9.82-115

"ἔνθεν δ᾽ ἐννῆμαρ φερόμην ὀλοοῖς ἀνέμοισιν

πόντον ἐπ᾽ ἰχθυόεντα· ἀτὰρ δεκάτῃ ἐπέβημεν

γαίης Λωτοφάγων, οἵ τ᾽ ἄνθινον εἶδαρ ἔδουσιν.

ἔνθα δ᾽ ἐπ᾽ ἠπείρου βῆμεν καὶ ἀφυσσάμεθ᾽ ὕδωρ,85

αἶψα δὲ δεῖπνον ἕλοντο θοῇς παρὰ νηυσὶν ἑταῖροι.

αὐτὰρ ἐπεὶ σίτοιό τ᾽ ἐπασσάμεθ᾽ ἠδὲ ποτῆτος,

δὴ τοτ᾽ ἐγὼν ἑτάρους προΐειν πεύθεσθαι ἰόντας,

οἵ τινες ἀνέρες εἶεν ἐπὶ χθονὶ σῖτον ἔδοντες

ἄνδρε δύω κρίνας, τρίτατον κήρυχ᾽ ἅμ᾽ ὀπάσσας.90

οἱ δ᾽ αἶψ᾽ οἰχόμενοι μίγεν ἀνδράσι Λωτοφάγοισιν·

οὐδ᾽ ἄρα Λωτοφάγοι μήδονθ᾽ ἑτάροισιν ὄλεθρον

ἡμετέροις, ἀλλά σφι δόσαν λωτοῖο πάσασθαι.

τῶν δ᾽ ὅς τις λωτοῖο φάγοι μελιηδέα καρπόν,

οὐκέτ᾽ ἀπαγγεῖλαι πάλιν ἤθελεν οὐδὲ νέεσθαι,95

ἀλλ᾽ αὐτοῦ βούλοντο μετ᾽ ἀνδράσι Λωτοφάγοισι

λωτὸν ἐρεπτόμενοι μενέμεν νόστου τε λαθέσθαι.

τοὺς μὲν ἐγὼν ἐπὶ νῆας ἄγον κλαίοντας ἀνάγκῃ,

νηυσὶ δ᾽ ἐνὶ γλαφυρῇσιν ὑπὸ ζυγὰ δῆσα ἐρύσσας.

αὐτὰρ τοὺς ἄλλους κελόμην ἐρίηρας ἑταίρους100

σπερχομένους νηῶν ἐπιβαινέμεν ὠκειάων,

μή πώς τις λωτοῖο φαγὼν νόστοιο λάθηται.

οἱ δ᾽ αἶψ᾽ εἴσβαινον καὶ ἐπὶ κληῖσι καθῖζον,

ἑξῆς δ᾽ ἑζόμενοι πολιὴν ἅλα τύπτον ἐρετμοῖς.

ἔνθεν δὲ προτέρω πλέομεν ἀκαχήμενοι ἦτορ·105

Κυκλώπων δ᾽ ἐς γαῖαν ὑπερφιάλων ἀθεμίστων

ἱκόμεθ᾽, οἵ ῥα θεοῖσι πεποιθότες ἀθανάτοισιν

οὔτε φυτεύουσιν χερσὶν φυτὸν οὔτ᾽ ἀρόωσιν,

ἀλλὰ τά γ᾽ ἄσπαρτα καὶ ἀνήροτα πάντα φύονται,

πυροὶ καὶ κριθαὶ ἠδ᾽ ἄμπελοι, αἵ τε φέρουσιν110

οἶνον ἐριστάφυλον, καί σφιν Διὸς ὄμβρος ἀέξει.

τοῖσιν δ᾽ οὔτ᾽ ἀγοραὶ βουληφόροι οὔτε θέμιστες,

ἀλλ᾽ οἵ γ᾽ ὑψηλῶν ὀρέων ναίουσι κάρηνα

ἐν σπέσσι γλαφυροῖσι, θεμιστεύει δὲ ἕκαστος

παίδων ἠδ᾽ ἀλόχων, οὐδ᾽ ἀλλήλων ἀλέγουσιν.115

    The Lotus Eaters. The Cyclopes.

