No Aristarchus, Achilles Can Sack Cities

At several key points in the Iliad Achilles receives the epithet ptoliporthos–and while ancient commentators took some issue with this, the epithet applies quite well to the hero at several key points.

Il. 8.372 (=15.77)

“[Thetis] was begging me to honor Achilles the city-sacker”

λισσομένη τιμῆσαι ᾿Αχιλλῆα πτολίπορθον.

Schol A. ad. Il 15.56a

“For line 77 Aristarchus says that [the poet] never calls Achilles a city-sacker but “swift of foot and swift-footed.”

ἐν δὲ τῷ „λισσομένη τιμῆσαι” (Ο 77) φησὶν ὁ ᾿Αρίσταρχος ὅτι οὐδαμῆ τὸν ᾿Αχιλλέα „πτολίπορθον” εἴρηκεν, ἀλλὰ „ποδάρκη” (cf. Α 121 al.) καὶ „ποδώκη” (cf. Θ 474 al.).

Schol. T ad Il. 15.77

[city-sacker] “he calls only Odysseus thus concerning Troy. But elsewhere he says, “then he noticed city-sacking Achilles”. For he sacked twenty cities.”

ex. <πτολίπορθον:> ᾿Οδυσσέα μόνον οὕτω καλεῖ διὰ τὴν ῎Ιλιον. ἀλλὰ καὶ ἀλλαχοῦ λέγει ”αὐτὰρ ὅ γ’ ὡς ἐνόησεν ᾿Αχιλλῆα πτολίπορθον” (Φ 550)· ἐπόρθησε γὰρ εἴκοσι πόλεις. T

Iliad 21.550

“But when he noticed Achilles the city-sacker…”

αὐτὰρ ὅ γ’ ὡς ἐνόησεν ᾿Αχιλλῆα πτολίπορθον…

Schol AT. ad. Il. 21.551 ex

A: “Achilles the city-sacker: because it is excessive to apply ptoliporthos so much to Odysseus, now it is applied once to Achilles. This is according to those Separatists*, for they use these texts. Some have “Achilles Peleus’s son” because they are astonished by the epithet.

T: Some have “Achilles’ Peleus’ son” because they are surprised by the epithet [city-sacking] but Achilles himself says, “I sacked 12 cities with my ships”

Ariston. ᾿Αχιλλῆα πτολίπορθον: ὅτι πλεονάζει ἐπ’ ᾿Οδυσσέως τὸ πτολίπορθος (sc. Β 278. Κ 363. θ 3 al.), νῦν δὲ ἅπαξ ἐπ’ ᾿Αχιλλέως. πρὸς τοὺς Χωρίζοντας (fr. 10 K.)· τούτοις γὰρ χρῶνται. τινὲς δὲ „᾿Αχιλλέα Πηλείωνα” ποιοῦσι, ξενισθέντες πρὸς τὸ ἐπίθετον.

ex. (Ariston.) ᾿Αχιλλῆα πτολίπορθον: τινὲς „᾿Αχιλλέα Πηλείωνα”, πρὸς τὸ ἐπίθετον ξενισθέντες. ἀλλ’ ἤδη αὐτὸς εἶπε „δώδεκα δὴ σὺν νηυσὶ πόλεις ἀλάπαξα” (Ι 328)…

* χωρίζοντες was a term applied to ancient scholars who believed that the Iliad and Odyssey were composed by different poets.

Iliad 24.108

“For nine days a conflict arose among the immortals
Over Hektor’s corpse and city-sacking Achilles.”

ἐννῆμαρ δὴ νεῖκος ἐν ἀθανάτοισιν ὄρωρεν
῞Εκτορος ἀμφὶ νέκυι καὶ ᾿Αχιλλῆϊ πτολιπόρθῳ·

There are no scholia in Erbse’s edition which contest “city-sacker” here. If the logic applied by earlier scholia obtains, however, there should be similar objections. As some have observed, however, the death of Hektor is both symbolically the death of the city and in actuality a guarantee that the city will fall. By killing Hektor, Achilles is in fact a city-sacker (in the Iliad’s) terms. Some ancient scholars would still like the preserve the epithet as part of Odysseus’ special heroic identity.

