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πασι or δαιτα?

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πασι or δαιτα?

Postby Hylander » Sat Nov 25, 2017 1:21 pm

I'm sure everyone who is passionate about this question (and who isn't?), which has been festering for at least 2200 years, would be interested in the following excerpt from a review by Hayden Pelliccia, a Homeric scholar who is a professor of Classics at Cornell, of new translations of the Iliad by Peter Green (at age 90!) and Barry Powell, which appears in the Oct. 12 issue of The New York Review of Books, and the subsequent exchange between Prof Pelliccia and Peter Green, in the Letters to the Editor section of the Nov. 23 issue of NRYB.
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Re: πασι or δαιτα?

Postby Hylander » Sat Nov 25, 2017 1:33 pm

Excerpt from the original article:

. . . the next challenge comes as soon as line 5, a notorious editorial crux and a touchstone of any translator’s nerve. It gets the better of all three. Here the contest is between the manuscripts, which all point in one direction, generally agreed to be the wrong one, and the sense. How do we decide? The choosing will be concealed from everyone but the translator’s conscience, and as we will see, the impulse to have things both ways can be irresistible.

The vulgate text of the Iliad—the accepted Greek version of the text—established in the mid-second century BCE by the Alexandrian scholar Aristarchus, tells us that the baneful wrath of Achilles, after sending the souls of many heroes to Hades, made of their bodies “takings for dogs and all birds.” Three and a half centuries later, a single source reports that Aristarchus’s predecessor Zenodotus had read the word “banquet” in the space occupied by “all” in our standard text: “and made their bodies takings for dogs/and for birds a banquet.” Our source rejects this reading on the fastidious grounds that in Homer “banquets” are always for humans. In 1978 the British scholar M.M. Willcock countered that the vulgate reading “all” was “flat and inaccurate, seeing that only certain birds, such as vultures, would be interested,” a judgment endorsed by more recent commentators, who have also shown that the objection to using “banquet” of animals is not even supported by usage.

More to the point of the passage, Zenodotus’s “banquet” creates a sarcastic and pungently emotional climax to the enumeration of the consequences of Achilles’ wrath. It is, in short, a much better reading, and derived from a credible pre-Aristarchan source. So why not adopt it?

In fact, that’s what everybody wants to do, but nobody dares. Scholars over the past century or so have demonstrated a depressing consistency of equivocation. Walter Leaf (1900) read “all” in his text, but commented: “On the whole ‘banquet’ seems intrinsically a better reading, but we have no right to leave the uniform tradition of the manuscripts.” In an Oxford commentary of 2001 Simon Pulleyn does much the same. Perhaps the greatest cognitive dissonance has been effected by the gigantic Basel edition of the Iliad that began publication in 2000 (originally projected at more than fifty volumes, but now scaled back): it prints the Greek word for “all” on the left-hand page, but the facing translation reads Zenodotus’s “banquet,” and the commentary defends it vigorously and persuasively.

With that background we can see that what our translators are doing is recapitulating a long-standing scholarly failure of nerve in a more economical fashion. Green says what the dogs got was “carrion,” which acceptably renders Greek heloria, literally, “takings,” or “booty.” When he completes “carrion for dogs” with “and all birds of prey,” however, he silently gives the lame “all birds” some help by adding the helpful qualification “of prey,” which is nowhere in the Greek (“scavenger birds” would have been more accurate). But Green’s adjustment here is nothing compared to what Lattimore and Powell do: if “carrion” is acceptable for the neutral “takings” of the Greek, where then did Lattimore get the “delicate feasting” with which he feeds his dogs? I think we know the answer. Although his retention of Aristarchus’s “all” kicks Zenodotus out the front door, “delicate feasting” (or Powell’s “feast”) smuggles him and his “banquet” back in through the rear.

Should we be grateful to our editors and translators for letting us have our delicate feasting and eat it, too, rather than moralizing about their cowardly equivocations? Certainly it would not be hard to imagine a post-modernist defense of the palimpsestic effect achieved by allowing Zenodotus’s ghost to lurk behind the dais over which Aristarchus presides. But I would have thought the choice here was simple: believe Zenodotus.


Personally, I'm a daitist.

I think this is "fair use" and therefore not a violation of copyright law:

https://help.vimeo.com/hc/en-us/article ... r-factors-
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Re: πασι or δαιτα?

Postby Hylander » Sat Nov 25, 2017 1:52 pm

Subsequent letters to the editor:

A Banquet of Words
Peter Green, reply by Hayden Pelliccia
In response to:

"The Art of Wrath" from the October 12, 2017 issue

To the Editors:

I would like to comment briefly, in Hayden Pelliccia’s discussion of Iliad translations, mine included [NYR, October 12], on the much-debated “reading” by Zenodotus of daita (feast, banquet) rather than the otherwise unanimous pasi (all) at the very beginning of the Iliad, changing the fate of the Greek battlefield corpses at Troy from being “carrion for dogs and all birds [of prey]” to “carrion for dogs, for birds a feast.”

