What Can You Do with the Chicago Homer?

This document complements two other guides to the Chicago Homer. "Using the Chicago Homer" is a hands-on guide focusing on operational steps. "Understanding the Chicago Homer" is a description of its content and data architecture. "What Can You Do with the Chicago Homer?" develops two scenarios of use, the first for an intermediate student of Greek and the second for a Greekless reader. The emphasis of this tour is on search concepts and outcomes, rather than on operational details. But both scenarios are based on the assumption that the most productive use of the Chicago Homer will consist of shuttling between its two major modes:

  1. You use the Browse feature to read the text and look up phenomena directly accessible from it.
  2. You use the Search feature to make lists in response to questions that arise from reading the text.

Scenario for a Student of Intermediate Greek: Working through the Narrative of Hektor's Death

We choose the Death of Hektor as an example. This is a fifty-line stretch (Iliad 22.317-366). It will take you several hours to work your way through this passage with some thoroughness. There are a number of ways in which the Chicago Homer can help you follow up specific grammatical or narrative features, get a quite firm sense of the environment of their usage, and generally put your reading of a short stretch of verse in the wider context of epic style.

Step One: Read the Segment in Translation

Display the text in translation only and read through the section to get a quick grasp of what is going on. This is cheating by the rigorous standards of a traditional "unseen," but it immediately creates a narrative and thematic context that helps in making sense of linguistic detail.

Step Two: Make a Simple Word List

In reading any stretch of fifty lines of Homer you will come across a lot of words that you don't know. It helps to have a list of them in advance and know whether they are common or rare. Specify the line range of your passage and generate a list of all the words that occur in it. This query generates a table with 224 rows, each of which lists a "lemma" or dictionary entry form of a word, its word type, and its frequency in the corpus. If you want to, you can directly cut and paste this table into an Excel spreadsheet, which then lets you sort your list by word type, frequency, or alphabetical order.

A list is a very primitive, but very powerful, thing. If you look at the list of 224 words, you will not be surprised that you don't know the meaning of the words that occur only once (euêkês) or twice (laukaniê). But if you don't recognize "peithô," which occurs 230 times in the entire corpus, your Greek is probably a little less intermediate than you thought. Thus spending a little time with the word list is a good diagnostic tool, and the crude occurrence figures establish priorities for words you should learn before others.

You can make your list more precise and look at the 66 verbs, 55 nouns, or 24 adjectives that are found in this passage. That breaks things down into categories that are more easily managed or remembered. Generally speaking, a frequency-ordered list lets you separate things that are common from things that are rare and helps you divide your attention appropriately. Ten or fifteen minutes spent with the word list of a passage may save you an hour or more in making sense of the passage. Once you have gone through this exercise a few times, you are likely to construct more specific word lists and focus from the beginning on words that occur, say, fewer than fifty times. In our example that would restrict the word list of the Death of Hektor to 66 words, and if you are an intermediate student of Greek, many of those would be new to you.

Fancier Lists

You can make more complex lists that need not be tied to a particular passage. You can generate a list of adjectives that occur only in the Iliad (459) or only in the Odyssey (325), and such lists may tell you something about the "coloring" of each epic. You can also make a list of male characters mentioned by Penelope. Or you might be interested in the little guys in the Iliad. There are 383 names that occur only once, and there is not much to be said about them. But if you look for a list of names that occur in the Iliad between two and eight times, you get a pretty good list of characters who play a small role in the poem's narrative economy. Interestingly enough, this list includes Andromachê. She is a very powerful figure in the Western literary imagination, but the Iliad refers to her by name only seven times and includes well over 150 names that are mentioned more often than hers.

Step Three: Read through the Text and Find Out More about Particular Words

You have read through the translation, and you have looked at a word list, making notes about some very common words you really should know by now. Now you begin reading the text, which you can do, so to speak, with or without a net. If you keep the interlinear display of transliterated Greek and English, you can use the translation to help you along, but it is probably more valuable to try to get as far as you can get by just looking at the original.

