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Dossier : Place aux objets ! Présentification et vie des artefacts en Grèce ancienne

Odysseus’ Bed: Between Object and Action

Le lit d’Ulysse : entre objet et action

Ruth Webb

Résumé

Si la qualité essentielle du lit enraciné d’Ulysse est clairement décrite dans le discours qu’il adresse à Pénélope (Odyssée, 23.183-204), bien d’autres caractéristiques de cet objet sont escamotées. Cet article propose une analyse de ce discours en tant que narration détaillée de la fabrication du lit (ekphrasis tropou) en se concentrant sur son caractère homodiégétique et sur les actions évoquées. Pour Pénélope, le discours rend présent le jeune Ulysse à travers la restitution de ses gestes productifs alors que, pour les lecteurs ou auditeurs, le vocabulaire employé permet de voir dans ce récit de fabrication un résumé du mariage et des aventures d’Ulysse.

Texte intégral

  • 1 The first version of this paper was presented at the 2015 CorHaLi meeting in Paris. I am grateful (...)
  • 2 See Zeitlin 1996. On the raft see, in particular, Dougherty 2001.

1The world of Homer’s Odyssey is full of things1: things exchanged, things given, things lost, things serving as tokens of recognition and instruments of vengeance, Odysseus’ raft is put together only to disintegrate.2 Among this constant movement and flux one thing is immovable, the bed that Odysseus made, another object that reveals his skill as a craftsman, his practical mêtis. And yet this bed, paradoxically, only emerges at the very end of the epic, at the moment of Odysseus’ reunion with Penelope in Book 23. It is made visible in a speech by its maker that raises many question about the bed as object even as it reveals its defining characteristic: its rooted immobility.

  • 3 See Zeitlin 1996. Odysseus had asked Telemachus to let his mother test him at 23.113-114.
  • 4 As de Jong (2001, p. 557) points out, the speech has a “multiple ring composition”, starting and e (...)
  • 5 Odyssey 23.205-6: ὣς φάτο, τῆς δ᾽ αὐτοῦ λύτο γούνατα καὶ φίλον ἦτορ,/ σήματ᾽ ἀναγνούσῃ, τά οἱ ἔμπε (...)

2Odysseus makes this speech at a crucial moment in his return. It is addressed to Penelope who is still reluctant to recognise the stranger as her husband, even after his slaughter of the suitors. In a display of her own cunning intelligence, Penelope asks her maid to bring the bed out of the chamber for the stranger.3 Odysseus at first expresses his distress that this bed could have been moved, his bed which he and no one else made (23.189 τὸ δ' ἐγὼ κάμον οὐδέ τις ἄλλος) and which contains within it a “great sign” (23.188 μέγα σῆμα). He then proceeds to describe the way in which he built the thalamos around an olive tree growing within the house and shaped that tree into a bed (lechos) before asking whether this bed is still in place (ἔτ᾽ ἔμπεδον 23.203) or whether some man has moved it (23.203-204).4 In response Penelope’s heart and knees go weak as she recognises the signs (sêmata) spoken by Odysseus.5 This bed, then, is one of the signs (sêmata) that Penelope had just referred to when she reassured Telemachus that she and the real Odysseus had their own way of recognising one another:

         εἰ δ᾽ ἐτεὸν δὴ
ἔστ᾽ ᾿Οδυσεὺς καὶ οἶκον ἱκάνεται, ἦ μάλα νῶϊ
γνωσόμεθ᾽ ἀλλήλω καὶ λώϊον· ἔστι γὰρ ἥμιν
σήμαθ᾽, ἃ δὴ καὶ νῶϊ κεκρυμμένα ἴδμεν ἀπ᾽ ἄλλων.

If it really is Odysseus and he has come home, then we two will recognise each other better, for we have signs (sêmata) hidden in our minds that we, and no others, know. (Odyssey, 23. 107-110)

  • 6 Odyssey 17.300-327 and 19.467-470, cf also 4.143 (Helen recognises Odysseus in Troy).
  • 7 Throughout the earlier books, Penelope sleeps and works in an upper room (huperôion, dômata or dom (...)

3Odysseus’ acceptance by his wife – the condition of his return as head of the household – is therefore based not on the recognition of the physical characteristics of a person (as when Eurycleia and Argos recognise Odysseus) or of an object,6 but on the verbal revelation of a piece of shared knowledge. Through his words, Odysseus reveals that he carries “hidden” in his mind a private sign shared only with Penelope. The speech thus has a persuasive function within the world of the Odyssey, designed as it is to convince its internal audience, Penelope, of Odysseus’ identity. It achieves this goal by expressing in words intimate details that no stranger could know while simultaneously telling the external audience composed of listeners or readers what was significant about the structure of the bed. Both audiences, internal and external, are called upon to imagine, since even Penelope is not in the physical presence of the bed as she listens. The two processes of reception are different, however, in that Penelope knows, we assume, the bed’s characteristics from experience, whereas the listener/reader learns here of its existence, and of the thalamos that contains it, for the first time and is entirely reliant on Odysseus’ speech.7

  • 8 On the question of whether Penelope is to be thought of as recognising Odysseus before Book 23, se (...)

4Any recognition through artefacts activates the social networks which entangle people and things, even more so when, as here, the object is only present within an act of communication. We can compare the quasi-recognition of Book 19.249-250 where Penelope responds not to the direct, physical perception of a thing within her sphere of vision but to a verbal account given by the still-disguised Odysseus of the clothes he was wearing when he left for Troy (19.225-235). The passages are linked by the recurrence of the line telling of her recognition of the sêmata (19.250 = 23.206) although Penelope’s visible reaction is different. She does not, however, openly recognise the disguised Odysseus but responds to the description of his former self by weeping (19.249).8 What distinguishes the account of the bed is that now Odysseus is speaking as himself, “I” refers to Odysseus himself, not to a persona adopted by the disguised Odysseus and that this speech brings about his recognition.

  • 9 Starobinski 1975, p. 349-351; Katz 1991, p. 176-191.
  • 10 Zeitlin 1996 ; cf. also Katz 1991, p. 176-191.
  • 11 Perceau 2002, p. 124-128 and 192-195.
  • 12 Zeitlin 1996 and Foley 1997.
  • 13 Dougherty 2001.
  • 14 The passage has been defined as a “dynamic description” by de Jong 2001, p. 557 and as a “descript (...)
  • 15 As is shown by Bakker 2005, Homeric poetry enacts enargeia long before its theoretical articulatio (...)

