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


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.


A Different, More Disturbing Tale of Medusa


(from Pausanias, 2.21.6)

“A mound of earth is not far from a building in the Argive marketplace.  People claim the head of the Gorgon Medusa lies here.  Leaving aside the myth, here are the other things said about her. She was a daughter of Phorkos and, after her father died, she ruled those who lived near Lake Tritôn, going forth to hunt and leading the Libyans in war.  When she was in camp with the army against Perseus who was followed by selected troops from the Peloponnese, she was deviously murdered at night.  Perseus, who was amazed at her beauty, even in a corpse, cut off her head and took it to display to the Greeks.”


τοῦ δὲ ἐν τῇ ἀγορᾷ τῶν ᾿Αργείων οἰκοδομήματος οὐ μακρὰν χῶμα γῆς ἐστιν· ἐν δὲ αὐτῷ κεῖσθαι τὴν Μεδούσης λέγουσι τῆς Γοργόνος κεφαλήν. ἀπόντος δὲ τοῦ μύθου τάδε ἄλλα ἐς αὐτήν ἐστιν εἰρημένα· Φόρκου μὲν θυγατέρα εἶναι, τελευτήσαντος δέ οἱ τοῦ πατρὸς βασιλεύειν τῶν περὶ τὴν λίμνην τὴν Τριτωνίδα οἰκούντων καὶ ἐπὶ θήραν τε ἐξιέναι καὶ ἐς τὰς μάχας ἡγεῖσθαι τοῖς Λίβυσι καὶ δὴ καὶ τότε ἀντικαθημένην στρατῷ πρὸς τὴν Περσέως δύναμιν—ἕπεσθαι γὰρ καὶ τῷ Περσεῖ λογάδας ἐκ Πελοποννήσου—δολοφονηθῆναι νύκτωρ, καὶ τὸν Περσέα τὸ κάλλος ἔτι καὶ ἐπὶ νεκρῷ θαυμάζοντα οὕτω τὴν κεφαλὴν ἀποτεμόντα αὐτῆς ἄγειν τοῖς ῞Ελλησιν ἐς ἐπίδειξιν.


The Byzantine Suda has its own take on the legend.  It is not less misogynistic:

“Medousa: She is also called Gorgonê. Perseus, the son of Danae and Pêkos, after learning every kind of magical display, because he wanted to establish his own kingdom, made plans against the realm of the Medes. And so, after he travelled over much land, he saw a maiden who was intelligent and ugly and, as he looked away from her, he asked “who are you” and she said, “Medousa”. He cut off her head and prepared it as he had been taught and held it up. He made everyone panic and killed those who witnessed it.  He called this head the Gorgonê because of the sharpness of its power.

From there, he went to the land ruled by Kêpheus and found a virgin girl in a temple who was named Andromeda and whom he married. He founded a city in this country called Amandra and set up a pillar which held the Gorgonê. This was called the Ikonion and, because of the object, the Gorgonê. He then made war against the Isaurians, the Kilikians and he founded a city which he called Tarsos, which before was called Andrasos. He had received a prophecy that after the victory he should found a city and name it Tarsos in thanks for the victory in the place where he put the flat of his foot [tarsos] in when he got off his horse.

After conquering the Medes, he changed the name of their country and called it Persis. He taught some of the Persians whom he named Magi the mystery rite which he had performed with the Gorgonê. At that time, a ball of fire whirled from the heaven. Perseus took some of it and gave it to some of the tribe to guard and honor because it had been hurled from heaven.

Then he waged war on Kêpheus, whom old age left blind and dull in the dead, because he thought the Gorgonê was now useless But when Perseus campaigned against him and saw [Medousa’s head] he died. Later on, Merros, Perseus’ son, burned the head.”

Μέδουσα: ἡ καὶ Γοργόνη κληθεῖσα. Περσεύς, ὁ Δανάης καὶ Πήκου υἱός, διδαχθεὶς πάσας τὰς μυστικὰς φαντασίας, ἰδίαν βουλόμενος ἑαυτῷ καταστῆσαι βασιλείαν κατεφρόνησε τῆς τῶν Μήδων· καὶ διὰ πολλῆς ἐρχόμενος γῆς εἶδε παρθένον κόρην αὐχμηράν τε καὶ δυσειδῆ, καὶ ἀποβλέψας εἰς αὐτὴν ἐρωτᾷ, τίς καλεῖται· ἡ δὲ εἶπε, Μέδουσα, καὶ ἀποτεμὼν αὐτῆς τὴν κεφαλὴν ἐτέλεσεν αὐτὴν ὡς ἐδιδάχθη, καὶ ἐβάσταζε, καταπλήττων πάντας καὶ ἀναιρῶν τοὺς ὁρῶντας· ἥν τινα κεφαλὴν ἐκάλεσε Γοργόνην, διὰ τὴν ὀξύτητα τῆς ἐνεργείας.

