“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”
[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.”
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.)
“Phandicus, in his Deliakon says that Daedalus embarked on a ship in flight for the reasons I mentioned earlier and when those who were following got close, he spread out a large cloth to get the winds to help them and escaped in this way. When his pursuers returned, they announced that “he escaped with wings”.
Phanodicos Deliacon Daedalum propter supradictas causas fugientem navem conscendisse et, cum imminerent qui eum sequebantur, intendisse pallium ad adiuvandum ventos et sic evasisse: illos vero qui insequebantur reversos nuntiasse pinnis illum evasisse.
“Achilles, dear to Zeus, had fifty ships which he led to Troy. In each of the ships there were fifty companions at the benches.” How, people ask, is it that the Poet who typically augments Achilles elsewhere, diminishes him in this passage? Is it because there is no excellence in numbers?
Aristarchus, however, says that there are fifty rowers [only] because of the phrase “on the benches”, meaning sailors as support crew. Dionysus, still, claims that the greatest number of rowers possible was 120 and that most ships had between these two numbers, so that the average amount was 86 men.”
“It would be annoying to list all the people who spent their lives pursuing board games, ball games, or sunbathing. Men whose pleasures are so busy are not at leisure. For example, no one will be surprised that those occupied by useless literary studies work strenuously—and there is great band of these in Rome now too.
This sickness used to just afflict the Greeks, to discover the number of oarsmen Odysseus possessed, whether the Iliad was written before the Odyssey, whether the poems belong to the same author, and other matters like this which, if you keep them to yourself, cannot please your private mind; but if you publish them, you seem less learned than annoying.”
Persequi singulos longum est, quorum aut latrunculi aut pila aut excoquendi in sole corporis cura consumpsere vitam. Non sunt otiosi, quorum voluptates multum negotii habent. Nam de illis nemo dubitabit, quin operose nihil agant, qui litterarum inutilium studiis detinentur, quae iam apud Romanos quoque magna manus est. Graecorum iste morbus fuit quaerere, quem numerum Ulixes remigum habuisset, prior scripta esset Ilias an Odyssia, praeterea an eiusdem essent auctoris, alia deinceps huius notae, quae sive contineas, nihil tacitam conscientiam iuvant sive proferas, non doctior videaris sed molestior.
“Theognis, the Megarian, from the Megarians in Sicily, lived around the time of the 59th Olympiad (544-541 BCE). He composed an elegy for those who were saved in the siege of the Syracusans and an additional collection of 2800 elegiac lines. Some were advice and traditional wisdom addressed to Kyrnos, his lover. All his work was in epic language. Note that Theognis composed useful advice, but mixed in with this are disgusting and pederastic love poems and other topics that a virtuous life turns away from.”
“Here is something from Xenophon’s work on Theognis. “These are the verses of Theognis of Megara. That poet composed about nothing other than human virtue and vice. His poetry is a theory about people, just as if some equestrian were to compose a work about horses. The first principle of his poetry is correct. For he begins by talking about good breeding, since he believed that no person nor any other creature could be good if its parents were not good.
It seemed best to him to use other animals as an example, not those who survive in nature, but those who are tended with skill by humans, to get a view of how creatures turn out best. He is very clear in his poems about this. His lines say that people don’t know how to breed properly with one another and because of this the human race is always deteriorating because the better lines are constantly mixed with the worse. But many other people think that in these verse, the poet is accusing and railing against people who use money to excuse low-breeding and bad behavior. He seems to me to be indicating their ignorance about their own lives.”
“We search for well-bred rams, horses, and donkeys, Kyrnos
And everyone wants to climb atop females from good stock
But an aristocrat doesn’t think twice about the wicked daughter
Of a bad man if her father gives him a load of cash,
Just as a woman won’t refuse a common man as a husband
If he’s rich—no, she wants wealth over nobility.
They worship money. A nobleman marries a commoner’s daughter
And a lowborn child comes from on high. Wealth has ruined class.
So don’t be amazed at how the stock of your citizens degrades
Polypaides—our finer things are all mixed up with the poor.”
