The Last Mythic Hero

Pausanias, 6.9.6-9

“In the Olympiad before that one they say that Kleomêdês the Astupalaian killed the Epidaurian Hippos while boxing him. When he was charged by the referees with cheating and was deprived of the victory, he went out of his mind with grief and returned to Astupalaia.

There, he attacked a school there which held as many as sixty children and knocked down the pillar which supported the roof. After the roof fell on the children, the citizens threw stones at Kleomêdês and he fled into the Temple of Athena. Inside, he climbed into a chest and closed the lid over him.

The Astupalaians wore themselves out trying to open or break the chest. When they finally broke open the chest and did not find Kleomêdês there dead or alive, they send representatives to Delphi to ask what kind of thing had happened with Kleomêdês. The Pythia is said to have given the oracle that:

Kleomêdês the Astupalaian was the last of the heroes—
Honor him with sacrifices since he is no longer mortal.”

For this reason the Astupalaians have honored Kleomêdês as a hero since that time.

τῇ δὲ Ὀλυμπιάδι τῇ πρὸ ταύτης Κλεομήδην φασὶν Ἀστυπαλαιέα ὡς Ἴκκῳ πυκτεύων ἀνδρὶ Ἐπιδαυρίῳ τὸν Ἴκκον ἀποκτείνειεν ἐν τῇ μάχῃ, καταγνωσθεὶς δὲ ὑπὸ τῶν Ἑλλανοδικῶν ἄδικα εἰργάσθαι καὶ ἀφῃρημένος τὴν νίκην ἔκφρων ἐγένετο ὑπὸ τῆς λύπης καὶ ἀνέστρεψε μὲν ἐς Ἀστυπάλαιαν, διδασκαλείῳ δ᾽ ἐπιστὰς ἐνταῦθα ὅσον ἑξήκοντα ἀριθμὸν παίδων ἀνατρέπει τὸν κίονα ὃς τὸν ὄροφον ἀνεῖχεν. ἐμπεσόντος δὲ τοῦ ὀρόφου τοῖς παισί, καταλιθούμενος ὑπὸ τῶν ἀστῶν κατέφυγεν ἐς Ἀθηνᾶς ἱερόν: ἐσβάντος δὲ ἐς κιβωτὸν κειμένην ἐν τῷ ἱερῷ καὶ ἐφελκυσαμένου τὸ ἐπίθημα, κάματον ἐς ἀνωφελὲς οἱ Ἀστυπαλαιεῖς ἔκαμνον ἀνοίγειν τὴν κιβωτὸν πειρώμενοι: τέλος δὲ τὰ ξύλα τῆς κιβωτοῦ καταρρήξαντες, ὡς οὔτε ζῶντα Κλεομήδην οὔτε τεθνεῶτα εὕρισκον, ἀποστέλλουσιν ἄνδρας ἐς Δελφοὺς ἐρησομένους ὁποῖα ἐς Κλεομήδην τὰ συμβάντα ἦν.  τούτοις χρῆσαι τὴν Πυθίαν φασίν:“

ὕστατος ἡρώων Κλεομήδης Ἀστυπαλαιεύς,
ὃν θυσίαις τιμᾶθ᾽ ἅτε μηκέτι θνητὸν ἐόντα.

”Κλεομήδει μὲν οὖν Ἀστυπαλαιεῖς ἀπὸ τούτου τιμὰς ὡς ἥρωι νέμουσι:

Plutarch, Life of Romulus 4-7

“This is, then, similar to those stories told by the Greeks about Aristeas of Prokonnesos and Kleomêdês of Astupalaia. For they claim that Aristeas died in a fuller’s shop and his body disappeared when his friends came to get it. Soon after, people who were returning from abroad said that they met Aristeas travling towards Croton.

Then there was Kleomêdês who had extreme strength and size but was easily enraged and like a crazy person. They claim he did many violent things and then finally went into a school for children and punched the pillar which supported the roof and broke it in the middle which made the roof collapse. Because the children were killed, he was pursued and he hid in a giant chest. He closed the lid and held himself inside so that many people struggling together were not able to lift it. After they broke the chest apart they found no one alive or dead inside. In their shock, they sent people to consult the Delphic oracle. The Pythia responded: “Kleomêdês the Astupalaian is the last of the heroes.”

