The Consent of the Damned: Homeric Scholia and the Lotus-Eaters

In Odysseus’ tale of his wanderings he recounts how he saved his men from the temptations of the land of the Lotus-Eaters

Odyssey 9.82-97

“From there for nine days I was carried by ruinous winds
over the fish-bearing sea. On the tenth we came to the land
of the Lotus-Eaters where they eat the florid food.
There we disembarked to the shore and we drew water;
soon my companions made dinner around the swift ships.
But after we had shared the food and drink
I sent out companions to go and discover
whatever men there were who ate the fruit of the earth.
I chose two men and sent a herald as a third.
They went and met the Lotus-eating men.
The Lotus-Eaters didn’t bring any harm to my companions,
but they gave them their lotus to share.
Whoever ate the honey-sweet fruit of the lotus
no longer wished to report back or return home,
but just longed to stay there among the Lotus-eating men
to wait and pluck the lotus, forgetting his homecoming.”

ἔνθεν δ’ ἐννῆμαρ φερόμην ὀλοοῖσ’ ἀνέμοισι
πόντον ἐπ’ ἰχθυόεντα• ἀτὰρ δεκάτῃ ἐπέβημεν
γαίης Λωτοφάγων, οἵ τ’ ἄνθινον εἶδαρ ἔδουσιν.
ἔνθα δ’ ἐπ’ ἠπείρου βῆμεν καὶ ἀφυσσάμεθ’ ὕδωρ,
αἶψα δὲ δεῖπνον ἕλοντο θοῇς παρὰ νηυσὶν ἑταῖροι.
αὐτὰρ ἐπεὶ σίτοιό τ’ ἐπασσάμεθ’ ἠδὲ ποτῆτος,
δὴ τότ’ ἐγὼν ἑτάρους προΐην πεύθεσθαι ἰόντας,
οἵ τινες ἀνέρες εἶεν ἐπὶ χθονὶ σῖτον ἔδοντες,
ἄνδρε δύω κρίνας, τρίτατον κήρυχ’ ἅμ’ ὀπάσσας.
οἱ δ’ αἶψ’ οἰχόμενοι μίγεν ἀνδράσι Λωτοφάγοισιν•
οὐδ’ ἄρα Λωτοφάγοι μήδονθ’ ἑτάροισιν ὄλεθρον
ἡμετέροισ’, ἀλλά σφι δόσαν λωτοῖο πάσασθαι.
τῶν δ’ ὅς τις λωτοῖο φάγοι μελιηδέα καρπόν,
οὐκέτ’ ἀπαγγεῖλαι πάλιν ἤθελεν οὐδὲ νέεσθαι,
ἀλλ’ αὐτοῦ βούλοντο μετ’ ἀνδράσι Λωτοφάγοισι
λωτὸν ἐρεπτόμενοι μενέμεν νόστου τε λαθέσθαι.

The scholia present reactions to this passage that are not altogether alien from some arguments in the debate about drug enforcement and addiction.

One scholiast quotes Heraclitus the Paradoxographer with approval, noting that this scene is about how the wise man can resist pleasure.

Schol. T ad. Od. 9 89

“From Herakleitos. If someone wishes to examine Odysseus’ wanderings precisely, he will find an allegorical tale. For he has set up Odysseus as something of a vehicle of every kind of virtue through which he has philosophized. And then he resists the vices that corrupt human life: the land of the Lotus-eaters represents pleasure, a land of foreign corruption which Odysseus masterfully passes by, and then he settles the wild heart of each man with either chastisement or persuasion.”

ἐκ τοῦ ῾Ηρακλείτου. καθόλου δὲ τὴν ᾿Οδυσσέως πλάνην εἴ τις ἀκριβῶς ἐθέλει σκοπεῖν, ἠλληγορημένην εὑρήσει. πάσης γὰρ ἀρετῆς καθάπερ ὄργανόν τι τὸν ᾿Οδυσσέα παραστησάμενος ἑαυτῷ διὰ τοῦτο πεφιλοσόφηκεν, ἐπειδήπερ τὰς ἐκνεμομένας τὸν ἀνθρώπινον βίον ἤχθηρε κακίας, ἡδονὴν μέν γε τὸ Λωτοφάγων χωρίον, ξένης γεωργὸν ἀπολαύσεως, ἣν ᾿Οδυσσεὺς ἐγκρατῶς παρέπλευσε, τὸν δ’ ἄγριον ἑκάστου θυμὸν ὡσπερεὶ καυτηρίῳ τῇ παραινέσει τῶν λόγων ἐπήρωσε.

Another commentator actually speaks of the Lotus-eaters as just men. This author implies that Odysseus’ men choose to take the drugs. Therefore, the blame is on them.

Schol. Q ad Od. 9.92

“Because they are righteous men, the [Lotus-eaters] do not restrain anyone by force, but by persuasion. For in the word “they were devising” it is clear that the ruin which attends these men does not happen without their consent. For, because the Lotus-eaters are righteous men, they were detaining no one by force but they were bewitching them with words alone.”

