What Was the Name of Odysseus’ City?

A re-post in honor of Odyssey Round the World

Plutarch Greek Questions, 301d

“Why was the Ithakans’ city named Alalkomenai? The reason is that Antikleia was raped by Sisyphus when she was a virgin and conceived Odysseus. This story is told by many. But Istros the Alexandrian reports in his Commentaries  that she had been betrothed to Laertes and gave birth to Odysseus as she was being taken to him near the Alalkomeneion. For this reason, Istros reports that they called the city in Ithaka this, introducing the name as they would from a mother-city.”

πόθεν ἡ τῶν ᾽Ιθακησίων πόλις ᾽Αλαλκομεναὶ προσηγορεύθη; διὰ τὸ τὴν ᾽Αντίκλειαν ὑπὸ Σισύφου βιασθεῖσαν ἐν τῆι παρθενίαι τὸν ᾽Οδυσσέα συλλαβεῖν· ὑπὸ πλειόνων δ᾽ ἐστὶν εἰρημένον. ῎Ιστρος δὲ ὁ ᾽Αλεξανδρεὺς ἐν ῾Υπομνήμασι προσιστόρηκεν, ὅτι τῶι Λαέρτηι δοθεῖσα πρὸς γάμον καὶ ἀναγομένη περὶ τὸ ᾽Αλαλκομένειον ἐν τῆι Βοιωτίαι τὸν ᾽Οδυσσέα τέκοι· καὶ διὰ τοῦτο ἐκεῖνος ὥσπερ μητροπόλεως ἀναφέρων τοὐνομα τὴν ἐν ᾽Ιθάκηι πόλιν οὕτω φησὶ προσαγορεύεσθαι.

For sources  Odysseus as the son of Sisyphos, see Aeschylus, fr. 175; Sophocles Ajax 190; Philoktetes 416–17; Euripides Iphigena Aul 524

Sisyphus depicted on a black-figure amphora vase
Sisyphus. You thought that was a stone? By Swing Painter – User:Bibi Saint-Pol, own work, 2007-02-13, Public Domain,

Where the Homeric Odyssey suppresses names of children used by ancient myth to relate Odysseus to a wider physical world, the epic nevertheless has some hints here and there about geography and politics. Of course, this will can us a bit more about his family and home. In the Odyssey we find what seems to be a formulaic combination of three islands near Ithaca. When Odysseus describes where he’s from, he names his home and then adds (9.23-4):

“Many islands are inhabited right near each other
Doulikhion, Samê, and forest-covered Zakunthos.”

πολλαὶ ναιετάουσι μάλα σχεδὸν ἀλλήλῃσι,
Δουλίχιόν τε Σάμη τε καὶ ὑλήεσσα Ζάκυνθος.

And earlier during his discussion with Telemachus, Odysseus hears the suitors similarly described as (16.122-125; cf. 19.130-1):

“However so many of the best men who rule among the islands,
Doulikhion, Samê, and forest-covered Zakunthos.
Alongside all the men who lord over steep Ithaka—
This many men are wooing my mother and ruining my home”

ὅσσοι γὰρ νήσοισιν ἐπικρατέουσιν ἄριστοι,
Δουλιχίῳ τε Σάμῃ τε καὶ ὑλήεντι Ζακύνθῳ,
ἠδ’ ὅσσοι κραναὴν ᾿Ιθάκην κάτα κοιρανέουσι,
τόσσοι μητέρ’ ἐμὴν μνῶνται, τρύχουσι δὲ οἶκον.

Continue reading “What Was the Name of Odysseus’ City?”

Ah, It Was All Helen’s Fault

This may be one of the strangest poems about Helen. Note that Thetis goes unnamed.

Alcaeus,  fr. 42 (P. Oxy. 1233 fr. 2 ii 1–16)

“The story is that bitter grief from evil deeds
Came to Priam and his children, thanks to you
Helen, and so Zeus destroyed
Holy Troy.

