More of Thersites with Achilles and Odysseus

Plutarch’s Moralia 1065c-d Against the Stoics on Common Conceptions

“Achilles would not have had long hair if Thersites had not been bald.”

καὶ οὐκ ἂν ἦν Ἀχιλλεὺς κομήτης εἰ μὴ φαλακρὸς Θερσίτης.

 

Plato, Republic 10 620c-d

“A bit farther along among the final souls, he saw that of the ridiculous Thersities taking on the form of a monkey. By chance, he came upon the soul of Odysseus last of all as it made its choice still remembering its previous sufferings and, having decided to rest from the pursuit of honor, was spending an excessive among of time seeking the life of an untroubled private citizen. He found it barely situated somewhere and ignored by the rest of the souls. When he saw it, he said that he would have made the same choice even had he drawn the first lot and was happen to make this choice.”

πόρρω δ’ ἐν ὑστάτοις ἰδεῖν τὴν τοῦ γελωτοποιοῦ Θερσίτου πίθηκον ἐνδυομένην. κατὰ τύχην δὲ τὴν Ὀδυσσέως λαχοῦσαν πασῶν ὑστάτην αἱρησομένην ἰέναι, μνήμῃ δὲ | τῶν προτέρων πόνων φιλοτιμίας λελωφηκυῖαν ζητεῖν περιιοῦσαν χρόνον πολὺν βίον ἀνδρὸς ἰδιώτου ἀπράγμονος, καὶ μόγις εὑρεῖν κείμενόν που καὶ παρημελημένον ὑπὸ τῶν ἄλλων, καὶ εἰπεῖν ἰδοῦσαν ὅτι τὰ αὐτὰ ἂν ἔπραξεν καὶ πρώτη λαχοῦσα, καὶ ἁσμένην ἑλέσθαι.

 

Galen, Hygiene 16-17k

“Accordingly, then, they differ from one another in  magnitude of more or less, just as the whiteness in show compares to the whiteness of milk: it is white for each it is not different in this, but it contrasts in being more or less white. In the same manner, if you will allow me to say, the health of Achilles does not differ from that of Thersites: inasmuch as it is health, it is the same, but it differs in another thing.”

κατὰ τὸ μᾶλλον ἄρα καὶ ἧττον ἀλλήλων διαφέρουσιν. ὥσπερ γὰρ ἡ ἐν τῇ χιόνι λευκότης τῆς ἐν τῷ γάλακτι λευκότητος, ᾗ μὲν λευκόν ἐστιν, οὐ διαφέρει, τῷ μᾶλλον δὲ καὶ ἧττον διαφέρει, τὸν αὐτὸν δὴ τρόπον ἡ ἐν τῷ Ἀχιλλεῖ, φέρε εἰπεῖν, ὑγεία τῆς ἐν τῷ Θερσίτῃ ὑγείας, καθ’ ὅσον μὲν ὑγεία, ταὐτόν ἐστιν, ἑτέρῳ δέ τινι διάφορος

The Death of Thersites

Proclus, Chrestomathia 178–184

“Then Achilles killed Thersites because he was mocked by him when he reproached him, claiming he loved Penthesileia. A conflict arose among the Achaeans over the murder of Thersites. After that Achilles went sailing to Lesbos where, after he made a sacrifice to Apollo, Artemis and Leto, he was cleansed of the murder by Odysseus.”

καὶ Ἀχιλλεὺς Θερσίτην ἀναιρεῖ λοιδορηθεὶς πρὸς αὐτοῦ καὶ ὀνειδισθεὶς τὸν ἐπὶ τῆι Πενθεσιλείαι λεγόμενον ἔρωτα. καὶ ἐκ τούτου στάσις γίνεται τοῖς Ἀχαιοῖς περὶ τοῦ Θερσίτου φόνου. μετὰ δὲ ταῦτα Ἀχιλλεὺς εἰς Λέσβον πλεῖ, καὶ θύσας Ἀπόλλωνι καὶ Ἀρτέμιδι καὶ Λητοῖ καθαίρεται τοῦ φόνου ὑπ᾿ Ὀδυσσέως.

In some traditions, Penthesileia bore Achilles a child before she died.

Cf. Apollodorus, Epitome E 5

“…And later on, [Penthesileia] died at Achilles’ hands and he killed Thersites who was mocking him after her death because he had loved the Amazon.”

 εἶθ᾿ ὕστερον θνήσκει ὑπὸ Ἀχιλλέως, ὅστις μετὰ θάνατον ἐρασθεὶς τῆς Ἀμαζόνος κτείνει Θερσίτην λοιδοροῦντα αὐτόν.

Quintus Smyrnaeus fleshes out some of the story in his Posthomerica: see the post on maicar.com.

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What Happened to Thersites (The Origin of His Deformity)

Thersites, the ugliest man at Troy, may not have always been so.

Schol. T ad Hom. Il. 212a1 ex

“Thersites: the name is made from the Aiolic [version of tharsos] audacity, thersos.
ex. Θερσίτης δ’ ἔτι: ὠνοματοποίησε τὸ ὄνομα παρὰ τὸ θέρσος Αἰολικόν

Schol. D ad Hom. Il. 2.212 [= Euphorion fr. 82]

“Because the goddess was enraged at Oineus’ lack of concern for sacrifices to Artemis, she sent a wild boar against the city. A band of the best of Greece when against it when it was ruining the country, as the poet says in the ninth book. Among them was also Thersites who, because he was coward, abandoned his assigned guard post and went instead hunting safety in some high position. He was being reproached and pursued by Meleager and fell from a cliff; [this is how] he became the sort of man Homer describes him as. Euphorion tells this story.”

Οἰνεῖ ἀμελήσαντι τῆς Ἀρτέμιδος θυσιῶν ἕνεκα ἡ θεὸς ὀργισθεῖσα ἔπεμψε τῇ πόλει σῦν ἄγριον. ἐφ᾿ ὃν ἦλθεν στρατεία τῶν ἀρίστων τῆς Ἑλλάδος, ἐπειδὴ ἐλυμαίνετο τῇ χώρᾳ ὥς φησιν αὐτὸς ὁ ποιητὴς ἐν τῇ Ι΄ [533], μεθ᾿ ὧν ἦν καὶ ὁ Θερσίτης, ὃς δειλωθεὶς κατέλειψεν τὴν παραφυλακὴν ἐφ᾿ ἧς ἦν καὶ ἀπῆλθεν ἐπί τινα τόπον ὑψηλὸν τὴν σωτηρίαν θηρώμενος. ὀνειδιζόμενος δὲ ὑπὸ Μελεάγρου ἐδιώκετο καὶ κατὰ κρημνοῦ πεσὼν τοιοῦτος ἐγένετο οἷον Ὅμηρος αὐτὸν παρίστησιν. ἱστορεῖ Εὐφορίων.

Schol AbT 212b1-2 ex

“they say that [Thersites] is the poet’s agent, that he appropriates his essence.”

