The First Hexameter Song and the Fragments of Boio

Boiô [Boeo] is a woman poet from, well, Boeotia

Pausanias 5.7-9

“They claim that after some time Themis was given by Gaia whatever he share was and then that Apollo received that as a gift from Themis. They say that Apollo gave to Poseidon the portion of land called Kalauria which is near Troizen as an exchange-gift for the oracle. I have also heard that men who were shepherding their flocks chanced upon the oracle and were inspired by the mist and then acted as prophets of Apollo. The account with the most adherents is the story of Phêmonoê, that she was the first prophet of the god and the first person who sang hexameters.

Boiô, a local woman who created a Hymn for the Delphians, used to say that people who visited from the Hyperboreans along with others and Olên created the oracle for the god and that he, Olên, was the first to give prophecies and to sing a hexameter.

Boiô composed these verses: “Here in fact, they built the oracle of good memory / the children of the Hyperboreans, Pagasos and shining Aguieus.”

Once she has named other Hyperboreans, near the end of the hymn she mentioned Olên: “And Olên who was the first prophet of Phoibos / and the first to make the song of ancient epic verses.” There is in common memory no mention of him at all; all that is left is the prophecy of women only.”

χρόνῳ δὲ ὕστερον, ὅσον τῇ Γῇ μετῆν, δοθῆναι Θέμιδι ὑπ᾿ αὐτῆς λέγουσιν, Ἀπόλλωνα δὲ παρὰ Θέμιδος λαβεῖν δωρεάν· Ποσειδῶνι δὲ ἀντὶ τοῦ μαντείου Καλαύρειαν ἀντιδοῦναί φασιν αὐτὸν τὴν πρὸ Τροιζῆνος. ἤκουσα δὲ καὶ ὡς ἄνδρες ποιμαίνοντες ἐπιτύχοιεν τῷ μαντείῳ, καὶ ἔνθεοί τε ἐγένοντο ὑπὸ τοῦ ἀτμοῦ καὶ ἐμαντεύσαντο ἐξ Ἀπόλλωνος. μεγίστη δὲ καὶ παρὰ πλείστων ἐς Φημονόην δόξα ἐστίν, ὡς πρόμαντις γένοιτο ἡ Φημονόη τοῦ θεοῦ πρώτη καὶ πρώτη τὸ ἑξάμετρον ᾖσεν. Βοιὼ δὲ ἐπιχωρία γυνὴ ποιήσασα ὕμνον Δελφοῖς ἔφη κατασκευάσασθαι τὸ μαντεῖον τῷ θεῷ τοὺς ἀφικομένους ἐξ Ὑπερβορέων τούς τε ἄλλους καὶ Ὠλῆνα· τοῦτον δὲ καὶ μαντεύσασθαι πρῶτον καὶ ᾄσαι πρῶτον τὸ ἑξάμετρον. πεποίηκε δὲ ἡ Βοιὼ τοιάδε·

ἔνθα τοι εὔμνηστον χρηστήριον ἐκτελέσαντο

παῖδες Ὑπερβορέων Παγασὸς καὶ δῖος Ἀγυιεύς.

ἐπαριθμοῦσα δὲ καὶ ἄλλους τῶν Ὑπερβορέων, ἐπὶ τελευτῇ τοῦ ὕμνου τὸν Ὠλῆνα ὠνόμασεν·

Ὠλήν θ᾿ ὃς γένετο πρῶτος Φοίβοιο προφάτας

πρῶτος δ᾿ ἀρχαίων ἐπέων τεκτάνατ᾿ ἀοιδάν.

οὐ μέντοι τά γε ἥκοντα ἐς μνήμην ἐς ἄλλον τινά, ἐς δὲ γυναικῶν μαντείαν ἀνήκει μόνων.

Image result for delphic oracle

A Menis on the Screen: Playing a Bard During a Plague Part II

Homer, Iliad 18.22

“So he spoke, and a dark cloud of grief covered Achilles.”

 ῝Ως φάτο, τὸν δ’ ἄχεος νεφέλη ἐκάλυψε μέλαινα·

I don’t know why I’m surprised that I find it hard to write about the Iliad. Or rather, why I find it so much harder to write about the Iliad than I do to write about the Odyssey.

Everything around the Iliad has always been harder and heavier for me as a classicist and a modern bard. And as a human being. 

From the first time I read it as an undergrad studying Classics at UW-Madison, I’ve felt that the Iliad punishes the reader in a way that the Odyssey (which to be sure, itself has plenty of punishment) doesn’t. 

So… I shouldn’t have been surprised when this piece, ostensibly a follow up to my post entitled “A Penis on the Screen: Playing a Bard During a Plague,” felt as heavy and unwieldy as Ajax’s towering shield. 

To be sure, the context in which I’m writing about performing my Homer-inspired musical works has changed. “A Penis on the Screen” was written at the beginning of the first full escalation of the pandemic, more than nine months and three hundred thousand US deaths ago.  

It was also written after only a single virtual performance of my one-man musical Odyssey, and before any virtual performances of my one-man musical Iliad, “The Blues of Achilles. Since that initial phallus-inscribed voyage I have completed fourteen virtual Odysseys and eleven virtual Blues of Achilles shows.

In a way these two blogs mirror how the creation of my two epic works unfolded. I wrote “Joe’s Odyssey” in the naive afterglow of my undergraduate studies when I didn’t know any better, when I was too young to understand how audacious it was to create a thirty-five minute non-narrative modern folk opera telling of the Odyssey, let alone to ask folks to sit still for it. That actually worked in my favor, as youthful ignorance sometimes does. I wrote a prompt in my songwriting book that read “create a one-man 24 song folk opera retelling of Homer’s Odyssey” and three months later I premiered it in my parents’ living room, with a full performance for a group of students less than two months after that.

Black-figure pottery - Wikipedia
Heracles and Geryon on an Attic black-figured amphora with a thick layer of transparent gloss, c. 540 BC, now in the Munich State Collection of Antiquities.