We are told that this is “a much better reading,” and so indeed it is. But we are also told that reading it “is what everybody wants to do but nobody dares,” that we translators are “recapitulating a long-standing scholarly failure of nerve.” Here I beg to differ. We need to be a little clearer, to begin with, about the source of our information, and what that source actually says. It comes in a long second-century-CE work called the Deipnosophistai, or Scholars at Dinner, by Athenaeus of Naukratis, in Egypt. It is he who informs us that Homer uses the term dais, daita, only of humans, not of animals, which (despite what Professor Pelliccia writes) is true: the apparent lone exception was only created by a clever piece of repunctuation. Athenaeus is scolding Zenodotus for not knowing this, when writing (not reading) daita in his edition. It was an un-Homeric usage.

Thus, daita is Zenodotus’s own proposed emendation. He may have found it in a lost manuscript: we don’t know, but it’s unlikely. Or it may simply be his suggestion as an improvement for the admittedly uninspiring pasi. What we do know is that pasi, however uninspiring, is the unanimous reading of all manuscripts. Further, it is extremely unlikely that it got there by accident, or that daita would ever have been ousted from the manuscript tradition by pasi through corruption. We are left with the real possibility that pasi was what Homer actually wrote. He did nod on occasion. This possibility, and not a failure of nerve, is the reason for sticking with the vulgate, rather than accepting Zenodotus’s tempting rewrite.

Peter Green
The University of Iowa
Iowa City, Iowa

Hayden Pelliccia replies:

In claiming daita (in line 4) was “Zenodotus’s own proposed emendation” of these famous lines, Professor Green omits a relevant piece of evidence: an independent source tells us that Zenodotus regarded lines 4–5 as inauthentic. It is doubtful that he polished them up before deleting them.

Green follows Athenaeus in missing the point of Homer’s gruesome misapplication of “formal banquet” to suggest what birds do to warriors’ corpses. But Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides all got it. Each of them “misapplies” “banquet” words to precisely the same effect. (The passages are assembled in the Basel commentary.)

Green concludes with an appeal to textual conservativism: the “admittedly uninspiring” pasi (all) is what the manuscripts unanimously read. But “all” is not so much uninspiring as incorrect, as Green tacitly concedes when he qualifies it in his translation: “carrion for dogs and all birds of prey.” In his letter he brackets the words “of prey” as if trying to disown them, as well he might: the rotting carcasses at Troy would have been picked over by carrion birds—crows, ravens, vultures—whose weak beaks require flesh torn open and rotting, not by birds of prey equipped to rend the living. Green’s supplement is unhelpful to his case, but what is telling is that he felt forced to make one: if he really believes we have good “reason for sticking with the vulgate” in this case, why is he unable to do so?


If Green is referring to Il. 24.43-5 when he writes: "the apparent lone exception was only created by a clever piece of repunctuation", I'm not sure I understand his argument.

. . . λέων δ᾽ ὣς ἄγρια οἶδεν,
ὅς τ᾽ ἐπεὶ ἂρ μεγάλῃ τε βίῃ καὶ ἀγήνορι θυμῷ
εἴξας εἶσ᾽ ἐπὶ μῆλα βροτῶν ἵνα δαῖτα λάβῃσιν

Again, I think this is fair use.
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Re: πασι or δαιτα?

Postby jeidsath » Sat Nov 25, 2017 3:24 pm

I think that mwh convinced me last time. It's hard to see how it would have gotten there, and I'm not sure that "he was making them spoil for dogs and a banquet for birds" is better.

1) The change from πᾶσι to δαῖτα takes a powerful and grim descriptive phrase and expresses it in more high-flown language.

2) I feel that δαῖτα doesn't fit the imperfect, subordinate use of τεῦχε as well as πᾶσι.

3) οἰωνός shouldn't be treated so shabbily. Leaving the poetic emphasis on οἰωνός makes the phrase "all birds of prey" or even better, "all birds of omen," reinforcing the picture of slaughter and the will of Zeus.

4) The idea of a "feast" seems a little comic (dinner-party?) once we take away the English connotation of engorging oneself.

And reading through the discussion, I don't feel that Homer was particularly concerned about the distinction between carrion birds and birds of prey, or how leaving οἰωνός unqualified would remove that (mild) inaccuracy.
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Re: πασι or δαιτα?

Postby Hylander » Sat Nov 25, 2017 4:41 pm

The change from πᾶσι to δαῖτα takes a powerful and grim descriptive phrase and expresses it in more high-flown language.


δαῖτα is powerful; πᾶσι, as everyone else thinks, ends the phrase with a weak and bland word. And what is "high-flown" about δαῖτα?

δαῖτα doesn't fit the imperfect, subordinate use of τεῦχε as well as πᾶσι.


??? ἔθηκε and προΐαψεν are aorist, while imperfect τεῦχε emphasizes the lingering effect of the aorists, but I'm at a loss to understand how πᾶσι fits the imperfect better than δαῖτα.

