Epithets in Homer

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A characteristic of Homer's style is the use of epithets, as in "rosy-fingered" Dawn or "swift-footed" Achilles. Epithets are used because of the constraints of the dactylic hexameter (i.e., it is convenient to have a stockpile of metrically fitting phrases to add to a name) and because of the oral transmission of the poems; they are mnemonic aids to the singer and the audience alike.[1]

Epithets in epic poetry from various Indo-European traditions may be traced to a common tradition. For example, the phrase for "everlasting glory" or "undying fame" can be found in the Homeric Greek as κλέος ἄφθιτον / kléos áphthiton and Vedic Sanskrit as श्रवो अक्षितम् / śrávo ákṣitam. These two phrases were, in terms of historical linguistics, equivalent in phonology, accentuation, and quantity (syllable length). In other words, they descend from a fragment of poetic diction (reconstructable as Proto-Indo-European *ḱléwos ń̥dʰgʷʰitom) which was handed down in parallel over many centuries, in continually diverging forms, by generations of singers whose ultimate ancestors shared an archetypal repertoire of poetic formulae and narrative themes.[2]

Epithets alter the meaning of each noun to which they are attached. They specify the existential nature of a noun; that is to say, Achilles is not called "swift-footed" only when he runs; it is a marker of a quality that does not change. Special epithets, such as patronymics, are used exclusively for particular subjects and distinguish them from others, while generic epithets are used of many subjects and speak less to their individual characters. In these examples, the epithet can be contradictory to the past state of the subject: in Odyssey VI.74, for instance, Nausicaa takes her "radiant clothing", ἐσθῆτα φαεινήν, to be washed; since it is dirty, it is unlikely to be radiant.[3]

List[edit]

General[edit]

  • men
    • shining, divine (δῖος dîos)
    • born from Zeus (διογενής diogenḗs)
    • god-like (ἀντί-θεος antí-theos, θεοειδής theoeidḗs)
    • high-hearted
    • brilliant
  • leaders
    • lord of men (ἄναξ ἀνδρῶν ánax andrôn)
  • women
    • white-armed (λευκ-ώλενος leuk-ṓlenos)
    • lovely-haired (ἐυπλοκάμις, ἐυπλόκαμος eüplokámis, eüplókamos)
    • ox eyed (βο-ῶπις bo-ôpis)
  • goddesses
    • of the golden distaff (χρυσηλάκατος khrusēlákatos)
  • day
    • the day of return (νόστιμον ἦμαρ nóstimon hêmarnostalgia also comes from nóstos)
  • sea
    • loud-roaring (πολυφλοίσβοιο θαλάσσης)
    • grey
    • wine-colored (οἶνοψ)
  • lions
    • eating raw flesh (ὠμόφαγος)
    • mountain-bred (ὀρεσίτροφος)
    • fiery (αἴθων)

Nations[edit]

  • Albanes
    • swift (θοοί thooí)
    • sporting long hair (ὄπιθεν κομόωντες ópithen komóōntes)
  • Achaeans
    • hairy-headed (κάρη κομόωντες kárē komóōntes)
    • bronzed-armored (χαλκο-χίτωνες chalko-chítōnes)
    • strong-greaved (ἐυ-κνήμιδες eü-knḗmides)
    • glancing-eyed (ἑλίκ-ωπες helík-ōpes)
    • with hollow ships
  • Trojans
    • tamers of horses (ἱπποδάμοι hippodámoi)

Individuals[edit]

