The Home as a Microcosm of the State: Seneca on Slavery

Earlier we posted a passage from Macrobius which generalizes about slavery. As a friend on Facebook notes, Macrobius draws heavily on Seneca

Seneca Moral Epistle 47.13–14

“Live mercifully with your slave, even in a friendly way. Invite him to a conversation, to share your plans and to live with you. At this suggestion the whole band of elites will shout at me: “Nothing is baser or fouler than this”. These very same men I often catch kissing on the hands of other men’s slaves.

Don’t you see this, at least, how our forebears tried to erase everything insidious and every kind of insult from slaveholding? They called the master a “father of the family” and slaves “family members”, a fact that endures today in mimes. They started a festival day one which it was custom and obligation for masters to eat with their servants. They also permitted slaves to earn honors in the home and to pronounce judgments so that the home was a microcosm of the state.”

Vive cum servo clementer, comiter quoque, et in sermonem illum admitte et in consilium et in convictum. Hoc loco adclamabit mihi tota manus delicatorum: “Nihil hac re humilius, nihil turpius.” Hos ego eosdem deprehendam alienorum servorum osculantes manum. Ne illud quidem videtis, quam omnem invidiam maiores nostri dominis, omnem contumeliam servis detraxerint? Dominum patrem familiae appellaverunt, servos, quod etiam in mimis adhuc durat, familiares. Instituerunt diem festum, non quo solo cum servis domini vescerentur, sed quo utique; honores illis in domo gerere, ius dicere permiserunt et domum pusillam rem publicam esse iudicaverunt.

Just before this passage, he writes to try to encourage people to treat slaves better. Unfortunately, Seneca seems to accept slavery as a condition of human life. This is part of the point of Macrobius’ post too, that we are all ‘slaves’ to something and therefore never truly free. Yet this certainly overlooks the very real difference in agency and liberty between those who are ‘slaves’ to desire and those who are literally enslaved to another human being (or to a state). 

Seneca, Moral Epistles 47.10-12

“Please remember that the person you call your slave rose from the same seeds, enjoys the same sky and equally breathes, lives and dies! You could see him just as much as a free man as a slave. Because of the slaughter in the time of Marius, fortune struck down many born to high station, taking the trail to the senate through the army—one of these it made a shepherd, another an overseer of a cottage. Despise now the fortune of a person whose place you may take even as you look down on them!

I don’t want to get involved in a big controversy and argue about the treatment of slaves toward whom we are most arrogant, cruel, and offensive. But this is the sum of my guidance: deal with your inferior the way you wish your superior would deal with you. However many times it pops in your mind to consider how much is right for you regarding your slave, let it also occur that this is permitted to your master regarding you. “But I have no master” you say. Your age is still good. Don’t you know how old Hecuba was when she began to serve, or Croesus, or Darius’ mother, or Plato and Diogenes?”

Vis tu cogitare istum, quem servum tuum vocas, ex isdem seminibus ortum eodem frui caelo, aeque spirare, aeque vivere, aeque mori! tam tu illum videre ingenuum potes quam ille te servum. Mariana clade multos splendidissime natos, senatorium per militiam auspicantes gradum, fortuna depressit, alium ex illis pastorem, alium custodem casae fecit; contemne nunc eius fortunae hominem, in quam transire, dum contemnis, potes.

Nolo in ingentem me locum inmittere et de usu servorum disputare, in quos superbissimi, crudelissimi, contumeliosissimi sumus. Haec tamen praecepti mei summa est: sic cum inferiore vivas, quemadmodum tecum superiorem velis vivere. Quotiens in mentem venerit, quantum tibi in servum liceat, veniat in mentem tantundem in te domino tuo licere. “At ego,” inquis, “nullum habeo dominum.” Bona aetas est; forsitan habebis. Nescis, qua aetate Hecuba servire coeperit, qua Croesus, qua Darei mater, qua Platon, qua Diogenes?

Image result for medieval manuscript slavery
Image from Wikipedia Commons but found here

Eumaios, Master Singer?

In book 15, Eumaios tells the story of his abduction as a child. Two scholia take issue with how he knows such detail and retained it long enough to tell Odysseus.

Schol. BHQ ad Od. 15.417 ex

“Perhaps the Phoenicians told these things to Laertes because they wanted to argue that [Eumaios] was worth a lot. For it is not possible that an infant would know the truth of how he was abducted.”

ταῦτα δὲ οἱ Φοίνικες ἴσως Λαέρτῃ διηγήσαντο πολλοῦ ἄξιον αὐτὸν ὑποφαίνοντες, Λαέρτης δὲ Εὐμαίῳ διηγήσατο. οὐ γὰρ οἷόν τε εἰδέναιτὸ ἀληθὲς νήπιον ἡρπασμένον.

Schol. V ad Od. 15.484

“He probably heard this from Laertes who was informed by the Phaecians”

οὕτω τήνδε γαῖαν ἐγὼν ἴδον] εἰκὸς αὐτὸν ἀκηκοέναι παρὰτοῦ Λαέρτου, ᾧ διηγήσαντο οἱ Φοίνικες. V.

Although Odysseus has recently–and frequently–told similarly long and detailed stories, the scholia do not suspect them because they think Odysseus is lying. But Eumaios, who speaks mimetically, vividly and effectively, is doubted for his power of memory.

Homer, Odyssey 15.389–484

Then the swineherd, marshal of men, responded:

“Friend, since you have asked me and inquired truly of these things,
Listen now in silence and take some pleasure and drink your wine
While you sit there. These nights are endless. There is time for sleep
And there is time to take pleasure in listening. It is not at all necessary
For you to sleep before it is time. Even a lot of sleep can be a burden.
Let whoever of the rest the heart and spirit moves
Go out and sleep. For as soon as the down shows itself
Let him eat and follow the master’s swine.
As we two drink and dine in this shelter
Let us take pleasure as we recall one another’s terrible pains.
For a man finds pleasure even in pains later on
After he has suffered so very many and survived many too.
I will tell you this because you asked me and inquired.

