Achilles’ (Missing) Sister

Reading over Merkelbach and West’s Fragmenta Hesiodea often reminds me of many things I have forgotten. I am too young to blame this forgetfulness on senility; and yet too old to blame it on youthful ignorance.

Today’s particular disturbance comes from fragment 213 which tells us that Achilles, like Odysseus, has a sister (fragment included within the scholia below).

At first, I thought that this was some sort of Lykophrontic fantasy. But, alas, upon looking into the details, she is actually mentioned in the Iliad!

Iliad, 16.173-178

“Menestheus of the dancing-breastplate led one contingent,
son of the swift-flowing river Sperkheios
whom the daughter of Peleus, beautiful Poludôrê bore
when she shared the bed with the indomitable river-god, Sperkheios
although by reputation he was the son of Boros, the son of Periêrês
who wooed her openly by offering countless gifts.”

τῆς μὲν ἰῆς στιχὸς ἦρχε Μενέσθιος αἰολοθώρηξ
υἱὸς Σπερχειοῖο διιπετέος ποταμοῖο·
ὃν τέκε Πηλῆος θυγάτηρ καλὴ Πολυδώρη
Σπερχειῷ ἀκάμαντι γυνὴ θεῷ εὐνηθεῖσα,
αὐτὰρ ἐπίκλησιν Βώρῳ Περιήρεος υἷι,
ὅς ῥ’ ἀναφανδὸν ὄπυιε πορὼν ἀπερείσια ἕδνα.

The confusion, shock and horror of this detail—which I presume the vast majority of Homer’s audiences have overlooked or forgotten as with the sad fate of Odysseus’ sister—can be felt as well in the various reactions of the Scholia where we encounter (a) denial—it was a different Peleus!; (b) sophomoric prevarication—why doesn’t Achilles talk about her, hmmm?; (c) conditional acceptance through anachronistic assumptions—she’s suppressed because it is shameful that she is a bastard; (d) and, finally, citation of hoary authorities to insist upon a ‘truth’ unambiguous in the poem.

I have translated the major scholia below. Note that we can see where the ‘fragments’ of several authors come from here (hint: they’re just talked about by the scholiasts). We can also learn a bit about the pluralistic and contradictory voices to be found in the Homeric scholia. The bastard child bit is my favorite part.

 

Schol A. ad Il. 16.175

“Pherecydes says that Polydora was the sister of Achilles. There is no way that this has been established in Homer. It is more credible that this is just the same name, as in other situations, since [the poet] would have added some sign of kinship with Achilles.”

ὃν τέκε Πηλῆος θυγάτηρ: ὅτι Φερεκύδης (Fr. 61-62) τὴν Πολυδώραν φησὶν ἀδελφὴν ᾿Αχιλλέως. οὐκ ἔστι δὲ καθ’ ῞Ομηρον διαβεβαιώσασθαι. πιθανώτερον οὖν ὁμωνυμίαν εἶναι, ὥσπερ καὶ ἐπ’ ἄλλων, ἐπεὶ προσέθηκεν ἂν τεκμήριον τῆς πρὸς ᾿Αχιλλέα συγγενείας.

 

Schol T. ad Il. 16.175

”  “Daughter of Peleus”: A different Peleus, for if he were a nephew of Achilles, this would be mentioned in Hades when they speak about his father and son or in the allegory of the Litai when he says “a great spirit compelled me there” or “my possessions and serving women” he might mention the pleasure of having a sister. The poet does not recognize that Peleus encountered some other woman. Neoteles says that Achilles’ cousin leads the first contingent and gives evidence of knowledge of war. And he gave countless gifts to marry the sister of Achilles. Should he not mentioned her in Hades? Odysseus does not mention Ktimene [his sister].