    Sailing on, the Greeks reach the land of the Lotus Eaters. This brief episode reflects economically the threat that underlies all of Odysseus’s adventures in one way or another, annihilating oblivion—both in the sense of forgetting and being forgotten. Forgetting home (νόστου τε λαθέσθαι 97) will ensure that the sailors will be forgotten. Like the Iliad’s warriors, Odysseus and his crew face violent death in many forms, but just as dangerous, to Odysseus at least, is the threat of disappearing while alive from the admiring gaze of others, becoming nothing.

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    Forgetting who you are risks losing the ability to win glory, the foundation of heroic status. Choosing to be nameless, as Odysseus often does, is by contrast somewhat less threatening, since anonymity can be used to manipulate others and avoid enemies and then discarded when the right moment for self-revelation arrives.

    The encounter begins with Odysseus sending some of his men to scout out the local settlement and assess the people, “eaters of bread” (89), who live there. The epithet might seem out of place, since the Lotus Eaters are distinguished by the fact that they do not eat bread, but only the flower of the lotus. As is often the case with Homeric poetry, this small anomaly repays attention. Bread, made by modifying grain, a ubiquitous food source, is a common symbol for human culture in the Mediterranean, appearing with this meaning as early as 1600 BCE in the Epic of Gilgamesh. As that story begins, Enkidu, a wild man who runs with the gazelles and drinks from their watering hole, encounters a harlot sent by a hunter whose traps he has been disturbing. Enkidu enjoys seven days of lovemaking with the harlot, then eats bread and drinks beer—another human product made from grain—for the first time. The animals shun him now, as he has crossed the threshold from nature to human culture. He travels to the city of Uruk to confront Gilgamesh and later accompanies the king on an adventure to defeat the monster of the Cedar Forest, a typical exploit for the “culture hero,” who establishes or preserves civilization by defeating a creature that represents chaos (GiI.1–V.344). Like Enkidu, the Greeks have crossed the boundary of the human world, but the Greeks are leaving rather than entering.

    Odysseus drags his unwilling shipmates, who have eaten the lotus plant and forgotten home (97), back to the ships and they sail on to meet the Cyclopes. There follows the first of three major episodes around which Books 9–12 are structured. Odysseus’s description of the one-eyed creatures establishes their peculiar mode of living immediately. They are ὑπερφίαλοι, which can mean physically enormous, but usually with the connotation of “overbearing,” “arrogant,” or “savage,” and ἀθέμιστοι, “lawless.” The former epithet is the most common one used of Penelope’s suitors. Like those oafish men, Polyphemus will prove to be a conspicuous failure when it comes to the civilizing norms of hospitality, θέμιστες, that articulate the poem’s moral and ethical standards.

    Our view of these curious creatures is immediately complicated by the lines that follow (9.107–115). Here is a version of what the Greeks called the Golden Age, when humans lived alongside the gods and had no need of practical skills to secure food and lodging. The basic form of the myth appears widely across the Mediterranean in the 1st millennium BCE, perhaps best known through the biblical story of Adam and Eve (Genesis 2.4–3.24). Each version features some form of paradise, when crops grow without cultivation and trees bear fruit continuously. This ideal world comes to end when a breach occurs between gods and humans, causing the latter to be cut off from the abundance once provided without any labor. In the Greek version, first appearing in Hesiod, Works and Days (109–201), the Silver Age follows, when humans had to compensate for losing their access to nature’s bounty by developing civilizing skills, growing and harvesting crops, banding together for mutual protection and benefit.

    From the outset, the poet sends mixed signals about the Cyclopes. They are boorish like the suitors, asocial creatures living at a lower level of civilization than humans, isolated in their atomistic families, trusting in the gods rather than each other. They are primitive, but like the first inhabitants of paradise they are so because they have no need of community or civilizing skills to extract their livelihood through agriculture. At the same time, Polyphemus will prove to be a fastidious shepherd, caring for his flocks, tidily arranging his cave and pens, and making cheese from the milk of goats. Homer seems to have an almost anthropological interest in the Cyclopes, whose way of living offers insights into the trade-offs implied by the Golden Age myth. As this rich and entertaining episode unfolds, ironies will multiply. Polyphemus will prove to be a grotesque parody of the good host, and Odysseus, the obvious candidate for the role of culture hero, a treacherous guest. The interplay between anonymity and kleos continues, as the trickster uses his namelessness as part of his plan to conquer the powerful monster with intelligence, rather than force. And once again, the crew will suffer to satisfy Odysseus’s thirst for knowledge.

