“Who Killed Him?” An Allegory from Euripides

Euripides, Bacchae 1259-1289

Kadmos
Oh, gods. Once you all understand what you have done,
You will feel a terrible pain. But if you stay permanently
forever as you are now
You will not be happy but you will not seem to be cursed.

Agave
What of this is not noble or is painful?

Kadmos
First move your gaze to the sky.

Agave
Look! What is this you are telling me to see?

Kadmos
Is this the same or does it seem to you to have changed?

Agave
It shines brighter than before and it is clearer

Kadmos
Is this high still there in your mind?

Agave
I don’t understand what you’re saying. But I think
I am somewhat aware, that I am coming down from my earlier thoughts.

Kadmos
Would you hear then and answer me clearly?

Agave
Father, I have forgotten what we said earlier.

Kadmos
To what home did you go after you were married?

Agave
You gave me to Ekhiôn, one of the sewn-men, people say.

Kadmos
Who is the child born to your husband at home?

Agave
Pentheus, the son shared by his father and me.

Kadmos
Whose face do you hold then in your hands?

Agave
A lion’s…that’s what my fellow hunters say…

Kadmos
Look again, carefully. It is a small labor to see.

Agave
Ah, what do I see? What is this I hold in my hands?

Kadmos
Examine it and learn it more clearly.

Agave
I see the greatest pain, what kind of wretch am I…

Kadmos
Does it seem to look like a lion to you?

Agave
No…but, oh wretched me I am holding Pentheus’ head…

Kadmos
This was mourned before you could see it, at least.

Agave
Who killed him? How did he end up in my hands?

Kadmos
How horrible a truth appears at the wrong time.

Agave
Tell me! How my heart jumps at the future….

Kadmos
You killed him. And your sisters too.

 ΚΑΔΜΟΣ
φεῦ φεῦ· φρονήσασαι μὲν οἷ᾿ ἐδράσατε
ἀλγήσετ᾿ ἄλγος δεινόν· εἰ δὲ διὰ τέλους
ἐν τῷδ᾿ ἀεὶ μενεῖτ᾿ ἐν ᾧ καθέστατε,
οὐκ εὐτυχοῦσαι δόξετ᾿ οὐχὶ δυστυχεῖν.

ΑΓΑΥΗ
τί δ᾿ οὐ καλῶς τῶνδ᾿ ἢ τί λυπηρῶς ἔχει;

ΚΑΔΜΟΣ
πρῶτον μὲν ἐς τόνδ᾿ αἰθέρ᾿ ὄμμα σὸν μέθες.

ΑΓΑΥΗ
ἰδού· τί μοι τόνδ᾿ ἐξυπεῖπας εἰσορᾶν;

ΚΑΔΜΟΣ
ἔθ᾿ αὑτὸς ἤ σοι μεταβολὰς ἔχειν δοκεῖ;

ΑΓΑΥΗ
λαμπρότερος ἢ πρὶν καὶ διειπετέστερος.

ΚΑΔΜΟΣ
τὸ δὲ πτοηθὲν τόδ᾿ ἔτι σῇ ψυχῇ πάρα;

ΑΓΑΥΗ
οὐκ οἶδα τοὔπος τοῦτο. γίγνομαι δέ πως
ἔννους, μετασταθεῖσα τῶν πάρος φρενῶν.

ΚΑΔΜΟΣ
κλύοις ἂν οὖν τι κἀποκρίναι᾿ ἂν σαφῶς;

ΑΓΑΥΗ
ὡς ἐκλέλησμαί γ᾿ ἃ πάρος εἴπομεν, πάτερ.

ΚΑΔΜΟΣ
ἐς ποῖον ἦλθες οἶκον ὑμεναίων μέτα;

ΑΓΑΥΗ
Σπαρτῷ μ᾿ ἔδωκας, ὡς λέγουσ᾿, Ἐχίονι.

ΚΑΔΜΟΣ
τίς οὖν ἐν οἴκοις παῖς ἐγένετο σῷ πόσει;

ΑΓΑΥΗ
Πενθεύς, ἐμῇ τε καὶ πατρὸς κοινωνίᾳ.

ΚΑΔΜΟΣ
τίνος πρόσωπον δῆτ᾿ ἐν ἀγκάλαις ἔχεις;

ΑΓΑΥΗ
λέοντος, ὥς γ᾿ ἔφασκον αἱ θηρώμεναι.

ΚΑΔΜΟΣ
σκέψαι νυν ὀρθῶς· βραχὺς ὁ μόχθος εἰσιδεῖν.