Θερσίτης δ’ ἔτι: ἐπίτροπον τοῦ ποιητοῦ φασιν αὐτόν, σφετερισάμενον τὴν οὐσίαν…

Schol. bT ad Hom. Il 212b ex

“… as when Zeus assails Hera with threats in book 1 and Hephaistos appears as a joke; now too, then, the poet took up Thersites to resolve the hatred in the assembly and to insult Agamemnon. For it is right. But he cannot cause [Agamemnon] pain since he [Thersites] is unworthy. Mockeries, then, were not made by Xenophanes [first] but already by Homer among which he makes a mockery of Thersites and Thersites mocks the best men.”

ὡς καὶ ἐπὶ τῶν θεῶν ἐν τῇ Α τὴν ῞Ηραν καταστέλλει Ζεὺς μὲν ἀπειλῶν, ῞Ηφαιστος δὲ γελοῖος φανείς. καὶ νῦν οὖν τὸν Θερσίτην ὁ ποιητὴς παρέλαβε πρὸς τὸ διαλῦσαι
τὸ στυγνὸν τῆς ἐκκλησίας καὶ ὑβρίσαι τὸν ᾿Αγαμέμνονα· δίκαιον γάρ· ἀλλ’ οὐ λυπεῖ ἀνάξιος ὤν. ἤδη δὲ οὐ Ξενοφάνει (cf. Vors.6 21A), ἀλλ’ ῾Ομήρῳ πρώτῳ σίλλοι πεποίηνται, ἐν οἷς αὐτόν τε τὸν Θερσίτην σιλλαίνει καὶ ὁ Θερσίτης τοὺς ἀρίστους. οὐκέτι δὲ μέμνηται αὐτοῦ, ἐπεὶ σεσωφρόνισται τοῦ λοιποῦ „νεικείειν βασιλῆας” (Β 277). Φερεκύδης δὲ καὶ τοῦτον

Schol. bT ad Il. 2.212b ex. 12–19 [= FGrH 3.123]

“Pherecydes says that [Thersites] was one of those who gathered to hunt the Kalydonian boar but that he was avoiding the fight with the boar and was thrown from a cliff by Meleager. This is how his body was deformed. People say he is a child of Agrios and the daughter of Porthaon. But if he is Diomedes’ relative, there is no way Odysseus would beat him. For he would only hit common soldiers. Hence, [the poet] has deployed him not [because of] his father or his country but only because of his manner and form, the things which the current situation needs.”

Φερεκύδης δὲ καὶ τοῦτον ἕνα τῶν ἐπὶ τὸν Καλυδώνιον κάπρον στρατευσάντων φησίν. ἐκκλίνοντα δὲ τὴν τοῦ συὸς μάχην ὑπὸ Μελεάγρου κατακρημνισθῆναι· διὸ καὶ λελωβῆσθαι τὸ σῶμα. ᾿Αγρίου δὲ καὶ Δίας τῆς Πορθάονος αὐτόν φασιν. εἰ δὲ συγγενὴς ἦν Διομήδους, οὐκ ἂν αὐτὸν ἔπληξεν ᾿Οδυσσεύς· τοὺς γὰρ ἰδιώτας μόνον ἔτυπτεν. εὖ δὲ καὶ οὐκ ἀπὸ πατρὸς αὐτὸν συνέστησεν, οὐδ’ ἀπὸ πατρίδος, ἀλλ’ ἀπὸ
τοῦ τρόπου μόνου καὶ τῆς μορφῆς, ὧν χρεία τὰ νῦν. b(BCE3E4)T

 

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No, Internet, Kerberos is Probably Not “Spot”

A good friend (@professormortis) asked me yesterday if the internet rumors are right that the etymology of Kerberos (or the Latin Cerberus) indicates “spotted” because it is cognate with Sanskrit karbarah, sabalah “spotted, speckled;” and, therefore, that it is related to our pet name “Spot”.  This is a nice story, but like many nice stories, it is probably not true.

But the idea is not one of those internet age fantasies. It has actually appeared in the annals of historical linguistics–internet etymologies selected this one because it is cool and funny. But linguists have largely abandoned the idea.

Kerberos 1

Pierre Chantraine (Dictionnaire étymologique de la langue grecque, 1968) lists this as a “doubted for good reasons”.  (Here’s a link for a free download of the dictionary). Robert Beekes in his Etymological Dictionary of Greek (Brill: 2010) is much more certain that the Sanskrit word has no connection to the Greek word.

Kerberos 2

The article Beekes dismisses (Bruce Lincoln. 1977 “The Hellhound.” Journal of Indo-European Studies 7: 273-286.) suggests that the dog names in IE myth like Kerberos are derived from a PIE root *gher which has to do with growling.

Here’s a summary and an anticipation of what the rest of the post will cover.

Things Kerberos does not mean:

  1. Spotted or Spot
  2. Growling thing
  3. Flesh-eating
  4. Heavy-headed

New Proposals (from twitter, see below)

  1. From Proto-turkic: kara-boru  (“black-wolfhound”)
  2. Phoenician root *klb-‘rz (“hound of the earth”)

Trying to make sense of the dog’s name has good precedent in antiquity. There are etymological and allegorical interpretations to entertain us.

Etymologicum Gudianum (Byzantine Era)

Kerberos: From “karbaros” which is from having a heavy head. For the dog in Hades had three heads, as the story goes about the dog Kerberos.

Κέρβερος, παρὰ τὸ κάρβαρος, ἢ παρὰ τὸ τὴν κάραν βαρεῖν· τρικέφαλος γὰρ ἦν κύων ἐν ᾅδου, ὡς μυθεύεται κύωνος κέρβερος.

Cf. κάραβος (karabos) “horned beetle”

Also consider from Hesychius the Lexicographer:

Kerberioi: Weak-men. They also call the Kimmerians Kerberians. And some call their city Kerberia, but others call it Kimmeria. Others say that Kimmê is as place in Hades.

κερβέριοι· ἀσθενεῖς. φασὶ δὲ καὶ τοὺς Κιμμερίους Κερβερίους· καὶ τὴν πόλιν οἱ μὲν Κερβερίαν καλοῦσιν, οἱ δὲ Κιμμερίην· ἄλλοι δὲ †Κιμμη. ἔστι δὲ τόπος ἐν ᾅδου (λ 14).

Servius, Commentary to Vergil’s Aeneid 6.395

“For Cerberus is the earth, that means the consumer of all corpses. This is where Cerberus is also said to be from, just as kreoberos, that is “devouring flesh”: from here we also get “reclining over bones”, for the earth does not consume bones quickly”

nam Cerberus terra est, id est consumptrix omnium corporum. unde et Cerberus dictus est, quasi κρεοβόρος, id est carnem vorans: unde legitur “ossa super recubans” : nam non ossa citius terra consumit.

On the number of Kerberos’ heads

In a Pindaric fragment, Kerberos has one hundred heads! (Dith. Fr. 249 b Κέρβερος <> ἑκατογκεφάλας (vel ἑκατόγκρανος vel sim.). In vase images, he has two or three (typically). Lincoln and many others (see Daniel Ogden, Dragons, Serpents, and Slayers 2013: 96-106) note how his number of heads shift and that a vase image of him with two heads may indicate that he was once part of a pair of dogs (usually Orthos, matching pairs of dogs elsewhere in IE traditions).