There is an island called Suriê, if you have heard of it,
Above Ortygia, where the rays of the sun rise.
It is not too filled, but it is a good place
Well stocked with cows, sheep, with much wine and grain too.
Poverty never curses the people there, nor does any other
Hateful sickness fall upon the wretched mortals,
But when the race of humans grow old in the city
Apollo silverbow comes with Artemis
And kills them with his gentle arrows.
There are two cities there and everything is divided between them.
My father used to rule both of them as king
Ktêsios the son of Ormenos, a man equal to the immortal gods.
The ship-famous Phaeacians used to to frequent there
Pirates, bringing countless treasures in their black ships.
There was a Phoenician woman in my father’s house
Beautiful and broad and skilled in wondrous works.
The devious Phoenicians were corrupting her.
First, one of them joined her for sex while she was washing clothes
Near the swift ship—these things mix up the thoughts
For the female sex even when one of them is work-focused.
He then asked her who she was and where she was from
And she immediately told him about the high-roofed home of my father.
“I claim to be from Sidon of much-bronze,
And I am the daughter of Arubas, a wealthy man.
Taphian pirates kidnapped me one day
As I was returned from the country, and they forced me to come here
To the house of this man. And he paid a great price.”
The man who had sex with her in secret responded,

“Would you want to go back home again now with us
So that you might see the high-roofed home of you father and mother
And them too? For they are still there and are reputedly wealthy.”
And the woman then answered him in turn,

“I wish that this would happen, if you would be willing, sailors,
To swear an oath to take me home unharmed.”

So she said, and all of them swore an oath as she requested.
And once they swore and completed the oath,
The woman spoke among them again and answered with a plan.

“Be quiet now. Don’t let anyone address me with words
Should any one of your companions happen to meet me
In the street or near the stream so that no one might go to the house
And speak to the old man who might suspect something and bind me
In strong bonds. But plan for this destruction yourselves.
Keep this plan in your thoughts and earn the pay for your travels.
But whenever the ship is indeed full of its material,
Let a message come to me swiftly in the house.
And I will bring gold, as much as is ready-to-hand,
And I will add another passage-fee which I may wish to give.
For I care for the child of this nobleman in his home.
This child is clever indeed, and he is always following me outside.
I would bring him to the ship because he will earn for you
A great price when you take him to some foreign people.”

So she spoke and then left to the beautiful home.
They remained there among us for the rest of the year
As they sold the martial in their cavernous ship.
But when the hollow ship was packed up to leave,
They sent a messenger who informed the woman.
A very clever man came to the house of my father
Bringing a golden necklace worked out with amber bits.
The slave-women in the hall and my mistress mother went
To touch the necklace with their hands and see it with their eyes
As they discussed the price. He nodded to her in silence.
And once he nodded he returned to the hollow ship.
And she took my hand and led me from the house outside.
In the front part of the house she found cups and platters
From the men who dine there and attend my father.
They went to the council place and the opinion of the people,
So she quickly hind three tankards under her bosom
And left. And I followed without a care in my mind.
The sun set and all the roads were in shadows.
We went to the famous harbor in a hurry,
And there was the salt-swift ship of the Phoenician men.
They disembarked then and went sailing over the watery ways,
After they put the two of us on board. And Zeus sent a favorable wind.

We were sailing for six nights and days.
But when Kronos’ son Zeus brought the seventh day
Artemis the archer killed that woman
And she thudded into the cargo hold like a diving sea gull.
And they threw her out to be food for the seals and fish.
But I remained still, filled with pain in my heart.
The wind and the water carried them to Ithaca
Where Laertes purchased me among his possessions.
Thus I saw this land here with my own eyes.”

