Odyssey 10.167

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Paul Derouda
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Odyssey 10.167

Post by Paul Derouda » Sun Oct 25, 2015 3:00 pm

τῷ δ᾽ ἐγὼ ἐμβαίνων δόρυ χάλκεον ἐξ ὠτειλῆς
165εἰρυσάμην: τὸ μὲν αὖθι κατακλίνας ἐπὶ γαίῃ
εἴασ᾽: αὐτὰρ ἐγὼ σπασάμην ῥῶπάς τε λύγους τε,
πεῖσμα δ᾽, ὅσον τ᾽ ὄργυιαν, ἐυστρεφὲς ἀμφοτέρωθεν
πλεξάμενος συνέδησα πόδας δεινοῖο πελώρου,
βῆν δὲ καταλοφάδεια φέρων ἐπὶ νῆα μέλαιναν
170ἔγχει ἐρειδόμενος, ἐπεὶ οὔ πως ἦεν ἐπ᾽ ὤμου
χειρὶ φέρειν ἑτέρῃ: μάλα γὰρ μέγα θηρίον ἦεν.

Odysseus has killed a huge deer. He puts his foot on the animal and draws his spear out. Then he plaits a rope, but I don't fully understand how, especially not the meaning of the word ἀμφοτέρωθεν. According to the Oxford commentary (and Ameis-Hentze-Cauer seems to take it similarly), "πεῖσμα belongs with ἐυστρεφὲς, ἀμφοτέρωθεν ('from both sides', i.e. 'from both end, with both hands') with πλεξάμενος". This seems forced to me. Is it possible to plait both ends at the same time, one end with one hand while the other hand plaits the other end? (I have no experience in plaiting osiers...).

Merry-Riddell seems less strained and makes a bit more sense to me:
ἀμφοτέρωθεν, as meaning ‘starting from both ends, or sides,’ may be used loosely to express the whole extent of the rope, as sup. 88 “πέτρη τετύχηκε διαμπερὲς ἀμφοτέρωθεν”, or Od.7. 113“περὶ δ᾽ ἕρκος ἐλήλαται ἀμφοτέρωθεν”. It seems better however to join it closely with πλεξάμενος, regarding the rope as consisting of two strands, which passed alternately from one side to the other in the process of plaiting. Translate, ‘across and across;’ ἐυστρεφές will then be taken predicatively with “πλεξάμενος”, ‘till it was well twisted.’
I'd be thankful for any ideas.

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Re: Odyssey 10.167

Post by mwh » Sun Oct 25, 2015 5:48 pm

How to make a 6-foot rope. Take two withies. Take hold of one end of one with one hand, and one end of the other with the other. Twist them together, to the length of 6 feet. Do it well, and you can say you have a πεισμα, οσον τ’ οργυιαν, ευστρεφες αμφοτερωθεν πλεξαμενος.

(Alternatively, use three and plait them. http://www.wikihow.com/Braid-Hair.)

I wouldn't press the meaning of verse-end αμφοτερωθεν too hard—compare the other Homeric occurrences. It could be taken as applying specifically to ευστρεφες or to the operation as a whole. Might you have misunderstood the Oxford/AHC notes, though? I’d guess they don’t mean to refer to both ends of the rope but to both its strands, much as Merry describes the process (except doesn’t “plaiting” require more than two?).

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Re: Odyssey 10.167

Post by Paul Derouda » Sun Oct 25, 2015 7:05 pm

No, I wouldn't think I misunderstood. I gave a direct quote from the Oxford commentary: "πεῖσμα belongs with ἐυστρεφὲς, ἀμφοτέρωθεν ('from both sides', i.e. 'from both end, with both hands') with πλεξάμενος".

I have no experience in twisting or plaiting ropes. Perhaps just twisting two withies together is enough for the short use Odysseus has in mind, but to me that sounds like something that's going to unwind and disintegrate almost instantly. Besides, ῥῶπάς τε λύγους τε seems to mean more than just two withies. Have you actually made or seen someone make such an improvised rope by twisting two withies together?

To me also it seems more natural to interpret ἀμφοτέρωθεν to mean strands, not ends. If Odysseus were plaiting, that would involve three strands (with perhaps several withies in each?), but you'd be alternately moving a strand that is either on one side or the other, never the one in the center – hence, perhaps, ἀμφοτέρωθεν?

But maybe it's not very important, just almost a filler word like the almost omnipresent μεγάροισιν?

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Re: Odyssey 10.167

Post by mwh » Mon Oct 26, 2015 12:45 am

How tiresome the details of Homeric Realien are, ships and distaffs and all that. But here for once, yes, I have personal experience. We grow osiers, and put the withies to garden use in multiple ways—hoop tunnels, woven barriers, and yes, tying things up and hauling. They can easily be woven, or made into simple rope the way I described. They’re flexible and stronger than you might think. For rope you can tie the ends off, or for tying together dead deer feet (which I admit I’ve never used them for) or similar purposes you’d temporarily secure the starting end, maybe with your foot, proceed to twist the two withies together, take hold of both ends (which will indeed unravel if you don’t, you’re right), string it around what you want to tie (e.g. a deer’s legs), pull tight and tie the ends together.

