Don’t Hurt A Lady Like Diomedes Did (Ovid, Amores 1.7, 31-34)

“The son of Tydeus left the worst example of crimes—
He struck a goddess first—but I did it second!
And he was less to blame: The one I profess to love
I hurt; Tydeus’ son was a beast with an enemy.”

pessima Tydides scelerum monimenta reliquit.
ille deam primus perculit—alter ego!
et minus ille nocens. mihi, quam profitebar amare
laesa est; Tydides saevus in hoste fuit.

In this poem, Ovid starts out by asking to be handcuffed because he struck his girlfriend. He compares himself to insane Ajax or Orestes, before spending some time speaking of Diomedes. Of course, a lot of this ‘play’ is just part of the self-mockery and generic-gaming of the Amores where our poet starts out by mentioned the “arms and violent wars” he was preparing (arma gravi numero violentaque bella parabam, 1.1.); but from a modern perspective, the conceit of writing a poem about the temporary “madness” that made one strike a lover, seems a bit less than funny. Indeed, it seems, well, primitive and, as Ovid puts it, saevus.

And, though Ovid at first appears to make light of Diomedes’ wounding of Aphrodite in the Iliad (book 5), he certainly knew (as evidenced by the Metamorphoses 14.460-510) that Diomedes’ act had some grave consequences. According to some authors, Diomedes came home to find his wife Aigialea shacked up with his own relative Kometes. He must shelter in the temple of Athena and then flee his own land. According to some accounts, he makes it to Italy where he marries the daughter of Daunos and gets a kingdom. According to others, he is killed on a hunting expedition, either on purpose, or by accident.

So, perhaps wounding Aphrodite was a mistake to begin with…but I do wonder how much Ovid wants us to think about this when singing of Diomedes.

Diomedes Out for Justice: Euripides’ fragmentary Oeneus and Calydonian Speech

Either after the end of the Trojan War or the completion of the second Seven Against Thebes, Diomedes is recorded by some as returning to Calydon (from where his father Tydeus had been exiled only to perish fighting around Thebes with Eteokles and Polyneikes). Diomedes returns to his ancestral land to restore the throne to the line of Oeneus (which had been pushed out by Agrios). According to this tradition, Diomedes restores Andraimon, the father of Thoas (who appears in the Iliad) to the throne.

Euripides’ play Oeneus on this subject is lost, but we do have a passage where Diomedes’ arrives:

“Dearest field of my father’s land, Hail,
Kalydon, from where Tydeus fled the shedding of kin-blood
that son of Oineus, my own father
who settled at Argos and took as wife a child of Adrastos”

ΔΙΟΜ. ῏Ω γῆς πατρῴας χαῖρε φίλτατον πέδον
Καλυδῶνος, ἔνθεν αἷμα συγγενὲς φυγὼν
Τυδεύς, τόκος μὲν Οἰνέως, πατὴρ δ’ ἐμός,
ᾤκησεν ῎Αργος, παῖδα δ’ ᾿Αδράστου λαβὼν

This fragment doesn’t tell us much about the myth that we didn’t already know. But the story doesn’t go so well for elderly Oeneus. Diomedes takes him from Calydon to the Peloponnese where he is ambushed and killed by the surviving descendants of Agrios. The name Agrios—“wild one”—appears rather blandly in the Iliad. But outside that epic he is listed as the father of Thersites, thus a cousin of Diomedes.

According to the epic tradition, Achilles eventually kills Thersites and Diomedes makes the former go through a purification. Thersites is famous in book 2 for his destructive speech. Diomedes proves himself to be a capable speaker increasingly through the Iliad. And, his relative Thoas is quite good himself:

The use of Thoas here is intriguing. He is listed in the catalogue as the leader of the Aitolians (2.638) but he is also marked out for being exceptional in speech (Iliad 15.281-4):

“Then Thoas the son of Andraimon spoke among them.
Of the Aitolians he was the most knowledgeable with the spear
And best at running. But few Achaeans could surpass him in the assembly
Whenever the young men used to make a contest of words.”

Τοῖσι δ’ ἔπειτ’ ἀγόρευε Θόας ᾿Ανδραίμονος υἱός,
Αἰτωλῶν ὄχ’ ἄριστος ἐπιστάμενος μὲν ἄκοντι
ἐσθλὸς δ’ ἐν σταδίῃ• ἀγορῇ δέ ἑ παῦροι ᾿Αχαιῶν
νίκων, ὁππότε κοῦροι ἐρίσσειαν περὶ μύθων•

What was in the water in Calydon? Oh, just to keep things interesting, Odysseus marries into the family too! With the bad blood in this town, family holidays must have been interesting…

Homer, Iliad 8.145-156

Diomedes, that expert of the war-cry, answered him thus:

“Yes, sir, you have indeed spoken truly, but this dread burden sets upon my heart and spirit, that one day, Hector will say when he is boasting among the Trojans, ‘The son of Tydeus, in his fear of me, retreated to his ships!’ Thus will he boast; and on that day, I hope the earth will swallow me in her dusty jaws.”

Nestor, the Gerenian horseman answered him thus:

“What a thing to say, thou burning-hearted son of Tydeus. If Hector should call you a knave or a coward, neither Trojan nor Dardanian will believe him, nor especially the wives of the great-spirited Trojan soldiers, since you have cast their once-stout husbands into the dirt.”

Τὸν δ’ ἠμείβετ’ ἔπειτα βοὴν ἀγαθὸς Διομήδης·

ναὶ δὴ ταῦτά γε πάντα γέρον κατὰ μοῖραν ἔειπες·

ἀλλὰ τόδ’ αἰνὸν ἄχος κραδίην καὶ θυμὸν ἱκάνει·

῞Εκτωρ γάρ ποτε φήσει ἐνὶ Τρώεσσ’ ἀγορεύων·

Τυδεΐδης ὑπ’ ἐμεῖο φοβεύμενος ἵκετο νῆας.

ὥς ποτ’ ἀπειλήσει· τότε μοι χάνοι εὐρεῖα χθών.

Τὸν δ’ ἠμείβετ’ ἔπειτα Γερήνιος ἱππότα Νέστωρ·

ὤ μοι Τυδέος υἱὲ δαΐφρονος, οἷον ἔειπες.

εἴ περ γάρ σ’ ῞Εκτωρ γε κακὸν καὶ ἀνάλκιδα φήσει,

ἀλλ’ οὐ πείσονται Τρῶες καὶ Δαρδανίωνες

καὶ Τρώων ἄλοχοι μεγαθύμων ἀσπιστάων,

τάων ἐν κονίῃσι βάλες θαλεροὺς παρακοίτας.