Here is a portion of Virgil’s account of what happened after Orpheus, escorting his wife from the underworld, turned around to look at her:
Virgil., Georgics, IV. 494-506
She said: “What folly, Orpheus, what terrible folly
Has destroyed me, a wretched woman, and you too?
Look, the hard fates are calling me back again.
And look, sleep is closing my swimming eyes.
Now, farewell! I’m borne away in the vast encircling
Night, and I reach out to you with helpless hands
That, alas, are no longer your hands.”
That’s what she said. Then suddenly, from his sight,
Like smoke amid light breezes, she was gone.
She did not see him vainly clutching shadows
And trying to say ever more things to her.
What’s more, Death’s boatman did not let him cross
The swamp stretched before him.
What could he do? Where was he scrambling to
With his wife snatched away a second time?
With what tears could he move the gods?
Which divinities could he move with words?
No matter. She was afloat the Stygian raft, already cold.
Illa “Quis et me” inquit “miseram et te perdidit, Orpheu,
quis tantus furor? en iterum crudelia retro
fata vocant conditque natantia lumina somnus.
iamque vale: feror ingenti circumdata nocte
invalidasque tibi tendens, heu! non tua, palmas.”
dixit et ex oculis subito, ceu fumus in auras
commixtus tenues, fugit diversa, neque illum
prensantem nequiquam umbras et multa volentem
dicere praeterea vidit; nec portitor Orci
amplius obiectam passus transire paludem.
quid faceret? quo se rapta bis coniuge ferret?
quo fletu manis, quae numina voce moveret?
Illa quidem Stygia nabat iam frigida cumba.
“… Eurymakhos, the shining son of sharp-minded Polyboios,
whom the Ithakans now look upon the way they would a god.
He is by far the best man remaining and the best
to marry my mother and receive my father’s geras.”
“Then Antinoos, the son of Eupeithes, answered him,
“Telemachus, the gods themselves have taught you
to be a big speaker and to address us boldly. May Zeus never make you king in sea-girt Ithaca which is your inheritance by birth.”
“Antinoos, even if you are annoyed at whatever I say,
I would still pray to obtain this should Zeus grant it.
Do you really think that this is the worst thing among people? To be king is not at all bad. A king’s house grows rich quickly
and he is more honored himself. But, certainly, there are other kings of the Achaeans, too, many on sea-girt Ithaka, young and old,
who might have this right, since shining Odysseus is dead.
But I will be master of my household and my servants,
the ones shining Odysseus obtained for me.”
“When they were waging war and many different kinds of things were happening in the battles, then indeed among them when the Athenians were winning, the poet Alcaeus went running and fled, but the Athenians captured his armor and dedicated it in the temple of Athena at Sigeion. Alcaeus wrote a poem about this and sent it to Mytilene where he explained his suffering to his best friend Melanippos. Peirander, Kypselos’ son, made peace between the Athenians and Mytileneans after they entrusted the affair to his judgment. He resolved it so that each side would keep what they previously possessed.”
“What does Herodotus say about what happened at [the battle between the Athenians and Mytileneans]? Instead of mentioning the excellence of Pittakos, he narrates the flight of the poet Alkaios from battle, how he dropped his weapons. By not describing great deeds and by not passing over the shameful ones, he has taken the side of those who claim that envy and joy at someone else’s misfortune comes from the same weakness.”
“Drink and get drunk with me, Melanippos.
Why would you say that once you cross the great eddying
River of Acheron you will see the pure light of the sun again?
Come on, don’t hope for great things.
For even the son of Aiolos, Sisyphos used to claim
He was better than death because he knew the most of men.
Even though he was so very wise, he crossed
The eddying river Acheron twice thanks to fate
And Kronos’ son granted that he would have toil
Beneath the dark earth. So don’t hope for these things.
As long as we are young, now is the time we must
Endure whatever of these things the god soon grants us to suffer.”
“Women know everything, even how Zeus married Hera.”
Homer has, “They traveled together to bed, avoiding their parents’ notice”. Aristokles in his work “On the Cults of Hermione”, provides something of an odd tale about the marriage of Zeus and Hera. For, as the story goes, Zeus was planning on having sex with Hera when he noticed that she was separated from the other gods. Because he did not want to be obvious and did not want to be seen by her, he changed his appearance into a cuckoo and was waiting on a mountain which was first called Thornax but is now just called Cuckoo.
Zeus made a terrible storm on that day and when Hera was going toward the mountain alone, she stopped at the very place where there is currently a temple to Hera Teleia. The cuckoo, flew down and sat on her lap when he saw her, shivering and freezing because of the weather. Hera saw the bird and pitied him and covered him with her cloak. Then Zeus suddenly transformed his appearance and grabbed a hold of Hera. Because she was refusing him due to their mother, he promised that he would marry her.
Among the Argives, who honor the goddess the most of all the Greeks, the cult image of Hera sits in the temple on a throne holding a scepter in one hand on which a cuckoo is seated.”
Pausanias (2.17.4) describes a statue in a temple to Hera outside of Corinth:
“The statue of Hera—extraordinarily huge—sits on a throne made of gold and ivory, a work of Polykleitos. She has a crown embossed with Graces and the Seasons and carries in one hand a pomegranate fruit and in the other a scepter. I must pass over the reason for the pomegranate, since the tale is protected by sacred rite. But people say that the cuckoo bird sitting on the scepter is Zeus: because he was in love with Hera when she was a maiden and turned himself into this bird which she hunted to have as a pet. I record this story as much as the others of the gods which I offer incredulously—but I record them still.”