In Hesiod, Kerberos and Orthos are children of Ekhidna with Typhaon. This Kerberos has 50 heads! (Theoi.com has a good selection of passages and images.)

Hesiod, Theogony 308-312

“After she was pregnant, she gave birth to powerful-minded children,
First, she gave birth to Orthos, Geryones’ hound.
Then she bore an impossible, unspeakable thing,
Kerberos raw flesh-eating, bronze-voiced hound of Hades,
With fifty heads, a creature shameless and strong.”

ἡ δ’ ὑποκυσαμένη τέκετο κρατερόφρονα τέκνα.
῎Ορθον μὲν πρῶτον κύνα γείνατο Γηρυονῆι·
δεύτερον αὖτις ἔτικτεν ἀμήχανον, οὔ τι φατειόν,
Κέρβερον ὠμηστήν, ᾿Αίδεω κύνα χαλκεόφωνον,
πεντηκοντακέφαλον, ἀναιδέα τε κρατερόν τε·

The number of heads seems to stick at three and various reasons are given to explain why or how this could be.

Heraclitus the Paradoxographer, On Incredible things 33

“Concerning Kerberos: This could be the same as with the Hydra. For that dog had two puppies, and he seemed to have three heads because the puppies were always walking alongside their father.”

Περὶ Κερβέρου.

     Τοῦτ’ ἂν εἴη ὃ καὶ περὶ τῆς ῞Υδρας. οὗτος γὰρ εἶχε δύο σκύμνους, ὧν ἀεὶ συμβαδιζόντων τῷ πατρὶ ἐφαίνετο εἶναι τρικέφαλος.

Palaephatus (39) argues that Kerberos had three heads because he was from the city Trikarênos (“Three-peaks”) and the name was misunderstood.

Porphyry, Peri Agalmatôn 8

“Kerberos is three-headed because of the three stages of the sun, rising, midday, and setting.”

     ῾Ο δὲ Κέρβερος τρικέφαλος μέν, ὅτι τρεῖς αἱ ἄνω χῶραι ἡλίου, ἀνατολή, μεσημβρία, δύσις.

Heraclitus, Allegories 33.9

“Kerberos himself is shown to be three-headed perhaps rightfully to hint at the three-shaped nature of philosophy: the parts we call logic, physics, and ethics.”

Αὐτός γε μὴν ὁ τρικέφαλος δειχθεὶς ἡλίῳ κέρβερος εἰκότως ἂν τὴν τριμερῆ φιλοσοφίαν ὑπαινίττοιτο· τὸ μὲν γὰρ αὐτῆς λογικόν, τὸ δὲ φυσικόν, τὸ δὲ ἠθικὸν ὀνομάζεται·

Zonaras Kappa 1186

“Kerberos: the three-headed dog: [this is because] the wretched demon is in three regions: the water, the earth and the air.”

†Κέρβερος. κύων τρικέφαλος, ὁ ἐν τοῖς τρισὶ στοιχείοις, ὕδατι, γῇ, ἀέρι, πονηρὸς δαίμων.†

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A Twitter-sourced Etymology

A few years ago we witnessed the true beauty of twitter when we had a long discussion about this, yielding two new proposes which are really no worse than the Byzantine folk etymologies. One, suggests that it may be a borrowing from Asia Minor, related to Proto-turkic kara-boru  (“black-wolfhound”); the other posits a Phoenician root *klb-‘rz (“hound of the earth”).  I could describe how we got there, but I would rather just post all the tweets here. It is also instructive to post them again, because it is a reminder that social media can be used to build things up instead of burning them down

http://twitter.com/BhriguTheBard/status/697179265197068288

http://twitter.com/BhriguTheBard/status/697111976930050053

http://twitter.com/BhriguTheBard/status/697213559936258049

http://twitter.com/BhriguTheBard/status/697213559936258049

Death from the Sea and Cities of Men: Odysseus and Mortality

Homer, Odyssey 11.119–137 [cf. 23.265–284]

“But after you kill the suitors in your home
Either with a trick or openly with sharp bronze,
Then go, taking with you a well-shaped oar,
until you come to people who know nothing of the sea,
men who do not eat food that has been mixed with salt.
These people also know nothing of purple-prowed ships,
Nor well-shaped oars which give the ships their wings.
I will speak to you an obvious sign and it will not escape you.
Whenever some other traveler meets you and asks
Why you have a winnowing fan on your fine shoulder,
At that very point drive the well-shaped oar in the ground
And once you sacrifice a bull a a boar which has loved sows,
Go home again and complete holy hekatombs
To the immortal gods, who live in the broad sky,
All of them in order. And then from the sea death will come
To you in a gentle way, and it will kill you
Already taken by a kind old age. Your people
Will be prosperous around you. I speak these things truly.”

αὐτὰρ ἐπὴν μνηστῆρας ἐνὶ μεγάροισι τεοῖσι
κτείνῃς ἠὲ δόλῳ ἢ ἀμφαδὸν ὀξέϊ χαλκῷ,
ἔρχεσθαι δὴ ἔπειτα, λαβὼν εὐῆρες ἐρετμόν,
εἰς ὅ κε τοὺς ἀφίκηαι, οἳ οὐκ ἴσασι θάλασσαν
ἀνέρες οὐδέ θ’ ἅλεσσι μεμιγμένον εἶδαρ ἔδουσιν·
οὐδ’ ἄρα τοὶ ἴσασι νέας φοινικοπαρῄους,
οὐδ’ εὐήρε’ ἐρετμά, τά τε πτερὰ νηυσὶ πέλονται.
σῆμα δέ τοι ἐρέω μάλ’ ἀριφραδές, οὐδέ σε λήσει·
ὁππότε κεν δή τοι ξυμβλήμενος ἄλλος ὁδίτης
φήῃ ἀθηρηλοιγὸν ἔχειν ἀνὰ φαιδίμῳ ὤμῳ,
καὶ τότε δὴ γαίῃ πήξας εὐῆρες ἐρετμόν,
ἕρξας ἱερὰ καλὰ Ποσειδάωνι ἄνακτι,
ἀρνειὸν ταῦρόν τε συῶν τ’ ἐπιβήτορα κάπρον,
οἴκαδ’ ἀποστείχειν ἕρδειν θ’ ἱερὰς ἑκατόμβας
ἀθανάτοισι θεοῖσι, τοὶ οὐρανὸν εὐρὺν ἔχουσι,
πᾶσι μάλ’ ἑξείης. θάνατος δέ τοι ἐξ ἁλὸς αὐτῷ
ἀβληχρὸς μάλα τοῖος ἐλεύσεται, ὅς κέ σε πέφνῃ
γήρᾳ ὕπο λιπαρῷ ἀρημένον· ἀμφὶ δὲ λαοὶ
ὄλβιοι ἔσσονται. τὰ δέ τοι νημερτέα εἴρω.’

Why does Odysseus leave home again and how does he die? According to the prophecy, he still has to make amends with Poseidon. From this perspective, his journey is a type of expiation. As with many details in the Odyssey, however, we have only Odysseus to trust: he is the one who narrates the prophecy! One slight difference between the two versions of the prophecy gives me pause.

Odysseus does not come straight out and tell the story to his wife. Instead, he merely outlines that there will be more troubles and uses language of toil and suffering which is familiar from the rest of the epic.

