Write This Down: You are the City. You Are the people

Aeschylus, Suppliants 179-180

“I suggest you safeguard my words by writing them on tablet in your minds”
αἰνῶ φυλάξαι τἄμ᾿ ἔπη δελτουμένας

Aeschylus, Suppliants, 200-204

“Don’t be too aggressive or broken in speech:
These people are especially ready to be angry.
Remember to be accommodating: you are a foreign refugee in need.
To speak boldly is not a fitting move for the weak.”

καὶ μὴ πρόλεσχος μηδ᾿ ἐφολκὸς ἐν λόγῳ
γένῃ· τὸ τῇδε κάρτ᾿ ἐπίφθονον γένος.
μέμνησο δ᾿ εἴκειν· χρεῖος εἶ, ξένη, φυγάς·
θρασυστομεῖν γὰρ οὐ πρέπει τοὺς ἥσσονας.

Aeschylus, Suppliants, 370-375

“You are the city, really. You are the people.
An unjudged chief of state rules
The altar, the city’s hearth,
With only your votes and nods,
With only your scepter on the throne
You judge every need. Be on guard against contamination!”

σύ τοι πόλις, σὺ δὲ τὸ δάμιον·
πρύτανις ἄκριτος ὢν
κρατύνεις βωμόν, ἑστίαν χθονός,
μονοψήφοισι νεύμασιν σέθεν,
μονοσκήπτροισι δ᾿ ἐν θρόνοις χρέος
πᾶν ἐπικραίνεις· ἄγος φυλάσσου.

File:Nicolas Bertin - The Danaides in Hell.jpg

The Danaides in hell, by Nicolas Bertin

Aeschylus, Suppliants 991-997

“Write this down with the many other notes
In your mind of the wisdoms from your father:
An unfamiliar mob is evaluated by time,
But everyone has an evil tongue prepared to lash out
over immigrants and speaking foully is somehow easy.
I advise you not to bring me shame
Now that you are in the age which turns mortal gazes.”

καὶ ταῦτα μὲν γράψασθε πρὸς γεγραμμένοις
πολλοῖσιν ἄλλοις σωφρονίσμασιν πατρός,
ἀγνῶθ᾿ ὅμιλον ἐξελέγχεσθαι χρόνῳ·
πᾶς δ᾿ ἐν μετοίκῳ γλῶσσαν εὔτυκον φέρει
κακήν, τό τ᾿ εἰπεῖν εὐπετὲς μύσαγμά πως.
ὑμᾶς δ᾿ ἐπαινῶ μὴ καταισχύνειν ἐμέ,
ὥραν ἐχούσας τήνδ᾿ ἐπίστρεπτον βροτοῖς

Trojan Fan Fic: Astyanax, The Boy Who Lived

In the tradition of Greek Myth, Hektor’s son Astyanax is well-known for being killed during the sack of the city. Other traditions weren’t having this. To wit, Servius:

Servius Danielis on Vergil, Aeneid, 9.264

devicta genitor (sc. Aeneas) quae cepit Arisba]

“Which his father took once Arisba was conquered…”

“(And yet, according to Homer, Arisba sent aid to the Trojans and was overcome by Achilles)…the city is called Arisba after the daughter of Merpos or Macareus who was the first wife of Paris. According to some authors, Abas, who wrote the Troika, related that after the Greeks left Troy, the rule of this city was given to Astyanax. Antenor expelled him once he had allied himself with the states neighboring where Arisba’s location. Aeneas took this badly and took up arms for Astyanax; once the expedition was prosecuted successfully, he returned the kingdom to Astyanax.”

[[atqui secundum Homerum Arisba Troianis misit auxilia et ab Achille subversa est …]] dicta est Arisba ab Meropis vel Macarei filia, quam primum Paris in coniugio habuit. quidam ab Abante, qui Troica scripsit, relatum ferunt, post discessum a Troia Graecorum Astyanacti ibi datum regnum. hunc ab Antenore expulsum sociatis sibi finitimis civitatibus, inter quas et Arisba fuit. Aeneam hoc aegre tulisse et pro Astyanacte arma cepisse, ac prospere gesta re Astyanacti restituisse regnum.

 

Image result for astyanax greek vase
Image taken from this article by Mary Louise Hart

Miraculous Things and Gullible People

Palaephatus, Peri Apistôn 1

“I have composed this work about unbelievable things because rather gullible people believe everything that is said because they are unfamiliar with wisdom or knowledge—but those who are naturally sharper and concerned with many things disbelieve that anything like these things happened at all.

It seems to be that everything which has been narrated happened—for names do not develop on their own when no story exists about them, instead the fact is there first and then a story develops later—but however many shapes and notions are described and existed in the past but do not exist now, these sorts of things never existed at all. For if anything existed at some point in the past, then it also exists now and will again in the future.

And I am always praising the authors Melissos and Lamiskos of Samos who say “What there was in the beginning exists now and will be. But the poets and the storytellers twisted what happened to more unbelievable and amazing things for the sake of surprising people. But I know that if these things couldn’t have happened at all they would not be stories.”

