Helen and Penelope Were Cousins!

Helen and Penelope, the two most important women of Homeric epic, appear to be cousins! How can this be the case? Their fathers, as one might imagine, were brothers (Apollodorus 3.126):

“There are some who say that Aphareus and Leukippos were sons of Periêrês the son of Aiolos and that Periêrês was the son of Kunortos, but that he himself was the father of Oibalos who fathered Tyndareus, Hippokoôn, and Ikarios.

Hippokoôn had for children Dorykleus, Skaios, Enarophoros, Euteikhes, Boukolos, Lukaithos, Tebros, Hippothoos, Eurytos, Hippokorustês, Alkinoos,and Alkôn. With these sons, Hippokoôn expelled his brothers Ikarios and Tyndareus from Lakedaimôn. The pair fled to Thestios and they allied with him in the war against his neighbors. So, Tyndareus wed Thestios’ daughter, Lêda. And then, when Herakles killed Hippokoôn and his sons, they returned, and Herakles handed over the kingdom of Tyndareus.”

εἰσὶ δὲ οἱ λέγοντες ᾿Αφαρέα μὲν καὶ Λεύκιππον ἐκ Περιήρους γενέσθαι τοῦ Αἰόλου, Κυνόρτου δὲ Περιήρην, τοῦ δὲ Οἴβαλον, Οἰβάλου δὲ καὶ νηίδος νύμφης
Βατείας Τυνδάρεων ῾Ιπποκόωντα ᾿Ικάριον.

῾Ιπποκόωντος μὲν οὖν ἐγένοντο παῖδες Δορυκλεὺς Σκαῖος ᾿Εναροφόρος Εὐτείχης Βουκόλος Λύκαιθος Τέβρος ῾Ιππόθοος Εὔρυτος ῾Ιπποκορυστὴς ᾿Αλκίνους ῎Αλκων. τούτους ῾Ιπποκόων ἔχων παῖδας ᾿Ικάριον καὶ Τυνδάρεων ἐξέβαλε Λακεδαίμονος. οἱ δὲ φεύγουσι πρὸς Θέστιον, καὶ συμμαχοῦσιν αὐτῷ πρὸς τοὺς ὁμόρους πόλεμον ἔχοντι· καὶ γαμεῖ Τυνδάρεως Θεστίου θυγατέρα Λήδαν. αὖθις δέ, ὅτε ῾Ηρακλῆς ῾Ιπποκόωντα καὶ τοὺς τούτου παῖδας ἀπέκτεινε, κατέρχονται, καὶ παραλαμβάνει Τυνδάρεως τὴν βασιλείαν.

The story according to a Homeric scholiast is presents even more family dysfunction (Schol. b in Il.2.581-6):

“Oibalos, the son of Perierês, ruled the Lakadaimonians and his children were Tyndareus, Ikarios, Arênê and the bastard Hippokoôn who conspired with Ikarios and drove Tyndareus away. He was ruling with his many sons.”

Οἴβαλος ὁ Περιήρους ἦρχε Λακεδαιμονίων, οὗ Τυνδάρεως ᾿Ικάριος ᾿Αρήνη καὶ νόθος ῾Ιπποκόων, ὃς συμφρασάμενος ᾿Ικαρίῳ τὸν Τυνδάρεων ἀπελαύνει, καὶ ἄρχει πολλοῖς πλήθων υἱοῖς.

According to the rest of this tale, Herakles came and killed Hippokoôn and his sons after he sacked Pylos. Menelaos was only in charge of the contingent, according to the scholiast, because Helen’s brothers were not there.

Some of these details are confirmed by a scholiast writing on Euripides, Schol. In Euripides Orestes 457

“These are the children of Oibalos,the son of Periêrês: Tyndareus, Ikarios, Arênê, and Hippokoôn, a bastard from Nikostratê. After the death of Oibalos, the children struggled over who would rule. Ikarios made a pact with Hippokoôn and drove Tyndareus out of Sparta. Tyndareus lived afterwards in the farthest reaches of Lakedaimonia and married Leda, the daughter of Thestios the Aitolian.