Ἔοικε μὲν οὖν ταῦτα τοῖς ὑφ᾿ Ἑλλήνων περί τε Ἀριστέου τοῦ Προκοννησίου καὶ Κλεομήδους τοῦ Ἀστυπαλαιέως μυθολογουμένοις. Ἀριστέαν μὲν γὰρ ἔν τινι κναφείῳ τελευτῆσαί φασι, καὶ τὸ σῶμα μετιόντων αὐτοῦ τῶν φίλων ἀφανὲς οἴχεσθαι· λέγειν δέ τινας εὐθὺς ἐξ ἀποδημίας ἥκοντας ἐντυχεῖν Ἀριστέᾳ τὴν ἐπὶ Κρότωνος πορευομένῳ· Κλεομήδη δέ, ῥώμῃ καὶ μεγέθει σώματος ὑπερφυᾶ γενόμενον ἔμπληκτόν τε τῷ τρόπῳ καὶ μανικὸν ὄντα, πολλὰ δρᾶν βίαια, καὶ τέλος ἔν τινι διδασκαλείῳ παίδων τὸν ὑπερείδοντα τὴν ὀροφὴν κίονα πατάξαντα τῇ χειρὶ κλάσαι μέσον καὶ τὴν στέγην καταβαλεῖν. ἀπολομένων δὲ τῶν παίδων διωκόμενον εἰς κιβωτὸν καταφυγεῖν μεγάλην, καὶ τὸ πῶμα κατακλείσαντα συνέχειν ἐντός, ὥστε ἀποσπάσαι μὴ δύνασθαι πολλοὺς ὁμοῦ βιαζομένους· κατασχίσαντας δὲ τὴν κιβωτὸν οὔτε ζῶντα τὸν ἄνθρωπον εὑρεῖν οὔτε νεκρόν. ἐκπλαγέντας οὖν ἀποστεῖλαι θεοπρόπους εἰς Δελφούς, οἷς τὴν Πυθίαν εἰπεῖν·

Ἔσχατος ἡρώων Κλεομήδης Ἀστυπαλαιεύς.

λέγεται δὲ καὶ τὸν Ἀλκμήνης ἐκκομιζομένης νεκρὸν ἄδηλον γενέσθαι, λίθον δὲ φανῆναι κείμενον ἐπὶ τῆς κλίνης. καὶ ὅλως πολλὰ τοιαῦτα μυθολογοῦσι, παρὰ τὸ εἰκὸς ἐκθειάζοντες τὰ θνητὰ τῆς φύσεως ἅμα τοῖς θείοις.

Plutarch’s account does not specify the lost boxing match or mention the temple of Athena. While some of the diction is shared with Pausanias’ account, most of the common words are nouns for specific objects. The only real echo may be οὔτε ζῶντα τὸν ἄνθρωπον εὑρεῖν οὔτε νεκρόν for ὡς οὔτε ζῶντα Κλεομήδην οὔτε τεθνεῶτα εὕρισκον

The Suda’s version has many of the same phrases and is likely drawn from Pausanias. The comparison of the three makes me think that while Plutarch and Pausanias are drawing on the same story, they are not likely drawing on the same textual tradition.

Suda, Kappa 1725

“Kleomêdês, an Astupalaian, he killed the Epidaurian Kikkos in a boxing match. But when he was stripped of the victory, he went out of his mind because of grief and returned to Astupalaia. He fell upon a school there which held 80 students and he knocked down the pillar which was supporting the roof. After the roof collapsed and killed everyone, he was pelted with stones by the citizens and fled to a temple where he put himself into a chest and made hard work for the Astupalaians by holding down the lid. After they finally broken the wood of the chest, they found no one there.”

Κλεομήδης, ᾿Αστυπαλαιεύς, Κίκκον τὸν ᾿Επιδαύριον ἀπέκτεινεν ἐν τῇ πυγμῇ καὶ ἀφῃρημένος τὴν νίκην ἔκφρων ἐγένετο ὑπὸ τῆς λύπης καὶ ἀνέστρεψεν εἰς ᾿Αστυπάλαιαν. διδασκαλείῳ δὲ ἐπιστάς, ἐν ᾧ παῖδες ἦσαν ξ′, ἀνατρέπει τὸν κίονα, ὃς τὸν ὄροφον εἶχεν. ἐμπεσόντος δὲ τοῦ ὀρόφου καὶ πάντας ἀποκτείναντος, καταλιθούμενος ὑπὸ τῶν ἀστῶν κατέφυγεν ἐς ἱερὸν καὶ ἐμβὰς ἐς κιβωτὸν καὶ τὸ ἐπίθεμα ἐφελκυσάμενος κάματον τοῖς ᾿Αστυπαλαιεῦσι παρεῖχε. τέλος τὰ ξύλα τῆς κιβωτοῦ καταρρήξαντες οὐδένα εὗρον.

Thanks to Aislinn Melchior for bringing this story to my attention.

Orestes Delphi BM GR1917.12-10.1.jpg
Orestes at Delphi. Paestan red-figured bell-krater, ca. 330 BC.

Tyrannical, Violent, and Greedy for Tribute

Strabo, Geography 10.4.8

“As Ephoros has claimed, Minos modeled himself after a certain ancient Rhadamanthys, a most just man who had the same name as his own brother and apparently was the first to make Crete more civilized through laws, integrations of cities, and constitutions, insisting that he was simply introducing each of these ideas to the public from Zeus himself.

In imitating him, Minos also, it seems, retreated for nine years into Zeus’ cave and, after he spent time there, came back carrying certain declarations which he composed but he was claiming were established by Zeus. This is the reason why [Homer] has said, “there, for nine years, Minos was ruling as a companion of great Zeus.”