οὐδ’ ἄρα Λωτοφάγοι] δίκαιοι ὄντες ἄνδρες βίᾳ τινι οὐ κατεῖχον, ἀλλὰ πειθοῖ. τὸ δὲ “μήδοντο” δηλοῖ ὅτι οὐχ ἑκούσιος ἦν ἐκείνων ὁ γενόμενος ὄλεθρος. καὶ γὰρ οἱ Λωτοφάγοι δίκαιοι ὄντες βίᾳ οὐδένα κατεῖχον, ἀλλὰ τῷ λόγῳ μόνῳ ἔθελγον. Q.

And another comment explains that the men who partake of the lotus don’t actually forget their homecoming, but they merely stop worrying about it. Because, you know, it is their fault.

Schol. HQ ad Od. 9.97

“They forgot their homecoming” This follows from their nature, as it happens with the irrational animals, that the Lotus brings them forgetfulness and because of pleasure they spurn their homecoming. The sentiment is similar to the Iliad’s “they forgot their rushing valor”—they did not really forget it, but they stopped fostering it.”

νόστου τε λαθέσθαι] ἀκολούθως τῇ φύσει, ὡς ἐπὶ ἀλόγων ζῴων, οὐχ ὡς μέντοι τοῦ λωτοῦ λήθην ἐμποιοῦντος, ἀλλὰ διὰ τὴν ἡδονὴν καταφρονούντων τοῦ νόστου. ὅμοιον δέ ἐστι τῷ “λάθοντο δὲ θούριδος ἀλκῆς” (Il. ο, 322.). οὐ γὰρ ἐπελάθοντο, ἀλλὰ κατημέλησαν.

In these three cases, drug addiction is treated as an individual responsibility and not as either a biological challenge [e.g. addiction as a disease] or a social problem [an act of oblivion in a society with no collective meaning or sense of belonging].

(Maybe they were all on drugs anyway)

Ancient Greek may not have had a word for the concept of addiction.

Tales of Incest Amid Secret Assignations

Plutarch, Parallel Stories 311 22

“Because of Aphrodite’s rage, Kinyras’ daughter Smyrna lusted after her father and revealed the compulsion of this love to her nurse. The nurse brought her to her father with a trick. For she claimed that a neighboring girl wanted him but was ashamed to come to him in the open. Kinyras slept with her. At some point, because he wanted to know who his lover was, he asked for a light. But when he saw her, he pursued her with a sword as the most wanton woman. Aphrodite changed her into a tree of the same name thanks to her own forethought. This is the story Theodorus tells in his Metamorphoses

Thanks to the rage of Venus, Valeria Tusculanaria was lusting after her father Valerius and she shared the secret with her nurse. The nurse tricked the father, saying that there was some young neighborhood girl who wanted to sleep with him but was too ashamed to be seen. The father, drunk, kept asking for a torch, but the nurse got ahead of him and woke the daughter. She went to the country because she happened to be pregnant.

At some point, she threw herself over a cliff and the child survived. She stayed pregnant and eventually gave birth to Aegipan, named Silvanus in Latin. Valerius, overcome by despair, threw himself off the same cliff. Aristeides the Milesian tells this story in book three of his Italica.”

22. ΣΜΥΡΝΑ Κινύρου θυγάτηρ διὰ μῆνιν Ἀφροδίτης ἠράσθη τοῦ γεννήσαντος, καὶ τῇ τροφῷ τὴν ἀνάγκην τοῦ ἔρωτος ἐδήλωσεν· ἡ δὲ δόλῳ ὑπῆγετὸν δεσπότην· ἔφη γὰρ γείτονα παρθένον ἐρᾶν αὐτοῦ καὶ αἰσχύνεσθαι ἐν φανερῷ προσιέναι. ὁ δὲ συνῄει. ποτὲ δὲ θελήσας τὴν ἐρῶσαν μαθεῖν φῶς ᾔτησεν, ἰδὼν δὲ ξιφήρης τὴν ἀσελγεστάτην ἐδίωκεν. ἡ δὲ κατὰ πρόνοιαν Ἀφροδίτης εἰς ὁμώνυμον δένδρον μετεμορφώθη· καθὰ Θεόδωρος ἐν ταῖς Μεταμορφώσεσιν.

ΟΥΑΛΕΡΙΑ Τουσκλαναρία κατὰ μῆνιν Ἀφροδίτης ἐρασθεῖσα Οὐαλερίου τοῦ πατρὸς τῇ τροφῷ ἀνεκοίνωσεν· ἡ δὲ τὸν δεσπότην δόλῳ ὑπῆλθεν, εἰποῦσα ὡς αἰδεῖται κατ᾿ ὄψιν μίσγεσθαι, τῶν τε γειτόνων εἶναί τινα1 παρθένον. καὶ οἰνωθεὶς ὁ πατὴρ ᾔτει φῶς, ἡ δὲ τροφὸς φθάσασα διήγειρεν, ἥτις ἐπὶ τὰς ἀγροικίας ᾔει ἐγκύμων τυγχάνουσα· ποτὲ δὲ κατὰ κρημνῶν ἐνεχθείσης, τὸ βρέφος ἔζη· κατιοῦσα δ᾿ ἐγκύμων κατέστη καὶ εἰς τὸν ὡρισμένον χρόνον ἐγέννησεν Αἰγίπανα, κατὰ τὴν Ῥωμαίων φωνὴν Σιλουᾶνον. ὁ δὲ Οὐαλέριος ἀθυμήσας κατὰ τῶν αὐτῶν ἔρριψε κρημνῶν· ὡς Ἀριστείδης Μιλήσιος ἐν τρίτῳ Ἰταλικῶν.

