Why Does Telemachus Go to The Assembly with Two Dogs?

Odyssey 2.10-11

“He went to go to the assembly—he held a bronze spear in his hand
And he was not alone, two swift dogs were accompanying him.”

βῆ ῥ’ ἴμεν εἰς ἀγορήν, παλάμῃ δ’ ἔχε χάλκεον ἔγχος,
οὐκ οἶος, ἅμα τῷ γε δύω κύνες ἀργοὶ ἕποντο.

Scholia ad. Od. 2.11

[HMQ Scholia]“Two dogs [were accompanying him]”: Some think this signals the rustic life of the ancients; or that the animal follows because it loves to follow not by Telemachus’ choice.

[M Scholia]: “Or it was the custom for ancients for have a dog accompany them as a guard, as Hesiod claims. And Telemachus brings two because of his comparative weakness and the threat of his enemies.

ἅμα τῷγε δύω κύνες] τοῦτό τινες σημειοῦνται πρὸς τὸν ἄγροικον τῶν παλαιῶν βίον. ἢ ὡς φιλακόλουθον τὸ ζῷον ἕπεται οὐ κατὰ προαίρεσιν αὐτοῦ. E.M.Q.

ἢ ἔθος ἦν τοῖς ἀρχαίοις ἕνα κύνα κομεῖν πρὸς φυλακὴν, ὡς καὶ ῾Ησίοδος. ὁ δὲ Τηλέμαχος διὰ τὸ ἀσφαλέστερον καὶ τὴν ἐπήρειαν τῶν ἐχθρῶν δύο ἐκέκτητο. M.


Image result for Ancient Greek hunting dogs vase

Homer had a real concern for dogs as reflected in the epigram attributed to him by the pseudo-Herodotean Life of Homer:

Epigram 11

“Glaukos, overseer, I will place another saying in your thoughts:
Give the dogs dinner first near the courtyard’s gates.
This is better: for the dog hears first when a man
Approaches or if a wild beast dares near the fence.”

Γλαῦκε πέπων, ἐπιών τοι ἔπος τι ἐνὶ φρεσὶ θήσω•
πρῶτον μὲν κυσὶ δεῖπνον ἐπ’ αὐλείῃσι θύρῃσι
δοῦναι• ὣς γὰρ ἄμεινον• ὃ γὰρ καὶ πρῶτον ἀκούει
ἀνδρὸς ἐπερχομένου καὶ ἐς ἕρκεα θηρὸς ἰόντος.

“The Dog’s Grave”: Did Odysseus Kill Hecuba?

At the end of Euripides’ Trojan Women, Hektor’s mother Hekabe (Hecuba) is taken as a servant by Odysseus. Hekabe, however, does not make it back to Ithaka or appear in the Odyssey. What happens?


Apollodorus Epitome, 5.23

“After killing the Trojan men, they burned the city and divided the spoils. Once they had sacrificed to all the gods, they threw Astyanax from the towers and sacrificed Polyxena on Achilles’ tomb. As a reward, Agamemnon took Kasandra, Neoptolemos took Andromakhe, and Odysseus took Hekabê. Some report that Helenos took her and he crossed to the Chersonnese with her and buried her there after she turned into a dog. This place is now called “Dog’s Grave”.

[23] κτείναντες δὲ τοὺς Τρῶας τὴν πόλιν ἐνέπρησαν καὶ τὰ λάφυρα ἐμερίσαντο. καὶ θύσαντες πᾶσι τοῖς θεοῖς Ἀστυάνακτα ἀπὸ τῶν πύργων ἔρριψαν, Πολυξένην δὲ ἐπὶ τῷ Ἀχιλλέως τάφῳ κατέσφαξαν. λαμβάνει δὲ Ἀγαμέμνων μὲν κατ᾽ ἐξαίρετον Κασάνδραν, Νεοπτόλεμος δὲ Ἀνδρομάχην, Ὀδυσσεὺς δὲ Ἑκάβην. ὡς δὲ ἔνιοι λέγουσιν, Ἕλενος αὐτὴν λαμβάνει, καὶ διακομισθεὶς εἰς Χερρόνησον σὺν αὐτῇ κύνα γενομένην θάπτει, ἔνθα νῦν λέγεται Κυνὸς σῆμα.

This story seems a bit strange, but it is not the only passage that combines a remarkable burial place for Hecuba and Odysseus’ winning of her.


“Dog’s Grave”: Odysseus, once he sailed to Marôneia during the departure from Troy and because he did not agree to leave the ships assailed them in war and took all their wealth. There, because she was cursing the army and making a ruckus, he killed Hekabe by stoning her and buried her near the sea, naming the place the “Bitch’s Grave”.

