Posts on Myth from Women’s History Month

Euripides,  Fr. 464

“Get married already, get married, and then die
Either by poison or a trick from your wife.”

γαμεῖτε νῦν, γαμεῖτε, κᾆτα θνῄσκετε
ἢ φαρμάκοισιν ἐκ γυναικὸς ἢ δόλοις.

Euripides, fr. 320 (Danae)

“There is neither fortress nor fortune
Nor anything else as hard to guard as a woman.”

οὐκ ἔστιν οὔτε τεῖχος οὔτε χρήματα
οὔτ’ ἄλλο δυσφύλακτον οὐδὲν ὡς γυνή.

Anacreontea, 24.8-13

Nature gave bulls horns
Hooves to horses
Swift feet to hares
A mouth of teeth to lions
Swimming to fish
Flight to birds
And wisdom to men.
What did nature give to women?
Beauty
stronger than all shields and spears.
A woman who is beautiful
conquers both iron and fire.

Φύσις κέρατα ταύροις,
ὁπλὰς δ’ ἔδωκεν ἵπποις,
ποδωκίην λαγωοῖς,
λέουσι χάσμ’ ὀδόντων,
τοῖς ἰχθύσιν τὸ νηκτόν,
τοῖς ὀρνέοις πέτασθαι,
τοῖς ἀνδράσιν φρόνημα·
γυναιξὶν οὐν ἔτ᾿ εἶχεν
τί οὖν; δίδωσι κάλλος
ἀντ᾿ ἀσπίδων ἁπασῶν
ἀντ᾿ ἐγχέων ἁπάντων
νικᾷ δὲ καὶ σίδηρον
καὶ πῦρ καλή τις οὖσα

Lucretius, De Rerum Natura 4.1192-1200: Sometimes Women Don’t Fake It

“A woman doesn’t always gasp with counterfeit passion
when she joins her body in embrace with a man
and holds his lips with a drawn, moist kiss.
Often she acts from her spirit and as she seeks shared happiness,
she incites him to race through the course of his love.”

Nec mulier semper ficto suspirat amore,
quae conplexa viri corpus cum corpore iungit
et tenet adsuctis umectans oscula labris;
nam facit ex animo saepe et communia quaerens
gaudia sollicitat spatium decurrere amoris.

This past month I made a special effort to post new material featuring women from Greek myth.  The results have been less than happy but have confirmed (even exacerbated) my general opinion about the tales Greeks and Romans told about women: by and large, they are terrible. This fact has always made me go through contortions to say something nice about Greek and Roman stories on women, but it is increasingly obvious that I should just give up any type of apologetics and tell students the truth: ancient myth is filled with repugnant tales that communicate and reinforce not just negative attitudes about women, but perspectives that justify and even valorize their treatments as objects and general dehumanization.

Here’s a recap of the month’s tales.

Pausanias records that Medusa may have just been a pretty woman  Perseus killed so he could take her head back and show it to his friends.

Medusa

Apollo, as many know, cursed Kassandra for not having sex with him. When she got to the Peloponnese, Aigisthos slaughtered the twins she bore to her captor Agamemnon and then Klytemnestra killed her too (so the women here either are a victim of rape, torture and murder or else guilty of murder). Shoot, even before that happened, Kassandra was dangled as a bride to help secure allies in the fight against the Greeks.

 

Things weren’t much better for her mother Hecuba who, according to some accounts, was awarded to Odysseus after the end of the war.  He had her killed by stoning when she complained to much (and after she was turned into a dog).

Polyxena

I know everyone wants to blame the Trojan War on Helen, but according to the Argives she was abducted as a child,raped by Theseus and gave her child to Klytemnestra who raised her as her own.  That child? Iphigenia. Agamemnon had to kill her so that the Greeks could find their way to Troy.

I tried to make things a little better–I found a story where Zeus is actually in love with Hera and turns into a cuckoo bird. There’s also the tale of the warrior-poet Telesilla who saves her city from the Spartans (but only because they won’t fight ladies).

