On Reading without Prior Convictions

Aristotle, Poetics 1461a31

“Whenever some word seems to mean something opposite to what it means, it is best to examine how many things this might mean in the place is used. For instance, “by which the bronze spear was held”—someone might figure the best way by considering in how many ways is it possible to be hindered. This approach is opposite to what Glaukon says, that some people accept a position illogically and then make arguments based on their prior convictions and then, should anything seem to contradict them, they find fault with the poet because he meant something opposite to what they thought. The matter of Ikarios is an instance of this. For people suppose that he was Lakonian, so it is strange that Telemachus does not meet him when he goes to Sparta. But perhaps it is instead as the Kephallenians claim. For they say that Odysseus married one of their people and that his name was Ikadios not Ikarios. That the issue comes from a mistake is probable. Generally, impossible details should be credited to poetic character, to fashioning a better tale, or to keeping with popular belief. Poetic license should make something plausible but impossible more acceptable than something implausible yet possible.”

δεῖ δὲ καὶ ὅταν ὄνομά τι ὑπεναντίωμά τι δοκῇ σημαίνειν, ἐπισκοπεῖν ποσαχῶς ἂν σημήνειε τοῦτο ἐν τῷ εἰρημένῳ, οἷον τῷ “τῇ ῥ’ ἔσχετο χάλκεον ἔγχος” τὸ ταύτῃ κωλυθῆναι ποσαχῶς ἐνδέχεται, ὡδὶ ἢ ὡδί, ὡς μάλιστ’ ἄν τις ὑπολάβοι· κατὰ τὴν καταντικρὺ ἢ ὡς Γλαύκων λέγει, ὅτι ἔνιοι ἀλόγως προϋπολαμβάνουσί τι καὶ αὐτοὶ καταψηφισάμενοι συλλογίζονται, καὶ ὡς εἰρηκότος ὅ τι δοκεῖ ἐπιτιμῶσιν, ἂν ὑπεναντίον ᾖ τῇ αὑτῶν οἰήσει. τοῦτο δὲ πέπονθε τὰ περὶ ᾿Ικάριον. οἴονται γὰρ αὐτὸν Λάκωνα εἶναι· ἄτοπον οὖν τὸ μὴ ἐντυχεῖν τὸν Τηλέμαχον αὐτῷ εἰς Λακεδαίμονα ἐλθόντα. τὸ δ’ ἴσως ἔχει ὥσπερ οἱ Κεφαλλῆνές φασι· παρ’ αὑτῶν γὰρ γῆμαι λέγουσι τὸν ᾿Οδυσσέα καὶ εἶναι ᾿Ικάδιον ἀλλ’ οὐκ ᾿Ικάριον· δι’ ἁμάρτημα δὲ τὸ πρόβλημα †εἰκός ἐστιν†. ὅλως δὲ τὸ ἀδύνατον μὲν πρὸς τὴν ποίησιν ἢ πρὸς τὸ βέλτιον ἢ πρὸς τὴν δόξαν δεῖ ἀνάγειν. πρός τε γὰρ τὴν ποίησιν αἱρετώτερον πιθανὸν ἀδύνατον ἢ ἀπίθανον καὶ δυνατόν·



Genealogies and Scholia: Helen and Penelope Were Cousins!

In my recent obsession with the daughters of Tyndareus, I realized something that had escaped my notice for years.  Helen and Penelope, the two most important women of Homeric epic, appear to be cousins! How can this be the case? Their fathers, as one might imagine, were brothers (Apollodorus 3.126):

“There are some who say that Aphareus and Leukippos were sons of Periêrês the son of Aiolos and that Periêrês was the son of Kunortos, but that he himself was the father of Oibalos who fathered Tyndareus, Hippokoôn, and Ikarios.

Hippokoôn had for children Dorykleus, Skaios, Enarophoros, Euteikhes, Boukolos, Lukaithos, Tebros, Hippothoos, Eurytos, Hippokorustês, Alkinoos,and Alkôn. With these sons, Hippokoôn expelled his brothers Ikarios and Tyndareus from Lakedaimôn. The pair fled to Thestios and they allied with him in the war against his neighbors. So, Tyndareus wed Thestios’ daughter, Lêda. And then, when Herakles killed Hippokoôn and his sons, they returned, and Herakles handed over the kingdom of Tyndareus.”

εἰσὶ δὲ οἱ λέγοντες ᾿Αφαρέα μὲν καὶ Λεύκιππον ἐκ Περιήρους γενέσθαι τοῦ Αἰόλου, Κυνόρτου δὲ Περιήρην, τοῦ δὲ Οἴβαλον, Οἰβάλου δὲ καὶ νηίδος νύμφης
Βατείας Τυνδάρεων ῾Ιπποκόωντα ᾿Ικάριον.