Pherecydes says that [Polydore] was born from Antigonê, the daughter of Eurytion; the Suda says her mother was Laodameia the daughter of Alkmaion; Staphulos says she was Eurudikê the daughter of Aktôr. Zenodotos says the daughter’s name was Kleodôrê; Hesiod and everyone else calls her Poludôrê.”

ex. Πηλῆος θυγάτηρ: ἑτέρου Πηλέως· εἰ γὰρ ἦν ἀδελφιδοῦς ᾿Αχιλλέως, καὶ ἐμνήσθη αὐτοῦ ἐν τῷ ῞Αιδῃ περὶ τοῦ πατρὸς καὶ τοῦ υἱοῦ ἐρωτῶν (cf. λ 494—537), καὶ ἐν ταῖς Λιταῖς, φάσκων „ἔνθα δέ μοι μάλα <πολλὸν> ἐπέσσυτο θυμός” (Ι 398), „κτῆσιν ἐμὴν δμῶάς τε” (Τ 333), ἔφασκεν ἂν καὶ τῆς ἀδελφῆς ἀπόλαυσιν. Πηλέα τε οὐκ οἶδεν ὁ ποιητὴς ἑτέρᾳ γυναικὶ συνελθόντα. Νεοτέλης δὲ ὡς ἀδελφιδοῦν᾿Αχιλλέως φησὶ τῆς πρώτης τάξεως ἡγεῖσθαι, ὡς καὶ μαρτυρεῖ ἐπιστήμην πολέμου· †ὡς ἀχιλλέως τε ἀδελφὴν γαμεῖν† ἀπερείσια δίδωσιν ἕδνα (cf. Π 178). εἰ δὲ μὴ ἐμνήσθη αὐτῆς ἐν ῞Αιδου· οὐδὲ γὰρ ᾿Οδυσσεὺς Κτιμένης (cf. ο 363 cum λ 174—9). Φερεκύδης (FGrHist 3, 61 b) δὲ ἐξ ᾿Αντιγόνης τῆς Εὐρυτίωνος, Σουίδας (FGrHist 602, 8) ἐκ Λαοδαμείας τῆς ᾿Αλκμαίωνος, Στάφυλος (FGrHist 269,5) ἐξ Εὐρυδίκης τῆς῎Ακτορος. Ζηνόδοτος (FGrHist 19,5) δὲ Κλεοδώρην φησίν, ῾Ησιόδου (fr. 213 M.—W.) καὶ τῶν ἄλλων Πολυδώρην αὐτὴν καλούντων.

Schol. BCE ad Il. 16.175

“They say that she is from another Peleus. For if he were a nephew of Achilles wouldn’t this be mentioned or wouldn’t he ask about his sister in Hades along with his father and son? At the same time, the poet does not know that Peleus encountered some other women. More recent poets say that Menestheus is his nephew and that this is the reason he leads the first contingent and shows knowledge of war and that ‘he gave countless gifts to marry the sister of Achilles’. But if he does not mention it, it is not necessarily foreign to him. For the poet is rather sensitive to certain proprieties.”

ἑτέρου, φασί, Πηλέως· εἰ γὰρ ἦν ἀδελφιδοῦς ᾿Αχιλλέως, πῶς οὐκ ἐμνήσθη αὐτοῦ ἢ τῆς ἀδελφῆς ἐν τῷ ῞Αιδῃ περὶ τοῦ πατρὸς ἐρωτῶν καὶ τοῦ υἱοῦ; ἅμα τε οὐκ οἶδεν ὁ ποιητὴς Πηλέα ἑτέρᾳ συνελθόντα γυναικί. οἱ δὲ νεώτεροι ἀδελφιδοῦν αὐτοῦ λέγουσιν· ὅθεν καὶ τῆς πρώτης τάξεως ἡγεῖται καὶ πολέμων ἐπιστήμων μαρτυρεῖται, καὶ ὡς †ἀχιλλέως ἀδελφὴν γαμῶν ἀπερείσια δίδωσιν. εἰ δὲ μὴ ἐμνήσθη αὐτῆς ἢ τούτου, οὐ ξένον· περὶ γὰρ τῶν καιριωτέρων αὐτῷ ἡ φροντίς.

Schol. b ad Il. 16.175

“Since, otherwise, if Polydora were his sister, she would be a bastard and he would not want to mention her. Or, maybe it is because she has already died.”