The most depressing tale of all, however, features a nameless woman. In the following tale, the foreignness and gender of a woman lets the sailors just sacrifice her to save their own skins:

 

Pausanias, 1.23.5

“Because I wished to know more than another about Satyrs—who they are—I traveled to many men for stories of them. The Carian Euphemus told me that once while sailing to Italy he was led off his course by the winds and into the sea beyond in which others do not sail. He was claiming that many islands there are empty but that in others savage men live. His sailors did not want to land on those islands because, those who had landed there before had gained some knowledge of the population; but at this time, again, they were forced. According to Euphemos the islands are called Satyrides by the sailors: the people who live there have red-hair, are not much taller than horses, and have tails on their rear-ends. As soon as they noticed that the sailors were coming, they rushed toward the ship without making a noise and attacked the women on it. Finally, out of fear, the sailors threw a foreign woman overboard. The Satyrs violated her not only in the regular way but using her entire body as well.”

περὶ δὲ Σατύρων, οἵτινές εἰσιν, ἑτέρου πλέον ἐθέλων ἐπίστασθαι πολλοῖς αὐτῶν τούτων ἕνεκα ἐς λόγους ἦλθον. ἔφη δὲ Εὔφημος Κὰρ ἀνὴρ πλέων ἐς᾿Ιταλίαν ἁμαρτεῖν ὑπὸ ἀνέμων τοῦ πλοῦ καὶ ἐς τὴν ἔξω θάλασσαν, ἐς ἣν οὐκέτι πλέουσιν, ἐξενεχθῆναι. νήσους δὲ εἶναι μὲν ἔλεγεν ἐρήμους πολλάς, ἐν δὲ ἄλλαιςοἰκεῖν ἄνδρας ἀγρίους· ταύταις δὲ οὐκ ἐθέλειν νήσοις προσίσχειν τοὺς ναύτας οἷα πρότερόν τε προσσχόντας καὶ τῶν ἐνοικούντων οὐκ ἀπείρως ἔχοντας, βιασθῆναι δ’οὖν καὶ τότε. ταύτας καλεῖσθαι μὲν ὑπὸ τῶν ναυτῶν Σατυρίδας, εἶναι δὲ τοὺς ἐνοικοῦντας [καὶ] καπυροὺς καὶ ἵππων οὐ πολὺ μείους ἔχειν ἐπὶ τοῖς ἰσχίοις οὐράς.τούτους, ὡς ᾔσθοντο, καταδραμόντας ἐπὶ τὴν ναῦν φωνὴν μὲν οὐδεμίαν ἱέναι, ταῖς δὲ γυναιξὶν ἐπιχειρεῖν ταῖς ἐν τῇ νηί· τέλος δὲ δείσαντας τοὺς ναύτας βάρβαρον γυναῖκα ἐκβαλεῖν ἐς τὴν νῆσον· ἐς ταύτην οὖν ὑβρίζειν τοὺς Σατύρους οὐ μόνον ᾗ καθέστηκεν, ἀλλὰ καὶ τὸ πᾶν ὁμοίως σῶμα.

I can always try to cherry-pick anecdotes like those of Aspasia–who allegedly taught Socrates rhetoric–or emphasize the beauty of Sappho’s poetry. We can expatiate all we want on the power of Greek and Roman love poetry. But the truth is, the Romans and Greeks function much better as examples to avoid.

Tawdry Tuesday: The Argives Say Helen is Iphigenia’s Mother

 

The tale I usually tell my myth students is that Helen was kidnapped as a baby by Theseus and returned fairly young as well.  According to Pausanias, the Argives (and some poets) told a rather different story about her.

 

“Near the shrine of the Lords is the temple of Eilêthuia, set up by Helen when Theseus was passing through to the Thesprotians with Peirthoos after Aphidna was captured by the Dioskouri and Helen was being taken to Lakedaimon. Some say that she was pregnant and that she gave birth in Argos and then built the temple of Eilêthuia but that she gave the child she bore to Klytemnestra—for she was already married to Agamemnon—and that she married Menelaos after these events. The poets Euphorion of Khalkis and Alexandros of Pleurôn have written poems on this matter; before them still, Stesikhoros of Himeria also agrees with the Argives that Iphigenia was Theseus’ daughter.”