By contrast, sixteen years later when I decided to take on the Iliad, I spent almost a full year reading, researching, even interviewing veterans, before I wrote a single song. Once I composed the songs that comprise “The Blues of Achilles,” I played small samplings of them in modest workshop scenarios for another year before I finally debuted the full cycle in San Francisco in early March just as the pandemic took hold (a selection of songs from that performance can be viewed here on YouTube).

All of this is to say that these two pieces came from and were in two wildly different places in March as I started to consider how I would continue to perform them in a streaming environment: on the one hand, I had 300 plus Odyssey shows under my belt, on the other I had the Blues of Achilles with… one single show (and one in which I performed with an ensemble). 

In reading my initial impressions of performing virtually as detailed in the Penis on the Screen blog, I have to give myself a little credit: almost all of what I wrote there about the Zoom performance environment bore itself out as correct over the course of repeated performances of my Odyssey

(NB: I am so infrequently right about things I have to make a big deal of times when I am. For instance, as she will vouch for, I saw where the pandemic was going early on and told my wife to stock up on canned goods and alcohol for quarantine in early-February.  I also correctly predicted that Dwyane Wade would be an NBA Hall-of-Famer after watching the 2003 NCAA tournament. Take that, Calchas).

But while my routines around my virtual Odyssey shows were immediately informed by the hundreds of previous live shows and discussions, The Blues of Achilles was a blank slate. Would I perform all the songs without stopping? Would I work in spoken narrative passages as I did in the public debut in San Francisco? Would I talk about all the works that informed my songs ahead of the performance, or let the audience lead me to such considerations in a discussion? 

My Odyssey performance had years and years to develop organically along with my abilities, going from a living room to high school classrooms to university settings over the course of more than a decade. In contrast, The Blues of Achilles had immediate opportunities with very high level college audiences.

Luckily, I had the songs I wrote for the characters we know most intimately from Homer’s Iliad: a number of songs for Achilles of course, but also songs sung by Chryseis, Bryseis, Agamemnon, Hector, Hecuba, Priam, Helen, Andromache, Patroklus, and Thetis. Songs sung by the bard (me in this case) telling the story as well as other more impartial observers to the human suffering portrayed in the poem. 

I had these songs that I loved very deeply and I felt said something interesting, deep and most importantly true about the characters and story, something that modern audiences might have a harder time accessing when considering them in millenia old translated texts. 

And these songs I wrote about warriors and war were mostly love songs, a fact with which I was uncomfortable until, after I’d written them, I read Simone Weil’s influential 1940 essay The Iliad or The Poem of Force in which she writes “there is hardly any form of pure love known to humanity of which the Iliad does not treat…”  

(There should be a word for when you read a sentiment similar to one which you’ve arrived at entirely independently, especially when it is confirmed by a lauded source. Joel suggested “serendipity” which is true and good but doesn’t quite capture the validation and confidence boost such an occurrence can confer upon an artist or intellectual.)

If excavating love from the grief of the Iliad was good enough for Simone Weil, it was certainly good enough for me. I thought perhaps this relationship between love and grief was the heaviness that had created such apprehension in me about considering the Iliad

It was actually several months into these pandemic performances of The Blues of Achilles that I fully realized why adapting the Iliad scared me more and was so much harder for me than adapting the Odyssey

In April, the songwriter John Prine died of Covid complications. In a beautiful New York Times tribute to this amazing artist, Jason Isbell (a brilliant songwriter in his own right) wrote about the genius of Prine’s writing in general but in particular the song “Angel From Montgomery,” which opens with Prine singing “I am an old woman/named after my mother.” Isbell has this epiphany:  “songwriting allows you to be anybody you want to be, so long as you get the details right.” 

John Prine, One of America's Greatest Songwriters, Dead at 73 - Rolling Stone

When it came to the Iliad, my anxiety was (and is) rooted in the fear that I couldn’t get the details right. And I knew that for these characters deep inside the machine of war and their legacies, the details were a matter of life and death. This was why I spent a year reading any war literature I could get my hands on from All Quiet on the Western Front to Catch-22 to Slaughterhouse Five. I read Achilles in Vietnam and The Things They Carried and Letters Home from Vietnam and Dispatches.  I interviewed veterans who served in the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Operation Enduring Freedom. I interviewed a Gold Star father who lost his son in Operation Iraqi Freedom. I found myself by chance in a hazy whiskey-fueled late night conversation with a veteran military journalist who turned me on to the album Soldier’s Heart, a set of songs by Jacob George, a veteran of OEF who wrote and recorded this album of the truest war stories I’ve ever heard before he died by suicide in 2014. 

And with these details and a new vocabulary, I went back to the text and as is the case over and over with Homeric epic I found truths hovering in the spaces around the words, waiting for me. I thought about some of the other Iliad adaptations I read: Memorial by Alice Oswald, The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker, The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller, the play An Iliad by Denis O’Hare and Lisa Peterson. Casey Dué’s Achilles Unbound helped me recognize the multiplicity inherent in oral tradition and gave me even more confidence to find my own Achilles.

And out of me in less than 30 days in early 2019 came tumbling my 17 love songs. If Homer’s Iliad tells of the Anger of Achilles, my Blues of Achilles makes its focus the Grief that is prominent in the first syllable of Achilles’ name and the Love that is so inextricably connected to Grief (for more “serendipity,” see Emily Austin’s work in particular the forthcoming Grief and the Hero.)

Frank Zappa purportedly said “writing about music is like dancing about architecture,” and whether or not he actually did, the sentiment is correct. I write songs to capture something that other types of writing cannot convey so I won’t try to describe what my online Blues of Achilles shows are like in detail other than to say they are heavy, connected, and beautiful. I break the songs up to allow for audiences to ask questions and contribute to the meaning as we go rather than waiting until the end for them to participate and engage. Pandemic audiences seem particularly attuned to the less central characters to whom I try to give voice, to the characters who have been pulled into the grievous orbit of the principle tragic figures of the story. 