ἄλλως τε ἐπειδὴ νόθη ἦν ἡ Πολυδώρη αὐτοῦ ἀδελφή, τάχα οὐδὲ μνημονεύειν αὐτῆς ἐβουλήθη. ἢ ὅτι καὶ αὐτὴ ἤδη τετελευτηκυῖα ἦν.

Schol D ad Il. 16.175

“Did Peleus have a daughter Polydôrê from another? Staphulos says in the third book of his Thessalika that she was born from Eurydike the daughter of Aktôr. Pherecydes says it was the daughter of Eurytion; others says Laodameia, the daughter of Alkmaion.”

ἐκ τίνος Πηλεὺς Πολυδώρην ἔσχεν; ὡς μὲν Στάφυλός φησιν ἐν τῇ τρίτῃ Θεσσαλικῶν, ἐξ Εὐρυδίκης τῆς ῎Ακτορος θυγατρός. Φερεκύδης δὲ ἐξ ᾿Αντιγόνης τῆς Εὐρυτίωνος, ἄλλοι δὲ ἐκ Λαοδαμείας τῆς ᾿Αλκμαίωνος.

What happened to Peleus’ first wife—if they were married? According to John Tzetzes (see Fowler 2013, 444) Peleus accidentally killed his father-in-law during the Kalydonian Boar Hunt, so he had to go abroad and in Iolkos the king’s wife tried to seduce him and told Antigone that Peleus would abandon her. Antigone killed herself, leaving Peleus free to marry Thetis. (But who took care of their daughter?).

It can get more confusing: some traditions (Apollodorus, 3.163 and 168) make a Polymele the daughter of Peleus and Patroklos’ mother whereas Polydora is Peleus’ wife in between Antigone and Thetis. Whatever the case, we can do our own scholiastic justification for Achilles not talking about his sister without creating a second Peleus. She must have been a bit older than Achilles since by all accounts Peleus fathered her before (1) the Kalydonian Boar Hunt, (2) the sacking of Iolkos and (3) the Voyage of the Argo. She would likely have been raised in a separate household from Achilles and married off before he went to study with the centaur Cheiron!

(More importantly: In the poetic world of Homer, sisters just don’t matter. Brothers do. Helen does not mention missing her sisters. Hektor talks to multiple brothers, but where are his sisters? In the Odyssey, Achilles asks about his father and son because Odysseus is interested in fathers and sons. This may make it more, not less, appropriate that Achilles says nothing of his sister: Odysseus just doesn’t care about sisters. Nor, it seems, does Homer.)

Works Consulted (apart from the Greek Texts).

Timothy Gantz. Early Greek Myth. Baltimore, 1993.
Robert Fowler. Early Greek Mythography. Vol. 2:Commentary, 2013.

Image result for ancient greek achilles

Achilles Can Sack Cities: Or, How Aristarchus Can be Wrong

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.). A

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. A

ex. (Ariston.) ᾿Αχιλλῆα πτολίπορθον: τινὲς „᾿Αχιλλέα Πηλείωνα”, πρὸς τὸ ἐπίθετον ξενισθέντες. ἀλλ’ ἤδη αὐτὸς εἶπε „δώδεκα δὴ σὺν νηυσὶ πόλεις ἀλάπαξα” (Ι 328)…T

* 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. (This, as Casey Due points out on twitter, is of course no guarantee that there are not objecting scholia; instead, this only means that there weren’t enough of them or they weren’t of interest enough to the editor to be included). 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. E.

MFA: Hydria with Achilles Dragging Hektor’s Body

The Ghost Giving Up the Mind: Psukhe, Eidolon, and Phrenes in the Iliad

Homer, Il. 23.103-4

“Wretches, really someone in Hades’ home
is a spirit and ghost but there are no phrenes at all inside them.”

