Hellenic Studies Folio #8 from the Center for Hellenic Studies

February 22, 2021
The illustration depicts a scene from the return of Odysseus in Ithaca before revealing his real identity, surrounded by his son Telemachus and his loyal swineherd and friend Eumaeus.
The illustration depicts a scene from the return of Odysseus in Ithaca before revealing his real identity, surrounded by his son Telemachus and his loyal swineherd and friend Eumaeus.
"The return of Ulysses" E. M. Synge (1860–1913); illustration in M. B. Synge, On the Shores of the Great Sea, Edinburgh, 1909. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Meeting the Challenge of Ainos

  • How do Homeric and Hesiodic figures communicate selectively through riddling or cryptic speech?
  • What are the prerequisites for understanding a coded message such as an ancient Greek ainos, which can occur also in tragedy, not only in epic?
  • How is the plot of the myth of the Sphinx relevant to the plot of the drama Oedipus Tyrannus?

Introduction to examples of riddling speech found in the songs of the two great poets of ancient Greece, Homer and Hesiod

Read §§4–24; reading of approximately 3,600 words.

The relief depicts Odysseus talking with the swineherd Eumaeus.
Ainoi in the songs of Homer and Hesiod

Discussion of the mental and emotional processes of understanding a coded message

Video of approximately 4 minutes.

"Extra credit" video viewing:

Watch a discussion of the cryptic speech of the Sphnix and the understanding of Oedipus; video of approximately 9 minutes (watch from the beginning through about 09:00).

Learn more about the Hellenic Studies Folios and the previous installments of the series.