You still have very powerful help through the "grammar linking" feature of the Chicago Homer. Clicking on any word will produce a report in the margin about its morphological properties. Thus in the fifth line of our text (Iliad 22.321), you might be thrown by the word form "eixeie," but the report will tell you that it is the aorist optative active 3rd singular of the verb "eikô."

How is that form used elsewhere in the epic? If you click on "eixeie" in the margin, you are taken to a concordance output of its four occurrences. You note that the form occurs twice in the Iliad and twice in the Odyssey. If you look a little more closely at the four passages, you note that the word occurs in environments that are quite different from a syntactic or lexical perspective. But it only occurs in two metrical positions, although theoretically it could occur in others. Both positions occur in each epic. So you gather from this survey of the usage of "eixeie" that it is not a very common form and that its metrical usage is subject to some restrictions.

Finding Out More about Optatives

Perhaps you are curious about aorist optatives and want to find out more about their usage or distribution. You can look for a list of aorist optative forms in our segment, and you find that there are four of them. You notice that they are all 3rd singular active forms and that the endings look quite different (protieipoi, apalalkoi, eixeie, aneiê). If you want to find out more about aorist optative forms, you can look for them in all of the Iliad—which will generate a list of 533. If you are given to figuring the odds, you notice that for whatever reason this passage has a lot of aorist optative forms in it. You would expect on average to encounter one every thirty lines in the nearly sixteen thousand lines of the Iliad, but here you have four in fifty lines.

You may take the unusual frequency of aorist optatives in this passage as an opportunity to find out more about them, looking at them in the active, the middle, and the passive, and looking for first- or second- as well as third-person forms. You learn very quickly that aorist passive forms are quite rare: there are only 22 of them in the Iliad, and only 3 of them occur more than once. On the other hand, aorist optative forms are quite common in the first and second person (there are 194 of them).

From this you may infer that the optative occurs more often in speech than in narrative, and you can test this simple hypothesis by looking for all optative forms in speech or narrative. You learn that in the Iliad there are 596 different optative forms in speech, compared with 330 in narrative. Since there are more narrative than spoken lines, you can say that the optative is at least twice as common in speech as in narrative. Not surprising, but useful to know with some precision.

You have spent 15 to 20 minutes digressing from the word "eixeie" in Iliad 22.321 and following your curiosity about optatives. What you have discovered from using the Chicago Homer differs significantly from what you could find out by looking at a section on optatives in, say, Smyth's famous Greek grammar. There you would have seen a tabulation of different optative forms in a grammatical paradigm with some information about typical and odd forms. But you would have learned little or nothing about usage, for in a grammar morphological information typically exists in a "system space," where every form has equal representation. Here, by contrast, the exploration of a particular morphological phenomenon immediately confronts you with information about its usage and tells you whether it is common or rare, more common in speech, and so forth.

You could, for instance, decide to look at all the passages in Iliad 22 where optative forms occur in narrative or in speech. A query tells you that there are 8 narrative and 16 spoken passages. This might take you half an hour or less, but by the end of it you will have acquired quite a good sense of how the optative works in different contexts. When you are done with this, you will probably decide that you cannot afford any more digressions in this particular session and should work through the rest of the text in a more expeditious fashion. On the other hand, you may want to make a habit of picking one morphological phenomenon for every session and pursuing it in some detail. After a dozen or so sessions, you will have a much better sense of Homeric usage, and as time goes by, you will find such digressions easier to pursue.

Step Four: Working with Repetitions

Repetitions of a peculiar kind are the most distinctive feature of Homeric style. The Chicago Homer lets you display repetitions in the text; it also supports queries that return lists of repetitions defined by various search parameters.

In the fourth line of our narrative segment (Iliad 22.320), you notice that its two last words, "Hektori diôi" are marked as a repetition. Clicking on the repetition link takes you to a form from which you learn that "Hektori diôi" occurs 11 times and "Hektora dion" 27 times. You gather that this is a common way of referring to Hektor, and from quickly scanning the list of citations on the return form you can also see that the phrase is distributed quite evenly across the poem. You can easily look at some or all of the other occurrences of the phrase by following the link from each separate citation.

