Horses or Daughters?

I was recently struck by a notice found in a scholion to Lucian’s Alexandra, relating to the names of Hemera’s (Day’s) horses – they bear a remarkable similarity to the names of Helios’ daughters. If this does not sound like too much of a trip down the rabbit-hole of pedantry, then read on!

Scholion on Lucian, Alexandra, Line 17:

“Homer says that Lampon and Phaethon are the horses of the Day. (Odyssey, 23.246)”

῞Ομηρος μὲν Λάμποντα καὶ Φαέθοντα ἵππους λέγει τῆς ῾Ημέρας (ψ 246)

For the sake of better contextual understanding, the passage referenced is:

“Lampos and Phaethon, the horses who draw the Dawn.”

Λάμπον καὶ Φαέθονθ’, οἵ τ’ ᾿Ηῶ πῶλοι ἄγουσι. (Odyssey, 23.246)

Interestingly, the scholiast uses the accusative form Lamponta, which would suggest that the horse’s name was Lampon. However, the passage in Homer gives the accusative form Lampon, which would mean that the horse’s name was actually Lampos. Two possibilities suggest themselves. Either the scholiast was citing from memory, and slipped, perhaps by associating the third-declension form of Phaethonta into the name Lamponta. The other possibility (which I am in no position to evaluate, because I do not currently have a critical edition of The Odyssey with me) is that the text which the scholiast read had Λάμπον τε, which the scholiast misread as Λάμποντα (or which the copyist had written down as such). (The fact that the scholiast also substitutes Hemera for Eos may suggest a certain disregard for scholarly precision.)

In any event, the curious fact about the horse names of the Day (Hemera) is that they are strikingly similar to the names of two daughters of Helios, mentioned at Odyssey 12.131-3:

“These goddesses, these well-tressed nymphs are shepherdesses, Phaethousa and Lampetie, whom divine Neaira bore to Helios who goes above.”

θεαὶ δ’ ἐπιποιμένες εἰσί,

νύμφαι ἐϋπλόκαμοι, Φαέθουσά τε Λαμπετίη τε,

ἃς τέκεν ᾿Ηελίῳ ῾Υπερίονι δῖα Νέαιρα.

The names Phaethousa and Lampetie are effectively the feminine forms of the horses’ names Phaethon and Lampos (or Lampon). It is not surprising that these names (which mean, roughly, “Shining” and “Bright”) should be associated with Helios and Hemera. But perhaps we should be surprised that they both occur together in these two places, associated with similar, but yet still distinct divinities, and also in wildly different functions? In the passage quoted immediately above, Homer tells us that Phaethousa and Lampetie were entrusted by their father with the supervision of his cattle which Odysseus’ men famously ate.

Apollonius of Rhodes follows the Homeric tradition of assigning this pastoral post to the daughters of Helios:

“And along the dewy thickets Phaethousa, the most capable of Helios’ daughters for bearing armor, holding in her hand a silver staff, was tending the flock. Lampetie, attending upon the cattle, brandished her staff made of fine, shining (phaeinou) copper.”

καὶ τὰ μὲν ἑρσήεντα κατὰ δρία ποιμαίνεσκεν

ὁπλοτέρη Φαέθουσα θυγατρῶν ᾿Ηελίοιο,

ἀργύρεον χαῖον παλάμῃ ἔνι πηχύνουσα·

Λαμπετίη δ’ ἐπὶ βουσὶν ὀρειχάλκοιο φαεινοῦ

πάλλεν ὀπηδεύουσα καλαύροπα

Odysseus, at Odyssey 12.374-5, says

“Then swiftly, Lampetie with her flowing robes came as a messenger to Helios who goes on high to announce that we had slain the cattle.”

ὠκέα δ’ ᾿Ηελίῳ ῾Υπερίονι ἄγγελος ἦλθε

Λαμπετίη τανύπεπλος, ὅ οἱ βόας ἔκταμεν ἡμεῖς.

A scholiast suggests that Aristotle had offered some explanation of this passage:

“Aristotle resolves this problem by suggesting that either Helios sees all things, but not at once, or that “Lampetie” is Helios’ faculty of receiving information, in the same way that sight is for humans. This is in accord with what Agamemnon says when he is taking an oath in the single combat, when he says “Helios, you who see all and hear all,” as well as with Odysseus’s words to his comrades when he said, “He (Helios) does not see what happens in Hades.”

λύων δ’ ᾿Αριστοτέλης φησίν, ἤτοι ὅτι

πάντα μὲν ὁρᾷ ἥλιος ἀλλ’ οὐχὶ ἅμα, ἢ ὅτι τῷ ἡλίῳ ἦν τὸ

ἐξαγγεῖλαν ἡ Λαμπετία ὥσπερ τῷ ἀνθρώπῳ ἡ ὄψις· ἢ ὅτι,

φησίν, ἁρμόττον ἦν εἰπεῖν οὕτως τόν τε ᾿Αγαμέμνονα ὁρκί-

ζοντα ἐν τῇ μονομαχίᾳ „ἠέλιός θ’ ὃς πάντ’ ἐφορᾷς καὶ πάντ’

ἐπακούεις” καὶ τὸν ᾿Οδυσσέα πρὸς τοὺς ἑταίρους λέγοντα·

οὐ γὰρ δὴ καὶ τὰ ἐν ᾅδου ὁρᾷ.

