Who Punishes Gods for Doing Wrong?

Euripides Ion, 329-443

“Why does this woman abuse the god with words
And twist him up with constant riddles?
Is it because she loves the women she gets oracles for?
Is she keeping something silent because she needs to?
But why does Erekhtheus’ daughter matter to me?
She’s nothing to me! I will go to fill
The purificatory vessels with golden cups of water

I need to criticize Apollo. What’s he thinking?
He keeps ruining girls for marriage with rape
And producing children in secret only to ignore them
As they die. Don’t act this way, but since you can,
Pursue excellence. The gods punish any mortal
Who does wrong. How is it right for those who write
The laws for mortals to lead lawless lives?”

τί ποτε λόγοισιν ἡ ξένη πρὸς τὸν θεὸν
κρυπτοῖσιν αἰεὶ λοιδοροῦσ᾿ αἰνίσσεται;
ἤτοι φιλοῦσά γ᾿ ἧς ὕπερ μαντεύεται,
ἢ καί τι σιγῶσ᾿ ὧν σιωπᾶσθαι χρεών;
ἀτὰρ θυγατρὸς τῆς Ἐρεχθέως τί μοι
μέλει; προσήκει γ᾿ οὐδέν. ἀλλὰ χρυσέαις
πρόχοισιν ἐλθὼν εἰς ἀπορραντήρια
δρόσον καθήσω. νουθετητέος δέ μοι
Φοῖβος, τί πάσχει· παρθένους βίᾳ γαμῶν
προδίδωσι; παῖδας ἐκτεκνούμενος λάθρᾳ
θνῄσκοντας ἀμελεῖ; μὴ σύ γ᾿· ἀλλ᾿, ἐπεὶ κρατεῖς,
ἀρετὰς δίωκε. καὶ γὰρ ὅστις ἂν βροτῶν
κακὸς πεφύκῃ, ζημιοῦσιν οἱ θεοί.
πῶς οὖν δίκαιον τοὺς νόμους ὑμᾶς βροτοῖς
γράψαντας αὐτοὺς ἀνομίαν ὀφλισκάνειν

501-508

“Play your pipe, Pan
In your caves
Where some pitiful girl
Gave birth to a child with Apollo
And then exposed it as a feast
For the birds and beasts
The insult of their bitter ‘marriage’.
Never at the loom or in tales have I heard of
Mortal women having divine children and good fortune.”

συρίζεις, ὦ Πάν,
τοῖσι σοῖς ἐν ἄντροις,
ἵνα τεκοῦσά τις
παρθένος μελέα βρέφος
Φοίβῳ πτανοῖς ἐξόρισεν
θοίναν θηρσί τε φοινίαν
δαῖτα, πικρῶν γάμων ὕβριν·
οὔτ᾿ ἐπὶ κερκίσιν οὔτε †λόγοις† φάτιν
ἄιον εὐτυχίας μετέχειν θεόθεν τέκνα θνατοῖς.

Apollo on a coin

 

Apollo’s Esteem for Human Beings

Schol. BT ad. Il. 21.465

“Whenever the poet turns his gaze to divine nature, then he holds human affairs in contempt.”

ὅταν δὲ ἀποβλέψῃ εἰς τὴν θείαν φύσιν ὁ ποιητής, τότε τὰ ἀνθρώπινα πράγματα ἐξευτελίζει. b(BCE3)T

Iliad 5.440-442

“Think, son of Tydeus, step off, don’t wish to think
Equal to the gods, since not at all similar are the races
Of immortal gods and humans who walk on the ground.”

φράζεο Τυδεΐδη καὶ χάζεο, μηδὲ θεοῖσιν
ἶσ’ ἔθελε φρονέειν, ἐπεὶ οὔ ποτε φῦλον ὁμοῖον
ἀθανάτων τε θεῶν χαμαὶ ἐρχομένων τ’ ἀνθρώπων.

Iliad 21.461-465

“Then lord Apollo the far-shooter answered,
“Earthshaker, you would not think that I would be prudent
If indeed I fought with you over mortals,
Wretched men who are like the leaves now flourish
Until they grow full, eat the fruit of fields,
And then they diminish until they die…”

Τὸν δ’ αὖτε προσέειπεν ἄναξ ἑκάεργος ᾿Απόλλων·
ἐννοσίγαι’ οὐκ ἄν με σαόφρονα μυθήσαιο
ἔμμεναι, εἰ δὴ σοί γε βροτῶν ἕνεκα πτολεμίξω
δειλῶν, οἳ φύλλοισιν ἐοικότες ἄλλοτε μέν τε
ζαφλεγέες τελέθουσιν ἀρούρης καρπὸν ἔδοντες,
ἄλλοτε δὲ φθινύθουσιν ἀκήριοι…

 

Image result for Ancient greek vase apollo

Why Does Apollo Kill the Mules and Dogs First?