While Ephorus records these things, ancient authors have provided different accounts about him which run against these claims. They say that Minos was tyrannical, very violent, and greedy for tribute. Some put into tragedies the stories about the Minotaur and the Labyrinth along with the events of Theseus and Daidalos. It is hard to say whether things happened that way.

But there is another account which does not agree with the rest: some claim that Minos was an immigrant to the island, while others claim he was a native. Homer certainly seems to argue for the second view when he says that “[Zeus] first fathered Minos as a protector for Crete.”

 

ὡς δ᾽ εἴρηκεν ῎Εφορος, ζηλωτὴς ὁ Μὶνως ἀρχαίου τινὸς ῾Ραδαμάνθυος, δικαιοτάτου ἀνδρός, ὁμωνύμου τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ αὐτοῦ, ὃς πρῶτος τὴν νῆσον ἐξημερῶσαι δοκεῖ νομίμοις καὶ συνοικισμοῖς πόλεων καὶ πολιτείαις, σκηψάμενος παρὰ Διὸς φέρειν ἕκαστα τῶν τιθεμένων δογμάτων εἰς μέσον. τοῦτον δὴ μιμούμενος καὶ ὁ Μίνως δι᾽ ἐννέα ἐτῶν, ὡς ἔοικεν, ἀναβαίνων ἐπὶ τὸ τοῦ Διὸς ἄντρον καὶ διατρίβων ἐνθάδε ἀπήιει συντεταγμένα ἔχων παραγγέλματά τινα, ἃ ἔφασκεν εἶναι προστάγματα τοῦ Διός. ἀφ᾽ ἧς αἰτίας καὶ τὸν ποιητὴν οὕτως εἰρηκέναι· «ἐνθάδε Μίνως ἐννέωρος βασίλευε Διὸς μεγάλου ὀαριστής». τοιαῦτα δ᾽ εἰπόντος, οἱ ἀρχαῖοι περὶ αὐτοῦ πάλιν ἄλλους εἰρήκασι λόγους ὑπεναντίους τούτοις, ὡς τυραννικός τε γένοιτο καὶ βίαιος καὶ δασμολόγος, τραγωιδοῦντες τὰ περὶ τὸν Μινώταυρον καὶ τὸν λαβύρινθον καὶ τὰ Θησεῖ συμβάντα καὶ Δαιδάλωι. ταῦτα μὲν οὖν ὁποτέρως ἔχει, χαλεπὸν εἰπεῖν. ἔστι δὲ καὶ ἄλλος λόγος οὐχ ὁμολογούμενος, τῶν μὲν ξένον τῆς νήσου τὸν Μίνων λεγόντων, τῶν δ᾽ ἐπιχώριον. ὁ μέντοι ποιητὴς τῆι δευτέραι δοκεῖ μᾶλλον συνηγορεῖν ἀποφάσει, ὅταν φῆι ὅτι «πρῶτον Μίνωα τέκε Κρήτηι ἐπίουρον».

Image result for Minos medieval manuscript
King Minos from BL Harley 4431, f. 98

 

(Don’t) judge a book by its cover

As some of you may have seen from our Twitter announcement over the summer, Joel and I are publishing our second book together, under the title Homer’s Thebes: Epic Rivalries and the Appropriation of Mythical Pasts. In our earlier announcement, we tweeted a picture of what its front cover will look like; and, given the interest in it, Joel invited me to write this guest post on his blog. I am delighted to take him up on the offer, even though I know that his blog is more accustomed to dealing with weightier matters than what appears on a book’s cover…

With the possible exception of writing acknowledgements, I find choosing a cover image for a book arguably the most pleasurable, and most difficult, of the final tasks that needs accomplishing before I can happily pack off my manuscript on its merry way to the press. Even if we are told otherwise (in the famous axiom not to judge a book by its cover), how a book looks can play a decisive role in its purchase; after the subject matter and author, it’s the one thing that may determine whether I buy book a book or not. If I look on my bookshelves, for example, the dust jackets that stand out for me are: the famous image (from the so-called François vase) of Ajax carrying the dead body of Achilles that emblazons Greg Nagy’s 1979 classic The Best of the Achaeans (and Michael Lynn-George’s equally ground-breaking Homeric criticism Epos: Word, Narrative and the Iliad); the contemplative Regarding Penelope by Nancy Felson; the highly wrought, yet seductive, Medea of James Clauss and Sarah Iles Johnston; the satirical depiction of famous classicists playing characters from Aristophanes (!) on Martin Revermann’s Comic Business; and the striking pose of Gertrude Eysoldt captured in the role of Electra that advertises Simon Goldhill’s Who Needs Greek?. The arresting contemporary nature of this image (though the photograph dates back to 1903) hints at Goldhill’s thesis of the continuing legacy of Victorian attitudes to, and contests over, the Classics that shape and inform our own implicated relationship with the subject.

