Reputable Tales about Ariadne; And Strange Ones

The following account is interesting for the variations in the story of Ariadne and Theseus but also for the strange detail of the ritual where young men imitate a woman in childbirth. Also, the counterfeit letters bit is precious. What would they say?.

Other tales about Ariadne, According to Plutarch (Theseus 20)

“There are many other versions circulated about these matters still and also about Ariadne, none of which agree. For some say that she hanged herself after she was abandoned by Theseus. Others claim that after she was taken to Naxos by sailors she lived with Oinaros a priest of Dionysus and that she was abandoned by Theseus because he loved another.

“A terrible lust for Aiglê the daughter of Panopeus ate at him” [fr. 105]—this is a line Hereas the Megarean claims Peisistratus deleted from the poems of Hesiod, just as again he says that he inserted into the Homeric catalogue of dead “Theseus and Perithoos, famous children of the gods” [Od. 11.631] to please the Athenans. There are some who say that Ariadne gave birth to Oinipiôn and Staphulos with Theseus. One of these is Ion of  Khios who has sung about his own city “Oinopiôn, Theseus’ son, founded this city once.” [fr. 4D]

The most reputable of the myths told are those which, as the saying goes, all people have in their mouths. But Paiôn the Amathousian has handed down a particular tale about these events. For he says that Theseus was driven by a storm, to Cyprus and that he had Ariadne with him, who was pregnant and doing quite badly because of the sea and the rough sailing. So he set her out alone and he was carried back into the sea from the land while he was tending to the ship. The native women, then, received Ariadne and they tried to ease her depression because of her loneliness by offering her a counterfeit letter written to her by Theseus and helping her and supporting her during childbirth. They buried her when she died before giving birth.

Paiôn claims that when Theseus returned he was overcome with grief and he left money to the island’s inhabitants, charging them to sacrifice to Ariadne and to have two small statues made for her—one of silver and one of bronze. During the second day of the month of Gorpiaon at the sacrifice, one of the young men lies down and mouns and acts as women do during childbirth. They call the grove in which they claim her tomb is that of Ariadne Aphrodite.

Some of the Naxians claim peculiarly that there were two Minoses and two Ariadnes. They claim one was married to Dionysus on Naxos and bore the child Staphulos, and the young one was taken by Theseus and left when he came to Naxos with a nurse named Korkunê—whose tomb they put on display. They claim that Ariadne died there and has honors unequal to those of the earlier one. The first has a festival of singing and play; the second has one where sacrifices are performed with grief and mourning.”

Πολλοὶ δὲ λόγοι καὶ περὶ τούτων ἔτι λέγονται καὶ περὶ τῆς Ἀριάδνης, οὐδὲν ὁμολογούμενον ἔχοντες. οἱ μὲν γὰρ ἀπάγξασθαί φασιν αὐτὴν ἀπολειφθεῖσαν ὑπὸ τοῦ Θησέως, οἱ δὲ εἰς Νάξον ὑπὸ ναυτῶν κομισθεῖσαν Οἰνάρῳ τῷ ἱερεῖ τοῦ Διονύσου συνοικεῖν, ἀπολειφθῆναι δὲ τοῦ Θησέως ἐρῶντος ἑτέρας· Δεινὸς γάρ μιν ἔτειρεν ἔρως Πανοπηΐδος Αἴγλης. τοῦτο γὰρ τὸ ἔπος ἐκ τῶν Ἡσιόδου Πεισίστρατον ἐξελεῖν φησιν Ἡρέας ὁ Μεγαρεύς, ὥσπερ αὖ πάλιν ἐμβαλεῖν εἰς τὴν Ὁμήρου νέκυιαν τὸ Θησέα Πειρίθοόν τε θεῶν ἀριδείκετα τέκνα,χαριζόμενον Ἀθηναίοις· ἔνιοι δὲ καὶ τεκεῖν ἐκ Θησέως Ἀριάδνην Οἰνοπίωνα καὶ Στάφυλον· ὧν καὶ ὁ Χῖος Ἴων ἐστὶ περὶ τῆς ἑαυτοῦ πατρίδος λέγων· Τήν ποτε Θησείδης ἔκτισεν Οἰνοπίων.