Odyssey 23.248–253

“Wife, we have not yet come to the end of our struggles
But toil without measure is still in front of us,
Great and hard toil, all the things which I have to complete.
For the spirit of Teiresias prophesied this to me
On that day when I went to the home of Hades
To inquire about my companions’ homecoming and my own.”

“ὦ γύναι, οὐ γάρ πω πάντων ἐπὶ πείρατ’ ἀέθλων
ἤλθομεν, ἀλλ’ ἔτ’ ὄπισθεν ἀμέτρητος πόνος ἔσται,
πολλὸς καὶ χαλεπός, τὸν ἐμὲ χρὴ πάντα τελέσσαι.
ὣς γάρ μοι ψυχὴ μαντεύσατο Τειρεσίαο
ἤματι τῷ, ὅτε δὴ κατέβην δόμον ῎Αϊδος εἴσω,
νόστον ἑταίροισιν διζήμενος ἠδ’ ἐμοὶ αὐτῷ.

For someone who has suffered so much in this epic with not knowing the outcome of events, with the paralysis that comes from grief that is unresolved, Penelope is compelled to ask Odysseus to tell her (256-262) ending with a gnomic plea that “it is not at all worse to know right away” (πεύσομαι, αὐτίκα δ’ ἐστὶ δαήμεναι οὔ τι χέρειον). Odysseus winds up his story and prepares to recite the prophecy, but he begins differently.

Odyssey 23.265–279

“But I will tell you and I will not hide it.
My heart will not take pleasure in it. For I take no joy
Since he ordered me to go again through many cities of men
Holding a well-shaped oar in my hands…”

…αὐτὰρ ἐγὼ μυθήσομαι οὐδ’ ἐπικεύσω.
οὐ μέν τοι θυμὸς κεχαρήσεται· οὐδὲ γὰρ αὐτὸς
χαίρω, ἐπεὶ μάλα πολλὰ βροτῶν ἐπὶ ἄστε’ ἄνωγεν
ἐλθεῖν, ἐν χείρεσσιν ἔχοντ’ εὐῆρες ἐρετμόν.

After building up the suffering and forestalling any clarification, he seems almost to protest too much that he will not enjoy what the future brings. His curse, he claims, is that he is ordered to go through many cities of men. The absence of this line in the original narration alone would be telling, but it is even more marked because it recalls the third line of the epic’s proem: πολλῶν δ’ ἀνθρώπων ἴδεν ἄστεα καὶ νόον ἔγνω (“he knew the cities and the mind of many people”. This traveling through many cities for which Odysseus is famous enough to be marked at the beginning of the poem does not really happen in our epic.

Note as well, that Odysseus’ tale of the future undoes much of what the Homeric Odyssey accomplishes. His future toils are his alone: there is no room for the lives of his son, elderly father, or wife. So, even though Odysseus is home and reunited with his family, this new revelation is enough to imply, perhaps, that when this story is over, Odysseus returns to himself, the one before the Odyssey brought him home again.

This is, I think, the inspiration behind Cavafy’s startling poem on the topic.

C. P. Cavafy, Second Odyssey [Walter Kaiser, trans.]

A great second Odyssey,
Greater even than the first perhaps,
But alas, without Homer, without hexameters.

Small was his ancestral home,
Small was his ancestral city,
And the whole of his Ithaca was small.

The affection of Telemachus, the loyalty
Of Penelope, his father’s aging years,
His old friends, the love
Of his devoted subjects,
The happy repose of his home,
Penetrated like rays of joy
The heart of the seafarer.

And like rays they faded.

The thirst
For the sea rose up with him.
He hated the air of the dry land.
At night, spectres of Hesperia
Came to trouble his sleep.
He was seized with nostalgia
For voyages, for the morning arrivals
At harbors you sail into,
With such happiness, for the first time.

The affection of Telemachus, the loyalty
Of Penelope, his father’s aging years,
His old friends, the love
Of his devoted subjects,
The peace and repose of his home
Bored him.

And so he left.

As the shores of Ithaca gradually
Faded away behind him
And he sailed swiftly westward
Toward Iberia and the Pillars of Hercules,
Far from every Achaean sea,
He felt he was alive once more,
Freed from the oppressive bonds
Of familiar, domestic things.
And his adventurous heart rejoiced
Coldly, devoid of love.

Another reception of Odysseus that echoes some of these themes is Tennyson’s “Ulysses”. The poem begins with frustration, the complaint that it is useless for a king to sit and rule men less than he with an aging wife, a crowd that cannot understand him (1–5). Tennyson’s Odysseus has retreated into an interior life, rejecting the dismal repetition of his life at home, and imaging him self as he once was. For this hero, a life at home is a life of wasted opportunities. The poem’s Ulysses confesses “I cannot rest from travel: I will drink / Life to the lees…” (6–7). This Ulysses understands his coming transformation: “…I am become a name” (11) and this name is made up of his travels, his suffering, and his joys (11–20). The narrator continues (20–30):

How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnish’d, not to shine in use!
As tho’ to breathe were life! Life piled on life
Were all too little, and of one to me
Little remains: but every hour is saved
From that eternal silence, something more,
A bringer of new things; and vile it were
For some three suns to store and hoard myself,
And this gray spirit yearning in desire
To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.

Although in the next portion of the poem, Ulysses looks briefly back at the world he leaves to his son (31–42), this passage homes in on the Odyssey’s hero in a different light. Odysseus is looking forward to the boundary of death and although he concedes it is closer than ever before, he seems determined to inhabit it and atomize it, turning what remains of life to something like Zeno’s paradox, as if by filling every portion of it, he may always have another portion to fill. As will become clear from the prophecy itself, boundaries and limits are at the very core of his worry.

Tennyson’s Ulysses returns to the sea just as the Odyssey’s protagonist promises. He narrates a journey through the space of the sea that is also a straining against the bounds of time. This final battle, personal if epic still, culminates in Tennyson’s final, grasping boast: “To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”

But to what is this Odysseus yielding? The story of the prophecy is ultimately that of an externally imposed compulsion. In its simplest form, this is death. In the more complex vision of the poem, this is fate, the very thing Zeus says men make worse through their own recklessness at the beginning of the epic.

Perhaps what is really chilling is that Odysseus is looking forward to the end of his story, to his own death. Few of us embrace the idea of our own ending. And when we know that the milestones of life and perhaps our greatest accomplishments are behind us, we often have little choice but to look toward the end on the horizon. This is a different type of helplessness from what Odysseus endures during his ‘exile’ with Kalypso–when he is stranded on Ogygia he has no where to go and all the time in the world. Once he gets home, he can go anywhere, but where has all that time gone?

In a way, Odysseus continues on the journey of his life rather than stopping and facing the reality around him. In other heroic tales–Bellerophon and Herakles especially, but Gilgamesh too–after a hero completes his great deeds, he metaphorically and literally challenges death only, ultimately, to fail. The fall of a hero is an allegory for what happens to us all when we are no longer young but not yet old: we either scan the horizon for our ending, or run to avoid even looking for it.