I’ll be doing these shows (both Odyssey and Blues of Achilles) online for at least the first half of 2021: while I’m hoping that later in the year conditions might allow for safe travel and gatherings, it might be even into 2022 before that’s possible. But I know that eventually I’ll be able to bring The Blues of Achilles (and my Odyssey) to audiences in-person.

Joe's Odyssey

Whereas my online Odyssey shows were informed by live in-person performances, my live in-person Blues of Achilles shows (when they happen) will be informed by my online performances and I’m interested to see how this inversion impacts the futures of both pieces.

I return to one of my first impressions of performing online which is that these stories are so durable and rich and full of possibility that they can thrive in any sort of performance environment. Maybe better put: making the change from in-person to virtual is no big deal when a story has survived the transition from oral performance to written text and the thousands of years since. 

Joe Goodkin is a modern bard who performs original music based on epic poetry and other subjects.  He can be seen and heard at http://www.joesodyssey.com http://www.thebluesofachilles.com or http://www.joegoodkin.com and emailed at joegoodkin@gmail.com about bookings or anything else.

The First Hexameter Song and the Fragments of Boio

Boiô [Boeo] is a woman poet from, well, Boeotia

Pausanias 5.7-9

“They claim that after some time Themis was given by Gaia whatever he share was and then that Apollo received that as a gift from Themis. They say that Apollo gave to Poseidon the portion of land called Kalauria which is near Troizen as an exchange-gift for the oracle. I have also heard that men who were shepherding their flocks chanced upon the oracle and were inspired by the mist and then acted as prophets of Apollo. The account with the most adherents is the story of Phêmonoê, that she was the first prophet of the god and the first person who sang hexameters.

Boiô, a local woman who created a Hymn for the Delphians, used to say that people who visited from the Hyperboreans along with others and Olên created the oracle for the god and that he, Olên, was the first to give prophecies and to sing a hexameter.

Boiô composed these verses: “Here in fact, they built the oracle of good memory / the children of the Hyperboreans, Pagasos and shining Aguieus.”

Once she has named other Hyperboreans, near the end of the hymn she mentioned Olên: “And Olên who was the first prophet of Phoibos / and the first to make the song of ancient epic verses.” There is in common memory no mention of him at all; all that is left is the prophecy of women only.”

χρόνῳ δὲ ὕστερον, ὅσον τῇ Γῇ μετῆν, δοθῆναι Θέμιδι ὑπ᾿ αὐτῆς λέγουσιν, Ἀπόλλωνα δὲ παρὰ Θέμιδος λαβεῖν δωρεάν· Ποσειδῶνι δὲ ἀντὶ τοῦ μαντείου Καλαύρειαν ἀντιδοῦναί φασιν αὐτὸν τὴν πρὸ Τροιζῆνος. ἤκουσα δὲ καὶ ὡς ἄνδρες ποιμαίνοντες ἐπιτύχοιεν τῷ μαντείῳ, καὶ ἔνθεοί τε ἐγένοντο ὑπὸ τοῦ ἀτμοῦ καὶ ἐμαντεύσαντο ἐξ Ἀπόλλωνος. μεγίστη δὲ καὶ παρὰ πλείστων ἐς Φημονόην δόξα ἐστίν, ὡς πρόμαντις γένοιτο ἡ Φημονόη τοῦ θεοῦ πρώτη καὶ πρώτη τὸ ἑξάμετρον ᾖσεν. Βοιὼ δὲ ἐπιχωρία γυνὴ ποιήσασα ὕμνον Δελφοῖς ἔφη κατασκευάσασθαι τὸ μαντεῖον τῷ θεῷ τοὺς ἀφικομένους ἐξ Ὑπερβορέων τούς τε ἄλλους καὶ Ὠλῆνα· τοῦτον δὲ καὶ μαντεύσασθαι πρῶτον καὶ ᾄσαι πρῶτον τὸ ἑξάμετρον. πεποίηκε δὲ ἡ Βοιὼ τοιάδε·

ἔνθα τοι εὔμνηστον χρηστήριον ἐκτελέσαντο

παῖδες Ὑπερβορέων Παγασὸς καὶ δῖος Ἀγυιεύς.

ἐπαριθμοῦσα δὲ καὶ ἄλλους τῶν Ὑπερβορέων, ἐπὶ τελευτῇ τοῦ ὕμνου τὸν Ὠλῆνα ὠνόμασεν·

Ὠλήν θ᾿ ὃς γένετο πρῶτος Φοίβοιο προφάτας

πρῶτος δ᾿ ἀρχαίων ἐπέων τεκτάνατ᾿ ἀοιδάν.

οὐ μέντοι τά γε ἥκοντα ἐς μνήμην ἐς ἄλλον τινά, ἐς δὲ γυναικῶν μαντείαν ἀνήκει μόνων.

Image result for delphic oracle

The First Hexameter Song and the Fragments of Boio

Boiô [Boeo] is a woman poet from, well, Boeotia

Pausanias 5.7-9

“They claim that after some time Themis was given by Gaia whatever he share was and then that Apollo received that as a gift from Themis. They say that Apollo gave to Poseidon the portion of land called Kalauria which is near Troizen as an exchange-gift for the oracle. I have also heard that men who were shepherding their flocks chanced upon the oracle and were inspired by the mist and then acted as prophets of Apollo. The account with the most adherents is the story of Phêmonoê, that she was the first prophet of the god and the first person who sang hexameters.

Boiô, a local woman who created a Hymn for the Delphians, used to say that people who visited from the Hyperboreans along with others and Olên created the oracle for the god and that he, Olên, was the first to give prophecies and to sing a hexameter.

Boiô composed these verses: “Here in fact, they built the oracle of good memory / the children of the Hyperboreans, Pagasos and shining Aguieus.”

Once she has named other Hyperboreans, near the end of the hymn she mentioned Olên: “And Olên who was the first prophet of Phoibos / and the first to make the song of ancient epic verses.” There is in common memory no mention of him at all; all that is left is the prophecy of women only.”

