“With those guys”: Centaurs. He introduces all of those who were bested by them so that he will seem to be superior in advice even to those who were stronger. He also doesn’t mention that Peleus was a friend of Agamemnon in order to avoid seeming to criticize Achilles, if his father obeyed him [Agamemnon] in something but he [Achilles] did not.”
“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.”
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.”
” “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.”
“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.”
“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.”
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.
When fortune changes, get used to it.
Sail with the sea. Sail where fortune goes.
Don’t even steer life’s prow into the waves;
Let fortune do the sailing.
Ah me! Ah me!
There’s nothing for me, a wretch, not to cry about.
What does it mean to steer life’s prow into the waves?
David Kovacs explains in his commentary that a captain turns his ship’s prow into the waves to avoid capsizing. Not to do so then–Hecuba’s counsel–is to despair of saving the craft, and by extension, one’s own self.
Why this harsh advice from Hecuba? Because, as the final line of the quoted passage says, her world has been reduced to a thoroughgoing lament (her country, children, and husband have been lost).
The scholiast unpacks the nautical metaphor this way:
“The ship suffers damage regardless of whether it sails into the waves or into the wind. That being the case, she says don’t station yourself against fortune by sailing into the waves.”
The invocation might seem a bit off kilter, but Jean-Sartre’s Les Troyennes (his adaptation of Euripides’ Trojan women) nicely draws out the nihilism of Hecuba’s counsel. In addition, as if to underline the extreme character of her words, Sartre adds a line in which she resists the very philosophy she’s articulating:
Jean-Paul Sartre. Trojan Women. Scene III.
Fortune turns: learn to be patient.
What good are regrets?
Why live life against the current?
Go with it! Go with it!
Destiny takes you: let yourself be carried.
Ah, I can’t accept this.
Pain, o my pain,
There’s no pain in the world which isn’t mine!
La chance tourne: apprends la patience.
A quoi bon les regrets?
Pourquoi vivre à contre-courant?
Le destin t’entraîne: laisse-toi porter.
Je ne peux pas me résigner.
Douleurs, Ô mes douleurs,
il n’est pas une douleur au monde qui ne soit mienne!
“…but the story is from ancient men. If, then, I were to give to you silver as swap of equal worth when you sent me gold, do not value the favor less nor, as Glaukos did, believe that the exchange is harmful, since not even Diomedes would switch silver armor for gold since the former is much more practical than the latter in the way of lead that is shaped for the ends of spears.
I am joking with you! I have assumed a certain freedom of speech based on the example you have written yourself. But, if in truth you want to send me gifts worth more than gold, write and don’t ever stop writing to me! For even a brief note from you is more dear to me than anything someone else might consider good.”
Who knew that the popular Christmas song was inspired by Julian the Apostate?
Julian is referring to the famous scene of exchange between Diomedes and Glaukos in the Iliad (6.230-236)
“Let’s exchange armor with one another so that even these people
May know that we claim to be guest-friends from our fathers’ lines.”
So they spoke and leapt down from their horses,
Took one another’s hands and made their pledge.
Then Kronos’s son Zeus stole away Glaukos’ wits,
For he traded to Diomedes golden arms in exchange for bronze,
weapons worth one hundred oxen traded for those worth nine.”
“Kronos’ son Zeus took Glaukos’ wits away”. Because he was adorning him among his allies with more conspicuous weapons. Or, because they were made by Hephaistos. Or, as Pios claims, so that [the poet?] might amplify the Greek since they do not make an equal exchange—a thing which would be sweet to the audience.
Or, perhaps he credits him more, that he was adorned with conspicuous arms among his own and his allies. For, wherever these arms are, it is a likely place for an enemy attack.”
I always thought that Glaukos got a raw deal from interpreters here. Prior to the stories Diomedes and Glaukos tell each other, Diomedes was just murdering everyone in his path. Glaukos—who already knew who Diomedes was before he addressed him—tells a great tale, gives Diomedes his golden weapons, and actually lives to the end of the poem. I think this is far from a witless move. And, if the armor is especially conspicuous, maybe the plan-within-a-plan is to put a golden target on Diomedes’ back.