But I think there may be another allegory beyond this one. As Alex Purves (2006) and John Peradotto (along with Ann Bergren 1983) note, Odysseus’ emphasis the fact that they are not at “the limits of their suffering” (πάντων ἐπὶ πείρατ’ ἀέθλων) and on the “boundless toil” (ἀμέτρητος πόνος) strains against the limits of the narrative and the poem. But this epic is also about the boundaries of a life as it is lived. To look for the experiences of the life beyond the story we are living is to look for the promise that this story that our story will not end.

And, again, in that oar–as Alex Purves notes–we find a promise of transformation as the relationship between signifier and signified breaks down. The oar becomes a thing it isn’t when it is transported into different lands and, once planted, it is a “clear sign”, a sema of what has been accomplished.  In the Iliad (7.81-91), a sema is the burial mound which will tell the story of what has transpired to future generations. It reduces an active, living thing, to a still, singular sign of the past. Here, of course, is the paradox of kleos perhaps articulated by Achilles’ rejection of the Iliadic ethos when he appears in the Odyssey: the story that continues on and does not change is not the self. The memory of the person is not the person remembered.

And in the Odyssey, it has already been established that an oar can function as the marker for a tomb–this is precisely what Elpenor requests when he meets Odysseus after dying (11.68-78). As a marker, a tombstone is final and, without readers, simple rather than complex. The single sign in the future Teiresias promises in the first version of the prophecy stands at odds with the multiplicity of meanings within the Odyssey and the multiple versions of the man whose tale it tells. So, while others have argued well that the prophecy anticipates a day and a place beyond the bounds of the heroic world, of epic meaning, and the range of epic transmission, I would add that this moment also reflects anxiety about the limits of the self.

(for a longer bibliography see at the end of the post)

Porphyry has an allegorical take Odysseus’ death and the tale of the sea.

Porphyry, On the Cave of the Nymphs 35

“And thus one may not escape from his toils, but when he has emerged from the sea altogether that his thoughts are so untouched of the sea and material matters, that he believes that an oar is a winnowing fan because of his total inexperience of the tools and affairs of the sea.”

ἵνα γυμνωθεὶς τῶν ῥακέων καθέλῃ πάντα καὶ οὐδ’ οὕτως ἀπαλλαγῇ τῶν πόνων, ἀλλ’ ὅταν παντελῶς ἔξαλος γένηται καὶ ἐν ψυχαῖς ἀπείροις θαλασσίων καὶ ἐνύλων ἔργων, ὡς πτύον εἶναι ἡγεῖσθαι τὴν κώπην διὰ τὴν τῶν ἐναλίων ὀργάνων καὶ ἔργων παντελῆ ἀπειρίαν.

Of course, in ancient myth, the “death from the sea” bit was not always considered an allegory. Homeric interpreters struggle over whether the phrase “from the sea” means a death that travels from the sea or one that happens away from the sea. Most versions settle on the first interpretation.

According  to Aeschylus’ fragmentary Psychagogoi, Teiresias prophesied to Odysseus that his death would come from the sea in an avian fecal format:

<ΤΕΙΡΕΣ.> ‘ἐρρω<ι>διὸς γὰρ ὑψόθεν ποτώμενος
ὄνθω<ι> σε πλήξε<ι>, νηδύιος χειλώμασιν.
ἐκ τοῦ δ’ ἄκανθα ποντίου βοσκήματος
σήψει παλαιὸν δέρμα καὶ τριχορρυές’.

“As a heron flies on high, he will strike you with shit from his stomach’s end.
And the thorns from that watery food will rot your old and balding skin.”

This may correspond to the Odyssey‘s cryptic note that “death will come from the sea”. For a great discussion, see Timothy Gantz. Early Greek Myth. 1993. 711-712.

A scholiast to the Odyssey glosses the “death will come to you from the sea” line as follows: “Some also say that Hephaistos at the bidding of Kirkê fashioned a spear from Telegonos from a sea sting-ray’s stinger, which Phorkys had killed while it was trying to eat fish in his harbor. The spear-base was adamantine and the handle was gold and that killed Odysseus.” (καί φασιν ὡς ἐντεύξει τῆς Κίρκης ῞Ηφαιστος κατεσκεύασε Τηλεγόνῳ δόρυ ἐκ τρυγόνος θαλασσίας, ἣν Φόρκυς ἀνεῖλεν ἐσθίουσαν τοὺς ἐν τῇ Φορκίδι λίμνῃ ἰχθῦς• οὗ τὴν μὲν ἐπιδορατίδα ἀδαμαντίνην, τὸν δὲ στύρακα χρυσοῦν εἶναι, τὸν ᾿Οδυσσέα ἀνεῖλεν,Schol. ad. Od. 11.134).

This is the story recorded in Apollodoros’ Epitome 7.36:

“Telegonos, after learning from Kirkê that he was the child of Odysseus, sailed out looking for him. After he arrived in Ithaka, he began to steal some of the Island’s cattle and he wounded Odysseus in the hand, who came out to help against him, with a spear that had a point made of a sting-ray’s spine. Then Odysseus died.”

[36] Τηλέγονος δὲ παρὰ Κίρκης μαθὼν ὅτι παῖς Ὀδυσσέως ἐστίν, ἐπὶ τὴν τούτου ζήτησιν ἐκπλεῖ. παραγενόμενος δὲ εἰς Ἰθάκην τὴν νῆσον ἀπελαύνει τινὰ τῶν βοσκημάτων, καὶ Ὀδυσσέα βοηθοῦντα τῷ μετὰ χεῖρας δόρατι Τηλέγονος τρυγόνος κέντρον τὴν αἰχμὴν ἔχοντι τιτρώσκει, καὶ Ὀδυσσεὺς θνήσκει.

This poisonous sting-ray weapon, as you might imagine, is exactly the type of thing Hellenistic authors might get excited about. The fragmentary historian Dictys tells a bit of a more complicated story: he has Odysseus send Telemachus away because dream-interpreters told him he would be killed by his son. According to Dictys, Telegonos struck him in the lung (τιτρώσκει τὸν ᾿Οδυσσέα κατὰ τοῦ πλευροῦ) “with a sting-ray’s point given to him by Kirkê” (ὅπερ ἔδωκε κέντρον θαλάσσιον τῆι Κίρκηι, FGH 1a49F fr. 10).

When Eustathius discusses Odysseus’ death from the sea (Comm. ad Od. 1.404) he first makes it clear that what is interesting is that Odysseus doesn’t die on the sea (ἀλλ’ ὁ θάνατός σοι οὐκ ἐν αὐτῇ ἔσται ἀλλ’ ἔξω αὐτῆς.) He then presents features both from the scholia (the special stin-ray spear) and Dictys while also explaining that Oppian tells us more about this in the Halieutica. Eustathius explains that the spear-point made from a sting-ray was considered especially sharp by some (αἰχμὴ δὲ τρυγόνος τὸ ἐπὶ τῷ ἀδάμαντι ὀξύτατον). A basic point to be drawn from his extensive discussion is that the sting-ray spear was a generally well-known motif.

