A Rhyming Line in Iliad 9

I stumbled across this line in the Iliad that I think is noteworthy from a poetic perspective.

Agamemnon is making a list of all the gifts (mostly furniture and servants) he will offer Achilles to entice him to return to the battlefront, and concludes it thus:

“τὰς μέν οἱ δώσω, μετὰ δ᾽ ἔσσεται ἣν τότ᾽ ἀπηύρων
κούρη Βρισῆος· ἐπὶ δὲ μέγαν ὅρκον ὀμοῦμαι
μή ποτε τῆς εὐνῆς ἐπιβήμεναι ἠδὲ μιγῆναι, 133
ἣ θέμις ἀνθρώπων πέλει ἀνδρῶν ἠδὲ γυναικῶν.”

“I will give him those [women], and with them will be the one I once took,
the daughter of Briseus; I will swear a great oath
that I never entered her bed and slept with her, 133
which is the custom of people, of men and women.” (Il. 9.131–134)

This exact line (l. 133) recurs twice in the Iliad (at 9.275  and 19.176).

As far as I know, the line that shows up in these three different places is the only one in Homer that uses the same long vowel (eta) for the ictus of all six dactyls. It is an usually extensive example of what might be called internal rhyme within the hexameter.

μή πο τε | τς εὐ | νς ἐ πι | βή με ναι | δὲ μι | γναι

Note that these sounds—though homophonous in Ionic Greek—arose from different sources historically. If we turn back the clock and reconstruct this line for an earlier period in the history of the language (before *ā, from Indo-European *eh2, merged into inherited *ē), the result

*mē kʷokʷe tās eunās epi-gʷāmenai ē-de migēnai

offers nothing so remarkable.

Is this an important find? Probably not. But it is an interesting piece of trivia and certainly has a peculiar effect on the ear when read aloud; the consistent ictic vowel throughout the line gives an impression of tired, perhaps futile repetition. Agamemnon has reached the end of an elaborate litany of offerings to Achilles—”You may even have Briseis back; and before you say anything, no, I never slept with her”—even though he has little hope of success.

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