A reply by the author Tobias Myers to Donald Lateiner’s review of Homer’s Divine Audience: The Iliad’s Reception on Mount Olympus to be found at
I am grateful to Donald Lateiner for taking the time to read and review my monograph. However, the review could leave readers with mistaken ideas about the book’s central arguments. The following two points are especially worth clarifying:
1) Lateiner writes: ‘[Myers’] second, less persuasive, thesis argues that Zeus functions as a kind of poet, and/or the poet was Zeus.’
I do not know what it would mean to argue that the poet ‘was’ Zeus. The two figures are quite distinct! But sometimes, I argue, the text emphasizes their agency at moments when their activities or intentions overlap. ‘While the agency of Zeus and that of the poet are highlighted in various ways throughout the text, they overlap specifically in respect to their control of the warfare. Such moments of overlap heighten excitement during performance, as the “now” of performance and the “now” of mythic Troy become momentarily indistinguishable.’ (65) I thus analyze passages that highlight ‘the conjunction of divine and poetic intention’ (87), when ‘Zeus’ intentions... appear to overlap with those of the performing bard’ (167). Always, the analysis focuses on possible emotional effects for the Iliad’s (implied) live audience, who have the (implied) performing poet continually visible before them.
2) Lateiner: ‘[for Myers, Zeus and the poet] produce a “play” … I doubt whether the dramaturgical metaphors advance our understanding of epic words and deeds.’
In fact, while many scholars have casually compared the watching gods to audiences for theatrical performances and shows (1-2, 8), I am concerned to argue precisely that we can and should move beyond such comparisons (9-19). My book aims to show how the poet prompts his audience to associate divine viewing not (anachronistically) with a theatrical performance, but with specific paradigms of spectacle that are well developed within the text itself. ‘A good part of the reason that these gods have seemed to so many critics to resemble the audience for an arranged event, I argue, is that particular types of arranged event – daïs, formal duel, funeral rites –are indeed among the strands of traditional poetic material out of which the divine audience motif is woven.’ (19) In the first parts of the Iliad, ‘It is the gods’ participation, as viewers and as actors, that creates and maintains a perspective from which the Iliad’s great battle scenes are a live event with resemblance to both the daïs and duel paradigms’ (80). Later, by means of Zeus’ gaze in particular, associations with funeral games are added to the mix; thus ‘the poet can manipulate his audience’s sense of what it means to be witnesses to these contests’ (163). The combination of paradigms of viewership can generate tension, since each ‘carries its own suggestion as to the purpose, stakes, and the viewers’ and actors’ proper roles.’ (19)
Perhaps terms like ‘staging’, which I use to illustrate parallels between the poet’s activity and that of Zeus, gave rise to the misunderstanding about ‘producing a “play” ’. After all, these words can be associated with theater. But I do define them. For instance: ‘I use “staging” as a shorthand for these interrelated ideas: the act of arranging for an event or set of events to occur (for instance, the day’s battle); the act of arranging for them to occur before the eyes of a viewership; and finally the act of making these staging operations evident to that viewership—that is, the creation of what might be called a staged quality.’ (29) The terms help pinpoint and argue for parallels between the poet’s action and that of Zeus.
I thank Classics for All for giving me the opportunity to offer these clarifications, even at such a late date.