Schol. E ad Od. 1.2 ex.

“Why does Homer not call Achilles [city-sacker] but Odysseus instead even though Achilles sacked countless cities? Indeed, we say that although Achilles overcame those cities, Odysseus sacked famous Troy though his own intelligence—the very city the Greeks were willing to take a share of great suffering over. This is why [Homer] calls not Achilles but Odysseus city-sacker.”

ἔπερσε] διὰ τί ῞Ομηρος οὐ τὸν ᾿Αχιλλέα ὀνομάζει, ἀλλὰ τὸν ᾿Οδυσσέα πτολίπορθον, καὶ ταῦτα πόλεις ἀπείρους τοῦ ᾿Αχιλλέως πορθήσαντος; καὶ λέγομεν, ἐπεὶ ὁ ᾿Αχιλλεὺς πολίδριά τινα ἐπέσχεν, ὁ δὲ ᾿Οδυσσεὺς διὰ τῆς οἰκείας φρονήσεως τὴν περίφημον Τροίαν ἐπόρθησε, δι’ ἣν οἱ ῞Ελληνες πολλῆς κακοπαθείας μετέσχηκαν κατα-σχεῖν αὐτὴν θέλοντες, διὰ τοῦτο οὐ τὸν ᾿Αχιλλέα, ἀλλὰ τὸν ᾿Οδυσσέα ὀνομάζει πτολίπορθον.

05-Mosaico del Oecus. Aquiles en Skyros alta.jpg
Late Roman Mosaic: Achilles at Skyros

Helen’s Consent: A Scholion on the Difference between the Iliad and the Odyssey

Homer, Iliad 2.350–356

“I say that the over-powering son of Kronos assented
On that day when the Argives took to the fast-faring ships
Bringing murder and death to the Trojans,
Showing clear and favorable signs by flashing lightning.
So let no one be compelled to return home,
Before each one has taken a Trojan wife to bed
As payback for the struggles and moans of Helen”

φημὶ γὰρ οὖν κατανεῦσαι ὑπερμενέα Κρονίωνα
ἤματι τῷ ὅτε νηυσὶν ἐν ὠκυπόροισιν ἔβαινον
᾿Αργεῖοι Τρώεσσι φόνον καὶ κῆρα φέροντες
ἀστράπτων ἐπιδέξι’ ἐναίσιμα σήματα φαίνων.
τὼ μή τις πρὶν ἐπειγέσθω οἶκον δὲ νέεσθαι
πρίν τινα πὰρ Τρώων ἀλόχῳ κατακοιμηθῆναι,
τίσασθαι δ’ ῾Ελένης ὁρμήματά τε στοναχάς τε.

Schol. A ad Hom. Il. 2.356ex

[To pay back the struggles and moans of Helen]: “The separatists say that the poet of the Iliad presents Helen as enduring it badly and groaning because of the trauma of rape by Alexander while the poet of the Odyssey presents her as willing.

This is because they do not understand that the account is not from her perspective, but that we need to understand that it is from outside her perspective, that she is the object. So, there is the interpretation that it is is necessary to take vengeance in exchange for how we have groaned and suffered about Helen.”

τίσασθαι δ’ ῾Ελένης <ὁρμήματά τε στοναχάς τε>: πρὸς τοὺς Χωρίζοντας· ἔφασαν (fr. 1 K.) γὰρ τὸν μὲν τῆς ᾿Ιλιάδος ποιητὴν δυσανασχετοῦσαν συνιστάνειν καὶ στένουσαν διὰ τὸ βίᾳ  ἀπῆχθαι ὑπὸ τοῦ ᾿Αλεξάνδρου, τὸν δὲ τῆς ᾿Οδυσσείας ἑκοῦσαν, οὐ νοοῦντες ὅτι οὐκ ἔστιν ἐπ’ αὐτῆς ὁ λόγος, ἀλλ’ ἔξωθεν πρόθεσιν τὴν περί δεῖ λαβεῖν, ἵν’ ᾖ περὶ ῾Ελένης. καὶ ἔστιν ὁ λόγος, τιμωρίαν λαβεῖν ἀνθ’ ὧν ἐστενάξαμεν καὶ ἐμεριμνήσαμεν περὶ ῾Ελένης· παραλειπτικὸς γὰρ προθέσεών ἐστιν ὁ ποιητής.