She gave birth to Kastor and Polydeukes, Timandra, Klytemnestra, and Helen. Later, Herakles killed Hippokoôn and his sons in exchange for the murder of Oiônos; then he returned Tyndareus from Phrixê and Pellênê and entrusted the rule of Sparta to him. For Herakles married Leda’s niece, Deineira.”

Οἰβάλου τοῦ Περιήρους παῖδες οὗτοι· Τυνδάρεως, ᾿Ικάριος, ᾿Αρήνη, καὶ νόθος ἐκ Νικοστράτης ῾Ιπποχόων. οὗτοι μετὰ θάνατον Οἰβάλου ἐστασίασαν περὶ τῆς ἀρχῆς. ᾿Ικάριος δὲ συνθέμενος μετὰ ῾Ιπποκόωντος ἐξελαύνει τὸν Τυνδάρεων τῆς Σπάρτης.

ὁ δὲ οἰκεῖ ἐν τοῖς ἐσχάτοις τῆς Λακεδαιμονίας καὶ γαμεῖ Λήδαν τὴν Θεστίου τοῦ Αἰτωλοῦ, ἐξ ἧς ἔσχε Κάστορα καὶ Πολυδεύκην καὶ Τιμάνδραν καὶ Κλυταιμνήστραν καὶ ῾Ελένην. ὕστερον δὲ ῾Ηρακλῆς ἐπὶ τῷ φόνῳ τοῦ Οἰωνοῦ φονεύσας ῾Ιπποκόωντα ἅμα τοῖς παισὶ καὶ καταγαγὼν τὸν Τυνδάρεων ἀπὸ Φρίξης καὶ Πελλήνης ἐγχειρεῖ αὐτῷ τὴν ἀρχὴν τῆς Σπάρτης. ἐγάμει γὰρ ῾Ηρακλῆς Δηϊάνειραν τὴν Λήδας ἀδελφιδῆν: —

[Leda is not universally a daughter of Thestios. Thestios’ other daughter was Althaia, who married Oineus and gave birth to Meleager and Deineira. According to another tradition, attributed to Eumelos of Corinth, Leda was the daughter of Glaukos and Panteiduia. And let’s not even bring Pherecydes into this. Because, well, there are even more accounts to consider…]

Penelope’s (In)Fidelity

Penelope’s Grave, Pausanias 8.12.5

“In addition to the roads discussed, there are two others to Orkhomenos. On one we find what is called the Ladan Stade where Ladas practiced running and near there a temple of Artemis. On the right side of the road, there is a high mound. People say that this is the burial place of Penelope, although in this they don’t agree with the story about her in the poem called the Thesprotis.

In that poem, Penelope has the child Ptoloporthês with Odysseus after he comes home from Troy.  But the story of the Mantineans says that she was accused by Odysseus of bringing lovers into his home and then he kicked her out. They say she returned to Lakedaimon but later moved from Sparta to Mantineia where she met the end of her life.”

ἐπὶ δὲ ὁδοῖς ταῖς κατειλεγμέναις δύο ἐς ᾿Ορχομενόν εἰσιν ἄλλαι, καὶ τῇ μέν ἐστι καλούμενον Λάδα στάδιον, ἐς ὃ ἐποιεῖτο Λάδας μελέτην δρόμου, καὶ παρ’ αὐτὸ ἱερὸν ᾿Αρτέμιδος καὶ ἐν δεξιᾷ τῆς ὁδοῦ γῆς χῶμα ὑψηλόν· Πηνελόπης δὲ εἶναι τάφον φασίν, οὐχ ὁμολογοῦντες τὰ ἐς αὐτὴν ποιήσει <τῇ> Θεσπρωτίδι ὀνομαζομένῃ. ἐν ταύτῃ μέν γέ ἐστι τῇ ποιήσει ἐπανήκοντι ἐκ Τροίας ᾿Οδυσσεῖ τεκεῖν τὴν Πηνελόπην Πτολιπόρθην παῖδα· Μαντινέων δὲ ὁ ἐς αὐτὴν λόγος Πηνελόπην φησὶν ὑπ’ ᾿Οδυσσέως καταγνωσθεῖσαν ὡς ἐπισπαστοὺς ἐσαγάγοιτο ἐς τὸν οἶκον, καὶ ἀποπεμφθεῖσαν ὑπ’ αὐτοῦ,  τὸ μὲν παραυτίκα ἐς Λακεδαίμονα ἀπελθεῖν, χρόνῳ δὲ ὕστερον ἐκ τῆς Σπάρτης ἐς Μαντίνειαν μετοικῆσαι, καί οἱ τοῦ βίου τὴν τελευτὴν ἐνταῦθα συμβῆναι.

