Fantastic Friday: Talking Severed Heads and Prophecies of Doom (Part 2)

In the first half of this tale, a young politician died after getting married and his wife gave birth to a hermaphrodite. When the townspeople considered burning the mother and child, the husband rose from the dead and warned the people to listen to him. They dithered, so he ate the child.

Phlegon of Tralles, On Marvels 2 (Part 2)

There was a great cry and stones were thrown at him and they tried to make him turn him back. But he was not frightened off by the stones and he destroyed all of the child’s body except for the head and immediately disappeared.

While they were upset by the events and had fallen into confusion because of failing to capture him and were planning to go to Delphi, the head of the child spoke where it was sitting on the ground and provided a prophecy of what would happen:

Numberless people who inhabit a much-sung land
Do not go to the precinct of Phoibos and his smokey temple.
For your hands stand unclean in the air because of blood.
The path laid before your feet is corrupted.
Learn from me the journey the oracle foretells.
On this very day after the passing of a year
Death is fated for all of you, but the souls
Of Lokrians and Aitolians will live mixed together by Athena’s plans.
There will be no break from evil, not even a short one.
For already there is murderous blood pouring over your heads.
Night now hides everything as a dark sky races over us.
Immediately dark night overshadows the whole land.
All the widoes at home are resting their limbs on the ground.
No woman will be ever feel grief, nor will the children
Now in the homes mourn, as they cling to dear fathers.
For this sort of wave will wash over the whole land.
Oh, Oh, I always groan for my country suffering terrible things,
And my most wretched mother, who weeps last while still alive.
All the gods will make the race nameless
Of Lokrians and Aitolians whatever kind of seed is left.
Because death left my dear head and did not make
All of my mixed up limbs disappear, but left me on the earth.
But come and show my head to the sun as it rises.
Do not cover it below the shadowed earth.
You—leave this land after this is done
And go to another land and the people of Athena
If you choose to avoid death by fate’s decree.

After the Aitolians heard this oracle, they sent away their wives, children and elderly wherever each was able. But many remained to await what would happen. In the next year it happened that there was a war between the Aitolians and the Acharnians and there was a great destruction of both peoples.

τοῦ δὲ ὄχλου συνδραμόντος καὶ ἔριν περὶ [τὴν ἄρσιν] τοῦ τέρατος ἔχοντος, ἐπιλαβόμενος τοῦ παιδίου καὶ τοὺς πλείστους αὐτῶν ἀνείρξας ἰταμώτερον διέσπασέ τε αὐτὸ καὶ ἤσθιε.

κραυγῆς δὲ γενομένης καὶ λίθων ἐπ’ αὐτὸν ἐκριπτομένων ὑπελάμβανον τροπὴν αὐτοῦ ποιήσασθαι. ὁ δὲ ἄπληκτος ὢν ὑπὸ τῶν λίθων τὸ σῶμα πᾶν παιδίου κατανάλωσε πλὴν τῆς κεφαλῆς καὶ αὐτίκα ἀφανὴς ἐγένετο. δυσφορούντων δ’ αὐτῶν ἐπὶ τοῖς γενομένοις καὶ ἐν ἀπορίᾳ καθεστηκότων οὐ τῇ τυχούσῃ, βουλομένων τε ἀποστεῖλαι εἰς Δελφούς, φθέγγεται ἡ κεφαλὴ τοῦ παιδίου ἐπὶ τοῦ ἐδάφους κειμένη καὶ λέγει χρησμῷ τὰ ἀποβησόμενα·

ὦ πολυύμνητον ναίων χθόνα λαὸς ἀπείρων,
μὴ στεῖχ’ ἐς Φοίβου τέμενος ναόν τε θυώδη·
οὐ γάρ σοι καθαραὶ χέρες αἵματος αἰθέρ’ ἔχουσιν,
ἀλλὰ μύσος προπάροιθε ποδῶν ἔντοσθε κελεύθου.
φράζεο δ’ ἐξ ἐμέθεν, τρίποδος δ’ ἀπόειπε κέλευθον·
μαντοσύνης πᾶσαν γὰρ ἐφετμήν σοι καταλέξω.
ἤματι γὰρ τούτῳ περιτελλομένου ἐνιαυτοῦ
ὥρισται πᾶσιν θάνατος, ψυχαὶ δὲ βίονται
Λοκρῶν Αἰτωλῶν τ’ ἀναμὶξ βουλῇσιν ᾿Αθήνης.
οὐδ’ ἀναπαύλησις κακοῦ ἔσσεται οὐδ’ ἠβαιόν·
ἤδη γὰρ ψακάδες φόνιαι κατὰ κρᾶτα κέχυνται,
νὺξ δ’ ἐπὶ πάντα κέκευθε, μέλας δ’ ἐπιδέδρομεν αἴθρη.
αὐτίκα νὺξ δ’ ἔρεβος πᾶσαν κατὰ γαῖαν ὄρωρεν,
χῆροι δ’ οἴκοι πάντες ἐπ’ οὔδεϊ γυῖα κλινοῦσιν,
οὐδὲ γυνὴ πένθος ποτὲ λείψεται, οὐδέ νυ παῖδες
ἃν μεγάροις γοόωσι, φίλους πατέρας περιφύντες·

τοῖον γὰρ τόδε κῦμα κατέδραμε πᾶσι κατ’ ἄκρης.
αἲ αἲ πατρίδ’ ἐμὴν αἰεὶ στένω αἰνὰ παθοῦσαν
μητέρα τ’ αἰνοτάτην, ἣν ὕστερον ἔκλυσεν αἰών.
νώνυμνόν τε θεοὶ γένεσιν θήσουσιν ἅπαντες
Λοκρῶν τ’ Αἰτωλῶν θ’ ὅ τί που καὶ σπέρμα λίποιτο,
οὕνεκ’ ἐμὴν κεφαλὴν λίποι αἰών, οὐδέ νυ πάντα
σώματος ἠφάνικεν μέλε’ ἄκριτα, λεῖπε δὲ γαῖαν.
ἀλλ’ ἄγ’ ἐμὴν κεφαλὴν θέμεν’ ἠοῖ φαινομένῃφι,
μηδέ θ’ ὑπὸ ζοφερὴν γαῖαν κατακρυπτέμεν ἔνδον·
αὐτοὺς δὲ προλιπόντας ἑὸν χῶρον μετόπισθεν
στείχειν εἰς ἄλλον χῶρον καὶ λαὸν ᾿Αθήνης,
εἴ τινά που θανάτοιο λύσιν κατὰ μοῖραν ἕλησθε.

ἀκούσαντες δὲ οἱ Αἰτωλοὶ τοῦ χρησμοῦ, γυναῖκας μὲν καὶ τὰ νήπια τέκνα τούς τε ὑπεργήρως ὑπεξέθεντο οὗ ἕκαστος ἐδύνατο, αὐτοὶ δὲ ἔμενον καραδοκοῦντες τὸ ἀποβησόμενον. καὶ συνέβη τῷ ἑξῆς ἔτει Αἰτωλοῖς καὶ ᾿Ακαρνᾶσι συστῆναι πόλεμον καὶ φθορὰν πολλὴν ἑκατέρων γενέσθαι.

Image result for medieval manuscript severed head

Psalter, MS M.79 fol. 111v

Fantastic Friday: Politics, Deaths, Omens and Infanticide, The Worst Story You’ll Read Today (Part 1)

This might be the most disturbing thing I have read all summer. When I was reading the Greek for the final sentence below, I actually uttered “what the f*ck” aloud. Go here for the second part.

Phlegon of Tralles, On Marvels 2 (Part 1)

Hieron the Alexandrian or Ephesian tells of the following wonder which occurred in Aitolia.

There was a certain citizen, Polykritos, who was voted Aitolian arkhon by the people. His fellow citizens considered him worthy for three years because of the nobility of his forebears. During the time he was in that office, he married a Lokrian woman. After he shared a bed with her for three nights, he died on the fourth.

The woman remained in their home widowed. When she gave birth, she had a child who had two sets of genitals, both male and female, which was alarmingly different from nature. The parts up top were completely rough and masculine and those near the thighs were feminine and softer.

Awestruck by this, her relatives forced the child to the agora and held an assembly to take advice about this, calling together the omen readers and interpreters. Some were claiming that this meant there would be dissent between Aitolians and Lokrians, since the mother was Lokrian and the father was Aitolian. But others believed that it was necessary to take the child and mother to the frontier and have them burned.

While the people were deliberating, suddenly the dead Polykritos appeared in the assembly dressed in black near his child. Even though the citizens were thunderstruck by this apparition and many of them were rushing to flight, he asked the citizens to be brave and not to be rattled by the sight which appeared. Then a bit of the chaos and the uproar receded, and he said these things in a slight voice:

“My fellow citizens, although I am dead in my body, I live among you in goodwill and thanks. And now I am present imploring those people who have power of this land to your collective benefit. I advise you who are citizens not to be troubled or angry at the impossible miracle which has happened. And I ask all of you, vouching for the safety of each, is to give  me the child who was born from me so that no violence may come from those who make some different kind of plans and that there may be no beginning of malicious and hard affairs because of a conflict on my part.

It would not be possible for me to overlook the burning of my child thanks to the shock of these interpreters who are advising you. I do have some pity, because you are at a loss when you see this kind of unexpected sight as to how you might respond to it correctly for current events. If you assent to me without fear, you will be relieved of the present anxieties and of the evils to come. But if you fall prey to another opinion, then I have fear for you that you will come into some incurable sufferings because you did not trust me.

Therefore, because of the goodwill I experienced while I was alive and the unexpectedness of the current situation, I am predicting the suffering to you. I think it is right that you do not delay any longer but that, once you deliberate correcly and obey the things I have said, you should hand over the child to me with a blessing. It is not fitting for me to waste any more time because of the men who rule this land.”

After he said these things, he kept quiet for a bit as he awaited what kind of decision there would be once they deliberated about it. Some were thinking it was right to give him the child and consider the sight sacred and the influence of a deity; but most of them denied this, claiming that it was necessary to deliberate in a calmer atmopshere when they were not at so great a loss, because the affair was a big deal.

When he saw that they were not moving in his favor but were actually impeding the decision there, he spoke these things in turn: “Fellow Citizens. If something more terrible happens to you because of a lack of decision, do not blame me, but this fate which directs you to something worse—it sets you in opposition to me and compels me to transgress against my child.”