Ἃ δ᾿ ἐστὶν εὐφημότατα τῶν μυθολογουμένων, πάντες ὡς ἔπος εἰπεῖν διὰ στόματος ἔχουσιν. ἴδιον δέ τινα περὶ τούτων λόγον ἐκδέδωκε Παίων ὁ Ἀμαθούσιος. τὸν γὰρ Θησέα φησὶν ὑπὸ χειμῶνος εἰς Κύπρον ἐξενεχθέντα καὶ τὴν Ἀριάδνην ἔγκυον ἔχοντα, φαύλως δὲ διακειμένην ὑπὸ τοῦ σάλου καὶ δυσφοροῦσαν, ἐκβιβάσαι μόνην, αὐτὸν δὲ τῷ πλοίῳ βοηθοῦντα πάλιν εἰς τὸ πέλαγος ἀπὸ τῆς γῆς φέρεσθαι. τὰς οὖν ἐγχωρίους γυναῖκας τὴν Ἀριάδνην ἀναλαβεῖν καὶ περιέπειν ἀθυμοῦσαν ἐπὶ τῇ μονώσει, καὶ γράμματα πλαστὰ προσφέρειν, ὡς τοῦ Θησέως γράφοντος αὐτῇ, καὶ περὶ τὴν ὠδῖνα συμπονεῖν καὶ βοηθεῖν· ἀποθανοῦσαν δὲ θάψαι μὴ τεκοῦσαν. ἐπελθόντα δὲ τὸν Θησέα καὶ περίλυπον γενόμενον τοῖς μὲν ἐγχωρίοις ἀπολιπεῖν χρήματα, συντάξαντα θύειν τῇ Ἀριάδνῃ, δύο δὲ μικροὺς ἀνδριαντίσκους ἱδρύσασθαι, τὸν μὲν ἀργυροῦν, τὸν δὲ χαλκοῦν. ἐν δὲ τῇ θυσίᾳ τοῦ Γορπιαίου μηνὸς ἱσταμένου δευτέρᾳ κατακλινόμενόν τινα τῶν νεανίσκων φθέγγεσθαι καὶ ποιεῖν ἅπερ ὠδίνουσαι γυναῖκες· καλεῖν δὲ τὸ ἄλσος Ἀμαθουσίους, ἐν ᾧ τὸν τάφον δεικνύουσιν, Ἀριάδνης Ἀφροδίτης.

Καὶ Ναξίων δέ τινες ἰδίως ἱστοροῦσι δύο Μίνωας γενέσθαι καὶ δύο Ἀριάδνας, ὧν τὴν μὲν Διονύσῳ γαμηθῆναί φασιν ἐν Νάξῳ καὶ τοὺς περὶ Στάφυλον τεκεῖν, τὴν δὲ νεωτέραν ἁρπασθεῖσαν ὑπὸ τοῦ Θησέως καὶ ἀπολειφθεῖσαν εἰς Νάξον ἐλθεῖν, καὶ τροφὸν μετ᾿ αὐτῆς ὄνομα Κορκύνην, ἧς δείκνυσθαι τάφον. ἀποθανεῖν δὲ καὶ τὴν Ἀριάδνην αὐτόθι καὶ τιμὰς ἔχειν οὐχ ὁμοίας τῇ προτέρᾳ. τῇ μὲν γὰρ ἡδομένους καὶ παίζοντας ἑορτάζειν, τὰς δὲ ταύτῃ δρωμένας θυσίας εἶναι πένθει τινὶ καὶ στυγνότητι μεμιγμένας.

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Athena, Ariadne, and Theseus: IL MUSEO ARCHEOLOGICO NAZIONALE DI TARANTO

Destroyer, Born on the Ground, Pitiable: Etymologies for Helen

In a choral ode from Aeschylus’ Agamemnon, we find a folk etymology implied for Helen’s name. Where I have translated “killer”, the Greek has versions of the aorist of αἵρεω (εἶλον) which, without its augment looks like the beginning of Helen’s name (ἑλ-).

 Aeschylus, Agamemnon 684-696

“Whoever pronounced a name
So thoroughly true?
Wasn’t it someone we’d not see
Guiding the tongue with luck
From a foreknowledge of fate?
Who named the spear-bride,
Struggled-over woman
Helen?
For, appropriately,
That ship-killer [hele-nas], man-killer [hel-andros]
City-killer [hele-ptolis], sailed
From her fine-spun, curtains
On the breath of great Zephyr
and many-manned bands
Of shield-bearers followed
The vanished journey struck
By the oars to the banks
Of leafy Simois
For a bloody strife.”

Χο. τίς ποτ’ ὠνόμαξεν ὧδ’
ἐς τὸ πᾶν ἐτητύμως—
μή τις ὅντιν’ οὐχ ὁρῶ-
μεν προνοί-
αισι τοῦ πεπρωμένου
γλῶσσαν ἐν τύχᾳ νέμων; —τὰν
δορίγαμβρον ἀμφινεικῆ
θ’ ῾Ελέναν; ἐπεὶ πρεπόντως
ἑλένας, ἕλανδρος, ἑλέ-
πτολις, ἐκ τῶν ἁβροπήνων
προκαλυμμάτων ἔπλευσε
Ζεφύρου γίγαντος αὔρᾳ,
πολύανδροί
τε φεράσπιδες κυναγοὶ
κατ’ ἴχνος πλατᾶν ἄφαντον
κελσάντων Σιμόεντος
ἀκτὰς ἐπ’ ἀεξιφύλλους
δι’ ἔριν αἱματόεσσαν.