5This crucial moment in Odysseus’ reintegration and in the reestablishment of his authority has attracted much attention. These interpretations have underlined the function of the bed as an object that crosses boundaries, as Odysseus himself does.9 It is halfway between the natural world and the cultured world of the house and as such, it brings the outside into the domestic interior. The function of the rooted, immovable bed, positioned at the centre of the house, as a symbol of marital fidelity has also been emphasised, particularly by Zeitlin whose interpretation brings out the deep vein of anxiety about female desire and fidelity that runs throughout the passage.10 Perceau has focussed on the speech as an act of communication and persuasion and on the rhythms and sonorities of its language.11 A central question in all analyses is how the bed constitutes a sêma, and what it is a sêma of.12 Odysseus’ account has also been linked to other passages : particularly the construction of the raft in Book 5.228-261, where the poet recounts how Odysseus, with Calypso’s help, constructs a vessel that is in many ways the polar opposite of the bed.13 Here, I will focus on the presentation as a narrative of making,14 which aims to place the subject matter before the eyes through the technique named ekphrasis or enargeia by later ancient critics.15

  • 16 See Webb 2009, p. 64-67 and 69-70. Roby 2016 examines this type of ekphrasis in later technical li (...)
  • 17 See Webb 2009, p. 167-191.

6To take a step away from the Odyssey for a moment, this mode of presentation of an object through the process of making was recognised in later Greek rhetoric and criticism as a form of ekphrasis, the ekphrasis of the tropos or the “manner in which” something was made.16 The relevance of rhetorical handbooks to archaic poetry, or indeed any poetry, is of course limited. Not only are they late in date but their goals are pragmatic and their authors are only interested in pointing out the capabilities of language to “place before the eyes”, not the inherent problems or ultimate impossibility of that goal.17 Where they may be helpful is in reminding us of the extent to which our own presuppositions and interpretative categories are modern, designed largely for readers of printed texts, and therefore in indicating that different reading strategies might in turn bring out different aspects of passages like these. I will ask what the effect on the internal and external audiences is and what is gained by considering the passage as a narrative account of a process, rather than as a description of an object and, in my reading will place particular emphasis on the verbs used to denote Odysseus’ actions.

7In his speech to Penelope, Odysseus says:

ὦ γύναι, ἦ μάλα τοῦτο ἔπος θυμαλγὲς ἔειπες.
τίς δέ μοι ἄλλοσε θῆκε λέχος; χαλεπὸν δέ κεν εἴη
καὶ μάλ᾽ ἐπισταμένῳ, ὅτε μὴ θεὸς αὐτὸς ἐπελθὼν     185
ῥηϊδίως ἐθέλων θείη ἄλλῃ ἐνὶ χώρῃ.
ἀνδρῶν δ᾽ οὔ κέν τις ζωὸς βροτός, οὐδὲ μάλ᾽ ἡβῶν,
ῥεῖα μετοχλίσσειεν, ἐπεὶ μέγα σῆμα τέτυκται
ἐν λέχει ἀσκητῷ· τὸ δ᾽ ἐγὼ κάμον οὐδέ τις ἄλλος.
θάμνος ἔφυ τανύφυλλος ἐλαίης ἕρκεος ἐντός,     190
ἀκμηνὸς θαλέθων· πάχετος δ᾽ ἦν ἠΰτε κίων.
τῷ δ᾽ ἐγὼ ἀμφιβαλὼν θάλαμον δέμον, ὄφρ᾽ ἐτέλεσσα,
πυκνῇσιν λιθάδεσσι, καὶ εὖ καθύπερθεν ἔρεψα,
κολλητὰς δ᾽ ἐπέθηκα θύρας, πυκινῶς ἀραρυίας.
καὶ τότ᾽ ἔπειτ᾽ ἀπέκοψα κόμην τανυφύλλου ἐλαίης,      195
κορμὸν δ᾽ ἐκ ῥίζης προταμὼν ἀμφέξεσα χαλκῷ
εὖ καὶ ἐπισταμένως καὶ ἐπὶ στάθμην ἴθυνα,
ἑρμῖν᾽ ἀσκήσας, τέτρηνα δὲ πάντα τερέτρῳ.
ἐκ δὲ τοῦ ἀρχόμενος λέχος ἔξεον, ὄφρ᾽ ἐτέλεσσα,
δαιδάλλων χρυσῷ τε καὶ ἀργύρῳ ἠδ᾽ ἐλέφαντι·      200
ἐν δ᾽ ἐτάνυσσ᾽ ἱμάντα βοὸς φοίνικι φαεινόν.
οὕτω τοι τόδε σῆμα πιφαύσκομαι· οὐδέ τι οἶδα,
ἤ μοι ἔτ᾽ ἔμπεδόν ἐστι, γύναι, λέχος, ἦέ τις ἤδη
ἀνδρῶν ἄλλοσε θῆκε, ταμὼν ὕπο πυθμέν᾽ ἐλαίης.

  • 18 Cf. Odyssey 5.245.

What you have said, wife, pains my heart. Who has moved my bed (lechos) elsewhere? That would be hard even for an exceedingly skilled man, unless a god himself were to come and place it in another spot with ease, according to his will. But no mortal man living, even in the fullness of youth, could easily displace that bed – because a great sign (mega sêma) has been made in the well-worked bed: it was I who made it and no other. A bushy olive tree with long leaves was growing inside the courtyard or domain, healthy and in full-growth. Thick it was, like a column. Surrounding it I started building a bedroom (thalamos) until I completed it, with close packed stones, and I built a solid roof above it, I added on closely joined doors, well fitted together. Then I cut off (apekopsa) the top of the long leaved olive and, trimming it from the root, I smoothed (amphexesa) the trunk with bronze well and skilfully, and I made it true (ithuna) to the line,18 fashioning a hermis, and I drilled (tetrêna) all around with a drill. Starting from there I sculpted (exeon) the bed (lechos) until I completed it, decorating it with gold and silver and ivory. On it I stretched a strap (himas) of leather gleaming with purple. Thus do I declare to you this sign (sêma), and I do not know at all whether my bed (lechos) is still in place (empedon) or whether some man has now placed it elsewhere, having cut beneath it the base of the olive.

  • 19 Epic language provides ways of working the craftsman’s prior actions into the description of a fin (...)
  • 20 The most famous Homeric narrative of making is the Shield of Achilles, Iliad 18.468-608. Two other (...)

8Such an important object clearly merits this degree of verbal emphasis but the mode of presentation is worth noting. Odysseus could have described it in its current state (“the bed is rooted to the ground/decorated with gold, silver and ivory….”),19 or he could have given a much shorter account of the making that conveyed its essence. Alternatively, the poet himself could have explained Odysseus’ astonishment by explaining in the third person how the bed was made.20 These alternative modes of presentation serve to bring out what is extraordinary in Odysseus’ speech. The bed is only once the subject of the verb “to be”, at line 203, when Odysseus asks whether it is still in place (empedon), otherwise it is made present through an account of its coming into being rather than through a purely constative statement of its features. Most unusually, speaker and maker, the creator of the bed and of the speech, are one and the same.

The bed as object

  • 21 The use of this term ties the bed to the institution of marriage as pointed out by Froma Zeitlin 1 (...)
  • 22 Odyssey 8.278: ἀμφὶ δ᾽ ἄρ᾽ ἑρμῖσιν χέε δέσματα, “around the hermeis he poured/placed bonds”. On th (...)

