Agonistic Exchange: Homeric Reciprocity and the Heritage of Simmel and Mauss

T. O. Beidelman
Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Department of Anthropology
New York University
Whatever it may be, I fear the Greeks, even when they bring gifts.
Virgil, Aeneid
Greeks would never produce a Jewish-type comedian. To laugh at yourself is to give something away for nothing.
A Greek friend

Thirty-five years ago the late M. 1. Finley (1962) called attention to the insights that anthropology and sociology could provide classicists seeking to understand Homeric society. Finley drew upon the work of Mauss to describe Homeric exchange. Today many classicists cite not only Mauss and Durkheim but examples of Melanesian big-men, the Nuer, the Dinka, questions about the rise of the nation-state, and the predictable structuralist legerdemain of Levi-Strauss and Leach (Finley 1985:xiv). Yet one must search far for references to ancient Greek material in current American and British social anthropology.' So far, interdisciplinary fertilization between classics and social anthropology appears one-sided. This article aims to bring some classical issues into sharper anthropological focus. I further hope to show how these data may inform and refine thinking about key anthropological issues. To do so I continue along the path set by Finley and valuably advanced by Donlan, Qviller, Morris, Segal, Gould, and other contemporary classicists influenced by social anthropology. For this article that path involves the topic of exchange or reciprocity and its relation to the construction of the social person.

Finley clearly owed his insights to Mauss, and 1 begin with that seminal thinker. I then proceed to an equally powerful and original analyst of exchange ignored by classicists and most anthropologists, Georg Simmel. I briefly review both Mauss and Simmel and then apply their insights to some Homeric material. To do so I first provide a brief overview of Homeric society and beliefs regarding exchange and then consider four specific examples in more detail, two from the Iliad and two from the Odyssey. I conclude with a few suggestions as to what this may tell us about exchange and the person and the value of Mauss's and Simmel's insights.

Mauss and Simmel

Mauss argued for a broader construction to our notions about exchange, observing that it should be viewed in terms of total social phenomena. What is less generally recognized is that Mauss saw prestations of things as integral to the social construction of the person (1954:2). Unfortunately, Mauss dichotomized misleadingly between contrasting categories of complete trust and distrust in archaic societies, maintaining that exchanges such as gift giving were pursued because they successfully domesticated warfare into benevolent trade. Mauss's conception of "agonistic exchange, " which he later applied to Melanesians and potlatching Amerindians, appears to have developed from an earlier paper on exchange devoted to Greek material. Yet Mauss appears aware that even during seemingly cordial reciprocity, tensions remain: "The form usually taken is that of the gift generously offered; but that the accompanying behaviour is formal pretense and social deception" (1954:1). Perhaps if Mauss had remained longer with Greek material his model would have gained more ambiguity and ambivalence. His best insight on that score is a remark apropos of the one case he cites from the Iliad, 6:230-236. There, one hero exchanges gold armor for bronze on account of his mind being befuddled by Zeus: "Ainsi les Grecs l'epopee homerique avaient vu ces moeurs fonctionner et les consideraient comme folles" (1969:38; see Redfield 1983:234). Far from reflecting alienated judgment, Homer's account is consistent with Greek concern that supposedly egalitarian reciprocation could lead to hierarchical relations stemming from trickery, errors of judgment, or coercion. It is, as Benveniste rightly observes, a "sociological illustration'' (1973:81).

Simmel's masterpiece on exchange preceded Mauss's by over twenty years and represents more sustained and complex analysis (1978[1904]), even though it prompted misgivings from Weber (1972; Altman 1904). I devote disproportionately more time to it than to Mauss's work both because it is less well known and because it seems particularly pertinent to the Greek material. Simmel's interpretation conjures up a sense of pathos characterizing problematic relations between persons and the objects which they exchange (1971:64). For Simmel no manner of exchange entirely expunges the tension and struggle involved in social interaction.

For Simmel, economic exchange always involves both sacrifice (1971:45, 57) and resistance (1971:48); indeed, value derives from them. In this, Greek trophies resemble the antiques and rare goods of which Simmel writes: "It comes to appear that they cost what they are worth" (Simmel 1971:65). Simmel, like Mauss, connects exchange and the objects involved to the personhood of those concerned. Exchanges between Greek warriors nicely characterize Simmel's realization that commerce, an attempt to objectify value, would be particularly repugnant to aristocrats who view proper exchanges as profoundly personalized (1971:64). Greek exchange was between households (oikai) centered about particular patriarchs (oikodespotes). This is the original meaning of economy (oikonomia).

Simmel stresses that reciprocal activities of aristocrats must be "surveyable" (1950:90). Of course, this hardly means that such operations are "open" in terms of candor. Simmel, more than most social theorists, appreciates the management of public image or ''face,'' so vital to Greeks, and with this, the orchestration of cunning and deceit. "The person who knows completely need not trust; while the person who knows nothing can on no rational grounds, afford even confidence'' (1950:318). Homer's Greeks, and for that matter modern Japanese, try to surmount this dilemma involving every nonkin and especially strangers, by involved prestations and complex etiquette (see Simmel 1971:64). Such public performances increase the social risks involved and consequently the need to cloak oneself with deception. Simmel recognizes that social exchange (sociation) requires tact (1950:45), but like Mauss he may have underplayed the need for risk. Yet Simmel forcefully notes an element of sheer power adhering to exchange (1950:392). Long before Mauss, Simmel saw a gift as " an imposition of identity" (Schwartz 1967: 1), though noting that even in the most uneven exchanges the two parties mutually influence one another. Simmel, like Mauss, recognizes that beneath all exchange lies some agonistic sense: "exchange is nothing more than the causally connected repetition of the fact that an actor now has lost something which he previously did have" (Simmel 1971:46). This requires a reckoning of values to determine whether what one has gained would be worth more to one than what one has lost. Of course, deception, ignorance, and compelling force complicate such matters as indeed they do for cases from Homer. In some of these cases, the winner gains all and loses nothing, though he may have risked much.

Homeric Greece: A Background

The constitution of Homeric society has been intensively debated since Finley's famous study (1962), ranging from works arguing that Homer portrays an unreal social world to those struggling to resolve contradictions and vagaries manifest in the epics so as to prove that Homeric society actually existed (Adkins 1963, 1969, 1971, 1972, 1975, 1982, 1987; Basset 1934; Calhoun 1934; Doulan 1980, 1981, 1985; Finley 1957; Gargarin 1987; Garland 1984-86; Gates 1971; Geddes 1984; Held 1987; Lacy 1966; Lloyd-Jones 1987; Long 1970; Morris 1986a, 1986b; Murray 1983; Post 1939; Qviller 1981; Redfield 1983; Schofield 1967; Snodgrass 1974). Where some of these interpretations have erred, this has been particularly due to projecting "modern" Western values and morals onto this material, a point well criticized by Finley and Adkins.2 In this article I assume that Homer wrote with deep sociological insight. His works were continually esteemed by subsequent generations of Greeks because he touched deeply held, enduring Greek values and ideals that continue in part even today (see Walcot 1970 and Plato's Republic X:606e). Some of these values, involving tensions between egalitarianism and ranking (domination), characterize a social predicament in all societies. The broad features of Homeric society are fairly clear. A few general beliefs and values account for the strategies and dilemmas animating the epics' protagonists.

Homeric society is composed of myriad households (oikai) headed by elder males possessing allotted land (kleros), livestock, and treasure and comprising subordinate kin, attached followers, and slaves. Heads of various households strove to remain autonomous yet also strove to make advantageous alliances between themselves and other households of comparable power and dignity, either through marriage or prestations of goods, usually termed gift-host relations (xeinie) or friendship (philotes). Alliances were worthwhile if they involved comparable households.3 Men could bind outsiders to their households through gifts of goods, slaves, land, or by marriage. Such prestations constituted signs (semata) of the household's worth. Exchange facilitated links between equals at a distance, but it also provided means by which seeming equals could be subordinated, by which strangers could be domesticated and dominated and workers and men-at-arms recruited.

