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Edinburgh Leventis Studies 6

GREEK NOTIONS
OF THE PAST IN
THE ARCHAIC AND
CLASSICAL ERAS
------- ♦--------
History W ithout H istorians

Edited by
John Marincola, Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones
and Calum Maciver
E D I N B U R G H L E V E N T IS S T U D IE S 6
P reviously p u b lish ed

E d in b u rg h L eventis S tudies 1
W o r d a n d Im a g e in A n c ie n t G reece
E d ite d b y N . K e ith R u tte r a n d B rian A. S parkes

E d in b u rg h L eventis S tudies 2
E n vy, S p ite a n d J e a lo u sy : T h e R iv a lro u s E m o tio n s in A n c ie n t G reece
E d ited by D a v id K o n s ta n a n d N . K e ith R u tte r

E d in b u rg h L eventis S tudies 3
A n c ie n t G reece: F ro m th e M y c e n a e a n P a la c e s to the A g e o f H o m e r
E d ite d by S igrid D e g er-Ja lk o tz y a n d Iren e S. L em os

E d in b u rg h L eventis S tudies 4
P u rsu in g th e G ood: E th ic s a n d M e ta p h y s ic s in P la to ’s R ep u b lic
E d ited by D o u g las C a irn s , F ritz -G re g o r H e rrm a n n a n d T erry P en n er

E d in b u rg h L eventis S tudies 5
T h e G ods o f A n c ie n t G reece: Id e n titie s a n d T ra n sfo rm a tio n s
E d ite d by J a n N . B rem m er a n d A n d rew E rsk in e

E d in b u rg h L eventis S tudies 6
G re e k N o tio n s o f th e P a s t in th e A r c h a ic a n d C la ssic a l E ra s: H is to r y
w ith o u t H isto r ia n s
E d ited by J o h n M a rin c o la , L lo y d L lew ellyn-Jones a n d
C a lu m M ac iv e r
E D I N B U R G H L E V E N T IS S T U D IE S 6

GREEK NOTIONS OF THE


PAST IN THE ARCHAIC AND
CLASSICAL ERAS

History without Historians

Edited by
John Marincola,
Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones and
Calum Maciver

EDINBURG H
University Press
© editorial matter and selection, John Marincola, Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones and
Calum Maciver, 2012
© in the individual contributions is retained by the authors, 2012

Edinburgh University Press Ltd


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The right of the contributors


to be identified as author of this work
has been asserted in accordance with
the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
CONTENTS

P re fa c e vii
L is t o f Illu stra tio n s viii
N o te s on C o n trib u to rs x

1 In tro d u c tio n : A P ast w ith o u t H isto ria n s 1


J o h n M a r in c o la
2 H o m e r a n d H e ro ic H isto ry 14
J o n a s G rethlein
3 H e sio d o n H u m a n H isto ry 37
B ru n o C urrie
4 H elen a n d ‘I ’ in E arly G re e k L yric 65
D e b o ra h B o e d e k e r
5 S tesichorus a n d Ibycus: P lain T ales fro m th e W estern
F ro n t 83
E w e n B o w ie
6 P in d a r a n d th e R e c o n stru c tio n o f th e P ast 95
M a r ia P a v lo u
7 D e b a tin g th e P ast in E u rip id e s’ T ro a d es a n d O restes a n d
in S o p h o cles’ E le c tra 113
R u th S c o d e l
8 E u rip id e a n E xplainers 127
A lle n R o m a n o
9 O ld C o m ed y a n d P o p u la r H isto ry 144
J e ffr e y H en d e rso n
10 A ttic H ero es a n d th e C o n stru c tio n o f th e A th e n ia n P ast in
th e F ifth C en tu ry 160
H . A . S h a p iro
11 F am ily Tim e: T em p o ra lity , G e n d e r a n d M a te ria lity in
A n c ie n t G reece 183
L in F o x h a ll
12 C o m m o n K n o w led g e a n d th e C o n te s ta tio n o f H isto ry in
Som e F o u rth -C e n tu ry A th e n ia n T rials 207
Jon H esk
13 P la to a n d th e S tability o f H isto ry 227
K a th r y n A . M o rg a n
14 In scrib in g th e P ast in F o u rth -C e n tu ry A th en s 253
S. D . L a m b e r t
15 T h e P olitics o f th e P ast: R em em b erin g R ev o lu tio n at
A th en s 276
J u lia L . S h e a r
16 ‘R em em b erin g th e A n c ie n t W a y o f L ife’: P rim itivism in
G re ek Sacrificial R itu a l 301
E m ily K e a rn s
17 T h e G re a t K ings o f th e F o u rth C en tu ry a n d th e G re ek
M e m o ry o f th e P ersian P a st 317
L lo y d L le w e lly n -J o n e s
18 C o m m e n ta ry 347
S im o n G oldhill, S u z a n n e S a id a n d C h risto p h e r P e llin g

In d e x L o c o r u m 366
In d e x 376
PREFACE

T his v o lu m e b rin g s to g e th e r revised versions o f p a p e rs originally


p re se n te d a t th e Sixth A. G . L eventis conference, ‘H isto ry w ith o u t
H isto rian s: G reek s a n d th e ir P ast in th e A rc h aic a n d C lassical E r a ’,
w hich w as h e ld a t th e U n iv ersity o f E d in b u rg h , 5 -7 N o v e m b e r
2009. T h e con ference w as a n a tte m p t to get a t th e issue o f w h a t we
w o u ld k n o w a b o u t G re ek co n cep tio n s o f th e p a st if we lack e d th e
h isto rio g ra p h ic a l texts o f H e ro d o tu s , T h u cy d id es a n d others.
J.M . w o u ld like to th a n k th e C lassics D e p a rtm e n t a t th e U n iv ersity
o f E d in b u rg h fo r th e h o n o u r o f n a m in g h im th e A . G . L eventis C h a ir
in G re e k Studies in 2009. T h e h o sp ita lity show n b y th e d e p a rtm e n t
a n d th e S chool o f H isto ry , C lassics a n d A rc h aeo lo g y d u rin g his stay
w as e x tra o rd in a ry , a n d h e th a n k s in p a rtic u la r S a n d ra B ingham ,
G lenys D av ies, E lain e H u tc h iso n , G a v in K elly, L lo y d Llew ellyn-
Jo n es, W e n d y a n d K e ith R u tte r, a n d - last b u t assuredly n o t least - his
n o n p a re il assistan t, K a te C ollingridge. A t a la te r stage h e b enefited (as
alw ays) fro m th e sage advice o f C h risto p h e r Pelling. H e also th a n k s
his research assistan t, A n a sta sia B elinskaya, fo r h e r h elp in com piling
th e In d e x L o co ru m .
W e are g ra te fu l to th e D e p a rtm e n t fo r its care in p u ttin g o n th e
con feren ce a n d in m a k in g it such a w o n d e rfu l occasion. W e also offer
th a n k s to F io n a Sewell, o u r excellent co p y -ed ito r, a n d especially to
C a ro l M a c d o n a ld , o u r e d ito r, w ho en c o u ra g e d a n d s u p p o rte d th e
p ro je c t fro m th e beg in n in g a n d p a tie n tly aw aite d th e final version.

T allahassee, E d in b u rg h , L e e d s
J.M .
L .L -J.
C .M .
ILLUSTRATIONS

10.1 T h ree herm s. A ttic re d -fig u re p e lik e , L o u v re C p 10793.


C. 470. P h o to : R eu n io n des M usees N a tio n a u x . 163
10.2 K a n e p h o ro s a n d y o u th w ith hyd ria . Side B o f th e p e lik e
in F ig. 10.1. P h o to : R e u n io n des M usees N a tio n a u x . 164
10.3 D e p a rtu re o f G re ek h ero es fo r T ro y . A ttic b lack-figure
k a n th a r o s , B erlin, A n tik en m u seu m F 1737. C. 550. P h o to :
m useu m . 168
10.4 O dysseus a n d D io m ed es co m p etin g fo r th e T ro ja n
P allad io n , w ith A k a m a s, D e m o p h o n a n d A g am em n o n .
A ttic red-figure cu p , St P etersb u rg , H e rm ita g e B 649.
C. 480. P h o to : m useum . 171
10.5 G re ek hero es a t T ro y d elib eratin g o n th e P allad io n .
Side B o f th e c u p in Fig. 10.4. P h o to : m u seu m . 171
10.6 F arew ell o f T heseus a n d A ith ra . In te rio r o f th e cu p in
Fig. 10.3. P h o to : m u seu m . 172
10.7 G re ek hero es leaving fo r T ro y in th e presence o f A th en a .
A ttic red-figure cu p , B o lo g n a, M u seo C ivico P U 303.
P h o to : m u seu m . 174
10.8 T heseus a n d P h o rb a s setting o u t fo r w ar. Side B o f th e
cu p in F ig. 10.7. P h o to : m u seu m . 174
10.9 K o d ro s a n d A inetos. In te rio r o f th e cu p in F ig. 10.7.
P h o to : m u seu m . 175
10.10 G ra v e stele o f a w a rrio r w ith his fa th e r. A th en s, N a tio n a l
A rch aeo lo g ical M u seu m 731. C. 350. P h o to : m u seu m . 178
10.11 E rib o ia p re sen tin g th e b a b y A jax to T elam o n . A ttic red-
figure cu p , B asle, A n tik en m u seu m + S am m lung L udw ig
BS 432. P h o to : m u seu m . 180
10.12 A p o llo a n d o th ers. Side B o f th e cu p in F ig. 10.11.
P h o to : m u seu m . 180
10.13 T heseus a n d a w o m an (A rgeia?). In te rio r o f th e cu p in
Fig. 10.11. P h o to : m u seu m . 181
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS ix

11.1a P a n ta n e llo , M e ta p o n to : lo o m w eights im pressed


& b w ith (a) a fib u la (dress p in ) a n d (b) earrin g s. 202
11.2a M e ta p o n to survey: lo o m w eights 2 2 1 -L 2 a n d 358-L 1,
& b w ith id en tical fo o tp rin t stam ps. 203
11.3a M e ta p o n to survey: tw o lo o m w eights w ith identical
& b ro se tte stam p s fo u n d at c o n te m p o ra ry sites a b o u t 3 km
a p a rt, o n o p p o site sides o f th e V enella valley. 203
11.4 F a tto ria F ab riz io farm h o u se: in scrib ed late arch aic
lo o m w eight fo u n d in late fo u rth /e a rly th ird -c e n tu ry
bce use co n tex t. 204
11.5 M e ta p o n to survey: 3 0 9 -L 6 , h erita g e stam p o n fo u rth -
ce n tu ry bce lo o m w eight. 205
15.1 S E G X X V III 60: th e decree in h o n o u r o f K allias o f
S p h etto s. C o u rtesy o f th e A m erican S chool o f C lassical
S tudies a t A thens: A g o ra E x cav atio n s. 285
15.2 P la n o f th e A g o ra in c. 300 b c e . E arlier, in th e fifth
ce n tu ry , th e stru c tu re o f th e M e tro o n w as th e c ity ’s
(O ld) B o u leu terio n . C o u rtesy o f th e A m erican S chool o f
C lassical S tudies a t A thens: A g o ra E x cav atio n s. 288
15.3 I G I I 2 682: th e decree in h o n o u r o f P h a id ro s o f S phettos
(E M 10546). C o u rtesy o f th e p h o to g ra p h ic archive o f
th e E p ig rap h ic al M u seu m , A th en s. 299
17.1 L ine d raw in g o f th e X e n o p h a n to s le k y th o s. St
P etersb u rg , S tate H e rm ita g e M u seu m P 1837.2. 321
17.2 L ine d raw in g o f th e ‘D a riu s V ase’; A p u lia n v o lu te -k ra te r
by th e D a riu s P ain ter. N ap les, M u seo A rcheologico
N a z io n a le 81947 (H 3253). 330
17.3 R e c o n stru c tio n o f th e audience scene, originally fro m
th e n o rth e rn A p a d a n a staircase a t P ersepolis a n d la te r
m o v ed to th e T re asu ry . C o u rtesy o f th e te a m o f
P ersep o lis3d.com . 339
17.4 P o u ly d a m as statu e base by L ysippos, c. 330 bce ; fro n t
relief. O ly m p ia M u seu m 45. P h o to : co u rtesy o f H . R .
G o e tte. 344
NOTES ON CONTRIBUTORS

Deborah Boedeker is P ro fe sso r E m e rita o f C lassics a t B row n


U n iv ersity . F ro m 1992 to 2000 she directed H a rv a rd ’s C en ter fo r
H ellenic S tudies in W a sh in g to n , D C , jo in tly w ith K u rt R aafla u b . H e r
p u b lic a tio n s focus o n early G re ek p o e try , trag e d y , h is to rio g ra p h y a n d
religion; she is especially in tere ste d in h o w these areas in te ra c t w ith
each o th e r in th e develo p m en t o f a sh ared p ast.

Ewen Bowie w as P ra e le c to r in C lassics a t C o rp u s C h risti C ollege,


O x fo rd , fro m 1965 to 2007, a n d successively U n iv ersity L ec tu rer,
R e a d e r a n d P ro fe sso r o f C lassical L an g u ag es a n d L ite ra tu re in the
U n iv ersity o f O x fo rd . H e is n o w a n E m eritu s F ellow o f C o rp u s C hristi
C ollege. H e h a s p u b lish e d articles o n early G re e k elegiac, iam b ic a n d
lyric p o etry ; o n A risto p h an e s; o n H ellenistic p o etry ; a n d o n m an y
aspects o f G re e k lite ra tu re a n d c u ltu re fro m th e first ce n tu ry b ce to
th e th ird ce n tu ry cE, in clu d in g P lu ta rc h a n d th e G re e k novels. H e
h a s recen tly ed ited (jointly w ith Jas E lsner) a collection o f p a p e rs on
P h ilo stra tu s (2009) a n d (jointly w ith L u cia A th a n a ssa k i) a collection
o f p a p e rs en title d A r c h a ic a n d C la ssica l C h o ra l S o n g (2011) a n d is c u r­
ren tly co m p letin g a co m m e n ta ry o n L o n g u s, D a p h n is a n d C hloe, fo r
C am b rid g e U n iv ersity Press.

Bruno Currie is M o n ro F ellow a n d T u to r in C lassics a t O riel C ollege,


O x fo rd , a n d L ec tu rer at O x fo rd U n iv ersity . H e is th e a u th o r o f P in d a r
a n d th e C u lt o f H e ro e s (2005), a n d o f v ario u s articles o n G re e k epic
a n d lyric p o etry .

Lin Foxhall is P ro fe sso r o f G re e k A rc h aeo lo g y a n d H isto ry a t the


U n iv ersity o f L eicester, a n d h a s h eld p o sts a t St H ild a ’s C ollege,
O x fo rd , a n d U n iv ersity C ollege L o n d o n . She h a s w o rk e d in M e th a n a ,
th e so u th e rn A rg o lid, S p a rta a n d M e ta p o n to . She c u rren tly co-
directs a field p ro je c t in B o v a M a rin a , so u th e rn C a la b ria , Italy . She
h a s w ritten extensively o n ag ric u ltu re, la n d use a n d gen d er in classi­
cal a n tiq u ity a n d h a s p u b lish ed O live C u ltiva tio n in A n c ie n t G reece:
S e e k in g th e A n c ie n t E c o n o m y (2007) a n d S tu d y in g G ender in C lassical
A n tiq u ity (2012).

Simon Goldhill is P ro fe sso r o f G re ek a t th e U n iv ersity o f C am b rid g e.


H e is also a fellow o f K in g ’s C ollege, C am b rid g e, D ire c to r o f th e
C am b rid g e C en tre fo r R esea rch in A rts, Social Sciences a n d th e
H u m an ities, a n d a fellow o f th e A m erican A cad em y o f A rts a n d
Sciences. H e h a s p u b lish ed b ro a d ly o n G re e k lite ra tu re , especially o n
G re ek trag e d y , a n d o n V icto ria n cu ltu re. H is m o st recen t b o o k s are
V icto ria n C u ltu re a n d C la ssica l A n tiq u ity : A rt, O pera, F ic tio n a n d the
P ro c la m a tio n o f M o d e r n ity (2011) a n d S o p h o c le s a n d th e L a n g u a g e o f
T ra g e d y (2012).

Jonas Grethlein is P ro fesso r o f C lassics a t H eid elb erg U niversity. H is


recen t p u b lic a tio n s include T h e G reeks a n d their P a st: P o e try , O ra to ry
a n d H is to r y in th e F ifth C e n tu ry b c e (2010) a n d , co -ed ited w ith C.
K reb s, T im e a n d N a r ra tiv e in A n c ie n t H is to rio g ra p h y : T h e ‘P lu p a s t’
f r o m H e r o d o tu s to A p p ia n (2012).

Jeffrey Henderson is th e W illiam G o o d w in A u relio P ro fe sso r o f


G re ek L an g u a g e a n d L ite ra tu re , a n d fo rm e r D e a n o f th e C ollege a n d
G ra d u a te S chool o f A rts a n d Sciences, a t B o sto n U niversity. Since
1998 h e h a s b een th e general e d ito r o f th e L o eb C lassical L ib rary . H is
m a n y p u b lic a tio n s include T h e M a c u la te M u se : O bscene L a n g u a g e in
A t t i c C o m e d y (2 n d edn, 1991), a n ed itio n o f A risto p h a n e s’ L y s is tr a ta
(1987), a n d th e five-volum e L o eb ed itio n o f A risto p h a n e s (1998­
2007). H e w as elected to th e A m erican A cad em y o f A rts a n d Sciences
in 2011.

Jon Hesk is S en ior L ec tu rer in G re e k a t th e U n iv ersity o f St A ndrew s.


H e is a u th o r o f D e c e p tio n a n d D e m o c ra c y in C la ssica l A th e n s (2000)
a n d S o p h o c le s: A j a x (2003). H e h a s also p u b lish e d a n u m b e r o f essays
a n d articles o n H o m er, G re e k d ra m a a n d A ttic o ra to ry .

Emily Kearns is a S enior R esea rch F ello w a t St H ild a ’s C ollege,


O x fo rd . She h a s w ritten o n v ario u s aspects o f G re e k religion a n d lit­
e ra tu re , a n d h e r m o st recen t p u b lic a tio n is A n c ie n t G re e k R elig io n : A
S o u r c e b o o k (2010).

S. D. Lambert is a n A ttic ep ig ra p h ist a n d h isto ria n . H e is e d ito r o f


IG I I 3 1, fascicule 2 (2012), a u th o r o f In sc rib e d A th e n ia n L a w s a n d
D e c re e s 35211-32211 b c : E p ig ra p h ic a l P a p e rs (2012) a n d e d ito r o f
S o c ia b le M a n : E ss a y s on A n c ie n t G re e k S o c ia l B e h a v io u r in H o n o u r o f
N ic k F ish er (2011). H e h a s also p u b lish e d a series o f b o o k s a n d a rti­
cles o n A ttic asso ciatio n s a n d m o re recently o n A th e n ia n p riesth o o d s,
all o f w hich deploy in scrip tio n s extensively. H e is R e a d e r in A ncient
H isto ry , C a rd iff U niversity.

Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones is S enior L e c tu re r in A n c ie n t H isto ry in the


S chool o f H isto ry , C lassics a n d A rc h aeo lo g y a t th e U n iv ersity o f
E d in b u rg h . H e specialises in A c h aem en id P ersia a n d G re e k socio­
cu ltu ra l h isto ry , a n d in th e re cep tio n o f a n tiq u ity in p o p u la r culture.
H e is th e a u th o r o f A p h r o d ite ’s T o rto ise : T h e V eile d W o m a n o f A n c ie n t
G reece (2003), C te s ia s ’ H is to r y o f P ersia : T a le s o f the O rien t (2010),
K in g a n d C o u rt in A n c ie n t P e rsia (2012) a n d th e fo rth c o m in g D esig n s
on th e P a s t: H o w H o lly w o o d C re a te d the A n c ie n t W orld. H is latest
p ro jec t focuses o n dress a n d th e b o d y in A c h aem en id cu ltu re. H e
is also th e g eneral e d ito r o f E d in b u rg h S tu d ie s in A n c ie n t P e rsia fo r
E d in b u rg h U n iv ersity Press.

Calum Maciver (P h D E d in b u rg h 2009) is a lectu rer in G re e k at


th e U n iv ersity o f Leeds. H e is th e a u th o r o f Q u in tu s S m y r n a e u s ’
P o sth o m e ric a : E n g a g in g H o m e r in L a te A n tiq u ity (2012).

John Marincola is L eo n G o ld e n P ro fe sso r o f C lassics a t F lo rid a


S tate U n iv ersity in T allahassee. H is m a in in terests are in G re e k a n d
R o m a n h is to rio g ra p h y a n d rh e to ric . H is b o o k s include A u th o r ity a n d
T ra d itio n in A n c ie n t H is to r io g r a p h y (1997), G re e k H isto ria n s (2001)
an d , in c o lla b o ra tio n w ith M . A . F lo w er, a n ed itio n o f B o o k IX o f
H e ro d o tu s ’ H is to r ie s (2003). H e is c u rren tly a t w o rk o n a b o o k on
H ellenistic h isto rio g ra p h y .

Kathryn A. Morgan is P ro fe sso r o f C lassics a t th e U n iv ersity o f


C alifo rn ia, L o s A ngeles. She is th e a u th o r o f M y th a n d P h ilo so p h y
f r o m th e P re so c ra tic s to P la to (2000) a n d e d ito r o f P o p u la r T y ra n n y :
S o v e r e ig n ty a n d its D isc o n te n ts in C la ssica l A th e n s (2003), a n d h as
w ritten n u m e ro u s articles o n P la to n ic n a rra tiv e a n d c u ltu ra l ideology.
She is cu rren tly co m p letin g a b o o k o n th e c o n stru c tio n o f m o n a rc h y
in P in d a r’s odes fo r H ie ro n o f Syracuse.

Maria Pavlou is a n A d ju n c t L e c tu re r a t th e O p en U n iv ersity o f


C y p ru s. H e r research lies m ain ly in a rch aic lyric p o e try , n a rra to l-
ogy a n d th e re p re se n ta tio n o f tim e a n d space in lite ratu re . She
h a s p u b lish e d o n A p o llo n iu s R h o d iu s, T hu cy d id es a n d especially
P in d a r. She is c u rren tly revising h e r P h D thesis, ‘T im e in P in d a r’, fo r
p u b licatio n .

Christopher Pelling is R egius P ro fe sso r o f G re e k a t O x fo rd U niversity.


H is b o o k s in clude co m m en tarie s o n P lu ta rc h ’s A n to n y (1988) a n d
C aesar (2011), P lu ta rc h a n d H is to r y (2002) a n d L ite r a r y T e x ts a n d the
G re e k H isto r ia n (2000); h e h a s also ed ited volum es o n C h a ra c teriza tio n
a n d In d iv id u a lity in G re e k L ite r a tu r e (1990) a n d G re e k T ra g e d y a n d the
H isto r ia n (1997), a n d co -ed ited collections o n E th ic s a n d R h e to ric
(w ith D . C. In n es a n d H . M . H in e, 1995) a n d A n c ie n t H isto rio g ra p h y
a n d its C o n te x ts (w ith C. S. K ra u s a n d J. M a rin c o la , 2010). H e is n o w
w o rk in g o n a b o o k o n H o w th e G re e k H is to ria n s E x p la in e d H isto ry , to
be p u b lish e d b y th e U n iv ersity o f T exas Press.

Allen Romano is A ssista n t P ro fe sso r o f C lassics a t F lo rid a S tate


U n iv ersity . H is m a in research in terests lie in G re ek p o e try a n d d ra m a ,
especially trag e d y a n d H ellenistic p o e try , in m y th a n d in digital
h u m an itie s. H e h a s recently c o m p leted a m o n o g ra p h -le n g th stu d y o f
aetio lo g ical m y th s a n d A ttic tragedy.

Suzanne Said is E m e rita P ro fe sso r a t C o lu m b ia U niversity. She h as


p u b lish e d extensively o n G re ek lite ra tu re (especially H o m e r, trag ed y ,
h is to rio g ra p h y a n d th e novel) a n d m y th o lo g y . H e r latest b o o k is
H o m e r a n d th e O d y sse y (2011).

Ruth Scodel, ed u c a te d a t B erkeley a n d H a rv a rd , is D . R . S h ack leto n


Bailey C o llegiate P ro fe sso r o f G re ek a n d L a tin at th e U n iv ersity o f
M ich ig an . H e r b o o k s include C redible Im p o ssib ilitie s: C on ven tio n s
a n d S tr a te g ie s o f V e risim ilitu d e in H o m e r a n d G re e k T ra g e d y (1999),
L is te n in g to H o m e r (2002), E p ic F a c e w o rk : S e lf-P re se n ta tio n a n d
S o c ia l In te ra c tio n in H o m e r (2008), (w ith A n ja B etten w o rth ) W h ith er
Q uo Vadis? S ie n k ie w ic z ’s N o v e l in F ilm a n d T elevisio n a n d A n
In tro d u c tio n to G re e k T ra g e d y (2010). She w as L eventis P ro fe sso r at
E d in b u rg h in 2011.

H. A. Shapiro is th e W . H . C ollins V ickers P ro fe sso r o f A rch aeo lo g y


a n d P ro fe sso r o f C lassics, Jo h n s H o p k in s U n iv ersity (B altim ore). H e
is th e a u th o r o f A r t a n d C u lt u n d er th e T y r a n ts in A th e n s (1989) a n d
M y th in to A r t: P o e t a n d P a in te r in C la ssica l G reece (1994), a n d e d ito r
o f T h e C a m b rid g e C o m p a n io n to A r c h a ic G reece (2007).

Julia L. Shear is a S enior A ssociate M em b er a t th e A m erican S chool


o f C lassical S tudies at A th en s. F o rm e rly a p o s t-d o c to ra l re searc h er at
th e F a c u lty o f C lassics, U n iv ersity o f C am b rid g e, a n d K in g ’s C ollege,
C am b rid g e, a n d L e c tu re r in C lassics a t th e U n iv ersity o f G lasgow ,
she is th e a u th o r o f P o lis a n d R e v o lu tio n : R e sp o n d in g to O lig a rch y
in C la ssica l A th e n s (2011), as well as articles o n A th e n ia n religion,
society a n d cu ltu re. She is c u rren tly w o rk in g o n a m o n o g ra p h o n the
P a n a th e n a ia a n d A th e n ia n identities.
INTRODUCTION: A PAST
WITHOUT HISTORIANS

John Marincola

I
T h e y ea r 2009 m a rk e d a n im p o rta n t an n iv ersary , fo r it w as exactly
o n e h u n d re d years earlier th a t F elix Jaco b y , o n e o f th e g re atest o f
tw en tieth -c en tu ry classical scholars, p u b lish e d his fu n d a m e n ta l article
o n th e d ev elo p m en t a n d g ro w th o f th e v ario u s fo rm s o f G re ek h is to ­
rio g ra p h y .1 T h e article, a sto n ish in g in its com prehensiveness a n d in
th e clarity o f its co n c ep tio n a n d vision, h a d a tw o -fo ld p u rp o se : first
to ex p lain h o w Jac o b y saw th e re la tio n sh ip betw een th e v ario u s types
o f G re e k h isto rical w riting; a n d , second a n d m o re p ra g m a tic ally ,
as J a c o b y ’s ex p la n a tio n a n d ju stific atio n fo r th e arra n g e m e n t o f th e
co llectio n o f th e frag m en ts o f th e G re e k h isto ria n s th a t h e w as ju s t
b eg inning. T his en terp rise saw th e p u b lic a tio n o f th e first vo lu m e in
1923, a n d th e final v olum e som e th irty-five years la te r in 1958. B y th a t
tim e, exile a n d w a r h a d ta k e n its to ll o n Jaco b y , a n d th e collection
w as left u n fin ished a t his d ea th , w ith a b o u t 60 p e r cen t o f th e m a te ria l
co llected a n d a n even sm aller p ercen tag e c o m m en ted u p o n . E ven so,
th e w o rk m e a su re d o u t a t fifteen volum es, som e o f en o rm o u s size a n d
im p o rta n c e , a n d th e collection, n o w itself a frag m en t, stan d s as o n e o f
th e g re at m o n u m e n ts o f tw en tieth -c en tu ry scholarship.
A n y o n e w h o h a s trie d to use J a c o b y ’s co llectio n - a n d very o ften
‘trie d ’ is th e key w o rd - k now s th a t th e w o rk is o rg a n ise d n o t o n a lp h a ­
b etical, ch ro n o lo g ic al o r reg io n a l principles. Jac o b y h a d co n sid ered

1 F. Jacoby, ‘Uber die Entwicklung der griechischen Historiographie und den Plan
einer neuen Sammlung der griechischen Historikerfragmente’, Klio 9 (1909), pp.
80-123; repr. in Jacoby, Abhandlungen zur griechischen Geschichtsschreibung, ed.
H. Bloch (Leiden: Brill, 1956), pp. 16-72. For the reception of this article and
Jacoby’s other work, see A. L. Chavez Reino, ‘Felix Jacoby aux prises avec ses cri­
tiques: lettres, comptes rendus et scholia Jacobiana’, in F. Grebible and V. Krings
(eds), S ’ecrire et ecrire sur l’antiquite (Grenoble: Editions Jerome Millon, 2008),
pp. 281-300.
th ese b u t rejected th em , deciding in ste a d th a t th e m o st useful ed itio n
w o u ld b e o n e in w hich th e fra g m e n ta ry a u th o rs w ere a rra n g e d a c c o rd ­
ing to th e ir place in a n d w ith in th e h isto rical dev elo p m en t o f G re ek
h isto rio g ra p h y (‘die entw icklungsgeschichtliche P rin z ip ’) - th a t is, as
Jac o b y h im self u n d e rsto o d th a t developm ent. A s I h a v e elsew here cri­
tiq u e d th is arra n g e m e n t a n d its consequences fo r o u r u n d e rsta n d in g
o f G ra e c o -R o m a n h is to rio g ra p h y ,2 I shall h ere m erely sum m arise m y
m a in p o in ts.
J a c o b y d iv id ed th e h isto rical w ritin g o f th e G reek s in to five su b ­
genres, a rra n g e d acco rd in g to th e o rd e r in w hich h e believed th a t they
developed: m y th o g ra p h y o r genealogy; e th n o g ra p h y ; c h ro n o g ra p h y ;
c o n te m p o ra ry h isto ry (Z e itg e sc h ic h te ); a n d local h isto ry o r h o ro g -
ra p h y . T h e th ird , c o n te m p o ra ry h isto ry , w as th e m o st im p o rta n t, o f
co u rse, b u t it co u ld b e seen to h av e p red ecesso rs in th o se w ho h a d p re ­
viously trie d to b rin g o rd e r to th e com plex genealogies o f G re ek m y th
a n d th o se w ho h a d stu d ied th e cu sto m s o f n o n -G re e k s - H ecataeu s,
fo r ex am ple, w ho h a d d o n e b o th . In this discussion o f th e dev elo p ­
m e n t o f G re e k h is to rio g ra p h y a n d even m o re in his P a u ly -W isso w a
article o f 1913, Ja c o b y assigned a role o f p a rtic u la r im p o rta n c e in the
d ev elo p m en t o f G re e k h isto rio g ra p h y to H e ro d o tu s, w ho, Jac o b y
believed, h a d b eg u n as a g e o g rap h er in H e c a ta e u s’ fo o tstep s, h a d
p ro g ressed th en ce to becom e an e th n o g ra p h e r, an d , finally, u n d e r the
influence especially o f A th en s a n d Pericles, cam e to co m p o se a n actu al
w ar n a rra tiv e .3 F o r Jac o b y , th ere fo re , H e ro d o tu s ’ in d iv id u al ‘p r o ­
gress’ re p resen te d th e dev elo p m en t o f a n en tire genre a n d , we m ig h t
even say, an en tire p e o p le ’s h isto rical consciousness.
T h is m o d el, lo n g in fluential, h a s com e u n d e r fire recently o n several
fro n ts. F irst, th e m o d el h a s a n u n re alistic tidiness;4 second, its teleo l­
ogy is also p ro b le m a tic , since it suggests th a t h isto ry w as all alo n g
try in g to b ecom e th e genre it u ltim ate ly becam e w ith T h u cy d id es;5
th ird , J a c o b y ’s n o tio n s o f ‘g en re’ suggest th a t h e sees it as fixed a n d

2 J. Marincola, ‘Genre, convention and innovation in Greco-Roman historiogra­


phy’, in C. S. Kraus (ed.), The Limits o f Historiography: Genre and Narrative in
Ancient Historical Texts (Leiden: Brill, 1999), pp. 281-324, esp. pp. 283-301.
3 F. Jacoby, ‘Herodotos’, R E Suppl. II (1913), pp. 205-520.
4 R. Fowler, ‘Herodotos and his contemporaries’, JH S 116 (1996), pp. 62-87, at
p. 68.
5 Sally Humphreys has pointed out that Jacoby’s lack of sympathy with histori­
ans after Thucydides is a product of the nineteenth-century belief in evolution­
ism, of the assumption of ‘progress’ from myth to science, and of his own age’s
imprisonment ‘in a contradictory amalgam of romanticism and positivism’:
see S. Humphreys, ‘Fragments, fetishes, and philosophies: towards a history of
Greek historiography after Thucydides’, in G. Most (ed.), Collecting Fragments/
Fragmente sammeln (Aporemata: Kritische Studien zur Philologiegeschichte 1;
Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1997), pp. 207-24, at pp. 207-8, 211.
p rescrip tiv e, w hereas in n o v a tio n a n d b o u n d ary -cro ssin g are co n sist­
en tly p re sen t;6 a n d finally, it h a s b een p o in te d o u t th a t it is in h eren tly
un likely th a t th e h isto rical consciousness o f an en tire p eo p le can
be laid a t th e d o o r o f o n e in d iv id u al w riter, n o m a tte r h o w gifted,
in sig h tfu l o r b rillia n t h e w as.7

II
J a c o b y ’s sch em a stan d s in s ta rk c o n tra s t to th e o n e an cien t te sti­
m o n iu m we h av e o f th e origins o f G re ek h isto rio g ra p h y , w hich is
c o n ta in e d in D io n y siu s o f H a lic a rn a ssu s’ O n T h u cy d id es. T h is w o rk ,
w ritten in th e late first ce n tu ry b ce o r ju s t possib ly early in th e first
ce n tu ry ce, is o n e o f th e few ‘th e o re tic a l’ w o rk s o n h isto rio g ra p h y
to survive fro m an tiq u ity . M o d e rn scholars generally fin d it a d isa p ­
p o in tin g p erfo rm an c e, m ain ly because D io n y siu s deals m o stly w ith
issues o f style a n d arra n g e m e n t, a n d his criticism s o f T hucydides
do n o t strik e us as p a rtic u la rly forceful o r even, a t tim es, germ ane.
H o w ev er th a t m a y be, we fin d a t th e beg in n in g o f th is w o rk a very
different su ggestion o f h o w G re e k h is to rio g ra p h y d ev eloped (T huc. 5):

B efore b eg in n in g m y a c c o u n t o f T h u cy d id es I w ish to say a


few th in g s b o th a b o u t th e w riters w ho p reced ed h im a n d a b o u t
h is co n tem p o raries, so th a t th e p la n o f his w o rk , in w hich
h e su rp assed his predecessors, as well as his overall ability
will beco m e a p p a re n t. T h e old w riters (apxaloi auyypa^slg),
th en , w ere m a n y a n d cam e fro m m a n y places; a m o n g th o se
living b efo re th e P elo p o n n esian W a r w ere E u g a io n o f S am os,
D eio ch o s o f P ro co n n e su s, E u d em o s o f P aro s, D em o k les o f
P hygela, H e catae u s o f M iletus, th e A rgive A cusilaus, the
L am p sacen e C h a ro n , th e C h alce d o n ia n < . . . a n d th e A th e n ia n >
A m elesag o ras; b o rn a little b efo re th e P elo p o n n esian W a r a n d
living d o w n to th e tim e o f T h u cy d id es w ere H ellanicus o f L esbos,
D a m a ste s o f Sigeion, X enom edes o f K eo s, X a n th u s th e L y d ian
a n d m a n y others.
T hese w riters h a d a sim ilar p la n in respect o f subject m a tte r,
a n d d id n o t differ greatly fro m o n e a n o th e r in ability. Som e
w ro te a b o u t G reece, o th ers a b o u t b a rb a ria n s, n o t jo in in g th e ir
in q u iries to g e th e r in to a co n tin u o u s w hole, b u t sep a ratin g th em

6 Marincola, ‘Genre, convention, and innovation’, pp. 281-324.


7 Good remarks on this in N. Luraghi, ‘Introduction’, in Luraghi (ed.), The
Historian’s Craft in the Age o f Herodotus (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001),
pp. 1-15.
b y n a tio n s a n d cities a n d b rin g in g th e m o u t individually, w ith
o n e a n d th e sam e object in view, th a t o f b rin g in g to th e a tte n ­
tio n o f th e p u b lic tra d itio n s p reserv ed a m o n g th e local p eo p le
b y n a tio n s a n d by cities < o r> w ritten re co rd s p re serv ed in
sacred o r p ro fa n e archives (o a a i Sisa©Zovxo n a p a xolg emxraploig
^ v ^ a i Kaxa 80vn xs Kai Kaxa no^sig ^ six’ ev ispolg six’ sv PsP'nAmg
anoK sl^svai y p a^ a l), ju s t as th ey received th em , w ith o u t ad d in g
o r su b tra c tin g an y th in g . A m o n g these sources w ere to be fo u n d
o ccasio n al m y th s, believed fro m tim e im m em o rial, a n d d ra m a tic
tales o f u p set fo rtu n e s, w hich seem q u ite foolish to p eo p le o f o u r
day. T h e style w hich th ey all em ployed w as fo r th e m o st p a r t th e
sam e (a t an y ra te a m o n g th o se w ho u sed th e sam e dialect): clear,
o rd in a ry , unaffected, concise, suited to th e subject a n d disp lay ­
ing n o n e o f th e a p p a ra tu s o f p ro fessio n al skill; n o n eth eless a
ce rta in grace a n d c h a rm atte n d s th e ir w orks, som e m o re th a n
o th ers, a n d th is h a s en su red th e ir p re serv atio n . B u t H e ro d o tu s o f
H a lica rn assu s, w ho w as b o rn a little b efo re th e P ersian W a rs a n d
lived d o w n to th e tim e o f th e P e lo p o n n esian W a r, b o th ra ise d th e
ch oice o f subject to a m o re am b itio u s a n d im pressive level . . . a n d
a d d e d to his style th o se virtues w hich h a d been o m itte d b y w riters
b efo re him .

It is clear fro m this passag e th a t D io n y siu s saw a g re at deal o f h is­


to rica l activ ity b efo re H e ro d o tu s , a n d th ere is also th e suggestion
th a t these w o rk s served in som e sense as th e basis fo r H e ro d o tu s ’
ow n w o rk . T h a t view, a t least in a n tiq u ity , w as n o t u n iq u e, since th e
fo u rth -c e n tu ry h isto ria n E p h o ru s sta te d th a t X a n th u s w as o ld er th a n
H e ro d o tu s a n d th a t his w o rk gave H e ro d o tu s his a ^ o p ^ a l, eith er his
startin g p o in t o r his source m a te ria l.8 In terestin g ly en o u g h , w h a t this
seems to m ean , a m o n g o th e r th in g s, is th a t th e ancients saw n o c o n ­
tra d ic tio n in believing th a t th ere w ere h isto ria n s b efo re H e ro d o tu s
a n d th a t H e ro d o tu s w as n o n eth eless th e ‘fa th e r o f h isto ry ’. Jaco b y ,
by c o n tra s t, a rg u e d th a t ‘th ere w as n o H e ro d o tu s b efo re H e ro d o tu s ’,
a n d h e rejected D io n y siu s’ p ic tu re o f th e d ev elo p m en t o f G re e k h is­
to rio g ra p h y , especially its suggestion th a t th ere co u ld h av e b een a

8 Ephorus, FGrHist 70 F 180: ‘Ephorus the historian makes mention of him


[Xanthus] as being older than Herodotus and giving Herodotus his starting point
(or source material).’ ("Eq>opog o tfuyypa^s'ug ^vn^ovsusi arnoC rog naXaioxspou
ovxog Kai 'HpoSoxroi Tag a^op^ag SsSroKoxog.) On the meaning of a^op^al see G.
Parmeggiani, ‘I frammenti di Eforo nei Deipnosophistai di Ateneo’, in D. Lenfant
(ed.), Athenee et les fragments d’historiens (Paris: De Boccard, 2007), pp. 117-37,
at pp. 127-8; Parmeggiani, Eforo di Cuma: Studi di storiografia greca (Bologna:
Patron, 2011), pp. 648-9.
lo cal h is to rio g ra p h y b efo re H e ro d o tu s. J a c o b y ’s a rg u m e n t th a t local
h isto ry w as th e last o f all th e genres o f h isto ry to develop is b ase d
b o th o n th e d ates h e assigned to th e figures n a m e d b y D io n y siu s in
th is p assa g e (w hom h e d a te d , n o t alw ays w ith g o o d evidence, m u ch
la te r th a n d id D io n y siu s) a n d o n th e absence in H e ro d o tu s ’ w o rk
b o th o f m a g istra te d ates (w hich J a c o b y saw as ch a ra c te ristic o f local
h isto ry ) a n d m o re generally o f explicit references to local sources by
H e ro d o tu s: if these h a d existed, th e arg u m e n t goes, H e ro d o tu s w o u ld
surely h av e u sed them .
I h av e a rg u e d elsew here th a t I see H e ro d o tu s a d o p tin g a stance
to w a rd s his m a te ria l th a t is very sim ilar to th a t ta k e n by H o m er.
A n d re w F o rd h a s p o in te d o u t th a t a lth o u g h H o m e r’s hero es are p re ­
sen ted as h a v in g existed a lo n g tim e b efo re th e p o e t a n d his audience,
H o m e r n o n eth eless p o rtra y s h im self as a n ‘im m e d ia te ’ n a r r a to r o f
events, reco g n ising n o in term ed iaries in th e h a n d in g o n o f th e tra d i-
tio n .9 H e ro d o tu s, it is tru e , recognises p rev io u s tre a tm e n ts o f som e o f
th e m a te ria l h e n a rra te s , especially w here h e engages in p o lem ic w ith
pred ecesso rs. O n th e o th e r h a n d , it m u st b e a d m itte d th a t d espite this
fe atu re, H e ro d o tu s in m o st o f his n a rra tiv e h as, like H o m er, ‘e ra se d ’
an y p red ecesso rs a n d fo r th e m o st p a r t p re sen ts h im self as w restling
d ire c tly w ith th e sources them selves - th a t is to say, fo r m o st o f his
w o rk h e p o rtra y s h im self im plicitly as th e first to w rite u p these
e v e n ts.10 N o w it m ay well be th a t fo r m u ch o f his w o rk H e ro d o tu s was
th e first a n d h a d n o predecessors; b u t it is im p o rta n t to realise th a t this
im p ressio n o f p rio rity m ig h t be th e effect th a t H e ro d o tu s, im itatin g
H o m er, desired to create in th e m in d s o f his audience: a directly m e d i­
a te d a c c o u n t in th e sense th a t th e n a r ra to r, as h e a tte m p ts to co n stru c t
th e h isto ry o f th e p a s t, is en g ag ed n o t w ith o th e r ch roniclers b u t w ith
th e lo g o i th em selv es.11
T o re tu rn to D ionysius: a n o th e r a rg u m e n t ra ise d ag a in st th e reli­
ab ility o f th is schem a is th a t it is clearly b ase d o n style a n d p e rh a p s
goes b a c k to T h e o p h ra stu s, w ho in a lost w o rk O n S ty le (n s p i As£,s©g)

9 A. Ford, Homer: The Poetry o f the Past (Ithaca, NY, and London: Cornell
University Press, 1992), esp. pp. 90-130.
10 In Book II, for example, Herodotus mentions the island of Chemmis and states
that it is said ‘by the Egyptians’ to float and move about, a claim that Herodotus
then strongly ridicules (2.156). We happen to know from a later source that it was
Hecataeus who stated that the island moved (FGrHist 1 F 305), yet Herodotus
does not mention Hecataeus here, and instead ascribes the belief to the Egyptians.
As it is not likely that he did not know Hecataeus’ work, it must be the case that
Herodotus has deliberately suppressed mention of his predecessor.
11 J. Marincola, ‘Herodotus and the poetry of the past’, in Marincola and C. J.
Dewald (eds), The Cambridge Companion to Herodotus (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 2006), pp. 13-28.
d ealt w ith th e d ev elo p m en t o f G re ek h isto rio g ra p h y . T h e th in k in g
goes th a t b ecau se these h isto ria n s w ro te in a sim ple, clear style it w as
assu m ed by la te r critics th a t they m u st h av e been early. Y e t n o t all
o f D io n y siu s’ arg u m e n ts in this passag e are in fact b ase d o n style.
M o re o v er, w here we ca n check th e accu racy o f his d a tin g by c o m ­
p a rin g it w ith o th e r sources, D io n y siu s com es o u t p re tty well. B o th
R o b e rt F o w ler a n d D a v id T o y e h av e p o in te d o u t th a t D io n y siu s’
p lacin g o f th ese h isto ria n s agrees w ith w h a t o th e r an cien t sources say,
a n d F o w ler ad d s th a t a lth o u g h D io n y siu s m a y h av e stretch ed a d ate
h ere o r th e re to ac c o m m o d a te a n a u th o r ’s p lace in th e h isto ry o f style,
such a m o v e does n o t in v alid ate th e en tire p a ssa g e .12
S om e sch o lars h av e so u g h t to reclaim som e o f D io n y siu s’ o b se rv a ­
tio n s as v alu ab le a n d as p e rh a p s reflecting th e a c tu a l state o f affairs in
early G re ek h isto rical w riting. T h e m o st th o ro u g h tre a tm e n t k n o w n
to m e is a n article, n o w som e fo rty years old, by S a n d ra G o z z o li.13
She begins by exam ining th e p assa g e o f D io n y siu s a n d d e m o n stra t­
ing th a t th e early a u th o rs m en tio n e d by D io n y siu s w ere k n o w n to
h im n o t fro m som e pre-existing list o r tre a tm e n t - T h e o p h ra stu s
again! - b u t ra th e r fro m his o w n re ad in g a n d in d e p e n d e n t ev a lu a tio n .
She th e n tries to see w h e th e r th ere m ig h t b e an y th in g in D io n y siu s’
re m a rk th a t these early a u th o rs b ro u g h t to th e a tte n tio n o f th e p u b lic
‘w ritten re co rd s p reserv ed in sacred o r p ro fa n e arch iv es’. T h ere w as
n o difficulty, o f course, in estab lish in g th a t such re co rd s a n d archives
existed in th e an cien t N e a r E ast, as we h av e evidence fo r such am o n g st
th e S u m erians, B ab y lo n ian s, H ittites a n d E g y p tian s. B u t th e ta sk
becom es ra th e r m o re difficult closer to h o m e. G ozzoli displays a great
deal o f care a n d ca u tio n , b u t she does at least suggest, fro m lite rary
a n d ep ig rap h ical evidence, th a t th e n o tio n o f early re co rd s (p e rh ap s
q u ite b a re a n d h a v in g only th e m o st m in o r ‘h isto ric a l’ n o ta tio n ) k ept
in archives a n d tem ples m ay h av e been k n o w n to th e G reek s fro m
early tim es, a n d th a t such reco rd -k e ep in g m a y ow e so m eth in g to the
k n o w ledge o f an c ie n t N e a r E a ste rn cultures. I f we w ere to im agine
th a t th e G reek s did so m eth in g o f this so rt, th e n we w o u ld b e p lacin g
th e h isto rical im pulse very fa r b efo re th e tim e o f H e ro d o tu s h im self -
w hose ach iev em ent m ig h t th e n h av e to be seen precisely in th a t role o f
‘c o llec to r’ o r ‘sy nthesiser’ th a t D io n y siu s gave him .
T h e m a in issue, it seem s to m e, is w h a t exactly D io n y siu s m ig h t
m ean by ^ v % a i a n d y p a^ a l. A s to th e first, th ere seem s little difficulty

12 Fowler, ‘Herodotos and his critics’; D. L. Toye, ‘Dionysius of Halicarnassus on


the first Greek historians’, AJP 116 (1995), pp. 279-302.
13 S. Gozzoli, ‘Una teoria antica sull’origine della storiografia greca’, SCO 19-20
(1970-1), pp. 158-211.
in assu m in g th a t D io n y siu s m e a n t o ra l tra d itio n , stories o r acco u n ts
th a t w ere h a n d e d d o w n a n d k n o w n by in d iv id u als, fam ilies o r c o m ­
m u n ities. B u t w h a t d id h e m e a n by th e second? W e do n o t h av e very
m u ch evidence fo r early tim es th a t th e G re e k s m a in ta in e d th e kinds
o f archives th a t th e k in g d o m s o f th e an cien t N e a r E a st did. T oye sug­
gests th a t th ey m ig h t be ‘epics a n d o racles ascrib ed to m y th ic al b a r d s ’,
b u t h e seems h e s ita n t to th in k th a t th ese w ere w ritten dow n. Y e t it is
difficult to im agine th a t D io n y siu s co u ld use th e te rm y p a ^ a l w ith o u t
th in k in g o f w ritte n m a te ria l. I w o n d e r w h e th e r th e y p a ^ a l re ferred
to h ere m ig h t be in fa ct collections o f oracles o r th e like: H e ro d o tu s
m en tio n s th a t th e S p a rta n king C leom enes b ro u g h t to S p a rta oracles
th a t h a d b een left in th e tem p le o n th e A th e n ia n A cro p o lis by th e
P eisistratid s w hen th ey fled A ttic a (5.90). T hese sam e P eisistratids
figure la te r a t th e c o u rt o f P ersia, b rin g in g w ith th e m th e A th e n ia n
d iv in er (ch resm o lo g o s) O n o m ac ritu s, w ho h a d been ca u g h t by L asos
o f H e rm io n e in te rp o la tin g in to th e w ritings o f M u sae u s a n oracle
statin g th a t th e islands o ff L em n o s w o u ld van ish in to th e sea (H d t.
7.6). B o th p assages suggest w ritten texts, a n d in th e o n e case th ey are
h o u se d w ith in a te m p le .14
A n o th e r w ay a ro u n d th e issue o f th e p rio rity o f local h isto rio g ra p h y
h a s been a tte m p te d by L eo n e P o rc ia n i,15 w ho, like Jac o b y , dism isses
th e testim o n y o f D io n y siu s as w o rth less, n o tin g th a t D io n y siu s is
alo n e a m o n g an cien t w riters in p o sitin g th e existence o f archives, a n d
th a t in fact h e is c o n tra d ic te d by Jo sep h u s in th e A g a in s t A p io n (1.6­
13), w ho c o n tra s ts th e p a u c ity o f G re ek w ritte n re co rd s w ith th e a b u n ­
d an ce o f th e m in o th e r N e a r E a ste rn societies. P o rcian i suggests th a t a
lo cal h is to rio g ra p h y m a y nevertheless h av e existed b efo re H e ro d o tu s,
alth o u g h h e believes th a t its fo rm w as o ra l, a n d th a t som e o f its n a tu re
can be glim psed in th e e p ita p h io s , th e fu n e ral o ra tio n , w here th e
deeds o f th e city are re h e a rse d o n occasions o f p u b lic rem em b ran ce.
P o rcian i believes th a t in d iv id u a l a risto c ra tic fu n e ral o ra tio n s w ere
rep laced in th e iso n o m ic city by a single e p ita p h io s designed to h ig h ­
lig h t th e p a s t deeds o f th e en tire state. T h u s fo r P o rcian i th ere is local
tra d itio n b efo re H e ro d o tu s (a n d o b viously a tra d itio n th a t H e ro d o tu s
co u ld ex p loit), b u t still n o w ritte n local h isto ry .
It is certain ly n o t th e case th a t all m o d e rn scholars h a v e follow ed

14 I should also add - though I will not make anything of it here - that such col­
lections, if they existed in the Greek world, would provide a link with certain
practices of the ancient Near East, where the Mesopotamians, among others, kept
collections of omens. One might think here of the importance that oracles play as
a structuring device in Herodotus’ history.
15 L. Porciani, Prime forme della storiografia greca: Prospettiva locale e generale nella
narrazione storica (Historia Einzelschriften 152; Stuttgart: Steiner, 2001).
J a c o b y ’s b asic ou tlin e, a n d o th e r ideas a b o u t th e d ev elo p m en t o f
G re ek h is to rio g ra p h y h a v e b een p u t fo rw ard . F re n c h scholars in p a r ­
tic u la r h av e en g ag ed w ith th e co n c ep t o f ioxopln a n d w h a t th a t m ig h t
en tail. T h ey h av e also b een m u ch m o re o p en to in tro d u c in g a w hole
ra n g e o f tex ts fro m th e p h ilo so p h ers, m edical w riters, trag e d ian s a n d
o ra to rs in th e ir search fo r w h a t is distinctive a b o u t iaxopln. In som e
cases, such as in th e w o rk o f F ra n c o is C h atelet a n d A n d re Sauge, the
m a in goal is to discover n o t h isto ry in th e sense o f th e genre o f h isto ry
b u t ra th e r th e activity o f ioxopln, as it m ig h t a p p e a r in an y n u m b e r o f
w riters a n d genres, in clu d in g trag e d y , th e m edical w riters a n d philoso-
p h y .16 B o th in th e ir b o o k s a n d in C a th e rin e D a rb o -P e sc h a n sk i’s recent
a n d co m p reh en siv e tre a tm e n t o f G re ek h isto rio g ra p h ic a l beginnings,
th e n o tio n o f ioxopln as research b ase d o n a u to p sy h a s been greatly
d e-em p h asised .17
I m u st n o t fail to m e n tio n h ere one o f th e m o st in tere stin g forays
in to th e o rigins o f G re ek h isto rical th o u g h t, th a t m a d e b y S an to
M az zarin o in his II p e n sie ro sto ric o c la ssic o .18 A t th e o u tset, M az zarin o
sets h im self th e goal o f discovering th e origins o f G re e k h isto rical
th o u g h t, a n d h e finds it in a n u n u su a l place, nam ely, O rphism . N o w
this te rm h e u n d e rsta n d s in a n ex ten d ed sense to m e a n n o t ju s t the
ac tu a l p ra c titio n e rs o f O rp h ic religion, b u t all th o se influenced b y its
w orld-view . (I sh o u ld a d d th a t M a z z a rin o th ro u g h o u t his w o rk draw s
a close c o rresp o n d en c e betw een eco n o m ic life a n d in tellectu al life: so,
fo r ex am ple, in th e case o f O rp h ism ’s criticism o f estab lish ed religion,
h e sees a t w o rk a new class o f m en w ho m a d e th e ir w ealth largely
th ro u g h tra d e a n d w ho th e n to o k o n th e aristo cracy b o th politically
a n d intellectually.) M a z z a rin o is aw are th a t his choice o f O rp h ism
m ay seem p a ra d o x ic a l since O rp h ism is o ften p o rtra y e d as h o stile to
ra tio n a lism , b u t in O rp h ism , h e argues, we see th e first m a n ife sta tio n

16 F. Chatelet, La naissance de I’histoire: La formation de la pensee historienne


en Grece (Paris: Editions de Minuit, 1962); A. Sauge, De l’epopee a l’histoire:
Fondement de la notion de I’histoire (Frankfurt: Peter Lang, 1992).
17 C. Darbo-Peschanski, L ’historia: Commencements grecs (Paris: Gallimard, 2007).
18 S. Mazzarino, Il pensiero storico classico, 3 vols (Bari: Laterza, 1966-8). This
astonishing work treats the entire classical historiographical tradition from its
origins to the late empire. Its influence, however, at least so far as I can tell, has
been rather limited and much dependent on the country involved: perhaps not sur­
prisingly, it is very well known and often cited in Italy; it is rather less well known
or cited in French scholarship; and in German and Anglo-American scholarship
it seems to be largely ignored. It is indeed an unusual book in many ways, and its
reputation was perhaps not helped by rather negative reviews by Edouard Will
(RH 237 (1967), pp. 433-5, R H 246 (1971), p. 87) and, at much greater length, by
Arnaldo Momigliano (R SI 79 (1967), pp. 206-19, repr. in Momigliano, Quarto
contributo alla storia degli studi classici e del mondo antico (Rome: Edizioni di
storia e letteratura, 1969), pp. 59-76).
o f th e G re e k critical spirit: h ere fo r th e first tim e tra d itio n a l G re ek
religious beliefs w ere q u estio n ed . So w hen we lo o k , fo r exam ple, at
H e ro d o tu s ’ criticism s o f religion in B o o k II, we n ee d to realise th a t
th is ty p e o f in tellectu al activity h a d b eg u n centuries before. E ven if we
lo o k ea rlier to H e catae u s a n d th e fa m o u s o p en in g o f his G enealogies
- ‘I w rite w h a t follow s as it seem s to m e to be tru e; fo r th e stories o f
th e G reek s are m an y , an d , as is m an ife st to m e, rid ic u lo u s’19 - a n d
we ask , ‘W h en , fo r th e first tim e, did th e criticism o f m y th begin to
be exercised?’, M a z z a rin o ’s answ er to this is a t least a ce n tu ry before.
A figure o f ca rd in a l im p o rta n c e fo r M a z z a rin o is E pim enides o f
C rete. E pim en ides is fam o u s, o f course, fo r his role a t A th en s in th e
a fte rm a th o f th e C ylon affair. C ylon, a n O lym pic v icto r, trie d c. 632
b ce to seize co n tro l o f th e A cro p o lis d u rin g a festival, a n d w hen this
failed, h e a n d his follow ers to o k refuge a t A th e n a ’s tem ple. A lth o u g h
it w as p ro m ise d th a t th ey w o u ld n o t be h a rm e d , they w ere n o n e th e ­
less cu t d o w n b y th e m a g istrates, led by M egacles o f th e A lcm ae o n id
clan. W h en p o llu tio n ensued, E pim enides w as called to A th en s a n d
h e p u rified th e city. M a z z a rin o em phasises th a t th e c h a rac te ristic
asp ect o f E p im en id es’ p u rifica tio n w as th a t in his effort to rid th e city
o f its ills, h e m a d e a n in q u iry in to th e p a st, a n d ex am in ed A th e n s’
fau lts in earlier tim es, in this case th e sacrilege o f th e A lcm aeonids.
M a z z a rin o identifies this as a specifically h isto rical activity, a n d c o n ­
cludes th a t th is is w h a t A risto tle m e a n t w hen in th e R h e to r ic h e says
th a t ‘E pim en id es gave his oracles n o t a b o u t th e fu tu re , b u t o n things
in th e p a s t w hich w ere o b sc u re .’ M a z z a rin o also co n n ects this, by th e
w ay, w ith activ ity in th e an cien t n e a r east, since in th e H ittite w orld,
h e argues, p lag u es sim ilarly gave rise to n o tio n s o f th e n ee d fo r p u rifi­
c a tio n , a n d th e d e m a n d fo r p u rifica tio n in tu rn led to an e n q u iry in to
th e p a s t in o rd e r to discover th e cause o f th e p lague. H e ad d s th a t
as C rete w as a n im p o rta n t place o f cu ltu ra l exchange betw een th e
G reek s a n d th e N e a r E ast, it is n o t su rp risin g to fin d th ere th e figure
o f E pim enides.
H a v in g b eg u n in this w ay, M a z z a rin o th e n goes o n to lo o k every­
w here fo r signs o f h isto rical consciousness a n d h isto rical th o u g h t,
in clu d in g th e visual arts. In fact, his very first exam ple o f h isto rical
th o u g h t is th e early fifth -cen tu ry vase p o rtra y in g C ro esu s o n his pyre,
a n d h e n o tes as well th e statu es o f H a rm o d iu s a n d A risto g eito n m ad e
a t A th en s sh o rtly a fte r th e ir assa ssin a tio n a tte m p t in 514. H e looks
to early p o e try , specifically th a t o f M im n erm u s a n d C allinus, a n d o f

19 Hecataeus, FGrHist 1 F 1a: 'Eraxaiog MiX'qoiog ro5s p/u0sixar xaSs ypa^ro, rog ^oi
S o k s i a^n0sa sivar oi yap 'EXX'qvrov Xoyoi noXXol t s Kai ysXoioi, rog e^oi ^alvovxai,
siolv.
co u rse h e exam ines A eschylus’ P e rsia n s w here h e sees th e tra g e d ia n
tra n sfo rm in g a c o n te m p o ra ry event b y m ak in g o f it a n im age o f m yth.
O nly a fte r som e h u n d re d a n d tw en ty pages do we finally com e to
H e ro d o tu s a n d his h isto ry .
N o w even th o u g h o n e m u st ta k e issue w ith q u ite a lo t o f w h a t
M az zarin o says, h e nevertheless is to b e p ra ise d fo r lo o k in g every­
w here a n d a t different m an ife sta tio n s o f th e G re e k h isto rical spirit.
H e also deserves cred it fo r his o n -going en g ag em en t w ith influence o f
th e an c ie n t n e a r east o n th e G re e k s’ h isto rical th o u g h t, an influence
th a t I h av e m e n tio n e d o ff a n d on. Such a n in tere st m a y n o t so u n d
p a rtic u la rly su rp risin g in light o f recen t sch o larsh ip , b u t it is n o te w o r­
th y th a t w hen, n o t lo n g ago, G re ek studies w ere very m u ch co n c ern e d
w ith th e ‘o rien talisin g re v o lu tio n ’ a n d w ere focusing o n ‘th e east face
o f H e lico n ’, th e o n e area, so fa r as I ca n see, left o u t o f co n sid eratio n
a lto g e th e r w as h is to rio g ra p h y .20 N o w this m a y h av e b een sim ply the
re su lt o f th e in terests o f th o se scholars studying th e influence o f the
an cien t N e a r E a st o n G re e k cu ltu re, w ho w ere fa r m o re fo cussed on
religion, epic, m y th a n d th e like, o r it m a y be th a t th e d evelopm ent
o f G re e k h is to rio g ra p h y w as seen as o cc u rrin g later, afte r th e stro n g
w ave o f N e a r E a st influence. B u t I w o n d e r as well w h e th e r it m ig h t
m u ch m o re be a stro n g ly in g rain e d c u ltu ra l p reju d ice a b o u t th e n a tu re
o f w estern h isto rio g ra p h y . W e n eed n o t go so fa r p e rh a p s as Ja c k
G o o d y in his recen t b o o k a rg u in g th a t th e w est h a s stolen its ideas o f
h isto ry fro m th e ea st;21 yet a t th e sam e tim e, o n e ca n h a rd ly av o id th e
n o tio n th a t classical scholars see a fu n d a m e n ta l g ap betw een, o n the
one h a n d , h isto ry as p ra c tise d in th e societies o f A ssyria, P ersia, a n d
E g y p t, w hich m agnified th e achievem ents o f kings a n d closely allied
itself w ith state religion, a n d , o n th e o th e r h a n d , th e ‘secu lar’, ‘d em o ­
c ra tic ’ a n d ‘ra tio n a l’ h is to rio g ra p h y developed by th e G reek s a n d
b e q u e a th e d to th e w est. A n d th ere is ce rtain ly th e sense in scholarship
th a t w hen G re ek h isto rio g ra p h y is ‘influenced’ by th e east, th e resu lt
is alw ays b a d , a n d p ro d u c es som eone such as C tesias, w ith his e m p h a ­
sis o n d isso lu te kings, h a re m politics a n d - G o d h elp us - w om en in
charge.
L et m e com e b a c k o n e last tim e to H e ro d o tu s ’ ‘d ev e lo p m e n t’ as
im ag in ed by Jaco b y . I m e n tio n e d ab o v e th a t this seem s to p u t to o
m u ch re sp o n sib ility o n th e sh o u ld ers o f H e ro d o tu s , b u t it also h as

20 W. Burkert, Die orientalisierende Epoche in der griechischen Religion und Literatur


(Heidelberg: C. Winter, 1984); Eng. tr. by W. Burkert and M. E. Pinder, The
Orientalizing Revolution: Near Eastern Influence on Greek Culture in the Early
Archaic Age (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1992); M. L. West, The
East Face o f Helicon (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997).
21 J. Goody, The Theft o f History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006).
th e effect o f iso latin g H e ro d o tu s fro m th e b a c k g ro u n d a n d interests
o f th e age in w hich h e lived. A n im p o rta n t corrective to this w as p r o ­
v id ed by N in o L u ra g h i’s volum e, T h e H is to r ia n ’s C ra ft in the A g e o f
H e r o d o tu s , p u b lish e d in 2001 a n d reflecting th e p ro ceed in g s o f a c o n ­
ference h e ld in 1997.22 M a n y o f th e c o n trib u to rs in th is volum e w ere
explicitly re actin g to th e sp len d id iso la tio n o f J a c o b y ’s H e ro d o tu s,
a n d th ey so u g h t th ro u g h o u t to show H e ro d o tu s in th e co n tex t o f
o th e r in q u irers in to th e p a st, as p a r t o f a larg e r g ro u p in tere ste d in
collecting, so rtin g a n d an aly sin g th e p a s t - in th e e d ito r’s w o rd s, th e
essays fo cu sed o n aspects w hich m a k e H e ro d o tu s ‘a ty p ical p ro d u c t
o f his tim e ’. I t is a n excellent v olum e w ith m a n y stro n g c o n trib u tio n s
th ro u g h o u t, a n d sh o u ld p u t to rest fo r g o o d th e id ea th a t H e ro d o tu s
is to be en v isio n ed as a lone p ilg rim o n th e ro a d to h isto rical m eth o d .
Y et a t th e sam e tim e, I th in k th a t th ere is a n eed fo r still m o re. I
w o n d e r w h e th e r th e search fo r th e origins o f G re e k h isto rical th o u g h t
can ever yield a n y th in g m o re th a n im pressions a n d suggestions.
J a c o b y ’s arra n g e m e n t, w h atev er its faults, d id a t least give us b o th a
fixed p o in t fo r th e origin o f G re ek h isto rical th o u g h t (the p ro e m o f
H e c a ta e u s’ G e n e a lo g ie s ) a n d a fixed p o in t fo r th e orig in o f G re e k h is­
to rio g ra p h y (H e ro d o tu s ’ H is to r ie s ). B u t w ith an issue such as h is to ri­
cal co n sciousness a n d h isto rical th o u g h t, an y begin n in g th a t we can
im ag in e is likely to be a m essy a n d com plex affair.
N o r does a focus o n h isto ria n s o r th o se en g ag ed in w h a t we m ig h t
clearly id en tify as ‘h isto rical ac tiv ity ’ necessarily help , since th e
G reek s d id n o t alw ays m a in ta in th e kinds o f generic b o u n d a rie s th a t
o n e m ig h t expect. H ere in p a rtic u la r th e w o rk o f th e F re n c h scholars
m e n tio n e d ab o v e is o f g re at value in rem in d in g us th a t h isto ry a n d
h isto rical th o u g h t w ere h a rd ly th e preserve o f h isto ria n s, a n d m u ch
o f w h a t we m ig h t co n sid er ‘h is to ric a l’ activ ity w as p ra c tise d b y any
n u m b e r o f w riters w ith different in terests a n d em phases in a variety o f
form s.