     

    Further Reading

    Austin, N. 1975. Archery at the Dark of the Moon, 143–149. Berkeley: University of California Press.

    Clay, J. 1983. The Wrath of Athena: Gods and Men in the Odyssey, 125–132. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

    Dimock, G. 1989. The Unity of the Odyssey, 110–111. Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press.

    Murnaghan, S. 1987. Disguise and Recognition in the Odyssey, 91–103. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

    Segal, C. 1983. “Kleos and Its Ironies in the Odyssey.” In Schein, S. 1996. Reading the Odyssey. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 201–222.

    Tracy, S. 1990. The Story of the Odyssey, 60–61. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

    Van Nortwick, T. 1992. Somewhere I Have Never Travelled: The Second Self and the Hero’s Journey in Ancient Epic, 8–38. New York: Oxford University Press.

     

    83  δεκάτῃ: supply ἡμέρᾳ (or ἥματι), dative of time when.

    83  ἐπέβημεν: aor. > ἐπιβαίνω, + gen., “to arrive at.”

    85  ἐπ᾽… βῆμεν: tmesis.

    86  δεῖπνον ἕλοντο: “partook of a meal” > αἱρέομαι = “to partake of” in reference to a meal, with δεῖπον, δόρπον, δαῖτα, etc.

    87  σίτοιό … ποτῆτος: partitive genitives after ἐπασσάμεθ(α) > πατέομαι, “to partake of.”

    88  προΐειν: “I sent out,” impf. > προίημι.

    88  πεύθεσθαι ἰόντας: “to go and find out,” introducing the indirect question in the following line.

    89  σῖτον ἔδοντες: “bread-eating,” that is, “mortal.”

    90  κρίνας: “choosing,” aor. ptc. > κρίνω. The antecedent is Odysseus.

    90  τρίτατον κήρυχ᾽ ἅμ᾽ ὀπάσσας: “sending a third along with them as a herald.” 

    90  ὀπάσσας:  “to send along as a companion,” aor. ptc. > ὀπάζω.

    91  μίγεν: = Att. ἐμίγησαν > μίγνυμι, “to mingle with" (+ dat.)

    93  σφι δόσαν λωτοῖο πάσασθαι: lit., “gave them to partake of lotus.” πάσασθαι ( > πατέομαι) takes a partitive genitive. πάσασθαι is an infinitive of purpose after the verb δίδωμι (Smyth 2008, 2009).

    95  ἀπαγγεῖλαι πάλιν: “to report back.”

    95  νέεσθαι: > νέομαι.

    97  μενέμεν: = Att. μένειν.

    99  ὑπὸ ζυγὰ δῆσα ἐρύσσας: “I dragged and tied them up under the oarsmen’s benches.” δῆσα = ἔδησα ( > δέω) with augment omitted, as is usual in Homer.

    101  ἐπιβαινέμεν:  = Att. ἐπιβαίνειν.

    102  λωτοῖο: partitive genitive after φαγὼν, as with πατέομαι (lines 87 and 93).

    102  λάθηται: the optative is expected after the secondary main verb (κελόμην, line 100), but here the subjunctive is more vivid. The verb, λανθάνω, in the middle voice means “to neglect, or forget,” and takes a genitive (νόστοιο; see Goodell 511.b).

    103  κληῗσι: dat. pl. (alternative form of κληΐδεσσι)

    104  τύπτον: = ἔτυπτον

    105  ἦτορ: accusative of respect or specifying accusative (Goodell 537; Monro 137)

    106  ὑπερφιάλων ἀθεμίστων: asyndeton (the adjectives are joined without a conjunction).

    107  πεποιθότες: intransitive pf. act. ptc. masc. nom. pl. > πείθω. In the active voice πείθω normally means "to persuade," but the perfect active πέποιθα + dat. means "be confident in" or "have faith in." Relying on the gods the Cyclopes take things as they come.

    109  φύονται: "grow," mid./pass.; the subject is neuter plural (τὰ … πάντα). Neuter plural subjects are usually followed by a singular verb, unless the constituent parts of the subject (as enumerated here in the first half of line 110) are emphasized (see Smyth 959).

    110  αἵ τε: refers to αἱ ἅμπελοι. τε often appears with relative pronouns in Homer and need not be translated as a connective (Monro 266).

