Ornamental Epithets

Required Post #4: Ornamental Epithets


One aspect of The Iliad that Virgil clearly implemented in his text is the use of ornamental epithets. One way in which he changes this is by giving the Achaeans derogatory names instead of honorable ones. He calls Diomedes “godless” instead of Homer’s “godlike,” and he calls Ulysses the “mastermind of crime” instead of the “great tactician.”

Think back to The Iliad. What other ornamental epithets might be change? What would Virgil’s name be for the “Achaean bulwark” Ajax, the “matchless runner” Achilles, or the “lord of men” Agamemnon? How would he spin these epithets to favor the Trojans?

Please turn this post in by Friday at the start of your class.

34 Responses to “Ornamental Epithets”

  1.   JP R Says:

    I think that Virgil would name “Achaean Bulwark” Ajax as, Ajax “the big” or “giant.” These names aren’t exactly derogatory, but they are not in favor of the Achaeans. Agamemnon would be called, “the weak ruler” and Achilles would be called “emo.” Emo works well in Achilles’ case because he always let his emotions get the better of him.

  2.   Jimmy B Says:

    Virgil spins Homer’s ornamental epithets in his book, The Aeneid in order to favor the Trojans. Taking into consideration Virgil’s favoritism for the Trojans, we can try to take a guess as Homer’s epithets such as “Achaean bulwark” Ajax, the “matchless runner” Achilles, and the “lord of men” Agamemnon if they were written by Virgil. First, for Ajax we could say an epithet regarding his size such as the “wild giant” Ajax, or on a more humorous side, “the ogre” Ajax. Second, Achilles is known for his uncontrollable emotions so a possibility would be “hysteric” Achilles or, “the great mood swinger” Achilles if Virgil were in our day. Finally we have Agamemnon, known for his inability to give good speeches and generally have good ideas. For Agamemnon some possibilities would be “glossophobic” Agamemnon, or “thoughtless” King Agamemnon.

  3.   Timmy D. Says:

    It is possible that Virgil would spin the ornamental epithets to favor the Trojans in the following way: Ajax the weak Achaean link, Achilles the fallible runner, and Agamemnon king of no man’s land.

  4.   Brian M Says:

    Unlike Homer, Virgil clearly favors the Trojans. Instead of referring to Ajax as the “Achaean bulwark,” Virgil might call him the “senseless giant.” Virgil’s name for the “matchless runner” Achilles would be the “bipolar wimp.” Instead of calling Agamemnon the “lord of men,” Virgil might refer to Agamemnon as the “king without mercy.”
    Virgil would still use these ornamental epithets for the same reason. They make it easier to write in a hexameter rhyme scheme. Virgil would use ornamental epithets that have insulting connotations when he refers to one of the Achaeans. He would use more favorable ornamental epithets when he’s referring to a Trojan.

  5.   Torin O. Says:

    In the Aeneid, we see many changes of the names. Whether Virgil is a sympathizer for losers or is just trying to push his own agenda, we will never know. However, we can see the changes he applies to the victorious Greek’s memorable names. Ajax would now be called the Achaean “Carrion Dish.” Great Achilles would be the”matchless murder.” Finally, Agamemnon would be the lord or brutes.” Virgil obviously is out to change history’s opinion of the obviously greater Achaeans and will do nothing to shine a negative light on them. Its unfortunate to see such a memorable work tarnished with plain propaganda, ridden with animosity toward a greater power. This demonstrates the yearning the Roman Empire consistently displays to be the next Ancient Greece, but as we can see now was only an imitated effort. They tried to build the same way, they tried to worship gods the same way, and as we see with Virgil, tries to write the same way. The only problem is an educated scholar of such classical works can see the obvious skews the Aeneid demonstrates in such desperate ways as defaming the greatest warriors of the Trojan War.

  6.   Will G Says:

    Ajax “Achaean soft-spot”. Achilles “pedestrian runner”. Agamemnon “lord of ants”.

