Too Pretty to Kill?

Herakles fights a Kyknos in the Hesiodic Shield (“Aspis”; “Scutum”). Achilles fought one too according to some accounts. N.B. “kyknos” means “swan” in Greek, whence English “cygnet”.

Athenaios, Deipnosophists, 9.393de

“Hegesianax the Alexandrian, who composed the Troika attributed to Kephalion, says that Kyknos who fought in single combat against Achilles was raised in Leukophrys by a bird of the same name.”

ὁ δὲ τὰ Κεφαλίωνος ἐπιγραφόμενα Τρωϊκὰ συνθεὶς Ἡγησιάναξ ὁ Ἀλεξανδρεὺς καὶ τὸν Ἀχιλλεῖ μονομαχήσαντα Κύκνον φησὶ τραφῆναι ἐν Λευκόφρυι πρὸς τοῦ ὁμωνύμου ὄρνιθος.

Scholia to Lykophron 232

“Lykophron lies about this too. For Kyknos was not killed because he was struck on his shoulders, but in his head. For they say that he was invulnerable in the rest of his body except for his head. This is because Kyknos was conspicuous as a soldier and looked so very beautiful among the enemy that it was not expected that he would be wounded in the stories because he was just so unwoundable. But when he was killed because Achilles struck him in the head, they said he was invulnerable except for only the head”

πληγέντα τοὺς κλεῖδας καὶ τοὺς ὤμους. καὶ τοῦτο ψεύδεται ὁ Λυκόφρων· οὐ γὰρ κατὰ τοὺς ὤμους, ἀλλὰ τὴν κεφαλὴν πληγεὶς ὁ Κύκνος ἀνῃρέθη. φασὶ γὰρ ὅτι ἄτρωτος ἦν τὸ λοιπὸν σῶμα πλὴν τῆς κεφαλῆς. τοῦτο δὲ μῦθός ἐστι· περιδέξιος γὰρ ὢν στρατιώτης ὁ Κύκνος καὶ κάλ-λιστα σκεπόμενος ἐν πολέμοις ὡς μηδέποτε τρωθῆ*ναι* ὑποπέπτωκε τοῖς μύθοις ὅτι ἄτρωτός ἐστιν. ἐπεὶ δὲ πληγεὶς ὑπ’ ᾿Αχιλέως τὴν κεφαλὴν ἀνῃρέθη, ἔφασαν ἄτρωτον εἶναι πλὴν μόνης τῆς κεφαλῆς. T καὶ δὴ διπλᾶ· Κύκνος

stop looking at me swan billy madison gif

Too Pretty to Kill?

Herakles fights a Kyknos in the Hesiodic Shield (“Aspis”; “Scutum”). Achilles fought one too according to some accounts. N.B. “kyknos” means “swan” in Greek, whence English “cygnet”.

Athenaios, Deipnosophists, 9.393de

“Hegesianax the Alexandrian, who composed the Troika attributed to Kephalion, says that Kyknos who fought in single combat against Achilles was raised in Leukophrys by a bird of the same name.”

ὁ δὲ τὰ Κεφαλίωνος ἐπιγραφόμενα Τρωϊκὰ συνθεὶς Ἡγησιάναξ ὁ Ἀλεξανδρεὺς καὶ τὸν Ἀχιλλεῖ μονομαχήσαντα Κύκνον φησὶ τραφῆναι ἐν Λευκόφρυι πρὸς τοῦ ὁμωνύμου ὄρνιθος.

Scholia to Lykophron 232

“Lykophron lies about this too. For Kyknos was not killed because he was struck on his shoulders, but in his head. For they say that he was invulnerable in the rest of his body except for his head. This is because Kyknos was conspicuous as a soldier and looked so very beautiful among the enemy that it was not expected that he would be wounded in the stories because he was just so unwoundable. But when he was killed because Achilles struck him in the head, they said he was invulnerable except for only the head”