There was a great mist and a portent of strife as he reached for the child and and grabbed most of it up boldly before butchering and eating the child.

  ῾Ιστορεῖ δὲ καὶ ῾Ιέρων ὁ ᾿Αλεξανδρεὺς ἢ ᾿Εφέσιος καὶ ἐν Αἰτωλίᾳ φάσμα γενέσθαι.  Πολύκριτος γάρ τις τῶν πολιτῶν ἐχειροτονήθη ὑπὸ τοῦ δήμου Αἰτωλάρχης, ἐπὶ τρία ἔτη τῶν πολιτῶν αὐτὸν ἀξιωσάντων διὰ τὴν ὑπάρχουσαν ἐκ προγόνων καλοκαγαθίαν. ὢν δὲ ἐν τῇ ἀρχῇ ταύτῃ ἄγεται γυναῖκα Λοκρίδα, καὶ συγκοιμηθεὶς τρισὶν νυξὶ τῇ τετάρτῃ τὸν βίον ἐξέλιπεν.

 ἡ δὲ ἄνθρωπος ἔμενεν ἐν τῇ οἰκίᾳ χηρεύουσα, ἡνίκα δὲ ὁ τοκετὸς ἤπειγεν, τίκτει παιδίον αἰδοῖα ἔχον δύο, ἀνδρεῖόν τε καὶ γυναικεῖον, καὶ τὴν φύσιν θαυμαστῶς διηλλαγ-μένον· τὰ μὲν ἄνω τοῦ αἰδοίου ὅλως σκληρά τε καὶ ἀνδρώδη ἦν, τὰ δὲ περὶ τοὺς μηροὺς γυναικεῖα καὶ ἁπαλώτερα. ἐφ’ ᾧ καταπλαγέντες οἱ συγγενεῖς ἀπήνεγκαν εἰς τὴν ἀγορὰν τὸ παιδίον καὶ συναγαγόντες ἐκκλησίαν ἐβουλεύοντο περὶ αὐτοῦ, θύτας τε καὶ τερατοσκόπους συγκαλέσαντες. τῶν δὲ οἱ μὲν ἀπεφήναντο διάστασίν τινα τῶν Αἰτωλῶν καὶ Λοκρῶν ἔσεσθαι—κεχωρίσθαι γὰρ ἀπὸ μητρὸς οὔσης Λοκρί-δος καὶ πατρὸς Αἰτωλοῦ—οἱ δὲ δεῖν ᾤοντο τὸ παιδίον καὶ τὴν μητέρα ἀπενέγκοντας εἰς τὴν ὑπερορίαν κατακαῦσαι. ταῦτα δὲ αὐτῶν βουλευομένων ἐξαίφνης φαίνεται ὁ Πολύκριτος ὁ προτεθνηκὼς ἐν τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ πλησίον τοῦ τέκνου ἔχων ἐσθῆτα μέλαιναν.

τῶν δὲ πολιτῶν καταπλαγέντων ἐπὶ τῇ  φαντασίᾳ καὶ πολλῶν εἰς φυγὴν τραπομένων παρεκάλεσε τοὺς πολίτας θαρρεῖν καὶ μὴ ταράττεσθαι ἐπὶ τῷ γεγονότι φάσματι. ἐπεὶ δὲ ἔληξε τὸ πλέον τοῦ θορύβου καὶ τῆς ταραχῆς, ἐφθέγξατο λεπτῇ τῇ φωνῇ τάδε· «ἐγὼ, ἄνδρες πολῖται, τῷ μὲν σώματι τέθνηκα, τῇ δὲ εὐνοίᾳ καὶ τῇ χάριτι <τῇ> πρὸς ὑμᾶς ζῶ. καὶ νῦν πάρειμι <ὑμῖν> παραιτησάμενος τοὺς κυριεύοντας τῶν κατὰ γῆν ἐπὶ τῷ συμφέροντι τῷ ὑμετέρῳ. παρακαλῶ τοίνυν ὑμᾶς πολίτας ὄντας ἐμαυτοῦ μὴ ταράττεσθαι μηδὲ δυσχεραί-νειν ἐπὶ τῷ παραδόξῳ γεγονότι φάσματι. δέομαι δὲ ὑμῶν ἁπάντων, κατευχόμενος πρὸς τῆς ἐκάστου σωτηρίας, ἀποδοῦναί μοι τὸ παιδίον τὸ ἐξ ἐμοῦ γεγεννημένον, ὅπως μηδὲν βίαιον γένηται ἄλλο τι βουλευσαμένων ὑμῶν, μηδ’ ἀρχὴ πραγμάτων δυσχερῶν καὶ χαλεπῶν διὰ τὴν πρὸς ἐμὲ φιλονεικίαν ὑμῖν γένηται. οὐ γὰρ ἐνδέχεταί μοι περιιδεῖν κατακαυθὲν τὸ παιδίον ὑφ’ ὑμῶν διὰ τὴν τῶν ἐξαγγελλόντων ὑμῖν μάντεων ἀποπληξίαν. συγγνώμην μὲν οὖν ὑμῖν ἔχω, ὅτι τοιαύτην ὄψιν ἀπροσδόκητον ἑωρακότες ἀπορεῖτε πῶς ποτε τοῖς παροῦσι πράγμασιν ὀρθῶς χρήσεσθε. εἰ μὲν οὖν ἐμοὶ πεισθήσεσθε ἀδεῶς, τῶν παρόντων φόβων καὶ τῶν ἐπερχομένων κακῶν ἔσεσθε ἀπηλλαγμένοι. εἰ δὲ ἄλλως πως τῇ γνώμῃ προσπεσεῖσθε, φοβοῦμαι περὶ ὑμῶν μήποτε εἰς ἀνηκέστους συμφορὰς ἀπειθοῦντες ἡμῖν ἐμπέσητε. ἐγὼ μὲν οὖν διὰ τὴν ὑπάρχουσαν εὔνοιαν ὅτ’ ἔζων καὶ νῦν ἀπροσδοκήτως παρὼν προείρηκα τὸ συμφέρον ὑμῖν. ταῦτ’ οὖν ὑμᾶς ἀξιῶ μὴ πλείω με χρόνον παρέλκειν, ἀλλὰ βουλευσαμένους ὀρθῶς καὶ πεισθέντας τοῖς εἰρημένοις ὑπ’ ἐμοῦ δοῦναί μοι μετ’ εὐφημίας τὸ παιδίον. οὐ γὰρ ἐνδέχεταί μοι πλείονα μηκύνειν χρόνον διὰ τοὺς κατὰγῆν ὑπάρχοντας δεσπότας.»

 ταῦτα δὲ εἰπὼν ἡσυχίαν  ἔσχεν ἐπ’ ὀλίγον, καραδοκῶν ποίαν ποτὲ ἐξοίσουσιν αὐτῷ γνώμην περὶ τῶν ἀξιουμένων. τινὲς μὲν οὗν ᾤοντο δεῖν ἀποδοῦναι τὸ παιδίον καὶ ἀφοσιώσασθαι τό τε φάσμα καὶ τὸν ἐπιστάντα δαίμονα, οἱ δὲ πλεῖστοι ἀντέλεγον, μετὰ ἀνέσεως δεῖν βουλεύσασθαι φάσκοντες, ὡς ὄντος μεγάλου τοῦ πράγματος καὶ οὐ τῆς τυχούσης αὐτοῖς ἀπορίας.  συνιδὼν δὲ αὐτοὺς οὐ προσέχοντας, ἀλλ’ ἐμποδίζοντας αὐτοῦ τὴν βούλησιν, ἐφθέγξατο αὖθις τάδε· «ἀλλ’ οὖν γε, ὦ ἄνδρες πολῖται, ἐὰν ὑμῖν συμβαίνῃ τι τῶν δυσχερεστέρων διὰ τὴν ἀβουλίαν, μὴ ἐμὲ αἰτιᾶσθε, ἀλλὰ τὴν τύχην τὴν οὕτως ἐπὶ τὸ χεῖρον ὑμᾶς ποδηγοῦσαν, ἥτις ἐναντιουμένη κἀμοὶ παρανομεῖν ἀναγκάζει με εἰς τὸ ἴδιον τέκνον.»

τοῦ δὲ ὄχλου συνδραμόντος καὶ ἔριν περὶ [τὴν ἄρσιν] τοῦ τέρατος ἔχοντος, ἐπιλαβόμενος τοῦ παιδίου καὶ τοὺς πλείστους αὐτῶν ἀνείρξας ἰταμώτερον διέσπασέ τε αὐτὸ καὶ ἤσθιε.

Hermaphrodite (Ulisse Aldrovandi, Monstrorum Historia)

Hermaphrodite (Ulisse Aldrovandi, Monstrorum Historia)

Arrogant, Lawless and Abnormal: Judging Homer’s Kyklôpes

Earlier we posted about the ancient debate of whether or not the Kyklôpes only had a single eye. Here is a longer post about Homer’s depiction of their character and customs.

Homer, Odyssey 105–115

“From there we went on sailing, even though our hearts were pained,
To the land of the overbearing, lawless Kyklôpes
Who especially rely on the immortal gods
And do not grow plants or plow the land
But everything grows for them, unplanted and unplowed:
The grain, barley and vines which bear
Thick wine, and Zeus’ rain makes them grow.
They don’t have council-bringing assemblies nor laws,
But they inhabit the peaks of high mountains
In their hollow caves, and each governs his
Children and wives—they do not care for one another.”

ἔνθεν δὲ προτέρω πλέομεν ἀκαχήμενοι ἦτορ.
Κυκλώπων δ’ ἐς γαῖαν ὑπερφιάλων ἀθεμίστων
ἱκόμεθ’, οἵ ῥα θεοῖσι πεποιθότες ἀθανάτοισιν
οὔτε φυτεύουσιν χερσὶν φυτὸν οὔτ’ ἀρόωσιν,
ἀλλὰ τά γ’ ἄσπαρτα καὶ ἀνήροτα πάντα φύονται,
πυροὶ καὶ κριθαὶ ἠδ’ ἄμπελοι, αἵ τε φέρουσιν
οἶνον ἐριστάφυλον, καί σφιν Διὸς ὄμβρος ἀέξει.
τοῖσιν δ’ οὔτ’ ἀγοραὶ βουληφόροι οὔτε θέμιστες,
ἀλλ’ οἵ γ’ ὑψηλῶν ὀρέων ναίουσι κάρηνα
ἐν σπέεσι γλαφυροῖσι, θεμιστεύει δὲ ἕκαστος
παίδων ἠδ’ ἀλόχων, οὐδ’ ἀλλήλων ἀλέγουσι.