Τάδε περὶ τῶν ἀπίστων συγγέγραφα. ἀνθρώπων γὰρ οἱ μὲν εὐπειθέστεροι πείθονται πᾶσι τοῖς λεγομένοις, ὡς ἀνομίλητοι σοφίας καὶ ἐπιστήμης, οἱ δὲ πυκνότεροι τὴν φύσιν καὶ πολυπράγματοι ἀπιστοῦσι τὸ παράπαν μηδὲ γενέσθαι τι τούτων. ἐμοὶ δὲ δοκεῖ γενέσθαι πάντα τὰ λεγόμενα (οὐ γὰρ ὀνόματα μόνον ἐγένοντο, λόγος δὲ περὶ αὐτῶν οὐδεὶς ὑπῆρξεν· ἀλλὰ πρότερον ἐγένετο τὸ ἔργον, εἶθ’ οὕτως ὁ λόγος ὁ περὶ αὐτῶν)· ὅσα δὲ εἴδη καὶ μορφαί εἰσι λεγόμεναι καὶ γενόμεναι τότε, αἳ νῦν οὐκ εἰσί, τὰ τοιαῦτα οὐκ ἐγένοντο. εἰ γάρ <τί> ποτε καὶ ἄλλοτε ἐγένετο, καὶ νῦν  τε γίνεται καὶ αὖθις ἔσται. ἀεὶ δὲ ἔγωγε ἐπαινῶ τοὺς συγγραφέας Μέλισσον καὶ Λαμίσκον τὸν Σάμιον „ἐν ἀρχῇ” λέγοντας „ἔστιν ἃ ἐγένετο, καὶ νῦν ἔσται”. γενομένων δέ τινα οἱ ποιηταὶ καὶ λογογράφοι παρέτρεψαν εἰς τὸ ἀπιστότερον καὶ θαυμασιώτερον, τοῦ θαυμάζειν ἕνεκα τοὺς ἀνθρώπους. ἐγὼ δὲ γινώσκω ὅτι οὐ δύναται τὰ τοιαῦτα εἶναι οἷα καὶ λέγεται·

A bonnacon uses feces for weapons. 

Helen’s Other Sisters

Ever wondered why Helen left Menelaos or why her sister Klytemnestra cheated on Agamemnon (other than the obvious)? Ancient poetry traced it back to a sin of their father

Schol. Ad Euripides’ Orestes 249:

“Stesichorus says that when Tyndareus was sacrificing to the gods he overlooked Aphrodite. For this reason, the angry goddess made his daughters thrice and twice married abandoners of husbands. The segment reads like this:

“Because when Tyndareus was sacrificing to all the gods
He neglected only the gentle-giving Kyprian
She was enraged and she made the daughters of Tyndareus
Twice and thrice married deserters of husbands.”

A fragment of Hesiod agrees with this (fr. 176):

“Smile-loving Aphrodite
Was enraged when she saw them: then she hung bad fame upon them.
After that, Timandra abandoned Ekhemos and left;
She went to Phyleus who was dear to the holy gods.
And so Klytemnestra abandoned shining Agamemnon
To lie alongside Aigisthos as she chose a lesser husband;
In the same way, Helen shamed the marriage-bed of fair Menelaos…”

Στησίχορός φησιν ὡς θύων τοῖς θεοῖς Τυνδάρεως ᾿Αφροδίτης ἐπελάθετο• διὸ ὀργισθεῖσαν τὴν θεὸν διγάμους τε καὶ τριγάμους καὶ λειψάνδρους αὐτοῦ τὰς θυγατέρας ποιῆσαι. ἔχει δὲ ἡ χρῆσις οὕτως [frg. 26]•
‘οὕνεκά ποτε Τυνδάρεως
ῥέζων πᾶσι θεοῖς μόνης λάθετ’ ἠπιοδώρου
Κύπριδος, κείνα δὲ Τυνδάρεω κούραις
χολωσαμένη διγάμους τε καὶ τριγάμους τίθησι
καὶ λιπεσάνορας’.

καὶ ῾Ησίοδος δέ [frg. 117]•
τῆισιν δὲ φιλομμειδὴς ᾿Αφροδίτη
ἠγάσθη προσιδοῦσα, κακῆι δέ σφ’ ἔμβαλε φήμηι.
Τιμάνδρη μὲν ἔπειτ’ ῎Εχεμον προλιποῦσ’ ἐβεβήκει,
ἵκετο δ’ ἐς Φυλῆα φίλον μακάρεσσι θεοῖσιν•
ὣς δὲ Κλυταιμνήστρη <προ>λιποῦσ’ ᾿Αγαμέμνονα δῖον
Αἰγίσθῳ παρέλεκτο, καὶ εἵλετο χείρον’ ἀκοίτην.
ὣς δ’ ῾Ελένη ᾔσχυνε λέχος ξανθοῦ Μενελάου…

This passage provides an explanation for why the daughters of Tyndareus—Helen and Andromache—were unfaithful: it was Aphrodite’s game from the beginning because their father did not worship her correctly. A few interesting aspects here: first, Helen is “thrice-married” because after Paris dies, she marries Deiphobus (although some accounts associate her with Theseus too). Second, Hesiod’s fragmentary poems seems to be in the process of cataloging women who leave their husbands.

