Guest Post by Matthew Angiolillo & Christine Roughan
The tradition of the ancient Greek epic the Iliad is a long one—this is a work that has its origins in the 2nd millennium BCE. The Venetus A is a 10th century CE manuscript of the Iliad, and, at a thousand years old, it is our oldest complete source for the ancient epic. It also contains a wealth of scholia, some of which date as far back as the 3rd century BCE. As such, it has long been the object of study and scholarship.
In comparison, the Marciana 841 (= Marcianus Graecus Z. 458, referred to as U4 by Allen)– is a 12th or 13th century CE manuscript of the Iliad. The first half of this source has been lost – of the 24 books of the Iliad, the Marciana 841 contains only books 14-24. Compared to the Venetus A, the Marciana 458 contains far fewer scholia. It is slightly unusual in that it contains a later, Byzantine Greek translation of the Iliad written in prose alongside the poem. The Marciana 841 is one of the less well-known manuscripts of the Iliad, since it has received comparatively less scholarship.
When comparing the readings of these two manuscripts together, however, we find intriguing differences. One of these occurs in Iliad 14.506. As will be shown, the Venetus A and the Marciana 841 offer two different readings for line 506, but also acknowledge each other’s different reading in their scholia.
In the end of Iliad Book 14, the cycle of Greek and Trojan victories and retaliations comes to a halt when the Greek Peneleos strikes down Ilioneus, and in line 506 the tide of battle is turned against the Trojans. Looking first at the main text of the Venetus A, we read for line 506 ὡς φάτο τοὺς δ᾽ ἄρα πάντας ὑπο τρόμος ἔλλαβε γυῖα (“Thus he spoke, and trembling seized them all in respect to their limbs”). Note that we represent exactly what appears in the manuscript, with the punctuation and accentuation unchanged. (Click on the captions of the images to go to the full folio page with this line/scholion cited and highlighted.)
|Iliad 14.506 from Venetus A|
|Iliad 14.506 from Marciana 841|
|Venetus A intermarginal scholion to Iliad 14.506|
Even more interestingly, both manuscripts include scholia on line 506 acknowledging the alternate readings. In an intermarginal scholion, the Venetus A scribe notes that γράφεται τοὺς ἄρα πάντας ὑπὸ χλωρὸν δέος εῖλεν⁑ (“‘Green fear seized them all’ is written”).
In the Marciana 841, a scholion appears between the main text and the prose transcription, saying, γράφεται ὑ¨πο τρόμος ἔλλαβε γυῖα⁑ (“‘Trembling seized the limbs’ is written”).
|Marciana 841 scholion to Iliad 14.506|
Besides minor accenting and punctuating differences in ὡς φάτο τοὺς, line 506 is the same in the Venetus A and the Marciana 841 except for its ending: ὑπο τρόμος ἔλλαβε γυῖα versus ὑπὸ χλωρὸν δέος εἷλε. There are two possibilities for why the manuscripts record the lines differently: either a scribe at some point in the transmission of the Iliad erred and wrote the line incorrectly, or the two represent separate—but equally valid—readings and are multiforms of each other.
It is exceedingly unlikely that the variation we are investigating in line 506 was caused by scribal error. This hypothetical error would have had to have occurred much earlier than the 10th century Venetus A, since the variant was already known and recorded in the scholia by this point. Unfortunately, nothing about these scholia gives any hint as to their age. The difference also would have had to persist for two or three hundred years more, even with the knowledge that other manuscripts had a different reading, since the scribe of the 12th/13th century Marciana 841 is also aware of the variants.
Furthermore, the different reading is not a single changed word or a different form; rather, the last three words are changed. It is hard to envision why a scribe, tasked with copying the line, would end up with a completely different ending. This was not the scribe accidentally skipping or repeating a few lines, nor was it him having difficulty with confusing Greek and trying to correct it to something that makes better sense.