  7.   Vince G Says:

    Virgil would explain how the Achaeans were not better than the Trojans or specifically Hector. He would give a name of sub par to Ajax because Ajax could not defeat Hector. Hector also ran just as well as Achilles so Achilles would probably be known for his emotions. Agamemnon was a terrible leader so he would be known for being worse than Priam.
    Little Ajax “the weathered breached barrier”.
    Achilles “the drama queen”.
    Agamemnon “the beneficiary for his followers”
    The Trojans could always argue the Achaeans needed the help of the gods in order to win resulting in that the Achaeans were not as strong.

  8.   Kyle D. Says:

    Virgil clearly changes the ornamental epithets of the Achaeans from the heroic names that Homer had given them in The Iliad to the cowardly and dishonorable names in The Aeneid. Since the Trojans are the protagonists in The Aeneid, Virgil refers to them in a positive manner while the Achaeans are referred to with negative connotations. In addition to “godless” Diomedes and “mastermind of crime” Ulysses, I think that Ajax would have an epithet like “porous” or “weak” because a bulwark is a wall. Achilles would be named the “cowardly runner” or “swift coward.” Agammenon would be named the “lord of dogs” or “leader of cowards.” Nestor could also have an epithet such as the “old, crippled” Nestor. Using wordplay with the names that Homer gave to the Achaeans, Virgil mocks them with his own epithets.

  9.   matt mc Says:

    Since the Aeneid is about Aeneas, a Trojan, and not Achilles, an Achaean, the viewpoint will be different. It is clear that Homer favors the Achaeans, while Virgil favored the Trojans. Therefore, the Achaean’s epithets in the Aeneid will be much less favoring compared to the epithets in the Iliad. Ajax, who is named “Achaean bulwark” in the Iliad, would probably be like the “Achaean featherweight.” An opposing epithet for Achilles would be the “mediocre ambler” and Agamemnon the “servant of adolescents.” Some more of the epithets that would be pro-Trojan would include Menelaus the “short- bland haired” and Nestor the “senile serf.”

  10.   Francis Lewis Says:

    Virgil uses these derogatory names for the Greeks in order to make the Trojan cause seem more commendable. Ajax comes very close to killing Hector. Instead of being the “Achaean bulwark,” he might be called the “savage slaughterer.” The idea of being savage on the battlefield rather than honorable is a lowly thing equated to wild beasts. In this way, Virgil would humiliate Ajax. He would have had no remorse for killing Hector even if he had done so. This is true because the men were flinging insults at each other to create a better fight.
    Achilles was often called the “matchless runner,” and this was clearly seen when he chased Hector around the walls of Troy three times. Achilles really had Hector running the whole time when he could have killed him and gotten it over with. For this reason, I believe that Trojan might call Achilles the “show off.” Virgil would argue that Achilles should have killed Hector in a more honorable way by doing it quickly, rather than dragging the death out in order to exemplify his strengths.
    Virgil would not refer to Agamemnon as the “lord of men.” Virgil would look slightly more favorable on Agamemnon only because he insulted Achilles so much that he had to stop fighting. Achilles absence in battle brought on repeated victories by the Trojan side. Virgil would see Agamemnon as sort of a “foolish idealist.” Agamemnon is certainly foolish because of what he did to Achilles, and he is an idealist to think that Achilles could be bribed by his treasures. Achilles pride would not let him buy into Agamemnon’s bribe. Virgil would say that Agamemnon was a fool, but he benefited the Trojan side.
    -Fran L.

  11.   Alej M Says:

    For Ajax, it would be the “Achaean thug” or the “ponderous monster”. For Achilles, it would be the “dishonorable runner”, “disgraceful compromiser”(for fighting for Agamemnon again), or “indulgent mourner”. For Agamemnon, it would be the “pig of men” or the “foolish commander”.