Hint: Either because he likes people. Or, animals have a good sense of smell.

Schol. A ad Il. 1.50c ex.

“First he [attacked] the mules and the fast dogs”

“Because the god is well-disposed toward human beings, he kills mules, dogs, and the other irrational beasts first, so that, by inducing fear through these [deaths], he might nurture proper reverence in the Greeks.

Or, it is because the mules and dogs have a more powerful perception of smell. For, dogs are really good at tracking beasts because of their sense of smell, and mules, when they are left behind, often rediscover their paths thanks to their sense of smell.”

<οὐρῆας μὲν πρῶτον ἐπῴχετο καὶ κύνας ἀργούς:>

φιλάνθρωπος ὢν ὁ θεὸς πρῶτον τὰς ἡμιόνους καὶ τοὺς κύνας καὶ τὰ ἄλογα ζῷα ἀναιρεῖ, ἵνα διὰ τούτων εἰς δέος ἀγαγὼν τοὺς ῞Ελληνας ἐπὶ τὸ εὐσεβεῖν παρασκευάσῃ. ἢ ὅτι αἱ ἡμίονοι καὶ οἱ κύνες τὴν αἴσθησιν τῆς ὀσφρήσεως ἐνεργεστέραν ἔχουσιν· οἱ μὲν γὰρ κύνες ἀπὸ τῆς ὀσφρήσεως τῶν ἰχνῶν ἐν αἰσθήσει τῶν θηρίων γίνονται, αἱ δὲ ἡμίονοι πολλάκις ἀπολειφθεῖσαι τινων ἀπὸ τῆς ὀσφρήσεως καὶ τὰς ὁδοὺς ἀνευρίσκουσιν.

I was reading the beginning of the Iliad with some students the other day and I opened up the scholia to see what various nonsense there was to support or deny Zenodotus’ editorial dismissal of lines 1.46-47 (ἔκλαγξαν δ’ ἄρ’ ὀϊστοὶ ἐπ’ ὤμων χωομένοιο, / αὐτοῦ κινηθέντος· ὃ δ’ ἤϊε νυκτὶ ἐοικώς.). I started looking ahead and saw this! As other students might attest, this is what often happens in my advanced Greek classes–we discuss the strangeness of a thing, we check the apparatus, I hoot or holler over some editorial intervention, and then I open the scholia: look, this is absurd. and wonderful. and mad. and I love it.

Additional note: On 1.50, Aristonicus denies the claims by by some rogues that “mules” here is a word for “guards”; the bT scholia make the quasi-scientific claim that these animals are more susceptible to diseases than humans. I like the idea of Apollo trying to teach people a lesson before just murdering them all.

Lessons.

Some Pictures from Delphi

The site of Delphi, famous for the Oracle of Pythian Apollo, is impossible to show in one image. Far from any major city, it sits on the side of Mt. Parnassus and includes ruins of the sacred way, many dedicatory treasuries, a temple to Apollo, a theater, and, higher up, as stadium. Below the modern road, there is also an athletic training ground and a temple complex dedicated to Athena.

Here’s the view of the mountain peak from the museum:

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The remains of the temple to Apollo:

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A site model in the museum:

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One site plan:

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A view of the gymnasium below the sacred way and the valley:

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The theater (which seats around 5000)

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A drawing of the site plan:

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An image of the theater from above:

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The stadium above the theater (not my image):

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The temple of Athena Pronaia:

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The modern Museum:

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The second post will highlight some of my favorite pieces in this museum

Apollo’s Esteem for Human Beings

Schol. BT ad. Il. 21.465

“Whenever the poet turns his gaze to divine nature, then he holds human affairs in contempt.”

ὅταν δὲ ἀποβλέψῃ εἰς τὴν θείαν φύσιν ὁ ποιητής, τότε τὰ ἀνθρώπινα πράγματα ἐξευτελίζει. b(BCE3)T

Iliad 5.440-442

“Think, son of Tydeus, step off, don’t wish to think
Equal to the gods, since not at all similar are the races
Of immortal gods and humans who walk on the ground.”