    110 φέρουσιν: "produce, yield," LSJ φέρω V.

    111  οἶνον ἐριστάφυλον: technically it is the vines that have large, beautiful clusters of grapes, not the wine.

    112  τοῖσιν: dative of possession; supply the verb εἰσι.

    ἔνθεν: from here, from there

    ἐννῆμαρ: for nine days

    ὀλοός –ή –όν: destroying, destructive, fatal, deadly, murderous

    ἄνεμος –ου ὁ: wind

    πόντος –ου ὁ: sea, open sea

    ἰχθυόεις –εσσα –εν: full of fish, fishy

    ἀτάρ: but, yet

    ἐπιβαίνω ἐπιβήσομαι ἐπέβην ἐπιβέβηκα ––– –––: to go on, enter, mount, board (a ship) + gen.

    γαίη –ης ἡ: land, region, district

    Λωτοφάγοι –ων οἱ: Lotus Eaters

    ἄνθινος –η –ον: of flowers

    εἶδαρ –ατος τό: food

    ἔδω ἔδομαι ἤδα ἔδηδα ἐδήδοται ἠδέσθην: to eat

    ἤπειρος –ου ἡ: land, mainland, continent85

    ἀφύσσω ἀφύξω ἤφυσα: to draw (liquid from a vessel)

    αἶψα: rapidly, speedily, suddenly

    δεῖπνον –ου τό: meal, supper

    θοός –ή –όν: swift

    ἑταῖρος –ου ὁ: comrade, companion

    ἀτάρ: but, yet

    σῖτος –ου ὁ: grain; bread

    πατέομαι πάσομαι ἐπασάμην πέπασμαι: to eat

    ἠδέ: and

    ποτής –ῆτος ἡ: a drinking, drink

    ἑταῖρος –ου ὁ: comrade, companion

    προίημι προήσω προῆκα προεῖκα προεῖμαι προείθην: to send ahead; to shoot

    πεύθομαι: to find out, learn

    χθών χθονός ἡ: the earth, ground

    σῖτος –ου ὁ: grain; bread

    ἔδω ἔδομαι ἤδα ἔδηδα ἐδήδοται ἠδέσθην: to eat

    τρίτατος –η –ον: third (lengthd. poet. for τρίτος)

    κῆρυξ –υκος ὁ: messenger, herald

    ὀπάζω ὀπάσσω ὤπασα: to send as a companion, guide, or escort 90

    αἶψα: rapidly, speedily, suddenly

    οἴχομαι οἰχήσομαι ––– ––– ––– –––: to go, come move; to be gone, to have gone

    Λωτοφάγοι –ων οἱ: Lotus Eaters

    μήδομαι μήσομαι ἐμησάμην: to meditate, prepare, plot

    ἑταῖρος –ου ὁ: comrade, companion

    ὄλεθρος –ου ὁ: ruin, destruction, death

    σφεῖς: they

    λωτός –οῦ ὁ: lotus

    πατέομαι πάσομαι ἐπασάμην πέπασμαι: to eat

    λωτός –οῦ ὁ: lotus

    ἔφαγον (aor. with no pres. in use): to eat, devour

    μελιηδής –ές: honey-sweet

    καρπός –οῦ ὁ: fruit (of the earth), produce

    ἀπαγγέλλω ἀπαγγελῶ ἀπήγγειλα ἀπήγγελκα ἀπήγγελμαι ἀπηγγέλθην: report, announce

    νέομαι ––– ––– ––– ––– –––: to go 95

    αὐτοῦ: at the very place, here, there

    ἐρέπτομαι – – – – –: to feed on

    νόστος –ου ὁ: return (home)

    κλαίω/κλάω κλαύσομαι/κλαήσω ἔκλαυσα ––– κέκλαυμαι/κέκλαυσμαι ἐκλαύσθην: weep, cry

    γλαφῠρός –ά –όν: hollow, deep

    ζυγόν –οῦ ὁ: bench (joining the opposite sides of a ship)

    δέω: to tie, fasten

    εἰρύω/ἐρύω ἐρύσω/ἐρύω εἴρυσα/ἔρυσα/ἔρυσσα εἴρυσα/ἔρυσα/ἔρυσσα –– –– εἰρύσθην: to pull, draw, drag