ὢ πόποι ἦ ῥά τίς ἐστι καὶ εἰν ᾿Αΐδαο δόμοισι
ψυχὴ καὶ εἴδωλον, ἀτὰρ φρένες οὐκ ἔνι πάμπαν·

Schol ad Il. 23.104a-b ex

A: “Soul and ghost, “but the thoughts were not completely present inside them”

Patroklos converses thoughtfully and with understanding. This line, then, is inserted from the Odyssey [where it does not exist]. For there [Homer] makes the psykhai into shadowy ghosts with no share of understanding.

Either he means that thoughts [phrenes] are not perceptive, but they are some part of the organs within the body as is said elsewhere: “they kept the phrenes and liver inside” and elsewhere “there really where the thoughts go/are”. Therefore this is the whole body from a part. Thus says Aristophanes the grammarian. But there is a diplê: Homer depicts the souls of the unburied as still preserving thought.”

[lemma] Some [say] that phrenes are the body. For the phrenes are a portion of the body. But he means that he did not obtain them as long as he was stretched out. But, it is better that the dead do not have thoughts. For he criticizes [Achilles] that he does not care. And, certainly, the unburied often give prophecies. Or, it could also be, that they are present, but not completely.”

Did. (?) | ψυχὴ καὶ εἴδωλον, <ἀτὰρ φρένες οὐκ ἔνι πάμπαν>:
Ariston. ἐμφρόνως καὶ συνετῶς διείλεκται πάντα ὁ Πάτροκλος. ἐνσέσεισται οὖν
ἐκ τῆς ᾿Οδυσσείας ὁ στίχος (ubi non exstat)· ἐκεῖ γὰρ τὰς ψυχὰς εἴδωλα σκιώδη φρονήσεως ἀμέτοχα ὑπέθετο. ἢ φρένας λέγει οὐ τὸ διανοητικόν, ἀλλὰ μέρος τι τῶν ἐντὸς σώματος, ὡς καὶ ἀλλαχοῦ „ἔν τε φρένες ἧπαρ ἔχουσι” (ι 301) καὶ πάλιν „ἔνθ’ ἄρα τε φρένες ἔρχαται” (Π 481). ἔστιν οὖν ἀπὸ μέρους τὸ ὅλον σῶμα. οὕτως ᾿Αριστοφάνης ὁ γραμματικός (fr. 87, p. 227 N. [= p. 191 Sl.]). | ἡ διπλῆ δέ, ὅτι τὰς τῶν
ἀτάφων ψυχὰς ῞Ομηρος ἔτι σωζούσας τὴν φρόνησιν ὑποτίθεται. A
ex. ἀτὰρ φρένες οὐκ ἔνι πάμπαν: φρένες T τινὲς σῶμα· μέρος γὰρ σώματος αἱ φρένες. τοῦτο δὲ εἶπε, παρ’ ὅσον ἐκταθεὶς οὐκ ἔλαβε. κάλλιον δέ, ὅτι φρένας οἱ τεθνεῶτες οὐκ ἔχουσιν· ἐμέμφετο γὰρ ὡς ἠμελημένος (cf. Ψ 69—74). b(BCE3E4)T καὶ
μὴν οἱ ἄταφοι προμαντεύονται. T ἢ εἰσὶ μέν, οὐ μὴν πάμπαν.
b(BCE3E4)T

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Greek to Make a Man Puke

Hugh E.P. Platt, A Last Ramble in the Classics:

“The false quantities made by scholars would furnish a curious list. When Joshua Barnes desired his wife to devote her fortune to the publication of his edition of Homer, and at last persuaded her to do so by assuring her that the Iliad was written by Solomon, in the joy of his heart he composed some Greek hexameters. One of these he began with εὐπρᾰγίης which Bentley said was ‘ enough to make a man spew.’ (Ribbeck lately complained that Madvig’s emendations of the Latin dramatists had the like effect on him, nauseam adferunt.)”

 

Why Doesn’t Odysseus Get his Buddies to Help Him in Ithaka?

When Odysseus returns to Ithaka he must undergo suffering at the hands of the suitors to justify their murders. When he and Athena make their plans in book 13, some audiences might wonder why he does not get help from allies on the mainland. Never fear, Porphyry is here to explain.