The first woman in the tale is Timandra, who, according to only this passage, was a third daughter of Tyndareus who left her husband Ekhemos, a king of Arcadia. They had a son together, named Leodocus before she eloped with Phyleus. In another fragment from Hesiod (fr. 23) we learn more about the family of Tyndareus and Leda:

“After climbing into the lush bed of Tyndareus
Well-tressed Leda, as fair as the rays of the moon,
Gave birth to Timandra, cow-eyed Klytemnestra,
And Phylonoe whose body was most like the immortal goddesses.
Her…the arrow bearing goddesss
Made immortal and ageless for all days.”

ἣ μὲν [Τυνδαρέου θαλερὸν λέχο]ς εἰσαναβᾶσα
Λήδη ἐ̣[υπλόκαμος ἰκέλη φαέεσσ]ι σελήνης
γείνατ[ο Τιμάνδρην τε Κλυταιμήστρ]ην τε βοῶπ[ιν
Φυλο̣[νόην θ’ ἣ εἶδος ἐρήριστ’ ἀθαν]άτηισι.
τ̣ὴ̣ν[ ἰο]χέαιρα,
θῆκ[εν δ’ ἀθάνατον καὶ ἀγήραον ἤ]ματα πάντ̣[α. (7-12)

Later on in the same fragment –after hearing about the marriage and children of Klytemnestra—we learn about Timandra:

“Ekhemos made Timandra his blooming wife,
The man who was the lord of all Tegea and Arcadia, wealthy in sheep,
A rich man who was dear to the gods.
She bore to him Laodakos, the horse-taming shepherd of the host,
After she was subdued by golden Aphrodite.”

Τιμάνδρην δ’ ῎Εχεμος θαλερὴν ποιήσατ’ ἄκοιτιν,
ὃς πάσης Τεγ[έης ἠδ’ ᾿Αρκαδίης] πολυμήλου
ἀφνειὸς ἤνασ[σε, φίλος μακάρεσσι θ]ε̣ο[ῖ]σ̣ιν•
ἥ οἱ Λαόδοκον̣ μ[εγαλήτορα ποιμέν]α̣ λαῶν
γ]είνα[θ]’ ὑποδμη[θεῖσα διὰ] χρυσῆν ᾿Αφ[ροδίτην (28-31)

This section of the Hesiodic Catalogue of Women seems to be mentioning only Leda’s children with Tyndareus and not those possibly fathered by Zeus (Helen, Kastor, Polydeukes). But we hear nothing of the future of Leda’s attractive daughter Phylonoe (also spelled Philonoe) other than that Artemis made her immortal. The ancient sources? Nothing at all to explain this.

Here’s what Apollodorus has to say (3.126):

“The sons of Ikarios and the Naiad nymph Periboia were Thoas, Damasippos, Imeusimos, Aletes, Perileôs, and a daughter Penelope, whom Odysseus married. Tyndareus and Lêda had Timandra, whom Ekhemos married, and Klytemnestra, whom Agamemnon married, and also Pylonoê, whom Artemis made immortal.”

᾿Ικαρίου μὲν οὖν καὶ Περιβοίας νύμφης νηίδος Θόας Δαμάσιππος ᾿Ιμεύσιμος ᾿Αλήτης Περίλεως, καὶ θυγάτηρ Πηνελόπη, ἣν ἔγημεν ᾿Οδυσσεύς· Τυνδάρεω δὲ καὶ

Λήδας Τιμάνδρα, ἣν ῎Εχεμος ἔγημε, καὶ Κλυταιμνήστρα, ἣν ἔγημεν ᾿Αγαμέμνων, ἔτι τε Φυλονόη, ἣν ῎Αρτεμις ἀθάνατον ἐποίησε.

Apart from the appearance in the fragment from Hesiod, the only other mention of Phylonoê in classical literature is in the work of the early Christian philosopher and apologist, Athenagoras of Athens (3rd Century CE) who wrote works to Marcus Aurelius and his son Commodus defending Christianity. In his Legativo sive Suppliatio pro Christianis he writes of how to foreigners it may seem laughable if “a Lakedaimonian honors Zeus-Agamemnon or Phylonoê, the daughter of Tyndareus.” (ὁ δὲ Λακεδαιμόνιος ᾿Αγαμέμνονα Δία καὶ Φυλονόην τὴν Τυνδάρεω θυγατέρα καὶ τεννηνοδίαν † σέβει, 1.1.6).

But there is no other information about why Phylonoê was made immortal or what her cult-rites (if they existed were like).  Now, given the motifs usually associated with Artemis and the story told by Hesiod about the daughters of Tyndareus and their curse, the following scenario is possible. Perhaps Phylonoê, conscious of the curse, dedicated herself to Artemis and was saved from her sisters’ fate before her first marriage.