  12.   Conor S Says:

    Homer’s ornamental epithets for Ajax, Achilles, and Agamemnon would probably be changed severely by Vigil. He would most likely mock Achilles’ epithet of the “matchless runner” because Hector was chased by him around the city of Troy and the only reason he got caught was because Hector was tricked. Virgil would call Achilles the “outrageous Achilles” because his rage lead to his death (haha), and he would have to give him some credit for being a great warrior. Also, Virgil would call the “lord of men” Agamemnon the “doltish” Agamemnon because he almost let all of his soldiers leave, and because he didn’t really have that many great strategies during the war and he was too old to fight. Moreover, the “Achaean bulwark” Ajax would be called “abjured” Ajax by Virgil because he stabbed himself.

  13.   Carson F Says:

    Virgil could have a field-day, so to speak, spinning the ornamental epithets of notable Achaeans into epithets that favor the Trojans. For instance, he could make Achilles’ ornamental epithet “bitter grudge-holder” instead of “matchless runner.” In addition, Virgil could change Agamemnon’s ornamental epithet of “lord of men” into “bride-stealing.” Lastly, Virgil could change Ajax’s ornamental epithet of “the Achaean bulwark” into “the great retreater” because Ajax runs away from a fight with Hector. Maybe I should have written an epic novel that slams the Greeks!

  14.   Troy B Says:

    I think that Virgil could call Achilles the “barbaric savage” because he kills Hector brutally and drags his body around inhumanely; his actions were animalistic and barbaric.

    Agamemnon could be called the “immature coward” because he rarely fights in the Iliad and proves to lack the ability to be an effective ruler. Nestor ultimately comes up with the majority of the plans and almost assumes Agamemnon’s role.

    Ajax could be called the “mindless ogre” in that he is obviously extremely strong, but the Trojans could twist it so he is strong, but dumb and ugly like an ogre.

  15.   Eric P Says:

    While reading Virgil’s Aeneid, I have found that Virgil tends to favor the Trojan Gods and Goddesses. He takes the Greek names and puts a dirty spin on it so make them sound evil or bad. For example, he took Diomedes’ name “Godlike ” and turned it into “godless”. If Virgil put Ajax in the story he would be the “Achaen sails” because instead of a bulwark ( a great wall) he would be a passive and movable object just saving in the wind going with the floe instead of dominating and setting his own coarse. The great “matchless runner” Achilles would be called the “slowest duck” because he would never run fast or win a fight in the Trojan perspective. Virgil would also call Agammemnon the “ruler of men”, “ruled by men” making him a minor recessive character in the story.

  16.   Tim A. Says:

    Both Virgil and Homer use ornamental epithets in order to add more descriptive elements into their texts. Homer, biased to the Greeks, refers to Achilles as the “matchless- runner” because he considers him to be the greatest warrior. However, Virgil favors the Trojans and would use the ornamental epithet, “weak- healed” in order to describe Achilles; this is appropriate because Achilles was brought down after Paris shot him in the ankle with an arrow. Homer refers to the Great Ajax as the “Achaean Bulwark”; a bulwark is a structure built for defense. Virgil, on the other hand, would have most likely called him “Defenseless Achaean”. Lastly, in The Iliad Agamemnon is referred to as “Lord of Men”; Virgil, on the other hand, would have given this ornamental epithet to a character like Aeneas and would label Agamemnon as “Lord of the Weak”.

  17.   Pierce R Says:

    Virgil still acknowledges the characteristics (positive or negative) of the Achaean warriors (e.g., Ulysses is a “mastermind”) but simply alters part of the epithet to lower the morals/honor of the warrior; therefore, I think the Virgil would keep most of the key words of the epithets.

    Achaean bulwark Ajax = possessed barrier Ajax
    matchless runner Achilles = godless fox Achilles
    lord of men Agamemnon = prince of darkness Agamemnon

  18.   tommyo Says:

    Virgil is obviously trying to insult the Achaeans. He has to insult them in order to make the Trojans look good because he is writing about the great kingdom of Rome creating from the great city if Troy. He has to make the Greeks look bad if because they were the ones who destroyed Troy. All of the Achaean ornamental epithets would change. In the Iliad Achaeans were known as “bronze-cloaked,” but Virgil may change them to be the “blood soaked.” Instead of the “Achaean Bulwark,” Ajax would be known as the “Giant Cannibal,” or “Ruthless Manslayer.” Agamemnon wouldn’t be known as “lord of men,” but maybe the “sultan of savages.” Menelaus wouldn’t be known as “fair –haired,” but the “fiery ginger.” Athena, who helps the Achaeans wouldn’t be seen as “ bright-eyed,” but the “evil glaring.” Achilles would not be called the “swift runner,” but the “psychotic cry baby.” All of these epithets would deeply insult the Greeks, and make the Trojans look good.