Image result for Ancient Greek sculpture Cyclops

Schol. ad Od. 9.106 31-58 (Some of which is attributed to Porphyry)

Overbearing, lawless: The phrase has double significance: the great size of their bodies and the lawlessness of not following customs. For they say that “Each one governs his own children and wives”. For if they were lawless instead of unjust, how would he add “they rely on the gods”? But, then, someone might add how Polyphemos says “the Kyklôpes don’t care about aegis-bearing Zeus”. We should, of course, consider the proposal that it comes from Polyphemos, the flesh-eating, beast.  Hesiod also says “[Zeus] made it right for fish, beast and birds to eat one another because they do not have justice. Justice he gave to men” [see below]. Thus he depicts only Polyphemos as arrogant and unjust, while the rest of the other Kyklôpes are righteous, just people who obey the gods. This is why the earth gives them crops of its own accord.”

ὑπερφιάλων ἀθεμίστων] ἢ τῶν μεγαλοφυῶν τῷ σώματι, τῶν δισήμων γὰρ ἡ λέξις, ἀθεμίστων δὲ τῶν νόμοις μὴ χρωμένων· φησὶ γὰρ “θεμιστεύει δὲ ἕκαστος παίδων ἠδ’ ἀλόχων.” εἰ γὰρ ἦν ἀθεμίστων ἀντὶ τοῦ ἀδίκων, πῶς λέγει “οἵ ῥα θεοῖσι πεποιθότες;” εἰ δ’ εἴπῃ τις, καὶ πῶς ὁ Πολύφημός φησιν “οὐ Κύκλωπες Διὸς αἰγιόχου ἀλέγουσι,” (275.) σκοπείτω τὸ πρόσωπον, ὅτι Πολυφήμου ἐστὶ  τοῦ ὠμοφάγου καὶ θηριώδους. καὶ ῾Ησίοδος “ἰχθύσι μὲν καὶ θηρσὶ καὶ οἰωνοῖσι πετεινοῖς ἔσθειν ἀλλήλους, ἐπεὶ οὐ δίκη ἐστὶν ἐν αὐτοῖς, ἀνθρώποισι δ’ ἔδωκε δίκην.” ὥστε Πολύφημον μόνον λέγει ὑπερήφανον καὶ ἄδικον, τοὺς δὲ λοιποὺς πάντας Κύκλωπας εὐσεβεῖς καὶ δικαίους καὶ πεποιθότας τοῖς θεοῖς, ὅθεν καὶ ἀνῆκεν αὐτοῖς αὐτομάτως ἡ γῆ τοὺς καρπούς. H.

“When he claims that the Kyklôpes are arrogant, lawless and abnormal, how can [the poet] claim that they have good things from the gods freely? We must concede that they are “overbearing” because of the excessive size of their bodies, that they are “lawless”, because that do now use an established law but govern through their individual private interest: “each governs his own children and wife”, which is a sign of lawlessness. And Antisthenes says that only Polyphemos is unjust. For this one is even dismissive of Zeus. Therefore, the rest are just. For this reason, the earth provides to them everything of its own accord. And it is their just task not to work it. But they face violence violently, for “they attacked them” just as the giants.” “and who ruled as king of the arrogant giants” and, the fact that Phaeacians were forced to move because they were harmed by them.”

πῶς ὑπερφιάλους καὶ ἀθεμίστους καὶ παρανόμους εἰπὼν τοὺς Κύκλωπας ἄφθονα παρὰ θεῶν αὐτοῖς ὑπάρχειν λέγει τὰ ἀγαθά; ῥητέον οὖν ὅτι ὑπερφιάλους μὲν διὰ τὴν ὑπεροχὴν τοῦ σώματος, ἀθεμίστους δὲ τοὺς μὴ νόμῳ χρωμένους ἐγγράφῳ διὰ τὸ ἕκαστον ἴδιον ἄρχεσθαι· “θεμιστεύει δὲ ἕκαστος παίδων ἠδ’ ἀλόχου” (115), ὅπερ ἀνομίας σημεῖον. ᾿Αντισθένης δέ φησιν ὅτι μόνον τὸν Πολύφημον εἶναι ἄδικον· καὶ γὰρ οὗτος τοῦ Διὸς ὑπερόπτης ἐστίν.  οὐκοῦν οἱ λοιποὶ δίκαιοι· διὰ τοῦτο γὰρ καὶ τὴν γῆν αὐτοῖς τὰ πάντα ἀναδιδόναι αὐτόματον, καὶ τὸ μὴ ἐργάζεσθαι αὐτὴν δίκαιον ἔργον ἐστίν. ἀλλ’ ἔμπροσθεν βιαίως βιαίους, “οἵ σφεας σινέσκοντο” (Od. ζ, 6), ὥσπερ καὶ τοὺς Γίγαντας· “ὅσπερ ὑπερθύμοισι Γιγάντεσσιν βασίλευεν” (Od. η, 59), ὥσπερ καὶ τοὺς Φαίακας βλαπτομένους ὑπ’ αὐτῶν μεταναστῆναι. T.

“The Kyklôpes are just except for Polyphemos. The mention of their “overbearing” character is about their size; their “lawlessness” is due to the fact that they each privately govern their wives and children. How then did they also bring grief to the Phaeacians? It is because of the lawlessness of their state.”

δίκαιοι οὗτοι πλὴν Πολυφήμου. ὅθεν τὸ μὲν ὑπερφιάλων, νῦν μεγάλων, τὸ δὲ θεμίστων, μὴ ἐχόντων χρείαν νόμων διὰ τὸ θεμιστεύειν ἕκαστον παίδων ἠδ’ ἀλόχων. πῶς οὖν ἠδίκουν τοὺς Φαίακας καὶ ἐλύπουν (ζ, 5. 6.); διὰ τὸ ἀνόμοιον τῆς πολιτείας. V.

Hesiod, Works and Days 274-281

“Perses, put these thoughts in your mind
And heed justice, banish force altogether.
Kronos’ son assigned this right to human beings—
It is permitted for the fish, beasts and winged birds
To eat one another, since they don’t have justice.
But Kronos’ son gave humans, which is the best thing by far.
For if someone who understands argues cases publicly,
Wide-browed Zeus will grant him good fortune…”

῏Ω Πέρση, σὺ δὲ ταῦτα μετὰ φρεσὶ βάλλεο σῇσι
καί νυ δίκης ἐπάκουε, βίης δ’ ἐπιλήθεο πάμπαν.
τόνδε γὰρ ἀνθρώποισι νόμον διέταξε Κρονίων,
ἰχθύσι μὲν καὶ θηρσὶ καὶ οἰωνοῖς πετεηνοῖς
ἔσθειν ἀλλήλους, ἐπεὶ οὐ δίκη ἐστὶ μετ’ αὐτοῖς·
ἀνθρώποισι δ’ ἔδωκε δίκην, ἣ πολλὸν ἀρίστη
γίνεται· εἰ γάρ τίς κ’ ἐθέλῃ τὰ δίκαι’ ἀγορεῦσαι
γινώσκων, τῷ μέν τ’ ὄλβον διδοῖ εὐρύοπα Ζεύς·

What’s Special about the Number Seven?

Theodoros of Samothrace, fr. 1 (FGrH 62; Photius, Bibl. 190, 152b26)

“In the seventh book [Ptolemy Chennos reports that] Theodôros of Samothrace says that after Zeus was born he laughed without stopping for seven days. This is why the number seven is thought to be “final” [or whole, complete”]

ἐν δὲ τῶι ζ̄ περιέχεται ὡς Θεόδωρος ὁ Σαμοθρὰιξ τὸν Δία φησὶ γεννηθέντα ἐπὶ ἑπτὰ ἡμέρας ἀκατάπαυστον γελάσαι· καὶ διὰ τοῦτο τέλειος ἐνομίσθη ὁ ἑπτὰ ἀριθμός.

Image result for ancient greek mathematicians

Alexander of Aphrodisias, Probl. 2.47:

“The number seven, as Pythagoras insists, is complete in nature. The mathematicians and musicians agree too. But eight is incomplete.”

ὁ ἑπτὰ ἀριθμὸς τέλειός ἐστι τῇ φύσει, ὡς μαρτυρεῖ Πυθαγόρας καὶ οἱ ἀριθμητικοὶ καὶ οἱ μουσικοί• ὁ δὲ ὀκτὼ ἀτελής

 

These references come from Ken Dowden’s entry in Brill’s New Jacoby (62 F1). The following does not:

Graves, Signs, and Glory

Homer, Iliad 7.89-91

“…They will heap up a mound [sêma] on the broad Hellespont
And someone of the men who are born in the future may say
As he says over the wine-faced sea in his many-benched ship:
This is the marker [sêma] of a man who died long ago,
A man whom shining Hektor killed when he was at his best”
So someone someday will say. And my glory will never perish”

σῆμά τέ οἱ χεύωσιν ἐπὶ πλατεῖ ῾Ελλησπόντῳ.
καί ποτέ τις εἴπῃσι καὶ ὀψιγόνων ἀνθρώπων
νηῒ πολυκλήϊδι πλέων ἐπὶ οἴνοπα πόντον·
ἀνδρὸς μὲν τόδε σῆμα πάλαι κατατεθνηῶτος,
ὅν ποτ’ ἀριστεύοντα κατέκτανε φαίδιμος ῞Εκτωρ.
ὥς ποτέ τις ἐρέει· τὸ δ’ ἐμὸν κλέος οὔ ποτ’ ὀλεῖται.

Iliad 24.801–804

“After heaping up the mound [sêma] they returned. Then
Once they were well gathered they shared a fine feast
In the halls of the god-nourished king, Priam.
Thus they were completing the burial of horse-taming Hektor.”

χεύαντες δὲ τὸ σῆμα πάλιν κίον· αὐτὰρ ἔπειτα
εὖ συναγειρόμενοι δαίνυντ’ ἐρικυδέα δαῖτα
δώμασιν ἐν Πριάμοιο διοτρεφέος βασιλῆος.
῝Ως οἵ γ’ ἀμφίεπον τάφον ῞Εκτορος ἱπποδάμοιο.

