Scholia Reviews 13 (2004) 25.
Wolf-Hartmut Friedrich (tr. Peter Jones and Gabriele Wright, with an appendix by Kenneth Saunders), Wounding and Death in the Iliad: Homeric Techniques of Description. London: Duckworth 2003. Pp. xviii + 167. ISBN 0-7156-2983-2. UK£45.00. Further Details.
University of New England, Australia
Friedrich's much overlooked Verwundung und Tod in der Ilias, first published in 1956, has now been translated into English by Peter Jones and Gabriele Wright. The work is very much a product of its times; its methodology is firmly and unfashionably analytical, and it is entirely disregarding of the then-emerging theories of oral poetics. Friedrich seeks to identify layers in the Iliadic text by distinguishing the styles characterising regular and oft-occurring events in the Iliad, namely wounding and death. Different styles are distinguished according to 'grounds of the varying levels of plausibility or implausibility of the wounds and deaths suffered by the heroes' (p. xi). Despite its apparent anomalousness in the current climate of Homeric scholarship, Peter Jones provides three convincing reasons why this book has been made available for a new generation of Homeric scholars. First, the question of 'oral stylistics' has largely gone unexamined; second, the investigation of wounds and death has considerable medical interest; and third, Friedrich's analysis opens up questions of plot structure and narratology. To this persuasive rationale, I add a fourth reason: that the study of wounds in the Iliad is crucial for interpreting heroic conduct. Friedrich's primary focus is not how injury distinguishes between heroes, either individually or as a group, nevertheless, he does offer stimulating insights into how the description of a wound is influenced by a hero's status in the poem.
The book includes a preface, written by Peter Jones, while the book proper consists of an introduction, three chapters identifying three separate 'styles', and a lengthy appendix examining longer and stylistically complex incidents. A second appendix, written by Kenneth Saunders, re-evaluates some of Friedrich's findings in the light of modern medical knowledge. The volume includes word and (Greek) name indices, and an index locorum. There is no bibliography and, regrettably, the footnotes of the original appear as end-notes in this edition. Beginning language students will miss English translations of the Greek text.
Jones' brief preface (pp. xi-xviii), as noted above, rationalises the book's republication and translation and, usefully, locates the work both within the analytical tradition and that of oral poetics. Friedrich's own introduction (pp. 1-5) begins with criticism of previous scholarship that has sought to define Homeric styles. Such endeavours are largely ignored these days but part of the value of Friedrich's work is that it reminds the modern student of the complex debates that characterised Homeric studies in the early to mid-20th century. Friedrich engages, either implicitly or explicitly, with -- predominantly German -- authors including Wilamowitz and Bethe through to scholars of his day such as Otto, Schadewaldt, and von der Mühll.[] As noted earlier, however, the work of Parry and Lord is ignored.
Friedrich then briefly establishes his methodology and argument. He asserts that the examination of 'passages of similar content which are not simply repetitious' enable clear distinctions in style to be discerned (p. 3). Such passages are scenes of injury and death. These he groups according to a perceived degree of realism, that is, whether a scene manifests elements of medical plausibility or if it wanders into the realm of the fantastic and supernatural. Linguistic analyses also contribute an important part of the investigation. Friedrich offers no comprehensive typology or clear definitions but identifies three broad 'styles' of narration which give their names to the respective chapter headings: 'Phantasmata' (pp. 7-22), 'Truth to life' (Biotischer realismus, pp. 23-51), and 'Strict style' (Strenger Stil, pp. 53-70). Friedrich is keenly aware of the pitfalls of subjectivity inherent in his approach, and is especially critical of past attempts to discern layers in the Homeric text. Despite best intentions however, his methodology occasionally fails him, especially since his medical knowledge is lacking by modern standards.[]
In Chapter One, 'Phantasmata' (pp. 7-22), Friedrich's method of differentiating style is made clear. He groups together incidents which he claims 'stand out because they have motifs in common which make them comparable with each other' (p. 13). For instance, the deaths of Asius, Thestor, Mydon, and Alcathous form a discreet category since 'style decides the grouping', namely, a 'tendency towards the incredible (Haarsträubenden) is . . . apparently common' (p. 13). The chapter is divided into sections, grouping incidents according to their miraculousness, gruesomeness (which he finds 'incredible'), and so on. Aeneas' injury and removal from battle is deemed miraculous (pp. 16f.), whilst well-known incidents such as that describing a head hanging only by a flap of skin (16.335); a spear-butt lodged in a man's heart and quivering with its beating (13.442-44); or eyeballs falling to the ground (13.615), to list just a few, comprise these groupings. These sorts of incidents are often taken as typical of Homeric battle narrative, but Friedrich shows that they are a relative minority. More importantly, he points to relationships between incidents and characters on the basis of these stylistic similarities.
