“Columns, and my Sirens, and you, sorrowful urn
Who holds Hades’ small portion of ash—
Say “hello” to those who walk by my grave,
Whether they happen to be citizens or from another town.
Tell them this too so they may know it:
this grave covered me when I was a bride,
My father used to call me Baukis and Tenos was my land
Tell them also that Erinna, my friend,
Etched this poem on my Tomb.”
The sacrifice of Iphigenia is a pivotal moment in the tale of the House of Atreus—it motivates Agamemnon’s murder and in turn the matricide of Orestes—and the Trojan War, functioning as it does as a strange sacrifice of a virgin daughter of Klytemnestra in exchange for passage for a fleet to regain the adulteress Helen, Iphigeneia’s aunt by both her father and mother. The account is famous in Aeschylus’ Agamemnon and the plays Iphigenia at Aulis and Iphigenia among the Taurians by Euripides. Its earliest accounts, however, provide some interesting variations:
Hes. Fr. 23.13-30
“Agamemnon, lord of men, because of her beauty,
Married the dark-eyed daughter of Tyndareus, Klytemnestra.
She gave birth to fair-ankled Iphimede in her home
And Elektra who rivaled the goddesses in beauty.
But the well-greaved Achaeans butchered Iphimede
on the altar of thundering, golden-arrowed Artemis
on that day when they sailed with ships to Ilium
in order to exact payment for fair-ankled Argive woman—
they butchered a ghost. But the deer-shooting arrow-mistress
easily rescued her and anointed her head
with lovely ambrosia so that her flesh would be enduring—
She made her immortal and ageless for all days.
Now the races of men upon the earth call her
Artemis of the roads, the servant of the famous arrow-mistress.
Last in her home, dark-eyed Klytemnestra gave birth
after being impregnated by Agamemnon to Orestes,
who, once he reached maturity, paid back the murderer of his father
and killed his mother as well with pitiless bronze.”
This fragment presents what is possibly the earliest account of the tale of Iphigenia and contains the major elements: the sacrifice of Agamemnon’s daughter is tied to vengeance against Helen; the daughter is rescued by Artemis, made immortal and made her servant. [In some traditions she is either made immortal or made into a priestess of Artemis at Tauris]. Orestes kills the murderer of his father and his mother. Continue reading “The Names of Agamemnon’s Daughters and the Death of Iphigenia”→
“Please remember that that person you call a slave has come from the same seeds, enjoys the same sky, breathes the same, lives the same, dies the same as you. You can imagine them freeborn as easily as they can imagine you enslaved. At the time of the Marian slaughter, fortune laid low many born at the highest level, people making their way to the senatorial class through military service: one of these became shepherd, another a guard to a country-house. Go ahead, look down on someone whose fortune you might come to share, even as you scoff at them.
I don’t want to get caught up in a large debate and complain about the treatment of enslaved people, against whom we are the most arrogant, cruel, and savage nation. But this is my highest precept: live alongside your inferior as you would want your superior to live with you.”
Vis tu cogitare istum, quem servum tuum vocas, ex isdem seminibus ortum eodem frui caelo, aeque spirare, aeque vivere, aeque mori. tam tu illum videre ingenuum potes quam ille te servum. Mariana clade multos splendidissime natos, senatorium per militiam auspicantes gradum, fortuna depressit, alium ex illis pastorem, alium custodem casae fecit; contemne nunc eius fortunae hominem, in quam transire, dum contemnis, potes.
Nolo in ingentem me locum inmittere et de usu servorum disputare, in quos superbissimi, crudelissimi, contumeliosissimi sumus. Haec tamen praecepti mei summa est: sic cum inferiore vivas, quemadmodum tecum superiorem velis vivere.