You don’t haul the deer with the rope but carry it slung around your neck and shoulders (καταλοφαδεια). http://www.wisconsinhistory.org/Content ... =R:IM55798 (complete with rope).
You shouldn’t need to strengthen the rope, but you can do so by plaiting, or by twisting two or more ropes together in turn. And of course you don’t have to use withies, you can use all sort of plants, alive or dead. http://www.instructables.com/id/Make-ro ... -no-tools/.
ρωψ for ropes. :)

I only suggested you might have misunderstood because of your question “Is it possible to plait both ends at the same time, one end with one hand while the other hand plaits the other end?” The answer is No way, and I doubt that that is what the commentators meant, whatever their wording (the Oxford note you quote is less than clear). But either way, the fault is the commentators’, not yours.

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Re: Odyssey 10.167

Post by Paul Derouda » Mon Oct 26, 2015 6:05 pm

Thanks a lot!

I don't find these Homeric realia so boring, all this stuff that people made themselves or had to know in the ancient times but we take for granted. But well.

That picture is very illuminating. The men there do it a bit differently, however, than how the commentaries interpret what Odysseus is doing. In the picture, the men are carrying the animals feet bound together in pairs so that two legs form a loop, and the arms are put through these loops like through the straps of a backpack. It looks much more convenient that way than the way described in the commentaries. The commentaries suggest that all four feet are bound together; Odysseus puts his head through, and then he carries the animal either the carcass resting on his neck (Merry-Riddell and AHC) or hanging down forward (Heubeck/Oxford commentary; now that sounds inconvenient). Not that this has any importance at all, but somehow I feel that none of these writers have any experience of what they're talking about. Maybe the description is elliptic and Homer just didn't give a damn whether the stag's feet were bound two by two or all four together?

(Actually, I checked Ludwich: there are manuscripts with the readings πείσμαθ' and πείσματα, which would be more in line with that picture of yours, i.e. binding legs in twos with two ropes. And if plural were the true reading, would it be too forced to read ἀμφοτέρωθεν with συνέδησα, i.e. the two legs together on each side? The intervening word πλεξάμενος is harsh, but it would make much sense.)

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Re: Odyssey 10.167

Post by mwh » Tue Oct 27, 2015 2:14 am

Yes Paul I know I should be more interested. It’s just not what I read Homer for.

The plural can’t be right. Asyndeton surely unacceptable. The reading will originate in the very common confusion of δ’ and τ’/θ’ (or else with someone with a mind like yours :) ).

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Re: Odyssey 10.167

Post by Paul Derouda » Wed Nov 04, 2015 4:58 pm

Had another look at this. You must be right that the plural is wrong. But ἀμφοτέρωθεν seems strained, however I take it. I'm still entertaining the idea that we should read ἀμφοτέρωθεν with συνέδησα, i.e. that Odysseus binds the legs together in twos, as illustrated in the photograph. There doesn't have to be two ropes, it's feasible with a single rope (the first man in the photo seems to do it that way). The intervening πλεξάμενος is harsh though, but otherwise the deer is strangling Odysseus, and that's pretty harsh as well.

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Re: Odyssey 10.167

Post by mwh » Wed Nov 04, 2015 9:59 pm

No, my stylistic instincts rebel against having αμφοτερωθεν leapfrog πλεξαμενος so as to go with συνεδησα. I don’t know what Ameis-Henze-Cauer say exactly but Merry-Riddell seem to have it right, construing it with πλεξαμενος. Just for you, who I know won’t believe anything unless it’s experientially validated :) , I take an iphone cord and a headphones cord here on my desk (yes, who needs ever to leave their desk?), take one in either hand and begin “plaiting” them together—one from one side, the other from the other, i.e. αμφοτερωθεν.

Odysseus did that (only not with electrical cords) and then tied the creature’s feet together—we’re not concerned with how, whether in pairs or all four together, or what kind of knot he used. If Homer pictured it to that degree of detail he doesn’t care to tell us. It’s the rope-making he (briefly) describes, πεισμα - πλεξαμενος. Then for tying the feet together unelaborated συνεδησα ποδας is enough.

Now you can move on to precisely how he carried the monstrous beast. I think I’ll stay out of that.

A companion passage you might have adduced is where Odysseus strings his bow, like a singer stringing his forminx ἅψας ἀμφοτέρωθεν ἐϋστρεφὲς ἔντερον οἰός. But that, let me say preemptively, won’t justify taking the adverb with συνεδησα here.

I rather regret sending you that photo. It wasn’t meant as an exact model.

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Re: Odyssey 10.167

Post by Paul Derouda » Thu Nov 05, 2015 8:54 pm

I suppose you are right as usual about ἀμφοτέρωθεν. Still I think the picture is right about how the poet pictured Odysseus carrying his pray, and the commentaries wrong. :)

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