 

As these examples suggest, aesthetic looks isn’t the only desideratum when it comes to choosing a book cover. For sure we want something that looks good; but it’s equally, if not more, important for that image to say something about the book itself (a picture is worth a thousand words, right?), though perhaps not in an obvious or straightforward way. Let me explore this issue by reflecting on my own choice of three covers that I’ve had the pleasure to be able to choose.

The image I chose for my first book—Entering the Agon: Dissent and authority in Homer, Historiography and Tragedy (Oxford, 2009)—is in many ways very traditional. It’s the famous image (on the black-figure amphora by Exekias) of Achilles and Ajax playing dice. But it’s an image that worked for me not only because of its beauty—though hats off here to the team at OUP who extended the pot’s gleaming background (which sets off the black figures) to cover the entirety of the book’s cover in a fiery golden afterglow. Figure4This image also spoke to my book’s subject matter: namely, the idea of contest (agōn) and its representation in ancient Greek literature. In truth, I had a hard time finding an image that worked for me. I wanted some kind of ancient Greek artistic representation; perhaps because it was my first book (the “book of the thesis”), I felt it needed to be unambiguously classical. It should have been easy, right, to find an image from the whole corpus of ancient Greek ceramics, right? Wrong. I could find none of the scenes of debate in epic, history and tragedy, which were the core focus of my argument, that had been illustrated, not even—as one may have expected—the quarrel between Achilles and Agamemnon that starts off the Iliad with such a bang. There is a fresco, highly fragmented, from Pompeii’s House of the Dioscuri (on exhibition at the National Archaeological museum in Naples), which shows Achilles going for his sword; and of course there are later Renaissance paintings depicting the quarrel (such as Giovanni Battista Gaulli’s baroque rendering). But I could find none from the world of ancient Greek ceramics or friezes—perhaps because, as Robin Osborne pointed out to me, Greek artists simply were less interested in illustrating literary stories than in creating their own. (It is striking that the wall paintings from Pompeii *do* look like illustrations of early Greek literary narratives, including the moment Euripides’s Medea ponders killing her children.) What Exekias’s scene of gaming heroes gave me was a hint not only of the formalisation of contest, but also of the prominence of Achilles (who in my argument institutionalises contest in the arena of debate) and, moreover, of his pairing with Ajax (whose story in Sophocles’s tragedy formed one of my chapters).

 

The second book I needed to choose an image for presented a rather different challenge. This was for an edited volume entitled: New Worlds out of Old Texts: Revisiting Ancient Space and Place (Oxford, 2016). Figure7The book derived from an interdisciplinary project that I had led called Hestia, which investigated representations of space and place in Herodotus, as well as the spatial construction underpinning his Histories. At the heart of the book was a discussion of the different disciplinary approaches that we undertook, spread over three chapters (which I co-authored with different team members), exploring: digital annotation and mapping (with Leif Isaksen and Jessica Ogden), geographical spatial theory (with Stefan Bouzarvoski), and philological close reading (with Chris Pelling). Our resulting book included other contributors working in this space (pardon the pun), who had presented at our conference in Oxford, and who, like our team, represented an array of disciplines—not only Classical Studies, but also archaeology, digital humanities, and the history of thought. The image I wanted, then, needed to respect these different disciplinary approaches while at the same time hinting at ways in which they might be combined and intertwined (for interdisciplinary research). And, of course, it needed to be in some way spatial, to suggest the complexity of trying to represent and unpick spatial entities and relations. A web-designer friend (a shout-out here to Richard Rowley of Agile Collective) put me on to London-based artist Emma McNally, whose work attempts to “portray essence not as substance… but rather as the result of a process of reciprocal determination, where individual lines, markings, and trajectories are brought to significance through their interrelations with those around them” (https://www.flickr.com/people/emmamcnally/). After getting her approval (she was very happy for us to use her work provided that she got a copy of our book: gold armour for bronze, as Homer would say!), I chose her scratches, traces, spaces. This work on graphite (“a medium that lends itself perfectly to [a] sort of rhythmic making and unmaking. It is a material for palimpsest”: ibid) seemed to me to perfectly capture the spatial palimpsests that many of us were striving to reveal and more closely examine in our texts, while also being provocatively new and overtly relational. Emma later informed me that the very same artwork was used by Ridley Scott as a navigation map in his latest Alien prequel Convenant. If it’s good enough for Ridley…!

