“Stricken to Silence”: Authoritative Response, Homeric Irony, and the Peril of a Missed Language Cue


The formula “Thus he spoke, but they all were stricken to silence” (ὣς ἔφαθ’, οἳ δ’ ἄρα πάντες ἀκὴν ἐγένοντο σιωπῇ) has received significant treatment in a number of recent studies, although the overarching significance of the formula for what follows in each narrative moment has not yet been fully recognized. This article offers a reconsideration of the formula’s referential meaning and concludes that it introduces the authoritative response of a group while determining the trajectory of the ensuing narrative. In the two instances where the formula’s cue is not followed (Il. 9.430 and Od. 20.320), Homer is employing irony to highlight Achilles’ and the suitors’ deafness to the pleas and warnings of others.

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