A household's wealth, land, warriors, and workers formed an interlinked system of production. Wealth and land supported and attracted people. People produced more goods, and warriors not only defended what one possessed but allowed one to seize more. A small household might be subordinated to larger, richer, more aggressive neighbors either through the assertion of a more powerful unit or because the head of the weaker group thought it expedient to become a client. Classicists have developed a useful picture of Homeric society that approximates the accretive and dissolving kin and client groups made famous in ethnographies of Evans-Pritchard and Lienhardt writing about the Nuer and Dinka of the southern Sudan. Such households were united under one male authority, but domestic affairs were monopolized by women. Furthermore, there appears to have been potential contention between brothers and some suggestions of conflict between women such as a wife and a concubine.

In Homeric society there were the aristocrats (aristoi) meriting respect (aidos)4 commensurate with their excellence (arete). There were noble men (agathos, good, brave). They were attractive (esthlos), which was good or beautiful (halos). Not living up to these standards constituted failure (aischron) which was ugly or bad (kakos), producing overpowering shame (elencheie) and deep, angry emotion (thumos). Such men strove to increase their respect through honor (time) from others, hoped for divinely bestowed illustriousness (kudos), and sought a share of rewards (geras) marking social acknowledgment of their worth.

The term aristoi should not mislead one to assume that Homeric society had classes. Calhoun rightly observes that such aristocrats were notables only in "the loosest sense of the word" (1934:308). These were open groups where ranking was constantly up for challenge. One's ancestors counted as did one's material resources, but one's standing could be jeopardized, lost, or enhanced by victory, defeat, improvidence, luck, or unacceptable conduct. Some writers refer to Thersites, the single ugly and mean-spirited warrior in the Iliad (excepting Dolon), as a commoner. In fact, he was an aristes and son of a leader (basileus) who failed to conduct himself honorably (Feldman 1947).

Attached to these aristocratic men were subordinate kin and also unrelated adherents (heterai) who, while aristocratic, were automatically less distinguished than their leader. There were also servants and slaves. In this world work (erga) was not in itself bad or shameful, yet it was demeaning to toil for another, especially for payment since this involved loss of autonomy. It was also demeaning to seek goods in commerce, though it was beautiful and noble to exchange resources voluntarily as in giving or receiving gifts, especially in celebratory hospitality (Herman 1987). Goods could also be obtained in other ways besides labor or gifts. Best of all was taking goods by force, as booty by sacking a town or household and enslaving its inhabitants or by stripping a slain opponent. Agonistic competition could also involve trophies from athletic contests, viewed as domesticated combat. Struggle (agon) demonstrated that a winner was due greater respect (aidos) than a rival on account of his being powerful (karteros). Finally, resources could be honorably obtained by theft or trickery. These indicated that the taker was a better man, at least so long as the theft or swindle was not avenged. Aristocratic or heroic Greeks secured wealth through competitive freedom (eleutheria), and the respect each received was proportionate to the standing of those with whom one contended. Each hero strove to win fame (kleos) befitting his particular estimated worth. Such struggle also measured men's power to preserve the sexual integrity of the women to whom they were connected, or to assault the integrity of competitors' women (Friedrich 1977). One knew what respect one was due only by contending until meeting one's match. In that way one discovered what one's allotment (moire, fate) was worth. Born an aristocrat, one still had to contend to maintain and define that standing. Of course, one vied only with those judged equals or superiors in order to prove that one might actually be their better. Riffraff, slaves, and hangers-on had no rightful part in such agonistic choreography.

It was extremely important to recognize with whom one exchanged foods, people, and deeds. Involvement within one's proximate social range insured maintaining rank or its possible escalation at the expense of a competitor. Escalation was proportionate to the reputation of a fallen protagonist. Consequently aristocrats were likely to be taken on by persons who considered themselves their equals or betters. This was tactically acceptable provided that the spectators involved (and witnesses were vital) conceded that such ranking was sufficiently proximate that an upset might justifiably occur. No one contended promiscuously, but people were forced to contend more often than they wished and with more persons than they might have thought decent. Contention was inevitably a result of a compromise between need for public approval and need for lowly contenders to be silenced. The public nature of the arena of contention was crucial. If one was confronted by a manifest inferior, contention only demeaned one's standing. Consequently, the despised Thersites was denied any contest by Odysseus who merely struck him with a scepter and threatened to uncover his genitals (aidos, respect, shame). Often when confronted with an inferior, the Homeric hero limited exchange to glowering at an opponent, to staring him down (upodraidon, looking darkly, Holoka 1983).

Homeric Greeks drew their personhood, their social identity, from exchange, agonistic and otherwise. One knew one's rank and standing by knowing with whom one received and gave women, with whom one exchanged gifts and hospitality, what was bestowed to one from others as rewards, and with whom one contended in war and sport.5 To know oneself one had to know responsive others. Each battle engagement in the Iliad constitutes a kind of personal rite de passage in which each warrior announced his name, lineage, and deeds to the other. This insured that one was not demeaned by contending with a patent inferior, but it also guaranteed that one would know what reputation and honor one appropriated by slaying or, less often, capturing and ransoming the other (Sale 1963; Schein 1984). In this second case, keeping a hostage for ransom inevitably involved long-term hospitality and possible gift-guest friendship that should only involve a worthy person.

Given these difficulties, encountering appearances and identities that were misleading could have grave consequences. For Achilleus to have his friend Patroklos slain while wearing his, Achilleus's, armor, and then to contemplate the slayer, Achilleus's arch rival, Hektor, donning that same armor, involved more problems and loss than simply the death of a friend and lover. The armor, incidentally, originally belonged to Achilleus's father so that it was doubly associated with a fatherly figure, Patroklos and Peleus (Finlay 1980). Similarly, lack of information about someone's identity posed even more severe problems. This explains the difficulties involved in confronting strangers, whether they be foreigners of seeming rank or beggars. One could not be sure what respect (aidos) they were due. They could even be gods in disguise and indeed strangers were under the protection of Zeus (Bolchazy 1978; Levy 1963; Podlecki 1961). Theoxony was a universally urged belief and practice. Lying and deception about one's identity and worth constituted serious dangers that had to be reckoned with if the protagonists were to make shrewd judgments about what strategies to take (Walcot 1977a). The fate of Penelope's suitors illustrates where bad judgments about seemingly powerless strangers might lead.

Much literature on Homeric social organization contrasts well-known and less-known persons in terms of "ours" and "others." Within a household all free members are philoi, meaning those one loves or likes, friends, kin, or even indirectly one's possessions (Benveniste 1973:277-288). Yet conflict and death were present even here, as biographies of Agamemnon, Phoenix, and Patroklos demonstrate (Schlunk 1976; Scodel 1982). Outsiders are not philoi unless they are distant kin, affines, or guest-gift friends (xeinoi) (Herman 1987). Greeks were not supposed to contend with philoi. Yet Herman observes that the word philoi could mean "clients" as well.

For Homeric Greeks kinship involved deep solidarity and revelation of identity but also involved ranked relations of age and gender. In the oikos the pecking order was clear-cut. Outside the oikos proper agathoi were more or less equal. It is in this external, egalitarian sphere that one engaged in agonistic exchange in order to maintain and augment one's name, one's dignity (aidos), through accumulation of esteem (time). Exchange inevitably involved altering equals to unequals. Both warlike and peaceful competition could lead to winners or losers and to clienthood taking on connotations of parent-child or older-younger brother relations resembling rank within the household. Thus the term philoi held implications of solidarity but also possible ranking as well. Not surprisingly, anthropologists report comparable play with kin terms among Nuer patrons and Dinka clients in settlements in the southern Sudan.