This story is in part reported by Apollodorus, (Ep. 7.38-39)

“Some say that Penelope was corrupted by Antinoos and that Odysseus sent her back to her father Ikarios. When she came to Mantinea in Arcadia she had Pan with Hermes. Others allege that she was killed by Odysseus because of Amphinomos, who seduced her. There are also those who say that Odysseus was charged by the relatives of those he had killed who took Neoptolemos as judge, then king of the islands near Epirus. He handed down a judgment of exile and Odysseus went to Thoas the son of Andraimôn who married him to his daughter. When he died from old age, he left a son Leontophonos.

τινὲς δὲ Πηνελόπην ὑπὸ Ἀντινόου φθαρεῖσαν λέγουσιν ὑπὸ Ὀδυσσέως πρὸς τὸν πατέρα Ἰκάριον ἀποσταλῆναι, γενομένην δὲ τῆς Ἀρκαδίας κατὰ Μαντίνειαν ἐξ Ἑρμοῦ τεκεῖν Πᾶνα:  ἄλλοι δὲ δι᾽ Ἀμφίνομον ὑπὸ Ὀδυσσέως αὐτοῦ τελευτῆσαι: διαφθαρῆναι γὰρ αὐτὴν ὑπὸ τούτου λέγουσιν. [40] εἰσὶ δὲ οἱ λέγοντες ἐγκαλούμενον Ὀδυσσέα ὑπὸ τῶν οἰκείων ὑπὲρ τῶν ἀπολωλότων δικαστὴν Νεοπτόλεμον λαβεῖν τὸν βασιλεύοντα τῶν κατὰ τὴν Ἤπειρον νήσων, τοῦτον δέ, νομίσαντα ἐκποδὼν Ὀδυσσέως γενομένου Κεφαλληνίαν καθέξειν, κατακρῖναι φυγὴν αὐτοῦ, Ὀδυσσέα δὲ εἰς Αἰτωλίαν πρὸς Θόαντα τὸν Ἀνδραίμονος παραγενόμενον τὴν τούτου θυγατέρα γῆμαι, καὶ καταλιπόντα παῖδα Λεοντοφόνον ἐκ ταύτης γηραιὸν τελευτῆσαι.

Image result for Penelope ancient greek

The detail about Amphinomos might be drawn from a passage in the Odyssey where the narrative provides some insight into Penelope’s mind (16.394-398):

Amphinomos rose and spoke among them,
The dashing son of Nisos, the son of lord Arêtiades,
Who joined the suitors from grain-rich and grassy
Doulikhos. He was especially pleasing to Penelope
For he made good use of his brains.”

τοῖσιν δ’ ᾿Αμφίνομος ἀγορήσατο καὶ μετέειπε,
Νίσου φαίδιμος υἱός, ᾿Αρητιάδαο ἄνακτος,
ὅς ῥ’ ἐκ Δουλιχίου πολυπύρου ποιήεντος
ἡγεῖτο μνηστῆρσι, μάλιστα δὲ Πηνελοπείῃ
ἥνδανε μύθοισι· φρεσὶ γὰρ κέχρητ’ ἀγαθῇσιν·

It is somewhat amusing to compare this to what Telemachus says earlier when he describes the suitors.

Homer, Odyssey 15.518-524

“But I will tell you of another man you might encounter,
Eurymakhos, the shining son of sharp-minded Polyboios,
Whom the Ithakans now look upon the way they would a god.
He is by far the best man remaining and the best
To marry my mother and receive my father’s geras.
But Zeus is the one who knows these things as he rules on high”
Whether or not he will bring about a deadly day for them before a marriage.”