τὸν δ’ αὖτε προσέειπε συβώτης, ὄρχαμος ἀνδρῶν·
“ξεῖν’, ἐπεὶ ἂρ δὴ ταῦτά μ’ ἀνείρεαι ἠδὲ μεταλλᾷς,
σιγῇ νῦν ξυνίει καὶ τέρπεο πῖνέ τε οἶνον,
ἥμενος. αἵδε δὲ νύκτες ἀθέσφατοι· ἔστι μὲν εὕδειν,
ἔστι δὲ τερπομένοισιν ἀκουέμεν· οὐδέ τί σε χρή,
πρὶν ὥρη, καταλέχθαι· ἀνίη καὶ πολὺς ὕπνος.
τῶν δ’ ἄλλων ὅτινα κραδίη καὶ θυμὸς ἀνώγει,
εὑδέτω ἐξελθών· ἅμα δ’ ἠόϊ φαινομένηφι
δειπνήσας ἅμ’ ὕεσσιν ἀνακτορίῃσιν ἑπέσθω.
νῶϊ δ’ ἐνὶ κλισίῃ πίνοντέ τε δαινυμένω τε
κήδεσιν ἀλλήλων τερπώμεθα λευγαλέοισι
μνωομένω· μετὰ γάρ τε καὶ ἄλγεσι τέρπεται ἀνήρ,
ὅς τις δὴ μάλα πολλὰ πάθῃ καὶ πόλλ’ ἐπαληθῇ.
τοῦτο δέ τοι ἐρέω, ὅ μ’ ἀνείρεαι ἠδὲ μεταλλᾷς.
νῆσός τις Συρίη κικλήσκεται, εἴ που ἀκούεις,
᾿Ορτυγίης καθύπερθεν, ὅθι τροπαὶ ἠελίοιο,
οὔ τι περιπληθὴς λίην τόσον, ἀλλ’ ἀγαθὴ μέν,
εὔβοος εὔμηλος, οἰνοπληθὴς πολύπυρος.
πείνη δ’ οὔ ποτε δῆμον ἐσέρχεται, οὐδέ τις ἄλλη
νοῦσος ἐπὶ στυγερὴ πέλεται δειλοῖσι βροτοῖσιν·
ἀλλ’ ὅτε γηράσκωσι πόλιν κάτα φῦλ’ ἀνθρώπων,
ἐλθὼν ἀργυρότοξος ᾿Απόλλων ᾿Αρτέμιδι ξύν,
οἷσ’ ἀγανοῖσι βέλεσσιν ἐποιχόμενος κατέπεφνεν.
ἔνθα δύω πόλιες, δίχα δέ σφισι πάντα δέδασται·
τῇσιν δ’ ἀμφοτέρῃσι πατὴρ ἐμὸς ἐμβασίλευε,
Κτήσιος ᾿Ορμενίδης, ἐπιείκελος ἀθανάτοισιν.
ἔνθα δὲ Φοίνικες ναυσικλυτοὶ ἤλυθον ἄνδρες,
τρῶκται, μυρί’ ἄγοντες ἀθύρματα νηῒ μελαίνῃ.
ἔσκε δὲ πατρὸς ἐμοῖο γυνὴ Φοίνισσ’ ἐνὶ οἴκῳ,
καλή τε μεγάλη τε καὶ ἀγλαὰ ἔργα ἰδυῖα·
τὴν δ’ ἄρα Φοίνικες πολυπαίπαλοι ἠπερόπευον.
πλυνούσῃ τις πρῶτα μίγη κοίλῃ παρὰ νηῒ
εὐνῇ καὶ φιλότητι, τά τε φρένας ἠπεροπεύει
θηλυτέρῃσι γυναιξί, καὶ ἥ κ’ εὐεργὸς ἔῃσιν.
εἰρώτα δὴ ἔπειτα, τίς εἴη καὶ πόθεν ἔλθοι·
ἡ δὲ μάλ’ αὐτίκα πατρὸς ἐπέφραδεν ὑψερεφὲς δῶ·
‘ἐκ μὲν Σιδῶνος πολυχάλκου εὔχομαι εἶναι,
κούρη δ’ εἴμ’ ᾿Αρύβαντος ἐγὼ ῥυδὸν ἀφνειοῖο·
ἀλλά μ’ ἀνήρπαξαν Τάφιοι ληΐστορες ἄνδρες
ἀγρόθεν ἐρχομένην, πέρασαν δέ με δεῦρ’ ἀγαγόντες
τοῦδ’ ἀνδρὸς πρὸς δώμαθ’· ὁ δ’ ἄξιον ὦνον ἔδωκε.’
τὴν δ’ αὖτε προσέειπεν ἀνήρ, ὃς μίσγετο λάθρῃ·
‘ἦ ῥά κε νῦν πάλιν αὖτις ἅμ’ ἡμῖν οἴκαδ’ ἕποιο,
ὄφρα ἴδῃ πατρὸς καὶ μητέρος ὑψερεφὲς δῶ
αὐτούς τ’; ἦ γὰρ ἔτ’ εἰσὶ καὶ ἀφνειοὶ καλέονται.’
τὸν δ’ αὖτε προσέειπε γυνὴ καὶ ἀμείβετο μύθῳ·
‘εἴη κεν καὶ τοῦτ’, εἴ μοι ἐθέλοιτέ γε, ναῦται,
ὅρκῳ πιστωθῆναι ἀπήμονά μ’ οἴκαδ’ ἀπάξειν.’
ὣς ἔφαθ’, οἱ δ’ ἄρα πάντες ἐπώμνυον, ὡς ἐκέλευεν.
αὐτὰρ ἐπεί ῥ’ ὄμοσάν τε τελεύτησάν τε τὸν ὅρκον,
τοῖς δ’ αὖτις μετέειπε γυνὴ καὶ ἀμείβετο μύθῳ·
‘σιγῇ νῦν· μή τίς με προσαυδάτω ἐπέεσσιν
ὑμετέρων ἑτάρων ξυμβλήμενος ἢ ἐν ἀγυιῇ
ἤ που ἐπὶ κρήνῃ· μή τις ποτὶ δῶμα γέροντι
ἐλθὼν ἐξείπῃ, ὁ δ’ ὀϊσάμενος καταδήσῃ
δεσμῷ ἐν ἀργαλέῳ, ὑμῖν δ’ ἐπιφράσσετ’ ὄλεθρον.
ἀλλ’ ἔχετ’ ἐν φρεσὶ μῦθον, ἐπείγετε δ’ ὦνον ὁδαίων.
ἀλλ’ ὅτε κεν δὴ νηῦς πλείη βιότοιο γένηται,
ἀγγελίη μοι ἔπειτα θοῶς πρὸς δώμαθ’ ἱκέσθω·
οἴσω γὰρ καὶ χρυσόν, ὅτις χ’ ὑποχείριος ἔλθῃ.
καὶ δέ κεν ἄλλ’ ἐπίβαθρον ἐγὼν ἐθέλουσά γε δοίην·
παῖδα γὰρ ἀνδρὸς ἐῆος ἐνὶ μεγάροισ’ ἀτιτάλλω,
κερδαλέον δὴ τοῖον, ἅμα τροχόωντα θύραζε·
τόν κεν ἄγοιμ’ ἐπὶ νηός, ὁ δ’ ὕμιν μυρίον ὦνον
ἄλφοι, ὅπῃ περάσητε κατ’ ἀλλοθρόους ἀνθρώπους.’
ἡ μὲν ἄρ’ ὣς εἰποῦσ’ ἀπέβη πρὸς δώματα καλά·
οἱ δ’ ἐνιαυτὸν ἅπαντα παρ’ ἡμῖν αὖθι μένοντες
ἐν νηῒ γλαφυρῇ βίοτον πολὺν ἐμπολόωντο.
ἀλλ’ ὅτε δὴ κοίλη νηῦς ἤχθετο τοῖσι νέεσθαι,
καὶ τότ’ ἄρ’ ἄγγελον ἧκαν, ὃς ἀγγείλειε γυναικί.
ἤλυθ’ ἀνὴρ πολύϊδρις ἐμοῦ πρὸς δώματα πατρὸς
χρύσεον ὅρμον ἔχων, μετὰ δ’ ἠλέκτροισιν ἔερτο.
τὸν μὲν ἄρ’ ἐν μεγάρῳ δμῳαὶ καὶ πότνια μήτηρ
χερσίν τ’ ἀμφαφόωντο καὶ ὀφθαλμοῖσιν ὁρῶντο,
ὦνον ὑπισχόμεναι· ὁ δὲ τῇ κατένευσε σιωπῇ.
ἦ τοι ὁ καννεύσας κοίλην ἐπὶ νῆα βεβήκει,
ἡ δ’ ἐμὲ χειρὸς ἑλοῦσα δόμων ἐξῆγε θύραζε.
εὗρε δ’ ἐνὶ προδόμῳ ἠμὲν δέπα ἠδὲ τραπέζας
ἀνδρῶν δαιτυμόνων, οἵ μευ πατέρ’ ἀμφεπένοντο.
οἱ μὲν ἄρ’ ἐς θῶκον πρόμολον δήμοιό τε φῆμιν,
ἡ δ’ αἶψα τρί’ ἄλεισα κατακρύψασ’ ὑπὸ κόλπῳ
ἔκφερεν· αὐτὰρ ἐγὼν ἑπόμην ἀεσιφροσύνῃσι.
δύσετό τ’ ἠέλιος σκιόωντό τε πᾶσαι ἀγυιαί·
ἡμεῖς δ’ ἐς λιμένα κλυτὸν ἤλθομεν ὦκα κιόντες,
ἔνθ’ ἄρα Φοινίκων ἀνδρῶν ἦν ὠκύαλος νηῦς.
οἱ μὲν ἔπειτ’ ἀναβάντες ἐπέπλεον ὑγρὰ κέλευθα,
νὼ ἀναβησάμενοι· ἐπὶ δὲ Ζεὺς οὖρον ἴαλλεν.
ἑξῆμαρ μὲν ὁμῶς πλέομεν νύκτας τε καὶ ἦμαρ·
ἀλλ’ ὅτε δὴ ἕβδομον ἦμαρ ἐπὶ Ζεὺς θῆκε Κρονίων,
τὴν μὲν ἔπειτα γυναῖκα βάλ’ ῎Αρτεμις ἰοχέαιρα,
ἄντλῳ δ’ ἐνδούπησε πεσοῦσ’ ὡς εἰναλίη κήξ.
καὶ τὴν μὲν φώκῃσι καὶ ἰχθύσι κύρμα γενέσθαι
ἔκβαλον· αὐτὰρ ἐγὼ λιπόμην ἀκαχήμενος ἦτορ.
τοὺς δ’ ᾿Ιθάκῃ ἐπέλασσε φέρων ἄνεμός τε καὶ ὕδωρ,
ἔνθα με Λαέρτης πρίατο κτεάτεσσιν ἑοῖσιν.
οὕτω τήνδε τε γαῖαν ἐγὼν ἴδον ὀφθαλμοῖσι.”