I have so far described a social world of limited resources where one protagonist's gain is another's loss. Unrelated equals are perpetually likely to be locked in contention where someone wins and another must lose. One must contend for honors and dignity, and to refuse to contend, if one is noble and young, is automatically to lose. In contrast, those who are related (though consequently ranked) all share in a victory against a member of the other group. The subordinates, colleagues, hangers-on, and even slaves of Odysseus's household risk lowering their common respect and rights with their master's absence and the humiliation of his wife and son. Correspondingly, all share in the benefits of Odysseus's return with victory and wealthexcept those who betrayed him. To be sure, slaves at the bottom of the heap can expect meager measure of identity and recognition, as compared to his retainers or his son, but even the slave of a household has identity and enjoys protection vis-a-vis the outside world, in correspondence to the household he is in. Thus when Achilleus is conjured up from the dead by Odysseus, the worst status that he can imagine to compare with death is a transient laborer's (thetes), unattached to a household and therefore dependent upon payments from indifferent, unprotective strangers, Odyssey 11 :488-491. This reminds me of examples in Evans-Pritchard's ethnography where one Nuer criticizes another because his fellow has beaten ''his Dinka'' client, whereas the patron Nuer alone claims the right to pick on such a dependent. For Homeric Greeks a rogue would be panourgos. one who does everything. Only someone whose volition and thus whose autonomy has been eroded is forced so low. Bound to a particular household, even the slave has expectations, and a proper household would uphold these.

Such a system of contention rates risk highly. Such honors are related to the rank and power of those one confronts, one maintains or gains honor only by confronting those as highly ranked as possible yet so within striking range that one hopes one might beat them. No one gains by besting an utter interior. One gets somewhere only by aiming high and dangerously, though a miscalculation would be shameful, subordinating, or even fatal. Still, the higher the rank of one's vanquisher, the less disgraceful one's defeat will be. Obviously, one needs all the information one can get to estimate wisely one's prospects at each encounter. Risk is linked with secrecy and deception. Within a household where everyone shares a common lot, information is freely disclosed. Outside, one puts up a closed front revealing only what is favorable. The problem of risky exchange means that protagonists try to withhold as much unfavorable information about themselves as possible and seek to learn all that is unfavorable about outsiders. Lying and deception are acceptable tactics. They are forms of cunning (dolos or metis), another weapon in the battle of contentious exchange.

Despite the importance of eloquence, cunning, and deception, none of this contending and posturing counts for much unless it is public. There must be witnesses to attest to the outcome. One's fame (kleos) depends on acknowledgment and praise from others, especially peers, those very persons with whom one is most likely to contend. The good opinions that count most would be most grudgingly bestowed. Praise from one's kin and underlings is taken for granted unless one transgressed, for kin and followers share in one's gloryor loss. This public nature of exchanges, at assemblies, in battles, at great feasts, contests and ceremonies, adds considerably to the risk attending attempts to score points in the game of honor and shame. To count, agonistic exchanges should be enacted before the most critical audience and in such a way that any failure would be so well known that enormous effort would be required (if indeed it were possible) to undo any harm done.

Envy (phtonos) and jealousy (zelos) are key aspects for this system (Walcot 1978; cf. Schoeck 1987:146-152, 214). Envy involves the ill feeling we have about what another possesses. Jealousy involves rancor about losing what we already have to someone else. Greeks also sometimes employed zelos more positively, referring to strong feeling about losing a possession to someone else on account of how valuable it was. This resembled boasting about what one had. An these notions reflect the deep concern that Greeks felt regarding the good things which they might win or lose from others claiming to be their superiors. Envy and jealousy were rooted in agonistic exchange among supposed equals whom one hoped to put down. The Homeric epics are essentially aristocratic in their prevailing values. Yet these and other works in later centuries display a deep conflict in all Greek society that pits aristocratic and democratic principles against each other. Mencken could have been referring to ancient Greeks rather than modern Americans when he remarked that envy is an essential feature of democracy (Mencken 1955).

The preceding account provides little on Homeric women. This is because they do not appear directly involved in the topic at hand, public exchange. Leaving aside various goddesses, women figure weakly in the Iliad. Helen, Hecuba, Kassandra, Brisseus, and Andromache are figures for whom men contend. With the defeat of the men with whom they are linked, they will ceremoniously mourn or will number among the rewards (geras) bestowed to the victors. As women they are not allowed public conduct and consequently cannot engage in any formal exchange. Even in the Odyssey where more women appear, no fully mortal women occur (can one consider Helen fully mortal?) outside Ithaka. While Penelope and Euryklea are key figures there, they are granted no public exchange. Penelope's anomalous marital position merits considerable anthropological comment but not in terms of this article.

The Homeric Epics

Literature on the Iliad and Odyssey is staggeringly vast. Sources that I found useful are Atchity (1978), Austin (1982), Claus (1975). Edwards (1987), Eichholz (1953), John H. Finley (1978), Moses 1. Finley (1955), Gould (1975). Griffin (1980), Heubeck et al. (1988), Hohendahl-Zoetelief (1980), King (1987), Kirk (1985), Motto and Clark (1969), G. Nagy (1979), Pedrick (1982), Pucci (1987), Redfield (1975), Schein (1970, 1984), Stanford (1968), Stewart (1976), Walcot (1977a, b), and Whitman (1965). Classicists will find little information in my article that is not already conveyed in these works. What this article contributes is casting such material into a social anthropological framework, as well as developing arguments raised by Mauss and Simmel.

The Homeric epics may be explained in terms of defining the person and the reciprocity employed to do so.6 The Iliad opens proclaiming the wrath of the hero whose name, father, and social background are immediately made clear. Heroes' identities derive from those they defeat and the consequent rewards they reap. Achilleus's wrath stems from being insufficiently rewarded as the hero he judges himself to be. He is sure that the respect (aidos) he is due exceeds the tokens of recognition (geras) which he receives, consequently impairing the glory (kleos) he seeks. He believes that neither right-minded men nor the gods could credit this treatment as justice (dike). The Iliad is about conflict and the demand for retributive payment (poine) negotiated to rectify unjust recognition for the person, It is a poem of force (bie) (Weil n.d.) employed to seek fame at the price of a safe return (nostos) home. Trouble arises because the protagonists differ in assessing what each is due and in their capacities to enforce such judgments. Its tragedy lies in the implicit acknowledgment that the greatest hero must die to secure the greatest glory.

Complementarily, the Odyssey is about a jeopardized name and identity. True personhood can be achieved only within the seeker's enriched and glorified household from which he has been separated and which outsiders try to usurp. The unnamed hero wanders in a world where he is unrecognized in both senses of the term. To make matters worse the regions he visits present values and situations making it difficult for him to succeed. Unlike the blind, the Odyssey opens withholding the hero's identity. He is described as a he-man (andros), multireactive (polytropos) and a navigator. It takes 21 lines before we learn his name. Subsequent adventures reveal him as multireactivc (polytropos), infinitely cunning (polymetis) in lying and deceit (dolos), qualities on which he is by his disguised mentor, the goddess Athena, daughter of Metis (cunning). Odysseus boastfully reveals his name to Polyphemus, the Cyclops, and he suffers through much of the epic on account of this hubris. He reveals his name to the Phaeakians only after he has good reason to trust them and they have promised him a ship to reach Ithaka. He returns to his family and home as a stranger, revealing his identity in a bloodbath that reclaims his rule and avenges his dishonor.

The Odyssey is an epic about a hero whose identity is unknown and problematic and whose social being is reattained gradually through his treatment or mistreatment as a gift-deserving, nameless stranger at the mercy of others. "Odysseus' adventures are his lineage" (Benardete 1963: 13). In the negative reciprocity of his exploits Odysseus earns his name meaning ''causer of trouble" because his aggressive relations with others make him remembered.7 This is an epic about a successful return (nostos) secured by force and cunning.

With these broad contrasts established, I examine in more detail two situations in each of the two epics. Besides illustrating how complex and manifold Homeric reciprocity may be, and how closely it is tied to definitions of personhood, these cases provide me with an opportunity to fill in further ethnographic details on Homeric beliefs and values governing strategies of reciprocity. If space permitted, textual illustrations could be greatly increased for both epics abound in such material.