The only way the scribe might have accidentally followed ὡς φάτο τοὺς δ᾽ ἄρα πάντας ὑπο with χλωρὸν δέος εἷλε instead of τρόμος ἔλλαβε γυῖα (or vice versa) would be if he were accidentally recalling an identical line used elsewhere in Homer, such as Odyssey 22.42: ὣς φάτο, τοὺς δ᾽ ἄρα πάντας ὑπὸ χλωρὸν δέος εἷλεν. This Odyssey line, however, seems to be the only duplicate, drastically diminishing the chance that a scribe would have erroneously thought of it and started the variant in Iliad 14.506 by writing its ending instead of τρόμος ἔλλαβε γυῖα.
This different line ending is not the result of scribal error: it is a multiform. Both readings are metrically valid. Both make grammatical sense. Both fit in the context of the line and surrounding passage. Since we can consider this use of χλωρὸν δέος in line 506 to be intentional rather than an error by the scribe, we can also now investigate how its use in this context (and other contexts throughout Homer) help us understand the meaning of this particular idiom.
In Homeric poetry, the term “green (or pale) fear” (χλωρὸν δέος) has often presented difficulties for translators, as the formula implies much more than a literal translation such as “sallow fear” or “blanching terror” could hope to capture. After analyzing the occurrence of the phrase or “nugget of diction” as it is described in the words of John M. Foley, he concludes that “pale fear” is often associated with the supernatural, many times relating to the actions of the gods, which inspire terror (Foley 2002: 121,128). An example of such a usage occurs at Iliad 7.475–482, when the Greeks and the Trojans are feasting after a hard day of fighting and the single combat between Hector and Ajax has ended. At this time, Zeus, the counselor, is said to have “devised them evil, thundering in a terrible way. Then pale fear got hold of them.” In this instance, Zeus’ future plans are seen to directly affect both sides of combatants, inspiring terror in the Trojans and Greeks alike and consequently both sides immediately offer up sacrifices to Zeus.
“Pale fear” is also used when relating to the inhabitants of the underworld such as in Odyssey 11.42–43, where Odysseus recalls for the Phaeacians his journey to the underworld in order to hear the prophesy of Tiresias that will give him instructions as to how eventually he might reach his home in Ithaca. Odysseus describing the ghosts in the underworld reveals his fright: “These [phantoms] came thronging in crowds about the pit from every side, with a wondrous cry; and pale fear seized me.” These examples notwithstanding, there are also instances in the Iliad where pale fear is used without specific reference to supernatural activity. In Iliad 17, for example, Menelaus is compared to a mountain lion, easily devouring a heifer in its ferocity, but whom none of the surrounding herders will face “for pale fear had taken hold of them,” just as no Trojan is willing to fight Menelaus (Iliad 17.59–67). In addition, in Iliad 15, as the Trojans run from the advancing Greeks, they are stopped “pale with fear” next to their chariots (Iliad 15.1–4), a scene which continues the narrative from the end of Iliad 14, where the scholia of both manuscripts on 506 are located. In each of these passages, there is no obvious direct influence of the gods on the action at play, however the phrase “pale fear” is still employed. The second example also uses the expression in a somewhat unorthodox way, as an adjectival phrase describing the Trojans in flight, as “green fear” in numerous other passages is the agent of terror, usually coming over an individual or group. The phrase is also used adjectivally in Iliad 10, describing Dolon, in another passage in which there does not seem to be any direct influence being initiated by the gods (Iliad 10.374–376).
However, the influences of the gods are often difficult to trace precisely and often times their forces are at work in certain passages without their presence being explicitly clear to the reader, unless she has a solid grasp of the surrounding context. The way “green or pale fear” is used at 14.506 in the Marciana 841 manuscript and seen in the Venetus A scholion, adds a new perspective on the formula, as an argument could be made that in the context of the end of Book 14, the influences of the gods are at work in a different way compared to examples mentioned above, augmenting our understanding of how the formula of “pale fear” is used, in that in this instance, the power of the gods is referred to in an indirect and more subtle way. Assuming that the multiform is employed, immediately after the Trojans are seized by “green fear” on hearing Peneleos’ threatening words after he strikes down Ilioneus, Homer invokes the Muses and embarks on a mini-catalogue announcing the Greek warriors who took advantage of the “Earth-shaker” Poseidon turning the tide of battle in favor of the Greeks. The gods, especially Poseidon, have also been very active in the Greek war effort throughout Book 14 in which, disguised as an old man, Poseidon tells the Greeks that the Trojans will not continue winning the war. Subsequently, the god screams a resounding yell to encourage the Greek battle effort, and then goes onto the battlefield himself to lead the Achaeans from the front.