πληγέντα τοὺς κλεῖδας καὶ τοὺς ὤμους. καὶ τοῦτο ψεύδεται ὁ Λυκόφρων· οὐ γὰρ κατὰ τοὺς ὤμους, ἀλλὰ τὴν κεφαλὴν πληγεὶς ὁ Κύκνος ἀνῃρέθη. φασὶ γὰρ ὅτι ἄτρωτος ἦν τὸ λοιπὸν σῶμα πλὴν τῆς κεφαλῆς. τοῦτο δὲ μῦθός ἐστι· περιδέξιος γὰρ ὢν στρατιώτης ὁ Κύκνος καὶ κάλ-λιστα σκεπόμενος ἐν πολέμοις ὡς μηδέποτε τρωθῆ*ναι* ὑποπέπτωκε τοῖς μύθοις ὅτι ἄτρωτός ἐστιν. ἐπεὶ δὲ πληγεὶς ὑπ’ ᾿Αχιλέως τὴν κεφαλὴν ἀνῃρέθη, ἔφασαν ἄτρωτον εἶναι πλὴν μόνης τῆς κεφαλῆς. T καὶ δὴ διπλᾶ· Κύκνος

stop looking at me swan billy madison gif

The Origin of the Term “Swan Song”

Aelian, History of Animals 2.32

“The Swan, which the poets and many prose authors make an attendant to Apollo, has some other relationship to music and song I do not understand. But it was believed by those before us that the swan died after he sang what was called its “swan-song”. Nature truly honors it more than noble and good men and for good reason: for while others praise and morn people, the swans take care of themselves, if you will.”

Κύκνος δέ, ὅνπερ οὖν καὶ θεράποντα Ἀπόλλωνι ἔδοσαν ποιηταὶ καὶ λόγοι μέτρων ἀφειμένοι πολλοί, τὰ μὲν ἄλλα ὅπως μούσης τε καὶ ᾠδῆς ἔχει εἰπεῖν οὐκ οἶδα· πεπίστευται δὲ ὑπὸ τῶν ἄνω τοῦ χρόνου ὅτι τὸ κύκνειον οὕτω καλούμενον ᾄσας εἶτα ἀποθνήσκει. τιμᾷ δὲ ἄρα αὐτὸν ἡ φύσις καὶ τῶν καλῶν καὶ ἀγαθῶν ἀνθρώπων μᾶλλον, καὶ εἰκότως· εἴ γε τούτους μὲν καὶ ἐπαινοῦσι καὶ θρηνοῦσιν ἄλλοι, ἐκεῖνοι δὲ εἴτε τοῦτο ἐθέλοις εἴτε ἐκεῖνο, ἑαυτοῖς νέμουσιν.

Michael Apostolios, Proverbs 10.18

“Singing the swan song”: [this proverb] is applied to those who are near death. For swans sing as they die and they know then the end of life is coming upon them and so, in this way, they face that arrival bravely. But human beings fear what they do not know and think that it is the greatest evil. But swans sing out at death the kind of song sung at a funeral…”

     Κύκνειον ᾆσμα: ἐπὶ τῶν ἐγγὺς θανάτου ὄντων. οἱ γὰρ κύκνοι θνήσκοντες ᾄδουσι Καὶ ἴσασιν ὁπότε τοῦ βίου τὸ τέρμα ἀφικνεῖται αὐτοῖς, καὶ μέντοι καὶ εὐθύμως φέρουσιν αὐτὸ προσιόν. ἄνθρωποι δὲ ὑπὲρ οὗ οὐκ ἴσασι δεδοίκασι καὶ ἡγοῦνται μέγιστον εἶναι κακὸν αὐτό. ἀναγηρύονται δὲ ἐπὶ τῇ τελευτῇ οἷον ἐπικήδειόν τι μέλος…

Athenaeus, Deipnosophists 14 (616b)

“Chrysippos was writing about something like this again in the same work. When someone who loved to make fun of people was about to be killed by the executioner, he said that he wanted one thing, to die after singing his ‘swan-song’. After the executioner agreed, the man made fun of him.”

περὶ δὲ τοιούτου τινὸς πάλιν ὁ Χρύσιππος ἐν τῷ αὐτῷ γράφει· φιλοσκώπτης τις μέλλων ὑπὸ τοῦ δημίου σφάττεσθαι ἔτι ἕν τι ἔφη θέλειν ὥσπερ τὸ κύκνειον ᾄσας ἀποθανεῖν. ἐπιτρέψαντος δ᾿ ἐκείνου ἔσκωψεν

Bibliothèque Nationale de France, fr. 1951, Folio 3r