Figure8

All this brings me to the last image—the one that Joel had invited me to write about in the first place… Our book, Homer’s Thebes, sets out to argue that the Iliad and Odyssey (mis)represent heroes and themes from the Theban tradition to set out and realise the unique superiority of these texts in performance. In arguing this, we are attempting to view the Homeric poems in a new light, by emphasizing a non-hierarchical model of “reading” them and the Epic Cycle together within the framework of oral-formulaic poetics and artistic rivalry. With this in mind, we wanted an image that suggested Homer in some way (epic poetry, heroes, etc.) but that wasn’t a straightforward classical take on that. From a very early stage I was convinced that a cubist painting of some kind would work, with that central idea of taking something familiar (for us, reading Homer; for Homer’s audience, the Troy story and the siege of Thebes) and, by viewing it from different perspectives, producing a radically different picture (a Troy story that emphasises internal conflict among the Achaeans, for instance). For me, cubist works echo the type of violent reception and adaptation that our book is about. But here we ran into a significant problem that meets anyone looking to reuse a contemporary image, whether that is a museum photograph of an ancient artefact or a modern painting in a gallery’s collection: copyright. For all the cubist paintings that I could find that seemed to dialogue with our approach, the answer kept coming back from our publishers that we couldn’t use them because of the copyright and/or the costs involved. Out went The Thebaid by Wyndham Lewis, along with his Composition; we fared no better with Barbara Hepworth’s Two Heroes; we couldn’t even use Le Poète by Picasso, even though I had sourced it from Wikipedia.

Just as I was beginning to despair, and I thought that we would have to give up on this idea of a cubist-style makeover for our Homer, I had the inspiration to look for works by modern Greek artists. I knew that ever since the twentieth century, Greek writers and painters alike have been grappling with the problem of their country’s complicated (and often times suffocating) classical legacy. And thus I had the fortune to come across the work of Nikos Engonopoulos. He’s the painter most famous in Greece for revisiting classical themes in a distinct modern style (tending towards surrealism). Having found a number of post-classical images that I thought that we could use, I contacted the person responsible for his website and who owns the copyright to his works, his daughter Errietti Engonopoulou. Like Emma, Errietti could not have been more accommodating, and immediately allowed us to use a high-resolution image of the image that we decided on.

I present to you Engonopoulou’s 1939 oil on canvas The poet and the muse. We hope that you like it as much as we do.

Figure9

Fish-Eaters, Meat-Eaters and Bread: A Strange Scholion and Dehumanizing Structures in the Odyssey

Homer, Odyssey 8.221-222

“I say that I am much better than the rest,
However so many mortals now eat bread on the earth.”

τῶν δ’ ἄλλων ἐμέ φημι πολὺ προφερέστερον εἶναι,
ὅσσοι νῦν βροτοί εἰσιν ἐπὶ χθονὶ σῖτον ἔδοντες.

Schol. B ad Od. 8.222 ex

“Who eat bread…” He says this because there are some races who don’t eat bread. Indeed, some are called locust eaters and fish-easters, like the Skythian race and the Massagetae are called meat-eaters. Some of the locust-eaters, after seeing bread, used to believe it was shit.”

σῖτον ἔδοντες] εἶπε τοῦτο διά τινα γένη, οἵτινες οὐκ ἤσθιον σῖτον. διὸ καὶ ἀκριδοφάγοι τινὲς καὶ ἰχθυοφάγοι ἐκαλοῦντο, ὡς καὶ τὸ Σκυθικὸν καὶ Μασσαγετικὸν κρεοφάγοι καλοῦνται. τινὲς γὰρ τῶν ἀκριδοφάγων ἰδόντες ἄρτον κόπρον εἶναι ἐνόμιζον. B.

Eusth. Comm. I Ad Hom. Od. 1.293

“Those who eat grain/bread.” This is perhaps said regarding the difference of other mortals who are not these kind of people—the kind of sort the story claims that the long-lived Aethiopians are too. These people, after they saw bread, compared it to shit. There were also those who lived from eating locusts and others who lived off fish. For this reason they are called locust-eaters and fish eaters. The Skythian race and the Masssegetic people who live primarily off meat do not wish to eat grain.”

Τὸ δὲ σῖτον ἔδοντες, πρὸς διαστολὴν ἴσως ἐῤῥέθη ἑτέρων βροτῶν μὴ τοιούτων. ὁποίους καὶ τοὺς μακροβίους Αἰθίοπας ἡ ἱστορία φησίν. οἳ ἄρτον ἰδόντες κόπρῳ αὐτὸν εἴκασαν. ἦσαν δὲ καὶ οἱ ἐξ ἀκρίδων ζῶντες καὶ οἱ ἐξ ἰχθύων. οἳ καὶ ἀκριδοφάγοι διατοῦτο καὶ ἰχθυοφάγοι ἐκαλοῦντο. τὸ δὲ Σκυθικὸν φῦλον καὶ τὸ Μασσαγετικὸν κρέασι διοικονομούμενον οὐδ’ αὐτὸ ἐθέλει σιτοφαγεῖν.

Strabo, Geographica 16.4.12

“In a close land to [the Aethiopians] are people darker-skinned than the rest and shorter and the shortest-lived, the locust-eaters. They rarely see more than forty years because their flesh is rife with parasites. They live on locusts who arrive in the spring carried by the strong winds that blow into these places. After throwing burning logs into trenches and kindling them a little, they overshadow the locusts with smoke and they call. They pound them together with salt and use them as cakes for their food.”