Ancient etymologies do not follow this Aeschylean play.

Etym. Gudianum

“Helenê. From attracting [helkein] many to her beauty. Or it is from helô, helkuô, she is the one who drags young men to her personal beauty. Or it comes from Hellas [Greece]. Or it comes from being born on the ground [helos].”

     ῾Ελένη· … ἀπὸ τοῦ πολλοὺς ἕλκειν ἐν τῷ κάλλει αὐτῆς· ἢ παρὰ τὸ ἕλω, τὸ ἑλκύω, ἡ πρὸς τὸ ἴδιον κάλλος ἑλκύουσα τοὺς νέους ἀνθρώπους· ἢ παρὰ τὸ ῾Ελλάς· ἢ παρὰ τὸ ἐν ἕλει γεγεννῆσθαι.

Etym.  Magnum

“Helenê: A heroine. From helô, helkuô, she is the one who drags young men to her personal beauty. Or it comes from Hellas [Greece]. Or it comes from being born on the ground [helos]. Or because she was thrown in a marshy [helôdei] place by Tyndareus once she obtained some divine prescience and she was taken back up by Leda. Helenê was named from pity [heleos].”

     ῾Ελένη: ῾Η ἡρωΐς· παρὰ τὸ ἕλω, τὸ ἑλκύω, ἡ πρὸς τὸ ἴδιον κάλλος ἕλκουσα τοὺς ἀνθρώπους· διὰ τὸ πολλοὺς ἑλεῖν τῷ κάλλει· ἢ παρὰ τὸ ῾Ελλάς· ἢ παρὰ τὸ ἐν ἕλει γεγενῆσθαι, ἡ ὑπὸ τοῦ Τυνδάρεω ἐν ἑλώδει τόπῳ ῥιφθεῖσα, θείας δέ τινος προνοίας τυχοῦσα, καὶ ἀναληφθεῖσα ὑπὸ Λήδας. ᾿Εκ τοῦ ἕλους οὖν ῾Ελένη ὠνομάσθη.

Modern linguistics show that Helen’s name is just really hard to figure out.

Some Modern Material

In Lakonia, Helen was original spelled with a digamma. (And this may have extended to Corinth and Chalcidice too Cf. R. Wachter Non-Attic Vase Inscriptions 2001, §251).

74 Von Kamptz 1958, 136 suggests that her name is a “cognate of σέλας” to evoke a sense of “shining”, as in her beauty. Cf. Kanavou 2015, 72

Vedic Saranyu: Skutsch 1987, 189; Puhvel 1987, 141–143 (The initial breathing in Greek often points to a lost initial *s but the digamma in certain dialects confuses this) The Vedic name means swift. The PIE root suggested here is *suel-.

Helen has variously been suggested as coming from a vegetation goddess (see Helena Dendritis, Paus. 3.19.9–10; Herodotus 6.61; cf. Skutsch 1987) or a goddess of light.

 

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Some Miraculous Misogyny From the Ancient World

The following passages are from the Paradoxographus Vaticanus (Admiranda), one of a selection of ancient paradoxographical collections which are not widely available in translation. I have been working on completing full rough translations of the paradoxa this summer. The Florentinus  and Palatinus manuscripts are now translated as are the Historiae Mirabiles of Apollonios Paradoxographus.

Of the collections, the Vaticanus is the most interesting and strange. Here are a few sections that jumped out while I translated them today.

15 “In a certain part of the region before Olympos there are trees similar to a tender-leafed willow which people say were once virgins. They changed into these trees when they were fleeing Boreas who was lusting after them. Even to this day, if someone touches the leaves, people claim that the wind gets enraged and immediately blows with a fury and barely stops before the third day”

῎Εν τινι τῶν κατὰ τὸν ῎Ολυμπον δένδρα ἐστὶν ἰτέᾳ λεπτοφύλλῳ ἐοικότα, ἃ παρθένους γεγενῆσθαι ἱστοροῦσι· εἰς <δὲ> δένδρα ταύτας ἀμειφθῆναι τὸν Βορρᾶν φευγούσας ἐρῶντα. Καὶ νῦν ἔτι, εἴ τις θίγοι τῶν φυλλῶν, χολοῦσθαι τὸν ἄνεμον λέγουσι καὶ σφοδρὸν αὐτίκα πνεῖν καὶ μόλις διὰ τρίτης παύεσθαι.