9The bed itself is referred to in the text as a lechos (λέχος) in Odysseus’ introductory words at 23.184, when he asks, “who has moved my bed (lechos) to a different place?”, and again in lines 199 and 203.21 But what of its appearance and form? Of the parts of the bed, only one is mentioned by name: the mysterious hermis which is fashioned once the tree has been shorn of its branches, leaves and bark. The hermis then, belongs to the bed as artefact but, beyond that, its sense is unclear. The term occurs only here and, in the plural, in the account of Hephaistos’ bed in the story of Ares and Aphrodite in Odyssey 8, where Hephaistos drapes his net around the hermeis, trapping the lovers.22 The meaning we ascribe to the term is thus entirely dependent on our conception of the bed’s structure. Another part of the structure that is named is the strap, himas, clearly to be understood as an element of the bed, perhaps a part of a woven surface. However, these himantes are polyvalent objects, found as components of chariots, helmets, weapons, on doors as part of their locking mechanism, and used as reins or even as the magic belt of Aphrodite in Iliad 14.214, 219, leaving obscure the function and nature to be ascribed to the himas as part of the bed. By contrast, the olive tree and its parts are named several times: it has long leaves (l.190), a trunk, roots and branches (referred to as its “hair”, κόμην). The material out of which the bed is made is also specified – olive wood and the gold, silver and ivory that decorate the bed, as well as the tools used: the generalising “bronze” and the more precise “drill” or “gimlet”.

  • 23 Zeitlin 1996, p. 52. Katz 1991, p. 180, similarly notes the “opacity” of the text. It is difficult (...)
  • 24 Russo et al. 1992, p. 335, explain the line 198 as follows “By skilfully working it [kormon] as a (...)
  • 25 Di Benedetto 2010, ad loc.

10So, if the matter is identified very precisely, and some parts named, the overall form of the bed remains unclear, rendering the object itself difficult to conceive. The reader or listener is inevitably tempted to reconstruct and to create her own imaginary bed, but the invitation is deceptive. As Zeitlin points, out, “No blueprint can be extracted from the details of the bed’s manufacture”, a fact that is intimately linked to the bed’s function as sign.23 This difficulty has not prevented commentators from attempting to explain the passage in terms of known objects in the real world. Most see a bed standing on four legs, one of these being constituted by the olive tree.24 However, as Di Benedetto points out, there is nothing in Odysseus’ words to support this interpretation.25 Instead, it is a solution that emerges from attempts to reconcile the text with a pre-existing idea of what a bed should be. These attempts are based in turn on the unspoken assumption that the poet is describing – through Odysseus’ words – an entity that has an existence in the world outside the text and that obeys the rules of objects there and the further assumption that the function of a description is to accurately transmit information about a pre-existing object. It may be true that, within the palace of Odysseus, there is a fictional object known to him and Penelope, that he is describing through an account of its fabrication and against which this account could hypothetically be evaluated. For the reader, however, there is no such pre-existing object, only the words of the poem.

  • 26 This is the solution proposed by Russo et al. 1992, p. 335.
  • 27 Odyssey 5.247-248: τέτρηνεν δ᾽ ἄρα πάντα καὶ ἥρμοσεν ἀλλήλοισι, /γόμφοισιν δ᾽ ἄρα τήν γε καὶ ἁρμον (...)

11The model of the bed in which the olive trunk forms one leg while the other three are joined on does not correspond to those words. Instead it requires other pieces of wood to be fixed to the olive trunk but, although the vocabulary for this type of banausic action existed in epic diction (see below), it is not used here. Instead, we find the action of smoothing, sculpting and shaping (xeô) – presented as a process through the use of the imperfect – which modifies the form of the whole block (23.196) and appears thus to create the hermis (23.198) out of the olive tree’s trunk. The intervening line, which adds more detail to the account of the process, contains the formulaic statement “I made it true to the line” (ithuna), which is found with variants at several places in the poem including the construction of the raft (5.245). Then Odysseus pierces with a drill before fixing the strap (himas). If we do want to understand what the object resulting from these actions might have been like, the words seem to imply a trunk wide enough to form the whole base. Somehow holes were drilled (23.198) and a strap was fixed. As readers, we might choose to imagine the strap being passed through the holes to form a woven surface for the couple to lie on.26 But, again, the connection between the action, the parts and finished object is left unstated. The contrast with the construction of the raft is informative: there the poet tells us that Odysseus “drilled through all the timbers and fitted them to each other, fixing them together with pegs and joints,”27 making perfectly clear the purpose of the holes. As this contrast implies, the epic language possessed the means to describe the act of joining in a manner that was clear to the audience and corresponded to their experience of tangible objects in the real world. If the bed is far more difficult to conceive of both as a process and as a finished object, this is the result of a deliberate choice.

12I offer these remarks about the structure not as part of an attempt to reconstruct the object but as a kind of thought experiment. The bed is distinguished by the difficulty the reader has in conceiving of it as a finished object and by the need to fill in the gaps and to propose means of articulating the discrete elements mentioned by Odysseus. In the end, it is the absences that are most clear – the lack of mention of the type of fitting and nailing that characterised the fabrication of the raft and that made the raft prone to disintegration at the first storm. The bed, by contrast, is said to be shaped out of (xeô) one single block, an idea that corresponds to the qualities of solidity and resistance, its quality of being so rooted, so empedon that it would require a superhuman force to undercut it (hupo temnô 23.204). This tree-bed hollowed out of the base of the trunk is thus remarkable and singular as an object, impossible to reproduce in the absence of another identical tree and maker, impossible even to conceive of fully for anyone, that is, apart from Odysseus and his internal audience, Penelope.

Processes

  • 28 Dougherty 2001, p. 177-183.

13Carol Dougherty has emphasised the differences between the bed and the raft and the metapoetic implications of these.28 Where the bed is made of a single piece, still rooted in the ground, the raft is made of several trees, cut down and removed from the place where they were growing, then joined together, all of which conditions the nature of the end product. However, the focus that I am suggesting we place on actions and materials (rather than on the end product) is an encouragement to cast our net wider and to consider other episodes alongside the building of the bed and the raft. One particularly interesting case is the blinding of Polyphemos which fits perfectly into the category of the ekphrasis tropou but is not usually considered alongside the raft and the bed because the process does not result in an artefact but is part of a longer narrative. We can, however, see these three scenes as forming a network. In recounting his actions in the Cyclops’ cave, Odysseus tells Alkinoos and the Phaeacians how he and his companions prepared the stake to plunge into Polyphemus’ eye:

Κύκλωπος γὰρ ἔκειτο μέγα ῥόπαλον παρὰ σηκῷ
χλωρὸν ἐλαΐνεον· τὸ μὲν ἔκταμεν, ὄφρα φοροίη
αὐανθέν….
τοῦ μὲν ὅσον τ᾽ ὄργυιαν ἐγὼν ἀπέκοψα παραστὰς
καὶ παρέθηχ᾽ ἑτάροισιν, ἀποξῦναι δ᾽ ἐκέλευσα·
οἱ δ᾽ ὁμαλὸν ποίησαν· ἐγὼ δ᾽ ἐθόωσα παραστὰς
ἄκρον, ἄφαρ δὲ λαβὼν ἐπυράκτεον ἐν πυρὶ κηλέῳ.
καὶ τὸ μὲν εὖ κατέθηκα κατακρύψας ὑπὸ κόπρῳ.