Here is a scholion for the way Eumaios begins.

Schol. BQ ad Od. 15.399 ex

“Let us take pleasure in one another’s pains”—for a person among afflictions delights in terrible narratives and in hearing another person tell his own troubles.”

κήδεσιν ἀλλήλων τερπώμεθα] καὶ ἐν ταῖς δειναῖς διηγήσεσι τέρπεται ἀνὴρ ὢν ἐν θλίψεσι καὶ ἀκούων ἑτέρου λέγοντος τὰ ἑαυτοῦ ἄλγεα. B.Q.

Image result for medieval manuscript bard singing
From Cantigas de Santa Maria

What’s a Slave’s Life Worth?

The Odyssey follows the slaughter of the suitors with the mutilation and murder of slaves: the torture of the goatherd Melanthios (Od. 22.474–477) and the hanging of twelve slave women (Od. 22.463–73). But it also considers the death of the older slave Eurykleia on multiple occasions. We first hear about her in book 1:

Homer, Odyssey 1.428-433

“And with him Eurykleia carried the burning torches.
She knew proper things, the daughter of Ops, the son of Peisênor
whom Laertes bought to be among his possessions
when she was just a girl and he paid a price worth 20 oxen.
And he used to honor her equal to his dear wife in his home
but he never had sex with her and he was avoiding his wife’s anger.”

τῷ δ’ ἄρ’ ἅμ’ αἰθομένας δαΐδας φέρε κεδνὰ ἰδυῖα
Εὐρύκλει’, ῏Ωπος θυγάτηρ Πεισηνορίδαο,
τήν ποτε Λαέρτης πρίατο κτεάτεσσιν ἑοῖσι,
πρωθήβην ἔτ’ ἐοῦσαν, ἐεικοσάβοια δ’ ἔδωκεν,
ἶσα δέ μιν κεδνῇ ἀλόχῳ τίεν ἐν μεγάροισιν,
εὐνῇ δ’ οὔ ποτ’ ἔμικτο, χόλον δ’ ἀλέεινε γυναικός·

So, it seems, Eurykleia’s life is ‘dear’—in the archaic English meaning of having a high price—since she was worth so many oxen and Laertes honored her equal to his wife without having sex with her. Despite so high a price—or perhaps because of it—her life is risked several times in the epic. The moment that has always stuck with me comes from the famous recognition of the scar scene. While this scene has garnered a lot of attention for the way the scar triggers a story and communicates Odysseus’ identity, there have been relatively few comments about the violence imminent in the scene.