16 “In the middle of Thrace there is a river which reveals women who have been corrupted through adultery. When their husbands have them drink from the water they also say ‘If you were not corrupted by that water, may you have a son; but if you were, have a daughter’ “

Μέστος ποταμὸς ἐν Θρᾴκῃ τὰς μοιχευομένας ἐξελέγχει, τῶν ἀνδρῶν ποτιζόντων αὐτὰς ἀπὸ τοῦ ὕδατος τούτου καὶ λεγόντων· «εἰ μὲν οὐκ ἐμοιχεύθης, ἄρρεν τέκοις, εἰ δ’ οὖν, θῆλυ.»

17 “And among the Germanoi, the Rhênos tests this: for if a child is immersed in it, if it was the product of adultery, it dies, if not, it lives.”

 Καὶ παρὰ Γερμανοῖς ὁ ῾Ρῆνος ἐλέγχει· ἐμβληθὲν γὰρ τὸ παιδίον εἰ μὲν μοιχευθείσης ἐστί, θνῄσκει, εἰ δ’ οὐ, ζῇ.

24 “The Keltoi, whenever there is scarcity or a famine, punish their women as if they are to blame for the evils.”

Οἱ Κελτοί, ὅταν ἢ ἀφορία ἢ λοιμὸς γένηται, τὰς γυναῖκας αὐτῶν κολάζουσιν ὡς αἰτίας τῶν κακῶν.

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Splendor Solis “(Germany, 1582), British Library, London.

Or

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Sharing the Worst of Troubles

Euripides, Orestes 288-293 (see the full text in the Scaife Viewer)

“I think that my father, if I had gazed in is eyes
And asked him if I should kill my mother,
Would have touched my chin over and over
Not to plunge my sword into my mother’s neck,
Because he was not about return to life
And I would be miserable suffering tortures like these.”

οἶμαι δὲ πατέρα τὸν ἐμόν, εἰ κατ᾿ ὄμματα
ἐξιστόρουν νιν μητέρ᾿ εἰ κτεῖναί με χρή,
πολλὰς γενείου τοῦδ᾿ ἂν ἐκτεῖναι λιτὰς
μήποτε τεκούσης ἐς σφαγὰς ὦσαι ξίφος,
εἰ μήτ᾿ ἐκεῖνος ἀναλαβεῖν ἔμελλε φῶς
ἐγώ θ᾿ ὁ τλήμων τοιάδ᾿ ἐκπλήσειν κακά.

585-587

“You’re the one who ruined me, old man
By fathering an evil daughter! Her audacity
Stole my father from me and made me a mother-killer.”

σύ τοι φυτεύσας θυγατέρ᾿, ὦ γέρον, κακὴν
ἀπώλεσάς με· διὰ τὸ κείνης γὰρ θράσος
5πατρὸς στερηθεὶς ἐγενόμην μητροκτόνος.

802-3

“I will carry you and suffer no shame. Where would I show I am your friend
If I do not come to your side when you’re in the worst troubles?”

οὐδὲν αἰσχυνθεὶς ὀχήσω. ποῦ γὰρ ὢν δείξω φίλος,
εἴ τι μὴ ᾿ν δειναῖσιν ὄντι συμφοραῖς ἐπαρκέσω;

1590

“I will never tire of killing wicked women”

οὐκ ἂν κάμοιμι τὰς κακὰς κτείνων ἀεί.

Orestes and Pylades Disputing at the Altar, Peter Lastman, 1614

What Hephaestus Really Wanted from Thetis

Schol. to Pin. Nemian Odes, 4.81

“Phylarkhos claims that Thetis went to Hephaistos on Olympos so that he might create weapons for Achilles and that he did it. But, because Hephaistos was lusting after Thetis, he said he would not give them to her unless she had sex with him. She promised him that she would, but that she only wanted to try on the weapons first, so she could see if the gear he had made was fit for Achilles. She was actually the same size as him.

Once Hephaistos agreed on this, Thetis armed herself and fled. Because he was incapable of grabbing her, he took a hammer and hit Thetis in the ankle. Injured in this way, she went to Thessaly and healed in the city that is called Thetideion after her.”

Φύλαρχός φησι Θέτιν πρὸς ῞Ηφαιστον ἐλθεῖν εἰς τὸν ῎Ολυμπον, ὅπως ᾽Αχιλλεῖ ὅπλα κατασκευάσηι, τὸν δὲ ποιῆσαι. ἐρωτικῶς δὲ ἔχοντα τὸν ῞Ηφαιστον τῆς Θέτιδος, οὐ φάναι ἂν δώσειν αὐτῆι, εἰ μὴ αὐτῶι προσομιλήσαι. τὴν δὲ αὐτῶι ὑποσχέσθαι, θέλειν μέντοι ὁπλίζεσθαι, ὅπως ἴδηι εἰ ἁρμόζει ἃ ἐπεποιήκει ὅπλα τῶι ᾽Αχιλλεῖ· ἴσην γὰρ αὐτὴν ἐκείνωι εἶναι. τοῦ δὲ παραχωρήσαντος ὁπλισαμένην τὴν Θέτιν φυγεῖν, τὸν δὲ οὐ δυνάμενον καταλαβεῖν σφύραν λαβεῖν καὶ πατάξαι εἰς τὸ σφυρὸν τὴν Θέτιν· τὴν δὲ κακῶς διατεθεῖσαν ἐλθεῖν εἰς Θετταλίαν καὶ ἰαθῆναι ἐν τῆι πόλει ταύτηι τῆι ἀπ᾽ αὐτῆς Θετιδείωι καλουμένηι.