Κυνὸς σῆμα: ᾿Οδυσσεὺς κατὰ τὸν ἀπόπλουν παραπλεύσας εἰς Μαρώνειαν καὶ μὴ συγχωρούμενος τῶν νεῶν ἀποβῆναι διακρίνεται τούτοις πολέμῳ καὶ λαμβάνει τὸν πλοῦτον αὐτῶν ἅπαντα. ἐκεῖ δὲ τὴν ῾Εκάβην καταρωμένην τῷ στρατῷ καὶ θορύβους κινοῦσαν λίθων βολαῖς ἀνεῖλε καὶ παρὰ τὴν θάλασσαν καλύπτει, ὀνομάσας τὸν τόπον Κυνὸς σῆμα.


Why did Hecuba turn into a dog?

Scholia to Lykophron’s Alexandra, 1176. 14-17

“They say that Hekabe was a witch and a follower of Hekate and for this reason, even if they are speaking nonsense, Hekabe turned into a dog when she was killed with stones. They also say that black, frightening dogs accompanied Hekate.”

ἑπωπίδα δὲ καὶ ἀκόλουθον τῆς ῾Εκάτης φησὶ τὴν ῾Εκάβην, ὅτι, καθάπερ ληροῦσιν (13128), ἡ ῾Εκάβη κύων γεγονυῖα λίθοις ἀνῃρέθη· καὶ τῇ ῾Εκάτῃ δέ
φασιν ἕπεσθαι κύνας μελαίνας φοβεράς. (Ap. Γ 1217)


It is not always the case that Odysseus stoned Hekabe:

Scholia to Euripides’ Hecuba 1259.10-12

“The story is that Hecuba was turned into a dog’s shape and then climbed down to the lowest part of the mast or the sailyard. He threw her into the sea and she drowned.”

μυθεύεται γὰρ ὡς εἰς κυνὸς εἶδος μεταβληθεῖσα ῾Εκάβη καὶ ἀνελθοῦσα ἐν τῷ ἀνωτάτῳ τοῦ ἱστοῦ, ἤτοι τοῦ κέρατος, ἔρριψεν αὑτὴν εἰς τὴν θάλασσαν καὶ ἀπεπνίγη.


And some see Euripides’ play Hecuba as anticipating the famous tomb:

Scholia to Euripides’Hecuba, 1271-2:

The tomb will have your name: You grave, he means, will take your name in popular knowledge. For everyone will call it the tomb of the dog. Asclepiades says that people call it the “Tomb of the Ill-fated Dog”

An enchanter of form”: Instead of a nickname based on my form, the grave will be named for what I have now or something else you said. As Polymestor predicts. The grave will not be named for Hekabe, but will be known to sailors as the “Dog’s Grave”. Whenever sailors come to that place where Hekabe’s grave is, then they will know they are nearing dry land.”

† τύμβῳ δ’ ὄνομα σὸν κεκλήσεται: ὁ τάφος σου, φησὶν,τὸ σὸν ὄνομα εἰς κλῆσιν λάβῃ. πάντες γὰρ κυνὸς τάφον αὐτὸν καλοῦσι, καὶ ᾿Ασκληπιάδης φησὶν ὅτι κυνὸς καλοῦσι δυσμόρου σῆμα: —A

† μορφῆς ἐπῳδόν: ἀντὶ τοῦ ἐπώνυμον τῆς ἐμῆς μορφῆς κληθήσεται τὸ σῆμα ἧς ἔχω νῦν, ἢ τί ἕτερον εἴπῃς. καί φησι Πολυμήστωρ· οὐ τάφος ῾Εκάβης κληθήσεται, ἀλλὰ κυνὸς σημεῖον τοῖς ναύταις ἐπίδηλον· ὅταν γὰρ ἀπέλθωσιν εἰς ἐκεῖνον τὸν τόπον οἱ ναῦται ἔνθαἐστὶν ὁ τῆς ῾Εκάβης τάφος, τότε γινώσκουσιν ὡς εἰς ξηράν εἰσιν: —A

Schol. to Euripides’ Hecuba 1273.1-2

“Of a wretched dog”: Asclepiades also says concerning the Dog’s Grave that some people call it the “Tomb of the Ill-Fated Dog.

κυνὸς ταλαίνης: περὶ τοῦ κυνὸς σήματος καὶ ᾿Ασκληπιάδηςφησὶν ὅτι κυνὸς καλοῦσι δυσμόρου σῆμα: —B


Polyxena. Another one of Hecuba’s children slaughtered

Why Does Odysseus Cry over His Dog but Not His Wife?