Πλησιόχωροι δὲ τούτοις εἰσὶ μελανώτεροί τε τῶν ἄλλων καὶ βραχύτεροι καὶ βραχυβιώτατοι ἀκριδοφάγοι· τὰ γὰρ τετταράκοντα ἔτη σπανίως ὑπερτιθέασιν, ἀπο-
θηριουμένης αὐτῶν τῆς σαρκός· ζῶσι δ’ ἀπὸ ἀκρίδων, ἃς οἱ ἐαρινοὶ λίβες καὶ ζέφυροι πνέοντες μεγάλοι συνελαύνουσιν εἰς τοὺς τόπους τούτους· ἐν ταῖς χα-ράδραις δὲ ἐμβαλόντες ὕλην καπνώδη καὶ ὑφάψαντες μικρὸν … ὑπερπετάμεναι γὰρ τὸν καπνὸν σκοτοῦνται καὶ πίπτουσι· συγκόψαντες δ’ αὐτὰς μεθ’ ἁλμυρίδος μάζας ποιοῦνται καὶ χρῶνται.

Strabo’s passage is, from a modern perspective, fairly racist (and more so even than the Eustathius). I don’t believe that the Odyssey’s formulaic line carries the same force, however. For Homer, people who eat bread are those who cultivate the earth and have to work (they don’t live easy lives like the gods). People who don’t eat the fruit of the earth are marauders and monsters.

The Odyssey’s ethnographic frame develops structures that insist to be fully human, one must (1) live in a city and (2) have recognizable laws and institutions, and (3) cultivate the earth. Creatures who don’t do these things are marginalized and dehumanized either through their behavior (the suitors and sailors) or through actual deformity (the Cyclopes, Kikones, and, well, pretty much most of the women in the poem). So, while the epic itself is not clearly racist in the modern sense, it supplies and deploys frameworks by which other human beings may be marginalized and dehumanized.

Image result for Ancient Vase Odyssey odysseus

Learning by the Example of Ulysses: Some Romans on Odysseus

Cicero, Academica II 28 (fragment from an unknown Latin tragedy)

“I see you, I see you. Live, Ulysses, while you can”

video, video te. vive, Ulixes, dum licet

 

Cicero, Letters to Friends 10.13 (To Plancus, 11 May 43)

“You must weave an end fit to the beginning. Whoever defeats Marcus Antonius will win the war. That’s why Homer called Ulysses the “city-sacker” instead of Ajax or Achilles”

tu contexes extrema cum primis. qui enim M. Antonium oppresserit, is bellum confecerit. itaque Homerus non Aiacem nec Achillem sed Ulixem appellavit πτολιπόρρθιον.

 

Tacitus, Germania 3

“But, I digress. Some people believe that Ulysses was taken by that long and fantastic journey and arrived in the German lands. Asciburgium, which is still inhabited on the banks of the Rhine, was founded by Ulysses and named by him. They add too that an altar was built and given the name of his father Laertes, which was found in the same place once. There were also monuments and certain mounds inscribed with Greek letters—these can be found still on the boundary between Germany and Raetia. I do not intend to confirm or refute these things with evidence—let everyone diminish or increase belief from his own inclination.”

ceterum et Ulixen quidam opinantur longo illo et fabuloso errore in hunc Oceanum delatum adisse Germaniae terras, Asciburgiumque, quod in ripa Rheni situm hodieque incolitur, ab illo constitutum nominatumque; aram quin etiam Ulixi consecratam, adiecto Laërtae patris nomine, eodem loco olim repertam, monumentaque et tumulos quosdam Graecis litteris inscriptos in confinio Germaniae Raetiaeque adhuc extare. quae neque confirmare argumentis neque refellere in animo est: ex ingenio suo quisque demat vel addat fidem.

 

Seneca, Epistulae Morales 88

“You ask, ‘where did Ulysses wander?’ rather than trying to ensure that we are not always wandering? We don’t have the time to listen to whether he was tossed between Italy and Sicily or beyond the world we know—indeed, so long a journey could not happen in such constraint—storms of the spirit toss us daily even as our madness compels us towards Ulysses’ sufferings. We never lack beauty to distract our eyes, nor an enemy; from this side wild monsters delight in human flesh too and from that side evil charms our ears. From another quarter still expect shipwrecks and every kind of evil. Teach me this instead: how I might love my country, my wife, my father, and how I may find my way to these true ports even when shipwrecked?”

Quaeris, Vlixes ubi erraverit, potius quam efficias, ne nos semper erremus? Non vacat audire, utrum inter Italiam et Siciliam iactatus sit an extra notum nobis orbem, neque enim potuit in tam angusto error esse tam longus; tempestates nos animi cotidie iactant et nequitia in omnia Vlixis mala inpellit. Non deest forma, quae sollicitet oculos, non hostis; hinc monstra effera et humano cruore gaudentia, hinc insidiosa blandimenta aurium, hinc naufragia et tot varietates malorum. Hoc me doce, quomodo patriam amem, quomodo uxorem, quomodo patrem, quomodo ad haec tam honesta vel naufragus navigem.