Porphyry, Hom. Quest. ad Od 13.387

“Why doesn’t Odysseus just send to Nestor and Menelaos to get an army? Because it seemed most unjust to him to impose a war on the rest of the citizens who were guilty of nothing. For he had learned from his mother in Hades that the public rights were being guarded for Telemachus and that he would avenge the transgressive suitors even on his own. And, also, if the suitors knew [that an army was coming], they would escape without paying a penalty.”

 πῶς οὐ πρὸς Νέστορα καὶ Μενέλαον μετέρχεται στρατιὰν λαβεῖν; τάχα ὅτι τοῖς λοιποῖς πολίταις οὐδὲν αἰτίοις οὖσι πόλεμον ἐπάγειν ἀδικώτατον ἔδοξε. μεμάθηκε γὰρ καὶ παρὰ τῆς μητρὸς ἐν ῞Αιδου τὰς δημοσίας Τηλεμάχῳ φυλασσομένας τιμάς, καὶ ὅτι τοὺς τρυφῶντας μνηστῆρας τιμωρήσεται καὶ καθ’ ἑαυτόν. οἵ τε μνηστῆρες, εἰ ᾔσθοντο, ἔφυγον ἂν μὴ δόντες δίκην.

 

Related image

Sarcasm! Flesh-Tearing With a Counterfeit Grin

Suda (10th Century CE)

Sarcasm: a species of irony

Σαρκασμός: εἶδος εἰρωνείας.

Aristophanes, Frogs 996 (5th Century BCE)

Σαρκασμοπιτυοκάμπται: “Saracastic-pine-benders”

Suda

“Aristophanes uses this instead of “great men” (megaloi) because he is describing those who take and use falsely the means of war, not because they are truly interested in it, but because they care about strength. For this reason he also called Megainetus “Manes”, not because he is barbaric but because he is stupid. [In the Frogs] he appropriately uses a compound word because this is Aeschylus’ habit.”

Σαρκασμοπιτυοκάμπται: Ἀριστοφάνης φησί, ἀντὶ τοῦ μεγάλοι. ὡς ἁρπάζοντας καὶ προσποιουμένους τὰ πολεμικά, οὐκ ἀληθῶς δὲ τοιούτους, ἰσχύος δὲ ἐπιμελομένους. διὸ καὶ τὸν Μεγαίνετον Μάνην εἶπεν, οὐ πάντως βάρβαρον, ἀλλ’ ἀναίσθητον. ἐπιτηδὲς δὲ ἐχρήσατο τοῖς συνθέτοις, διὰ τὸ Αἰσχύλου ἦθος.

Plutarch On Homer 718 (2nd Century CE)

“There is a certain type of irony as well called sarcasm, which is when someone makes a criticism of someone else using opposites and with a fake smile…”

῎Εστι δέ τι εἶδος εἰρωνείας καὶ ὁ σαρκασμός, ἐπειδάν τις διὰ τῶν ἐναντίων ὀνειδίζῃ τινι μετὰ προσποιήτου μειδιάματος…

Homer, Iliad 1.560-562

“Then cloud-gathering Zeus responded to Hera in answer,
‘Friend [daimoniê] you always know my thoughts, and I can never trick you—
Buy you can’t do anything about it….

Τὴν δ’ ἀπαμειβόμενος προσέφη νεφεληγερέτα Ζεύς·
δαιμονίη αἰεὶ μὲν ὀΐεαι οὐδέ σε λήθω·
πρῆξαι δ’ ἔμπης οὔ τι δυνήσεαι…

Schol. bT ad Il. 1.561a

“Divine one”: “blessed”, used sarcastically.

ex. δαιμονίη: μακαρία, ἐν σαρκασμῷ. b(BCE3)T

Phrynichus Atticus, 16.5 (2nd Century CE)

“To steal is best”: the repetitive structure (symploke) is witty. For you also have “to commit adultery is best, and similar things”. It is a kind of sarcasm to praise an evil to excess.”