Plutarch, Advice to Bride and Groom (Moralia138a-146a : Conjugalia Praecepta)
“These kinds of studies, foremost, distract women from inappropriate matters. For, a wife will be ashamed to dance when she is learning geometry. And she will not receive spells of medicine if she is charmed by Platonic dialogues and the works of Xenophon. And if anyone claims she can pull down the moon, she will laugh at the ignorance and simplicity of the women who believe these things because she herself is not ignorant of astronomy and she has read about Aglaonikê. She was the daughter of Hêgêtor of Thessaly because she knew all about the periods of the moon and eclipses knew before everyone about the time when the moon would be taken by the shadow of the earth. She tricked the other women and persuaded them that she herself was causing the lunar eclipse.”
“Who was the hero Eunostos in Tanagra and why is entering his grove forbidden to women? Eunostos was the son of Kêphisos and Skias, but they say that his name comes from the nymph Eunosta who raised him. He was good-looking and just and no less wise and austere. They claim that one of the daughters of Kolônos, Okhna, who was Eunostos’ cousin, was in love with him. Eunostos, however, refused her when she approached him and, after insulting her, went to tell her brothers all about it.
The girl got there first and and pleaded with her brothers Ekhemos, Leôn, and Boukolos to kill Eunostos because he had raped her. They caught him by surprised and killed him and then Elieius imprisoned them. Then, Okhna changed her mind and was mourning terribly because she simultaneously wanted to be free of the pain from her love and she pitied her brothers.
So, she told Elieus the whole truth and he told Kolônos. By his judgment, the brothers were exiled and Ekhna threw herself from a cliff, as Myrtis the lyric poet from Anthedon records. This is why it is forbidden for women to enter or to even approach the shrine and grove of Eunostos—and why when there were often earthquakes, droughts, or different signs the people of Tanagra investigated and made a big deal of a woman nearing that place in secret.”
I received your book that you promised me, although I opened it with the intention of reading it later, since I wanted just a taste. But then I found it so charming that I lingered on it a bit longer. You can see from this how fluid it is–it struck me as smoothly written even though it seemed to come from neither my flesh nor yours. No, at first glance it could remind of Livy or Epicurus. It gripped me and carried me along so much with its phrasing that I read it without a moment of delay. The sun beckoned to me; hunger lingered over me; clouds threatened, but I consumed that whole book still.
I wasn’t just happy, no, I was elated. It was so full of genius and spirit. I would have added something about its power too, if the book had any time for rest or if it rose to crescendo from time to time. But there were no sudden flourishes–instead, it presents a steady pace, a cadence that was both strong and safe. Still, there were moments here of sweetness, of softness from place to place. Your writing is elevated yet direct. I hope you keep to this, that you continue in this way. Your topic added something too–this is why you should keep selecting powerful subjects–they seize the wit and excite it.
I will write more about the book when I reread it. For now, my sense of it is a little shifting, as if I had listened to the book, not read it. Let me peruse it more. You don’t need to be wary, you will hear the truth. What a lucky guy! You have given no chance for someone to lie to you from a distance. Unless the fact is that when the reasons for lying are removed, we continue to lie by habit. Bye.”
Librum tuum, quem mihi promiseras, accepi et tamquam lecturus ex commodo adaperui ac tantum degustare volui. Deinde blanditus est ipse, ut procederem longius. Qui quam disertus fuerit, ex hoc intellegas licet; levis mihi visus est, cum esset nec mei nec tui corporis, sed qui primo aspectu aut Titi Livii aut Epicuri posset videri. Tanta autem dulcedine me tenuit et traxit, ut illum sine ull adilatione perlegerim. Sol me invitabat, fames ad monebat, nubes minabantur; tamen exhausi totum.
Non tantum delectatus, sed gavisus sum. Quid ingenii iste habuit, quid animi! Dicerem, quid inpetus, si interquievisset, si ex intervallo surrexisset; nunc non fuit inpetus, sed tenor, conpositio virilis et sancta; nihilominus interveniebat dulce illud et loco lene. Grandis, erectus es; hoc te volo tenere, sic ire. Fecit aliquid et materia; ideo eligenda est fertilis, quae capiat ingenium, quae incitet.