III
A n d so I com e, a t last, to th e th em e o f this volum e. I t is a tru ism
o ften re p e a te d th a t th e academ ic discipline o f h isto ry over th e last
g en e ratio n o r so h a s u n d e rg o n e a re v o lu tio n - m ay b e m u ltip le re v o ­
lu tio n s. O n th e o n e h a n d , th ere h a s b een th e a tta c k (o r a tta c k s) o n
th e subject m a tte r o f tra d itio n a l h isto ry , p a rtic u la rly w h a t w as seen
as its n a rro w co n c ern w ith p o litical a n d m ilitary events. O ne o f th e
resu lts o f th is h a s b een th e dev elo p m en t o f new types o f h isto ry a n d o f

22 Above, n. 7.
new a n d n o n -tra d itio n a l in terests show n b y h isto rian s. O n th e o th e r
h a n d , th e re h a s been an o n g o in g d e b a te a b o u t th e epistem ic claim s o f
h isto ry , a b o u t w h a t h isto ry really teaches o r can claim to teach , a n d
w h a t k in d o f know ledge it ca n actu ally im p a rt. A s a resu lt, th e p ra c ­
tice o f h isto ry itself h a s ceased to b e co n sid ered a self-evident activity
w ith a clear a n d o b v io u s m eth o d o lo g y , a n d in q u iries in to th e p a s t are
n o w seen as com plexly c o n d itio n e d b y a w hole h o s t o f fa c to rs o n the
in d iv id u al, social a n d even d isciplinary level.
A d d to th is th a t a lth o u g h h isto ria n s h av e h a rd ly a b a n d o n e d th eir
desire to k n o w w h a t ac tu ally h a p p e n e d a n d w hy, they h av e a t the
sam e tim e ex p a n d ed th e ir in terests by lo o k in g m o re carefully a t the
stru ctu re s a n d m ean s w ith w hich in d iv id u als a n d societies deal w ith
th e ir p asts. T h e in tere st h ere is less in w h a t actu ally h a p p e n e d a n d
m o re in w h a t p eo p le believed to h a v e h a p p e n e d a n d h o w such beliefs
affected th e ir id en tity a n d th e social en v iro n m e n t - in sh o rt, h o w
h isto ry w as m ean in g fu l to th e m in th e ir ac tu a l lives. J a n A ssm an n
h a s c o in ed th e te rm ‘h o t m e m o ry ’ (heisse E rin n e ru n g ) fo r th e ty p e o f
h isto ry th a t creates a n id en tity fo r a g ro u p o r com m u n ity : h e eq u ates
it w ith m y th a n d identifies it as ‘a sto ry th a t o n e tells to o rien t oneself
vis-a-vis o n eself a n d th e w o rld , a tru th o f a h ig h er o rd e r th a t is n o t
m erely rig h t b u t also m ak es n o rm a tiv e d em an d s a n d possesses fo rm a ­
tive p o w e r’.23 H a n s-Jo a c h im G e h rk e h a s co in ed th e te rm ‘in te n tio n a l
h is to ry ’ fo r th o se stories a n d sagas th a t w ere e m b ra ced b y c o m m u n i­
ties a n d w ere o f co n sid erab le a n d a t tim es decisive significance fo r real
life a n d p o litical b e h a v io u r - even th o u g h th e m o d e rn h is to ria n w o u ld
h a rd ly ch a rac te rise these as h isto ry .24
G e h rk e also em phasises th e u b iq u ito u s n a tu re o f th e p ast: h e w rites,
‘o n e alw ays h a d a story, even w hen one, acco rd in g to o u r criteria,
d id n o t k n o w o n e ’s p a s t at all. T o p u t it differently, o n e knew o n e ’s
p a s t very well. It w as th a t w hich everyw here im p in g ed u p o n o n e ’s
eyes a n d ears in th e w o rld o f p o rtra its a n d statu es, in th e m ilieu o f
p o em s a n d so n g s.’25 N o w y o u will n o tic e th a t I h a v e m a d e a tra n s i­
tio n fro m sp eaking o f h isto ry to speaking o f th e p a st, a n d th a t is n o t
accid en tal. F o r it seems to m e th a t a n in tere st in h o w th e G reek s saw
th e ir p a s t ra th e r th a n in h o w c e rtain figures p erceived h isto ry strictly
sp eaking will en ab le us to co n stru c t a larg e r canvas, one th a t m o re

23 J. Assmann, Das kulturelle Gedachtnis: Schrift, Erinnerung undpolitische Identitat


in fruhen Hochkulturen (Munich: Beck, 1992).
24 H.-J. Gehrke, ‘Mythos, Geschichte, Politik - antik und modern’, Saeculum 45
(1994), pp. 239-64; Eng. tr. by M. Beck in J. Marincola (ed.), Greek and Roman
Historiography (Oxford Readings in Classical Studies; Oxford: Oxford University
Press, 2011), pp. 40-71.
25 Gehrke, Saeculum 45 (1994), p. 251 = English translation, p. 55.
fairly rep resen ts th e v ast variety o f en g ag em en t w ith th e p a s t th a t is
everyw here visible in G re ek culture.
In m a k in g th is ex a m in a tio n , we shall, n a tu ra lly , h av e reco u rse to
texts, th o u g h ag ain we will w a n t th e g re atest v ariety o f m ed ia. T o
state on ly th e m o st o b v io u s, it is alm o st certain ly th e case th a t th e v ast
m a jo rity o f G reek s d id n o t get th e ir sense o f th e p a s t fro m H e ro d o tu s
a n d T h u cy d id es o r an y o f th e o th e r h isto ria n s. T hey u n d e rs to o d it
w ith in th e life o f th e ir city -state, in th e ir ritu als a n d c eleb ratio n s, in th e
p h y sical lan d sca p e a ro u n d th em , a n d in th e m a n -m a d e spaces o f th e
p o lis, in clu d in g th e th e a tre s a n d th e law -co u rts. I f th e p a s t w as every­
w here p re se n t fo r th e G reeks, th e n we o u g h t to be able to fin d it n o
m a tte r w here we lo o k .
So in a sense this vo lu m e m ig h t re p resen t a th o u g h t experim ent: if
th e h isto ries o f th e G reek s o f th e a rch aic a n d classical ages h a d n o t
survived, w h a t w o u ld we k n o w o r b e able to in fer a b o u t th e ir re la tio n ­
ship to th e p ast? I h o p e th a t som e answ ers to this q u estio n a p p e a r
in th e c o n trib u tio n s th a t follow ; im agining, if only fo r a sh o rt tim e,
a w o rld w ith o u t h isto ria n s can be a n o ccasion fo r en g ag em en t a n d
excitem ent.
HOMER AND HEROIC HISTORY

Jonas Grethlein

‘H o m e r is to be ta k e n seriously.’1 In sp ire d by new excav atio n s in


H isarlik , Jo a c h im L a ta c z h a s recently renew ed th e a rg u m e n t fo r th e
value o f th e Ilia d as a source fo r a w a r th a t a G re ek alliance h a d w aged
ag a in st T ro y a ro u n d 1200 bce. W hile this thesis w as g ra n te d p len ty o f
a tte n tio n in th e m ass m ed ia, L ata cz did n o t m eet w ith m u ch a p p ro v a l
fro m his peers, w ho re a c te d ju s t as sceptically as m o re th a n a h u n d re d
years ago W ilam o w itz h a d re sp o n d e d to a tte m p ts a t identifying details
o f th e I lia d ’s to p o g ra p h y in H isa rlik in th e w ake o f S ch liem an n ’s
ex cavations: ‘O ne does n o t ra n t a b o u t it, b u t one does n o t ta k e it seri­
ously e ith e r.’2 In an tiq u ity , o n th e o th e r h a n d , th e T ro ja n W a r a n d
th e re tu rn o f O dysseus w ere co n sid ered h isto rical events. O f course,
b eg in n in g w ith X e n o p h an es, H e catae u s a n d P in d a r, H o m e r w as c riti­
cised fo r ex ag g eratio n s, b u t n o t even T h u cy d id es, h ailed as th e fa th e r
o f critical h is to rio g ra p h y , cast d o u b t o n th e h isto ricity o f th e T ro ja n
W ar. In th e A r c h a e o lo g y , h e even considers th e n u m b e rs given fo r the
ship crew s in th e C a ta lo g u e o f S h ip s to calcu late th e size o f th e expedi­
tio n to T ro y (1.10.2-5). N o t only w ere A chilles, H elen a n d O dysseus
deem ed h isto rical, b u t th e epic p re s e n ta tio n o f th e p a s t w as crucial
fo r h isto rical th in k in g in an cien t G reece. T h e H o m eric hero es figured
p ro m in e n tly in a rt, p o litics a n d e d u c a tio n .3 E pic also left a stro n g
im p rin t o n o th e r co m m em o ra tiv e genres such as trag e d y , epinician

1 J. Latacz, Troia und Homer: Der Weg zur Losung eines alten Ratsels, 5th
edition (Munich: Koehler und Amelang Verlag, 2005), p. 342 (‘Homer ist
ernstzunehmen’).
2 U. von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff, Uber die Ionische Wanderung (Berlin:
Konigliche Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1906), p. 60: ‘Daruber ereifert man sich
nicht, man nimmt es aber auch nicht ernst.’ For critical assessments of Latacz’s
views, see the contributions in C. Ulf (ed.), Der neue Streit um Troja: Eine Bilanz
(Munich: C. H. Beck, 2003).
3 On the reception of Homer, see, e.g., R. Lamberton and J. J. Keaney (eds),
Homer’s Ancient Readers: The Hermeneutics o f Greek Epic’s Earliest Exegetes
(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992); E. Pallantza, Der Troische Krieg
p o e try a n d h isto rio g ra p h y . G iven th e reign o f teleological m odels
fo r th e ‘g rip o f th e p a s t’ o n th e G reek s, it b ea rs p o in tin g o u t th a t th e
estab lish m en t o f h isto rio g ra p h y did n o t elim in ate m em o ry in epic.
T h e Ilia d a n d O d y s s e y n o t only p re se n t ca n o n ic al ac co u n ts o f w h a t
G reek s to o k fo r th e ir a rch aic p a st. E m b ed d e d in th e n a rra tiv e s o f th e
T ro ja n W a r a n d O d y sseu s’ n o s to s , we also fin d a p rev io u s p ast. B o th
th e n a r r a to r a n d th e c h a ra c te rs freq u en tly refer to w h a t we co u ld call
th e ‘epic p lu p a s t’, th e p a s t th a t p re ced e d th e m a in ac tio n o f th e song.4
T h e ‘epic p lu p a s t’ ca n b e re a d as a m is e en a b y m e , th a t is to say th e
em b ed d e d p a s t o f th e h ero es figures as a m irro r to th e h e ro ic p a s t
p re se n te d in epic p o e try .5 In th e first tw o sections o f this c h a p te r, I
will use a n e x a m in a tio n o f th e ‘epic p lu p a s t’ as a w ay o f a p p ro a c h in g
th e epic p re s e n ta tio n o f th e p ast. T h e first will explore th e re la tio n
betw een p a s t a n d p re sen t, th e second will be c o n c ern e d w ith th e m edi-
ality o f m em o ry . T h en , in a th ird section, I will directly discuss th e
view o f h isto ry u n d erly in g th e epic, in p a rtic u la r th e issue o f theodicy.
F in ally , I will lo o k b ey o n d H o m e r to h is to rio g ra p h y a n d arg u e th a t
even w here G re e k h isto ria n s define them selves ag a in st epic th ey share
co m m o n g ro u n d w ith it.

I PAST AND PRESENT


W h e n A eneas en c o u n te rs A chilles o n th e T ro ja n p la in , h e b o a sts a b o u t
his genealogy, w hich h e traces b a c k over six g en eratio n s to D a rd a n u s
(Il. 20.213-41). T h e te m p o ra l re ach o f this analepsis is exceptional;
in m o st cases th e em b ed d e d p a st stretches b a c k only one o r tw o g en ­
eratio n s. T h is lim ited ex ten t o f th e ‘epic p lu p a s t’ ties in nicely w ith
th e an th ro p o lo g ic a l o b se rv a tio n th a t in o ra l societies m em o ry only
includes th e m o st re cen t g en eratio n s, w hich are directly lin k ed to th e
m y th ic al o rig in .6 I t is striking, how ever, th a t in H o m e r th e very recent
p a s t is a lre ad y se p a ra te d fro m th e p re se n t by a gap. A t th e beginning
o f th e Ilia d , N e sto r invokes his age in o rd e r to len d a u th o rity to his
voice in th e conflict betw een A chilles a n d A g a m e m n o n (1.259-64):

in der nachhomerischen Literatur bis zum 5. Jh. v. Chr. (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner,
2005).
4 Cf. W. Kullmann, ‘Vergangenheit und Zukunft in der Ilias’, Poetica 2.1 (1968),
pp. 12-37; J. Grethlein, Das Geschichtsbild der Ilias: Eine Untersuchung aus
phanomenologischer und narratologischer Perspektive (Gottingen: Vandenhoeck &
Ruprecht, 2006), pp. 42-153.
5 The term ‘mise en abyme’ was coined in 1893 by A. Gide, Journal 1889-1939
(Paris: Gallimard, 1948) and the concept was developed further by L. Dallenbach,
Le recit speculaire: Contribution a l’etude de la mise en abyme (Paris: Seuil, 1977).
6 E.g. J. Vansina, Oral Tradition as History (London: James Currey, 1985).
dAAa m 0 sa 0 ’- a ^ 9 © Ss vs©xsp© saxov s^sio.
i\5n y ap nox’ sy© Kai dpsfoaiv nsp upV
dvSpaaiv © ^ n o a , Kai ou noxs ^ ’ oi y ’ d0spiZov.
ou yap n© xofoug iSov dvspag, ouSs iSro^ai,
oiov n s ^ 0 o 6 v xs Apuavxa xs n o i^sv a A,a&v
K a iv sa x’ ’E£,aSi6v xs Kai dvx^08ov noA^nM-ov.

Y e t b e p e rsu a d e d . B o th o f y o u are y o u n g er th a n I am .
Y es, a n d in m y tim e I h av e d ea lt w ith b e tte r m en th a n
y o u are, a n d nev er once d id th ey d isreg a rd m e. N ev er
yet h av e I seen n o r shall see a g a in such m en as these were,
m en like P eirith o o s, a n d D ry a s, sh ep h e rd o f th e p eople,
K a in e u s a n d E x ad io s, godlike P olyphem os.

a n d (1.271-2):

Kai ^a%6^nv Kax’ s ^ ’ auxov sy©- Kstvoiai S’ av ou xig


x&v o'i vuv Ppoxo^ siaiv smx06vioi ^axsoixo.

A n d I fo u g h t single-handed, yet ag a in st such m en n o one


o f th e m o rta ls n o w alive u p o n e a rth co u ld d o b attle.

T h e h ero es m e n tio n e d fo rm p a r t o f th e g en e ratio n p rev io u s to the


G reek s fig h ting at T ro y , b u t they seem to belo n g to a different w orld.
T h is ten d en cy to d istan ce th e recen t p a s t also com es to th e fo re in
P h o e n ix ’s speech in th e em bassy scene. In tro d u c in g th e exem plum o f
M eleag er, P h o en ix re m a rk s (9.527-8):

^ s^ v n ^ a i x6Ss spyov sy© n a^ a i, ou xi vsov ys,


^v, sv S’ u^Iv sps© navxsooi 9 ^ o ia iv .

F o r I re m e m b er this ac tio n o f old, it is n o t a n ew thing,


a n d h o w it w ent; y o u are all m y friends, I will tell it a m o n g you.

P h o en ix p re sen ts his sto ry as belo n g in g to a n age lo n g gone, b u t


ac co rd in g to th e epic genealogy M eleager is only o n e g en e ratio n o ld er
th a n th e h ero es o f th e T ro ja n W ar.
T h e d istan cin g o f th e ‘epic p lu p a s t’ m irro rs th e d istan ce o f th e epic
p a s t w hich is n o t lin k ed to th e p re se n t o f th e p erfo rm an c e. T h ere are
o n ly vag u e references to ‘la te r m e n ’ o r to a deluge w hich will erase all
traces o f th e w alls b u ilt by th e G reek s (Il. 12.3-33), b u t otherw ise the
epic p a s t u n fo ld s as a tim e su i g en eris. T he H o m eric h ero es are larg er
th a n life ju s t as th e h ero es o f th e ‘epic p lu p a s t’ to w e r over A jax a n d his
peers. T h e sp ear o f Peleus is so h eavy th a t only A chilles ca n w ield it
(Il. 16.140-4; 19.387-91) a n d N e s to r’s c u p can only be lifted by N e sto r
him self, relic o f a p re v io u s g en e ratio n o f h ero es (Il. 11.632-7). In th e
sam e vein, D io m ed es, A jax, H e c to r a n d A eneas th ro w stones th a t
‘m en as th ey are to d a y ’ co u ld n o t even m ove (Il. 5.302-4; 12.381-3;
12.445-9; 20.285-7).
T h e g ap betw een epic p a s t a n d p re se n t o f p e rfo rm a n c e o u g h t n o t
to be m ista k en fo r th e difference w hich we feel sep arates o u r tim e
fro m th e p a st. Since a ro u n d 1800 c e w estern h isto rical th in k in g h as
ce n tred o n a n aw areness o f th e a u to n o m y o f epochs w hich is nicely
c a p tu re d in th e o p en in g w o rd s o f T h e G o-B etw een: ‘T h e p a s t is a
fo reig n c o u n try .’7 T h e ideas o f p ro g ress a n d d ev elo p m en t cre a te d an
aw aren ess o f th e differences betw een ages. T h e epics, o n th e o th e r
h a n d , do n o t envisage a dev elo p m en t w hich leads fro m th e h ero ic age
to th e p resen t. A s th e references to ‘m en as th ey are to d a y ’ reveal, th e
difference betw een epic p a s t a n d th e p re se n t is ra th e r q u a n tita tiv e th a n
q u alitativ e.
Som e fe atu res w hich are o ften ta k e n as b ea rin g a n aw areness o f
specific fe atu res o f M y ce n aea n c u ltu re ca n be ex p lain ed m o re sat-
isfyingly alo n g o th e r lines.8 S cholars have, fo r exam ple, seen in th e
b ro n z e w eap o n s u sed by H o m eric h ero es a n aw areness th a t iro n cam e
in to w id er use only afte r th e b re a k d o w n o f th e M y cen aean culture.
H o w ev er, if th e b ro n z e w eap o n s in th e epic are ow ed to such a h is to ri­
cal co n sciousness, th e H o m eric references to iro n , n o ta b ly fo r ag ric u l­
tu ra l to o ls, are h a r d to ex p lain .9 P a rtic u la rly challenging is th e club o f
A re ith o u s, w hich d ates fro m a tim e even b efo re N e s to r’s, b u t is n o n e ­
theless m a d e o f iro n (Il. 7.141).10 T h u s, th e use o f b ro n z e w eapons
does n o t a tte st a co n sisten t aw areness o f specific differences betw een
ep o ch s, b u t seems ra th e r ow ed to th e shininess o f b ro n z e w hich is a p t
to express th e g lam o u r o f h ero ic co m b at.
D esp ite th e d istancing, th e ‘epic p lu p a s t’ is stro n g ly lin k ed to th e
epic p a st. D e m o d o c u s a n d P hem ius sing o f th e p a s t in o rd e r to delight
th e h ero es, b u t th e p assag es q u o te d so fa r suggest th a t o ften p re sen t
in terests p ro m p t th e hero es to tu rn to th e ir p a st. T h e ‘epic p lu p a s t’ is
in th e firm grip o f th e epic p ast. T h ere are th ree m a jo r m o d es in w hich

7 See, e.g., D. Lowenthal, The Past is a Foreign Country (Cambridge: Cambridge


University Press, 1985).
8 See also J. Grethlein, ‘From imperishable glory to history: The Iliad and the
Trojan War’, in D. Konstan and K. Raaflaub (eds), Epic and History (Malden,
MA, and Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010), pp. 128-9.
9 Iron is mentioned as precious material in 6.48 = 10.379 = 11.133; 7.473; 23.261,
850. For iron tools, see 4.485; 18.34; 23.30, 834. On the use of metals in the Iliad,
see D. H. E. Gray, ‘Metal-working in Homer’, JH S 74 (1954), pp. 1-15.
10 See also the arrows in 4.123 which are made of iron.
th e h ero es lin k th e ir p a st to th e p resen t. F irst, th ere ca n b e a causal
link. O dysseus, fo r exam ple, tells his h o sts o f his trav els in o rd e r to
ex p lain h o w h e h a s com e to th em . W hile cau sal links betw een p a s t a n d
p re se n t seem to be lim ited to th e h e ro e s’ ow n experiences, tw o o th e r
m o d es are u sed to re ach b a c k fu rth e r w hile still tying th e p a s t to the
p re s e n t.11 In tra d itio n , th e p a s t is lin k ed to th e p re se n t b y th e id ea o f
co n tin u ity . T his is m o st o b v io u s in genealogies like th e o n e alre ad y
m en tio n ed : A eneas u n fo ld s th e h isto ry o f his fam ily a fte r A chilles h as
slighted him . H e invokes th e glory o f his an cesto rs, th e ir w ealth a n d
close c o n ta c t w ith th e gods, in o rd e r to b u ttre ss his o w n p o sitio n a n d
to d e m o n stra te th a t h e a n d his o p p o n e n t are o n a p a r .12 T ra d itio n
can also be a d d u c e d as a s ta n d a rd to w hich h ero es h av e to live u p -
n o b lesse oblige. F o r exam ple, A th e n a as well as A g a m e m n o n rem in d s
D io m ed es o f th e m o d el o f his fa th e r (Il. 4.372-5; 5.801-11). H e c to r
in v okes his a n d his fa th e r’s fam e w hen h e rejects A n d ro m a c h e ’s
re q u est to stay a t h o m e (Il. 6.444-6). In th e sam e scene, h e p ro jec ts this
fam ily tra d itio n in to th e fu tu re a n d p ra y s th a t his son will b e a m ig h ty
ru le r o f T ro y (Il. 6.476-81).
T h e th ird a n d arg u ab ly m o st p ro m in e n t m o d e w hich links th e ‘epic
p lu p a s t’ to th e epic p a s t is th e e x e m p lu m .13 W hile tra d itio n e sta b ­
lishes a c o n tin u u m th a t reaches fro m th e p a s t to th e p re sen t, exem pla
d irectly ju x ta p o se a p a s t event w ith th e p resen t. T he h ero es freq u en tly
evoke p arallels fro m th e p a st, as does P h o en ix w hen h e tries to p e r­
su ad e A chilles to jo in th e ra n k s o f th e G reek s ag ain by telling th e story
o f M eleag er (Il. 9.524-99): M eleager to o h a d b een ca u g h t by an g er
a n d h a d w ith d ra w n fro m th e defence o f his polis. H e rejected th e gifts
h e w as offered, re tu rn e d to b a ttle only a t th e last m in u te a n d th ere b y
g am b led aw ay his gifts. W hile P h o en ix argues e x n eg a tiv o - A chilles
o u g h t to a b a n d o n his an g e r w hile h e is still offered gifts - exem p la in
H o m e r te n d to be p o sitiv e because o f th e su p erio rity o f p re v io u s gen­
eratio n s. T h e g ap allow s co nclusions to b e d ra w n a m a io re a d m inus.
T h e p ro m in en c e o f ex em p la also u n d ersco res m y arg u m e n t th a t in
H o m e r th e p a s t is n o t perceived to be q u alitativ ely different fro m the
p resen t. W h ereas o u r focus o n h isto rical dev elo p m en ts a n d specific
featu res o f epochs u n d erm in es th e h isto ria m a g istra vitae to p o s ,14

11 Cf. Grethlein, Geschichtsbild, pp. 42-84.


12 For a detailed interpretation of Aeneas’ genealogy, see Grethlein, Geschichtsbild,
pp. 65-70. See also P. M. Smith, ‘Aineiadai as patrons of Iliad XX and the
Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite", HSPh 85 (1981), pp. 17-58.
13 On exempla in the Iliad, see M. Alden, Homer Beside Himself: Para-Narratives
in the Iliad (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000); Grethlein, Geschichtsbild,
pp. 43-63.
14 Cf. R. Koselleck, Futures Past: On the Semantics o f Historical Time, tr. K. Tribe
(Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1985), pp. 21-38.
in H o m e r th e q u a n tita tiv e difference p ro v id es exem pla w ith special
a u th o rity .
T h e th ree m o d es in w hich th e H o m eric hero es lin k th e ir p a s t to th e
p re se n t also ap p ly to th e G re e k s’ re cep tio n o f th e epic p a st. I h av e
alre ad y m e n tio n e d th a t th e h e ro ic w o rld is p re se n te d as a tim e su i
g e n e ris , b u t th e G reeks lin k ed it to th e ir p re se n t by cau sality , th ro u g h
tra d itio n a n d in exem pla. H e ro d o tu s, fo r in stan ce, m e n tio n s th e
a b d u c tio n o f H elen as a n elem ent in th e c h a in o f ra p es w hich, a c c o rd ­
ing to P ersian wise m en, led to th e P ersian W a rs (1.4). A risto crats
w ere p ro n e to tra c e b a c k th e ir an cestry to H o m eric hero es, as did
M iltiad es, w h o h e ld P hilaus, th e son o f A jax, to be th e fo u n d e r o f his
fa m ily ,15 a n d A n d o cid es, w ho claim ed to b e d escended fro m O dysseus
a n d H e rm e s.16 N o t only in d iv id u als b u t also com m u n ities in v o k ed
th e ir epic h erita g e to stren g th en th e ir p o sitio n s in th e h ere a n d now .
A risto tle a n d P lu ta rc h , fo r in stan ce, re p o rt th a t th e A th e n ia n s drew
o n th e I lia d to b a c k u p th e ir claim s to S alam is.17
F in ally , th e H o m eric epics p ro v id e d th e G reek s w ith a tre a su re
chest o f exem pla. T he exem plary use o f th e epic p a s t co u ld serve n o t
o nly legitim ising fu n c tio n s, as w hen A lex a n d er stylises h im self as
A chilles redivivus,18 b u t also a b e tte r u n d e rsta n d in g o f th e p resen t. T he
fre q u e n t co m p ariso n s o f th e P ersian W a rs w ith th e c a p tu re o f T ro y
are ow ed to th e n eed fo r a te m p la te fo r recen t experiences as well as
to th e desire fo r g lo rifica tio n .19 H ow ever, th e significance o f th e h ero ic
p a s t co u ld be challenged in p o litical controversies. In T hucydides,
th e A th e n ia n s sta rt th e ir speech a t a m eetin g in S p a rta w ith a reflec­
tio n o n h o w to p re sen t th e ir claim s m o st effectively (1.73.2): ‘N o w
as fo r th e re m o te p a s t (xa . . . navu n a ^ a ia ), w h a t n eed is th ere to
sp eak o f events fo r w hich th e audience w o u ld h a v e th e evidence o f
h e a rsa y ac co u n ts ra th e r th a n th e ir p erso n a l experience?’ W hile th e
re a so n fo r th e rejectio n o f m y th s is rem in iscen t o f T h u cy d id e s’ ow n

15 Hellanicus FGrHist 323a F 24.


16 Pherecydes FGrHist 3 F 2.
17 Aristot. Rhet. 1375b29f.; Plut. Sol. 10.
18 Cf. L. Edmunds, ‘The religiosity of Alexander’, GRBS 12 (1971), pp. 363-91, at
pp. 368-81, who points out the religious background and argues that the Achilles
imitatio was not merely propaganda; A. Stewart, Faces o f Power: Alexander’s
Image and Hellenistic Politics (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993), pp.
78-86; E. D. Carney, Women and Monarchy in Macedonia (Norman: University of
Oklahoma Press, 2000), pp. 274-85.
19 On the comparison of the Persian with the Trojan Wars, cf. D. Boedeker,
‘Presenting the past in fifth-century Athens’, in Boedeker and K. Raaflaub (eds),
Democracy, Empire, and the Arts in Fifth-Century Athens (Cambridge, MA:
Harvard University Press, 1998), pp. 185-202; T. Holscher, ‘Images and political
identity: The case of Athens’, in Boedeker and Raaflaub, Democracy, Empire, and
the Arts, pp. 153-83.
m eth o d o lo g ic al reflections,20 th e explicit privileging o f h isto ry over
m y th is am p ly p aralleled in o u r co rp u s o f fo u rth -c e n tu ry o ra to ry .
Iso c rates, fo r exam ple, considers possible ex em p la fo r successfully
m asterin g difficult situ atio n s (6.42):

N o w if I w ere to re c o u n t th e w ars o f old w hich they fo u g h t


ag a in st th e A m azo n s o r th e T h ra c ia n s o r th e P elo p o n n esian s
w h o u n d e r th e lead e rsh ip o f E u ry sth eu s in v ad ed A ttica, n o
d o u b t I sh o u ld b e th o u g h t to sp eak o n m a tte rs an cien t a n d
re m o te fro m th e p re se n t situ atio n ; b u t in th e ir w a r ag a in st th e
P ersian s, w ho does n o t k n o w fro m w h a t h a rd sh ip s th ey aro se to
g re at g o o d fo rtu n e ?

W hile th e b ig g er-th an -life fram e gave m y th s special a u th o rity fo r


q u estio n s o f id e n tity a n d m o ra l c o n d u c t, it seem s to h av e u n d e rm in e d
th e ir value in m o re p ra g m a tic in te ra c tio n s.21
T h e ‘epic p lu p a s t’, it can be sum m ed u p , m irro rs essential featu res
o f th e epic p a st. T h e w o rld o f th e h ero es is se p a ra te d fro m th e p re sen t
b y a g ap ju s t as th e ‘epic p lu p a s t’ is d istan ce d fro m th e H o m eric w orld.
A t th e sam e tim e, its su p erio rity p ro v id es it w ith p a rtic u la r w eight.
T h e epic w as u sed to en d o w tra d itio n w ith a u th o rity a n d p ro v id e d
ex em p la w hich legitim ised claim s o r p e rm itte d a b e tte r u n d e rsta n d in g
o f th e p resen t.

II MEDIA OF MEMORY
B esides shed ding light o n th e re la tio n betw een epic p a s t a n d p re sen t
o f p erfo rm an c e, th e ‘h ero ic p lu p a s t’ also illu strates th e m ed iality o f
epic m em o ry . T h e q u a estio H o m e r ic a is still hig h ly co n tro v e rsial, w ith
c o n tin e n ta l scholars ten d in g to w a rd s a u n ita ria n a p p ro a c h a n d m an y
A n g lo -A m e rican classicists fa v o u rin g o ra list m o d els, b u t n o b o d y will
seriously deny th a t th e I lia d a n d O d y sse y re st o n o ra l tra d itio n s a n d
th a t in th e a rch aic a n d classical ages th e epics circ u lated in th e fo rm
o f p erfo rm an c es. P oetic p e rfo rm an c es em b ed d ed in th e H o m eric n a r ­
rativ es h av e th ere fo re b een fru itfu lly ex am in ed as cases o f m ise en

20 Cf. S. Hornblower, A Commentary on Thucydides: I-II I (Oxford: Oxford


University Press, 1991-2008): ad 1.73.2. See also T. Rood, ‘Thucydides’ Persian
Wars’, in C. S. Kraus (ed.), The Limits o f Historiography: Genre and Narrative in
Ancient Historical Texts (Leiden: Brill, 1999), pp. 141-68, at p. 145, for interesting
thoughts on the passage.
21 Cf. J. Grethlein, The Greeks and Their Past: Poetry, Oratory and History in
the Fifth Century b c e (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), pp.
142-4.
a b y m e .22 T h e O d y sse y in p a rtic u la r co n ta in s such im plicit reflections:
in Ith a c a , th e b a rd P hem ios sings o f th e re tu rn o f th e A c h aea n s (O d.
1.325-7), a n d th e P h aea cian singer D e m o d o c u s p re sen ts th e q u arrel
b etw een O dysseus a n d A chilles (O d. 8.72-82), A re s’ affair w ith
A p h ro d ite (O d. 8.266-366) a n d th e ruse o f th e w o o d e n h o rse (O d.
8.499-520). In ad d itio n , O dysseus, w hose n a rra tiv e o f his ad v en tu res
fills B o o k s 9 -1 3 , is c o m p a re d to a singer by A lcinous a n d E u m aiu s
(O d. 11.367-9; 17.518-21).23
It is generally assu m ed th a t th e H o m eric epics w ere p e rfo rm e d
a t such festivals as th e P a n a th e n a ia .24 A t th e sam e tim e, th e songs
e m b ed d e d in th e O d y sse y suggest b a n q u e ts as a fu rth e r occasion
fo r epic p erfo rm an c es. N eedless to say, such avaB ^^axa Saixog (O d.
1.152; 21.430)25 c a n n o t h av e e m b ra ced th e en tire tex t o f o u r Ilia d
a n d O d y s s e y , b u t th e recital o f such episodes as th e D o lo n e ia o r th e
to x o u th esis seem s p o ssib le .26 I t is also tem p tin g to find e n c a p su la te d
in th e re a c tio n o f th e hero es to th e rh a p so d ic recitals a reflection o n
th e re cep tio n o f th e epics.27 A s th e p a tro n y m ic o f P hem ius, T erp iad es
(O d. 22.330), indicates, b a rd ic p e rfo rm an c es are su p p o sed to b rin g th e
au d ien ce p leasu re (e.g. Od. 8 .3 6 7 -9 ).28 H ow ever, w hen P hem ius sings
o f th e re tu rn o f th e G reeks fro m T ro y , P enelope asks h im to ‘leave
o ff singing th is sad / song, w hich alw ays afflicts th e d e a r h e a rt deep
inside m e ’ (O d. 1.340-1). In th e sam e w ay, th e songs o f his q u arrel
w ith A chilles a n d th e w o o d e n h o rse cause O dysseus so m u ch p a in th a t
h e b re ak s in to tears (O d. 8.33-6, 521-31). B o th are to o m u c h involved
in th e so rro w s sung o f a n d th ere b y p ro v e A ris to tle ’s la te r o b serv atio n

22 Cf. C. W. Macleod, ‘Homer on poetry and the poetry of Homer’, in Macleod,


Collected Essays (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983), pp. 1-15; G. Nagy,
‘Early Greek views of poets and poetry’, in G. A. Kennedy (ed.), The Cambridge
History o f Literary Criticism I (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989),
pp. 1-77; A. Ford, Homer: The Poetry o f the Past (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University
Press, 1992); C. Segal, Singers, Heroes, and Gods in the Odyssey (Ithaca, NY:
Cornell University Press, 1994). J. M. Foley (ed.), A Companion to Ancient Epic
(Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2005), p. 199, on the other hand, argues that we ought
to be rather careful with conclusions drawn from songs within the epics about the
epics themselves.
23 See also the comparison of Odysseus’ bow with a lyre in 21.405-9.
24 Cf. the discussion by G. S. Kirk, The Songs o f Homer (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1962), pp. 274-81. See also G. Nagy, Poetry as Performance:
Homer and Beyond (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996); D. B. Collins,
‘Improvisation in rhapsodic performance’, Helios 28 (2001), pp. 11-27.
25 On the two passages, see Segal, Singers, Heroes and Gods, p. 117.
26 Cf. B. Heiden, ‘The three movements of the Iliad’, GRBS 37.1 (1996), pp. 5-22 on
possible divisions of the Iliad for performances.
27 Cf. Macleod, ‘Homer on poetry’, pp. 1-15; Segal, Singers, Heroes and Gods,
pp. 113-41.
28 Terpein signifies the effect of poetry in Il. 1.474; 9.189; Od. 1.347; 422; 8.91; 368;
429; 542; 12.188; 17.385, 606; 18.304.
th a t a ce rtain degree o f d istan ce is necessary fo r th e p o etic a ro u sa l o f
p ity a n d in d u lg en ce.29 I f o n e is also w illing to ta k e O d y sseu s’ C re ta n
stories in to a c co u n t, th e n th e O d y sse y c o n ta in s a reflection n o t only on
its p e rfo rm a n c e a n d re cep tio n , b u t also o n th e p oetics o f epic, p a rtic u ­
larly th e delicate b alan c e betw een fictio n al a n d fa c tu a l elem ents, as fo r
exam ple S im on G o ld h ill h a s sh o w n .30
In th is section, I w o u ld like to h ig h lig h t a n o th e r aspect w hich h as
received less atte n tio n : th e ‘epic p lu p a s t’ is p re serv ed n o t only in song
a n d n a rra tiv e , b u t also in m a te ria l objects, o r, to be m o re precise, in
m an y cases it is relics w hich trig g er stories a b o u t th e p a s t.31 M o stly
th ro u g h gift-exchange, b u t also th ro u g h in h eritan c e a n d th e ft,32 m a te ­
rial objects ch ange th e ir ow ners a n d th ere b y accu m u late stories, as
illu stra te d b y th e exam ple o f O d y sseu s’ bo w , w hich p ro m p ts th e n a r ­
r a to r to a len g th y flash b a ck (O d. 21.11-41): O dysseus received the
b o w fro m Ip h itu s, w h o m h e m et in th e h o u se o f O rtilo ch u s. T h eir
g u est-frien d ship w as cu t sh o rt w hen Ip h itu s w as received a n d killed
by a n o th e r guest-friend, H eracles, w ho w as keen o n his horses. T he
d igression o n th e b o w illu stra te s th e subtle n a rra tiv e use w hich the
H o m eric n a r r a to r m ak es o f th e ‘b io g ra p h y o f g o o d s’:33 as a gift fro m
a g u est-frien d, th e bow will serve O dysseus well in his p u n ish m e n t o f
th e su ito rs w ho h av e b re ach e d th e law s o f h o sp ita lity .34 F u rth e rm o re ,
th e sto ry o f Ip h itu s a n d H eracles re frac ts th e to p ic o f h o s p ita lity .35
T h e co m m em o ra tiv e fu n c tio n o f gift-exchange com es to th e fo re
w hen A lcin o us gives a cu p to O dysseus ‘so th a t all his days h e m ay
rem em b er m e / as h e m ak es lib a tio n a t h o m e to Z eus a n d th e o th e r
im m o rta ls ’ (O d. 8.432-3).

29 Aristot. Rhet. 1383a8-12; 1386a24-6. For a more complex interpretation of


Odysseus’ reaction to the last song of Demodocus, see R. B. Rutherford, ‘The
philosophy of the Odyssey’, JH S 106 (1986), pp. 145-62, at pp. 155-6, who argues
that Odysseus identifies with the Trojan victims just as at the end of the Iliad
Achilles takes on the perspective of Priam.
30 S. Goldhill, The Poet’s Voice: Essays on Poetics and Greek Literature (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1991), pp. 36-56.
31 Cf. J. Grethlein, ‘Memory and material objects in the Iliad and the Odyssey’, JH S
128 (2008), pp. 27-51.
32 Meriones’ helmet combines these three forms of exchange: Autolycus stole it from
Amyntor and passed it on to Amphidamas, who presented it as a gift to Molus,
from whom Meriones inherited it (Il. 10.261-70).
33 The concept of the ‘biography of goods’ was put forward by W. H. R. Rivers,
‘The genealogical method of anthropological inquiry’, Sociological Review
3 (1910), pp. 1-12. For more recent approaches, see the survey in World
Archaeology 31 (1999).
34 This aligns the bow with the wine which Odysseus receives from Maron as a
guest-gift (9.196-211) and uses to punish the Cyclops for a less than friendly
reception.
35 Cf. Grethlein, ‘Memory and material objects’, pp. 42-3.
N o t on ly circ u latin g co m m o d ities b u t also m o n u m e n ts evoke th e
m em o ry o f th e p a st. T h is is m o st o b vious fo r to m b s, such as th e
to m b o f Ilus w hich is u sed fo r assem blies (Il. 10.414-16) a n d th ere b y
inscribes th e m em o ry o f P ria m ’s g ra n d fa th e r in to everyday reality.
H e c to r reflects o n , a n d in v erts, th e co m m em o ra tiv e fu n c tio n o f to m b s
w hen h e speculates a b o u t th e to m b o f his fu tu re o p p o n e n t w hich will
sp re ad his fam e (Il. 7 .8 7 -9 1 ):36

^ tcots Tig sm noi Kai oyiyovrov av0p©n©v,


v n no^uK^^iSi nlsrov sni oivona tcovtov-
‘avSpog ^sv toSs o ^ a n a ^ a i KaTaTS0vn®Tog,
ov noT’ apioTSUovTa KaT8KTavs ^ S i ^ o g "Ekt© p .’
©g noT8 Tig spssi, to S’ s^ov K^sog ou tcot’ o^siTai.

A n d som e d ay o n e o f th e m en to com e will say, as h e sees it,


o ne w ho in his b en c h ed ship sails o n th e w ine-blue w ater:
‘T h is is th e m o u n d o f a m a n w ho d ied lo n g ago in b attle,
w ho w as o ne o f th e b ra v est, a n d glorious H e c to r killed h im .’
So will h e sp eak som e day, a n d m y glory will n o t be fo rg o tten .

T h ere are also b u ild in g s w hich h av e n o t b een erected fo r c o m ­


m em o ra tiv e p u rp o se s, b u t n o n eth eless ca rry stories a b o u t th e p ast.
T h e w alls o f T ro y are a p a rtic u la rly in tere stin g case in p o in t: o n e w all
b ea rs th e m em o ry o f P o se id o n ’s a n d A p o llo ’s servitude to L a o m e d o n
(Il. 7.451-3; cf. Il. 21.441-7). A n o th e r w all testifies to th e ir revenge:
L a o m e d o n d id n o t p a y th e gods fo r th e ir service, a n d P o seid o n sent
a sea-m o n ster to him . In o rd e r to rid th e city o f this p lag u e, H eracles
erected a w all (Il. 20.144-8). W h e n h e d id n o t receive th e p ro m ised
re w a rd o f L a o m e d o n ’s p a rtly divine h o rses, h e sacked th e city in
rev en g e.37 D u rin g th e ir siege, th e G reek s are b u ild in g yet a n o th e r w all
w hich will a tte s t to th e T ro ja n W a r. T a k e n to g eth er, th e w alls serve as
an ‘arch aeo lo g ical h is to ry ’ o f T roy.
T his em b ed d e d ‘arch aeo lo g y o f th e p a s t’ illu strates th e re la tio n
b etw een epic a n d relics. M a n y scholars are still u n d e r th e spell o f th e
id ea th a t th e H o m eric epics h av e p re serv ed know ledge o f h isto rical
events in th e M y ce n aea n age. H ow ever, co m p ariso n s o f th e epics
w ith arch aeo lo g ical evidence h a v e d e m o n stra te d th a t, b y a n d large,
th e h ero ic w o rld m irro rs a n d re frac ts th e re ality o f th e early arch aic
age ju s t as c o m p a ra tiv e evidence a b o u t o ral tra d itio n s u n d erm in es

36 Cf. Grethlein, ‘Memory and material objects’, p. 30.


37 For glimpses of the story in the Iliad, see 5.638-42; 14.250-6; 15.25-30.
th e thesis o f a stable tra d itio n th ro u g h th e D a rk A ges.38 M o st o f the
M y cen aean elem ents in H o m e r, such as th e b o a r-tu s k h elm et a n d
N e s to r’s cup, are m a te ria l objects. T h ey d o n o t p ro v e a co n tin u o u s
epic tra d itio n fro m th e M y cen aean to th e a rch aic ages, b u t w ere p r o b ­
ably in sp ired by relics still visible in th e a rch aic ag e .39 T h e reuse o f
M y cen aean gem s a n d th e in ten sificatio n o f h e ro cu lt in arc h a ic G reece
a tte st to a stro n g in tere st in o ld o b jects.40 I w o u ld even arg u e th a t
M y cen aean ru in s a n d finds such as w eap o n s w ere a m a jo r source o f
in sp ira tio n fo r th e rise o f G re ek epic.41 T he relevance o f ru in s a n d old
objects fo r th e c o n stru c tio n o f a h e ro ic w o rld in G re e k epic is m irro re d
by th e stro n g m a te ria l side o f th e ‘epic p lu p a s t’.
L et m e p u sh this in te rp re ta tio n fu rth e r b y suggesting th a t the
H o m eric epic uses th e ‘arch aeo lo g y o f th e p a s t’ to th ro w in to relief its
ow n co m m em o ra tiv e fu n c tio n .42 T h e w all b u ilt b y th e G reek s a t T ro y
is so g reat th a t P o seid o n is a fra id th a t it will o u tsh in e his wall. A t the
sam e tim e, th e w all o f th e G reek s will be d am ag e d d u rin g c o m b a t (Il.
12.256-62; 14.55-6; 15.361-6) a n d , as th e n a r r a to r re m a rk s in a long
p ro lep sis, will even tu ally be a n n ih ila te d by a deluge (12.3-33). T he
in stab ility o f m em o ry p reserv ed by m a te ria l objects com es to th e fore
also in o th e r passages. F o r exam ple, b efo re th e c h a rio t race N e sto r
show s his son A n tilo ch u s a sign w hich will h elp h im to steer his course
(Il. 23.326-33). N o t even ‘M r M e m o ry ’ is able to tell w h e th e r the
stu m p w ith tw o w hite stones lean e d ag a in st it is th e ‘g ra v e-m ark o f
so m eone w ho d ied lo n g a g o ’ o r ‘w as set as a racin g goal b y m en w ho
lived b efo re o u r tim e ’ (Il. 23.3 3 1 -3 ).43 M o n u m e n ts such as w alls a n d
to m b s are u n reliab le a n d lim ited as b earers o f m em o ry a n d th ere b y
h ig h lig h t th e claim o f epic to estab lish ‘im p erish ab le fa m e ’ in the
m ed iu m o f song.

38 Cf. I. Morris, ‘The use and abuse of Homer’, Classical Antiquity 5 (1986), pp.
81-138; J. P. Crielaard, ‘How the west was won’, in C. Gillis, C. Risberg and
B. Sjoberg (eds), Trade and Production in Premonetary Greece (Jonsered: Paul
Astrom, 1995), pp. 125-7.
39 Cf. Grethlein, ‘From imperishable glory to history’, pp. 128-9.
40 On the reuse of gems, see J. Boardman, Greek Gems and Finger Rings (London:
Thames and Hudson, 1970), p. 107; J. Boardman, The Archaeology o f Nostalgia:
How the Greeks Re-Created their Mythical Past (London: Thames and Hudson,
2003), pp. 81-2. On hero cult, see, e.g., C. Antonaccio, An Archaeology o f
Ancestors: Tomb Cult and Hero Cult in Early Greece (Lanham, MD: Rowman
& Littlefield, 1995); R. Hagg (ed.), Ancient Greek Hero Cult (Athens: Svenska
Institutet i Athen, 1999); D. Boehringer, Heroenkulte in Griechenland von der
geometrischen bis zur klassischen Zeit (Berlin: Klio, Akademie, 2001).
41 Cf. D. Hertel, Die Mauern von Troia: Mythos und Geschichte im antiken Ilion
(Munich: Beck, 2003); Grethlein, ‘Imperishable glory to history’.
42 Cf. Grethlein, ‘Memory and material objects’, p. 35.
43 See Grethlein, ‘Memory and material objects’, pp. 31-2.
HOMER AND HEROic HISTORY 25

III THEODICY
In th e first tw o sections o f this c h a p te r, I h av e used th e ‘epic p lu p a s t’
to explore th e re la tio n betw een p a st a n d p re sen t a n d th e m ediality o f
m em o ry in H o m er. I w o u ld n o w like to a p p ro a c h directly th e epic p re s­
e n ta tio n o f th e p a s t a n d exam ine h o w H o m e r envisages h u m a n life in
tim e. In m en tio n in g h ero ic suffering a n d divine agency, th e p ro em s o f
Ilia d a n d O d y sse y highlight tw o im p o rta n t aspects o f th eir n arrativ es
a n d raise th e q u estio n o f theodicy. A re th e sorrow s o f A chilles & C o.
em b ed d ed in a system o f divine justice? A cco rd in g to th e tra d itio n a l
view, th e O d y sse y p resen ts a m o re ad v a n ced co n cep tio n th a n the
Ilia d :44 w hereas th e gods a p p e a r as a rb itra ry a n d am o ra l in th e earlier
p o em , th e later one featu res gods co n cerned a b o u t rig h teo u s co n d u c t
a n d is th erefo re a step to w ard s th e cosm ic o rd e r we find in H esio d . Such
ev o lu tio n ary m odels o f divine justice in G re ek literatu re, how ever, have
been forcefully challenged by H u g h L lo y d -Jo n es.45 M o re recently,
W illiam A llan h a s m ad e a case th a t th e Ilia d a n d O d y sse y share a
co m m o n belief a b o u t h u m a n a n d divine ju stice w hich also underlies the
h ex am eter co rp u s o f H esiod, th e E pic Cycle a n d th e H o m eric H y m n s.46
A llan assem bles o n th e one h a n d passages fro m th e Ilia d w hich testify
to a divine co n cern w ith m o ra l issues; o n th e o th er, h e show s th a t in the
O d y sse y th e gods h av e n o t lost th eir u n p re d ic tab le a n d tro u b lin g side.
T h ere are in d eed p assages in th e I lia d w hich view th e fall o f T ro y as
p u n ish m e n t fo r P a ris ’ crim e. A p a rtic u la rly in terestin g case in p o in t,
n o t discussed by A llan, is a p ra y e r o f M en elau s in Il. 3.351-4:

Z su ava, Sog xsm ao0ai, o ^ s npoxspog k &k ’ sopysv,


Siov AAs£,avSpov, Kai s ^ i g uno xspoi S a^aooov,

44 See, e.g., F. Jacoby, ‘Die geistige Physiognomie der Odyssee’, Antike 9 (1933),
pp. 159-94; K. Reinhardt, ‘Tradition und Geist im homerischen Epos’, in C.
Becker (ed.), Tradition und Geist: Gesammelte Essays zur Dichtung (Gottingen:
Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1960), pp. 5-15, at p. 6; K. Ruter, Odysseeinter-
pretationen: Untersuchungen zum ersten Buch und zur Phaiakis (Gottingen:
Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1969), p. 70; Rutherford, ‘Philosophy of the Odyssey’,
pp. 147-8; most recently, E. A. Schmidt, ‘Die Gerechtigkeit des Gottes als Axiom
fruhgriechischer Weltdeutung: Zum Recht in der fruhgriechischen Dichtung von
Homer bis Solon’, in B. Greiner, B. Thums and W. Graf Vitzthum (eds), Recht und
Literatur: Interdisziplinare Bezuge (Heidelberg: Universitatsverlag Winter, 2010),
pp. 29-74, at pp. 44-53.
45 H. Lloyd-Jones, The Justice o f Zeus (Berkeley: University of California Press,
1971).
46 W. Allan, ‘Divine justice and cosmic order in early Greek epic’, JH S 126 (2006),
pp. 1-35. For a nuanced account of divine justice in the Iliad and Odyssey, see
also B. Fenik, Studies in the Odyssey (Wiesbaden: F. Steiner, 1974), pp. 209-27;
on the Odyssey, J. S. Clay, The Wrath o f Athena: Gods and Men in the Odyssey
(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1983), pp. 213-39.
o ^ p a Tig 8pp^ynol Kai oyiyovrov av0p©n©v
£,sivoS6kov KaKa ps£,ai, o ksv ^iAoxnxa napdoxni-

Z eu s, lo rd , g ra n t m e to p u n ish th e m a n w ho first did m e injury,


b rillia n t A lex a n d ru s, a n d b e a t h im do w n u n d e r m y h a n d s ’
stren g th
th a t an y o n e o f th e m en to com e m ay sh u d d er to th in k o f
d o in g evil to a kindly h o st, w ho h a s given h im friendship.

T h e reference to ‘m en to c o m e’ gives th e p assa g e a m e ta -p o e tic to u c h


a n d suggests re ad in g th e Ilia d as testim o n y to th e w o rk in g s o f divine
re trib u tio n .
A t th e sam e tim e, th e p ro g ra m m a tic statem en t o f Z eus a t th e b eg in ­
n in g o f th e O d y s s e y , w hile fo re g ro u n d in g th e id ea o f divine p u n ish ­
m en t, does n o t exclude th e gods also sending sorrow s to h u m a n s w ho
h av e c o m m itte d n o crim es (O d. 1.32-4):47

& nonoi, oiov S^ vu 0soi>g Ppoxoi aixiorovxai.


s £ ^ s r o v yap ^ a o i KaK’ s ^ s v a i - oi Ss Kai arn o i
o^floiv dxao0aM floiv unsp ^opov aAys’ sxouoiv.

O h fo r sham e, h o w th e m o rta ls p u t th e blam e u p o n us


gods, fo r th ey say evils com e fro m us, b u t it is they, ra th e r,
w h o b y th e ir ow n recklessness w in so rro w b e y o n d w h a t is given.

T h ere are en tire episodes in th e O d y sse y w hich are h a r d to explain fo r


ad v o cates o f a new m o ra l o rder: th e P h aea cian s w ho receive O dysseus
in ac co rd a n ce w ith th e law s o f h o sp ita lity definitely do n o t deserve
P o seid o n tra n sfo rm in g th e ir esco rt in to sto n e.48 T h e sam e g o d ’s
revenge fo r th e b lin d in g o f P o ly p h em u s seem s b arely ju stified given
th a t O dysseus w as a b o u t to serve as th e C y clo p s’ b re a k fa st.49 T he
d e stru c tio n o f O dysseus’ co m p an io n s afte r th e ir so jo u rn o n T h rin a c ia
is a t least am b ig u o u s. T hey re fra in fro m to u c h in g th e ca ttle o f H elios
fo r a lo n g tim e a n d lay h a n d s o n th e m only w hen, fo rced to stay by
ad v erse w inds, th ey sta rt starv in g .50
W h ile agreeing w ith A llan th a t th e m o ra l universes o f th e Ilia d a n d
O d y sse y are b o th n o t only m o re m u ltifa cete d th a n th e tra d itio n a l

47 See Fenik, Studies, p. 211; Allan, ‘Divine justice’, p. 16.


48 E.g. Rutherford, ‘Philosophy of the Odyssey’, p. 148.
49 E.g. Fenik, Studies, pp. 210-11.
50 Cf. Fenik, Studies, pp. 213-15; Clay, Wrath o f Athena, pp. 218-19. Segal, Singers,
Heroes and Gods, pp. 215-18, on the other hand, emphasises the guilt of the
companions.
ju x ta p o s itio n h a s it, b u t also share b asic p a tte rn s o f belief, I th in k his
re ad in g ig nores cru cial aspects o f th e I lia d a n d th ere b y plays do w n
w eighty differences fro m th e O d y sse y . T hese differences are d u e n o t
to a n o th e r view o f th e divine, let alo n e to p ro g ress in th eo lo g y , b u t
to th e sto ry a n d d iscourse o f th e epics. T o sta rt w ith th e level o f th e
sto ry , w hilst th e I lia d centres o n th e m o rta lity o f its h ero , A chilles,
a n d p arad o x ically fo re g ro u n d s his d e a th by only a d u m b ra tin g it,51 th e
O d y sse y deals w ith th e survival o f its h ero . O dysseus is subjected to th e
m o st d ire experiences, fro m b eing to ssed a ro u n d by th e sea to w a tc h ­
ing P o ly p h em u s ea t his co m p an io n s, a n d fu rth e r trials aw ait h im after
th e e n d o f th e p o e m ,52 b u t n o n eth eless h e re tu rn s, is re u n ite d w ith his
fam ily a n d re cap tu re s his regal p o sitio n o n Ith a c a .
In a d d itio n to this p o in t, w hich is well k n o w n a n d h a s led to th e
ju x ta p o s itio n o f th e tw o H o m eric epics as tra g ic a n d com ic,53 th e n a r ­
ra tiv e fo rm o f p re s e n ta tio n also co n trib u te s to th e difference betw een
th em . T h ere are p assages in th e I lia d w hich suggest ta k in g th e fall o f
T ro y as p u n ish m e n t fo r th e a b d u c tio n o f H elen (see above), b u t this
falls sh o rt o f explaining th e p ain s inflicted u p o n th e G reeks. M o re
im p o rta n tly , th e n a rra tiv e o f th e Ilia d high lig h ts n o t so m u ch th e
m o ra l asp ect o f suffering as th e force o f contingency. T h e condicio
h ero ica is p re se n te d as a n ex a cerb ated version o f th e condicio h u m a n a .
N o t o nly d o th e h ero es freq u en tly reflect o n th e ir fragility, m o st p ro m ­
in en tly G lau c u s in th e sim ile o f th e leaves (Il. 6 .146-9) a n d A chilles in
th e p a ra b le o f th e ja rs (Il. 24.524-33), b u t also th e n a rra tiv e p re se n ta ­
tio n o f c o m b a t u n d ersco res h o w little c o n tro l th e hero es h av e over
th e ir lives. T h e m erciless ru le o f chance o n th e battlefield com es to th e
fo re in th e to p o s o f th e ‘m issing h it’.54 A h e ro aim s a t a n o p p o n e n t,
w h o m h e m isses, b u t h its a n o th e r, w ho becom es an u n in te n d e d victim
(Il. 8.300-8):

^ pa, Kai aAAov oiotov ano v s u p ^ i v laAAsv


EKTopog avTiKpu, PaAssiv S8 s isto 0u^og-

51 On the central place of death in the Iliad, see W. Marg, ‘Kampf und Tod in der
Ilias’, WJb 2 (1976), pp. 7-19; S. L. Schein, ‘On Achilles’ speech to Odysseus, Iliad
9.308-429’, Eranos 78 (1980), pp. 125-31.
52 Cf. 23.264-84. Cf. A. Bergren, ‘Odyssean temporality: Many (re)turns’, in C.
Rubino and C. Shelmerdine (eds), Approaches to Homer (Austin: University of
Texas Press, 1983), pp. 38-73.
53 For a recent version of this juxtaposition, see N. J. Lowe, The Classical Plot and
the Invention o f Western Narrative (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
2000), pp. 103-56.
54 Cf. M. Lossau, ‘Ersatztotungen: Bauelemente in der Ilias’, W S 104 (1991), pp.
5-21; M. Stoevesandt, Feinde - Gegner - Opfer: Zur Darstellung der Troianer
in den Kampfszenen der Ilias (Basel: Schwabe, 2004), pp. 161-6; Grethlein,
Geschichtsbild, p. 160.
Kai xou ^sv p ’ d 9 a ^ a p 0 ’, o S’ d ^u ^o v a ro p y u 0 to v a
uiov suv n p ia ^ o io Kaxa o x ^ o g Pa^sv i&i,
x6v p ’ e£ A iau^n0sv onrno^svn tsks ^ x n p
K a ^ K ao xiavsipa Ss^ag siKuIa 0sflioiv-
^ K © v S’ &g sxsproos Kapn Pa^sv, ^ x’ svi K^nroi
Kapn&i Ppi0o^svn v o x ^ xs siapiv^ioiv-
&g sxsproo’ ^ u o s Kapn n ^ n * * Papuv0sv.

H e spoke, a n d let fly a n o th e r sh aft fro m th e bow strin g ,


straig h t fo r H e cto r, a n d all his h e a rt w as strain in g to h it him ;
b u t m issed his m a n , a n d stru ck d o w n in ste a d a stro n g son o f
P riam ,
G o rg y th io n th e blam eless, h it in th e chest by a n arrow ;
G o rg y th io n w hose m o th e r w as lovely C astian eira ,
P ria m ’s b rid e fro m A isym e, w ith th e fo rm o f a goddess.
H e b e n t d ro o p in g his h e a d to one side, as a g a rd en p o p p y
b en d s b e n e a th th e w eight o f its yield a n d th e ra in s o f
springtim e;
so his h e a d b e n t slack to one side b e n e a th th e h e lm ’s w eight.

W hile th e ‘m issing h it’ calls a tte n tio n to th e fragility o f h u m a n life, th e


flash b a ck to th e b irth o f G o rg y th io n a n d th e flow er sim ile u n d ersco re
th e ru p tu re o f d eath.
T h ere are m a n y sim ilar o b itu aries in th e Ilia d w hich a d d p a th o s to
th e b a ttle scenes.55 P a rtic u la rly trag ic is th e o b itu a ry w hich th ro w s
in to relief th e m o rs im m a tu r a o f Ip h id a m a s (11.241-7):

&g o ^sv au0i nso©v K o i^ o a x o xaAxsov rnvov,


oiKxp6g, dno ^vnox^g d^6xou doxoloiv dp^yrov
KoupiS^g, "ng ou xi xapiv iSs- noA la S’ sS©Ksv-
np© 0’ SKaxov Poug S&ksv, snsixa Ss xsiXi’ unsoxn,
aiyag o^ou Kai oig, xa oi aonsxa noi^atvovxo.
S^ x6xs y’ Axps'l'Sng A Y a ^ s^ w v s^svapi^sv,
P^ Ss ^sprov dv’ o p l o v Axairov xsuxsa KaM.

So Ip h id a m a s fell th ere a n d w en t in to th e b ra z e n slum ber,


u n h a p p y , w ho cam e to h elp his ow n p eo p le, a n d left his y o u n g
wife

55 Cf. J. Griffin, ‘Homeric pathos and objectivity’, CQ 26 (1976), pp. 161-87;


Stoevesandt, Feinde, pp. 126-59; C. Tsagalis, Epic Grief: Personal Laments in
Homer’s Iliad (Berlin: de Gruyter, 2004), pp. 179-92; Grethlein, Geschichtsbild,
pp. 155-9.
a b rid e, a n d h a d k n o w n n o delight fro m h e r yet, a n d given m u ch
fo r her.
F irs t h e h a d given a h u n d re d oxen, th e n p ro m ise d a th o u s a n d
h e a d o f g o ats a n d sheep, w hich w ere h e rd e d fo r h im in
ab u n d a n ce.
N o w A g a m e m n o n , son o f A tre u s, strip p ed h im a n d w ent b ac k
to th e th ro n g o f th e A c h aea n s b ea rin g th e sp len d id arm o u r.

T h e flash b a ck to th e recen t w edding u n d ersco res th e m o rs im m a tu r a .


M a rria g e as th e in s titu tio n fo r p ro c re a tio n stro n g ly c o n tra sts w ith
d e a th , th e e n d o f his life. In s te a d o f receiving his d u e a fte r giving such
a rich d o w ry , Ip h id a m a s becom es h im self object o f a n o th e r exchange
w hen A g a m e m n o n tak es his arm o u r.
A lth o u g h n o t all o f th e 240 d ea th s in th e Ilia d are p re se n te d w ith
th e sam e e la b o ra tio n , G riffin’s stu d y o f ‘H o m eric p a th o s a n d ob jectiv ­
ity ’ im pressively d em o n strate s th e variety o f co m m en ts by w hich th e
H o m eric n a r r a to r th ro w s in to relief th e h o rro rs o f d e a th .56 I t is th e re ­
fo re m o st strik in g th a t th ere is n o t a single o b itu a ry in th e O dyssey.57
T h e O d y sse y does n o t lack d eath s, b u t w hile th e co m p an io n s o f
O dysseus te n d to re m a in a n o n y m o u s,58 th e dying suitors o bviously do
n o t deserve such n a rra tiv e h ighlighting. W h ereas th e Ilia d , in a c c o rd ­
ance w ith its focus o n th e m o rta lity o f its h e ro , uses th e fate o f sm all
h ero es to p o n d e r o n th e ru p tu re o f d e a th , th e O d y sse y does n o t e la b o ­
ra te o n th e d e a th o f O d y sseu s’ co m p an io n s a n d d epicts th e killing o f
th e su ito rs p rim arily as a p u n ish m en t.
O th e r th a n analepses, th e n a r r a to r o f th e Ilia d also uses prolepses
to u n d ersco re h u m a n fragility, as th e p re s e n ta tio n o f th e m a jo r heroes
illu stra te s.59 T im e a n d again, n a rra to ria l fo resh ad o w in g o r divine
p re d ic tio n s reveal th e v an ity o f th e h e ro e s ’ a sp ira tio n s, w hich will be
th w a rte d b y an u n ex p ected d ea th . F o r exam ple, as early as B o o k 11,
w hen A chilles sends P a tro c lu s to N e sto r, a so m b re co m m en t b y th e
n a r r a to r alerts us to his im p en d in g d e a th (Il. 11.602-4):

56 Griffin, ‘Homeric pathos’. R. Garland, ‘The causation of deaths in the Iliad ’,


BIC S 28 (1981), pp. 43-60, at pp. 52-3, counts 240 dead warriors, S. E. Bassett,
The Poetry o f Homer (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1938), p. 256 n. 37,
notes the killing of 318 heroes of whom 243 are named. According to Stoevesandt,
Feinde, p. 127, about every fourth victim, be he Trojan or Greek, is given an
obituary.
57 J. Griffin, Homer on Life and Death (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1980), p. 139.
58 See, for example, Clay, Wrath o f Athena, p. 35, who states that the reference to
the companions in the Odyssey’s proem is noteworthy given their minor role in the
action.
59 Cf. Grethlein, Geschichtsbild, pp. 208-39.
a iy a S’ STaipov sov naTpoKA^a npoossinsv,
9 0 sy£,a^svog n a p a v^og- o Ss KAioin0sv aKouoag
sk^oAsv ioog A pqi- KaKou S’ a p a oi nsAsv apxn.

A t o nce h e spoke to his o w n c o m p a n io n in arm s, P atro clu s,


calling fro m th e ship, a n d h e h e a rd it fro m inside th e shelter, a n d
cam e o u t
like th e w a r god, a n d this w as th e beg in n in g o f his evil.

L a te r, P atro clu s, full o f confidence th a t h e will ro u t th e T ro ja n s, asks


A chilles fo r his a rm o u r (Il. 16.46-7):

&g ^aTo Aiooo^svog, ^sy a v^mog- ^ yap s^sAAsv


oi aw & i 0avaTov ts KaKov Kai K^pa AiT8o0ai.

So h e sp o k e su p p licatin g in his g re at innocence; this w as


his ow n d e a th a n d evil d e stru c tio n h e w as en tre atin g .

T h e c o n tra s t betw een P a tro c lu s ’ zeal a n d th e im p en d in g o f his d e a th is


b o rn e o u t ag ain in Il. 16.684-7:

naTpoKAog S’ m noioi Kai A rn o ^ sS o v u KsAsuoag


Tp&ag Kai AuKoug ^sTsK,a0s, Kai ^sy ’ aao0n,
v^mog- si Ss snog n^A niaS ao ^uAa^sv,
^ t ’ av unsK^uys K^pa KaK^v ^sAavog 0avaToio.

B u t P atro clu s, w ith a sh o u t to A u to m e d o n a n d his ho rses,


w en t a fte r T ro ja n s a n d L ycians in a h u g e b lin d fury.
B eso tted : h a d h e only k e p t th e c o m m a n d o f P eleiades
h e m ig h t h av e go t clear aw ay fro m th e evil spirit o f b lack d eath .

P atro clu s is killed by H e cto r, w ho earlier h a d p re d ic te d th e fall o f T ro y


a n d his ow n d e a th (Il. 6.859-61), b u t is n o w victim o f th e sam e illu­
sions as P a tro c lu s .60 W h en H e c to r strips his o p p o n e n t o f his a rm o u r,
b o astin g a b o u t his stren g th , Z eus envisions his d e a th a n d co m m en ts
o n his ig n o ran c e (Il. 17.201-3):

a Ss& ’, ouSs u toi 0avaTog KaTa0u^i6g soTiv,


og S^ toi oxsSov sioi- ou S’ a^PpoTa Tsuxsa Suvsig
avSpog apioT^og, tov ts Tpo^souoi Kai aAAoi.

60 Patroclus and Hector are compared with one another by R. Rutherford, ‘Tragic
form and feeling in the Iliad’, JH S 102 (1982), pp. 145-60, at p. 157.
HOMER AND HEROic HISTORY 31

A h , p o o r w retch! T h ere is n o th o u g h t o f d e a th in y o u r m in d
now ,
a n d yet d e a th stan d s close beside y o u as y o u p u t o n th e
im m o rta l a rm o u r
o f a su rp assin g m an . T h ere are o th ers w ho trem b le b efo re him .

In one o f th e m o st to u c h in g scenes o f th e Ilia d , th e n a r r a to r uses


H e c to r’s d e a th to h o m e in o n th e lim its o f h u m a n know ledge (Il.
22.442-6):

ksk Asxo S’ d ^ m o A o io iv SunAoKa^oig Kaxa S&^a


d ^ i nupi o x ^oai xpm oSa ^syav, o ^ p a nsAoixo
"EKxopi 0 sp ^ a Aosxpa M-axng ek voox^oavxi.
v^nin, ouS’ evonosv, o ^iv ^aAa x^As Aosxp&v
x sp o ’ u n ’ AxiAA^og S a ^ a o s yAauK&mg A0^vn.

She called o u t th ro u g h th e h o u se to h e r lo vely-haired


h a n d m a id e n s
to set a g reat c a u ld ro n over th e fire, so th a t th ere w o u ld be
h o t w a te r fo r H e c to r’s b a th as h e cam e b a c k o u t o f th e fighting;
p o o r in n o cen t, n o r knew how , fa r fro m w aters fo r b a th in g ,
P allas A th e n a h a d cu t h im do w n a t th e h a n d s o f A chilles.

A n d ro m a c h e ’s ig n o ran c e is n o t d u e to th e o p aq u e n ess o f th e fu tu re ,
b u t to sp atial d istance. W hile she is ta k in g care o f a w a rm w elcom e
fo r H e cto r, A chilles h a s sta rte d m u tila tin g his corpse. T h e tra g ic iro n y
is d eep en ed by a p la y w ith th e ritu a l o f th e b ath : th e d e a th o f H e c to r
tra n sfo rm s th e b a th fo r th e re tu rn in g w a rrio r in to th e cleaning o f his
co rp se, w hich a g a in will be d eferred u n til th e last b o o k o f th e Ilia d .61
T h e last h e ro in th e c h ain o f d ea th s w hich stru ctu re s th e final th ird o f
th e Ilia d , A chilles, is d istin ct fro m th e o th ers in th a t h e is aw are o f his
ow n m o rta lity , even know s th a t his ow n d e a th is to follow so o n u p o n
H e c to r’s (Il. 18.95-6), a n d n o n eth eless ru sh es to avenge P atro clu s.
W h e n H e ra len ds a voice to th e divine h o rse X a n th u s, w hich th e n
p ro p h esies A ch illes’ d e a th to him , th e h e ro replies (Il. 19.420-3):

Hav0s, T^ ^oi 0avaxov ^avxsusai; ouSs x^ o s xp^.


su vu xoi oiSa Kai auxog, o ^oi ^opog 8v0aS’ oAso0ai,
v o o ^ i 9& ou naxpog Kai ^nxepog- dAAa Kai s^nng
ou npiv Tp&ag aSnv sA aoai noAs^oio.

61 Cf. J. Grethlein, ‘The poetics of the bath in the Iliad’, HSCPh 103 (2006),
pp. 25-49.
X a n th u s, w hy do y o u p ro p h e sy m y d eath ? T his is n o t fo r you.
I m y self k n o w well it is d estin ed fo r m e to die h ere
fa r fro m m y belo v ed fa th e r a n d m o th e r. B u t fo r all th a t
I will n o t sto p till th e T ro ja n s h av e h a d en o u g h o f m y fighting.

A chilles’ aw areness a n d accep tan ce o f his ow n d e a th prefig u re a v a n t


la le ttr e th e a ttitu d e o f ‘a n tic ip a to ry re so lu ten e ss’ (‘v o rlau fen d e
E n tsch lo ssen h eit’) w hich H eidegger privileges as a n ‘a u th e n tic ’
(‘eig en tlich ’) m o d e o f D a se in .62 T h e Ilia d ’s em phasis o n h u m a n frag il­
ity cu lm in ates in its h e ro , fo r w h o m co n tin g en cy h a s b een tra n sfo rm e d
in to necessity.
T h e O d y sse y also fe atu res p rolepses w hich c o n tra st th e c h a ra c te rs’
ex p e ctatio n s w ith th e ir fu tu re experiences. H ow ever, th e em phasis on
h u m a n frag ility is fa r less d ra m a tic b ecau se o f th e focus o n th e fa te o f
O dysseus, w ho is n o t going to die. M o re o v er, O dysseus is p ro v id e d
w ith ro u g h sketches o f his fu tu re by T eiresias (O d. 11.100-37), C irce
(O d. 12.37-110) a n d A th e n a (O d. 13.393-415). P a rt o f th e ad v e n tu res
are n a r ra te d by O dysseus h im self (B ooks 9 -1 2 ), w ho occasionally
co m m en ts o n w ro n g ex p e ctatio n s h e h a s h a rb o u re d (e.g. 9.224ff.), b u t
in g eneral em phasises his fo re sig h t.63 T h e O d yssey, it can b e n o te d ,
does n o t cap italise o n tra g ic iro n y to th e sam e ex ten t as th e Ilia d .
T o sum up: th e Ilia d a n d O d y sse y share th e sam e tem p lates fo r
view ing h u m a n life in tim e, n o ta b ly a general feeling o f insecurity a n d
th e belief th a t crim es p ro v o k e divine p u n ish m en t. H ow ever, sto ry a n d
disco u rse m a k e th e tw o epics different fro m o n e a n o th e r. T h e id ea o f
divine re trib u tio n is n o t alien to th e Ilia d , b u t th ro u g h such devices as
‘m issing h its ’, o b itu aries a n d pro lep ses c o n tra stin g ex p e ctatio n s w ith
experiences, th e p o e m h igh lig h ts h u m a n fragility. T he O d y sse y , o n the
o th e r h a n d , does n o t fail to m a rk th e insecurity o f h u m a n life, b u t it
c o n c en trate s o n th e successful re tu rn o f O dysseus a n d th e p u n ish m e n t
h e inflicts o n th e suitors.

IV BEYOND HOMER
L et m e finally go b e y o n d H o m e r a n d briefly lo o k to h isto rio g ra p h y . In
ta k in g u p th e th ree p o in ts th a t I h av e exam in ed - th e re la tio n betw een
p a s t a n d p re sen t, th e m ed iality o f m em o ry a n d th eo d icy - it is n o t
m y aim to ex p lo re fully th e differences o r th e H o m eric influence on
th e h isto ria n s. In ste a d , I w o u ld like to illu stra te th e claim th a t epic

62 M. Heidegger, Being and Time, tr. J. Macquarrie and E. Robinson, 8th edn
(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988; 1st pub. 1962), p. 351 (p. 304).
63 Cf. Rutherford, ‘Tragic form and feeling’, p. 150.
a n d G re e k h is to rio g ra p h y sh are som e c o m m o n g ro u n d .64 W ith o u t
d enying th e cru cial differences, I will argue th a t even th e a tte m p ts o f
th e h isto ria n s to set them selves o ff ag a in st H o m e r reveal a n id ea o f
h isto ry th a t also underlies th e I lia d a n d O d y sse y. N eedless to say, I can
offer h ere n o m o re th a n spotlights.
W e h av e first seen th a t th e epics focus o n a d ista n t p a s t w hich is n o t
lin k ed to th e p re sen t, b u t is highly a p t to p ro v id e exem pla because
o f its su p erio rity . O n th e o th e r h a n d , a t least th e ca n o n ic al h isto ria n s
privilege th e m o re re cen t p a st. T o m e n tio n only th e tw o fo u n d in g
fa th e rs o f G re ek h isto rio g ra p h y , H e ro d o tu s gives a n a c c o u n t o f th e
P ersian W a rs a n d T hu cy d id es m ak es a case fo r co n c e n tra tin g o n c o n ­
te m p o ra ry h isto ry . In his A rc h a e o lo g y , T hu cy d id es even challenges
th e su p erio rity o f th e h e ro ic age a n d tak es p a in s to d e m o n stra te
th a t th e P e lo p o n n esian W a r is b y fa r th e g re atest m ilitary event in
G re ek h isto ry . N o n eth eless, h e draw s heavily o n th e exem plary view
o f h isto ry w hich is so p ro m in e n t in H o m e r.65 T h u cy d id e s’ ac co u n t
will, h e h o p es, p e rm it th e read ers to u n d e rs ta n d fu tu re events b e tte r
(1.22.4; cf. 3.82.2). T h e p a s t will n o t sim ply re p e a t itself, b u t m a y be
sim ilar. D u e to th e stab ility o f h u m a n n a tu re , th e insights w on by
his rig o ro u s m e th o d will p ro v e v alu ab le fo r la te r g en e ratio n s a n d
m a k e his a c c o u n t a KT%a sg a s l T h e n o tio n o f a ‘p o ssession fo re v e r’
evokes a n d tra n sfo rm s th e epic n o tio n o f ‘im p erish ab le g lo ry ’ (KAsog
a^0iTov).66 W h ereas th e epic defines its ow n e tern ity via its objects,
T h u cy d id es claim s e tern ity in re la tio n to his read ers. F a m e h a s been
rep laced w ith usefulness, b u t th e u n d erly in g exem plary view o f th e
p a s t is th e sam e.
In a second step, I h av e d ealt w ith th e m ed iality o f epic, a rg u in g fo r
a very h ig h degree o f im plicit reflection o n o ra l p o etry . H e ro d o tu s ’
H is to r ie s still b e a r th e traces o f epideictic p e rfo rm an c es a n d it seems
th a t lo cal h isto ria n s also p re se n te d th e ir w o rk s o ra lly ,67 b u t th e
m ed iu m o f w ritin g is as cru cial to th e h isto ry o f h isto rio g ra p h y as

64 On the epic influence on Greek historiography, see, e.g., H. Strasburger, Homer


und die Geschichtsschreibung (Heidelberg: C. Winter, 1972); J. Marincola, Greek
Historians (Greece & Rome New Surveys in the Classics 31; Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 2001), pp. 9-10.
65 On the intricacies of the exemplary view of the past in Thucydides and also
Herodotus, see J. Grethlein, ‘“Historia magistra vitae” in Herodotus and
Thucydides? The exemplary use of the past and ancient and modern temporalities’,
in A. Lianeri (ed.), The Western Time o f Ancient History: Historiographical
Encounters with the Greek and Roman Pasts (Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 2011), pp. 247-63.
66 Cf. G. Crane, The Blinded Eye: Thucydides and the New Written Word (Lanham,
MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 1996), pp. 211-15.
67 On the ancient tradition of oral presentations by Herodotus, see S. Flory, ‘Who
read Herodotus’ Histories?’, AJPh 101 (1980), pp. 12-28, at pp. 14-15; on oral
o ral c o m p o sitio n a n d tra d itio n are to H o m er. T h a t being said, the
m eta-h isto rica l reflection o n m a te ria l b earers o f m em o ry in H o m e r
p refigures th e a tte m p ts by h isto ria n s to h ig h lig h t th e ir ow n acco u n ts
by c o m p a rin g th em im plicitly w ith m a te ria l re co rd s, in p a rtic u la r
w ith in scrip tio n s.68 H e ro d o tu s, fo r exam ple, an n o u n c es as th e goal
o f his H isto r ie s th a t ‘w h a t w as d o n e by m en does n o t fade aw ay w ith
tim e (x© xpov© s^xnA a ysvnxai), th a t g re at a n d m arv ello u s achieve­
m en ts, show n fo rth by G reeks a n d b a rb a ria n s, do n o t lose th e ir fam e
(dK^sa ysvnxai)’ (proem ). s^xn^og is a tech n ical te rm fo r th e fa d in g o f
co lo u rs in in scrip tio n s. T h u s, H e ro d o tu s n o t only tak es u p th e id ea o f
epic fam e (dKAsa), b u t also p resen ts his a c c o u n t as m o re d u ra b le th a n
in scrip tio n s set in stone. B o th epic a n d h is to rio g ra p h y u n d ersco re
th e ir claim s by referrin g to m a te ria l b earers o f m em o ry w hich are
in ferio r to th e ir ow n co m m em o ra tiv e acts.
M y last p o in t w as theodicy. W e h av e seen th a t th ere is a ten sio n
betw een th e id ea o f divine re trib u tio n a n d th e general insecurity o f
h u m a n h ap p in ess. H e ro d o tu s ’ logos o f H elen (2.112-20) illu strates
th a t even w here th e fa th e r o f h is to rio g ra p h y challenges H o m e r h e
d raw s o n a sim ilar id ea o f h isto ry . H e ro d o tu s rejects th e I lia d s
a c c o u n t a n d argues th a t H elen nev er w en t to T ro y , b u t w as left in
E g y p t. A fte r discussing th e evidence fo r this ac co u n t, p a rtic u la rly the
re p o rts o f E g y p tian priests, h e p o n d e rs o n w hy, d espite th e absence
o f H elen, th e T ro ja n W a r to o k place, a n d finally com es u p w ith a
religious ex p la n a tio n (2.120.5):

dAA’ ou yap sixov EAsvnv dnoSouvai ouSs Asyouoi auxoioi x^v


dA n0s^v sm oxsuov oi "EA^nvsg, ©g ^ev 8y© yvro^nv dno^avvo^ai,
xou Sai^ovfou napaoKsuaZovxog oKrog navroAs0pifl dnoAo^svoi
Kaxa^aveg xouxo xoioi dv0p©noioi noi^orooi, ©g x&v ^syaArov
dSiKn^axrov ^syaAai sioi Kai a i xl^rop^al n a p a x&v 0s&v.

