The Death of Diokles’ Twin Sons

In an earlier post, I mentioned Telemachus’ layovers in the city of Pherae in the home of Diokles.  The story of this family is elaborated in the Iliad.  The scholia to the Iliad contemplate the strange re-spelling of a family name (Orsilochus vs. Ortilochus) and also imply that there was a special relationship between Diokles’ family and Menelaos–buttressed perhaps by the epic’s geographical placement of the two cities:

Iliad, 5.541-553

“Then in turn Aeneas killed the best men of the Danaans,
The sons of Diokles, Krêthôn and Orsilokhos.
Their father lived in well-built Phêrai,
A wealthy man, descended from the river
Alpheios who flows widely over the land of the Pylians.
He fathered Ortilochus, a lord over many men.
Ortilochus fathered great-hearted Diokles
And twin sons were born to Diokles,
Krêthôn and Orsilokhos who knew every kind of battle.
When they were young men they went on the dark ships
And accompanied the Argives to Ilion, rich in horses,
Winning back honor for Atreus’ sons Agamemnon and Menelaos.
There death’s end covered over them in turn.”

῎Ενθ’ αὖτ’ Αἰνείας Δαναῶν ἕλεν ἄνδρας ἀρίστους
υἷε Διοκλῆος Κρήθωνά τε ᾿Ορσίλοχόν τε,
τῶν ῥα πατὴρ μὲν ἔναιεν ἐϋκτιμένῃ ἐνὶ Φηρῇ
ἀφνειὸς βιότοιο, γένος δ’ ἦν ἐκ ποταμοῖο
᾿Αλφειοῦ, ὅς τ’ εὐρὺ ῥέει Πυλίων διὰ γαίης,
ὃς τέκετ’ ᾿Ορτίλοχον πολέεσσ’ ἄνδρεσσιν ἄνακτα·
᾿Ορτίλοχος δ’ ἄρ’ ἔτικτε Διοκλῆα μεγάθυμον,
ἐκ δὲ Διοκλῆος διδυμάονε παῖδε γενέσθην,
Κρήθων ᾿Ορσίλοχός τε μάχης εὖ εἰδότε πάσης.
τὼ μὲν ἄρ’ ἡβήσαντε μελαινάων ἐπὶ νηῶν
῎Ιλιον εἰς εὔπωλον ἅμ’ ᾿Αργείοισιν ἑπέσθην,
τιμὴν ᾿Ατρεΐδῃς ᾿Αγαμέμνονι καὶ Μενελάῳ
ἀρνυμένω· τὼ δ’ αὖθι τέλος θανάτοιο κάλυψεν.


Schol ad Il. 5.542-3 ex

“Krêthôn and Orsilokhos: the ancestor’s name is spelled with a tau; the child’s name with a sigma as in the Odyssey.

Phêrai is in Messenia. They call it Phêra. There’s a Pherai in Thessaly. [modern commentators believe the city is modern Kalamata]

“A Wealthy man”: This mention increases the importance of their battle. But no mention is made of them in the Catalog of Ships, since they are those men who receive gifts from Menelaos….This is the reason that when they fall no one other than Menelaos pities them”

Did.(?) Κρήθωνά τε ᾿Ορσίλοχόν τε: ὁ πρόγονος διὰ τοῦ τ, ὁ παῖς διὰ τοῦ ς· καὶ ἐν ᾿Οδυσσείᾳ (sc. γ 489. ο 187. φ 16) οὖν διὰ τοῦ τ. T
ex. Φηρῇ: Μεσ<σ>ήνης. καὶ Φηρὰς αὐτὴν καλεῖ (sc. Ι 151. 293. γ 488. ο 186). Φεραὶ Θεσσαλίας (cf. Β 711. δ 798). T

ex. ἀφνειὸς βιότοιο: προσυνίστησιν αὐτοὺς αὔξων τὴν περὶ αὐτῶν μάχην. οὐ μέμνηται δὲ αὐτῶν ἐν τῷ Καταλόγῳ, ἐπεὶ †μεσήνιοί† εἰσιν οἵτινες ὑπὸ Μενελάῳ ἐτέλουν δῶρα, b(BE3E4)T „τά οἱ ξεῖνος Λακεδαίμονι δῶκε τυχήσας” (φ 13), „τὼ δ’ ἐν †μεσήνῃ† ξυμβλήτην / οἴκῳ ἐν ᾿Ορτιλόχου” (φ 15—6). T διὰ τοῦτο καὶ πεσόντας αὐτοὺς οὐδεὶς ἄλλος ἢ ὁ Μενέλαος ἐλεεῖ (cf. Ε 561). b


The scholiast sees a connection between the political and geographical proximity of the cities, the relationships of the families, and Menelaos’ reaction in the following lines. The family (and implied local mythographical traditions) seem of little enough importance that they don’t appear in the Catalogue–their presence here is not just to “increase the importance of the battle” but to contribute to Menelaos’ aristeia. Of course, this doesn’t quite explain the presence in the Odyssey where the lost sons are not named….


The location of the city is further confused by a debate about the location of mythical Pylos (complicated in turn by debates about where Ithaka might have been). But, notionally, I think we can accept a city somewhere between central Laconia where Sparta is situated and the Western coast of the Peloponnese.


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