“As in a dream he isn’t able to pursue the one fleeing
Nor in turn is he able to escape him, nor again can the other overtake him
So he can’t catch up to him with his feet and the other can’t get away”
“Some people who know a lot about fishing claim that the stomach of a sea-horse—if someone dissolves it in wine after boiling it and gives it to someone to drink—is an extraordinary potion combined with wine, when compared to other medicines. For, at first, the most severe retching overcomes anyone who drinks it and then a dry coughing fit takes over even though he vomits nothing at all, and then: the upper part of his stomach grows and swells; warm spells roll over his head; and, finally, snot pours from his nose and releases a fishy smell. Then his eyes turn blood-red and heated while his eye-lids swell up.
They claim that a desire to vomit overwhelms him but that he can bring nothing up. If nature wins, then he evades death and slips away into forgetfulness and insanity. But if the wine permeates his lower stomach, there is nothing to be done, and the individual dies eventually. Those who do survive, once they have wandered into insanity, are gripped by a great desire for water: they thirst to see water and hear it splashing. And this, at least, soothes them and makes them sleep. Then they like to spend their time either by endlessly flowing rivers or near seashores or next to streams or some lakes. And even though they don’t want to drink, they love to swim, to put their feet in the water, and to wash their hands.”
“There is, therefore, a safe limit of medical treatment for one struggling admirably according to the practice of medicine against a sickness—and it is also the safeguard of ability for the one who is trying to soothe the pain. Beyond this is the work of a poor doctor, resulting in the end of the patient’s life with the sickness.
It is a flatterer’s act to try to please the patient, because this places pleasure not health as the primary aim. Practitioners descend into these kinds of extremes in many ways but especially in different types of treatments among which are chiefly the so-called anodyne medicines which are made from the poppy or seed of henbane, the root of mandrake, the storax or any other kind of thing.
Doctors who yield to the sick and use too much of these sorts of drugs destroy their patients with the pains as much as those who give them at the wrong time, in the wrong measure, or not at all.
Therefore, just as in everything else in life—in habits and actions—here the appropriate guideline to take is “nothing in excess”. The appropriate marker is the health of the sick…”
“Where is the ritual
And tell me where where is the taste
Where is the sacrifice
And tell me where where is the faith
Someday there’ll be a cure for pain
That’s the day I throw my drugs away…”
Homer, Odyssey 4.219–232
“But then Zeus’ daughter Helen had different plans.
She immediately cast into the wine they were drinking a drug,
A pain neutralizer and anger reducer, an eraser of all evils.
Whoever consumes this drug once it is mixed in the wine,
Could not let a single tear loose upon their cheeks for a whole day.
Not even if their mother or father died,
Nor again if they lost their brother and dear son,
Cut down by bronze right their in front of their own eyes.
These are the kinds of complex drugs, good ones, Zeus’s daughter
Possesses. Polydamna, the wife of Thôn, gave them to her
In Egypt where the fertile land grows the most drugs—
Many there are mixed fine; but many cause pain too.
Each man there is a doctor whose knowledge surpasses most men,
For they are the offspring of Paieon.”
“There are boars in the wild who are also not uninformed about the art of medicine. These animals, as it seems, whenever they forget themselves and eat henbane, they drag themselves backwards in their weakness. Even though they are experiencing spasms, they still make it to the water and there they grab crabs and eat them eagerly. These creatures are the antidote for their suffering and they make themselves healthy again.”
14“Phylarkhos writes in the eighth book of his Histories that there is a spring of water near the Gulf of Arabia from which if anyone ever anoints their feet what transpires miraculously is that their genitals extend pretty far. And for some they do not contract completely, and for others they are put back to shape with great suffering and medical attention.”
“Guardians who want the reproduction of their animals to increase when it is time to mate take handfuls of salt and sodium carbonate and rub them on the genitals of female sheep, and goats and horses. From these [animals] get more eager for sex. Others rub them down with pepper and honey; and others with sodium carbonate and nettle-seed. Some even rub them down with myrrh. From this kind of stimulation the females lose control and go crazy for the males.”
Solon: They [the Amphiktyones] selected this man to be their adviser for war against the Kirrhaians. When they were consulting the oracle about victory, the Pythia said: “you will not capture and raze the tower of this city before the wave of dark-eyed Amphitritê washes onto my precinct as it echoes over the wine-faced sea.”
