“There was no telling of tales nor yet did anyone sing things that had not happened before Priam and Troy. The art of poetry concerned prophecy and Alkmene’s son Herakles and had just been established, not yet in its bloom since Homer had not yet sung, some say until right after the sack of Troy or within a few years, but others say that he made it a poem as many as eight generations later.”
… καίτοι, ξένε, πρὸ Πριάμου καὶ Τροίας οὐδὲ ῥαψωδία τις ἦν, οὐδὲ ᾔδετο τὰ μήπω πραχθέντα, ποιητικὴ μὲν γὰρ ἦν περί τε τὰ μαντεῖα περί τε τὸν ᾿Αλκμήνης ῾Ηρακλέα, καθισταμένη τε ἄρτι καὶ οὔπω ἡβάσκουσα, ῞Ομηρος δὲ οὔπω ᾖδεν, ἀλλ’ οἱ μὲν Τροίας ἁλούσης, οἱ δὲ ὀλίγαις, οἱ δ’ ὀκτὼ γενεαῖς ὕστερον ἐπιθέσθαι αὐτὸν τῇ ποιήσει λέγουσιν.
Yeah, we’re getting Second Sophistic with it today. There were a few Philostratoi, but this Lucius Flavius Philostratus was a sophist who lived in the second and third centuries CE.
Palaiophron brought out a great passage from Herodotus that shows the historian trying to make sense of the mythical accounts of the Trojan War. In the Iliad, Homer actually has Antenor suggest in an assembly in book 7 that the Trojans should give her back. But before then, the elders speak on the topic:
The men who were near Priam, Panthoos, Thymoites
Lampos, Klutios, and Hiketaôn, the descendent of Ares,
Were Oukalegôn and Antênôr, two intelligent men.
The council of elders sat there on the Skaian gates
Slowed by old age, but still fine public speakers
Something like cicadas who sit on the leaf
Of a tree trailing along their lily-thin voices.
When they saw Helen approaching the wall,
They addressed each other with winged words:
“There’s no reason to criticize the Trojans and well-greaved Achaeans
For suffering pain for so long for this woman.
She has the terrible appearance of the immortal goddesses.
But, even though she is like this, let her return in the ships,
To prevent more pain from being left for our children.”
Οἳ δ’ ἀμφὶ Πρίαμον καὶ Πάνθοον ἠδὲ Θυμοίτην
Λάμπόν τε Κλυτίον θ’ ῾Ικετάονά τ’ ὄζον ῎Αρηος
Οὐκαλέγων τε καὶ ᾿Αντήνωρ πεπνυμένω ἄμφω
ἥατο δημογέροντες ἐπὶ Σκαιῇσι πύλῃσι,
γήραϊ δὴ πολέμοιο πεπαυμένοι, ἀλλ’ ἀγορηταὶ
ἐσθλοί, τεττίγεσσιν ἐοικότες οἵ τε καθ’ ὕλην
δενδρέῳ ἐφεζόμενοι ὄπα λειριόεσσαν ἱεῖσι·
τοῖοι ἄρα Τρώων ἡγήτορες ἧντ’ ἐπὶ πύργῳ.
οἳ δ’ ὡς οὖν εἴδονθ’ ῾Ελένην ἐπὶ πύργον ἰοῦσαν,
ἦκα πρὸς ἀλλήλους ἔπεα πτερόεντ’ ἀγόρευον·
οὐ νέμεσις Τρῶας καὶ ἐϋκνήμιδας ᾿Αχαιοὺς
τοιῇδ’ ἀμφὶ γυναικὶ πολὺν χρόνον ἄλγεα πάσχειν·
αἰνῶς ἀθανάτῃσι θεῇς εἰς ὦπα ἔοικεν·
ἀλλὰ καὶ ὧς τοίη περ ἐοῦσ’ ἐν νηυσὶ νεέσθω,
μηδ’ ἡμῖν τεκέεσσί τ’ ὀπίσσω πῆμα λίποιτο.
This passage is famous for showing the marginalization of the Trojan elders and for acting as a preface to the famous (and sometimes thought illogical) “viewing from the walls” (Teikhoskopia) when Helen names the Greek warriors for Priam (even though they’ve been fighting before Troy for 9 years). The elders essentially say, yeah, we get it, she’s hot. But, in the wisdom brought by old age, they insist she isn’t worth it.
Perhaps the Trojan elders understand better the insanity of lust than Herodotus…
“Be wary of a man who gets angry before anything happens.”
ἄνδρ’ ἀπαμύνασθαι, ὅτε τις πρότερος χαλεπήνῃ.
So says Hermes as he guides Priam to see Achilles…
(Yes, some liberties were taken with this one. According to Suetonius, this is a line the Emperor Claudius quoted…)