B u t th ey [i.e. th e T ro jan s] d id n o t h av e H elen to give b a c k a n d th e


G reek s d id n o t believe th a t th ey spoke th e tru th . T o declare m y

(footnote 67 continued)
features of the Histories, see M. Lang, Herodotean Narrative and Discourse
(Martin Classical Lectures; Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1984).
See also R. Thomas, Herodotus in Context: Ethnography, Science and the Art o f
Persuasion (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), who contextualises
Herodotus in an epideictic milieu. On oral presentations of local historians, see
K. Clarke, Making Time for the Past: Local History and the Polis (Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 2011).
68 See J. Moles, ‘Anathema kai ktema : The inscriptional inheritance of ancient
historiography’, Histos 3 (1999), pp. 27-69.
ow n o p in io n , this w as because th e d a im o n io n a rra n g e d th in g s so
th a t, in th e ir co m p lete a n n ih ila tio n , they sh o u ld m a k e this clear
to m a n k in d th a t fo r severe crim es th e p u n ish m e n t a t th e g o d s’
h a n d s is severe.

T h e p h ra s e nav©As0pvn anoAo^svoi evokes th e epic, w hich w as in d eed


the m ed iu m fro m w hich ‘m a n k in d ’ le a rn t a b o u t th e T ro ja n W a r.69
H e ro d o tu s ’ im plicit reference to H o m e r p re su p p o se s th e sam e m o r­
alist in te rp re ta tio n o f th e Ilia d th a t is suggested b y th e p ra y e r o f
M en elau s q u o te d above. T h e id ea o f divine re trib u tio n figures p ro m i­
n en tly in th e H is to r ie s , fo r exam ple w hen H e ro d o tu s m e n tio n s th e
d e a th o f P h eretim e, w ho h a d th e leaders o f B a rc a im p aled a n d th e
b re asts o f th e ir w om en c u t o ff (4.205): ‘F o r, w hile still alive, she
b ecam e in fested w ith w o rm s, as excessive cases o f vengeance m a k e th e
gods h o stile to w a rd s m e n ’ (&g a p a av0p© noioi a i Mnv ioxupai Tl^©p^al
npog 0s&v sm 9 0 ovoi ytvovTai). H ow ever, H e ro d o tu s does n o t p ro v id e
us w ith a clean -cu t m o ra list p h ilo so p h y o f h isto ry , b u t th e n o tio n o f
divine re trib u tio n com petes w ith o th e r co n c ep ts.70 T h e d isconcerting
id ea o f divine envy o f h u m a n success, visible fo r exam ple in th e logos
o f P o ly crates (3.39-60, 120-5), is rem in iscen t o f th e fickleness o f th e
gods in epic.71 T h e epic ten sio n betw een th e ideas o f divine ju stic e a n d
th e in secu rity o f h u m a n life is expressed in H e ro d o tu s ’ reflection o n
C am b y ses’ late c o n fu sio n a n d frenzy ag a in st his relatives: ‘C am byses
c o m m itte d th ese m a d acts ag a in st his closest relatives, e ith e r because
o f A pis o r fo r a n o th e r re aso n , as generally m a n y evils afflict h u m a n s ’
(3.33).72
O f co u rse, H e ro d o tu s shies aw ay fro m a ttrib u tin g divine in te rv e n ­
tio n s to in d iv id u al gods, b u t no n eth eless th e un easy co m b in a tio n
o f th e id ea o f divine ju stic e w ith th e g o d s’ arb itra rin e ss aligns th e
H is to r ie s w ith th e Ilia d a n d O d y sse y . S im ilar atte m p ts to get to grips
w ith h u m a n fragility ca n b e seen in trag e d y a n d v ario u s p o etic genres,
ra n g in g fro m elegy to ep in ician .73 E ven T h u cy d id es, w ho does n o t
ex p lain h isto rical events b y referrin g to th e gods, em phasises th e role

69 Cf. Grethlein, Greeks and Their Past , p. 157.


70 Cf. Grethlein, Greeks and Their Past, pp. 187-202.
71 Polycrates’ Egyptian friend Amasis points out ‘that the gods are jealous of
success’ (3.40.2), which seems to be confirmed when Herodotus later states in his
narratorial voice that Polycrates died in a manner ‘worthy neither of himself nor
of his ambitions’ (3.125.2).
72 The maltreatment of the Apis bull is recounted in 3.29. Cf. W. H. Friedrich, ‘Der
Tod des Tyrannen: Die poetische Gerechtigkeit der alten Geschichtsschreiber -
und Herodot’, A&A 18 (1973), pp. 97-129, at pp. 116-20.
73 Cf. Grethlein, Greeks and Their Past.
o f ch an ce in h is to ry .74 A s different as all these genres are, th e ir views
o f h isto ry b e a r strik in g sim ilarities. T his n ee d n o t b e d u e to th e influ­
ence o f H o m e r, b u t is ra th e r th e expression o f a co m m o n g ra v ita tio n a l
field. W h ile m o d e rn h isto rical th in k in g focuses o n developm ents,
an cien t G reek s strongly felt exposed to forces b e y o n d th e ir co n tro l.
T h e id ea o f divine ju stic e as well as th e c o n stru c tio n o f regularities
a n d co n tin u ities in exem pla a n d tra d itio n , all o f w hich h av e been ch a l­
lenged in th e m o d e rn age, ca n be seen as a n a tte m p t to create som e
stab ility in a w o rld full o f insecurity.

74 See, e.g., F. M. Cornford, Thucydides Mythistoricus (London: Edward Arnold,


1907); H.-P. Stahl, Thucydides: M an’s Place in History (Swansea: Classical Press
of Wales, 2003).
HESIOD ON HUMAN HISTORY

Bruno Currie

T h e focus o f th is c h a p te r is o n e passag e o f b arely o n e h u n d re d lines.


T his c o n c e n tra tio n o f focus is justified, I h o p e , by th e com plexity o f
th e p assa g e in q u estio n a n d by its u n d o u b te d relevance to o u r to p ic .1
H e sio d ’s ‘m y th o f th e ra ces’ ( W D 106-201; h e n c e fo rth ‘M o R ’) h as
b een e v a lu a te d re p eated ly by scholars as a p ro to -h isto ric a l ac co u n t,
som etim es in c o n ju n c tio n w ith th e m y th o f P ro m eth eu s a n d P a n d o ra
w hich preced es it ( W D 48-105). N o ta b le discussions include th o se o f
T . G . R o sen m ey er, D . J. S tew art a n d C. J. R o w e .2
W h a t k in d o f a c c o u n t is p ro v id e d in these h u n d re d lines? T he
lead -in (lines 106-8) fu rnishes tan ta lisin g suggestions. It is billed as
a Aoyog, n o t ^u0og (cf. O d. 11.368) o r aivog (cf. W D 202).3 F u rth e r,

1 The Catalogue o f Women would have a place in a discussion of ‘Hesiod on human


history’ which pretended to greater inclusivity; and it would raise quite different
questions from those considered here.
2 T. G. Rosenmeyer, ‘Hesiod and historiography’, Hermes 85 (1957), pp. 257-85;
D. J. Stewart, ‘Hesiod and history’, Bucknell Review 18 (1970), pp. 37-52; C. J.
Rowe, ‘Archaic thought in Hesiod’, JH S 103 (1983), pp. 124-35. The following
quotations may be illustrative. Rosenmeyer, ‘Hesiod and historiography’, p.
260: ‘On the scores of systematisation, of secularisation, of the revolt against
epic untruthfulness or epic narrowness, and of the skilful collection of recognised
data under the aegis of a moral theme, Hesiod’s Five Ages ought to be ranked as
an early piece of Greek historical writing . . . It is the objective of this paper to
plead Hesiod’s case, if not as a historian, at least as a forerunner of the historical
perspective.’ Rowe, ‘Archaic thought’, p. 126 n. 27: ‘The ultimate question will be
how Hesiod works in contexts which appear to raise issues likely to interest the
scientist or the historian; in particular, contexts which are apparently concerned
with explanation’; p. 134: ‘if we assume that Hesiod is in competition with an
Anaximander or a Herodotus (or a Thucydides), then he comes off badly; but
though there is some overlapping, as for example in Hesiod’s description of the
birth of the world, he is really playing a different game, under different rules.’ Cf.
also P. Smith, ‘History and the individual in Hesiod’s myth of five races’, C W 74
(1980), pp. 145-63, at pp. 150-1.
3 M.-C. Leclerc, ‘Le mythe des races: Une fiction aux sentiers qui bifurquent’,
Kernos 6 (1993), pp. 207-24, at p. 220; C. Calame, ‘Succession des ages et
pragmatique poetique de la justice: Le recit hesiodique des cinq especes humaines’,
it is 8Tspov Aoyov, a different a c c o u n t fro m th e p reced in g a c c o u n t o f
P ro m eth eu s a n d P a n d o ra . B ut it p u rp o rts to b e a different ac co u n t
o f th e sam e state o f affairs: ‘a n o th e r a c c o u n t o f h o w gods a n d m o rta l
m en are b o rn o f th e sam e o rig in ’.4 R o sen m ey er to o k sKKopu^rooro
in 106 to in d icate th a t this w as a distinctively h isto rical sk etch .5 C.
C alam e o n th e o th e r h a n d h a s p o in te d to snioTa^evrog in 107 as an
in d ic a tio n th a t H e sio d is o p e ra tin g as a p o e t.6

THE UNDERLYING CONCEPTION, THE MEANING OF


rE N O Z , AND THE METALLIC SCHEME
O u r first ta s k m u st b e to try to asc ertain th e u n d erly in g co n c ep tio n
o f H e sio d ’s schem e a n d th e p recise m ean in g o f yevog, w hich occurs
n in e tim es in th e passag e (w ith a single o ccu rren ce o f y sv sf ).7 W e m ay
p ro c e e d d eductively (identify th e m o st p ro m isin g c o n stru c tio n o f w h a t
H e sio d m ig h t b e try in g to say a n d m a p this o n to th e lan g u ag e used)
o r in d u ctiv ely (identify th e m o st p lau sib le m ean in g s o f th e lan g u ag e
u sed a n d w o rk u p to a c o n stru c tio n o f w h a t H e sio d is try in g to say).
C learly we m u st p ro c eed in b o th w ays, b u t it will be h elpful to begin

(footnote 3 continued)
Kernos 17 (2004), pp. 67-102, at p. 67: ‘ces vers ne representent pas un “mythe”,
mais un logos; il s’agit donc d’un simple recit.’ Not that these function reliably
as technical terms; cf. R. G. A. Buxton, Imaginary Greece: The Contexts o f
Mythology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), pp. 12-13, on the
interchangeability of mythos and logos in the archaic period.
4 For Leclerc, ‘Mythe des races’, p. 224, this verse (WD 108) ‘donne la cle de
l’histoire’. Cf. Calame, ‘Succession des ages’, p. 72.
5 Rosenmeyer, ‘Hesiod and historiography’, p. 269: ‘Hesiod does not wish to go
into detail; like Thucydides in his archaeology, he realizes that he cannot supply as
full a picture as he wishes.’ Criticized by Rowe, ‘Archaic thought’, pp. 132-3; L.
Bertelli, ‘Hecataeus: From genealogy to historiography’, in N. Luraghi (ed.), The
Historian’s Craft in the Age o f Herodotus (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001),
pp. 67-94, at p. 82. The inference from the narrative’s sketchiness to its historical
intent is weak; for mythological ‘sketches’, cf. Hygin. Fab., and of course Hesiod
(and ‘Hesiod’) himself in several passages of Th. (and Cat.).
6 Calame, ‘Succession des ages’, p. 72 on smoT&^svog: ‘Le logos profere est bien
celui d’un sage, par reference au savoir du poete homerique ou mieux encore
par allusion au savoir faire du poete elegiaque’ (referring to Od. 11.368, Theogn.
769-72, Solon fr.13.51-5 West; add Archil. fr. 1.2 West); cf. M. L. West, Hesiod:
Works and Days (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1978), p. 178; M. Griffith, ‘Contest
and contradiction in early Greek poetry’, in Griffith and D. Mastronarde (eds),
The Cabinet o f the Muses: Essays on Classical and Comparative Literature in
Honor o f Thomas G. Rosenmeyer (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1990), pp. 185-207,
at p. 196. It seems sti Kai smoTa^svrog was used especially of a skilled craftsman
(and hence of a craftsman of words?): Od. 17.341 = 21.44, 23.197, cf. 5.245, Il.
10.265.
7 WD 109 = 143 = 180 ysvog ^sporcrov av6p<mrov, 121, 127, 140, 156, 159, 176. Cf.
WD 160 ysvsf.
by critiq u in g som e c o n stru c tio n s w hich w o u ld m a k e H e sio d ’s th in k in g
q u ite stra ig h tfo rw a rd ly h isto rical.
F irst, H e sio d ’s yevn are n o t ‘ages’, like th e y u g a s o f th e M a h a b h a ra ta
(3.148, 187), d espite th e L a tin re n d erin g sa ecu la a n d th e co m m o n
E nglish re n d erin g ‘golden (silver, etc.) a g e ’.8 T h e ysvn sh o u ld n o t be
glossed as ‘ep o c h s’, as th ey are b y R o sen m ey er, w ho w ished to see
H e sio d as th e o rig in a to r o f ‘a h isto rical im ag in a tio n w hich sees th e
p a st, a n d tim e in general, n o t as a steady flow to w a rd th e p re sen t
. . . b u t ra th e r as a succession o f e p o c h s’. A c co rd in g to R osenm eyer,
H e sio d ’s c o n c ep tio n is a fits-an d -sta rts view o f h isto ry , w hich he
co m p ares w ith T a c itu s’ reference to in terva lla a c sp ira m e n ta tem p o -
ru m (A g ric o la 44).9 H e sio d ’s yevn are, how ever, n o t sy n o n y m o u s w ith
‘p erio d s o f h is to ry ’ (as we m ay sp eak fo r scholarly convenience o f
‘arch aic-classical-H ellen istic’ o r ‘re p u b lic a n -im p e ria l’ as p erio d s o f
G re ek o r R o m a n h isto ry ); th ey are a c tu a l h u m a n ‘ra ces’. W hile these
do occu p y discrete h isto rical p erio d s (they h av e ‘a sp a tio -te m p o ra l
ex ten sio n ’),10 th a t c a n n o t be said to be th e essence o f H e sio d ’s
co n cep tio n .
Second, H e sio d ’s yevn are n o t ‘civ ilisatio n s’. W e sh o u ld c o n tra st
th e a n a lo g o u s p assa g e fro m th e O ld T e sta m e n t b o o k o f D a n ie l
(2:31-45), w here th e vision in N e b u c h a d n e z z a r’s d re a m o f a statu e
m a d e o f gold, silver, b ro n z e, iro n a n d clay in tim ate s successive
h isto rical ‘k in g d o m s’: to w it (p ro b ab ly ), th e B ab y lo n ian (u n d e r
N e b u c h a d n e z z a r him self), th e P ersian (u n d e r C yrus th e G re a t), th e
G re ek (u n d e r A lex a n d er th e G re a t) a n d G re e k a g a in (u n d e r th e
S eleucids).11 H o m eric epic to o seems to h a v e a c o n c ep tio n o f h isto ry
as defined b y th e rise a n d fall o f g reat civilisations, if th e e n d o f th e
age o f h ero es is sy n ch ro n o u s w ith th e ru in o f M ycenae, S p a rta a n d
A rg o s (Il. 4 .5 1 -3 ) a n d T ro y itself (Il. 12.15-33, cf. 24.543-6). W e, to o ,
read ily co n cep tu alise h isto ry as a sequence o f em pires (e.g. A ssyrian,
P ersian , G re ek , R o m a n , etc.). B u t this is n o t H e sio d ’s co n c ep tio n
eith er, fo r th ere is n o p ro sp e c t o f c o rrelatin g H e sio d ’s yevn w ith any
civilisations k n o w n to him .

8 H. C. Baldry, ‘Who invented the golden age?’, CQ n.s. 2 (1952), pp. 83-92,
at p. 88; Rosenmeyer, ‘Hesiod and historiography’, p. 265 and n. 3; B. Gatz,
Weltalter, goldene Zeit undsinnverwandte Vorstellungen (Hildesheim: Olms, 1967),
pp. 205-6. J. Fontenrose, ‘Work, justice, and Hesiod’s five ages’, CP 69 (1974), pp.
1-16, at p. 1 n.1, with reservations retains ‘ages’, finding ‘races’ ‘misleading and
inaccurate’; cf. L. Koenen, ‘Greece, the Near East, and Egypt: Cyclic destruction
in Hesiod and the Catalogue of Women’, TAPA 124 (1994), pp. 1-34, at p. 2 n. 3;
Calame, ‘Succession des ages’, pp. 68, 71.
9 Rosenmeyer, ‘Hesiod and historiography’, p. 267.
10 Calame, ‘Succession des ages’, p. 68.
11 Calame, ‘Succession des ages’, p. 95.
T h ird , H e sio d ’s schem e does n o t sim ply resolve itself in to h u m a n
g en eratio n s. W h e n th e h ero es o f th e I lia d ta lk a b o u t th e p a s t they
typically sp eak o f a fo rm e r g en e ratio n , su p erio r to th e p re se n t (e.g.
Il. 1.250-2, 260-72: th e L ap ith s; 4.405: th e A rgive Seven; 5.636-7:
H erak les; e tc .).12 T h is resem bles H e sio d ’s c o n c ep tio n in so fa r as
his successive yevn to o are w orse th a n th e ir predecessors, b u t th a t
is a b o u t as fa r as th e resem blance goes; his ysvn are n o t ‘g en e ra­
tio n s ’.13 Som e scholars, in clu d in g G . W . M o s t a n d C. C alam e, h av e
a rg u ed fo r ta k in g ysvs^ a t W D 160 as ‘g e n e ra tio n ’, w here th e hero es
are re ferred to as npoxepn ysvs^ Kax’ dnslpova y a la v .14 O n this view
th e h ero es a n d th e m en o f th e p re se n t belo n g to th e sam e yevog,
n am ely th e iro n race, o f w hich th e hero es are early rep resen tativ es,
a n ea rlier g en e ratio n (ysvs^) w ithin th a t ra c e .15 T his w o u ld b rin g
H e sio d ’s a c c o u n t in to line w ith o th e r G re e k th in k in g , w hich tra c e d
th e an cesto rs o f c e rta in h isto rical G reek s b a c k to th e h ero ic p e rio d .16
B u t th e a tte m p t to m a k e th e hero es ju s t an earlier g en e ratio n w ithin
th e race o f iro n seem s to fo u n d e r o n W D 176: ‘now th e k in d /b ree d
is m a d e o f iro n ’ (vuv yap S^ yevog soxi oiS^psov). T h a t em p h atic
‘n o w ’ in d icates th a t it is only th e ‘fifth m e n ’ (W D 174) w ho are
m ad e o f iro n : b y im p lica tio n , th e p reced in g fo u rth m en (the heroes)

12 E.g. G. W. Most, ‘Hesiod’s myth of the five (or three or four) races’, PCPS
43 (1997), pp. 104-27, at pp. 121-2.
13 Except in an obsolete sense recognized by OED: ‘Family, breed, race; class, kind,
or “set” of persons.’ Cf. Stewart, ‘Hesiod and history’, p. 44 n. 17: ‘The word genos
is better translated “generation” - though not one of ours only - or “race” than as
“age”.’ M. Schmidt, ‘yevog’, in B. Snell et al. (eds), Lexikon des fruhgriechischen
Epos (Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1955-2010), vol. ii, pp. 130-2, at p.
131, gives yevog throughout MoR (WD 109, 121, 127, 140, 143, 156, 159, 173d, 176,
180) and at Il. 12.23 the translation ‘Generation der Menschenheitsgesch[ichte]’
(s.v. yevog 5a), and similarly of ysvs^ at WD 160 (p. 127, s.v. ysvs^ 5b).
14 Most, ‘Hesiod’s myth’, pp. 112-13; cf. Calame, ‘Succession des ages’, p. 81
and n. 26.
15 Fontenrose, ‘Work, justice’, p. 10: ‘In effect, [the heroic genos] is not a
separate age, but the first part of the fourth and final age of iron’; J. Rudhardt, ‘Le
mythe hesiodique des races et celui de Promethee: Recherches des structures et des
significations’, in Rudhardt, Du mythe, de la religion grecque et de la comprehension
d’autrui = Revue Europeenne des Sciences Sociales 19 (Geneva: Droz, 1981), pp.
246-81, at p. 249: ‘l’introduction des heros dans le mythe des ages metalliques
n’en altere pas le schema autant qu’il le parait a premiere vue; conformement a la
donnee traditionelle le recit hesiodique connait quatre races creees par les dieux;
son originalite consiste seulement a distinguer deux phases dans l’histoire de la
quatrieme’; Most, ‘Hesiod’s myth’, p. 113: ‘there is good reason to believe that
Hesiod wanted to suggest not so much that that the heroes belonged to a yevog
different from that of the iron men as rather that both belonged to the same yevog
- call it iron’.
16 M. L. West, The Hesiodic Catalogue o f Women (Oxford: Clarendon Press,
1985), p. 9.
w ere n o t .17 H e sio d ’s is evidently a n a c c o u n t o f five h u m a n races, n o t
fo u r w ith th e fo u rth subdivided in to tw o. A t W D 160 y sv sf is b e tte r
u n d e rs to o d as a synonym o f yevog18 in th e sense o f ‘k in d ’, ‘b re e d ’,
‘ra c e ’.19 T h e re la tio n sh ip betw een th e yevn is n o t expressed in term s
o f g en eratio n s, d espite th e u n d o u b te d im p o rta n c e o f g en eratio n al-
genealogical th in k in g in b o th G reece a n d th e N e a r E a st (cf. e.g.
H d t. 2.121ff. o n th e E g y p tian priests o n th e ir kings: 341 ysvsal w ere
c o u n te d , H d t. 2.142.1; see fu rth e r belo w ).20
T h e m ean in g th a t we m u st accept fo r yevog (a n d y sv sf) in M o R is
‘ra c e ’, ‘b re e d ’ o r sim ilar.21 A co n v en ien t a p p ro x im a tio n is offered by
th e w o rd ’s E nglish co g n ates, ‘k in ’ a n d ‘k in d ’, as in ‘m a n k in d ’, ‘h u m a n ­
k in d ’ o r ‘n a tu ra l k in d ’.22 T h e p h ra se yevog ^sponrov av0p©nrov23 m ean s
‘th e b re ed o r k in d o f m e n ’, i.e. ‘m a n k in d ’. W e also fin d ‘th e k in d o f
m u les’ (q^iovrov yevog: Il. 2.852), ‘th e k in d o f o x e n ’ (Porov yevog: Od.
20.212, H H e r m 309), ‘th e k in d o f g o d s’ (Th. 21 = 105 a0avaTrov ispov
yevog, ^arap ro v yevog T h . 33, 0srov yevog T h. 44), ‘th e k in d o f m en a n d
[the kind] o f g ia n ts’ (av0p©nrov t s yevog KpaTeprov t s yiyavTrov: T h. 50),

17 According to Most, ‘Hesiod’s myth’, p. 113 n. 41, ‘this particular race could
already previously have been called by the name of iron, but only now has it
demonstrated . . . that it deserves the name’. But there is little to support a ‘use of
Sf to strengthen the claim that a name is appropriate’ (ibid.). On the other hand,
the emphatic temporal use of vw yap Sf is well attested (cf. Xenophanes fr. 1.1
West vw yap S^ Z^nsSov Ka0apov ktL), and for the antithesis between WD 176
vw yap Sf and 109 nproTioTa, cf. Calame, ‘Succession des ages’, pp. 83-4 ‘Le point
axial de ce temps present, en contraste avec le protista du vers 109, est signifie par
le connecteur nun gar de, “car maintenant precisement”, situe en position forte au
vers 176’, cf. 99. Cf. R. Gagne, ‘Invisible kin: Works and Days 280-285’, Hermes
138 (2010), pp. 1-21 at p. 10.
18 Pace Most, ‘Hesiod’s myth’, pp. 111- 12.
19 The notion of the heroes as a separate race (yevog or ysvsf) from contemporary
men recurs at Il. 12.23 •q^iBerov yevog avSprov. Cf. R. Scodel, ‘The Achaean wall
and the myth of destruction’, HSCP 86 (1982), pp. 35-50, at p. 35: ‘The phrase
q^iGerov yevog avSprov evokes the Hesiodic depiction of the heroes as a separate
race, for yevog in such a context can mean nothing else.’ Similarly Herodotus’ ‘the
so-called human race’ (T^g . . . av0proTCnvqg Xsyo^evng ysvsflg, 3.122), in an implied
contrast to a heroic ysvsf. For the antithesis in Pindar: "qprosg versus avSpsg, cf.
P. 8.27-8, O. 6.24-5.
20 On ‘genealogical thinking’ in Greece, see R. L. Fowler, ‘Genealogical
thinking, Hesiod’s Catalogue and the creation of the Hellenes’, PCPS 44 (1998),
pp. 1-19.
21 See Schmidt, ‘yevog’; R. D. Woodard, ‘Hesiod and Greek myth’, in Woodard
(ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Greek Mythology (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 2007), pp. 83-165, at pp. 141-2. Compare the use of qmXov: one
9 ^Xov of men and another of gods, Il. 5.441-2; cf. WD 90 9 CX’ av0pronrov, 199
a0avaTrov . . . qmXov.
22 OED s.v. ‘kind’ 10; cf. s.v. ‘kin’ 5.
23 Three times in MoR (WD 109, 143, 180), otherwise at Cat. fr. 204.98 M-W
and HDem 310, both times in the context of the destruction of mankind. Cf. Th.
50.
‘th e k in d o f sa ty rs’ (Yevog . . . oaxup©v: H es. fr. 10(a).18 M -W ), ‘the
k in d o f w o m e n ’ (Yevog . . . YuvaiK&v: T h . 590), ‘th e k in d o f iro n /b ro n z e ’
(Yevog no^iou dSa^avxog: T h . 161).
H e sio d m ay b e do in g so m eth in g m o re id io sy n cratic th a n is o ften
reco g n ised in m u ltip ly in g th e ‘k in d s’ o f m a n a n d in im plying th e p o s ­
sibility o f a n indefinite article, ‘a m a n k in d ’, w hich m ay be as m u ch
o f a solecism in G re e k as in E nglish. T his is a h isto ry n o t o f one
h u m a n k in d , b u t a sto ry o f five h u m a n k in d s. T his c o n c ep tio n o f five
h u m a n k in d s is p ro b a b ly as u n co n v e n tio n a l as H e sio d ’s m o re explic­
itly rev isio n ist d o ctrin e o f th e tw o Strifes a t th e beg in n in g o f th e poem :
‘th ere is n o t, a fte r all ,24 a single k in d o f Strifes (ouk a p a ^ouvov e^v
’EplSrov Yevog), b u t th ere are tw o o v er th e e a rth ’ (W D 11-12). I t can
h a rd ly be h isto rical th in k in g th a t inspires a sto ry o f this sort. T h ere is
a cru cial difference betw een this c o n c ep tio n a n d a co n c ep tio n o f ages
(epochs), civilisations o r generations.
T echnically th e re la tio n o f these ‘h u m a n k in d s’ to o n e a n o th e r o u g h t
to be n o closer th a n th a t o f H o m o sa p ien s to N e a n d e rth a l, o r even less
close, fo r th ere is n o ch ro n o lo g ical overlap. M o R presen ts these as
discrete successive races, th e o n e race being d estro y e d in n ih il , th e n ext
b eing c reated th e re a fte r e x n ihilo. G enealogical co n tin u ity betw een suc­
cessive kin d s th u s seems excluded, a lth o u g h it is co n tro v e rsial w h eth er
co n tin u ity b etw een th e hero es a n d th e iro n race is nevertheless p re ­
su p p o sed .25 T h e c reatio n o f genealogical ties betw een th e hero es a n d
G reek s o f th e h isto rical p e rio d h a s indeed been seen as a necessary first
step fo r th e creatio n o f a h isto rical a ttitu d e to w a rd s th e h ero ic a g e .26

24 apa . . . &qv: J. D. Denniston, The Greek Particles, 2nd edn (Oxford: Oxford
ouk

University Press, 1950), pp. 36-7; West, Hesiod: Works and Days, p. 143; Rowe,
‘Archaic thought’, p. 133; W. J. Verdenius, A Commentary on Hesiod Works and
Days, vv. 1-382 (Leiden: Brill, 1985), p. 15 and n. 57.
25 Genealogical continuity is assumed by Fontenrose, ‘Work, justice’, p. 2; Rudhardt,
‘Le mythe hesiodique’, p. 248 and n. 11, cf. pp. 257-8 n. 66; Leclerc, ‘Le mythe des
races’, p. 219; Most, ‘Hesiod’s myth’, p. 113; C. Sourvinou-Inwood, ‘The Hesiodic
myth of the five races and the tolerance of plurality in Greek mythology’, in O.
Palagia (ed.), Greek Offerings: Essays on Greek Art in Honour o f John Boardman
(Oxford: Oxbow, 1997), pp. 1-21, at pp. 8 , 11-12. Differently, K. Matthiessen,
‘Form und Funktion des Weltaltermythos bei Hesiod’, in G. W. Bowersock, W.
Burkert and M. C. J. Putnam (eds), Arktouros: Hellenic Studies Presented to B.
M. W. Knox on the Occasion o f his 65 th Birthday (Berlin: de Gruyter, 1979), pp.
25-32, at p. 31: ‘Wenn nun Hesiod in seiner Erzahlung das Geschlecht der Heroen
vom gegenwartigen eisernen Geschlecht als ein vergangenes abhebt, dann betont
er die Diskontinuitat zwischen den adligen Herren seiner Gegenwart und ihren
angeblichen heroischen Vorfahren. Diese deutlich antiaristokratische Auffassung
entspricht der auch sonst vom SelbstbewuBtsein des Bauernstandes gepragten
Denkweise Hesiods.’
26 F. Graf, Greek Mythology: An Introduction, tr. T. Marier (Baltimore and
London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993), pp. 129-30 ‘[The practice of
Y et fo r all th a t genealogical co n tin u ity betw een successive kinds seems
to be excluded in M o R , th e n a rra tiv e still som ehow w ishes, a n d needs,
to be co n sid ered a n a rra tiv e o f a c o n tin u o u s h u m a n h is to ry .27 V erse 108
invites us to u n d e rsta n d H e sio d ’s n a rra tiv e as ‘[a story of] h o w gods
a n d m o rta l m en w ere b o rn o f th e sam e o rig in ’. T his only seems to w o rk
if th e o th e r races are seen as being in a lin ear descent fro m th e golden
race, w ho ‘lived as g o d s ’.28 M o re o v er, th ere seems to be a n in trig u in g
th e m a tic o r e th ic a l p ro g ressio n betw een successive races; ethically the
one race seems to p ick u p w here th e last left off. T o begin w ith, th e m en
o f th e golden race h av e everything they w a n t ap p a re n tly w ith o u t being
spoilt by i t .29 T he m en o f th e silver race are a p p a ren tly heirs to this
extern ally fa v o u re d existence ,30 b u t they are in tern a lly less able to deal
w ith it. T o h av e all o n e w an ts w ith o u t an y effort resem bles th e c o n d i­
tio n o f a spoilt ch ild .31 A p p ro p ria te ly , th erefo re, th e silver race live
as p a m p e re d ch ildren fo r one h u n d re d years (130-1), a n d it seems to
follow th a t w hen they reach m a tu rity a refu sal to share leads to hubris
to w a rd s one a n o th e r (134-5) a n d im piety to w ard s th e gods (1 3 5 -7 ).32
T h e m en o f th e b ro n z e race in h erit this p ro p e n sity to h ubris (146) a n d

linking historically real genealogies with those of the heroic age] marked a highly
significant conceptual development . . . The age of the heroes enters into a datable
relation to the present age . . . With the elaboration of a chronology, the Greeks
had a rational way of including the heroic age in their past, which they understood
as a quantifiable time continuum.’ Cf. Smith, ‘History and the individual’, p. 150.
However, this step appears to have been taken already by the time of Homer (cf.
Il. 20.300-8; A. Faulkner, The Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite: Introduction, Text,
and Commentary (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), pp. 5-6) and Hesiod
(cf. Th. 1011-16; N. J. Richardson, Review of P. Drager, Untersuchungen zu den
Frauenkatalogen Hesiods, CR 50 (2000), pp. 263-4, at p. 263), even though they
have a clear sense of the distinctness of the ‘race of heroes’ (Il. 12.23; WD 160).
27 We may compare and contrast, for the continuity of mankind through
heaven-sent destruction, the Mesopotamian flood myth (cf. Atrahasis) and the
Greek Deukalion myth; cf. Plat. Tim. 22a-23a, Laws 677a-c.
28 Cf. B. G. F. Currie, ‘Heroes and holy men in early Greece: Hesiod’s theios aner’,
in A. Coppola (ed.), Eroi, eroismi, eroizzazzioni (Padua: SARGON, 2007), pp.
163-203, at pp. 178-81.
29 Contrast Virg. Geo. 1.121-4.
30 Cf. Rudhardt, ‘Le mythe hesiodique’, p. 253: ‘La race d’argent est moins
bonne [sc. que la race d’or] mais son inferiorite ne reside pas dans les conditions
exterieurs auxquelles elle se trouve soumise. Hesiode ne dit pas que ces conditions
aient change: la terre continue de fournir aux hommes ce qui leur est necessaire et
rien ne leur impose l’obligation de travailler.’
31 For a comparison of the condition of the golden race with childhood, cf.
Smith, ‘History and the individual’, pp. 156-7.
32 Compare and contrast Fontenrose, ‘Work, justice’, p. 7, on the silver race; J. S.
Clay, Hesiod’s Cosmos (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), p. 88;
Stewart, ‘Hesiod and history’, p. 46: ‘[The silver and bronze races] are destroyed
for and by their hubris towards one another.’ Calame, ‘Succession des ages’, p. 76,
describes the silver race as ‘un age adulte abrege par la demesure, la violence et
l’impiete qui conduit ces hommes a une rapide disparition’. The short life of the
are ad d icte d to th e w orks o f w a r (146), in w hich they kill one a n o th e r
(1 5 2 -3 ).33 T h e hero es in th e follow ing race are killed in w ars (161-5),
one o f w hich w as fo u g h t ap p a re n tly betw een tw o b ro th e rs over th eir
p a trim o n y (163 ^apva^evoug ^A rov svsk’ OiSinoSao, w ith echoes o f
Perses a n d H esio d in P olyneikes a n d E teokles, if in d eed it is th eir
d isp u te w hich is m e a n t ),34 a n d th e o th e r w as fo u g h t over H elen, th a t
is, over a g u est’s a b d u c tio n o f his h o s t’s wife. T h e m en o f iro n race are
to be d estro y ed w hen fam ilial a n d social re la tio n s b re a k dow n, so th a t
guest is at o d ds w ith h o st (183 ouSs £,slvog £,sivoS6 k©, sc. o^oliog) a n d
b ro th e r is n o t as b efo re a d e a r one (184 ouSs Kaolyvnxog ^lAog soosxai).
‘N o t . . . as b e fo re ’ (©g to napog nsp, 184); b u t as we h av e seen this did
n o t go u n p ro b lem a tica lly fo r th e race o f hero es either. T h e negative
tra its o f each race a p p e a r to be p asse d o n to its successor .35 T h ere is
th e n an ethical ev o lu tio n , even if a genetic o r genealogical ev o lu tio n
seems ru led out.
W e h av e n o t yet co n sid ered th e asso c ia tio n w ith a m etal th a t is
fo u n d w ith fo u r o f th e five ‘m a n k in d s ’, w hich is p lain ly fu n d a m e n ta l
to a n y u n d e rsta n d in g o f H e sio d ’s co n cep tio n . T h e asso c ia tio n w ith a
m etal ca n be seen as literal o r m e ta p h o ric a l o r b o th .36

(footnote 32 continued)
men of the silver race after reaching maturity may reasonably be seen as caused
by acts of violence (WD 134-5), rather than just genetics (Sourvinou-Inwood,
‘Myth of the five races’, p. 5: ‘their biological cycle’, cf. 2 ‘the “proper” proportion
between childhood and maturity was reversed’; Most, ‘Hesiod’s myth’, p. 109:
‘biological lore’; cf. Rudhardt, ‘Le mythe hesiodique’, pp. 250, 253). The role of
Zeus in their destruction (WD 138) can be seen as double motivation (cf. WD 239,
245).
33 On the thematic transition from silver race to bronze race, cf. Calame, ‘Succession
des ages’, p. 78: ‘Meme s’il est dit “en rien semblable a la famille d’argent” (vers
144), le genos de bronze partage avec les hommes precedents des traits assez
nombreux pour s’inscrire dans leur suite non seulement du point de vue temporel,
mais egalement du point de vue semantique. Comme les hommes d’argent, les
hommes tout de bronze vetus font preuve d’une folie et d’une demesure qui les
engage a retourner leur violence contre eux-memes.’
34 So West, Hesiod: Works and Days , p. 192; differently, Verdenius, Commentary,
p. 101.
35 An anticipation of the degenerate ethos of the iron race is seen in the race
of heroes by Rudhardt, ‘Le mythe hesiodique’, p. 257: ‘C’est donc l’immoralite
qui caracterise la race de fer et produit sa degenerescence. Elle se trouvait sans
doute en germe dans la race des heros dont certains representants s’adonnerent
a l’injustice et a la demesure, meme si elle n’etait pas alors si generale’; p. 258 (on
the heroes): ‘Les uns plus justes, les autres plus enclins a lhybris, leurs actions se
combinent, produisent des consequences et l’humanite evolue. A partir de la race
des heros que leurs qualites apparentent aux dieux, cette evolution produit la race
de fer qui lui est inferieure’; cf. p. 261.
36 Cf. Baldry, ‘Who invented the golden age?’, p. 86: ‘How far were the words
literally meant, and how far was their use metaphorical or symbolic? For Hesiod
the question probably did not exist. His “bronze race” and “iron race” are so
T ak in g th e m etallic asso c ia tio n literally w o u ld p e rm it o n e to see
M o R as a h isto ry o f m a n k in d th ro u g h tech n o lo g ical, a n d specifically
m etallu rg ical, in n o v atio n s. W e m ig h t co m p a re L u c re tiu s’ a c c o u n t o f
early m a n , w hose w eapons p ro g ressed fro m h a n d s, nails a n d teeth to
stones a n d b ra n ch es to fire to b ro n z e a n d finally ir o n .37 R eal h isto rical
th in k in g ca n b e in p la y here; a sim ilar co n c ep tio n , afte r all, u n d e r­
lies th e m o d e rn arch ae o lo g ic al-h isto ric al categories o f ‘S to n e A g e’,
‘B ro n ze A g e’ a n d ‘Iro n A g e’. Such w as th e view o f J. G . G riffiths:
‘[W D 150-1] m ak es [H esiod’s] id ea clear. T h e “b ro n z e ra c e ” lived
u n til th e discovery o f a new m etal, th a t is iro n . A p a rt fro m these lines,
it is tru e , th e re is n o m e n tio n o f th e use o f m etals . . . B u t th e re can
be little d o u b t th a t this is th e u n d erly in g idea. I f th e p o e t h a d chosen
th e m etals m erely as sym bols o f in creasing d eg e n era tio n , h e w o u ld
n o t h a v e re ferred so clearly to th e use o f tw o o f th e m .’ F o r G riffiths,
M o R w as ‘a n am alg a m o f h isto ry a n d m y th , w here m y th u n d o u b te d ly
p re d o m in a te s b u t w here h isto ry lies b e h in d th e sequence o f m e ta ls ’.38
O n th is view M o R w o u ld preserve a h isto rical m em o ry o f p eo p le first
w idely using gold, th e n silver, th e n b ro n z e, th e n ir o n .39
T his is n o t th e p lace to p u rsu e th e q u estio n s w h e th e r th ere really
w as an y such h isto rical m em o ry in H e sio d ’s tim e o r w h e th e r th ere
ever h a d b een such a h isto rical reality to be rem em b ered ; a m o re
u rg e n t q u estio n is w h e th e r such a h isto rical in te rp re ta tio n is su p ­
p o rte d b y H e sio d ’s language. T h e m o st n a tu ra l u n d e rsta n d in g o f 109
a n d 128 is, surely, ‘th e gods m a d e a race o f m en o u t o f go ld (silver)’,
w ith th e adjectives as p re d ic ativ e co m p lem en ts o f nolnoav d en o tin g
th e su b stan ce o u t o f w hich these first tw o h u m a n k in d s w ere fa sh ­
io n e d .40 T h e b ro n z e race deviates fro m th is (W D 143-51), b u t th e
d ev iatio n is signalled by tw o ad d itio n s: this race w as m a d e ‘fro m ash
tre e s’ (W D 145), i.e. w as n o t fa sh io n e d fro m th e m etal in q u estion;
a n d th is race u sed b ro n z e fo r every th in g u n d e r th e sun (W D 150-1).
T h a t is, th e b ro n z e race, fo r w h o m th e asso c ia tio n w ith a m etal is

called because they use these metals . . . , but he does not explain - and presumably
did not ask himself - in what sense the first race was xpuoeov.’
37 Lucr. 5.1281-96. Cf. Lucr. 5.1241-2. J. G. Griffiths, ‘Archaeology and Hesiod’s
five ages’, JH I 17 (1956), pp. 109-19, at p. 114.
38 Griffiths, ‘Archaeology and Hesiod’s five ages’, quotations from pp. 112 and 119.
H. C. Baldry, ‘Hesiod’s five ages’, JH I 17 (1956), pp. 553-4, esp. p. 553, is a reply to
Griffiths, ‘Archaeology and Hesiod’s five ages’ (and Griffiths, ‘Did Hesiod invent
the golden age?’, JH I 19 (1958), pp. 91-3 is a reply to Baldry, ‘Hesiod’s five ages’).
39 Griffiths also suggests that historical memory lies behind the metallic myths
of the Near East: Griffiths, ‘Archaeology and Hesiod’s five ages’, pp. 115-19.
40 With the idea that humankind might be ‘made of’ gold or silver, compare
womankind (Pandora) as made of earth and water (WD 61), men being made from
ash trees (WD 145: bronze race), men made from stones in the Deukalion myth (cf.
‘Hes.’ Cat. fr. 234 M-W, Pind. O.9.42-6).
literal, rep resen ts a clear d e p a rtu re fro m th e schem e th a t h a s o b ta in e d
th u s fa r in th e n a rra tiv e .
T a k e n m etap h o ric ally , o n th e o th e r h a n d , th e asso c ia tio n o f the
races w ith a m etal w o u ld be a w ay o f expressing th e differing eth o s
o f th ese v ario u s ‘h u m a n k in d s’. W e m ig h t co m p a re S em onides fr. 7
W est, o n w o m an k in d : ‘g o d first m ad e th e m in d o f w o m an in differ­
e n t ways: o n e [he m ade] fro m a sh ag g y -h aired sow ’ - a n d th e o th ers
h e m a d e fro m a vixen, a b itch , th e e a rth , th e sea, a n ass, a w easel, a
m o n k ey a n d a bee. N o t so dissim ilar (b u t w ith reversed sexism ) is the
E n g lish n u rse ry rhym e: ‘W h a t are little boys m a d e of? / F ro g s a n d
snails / A n d p u p p y -d o g s ’ tails / . . . W h a t are little girls m a d e of? /
S u g ar a n d spice / A n d all th in g s n ic e .’ A g a in th is is n o t very h isto rical,
o r very scientific, th in k in g . R . G . A . B u x to n is rig h t to observe th a t in
M o R ‘m etals are u sed to m a k e statem en ts a b o u t th e m o ra l w o rld ’41
a n d to recognise th a t this co n stitu te s a difference betw een ‘tra d itio n a l’
a n d ‘scientific’ - we m ig h t a d d ‘h isto ric a l’ - categories o f th o u g h t .42 B.
M . W . K n o x h a s also k n o ck e d o n th e h e a d th e k in d o f h isto rical in te r­
p re ta tio n a rg u e d fo r by G riffiths: ‘T h ere is n o t m u ch use p re te n d in g
th a t H e sio d is th in k in g in m o d e rn term s o f th e B ro n ze a n d Iro n ages;
fo r one th in g his ow n age u sed b ro n z e as well as iro n a n d so, clearly,
d id th e H o m eric hero es o f th e fo u rth age. A n d th e gold a n d silver ages
h av e to be p asse d o v er in silence .’43
I t m u st be rig h t th a t th e b asic c o n c ep tio n u n d erly in g H e sio d ’s
m etallic schem e is th e m e ta p h o ric a l one. B ut th ere is n o re aso n w hy
th e schem e sh o u ld be m o n o v alen t: n o re a so n w hy th e m etals sh o u ld
n o t s ta rt o ff b eing u sed sym bolically w ith th e go ld a n d silver races, b u t
th e n also acq u ire a literal dim en sio n w ith th e b ro n z e a n d iro n races.
A q u asi-h isto rica l n o tio n seems to be g ra fte d o n w ith these tw o races;
th ere seems little p o in t otherw ise in insisting th a t th e b ro n z e race used
b ro n z e becau se ‘b lack iro n d id n o t exist’ ( W D 151). O ne o f th e w ays in
w hich H o m eric epic seem s keen to d istin g u ish th e w o rld o f th e heroes
fro m th e c o n te m p o ra ry w o rld is th e ir in h a b ita n ts ’ differential uses
o f b ro n z e a n d iro n , a n d this seems to be a w ay o f c a p tu rin g genuine
h isto rical difference betw een th e M y ce n aea n a n d th e a rch aic w o rld s .44
T h e tra d itio n (p ro b a b ly N e a r E astern : see below ) th a t gave H e sio d th e

41 Cf. already ‘Socrates’ at Plat. Crat. 398a4-6: ‘I think that [Hesiod] spoke of
the golden race not as created from gold, but as noble and fine.’
42 Buxton, Imaginary Greece, pp. 202-4, at pp. 203 and 204.
43 B. M. W. Knox, ‘Work and justice in archaic Greece’, in Knox, Essays: Ancient
and Modern (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1989), p. 12.
44 Cf. Most, ‘Hesiod’s myth’, pp. 122-3. Differently, West, Hesiod: Works and Days,
pp. 188-9: ‘probably due more to the conservatism of the formulaic language . . .
than to deliberate avoidance of anachronism’.
(m eta p h o rical) m etallic schem e g o ld -s ilv e r-b ro n z e -iro n is evidently
d istin ct fro m th e G re e k epic tra d itio n , w hich im plicitly c o n tra s te d th e
b y g o n e h ero es as p re d o m in a n tly (literal) users o f b ro n z e w ith c o n te m ­
p o ra ry m en as p re d o m in a n tly (literal) users o f iro n ; b u t H e sio d fo u n d
a n e a t w ay o f co m b in in g th e tw o tra d itio n s .45 T h a n k s to this c o m b in a ­
tio n his a c c o u n t w ins a genuine h isto rical dim ension. B u t th e h is to ri­
cal th in k in g in q u estio n is th e p ro d u c t o f th e h ero ic epic tra d itio n , a n d
c a n n o t be co n sid ered a n o rig in al in tellectu al c o n trib u tio n o f H esiod.

REFINEMENTS AND QUALIFICATIONS TO THE SCHEME


T h e sequence g o ld -s ilv e r-b ro n z e -iro n im plies a clear d ev a lu a tio n .
B u t th ere is, several scholars h av e recognised, n o straig h t lin e a r dete-
rio ria tio n in H e sio d ’s schem e .46 T h e descent in v alue o f th e m etals
is d isru p te d by th e hero es, w ho are explicitly said to be su p erio r to
th e p reced in g b ro n z e race (W D 158).47 T h e b re a k d o w n o f an y lin ear
decline w ith th e race o f h ero es sh o u ld n o t be seen as a flaw in th e n a r ­
ra tiv e .48 T h e fact th a t th ere is a possib ility o f h a ltin g , even reversing,
th e decline is a v ital aspect o f M o R . I w o u ld see significance in th e
facts, first, th a t it is th e race o f h ero es w hich b re ak s th e decline; second,
th a t th is race is an am b iv alen t race, being divided in to tw o co n tra stin g
g ro u p s (166 xoug ^sv, 167 xolg Ss); a n d th ird , th a t this race is th e race
im m ed iately p reced in g th e p re se n t race. T h e hero es are o u r im m ed iate

45 Cf. A. Heubeck, ‘Mythologische Vorstellungen des Alten Orients im archaischen


Griechentum’, Gymnasium 68 (1955), pp. 508-25, at p. 510.
46 Rosenmeyer, ‘Hesiod and historiography’, pp. 270-1, esp. p. 271: ‘even if
we disregard the heroic age, the other four ysvn do not, contrary to the popular
assumption, present us with a steady decline’; Fontenrose, ‘Work, justice’, p. 8 ;
Sourvinou-Inwood, ‘Myth of the five races’, p. 3 and 17 nn. 22-3, 9, 15: ‘this myth
is not structured by strict linear logic but by a more complex multivocal schema’;
Most, ‘Hesiod’s myth’, p. 108, cf. p. 120.
47 It is sometimes argued that, before the heroes, the decline is broken by the bronze
race, who are said just to be ‘nothing like’ the silver race (WD 144), but not ‘worse’
than them: cf. Fontenrose, ‘Work, justice’, p. 8; Rudhardt, ‘Le mythe hesiodique’,
p. 254; C. W. Querbach, ‘Hesiod’s myth of the four races’, CJ 81 (1985), pp. 1-12,
at p. 3; Sourvinou-Inwood, ‘Myth of the five races’, p. 3; Most, ‘Hesiod’s myth’,
p. 108. But WD 144 probably intends inferiority, not just difference. The silver
race had similarly been said to be unlike the golden race (‘like the golden race in
neither body nor mind’, WD 129) and is explicitly said to be ‘much worse’ than
the golden race (WD 127). WD 144 is probably an abbreviated form of the same
statement.
48 Cf. M. Heath, ‘Hesiod’s didactic poetry’, CQ 35 (1985), pp. 245-63, at p. 248 n. 10;
Most, ‘Hesiod’s myth’, p. 120. Differently, West, Hesiod: Works and Days, p. 174:
‘the Heroes have been inserted . . . into a system of four metallic races’; J. Griffin,
‘Greek myth and Hesiod’, in J. Boardman, J. Griffin and O. Murray (eds), The
Oxford History o f the Classical World (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986),
pp. 78-98, at p. 96.
p red ecesso rs o n th e e a rth a n d are o u r m o st pressin g m o ra l exem plars;
o u r race, like theirs, is am b iv alen t a n d h a s a chance o f stem m ing the
d eclin e .49 T h e ‘fo rtu n a te ’ hero es, th o se h ailed o^Pioi ^prosg in W D
172, stem th e decline b y d in t o f re c a p tu rin g , a fte r th e ir d e a th , the
co n d itio n s en joyed by th e golden race (170 echoes 112; 172-3 echoes
117; th e in te rp o la te d 173a echoes 111). T h e n o tio n th a t decline is n o t
inevitab le, th a t altern ativ e fates are possible, is a n im p o rta n t id ea th a t
em erges also fro m o th e r p a rts o f th e p o em , especially th e so-called
‘d ip ty ch o f th e Ju st a n d th e U n ju st C ity ’ ( W D 225-47).
T h e d ip ty ch illu stra te s in a w ay M o R h a d n o t p re p a re d us fo r the
am b iv alen ce o f th e p re se n t (iro n ) race. V erb al a n d th e m a tic echoes
reveal th is p assag e to be in a c o n tin u in g dialectic w ith M o R . T he
c o n d itio n s en jo y ed b y th e citizens o f th e Ju st C ity evoke th o se enjoyed
b o th by th e m en o f th e golden race a n d , p o sth u m o u sly , by th e ‘fo r­
tu n a te ’ h ero es o n th e isles o f th e blessed (231 echoes 115; 236 echoes
116-17; 237 echoes b o th 117 a n d 172-3).50 T h e p lig h t o f th e citizens
o f th e U n ju s t C ity evokes th a t o f th e hero es in th e ir m o re negative
aspects: a n n ih ila tio n in w a rfare o r o n th e sea (W D 246-7, cf. 161-5).
A sim ilar p assag e th a t illu strates th e am bivalence o f th e p re sen t
race is W D 280-5, w hich we m ay fo r convenience call th e ‘syncrisis
o f th e ju s t m a n a n d th e u n ju st m a n ’. T his p assa g e describes Z eus

49 Cf. Koenen, ‘Greece, the Near East and Egypt’, p. 8 : ‘the paradigm of the heroic
age exemplifies the possibility of reversal, for, at that time, humankind was better
and more just than in the previous ages (SiKaioxspov Kai apsiov, 158). The dete­
rioration in the other series of ages is underscored by the descending value of the
metals - gold, silver, bronze, and iron . . . Because the age of heroes reverses this
deterioration and is not named after a metal, it is not fully integrated into the rest
of the series and signals the possibility of a return to the better.’ Most, ‘Hesiod’s
myth’, p. 119: ‘the heroes hold out to us paradigms of good and bad behaviour
in which our own possibilities for success or failure are spelled out in a grander
and more intelligible form. They share our biological constitution and our moral
chances in a way that the golden, silver, and bronze men did not . . . We may see
in them models of moral choice which we can choose to emulate or to avoid.’
Rudhardt, ‘Le mythe hesiodique’, p. 256: ‘A la difference de toutes les races ante-
rieures, la race heroique et la race de fer sont formees d’individus differencies,
appeles chacun d’un nom propre, et qui n’ont pas tous de pareilles qualites et de
pareils defauts’; cf. p. 258. Currie, ‘Heroes and holy men’, pp. 169-71.
50 Fontenrose, ‘Work, justice’, p. 15: ‘The truth is that men through justice and
work can improve their condition. The righteous city has much of the happi­
ness and abundance of the golden age’; J.-P. Vernant, ‘Hesiod’s myth of the
races: An essay in structural analysis’, in Vernant, Myth and Thought Among the
Greeks, tr. of Mythe et pensee chez les Grecs (London and Boston: Routledge
and Kegan Paul, 1983), pp. 3-32, at pp. 10 and 28 n. 39; Knox, ‘Work and
justice’, pp. 15-16; Querbach, ‘Hesiod’s myth’, p. 6 ; P. Rousseau, ‘Instruire
Perses: Notes sur l’ouverture des Travaux d’Hesiode’, in F. Blaise, P. Judet de
La Combe and P. Rousseau (eds), Le metier du mythe: Lecture d’Hesiode (Lille:
Presses Universitaires du Septentrion, 1996), pp. 93-167, at p. 156 n. 163; Calame,
‘Succession des ages’, p. 89. Currie, ‘Heroes and holy men’, p. 170.
giving p ro sp e rity a n d a flo u rish in g p ro g e n y to th e ju s t m a n , w hile th e
p ro g e n y o f th e u n ju st m a n is b lig h te d .51
A n o th e r p assag e o f W D w hich im p o rta n tly co n tin u es th e dialectic
w ith M o R is th e ‘n a u tilia ’ (618-94, esp. 632-62). H ere, in th e co n tex t
o f his sea-passage fro m A ulis to C halcis, th e n a r r a to r m en tio n s th e
‘A c h a e a n s’ w h o once sailed fro m G reece to T ro y (W D 651-3). T hese
A c h aea n s are, o f course, id en tical w ith th e hero es o f M o R w hom
w a r ‘b ro u g h t in th e ir ships over th e g reat expanse o f sea to T ro y
fo r th e sake o f fa ir-h a ire d H e le n ’ (W D 164-5). T h e A m p h id am as
fo r w h o se fu n e ral gam es th e n a r r a to r cro ssed fro m A ulis to E u b o e a
w as, acco rd in g to P lu ta rc h (S e p t. sap. conv. 153F), a ca su alty o f th e
L ela n tin e W a r, a c o n te m p o ra ry conflict w hich, if any, m ig h t be seen
as a la tte r-d a y T ro ja n W a r (co m p are th e re m a rk s o f A rch ilo ch u s,
fr. 3 W est, a n d T h u cy d id es, 1.15.3); th e e p ith e t Safypovog (W D 654)
m a y h in t a t his w a rrio r statu s. A m p h id a m a s’ fu n e ral gam es w ith
th e ir lavish p rizes (W D 6 5 5 -6 ) evoke a h e ro ic m o d el, m o st o b v i­
ously P a tro k lo s ’ fu n e ra l gam es in th e tw e n ty -th ird b o o k o f th e Ilia d .
P erh a p s A m p h id a m a s w as even h ero ised , as o th e r casualties o f th e
L elan tin e W a r m a y h av e b e e n .52 B u t if A m p h id a m a s is h o n o u ra b ly
a p p ro x im a te d to th e h ero es, th e n a r r a to r in this passag e is, n o less
h o n o u ra b ly , c o n tr a s te d w ith th e A ch aean s. T h ey sailed fro m G reece
to T ro y (‘o v er a g re at expanse o f sea’) a n d w ere killed in w ar; h e sailed
(a v oyage o f som e h u n d re d y ard s) fro m A ulis to E u b o e a to triu m p h in
a singing co n test. T h ere is, fu rth e r, a stro n g c o n tra s t betw een th e n a r ­
ra to r a n d his ow n fa th e r. T he la tte r sailed freq u en tly (tcAMZsok’) fo r
w a n t o f a g o o d livelihood, a n d w as given p o v e rty by Z eus (W D 634,
638). B y c o n tra s t th e n a r r a to r h a s nev er sailed b u t once, w hen h e was
en ric h ed w ith a trip o d w hich h e p ro m p tly reinvested in th e eco n o m y
o f th e sacred b y d ed icatin g it to th e M uses, th ro u g h w h o m h e know s
th e m in d o f Z eus ( W D 6 5 0 -1 , 661). T h e n a r r a to r - ‘H e sio d ’53 - leads
a life o f self-sufficiency, ex e m p tio n fro m sea-faring, a n d g o o d re la ­
tio n s w ith th e gods. H is life th u s quietly evokes th a t o f th e m en o f th e
go ld en race. H is life seems m o re stra ig h tfo rw a rd ly po sitiv e in ethical
term s th a n th e largely po sitiv e b u t also so m ew h at am b iv alen t lives o f
th e h ero es a n d A m p h id am as.
T h e p reced in g tells us som ething a b o u t H e sio d ’s view o f h u m a n
h isto ry . A first a n d im p o rta n t p o in t to be m ad e concerns H e sio d ’s
w ay o f d isco u rsing a b o u t th e p a s t (ra th e r th a n ju st his view o f the

51 Cf. Gagne, ‘Invisible kin’, p. 11.


52 B. G. F. Currie, Pindar and the Cult o f Heroes (Oxford: Oxford University
Press, 2005), p. 106.
53 It is WD 658-9, referencing Th. 22-34, where the narrator names himself as
‘Hesiod’, that justifies the identification of the narrator of WD as Hesiod.
p ast). M o R delivers n o t th e definitive w o rd , b u t a version o f th e
‘tr u th ’, ex ag g erated fo r rh e to ric al effect, th a t is subject to qualifica­
tio n in o th er, later, p a rts o f th e po em . H e sio d ’s p ro c e d u re here resem ­
bles th a t o f V irgil, p e rh a p s especially in his m o st H esiodic w o rk , the
G eorgics (th o u g h V irgil’s tendency is to qualify a n o p tim istic passage
w ith pessim istic to u ch es scattered th ro u g h o u t th e p o em , ra th e r th a n
to tem p er a n initial pessim istic a c c o u n t w ith sub seq u en t optim istic
refinem ents ).54
S econd, re ad in g M o R alo n g sid e th e d ip ty ch a n d th e n a u tilia show s
M o R to h a v e a crucial sy n ch ro n ic as well as a d iach ro n ic d im en ­
sion. T his im p o rta n t p o in t h a s been em p h asised by v ario u s scholars,
n o ta b ly J.-P . V e rn a n t a n d J. F o n te n ro s e .55 T he yevn, ‘h u m a n k in d s ’,
re p resen t n o t ju s t p a s t realities, b u t p re sen t possibilities. O ne co u ld
c h aracterise M o R as a re tro je c tio n o n to th e p a s t o f p o ssibilities in
th e p re sen t. ‘H is to ry ’ u n d e r this guise ap p e a rs n o t as a n in v estig atio n
in to w h a t th e p a s t w as really like, b u t a reification (p re se n ta tio n as
h isto rical reality) o f ethical altern ativ e s available to us in o u r c o n ­
te m p o ra ry lives. T his ‘h is to ry ’ is a fictio n al c o n stru c t w hose p u rp o se
is to illu m in ate th e p re se n t fro m a n ethical sta n d p o in t. N o t th a t this
is a ll M o R is. T h ere seem s to be also, fo r in stan ce, an irred u cib le d ia ­
ch ro n ic -h isto rical co m p o n e n t, in th e b ro n z e -iro n races, as I a rg u ed
above. A n d th ere seems also to be a significant a tte m p t to co rrelate
th e a c c o u n t w ith in d ep en d e n tly k n o w n m y th ical a n d cultic d a ta (as
we shall see below ; only th e b ro n z e race, w ho d e p a rt th e e a rth ‘n a m e ­
less’, W D 154 vwvu^voi, d o n o t leave b e h in d th e m p a lp a b le traces
o f th e ir presence in th e w o rld ) .56 B u t th e sy n ch ro n ic re ad in g is an
im p o rta n t p a r t o f M o R , a n d it finds a re so n an ce in H e sio d ’s an cien t

54 E.g. D. O. Ross, Virgil’s Elements: Physics and Poetry in the Georgics (Princeton:
Princeton University Press, 1987), pp. 109-28; J. J. O’Hara, Inconsistency in
Roman Epic: Studies in Catullus, Lucretius, Vergil, Ovid and Lucan (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 2007), pp. 83-4.
55 Cf. Fontenrose, ‘Work, justice’, p. 15: ‘The myth is a paradigm, an exemplum of his
argument, a synchronic scheme presented as history . . . There are silver, bronze,
and iron men among his contemporaries - and there are some golden men too,
though now they live under Zeus and have to work for their bread’; Matthiessen,
‘Form und Funktion des Weltaltermythos bei Hesiod’, p. 28; Rowe, ‘Archaic
thought’, p. 134; Currie, ‘Heroes and holy men’, p. 169. MoR is analysed rather
differently as synchronic not diachronic (as structural not genetic) by Vernant,
‘Hesiod’s myth of the races’, esp. pp. 5-6; cf. V. Goldschmidt, ‘Theologia’, REG
63 (1950), pp. 20-42, at pp. 33-9.
56 Cf. Matthiessen, ‘Form und Funktion’, p. 27; Rudhardt, ‘Le mythe hesiodique’,
p. 256; Querbach, ‘Hesiod’s myth’, p. 3; Leclerc, ‘Le mythe des races’, p. 210;
Sourvinou-Inwood, ‘Myth of the five races’, p. 8; Calame, ‘Succession des ages’,
p. 79 and n. 22.
re c e p tio n .57 T h e p o e m as a w hole show s us h o w to ‘re a d ’ M o R , w ith
a t least tw o shifts o f perspective. F irst, as we h av e alre ad y n o te d , w h a t
sta rts o ff as a d ia c h ro n ic a c c o u n t gets re in te rp re te d as a sy nchronic
acco u n t. Second, th e re is a progressive n a rro w in g o f focus, w hereby
w h a t w as p re se n te d to begin w ith, in M o R , as a fate befalling a w hole
yevog in d iscrim in ately (b u t w ith a d istin c tio n m a d e fo r th e heroes:
W D 166-8) gets successively redefined: first, in th e d iptych, as th e
fate b efallin g o n e w hole city -state (W D 240 ^ u ^ n a o a no^ig) b u t n o t
an o th e r; second, in th e ‘syncrisis’ a n d n a u tilia sections, as th e fate
befalling o n e in d iv id u al b u t n o t a n o th e r .58 T he progressive n a rro w in g
o f focus m ean s th a t th e ‘lesso n ’ o f ‘h is to ry ’ is devolved o n to us w ith
in creasin g im m e d ia cy :59 th e co n d itio n s o f o u r life are largely o f o u r
ow n m a k in g .60 E ven n o w th e life o f th e golden race m ay be, to an
ex ten t, re co v erab le .61

57 Plat. Crat. 398a8-b1; Orph. fr. 216 Bernabe (Proclus in Plat. Resp. 2.74.26 Kroll);
Isodorus apud Suda s.v. Zapamrov. People of the present after their death likened
to the golden race: Plat. Rep. 468e4-469a3; Heracl. 22 B63 D-K (C. H. Kahn, The
Art and Thought o f Heraclitus (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979),
pp. 254-6, 261; T. M. Robinson, Heraclitus: Fragments (Toronto: University of
Toronto Press, 1987), pp. 125-6). See Currie, ‘Heroes and holy men’, pp. 171 and
n. 38, 191 n. 157.
58 In the ‘syncrisis’ the individuals are left indefinite (Tig, og Ss k s ), but named
in the nautilia (the narrator ‘Hesiod’ versus his father and Amphidamas).
59 Cf. Gagne, ‘Invisible kin’, p. 13: ‘The degressive sequence Race-City-
Family is clear.’
60 Fontenrose, ‘Work, justice’, pp. 15-16: ‘when rulers and citizens are just, Zeus
and the gods prosper their cities, and they come near to the happy existence of
the golden men and of the heroes in the Blessed Isles (225-37). In Hesiod’s age, as
distinct from the iron age of myth, men can live this happier life, if they follow the
ordinance of work and the way of justice.’ Rudhardt, ‘Le mythe hesiodique’, p.
261: ‘les hommes sont aujourd’hui responsables de leur propre destin. Le malheur
qui les accable resulte de leurs propres fautes.’ Leclerc, ‘Le mythe des races’, p. 220:
‘Suspendus entre l’age anterieur, qui offre un modele de justice et une promesse de
recompense, et l’age posterieur, qui en est l’inverse exact, les auditeurs d’Hesiode
doivent choisir. La curieuse expression “plut au ciel que je fusse ou mort plus
tot ou ne plus tard” [WD 174-5] pourrait temoigner, plutot que d’une concep­
tion cyclique du temps, de la confiance d’Hesiode dans un avenir qui, “hommes
et dieux ayant meme origine” [cf. WD 108], reste ouvert a des evolutions posi­
tives’; ibid.: ‘Il y a ce qui nous echappe: l’etat dans lequel nous a mis revolution
du monde voulue par les dieux; il y a ce qui nous revient: la maniere dont nous
disposons de cet etat est de notre responsabilite.’ Cf. Sourvinou-Inwood, ‘Myth of
the five races’, pp. 10- 11, 16 (downward movement and an upward movement).
Cf. G. W. Most, Hesiod: Theogony, Works and Days, Testimonia (Loeb Classical
Library; Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006), p. xli. Currie, ‘Heroes
and holy men’, p. 169.
61 N. Brout, ‘La mauve ou l’asphodele ou Comment manger pour s’elever au-dessus
de la condition humaine’, DHA 29/2 (2003), pp. 97-108; Currie, ‘Heroes and holy
men’, pp. 165-85.
CONFRONTATION OF MoR WITH THE MYTH OF
PROMETHEUS AND PANDORA
A key q u estio n in ev a lu a tin g M o R as a p ro to -h isto ric a l a c c o u n t is
w h a t claim to tru th it m akes. T his q u estio n is raised in p a rtic u la r by
th e W a h rh eitsa n sp ru ch a t th e beginning o f each H esiodic p o em ( W D
10, T h. 2 6 -8 ).62 R osen m ey er surely exaggerates H e sio d ’s c o m m it­
m en t to tr u th w hen h e w rites o f ‘H e sio d ’s striking insistence o n the
im p o rta n c e o f his ow n p erso n a n d o n th e veracity o f his ac co u n t; an
insistence w hich is eq u alled b y H e catae u s la te r o n . . . H esiod, in his
em p h asis o n th e tru th , sets h im self a p a rt fro m th e lies, th e illusory
b e a u ty a n d p o lish o f th e epic p o e try . . . T ru th is th e ch ief objective
o f H e sio d ’s e n te rp rise .’63 O thers, fo r in stan ce Leclerc, h av e seen it as
a consciously fic tio n a l d isco u rse .64 It is re aso n ab le to be suspicious
o f atte m p ts to hive o ff M o R fro m o th e r p a rts o f th e n a rra tiv e o f the
E rg a , such as th e m y th o f P ro m eth eu s a n d P a n d o ra a n d th e fable o f
th e h a w k a n d th e nigh tin g ale, a n d claim a q u ite special veridical statu s
fo r M o R .65
T h e re la tio n sh ip betw een M o R a n d th e m y th o f P ro m eth eu s a n d
P a n d o ra (W D 4 8-105; h e n c e fo rth P ro m P a n d ) is p a rtic u la rly im p o r­
ta n t fo r th e q u estio n o f w h a t k in d o f n a rra tiv e a b o u t th e p a s t each is.
F o r if th e tw o n a rra tiv e s stra ig h tfo rw a rd ly conflict, it w o u ld a p p e a r
th a t H e sio d c a n n o t be in th e business o f u n co v erin g h isto rical t r u t h .66
T h e tw o n a rra tiv e s are o ften seen as sim ply in c o m p a tib le .67 B ut
eq u ally it is h a r d n o t to be stru ck b y th e th e m a tic links th a t ca n be