Solon persuaded them to make Kirrhaia sacred to the god so that the sea would become a neighbor to Apollo’s precinct. And another strategy was devised by Solon against the Kirrhaians. For he turned a river’s water which used to flow in its channel into the city elsewhere.
The Kirrhaians withstood the besiegers by drinking water from wells and from rain. But [Solon] filled the river with hellebore roots and when he believed the water had enough of the drug, he returned it to its course. Then the Kirrhaians took a full portion of this water. And when they went AWOL because of diarrhea, the Amphiktyones who were stationed near the wall took it and then the city.”
“Lycambes offered his daughter Neobule to Archilochus and promised a dowry which he refused to give later. So Archilochus composed invective in iambic meter about him and talked so savagely about him and his wife and his daughter that he compelled them to hanging. For they preferred dying over living with such foul abuses.”
Lycambes Neobulen, filiam suam, Archilocho desponsavit et dotem promisit; quam quia postea negavit, Archilochus in iambico metro invectivam in ipsum fecit et tam turpia de eo dixit quod ipsum et uxorem et filiam ad laqueos coegit: maluerunt enim mori quam sub turpibus obprobriis vivere.
Eustathius, Commentary in Hom. Od. 11.277 (1684.45)
“You should know that many have hanged themselves over grief. This is why the ancient account has the daughters of Lykambes doing so thanks to Archilochus’ poems because they could not endure the rumors from his insults. The man was skilled at offending. For this reason we have the proverb “you’ve tread on Archilochus” which is for people who are good at insults, as if someone claims you stepped on snake or a sharp thorn.”
The sacrifice of Iphigenia is a pivotal moment in the tale of the House of Atreus—it motivates Agamemnon’s murder and in turn the matricide of Orestes—and the Trojan War, functioning as it does as a strange sacrifice of a virgin daughter of Klytemnestra in exchange for passage for a fleet to regain the adulteress Helen, Iphigeneia’s aunt by both her father and mother. The account is famous in Aeschylus’ Agamemnon and the plays Iphigenia at Aulis and Iphigenia among the Taurians by Euripides. Its earliest accounts, however, provide some interesting variations:
Hes. Fr. 23.13-30
“Agamemnon, lord of men, because of her beauty,
Married the dark-eyed daughter of Tyndareus, Klytemnestra.
She gave birth to fair-ankled Iphimede in her home
And Elektra who rivaled the goddesses in beauty.
But the well-greaved Achaeans butchered Iphimede
on the altar of thundering, golden-arrowed Artemis
on that day when they sailed with ships to Ilium
in order to exact payment for fair-ankled Argive woman—
they butchered a ghost. But the deer-shooting arrow-mistress
easily rescued her and anointed her head
with lovely ambrosia so that her flesh would be enduring—
She made her immortal and ageless for all days.
Now the races of men upon the earth call her
Artemis of the roads, the servant of the famous arrow-mistress.
Last in her home, dark-eyed Klytemnestra gave birth
after being impregnated by Agamemnon to Orestes,
who, once he reached maturity, paid back the murderer of his father
and killed his mother as well with pitiless bronze.”
This fragment presents what is possibly the earliest account of the tale of Iphigenia and contains the major elements: the sacrifice of Agamemnon’s daughter is tied to vengeance against Helen; the daughter is rescued by Artemis, made immortal and made her servant. [In some traditions she is either made immortal or made into a priestess of Artemis at Tauris]. Orestes kills the murderer of his father and his mother. Continue reading “The Names of Agamemnon’s Daughters and the Death of Iphigenia”→
“He said this and threw a cow’s hoof with his strong hand,
Once he took it up from where it was lying in a basket.
Odysseus moved while leaning on his head, but he grinned in his heart,
That kind of Sardonian smile. The hoof hit the well-made wall.”
“That kind of Sardonian smile”: A grin at ruin. They say that Hephaestus’ creation, Talon, was placed as a guard by Zeus for Europe to punish those trying to go to Crete. Leaping into the fire and warming them, he grabbed them around the chests. While they burned, he smiled. Some people say that a certain kind of parsley grows on the Island of Sardinia that makes foreigners die while grinning in a spasm. But Timaois claims that they take the elderly of their parents to a hole and throw them into it, and that they smile while dying as if they are happy. Different people claim other things about this. A better take is this: someone pretending a smile in mockery, like a grin, which is an opening of the lips.”