πλησίον δὲ τῶν ᾿Ανάκτων Εἰληθυίας ἐστὶν ἱερὸν ἀνάθημα ῾Ελένης, ὅτε σὺν Πειρίθῳ Θησέως ἀπελθόντος ἐς Θεσπρωτοὺς ῎Αφιδνά τε ὑπὸ Διοσκούρων ἑάλω καὶ ἤγετο ἐς Λακεδαίμονα ῾Ελένη. ἔχειν μὲν γὰρ αὐτὴν λέγουσιν ἐν γαστρί, τεκοῦσαν δὲ ἐν ῎Αργει καὶ τῆς Εἰληθυίας ἱδρυσαμένην τὸ ἱερὸν τὴν μὲν παῖδα ἣν ἔτεκε Κλυταιμνήστρᾳ δοῦναι—συνοικεῖν γὰρ ἤδη Κλυταιμνήστραν ᾿Αγαμέμνονι—, αὐτὴν δὲ ὕστερον τούτων Μενελάῳ γήμασθαι. καὶ ἐπὶ τῷδε Εὐφορίων Χαλκιδεὺς καὶ Πλευρώνιος ᾿Αλέξανδρος ἔπη ποιήσαντες, πρότερον δὲ ἔτι Στησίχορος ὁ ῾Ιμεραῖος, κατὰ ταὐτά φασιν ᾿Αργείοις Θησέως εἶναι θυγατέρα ᾿Ιφιγένειαν.

Theseus_Helene_Staatliche_Antikensammlungen_2309_n2
In some accounts, Theseus kidnaps an older Helen.

 

Here’s a fragment from Euphorion (fr. 90)

 

“Because, in fact, Helen gave birth to her with Theseus who violated her with force”

Οὕνεκα δή μιν
ἶφι βιησαμένῳ ῾Ελένη ὑπεγείνατο Θησεῖ.

 

There is wordplay here with Iphigenia and iphi-biêsamenô.

 

 

 

 

Homeric Love Advice: After Sex, Tell a Story

Odyssey, 23.300-309

“After they had their fill of lovely sex,
they took pleasure in their stories, narrating for one another.
She told him everything she endured as a woman
watching the ruinous throng of suitors in their home,
slaughtering so many bulls and fat sheep,
and draining down so much wine.
And godly Odysseus told her all the grief he caused men
and how much he suffered himself in his efforts.
He told her everything. And she enjoyed hearing it—
sleep would not alight upon her brows before he told every bit.”

τὼ δ’ ἐπεὶ οὖν φιλότητος ἐταρπήτην ἐρατεινῆς,
τερπέσθην μύθοισι, πρὸς ἀλλήλους ἐνέποντες,
ἡ μὲν ὅσ’ ἐν μεγάροισιν ἀνέσχετο δῖα γυναικῶν
ἀνδρῶν μνηστήρων ἐσορῶσ’ ἀΐδηλον ὅμιλον,
οἳ ἕθεν εἵνεκα πολλά, βόας καὶ ἴφια μῆλα,
ἔσφαζον, πολλὸς δὲ πίθων ἠφύσσετο οἶνος·
αὐτὰρ διογενὴς ᾿Οδυσεύς, ὅσα κήδε’ ἔθηκεν
ἀνθρώποισ’ ὅσα τ’ αὐτὸς ὀϊζύσας ἐμόγησε,
πάντ’ ἔλεγ’· ἡ δ’ ἄρα τέρπετ’ ἀκούουσ’, οὐδέ οἱ ὕπνος
πῖπτεν ἐπὶ βλεφάροισι πάρος καταλέξαι ἅπαντα.

There’s not much sex in Homer–epic does not deny the existence of the act–or its power–but it is chaste in describing it. And when it does, the situation is usually a bit, well, awkward. In the Iliad, Aphrodite rescues Paris from a duel with Menelaos and inserts him in his bedchamber.  She tells Helen to go ‘comfort’ him and when Helen balks, Aphrodite threatens. Helen insults Paris a bit, and he responds rather weakly (Il. 3.437-447):

“Paris then answered her with this speech:
“Don’t criticize me with such harsh words, wife.
For now, Menelaos would have overcome me with Athena’s help
Or I would have killed him. Gods support both of us.
Come on, let’s lay down in bad and have sex.
For desire has not ever so clouded my thoughts
Not even when I first took you from beautiful Lakedaimon
And sailed in the sea-going vessels
And I stopped to linger in sex and sleep on the island Kranaes.
This is how much I want you now as this sweet longing takes me.”
That’s what he said as he led her to the bed. His spouse followed.