On the other hand, you may want to find out what other adjectives are used to describe Hektor. You make a query in which you ask for repetitions that contain the word Hektor and are two words long. The resultant list contains 32 distinct phrases with 59 variants. From the perspective of your interest in combinations of "Hektor+adjective" or "adjective+Hektor" many of these phrases are false positives: the search retrieves every repeated phrase in which Hektor is preceded or followed by some other word. But scanning through it, you can very quickly determine the "adjective+name" combinations, and they are, in descending order of frequency:

  1. Hektori diôi, Hektora dion (38)
  2. koruthaiolos Hektôr (37)
  3. phaidimos Hektôr (29)
  4. Hektoros androphonoio (11)
  5. Hektori chalkokorustêi, Hektora chalkokorustên (8)
  6. thrasun Hektora (6)
  7. Hektoros hippodamoio (4)
  8. obrimos Hektôr (4)

It takes less than ten minutes to construct this list, which gives you a pretty complete survey of how Hektor is named in the Iliad. Once again it is useful to draw attention to the power of listing phenomena by descending frequency. This is a minimally theory-laden way of displaying evidence and reflects actual usage in the poem rather than somebody's theories about a system of name phrases.

If you know a little about name phrases, you remember that they can be three words long, as in "podas ôkus Achilleus" or "boên agathos Menelaos." So you may want to check whether such phrases exist for Hektor. It turns out that there are no such phrases, but you discover that some of the two-word phrases often occur in particular three-word strings, such as:

  1. megas koruthaiolos Hektôr (12)
  2. prosephê koruthaiolos Hektôr (10)
  3. kai phaidimos Hektôr (7)

You began with the phrase "Hektori diôi" and asked for other adjectives that qualify the name. You could also ask what other names are associated with the adjective "dios." Such a query across the entire corpus generates a list of 23 phrases with 35 variants and the following items appear more than ten times:

  1. dios Odusseus (102)
  2. dios Achilleus (55)
  3. Hektori diôi, Hektora dion (38)
  4. Êô dian (12)

There are another nineteen names that are decorated with "dios" between two and seven times. This confirms the impression that "dios" is a fairly generic honorific.

You might be curious about the association of "dios" with words that are not names. This query generates a ragbag of 37 phrases with 74 variants, but the top of the list is interesting and shows the phrases

  1. dia theaôn (43)
  2. dios huphorbos, dion huphorbon (18)
  3. dia gunaikôn (15)

The second phrase takes us to the Odyssey. "Dios huphorbos" is a way of naming the swineherd Eumaios (who is in fact addressed as "di' Eumaie" on four occasions). We note in passing that the glorification of this servant is a striking narrative touch. He moves almost into the company of Odysseus, Achilles, and Hektor, and no other character receives this epithet so consistently.

We may also notice that the two other common noun-adjective combinations are metrically equivalent, that they are ways of referring to female characters in a particularly respectful way, and that goddesses command more respect than mortal women. This concludes a survey of the word "dios," which has taken ten to fifteen minutes and has anchored the simple meaning of the adjective in a quite nuanced context of narrative variation.

More Complex Ways of Analyzing Repetitions

At the end of the passage about the death of Hektor, you note that the three lines describing the moment of Hektor's death and the beginning of the next line form one repeated phrase (22.361-364). From following its link you learn that the deaths of Patroklos and Hektor are described in identical fashion, and a casual look at the death speeches of Patroklos and Hektor tells you that they both predict the death of their slayer. This arouses your curiosity, and you decide to pursue things a little further.

How common is it for phrases of such length to be repeated?There are 25 words in this repeated phrase, and you can decide to look for phrases that contain that number of words or more. Number of words is a very rough measure of repetition length, since words vary considerably in length. But the longer the repetition, the more accurate the measure. A Homeric line contains on average seven words. Thus a repetition is very likely to be at least two lines long if it contains more 15 words, and this may serve as a convenient definition of a long repetition. There are 303 such phrases in the entire corpus. Twelve of them occur four or more times; 25 occur three times, and the remaining 266 are repeated only once. This is a precise way of backing up the intuitive observation that the longer a repetition the less likely it is to occur frequently.