The Iliad

My first example relates to the crucial theme of the Iliad, Achilleus's wrath. Achilleus has demonstrated that he is the bravest, most forceful Achaean, at least to his own satisfaction. After his victories, booty has been given to Agamemnon, king or leader (anax or basileus) of the army who as custodian of divine custom (themis) will divide and bestow wealth to the various men. Each bestowal (geras) is a reward of honor recognizing a man's accomplishments or inciting him to future deeds. In either case, the gift leads to obligation (chreios). Throughout the Iliad individual heroes strive to achieve honor through deeds, but Agamemnon is the acknowledged public source for crediting Achaean exploits. Just as some African chiefs receive tribute that they then dole out in hospitality and gifts to followers, so too the Homeric leader assembles men at a communal feast (dais) to distribute honors to the outstanding ones (exochoi). This provides public focus for acknowledgment and discredit. While Agamemnon is proclaimed leader of the assembled warriors (laos) because he has the most and best number of adherents, Iliad 2:277, 380, events bear out that Achilleus and not he is the greatest hero, albeit a "loner. " Ideally, Agamemnon would possess not only the words for judgment and conferring honor but also comparable bravery and force.

Words and deeds should coincide. Words are important recognition but must be backed by deeds and goods where wrongs and rewards are concerned. Charis means both verbal gratitude and material reward. Payment, not just verbal apology, is vital as recompense (poine) to injury. Thus, Greeks, like Nuer, observe that bloodwealth is necessary; but like Nuer they also recognize that compensation never actually makes up fully for losses such as death, suffering, and shame.8 Payment is all that is culturally available if one rejects violence and seeks deliberated agreement (euboulia) (Schofield 1967).

Achilleus is wrathful because Agamemnon has taken a captive woman from him in order to replace another captive that Agamemnon was forced to relinquish on account of the supernatural interference of Apollo. Agamemnon reminds Achilleus that he, Agamemnon, must replace his own loss or be without a substantive sign (geras) of his paramount rank among the assembled warriors (laos): "that you may know well how much 1 am honored (pherteros) than you, and that another man too may shrink from declaring himself my peer and likening himself to me to my face" Iliad 1 :185- l87. Achilleus later complains that such injustice occurs "whenever a man wishes to despoil (amerdo) an equal (homoios) and take back his geras because he is superior in power (kratos)" Iliad 16:52. He rejects Agamemnon as better than he. He claims that Agamemnon is neither just nor brave and prevails only because he has the army behind him. Achilleus has early on complained about Agamemnon that "there was no gratitude (charis) given for fighting incessantly forever against your enemies" Iliad 9:316-317. Agamemnon has offered to replace the woman with other wealth, now or in the future, but Achilleus has rejected this and sulks, refusing to fight, which seems likely to lead to military disaster for the Achaeans and consequently proving to everyone that indeed he is matchless as a warrior. Achilleus implies that because he has at one time possessed the woman she is now incomparable, irreplaceable. After many difficulties, Achaeans put pressure upon Agamemnon to make a further effort to assuage Achilleus's anger (thumos) by offering greater compensation (poine). Agamemnon's speech nicely epitomizes the profound ambivalence of such reciprocation. The payment itself is handsome, but the terms with which it is conveyed continue guerilla warfare between the two men by still asserting Agamemnon's superiority.

Below is Agamemnon's speech to Nestor and the other Achaeans outlining his terms of compensation to Achilleus:

Yet seeing I was blind, and yielded to my miserable passion, I am minded to make amends (apoina), and to give requital past counting. In the midst of you all let me name the glorious gifts (dor anomeno): seven tripods that the fire hath not touched, and ten talents of gold and twenty of gleaming cauldrons, and twelve strong horses, winners in the race, that have won prizes by their fleetness. Not without booty were a man, nor unpossessed by previous gold, whose had wealth as great as the prizes my single-hooved steeds have won me. And I will give seven women, skilled in goodly handiwork, women of Lesbos, whom on the day when himself [Achilleus] took well-built Lesbos I chose me from out of the spoil, and that in beauty surpass all womenfolk. These will I give him and amid them shall be she that I took away, the daughter of Brisseus; and I will furthermore swear a great oath that never went I up into her bed neither had I dalliance with her as is the appointed way of mankind, even of men and women. All these things shall be ready to his hand forthwith; and if thereafter it so be the gods grant us lay waste the city of Priam, let him then enter in, what time we Achaeans be dividing the spoil, and heap up his ship with store of gold and bronze, and himself choose twenty Trojan women that be fairest after Argive Helen. And if we return to Achaean Argos, the richest of lands, he shall be my son, and I will honor him even as Orestes that is reared in all abundance, my son well-beloved. Three daughters have I in my well-builded hall, Chrysothemis, and Laodice, and Iphianassa; of these let him take away the one he would like as wife (phile) in the house of Peleus, without gifts of wooing (anahednon) and I will furthermore give a dower (dose) full rich, such as no man ever yet gave with his daughter. And even well-peopled cities will I give him, Cardamyle, Enope, and grassy Hire, and sacred Pherae and Antheia with deep meadows, and fair Aepeia and vine-clad Pedasus. All are nigh to the sea, on the uttermost border of sandy Pylos and in them dwell men rich in flocks and rich in kine, men that shall honor him with gifts (dotines) as though he were a god, and beneath his sceptre shall bring his ordinances to prosperous fulfilment. All this will I bring to pass for him, if he but cease from his wrath. Let him yieldHades, I wean, is not to be soothed, neither overcome, wherefore he is most hated of all gods. And let him submit himself (upostitu) unto me, seeing I am more kingly (basileuteros) and avow me his elder in years. [Iliad 9:1 19-161 ]

 At first glance Agamemnon appears to be stupendously magnanimous. Yet more careful consideration makes it clear that Achilleus could never accept such a subordinating compensation.9 To begin, the goods, especially the loot from Lesbos, represents booty that was gained mainly because of Achilleus's own heroism. Agamemnon himself points out that although the goods were attained by Achilleus, he, Agamemnon, has hold of them on account of his right as supreme commander. Second, in praising his horses, Agamemnon takes an opportunity to relate his own numerous racing victories and the fame that they brought him. Even the return of the captive woman, Brisseus's daughter, is not what it first seems. After all, since Agamemnon has not slept with her, she cannot be so desperately desirable. Even if she were all these things and he is not lying, she is now voluntarily given up; she would be far more desirable if Achilleus could seize her against Agamemnon's will. Agamemnon offers Achilleus lands and one of his own daughters as wife. The lands would possibly place Achilleus in subservience to Agamemnon; the daughter would certainly do so. This is underscored by Agamemnon remarking that no payments of hedna need be made. As I noted earlier such payments were vital in establishing the parity of affines, so that Achilleus would be receiving a binding, demeaning favor (see note 3 and Moses I. Finley 1955; Lacy 1966). To underscore the situation, Agamemnon describes himself as willing to become a father to Achilleus, asking only that he be recognized as the older and leader. The seductive offer really constitutes a fatherly, engulfing embrace, an offer of becoming philoi (friends-kin) in a way acknowledging little autonomy and equality for the younger man. Finally, the entire speech appears to set a calculable, material value to Achilleus's merit (arete) and this is perhaps the keenest insult of all. The Greek aristocrat faces a dilemma in reckoning honor with things yet claiming that it transcends things. Reference to bloodwealth in this same section echoes this notion in that goods are incommensurate to life but are socially equated with it.

Honor and fame are vital to Achilleus since he sees them as just recompense for being mortal despite being the son of an immortal goddess: ''Since you [Thetis] bore me to be short lived, Zeus ought to give me honor (time)'' Hind 1:352. Achilleus faces an insoluble situation: ''he must be paid, but he cannot be bought" (Claus 1975:24; see Reeve 1973). He requires compensation yet no material goods can entirely mitigate dishonor. Much has been made of Achilleus's supposed alienation. This is misleading. Achilleus cannot be assuaged through the traditional means available, but his reaction stems from that same traditional system of conflicting values.

When Nestor sends Odysseus to relate Agamemnon's terms to Achilleus, Achilleus rejects them because he has been treated as an "unhonored outsider" (atimiton metanastin), Iliad 9:648, a notion that so rankles that he repeats it later, Iliad 16:59. Achilleus remains furious and sulks, causing near disaster to the army until his friend and lover, Patroklos, is slain wearing Achilleus's own armor (and also his father's armor as well). Only this greater assault on his personhood draws Achilleus out to fight.