The Cyclops had a great club lying alongside the pen: it was of green olive-wood, and he had cut it for carrying when seasoned…. Standing over it, I cut off (apekopsa) about a fathom’s length, which I gave to my companions and told them to plane it (apoxunai). They made it smooth, and then set about hardening the point in the burning fire. Then I stowed it away well, hiding it under the dung. Odyssey 9, 319-321, 325-329 (Tr. Hammond, modified).

  • 29 Odysseus’ action in the Cyclops’ cave is thus a classic case of “bricolage” and “detournement” as (...)
  • 30 The olive is comparable to the trees in Laertes’ orchard that are also growing, rooted, within Ody (...)
  • 31 Hodder 2012 explores the different relationships between humans and things and between things and (...)

14As in the account of the bed, there is olive wood that Odysseus cuts off (apekopsa) and shapes (here through the actions of others). Like the wood for the raft, however, the stake comes from the territory of another and is specifically presented as Polyphemos’ property for which he has his own purpose.29 And, like Calypso’s trees, the stake is removed from the ground it grew in. The tree of the bed, by contrast, is within Odysseus’ domain and it not only remains in place but dictates the location of Odysseus’ creation.30 The tree is, in fact, the first subject of a verb in the detailed account of construction (following Odysseus’ claim that he made the bed at 23.189): θάμνος ἔφυ τανύφυλλος, “a bushy tree was growing” (23.190). Moreover, it is the position of the tree, already a metaphorical column (23.191), that dictates both the location of the chamber built around it and the form of the bed. The making of the bed thus stages the entangled interdependence of humans and things: Odysseus responds to the position, shape and material of the tree which in turn takes on the shape he imposes upon it.31 It is not only the bed as object that brings together culture and nature, the actions involved in its making entwine both.

  • 32 West 2014, p. 294, states that the “metal and ivory facings” served to conceal the olive stump and (...)
  • 33 Compare the sêma mentioned by Nestor as a landmark for the chariot race in Iliad 23.331-332 and wh (...)
  • 34 Katz 1991, p. 178-179, emphasises the function of the speech as a reconstitution of prior actions.
  • 35 Even here, the reference to the materials is not unambiguous. The πυκνῇσιν λιθάδεσσι used by Eumae (...)
  • 36 In this case, the material is the wood of the trunk but it has undergone an unspecified transforma (...)
  • 37 Perceau 2002, p. 15-35, shows that the type of communication denoted by the verb katalegô is based (...)

15The contrast with the raft and the preparation of the stake further underlines the essential obscurity and unknowability of the bed as object (what is the himas, how is it fixed, where are the gold, silver and ivory decorations, what are they like?).32 However, the actions that bring it into existence are clearer (the difficulty lies in understanding their coherence as a sequence of productive gestures working on the material). The resulting object is a sêma of these actions – a visible and tangible trace of those gestures made, much as the sêma or tomb of the hero is a trace of the actions of his companions and a mark of his former presence at a particular point in time and space.33 The bed as related in Odysseus’ speech is thus a sign of his own prior presence in the bedroom and of his agency.34 However, the object itself remains elusive, at least partly as a result of the sentence structure itself. When Odysseus describes the building of the wall that defines the chamber he says “I built a room with close-packed stones” θάλαμον δέμον…ἐτέλεσσα / πυκνῇσιν λιθάδεσσι (23.192-193), using a transitive verb, direct object and an instrumental dative specifying the material, telling us clearly what was made, from what action and out of what materials.35 In the making of the bed, by contrast, there is no such completeness. At one point the poet uses a verb, a direct object and an instrumental dative (“I smoothed the trunk with bronze”) κορμὸν… ἀμφέξεσα χαλκῷ (23.196), with no information as to the end product or the precise form or function of the tool (or weapon) employed. Elsewhere, the accusative is used to state the result (hermin) of an action (askêsas) (23.198),36 or we find simply an action and instrument paired as in tetrêna teretrôi (the wonderfully tautologous “I drilled with a drill”) (23.198). Each time some element is missing, and the resulting incompleteness of the information is one reason why the bed is so difficult to conceive of and ultimately elusive, an empty space defined by the artist’s gestures (like the invisible box conjured up by the mime artist’s movements). We may question the status of this bed even within the fictional world depicted in the poem. As noted above, the lechos is only once the subject of the verb “to be” and even then within an indirect question (23.203) as Odysseus wonders whether it is still empedon. Penelope does not give a direct reply, simply confirming that he has “set out” (katalegô) the sêmata of the bed.37 Because Odysseus avoids making statements about what the bed “is”, its qualities as an object and its very existence transcend the dichotomy of “true” and “false”. What matters is the impact on the audience and what remains are the actions he ascribes to his younger self.

Odysseus as actor and maker

  • 38 Starobinski 1975, p. 348: “Irrefutable proof will be furnished by lasting traces of past acts: tra (...)

16The comparison with the raft and the stake also underlines, if it needed underlining, the importance of the use of the first-person singular by Odysseus (in contrast to the actions in Polyphemus’ cave which are sometimes in the first person singular sometimes in the first-person plural, or the account of the building of the raft where Odysseus’ actions are described by the poet). Here, Odysseus says “I cut” (ekopsa, 23.195), “I smoothed” (amphexesa, 23.196), “I straightened” (ithuna, 23.197), “I pierced” (tetrêna, 23.198), “I sculpted” (exeon, 23.199), “I stretched” (etanussa, 23.201). We understand that he is also the subject of the participles: “cutting” (protamôn, 23.196), “shaping” (askêsas, 23.198) and “decorating” (daidallôn, 23.200).38

  • 39 Starobinski 1975, p. 349: “The ‘I have made’ together with the object made is more probative than (...)
  • 40 See Odyssey 14.321, 19.185.

17In his 1975 article, Starobinski noted the importance in this scene of Odysseus’ ability to say “I have made” in proving his identity in assuring his passage from outside to inside.39 I would like to explore this further in two directions, first considering its implications in the context of Odysseus’ return, then with respect to the detail of the verbs used and the actions they evoke. In the second half of the Odyssey, Odysseus’ “I” is usually an invented persona. This is particularly clear at those moments in the false tales where Odysseus the beggar tells how he saw or nearly saw Odysseus.40 Here, at last, at the moment of his definitive reunion with Penelope, Odysseus the speaker fully matches up with Odysseus the actor. His account, moreover, corresponds to the sêma hidden in Penelope’s mind, as we see from her response.

