Veil and Citadel in Homer

By:
Dr. Lucinda Buck Alwa
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In the Iliad and the Odyssey, one of the words for a woman’s veil, kredemnon, is the same word that, in the plural, refers to the walls of Troy. Kredemnon literally means “head-binder” and can apply to both the headgear of a woman and the citadel of a city. This paper will discuss Homer's connection between the linen veils of a woman and the stone “veils” of a city. The poet presents the kredemnon as an image of protective and transformative power. Such power surfaces in Odyssey 5, when the sea nymph Ino-Leukothea lends Odysseus her veil so he can survive the pounding storm. This veil, bound beneath his chest, empowers him to swim for two days and nights until he reaches the shore of the Phaeacians, from whom he will, at last, gain transport back to Ithaca. Penelope, whenever she appears before the abusive suitors, covers her face with her shining veils (lipara kredemna). Odysseus uses the very same words in reference to the walls of Troy. Having just returned to Ithaca, he begs Athena to inspire him with courage, “just as when we were loosing the shining kredemna of Troy” (Od. 13.388). Odysseus is faced with the task of reconstruction. Having loosed the kredemna of Troy, he must now tighten those of Ithaca. Odysseus must restore both his marriage and the metaphorical kredemna of his community at large, the bonds of their loyalty and trust. The kredemnon, as the veil of a married woman, obviously conveys the notion of chastity. Nevertheless, the poet of the Odyssey presents the veil primarily as an emblem of unity. It is a symbol of relationship based on mutual integrity, a fabric of human compassion as crucial to a city as its walls of stone.


Keywords: Vell, Kredemnon/Kredemna, Penelope, Odysseus, Ino-Leukothea
Stream: Literature, Literary Studies Language, Linguistics
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: , Veil and Citadel in Homer,


Dr. Lucinda Buck Alwa

Instructor, Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures
Classics Program, Northern Illinois University

DeKalb, Illinois, USA

I teach Classical Mythology and Ancient Greek in the Classics Program at Northern Illinois University. I received a Ph.D. in Classics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and an M.Div. from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois. Ever since living and excavating in Greece during my college years, I have loved Greek, both ancient and modern. It is a subtle, rich, and often baffling language that leads into luminous depths and glistening landscapes. My doctoral dissertation was on the role of persuasion in Pindar's Odes. I first began studying veil imagery in Homer in 1987, when I gave a paper on "Leukothea's Veil."

Ref: H07P0740