance to Athens[9]


In the Iliad, the Greek Catalogue lists twenty-nine contingents under 46 captains, accounting for a total of 1,186 ships.[10] Using the Boeotian figure of 120 men per ship results in a total of 142,320 men transported to the Troad. They are named by various ethnonyms and had lived in 164 places described by toponyms. The majority of these places have been identified and were occupied in the Late Bronze Age. The terms Danaans, Argives and Achaeans or the sons of the Achaeans are used for the army as a whole. In his Library, Apollodorus lists thirty contingents under 43 leaders with a total of 1013 ships,[11] Hyginus lists 1154 ships, although the total is given as only 245 ships.[12]

Line Ethnic identity No. of ships Captains[c] Settlements
Tabular Catalogue[d]
2.494 Boeotians 50 of 120 men each (First led by Thersander) Later led by Peneleōs, Leïtus, Arcesilaus, Prothoënor and Clonius Hyria, Aulis, Schoenus, Scolus, Eteonus, Thespeia, Graia, Mycalessus, Harma, Eilesium, Erythrae, Eleon, Hyle, Peteon, Ocalea, Medeon, Copae, Eutresis, Thisbe, Coronea, Haliartus, Plataea, Glisas, Thebes, Onchestus, Arne, Midea, Nisa,[e] Anthedon
2.511 Minyans 30 Ascalaphus, Ialmenus Aspledon, Orchomenus
2.517 Phocēans 40 Schedius, Epistrophus Cyparissus, Pytho, Crisa, Daulis, Panopeus, Anemorea, Hyampolis, river Cephissus, Lilaea
2.527 Locrians 40 Ajax the Lesser Kynos, Opoüs, Calliarus, Bessa, Scarphe, Augeae, Tarphe, Thronium
2.537 Abantes of Euboea 40 Elephenor Chalcis, Eretria, Histiaea, Cerinthus, Dium, Carystus, Styra
2.546 Athenians 50 Led first by Menestheus (then later by Acamas and Demophon, the sons of Theseus) Athens
2.557 Salamineans 12 Telamonian Ajax Salamis
2.559 Argives 80 Diomedes with subordinates Sthenelus and Euryalus Argos, Tiryns, Hermione, Asine, Troezen, Eiones, Epidaurus, Aegina, Mases
2.569 Mycenaeans 100 Agamemnon, king of Mycenae, supreme commander Mycenae, Corinth, Cleonae, Orneae, Araethyrea, Sicyon, Hyperesia, Gonoessa, Pellene, Aegium, Helice
2.581 Lacedaemonians (or Laconians) 60 Menelaus, brother of Agamemnon, husband of Helen Pharis, Sparta, Messe, Bryseae, Augeae, Amyclae, Helos, Laas, Oetylus
2.592 No name given (Messenians) 90 Nestor Pylos, Arēne, Thryon, Aipy, Cyparisseis, Amphigenea, Pteleum, Helos, Dorium
2.603 Arcadians 60 Agapenor Cyllene, Pheneus, Orchomenus, Rhipae, Stratie, Enispe, Tegea, Mantinea, Stymphalos, Parrhasia
2.615 Epeans of Elis 40 Amphimachus, Thalpius, Diōres, Polyxenus Buprasium and the lands enclosed by Hyrmine, Myrsinus, Olene, Alesium
2.624 Men of Dulichium 40 Meges Dulichium, Echinean Islands
2.631 Cephallenians[14] 12 Odysseus (known in Latin as Ulysses) Ithaca, Neritum, Crocylea, Aegilips, Same, Zacynthus (islands with mainland opposite)[f]
2.638 Aetolians 40 Thoas Pleuron, Olenus, Pylene, Chalcis, Calydon
2.645 Cretans 80 Idomeneus, Meriones Cnossus, Gortys, Lyctus, Miletus, Lycastus, Phaestus, Rhytium, others up to 100
2.653 Rhodians 9 Tlepolemus Lindus, Ielysus, Cameirus
2.671 Symians 3 Nireus Symi
2.676 No name given. 30 Pheidippus, Antiphus Nisyrus, Crapathus, Casus, Cos, Calydnian Islands
2.681 Pelasgians, Myrmidons, Hellenes, Achaeans 50 Achilles (later led by Neoptolemus) Pelasgic Argos, Alos, Alope, Trachis, Phthia
2.695 No name given. 40 Protesilaus (later led by Podarces) Phylace, Pyrasus, Iton, Antrium, Pteleum
2.711 No name given. 11 Eumelus Pherae, Boebe, Glaphyrae, Iolcus
2.716 No name given. 7, with 50 oarsmen each who were also archers Philoctetes, later by Medon Methone, Thaumacia, Meliboea, Olizon
2.729 No name given. 30 Podalirius, Machaon, two sons of Asclepius Tricca, Ithome, Oechalia
2.734 No name given. 40 Eurypylus Ormenius, Hypereia (fountain), Asterius, Titanus
2.738 (Lapiths) 40 Polypoetes, Leonteus Argissa,[16] Gyrtone, Orthe, Elone, Oloösson
2.748 Enienes, Peraebi 22 Guneus Cyphus, Dodona, Gonnos, banks of the Titaresius
2.756 Magnetes 40 Prothoüs About the Peneus and Mt. Pelion

Authenticity question[edit]

Some scholars debate whether the Catalogue of Ships was a later addition to the Iliad from some time after the composition of the main work. Evidence for this, they suggest, is the inconsistencies between the Catalogue and the rest of the text and also the odd way it is inserted into the poem.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Succinctly expressed by C.M. Bowra (1933),[3] which is a review of F. Jacoby's The introduction of the Ships Catalogue into the Iliad (1932).[4]
  2. ^ Crossett (1969) discusses the dramatic function of the Catalogue in the place that it occupies.[5]
  3. ^ The dramatic time of the catalogue is early in the war; the place, the shores of the Troad. Captains of those contingents outside the time and place of the catalogue are parenthesized; they are not in the catalogue.
  4. ^ The Anglicised spellings and diacritical marks of the names in the table are as they are in Britannica, Great Books of the Western World, Volume 4. The order of contingents is that of the catalogue.
  5. ^ Probably ancient Isos in the vicinity of modern Pyrgos, already in ruins by the time of Strabo[13]
  6. ^ Compare to Book 1, verse 230[15] where Odysseus' kingdom includes Dulichium, Same, Zacynthus and Ithaca.


  1. ^ Homer 1924, verses 2.494-2.759.
  2. ^ Anderson 1995, pp. 181–191.
  3. ^ Bowra 1933.
  4. ^ Jacoby 1932.
  5. ^ Crossett 1969.
  6. ^ Page 1959, pp. 132, 134.
  7. ^ Visser 1997.
  8. ^ Minton 1960.
  9. ^ a b Bowra 1963.
  10. ^ Luce 1975.
  11. ^ Apollodorus & Hyginus 2007, "Library" epitome 3.11.
  12. ^ Apollodorus & Hyginus 2007, fable 97.
  13. ^ Reece 2009.
  14. ^ Autenrieth 1891, Κεφαλλῆνες: "the Cephallenians, collective designation of the subjects of Odysseus on islands and mainland"
  15. ^ Homer 1919, verses 1.230-1.279.
  16. ^ Public Domain Smith, William, ed. (1854–1857). "Argura". Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography. London: John Murray. p. 209(Smith identifies "Argissa" with "Argura" and cites several theories as to its location.){{cite encyclopedia}}: CS1 maint: postscript (link)


External links[edit]