18Odysseus’ use of the first person singular in front of an audience capable of verifying the match between speaker (now) and actor (then) brings about his reunion with himself. In an earlier recognition scene, the language he used at Book 21.207 (cf. 24.321) to reveal his identity to Eumaios revealed the difficulty of declaring “I am here”, “I am myself” or “I am I”). His exact words to Eumaios are “ἔνδον… ὅδ᾽ αὐτὸς ἐγώ”, literally, “inside/in the palace (endon), this man himself/myself I” or “here I [am] myself”. Until we hear the personal pronoun, the words could be referring to another, particularly as the deictic ὅδε (“this [man]”) most naturally refers to someone or something distinct from speaker and addressee. Moreover, the omission of the verb “to be”, a banal feature of the Greek language, takes on special significance in this context. Not before we reach the first-person verb in the following line (ἤλυθον εἰκοστῷ ἔτεϊ ἐς πατρίδα γαῖαν, “I have come in the twentieth year to my homeland” 23.208) is the tension is fully resolved, making the sentence mimetic of Odysseus’ long delayed return.

  • 41 See Bakker 2005.
  • 42 For the suggestion that Odysseus’ tales to the Phaeacians involve a form of performance of his adv (...)
  • 43 Odyssey 19.26-28. See for example Letoublon 2014, p. 301-309.
  • 44 The brief description of Eurybates is cited as an example of the ekphrasis of a person by Theon, P (...)

19In his narrative of making the bed, by contrast, Odysseus the storyteller is freshly identified with the Odysseus maker within the palace. The difference in time is also abolished, in one sense because each gesture remains inscribed in the wood, in another sense – despite the use of the past tenses – because, in speaking his actions, Odysseus places them before the eyes (in ekphrasis) just as the bard brings the events of the heroic past before his audience through his performance.41 More than that, I would like to suggest that Odysseus through his words engages not just in an act of recollection but in a re-enactment of this earlier making, he does not simply tell, he performs the making of the bed. For Penelope, of course, he reveals his knowledge not just of the actions performed as facts (from the perspective of an observer) but as gestures, as bodily knowledge from within.42 Odysseus now enters not just his house (endon…egô) but his own body, the body that has been estranged from him. And nowhere is this estrangement more manifest than when he tells his false tale to Penelope, claiming to have seen Odysseus on his way to Troy (19.221-248). The stranger describes the clothes Odysseus was wearing, especially the golden brooch depicting a dog catching a deer that has been discussed as an example of a description of a work of art,43 and the appearance of his herald Eurybates at 19.245-248.44 He does not describe the appearance of Odysseus himself and yet Penelope’s reaction at 19.249-250 is dramatic: she “weeps, recognising the signs”. I would suggest that these signs are not just the physical tokens but are also encoded within the focalisation for it is noticeable in this passage that only things that Odysseus himself could have seen – his clothes, the decoration on those clothes, his herald – are made visible to her. Through the stranger’s narrative then and his account of Odysseus as object, as a third person to be looked at and described, emerges a trace of Odysseus as subject, able to perceive and describe his surroundings but not himself.

  • 45 See, for example, 5.243-248 αὐτὰρ ὁ τάμνετο δοῦρα· θοῶς δέ οἱ ἤνυτο ἔργον. / εἴκοσι δ᾽ ἔκβαλε πάντ (...)
  • 46 See, for example l.192. The use of ὄφρα to indicate purpose occurs just once in the longer account (...)

20It is significant, too, that the grammatical construction of this first person ekphrasis is different from that of the third person account of the raft which makes a great deal of use of finite verbs linked by the conjunctions δέ and καί (“and”).45 By contrast, the account of the making of the bed is far less paratactic: the actions are articulated through the use of participles and verbs (implying purpose and planning) and using the temporal conjunction ὄφρα.46 This articulation of actions, implied by the subordination of one verb to another, corresponds to the articulation of the body that accomplishes those actions and fulfils the thoughts and intentions – the identification and achievement of the telos – that we perceive as informing those actions. So, as he speaks within the world of the Odyssey, Odysseus is reperforming the unity of thought and gesture that gave rise to the bed and it is perhaps this unity, just as much as the resulting object, that constitutes the sêma recognised by Penelope. If so, the sêma created in the bed (23.188) may not be a physical characteristic, but the creating itself whose energy is reactivated in the telling.

  • 47 Froma Zeitlin 1996, p. 41-42, points out that this contributes to the identification between Odyss (...)
  • 48 I am grateful to Irene de Jong for pointing this out to me. On the connection between deictics and (...)
  • 49 See Bolens 2012.

21At least part of what Penelope recognises is the presence of the young Odysseus into whom the older Odysseus is transformed as he reperforms his former actions. His body has been rejuvenated just before our passage when, at 23.156, the poet tells how Athena transformed Odysseus’ appearance making him taller and stronger to look on (a process that is compared to the adornment of an artefact with silver and gold).47 And, although the poet says nothing explicit about gestures accompanying the telling, Odysseus’ concluding words are highly suggestive. When he says, “thus (οὕτω) do I declare to you this sign” the adverb could be taken to refer to the gestures perceived by Penelope as part of the telling and not only to the words.48 The audience are certainly encouraged to see in their mind’s eye the movements described, and may also be drawn to mentally simulate those actions and to attribute such a mental simulation to Odysseus himself.49 Thus the audience of the poem share, to some extent, both Odysseus’ relived experience and the process of the reliving.

  • 50 This productive ability of language to make present that which it speaks of is evident from the mo (...)

22Within the world of the poem itself there is one instance where a verbal account of an action brings about the performance in the real world of the poem of that action. This is the false story of the cloak at the end of Odyssey 14. Here the disguised Odysseus in his role as the illegitimate son of a Cretan aristocrat tells Eumaeus about an incident at Troy when Odysseus tricked a fellow soldier into leaving his cloak behind on a cold night so that the Cretan could take it and sleep wrapped up (14.462-506). This prompts Eumaeus to give the stranger (Odysseus) his own cloak (14.518-22). The swineherd’s action is not identical to that of the soldier in the story – he gives willingly – but the result is the same, the Cretan/Odysseus receives a cloak. Here, the words of Odysseus induce a mimetic effect transforming verbal fiction into material and gestural fact, the giving of a “cloak” (chlaina) in the stranger’s story causes a cloak (chlaina) to be given in the stranger’s world.50

  • 51 At 24.347 Laertes embraces Odysseus on recognising him.
  • 52 Starobinski 1975, p. 351, notes this violence but suggests that it is attenuated by being the resu (...)
  • 53 On the similarities between Penelope and the bed see Zeitlin 1996, p. 27. Deborah Steiner has poin (...)