Τὴν δὲ Πάρις μύθοισιν ἀμειβόμενος προσέειπε·
μή με γύναι χαλεποῖσιν ὀνείδεσι θυμὸν ἔνιπτε·
νῦν μὲν γὰρ Μενέλαος ἐνίκησεν σὺν ᾿Αθήνῃ,
κεῖνον δ’ αὖτις ἐγώ· πάρα γὰρ θεοί εἰσι καὶ ἡμῖν.
ἀλλ’ ἄγε δὴ φιλότητι τραπείομεν εὐνηθέντε·
οὐ γάρ πώ ποτέ μ’ ὧδέ γ’ ἔρως φρένας ἀμφεκάλυψεν,
οὐδ’ ὅτε σε πρῶτον Λακεδαίμονος ἐξ ἐρατεινῆς
ἔπλεον ἁρπάξας ἐν ποντοπόροισι νέεσσι,
νήσῳ δ’ ἐν Κραναῇ ἐμίγην φιλότητι καὶ εὐνῇ,
ὥς σεο νῦν ἔραμαι καί με γλυκὺς ἵμερος αἱρεῖ.
῏Η ῥα, καὶ ἄρχε λέχος δὲ κιών· ἅμα δ’ εἵπετ’ ἄκοιτις.

The scene is not much better in the Iliad’s most famous instance of lovemaking. Hera spends most of book 14 preparing to seduce Zeus so that she can thwart his plans in helping the Trojans. She arrives, with a promise of help from the god Sleep and special cosmetics borrowed from Aphrodite, and Zeus’ response is immediate (14 312-328):

Continue reading “Homeric Love Advice: After Sex, Tell a Story”

“You Must Change Your Beauty”: Hating on Helen

From Ovid’s Heroides 16.283-290

“Many things surely need to be said, but, for us to say more in person
Take me to your room this quiet night.
Do you feel shame or fear breaking your wedding vow,
That you make false the chaste rites of a legitimate bed?
Oh my simple, dare I say naive, Helen
Do you imagine that your body lacks all fault?
You must change your beauty or instead be less withholding,
what is right has only the appearance of modesty.”

multa quidem subeunt; sed coram ut plura loquamur,
excipe me lecto nocte silente tuo.
an pudet et metuis Venerem temerare maritam
castaque legitimi fallere iura tori?
a, nimium simplex Helene, ne rustica dicam,
hanc faciem culpa posse carere putas?
aut faciem mutes aut sis non dura, necesse est;
lis est cum forma magna pudicitiae.

 

Of the poems written with Helen in mind, this is good, but it doesn’t touch this one (Sappho fr. 16):

Some say a force of horsemen, some say infantry
and others say a fleet of ships is the loveliest
thing on the dark earth, but I say it is
the one you love

It is altogether simple to make this understood
since she whose beauty outmatched all,
Helen, left her husband
a most noble man

And went sailing to Troy
Without a thought for her child and dear parents
[Love] made her completely insane
And led her astray

This reminds me of absent Anactoria

I would rather watch her lovely walk
and see the shining light of her face
than Lydian chariots followed by
infantrymen in arms

Οἰ μὲν ἰππήων στρότον, οἰ δὲ πέσδων,
οἰ δὲ νάων φαῖσ’ ἐπὶ γᾶν μέλαιναν
ἔμμεναι κάλλιστον, ἐγὼ δὲ κῆν’ ὄτ-
   τω τις ἔραται

πά]γχυ δ’ εὔμαρες σύνετον πόησαι
πά]ντι τ[οῦ]τ’· ἀ γὰρ πολὺ περσκέθοισα
κά]λλος ἀνθρώπων Ἐλένα [τὸ]ν ἄνδρα
   τὸν πανάριστον
/  [κρίννεν ἄρ]ιστον