My second illustration from the Iliad involves the chariot race that Achilleus sponsors as part of the funeral games held to honor Patroklos. Honoring his dead friend with conspicuous expenditures, Achilleus consequently honors himself as his friend's chief mourner and alter ego. Achilleus announces the race to Menelaos, Agamemnon's brother:

 Son of Atreus, and yet other well-greaved Achaeans, for the charioteers these prizes lie waiting in the list. If for some other's's honor we Achaeans were now holding contests, surely it were I that should win the first prize, and bear it to my hut; for ye know how far my horses twin surpass in excellence, seeing they are immortal, and it was Poseidon that gave them to my father Peleus, and he gave to me. [Iliad 23:272-278]

 Before the race commences Achilleus proclaims that his superiority would outshine anyone whom he may honor with a prize. He regrets that he cannot enter because he and his horses are mourning Patroklos, but, of course, he cannot both give and receive prizes and his present role is that of grand gift-giver (Motto and Clark 1969: 120).

Achilleus then announces the prizes:

For swift charioteers first he sets forth goodly prizes, a woman to lead away one skilled in goodly handiwork, and an eared tripod of two and twenty measure for him that should be first; and for the second he appointed a mare of six years, unbroken with a mule foal in her womb; and for the third he set forth a cauldron untouched by fire, a fair cauldron that held four measures, white even as the first; and for the fourth he appointed two talents of gold; and for the fifth a two-handed urn, yet untouched of fire. [Iliad 23:262-270]

There are five prizes and it turns out that there are five contestants so each contender will receive a prize, an unusual situation (Willis 1941). The contenders are Eumeleus (son of Admetus), Diomedes (son of Tydeus), Menelaos (son of Atreus and brother of Agamemnon), Antilochus (son of Nestor, Achilleus's old friend and mentor), and Meriones. The most distinguished and ablest charioteers with the best horses are Eumeleus, Diomedes, and Menelaos; Antilochus and Meriones are less experienced and have slower horses. Given these prospects, Nestor counsels his son to use cunning to win. For Greeks, winning is all that counts; sportsmanship and being a good loser are worth little.

Nestor tells Antilochus:

yet are thy horses slowest in the race: therefore I deem there will be sorry work for thee. The horses of the others are swifter, but the men know not how to devise more cunning (metin) counsel than thine own self. Wherefore come, dear son, lay thou up in the mind cunning (meti) of every sort, to the end that the prizes escape thee not. By cunning, thou knowest, is a woodman far better than by might, by cunning too doth a helmsman on the wine-dark deep guide aright a swift ship that is buffeted by winds; and by cunning doth charioteer prove better than charioteer. Another man, trusting in his horses and car, heedlessly wheeleth to this side and that, and his horses roam over the course, neither keepeth he them in hand; whereas he that bath a crafty (kerdea) profitable mind, albeit he drive worse horses, keepeth his eye even on the turning-post and wheeleth close thereby, neither is unmindful how at the first to force his horses with the ox-hide reins, but keepeth them even in hand, and watcheth the man that leadeth him in the race. [Iliad 23:311-326; see G. Nagy 1983]

One should remember that Athena, daughter of Metis, cunning, taught mankind how to navigate the seas, to fashion ships of wood, and to harness and race horses. The turning-post of a racecourse is her domain. The huge wooden horse that brings the Achaeans victory over Troy is Athena's trick (dolos). Yet cunning without bravery and strength does not suffice (see G. Nagy 1979; Vernant 1981 a). During the first half of the race, the lead goes to Eumeleus with Diomedes gaining so that he seems sure to overtake him. Apollo interferes and tries to obstruct Diomedes. This angers Athena who favors Diomedes, and she causes Eumeleus, Apollo's favorite, to have an accident. This leaves Diomedes in the lead with Menelaos and Antilochus contending for second place. Menelaos seems sure to overtake Antilochus when Antilochus forces Menelaos's chariot into a muddy hole. ''For that by guile (kerdesin, cleverness, bent on gain in a bad sense), and nowise by speed, had he outstripped Menelaos'' Iliad 23:515. Diomedes comes in first, Antilochus second, with Menelaos close behind, then Meriones, and Eumeleus last.

Shocked, Achilleus exclaims:

Lo, in the last place driveth his single-hooved horses the man [Eumeleus] that is far the best (aristos). But come, let us give him a prize, as is meet, a prize for the second place; but the first let the son of Tydeus [Diomedes] bear away. [Iliad 23:536-538]

Rewards here are based on personhood as well as luck and skill. The supposed best cannot be last nor may the undistinguished prevail over the better.

Those assembled concur with Achilleus, except brash Antilochus who insists that the second prize is properly his. He suggests that Achilleus pay Eumeleus out of his private wealth but not bestow the second prize already consecrated to the race:

Thereof do thou hereafter take and give him even a goodlier prize, or even now forthwith, that the Achaeans may applaud thee. But the mare will I not yield; for her let any man that will, essay to do battle with me by might of hand. [Iliad 23:551554]

And so Achilleus gives Eumeleus a valuable bronze corselet out of his own possessions. Then Menelaos denounces Antilochus for having to cheat because his horses were slow. Antilochus has put Menelaos's merit (arete) to shame, Ilium 23:571. He challenges Antilochus to swear an oath that he did not practice trickery (dolos), suggesting that Antilochus dare not defy Zeus in this way.

Antilochus immediately "eats crow":

Bear with me, now for far younger am I than thou, king (anax) Menelaos, and thou art the elder (proteros) and the better (areion, of merit) man. Thou knowest of what sort are the transgressions of a man that is young, for hasty is he of purpose, and but slender is his wit. Wherefore let the heart be patient; the mare that I have won will I give thee of myself. Aye, and if thou shouldst ask some other goodlier thing from out my house, forthwith were I fain to give thee out of hand. [Iliad 23:587-593]

Antilochus refers to the power of Menelaos as a leader of others but also to his elderhood, conjuring up philoi notions of parenthood. Yet Antilochus still refers to his gift as one that he has won and in offering to give it to Menelaos he still attempts to take credit in the exchange.

Menelaos will not be outwitted in this game of shifting definitions of autonomy and generosity.

Verily not soon should another of the Achaeans have persuaded me but thou hast suffered greatly and toiled greatly, thou and thy brave father and thy brother for my sake, wherefore I will hearken to thy prayer (lissomai), aye, and to the end that these too may know that my heart is never over-haughty neither unbending. [Iliad 23:606-611 ]

Menelaos continues to observe that it was rightfully his mare from the start. He has now categorized Antilochus as well as Antilochus's brother and father as subordinates to be rewarded for their long suffering subservience to his needs. He redefines what Antilochus had hoped would be a gesture of noblesse oblige in gift giving into a supplication, a prayer (lissomai) such as one would offer to a powerful being. Even while commending himself as generous and reasonable, Menelaos closes by signaling that he has good grounds for being proud because he is powerful. Menelaos has now made the mare a "poisonous" gift. Menelaos then takes the third prize. Meriones takes the fourth. This leaves the fifth prize unclaimed. Achilleus turns this to good advantage for his own strategies. Throughout, Homer implies that Achilleus favors Antilochus and Nestor. Achilleus certainly has reasons to dislike Menelaos, the younger brother of Agamemnon. Achilleus awards the final gift to Nestor who did not race at all, but whose faction can thus be soothed. He does so in a manner that redounds to his own aura of generosity and grandeur by making it clear that Nestor cannot reciprocate:

This, aged sir, is yours to lay away as a treasure in memory of the burial of Patroklos; since never again will you see him among the Argives. I give you this prize for the giving Expecting no return]; since never again will you fight with your fists nor wrestle, nor enter again the field for spear-throwing, nor race on your feet; since now the hardship of old age is upon you. [Iliad 23:618-623]

Nestor tries to salvage dignity by conjuring up his glorious past when he would have been able to reciprocate. He couches his thanks in philoi terms of parent-child relations:

Aye, verily, my son (tekos, child), all this host thou spoken aright; for my limbs, even my feet, are no more firm, o my friend (philos), as of old, nor do my arms as of old dart out lightly from my shoulders on either side. Would that I were young, burying lord Amarynaus at Buprasium, and his sons appointed prizes in honor of the king. Then was there no men that proved himself my peer, neither the Epeians nor the Pylians themselves nor of the great-souled Aetolians. [Iliad 23:626-633]

These passages underscore the importance of speaking eloquently and shrewdly to define terms of receiving and giving gifts. Yet such oratory would be futile were one not also to command public attention through reputation (deeds) and a powerful circle of followers. Speech about reciprocity is empty without the wherewithal both to provide the riches and services at dispersal and the power to compel their acceptance, even on one's own terms that may be painful to the receiver.10 The pedigrees of the trophies bestowed are also crucial (see Zarker 1965).