23In the case of the bed, what Odysseus re-enacts is more than the shaping of an inert block. The contribution of the tree means that Odysseus relives through his retelling this union and collaboration with the material of the house itself. In “surrounding” (amphiballô) the tree with the walls of the thalamos, Odysseus also “clothes” or “embraces” it.51 But, as with the real events that bring about his reunion (real, that is, in the fictional world of the poem) there is also violence encoded into the bed – the tree is walled in, its hair is cut, it is forced to adopt a new shape and function through the use of bronze tools (or weapons).52 This prolepsis (on the level of the story) of the violence surrounding his return sheds another light on Odysseus’ harmonious reunion with Penelope, the other female being who has been shut in the house for all the years of his absence.53

Odysseus and his actions

  • 54 Katz 1991, p. 177-180, emphasises the function of Odysseus’ account of the bed as a reconstitution (...)
  • 55 Dougherty 2001, p. 180.
  • 56 At 22.467, the verb epentanuô is used of Telemachos’ stretching the ship’s cable in order to kill (...)

24The identity of Odysseus is thus interwoven with the bed; the account of its making plays this interrelationship out afresh as a process that is both unique and endlessly present within the bed-sign.54 What is more, on the level of the language (and this is an artefact made purely of words) the actions involved in its creation represent a synopsis of his entire story. First there are the formulaic lines designating – within the fictional world created – gestures repeated from the creation of the raft. The same verbs, implying the same actions, recur in the creation of the bed and the sharpening of the stake in Polyphemos’ cave. Then there are the polysemic verbs whose meaning within the context of the creation of the bed is clear but which are found elsewhere in different contexts with different meanings. The most striking of these, partly because its presence is so difficult to explain in the context of the bed, is tanuô, the act of stretching. In the making of the bed, it is the strap (himas) that is stretched but elsewhere the verb expresses the idea of arranging and stretching out an opponent on the ground (18.92). In the greatest proximity to the account of the bed, it is of course the verb used repeatedly of the action of stringing the bow in Book 21.55 Another significant verb is ithunô. It features in the formulaic line that occurs in the accounts of the bed and the raft (23.197, 5.245) and is a standard element in the carpenters’ repertoire of gestures, meaning “to straighten”. But it too has multiple meanings that are explored throughout the poem. Like tanuô, it does not occur at all before Book 5, when Odysseus enters the poem as a character. At 21.121 it is used of setting out the axes in a straight line, so that in both the trial of the bow and in the making of the bed tanuô and ithunô are used in tandem. Ithunô is also used of the work previously carried out on the door where the beggar Odysseus sits at 17.341 and on the door of the chamber where his weapons are kept (21.44) while in sailing it is used of keeping a course (5.255). In the middle voice it can mean to drive a weapon straight through the enemy, as Odysseus does to Antinoos at 22.8.56

25On another level, then, the verbal account of the making of the bed replays Odysseus’ story as narrative analepsis while the past actions described constitute a gestural prolepsis of Odysseus’ travels (ithunô) and the return and recognition (tanuô, ithunô). In its most basic sense of choosing a direction and sticking to it, the verb ithunô could be seen as emblematic of Odysseus, as could tanuô in the temporal sense of prolonging. On the level of the language, then, this ekphrasis tropou functions as a résumé of his life. The concrete result, the bed as sêma, functions to register and encode those acts and to root them in the ground (empedon).

  • 57 Foley 1997, p. 63: “The art of traditional poetry is an immanent art, a process of composition and (...)
  • 58 One enigma that remains is whether Penelope is to be thought of as having witnessed the making of (...)
  • 59 Perceau 2002, p. 126-127 and 194.

26So, within the narrative of the making of the bed, the actions referred to by each verb are (relatively) clear, but the verbal form in which they are encoded refers, within the economy of the Homeric poems, to other actions which involve different uses of the body. To extend Foley’s remarks about the metonymic character of epic language in general, these verbs in each single instance are metonyms for all their usages and the network of passages they bring together.57 What, then, is special about our passage? The account of the bed stands out because it is highlighted as a moment that demands attention both because of its content and because of its unique enunciative situation – Odysseus telling his own story to Penelope who is a partial witness (of the results if not of the action itself) in his own house. It is Odysseus the agent and subject that Penelope recognises as she gains a foretaste of his adventures (ithunô and tanuô), the reader simultaneously recognises these verbs and what they meant in other contexts. If the bed is a sêma it is not just because of its enduring qualities as an object but because of the process it bears inscribed in its form and in its telling. This is certainly implied in Odysseus’ concluding line when he tells Penelope “In this way I display to you this sign” (23.202: οὕτω τοι τόδε σῆμα πιφαύσκομαι). The declaration of the making of the bed, by its maker, in a manner that replays that act of making is, in itself, the sign to be recognised by Penelope.58 As Sylvie Perceau notes, the verb piphauskomai means more than just declaring verbally, it means to display, make visible.59 Together with the use of the deictic houtô (“in this way”) suggests that the sêma is constituted by the actions, whether played by Odysseus as gestures to accompany his telling or imagined by Penelope.

27The listeners’ experience is different. They, like Telemachos, are excluded from this reunion, not having the knowledge stored up in the minds of Penelope and Odysseus alone, and the deliberate difficulty created by the poet for anyone trying to reconstruct the bed ensures that this knowledge remains exclusive to them. Any gestural dimension of the performance is also fully visible to Penelope alone, as is any visual and tactile experience of the bed. And the bed is conceivable only to those who have seen it; in fact it is only knowable to those who have physically engaged with it – making it, lying on it, touching it, just as another sêma of Odysseus’ identity, the scar, is recognised by Eurykleia at 19.392-3 through touch, not sight and certainly not through words.

  • 60 In this I differ from Foley 1997, p. 75, for whom “the relationship between bed and identity, betw (...)

28One result is to eject the readers and listeners from the privileged position they have held until now. They alone (along with the poet) had full knowledge of Odysseus’ real identity, his plan and his innermost thoughts (e.g., most famously, at 20.5-22), in contrast to the characters, including (probably) Penelope herself. In compensation, however, they gain a different kind of knowledge of Odysseus from his words and from the act of placing these words within the network of the actions of Odysseus which they know, both from their listening and from the tradition, and which Penelope is yet to learn. It is in the retelling in the medium of the epic dialect that the making of the bed functions as a resume of Odysseus’ whole life and story,60 anticipating his final act of storytelling to Penelope.

Conclusion

29Considering the bed as a result of an action and the account of the making as an (autobiographical) narrative rather than a description of a pre-existing object unlocks further dimensions of this complex sign-thing and its place within a web of references in the epic. At the same time, it sheds light on the multi-levelled reception of the speech and its performance both by Penelope and the listeners who not only listen and watch but are involved themselves, through the ekphrasis, in the project of understanding and deciphering.

Bibliographie

Bakker 2005: Egbert Bakker, Pointing at the Past: From formula to performance in Homeric Epic, Cambridge MA.

Bolens 2012: Guillemette Bolens, The Style of Gestures: Embodiment and Cognition in Literary Narrative, Baltimore.

Certeau [1980] 1990: Michel de Certeau, L’Invention du quotidien 1 : arts de faire, Paris.

