Menelaus good at the war cry.

I have noticed that some Indians speak in quite high pitched voices. I went to India a couple of years ago and I can see why. Their pavements are crowded and noisy. They live outside more than us Northerners who have to shelter from the cold. To have a high voice so you can be heard above the din would bestow an advantage. Likewise I have heard that Chinese music is high because it has to compete with the noise of conversation.

Menelaus in the Iliad has the epithet ‘good at the war cry’. At first glance this looks like it means that he is good at making a frightening noise as he charges the enemy like a Red Indian in a very old cowboy film. More likely it means that he is good at shouting so as to be heard so that he can give clear instructions to the troops. Take this passage where he is shouting out so as to be heard and in high voice. I confess I may have taken a liberty translating διαπρύσιον as high pitched but it is usually translated as shrill or piercing so I don’t think I can be far wrong.

ὣς ἔφατ᾽, οὐδ᾽ ἀπίθησε βοὴν ἀγαθὸς Μενέλαος,
ἤϋσεν δὲ διαπρύσιον Δαναοῖσι γεγωνώς:
‘ὦ φίλοι Ἀργείων ἡγήτορες ἠδὲ μέδοντες

So he spoke and Menelaus, good at the way cry, did not fail to obey but shouted out in a high-pitched voice, making himself heard to the Greeks
“Dear leaders and lords of the Greeks….”

Iliad 17.246

So not only can Menelaus shout to make himself heard, it was the Trojans that made the noise when joining battle but the Greeks were silent so they could hear their leaders’ instructions as this passage makes clear.

αὐτὰρ ἐπεὶ κόσμηθεν ἅμ᾽ ἡγεμόνεσσιν ἕκαστοι,
Τρῶες μὲν κλαγγῇ τ᾽ ἐνοπῇ τ᾽ ἴσαν ὄρνιθες ὣς
ἠΰτε περ κλαγγὴ γεράνων πέλει οὐρανόθι πρό:
αἵ τ᾽ ἐπεὶ οὖν χειμῶνα φύγον καὶ ἀθέσφατον ὄμβρον
κλαγγῇ ταί γε πέτονται ἐπ᾽ ὠκεανοῖο ῥοάων
ἀνδράσι Πυγμαίοισι φόνον καὶ κῆρα φέρουσαι:
ἠέριαι δ᾽ ἄρα ταί γε κακὴν ἔριδα προφέρονται.
οἳ δ᾽ ἄρ᾽ ἴσαν σιγῇ μένεα πνείοντες Ἀχαιοὶ
ἐν θυμῷ μεμαῶτες ἀλεξέμεν ἀλλήλοισιν.

Iliad 3 1

But when the companies were assembled each with their leaders, the Trojans marched out with shouting and war cries like the cries of cranes as they go forward in the sky who when they are escaping winter and relentless rain fly over the steams of the Ocean bringing death and destruction to the Pygmies. High in the air they carry on their dreadful squabbling. But the Greeks marched in silence, with strength in their breath eager in their heart to support each other.

See other posts on this passage here and here

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