It is so well-known, of course, that the Scholia to Lykophron must present an alternative. There, Telegonos does kill Odysseus but Kirkê resurrects him with her drugs, only after which was Telegonos married to Penelope and Telemakhos was married to Kassiphone, his half-sister. (ἄλλοι δέ φασιν ὅτι ἀναιρεθεὶς ὁ ᾿Οδυσσεὺς ὑπὸ Τηλεγόνου πάλιν ὑπὸ τῆς Κίρκης φαρμάκῳ ἀνέστη καὶ ἐγήματο *Κασσιφόνην* Τηλεμάχῳ, Πηνελόπη δ’ ἐν Μακάρων νήσοις ἐγήματο Τηλεγόνῳ, Schol ad. Lykophron 805). But that’s a story for another day.

[updated c. 2 hours later with an assist from Erik (see comments for his addition of the Tennyson poem)]

Some works consulted

Benardete, S. 1997. The Bow and the Lyre: A Platonic Reading of the Odyssey. Lanham.

Bergen, Ann, 1983. “Odyssean Temporality: Many (Re)Turns,” in C. A. Rubino and C. W. Shelmerdine, eds., Approaches to Homer. Austin. 38–73.

Buchan, M. 2004. The Limits of Heroism: Homer and the Ethics of Reading. Ann Arbor.

Foley, J. M. 1997. “Traditional Signs and Homeric Art,” in E. Bakker and A. Kahane, eds., Written Voices, Spoken Signs: Tradition, Performance, and the Epic Text. Cambridge, Mass. 56–82.

Nagy, G. 1990. Pindar’s Homer: the Lyric Possession of an Epic Past. Baltimore.

Nagy, G. “The Cult Hero in Homeric Poetry and Beyond”

Olson, S. D. 1997. “Odysseus’ ‘Winnowing-Shovel’ (Hom. Od. 11.119–37) and the Island of the Cattle of the Sun,” ICS 22.7–9.

Purves, Alex. 2006. “Unmarked Space: Odysseus and the Inland Journey.” Arethusa 39: 1-20.

Purves, Alex. 2010. Space and Time in Ancient Greek Narrative. Cambridge.

Peradotto, J. 1985. “Prophecy Degree Zero: Tiresias and the End of the Odyssey,” in B. Gentili and G. Paioni, eds., Oralità: cultura, letteratura, discorso. Rome. 429–59.

_____. 1990. Man in the Middle Voice: Name and Narration in the Odyssey.Princeton.

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.

Image result for Ariadne and Theseus ancient

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

A Real Heroine: She Kills A Lion, Gets a Kingdom

Akesandros of Cyrene (Jacoby 469) F4

“Akesandros tells the story in his Concerning Cyrene that when Eurypylos was king in Libya, Cyrene was taken by Apollo because there was a lion plaguing the land. Eurypylos put his kingship up as a prize for anyone who could kill a lion—and Cyrene killed the lion and gained the kingdom. Her children were Autoukhos and Aristaios. Phularkhos says that she came to Libya with a group, and when they went on a hunting expedition, she joined them too.”

᾽Ακέσανδρος δὲ ἐν τοῖς Περὶ Κυρήνης ἱστορεῖ, ἐπ᾽ Εὐρυπύλου βασιλεύοντος ἐν Λιβύηι ὡς ὑπὸ ᾽Απόλλωνος διακομισθείη ἡ Κυρήνη, λέοντος δὲ τὴν χώραν λυμαινομένου προθείη τὴν βασιλείαν ὁ Εὐρύπυλος ἆθλον τῶι ἀποκτενοῦντι τὸν λέοντα, τὴν δὲ(?) διαχρήσασθαι αὐτόν καὶ τὴν βασιλείαν λαβεῖν· παῖδας δὲ αὐτῆς γενέσθαι Αὐτοῦχον καὶ ᾽Αρισταῖον. φησὶ δὲ αὐτὴν Φύλαρχος (81 F 16) ἐλθεῖν μετὰ πλειόνων εἰς Λιβύην, τούτων δὲ ἐκπεμφθέντων ἐπὶ τὴν κυνηγίαν, τούτοις καὶ αὐτὴν συνεξελθεῖν.

This story is really exceptional in Greek myth and history for a couple of reasons. First, here we have a female beast-slayer who follows the classic pattern of killing a monster and gaining a kingdom. Second, while her children are mentioned–following a typical pattern of defining women by their offspring–her mate is not. There are some other sources on this figure.

Nonnos, Dionys. 13.300-301

“Cyrene, another deer-pursuing Artemis,
The lion-slaying nymph bore him, after sex with Phoibos.”

τόν ποτε Κυρήνη, κεμαδοσσόος ῎Αρτεμις ἄλλη,
Φοιβείῃ φιλότητι λεοντοφόνος τέκε νύμφη…

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Fragmentary Friday: The Many Absurd Stories of the Greeks

Hekataios of Miletus is a fragmentary Greek Historian. Here are some selections:

Fr. 1a

“I write these things as they seem to me to be true: for the stories of the Greeks, as it seems to me, are many and absurd.”

·τάδε γράφω, ὥς μοι δοκεῖ ἀληθέα εἶναι· οἱ γὰρ ῾Ελλήνων λόγοι πολλοί τε καὶ γελοῖοι, ὡς ἐμοὶ φαίνονται, εἰσίν» s. T 19.

Fr. 6

“A boar was in the mountain and he did many terrible things to the Psophidians”

«κάπρος ἦν ἐν τῶι ὄρει καὶ Ψωφιδίους κακὰ πόλλ’ ἔοργεν».

 

Fr. 15 from Athenaeus II 35 AB

“Hekataios the Milesian says that the grape-vine was discovered in Aitolia, and he adds: “Orestheus the son of Deukalion came to Aitolia for the kingship, and a dog found a stump there. And he ordered it to be dug up. And a many-bunched vine grew from it. For this reason he also named his child Phutios. Oeneus was born from him. He was named from the grapes too. For the ancient Greeks, they say, used to call ampelous [grape-vines] oinas. Aitolos was born from Oeneus.”

ATHENAI. II 35 AB: ῾Εκαταῖος δ’ ὁ Μιλήσιος τὴν ἄμπελον ἐν
Αἰτωλίαι λέγων εὑρεθῆναί φησι καὶ τάδε· «᾿Ορεσθεὺς ὁ Δευκαλίωνος ἦλθεν εἰς Αἰτωλίαν ἐπὶ βασιλείαι, καὶ κύων αὐτοῦ στέλεχος ἔτεκε, καὶ ὃς ἐκέλευσεν αὐτὸ κατορυχθῆναι, καὶ ἐξ αὐτοῦ ἔφυ ἄμπελος πολυστάφυλος· διὸ καὶ τὸν αὑτοῦπαῖδα Φύτιον ἐκάλεσε. τούτου δ’ Οἰνεὺς ἐγένετο, κληθεὶς ἀπὸ τῶν ἀμπέλων (οἱ γὰρ παλαιοί, φησιν, ῞Ελληνες οἴνας ἐκάλουν τὰς ἀμπέλους)· Οἰνέως δ’ ἐγένετο Αἰτωλός.»

Image result for Phrixus and the ram

Fr. 17

“There is the account in Hekataios that the ram talked to [Phrixos]. Others say that he sailed on a ship with a ram’s prow. Dionysus claims that Krion was Phrixos’ tutor and he sailed with him to Kolkhos.”