“The people who inhabit Sardinia who are actually from Carthage make use of certain foreign custom also taken up by many Greeks. For they sacrifice to Kronos on certain established nights, not only the best of their warriors, but also those of their elders who are over seventy years old. It seems to be shameful and cowardly for those who are being sacrificed to weep, instead it is noble and brave to welcome and laugh at the end. For this reason, when people force a grin when facing evil, it is called Sardonian. This is Dêmon’s account.”
“Sardinian Laugh”: A proverb used for people who laugh at their own death. According to Demôn it developed from the fact that the Sardinians used to sacrifice the best and the oldest of their captives each year to Cronus as they laughed to display their courage. Timaios, on the other hand, claims that men who had lived a long enough time were in the habit of laughing when they were pushed by their sons into the trenches in which they would bury them. But others claim the saying comes from smiling with devious intent.
Others say—and this includes Cleitarchus—that when they place a small child in Kronos’ hand in Carthage during their most important prayers (a bronze statue is set out with hands stretched out over a cooking pot) and after they light the fire, the boy seems to laugh as he is shriveled by the fire. But Simonides says that when the Sardinians were not willing to hand over Talos—the fabricated man—to Minos, that Talos leapt into the fire, because he was bronze, clutched them to his chest and killed them as they gasped for air.
Silenus argues in the fourth book of his On the Syracusans that there is a sweet plant similar celery which when people eat it they bite off segments of their own faces. There are also some who say that this is to laugh at danger. This is what happens when Homer says that “shining Odysseus grinned sardonically” and in other places,” she laughed with her lips, but she was not pleased under her dark brows”
“That [female] substance, even though it possesses all segments of the body in potential, actually exhibits none of them. For it contains those kinds of elements in potential by which the female is distinguished from the male. For just as it happens that at times deformed children come from deformed parents and at times they do not, so too in the same way sometimes female offspring come from females and sometimes they don’t, but males do instead. For the female is like a deformity of the male and menstrual discharge is like semen, but unclean.”
“These causes are also of the same. Some [offspring] are born similar to their parents while others are not. Some are similar to their father; others are like their mother, applying both to the body as a whole and to each part. Offspring are more like their parents than their ancestors and more like their ancestors than passersby.
Males are more similar to their father and females are more similar to their mother. But some are not like any of their relatives, but are still akin to human beings while others are like not at all like humans in their appearance, but rather like some monster. For whoever is not like his parents is in some way a monster because nature has in these cases wandered in some way from the essential character. The first beginning of this is when a female was born instead of a male.
But this is necessary by nature since a race of things divided by male and female must be preserved and since the male may at times not be in control because of age or youth or some other reason, it is necessary for species to have female offspring. Monstrosity is not necessary for any reason or specific ends, but it is necessary by probability of accident—since its origin must be considered as residing here.”
τέρας: can mean ‘monster’ (as translated here) or divine sign/omen. In cognates and parallel forms it is also associated with magic and the unnatural.
πηρόω (πεπηρωμένον) is a denominative verb from the noun πηρός, which means “infirm, invalid” (hence: “blind or lame”)
Thomson, Rosemarie Garland. 1997. Extraordinary Bodies: Figuring Physical Disability in American Culture and Literature. New York.
19: “Perhaps the founding association of femaleness with disability occurs in the fourth book of Generation of Animals, Aristotle’s discourse of the normal and the abnormal, in which he refines the Platonic concept of antinomies so that bodily variety translates into hierarchies of the typical and aberrant.”
20: “What this passage makes clearest, however, is that without the monstrous body to demarcate the borders of the generic, without the female body to distinguish the shape of the male, and without the pathological to give form to the normal, the taxonomies of bodily value that underlie political, social and economic arrangements would collapse.”
20: “This persistent intertwining of disability with femaleness in Western discourse provides a starting point for exploring the relationship of social identity to the body. As Aristotle’s pronouncement suggests, the social category of disability rests on the significance accorded bodily functioning and configuration.”