ἀλλά τοι ἄλλον φῶτα πιφαύσκομαι, ὅν κεν ἵκοιο,
Εὐρύμαχον, Πολύβοιο δαΐφρονος ἀγλαὸν υἱόν,
τὸν νῦν ἶσα θεῷ ᾿Ιθακήσιοι εἰσορόωσι·
καὶ γὰρ πολλὸν ἄριστος ἀνὴρ μέμονέν τε μάλιστα
μητέρ’ ἐμὴν γαμέειν καὶ ᾿Οδυσσῆος γέρας ἕξειν.

What to make of this difference? Telemachus’ evaluation appears to be based on Eurymakhos’ standing among the Ithakans. Penelope seems to favor someone who is not Ithakan and whose traits are like her own and her absent husband.

Lykophron in his Alexandra takes the view that Penelope was not faithful (768-773)

“For he will come, he will come to the harbor shelter of Reithron
And the cliffs of Nêritos. And he will see
His whole house upturned from its foundations
By wifestealing adulterers. And that vixen
Will hollow out his home with shameless whoring,
Pouring out the wretch’s fortune feast by feast”.

ἥξει γάρ, ἥξει ναύλοχον ῾Ρείθρου σκέπας
καὶ Νηρίτου πρηῶνας. ὄψεται δὲ πᾶν
μέλαθρον ἄρδην ἐκ βάθρων ἀνάστατον
μύκλοις γυναικόκλωψιν. ἡ δὲ βασσάρα
σεμνῶς κασωρεύουσα κοιλανεῖ δόμους,
θοίναισιν ὄλβον ἐκχέασα τλήμονος.

Lykophron is positively chaste compared to the account provided in the Scholia:

“And Douris writes in his work on the lewdness of Agathokleos that Penelope had sex with all of the suitors and then gave birth to the goat-shaped Pan whom they took up to be one of the gods.  He is talking nonsense about Pan, for Pan is the child of Hermes and a different Penelope. Another story is that Pan is the child of Zeus and Hubris.”

Καὶ Δοῦρις δὲ ἐν τῷ περὶ ᾿Αγαθοκλέους μάχλον φησὶ τὴν Πηνελόπην καὶ συνελθοῦσαν πᾶσι τοῖς μνηστῆρσι γεννῆσαι τὸν τραγοσκελῆ Πᾶνα ὃν εἰς θεοὺς ἔχουσιν (FHG II 47942). φλυαρεῖ δὲ περὶ τοῦ Πανός· ὁ Πὰν γὰρ ῾Ερμοῦ καὶ Πηνελόπης ἄλλης †T. καὶ ἕτερος δὲ Πὰν Διὸς καὶ ῞Υβρεως.

Tacitus on Germanic Standards for Women and Child-Rearing

Some of the rhetoric here seems a bit familiar…

Tacitus, Germania 19-20

In that country, no one finds vice amusing; nor is seducing or being seduced celebrated as a sign of the times. Even better are those communities where only virgins marry and a promise is made with the hope and vow of a wife. And so, they have only one husband just as each has one body and one life so that there may be no additional thought of it, no lingering desire, that they may not love the man so much as they love the marriage. It is considered a sin to limit the number of children or to eliminate the later born. There good customs are stronger than good laws.

There are children there naked and dirty in every house growing into the size of limbs and body at which we wonder. Each mother nourishes each child with her own breasts; they are not passed around to maids and nurses.”

nemo enim illic vitia ridet, nec corrumpere et corrumpi saeculum vocatur. melius quidem adhuc eae civitates, in quibus tantum virgines nubunt et cum spe votoque uxoris semel transigitur. sic unum accipiunt maritum quo modo unum corpus unamque vitam, ne ulla cogitatio ultra, ne longior cupiditas, ne tamquam maritum, sed tamquam matrimonium ament. numerum liberorum finire aut quemquam ex agnatis necare flagitium habetur, plusque ibi boni mores valent quam alibi bonae leges.In omni domo nudi ac sordidi in hos artus, in haec corpora, quae miramur, excrescunt. sua quemque mater uberibus alit, nec ancillis aut nutricibus delegantur.

