Monday, November 7, 2011

2011.11.14

Stamatis Avlonitis, Το λυκόφως των ηρώων στην Ιλιάδα (Ραψωδίες Α-Μ). Βιβλιοθήκη Σοφίας Ν. Σαριπόλου 113. Αθήνα: Πανεπιστήμιο Αθηνών Σαριπόλειο Ίδρυμα, 2010. Pp. 546. ISBN 9789605260194.

Reviewed by Parthena N. Karatzoglou, Centre for the Greek Language in Thessaloniki (nkaratzoglou@yahoo.co.uk)

Version at BMCR home site

[Table of Contents at the end of the review]

[Read the author's response at the end of the review.]

From ancient times secondary literature has characterized the Homeric Iliad as an epic that narrates the deeds of heroes who possess power, martial virtues and divine favour and who are seeking glory and honour. According to most scholars the aim of the epic is to highlight and to praise this heroic ideal and the whole system of values that it embodies. Nevertheless, there are also those who have been sceptical about the role that the epic plays and who have expressed their doubts about the acceptance of that heroic ideology while at the same time stressing its antiwar tone.[[1]] Although individual comments assert that the Iliad contains indirect criticism of the heroic ideology, almost no one has considered the presentation of its story in toto. In that respect the author of this book offers a new perspective in the study of the Homeric epic. He argues that the Iliad is an antiheroic epic with a unique narrative that describes the downfall of the heroes as a result of their martial values and their self-centered behaviour. In this way the title of the book The twilight of the heroes seems fitting.

Avlonitis carefully studies books 1-12 and he builds his argument about the Iliad’s anti-heroic content systematically by examining four aspects: the presentation of the myth and the interpretation of the attitude of the heroes, the plan of Zeus mentioned several times in the Iliad, comparison with other epic traditions as well as with Hesiod’s Works and Days and the poetics of the epic. These four aspects are studied in separate chapters, and individually for each book of the twelve.[[2]] Each of these chapters, however, has a title that may often prove to be confusing to the reader. Moreover, the four aspects mentioned are intermingled with other additional aspects and are investigated in more than one chapter, the relevance of which is not always clear. For example, in chapter 1.β. (the beginning of the war, pp. 63-125) not only are the actions of Agamemnon evaluated, but also Hesiod’s Works and Days is juxtaposed with the Iliad, even though there is a whole chapter on the juxtaposition between the Iliad and the tradition—regarding books 1-4 (Chapter 1.Γ. pp.198-232). Due to the large size of the book the location of the chapters can be confusing, not to mention that many pages of the book could have been omitted, since the same ideas are repeated.

In general, the study of the Iliad is presented in a linear way. The author starts from the prologue (Book 1, 1-7) and continues with the rest of book 1, book 2, etc, presenting each time the main characters and their actions as well as the literary decisions, while at the same time evaluating them. Lines from the text or their translation are usually cited, but a good knowledge of the text on the part of the reader is helpful and sometimes even necessary. Still, the main ideas and arguments can be followed by a non-specialist, since most of the times the author presents a coherent argument and states his main ideas clearly and repeatedly.

Avlonitis argues that the Iliad is critical towards the heroic mentality. His main argument is that this criticism is evident in the presentation of the myth right from the introduction, where human responsibility for what is to follow is highlighted. The individual selfish aims of the leaders, regardless of the side to which they belong, put in danger the common welfare of those around them. Agamemnon’s greed and Achilles’ anger endanger the lives of their soldiers in the same way that Paris’s erotic passion will bring about the destruction of Troy. The inaction of both communities is in turn evidence of their culpability. Avlonitis continues his argumentation in the same vein in the fourth book: through the study of the plan of Zeus, the author makes it evident that the god’s plan does not really seek to bring about the end of Troy but rather the end of the hybris of the heroic world in total.

Contrary to the selfish attitude of Agamemnon, Achilles and Paris, Diomedes is given special importance in book 5 as a universal ideal hero who fights against the war and immorality in general (fighting against Ares and Aphrodite). Later, in book 6, Hector is a responsible and wise citizen, protector of his own people and family. However, all customs and institutions of civilization that are elevated and praised in the previous two books are torn apart by the cruelty and ferocity of the war as it is presented in books 11 and 12. Here, the words used, especially those describing the previous lives of the victims, carry an emotional burden that reveals the poet’s negativity toward the war.