“For this reason the place is named without joy since, as people claim, it would not have been there but for necromancy or spell-craft. For, Aeneas completed these sacred rites when Misenus was killed and Ulysses did it with the death of Elpenor.
This very scene Homer himself presented falsely from the detail of its location which he specifies along with the length of time of the journey. For he claims that Ulysses sailed for one night and came to the place where he completed these sacrifices. For this reason it is abundantly clear that he doesn’t mean the ocean but Campania.”
sine gaudio autem ideo ille dicitur locus, quod necromantia vel sciomantia, ut dicunt, non nisi ibi poterat fieri: quae sine hominis occisione non fiebant; nam et Aeneas illic occiso Miseno sacra ista conplevit et Vlixes occiso Elpenore. quamquam fingatur in extrema Oceani parte Vlixes fuisse: quod et ipse Homerus falsum esse ostendit ex qualitate locorum, quae commemorat, et ex tempore navigationis; dicit enim eum a Circe unam noctem navigasse et ad locum venisse, in quo haec sacra perfecit: quod de Oceano non procedit, de Campania manifestissimum est.
The relevant passages from the Odyssey don’t give any hint that Elpenor was intentionally killed for black magic. When Odysseus actually does summon the dead, now that gets a little dark.
“I could not even lead my companions unharmed from there.
The youngest of my companions was a certain Elpênor,
He was neither especially brave in battle or composed in his thoughts.
He separated himself from the companions in Kirkê’s holy home
Because he needed some air; then he fell asleep because he was drunk.
When he heard the noise and trouble of our companions moving out,
He got up immediately and it completely escaped his thoughts
To climb down again by the long ladder—
So he fell straight from the roof and his neck
Shattered along his spine; then his spirit flew down to Hades.”
Nekuomanteia, glossed by Hesychius as nekromanteia (i.e. “necromancy”) is an alternate name for the Nekyuia, the parade of the dead in book 11 of the Odyssey. From the Greek Anthology: ᾿Εν τῷ Η ἡ τοῦ ᾿Οδυσσέως νεκυομαντεία· (3.8); Scholia to the Odyssey, Hypotheses: Λ. Νεκυομαντεία, ἢ, Νεκυία. Cf. Eustathius, Comm. Ad Od. 1.396.10
”There’s no way from oak or stone to sweet-talk him” to describe ridiculous ancient sayings: it is either from the generation of humans who were in the mountains, or it is because early people said they were ash-born or from the stones of Deukalion. Or it is about providing oracles, since Dodona is an oak and Pytho was a stone. Or it means to speak uselessly, coming from the leaves around trees and the waves around stones. Or it is not possible for him to describe the beginning of the human race.”
“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.)
“And then [Menelaos] was intending to give Adrastus
To an attendant to take back to the Achaeans’ swift ships
But Agamemnon came rushing in front of him and spoke commandingly
“Oh my fool Menelaos, why do you care so much about people?
Did your house suffer the best treatment by the Trojans?
Let none of them flee dread death at our hands,
Not even a mother who carries in her womb
a child that will be a boy, let not one flee, but instead
Let everyone at Troy perish, unwept and unseen.”
The hero spoke like this and changed his brother’s mind,
Since he advised properly…
Schol, bT ad Il 6.58-59 ex [from the Erbse edition]
“these words are hateful and ill-fit to a noble manner. For they indicate a savageness of spirit and any human audience member will hate the excess bitterness and inhumanity. This is why tragedians hide people who do these kinds of things on stage and signal what was done either through the sound of some voices or through messengers later, for no other reason than they might be hated for what was done”
“They report that Gaia, annoyed over the murder of the giants, slandered Zeus to Hera and that she went to speak out to Kronos. He gave her two eggs and he rubbed them down with his own semen and ordered her to put them down in the ground from where a spirit would arise who would rebel against Zeus from the beginning. She did this because she was really angry and set them down below Arimos in Kilikia.
But when Typhoeus appeared Hera relented and told Zeus everything. He struck him down with lightning and named him Mt. Aetna. This report works well for us not to have an issue that this is the Homeric Account. He names the grave a resting place euphemistically.”