 

Image result for Roman Odysseus

Mycenae, Argos and Amyklai: Agamemnon’s Homes

Schol. ad. Il. 2.559 ex

“From Argos, the son of Zeus and Niobe, the daughter of Phorôneus. Because he used to live there, Argos was assigned to those under Agamemnon. For this reason, Homer used to call all the Greeks Argives.”

ex. <οἳ δ’ ῎Αργος τ’ εἶχον:> ἀπὸ ῎Αργου τοῦ Διὸς καὶ Νιόβης τῆς Φορωνέως. διὰ δὲ τὸ πρῶτον ᾠκίσθαι πρότερον ἐτάχθη τῶν ὑπὸ ᾿Αγαμέμνονα. ἀφ’ οὗ καὶ πάντας ῞Ελληνας ᾿Αργείους καλεῖ. b(BCE3)

Mycenae, Homer, Iliad 2.560-580

“Those who held the well-built city of Mycenae,
Rich Korinth and well-built Kleônae,
And those who inhabited Orneai, lovely Araithurea
And Sikuon where Adrastos first was king,
Those who lived in Huperêsiê and steep Gonoessa,
Pellênê and who lived near Aigios,
Aigalios, all through wide Helikê,
Strong Agamemnon led their hundred ships
Atreus’ son—by far the greatest and best armies
Followed him. And he was glorious in his shining bronze,
He stood out conspicuously among the heroes
Because he was the best and led the largest armies.”

Οἳ δὲ Μυκήνας εἶχον ἐϋκτίμενον πτολίεθρον
ἀφνειόν τε Κόρινθον ἐϋκτιμένας τε Κλεωνάς,
᾿Ορνειάς τ’ ἐνέμοντο ᾿Αραιθυρέην τ’ ἐρατεινὴν
καὶ Σικυῶν’, ὅθ’ ἄρ’ ῎Αδρηστος πρῶτ’ ἐμβασίλευεν,
οἵ θ’ ῾Υπερησίην τε καὶ αἰπεινὴν Γονόεσσαν
Πελλήνην τ’ εἶχον ἠδ’ Αἴγιον ἀμφενέμοντο
Αἰγιαλόν τ’ ἀνὰ πάντα καὶ ἀμφ’ ῾Ελίκην εὐρεῖαν,
τῶν ἑκατὸν νηῶν ἦρχε κρείων ᾿Αγαμέμνων
᾿Ατρεΐδης· ἅμα τῷ γε πολὺ πλεῖστοι καὶ ἄριστοι
λαοὶ ἕποντ’· ἐν δ’ αὐτὸς ἐδύσετο νώροπα χαλκὸν
κυδιόων, πᾶσιν δὲ μετέπρεπεν ἡρώεσσιν
οὕνεκ’ ἄριστος ἔην πολὺ δὲ πλείστους ἄγε λαούς.

Schol. ad Il. 2.569 ex

“Eurustheus used to rule Mycenae. After he died, entrusting it to the Athenians, they established Atreus to lead there after he fled with Thyestes for the murder of Chrysippos.”

ex. <οἳ δὲ Μυκήνας εἶχον:> Μυκηνῶν ἦρχεν Εὐρυσθεύς. ἐπεὶ δὲ συμβαλὼν ᾿Αθηναίοις ἐτελεύτα, ἱστῶσιν ᾿Ατρέα αὐτόθι διάγοντα, ἅμα Θυέστῃ ἐπὶ τῷ φόνῳ Χρυσίππου φυγόντα. b(BCE3)

Schol. ad Il. 2.572 ex

“For Adrastos, after he was exiled, lived with his mother’s brother Polybos and he assigned them to rule even though it was not the custom.”

ex. <῎Αδρηστος:> ἐκπεσὼν γὰρ ῎Αργους παρὰ Πολύβῳ τῷ μητροπάτορι ᾤκει, καὶ ὑπέταξεν αὐτοὺς οὐκ εἰωθότας ἄρχεσθαι. b
(BCE3)

Hera on her three sacred cities, Il. 4.52

“Truly, there are three cities most dear to me by far:
Argos, and Sparta and wide-wayed Mycenae”

ἤτοι ἐμοὶ τρεῖς μὲν πολὺ φίλταταί εἰσι πόληες
῎Αργός τε Σπάρτη τε καὶ εὐρυάγυια Μυκήνη·

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The Death of Diokles’ Twin Sons

In an earlier post, I mentioned Telemachus’ layovers in the city of Pherae in the home of Diokles.  The story of this family is elaborated in the Iliad.  The scholia to the Iliad contemplate the strange re-spelling of a family name (Orsilochus vs. Ortilochus) and also imply that there was a special relationship between Diokles’ family and Menelaos–buttressed perhaps by the epic’s geographical placement of the two cities:

Iliad, 5.541-553

“Then in turn Aeneas killed the best men of the Danaans,
The sons of Diokles, Krêthôn and Orsilokhos.
Their father lived in well-built Phêrai,
A wealthy man, descended from the river
Alpheios who flows widely over the land of the Pylians.
He fathered Ortilochus, a lord over many men.
Ortilochus fathered great-hearted Diokles
And twin sons were born to Diokles,
Krêthôn and Orsilokhos who knew every kind of battle.
When they were young men they went on the dark ships
And accompanied the Argives to Ilion, rich in horses,
Winning back honor for Atreus’ sons Agamemnon and Menelaos.
There death’s end covered over them in turn.”