If we return to that passage from Hesiod (fr. 23) we can see just how much is reconstructed. Below is the text with and without the supplements

ἣ μὲν [Τυνδαρέου θαλερὸν λέχο]ς εἰσαναβᾶσα                     7
Λήδη ἐ̣[υπλόκαμος ἰκέλη φαέεσσ]ι σελήνης                        8
γείνατ[ο Τιμάνδρην τε Κλυταιμήστρ]ην τε βοῶπ[ιν              9
Φυλο̣[νόην θ’ ἣ εἶδος ἐρήριστ’ ἀθαν]άτηισι.                     10
τ̣ὴ̣ν[                             ἰο]χέαιρα,                    11
θῆκ[εν δ’ ἀθάνατον καὶ ἀγήραον ἤ]ματα πάντ̣[α.                 12

ἣ μὲν [                                               ]ς εἰσαναβᾶσα                     7
Λήδη ἐ̣[                                              ]ι σελήνης                         8
γείνατ[                                              ]ην τε βοῶπ[ιν                     9
Φυλο̣[                                                 ]άτηισι.                           10
τ̣ὴ̣ν[                             ἰο]χέαιρα,                                              11
θῆκ[                                                   ]ματα πάντ̣[α.                     12

It is clear that without the passage from Apollodorus and the slight bit from Athenagoras, there wouldn’t be too much to go on here. The reconstruction of line 12 seems fairly safe based on the classic formula used there (note line 24 in the same fragment: θῆκεν δ’ ἀθάνατο[ν καὶ ἀγήρ]αον ἤμα[τα πάντα). Line seven is a rather decent restoration based on Leda in the next line. Line 11 seems like I might need at least a name for the goddess (although, this is not necessary, see line 21 in the same fragment: εἴδω[λον· αὐτὴν δ’ ἐλαφηβό]λο̣ς ἰοχέαιρα) leaving room for some allusion to what transpired to earn Phylonoê immortality.

But the whole passage seems a bit strange to me because it proceeds with a mirrored catalogue: the daughters are listed (A) Timandra, (B) Klytemnestra and (C) Phylonoê. The following elaborations are (C) Pholonoê 10-12, (B) Klytemnestra, 13-30, (A) Timandra, 31-36. This puts the most elaborated story in the middle, as well as offering a mirrored tale.

Helen boarding a ship for Troy, wall painting from Pompeii

A Tunic of Flesh and Kirke as an Allegory

Plutarch’s Moralia Fr. 200

“Our fated nature is identified by Empedocles as the force behind this remaking, “wrapping [us] in a tunic of strange flesh” and transferring souls to a new place. Homer has called this circular revolution and the return of rebirth by the name Kirke, a child of Helios, the one who unites every destruction with birth and destruction again, binding it endlessly.

The Island Aiaia is that place which revives the person who dies, a place where the souls first step when they are wandering and feel like strangers to themselves as they mourn and cannot figure out which direction is west nor where the “sun which brings life to people over the land / descends again into the earth.”

These souls long for their habits of pleasure and their life in the flesh and the way they lived with their flesh and they fall again into that mixture where birth swirls together and truly stirs into one the immortal and moral, the material of thought and experience, elements of heaven and earth. The souls are enchanted but also weakened by the pleasures that pull them to birth again. At that time, souls require a great amount of good luck and much wisdom to find some way to resist and depart from their worst characters and become bound to their most base parts or passions and take up a terrible and beastly life.”

Αὐτῆς γὰρ τῆς μετακοσμήσεως εἱμαρμένη καὶ φύσις ὑπὸ Ἐμπεδοκλέους δαίμων ἀνηγόρευται σαρκῶν ἀλλογνῶτι περιστέλλουσα χιτῶνι καὶ μεταμπίσχουσα τὰς ψυχάς, Ὅμηρος δὲ τὴν ἐν κύκλῳ περίοδον καὶ περιφορὰν παλιγγενεσίας Κίρκην προσηγόρευκεν, Ἡλίου παῖδα τοῦ πᾶσαν φθορὰν γενέσει καὶ γένεσιν αὖ πάλιν φθορᾷ συνάπτοντος ἀεὶ καὶ συνείροντος. Αἰαίη δὲ νῆσος ἡ δεχομένη τὸν ἀποθνήσκοντα μοῖρα καὶ χώρα τοῦ περιέχοντος, εἰς ἣν ἐμπεσοῦσαι πρῶτον αἱ ψυχαὶ πλανῶνται καὶ ξενοπαθοῦσι καὶ ὀλοφύρονται καὶ οὐκ ἴσασιν ὅπῃ ζόφος οὐδ᾿ ὅπῃ ἠέλιος φαεσίμβροτος εἶσ᾿ ὑπὸ γαῖαν,ποθοῦσαι δὲ καθ᾿ ἡδονὰς τὴν συνήθη καὶ σύντροφον ἐν σαρκὶ καὶ μετὰ σαρκὸς δίαιταν ἐμπίπτουσιν αὖθις εἰς τὸν κυκεῶνα, τῆς γενέσεως μιγνύσης εἰς ταὐτὸ καὶ κυκώσης ὡς ἀληθῶς ἀίδια καὶ θνητὰ καὶ φρόνιμα καὶ παθητὰ καὶ ὀλύμπια καὶ γηγενῆ, θελγόμεναι καὶ μαλασσόμεναι ταῖς ἀγούσαις αὖθις ἐπὶ τὴν γένεσιν ἡδοναῖς, ἐν ᾧ δὴ μάλιστα πολλῆς μὲν εὐτυχίας αἱ ψυχαὶ δέονται πολλῆς δὲ σωφροσύνης, ὅπως μὴ τοῖς κακίστοις ἐπισπόμεναι καὶ συνενδοῦσαι μέρεσιν ἢ πάθεσιν αὑτῶν κακοδαίμονα καὶ θηριώδη βίον ἀμείψωσιν.