    ἀτάρ: but, yet

    κέλομαι κελήσομαι ἐκελησάμην ἐκεκλόμην: command, urge on, exhort, call to

    ἐρίηρος –ον: faithful, devoted 100

    ἑταῖρος –ου ὁ: comrade, companion

    σπέρχω σπέρξομαι ἐσπερξάμην: to rage, storm; (mid. and pass.) to hurry, rush, dash

    ἐπιβαίνω ἐπιβήσομαι ἐπέβην ἐπιβέβηκα ––– –––: to get up on, mount; to board (a ship)

    ὠκύς ὠκεῖα ὠκύ: quick, swift, fast

    ἔφαγον (aor. with no pres. in use): to eat, devour

    νόστος –ου ὁ: return (home)

    αἶψα: rapidly, speedily, suddenly

    εἰσβαίνω (Ion. ἐσβαίνω) εἰσβήσομαι εἰσέβην εἰσβέβηκα ––– –––: to go into

    κληΐς κληῖδος ἡ: bolt; (pl.) oarlocks

    καθίζω (Ion. κατίζω) καθιῶ (Ion. κατίσω) καθῖσα/ἐκάθισα (or κατῖσα) κεκάθικα: to sit down; to set, place

    ἑξῆς: one after another, in order, in a row

    ἕζομαι – – – – –: to sit down

    πολιός –ή –όν: white

    ἅλς ἁλός ὁ: salt (m.); sea (f.)

    τύπτω τύψω ἔτυψα τέτῠφα (or τετύπτηκα) τέτυμμαι ἐτύφθην (or ἐτυπτήθην or ἐτύπην): to beat, strike; (mid.) to mourn

    ἐρετμόν –οῦ τό: oar

    ἔνθεν: from here, from there

    προτέρω: further, forwards

    ἀχεύω, aor. 2 ἤκαχε, pf. pass. ἀκάχημαι: to be afflicted, be grieved

    ἦτορ τό: the heart 105

    Κύκλωψ –πος ὁ: Cyclops

    γαίη –ης ἡ: land, region, district

    ὑπερφίαλος –ον: mighty, very strong; arrogant, haughty

    ἀθέμιστος –ον: lawless, without law

    ἱκνέομαι ἵξομαι ἱκόμην ––– ἷγμαι –––: to come

    ἀθάνατος –ον: immortal, deathless

    φυτεύω φυτεύσω ἐφύτευσα πεφύτευκα πεφύτευμαι ἐφυτεύθην: to plant

    φυτόν –οῦ τό: plant

    ἀρόω ἀρόσω ἤροσα ––– ἀρήρομαι ἠρόθην: to plow

    ἄσπαρτος –ον: unsown, untilled

    ἀνήροτος –ον: unploughed, untilled

    πυρός –οῦ ὁ: wheat

    κριθή –ῆς ἡ: barley

    ἠδέ: and

    ἄμπελος –ου ἡ: grapevine 110

    οἶνος –ου ὁ: wine

    ἐριστάφυλος –ον: having large, beautiful clusters of grapes

    σφεῖς: they

    Ζεύς Διός ὁ: Zeus

    ὄμβρος –ου ὁ: storm of rain, thunder-storm

    ἀέξω ἀεξήσω ἠέξησα ἠέξηκα ἠέξημαι ἀεξήθην: to increase, enlarge, foster, strengthen

    ἀγορά –ᾶς ἡ: market place

    βουληφόρος –ον: counselling, advising

    θέμις –ιστος ἡ: norm, custom; right, law

    ὑψηλός –ή –όν: high, lofty, high-hearted

    ναίω – – – – –: dwell, inhabit, be situated

    κάρηνον –ου τό: head; peak, summit

    σπέος –ους τό: a cave, cavern, grotto

    γλαφῠρός –ά –όν: hollow, deep

    θεμιστεύω θεμιστεύσω ἐθεμίστευσα: to render justice; to govern, command (+ gen.)

    ἄλοχος –ου ἡ: wife

    ἀλέγω – – – – –: to trouble oneself, have a care 115

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    Suggested Citation

    Thomas Van Nortwick and Rob Hardy, Homer: Odyssey 5–12. Carlisle, Pennsylvania: Dickinson College Commentaries, 2024. ISBN: 978-1-947822-17-7 https://dcc.dickinson.edu/homer-odyssey/ix-82-115