ἐκεῖθεν δὲ ἐλθὼν εἰς χώραν βασιλευομένην ὑπὸ Κηφέως εὗρεν ἐν τῷ ἱερῷ παρθένον κόρην, τὴν λεγομένην ᾿Ανδρομέδαν, ἣν ἔγημε· καὶ κτίζει πόλιν εἰς κώμην, λεγομένην ῎Αμανδραν, στήσας καὶ στήλην βαστάζουσαν τὴν Γοργόνην. αὕτη μετεκλήθη ᾿Ικόνιον, διὰ τὸ ἀπεικόνισμα τῆς Γοργόνης. ἐπολέμησε δὲ καὶ ᾿Ισαύροις καὶ Κίλιξι καὶ κτίζει πόλιν, ἣν ἐκάλεσε Ταρσόν, το πρὶν λεγομένην ᾿Ανδρασόν. χρηματισθεὶς δέ, ὅτι μετὰ τὴν νίκην ἐν ᾧ τόπῳ ἀποβὰς ἀπὸ τοῦ ἵππου τὸν ταρσὸν τοῦ ποδὸς ἀπόθηται, ἐκεῖ ὑπὲρ τῶν νικητηρίων κτίσαι πόλιν,ταύτην οὖν ἐκάλεσε Ταρσόν.

νικήσας δὲ καὶ τοὺς Μήδους ἤμειψε τὸ ὄνομα τῆς χώρας καὶ ἐκάλεσεν αὐτὴν Περσίδα. ἐδίδαξε δὲ καὶ τὴν μυσαρὰν τελετὴν τὴν ἐπὶ τῇ Γοργόνῃ τινὰς τῶν Περσῶν, οὓς ἐκάλεσε μάγους. καθ’ οὓς χρόνους καὶ σφαῖρα πυρὸς κατηνέχθη ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ, ἐξ ἧς ἔλαβε πῦρ ὁ Περσεὺς καὶ παρέδωκε τοῖς τοῦ ἔθνους φυλάττειν καὶ τιμᾶν, ὡς ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ κατενεχθέν. συμβαλὼν δὲ πόλεμον τῷ Κηφεῖ, τοῦ δὲ διὰ τὸ γῆρας μὴ βλέποντος καὶ τῆς κεφαλῆςμὴ ἐνεργούσης, δοκῶν αὐτὴν ἀνωφελῆ εἶναι, ἐπιστρέψας πρὸς ἑαυτὸν ὁ Περσεὺς καὶ ταύτην θεασάμενος ἀποθνήσκει. ταύτην ὕστερον ἔκαυσεν ὁ υἱὸς αὐτοῦ Μέρρος.

The ‘Submerged’ Heroic Life of Laertes (the Father of Odysseus)

I have been somewhat obsessed in the past with the family of Odysseus, particularly Odysseus’ sister, his death by feces,  his lesser-known grandson, and a remarkable number of children not named Telemachus.

Where the Homeric Odyssey suppresses names of children used by ancient myth to relate Odysseus to a wider physical world, the epic nevertheless has some hints here and there about geography and politics. Of course, this will can us a bit more about his family and home. In the Odyssey we find what seems to be a formulaic combination of three islands near Ithaca. When Odysseus describes where he’s from, he names his home and then adds (9.23-4):

“Many islands are inhabited right near each other
Doulikhion, Samê, and forest-covered Zakunthos.”

πολλαὶ ναιετάουσι μάλα σχεδὸν ἀλλήλῃσι,
Δουλίχιόν τε Σάμη τε καὶ ὑλήεσσα Ζάκυνθος.

And earlier during his discussion with Telemachus, Odysseus hears the suitors similarly described as (16.122-125; cf. 19.130-1):

“However so many of the best men who rule among the islands,
Doulikhion, Samê, and forest-covered Zakunthos.
Alongside all the men who lord over steep Ithaka—
This many men are wooing my mother and ruining my home”

ὅσσοι γὰρ νήσοισιν ἐπικρατέουσιν ἄριστοι,
Δουλιχίῳ τε Σάμῃ τε καὶ ὑλήεντι Ζακύνθῳ,
ἠδ’ ὅσσοι κραναὴν ᾿Ιθάκην κάτα κοιρανέουσι,
τόσσοι μητέρ’ ἐμὴν μνῶνται, τρύχουσι δὲ οἶκον.

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