῎Ενθ’ αὖτ’ Αἰνείας Δαναῶν ἕλεν ἄνδρας ἀρίστους
υἷε Διοκλῆος Κρήθωνά τε ᾿Ορσίλοχόν τε,
τῶν ῥα πατὴρ μὲν ἔναιεν ἐϋκτιμένῃ ἐνὶ Φηρῇ
ἀφνειὸς βιότοιο, γένος δ’ ἦν ἐκ ποταμοῖο
᾿Αλφειοῦ, ὅς τ’ εὐρὺ ῥέει Πυλίων διὰ γαίης,
ὃς τέκετ’ ᾿Ορτίλοχον πολέεσσ’ ἄνδρεσσιν ἄνακτα·
᾿Ορτίλοχος δ’ ἄρ’ ἔτικτε Διοκλῆα μεγάθυμον,
ἐκ δὲ Διοκλῆος διδυμάονε παῖδε γενέσθην,
Κρήθων ᾿Ορσίλοχός τε μάχης εὖ εἰδότε πάσης.
τὼ μὲν ἄρ’ ἡβήσαντε μελαινάων ἐπὶ νηῶν
῎Ιλιον εἰς εὔπωλον ἅμ’ ᾿Αργείοισιν ἑπέσθην,
τιμὴν ᾿Ατρεΐδῃς ᾿Αγαμέμνονι καὶ Μενελάῳ
ἀρνυμένω· τὼ δ’ αὖθι τέλος θανάτοιο κάλυψεν.

 

Schol ad Il. 5.542-3 ex

“Krêthôn and Orsilokhos: the ancestor’s name is spelled with a tau; the child’s name with a sigma as in the Odyssey.

Phêrai is in Messenia. They call it Phêra. There’s a Pherai in Thessaly. [modern commentators believe the city is modern Kalamata]

“A Wealthy man”: This mention increases the importance of their battle. But no mention is made of them in the Catalog of Ships, since they are those men who receive gifts from Menelaos….This is the reason that when they fall no one other than Menelaos pities them”

Did.(?) Κρήθωνά τε ᾿Ορσίλοχόν τε: ὁ πρόγονος διὰ τοῦ τ, ὁ παῖς διὰ τοῦ ς· καὶ ἐν ᾿Οδυσσείᾳ (sc. γ 489. ο 187. φ 16) οὖν διὰ τοῦ τ. T
ex. Φηρῇ: Μεσ<σ>ήνης. καὶ Φηρὰς αὐτὴν καλεῖ (sc. Ι 151. 293. γ 488. ο 186). Φεραὶ Θεσσαλίας (cf. Β 711. δ 798). T

ex. ἀφνειὸς βιότοιο: προσυνίστησιν αὐτοὺς αὔξων τὴν περὶ αὐτῶν μάχην. οὐ μέμνηται δὲ αὐτῶν ἐν τῷ Καταλόγῳ, ἐπεὶ †μεσήνιοί† εἰσιν οἵτινες ὑπὸ Μενελάῳ ἐτέλουν δῶρα, b(BE3E4)T „τά οἱ ξεῖνος Λακεδαίμονι δῶκε τυχήσας” (φ 13), „τὼ δ’ ἐν †μεσήνῃ† ξυμβλήτην / οἴκῳ ἐν ᾿Ορτιλόχου” (φ 15—6). T διὰ τοῦτο καὶ πεσόντας αὐτοὺς οὐδεὶς ἄλλος ἢ ὁ Μενέλαος ἐλεεῖ (cf. Ε 561). b
(BE3E4)T

 

The scholiast sees a connection between the political and geographical proximity of the cities, the relationships of the families, and Menelaos’ reaction in the following lines. The family (and implied local mythographical traditions) seem of little enough importance that they don’t appear in the Catalogue–their presence here is not just to “increase the importance of the battle” but to contribute to Menelaos’ aristeia. Of course, this doesn’t quite explain the presence in the Odyssey where the lost sons are not named….

 

The location of the city is further confused by a debate about the location of mythical Pylos (complicated in turn by debates about where Ithaka might have been). But, notionally, I think we can accept a city somewhere between central Laconia where Sparta is situated and the Western coast of the Peloponnese.

map-peloponnese