Hektor’s grave is described a little differently earlier. (I explain the “emptiness” of the tomb in another post)

Homer, Il. 24.797–800

“They quickly placed the bones in an empty trench and then
They covered it with great, well-fitted stones.
They rushed to heap up a marker [sêma], around which they set guards
In case the well-greaved Achaeans should attack too soon.”

αἶψα δ’ ἄρ’ ἐς κοίλην κάπετον θέσαν, αὐτὰρ ὕπερθε
πυκνοῖσιν λάεσσι κατεστόρεσαν μεγάλοισι·
ῥίμφα δὲ σῆμ’ ἔχεαν, περὶ δὲ σκοποὶ ἥατο πάντῃ,
μὴ πρὶν ἐφορμηθεῖεν ἐϋκνήμιδες ᾿Αχαιοί.

Odyssey 11.72-78 (Elpenor asking to be buried)

“Don’t leave me unmourned, unburied when you turn around
And go back—so that I might not be a reason for the gods to rage—
But burn me with my weapons and everything which is mind
Then build a mound [sêma] for me on the shore of the grey sea,
For a pitiful man, and for those to come to learn of me.
Finish these things for me and then affix an oar onto my tomb,
The one I was rowing with when I was alive and with my companions”

μή μ’ ἄκλαυτον ἄθαπτον ἰὼν ὄπιθεν καταλείπειν
νοσφισθείς, μή τοί τι θεῶν μήνιμα γένωμαι,
ἀλλά με κακκῆαι σὺν τεύχεσιν, ἅσσα μοί ἐστι,
σῆμά τέ μοι χεῦαι πολιῆς ἐπὶ θινὶ θαλάσσης,
ἀνδρὸς δυστήνοιο, καὶ ἐσσομένοισι πυθέσθαι·
ταῦτά τέ μοι τελέσαι πῆξαί τ’ ἐπὶ τύμβῳ ἐρετμόν,
τῷ καὶ ζωὸς ἔρεσσον ἐὼν μετ’ ἐμοῖσ’ ἑτάροισιν.’

Odyssey 11.126–129 (Teiresias’ prophecy)

I will speak to you an obvious sign [sêma] and it will not escape you.
Whenever some other traveler meets you and asks
Why you have a winnowing fan on your fine shoulder,
At that very point drive the well-shaped oar into the ground

σῆμα δέ τοι ἐρέω μάλ’ ἀριφραδές, οὐδέ σε λήσει·
ὁππότε κεν δή τοι ξυμβλήμενος ἄλλος ὁδίτης
φήῃ ἀθηρηλοιγὸν ἔχειν ἀνὰ φαιδίμῳ ὤμῳ,
καὶ τότε δὴ γαίῃ πήξας εὐῆρες ἐρετμόν

Betrayed by Men; Saved By Dolphins–The Story of Arion

Herodotus 1.35

“Periander was ruling Korinth as a tyrant. For the Korinthians claim (and the Lesbians agree with them) that the most wonderful thing happened in his life: Arion of Methymna was carried to Tainaron on a dolphin. He was a kithara player second to none at that time and the first man we know of who composed, named and taught the dithyramb at Corinth.

They say that this Arion spent much time at Periander’s palace but desired to sail to Italy and Sicily. After he made a lot of money there, he wanted to return to Korinth again. He left from Tarentum and hired a ship of Korinthian men because he trusted no one more than Korinthians. But once on the sea, they conspired to throw Arion out to keep his money. After he learned this, he was begging, offering money to them, trying to bargain for his life. But he was not able to persuade him—the sailors commanded him either to do himself in, so that he might have a burial on ground, or to leap into the sea as soon as possible.

When Arion realized he was at the end, he asked, since it might seem right to them, that he appear in full dress standing on the benches singing. And he promised to kill himself after singing. This came as a delight to them if they could hear the best mortal singer at work. They retreated to the middle of the ship from the stern and he donned all his equipment and took up the kithara. While standing on the benches he sang the entire Orthian nome. When he was done with it, he threw himself into the sea in full costume.

They sailed back to Korinth but people claim a dolphin picked him up and took him to Tainaros. Once he got to land, he went to Koronth with all his stuff and when he got there told the whole story. Since Periander distrusted him, he held Arion under guard, separated from everyone. He waited for the sailors. When they were present, they were asked if they could say anything about Arion. When they were claiming that they left him safe somewhere in Italy and he was doing well in Tarentum, he appeared to them looking just like he did when he leaped out of the boat. The sailors were shocked and were not able to deny it since they had been completely refuted. The Korinthians and Lesbians say these things. And there is a bronze dedication of Arion in Tarentum, not very large: a man riding a dolphin.”

ἐτυράννευε δὲ ὁ Περίανδρος Κορίνθου· τῷ δὴ λέγουσι Κορίνθιοι (ὁμολογέουσι δέ σφι Λέσβιοι) ἐν τῷ βίῳ θῶμα μέγιστον παραστῆναι, Ἀρίονα τὸν Μηθυμναῖον ἐπὶ δελφῖνος ἐξενειχθέντα ἐπὶ Ταίναρον, ἐόντα κιθαρῳδὸν τῶν τότε ἐόντων οὐδενὸς δεύτερον, καὶ διθύραμβον πρῶτον ἀνθρώπων τῶν ἡμεῖς ἴδμεν ποιήσαντά τε καὶ ὀνομάσαντα καὶ διδάξαντα ἐν Κορίνθῳ. τοῦτον τὸν Ἀρίονα λέγουσι, τὸν πολλὸν τοῦ χρόνου διατρίβοντα παρὰ Περιάνδρῳ, ἐπιθυμῆσαι πλῶσαι ἐς Ἰταλίην τε καὶ Σικελίην, ἐργασάμενον δὲ χρήματα μεγάλα θελῆσαι ὀπίσω ἐς Κόρινθον ἀπικέσθαι. ὁρμᾶσθαι μέν νυν ἐκ Τάραντος, πιστεύοντα δὲ οὐδαμοῖσι μᾶλλον ἢ Κορινθίοισι μισθώσασθαι πλοῖον ἀνδρῶν Κορινθίων· τοὺς δὲ ἐν τῷ πελάγει ἐπιβουλεύειν τὸν Ἀρίονα ἐκβαλόντας ἔχειν τὰ χρήματα· τὸν δὲ συνέντα τοῦτο λίσσεσθαι, χρήματα μέν σφι προϊέντα, ψυχὴν δὲ παραιτεόμενον. οὐκ ὦν δὴ πείθειν αὐτὸν τούτοισι, ἀλλὰ κελεύειν τοὺς πορθμέας ἢ αὐτὸν διαχρᾶσθαί μιν, ὡς ἂν ταφῆς ἐν γῇ τύχῃ, ἢ ἐκπηδᾶν ἐς τὴν θάλασσαν τὴν ταχίστην. ἀπειληθέντα δὲ τὸν Ἀρίονα ἐς ἀπορίην παραιτήσασθαι, ἐπειδή σφι οὕτω δοκέοι, περιιδεῖν αὐτὸν ἐν τῇ σκευῇ πάσῃ στάντα ἐν τοῖσι ἑδωλίοισι ἀεῖσαι· ἀείσας δὲ ὑπεδέκετο ἑωυτὸν κατεργάσεσθαι. καὶ τοῖσι ἐσελθεῖν γὰρ ἡδονὴν εἰ μέλλοιεν ἀκούσεσθαι τοῦ ἀρίστου ἀνθρώπων ἀοιδοῦ, ἀναχωρῆσαι ἐκ τῆς πρύμνης ἐς μέσην νέα. τὸν δὲ ἐνδύντα τε πᾶσαν τὴν σκευὴν καὶ λαβόντα τὴν κιθάρην, στάντα ἐν τοῖσι ἑδωλίοισι διεξελθεῖν νόμον τὸν ὄρθιον, τελευτῶντος δὲ τοῦ νόμου ῥῖψαί μιν ἐς τὴν θάλασσαν ἑωυτὸν ὡς εἶχε σὺν τῇ σκευῇ πάσῃ. καὶ τοὺς μὲν ἀποπλέειν ἐς Κόρινθον, τὸν δὲ δελφῖνα λέγουσι ὑπολαβόντα ἐξενεῖκαι ἐπὶ Ταίναρον. ἀποβάντα δὲ αὐτὸν χωρέειν ἐς Κόρινθον σὺν τῇ σκευῇ καὶ ἀπικόμενον ἀπηγέεσθαι πᾶν τὸ γεγονός. Περίανδρον δὲ ὑπὸ ἀπιστίης Ἀρίονα μὲν ἐν φυλακῇ ἔχειν οὐδαμῇ μετιέντα, ἀνακῶς δὲ ἔχειν τῶν πορθμέων· ὡς δὲ ἄρα παρεῖναι αὐτούς, κληθέντας ἱστορέεσθαι εἴ τι λέγοιεν περὶ Ἀρίονος. φαμένων δὲ ἐκείνων ὡς εἴη τε σῶς περὶ Ἰταλίην καί μιν εὖ πρήσσοντα λίποιεν ἐν Τάραντι, ἐπιφανῆναί σφι τὸν Ἀρίονα ὥσπερ ἔχων ἐξεπήδησε· καὶ τοὺς ἐκπλαγέντας οὐκ ἔχειν ἔτι ἐλεγχομένους ἀρνέεσθαι. ταῦτα μέν νυν Κορίνθιοί τε καὶ Λέσβιοι λέγουσι, καὶ Ἀρίονος ἔστι ἀνάθημα χάλκεον οὐ μέγα ἐπὶ Ταινάρῳ, ἐπὶ δελφῖνος ἐπεὼν ἄνθρωπος.

 

Dio Chrysostom on Preferring Even Unpleasant Lies to the Truth

Dio Chrysostom, Oration 11 (“On the Fact that Troy Was Never Sacked”)

“I know with some certainly that it is hard to teach all people, but easy to deceive them. And if they learn anything, they scarcely learn it from the few who do really know, while they are easily deceived by many who know nothing, and not only by others, but by themselves too. For the truth is bitter and unpleasant to the ignorant; a lie, however, is sweet and appealing. In the same way, I suppose, light is unpleasant for those with diseased eyes to see, while the darkness is harmless and dear, even if they cannot see. Or, how else would lies often be stronger than the truth, unless they prevailed because of pleasure? Although it is hard to teach, as I was saying, it is harder in every way to re-teach when people have heard lies for a long time and, even worse, when they have not been alone in their delusion, but their fathers, grandfathers and nearly every forebear has been deceived with them.