Not like this was the tender virgin
Peleus acquired when he called all the blessed
Gods to his marriage, once he took her from
Nereus’ halls

To the home of Kheiron. He loosened
The girdle of the holy maiden. And the ‘love’
Of Peleus and the best of the Nereids grew
For a year.

And produced a child, the best of the demigods,
A blessed driver of fiery horses.
But they died for Helen, the Phrygians
And their city too.”

ὠς λόγος, κάκων ἄ[χος ἔννεκ᾿ ἔργων
Περράμῳ καὶ παῖσ[ί ποτ᾿, Ὦλεν᾿, ἦλθεν
ἐκ σέθεν πίκρον, π[ύρι δ᾿ ὤλεσε Ζεῦς
Ἴλιον ἴραν.

οὐ τεαύταν Αἰακίδα̣ι̣ [ς ἄγαυος
πάντας ἐς γάμον μάκ̣ [αρας καλέσαις
ἄγετ᾿ ἐκ Νή[ρ]ηος ἔλων [μελάθρων
πάρθενον ἄβραν

ἐς δόμον Χέρρωνος· ἔλ[υσε δ᾿ ἄγνας
ζῶμα παρθένω· φιλό[τας δ᾿ ἔθαλε
Πήλεος καὶ Νηρεΐδων ἀρίστ[ας,
ἐς δ᾿ ἐνίαυτον

παῖδα γέννατ᾿ αἰμιθέων [φέριστον
ὄλβιον ξάνθαν ἐλάτη[ρα πώλων·
οἰ δ᾿ ἀπώλοντ᾿ ἀμφ᾿ Ἐ[λένᾳ Φρύγες τε
καὶ πόλις αὔτων.

Image result for ancient greek helen vase

A Lyric Take on the Death of Agamemnon

Pind. Pyth. 11.17-37

“The nurse Arsinoe took [Orestes]
from his father murdered
by the strong hands of Klytemnestra
by the grievous trick
when she sent the Dardanian girl, Kassandra,
with Agamemnon’s soul by means of grey bronze
to the dusty banks of Acheron,
the pitiless woman.

Was it Iphigenia, slaughtered
far away from her home near the Euripos
that moved her to heavy-handed rage?
Or was she overwhelmed by another bed,
made crazy by their nightly ‘sharing’?
This is the most hateful mistake
of young brides
and it is impossible to keep from other people’s tongues.
Citizens are vile-gossips.

Prosperity brings with it an equal-sized envy;
while the man who breathes close to the ground moves by unseen.
The hero son of Atreus himself died
when he came after a long time to famous Amyklai.
And he destroyed the prophetic girl too
after he despoiled the homes of the Trojans, burned for Helen.”

agdeath

Β′ τὸν δὴ φονευομένου πατρὸς ᾿Αρσινόα Κλυταιμήστρας
χειρῶν ὕπο κρατερᾶν
ἐκ δόλου τροφὸς ἄνελε δυσπενθέος,
ὁπότε Δαρδανίδα κόραν Πριάμου
Κασσάνδραν πολιῷ χαλκῷ σὺν ᾿Αγαμεμνονίᾳ
ψυχᾷ πόρευ’ ᾿Αχέροντος ἀκτὰν παρ’ εὔσκιον
νηλὴς γυνά. πότερόν νιν ἄρ’ ᾿Ιφιγένει’ ἐπ’ Εὐρίπῳ
σφαχθεῖσα τῆλε πάτρας
ἔκνισεν βαρυπάλαμον ὄρσαι χόλον;
ἢ ἑτέρῳ λέχεϊ δαμαζομέναν
ἔννυχοι πάραγον κοῖται; τὸ δὲ νέαις ἀλόχοις
ἔχθιστον ἀμπλάκιον καλύψαι τ’ ἀμάχανον
ἀλλοτρίαισι γλώσσαις·
κακολόγοι δὲ πολῖται.
ἴσχει τε γὰρ ὄλβος οὐ μείονα φθόνον·
ὁ δὲ χαμηλὰ πνέων ἄφαντον βρέμει.
θάνεν μὲν αὐτὸς ἥρως ᾿Ατρεΐδας
ἵκων χρόνῳ κλυταῖς ἐν ᾿Αμύκλαις,
Γ′ μάντιν τ’ ὄλεσσε κόραν, ἐπεὶ ἀμφ’ ῾Ελένᾳ πυρωθέντας
Τρώων ἔλυσε δόμους.