῾Ιπποκόωντος μὲν οὖν ἐγένοντο παῖδες Δορυκλεὺς Σκαῖος ᾿Εναροφόρος Εὐτείχης Βουκόλος Λύκαιθος Τέβρος ῾Ιππόθοος Εὔρυτος ῾Ιπποκορυστὴς ᾿Αλκίνους ῎Αλκων. τούτους ῾Ιπποκόων ἔχων παῖδας ᾿Ικάριον καὶ Τυνδάρεων ἐξέβαλε Λακεδαίμονος. οἱ δὲ φεύγουσι πρὸς Θέστιον, καὶ συμμαχοῦσιν αὐτῷ πρὸς τοὺς ὁμόρους πόλεμον ἔχοντι· καὶ γαμεῖ Τυνδάρεως Θεστίου θυγατέρα Λήδαν. αὖθις δέ, ὅτε ῾Ηρακλῆς ῾Ιπποκόωντα καὶ τοὺς τούτου παῖδας ἀπέκτεινε, κατέρχονται, καὶ παραλαμβάνει Τυνδάρεως τὴν βασιλείαν.

The story according to a Homeric scholiast is presents even more family dysfunction (Schol. b in Il.2.581-6):

Continue reading “Genealogies and Scholia: Helen and Penelope Were Cousins!”

The Dog-Star: Dionysus, Ikarios and a Daughter’s Dog ( D Scholia, Il. 22.29)

Of Orion: [Homer] calls this, then, the dog-star. Some say that this dog transformed into a star is not Orion’s but instead is Erigonê’s, and that it was made into a star for the following reason. There was a man named Ikarios, an Athenian, who had a daughter named Erigonê. She raised a dog from a puppy. When Ikarios once entertained Dionysus, he received from him wine and a shoot of grapes. According to the commandments of the god, he wandered the earth proclaiming the grace of Dionysus and he took the dog with him. When he appeared outside a city, he offered wine to cow-herds. After they sampled it excessively, they fell into a deep sleep. Later, when they woke up, because they believed they had been drugged, they killed Ikarios. The dog returned to Erigonê and told her what had happened by barking. When she learned the truth, she hanged herself. For this reason a plague befell Athens—And the Athenians in obedience to an oracle offered annual rites to both Ikarios and Erigonê. Once they were sanctified as stars, Ikarios was named Boôtês and Erigonê was called the Maiden. But the dog kept his own name. This is the story Eratosthenes tells us.”

᾿Ωρίωνος. Τὸν ἀστρῶον κύνα οὕτως ἔφη.
ἔνιοι δέ φασι τόνδε τὸν κατηστερισμένον
κύνα, οὐκ ᾿Ωρίωνος, ἀλλὰ ᾿Ηριγόνης ὑπάρ-
χειν, ὃν κατηστερισθῆναι διὰ τοιαύτην
αἰτίαν. ῾Ικάριος γένος μὲν ἦν ᾿Αθηναῖος
ἔσχε δὲ θυγατέρα ᾿Ηριγόνην, ἥτις κύνα
νήπιον ἔτρεφε. ξενίσας δέ ποτε ὁ ῾Ικάριος
Διόνυσον, ἔλαβε παρ’ αὐτοῦ οἶνόν τε καὶ
ἀμπέλου κλῆμα. κατὰ δὲ τὰς τοῦ θεοῦ
ὑποθήκας, περιῄει τὴν γῆν προφαίνων τὴν
τοῦ Διονύσου χάριν, ἔχων σὺν ἑαυτῷ καὶ
τὸν κύνα. γενόμενος δὲ ἐκτὸς τῆς πόλεως,
βουκόλοις οἶνον παρέσχε. οἱ δὲ ἀθρόως ἐμ-
φορησάμενοι, οἱ μὲν εἰς βαθὺν ὕπνον
ἐτράπησαν. ὀψέ τε ἐγερθέντες, καὶ νομί-
σαντες πεφαρμάχθαι, τὸν ῾Ικάριον ἀπέ-
κτειναν. ὁ δὲ κύων ὑποστρέψας πρὸς τὴν
᾿Ηριγόνην, δι’ ὠρυγμοῦ ἐμήνυσεν αὐτῇ τὰ
γενόμενα. ἡ δὲ μαθοῦσα τὸ ἀληθὲς, ἑαυ-
τὴν ἀνήρτησε. νόσου δὲ ἐν ᾿Αθήναις γενο-
μένης, κατὰ χρησμὸν ᾿Αθηναῖοι τόν τε
῾Ικάριον καὶ τὴν ᾿Ηριγόνην ἐνιαυσιαίαις
ἐγέραιρον τιμαῖς. οἳ καὶ κατηστερισθέν-
τες, ῾Ικάριος μὲν Βοώτης ἐκλήθη, ᾿Ηρι-
γόνη δὲ παρθένος. ὁ δὲ κύων τὴν αὐτὴν
ὀνομασίαν ἔσχεν. ῾Ιστορεῖ ᾿Ερατοσθένης.

Eratosthenes of Cyrene was an Astronomer to whom a collection of Constellation Myths is attributed.