  19.   BenD Says:

    Ajax could be know as “the great weak spot” or “vulernable point”. Agamemnon could be know as “the king of slaves” to make fun of how his soliders follow him blindly. Also Achilles could be “the slothful momma’s boy” or “the tortoiselike sprinter”.

  20.   Joe H Says:

    Ornamental epithets are very interesting because they can easily be altered to completely reverse their meaning. Understanding this, Virgil puts his own spin on certain descriptions first given by Homer. Three characters that could easily have their titles switched are Ajax, Achilles, and Agamemnon. Instead of the “Achaean Bulwark”, Ajax could now be referred to as the “Towering waste of space.” Achilles on the other hand could be called “Running scared” and Agamemnon could become “Lord of nobody. ” With these alterations of descriptions, the reader is influenced to look at these characters differently then they do in the Iliad, which is Virgil’s entire purpose.

  21.   JohnE Says:

    These spin off ornamental epithets would cast a derogatory image on the Achaean heroes and favor the Trojans.

    Ajax the “Achaean bulwark” would be… the “blundering Achaean blob”

    Achilles the “matchless runner” would be… the “fast of foot but slow of mind”

    Agamemnon the “lord of men” would be… “lord of savages”

  22.   Nick K. Says:

    There is a very strong contradiction between Virgil’s The Aeneid and Homer’s The Iliad when it comes to which side is favored. From the description of glorious battle scenes to the words used in ornamental epithets, the respective story-tellers were able to honor one side more than the other. While Homer used epithets such as “the swift runner” (Achilles) or “the great tactician” (Odysseus) or “resolute” (Diomedes) to glorify the Achaeans, Virgil twists these in order to favor the Trojans. In addition to “godless” and “mastermind of crime,” Virgil might call Diomedes “weak hearted.” He might also call Ajax “the feeble Achaean” or Achilles “the ankle dying” or Agamemnon “the leader of infants.” All of these ornamental epithets would change the way they were used by Homer in The Iliad in order to commend the Trojans.
    Nick K.

  23.   Mick B. Says:

    Virgil’s account of the Achaeans and of the Trojan War accurately shows that the battle is in the eyes of the beholder. While in history the Greeks were granted the win, Virgil shows through many ways, one of them being the changing of ornamental epithets. The “matchless runner” Achilles to Virgil could be known as the “outdo-able sprinter” or the “cheating warrior” due to his severe advantages when it comes to battle i.e. armor and god inspiration. Virgil could re-write The Iliad downplaying the Achaeans in order to make Troy, and therefore Rome, more honorable.

  24.   Trap j Says:

    Virgil shows extreme bias towards the Trojans while writing the Aenaid. He makes them out to be great men, and puts down the Achaeans. This is the opossite of Homer. Homer’s ornamental epithets make the Achaeans seem powerful warriors and great men in general. Virgil switches these around, but keeps the same idea of the message. If Virgil were to give Ajax an ornamental epithet he might call him the Brute of the Achaeans because that is a bad way of saying someone is strong. Achilles may be called the merciless because hew doesn’t show any of the trojans mercy and just kills them. This includes Hector which would make Virgil extremely bitter because of the prowess of HEctor. Normally, mercilessness is a good thing, but Virgil is often hypocritical in favor of the Trojans. Agamemnon may be called the King of barbarians, putting down all Achaeans as well as making him seem like an inept leader.