Meta-Classics Costume Idea: Paris as Menelaos

 In the Helen, Euripides pursues the version of events favored by Stesichorus and mentioned by Herodotus too: that Helen was replaced by a cloud-Helen (whom I call a Cylon). The fake-Helen went to Troy while the real one went to Egypt.

Apparently there was also a tradition that has Aphrodite pulling a Zeus-Amphitryon trick with Paris and Menelaos.

Nikias of Mallos, BNJ 60 F 2a [=Schol. V ad Od. 23.218]

“Priam’s child Alexander  left Asia and went to Sparta with the plan of abducting Helen while he was a guest there. But she, because of her noble and husband-loving character, was refusing him and saying that she would honor her marriage with the law and thought more of Menelaos. Because Paris was ineffective, the story is that Aphrodite devised this kind of a trick: she exchanged the appearance of Alexander for Menelaos’ character to persuade Helen in this way. For, because she believed that this was truly Menelaos, she was not reluctant to leave with him. After she went to the ship before him, he took her inside and left. This story is told in Nikias of Mallos’ first book”

᾽Αλέξανδρος ὁ Πριάμου παῖς ἀπὸ τῆς ᾽Ασίας κατάρας εἰς τὴν Λακεδαίμονα διενοεῖτο τὴν ῾Ελένην ξενιζόμενος ἁρπάσαι· ἡ δὲ γενναῖον ἧθος καὶ φίλανδρον ἔχουσα ἀπηγόρευε καὶ προτιμᾶν ἔλεγε τὸν μετὰ νόμου γάμον καὶ τὸν Μενέλαον περὶ πλείονος ἡγεῖσθαι. γενομένου δὲ τοῦ Πάριδος ἀπράκτου φασὶ τὴν ᾽Αφροδίτην ἐπιτεχνῆσαι τοιοῦτόν τι, ὥστε καὶ μεταβάλλειν τοῦ ᾽Αλεξάνδρου τὴν ἰδέαν εἰς τὸν τοῦ Μενελάου χαρακτῆρα, καὶ οὕτω τὴν ῾Ελένην παραλογίσασθαι· δόξασαν γὰρ εἶναι ταῖς ἀληθείαις τὸν Μενέλαον μὴ ὀκνῆσαι ἅμα αὐτῶι ἕπεσθαι, φθάσασαν δὲ αὐτὴν ἄχρι τῆς νεὼς ἐμβαλλόμενος ἀνήχθη. ἡ ἱστορία παρὰ Νικίαι †τῶι πρώτωι†.

Image result for Ancient Greek Vase Paris and Helen

This kind of doubling and uncertainty about identity is certainly at home in any discussion of Euripides’ Helen (well, at least the first third where no one knows who anybody is). But it is also apt for the Odyssey where Odysseus cryptically insists (16.204):

“No other Odysseus will ever come home to you”

οὐ μὲν γάρ τοι ἔτ’ ἄλλος ἐλεύσεται ἐνθάδ’ ᾿Οδυσσεύς,

Trojan Fan Fic: Astyanax, The Boy Who Lived

In the tradition of Greek Myth, Hektor’s son Astyanax is well-known for being killed during the sack of the city. Other traditions weren’t having this. To wit, Servius:

Servius Danielis on Vergil, Aeneid, 9.264

devicta genitor (sc. Aeneas) quae cepit Arisba]

“Which his father took once Arisba was conquered…”

“(And yet, according to Homer, Arisba sent aid to the Trojans and was overcome by Achilles)…the city is called Arisba after the daughter of Merpos or Macareus who was the first wife of Paris. According to some authors, Abas, who wrote the Troika, related that after the Greeks left Troy, the rule of this city was given to Astyanax. Antenor expelled him once he had allied himself with the states neighboring where Arisba’s location. Aeneas took this badly and took up arms for Astyanax; once the expedition was prosecuted successfully, he returned the kingdom to Astyanax.”