The debate here, then, seems to be whether Helen is the actor behind the ὁρμήματά τε στοναχάς τε or the reason the ὁρμήματά τε στοναχάς τε are experienced by others. What I find more interesting in this passage is the assertion that ancient scholars split the authorship of the epics based on whether Helen seems a willing participant or not. Also not to be overlooked here: Nestor is rallying the troops by telling them they won’t go home until each of them “lies alongside” (κατακοιμηθῆναι) a wife of a Trojan.

(Most of our information about the separatists comes from scholia attributed to Aristarchus. There are eleven direct mentions of the scholiasts in Erbse’s edition.)

File:Helen of Sparta boards a ship for Troy fresco from the House of the Tragic Poet in Pompeii.jpg
Fresco from Pompeii, Helen Boards the Ship to Troy

Mondays Are Hard: Here’s How to Say “Dildo” in Ancient Greek

From the Suda

Olisbos: Genitals made from leather which the Milesian women used to use as tribades(!) and shameful people do. Widowed women also use them. Aristophanes writes “I did not see an eight-fingered dildo*/ which might be our leathered aid.”** This second part is drawn from the proverb “fig-wood aid” applied to weak people.

῎Ολισβος: αἰδοῖον δερμάτινον, ᾧ ἐχρῶντο αἱ Μιλήσιαι γυναῖκες, ὡς τριβάδες καὶ αἰσχρουργοί· ἐχρῶντο δὲ αὐτοῖς καὶ αἱ χῆραι γυναῖκες. ᾿Αριστοφάνης· οὐκ εἶδον οὐδ’ ὄλισβον ὀκταδάκτυλον, ὃς ἂν ἡμῖν σκυτίνη ‘πικουρία. παρὰ τὴν παροιμίαν, συκίνη ἐπικουρία. ἐπὶ τῶν ἀσθενῶν.

Another proverb from the Suda, s.v. misêtê:

“And Kratinus said somewhere: “hated women use dildos.”

καὶ ὁ Κρατῖνός που τοῦτο ἔφη: μισῆται δὲ γυναῖκες ὀλίσβωσι χρήσονται

 

 

Herodas, Mime 6.19 (h/t to David White for this one)

“Dear Koritto, who sewed up this crimson dildo for you?”

φίλη Κοριττοῖ, τίς κοτ᾿ ἦν ὄ σοι ράψας τὸν κόκκινον βαυβῶνα;

 

Hesychius may give us a clue to this one:

Bauban: To sleep

Baubô: A nurse of Demeter; it also can mean belly

βαυβᾶν· καθεύδειν

Βαυβώ· τιθήνη Δήμητρος. ps σημαίνει δὲ καὶ κοιλίαν

 

(!) tribades: see the Suda again s.v. Hetairistai:

“Courtesanizers: The women who are called ‘rubbers'” [or ‘grinders’? i.e. Lesbians] Ἑταιρίστριαι: αἱ καλούμεναι τριβάδες. See also Hesychius s.v. dietaristriai: “Women who rub themselves against girls in intercourse the way men do. For example, tribades.” διεταρίστριαι· γυναῖκες αἱ τετραμμέναι πρὸς τὰς ἑταίρας ἐπὶ συνουσίᾳ, ὡς οἱ ἄνδρες. οἷον τριβάδες (Plat. conv. 191 e).

*this is not an eight-shafted instrument but may instead point to the instrument’s length. See the note on the Suda-online.