  25.   Spencer P. Says:

    The ornamental epithet can change because a character may do something amazing but then acts differently at the end. I think Hector’s epithet should change because during the Trojan War, he is saved twice by the the gods and he runs away from Achilles after he stands outside the walls of Troy to act brave. If he gave more ornamental epithets to the Trojan side, it probably would have change the course of battle because we know that Homer, favored the Greeks by giving them epithets.

  26.   Griffin M. Says:

    In Virgil’s The Aeneid, the use of ornamental epiphets to put down the Achean warrioirs is quite common. For Achilles, “The Swif Runner” would not be acceptable. An acceptable one would be “Emotion Bound” or “God Choking.” For Agamemnon “Master of Soldiers” or “Owner of Achean Souls.” Ajax would be “Oversized Monster” would work the best.

  27.   Jocko C Says:

    Virgil changes the positive ornamental epithets given to the Achaeans and adds a negative twist to them to try to make the Greeks look worse and the Trojans look better. For example, Ajax, “the Achaean bulwark”, could be changed to “the Achaean Butcher”, which sounds way more negative. Another example could be Achilles; “the Matchless Runner” could be changed to “the Griping Warrior”. “The Griping Warrior” focuses more on Achilles’ negative side then his positive side. Finally, Agamemnon, “The lord of men” could be changed to “The Ruthless Tyrant”. All these spins on Homer’s epithets would convey the Greeks in a much more negative light, showing Virgil’s bias against the Achaeans.

  28.   Patrick C Says:

    Virgil changes the ornamental epithets in The Aeneid to support the Trojans unlike Homer’s ornamental Epithets in The Iliad. Virgil changes Diomedes’ epithet from “godlike” to “godless” to show that Diomedes is not like the gods. In the Iliad, Homer uses “the Acheaen bulwark” to describe Ajax while Virgil might use something along the lines of “the Acheaen hole in the wall.” Virgil might change Achilles’ “matchless runner” to “the mediocre runner.” Virgil would change Homer’s epithet of Agamemnon, “lord of men,” to “lord of adolescent.” Virgil would change all of these names because he shows a bias towards the Trojans during his epic poem while Homer shows bias towards the Acheaens.

  29.   Mark W Says:

    In the Aeneid Virgil brings down the Acheans by making their ornamental epithets seem weak and cowardly, While Homer brought down the Trojans in the Iliad by portraying them as cowards when they beg the Acheans for their lives before they die. If Virgil was to think of an ornamental epithet for Ajax he would call him “Water guzzling” Ajax because he drowned in the Aenead. He would call Achilles “Teary eyed” Achilles because in the Iliad, Achilles is always crying and it is his weakest flaw. He would also call Agamemnon “Aided leader” because in the Iliad Nestor aids Agamemnon through most of his struggles.

  30.   Tom.R Says:

    Virgil is like the administration that does not like its past so he goes back and tries to rewrite the history books. He would change the “Achaean Bulwark” Ajax to the “Helpless Achaean” on his heals as the Trojans pressed the ships. The matchless runner would then become the “Aged athlete” and the lord of men would be called the “lord of bad ideas.” Other changes might be fire/fine haired Menelaus to the “ginger” and on the other side the coward Paris and the other Trojans will be held in honor with glory. It all depends the the writer, but if the Achaeans read Virgil’s book they would have been enraged big time.

  31.   Jonathan T Says:

    “Powerful Diomedes”(ll. 11. 782.0)” Might be evil or ravenous Diomedes.
    “Brilliant Achilles”(ll. 22. 245.) Might be the murderer Achilles.
    Hector would have been given titles as Courages or even the great, as many of the great Acheans where.

  32.   Sean H. Says:

    Ornamental Epithets are a key component of The Iliad and Homer uses them often to describe the characters in a positive light, especially the Achaeans. However, in The Aeneid, Virgil only describes or uses ornamental epithets in a positive way for the Trojans, since he is biased towards them. Virgil would alter ornamental epithets of Homer as follows: Odysseus- “Great Tactician” to “Great Deceiver”, Achaeans-”Long-haired Achaeans” to “Long- haired Barbarians”, and Achilles- “matchless runner” to “Abandoning warrior”.

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