ΑΓΑΥΗ
ἔα, τί λεύσσω; τί φέρομαι τόδ᾿ ἐν χεροῖν;

ἄθρησον αὐτὸ καὶ σαφέστερον μάθε.

ΑΓΑΥΗ
ὁρῶ μέγιστον ἄλγος ἡ τάλαιν᾿ ἐγώ.

ΚΑΔΜΟΣ
μῶν σοι λέοντι φαίνεται προσεικέναι;

ΑΓΑΥΗ
οὔκ, ἀλλὰ Πενθέως ἡ τάλαιν᾿ ἔχω κάρα.

ΚΑΔΜΟΣ
ᾠμωγμένον γε πρόσθεν ἢ σὲ γνωρίσαι.

ΑΓΑΥΗ
τίς ἔκτανέν νιν; πῶς ἐμὰς ἦλθ᾿ ἐς χέρας;

ΚΑΔΜΟΣ
δύστην᾿ ἀλήθει᾿, ὡς ἐν οὐ καιρῷ πάρει.

ΑΓΑΥΗ
λέγ᾿, ὡς τὸ μέλλον καρδία πήδημ᾿ ἔχει.

ΚΑΔΜΟΣ
σύ νιν κατέκτας καὶ κασίγνηται σέθεν.

Death of Pentheus, House of the Vettii in Pompeii

Homer, Odyssey 1.30-32

“Mortals! They are always blaming the gods
and saying that evil comes from us when they themselves
suffer pain beyond their lot because of their own recklessness.”

ὢ πόποι, οἷον δή νυ θεοὺς βροτοὶ αἰτιόωνται.
ἐξ ἡμέων γάρ φασι κάκ’ ἔμμεναι• οἱ δὲ καὶ αὐτοὶ
σφῇσιν ἀτασθαλίῃσιν ὑπὲρ μόρον ἄλγε’ ἔχουσιν

Porphyry on Odysseus and His Companions, Part 2

For part 1, go here

Schol. H ad Od. 1.8 ex. Porphyry

“Because he saved himself from every threat of death rushing upon him, he was also only skilled enough to save his companions from the dangers looming over him, if they would accept their own responsibility, not an excuse. But wisdom is not able to make men immortal nor can a wise man preserve them from every kind of death, but only that which is selected due to our own responsibility, if those who are with him might obey him. Nor again is the wise man able to persuade in every situation.

“He suffered much as he tried to preserve his life and the homecoming of his companions” in those deeds which safeguard against dangers, but not in those which do not occur by our own agency. And similarly in events that occur through our own choice, he would have saved them as he trusted in his own virtue if they had been capable of not dying thanks to some preordained external fortune, and from their own responsibility, even though he was especially eager, “because they perished from their own recklessness: when they went and disrespected Helios independently.

This shows that some events occur according to fortune and from external causes, over which a wise man has power, while others occur because of us and our own drive, over which a serious man may have power. But the serious man is not in control of death which is motivated externally and according to fortune, either for himself or for another, even as he will foresee from every angle the danger caused by our own fault for both himself and those who differ from him. The same man will be conspicuous in trying many things for himself and others when they do not have the same ability of thought as him. This is how to understand “he suffered many things in his heart as he tried to save his life and the homecoming of his companions.”

[This refers] to in those moments we are capable and responsible for death for ourselves, and certainly does not apply to the situations where it is not our fault. For the serious man is desirous only of things under our control and because of this he is on guard against the death that comes due to our own responsibility. But he has neither for those events motivated by external fate. For there is no control over everything subject to external fate nor even everything under our power: some of the external events overpower those things that are under our control. Some deaths issue from external causes, but others come from our own mistakes—and these especially are connected to our stupidity, because most of those who are compelled because of wickedness to chastisement by the law are condemned by their own voluntary transgressions.”

 