**Lysistrata 109-110.

Dildogarden

 

The Lexicographer Photius repeats only the following definition:

Olisboi: Leather dicks

῎Ολισβοι: δερμάτινα αἰδοῖα.

 

The Scholion to Aristophanes’ Lysistrata 109-110 basically presents the same information:

Olisbon: A leather penis. And that is for the Milesian women. He is joking that they use dildos. The next part, “leathery aid” plays upon the proverb “fig-tree aid”, used for the weak. He has changed it to “leathery” because dildos are made of leather. They are leather-made penises which widowed women use.”

ὄλισβον: Αἰδοῖον δερμάτινον. καὶ τοῦτο εἰς τὰς Μιλησίας. παίζει δὲ ὡς τοῖς ὀλίσβοις χρωμέναις. σκυτίνη ἐπικουρία: Παρὰ τὴν παροιμίαν, συκίνη ἐπικουρία, ἐπὶ τῶν ἀσθενῶν. ὁ δὲ εἰς τὴν σκυτίνην μετέβαλε. σκύτινοι γὰρ οἱ ὄλισβοι. εἰσὶ δὲ δερμάτινα αἰδοῖα, οἷς χρῶνται αἱ χῆραι γυναῖκες.

 

And, the chaste H. Liddell could do no better than give this a Latin name:

ὄλισβος , ὁ,

A.penis coriaceus, Cratin.316, Ar.Lys.109, Fr.320.13.

 

Bring Home Hektor’s Bones

The Iliad ends with the burial of Hektor, but the mythographical tradition would not let him lie in peace. There is a tradition for the exhumation and the reburial of his remains.

Aristodemos BNJ383 F7 [“Brill’s New Jacoby”=Schol. AB ad Il. 13.1]

“the Trojans and Hektor”: He has separated Hektor in particular from the rest of the Trojans. Following the sack of Troy, Hektor the son of Priam obtained honor from the gods after death. For the Thebans in Boiotia were beset by evils and solicited a prophecy about their deliverance. The oracle told them that they would stop the troubles if they would transfer the bones of Hektor from Ophrunion in the Troad to a place in their land called the “birthplace of Zeus”. They, once they did this and were freed from the evils, maintained the honors for Hektor and during hard times they used to call for his manifestation. This is the account in Aristodemos.

Τρῶάς τε καὶ ῞Εκτορα] κεχώρικε τῶν λοιπῶν Τρώων τὸν ῞Εκτορα κατ᾽ ἐξοχήν. μετὰ δὲ τὴν ᾽Ιλίου πόρθησιν ῞Εκτωρ ὁ Πριάμου καὶ μετὰ τὸν θάνατον τὴν ἀπὸ θεῶν εὐτύχησε τιμήν· οἱ γὰρ ἐν Βοιωτίαι Θηβαῖοι πιεζόμενοι κακοῖς ἐμαντεύοντο περὶ ἀπαλλαγῆς· χρησμὸς δὲ αὐτοῖς ἐδόθη παύσεσθαι τὰ δεινά, ἐὰν ἐξ ᾽Οφρυνίου τῆς Τρωάδος τὰ ῞Εκτορος ὀστᾶ διακομισθῶσιν εἰς τὸν παρ᾽ αὐτοῖς καλούμενον τόπον Διὸς γονάς. οἱ δὲ τοῦτο ποιήσαντες καὶ τῶν κακῶν ἀπαλλαγέντες διὰ τιμῆς ἔσχον ῞Εκτορα, κατά τε τοὺς ἐπείγοντας καιροὺς ἐπικαλοῦνται τὴν ἐπιφάνειαν αὐτοῦ. ἡ ἱστορία παρὰ ᾽Αριστοδήμωι.