φράζεο Τυδεΐδη καὶ χάζεο, μηδὲ θεοῖσιν
ἶσ’ ἔθελε φρονέειν, ἐπεὶ οὔ ποτε φῦλον ὁμοῖον
ἀθανάτων τε θεῶν χαμαὶ ἐρχομένων τ’ ἀνθρώπων.

Iliad 21.461-465

“Then lord Apollo the far-shooter answered,
“Earthshaker, you would not think that I would be prudent
If indeed I fought with you over mortals,
Wretched men who are like the leaves now flourish
Until they grow full, eat the fruit of fields,
And then they diminish until they die…”

Τὸν δ’ αὖτε προσέειπεν ἄναξ ἑκάεργος ᾿Απόλλων·
ἐννοσίγαι’ οὐκ ἄν με σαόφρονα μυθήσαιο
ἔμμεναι, εἰ δὴ σοί γε βροτῶν ἕνεκα πτολεμίξω
δειλῶν, οἳ φύλλοισιν ἐοικότες ἄλλοτε μέν τε
ζαφλεγέες τελέθουσιν ἀρούρης καρπὸν ἔδοντες,
ἄλλοτε δὲ φθινύθουσιν ἀκήριοι…

 

Image result for Ancient greek vase apollo

The Death of Phaethon: An Aetiology for an Eclipse

Ovid, Metamorphoses 2.381-93

“All along, Phaethon’s father, filthy and bereft
Of his own light, the way he is when the sun is eclipsed,
He hates the light and himself and the day
And he dedicates his soul to sorrow and adds rage
To his mourning as he refuses his duty to the world.

‘I’m done. From the beginning my lot has been restless.
My job without end, without honor for my work, has embittered me.
Let some other, anyone, drive the chariot carrying the light.
If there is no one and all the gods claim they cannot do it,
Let the father himself drive it so that, at some point, as he controls the reins,
And he puts down the bolts that make fathers barren,
Then he will understand, once he knows the strength of the fire-footed stallions,
That he did not earn death just because he did not rule them well.’ ”

Squalidus interea genitor Phaethontis et expers
ipse sui decoris, qualis, cum deficit orbem,
esse solet, lucemque odit seque ipse diemque
datque animum in luctus et luctibus adicit iram
officiumque negat mundo. “satis” inquit “ab aevi
sors mea principiis fuit inrequieta, pigetque
actorum sine fine mihi, sine honore laborum!
quilibet alter agat portantes lumina currus!
si nemo est omnesque dei non posse fatentur,
ipse agat ut saltem, dum nostras temptat habenas,
orbatura patres aliquando fulmina ponat!
tum sciet ignipedum vires expertus equorum
non meruisse necem, qui non bene rexerit illos.”

 

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Ovid, Amores 3.12: 13-20: Hating Verse, Loving Corinna

“Whether my songs help me or hurt me I am not sure:
But they have been an obstacle to my good fortune.
Though there was Thebes, Troy or Caesar’s deed,
It was Corinna alone who moved me.
I wish the Muses has turned away when I began my songs,
Or that Apollo had refused the work begun.
It is still not the custom to admit a poet as a witness;
I wish that my words had lacked all weight.”

An prosint, dubium, nocuerunt carmina semper;
invidiae nostris illa fuere bonis.
cum Thebae, cum Troia foret, cum Caesaris acta,
ingenium movit sola Corinna meum.
aversis utinam tetigissem carmina Musis,
Phoebus et inceptum destituisset opus!
Nec tamen ut testes mos est audire poetas;
malueram verbis pondus abesse meis.

Aiakos, Aegina and the Building and Destruction of Troy: Pindar,Olympian 8

According to some authors Aiakos, who ends up as a judge of the dead in the underworld, was the son of Zeus and Europa. According to others (Pindar, Corinna) he was son of Zeus and Aegina (Or Poseidon and Aegina). When Poseidon and Apollo went to build the walls of Troy, they took Aiakos along to help them. A scholiast reports that it had to happen this way: since a mortal helped build the walls, they were not wholly invincible.
Pindar’s account of this emphasizes an omen that appeared at the completion of the walls. In his telling, Apollo interprets the omen as indicating that the descendants of Aiakos will be instrumental in the destruction of the city. Who are his descendants? Ajax, Achilles. Oh, Neoptolemos and Epeius the builder of the Trojan horse too!
(go here for the full Ode and a good commentary).

