“And then again in his details about Pyrrhus he says that the Romans still recall the memory of the destruction at Troy when they shoot a warhorse on a certain day in front of the city in the Campus Martius because the sacking of troy happened because of a wooden horse—a fact which is the most childish thing of all. For, he would need to say that all the barbarians are the descendants of Trojans, since almost all of them when they are about to start a war or are taking a risk toward great danger, sacrifice and slaughter a horse, interpreting what is going to happen from the fall of the animal.
Timaios does not only show is inexperience in this bit of stupidity about the horse, but also it seems to be a great bit of pedantry when he supposes so naively that they go through the practice of sacrificing a horse because Troy was taken by one!”
“Aegisthus, why do you push me again into the deep
And re-kindle my rage which was just cooling down?
The victor has indulged himself a bit with a captive girl—
It befits neither a wife nor a mistress to acknowledge it.
The law for the throne is different from the one for a man’s bed.
Even with this, why does my mind not allow me
To bring the harsher laws to bear on my husband when I have been shamed?
It’s right for the one who needs forgiveness to grant it easily.”
Aegisthe, quid me rursus in praeceps agis
iramque flammis iam residentem incitas?
permisit aliquid victor in captam sibi:
nec coniugem hoc respicere nec dominam decet.
lex alia solio est, alia privato in toro.
quid, quod severas ferre me leges viro
non patitur animus turpis admissi memor?
det ille veniam facile cui venia est opus.
Clement of Alexandria, Miscellanies 18.104.22.168-137.4 (=BNJ 253F1 Thrasyllos of Rhodes)
‘Let’s summarize the timeline of the Greeks beginning with Moses. From the birth of Moses to the Jews’ escape from Egypt there were eighty years and then Moses died forty years later. The Exodus occurred at the time of Inachus. It was 340 years from the wandering of Sothis that Moses left Egypt. The amount of time from the leadership of Moses and the time of Inachus to the flood of Deucalion—and here I mean the second flood—as well as the immolation of Phaethon (which occurred at the time of Krotôpos) has been counted as forty generations when three generations are included in a hundred year period.
From the flood to the burning of Ida, the discovery of iron, and the Idaian Daktyls, seventy three years passed, according to Thrasyllos. And from the burning of Ida to the rape of Ganymede, sixty-five years passed. Following that period to Perseus’ expedition—when Glaukos established the Isthmian games in honor of Melikertês, there were fifteen years.
There were thirty-four years between Perseus’ expedition and the founding of Troy. After that, the voyage of the Argo happened 64 years later. 32 years passed from that time to the Theseus and the Minotaur. After this there were 10 years before the expedition of the Seven Against Thebes, three years until the founding of the Olympic games by Herakles in honor of Pelops and another nine years until the Amazons’ attack on Athens and Theseus’ abduction of Helen. The apotheosis of Herakles occurred 11 years after that. Four years later was Alexander’s rape of Helen. Then there were 20 years before the destruction of Troy followed by 10 years until Aeneas’ arrival after the fall of Troy and the founding of Lavinium. This means there were eight years before the reign of Ascanius. There were 61 years after this before the arrival of the Herakleidai. From then to the first Olympiad by Iphitos is 338 years.
Krotopos: [Crotopos] A king of Argos who condemned his daughter Psamathe to death when she gave birth to a child. Apollo brought a plague on the city.
Idaian Daktyls: A People of Mount Ida who invented the art of working metals with fire.
An Abbreviated Timeline
1533 BCE Flood of Deucalion
1385 Rape of Ganymede
1282 Voyage of the Argo
1240 Seven Against Thebes
1213 Rape of Helen
1193 Destruction of Troy
776 First Olympic Games
A few notes: If Helen was 1 when she was abducted by Theseus (1228), she was 16 when she was taken by Paris and 36 at the end of the Trojan War (which would make her 46 when she meets Telemachus in the Odyssey).
“A bit farther along among the final souls, he saw that of the ridiculous Thersities taking on the form of a monkey. By chance, he came upon the soul of Odysseus last of all as it made its choice still remembering its previous sufferings and, having decided to rest from the pursuit of honor, was spending an excessive among of time seeking the life of an untroubled private citizen. He found it barely situated somewhere and ignored by the rest of the souls. When he saw it, he said that he would have made the same choice even had he drawn the first lot and was happen to make this choice.”
“Accordingly, then, they differ from one another in magnitude of more or less, just as the whiteness in show compares to the whiteness of milk: it is white for each it is not different in this, but it contrasts in being more or less white. In the same manner, if you will allow me to say, the health of Achilles does not differ from that of Thersites: inasmuch as it is health, it is the same, but it differs in another thing.”
