Iliad 13, 441-444

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Re: Iliad 13, 441-444

Post by Bart » Tue Mar 10, 2015 8:13 pm

You've convinced me, Paul. Lungs it is.

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Re: Iliad 13, 441-444

Post by Paul Derouda » Tue Mar 10, 2015 8:52 pm

Let's not make things too simple :) How about this one (6.523-4):
ἀλλὰ ἑκὼν μεθιεῖς τε καὶ οὐκ ἐθέλεις· τὸ δ’ ἐμὸν κῆρ
ἄχνυται ἐν θυμῷ

So the heart is somehow inside the θυμός? The φρένες are often called the seat of the θυμός. How can the θυμός be the seat of the heart then? Can we imagine that the heart is inside the "breath" that is in the lungs? Or perhaps this one should be taken metaphorically, like "passion, indignation"? Complicated, really.

Yet a couple more interesting ones:

τῇς ἐν μὲν νόος ἐστὶ μετὰ φρεσίν, ἐν δὲ καὶ αὐδὴ
καὶ σθένος (18.419) ("intelligence" is located "between" the φρένες...)

διχθά μοι κραδίη μέμονε φρεσίν Π 435

ἄλλα οἱ κῆρ ὅρμαινε φρεσὶν ᾗσιν σ 345.

θάρσυνόν οἱ ἦτορ ἐνὶ φρεσίν Π 242

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Re: Iliad 13, 441-444

Post by Bart » Wed Mar 11, 2015 9:46 am

Oh no! Don't confuse me. I like my φρένες to be unequivocal...

Of course, behind all this hypothesising is the unspoken assumption that the poet himself has a consistent image of what the φρένες are. That's not necessarily the case. In fact the multitude of possible attributions can be a sign that it isn't.
Or, alternatively, we're pushing too hard to translate this thing φρένες into our own anatomical terms (one name, one organ), but it just won't fit.

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Re: Iliad 13, 441-444

Post by jeidsath » Wed Mar 11, 2015 2:11 pm

The pleura parietalis.
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Re: Iliad 13, 441-444

Post by Bart » Wed Mar 11, 2015 3:27 pm

Mmm, the pleura aren't that easily visible. The first known description of a membrane enveloping an organ (without explicitly mentioning the lungs) is apparently by Aristotle (Πάντα δὲ τὰ σπλάγχνα ἐν ὑμένι ἐστίν· see http://www.loebclassics.com/view/aristo ... 23.285.xml)
And anyhow, if we wonder why Homer is so obsessed with a relatively obscure anatomical structure as the midriff, surely the same goes for the pleura.

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Re: Iliad 13, 441-444

Post by jeidsath » Wed Mar 11, 2015 5:56 pm

You are probably right. Beyond pointy-weaponed warfare, the Greeks would have gotten a lot of their anatomical ideas from animal butchering. They would have had names for structures visible from those two sources, but not much else.

I got the pleura idea after reading in the Onomasticon here:

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Re: Iliad 13, 441-444

Post by Paul Derouda » Wed Mar 11, 2015 10:39 pm

I don't understand what the Onomasticon means by saying that the thymus gland (nothing to do with the Homeric thymus, I presume!) is situated ὄπισθεν. Last time I checked, the thymus (which atrophies in humans after puberty) is right behind the sternum, i.e. in front of everything else.

Another funny thing is that πλευρα means side/flank in Homer in the singular and rib in the plural.

I think pleura plarietalis is much too pedantic. I think we should discount any interpretation that implies a systematic study of anatomy.

I googled "how to gut an animal" and this is the first hit I got (the same link I posted earlier). Note especially "ESOPHAGUS - This is the throat/windpipe which connects the mouth with both the lungs and the stomach. It contains a lot of cartilage and gristle, and is not really worth eating." Oh, the esophagus is a throat/windpipe? Thanks, I didn't know. Anyway, with posting this link my point was also to illustrate the level anatomical sophistication we should aim to see where Homer probably was as well. There's some interesting, conspicuous stuff (clearly definable organs you can eat and others you should avoid eating unless well prepared) and then there's a lot of uninteresting and undefinable membranes and ligaments and cartilage and other inedible stuff that are just on your way when you try to gut your animal. I wouldn't think Homer has a name for everyone of these. (I suppose the diaphragm is edible but I have never heard anyone commending its taste or indeed commenting its edibility in any way)