Homer, Odyssey 19.466-490

“The old woman, as she took it in the flat part of her hands,
recognized the scar as she felt it, and she dropped the foot.
His shin fell onto the basin and the bronze clanged,
then it tilted to one side and water sloshed out onto the ground.
Joy and pain overtook her mind at once and
both of her eyes filled with tears as her strong voice got stuck inside.
She touched his beard and then addressed Odysseus.
“You really are Odysseus, dear child.
I did not recognize you before, before I examined my lord all over.”

And then she would have gotten Penelope’s attention too
with her eyes because she wanted to tell her
that her dear husband was here.
But she was not able to turn or to notice anything
because Athena had turned her mind elsewhere.
But Odysseus closed his hand on her throat with his right hand
and with his left hand he drew her close and said,

“Auntie, why do you want to ruin me?
You fed me yourself on your own breast.
Now after suffering many pains I have returned
in the twentieth year to my fatherland.
But since you have recognized me and a god put it in your mind
be silent lest anyone else in the home learn it.
For I will speak this out and it will be completed,
If the god subdues the haughty suitors under me
I will not leave you even though you were my nurse,
when I kill all the other slave women in my home.”

τὴν γρηῦς χείρεσσι καταπρηνέσσι λαβοῦσα
γνῶ ῥ’ ἐπιμασσαμένη, πόδα δὲ προέηκε φέρεσθαι·
ἐν δὲ λέβητι πέσε κνήμη, κανάχησε δὲ χαλκός,
ἂψ δ’ ἑτέρωσ’ ἐκλίθη· τὸ δ’ ἐπὶ χθονὸς ἐξέχυθ’ ὕδωρ.
τὴν δ’ ἅμα χάρμα καὶ ἄλγος ἕλε φρένα, τὼ δέ οἱ ὄσσε
δακρυόφιν πλῆσθεν, θαλερὴ δέ οἱ ἔσχετο φωνή.
ἁψαμένη δὲ γενείου ᾿Οδυσσῆα προσέειπεν·
“ἦ μάλ’ ᾿Οδυσσεύς ἐσσι, φίλον τέκος· οὐδέ σ’ ἐγώ γε
πρὶν ἔγνων, πρὶν πάντα ἄνακτ’ ἐμὸν ἀμφαφάασθαι.”
ἦ, καὶ Πηνελόπειαν ἐσέδρακεν ὀφθαλμοῖσι,
πεφραδέειν ἐθέλουσα φίλον πόσιν ἔνδον ἐόντα.
ἡ δ’ οὔτ’ ἀθρῆσαι δύνατ’ ἀντίη οὔτε νοῆσαι·
τῇ γὰρ ᾿Αθηναίη νόον ἔτραπεν. αὐτὰρ ᾿Οδυσσεὺς
χείρ’ ἐπιμασσάμενος φάρυγος λάβε δεξιτερῆφι,
τῇ δ’ ἑτέρῃ ἕθεν ἄσσον ἐρύσσατο φώνησέν τε·
“μαῖα, τίη μ’ ἐθέλεις ὀλέσαι; σὺ δέ μ’ ἔτρεφες αὐτὴ
τῷ σῷ ἐπὶ μαζῷ· νῦν δ’ ἄλγεα πολλὰ μογήσας
ἤλυθον εἰκοστῷ ἔτεϊ ἐς πατρίδα γαῖαν.
ἀλλ’ ἐπεὶ ἐφράσθης καί τοι θεὸς ἔμβαλε θυμῷ,
σίγα, μή τίς τ’ ἄλλος ἐνὶ μεγάροισι πύθηται.
ὧδε γὰρ ἐξερέω, καὶ μὴν τετελεσμένον ἔσται·
εἴ χ’ ὑπ’ ἐμοί γε θεὸς δαμάσῃ μνηστῆρας ἀγαυούς,
οὐδὲ τροφοῦ οὔσης σεῦ ἀφέξομαι, ὁππότ’ ἂν ἄλλας
δμῳὰς ἐν μεγάροισιν ἐμοῖς κτείνωμι γυναῖκας.”

This theme is internalized later when Eurykleia threatens her own life.When she tries to tell Penelope in book 23 that Odysseus is actually present, she offers to wager her life on the truth of the statement when Penelope doubts her.

Homer, Odyssey 23.75-79

“…I wanted to tell you myself
but he took me with his hands at my throat
and would not allow me to speak thanks to the cleverness of his mind.
So, follow me. But I will wager myself over this to you:
If I have deceived you, kill me with the most pitiful death”

….ἔθελον δὲ σοὶ αὐτῇ
εἰπέμεν· ἀλλά με κεῖνος ἑλὼν ἐπὶ μάστακα χερσὶν
οὐκ εἴα εἰπεῖν πολυκερδείῃσι νόοιο.
ἀλλ’ ἕπευ· αὐτὰρ ἐγὼν ἐμέθεν περιδώσομαι αὐτῆς,
αἴ κέν σ’ ἐξαπάφω, κτεῖναί μ’ οἰκτίστῳ ὀλέθρῳ.”

For me, Eurykleia’s willingness to wager her life is indication of an internalized oppression created by the experience of slavery. But the specific value of her initial price is interesting too. This probably complicates matters, but there is little in the Homeric poems set at a worth of 20 oxen. The price comes up again during the slaughter of the suitors. Eurymachus tries to offer Odysseus recompense and sets the price for each suitor at 20 oxen (in addition to payment for all the food and drink).

Homer, Odyssey 21.54–59

“But now, even though it is ordained by fate, spare your people.
And in exchange we will gather about the land as payment
As much as was drunk up and eaten in your halls,
And each man will bring a payment worth twenty oxen,
Which we will pay in bronze and gold, until your heart
Softens—before this, there is no blame for being angry.”

νῦν δ’ ὁ μὲν ἐν μοίρῃ πέφαται, σὺ δὲ φείδεο λαῶν
σῶν· ἀτὰρ ἄμμες ὄπισθεν ἀρεσσάμενοι κατὰ δῆμον,
ὅσσα τοι ἐκπέποται καὶ ἐδήδοται ἐν μεγάροισι,
τιμὴν ἀμφὶς ἄγοντες ἐεικοσάβοιον ἕκαστος,
χαλκόν τε χρυσόν τ’ ἀποδώσομεν, εἰς ὅ κε σὸν κῆρ
ἰανθῇ· πρὶν δ’ οὔ τι νεμεσσητὸν κεχολῶσθαι.”