The Odyssey

 The two illustrations that I provide from the Odyssey are linked, mirror-images of one another.11 This is clear both from stated kinship between the Phaeakians and the Cyclopes, and because the successful outcome of the first situation (Odysseus's successful supplication of the Phaeakians) leads directly to his singing of the second (his unsuccessful supplication of a Cyclops):12

Odysseus is cast naked and bruised upon the shores of the Phaeakian kingdom of Scheria, ruled by king Alkinoös and queen Arete. He is befriended by their daughter, Nausikaä, who instructs her maids to clothe Odysseus and shows him to the palace:

Nay, this is some helpless wanderer that has come hither. Him must we now tend, for from Zeus are all strangers (xeinoi) and beggars and a gift (doris), though small, is welcome. Odyssey 6:206-208]

Guided by Athena who conceals hen in a miraculous cloud, Odysseus finds his way through the palace to the center of the royal court where a feast is about to begin. There "about the knees of Arete Odysseus cast his hands'' Odyssey,' 7:142. Then Odysseus makes a prayer:

"Arete, daughter of godlike Rhexenor, to thy husband and to thy knees am I come after so many toils,aye, and to these banqueters, to whom may the gods grant happiness in life, and may each of them hand down to his children the wealth in his halls and the dues of honor which the people have given him. But for me do ye speed my sending, that I may come to my native land, and that quickly, for a long time I have been suffering woes far from my friends.'' So saying he sat down on the hearth in the ashes by the fire, and they were all bushed in silence. But at length there spoke among them the old lord Echeneüs. [Odyssey 7: 14-155]

Echeneüs addresses the king:

Alkinoös, lo, this is not the better way, nor is it seemly that a stranger (xeinon) should sit upon the ground on the hearth in the ashes; but these others hold back waiting for thy word. Come, make the stranger to arise and set him upon a silver-studded chair and bid the heralds mix wine, that we may pour libations to Zeus, who hurls the thunderbolt; for he ever attends upon reverend suppliants (hiketisin). And let the housewife give supper to the stranger of the store that is in the house. Odyssey 7: 159- 1661

To understand Odysseus's behavior one must grasp two important concepts: first, xeinia or guest-friendship, and second, hiketia or supplication (Bolchazy 1978; Gould 1975; Herman 1987; Hohendahl-Zoetelief 1980; Levy 1963; Pedrick 1982; Podlecki 1961; Schlunk 1976; Scodel 1982).

1. Xeinia: I have already noted that one established kin-like relations (philoi) with strangers (xeinoi) by prestations and that this could lead to alliance or even marriage between equals. One was obliged to extend some hospitality and gifts to helpless strangers who were under the divine protection of Zeus (Zeus xeinion). Of course, one did not make welcome (philesei) a dignified and powerful prince or warrior in the way one helped a miserable beggar. The problem lay in the fact that appearances are deceiving. Ideally, one would want to extend prestations commensurate with the respect (aidos) due a stranger. Yet strangers might not be what they seem. Strangers might even be gods in disguise, as happens several times in the Odyssey. This is probably one reason why Odysseus's concealed identity fascinated Greeks. It touches upon the dilemma of strategic prestation, of correctly gauging the social person. Greeks were concerned about public appearance, but they also recognized that this importance of public face would lead to it being assiduously cosmeticized and manipulated. A true appraisal of a person was not always easy, except among one's own kin where interpersonal face was not at issue. In the Phaeakian situation, Odysseus is from the start treated in exemplary fashion as a stranger. Yet we shall see that he must still do and say even more before confirming the position he seeks.

2. The notion of hiketia involves self-abasement, placing oneself at the mercy of the one who is supplicated. It is done by crouching and clutching the knees (associated with sexual generation, see Onions 1951:176-186) of the superordinate one. 13 This is sometimes accompanied by chucking the chin or kissing the hands. A kiss (philema) on the face was how philoi might greet one another. In the Iliad supplication is made, often unsuccessfully, by a vanquished warrior seeking mercy. Were a foe spared, he would be expected to reciprocate with a ransom in order to be freed. Perhaps the most moving scene in the Iliad involves king Priam visiting Achilleus under supernatural protection in order to redeem his son Hektor's body. Seeing Priam, Achilleus becomes hostile, but Priam performs hiketia and Achilleus takes him by the hands, raises him up, wines and dines him, and releases him next day with Hektor's body. 14 Agamemnon's improper rejection of a father's (Chriseus's) hiketia for his captive daughter eventually triggers off the rift between Agamemnon and Achilleus, and Achilleus's noble acceptance of Priam's supplication heralds the epic's close.

The passages cited about Odysseus's conduct among the Phaeakians neatly illustrate hiketia. Odysseus grasps the queen's knees. He does this on the advice of Athena.15 He then crouches at the hearth in the ashes. Clutching the knees is conventional supplication, but it is also intimate contact with a sexually significant, protected portion of the body. Similarly, the hearth is recognized as dirty with ashes, but it is also the moral and physical center of the home, a place sacred to the oikos. Odysseus's hiketia confounds abasement with an invasion of the host. The invasion here is assumed to be harmless because the supplicant is also tacitly stating that he is "nothing" and therefore no threat even to such intimate sectors. By performing hiketia the supplicant abnegates all equality of status; he becomes aidoioi (without aidos, without respect). Reciprocation of hiketia involves taking the supplicant by the hands, drawing him up and incorporating him commensally. Depending upon just how low or scruffy the supplicant is, this incorporates him as some kind of philos (friend-kin), to be in a parent-child or fraternal,protective relation. In Odysseus's case, he literally replaces Alkinoös's favorite son at the table.

True to the xeinia relationship, it is not long before Alkinoös offers Nausikaä to Odysseus, suggesting that he become his son-in-law. Yet Alkinoös recognizes that Odysseus is justified in declining in order to hasten home. The next day the Phaeakians prepare a ship for Odysseus, and while this is being done, Alkinoös and his court entertain him by holding various athletic games so that the stranger can tell his old friends (philoi) at home how the Phaeakians, his new philoi, excel. After some contests, Laodamus, the king's son, asks Odysseus to enter the contests. Odysseus declines claiming that he is too depressed from having suffered much and on account of longing for home. Then Euryalus, the warrior-athlete second only to Laodamus in skill and bravery, mocks Odysseus suggesting that he is no gentleman-athlete but only a trader mindful of ''gains of greed'' (kerdeon tharpaleon, shrewd profit eagerly grasped) Odyssey 9:164. Euryalus accuses Odysseus of dishonorable reciprocity, suggesting that his voyages were not for adventure and acquiring glory but for commerce. Odysseus responds with a lecture on the dangers of confusing external appearances with hidden power and worth. 16 Odysseus then throws the discus surpassing everyone by a long distance. He then challenges all the Phaeakians to a wide range of contests, remarking that he would compete with any but Laodamus, for he cannot contend with a guestfriend. He is not taken up on his challenge. Instead, he is placated and complimented by Alkinoös who entertains him at a feast for his assembled followers, all of whom are asked to contribute to Alkinoös's guest-gift to Odysseus.

Alkinoös announces the many "gifts of friendship" (domon xeinion) that he and his followers will give to fill Odysseus's new vessel. Euryalus then gives Odysseus a silver-studded sword in recompense for his harsh words. The gift, appropriate to a valiant (agathos) aristocrat (aristos), not to a merchant trader confirms Euryalus's acceptance of Odysseus's self-definition.