De libro plura scribam cum illum retractavero; nunc parum mihi sedet iudicium, tamquam audierim illa, non legerim. Sine me et inquirere. Non est quod verearis; verum audies. O te hominem felicem, quod nihil habes, propter quod quisquam tibi tam longe mentiatur! Nisi quod iam etiam ubi causa sublata est, mentimur consuetudinis causa. Vale.
“So I was speaking, but [the Kyklops] did not answer me because of his pitiless heart.
But then he leapt up, shot out his hands at my companions,
Grabbed two together, and struck them against the ground
Like puppies. Brains were flowing out from them and they dyed the ground.
After tearing them limb from limb, he prepared himself a meal.
He ate them like a mountain-born lion and left nothing behind,
The innards, the meat, and the marrow-filled bones.”
My perplexity over this passage provides a good example of how Twitter can be used for good. Last year, I asked a question about killing puppies got some great responses. One found a later passage that deals with puppies and has some interesting thematic resonance with Odysseus’ development:
I think that all of these ideas are essential to a full interpretation of this passage. But, I do wonder if, in addition, we should consider ancient Greek practices of puppy sacrifice. I know that the following accounts are later, but what if we imagine the simile used here as evoking ideas of purification through sacrifice?
I'm not certain about puppies, but there are dog bones in the Heroon at Lefkandi… I will think about whether I know of any other early examples of possible puppy sacrifices (although I'm not myself convinced that there's anything in that passage besides pathos/a familiar image)
“Nearly all the Greeks made use of the dog in sacrifice and some still do today, for cleansing rituals. They also bring puppies for Hekate along with other purification materials; and they rub down people who need cleansing with the puppies.”
“Here, each of these groups of youths sacrifice a puppy to Enyalius, god of war, because they believe that it is best to make this most valiant of the domesticated animals to the bravest of the gods. I don’t know any other Greeks who believe it is right to sacrifice puppies to the gods except for the Kolophonians. For the Kolophonians sacrifice a black female puppy to the goddess of the Crossroad. The sacrifices of both the Kolophonians and the Spartan youths take place at night.”
“Indeed, the ancients did not consider this animal to be clean either: it was never sacrificed to one of the Olympian goes, but when it is given to Hekate at the cross-roads, it functions as part of the sacrifices that turn away and cleanse evil. In Sparta, they sacrifice dogs to the bloodiest of the gods, Enyalios. In Boiotia, it is the public cleansing ritual to walk between the parts of a dog that has been cut in half. The Romans themselves, during the Wolf-Festival which they call the Lupercalia, they sacrifice a dog in the month of purification.”
Elsewhere, I posted a bit from Pausanias that discuses Penelope’s gravesite in Arcadia. It also mentions a Mantinean tradition that Penelope was expelled from Ithaca on a suspicion of infidelity. This story is in part reported by Apollodorus, (Ep. 7.38-39)
“Some say that Penelope was corrupted by Antinoos and that Odysseus sent her back to her father Ikarios. When she came to Mantinea in Arcadia she had Pan with Hermes. Others allege that she was killed by Odysseus because of Amphinomos, who seduced her. There are also those who say that Odysseus was charged by the relatives of those he had killed who took Neoptolemos as judge, then king of the islands near Epirus. He handed down a judgment of exile and Odysseus went to Thoas the son of Andraimôn who married him to his daughter. When he died from old age, he left a son Leontophonos.
The detail about Amphinomos might be drawn from a passage in the Odyssey where the narrative provides some insight into Penelope’s mind (16.394-398):
Amphinomos rose and spoke among them,
The dashing son of Nisos, the son of lord Arêtiades,
Who joined the suitors from grain-rich and grassy
Doulikhos. He was especially pleasing to Penelope
For he made good use of his brains.”
It is somewhat amusing to compare this to what Telemachus says earlier when he describes the suitors.