Post-script: An average ox seems to cost around $3000.00 right now. So, in modern ox-dollars, Eurykleia was valued at $60,000. This seems a little off to me. According to Beef Magazine (which is a real thing) a good bull on average can run more like $7500, placing Eurykleia at $150,000. I do not print any of this to make light of the selling of human beings (because, when we leave the abstract, this is all really horrifying), but instead, rather, to give a really relative view of what her–and the suitors–economic value might be in today’s terms. The range is basically luxury car to cheap apartment. This is, alternatively, the price acceptable for a good slave, but not worth the life of an offending suitor. In both cases the economic equivalence for any human life is, to put it simply, dehumanizing.

Image result for ancient greek vase cow sacrifice
Me, times 20.

F*** Off Friday: Hipponax’s Curse for a Former Friend

Hipponax fr. 115 (P. Argent. 3 fr. 1.16, ed. Reitzenstein)

“Once he is struck by the wave,
And [comes] naked to a kind reception at Salmydessos
Where the top-knotted Thracians
Grab him—where he will suffer many evils
Eating the bread of slavery
He will shiver struck by the cold. When he emerges from the foam
May he puke up much seaweed
And let his teeth chatter, as he lies on his face
Like a dog in his weakness
At the farthest end of the sea…
I want him to see all of these things
Because he wronged me and broke his oath,
Even though he was once my friend before.”

κύμ[ατι] πλα[ζόμ]ενος̣·
κἀν Σαλμυδ[ησσ]ῶ̣ι̣ γυμνὸν εὐφρονε̣.[
Θρήϊκες ἀκρό[κ]ομοι
λάβοιεν—ἔνθα πόλλ’ ἀναπλήσαι κακὰ
δούλιον ἄρτον ἔδων—
ῥίγει πεπηγότ’ αὐτόν· ἐκ δὲ τοῦ χνόου
φυκία πόλλ’ ἐπέ̣χοι,
κροτέοι δ’ ὀδόντας, ὡς [κ]ύ̣ων ἐπὶ στόμα
κείμενος ἀκρασίηι
ἄκρον παρὰ ῥηγμῖνα κυμα….δ̣ο̣υ̣·
ταῦτ’ ἐθέλοιμ’ ἂ̣ν ἰδεῖ̣ν,
ὅς μ’ ἠδίκησε, λ̣[ὰ]ξ δ’ ἐπ’ ὁρκίοις ἔβη,
τὸ πρὶν ἑταῖρος [ἐ]ών.

I have placed in bold just a few of the fragments that remind me of Odyssean language. Although the phrase δούλιον ἄρτον does not appear in Homer, it does recall for me the phrase “day of slavery” (δούλιον ἦμαρ).

Image result for ancient greek curse
A curse tablet featuring Hekate from the Museo Archeologico Civico di Bologna

 

The Weakest Slave: The Millwoman’s Sorrowful Sign

In this often overlooked scene we find an unnamed slave at the end of a long night’s work. 

Odyssey 20.97-120

[Odysseus] carried it outside and then prayed
while raising his hands to Zeus,
“Zeus, father, if you have willingly led me
over the soil and swell to this land,
after you have made me a much lesser man,
let someone of those gathered within utter my fame
and let some other sign of Zeus appear without.”

So he spoke while praying and Zeus the advisor was listening to him.
He immediately thundered from shining Olympus
high above from the clouds. And brilliant Odysseus smiled.
A woman from the house near the mill released a sound [phêmê]
where the twelve mills were set for the shepherd of the host.
There were twelve women working there
regularly working the barley and the wheat, men’s marrow.
The others were sleeping, since they had finished grinding their grain.
But she alone was not yet stopping, since she was the weakest of all.
But then she stopped her mill and spoke, a sign for her master.

“Zeus, father, you who rule over the gods and people,
how you have thundered from the starry sky
where there is no cloud! In this you show your sign.
Now grant to wretched me this word which I speak:
may this be the last and final day on which the suitors
take their lovely feast in the halls of Odysseus.
These men wear the knees of tired, heart-pained me
as I make their meal. Let them dine now for the last.”

So she spoke and Odysseus took pleasure in the speech and the thunder. For he was thinking that he would pay the guilty back.”