ἄριστος κλέπτειν (fr. com. ad. 850): ἀστεία ἡ συμπλοκή. καὶ ἄριστος μοιχεύειν, καὶ τὰ ὅμοια. σαρκασμοῦ τρόπῳ ἐπῄνηται εἰς ὑπερβολὴν τοῦ κακοῦ.

Sarcasm

Oxford English Dictionary

sarcasmn.

Etymology: < late Latin sarcasmus, < late Greek σαρκασμός, < σαρκάζειν to tear flesh, gnash the teeth, speak bitterly, < σαρκ-σάρξ flesh.(Show Less)

  A sharp, bitter, or cutting expression or remark; a bitter gibe or taunt. Now usually in generalized sense: Sarcastic language; sarcastic meaning or purpose.

1579   E. K. in Spenser Shepheardes Cal. Oct. Gloss.   Tom piper, an ironicall Sarcasmus, spoken in derision of these rude wits, whych [etc.].
1581   J. Bell tr. W. Haddon & J. Foxe Against Jerome Osorius 324   With this skoffe doth he note them..by a certayne figure called Sarcasmus.
1605   J. Dove Confut. Atheisme 38   He called the other Gods so, by a figure called Ironia, or Sarcasmus.
1621   R. Burton Anat. Melancholy i. ii. iv. iv. 197   Many are of so petulant a spleene, and haue that figure Sarcasmus so often in their mouths,..that they must bite.
1661   O. Felltham Resolves (rev. ed.) 284   Either a Sarcasmus against the voluptuous; or else, ’tis a milder counsel.
Greek comedy was a popular form of theatre performed in ancient Greece from the 6th cent. BCE

Nomos Vs. Phusis in the Bedroom

Yesterday, Erik posted that famous passage from Herodotus where Peisistratos runs afoul of the tyrant of Megara, Megacles, when “because he did not want to have children by his new wife, he was having sex with her not in the customary manner” οὐ βουλόμενός οἱ γενέσθαι ἐκ τῆς νεογάμου γυναικὸς τέκνα ἐμίσγετό οἱ οὐ κατὰ νόμον.

As you can probably imagine, there have been many discussions about what his means (e.g. should the negator go with the verb and not the prepositional phrase and mean “he did not have sex with her, as is customary” rather than “he did not have sex with her in the customary fashion?”) A passage from  Diodorus Siculus which Cassie Garrison brought to my attention made me think about this again.

When Kallion, who seems to have been intersex, reaches adulthood, their sexual origins present a particular challenge (D. S. 32.11)

When she reached maturity, she was married to a certain citizen. For two years she lived with her husband, and since she could not endure feminine intercourse, she was forced to submit to unnatural embraces.

εἰς δὲ τὴν ἀκμὴν τῆς ἡλικίας παραγενομένη συνῳκίσθη τινὶ τῶν πολιτῶν. διετῆ μὲν οὖν χρόνον συνεβίωσε τἀνδρί, τὴν μὲν γυναικείαν ἐπιπλοκὴν οὐκ ἐπιδεχομένη, τὴν δὲ παρὰ φύσιν ὁμιλίαν ὑπομένειν ἀναγκαζομένη.

Here, we have an interesting comparison. The passage from Diodorus is clearly interpreted as referring to anal sex whereas there is debate about the Herodotean reference. One act being referred to as “against nature” (phusis) may make us rethink what it means for the other to merely be against custom (nomos), although I expect what both are really about is that intercourse with women was expected to be procreative. the assertion that something is “by nature” is  rhetorical and based on cultural perspectives. What is considered natural is often so in order to affirm what is customary.

In the Herodotean passage, the marriage is an arrangement between noble families from different cities and children were an expectation of this type of arrangement. Hence, engaging in intentionally non-procreative activity would be against custom. In the second passage, Diodorus Siculus is emphasizing the fact that Kallion is not a woman, who, by nature should be able to produce children through sex (from Diodorus’ perspective).

This does not of course mean that we are positive about Peisistratos’ marital activities. We could still be talking intercrural sex vel. sim….

Image result for pisistratus
Unnatural or uncustomary?