ὡς γὰρ ἑαυτὸν σώζει ἐκ παντὸς τοῦ παρ’ ἑαυτὸν ῥυόμενος θανάτου, οὕτως καὶ τοὺς ἑταίρους ἐκ τοῦ παρ’ ἑαυτὸν δύναται μόνος σοφὸς ῥύεσθαι θανάτου, εἰ τὸπαρ’ ἑαυτοὺς αἴτιον μὴ πρόφασιν ἐνδοῦναι πείσειεν· ἀθανάτους δὲ οὔτε σοφία ποιῆσαι ἐπαγγέλλεται οὔθ’ ὁ σοφὸς σώσειεν ἂν ἐκ παντὸς θανάτου, ἀλλ’ ἐκ μόνου ἄρα τοῦ παρὰ τὴν ἡμετέραν αἰτίαν ὑφισταμένου, εἰ πεισθεῖεν αὐτῷ οἱ συνόντες· οὐδὲ γὰρ οὐδὲ τοῦ πεῖσαι ἐκ παντὸς κύριος  ὁ σοφός. πολλὰ ὁ μὲν ἔπαθεν ἀρνύμενος ἥν τε ψυχὴν καὶ νόστον ἑταίρων ἐν τοῖς παρ’ ἑαυτῷ σωστικοῖς ἔργοις τῶν κινδύνων, ἀλλ’ οὐκ ἐν τοῖς μὴ παρ’ ἡμᾶς ἀποβαινόντων. καὶ ὁμοίως ἐν τοῖς παρ’ ἡμᾶς αὐτὸς μὲν ἔσωσεν ἀρετῇ πειθόμενος τοὺς δυνηθέντας ἂν μὴ διὰ τύχην

ἔξωθέν τινα καθ’ εἱμαρμένην ἀποθανεῖν, ἐκ δὲ τῆς παρ’ ἑαυτῶν αἰτίας, καίπερ πολλὰ προθυμηθεὶς, οὐκ ἔσωσεν· αὐτοὶ γὰρ σφετέρῃσιν …. ….. ἦσαν εἰς τὸν ῞Ηλιον μόνοι ἀσεβήσαντες. ἔδειξεν οὖν ὅτι τῶν συμβαινόντων τὰ μὲν παρὰ τύχην καὶ τὴν ἔξωθεν αἰτίαν, ὧν ὁ σοφὸς οὐ κύριος, τὰ δὲ παρ’ ἡμᾶς καὶ τὴν ἡμετέραν ὁρμὴν, ὧν κρατεῖν οἷός τε ὁ σπουδαῖος. καὶ θανάτου οὖν τοῦ μὲν ἔξωθεν καὶ παρὰ τὴν τύχην οὔτ’ ἐφ’ ἑαυτοῦ οὔτ’ ἐπ’ ἄλλου ὁ σπουδαῖος κύριος, τοῦ δὲ παρὰ τὴν ἡμετέραν αἰτίαν ἐκ παντὸς προνοήσεται ὁ σπουδαῖος καὶ ἐφ’ ἑαυτοῦ καὶ ἐπὶ τῶν αὐτῷ διαφερόντων· καὶ περιγενόμενος ἐφ’ ἑαυτοῦ ἀποτακτήσει τὰ πολλὰ ἐπὶ ἄλλων, ὅταν μὴ τὴν αὐτὴν αὐτῷ τῆς φρονήσεως ἔχωσιν ἕξιν. ἀκουστέον οὖν τὸ

πολλὰ δ’ ὅγ’ ἐν πόντῳ πάθεν ἄλγεα ὃν κατὰ θυμὸν,

ἀρνύμενος ἥν τε ψυχὴν καὶ νόστον ἑταίρων

ἐν τοῖς δυνατοῖς καὶ παρ’ ἡμᾶς τοῦ θανάτου αἰτίοις,,  ἀλλ’ οὐ μέντοι τοῖς μὴ παρ’ ἡμᾶς αἰτίοις· τῶν γὰρ ἐφ’ ἡμῖν μόνων ὀρεκτικὸς ὁ σπουδαῖος, καὶ διὰ τοῦτο τῶν ἐξ ἡμῶν αἰτίων θανάτου φυλακτικὸς, ἀλλ’ οὐ τῶν ἔξωθεν κατὰ τὴν εἱμαρμένην αἰτίαν ἀποβαινόντων. οὔτε γὰρ πάντων ἁπαξαπλῶς τῶν ἔξωθεν αἴτια, οὔτε πάλιν τὸ ἐφ’ ἡμῶν πάντων κύριον, ἀλλ’ ὧν μὲν τὸ ἐφ’ ἡμῖν, ὧν δὲ κρατεῖ τὰ ἔξωθεν. καὶ τῶν θανάτων οἱ μὲν δι’ αἰτίας ἔξωθεν γίνονται, οἱ δὲ δι’ ἡμετέρας ἁμαρτίας, καὶ ἐκ τῆς ἀνοίας τῆς ἡμετέρας ἤρτηνται, ὡς οἵ γε πλεῖστοι τῶν διὰ κακίας εἰς κόλασιν ὑπὸ τοῦ νόμου ἐπαγομένων ἠρτημένοι ἀπ’ αἰτίας τῆς ἐκ τῶν ἑκουσίων ἁμαρτημάτων. H.