Cinyras valt zijn dochter Myrrha aanMetamorfosen van Ovidius 

Helen’s Other Sisters

Ever wondered why Helen left Menelaos or why her sister Klytemnestra cheated on Agamemnon (other than the obvious)? Ancient poetry traced it back to a sin of their father

Schol. Ad Euripides’ Orestes 249:

“Stesichorus says that when Tyndareus was sacrificing to the gods he overlooked Aphrodite. For this reason, the angry goddess made his daughters thrice and twice married abandoners of husbands. The segment reads like this:

“Because when Tyndareus was sacrificing to all the gods
He neglected only the gentle-giving Kyprian
She was enraged and she made the daughters of Tyndareus
Twice and thrice married deserters of husbands.”

A fragment of Hesiod agrees with this (fr. 176):

“Smile-loving Aphrodite
Was enraged when she saw them: then she hung bad fame upon them.
After that, Timandra abandoned Ekhemos and left;
She went to Phyleus who was dear to the holy gods.
And so Klytemnestra abandoned shining Agamemnon
To lie alongside Aigisthos as she chose a lesser husband;
In the same way, Helen shamed the marriage-bed of fair Menelaos…”

Στησίχορός φησιν ὡς θύων τοῖς θεοῖς Τυνδάρεως ᾿Αφροδίτης ἐπελάθετο• διὸ ὀργισθεῖσαν τὴν θεὸν διγάμους τε καὶ τριγάμους καὶ λειψάνδρους αὐτοῦ τὰς θυγατέρας ποιῆσαι. ἔχει δὲ ἡ χρῆσις οὕτως [frg. 26]•
‘οὕνεκά ποτε Τυνδάρεως
ῥέζων πᾶσι θεοῖς μόνης λάθετ’ ἠπιοδώρου
Κύπριδος, κείνα δὲ Τυνδάρεω κούραις
χολωσαμένη διγάμους τε καὶ τριγάμους τίθησι
καὶ λιπεσάνορας’.

καὶ ῾Ησίοδος δέ [frg. 117]•
τῆισιν δὲ φιλομμειδὴς ᾿Αφροδίτη
ἠγάσθη προσιδοῦσα, κακῆι δέ σφ’ ἔμβαλε φήμηι.
Τιμάνδρη μὲν ἔπειτ’ ῎Εχεμον προλιποῦσ’ ἐβεβήκει,
ἵκετο δ’ ἐς Φυλῆα φίλον μακάρεσσι θεοῖσιν•
ὣς δὲ Κλυταιμνήστρη <προ>λιποῦσ’ ᾿Αγαμέμνονα δῖον
Αἰγίσθῳ παρέλεκτο, καὶ εἵλετο χείρον’ ἀκοίτην.
ὣς δ’ ῾Ελένη ᾔσχυνε λέχος ξανθοῦ Μενελάου…

This passage provides an explanation for why the daughters of Tyndareus—Helen and Andromache—were unfaithful: it was Aphrodite’s game from the beginning because their father did not worship her correctly. A few interesting aspects here: first, Helen is “thrice-married” because after Paris dies, she marries Deiphobus (although some accounts associate her with Theseus too). Second, Hesiod’s fragmentary poems seems to be in the process of cataloging women who leave their husbands.

The first woman in the tale is Timandra, who, according to only this passage, was a third daughter of Tyndareus who left her husband Ekhemos, a king of Arcadia. They had a son together, named Leodocus before she eloped with Phyleus. In another fragment from Hesiod (fr. 23) we learn more about the family of Tyndareus and Leda:

“After climbing into the lush bed of Tyndareus
Well-tressed Leda, as fair as the rays of the moon,
Gave birth to Timandra, cow-eyed Klytemnestra,
And Phylonoe whose body was most like the immortal goddesses.
Her…the arrow bearing goddesss
Made immortal and ageless for all days.”

ἣ μὲν [Τυνδαρέου θαλερὸν λέχο]ς εἰσαναβᾶσα
Λήδη ἐ̣[υπλόκαμος ἰκέλη φαέεσσ]ι σελήνης
γείνατ[ο Τιμάνδρην τε Κλυταιμήστρ]ην τε βοῶπ[ιν
Φυλο̣[νόην θ’ ἣ εἶδος ἐρήριστ’ ἀθαν]άτηισι.
τ̣ὴ̣ν[ ἰο]χέαιρα,
θῆκ[εν δ’ ἀθάνατον καὶ ἀγήραον ἤ]ματα πάντ̣[α. (7-12)

Later on in the same fragment –after hearing about the marriage and children of Klytemnestra—we learn about Timandra:

“Ekhemos made Timandra his blooming wife,
The man who was the lord of all Tegea and Arcadia, wealthy in sheep,
A rich man who was dear to the gods.
She bore to him Laodakos, the horse-taming shepherd of the host,
After she was subdued by golden Aphrodite.”