Image result for medieval manuscript Tacitus germania

Pain in Private; Virtue in Public: Some Sayings of Spartan Women

Plutarch, Moralia Sayings of Spartan Women 242c-d

“A certain girl who lost her virginity to a man in secret and forced an abortion of the fetus handled is so strongly and uttered no sound that she birthed the child without her father and those who were near her knowing. This is because the overcoming of her indiscretion with discretion prevailed over the magnitude of her pains.”

26. Κρύφα τις διαπαρθενευθεῖσα καὶ διαφθείρασα τὸ βρέφος οὕτως ἐνεκαρτέρησε μηδεμίαν προενεγκαμένη φωνήν, ὥστε καὶ τὸν πατέρα καὶ ἄλλους πλησίον ὄντας λαθεῖν ἀποκυήσασα· τὸ γὰρ μέγεθος τῶν ἀλγηδόνων τῇ εὐσχημοσύνῃ τὸ ἄσχημον προσπεσὸν ἐνίκησε.

“A Spartan woman who was being sold and was asked what she knows how to do, answered, “To be faithful.”

27. Λάκαινα πιπρασκομένη καὶ ἐρωτωμένη τί ἐπίσταται, ἔφη, “πιστὰ ἦμεν.”

“Another Spartan woman, when she was captured and asked a similar question, answered, “to keep a house well.”

28. Ἄλλη αἰχμαλωτευθεῖσα καὶ ἐρωτωμένη παραπλησίως, “εὖ οἰκεῖν οἶκον,” ἔφη.

“When a Spartan woman was asked by some man if she would be good if he he purchased her, answered, “I will. And if you don’t purchase me too”

29. Ἐρωτηθεῖσά τις ὑπό τινος, εἰ ἔσται ἀγαθή, ἂν αὐτὴν ἀγοράσῃ, εἶπε, “κἂν μὴ ἀγοράσῃς.”

Theater of Ancient Sparta

The Pythagorean Women

Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Philosophers 8.41

“For [Hermippos] says that when Pythagoras was in Italy he built a little home in the ground and told his mother to write down on a tablet what happened and the time and then to send it down to him until he came up again. His mother did that.

Later, when Pythagoras finally came up again he was shriveled and almost a skeleton. After he came to the assembly, he was saying that he came from Hades. Then he read aloud to them what had happened. And they were overwhelmed by what he said, crying and weeping and believing that Pythagoras was divine. They believed it so much that they gave him their wives so that they might learn some of his philosophy from him. They were called Pythagorean Women. Well, that’s what Hermippos says…”

λέγει γὰρ ὡς γενόμενος ἐν Ἰταλίᾳ κατὰ γῆς οἰκίσκον ποιήσαι καὶ τῇ μητρὶ ἐντείλαιτο τὰ γινόμενα εἰς δέλτον γράφειν σημειουμένην καὶ τὸν χρόνον, ἔπειτα καθιέναι αὐτῷ ἔστ’ ἂν ἀνέλθῃ. τοῦτο ποιῆσαι τὴν μητέρα. τὸν δὲ Πυθαγόραν μετὰ χρόνον ἀνελθεῖν ἰσχνὸν καὶ κατεσκελετευμένον· εἰσελθόντα τε εἰς τὴν ἐκκλησίαν φάσκειν ὡς ἀφῖκται ἐξ Ἅιδου· καὶ δὴ καὶ ἀνεγίνωσκεν αὐτοῖς τὰ συμβεβηκότα. οἱ δὲ σαινόμενοι τοῖς λεγομένοις ἐδάκρυόν τε καὶ ᾤμωζον καὶ ἐπίστευον εἶναι τὸν Πυθαγόραν θεῖόν τινα, ὥστε καὶ τὰς γυναῖκας αὐτῷ παραδοῦναι, ὡς καὶ μαθησομένας τι τῶν αὐτοῦ· ἃς καὶ Πυθαγορικὰς κληθῆναι. καὶ ταῦτα μὲν ὁ Ἕρμιππος…

 

There is another version of this in the Scholia to Sophocles’ Elektra 62-64

“Pythagoras confined himself in an underground hole and told his mother to tell people that he had died. When he reappeared, he told a lot of marvelous tales about resurrection and the things which happen in the underworld, and, to the living he related a full account of all the companions he happened to meet in the underworld; from this arose the belief that he was Aithalides son of Hermes before the Trojan War, then Euphorbus, then Hermotimus, then Pyrrhus the Delian, and then finally Pythagoras. Sophocles seems to be hinting at this story. Some assert, though unpersuasively, that the lines are aimed at Odysseus. But this is unconvincing, because Odysseus never did anything of the sort.”