"Or, alternatively, we're pushing too hard to translate this thing φρένες into our own anatomical terms (one name, one organ), but it just won't fit."
Perhaps this is closest to the truth after all. One interpretation (I don't remember whose) was that φρενες is an anatomically vague term like entrails - a vague term for the contents of the thoracic cavity, like entrails for the the contents of the abdominal cavity. This isn't necessarily in contradiction with "lungs". When we say entrails, we often mean "the bowel" in the first place; for the chest organs, the lungs are the most prominent ones after the heart (which has several terms of its own, and is probably usually considered a separate entity), so perhaps the term was sometimes specific term for the lungs, sometimes a more vague term analogical to "entrails" but in the chest, and sometimes a derived, more abstract term similar to our mind/soul.

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Re: Iliad 13, 441-444

Post by Niedzielski » Tue Mar 24, 2015 8:31 pm

Niedzielski wrote:For in that case I propose to refine Homeric aesthetics as follows: when concessions to realism must be made, they may exaggerate the thing conceded, as it is said of lies that are more believable when they are more absurd.
Here is another interesting passage in the last book, when Homer adds a curious phrase that exaggerates the detail of Priam's long abstention from sleep: "for never yet have mine eyes closed beneath mine eyelids since at thy hands my son lost his life", and the detail about grovelling in dung complements somewhat his fasting.

Or what sayest thou, oh Master of the Word of Homer, is the passage not a touching piece of art, wherein the one liar meets his match? For surely the man is simply speaking rhetorically, as the situation requires?

Edit: second singular is sayest, not sayeth!!
Last edited by Niedzielski on Wed Mar 25, 2015 6:41 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Iliad 13, 441-444

Post by mwh » Wed Mar 25, 2015 3:08 am

If this is addressed to me—your alienatingly mannered style makes it hard to tell—I’d say that the expression is a graphic way of saying that he hasn’t had any sleep since. Even if it’s not literally the case (and how can we know?), it doesn’t have anything to do with lying. And yes, he is “speaking rhetorically, as the situation requires.” Just as his earlier great speech was a speech of persuasion, of supplication, an appeal to pity, so in a minor way is this follow-up. He is asking to stay the night, and has to do what he can to have his request granted, as anyone asking for something has to do. The only way he can do so in the present circumstances is by emphasizing his need, stressing once again his pitiability.

Any rhetorician would recognize this. If you can't force someone to do what you want him to do, you have to persuade him (or deceive him, Odysseus' third option). What we have here follows the standard asking-for-a-favor protocol, whereby you make your claim on the potential grantor as strong as you possibly can. Dozens of examples in the Iliad, including prayers of course. There the do-ut-des principle operates (“If ever I did X for you, you now do Y for me,” or failing that “Do X for me and I’ll do Y for you”), but suppliants can only try to induce pity. (Which Priam does supremely well, to the point where Achilles himself suffers for having caused him suffering, and what hero ever did that? It’s a sign that he no longer sees Priam as an enemy, but can empathize with him.)

Looking at it in this way makes it seem more cynical and calculated than it is, but we can see the pattern at work. But of course there’s so much more going on here. The reconciliation, incomparably moving as it is, has just been marked by their quite extraordinary mutual wonderment (Δαρδανιδης Πριαμος θαυμαζεν Αχιλληα | … Δαρδανιδην Πριαμον θαυμαζεν Αχιλλευς | 629-31, cf. 483f.), and is cemented by Priam’s willingness to participate once more in the routines of life, eating and drinking—and now sleeping (and all under Achilles’ roof). His saying he has done none of these things till now brings out the significance of his willingness now to rejoin the world and no longer devote himself to unrelieved suffering. For sleeping, like eating and drinking, and their mutual gaze, is a pleasurable activity, and one in which they will indulge jointly (ταρπωμεθα κοιμηθεντες 636, cf. ταρπησαν 633), just as they had eaten and drunk together. (There it was Priam who had yielded to Achilles’ speech of persuasion—which depended, incidentally, on the invented [sic] exemplum of Niobe!—and now we have the reverse.)