Pindar, Ol. 8.24-54

“For whatever weighs a great deal is hard
To judge with a fair mind at the right time.
But some law of the gods established this sea-protected land [Aegina]
As a sacred pillar
For every kind of stranger.
May rising time never tire
Of making this true
for this land tended by the Dorian people since Aiakos’ time.
It was Aiakos that Leto’s son and wide-ruling Apollo took
When they were going to build a wall around Troy. They summoned him
As a coworker for the wall. For it was fated that
When wars arose in the city-sacking battles,
That the wall would breathe out twisting smoke.
When the wall was just built, three dark serpents
Leapt up at it: two fell against it
and, stunned, lost their lives.
One rose up with cries of mourning.
Apollo interpreted this sign immediately and said:
“Pergamos will be sacked, hero, by your hands’ deeds:
So this sacred vision says to me
Sent by loud-thundering Zeus.
And it won’t be done without your sons: the city will be slaughtered by the first
And the third generations.*” So the god spoke clearly
And he rode Xanthus to the well-horsed Amazons and to the Danube.
The trident-bearer directed his swift-chariot.
To the sea by the Isthmus
Bearing Aiakos here
With golden horses,
Gazing upon the ridge of Corinth, famous for its feasts.
But nothing is equally pleasing among men.”

… ὅ τι γὰρ πολὺ καὶ πολλᾷ ῥέπῃ,
ὀρθᾷ διακρίνειν φρενὶ μὴ παρὰ καιρόν,
δυσπαλές: τεθμὸς δέ τις ἀθανάτων καὶ τάνδ᾽ ἁλιερκέα χώραν
παντοδαποῖσιν ὑπέστασε ξένοις
κίονα δαιμονίαν
ὁ δ᾽ ἐπαντέλλων χρόνος
τοῦτο πράσσων μὴ κάμοι
Δωριεῖ λαῷ ταμιευομέναν ἐξ Αἰακοῦ:
τὸν παῖς ὁ Λατοῦς εὐρυμέδων τε Ποσειδᾶν,
Ἰλίῳ μέλλοντες ἐπὶ στέφανον τεῦξαι, καλέσαντο συνεργὸν
τείχεος, ἦν ὅτι νιν πεπρωμένον
ὀρνυμένων πολέμων
πτολιπόρθοις ἐν μάχαις
λάβρον ἀμπνεῦσαι καπνόν.
γλαυκοὶ δὲ δράκοντες, ἐπεὶ κτίσθη νέον,
πύργον ἐσαλλόμενοι τρεῖς, οἱ δύο μὲν κάπετον,
αὖθι δ᾽ ἀτυζομένω ψυχὰς βάλον:
εἷς δ᾽ ἀνόρουσε βοάσαις.
ἔννεπε δ᾽ ἀντίον ὁρμαίνων τέρας εὐθὺς, Ἀπόλλων:
‘ Πέργαμος ἀμφὶ τεαῖς, ἥρως, χερὸς ἐργασίαι ἁλίσκεται:
ὣς ἐμοὶ φάσμα λέγει Κρονίδα
πεμφθὲν βαρυγδούπου Διός:
οὐκ ἄτερ παίδων σέθεν, ἀλλ᾽ ἅμα πρώτοις ῥάζεται
καὶ τερτάτοις.’ ὣς ἆρα θεὸς σάφα εἴπαις
Ξάνθον ἤπειγεν καὶ Ἀμαζόνας εὐίππους καὶ ἐς Ἴστρον ἐλαύνων.
Ὀρσοτρίαινα δ᾽ ἐπ᾽ Ἰσθμῷ ποντίᾳ
ἅρμα θοὸν τανύεν,
ἀποπέμπων Αἰακὸν
δεῦρ᾽ ἀν᾽ ἵπποις χρυσέαις,
καὶ Κορίνθου δειράδ᾽ ἐποψόμενος δαιτικλυτάν.
τερπνὸν δ᾽ ἐν ἀνθρώποις ἴσον ἔσσεται οὐδέν.

*First and Third generation: Aiakos had two sons (Telemon and Peleus) with Endeis and one with another woman (Phocus). Telemon and Peleus killed their half-brother; but the three sons fathered Ajax, Achilles and Panopeus (Phocus). The latter two grandsons fathered Neoptolemus and Epeios. Achilles’ son Neoptolemus helped take Troy; Epeios built the wooden horse.