Astuanassa: A handmaid of Helen, Menelaos’ wife. She first discovered positions for intercourse and wrote On Sexual Positions. Philainis and Elephantinê rivaled her in this later—they were women who danced out these sorts of wanton acts.
As is largely unsurprising from the perspective of Greek misogyny, excessive interest in sexual behavior is projected a female quality. Expertise beyond interest is made the province of female ‘professionals’ (slaves) who may act as scapegoats and marginal figures for the corruption of both men and women. There is a combination of such interest with an excessive emphasis on eating (and eating really well) in Athenaeus where the pleasures of the body are combined.
Athenaeus, Deipnosophists 8.335c
“Dear men, even though I have great admiration for Chrysippus as the leader of the Stoa, I praise him even more because he ranks Arkhestratos, well-known for his Science of Cooking along with Philainis who is credited with a licentious screed about sexual matters—even though the iambic poet of Samos, Aiskhriôn, claims that Polycrates the sophist started this slander of her when she was really quite chaste. The lines go like this:
“I, Philainis, circulated among men
Lie here thanks to great old age.
Don’t laugh, foolish sailor, as your trace the cape
Nor make me a target of mockery or insult
For, by Zeus and his sons in Hell
I was never a slut with men nor a public whore.
Polykrates, Athenian by birth,
A bit clever with words and with a nasty tongue,
Wrote what he wrote. I don’t know anything about it.”
But the most amazing Chrysippus combines in the fifth book of his On Goodness and Pleasure that both “the books of Philianis and the Gastronomiai of Arkhestratos and forces of erotic and sexual nature, and in the same way slave-girls who are expert at these kinds of movements and positions and who are engaged in their practice.” He adds that they learn this type of material completely and then thoroughly possess what has been written on these topics by Philainis and Arkhestratos and those who have written on similar topics. Similarly, in his seventh book, he says ‘As you cannot wholly learn the works of Philianis and Arkhestratos’ Gastronomia because they do have something to offer for living better.’ “
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. Continue reading “The Names of Agamemnon’s Daughters and the Death of Iphigenia”→
Antiquity has left us only one fragment of the iambic poet Hedyle. It is not iambic!
“Hêdulos, the Samian or Athenian, says that Glaukos threw himself in the sea after he fell in love with Melicertes. Hêdulê, his mother and the daughter of the Athenian Moskhinê, was a composer of iambic lines. In her poem called “Skylla”, she records that Glaukos went into his own cave after he fell in love with Skylla
“Either carrying shells as gifts
From the Erythaian cliff
Or halcyon chicks still unwinged
Presents for the girl from an anxious man.
His Siren girl neighbor felt pity
For he was swimming toward that beach
And the regions close to Aitna.”
In the famous Ode II.13, Horace tells how he was nearly killed by a falling tree. In the portion translated below, Horace imagines what (and whom) he would have seen had he died and gone down to the house of the dead.
Note that Horace ascribes Orpheus-like powers to two great poets in an imagined encounter, but he seems to say the themes of one hold more appeal than those of the other.
Horace Odes II.13.21-40.
I almost saw dark Prosperina’s kingdom,
Aecus passing judgment,
the blessed ones’ separate dwelling,
and weeping to the Aeolian lyre
over her band of girls, Sappho!
And you, Alcaeus, singing richer matter
with the golden pick: the misery of ships,
exile’s awful misery, war’s misery too.
Shades gape at both their songs
in fitting, holy silence, but the throng
packed tight prefers its ears imbibe
the tales of battle and tyrants expelled.
Amazing, no? As the songs spread enchantment
Cerberus, the hundred-headed beast, droops
his black ears, and snakes writhing
in the Furies’ hair simmer down.
Even Prometheus and Tantalus,
Pelops’ father, are distracted from torment
by the sweet sound; and Orion, the hunter,
does not care to trouble lions or timid lynxes.
quam paene furvae regna Proserpinae
et iudicantem vidimus Aeacum
sedesque discretas piorum et
Aeoliis fidibus querentem
Sappho puellis de popularibus
et te sonantem plenius aureo,
Alcaee, plectro dura navis,
dura fugae mala, dura belli.
utrumque sacro digna silentio
mirantur umbrae dicere, sed magis
pugnas et exactos tyrannos
densum umeris bibit aure vulgus.
quid mirum, ubi illis carminibus stupens
demittit atras belua centiceps
auris et intorti capillis
Eumenidum recreantur angues?
quin et Prometheus et Pelopis parens
dulci laborem decipitur sono,
nec curat Orion leones
aut timidos agitare lyncas.
We have posted before about Odysseus’ sister Ktimene. She is mentioned by the swineherd Eumaios but never by Odysseus. The scholia connect her to one of Odysseus’ companions. The evidence for this seems to be the fact that Ktimene was sent to Same for marriage (where Eurylochus is from) and a kinship term used for him by Odysseus. Also of interest, according to the scholion, Odysseus may have had more sisters.
Homer, Odyssey 15.364-41
Strong Ktimenê, the youngest of the children she bore.
I was raised with her, and she honored me little less.
But when we both made it to much-praised youth,
They gave her to Samê and received much in return
But she gave me a cloak, tunic and clothing
Dressing me finely and give me sandals for my feet
And sent me to the field. But she loved me more in her heart.
“So he spoke, and I was turning over in my thoughts
As I began to draw the sharp-edged sword next to my thick thigh,
Whether I should cut off his head and drive him to the ground
Even though he really was my relative. But our companions
Were restraining me with gentle words from all sides.”
“Pêos: A relative by marriage. In-law. Also, “in-lawness” [Pêosunê], relation-by-marriage. There is also Pêôn [genitive plural], for “of relatives-by-marriage. Homer has: “relatives and friends” [Il. 3.163]