χρόνῳ δὲ ὕστερον, ὅσον τῇ Γῇ μετῆν, δοθῆναι Θέμιδι ὑπ᾿ αὐτῆς λέγουσιν, Ἀπόλλωνα δὲ παρὰ Θέμιδος λαβεῖν δωρεάν· Ποσειδῶνι δὲ ἀντὶ τοῦ μαντείου Καλαύρειαν ἀντιδοῦναί φασιν αὐτὸν τὴν πρὸ Τροιζῆνος. ἤκουσα δὲ καὶ ὡς ἄνδρες ποιμαίνοντες ἐπιτύχοιεν τῷ μαντείῳ, καὶ ἔνθεοί τε ἐγένοντο ὑπὸ τοῦ ἀτμοῦ καὶ ἐμαντεύσαντο ἐξ Ἀπόλλωνος. μεγίστη δὲ καὶ παρὰ πλείστων ἐς Φημονόην δόξα ἐστίν, ὡς πρόμαντις γένοιτο ἡ Φημονόη τοῦ θεοῦ πρώτη καὶ πρώτη τὸ ἑξάμετρον ᾖσεν. Βοιὼ δὲ ἐπιχωρία γυνὴ ποιήσασα ὕμνον Δελφοῖς ἔφη κατασκευάσασθαι τὸ μαντεῖον τῷ θεῷ τοὺς ἀφικομένους ἐξ Ὑπερβορέων τούς τε ἄλλους καὶ Ὠλῆνα· τοῦτον δὲ καὶ μαντεύσασθαι πρῶτον καὶ ᾄσαι πρῶτον τὸ ἑξάμετρον. πεποίηκε δὲ ἡ Βοιὼ τοιάδε·

ἔνθα τοι εὔμνηστον χρηστήριον ἐκτελέσαντο

παῖδες Ὑπερβορέων Παγασὸς καὶ δῖος Ἀγυιεύς.

ἐπαριθμοῦσα δὲ καὶ ἄλλους τῶν Ὑπερβορέων, ἐπὶ τελευτῇ τοῦ ὕμνου τὸν Ὠλῆνα ὠνόμασεν·

Ὠλήν θ᾿ ὃς γένετο πρῶτος Φοίβοιο προφάτας

πρῶτος δ᾿ ἀρχαίων ἐπέων τεκτάνατ᾿ ἀοιδάν.

οὐ μέντοι τά γε ἥκοντα ἐς μνήμην ἐς ἄλλον τινά, ἐς δὲ γυναικῶν μαντείαν ἀνήκει μόνων.

Image result for delphic oracle

Needful Tales: Intersex Stories from Ancient Greece and Rome

The New York Times reports that the current US administration is trying to narrowly define gender in order to strip transgender people of federal protections. Here are some ancient intersex stories we posted over the summer. Human beings have known that gender is not simply binary and is not simply about how we are born for a very long time.

Here are short tales from: Phlegon of Tralles’ On Marvels

6 Also in Antioch near the Maiander river there was an intersex person, when Antipater who was the Athenians and Marcus Vinicius and Titus Statilus Taurus were consuls. The person was called Kourbinus. As a maiden of famous parents when she was thirteen she was suited by many because of her beauty.

After her parents chose the suitor they wanted, they appointed the day for the marriage But the girl shouted out as she was about to leave the house when the most severe amount of pain over took her.

Those near her lifted her up and were taking care of her because she had pains in her guts and twisting within them. This pain remained for three days straight and her suffering made everyone confused, since they could not give her relief from the toils at night or day.

Even though the doctors in the city applied every type of healing to her they found no cause for the suffering. On the fourth day near dawn, the pains greatly increased and, as she shouted out with a terrible groan, suddenly the masculine parts descended from her and a girl became a man.

After some time, he was taken to Rome to be presented to Claudius Caesar. And he, on account of the fame, had an altar erected for Zeus the Defender of Evils on the Capitoline.”

Καὶ ἐν ᾿Αντιοχείᾳ δὲ τῇ πρὸς Μαιάνδρῳ ποταμῷ ἐγένετο ἀνδρόγυνος, ἄρχοντος ᾿Αθήνησιν ᾿Αντιπάτρου, ὑπατευόντων ἐν ῾Ρώμῃ Μάρκου Βινικίου καὶ Τίτου Στατιλίου Ταύρου, τοῦ Κουρβίνου ἐπικληθέντος.

παρθένος γὰρ γονέων ἐπισήμων τρισκαιδεκαέτις ὑπάρχουσα ὑπὸ πολλῶν ἐμνηστεύετο, οὖσα εὐπρεπής. ὡς δ’ ἐνεγυήθη ᾧ οἱ γονεῖς ἐβούλοντο, ἐνστάσης τῆς ἡμέρας τοῦ γάμου προϊέναι τοῦ οἴκου μέλλουσα αἰφνιδίως πόνου ἐμπεσόντος αὐτῇ σφοδροτάτου ἐξεβόησεν.

ἀναλαβόντες δ’ αὐτὴν οἱ προσήκοντες ἐθεράπευον ὡς ἀλγήματα ἔχουσαν κοιλίας καὶ στρόφους τῶν ἐντός· τῆς δὲ ἀλγηδόνος ἐπιμενούσης τρισὶν ἡμέραις ἑξῆς ἀπορίαν τε πᾶσι τοῦ πάθους ποιοῦντος, τῶν πόνων οὔτε νυκτὸς οὔτε ἡμέρας ἔνδοσιν λαμβανόντων, καίτοι πᾶσαν μὲν θεραπείαν αὐτῇ προσφερόντων <τῶν> ἐν τῇ πόλει ἰατρῶν, μηδεμίαν δὲ τοῦ πάθους δυναμένων αἰτίαν εὑρεῖν, τῇ τετάρτῃ τῶν ἡμερῶν περὶ τὸν ὄρθρον μείζονα τῶν πόνων ἐπίδοσιν λαμβανόντων, σὺν μεγάλῃ οἰμωγῇ ἀνακραγούσης, ἄφνω αὐτῇ ἀρσενικὰ μόρια προέπεσεν, καὶ ἡ κόρη ἀνὴρ ἐγένετο.