Leaving the poetic emphasis on οἰωνός makes the phrase "all birds of prey" or even better, "all birds of omen," reinforcing the picture of slaughter and the will of Zeus.


δαῖτα balances ἑλώρια, as οἰωνοῖσί balances κύνεσσιν, yielding a chiasmus. "Birds of omen" is not implied in οἰωνοῖσί, any more than κύνεσσιν implies the will of Zeus.

The idea of a "feast" seems a little comic


δαῖτα is not comic, it's sardonic if anything. It didn't seem comic for Aeschylus to write (Suppl. 800-1) κυσὶν δ᾽ ἔπειθ᾽ ἕλωρα κἀπιχωρίοις / ὄρνισι δεῖπνον οὐκ ἀναίνομαι πέλειν. Echoing his text of Homer.

I haven't read the arguments in favor of δαῖτα in the Basel commentary.
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Re: πασι or δαιτα?

Postby Paul Derouda » Sun Nov 26, 2017 12:14 am

This question is a matter if life and death, so I’m glad you raised it again.

Last time when we had the poll, I swapped sides several times to maintain the suspense, but I guess I’m with the majority of scholars: δαιτα is a lot nicer, but πασι is more likely to be original.

The ultimate proof that δαιτα is better is that George R.R. Martin pilfered it and made it the title of his book A Feast for Crows. (I haven’t read the books, but I’ve been watching the series as a poor sustitue for Westworld after I’d seen all episodes.)
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Re: πασι or δαιτα?

Postby danbek » Mon Nov 27, 2017 5:14 am

Hylander, thank you for posting this, very interesting discussion. I'm just beginning my Homer studies, and wasn't yet aware that a question like this about the text occurs so early on in the Illiad!

It's interesting to me that Pharr's textbook uses δαῖτα.

Cunliffe uses this phrase with πᾶσιν in his example for the 2.a. entry for οἰωνός, "a bird of prey".

A question: What about substituting "every" for "all", i.e., "carrion for dogs and every bird of prey"? To my ear this sounds better than using "all", and it also sort-of implies that every *kind* of bird of prey is involved, not literally all existing birds of prey. But maybe if Homer meant to say "every kind" he would have used some other word?
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Re: πασι or δαιτα?

Postby danbek » Mon Nov 27, 2017 5:28 am

If I'm reading my Cunliffe correctly, he uses Illiad I.5 as an example of πᾶς meaning "All the" in definition 2.a. But under entry 2.b., I think he is saying that "all kinds of" is correct in some cases (or is he saying that is is only valid in E 60?)
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Re: πασι or δαιτα?

Postby Paul Derouda » Mon Nov 27, 2017 5:31 am

Danbek, you might want to have a look at another thread to which this one is a continuation: viewtopic.php?f=22&t=65285.

I think Homer means ”all kinds of birds”, ”birds of every kind”, even if doesn’t exactly say that. Every/each would be εκαστος, but I don’t know if you can really use that here.
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Re: πασι or δαιτα?

Postby jeidsath » Mon Nov 27, 2017 4:18 pm

the rotting carcasses at Troy would have been picked over by carrion birds—crows, ravens, vultures—whose weak beaks require flesh torn open and rotting, not by birds of prey equipped to rend the living


Many types of birds (including hawks and eagles) will eat carrion opportunistically.

From Quora (mostly New World birds, but still applicable):

The most "famous" carrion-eaters include the New World vultures and several species of buzzards. Many of these birds specialize exclusively in carrion.

A further suite of species are opportunistic foragers in this regard-- they will eat carrion if it is availible but do not usually depend upon it for survival. This group includes corvids (crows, jays, and allies), storks, gulls, and many procellarids (seabirds) especially the giant petrels.

It is worth mentioning that many birds engage in occasional consumption of carrion, especially in climates where resources are few or seasonal. For example, it is common to see chickadees and woodpeckers visiting an animal carcass in winter in the boreal North and scraping off the last bits of frozen meat after the more specialized carrion-eaters have had their fill. (Side note-- almost all birds will pick at bones to get calcium which they need to make eggshells, but bones aren't usually considered carrion.)
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Re: πασι or δαιτα?

Postby Paul Derouda » Mon Nov 27, 2017 9:12 pm

Οιωνος is typically a large bird like an eagle. Anyway, the image is striking (even if δαιτα is even more so) — first we’re told that heroes were made carrion for dogs, and then ”for all the birds too” is immediately added. πασι implies a multitude of birds of a multitude of different sorts, which in turn suggests a great multitude of corpses.

Also, I think it’s for a deliberate effect that the poet uses a word like οιωνος, which typically belongs to grander contexts — like omens — and is applied to birds of the grander sort like eagles. Now, everything is reversed: heroes (ηρωων) become just carrion and οιωνοι are no longer birds of omen or anything of the like but scavengers.
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