In Book IV of The Iliad, there's a part where King Agamemnon is going through the soldiers and talking to everybody. He speaks to Nestor at one point:

He passed on to Nestor, and found him among his Pylians [...].
The old man had seen war before, and he knew all about it. Agamemnon was glad, and he told him plainly how he felt:
"You may be old, sir, but I only wish your knees were as nimble and your strength as firm as the temper in that heart of yours! Ah, well, such is life. Old age is old age. I only wish others were old and you were young!"
The old hero loved a good horse; and he answered:
"Ah, your Grace! I do wish indeed I were now as young as I was when I killed Ereuthalion! [...]"
(translation by W.H.D. Rouse, 1938)

What does the line "The old hero loved a good horse" have to do with any of the context here? How is this related to the matter of Nestor being old?

1 Answer 1


This is book IV, line 318:

τὸν δ᾽ ἠμείβετ᾽ ἔπειτα Γερήνιος ἱππότα Νέστωρ:

In A. T. Murray’s 1924 translation, that’s

To him then made answer the horseman, Nestor of Gerenia:

“ἱππότης” means “driver or rider of horses” and “Γερήνιος ἱππότα Νέστωρ” is a Homeric epithet, a repeated phrase fitting the rhythm of the poem. Here are some other appearances in the Iliad, with Murray’s translations:

τοῖσι δὲ καὶ μετέειπε Γερήνιος ἱππότα Νέστωρ: II.336

And there spake among them the horseman, Nestor of Gerenia:

ὣς ἔφατ᾽, οὐδ᾽ ἀπίθησε Γερήνιος ἱππότα Νέστωρ. XI.516

So spake he, and the horseman, Nestor of Gerenia, failed not to hearken.

τὸν δ᾽ ἠμείβετ᾽ ἔπειτα Γερήνιος ἱππότα Νέστωρ: XIV.52

Then made answer to him the horseman Nestor of Gerenia:

The phrase also appears several times in the Odyssey. Perhaps the epithet indicates that the coastal plains around Nestor’s city of Pylos were suitable for grazing horses. Nestor’s advice to his son Antilochus about the chariot-race in book XXIII suggests that he had been a keen charioteer in his youth, and perhaps that is why the poet chose to use the epithet in the context of Nestor’s reply to Agamemnon. Or perhaps it was just the most convenient way to fill up the line and has no particular significance.

Rouse says in the introduction to his translation that his policy was to omit “stock epithets and recurring phrases where the meaning is of no account”, but he missed this one.

  • 8
    That strikes me as a poor translation. If it's a recurring epithet, surely an adjective or descriptor ("Nestor the horseman" or "the horse-loving Nestor") would seem like less of a non sequitur than a whole phrase to say that he loves horses out of the blue.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Nov 20, 2021 at 19:43

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