μετὰ δὲ χρόνον εἰς ῾Ρώμην ἀνηνέχθη πρὸς Κλαύδιον Καίσαρα· ὁ δὲ τούτου ἕνεκα τοῦ σημείου ἐν Καπετωλίῳ Διὶ ᾿Αλεξικάκῳ ἱδρύσατο βωμόν.

 

7 “There was also in Mêouania, an Italian city, in the home of Agrippina Augusta, an intersex person when Dionysodorus was archon in Athens and in Rome Decimus Junius Silanos Torquatos and Quintus Aterius Atonius were consuls.

The girl’s name was Philôtis and she was Smyrnaian in origin. When the time of her marriage came and she had been promised by her parents to a man, male genitals appeared on her and she became a man.”

᾿Εγένετο καὶ ἐν Μηουανίᾳ, πόλει τῆς ᾿Ιταλίας, ἐν ᾿Αγριππίνης τῆς Σεβαστῆς ἐπαύλει ἀνδρόγυνος, ἄρχοντος ᾿Αθήνησιν Διονυσοδώρου, ὑπατευόντων ἐν ῾Ρώμῃ Δέκμου ᾿Ιουνίου Σιλανοῦ Τορκουάτου καὶ Κοΐντου ῾Ατερίου ᾿Αντωνίνου.

Φιλωτὶς γάρ τις ὀνόματι παρθένος, Σμυρναία τὸ γένος, ὡραία πρὸς γάμον ὑπὸ τῶν γονέων κατεγγεγυημένη ἀνδρί, μορίων αὐτῇ προφανέντων ἀρρενικῶν ἀνὴρ ἐγένετο.

 

8 “There was also another intersex person in the same time period in Epidaurus, a child of poor parents who was called Sumpherousa first but was named Sumpherôn when he became a man. He spent his life gardening.”

Καὶ ἄλλος δέ τις ἀνδρόγυνος κατὰ τοὺς αὐτοὺς χρόνους ἐγένετο ἐν ᾿Επιδαύρῳ, γονέων ἀπόρων παῖς, ὃς ἐκαλεῖτο πρότερον Συμφέρουσα, ἀνὴρ δὲ γενόμενος ὠνομάζετο Συμφέρων, κηπουρῶν δὲ τὸν βίον διῆγεν.

 

9 “In Laodikeia there was also a Syrian women named Aitêtê who changed her form when she was already living with her husband and then changed her name to Aitêtos once she became a man. This was when Makrinos was archon in Athens and Lucius Lamia Aelianos and Sextus Carminius Veterus were consuls. I even saw him myself.”

Καὶ ἐς Λαοδίκειαν δὲ τῆς Συρίας γυνή, ὀνόματι Αἰτητή, συνοικοῦσα τῷ ἀνδρὶ ἔτι μετέβαλε τὴν μορφὴν καὶ μετωνομάσθη Αἰτητὸς ἀνὴρ γενόμενος, ἄρχοντος ᾿Αθήνησιν Μακρίνου, ὑπατευόντων ἐν ῾Ρώμῃ Λουκίου Λαμία Αἰλιανοῦ καὶ <Σέξτου Καρμινίου> Οὐέτερος. τοῦτον καὶ αὐτὸς ἐθεασάμην.

A note on translation. I was a bit dissatisfied with the translations available from the LSJ for ἀνδρόγυνος so I chose the modern “intersex”.

androgunos

Hermaphroditus was a figure of ritual in the ancient world

The story of Teiresias, Phlegon of Tralles, On Marvels 4

“Hesiod—along with Dikaiarkhos, Klearkhos, Kallimakhos and some others—relates these things about Teiresias. When Teiresias the son of Euêros in Arcadia was a young man he saw snakes copulating, he wounded one and immediately changed his form. He changed into a woman from a man and then had sex with a man.

But after Apollo prophesied to him that, if he saw snakes copulating again and wounded one in the same way, he would be as he was before, Teiresias took care to do the things which were prophesied by the god and thus regained his older form.

When Zeus was fighting with Hera and saying that in sex a wife surpassed her husband in the pleasures of intercourse—even while Hera was claiming the opposite—it seemed right to them to send for Teiresias because he had tried out both ways. When they questioned him, he responded that if there were ten portions, a man took pleasure in one and a woman took pleasure in ten.

In her rage over this, Hera took out his eyes and made him blind. But Zeus gave him the gift of prophecy and to live for seven generations.”

῾Ιστορεῖ δὲ ῾Ησίοδος καὶ Δικαίαρχος καὶ Κλέαρχος καὶ Καλλίμαχος καὶ ἄλλοι τινὲς περὶ Τειρεσίου τάδε. Τειρεσίαν τὸν Εὐήρους ἐν ᾿Αρκαδίᾳ [ἄνδρα ὄντα] ἐν τῷ ὄρει τῷ ἐν Κυλλήνῃ ὄφεις ἰδόντα ὀχεύοντας τρῶσαι τὸν ἕτερον καὶ παραχρῆμα μεταβαλεῖν τὴν ἰδέαν· γενέσθαι γὰρ ἐξ ἀνδρὸς γυναῖκα καὶ μιχθῆναι ἀνδρί.

 τοῦ δὲ ᾿Απόλλωνος αὐτῷ χρήσαντος ὡς, ἐὰν τηρήσας ὀχεύοντας ὁμοίως τρώσῃ τὸν ἕνα, ἔσται οἷος ἦν, παραφυλάξαντα τὸν Τειρεσίαν ποιῆσαι τὰ ὑπὸ τοῦ θεοῦ ῥηθέντα καὶ οὕτως κομίσασθαι τὴν ἀρχαίαν φύσιν.

