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Klejn L.S. The Anatomy of the Iliad (Abstract)

Publ. in Russian 1998 by St. Petersburg University

By Leo S. Klejn


This book (Published by St.Petersburg University, in 1998) is the outcome of many years of study. The results of these studies were published previously, in part, as articles in the leading Russian journals in classical and oriental studies. It introduces a fundamental revision of the established view of the Homeric epic. In the journal ‘Narody Azii i Afriki’ the eminent orientalist I. M. Dyakonov wrote as follows:


"In my opinion to refute L.S. Klejn's work is built so that it in full would be very difficult, and even corrections of a cardinal character if any seem not likely. Klejn's theory will undoubtedly spawn a vast literature… It cannot be excluded that Klejn's studies if taken in their full amount will mean the beginning of a new epoch in Homeric studies" (1997, 2, p. 210 – 211).


The book is devoted to the structure and origin of the Iliad. The author's attitude to the text is as to a historical record: thus he has applied the same methodology as was once use to analyse the Bible, wherein the Bible was divided into its separate components Biblical critics had noted that in the Bible although certain stories were repeated, in these repetitions the name of God changes – sometimes he is Yahweh, at other times Elohim. The inference was drawn that these were different components, drawn from different sources. Strange as it seems, nobody had ever applied this methodology to the Iliad. In the spirit of the present time the author has supplemented this methodology with statistical analysis.


A comprehensive statistical analysis of the text has led the author to conclude that the German scholars of the 19th century were correct and that the epic was composed by fusing previously separate poems of different origins. Homeric studies at present are dominated by "unitarians" (scholars who defend the essential unity of the text and ascribe its individual authorship to Homer). The position of ‘analytics’ (the opposite position, to which the author of the present book subscribes) was long ago rejected, in particular on the basis of statistics. However the author too applied statistical analysis - not mechanically, but in the conjunction with a more traditional methodology (the methodology of ‘biblical criticism’).


The author has traced the distribution of synonymous names in the Iliad: toponyms, ethnonyms and the personal names of gods and heroes (Ilios – Troy, Scamandros – Xanthos, Achaeans – Danaans – Argiveans, Alexandre – Paris) as well as other synonyms (prepositions, particles). It appears that they are distributed unevenly, and there are correlations in their distribution. There is a noticeable correlation between each one of a certain group of synonymous names and a certain other group of epithets. It is also noticeable that there is a pattern to the distribution of synonyms: certain pairs and triads of synonyms are concentrated in certain parts of the epic; whilst other (different) pairs and triads are found concentrated in other parts. On the basis of these facts the author came to the conclusion that the Iliad is composed from a several components, each of different origin and age.


The heroes are themselves distributed unevenly (where Achilles appears, Diomedes disappears) and often perform the same deeds (Achilles and Diomedes are even wounded in the same spot – in the heel; in some sense they duplicate each other!). As the distribution of language components coincides with the distribution of plot components, it is possible to reconstruct the poem’s composition. Different original poems on the conquest of Ilios are reconstructed. According to the author's conclusion the poem was formed by the fusion of six main components recognisable inter alia by the different names given to the Greek heroes. To be specific, there probably existed "Achaean" and "Danaan" songs with Achilles as the main hero, and "Argivean" songs centred on Diomedes and Achilles. The most ancient component (and the most folkloric) was centred on Ajax, and was included into the poem separately. The latest addition centred on Aeneas is also distinguishable - the Homeric Aeneid.


Once the separate original poems are identified, their independent analysis becomes possible – the analysis of their composition, origins, and dating. A considerable part of this monograph is devoted to the description and characterisation of these components, to the end of determining their age and place of origin. To this end archaeological data are also used. A new location is proposed for the site of Troy - Ilios remains where it is traditionally sited, but Troy, according to Hittite records, was a separate place.


The historicity of the narrator (Homer?) is not rejected, but his role in the creation of the poem's text is somewhat reduced – it is manifest only in the latest stage of the formation of the text. The main creators lived earlier.


The author has already published a book on the Iliad – Incorporeal Heroes (1994). That book focused upon the origins of each of the main heroes of the Iliad. The present book focuses upon demonstrating the compound character of poem and restoring the outlines of the original texts.


The book is intended for classicists, philologists, historians and classical archaeologists. It contains ca. 560 pages of small print, and a large number of statistical tables and maps; ca. 40 illustrations on separate pages. Following the book’s publication a discussion ensued in the Moscow Journal Vestnik Drevney Istorii (The Herald of Ancient History): this is appended to the present edition.