καλλίποισ’ ἔβας ‘ς Τροίαν πλέοισα
/ ὂσ τὸ πὰν] σέβασ τροΐα[σ ὄ]λεσσ[ε,
κωὐδὲ παῖδος οὐδὲ φίλων τοκήων
/ κωὐδὲ πα]ῖδοσ οὔδε [φίλ]ων το[κ]ήων
πάμπαν ἐμνάσθη, ἀλλὰ παράγαγ’ αὔταν
/ μᾶλλον] ἐμνάσθη, ἀ[λλὰ] παράγαγ᾽ αὔταν
   οὐκ ἀέκοισαν
/  πῆλε φίλει]σαν

Κύπρις· εὔκαμπτον γὰρ ἔφυ βρότων κῆρ
] κούφως τ . . . οη . . . ν
κἄμε νῦν Ἀνακτορίας ὀνέμναι-
   σ’ οὐ παρεοίσας

/ Ὠροσ. εὔκ]αμπτον γαρ [ἀεὶ τὸ θῆλυ]
αἴ κέ] τισ κούφωσ τ[ὸ πάρον ν]οήσῃ.
οὐ]δὲ νῦν, Ἀνακτορί[α, τ]ὺ μέμναι
     δὴ] παρειοῖσασ,

τᾶς κε βολλοίμαν ἔρατόν τε βᾶμα
κἀμάρυχμα λάμπρον ἴδην προσώπω
ἢ τὰ Λύδων ἄρματα κἀν ὄπλοισι
   πεσδομάχεντας.

Fighting Over Helen Just Might Make Sense

Homer, Iliad 3.3.146-160

 

The men who were near Priam, Panthoos, Thymoites
Lampos, Klutios, and Hiketaôn, the descendent of Ares,
Were Oukalegôn and Antênôr, two intelligent men.
The council of elders sat there on the Skaian gates
Slowed by old age, but still fine public speakers
Something like cicadas who sit on the leaf
Of a tree trailing along their lily-thin voices.
When they saw Helen approaching the wall,
They addressed each other with winged words:
“There’s no reason to criticize the Trojans and well-greaved Achaeans
For suffering pain for so long for this woman.
She has the terrible appearance of the immortal goddesses.
But, even though she is like this, let her return in the ships,
To prevent more pain from being left for our children.”
Οἳ δ’ ἀμφὶ Πρίαμον καὶ Πάνθοον ἠδὲ Θυμοίτην
Λάμπόν τε Κλυτίον θ’ ῾Ικετάονά τ’ ὄζον ῎Αρηος
Οὐκαλέγων τε καὶ ᾿Αντήνωρ πεπνυμένω ἄμφω
ἥατο δημογέροντες ἐπὶ Σκαιῇσι πύλῃσι,
γήραϊ δὴ πολέμοιο πεπαυμένοι, ἀλλ’ ἀγορηταὶ
ἐσθλοί, τεττίγεσσιν ἐοικότες οἵ τε καθ’ ὕλην
δενδρέῳ ἐφεζόμενοι ὄπα λειριόεσσαν ἱεῖσι·
τοῖοι ἄρα Τρώων ἡγήτορες ἧντ’ ἐπὶ πύργῳ.
οἳ δ’ ὡς οὖν εἴδονθ’ ῾Ελένην ἐπὶ πύργον ἰοῦσαν,
ἦκα πρὸς ἀλλήλους ἔπεα πτερόεντ’ ἀγόρευον·
οὐ νέμεσις Τρῶας καὶ ἐϋκνήμιδας ᾿Αχαιοὺς
τοιῇδ’ ἀμφὶ γυναικὶ πολὺν χρόνον ἄλγεα πάσχειν·
αἰνῶς ἀθανάτῃσι θεῇς εἰς ὦπα ἔοικεν·
ἀλλὰ καὶ ὧς τοίη περ ἐοῦσ’ ἐν νηυσὶ νεέσθω,
μηδ’ ἡμῖν τεκέεσσί τ’ ὀπίσσω πῆμα λίποιτο.

This passage is famous for showing the marginalization of the Trojan elders and for acting as a preface to the famous (and sometimes thought illogical) “viewing from the walls” (Teikhoskopia) when Helen names the Greek warriors for Priam (even though they’ve been fighting before Troy for 9 years). The elders essentially say, yeah, we get it, she’s hot. But, in the wisdom brought by old age, they insist she isn’t worth it.