Books 7 and 8 reinforce Avlonitis’ arguments in a different way. They both have a unique style as far as the language and the treatment of the myth are concerned. Avlonitis suggests that the poet of the Iliad wanted to draw parallels between his work and other epic material vaguely known from the Epic Cycle in order to emphasize the Iliad’s exclusivity and its indirect disapproval of heroic values. However, the fragmentary state of the epic material renders the author’s research extremely difficult and his arguments weak. As he himself states (pp.488-9), it is difficult for a contemporary reader to make the relevant connections that would have been more effortlessly obvious to the listeners of the epic. The reader of the book may find some connections, for example the parallel made between the battle of Ajax against Hector and the battles of Achilles against Kyknos, too farfetched, and as a result, the arguments based on them unconvincing. Other connections, like the role of Diomedes in book 5 in comparison with that of Heracles in an epic about the latter, seem to be more plausible. In book 12 (3-32), the author makes a very interesting connection between the fate of the wall built by the Greeks to protect their ships and the fate of the heroes in general. With this last observation, the author reinforces his interpretation by putting emphasis on the end of the heroic world due to the heroes’ moral degradation.

The crowning argument is the connection between Hesiod’s Works and Days (156-73) and the Iliad. The final annihilation of the race of the heroes was a tradition well known to the audience. According to Hesiod, the heroes’ race (the fourth or bronze race) had reached its decline and so the way for it to be eliminated was through war, either the Theban or the Trojan. The selfishness of the leaders destroyed their communities and, as Hesiod predicts, a probable destruction of the fifth or iron race will caused because of its moral degradation. Only a peaceful moral life can guarantee the continuation of the fifth race. The Iliad is the dramatized confirmation of the teaching of the Works and Days. The destruction of the people follows in the wake of their own mistakes. The war and the heroic ambitions that brought about the decline, the dissolution of institutions, as well as destruction and ferocity are an example for contemporary people of what to avoid. This last argument is extremely convincing.

Despite the fact that some of his arguments are not so persuasive and some of the parallels are implausible, Avlonitis has made a unique contribution by looking at the Iliad from a different perspective, regarding it as a whole, dealing with its ideology with consistency and clarity. He works in an orthodox fashion using the method of neo-analysis, placing the epic within the heroic tradition and trying to identify the extent to which the Iliad made use of earlier poetic material concerning the Trojan war. This is not an easy venture if one takes into account the scarcity of the traditional epic material and the 15,000 lines of the Iliad as well as the mass of relevant secondary literature, which is adequately covered (especially Greek, English and German sources).

One would expect the research to continue with the following books of the epic and to examine any evidence present in relation to the imminent end of the world of heroes. An explanation of that omission would at least have made amends for the lack of almost any reference to the remaining books.

At the end of the book there is an appendix with a two-fold role. First, the author succeeds in placing his work within the contemporary secondary literature whilst underlining the distinctiveness of it. Second, he explains some of his choices, such as the close examination of book 5 due to its unique style and its juxtaposition to the tradition. Here, he fails to avoid repetitions and in truth does not explain the lack of discussion on book 10—there is however a short reference to it (p. 513). Finally, there is a summary of the book in English, very comprehensive and useful for non Greek-speakers. Typographical errors are absent and citations are present when necessary.

In conclusion, this is a book that gives an interesting perspective to the study of the Iliad and through which the reader becomes acquainted with the epic tradition through the wide range of its author’s knowledge. However, its length due to repetitions and some confusion between the different chapters make it to some extent unattractive to the non expert.

ΠΙΝΑΚΑΣ ΠΕΡΙΕΧΟΜΕΝΩΝ

Εισαγωγή 11
Το προοίμιο της Ιλιάδας 19

Πρώτο Τμήμα (Α-Θ): Παθολογία της ηρωικής κοινωνίας και απομυθοποίηση του ηρωικού πολέμου

Ι. Α. Η αμφίπλευρη υπαιτιότητα του τρωικού πολέμου (Α-Δ) 37
1. α. Η «αχαϊκή προϊστορία» του πολέμου: Η ηγετική προτεραιότητα της
καταξίωσης ως αρχή κακών για την κοινότητα (Α) 37
1.β. Η «έναρξη της αχαϊκής εκστρατείας»: Ο πόλεμος ως πλάνη της ηγεσίας και χειραγώγηση της κοινότητας (Β) 63
2. Η προϊστορία και η έναρξη του πολέμου από την τρωική πλευρά (Γ) 125
3. Ο πόλεμος ως ισορροπία ολέθρου (Δ) 149
Β. Αποκάλυψη εν δράσει (Α-Δ): Η προοπτική της συντέλειας176
Γ. Αντιπαράθεση της Ιλιάδας προς την παράδοση (Α-Δ) 198