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From the author

Introduction. The Homeric question: methodology and prospect

1.       The problem

2.       Retrospective on methodology

3.       Balance

4.       Interpretation of the balance

5.       Experience and prospects

Chapter I. Ilios and Troy

1.       The debate on Hissarlyk

2.       The Two names of the city 

3.       Epithets of the city

4.       Explanations

5.       Distribution of toponyms

6.       The Identification of Ilios and the genealogy of the kings of Troad

7.       Troy and Dardans in the light of genealogy

8.       The search for Troy

9.       Hittite confirmation

10.     The location of Troy: the first suggestion

11.      The location of Troy: the second suggestion

Ch. II. Achaeans, Danaans and Argiveans

1.       A History of the question and methodology

2.       The Dynamics of the occurrence

3.       Epithets for the ethnonyms of Greeks

4.       Analysis of the distribution of epithets

5.       The Achaeans and Ahhiyawa

6.       The Danaans and Danuna

7.       Argiveans and Argos

8.       Conclusion

Chapter III. The Correlation of synonyms in the “Iliad”

1.       The Problem and methodology

2.       The Distribution of ethnonyms in the Iliad

3.       The Correlation of ethnonyms with toponyms

4.       Synonymical prepositions

5.       Synonymical particles

6.       Two names of the goddess

7.       Summation

Chapter IV. The ‘Danaan’ component of the Iliad

1.       The apology for Diomedes

2.       An Addition - half the book more

3.       Achilles and Diomedes

4.       Heracles and Diomedes

5.       Chronology

6.       Monomachias, aristeias and phalanx

7.       The forge of origin of the texts of the ‘Danaan’ books

Chapter V. The ‘Achaean’ books of the Iliad

1.       The isolation of ‘Achaean’ books

2.       The content, and the problem of separation, of the ‘Achaean’ group

3.       Distribution of epithets and the core of the Trojan epic

4.       Hector and Ajax

5.       Aeantide

Chapter VI. The most ancient books of the Iliad

1.       The general appearance of the group

2.       The first single combat of the Iliad

3.       Two single combats: the basis of parallelism

4.       The premature farewell?

Chapter VII. Both Ajaxes

1.       Genealogy of Ajax

2.       Two Ajaxes

3.       Ajax, son of Oileus

4.       Ajaxes and Teucros: chronology

5.       Ajaxes and Teucros: location

6.       Burial in the Aeantid

Chapter VIII. The distinctive ‘Achaean’ ‘Achilleid’ and the framing of the Iliad

1. Traditional analysis and the ‘Achaean’ ‘Achilleid’

2. Framing the Iliad

3. The opening of the Iliad

A. New biographies of captive women

B–C. The Odysseus’ trip to Chrysa and the absence of gods

D. The Athena’s intervention

E. The complaints of Achilles

F. The envoys of Agamemnon

G. Nestor’s intervention

H. Truncation of the beginning

4. The end of Iliad

A. Mourning

B. Kidnapping or ransom?

C. Non-extant ending?

Chapter IX. The core of the ‘Achaean’ ‘Achilleid’

1.    The Battle of gods

2.    The aristeia of Achilles?

A.   Single combat with Aeneas

B.   Lycaon killed

C.   The twelve Trojans captured

D.   The victory over Asteropeus

E.   The Episode with Agenorus

F.   The fight against the river

G.  The outline of the aristeia

3. Achilles without armour

A.    Around the slain Patroclus

B.    The new armour of Achilles

C.    The substitution of armour

D.    The battle for the Patroclus’ corps and Achilles

E.    The Intervention of Hera

4. The main feat

A.   Borders

B.   Athetheses

C.   The core

Chapter X. Achilles: the changing image

1.       The divine Achilles

2.       The hero Achilles

3.       The homeland of Achilles

4.       Achilles and Apollo

5.       Mystic nine

Chapter XI. The books glorifying ‘Argiveans’

1.       The composition of the group

2.       The first motif: expiatory donations

3.       The second motif: Patroclus

4.       The third motif: the wall

5.       The age of “Dolonia”

6.       The Correlation of motifs

7.       The ‘Argivean’ ‘Achilleid’

8.       The double splitting of the image of Achilles

9.       Menis in the Iliad

10.      Achilles and Odysseus in Menis

11.      Location

Chapter XII. The Homeric Aeneid

1.       Aeneas

2.       Aeneid with Diomedes

A.      Separation of the fight of Aeneas and Pandor with Diomedes

B.      Remains of other varieties of episodes concerning Aeneas

C.      The Isolation of Hector’s aristeia

D.      The inserted episode with Sarpedon

E.      The Extention with Aphrodite

F.      The Extention with Ares and the addendum with Hera and Athena

1.       Breaking oaths

2.       The Aeneid with Achilles

3.       Lycia Minor

4.       The Aeneid with Idomeneus

5.       Antenorids

6.       Creators and dates


The list of illustrations


1. Illustrations

2. Tables

Subject index

Index of names of authors (contemporary and ancient)

Index of heroes, gods, mythical personages and images

Index of geographical names

Index of tribes and peoples

Index of chapters and verses

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