Thursday, 3 November 2011

(Epos) Nekerdes

Hello, welcome to the blog. I intend for this post to be a little microcosm of what I hope the blog will do, and the tone it will be in, although obviously at this stage it's all a bit primordial (and I've never done this before). So this will basically be an explanation of the name, and a sort of mission statement, and an exemplum.

The first thing I hope to do with this blog is fill in any gaps I find in the blogosphere. That is to say, when I google something and come up empty-handed, I'd like, as far as I am able, to provide the information that I couldn't find for the (highly theoretical) next person. At the time of writing this, according to Google, there is not one blog that has ever used the word "nekerdes" in any post - I did find one reference to "l'Hôpital Neker des Enfants Malades à Paris", but it's from quite an offensive article in quite an offensive French Catholic gazette, so I won't link to it here (also I don't know how to) (and I hate Catholics) (just kidding).

So now there is a blog that has not only used the phrase, but has enshrined it as a letterhead and founding principle.  This firstly means that I do not intend to "monetise" this blog or ever have ads on it.  (I can delete this later, right?)  But more broadly, I don't really intend to get any profit out of it, other than the opportunity to verbalise some of my own ideas and disseminate some others that I come across, hopefully being of some help to others.

The phrase epos nekerdes (ἔπος νηκερδὲς) is found in Homer's Odyssey at line 14.509, within a litotes (double negative - i.e. Odysseus' word isn't without profit): Eumaeus, the loyal swineherd, has just heard his disguised master Odysseus - whom he hasn't recognised - spin a completely truthless yarn about being a high-born Cretan, and then a short anecdote (still in character as a vagrant) about once being cold and being given a warm cloak.

This is one of my favourite books, a transitional midpoint in a poem so fixated (no pun intended?) on markers of transition.  It harks back to the much longer tale (whose truth is disputed by scholars, see Richardson (JSTOR) for a particularly sceptical and insightful analysis) Odysseus told to the Phaeacians, and harks forward to the tale he will tell to Penelope.  Aside from the broader motif of words and trickery that permeate the poem, the also ties into the theme of acquisitiveness and materialism: just before arriving at Eumaeus' hut (on the border of his own property), Odysseus stashed all of his Phaeacian gifts (13.362-371), which are almost as essential a component of his nostos as his own return is.

There is one other example of the word "nekerdes" in Homer (only one, which is arguably significant in itself, in a poem with so much repetition and reliance on epithets), and it comes in the Iliad, at line 17.469, just after the pathetic death of Patroclus.  It is the "nekerdea boulen" (νηκερδέα βουλὴν - unprofitable plan) of Automedon, the bereft charioteer of Achilles, in a scene so sad that even Zeus is moved (17.441-455) - the focus is on loneliness and isolation in the midst of war, the futility of mortal combat (despite Achilles' choice of a short life instead of great fame) and the irony of the wrangling that began the Iliad over prizes and loot, now that Achilles has lost something that is truly valuable to him.

Each use of the word is saturated with the ethos of its own poem, and each poem has a different understanding of what the word means - note that in the Odyssey it describes a "word" and in the Iliad it describes a "plan".  It's not terribly profound, but I quite like the dichotomy.

Another thing this blog will try to do is draw connections between the ancient world and more modern stuff.  When it's done well, as in the Richardson article above with the Hitchcock reference, I think it's great fun as well as often being enlightening and thought-provoking.  So, I'll be both attempting it and quoting more eminent people achieving it.

In that spirit, I leave you with this clip from the great Danny DeVito in Other People's Money - and make sure to look out for the Greek subtitles.


  1. This is the Great article about your gift registry system. Epos ts pretty interesting.Thanks for this wonderful post...

  2. Thank full , EPOS he was new Way to help to us to get the business running sucessfull.

  3. Nice one. best epos system Keep sharing and updating your blog with new topics,Thank you for posting...

  4. Thanks for sharing unique information, epos good post to share.