Plutarch, De Tranquilitate 475a


“The poet illustrates well how powerful the unexpected can be. For Odysseus wept when his dog was fawning on him, but he showed no emotion at all when he sat next to his weeping wife. In the second scene, he arrived with his emotions in hand and managed by reason, but in the earlier he encountered something surprising, all of a sudden, without expecting it.”


εὖ δὲ καὶ ὁ ποιητὴς οἷόν ἐστι τὸ παρὰ προσδοκίαν ἐδίδαξεν· ὁ γὰρ ᾿Οδυσσεὺς τοῦ μὲν κυνὸς σαίνοντος ἐξεδάκρυσε (ρ 302. 304), τῇ δὲ γυναικὶ κλαιούσῃ παρακαθήμενος οὐδὲν ἔπαθε τοιοῦτον (τ 211)· ἐνταῦθα μὲν γὰρ ἀφῖκτο τῷ λογισμῷ τὸ πάθος ὑποχείριον ἔχων καὶ προκατειλημμένον, εἰς δ’ ἐκεῖνον μὴ προσδοκήσας ἀλλ’ ἐξαίφνης *** διὰ τὸ παράδοξον ἐνέπεσε.


Here’s the  moment in question:
Hom. Odyssey 17.300-305

“There lay the dog, Argos, covered with pests.
But then, where he recognized that Odysseus was coming near,
He wagged his tail and flattened both ears,
But he could no longer rise to meet his master.
Then Odysseus looked sideways and wiped away a tear,
Easily escaping Eumaios’ notice; then he questioned him.”

ἔνθα κύων κεῖτ’ ῎Αργος ἐνίπλειος κυνοραιστέων.
δὴ τότε γ’, ὡς ἐνόησεν ᾿Οδυσσέα ἐγγὺς ἐόντα,
οὐρῇ μέν ῥ’ ὅ γ’ ἔσηνε καὶ οὔατα κάββαλεν ἄμφω,
ἄσσον δ’ οὐκέτ’ ἔπειτα δυνήσατο οἷο ἄνακτος
ἐλθέμεν· αὐτὰρ ὁ νόσφιν ἰδὼν ἀπομόρξατο δάκρυ,
ῥεῖα λαθὼν Εὔμαιον, ἄφαρ δ’ ἐρεείνετο μύθῳ·

Go here for the full scene (the tale of Argos’ youth and his sudden death…)

Philosophers and Snapping Dogs: Two Fragments from Pacuvius

Pacuvius, fr. 11

Zethus: “I hate all men of base deeds and philosophical speech.”

Odi ego homines ignava operaet philosopha sententia

Pacuvius fr, 47-8

“For a dog, when it is hit by a rock, doesn’t retaliate against the man
Who threw it, but instead it lashes out at the stone that hit it.”

Nam canis, quando est percussa lapida, non tam illum adpetit
Qui sese icit, quam illum eumpse lapidem, qui ipsa icta est, petit

Crazy Love: Xerxes Fell in Love with a Tree (Aelian, Varia Historia 9.39)

“How could someone deny that the following types of love affairs are ridiculous and incredible? They say that Xerxes fell in love with a plane tree. An Athenian youth from a noble family was in love with a statue of Good fortune that stood near the Prytany. He used to show his affection by putting embracing the statue and then, out of mind and struck by desire, he went to the council-chamber and pleaded that he was prepared to spend however much money was needed to buy the statue. When he could not persuade them, he decorated the statue with crowns and garlands and he made a sacrifice, wrapped even more decoration around it, and then ended his own life after weeping endlessly. Some men say that a dog loved Glaukê the Kithara-player; others say it was a ram or a goose. Among the Soloi in Kilikia, a dog was loved by a boy named Xenophon; and at Sparta, a crow fell in love with a good-looking boy.”