θῆκε θύραζε φέρων, Διὶ δ’ εὔξατο χεῖρας ἀνασχών·
“Ζεῦ πάτερ, εἴ μ’ ἐθέλοντες ἐπὶ τραφερήν τε καὶ ὑγρὴν
ἤγετ’ ἐμὴν ἐς γαῖαν, ἐπεί μ’ ἐκακώσατε λίην,
φήμην τίς μοι φάσθω ἐγειρομένων ἀνθρώπων
ἔνδοθεν, ἔκτοσθεν δὲ Διὸς τέρας ἄλλο φανήτω.”
ὣς ἔφατ’ εὐχόμενος· τοῦ δ’ ἔκλυε μητίετα Ζεύς,
αὐτίκα δ’ ἐβρόντησεν ἀπ’ αἰγλήεντος ᾿Ολύμπου,
ὑψόθεν ἐκ νεφέων· γήθησε δὲ δῖος ᾿Οδυσσεύς.
φήμην δ’ ἐξ οἴκοιο γυνὴ προέηκεν ἀλετρὶς
πλησίον, ἔνθ’ ἄρα οἱ μύλαι εἵατο ποιμένι λαῶν.
τῇσιν δώδεκα πᾶσαι ἐπερρώοντο γυναῖκες
ἄλφιτα τεύχουσαι καὶ ἀλείατα, μυελὸν ἀνδρῶν·
αἱ μὲν ἄρ’ ἄλλαι εὗδον, ἐπεὶ κατὰ πυρὸν ἄλεσσαν,
ἡ δὲ μί’ οὔ πω παύετ’, ἀφαυροτάτη δὲ τέτυκτο·
ἥ ῥα μύλην στήσασα ἔπος φάτο, σῆμα ἄνακτι·
“Ζεῦ πάτερ, ὅς τε θεοῖσι καὶ ἀνθρώποισιν ἀνάσσεις,
ἦ μεγάλ’ ἐβρόντησας ἀπ’ οὐρανοῦ ἀστερόεντος,
οὐδέ ποθι νέφος ἐστί· τέρας νύ τεῳ τόδε φαίνεις.
κρῆνον νῦν καὶ ἐμοὶ δειλῇ ἔπος, ὅττι κεν εἴπω·
μνηστῆρες πύματόν τε καὶ ὕστατον ἤματι τῷδε
ἐν μεγάροισ’ ᾿Οδυσῆος ἑλοίατο δαῖτ’ ἐρατεινήν,
οἳ δή μοι καμάτῳ θυμαλγέϊ γούνατ’ ἔλυσαν
ἄλφιτα τευχούσῃ· νῦν ὕστατα δειπνήσειαν.”
ὣς ἄρ’ ἔφη, χαῖρεν δὲ κλεηδόνι δῖος ᾿Οδυσσεὺς
Ζηνός τε βροντῇ· φάτο γὰρ τείσασθαι ἀλείτας.
αἱ δ’ ἄλλαι δμῳαὶ κατὰ δώματα κάλ’ ᾿Οδυσῆος
ἐγρόμεναι ἀνέκαιον ἐπ’ ἐσχάρῃ ἀκάματον πῦρ.

This scene illustrates the extent to which minor characters exist and in fact suffer pointlessly for Odysseus’ benefit: we get the briefest glimpse into the life and suffering of one of the mill-working women in order to satisfy Odysseus’ own desire to hear that he is remembered.  For me, this scene is a metonym for the narrative’s use of marginalized peoples in the generic instrumentalization of another’s pain to satisfy Odysseus’ narrative ends.

Pottery: black-figured amphora showing a scene of olive-gathering. A naked youth seated in a tree shakes down olives with sticks. Two bearded figures beat the trees with sticks, and a naked youth collects the fallen olives in a basket. The other side show
A vase from the British Museum

Look How Much I Suffered! Odysseus Minimizes Slavery (And Eumaios’ Life Story)

Odyssey 15.494–485

Then god-born Odysseus responded to him with a speech:
“Eumaios, you have really raised the spirit in my thoughts
By saying each of these things, how much you suffered grief in you heart.
But Zeus has certainly added some good to your trouble
Since you came and have worked much in the home of a mild man,
Who provides food and drink rightly. You live a good life.
But I have come her after wandering through many cities of men”
So they spoke saying these kinds of things
And they stayed awake not much more, only a little.

τὸν δ’ αὖ διογενὴς ᾿Οδυσεὺς ἠμείβετο μύθῳ·
“Εὔμαι’, ἦ μάλα δή μοι ἐνὶ φρεσὶ θυμὸν ὄρινας
ταῦτα ἕκαστα λέγων, ὅσα δὴ πάθες ἄλγεα θυμῷ.
ἀλλ’ ἦ τοι σοὶ μὲν παρὰ καὶ κακῷ ἐσθλὸν ἔθηκε
Ζεύς, ἐπεὶ ἀνδρὸς δώματ’ ἀφίκεο πολλὰ μογήσας
ἠπίου, ὃς δή τοι παρέχει βρῶσίν τε πόσιν τε
ἐνδυκέως, ζώεις δ’ ἀγαθὸν βίον· αὐτὰρ ἐγώ γε
πολλὰ βροτῶν ἐπὶ ἄστε’ ἀλώμενος ἐνθάδ’ ἱκάνω.”
ὣς οἱ μὲν τοιαῦτα πρὸς ἀλλήλους ἀγόρευον,
καδδραθέτην δ’ οὐ πολλὸν ἐπὶ χρόνον, ἀλλὰ μίνυνθα·

Schol. HQ ad Od. 15.488

Q. “But Zeus did not give you only evil, but good too.
H. He added some good to your misfortune.

ἀλλ’ ἤτοι σοὶ] ἀλλὰ σοὶ μὲν ὁ Ζεὺς οὐ κακὸν μόνον παρέθηκεν, ἀλλὰ καὶ ἀγαθόν. Q. τῇ δυστυχίᾳ σου παρέθηκε τι ἀγαθόν. H.

This is the response Odysseus gives to Eumaios’ story of his enslavement as a child.

Eumaios’ Story: Odyssey, 15.389–484

Then the swineherd, marshal of men, responded:
“Friend, since you have asked me and inquired truly of these things,
Listen now in silence and take some pleasure and drink your wine
While you sit there. These nights are endless. There is time for sleep
And there is time to take pleasure in listening. It is not at all necessary
For you to sleep before it is time. Even a lot of sleep can be a burden.
Let whoever of the rest the heart and spirit moves
Go out and sleep. For as soon as the down shows itself
Let him eat and follow the master’s swine.
As we two drink and dine in this shelter
Let us take pleasure as we recall one another’s terrible pains.
For a man finds pleasure even in pains later on
After he has suffered so very many and survived many too.
I will tell you this because you asked me and inquired.

There is an island called Suriê, if you have heard of it,
Above Ortygia, where the rays of the sun rise.
It is not too filled, but it is a good place
Well stocked with cows, sheep, with much wine and grain too.
Poverty never curses the people there, nor does any other
Hateful sickness fall upon the wretched mortals,
But when the race of humans grow old in the city
Apollo silverbow comes with Artemis
And kills them with his gentle arrows.