“First, men claim that Homer was a beggar in Greece because of poverty and lack of means. But they believe that this sort of a man is incapable of lying for the sake of those who gave him things, that he would not say the sorts of things he would intend only to please them!
Yet people say that beggars today say nothing credible, no one ever provides one as a witness on anything, nor do they ever accept praise from them as something true. For they know that beggars say everything to manipulate, by necessity. And then they say that some people gave money to a beggar while others gave money to a madman and that they think the people then decided he was crazy when he was speaking truth rather than lying.
Really, I am not so much rebuking Homer in these things. For nothing prevents a wise man from begging or seeming insane. But I am saying that, according to the belief people hold about Homer and these sort of men, nothing they say is believable.”
“Furthermore, they do not believe that lying is in Homer’s nature or that he employs this sort of thing at all. Yet he makes Odysseus lie the most, a man he praises, and he says that Autolykos even breaks an oath and that this was granted to him by Hermes! Nearly everyone agrees that Homer says nothing true about the gods, even those who praise him, and they try to offer various defenses, that he does not say these things because he means them but because he is riddling and using metaphor. What keeps him from speaking this way about men too?
For, whoever speaks nothing manifestly true about the gods, but so much to the contrary that that people who encounter them take them as lies—and which bring no help to the singer—how would he hesitate to utter any kind of falsehood about men too? Many have previously noted that he has created gods grieving and groaning, wounded and nearly dying, and has added divine adulteries, bonding, and vows. I don’t wish to prosecute Homer, only to show what the truth was. I will also defend the matters as they seem to me. I say that he showed no hesitation in lying and did not think it a shame. I will move now to consider whether he was right or not.”
The Scene: In Euripides’ Helen, Proteus’ son wants to marry her and Menelaos has been shipwrecked outside of Egypt. He arrived with a fake-Helen but has now found the real one and they are trying to persuade the seer Theonoe not to tell her brother that Menelaos is there. Just in case the plan fails, Menelaos has a contingency plan:
Menelaos: Come on, what if she doesn’t accept our arguments?
Helen: The you die. And wretched me, well I will be married by force
M: You would be a traitor. You use ‘force’ as an excuse.
H:No—I swear a sacred oath on your head…
M: What are you saying, you will die? You will never leave our bed?
H: By the same sword. I will lie near you.
M: Take my right hand to swear these things.
H:I take it: I will leave the life when you die.
M: And I, deprived of you, will end my life.
H: How will we die in a way that gains us fame?
M: After killing you over the back of this grave I will kill myself.
But first we will fight a great fight over your bed.
Let any man who wants to come near.
I will not bring shame to my Trojan fame,
Nor will I have left Greece to get great blame,
I, the man who deprived Thetis of Achilles,
Who saw Telamonian Ajax slaughter himself
And saw Neleus’ son made childless! Should I not
Think it right that I should die for my own wife?
Oh, it really is. For if the gods are wise,
They will make a light burden of the earth’s tomb
For the brave man struck down by his enemies,
While they expel cowards from onto lonely stone.”
This semester I am reading Euripides’ Helen with my advanced Greek students. The opening speech presents Helen herself on stage retelling the “alternate-fact” version of the Trojan War (told as well by Stesichorus and Herodotus) that she herself never went to Troy. This monologue is pretty amusing, both for the plays of meaning presented within it and the playful treatment of the Trojan War tradition.
“The land of my father is not nameless,
Sparta, nor my father Tyndareus. And, indeed, there is
a certain story that Zeus flew to my mother Leda
after he took the form of a swan, a bird,
when he completed this ‘bedding’ deceptively
under the pretext of fleeing an eagle, if the story is true.
I am called Helen. And I should tell you the evils
I have suffered. Three goddesses went to the folds
O Mt. Ida to Alexander about their beauty,
Hera, the Kyprian, and the Zeus-born maiden,
Because they wanted him to complete a judgement of their ‘form’.
My beauty–if misfortune is beautiful–
Is what the Kyprian offered, for Alexander to marry,
In order to win. After Idaian Paris left the cow-stall
He went to Sparta seeking my bed.
But Hera, miffed because she did not defeat the goddesses,
Made my bed with Alexander an empty thing.
She did not give me, but instead, she made
A breathing ghost like me, crafting it from the sky,
For tyrant Priam’s son. He seemed to have me,
And it was an empty thing, because he did not have me….”