  • Achilles
    • son of Peleus (Πηληϊάδης Pēlēïádēs)
    • swift-footed (πόδας ὠκύς pódas ōkús; ποδ-άρκης pod-arkēs; ποδ-ώκεος pod-ṓkeos)
    • breaking through men (ῥηξ-ήνωρ rhēx-ḗnōr)
    • lion-hearted (θῡμο-λέοντα thūmo-léonta)
    • like to the gods (θεοῖς ἐπιείκελος theoîs epieíkelos)
    • shepherd of the people (ποιμήν λαῶν poimḗn laôn)
  • Aeneas
    • Son of Anchises (γχῑσιάδης Anchīsiádēs)
    • Counselor of the Trojans (Τρώων βουληφόρος Trṓōn boulēphóros)
    • Lord of the Trojans(Τρώων ἀγός Trṓōn agós)
    • Great-hearted (Μεγάθυμος/Mεγαλήτωρ Megathymos/Megaletor)
    • King of men (Ἂναξ ἀνδρών Anax andron)
    • Great (Μέγας Megas)
  • Agamemnon
    • son of Atreus (Ἀτρείδης Atreídēs: also transliterated Atrīdēs)
    • wide-ruling lord (εὐρὺ κρείων eurù kreíōn)
    • the lord marshal
    • powerful
    • shepherd of the people (ποιμήν λαῶν poimḗn laôn)
    • lord of men (ἄναξ ἀνδρῶν ánax andrôn)
    • brilliant
  • Aias/Ajax
    • Son of Telamon (Τελαμώνιος Telamṓnios)
    • swift
    • gigantic (πελώριος pelṓrios)
      • the mighty
  • Andromache
    • daughter of Eetion (θυγάτηρ Ἠετίωνος thugátēr Ēetíōnos)
  • Aphrodite
    • laughter-loving (φιλομμειδής philommeidḗs)
    • daughter of Zeus (Διὸς θυγάτηρ Diòs thugátēr)
    • goddess of love
    • fair (δῖα dîa)
  • Apollo
    • Phoebus, i.e. the Bright or Pure, (Φοῖβος Phoebus)
    • with unshorn hair; i.e., ever-young (ἀ-κερσε-κόμης a-kerse-komēs)
    • destroyer of mice (Σμινθεύς Smintheus)
    • distant deadly Archer (ἑκηβόλος hekēbólos)
    • far-aiming lord (ἑκατηβελέτης ἄναξ hekatēbelétēs ánax)
    • rouser of armies
    • slayer of Argos (Ἀργειφόντης Argeiphóntēs)
    • son of Zeus (Διὸς υἱός Diòs huiós)
    • of the silver bow (ἀργυρότοξος argyrótoxos)
    • famous with the bow (κλυτοτόξος klutotóxos)
    • whom the sleek-haired Leto has born (τὸν ἠΰκομος τέκε Λητώ tòn ēǘkomos téke Lētṓ)
  • Ares
    • slayer of men (ἀνδρειφόντης andreiphóntēs)
    • sacker of cities
    • bronzen (χάλκεος khálkeos)
    • furious (θοῦρος thoûros)
    • destroyer of city walls (τειχεσιπλήτης teichesiplḗtēs)
    • of the glinting helmet
    • women raping
  • Athena
    • Pallas (Παλλάς Pallás)
    • gray-, bright-eyed (γλαυκ-ῶπις glauk-ôpis)
    • daughter of Zeus
    • third-born of the gods
    • whose shield is thunder
    • hope of soldiers
    • tireless one
  • Ariadne
    • lovely-haired (καλλιπλόκαμος kalliplókamos)
  • Artemis
    • the archer-goddess
    • shooter of arrows (ἰοχέαιρα iokhéaira)
  • Briseis
    • fair-cheeked (καλλιπάρῃος kalliparēios)
    • fair-haired (ἠΰκομος ēǘkomos)
  • Calypso
    • beautiful nymph
    • softly-braided nymph
    • divine
    • goddess most divinely made
    • daughter of Atlas
    • cunning goddess (δεινὴ θεός deinē theos)
  • Chryseis
    • beautiful-cheeked (καλλιπάρῃος kallipárēios)
  • Circe
    • enchantress
  • Cronus (Kronos)
    • crooked-counselling, devious-devising (ἀγκυλομήτης ankulomḗtēs)
    • all-powerful
  • Demeter
    • fair-haired
  • Diomedes
    • son of Tydeus
    • great spearman
    • master of the war cry
    • god-like
    • strong
    • breaker of horses
  • Hector
    • tall
    • shepherd of the people
    • of the glinting helmet, of the shining helm (κορυθ-αίολος koruth-aiolos)
    • man-killing
    • horse-taming
  • Helen
    • long-dressed
    • daughter of a noble house
  • Hera