Pausanias, 9.18.5

“At Thebes there is also the grave of Hektor, Priam’s son. It is next to a spring called the Oedipus Spring. The Thebans say that they brought the bones from Troy to this place because of the following oracle:

Thebans living in the in the city of Kadmos,
If you want to live in a country with blameless wealth
Bring the bones of Hektor, Priam’s son, home
From Asia to be honored as a hero in accordance with Zeus

The spring was named after Oedipus because it was the same place where Oedipus washed off the blood from his father’s murder

Ἔστι δὲ καὶ Ἕκτορος Θηβαίοις τάφος τοῦ Πριάμου πρὸς Οἰδιποδίᾳ καλουμένῃ κρήνῃ, κομίσαι δὲ αὐτοῦ τὰ ὀστᾶ ἐξ Ἰλίου φασὶν ἐπὶ τοιῷδε μαντεύματι·
Θηβαῖοι Κάδμοιο πόλιν καταναιετάοντες,
αἴ κ᾿ ἐθέλητε πάτραν οἰκεῖν σὺν ἀμύμονι πλούτῳ,
Ἕκτορος ὀστέα Πριαμίδου κομίσαντες ἐς οἴκους
ἐξ Ἀσίης Διὸς ἐννεσίῃσ᾿ ἥρωα σέβεσθαι.

Lykophron in his Alexandra alludes to a strange tale of the transfer of Hektor’s remains from Troy to Thebes.  Since Lykophron is virtually unreadable, here is the account from scholia (Schol. In Lykrophon 1194):

“They say that when there was a famine in Greece Apollo decreed that they should transfer the bones of Hektor, which were at the place called Ophrunos, from Troy to some city in Greece which did not take part in the expedition against Troy.* When the Greeks realized that Thebes in Boiotia had not fought against Troy, they retrieved the remains of the hero and installed them there.”

φασὶν ὅτι λοιμοῦ κατασχόντος τὴν ῾Ελλάδα ἔχρησεν ὁ ᾿Απόλλων τὰ τοῦ ῞Εκτορος ὀστᾶ κείμενα ἐν ᾿Οφρυνῷ τόπῳ Τροίας μετενεγκεῖν ἐπί τινα πόλιν ῾Ελληνίδα ἐν τιμῇ <οὖσαν> μὴ μετασχοῦσαν τῆς ἐπὶ ῎Ιλιον στρατείας. οἱ δὲ ῞Ελληνες εὑρόντες τὰς ἐν Βοιωτίᾳ Θήβας μὴ στρατευσαμένας ἐπὶ ῎Ιλιον ἐνεγκόντες τὰ τοῦ ἥρωος λείψανα ἔθηκαν αὐτὰ ἐκεῖσε.

* In the Iliad, though the Boiotians (2.494-510) are named prominently in the catalogue of ships alongside the prominent city of Orchomenos (511-516), only Hypothebes is mentioned alongside recognizable topographical features of Thebes (οἵ θ’ ῾Υποθήβας εἶχον ἐϋκτίμενον πτολίεθρον, 505). One explanation for this is that “The place below Thebes” is the settlement surviving after the Epigonoi sacked the city. Diomedes, prominent in the Iliad, was instrumental in that expedition. In mythical time, then, Thebes was a ruined city for the advent of the expedition against Thebes.

The transfer of heroic remains is reported frequently in ancient texts. For Theseus’ bones see: Plut. Vit. Cim. 8.57; Vit. Thes. 36.1–4; Paus. 1.17.6, 3.3.7.  Cf. Hdt. 167-68; Paus 3.3.6 for Orestes’ bones. McCauley (1999) identifies 13 different instances of the transfer of remains in ancient Greece, with 9 of them being clearly political in motivation.

Simon Hornblower accepts that the cult of Hektor at Thebes was historical. One suggestion for this (Schachter 1981-94: 1.233-4) is that when Kassandros re-founded Thebes in 316 BCE he consciously affiliated with Hektor in response to Alexander’s earlier association with Achilles (Kassandros had a great enmity for Alexander). Hornblower (427) also posits the bone tale as an instance of rivalry between Thebes and Athens as part of Thebes establishing a connection in the Hellespont to challenge Athenian commercial interests in the region. The first suggestion places the bone transfer tale after 316 BCE; the second dates it back to 365. Hornblower suggests that there were two stages involved with an oracle being reported c. 465 BCE (428) and the bones being retrieved near the end of the century.