ἤδη γὰρ εἶδον πολλάκις Πυθαγόρας καθείρξας ἑαυτὸν ἐν ὑπογείῳ λογοποιεῖν ἐκέλευσε τὴν μητέρα ὡς ἄρα τεθνηκὼς εἴη καὶ μετὰ ταῦτα ἐπιφανεὶς περὶ παλιγγενεσίας καὶ τῶν καθ’ ῞Αιδου τινὰ ἐτερατεύετο διηγούμενος πρὸς τοὺς ζῶντας περὶ τῶν οἰκείων οἷς ἐν ῞Αιδου συντετυχηκέναι ἔλεγεν ἐξ ὧν τοιαύτην ἑαυτῷ δόξαν περιέθηκεν ὡς πρὸ μὲν τῶν Τρωικῶν Αἰθαλίδης ὢν ὁ ῾Ερμοῦ, εἶτα Εὔφορβος, εἶτα ῾Ερμότιμος, εἶτα Πύρρος ὁ Δήλιος, εἶτα ἐπὶ πᾶσι Πυθαγόρας· εἰς τοῦτο  οὖν ἔοικεν ἀποτείνεσθαι ὁ Σοφοκλῆς· ἔνιοι δὲ οἴονται ἀπιθάνως εἰς ᾿Οδυσσέα ἀποτείνεσθαι· οὐ γὰρ πέπρακταί τι τοιοῦτον ᾿Οδυσσεῖ·

Hydria with Women at a Fountain (MFA Boston)

“Feminine Fame”: Homer on Why We Disbelieve Women

After the suitor Amphimedon arrives in the underworld and tells the story of Penelope’s shroud and Odysseus’ return, Agamemnon responds:

Odyssey 24.192-202:

“Blessed child of Laertes, much-devising Odysseus,
You really secured a wife with magnificent virtue!
That’s how good the brains are for blameless Penelope,
Ikarios’ daughter, how well she remembered Odysseus,
Her wedded husband. The fame of her virtue will never perish,
And the gods will craft a pleasing song
Of mindful Penelope for mortals over the earth.
This is not the way for Tyndareos’ daughter.
She devised wicked deeds and since she killed
Her wedded husband, a hateful song
Will be hers among men, she will attract harsh rumor
To the race of women, even for those who are good.”

“ὄλβιε Λαέρταο πάϊ, πολυμήχαν’ ᾿Οδυσσεῦ,
ἦ ἄρα σὺν μεγάλῃ ἀρετῇ ἐκτήσω ἄκοιτιν·
ὡς ἀγαθαὶ φρένες ἦσαν ἀμύμονι Πηνελοπείῃ,
κούρῃ ᾿Ικαρίου, ὡς εὖ μέμνητ’ ᾿Οδυσῆος,
ἀνδρὸς κουριδίου. τῶ οἱ κλέος οὔ ποτ’ ὀλεῖται
ἧς ἀρετῆς, τεύξουσι δ’ ἐπιχθονίοισιν ἀοιδὴν
ἀθάνατοι χαρίεσσαν ἐχέφρονι Πηνελοπείῃ,
οὐχ ὡς Τυνδαρέου κούρη κακὰ μήσατο ἔργα,
κουρίδιον κτείνασα πόσιν, στυγερὴ δέ τ’ ἀοιδὴ
ἔσσετ’ ἐπ’ ἀνθρώπους, χαλεπὴν δέ τε φῆμιν ὀπάσσει
θηλυτέρῃσι γυναιξί, καὶ ἥ κ’ εὐεργὸς ἔῃσιν.”

More than half of this speech praises Penelope for being a loyal, ‘good’ wife (and that is another issue of its own). Of course, this makes Agamemnon think of Klytemnestra. There’s a lot to be said about how this passage sets up the end of the Odyssey, but Agamemnon’s words are striking because they reflect a sad reality not just about misogynistic thinking but about the operation of human thought.

