Porphyry on Fate and Responsibility in the Odyssey

Schol. H ad Od. 1.8 ex. (attributed to Porphyry)

“We claim that the companions of Odysseus are all those who returned with him from Troy, and, more particularly, those who sailed with him in the same ship. He was serious [spoudaios} about the rescue of all of his men, but he was more capable for those who were sailing in the same ship. For, the proverb goes “shared ship, shared safety—but the ships and the safety were no longer shared.

Hence, the lines “he was suffering many pains through his heart / as he tried to save his life and his companions’ homecoming” is properly about the men in Odysseus’ ship whose safety he was able to plan for because they were with him. Then, Helios is to blame for Odysseus arriving home alone, since he killed them as they sailed around. This is the same as if someone would say that Odysseus is responsible for the Trojans who were killed because he devised the matter of the horse, even though most were killed previously by Achilles, Neoptolemos, Ajax and the rest of the best—for the one who brought the act to completion gains the nickname for the whole affair. Thus, since, here Helios has become responsible for Odysseus returning home alone, the poet rightly says “he took away their homecoming day.”

For not all of them died because of poor planning, but some died because of bad luck, like those who died among the Kikonians, or before the Kyklops, or among the Laistrygonians or before Skylla. Others died because of poor planning, as only those who were discovered to have decided to commit outrages against Helios willingly. We can say clearly that Odysseus was especially eager [spoudaios] to save those men who perished because of external cause and could have been saved if they hadn’t been foolish and responsible for their own deaths.”

φαμὲν οὖν ὅτι ἑταῖροι ἦσαν μὲν πάντες οἱ ἐπανιόντες ἐξ ᾿Ιλίου μετὰ ᾿Οδυσσέως, ἰδίως δὲ οἱ συμπλέοντες αὐτῷ ἐν τῇ αὐτῇ νηΐ· καὶ ἡ μὲν σπουδὴ ὑπὲρ τῆς πάντων σωτηρίας, δυνατὴ δὲ μᾶλλον ἡ τῶν ἐν τῇ αὐτῇ νηῒ συμπλεόντων. καὶ γὰρ κατὰ τὴν παροιμίαν “κοινὴ ναῦς κοινὴ σωτηρία,” ἀλλ’ οὐκέτι κοιναὶ νῆες καὶ κοιναὶ σωτηρίαι.


πολλὰ δ’ ὅγ’ ἐν πόντῳ πάθεν ἄλγεα ὃν κατὰ θυμὸν,

ἀρνύμενος ἥν τε ψυχὴν καὶ νόστον ἑταίρων.

ἰδίως τῶν ἐν τῇ ᾿Οδυσσέως νηῒ δηλοῖ, ὧν καὶ μάλιστα ὡς ἂν σὺν αὐτῷ ὄντων τῆς σωτηρίας φροντίζειν ἐδύνατο, ἐπεὶ τοῦ μόνον εἰς οἶκον ἀνακομισθῆναι τὸν ᾿Οδυσσέα αἴτιος γέγονεν ὁ ῞Ηλιος, τοὺς περιλειπομένους ἀποκτείνας. ὥσπερ οὖν εἴ τις λέγει τοῦ τοὺς Τρῶας ἀπολέσθαι αἴτιον ᾿Οδυσσέα γενέσθαι τὰ περὶ τὸν ἵππον μηχανησάμενον, καίτοι τῶν πλείστων προαπολωλότων ὑπὸ ᾿Αχιλλέως, Νεοπτολέμου, Αἴαντος καὶ τῶν λοιπῶν ἀριστέων (ὁ γὰρ τὴν πρᾶξιν τελεώσας ἐπώνυμος τοῦ παντὸς ἔργου γίνεται), οὕτως κἀνταῦθα αἰ-τίου τοῦ μόνον ὑποστρέψαι τὸν ᾿Οδυσσέα γεγονότος ῾Ηλίου δικαίως εἶπεν “αὐτὰρ ὁ τοῖσιν ἀφείλετο νόστιμον ἦμαρ.” …. ἔπειτα οὐ πάντων δι’ ἀβουλίας ἀπολωλότων, ἀλλὰ τῶν μὲν διὰ δυστυχίας, ὥσπερ οἱ εἰς τοὺς Κίκονας ἐμπεσόντες, ἢ εἰς τὸν Κύκλωπα, ἢ εἰς τοὺς Λαιστρυγόνας, ἢ εἰς τὴν Σκύλλαν, τῶν δὲ δι’ ἀβουλίαν, ὥσπερ μόνοι εὑρίσκονται οἱ εἰς τὸν ῞Ηλιον ἀκουσίως ἀσεβεῖν ἑλόμενοι, τὸν ᾿Οδυσσέα σαφῶς φάναι ὅτι ὑπὲρ τούτων μάλιστα ἐσπούδασεν, ὑπὲρ τῶν μὴ ἔξωθεν αἰτίας ἀπολεσθέντων, ἀλλὰ τῶν σωθέντων ἂν, εἰ μὴ ἄφρονες ἦσαν καὶ παραίτιοι αὑτοῖς τοῦ θανάτου.

Image result for Odysseus and sheep

3 thoughts on “Porphyry on Fate and Responsibility in the Odyssey

Leave a Reply