ἡ δὲ ἱστορία κεῖται παρὰ ῾Εκαταίωι ὅτι ὁ κριὸς ἐλάλησεν. ἔνιοι δέ φασιν αὐτὸν ἐπὶ κριοπρώρου σκάφους πλεῦσαι. Διονύσιος δὲ ἐν β (32 F 2) Κριόν φησι Φρίξου τροφέα γενέσθαι καὶ συμπεπλευκέναι αὐτῶι εἰς Κόλχους.

Fr. 27a

“But Hekataios found a likely story, when he claims that a terrible serpent grew in Tainaros and was called the dog of Hades. And that it was necessary that someone bitten by it would die immediately because of its venom. And Herkataios says that the serpent was killed by Herakles for Eurystheus.”

ἀλλὰ ῾Εκαταῖος μὲν ὁ Μιλήσιος λόγον εὗρεν εἰκότα, ὄφιν φήσας ἐπὶ Ταινάρωι τραφῆναι δεινόν, κληθῆναι δὲ ῞Αιδου κύνα, ὅτι ἔδει τὸν δηχθέντα τεθνάναι παραυτίκα ὑπὸ τοῦ ἰοῦ· καὶ τοῦτον ἔφη τὸν ὄφιν ὑπὸ ῾Ηρακλέους ἀχθῆναι παρ’ Εὐρυσθέα.

Hektor’s Bastards and His “Good” Wife

Listen, I know Hektor gets a lot of love in the world and he is often seen as the one good man in a rather bad world. So, I hate to share this with you, but he’s not perfect either…

Euripides Andromache, 222-227

“Dearest Hektor, I tried for your sake
With your love affairs if Kupris made you stumble,
And often then I offered my breast to your bastards
So that I might demonstrate no bitterness for you.
And by doing these things I attracted my husband
To my virtue…”

ὦ φίλταθ᾿ Ἕκτορ, ἀλλ᾿ ἐγὼ τὴν σὴν χάριν
σοὶ καὶ ξυνήρων, εἴ τί σε σφάλλοι Κύπρις,
καὶ μαστὸν ἤδη πολλάκις νόθοισι σοῖς
ἐπέσχον, ἵνα σοι μηδὲν ἐνδοίην πικρόν.
καὶ ταῦτα δρῶσα τῇ ἀρετῇ προσηγόμην
πόσιν·

Scholia in Eur. Andromache 224 [=BNJ 307 F1]

“For they claim that this is against the history—for there is no history of sons born to Hektor from another woman. But those who say these things have not done their research. For Anaksikratês says in the second book of his Argive Affairs that those with Aineias and Skamandrios, Hektor’s son and an older son […] that first was his bastard who was taken away…[and the legitimate son] was killed.

But these men were saved. For Skamandrios arrived in Ida and Aineias—along with his son Askanios—and Ankhises his father, and his other sons and, and Aigestas who was Ankhises’ servant moved to Dardanos. Therefore Euripides does not oddly claim that [Hektor] had illegitimate sons.”

τοῦτο παρὰ τὴν ἱστορίαν φασὶν εἰρῆσθαι· μὴ γὰρ ἱστορεῖσθαι ῞Εκτορι ἐξ ἄλλης γυναικὸς γεγενῆσθαι υἱούς. ἀπερίσκεπτοι δέ εἰσιν οἱ ταῦτα λέγοντες. ᾿Αναξικράτης γὰρ διὰ τῆς β τῶν ᾿Αργολικῶν [frg. 1] οὕτως λέγει· ‘οἱ δ’ ἀμφὶ Αἰνείαν καὶ Σκαμάνδριον τὸν ῞Εκτορος υἱὸν καὶ παλαίτερον ** ἦσαν δὲ αὐτῷ οὗτος μὲν νόθος, ὃς αὐτοῦ κατελήφθη καὶ ἀπόλλυται ** οὗτοι δὲ διασῴζονται· Σκαμάνδριος γὰρ ἀφικνεῖται εἰς τὰ ἐν ῎Ιδῃ, Αἰνείας δὲ <καὶ ᾿Ασκάνιος ὁ υἱὸς> καὶ ᾿Αγχίσης ὁ πατὴρ αὐτοῦ, ἀλλὰ καὶ ἄλλοι τινὲς παῖδες αὐτοῦ καὶ Αἰγέστας οἰκεῖος ὢν τῷ ᾿Αγχίσῃ [καὶ Αἰνείας] εἰς Δάρδανον μετανίστανται’. οὐκ ἀτόπως οὖν νῦν Εὐριπίδης νόθους φησὶν αὐτὸν ἐσχηκέναι παῖδας: —MOA

Anatole Mori in her commentary on this fragment for Brill’s New Jacoby notes that there are several later mythographical traditions that put Askanios and Skamandrios together:

“According to the fifth-century mythographer Hellanikos of Lesbos, Neoptolemos released Skamandrios and other descendants of Hektor, who returned with Askanios to Troy (BNJ 4 F 31 = Dionysios of Halikarnassos, Antiquities of Rome 1.47.53). The joint foundation of Skepsis by Skamandrios and Askanios is likewise noted by the geographer Strabo (Geography 13.1.52; Geography 14.5.29… On the various sources for the tradition of Skamandrios as a Trojan survivor, see P. M. Smith, ‘Aineiadai as Patrons of Iliad XX and the Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite’, HSCPh 85 (1981), 17-58, at 53-58. C.”

As Mori also notes, this name might be familiar to readers of the Iliad which takes pain to not that “Hektor used to call his son Skamandrios but the rest / called him Astyanax, for he alone kept Ilion safe” (τόν ῥ’ ῞Εκτωρ καλέεσκε Σκαμάνδριον, αὐτὰρ οἱ ἄλλοι
/ ᾿Αστυάνακτ’· οἶος γὰρ ἐρύετο ῎Ιλιον ῞Εκτωρ. 6.402–403). The Homeric scholia are silent on this. This seems a likely case of an instance where the Iliad knowingly suppresses details from myth to streamline the themes in its narrative (so, here, conflating multiple sons of Hektor into one). Indeed, Homeric epic seems to have a thing with eliminating second sons (as with Telegonus in the Odyssey.)

When it comes to the act of nursing a husband’s illegitimate children, the scholia to Euripides do bring up a Homeric example:

“[and I often then [gave my] breast]: This is the kind of woman Antênor’s wife was. For Homer has “Megês killed Pedaios, the son of Antênor / who was actually a bastard, but shining Theanô raised him carefully / equal to her own dear children, because she wanted to please her husband.”