Chapter Two, 'Truth to Life' (pp. 23-51), groups incidents according to the apparently high level of realism and the 'precise' manner of narration they manifest. By way of example, Friedrich compares the injuries of a number of Greeks and Trojans, especially those wounding episodes (balancing each other) involving the leaders in Books 11 and 13. He makes the interesting point that the 'true to life' style particularly characterises the woundings and deaths of the sons of Priam including Hector (p. 26). Friedrich asserts that some differences can be traced back to individual character, or the nationalism of the Iliad, yet also that such distinctions cannot be attributed to these factors alone. The conclusion that the consistency in variation is attributable to multiple authorship would attract few supporters but there is no doubt that these distinctions have narratological significance.
A section at the end of this chapter, 'Additions to I and II' (pp. 34-51), examines incidents which manifest what Friedrich calls 'pseudo-realism' (Scheinrealismus) or 'low realism' (Niederer Realismus.). The first group are those descriptions which appear realistic but on closer inspection are revealed to be implausible, that is, 'fantasy in the garb of precision' (for example, 13.545, 20.463-83).[] The second group seems to incorporate those injuries and deaths which are not supernatural or miraculous but rather unlikely or somehow 'offensive' (p. 42). This includes deaths caused by strikes to the groin area (particularly characteristic of Meriones, for example 5.65-67); decapitation (proposed at 14.175; 17.125; an actuality at 13.202); and the vicious slayings carried out by Agamemnon and Achilles (11.145; 20.397-400 and elsewhere). Achilles' cruelty, is 'an important statement about Achilles, but then spread to other heroes . . . and lost its original significance' (p. 48). Nevertheless, Friedrich argues that second rank heroes are distinguished in the Iliad by causing wounds that are 'crude' in their naturalism or barbaric. He later asserts that lesser heroes make their impact on the reader through the 'peculiarities of their actions' (p. 65).
The final chapter, 'Strict Style' (pp. 53-70), seeks to identify a type of narration which is 'essential[ly] Homeric.' That is, this group of descriptions manifests 'realistic sequencing and energetic firmness of narrative, which uses poetic embellishment both economically and effectively and neither denies the nationalistic standpoint nor emphasises it obtrusively' (p. 56). Less clearly-defined than the other styles, Friedrich asserts that it functions at both superficial and deeper levels. For instance, descriptions of death which 'restrict themselves to what is necessary' (p. 55) are an example of 'strict style.' It is also associated with the major heroes. Thus, Diomedes' aristeia features elements of this style; Friedrich asserts that the hero's 'first victory shows what the stricter style can achieve by the simplest means in terms of intensification and change' (p. 62).
As noted, the book contains two appendices. Friedrich's appendix is divided into three sections which examine longer incidents characterised by a multiplicity of styles. Friedrich demonstrates how his methodology distinguishes layers in the text as we have it, thus unearthing 'original' narrative structures. It includes a detailed examination of the duels between Paris and Menelaus in Book 3, and between Ajax and Hector in Books 7 and 14. There is also an investigation of Menelaus' injury and the healing of his wound by Machaon in Book 4; the deaths of Harpalion (Il. 13.643), and Lycaon (Il. 21.34-135), and the deaths of Sarpedon (Il. 16.462-507) and Asius (Il. 13.389-93).
The second appendix, by Saunders (pp. 131-67), provides an update on medical aspects of the woundings and deaths discussed by Friedrich. It includes material already covered by Saunders in earlier publications, as he himself out, as well as newer material (p. 131).[] Saunders's appendix is useful first for general points regarding instant death, wound healing, weaponry, and the like. The main section directly answers Friedrich's claims, illuminating both the strengths and weaknesses of his subjective analysis, and will particularly appeal to those with an interest in the medical knowledge expressed in the Iliad. Saunders shows that some of the groupings -- for instance, that of phantasmata -- must be reassessed. He observes, however, that whilst Friedrich over-simplified, his insights have 'inescapable implications for Homeric style' (p 162). It is a conclusion with which many readers will agree.