Zeus – Aegina
|
Endeis – Aiakos – Psamathe
|                 |
Telamon Peleus                  Phocus
|                |                        |
Ajax       Achilles                  Panopeus
|               |                                  |
Neoptolemus                 Epeios

Arriving in Italy, But Not at the Journey’s End: Aeneid 6.1-12

I am currently in Siena, Italy (leading a summer study-abroad program for the month). My travels took about 20 hours followed by a mad search through Florence for a lost student who had neither phone nor money. (And today I travel south to retrieve more students from Rome!). I arrived in Siena tired and worn. But once I opened the Aeneid to consider Aeneas’ arrival on the Italian peninsula, I realized my complaints were quite unbecoming:

“He spoke this crying and then gave rein to the fleet
And they finally reached the Eubaean shores of Cumae.
They turn the prows toward the sea and then fasten the ships
safe by anchor where the curved boats make a shelter
on the shore. An eager band of youths leap down
on the Italian strand; one part seeks the seeds of flame
contained in a flint’s vein; another seizes trees
used as beasts’ thick roofs; and another traces along the river’s path.
But dutiful Aeneas climbs the hills where Apollo rules
On high and seeks the hollow cave of the horrid Sibyl,
the prophet whose mind and great soul the Delian inspires
as he lays open for her the secrets yet to come.”

Sic fatur lacrimans, classique immittit habenas,
et tandem Euboïcis Cumarum adlabitur oris.
Obvertunt pelago proras; tum dente tenaci
ancora fundabat naves, et litora curvae
praetexunt puppes. Iuvenum manus emicat ardens
litus in Hesperium; quaerit pars semina flammae
abstrusa in venis silicis, pars densa ferarum
tecta rapit silvas, inventaque flumina monstrat.
At pius Aeneas arces, quibus altus Apollo
praesidet, horrendaeque procul secreta Sibyllae
antrum immane petit, magnum cui mentem animumque
Delius inspirat vates, aperitque futura.

Aeschylus, Eumenides: Some Highlights on Man, Mortality and Law

368-371

 

“Mankind’s delusions so sacred under the sky

Shrink as they melt on the earth without honor.”

 

—       δόξαι δ’ ἀνδρῶν καὶ μάλ’ ὑπ’ αἰθέρι σεμναὶ

τακόμεναι κατὰ γᾶς μινύθουσιν ἄτιμοι

 

470-471

“This affair is greater than anyone who is mortal can judge”

 

Αθ.       τὸ πρᾶγμα μεῖζον ἤ τις οἴεται τόδε

βροτοῖς δικάζειν·

 

526-9

 

“Choose neither the anarchic life nor one of despotism.

God gives strength to the middle in all things.”

 

μήτ’ ἄναρκτον βίον

μήτε δεσποτούμενον

αἰνέσῃς.

παντὶ μέσῳ τὸ κράτος θεὸς ὤπασεν

 

644-651: Apollo on Mortal Life

 

“After the dust has soaked up the blood

Of a dying man, there is no resurrection.

My father can’t cast a spell on this

But all other things he can turn back and forth

Without losing his breath at all.”

 

ἀνδρὸς δ’ ἐπειδὰν αἷμ’ ἀνασπάσῃ κόνις

ἅπαξ θανόντος, οὔτις ἔστ’ ἀνάστασις.

τούτων ἐπῳδὰς οὐκ ἐποίησεν πατὴρ

οὑμός, τὰ δ’ ἄλλα πάντ’ ἄνω τε καὶ κάτω

στρέφων τίθησιν οὐδὲν ἀσθμαίνων μένει.

 

 

696-7: Athena on the right government

 

“I counsel the citizens here to revere

Neither anarchy nor despotism

And never to cast fear out of this city.”

 

τὸ μήτ’ ἄναρχον μήτε δεσποτούμενον

ἀστοῖς περιστέλλουσι βουλεύω σέβειν,

καὶ μὴ τὸ δεινὸν πᾶν πόλεως ἔξω βαλεῖν.

 

 

704-706: Athena on the establishment of Trial by Jury

 

“This court must be established free of personal gain,

Revered, sharp-hearted, a wakeful guard I set over the land

For the sleeping people.”

 

κερδῶν ἄθικτον τοῦτο βουλευτήριον,

αἰδοῖον, ὀξύθυμον, εὑδόντων ὕπερ

ἐγρηγορὸς φρούρημα γῆς καθίσταμαι.