And now Priam will not even need to make what would have been his final plea, for suspension of hostilities for the burial of the body whose return he has secured by his successful appeal to Achilles’ pity. It took not the gifts, de rigueur but in this case proving redundant, but the identification of himself with Achilles’ own father, the masterstroke of the poem which unites the two of them in sorrow, remembrance, and fellow-feeling.

You may not agree, and perhaps I have not written as coherently as I might have, but no more insulting replies please.

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Re: Iliad 13, 441-444

Post by Paul Derouda » Fri May 22, 2015 7:46 pm

I ran into phrenes again in Herodotus, a passage where I think the interpretation "lungs" is, again, the correct one. I know Herodotus is not Homeric Greek, but I would suppose that his Ionic is closer to it than Attic or the medical writers. Besides, this passage is in hexameter and so mimics the Homeric style. An oracle supposedly uttered by the Pythia (1.47):

οἶδα δ’ ἐγὼ ψάμμου τ’ ἀριθμὸν καὶ μέτρα θαλάσσης,
καὶ κωφοῦ συνίημι, καὶ οὐ φωνεῦντος ἀκούω.
ὀδμή μ’ ἐς φρένας ἦλθε κραταιρίνοιο χελώνης
ἑψομένης ἐν χαλκῷ ἅμ’ ἀρνείοισι κρέεσσιν,
ᾗ χαλκὸς μὲν ὑπέστρωται, χαλκὸν δ’ ἐπιέσται.

Landmark Herodotus translates the underlined verse "Into the depth of my senses has come the smell of hard-shelled tortoise". I don't think "the depth of my senses" is wrong, but wouldn't it be quite fitting if phrenes had also the more concrete meaning of "lungs"?

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Re: Iliad 13, 441-444

Post by mwh » Tue May 26, 2015 12:59 am

The interesting thing is how very unHomeric this is. Is there a single instance in Homer where φρενας could possibly mean “lungs” or anything like it? People persuade them, gods take them away, etc., etc.; they’re not physical organs, and no smell ever reaches them.

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Re: Iliad 13, 441-444

Post by Paul Derouda » Tue May 26, 2015 7:07 pm

"Is there a single instance in Homer where φρενας could possibly mean “lungs” or anything like it?"

If you're not even slightly convinced by any of the examples given earlier in this thread, I don't think it's very likely anything will... Still, I'll repeat a few given already.

Most of the time the word phrenes has two quite distinct uses in Homer. There are contexts where the word has, like you say, no obvious physical reality, where it's more a manner of speaking than an organ. Then you have the cases where it is a very real organ, typically either wounded or potentially wounded by a weapon – I suppose you were not talking about this category? E.g.

Il. 16.481 αλλ’ εβαλ’ ενθ’ αρα τε φρενες ερχαται αμφ αδινον κηρ. ("lungs" (or whatever) are confined (by the ribs?) around the beating heart OR lungs are packed around the beating heart?)
Od. 9.301 ὅθι φρένες ἧπαρ ἔχουσι (lungs line the liver)

Usually the two uses (the phrenes as the seat of emotions/consciousness and phrenes the organ) don't overlap, but how about this one:

Od. 5.458 ἀλλ᾽ ὅτε δή ῥ᾽ ἄμπνυτο καὶ ἐς φρένα θυμὸς ἀγέρθη
(Odysseus landing in Scherie after an age-long, exhausting swim)
I find it hard not consider ἄμπνυτο and ἐς φρένα θυμὸς ἀγέρθη virtually synonymous, "caught his breath", an instance of the device (pardon the word) so common in Homer of repeating the same essential idea twice on the same line. For me, φρένα on this line has both a physical reality and an abstract quality, the second half of the line also having the more abstract meaning of "regained his senses" (To me the idea suggested is one where you're panting so hard after an intense effort that you feel dizzy; when the panting ceases, the dizziness also subsides).

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Re: Iliad 13, 441-444

Post by mwh » Wed May 27, 2015 2:00 am

A misunderstanding, Paul. I was speaking of the 60-odd occurrences of φρένας accusative. My post was a little too cryptic.