[[atqui secundum Homerum Arisba Troianis misit auxilia et ab Achille subversa est …]] dicta est Arisba ab Meropis vel Macarei filia, quam primum Paris in coniugio habuit. quidam ab Abante, qui Troica scripsit, relatum ferunt, post discessum a Troia Graecorum Astyanacti ibi datum regnum. hunc ab Antenore expulsum sociatis sibi finitimis civitatibus, inter quas et Arisba fuit. Aeneam hoc aegre tulisse et pro Astyanacte arma cepisse, ac prospere gesta re Astyanacti restituisse regnum.

 

Image result for astyanax greek vase
Image taken from this article by Mary Louise Hart

Honoring the Dead with the Dead

Euripides, Hecuba 303-316

“I will not deny what I said to everyone:
Now that Troy has been taken we should give your child
To be sacrificed to the first man of the army when he asks it.

Here is where many cities start to stumble—
When there is some excellent and willing man
Who earns no greater than the lesser mob.
Achilles is worthy of our honor, Ma’am,
Because he died most nobly for Greece.

Wouldn’t it be shameful if we used him as a friend
When he was watching but stopped when he was dead?
What would someone say if there was some new reason
To gather an army and lead it against an enemy?
Will we fight or will we worry about our lives
Once we see that the dead are not honored?”

ἃ δ᾿ εἶπον εἰς ἅπαντας οὐκ ἀρνήσομαι,
Τροίας ἁλούσης ἀνδρὶ τῷ πρώτῳ στρατοῦ
σὴν παῖδα δοῦναι σφάγιον ἐξαιτουμένῳ.
ἐν τῷδε γὰρ κάμνουσιν αἱ πολλαὶ πόλεις,
ὅταν τις ἐσθλὸς καὶ πρόθυμος ὢν ἀνὴρ
μηδὲν φέρηται τῶν κακιόνων πλέον.
ἡμῖν δ᾿ Ἀχιλλεὺς ἄξιος τιμῆς, γύναι,
θανὼν ὑπὲρ γῆς Ἑλλάδος κάλλιστ᾿ ἀνήρ.
οὔκουν τόδ᾿ αἰσχρόν, εἰ βλέποντι μὲν φίλῳ
χρώμεσθ᾿, ἐπεὶ δ᾿ ὄλωλε μὴ χρώμεσθ᾿ ἔτι;
εἶἑν· τί δῆτ᾿ ἐρεῖ τις, ἤν τις αὖ φανῇ
στρατοῦ τ᾿ ἄθροισις πολεμίων τ᾿ ἀγωνία;
πότερα μαχούμεθ᾿ ἢ φιλοψυχήσομεν,
τὸν κατθανόνθ᾿ ὁρῶντες οὐ τιμώμενον;

Sebastiano Ricci (Belluno 1659-Venice 1734) – The Sacrifice of Polyxena –

Beyond Justice’s Realm

Euripides, Andromache 744-746

“I just let your words roll off of me:
You’re just a walking shadow who has a voice,
Incapable of doing anything other than speaking alone.”

τοὺς σοὺς δὲ μύθους ῥᾳδίως ἐγὼ φέρω·
σκιὰ γὰρ ἀντίστοιχος ὣς φωνὴν ἔχεις,
ἀδύνατος οὐδὲν ἄλλο πλὴν λέγειν μόνον.

779-787

“It is better to win without earning a bad reputation
Than to overturn justice with envy and force.
Mortals may find victory sweet at first,
But it grows dry over time
And pulls down insults on our homes.
That’s why I praise and I honor a life
Which has no power at home or in the state
Outside the realm of justice.”