Τιμάνδρην δ’ ῎Εχεμος θαλερὴν ποιήσατ’ ἄκοιτιν,
ὃς πάσης Τεγ[έης ἠδ’ ᾿Αρκαδίης] πολυμήλου
ἀφνειὸς ἤνασ[σε, φίλος μακάρεσσι θ]ε̣ο[ῖ]σ̣ιν•
ἥ οἱ Λαόδοκον̣ μ[εγαλήτορα ποιμέν]α̣ λαῶν
γ]είνα[θ]’ ὑποδμη[θεῖσα διὰ] χρυσῆν ᾿Αφ[ροδίτην (28-31)

This section of the Hesiodic Catalogue of Women seems to be mentioning only Leda’s children with Tyndareus and not those possibly fathered by Zeus (Helen, Kastor, Polydeukes). But we hear nothing of the future of Leda’s attractive daughter Phylonoe (also spelled Philonoe) other than that Artemis made her immortal. The ancient sources? Nothing at all to explain this.

Here’s what Apollodorus has to say (3.126):

“The sons of Ikarios and the Naiad nymph Periboia were Thoas, Damasippos, Imeusimos, Aletes, Perileôs, and a daughter Penelope, whom Odysseus married. Tyndareus and Lêda had Timandra, whom Ekhemos married, and Klytemnestra, whom Agamemnon married, and also Pylonoê, whom Artemis made immortal.”

᾿Ικαρίου μὲν οὖν καὶ Περιβοίας νύμφης νηίδος Θόας Δαμάσιππος ᾿Ιμεύσιμος ᾿Αλήτης Περίλεως, καὶ θυγάτηρ Πηνελόπη, ἣν ἔγημεν ᾿Οδυσσεύς· Τυνδάρεω δὲ καὶ

Λήδας Τιμάνδρα, ἣν ῎Εχεμος ἔγημε, καὶ Κλυταιμνήστρα, ἣν ἔγημεν ᾿Αγαμέμνων, ἔτι τε Φυλονόη, ἣν ῎Αρτεμις ἀθάνατον ἐποίησε.

Apart from the appearance in the fragment from Hesiod, the only other mention of Phylonoê in classical literature is in the work of the early Christian philosopher and apologist, Athenagoras of Athens (3rd Century CE) who wrote works to Marcus Aurelius and his son Commodus defending Christianity. In his Legativo sive Suppliatio pro Christianis he writes of how to foreigners it may seem laughable if “a Lakedaimonian honors Zeus-Agamemnon or Phylonoê, the daughter of Tyndareus.” (ὁ δὲ Λακεδαιμόνιος ᾿Αγαμέμνονα Δία καὶ Φυλονόην τὴν Τυνδάρεω θυγατέρα καὶ τεννηνοδίαν † σέβει, 1.1.6).

But there is no other information about why Phylonoê was made immortal or what her cult-rites (if they existed were like).  Now, given the motifs usually associated with Artemis and the story told by Hesiod about the daughters of Tyndareus and their curse, the following scenario is possible. Perhaps Phylonoê, conscious of the curse, dedicated herself to Artemis and was saved from her sisters’ fate before her first marriage.

If we return to that passage from Hesiod (fr. 23) we can see just how much is reconstructed. Below is the text with and without the supplements

ἣ μὲν [Τυνδαρέου θαλερὸν λέχο]ς εἰσαναβᾶσα                     7
Λήδη ἐ̣[υπλόκαμος ἰκέλη φαέεσσ]ι σελήνης                        8
γείνατ[ο Τιμάνδρην τε Κλυταιμήστρ]ην τε βοῶπ[ιν              9
Φυλο̣[νόην θ’ ἣ εἶδος ἐρήριστ’ ἀθαν]άτηισι.                     10
τ̣ὴ̣ν[                             ἰο]χέαιρα,                    11
θῆκ[εν δ’ ἀθάνατον καὶ ἀγήραον ἤ]ματα πάντ̣[α.                 12

ἣ μὲν [                                               ]ς εἰσαναβᾶσα                     7
Λήδη ἐ̣[                                              ]ι σελήνης                         8
γείνατ[                                              ]ην τε βοῶπ[ιν                     9
Φυλο̣[                                                 ]άτηισι.                           10
τ̣ὴ̣ν[                             ἰο]χέαιρα,                                              11
θῆκ[                                                   ]ματα πάντ̣[α.                     12

It is clear that without the passage from Apollodorus and the slight bit from Athenagoras, there wouldn’t be too much to go on here. The reconstruction of line 12 seems fairly safe based on the classic formula used there (note line 24 in the same fragment: θῆκεν δ’ ἀθάνατο[ν καὶ ἀγήρ]αον ἤμα[τα πάντα). Line seven is a rather decent restoration based on Leda in the next line. Line 11 seems like I might need at least a name for the goddess (although, this is not necessary, see line 21 in the same fragment: εἴδω[λον· αὐτὴν δ’ ἐλαφηβό]λο̣ς ἰοχέαιρα) leaving room for some allusion to what transpired to earn Phylonoê immortality.