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Hephaistos Thetis Kylix by the Foundry Painter Antikensammlung Berlin F2294

Porn-Songs and Camel-Sparrows: The Suda’s Strange Sirens

From the Suda, s.v. Seirênas

“The Sirens were some Greek women with beautiful voices in ancient Greek myth who sat on some island and so delighted passers-by with their euphony that they stayed there until death.  From the chest up they had the shape of sparrows but their lower halves were woman.

The mythographers claim that they were small birds with female faces who deceived passers-by, beguiling the ears of those who heard them with pornographic songs. And the song of pleasure has no end that is good, only death.

But the true story is this: there are certain places in the sea, narrowed between hills, which release a high song when the water is compressed into them. When people who sail by hear them they entrust their souls to the water’s swell and they die along with their ships.

The creatures who are called Sirens and Donkey-centaurs in Isaiah are some kind of demons who are foretold for abandoned cities which fall under divine wrath. The Syrians say they are swans. For after swans bathe, they fly from the water and sing a sweet melody in the air. This is why Job says, “I have become the Sirens’ brother, the companion of ostriches. This means that I sing my sufferings just like the ostriches.”

He calls the Sirens strouthoi, but he means what we call ostriches [strouthokamêmlos: “sparrow-camel”]. This is a bird which has the feet and neck of a donkey. There is a saying in the Epigrams “that chatter is sweeter than the Sirens’”. The Sirens were named Thelksiepeia, Peisinoê, and Ligeia. The Island they inhabited was called Anthemousa.”

Σειρῆνας: γυναῖκάς τινας εὐφώνους γεγενῆσθαι μῦθος πρὶν ῾Ελληνικός, αἵ τινες ἐν νησίῳ καθεζόμεναι οὕτως ἔτερπον τοὺς παραπλέοντας διὰ τῆς εὐφωνίας, ὥστε κατέχειν ἐκεῖ μέχρι θανάτου. εἶχον δὲ ἀπὸ μὲν τοῦ θώρακος καὶ ἄνω εἶδος στρουθῶν, τὰ δὲ κάτω γυναικῶν.

οἱ μυθολόγοι Σειρῆνας φασὶ θηλυπρόσωπά τινα ὀρνίθια εἶναι, ἀπατῶντα τοὺς παραπλέοντας, ᾄσμασί τισι πορνικοῖς κηλοῦντα τὰς ἀκοὰς τῶν ἀκροωμένων. καὶ τέλος ἔχει τῆς ἡδονῆς ἡ ᾠδὴ ἕτερον μὲν οὐδὲν χρηστόν, θάνατον δὲ μόνον. ὁ δὲ ἀληθὴς λόγος τοῦτο βούλεται, εἶναι τόπους τινὰς θαλαττίους, ὄρεσί τισιν ἐστενω-μένους, ἐν οἷς θλιβόμενον τὸ ῥεῖθρον λιγυράν τινα φωνὴν ἀποδίδωσιν· ἧς ἐπακούοντες οἱ παραπλέοντες ἐμπιστεύουσι τὰς ἑαυτῶν ψυχὰς τῷ ῥεύματι καὶ αὔτανδροι σὺν ταῖς ναυσὶν ἀπόλλυνται.

αἱ δὲ παρὰ τῷ ᾿Ησαΐᾳ εἰρημέναι Σειρῆνες καὶ ᾿Ονοκένταυροι δαίμονές τινές εἰσιν, οὕτω χρηματιζόμενοι ἐπ’ ἐρημίᾳ πόλεως, ἥτις χόλῳ θεοῦ γίνεται. οἱ δὲ Σύροι τοὺς κύκνους φασὶν εἶναι. καὶ γὰρ οὗτοι λουσάμενοι καὶ ἀναπτάντες ἐκ τοῦ ὕδατος καὶ τοῦ ἀέρος ἡδύ τι μέλος ᾄδουσιν. ὁ  οὖν ᾿Ιὼβ λέγει, ἀδελφὸς γέγονα Σειρήνων, ἑταῖρος δὲ στρουθῶν. τουτέστιν ᾄδω τὰς ἐμαυτοῦ συμφοράς, ὥσπερ Σειρῆνες.