There are two cities there and everything is divided between them.
My father used to rule both of them as king
Ktêsios the son of Ormenos, a man equal to the immortal gods.
The ship-famous Phaeacians used to to frequent there
Pirates, bringing countless treasures in their black ships.
There was a Phoenician woman in my father’s house
Beautiful and broad and skilled in wondrous works.
The devious Phoenicians were corrupting her.
First, one of them joined her for sex while she was washing clothes
Near the swift ship—these things mix up the thoughts
For the female sex even when one of them is work-focused.

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The Homeric Narrator Attempts to Soften Slavery with Toys

Homer, Od. 18.321-340

“Then fine-cheeked Melanthô reproached him shamefully.
Dolios fathered her and Penelope raised her. She treated her like her own child and used to give her delights* [athurmata] for her heart.
But she did not have grief in her thoughts for Penelope,
But she was having sex with and feeling affection for Eurumakhos.
She was reproaching Odysseus with abusive words.

“Wretched stranger, you are completely insane—
You don’t want to go sleep in the smith’s house
Or into a lodge but instead you say so much boldly
Here among the many men. And you are not at all afraid
In your heart. Really, wine has overtaken your thoughts or else
Your mind is always the kind to babble meaningless things.
Are you so confident because you defeated the beggar Iros?
May no other better than Iros quickly arise
Who might bash your head between his two strong hands
And drive you out of the house once he drenches you with so much blood.”

Then very-clever Odysseus answered as he glared at her:
“I will quickly tell Telemachus what you are saying, bitch,
After he comes here so that he can tear you apart by the limbs.”

τὸν δ’ αἰσχρῶς ἐνένιπε Μελανθὼ καλλιπάρῃος,
τὴν Δολίος μὲν ἔτικτε, κόμισσε δὲ Πηνελόπεια,
παῖδα δὲ ὣς ἀτίταλλε, δίδου δ’ ἄρ’ ἀθύρματα θυμῷ·
ἀλλ’ οὐδ’ ὧς ἔχε πένθος ἐνὶ φρεσὶ Πηνελοπείης,
ἀλλ’ ἥ γ’ Εὐρυμάχῳ μισγέσκετο καὶ φιλέεσκεν.
ἥ ῥ’ ᾿Οδυσῆ’ ἐνένιπεν ὀνειδείοισ’ ἐπέεσσι·
“ξεῖνε τάλαν, σύ γέ τις φρένας ἐκπεπαταγμένος ἐσσί,
οὐδ’ ἐθέλεις εὕδειν χαλκήϊον ἐς δόμον ἐλθὼν
ἠέ που ἐς λέσχην, ἀλλ’ ἐνθάδε πόλλ’ ἀγορεύεις
θαρσαλέως πολλοῖσι μετ’ ἀνδράσιν, οὐδέ τι θυμῷ
ταρβεῖς· ἦ ῥά σε οἶνος ἔχει φρένας, ἤ νύ τοι αἰεὶ
τοιοῦτος νόος ἐστίν, ὃ καὶ μεταμώνια βάζεις.
ἦ ἀλύεις ὅτι ῏Ιρον ἐνίκησας τὸν ἀλήτην;
μή τίς τοι τάχα ῎Ιρου ἀμείνων ἄλλος ἀναστῇ,
ὅς τίς σ’ ἀμφὶ κάρη κεκοπὼς χερσὶ στιβαρῇσι
δώματος ἐκπέμψῃσι φορύξας αἵματι πολλῷ.”
τὴν δ’ ἄρ’ ὑπόδρα ἰδὼν προσέφη πολύμητις ᾿Οδυσσεύς·
“ἦ τάχα Τηλεμάχῳ ἐρέω, κύον, οἷ’ ἀγορεύεις,
κεῖσ’ ἐλθών, ἵνα σ’ αὖθι διὰ μελεϊστὶ τάμῃσιν.”
ὣς εἰπὼν ἐπέεσσι διεπτοίησε γυναῖκας.

Schol ad 18.323

[athurmata] Melanthô used to get ornaments and toys, and Penelope did not deprive her of delights, but instead was doing these things to please her—it is clear, this means material for children. For athurmata are the games of children.

δίδου δ’ ἄρ’ ἀθύρματα θυμῷ] ἡ Μελανθὼ χλιδὰς καὶ παιδιὰς ἐλάμβανεν, ἀλλ’ οὐ συνεχώρει αὐτῇ ἡ Πηνελόπη ἀθύρματα, ἀλλὰ τὰ πρὸς ἡδονὴν αὐτῆς ἔπραττε, δηλονότι νηπία ὑπάρχουσα. ἀθύρματα γάρ εἰσι τὰ τῶν νηπίων παίγνια. B.H.Q.

Suda

“Athurma: a children’s toy. Josephus writes: “[the man who] was a toy of the king and was put on display for jokes and laughter while drinking.” And elsewhere: “it is not the place of men to waste time with children’s toys” In the Epigrams: “They stripped it clean and dedicated it near the road as a fine toy.” Instead of dedication: in Cratinus’ Odysseuses: “a new-fangled delight was made.”

Ἄθυρμα: παίγνιον. Ἰώσηπος. ὃς ἦν τοῦ βασιλέως ἄθυρμα καὶ πρὸς τὰ σκώμματα καὶ τοὺς ἐν τοῖς πότοις γέλωτας ἐπεδείκνυτο. καὶ αὖθις: οὐκ ἔστιν ἀνδρῶν ἀθύρμασιν ἐμφιλοχωρεῖν παιδίων. καὶ ἐν Ἐπιγράμμασι: Πανὶ δέ μιν ξέσσαντες ὁδῷ ἔπι καλὸν ἄθυρμα κάτ- θεσαν. ἀντὶ τοῦ ἄγαλμα. Κρατῖνος Ὀδυσσεῦσι: νεοχμὸν παρῆχθαι ἄθυρμα.

Bilderesultat for ancient roman wicker chair