 Διὸς δὲ ἐρίσαντος ῞Ηρᾳ καὶ φαμένου ἐν ταῖς συνουσίαις πλεονεκτεῖν τὴν γυναῖκα τοῦ ἀνδρὸς τῇ τῶν ἀφροδισίων ἡδονῇ, καὶ τῆς ῞Ηρας φασκούσης τὰ ἐναντία, δόξαι αὐτοῖς μεταπεμψαμένοις ἔρεσθαι τὸν Τειρεσίαν διὰ τὸ τῶν τρόπων ἀμφοτέρων πεπειρᾶσθαι. τὸν δὲ ἐρωτώμενον ἀποφήνασθαι, διότι μοιρῶν οὐσῶν δέκα τὸν ἄνδρα τέρπεσθαι τὴν μίαν, τὴν δὲ γυναῖκα τὰς ἐννέα.

 τὴν δὲ ῞Ηραν ὀργισθεῖσαν κατανύξαι αὐτοῦ τοὺς ὀφθαλμοὺς καὶ ποιῆσαι τυφλόν, τὸν δὲ Δία δωρήσασθαι αὐτῷ τὴν μαντικὴν καὶ βιοῦν ἐπὶ γενεὰς ἐπτά.

The tale occurs most famously in book 3 of Ovid’s Metamorphoses (339-510).  But, as this fragment indicates, we have fragments of a Hesiodic version as well. Apollodorus also reports the version favored by Pherecydes and Callimachus–that Teiresias was blinded after seeing Athena naked.

What is a little different about this version is the presence of Apollo and the claim that Zeus lengthened Teiresias’ life as part of his ‘reward’. This second part helps to explain Tiresias’ presence from the birth of Dionysus to the fall of Thebes with the Epigonoi.

The Sex-change of Caenus

Phlegon, On Amazing Things 5 [Ovid tells a version of this tale.]

5 “Others tell the story that in the land of the Lapiths the king Elatos had a daughter whose name was Kainis. After Poseidon had sex with her he promised to make her into whatever she wanted. She said she wanted to be changed into a man who was invulnerable. When Poseidon did this—as was right—he changed her name to Kaineus.”

Οἱ αὐτοὶ ἱστοροῦσιν κατὰ τὴν Λαπίθων χώραν γενέσθαι ᾿Ελάτῳ τῷ βασιλεῖ θυγατέρα ὀνομαζομένην Καινίδα.

ταύτῃ δὲ Ποσειδῶνα μιγέντα ἐπαγγείλασθαι ποιήσειν αὐτῇ ὃ ἂν ἐθέλῃ, τὴν δὲ ἀξιῶσαι μεταλλάξαι αὐτὴν εἰς ἄνδρα ποιῆσαί τε ἄτρωτον. τοῦ δὲ Ποσειδῶνος κατὰ τὸ ἀξιωθὲν ποιήσαντος μετονομασθῆναι Καινέα.

This story is older than Ovid and Phlegon. It is detailed in the fragments of Akousilaus, perhaps alluded to in Homer, definitely indicated by Apollonius Rhodes, and present even in Plato. While the sex-change narrative remains an important element, the main feature of Kaineus’ tale is his hubris–because of his invulnerability he asks to be made into a god.

Akousilaus FGrH 2 fr. 22 [=P.Oxy. 13, 1611, fr. 1, col. 2, 38-96]

“Poseidon has sex with Kainê of Elatos. Then—for it was not right for him [sic] to have children with him nor anyone else—Poseidon turned him into an invulnerable man, who had the greatest strength of the men at that time. Whenever anyone tried to strike him with iron or bronze, [the attacker] was completely defeated.

Then [Kaineus] became king of the Lapiths and was warring with the Centaurs. After he set up his javelin in the agora he was asking to be included in the number of the gods. This was not pleasing to the gods. And when Zeus saw him doing this, he threatened him and raised the Centaurs against him. They struck him straight down into the earth and placed a stone above as assign. Then he died.”

«Καινῆιδὲ τῆι ᾽Ελάτου μίσγεται ΙΙοσειδῶν. ἔπειτα – οὐ γὰρ ἦν αὐτῶι ἱερὸν παῖδας τεκέν οὐτ᾽ ἐξ ἐκείνου οὐτ᾽ ἐξ ἄλλου οὐδενός – ποιεῖ αὐτὸν Ποσειδέων ἄνδρα ἄτρωτον, ἰσχὺν ἔχοντα μεγίστην τῶν ἀνθρώπων τῶν τότε, καὶ ὅτε τις αὐτὸν κεντοίη σιδήρωι ἢ χαλκῶι, ἡλίσκετο μάλιστα χρημάτων. καὶ γίγνεται βασιλεὺς οὗτος Λαπιθέων καὶ τοῖς Κενταύροις πολεμέεσκε. ἔπειτα στήσας ἀκόν[τιον ἐν ἀγορᾶι θεὸν ἐκέλευεν ἀριθμεῖν. θεοῖ]σι δ᾽ οὐκ ἦεν [ἀρεστόν, καὶ] Ζεὺς ἰδὼν αὐτὸν ταῦτα ποιοῦντα ἀπειλεῖ καὶ ἐφορμᾶι τοὺς Κενταύρους, κἀκεῖνοι αὐτὸν κατακόπτουσιν ὄρθιον κατὰ γῆς καὶ ἄνωθεν πέτρην ἐπιτιθεῖσιν σῆμα, καὶ ἀποθνήσκει.»

In this account, Poseidon seems to be changing Kaineus because of his inability to have children. This makes it rather clear what women are good for from this cultural perspective. In addition, it is interesting that Kaineus as an intersex figure is involved in the war between the Lapiths and Centaurs, a conflict which has its origins in a rapes at a wedding and is often seen as a reflection of the civilized Lapiths struggling against the primitive and violent urges of the Centaurs.