For it is not easy to take a false belief from them, not even if someone should refute it completely. Similarly, I imagine that, when children have been raised with superstitious beliefs, it is hard for someone to speak the truth later regarding the very things they would not have accepted if someone had just told them in the beginning. This impulse is so strong that many prefer wicked things and agree that they belong to them properly, if they have previously believed so, instead of good things they hear later on.”

Image result for Trojan Horse ancient Greek

Οἶδα μὲν ἔγωγε σχεδὸν ὅτι διδάσκειν μὲν ἀνθρώπους ἅπαντας χαλεπόν ἐστιν, ἐξαπατᾶν δὲ ῥᾴδιον. καὶ μανθάνουσι μὲν μόγις, ἐάν τι καὶ μάθωσι, παρ’ ὀλίγων τῶν εἰδότων, ἐξαπατῶνται δὲ  τάχιστα ὑπὸ πολλῶν τῶν οὐκ εἰδότων, καὶ οὐ μόνον γε ὑπὸ τῶν ἄλλων, ἀλλὰ καὶ αὐτοὶ ὑφ’ αὑτῶν. τὸ μὲν γὰρ ἀληθὲς πικρόν ἐστι καὶ ἀηδὲς τοῖς ἀνοήτοις, τὸ δὲ ψεῦδος γλυκὺ καὶ προσηνές. ὥσπερ οἶμαι καὶ τοῖς νοσοῦσι τὰ ὄμματα τὸ μὲν φῶς ἀνιαρὸν ὁρᾶν, τὸ δὲ σκότος ἄλυπον καὶ φίλον, οὐκ ἐῶν βλέπειν. ἢ πῶς ἂν ἴσχυε τὰ ψεύδη πολλάκις πλέον τῶν ἀληθῶν, εἰ μὴ δι’ ἡδονὴν ἐνίκα;

χαλεποῦ δέ, ὡς ἔφην, ὄντος τοῦ διδάσκειν, τῷ παντὶ χαλεπώτερον τὸ  μεταδιδάσκειν, ἄλλως τε ὅταν πολύν τινες χρόνον ὦσι τὰ ψευδῆ ἀκηκοότες καὶ μὴ μόνον αὐτοὶ ἐξηπατημένοι, ἀλλὰ καὶ οἱ πατέρες αὐτῶν καὶ οἱ πάπποι καὶ σχεδὸν πάντες οἱ πρότερον. οὐ γάρ ἐστι ῥᾴδιον τούτων ἀφελέσθαι τὴν δόξαν, οὐδ’ ἂν πάνυ τις ἐξελέγχῃ. καθάπερ οἶμαι τῶν τὰ ὑποβολιμαῖα παιδάρια θρεψάντων χαλεπὸν ὕστερον ἀφελέσθαι τἀληθῆ λέγοντα ἅ γε ἐν ἀρχῇ, εἴ τις αὐτοῖς ἔφρασεν, οὐκ ἄν ποτε ἀνείλοντο. οὕτω δὲ τοῦτο ἰσχυρόν ἐστιν ὥστε πολλοὶ τὰ κακὰ μᾶλλον προσποιοῦνται καὶ ὁμολογοῦσι καθ’ αὑτῶν, ἂν ὦσι πεπεισμένοι πρότερον, ἢ τἀγαθὰ μετὰ χρόνον ἀκούοντες.

 

“I would not even be surprised, Trojan men, that you believed Homer was more trustworthy when he told the harshest lies about you than me when I told that truth—since you believe him to be a divine man and wise and you have taught your children epic right from the beginning, even though he has only curses for your city, and untrue ones at that. But you wouldn’t accept that I describe things as they are and have been, because I am many years younger than Homer. Certainly, most people say that time is also the best judge of affairs, and, whenever they hear something after a long time, they disbelieve it for this very reason.

If I were dare to speak against Homer among the Argives and to show in addition that his poetry was false concerning the greatest matters, chances are they would be rightfully angry with me and expel me from the city if I appeared to be erasing and cleansing their fame. But it is right that you have some gratitude towards me and listen eagerly. I have stood in defense of your ancestors. I say at the outset to you that these stories have by necessity already been recited by others and that many have learned them. Some of those men will not understand them; others will pretend to discount them, even though they do not, and still others will try to refute them, especially, I think, those ill-fated sophists. But I know clearly that they will not be pleasing to you. For most men have their minds corrupted by fame to the extent that they would prefer to be infamous for the greatest failures rather than be unknown and suffer no evil.”

οὐκ ἂν οὖν θαυμάσαιμι καὶ ὑμᾶς, ἄνδρες ᾿Ιλιεῖς, εἰ πιστότερον ἡγήσασθαι ῞Ομηρον τὰ χαλεπώτατα ψευσάμενον καθ’ ὑμῶν ἢ ἐμὲ τἀληθῆ λέγοντα, κἀκεῖνον μὲν ὑπολαβεῖν θεῖον ἄνδρα καὶ σοφόν, καὶ τοὺς παῖδας εὐθὺς ἐξ ἀρχῆς τὰ ἔπη διδάσκειν οὐθὲν ἄλλο ἢ κατάρας ἔχοντα κατὰ τῆς πόλεως, καὶ ταύτας οὐκ ἀληθεῖς, ἐμοῦ δὲ μὴ ἀνέχοισθε τὰ ὄντα καὶ γενόμενα λέγοντος, ὅτι πολλοῖς ἔτεσιν ὕστερον ῾Ομήρου γέγονα. καίτοι φασὶ μὲν οἱ πολλοὶ τὸν χρόνον τῶν πραγμάτων * καὶ κριτὴν ἄριστον εἶναι, ὅτι δ’ ἂν ἀκούωσι μετὰ πολὺν χρόνον, διὰ τοῦτο ἄπιστον νομίζουσιν. εἰ μὲν οὖν παρ’ ᾿Αργείοις ἐτόλμων ἀντιλέγειν ῾Ομήρῳ, καὶ τὴν ποίησιν αὐτοῦ δεικνύναι ψευδῆ περὶ τὰ μέγιστα, τυχὸν ἂν εἰκότως ἤχθοντό μοι καὶτῆς πόλεως ἐξέβαλλον εἰ τὴν παρ’ ἐκείνων δόξαν ἐφαινόμην ἀφανίζων καὶ καθαιρῶν· ὑμᾶς δὲ δίκαιόν ἐστί μοι χάριν εἰδέναι καὶ ἀκροᾶσθαι προθύμως· ὑπὲρ γὰρ τῶν ὑμετέρων προγόνων ἐσπούδακα. προλέγω δὲ ὑμῖν ὅτι τοὺς λόγους τούτους ἀνάγκη καὶ  παρ’ ἑτέροις ῥηθῆναι καὶ πολλοὺς πυθέσθαι· τούτων δὲ οἱ μέν τινες οὐ συνήσουσιν, οἱ δὲ προσποιήσονται καταφρονεῖν, οὐ καταφρονοῦντες αὐτῶν, οἱ δέ τινες ἐπιχειρήσουσιν ἐξελέγχειν, [μάλιστα δὲ οἶμαι τοὺς κακοδαίμονας σοφιστάς.] ἐγὼ δὲ ἐπίσταμαι σαφῶς ὅτι οὐδὲ ὑμῖν πρὸς ἡδονὴν ἔσονται. οἱ γὰρ πλεῖστοι τῶν ἀνθρώπων οὕτως ἄγαν εἰσὶν ὑπὸ δόξης διεφθαρμένοι τὰς ψυχὰς ὥστε μᾶλλον ἐπιθυμοῦσι περιβόητοι εἶναι ἐπὶ τοῖς μεγίστοις ἀτυχήμασιν ἢ μηδὲν κακὸν ἔχοντες ἀγνοεῖσθαι.

 

“For I think that the Argives themselves would not wish for the matters concerning Thyestes, Atreus and the descendants of Pelops to have been any different, but would be severely angry if someone were to undermine the myths of tragedy, claiming that Thyestes never committed adultery with Atreus wife, nor did the other kill his brother’s children, cut them up, and set them out as feast for Thyestes, and that Orestes never killed his mother with his own hand. If someone said all of these things, they would take it harshly as if they were slandered.

I imagine that things would go the same among the Thebans, if someone were to declare that their misfortunes were lies, that Oedipus never killed his father nor had sex with his mother, nor then blinded himself, and that his children didn’t die in front of the wall at each other’s hands, and the Sphinx never came and ate their children. No! instead, they take pleasure in hearing that the Sphinx came and ate their children, sent to them because of Hera’s anger, that Laios was killed by his own son, and Oedipus did these things and wandered blind after suffering, or how the children of previous king of theirs and founder of the city, Amphion, by Artemis and Apollo because they were the most beautiful men. They endure musicians and poets singing these things in their presence at the theater and they make contests for them, whoever can sing or play the most stinging tales about them. Yet they would expel a man who claimed these things did not happen. The majority has gone so far into madness that their obsession governs them completely. For they desire that there be the most stories about them—and it does not matter to them what kind of story it is. Generally, men are not willing to suffer terrible things because of cowardice, because they fear death and pain. But they really value being mentioned as if they suffered.”

 

αὐτοὺς γὰρ οἶμαι τοὺς ᾿Αργείους μὴ ἂν ἐθέλειν ἄλλως γεγονέναι τὰ περὶ τὸν Θυέστην καὶ τὸν ᾿Ατρέα καὶ τοὺς Πελοπίδας, ἀλλ’ ἄχθεσθαι σφόδρα, ἐάν τις ἐξελέγχῃ τοὺς μύθους τῶν τραγῳδῶν, λέγων ὅτι οὔτε Θυέστης ἐμοίχευσε τὴν τοῦ ᾿Ατρέως οὔτε ἐκεῖνος ἀπέκτεινε τοὺς τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ παῖδας οὐδὲ κατακόψας εἱστίασε τὸν Θυέστην οὔτε ᾿Ορέστης αὐτόχειρ ἐγένετο τῆς μητρός. ἅπαντα ταῦτα εἰ λέγοι τις, χαλεπῶς ἂν φέροιεν ὡς λοιδορούμενοι.

