“They claim that after some time Themis was given by Gaia whatever he share was and then that Apollo received that as a gift from Themis. They say that Apollo gave to Poseidon the portion of land called Kalauria which is near Troizen as an exchange-gift for the oracle. I have also heard that men who were shepherding their flocks chanced upon the oracle and were inspired by the mist and then acted as prophets of Apollo. The account with the most adherents is the story of Phêmonoê, that she was the first prophet of the god and the first person who sang hexameters.
Boiô, a local woman who created a Hymn for the Delphians, used to say that people who visited from the Hyperboreans along with others and Olên created the oracle for the god and that he, Olên, was the first to give prophecies and to sing a hexameter.
Boiô composed these verses: “Here in fact, they built the oracle of good memory / the children of the Hyperboreans, Pagasos and shining Aguieus.”
Once she has named other Hyperboreans, near the end of the hymn she mentioned Olên: “And Olên who was the first prophet of Phoibos / and the first to make the song of ancient epic verses.” There is in common memory no mention of him at all; all that is left is the prophecy of women only.”
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.”
“Some say that it was at Drakonos, some say on windy Ikaros
others allege it was Naxos where the divine Eiraphiotes was born,
or even that it was beside the deep-eddying river Alpheios
where Semele, impregnated by Zeus who delights in thunder, gave birth.
Lord, others say that you were born at Thebes
But they all lie: The father of men and gods gave birth to you
hiding you from white-armed Hera far from all men.
There is a place called Nusê, the highest mountain flowering with forest,
In far-flung Phoenicia, near the flowing Nile.
They dedicate many images of you in the temples:
Since there are three, at the triannual festivals forever
Men will sacrifice to you perfect Hecatombs.
At this, Kronos’ son will nodded his dark eyebrows;
The ambrosial hair of the god danced about
On his immortal head, and Olympos shook greatly.
[After he spoke, councilor Zeus ordered with a nod.]
Be kind to us, Eirophiotes, woman-maddener: we singers
Begin and end with you as we sing: it is not possible
To begin a sacred song without thinking of you.
So, hail, Dionysus, Lord Eiraphiotes, and your mother too
Semele, the one they also call Thyône.”
1 Drakonos; Ikaros; Naxos: In part, this selection of different place names echoes the mythical travels of Dionysus. Drakonos is considered to be a location on the island of
kos; Ikaros and Naxos are also islands in the Aegean. The Alpheios river is in the Peloponnese: it is one of the two rivers re-routed by Herakles and a common toponym in myth.
2 Eiraphiotes: This is a problematic and confusing epithet. Ancient commentators related it to the word rhaptô “to sew”, indicating that it had to do with the fact that Dionysus was sewn up in Zeus’ thigh. (This may also as well, even if only tangentially, associate him with the recitation of poetry through rhapsodes who “sew the song together. This is uncertain and speculative, but the end of the second fragment ties the deity together with singers). A modern interpretation of the epithet finds a Sanskrit root and identifies Dionysus thus as a “Bull-god”. He was known at times for shape-shifting and, in this particular hymn, he is granted hekatombs.
3 Dionysus’ birth: Zeus impregnated Semele, she was killed by a thunderbolt, and Dionysus gestated in Zeus’ thigh. Therefore, it is easy to say (1) that both Semele and Zeus “gave birth to him” and (2) that he was born in more than one place.
4 Thebes: The home of Semele, a daughter of Cadmos, and a city typically punished for rejecting Dionysus.
6 Nusê; near the flowing Nile: In early Greek mythology, the mountain is often combined with a form of Zeus’ name (Dios) as an etymology for the name Dionysus. The location of Dionysus in Egypt may merely be part of the traditional motif that has the autochthonous god born elsewhere (other times in Asia, India) only to return and reclaim his rightful place. But according to the Orphic Theogony, Dionysus is torn apart by the Titans. His body is sometimes said to have been put back together by Demeter or to be ground up and served in a drink to Semele who gave birth to him again. This ritual-murder/deification motif collocated with mention of Egypt, however, may echo the connection Herodotus makes between Dionysus and the Egyptian god Osiris who was also murdered and in some cases torn apart only to be resurrected as a god of the underworld and rebirth.
7 woman-maddener: gunaimanes, “the one who makes women go insane”, an epithet connected with the mythical traditions that have Dionysus upending social orders and his special association with Bacchantes (mad, feral women)
8 “we begin and end with you”: this is in part a formulaic ending in Hymnic language, but for Dionysus, who was associated with so many performance rituals, this may give him a bit broader of a sphere of influence (e.g. tragedy, choral performances) or may draw upon the language of poetic inspiration via Dionysian ecstasy.
9 Thyône: A name for his mother or nymph who nursed him.
Homeric Hymn, 26: To Bacchus
“I begin to sing of ivy-haired Dionysus, who roars powerfully,
the shining son of Zeus and glorious Semele,
the one the fair-tressed nymphs raised after they took him
to their chests From his lord father to raise him rightly
tn the folds of Nusê. He grew up according at his father’s will
tn a fragrant caves, one among the number of immortals.
But once the goddesses had raised up the much-sung god,
then he went to wondering through the forested valleys
covering himself with ivy and laurel. The nymphs followed him
and he led—the thunder of the procession gripped the endless woods.
Hail to you too. Dionysus rich with clusters of grapes.
Grant that we may come happy into another season
And return again at this time for many more years.”