Odyssey 22.474–7: murder or mutilation?

Classical Quarterly 44 (02):534- (1994)
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The treatment of the goatherd Melanthius in these lines received remarkably little animadversion from earlier commentators . In contrast, the late Manuel Fernandez-Galiano devoted an extremely full note to the passage. One may wonder, however, whether he was right to base it on the automatic assumption that what we have depicted here is an act of murder. He himself admits that we are not ‘told exactly at what moment the unfortunate Melanthius dies’. :πότομος ατη κα δεινοτάτη ποιν, ξ ς εκς κα θανεν τν Μελάνθιον, ε κα ποιητς κα ατ σιγι. Such lack of specificness would be most unlike Homer, and the removal of hands, feet, ears, nose and genitalia would be a remarkably laborious and uneconomical mode of instantly killing someone. Since we are not told that Melanthius dies I infer that he did not, any more than Eurytion did at Od. 21.300–2, in similarly trying circumstances: ‘they cut off his ears and nostrils with the sharp brass; but he, injured in his feelings, went about, enduring that calamity with a frantic mind’, to quote the translation by Buckley for which Housman was so grateful



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