In earlier posts I went over the seventeen named sons of Odysseus and then laid out a plan to start figuring out where and when they come from, organizing the discussion around the mother. Last week, I focused on the named children of Penelope—everyone knows that she gave birth to Telemakhos. Less well known: a son born after Odysseus’ return, named Arkesilaos or Ptoliporthes.
After children with Penelope, most common in the tradition, however, are children ascribed to Odysseus and Kirkê. The earliest mention of this comes from Hesiod’s Works and Days (1011-1017):
“Kirkê, the daughter of Helios, Hyperion’s son,
After having sex with Odysseus, gave birth to
Agrios and Latînos, blameless and strong.
And she also gave birth to Telegonos thanks to golden Aphrodite.
Her sons rule far away in the recess of the holy islands
Among the glorious Tursênians.”
Κίρκη δ’ ᾿Ηελίου θυγάτηρ ῾Υπεριονίδαο
γείνατ’ ᾿Οδυσσῆος ταλασίφρονος ἐν φιλότητι
῎Αγριον ἠδὲ Λατῖνον ἀμύμονά τε κρατερόν τε·
[Τηλέγονον δὲ ἔτικτε διὰ χρυσῆν ᾿Αφροδίτην·]
οἳ δή τοι μάλα τῆλε μυχῷ νήσων ἱεράων
πᾶσιν Τυρσηνοῖσιν ἀγακλειτοῖσιν ἄνασσον.
One of the things nearly everyone knows is that Odysseus, the son of Laertes, has a son named Telemachus. This fact is asseverated early in the Iliad when Odysseus makes an oath based on his identity (2.260-64):
“May I be called the father of Telemachus no longer
If I don’t grab you and strip the fine clothes from your back,
The cloak and the tunic that hides your genitals;
And then I will send you wailing among the swift ships
As I beat you from the assembly with unseemly blows.”
μηδ’ ἔτι Τηλεμάχοιο πατὴρ κεκλημένος εἴην
εἰ μὴ ἐγώ σε λαβὼν ἀπὸ μὲν φίλα εἵματα δύσω,
χλαῖνάν τ’ ἠδὲ χιτῶνα, τά τ’ αἰδῶ ἀμφικαλύπτει,
αὐτὸν δὲ κλαίοντα θοὰς ἐπὶ νῆας ἀφήσω
πεπλήγων ἀγορῆθεν ἀεικέσσι πληγῇσιν.
Odysseus also refers to himself as “Telemachus’ dear father who fights in the forefront” (Τηλεμάχοιο φίλον πατέρα προμάχοισι μιγέντα, 4.354) later in the epic. These moments are exceptional because every other hero defines himself by his patronym, by his father and past rather than his son and his future.
Most scholars seem to understand this as a nod to the Odyssey and Odysseus’ different character. The scholia present the common reaction to this from Aristonicus: The Iliad is aware of the Odyssey (Τηλεμάχοιο: ὅτι προτετυπωμένος τὰ κατὰ τὴν ᾿Οδύσσειαν μνημονεύει τοῦ Τηλεμάχου. τοῦ αὐτοῦ ἄρα ποιητοῦ καὶ ἡ ᾿Οδύσσεια, Schol. A ad Il. 4.354a 1-3).
What if this reference is not exclusive and specific (i.e. pointing to our Odyssey as we have it), but is instead selecting out and constructing one of many possible Odysseis? Yes, it is true that this notion is not incompatible with the presumption that Odysseus’ words in the Iliad ‘shout out’ to the identity of the Odysseus in the Odyssey. But at the same time, it seems to engage in a Homeric pattern of omitting or marginalizing other traditions for Odysseus. And this means ignoring other children.
I have been obsessed with tracking down the names of Odysseus’ children. Here’s a list of them, their mothers and the sources so far. In a few days I will start posting full references:
The sons of Odysseus:
Telemakhos and Arkesilaos/Ptoliporthes (Penelope) [Eustathius/Pausanias]
Agrios, Latinus and Telegonos (Kirke) or Auson [Lykophron]
Rhomos, Antias, Ardeas (Kirke) [Dionysus of Halicarnassos]
Nausithoos and Nausinoos (Kalypso) [Hesiod]
Leontophron or Dorukles or Euryalos (Euippê, Epirote Princess) [Eustathius]
Polypoitês (Kallidikê, Thesprotian Princess) [Proklos]
Leontophronos (Daughter of Thoas, Aitolian Princess) [Apollodoros]
And one daughter:
Kassiphone (Kirke) [Lykophron]
The obsession with Odysseus’ family life continues (a sister and now a grandson!): My students always have questions when they read about Telemachus’ stay in Pylos at Nestor’s home. Before one banquet, he is bathed by Nestor’s youngest daughter Polycaste (3.464-5):
“Then pretty Polycaste, the youngest daughter of Nestor the son of Neleus, bathed Telemachus”
τόφρα δὲ Τηλέμαχον λοῦσεν καλὴ Πολυκάστη, Νέστορος ὁπλοτάτη θυγάτηρ Νηληϊάδαο.
The commentators Heubeck, West and Hainsworth (1988, 189) suggest that this scene was invented by Homer to anticipate the birth of Telemachus’ son recorded in the Hesiodic Catalogue of Women. We have this fragment from Eustathius: Hes. Fr. 221 (Eustathius in Hom. (π 117—20) p. 1796. 38)
“Well-belted Polycaste, the youngest daughter of Nestor Neleus’ son, gave birth to Persepolis after having sex with Telemachus Thanks to golden Aphrodite.”
Τηλεμάχωι δ’ ἄρ’ ἔτικτεν ἐύζωνος Πολυκάστη Νέστορος ὁπλοτάτη κούρη Νηληϊάδαο Περσέπολιν μιχθεῖσα διὰ χρυσῆν ᾿Αφροδίτην
I don’t know if I really buy the suggestion that the Homeric passage is already referring to this idea. The lines from Hesiod seem a little late (the separation of the dative Τηλεμάχωι from μιχθεῖσα is a little severe for Homer) and the lines seem ‘copied’ rather than formulaic: the middle line is straight from the Odyssey and the final one is awfully close to a disputed line from the Theogony: Th. 1014: [Τηλέγονον δὲ ἔτικτε διὰ χρυσῆν ᾿Αφροδίτην·] In any case, what I love about this fragment is that someone, like my students, imagined that the bathing scene was not that innocent after all! Here’s an update for this–after more searching, it seems that Telemachus has several different possible marriages in the mythical tradition: Hellanikos has Telemachus marry Nausicaa Hesiod has Telemachus married to Polycaste, Nestor’s daughter Eugammon has Telemachus married to Kirke Lykophron has Telemachus marry Kassiphone, the daughter of Kirke and Odysseus From these possible pairings, the children are limited: Persepolis is the son of Telemachus and Polycaste according to Hesiod; Perseptolis, son of Nausicaa and Telemachus according to Eustathius; Andokidês is the son, according to Hellanikos
“It is rather painful–but let’s let it be, even though it hurts us.
For, if it were at all possible for men to choose all things,
the first thing we would choose is the homecoming day of our father”
ἄλγιον, ἀλλ’ ἔμπης μιν ἐάσομεν, ἀχνύμενοί περ.
εἰ γὰρ πως εἴη αὐτάγρετα πάντα βροτοῖσι,
πρῶτόν κεν τοῦ πατρὸς ἑλοίμεθα νόστιμον ἦμαρ
Thus Telemachus says to the swineherd in front of his father in disguise.