ΙΙ.Α.Η ηρωική και παραταξιακή απέναντι στην οικουμενική θεώρηση του πολέμου (Ε-Ζ) 233
1. Η αχαϊκή πλευρά (Ε) 233
2. Από την αχαϊκή στην τρωική πλευρά (Ζ) 273
3. Η ολοκλήρωση της ιλιαδικής εκδοχής για την αρχή του πολέμου (Η) 315
Β. Αποκάλυψη εν δράσει (Ε-Η): Η προοπτική της συντέλειας 334
Γ. Αντιπαράθεση της Ιλιάδας προς την παράδοση (Ε-Η) 340
ΙΙΙ. Το προανάκρουσμα της κύριας δράσης της Ιλιάδας σε αντιδιαστολή προς την..παράδοση (Θ) 375

Δεύτερο Τμήμα (Ι-Ρ) Το λυκόφως των ηρώων

Ι. Α. Η κατάπτωση των ηρώων ως επακόλουθο του πολέμου (Ι, Λ, Μ)399
1. Η αχαϊκή πλευρά (Ι, Λ) 399
1. α. Το κατώφλι του Αχιλλέα: Το έσχατο τίμημα της ηρωικής τιμής (Ι) 399
1. β. Η πλευρά των Αχαιών ηρώων (Λ) 412
2. Η πλευρά των τρώων ηρώων (Μ) 452
Β. Αντιπαράθεση της Ιλιάδας προς την παράδοση (Ι, Λ, Μ) 474
Παράρτημα 499
Περίληψη στα Αγγλικά 521
Βιβλιογραφία


Notes:


1.   Selected bibliography of scholars that have expressed doubts about the pure heroic ideals presented in the Iliad is given by the author himself in pp. 499-502 in the Appendix of his book.
2.   There is the exemption of book 10. For his choice not to study it, he only gave a short note that book 10 is considered to be an addition of the 6th century and that its content does not fit with the structure of the whole epic. However, in the same time he recognizes the peculiar and unique style of books 5, 7 and 8 but he includes them in his argumentation. He proves that their disparities reflect elements from other traditional epics with the same context drawing thus attention to the Iliad's antiheroic, peaceful and humanistic perspective. In the same way he could have examined book 10.

3 comments:

  1. I would like to answer some legitimate questions posted by the reviewer of my book, Parthena N. Karatzoglou, and then to make some further remarks about its content, that - combined with Karatzoglou’s review - might be helpful to any reader interested in the issues under discussion.

    First of all, as I state in my book (p. 14 n. 4 and p. 521), this present work, The Twilight of the Heroes in the Iliad, is based on my doctoral thesis «Ομήρου Ιλιάς: Μία εναλλακτική εκδοχή του ηρωικού πολέμου» [“Homer’s Iliad: An Alternative Version of the Heroic War”, vol. 1-2], Ioannina 2005, http://phdtheses.ekt.gr/eadd/handle/10442/17852, which I occasionally refer to in my book and is available on the internet to anybody interested. The present book is an attempt to deepen the results of the PhD-thesis as far as books A-M (except of K) are concerned, to discuss some parts or aspects of these books which I didn’t analyze in my thesis, and to present my positions in a form accessible not only to specialists. Out of practical reasons (regearding required space and time) it was not possible for me to cover again the whole Iliad. For a basic discussion of the second half of the poem (Ν-Ω) under the same aspects, one could take into account the respective chapters of the PhD-thesis.

    I argue that the four aspects I deal with, summarized by Karatzoglou, constitute the main narrative strategies in which the narrator directs the reader response to his composition and creates its multilayered coherence and its distinctive poetic character (political-didactic, tragic-apocalyptic, meta-epic, and self-referential). I suppose that by examining the presentation of the myth and the reader response it evokes, we can conclude the poetic priorities and the major purpose to which the whole shaping of the Iliad is constantly subjected. It is in that spirit (of the poet-narrator) that I examine “the poet’s choices” that shaped the Iliad-text as it stands. (See e.g. pp. 16-7. Cf. 36 n. 52 about no distinction between ‘poet’ and ‘narrator’). In my opinion the high individuality of the text presupposes an individual composer with specific purposes.