62 Th. 26-8 is considered in the context of the development towards historiography


by Bertelli, ‘Hecataeus’, p. 81.
63 Rosenmeyer, ‘Hesiod and historiography’, p. 261.
64 Cf. Leclerc, ‘Le mythe des races’, pp. 220, 221 (MoR has the ‘statut de recit
fictif assume comme tel par le poete’). Cf. West, Hesiod: Works and Days, p. 177:
‘Hesiod presents the story not as absolute truth but as something that people tell,
worth serious attention.’
65 Rosenmeyer, ‘Hesiod and historiography’, p. 269: ‘whereas the Pandora story
is myth, the Five Ages is history’ (Stewart, ‘Hesiod and history’, on the other
hand, regards the myth of Prometheus and Pandora as a step towards historical
analysis). Criticized, Rowe, ‘Archaic thought’, pp. 132-3.
66 Rowe, ‘Archaic thought’, p. 133: ‘the charge of inconsistency goes deeper: if
Hesiod’s purpose is to explain, he must choose between the explanations offered.
In so far as he does not, he is neither Frankel’s philosopher nor Rosenmeyer’s
historian.’ Sourvinou-Inwood, ‘Myth of the five races’, p. 14: ‘if the audience saw
the two myths as contradicting each other, they would have perceived them as
mutually falsifying’. Smith, ‘History and the individual’, p. 151.
67 Fontenrose, ‘Work, justice’, p. 2; West, Hesiod: Works and Days, p. 172; S.
A. Nelson, God and the Land: The Metaphysics o f Farming in Hesiod and Vergil
(New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), pp. 68 and 190 n. 42.
d isco v ered betw een th e m .68 T h e follow ing six links deserve a tte n tio n .
(1) In P ro m P a n d d u rin g Z e u s’ reign a ‘se p a ra tio n ’ (o r ‘settlem en t’)
o cc u rre d betw een gods a n d m en (Th. 535), im plying th a t p reviously
th ey existed o n a m o re eq u a l fo o tin g ; in M o R d u rin g K ro n o s ’ reign
m en lived ‘as g o d s’ (W D 111-12). (2) In P ro m P a n d P ro m eth eu s
sw indled Z eu s a t a sa crifice (T h . 538-41); in M o R th e silver race w as
u n w illing to sa crifice to th e gods (W D 135-6). (3) In P ro m P a n d Z e u s
g re w a n g ry a t P ro m e th e u s’ d ecep tio n (W D 47); in M o R Z e u s grew
a n g ry a t th e silver race ( W D 138). (4) In P ro m P a n d Z e u s h id fire fro m
m en ( W D 50, cf. 47, 42);69 in M o R Z e u s h id th e silver race ( W D 138).
(5) A t th e e n d o f P ro m P a n d , countless ‘b a n e s ’ (Auypa, su b stan tiv e) are
d isp ersed a m o n g m en by P a n d o ra ’s ac tio n , a n d only th e p ersonified
E lpis rem ain s in th e j a r (W D 94-104); a t th e e n d o f M o R , p e rso n i­
fied Z elos acco m p an ies all m en w hile perso n ified A idos a n d N em esis
a b a n d o n m en , a n d ‘b an e fu l p a in s ’ (Auypa, adjective) are left fo r m en
(W D 195-201). ( 6 ) In P ro m P a n d th e am bivalence o f w o m an (W D
57, b u t cf. 7 0 2 -5 ) a n d o f Elpis (W D 9 6 -9 )70 is m a tc h e d in M o R by
th e am b iv alen ce o f th e hero es (W D 166-8) a n d o f th e iro n race (W D
179);71 in each case term s initially p re su m e d to be w holly negative
tu rn o u t to b e a t least p o te n tia lly o r p a rtia lly positive. U n d o u b te d ly ,
it is p o ssib le to a d d to o r su b tra c t fro m this list o f co rresp o n d en ces;
b u t in g eneral th e ir w eight re n d ers p ro b le m a tic th e view sta te d baldly
by M . L. W est th a t H e sio d ‘p re sen ts [the M y th o f Ages] sim ply as
8Tspog Aoyog a n d does n o t a tte m p t to reconcile it w ith th e P ro m eth eu s-
P a n d o ra m y th , w ith w hich it is in fact in c o m p a tib le ’.72 P erh a p s we
sh o u ld be stru c k as m u ch b y th e co n g ru en ce betw een these acco u n ts
as by th e ir in co n g ru ity , o r m o re so (see fu rth e r below ).73

68 Cf. Rudhardt, ‘Le mythe hesiodique’, pp. 273-7.


69 Rudhardt, ‘Le mythe hesiodique’, p. 273 and n. 96 on the equivalence between nop
and piog.
70 E.g. Buxton, Imaginary Greece, pp. 212-13.
71 I take it that WD 179 a W s^nqg Kai xoiai ^s^sl^sxai sa0Aa KaKoiai means ‘for these
men too [sc . the men of the iron race] good things will be mixed with bad’. The
verse invites us to compare the iron with the golden race, of whom it was said ‘they
had all good things’, ‘with many good things’ (115-16 sa0Aa Ss navxa / xoiaiv s^v,
119 auv sa0Aoiaiv noAssaaiv). Differently, Woodard, ‘Hesiod and Greek myth’,
pp. 137-47, who argues that at WD 179 and at Theogn. 192 auv yap ^laysxai
sa 0Aa KaKoiai the nouns ysvsa, ysvsaai should be understood with the respective
adjectives.
72 West, Hesiod: Works and Days, p. 172. Cf. Buxton, Imaginary Greece, p. 178:
‘there is no way in which the two stories can be exactly integrated with one
another’.
73 Rudhardt, ‘Le mythe hesiodique’, p. 262: ‘Meme si le poete n’etablit point
entre eux de relations systematiques, ces mythes ne sont donc pas contradictoire a
ses yeux; leurs significations se completent pour fonder l’enseignement qu’il donne
a Perses’. Cf. Querbach, ‘Hesiod’s myth’, p. 9 and n. 24.
A tte m p ts to explain th e ju x ta p o s itio n o f c o n tra d ic to ry ac co u n ts o f
th e p a s t in P ro m P a n d a n d M o R m ay ta k e us d o w n v ario u s avenues.
O n e a p p ro a c h is to see each o f th e tw o ac co u n ts as h av in g tru th -
values, a n d in co m p atib le ones; if o n e is tru e, th e o th e r is false (th o u g h
b o th co u ld o f co u rse b e false). I t is because th e tru th -v a lu e o f each is
unclea r th a t H e sio d h a s d eterm in e d to give us b o th : eith er o n e c o u ld be
tru e. T h e ju x ta p o s itio n o f P ro m P a n d a n d M o R th u s invites c o m p a ri­
son w ith H e ro d o tu s ’ in clusion o f altern ativ e a n d m u tu a lly exclusive
logoi: H e sio d feels in such a case b o u n d to ^sysiv Ta ^syo^sva b u t n o t
c o m m itte d to an y view re g a rd in g th e ir tr u th o r falsity (cf. H d t. 7.152.3).
T h is is th e a p p ro a c h o f R o sen m ey er to th e co llo ca tio n o f P ro m P a n d
a n d M o R .74 H e sio d w o u ld th e n o p e ra te as a h isto ria n , th o u g h n o t so
m u ch fo r his view o f th e p a s t as fo r his respect fo r o th e rs ’ views o f
th e p a st. A h isto ria n m ay p ro p e rly be in tere ste d in p e o p le ’s beliefs as
h isto rical d a ta in th e ir ow n rig h t .75 B u t it is h a r d to accep t th a t H esio d
‘d ecided n o t to select’, b u t ju s t re p o rt, w h a t h a d been said by o th e rs on
h u m a n h is to ry .76 W e h av e seen th a t b o th H esio d ic ac co u n ts re so n ate
w ith th e th e m a tic in terests o f WD. B o th P ro m P a n d a n d M o R are th u s
re d o le n t o f a u th o ria l selection, m a n ip u la tio n , in te rp re ta tio n . A n d in
fact ju s t th e sam e ca n be said o f H e ro d o tu s ’ in clusion in his n a r r a ­
tive o f ‘u n criticised v a ria n ts ’. H e re to o we h av e in all lik elih o o d n o t a
decision n o t to select, n o t a b ste n tio n fro m in te rp re ta tio n , b u t ra th e r a
decision to in clude a t least one version th a t th e h isto ria n know s m u st
be false precisely fo r its th e m a tic c o n trib u tio n to th e w ider n a rra tiv e .77

74 Rosenmeyer, ‘Hesiod and historiography’, p. 268: ‘Hesiod . . . tries to account for


the social and moral situation of his own world. To do this, he collects a certain
class of data and arranges them to fit the aetiological and moral purposes of his
design. The data with which he is concerned are what Herodotus calls Ta Xsyo^sva.
In trying to arrange the Xsyo^sva, he finds he has more material than was needed
for his objective, and what is more, some of his material is contradictory. His
task then is twofold; first, he must reconcile conflicting Ta Xsyo^sva, and second,
he must decide which of them to select, or whether to select at all. Herodotus, in
similar moments of quandary, often decided not to select . . . Over against the
proud rationalism of Hecataeus, ever ready to select, remodel, or reject, Herodotus
introduces the patient resignation of the empiricist who knows that the truth is
neither simple nor one-sided . . . Some of that same spirit may be seen in Hesiod.’
75 D. Lateiner, The Historical Method o f Herodotus (Toronto, Buffalo and London:
University of Toronto Press, 1989), p. 77: ‘The historian finds cultural meaning
and historical significance even in fictions.’
76 Quotation from Rosenmeyer, ‘Hesiod and historiography’, p. 268 (see above for
full context).
77 S. Flory, The Archaic Smile o f Herodotus (Detroit: Wayne State University Press,
1987), p. 63: ‘At times [Herodotus] even says explicitly that he feels obligated to
give all possible versions . . . Many readers of Herodotus have believed that such
passages amount to a pledge by the author to give us, to the best of his ability,
all the evidence: every version of every story and every fact he ever heard . . . We
cannot, I believe, accept such statements uncritically’; p. 67: ‘What influences
A second a p p ro a c h is to deny P ro m P a n d a n d M o R tru th -v alu e s in
th a t sense. T h o u g h disguised as a n a c c o u n t o f th e p a st, each is really
c o n c ern e d to convey ev er-p resen t m o ra l tru th s. P rim a fa c ie d escrip ­
tive a n d p a st-te n se n a rra tiv e s, th ey are in fact p ro tre p tic s to p iety a n d
ju stic e in th e p re sen t a n d fu tu re . T his in essence is th e a p p ro a c h o f
R o w e a n d B u x to n , o f w h o m th e la tte r co m p ares th e conflict betw een
P ro m P a n d a n d M o R w ith th e situ a tio n p re se n te d by conflicting
p ro v e rb s (‘m a n y h a n d s m a k e light w o rk ’, b u t ‘to o m a n y co o k s spoil
th e b r o th ’).78 I f H e sio d ’s in terests are u n lik e th o se o f a h isto ria n o r
scientist, if h e does n o t p u rp o r t to describe a n d explain th e real w o rld
as th ey d o , th e n his a ttitu d e to inconsistency can be u n lik e th eirs. T his
is n o t th e place to discuss w h e th e r p ro v e rb s as a system do o r d o n o t
to le ra te c o n tra d ic tio n .79 O ne disco n certin g co nsequence o f this view

Herodotus to include some false versions and not others? Despite the commonly
held view that he is unable to resist any really good story, Herodotus’ false versions
of events almost always contain identifiable themes that are significant in the
Histories as a whole’; p. 68: ‘two versions of a story exist, neither is contradicted
by material evidence, but both contain themes that interest Herodotus. In this case
Herodotus tells both versions without discrimination or disclaimer.’
78 Rowe, ‘Archaic thought’, p. 134: ‘[Hesiod] proceeds as he does in the case of
the myths of Prometheus and Pandora and the Five Races, and elsewhere, not
because of a lack of capacity on his part, or of the “primitiveness” of his habits
of thought, but rather because of the nature of his fundamental preoccupations:
it is that in the end the business of explanation, in the sense of looking for causes,
matters rather less to him than reflection of a different sort, and especially of a
moralising sort’; cf. Rowe, Essential Hesiod (Bristol: Bristol Classical Press, 1978),
p. 7: ‘It is typical of Hesiod’s methods of composition generally . . . that he works
in sections . . . What is particularly interesting is that even adjoining sections are
often developed independently of each other, so that they say things which seem
either incompatible, or at least difficult to reconcile . . . [This habit of Hesiod’s of
composing in what are almost watertight, self-contained units] has something to
do with the absence from Hesiod of a clear distinction between what isfactual and
what is non-factual. Questions of compatibility worry us because of our obsession
with the idea that there is, ideally, only a single proper way of describing what is the
case or was the case; and Hesiod does not share this obsession.’ Buxton, Imaginary
Greece, pp. 178-9: ‘What concerns us here is . . . the fact that immediately after
the Prometheus/Pandora explanation of why things are so rough nowadays comes
a story which is explicitly said by Hesiod to be a different one . . . The point to
note is that there is no way in which the two stories can be exactly integrated with
one another . . . To accuse Hesiod of inconsistency, of being unable to sustain
a logical argument, would be wholly to misunderstand him. He signals the fact
that the two stories are different. The contrast between past and present is there
in each case, but is worked out in different ways, first with an emphasis on guile
and concealment, then through a set of variations on the opposition between fair
dealing and aggressive violence. The compatibility of alternatives is basic to Greek
mythology. We come back to the question of belief, and of proverbs. “Look at it
this way; or if you like, look at it this way”’; cf. pp. 163-4.
79 Cf. T. J. Morgan, Popular Morality in the Early Roman Empire (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 2007), p. 15, taking a different view from Buxton,
Imaginary Greece, pp. 163-4.
is th a t it risks leaving to o little difference betw een M o R a n d th e fable
(W D 20 2 -1 2 ), a m o ralisin g n a rra tiv e w ith n o p re te n sio n s to describe
th e real w o rld (as M o R , in places, a p p a re n tly does have). C a n we be
h a p p y to ac c o rd M o R j u s t th e statu s o f a p a ra b le ?80 W e m a y also
h esitate in an early G re e k co n tex t to c o n tra st a d esc rip tio n o f th e real
w o rld th a t leads to scientific (h isto rical o r physical) ex p lan a tio n s o f
th e w o rld ’s p rocesses w ith a n a c c o u n t th a t p u rp o rts (a t least) to be
o f th e real w o rld b u t leads to th e fo rm u la tio n o f m o ra l tru th s . T h e
difficulty h ere is th a t th e physical a n d h isto rical in v estig atio n s o f
A n a x im a n d e r a n d H e ro d o tu s them selves u ltim ate ly serve to d e m o n ­
strate th e o p e ra tio n in th e ph y sical a n d h u m a n w orlds o f d ik e a n d tisis:
tw o d istin ctly m o ra l, a n d very H esiodic, c o n c e p ts .81 A n ov errid in g
co n c ern w ith m o ra l prin cip les th a t u n d erlie th e w o rk in g o f th e w o rld
does n o t clearly distinguish H e sio d fro m th e early G re ek scientist o r
h is to ria n .82
A th ird a p p ro a c h is to ta k e th e ensem ble ‘P ro m P a n d + M o R ’ as
self-refuting in so fa r as som e o f its p a rts c o n tra d ic t o n e a n o th e r, b u t
as self-validating in so fa r as o th e r o f its p a r ts agree. In this w ay the
ju x ta p o s itio n o f th e tw o ac co u n ts can reveal th e tru th as m u ch as the
fiction. It is th e coincidence in th e ‘su b stra te ’ o f P ro m P a n d a n d M o R
th a t will in d icate w h a t sh o u ld c o u n t as ‘tru e ’.83 G u id e d by H e sio d ’s
tw o co n tig u o u s ac co u n ts we (H e sio d ’s audience) m ay co n stru c t o u r
ow n n a rra tiv e o f h u m a n h isto ry a p p ro x im a te ly as follow s: m a n k in d
h a s h a d a very lo n g h isto ry ; m en w ere once m u ch closer to th e gods;
life fo r m a n w as once m u ch b e tte r th a n it is now ; w hile th ere h a s been
a succession o f cu ltu ra l a n d tech n o lo g ical d ev elopm ents, th ere h as
also been in ta n d e m w ith these a n ethical d e te rio ra tio n a n d a n in cre as­
ing alien a tio n o f m a n fro m th e gods; yet in th e p a s t th a t d e te rio ra tio n
a n d alien a tio n co u ld be arrested , a n d so (a n d h ere com es th e ‘lesso n ’
o f h isto ry ) it ca n be arre ste d ag ain in th e p re se n t a n d th e fu tu re. Such
a p ro c e d u re o f in clu d in g m u tu a lly self-refuting ac co u n ts th a t are also

80 Cf. Smith, ‘History and the individual’, pp. 151-2.


81 Anaxim. 12 B1 D-K (cf. Heracl. 22 B94 D-K); Hdt. 3.126.1, 4.205, 6.84.3, 8.105,
etc.. Cf. Lateiner, Historical Method, pp. 203-4 ‘[In Anaximander] the physical
universe is expressed in moral or judicial terms by an Ionian “scientist”; history is
similarly conceived by the Ionian historian.’
82 Cf. Rowe, ‘Archaic thought’, p. 134 (cited above, n. 2), for the contrast
between Hesiod on the one hand and Anaximander and Herodotus on the other.
83 Cf. in general G. S. Kirk, ‘On defining myths’, in E. N. Lee, A. P. D. Mourelatos
and R. M. Rorty (eds), Exegesis and Argument: Studies in Greek Philosophy
Presented to Gregory Vlastos (Assen: Van Gorcum, 1973), pp. 61-9, at p. 66 on the
imoKsl^svov (‘substrate’) of a myth, the ‘narrative structure’ that persists through
retelling. This is comparable with the ‘deep structure’ discerned by structuralist-
formalist critics of myth (cf. E. Csapo, Theories o f Mythology (Malden, MA:
Blackwell, 2005), pp. 190-201).
self-v alid atin g sh o u ld n o t b e assu m ed to be intrin sically u n h isto rical.
H e ro d o tu s ca n be h e ld to h av e d o n e so m eth in g very sim ilar: to h av e
in clu d ed u n reco n ciled , in co m p atib le altern ativ es in his n a rra tiv e in
o rd e r th a t th e ir ag reem en t o n c e rta in key p o in ts m ig h t h ig h lig h t w h a t
is m e a n t to s ta n d as h isto rical fa c t .84 T his a p p ro a c h to P ro m P a n d a n d
M o R p re su p p o se s th a t it is possible, in d eed n ecessary, to sep a rate
an u n tru e ‘ca sin g ’ fro m a tru e ‘c o re ’ w ith in each o f P ro m P a n d a n d
M o R .85 T h en H e sio d w o u ld im plicitly h av e assu m ed so m eth in g like
w h a t th e fifth -cen tu ry m y th o g ra p h e rs assu m ed in th e ir ra tio n a lisa ­
tio n o f m y th , fo r exam ple H e catae u s (frr. 2 6 -7 F o w ler) o r H e ro d o tu s
h im self (2 .5 5 -7 ) .86 T h e sh ared a ssu m p tio n is th a t th ere is an u n d e rly ­
ing tru th to a m y th ical a c c o u n t th a t ca n be freed by a critical m in d
fro m th e d isto rtio n s w o rk e d o n it by successive sto ry -tellers’ em b el­
lishm ents. T h e difference is th a t th e m y th o g ra p h e r does th e th in k in g
fo r us a n d sets o u t p ro sa ic ally w h a t h e th in k s th e tru th is; H e sio d w ith
a p o e t’s in d irectness req u ires us to d o th e th in k in g fo r ourselves. T his
a p p ro a c h to th e p ro b le m o f P ro m P a n d a n d M o R , unlike th e last,
tak es H e sio d to be im p ly in g a discourse w ith tru th -v alu e s: th ere are
facts a b o u t th e w o rld im plied in this n a rra tiv e , b u t H e sio d leaves us to
dig a n d sift th e m ourselves. O r is this indirectness in fact distinctively
a p o e t’s m o d u s o p era n d i, ra th e r th a n a h is to ria n ’s? H e ro d o tu s once

84 Flory, Archaic Smile, p. 70: ‘Often Herodotus tells a story in two or more variants
without any comment about their relative truth or falsity. Is he reluctant or for
some reason unable to make a judgment? Yet these variant versions rarely present
clearly opposed points of view or important contradictions but actually confirm
a single point of view he wishes to establish’; p. 70: ‘Herodotus gives two versions
of how [Cambyses’ wife] angers her husband . . . [3.32]. Both versions, and that
is their purpose, make a similar point about Cambyses’ violent and impetuous
character . . . This fact Herodotus does not question. The effect of his alternative
stories about Cambyses is not to introduce a note of caution or uncertainty about
what actually happened, but just the opposite. He emphasizes Cambyses’ stupidity
and cruelty even more intensely through two stories with a similar point.’
85 Somewhat in this vein Leclerc, ‘Le mythe des races’, pp. 223-4, distinguishes
between ‘coffrage’ and ‘l’essentiel’ of MoR. Cf. Stewart, ‘Hesiod and history’, p.
44: ‘Obviously Hesiod is not interested in the literal details of the two stories but in
their general agreement on “ideological” matters.’ This route is rejected by Rowe,
‘Archaic thought’, p. 132: ‘They [sc. PromPand and MoR] follow the same broad
pattern, in the shape of the idea of man’s fall from an original and better state.
But this cannot by itself be the common truth Hesiod is trying to convey, since if
it were, we should have to treat the myths as such simply as fictional elaborations
of a basic theme; and this they cannot be, unless the Prometheus episode in the
Theogony is fiction too - and that will take the rest of the Theogony with it. But
how can the Theogony be fiction? It bears all the marks of serious theology.’
86 The methods of Hesiod and Hecataeus are contrasted rather than compared by
Bertelli, ‘Hecataeus’, pp. 82-3; V. Pirenne-Delforge, ‘Under which conditions
did the Greeks “believe” in their myths? The religious criteria of adherence’,
in U. Dill and C. Walde (eds), Antike Mythen: Medien, Transformationen und
Konstruktionen (Berlin and New York: de Gruyter, 2009), pp. 38-54, at p. 48.
ag ain can be a rg u e d to do so m eth in g very sim ilar, to w o rk his read ers
sim ilarly h a r d .87
P ro b a b ly n o n e o f these a p p ro a c h e s to th e p ro b le m o f P ro m P a n d
a n d M o R can fully satisfy. Y e t it is a m erit o f th e th ird is th a t it tak es
seriously th e presence o f striking a n d extensive co rresp o n d en ces
betw een P ro m P a n d a n d M o R . T w o th in g s in all this are w o rth e m p h a ­
sising. F irst, H e sio d surely ju x ta p o se s P ro m P a n d a n d M o R w ith
som e u n d e rsta n d in g o f his ow n as to h o w th ey cohere, b u t th a t u n d e r­
stan d in g rem ain s entirely im plicit: we can do n o m o re th a n im p u te
an u n d e rsta n d in g to him . A n d second, th e size o f th e g ap th a t we
perceive betw een H e sio d a n d H e ro d o tu s dep en d s o n h o w we choose
to n u a n c e o u r co n c ep tio n n o t ju s t o f H e sio d ’s b u t also o f H e ro d o tu s ’
h isto rio g ra p h ic a l m eth o d .

CONFRONTATION OF MoR WITH A NEAR EASTERN


MYTH OF RACES
L et u s leave fo r a m o m e n t th e q u estio n o f th e re la tio n sh ip a n d c o m ­
p a tib ility o f M o R a n d P ro m P a n d a n d co n sid er a p arallel question:
th e re la tio n sh ip a n d co m p atib ility o f M o R a n d th e p u ta tiv e N e a r
E a ste rn m y th th a t is o ften claim ed as H e sio d ’s ‘so u rc e ’.88 I t m u st first
b e a d m itte d th a t N e a r E a ste rn origins o f M o R are n o t universally
ack n o w led g ed. M o R h a s v ario u sly been seen as H e sio d ’s o w n e x tra p ­
o la tio n fro m th e G re ek epic tra d itio n , a n In d o -E u ro p e a n in h eritan ce,
a n d sim ply a n in stan ce o f a very an cien t a n d w id esp read th e m e .89 T he

87 Lateiner, Historical Method, p. 164: ‘Explicit, authorial evaluation and analysis


are subordinated to the presentation of additional stories with similar issues’; p.
167: ‘Patterns . . . occur and recur in order to guide the reader through the maze
of historical data and to lead him to an interpretation lurking in the text, the
intellectual result of a vast and obscure sorting process on the author’s part.’ E.
Baragwanath, Motivation and Narrative in Herodotus (Oxford: Oxford University
Press, 2008), p. 33: ‘Herodotus’ narrative technique appears to require attentive and
perceptive readers, who may sense the subtleties and complexities of his account,
and even develop them’; p. 126 ‘readers frequently suspect that the alternatives are
not mutually exclusive, but rather that each of the two has played some part in
precipitating the outcome, even though the narrative presents them as alternatives.’
88 So esp. West, Hesiod: Works and Days, pp. 176-7; West, The East Face
o f Helicon: West Asiatic Elements in Greek Poetry and Myth (Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 1997), pp. 312-19.
89 An extrapolation from native Greek epic tradition: Most, ‘Hesiod’s myth’, pp.
120-3. An Indo-European inheritance: Woodard, ‘Hesiod and Greek myth’,
pp. 124-48 (attaching much weight to a questionable interpretation of WD 179;
see above). An ancient and widespread motif: I. C. Rutherford, ‘Hesiod and
the literary traditions of the Near East’, in F. Montanari, A. Rengakos and C.
Tsagalis (eds), Brill’s Companion to Hesiod (Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2009), pp.
9-35, at pp. 20-2 (differently, Gatz, Weltalter, goldene Zeit, p. 11; cf. Woodard,
‘Hesiod and Greek myth’, p. 127, text to n. 160).
ex ta n t In d o -E u ro p e a n p arallels fo r M o R fro m S an sk rit (M a h a b h a ra ta
3.148, 3.187) a n d P ah lav i texts (V a h m a n Yast; D e n k a rd ) are a rg u ­
ab ly m o re im pressive th a n th e e x ta n t p arallels in texts fro m th e N e a r
E a st (e.g. O ld T estam e n t, D a n ie l 2:32-6, 3 9 -4 1 ).90 N evertheless N e a r
E a ste rn influence p e rh a p s rem ain s th e m o st re a so n a b le a ssu m p tio n .91
N e a r E a ste rn influence is generally g ra n te d fo r th e succession m y th o f
th e T h e o g o n y 92 a n d it seems th e c o n c ep tio n o f W o rk s a n d D a y s as a
w hole m u st be allow ed a N e a r E a ste rn p e d ig re e .93 M o re o v er, H e sio d ’s
h a n d lin g o f th e M o R n a rra tiv e , a n d o f th e succession m y th , suggests
to m e ‘h o riz o n ta l’ ra th e r th a n ‘v ertic al’ tran sm issio n a n d a relatively
recen t im p o rt ra th e r th a n an an cien t in h e rita n c e .94 T h a t q u estio n
c a n n o t b e settled here, if in d eed anyw here. Suffice it to say th a t th e
assu m p tio n o f N e a r E a ste rn in sp ira tio n fo r M o R is viable en o u g h ,
th o u g h u n p ro v e n , fo r its consequences to be w o rth exploring.
G re e k th in k in g a b o u t h u m a n (p re)h isto ry m u st alw ays h av e
received a jo lt w hen c o n fro n te d w ith N e a r E a ste rn tra d itio n s .95 G re ek
h e ro ic genealogies d o n o t ex ten d b a c k m o re th a n a few gen eratio n s
b efo re th e T ro ja n W a r, a t w hich p o in t h u m a n an cesto rs p e te r o u t a n d
divine an cesto rs ta k e o v e r .96 By c o n tra s t, H e ro d o tu s h e a rd E g y p tian
p riests in d icate kings going b a c k 341 g en eratio n s, i.e. 11,340 years,
b efo re th e reig n o f th e early sev en th -cen tu ry ‘S eth o s’ (H d t. 2.142.1).
T h e situ a tio n in S um er w as even m o re extrem e. ‘S om etim e early in th e
second m illen n iu m b c, let us say ca. 1800, a scribe in th e tem p le o f Isin
co m p iled a list o f all th e kings w ho h a d ru led over Sum er. S u p p o rtin g

90 Woodard, ‘Hesiod and Greek myth’, pp. 115-18.


91 For reasons reiterated by M. L. West, Indo-European Poetry and Myth
(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), p. 23. Differently, Woodard, ‘Hesiod
and Greek myth’, p. 124.
92 West, East Face o f Helicon, pp. 276-86; Woodard, ‘Hesiod and Greek
myth’, pp. 92-104; Rutherford, ‘Hesiod and the literary traditions’, pp. 22-35.
Differently, R. Mondi, ‘Greek mythic thought in the light of the Near East’, in
L. Edmunds (ed.), Approaches to Greek Myth (Baltimore and London: Johns
Hopkins University Press, 1990), pp. 141-98, at pp. 151-7.
93 West, East Face o f Helicon, pp. 306-33; Rutherford, ‘Hesiod and the literary
traditions’, pp. 17-19; Woodard, ‘Hesiod and Greek myth’, p. 108.
94 M. L. West, ‘The rise of the Greek epic’, JH S 108 (1988), pp. 151-72, at p. 170,
would see in the Iliad’s reception of Near Eastern motifs ‘a freshness and vividness
. . . which suggests that it is comparatively modern material’; and I would see the
same in these two Hesiodic narratives. On ‘vertical’ and ‘horizontal transmission’,
cf. West, Indo-European Poetry and Myth, pp. 19-24.
95 A. Dihle, Hellas und der Orient: Phasen wechselzeitiger Rezeption (Berlin and
New York: de Gruyter, 2009), pp. 12-13, mentions ‘das Alter der “barbarischen”
Uberlieferung’ as one of three things that especially amazed the Greeks about the
civilisations of the Near East (the other two being the Egyptians’ monumental
buildings and the importance of religion in their daily life); cf. p. 58.
96 Cf. West, Hesiodic Catalogue o f Women, pp. 173-82; J. Hall, Ethnic Identity
in Greek Antiquity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), pp. 79-85.
h im self u p o n archives o f h o a ry a n tiq u ity , this p riest b eg an his story
273,444 years, th re e m o n th s, a n d th ree a n d a h a lf days b efo re his ow n
tim e .’97 G re ek n a rra tiv e s o f th e classical p e rio d them selves h ig h lig h ted
th e p ro b lem . W h e n H e catae u s tra c e d his ow n genealogy b a c k sixteen
g en e ratio n s to a divine a n c esto r fo r th e benefit o f p riests o f A m u n in
E g y p tian T h ebes, th e priests re c ip ro c a te d w ith th e ir ow n ac co u n t o f
345 p reced in g h u m a n g en eratio n s (H d t. 2.143.4).98 W h e n S olon ask ed
th e m o st exp erienced o f th e E g y p tian p riests a b o u t ‘an c ie n t h isto ry ’
(Ta n a ^ a ia ) h e discovered th a t he, like all th e o th e r G reeks, w as clue­
less: h e to ld th em th e m y th s o f P h o ro n e u s a n d N io b e, D e u k a lio n
a n d P y rrh a a n d re h e a rse d th e g en eratio n s startin g fro m th em , only
to get fro m a n elderly E g y p tian p riest th e re jo in d e r, ‘Y o u G reek s are
alw ays ch ild ren . . . Y o u are all y o u n g in y o u r so u ls’; fo r th e ir ow n
h isto rical re co rd s w ent b a c k 8,000 years (P lat. T im . 2 2 a -b , 23e). T he
h u g e d isp arity in ch ro n o lo g ic al perspectives p re se n te d a m a jo r ch a l­
lenge fo r an y G re e k w ho w ished to o p in e o n th e p a s t a n d w ho w as
a c q u a in te d w ith N e a r E a ste rn tra d itio n s. I t is plau sib le th a t H e sio d in
M o R w as exercised by th e p ro b le m o f ch ro n o lo g ic al d isp arity arising
fro m th e c o n fro n ta tio n o f G re ek w ith N e a r E a ste rn tra d itio n s, a n d
th a t H e sio d ’s w ay o f dealing w ith th a t p ro b le m resem bles th a t o f the
‘F a th e r o f H is to ry ’ in a w ell-know n passage.
H e ro d o tu s in his second b o o k describes b ecom ing a c q u a in te d in
E g y p t, T y re a n d T h aso s w ith a g o d w h o m h e h a d n o h e sita tio n in
id en tify in g w ith th e G re e k H erak les b u t w h o m h e fo u n d persisten tly
assigned a d ate o f b irth fa r earlier th a n th e G re e k H erak les, by a
m a rg in o f u p to 16 m illen n ia (2 .4 3 -4 )!99 In th e face o f this cross-
cu ltu ra l d a ta H e ro d o tu s m ak es tw o n o te w o rth y assu m p tio n s: first,
th a t a G reek , a n E g y p tian a n d a P h o en ician divine figure are to be
id entified w ith each o th e r ;100 second, th a t th e tru th o f th e m a tte r is
reco v erab le (‘th e c u rre n t in q u iries show clearly th a t H e rak les is an
an c ie n t g o d ’, 2.44.5). H e ro d o tu s does n o t, h ere, ta k e th e relativist
ro u te , a la X e n o p h a n e s (‘fo r th e G reek s H erak les is so -an d -so , fo r

97 J. M. Sasson, ‘Some literary motifs in the composition of the Gilgamesh epic’,


Studies in Philology 69 (1972), pp. 259-79, at p. 259. For the Sumerian king list,
see T. Jacobsen, The Sumerian King List (Assyriological Studies 11; Chicago:
University of Chicago Press, 1939).
98 See I. S. Moyer, ‘Herodotus and an Egyptian mirage: The genealogies of the
Theban priests’, JH S 122 (2002), pp. 70-90.
99 Cf. P. Veyne, Did the Greeks Believe in Their Myths? An Essay on the Constitutive
Imagination, tr. P. Wissing (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press,
1988), pp. 32-3; Moyer, ‘Herodotus’, pp. 85-6. Cf. Hdt. 2.145-6.
100 On the identification of non-Greek with Greek deities, cf. T. Harrison, Divinity
and History: The Religion o f Herodotus (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000),
pp. 208-22.
th e E g y p tian s so -an d -so , fo r th e P h o en ician s so-and-so; th e tru th is
n o t to be fo u n d in a n y o f th e se ’), a lth o u g h h e is evidently a c q u a in te d
w ith th a t ro u te (cf. 3 .3 8 .1 -4 ).101 H ere th e assu m p tio n is ra th e r th a t
b o th G re e k a n d ea ste rn tra d itio n s are tru th -b e a rin g a n d th a t c o n ­
flict b etw een th e m m u st be resolved. H e ro d o tu s ’ so lu tio n involves
a m u ltip lic a tio n o f categories: th e p o sitin g o f tw o H erakleses, one
an O ly m p ian g o d a n d son o f Z eus, th e o th e r a h e ro a n d son o f
A m p h itry o n , o f w hich th e fo rm e r, m u ch th e elder, ca n b e identified
w ith th e N e a r E a ste rn H e ra k le s .102 A n d this so lu tio n finds co n fir­
m a tio n fo r H e ro d o tu s in existing G re e k cu lt p ractice, fo r th ere are
G reek s w ho (p ro p erly , in his eyes) ob serv ed d istin ct fo rm s o f w o rsh ip
fo r th e O ly m p ian a n d th e h e ro ic H erak les (2.44.5).
A c o m p a ra b le p ro c e d u re ca n be im p u te d to H e sio d in M o R . H ere
to o th ere w as a n issue o f ch ro n o lo g ic al discrepancy. G re e k epic t r a ­
d itio n knew o f only o n e race p rio r to th e p re se n t race, th e h ero es o r
‘d em ig o d s’ (earlier a n d la te r g en eratio n s m a y be d istin g u ish ed w ithin
th e h ero ic race, a n d th e re m ay b e ‘earlier m e n ’, Il. 21.405, 23.332,
23.790; b u t th e re is n o a n tec ed en t race: see above). B y c o n tra st th e
m etallic schem e o f th e N e a r E a st (if N e a r E a ste rn it is) know s several
races p rio r to th e p re se n t ra c e .103 H esio d , like H e ro d o tu s, seems
w illing to id en tify figures o f N e a r E a ste rn tra d itio n w ith figures o f
G re ek tra d itio n : h e im aginatively associates th e last tw o m etallic races
fro m th e N e a r E a ste rn sequence g o ld -s ilv e r-b ro n z e -iro n w ith th e
users o f b ro n z e a n d o f iro n fa m iliar to G re e k co n c ep tio n s th ro u g h
epic. L ik e H e ro d o tu s ’, H e sio d ’s so lu tio n involves a m u ltip lic a tio n o f
existing categories: fo u r earlier races o f m a n in ste a d o f th e tra d itio n a l
one. F in ally , H e sio d ’s in n o v ativ e analysis is justified, like H e ro d o tu s ’,
by a n ap p e al to th e realities o f G re e k cu lt p ractice. G re e k p o p u la r
religion reco g n ised a p le th o ra o f in d eterm in ate divine beings o f lesser
statu s th a n th e gods; H e sio d n o w recognises these as specific races
o f b y g o n e m en. T h e golden a n d silver races h av e a c o n tin u in g p re s­
ence in sev en th -cen tu ry cu ltic re ality as respectively ‘deities above
th e e a r th ’ (d a im o n es . . . ep ic h th o n io i) a n d ‘blessed m o rta ls below th e
e a rth ’ (h y p o c h th o n io im a k a r e s th n e to i). T h e use o f Ka^eovTai (W D 141,
159) m ak es it clear th a t these are m e a n t to c o rre s p o n d to categories o f

101 Cf. S. Scullion, ‘Herodotus and Greek religion’, in C. Dewald and J. Marincola
(eds), The Cambridge Companion to Herodotus (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 2006), pp. 192-208, at pp. 198-204.
102 On this expedient of postulating homonymies, cf. Veyne, Did the Greeks?, pp. 75
and 147 n. 154.
103 Koenen, ‘Greece, the Near East and Egypt’, pp. 24-5, disputes that the metallic
scheme is Near Eastern.
deity reco g n izable to c o n te m p o ra rie s (w hich is n o t to say th a t m o d e rn
sch olars ca n agree w ho m a d e u p th ese tw o g ro u p s ) .104
T his c o n stru c tio n o f H e sio d ’s p ro c e d u re in M o R a ttrib u te s a n o ta b le
c o m m o n m e th o d o lo g y to H e sio d a n d H e ro d o tu s. (1) T here is th e cog­
nizan ce o f altern ativ e a n d d iscre p an t acco u n ts in G reece a n d th e N e a r
E ast as a resu lt o f w ide d ata -g a th e rin g th ro u g h H e ro d o te a n h istorie
a n d H e sio d ic p o ly m a th ie (cf. H eracl. fr. 22 B40 D -K ). (2) T h ere is th e
identificatio n o f these acco u n ts as co m p etin g acco u n ts o f th e sam e
situ atio n a n d th u s a n eed to resolve th e conflict. (3) T h e re so lu tio n
involves a m u ltip licatio n o f term s, so th a t identification o f G re ek w ith
N e a r E astern term s becom es possible w hile conflict is avoided. (4) T h e
so lu tio n is ju stified by a n ap p e al to th e ‘evidence’ o f tra d itio n (cult a n d
m y th ) to su p p o rt th e new term s in tro d u ce d . (5) T he tra d itio n a l G reek
c h ro n o lo g y is radically revised a n d becom es vastly m o re extended.
T h is is o f co u rse a speculative a c c o u n t o f h o w a n d w hy H e sio d m ay
h av e a p p ro x im a te d a G re ek tra d itio n o f h u m a n h isto ry to a p u ta tiv e
N e a r E a ste rn sto ry o f h u m a n h isto ry . I t will be clear, how ever, h o w
such a n a c c o u n t p arallels o u r th in k in g a b o u t h o w a n d w hy H esio d
m ay h av e a p p ro x im a te d th e n a rra tiv e s o f P ro m P a n d a n d M o R . In
each case we see a co n c ern to estab lish coherence betw een altern ativ e
v ersions o f th e p a st. T his co n cern fo r coherence c o u ld b e in te rp re te d
as a co n c ern fo r h isto rical tru th , b u t it is fa r fro m clear th a t it m u s t o r
sh o u ld be. T h e difficulty is th a t coherence is n o t ju s t a crite rio n o f tru th
b u t ca n also b e a m o re p u re ly ae sth etic quality. W h e n a rch aic G re ek
p o ets offered a new version o f a tra d itio n a l tale they typically to o k
p ain s to m a k e th e new version co h ere in ce rta in key details w ith the
o ld .105 B u t it w o u ld be ra sh to assum e th ey m u st h av e d o n e so because
o f a co n v ictio n o f th e h isto ric a l tru th o f th e details re ta in e d .106 T his

104 Cf. Clay, Hesiod’s Cosmos, pp. 89-90; Sourvinou-Inwood, ‘Myth of the five
races’, pp. 6-9; Currie, ‘Heroes and holy men’, p. 168 n. 27.
105 See, famously, Pind. O. 1.26b-27, with J. G. Howie, ‘The revision of myth in
Pindar Olympian 1: The death and revival of Pelops (25-27; 36-66)’, P L L S 4
(1983), pp. 277-313, at p. 288: ‘The audience can . . . simultaneously see the roots
of both the traditional myth and the revised version in these lines’; E. Krummen,
Pyrsos Hymnon: Festliche Gegenwart und mythisch-traditionelle Tradition als
Voraussetzung einer Pindarinterpretation (Berlin and New York: de Gruyter,
1990), p. 176: ‘Pindar behalt offensichtlich Struktur und Material des alten
Mythos . . . vollstandig, wie sie uberliefert sind, bei, gibt ihnen aber als ganzes
eine neue Erklarung.’ See Currie, Pindar and the Cult o f Heroes, pp. 50-2; Currie,
‘L’Ode 11 di Bacchilide: il mito delle Pretidi nella lirica corale, nella poesia epica e
nella mitografia’, in E. Cingano (ed.), Trapanellenismo e tradizioni locali: Generi
poetici e storiografia (Alexandria: Edizioni dell’Orso, 2010), pp. 211-53, at pp.
222-3, for further examples and references.
106 The assumption is often made, e.g. W. Kullmann, ‘Oral poetry theory and neo­
analysis in Homeric research’, GRBS 25 (1984), pp. 307-23, at p. 313: ‘mytho­
logical characters were taken to be historical persons’, ‘respect for tradition is
m o d e o f in n o v a tio n in w hich th e new w as th o ro u g h ly in te g ra te d w ith
th e o ld is a t o n ce m o re satisfying a n d calls fo r m o re in g en u ity th a n
in v en tio n a b in itio ; such a m o d e o f in n o v a tio n seems to h av e becom e
so m eth in g like a ‘rule o f th e g am e’ fo r G re e k p o e ts .107 It is obvious
th a t th e re is a n issue h ere o f p o etic v irtu o sity as well as an y sim ple
co n cern fo r h isto ricity . T h ere is w ith o u t d o u b t a self-conscious display
o f p o etic v irtu o sity in H e sio d ’s fitting o f G re ek tra d itio n s o f h u m a n
h isto ry to N e a r E a ste rn tra d itio n s o f h u m a n h isto ry w ith in M o R a n d
in his fittin g o f M o R to P ro m P a n d (th a t p o e tic v irtu o sity is p ro c la im e d
in su Kai smaTa^evrog, W D 107!). T h e q u estio n is w h e th e r th e c o h e r­
ence fo r w hich H e sio d strives p e rta in s solely to a closed p o etic system
o r is m e a n t fu rth e r to arg u e a fa ith fu l fit w ith reality. C o n sid e r fo r
a m o m e n t th e uses m a d e o f etym ology a n d aetiology, devices w hich
m a y serve to co n n e ct a n ovel ac co u n t w ith in d ep en d e n tly existing fe a­
tu res o f lan g u ag e o r o f th e w orld. T h e m y th o g ra p h e rs a n d H e ro d o tu s
em p lo y ety m o lo gy to confirm th e veracity o f a n ac co u n t; b u t H e sio d ’s
etym ologies (e.g. P a n d o ra , W D 81-2; A p h ro d ite , Th. 195-8; etc.)
m u st freq u en tly be re g a rd e d as ‘m erely h eu ristic o r p la y fu l ’.108 T he
sam e m ig h t be said o f aetiologies. W h en H e sio d identifies d a im o n e s as
th e p o sth u m o u s spirits o f th e golden race ( W D 121-6) o r th e D e lp h ic
sto n e as th e one sw allow ed by K ro n o s (Th. 498-500), these n eed
n o t be m o re seriously m e a n t th a n , say, th e id en tificatio n o f a ro c k
fo rm a tio n a t Sipylos as th e petrified N io b e (Il. 24.614-17). I t is th u s
u n clea r w h e th e r th e sim ilarities in m e th o d ob serv ed betw een H esio d
a n d H e ro d o tu s are p ro fo u n d o r superficial, w h e th e r th ey go b ey o n d
th e m erely fo rm a l to en co m p ass th e ends o f th e w o rk s in q u estio n .
T h ere is n o m ista k in g th a t H e ro d o tu s is in tere ste d n o t on ly in h o w
G re ek beliefs a b o u t H erak les fit n o n -G re e k beliefs b u t in h o w these
m u tu a lly ac c o m m o d a te d beliefs fit th e real w o rld (‘m y inquiries sh o w
clea rly [ S ^ o l aa^erog] th a t H erak les is [sovTa] a n an cien t g o d ’, 2.44.5).
Precisely b ecau se th e re is n o such clarity w ith H esiod, it is h a r d to

combined with poetic invention’; P. Burian, ‘Myth into mythos: The shaping of
tragic plot’, in P. E. Easterling (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Greek Tragedy
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), pp. 178-208, at p. 185: ‘myth is
subject to interpretation and revision, but not to complete overturn, because it
is also history’; A. Kelly, Sophocles: Oedipus at Colonus (London: Duckworth,
2009), p. 36 ‘Greek poets could not move in utterly new directions . . . for the new
to be believable, it had to accommodate itself to the old, to grant to the audience
that the stories they knew were not very far from the truth.’
107 On the tragic poets, cf. Burian, ‘Myth into mythos’, pp. 183-6. A notable
exception to this ‘rule of the game’ is Agathon’s Anthos/Antheus (Aristot. Poet.
1451b21-2), where the tragic mythos was invented ab initio.
108 Griffith, ‘Contest and contradiction’, p. 195. Etymology in the mythographers:
R. L. Fowler, ‘Herodotus and his contemporaries’, JH S 116 (1996), pp. 62-87, at
pp. 72-3.
d e m o n stra te H e sio d th e h isto ria n w ho deals in tru th as o p p o se d to
H e sio d th e p o e t w ho deals in tra d itio n a l ta le s .109

CONCLUSION
By w ay o f co n clu sio n it m ay b e h elp fu l to re ite ra te th e am biguities
a n d in d eterm in acies in h e re n t in M o R ’s view o f th e p ast. F irst, this
is a h isto ry o f discrete ‘m a n k in d s ’; b u t it is also som ehow a h isto ry
o f a unified m a n k in d . Second, it is a n a c c o u n t o f discrete races, b u t
n o t en tirely discrete races (one race bleeds in to th e o th er; ethical a tti­
tu d es, m o ra l b eh a v io u rs, seem to be p asse d on, alm o st like genes).
T h ird , th e schem e is p re m ised o n a decline, b u t this tu rn s o u t n o t to
be a co m p lete o r irreversible decline. F o u rth , th e id en tificatio n w ith
m etals is sym bolic, b u t it also becom es literal. F ifth , it starts o u t as a
d iach ro n ic ac co u n t, b u t it is also (no less im p o rta n tly ) sy n ch ro n ic . 110
Sixth, th e ac co u n t ap p e a rs to b e sim ply descriptive, b u t it is also n o r ­
m ativ e a n d p re scrip tiv e (th ere is an im plicit, b u t fu n d a m e n ta l, ethical
d im en sio n to th e acco u n t). S eventh, th e a c c o u n t o f th e p a s t is different
fro m P ro m P a n d , b u t n o t en tirely different; it ca n be a p p ro x im a te d to
P ro m P a n d , b u t n o t com pletely. L ast, H e sio d is arg u ab ly in tere ste d in
a c co m m o d atin g G re e k w ith n o n -G re e k tra d itio n s a b o u t th e p a st a n d
in m ak in g a w ide ra n g e o f d a ta co h ere (in this very like H e ro d o tu s);
b u t th a t does n o t necessarily e q u a te to a co n cern fo r h isto rical tru th .
I t is o b v io us th a t M o R is a re m a rk a b ly fluid fo rm o f discourse th a t
defies red u ctiv e analysis. A g reat m a n y different, a n d co n tra d ic to ry ,
views o f th e p a s t can be d iscern ed in these h u n d re d lines. I t does n o t
seem a b su rd to see M o R as som e k in d o f p o te n tia l p re c u rs o r to a h is­
to rica l a c co u n t. B u t th ere is to o m u c h th a t rem ain s im plicit in H e sio d ’s
m e th o d o lo g y , a n d to o m u ch th a t req u ires scholarly co n stru c tio n , to
m ak e us co n fident a b o u t seeing it so. T he c o m p ariso n s th a t ca n be
d ra w n betw een H e sio d ’s m e th o d a n d H e ro d o tu s ’ are strik in g b o th
fo r th e ir q u a n tity a n d q u ality , b u t th ese do n o t clinch th e issue: M o R
rem ain s tan talisin g ly p o ised betw een p o e tic fiction a n d h isto ry .

109 For this distinction in the possible objects of a poet’s discourse, cf. Aristot. Poet.
1460b10.
110 Cf. R. G. A. Buxton, ‘Introduction’, in Buxton (ed.), From Myth to Reason?
Studies in the Development o f Greek Thought (Oxford: Oxford University Press,
1999), pp. 1-21, at pp. 9-10: ‘the myth of the Races stresses that things now are
. . . not as they once were: iron is not gold. And yet . . . the sequence of Races
exhibits, albeit in different blends, the same, recurring traits: aggressive violence,
and righteousness’; cf. p. 9, on ‘the past in the present’ in Hesiod.
HELEN AND ‘I’ IN EARLY
GREEK LYRIC

Deborah Boedeker

E arly G re ek lyric invokes th e sh ared h isto ries o f sp eak er a n d audience


- b o th lo cal a n d pan h ellen ic, lo n g -ag o (o r ‘m y th ic a l’) a n d recen t - in
m a n y m o d es o f discourse, including n a rra tiv e s, exem pla a n d exhor-
ta tio n s . 1 T his c h a p te r will focus o n fo u r six th -cen tu ry texts - fro m
S tesich o ru s, A lcaeus, S ap p h o a n d Ibycus - th a t rely o n H elen, th a t
m o st en ig m atic figure in th e m o st fam iliar o f sh ared G re ek p a sts, to
h elp define th e sp e a k e r’s p erso n a. T hese w o rk s are n o stran g ers to
critical analysis; indeed, several recen t studies h av e fru itfu lly ex a m ­
in ed th e tre a tm e n t o f H elen in som e o f th e m (am o n g o th ers), c o n ­
cern in g them selves largely w ith th e im p o rta n t areas o f ethics a n d /o r
g e n d e r .2 M y in tere st is in h o w th e p o e tic ‘I ’ in each frag m en t uses this
figure n o t p rim arily to c o n stru c t a n a rra tiv e a b o u t th e p a st, b u t as a
w ay to show , b y an a lo g y o r c o n tra st, th e k in d o f a ttitu d e o r in te n ­
tio n th e sp eak er is a d o p tin g in th e p o e tic p e rfo rm a n c e .3 E ac h lyric
‘I ’ in a different w ay uses th e ‘h isto ric a l’ H elen (m alleable th o u g h

1 For recent general studies of poetry and history see J. Marincola, ‘Herodotus
and the poetry of the past’, in C. Dewald and J. Marincola (eds), The Cambridge
Companion to Herodotus (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), pp.
13-28; D. Boedeker, ‘Early Greek poetry as/and history’, in A. Feldherr and G.
Hardy (eds), The Oxford History o f Historical Writing, vol. 1 (Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 2011), pp. 122-47.
2 For example, C. P. Segal, ‘Beauty, desire, and absence: Helen in Sappho, Alcaeus,
and Ibycus’, in Segal, Aglaia: The Poetry o f Alcman, Sappho, Pindar, Bacchylides,
and Corinna (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 1998), pp. 63-83, on Sappho,
Alcaeus and Ibycus; N. Worman, ‘The body as Argument: Helen in four Greek
texts’, Classical Antiquity 16 (1997), pp. 151-203, on Sappho together with
Iliad 3, Gorgias’ Encomium o f Helen and Euripides’ Troades; and R. Blondell,
‘Refractions of Homer’s Helen in archaic lyric’, American Journal o f Philology
131 (2010), pp. 349-91, on the Iliadic Helen compared with Helen in the Sappho,
Alcaeus and Ibycus fragments.
3 I assume that the performance context is, at least to a degree, constructed rather
than biographical; likewise, in using an author’s name, I refer to the persona of
the speaker in that work - also to some degree a construction - rather than to a
historical human being.
she is) as a k in d o f fu lcru m to h elp p o sitio n h im self o r h erself in the
c o n te m p o ra ry situ atio n .

STESICHORUS FR. 192 PMG


I begin w ith S tesich o ru s’ ta n ta lisin g ‘P a lin o d e ’, w hich p ro v id es a
p a rtic u la rly strik in g in stan ce o f th e singer’s re la tio n sh ip to H e le n :4

O uk sot ’ sxu^og A,oyog ornog,


ouS’ sPag ev vnuoiv stiosA^oig,
ouS’ ikso n sp y a ^ a Tpo^ag•

T h is sto ry is n o t tru e,
y o u d id n o t go o n th e w ell-benched ships
a n d y o u d id n o t arriv e a t th e citadel o f T roy.

T h e sh o rt frag m en t is q u o te d b y P la to ’s S ocrates (P h a ed ru s 243ab),


w hen h e decides th a t h e m u st ‘p u rify h im self’ fro m th e abusive speech
(KaK^yopla) h e h a s ju s t delivered to P h a e d ru s a b o u t E ro s, w ho afte r
all is a god. T h e p h ilo so p h e r declares th a t th ere is ‘a n an cien t p u rifi­
ca tio n fo r th o se w ho h av e gone w ro n g co n cern in g m y th o lo g y ’ (xolg
d^apxavouoi n sp i ^ u B o A ^ a v KaBap^og apxalog), a cure k n o w n n o t
to H o m e r b u t to S tesichorus; clearly h e is referrin g to tra d itio n s th a t
each singer w as blind. H o m e r nev er u n d e rs to o d w h a t cau sed his loss
o f sight, says S ocrates, b u t S tesichorus did. H e also knew th e rem edy:
h e revised th e slan d ero u s tale (KaK^yopla) th a t H elen w ent w ith
P aris to T ro y , a n d im m ediately his vision w as re sto red . A ccordingly,
S o crates will n o w co m p o se his ow n p a lin o d e to E ros.
T h e evidence fo r S tesich o ru s’ H elen p oem (s) is fa r fro m clear, b u t
w ith m o st scholars I believe th a t th e P alin o d e w as p a r t o f a lo n g er
w o rk th a t ack n o w led g ed th e fam iliar story in w hich H elen w ent to
T ro y w ith P a ris .5 A d ria n K elly suggests th a t th e sam e p o e m also
d escrib ed th e p o e t’s p erso n a l e n c o u n te r w ith H elen, p e rh a p s in a

4 In the vast literature on the Palinode I have found especially useful the
following studies: K. Bassi, ‘Helen and the discourse of denial in Stesichorus’
Palinode’, Arethusa 26 (1993), pp. 51-75; E. Pallantza, Der Troische Krieg in der
nachhomerischen Literatur bis zum 5. Jahrhundert v. Chr. (Stuttgart: Steiner, 2005),
esp. pp. 98-123; A. J. Beecroft, ‘This is not a true story: Stesichorus’s Palinode and
the revenge of the epichoric’, Transactions o f the American Philological Association
136 (2006), pp. 47-70; A. Kelly, ‘Stesikhoros and Helen’, Museum Helveticum 64
(2007), pp.1-21.
5 E.g. W. Allan (ed.), Euripides: Helen (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
2008), pp. 18-22; Bassi, ‘Helen and the discourse of denial’; Kelly, ‘Stesikhoros
and Helen’. E. Cingano, ‘Quante testimonianze sulle palinodie di Stesicoro?’,
d ream . Such a m eetin g o f p o e t a n d divinity w o u ld be rem in iscen t o f
H e sio d ’s co m m issio n in g b y th e M uses (T h e o g o n y 3 0 -1 ) a n d is a tte ste d
in o th e r tex ts as well (e.g. S ap p h o a n d A p h ro d ite , S ap p h o fr. 1).6
W h e th e r o r n o t it re la te d a direct en c o u n te r w ith H elen, th e p o em
very likely allu d ed to S tesich o ru s’ losing a n d reg ain in g his sig h t .7 N o t
o nly is th is tale o f n a rra tiv e offence, p u n ish m e n t a n d a to n e m e n t th e
w hole p o in t o f th e P h a e d ru s c ita tio n , b u t it is reg u larly co n n e cted
w ith th e P alin o d e in o th e r an cien t sources as w ell .8 B eing stru ck b lin d
fo r telling th e ‘w ro n g ’ version (fro m H e le n ’s perspective) leads th e
sp eak er to re n o u n ce th e fam iliar p an h e lle n ic a c c o u n t th a t H elen w ent
to T ro y w ith P aris a n d th ere b y becam e a cause o f th e T ro ja n W a r .9
M o st strikingly, h e addresses his re c a n ta tio n to H elen herself: ‘Y o u
d id n o t go . . . y o u d id n o t a rriv e .’10 N o lo n g er ju s t a c h a ra c te r in th e
lo g o s , she b ecom es p re se n t in th e p e rfo rm a n c e situ atio n .
K elly co n ten d s th a t S tesich o ru s’ re aso n fo r this re m a rk a b le re c a n ­
ta tio n is to w in a u th o rity fo r his version o f events, in c o m p e titio n w ith
his p red ecesso rs: h e h a s le a rn e d w h a t h a p p e n e d fro m H elen h e rse lf .11
T his a u th o rity w o u ld b e u n d e rc u t, how ever, if S tesichorus a p p e a re d
to revise his sto ry in o rd e r to ap p ease a n an g e red im m o rta l, a n d
th ere b y cu re his blindness. D re a m s m a y be deceptive (if K elly ’s sug­
gestio n is co rrec t th a t H elen a p p e a re d to th e p o e t in a d ream ), a n d in

Quaderni Urbinati di Cultura Classica 41 (1982), pp. 21-33, offers the strongest
arguments for the existence of more than one Palinode.
6 Kelly, ‘Stesikhoros and Helen’, cites parallels from epic and lyric, noting that
many mortals come into direct contact with gods in Homeric epic. Another
parallel to the Palinode would be Pheidippides’ meeting with Pan on his way to
Sparta, when the god chides the Athenians for not recognising his helpfulness to
them; he later receives proper recognition in cult (Herodotus 6.105).
7 Pace Bassi, ‘Helen and the discourse of denial’, pp. 54-5 n. 6.
8 E.g. Isocrates, Encomium o f Helen 10.64. On the basis of the Isocrates passage,
D. Sider, ‘The blinding of Stesichorus’, Hermes 117 (1989), pp. 423-31, suggests
that the singer’s blinding and sudden recovery of sight might have been mimed in
performance.
9 This non-Homeric version of Helen’s role, perhaps even including the eidolon
that went to Troy in her stead, may already have been transmitted in the Hesiodic
corpus (see F 358 M-W), based on a paraphrase of Lycophron, Alexandra 822.
10 This point receives relatively little emphasis from commentators, with the
exception of Kelly, ‘Stesikhoros and Helen’, pp. 3-6, who mentions it in
connection with his thesis that the ‘Palinode’ was part of a single poem that began
with the standard version of the Helen story, and then restarted (in the manner of
some Homeric Hymns) with an address to the divine figure whose story has just
been told. See D. Boedeker, ‘Paths to heroization at Plataea’, in Boedeker and D.
Sider (eds), The New Simonides: Contexts o f Praise and Desire (Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 2001), pp. 148-63, esp. pp. 155-61, for an analogous argument
that Achilles is directly addressed as an immortal in Simonides fr. el. 11.19-20
W2.
11 Kelly, ‘Stesikhoros and Helen’, p. 3 and passim.
an y case gods read ily ta k e offence w hen th e ir h o n o u r is im p u g n e d .12
In o th e r w o rd s, w as th e p o e t b lin d ed b ecau se h e go t his ‘h is to ry ’
w ro n g , o r ra th e r b ecause his version a n n o y e d one o f its (im m o rtal)
subjects ? 13 I f we follow this line o f th o u g h t, th e P alin o d e co u ld b e re a d
as a n ad m issio n o f a m o rta l’s u n h e ro ic ‘a d a p ta b ility ’, alo n g th e lines
o f A rc h ilo c h u s’ d ro p p in g his shield b u t saving his life (A rch ilo ch u s fr.
5 W ).
In th e P h a e d ru s story th a t fram es th e frag m en t, S o cra te s’ iro n ic
fe ar o f b eing h a rm e d by E ro s ce rtain ly allow s th a t h e u n d e rsto o d
S tesich o ru s’ P alin o d e in this w ay; th e p h ilo so p h e r declares th a t h e will
be sm arter (a o ^ m sp o g ) th a n eith er H o m e r o r S tesichorus, by offer­
ing th e g o d a re c a n ta tio n even b efo re an y th in g b a d h a p p e n s to h im
(P h a e d ru s 243b). S tesich o ru s’ readiness to ch an g e th e fam iliar story
(^oyog ornog14) in re actio n to its neg ativ e consequences fo r him self
m ay th u s p re sen t h im as an u n re lia b le ‘h is to ria n ’, h o w ev er skilled he
is in d ealin g w ith an g ry im m o rtals.
A lex a n d er B eecroft offers a m o re ch a rita b le read in g . B uilding on
th e arg u m e n ts o f C lau d e C alam e a n d B ruce L in co ln a b o u t types o f
p o e tic a n d m y th o lo g ical ‘t r u t h ’, B eecroft ex p a n d s o n th e w idely h eld
thesis th a t th e m o rta l H elen o f H o m eric epic is p itte d h ere ag ain st
an ep ich o ric divine H elen, a n d is fo u n d w an tin g . ‘W h e n S tesichorus
p erfo rm s th e P an h ellen ic version o f th e logos o f H elen . . . it is ritu ally
ineffective - w hich is d e m o n stra te d con cretely th ro u g h th e b lin d in g
o f th e p o e t .’15 I agree th a t th e sto ry o f a H elen w ho follow ed P aris
to T ro y m ig h t be deem ed in a p p ro p ria te (a n d even ‘u n tru e ’) in the
co n tex t o f a cu lt o f H elen such as existed a t S p a rta , A th en s a n d o th e r
p la c e s .16 A b lam ew o rth y p o rtra it co u ld offend th e goddess - o r fro m
a m o re m u n d a n e perspective, as o ften suggested, S tesichorus m ay

12 E.g. the dream sent to Agamemnon in Iliad 2.1-282; cf. the dream that
forces Xerxes to invade Greece.
13 Bassi, ‘Helen and the discourse of denial’, argues perceptively that it is
impossible for Stesichorus to recast entirely Helen’s dangerously unstable, female
nature.
14 On the deictic significance of Xoyog omog ‘this story’ in the fragment see
Beecroft, ‘This is not a true story’, pp. 49-52.
15 Beecroft, ‘This is not a true story’, p. 66. See further Beecroft’s stimulating
analysis of STU^og in the Stesichorus passage (pp. 55-66).
16 On cults of Helen see Herodotus 6.61-2; M. L. West, Immortal Helen: An
Inaugural Lecture Delivered on 30 April 1975 (London: Bedford College, 1975);
L. L. Clader, Helen: The Evolution from Divine to Heroic in Greek Epic Tradition,
Mnemosyne Suppl. 42 (Leiden: Brill, 1976), pp. 63-80, J. Larson, Greek Heroine
Cults (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1995), pp. 65-70, 79-81; and
D. Lyons, Gender and Immortality: Heroines in Ancient Greek Myth and Cult
(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1997), pp. 44-7. See Pallantza, Der
Troische Krieg, pp. 112-18, for a critical overview of the relationship between
literary and religious-historical approaches to the Palinode.
be d istan cin g h im self fro m th e p an h e lle n ic sto ry h ere because th e
lo cal au d ien ce w o u ld re a c t (o r d id re act) negatively to a p o rtra y a l o f
H elen in k eep in g w ith th e fa m iliar epic tra d itio n . T h e P a lin o d e th u s
p o in ts to th e com plex n a tu re o f c e rtain figures in th e p an h e lle n ic
tra d itio n - m o rta l in epic, b u t im m o rta l in local cults - a n d h ence to
th e m u ltip licity o f stories a b o u t them .
W h a te v e r exactly w as conveyed in th e m issing p a rts o f S tesich o ru s’
song, th e e x ta n t frag m en t show cases a re m a rk a b le en g ag em en t o f th e
sp eak er w ith his subject/addressee H elen, as a n active divine p o w er
w ith a n ego a n d p o w e r o f h e r ow n (again, like S o cra te s’ E ro s in th e
P h a e d ru s). W hile it hig h lig h ts S tesich o ru s’ respect fo r th e goddess, th e
P alin o d e also exposes a lack o f reliability in songs a b o u t events a n d
ch a ra c te rs in th e sh ared p ast: circu m stan ces m ay p ro m p t th e singer to
ch an g e his tu n e, as S tesichorus does here, in full view o f th e audience.
A s A n n B erg ren co n c lu d e d lo n g ago, such am b ig u ity is a distinctive
ch a ra c te ristic in p o rtra y a ls o f H e le n . 17

ALCAEUS FR. 42 V18

b q A,oyoq k &k©v a[
n s p p a ^ © < i> Kai n aia[i
sk a80sv mKpov, n[
’IAaov ipav.

ou x sa w a v AiaK,Sai[q
navxaq Sq ya^ov ^aK[apaq Ka^sooaiq
aysx’ sk Nq[p] noq s^©v [^ sM 0 p©v
n a p 0 svov aPpav

sq So^ov X 8pp©voq: s^[uos S’


Z&M-a nap08v© ^i^o[
H ^ s o q Kai NnpsiS©v ap^ax[aq.
sq S’ 8v^auxov

n aiS a y s w a x ’ aip,08©v [
o^Piov £,av0 av SM xn[pa tc©A©v,
oi S’ anro^ovx’ a ^ ’ ’E[A,8vai
Kai noAaq aw © v.

17 A. Bergren, ‘Language and the female in early Greek thought’, Arethusa


16 (1983), pp. 69-95, esp. pp. 80-2; similarly Bassi, ‘Helen and the discourse of
denial’, pp. 61-2, and Blondell, ‘Refractions of Homer’s Helen’, pp. 390-1.
18 I use Voigt’s text of the fragment with my own translation.
A s th e sto ry goes . . . to P ria m a n d his ch ild ren a b itte r . . . fro m
y o u . . . h o ly Ilium . N o t such a w o m an d id A e a c u s’ son w ed, in v it­
ing all th e blessed ones to th e m arria g e, b rin g in g h er, a m aid en
p u re , fro m th e ch a m b e rs o f N e reu s to th e h o u se o f C h eiro n . H e
lo o sen ed th e m a id e n ’s girdle . . . th e love . . . o f Peleus a n d th e
b est o f th e N ereids. A n d in a y ear she b o re a son . . . o f dem igods,
a p ro sp e ro u s d riv er o f taw n y m ares, b u t they [i.e. th e T rojans]
p erish e d fo r H elen, a n d th e ir city to o .

A t th e sta rt o f his in tro d u c to ry essay o n ‘T h e “I ” in p e rso n a l arch aic


ly ric’, S im on Slings cites H e rm a n n F ra n k e l o n th e ‘ju d g e m e n ta l’ lyric
I: ‘D a s u rteilen d e Ic h in d er arch aisch e n L y rik ist im m er rep rasen -
tiv g em ein t ’.19 A lth o u g h th ere is n o first p e rso n p ro n o u n o r v erb in
A lcaeus fr. 42, in this p o e m th e ju d g e m e n ts ap p lied to H elen a n d
T h etis a p p e a r to b e ‘re p re se n ta tiv e ’. T h e sp eak er is p e rfo rm in g fo r a
lik e-m in d ed audience; h e h a s n o c o n tro v e rsial a rg u m e n t to m ak e, as
S tesichorus does very differently in th e P alin o d e, o r S ap p h o in fr. 16
(discussed below ). A lth o u g h th e frag m en t does n o t vividly co n ju re
u p a p e rfo rm a n c e co n tex t as d o som e o f A lca eu s’ songs (e.g. the
g reat h o u se all h u n g w ith a rm o u r in fr. 140), fr. 42 w o u ld surely be at
h o m e in a sy m p o tic co n tex t, p e rfo rm e d in th e c o m p a n y o f A lca eu s’
h e ta iro i.20
T h e e x ta n t frag m en t begins ‘as th e sto ry goes’ (©g ^oyog), a n d refers
to th e tra d itio n th a t T ro y w as d estro y e d because o f th e m a rria g e o f
P aris a n d H elen. A s is clear fro m th e S tesich o rean P alin o d e, in early
G re ek p o e try a lo g o s m a y o r m a y n o t ac c o rd w ith ‘h is to ric a l’ reality;
th e sp eak er does n o t ta k e re sp o n sib ility fo r th e ta le ’s v eracity .21 In the

19 H. Frankel, Dichtung und Philosophie des fruhen Griechentums: Eine geschichte der
griechischen Epik, Lyrik und Prosa bis zur M itte des funften Jahrhunderts, 2nd edn
(Munich: Beck, 1962), p. 169 n. 50; quoted in S. R. Slings, ‘The “I” in personal
archaic lyric: An introduction’, in Slings (ed.), The Poet’s ‘I ’ in Archaic Greek Lyric
(Amsterdam: VU University Press, 1990), pp. 1-30, esp. p. 1. Slings goes on to
argue for a more varied ‘I’ in early lyric, especially in Archilochus, which would
allow for a more autobiographical as well as a collective perspective.
20 So Blondell, ‘Refractions of Homer’s Helen’, pp. 353-4. See the pioneering
work of W. Rosler, Dichter und Gruppe: Eine Untersuchung zu den Bedingungen
und zur historischen Funktion fruher griechischer Lyrik am Beispiel Alkaios
(Munich: W. Fink, 1980), for the argument that Alcaeus composed exclusively
for his political/social circle at Mytilene. In my opinion, as that of most critics,
Rosler’s views are overly restrictive, but his work demonstrates that much of
Alcaeus’ corpus deals with contemporary concerns from the perspective of a self­
conscious hetairia.
21 A number of similar phrases in tragedy refer to things the speaker does not
know for sure, but which accord with the reality portrayed or discovered in the
course of the drama; cf. Aesch. Supplices 230, Eur. IT 532-4, Eur. Helen 18-19,
Eur. Phoen. 396. See again Beecroft, ‘This is not a true story’.
A lcaeus frag m en t, how ever, n o th in g speaks ag a in st th e p an h e lle n ic
lo g o s;22 ra th e r, th e so n g ’s final sta n z a confirm s th a t th e T ro ja n s ‘p e r­
ish ed [fighting] a b o u t H e le n ’ (lines 15-16). T h e audience is expected
to k n o w a n d accept this version o f th e tale, to u n d e rsta n d th e b an e fu l
effects o n P ria m ’s T ro y o f th e m a rria g e o f H elen a n d P aris, a n d to p ity
th o se w ho lo st th e ir lives a n d th e ir city fighting over h er. T h ey w o u ld
also agree w ith th e sp e a k e r’s e v a lu a tio n o f th e m arria g es (a n d w om en)
c o n tra s te d here: w hereas H e le n ’s u n io n w ith P aris p ro d u c e d only
d e stru c tio n fo r th e city o f T ro y , Peleus m a rrie d a ch aste a n d com ely
b rid e, w ho becam e th e m o th e r o f g re at A chilles.
A s critics h av e n o te d , th e sp eak er stops fa r sh o rt o f telling th e
w hole logos. H e does n o t m e n tio n th a t T h e tis’ g re at son A chilles w as
a m o n g th o se w ho p erish e d a t T ro y , a n d th a t h e h im self killed m an y
o f P ria m ’s so n s .23 M o re o v er, his audience m a y well k n o w th e story,
a tte ste d in th e C y p ria ,24 th a t th e w edding o f Peleus a n d T h etis m a rk e d
a b eg in n in g o f th e T ro ja n W ar: E ris p ro v o k e d a d isp u te a b o u t w hich
g oddess w as m o st b ea u tifu l, w hich led to th e Ju d g e m e n t o f P aris.
P ossible n a rra tiv e co n n e ctio n s betw een th e tw o m arria g es in th is song
are m an y , b u t th e p o e t elides th em , in p a r t b y using th e u n u su a l tro p e
o f d irect ad d ress to h elp h im focus a tte n tio n w here h e w an ts it.
V ery differently fro m th e S tesichorus P alin o d e, b u t also w ith
strik in g effect, A lcaeus addresses o n e o f his ch a ra c te rs in th e second
p erso n : ‘fro m y o u ( sk osBsv) [came?] a b itte r [end?] to P ria m a n d his
c h ild re n ’ (lines 1-4). H ere again, h e a p p e a rs to b e speaking w ith a n d
fo r his au d ien ce as to g e th e r th ey co n sid er th e sufferings o f P ria m ’s
fam ily a n d acknow ledge th e one resp o n sib le fo r th em . A n d quite
u n lik e th e tra d itio n th a t acco m p an ies S tesich o ru s’ P alin o d e, th e re is
n o reference h ere to a re a c tio n fro m th e c h a ra c te r addressed; th e ‘y o u ’
is a figure w ith in th e h isto rical n a rra tiv e , n o t a n im m a n en t im m o rtal.
T his ad d ressee is usu ally ta k e n to be H elen, acco rd in g to P a g e ’s
w idely ac cep ted su p p lem en t in line 3: n[ox’, ’'QA,sv’, ^ 0 s v ‘once, O
H elen , [a b itte r end] ca m e ’. T h e second p e rso n (osBsv), how ever, m ay
in ste a d refer to P aris, as E len a P a lla n tz a h a s lucidly a rg u e d .25 F o r th e

22 Blondell, ‘Refractions of Homer’s Helen’, pp. 353-4, proposes that this


distancing allows the sympotic audience to contemplate Helen without having to
confront her erotic beauty.
23 E.g. G. Liberman, Alcee: Fragments (Paris: Belles Lettres, 1999), 1.36;
Blondell, ‘Refractions of Homer’s Helen’, pp. 356-9.
24 Proclus, Chrestomathia 1.
25 Pallantza, Der Troische Krieg, pp. 28-34, accepts Wilamowitz’s supplement
naio[ xsXog ^IXoioiv at line 2. The main problem with her reading, as I see it, is
to reconcile ou xsamav (line 5), meaning that Peleus’ bride was ‘not such a one’
(as Helen), if Helen has not yet been mentioned in the poem. Pallantza, however,
builds a strong case on structural and stylistic grounds that there was at least a
sp eak er to focus o n P a ris ’ m isd eed m o re th a n H e le n ’s w o u ld a c co rd
w ith th e em p hasis in a n o th e r A lcaeus frag m en t th a t also deals w ith th e
fatefu l p a ir, in w hich th e h o st-b e tra y in g T ro ja n p rin ce is b lam ed fa r
m o re th a n th e w o m an fo r w h o m th e w a r w as fo u g h t (fr. 2 83.3-6 V ):26

k ’ A ^evag ev ox^ 0 [s]oiv [s]ra[ 6 aio s


Bu^ov Apys^ag Tpo'{©<i> S’ [e]n’ avS[pi
BK^avsioa £,[s.]vanaxa<i> ’n i n[ovxov
sonsxo v ai

a n d . . . [Eros? A p h ro d ite? Paris?] cau sed th e h e a rt in A rgive


H e le n ’s b re a st to flu tte r . . . driven m a d b y th e T ro ja n m a n , h o st-
deceiver . . . she follow ed [him] to sea in his ship.