Aristotle, Physiognomics 808b

“[in this case] the soul and the body would experience things together, but they would not have the same reactions as one another. But, now, it is entirely clear that one follows another. This is especially obvious from the following. For madness seems to be a matter of the mind; doctors, however, respond to it by cleansing the body with medicines and also by telling them to pursue certain habits in life which may relieve the mind of madness.

So, the form of the body is relieved by treatments to the body at the very same time that the soul is freed from madness. Since they are both relieved together, it is clear that their reactions are in synchrony. It is also clear from this that the forms special to the body are similar to the capabilities of the mind, with the result that all similarities in living things are clear signs of some kind of sameness.”

ἡ ψυχή τε καὶ τὸ σῶμα συμπαθῆ, οὐ μέντοι συνδιατελοῦντα ἀλλήλοις. νῦν δὲ καταφανὲς ὅτι ἑκάτερον ἑκατέρῳ ἕπεται. μάλιστα μέντοι ἐκ τοῦδε δῆλον γένοιτο. μανία γὰρ δοκεῖ εἶναι περὶ ψυχήν, καὶ οἱ ἰατροὶ φαρμάκοις καθαίροντες τὸ σῶμα καὶ διαίταις τισὶ πρὸς αὐτοῖς χρησάμενοι ἀπαλλάττουσι τὴν ψυχὴν τῆς μανίας. ταῖς δὴ τοῦ σώματος θεραπείαις καὶ ἅμα ἥ τε τοῦ σώματος μορφὴ λέλυται καὶ ἡ ψυχὴ μανίας ἀπήλλακται. ἐπειδὴ οὖν ἅμα ἀμφότερα λύονται, δῆλον ὅτι συνδιατελοῦσιν ἀλλήλοις. συμφανὲς δὲ καὶ ὅτι ταῖς δυνάμεσι τῆς ψυχῆς ὅμοιαι αἱ μορφαὶ τοῖς σώμασιν ἐπιγίνονται, ὥστ᾿ ἐστὶν ἅπαντα ὅμοια ἐν τοῖς ζῴοις τοῦ αὐτοῦ τινὸς δηλωτικά.

Epictetus, Fr. 26

“Epictetus used to say, ‘you’re a tiny soul lugging around a corpse’.”

Ψυχάριον εἶ βαστάζον νεκρόν, ὡς Ἐπίκτητος ἔλεγεν.

Related image
Wright Barker (British, 1863-1941) – “Circe” c.1889

#NANAIHB Final Results, Diomedes Wins! (Or, does he?)

Welcome to the semifinal of the #NANAIHB (the Non-Atreid, Non-Achilles Iliadic hero Bracket), the definitive tournament to decide who really is the second best of the Achaeans. The first round saw six contests, most of which were blowouts. The second round was equally lopsided, leaving us with two ‘classic’ matches. Odysseus vs. Ajax and Patroklos vs. Diomedes. Ajax prevailed in the first match. Today, the final left Tydeus’ son at 52.5% and Ajax the Great behind at 47.5.

NANAIHB Day 12

In nearly a decade of war and distractions only Muse-blessed singers can imagine, the Achaeans had previously believed that they had witnessed every wonder available for mortal witnesses. But as the day turned to night and Ajax and Diomedes stood facing each other in arms, they stood  and yelled loudly to one another about the fight between Telamon’s giant of a son, and the city-sacking, horse-taming son of Tydeus. To think, what short memories mortals have when they quickly forget the wonders that have come before!

Ajax pushed his brother Teucer and Ajax away from him and motioned for Agamemnon to leave the circle, speaking first: “Diomedes, strong son of Tydeus, let’s skip the boasting and taunting and save our breaths. No mortal knows what the next way will bring. So let us fight now and then join again in wine as friends before this day is over.” The Achaeans cheered at Ajax’s greeting and Diomedes smiled, yelling in response, “Aye, you massive tower of an Achaean, proud Telamon’s son. It is no boast to claim that one of us will win, any more than it is to say that one day we both will die. May Athena who loves Argos and Poseidon who watches the Salaminian straits favor each of us today!”

The two heroes entered battle without spears and immediately clashed together. The sound of bronze striking bronze rang out once, twice, and then three times, echoing over the fields no less than when Typhoeus came rushing down from the Sky or when the Hundred-handers scoured the Titans from the earth. On the walls of Troy, Priam trembled as he watched, that such warriors awaited his people and Hektor cried tears of sorrow that he was not a champion on that day. Only Helen was still, lost in thoughts that with such two heroes alive, she had married Menelaos and Paris in turn.

Again and again sword struck shield and the only difference anyone could see was the slow changes in speed. Ajax’s massive shield was not meant for leaping and defending against Tydeus’ furious son. With each clash, the Telamonian’s left fell slightly lower. Diomedes knew and he rushed. Again and again he struck his opponent’s shield with sword and shield of his own. Ajax roared and slipped back too slow. Diomedes leapt over his shield, drew a long line of blood from Ajax’s shoulder and stood facing him from behind.

Ajax nodded his head and knelt, yielding. Patroklos shouted out*:

“Telamonian Ajas was indeed best of men
As long as Achilles was in rage. For he is so strong!
But now, see here one who seems to be the best of the Achaeans
And of the rest of the Danaans after Peleus’ blameless son.
This overawing son of Tydeus, Diomedes!