τὸ δὲ αὐτὸ τοῦτο κἂν Θηβαίους οἶμαι παθεῖν, εἴ τις τὰ παρ’ αὐτοῖς ἀτυχήματα ψευδῆ ἀποφαίνοι, καὶ οὔτε τὸν πατέρα Οἰδίπουν ἀποκτείναντα οὔτε τῇ μητρὶ συγγενόμενον οὔθ’ ἑαυτὸν τυφλώσαντα οὔτε τοὺς παῖδας αὐτοῦ πρὸ τοῦ τείχους ἀποθανόντας ὑπ’ ἀλλήλων, οὔθ’ ὡς ἡ Σφὶγξ ἀφικομένη κατεσθίοι τὰ τέκνα αὐτῶν, ἀλλὰ τοὐναντίον ἥδονται ἀκούοντες καὶ τὴν Σφίγγα ἐπιπεμφθεῖσαν αὐτοῖς διὰ χόλον ῞Ηρας καὶ τὸν Λάϊον ὑπὸ τοῦ υἱέος ἀναιρεθέντα καὶ τὸν Οἰδίπουν ταῦτα ποιήσαντα καὶ παθόντα τυφλὸν ἀλᾶσθαι, καὶ πρότερον ἄλλου βασιλέως αὐτῶν καὶ τῆς πόλεως οἰκιστοῦ, ᾿Αμφίονος, τοὺς παῖδας, ἀνθρώπων καλλίστους γενομένους, κατατοξευθῆναι ὑπὸ ᾿Απόλλωνος καὶ ᾿Αρτέμιδος· καὶ ταῦτα καὶ αὐλούντων καὶ ᾀδόντων ἀνέχονται παρ’ αὑτοῖς ἐν τῷ θεάτρῳ, καὶ τιθέασιν ἆθλα περὶ τούτων, ὃς ἂν οἰκτρότατα εἴπῃ περὶ αὐτῶν ἢ αὐλήσῃ· τὸν δὲ εἰπόντα ὡς οὐ γέγονεν οὐδὲν αὐτῶν ἐκβάλλουσιν. εἰς τοῦτο μανίας οἱ πολλοὶ ἐληλύθασι καὶ οὕτω πάνυ ὁ τῦφος αὐτῶν κεκράτηκεν. ἐπιθυμοῦσι γὰρ ὡς πλεῖστον ὑπὲρ αὐτῶν γίγνεσθαι λόγον· ὁποῖον δέ τινα, οὐθὲν μέλει αὐτοῖς. ὅλως δὲ πάσχειν μὲν οὐ θέλουσι τὰ δεινὰ  διὰ δειλίαν, φοβούμενοι τούς τε θανάτους καὶ τὰς ἀλγηδόνας· ὡς δὲ παθόντες μνημονεύεσθαι περὶ πολλοῦ ποιοῦνται.

Terrible, Wonderful Odysseus: The Meanings of his Epithets, His Name(s) and How We Read Him

In the recent poll prompted by Dio Chrysostom’s anecdote of Philip asking which hero Alexander would be, Odysseus won by a bit of a landslide. I can’t say this completely surprises me, but it does trouble me just a little bit. What is it that attracts us to Odysseus?

[I ran an earlier post on the Iliad vs. the Odyssey and their complementarity]

My post and translation also drew some ire because I translated polytropos as “shifty”. It seems that we as a collective are entirely sure about what we think this word means. And, as a result, we are confident in who we think Odysseus is.

This post turns out to be longer than might be ideal, but I am just going to leave it as is. My basic belief, which I get to eventually, is that Odysseus is popular because of his essential polysemy. We think we love Odysseus because we choose an Odysseus we want to love. The important takeaway from this is that such ‘shiftiness” (when it comes to character and reception) is an essential part of his character.

First, a basic assertion: Homer’s version of Odysseus is not the only one. Even as early as the fifth century there were some, well, complaints.

Pindar, Nemean 7.20-21

“I think that the story of Odysseus’ suffering was exaggerated by sweet-worded Homer”

ἐγὼ δὲ πλέον’ ἔλπομαι
λόγον ᾿Οδυσσέος ἢ πάθαν
διὰ τὸν ἁδυεπῆ γενέσθ’ ῞Ομηρον·

In Greek tragedy, Odysseus was far from unproblematic: in Sophocles’ Philoktetes, he is responsible for bullying Neoptolemos into convincing the title character to return to Troy. In the Ajax, he is by no means innocent in the death of Telamon’s son. Euripides has Odysseus as the chief architect of the death of Astyanax. And in the Trojan myths in general, Odysseus (1) tries to avoid going to war, (2) exposes Achilles so that he has to go to war, (3) and frames Palamedes for treason to get back at him for making sure that he went to war. Oh, he is also said to have tried to betray Diomedes and even in the Iliad he takes charge of tricking the Trojan Dolon and ensuring that Diomedes kills a bunch of men in their sleep. (And don’t even try to explain that away by claiming it is not really a part of the Iliad. It is.)

Second, jumping over 2500 years, there is a cognitive link between what we name something and how we expect that element to emerge in stories. So, how we name Odysseus and what we think this name means matters (see also Peradotto 1990 among others on this).

Mark Turner. The Literary Mind: The Origins of Thought and Language. Oxford: 1996.

Turner 1996, 133: The stories minds tell (the ways in which we interpret the world) are based on roles and character, “formed by backward inference from such a role, according to the folk theory of “the Nature of Things,” otherwise known as “Being Leads to Doing.” In this folk theory, glass shatters because it is brittle and fragile. Water pours because it is liquid. Someone forgives because she is forgiving. A dog guards the house because it is watchful. A fool acts like a fool because he is foolish. In general, doing follows from being; something behaves in a certain way because its being leads it to behave in that way…

Character is a pattern of connections we expect to operate across stories about a particular individual with that character or across stories about a group of individual with that character. People of a particular character are expected to inhabit similar roles in different stories…

[134] A role in one story is not isolated but connects to the same role in other stories…Focus, viewpoint, role and character in narrative imagining give us ways of constructing our own meaning, which is to say, ways of understanding who we are, what it means to be us, to have a particular life. The inability to locate one’s own focus, viewpoint, role, and character with respect to conventional stories of leading a life is thought to be pathological and deeply distressing. It is a principal reason for recommending psychotherapy to people not obviously insane.”

So, there is significance both in how we name Odysseus and how we modify that name. Let’s take up his epithets first. I received a good deal of complaining about my translation of Odysseus’ famous epithet as “shifty”. He actually only gets called polytropos rarely in the Odyssey. But he does receive a surplus of epithets that point to a manifold nature.

Here are some other epithets.

Homer, Odyssey: Epithets of Odysseus

“Sing to me, Muse, of the man of many ways...”
1.1     ῎Ανδρα μοι ἔννεπε, Μοῦσα, πολύτροπον, ὃς μάλα πολλὰ cf. 10.330

“Send many-minded Odysseus to his own home”
1.83  νοστῆσαι ᾿Οδυσῆα πολύφρονα ὅνδε δόμονδε,

“[Odysseus] will know how to return, since he is a man of many-devices
1.205 φράσσεται ὥς κε νέηται, ἐπεὶ πολυμήχανός ἐστιν.

“Divine-raced, son of Laertes, many-deviced Odysseus
5.203 “διογενὲς Λαερτιάδη, πολυμήχαν’ ᾿Οδυσσεῦ,

“If very-clever Odysseus were in these rooms again…”
4.763 εἴ ποτέ τοι πολύμητις ἐνὶ μεγάροισιν ᾿Οδυσσεὺς

“So she spoke, and much-enduring, shining Odysseus shivered”
5.171     ὣς φάτο, ῥίγησεν δὲ πολύτλας δῖος ᾿Οδυσσεύς [see 13.250]

“And you, many-pained old man, since a god brought you my way…”
14.386 καὶ σύ, γέρον πολυπενθές, ἐπεί σέ μοι ἤγαγε δαίμων,

“They would not conquer me. I am truly much-enduring
18.319 οὔ τί με νικήσουσι· πολυτλήμων δὲ μάλ’ εἰμί.”

“…I am a man of many-sorrows…”
19.118 μνησαμένῳ· μάλα δ’ εἰμὶ πολύστονος· οὐδέ τί με χρὴ

“…he is much-prayed for…”
19.404 παιδὸς παιδὶ φίλῳ· πολυάρητος δέ τοί ἐστι.”

Odysseus is only sometimes called “many-wayed”. He is also marked out for his suffering.  Odysseus’ is not just about his own suffering–as Erwin Cook shows, part of the point of being a ‘hero’ in ancient Greek myth and poetry is that you have a capacity to suffer and to mete out suffering.

But what might polytropos even mean? Many on twitter think they know, but the ancients were not unanimous.

Schol. ad Demosthenes. Orat. 20

“For a man of many ways changes himself in accordance with the nature of the matters at hand.”

πολύτροπος γὰρ ὁ ἀνὴρ καὶ πρὸς τὴν τῶν πραγμά-των φύσιν συμμεταβάλλεται.

Schol. ad Odysseam 1.1; .50 ex

“The problem: Polytropos [“many-wayed”] Antisthenes claims that Homer doesn’t praise Odysseus as much as he criticizes him when he calls him polytropos. He didn’t make Achilles and Ajax polytropoi, but they were direct [‘simple’] and noble. Nor did he make Nestor the wise tricky, by Zeus, and devious in character—he simply advised Agamemnon and the rest and if he had anything good to counsel, he would not stand apart keeping it hidden; in the manner Achilles showed that he believed the man the same as death “who says one thing but hides another in his thoughts.”

᾿Απορία. πολύτροπον] οὐκ ἐπαινεῖν φησιν ᾿Αντισθένης ῞Ομηρον τὸν ᾿Οδυσσέα μᾶλλον ἢ ψέγειν, λέγοντα αὐτὸν πολύτροπον. οὐκ οὖν τὸν ᾿Αχιλλέα καὶ τὸν Αἴαντα πολυτρόπους πεποιηκέναι, ἀλλ’ ἁπλοῦς καὶ γεννάδας· οὐδὲ τὸν Νέστορα τὸν σοφὸν οὐ μὰ Δία δόλιον καὶ παλίμβολον τὸ ἦθος, ἀλλ’ ἁπλῶς τε ᾿Αγαμέμνονι συνόντα καὶ τοῖς ἄλλοις ἅπασι, καὶ εἰς τὸ στρατόπεδον εἴ τι ἀγαθὸν εἶχε συμβουλεύοντα καὶ οὐκ ἀποκρυπτόμενον τοσοῦτον ἀπεῖχε τοιοῦτον τρόπον ἀποδέχεσθαι ὁ ᾿Αχιλλεὺς ὡς ἐχθρὸν ἡγεῖσθαι ὁμοίως τῷ θανάτῳ ἐκεῖνον “ὅς χ’ ἕτερον μὲν κεύθει ἐνὶ φρεσὶν, ἄλλο δὲ εἴπῃ” (Il. ι, 313.).