A th ird A lcaeus frag m en t also p re sen ts a m o ralisin g view o f the


T ro ja n W a r th a t m a y shed light o n th e sp e a k e r’s p erspective in fr. 42.
F r. 298 V deals w ith th e ra p e o f C a s sa n d ra by L o c ria n A jax, a n d the
‘h isto ric a l’ tale clearly h o ld s a lesson fo r th e M y tile n ean p resen t. T he
first e x ta n t sta n z a offers advice p e rtin e n t to th e c o n te m p o ra ry situ a­
tio n o f singer a n d audience: it is b est to sham e a n d kill th o se w ho do
u n ju st th in g s. T o illu stra te his p o in t, th e sp eak er tu rn s to th e p a st,
saying th a t th e A c h aea n s sh o u ld h a v e killed A jax fo r his im p io u s
b e h a v io u r (Alc. fr. 2 9 8 .1 -5 ):27

Apa]oavxag aio%uv[...]xa xa ^ v S iK a
...]nv Ss nspPa^ovx’ [av]ayKa
au]%svi A,a[P]oM©i n.[..]av

^ ^av k ’] A xaloio’ ^g Ps^xspov


a i xov 0soP^]aPsvxa KaxsKxavov

d isg racin g th o se w ho did u n ju st deeds, a n d it is n ecessary to cast


a [noose] o n th e ir n eck a n d [kill] th e m b y stoning. T ru ly it w o u ld
h av e b een m u ch b e tte r fo r th e A c h aea n s if they h a d killed th e
sacrilegious m an .

(footnote 25 continued)
stanza before the start of the extant fragment, in which Helen could have been
mentioned.
26 A focus on Paris would also align the speaker with the Homeric tradition.
As Blondell, ‘Refractions of Homer’s Helen’, pp. 349-50, emphasises, no Homeric
male blames Helen for the war. As if pre-empting any reproach, she blames herself
- to Priam (Il. 3. 173-80), to Hector (Il. 6.344-58) and in the Odyssey to Menelaus
and Telemachus (4.145).
27 For this citation I use Campbell’s text and translation, slightly modified.
T his is fo llo w ed by a b ru ta l a c c o u n t o f A ja x ’ ra p e o f th e m a id e n as
she clasp ed th e statu e o f A th en a . H is im p io u s d eed tu rn e d th e goddess
ag a in st th e co n q u e rin g A c h aea n s because th ey d id n o t ta k e it u p o n
them selves to p u n ish th e evil-doer. T h e shipw recks th ey suffered as
a resu lt o f h e r w ra th (lines 24-45?) sta n d as a w arn in g to th e speaker
a n d his c o n te m p o ra ry audience a b o u t h o w they sh o u ld tre a t th o se
guilty o f sham eful deeds in th e ir ow n society. A lth o u g h th e p a p y ru s is
extrem ely fra g m e n ta ry a t th is p o in t, one o f th o se evil-doers is called
by his p atro n y m ic: ‘son o f H y rrh a s ’ (line 47): P ittac u s, arch-nem esis
o f A lca eu s’ h e ta iria .28
In fr. 42 as well, p a rtic u la rly if P aris is th e ‘y o u ’ b la m e d fo r th e
d e stru c tio n o f T ro y , th e sp eak er m a y be d ra w in g a n an alo g y to th e
p o litical w o rld h e shares w ith his fellow sym posiasts. P a ris’ tre a c h ­
ery, his illicit m a rria g e to H elen, c a u sed th e d e stru c tio n o f his ow n
fam ily a n d city. W h e th e r o r n o t this applies specifically to P ittac u s o r
som e o th e r enem y o f A lca eu s’ g ro u p ,29 th e resu lts o f evil deeds in th e
p a s t are clear, a n d th e sp eak er refers to a fam iliar logos to show th e
con seq u en ces o f actio n s th a t b re a k th e b o n d s o f tru s t a n d p ro p rie ty .

SAPPHO FR. 16 V30


o]i ^ev mrcnrov axpoxov oi Ss nsaSrov
oi Ss varov ^ a i a ’ sn[i] yav ^s^ai[v]av
s ] ^ s v a i KaMaaxov, syro Ss k^ v ’ ox-
xro Tig spaxai-

na]y%u S’ su^apsg auvsxov n o ^ a a i


n]avxi x[o]Ox’, a yap nspaK s0oiaa
Ka^^og [av0]p©nrov ’EA,sva [xo]v avSpa
xov .[ ap]iaxov

KaAl[moi]a’ Spa ’g Tpo'l'av n ls o i[a a


KrouS[s na]iSog ouSs 9 &rov xo[K]^rov
na[^nav] s ^ v a a 0 < n > , aA la n ap a y ay ’ a w a v
[ ]aav

28 See G. O. Hutchinson, Greek Lyric Poetry: A Commentary on Selected


Larger Pieces (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), pp. 215-27; the seminal
work of Rosler, Dichter und Gruppe, on Alcaeus’ use of mythical/historical
allegory for political purposes; and the careful analysis of this fragment by
Pallantza, Der Troische Krieg, pp. 47-56.
29 Pallantza, Der Troische Krieg, pp. 33-4 also discusses the likelihood that fr. 42
responds poetically to a contemporary situation in Mytilene.
30 The text is Voigt’s; the translation is Campbell’s, slightly modified.
[ ]a^rnov yap [
[ ]...Kou 9 ©gx[ ]or|.[.]v
..]^ s vuv AvaKxop^ag o]vs^vai-
o ’ ou ] napsom ag,

xa]g < k > s P o A lo ^ av spax 6 v xs P a ^ a


K a^apux^a M ^npov IS^v npooron©
^ xa AuSrov ap ^ a x a Kav o n lo io i
[nsoSo^]axsvxag.

[ ].^sv ou Suvaxov yevsoBai


[ ].v av0pron[..(.) n]sSexnv S’ apaoB ai

S om e say a h o s t o f cavalry, o th ers o f in fa n try , a n d o th ers o f


ships, is th e m o st b ea u tifu l th in g o n th e b la c k e a rth , b u t I say it
is w h atev er a p e rso n desires. I t is com pletely easy to m a k e this
u n d e rs to o d by everyone, fo r she w ho fa r su rp assed h u m a n k in d in
b ea u ty , H elen, left h e r m o st excellent h u s b a n d a n d w ent sailing
to T ro y , a n d she recalled n o t a t all h e r child o r d e a r p a re n ts, b u t
. . . led h e r a stra y . . . lightly . . . this calls to m y m in d A n a k to ria
w h o is n o t here. I w o u ld ra th e r see h e r d esirable fo o tste p a n d th e
b rig h t sp ark le o f h e r face th a n th e L y d ia n s’ c h a rio ts a n d th eir
in fa n try in a rm o u r . . . n o t p ossible to h a p p e n . . . h u m a n k in d . . .
p ra y to share in . . .

In th is m u c h -a d m ire d m asterp iece, th e sp eak er uses th e sto ry o f H elen


a n d P aris o v ertly to illu stra te h e r p ro p o sa l th a t th e k a llisto n , ‘fin est’,
‘m o st b e a u tifu l’ o r ‘b e st’, derives its value fro m th e ero s ‘d esire’ th a t
one feels fo r it. T his a p p ro a c h to th e H elen q u estio n is q u ite different
fro m th e c o m p a riso n o f tw o m arria g es in A lcaeus fr. 42, w hich looks
to co n sequences ra th e r th a n m o tiv a tio n . I t is n o w o n d e r th a t critics
o ften co m p a re these tw o w o rk s, b o th o f th em in S ap p h ic stro p h es,
alm o st as if th ey w ere in d ialogue w ith each o th e r .31
U n lik e th e re la tio n sh ip betw een sp eak er a n d aud ien ce th a t in fo rm s
th e A lcaeus frag m en t, th e sp eak er h ere does n o t assum e th a t h e r a u d i­
ence alre ad y shares h e r view th a t everyone considers fairest w h atev er
it is th a t th ey d esire .32 She needs to explain, a n d does so by recalling

31 E.g. G. W. Most, ‘Sappho Fr. 16.6-7 L-P’, Classical Quarterly 31 (1981), pp.
11-17; W. H. Race, ‘Sappho, Fr. 16 L-P. and Alkaios, Fr. 42 L-P.: Romantic and
classical strains in Lesbian lyric’, Classical Journal 85 (1989), pp. 16-33; Segal,
‘Beauty, desire, and absence’; Blondell, ‘Refractions of Homer’s Helen’.
32 A. Bierl, ‘Ich aber (sage), das Schonste ist, was einer liebt! Eine pragmatische
Deutung von Sappho Fr. 16 LP/V’, Quaderni Urbinati di Cultura Classica n.s. 74
a fa m o u s exam ple fro m th e p a st. A s G len n M o s t h a s nicely show n,
S ap p h o re cru its a figure w ith w h o m she ca n s u p p o rt h e r case th ro u g h
a u th o rity if n o t th ro u g h logical arg u m en t: w ho b e tte r th a n th e su p er­
latively b ea u tifu l H elen to p ro v e h o w th e k a llisto n is d eterm in e d by
desire ?33 L ed astra y (line 11), p re su m a b ly b y E ro s o r A p h ro d ite , H elen
left h e r excellent h u s b a n d to follow P aris to T ro y . In d o in g so, she
fo rg o t th o se w ho w ere n e a re st to h er, h e r p a re n ts a n d child. H e r ac tio n
exem plifies th e p rim a c y o f w h a t one desires.
In th e rh e to ric o f th e p o em , H elen is n e ith e r co n d e m n e d n o r
p ra is e d .34 H e r sto ry play s an epistem ological fu n c tio n , a n extrem e
a n d clear illu stra tio n o f th e sp e a k e r’s self-declared u n d e rsta n d in g o f
h u m a n values, by referrin g to a w ell-know n situ a tio n in th e sh ared
p a st. W e n o te d th a t in A lcaeus fr. 42 th e sp eak er p asses over th o se
p a rts o f th e log o s th a t m ig h t u n d e rc u t his m o ra l p o in t by suggesting
th a t in fa ct b o th m arria g es c o n trib u te d to th e d e stru c tio n a t T ro y .
S ap p h o even m o re bold ly elides a g re at p a r t o f th e fam iliar story. She
does n o t m e n tio n th e g reat w a r th a t w as th e consequence o f H e le n ’s
decision (if it ca n be called th a t) to follow P aris to T ro y . N o n eth eless,
th e e n o rm ity o f th a t w a r surely ad d s to th e im p act o f th e exam ple she
selects: even w ith so m u ch a t stak e, H elen fo u n d ‘b e st’ th a t w hich she
desired (o r w as m ad e to desire).
S ap p h o b rin g s to life H e le n ’s p o in t o f view, m ak in g h e r a tru e
subject, as m a n y co m m e n ta to rs h av e discussed. A t th e sam e tim e she
uses th is figure as a n an alo g u e, a p arallel to h e r o w n subjectivity - an d ,
she declares, to ev ery o n e’s. H e le n ’s p a s t ac tio n th u s illu m in ates th e
sp e a k e r’s p re se n t assertion.
T his o rig in al yet s tra ig h tfo rw a rd use o f th e p a s t tak es a n o th e r
tu rn , ho w ev er, w hen th e ‘I ’ says th a t H e le n ’s sto ry b rin g s to h e r m in d
th e ab se n t A n a k to ria , w hose lively b e a u ty she h erself values m o st
h ig h ly .35 H e le n ’s sto ry th u s tu rn s o u t to p ro v id e m o re th a n a n e x p la n ­
a to ry exam ple, fo r it triggers th o u g h ts o f th e sp e a k e r’s ow n situ atio n ,
w hich involves se p a ra tio n fro m th a t w hich is k a llisto n fo r her. T his
rev elatio n suggests th a t y earn in g fo r th e b ea u tifu l girl co lo u rs even th e
sp e a k e r’s self-assured p ria m e l .36

(2003), pp. 91-124, argues that the speaker, in the role of thiasos leader, models for
her youthful audience the values they should cultivate.
33 Most, ‘Sappho Fr. 16.6-7 L-P’, pp. 13-15.
34 Allan, Euripides: Helen, p. 13, argues on the contrary that Sappho condemns
Helen by mentioning everyone she left behind - husband, daughter, parents -
when she was led astray by Aphrodite.
35 Segal, ‘Beauty, desire, and absence’, p. 77, notes Helen’s ‘forgetting’ and
Sappho’s ‘remembering’.
36 H. C. Fredricksmeyer, ‘A diachronic reading of Sappho fr. 16 LP’, Transactions
o f the American Philological Association 131 (2001), pp. 75-86, argues for a
S a p p h o ’s sw eet-bitter situ atio n , h e r vivid m em o ry o f a n d longing
fo r ab se n t A n a k to ria , in tu rn leads to fu rth e r reflection o n th e senti­
m en ts o f c h a ra c te rs in th e H elen story. M ig h t H elen to o h av e re m e m ­
b ered , once they w ere gone, th e v alue o f w h a t she once ‘entirely
fo rg o t’ (fr. 16.11) - h e r d a u g h te r, h e r d e a r p a re n ts, h e r p a n a risto n
h u s b a n d (fr. 16.7-8)? C ertain ly th e H o m eric H elen voices th o se senti­
m en ts (Ilia d 3 .1 7 3 -5 ).37 T h e sp e a k e r’s o w n y earn in g fo r th e desirable
o n e w ho is ab se n t also recalls M en elau s, w hose d e p a rte d wife ‘fa r
su rp a sse d m a n k in d in b e a u ty ’ (fr. 16.6-7). T his w o u ld fo resh ad o w
A esch y lu s’ M en elau s in a c h o ra l song o f th e A g a m e m n o n , ra n g in g
d eso lately th ro u g h his p alace, beset w ith piercing m em ories o f H e le n ’s
b e a u ty (A g . 407).38
F ro m th e p erspective o f h o w a lyric ‘I ’ relates to th e p a st, w h a t
fascin ates m o st in this frag m en t is th e d y n am ic in te ra c tio n estab lish ed
betw een th e sp eak er a n d h e r ‘h isto ric a l’ subject. H e le n ’s fa m o u s
ac tio n , p a r t o f th e co m m o n p a s t o f singer a n d audience, is called u p o n
to ex p lain th e sp e a k e r’s p ro fessed value system . In tu rn th e p e rfo r­
m an ce situ a tio n (A n a k to ria is gone b u t vividly rem em b ered ) casts
lig h t b a c k o n to th e ac tio n s a n d feelings o f b o th H elen a n d M enelaus.
T h e p re se n t illu m in ates th e p a s t as m u ch as th e p a s t does th e presen t.

IBYCUS S151 PMGF 39


...]ai AapSav^Sa n p ia ^ o io ^s-
y ’ aa]TU nspiK^ssg oA pov ^vapov
’A py]o0sv opvu^evoi
Zn]vog ^ a ^ o i o Pou^alg

£,a]v0ag 'EA,evag nspi siSsi (5)


5^]piv noA m ^vov Sx[o]vTsg
no]^s^ov K ara [S]aKp[uo]svra,
n sp fy a ^ o v S’ avs[P]a raA,an^pio[v a ]ra
Xpu]aos0sipav S[i]a KunpiSa-

(footnote 36 continued)
‘diachronic’ reading of fr. 16, in which the audience’s response changes as the
poem progresses. This is a fruitful and reasonable approach and I follow here its
principles, but I disagree with Fredricksmeyer that the response moves from a
positive to a negative ethical reading of Helen.
37 On the resemblances between these two passages see Race, ‘Sappho, Fr. 16
L-P’, pp. 24-5, and Worman, ‘The body as argument’, p. 171.
38 This analogy is eloquently drawn by Worman, ‘The body as argument’, p. 168.
39 For this fragment I use Davies’ text and Campbell’s translation, slightly
modified.
vu]v Se ^oi ouxs £,sivanax[a]v n[ap i]v (10)
..] emBup.ov ouxs xav^o 9 ]up[ov
u^]v^v K aooavS pav
n p i]a ^ o i 6 xs nm Sag aAlou[g

T po^ag B’ u y inu^oio aArooi[^o]v


a^ ]ap avrovu^ov, oUSsn[ (15)
^p]©rov apsxav
u n ]sp a 9 avov oug xs K o^a[i

vasg] no^uy 6 ^ 9 oi e^suoa[v


T pot]ai KaK6 v, ^proag 8o0[^oug-
xrov] ^ev Kpstov A y a ^ 8 [^vrov ( 20 )
apxs n ,sio 0 [sv i]S ag Paoi^[su]g ayog avSprov
Axpeog 8o[0^ou n]aig 8Ky[o]vog.

Kai xa ^s[v av] M om ai o so o 9 i[o]^ 8vai


su 'EAAKrov^S[sg] 8 ^Pa^sv f ^ 6 yro[i,
0vax[o]gf S’ ou k [s]v av^p (25)
Sispog xa SKaoxa slnoi,

varov o[ooog api]0^og a n ’ AtiMSog


Aiyaiov Sia [n6 ]vxov a n ’ ’A pysog
^A,ti0 o[v 8g Tpo^a[v
innoxp 6 9 o[v, 8v S]s 9 ©xsg (30)

x]a^Kaon[iSsg, ui]sg Axa[i]rov-


x]rov ^ev np[o 9 ]spsoxaxog a[i]x^ai
....]. n 6 S[ag ©]Kug AxiAlsug
Kai M-s]yag T[s^a^]©viog aAxi[^og Alag
.....]...[......M .].u p o g - (35)

.........Ka^^i]oxog a n ’ Apysog
.........Kuavi]nn[o]g 8g ’'IAaov
[ ]
[ ]..[.]...

..................]a xpuo 6 oxpo^[og (40)


"YAlig Sy^vaxo, xroi S’ [a]pa T pro^ov
© osi xpuoov opsi-
xa^Kroi xpig a n s 9 0 o[v] ^Sn

Tprosg A[a]vao^ x’ 8p 6 [s]ooav


^ o p ^av ^ a ^ ’ emKov o^oiov.
xoig ^ev n sS a KaAlsog aiev
Kai au , no^uKpaxsg, K^sog a90ixov s£,sig
©g Kax aoiSav Kai s^ov K^sog.

. . . th ey d estro y e d D a rd a n ia n P ria m ’s g reat city, fa m o u s a n d


p ro sp e ro u s, setting o ff fro m A rg o s by th e p lan s o f g re at Z eus,
en d u rin g m u ch -su n g strife over th e b e a u ty o f b lo n d e H elen in
te a rfu l w ar; a n d ru in m o u n te d long-suffering P e rg a m o n because
o f th e g o ld en -h a ired C y p rian .
B u t n o w I d o n o t lo n g to h y m n P aris th e ho st-d eceiv er o r
slen d er-an k led C a ss a n d ra a n d P ria m ’s o th e r ch ild ren , o r th e
u n sp e a k a b le d ay w hen h ig h -g ate d T ro y w as c a p tu re d , a n d I will
n o t re c o u n t th e overw eening v a lo u r o f th e h ero es w h o m hollow ,
m a n y -b o lte d [ships] b ro u g h t as a n evil fo r T ro y , fine heroes. L o rd
A g a m e m n o n led th em , P leisth en id king, lead e r o f m en , fine son
b o rn o f A treu s.
In d e e d th e le a rn e d M uses o f H elico n m ig h t e m b a rk o n these
th in g s in story, b u t n o m o rta l m a n alive co u ld tell th e details,
w h a t n u m b e r o f ships cam e fro m A ulis across th e A eg ean sea
fro m A rg o s to h o rse -rea rin g T ro y , w ith b ro n ze-sh ield ed m en
o n th em , sons o f th e A ch aean s. T h e b est o f th e m w ith th e
sp ear [came] sw ift-footed A chilles a n d great, m ig h ty T ela m o n ian
A jax . . . fire . . .
T h e fairest fro m A rg o s cam e C y an ip p u s to Iliu m [descend­
a n t o f A d ra stu s, a n d Z eu x ip p u s, w h o m th e N aiad ] g o ld-belted
H yllis b o re [to P hoebus]; to h im T ro ja n s a n d D a n a a n s co m p a re d
T ro ilu s, as thrice-refined gold to orichalc, very sim ilar in his
lovely ap p e ara n ce.
In co m p an y w ith th e m y o u to o , P o ly crates, will h av e u n fa d in g
fam e fo r b ea u ty , as m y fam e to o fo r song.

A s tra n s m itte d in a seco n d -cen tu ry b ce p a p y ru s (P. O x y . 1790), this


song orig in ally co n sisted o f at least fo u r tria d s in a heavily dactylic
m etre. W e do n o t h av e th e beg in n in g o f th e p o em ; a fo u r-lin e stro p h e
(a n d p o ssib ly o n e o r m o re tria d s b efo re th a t40) is m issing a t th e to p o f

40 Hutchinson, Greek Lyric Poetry, p. 237, argues that the song must have begun with
a reference to the performance context in which Polycrates is being celebrated.
This would follow the marked tendency of early lyric to return to the opening
deictic situation after a mythological parallel, as shown by L. Edmunds, ‘Tithonus
in the new Sappho and the narrated mythical exemplum’, in E. Greene and M.
Skinner (eds), The New Sappho on Old Age (Hellenic Studies 38; Cambridge, MA:
Harvard University Press), pp. 58-70; it would also resemble the typical structure
of Pindaric and Bacchylidean epinicians (also largely triadic), for which Ibycus -
as Hutchinson notes - may be seen as a predecessor.
th e p a p y ru s, b u t th e fra g m e n t’s final line (48) is follow ed by a co ro n is,
so we can be co n fid en t th a t th e song w as in te n d e d to e n d there. T he
stru c tu re o f th e e x ta n t w o rk is rem a rk ab le: forty-five e x ta n t verses
d ealing w ith th e T ro ja n W a r - over h a lf o f th e m o n subjects th e
sp eak er says h e will n o t o r c a n n o t ad d ress - follow ed by th ree lines in
p ra ise o f P o ly crates, p re su m a b ly th e fa m o u s ty ra n t o f S am o s .41
Ib y c u s’ p o e m does n o t d isp u te th e p an h e lle n ic tra d itio n th a t H elen
w ent to T ro y , b u t n o b lam e is cast o n h er. A rgives a n d T ro ja n s fo u g h t
o v er h e r b e a u ty (eidos) b ecause o f th e ‘p lan s o f g reat Z e u s’ (line 4),
a n d th e G reek s d estro y e d T ro y ‘because o f th e g o ld en -h a ired C y p ria n ’
(8 -9 ).42 P aris is called a ‘deceiver o f his h o s t’ (x e in a p a ta n , 10) b u t
H elen is w holly passive; h e r b e a u ty is th e re aso n fo r epic struggle,
so rro w a n d fa m e .43
It is significant to n o te w hich aspects o f th e T ro ja n saga th e speaker
says h e h a s n o desire to sing. G lo rio u s th o u g h th ey m ay be in song, th e
events are all so rro w fu l a n d w earisom e: th e siege o f T ro y , th e tre a c h ­
ero u s P aris, C a ssa n d ra a n d th e o th e r ch ild ren o f P riam , th e d isastro u s
fall o f a g reat city, cau sed by th e a re te o f h ero es led by m agnificent
A g a m e m n o n (10-22). M o re o v er, h o w co u ld a n y singer reh earse all
this? T h e learn ed (a s a o 9 i[a]^evai) M uses m ig h t b e able to v en tu re
in to such a sto ry (23-4), Ib y cu s says, b u t n o m o rta l m a n co u ld tell th e
details (lines 2 5 -6 ).44
T his g en eral statem en t o n th e lim its o f p o etic accu racy a b o u t so v ast
a to p ic su b tly casts d o u b t o n th e ‘h isto ric a l’ accu racy a n d a u th o rity
o f H o m er. M o re o v er, as G . O. H u tc h in so n p o in ts o u t, th e d e c la ra ­
tio n o f h u m a n lim ita tio n is follow ed by a clear reference to th e Iliad ic
C a ta lo g u e o f Ships (lines 27-31), w hich th e epic b a r d p resen ts as a tour
de fo r c e a n d so m eth in g h e co u ld n o t d o w ith o u t h elp fro m th e M uses

41 L. Woodbury, ‘Ibycus and Polycrates’, Phoenix 39 (1985), pp. 193-220, esp.


p. 206, argues that this must be an erotic ode praising a young (still beardless)
Polycrates, before he has become famous, but this is not necessarily the case. In
a few Pindaric odes, for example, athletes in men’s (not only boys’) events could
be praised for their beauty: Epharmostos of Opus, a wrestler, was kalos when he
won at Marathon (Ol. 9.94), although it is possible that he was a boy at the time;
the pancratist Aristokleides of Aegina is kalos and does deeds that match his
appearance (N. 3.19).
42 Segal, ‘Beauty, desire, and absence’, p. 72: ‘Even her renowned beauty is
only part of a larger scheme.’
43 Blondell, ‘Refractions of Homer’s Helen’, p. 364, remarks that Helen ‘is
simply objectified - as she is by men in the Iliad - as the prize of male struggle’.
44 Blondell, ‘Refractions of Homer’s Helen’, pp. 366-7, argues that Ibycus is more
likely to be claiming here his (Muse-given?) ability to create epic verse. I agree
that the speaker is flaunting his skill at composing Homeric-sounding verse to
outdo even Homer, and that he does not intend to disparage his ability to bestow
everlasting praise on Polycrates. I would emphasise, however, that in doing so
Ibycus differentiates himself from, and undercuts, Homer’s vaunted authority.
(Il. 2 .4 8 4 -9 3 ).45 T h e lyric ‘I ’ h ere coyly disclaim s his desire o r ability
to re c o u n t th e grievous details a n d n o b le h ero es o f th e epic p a st, w hile
d e m o n stra tin g his ab ility to sp eak o f th em in a style th a t co u ld well be
called h y p e r-H o m e ric .46 T his includes th ree lines o f h o n o rific ep ith ets
fo r th e m ag n ificent lead er A g a m e m n o n son o f A tre u s (2 0 -2 ),47 as well
as such fa m iliar tag s as ‘sons o f th e A c h a e a n s’ (31) a n d even ‘sw ift­
fo o te d A ch illes’ (33).
A ce rta in d isp ara g em en t o f H o m eric h ero ism ca n even be h e a rd
w hen th e a re te o f th e ‘n o b le h e ro e s’ is called h y p era p h a n o n (16-17).
T h e term , a tte ste d only tw ice in early epic, is u sed o f u n u su ally violent
fighters: th e th ree H u n d re d -H a n d e rs, u n s p ^ a v a xsKva ‘overw eening
c h ild re n ’ o f G a ia a n d O u ra n o s (T h e o g o n y 148-50), a n d th e overw een­
ing (unspn^avsovxsg), h u b ristic E p ean s w ho once p lo tte d ag a in st the
k in g d o m o f N eleus (Ilia d 11.692-5).
B y p assing (th ro u g h p ra e te ritio ) a n a c c o u n t o f th e grievous w ar
th a t b ro u g h t fam e a n d d e stru c tio n to th o se fighting over H e le n ’s
b ea u ty , th e sp eak er tu rn s in stead to th e b e a u ty o f th ree y o u n g w a r­
rio rs; tw o o f th em are n o t even m en tio n e d b y H o m e r, w hile the
th ird receives h a lf a lin e .48 It tu rn s o u t th a t th e w a r th a t w as fo u g h t
fo r H e le n ’s b e a u ty (H e len ’s eid o s, line 5), w ith its d isastro u s c o n ­
sequences fo r T ro y , also served as a display g ro u n d fo r m asculine
com elin ess .49
U n lik e th e eid o s o f H elen, th e b e a u ty o f A rgive C y an ip p u s,
Z eu x ip p u s th e son o f H yllis a n d A p o llo ,50 a n d T ro ja n T ro ilu s -
a lth o u g h it m u st h av e b een ob serv ed o n th e b attlefield 51 - causes n o

45 My discussion of meta-poetics in this fragment has been enriched by


Hutchinson, Greek Lyric Poetry, pp. 235-56, esp. pp. 236, 249-50 and 254-5.
46 See also Blondell, ‘Refractions of Homer’s Helen’, p. 367.
47 B. C. MacLachlan, ‘Personal poetry’, in D. E. Gerber (ed.), A Companion to the
Greek Lyric Poets (Leiden: Brill, 1997), pp. 133-220, esp. p. 194 (citing Willein),
however, notes that his epithet ayog avSprov ‘leader of men’ (line 21) with a simple
change of accent would become ayog avSprov ‘accursed of men’.
48 Priam describes Troilus as inmoxap^qv ‘chariot-fighter (?)’, as he lists his brave sons
who were killed by Achilles (Iliad 24.257); the death of Troilus was also mentioned
in the Cypria (Procl., Chrest. 1). See Woodbury, ‘Ibycus and Polycrates’, p. 204;
E. Krummen, ‘Alcman, Stesichorus and Ibycus’, in F. Budelmann (ed.), The
Cambridge Companion to Greek Lyric (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
2009), pp. 184-203, esp. pp. 201-2.
49 Cf. Blondell, ‘Refractions of Homer’s Helen’, pp. 369-70: ‘Helen’s beauty, the
cause of heroic but “tearful” warfare, is displaced in favor of an appreciation of
male beauty that transcends hostilities, uniting Greeks and Trojans in harmonious
admiration.’
50 On the identity of these two Greeks and the restoration of this passage see J.
P. Barron, ‘Ibycus: To Polycrates’, Bulletin o f the Institute o f Classical Studies 16
(1969), pp. 119-49, at pp. 130-1.
51 As Blondell, ‘Refractions of Homer’s Helen’, p. 372 observes from a different
perspective.
strife. O n th e c o n tra ry , th e sp eak er goes o u t o f his w ay to say th a t b o th
sides ag reed o n th e ir relativ e b ea u ty , using a ra th e r e la b o ra te analogy:
th e T ro ja n T ro ilu s w as to th e G re e k Z eu x ip p u s as trip le-p u rified gold
is to o ric h a lc .52
J u st as we h e a r n o th in g o f H e le n ’s m o tives o r actio n s, we h e a r
n o th in g o f deeds p e rfo rm e d by th e th ree y o u n g w a rrio rs. I t is n o t
fo r a re te as w a rrio rs th a t they ea rn everlasting kle o s, b u t ra th e r fo r
o u tsta n d in g loveliness o f fo rm ; it is th is q u ality th a t th e sp eak er (in
im p lied c o n tra s t to H o m er) chooses to sing. T his leads, o f course, to
th e p ra ise o f th e c o n te m p o ra ry h o n o ra n d , P o ly crates, to w h o m th e
sp eak er p ro m ises k le o s a p h th ito n fo r his b e a u ty like th a t o f th e b e a u ti­
ful h ero es o f T ro y (lines 4 6 -8 ).53 A t th e sam e tim e, h e p re d ic ts sim ilar
k le o s fo r him self, b ecau se o f his (b eau tifu l) so n g .54
T h e fa m o u s H elen, it tu rn s o u t, is a foil fo r th e speaker. She
serves as his en tree in to th e re la tio n sh ip o f b e a u ty to p ra ise -p o etry .
T h ro u g h o u t th e p o em b e a u ty is th e sp a rk o f fam e, b u t th e re la tio n sh ip
b etw een th e tw o develops in u n ex p ected w ays. A t first we learn th a t
H e le n ’s b e a u ty p ro v id e d th o se w ho w ent to T ro y w ith a n occasio n fo r
fam e; th e n a tte n tio n shifts to th e m o st b ea u tifu l o f th o se w ho fo u g h t
th ere, w h e th e r G re e k o r T ro ja n . T h e ir a p p e a ra n c e gives rise only to
p ra ise fro m th o se w ho see th em , frie n d a n d foe alike. U n e n d in g fam e
fo r b e a u ty will also com e to P o ly crates, th e singer pro m ises - ju s t as
h e h im self will h av e k le o s fo r his song, a song th a t self-consciously
d ifferentiates itself fro m H o m eric n a rra tiv e .

CONCLUSION
In these texts, th e lyric ‘I ’ co n ju res u p a p a s t th a t raises q u estio n s,
in clu d in g in te n tio n a lly o r n o t q u estio n s a b o u t versions a n d seg­
m en ts o f th e H elen sto ry th a t are n o t m en tio n ed , o r n o t accepted,
in th e c u rre n t song. T h e fa m iliar yet am b ig u o u s H elen is a h is to ri­
cal figure im plicitly sh ared w ith th e audience, a n d serves as a p o in t

52 On the comparison of the two metals, and men, see Woodbury, ‘Ibycus and
Polycrates’, pp. 201-3.
53 MacLachlan, ‘Personal poetry’, pp. 193-4, points out the inherent dangers
in beauty, with the mention of Helen, Aphrodite and Cassandra, and suggests
that this may look ahead, as if prophetically, to the troubles that will come about
because of beautiful Polycrates. But Ibycus avoids any hint of dangers coming
from masculine beauty, a topic he certainly could have opened up in connection
with the guest-deceiver Paris.
54 I am persuaded by the arguments of Woodbury, ‘Ibycus and Polycrates’,
pp. 203-5, and Hutchinson, Greek Lyric Poetry, pp. 253-5, to follow Wilamowitz
in removing the stop attested at the end of line 46; thus the speaker promises
‘immortal fame for beauty’ to Polycrates as well as Zeuxippus and Troilus.
o f co n ta c t, a baseline fro m w hich to define th e sp e a k e r’s in te n t in
each so n g .55
T o sum m arise very briefly: S tesichorus changes his tu n e, we are
to ld , w hen H elen blin d s h im fo r slan d erin g h er. In an y case, his
P alin o d e q u estio n s th e a u th o rity o f th e T ro ja n logos, a n d suggests te n ­
sions betw een p an h ellen ic a n d local versions o f a story: is H elen a h is­
to rica l m o rta l o r a n im m o rta l goddess? A lcaeus in tu rn uses H e le n ’s
m a rria g e to P aris to co m m en t o n h u m a n ju stic e a n d th e dire co n se­
quences o f illicit b eh av io u r: co n te m p o ra rie s sh o u ld learn fro m h isto ry
n o t to to le ra te evil-doers w ho th re a te n th e c o m m u n ity ’s w elfare. T h e
sp eak er in S ap p h o fr. 16 explains h e r c o n te n tio n th a t ero s determ ines
w h a t is m o st highly v alu ed by p o in tin g to H e le n ’s relative v a lu a tio n o f
P aris a n d M en elau s. Vice versa, she casts light o n th e lo n g -p ast in n er
w o rld o f H elen a n d M en elau s th ro u g h h e r ow n experiences o f b e a u ty
a n d absen ce in th e p resen t. Ibycus claim s th a t h e will n o t, o r c a n n o t,
reh earse th e d isastro u s a n d g lo rio u s tale o f T ro y , a fight fo r H e le n ’s
b ea u ty , a n d tu rn s in ste a d to o th e r b ea u tie s a t T ro y , y o u n g w a rrio rs
w hose fam e will b e m a tc h e d b y th e b ea u tifu l P olycrates.
Such in te ra c tio n s w ith th e p a s t are n o t entirely different fro m w h a t
early G re e k p ro se h isto ria n s d o ;56 h isto ry is inescap ab ly w ritten fro m
th e p re se n t situ a tio n o f th e h isto ria n a n d his audience, a n d is o ften
u sed to shed light o n c u rre n t issues .57 B u t a m o n g m a n y o th e r generic
d istin ctio n s, we h av e seen th a t th e lyric ‘I ’ allow s itself m o re freed o m
to co m m en t o n analogies betw een p a s t a n d p re se n t th a n does th e h is­
to rio g ra p h ic a l (o r in d eed th e epic) n a r ra to r, a n d m a y even be fo u n d to
iro n ise itself in so doing. N o r does th e sp eak er in lyric affect to efface
h im self o r h erself in telling o f th e p a st, b u t play s a p ro m in e n t role in
sh ap in g it in view o f th e p e rfo rm a n c e situ atio n . T h e lyric ‘I ’ th u s c o n ­
ju re s u p th e ‘h isto ric a l’ H elen n o t only to h elp explain, blam e o r p ra ise
events in th e p a s t b u t also to illu m in ate, a n d p e rh a p s to ju stify , the
co n tex t o f th e p re sen t song.

55 I do not mean to imply that the performance situation is not to some degree
constructed, let alone invariable in reperformances of the song.
56 See again Marincola, ‘Herodotus and the poetry of the past’, and Boedeker,
‘Early Greek poetry as/and history’, for extended discussion.
57 See K. Raaflaub, ‘Ulterior motives in ancient historiography: What exactly, and
why?’, in L. Foxhall, H.-J. Gehrke and N. Luraghi (eds), Intentional History:
Spinning Time in Ancient Greece (Stuttgart: Steiner, 2010), pp. 198-210, for an
overview of the question of ancient historians’ motives.
STESICHORUS AND IBYCUS: PLAIN
TALES FROM THE WESTERN FRONT

Ewen Bowie

T h e co n cep tio n s a n d p ercep tio n s o f th e ir p a s t fo u n d in b o th in d iv id u ­


als a n d co m m u n ities are very freq u en tly re la te d to p la c e .1 T h a t this
w as so in m a n y places in th e G re e k w o rld o f th e R o m a n em pire is clear
fro m (e.g.) P lu ta rc h ’s life o f T heseus, w hich is rep lete w ith references
to a rch aic a n d classical A th e n ia n to p o g ra p h y , a n d o n a m u ch larg er
scale P a u s a n ia s ’ G uide to H e lla s. T his so rt o f w ritin g d id n o t even
yet exist, fa r less survive, fo r m a in la n d G reece o f th e a rch aic p erio d ,
th o u g h th e ev ocative p o w e r o f p lace n am es is extensively ex p lo ited
in th e H o m eric po em s, a n d b y such references as th a t o f th e S p a rta n
elegiac p o e t T y rtae u s to Ith o m e ,2 o r by an u n k n o w n elegiac p o e t fro m
L a c o n ia to T ay g etu s a n d P la ta n is to u s .3 T h ere can be little d o u b t
th a t in G re ek co m m u n ities th ro u g h o u t m a in la n d G reece, th e islands
a n d A sia M in o r, o ra l tra d itio n s a b o u t th e p asts o f these c o m m u n i­
ties w o u ld o ften b e a tta c h e d to places o r m o n u m en ts. F o r exam ple,
th e m o n u m e n t to ‘T h e S even’, n o w k n o w n to h av e existed in A rgos,
p ro b a b ly as early as th e sixth cen tu ry , w o u ld h av e been a ca ta ly st fo r

1 See above all P. Nora, Les lieux de memoire I-III (Paris: Gallimard, 1984-92).
For the Scottish ambience of the conference on which this volume is based one
could adduce the associations of the Agricolan two-legion camp at Inchtuthill
and the associated fortification of Cleaven Dyke; Macbeth’s fortress on the top of
Dunsinan(e); the Cistercian Abbey at Coupar Angus; Bannockburn; Mary Queen
of Scots and the palace of Holyrood; Greyfriars Bobby.
2 q^sTsproi PaaiXqi, 0soiai ^IXroi ©sonogram, | ov Sia Msaaqvnv siXo^sv
supu%opov,| Msaaqvr|v aYa0ov ^sv apow, aYa0ov Ss 9 UTsUsiv-| a^q>’ auT^v S’
s^a%ovT’ evvsa Kai S s k ’ s t ^ | vroXs^srog aisi TaXaai^pova 0u^ov s%ovTsg | ai^qTai
naTsprov q^sTsprov naT8psg-| siKoaT&i S’ oi ^sv KaTa mova spYa XinovTsg | qisvyov
TOro^airov s k ^sYaXrov opsrov, Tyrtaeus fr. 5 West.
3 mv’ oivov, t o v e^oi Kopu^qg ano TquYsToio | a^nsXoi qvsYKav, Tag eqm Tsua’ o
Ysprov | otipsog ev Pqaaqiai 0soiai ^IXog ©soTi^og, | s k nXaTaviaTowTog ^u%pov
uSrop enaYrov.| to C mvrov ano ^sv xaXsnag aKsSaasig ^sXsSrovag,| 0ropqx0sig S’
sasai noXXov eXa^poTspog, Theognidea 879-84; cf. E. L. Bowie, ‘Wandering
poets, archaic style’ in R. L. Hunter and I. C. Rutherford (eds), Wandering Poets
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), pp. 105-36, at p. 117.
stories a b o u t th e ex p ed itio n ag a in st T hebes by A rgive w a rrio rs o f the
h ero ic a g e .4
I t is a co ro lla ry th a t w hen sections o f co m m u n ities w en t to settle on
new a n d o ften very d ista n t sites som e local tra d itio n s co n cern in g th eir
m etro p o lis w o u ld b e likely to fade a n d even p erish , w hile o th ers re la t­
ing to th e p ro cess a n d lo c a tio n o f re settlem en t w o u ld grow u p . W ith in
a few g en eratio n s th e sto ried p a s t o f a n anoiKla m ig h t acq u ire a quite
different p rofile fro m th a t o f its m etro p o lis. Such h a s ce rtain ly been
m y experience in b o th th e U n ite d S tates a n d A u stra lia; Lew is a n d
C la rk are h ero ise d in St L o u is a n d in W a sh in g to n S tate, N e d K elly h as
p rid e o f place in a rt galleries in C an b erra.
I h a d h o p e d , th ere fo re , in setting o u t to co m b , n o t fo r th e first tim e,
th e surviving frag m en ts o f som e a rch aic G re ek p o ets, th a t som ething
w o u ld em erge th a t ch im ed w ith this p a tte rn . I m u st a d m it a t this p o in t
th a t I fo u n d m u ch less th a n I h o p ed . T his in itself p e rh a p s invites an
e x p la n a tio n , w hich I shall a tte m p t w hen concluding.
I w as en c o u rag e d in m y e x p lo ra tio n , how ever, by th e case o f early
n a rra tiv e elegy. A s I h a v e discussed m o re th a n o n ce ,5 several
early elegiac p o e ts seem to h av e n a rra te d a t som e len g th b o th the
early a n d th e m o re recen t h isto ry o f th e ir cities: som e - M im n erm u s,
X e n o p h an es, Io n o f C hios - to u c h e d o n m ig ra tio n ea stw ard s fro m
m a in la n d G reece to th e islands a n d A sia M in o r; a n o th e r, S em onides
o f A m o rg o s, o n w e stw a rd m o v em en t b a c k fro m th e ea ste rn A egean,
Sam os, to th e w estern A egean, A m o rg o s. T y rta e u s’ E u n o m ia p re ­
sen ted a different so rt o f co lo n isatio n , th a t o f co n q u e re d M essen ia by
ex p a n sio n ist S p a rta .6 M ig h t so m eth in g sim ilar b e discovered fo r the

4 For the early (? sixth century bce) commemoration of the Seven at Argos cf.
A. Pariente, ‘Le monument argien des “Sept contre Thebes”’, in M. Pierart (ed.),
Polydipsion Argos: Argos de la fin des palais myceniens a la construction de l’etat
classique (BCH Supplement 22; Paris: de Boccard, 1992), pp. 195-225. Note also
the later Argive statues of the Seven at Delphi, Pausanias 10.10.3; on Argos’ sixth-
century presentation of its role in the Trojan War see E. L. Bowie, ‘Sacadas of
Argos’, in A. Moreno and R. Thomas (eds), Epitedeumata: Essays in Honour o f
Oswyn Murray (forthcoming).
5 E. L. Bowie, ‘Early Greek elegy, symposium and public festival’, JH S 106
(1986), pp. 13-35; E. L. Bowie, ‘Ancestors of Herodotus in early Greek elegiac and
iambic poetry’, in N. Luraghi (ed.), The Historian’s Craft in the Age o f Herodotus
(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), pp. 45-66; E. L. Bowie, ‘Historical
narrative in archaic and early classical Greek elegy’, in D. Konstan and K. A.
Raaflaub (eds), Epic and History (Malden, MA, and Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell,
2010), pp. 145-66.
6 My reconstruction of the form of such early elegiac narratives has recently been
challenged by J. Grethlein, The Greeks and Their Past: Poetry, Oratory and History
in the Fifth Century b c e (New York and Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
2010), but whatever the form of the poems, it is indisputable that their content
included some narrative of ‘colonisation’.
west? H ere we h av e n o such elegiac p o e try - th e p ossible re aso n fo r
th is is so m eth in g I shall discuss elsew here - a n d fo r traces o f p ro to -
h isto rical n a rra tiv e we m u st tu rn to m elic p o etry . T h ere m y tw o test
cases are S tesichorus o f H im e ra a n d Ib y cu s o f R hegion.

STESICHORUS
I s ta rt w ith S tesichorus, a m elic p o e t co m p o sin g lo n g po em s, seem ­
ingly fo r p u b lic p erfo rm an c e, a n d in m y view p e rfo rm a n c e b y a
Xopog, a ro u n d 570 b c e .7 T h e first p e rfo rm an c es o f these c h o ral w orks
w ere p ro b a b ly in his o w n city, H im era , th e G re ek settlem ent th a t lay
fu rth e st w est o n th e n o rth co a st o f Sicily, o r in o th e r G re ek cities o f
Sicily o r S o u th Italy , th o u g h one p a p y ru s frag m en t v ario u sly ascrib ed
to S tesich o ru s (by L o b el a n d W est) a n d Ibycus (by P age a n d D avies)
h a s been a rg u ed to be designed fo r p e rfo rm a n c e in a S p a rta n con-
te x t .8 T o w hichever o f these tw o p o ets th a t frag m en t is ascribed, it
does n o t a lte r th e general p ictu re. S tesich o ru s’ n a rra tiv e m a te ria l is
overw helm ingly d ra w n fro m th e sam e ra n g e o f G re ek m y th o lo g y
th a t circ u lated in th e cities o f o ld G reece a n d th a t w as in m a n y cases
dev elo p ed to en h a n ce th e p a s t o f o n e o f these cities. T h e T ro ja n W a r
p ro v id es S tesichorus w ith his larg est g ro u p o f poem s. T h e A rg o n a u ts,
T h eb es, th e C aly d o n ia n b o a r are likew ise tra d itio n a l them es. P erh a p s
th e G eryo n eis, th e m elic epyllion in w hich H eracles steals th e cattle
o f th e th re e -h e a d e d G e ry o n , resid en t o f th e H e sp e rid islan d E ry th eia
in th e o cean b ey o n d T arte ssu s/C ad iz , h a d especial in tere st fo r an
au d ien ce living in H im e ra o n a tra d e ro u te fro m th e ea ste rn a n d
c e n tral M e d ite rra n e a n to S pain. B u t th ere is n o h in t in th e p o e m ’s
surviving frag m en ts (ad m itted ly only a sm all p ro p o rtio n o f w h a t was
orig in ally p ro b a b ly m o re th a n 1,800 lines) th a t its p o e t b ro u g h t Sicily
in to his s to ry :9 c o n tra s t th e C acus sto ry in V ergil’s A e n e id B o o k 8 .

7 My arguments are very briefly stated in E. L. Bowie, ‘Performing and re-performing


Helen: Stesichorus’ Palinode’, in A. M. Gonzalez de Tobia (ed.), Mito y
performance: De Grecia a la modernidad (La Plata: Centro de Estudios de Lenguas
Clasicas, 2010), pp. 385-408. Among other scholars who still accept the traditional
classification of Stesichorus’ melic poetry as entirely or predominantly for choral
first performance is E. Cingano, ‘L’opera di Ibico e Stesicoro nella classificazione
degli antichi e dei moderni’, A.I.O.N. 12 (1990), pp. 189-224.
8 P.Oxy. 2735 fr. 1 = SLG and Davies Ibycus S166, Campbell Ibycus 282A.
9 For a good study of the presentation of Geryon in the poem of Stesichorus see
M. Lazzeri, Studi sulla Gerioneide di Stesicoro (Naples: Arte tipografica, 2008).
I have not been persuaded by the arguments of C. Franzen, ‘Sympathizing with
the monster: Making sense of colonization in Stesichorus’ Geryoneis’, QUCC 121
(2009), pp. 55-72, that Stesichorus’ sympathetic representation of the western
monster Geryon was intended to appeal to indigenous elements in his Sicilian
audiences, but that there will have been some such elements seems likely. For
D u rin g th e so n g-dance p e rfo rm a n c e o f this p o e m a n d th e o th ers th a t
h a n d le d tra d itio n a l G re e k m y th , n e ith e r p e rfo rm ers n o r audiences
in Sicily - u nlike, fo r exam ple, th o se o f A lc m a n ’s first P a rth en e io n
- w ere c o n fro n te d w ith elem ents o f th eir c o m m u n ity ’s p a st, a t least
as fa r as we ca n tell. B ut o f co u rse we h av e to w o rk w ith very sm all
sam ples o f w h a t th ere once w as. A d m itte d ly S tesichorus w as n o to ri­
ous in H ellen istic sch o larsh ip fo r his in n o v a tio n in m y th ic al d e ta il :10
b u t th ere is n o sign th a t this tw eak in g w as d o n e to ac c o m m o d a te his
stories to th e perspectives o f a w est G re ek audience. In d e e d it m ig h t
ra th e r be a rg u e d th a t h e chooses som e cen tral, tra d itio n a l G re ek
m y th s in o rd e r to em phasise th e G reek n ess th a t th e settlers in Sicily
a n d S o u th Ita ly sh ared w ith th e ir m etro p o leis in m a in la n d G reece a n d
th e islands.
O n e g ro u p o f S tesich o ru s’ p o em s co n stitu te s a n exception. T hree
p o em s a ttrib u te d to h im in a n tiq u ity h a d as th e ir them es u n h a p p y
love-stories th a t h av e n o re la tio n to th e m a in b o d y o f G re ek m y th o l­
ogy. A ll th ree h av e b een declared sp u rio u s, initially by H . J. R o se , 11
fo llo w ed by P age a n d D avies in th e ir ed itio n s (1962 a n d 1991). B ut
th e ir asc rip tio n to S tesichorus h a s b een convincingly d efen d ed by
L uigi L e h n u s .12 T h e po em s are as follow s.
(1) T h e C a lyce (fr. 277 P M G F , q u o te d by A th en a eu s 14.619D).
T his p o e m is a b o u t a girl, Calyce, w ho p ra y e d to A p h ro d ite to be
able to m a rry a y o u n g m a n , E u a th lu s, a n d w ho th rew h erself o ff the
L e u c a d ia n ro c k w hen h e tu rn e d h e r dow n. T h e L e u c a d ia n ro c k , in th e
Io n ia n sea, gives th e sto ry a w estern b u t still m a in la n d G re ek setting.
A th en a eu s cites th e fo u rth b o o k o f A risto x en u s nspi ^ouoiK^g fo r
its c o n te n t, a n d fo r its sung p e rfo rm a n c e by w om en: ^iSov, 9 n ° i, ai
ap x aiai yuvaixsg Ka^uK^v xiva ©iS^v .13
(2) T h e R h a d in e (fr. 278 P M G F , q u o te d b y S trab o 8.3.20) c o n ­
cerns a girl w ho w as sent o ff to be b rid e to a ty ra n t o f C o rin th a n d

(footnote 9 continued)
the complexity of the cultural situation in Sicily see A. Willi, Sikelismos: Sprache,
Literatur und Gesellschaft im griechischen Sizilien 8.-5. Jh. v. Chr. (Basel: Schwabe,
2008).
10 See P.Oxy. 2506 (= Stesichorus fr. 193 PMGF = Chamaeleon fr. 29 Wehrli) citing
Chamaeleon for the form of the Palinode, but registering other innovations of
content too.
11 H. J. Rose, ‘Stesichoros and the Rhadine-fragment’, CQ 26 (1932), pp.
88-92.
12 L. Lehnus, ‘Note Stesicoree: I poemetti “minori”’, SCO 24 (1975), pp.
191-6.
13 Aristoxenus’ use of the word yuvaiKsg suggests that the poem was not a
partheneion but for singing by a group of married women, but perhaps the term
should not be pressed. We might also wonder whether the unhelpful adjective
apxaiai conceals an ethnic: AKpayavTivai? A^ppaKiroxiKal?
w as p u rs u e d to C o rin th by a co u sin w ho h a d fallen in love w ith her.
T h e ty ra n t killed th em b o th a n d sent th e ir bodies b a c k o n a c h a rio t,
b u t la te r re p e n te d a n d b u rie d them . S trab o cites th e first tw o lines,
specifying h elp fully th a t they are th e p o e m ’s ap%q:

ays M o u o a Mysi’ ap£,ov aoiSag f spaxrov u^vougf


Za^lrov n sp i nalSrov spaxai 9 0 syyo^sva M p a i

S trab o goes o n to asso ciate th e sto ry w ith a p lace called S am os in


Elis, n o tin g th a t it w as th e w est w ind, Z ep h y ro s, th a t h a d c a rried
R h a d in e ’s ship, a n d h ence she w as n o t o n a voyage fro m A egean
S am os. P au san ias, how ever, n o tes a to m b o f R h a d in e a n d h e r lover
L eo n tich u s precisely o n th e islan d o f S am os, o n th e ro a d leading to
th e tem p le o f H e r a .14 P erh a p s S tesichorus to o k a n E a st A egean story
a n d re lo c a te d it n e a re r Sicily. B ut it still h a s little to do w ith th e p a s t
o f H im era . I t m ay ju s t be relev an t, how ever, th a t th e b a d guy in th e
sto ry is a ty ra n t o f C o rin th . I t h a d been colonists fro m C o rin th w ho
fo u n d e d Syracuse; a n d w hen H im e ra w as fo u n d e d by Io n ia n Z ancle
(c. 648 BcE) th e settlers w ere jo in e d by som e exiles fro m S y racu se .15
Som e citizens o f H im e ra m ig h t h av e h a d access to o ra l tra d itio n s
a b o u t a to m b o f R h a d in e a n d L eo n tich u s a t C o rin th .
(3) T h e D a p h n is. I offer b o th th e tex t a n d a tra n sla tio n o f A elian,
V aria H isto r ia 10.18:

A a^viv xov Pouko^ov ^syouoiv oi ^sv spro^svov 'Ep^ou, aAAoi


Ss uiov- to Se o v o^a sk xou au^pavxog oxsiv. ysvso0ai ^sv auxov
sk N u^^ng, xsxBevxa Ss 8Kxs0^vai sv Sa^vfl. Tag S’ u n ’ auxou
PouKo^ou^evag Poug ^ ao iv aSsA^ag ysyovsvai xrov H M ou, ©v
O ^ n p o g 8v ’OSuoos^g ^s^vnxai. PoukoATOv Ss Kaxa x^v ZiKsMav 6
Aa^vig, ^ p ao 0 n auxou v u ^ n M^a, Kai © ^ n o s KaA© ovxi Kai vs©
Kai nproxov unnv^x^, sv0a xou xpovou ^ xapisoxaxn soxiv ^Pn xrov
Kadrov ^siparirov, ©g nou 9 n ° i Kai "O^npog. auv0^Kag Ss snm nos
^ n S s^ia aAlfl n ln o ia o a i auxov, Kai sn n n s ^ n o s v oxi nsnpro^svov
soxiv auxov oxspn0^vai x^g oysrog, sav napaPfl- Kai sixov unsp
xouxrov p^xpav npog aA A ^oug. xpov© Ss uoxspov Paoi^srog 0uyaxpog
spao0sm ng auxou oivro0sig s^uos x^v o ^ o A ^ a v Kai s^^no^aos xfl
Kopfl. sk Ss xouxou xa PouKo^iKa ^s^n nproxov fio0n, Kai sixsv
uno0soiv to na0og to Kaxa xoug o ^ a A ^ o u g aw o u . Kai Z r ^ x o p o v
ys xov 'I^spaiov x^g xoiauxng ^-s^onouag m ap£,ao0ai.

14 Paus. 7.5.13.
15 Thuc. 6.5.
D a p h n is th e co w -h erd is said by som e to h av e b een th e ero m en o s
o f H erm es, a n d b y o th ers to h av e b een his son, a n d to h av e go t his
n a m e fro m th e circu m stan ces o f his b irth - h e w as th e child o f a
n y m p h , a n d o n his b irth h e w as ex p o sed in a lau rel b u sh (daphne).
A n d th ey say th a t th e ca ttle te n d e d by h im w ere sisters o f th o se o f
th e S un, w hich H o m e r m en tio n s in th e O d yssey. W hile D a p h n is
w as ten d in g his ca ttle in Sicily, a n y m p h fell in love w ith h im a n d
h a d in terc o u rse w ith him , since h e w as h a n d so m e a n d y o u n g a n d
g ro w in g his first b e a rd , a t w hich p o in t th e p rim e o f b ea u tifu l
y o u n g boys is a t its m o st attra ctiv e , as in d eed H o m e r also says.
She m a d e a co m p a c t w ith h im th a t h e w o u ld n o t h av e sex w ith
a n y o th e r w o m an , a n d th re a te n e d th a t it w as fa te d th a t h e w o u ld
b e d ep riv ed o f his sight if h e b ro k e th e agreem ent. A n d th ey h a d
a c o n tra c t w ith each o th e r a b o u t this. B u t la te r a princess fell in
love w ith him , got h im d ru n k , so th a t h e b ro k e th e agreem ent
a n d h a d sex w ith h er. A n d it w as o n th e basis o f this th a t bucolic
[cattle-tending] songs w ere first sung a n d h a d as th e ir th em e w h a t
h a p p e n e d to his sight. A n d (they say?) S tesichorus o f H im e ra
in itia te d th is so rt o f sung p o etry .

H ere we are firm ly o n Sicilian te rrito ry . T h e sto ry o f D a p h n is w as


p ick ed u p several tim es by th e S y racu san p o e t T h eo c ritu s in his
bu co lic h e x a m e ter poem s. In his m o st ex ten d ed tre a tm e n t, Id y ll
1.64-9, T h eo c ritu s seem s to lo cate th e sto ry o n th e slopes o f E tn a:
D a p h n is ’ w oes, a^ysa, are sung b y a sh ep h erd , T h y rsis o f E tn a , a n d
T h y rsis co m p lain s th a t, w hen D a p h n is w as dying, th e n y m p h s w ho
m ig h t h av e saved h im w ere n o t by th e rivers o f ea ste rn Sicily, the
A n a p u s a n d th e Acis:

0 u p o ig oS’ ©2, Alxvag, Kai 0upoiSog aS sa ^rova.


n a tcok’ a p ’ ^ o 0 ’, oKa Aa^vig exaKsxo, n a noKa, N u ^ a i ;
^ Kaxa nnvsiro Ka^a xs^nsa, ^ Kaxa ffivSro;
ou yap S^ noxa^olo ^syav p 6 ov slxsx’ Avanro,
ouS’ Alxvag oKoniav, ouS’ AKiSog ispov uSrop.
apxsxs PouKo^iKag, M o lo ai 9 & ai, apxsx’ aoiSag

T h is is T h y rsis fro m E tn a , a n d sweet is T h y rsis’ voice.


‘W h erev er w ere you, tell m e, w hen D a p h n is w as w asting,
w herever, nym phs?
W ere y o u in th e fa ir glens o f th e P eneus, o r w ere y o u in th o se o f
P indus?
F o r y o u w ere n o t dw elling in th e m ig h ty strea m o f th e river
A n a p u s,
n o r o n E tn a ’s p e a k , n o r in th e sacred w a te r o f th e Acis.
B egin th e co w h e rd ’s . . . begin, d e a r M uses, th e song.

In T h eo c ritu s I d y ll 7 .7 2 -5 , h ow ever, th e D a p h n is sto ry is set n e a r


H im era:

o Ss T xupog 8yyu0sv ao sl
©g noKa xag Hsvsag ^p aooaxo Aa^vig o Pouxag,
x©g opog a ^ s n o v s lx o Kai ©g Spusg auxov 80p^vsuv
'I^ sp a aixs ^Uovxi n a p ’ oxBaioiv noxa^olo

A n d T ity ru s will sing n e a rb y


h o w once X e n ea k in d led th e desire o f D a p h n is th e cow herd,
a n d h o w th e m o u n ta in voiced distress all a ro u n d , a n d h o w o ak s
lam en ted h im ,
o ak s w hich grow b y th e b a n k s o f th e riv er H im eras.

W e c a n n o t tell w h e th e r T h eo c ritu s knew th e D a p h n is sto ry in tw o


versions, one lin k ed to H im e ra a n d th e o th e r to E tn a , o r only in one
H im e ra n v ersion th a t h e consciously re lo c ated in I d y ll 1, ju s t as he
seems co n scio u sly (if enigm atically) to h av e ch a n g ed th e n a tu re o f
D a p h n is ’ fa ta l affliction. T h a t th e S y racu san p o e t re lo c a te d a n E tn a
v ersio n in H im e ra is th e least likely ex p lan a tio n ; so I d y ll 7 offers som e
su p p o rt fo r th e h y p o th esis th a t a story a b o u t D a p h n is w as lin k ed to
H im e ra b efo re T h eo critu s.
A v ersio n re la te d to H im e ra is also a tte ste d b y Servius, giving
C efalu as th e lo catio n o f D a p h n is ’ sad end: ab ira ta n y m p h a (in this
v ersio n called N o m ia ) a m a tric e lu m in ib u s o rb a tu s e st dein d e <in>
la p id em versus. n a m a p u d C e p h a lo e d ita n u m o p p id u m s a x u m d ic itu r
esse, q u o d fo r m a m h o m in is o ste n d it (‘h e w as d ep riv ed o f his sight by
th e n y m p h w ho lo v ed h im , a n d w h o m h e an g ered , a n d th e n tu rn e d
to stone. F o r in th e to w n o f C ep h alu th ere is said to be a ro c k w hich
h a s th e sh ap e o f a m a n ’) .16 O ne can co m p a re a version ascrib ed to
u n n a m e d w riters b y th e scholiast o n T h eo c ritu s w ho d istinguishes th e
v ersio n o f a (p ro b ab ly ) th ird -c e n tu ry tra g e d ia n S ositheus, ap p a re n tly
fro m Syracuse, w ho calls th e n y m p h T h a le ia a n d h a s D a p h n is p in in g
to d e a th , fro m a v a ria n t acco rd in g to w hich D a p h n is, b lin d ed , w a n ­
d ered o v er a cliff to his death : oi Ss Aoinol ^ a o i xu^^roB^vai auxov Kai
a A ^ s v o v KaxaKpn^vioB^vai .17 B u t th ere w as also a version lo catin g

16 Servius on Verg. Ecl. 8 .68.


17 Z Theoc. 8.93, citing Sositheus TrGrF, p. 821 N2.
th e tale o f D a p h n is in th e H e ra e a n hills o f c e n tra l Sicily, to ld by
D io d o ru s o f Sicilian A g y rrh iu m .18
A d m itte d ly th e re rem ain s som e g ro u n d fo r d o u b tin g w h eth er
S tesichorus to ld th e D a p h n is sto ry a t all. T h e version in A elian is
alm o st id en tical w ith th a t o f P a rth e n iu s, sproTiKa n a0^^aT a 29, w hich
th e m a n c h e tte a ttrib u te s to th e Sicilian h isto ria n T im a e u s .19 L ig h tfo o t
ju s tly observes th a t th e last sentence o f th e A elian passag e, usually
ta k e n to m ean th e sto ry w as sung by S tesichorus, says sim ply th a t he
in itia te d ‘singing like th is ’, a n d th a t ‘th is ’ a rg u a b ly refers to ‘bucolic
so n g s’. N e ith e r she n o r N igel W ilso n in his L o eb A elian, V aria
H is to r ia , raises th e p ro b le m o f th e last sentence h a v in g a n infinitive,
undp£,aa0ai, as its only visible v e rb .20 I rem a in u n c e rta in as to w h a t
‘th is so rt o f sung p o e try ’ refers, b u t I re ta in a sh red o f credence in a
S tesich o rean D a p h n is b ecau se o f th e H im e ra n co n n ectio n s a tte ste d
b y T h eoc. 7 .7 2 -5 a n d Servius. T his is p a rtly because th e re is also o th e r
evidence th a t H im e ra figured in a t least som e co n tex t in S tesich o ru s’
p o e try . V ibius S equester says o f th e riv er H im era s th a t gave its n am e
to th e city: h o c flu m e n in d u a s p a r te s fi n d i a it S tesich o ru s, u n a m in
T y rrh e n u m m are, a lia m in L ib y c u m d ecu rrere (‘S tesichorus says th a t
th is riv er splits in to tw o p a rts , a n d th a t o n e flows in to th e T y rrh e n ia n
sea, th e o th e r in to th e L ib y a n ’) .21
T h a t th e D a p h n is story w as to ld by S tesichorus in som e re la tio n to
H im era seem s, th en , very p ro b a b le . W h e th e r h e p re se n te d it as a p a rt
o f H im e ra ’s p a s t we c a n n o t be sure. T h e noKa o f T h eo c ritu s 7.73 is n o t
th ere in A e lia n ’s f a u x - n a i f version o f th e story, a n d even if it w ere it
w o u ld n o t b e u n a m b ig u o u sly diag n o stic - th o u g h co m p a re th e use o f
noTs in S tesichorus fr. 223 P M G F , co n cerning T y n d a re u s’ fateful om is­
sion o f A p h ro d ite in a sacrifice. I f th e tale o f D a p h n is h a s an y b earin g
o n H im e ra ’s co n stru c tio n o f its id en tity , it m ay be m o re to do w ith
issues arising fro m th e re la tio n s o f th e settlers w ith earlier in h a b ita n ts
o f th e q u ite sm all H im era n p lain , o r w ith c u rre n t in h a b ita n ts o f its hilly
b a c k -c o u n try , th a n w ith th e p a st o f th e im m ig ran ts them selves.

IBYCUS
T h e rem ain s o f Ibycus o f R h eg io n are only a little m o re illu m in atin g ,
b u t th a t little is a large little. M o st, if n o t all, o f Ib y c u s’ h a n d lin g o f

18 D.S. 4.84.
19 Timaeus FGrHist 566 F83.
20 J. L. Lightfoot, Parthenius o f Nicaea (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1999), pp.
526-30.
21 Vibius Sequester, De fluminibus fontibus etc., p. 15 Gelsonino; cf. Himerius, Or.
27.27: rqv 'I^spav . . . XoYoig Koa^si ZTnat%opog.
m y th seems n o t to h av e been in long, self-standing tre a tm e n ts like
th o se o f S tesichorus b u t in co m p ariso n s o r p r a e te r itio n e s in praise-
p o em s, o f w hich th a t fo r P o ly crates is th e b est a n d m o st fam o u s
ex a m p le .22 H e re o n S am os, as in th e frag m en t o f a p o e m a rg u e d to be
d esigned fo r a S p a rta n c o n te x t ,23 th e ra n g e o f m y th is ‘s ta n d a r d ’: in th e
P o ly crates p o em , T ro y ; in th e o th e r, C a s to r a n d P olydeuces, H eracles,
Io lau s, Peleus a n d (p e rh ap s th e single w hiff o f th e W est) G e ry o n .24 As
I h av e a rg u e d elsew here, th e em p h asis th a t A jax a n d A chilles w ere
th e g reatest w a rrio rs a t T ro y (S 151.32-4) m ay b e a n e n d o rsem en t o f
a claim b y Ib y c u s’ h o st P o ly crates, son o f A eaces, to h av e a n A eacid
p a s t going b a c k to A eacus a n d his g ra n d s o n s .25 O edipus a n d In o also
figure in som e e ro tic p o em s k n o w n fro m a p a p y ru s c o m m e n ta ry .26
T h e P o ly crates p o e m rem in d s us th a t som e o f Ib y c u s’s po em s w ere
first co m p o sed fo r audiences in th e A egean. I t is only ra rely possible
to ju d g e w h en a p o e m belongs th ere , a n d w hen b a c k in his n ativ e
R h eg io n o r o th e r cities o f th e w estern G reeks. B u t a p a p y ru s c o m ­
m e n ta ry o n Ib y cus a n d o th e r lyric p o ets h a s p ro v id e d som e tan talisin g
detail. S220 D avies = 282B C am p b ell begins as follow s:

[ vjp^^a- oiov xrop[


[ ].s Taig vu[^] 9 aig .[
[ ].ai Kpovfou nTUxai 9 a[
[ K]poviov ev A sovuvoig [..].[
[ nu]Kv&g sp x sa 0 a i tov (5)
[ ]t . tcots ^ev Kuvnys-
[ ] sm S s^ a v ca Toig
[ ]xropa[ ] Kai Ta
[ ].v xaXsnov
[ sJuKoXov 9 naiv ( 10 )
[ ].a ..• nXsiov
[ ].<xi Suaa-
[ ].[ ]g au x a yXu -
[Kspa ]a a iS^rog av-
[ ]Tig SXnig tou (15)
Y]XuKspa au-

22 S151 SLG and PMGF , = 282(a) Campbell, to which G. O. Hutchinson,


Greek Lyric Poetry: A Commentary on Selected Larger Pieces (Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 2001), is an excellent introduction.
23 P.Oxy. 2735 fr. 1 = Ibycus S166-S219 SLG and PMGF, Ibycus 282A
Campbell.
24 S176.18 SLG and PMGF = 282A viii 18 Campbell.
25 Bowie, ‘Wandering poets’.
26 S222 SLG and PMGF = 282B (iii) Campbell.
xjsl Kaux[axai .... s]Amg- ^ ouxrog- yAu-
Kspa yvv[sxai ^ Kauxn]oig sav snixu-
xni- ainsp[ ]v noSrov- ©o-
n sp Kai o.[ n 6 S]ag sv x^i a0A[^-
o si snav[ ]Pni ysysv [
o yap vik [ ]k .[.].[
novouSi[
avayivro[oK-
vag aSnA[ (25)
xsurov a.[ no-
Auv y.syso[0 a i
oiv aux.[
iv’ ouxrog SsKa[
Bog ylvsxai on[ s- (30)
nixuxni.