κρεῖσσον δὲ νίκαν μὴ κακόδοξον ἔχειν
ἢ ξὺν φθόνῳ σφάλλειν δυνάμει τε δίκαν.
ἡδὺ μὲν γὰρ αὐτίκα τοῦτο βροτοῖσιν,
ἐν δὲ χρόνῳ τελέθει
ξηρὸν καὶ ὀνείδεσιν ἔγκειται δόμων.
ταύταν ᾔνεσα ταύταν καὶ σέβομαι βιοτάν,
μηδὲν δίκας ἔξω κράτος ἐν θαλάμοις
καὶ πόλει δύνασθαι.

Hektor and Andromache, Antonio Zucchi 1773

 

There’s No Hektor Here

Euripides, Andromache, 96-102

“I have not a single but many things to mourn:
My native city, Hektor dead, and the hateful
Fate to which I was tied when I fell
Unworthily into a life of slavery.
Don’t ever say that any mortal is blessed
Before you see how they end life at death
How they finish that last day and go below.”

πάρεστι δ᾽ οὐχ ἓν ἀλλὰ πολλά μοι στένειν,
πόλιν πατρῴαν τὸν θανόντα θ᾽ Ἕκτορα
στερρόν τε τὸν ἐμὸν δαίμον᾽ ᾧ συνεζύγην
δούλειον ἦμαρ εἰσπεσοῦσ᾽ ἀναξίως.
χρὴ δ᾽ οὔποτ᾽ εἰπεῖν οὐδέν᾽ ὄλβιον βροτῶν,
πρὶν ἂν θανόντος τὴν τελευταίαν ἴδῃς
ὅπως περάσας ἡμέραν ἥξει κάτω.

168-177

“No Hektor is in this place.
Nor Priam nor their gold. But this is a Greek city.
Are you so lost in your ignorance, you wretch,
That you dare to sleep with the man who killed
Your husband and to have a child for those who
Killed your family? This is the way of all foreigners:
A father sleeps with his daughter and son with his mother,
A girl sleeps with her brother and the dearest relatives
Fall apart over murder. The law prevents none of these things.
Don’t introduce any of these practices here: it is not good
For one man to hold the reins for two wives.
Anyone who wants to avoid living badly
Prefers looking to one lover in his bed.”

οὐ γάρ ἐσθ᾽ Ἕκτωρ τάδε,
οὐ Πρίαμος οὐδὲ χρυσός, ἀλλ᾽ Ἑλλὰς πόλις.
εἰς τοῦτο δ᾽ ἥκεις ἀμαθίας, δύστηνε σύ,
ἣ παιδὶ πατρός, ὃς σὸν ὤλεσεν πόσιν,
τολμᾷς ξυνεύδειν καὶ τέκν᾽ αὐθεντῶν πάρα
τίκτειν. τοιοῦτον πᾶν τὸ βάρβαρον γένος:
πατήρ τε θυγατρὶ παῖς τε μητρὶ μείγνυται
κόρη τ᾽ ἀδελφῷ, διὰ φόνου δ᾽ οἱ φίλτατοι
χωροῦσι, καὶ τῶνδ᾽ οὐδὲν ἐξείργει νόμος.
ἃ μὴ παρ᾽ ἡμᾶς εἴσφερ᾽: οὐδὲ γὰρ καλὸν
δυοῖν γυναικοῖν ἄνδρ᾽ ἕν᾽ ἡνίας ἔχειν,
ἀλλ᾽ εἰς μίαν βλέποντες εὐναίαν Κύπριν
στέργουσιν, ὅστις μὴ κακῶς οἰκεῖν θέλει.

“Amdromache” by Georges Rochegrosse

The Cyclops Had Three Eyes and They Were His Brothers

John Malalas, Chronographia, V

“The wise Euripides put in his poetic drama about the Cyclops that he had three eyes, indicating by this that he had three brothers and that they cared for one another and kept a watchful eye on one another’s places in the island, fought together, and avenged one another.

And he also adds that he made the Cyclops drunk and unable to flee, because Odysseus made that very Cyclops “drunk” with a ton of money and gifts so he would not “eat those with him up”, which is not actually to consume them with slaughter.

