“Some report that Homer was older by birth than Hesiod—among this number are Philochorus and Xenophanes. But others say he was younger, including the poet Lucius Accius and Ephorus the historian. In the first book of On Images, however, Marcus Varro says that there is little agreement about which was born first, but that what is not in bout is that they lived at the same time. Evidence from this comes from the inscription on the tripod which was allegedly put on Mt. Helikon.
Accius, still, in book one of the Didasalica uses somewhat superficial arguments…he continues ‘since Homer, when he recounts at the start of his poem that Achilles is the son of Peleus and does not add who Peleus is—which is something he would have added if he had not seen it already explained by Hesiod (Fr. 211). Similarly, when it comes to the Cyclops’ Accius says, ‘Homer would have highlighted the fact that he was one-eyed and would not have passed over such a marvelous detail if it had not already been popularized in the older poems of Hesiod.”
(2) alii Homerum quam Hesiodum maiorem natu fuisse scripserunt, in quis Philochorus et Xenophanes; alii minorem, in quis L. Accius poeta et Ephorus historiae scriptor. (3) M. autem Varro in primo De imaginibus, uter prior sit natus, parum constare dicit, sed non esse dubium, quin aliquo tempore eodem vixerint; idque ex epigrammate ostendi, quod in tripode scriptum est, qui in monte Helikone ab Hesiodo positus traditur. (4) Accius autem in primo didascalico levibus admodum argumentis utitur … (5) quod Homerus, inquit, cum in principio carminis Achillem esse filium Pelei diceret, quis esset Peleus, non addidit; quam rem procul, inquit, dubio dixisset, nisi ab Hesiodo iam dictum videret. de Cyclope itidem, inquit, vel maxime quod unoculus fuit, rem tam insignem non praeterisset, nisi aeque prioris Hesiodi carminibus involgatum esset.
Andocides, On the Mysteries 78 (excerpt from a decree read in the speech)
“…For those who have committed massacres or created tyrannies, in addition to everything else, have the council erase their names everywhere, wherever there is some mention of them in public, in accordance with what we have said and any copy of it which the lawmakers or elected officers possess.”
“Just as in a painting’s colors, we must put the bright and shining matters in the front of the mind and hide and cover the depressing ones away—for it is not possible to erase them or eradicate them completely.”
I have been thinking for some time about the amnesty at the end of the Odyssey, which creates an erasure of the murders of the suitors family so that the Odysseus and his people can escape the cycle of vengeance. There are some echoes of this in the Roman practice of damnatio memoriae. I have thought a lot about Malcolm Gladwell’s application of Mark Grenovetter’s threshold theory to thinking about he sociology of school shootings. I am not sure that erasing events is the solution (nor am I suggesting that Gladwell and Grenovetter think so). What we are really facing in this question is how the stories we tell, how the way we cover events, creates paradigms and narratives that perpetuate themselves.
At the end of the Odyssey, Zeus intervenes and erases the Ithakans’ memory of the murder of the suitors to re-establish peace and stability for Odysseus’ return.
Homer, Odyssey 24.478–486
“My child, why do you inquire or ask me about these things?
Didn’t you contrive this plan yourself, that Odysseus
would exact vengeance on these men after he returned home?
Do whatever you want—but I will say what is fitting.
Since Odysseus has paid back the suitors,
let him be king again for good and take sacred oaths.
Let us force a forgetting of that slaughter of children and relatives.
Let all the people be friendly towards each other
as before. Let there be abundant wealth and peace.”
(To be honest, after yet another national tragedy I cannot read Zeus’ words as anything but bitter sarcasm. This is, in all likelihood, an extremely anachronistic interpretation. But I cannot help but wonder if ancient audiences ever heard these lines and were unsettled, if not angered…)
It is clear that Zeus has to do this in order to end the conflict (and end the epic) because both parties are motivated by the cycle of vengeance. When Eupeithes’ speaks to the assembled Ithakans earlier in Book 24, he specifically mentions the fear of becoming an object of shame in a narrative pattern.
Homer, Odyssey 24.432-437
“Let us go. Otherwise we will be ashamed forever.
This will be an object of reproach even for men to come to learn,
if we do not pay back the murders of our relatives and sons.
It cannot be sweet to my mind at least to live like this.
But instead, I would rather perish immediately and dwell with the dead.
But, let’s go so that those men don’t cross to the mainland first.”