Image result for Hector ancient greek vase

A. Schachter, Cults of Boeotia1–4 (London, 1981-1994).

Hornblower, Simon 203. Lykophron: Alexandra. Oxford.

McCauley, B. 1999. “Heroes and Power: The Politics of Bone Transferal.” In R. Hägg (ed.) Ancient Greek Hero Cult. Stockholm, 1999:85-98

Phillips, D. D. 2003. “The Bones of Orestes and Spartan Foreign Policy.” In Gestures: Essays in Ancient History, Literature, and Philosophy Presented to Alan L. Boegehold, edited by G. W. Bakewell and J. P. Sickinger, 301–16. Oxford.

Scholarship and Superfluous Detail

Ah, pedantry. I may have had some thoughts about it….

Artemon of Pergamon (New Jacoby: BNJ 569 F 3 [=Schol. on Pind., Pyth. 1, inscr. a])

“Golden Lyre”: The poem has been written for Hieron; Pindar allegedly said this according to the historian Artemon because Hieron promised him a golden lyre. But these kinds of things are full of superfluous detail”

Χρυσέα φόρμιγξ] γέγραπται μὲν ὁ ἐπίνικος ῾Ιέρωνι, λέγεται δὲ ὁ Πίνδαρος οὕτως ἐπιβεβλῆσθαι κατὰ ᾽Αρτέμωνα τὸν ἱστορικόν, ὅτι δὴ αὐτῶι ὁ ῾Ιέρων χρυσῆν ὑπέσχετο κιθάραν . τὰ δὲ τοιαῦτα περιεργίας πεπλήρωται.

From LSJ 1902

περιεργαζόμαι, “to take more pains than enough about a thing, to waste one’s labor” 2. “to be a busybody”

περιεργία: “over-exactness” II. “officiousness” III. “curious arts”

περίεργος: “careful overmuch” II. “done with especial care”; “overwrought, too elaborate, superfluous”

περιεργοπένητες: “poor scholars”

Suda, Kappa 504

Kataglôttismata: “tonguing-down”: all sorts of kisses. Fabrications. All kinds of massages with sweet oils. Also, superfluous words. Or the “tonguing-down” is a rather excessive kiss. Or, it is flattery”

Καταγλωττίσματα: περίεργα φιλήματα. καταπλάσματα, παντοῖαι μυραλοιφίαι, ἢ περιλαλήματα. ἢ εἶδος φιλήματος περιεργότερον τὸ καταγλώττισμα: ἢ κολάκευμα.

Breviary of Renaud de Bar, France, 1302-1303: http://www.lazerhorse.org/2015/05/17/medieval-art-weird-manuscript/

More Casual Misogyny in the Homeric Scholia

This is a follow-up to an earlier post on the same topic

Schol. D + bT ad Il. 4.20

“They were muttering”: they were complaining about something with mumbling lips. This is clearly also a feminine gesture character-wise. It also is fitting, but rage compels her to words too.”

| ex. ἐπέμυξαν: μεμυκόσι τοῖς χείλεσιν ἐπεμύχθησαν. ἠθικῶς δὲ καὶ τὸ γυναικεῖον τῷ σχήματι ἐμφαίνει, ὅπως γνώμης ἔχουσιν. καὶ ἤρκει μὲν τοῦτο, ἡ δὲ ὀργὴ καὶ ἐπὶ λόγους αὐτὴν ἄγει.

Homer, Iliad, 24.292 [Hecuba speaking to Priam]

“Ask him for a bird omen as a swift messenger…”

αἴτει δ᾽ οἰωνὸν ταχὺν ἄγγελον

Schol. bT ad Il. 24.292 ex

“Ask for a bird omen”: it is a womanly custom to seek refuge in divination anytime there might be something to fear.”