Homer, Odyssey 15.518-524
“But I will tell you of another man you might encounter,
Eurymakhos, the shining son of sharp-minded Polyboios,
Whom the Ithakans now look upon the way they would a god.
He is by far the best man remaining and the best
To marry my mother and receive my father’s geras.
But Zeus is the one who knows these things as he rules on high”
Whether or not he will bring about a deadly day for them before a marriage.”
What to make of this difference? Telemachus’ evaluation appears to be based on Eurymakhos’ standing among the Ithakans. Penelope seems to favor someone who is not Ithakan and whose traits are like her own and her absent husband.
Lykophron in his Alexandra takes the view that Penelope was not faithful (768-773)
“For he will come, he will come to the harbor shelter of Reithron
And the cliffs of Nêritos. And he will see
His whole house upturned from its foundations
By wife-stealing adulterers. And that vixen
Will hollow out his home with shameless whoring,
Pouring out the wretch’s fortune feast by feast”.
Lykophron is positively chaste compared to the account provided in the Scholia:
“And Douris writes in his work on the lewdness of Agathokleos that Penelope had sex with all of the suitors and then gave birth to the goat-shaped Pan whom they took up to be one of the gods. He is talking nonsense about Pan, for Pan is the child of Hermes and a different Penelope. Another story is that Pan is the child of Zeus and Hubris.”
“Why do you detain me with that thing you call the liar’s paradox about which so many books have been written? Look, my whole life is a lie. Argue against that for, return to the truth, if you are precise enough. This judges things to be necessary when the greater portion is superfluous. And the part that is not superfluous possesses nothing of consequence in it, it has no potential to make someone fortunate and happy.
Something is not essentially good just because it is necessary. If that were the case, we would debase what good is, calling bread and oatmeal and other things needed for life ‘good’. The good must be necessary but what is necessary is not always good since rather basic things are needed to live. No one is so unaware of the true value of the good as to reduce it to daily needs.
What? Should you not rededicate your energy to showing all people what a tremendous waste of time superfluous things are and that many have moved through life merely collecting tools for living? Think about individuals, examine people altogether, there is no life not looking ahead to tomorrow.
How much of a problem is this, you ask? It is endless–for these people don’t live, they are always about to live. They put everything off. Even if we were constantly vigilant, life would outpace us. But now life sees us delaying and it passes us as if it were someone else’s and although it ends on our last day, it is dying on every day before it.”
Quid me detines in eo, quem tu ipse pseudomenon appellas, de quo tantum librorum conpositum est? Ecce tota mihi vita mentitur; hanc coargue, hanc ad verum, si acutus es, redige. Necessaria iudicat, quorum magna pars supervacua est. Etiam quae non est supervacua, nihil in se momenti habet in hoc, ut possit fortunatum beatumque praestare. Non enim statim bonum est, si quid necessarium est; aut proicimus bonum, si hoc nomen pani et polentae damus et ceteris, sine quibus vita non ducitur. Quod bonum est, utique necessarium est; quod necessarium est, non utique bonum est, quoniam quidem necessaria sunt quaedam eadem vilissima. Nemo usque eo dignitatem boni ignorat, ut illud ad haec in diem utilia demittat.
Quid ergo? Non eo potius curam transferes, ut ostendas omnibus magno temporis inpendio quaeri supervacua et multos transisse vitam, dum vitae instrumenta conquirunt? Recognosce singulos, considera universos; nullius non vita spectat in crastinum. Quid in hoc sit mali, quaeris? Infinitum. Non enim vivunt, sed victuri sunt. Omnia dififerunt. Etiamsi adtenderemus, tamen nos vita praecurreret; nunc vero cunctantes quasi aliena transcurrit et ultimo die finitur, omni perit.
“A sacred rite to the spirits of the dead. To Julia Saturnina, age 45, an incomparable wife, the best doctor, the most noble woman. Gaius Philippus, her husband, (made this) for her merits. She is buried here. May the earth be light on you.”