καὶ μαστὸν ἤδη πολλάκις: ὁποία ἦν ἡ Θεανὼ ἡ ᾿Αντήνορος γυνή. ῞Ομηρος [Ε 69]·
‘Πηδαῖον δ’ ἂρ ἔπεφνε Μέγης, ᾿Αντήνορος υἱὸν,
ὅς ῥα νόθος μὲν ἔην, πύκα δ’ ἔτρεφε δῖα Θεανὼ
ἶσα φίλοισι τέκεσσι χαριζομένη πόσεϊ ᾧ’:

(Note some linguistic similarity to Euripides’ passage above in the phrases χαριζομένη πόσεϊ ᾧ and τὴν σὴν χάριν.) The Homeric epics are not wholly silent on bastard sons--they feature Menelaos’ son Megapenthes. According to the scholion to this passage (Schol. A ad Hom. 5.70b) “it was the foreign custom to have children with a lot of women. (Ariston. ὅς ῥα νόθος μὲν ἔην: ὅτι βαρβαρικὸν ἔθος τὸ ἐκ πλειόνων γυναικῶν παιδοποιεῖσθαι. A). The bT Scholion to the same passage goes further:

“It is the foreign custom to have sex with many women—indeed, Laertes* “avoids the wrath of his wife” (1.433) Or she must quickly make it right through the priesthood. But the poetry attributes this custom to women—for it is a mark of a wise woman to cover the mistake her husband has made.”

ex. | ex. βάρβαρον ἔθος τὸ ταῖς πολλαῖς γυναιξὶ μίγνυσθαι· Λαέρτης γοῦν
„χόλον δ’ ἀλέεινε γυναικός” (α 433). | ἢ τάχα ἥγνευεν αὐτὴ διὰ τὴν ἱερωσύνην. νόμον δὲ τοῦτον ὑπογράφει ταῖς γυναιξὶν ὁ ποιητής· σώφρονος γὰρ γυναικὸς τὸ γεγονὸς ἁμάρτημα τοῦ ἀνδρὸς σκέπειν.

*The Odyssey specifically remarks that Laertes did not sleep with Antikleia, his very attractive slave, because he did not want to anger Eurykleia, his wife.

So, in Euripides’ play, Andromache’s nursing of her husbands’ bastards is both a sign of her foreignness and of her dedication to her husband (and, perhaps here, a mark of her quality as a slave since she was already so accustomed to supporting another….).

A few Bonus Bastard Passages from Euripides (and here for the language of illegitimacy in Greek)

Andromache, 636–639 [Peleus speaking]

“For as often as the dry ground surpasses
deep earth in the life it brings forth,
so many a bastard is better than legitimate children.”

…πολλάκις δέ τοι
ξηρὰ βαθεῖαν γῆν ἐνίκησε σπορᾷ,
νόθοι τε πολλοὶ γνησίων ἀμείνονες.

Fr. 824

“They say that step-mothers think nothing helpful
About bastard children—I will guard against their rebuke.”

ὡς οὐδὲν ὑγιὲς φασὶ μητρυιὰς φρονεῖν
νόθοισι παισίν, ὧν φυλάξομαι ψόγον.

Thanks to Theo Nash for sending this passage to me:

Also, check this out:

“Used to Love Her…” Achilles, Penthesileia, and a Love-Child?

While discussing unexpected variants in Greek myths today with twitter friends Carly Silver and Emily Hauser (whose forthcoming third book For the Immortal takes its readers to the world of the Amazons, just as her earlier For the Winner and For the Most Beautiful retell the tales of Atalanta and Helen respectively), I learned another new thing today: some traditions give Achilles a “love-child” with Penthesileia [Carly’s great phrase].. And the child’s name is Kaustros (Causter/Cayster).

One of the very humbling things about studying myth–once you accept that there is no central version and realize that audiences kept writing themselves and their local traditions into myth (and vice versa)–is that it is pretty much impossible to know it all. Rather than get discouraged by this, I actually find it exciting–it infuses some work with child-like wonder and makes other work feel like an episode of CSI: Ancient Greece  (or something like that).

The sources for this child are pretty limited–and it does not seem that any specifically name Achilles as father (which is ok–I look forward to seeing what she does with the character):

Schol A ad. Il. 2.461d ex [cf. Eusth. Comm ad I 1.387]

“Kaüstros is a son of Penthesileia the Amazon. He married Derketô in Askalon and fathered from her Semiramis. Among the Syrians, Derketô is called Atargatis.”

(Porph. ?) Κάϋστρος υἱὸς Πενθεσιλείας τῆς ᾿Αμαζόνος, ὃς ἐν ᾿Ασκάλωνι ἔγημεν τὴν Δερκετὼ καὶ ἐξ αὐτῆς ἔσχεν τὴν Σεμίραμιν. | ἡ δὲ Δερκετὼ παρὰ Σύροις καλεῖται ᾿Αταργατῖς. A

Atargatis is sometimes a mermaid-like deity (as is Derketô).

Pretty much the same information is repeated in several different texts, for example:

Etym. Magn. [=Kallierges 493.10, s.v. Kaüstros; cf. Ps. Herod.]

“Kaüstros: a river in Lydia, from Kaüstros. And Kaüstros is a son of Penthesileia the Amazon. He married Derketô in Askalon and fathered from her Semiramis. She’s the one who had the walls of Babylon built.”

     Κάϋστρος: Ποταμὸς Λυδίας· ἀπὸ Καΰστρου· Κάϋστρος δέ ἐστιν υἱὸς Πενθεσιλείας τῆς ᾿Αμαζόνος, ὃς ἐν ᾿Ασκάλωνι ἔγημε τὴν Δερκετὼ, καὶ ἐξ αὐτῆς ἔσχε τὴν Σεμίραμιν, ἥτις καὶ τὰ Βαβυλώνια τείχη κατεσκεύασε.

For many, this story is surprising and strange, because the famous vase images and the tales that are told in most of the citations above are that Achilles fell in love with Penthesileia while or after killing her

Image result for Greek Vase Achilles and Penthesilea

A Black-figure vase from the British Museum: 1836,0224.127

We do, however, have other versions of this.

Eustathius, Comm. Ad Od. 11.538, 1696.51

“Tellis tells the tale that Penthesileia killed Achilles but that, after Thetis asked Zeus, he resurrcted him and Achilles killed her in turn. Penthesileia’s father sued Thetis for this but Poseidon judged against Ares.”

…Τέλλις δὲ ἱστορεῖ Πενθεσίλειαν ἀνελεῖν τὸν ᾽Αχιλλέα, αἰτησαμένης δὲ Θέτιδος τὸν Δία ἀναστῆναι αὐτὸν καὶ ἀντανελεῖν ἐκείνην. ῎Αρεα δὲ πατέρα Πενθεσιλείας δίκην λαχεῖν Θέτιδι· κριτὴν δὲ γενόμενον Ποσειδῶνα κατακρῖναι ῎Αρην.

Photios, Novel History = BNJ 61 F 1a

“The Sixth book has the following table of contents: how Achilles, killed by Penthesileia, returned to life after his mother made this request, and then returned to Hades after killing Penthesileia”

τὸ δὲ ς̄ βιβλίον (sc. Πτολεμαίου) κεφάλαια περιέχει τάδε· ὡς ᾽Αχιλλεὺς ὑπὸ Πενθεσιλείας ἀναιρεθείς, δεηθείσης αὐτοῦ τῆς μητρὸς Θέτιδος, ἀναβιοῖ, καὶ ἀνελὼν Πενθεσίλειαν εἰς ῞Αιδου πάλιν ὑποστρέφει.

The story of Achilles and Penthesileia is likely the inspiration for this song by Guns n’ Roses

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