Cook 1999: Erwin Cook, “’Active’ and ‘Passive’ Heroics in the Odyssey”, The Classical World 93, 2, p. 149-167.

de Jong 2001: Irene de Jong, A Narratological Commentary on the Odyssey, Cambridge.

de Jong 2012: Irene de Jong, “Double Deixis in Homeric Speech: on the interpretation of ὅδε and οὗτος”, in Michael Meier-Brügger (ed.) Homer, gedeutet durch ein grosses Lexikon, Berlin-New York, p. 63-83.

de Jong 2015: Irene de Jong, “Pluperfects and the Artist in Ekphrases”, Mnemosyne 68, p. 1-28.

Di Benedetto 2010: Vincenzo Di Benedetto, Odissea, Milan.

Dougherty 2001: Carol Dougherty, The Raft of Odysseus: The ethnographic imagination of Homer’s Odyssey, New York.

Foley 1997: John Miles Foley, “Traditional Signs and Homeric Art”, in Egbert Bakker, Ahuvia Kahane (ed.), Written Voices, Spoken Signs, Cambridge MA, p. 57-82.

Galhac 2010: Sylvie Galhac, Le corps dans l’Odyssée, thèse de doctorat, Lille.

Grethlein 2008: Jonas Grethlein, “Memory and Material Objects in the Iliad and the Odyssey”, JHS 128, p. 27-51.

Henderson 1997: John Henderson, “The Naming of the Tree: recounting Odyssey XXIV, 340-2”, JHS 117, p. 87-116.

Hodder 2012: Ian Hodder, Entangled: An Archaeology of the Relationships between Humans and Things, Oxford.

Høgseth 2012: Harald Bentz Høgseth, “The Language of Craftsmanship”, in Marie Louise Stig Sorensen, Katharina Rebay-Salisbury (ed.), Embodied Knowledge: Historical Perspectives on Belief and Technology, Oxford, p. 95-105.

Katz 1991: Marilyn A. Katz, Penelope’s Renown: Meaning and Indeterminacy in the Odyssey, Princeton.

Letoublon 2014 : Françoise Letoublon, “Description, narration : la subtilité d’une agrafe”, in Sylvie Perceau, Olivier Szerwiniak (éd.), Polytropia : d’Homère à nos jours, Paris, p. 301-309.

Perceau 2002: Sylvie Perceau, La Parole vive : communiquer en catalogue dans l’épopée homérique, Louvain.

Purves 2010: Alex Purves, Space and Time in Ancient Greek Narrative, Cambridge.

Roby 2016: Courtney Roby, Technical Ekphrasis in Greek and Roman Science and Literature: The Written Machine between Alexandria and Rome, Cambridge.

Russo et al. 1992: Joseph Russo, Manuel Fernandez-Galiano, Alfred Heubeck, A Commentary on Homer’s Odyssey XVII-XXIV, Oxford.

Saïd [2010] 2011: Suzanne Saïd, Homer and the Odyssey, [Paris] Oxford.

Starobinski 1975: Jean Starobinski, “The Inside and the Outside”, The Hudson Review 28, 3, p. 321-351.

Webb 2009: Ruth Webb, Ekphrasis, Imagination and Persuasion in Ancient Rhetorical Theory and Practice, Farnham.

West 2014: Martin L. West, The Making of the Odyssey, Oxford.

Zeitlin 1996: Froma Zeitlin, “Figuring Fidelity in Homer’s Odyssey”, in Playing the Other, Chicago, p. 19-52.

Notes

1 The first version of this paper was presented at the 2015 CorHaLi meeting in Paris. I am grateful to the participants and to audiences at Cambridge, Columbia University and Amsterdam for their comments.

2 See Zeitlin 1996. On the raft see, in particular, Dougherty 2001.

3 See Zeitlin 1996. Odysseus had asked Telemachus to let his mother test him at 23.113-114.

4 As de Jong (2001, p. 557) points out, the speech has a “multiple ring composition”, starting and ending with Odysseus’ astonishment at the possibility that the bed could have been moved.

5 Odyssey 23.205-6: ὣς φάτο, τῆς δ᾽ αὐτοῦ λύτο γούνατα καὶ φίλον ἦτορ,/ σήματ᾽ ἀναγνούσῃ, τά οἱ ἔμπεδα πέφραδ᾽ ᾿Οδυσσεύς· 23.206 = 19.250; 205-206 = 24.345-346.

6 Odyssey 17.300-327 and 19.467-470, cf also 4.143 (Helen recognises Odysseus in Troy).

7 Throughout the earlier books, Penelope sleeps and works in an upper room (huperôion, dômata or domos) e.g. 1.328, 330; 4.679.

8 On the question of whether Penelope is to be thought of as recognising Odysseus before Book 23, see Saïd [2010] 2011, p. 276-314.

9 Starobinski 1975, p. 349-351; Katz 1991, p. 176-191.

10 Zeitlin 1996 ; cf. also Katz 1991, p. 176-191.

11 Perceau 2002, p. 124-128 and 192-195.

12 Zeitlin 1996 and Foley 1997.

13 Dougherty 2001.

14 The passage has been defined as a “dynamic description” by de Jong 2001, p. 557 and as a “description d’action” by Perceau 2002, p. 122-128.

15 As is shown by Bakker 2005, Homeric poetry enacts enargeia long before its theoretical articulation.

16 See Webb 2009, p. 64-67 and 69-70. Roby 2016 examines this type of ekphrasis in later technical literature.

17 See Webb 2009, p. 167-191.

18 Cf. Odyssey 5.245.

19 Epic language provides ways of working the craftsman’s prior actions into the description of a finished object as shown by de Jong 2015.

20 The most famous Homeric narrative of making is the Shield of Achilles, Iliad 18.468-608. Two other examples are more relevant here as they recount the construction of buildings in analepsis: the construction of Achilles’ hut, Iliad 24.448-456, and that of Eumaios’ hut, Odyssey 14.5-24.

21 The use of this term ties the bed to the institution of marriage as pointed out by Froma Zeitlin 1996, p. 28-29.

22 Odyssey 8.278: ἀμφὶ δ᾽ ἄρ᾽ ἑρμῖσιν χέε δέσματα, “around the hermeis he poured/placed bonds”. On the connections between the two beds thus linked through the vocabulary of their parts see Zeitlin 1996, p. 33-42.

23 Zeitlin 1996, p. 52. Katz 1991, p. 180, similarly notes the “opacity” of the text. It is difficult to agree with the claim by Perceau 2002, p. 126, that “aucun detail n’est oublié.”

24 Russo et al. 1992, p. 335, explain the line 198 as follows “By skilfully working it [kormon] as a bedpost [one of four]”. As the formulation shows, this interpretation requires supplementation.

25 Di Benedetto 2010, ad loc.

26 This is the solution proposed by Russo et al. 1992, p. 335.

27 Odyssey 5.247-248: τέτρηνεν δ᾽ ἄρα πάντα καὶ ἥρμοσεν ἀλλήλοισι, /γόμφοισιν δ᾽ ἄρα τήν γε καὶ ἁρμονίῃσιν ἄρασσεν.

28 Dougherty 2001, p. 177-183.

29 Odysseus’ action in the Cyclops’ cave is thus a classic case of “bricolage” and “detournement” as discussed by Certeau [1980] 1990, p. 31-49.