There are a lot of things you can do with this list of long repeated phrases, and some of them are discussed below in the section on "typical scenes." For now you simply take note of the fact that for a long repetition there is almost a nine in ten chance that it will be repeated only once. Returning to the lines that describe the deaths of Hektor and Patroklos, you might now ask whether there are other resemblances between those two death scenes.

There are different ways of going about this, but a simple way of casting your net is to look for phrases that are repeated once and occur in both Iliad 16 and Iliad 22. This query generates a list of 13 phrases. With one exception, all phrases in book 16 come from the "aristeia" and death of Patroklos. Eight of the phrases are quite striking, and a very cursory survey shows that there are a lot of narrative ties between the deaths of Hektor, Patroklos, and Sarpedon, Patroklos' chief victim and the only other character in the Iliad who is given a speech at the point of death.

Phrases occurring in Iliad 16 and repeated once in Iliad 22

dê me|se theoi thanatond' ekalessan The narrator addresses Patroklos at the point when "the gods called you to your death" (16.693), but Hektor applies this phrase to himself (22.297).
ea hiemenai
eia hiemenous
Patroklos "does not let" the Trojans return to Troy (16.396), and Achilles "does not let" the Achaeans throw spears at Hektor.
emon|teon d' olophuretai êtor Hera tells Zeus to give Sarpedon a proper burial "if your heart grieves for him" (16.450), and Zeus expresses his grief at the imminent death of Hektor in the same words (22.169). On both occasions Zeus toys with the idea of rescuing Sarpedon/Hektor from death.
eeipes / andra thnêton eonta palai peprômenon aisêi / aps etheleis thanatoio dusêcheos exanalusai / erd' atar ou toi pantes epaineomen theoi alloi Hera (16.440) and Athena (22.178) use these words to protest Zeus' idea of rescuing Sarpedon/Hektor from death.
pou ephês(tha)
The speeches of Hektor (16.830) and Achilles (22.331) at the sight of the fallen Patroklos/Hektor begin with the name of the warrior followed by the phrase "You did indeed say."
d' egnô hêisin eni phresi Glaukos after the death of Sarpedon (16.530) and Hektor in the final encounter with Achilles (22.296) "recognizes in his mind."
nun se mala chrê / aichmêtên t' emenai kai tharsaleon polemistên The dying Sarpedon says this to Glaukos (16.492), and Achilles says it to Hektor immediately before the decisive duel (22.268).
hôs ara min eiponta telos thanatoio kalupse / psuchê d' ek rhetheôn ptamenê Aïdosde bebêkei / hon potmon gooôsa lipous' androtêta kai hêbên / ton kai tethnêôta prosêuda The deaths of Patroklos (16.855) and Hektor (22.361).

It will have taken you twenty minutes or so following the lead of the original observation that the deaths of Hektor and Patroklos are told in identical lines. There is more to be found by generating lists of different kinds, but even from this initial survey you have learned a lot about the way in which different narrative segments are interwoven. From this initial survey arises the more general question whether such interweaving is the function of "formulaic" composition or whether passages of this kind are held together by more context-specific ties.

Scenario for a Reader without Greek

If you do not know Greek there are obviously severe limits on what you can do with the Chicago Homer. But with a little ingenuity there is still a surprising amount you can do. Specifically, there are ways of using the translation to navigate the original and to pursue relationships between passages in the original that are obscured in the translation. The utility of the Chicago Homer increases markedly if you have the very minimal morphological knowledge of Greek that comes from a command of medical and scientific vocabulary. If, for instance, you have a general idea of what a noun or adjective looks like and can with some accuracy distinguish them from verbs and function words, you can do quite a bit. This is probably not the kind of knowledge that can be acquired in an evening. But you can get quite a bit of it if you devote several evenings to it.