When the celebrations and gift giving have gone on for some time and Alkinoös has affirmed his philoi relationship with Odysseus, the court bard sings of the Trojan war. Odysseus weeps. 17 Questioned by Alkinoös, Odysseus finally (at Odyssey 9:19) reveals his name because he is now among philoi. Now he boasts of both his wiles (dolos) and fame (kleos) and sings his adventures, including those with the Cyclops, my final illustrative case.

The encounter between Odysseus and the Cyclops Polyphemus is the most famous passage in the Odyssey and perhaps the most intensively analyzed (Austin 1982, 1983; Bergren 1983; C. Brown 1966; J. Finley 1978; Glenn 1971, 1978; Kirk 1970; Mills 1981; Pucci 1987; Schein 1970, 1984; Stanford 1968; Stewart 1976; Sullivan 1987). Despite its popularity, its significance appears lost to most nonclassicists and some of those influenced by folklorism and psychoanalysis seem strikingly inept.

Even before Odysseus and his crew reach the land of the Cyclopes we are told that they are arrogant and lawless (athemis) beings who neither plant crops nor plough. Yet they have plentiful foodstuffs that grow without cultivation, much as foods were got by humans before they fell from the gods' favor and became mortal. Although their land has excellent harbors, the Cyclopes fashion no ships by which to visit others. Each Cyclops lives in his own cave without socializing with other Cyclopes. Odyssey 9:105-141. The Cyclopes display none of the needs and consequent social artifice by which ordinary humans cope.

Odysseus takes a small group ashore on the Cyclopes' island even though he and the main party are quite safe and comfortable on nearby, uninhabited Goat Island (Bremmer 1986; Clay 1980). He takes this chance in order to make trial of yonder men, to learn who they are. whether they are cruel and wild, and unjust, or whether they love strangers and fear the gods in their thoughts. [Odyssey 9: 173-175]

Odysseus goes because he is human and curious, the very opposite reasons from those that lead the Cyclopes not to travel or practice crafts, each to mind his own separate affairs.

Odysseus takes along a large goat-skin of very potent wine because he has a foreboding that it would be useful when he meets what he suspects will be a savage (agrios, not tilling) person with a powerfully dangerous heart (thumos, emotion) who knows neither justice (dike) nor law (themis, custom), Odyssey 9:212-215. Odysseus received this wine as a gift, along with other wealth, from a priest of Apollo who was suitably grateful for Odysseus's help when Odysseus visited him.

Even before we actually encounter the Cyclops, Odysseus has warned us to expect someone who is the antithesis of what a moral (social) human being should be. The Cyclops's lack of morals and his lack of crafts (techne) are interrelated (see Mills 1981). Their very size and disproportion take the Cyclopes beyond proper social measure.

To appreciate Homer's apparent digression in describing the underdevelopment of the Cyclopes' island, despite its riches, we must understand something about how Greeks distinguished between mortals and divinities.

Greeks believed that humanity's skills (techne) are the gifts we got from Prometheus (Prometis, fore-cunning) who stole them, as epitomized by fire, from Zeus for us. The gods in turn punished humans with a false gift, Pandora (giver of all, or gift from all the gods), who brought humanity misery and sexual mortality (Vernant 1981b). Humanity was punished with both sexual and alimentary appetites that were linked to mortality, the pangs of sexual longing and childbirth, and the pangs of hunger and toil to secure food. Consequently, humanity's skills are rooted in our orectic needs and limitations and ultimately our vulnerability in death. Humans' artifice stemming from fire relates to metis (cunning) and includes the capacity to develop social rules and relations, as well as arts. The social (both customary and technological) bases of humanity's activities (exchanges) are rooted in both what makes humans inventive like gods (culture, the possession of fire) but still not divine but mortal, for deceptively it was not actually divine fire that was permitted to be stolen. Culture stems from negative exchanges (thefts and false gifts) but produces proper exchanges (laws and sociability), with all their fragility and ephemerality. This scenario also accounts for the rites of sacrifice (reciprocity with the gods), but that is another story.

As a human, Odysseus is puny when compared to the Cyclops. Odysseus is polymetis (infinitely crafty) and polytropos (multiadaptive). He has trickery (dolos). What we are set up to expect is an exchange between a cultured mortal, in the cunning but vulnerable sense, and a powerful, semidivine brute lacking guile since he does not ordinarily need it.

When Odysseus and his men reach the island, they see a gigantic, one-eyed Cyclops who resides apart and does not live by bread as men would (eating bread and drinking wine are human traits, based on agriculture). Rather, the Cyclops lives by herding, standing between agricultural, civilized humans and gods who need not work and beasts that comprehend neither labor nor leisure (Kirk 1970: 162-171). Odysseus and his men enter the Cyclops's cave and eat some of his food. (Bad guests, they enter and help themselves whereas they had all the food they needed on Goat Island.) When the monster returns, they are trapped within. Odysseus identifies himself and his party as heroes from Agamemnon's army returning from sacking Troy but now

come as suppliants to thy knees [ in the manner that Odysseus supplicated queen Arete successfully] in hope that thou wilt give us entertainment (xeinion, guest-gifts) or otherwise make some presents as is due (themis, customary) to strangers (xeinoi). Nay, mightiest one, reverence the gods; we are thy supplicants (hiketai) and Zeus is the avenger of suppliants and strangersZeus, the strangers' godwho ever attends upon revered strangers. [Odyssey 9:26~2711

In terms of sociable, cultured humanity, Odysseus knows that it is customary (themis), proper (epeikes), just (dikaion), and attractive (kalon) to help strangers and to provide guest-gifts. Indeed, all such adjectives are applied to such practices elsewhere in the Odyssey. Such treatment is compulsory when strangers behave properly as supplicants. Zeus himself was thought to protect strangers and to send avengers, the Erinyes, to punish those who disregarded this command. Odysseus voices all these references, identifying himself and his men as heroes of the proper agathos category. Yet being wily, he does not reveal his actual identity.

But the Cyclops answers Odysseus that he does not care about Zeus and will not spare them. Yet he still expects Odysseus to tell him where his ship is harbored and whether he has left any more men behind, presumably so he can destroy it and them. Immediately, Odysseus realizes that the Cyclops may be awesomely powerful and fierce but he is not clever. Odysseus observes that the Cyclops failed to trick him because of "my great cunning and I made answer again in crafty (doliois) words" Odyssey 9:281-282. Odysseus lies, saying that his group is alone and without a ship, which was sunk. The monster responds by eating two of Odysseus's men, confirming their worst fears about his moral inversion from humanity. (He eats them raw, including even the bones.)

At dawn the Cyclops goes out with his goats, as is his habit, and leaves Odysseus and his men trapped within the cave. Odysseus sharpens an olive-stick (the olive being a cultivatable gift to humanity from Athena, daughter of Metis, cunning) and he hardens this in the fire. When the Cyclops returns that night, Odysseus gets him drunk with the wine that he brought. (The Cyclops drinks his wine neat, an uncivilized practice.) Here the true gift from the earlier, good host is used as a false gift against the bad host who gives no good gifts but only suffering, who feeds on his guests rather than feed them. (Properly, it is the host and not the guest who should provide wine.) As Odysseus plies the Cyclops with the potent wine, he says,

Cyclops. thou askest me of my glorious name, and I will tell thee; and do thou give me a stranger's gift (xeinion) even as promised. No man (outis)18 is my name, Noman they call me. [Odyssey 9:36~3661

The Cyclops replies, "Noman will I eat last among his comrades and the others before him; this shall be my gift (xeinion),'' Odyssey 9:369-37 -- one false gift for another. (This constitutes another reversal, for one should not ask a stranger's name before giving him hospitality.)

The Cyclops then collapses drunk from the bad gift and Odysseus and his comrades blind him with the sharpened olive-shaft. The other Cyclopes hear the blinded one screaming and ask him what has happened. He replies "My friends (philoi). it is Noman that is slaying me by guile (dolos) not by force " Odyssey 9:408~09. Consequently they do not bother to help him. Later Odysseus and his men escape from the blinded Cyclops by cunning (dolos) clinging beneath the goats when they leave the cave the next morning.