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Re: Iliad 13, 441-444

Post by mwh » Wed May 27, 2015 2:32 am

So to be a little less cryptic: Isn’t it striking how few occurrences of the word in whatever case or number seem to designate any particular organ?

Certainly the Odyssey’s eccentric ὅθι φρένες ἧπαρ ἔχουσι looks as if it’s anatomical, but still it’s rather vague, and a very odd way to describe the relationship of lungs to liver. (It rather suggests that the liver is contained within the φρένες.) As for the Homeric phrase ἐς φρένα θυμὸς ἀγέρθη, it’s far from clear to me that φρένα is to be imagined as designating “a physical reality.”

I wouldn’t question that in such quasi-anatomical descriptions as occur—very few, as I say—the description can be viewed as more or less consistent with identification with the lungs. What I would question is something you said earlier. When I’d suggested that “Where and what they are has little bearing on what they do,” you said “the physiological identification can definitely help to understand the assigned function.” I don’t see that understanding the φρενες’ function(s) is in any way facilitated by their physiological identification, about which there is in any case no agreement. We know that the capacity to think (to take their most prominent function) is not located in the lungs.

I’d be happier with your previous suggestion that it’s an “opaque poetic word” that medical writers turned into a technical term. For physiological identificaton they’ll have relied on the very passages that you and others have mentioned. You seem to think that the physical sense is somehow basic, and the use you call “a manner of speaking” secondary. I wonder if this might be the wrong way round. Words like φρενες and θυμος are in constant use, endowed with various functions and properties, and just now and again the impulse to give them some kind of physical identity and location within the body makes itself felt. (Even the adamantly incorporeal ψυχη flies upon release.) If the primary meaning of φρένες were “lungs,” I think it’s hard to explain how men go on living when they’re deprived of them, and the problem is not magicked away by saying the word has two distinct uses.

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Re: Iliad 13, 441-444

Post by Bart » Wed May 27, 2015 4:49 am

mwh wrote:If the primary meaning of φρένες were “lungs,” I think it’s hard to explain how men go on living when they’re deprived of them, and the problem is not magicked away by saying the word has two distinct uses.
In the same way we live on after someone took 'our heart away'.

mwh wrote:So to be a little less cryptic: Isn’t it striking how few occurrences of the word in whatever case or number seem to designate any particlar organ?
I'm not sure of course, but I guess that when counting the instances of the word 'heart' in an average English novel, you might see more or less the same situation: lots of metaphorical use and manner of speech, only few references to the heart as organ.

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Re: Iliad 13, 441-444

Post by Paul Derouda » Wed May 27, 2015 8:33 pm

Bart's post is straight to the point. One further comment: while our heart as a metaphorical figure and as an anatomic concept are completely separate (for the simple reason that everybody knows now that the brain is the seat of thinking and emotions), for the ancient Greeks they need not always be, although in Homer the two are kept always or almost always distinct. The fact is that they did believe that emotions, consciousness etc. are located in the chest area, and for that reason the gap here between metaphor and anatomical/physiological description was not as big for them as is for us. A phrase like "think about it deep in your heart" can only be taken metaphorically by us, but not necessarily by the Greeks, though it certainly can be and often will be.

I don't think it's really relevant which meaning is primary and which secondary - they obviously go way back, probably thousands of years at least, Homer did not invent them. (Interesting anthropological question: is it common in "primitive" societies that the heart and the chest are the seat of emotions and consciousness?) However, Homer had some sort of idea where and how thinking and emotions occur, and an attentive reading of the texts can help us try to understand it. The problem is of course that sometimes the words are used rather illogically in (often probably inherited) turns of phrases, like our "she broke my heart"; but parallel to these the words have an anatomical meaning (as evidenced by the wounding scenes in the Iliad), and I would find it surprising if outside the set phrases Homer used these terms contrary to his own conceptions of anatomy and physiology, which he shares with his contemporaries. These words have a meaning for him, however vague and even contradictory; he does not deploy them at random, and he is not trying to create a new system out of old words and expressions he doesn't understand.