Πῶς δὲ οὐκ ἂν φαίη τις γελοίους ἅμα καὶ παραδόξους τούσδε τοὺς ἔρωτας; τὸν μὲν Ξέρξου, ὅτι πλατάνου ἠράσθη. νεανίσκος δὲ ᾿Αθήνησι τῶν εὖ γεγονότων πρὸς τῷ πρυτανείῳ ἀνδριάντος ἑστῶτος τῆς ᾿Αγαθῆς Τύχης θερμότατα ἠράσθη. κατεφίλει γοῦν τὸν ἀνδριάντα περιβάλλων, εἶτα ἐκμανεὶς καὶ οἰστρηθεὶς ὑπὸ τοῦ πόθου, παρελθὼν ἐς τὴν βουλὴν καὶ λιτανεύσας ἕτοιμος ἦν πλείστων χρημάτων τὸ ἄγαλμα πρίασθαι. ἐπεὶ δὲ οὐκ ἔπειθεν, ἀναδήσας πολλαῖς ταινίαις καὶ στεφανώσας τὸ ἄγαλμα καὶ θύσας καὶ κόσμον αὐτῷ περιβαλὼν πολυτελῆ εἶτα ἑαυτὸν ἀπέκτεινε, μυρία προκλαύσας. Γλαύκης δὲ τῆς κιθαρῳδοῦ οἳ μέν φασιν ἐρασθῆναι κύνα, οἳ δὲ κριόν, οἳ δὲ χῆνα. καὶ ἐν Σόλοις δὲ τῆς Κιλικίας παιδὸς Ξενοφῶντος ἠράσθη κύων, ἄλλου δὲ ὡραίου μειρακίου ἐν Σπάρτῃ κολοιός.

Missed Your Target But Hit Your Step-Mother? That’s Not So Bad: Plutarch on Adapting to Chance

Plutarch, On The Tranquility of Mind, 467 C-D

“Thoughtful men–just a bees have find honey in thyme, the most bitter and driest plants–extract something fitting and useful to themselves even from the most adverse situations.

It is necessary that we practice and take care of this first, like the man who missed a dog with a stone but struck his step-mother instead and said “That’s not so bad”. For it is possible to change our reception of chance from undesired outcomes. Diogenes was sent into exile? “That’s not so bad!” For he began to become a philosopher after his exile.”

οἱ δὲ φρόνιμοι, καθάπερ ταῖς μελίτταις μέλι φέρει τὸ δριμύτατον καὶ ξηρότατον ὁ θύμος, οὕτως ἀπὸ τῶν δυσχερεστάτων πολλάκις πραγμάτων οἰκεῖόν τι καὶ χρήσιμον αὑτοῖς λαμβάνουσι.

Τοῦτ’ οὖν δεῖ πρῶτον ἀσκεῖν καὶ μελετᾶν, ὥσπερ ὁ τῆς κυνὸς ἁμαρτὼν τῷ λίθῳ καὶ τὴν μητρυιὰν πατάξας ‘οὐδ’ οὕτως’ ἔφη ‘κακῶς•’ ἔξεστι γὰρ μεθιστάναι τὴν τύχην ἐκ τῶν ἀβουλήτων. ἐφυγαδεύθη Διογένης• ‘οὐδ’ οὕτως κακῶς’• ἤρξατο γὰρ φιλοσοφεῖν μετὰ τὴν φυγήν.

Aratus, Phenomena 1134-43: Mice, Dogs, Crabs and the Weather

“Mice too, if ever squeaking louder in good weather
They leapt and seemed like dancers,
Were not ignored by ancient weathermen.
Nor were dogs, since a dog digs with both paws
Whenever he expects that a storm is coming on.
The mice will prophesy the same storm.
And, truly, the crab comes to land from the water
When the storm comes, seeking to begin a journey.
The mice who turn their strawbeds with feet at day
Long for sleep whenever signs of rain appear.
Disregard none of these things: it is good to find a sign
to confirm another: when two go the same way together,
Hope increases; you can be brave with a third.”

᾿Αλλὰ γὰρ οὐδὲ μύες, τετριγότες εἴ ποτε μᾶλλον
εὔδιοι ἐσκίρτησαν ἐοικότες ὀρχηθμοῖσιν,
ἄσκεπτοι ἐγένοντο παλαιοτέροις ἀνθρώποις,
οὐδὲ κύνες• καὶ γάρ τε κύων ὠρύξατο ποσσὶν
ἀμφοτέροις χειμῶνος ἐπερχομένοιο δοκεύων,
κἀκεῖνοι χειμῶνα μύες τότε μαντεύονται.
[Καὶ μὴν ἐξ ὕδατος καὶ καρκίνος ᾤχετο χέρσον
χειμῶνος μέλλοντος, ἐπαΐσσεσθαι ὁδοῖο.
Καὶ μύες ἡμέριοι ποσσὶ στιβάδα στρωφῶντες
κοίτης ἱμείρονται, ὅτ’ ὄμβρου σήματα φαίνῃ.]
Τῶν μηδὲν κατόνοσσο• καλὸν δ’ ἐπὶ σήματι σῆμα
σκέπτεσθαι• μᾶλλον δὲ δυεῖν εἰς ταὐτὸν ἰόντων
ἐλπωρὴ τελέθοι• τριτάτῳ δέ κε θαρσήσειας.