Perhaps the Trojan elders understand better the insanity of lust than Herodotus (2.110):

“If Helen really were in Ilium, they would have given her back to the Greeks whether Paris wanted them to or not. Priam was not so out of his mind, nor were his other subjects, that they would want to risk their own bodies and children and the city itself just so that Paris could sleep with Helen.”

εἰ ἦν Ἑλένη ἐν Ἰλίῳ, ἀποδοθῆναι ἂν αὐτὴν τοῖσι Ἕλλησι ἤτοι ἑκόντος γε ἢ ἀέκοντοςἈλεξάνδρου. οὐ γὰρ δὴ οὕτω γε φρενοβλαβὴς ἦν ὁ Πρίαμος οὐδὲ οἱ ἄλλοι οἱ προσήκοντες αὐτῷ, ὥστε τοῖσι σφετέροισι σώμασι καὶ τοῖσι τέκνοισι καὶ τῇ πόλι κινδυνεύειν ἐβούλοντο, ὅκως Ἀλέξανδρος Ἑλένῃ συνοικέῃ.

Of course, arguing about Helen was a central part of early Greek responses to myth. Helen received a great deal of blame for the Trojan War,even though from the beginning it is clear that the gods were using her for their own plans. (Her father was blamed by some for her infidelity.) In the Classical period, debating Helen’s fault was an established rhetorical practice. But one of the earlier and more creative responses about the whole affair was a “shaggy” defense: it wasn’t her! It was someone who looked like her:

“This is not the true tale:
You never went in the well-benched ships
You did not go to the towers of Troy…
[It is a fault in Homer that
He put Helen in Troy
And not her image only;
It is a fault in Hesiod
In another: there are two, differing
Recantations and this is the beginning.
Come here, dance loving goddess;
Golden-winged, maiden,
As Khamaileôn put it.
Stesichorus himself says that
an image [eidolon] went to troy
and that Helen stayed back
with Prôteus…”

οὐκ ἔστ’ ἔτυμος λόγος οὗτος,
οὐδ’ ἔβας ἐν νηυσὶν ἐυσσέλμοις
οὐδ’ ἵκεο πέργαμα Τροίας,
[ μέμ-
φεται τὸν ῞Ομηρο[ν ὅτι ῾Ε-
λέ]νην ἐποίησεν ἐν Τ[ροίαι
καὶ οὐ τὸ εἴδωλον αὐτῆ[ς, ἔν
τε τ[ῆι] ἑτέραι τὸν ῾Ησίοδ[ον
μέμ[φετ]αι· διτταὶ γάρ εἰσι πα-
λινωιδλλάττουσαι, καὶ ἔ-
στιν ἡ μὲν ἀρχή· δεῦρ’ αὖ-
τε θεὰ φιλόμολπε, τῆς δέ·
χρυσόπτερε παρθένε, ὡς
ἀνέγραψε Χαμαιλέων· αὐ-
τὸ[ς δ]έ φησ[ιν ὁ] Στησίχορο[ς
τὸ μὲν ε[ἴδωλο]ν ἐλθεῖ[ν ἐς
Τροίαν τὴν δ’ ῾Ελένην π[αρὰ
τῶι Πρωτεῖ καταμεῖν[αι· …

Herodotus tells this story too. But Hesiod blames the whole thing on Helen’s father’s infidelity.

“As a small child I was without my mother” Ovid, Heroides VIII: Hermione to Orestes, 89-94

Hermione writes to Orestes but addresses her long absent mother too:

“As a small child I was without my mother
And my father was always at war.
Even though they were alive—I was bereft of both.
Mother: in those first years I never brought you
loving words from the uncertain mouth of a little girl.
I never reached around your neck with too short arms
Nor sat as a welcome burden in your lap.”

parva mea sine matre fui; pater arma ferebat;
et duo cum vivant, orba duobus eram.
non tibi blanditias primis, mea mater, in annis
incerto dictas ore puella tuli.
non ego captavi brevibus tua colla lacertis,
nec gremio sedi sarcina grata tuo.