But the whole passage seems a bit strange to me because it proceeds with a mirrored catalogue: the daughters are listed (A) Timandra, (B) Klytemnestra and (C) Phylonoê. The following elaborations are (C) Pholonoê 10-12, (B) Klytemnestra, 13-30, (A) Timandra, 31-36. This puts the most elaborated story in the middle, as well as offering a mirrored tale.

Helen boarding a ship for Troy, wall painting from Pompeii

A Hometown to Be Sick Over

If you want to know more words for puking in Greek and Latin, we’ve got you covered.

Etymologicum Magnum [= Etymologicum Gudianum, 461.13]

“Emeia. This is a place near Mycenae. Emeia comes from emo [“to vomit”] just as Thaleia comes from thallô [“to bloom, flourish”]. It is so named either because Kerberos puked there after he came up from Hades or because Thyestes puked there after he ate his own children.”

῎Εμεια: Τόπος ἐστὶ πλησίον Μυκηνῶν· παρὰ τὸ ἐμῶ ῎Εμεια, ὡς θάλλω Θάλεια. Λέγεται δὲ, ἐπειδὴ ἐκεῖ ἤμεσεν ὁ Κέρβερος ἀνελθὼν ἐκ τοῦ ᾅδου· ἢ ἐπειδὴ ἐκεῖ ἔμεσεν ὁ Θυέστης φαγὼν τὰ τέκνα αὐτοῦ.

 

Eustathius, Comm. Ad Homeri Il. 1.282.24

“…after he tasted them he caused the city Emeia to be named for him because it is where he vomited up the things he ate.”

ὧν καὶ γευσάμενος ἐκεῖνος πόλιν ἐξ αὐτοῦ ἀφῆκε καλεῖσθαι τὴν ῎Εμειαν, ὅπου δηλαδὴ τὰ καταβρωθέντα ἐξήμεσε.

 

Interestingly, there is a bit of a slip the next time Eustathius tells the story.

Eustathius, Comm. Ad Homeri Il. 3.691.20

“[Note also] that the city Emeia comes from emein [to vomit] because it is where Aigisthos [sic] vomited after eating his own children thanks to the plan of Atreus, as the story goes.”

Οτι δὲ ἐκ τοῦ ἐμεῖν καὶ πόλις ῎Εμεια, περὶ ἣν Αἴγισθος ἤμεσε φαγὼν ἐξ ἐπιβουλῆς ᾿Ατρέως τὰ οἰκεῖα τέκνα, ἡ ἱστορία φησίν.

Picture found here

The Most Shameful Plague

Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound 609-612

“I will tell you everything clearly that you need to learn,
Without interweaving riddles, in a direct speech,
The right way to open one’s mouth to friends.
You see Prometheus, the one who gave mortals fire.”

λέξω τορῶς σοι πᾶν ὅπερ χρήζεις μαθεῖν,
οὐκ ἐμπλέκων αἰνίγματ᾿, ἀλλ᾿ ἁπλῷ λόγῳ,
ὥσπερ δίκαιον πρὸς φίλους οἴγειν στόμα.
πυρὸς βροτοῖς δοτῆρ᾿ ὁρᾷς Προμηθέα.

682-686

“You hear what has happened. If you can,
Tell me the rest of my toils and don’t distract me
With false tales because you pity me
I think that manufactured lies are the most shameful plague.”

κλύεις τὰ πραχθέντ᾿. εἰ δ᾿ ἔχεις εἰπεῖν ὅ τι
λοιπὸν πόνων, σήμαινε· μηδέ μ᾿ οἰκτίσας
ξύνθαλπε μύθοις ψευδέσιν· νόσημα γὰρ
αἴσχιστον εἶναί φημι συνθέτους λόγους.

Jacob Jordaens – Prometheus bound, 1648

#NANAIHB Who’s Ready for the Semi-Finals?

Welcome to the second round of the #NANAIHB (the Non-Atreid, Non-Achilles Iliadic hero Bracket), the definitive tournament to decide who really is the second best of the Achaeans. The first round saw six contests, most of which were blowouts. The second round introduces heroes who received first-round byes: Odysseus, Ajax,and Diomedes.

The Achaeans assembled in the late afternoon for the final match of the elite eight between Diomedes and Thersites. Diomedes was fully armed and standing with his shield at ready at the appointed hour as Sthenelos stood next to him, chattering about how much he was going to destroy Thersites. At first, the crowd seemed giddy at the prospect but as the moments stretched out to minutes and then approached half an hour, boredom slipped into frustration.

Once an hour had passed, Agamemnon spoke, and said, “Look, Greeks, Thersites didn’t show up because of his cowardice!*” He waited a moment for a laugh and then sighed at the silence, speaking up again only to call the match by forfeit to Diomedes who had remained motionless, shield at the ready the entire time. As soon as Agamemnon spoke, Diomedes roared, “Sthenelos, put on your weapons. Let’s spar. Sweat is the least price I can pay for victory.”