ἀνδρῶν αὖ μέγ’ ἄριστος ἔην Τελαμώνιος Αἴας,
ὄφρ’ ᾿Αχιλεὺς μήνιεν· ὃ γὰρ πολὺ φέρτατος ἦεν,
νῦν δ’ ἴδεν ὃς μέγ’ ἄριστος ᾿Αχαιῶν φαίνεται εἶναι,
τῶν τ᾿ἄλλων Δαναῶν μετ’ ἀμύμονα Πηλεΐωνα·
οὕτος τε Τυδέος υἱὸς ὑπέρθυμος Διομήδης

The Achaeans roared in assent to Patroklos’ declaration and they all marveled at godlike Diomedes as he stood like a pillar in the middle of the assembly.

Diomedes with the Palladion

Amid the fervor, Nestor heard what sounded like distant weeping. He looked to see Odysseus sitting apart from the men, covering his face to muffle the sound of his groaning. Diomedes also heard and approached Odysseus, drawing the Achaeans’ attention along with him. Exuberant from his win, Diomedes briskly slapped his comrade on the arm and said “Wily Odysseus! Why do you heave these tears? You may have lost the day, but this war will be a song for men to come! Troy has not yet fallen. Perhaps one day they will sing how you became the best of the Achaeans—after Achilles and myself!”

Odysseus and Diomedes Steal the Palladion

Some men laughed, but Odysseus wept even louder. He now had the whole army’s attention, and they all fell silent as the contest slipped into memory. Achilles alone understood and whispered to Diomedes “My mother told me more than my own fate. He does not weep for his loss, but for theirs.” As Odysseus collected himself and rose he said “Friends, I am not accustomed to defeat, but Diomedes has proven to be the better of us. No man among men will soon overshadow this day.” Odysseus then embraced Diomedes and only Achilles caught his smile over other the hero’s shoulder.

Diomedes (on the left) exchanging weapons with Glaucus, a captain of the Lycian army. Attic red-figure pelike by the Hasselmann Painter, ca. 420 BC. 

*These lines are creatively adapted from the Iliad

**Special thanks to Justin Arft for helping with the ending

Odysseus slays Diomedes?

#NANAIHB The Final Smackdown: Ajax vs. Diomedes

Welcome to the semifinal of the #NANAIHB (the Non-Atreid, Non-Achilles Iliadic hero Bracket), the definitive tournament to decide who really is the second best of the Achaeans. The first round saw six contests, most of which were blowouts. The second round was equally lopsided, leaving us with two ‘classic’ matches. Odysseus vs. Ajax and Patroklos vs. Diomedes. Ajax prevailed in the first match. Today, the match we were all waiting for.

NANAIHB Day 12

Ajax

In the Odyssey, Ajax is best in size and looks / of all the Danaans after Peleus’ blameless son” Αἴαντός θ’, ὃς ἄριστος ἔην εἶδός τε δέμας τε / τῶν ἄλλων Δαναῶν μετ’ ἀμύμονα Πηλεΐωνα. (11.469-470) and in the Iliad he is curiously the “best of men while Achilles was raging” (ἀνδρῶν αὖ μέγ’ ἄριστος ἔην Τελαμώνιος Αἴας ὄφρ’ ᾿Αχιλεὺς μήνιεν, 1.768-769). I think that these moments acknowledge how important Ajax is in the Trojan War, but indicate, perhaps, that this importance is softened in the Iliad. In iconography of the 6th and 5th Centuries BCE, Ajax appears in some of the most memorable repeated images: seated, playing a game with Achilles; carrying Achilles’ corpse from the battle field; fighting with Odysseus over Achilles’ weapons; and taking his own life on Hektor’s sword. In the Iliad, he is really important in book 9 (when he is part of the embassy to Achilles) but on the battle field, he lags behind Diomedes, Odysseus, Patroklus, and Achilles (check this info-graphic). Ajax is a versatile killer: in the Iliad he slays with spear, sword and stone. Compared to Diomedes, however, Ajax may be just a replacement level Achilles.

So, maybe Ajax’s secondariness was always important in the Homeric tradition? Well, now we have a chance to make it official

Achilles Ajax dice Louvre MNB911 n2.jpg
Achilles (on the left) and Ajax the Great (on the right) playing dice, identified by inscriptions. Detail of a white-figure Attic lekythos.

Diomedes has some important presence in myth outside of the Iliad too, most famously for taking Thebes with the Epigonoi (a lost epic), giving him the right to claim himself better than his father. He is important following the events of the Iliad where he helps Odysseus get the palladion from Troy (only to almost get murdered for it.

Homer seems to have a special place for Diomedes. He is there doing what Achilles should be when Peleus’ son is absent; and he mostly disappears when Achilles is gone. (He even gets wounded in the foot by Paris!) He has the greatest number of kills of all the Achaeans, but, a good third of them are against unarmed men. There may be a little two much Odysseus to this figure—which may be the point. Diomedes is, in a way, something of a compromise between the ruthless intelligence of Odysseus and the brute force of Achilles. Importantly, Diomedes accomplishes a lot of his action through speech, perhaps allowing him to become the kind of political figure Achilles could have been, if not for his overpowering rage.