Why did the Greeks and other ancients think the seat of their emotions and consciousness was inside their chest? I think verses like ἀλλ᾽ ὅτε δή ῥ᾽ ἄμπνυτο καὶ ἐς φρένα θυμὸς ἀγέρθη are a good clue. Strong emotions make your heart beat, panic attacks make you hyperventilate besides and give all sorts of other physical symptoms, etc. This particular line, like I suggested in the previous post, is about how catching your breath after a physical effort makes you regain your normal state; quite logically, Homer thinks that breathing heavily after an effort allows you to gather something back inside your chest that had been dispersed.

Later medical writers are a completely different matter, and "opaque poetic word" turned into a medical term applies only to them. They did not understand what Homer exactly had in mind. (Their "conception of the soul" wasn't necessarily that different though (I really don't know), only they didn't use the same words.)

"Certainly the Odyssey’s eccentric ὅθι φρένες ἧπαρ ἔχουσι looks as if it’s anatomical, but still it’s rather vague, and a very odd way to describe the relationship of lungs to liver. (It rather suggests that the liver is contained within the φρένες.)"
It might well be this line that gave rise to the belief that phrenes is the diaphragm, a use that continues even contemporary medical vocabulary. The liver actually bulges a long way inside the thorax, and I wouldn't find it very odd to say that the lungs contain the liver, because the lungs surround the liver almost completely from all sides except the inferior surface (with the membrane-like diaphragm in between), though it's not that obvious form a two-dimensional illustration. Actually the liver is bit of a problem when viewing the inferior parts of the lungs in a chest X-ray, because it gets in the way.

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Re: Iliad 13, 441-444

Post by mwh » Wed May 27, 2015 10:55 pm

A fair point, Bart, so far as it goes, but does the analogy hold? The heart is a bodily organ, which in our culture gets invested with romantic metaphoricity. Cupid’s arrows, anyone? (Any valentine's card will undermine Paul's you-shall-not-pass separation of metaphorical figure and anatomical concept.) It doesn’t follow that the φρενες are a bodily organ (or organs?) only metaphorically endowed with predominantly mental functions. It begs the question to suppose that, and I don’t buy it.

φρονεῖν is the verb, with multitudinous cognates—σωφρονειν, ευφρονειν, δυσφρων, αφρων, φρονιμος, etc etc etc, lungs a million miles from all of them. As I see it, φρήν and φρένες are simply concretizations of φρονεῖν. When a god takes a man's φρενες away, it’s his capacity for sensible thought, his φρονειν-ability, that he loses. I don't see this as metaphorical, or as a mere facon de parler; he is literally deprived of his φρενες. It’s understandable that from time to time, when the body is penetrated, they should be represented in quasi-physical terms and brought into relation with real body organs such as heart and liver. They must be somewhere inside, after all, and somewhere in the chest area is the obvious place to locate them.

But if you find it enlightening to think of the φρενες as the lungs, who am I to stop you?

I think I agree with most of what Paul says here but not all, but I won’t argue further. I can’t bring myself to care much whether in anatomical descriptions Homer is to be understood as identifying the φρενες with the lungs or with something else or with nothing in particular. It doesn’t impinge on my appreciation of the poems.

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Re: Iliad 13, 441-444

Post by Paul Derouda » Sat Mar 12, 2016 9:12 am

This doesn't prove anything, of course, but I noticed to my great satisfaction that Martin West translates φρένες "lungs" at least twice in his English rendering of the Theogony.

(553 ff.)
χερσὶ δ' ὅ γ' ἀμφοτέρῃσιν ἀνείλετο λευκὸν ἄλειφαρ,
χώσατο δὲ φρένας ἀμφί, χόλος δέ μιν ἵκετο θυμόν,
ὡς ἴδεν ὀστέα λευκὰ βοὸς δολίῃ ἐπὶ τέχνῃ.
"With both hands he took up the white fat; and he grew angry about the lungs, and wrath reached him to the spirit, when he saw the white oxbones set for a cunning trick."

(688)
εἶθαρ μὲν μένεος πλῆντο φρένες, ἐκ δέ τε πᾶσαν
φαῖνε βίην
"Straightway his lungs were filled with fury, and he began to display his full might."

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