A few Achaeans laughed. Most shook their heads as they left the assembly. Achilles called as he was leaving, “Don’t bruise him too much, Sthenelos. Patroklos is going to wear my armor in the match. And you know how hard he already is to turn over!” At this, the Greeks laughed, unaccustomed to such bawdy banter from shining Achilles.

*διὰ τὸ ἀθαρσὲς αὐτοῦ [dia to atharsos] an easy punning on Thersites’ name which is likely built on the world tharsos/thrasos, “boldness”. From Agamemnon this is less than effective because everyone makes this joke and Atreus’ son thinks he just made it up.

NANAIHB Day 10

 

The Semifinals: The Semifinal matches were probably spun up by the Fates themselves. We get a rematch of the famous and tragic struggle between Ajax and Odysseus and an intriguing contest between Achilles’ replacement and his better half.

The Achaeans are taking the day off. The Semifinals will be the next two days, setting up a match for the coveted Second Best of the Achaeans title on Tuesday.

NANAIHB Day 10 (2)

 

#NANAIHB Round 2, Match 4: Getting it on for Calydon!

Welcome to the second round of the #NANAIHB (the Non-Atreid, Non-Achilles Iliadic hero Bracket), the definitive tournament to decide who really is the second best of the Achaeans. The first round saw six contests, most of which were blowouts. The second round introduces heroes who received first-round byes: Odysseus, Ajax,and Diomedes.

Round 2, Match 3: Patroklos vs. Antilokhos

If there was something like a buzz in the air as Patroklos readied himself to face Nestor’s son Antilokhos, it came from the grumbles of assembled Achaeans who were hustled, bustled, and knocked to the side as Achilles paced along the sideline. He repeatedly muttered about how long this was taking as Phoinix readied Patroklos and Nestor tended to his son.

Agamemnon called the battle to begin and both younger heroes threw their first spear: Achilles watched as each  approached its apex and they brushed each other mid-air and flew off course, scattering the crowd on either side. Patroklos looked at Achilles, who nodded, and then dropped his second spear and drew his sword. He rushed screaming and swinging with such force that the surprised younger hero stepped back, driven one, two, and then a dozen feet into the crowd all while doing everything he could not to stop Patroklos’ sword with his face.

Under the weight of the relentless blows, Antilochus’ shield arm was quickly tiring and he made a quick feint with his sword only to have his opponent’s blade crash into his forearm. As Antilokhos fell to his knees and Patroklos raised his sword again, Nestor raised his mighty voice, shouting, “Stop son of Menoitios, what tale will your father hear?*”

Patroklos withdrew as Antilokhos yielded. Achilles walked away with him as the crowd dispersed.

*Παῦε, Μενοιτιου υἵε, τὶ κλέος Πατήρ τεὸς ἀκούσει; A pointed punning, since Nestor uses the two elements of Patroklos name: Pater [father] and story/fame [kleos]

NANAIHB Day 9

 

Today’s match: Thersites vs. Diomedes. Thersites is coming off a surprise victory over Ajax the lesser. This is Diomedes’ first appearance in the tournament. Does momentum matter?

NANAIHB Day 9 (2)

Today’s match sets up Diomedes, a victorious sacker of Thebes, against Thersites, who is, um, Thersites. There’s a bit of a family drama to the affair. Diomedes was born in Argos be ause his father was in exile after being deposed from Calydon by Agrios. Thersites and his brothers overthrew their uncle Oeneus to put their father Agrios on the throne. According to later traditions, Diomedes arrived there and killed Thersites’ brothers to install Oeneus as king again.

(Thersites was either not there or dead at Achilles’ hands.)

So, just in case it is unclear:. Agrios and Oeneus were brothers. Their sons Tydeus and Thersites were cousins. So, that makes this a battle between Diomedes and his father’s cousin. To say there is bad blood here would be an understatement. Diomedes is one of the greatest warriors in Greek epic and he has Athena on his side. Thersites is, um, Thersites.

What’s the over/under for minutes in the ring?

#NANAIHB Round 2, Match 3: A Contest for Achilles’ Love

Welcome to the second round of the #NANAIHB (the Non-Atreid, Non-Achilles Iliadic hero Bracket), the definitive tournament to decide who really is the second best of the Achaeans. The first round saw six contests, most of which were blowouts. The second round introduces heroes who received first-round byes: Odysseus, Ajax,and Diomedes.

Round 2, Match 2: Idomeneus vs. Ajax

As the two massive warriors stood impassive on each side of the agora, Idomeneus raised up his voice, “Ajax, son of Telamon, you massive tower of a man. Come, let us put away our spears and bows and fight like men!” Ajax, smiling, gave no other answer then to pick up his castle-sized shield and draw his sword as he moved forward.