Image result for Odysseus and sheep

“This is not the True Tale”: Stesichorus and Helen’s “Ghost” at Troy

Helen received a great deal of blame for the Trojan War,even though from the beginning it is clear that the gods were using her for their own plans. (Her father was blamed by some for her infidelity.) In the Classical period, debating Helen’s fault was an established rhetorical practice. But one of the earlier and more creative responses about the whole affair was a “shaggy” defense: it wasn’t her! It was someone who looked like her:

“This is not the true tale:
You never went in the well-benched ships
You did not go to the towers of Troy…
[It is a fault in Homer that
He put Helen in Troy
And not her image only;
It is a fault in Hesiod
In another: there are two, differing
Recantations and this is the beginning.
Come here, dance loving goddess;
Golden-winged, maiden,
As Khamaileôn put it.
Stesichorus himself says that
an image [eidolon] went to troy
and that Helen stayed back
with Prôteus…”

οὐκ ἔστ’ ἔτυμος λόγος οὗτος,
οὐδ’ ἔβας ἐν νηυσὶν ἐυσσέλμοις
οὐδ’ ἵκεο πέργαμα Τροίας,
[ μέμ-
φεται τὸν ῞Ομηρο[ν ὅτι ῾Ε-
λέ]νην ἐποίησεν ἐν Τ[ροίαι
καὶ οὐ τὸ εἴδωλον αὐτῆ[ς, ἔν
τε τ[ῆι] ἑτέραι τὸν ῾Ησίοδ[ον
μέμ[φετ]αι· διτταὶ γάρ εἰσι πα-
λινωιδλλάττουσαι, καὶ ἔ-
στιν ἡ μὲν ἀρχή· δεῦρ’ αὖ-
τε θεὰ φιλόμολπε, τῆς δέ·
χρυσόπτερε παρθένε, ὡς
ἀνέγραψε Χαμαιλέων· αὐ-
τὸ[ς δ]έ φησ[ιν ὁ] Στησίχορο[ς
τὸ μὲν ε[ἴδωλο]ν ἐλθεῖ[ν ἐς
Τροίαν τὴν δ’ ῾Ελένην π[αρὰ
τῶι Πρωτεῖ καταμεῖν[αι· …

Herodotus tells this story too.

The Mind Rules All: Sallust, Bellum Jurguthinum, 1

“The race of man complains wrongly about its nature, namely the fact that it is feeble in strength, limited in years and ruled more by chance than virtue. To the contrary, you can realize through contemplation that nothing else is greater or more extraordinary—that human nature lacks only perseverance instead of strength or time. The leader and ruler of mortal life is the mind. When it proceeds to glory along virtue’s path, it is fully powerful, potent and famous; it does not need fortune since fortune cannot grant or revoke honesty, perseverance, or any other good quality from any man. But a mind seized by desires is dedicated to laziness and worn by obedience to physical pleasure; accustomed to ruinous temptation for too long, when, thanks to sloth, strength, age and wit have diminished, only then is the weakness of nature at fault. Every man shifts his own responsibility to his circumstances.”

[1] Falso queritur de natura sua genus humanum, quod inbecilla atque aevi brevis forte potius quam virtute regatur. Nam contra reputando neque maius aliud neque praestabilius invenias magisque naturae industriam hominum quam vim aut tempus deesse. Sed dux atque imperator vitae mortalium animus est. Qui ubi ad gloriam virtutis via grassatur, abunde pollens potensque et clarus est neque fortuna eget, quippe quae probitatem, industriam aliasque artis bonas neque dare neque eripere cuiquam potest. Sin captus pravis cupidinibus ad inertiam et voluptates corporis pessum datus est, perniciosa libidine paulisper usus, ubi per socordiam vires tempus ingenium diffluxere, naturae infirmitas accusatur: suam quisque culpam auctores ad negotia transferunt.

I can’t help but thinking that maybe Sallust had read (or heard) the beginning of the Odyssey where Zeus complains that Aigisthus ignored divine warnings (1.32-34)

ὢ πόποι, οἷον δή νυ θεοὺς βροτοὶ αἰτιόωνται.
ἐξ ἡμέων γάρ φασι κάκ’ ἔμμεναι• οἱ δὲ καὶ αὐτοὶ
σφῇσιν ἀτασθαλίῃσιν ὑπὲρ μόρον ἄλγε’ ἔχουσιν

“Mortals! They are always blaming the gods and saying that evil comes from us when they themselves suffer pain beyond their lot because of their own recklessness.”

But, of course, there is a typically eclectic blend of Roman philosophy in Sallust’s statements: some Stoicism, an echo, perhaps, of Empedocles and much more….