T h ere is n o t space in this c h a p te r to explore all th e m a n y p ro b lem s o f


th is fra g m e n t .27 T h e p a p y ru s c o m m e n ta to r seems to b e sure th a t the
‘glens o f K ro n io s ’ (Kpovfou rauxaO are in th e te rrito ry o f L eo n tin i,
w hich o f co u rse extends to w a rd s th e u n d u la tin g slopes o f E tn a T hese
co u ld sim ply be a b a c k d ro p fo r h u n tin g ( 6 , noxs ^sv Kuvnys-) b y a
y o u n g la u d a n d u s fro m Ib y c u s’ c o n te m p o ra ry w o rld , a n d th e p o em
co u ld be, as B a rro n suggested, a p ro to -e p in ic ia n . B u t th e presence o f
a n y m p h m ig h t give us p au se. T h e p o em w as co m p o sed fo r p e rfo r­
m an ce in six th -cen tu ry Sicily, b u t th e n y m p h suggests m y th ic al tim e.
A p h ra s e a little la te r in th e c o m m e n ta ry h a s b een th o u g h t b y som e
to describe th e eagle th a t c a rrie d o ff G a n y m e d e ,28 a sto ry we kn o w
th a t Ib y cu s to ld in a p o e m ad d ressed to a G o rg ia s .29 T h e c o m m e n ta ­
to r h ere is discussing a p o e m to C allia s ,30 b u t cross-refers to a n o th e r
p h ra se o f Ib y cus (S223(a) col. ii 6 -7 D avies = 282B (iv) fr.5, col. ii 6 -7
C am pbell):

’'I]PuKog sxspro
]av.[ ].o xBovog sg
..].[..]av Pa0[uv a ]sp a xa^vrov

27 In the papyrus text (http://163.1.169.40/gsdl/collect/POxy/index/assoc/HASH0


13e/bd7befec.dir/POxy.v0032.n2637.a.01.hires.jpg), note how S220 is immediately
followed by a lemma headed KaAAlag, presumably an eromenos.
28 S223(a) 6-7 SLG and PMGF = 282B (iv) Campbell.
29 Fr. 289 (a) PMGF = scholiast on Apollonius Rhodius 3.114-17.
30 For the name see the papyrus, S221 PMGF = 282B (ii) fr.1(a) 32-42
Campbell.
I f th e reference o f Pa0[uv a]sp a T&^vrov to G a n y m e d e ’s eagle is co rrect,
th e n it is likely th a t th e p h ra se com es fro m th a t p o em to G o rg ia s. As
I h av e a lre ad y suggested elsew here, 31 th e n a m e G o rg ia s is u n u su a l
en o u g h fo r an an c esto r o f th e la te r fifth -cen tu ry G o rg ia s to h av e
som e claim to be its b e a re r in this p o e m o f Ibycus. T h e fam ily o f th a t
G o rg ia s cam e fro m L eo n tin i. M ig h t th e first surviving p a r t o f th e
co m m en tary , assertin g L eo n tin i as th e lo catio n o f th e ‘glens o f Z e u s’,
be a co m m e n ta ry o n Ib y c u s’ p o e m to G orgias? I f so, it m a y h av e
been discussing a v a ria n t o f th e a b d u c tio n o f G a n y m e d e, re lo c ated
o n th e slopes o f E tn a to offer a p a ra d ig m fo r Ib y c u s’ fan tasies a b o u t
a b d u c tin g th e (p resu m ab ly ) ep hebic G o rg ia s. 32
W h e th e r an y o f this sp ecu latio n , if co rrect, w o u ld give us a n Ibycus
singing o f L e o n tin i’s p a s t is a n u n an sw e rab le qu estio n . T h e m y th o s
co u ld h a v e been so to ld th a t it v a lid a te d th e id ea th a t G re ek y o u th s
a n d G re e k gods co u ld h av e b een fo u n d in ea ste rn Sicily in th e p e rio d
o f th e T ro ja n W a r, a n o tio n th a t w o u ld chim e w ith tra d itio n s o f
G reek s a n d T ro ja n s re ach in g th e w est in th e w a r’s a fte rm a th . F o r th e
p o ssib le a p p e a ra n c e o f such tra d itio n s in S tesichorus a n d Ibycus, we
m ig h t co m p a re th e scene o n th e ad m itte d ly m u ch la te r T a b u la Ilia ca
lab elled M io^vog. A iv^ag analprov sig t^ v E a n s p la v . 33
O ne o th e r frag m en t o f Ib y cu s a tte s te d by th e sam e p a p y ru s refers
to C h alcid ian s, a co lo n y a n d o a th s (S227 P M G F = 282B (viii) fr. 7
C am p b ell): 34

].OT.[
[ ] XaXKiSsrov[
[ lg nponYn[
[ ] a n o m a a .[
[ ]opKia no[ (5)
[ ]vrog ku^[
[ 8]ni Toig o ^ [ a a i
[ K]opuaasTai Ss[
[ Kop0]psTai ^s[T]sro[p^sTai
[ ]og o n o 0 og.[ ( 10 )
[ ] 9 n aiv o.[
[ ls (?ro[..].[

31 Bowie, ‘Wandering poets’.


32 It is also possible, but in my view less likely, that the presence of a nymph
indicates that here Ibycus is offering a Leontini version of the Daphnis story: the
Acis is very much a Leontini river.
33 Cf. C. M. Bowra, Greek Lyric Poetry (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1935,
revised 1961), pp. 104-6; N. M. Horsfall, ‘Stesichorus at Bovillae’, JH S 99 (1979),
pp. 26-48.
34 S227 PMGF = 282B (viii) fr. 7 Campbell.
L ike th e o th e r po em s th a t are c o m m en ted u p o n in th e p a p y ru s this
to o seem to involve desire (cf. line 10 , n60og): b u t it is h a r d n o t to tak e
th e first five lines as referrin g to th e fo u n d a tio n o f som e C h alcid ian
co lo n y , w ith Ib y c u s’ R h e g iu m th e p rim e ca n d id a te. So th o u g h t
M o sin o in 197 5 .35 T o m e h e seems likely to be rig h t in his suggestion
th a t th is p a r t o f this p o e m is a b o u t R h e g iu m ’s co lo n isatio n .
H e re a t last, th en , we h av e a tin y scrap o f evidence o f m elic p o e try
by o ne o f th e tw o g reat w estern p o ets, S tesichorus a n d Ibycus, th a t
to u ch es o n them es th a t seem to h av e been tre a te d in th e A egean by
several elegiac p o e ts - M im n erm u s, X e n o p h an es, Io n o f C hios - a n d
by A rc h ilo ch u s in tro c h a ic te tra m e te rs as well as in elegy .36 W h a t I
h av e fo u n d h a s b een so little as to c o n stitu te a n eg ativ e result.
W h y h a s th is re su lt been negative?
G e n re is, I suppose, th e m o st im p o rta n t fa c to r. Ib y c u s’ love po em s
b rin g in m y th ic al o r h isto rical figures as p ara d ig m s o r c o m p a ra n d i ,
a n d n o ex ten d ed a c c o u n t o f fo u n d a tio n o r early settlem ent w o u ld be
a p p ro p ria te . S tesich o ru s’ po em s re q u ire a different so rt o f e x p la n a ­
tio n . T h ey are p e rh a p s o f th e sam e so rt o f len g th as M im n e rm u s’
S m y r n e is , a n d very p ro b a b ly p e rfo rm e d fo r th e sam e so rt o f civic
au d ien ce. B u t they are, I suggest, aim ing consciously to b e p an h ellen ic
in a w ay th a t Io n ia n elegy o f th e seventh ce n tu ry did n o t. A s B u rk ert
a rg u ed , S tesichorus saw h im self in c o m p e titio n w ith p e rfo rm e rs o f
H o m eric h e x a m e te r p o e try . H is po em s co u ld be p e rfo rm e d anyw here,
a n d p e rh a p s th ey w ere. T h ey w ere certain ly k n o w n to A eschylus
in A ttic a a ro u n d 458 b ce a n d to audiences o f A risto p h a n e s’ P ea ce
a ro u n d 421 b c e .37 F ro m m y p o in t o f view, to d a y , it is a g re at p ity th a t
h e w as n o t m o re p a ro c h ia l, like A lcm an o r C o rin n a: if h e h a d b een h e
w o u ld h av e been ra th e r m o re h elp in re co n stru ctin g h o w early sixth-
c e n tu ry H im e ra p erceived its p ast.

35 F. Mosino, ‘La fondazione di Reggio in un frammento di Ibico?’, Calabria


Turismo 25/6 (1975), pp. 23ff.
36 For an attractive argument that Archilochus’ Telephus poem appealed to a
mixed population of Parian settlers on Thasos and an earlier population involved
in a cult of a Phoenician Heracles, see C. Nobili, ‘Tra epos ed elegia: Il nuovo
Archiloco’, Maia 61 (2009), pp. 229-49.
37 For knowledge of Stesichorus in Athens in the fifth century see now C. Carey,
‘Alcman from Laconia to Alexandria’, in L. Athanassaki and E. L. Bowie (eds),
Archaic and Classical Choral Song (Berlin: de Gruyter, 2011), pp. 437-60, at pp.
457, 459.
PINDAR AND THE RECONSTRUCTION
OF THE PAST

Maria Pavlou

T h e p a s t h o ld s a c e n tral a n d p ro m in e n t p o sitio n in P in d a r’s p o e try


as a w hole. E ven his E p in ic ia n s , w hose o v erarc h in g co n c ern is th e
p ra ise o f c o n te m p o ra ry v icto rs, are rich rep o sito ries o f local tra d itio n s
a n d m y th s w ith a w ider g eo g rap h ic a n d cu ltu ra l scope. T h e P in d a ric
p a s t covers a v ast p e rio d w hich spans fro m th e very beginnings a n d
fo rm a tio n o f th e w o rld u p to th e P ersian W a rs a n d c o n te m p o ra ry
reality . N o n eth eless, th e g reat m a jo rity o f P in d a r’s stories co n cern
illu d te m p u s ,1 th a t is, th e re m o te m y th ic al p a st. T his said, it sh o u ld be
n o te d th a t P in d a r m ak es n o g re at d istin c tio n betw een w h a t we w o u ld
n o w a d ay s call sp a tiu m m y th ic u m a n d s p a tiu m h isto ricu m . H e never
disp u tes th e h isto ricity o f th e m y th ic al p e rio d , b u t endow s m y th ical
d a ta a n d h isto rical events w ith eq u al v a lid ity .2 A telling exam ple o f his
o u tlo o k is th e recital o f an cien t T h e b a n stories w hich o pens Isth m ia n
7 a n d w hich fu n c tio n s as ‘a n ep ito m e o f T h e b a n h is to ry ’, as Y o u n g
ap tly called i t .3 H ere P in d a r begins w ith a reference to D e m e te r a n d

Thanks go to John Marincola for his invitation to the Leventis Conference, and to
the audience there for their suggestions and remarks; also to the J. F. Costopoulos
Foundation for its generous financial support, which enabled me to conduct the
research for this chapter. Last but not least I thank my PhD supervisor, Robert
Fowler, for many stimulating discussions on the notion of time in Pindar.

1 The phrase was first used by M. Eliade, The Myth o f the Eternal Return, tr. W.
R. Trask (New York: Pantheon Books, 1954), in order to indicate the sacred time
of origins when the world was first created.
2 On the Greek view of myth and history see among others C. Brillante, ‘History
and the historical interpretation of myth’, in L. Edmunds (ed.), Approaches to
Greek Myth (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1990), pp. 91-140, at
pp. 93ff; T. Harrison, Divinity and History: The Religion o f Herodotus (Oxford:
Clarendon Press, 2000), pp. 197-207.
3 D. C. Young, Pindar Isthmian 7: Myth and Exempla (Leiden: Brill, 1971),
pp. 16-18. On the cluster of myths that opens Isthm. 7 see, among others,
R. Sevieri, ‘Cantare la citta: Tempo mitico e spazio urbano nell’ Istmica 7
di Pindaro per Strepsiade di Tebe’, in P. A. Bernardini (ed.), Presenza e
funzione della citta di Tebe nella cultura greca: A tti del Convegno Internationale,
D io n y so s a n d th e ir re la tio n sh ip to T hebes, p rogresses to T h e b a n
h ero es, a n d finally com es d o w n to his ow n tim e th ro u g h a reference to
th e T h e b a n A egeidai, th u s linking m y th a n d h isto ry in a co n tin u u m .
W h a t sh o u ld be stressed a t th e o u tse t is th a t P in d a r’s m y th ic al d eto u rs
are n o t g en e rated by his desire to re p o rt th e p a s t p e r s e , b u t ra th e r
serve as a k in d o f eulogistic device. B eing a n en co m iast, P in d a r’s aim
is to p raise, extol a n d glorify c o n te m p o ra ry victors. A ccordingly, his
n a r ra tio n o f th e p a s t is alw ays trig g ered by th e c u rre n t occasio n a n d
seeks to in te rp re t fo rm s a n d in stitu tio n s o f th e p re sen t; in o th e r w ords,
th e re c o n stru c tio n o f th e p a s t in P in d a r is first a n d fo rem o st p re sc rip ­
tive a n d e x p la n a to ry .4 F u rth e rm o re , this is th e re a so n w hy m o st o f
th e stories h e n a rra te s refer to th e b irth o f h ero es, th e co lo n isatio n o f
cities, th e estab lish m en t o f h e ro cults, ritu a ls a n d ath letic gam es, a n d
o th e r in v e n tio n s .5 W h ereas som e o f these ac co u n ts h a d a p an h ellen ic
a p p e al (e.g. th e m y th o f H eracles), P in d a r’s self-ex h o rtatio n in N e m .
3.31 to ‘search a t h o m e ’ (ofcoBsv ^axsus) u n d e rp in s th e w hole epini-
cian co rp u s; as a resu lt, m o st o f his m a te ria l is derived fro m local lore
a n d is asso ciated , in o n e w ay o r a n o th e r, w ith th e v ic to rs’ fam ily a n d /
o r th e ir h o m e tow ns.
In w h a t follow s, I will a tte m p t to exam ine a few aspects o f this
in tric a te a n d fa scin atin g P in d a ric ep in ician p a s t .6 M y discussion will
be div id ed in to tw o p a rts. In th e first p a r t I will focus o n th e te m p o ­
ra l p ersp ectiv e o f P in d a r’s n a rra tiv e s a n d th e re la tio n sh ip h e tries
to estab lish betw een p a s t a n d p resen t. I will th e n research P in d a r’s
sources: m o re p artic u la rly , I will c o n c e n tra te o n th e w ay in w hich
h e acq u ires his in fo rm a tio n a b o u t th e p a s t, w ith p a rtic u la r em phasis
o n his co m m en ts a n d views o n th e tran sm issio n o f th e p a st a n d the
reliab ility o f tra d itio n .

(footnote 3 continued)
Urbino 7-9 Luglio 1997 (Pisa and Rome: Istituti editoriali e poligrafici
internazionali, 2000), pp. 179-92; P. Agocs, ‘Memory and forgetting in
Pindar’s Seventh Isthmian’, in L. Dolezalova (ed.), Strategies o f Remembrance:
From Pindar to Holderin (Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars, 2009), pp. 33-91.
4 G. Huxley, Pindar’s Vision o f the Past (Belfast: Author, 1975), p. 43.
5 Birth of heroes: Iamos (Ol. 6.35-45); Aristaios (Pyth. 9.59-65); Asklepios (Pyth.
3.38-46). Foundation/colonisation of cities: Pyth. 4, 9 (Kyrene); Ol. 7 (Rhodes).
Institution of athletic games: Ol. 10 (Olympic games); Nem. 9 (Nemean games).
Cults of heroes: Ol. 1; on allusions to hero cults in Pindar see B. Currie, Pindar and
the Cult o f Heroes (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005).
6 Even though scholars tend to examine Pindar’s epinician and cult poems
together, the way in which Pindar treats time and establishes the relationship
between past and present in these two poetic genres differs considerably. On this
see M. Pavlou, ‘Past and present in Pindar’s religious poetry’, in A. P. M. H.
Lardinois, J. H. Blok and M. G. M. van der Poel (eds), Sacred Words: Orality,
Literacy and Religion (Orality and Literacy in the Ancient World 8 ; Leiden: Brill,
2011), pp. 59-78.
1 LOCATING THE PAST IN THE TIMELINE
O n e strik in g th in g a b o u t P in d a r is his d isreg a rd fo r p lacin g events in a
te m p o ra l fram ew o rk . F o r in stan ce, h e n ev er specifies th e in terv al th a t
sep arates th e m o m e n t o f th e n a r ra tio n a n d th e m o m e n t o f th e story.
T h e tra n s itio n fro m th e p re se n t to th e p a s t is u su ally m a d e th ro u g h
th e indefinite c o n ju n ctio n s to ts , o ts a n d especially tcots, follow ed by a
relativ e p r o n o u n .7 D esp ite th e vagueness o f th e ab o v e co n ju n ctio n s,
P in d a r show s n o p a rtic u la r in tere st in p ro v id in g a so m ew h at m o re
specific lo catio n o f events in th e sphere o f th e p ast. A s a resu lt, events
are alw ays p re se n te d as ‘flo a tin g ’ in a k in d o f ‘ageless p a s t ’.8 E ven
in th e case o f recen t h isto rical events, w here a m o re precise c h ro n o l­
ogy co u ld be easily p ro v id e d , P in d a r p refers to lo cate these events by
em p lo y in g th e indefinite noTs in lieu o f a m o re specific te m p o ra l term .
In P y th . 3, fo r exam ple, th e v ictory o f H ie ro n ’s h o rse P h eren ik o s,
w hich o cc u rre d ju s t a few years b efo re th e co m p o sitio n o f th e ode, is
said to h av e ta k e n place ‘once u p o n a tim e ’ (sXsv . . . tcots, 74 ).9
A sim ilar stance is a d o p te d in re la tio n to th e v ario u s te m p o ra l levels
w ith in a p a rtic u la r m y th ical story. N o t only does P in d a r rad ically alter
th e o rd e r a n d ch ro n o lo g ic al sequence o f events, b u t h e also refrain s
fro m d esig n atin g th e ir ex ten t a n d d u ra tio n . In fact, in m a n y cases th e
tra n s itio n fro m one te m p o ra l level o f a sto ry to th e o th e r is achieved
th ro u g h th e re p e titio n o f th e indefinite tcots. In Ol. 7, fo r instance,
in line 30 noTs refers to th e p e rio d o f th e c o lo n isatio n o f R h o d es by
T lep o lem o s; a t line 34 it refers to a n ea rlier p e rio d , w hen A th e n a was

7 See e.g. tots (Nem. 9.11); ots (Ol. 7.55); tcots (Ol. 3.13, Ol. 9.9; Pyth. 1.16, 9.5;
Nem. 8.18, 9.13; Isthm. 1.13). The transition to the past can also be achieved
through the use of the temporal adjectives naXaiog (Pyth. 9.105) and apxaiog (Nem.
1.34).
8 G. Genette, Narrative Discourse, tr. J. E. Lewin (Oxford: Blackwell, 1980),
p. 220.
9 See also Isthm. 8.65; Nem. 6.36, 42; Nem. 9.52; Nem. 10.25. D. C. Young,
‘Pindar Pythian 2 and 3: Inscriptional noTs and the “poetic epistle”’, HSCP 87
(1983), pp. 31-42, at p. 36, suggests that in these instances noTs has a future point
of view, not a present one; in other words, it does not indicate distance in time from
the moment of the narration, but rather reflects the viewpoint of later audiences
on the victory. He calls this noTs ‘inscriptional’ as it is often used in inscriptions
in the same sense. Even though I agree with Young’s observation, in my view it
is also significant to consider the impact that this ‘inscriptional’ noTs would have
upon the current audience; through the use of noTs recent events are put on a par
with the mythical events of the past and are ‘traditionalised’, so to speak. In this
way the temporal distance between past and present seems to collapse and the
audience is invited to experience time as a unity. Another thing that should be
stressed is that only a few instances of noTs in Pindar pertain to the ‘inscriptional’
noTs. Whenever noTs refers to the distant mythical past, its vagueness suggests
a significant remove in time; see C. Carey, ‘Prosopographica Pindarica’, CQ 39
(1989), pp. 1-9, at p. 8 .
b o rn ; a n d a t line 71 it refers to a n even earlier p e rio d , w hen H elios
u n ite d w ith R h o d es. T h e effect is m o re p o ig n a n t in P y th . 4, w here
noxs occu rs eight tim es, each tim e re ferrin g to a different te m p o ra l
level. O ccasionally noxs is acco m p an ied b y sp atial ad v erb s (npooBs
noxs, Ol. 10.31, a n d omBsv ou noAlov, Ol. 10.35-6), w hich co n trib u te
n o th in g , ho w ever, to th e m o re precise d a tin g o f events. F u rth e rm o re ,
th e ch ro n o lo g ic al term s u sed in a h a n d fu l o f cases are also q u ite vague
a n d indefinite. In P y th . 11 we are to ld th a t A g a m e m n o n re tu rn e d fro m
T ro y xpovt®, w hile in Ol. 1.46 G a n y m e d e ’s tra n sfe r to O lym pos is said
to h av e ta k e n p lace Ssuxsp© xpov®. In P y th . 2.58 th e lo c u tio n s ra g erov
m o st p ro b a b ly gives in sp atialised term s th e te m p o ra l d istance th a t
sep arates P in d a r fro m A rc h ilo ch u s, once ag ain w ith o u t specifying
th e in te rv a l .10 T h is overall lack o f te m p o ra l perspective, in co n ju n c ­
tio n w ith P in d a r’s ten d en cy to re so rt to an a ch ro n ies b y d isto rtin g a n d
alterin g th e ch ro n o lo g ic al sequence o f events, creates difficulties; a n d
it som etim es leads to h erm e n eu tic aporias. A salient exam ple is Ol. 3,
w here th e unspecified lapse o f tim e betw een H e ra k le s’ tw o jo u rn e y s
to th e Is tria n L a n d h a s cau sed d eb a te a n d led a n u m b e r o f scholars to
co n flate th e tw o jo u rn e y s in to o n e .11
T h e o nly in stan ce w here P in d a r offers a m o re precise (in term s o f
c h ro n o lo g y ) n a rra tiv e is P y t h . 4, a p o e m th a t celebrates th e c h a rio t
v icto ry o f th e king o f K yrene, A rkesilas IV . H ere, n o t only does
P in d a r d esig nate th e te m p o ra l in terv a l th a t sep arates th e story,
as h e n a rra te s fro m th e p e rfo rm a tiv e n o w , b u t h e also defines the
in terv als betw een th e different stages o f th e story. W e learn , fo r
in stan ce, th a t a lapse o f tw en ty years intercedes betw een J a s o n ’s
b irth a n d his arriv al a t Io lk o s ( s k o a i S’ SKxsAsaaig eviauxoug, 104),
a n d th a t th ere is a n in terv a l o f five days betw een his m eetin g w ith
Pelias a n d th e beg in n in g o f th e A rg o n a u tic ex p ed itio n (131-3). W e
are also in fo rm e d th a t th e A rg o n a u ts w ere ca rry in g th e A r g o across
la n d fo r tw elve days (SroSsKa a^spag, 25-6). W h a t m erits p a rtic u ­
la r a tte n tio n , how ever, is th e use o f genealogical ch ro n o lo g y , th e
o nly in stan ce th ro u g h o u t th e E p in ic ia n s w here P in d a r re so rts to the
use o f g en eratio n s in o rd e r to re ck o n tim e. A s h e declares, eight

10 See W. J. Slater, Lexicon to Pindar (Berlin: de Gruyter, 1969), s.v. SKag;


C. G. Brown, ‘Pindar on Archilochus and the gluttony of blame (Pyth. 2.52-5)’,
JH S 126 (2006), pp. 36-46. It should be noted that many scholars maintain that
the adverb SKag here designates moral distance; see, among others, A. M. Miller,
‘Pindar, Archilochus and Hieron in Pyth. 2.52-56’, TAPA 111 (1981), pp. 135-43,
at pp. 140-1.
11 The bibliography on this poem is vast; see the informative article by A.
Kohnken, ‘Mythical chronology and thematic coherence in Pindar’s Third
Olympian Ode’, HSCP 87 (1983), pp. 49-63, who also provides relevant
bibliography.
g en eratio n s sep a rate A rkesilas fro m B atto s, p ro g e n ito r o f his clan
a n d fo u n d e r o f K y re n e (n a ia i xow oig oySoov 0aXXsi ^spog ApKsaiXag,
65); tw enty-seven g en eratio n s sep a rate B a tto s fro m th e A rg o n a u ts
(spS o^a Kai auv S sra x a ysvsa, 10); a n d th ere are th ree gen eratio n s
sep a ratin g K re th e a s fro m J a s o n . P in d a r also ad d s th a t, if th e clo d o f
e a rth given b y T rito n to th e A rg o n a u t E u p h a m o s (fro m w hose race
cam e A rk e sila s’ an cesto rs) h a d n o t been w ash ed aw ay p re m a tu rely ,
th e co lo n isatio n o f K y re n e w o u ld h av e ta k e n p lace th irte e n g en ­
e ra tio n s ea rlier a n d w o u ld h av e coin cid ed w ith th e D a n a a n s ’ fo rced
m ig ra tio n fro m th e P elo p o n n ese (4 7 -9 ) . 12
T h e te m p o ra l p erspective a d o p te d in P y th . 4 is n o ticeab le, n o t only
becau se it is a t o d d s w ith P in d a r’s overall p ractice, b u t also because
o f its p a rtic u la rly d etailed ch ro n o lo g ic al specificity. E ven th o u g h
P in d a r w as a fervent ad v o c ate o f in b o rn excellence a n d laid m u ch
em p h asis u p o n lineage, this is th e only in stan ce w here h e designates
th e full len g th o f a v ic to r’s genealogy. N o t only this, b u t h e also
a tte m p ts to lo cate th e v ario u s events o f th e sto ry by m ean s o f g en e ra­
tio n s. H e even goes so fa r as to d esignate th e te m p o ra l p o in t a t w hich
th e c o lo n isatio n o f K y ren e c o u ld h av e ta k e n place! U n d o u b te d ly ,
A rk esilas m u st h a v e p ro v id e d P in d a r w ith th e details o f his g en ea­
logical lin eag e .13 T h e crucial q u estio n concerns th e ch ro n o lo g y o f th e
o th e r events. G iven th a t th e reco n ciliatio n betw een th e jo u rn e y o f
th e A rg o n a u ts a n d th e B a ttia d s (th e clan o f king A rkesilas) w as m o st
p ro b a b ly P in d a r’s in v en tio n , w h a t w as his crite rio n fo r lo catin g th e
v ario u s events o f his a c c o u n t in th e tim eline? C o n sid erin g th a t th e
first sy stem atic atte m p ts to m a p th e p a s t a p p e a r later, w ith H e ro d o tu s
a n d H ellan icu s, shall we assum e th a t th e d esig n atio n o f th e intervals
betw een th e events in P y th . 4 is a rb itra ry a n d circ u m sta n tial? W o u ld
it b e fa r-fe tch ed to p ro p o se th a t P in d a r’s genealogical c o n stru c ­
tio n w as b ase d o n a c e rta in k in d o f genealogical ch ro n o lo g y th a t
w as in use d u rin g th e fifth century? C o u ld we su p p o se th e existence
o f a genealogical fra m e w o rk w ith som e fixed la n d m a rk s in d icatin g

12 The ‘Danaans’ were forced to leave the Peloponnese because of the Dorians’
invasion of Greece. Note that Pindar employs the term ‘Danaans’ to indicate the
generation that lived in Greece before the Dorian invasion; see B. K. Braswell,
A Commentary on the Fourth Pythian Ode o f Pindar (Berlin and New York: de
Gruyter, 1988), ad Pyth. 4.48.
13 See M. Giangiulio, ‘Constructing the past: Colonial traditions and the writing
of history. The case of Cyrene’, in N. Luraghi (ed.), The Historian’s Craft in the
Age o f Herodotus (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), pp. 116-37, at p. 124,
who, based on the affinities between the Pindaric and Herodotean version of the
Battiad genealogy, argues for the existence of an earlier written version. See also
R. Thomas, Oral Tradition and Written Record in Classical Athens (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1989), p. 172 n. 39.
significant events, such as th e T ro ja n W a r a n d th e D o ria n in v asio n ? 14
O f co u rse, such a genealogical fra m e w o rk w o u ld p re su p p o se th e use
o f a n ‘a v e rag e’ genealogy fo r its c o n stru c tio n . P in d a r’s m u ch y o u n g er
c o n te m p o ra ry H e ro d o tu s in fo rm s us o f th e E g y p tia n s ta n d a rd o f
th ree g en eratio n s p e r ce n tu ry (each g en e ratio n eq u allin g 33.3 years);
a n d it seems th a t h e h im self u sed this s ta n d a rd fo r a t least som e o f
his o w n calcu latio n s in th e H is to r ie s .15 C o n sid e rin g th e geo g rap h ical
p ro x im ity o f K y ren e a n d E gypt, co u ld we assum e th a t P in d a r u sed a
sim ilar s ta n d a rd fo r his ow n genealogical reck o n in g in P y th . 4? E ven
th o u g h , p r im a fa c ie , this suggestion m a y seem m erely co n jectu re, if
we a tte m p t to co n v e rt th e genealogies o f P y th . 4 in to years by using
an ‘av e rag e’ genealogy, th e results are in d eed strik in g a n d th o u g h t-
p ro v o k in g . T w enty-five g en eratio n s eq u al ap p ro x im a te ly 800 years,
eig h t g en e ratio n s eq u a l 233 years a n d fo u r g en eratio n s m a k e 100
y e a rs .16 G iv en th a t th e o d e w as p e rfo rm e d a ro u n d 462 bce, this places
th e A rg o n a u tic ex p e d itio n as fa r b a c k as 1300 bce, th e c o lo n isatio n
o f K y re n e by B a tto s as 700 b ce a n d th e D a n a a n s ’ m ig ra tio n fro m the
P elo p o n n ese as 1200 bce. W e k n o w th a t th e c o lo n isatio n o f K yrene
to o k p lace a ro u n d 650 bce, w hile in a n tiq u ity th e c o n jec tu ral d ate
o f th e T ro ja n W a r, w hich w as co n sid ered to h av e ta k e n p lace o n e o r
tw o g en eratio n s a fte r th e A rg o n a u tic ex p ed itio n , w as th e th irte e n th o r
early tw elfth c e n tu ry .17 F u rth e rm o re , we also k n o w th a t th e D o ria n
in v asio n o f G reece m u st h av e ta k e n place betw een 1200 a n d 1100
b ce. C ertain ly , this c o rresp o n d en c e m ig h t b e sheer coincidence. I t is,
h o w ev er, strik in g a n d , if n o th in g else, it does invite us to th in k m o re

14 Some had credited the construction of a kind of ‘genealogical backbone’ to


Hekataios, even though this thesis does not find many advocates nowadays. See
the discussion by L. Bertelli, ‘Hecataeus: From genealogy to historiography’, in
Luraghi, Historian’s Craft, pp. 67-94, at pp. 89-94, who also provides relevant
bibliography.
15 In 2.142-3 Herodotus reports that, according to the Egyptian priests, Egyptian
human history has a depth of 341 generations. He then converts these generations
into 11,340 years by using the Egyptian standard of three generations per
century. Herodotus uses genealogical chronology around sixteen times in the
Histories; yet there is no consensus on whether he used the Egyptian standard for
all his calculations. See A. Mosshammer, The Chronicle o f Eusebius and Greek
Chronographic Tradition (Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell University Press, 1979), pp.
105-11; J. Cobet, ‘The organization of time in the Histories’, in E. Bakker, I. J.
F. de Jong and H. van Wees (eds), Brill’s Companion to Herodotus (Leiden: Brill,
2002), pp. 387-412.
16 For the calculations it is important to keep in mind that ancient arithmetic
was inclusive; therefore one needs to multiply the Egyptian standard by twenty-
four, seven and three generations respectively.
17 Herodotus dates the Trojan War to the thirteenth century bce (Hdt. 2.145.4). See
also Eratosthenes of Kyrene (FGrHist 241 F 1a), who dates the Trojan War to
1183 bce, 407 years before the first Olympiad of 776 bce. Timaios of Tauromenium
(FGrHist 566 F 125) places the Trojan War at the same period.
carefully a b o u t th e fo rm s o f ch ro n o lo g ic al reck o n in g th a t w ere in use
b efo re H e ro d o tu s a n d his c o n te m p o ra rie s .18
P in d a r’s d isreg a rd fo r a te m p o ra l p erspective in his n a rra tiv e s
a b o u t th e p a s t w as in te rp re te d by H e rm a n F ra n k e l a n d his follow ers
as an in d icatio n o f his a rch aic m en tality a n d his in ab ility to perceive
th e p a s t as a n ex ten d ed c o n tin u u m .19 Y e t P in d a r’s stance does n o t
testify to his ‘p rim itiv ism ’; ra th e r, it is p re m ised by th e e tiq u e tte o f th e
ep in ician genre. A s th e exam ple o f P y th . 4 m ak es clear, P in d a r w as
p erfectly cap ab le o f a d o p tin g a te m p o ra l p erspective in his n a rra tiv e s
if h e w ished. H ow ever, c h ro n o lo g y a n d th e d a tin g o f th e p a s t w ere n o t
th e p o in t. P in d a r’s p rim a ry co n cern w as n o t to m a p th e p a s t b y re s o rt­
ing to g enealogical tim e-reck o n in g o r sy n ch ro n isatio n s, b u t ra th e r to
d ra w an alo g ies betw een p a s t a n d p re sen t, a n d to stress th e c o n tin u ity
betw een th ese tw o te m p o ra l u n its .20

2 PAST AND PRESENT


P in d a r does n o t refer to th e p a s t a n d p re se n t as ‘p a s t’ a n d ‘p re s e n t’;
h e does, ho w ev er, d esignate these tw o te m p o ra l entities b y using d if­
feren t v o ca b u la ry a n d term in o lo g y . W h e n h e refers to th e p a s t a n d
his an cesto rs o r pred ecesso rs in general, h e usu ally em ploys th e te m ­
p o ra l ad v erb s naAai a n d npoxspov, a n d term s such as oi naAaioxspoi,
oi naAalyovoi a n d oi npoxspoi. T hings asso ciated w ith th e p a s t are n o r ­
m ally defined b y th e adjective naAaiog, its derivatives a n d c o m p o u n d s,
as well as by th e adjective apxaiog. W h ereas b o th naAaiog a n d apxaiog
h av e p rim a ry reference to tim e a n d a p p e a r to sh are v irtu ally th e sam e
sem an tic ran g e, they are n o t in te rc h a n g e a b le .21 Apxaiog is em ployed
w hen P in d a r w a n ts to stress th e ‘o ld n ess’ o f som ething; th e re fo re it
is n o t u sed in re la tio n to th e p a s t in general b u t m erely to th e re m o te /
m y th ic al p ast. In c o n tra s t, naAaiog can d esignate th e w hole sp ectrum
o f th e p a st. A s fa r as th e p re se n t is co n cern ed , P in d a r n o rm a lly refers
to it by using th e a d v e rb vuv, w hile th in g s re la te d to th e p re se n t are

18 Whatever the case is, if my conjecture is valid, then some sort of chronological
reckoning seems to have been in use even before Herodotus.
19 See, among others, H. Frankel, ‘Die Zeitauffassung in der griechischen
Literatur’, Beilagenheft zur Zeitschrift fur Aesthetik und allgemeine
Kunstwissenschaft 25 (1931); P. Vivante, ‘On myth and action in Pindar’, Arethusa
4 (1971), pp. 119-36; Vivante, ‘On time in Pindar’, Arethusa 5 (1972), pp. 107-31.
20 Like Pindar, Bacchylides shows no particular interest in the chronology of
the events he narrates. The only exception is Ep. 11; but see R. Garner, ‘Countless
deeds of valour: Bacchylides 11’, CQ 42 (1992), pp. 523-5.
21 Contrast I. Rumpel, Lexicon Pindaricum (Leipzig: B. G. Teubner, 1883), and
Slater, Lexicon to Pindar, both of whom translate naAaiog and apxaiog in a similar
way without paying attention to this semantic nuance.
o ften d esig n ated w ith th e co m p a ra tiv e a n d superlative fo rm o f the
adjective vsog .22
L eav in g term in o lo g y aside, le t’s m o v e o n a n d discuss briefly
th e re la tio n sh ip th a t P in d a r registers b etw een p a s t a n d p re sen t. In
H o m e r th e p a s t is a b so lu te a n d su p e rio r to th e p re se n t (‘ch ro n o -
to p e o f h isto ric a l in v e rsio n ’) .23 In Il. 12.445-9 we h e a r th a t p eo p le
o f o ld co u ld lift stones th a t n o t even tw o p eo p le in th e p re se n t can
lift, w hile th e stories o f N e s to r leave it to be in ferred th a t th e p a s t o f
th e p a s t h a d b een even g re ater a n d s u p e rio r .24 In th e H esio d ic m y th
o f ages th e p a s t also stan d s fo r a go ld en age, w ith th e p re se n t being
m erely its d eg e n era te d fo rm . In P in d a r th e re la tio n sh ip b etw een p a st
a n d p re se n t is seen fro m a new persp ectiv e a n d is given a different
spin; P in d a r collapses th e q u a lita tiv e d istan ce b etw een these tw o
te m p o ra l en tities, a n d th e p re se n t is n o w seen as c o n tin u in g , re p e a t­
ing a n d ren ew ing fo rm s o f th e p a st. R eference to cities n a m e d afte r
th e ir h e ro ic fo u n d e rs, expressions in th e fo rm o f ‘even n o w ’, m y th i­
cal genealogies w hich com e d o w n to th e p re s e n t ,25 th e setting u p o f
explicit p arallels b etw een p re se n t-d a y v icto rs a n d m y th ic al heroes:
all th ese serve to b rid g e th e te m p o ra l g ap b etw een p a s t a n d p resen t.
P in d a r’s fa ith in th e p erm a n en ce a n d tra n s c e n d e n t n a tu re o f c e rtain
values, especially his b elief in th e n o tio n o f in n e r excellence (p h y a ) a n d
th e u n failin g p ro sp e rity a n d eu d a im o n ia o f a risto c ra tic fam ilies, also
serve as a h in g e b etw een ‘th e n ’ a n d ‘n o w ’.26 In som e cases th e c o n tin u ­
ity betw een p a s t a n d p re se n t is also m a p p e d spatially: in Ol. 6 .7 1 -3 ,
fo r in stan ce , th e Ia m id s are d ep icted trav e llin g alo n g a co n sp icu o u s
ro a d , w hile in N e m . 2 .6 -7 th e v ic to r w alks o n th e p a th in scrib ed by his
fa th e rs (naTplav . . . Ka0’ oSov).

22 Ol. 1.90; Pyth. 1.17, 6.43; Ol. 9.49; Pyth. 8.33.


23 According to M. Bakhtin, The Dialogic Imagination, tr. C. Emerson and
M. Holquist (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1981), pp. 147-8, ‘historical
inversion’ occurs when an Edenic past is measured against an inferior present.
Bakhtin has wrongly applied this chronotope to all high genres of antiquity,
including those of Pindar (15-18). In Homer there is a vague connection between
the past and the present achieved through the heroes’ claims that their KXsog will
remain a^OiTov among future generations (e.g., Il. 3.351 ff, 6.352ff, 7.87ff; Od.
1.302).
24 See e.g. Il.1.261-7 and 2.707.
25 R. Fowler, Early Greek Mythography. Vol. I: Text and Introduction (Oxford:
Oxford University Press, 2000), p. xxviii. There are only a few examples where
early historiographers continue their genealogies down into the historical period.
See e.g. the Philaid genealogy (FGrHist 3 F 2) and the genealogy of Hippokrates
(FGrHist 3 F 59).
26 Even though Pindar admits that interruptions of a family’s ‘prosperity’ are
likely to occur, he stresses that such periods of ‘fallow’ last only for a short period
of time.
B u t th e p a s t in P in d a r is o ften p o rtra y e d as being im m a n en t in th e
p re se n t in a m o re d irect a n d forceful w ay. I t is p o rtra y e d as still living
in th e p re sen t, a n d as h a v in g a sh are in it. O n m an y occasions P in d a r
in vokes m y th ic al hero es as if they w ere still alive ,27 w hile in P y th . 8 he
even claim s th a t th e A rgive m a n tis A m p h ia ro s (o r acco rd in g to o th ers,
his son A lk m an ) p ro p h e sie d to h im as h e trav e lle d to D elp h i. F in a lly ,
th e deceased are also claim ed to h av e a share in th e p resen t. A s P in d a r
says in Ol. 8.78-80: ‘A n d fo r th o se w ho h av e d ied th e re is also som e
share in ritu a l observances, n o r does th e d u st b u ry th e ch erish ed glory
o f k in sm e n .’28
U n d o u b te d ly , th e sim ilarity th a t P in d a r establishes betw een p a s t
a n d p re se n t co n ju res u p cyclic ideas o f tim e, w here th e p a s t is seen as
th e subject o f p e rio d ic re -estab lish m en t a n d th e p re se n t receives its
v alu e a n d raison d ’ e tre th ro u g h asso c ia tio n w ith it. In light o f this, it
is n o t su rp risin g th a t P in d a r is o ften cited as th e G re e k exem plum p a r
ex c e llen c e o f th e cyclical view. A s T o o h ey re m a rk s vis-a-vis P in d a r’s
v icto ry odes: ‘P in d a r’s epinicians p e rh a p s p ro v id e th e earliest a n d
m o st strik in g exam ple o f a c o n c ep tio n o f m y th o lo g y th a t relies o n a
cyclical, n o n -lin e a r co n c ep t o f tim e .’29 B ecause o f this P in d a r h a s been
re p eated ly criticised fo r lacking h isto rical consciousness a n d ev o lu ­
tio n a ry re aso n , a n d fo r h o ld in g a stro n g ly d eterm in istic view o f th e
w orld.
Y et a m o re careful lo o k a t th e E p in icia n s reveals th a t these (still d o m ­
in a n t) alleg atio ns a b o u t P in d a r’s ‘a rch aic m e n ta lity ’ a n d his n a rro w
a n d p a ro c h ia l o u tlo o k sh o u ld be reconsidered, in so fa r as th e cyclical
view o f h isto ry th a t th e po em s evoke is m erely o n e side o f th e coin. In
th e v icto ry songs recurrence is seen as an in crem en tal ra th e r th a n a
m erely cu m u lative process; th e p re sen t m ay be very sim ilar to th e p ast,
b u t a t th e sam e tim e it is also new a n d tak es us a step fo rw ard . B esides,
it is n o t irrelev an t th a t P in d a r p o rtra y s tim e ( chronos ) as a force w hich
ru sh es fo rw ard , is irreversible, a n d brings d estru c tio n a n d fo rg etfu l­
ness. E v en th o u g h P in d a r o ften explicitly defines events a n d actions as
p re d eterm in ed , a n d ascribes th e cau sality o f events to ex tern al facto rs
such as tim e, th e G o d s, F a te , N ecessity a n d F o rtu n e , his figures are
n o t p re sen ted as m ere p lay th in g s a t th e m ercy o f these tra n sc e n d e n ta l
forces, b u t as being p a rtly responsible fo r th eir actions a n d deeds. E ven
w hen an event is fated , th is does n o t p erfo rce elim inate an a g e n t’s free

27 See Ol. 1.36; Nem. 4.46-53; Isthm. 6.19. On the invocation to Pelops in Ol.
1 see L. Athanassaki, ‘Deixis performance and poetics in Pindar’s First Olympian
Ode’, Arethusa 37 (2004), pp. 317-41.
28 See also Pyth. 5.96-103; Ol. 14.20-4.
29 P. Toohey, Melancholy, Love, and Time: Boundaries o f the Self in Ancient
Literature (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2004), p. 205.
will o r c o n stra in his choices, as h e ca n also re sp o n d a n d a d a p t to these.
In fact, o n som e occasions th e gods are fo rced to intervene in o rd e r to
en su re th a t a fa te d event will be actualised. So, in P y th . 4 th e P y th ia
m u st re m in d B a tto s o f M e d e a ’s p ro p h e cy re g ard in g th e co lo n isatio n
o f K y ren e, a n d in P y th . 5 A p o llo m u st intervene a n d p ro te c t B atto s
fro m th e lions so th a t ‘h e m ig h t n o t fail to fulfil his o racles’ (60-2).
T h is sem i-openness o f tim e is also m an ifested in th e ‘c o u n te rfa c tu a ls’,
th a t is, in th o se cases w here P in d a r refers to possibilities th a t existed
a t a given p o in t in th e p a s t b u t w ere n o t ac tu a lise d .30 M en tio n should
also be m ad e h ere o f th e n o tio n o f k a ir o s , w hich plays a ce n tral a n d
p ro m in e n t ro le in P in d a r. In a w o rld w here everything is determ in ed
a p r io ri, k a iro s w o u ld h av e n o place a n d w o u ld h av e lost its m eaning,
in so fa r as it is b ase d o n h u m a n ac tio n a n d decision, a n d p erm its m a n
to co n tro l a n d h arn ess co n tin g en c y .31 W h a t is m o re, P in d a r keeps
em p h asisin g th a t, ju s t like hero es w ho th ro u g h th e ir actio n s altered,
d estro y ed , c reated anew a n d left co n crete traces in th e m a te ria l w o rld
w ith in w hich they lived, p re sen t-d ay victors will leave th eir ow n in d i­
vid u al trail in space a n d tim e. A ccordingly, in th e v ictory songs m a n is
visualised as h a v in g a share in th e d evelopm ent a n d change o f events,
a n d as being n o t m erely p a r t b u t also c re a to r o f h is to ry .32
T h e lin ear dim en sio n o f tim e w hich cro p s u p in th e E p in icia n s is
significant, fo r it p u ts th e dynam ics betw een p a st a n d p re se n t in a new
perspective. D e sp ite its sim ilarities w ith th e p a st, th e P in d a ric epini-
cian p re se n t is n o t entirely in its grip, b u t re ta in s its ow n p a rtic u la rity .
F a r fro m passively re p eatin g fo rm s o f th e p a st, th e p re sen t is p o rtra y e d
as actively co n tin u in g a n d in creasing th e glory o f th e p a s t .33 In fact, I
w o u ld even d are to say th a t it is allo ca te d a n alm o st equally significant
place n ex t to it. W h ereas it is tru e th a t th e ex em p lary n a tu re a n d p a r a ­

30 See Pyth. 4.42-57; Nem. 10.83-8; Nem. 7.24-7; Isthm. 8.32-6.


31 Unlike chronos, kairos clearly depends on human action and decision and, as E.
Csapo and M. Miller, ‘Democracy, empire, and art: Toward a politics of time and
narrative’ in D. Boedeker and K. Raaflaub (eds), Democracy, Empire and the Arts
in Fifth-Century Athens (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998), pp.
87-126, at p. 103 observe, ‘permits one to triumph over contingency’.
32 Something similar occurs in Homer, where events are described as caused
either by the god’s will or by human action. On ancient causality, see A. Lesky,
‘Divine and human causation in Homeric epic’, in D. L. Cairns (ed.), Oxford
Readings in Homer’s Iliad (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), pp. 170-202;
R. Gaskin, ‘Do Homeric heroes make real decisions?’, in Cairns, Oxford Readings
in Homer’s Iliad, pp. 147-69; cf. R. V. Munson, ‘Ananke in Herodotus’, JH S 121
(2001), pp. 30-50, esp. pp. 31-3.
33 Nem. 5.8: AiaKlSag syspaipsv uaTponoXlv t s ; Nem. 3.12-17: xaplsvTa S’ s^si novov
/ %ropag ayaX^a, MupuiSovsg iva npoTspoi / roKqaav, rov naXal^aTov ayopav / q ^ k
sXsyyssaaiv A p io t q k Xs I S oc Tsav / sulavs KaT’ aiaav sv nspia0svsi uaXa%0slg /
nayKpaTlou aToXro.
d ig m atic v alu e o f th e P in d a ric p a s t rely o n a sense o f its su p erio rity ,
th is p a s t is n ev er ‘w alled o f f o r c ast as su p erio r to th e p re sen t, as is th e
case in H o m e r a n d H esiod. H o w else co u ld we explain P in d a r’s claim
in P y th . 2 th a t n o king o f o ld w as g re ater th a n H ie ro n in th e p re sen t,
o r his asse rtio n in Ol. 13 th a t th e v icto r ‘h a s a tta in e d w h a t n o m o rta l
m a n ever d id p re v io u sly ’?34 W h a t does th e op en in g o f Isth m . 2, w here
P in d a r co m p ares c o n te m p o ra ry a n d o ld p o e try , in d icate if n o t change
a n d a step fo rw ard ? T ak in g in to a c c o u n t all th e ab ove, one co u ld say
th a t in th e E p in ic ia n s p a s t a n d p re se n t share n o t a one-w ay b u t a re cip ­
ro c al relatio n sh ip : th e p re se n t does n o t ju s t passively find itself being
glorified w ith th e g la m o u r o f th e p a st, b u t co n trib u te s to em p o w er a n d
in crease th is g lam o u r th ro u g h its ow n lu stre a n d light.

3 THE PINDARIC MUSE


L e t’s n o w m o v e o n to th e second p a r t o f th e c h a p te r, w here we will
exam ine th e w ay in w hich P in d a r acquires his in fo rm a tio n a b o u t th e
p a st. H o m e r typically ascribes his know ledge o f th e p a s t to th e tra n s ­
ce n d en t vision o f th e M use. A s A n d rew F o rd re m a rk s, in H o m eric
p o e try th e tran sm issio n o f a n y in fo rm a tio n a b o u t th e p a s t com es
‘v ertically ’, d irectly fro m th e M uses, a n d n o t ‘h o riz o n ta lly ’, th ro u g h
p o etic a n d h isto rical influence .35 In P in d a r th e M use still occupies a
significant a n d p ro m in e n t place. Y et th e activities she p a tro n ise s are
q u ite d istin ctiv e a n d differ fro m th e ones th a t ch a rac te rise h e r epic
c o u n te rp a rt. A closer lo o k a t P in d a r’s in v o catio n s to his M u se reveals
th a t his are n o t req u ests fo r in fo rm a tio n a b o u t w h a t is d ista n t a n d
gone, b u t ra th e r ap p eals to h e r to jo in th e p e rfo rm a n c e a n d assist w ith
th e c reatio n o f th e so n g .36 T o be m o re precise, P in d a r raises a q u estio n
re g ard in g th e p a s t five tim es th ro u g h o u t th e ep in ician corpus: in O l .
13, Isth m . 4, P y th . 4, Ol. 10 a n d P y th . 11. N o ta b ly , w ith th e excep­
tio n o f P y th . 4, th e M use is n o t explicitly a d d ressed in an y o f these
q u e stio n s .37 W h a t is m o re, w hereas these req u ests are m o d elled o n th e

34 A similar statement is also to be found in Simonides 23 (Diels), where a


present-day athlete is said to be braver than ancient heroes such as Polydeukes and
Herakles.
35 A. Ford, Homer: The Poetry o f the Past (Ithaca, NY, and London: Cornell
University Press, 1992), p. 95; see also E. L. Bowie, ‘Lies, fiction and slander in
early Greek poetry’, in C. Gill and T. P. Wiseman (eds), Lies and Fiction in the
Ancient World (Exeter: Exeter University Press, 1993), pp. 1-37, at p. 10.
36 See e.g. Ol. 3.4-6. In addition to the Muse other divinities are also invoked
to help with the orchestration of the song; see Ol. 14; Ol. 2 ; Isthm . 7.
37 Examples of implicit invocations to the Muse occur in Homer as well (e.g. Il.
5.703; 8.273); see W. W. Minton, ‘Invocation and catalogue in Hesiod and
Homer’, TAPA 93 (1962), pp. 188-212, at pp. 208-9; I. J. F. de Jong, Narrators
H o m eric ones in term s o f style, c o n te n t a n d d ictio n , eith er th e q u es­
tio n s ra ise d are rh e to ric al, a n d th ere fo re re m a in u n an sw ered , o r th e
an sw er is p ro v id e d fro m a source o th e r th a n th e M u s e .38 In Ol. 10, fo r
ex am ple, P in d a r asks fo r th e first victors a t O ly m p ia a n d th e n p ro v id es
a ca ta lo g u e listing th e ir n am es acco m p an ied by th e ir h o m e -la n d a n d
th e ev en t in w hich th ey excelled. T h e c a ta lo g u e ’s lack o f e la b o ra tio n
a n d aesth etic value, how ever, seems to suggest th a t P in d a r h a d p r o b ­
ab ly deriv ed his in fo rm a tio n fro m a n a u th o rita tiv e source, m o st likely
a v icto ry list k e p t a t th e site o f th e g am es .39
In th e lig h t o f th e above, it w o u ld n o t be fa r fetch ed to say th a t the
P in d a ric M u se is asso c ia te d m o re w ith th e skilful co m p o sitio n o f song
a n d th e co m m e m o ra tio n o f th e p re se n t th a n w ith th e re m em b erin g o f
th e p a st, as is co m m o n ly b eliev ed .40 T he new a ttrib u te s th a t P in d a r
ascribes to th e M use are indicative o f h e r new ro le a n d tra n s fo rm a ­
tio n : fa r fro m stan d in g still a n d issuing in fo rm a tio n a b o u t th e p a st,
th e P in d a ric M use p lo u g h s (apooai, N e m . 10.26), w elds gold w ith ivory
(koAM xpuoov ev xs Asukov sAs^avB’ a ^ a , N e m . 7.78), ten d s w eap o n s
(Kapxsproxaxov PsAog aAxa xps^si, O l. 1.112) a n d swells h y m n s (au^^g
oupov u^vrov, P y th . 4.3), w hile in Isth m . 1 she is even a ttrib u te d w ith
w ings (nxspuysooiv dsp08vx’ ayAaaig / nisplSrov, 64-5). In o th e r w ords,
she creates, alters, tra n sfo rm s a n d is highly energetic a n d active, fe a­
tu re s w hich arg u ab ly distinguish h e r fro m th e static epic M use. T he
o n ly in stan ces w here P in d a r associates th e M u se w ith m ere song are
P y th . 3.89-91 a n d N e m . 5.5.22-3, w here h e re co u n ts th e w eddings
o f P eleus a n d K a d m o s, a t w hich th e M uses w ere p re sen t, a n d Isth m .
8 .5 7 -8 , w here th e M uses are d ep icted m o u rn in g over A chilles’ d ead
b o d y . In terestin g ly , how ever, th e M uses th a t fe atu re in these exam ples
a re th e epic, n o t th e epinician, ones.

4 TRADITION
T h e n ew ro le th a t P in d a r assigns to his M u se leads n a tu ra lly to
th e questio n : if th e M u se ceases to b e th e m a in source o f in fo rm a ­
tio n a b o u t th e p a st, fro m w here o r w h o m does P in d a r ac q u ire his

(footnote 37 continued)
and Focalizers: The Presentation o f the Story in the Iliad (Amsterdam: Gruner,
1987), pp. 45-50.
38 In Ol. 13 and Pyth. 11 the questions remain unanswered, while in Isthm.
5 the answer is presented as widely known. An answer to the question raised is
provided only in Pyth . 4.
39 G. Norwood, Pindar (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1945), p. 114.
40 This feature is not peculiar to Pindar but seems to apply to the lyric Muse
in general; see M. Finkelberg, The Birth o f Literary Fiction in Ancient Greece
(Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998), p. 163 n. 6.
in fo rm a tio n ? A s will b ecom e clear in w h a t follow s, this ro le is now
ta k e n o v er by tra d itio n . 41 P in d a r very o ften re so rts to tra d itio n a n d
leaves it to be in ferred th a t his know ledge o f th e p a s t is b ase d o n
n o th in g m o re im m ed iate th a n verbal n a rra tiv e s. A ttrib u tio n s to tr a d i­
tio n are n o rm a lly in tro d u c e d w ith th e verbs ^ a a l a n d XsysTai (b o th in
th e sin g u lar a n d in th e p lu ral), a n d lo cu tio n s such as Xoyog saTi, 9 &Tig
saTi, Xsyousvov saTi. 42 E ven th o u g h P in d a r occasionally refers a n d
cred its g n o m a i to specific p o ets, such as H o m e r a n d H e sio d , 43 m o st
o ften his a ttrib u tio n s to tra d itio n re m a in an o n y m o u s. E ven w hen it
can be su rm ised w ith som e ce rtain ty th a t h e d raw s o n a specific p o etic
w o rk , P in d a r chooses to cam ouflage th e n a m e o f his p o e tic p red eces­
so r w ith a ^ a a l statem en t. In P y th . 6 .2 1 -3 , fo r in stan ce, h e says th a t
his la u d a n d u s X e n o k ra te s u p h o ld s th e p re c e p t w hich ‘th ey say (^ a v u )
th a t P h ily ra ’s son once gave to th e m ig h ty son o f Peleus in th e m o u n ­
ta in s ’. F ro m th e scholia 44 we learn th a t th e p re cep t w hich follow s is
d ra w n fro m T h e P re c e p ts o f C h e ir o n , a w o rk a ttrib u te d to H e sio d . 45
Y et P in d a r o m its an y reference to h im a n d chooses in stead to a ttrib ­
u te his n a rra tiv e to th e unspecified ^ a v u (21). 46 S om e P in d a rists h av e
a tte m p te d to n a rro w do w n such appeals, a rg u in g th a t all references to
th e npoTspoi sh o u ld be u n d e rsto o d as allusions to lite rary p redecessors
a n d n o t to tra d itio n in general. D e sp ite th is being b o th a p ossible a n d
a p lau sib le re ad in g , th ere is n o th in g in these p assag es w hich fav o u rs
th is ov er a m o re general in te rp re ta tio n ; in fact, o n e co u ld even suggest
th a t P in d a r d eliberately leaves such a ttrib u tio n s q u ite vague so th a t he
can h av e his cake a n d e a t it to o . O n th e o n e h a n d , by a ttrib u tin g a n a r ­
ra tiv e to tra d itio n in general h e p resen ts it as th e ca n o n ic al ac co u n t,
n o t m erely as a version e n te rta in e d b y a p a rtic u la r p o et. O n th e o th e r
h a n d , by leaving it to b e in ferred th a t h e derives his ac co u n ts fro m
earlier p o ets, P in d a r stresses his know ledge o f th e p re v io u s p o etic

41 R. Scodel, ‘Poetic authority and oral tradition in Hesiod and Pindar’, in J.


Watson (ed.), Speaking Volumes: Orality and Literacy in the Greek and Roman
World (Leiden: Brill, 2001), pp. 109-38, at p. 123ff, was the first who drew
attention to and discussed the significant role that tradition plays in Pindar. See
also H. Mackie, Graceful Errors: Pindar and the Performance o f Praise (Ann
Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2003).
42 See e.g. Ol. 7.54; Nem. 7.84; Pyth. 6.21. Such statements are rare in other lyric
poets; see e.g., Alc. 42.1, 339.1; Sapph. fr. 166; Sim. 579.1.
43 See e.g. Homer: Pyth. 4.277-8; Hesiod: Isthm. 6.66-7. See also Pyth. 9.94-6.
where a gnome is attributed to Nereus.
44 Schol. ad Pyth. 6.22 (Drachmann II, 197).
45 Hes. fr. 283 (M-W).
46 Bacchylides is normally declared to be more receptive of tradition because
he acknowledges his literary predecessors by name; see D. Fearn, Bacchylides:
Politics, Performance, Poetic Tradition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007),
p. 20. Yet his attributions to tradition are by far fewer.
tra d itio n a n d establishes h im self in a line o f tran sm issio n , th u s elevat­
ing his statu s qua p o et. B esides, we sh o u ld b e a r in m in d th a t, unlike
H o m er, w h o clearly values p o e tic over o th e r o ra l d isco u rses ,47 P in d a r
n ev er d raw s a sh a rp line betw een th e tw o b u t ra th e r classifies every­
th in g u n d e r th e h e a d in g o f ‘tra d itio n ’.48
N o w , h o w are we to explain P in d a r’s ten d en cy to g ro u n d his n a r r a ­
tives o n tra d itio n , a n d w h a t p u rp o se do these ^ a a l statem en ts serve?
M ack ie h a s recently a rg u e d th a t P in d a r’s ap p eals to tra d itio n serve
to in d icate ‘th a t m y th ic n a rra tiv e is n o t th e official o r th e p rim a ry
p ro v in ce o f a n ep in ician p o e t ’.49 C ertain ly , this is a p lau sib le in te rp re ­
ta tio n . Y e t th e sheer fa ct th a t P in d a r does n o t ascribe in fo rm a tio n to
tra d itio n passively b u t engages w ith it actively a n d , a t tim es, even criti­
cally re n d ers M a c k ie ’s re m a rk p ro b lem a tic. R a th e r, I w o u ld p ro p o se
th a t by p re sen tin g his ac co u n ts as socially accep tab le a n d believed,
P in d a r seeks to legitim ise a n d co n fer a u th o rity o n his d isco u rse .50
T h e ab ility o f such 9 aa^ statem en ts to a u th o rise a n a c c o u n t h a s sig­
n ifican t im p licatio n s, especially w hen local a n d less w ell-know n stories
fa v o u re d by th e v ic to r’s clan o r h o m e to w n are co n cerned. E x em p lary
in th is resp ect is O l. 6 , a n ode th a t celebrates H agesias, a m em b er
o f th e fam ily o f th e Iam id s. H ere th e m y th ic al n a rra tiv e focuses on
th e sto ry o f th e seer Ia m o s, son o f E v ad n e a n d A p o llo , a n d p ro g e n i­
to r o f th e clan o f th e Ia m id s. T he fam ily h a d an A rk a d ia n origin, as
th e m o th e r o f Ia m o s w as fro m A rk a d ia . In P in d a r’s ep o ch th e m o st
fa m o u s Ia m id w as T eisam en o s o f Elis, w ho h a p p e n e d to be g ra n te d
S p a rta n citizenship. In o rd e r to in sert this new S p a rta n elem ent in to
th e an cestry , P in d a r p resen ts P ita n a (the h o m o n y m o u s h ero in e o f a
S p a rta n city) as th e m o th e r o f E v ad n e a n d g ra n d m o th e r o f Ia m o s .51
T his n ew co m p o n e n t o f th e sto ry is in tro d u c e d b y a ^ a a l statem en t.
T h u s, P in d a r m an ag e s to p re se n t th e recen t in sertio n in to th e Ia m id
genealogy as alre ad y tra d itio n a l a n d socially a u th o rita tiv e .52 By
in tro d u c in g local o r an c estral m y th s w ith a n in h ere n tly lim ited scope
w ith a ^ a a l statem en t, P in d a r suggests th a t th ey are well k n o w n a n d
w id esp read stories sh ared n o t only by th e v ic to r’s fam ily a n d fellow
citizens, b u t also b y all G reeks. In th is w ay P in d a r confirm s th e tr u th ­

47 See e.g. the celebrated passage in Il. 2.485-6 where tradition is juxtaposed
with the superior eyewitness knowledge of the Muses.
48 Scodel, ‘Poetic authority and oral tradition’, p. 125. It should be noted, however,
that Pindar acknowledges the epistemic difference between seeing and knowing;
see Nem. 4.91-2: aXXoiai S’ aXiKsg aXXor Ta S’ auTog avTvrt%fl, / sXnsTal Tig sKaaTog
8^o%roTaTa ^aaBai.
49 Mackie, Graceful Errors, p. 71.
50 Scodel, ‘Poetic authority and oral tradition’, p. 124.
51 See Huxley, Pindar’s Vision o f the Past, pp. 29-30.
52 Something similar occurs in Ol. 9 for Epharmostos of Opous.
fulness o f such lesser-know n m y th s, a n d at th e sam e tim e c o n trib u te s
to th e ir estab lish m en t as ca n o n ic al acco u n ts. T h ere is, how ever,
a n o th e r eq u ally significant im plication: by p re sen tin g these m y th s
as ‘c a n o n ic a l’, P in d a r m an ag es to safeg u ard th e ir d o m in an ce a n d
a u th o rity n o t o nly in th e p re se n t b u t also in th e fu tu re , as th e p re sen t
tense o f th e verbs ^ a o l a n d Asysxai g u aran tees th a t these ac co u n ts will
be ‘c u rre n t’, alive a n d d o m in a n t in th e re p o rts o f m en forever. In every
fu tu re re p erfo rm an ce th e version em b ra ced a n d voiced by P in d a r in
th e p re sen t will be th e o n e sh ared by all.
In spite o f his ap p eals to tra d itio n , P in d a r also freq u en tly ad o p ts
a p o lem ical stance to w a rd s earlier au th o ritie s, cen su rin g th e ir u n re li­
ab ility a n d treach ery . W h e rea s tim e ( ch ro n o s ) is irreversible a n d th e
p a s t a n u n ch a n g in g re a lity ,53 stories a b o u t th e p a s t v ary (noAAa yap
noAAa AsAsKxai, N e m . 7.20) a n d o ften p ro v id e d isto rte d reflections o f
reality . A cco rd ingly, P in d a r o ften re p u d ia tes tra d itio n a l stories th a t
h e co n sid ers h av e b een in co rrectly h a n d e d dow n. T h e b est exam ple
is Ol. 1.36, w here h e op en ly declares th a t his a c c o u n t will force th e
estab lish ed sto ry o f P elops to be co n sid ered fro m a new p ersp ec­
tive (uis TavxaAou, a s S’ avxla npoxsprov 9 0 sy£,o^ai, Ol. 1.36).54 In a
sim ilar vein is Ol. 7.21, w here P in d a r once ag ain declares th a t h e will
‘c o rre c t’ (Siop0roaai )55 th e stan d in g tra d itio n a b o u t th e beginnings o f
R h o d es a n d tease o u t w h a t really h ap p e n e d . I t is im possible to say
w h e th e r th is n ew version w as P in d a r’s o w n in v en tio n o r a sto ry w ith
lo cal scope. A t a n y ra te , th e R h o d ia n s w ere so p lease d w ith th e ir new
‘straig h ten e d o u t’ p a s t th a t th ey in scrib ed th e o d e o n th e tem p le o f
A th e n a a t L in d o s in golden le tte rs .56
T o be sure, P in d a r w as n o t th e first to criticise tra d itio n openly.
A p a rt fro m H o m e r a n d H esiod, w hose criticism s are alw ays veiled,
a n d a few sca tte red exam ples a m o n g th e lyric p o ets, th e m o st cel­
e b ra te d re p ro ac h es o f tra d itio n are cred ited to H e ra k le ito s 57 a n d
th e elegiac p o e t X e n o p h a n e s .58 W h a t d istinguishes P in d a r fro m his

53 xrov Ss TCsnpay^svrov / sv Slra xs Kai napa SlKav anolnxov otiS’ av / Xpovog o navxrov
nax^p / Swaixo 0s^sv spyrov xsAog (Ol. 2.15-17).
54 See, among others, J. G. Howie, ‘The revision of myth in Pindar Olympian
1’, P L L S 4 (1983), pp. 277-313.
55 On the meaning of Siop0roaai see W. J. Verdenius, Pindar’s Seventh
Olympian Ode: A Commentary (Amsterdam: North-Holland, 1972), ad 21.
56 See schol. ad Ol. 7 (Drachmann I, 195).
57 In fr. 42 D-K Herakleitos argues that both Homer and Archilochos deserve to be
expelled from the contests and be flogged, because their narratives abound in lies:
see also frr. 56 and 57 D-K.
58 Xenophanes fr. 11. A. Gostoli, ‘La critica dei miti tradizionali alla corte di Ierone
di Siracusa: Senofane e Pindaro’, QUCC 62 (1999), pp. 15-24, at p. 16, points
out that such criticisms of tradition must have been common in the literary-
philosophical circles of the fifth and sixth centuries. See also K. Freeman, The
p red ecesso rs a n d peers is th a t a p a rt fro m engaging critically w ith t r a ­
d itio n , h e also explicitly discusses th e th ree fa c to rs w hich h e believes
c o n trib u te to th e w ro n g tran sm issio n o f th e p a s t a n d th e fo rm a tio n
o f ‘false sto ries’: envy ( 9 0 ovog ) ,59 th e lim itatio n s o f m o rta l know ledge
a n d - last b u t n o t least - p o e try .60
C o n sid e rin g h o w highly h e values tra d itio n , P in d a r’s critical stance
to w a rd s it seems c o n tra d ic to ry . W h y does h e decry tra d itio n ’s u n re li­
ab ility a n d deceptive c h a ra c te r an d , m o st im p o rta n tly , w hy does h e
d raw a tte n tio n to p o e try ’s c o n trib u tio n to th e falsification o f th e p ast?
P in d a r’s m o ra l ju d g e m e n ts o f th e m y th s h e n a rra te s h av e b een in te r­
p re te d by m a n y scholars as an in d ic a tio n o f his p ru d e ry a n d ten d en cy
to m o ralise tra d itio n in o rd e r to reveal th e real t r u t h .61 E ven th o u g h
this is a p o ssible e x p la n a tio n , we m u st n o t fo rg et th a t P in d a r’s aim
a n d p rim a ry co n cern are to p ro v id e n o t an a c c u ra te b u t a ‘u sa b le ’
ac co u n t o f th e p a st, an a c c o u n t th a t w o u ld m eet th e ex p e ctatio n s o f
his la u d a n d u s a n d a u d ien c e .62 T his is n o t to say th a t his claim s a b o u t
th e tru th fu ln ess o f his p o e try are m erely a preten ce, b u t ra th e r th a t
th e u ltim a te y a rd stic k ag a in st w hich h e chooses w h a t to rem em b er
a n d w h a t to fo rg et is n o t tru th fu ln e ss b u t ‘a p p ro p ria te n e ss ’.63 T his
is stark ly a rtic u la te d in th e ‘h u sh p assa g es’ w here P in d a r refuses to
re c o u n t ce rtain u n flatterin g aspects o f th e p a s t w hich co u ld be offen­
sive to th e gods o r c e rta in h e ro e s .64 It is im p o rta n t to re m e m b er th a t in

(footnote 58 continued)
Pre-Socratic Philosophers: A Companion to Diels, Fragmente der Vorsokratiker
(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1953), p. 94, who argues for a possible
encounter between Xenophanes and Pindar at the court of Hieron in Syracuse.
59 Even though phthonos is a generic topos, it is significant that Pindar explicitly
associates it not only with the distortion of the present, but also with the distortion
of the past. See P. Bulman, Phthonos in Pindar (Berkeley and Oxford: University
of California Press, 1992).
60 See e.g. Nem. 7.20-3: syro S s nXsov’ sXno^ai / Xoyov OSuoosog ^ naBav Sia xov
aSusnq ysvsoB’ 'O^qpov- / snsi ysuSsol oi noxava <t s > ^axava / os^vov snsoxl xr
oo^la S s k Xstctsi napayoioa ^uBoig. See also Ol. 1.28-9.
61 Cf. C. M. Bowra, Pindar (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1964), pp. 285-7; Howie,
‘Revision of myth’, esp. p. 299; C. Carey, ‘Pindar and the victory ode’, in L. Ayres
(ed.), The Passionate Intellect: Essays on the Transformation o f Classical Tradition
Presented to Professor I. G. Kidd (New Brunswick, NJ, and London: Rutgers
University Press, 1995), pp. 97-8. See also D. Loscalzo, ‘Pindaro tra ^uGog e
Xoyog’, in M. Cannata Fera and G. B. d’ Alessio (eds), I Lirici Greci (Messina:
Dipartimento di Scienze dell’Antichita dell’Universita degli Studi di Messina,
2001), pp. 165-85, at p. 185: ‘Pindaro, in particolare, cerca nuove prospettive di
interpretazione delle varianti del mito e in questo senso la sua poesia si profila
come ermeneutica e quindi ha un valore attivamente etico.’
62 L. Pratt, Lying and Poetry from Homer to Pindar (Ann Arbor: University of
Michigan Press, 1993), esp. pp. 11-53 and 115-29.
63 Pratt, Lying and Poetry , p. 123.
64 Ol. 9.35-41; Nem. 5.14-18. See Norwood, Pindar, p. 80.
these cases P in d a r does n o t d isp u te th e facts a n d tru th fu ln e ss o f these
events, b u t m erely tre a ts th e m as p a rts o f th e p a s t th a t sh o u ld be fo r­
g o tten a n d re m a in u n sp o k en . B esides, as h e em p h atica lly declares in
N e m . 5.1 6 -1 8 , ‘fo r n o t every exact tru th / is b e tte r fo r show ing its face,
/ a n d silence is o ften th e w isest th in g fo r a m a n to o b serv e’.
In o rd e r to ap p reciate P in d a r’s stance b e tte r, it w o u ld be in stru c ­
tive to ex am in e it in c o n ju n c tio n w ith th e co n v e n tio n s o f th e epinician
genre a n d , m o st im p o rta n tly , th e w ay in w hich h e seeks to p o rtra y his
en co m iastic p e rso n a . I t is tru e th a t d espite th e new role assigned to his
ep in ician M u se, in m o st scholarly discussions P in d a r is still re ferred to
as a ‘v atic p o e t’ a n d a ‘p ro c la im e r o f th e M u ses’. T his is n o t fo rtu ito u s,
in so fa r as P in d a r o ften styles h im self as m a n tis (D ith y ra m b 75.13
a n d P a rth e n io n 1.5-6), p r o p h a ta s (P a e a n 6 .6 ), h e ra ld o f wise verses
(D ith y r a m b 2.24), a tte n d a n t o f th e gods (P a ea n 5.45) a n d ‘p riest o f
th e M u ses’ (fr. 150 a n d 52f.6). H ow ever, w h a t we te n d to o v erlo o k is
th a t all th ese references o ccu r in th e frag m en ts (cult p o etry ), n o t in th e
v icto ry songs. T his c a n n o t a n d sh o u ld n o t be ta k e n as an insignificant
detail.
In a n u tsh ell, in th e E p in ic ia n s P in d a r is n o t th e p riestly figure o f
th e frag m en ts, w hose ro le is th a t o f th e m e d ia to r betw een gods a n d
m en , b u t in ste a d assum es a m o re active a n d energetic role: th a t o f th e
m a itr e d u tem p s. H e is th e o n e w ho th ro u g h his song can rew rite th e
p a s t a n d secure fo r th e p re se n t a p lace in th e fu tu re by erecting fo r it a
p o etic m o n u m e n tu m a e r e p e r e n n iu s .65 T h ro u g h his song P in d a r ensures
th a t th e v ic to rs’ g o o d re p u ta tio n will n o t be d isto rte d b y 9 0 ovog a n d
n a p ^ a a ig , a n d th a t th e rig h t k le o s will be p ro p a g a te d in th e fu tu re .66
E ven if so m eo ne tries to d isto rt th e tru th a n d c o rru p t th e v ic to rs’
n a m e w ith false stories, P in d a r’s p o e try will serve as th e safety valve
fo r th e tru e ac co u n t; due to his h ig h statu s as a p o e t a n d th e a u th o rity
o f his p o e try , P in d a r’s versions will be perceived by fu tu re g en e ra­
tio n s as ‘a m irro r’ o f th eir p a st, as h e nicely p u ts it in N e m . 7 .1 4 -1 6 .67
P ara d o x ic ally P in d a r m u st b o th h o n o u r tra d itio n a n d at th e sam e
tim e criticise a n d challenge it if h e is b o th to b e p a r t o f tra d itio n a n d
to h av e a special place w ith in it. O nly if h e p resen ts h im self as u n iq u e
w ith in tra d itio n ca n h e confirm th a t his versions a n d n o one else’s will
d eterm in e th e shape o f th e p re se n t in th e fu tu re a n d th e ju d g em en ts

65 On the distinct ways in which Pindar pitches his epinician and religious
persona see Pavlou, ‘Past and present’.
66 See G. M. Kirkwood, ‘Blame and envy in the Pindaric epinicion’, in D. Gerber
(ed.), Greek Poetry and Philosophy: Studies in Honour o f Leonard Woodbury
(Chico, CA: Scholars Press, 1984), pp. 169-83.
67 spyoig Ss KaXoig saonTpov laausv svi aw Tponro, / si Mvauoawag sKaTi XinapaunuKog
/ sup^Tai anoiva u6%0rov KXuTaig snsrov aoiSaig.
o f p o sterity . T his also seem s to explain w hy even w hen h e openly
acknow ledges his dep en d en ce o n tra d itio n , h e is a t p ain s to u n d erlin e
th e d istin ctiv e c h a ra c te r o f his p o e try .68 B u t w hereas P in d a r’s stance
to w a rd s tra d itio n a n d th e p a s t is p re m ised by his ro le as a p an eg y rist,
we sh o u ld n o t fo rg et th a t h e d id n o t live in a vacu u m . T h e re c u rre n t
co m m en ts o n th e fluidity a n d u n re lia b ility o f tra d itio n , o n his selective
‘re m e m b erin g ’ a n d o n th e m alleab ility o f th e p a s t seem to reflect a
b ro a d e r c o n te m p o ra ry a n d lively discussion a b o u t th e V erg a n g en h eit
a n d its tran sm issio n . B esides, it can scarcely b e a coincidence th a t
H e ro d o tu s a n d th e first h isto rio g ra p h e rs lived d u rin g ro u g h ly the
sam e p erio d .