Let’s start with the misogyny: Agamemnon says here, quite clearly, that because of the behavior of one woman (well, two if we hear ambiguity in the phrase “Tyndareos’ daughter” and think of Helen too) all women have bad fame, even if they are “good”? A simple response to this is to wonder whether the same applies to men (of course not…) Let’s pass over the fact that the murder of Agamemnon was probably well deserved.  I think this passage also reflects human cognition: the story of Klytemnestra is paradigmatic. We learn basic patterns about people and the world and apply these patterns (prejudices) as substitutions for deeper thought.

I am not sure whether this serves as a bit of an anticipatory apologetic on the part of epic–that the tale of Penelope cannot match up to negative messages about women. It probably stands as an acknowledgement of a “negative expectancy effect”–we are primed to hear negative tales and to believe negative things. I suspect that on Homer’s part this is probably less about women and more about anticipating the reception of this poem.

But, at the very least, this is a clear indication that Homer knows the way it goes: we live in a cultural system that discounts positive stories about women in favor of negative ones and which, accordingly, downgrades the authority of the stories they tell. In our responses to the testimonies of men and women, men have the privilege of being individuals whose lives might be ruined by rumor and false claims, while women are always already undermined. This is is an example of structural misogyny.

For discussions of this passage see: On the contrasting fame of Klytemnestra and Penelope, see Franco 2012, 60–61. For invocations of Klytemnestra as an example of how a woman can ruin a nostos, see Murnaghan 2011, chapter 4 and Nagy 1999, 36–39.

orestes
Classical myth deserves trigger warnings.

Franco, Cristina. 2012. “Women in Homer,” in Sharon L. James and Sheila Dillon, eds., A Companion to Women in the Ancient World. London. 55­–65.

Marquardt, Patricia. 1989. “Love’s Labor’s Lost: Women in the Odyssey,” in Robert Sutton, ed., Daidalikon: Studies in Honor of Raymond V. Schoder, S.J. Chicago. 239-248.

Murnaghan, Sheila. 2011. Disguise and Recognition in the Odyssey, Second Edition. Lanham.

Nagy, Gregory 1996. Poetry as Performance: Homer and Beyond. Cambridge

Plutarch has Erotic Stories: They’re Not What You’d Think

A terrible love story for Women’s History Month

Plutarch, Erotic Stories, Moralia 771

“In Haliartos in Boiotia, there was a certain girl of surpassing beauty whose name was Aristokleia. She was the Daughter of Theophanes. Stratôn the Orkhomenian and Kallisthenes the Haliartian were both wooing her.

Stratôn was wealthier and was somewhat more taken with the virgin. For he happened to see her once when she was bathing in the fountain Herkunêin Lebadeia. For she was making reading to carry a basket for Zeus the king. But Kallisthenes was closer to winning her, for he was related to her.

Theophanes was at a loss in the matter—for he was fearing Stratôn he stood apart from nearly all the Boiotians because of his family and wealth. He was planning on getting advice about the choice from Trophonios. Stratôn, however, was convinced by the girl’s servants that she was leaning towards him, so he considered it best to have the girl to be married make the choice. But when Theophanes asked his daughter in front of everyone, she chose Kallisthenes. It was clear that Stratôn took the dishonor badly.

After a period of two days, he approached Theophanes and Kallisthenes, saying he wanted to preserve their friendship, even if he had been denied the marriage by some envious god. They praised what he said and asked him to come to the feast for the wedding. But he, once he had gathered a mob of his friends and no small a retinue of servants which were distributed among the attendees unnoticed, waited until the girl wen to the Spring Kissoessa to make the customary sacrifice to the local nymphs. There, all the men who were in ambush rushed out and grabbed her. Stratos had gained a hold of the virgin. Kallisthenes, as one might expect, grabbed her in turn and those with him were helping. They all pulled on her until she died without them knowing, stretched to death in their hands.

Kallisthenes was out of sight immediately, either because he killed himself or left Boiotia as an exile. No one is able to say what happened to him. But Stratôn killed himself openty over the maiden.”