The book is old-fashioned in its aims but one does not have to be an analyst to find Friedrich's distinctions both interesting and valuable. His categorisations, particularly that of 'pseudo-realism,' and his assessments of character and theme, have exerted considerable influence on Homeric scholarship.[] And, as Jones observes in his preface (p. xiii), the comparison of 'motifs' and styles is entirely compatible with that of the oralist, thus paving the way for future work in this direction. Wounding and Death is useful not only for its form, however, but also its content. Injury is a frequent but highly significant event in the Iliad and it has only in recent times begun to receive attention.[] Importantly, Friedrich draws attention to injury, especially as a marker of heroic status, as a means of distinguishing between heroes both individually and as part of a group. For instance, Friedrich notes that heroic conduct is highly important in such incidents identifying high-ranking warriors like Odysseus, Agamemnon (p. 24), Diomedes (p. 25), and Hector (p. 72). Conduct can include whether or not a hero attends to his own wound: Menelaus is 'unheroic' for not removing Pandarus' arrow himself, but Diomedes and Odysseus are heroic (p. 78). Further, as Friedrich claims on a number of occasions, there is a national bias in the poem geared towards the Greeks (pp. 25, 56) which manifests itself stylistically in episodes of wounding and death. Again, this is an area which will profit from further investigation.
Wounding and Death should appeal to all students of Homer, particularly those with narratological interests, as well as those concerned with medical history. I found the quality of the publication to be generally excellent. The translation keeps very close to the original, retaining Friedrich's own idiomatic style. This includes faithfully representing the abundant metaphors and analogies for which Friedrich has a predilection. Friedrich expresses a wish for his book to expedite a 'fruitful dialogue'(p. 67) amongst students of Homer. It seems that this timely republication will fulfil his desire.
[] E. Bethe, Homer I (Leipzig 1914); W. Friedrich Otto, Die Götter Griechenlands, (Frankfurt 1947); P. von der Mühll, Krit. Hypomnema zur Ilias (Basle 1952); W. Schadewaldt, Iliasstudien (Leipzig 1943); U. von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff, Die Ilias und Homer (Berlin 1916).
[] As Saunders notes in his appendix (p. 131), Friedrich's knowledge depended chiefly on the work of nineteenth and early twentieth century experts such as Dr. Küchenmeister, Zeitschrfit für klinische Medizin (Breslau 1855) 31-57, and O. Körner, Die Ärztlichen Kenntnisse in Ilias und Odysee (München 1929). Friedrich does not use French scholars of Homeric medicine such as J. F. Malgaigne, Études sur l'anatomie et la physiologie d'Homère (Paris 1842) or Ch. Daremberg, La médicine dans Homère (Paris 1865), nor does he avail himself of scholarship of the time, for instance, that of A. R. Thompson, 'Homer as a surgical anatomist' Proc. R. Soc. Med. 45 (1952) 765-67.
[] The continuing usefulness of this distinction is demonstrated by C. Salazar, The treatment of war-wounds in Graeco-Roman antiquity (Leiden 2000) 141-45, in relation to the treatment of battle wounds.
[] K. Saunders, 'The wounds in Iliad 13-16' CQ 49 (1999) 345-63; 'A note on the strange death of Mydon in Iliad 5' SO 75 (2000) 24-33.
[] For instance, B. Fenik, Typical Battle Scenes in the Iliad (Wiesbaden 1968) 15 follows Friedrich in his assessment of Agamemnon's character. See also Salazar's use (above) of 'pseudo-realism.'
[] For an assessment of non-fatal injury as part of a heroic code, see C. Salazar, The treatment of war-wounds in Graeco-Roman antiquity (Leiden 2000). See also T. Neal, The Wounded Hero: Non-fatal injury and bloodspill in Homer's Iliad (dissertation: Melbourne 2003); N. Loraux, The experiences of Tiresias: the feminine and the Greek man (Princeton 1995) 88-100. See T. Krischer, Formale Konventionen der homerischen Epik = Zetemata 83 (München 1971) for how non-fatal injury forms a structural element of the heroic aristeia.