The Athenians Messed With Homer! Some Plutarchean Accusations

From Plutarch’s Life of Theseus

“There are many other accounts reported about these things and about Ariadne too, but there isn’t any agreement. For some say that she killed herself after Theseus abandoned her; others say that after she was brought to Naxos by the sailors she lived with Dionysus’ priest Onaros there.

And they add that she was left by Theseus because he loved another, as Hesiod says “A terrible love for Aiglê, the daughter of Panopeus plagued him” (fr. 105). For Hereas the Megarian says that Peisistratus deleted this line from Hesiod just as he inserted the following into Homer’s Nekyia: “Theseus and Peirithoos, the outstanding children of the gods.”

Πολλοὶ δὲ λόγοι καὶ περὶ τούτων ἔτι λέγονται καὶ περὶ τῆς ᾿Αριάδνης, οὐδὲν ὁμολογούμενον ἔχοντες. οἱ μὲν γὰρ ἀπάγξασθαί φασιν αὐτὴν ἀπολειφθεῖσαν ὑπὸ τοῦ Θησέως, οἱ δ’ εἰς Νάξον ὑπὸ ναυτῶν κομισθεῖσαν ᾿Ωνάρῳ τῷ ἱερεῖ τοῦ Διονύσου συνοικεῖν·

ἀπολειφθῆναι δὲ τοῦ Θησέως ἐρῶντος ἑτέρας: “Δεινὸς γάρ μιν ἔτειρεν ἔρως Πανοπηίδος Αἴγλης”. τοῦτο γὰρ τὸ ἔπος ἐκ τῶν ῾Ησιόδου (fr. 105 Rz.) Πεισίστρατον ἐξελεῖν φησιν ῾Ηρέας ὁ Μεγαρεύς (FGrH 486 F 1), ὥσπερ αὖ πάλιν ἐμβαλεῖν εἰς τὴν ῾Ομήρου νέκυιαν (Od. 11, 631) “τὸ Θησέα Πειρίθοόν τε θεῶν ἀριδείκετα τέκνα” χαριζόμενον ᾿Αθηναίοις·

Plutarch’s Life of Solon (10.2-3).

“Many report that the record of Homer was introduced into the contest by Solon. They say that he read this line he interpolated this line into the Catalogue of Ships at the trial

“Ajax led twelve ships from Salamis
And after he arrived he stationed his troops where the Athenians were”

But the Athenians themselves believe that this assertion [i.e. that Solon interpolated lines] is nonsense.”

οἱ μὲν οὖν πολλοὶ τῷ Σόλωνι συναγωνίσασθαι λέγουσι τὴν ῾Ομήρου δόξαν· ἐμβαλόντα γὰρ αὐτὸν ἔπος εἰς νεῶν κατάλογον ἐπὶ τῆς δίκης ἀναγνῶναι (Il. 2. 557)·

Αἴας δ’ ἐκ Σαλαμῖνος ἄγεν δυοκαίδεκα νῆας,
στῆσε δ’ ἄγων ἵν’ ᾿Αθηναίων ἵσταντο φάλαγγες.

αὐτοὶ δ’ ᾿Αθηναῖοι ταῦτα μὲν οἴονται φλυαρίαν εἶναι

The context of the anecdote is a trial over Athenian claims to the island of Salamis. Solon insisted that the Salaminian and Athenian contingents were together and thus had a shared history, justifying Athenian control over the island. For other versions of this ‘trial’, see Aristotle Rhet. 1335b26-30; Strabo 9.1.9-10; and Diogenes Laertius. 1.48.

Strabo’s version, in fact, gives the Megarians a Homeric response of their own:

“The Athenians seemed to have provided this kind of a testimony from Homer, but the Megarians sang in response that “Ajax, led ships from Salamis, Polikhnê, and from Aigeiroussê, Nisaia, and Tripodes”. These are Megarian lands, of which they say that “Tripodes” is the Tripodiskion where the marketplace of the Magarians is currently situated.”

οἱ μὲν δὴ ᾿Αθηναῖοι τοιαύτην τινὰ σκήψασθαι μαρτυρίαν παρ’ ῾Ομήρου δοκοῦσιν, οἱ δὲ Μεγαρεῖς ἀντιπαρῳδῆσαι οὕτως „Αἴας „δ’ ἐκ Σαλαμῖνος ἄγεν νέας, ἔκ τε Πολίχνης, ἔκ τ’ „Αἰγειρούσσης Νισαίης τε Τριπόδων τε.” ἅ ἐστι χωρία Μεγαρικά, ὧν οἱ Τρίποδες Τριποδίσκιον λέγονται, καθ’ ὃ ἡ νῦν ἀγορὰ τῶν Μεγάρων κεῖται.

Here, the people of Megara claim that Ajax’s contingent included men from their lands. Thus, their connection is closer! For a great article on this exchange, see Carolyn Higbie. “The Bones of a Hero, the Ashes of a Politician: Athens, Salamis, and the Usable Past.” Classical Antiquity 16 (1997) 278-307.