The First Word of the Iliad

The first line of the Iliad affords two instances of what you can do without any knowledge of Greek whatever.

IL.1.1 mênin aeide thea [1Pêlêïadeô Achilêos 1]
IL.1.1 SING, goddess, the anger of Peleus' son Achilleus

Here you can take advantage of the feature that links Greek nouns and adjectives to the words used in the translation. If you follow the link from "anger," a table pops up on the right that shows all Greek words that are translated by "anger":

LSJ achos [noun] (66)
LSJ eris [noun] (69)
LSJ kotos [noun] (7)
LSJ menos [noun] (206)
LSJ mênis [noun] (20)
LSJ mênithmos [noun] (3)
LSJ nemesêtos [adjective] (8)
LSJ thumos [noun] (853)
LSJ cholos [noun] (68)
LSJ cholôtos [adjective] (4)

Without knowing Greek, you can nevertheless match the noun "mênis" with the form "mênin" in the opening line of the poem. Following the link from "mênin" will therefore take you to all lines in which the poet uses the same word he uses to describe the anger of Achilles. If you look at the translation of those lines in the Iliad, you notice that the anger is the anger of a god (8x) or of Achilles (4x). And the restriction of "mênis" to a divine agent is also observed in the Odyssey and in the Homeric Hymns. So without knowing any Greek you can nonetheless directly observe an important feature of the Iliad: the word chosen to describe the anger of Achilles is put in the most prominent possible position. It is the first word of the poem, and it is a word used only of gods and Achilles. There is something superhuman about the anger of Achilles.

There is more you can do with the word list from which you picked "mênis." Since they are all Greek words that Lattimore at one time or another translates as "anger," they are probably a reasonably good guide to the semantic field of "anger," and there are quite a few of them. With a little guessing and drawing on your tacit knowledge of Greek vocabulary that comes with a knowledge of English, you can make some stabs at the other words. Thus "mênithmos" looks like a cousin of "mênis," and you discover indeed that it is a word used three times in Iliad 16 to describe the anger of Achilles. "Cholos" and "cholôtos" may have something to do with "choleric." "Eris" points to "eristic" and therefore "quarrel," and "nemesêtos" looks like "nemesis" and points to revenge.

Two of the words, "menos" and "thumos," are extremely common. You may guess that they probably don't always mean "anger," and if you follow the links from them, you see immediately that this is the case. "Thumos" appears to be mostly translated by such words as "heart," "spirit," "mind," "life," and you gather from this that it is a very general word for emotions and seems to straddle thought and feeling. If you follow "menos" you see that it is translated alternately as "strength," "rage," "fury," from which you can infer that it means something like "fighting strength and spirit."

If you follow the word "cholos," you see from the translation of the lines that it is quite consistently translated as "anger." You note that it is used to describe the anger of a variety of persons, both mortal and immortal. You also note that its 68 occurrences make it a lot more common than "mênis" and a lot less common than "menos" or "thumos." So you conclude that "cholos" is probably the most specific generic word for anger. This is confirmed by looking at the equally common word "eris," which, as you can see easily from the translations, is much more likely to refer to a state of discord than to the emotions attached to it.

The thirty minutes spent of tracing the opening word of the Iliad and its cousins have taught you some important things about Homer's psychological vocabulary. The common words "menos" and "thumos" respectively straddle action and emotion or thought and emotion in ways that are strange to us. And the "mênis" of Achilles is not a garden variety kind of anger, but something that reaches beyond the human.

The First Repetition of the Iliad

The marking of repetitions in the text of the Chicago Homer does not call on any knowledge of Greek. Text inside square brackets is repeated elsewhere. Text outside square brackets is not. By simply looking at the density of square brackets, you get an idea about the repetivity of a passage, and by matching opening and closing brackets, you can figure out how long a particular repetition is.