<αἴτει δ’ οἰωνόν:> γυναικεῖον τὸ ἦθος τὸ ἐπὶ μαντείας καταφεύγειν, εἴ τί που περίφοβον σχοῖεν. b(BCE3E4)T

Od. 1.414-416

“I do not trust any message still, wherever it comes from,
I do not trust soothsaying, whatever divination
My mother elicits when she calls prophets to our home.”

οὔτ᾽ οὖν ἀγγελίῃ ἔτι πείθομαι, εἴ ποθεν ἔλθοι,
οὔτε θεοπροπίης ἐμπάζομαι, ἥν τινα μήτηρ
ἐς μέγαρον καλέσασα θεοπρόπον ἐξερέηται.

Cf. Schol. EQS Ad Hom. Od. 1.415

“He is deprecating because it is womanly to trust in these sorts of prophecies.”

ἐξεφαύλισεν ὡς γυναικεῖον ὂν ταῖς τοιαύταις μαντείαις πιστεύειν.

Schol. T Ad Hom. Od. 7.238 [On Arete recognizing Odysseus’ clothes]

“It seems to some a minor and humble matter that Arete first inquires from the stranger about the vestments. But it must be said that it has proceeded in this way for many reasons. First, it is seemly that it is the woman who recognizes the clothes. For it is the work of a womanly nature to weave, and tend, and handle these sorts of things.”

δοκεῖ τισὶ μικροπρεπὲς καὶ ταπεινὸν τὸ τὴν ᾿Αρήτην παρὰ τοῦ ξένου πρῶτον περὶ τῆς ἐσθῆτος πυνθάνεσθαι. ῥητέον δὲ ὅτι πολλῶν ἕνεκα ἐντεῦθεν ἤρξατο. πρῶτον μὲν ἐπιγνῶναι τὴν γυναῖκα τὰ ἱμάτια εἰκὸς ἦν πρώτην· καὶ γὰρ ὑφαίνειν καὶ θεραπεύειν καὶ διαχειρίζειν τὰ τοιαῦτα τῆς γυναικείας φύσεως ἔργον.

[N.B. this scholion is excerpted from something that had a multi-part argument, as is clear from the πολλῶν ἕνεκα and the structural πρῶτον μὲν.]

Hécube BnF Français 599 fol. 28v

Cancel Murderers and Tyrants?

Andocides, On the Mysteries 78 (excerpt from a decree read in the speech)

“…For those who have committed massacres or created tyrannies, in addition to everything else, have the council erase their names everywhere, wherever there is some mention of them in public, in accordance with what we have said and any copy of it which the lawmakers or elected officers possess.”

ἢ σφαγεῦσιν ἢ τυράννοις· τὰ δὲ ἄλλα πάντα ἐξαλεῖψαι τοὺς πράκτορας καὶ τὴν βουλὴν κατὰ τὰ εἰρημένα πανταχόθεν, ὅπου τι ἔστιν ἐν τῷ δημοσίῳ, καὶ εἴ <τι> ἀντίγραφόν που ἔστι, παρέχειν τοὺς θεσμοθέτας καὶ τὰς ἄλλας ἀρχάς

Plutarch, Moralia 473f

“Just as in a painting’s colors, we must put the bright and shining matters in the front of the mind and hide and cover the depressing ones away—for it is not possible to erase them or eradicate them completely.”

δεῖ δ᾿ ὥσπερ ἐν πινακίῳ χρωμάτων ἐν τῇ ψυχῇ τῶν πραγμάτων τὰ φαιδρὰ καὶ λαμπρὰ προβάλλοντας, ἀποκρύπτειν τὰ σκυθρωπὰ καὶ πιέζειν· ἐξαλεῖψαι γὰρ οὐκ ἔστι παντάπασιν οὐδ᾿ ἀπαλλαγῆναι.

I have been thinking for some time about the amnesty at the end of the Odyssey, which creates an erasure of the murders of the suitors family so that the Odysseus and his people can escape the cycle of vengeance. There are some echoes of this in the Roman practice of damnatio memoriaeI have thought a lot about Malcolm Gladwell’s application of Mark Grenovetter’s threshold theory to thinking about he sociology of school shootings. I am not sure that erasing events is the solution (nor am I suggesting that Gladwell and Grenovetter think so). What we are really facing in this question is how the stories we tell, how the way we cover events, creates paradigms and narratives that perpetuate themselves.