Ἐν Ἁλιάρτῳ τῆς Βοιωτίας κόρη τις γίνεται κάλλει διαπρέπουσα ὄνομα Ἀριστόκλεια· θυγάτηρ δ᾿ ἦν Θεοφάνους. ταύτην μνῶνται Στράτων Ὀρχομένιος καὶ Καλλισθένης Ἁλιάρτιος. πλουσιώτερος δ᾿ ἦν Στράτων καὶ μᾶλλόν τι τῆς παρθένου ἡττημένος· ἐτύγχανε γὰρ ἰδὼν αὐτὴν ἐν Λεβαδείᾳ λουομένην ἐπὶ τῇ κρήνῃ τῇ Ἑρκύνῃ· ἔμελλε γὰρ τῷ Διὶ τῷ βασιλεῖ κανηφορεῖν. ἀλλ᾿ ὁ Καλλισθένης γε πλέον ἐφέρετο· ἦν γὰρ καὶ γένει προσήκων τῇ κόρῃ. ἀπορῶν δὲ τῷ πράγματι ὁ Θεοφάνης, ἐδεδίει γὰρ τὸν Στράτων πλούτῳ τε καὶ γένει σχεδὸν ἁπάντων διαφέροντα τῶν Βοιωτῶν, τὴν αἵρεσιν ἐβούλετο τῷ Τροφωνίῳ ἐπιτρέψαι· καὶ ὁ Στράτων, ἀνεπέπειστο γὰρ ὑπὸ τῶν τῆς παρθένου οἰκετῶν, ὡς πρὸς αὐτὸν μᾶλλον ἐκείνη ῥέποι, ἠξίου ἐπ᾿ αὐτῇ ποιεῖσθαι τῇ γαμουμένῃ τὴν ἐκλογήν. ὡς δὲ τῆς παιδὸς ὁ Θεοφάνης ἐπυνθάνετο ἐν ὄψει πάντων, ἡ δὲ τὸν Καλλισθένην προύκρινεν, εὐθὺς μὲν ὁ Στράτων δῆλος ἦν βαρέως φέρων τὴν ἀτιμίαν· ἡμέρας δὲ διαλιπὼν δύο προσῆλθε τῷ Θεοφάνει καὶ τῷ Καλλισθένει, ἀξιῶν τὴν φιλίαν αὐτῷ πρὸς αὐτοὺς διαφυλάττεσθαι, εἰ καὶ τοῦ γάμου ἐφθονήθη ὑπὸ δαιμονίου τινός. οἱ δ᾿ ἐπῄνουν τὰ λεγόμενα, ὥστε καὶ ἐπὶ τὴν ἑστίασιν τῶν γάμων παρεκάλουν αὐτόν. ὁ δὲ παρεσκευασμένος ἑταίρων ὄχλον, καὶ πλῆθος οὐκ ὀλίγον θεραπόντων, διεσπαρμένους παρὰ τούτοις καὶ λανθάνοντας, ἕως ἡ κόρη κατὰ τὰ πάτρια ἐπὶ τὴν Κισσόεσσαν καλουμένην κρήνην κατῄει ταῖς Νύμφαις τὰ προτέλειαCθύσουσα, τότε δὴ συνδραμόντες πάντες οἱ λοχῶντες ἐκείνῳ συνελάμβανον αὐτήν. καὶ ὁ Στράτων γ᾿ εἴχετο τῆς παρθένου· ἀντελαμβάνετο δ᾿ ὡς εἰκὸς ὁ Καλλισθένης ἐν μέρει καὶ οἱ σὺν αὐτῷ, ἕως ἔλαθεν ἡ παῖς ἐν χερσὶ τῶν ἀνθελκόντων διαφθαρεῖσα. ὁ Καλλισθένης μὲν οὖν παραχρῆμα ἀφανὴς ἐγένετο, εἴτε διαχρησάμενος ἑαυτὸν εἴτε φυγὰς ἀπελθὼν ἐκ τῆς Βοιωτίας· οὐκ εἶχε δ᾿ οὖν τις εἰπεῖν ὅ τι καὶ πεπόνθοι. ὁ δὲ Στράτων φανερῶς ἐπικατέσφαξεν ἑαυτὸν τῇ παρθένῳ.

File:Pyxis01 pushkin.jpg
Wedding Preparation Vase, Wikimedia Commons