στρουθοὺς δὲ λέγει, ὃν ἡμεῖς στρουθοκάμηλον λέγομεν, ὄρνεον μὲν ὄντα, πόδας δὲ καὶ τράχηλον ὄνου κεκτημένον. καὶ ἐν ᾿Επιγράμμασι· καὶ τὸ λάλημα κεῖνο τὸ Σειρήνων γλυκύτερον. ὀνόματα Σειρήνων· Θελξιέπεια, Πεισινόη, Λιγεία· ἡ δὲ νῆσος ἣν κατῴκουν ᾿Ανθεμοῦσα.

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Mirror of History, a MS from Ghent (J. Paul Getty Museum)

An Athenian Soap Opera: He Married the Girl And Then Impregnated Her Mother

Andocides, On the Mysteries, 124-125

But look at the way that his child—whom he thought better to have assigned to the daughter of Epilykos—was born and how he [Kallias] fathered him. For this is really worth hearing, men.  First, he married the daughter of Isomakhos. After living with her for not even a year, he took her mother as a lover and this most wicked of all men lived with mother and daughter—he was priest for both mother and daughter and he had them both in his home.

And this man was not ashamed enough to fear the god. But Isomakhos’ daughter, when she understood what was happening, decided to die rather than live. She was rescued in the middle of hanging herself and when she survived, she left, kicked out of his house: the mother drove out the daughter!  But when he had his fill of her, he drove the mother out too! But she claimed she was pregnant by him. And he swore that the child did not come from him.”

᾿Αλλὰ γὰρ τὸν υἱὸν αὐτοῦ τοῦτον, ᾧ λαχεῖν ἠξίωσε τῆς ᾿Επιλύκου θυγατρός, σκέψασθε πῶς γέγονε, καὶ πῶς ἐποιήσατ’ αὐτόν· ταῦτα γὰρ καὶ ἄξιον ἀκοῦσαι, ὦ ἄνδρες. Γαμεῖ μὲν ᾿Ισχομάχου θυγατέρα· ταύτῃ δὲ συνοικήσας οὐδ’ ἐνιαυτὸν τὴν μητέρα αὐτῆς ἔλαβε, καὶ συνῴκει ὁ πάντων σχετλιώτατος ἀνθρώπων τῇ μητρὶ καὶ τῇ θυγατρί, ἱερεὺς ὢν τῆς μητρὸς καὶ τῆς θυγατρός, καὶ εἶχεν ἐν τῇ οἰκίᾳ ἀμφοτέρας.

Καὶ οὗτος μὲν οὐκ ᾐσχύνθη οὐδ’ ἔδεισε τὼ θεώ· ἡ δὲ τοῦ ᾿Ισχομάχου θυγάτηρ τεθνάναι νομίσασα λυσιτελεῖν ἢ ζῆν ὁρῶσα τὰ γιγνόμενα, ἀπαγχομένη μεταξὺ κατεκωλύθη, καὶ ἐπειδὴ ἀνεβίω, ἀποδρᾶσα ἐκ τῆς οἰκίας ᾤχετο, καὶ ἐξήλασεν ἡ μήτηρ τὴν θυγατέρα. Ταύτης δ’ αὖ διαπεπλησμένος ἐξέβαλε καὶ ταύτην. ῾Η δ’ ἔφη κυεῖν ἐξ αὐτοῦ· καὶ ἐπειδὴ ἔτεκεν υἱόν, ἔξαρνος ἦν μὴ εἶναι ἐξ αὑτοῦ τὸ παιδίον.

 

mother vase.jpg
Is there an Ancient Greek word for “mother-in-law-f*cker”?

Gellius on Misogyny: Like Socrates, Euripides Had Two Wives

While entertaining banter about Socrates’ ugliness and his two wives, I got a bit interested in the assertion in Diogenes Laertius that the Athenians had passed a law permitting bigamy to increase the population and cope with the “lack of men”. As an aside, I learned a new word during this leipandria (“lack of men”; and not humans, but males specifically).

Strabo (6.3.3) mentions something similar among the Spartans during their conflict with the Messenians. The Spartans are also said to have a concern about their lack of population at 8.5.4). Apart from some fragmentary historians, however, there’s not much evidence for the laws.  Our good friend and contributor the Fabulous Festus pointed me to a Roman account:

Aulus Gellius, Attic Nights, 15.20

[Euripides] is reported to have hated women in a rather serious way, either because he despised the company of women by nature or because he had two wives at the same time (which was the law made by Athenian decree) and was worn down by his marriages. Aristophanes also memorializes his hatred in the first version of the Thesmophoriazusae:

Now, then, I address and advise all women
To punish this man for many reasons:
He has accosted us with bitter evils,
This man raised on a garden’s bitter harvest.