But, as can be seen from the relief below which dates to the early Archaic period, the punishment of Kaineus is a primary motif of the story tradition. In a way, if the sex-change and rape were equally ancient, this is a tale about a women who is raped ultimately being punished for surviving and thriving and exacting retribution for her suffering.

D Scholia ad Il. 264

“Kaineus was a son of Elatos and king of the Lapiths. He was a very beautiful virgin girl before. But after Poseidon had sex with her, she asked to be changed from a young woman into a man. And he became invulnerable, and the most excellent of those alive at the time. And after he stuck his javelin into the middle of the agora, he demanded to be entered into the number of the gods for this reason.

Zeus was annoyed by this request and he arranged the following type of payback from him for impiety. For, even though he was invincible, he made him less while he was fighting the Centaurs. For they were hurling and striking him with pines and oak trees and they drove him into the ground. Apollonius recalls this in the Argonautica saying this, “For the singers used to report the fame that Kaineus was killed by Centaurs, when he alone from the rest of the best drove them, they surged back. They were not strong enough to repel him nor to kill him, but he went under the earth, unbroken, unbent, pummeled by the striking force of powerful pines.”

Καινέα τε. Καὶ τὸν Καινέα. ὁ δὲ Και-
νεὺς ᾿Ελάτου μὲν παῖς, Λαπίθων δὲ βα-
σιλεὺς, πρότερον ἦν παρθένος εὐπρεπής.
μιγέντος δὲ αὐτῇ Ποσειδῶνος, αἰτησα-
μένη μεταβαλεῖν εἰς ἄνδρα ἡ νεᾶνις, ἄ-
τρωτος γίγνεται, γενναιότατος τῶν καθ’
αὑτὸν ὑπάρξας· καὶ δή ποτε πήξας ἀ-
κόντιον ἐν τῷ μεσαιτάτῳ τῆς ἀγορὰς,
θεοῖς τοῦτο προσέταξεν ἀριθμεῖν. δι’ ἣν
αἰτίαν ἀγανακτήσας ὁ Ζεὺς, τιμωρίαν
τῆς ἀσεβείας παρ’ αὐτοῦ εἰσεπράξατο.
μαχόμενον γὰρ αὐτὸν τοῖς Κενταύροις
καὶ ἄτρωτον ὄντα ὑποχείριον ἐποίησε.
βάλλοντες γὰρ αὐτὸν οἱ προειρημένοι δρυ-
σί τε καὶ ἐλάταις, ἤρεισαν εἰς γῆν.
μέμνηται δὲ αὐτοῦ καὶ ᾿Απολλώνιος ἐν
τοῖς ᾿Αργοναυτικοῖς λέγων οὕτως· Καινέα
γὰρ τὸν πρόσθεν ἐπικλείουσιν ἀοιδοὶ Κεν-
ταύροισιν ὀλέσθαι, ὅτε σφέας οἶος ἀπ’
ἄλλων ῎Ηλασ’ ἀριστήων· οἱ δ’ ἔμπαλιν
ὁρμηθέντες, Οὔτε μιν ἀγκλῖναι προτέρω
σθένον, οὔτε δαΐξαι· ᾿Αλλ’ ἄῤῥηκτος,
ἄκαμπτος ἐδύσσατο νειόθι γαίης, Θεινό-
μενος στιβαρῆσι καταΐγδην ἐλάτῃσιν.

This story is held up as a wistful impossibility by Plato in the laws. This passage is, well, upsetting.

Plato’s Laws 944d-c

“What then would be the right punishment for someone who has thrown away this kind of a power of a defensive weapon for the opposite? For it is not possible for a person to do the opposite of what they say the god did when he changed the Thessalian Kaineus from a women into a man. For one who throws away his shield, the opposite of this transformation, changing from a man into a women, in some way would be the best of all punishments for this.”

ζημία δὴ τῷ τὴν τοιαύτην ἀμυντηρίων ὅπλων εἰς τοὐναντίον ἀφέντι δύναμιν τίς ἄρα γίγνοιτ᾿ ἂν πρόσφορος; οὐ γὰρ δυνατὸν ἀνθρώπῳ δρᾷν τοὐναντίον <ἢ> ὥς2 ποτε θεόν φασι δρᾶσαι, Καινέα τὸν Θετταλὸν ἐκ γυναικὸς μεταβαλόντα εἰς ἀνδρὸς φύσιν ἦν γὰρ ἂν ἀνδρὶ ῥιψάσπιδι τρόπον τινὰ πρέπουσα πασῶν Εμάλιστα ἡ ᾿κείνῃ τῇ γενέσει ἐναντία γένεσις, εἰς γυναῖκα ἐξ ἀνδρὸς μεταβαλοῦσα, τιμωρία τούτῳ γενομένη.

Cicero Talks about Athens

Cicero, Brutus 26.7

“Greece is the witness to this because it was set aflame with a desire for eloquence and has surpassed in it and exceeded other places But Greece also has greater antiquity in all arts which it not only discovered but perfected because the power and abundance of speaking was developed by the Greeks. When I consider Greece, Atticus, your Athens occurs to me especially and shines out like a lighthouse. It is here that an orator first showed himself and here that oratory began to be entrusted to monuments and writings.”

vii. Testis est Graecia, quae cum eloquentiae studio sit incensa iamdiuque excellat in ea praestetque ceteris, tamen omnis artis vetustiores habet et multo ante non inventas solum sed etiam perfectas, quam haec est a Graecis elaborata dicendi vis atque copia. In quam cum intueor, maxime mihi occurrunt, Attice, et quasi lucent Athenae tuae, qua in urbe primum se orator extulit primumque etiam monumentis et litteris oratio est coepta mandari.

 

Cicero, Letters to Atticus, 5.10 27 (June 51)

“What else besides? Nothing really except for this. Athens has been a delight to me, when it comes to the city and its decoration and the love that its people show you, a certain kind of goodwill they have for us. But many things have been changed and philosophy is disordered this way and that. If there is anything left, it is Aristos’ and I am staying with him.