    The discussion of the first aspect of the narrative (presentation of the myth) opens the analysis of each section of the poem I deal with (A-Δ, Ε-Η, Θ, Ι-Μ). At the level of presentation/narration (consisted of significant hints, leitmotifs, internal and external correlations and juxtapositions) the Iliad-text suggests a specific interpretation of the myth which is not apparent at its surface, i.e. at the level of plot/action. Nestor, for example, sounds like (and is commonly regarded as) the gentle voice of prudence - this must have been his role in the epic tradition -, whereas the narrative of the Iliad suggests quite the opposite.

    A specific ‘violent’ behavior involving egoistic ambition, greed and recklessness towards the interests of the community, is established in the first four books as the characteristic consequence of the heroic mentality. Although acceptable in the displayed heroic society, the heroic behavior is obliquely checked in the narrative as a hubris, expressed at first as greed and violence against the interests of the community and then, progressively, also as ruthless violence against all customs considered as constitutional of human society (truces, xenia, supplication, family, the right to a proper burial) for the sake of the own status and glory. In terms of this progressive deterioration the decline of the race of the heroes is depicted.
    --continued in next comment--

    ReplyDelete
  2. About the second aspect, the Iliad as a revelation of an imminent ‘Apocalypse’ (its discussion from Θ on is subjected to that of the first aspect), I need to specify that the plan “mentioned several times in the Iliad” is not Zeus’ commitment for the restitution of Achilles’ status, but Zeus’ will to eliminate the race of the heroes (Cypria fr. 1). I suggest that the heroes are to be understood as the fourth ‘genos’ of the myth of the five races (Hesiod, Works and Days, 156-73). This second aspect under examination consists of a net of signals referring to the proceeding end of the heroes (Achaeans and Trojans alike), which is never openly mentioned in the poem, and to their continuing decline. In my opinion the idea of the imminent heroic destruction is implicitly active, not just a dormant traditional theme. It progressively permeates the narrative (the dark allusions grow stronger), sets a melancholic tone at the background, and is combined with allusions at the destruction’s cause: the moral degradation of the heroes resulting to Zeus’ detestation.

    The heroic destruction is carefully arranged and diplomatically imposed by Zeus, as the Hera-Zeus scene of book 4 signifies. The beginning and progress of the destruction are ominously suggested, mainly by hints paralleling the destruction of the heroes with that of the Titans and Typhoeus as we know it from Hesiod’s, Theogony, 687ff., as well as by the sequel of bucolic similes and the recurring tempest/flood-theme, esp. from book 4 and onwards. The significance and thematic background of these similes is openly displayed in the famous flood-simile (16.384-93). (There must be an allusion of the oriental tradition of the human destruction by flood at work here - Atrahasis, also assimilated in the Catalogue of Women -, but further engaging in this matter goes far beyond the objectives of this study). It is suggested that the end of the heroes presupposes a theodicy, according to which Zeus destroys the heroes because of their hubris, exactly like he has done with the Titans before.

    The third aspect is examined under the title ‘Juxtaposition between the Iliad and the tradition’ in each section of the poem discussed (A-Δ, Ε-Η, Θ, Ι-Μ). This title implies the constant indication of the text that the Iliad’s version of the Trojan myth (as the heroic myth par excellence) departs from the ‘established’ path of traditional and/or antagonistic epic. The juxtaposition between the heretic-humanistic iliadic version on the one hand and other epic versions of the myth on the other hand intends to contrast presentation and poetics of the juxtaposed versions (Iliad vs. other epic versions). (In that respect book 8 has a pivotal function). This opposition aims to set the Iliad apart from its competition and to ‘educate’ the audience’s expectations, so that they are in accordance with the innovative poetics of the Iliad. The poem incorporates the older or contemporary (probably famous and established) versions in order to successfully compete, overcome and finally replace the previous heroic war tradition (esp. Trojan and Theban).

    It is true that the sources are scarce, but our criterion is the function of hypothetical contrasting parallelisms within the Iliad as it stands. My aim was not to reconstitute lost epics or to identify how much earlier material has been used in the Iliad, but to find out how in the narrative field ‘neoanalytical’ assumptions work together with the two aspects or strategies previously examined; and, if that is the case, to see what this ‘cooperation’ mean about the poetic logic of the Iliad and its meta-epic function. The main result of this procedure is an interpretation of the function of specific episodes; e.g. the τειχοσκοπία in book 3, the single combat between Aias and Hector in book 7, the Nestor episode in book 8 and the embassy episode in book 9 (with a suggestion about the role of the duals).