“Antisthenes in interpreting this asks “why, then, is wretched Odysseus called polytropos? Really, this is the way to mark him out as wise. Isn’t it true that his manner never indicates his character, but that instead it signals his use of speech? The man who has a character difficult to penetrate is well-turned. These sorts of inventions of words are tropes/ways/manners

λύων οὖν ὁ ᾿Αντισθένης φησὶ, Τί οὖν; ἆρά γε πονηρὸς ὁ ᾿Οδυσσεὺς ὅτι πολύτροπος ἐκλήθη; καὶ μὴν διότι σοφὸς οὕτως αὐτὸν προσείρηκε. μήποτε οὖν ὁ τρόπος τὸ μέν τι σημαίνει τὸ ἦθος, τὸ δέ τι σημαίνει τὴν τοῦ λόγου χρῆσιν; εὔτροπος γὰρ ἀνὴρ ὁ τὸ ἦθος ἔχων εἰς τὸ εὖ τετραμμένον· τρόποι δὲ λόγων αἱ ποιαὶ πλάσεις.

Plato, Hippias Minor 366a

Soc. “People who are many-wayed are deceptive because of their foolishness and thoughtlessness, or because of wickedness and some thought?

Hippias: Most of all, because of wickedness and intelligence.

Soc. So, it seems, they are really intelligent.

Hip. Yes, by Zeus, wicked smart.

Soc. And men who are smart—are they ignorant of what they do or do they understand it?

Hip. They really understand what they are doing. For this reason, they also do evil.

Soc. So, is it the ignorant or the wise who know these things which they understand?

Hip. The wise know these very things, how to deceive.

—ΣΩ. Πολύτροποι δ’ εἰσὶ καὶ ἀπατεῶνες ὑπὸ ἠλιθιότητος καὶ ἀφροσύνης, ἢ ὑπὸ πανουργίας καὶ φρονήσεώς τινος;

—ΙΠ. ῾Υπὸ πανουργίας πάντων μάλιστα καὶ φρονήσεως.

—ΣΩ. Φρόνιμοι μὲν ἄρα εἰσίν, ὡς ἔοικεν.

—ΙΠ. Ναὶ μὰ Δία, λίαν γε.

—ΣΩ. Φρόνιμοι δὲ ὄντες οὐκ ἐπίστανται ὅτι ποιοῦσιν, ἢ ἐπίστανται; —

—ΙΠ. Καὶ μάλα σφόδρα ἐπίστανται· διὰ ταῦτα καὶ κακουργοῦσιν.

—ΣΩ. ᾿Επιστάμενοι δὲ ταῦτα ἃ ἐπίστανται πότερον ἀμαθεῖς εἰσιν ἢ σοφοί;

—ΙΠ. Σοφοὶ μὲν οὖν αὐτά γε ταῦτα, ἐξαπατᾶν.

Pseudo-Phocylides, Sententiae

“Don’t trust the people;  the mob is many-wayed. For the people, water, and fire are all uncontrollable things.”

Λαῶι μὴ πίστευε, πολύτροπός ἐστιν ὅμιλος· λαὸς <γὰρ> καὶ ὕδωρ καὶ πῦρ ἀκατάσχετα πάντα.

Hesychius

Polytropos: One who [is turned] toward many things; or, someone who changes his understanding at each opportune moment.”

πολύτροπος· ὁ ἐπὶ πολλὰ τρεπόμενος, ἢ τρέπων τὴν ἑαυτοῦ διάνοιαν ὑφ’ ἕνα καιρόν

Image result for ancient Greek Odysseus

The point, I think, is that Odysseus is not someone who can be pinned down. He shifts for the situation but he also shifts for the reader/audience. (This is why I like “shifty”–it has the connotation of ‘dodgy’ in English, but it also evokes the movement of the character.) Odysseus is so popular, according to this argument, because he is a reflection of who we want him to be. Porphyry might have sensed this:

Schol HM 1.1 ex 62-74 (Attributed to Porphyry)

“If wise men are clever at speaking to others, then they also know how to speak the same thought in different ways; and, because they know the many different ways of words about the same matter. And if wise men are also good, then this is reason Homer says that Odysseus who is wise is many-wayed: he knew how to engage with people in many ways.

Thus Pythagoras is said to have known the right way to address speeches to children, to make those addresses appropriate for women to women, those fit for leaders to leaders, and those appropriate for youths to youths. It is a mark of wisdom to find the manner best for each group of people; and it is a mark of ignorance to use a single type of address toward people who are unaccustomed to it. It is the same for medicine in the successful use of its art, which fits the many-wayed nature of therapy through the varied application to those who need assistance. This manner of character is unstable, much-changing.

Many-wayedness of speech is also a finely crafted use of language for different audiences and it becomes single-wayed. For, one approach is appropriate to each. Therefore, fitting the varied power of speech to each, shaping what is proper to each for the single iteration, makes the many-wayed in turns single in form and actually ill-fit to different types of audiences, rejected by many because it is offensive to them.

εἰ δὲ οἱ σοφοὶ δεινοί εἰσι διαλέγεσθαι, καὶ ἐπίστανται τὸ αὐτὸ νόημα κατὰ πολλοὺς τρόπους λέγειν· ἐπιστάμενοι δὲ πολλοὺς τρόπους λόγων περὶ τοῦ αὐτοῦ πολύτροποι ἂν εἶεν. εἰ δὲ οἱ σοφοὶ καὶ ἀγαθοί εἰσι, διὰ τοῦτό φησι τὸν ᾿Οδυσσέα ῞Ομηρος σοφὸν ὄντα πολύτροπον εἶναι, ὅτι δὴ τοῖς ἀνθρώποις ἠπίστατο πολλοῖς τρόποις συνεῖναι. οὕτω καὶ Πυθαγόρας λέγεται, πρὸς παῖδας ἀξιωθεὶς ποιήσασθαι λόγους, διαθεῖναι πρὸς αὐτοὺς λόγους παιδικούς, καὶ πρὸς γυναῖκας γυναιξὶν ἁρμοδίους, καὶ πρὸς ἄρχοντας ἀρχοντικούς, καὶ πρὸς ἐφήβους ἐφηβικούς. τὸ γὰρ ἑκάστοις πρόσφορον τρόπον ἐξευρίσκειν σοφίας εἶναι, ἀμαθίας δὲ τὸ πρὸς τοὺς ἀνομοίως ἔχοντας τῷ τοῦ λόγου χρῆσθαι μονοτρόπῳ. ἔχειν δὲ τοῦτο καὶ τὴν ἰατρικὴν ἐν τῇ τῆς τέχνης κατορθώσει, ἠσκηκυῖαν τῆς θεραπείας τὸ πολύτροπον, διὰ τὴν τῶν θεραπευομένων ποικίλην σύστασιν. τρόπος μὲν οὖν τὸ παλίμβολον τοῦτο τοῦ ἤθους, τὸ πολυμετάβολον. λόγου δὲ πολυτροπία καὶ χρῆσις ποικίλη λόγου εἰς ποικίλας ἀκοὰς μονοτροπία γίνεται. ἓν γὰρ τὸ ἑκάστῳ οἰκεῖον· διὸ καὶ τὸ ἁρμόδιον ἑκάστῳ τὴν ποικιλίαν τοῦ λόγου εἰς ἓν συναγείρει τὸ ἑκάστῳ πρόσφορον, τὸ δ’ αὖ μονοειδές, ἀνάρμοστον ὂν πρὸς ἀκοὰς διαφόρους, πολύτροπον ποιεῖ τὸν ὑπὸ πολλῶν ἀπόβλητον ὡς αὐτοῖς ἀπότροπον λόγον. H M1 Q R

Odysseus’ name itself has problems of interpretation–it is willfully interpreted in different ways by ancient audiences and is an object of play in the epic itself. Keep reading if you want even more of this.

Continue reading

Reputable Tales about Ariadne; And Strange Ones

The following account is interesting for the variations in the story of Ariadne and Theseus but also for the strange detail of the ritual where young men imitate a woman in childbirth. Also, the counterfeit letters bit is precious. What would they say?.

Other tales about Ariadne, According to Plutarch (Theseus 20)

“There are many other versions circulated about these matters still and also about Ariadne, none of which agree. For some say that she hanged herself after she was abandoned by Theseus. Others claim that after she was taken to Naxos by sailors she lived with Oinaros a priest of Dionysus and that she was abandoned by Theseus because he loved another.

“A terrible lust for Aiglê the daughter of Panopeus ate at him” [fr. 105]—this is a line Hereas the Megarean claims Peisistratus deleted from the poems of Hesiod, just as again he says that he inserted into the Homeric catalogue of dead “Theseus and Perithoos, famous children of the gods” [Od. 11.631] to please the Athenans. There are some who say that Ariadne gave birth to Oinipiôn and Staphulos with Theseus. One of these is Ion of  Khios who has sung about his own city “Oinopiôn, Theseus’ son, founded this city once.” [fr. 4D]

The most reputable of the myths told are those which, as the saying goes, all people have in their mouths. But Paiôn the Amathousian has handed down a particular tale about these events. For he says that Theseus was driven by a storm, to Cyprus and that he had Ariadne with him, who was pregnant and doing quite badly because of the sea and the rough sailing. So he set her out alone and he was carried back into the sea from the land while he was tending to the ship. The native women, then, received Ariadne and they tried to ease her depression because of her loneliness by offering her a counterfeit letter written to her by Theseus and helping her and supporting her during childbirth. They buried her when she died before giving birth.

Paiôn claims that when Theseus returned he was overcome with grief and he left money to the island’s inhabitants, charging them to sacrifice to Ariadne and to have two small statues made for her—one of silver and one of bronze. During the second day of the month of Gorpiaon at the sacrifice, one of the young men lies down and mouns and acts as women do during childbirth. They call the grove in which they claim her tomb is that of Ariadne Aphrodite.