68 Indeed, many of his accounts which are introduced with a ^aol-statement


are preceded by remarks or images which denote innovation. In Ol. 9.47-9, for
example, Pindar proclaims that he will rehearse the story of the foundation of
Opous with novelty; yet the account that follows is introduced with the verb
Asyovxi (49). See also Nem. 7.77-9, 84.
DEBATING THE PAST IN EURIPIDES’
TROADES AND ORESTES AND IN
SOPHOCLES’ ELECTRA

Ruth Scodel

T his c h a p te r will exam ine th re e p assages fro m tra g ic a g o n es th a t


reflect o n th e p ro b le m o f finding o u t w h a t actu ally h a p p e n e d in th e
p a st. T rag ed ies p re se n t v a ria n t versions o f events th a t supposedly
h a p p e n e d , so w hen d isag reem en t a b o u t facts is a rtic u la te d w ith in th e
w o rld o f th e p la y itself, it is h a r d n o t to ta k e it as a th re a t to th e u su al
su sp en sio n o f co n c ern a b o u t th e literal tr u th o f a n y o n e p re se n ta tio n .
M o st tra g ic a g o n es are n o t a b o u t facts, b u t a b o u t th e ev a lu a tio n o f
th e facts, a n d th ere is a t least b asic ag reem en t a b o u t w h a t is relevant.
In m a n y o th e r d eb ates (in E u rip id e s’ H ip p o ly tu s , fo r exam ple), one
sp eak er is sim ply w rong. B u t som e passages raise th e q u estio n o f
w h e th e r w h a t ac tu ally h a p p e n e d ca n b e e x tra c te d fro m n a rra tiv e s th a t
are u su ally self-serving o r p a rtis a n o r b iased in o th e r w ays. Im plicit
in these passag es are fu n d a m e n ta l h e rm e n e u tic p ro b lem s. A ll th ree
a t least a p p ro a c h a situ a tio n we w o u ld m o re read ily asso ciate w ith
H ellen istic p o etry ; th ey raise th e p o ssib ility th a t different c h a rac te rs
actu ally b elo n g to slightly different versions o f th e story. W h e n differ­
en t versio n s o f a sto ry seem to be active in one p lay , even in a co n tex t
th a t recalls th e everyday difficulty o f deciding o n th e tr u th in a law -
co u rt, it becom es h a r d to av o id p ro fo u n d e r qu estio n s o f h isto rical
tru th : th e q u estio n becom es n o t w hich sp eak er is lying, b u t w h a t h is­
to ric a l tru th is a n d h o w it co u ld b e kno w n . E u rip id es a n d S ophocles
som etim es seem to be reflecting o n th e difficulty o f ascertain in g
h isto rical tru th , o n its m eth o d o lo g ic al p ro b lem s.
In O restes, th e d isag reem en t betw een T y n d a re u s a n d O restes is n o t
exactly a b o u t fact, b u t it is n o t exactly a b o u t h o w ag reed facts sh o u ld
be ev a lu a ted , either. T y n d a re u s’ tira d e ag a in st O restes (491-539)
p resen ts th e fa m o u s a n a c h ro n ism p ro b le m .1 A s P o rte r h a s show n in
d etail, T y n d a re u s follow s c o n te m p o ra ry A th e n ia n styles o f forensic

1 P. E. Easterling, ‘Anachronism in Greek tragedy’, JH S 105 (1985), pp. 1-10, at


p. 9.
arg u m e n t in his claim th a t O restes ig n o red n o m o s (law o r cu sto m ) in
killing his m o th e r :2

oaxig xo ^sv Sfcaiov otiK saK syaxo


otiS’ ^A0sv sni xov koivov 'EAA^vrov vo^ov . . .
xp^v atixov sm 0 sivai ^sv ai^axog S k ^ v
6 a^av Siqkovx’, sKPaAsiv xs Sro^axrov
^nxspa- xo aro^pov x’ sAaP’ av avxi a u ^ o p a g
Kai xou vo^ou x’ av sixsx’ stiasP^g x’ av ^v. (494-5, 500-3)

W h o d id n o t co n sid er w h a t w as ju st, a n d d id n o t h av e reco u rse


to th e co m m o n law o f th e G reek s . . . H e sh o u ld h av e im p o sed
th e p io u s p e n a lty fo r b lo o d sh e d by p ro se cu tin g , a n d th ro w n his
m o th e r o u t o f his h ouse. T h en h e w o u ld h av e go t [credit for]
so p h ro sy n e in ste a d o f a calam ity , h e w o u ld b e keeping inside th e
law , a n d h e w o u ld be reverent.

T y n d a re u s ’ lan g u ag e is difficult a n d am b ig u o u s w hen h e directly


ad d resses w h a t O restes sh o u ld h av e done. W est tak es 6 a^av as a n o u n
ra th e r th a n an adjective, a n d tra n sla te s th e p h ra se as ‘w hile aim ing fo r
religious c o rrec tn e ss ’.3 Still, even if we th in k th a t 6 a^av is th e adjective,
a n d even if Si^Kovx’ c o u ld m ean only ‘drive a w ay ’, in such a co n tex t it
surely im plies a p ro se c u tio n (B iehl tak es it as th e n o u n , b u t still tre a ts
Siqkovx’ as a ju d icial te rm ).4
T y n d a re u s ’ arg u m e n t, th en , resem bles th e claim s, co m m o n in
A th e n ia n fo ren sic speeches, th a t th e o p p o n e n t despises a n d th re a te n s
to o v e rtu rn th e c ity ’s law s. H ow ever, it is different fro m these because
th e au d ien ce c a n n o t be ce rtain th a t th ere is a clearly ap p licab le n o m o s
in O restes’ situ atio n , alth o u g h T y n d a re u s’ a rg u m e n t m ak es n o sense
w ith o u t such a n o m o s . H e la te r states th a t th e an cesto rs c re a te d the
ap p licab le rules:

2 J. Porter, Studies in Euripides’ Orestes (Mnemosyne Supp. 128; Leiden: Brill,


1994), pp. 99-172, esp. pp. 110-13.
3 C. W. Willink (ed.), Orestes (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986), p. 169 (on
500-1), points out that Orestes did impose a blood-penalty, so the adjective is
essential. M. L. West (ed.), Euripides: Orestes. (Warminster: Aris & Phillips,
1987), p. 217 (on 501), thinks that the participle is redundant if we take oalav with
SlKnv, but I do not understand why. See M. Lloyd, The Agon in Euripides (Oxford:
Clarendon Press, 1992), pp. 115-17, on the ambiguity of Tyndareus’ language.
4 W. Biehl (ed.), Euripides Orestes (Berlin: Akademie, 1965), p. 57 (on 501): ‘Eine
gerechte, innerhalb der Grenzen des religos Erlaubten verlaufende Anklage
fuhrend.’ V. Di Benedetto (ed.), Euripidis Orestes (Florence: La Nuova Italia,
1965), p. 105 (on 501): ‘intendando una legittima azione legale’.
KaX&g s 0 svto T am a naTspsg oi naXai-
sg ouuaT ^v usv oyiv ouk sirov nspav
ouS’ sig anavT^u’ oaTig a iu ’ sx®v Kupoi,
^ u y aia i S’ oaiouv, avTanoKTsivsiv Ss un. (512-15)

O u r fa th e rs o f lo n g ago re g u la te d these issues well: they d id n o t


allow a n y o n e w ho h a d b lo o d -ta in t to go w here h e w o u ld be seen
o r ad d ressed , b u t to p u rify by exile, b u t n o t to kill in re tu rn .

H o w ev er, h e does n o t s u p p o rt exile in th is case, b u t urges M en elau s to


allow O restes to be sto n ed b y th e citizens (536). So h e h a s tw o d istin ct
claim s: th a t exile is th e tra d itio n a l p e n a lty fo r h o m icid e, a n d th a t civic
p ro c ed u re s m u st p re clu d e p riv a te vengeance. In a n y case, by giving
n o subjects to th e infinitives th a t explain h o w th e an cesto rs fo rb a d e
c o n ta c t w ith a p o llu te d killer, h e m ak es th e subjects general a n d so
im plies a co m m u n al b eh a v io u r.
T h e difficulties th a t m o st co m m e n ta to rs see in this speech are n o t
th e ones th a t co n cern m e. F o r exam ple, even if th e O resteia h a d
e stab lish ed a tra d itio n th a t n o legal p ro c e d u re fo r h o m icid e existed
u n til A th e n a c re a te d th e A re o p ag u s, E u rip id es w as entirely w ithin his
p o etic rig h ts to in v en t a c o u rt a t A rg o s - a n d it w o u ld n o t be u n u su a l
fo r h im to d istu rb m y th o lo g ical tra d itio n (indeed, h e h a d alread y
in tro d u c e d u n p la c a te d E rinyes in Ip h ig e n ia in T auris). In d e ed , H o m er
a n d H e sio d p re su p p o se th e existence o f legal in stitu tio n s. A chilles’
shield, fo r all th e difficulties o f its tria l scene, show s a p ro c e d u re in
th e a fte rm a th o f a hom icide. So w hen E u rip id es m ak es th e A rgive
assem bly d eb a te th e fate o f E lec tra a n d O restes, h e co u ld be seen
as co rrec tin g th e im p licatio n s o f A esch y lu s’ version. In C hoephori,
O restes leaves A rg o s very quickly afte r th e m atricid e, so th a t th e
q u estio n o f h o w th e city w o u ld h av e re a c te d is easily ig n o red . A lso,
th e p la y em phasises th e illegitim acy o f A e g isth u s’ rule a n d defines
his killing as a ty ran n icid e, a n d in E u m e n id e s O restes, once a c q u it­
ted , speaks as ru le r o f A rg o s w ith o u t h e sita tio n . So th e ac tio n
av o id s an y m essy p ro b lem s a b o u t h o w A rg o s w o u ld h av e o r sh o u ld
h av e re sp o n d ed . Still, th e g ra n d e u r w ith w hich A th e n a endow s th e
A re o p ag u s im plies th a t th e h e ro ic w o rld h a s h a d n o p ro c e d u re o th e r
th a n b lo o d -v en g ean ce fo r h a n d lin g hom icide. E u m e n id e s elides th e
differences betw een o rd in a ry killings a n d m u rd e r w ith in th e fam ily,
fo r w hich legal in stitu tio n s d ep e n d en t o n relatives to p ro se cu te w ere
n o t satisfacto ry . F o r m u rd e rs c o m m itte d by ty ra n ts, n o in stitu tio n s
co u ld ever p ro v id e a satisfac to ry solution.
So E u rip id es, b y h av in g O restes a n d E le c tra trie d by th e assem bly,
creates a n A rg o s in w hich a legal p ro c e d u re exists w ith o u t denying th a t
th e A re o p ag u s w as th e first real h o m icid e c o u rt. T h e c o n stitu tio n a l
situ a tio n a t A rg o s is vague: th e assem bly fu n c tio n s as if it w ere sover­
eign. S ch o lars disagree a b o u t w h e th e r th e aud ien ce sh o u ld believe th a t
M en elau s is schem ing to o b ta in rule, b u t O restes ce rtain ly says th a t h e
is (1 0 5 8 -9 ).5 W h e n A p o llo tells M en elau s a t 1660-1 to let O restes h o ld
p o w e r in A rg o s a n d h im self to go ru le S p a rta , h e evokes th e stereo ­
ty p e th a t S p a rta n s w ere unlikely to be c o n te n te d w ith S p a rta .6 In an y
case, O restes will rule in A rg o s; it is n o t a dem ocracy. E u rip id es m ay
be assu m in g th a t even in th e h e ro ic w o rld , th e assem bly w o u ld h av e
full sovereignty d u rin g an in terre g n u m , as th e Ith a c a n assem bly in
th e O d y sse y a p p a re n tly w o u ld if it co u ld achieve an y u n ity fo r action.
A n tin o u s, fo r exam ple, is co n c ern e d th a t if T elem achus re p o rts to the
assem bly h o w th e suitors trie d to m u rd e r h im , th e p eo p le will drive
th e su ito rs o u t (Od. 16.381-2).
So th e difficulty is n o t an a c h ro n ism as such. W e sh o u ld see the
assem bly, th o u g h d eliberately c o n te m p o ra ry in to n e, as alm o st th e
o p p o site o f a n an a ch ro n ism . I t is m o re like a h isto rical th o u g h t experi­
m en t: if O restes h a d n o t fled im m ediately afte r th e m atricid e, w h a t
w o u ld th e A rgives h av e done? T he assem bly d eb a te is n o t so m u ch
a false in tru s io n o f dem o cracy in to th e h ero ic p a s t as a n a tte m p t at
creatin g a p lau sib le scenario b ase d o n th e a ssu m p tio n th a t h u m a n
(th a t is, p o litical) n a tu re is alw ays th e sam e, as T h u cy d id es believes
(1.22, 3.84.2). E u rip id es w o rk s w ith an old, H o m eric in stitu tio n , the
assem bly; h e h a s th e m o d el o f A chilles’ shield fo r som e k in d o f legal
p ro c e d u re fo r h o m icid e in th e re m o te p a s t; h e considers th e likeli­
h o o d th a t th e assem bly co u ld assert itself in th e absence o f a ru ler;
a n d h e exam ines th e w ay politics w o rk . T h e A rgive assem bly is m o re
im ag in ed h isto ry th a n an a ch ro n ism , a n d if th e assem bly is possible,
T y n d a re u s ’ a rg u m e n t is n o t in h ere n tly a n a c h ro n istic either.
N o r is th e p ro b le m w ith T y n d a re u s ’ speech th a t, in p ractice, O restes
h a d to kill A egisthus, w ho h e ld ty ra n n ic a l p o w er, a n d th a t h e w o u ld
h av e fo u n d it very difficult to expel his m o th e r o r in itiate p ro c e e d ­
ings ag a in st h er. Sim ply driving h e r o u t o f th e h o u se b efo re som e
legal p ro cess w o u ld n o t be a wise p la n - we m ay re m e m b er h e r call
fo r a n axe a t C h o ep h o ri 889; she w o u ld n o t h av e gone quietly. I t is
fa r fro m c e rta in th a t O restes co u ld c o n tro l even th e h o u se h o ld w ith
C ly te m n e stra alive a n d p re sen t, a n d in th e w o rld o f th e play, A egisthus
h a d his ow n fa ctio n . T hese m a y be re aso n s fo r th e audience n o t to be

5 R. P. Winnington-Ingram, ‘Euripides: Poietes Sophos’, Arethusa 2.2 (1969),


pp. 127-42, at p. 134, accepts Orestes’ interpretation of Menelaus; Willink,
Orestes, pp. 191-2 (on 682-716), criticises this as an ‘illegitimate back-inference’.
6 Biehl, Orestes, p. 182 (on 1661), compares Andr. 582, fr. 723 Kannicht
(Telephus), Sophocles Aj. 1102.
co n v in ced by h im to a b a n d o n sy m p ath y fo r O restes. T y n d a re u s’
a rg u m e n t m ay well seem u n fa ir in n o t recognising th e e x tra o rd in a ry
difficulties o f O restes’ situ atio n . B ut th a t does n o t m a k e th e arg u m e n t
stran g e. A sp eak er in an a g o n ca n ig n o re p racticalitie s o f th a t k ind,
a n d it is o p en to th e o p p o sin g sp eak er to in tro d u c e th e m in re fu ta tio n .
O restes, ho w ever, does n o t in tro d u c e th e p ra c tic a l difficulties in fo l­
low ing T y n d a re u s ’ b e la te d legalistic ad v ice .7 T y n d a re u s ’ arg u m e n t
is tru ly stran g e b ecau se O re stes’ u tte rly fails to re s p o n d to it. O restes
arg u es en tirely as if h e w ere in th e w o rld o f C hoephori. H e argues,
fo r ex am ple, th a t w hile h e n o w suffers fro m his m o th e r’s E rinyes, he
w o u ld h av e b een p u rsu e d b y his fa th e r’s if h e h a d failed to avenge him
(580-4). H is a rg u m e n t recasts A p o llo ’s co m p la in t in E u m e n id e s th a t
th e F u ries d id n o t p u rsu e C ly tem n estra, to w hich they rep ly th a t she
h a d n o t spilled k in d r e d b lo o d . H e speaks as if th e only altern ativ es he
h a d w ere to d o n o th in g ag a in st C ly te m n e stra o r to kill her. O restes
uses several lines to claim th a t h e ob ey ed th e c o m m a n d o f A p o llo
(5 9 1 -9 ), a n d h e accuses T y n d a re u s o f calling th e g o d avoaiov, b u t
h e does n o t say th a t A p o llo to ld h im to kill his m o th e r ra th e r th a n
to try to exile h er. H is a rg u m e n t co u ld h av e b een ju s t th e sam e h a d
T y n d a re u s n ev er raised th e possib ility th a t O restes co u ld h av e ac te d
to avenge his fa th e r w ith o u t killing his m o th e r. Precisely b ecau se a
re fu ta tio n speech in tra g e d y n o rm ally p ro ceed s p o in t fo r p o in t, this
is a strik in g o d d ity , a n d it is stran g e w h e th e r o r n o t we th in k th a t
T y n d a re u s ’ lan g u ag e im plies a ju d icial p ro c ed u re .
T h e A rgive assem bly does n o t co n sid er an y such possibility
eith er. T h e sp eakers disagree a b o u t w h e th e r O restes w as rig h t to
kill his m o th e r a n d a b o u t h o w h e sh o u ld be p u n ish e d if h e was
w ro n g , b u t n o b o d y says th a t h e h a d an y choice betw een m atricid e
a n d in actio n . T alth y b iu s, w ho p raises A g a m e m n o n b u t says th a t
O restes c re a te d a b a d p re ced e n t (vououg, 891), seem s to be try in g to
define som e m id d le g ro u n d in th e d eb a te , b u t does n o t specify w h a t
O restes o u g h t to h a v e done. T y n d a re u s ’ a rg u m e n t falls in to th e
p la y as a fo reig n elem ent th a t is u tte rly irre le v an t to everyone else.
T h a t is th e m o st significant p ro b lem . I t feels o u t o f p lace because
n o p lace is m a d e fo r it. So w h a t p u rp o se does it serve? T h e m ain
d ra m a tic fu n c tio n s o f T y n d a re u s are to in tim id a te M en elau s a n d
to show o n a sm all scale th e p a tte r n o f O restes’ b eh av io u r: w hen
h e is received sy m pathetically, h e acknow ledges h o w guilty h e feels;

7 D. J. Conacher, Euripidean Drama: Myth, Theme and Structure (Toronto:


University of Toronto Press, 1967), p. 219, argues (in my view unconvincingly)
that Orestes’ failure to respond proves that the argument should be taken
seriously.
w hen h e is a tta c k e d , h e defends h im self a n d c o u n te ra tta c k s .8 B ut
n o th in g req u ires th a t T y n d a re u s m a k e a n a rg u m e n t th a t dangles in
air. T h e d ev elo p m en t o f th e p la y as a w hole w o u ld n o t be different
if T y n d a re u s sim ply criticised th e m atricid e.
T h is iso la tio n o f T y n d a re u s’ a rg u m e n t is a n in v ita tio n to in te rp re t
it a t a different level. It is as if h e w ere try in g to c o n test th e fictional
w o rld in w hich h e h a s been placed. A lth o u g h different c h a rac te rs
ju d g e th e m a tricid e very differently a n d co n sid er very different p re c ­
ed en ts it co u ld estab lish , n o b o d y o th e r th a n T y n d a re u s th in k s th a t it
co u ld be e v a lu a te d b y being c o m p a re d to a n altern ativ e b u t effective
actio n . Y e t T y n d a re u s stresses th a t his altern ativ e is th e an cien t n o m o s
o f th e an c esto rs - w hich, fro m th e perspective o f E u rip id e s’ audience,
w o u ld m a k e it p ro fo u n d ly ancient. T y n d a re u s seems to w a n t O restes
to h av e fo llow ed a p ro c e d u re n o b o d y else ever considers, b u t h e is an
o ld m a n , a n d a S p a rta n - n o t a c h a ra c te r fro m w h o m we w o u ld expect
new id eas - w ho sees th a t p ro c e d u re as b elo n g in g to h o a ry an tiq u ity .
O restes w as p ro d u c e d in 408, exactly a t th e tim e D ra c o ’s h o m icid e law
w as rein sc rib ed (409/8) in th e co n tex t o f th e revision a n d re p u b lic a ­
tio n o f A th e n ia n law th a t follow ed th e re sto ra tio n o f th e d em o cracy
afte r th e o ligarchy. T h e surviving section co n cern s u n p re m e d ita te d
h o m icid e. S cholars h a v e extensively discussed th e n a tu re o f th e full
law a n d w h e th e r T y n d a re u s ’ speech reflects th e old law . H o lzh a u sen
p lau sib ly suggests th a t T y n d a re u s does n o t m e a n th a t a c o u rt co u ld
n o t h av e im p o sed th e d e a th p e n a lty , b u t is referrin g only to th e lim its
o f self-help .9
T h is d eb ate, how ever, does n o t co n sid er th e w ider co n tex t o f b o th
th e p la y a n d th e re in sc rip tio n o f th e law s. W h e th e r T y n d a re u s ’ a rg u ­
m e n t refers to th e sub stan ce o f th e o ld A th e n ia n law m ay b e less
im p o rta n t th a n th a t h e refers to an cien t law s m e n tio n e d by n o b o d y
else. T h e re in sc rip tio n o f th o se o ld law s still in force surely indicates
b o th th e re sto re d d em o cracy ’s co n c ern to d e m o n stra te its h isto ri­
cal co n tin u ity w ith th e p a st, a n d th e d e m o c ra ts’ co n cern th a t claim s
a b o u t o ld law s w o u ld be p ro b le m a tic w ith o u t an a u th o rita tiv e display
o f exactly w h a t w as valid. T h e in fam o u s c h a p te r 4 o f th e A th . P o l.,
th e ‘C o n s titu tio n o f D ra c o ’, w as p ro b a b ly fo rg ed a ro u n d th e tim e o f

8 I thus see Orestes as somewhat more consistent than many interpreters do. A
good discussion of the inconsistencies of character as survival strategy is M.
O’Brien, ‘Character in the agon of the Orestes’, in S. Boldrini (ed.), Filologia e
forme letterarie: Studi offerti a Francesco Della Corte (Urbino: Universita degli
studi di Urbino, 1987), pp. 183-99.
9 J. Holzhausen, Euripides Politikos. Recht und Rache in ‘Orestes’ und ‘Bakchen’
(Beitrage zur Altertumskunde 185; Munich and Leipzig: Saur, 2003), pp. 52-67,
has a full discussion.
th e o lig arch ic re v o lu tio n .10 C ertain ly d em o crats a n d oligarchs b o th
claim ed an c estral su p p o rt. A c co rd in g to A th . P o l. 29.3, C lito p h o n
p ro p o s e d th a t th e p r o b o u lo i exam ine th e law s o f C listhenes, o n th e
g ro u n d s th a t his c o n stitu tio n w as n o t p o p u la r b u t close to S o lo n ’s .11
T h u cy d id es 8.97.6 m ak es d em o crats in th e fleet a t S am os sp eak o f
naTpfoug vououg th a t th e new g o v ern m en t h a s (w rongly) dissolved.
T h e exp ressio n ‘an c estral law s’ w as evidently, as M o g en s H a n se n h as
p o in te d o u t, a ‘h u rra h -w o rd ’; it in d ic a te d a p p ro v a l o f th e law s .12
In th is p o litica l clim ate, it is n o t p e rh a p s so stran g e th a t everyone
else ig n o res w h a t T y n d a re u s describes as an cien t a n d an cestral rules.
S om eo n e m a y assert th a t th e an cesto rs estab lish ed a law lo n g ago, b u t
th a t does n o t m e a n th a t h e is rig h t, o r th a t, even if th e law is ancien t, it
h a s b een in co n sisten t use a n d h a d n o t b een superseded. So h a v in g one
c h a ra c te r seem to live in a different p a s t fro m th e o th ers is n o t p o in t­
less, since c o n te m p o ra ry A th e n ia n s p ro fo u n d ly d isag reed a b o u t w h a t
th e ir p a s t was.
W e c a n n o t k now , how ever, exactly h o w this ro u g h sim ilarity
betw een T y n d a re u s’ speech a n d c o n te m p o ra ry p o litical discourse
w o u ld h av e im p ressed th e c o n te m p o ra ry audience. T he p la y takes
p lace fa r in th e p a st, so o n a fte r th e T ro ja n W a r, a n d T y n d a re u s refers
to ‘th e fa th e rs, lo n g a g o ’. D ra c o w o u ld be re cen t in c o m p a riso n to
T y n d areu s, let alone to his ancestors. M ay b e T y n d a re u s is sim ply
m o d elled o n a n elderly A th e n ia n o lig arch ic type: th a t h e is old, S p a rta n
a n d u n y ield in g w o u ld cue th e aud ien ce to see T y n d a re u s’ an cesto rs
as th e o lig arch ic D ra c o ra th e r th a n th e D ra c o th e re sto re d d em o c­
racy co u ld c la im .13 In th a t case, th e difference betw een T y n d a re u s ’
lo n g -ag o an cesto rs a n d th e lo n g -ag o an c esto rs o f th e aud ien ce was
erased: h e co u ld b e h e a rd as if h e w ere arg u in g in late fifth -cen tu ry
A th en s, so th a t th e h isto rical a rg u m e n t w as com pletely ah isto rica l in
its fram in g . H o w ever, it w o u ld also b e p ossible to see th e speech as
a d elib erate tra n sfe r o f a c o n te m p o ra ry k in d o f a rg u m e n t a b o u t th e

10 P. J. Rhodes, A Commentary on the Aristotelian Athenaion Politeia (Oxford:


Clarendon Press, 1981), pp. 53-6, 84-7.
11 M. H. Hansen, The Athenian Democracy in the Age o f Demosthenes:
Structure, Principles and Ideology (Oxford: Blackwell, 1991), pp. 162-3.
12 M. H. Hansen, ‘Solonian democracy in fourth-century Athens’, ClMed 40
(1989), pp. 71-99, at pp. 75-7.
13 Views of Tyndareus have differed widely. At one extreme, A. P. Burnett,
Catastrophe Survived: Euripides’ Plays o f Mixed Reversal (Oxford: Clarendon
Press, 1971), p. 106, sees him as ‘a sensible old aristocrat, the Argive equivalent
of a good Athenian dicast’. M. Heath, The Poetics o f Greek Tragedy (London:
Duckworth, 1987), pp. 58-60, points to the effect on audience sympathy of
the contrast between Orestes’ respectful demeanour and Tyndareus’ harshness.
Discussion and bibliography in Porter, Studies in Euripides’ Orestes, pp. 101-3.
p a s t to a re m o te p a st, a n d so as a co m m e n ta ry o n th e fu tility o f such
arg u m en ts. F ro m th is perspective, th e iso la tio n o f T y n d a re u s w o u ld
im plicitly s u p p o rt th e decision to reinscribe law s th a t w ere still valid
in c o n tra s t to a tte m p ts to re-estab lish an im ag in ed earlier co n stitu tio n
as a w hole.
T ro a d e s p re sen ts very different p ro b lem s. T h e c e n tra l issue fo r the
agon is w h e th e r H elen cam e v o lu n tarily to T ro y . H elen tre a ts the
Ju d g em en t o f P aris as a serious event a n d argues th a t A p h ro d ite w as
co m m itte d to h e r ab d u c tio n , so th a t she w as subject to su p erio r force.
H e c u b a rejects H e le n ’s in te rp re ta tio n o f th e Ju d g em en t o f P aris as a
serious d isp u te a n d sees A p h ro d ite as a m e ta p h o r fo r H e le n ’s a ttra c ­
tio n to P aris. T h is leads to h e r cu rio u s a rg u m e n t th a t H elen c a n n o t
h av e b een ta k e n by force, since she did n o t cry fo r h elp (998-1001)
- b u t H elen h a s n o t a rg u e d th a t she w as fo rced in th a t sense. T he
G o rg ia n ic defence o f H elen is surely in p la y h ere in a com plex way:
H e cu b a, th o u g h she ra tio n a lises th e sto ry by tre a tin g A p h ro d ite as
m e ta p h o ric a l, rejects G o rg ia n ic claim s a b o u t th e p o w e r o f desire,
w hile H elen , w hose version is tra d itio n a lly m y th o lo g ical, speaks w ith
a so p h istic e d g e .14 In th e end, th e en tire d e b a te is irre le v an t to the
o u tco m e. H elen will survive b ecau se M en elau s succum bs to h e r e ro ti­
cally a n d so p ro v es h im self n o stro n g er in resisting desire th a n H elen.
W h ile th is is th e m a in d e b a te in th e agon, th ere are p o in ts th a t do
n o t b elo n g to th e g ra n d design b u t raise slightly different questions.
H elen a n d H e c u b a disagree a b o u t w h a t h a p p e n e d afte r P aris w as
killed. A lth o u g h this issue is re lev an t to th e m a in arg u m e n t, since if
H elen trie d to leave T ro y it is m o re credible th a t she follow ed P aris
o nly u n d e r divine influence, th e d isag reem en t also indicates a n o th e r,
su b o rd in a te p ro b le m in th e deb ate. H elen claim s th a t she th en
trie d to escape by lettin g h erself d ow n fro m th e w alls w ith a ro p e,
b u t w as co m pelled to m a rry D e ip h o b u s (955-60). She calls o n the
g u ard s as w itnesses - b u t o f co u rse th ey are all dead. H e c u b a ’s first
co u n te ra rg u m e n t, th o u g h , is very odd:

W h ere, th en , w ere y o u ca u g h t fixing k n o ts, o r sh arp en in g a


sw ord, as a n o b le w o m an w o u ld do in longing fo r h e r p rev io u s
h u sb a n d ? (1012-14)

T h e first a lte rn a tiv e co u ld describe p re p a ra tio n s fo r th e escape fro m


th e w alls, b u t once th e second ap p e a rs it is clear th a t H e c u b a is saying
th a t if H elen h a d really re g re tte d going w ith P aris she w o u ld h av e

14 R. Scodel, The Trojan Trilogy o f Euripides (Gottingen: Vandenhoeck &


Ruprecht, 1979), pp. 90-104.
killed herself. She th e n q u o tes h e rse lf as offering to help H elen escape
(1015-19).

Q 0'uyaxsp, s£,sA0’- oi S’ s^o i naTSsg ya^oug


aAAoug y a^o u ai, a s S’ sni vaug A xauxag
ns^yro auvsKKAs^aaa- Kai n au ao v ^axng
TAA^vag ^ a g x’.

M y d a u g h te r, leave. M y sons will m a k e o th e r m arria g es, b u t I


will h elp y o u slip aw ay a n d convey y o u to th e G re e k ships. A n d
m a k e th e G re e k a n d ourselves cease fro m b attle.

H elen is p re su m a b ly lying a b o u t h e r a tte m p ts to escape fro m T ro y ,


b u t H e c u b a ’s reply is stran g e a n d unreliab le. Is th e aud ien ce su p p o sed
to ta k e H e le n ’s failu re to co m m it suicide as p r o o f th a t she d id n o t
reg ret h e r actio ns? H e c u b a q u o tes h erself as speaking to H elen w ith
m a te rn a l affection, w hen ev erything else she says gives th e im pression
th a t she h a s lo a th e d H elen all along. (E ven if H elen h a d w a n te d to
escape, she w o u ld n o t h av e been likely to tru s t H e cu b a.) H e c u b a sees
H elen as d ra w n to P aris n o t ju s t by his g o o d lo o k s, b u t by th e p ro sp e c t
o f e x tra o rd in a ry lu x u ry (991-7), a n d n o t w a n tin g to leave because she
en jo y ed b a rb a ria n subservience ( 1020 - 2 ); she uses fo rm s o f u P p ^siv
tw ice. In H e c u b a ’s ac co u n t, H elen is a stereo ty p ical S p a rta n , w hose
lo n g in g fo r P ersian ex trav ag an ce a n d o p p o rtu n itie s fo r lo rd in g it over
o th ers becom es m an ife st once she leaves h o m e (cf. T h u c. 1.77 a n d
especially 1.130 o n P a u sa n ia s’ lu x u rio u s a n d oppressive b eh a v io u r).
T his section o f th e d eb a te echoes th e stories H elen a n d M en elau s tell
a t O d y sse y 4 .2 3 5 -8 9 , w here th e issue is, ag ain , w h e th e r H elen re tu rn e d
h e r loyalties to M en elau s afte r th e d e a th o f P aris. T h e q u estio n is th u s
tra d itio n a lly u n resolved. In H o m e r, H elen n a rra te s h o w she h elp ed
th e disguised O dysseus w hen h e cam e to spy in T ro y ; M en elau s th e n
tells h o w she trie d to in d u ce th e m en h id d e n in th e w o o d e n h o rse to
b e tra y them selves b y im itatin g th e voices o f th e ir wives. T hese o p p o s ­
ing stories are to ld only a fte r H elen h a s d ru g g ed th e w ine, a n d th e
p ro b le m o f w h e th e r th e tw o tales co u ld b e reconciled is n o t addressed.
I t does n o t n ee d to be, n o t only because th e p a rtic ip a n ts are im m u ­
n ised ag a in st a n y real consequences o f w h a t is said, b u t also because
th e stories are in a n y case d irected m ain ly at co n fu sin g T elem achus
a n d th e ex tern al audience a b o u t th e ex ten t to w hich P enelope sh o u ld
o r will be tru sted . B u t w hile M en elau s sim ply tells a sto ry th a t requires
a H elen w ho assists th e T ro ja n s, H e c u b a ’s speech in E u rip id es is very
different: she h a s a full a n d com pletely neg ativ e in te rp re ta tio n o f
H e le n ’s c h a ra c te r, a n d ju d g es all h e r actio n s accordingly. In H e c u b a ’s
view, H elen desires sexual satisfactio n , lu x u ry a n d o p p o rtu n itie s to
b eh av e h u b ristically to o th ers, a n d ev erything she does is solely a n d
exclusively m o tiv a te d by self-interested ca lc u latio n o f h o w these
desires ca n be satisfied. T h e p assa g e is an excep tio n ally rich instance
o f tra g ic th e o ry o f m in d in o p e ra tio n . W h e th e r o n e believes H e le n ’s
claim th a t she trie d to escape o r H e c u b a ’s insistence th a t she d id n o t
c a n n o t b e a m a tte r o f w eighing th e ex tern al evidence. I t is a m a tte r o f
^ 0 og.
H e cu b a, fu rth e rm o re , is self-interested. H elen h a s beg u n h er
speech by b lam in g H e c u b a fo r giving b irth to P aris a n d n o t killing
h im (919-22) - th e first p lay in E u rip id e s’ p ro d u c tio n o f this y ear
w as A le x a n d r o s , w hich d ra m a tise d a m u rd e r a tte m p t o n P aris w hen
h e cam e to T ro y afte r surviving exposure. So th e re is som e o b vious
un fairn ess in H e le n ’s ac cu satio n - P aris seems u n k illa b le - b u t she is
rig h t th a t th e w a r c a n n o t be b lam ed entirely o n h er. H e r ac cu satio n ,
th o u g h , gives a p a rtic u la r edge to H e c u b a ’s response. E v ery th in g
H e c u b a says co u ld b e tru e, b u t it is also, we can assum e, driv en by
h e r n ee d to displace th e re sp o n sib ility o f th e T ro ja n s them selves. In
this lig h t, h e r a c c o u n t o f h o w she offered to h elp H elen flee is also
self-justifying. So we are left in a ty p ical H e ro d o te a n situ atio n . W e
h av e tw o acco u n ts. O ne m a y seem m o re credible th a n th e o th er, b u t
b o th com e fro m self-interested re p o rte rs, a n d b ecau se th e re p o rtin g
situ a tio n is agonistic, th e re is n o space fo r a n u a n c e d a p p ro a c h .15
In an y case, th ere is still a b lu n t q u estio n o f fact. E ith er H elen tried
to escape T ro y o r she d id n o t. T h e in te rp re ta tio n will inevitably
p reced e th e ju d g e m e n t o f fa ct in ste a d o f deriving fro m it: we will
believe H elen o r H e c u b a d ep en d in g m o stly o n w h e th e r we accept
H e c u b a ’s u n d e rsta n d in g o f H e le n ’s ch a ra c te r. W hile th e speeches
are relativ ely b ala n c e d in tellectually, H e c u b a is sy m p ath etic, w hile
H elen ce rtain ly is n o t, so p ro b a b ly m o st m em b ers o f th e audience
will be inclined to H e c u b a ’s side . 16 Still, th e scene co u ld p ro m p t
reflection o n th e u n d erly in g p ro b lem , w hich is th e d a n g e r o f
ac to r-o b serv er b ias o r fu n d a m e n ta l a ttrib u tio n e rro r (also called
‘c o rresp o n d en c e b ia s ’).
H e c u b a assum es th a t H elen h a s fixed ch a rac te ristic s th a t determ ine
every th in g she does. D e sp ite cu ltu ra l v a ria tio n , p eo p le generally

15 Lloyd, Agon in Euripides, pp. 105-10.


16 M. Dubischar, Die Agonszenen bei Euripides: Untersuchungen zu ausgewahlten
Dramen (Stuttgart: Metzler, 2001), pp. 342-57. On the difficulty of judging
between the arguments, see N. T. Croally, Euripidean Polemic: The Trojan Women
and the Function o f Tragedy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), pp.
151-3; A. M. van Erp Taalman Kip, ‘Truth in tragedy: When are we entitled to
doubt a character’s words?’, AJP 117 (1996), pp. 517-36, at pp. 533-4.
o v erem p h asise th e ro le o f in d iv id u al c h a ra c te r in th e b e h a v io u r o f
o th ers w hile p lacin g fa r m o re w eight o n situ atio n a l fa c to rs in ex p lain ­
ing th e ir ow n actions. B e h av io u r is generally less co n sisten t th a n
p eo p le assu m e w hen m a k in g ju d g em en ts a b o u t o th ers. F o r a h is to ­
rian , th is fu n d a m e n ta l a ttrib u tio n e rro r is a c o n s ta n t d a n g e r in m ak in g
h isto rical assessm ents, especially b ecause th e p ro cess o f u n d e rs ta n d ­
ing w hy h isto rical figures ac te d as th ey d id is in ev itab ly a h e rm e n e u ­
tic circle: c h a ra c te r is in ferred fro m actio n s, a n d th e n th a t in ferred
ch a ra c te r is u sed n o t only to explain o th e r actio n s, b u t to decide w h a t
a p a rtic u la r p e rso n d id w hen o th e r evidence is insufficient. E u rip id es
o b v io u sly d id n o t h av e th e benefit o f th e v ast research c o n d u c te d
o n fu n d a m e n ta l a ttrib u tio n e rro r since 1967.17 B u t th e p ro b le m is
b asic a n d u n iv ersal - a n d o n e co u ld base a credible re ad in g o f th e
O restes, especially, as a critiq u e o f s ta n d a rd G re e k a ssu m p tio n s a b o u t
con sisten cy o f c h a rac te r.
In S o p h o cles’ E le c tra , C ly te m n e stra argues th a t she killed
A g a m e m n o n ju stly , in vengeance fo r th e sacrifice o f Ip h ig en ia. She
offers arg u m e n ts a b o u t w hy A g a m e m n o n ’s ac tio n c a n n o t be excused.
F o r ex am ple, h e m ay h av e ac te d o n b e h a lf o f th e G reek s, o r o f
M en elau s, b u t th ey h a d n o rig h t to kill h e r d a u g h te r (535-41).
M en elau s h a d tw o ch ild ren o f his ow n, w ho w ere m o re o b v io u s c a n d i­
d ates fo r th e sacrifice. E le c tra re sp o n d s by claim ing (o n th e a u th o rity
o f h ea rsay , 566) th a t A rtem is d e m a n d e d th e sacrifice o f A g a m e m n o n
b ecau se h e h a d h u n te d a stag in h e r grove a n d b o a ste d in a w ay th a t
o ffended h er. A rtem is th e n d e m a n d e d th e sacrifice o f A g a m e m n o n ’s
d a u g h te r as ‘eq u a l w eig h t’ (avxmxa0^og) fo r th e deer (570-1). T his
d etail gives A rtem is tw o slightly different m otives: th e b o a st, w hich
goes b a c k to th e C yp ria (p. 32, 5 5 -7 D avies), a n d th e killing o f th e
sacred deer itself, w hich alo n e explains w hy th e sacrifice is a fitting
p u n ish m e n t (th e tw o are c o m b in ed in D ictys, F G r H is t 49 F 5). E lec tra
says th a t w ith o u t th e sacrifice th e arm y w as u n a b le eith er to go to T ro y
o r to d isb an d , so w ith g reat re lu c tan ce (575) A g a m e m n o n p e rfo rm e d
it.
T his la tte r claim is a little o d d , since th e tra d itio n a l sto ry h a s th e
e x p ed itio n h e ld b a c k by w inds, a n d A ulis is n o t an island. I f E le c tra ’s
v ersio n is to m a k e sense, it req u ires a p ro p h e tic o r o ra c u la r in te rv e n ­
tio n th a t w o u ld w a rn A g a m e m n o n ag a in st try in g to av o id th e sacrifice
by a b a n d o n in g th e expedition. P a rk e r, follow ed by F in g lass, sees
E le c tra ’s asse rtio n as u n p ro b le m a tic , c o m p a rin g L ic h a s’ know ledge

17 E. E. Jones and V. A. Harris, ‘The attribution of attitudes’, Journal o f Experimental


Social Psychology 3 (1967), pp. 1-24.
o f w hy Z eu s re q u ire d H eracles to serve O m p h ale a t T rach. 2 7 4 -7 9 .18
H ow ever, th a t passag e is also n o t entirely straig h tfo rw a rd , a n d trag ic
co n v e n tio n allow s L ichas, as a m essenger, to d rift to w a rd o m nisci­
ence, a licence E lec tra c a n n o t sh a re .19 In a n y case, I do n o t th in k the
p arallel m ean s th a t we m u st assum e th a t E lec tra reliably know s o f a
p ro p h e cy th a t fully g u aran tees h e r ac co u n t. A lth o u g h , o f course, a
p ro p h e cy o f C alch as is p ro m in e n t in th e tra d itio n , we c a n n o t sim ply
fill in w h a t is m issing fro m th a t tra d itio n , because th ere is n o re aso n
to th in k th a t in an y earlier version A rtem is fo rb a d e A g a m e m n o n to
a b a n d o n th e w ar. In b o th A esch y lu s’ A g a m e m n o n a n d E u rip id e s’
Ip h ig e n e ia a t A u lis , going h o m e is a real choice. I f E le c tra cited such
a p ro p h e cy , we w o u ld h a v e to accept h e r version, b u t h ere th ere are
u n clea r b o u n d a rie s dividing w h a t C alchas said, w h a t E lec tra h as
h e a rd , a n d h o w E lec tra h a s u n d e rsto o d w h a t she h ea rd .
I t is ju s t as likely th a t th e sp e c ta to r w o u ld guess th a t she h a s in ferred
th a t A g a m e m n o n co u ld n o t h av e a b a n d o n e d th e ex p ed itio n , because
she is subjectively ce rtain th a t h e r fa th e r w o u ld n o t h av e sacrificed
h e r sister if h e h a d an y choice a t all. Still, E lec tra is th e sy m p ath etic
ch a ra c te r h ere, a n d th e aud ien ce m u st be inclined to ta k e h e r side. She
m u st b e telling th e tru th as she u n d e rsta n d s it, w hich m ean s it is w h a t
she h a s h e a rd , a n d th ere fo re w h a t h a s been re p o rte d . She p ro p o se s
ask in g A rtem is fo r th e cause, b efo re saying th a t such a n in q u iry w o u ld
n o t be th e m is (563-5). C ertain ly , we sh o u ld n o t tre a t it as W in n in g to n -
In g ra m does: ‘E le c tra ’s a c c o u n t . . . is th e sto ry she w o u ld like to
believe; a n d we ca n h a rd ly su p p o se th a t S ophocles w ishes us to ta k e
it to o seriously as a n ex p la n a tio n o f ev e n ts .’20 T h is re ad in g o f these
lines is ten d en tio u s, go v ern ed by a larg e r in te rp re ta tio n o f th e p lay
as co n d em n in g th e m atricid e. Y et E le c tra ’s story, w ith its essential
b u t u n re p o rte d p ro p h e cy , is n o t entirely tra n s p a re n t, a n d h e r version
sh o u ld n o t be tre a te d u n am b ig u o u sly as S o p h o cles’ v e rsio n .21 Since
E lec tra is c o n stru c tin g h e r sto ry fro m h ea rsay , we ca n see h e r as an

18 R. Parker, ‘Through a glass darkly: Sophocles and the divine’, in J. Griffin (ed.),
Sophocles Revisited: Essays Presented to Sir Hugh Lloyd-Jones (Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 1999), pp. 11-30, at p. 17; P. Finglass, Sophocles: Electra
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), pp. 267-8 (on 566-76).
19 J. Barrett, Staged Narrative: Poetics and the Messenger in Greek Tragedy
(Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002), passim , esp. p. 96.
20 R. P. Winnington-Ingram, Sophocles: An Interpretation (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1980), p. 220, following J. H. Kells (ed.), Sophocles: Electra
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1973), on 566-633. So also M. Ringer,
Electra and the Empty Urn: Metatheater and Role Playing in Sophocles (Chapel
Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998), pp. 159-60.
21 As J. R. March, Sophocles: Electra (Warminster: Aris & Phillips, 2001), pp. 176-7,
does, esp. on 564.
a m a te u r h isto ria n . She is try in g to co m b in e a n d m a k e sense o f all she
h a s h e a rd , a n d using h e r experience o f h e r m o th e r as fu rth e r evidence.
So h o w are we to u n d e rs ta n d th ese speeches? O ne p o ssib ility is th a t
C ly te m n e stra is sim ply lying. In E le c tra ’s a c co u n t, A g a m e m n o n co u ld
c ertain ly be b lam ed fo r th e tran sg ressio n th a t cau sed A rte m is’ anger,
b u t h e h a d n o choice a b o u t th e sacrifice. C ly te m n e stra ’s claim th a t she
killed h im in v engeance is th e n a fu rth e r lie, a n d she killed h im fo r h er
re la tio n sh ip w ith A egisthus, using th e sacrifice as a self-serving pre-
te x t .22 T his is w h a t E lec tra says a t 561-2. In an y case, if A g a m e m n o n
w as a t fa u lt, h e r a rg u m e n ts a b o u t M e n e la u s’ ch ild re n are a sham . T he
o th e r altern ativ es are m o re co m p licated , b u t also m o re interesting:
C ly te m n e stra is speaking in p a rtia l g o o d fa ith (only p a rtia l, since she
c ertain ly h a s n o t ac te d solely fo r th e m o tiv e she offers). I f she know s
E le c tra ’s v ersion, she does n o t believe it. She co u ld be arg u in g fro m
w ith in th e sto ry o f A esch y lu s’ A g a m e m n o n , w here A rte m is’ an g er
does n o t h av e a d irect a n d o b v io u s m o tiv a tio n . She co u ld also accept
th e sto ry th a t A g a m e m n o n an g e red A rtem is by killing th e stag (while
d elib erately ig n o rin g it in h e r speech), b u t n o t believe th a t h e h a d n o
choice in sacrificing his d au g h ter. T h ere is n o w ay to tell fro m th e tex t
w h e th e r she w as ac tu ally p re se n t a t A ulis.
W h a t we m a y h a v e here, th en , is ag ain so m eth in g very m u ch like
a H e ro d o te a n ‘h e said/she said ’. T h e d isp u ta n ts accept ac co u n ts o f
th e p a s t th a t ju stify th e ir p re se n t beliefs, ju s t as H e ro d o te a n figures
p re se n t versio n s o f th e p a st th a t m a k e th e ir ow n n a tio n s a p p e a r
guiltless. C ly te m n e stra im plicitly denies th a t a n y p ro p h e c y o r o th e r
a u th o rita tiv e source re q u ire d th a t th e sacrifice be A g a m e m n o n ’s
child. T h e q u estio n o f w hy th e victim sh o u ld be A g a m e m n o n ’s
ch ild is ra ise d elsew here in trag e d y , a n d in E u rip id e s’ Ip h ig en e ia a t
A u lis, A g a m e m n o n a t least im plies th a t C a lc h a s’ p ro p h e c y requires
Ip h ig en ia, b o th in th e p ro lo g u e (90) a n d in resp o n se to C ly te m n e stra
(1262). C ly te m n e stra in tro d u ce s a degree o f choice th a t th e tr a d i­
tio n does n o t. O nce A eschylus’ A g a m e m n o n h a d to ld th e sto ry o f
th e sacrifice w ith o u t an y p a rtic u la r m o tiv e fo r A rtem is to p u n ish
A g a m e m n o n , th e q u estio n h a d to arise. E le c tra ’s version, o n th e o th er
h a n d , gives A g a m e m n o n n o effective choice a t all. O ne version h a s an
A g a m e m n o n im p lau sib ly u n c o n stra in e d , w hile th e o th e r creates so
m u ch c o n s tra in t th a t h e really h a s n o dilem m a. T hese in te rp re ta tio n s
o f th e p a s t c o rre sp o n d to p ro b lem s o f in te rp re ta tio n s o f th e p resent:
E lec tra tells th e ch o ru s th a t h e r endless lam en ts are entirely fo rced o n
h e r (2 5 6 -7 ), at least in so fa r as she is suysv^g, a n d she tells h e r m o th e r

22 L. MacLeod, Dolos and Dike in Sophokles’ Elektra (Leiden: Brill, 2001), pp. 84-7;
van Erp Taalman Kip, ‘Truth in tragedy’, p. 519.
th a t h e r ab u se o f h e r m o th e r is also com pletely in v o lu n ta ry (619-21).
O n th e o th e r h a n d , she certain ly does n o t see C ly te m n e stra ’s b e h a v ­
io u r as in an y w ay fo rced o n h e r , a n d she generally refuses to accept
lim its im p o sed by o th ers o n h e r ow n freed o m o f action.
E le c tra ’s a c c o u n t leaves n o m o ra l am biguities. I f h e r version is
co rrec t, A g a m e m n o n , a p a rt fro m th e folly o f his b o a st, is guiltless,
w hile C ly te m n e stra w as n o t actu ally m o tiv a te d by Ip h ig e n ia ’s sacri­
fice a t all - it is en tirely a n excuse. C ly tem n estra, o n th e o th e r side,
(repellently) does n o t acknow ledge an y m o ra l com plexity in h er
ow n actio n s; she says th a t she is ‘n o t distressed by w h a t w as d o n e ’
(5 49-50), w hile she insists th a t E le c tra ’s b e h a v io u r in speaking ill o f
h e r is b lam ew o rth y (523-4) a n d in d eed re g ard s it as hubris. In fact, she
re g ard s E le c tra ’s c o n s ta n t references to th e m u rd e r o f A g a m e m n o n
as a n excuse (npoaxnua, 525), a lth o u g h she does n o t say w h a t she
believes E le c tra ’s real m otives are.
T h is a g o n , like th e one in T ro a d es, p ro b e s b e y o n d th e b asic p re fe r­
ence o f an y g ro u p fo r th e sto ry th a t m ak es it lo o k b etter. P eople in
a n ta g o n istic situ atio n s p ro d u c e versions th a t dism iss th e pressures
a n d situ a tio n a l c o n stra in ts o f o th ers w hile m a k in g them selves a n d
th o se th ey s u p p o rt victim s o f circum stances. T ra g ic c h a ra c te rs expect
m o re con sistency th a n reality typically p resen ts. T his is a d a n g e r fo r
th e h is to ria n w ho m u st in te rp re t th e ir acco u n ts, a n d these tragedies
p u t th e sp ec ta to r in to th e situ a tio n o f such a h isto ria n . In O re ste s ,
T y n d a re u s refers to a n an c estral a n d p an h e lle n ic n o rm th a t n o b o d y
else recognises, so th a t a n ap p e al to th e p a st does n o t settle th e c o n ­
tro v ersies o f th e p resen t. In ste a d , p re se n t co n tro v ersies seem to be
p ro je c te d in to th e p a st, in p o te n tia lly infinite regress.
EURIPIDEAN EXPLAINERS

Allen Romano

T h ere is w ide consensus th a t tra g ic aetiologies (o r ‘a itia ’) 1 co n n e ct th e


m y th ic, rem o te, p a s t o f th e d ra m a tic w o rld to th e real, experienced,
p re se n t w o rld o f p ractice. E u rip id e a n aetiologies, fo r exam ple, ‘fu n c ­
tio n as references to th e m o re stable p re se n t a n d h elp th e audience
b rid g e th e g ap betw een m y th ical tim e a n d c o n te m p o ra ry life ’.2 T hey
are ‘one w ay o f b rin g in g m y th in to th e p re s e n t’ a n d ‘lin k th e h ero ic
a n d m y th ical w o rld o f th e p la y to th a t o f th e fifth -cen tu ry au d ien c e ’.3
T ra g ic aetio lo g y is ‘a strategy b y w hich th e A th e n ia n s define th eir

1 I define aetiology broadly as that class of communication which, by narration


or implication, uses legendary or mythic stories to explain the origins of things.
The labels ‘aetiology’ or ‘aitia’ do not reflect or reproduce fifth-century concepts.
Herodotus refers to a given origin story not as an aixiov, but as a Xoyog (or ispog
Xoyog), as for example at 2.156.3 (Xoyov Ss t o v S s snlsyovxsg) or where he refuses
to elaborate sacred Xoyoi (2.47.2, 2.48.3, 2.51.4, 2.62.2, 2.81.2). When he speaks
of causality in such stories, he uses a simple and unmarked construction such as
Sia followed by the accusative. By contrast, he uses the term aixiov elsewhere of
natural causes, usually ones that he finds particularly amazing (and thus in need
of explanation). So, for example, at Histories 3.12, he wonders at the strong bones
of Egyptians and the equally weak skulls of Persians and recounts the reason he
is told to explain this difference, a reason rooted in the particular habits of each
group. Cf. 2.25-6, 3.108, 7.125 and the unmarked use of the term aixiov at 1.91,
4.43, 8.128, 8.129, 9.8, 9.93. In philosophy and medicine, the terminology of cause
has a particular prestige, but is also not obviously akin to the phenomenon of
aetiological stories we find in pre-Hellenistic literature. Telling is the fact that Plato
in the Phaedo (99a), in Socrates’ criticism of Anaxagoras’ account of cause, speaks
of people using the term aixiov in a wrong sense, thus explicitly problematising
the term for the first time in extant literature: a W aixia ^sv xa xoiaCxa KaXsiv Hav
axonav. So too, despite Aristotle’s overdeveloped theoretical edifice of causality,
in Metaphysics A 5 he lists a number of different definitions and examples of aixia,
none of which could easily refer to the sorts of mythic explanations which modern
critics label ‘aitia’.
2 D. J. Mastronarde, The Art o f Euripides: Dramatic Technique and Social
Context (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), p. 158.
3 R. Parker, Polytheism and Society at Athens (Oxford: Oxford University Press,
2005), pp. 142-3, and W. Allan, Euripides: Helen (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 2008), p. 340, on the end of Euripides’ Helen.
re la tio n s to th e p an h e lle n ic p a s t a n d hence to th e rest o f G re ece’, a n d
‘th e aitio lo g ical p o e t is th e civic p o e t, w hose aud ien ce is th e citizen
b o d y ’.4 Such assessm ents focus strikingly o n o n e dim en sio n o f c o m ­
m u n ic a tio n . A etio lo g y is, in these fam iliar fo rm u la tio n s, first a n d fo re ­
m o st an exch ange betw een p lay w rig h t a n d audience a n d o n e w hose
specific p e rm u ta tio n s th ro u g h th e m o u th s o f a diverse ra n g e o f sp ea k ­
ers d irected to w a rd s specific a u d ito rs o n stage fo r specific goals w o u ld
seem to m a tte r little to th e o v erarc h in g a u th o ria l e n d o f con n ectin g
p a s t a n d p re sen t. T his is p ro b lem a tic. E m p h asis o n th e p lay w rig h t
w h o explains th e origins o f th in g s, w ho know s o r does n o t kn o w
details o f cult, p lace a n d etym ology, a n d w hose skill is p u t o n display
in expressing such know ledge squeezes trag ic aetio lo g y in to th e ide­
alised a n d id olised shape o f a H e ro d o te a n lo g o s , lo p p in g o ff featu res
w hich are n o t m eaningless excess a n d p ay in g insufficient a tte n tio n to
c o n te m p o ra ry n o n -h isto rio g ra p h ic m o d es o f ta lk in g a b o u t fo u n d a ­
tio n s a n d origins. E u rip id es is n o t a h is to ria n a n d E u rip id e a n ae tio l­
ogy is n o t fo resh ad o w in g o f h isto rio g ra p h ic n a rra tiv e ex p lan a tio n .
D e sp ite th e ever-w idening a p p ro p ria tio n o f th e label ‘ae tio lo g y ’
in analyses o f tra g e d y ,5 we w o u ld do well to h ee d th e advice o f G .
S. K irk , w ho recognised, som e fo rty years ago, th a t th e sto ry o f

4 B. Kowalzig, ‘The aetiology of empire? Hero cult and Athenian tragedy’, in J.


Davidson, F. Muecke and P. Wilson (eds), Greek Drama III: Essays in Honour o f
Kevin Lee (London: Insitute of Classical Studies, 2006), pp. 79-98, at p. 81, and
Parker, Polytheism and Society, p. 143.
5 Recent work finds in aetiology a general hermeneutic for tragedy as a genre,
described well by Easterling as ‘the play’s implicit references to its contemporary
theatrical, ritual, and political functions’, in P. E. Easterling, ‘Theatrical furies:
Thoughts on Eumenides’, in M. Revermann and P. Wilson (eds), Performance,
Iconography, Reception: Studies in Honour o f Oliver Taplin (Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 2008), pp. 219-36, at p. 221. F. I. Zeitlin, ‘The dynamics of
misogyny: Myth and mythmaking in the Oresteia’, Arethusa 11 (1978), pp.
149-84, posits an aetiology of patriarchy in Eumenides. Richard Seaford’s work
has provocatively expanded the scope of tragic aetiologies from isolated instances
within specific plays to more general relevance: R. Seaford, Reciprocity and Ritual:
Homer and Tragedy in the Developing City-State (Oxford: Oxford University
Press, 1994), esp. pp. 123-39 and 385: ‘tragedy, in concluding with the foundation
of cult involving the collective and regular renewal of the kind of liminality
perverted in the drama by interfamilial violence, itself encapsulates that historical
transformation of cult which issued in the genesis of tragedy’. Most recently,
Claude Calame argues that satyr plays have a ‘quasi-aetiological function with
regard to the cult given in honour of the city god [Dionysus] by participants in the
Great Dionysia’, in C. Calame, ‘Aetiological performance and consecration in the
sanctuary of Dionysos’, in O. Taplin and R. Wyles (eds), The Pronomos Vase and
Its Context (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), pp. 65-78, at p. 66. P. Wilson
and O. Taplin, ‘The “aetiology” of tragedy in the Oresteia’, PCPhS 39 (1993),
pp. 169-80, suggest that the Oresteia dramatises the aetiology of the tragic genre
itself. M. Revermann, ‘Aeschylus’ Eumenides, chronotopes, and the “aetiological
mode”’, in Revermann and Wilson, Performance, Iconography, Reception, pp.
aetio lo g ical m y th s a n d legends is, in p ractice, alw ays o n e o f m u lti­
p licity m o re th a n o f sin g u lar fu n c tio n .6 D isco u rse a b o u t origins can
ta k e th e fo rm o f n a rra tiv e o r p ro p h e c y o r b e im p lied th ro u g h th e
ju x ta p o s itio n o f sto ry a n d c o n tex t, as is d e m o n s tra te d by exam ples in
th e tra g ic co rp u s. M o st fam iliar in trag e d y are th e p re d ic tio n s o f cult
o ften (b u t n o t alw ays) fo u n d a t th e e n d o f E u rip id e a n plays a n d deliv­
ered o ften (b u t n o t alw ays) by divinities. T h o u g h p ro n o u n c e m e n ts
by deities (o r d ivinised ex -m o rtals like th e D io scu ri o r H eracles) are
relatively explicit in th e ir p re d ic tio n o f fu tu re p ractice, th ere is g reat
v a ria tio n across th e trag ic c o rp u s .7 So, fo r exam ple, a t th e b eg in ­
nin g s a n d en d ings o f p lay s we reg u larly find references to th e origins
o f peo p les, n am es a n d cities, a n d elsew here th ere are references to
th e o rigins o f civilisation a n d o f th e u n iv erse .8 T h ere are ra re r cases
o f aetio lo g ical n a rra tiv e delivered retrospectively, in clu d in g O re stes’

237-61, at p. 252, highlights some of these predecessors to argue that the Oresteia
is similarly about ‘the meta-level’ and what he terms ‘the aetiological mode’.
6 G. S. Kirk, ‘Aetiology, ritual, charter: Three equivocal terms in the study of
myths’, YClS 22 (1972), pp. 83-102 (esp. p. 84: ‘these explanatory modes tend
to be functionally distinct, so that the application of the one generic label
of “aetiology” - and most critics are content with that - is inadequate and
misleading’), prefigured in Kirk, Myth: Its Meaning and Functions in Ancient and
Other Cultures (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1970), pp. 13-31, and
echoed in Kirk, The Nature o f Greek Myths (Woodstock: Overlook Press, 1975),
pp. 53-68.
7 In addition to the nine cases of divine appearance at the end of extant plays
(Hippolytus, Andromache, Supplices, Electra, Iphigenia among the Taurians, Ion,
Helen, Orestes, Bacchae), all of which contain aetiological information of some
sort, Athena’s appearance at the end of Erecththeus and Hermes’ at the end of
Antiope both survive in substantial papyrus fragments and contain aetiological
information. Dionysus’ appearance at the end of Hypsipyle is marked in the
margin of the papyrus, but the speech does not survive. Other cases of the deus
ex machina (and aetiology), though frequently inferred by modern scholars, are
inferences of varying likelihood from later plot summaries. At the end of Medea ,
Medea boasts to Jason that she will bury her children at Corinth and they will
receive cult worship, but we should not interpret this case as a variety of divine
intervention scenes. The play predates the earliest securely attested deus ex
machina scene (Hippolytus of 428) and Medea’s arrival on the chariot of the Sun
differs greatly in tone and emphasis from the appearance of a god, particularly in
foregrounding Jason’s inability to touch either Medea or their children. The non-
Euripidean Rhesus ended with the Muse predicting, among other things, the future
cult for Rhesus.
8 Both Euripides’ Ion and the fragmentary Archelaus begin with extensive
genealogies. Etymology is common as, for example, in Antiope fr. 181 and 182,
Archelaus fr. 228.7-8, Erechtheus fr. 370, Hec. 1270, Hel. 1670-5, Hipp. 29-33, Ion
661-2 and 1577-81, Or. 1643-7, Phrixos fr. 819, Telephus fr. 393, Tro. 13-14. See
further the list offigura etymologica in J. D. Smereka, Studia Euripidea (Leopoldi:
Sumptibus Societatis Litterarum, 1936), pp. 172-6. City foundation is predicted
at El. 1273-5 and mentioned at Archelaus fr. 228.6. Alexandros fr. 61b gives the
origin of human kinds. On the origins of the universe, Aeschylus fr. 44, Euripides,
Melanippe the Wise fr. 484, Chrysippus fr. 839 (cf. Hippolytus Veiled, fr. 429).
re p o rt o f th e fo u n d a tio n o f th e A th e n ia n C hoes in Ip h ig en ia a m o n g
th e T a u ria n s (958-60), a n d aetio lo g y o ften featu res in c h o ra l songs
(fo r exam ple, H e c u b a 802 o n th e origin o f th e olive a t A th en s fro m
A th e n a ).9 S cholars h av e lo n g claim ed a ty p e o f aetiological reso n an ce
fo r p lay s like S ophocles’ A j a x , w here th e fu tu re cu lt o f A jax is only
h in te d a t b u t seem s crucial fo r u n d e rsta n d in g th e p lay , o r E u rip id e s’
B a c c h a e , w here aspects o f D io n y su s’ cu lt re so n a te th ro u g h th e p la y .10
T his is a diverse b o d y o f stories a n d p re se n ta tio n s. F o lk lo rists like
B arre T o elk en re m in d us th a t th e very a ssu m p tio n o f a ca te g o ry
o f aetio lo g ical m y th o ften co n d itio n s us, as cu ltu ra l in terlo p ers, to
m isu n d e rsta n d w h a t tellers o f such tales fin d salien t .11 P arad o x ically ,
in o rd e r to u n d e rs ta n d w h a t E u rip id es is do in g w ith his p a rtic u la r
exp ressio n s o f aetiology, it ca n be h elp fu l first to de-em phasise the
e x tra -d ra m a tic categ o ry o f ‘ae tio lo g y ’ a n d focus in ste a d o n varieties
o f o rigin ta lk in th e ir specific contexts. W e m u st, sim ilarly, decentre
E u rip id es in fa v o u r o f th e ch a ra c te rs w ho are th e im m ed iate m o u th ­
pieces o f aetiological in fo rm a tio n w ith in an y given play. In w h a t
follow s, I arg u e ag a in st fam iliar d escrip tio n s o f E u rip id e a n aetiology
as b rid g e b etw een p a st a n d p re se n t in o rd e r to show h o w E u rip id es
ex p lo its, w ith g reat variety a n d inventiveness, fifth -cen tu ry discourse
a b o u t fo u n d a tio n s a n d , fu rth e r, h o w E u rip id e a n explainers all speak