And Alexander the Aitolian composed these lines about Euripides:

The strident student of strong Anaxagoras, the mirth-hater,
Addressed me and never got used to making jokes while drinking.
But what he wrote, honey or a Siren could have made.”

6 Mulieres fere omnes in maiorem modum exosus fuisse dicitur, sive quod natura abhorruit a mulierum coetu sive quod duas simul uxores habuerat, cum id decreto ab Atheniensibus facto ius esset, quarum matrimonii pertaedebat. 7 Eius odii in mulieres Aristophanes quoque meminit en tais proterais Thesmophoriazousais in his versibus:

Νῦν οὖν ἁπάσαισιν παραινῶ καὶ λέγω
τοῦτον κολάσαι τὸν ἄνδρα πολλῶν οὕνεκα·
ἄγρια γὰρ ἡμᾶς, ὦ γυναῖκες, δρᾷ κακά,
ἅτ’ ἐν ἀγρίοισι τοῖς λαχάνοις αὐτὸς τραφείς.

8 Alexander autem Aetolus hos de Euripide versus composuit:

Ὁ δ᾽ Ἀναξαγόρου τρόφιμος χαιου στρίφνος μὲν ἔμοιγε προσειπεῖν
καὶ μισογελος καὶ τοθαζειν οὐδὲ παρ᾽ οἶνον μεμαθεκως,
ἀλλ᾽ ὅ τι γράψαι, τοῦτ᾽ ἂν μέλιτος καὶ Σειρηνον ἐτετεύχει.

euripides-statue1-630x300
Such kind, but serious eyes…

Valerius Maximus, Memorable Sayings and Deeds 7.6 ext 1b-c

“[Socrates] used to say that those who act as so that they become as they would wish to seem finish short and well-known roads to glory. With this saying he was clearly warning that humans should drink virtue itself rather than follow its shadow.

Socrates also, when asked by a certain young man whether he should take a wife or abstain from matrimony altogether, said that whichever he did he would regret it. “From second option, you will experience loneliness, childlessness, the end of your family, and a foreign heir; from the other option, you will have perpetual annoyance, a weaving of complaints, questions about the dowry, the down-turned brows of inlaws, a talkative mother-in-law, a hunter for other people’s marriages, and the uncertain bearing of children.’ He would not endure that the youth believe he was making a choice of happy material in the context of harsh matters.”

Idem expedita et compendiaria via eos ad gloriam pervenire dicebat qui id agerent ut quales videri vellent, tales etiam essent. qua quidem praedicatione aperte monebat ut homines ipsam potius virtutem haurirent quam umbram eius consectarentur.

Idem, ab adulescentulo quodam consultus utrum uxorem duceret an se omni matrimonio abstineret, respondit utrum eorum fecisset, acturum paenitentiam. ‘hinc te’ inquit ‘solitudo, hinc orbitas, hinc generis interitus, hinc heres alienus excipiet, illinc perpetua sollicitudo, contextus querellarum, dotis exprobratio, adfinium grave supercilium, garrula socrus lingua, subsessor alieni matrimonii, incertus liberorum eventus.’ non passus est iuvenem in contextu rerum asperarum quasi laetae materiae facere dilectum.

Write This Down: You are the City. You Are the people

Aeschylus, Suppliants 179-180

“I suggest you safeguard my words by writing them on tablet in your minds”
αἰνῶ φυλάξαι τἄμ᾿ ἔπη δελτουμένας

Aeschylus, Suppliants, 200-204

“Don’t be too aggressive or broken in speech:
These people are especially ready to be angry.
Remember to be accommodating: you are a foreign refugee in need.
To speak boldly is not a fitting move for the weak.”

καὶ μὴ πρόλεσχος μηδ᾿ ἐφολκὸς ἐν λόγῳ
γένῃ· τὸ τῇδε κάρτ᾿ ἐπίφθονον γένος.
μέμνησο δ᾿ εἴκειν· χρεῖος εἶ, ξένη, φυγάς·
θρασυστομεῖν γὰρ οὐ πρέπει τοὺς ἥσσονας.

Aeschylus, Suppliants, 370-375

“You are the city, really. You are the people.
An unjudged chief of state rules
The altar, the city’s hearth,
With only your votes and nods,
With only your scepter on the throne
You judge every need. Be on guard against contamination!”

σύ τοι πόλις, σὺ δὲ τὸ δάμιον·
πρύτανις ἄκριτος ὢν
κρατύνεις βωμόν, ἑστίαν χθονός,
μονοψήφοισι νεύμασιν σέθεν,
μονοσκήπτροισι δ᾿ ἐν θρόνοις χρέος
πᾶν ἐπικραίνεις· ἄγος φυλάσσου.

