All Unhappy Families….

Homer, Iliad 9. 447-461

. . . I first fled Hellas famed for fine women
after rows with my father, Amuntor, son of Ormenus.
He was enraged with me over his well-coiffed mistress.
He loved this woman and he disgraced his wife,
my mother. She pleaded with me all the time
to screw the mistress–make her rebuff the old man.
Persuaded, I did it. But my father found out,
cursed me bitterly, called on the hated Furies
that he never hold a dear son of mine
on his knees. The gods fulfilled the curse,
chthonian Zeus and dread Persephone.

I planned to cut him down with my sharp sword,
but a god checked my rage–he showed my heart
what folks would say, people’s bitter insults–
so I wouldn’t be “father-killer” among Achaeans.

***The final 4 lines are recorded by Plutarch but do not appear in manuscripts or papyri of the epic. Plutarch claims without evidence Aristarchus excised the lines.

οἷον ὅτε πρῶτον λίπον Ἑλλάδα καλλιγύναικα
φεύγων νείκεα πατρὸς Ἀμύντορος Ὀρμενίδαο,
ὅς μοι παλλακίδος περιχώσατο καλλικόμοιο,
τὴν αὐτὸς φιλέεσκεν, ἀτιμάζεσκε δʼ ἄκοιτιν
μητέρʼ ἐμήν· ἣ δʼ αἰὲν ἐμὲ λισσέσκετο γούνων
παλλακίδι προμιγῆναι, ἵνʼ ἐχθήρειε γέροντα.
τῇ πιθόμην καὶ ἔρεξα· πατὴρ δʼ ἐμὸς αὐτίκʼ ὀϊσθεὶς
πολλὰ κατηρᾶτο, στυγερὰς δʼ ἐπεκέκλετʼ Ἐρινῦς,
μή ποτε γούνασιν οἷσιν ἐφέσσεσθαι φίλον υἱὸν
ἐξ ἐμέθεν γεγαῶτα· θεοὶ δʼ ἐτέλειον ἐπαρὰς

τὸν μὲν ἐγὼ βούλευσα κατακτάμεν ὀξέϊ χαλκῷ:
ἀλλά τις ἀθανάτων παῦσεν χόλον, ὅς ῥ’ ἐνὶ θυμῷ
δήμου θῆκε φάτιν καὶ ὀνείδεα πόλλ’ ἀνθρώπων,
ὡς μὴ πατροφόνος μετ’ Ἀχαιοῖσιν καλεοίμην.

Ingmar Bergman. Scenes from a Marriage.

Larry Benn has a B.A. in English Literature from Harvard College, an M.Phil in English Literature from Oxford University, and a J.D. from Yale Law School. Making amends for a working life misspent in finance, he’s now a hobbyist in ancient languages and blogs at

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