“This is not the True Tale”: Stesichorus and Helen’s “Ghost” at Troy

Helen received a great deal of blame for the Trojan War,even though from the beginning it is clear that the gods were using her for their own plans. (Her father was blamed by some for her infidelity.) In the Classical period, debating Helen’s fault was an established rhetorical practice. But one of the earlier and more creative responses about the whole affair was a “shaggy” defense: it wasn’t her! It was someone who looked like her:

“This is not the true tale:
You never went in the well-benched ships
You did not go to the towers of Troy…
[It is a fault in Homer that
He put Helen in Troy
And not her image only;
It is a fault in Hesiod
In another: there are two, differing
Recantations and this is the beginning.
Come here, dance loving goddess;
Golden-winged, maiden,
As Khamaileôn put it.
Stesichorus himself says that
an image [eidolon] went to troy
and that Helen stayed back
with Prôteus…”

οὐκ ἔστ’ ἔτυμος λόγος οὗτος,
οὐδ’ ἔβας ἐν νηυσὶν ἐυσσέλμοις
οὐδ’ ἵκεο πέργαμα Τροίας,
[ μέμ-
φεται τὸν ῞Ομηρο[ν ὅτι ῾Ε-
λέ]νην ἐποίησεν ἐν Τ[ροίαι
καὶ οὐ τὸ εἴδωλον αὐτῆ[ς, ἔν
τε τ[ῆι] ἑτέραι τὸν ῾Ησίοδ[ον
μέμ[φετ]αι· διτταὶ γάρ εἰσι πα-
λινωιδλλάττουσαι, καὶ ἔ-
στιν ἡ μὲν ἀρχή· δεῦρ’ αὖ-
τε θεὰ φιλόμολπε, τῆς δέ·
χρυσόπτερε παρθένε, ὡς
ἀνέγραψε Χαμαιλέων· αὐ-
τὸ[ς δ]έ φησ[ιν ὁ] Στησίχορο[ς
τὸ μὲν ε[ἴδωλο]ν ἐλθεῖ[ν ἐς
Τροίαν τὴν δ’ ῾Ελένην π[αρὰ
τῶι Πρωτεῖ καταμεῖν[αι· …

Herodotus tells this story too.

Helen Born from an Egg: Athenaeus, 2.57e-f

 

“‘They called the part of the house, which we call the upper chambers, eggs,’ says Clearchus in his Erotics, when he noted that Helen, having been raised in those chambers, gained the reputation among many of having been born from an egg. Neocles of Croton has it wrong when he says that the egg from which Helen was born descended from the moon, for the women of the moon give birth from eggs, and the people born there are fifteen times our size, as Herodoros of Heracleia relates.”

‘ἐκάλουν δὲ καὶ τὰ νῦν τῶν οἰκιῶν παρ’ ἡμῖν καλούμενα ὑπερῷα ᾠά’, φησὶ Κλέαρχος ἐν Ερωτικοῖς (FHG II 316), τὴν ῾Ελένην φάσκων ἐν τοιούτοις οἰκήμασι τρεφομένην δόξαν ἀπενέγκασθαι παρὰ πολλοῖς ὡς ἐξ ᾠοῦ εἴη γεγεννημένη. οὐκ εὖ δὲ Νεοκλῆς ὁ Κροτωνιάτης ἔφη ἀπὸ τῆς σελήνης πεσεῖν τὸ ᾠὸν ἐξ οὗ τὴν ῾Ελένην γεννηθῆναι· τὰς γὰρ σεληνίτιδας γυναῖκας ᾠοτοκεῖν καὶ τοὺς ἐκεῖ γεννωμένους πεντεκαιδεκαπλασίονας ἡμῶν εἶναι, ὡς ῾Ηρόδωρος ὁ ῾Ηρακλεώτης ἱστορεῖ (FHG II 35).

Achilles Missed out on Helen Because He Was At School (Hes. Cat. fr. 204.86-93)

Last week, we posted a part of the Catalogue of Women with the catalogue of Helen’s suitors, explaining that Menelaos won Helen’s hand because of the magnitude of his wealth. The fragment, however, does not stop there. No! It has to explain why Achilles didn’t win Helen’s hand:

Fr. 204.86-93

“Atreus’ war-loving son Menelaos conquered everyone
Because he gave the most gifts. Kheiron took Peleus’ son
of swift feet to wooded Pelion, that most exceptional of men,
when he was still a child. War-loving Menelaos wouldn’t have defeated him
nor would any other Mortal man on the earth who was wooing
Helen if swift Achilles had come upon her when she was still a maiden
As he returned home from Pelion.
But, as it turned out, war-loving Menelaos got her first.”