The clashing of these two giants set a flutter even into the hearts of the gods who watched them. As Zeus gazed on the clanging of sword to sword and the pounding of shield to shield, he said, “Ah, my children, I see you on the earth, thundering in power like my thunder, but flashing as brief as lightning. I have not heard such sound since the giants tried to mount Olympos or the hundred-handers locked the Titans in their dusky home. Hermes, come, let’s save Idomeneus who is fated to fall to Ajax this very day.” Maia’s son, the divine Argeiphontes, disappeared, moving faster than the eyes of the father of gods and men.

The Achaeans watched eagerly as Ajax bashed Idomeneus down to his knees, alternating with shield and sword as the Cretan king could barely fend off his blows. Finally, they could see a tear in the covering of the shield and hear the crack of its frame breaking. Then Ajax dropped his sword and gripped his shield in both hands, bringing it down like a thunderstrike on Idomeneus’ head. But as it fell, his form swirled away like smoke, leaving nothing there, save the shattered wreck of his broken shield.

Ajax stood, blinking. His chest heaved. He looked around the crowd and his eyes fell, burning, on Odysseus. The clever son of Laertes shrugged. Ajax stomped toward his ships.

NANAIHB Day 8

 

Today’s match: Patroklos vs. Antilokhos.

NANAIHB Day 8 (2)

In the first round, Antilokhos handled the Aitolian Thoas in what turned out to be the second closest competition of the round. At the end, the greater speed and Nestor’s advice made a difference. Patroklos faced Makhaon, and made pretty fast work of the field medic who slipped into the competition to begin with.

There is a little intrigue this time: who will get Achilles’ favor? We all know that Patroklos and Achilles have a relationship so deep that the latter’s death provokes his rage to new levels in the Iliad. But Antilokhos’ death in the lost Aethiopis inspires Achilles to go on a rampage that ends in his death too.

So, who’s it going to be this time? The new boy, or the old? The wrathful son of Menoetius or Nestor’s precocious charioteer? Neither of them gets Achilles’ armor: can both of them have his love?

#NANAIHB Round 2, Match 2: Clash of the Giants

Welcome to the second round of the #NANAIHB (the Non-Atreid, Non-Achilles Iliadic hero Bracket), the definitive tournament to decide who really is the second best of the Achaeans. The first round saw six contests, most of which were blowouts. The second round introduces four heroes who received first-round byes: Odysseus, Ajax, Patroklos, and Diomedes.

Teucer Odysseus

NANAIHB Day 7

Round 2, Match 1: Odysseus vs. Teucer.

The Achaeans gathered and noticed that Odysseus was already seated in the competition grounds, looking off into the distance. When Teucer arrived, Odysseus stood up and said, “Welcome son of Telamon, pride of Salaminian land! I hail you as a friend and offer you my own bow as a sign of our guest-friendship.” Teucer squinted at the Ithakan king and said, “Odysseus, that would be a sign of enmity through theft, not friendship—your bow is much better than mine.” He stood to his side and spoke a few words to Ajax while Odysseus continued to stare.

When Nestor announced the contest’s beginning, Odysseus picked up his shield and a single spear. Teucer raised his bow and nocked an arrow. As he drew it back, the string broke, twanging off tune like a lyre string recoiling. Odysseus darted forward and slashed Teucer on the left army lightly, saying “Teucer, what should be done? The gods have made you unlucky!*”

Odysseus’ brother-in-law, Eurylochus, yelled, “Odysseus, that’s pretty harsh, even for you!” And Odysseus responded, winking at Ajax who was looming near Teucer, “Some ships are rowed without all their oars.” Teucer yielded.

* Odysseus toyed with Teucer’s name, saying, Ὤ Τεύκρε, τὶ τευκτόν εστί; οἱ σε θεοί δυστυχέα τεῦξαν! [ôh Teukre, ti teukton? Hoi se Theoi dustukhea teuksan!]

NANAIHB Day 7

Today’s match, Idomeneus against Ajax.

Homer, Iliad 3.230-231

“That there is the monstrous bulwark of the Achaeans, Ajax.
Idomeneus stands on the other side like a god among the Cretans.”

οὗτος δ’ Αἴας ἐστὶ πελώριος ἕρκος ᾿Αχαιῶν·
᾿Ιδομενεὺς δ’ ἑτέρωθεν ἐνὶ Κρήτεσσι θεὸς ὣς
ἕστηκ’….

NANAIHB Day 7 (2)

Telamonian Ajax is reportedly the “best of men while Achilles was raging” (ἀνδρῶν αὖ μέγ’ ἄριστος ἔην Τελαμώνιος Αἴας ὄφρ’ ᾿Αχιλεὺς μήνιεν, 2.768-769) and it would be fascinating to fully understand the difference between being “best of men” and “best of the Acheans”. He is the son of Telamon: in most accounts Peleus, Achilles’ father, and Telamon are brothers. Broader myth puts these cousins together frequently: there is a much repeated image of the two playing a game in armor; Ajax is frequently credited with carrying Achilles’ body out of the battle (as he does with Patroklos); and Ajax’s emotional appeal to Achilles in book nine is often seen as instrumental in keeping him from returning to Phthia.