In the opening line of the Iliad, the first three words are not repeated. The last two words are. Even without a knowledge of Greek it is not hard to figure that "Pêlêïadeô Achilêos" refers to "Achilles, the son of Peleus." If you are familiar with the plot of the Iliad and follow the link from the phrase, you may notice something odd about its distribution. The phrase occurs six times in books 1, 9, 16, and 24 of the Iliad. It occurs only when the narrator deals with the Achilles-Patroklos-Hektor triangle, which constitutes the innermost action of the poem. The distribution suggests that "Pêlêïadeô Achilêos" is, like "mênis," an expression reserved for special occasions.

There is a way of testing this hypothesis. You make a list of name phrases for Achilles, which consists of all repeated phrases that are less than four words long and contain the word "Achilleus." Making sense of this list is a bit of a challenge without Greek, but with a little patience it can be done. With some simplification and the addition of translations, the top of that list looks as follows:

dios Achilleus (55) god-like Achilleus
podas ôkus Achilleus (30) Achilleus of the swift feet
podarkês dios Achilleus (21) swift-footed god-like Achilleus
Pêleïdêi Achilêï (6)
Pêleïdeô Achilêos (4)
Pêleïdên Achilêa (1)
Achilles son of Peleus: dative, genitive, and accusative form
Pêlêïadeô Achilêos (8) Achilles son of Peleus: genitive form
Achillêa rhêxênora (3)
Achillêï rhêxênori (2)
Achillêos rhêxênoros (1)
man-rending Achilleus: accusative, dative, genitive

I have added the translations. It would not, however, be difficult for the Greekless reader to infer them from looking at the first few occurrences of each phrase. It turns out that the name Achilleus is most frequently decorated with the generic epithet "dios" (the Greekless reader can also perform the search for other characters decorated with this epithet, which I have outlined above).

The second and third most common repetitions focus on Achilles' swiftness. They seem to be very similar and both have something to do with feet (pod* as in podiatrist). You see that Lattimore keeps the slight variation, translating "podas ôkus" as "of the swift feet" and "podarkês" as "swift-footed." There follow several phrases of the patronymic kind and a phrase that specifically addresses the destructiveness of Achilles.

You need not know Greek to analyze the distribution of phrases. You accept the phrase as a known entity and use the list of its citations to analyze the properties of its distribution. From a quick look at the citations of "podas ôkus" you see that it is scattered evenly across the poem. But 13 of the 21 occurrences of the "podarkês" phrase occur in Iliad 20, 21, and 23, and a third of them are in Iliad 23. So these two phrases behave quite differently.

The patronymic phrases also behave differently. The eleven occurrences of the phrase in which the patronymic takes the shorter form "Pêleïd*" are found in Iliad 15, 17, and 20-23. The six occurrences of the longer "Pêlêiad*" are found in Iliad 1, 9, 16, and 24. The fact that there is no overlap between the two phrases strengthens the hypothesis that "Pêlêïadeô Achilêos" is a phrase reserved for the central action of the poem. Whether or not such a hypothesis stands up to closer scrutiny, the evidence for it is accessible to a reader without Greek; nor is such a reader at a particular disadvantage in evaluating it.

Typical Scenes

Die typischen Scenen bei Homer ("Typical Scenes in Homer") is the title of a German monograph by Walter Arend that is still worth reading almost seventy years after its publication in 1933. As its title indicates, its subject is the repetition of standard activities such as preparing food, sacrificing, arming, and the like. Typical scenes characteristically involve long repetitions, and for Greekless readers a search for repetitions by length is a pretty good guide to finding multiline narrative fragments and learning something about their function in the narrative economy of the epics.

For the narrative analysis of multiline passages, a knowledge of Greek is not a critical advantage. Generally speaking, the higher up you go on the hierarchy of discourse elements, the less language specific they become. By the same token, the analysis of larger elements calls less on linguistic knowledge than on skill in analyzing narrative or discursive structures.

A particularly striking instance of a long repetition was analyzed above in the discussion of the Death of Hektor. In the entire Homeric corpus there are 303 "long" repetitions, or phrases that are longer than 15 words and are likely to contain at least two lines of verse. These can be retrieved easily and offer useful points of departure for narrative analysis.