 

May the (second) best hero win.

Aias Carrying Body of Achilles - detail from Francois vase c 565 BCE fForence Italy Arch Museum.jpg
Large Attic Black-figure volute-krater dating to c. 570-565 BC

Ajax body Achilles Louvre F201.jpg
Ajax carrying the dead Achilleus, protected by Hermes (on the left) and Athena (on the right). Side 1 from an Attic black-figure neck-amphora, ca. 520-510 BC.

#NANAIHB Semifinals, Match 2: Patroklos vs. Diomedes

Welcome to the semifinal of the #NANAIHB (the Non-Atreid, Non-Achilles Iliadic hero Bracket), the definitive tournament to decide who really is the second best of the Achaeans. The first round saw six contests, most of which were blowouts. The second round was equally lopsided, leaving us with two ‘classic’ matches. Odysseus vs. Ajax and Patroklos vs. Diomedes. Ajax prevailed in the first match. Today Diomedes meets Patroklos

NANAIHB Day 12

Semifinal 2 Results: Diomedes Prevails!

The Achaean assembly was buzzing like a hive in adoration of its queen as Patroklos and Diomedes prepared to face one another. In the seasdie corner, Achilles helped Patroklos put on his armor, talking constantly with encouragement and advice about Diomedes’ tendency to drop his shield arm when parrying to the left. Those near him could hear Achilles tell Patroklos that Diomedes was far superior with his sword and it would be best to finish him quickly.

Aged Nestor and Sthenelos stood next to Diomedes as he watch the preparations. Tydeus’ son had been standing in full armor for over an hour. Many of the Achaeans had arrived at the assembly to find him already there, staring out towards the sea.

As Agamemnon stepped into the center to call the contest’s start, those near Diomedes could hear him praying:

“Hear me, Atrutônê, dear child of Aegis bearing Zeus.
If ever you also stood alongside my father in concern
Amid the violent battle, care for me now in turn, Athena.”

κλῦθί μευ αἰγιόχοιο Διὸς τέκος ᾿Ατρυτώνη,
εἴ ποτέ μοι καὶ πατρὶ φίλα φρονέουσα παρέστης
δηΐῳ ἐν πολέμῳ, νῦν αὖτ’ ἐμὲ φῖλαι ᾿Αθήνη·

Across from him, Patroklos turned and raised his hands to the sea, intoning:

“Hear me, fine haired Thetis, mother of Achilles,
Hear me, goddess, come as a good helper for my feet.”

κλῦθί μευ καλλιπλοκάμε Θέτι μῆτερ Ἀχιλῆος
κλῦθι θεά, ἀγαθή μοι ἐπίρροθος ἐλθὲ ποδοῖιν.

As Agamemnon called out, Patrklos hurled his spear first and Diomedes redirected it with his shield only to barely dodge the next spear headed for his right thigh. Patroklos had sent the first spear wide left to draw Diomedes’ spear arm. Tydeus’ son was saved from a quick injury by a gust of wind that left the errant spear to graze the strong belt near his hip.

Diomedes took careful aim and launched one spear after another, missing easily each time as Patroklos sped from side to side, racing towards him. Diomedes leaned down and picked up a stone with one hand so large two men with a cart and a bar could not move it today and he waited. Patroklos was closing on him and when he was two strides away, Diomedes launched the stone in the air, dropped his shield and punched Patroklos square in the chest. As the hero fell back, the stone plummeted, narrowly missed Patroklos’ head, but landing on the end of his left foot, crushing the toes.

Diomedes vaunted, “Patroklos, yield, the fame of your fury will reach your father’s ears.” And the Achaeans laughed because Diomedes’ wordplay had exceeded Agamemnon’s earlier attempts as much as his valor in war surpassed the Atreids’. Patroklos, yelled back “Son of Tydeus, you are certainly strong in war, but you have not beat me yet.” As Patroklos got to his feet, Achilles roared from the sideline, “Be careful Diomedes, you can scar his face, but I don’t want another wound to his legs!” And, as expected, the gathered Achaeans started laughing again.

Patroklos drew his sword and the two began to circle, feinting and parrying. Diomedes kept pressing him to move on his injured foot, and Menoitios’ son stayed light and fast, but his sword work was slower and his shield arm was wearing from the relentless strikes meted out by Tydeus’ son.NANAIHB Day 12 (2)

The crowd was restless and calling out to Diomedes to finish it. But Patroklos kept fighting. To everyone’s surprise, Patroklos faked slipping on his injured foot and came around to cut deeply into Diomedes’ left arm. Diomedes dropped his shield and stood there, surprised and suddenly still. Patroklos roared in victory and rushed at him. Diomedes stepped aside, parried the charge, and let Patrklos’ speed take him forward. He brought the butt of his sword back around and smashed it into his opponent’s helmet. Patroklos crumpled to the ground.

Achilles yelled, “Stay your sword, violent son of Tydeus. My Patroklos yields.” The Achaeans erupted in cheers as Sthenelos helped Diomedes tend to his wound and Achilles came over to lift Patroklos from the ground.

*τὸ κλέος μένεος ὦτα εἰς πατρὶδος ἔρχοιτο! Diomedes echoed the name of Menoitios in “fury to ears” [Meneos ota] while also echoing Patroklos’ name with “fame [kleos] to your father [patridos]”

Achilles tending Patroclus’ wound

The final round starts tomorrow: Ajax vs. Diomedes for the title of Second best of theAchaeans!