30 The olive is comparable to the trees in Laertes’ orchard that are also growing, rooted, within Odysseus’ domain. There, however, Odysseus’ connection is through ownership and his memory (albeit acquired through experience of the space) of their quantities. See Henderson 1997 and Purves 2010, p. 222-228.

31 Hodder 2012 explores the different relationships between humans and things and between things and things.

32 West 2014, p. 294, states that the “metal and ivory facings” served to conceal the olive stump and thus the secret of the bed. Nothing in the text directly supports this suggestion.

33 Compare the sêma mentioned by Nestor as a landmark for the chariot race in Iliad 23.331-332 and which is unrecognisable to the Achaeans as a Trojan sign. On this passage and on the wider relationship between objects and memory in Homeric epic see Grethlein 2008.

34 Katz 1991, p. 178-179, emphasises the function of the speech as a reconstitution of prior actions.

35 Even here, the reference to the materials is not unambiguous. The πυκνῇσιν λιθάδεσσι used by Eumaeus to chase off his dogs at Odyssey 14.36 cannot be comparable to the stones used to build the chamber.

36 In this case, the material is the wood of the trunk but it has undergone an unspecified transformation through the action of smoothing.

37 Perceau 2002, p. 15-35, shows that the type of communication denoted by the verb katalegô is based on a perception of reality and is adapted to the circumstances.

38 Starobinski 1975, p. 348: “Irrefutable proof will be furnished by lasting traces of past acts: traces branded in the body, traces graven into places and objects”.

39 Starobinski 1975, p. 349: “The ‘I have made’ together with the object made is more probative than ‘I am’ would have been.” Though it is important to note that, for the reader at least, “the object made” can never be together with the speech.

40 See Odyssey 14.321, 19.185.

41 See Bakker 2005.

42 For the suggestion that Odysseus’ tales to the Phaeacians involve a form of performance of his adventures and thus a reclaiming of his former identity see Cook 1999, p. 162. On the way in which gestures leave traces within actual wooden artefacts see Høgseth 2012. I am grateful to Deborah Steiner for this reference.

43 Odyssey 19.26-28. See for example Letoublon 2014, p. 301-309.

44 The brief description of Eurybates is cited as an example of the ekphrasis of a person by Theon, Progymnasmata 118 and Aphthonios, Progymnasmata, p. 37 (Rabe).

45 See, for example, 5.243-248 αὐτὰρ ὁ τάμνετο δοῦρα· θοῶς δέ οἱ ἤνυτο ἔργον. / εἴκοσι δ᾽ ἔκβαλε πάντα, πελέκκησεν δ᾽ ἄρα χαλκῷ, /ξέσσε δ᾽ ἐπισταμένως καὶ ἐπὶ στάθμην ἴθυνε. / τόφρα δ᾽ ἔνεικε τέρετρα Καλυψώ, δῖα θεάων· / τέτρηνεν δ᾽ ἄρα πάντα καὶ ἥρμοσεν ἀλλήλοισι, / γόμφοισιν δ᾽ ἄρα τήν γε καὶ ἁρμονίῃσιν ἄρασσεν. “He began to cut his timbers – and the work went quickly. He felled twenty trees in all, then trimmed them with the axe, smoothed them skilfully and made them true to the line. Then Kalypso, queen among goddesses, brought him drills: and he bored through all the timbers and fitted them to each other, driving them fast together with treenails and joints.” (Tr. Hammond).

46 See, for example l.192. The use of ὄφρα to indicate purpose occurs just once in the longer account of the raft at 5.255 so, while it is not absent from the raft building, it is proportionally less important.

47 Froma Zeitlin 1996, p. 41-42, points out that this contributes to the identification between Odysseus and his bed while associating this episode with Ares and Aphrodite via the mention of Hephaistos in the simile at 23.160. See also on this passage, Galhac 2010, p. 721-724.

48 I am grateful to Irene de Jong for pointing this out to me. On the connection between deictics and gesture see de Jong 2012, p. 63-83.

49 See Bolens 2012.

50 This productive ability of language to make present that which it speaks of is evident from the moment when Odysseus sets foot on Ithaca in Book 13. Athena makes the landscape unrecognisable until she reveals it to him saying “This is the harbour of Phorcys, here is the long leaved olive tree…” (13.345-6) and, in naming, makes these entities visible both for the reader, who discovers them from nothing, and for Odysseus for whom they are familiar sights freshly revealed.

51 At 24.347 Laertes embraces Odysseus on recognising him.

52 Starobinski 1975, p. 351, notes this violence but suggests that it is attenuated by being the result of a “learned skill”.

53 On the similarities between Penelope and the bed see Zeitlin 1996, p. 27. Deborah Steiner has pointed out to me the association between trees and women, as at Odyssey 6.160-169. I am also grateful to Tim Whitmarsh for pointing out the violence implicit in the treatment of the tree. The thalamos shares the characteristics of being a stone enclosure designed to contain female beings and their fertility with the aulê constructed by Eumaios for his master’s sows (Odyssey 14.5-7 and 13-14).

54 Katz 1991, p. 177-180, emphasises the function of Odysseus’ account of the bed as a reconstitution of the earlier process by which the couple’s union was constructed.

55 Dougherty 2001, p. 180.

56 At 22.467, the verb epentanuô is used of Telemachos’ stretching the ship’s cable in order to kill the servants, in one of the most disturbing scenes in the Odyssey.

57 Foley 1997, p. 63: “The art of traditional poetry is an immanent art, a process of composition and reception in which a simple concrete part stands for a complex intangible reality.” Foley’s examples here are noun + epithet formulae such as “wise Penelope” that “index their respective referents, in all their complexity, not merely in one given situation or even poem but against the enormously larger traditional backdrop.”

58 One enigma that remains is whether Penelope is to be thought of as having witnessed the making of the thalamos and the bed (which logically took place before her marriage) or whether what she recognises is the result of the gestures (the bed as object) and the young Odysseus through his replaying of his younger self. If the creation of the bed takes us back to the moment before the marriage, there is a possible link with Penelope’s speech on Helen at 23.218-221 since she projects herself (and thus her listeners) back to a moment before Helen’s infidelity, saying that she would not have given in to Paris’ seduction if she had known what would happen. This counterfactual, that erases the whole of the Trojan War, opens up the possibility that Penelope herself might have acted differently had she known what was in store for her.

59 Perceau 2002, p. 126-127 and 194.

60 In this I differ from Foley 1997, p. 75, for whom “the relationship between bed and identity, between metonym and meaning, is essentially arbitrary”. If the bed encodes within it the whole of Odysseus’ story from before his marriage to the end of his adventures, there is nothing arbitrary about the relationship.

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