The Odyssey: Book 1 lines 325-327

Herald singing of Troy

Herald singing of Troy

The next passage returns us, the audience, to the scene in which the previous conversation took place. The definite article τοῖσι at the beginning of this passage refers to the suitors mentioned in the previous line, acting as the definite article often does in ancient Greek like a pronoun them or rather to them. The royal herald of the house of Odysseus is reduced to singing to those would would usurp the place of his king, indeed including the king’s wife and queen Penelope, about the return of the victorious Greek army from Troy. Moreover, the former herald sings about this topic in the very house whose master Odysseus has yet to return from Troy himself, although Odysseus is known to have been alive at the time of the victory. The latter point is important because by using that particular material to entertain Penelope’s suitors, the herald is in effect making light of her grief. The herald has thereby joined in with the hubris of the suitors.

Line 327 may be the first time Athena is referred to as Παλλὰς Ἀθήνη, i.e., Pallas Athena, at least since coming to Telemachus. That epithet Παλλὰς (Pallas) became so identified with Athena that in later periods it become used by itself to refer to Athena. The word Παλλὰς actually most likely derives as a present participle from the verb πάλλω, meaning to turn or sway something. Thus the epithet Παλλὰς refers to Athena as the goddess who turns events. That meaning fits the current passage well. Just as Athena is working to precipitate events in the household of Odysseus, so she is also mentioned as having made the Greeks leave Troy– victorious of course.

What is notable perhaps is that by crediting Athena with causing the Greeks to leave after the fall of Troy, one must also credit Athena with causing the situation which she is currently working to resolve. Namely, Odysseus had to flee for his life when the Greeks left Troy and could not go immediately homeward.

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