Diverting Demons: Ritual, Poetic Mockery and the Odysseus-Iros Encounter

Classical Antiquity 28 (1):71-100 (2009)

Abstract
This article treats the verbal and physical altercation between the disguised Odysseus and the local beggar Iros at the start of Odyssey 18 and explores the overlapping ritual and generic aspects of the encounter so as to account for many of its otherwise puzzling features. Beginning with the detailed characterization of Iros at the book's start, I demonstrate how the poet assigns to the parasite properties and modes of behavior that have close analogues in later descriptions of pharmakoi and of famine demons expelled from communities in rites that are documented from different parts of the Greek world from the archaic period on; so too the account of Iros' ejection from the house and of his subsequent fate conforms to the patterns observable in these rituals. The second part of the discussion examines the ways in which the beggars' quarrel anticipates the enmities that the Ionian iambographers would construct with those whom they cast as their echthroi and rivals, and suggests that we see in the Homeric scene an early instance of an iambic-style confrontation presented in poetic form for performance at the symposium. The iambographers' own deployment of the scapegoat and famine demon paradigms for the vilification of their targets promotes the overlap between the epic and iambic material. In both portions of the argument, the discussion observes how the several frames informing the episode in Book 18 coincide with and promote the Odyssey's larger themes
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DOI 10.1525/CA.2009.28.1.71
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References found in this work BETA

Dog-Helen and Homeric Insult.Margaret Graver - 1995 - Classical Antiquity 14 (1):41-61.
Disguise and Recognition in the Odyssey.M. J. Alden & S. Murnaghan - 1989 - Journal of Hellenic Studies 109:211-212.

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