Eupeithes–and Odysseus for most of the epic–act according to patterns they have received, embedded cultural expectations about how to behave in certain situations. The Odyssey‘s sudden end–its resolution through an act of erasure that challenges the very nature of the genre of memory itself–should prompt us to understand that the conflict has no resolution according to conventional paradigms. Rather than being a simple, closed end, this ending should incite us to realize that the stories themselves have been a problem.
Trauma leaves scars whether we like it or not. Sometimes those scars are visible, but other times we hardly know that they exist until the exact moment that they decide to present themselves to us–the word that reminds us of our scariest memory or a dispute with a friend that jerks us back into childhood, or even a certain smell that is connected to a memory.
What I deeply appreciate about the way Emily puts this is that it draws upon the powerful ambiguity of the traumatic. The Greek word trauma can mean “wound” but it also means “hurt” or “damage”. In modern English usage, trauma can denote a physical ailment (think “blunt force trauma”), but it more often refers to the invisible marks physical suffering can leaving behind.
The Etymology of the word is disputed by modern linguists, but Byzantine scholars presented a folk etymology that it is “from trô (titrôskô [“to pierce, wound”]) [with both spellings] trôma and trauma. It is etymologized from blood flowing [to rheein] through it.” (Τραῦμα: Παρὰ τὸ τρῶ, τὸ τιτρώσκω, τρῶμα καὶ τραῦμα· ἐτυμολογεῖται δὲ παρὰ τὸ ῥέειν δι’ αὐτοῦ τὸ αἷμα, Etymologicum Magnum).
I have spent some time obsessed with this scene over the past few years, seeing the word for scar in versions of Odysseus’ name and finding both wonder and horror in how Eurykleia is instrumentalized to be witness to Odysseus’ history. The scar-scene is one of several moments of recognition in the epic, opportunities for Odysseus’ identity to be confirmed and re-performed. Each one depends on an external sign that carries a story with it. A bed for Odysseus and Penelope; a grove of trees for father and son.
But I also think that beneath this is the recognition that bodies which do not tell stories–perfect, unmarked, even fictional or fictionalized bodies–present a problem in the Odyssey‘s world. The unblemished beauty of the suitors and the young princes among the Phaeacians stand almost in monstrous contrast to Odysseus. The age of his body and the scar from his youth tell his story and represent the promise of kleos to come. An unmarked body is one without a story–or one from which story has been erased.
Emily’s deeply felt post made me think of a twitter thread from last year when I talked about the Odyssey with my daughter:
#ClassicsParenting Thread About a month ago my daughter (7, now 8) tried to jump from a dresser to a bed and missed. She lacerated her leg 5 inches long and down to the bone (1/7)
“These things seem quite entertaining to me, but they are not true. I have also heard another reason for the bit, much more credible. I am happy with what is said by those who generally agree in Greece, who believe that the goddess is Hera and the work was made by Dionysus. For Dionysus went into Syria on the road that goes to Ethiopia. There are many signs left by Dionysus in the Shrine, among them are foreign clothing and Indian stones and Elephant horns which Dionysus brought from Ethiopia. There are also two really big phalluses that stand up at the entrance gates. This epigram has been inscribed upon them. ‘Dionysus dedicated these phalluses to Hera, his stepmother.’
This remains enough for me, but I will tell you of another oddity in the temple of Dionysus. The Greeks bear phalloi in honor of Dionysus, and they carry something in front of it, a little man carved out of wood which has huge genitals. These are called puppets. There is also one of these in the temple. On the right side of the temple, there is a small bronze man that has giant genitals.”
According to the Greek Anthology there was a temple to Apollônis, the mother of Attalos and Eumenes, at Cyzicos. The temple had at least nineteen epigrams inscribed on columns with accompanying relief images. All of the epigrams have mothers from myth and poetry as their subjects. The Eighth Epigram is on Odysseus’ mother Antikleia.
On the eighth tablet is the underworld visit of Odysseus. He addressed is own mother and asked her for news of his home (Greek Anthology 3.8)
“Wise-minded mother of Odysseus, Antikleia
You didn’t welcome your son home to Ithaka while alive.
Instead, he is shocked when his glance falls upon his sweet mother
Now wandering along the banks of Akheron.”
Of course, this scene plays upon book 11 of the Odyssey doubly: the image recalls Odysseus describing his mother in the Odyssey and it also plays upon the Odyssey’s catalogue of heroic mothers motif, which it in turn shares with the fragmentary Hesiodic Catalogue Of Women.