[Schol. ext. B ad Il. γ, 277 (cf. Schol. Vindob. ad Od.

μ, 374 in A. P. p. 159)]

Eustathius suggests something similar (In Odysseam 2.18.31):

“Phaethousa and Lampetia, who are the the powers relating to the sun, or who are the days which are the shepherds of the part of our life which is subjected to time.”

Φαέθουσα δὲ καὶ Λαμπετία, αἱ κατὰ τὸν ῞Ηλιον δυνάμεις ἢ ἡμέραι αἱ τὸν καθ’ ἡμᾶς βίον ὑπὸ χρόνον ὄντα οἷον ποιμαίνουσαι.

It is also worth bearing in mind that Phaethon was, in the most popular tradition, the son of Helios, while the same name was also used as an adjective simply to describe the sun:

When shining (phaethon) Helios is risen above the earth…

εὖτε γὰρ ἠέλιος φαέθων ὑπερέσχεθε γαίης, (Iliad 11.735)

Indeed, this adjectival use is much more common in Homer than any proper name. The true explanation of both Phaethon/Phaethousa and Lampos/Lampetia may be plainly and simply etymological, and not take on as much of a mythico-metaphorical cast as some of the ancient commentators seem to suggest. Indeed, Eustathius himself seems to hint at a purely etymological explanation (in Iliadem, 622.9):

“Lampos comes from Lampo (to shine light), as Phaidra comes from phaino (make clear) and Aithra comes from aitho (burn). It seems to be a kind of double-naming. For there is Lampos and Lampetos. Indeed, the poet says somewhere else that Lampetides is his (Lampetos’) son. And, from lampo (to be bright) also comes Lampetia, who was the daughter of Helios in The Odyssey.”

῾Ο δὲ Λάμπος γίνεται μὲν ἐκ τοῦ λάμπω, ὡς ἐκ τοῦ φαίνω ἡ

Φαίδρα καὶ ἡ Αἶθρα ἐκ τοῦ αἴθω. ἔοικε δέ πως διώνυμος εἶναι. Λάμπος τε γὰρ

καὶ Λάμπετος· τὸν γοῦν υἱὸν αὐτοῦ ἀλλαχοῦ Λαμπετίδην ἐρεῖ ὁ ποιητής. ἐκ

δὲ τοῦ λάμπω καὶ Λαμπετία ἐν ᾿Οδυσσείᾳ, θυγάτηρ ῾Ηλίου

(This Lampos mentioned by Eustathius is not a direct relative of Helios – he is, rather, one of Priam’s brothers.)

I am not sure that any definite conclusion can be drawn from any of this, but I found the similarity between Helios’ daughters and the horses of Eos to be somewhat interesting, and the ancient authorities on them had some fairly interesting things to say. I will try to follow up further on this connection, and would of course love to hear if anyone has any information on this.

5 thoughts on “Horses or Daughters?

  1. An interesting post. I can’t comment on your main point but I did look up the names of the horses in Lempriere’s classical dictionary. (I have a paperback copy of the version published in 1850). He gives the name of one of the horses as Lampon rather than Lampos or Lampus. I assume he is thinking of Λαμπον, a neuter form if that is possible for a horse’s name. Could the scholiast have come across this form of the name and read it as Λαμπων. But I incline to the lack of scholarly precision theory.

    Hector also had horses with these names. However my edition of the Iliad say that the names are almost certainly an interpolation.

    So saying he called his horses and spoke to them.
    “Xanthos and Podargos and Aithon and noble Lampos

    ὣς εἰπὼν ἵπποισιν ἐκέκλετο φώνησέν τε:
    ‘Ξάνθέ τε καὶ σὺ Πόδαργε καὶ Αἴθων Λάμπέ τε δῖε
    Iliad 8.185

    1. I am probably making too much of what can actually be explained away very simply. I am sure that these are just stock adjectives/epithets related to Helios/Eos, which would then lend themselves conveniently to substitution as proper names relating to those two divinities.

      Though, (interpolation of not) I do find it interesting that the horses of Hector should all have some name suggesting a radiance or gleaming. I may have to stay on the trail here! I wish that there were a Homeric horse database already compiled, because I feel somewhat disinclined to read through both epics just to note down all the horse names; but perhaps this topic will hold my interest long enough to sustain such a pursuit.

  2. In my edition (Von der Muhl) you would find Λάμπον καὶ Φαέθονθ’ as well without any textual variants. But, the editor does write 241-288 “finxit, tum usque ad 295novavit ul. poet (similiter v. (Wilamowitz). The Oxford commentary sees this passage as “borrowed” from the typical depiction of Helios and notes that the names are also given to nymphs in Thrinica (Od. 12.132).

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