File:Nicolas Bertin - The Danaides in Hell.jpg

The Danaides in hell, by Nicolas Bertin

Aeschylus, Suppliants 991-997

“Write this down with the many other notes
In your mind of the wisdoms from your father:
An unfamiliar mob is evaluated by time,
But everyone has an evil tongue prepared to lash out
over immigrants and speaking foully is somehow easy.
I advise you not to bring me shame
Now that you are in the age which turns mortal gazes.”

καὶ ταῦτα μὲν γράψασθε πρὸς γεγραμμένοις
πολλοῖσιν ἄλλοις σωφρονίσμασιν πατρός,
ἀγνῶθ᾿ ὅμιλον ἐξελέγχεσθαι χρόνῳ·
πᾶς δ᾿ ἐν μετοίκῳ γλῶσσαν εὔτυκον φέρει
κακήν, τό τ᾿ εἰπεῖν εὐπετὲς μύσαγμά πως.
ὑμᾶς δ᾿ ἐπαινῶ μὴ καταισχύνειν ἐμέ,
ὥραν ἐχούσας τήνδ᾿ ἐπίστρεπτον βροτοῖς

What Became of Lais?

There are at least seven poems preserved in the Greek Anthology ‘celebrating’ a courtesan named Lais. The poem controversially attributed to Plato is elegant, compact, and clever. The poem attributed to Antipater is some combination of prosaic, creepy, and cruel.

Plato 6.1 (Greek Anthology)

That Lais who proudly laughed at Hellas
And had swarms of young lovers at her door,
Now gives to Aphrodite this mirror—
Since I won’t look at myself as I am,
And can’t look at myself as I used to be.

ἡ σοβαρὸν γελάσασα καθ᾽ Ἑλλάδος, ἥ ποτ᾽ ἐραστῶν
ἑσμὸν ἐπὶ προθύροις Λαῒς ἔχουσα νέων,
τῇ Παφίῃ τὸ κάτοπτρον: ἐπεὶ τοίη μὲν ὁρᾶσθαι
οὐκ ἐθέλω, οἵη δ᾽ ἦν πάρος οὐ δύναμαι.

Antipater 7.218 (Greek Anthology)

Debauched woman robed in purple and gold,
Love’s accomplice, softer than soft Kypris—
Corinthian Lais, it’s she I hold.
More dazzling than the tumbling waters
Of Peirene’s pellucid spring.
That mortal Cythereia: more pursued
By noble suitors than the unwed
Daughter of Sparta’s king, Tyndarius.
Men enjoyed her favors, her paid-for love.
Now, her saffron-scented tomb: the moist bones
Still redolent with incense unguents,
And her oiled hair exhales its fragrant breath.
For her, Aphrodite scratched her lovely face,
And in his mourning Eros groaned and cried.
If only she hadn’t made of her bed
A slave to money, and open to all—
Hellas would have endured ordeals for her,
Just as it had for Helen.

τὴν καὶ ἅμα χρυσῷ καὶ ἁλουργίδι καὶ σὺν Ἔρωτι
θρυπτομένην, ἁπαλῆς Κύπριδος ἁβροτέραν
Λαΐδ᾽ ἔχω, πολιῆτιν ἁλιζώνοιο Κορίνθου,
Πειρήνης λευκῶν φαιδροτέραν λιβάδων, [p. 124]
τὴν θνητὴν Κυθέρειαν, ἐφ᾽ ᾗ μνηστῆρες ἀγαυοὶ
πλείονες ἢ νύμφης εἵνεκα Τυνδαρίδος,
δρεπτόμενοι χάριτάς τε καὶ ὠνητὴν ἀφροδίτην:
ἧς καὶ ὑπ᾽ εὐώδει τύμβος ὄδωδε κρόκῳ,
ἧς ἔτι κηώεντι μύρῳ τὸ διάβροχον ὀστεῦν,
καὶ λιπαραὶ θυόεν ἄσθμα πνέουσι κόμαι
ᾗ ἔπι καλὸν ἄμυξε κάτα ῥέθος Ἀφρογένεια,
καὶ γοερὸν λύζων ἐστονάχησεν Ἔρως.
εἰ δ᾽ οὐ πάγκοινον δούλην θέτο κέρδεος εὐνήν,
Ἑλλὰς ἄν, ὡς Ἑλένης, τῆσδ᾽ ὕπερ ἔσχε πόνον.

Marble statue of an old woman. 1st Century AD Roman copy of a 2nd Century BC Greek original. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City.

Larry Benn has a B.A. in English Literature from Harvard College, an M.Phil in English Literature from Oxford University, and a J.D. from Yale Law School. Making amends for a working life misspent in finance, he’s now a hobbyist in ancient languages and blogs at featsofgreek.blogspot.com.