I left your, or rather ‘our’, friend Zeno to Quintus even though he is close enough that we are together the whole day. I wish that you will write me of your plans as soon as you can so I may know what you are doing and where you will be at which time and, especially, when you will be in Rome.

Quid est praeterea? nihil sane nisi illud: valde me Athenae delectarunt, urbe dumtaxat et urbis ornamento et hominum amore in te, in nos quadam benevolentia; sed mu<tata mu>lta.6 philosophia sursum deorsum. si quid est, est in Aristo, apud quem eram; nam Xenonem tuum vel nostrum potius Quinto concesseram, et tamen propter vicinitatem totos dies simul eramus. tu velim cum primum poteris tua consilia ad me scribas, ut sciam quid agas, ubi quoque tempore, maxime quando Romae futurus sis.

 

Cicero, Letters 6.1 20 Feb 50

“I wish you’d think about one thing also. I am hearing that Appius is building a gateway at Eleusis. Would we be fools if we made one at the Academia too? “I think so” you will answer. But, still, then—write this to me. I really do love Athens itself. I want there to be some memento in the city and I hate lying inscriptions on other’s statues. But do what pleases you. And let me know what day the Roman mysteries indicate and how the winter has been. Take care of yourself.”

Unum etiam velim cogites. audio Appium πρόπυλον Eleusine facere; num inepti fuerimus si nos quoque Aca<de>miae fecerimus? ‘puto’ inquies. ergo id ipsum scribes ad me. equidem valde ipsas Athenas amo; volo esse aliquod monumentum, odi falsas inscriptiones statuarum alienarum, sed ut tibi placebit, faciesque me in quem diem Romana incidant mysteria certiorem et quo modo hiemaris. cura ut valeas.

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Some Images from the Delphi Museum

The Delphi Museum, located near the archaeological site, is well-laid out and has some wonderful holdings. I have included some pictures of my favorites. (Unless otherwise noted, these images are all my own. Here’s another good page with some images.)

The museum’s first awe-inspiring sight are massive kouroi, identified by some as Kleobis and Biton.

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Odysseus under a ram (exiting Polyphemos’ cave, ostensibly)
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Herakles bringing the Erymanthian boar to Eurystheos
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Gold dedicated to Apollo
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A sphinx
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Herakles trying to steal the Pythia’s tripod
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Apollo with a lyre

The Bronze Charioteer is probably one of the museum’s most famous objects.

Some Sunsets and Sunrises in Greece

ἡ ἡλίου ἀνατολή: “sunrise”

ἅμ᾿ ἡλίῳ ἀνέχοντι: “at sunrise”

ἡ ἡλίου δύσις: “sunset

πρὸ ἡλίου δύντος: “before sunset”

 

 ῏Ημος δ’ ἠριγένεια φάνη ῥοδοδάκτυλος ᾿Ηώς,

“When mist-born, rosy-toed Dawn appeared again…” Il. 24.788

I was in Greece last week for the first time (I know, I know) and I tried to follow my own advice for living, so I was up early and out late. In a handful of days we were in Athens and Santorini, but we also visited Cape Sounion and Delphi. I will post some pictures from Delphi separately.

Here is the sunset from a restaurant in Fira (Thera), Santorini

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10 minutes or so later.

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Here is the Parthenon around sunrise from an early morning run.20180823_061209[1]

From the same day, the Acropolis at sunset from the Galaxy bar in the Hilton

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After sunset, the lights came on

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Here is the view from Cape Sounion an hour or so before sunset.

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The temple to Poseidon on Cape Sounion

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The Athenians are Nice! (A Roman Writes From Athens)

Cicero, Letters to Atticus, 5.10 27 (June 51)

“What else besides? Nothing really except for this. Athens has been a delight to me, when it comes to the city and its decoration and the love that its people show you, a certain kind of goodwill they have for us. But many things have been changed and philosophy is disordered this way and that. If there is anything left, it is Aristos’ and I am staying with him.

I left your, or rather ‘our’, friend Zeno to Quintus even though he is close enough that we are together the whole day. I wish that you will write me of your plans as soon as you can so I may know what you are doing and where you will be at which time and, especially, when you will be in Rome.

Quid est praeterea? nihil sane nisi illud: valde me Athenae delectarunt, urbe dumtaxat et urbis ornamento et hominum amore in te, in nos quadam benevolentia; sed mu<tata mu>lta.6 philosophia sursum deorsum. si quid est, est in Aristo, apud quem eram; nam Xenonem tuum vel nostrum potius Quinto concesseram, et tamen propter vicinitatem totos dies simul eramus. tu velim cum primum poteris tua consilia ad me scribas, ut sciam quid agas, ubi quoque tempore, maxime quando Romae futurus sis.

Image result for Roman Athens
The Roman Agora

That Rarified Athenian Air

Cicero, de Fato 7-8 [discussing ideas of Chrysippus and Posidonius]

“We observe how much of a difference there is between the characters of various places: some are healthy, others are unhealthy; we see that people in some places are phlegmatic and like people who have too much moisture while others are dried out and thirsty. There are many other significant differences between different places.

Athens has a rare climate from which the residents of Attica are considered to be smarter than others; it is humid at Thebes, and so the Thebans are thick and strong. Nevertheless, that sterling Athenian environments will not ensure that anyone listens to Zeno or Arcesilas or Theophrastus any more than the thick Theban air will prepare someone better to win at Nemea than in Corinth.”

Inter locorum naturas quantum intersit videmus: alios esse salubres, alios pestilentes, in aliis esse pituitosos et quasi redundantes, in aliis exsiccatos atque aridos; multaque sunt alia quae inter locum et locum plurimum differant. Athenis tenue caelum, ex quo etiamacutiores putantur Attici, crassum Thebis, itaque pingues Thebani et valentes. Tamen neque illud tenue caelum efficiet ut aut Zenonem quis aut Arcesilam aut Theophrastum audiat, neque crassum ut Nemea

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