Some of the Naxians claim peculiarly that there were two Minoses and two Ariadnes. They claim one was married to Dionysus on Naxos and bore the child Staphulos, and the young one was taken by Theseus and left when he came to Naxos with a nurse named Korkunê—whose tomb they put on display. They claim that Ariadne died there and has honors unequal to those of the earlier one. The first has a festival of singing and play; the second has one where sacrifices are performed with grief and mourning.”

Πολλοὶ δὲ λόγοι καὶ περὶ τούτων ἔτι λέγονται καὶ περὶ τῆς Ἀριάδνης, οὐδὲν ὁμολογούμενον ἔχοντες. οἱ μὲν γὰρ ἀπάγξασθαί φασιν αὐτὴν ἀπολειφθεῖσαν ὑπὸ τοῦ Θησέως, οἱ δὲ εἰς Νάξον ὑπὸ ναυτῶν κομισθεῖσαν Οἰνάρῳ τῷ ἱερεῖ τοῦ Διονύσου συνοικεῖν, ἀπολειφθῆναι δὲ τοῦ Θησέως ἐρῶντος ἑτέρας· Δεινὸς γάρ μιν ἔτειρεν ἔρως Πανοπηΐδος Αἴγλης. τοῦτο γὰρ τὸ ἔπος ἐκ τῶν Ἡσιόδου Πεισίστρατον ἐξελεῖν φησιν Ἡρέας ὁ Μεγαρεύς, ὥσπερ αὖ πάλιν ἐμβαλεῖν εἰς τὴν Ὁμήρου νέκυιαν τὸ Θησέα Πειρίθοόν τε θεῶν ἀριδείκετα τέκνα,χαριζόμενον Ἀθηναίοις· ἔνιοι δὲ καὶ τεκεῖν ἐκ Θησέως Ἀριάδνην Οἰνοπίωνα καὶ Στάφυλον· ὧν καὶ ὁ Χῖος Ἴων ἐστὶ περὶ τῆς ἑαυτοῦ πατρίδος λέγων· Τήν ποτε Θησείδης ἔκτισεν Οἰνοπίων.

Ἃ δ᾿ ἐστὶν εὐφημότατα τῶν μυθολογουμένων, πάντες ὡς ἔπος εἰπεῖν διὰ στόματος ἔχουσιν. ἴδιον δέ τινα περὶ τούτων λόγον ἐκδέδωκε Παίων ὁ Ἀμαθούσιος. τὸν γὰρ Θησέα φησὶν ὑπὸ χειμῶνος εἰς Κύπρον ἐξενεχθέντα καὶ τὴν Ἀριάδνην ἔγκυον ἔχοντα, φαύλως δὲ διακειμένην ὑπὸ τοῦ σάλου καὶ δυσφοροῦσαν, ἐκβιβάσαι μόνην, αὐτὸν δὲ τῷ πλοίῳ βοηθοῦντα πάλιν εἰς τὸ πέλαγος ἀπὸ τῆς γῆς φέρεσθαι. τὰς οὖν ἐγχωρίους γυναῖκας τὴν Ἀριάδνην ἀναλαβεῖν καὶ περιέπειν ἀθυμοῦσαν ἐπὶ τῇ μονώσει, καὶ γράμματα πλαστὰ προσφέρειν, ὡς τοῦ Θησέως γράφοντος αὐτῇ, καὶ περὶ τὴν ὠδῖνα συμπονεῖν καὶ βοηθεῖν· ἀποθανοῦσαν δὲ θάψαι μὴ τεκοῦσαν. ἐπελθόντα δὲ τὸν Θησέα καὶ περίλυπον γενόμενον τοῖς μὲν ἐγχωρίοις ἀπολιπεῖν χρήματα, συντάξαντα θύειν τῇ Ἀριάδνῃ, δύο δὲ μικροὺς ἀνδριαντίσκους ἱδρύσασθαι, τὸν μὲν ἀργυροῦν, τὸν δὲ χαλκοῦν. ἐν δὲ τῇ θυσίᾳ τοῦ Γορπιαίου μηνὸς ἱσταμένου δευτέρᾳ κατακλινόμενόν τινα τῶν νεανίσκων φθέγγεσθαι καὶ ποιεῖν ἅπερ ὠδίνουσαι γυναῖκες· καλεῖν δὲ τὸ ἄλσος Ἀμαθουσίους, ἐν ᾧ τὸν τάφον δεικνύουσιν, Ἀριάδνης Ἀφροδίτης.

Καὶ Ναξίων δέ τινες ἰδίως ἱστοροῦσι δύο Μίνωας γενέσθαι καὶ δύο Ἀριάδνας, ὧν τὴν μὲν Διονύσῳ γαμηθῆναί φασιν ἐν Νάξῳ καὶ τοὺς περὶ Στάφυλον τεκεῖν, τὴν δὲ νεωτέραν ἁρπασθεῖσαν ὑπὸ τοῦ Θησέως καὶ ἀπολειφθεῖσαν εἰς Νάξον ἐλθεῖν, καὶ τροφὸν μετ᾿ αὐτῆς ὄνομα Κορκύνην, ἧς δείκνυσθαι τάφον. ἀποθανεῖν δὲ καὶ τὴν Ἀριάδνην αὐτόθι καὶ τιμὰς ἔχειν οὐχ ὁμοίας τῇ προτέρᾳ. τῇ μὲν γὰρ ἡδομένους καὶ παίζοντας ἑορτάζειν, τὰς δὲ ταύτῃ δρωμένας θυσίας εἶναι πένθει τινὶ καὶ στυγνότητι μεμιγμένας.

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Athena, Ariadne, and Theseus: IL MUSEO ARCHEOLOGICO NAZIONALE DI TARANTO

Destroyer, Born on the Ground, Pitiable: Etymologies for Helen

In a choral ode from Aeschylus’ Agamemnon, we find a folk etymology implied for Helen’s name. Where I have translated “killer”, the Greek has versions of the aorist of αἵρεω (εἶλον) which, without its augment looks like the beginning of Helen’s name (ἑλ-).

 Aeschylus, Agamemnon 684-696

“Whoever pronounced a name
So thoroughly true?
Wasn’t it someone we’d not see
Guiding the tongue with luck
From a foreknowledge of fate?
Who named the spear-bride,
Struggled-over woman
Helen?
For, appropriately,
That ship-killer [hele-nas], man-killer [hel-andros]
City-killer [hele-ptolis], sailed
From her fine-spun, curtains
On the breath of great Zephyr
and many-manned bands
Of shield-bearers followed
The vanished journey struck
By the oars to the banks
Of leafy Simois
For a bloody strife.”

Χο. τίς ποτ’ ὠνόμαξεν ὧδ’
ἐς τὸ πᾶν ἐτητύμως—
μή τις ὅντιν’ οὐχ ὁρῶ-
μεν προνοί-
αισι τοῦ πεπρωμένου
γλῶσσαν ἐν τύχᾳ νέμων; —τὰν
δορίγαμβρον ἀμφινεικῆ
θ’ ῾Ελέναν; ἐπεὶ πρεπόντως
ἑλένας, ἕλανδρος, ἑλέ-
πτολις, ἐκ τῶν ἁβροπήνων
προκαλυμμάτων ἔπλευσε
Ζεφύρου γίγαντος αὔρᾳ,
πολύανδροί
τε φεράσπιδες κυναγοὶ
κατ’ ἴχνος πλατᾶν ἄφαντον
κελσάντων Σιμόεντος
ἀκτὰς ἐπ’ ἀεξιφύλλους
δι’ ἔριν αἱματόεσσαν.

Ancient etymologies do not follow this Aeschylean play.

Etym. Gudianum

“Helenê. From attracting [helkein] many to her beauty. Or it is from helô, helkuô, she is the one who drags young men to her personal beauty. Or it comes from Hellas [Greece]. Or it comes from being born on the ground [helos].”

     ῾Ελένη· … ἀπὸ τοῦ πολλοὺς ἕλκειν ἐν τῷ κάλλει αὐτῆς· ἢ παρὰ τὸ ἕλω, τὸ ἑλκύω, ἡ πρὸς τὸ ἴδιον κάλλος ἑλκύουσα τοὺς νέους ἀνθρώπους· ἢ παρὰ τὸ ῾Ελλάς· ἢ παρὰ τὸ ἐν ἕλει γεγεννῆσθαι.

Etym.  Magnum

“Helenê: A heroine. From helô, helkuô, she is the one who drags young men to her personal beauty. Or it comes from Hellas [Greece]. Or it comes from being born on the ground [helos]. Or because she was thrown in a marshy [helôdei] place by Tyndareus once she obtained some divine prescience and she was taken back up by Leda. Helenê was named from pity [heleos].”

     ῾Ελένη: ῾Η ἡρωΐς· παρὰ τὸ ἕλω, τὸ ἑλκύω, ἡ πρὸς τὸ ἴδιον κάλλος ἕλκουσα τοὺς ἀνθρώπους· διὰ τὸ πολλοὺς ἑλεῖν τῷ κάλλει· ἢ παρὰ τὸ ῾Ελλάς· ἢ παρὰ τὸ ἐν ἕλει γεγενῆσθαι, ἡ ὑπὸ τοῦ Τυνδάρεω ἐν ἑλώδει τόπῳ ῥιφθεῖσα, θείας δέ τινος προνοίας τυχοῦσα, καὶ ἀναληφθεῖσα ὑπὸ Λήδας. ᾿Εκ τοῦ ἕλους οὖν ῾Ελένη ὠνομάσθη.

Modern linguistics show that Helen’s name is just really hard to figure out.

Some Modern Material

In Lakonia, Helen was original spelled with a digamma. (And this may have extended to Corinth and Chalcidice too Cf. R. Wachter Non-Attic Vase Inscriptions 2001, §251).

74 Von Kamptz 1958, 136 suggests that her name is a “cognate of σέλας” to evoke a sense of “shining”, as in her beauty. Cf. Kanavou 2015, 72

Vedic Saranyu: Skutsch 1987, 189; Puhvel 1987, 141–143 (The initial breathing in Greek often points to a lost initial *s but the digamma in certain dialects confuses this) The Vedic name means swift. The PIE root suggested here is *suel-.

Helen has variously been suggested as coming from a vegetation goddess (see Helena Dendritis, Paus. 3.19.9–10; Herodotus 6.61; cf. Skutsch 1987) or a goddess of light.

 

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