At the end of the Odyssey, Zeus intervenes and erases the Ithakans’ memory of the murder of the suitors to re-establish peace and stability for Odysseus’ return.

Homer, Odyssey 24.478–486

“My child, why do you inquire or ask me about these things?
Didn’t you contrive this plan yourself, that Odysseus
would exact vengeance on these men after he returned home?
Do whatever you want—but I will say what is fitting.
Since Odysseus has paid back the suitors,
let him be king again for good and take sacred oaths.
Let us force a forgetting of that slaughter of children and relatives.
Let all the people be friendly towards each other
as before. Let there be abundant wealth and peace.”

τέκνον ἐμόν, τί με ταῦτα διείρεαι ἠδὲ μεταλλᾷς;
οὐ γὰρ δὴ τοῦτον μὲν ἐβούλευσας νόον αὐτή,
ὡς ἦ τοι κείνους ᾿Οδυσεὺς ἀποτείσεται ἐλθών;
ἕρξον ὅπως ἐθέλεις· ἐρέω δέ τοι ὡς ἐπέοικεν.
ἐπεὶ δὴ μνηστῆρας ἐτείσατο δῖος ᾿Οδυσσεύς,
ὅρκια πιστὰ ταμόντες ὁ μὲν βασιλευέτω αἰεί,
ἡμεῖς δ’ αὖ παίδων τε κασιγνήτων τε φόνοιο
ἔκλησιν θέωμεν· τοὶ δ’ ἀλλήλους φιλεόντων
ὡς τὸ πάρος, πλοῦτος δὲ καὶ εἰρήνη ἅλις ἔστω.

(To be honest, after yet another national tragedy I cannot read Zeus’ words as anything but bitter sarcasm. This is, in all likelihood, an extremely anachronistic interpretation. But I cannot help but wonder if ancient audiences ever heard these lines and were unsettled, if not angered…)

It is clear that Zeus has to do this in order to end the conflict (and end the epic) because both parties are motivated by the cycle of vengeance. When Eupeithes’ speaks to the assembled Ithakans earlier in Book 24, he specifically mentions the fear of becoming an object of shame in a narrative pattern.

Homer, Odyssey 24.432-437

“Let us go. Otherwise we will be ashamed forever.
This will be an object of reproach even for men to come to learn,
if we do not pay back the murders of our relatives and sons.
It cannot be sweet to my mind at least to live like this.
But instead, I would rather perish immediately and dwell with the dead.
But, let’s go so that those men don’t cross to the mainland first.”

ἴομεν· ἢ καὶ ἔπειτα κατηφέες ἐσσόμεθ’ αἰεί.
λώβη γὰρ τάδε γ’ ἐστὶ καὶ ἐσσομένοισι πυθέσθαι,
εἰ δὴ μὴ παίδων τε κασιγνήτων τε φονῆας
τεισόμεθ’· οὐκ ἂν ἐμοί γε μετὰ φρεσὶν ἡδὺ γένοιτο
ζωέμεν, ἀλλὰ τάχιστα θανὼν φθιμένοισι μετείην.
ἀλλ’ ἴομεν, μὴ φθέωσι περαιωθέντες ἐκεῖνοι.”

Eupeithes–and Odysseus for most of the epic–act according to patterns they have received, embedded cultural expectations about how to behave in certain situations. The Odyssey‘s sudden end–its resolution through an act of erasure that challenges the very nature of the genre of memory itself–should prompt us to understand that the conflict has no resolution according to conventional paradigms. Rather than being a simple, closed end, this ending should incite us to realize that the stories themselves have been a problem.

 

Image result for Ancient Greek Odysseus discus

“The Cyclops Polyphemus ,”by Annibale Carracci

(I have written about some of this the Routledge Handbook of Classics and Cognitive Theory)