Reading Homer’s Iliad or Odyssey I’m always struck by the epithets. Every time one (of course, ancient) Greek addresses another, he always remembers to mention a few virtues of the latter as well as the ever-present patronymic. For example, “Oh, Laertiades, much-enduring, much experienced man, Ulysses.” Laertiádēs in Greek stands for “son of Laertes”. A modern Russian would say Одиссей Лаэртович, Odyssey Laertovich — clearly, a sign of respect and good manners. And thus a few dozen times on a daily basis! The Greeks would often allude to the father’s virtues and say a few good words about the mother, too. But don’t be fooled — this is not some praise speech or, pardon my Greek, a eulogy, but rather an everyday practice. Slice me some bread, oh wise Odysseus. What plans do you have for tomorrow, man of many resources, son of the sage Laertes? Willing or not, you suddenly feel compelled to straighten up your shoulders as befits a worthy son of an honorable father.

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