    • ox-eyed lady (βοῶπις πότνια boôpis pótnia)
  • Hephaestus
    • the famous craftsman
    • the famous lame god
    • of the strong arms
  • Hermes
    • messenger of the gods and conductor of men (διάκτορος diáktoros)
    • son of Zeus
    • giant-killer
    • the strong one
    • keen eyes emissary
  • Iris
    • wind-footed
  • Menelaus
    • red-haired, fair-haired, flaming-haired
    • master of the war-cry
    • son of Atreus (Ἀτρείδης Atreídes)
    • war-like
    • spear-famed
    • loved by Ares (ἀρηΐφιλος arēïphilos)
    • cherished by Zeus (διοτρεφές diotrephés)
  • Naubolos
    • great-hearted
  • Nestor
    • Godly Nestor
    • Gerenian charioteer
    • son of Neleus (Νηληιάδης Nēlēiádēs)
    • Pylos born king
    • sweet spoken
  • Odysseus
    • resourceful, man of many resources, of many turns, man of twists and turns (πολύ-τροπος polú-tropos)
    • much-enduring (πολύ-τλᾱς polú-tlās)
    • great-hearted (μεγαλ-ήτωρ megal-ḗtōr)
    • sacker of cities (πτολι-πόρθιος ptoli-pórthios)
    • wise
    • loved of Zeus
    • great glory of the Achaeans
    • master mariner
    • mastermind of war
    • hotheaded
    • man of action
    • the great teller of tales
    • man of exploits
    • man of pain
    • that kingly man
    • the hero
    • Raider of Cities
    • the great tactician
    • cunning (πολύ-μητις polú-mētis)
  • Onchestos
    • sacred
  • Pandaros
    • son of Lykaon
  • Patroclus
    • son of Menoitius (Μενοιτιάδης Menoitiádēs)
    • Zeus-born, sprung from Zeus (διογενές)
    • dear to Zeus (Ζεύς φίλος )
    • great-hearted (μεγαλήτωρ megalḗtōr)
    • horseman (ἱπποκέλευθε or ἱππεύς )
    • peerless (πεσόντος)
    • peer to gods in counsel (θεόφιν μήστωρ ἀτάλαντος)
    • gentle (ἐνηείης)
    • hero (ἥρωϊ)
  • Paris
    • Alexandros
    • magnificent
  • Penelope
    • cautious, careful, circumspect, discreet, wise, self-obsessed
  • Poseidon
    • Earth-shaker (ἐννοσίγαιος enno-sígaios or ἐνοσί-χθων enosí-chthōn)
    • earth-moving, earth-carrying (γαιή-οχος gaiḗ-ochos)
  • Sarpedon
    • leader of the Lycians
  • Suitors
    • swaggering
    • haughty
  • Telemachus
    • poised
    • thoughtful
  • Thetis
    • silver-footed
  • Thersites
    • of the endless speech
  • Tydeus
    • driver of horses
  • Zeus
    • mighty
    • son of Kronos (Κρονίδης Kronídēs)
    • wide-seeing
    • cloud-gatherer (νεφελη-γερέτᾱ nephelē-gerétā)
    • father of gods and men
    • of the dazzling bolt (ἀργι-κέραυνος argi-kéraunos)
    • loud-thundering (ἐρί-γδουπος ἐρί-δουπος erí-gdoupos, erí-doupos)
    • delighting in thunder (τερπι-κέραυνος terpi-kéraunos)
    • aegis-holding (αἰγί-οχος aigí-ochos)
    • who marshals the thunderheads

Shared[edit]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Parry 1928: 5-10
  2. ^ John Curtis Franklin, Structural Sympathies in Ancient Greek and South-Slavic Heroic Singing.
  3. ^ Parry 1971: 121

Sources[edit]

  • Parry, Milman. "L'Épithète traditionnelle dans Homère: Essai sur un problème de style homérique." Paris: Société d'Éditions "Les Belles Lettres", 1928.
  • Parry, Milman, ed. Adam Parry. "The Making of Homeric Verse: The Collected Papers of Milman Parry." Oxford: The Clarendon PRess, 1971.
  • V.J. Howe, "Epithets in Homer." Available online at http://www.angelfire.com/art/archictecture/articles/008.htm. (Retrieved October 16, 2007.)
  • Fagles, Robert. "The Odyssey." Penguin Books, 1996.