Although the Trojans are only directly responding in terror to the words of Peneleos, they may also be responding to the prospective knowledge that the tide of the war has turned against them and that Poseidon is aiding the Greeks in their destruction. This possible conclusion can also be supported by Iliad 14.507, the next line, which states that all the Trojan men look for a way to “escape sheer destruction.” Since, according to the narrative, it is the tenth year of the war and the Trojan men have seen others of their comrades die in combat, it is doubtful that they believe that in reality Peneleos personally is going to slay every one of them. It seems that a greater knowledge of their imminent demise comes across the Trojan men, leaving battle-hardened warriors searching for a way out. The way that “green fear” is used in this instance adds a new perspective in the understanding of the formula that is not captured in the majority of other Homeric passages that employ the term. One exception that builds on how “pale fear” is used in Book 14 is in another Homeric passage, which is virtually identical to the reading of 14.506 found in the Marciana 841. In Odyssey 22.42, Odysseus, after returning to Ithaca, addresses the suitors whom he, by necessity, will eventually kill and whom are, reasonably, struck by pale fear at seeing the hero. Although there is no direct mentioning of the gods in the passage, Odysseus is aided by the goddess Athena, who makes him stronger and appear more attractive, which would indicate that pale fear can be employed in instances where the impact of the gods is only implicitly felt but imminent demise is inevitable.
The scholion employing the multiform “pale fear” in the Marciana 841 adds to the understanding of the term and also may allow an interesting comparison to the reading in the Iliad text given in Venetus A, which states that “trembling seized them all in respect to their limbs.” The trembling that the Trojans endure, can be interpreted not only as the result of a fear of destruction, the words of Peneleos, or that the war has turned against them, but also due to the fact that the Earth-Shaker Poseidon, who has been a key player in spurring on the Greeks, is, through his actions, shaking the Trojans’ limbs into trembling. This reading works nicely and gains strength when compared to the line in Marciana 841, given that the added understanding of the “pale fear” multiform indicates that the actions of a god, in this case Poseidon, that are not plainly affecting those feeling fear, can still be highly ominous. Supporting this reading, that in the mentioning of trembling limbs the power of divine forces might be at play, is that immediately after 14.506 in 14.509–515, Homer invokes the Muse, asking her who was “the first of the Achaeans to carry away the blood-stained spoils of warriors when once the famed shaker of the Earth had turned the battle.” The singer then goes on to list the series of Greek warriors and the Trojans whom they defeated and stripped, due in large part to Poseidon turning the tide of battle. This list, which appropriately ends Book 14, seems to bode ill for the hopes of the Trojans in the following books of the poem to achieve victory and lends credence to the Trojans’ trembling being indirectly induced by Poseidon. This view, which works nicely in conjuncture with the multiform presented by the Marciana 841 reading and the scholion to the Venetus A text, gives a new angle with which to understand the meaning and use of the green/pale fear formula.
Through this one elegant example of 14.506 in the Marciana 841 and Venetus A, we are able to grasp much concerning how the tradition of oral poetry shaped the Iliad over its history, and the possibilities for a greater understanding of the variations and transmission of the text that can be obtained through the study of these manuscripts, and especially their scholia. Many of the passages that are compared above would not be able to be referenced to line 506 if one were reading a standard edition, and if it were not for the scholion from a very different manuscript that pointed out an alternate reading, these parallels would not be able to be drawn.
Foley J.M. 2002. How to Read an Oral Poem. University of Illinois Press.