    --continued in next comment--

    ReplyDelete
  3. Moreover, it seems that the specific handling of traditional material in the Iliad presupposes the possibility and the intention of reference to a specific, recognisable narrative framework, that is competing with the Iliad and in all probability corresponds mainly to the epics that formed the model for the later Cypria and Aethiopis (the so-called ‘Ur-Cypria’ and ‘Ur-Aethiopis’).

    As regards the inner poetics of the Iliad (the fourth aspect under discussion), i.e. the suggestion of the text itself about its own poetics, it is argued that the implied critique of the heroic epic is culminating in specific oblique poetological passages like the epilogue of Book 4, where the poet indirectly addresses his regular war-enthusiastic listener, Helen’s speech in Book 6, where the conventional heroic epic poetics are represented, the surprising end of the single combat in Book 7 and Diomedes’ action in the battle of Book 8. (Cf. PhD-thesis p. 318-43 about Achilles’ shield in book 18). Moreover the possibility is suggested, that the Iliad and the Odyssey can be considered as parts of the same, homogeneous and cohesive ‘poetic program’. (See esp. pp. 311-2 about the closing scenes of the Odyssey in relation to the opening scenes of Iliad 4 and pp. 366-7 n. 81 about my conclusions on the Iliad in comparison with conclusions of research on the Odyssey; cf. pp. 123-4, p. 200 with n. 4, pp. 306-11, 356ff. with n. 48, pp. 364-5, p. 372 with n. 95, p. 457 with n. 8, p. 470 n. 37, p. 491 n. 47, pp. 518-9, and PhD-thesis p. 36 with n. 100, pp. 336-7 n. 82, p. 339 n. 92, p. 434 n. 373, pp. 468 and 471-2).

    The relation between the narrative suggestions of the Iliad and the content of Hesiod’s Works and Days and Theogony is mainly approached in the chapters about the second aspect (heroic decline). The short exception noted in the review (ch. 1. Γ. pp. 109-10) is due to the specific subject of the parallelism. The relation between the Iliad and the Hesiodic epics (or tradition) is not discussed as part of the third aspect, because it is not a contrasting one. In the end of the book, the account on assumed contrasting parallelisms in books 9, 11, and 12 is closed with the discussion of the reception of the Hesiodic epics and the implicit adaptation of their spirit in the Iliad. There are suggested references mainly to the myth of the five races, the Hybris-Dike passage (Works and Days) and the Titanomachy with the battle against Typhoeus (Theogony). (Cf. PhD-thesis p. 49 n. 147, pp. 219-4, 263-8, 287-94, 458, 469).

    As for my choice not to discuss book 10 (K) - which is generally regarded as an additon and in my opinion distorts the structure of significant vertical correlations in the narrative (p. 412 n. 1) - it is true that, theoretically, one could have examined it the same way as, e.g., books 5, 7 and 8, as Karatzoglou proposes. It is true that those books also show peculiarities of content, language, style, and narrative, like K. On the other side, however, they share with the rest of the Iliad a second narrative level, that of the antiheroic perspective, as well as the function of indirect contrast to antagonistic epic versions (or traditions) and their poetics. (The exception of book 8 concerning the critical-antiheroic perspective is explained by its special function of implicit contrasting with the competing version of the story of Memnon). As in my opinion (p. 513) book 10 lacks such qualities, the onus probandi does not lie on the side of K’s seclusion any more.

    Some errors I noted so far are the following:

    p. 7 and 233: II. A. Η ηρωική και παραταξιακή … (Ε-Ζ). There should stand: (E-H).

    p. 311 n. 178: “σημ. 46” should be “σημ. 47”.

    p. 412 n. 1 (line 8): “σημ. 31 και 54” should be “σημ. 32 και 55”.

    p. 540: A title is omitted: Μπεζαντάκος Ν., Η ρητορική της ομηρικής μάχης (= Ρητορική), Αθήνα 1996.

    p. 542 last title: Instead of “die hellenischen Dichter” there should stand “die hellenistischen Dichter”.

    S. Avlonitis (stamatisavlonitis@yahoo.gr), Berlin

    ReplyDelete