“Then came the spirit of my mother who had passed away,
The daughter of great-hearted Autolykos, Antikleia
Whom I left alive when I went to sacred Troy.
When I saw her I cried and pitied her in my heart,
But I could not allow her to come forward to touch
The blood before I had learned from Teiresias.”
Here are some etymologies for Paris. (and credit to @spannycat for asking about this)
“Ill-passing” [Dusparis] someone named for evil, for example when Paris was born. A bad-nickname. Also, a place that is difficult to pass through [duspariton], unpassable. Xenophon uses it this way in the Anabasis.
“Paris, of Paris [Paridos], the son of Hekabê who was called Alexander and also Paris. The name comes from the fire [Fire] in Ida. For Hekabê believed in a dream that she was giving birth to a torch which would consume the city with fire and the forest on Ida too. For this reason, she exposed him on Ida after he was born.”
What is up with all the variant etymologies? It seems that the name Paris is not from Greek origins. As with other famous names, once the origins of a word become obscure, later audiences re-analyze them in some fantastic ways.
“The hero ’ s other name, Paris, is clearly non-Greek. Watkins indicated a possible Luvian attestation of it and related it to the name of his father Priam, which is allegedly of the same etymology (Luvian: Pariyamuvas ‘ supreme in force ’ , from pari(ya)-, which is contracted in the case of Priam).³² It may thus seem that the name Paris is equivalent in sense to Alexandros. However, it is very doubtful that the poem appreciated the meaning of a name in a foreign language…” Kanavou 2015, 85)
Kanavou, Nikoletta. The Names of Homeric Heroes : Problems and Interpretations, De Gruyter, Inc., 2015
“Antinoos, full of outrage, deviser of evils—they even claim that you
Are the best among those your age among the people of Ithaka
In council and speeches—but you really are not such a man.
Maniac! Why do you weave death and doom for Telemachus
While you fail to give help to suppliants over whom Zeus indeed
Is witness? It is not right to devise evils for one another.
Don’t you know that when your father came here as an exile
He was afraid of the people? For they were completely enraged with him
Because he had fallen in with Taphian pirates
And was harming the Thesprotians who were our allies.
They were willing to destroy him and crush his dear heart
And to consume his great pleasing life altogether.
But Odysseus defended him and held them off even though they were eager.
Now you eat up his dishonored home, you woo his dishonored wife,
And you are killing his child—and you are greatly aggrieving me.
I order you to stop and to compel the others.”
The sacrifice of Iphigenia is a pivotal moment in the tale of the House of Atreus—it motivates Agamemnon’s murder and in turn the matricide of Orestes—and the Trojan War, functioning as it does as a strange sacrifice of a virgin daughter of Klytemnestra in exchange for passage for a fleet to regain the adulteress Helen, Iphigeneia’s aunt by both her father and mother. The account is famous in Aeschylus’ Agamemnon and the plays Iphigenia at Aulis and Iphigenia among the Taurians by Euripides. Its earliest accounts, however, provide some interesting variations:
Hes. Fr. 23.13-30
“Agamemnon, lord of men, because of her beauty,
Married the dark-eyed daughter of Tyndareus, Klytemnestra.
She gave birth to fair-ankled Iphimede in her home
And Elektra who rivaled the goddesses in beauty.
But the well-greaved Achaeans butchered Iphimede
on the altar of thundering, golden-arrowed Artemis
on that day when they sailed with ships to Ilium
in order to exact payment for fair-ankled Argive woman—
they butchered a ghost. But the deer-shooting arrow-mistress
easily rescued her and anointed her head
with lovely ambrosia so that her flesh would be enduring—
She made her immortal and ageless for all days.
Now the races of men upon the earth call her
Artemis of the roads, the servant of the famous arrow-mistress.
Last in her home, dark-eyed Klytemnestra gave birth
after being impregnated by Agamemnon to Orestes,
who, once he reached maturity, paid back the murderer of his father
and killed his mother as well with pitiless bronze.”
This fragment presents what is possibly the earliest account of the tale of Iphigenia and contains the major elements: the sacrifice of Agamemnon’s daughter is tied to vengeance against Helen; the daughter is rescued by Artemis, made immortal and made her servant. [In some traditions she is either made immortal or made into a priestess of Artemis at Tauris]. Orestes kills the murderer of his father and his mother. Read More