#NANAIHB Semifinals, Match 2: Patroklos vs. Diomedes

Welcome to the semifinal of the #NANAIHB (the Non-Atreid, Non-Achilles Iliadic hero Bracket), the definitive tournament to decide who really is the second best of the Achaeans. The first round saw six contests, most of which were blowouts. The second round was equally lopsided, leaving us with two ‘classic’ matches. Odysseus vs. Ajax and Patroklos vs. Diomedes.

NANAIHB day 11

Semifinal 1 Results, Ajax Over Odysseus!

Just as the hottest part of the day began to give way to the evening shadows, the Achaeans stood in a noisy but tense assembly, awaiting the match of Telamon’s massive son and the clever child of Laertes. Achilles stood near Ajax, giving him advice and putting on a show of laughter while Nestor stood muttering next to an Odysseus who remained oddly and passively still. But when Agamemnon sounded the beginning of the fight, Odysseus leapt into action, loosing both of his spears almost before Ajax could raise his giant shield. Neither one penetrated farther than three or four layers of that ox-hide bulk, but they were fixed in deep and made the weapon even harder to wield.

Ajax tried to match Odysseus’ initiative and threw first once and then twice, missing his mark wide to the left and the right as Odysseus danced from side to side. The devious father of Telemachus drew his sword and rushed Ajax, moving around him faster than the larger man could match. In one quick move he slashed at the back of Ajax’s leg and drew blood, eliciting a gasp and then roar from the crowd. Odysseus gazed at the assembled Achaeans a moment too long and then found himself flying through the air, struck full on the side with the cumbersome shield.

From the ground, a shaken Odysseus looked up and saw Ajax’s eyes fixed upon him. He leapt up and backed out of the range of the larger man’s sword and shouted, “Aiakos’ lesser grandson, Lord of an island of salt and waste. Are you man enough to strip your armor and fight me hand to hand!” Ajax glared and said nothing, dropping his shield and exposing the full strength of his body in a few moves. He stood there, sweet and blood running down his leg, waiting for Odysseus to meet him.

NANAIHB day 11 (2)

The two men began to circle and box, Odysseus never slowing and Ajax never landing a full blow on the Ithacan rogue. Ajax’s pace was clearly slowed by his wounded leg and Odysseus took full advantage, landing punches in his kidney and spine.

The crowd was long past impatient and most believed that Odysseus’ would win. But under the light of the rising moon and the flickering bonfires, Odysseus stepped back and paused. Later, some would claim that they saw a mist or cloud of dust whirl about his head and that the much-devising Laertides seemed to be speaking to himself. The moment passed and Odysseus smiled. He rushed at Ajax and seemed to trip to him, falling into a half-released blow from Telamon’s son.

Odysseus fell to the ground, clutching at his ankle and wrist, raising a voice with a tremor, “Ajax, son of Telamon. I yield. You have beat me. But I think we will meet again in another contest in days to come.”

The Achaeans cheered in confusion and surprise. Ajax stood, exhausted, chest heaving, eyes fixed on the shadowed ground.

Today’s Match: Patroklos vs. Diomedes

Patroklos is coming off the widest margin of victory in round 2 where he easily bested Nestorides. Diomedes earned a forfeit over Thersites in round 2 and has not so match as suffered a scratch on his foot in the tournament. Both heroes are more important in Homer than in Greek myth in general as demonstrated by their relative absence in extant art from the Classical age.

How can we fairly compare these two heroes? Diomedes sacked Thebes before he came to Troy, but Patroklos is of such precocious anger that he killed his first foe as a child! If we think about their impact on the war, both are dominant in separate parts. According to my count and this site, Diomedes killed 34 people during the epic (although 12 of them were Rhesus and his sleeping men along with the unarmed Dolon). Patroklos killed 27 during his aristeia. What about their opponents? Diomedes wounded Aeneas while Patroklos killed the second best of the Trojans, Sarpedon. Diomedes wounded a god, but he was also wounded in turn by Athena. It takes Apollo, Euphorbos, and the best of the Trojans to take Patroklos down.

Even though this is a competition of who is the best warrior, both of these heroes likely do equally important work off the battlefield. Patroklos is “kind” (ἤπιος ὢν; πρᾷός ) and pities the Achaeans (οἰκτείρει τοὺς ᾿Αχαιούς, Schol. BT a Il. 307b). His compassion keeps Achilles connected to the very people he has consigned to doom and ensures that the best of the Achaeans will stay at Troy. Diomedes is as good in council as he is in war, and his progression during the Iliad may demonstrate how a hero becomes “a doer of deeds and speaker of words” (μύθων τε ῥητῆρ’ ἔμεναι πρηκτῆρά τε ἔργων) as Achilles was meant to.

So this comes down to  more than a theomakhos vs. a dice-killer. This is Achilles’ replacement vs. Achilles’ ritual substitute.

Will Patroklos have Achilles armor and go berserker? Will Diomedes have Athena on her side? Who gets to face Ajax in the end?

Achilles tending Patroclus’ wound

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

Image result for ancient Greek funeral mounds
Tumulus of Marathon.