Odysseus and his men successfully board their ship and set sail.

But when I was as far away as a man's voice carries when he shouts then I spoke to the Cyclops with mocking words: Cyclops. That man it seems was no weakling whose comrades thou wast minded to devour by brutal strength in thy hollow cave. Full surely were thy evil deeds to fall on thine own head, thou cruel wretch who didst not shrink from eating thy guests in thine own house. Therefore has Zeus taken vengeance on thee, and the other gods.'' [Odyssey 9:373-3801

While his comrades plead with him to stop so they will not be sunk Odysseus continues to bait the monster on account of his great emotion (thumos). Odysseus "answered him again with angry heart (thumos)":

Cyclops, if any one of mortal men shall ask thee about the shameful blinding of thine eye, say that Odysseus, the sacker of cities blinded it, even the son of Laertes whose home is in Ithaka. [Odyssey 9:500-505]

The Cyclops replies that a soothsayer had earlier predicted all this but that he the Cyclops had looked for someone tall, comely and mighty, not for such a puny one as Odysseus. The Cyclops had misjudged the relation between outward appearance and someone's real power. This was because the Cyclops lacked true cunning.

The Cyclops now foolishly asks Odysseus:

Yet come hither, that I may set before thee gifts of entertainment (xeinia), and may speed thy sending hence, that the glorious Earth-shaker [Poseidon] may grant it thee. For I am his son. [Odyssey 9:517-520]

The Cyclops reveals that his name is Polyphemus (repute everywhere but also curse everywhere). Odysseus insults the Cyclops even more, and Polyphemus envokes his powerful father to prevent Odysseus from ever reaching home.

This exchange makes good sense if we remember that Odysseus owes his very identity (''Giver of troubles", odyssasthai) to the harm he causes others. His respect (aidos) was threatened when he was denied gift-guesthood after he himself had reduced his own dignity by supplication. Odysseus can recover his threatened personhood by announcing his name to his victim, who is, after all, Polyphemus (repute abounding). Odysseus's revelation to Polyphemus parallels the exchanged announcements of identity and reputation that precede combat between heroes in the Iliad. One can get no honor or glory for a deed if one's name is unknown. The name is the peg to which the deed is attached. It is one's name that will be sung by bards in epics. Nor is Odysseus at all deterred by the fact that Polyphemus, having his name, can now envoke his stupendously powerful father against him. That Polyphemus is attached to Poseidon simply increases the Cyclops's dangerous importance as a victim and consequently the magnitude of Odysseus's triumph. Even the subsequent suffering from Poseidon will only augment Odysseus's personhood, provided that Odysseus eventually prevails over these risks, which he does with Athena's help.


Both the Iliad and the Odyssey present aristocratically oriented plots with subversive themes. These recognize that claims to authority are discrepant from personal attributes and that even the central notions of compensation and heroic interaction are themselves implicitly questionable. In the Iliad, Agamemnon leads the attacking army yet is inferior to Achilleus in courage, military skill, and nobility. Achilleus repeatedly threatens to outshine Agamemnon, but the epic ends with Agamemnon still more politically established than Achilleus. Yet the Odyssey reveals Agamemnon ignominiously dead and while Achilleus does die with imperishable fame, even he seems bitterly discontent when his shade is interviewed by Odysseus. In the Odyssey, Odysseus is continually treated in a manner unbecoming his status as a prince of Ithaka and a hero. Odysseus's inherent qualities enable him to triumph eventually over those who denigrate him. Unlike Achilleus, Odysseus cannot prevail with bravery alone, but needs every trick and deceit he can muster. The mechanisms of sociability, as epitomized in guest-gift relations, appear as sources of abuse and danger as much as means to advantage and order.

What links these epics together is agonistic exchange, which works out discrepancies between the "inner" individual and the socially recognized ''outer" person. These struggles determine whether a protagonist's estimation of himself, of his respect, is commensurate with that held by others (see Benveniste 1973:277; Vernant 1975). Homeric Greeks were likely to overestimate their aidos. To sustain a high vision of oneself, one must be able to compel others to accept this view. These heroes' reputations are never free from jeopardy so long as they live. What makes them superior to the gods is that they can be heroes because being mortal they risk their lives. One continues to assert new claims until brought short, if not by another mortal hero, then by old age or by a god.

For Homeric Greeks, exchange is inseparable from personhood. The latter defines the former. When Homeric Greeks speak of honor and shame, of their struggles to maintain or enlarge their respect, they refer to problems of autonomy, and exchange simply asserts and undermines this.

The values attached to these exchanges are proportionate to the risks involved. In challenging one's equal or those claiming to be superior, one augments one's own respect. One loses simply by failing to put matters at risk. One cannot drop out claiming to be above such struggles. One must remain agonistically involved. The public nature of exchanges, the need for validation by others, is intense for Homeric Greeks. Respect, dignity, honor, shame, are attributes conferred or denied by others. One needs an audience. Need for others as witnesses characterizes all social phenomena, yet for Homeric Greeks this extends even to the grave, ever compromising autonomy. Furthermore, systematic exclusion of Homeric women from the public arena profoundly diminished their autonomy.

Existence after death for heroes centers on whether one is famed and praised after being physically gone (Garland 1984-86; Vermeule 1976:203-205).19 Yet even Achilleus, whose fame seems assured, has misgivings concerning the worth of fame when life is gone. Aristocratic notions of fame constitute a mystification of a more prosaic struggle for power and resources.

Mauss presented exchange as a powerful mechanism by which societies are welded together and conflict subdued, even though coining the term "agonistic exchange," presumably from the Greeks. In contrast, Simmel stressed the divisive strategies of exchange, the motives separating and defining protagonists. For him, these involve assertion of gain and loss. He would have seconded Rousseau:

To speak of a man giving himself in return for nothing is to speak of what is absurd, unthinkable; such an action would be illegitimate, void, if only because no one who did it could be in his right mind. [1968:54]

 Mauss pointed out how aspects of the person inhere in things so that the social self or groups are passed along with the objects conveyed and in a sense this could facilitate their retrieval (see Weiner 1985). In contrast, Simmel stressed how things became freed from those who made and processed them. Simmel portrays power. For him, objects' value was due to the risk and pathos surrounding loss. In the Homeric case we need both analysts to make sense, for reciprocity divides as much as it unites, ranks as much as it levels, and produces conflict as much as effacing it. While objects of exchange circulate, there is a profound risk of loss. This sense of risk enhances value. The ''highest" goals of exchange involve intangibles such as honor and fame, yet the power to sustain and compel such values derives from material things that may be taken or given away. This article underscored one point so far not made sufficiently clear by classicists. Exchange is the central mechanism by which the social self is established and defined by Homeric Greeks. Furthermore, this social self is under constant threat or promise of reconstruction. For Greeks, this self is a profoundly other-defined entity.

This article began by saluting Finley and his recognition that Mauss provides insights into the analysis of Homeric exchange. While Finley pointed the way, he failed to recognize how essential agonistic exchange is for creating social self. In this respect my article more clearly articulates what was implicit in his brilliant directions. To this end Simmel provided complementary interpretations. These relations link to themes of force and domination neglected by Mauss. Greek exchange poses a dilemma over freedom in the Simmelian sense. One values autonomy yet one measures this only by one's capacity to dominate others. To strive for freedom is to risk defeat and subjection but also never to be allowed to stand idly alone. Egalitarian, agonistic exchange may turn into ranking and eventual hierarchy. Such changes may be enacted through aristocratic oligarchy or through demagogues and tyrants. These processes engage the next step in Greek development, and again Finley has signaled the way to map this, by reexamining Weber. It was Weber who, while admiring Simmel's views on exchange, grasped their analytical weaknesses. In a paper written shortly before his death (1985, republished in 1986), Finley reminded us of Weber's insights on force, domination, and the city's growth as likely keys to the next step in confirming hierarchy and social integration (Weber 1978). If Finley is again right, cross-fertilization between social anthropology, sociology, and classics has a promising future.


References Cited