He also says that Odysseus blinded his one eye with torch fire, really meaning that he stole away the only daughter of Polyphemos’ brother, a maiden named Elpê, with “fire”, which means he seized her on fire with burning lust. This is what it means that he burned Polyphemos in one of his eyes, he really deprived him of his daughter. The very wise Pheidias of Corinth provided this interpretation saying that Euripides explained this poetically because he did not agree with what the wisest Homer said about the wandering of Odysseus.”

ὁ γὰρ σοφὸς Εὐριπίδης <ποιητικῶς> δρᾶμα ἐξέθετο περὶ τοῦ Κύκλωπος, ὅτι τρεῖς ἔσχεν ὀφθαλμούς, σημαίνων τοὺς τρεῖς ἀδελφοὺς (50 F 2) ὡς συμπαθοῦντας ἀλλήλοις καὶ διαβλεπομένους τοὺς ἀλλήλων τόπους τῆς νήσου καὶ συμμαχοῦντας καὶ ἐκδικοῦντας ἀλλήλους. (2) καὶ ὅτι οἴνωι μεθύσας τὸν Κύκλωπα ἐκφυγεῖν ἠδυνήθη, διότι χρήμασι πολλοῖς καὶ δώροις ἐμέθυσε τὸν αὐτὸν Κύκλωπα ὁ ᾽Οδυσσεὺς πρὸς τὸ μὴ κατεσθίειν τοὺς μετ᾽ αὐτοῦ, <τουτέστι μὴ καταναλίσκειν σφαγαῖς>. (3) καὶ ὅτι λαβὼν ᾽Οδυσσεὺς λαμπάδα πυρὸς ἐτύφλωσε τὸν ὀφθαλμὸν αὐτοῦ τὸν ἕνα, διὁτι τὴν θυγατέρα τὴν μονογενῆ τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ αὐτοῦ Πολυφήμου ῎Ελπην, παρθένον οὖσαν, λαμπάδι, πυρὸς ἐρωτικοῦ καυθεῖσαν ἥρπασε, τουτέστιν ἕνα τῶν ὀφθαλμῶν τοῦ Κύκλωπος ἐφλόγισε τὸν Πολύφημον τὴν αὐτοῦ θυγατέρα ἀφελόμενος. (4) ἥντινα ἑρμηνείαν ὁ σοφώτατος Φειδίας(?) ὁ Κορίνθιος ἐξέθετο, εἰρηκὼς ὅτι ὁ σοφὸς Εὐριπίδης ποιητικῶς πάντα μετέφρασε, μὴ συμφωνήσας τῶι σοφωτάτωι ῾Ομήρωι ἐκθεμένωι τὴν ᾽Οδυσσέως πλάνην.

Ok, this story might be totally nuts, but there was a scholiastic debate about how many eyes Polyphemos had.

A Shot in the Gut not the Foot!

Eustathius, Comm. ad Hom. Odyssey, 11.538 1696, 50

“The story is that Paris killed Achilles by shooting him with his bow. Sôstratos records that Alexandros was lusted after by Apollo and was his student in Archery. He was holding an ivory bow he got from Apollo when he shot Achilles in the stomach.”

᾽Αχιλλέα δὲ ὅτι ΙΙάρις ἀνεῖλε τοξεύσας καθωμίληται. Σώστρατος δὲ ἱστορεῖ ᾽Αλέξανδρον ᾽Απόλλωνος ἐρώμενον καὶ μαθητὴν τοξείας, ὑφ᾽ οὗ τόξον ἐλεφάντινον σχόντα τοξεῦσαι ᾽Αχιλλέα κατὰ γαστρός.

From the Decembrists’ “July July”

And I say your uncle was a crooked french Canadian
And he was gut-shot runnin’ gin
And how his guts were all suspended in his fingers
And how he held ’em
How he held ’em held, ’em in

Image result for paris shooting achilles vase

I talk a little bit about the symbolic value of foot wounds in “Diomedes’ Foot-wound and the Homeric Reception of Myth.”