Ajax came to Troy with 12 ships from Salamis and—according to the text of the Iliad we possess—lined them up with the Athenians (Αἴας δ’ ἐκ Σαλαμῖνος ἄγεν δυοκαίδεκα νῆας / στῆσε δ’ ἄγων ἵν’ ᾿Αθηναίων ἵσταντο φάλαγγες, 2.557-558; Carolyn Higbie has a great article about how this text may have been manipulated in antiquity). But he is known for his own bad self, and not his people. He is the monstrous bulwark of the Achaeans (οὗτος δ’ Αἴας ἐστὶ πελώριος ἕρκος ᾿Αχαιῶν, 3.239)

When Priam sees him from the gates, he describes him as “that other big and noble man / head and shoulders above the rest of the Argives.”τίς τὰρ ὅδ’ ἄλλος ᾿Αχαιὸς ἀνὴρ ἠΰς τε μέγας τε / ἔξοχος ᾿Αργείων κεφαλήν τε καὶ εὐρέας ὤμους; (3.226-227). His shield is as big as a tower! (Αἴας δ’ ἐγγύθεν ἦλθε φέρων σάκος ἠΰτε πύργον, 7.219). He’s brave (ἄλκιμος Αἴας), he’s shiny (φαίδιμος Αἴας), he’s really big (Τελαμώνιος Αἴας) and he walks big too (Αἴας…μάκρα βιβάσθων· 18.809).

Idomeneus is also huge—if he weren’t Cretan and if Ajax weren’t there, this son of Minos just might be the second best of the Danaans. He devastated Sthenelos in round 1. He has held battalions of Trojans at bay.

How does he match up against Ajax? Helen places them right next to each other. And who is a better judge of a man than her?

#NANAIHB Round 2, Archer-fest! Odysseus vs. Teucer

Welcome to the second round of the #NANAIHB (the Non-Atreid, Non-Achilles Iliadic hero Bracket), the definitive tournament to decide who really is the second best of the Achaeans. The first round saw six contests, most of which were blowouts. The second round introduces four heroes who received first-round byes: Odysseus, Ajax, Patroklos, and Diomedes.

NANAIHB (10)

Round 2, Match 1: Odysseus vs. Teucer. Ajax’s illegitimate brother gets to face the grandson of Sisyphus after quickly dispatching the braggart Heraklid, Tlepolemos, in the first round. All the smart money is in the tyrant king of Ithaca, but any archer’s got a chance, right?

“Homer made Achilles the best man of those who went to Troy, Nestor the wisest, and Odysseus the most shifty.”

φημὶ γὰρ Ὅμηρον πεποιηκέναι ἄριστον μὲν ἄνδρα Ἀχιλλέα τῶν εἰς Τροίαν ἀφικομένων, σοφώτατον δὲ Νέστορα, πολυτροπώτατον δὲ Ὀδυσσέα. #Plato

NANAIHB (11)

I know, I know. Laertes’ heroic son killed 108 unarmed suitors with Athena’s help when he got back home. And this is after he watched over the deaths of 12 ships of Kephallanian warriors! The man is a mighty machine of death. For sake of argument, let’s consider what Odysseus actually accomplishes in battle in the Iliad.

Book 1: Takes Chryseis Back to Chryses

Book 2: Gives a big speech, beats Thersites (and any other non-compliant commoner)

Book 3: Gets described by Helen as being like a snow storm when he speaks

Book 4: Agamemnon finds him hanging back from battle

Book 5: He decides between fighting “some Lykian” redshirts or Tlepolemos. He does not fight Tlepolemos (668-678)

Book 7: He does not win the lot to face Hektor

Book 8: He does not stop to help Nestor (8.97)

Book 9: We don’t have time to talk about Odysseus’ shenanigans in book 9

Book 10: He and Odysseus lie to Dolon, kill him, and kill Rhesus and his men in their sleep. Well, he has Diomedes do most of that

Book 11: He gets Diomedes to stay and fight with him

Book 14: He yells at Agamemnon for suggesting running away

Book 19: He tells Achilles that eating is good.

Book 23: He wrestles Ajax to a draw

Odysseus’ reputation is for his cleverness and lies. (He might be a necromancer too.)  He knows how to suffer and he knows how to get revenge. And I am pretty sure he would shoot a man in Reno just to watch him die. (Yes, he’s a lot more than that. And, yes, I have a good deal to say about him. But we don’t have that much evidence he’s a great fighter.)

Let’s not forget that Teucer kills nine men in the pace of three lines in book 8 (273-275)! He may only be the second-best Salaminian, but is that nearly as good as being king of an island good mostly for goats.

So, go ahead, cast your vote for Odysseus like you want to, like you need to because he’s already in your head. But, remember, Teucer’s got an archer’s chance. And that’s something even Odysseus should worry about.

“I am called Odysseus for evil deeds correctly: For many who have been my enemy hate me.”

ὀρθῶς δ’ ᾿Οδυσσεύς εἰμ’ ἐπώνυμος κακῶν πολλοὶ γὰρ ὠδύσαντο δυσμενεῖς ἐμοί #Sophocles