᾿Ατρε[ίδ]ης ν̣[ίκησε]ν ἀρηΐφιλος Μενέλαος
πλεῖ̣[στ]α πορών. Χε̣ί̣ρων δ’ ἐν Πηλίωι ὑλήεντι
Πηλείδην ἐκ̣ό̣μιζε πόδας ταχύν, ἔξοχον ἀνδρῶν,
παῖδ’ ἔτ’ ἐόν[τ’·] οὐ γάρ μιν ἀρηΐφιλος Μενέλαος
νίκησ’ οὐδέ τις ἄλλος ἐπιχθονίων ἀνθρώπων
μνηστεύων ῾Ελένην, εἴ μιν κίχε παρθένον οὖσαν
οἴκαδε νοστήσας ἐκ Πηλίου ὠκὺς ᾿Αχιλλεύς.
ἀλλ’ ἄρα τὴν πρίν γ’ ἔσχεν ἀρηΐφιλος Μενέλαος·

In other traditions Achilles actually is a suitor. (Pausanias 3.24; Euripides’, Helen 98-99; see Ormand, THe Hesiodic Catalogue of Women and Archaic Greece, 2014, 149-150 and 198-201). Hesiod, however, finds it necessary to explain why he is sidelined from this game…

“What’s this got to do with Helen?” Four Passages from Euripides Iphigenia at Aulis

346-348
“…It isn’t right that
A well-born man change his ways when attempting great deeds:
No, he should at that moment be steadfast, especially to his friends
Since a men is most able to help his friends when he does well.”

…ἄνδρα δ᾽ οὐ χρεὼν
τὸν ἀγαθὸν πράσσοντα μεγάλα τοὺς τρόπους μεθιστάναι,
ἀλλὰ καὶ βέβαιον εἶναι τότε μάλιστα τοῖς φίλοις,
ἡνίκ᾽ ὠφελεῖν μάλιστα δυνατός ἐστιν εὐτυχῶν.

This sounds nice and sententious. But remember that Menelaos is trying to convince Agamemnon to kill his daughter.

494: “What does your daughter have to do with Helen?”

…τί δ’ ῾Ελένης παρθένωι τῆι σῆι μέτα;

524-527
Agamemnon: “The offspring of Sisyphus knows everything.”
Menelaos: “There is no way that Odysseus will hurt you and me.”
Agamemnon: “He has always been clever with the mob.”
Menelaos: “He is a slave to public favor, a terrible evil.?

Αγ. τὸ Σισύφειον σπέρμα πάντ’ οἶδεν τάδε.
Με. οὐκ ἔστ’ ᾿Οδυσσεὺς ὅτι σὲ κἀμὲ πημανεῖ.
Αγ. ποικίλος ἀεὶ πέφυκε τοῦ τ’ ὄχλου μέτα.
Με. φιλοτιμίαι μὲν ἐνέχεται, δεινῶι κακῶι.

559-567

“Men have different natures;
They have different ways. But acting rightly
Always stands out.
The preparation of education
points the way to virtue.
For it is a mark of wisdom to feel shame
and it brings the transformative grace
of seeing through its judgment
what is right; it is reputation that grants
an ageless glory to your life.”

διάφοροι δὲ φύσεις βροτῶν,
διάφοροι δὲ τρόποι· τὸ δ’ ὀρ-
θῶς ἐσθλὸν σαφὲς αἰεί·
τροφαί θ’ αἱ παιδευόμεναι
μέγα φέρουσ’ ἐς τὰν ἀρετάν·
τό τε γὰρ αἰδεῖσθαι σοφία,
†τάν τ’ ἐξαλλάσσουσαν ἔχει
χάριν ὑπὸ γνώμας ἐσορᾶν†
τὸ δέον, ἔνθα δόξα φέρει
κλέος ἀγήρατον βιοτᾶι.