9 Mastronarde, Art o f Euripides, p. 122. See especially his discussion on pp. 123-4
and 165.
10 R. C. S. Jebb, Sophocles: The Plays and Fragments (Cambridge: The Cambridge
University Press, 1893), pp. xxx-xxxii; J. C. Kamerbeek, The Plays o f Sophocles:
Commentaries (Leiden: Brill, 1953), pp. 14-15; P. H. Burian, ‘Supplication and
hero cult in Sophocles’ Ajax ’, GRb S 13 (1972), pp. 151-6; P. E. Easterling,
‘Tragedy and ritual: Cry “woe, woe”, but may the good prevail!’, Metis 3 (1988),
pp. 87-109; A. Henrichs, ‘The tomb of Aias and the prospect of hero cult in
Sophokles’, ClAnt 12/2 (1993), pp. 165-80; J. R. March, ‘Sophocles’ Ajax: The
death and burial of a hero’, BIC S 38 (1991-3), pp. 1-36; Kowalzig, ‘Aetiology
of empire?’. Cf. J. P. Poe, Genre and Meaning in Sophocles’ Ajax (Frankfurt:
Athenaum, 1987), pp. 9-18, and A. F. Garvie, Sophocles, Ajax (Warminster: Aris
& Phillips, 1998), pp. 5-6. On the connections of the Salaminian chorus, Ajax and
Athens, see Seaford, Reciprocity and Ritual, pp. 398-9. For Bacchae, see especially
R. Seaford, Euripides, Bacchae (Warminster: Aris & Phillips, 1996), and Seaford,
Reciprocity and Ritual.
11 B. Toelken, ‘The “pretty languages” of Yellowman: Genre, mode, and
texture in Navaho Coyote narratives’, in D. Ben-Amos (ed.), Folklore Genres
(Austin: University of Texas Press, 1976), pp. 145-70, at pp. 146-7, describing an
aetiological tale for the origin of snow recounted by a Navajo elder: ‘I found by
questioning him that he did not in fact consider it an aetiological story and did not
in any way believe that that was the way snow originated; rather, if the story was
“about” anything, it was about moral values, about the deportment of a young
protagonist whose actions showed a properly reciprocal relationship between
himself and nature. In short, by seeing the story in terms of any categories I had
been taught to recognize, I had missed the point.’
w ith id io sy n cratic a n d d istin ct perspectives o n p a st, p re se n t a n d
fu tu re . C o n seq u en tly , E u rip id e a n aetiology does n o t fu n c tio n p rim a r­
ily as an act o f c o m m u n ic a tio n a b o u t th e p a s t betw een p lay w rig h t a n d
au d ien ce, n o r does it m a k e salient an y so rt o f m essage co n n e ctin g one
te m p o ra l d o m a in to a n o th e r; ra th e r, th e ra n g e o f fu n c tio n s fo r trag ic
aetio lo g y is hig hly v ariab le a n d , to th e ex ten t th a t we can generalise
a b o u t E u rip id e s’ m otives, a to o l fo r filling in a fuller p ic tu re o f th e
p a s t as en a c te d o n stage a n d m ak in g vividly alive th e m in d s o f th o se
in h a b itin g th a t p ast.
F o r a m o d e rn re a d e r p rim e d to see th e p a s t as so m eth in g th a t can
be re c o rd e d a n d th ere fo re k n o w n , b u t th e fu tu re as a th in g in h e r­
en tly u n k n o w n an d , to non-believers in d iv in atio n , u n k n o w a b le , th e
g u lf b etw een p re d ic tio n s o f fo u n d a tio n a n d n a rra tiv e re co u n tin g
o f fo u n d a tio n seems wide; b u t in a n an cien t id io m w here th e p a st,
a n d p a rtic u la rly th e p o etic access to th e p a st, reg u larly requires
ap p e al to divine know ledge o r em ploying divinely given gifts, th e
line b etw een vision o f th e fu tu re a n d vision o f th e p a s t is fa r finer.
I t is n o t necessarily to an cien t ch roniclers o r h isto rio g ra p h e rs th a t
we sh o u ld lo o k fo r fifth -cen tu ry d iscourse a b o u t fo u n d a tio n s a n d
origins ag a in st w hich to co n tex tu alise aetiology generally, a n d espe­
cially E u rip id e a n aetio lo g y o f th e p ro p h e tic fo rm w hich h a s received
th e b u lk o f sch olarly a tte n tio n . W e h av e clues as to one im p o rta n t
co n tex t fo r cu lt p re d ic tio n in scenes th a t h a v e freq u en tly been m is­
u n d e rs to o d as m o rta l v a ria tio n s o n divine p a tte rn s. F o r exam ple,
in H e c u b a , P o ly m ester speaks w ith H e c u b a a n d A g a m e m n o n a n d
p re d ic ts H e c u b a ’s m eta m o rp h o sis in to a dog, h e r d e a th a n d th e
n a m in g o f th e h ea d la n d s n e a r th e site o f h e r d ro w n in g , ety m o lo g is­
ing th e p ro m o n to ry C y n o ssem a as Kuvog . . . o % a (‘b itch es’ g ra v e’).
It is m islead in g to lu m p these details to g e th e r w ith E u rip id ea n
aetiologies in o th e r closing scenes as if this is th e slightly u n u su a l
offspring o f th e n o rm a tiv e divine en d in g fo u n d elsew here; aligning
th is case to o closely w ith th e fu n c tio n o f gods w ho deliver aetiologi-
cal p re d ic tio n s m isses th e specific te n o r o f th e scene .12 P o ly m esto r
is try in g to p a in his in te rlo c u to rs, as h e m ak es clear to w a rd s th e
en d (1283, aXysig aKourov; ‘D o es it h u rt to listen?’, to A g am em n o n ).
W h e n his p re d ic tio n s o f H e c u b a ’s ow n d e a th do n o t h av e m u ch
effect o n h e r (H e c u b a even m o ck s h im a t 1272, ‘Y o u going to give
a n a m e a b o u t m y fo rm [as a dog]?’), P o ly m e sto r tu rn s to th e d e a th

12 Contra J. Gregory, Euripides, Hecuba: Introduction, Text, and Commentary


(Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1999), pp. xxxv-xxxvi. See also K. Matthiessen, Euripides
‘Hekabe’: Edition und Kommentar (Berlin: de Gruyter, 2010), p. 416, and J.
Mossman, Wild Justice: A Study o f Euripides’ Hecuba (Oxford: Oxford University
Press, 1995), pp. 200-1.
o f h e r d a u g h te r C a ssa n d ra . T h o u g h H e c u b a rejects this p re d ic tio n
(1276), it en sn ares A g a m e m n o n . P o ly m e sto r p re d ic ts, accurately,
A g a m e m n o n ’s fu tu re d e a th at th e h a n d s o f C ly te m n e stra a n d it is
o nly th en , w ith A g a m e m n o n ’s grow ing an g er, th a t P o ly m e sto r is
silenced by gagging a n d his rem o v al fro m th e stage. P resu m p tio n
th a t th e n o rm a tiv e aetiological sp eak er is e ith e r th e divine speaker
or, m o re perniciously, th e p lay w rig h t obscures th e specific a n d m u ch
m o re salient co n tex t fo r ex p la n a tio n stru c tu rin g this scene.
P o ly m e sto r locates his a u th o rity in th e p ro p h ecies h e h e a rd fro m
T h ra c ia n D io n y su s (1267). T o P o ly m e sto r’s claim s o f divine a u th o rity
fo r his p re d ic tio n s, H e c u b a re sp o n d s w ith derision. She m o ck s h im
th a t th e o racles d id n o t foretell P o ly m e sto r’s ow n c u rre n t m isfo rtu n e,
h im self c a p tu re d a n d his son b ru ta lly m u rd e re d b y a ra g ta g g ro u p o f
w om en. T h is d erisio n ca n be situ ated ag a in st th e com plex a m b iv a ­
lence to w a rd s d iv in a to ry p ro fessio n als in A th en s. In M ichael F lo w e r’s
recen t, vivid c h a ra c te risa tio n , seers ‘c o m b in ed th e ro le o f co n fid an t
a n d p erso n a l adviser w ith th a t o f psychic, fo rtu n e -teller, a n d h o m e o ­
p a th ic h e a le r ’.13 D esp ite fre q u e n t fifth -cen tu ry rh e to ric discrediting
th e ir activities, seers w ere a u th o rita tiv e a n d very stable sources o f
k n o w ledge a b o u t religious m a tte rs - m a tte rs w hich, in th e an cien t
w o rld , alw ays b led across social, p o litica l a n d m edical spheres. T h u s
w hen P la to in th e R e p u b lic m o ck s p ro p h e ts as b eggars o u t fo r a qu ick
b u ck , we also get a sn a p sh o t o f h o w p o te n t th ey w ere as sources o f
a u th o rita tiv e know ledge a b o u t b o th p a s t a n d present:

a n d begging priests (ayupxai) a n d seers (^avxsig) go to rich m e n ’s


d o o rs a n d p ersu a d e th e m th a t th ey possess th e p o w e r fro m th e
gods th a t th ro u g h sacrifices a n d in c a n ta tio n s, if an y w ro n g h as
b een d o n e to h im o r his an cesto rs, th ey can cure w ith p leasu rab le
festivities an d , if a m a n w ishes to h a rm a n enem y, i t’s only a sm all
fee to h a rm ju s t a n d u n ju st alike, since th ey can , th ro u g h certain
e n c h a n tm e n ts (snayroyalg) a n d spells (KaxaSsa^oig), p ersu a d e th e
gods to serve th e m .14

T h a t seers m ig h t claim to b e able to m o u ld even th e gods to th eir


needs is p ro b a b ly ex a g g era tio n , b u t indicates th e p o p u la r co n c ep tio n

13 M. A. Flower, The Seer in Ancient Greece (Berkeley: University of California


Press, 2008), p. 22. Distinguishing the activities of manteis, chresmologoi and
others who would claim to divine is a notorious problem. See further Flower’s
discussions at pp. 58-71. I echo his terminology here. On the diverse roles and
manifestations of seer-craft, see also the essays in S. I. Johnston and P. T. Struck,
Mantike: Studies in Ancient Divination (Leiden: Brill, 2005).
14 364b-c with Flower, Seer in Ancient Greece, pp. 27-9.
EURIPIDEAN EXPLAINERS 133

o f th e ir u tility . T h o u g h th e p o rtra it is negative, it a tte sts b o th th e w ide


co m p eten ce claim ed by seers (o r th e ir im ita to rs a n d rivals in divina-
to ry c raft) a n d a few o f th e ir w o rk in g m eth o d s. B ox-office seers cam e
fro m elite fam ilies, m ay h av e advised th e lead in g generals, a n d co u ld
d e m a n d h ig h fees fo r th e ir services .15 A s P la to co n tin u es, m ash in g
p ractices o f c h re sm o lo g o i a n d m a n te is in o rd e r to b rin g d isrep u te u p o n
th e w hole d iv in ato ry a p p a ra tu s , such p ro p h e ts

m a k e n o t on ly o rd in a ry m en b u t cities believe th a t th ere really


are re so lu tio n s (Auasig) a n d p u rifica tio n s (Ka0ap^ol) fo r injustices
th ro u g h sacrifice a n d p le a sa n t gam es (naiSiag ^Sovrov) fo r the
living, a n d th a t th ere are also special observances fo r th e d ead,
w hich th ey call rites (xsAsxag), th a t release us fro m ills in th a t
p lace, w hile h o rro rs aw ait th o se w ho do n o t sacrifice .16

P a rt o f th e d iv in a to ry p ro cess is reco m m en d in g th e p ro p e r corrective


p ro c ed u re s, a p rocess w hich co u ld involve p erfo rm in g o ld o r new
ritu als. So, fo r exam ple, a t B a c c h a e 255-7, P en th eu s charges T iresias
w ith try in g to p ro fit fro m in tro d u c in g a new cult: ‘Y o u w a n t to in tro ­
d uce th is new d ivinity (S a ^ o v ’) to m a n k in d a n d re a d his b ird signs a n d
en tra ils to m a k e m o n e y .’ Seers w ere essential to th e d ecision-m aking
o f b a ttle , as is expressed strikingly b y th e w ay th a t leg en d ary seers like
T iresias co u ld claim to h av e w on a w a r (P h o en issa e 854-7, o f A th en s
ag a in st E leusis) o r in th e w ay th e S p artan s, acco rd in g to H e ro d o tu s
(9.33.3), w o u ld fin d it im p o rta n t to b rib e th e seer T isam en u s to be th eir
lead e r in w a r .17 A s R a d e rm a c h e r ob serv ed (echoed m o re recently by
D illery), th e p e rio d fro m th e begin n in g o f th e P elo p o n n esian W a r to
th e Sicilian ex p ed itio n is rich in d iv in ers . 18 T hey w ere b o th cru cial (at
least u n til w id esp read o u tra g e a t th e failu re to h elp stave o ffth e Sicilian
d isaster o f 414), b u t also a n object o f derision. T hey w ere ou tsid ers, b u t
in w ith th e lead ers o f th e city. T hey w ere self-interested, such th a t they
co u ld be m o ck ed as only p u rsu in g th e ir o w n p ro fit, b u t also h a d a vital
ro le in th e p o lis, p a rtic u la rly fo r crucial decisions in w artim e. F u rth e r,
if we ta k e seriously th e n o tio n th a t b e h in d A ris to p h a n e s’ staging o f
an o ra c u la r c o n test in P e a c e (1043ff.) w as a real p ra ctice o f p re sen tin g

15 Flower, Seer in Ancient Greece, pp. 37-50.


16 364e-365a.
17 Flower, Seer in Ancient Greece, pp. 94-7, and J. Dillery, ‘Chresmologues
and manteis: Independent diviners and the problem of authority’, in Johnston and
Struck, Mantike, pp. 167-231.
18 L. Radermacher, ‘Euripides und die Mantik’, Rheinisches Museum 53 (1898), pp.
497-510, at pp. 504-9, and Dillery, ‘Chresmologues and manteis’, p. 184.
oracles, as D illery suggests , 19 th e in terc h an g e a t th e e n d o f H e c u b a
re so n ates strikingly w ith th e c o n te m p o ra ry A th e n ia n lan d sca p e o f
d iv in atio n . E u rip id es stages a n o ra c u la r co n test w here P o ly m e sto r’s
tru e p re d ic tio n s are ig n o re d a n d even tu ally silenced. T hese are h u m a n
in stitu tio n s o f oracle-giving a n d a h u m a n co n tex t fo r ev a lu a tin g a n d
suspecting p ro p h e tic ex p lan a tio n s, w h a te v er th e epistem ic basis in
divine sources. T h e re lev an t an alo g y fo r th e aetio lo g y in this m o m e n t
is n o t kn o w ledge like th a t o f th e god, b u t ra th e r scenarios o f h u m a n
e x p la n a tio n a n d p re d ic tio n . T h e an a lo g y supplies in fo rm a tio n w hich
is left u n s ta te d in th e scene, allow ing th e audience to see in sh arp
relief th e ch a ra c te rs involved: th e o ld w o m an fro m a d efeated people,
H e cu b a, fo r w h o m h e r ow n im p en d in g d e a th is n o t all th a t m u ch o f
a th re a t; A g a m e m n o n , b lin d to his fu tu re ; a n d P o ly m esto r, b a r b a r­
ian a n d o u tsid er (m uch like th e in d ep en d e n t ch re sm o lo g o i a t A thens),
w ho h a p p e n s to be rig h t in ev erything th a t h e p red icts. T h e scenario
o f o ra c u la r c o n te sta tio n m ak es P o ly m e sto r’s villainy sta n d o u t, as he
is n o t p lay in g th e p a r t o f beneficial seer, b u t ra th e r is only in tere ste d in
his o w n n ee d to ab u se his ca p to rs.
S im ilar is E u ry sth eu s in H e ra c lid a e . A t th e e n d o f th e p la y h e claim s
th e a u th o rity o f th e oracles o f A p o llo to p re d ic t th e benefit h e will
b rin g to A th en s (1028). E u ry sth eu s is p re d ic tin g , o f course, his ow n
d e a th a n d its beneficent effects ra th e r th a n d e a th a n d d e stru c tio n to
co m e fo r o th ers. E u ry sth eu s is th e p a ra d ig m o f h ero ism , seeking to
die a n o b le d e a th w hen, as h e h a s explained, d e a th o n th e battlefield
h a s b een d e n ie d .20 T h e re lev an t scenario h ere is n o t th a t o f gods a t the
e n d o f o th e r E u rip id e a n plays, b u t ra th e r th e c o n te m p o ra ry m a rk e t­
p lace o f ex p la n a tio n a n d p ro p h e c y .21 E ven m o re so th a n in th e case
o f H e c u b a ’s P o ly m esto r, th e stru c tu ra l an alo g y o f E u ry sth eu s w ith
in d ep en d e n t, o ften foreign m a n te is is m a rk e d . E u ry sth eu s is h ere a
fo reig n er a n d exile at A th en s w ho claim s to be a b o o n to th e city,
a n d a benefit in w artim e. H e even claim s to th in k th a t th e oracles
w ere useless. I t w as n o t th a t h e w as n o t to ld w h a t w o u ld h a p p e n
to h im ; ra th e r, h e th o u g h t th a t H e ra w as stro n g e r th a n oracles a n d
w o u ld p ro te c t h im (1038-40). T h o u g h we c a n n o t k n o w fo r certain

19 Dillery, ‘Chresmologues and manteis’, pp. 194 and 210-12, interprets the
‘wooden walls’ episode of Themistocles as oracular competition.
20 This is a heroic paradigm rather than a divine one and his concerns are not unlike
those of heroes of epic. See G. Nagy, The Best o f the Achaeans: Concepts o f the
Hero in Archaic Greek Poetry, revised edn (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University
Press, 1999), pp. 118-19 and 222-42.
21 Contra J. Wilkins, Euripides: Heraclidae (Oxford: Oxford University Press,
1993), p. 188: ‘the speech of Eurystheus stands in the place of an ex machina
speech, and his report of the oracle covering his heroization and the Spartan
invasion is equivalent to the aition expected at the end of a Euripides play’.
w h e th e r th e au d ien ce h a d d etailed (ra th e r th a n general) know ledge
o f E u ry sth e u s’ fa te in A ttica, recognising th a t th e scene p resen ts him
as a source w hose claim s are o p en to q u estio n in g m ay solve a lo n g ­
stan d in g p ro b le m in reconciling o u r n o n -E u rip id e a n evidence fo r th e
cu lt w ith w h a t E u ry sth eu s says in th e play. T h o u g h we h av e n o in d e ­
p e n d e n t evidence fo r this specific cu lt a t P allene, acco rd in g to S trab o
(8.6.19), E u ry sth e u s’ b o d y w as b u rie d n e a rb y (a t G a rg e tto s), th o u g h
his h e a d elsew h ere .22 I f this w ere th e a n a lo g u e o f divine in terv e n tio n ,
th e n we m ig h t expect, as m o st scholars h ave, th a t E u ry sth eu s p red icts
a tru th a b o u t his fu tu re h e ro isa tio n w hich th e audience registers as
re lev an t to th e ir locale. B u t it is q u ite im p o rta n t th a t E u ry sth e u s’ role
as ex p lain er b e n o t en tirely secure. Is h e th e in te rp re te r o f oracles th a t
h e claim s to be? H is re p o rt o f th e oracle h ere conceals b lu ste r th a t is
n o t en tirely accu rate. H e p re d ic ts his cu lt in ap p ro x im a te ly its co rrec t
p lace b u t does n o t k n o w th a t in fact it will be only his headless b o d y
th a t will lie th ere. Such a slip w o u ld be in keeping w ith his ch a rac te r,
a m a n w ho ig n o re d th e oracle h e w as given a n d ends u p d ea d despite
his fo re w a rn in g .23
T h e m essy m a rk e tp la c e o f seers a n d th e ir co m p etin g , co n tin g en t
e x p lan a tio n s a b o u t p a s t a n d fu tu re fo re g ro u n d s th e w ay p re d ic tio n
alw ays in v o lv ed differences in perspective, selection a n d aim . T h a t
h u m a n figures ac tiv a te analogies w ith th e practices o f seers is n o t
surp risin g , b u t I w o u ld go fu rth e r a n d suggest th a t divine speakers,
th ro u g h th e act o f p re d ic tio n , likew ise c a n n o t be th o u g h t o f by an cien t
audiences u n c o lo u re d by an a lo g o u s m o rta l practices. T o u n d e rs ta n d
th e actio n s o f a n y figure o n stage, audiences m u st a ttrib u te in ten tio n s,
desires a n d b ias in w ays th a t d ra w o n a w ealth o f h u m a n in tera ctio n s
su rro u n d in g fo u n d a tio n s. R ece n t research in th e cognitive sciences
show th a t in d iv id u als m a k e im m ed iate a n d a u to m a tic inferences
a b o u t p o te n tia l fu tu re b eh a v io u rs o f an y o th e r in d iv id u al by, in p a rt,
c reatin g a w o rk in g m o d el o f a n o th e r p e rs o n ’s m in d .24 A udiences

22 See R. Seaford, ‘Aitiologies of cult in Euripides: A response to Scott Scullion’,


in J. R. C. Cousland and J. R. Hume (eds), The Play o f Texts and Fragments:
Essays in Honour o f Martin Cropp (Leiden: Brill, 2009), pp. 221-34, at pp. 225-8;
Wilkins, Euripides: Heraclidae, p. 189; and S. Scullion, ‘Tradition and invention
in Euripidean aitiology’, IC S 25 (2000), pp. 217-33.
23 Socrates in Xen. Symp. 4.5 notes that seers cannot foresee what will happen
to themselves.
24 For the application of theory of mind to the study of literature see, with further
references, L. Zunshine, Introduction to Cognitive Cultural Studies (Baltimore:
Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010), and, for drama, B. A. McConachie,
Engaging Audiences: A Cognitive Approach to Spectating in the Theatre (New
York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008), and McConachie and F. E. Hart, Performance
and Cognition: Theatre Studies and the Cognitive Turn (London: Routledge, 2006).
th erefo re, in o rd e r to follow th e p la y a t all, c a n n o t h elp creatin g a
m e n ta l m o d el o f th e m in d of, fo r exam ple, A rtem is o r A p o llo , even if
such a divine m in d is a novel creatio n ; co n seq u en tly , th ey c a n n o t see
th e g o d o n stage w ith o u t im m ediately fo rm in g a series o f ex p ectatio n s
a b o u t persp ective, self-interest a n d p o te n tia l fu tu re actions. G o d s
are b o th h u m a n a n d e x tra -h u m a n . 25 T h o u g h sta rk divides are o ften
p o site d betw een gods a n d m o rta ls, an cien t evidence is n o t alw ays so
b lack a n d w hite. F o r exam ple, a t E u m e n id e s 6 1 -3 th e P y th ia refers to
th e g o d A p o llo in distinctly h u m a n term s, as iaxpo^avxig, xspaoKonog,
K a0apaiog. 26 A n a tu ra l consequence o f a n th ro p o m o rp h ism is th a t
gods, th o u g h th e ir m otives m a y b e u ltim ate ly u n k n o w a b le , can be
u n d e rs to o d to act in fam iliarly m o rta l w ays, even w hen, as in the
case o f A p o llo , actin g like a m a n tis w o u ld seem to d e th ro n e h im
fro m his o b v io u s p lace in th e h ie ra rc h y . 27 T h o u g h p re ced e n ts fo r
ep ip h an y , b o th lite rary a n d ‘re a l’, reveal m u ch a b o u t th e seriousness
o f E u rip id e a n gods a n d are th e clear m o d el fo r th e actio n s o f th e gods,
this is a fertile ra th e r th a n a c o n stra in in g scaffolding. 28 Ju s t as we see
in m o rta l p re d ic tio n s th e selection a n d p e rh a p s even d is to rtio n o f cult
details in co n tex t a n d in c h a ra c te r, so to o we sh o u ld b e a ttu n e d to such
differences a m o n g divine speakers as well.
E u rip id e a n aetiologies v ary g reatly acco rd in g to c h a ra c te r a n d
reflect th e im m ed iate self-interest o f each ch a ra c te r. In H ip p o ly tu s , fo r
exam ple, A rte m is’ p ro m ise o f cu lt h o n o u rs fo r H ip p o ly tu s is p o in t­
edly cast in th e lan g u ag e o f re cip ro city (1419, 1423, avxi x&vSs x&v
KaK&v). T h is is a co m m o n fo rm o f ritu a l logic, b u t also p a rtic u la rly
fittin g fo r A rtem is, th e goddess w ho o n th e A th e n ia n stage reg u larly

25 J. Gould, Myth, Ritual, Memory, and Exchange: Essays in Greek Literature and
Culture (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), pp. 203-34, noted also in R.
Buxton, ‘Metamorphoses of gods into animals and humans’, in J. Bremmer and
A. Erskine (eds), The Gods o f Ancient Greece: Identities and Transformations
(Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2010), pp. 81-91, at p. 90.
26 Elsewhere in tragedy: Hecuba 1267, Iphigenia among the Taurians 711 and
1128, Bacchae 298, Euripides fr. 1110. Outside of tragedy: Plato, Phdr. 244c, Laws
686a, Euth. 3c, Hom. Hym. Hermes 533-8, Archilochus fr. 298 W.
27 On anthropomorphism, see A. Henrichs, ‘What is a Greek god?’, in
Bremmer and Erskine, Gods o f Ancient Greece, pp. 19-39, at pp. 32-5.
28 On the divine side of such scenes, see esp. C. Sourvinou-Inwood, Tragedy
and Athenian Religion (Lanham: Lexington, 2003), pp. 459-511. She effectively
critiques the view of tragic gods as artificial as expressed in J. D. Mikalson,
Honor Thy Gods: Popular Religion in Greek Tragedy (Chapel Hill: University of
North Carolina Press, 1991). In addition to the evidence she provides, I would
emphasise the less spectacular though probably individually important acts of
divine visitation attested by dedicatory inscriptions such as those collected in
G. Renberg, ‘“Commanded by the gods”: An epigraphical study of dreams and
visions in Greek and Roman religious life’ (diss., Duke University, 2003).
EURIPIDEAN EXPLAINERS 137

d em an d s re trib u tio n .29 A rtem is receives sim ilar tre a tm e n t in Ip h ig en ia


a m o n g th e T a u r ia n s fro m A th e n a , w ho m a rk s A rte m is’ cu lt as re c ip ro ­
cal in a w ay th a t is d istin ct fro m th e o th e r p re d ic tio n s a n d in ju n ctio n
in th a t extensive speech (1459, anoiv’). By c o n tra s t, in A n d ro m a c h e ,
T h etis a p p e a rs to P eleus w hen h e is in th e p o sitio n in w hich we find
T h etis in th e Ilia d , th a t o f m o u rn in g p a re n t (1231). H e r p re d ic tio n s
a n d c o m m an d s to Peleus are sh ap e d by h e r role as m o u rn in g m o th e r.
She c o m m an d s th a t N e o p to lem u s, h e r g ra n d so n , be b u rie d a n d she
d irects A n d ro m a c h e ’s fa te to w a rd s th e survival o f th e T ro ja n line,
b u t th is is in large p a r t su bsidiary to h e r aim th a t h e r line w ith Peleus
sh o u ld n o t p erish (1249-52). T h e b u lk o f h e r speech is th e n co n cern ed
w ith d etailed in stru c tio n s to Peleus fo r his im m o rta lisa tio n , setting
th e stage fo r h im to w ait by th e sea fo r h e r, recalling p e rh a p s th e Ilia d
scene w here she a n d th e N ereid s m o u rn fo r P atro clu s. W h en she leaves
Peleus w ith th e c o m m a n d th a t h e is to cease his grieving, th e d e c la ra ­
tio n o f b u ria l a n d even o f th e c o n tin u a tio n o f th e T ro ja n a n d G re ek
fam ilies falls in to p lace, n o t as in d ep en d e n t d a ta sc a tte rsh o t fro m
th e sto reh o u se o f aetiological possibilities, b u t ra th e r as a carefully
c o n stru c te d a n d ch a rac te rised set o f co n cern s a b o u t fam ilial c o n tin u ­
ity, w hich m ak es h e r p o in t to Peleus th a t h e can in fact, sto p griev­
ing a n d c o n tin u e o n to his h a p p y im m o rta lity w ith h er. T h ere is an
im m ed iate rh e to ric a l p u rp o se , b u t also one w hich is circu m scrib ed by
th e c h a ra c te r o f T h etis, a p p ro p ria te to T h etis a n d to a c e rtain ex ten t
eg o cen tric to T hetis. A s o n e last illu stra tio n , in E u rip id e s’ latest p lay
w ith a fully p reserv ed aetiological end, A p o llo ap p e a rs a t th e e n d o f
O restes a n d gives, in th e space o f fifty lines, a rap id -fire succession o f
p re d ic tio n s a n d co m m an d s, in clu d in g th e p ossible w o rsh ip o f H elen
alo n g w ith h e r b ro th e rs th e D io scu ri a n d th e n a m in g o f a to w n after
O restes. T h e c o n tra s t w ith A rtem is a n d T hetis high lig h ts A p o llo ’s
d istinctive m o d e o f speech. H e explains w h a t h a s h a p p e n e d a n d w h a t
will h a p p e n w ith a density o f p re d ic tio n a n d aw areness a p p ro p ria te to
th e p ro p h e tic g o d a n d u n p a ra lle le d elsew here. In d e ed , this is precisely
w h a t O restes re m a rk s o n afte r A p o llo ’s speech: © A o ^ a ^avxsls, arov
0sam a^axrov / oti ysuSo^avxig ^ a 0 ’ a p ’, aAA’ sx^xu^og (1666-7). W h ere
O restes th o u g h t h e h e a rd an avenging spirit (1669, aAaaxoprov), he
h ea rs in ste a d p ro p h e cy . T hese are th e tw o faces o f A p o llo , a n d O restes
is rig h tly relieved to be speaking to th e p ro p h e tic ra th e r th a n th e
p u n ish in g in c a rn a tio n . A s a speech w ith a n aetiological dim ension,
A p o llo ’s m ean s o f p re d ic tio n are a stylised ex a g g era tio n o f his role

29 Besides the Iphigenia stories that were the subject of plays by all major
tragedians, Artemis would also have played some role in a number of lost plays
(Aeschylus’ Callisto, Euripides’ and Sophocles’ Meleager plays).
a n d d istin ct fro m th a t o f A rtem is o r T hetis. D iffering subjects a n d
m o d es o f ex p la n a tio n are, fo r b o th play w rig h ts, an im p o rta n t to o l o f
ch a rac te risatio n .
A s c h a ra c te rs sp eak differently, th e ir distinctive in terests a n d p e r­
spectives o n th e fu tu re shape th e k in d o f in fo rm a tio n th ey p ro v id e
an d , co n seq u en tly , an y h isto ry o f fo u n d a tio n e x tra c te d fro m trag e d y
com es p a c k a g e d w ith th e b ias o f th e ch a ra c te rs voicing it. So,
fo r exam ple, in A n d r o m a c h e , T h etis describes th e fu tu re to m b o f
N e o p to lem u s a t D e lp h i as ‘a re p ro a c h (ovsiSog) to th e D e lp h ian s, so
th a t his g rave m ay p ro c la im (anayysAAni) th a t h e w as violently slain
b y th e h a n d o f O restes’ (1241-3). S cullion, in a carefully a rg u e d n o te,
claim s th a t th e v erb anayysAAni is n o w h e re else u sed m etap h o ric ally
a n d ca n on ly im ply th a t th ere w as an in scrip tio n a t D e lp h i to this
effect .30 D en y in g E u rip id es a novel use o f m e ta p h o r is d an g e ro u s
g ro u n d , b u t th e m o re pressin g p ro b le m is th a t n e ith e r S cullion n o r
S eafo rd (w ho rig h tly m ak es th e case ag a in st S cullion’s use o f this
p o in t as evidence fo r E u rip id e a n in v en tio n o f cult) gives T h etis an y
ro le in th e in te rp re ta tio n o f this speech .31 B u t T hetis is n o d istan ced
observer. T h a t th e to m b w as m a rk e d is sufficient fo r it to be, in the
eyes o f N e o p to le m u s’ g ra n d m o th e r, th o u g h t o f as a n in scrip tio n
w hich will p ro c la im his violent d ea th . In P in d a r, N e o p to le m u s’ to m b
is th e o b serv er o f th e p ro c essio n a n d ju d g e o f th e sacrifice (N em .
7.47, ‘o v erseer’). R u th e rfo rd suggests th a t N e o p to le m u s h a d a role
in D e lp h ic th e o x e n ia , actin g as a rb ite r o f th e division o f m e a t a n d
th u s rev ersin g th ro u g h cu lt his actio n s as d isru p te r o f sacrifice in the
m y th .32 W h a t T hetis says in A n d r o m a c h e co n ju res a n im age o f this cult
in term s w hich h ig h lig h t th e injustice d o n e to N e o p to le m u s th ro u g h
a n a lo g y w ith th e general script o f ac tio n fo r th e cult. T h e censure
w hich th e to m b sh o u ts o u t m im ics th e scenario w herein N e o p to lem u s
co rrec ts th e different so rt o f v io len t slau g h ter, th a t is, sacrifice, w hich
th e D e lp h ia n s p erfo rm . T his m ig h t explain som e o f th e fo rced m e ta ­
p h o ric a l re ach in th e to m b th a t re p o rts w ith o u t im plying a n in scrip ­
tio n , b u t it also hig h lig h ts th e w ay th a t such ju d g e m e n t d epends on
T h e tis ’ p a rtic u la r h o p es fo r th e fu tu re cu lt a n d its p o te n tia l in te rp re ta ­
tio n , one w hich is n o t d isin terested o r w ith o u t a p a rtic u la r perspective.
T h ere is n o t space h ere to tre a t o th e r cases a t length, th o u g h
I w o u ld su b m it, in general, th a t d eb ates over th e veracity o f cult
in fo rm a tio n in tra g ic aetio lo g y are a false p ro b lem , a n d th a t this

30 Scullion, ‘Tradition and invention’, p. 219 n. 6 .


31 Seaford, ‘Aitiologies of cult in Euripides’, pp. 222-3.
32 I. Rutherford, Pindar’s Paeans (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), pp.
314-15, with Paean 6.103-20 and Nem. 7.38-47.
in fo rm a tio n ca n be u n d e rsto o d b est as th e rh e to ric ally selective
a n d b iased re p o rts o f c h a ra c te rs .33 So, fo r exam ple, re cen t inscrip-
tio n a l evidence re co rd s p u rifica tio n s to th e H y a cin th id e s, w here in
th e E r e c th th e u s fr. 370 A th e n a p a in ts th e fu tu re cu lt w o rsh ip o f
th e H y a cin th id e s w ith a m a rk e d ly m ilitaristic b ru s h .34 A rtem is in
H ip p o ly tu s overem phasises th e c o n tin u in g n a tu re o f H ip p o ly tu s ’
w o rsh ip a n d casts th e cu lt in term s w hich are ja rrin g ly A rtem isian ,
specifically in te rp re tin g a n act o f d e d ica tio n as a m o u rn in g rite fo r
p re m a tu re d ea th . In Ip h ig e n ia a m o n g th e T a u ria n s th e a p p a re n t
d isp arity betw een th e tra g ic a c c o u n t o f Ip h ig en ia receiving d ed i­
ca tio n s o f clo thes fo r w om en w ho die in c h ild b irth a n d th e m o re
re g u la r p ro c e d u re o f d ed icatin g offerings fo r success in ch ild b irth
reflects th e w ay th a t A th e n a h a s selectively tw ea k ed th e term s o f h er
p ro m ise o f fu tu re cult, in keeping w ith th e k in d o f p re m a tu re d e a th
w hich is A rte m is’ d o m ain . She m ak es th e cult m o re ap p ealin g a n d
m o re ap p licab le th ro u g h in te rp re ta tio n , n o t in v en tio n o r reflection,
o f th e g eneral sh ap e o f th e p ractice. T h ere is n o sim ple calculus
o f cu lt in fo rm a tio n ag a in st cu lt reality such th a t we ca n c o m p u te
E u rip id e a n aetiology as eith er tru e reflection o f p u b lic know ledge
o r in v en tio n o f n o n -e x isten t cults to be in te rp re te d in th o se term s.
W h a t E u rip id es does is fa r m o re in tere stin g a n d in n o case, I w o u ld
su b m it, is a p re d ic tio n w ith o u t bias.
In closing, we ca n re co n sid er a case w hich h a s lo n g been view ed
as a b e rra n t aetiology. In Ip h ig e n ia a m o n g the T a u ria n s, d u rin g th e
reco g n itio n scene betw een O restes a n d his lo n g -lo st, th o u g h t-to -b e -
sacrificed sister Ip h ig en ia , O restes tells h o w h e en d e d u p being so fa r
afield in th e first p lace (939-86). W e h e a r th e su rp risin g new d etail th a t
n o t all th e F u ries w ere satisfied afte r th e tria l a t A th en s a n d th a t som e
c o n tin u e d to p u rsu e O restes u n til, in desp air, h e d e m a n d e d o f A p o llo
th a t A p o llo help. T h e g o d in stru c te d O restes to ta k e th e T a u ria n s ’
statu e o f A rtem is to A th en s. O restes dw ells a t som e len g th o n his
re cep tio n a t A th e n s a n d - w h a t co n cern s us h ere - seem s aw are o f th e
p ra ctice in stitu te d in th e w ake o f his stay there. H is sto ry is, fo r th e
au d ien ce, a p a rtic u la rly vivid re c o u n tin g o f h o w a sig n atu re p ra ctice
o f th e seco n d d ay o f th e A n th e ste ria festival cam e to be. In o rd e r to
av o id ex cluding th e guest b u t a t th e sam e tim e av o id p o llu tio n fro m
h a v in g th is guest sh are in th e co m m u n a l w ine, th e A th e n ia n king
(usually P a n d io n in la te r ac co u n ts) m ak es everyone d rin k fro m th eir

33 In addition to the discussions of Scullion and of Seaford cited above, see W.


Allan, The Children o f Heracles (Warminster: Aris & Phillips, 2001), pp. 215-19
34 Agora I 7577 Face B 16 (Gawlinski 2007): [v] v v v huaKiv^ai] / [ amount ]
Ka0ap^[ov] (‘for the Hyacinthides, a purification’).
ow n p itc h e r o f w ine, th e c h o u s.35 C o m m e n ta to rs struggle to explain
th is p assag e as a v a ria n t o n th e kinds o f divine en d in g speeches w hich
sch o lars h av e assu m ed to be n o rm a tiv e fo r E u rip id e a n aetiologising.
So, o n th e g ro u n d s th a t th e ‘u n settlin g b a c k g ro u n d ’ o f O re stes’ side o f
th e sto ry ‘w o u ld be o u t o f place a t th e e n d o f th e p la y ’, th e m o st recent
c o m m e n ta to r concludes th a t this ‘ex cu rsu s’ w as ‘n o t u n n ec essary ’ a n d
w as ‘p erceiv ed b y th e aud ien ce as a c e le b ratio n o f th e A th e n ia n c o m ­
m u n ity ’s co h esio n a n d its successful n e g o tia tio n o f ritu al/relig io u s
ch allen g es ’.36 So to o C ro p p follow s W o lff’s in te rp re ta tio n th a t it is
‘ad v ertisin g to E u r.’s aud ien ce th e im p o rta n c e o f such ritu a l in s titu ­
tio n s a n d th e ir dep en d en ce o n careful n e g o tia tio n betw een h u m a n s
a n d th e d iv in e ’.37 T h e term s h ere are p ro b a b ly fam iliar, view ing
aetio lo g y in term s o f th e collective, civic, p o sitiv e ideology o f A th en s
w hich, w h en p lace d in its supposedly n a tu ra l p o sitio n a t th e e n d o f
th e p lay , w o u ld b rid g e u n sta b le p a s t a n d stabilising p re sen t. Such
views m ista k e th e aetiologising voice o f O restes fo r a so u n d -b ite fro m
th e p lay w rig h t.
A s a fu n c tio n o f c h a ra c te r, O restes im itates his p a tro n A p o llo ,
an d , d istin c t fro m o th e r m o rta l speakers, is especially self-aw are a n d
a re a d e r o f signs. F o r exam ple, in E u m e n id e s, O restes h a d p ro m ­
ised to p ro te c t A th en s a fte r his death ; th a t is, h e p re d ic te d his ow n
fu tu re h e ro cu lt (762-74). In th e O resteia , h e w as p o in ted ly tested
as a n ‘e x p o u n d e r’ rival to A p o llo (C h o . 118, 552, E u m . 595, 609).
B o th aetio lo g ical re tro sp e c tio n a n d p re d ic tio n are th e m a rk o f kings
in re la tio n to th e ir ow n lan d s. F o r exam ple, P elasgus in A esch y lu s’
S u p p lia n ts speaks o f th e o rigin o f th e n a m e o f th e la n d A p ia a n d , m u ch
like O restes, uses this origin sto ry in o rd e r to lay o u t tw o p ossible o u t­
com es fo r his a u d ito rs (260-70). T h ro u g h his origin sto ry h e conveys
to th e D a n a id s th a t if th ey are h o stile snakes, they will be destroyed,
as A pis killed th e snakes th a t w ere infesting th e la n d lo n g ago; if
th ey are n ativ es re tu rn in g to th e lan d , th e n th ey will b e p ro te c te d , as
A pis d id fo r th e p eo p le th ro u g h th a t sam e act o f vio len t killing. In
E u rip id e s’ S u p p lia n ts , it is strik in g th a t T heseus is in fa ct th e o n e to
in stitu te cults; A th e n a a p p e a rs a t th e e n d to confirm them . So to o ,
it is ag a in st th is ro le o f kin g as ex p ert o n his la n d s ’ fo u n d a tio n s th a t
we sh o u ld situ ate T h ese u s’ role in H e ra c le s, w here h e offers H eracles

35 For other accounts, see R. Hamilton, Choes and Anthesteria: Athenian


Iconography and Ritual (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1992).
36 P. Kyriakou, A Commentary on Euripides’ Iphigenia in Tauris (Berlin: de
Gruyter, 2006), pp. 311-12.
37 M. Cropp, Euripides, Iphigenia in Tauris (Warminster: Aris & Phillips,
2000), p. 231, with C. Wolff, ‘Euripides’ Iphigenia among the Taurians: Aetiology,
ritual, and myth’, ClAnt 11 (1992), pp. 308-34, at pp. 325-9.
EURIPIDEAN EXPLAINERS 141

san c tu a ries in th e lan d , a n d in S o p h o cles’ O edipus a t C olonus, w here


T heseus is th e only one w ho know s th e place o f O e d ip u s’ d is a p p e a r­
ance. In Ip h ig e n ia a m o n g th e T a u ria n s, th en , O restes declares, by th e
fo rm o f his aetiological re tro sp e c tio n , th a t h e is ro y a lty o f A thens.
L ike P elasgus, h e m ak es a p o in t o f using ex p lan a tio n s n o t to ru m in a te
o n th e p a s t b u t to p ro jec t a p ossible o u tco m e. T h e fram e o f e x p e cta­
tio n s in th e first p a r t o f th e speech sets u p th e surprise tw ist in th e
last p a rt. H e begins b y glossing th e A re o p ag u s c o u rt as th e o n e th a t
Z eu s estab lish ed fo r A res, im plying a h a p p y re so lu tio n , a n d th e n he
explains h o w th e A th e n ia n s successfully m a n a g e d his p o llu tio n a t th e
A n th esteria . T his lo o k s like a fa v o u ra b le p a tte rn . B u t in th e last p a r t
o f his speech, w here h e describes th e A re o p ag u s tria l, th e schem a o f
re so lu tio n in c o n tin u in g p ra ctice is n o t fulfilled, as n o t all th e F u ries
are successfully tra n sm u te d to S e m n a i T h e a i a n d O restes m u st again
ru n to A p o llo in F u ry -d riv e n m adness. H is new ta sk , to steal A rte m is’
cu lt statu e, is th e one th a t m u st b e u n d e rta k e n w ith Ip h ig e n ia ’s help,
a n d h e closes his speech by ap p ealin g to h e r to h elp h im . By setting u p
his re q u est w ith successful o u tco m es elsew here (th o u g h o bviously n o t
definitive so lu tio n s fo r his p lig h t), O restes fram es w h a t h e is ask in g in
term s o f its lik elih o o d to succeed in som e w ay. T h a t is, aetiology is n o t
really a b o u t ex p la n a tio n a t all b u t is ra th e r serv an t to p e rsu a sio n a n d
to O re stes’ im m ed iate self-interest.
T his p assag e, to o o ften co n sid ered d ev ian t, is p e rh a p s th e m o st d if­
ficult case o f E u rip id e a n aetiology to explain if we sta rt fro m assum ing
th a t th e d eu s e x m a c h in a type o f en d in g is co n v e n tio n a l o r th a t it is
E u rip id es w ho is th e ex p lain er o f greatest m o m en t. T h e p ro b le m is n o t
w ith th e p assag e, b u t w ith these sta rtin g p o in ts. W ere we to in te rp re t
th e C h o es p assa g e as a reflection o f E u rip id e s’ voice, it m ig h t seem
th a t E u rip id es is sim ply flatterin g his aud ien ce w ith O restes’ g ra tu i­
to u s A th en s sh ot. B u t th ere is a p o in t to O restes k n o w in g m o re th a n
o th ers do a n d th ere is a p o in t to m a k in g h im use th a t know ledge to try
to con v in ce o th ers to h elp him . I f we are lo o k in g fo r a m o d el th ro u g h
w hich to glim pse th e scenario o f an cien t ex p la n a tio n o f sub seq u en t
p ra ctice w hich w o u ld be, in tu rn , m o st an a lo g o u s to E u rip id e s’ role
as ex p lain er, th e n th is is, p e rh a p s, th e closest we get to a co n v e n tio n a l
re tro sp ectiv e scenario o f explaining fo u n d a tio n s. I t is, n o ta b ly , h isto ry
w ith a n im m ed iate, p ro sp e ctiv e aim w hich shapes th e a c c o u n t in
selective a n d b iased term s. L ike T o elk en a n d his N a v a jo m y th s, if we
p arse th is as ‘ae tio lo g ical’, as a n a rra tiv e m e a n t to explicate p a s t a n d
p re sen t, th e n we h av e m issed th e p o in t.
T o re tu rn briefly to seers a n d p re d ic tio n , m a n tic activities re q u ire d
claim s to k n o w ledge o f b o th th e p a s t a n d th e fu tu re a n d , fu rth e r, re g u ­
larly inv o lv ed ex p licatio n fo r fu tu re fo u n d a tio n s a n d , con seq u en tly ,
k n o w ledge o f p a s t fo u n d a tio n s .38 So, fo r exam ple, titles o f w o rk s by
k n o w n seers are less o b viously h o w -to m a n u a ls fo r d iv in atio n th a n
h isto ries o f p a s t p ro p h ecies by fa m o u s seers .39 S trik in g is A risto tle ’s
n o tice th a t E pim enides o f C rete (the leg endary figure w ho p ro b a b ly
d id n o t call h im self a m a n tis b u t sh ared m a n y o f th e ir a ttrib u te s) ‘used
to divine, n o t th e fu tu re , b u t only th in g s th a t w ere p a s t b u t u n c le a r’
(R h e t. 3.17.10). A risto tle ’s larg e r p o in t is th a t deliberative speaking,
b ecau se it is a b o u t th e fu tu re , is m o re difficult th a n fo ren sic speech,
w hich is a b o u t th e p a st. E pim enides p ro v id es evidence th a t ‘even
m a n te is ’ k n o w th e p a s t an d , th o u g h it is n o t a direct q u o ta tio n , one
h a s th e sense th a t w h a t E pim enides w as ad v ertisin g w as n o t a novel
ab ility b u t ra th e r a p ith y fram in g o f w h a t p ro p h e tic p erso n n el re g u ­
larly did. O u tsid e o f th e developing genre o f h isto rio g ra p h y , th en , we
m ig h t well suspect th a t ac co u n ts o f origins w ere o ften delivered n o t as
re tro sp e c tio n b u t ra th e r as a d m o n itio n o r in th e service o f p arad ig m s
fo r p re d ic tio n s a n d im m ed iate a c tio n s .40 In this sense, w hen E u rip id es
stages a h isto ry o f cult th ro u g h voices o f p ro p h e c y o r, in th o se ra re r
cases, re tro sp e c tio n targ e tin g th e fu tu re , h e reveals so m eth in g o f th e
reality o f discourse a b o u t origins in th e fifth century.
T h e lo n g fo n d n ess fo r h isto rio g ra p h ic claim s to explain, going
b a c k a t least to H e ro d o tu s ’ h isto rie o f a itia , h a s co n d itio n e d m o d e rn
read ers to a p p ro a c h tra g ic ex p la n a tio n o f th e p a s t w ith a p a rtic u ­
la r bias. E x p la n a tio n is key to m o d e rn definitions o f th e h is to ria n ’s
p ro jec t, p e rh a p s m o st strikingly in fo ray s in to ‘v irtu a l’o r co u n terfac-
tu a l h isto ry w hich claim h isto rical value b y exposing th e u n d erly in g
m ech an ics o f e x p la n a tio n .41 C lo ser to h o m e, in a n insightful stu d y o f
fifth -c en tu ry co m m em o ra tiv e genres in A th en s, D e b o ra h B o ed ek er
distin g u ish es th e m em o rialisin g m o d es o f lite rary a n d visual arts,
tra g e d y in clu d ed , fro m th e p ra ctice o f h isto rio g ra p h y by sep a ratin g
th e d isco n tin u o u s p a s t o f a rt fro m th e co n tin u o u s p a s t a rtic u la te d in
h isto rio g ra p h e rs, w hich ‘p re sen ts a series o f events in a fixed sequence
- logical ra th e r th a n an alo g ical - w here this event follow s th a t, a n d

38 Flower, Seer in Ancient Greece, p. 78.


39 Flower, Seer in Ancient Greece, p. 52.
40 The exact relationship between more explicit accounts of religious history,
which we might expect to include the sort of information often found in
Euripidean aetiological prediction, and the practices of seers remains obscure.
Philochorus, a few generations post-Euripides, was a seer and an ‘exegete’, but it
is unclear both what status exegetes may have had in Euripides’ day and whether
this combination of prophet and ritual ‘expounder’ was shared by others. On
post-classical religious history, see most recently J. Dillery, ‘Greek sacred history’,
American Journal o f Philology 126/4 (2005), pp. 505-26.
41 N. Ferguson, Virtual History: Alternatives and Counterfactuals (New York:
Basic Books, 1999).
EURIPIDEAN EXPLAINERS 143

th e re fo re som ehow com es fro m th a t ’.42 H isto rio g ra p h y th u s ‘sets u p


a p o s t h o c ergo p r o p te r h o c view o f ev en ts’ a n d th e a u th o ria l voice
m a tters: ‘A ctive a u th o ria l ju d g m e n ts sta n d in c o n tra s t to th e m o re
silent genres o f m o n u m e n ta l p a in tin g o r scu lp tu re, fo r exam ple, w hich
o nly show a n d do n o t tell, a n d even to trag e d y , w here only ch a rac te rs
a n d ch o ru s h av e voices, n o t th e d ra m a tis t .’43 T his is in d eed th e differ­
ence, b u t we sh o u ld n o t lam en t th e absence o f th e a u th o r ’s voice in
E u rip id e a n aetiologies. T h e fact th a t th e ch a ra c te rs h av e distinctive
voices is precisely th e p o in t.

42 D. Boedeker, ‘Presenting the past in fifth-century Athens’, in D. Boedeker and


K. A. Raaflaub (eds), Democracy, Empire, and the Arts in Fifth-Century Athens
(Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998), pp. 185-202, at p. 199.
43 Boedeker, ‘Presenting the past’, p. 202.
OLD COMEDY AND POPULAR HISTORY

Jeffrey Henderson

Since a n tiq u ity fifth -cen tu ry to p ical com edies h a v e been co m b ed fo r


in fo rm a tio n useful fo r h isto ria n s, b u t n o o n e h a s system atically ask ed
w h eth er th e ir a u th o rs ca n b e view ed as h isto rian s. T h a t to p ical co m e­
dian s o f an y e ra lo o k m u ch m o re to c u rre n t th a n to p a s t events is only
to b e expected. B u t th e fifth -cen tu ry co m ed ian s w ere also p o ets, a n d
th ey d id o ccasionally sh are w ith m o st o th e r p o e ts a n in tere st in th e less
recen t p a st. W h a t p a s t in tere ste d th em , a n d w h a t w ere th e ir sources?
D id th ey sim ply reflect m y th ic a n d p o p u la r recollection? O r w ere th eir
ac co u n ts h isto rio g ra p h ic , utilising fa ctu al research , seeking to in fo rm
o r co rrec t th e re c o rd a n d p ro p o sin g tru e accounts? I f th e ir p o rtra y a l
o f th e p a s t w as critical, w as it fra m e d by th e sam e co n sisten t cu ltu ra l
a n d p o litica l biases n o w clearly estab lish ed fo r th e ir p o rtra y a l o f c o n ­
te m p o ra ry events ? 1 D id th e n a tu re o f th e ir fo ray s in to th e re m o te r
p a s t ch an g e over tim e? T hese are q u estio n s th a t deserve m o re ex ten ­
sive a n d sy stem atic study, b u t m eanw hile I offer som e p re lim in ary
analyses, d raw in g exam ples m ain ly fro m fo u r play s by A risto p h an e s:
A c h a rn ia n s (L e n aea 425) a n d P e a c e (D io n y sia 421) o n th e ru n -u p to
w ar, K n ig h ts (L e n aea 424) a n d L y s is tr a ta (L e n aea 411). E ach exam ple
illu strates a d istinctive ap p e al to th e p a s t as a n elem ent o f th e com ic
p o e t’s resp o n se to c u rre n t issues.
B u t first we m u st ask w h e th e r th e com ic perspective o n th e p a s t w as
in fo rm ed by h isto ria n s. T h e c h ro n o lo g y is close. T o p ically engaged
(‘p o litic a l’) com edy w as a b y -fo rm p ra c tise d by a subset o f p o ets
d u rin g w h a t we m ig h t call th e dem agog ic e ra o f A th e n ia n h is to ry :2

1 In a nutshell, comic poets criticised democratic culture and politics as shaped


by Pericles and his ‘demagogic’ successors and maintained a Cimonian view of
foreign affairs; for an overview see J. Henderson, Aristophanes Acharnians. Knights
(Cambridge, MA, and London: Harvard University Press, 1998), pp. 12-23.
2 Many, perhaps most, fifth-century comedies were domestic, mythological
or otherwise unengaged with public issues, which is probably why so little
information about them is preserved.
th e 430s to th e e n d o f th e P elo p o n n esian W a r a n d its a fte rm a th in th e
390s. T his w as also th e e ra o f in tellectu al ad v an ces th a t in clu d ed th e
d ev elo p m en t o f h isto rio g ra p h y p ro p e r, as d istin ct fro m earlier semi-
o r p ro to -h is to rio g ra p h ic a c c o u n ts .3 A th en s a p p a re n tly h a d h a d n o
co h e ren t, a u th o rita tiv e o r even ch ro n o lo g ic al n a rra tiv e o f its p a s t
(aside fro m b a re a rc h o n lists a n d th e like) u n til T hu cy d id es b egan
tra c k in g th e P elo p o n n esian W a r a n d its re m o te causes in th e late 430s
a n d H e catae u s a n d H e ro d o tu s b eg an system atically v ettin g a w elter o f
m y th ic, p o etic a n d p o p u la r ac co u n ts o f th e m o re d ista n t p a st, alo n g
critical lines exem plified in such p ro g ra m m a tic statem en ts as th e se :4

xaSs yp&9 ©, &g ^oi Soks! dAn0sa sivai- oi yap 'EAA^vrov Aoyoi
n o M o t s Kai ysAoioi, ©g s^o i ^aivovTai, siaiv. (H e cata eu s o f
M iletu s, F G r H is t 1 F 1a)

I w rite w h a t I co n sid er tru e , fo r G re e k ac co u n ts are in m y view


b o th n u m e ro u s a n d lau g h ab le.

Tag dKoag t& v npoysysvnM-svrov, Kai ^v smx&pia a ^ a i v ^ , 6 ^otog


dpaoav^oT©g n a p ’ dAX^Arov SsxovTai . . . ovTa avs^sAsyKTa Kai Ta
noAAa uno xpovou aw & v d m a ra g sni to ^u 0 ©Ssg sKvsviK^KOTa.
(T h u cy d id es 1.20.1)

P eo p le accep t fro m one a n o th e r h e a rsa y ac co u n ts o f th e p a st,


even th e ir ow n local p a st, all equally w ith o u t e x a m in a tio n . . .
[poets a n d ch ro n iclers tre a t subjects] th a t are b e y o n d th e re ach o f
testin g a n d th a t fo r th e m o st p a r t h av e w on th e ir w ay th ro u g h to
th e re alm o f m y th so as to b e incredible.

A risto p h a n e s fo r one w as clearly en g ag ed w ith th e in tellectu al c u r­


re n ts o f his tim e, so m u ch so th a t h e w as tease d fo r it by his o ld er rival
C ra tin u s .5 B u t w as h e aw are o f th e new h is to rio g ra p h y in p a rtic u la r,

3 These are summarily described by Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Thuc. 5, as for


the most part collections of public traditions, written records, myths and legends
presented more or less as the writers had found them; cf. D. Toye, ‘Dionysius of
Halicarnassus on the first Greek historians’, AJP 116 (1995), pp. 279-302.
4 All translations in this chapter are my own.
5 Fr. 342 (play unknown): Tig S s a u ; K o ^ y o g Tig s p o iT o 0 s a r q g . im oX sT C T oX oyog ,
y v r o ^ iS ir o r n g , s 'u p i mS a p ia T o q wvlZ rov (‘“And who are you?” a hip spectator might
ask, a subtle word-mincer, a conceit-chaser, a Euripidaristophaniser’); for
discussion see E. Bakola, Cratinus and the Art o f Comedy (Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 2010), pp. 24-9. Aristophanes himself often boasts of the
intellectual sophistication of his plays, e.g. in the parabasis of Clouds, cf. Wasps
1043-50.
th a t is, o f fo rm a l in v estig atio n o f th e p a s t as distin ct fro m , o r as a
co rrectiv e to , p o p u la r m o d els b ase d o n th e h e a rsa y o r m y th ic p ast?
E v id en tly n o t: h is to rio g ra p h y p ro p e r is n o t a m o n g th e acad em ic su b ­
jects o n offer in C louds, n o r do A risto p h a n e s o r o th e r fifth -cen tu ry
com ic p o ets seem elsew here even to h av e n o ticed , let alo n e em u lated
o r satirised, h is to rio g ra p h y o r an y o f its p ra ctitio n ers.
T h ere is o f co u rse one p assa g e in A c h a rn ia n s th a t is still generally
th o u g h t to echo o r p a ro d y th e o p en in g o f H e ro d o tu s ’ H isto ries:

Kai x a w a uev 5^ o^iKpa K&nix&pia-


nopv^v 5e E iuai0av iovxsg M syapa5s
v sav lai ’kkXstctouoi u s 0uooK 6 xxaPoi-
Ka0 ’ oi M syap^g o5uvaig ns^uoiyyrouevoi
avxs^sKXs^av A onaoiag nopva 5uo-
Kavxsu0sv apxn xou noXs^ou Kaxsppayn
"EX^noi n aoiv sk xpi&v XaiKaoxpi&v. (523-9)

N o w g ra n te d , this w as triv ial a n d strictly local. B u t th e n som e


tipsy, c o tta b u s-p la y in g y o u th s w en t to M e g a ra a n d k id n a p p e d
th e w h o re S im aetha. A n d th e n th e M eg a rian s, g arlic-stu n g by
th e ir distress, in re ta lia tio n stole a couple o f A sp a sia ’s w hores,
a n d fro m th a t th e o n set o f w a r b ro k e fo rth u p o n all G reeks: fro m
th re e sluts!

H ere th e p la y ’s h ero , D icaeo p o lis, traces th e origins o f the


P elo p o n n esian W a r to re cip ro cal ab d u c tio n s o f w om en, a m o tif
a tte ste d elsew here only in H e ro d o tu s, w ho a ttrib u te s a sim ilar story
a b o u t th e P ersian W a rs to P ersian sources a n d th e n q u estio n s i t .6 If
D icaeo p o lis is allu d in g to H e ro d o tu s, th e n A risto p h a n e s, a n d p re su m ­
ab ly his au d ience to o , knew a b o u t h is to rio g ra p h y a n d its critical tre a t­
m e n t o f such (p resu m ab ly p o p u la r) stories as these m u tu a l ab d u c tio n s.
B u t b e y o n d this sh ared m o tif, th ere is n o o th e r likely p o in t o f co n tac t,
h e re o r elsew here, betw een A risto p h a n e s a n d H e ro d o tu s. I t h a s been
claim ed th a t tra n s itio n a l uev 5^ is distinctively H e ro d o te a n , b u t in fact
th is u sag e ap p e a rs elsew here in A risto p h a n e s (also in E u rip id es) a n d is
an y w ay n o t so salient as to signal a b o rro w in g , let alo n e a p a ro d y ; a n d
all co m ic references elsew here to details also fo u n d in H e ro d o tu s are
e ith e r tra c e a b le to tra g e d y (especially A esch y lu s’ P e rsia n s ) o r a ttrib u t­

6 For B. Bravo and M. W^cowski, ‘The hedgehog and the fox: Form and
meaning in the prologue of Herodotus’, JH S 124 (2004), pp. 143-64, Herodotus
offers the reciprocal abductions only to ridicule, indeed to parody, the sort of
uncritical explanation of the origins of great wars then common in Greek poets
and prose-writers.
ab le to trav e lle rs’ re p o rts o f th e so rt d ra m a tise d a n d rid icu led in th e
p ro lo g u e o f A c h a r n ia n s .
R id icu le o f such re p o rts does suggest th e p o ssib ility th a t in th e re cip ­
ro c al a b d u c tio n s ‘we sh o u ld see n o t so m u ch A risto p h a n e s p a ro d y in g
H e ro d o tu s , b u t ra th e r H e ro d o tu s a n d A risto p h a n e s as d o in g the sa m e
th in g here. B o th are “p a ro d y in g ” p o p u la r m en tality - p ro v id e d . . . we
do n o t ta k e “p a r o d y ” to o crudely as a sheer deflating tech n iq u e, b u t
ra th e r as a p ro v isio n o f a m o d el to b u ild o n a n d refer t o .’7 T h is does
n o t re q u ire us to assum e th a t A risto p h a n e s a n d his aud ien ce ap p re c i­
a te d th e h isto rio g ra p h ic a l d istin c tio n betw een ‘p o p u la r m e n ta lity ’
a n d a m o re credible ‘m o d e l’, only th a t th e com ic exam ple o f p o p u la r
m en tality be recognisable as such; n o r ca n th e p a ro d y be o f th e ‘sheer
d eflatin g ’ type, fo r D icaeo p o lis, w ho in th e p ro lo g u e h a d rid icu led
in cred ib le tales in o rd e r to illu stra te th e m en d ac ity o f fo reig n a m b a s ­
sad o rs a n d th e gullibility o f th e A th e n ia n assem bly, w o u ld h a rd ly h av e
offered in his o w n a c c o u n t o f th e w a r’s m o tiv a tio n s an e x p la n a tio n
d esigned to so u n d rid icu lo u s o r im plausible.
T h e p a ro d ic elem ent in D ic a e o p o lis’ recip ro ca l ab d u c tio n s is m o re
com plex. A t this p o in t h e is disguised as E u rip id e s’ crip p le-h ero
T elep h u s, fro m w hose speech to th e G reeks h e h a s b o rro w e d his
ow n speech to th e A c h a rn ia n s (a n d b e y o n d th em , th e audience).
H is m o st strik in g a rg u m e n t is n o t his self-defence b u t his defence
o f th e S p artan s, so it is re a so n a b le to assum e th a t in E u rip id e s’ p lay
T elep h u s h a d sim ilarly d efen d ed th e T ro ja n s; in d eed if T elephus h a d
d efen d ed o nly h im self a n d his fellow M ysians, h e w o u ld h av e been
m u ch less ap p e alin g as a m o d el fo r D icaeo p o lis. A defence o f th e
T ro ja n s w o u ld h av e cited G re ek m isdeeds to m a tc h T ro ja n m isdeeds,
p rin cip a lly th e a b d u c tio n o f H elen. T h is gives us th e tit-fo r-ta t m o tif
also fo u n d in H e ro d o tu s b u t p ro b a b ly n o t re cip ro ca l ab d u c tio n s: th a t
w as n o t p a r t o f T ro ja n W a r m y th o lo g y , a n d if E u rip id es h a d in v en ted
th e v a ria n t o r a d o p te d it fro m som e u n a tte s te d earlier a c co u n t, th e
absence o f testim o n ia fo r it, a n d in such a fa m o u s play, is surprising.
B u t if n o t fro m T elep h u s a n d n o t fro m H e ro d o tu s, th e n w here did
A risto p h a n e s get th e id ea o f re cip ro cal ab d u c tio n s? P ro b a b ly n o t
fro m a m y th ic ex em p lar a t all, b u t fro m recen t h isto ry . T h e clue is
th a t D icaeo p o lis n a m e s th e w hore, S im aetha, a n d th e audience w as
p re su m a b ly ex pected to k n o w so m eth in g a b o u t h e r .8 N o d o u b t th ere

7 C. Pelling, Literary Texts and the Greek Historian (London and New York:
Routledge, 2000), p. 155.
8 So D. M. MacDowell, Aristophanes and Athens (Oxford: Oxford University Press,
1999), pp. 61-7; T. Braun, ‘The choice of dead politicians in Eupolis’ Demoi:
Themistocles’ exile, hero-cult and delayed rehabilitation; Pericles and the origins
of the Peloponnesian War’, in D. Harvey and J. Wilkins (eds), The Rivals o f
really h a d b een a n episode involving fights over w hores betw een y o u n g
A th en ian s a n d M eg a rian s, fights th a t h a d been am o n g , o r co u ld be
com ically p lace d o n a p a r w ith, th e m a n y recip ro ca l co m p lain ts m e n ­
tio n e d by T h u cy d id es as leading to w a r .9 I f so, A risto p h a n e s’ in n o ­
v a tio n w as to u p d a te th e ro le o f H elen in th e ru n -u p to th e T ro ja n
W a r (p a ro d ic) by including a recen t episode involving A sp a sia a n d
p riv ileg ed y o u n g m en asso c ia te d w ith P ericles 10 th a t co u ld be c o n ­
n ec te d w ith th e ru n -u p to th e P elo p o n n esian W a r (topical). P lu ta rc h
(P ericles 3 1 -2) a n d D io d o ru s (12.39 = E p h o ru s F G r H 70 F 196) cite
o th e r such atta c k s o n Pericles a n d (by p ro x y ) o n his friends sh o rtly
b efo re th e o u tb re a k o f th e w ar o r ju s t a fte r ;11 fro m a m o n g these
A risto p h a n e s w o u ld h av e chosen this p a rtic u la r in cid en t because o f
its su itab ility fo r in te g ra tio n in to th e T elep h u s m y th , n o t because
th e in cid en t h a d an y m o re cu rren cy as a casus b elli th a n o th e r such
in cid en ts seized o n by P ericles’ o p p o n e n ts in o rd e r to discredit his
policies.
In d e e d fo u r years la te r A risto p h a n e s w o u ld ag ain tra c e th e origin
o f th e w a r to P ericles’ e x p lo ita tio n o f th e M e g a ria n issue as a m a sk
fo r p erso n a l m otives, b u t this tim e th e alleged m o tiv e w as to d istract
a tte n tio n fro m a scan d al involving his frie n d P heidias th a t im p licated
h im self (P e a c e 6 0 5 -2 7 ).12 L ines 615-18 b o th reveal A ris to p h a n e s ’
re a so n fo r co n n ectin g this p a rtic u la r scandal w ith th e d isap p ea ran c e
o f th e goddess P eace (rep resen ted in th e p la y as a large statu e) a n d
signal its n o v elty (b u t n o t fictionality) in c o n n e ctio n w ith th e ru n -u p
to w ar:

(footnote 8 continued)
Aristophanes: Studies in Athenian Old Comedy (London and Swansea: Classical
Press of Wales, 2000), pp. 213-14; A. H. Sommerstein, Aristophanes Wealth
(Warminster: Aris & Phillips, 2001), p. 233.
9 Th. 1.67.4 and 1.139.2: ‘Among others who came forward with various
complaints of their own were the Megarians, who pointed to a great many
disagreements . . . But the Athenians neither accepted the other demands nor
annulled the decree, accusing the Megarians of cultivating sacred and unowned
land and of receiving runaway slaves.’
10 The scholia state (without citing a source) that Simaetha was a lover of
Alcibiades.
11 In connection with Pericles’ trial in 430 (Th. 2.65.3-4); Thucydides does not record
the charge but Plato, Gorgias 516a, says that it was embezzlement of public funds
(kXotc^). As Bakola, Cratinus, pp. 216-17, 309-10, points out, the indictment
could well have been brought many months before the actual trial, when the
debate about Megara was still under way.
12 Pheidias was convicted of embezzling gold and/or ivory from the chryselephantine
statue of Athena, which he had created for the Parthenon as an element of
Pericles’ controversial building programme, and also of religious impropriety for
depicting Pericles fighting an Amazon on the goddess’ shield.
(T ry g aeu s) W ell, by A p o llo , n o o n e ever to ld m e th a t, n o r h a d I
h e a rd h o w P heidias w as co n n e cted to (npoo^Koi) th e goddess.
(C h o ru s L ea d er) N o r I, u n til ju s t now . So t h a t ’s w hy h e r face is so
lovely, b eing re la te d to (auyysv^g) h im !13 T h e re ’s lots we d o n ’t
k n o w a b o u t.

C learly A risto p h a n e s did n o t feel b o u n d to th e earlier S im a eth a alle­


g atio n as a n official ex p la n a tio n o f P ericles’ m o tiv a tio n . I t is sim ply
th a t th e S im a eth a sto ry w o u ld h av e been less effective fo r his p u rp o se s
in P eace: ‘in such a co n tex t P ericles’ self-p ro tec tio n m ig h t figure m o re
n a tu ra lly th a n an y self-in d u lg en ce in a p riv a te q u a rre l o f A sp asia , a n d
th e P h eid ias alleg atio n is exactly w h a t we n e e d ’. 14 U n lik e h isto rian s,
com ic p o ets felt n o n eed to a d o p t a co n sisten t versio n o f events.
B u t d id th e com ic p o e ts also feel n o n eed to m a k e th e ir version o f
events p lau sib le (how ever satirically pitched)? T he scandal involving
P heid ias is real en o u g h , b u t w as it a m o n g P ericles’ o th e r tro u b les ju s t
b efo re th e o u tb re a k o f w ar? D e sp ite lo n g -ack n o w led g ed u n ce rtain tie s,
th e d a te o f th e scandal is generally th o u g h t to be 438/7, o n th e basis o f
re c o n stru c te d seco n d ary ac co u n ts o f P h ilo c h o ru s (F G rH ist 328 F 121),
in clu d in g th e scholia to P e a c e (605a a n d P). E vents o f 438/7 w o u ld be
to o early to b e p lau sib ly co n n e cted w ith th e o n set o f th e w ar, a t least
fo r a p ro p e r h isto ria n . I f th a t d a te is so u n d , A risto p h a n e s w as eith er
u n co n c ern e d a b o u t th e ch ro n o lo g y o r, since it w as recen t en o u g h fo r
th e au d ien ce to recall, h e actu ally in te n d e d th e co n n e ctio n to so u n d
im p lau sib le, th o u g h (as in th e case o f S im a eth a fo r D icaeo p o lis) th a t
w o u ld u n d erm in e th e force o f T ry g a e u s’ case ag a in st Pericles. B ut
th ere are n o stro n g re aso n s fo r privileging a d u b io u s re c o n stru c tio n
o f P h ilo c h o ru s o v er th e testim o n y o f th e com ic p o ets, follow ed by
P lu ta rc h a n d D io d o ru s , w ho p lace this a n d o th e r such scandals ju s t
b efo re th e o u tb re a k o f th e w a r .15 T he earlier d atin g in fact rests o n an
e m e n d a tio n o f th e P e a c e -sch o lia as tra n sm itte d , w hich explicitly d ate
th e P h eid ias p ro se c u tio n to 432/1.16

13 Playing on the double sense of npooqKsiv ‘connected/related to’; the phrase


‘Pheidias connected to Peace’ became proverbial (Suda 9 246).
14 Pelling, Literary Texts , p. 286 n. 38.
15 As recently argued by Bakola, Cratinus, pp. 213-20, in connection with
Cratinus’ Ploutoi, which in the aftermath of Pericles’ trial (the play is generally
dated to 429) seems to have ‘dramatized a fictional trial where Hagnon and
perhaps other friends of Pericles were tried for their handling of public money’ (p.
218).
16 Altering ‘in the archonship of Pythodorus’ (432/1) to ‘in the archonship of
Theodorus’ (438/7) to make the date of Pheidias’ indictment and trial coincide
with the accepted (but itself uncertain) date of the dedication of the Athena
Parthenos statue, which the scholia also mention. But the scholia, which seem to
H e ro d o tu s b eg an his H isto r ie s w ith th e re c ip ro c a l-a b d u c tio n s story
as a p ro v isio n al e x p la n a tio n , to exem plify a m y th -o rie n te d a n d th e re ­
fo re p o p u la r m o d el o f th in k in g a b o u t th e p a s t b efo re quickly c o n ­
fro n tin g it w ith th e h is to ria n ’s m o re critical m odel(s), w hich are ro o te d
in k n o w ab le tim e b eg in n in g w ith C ro esu s o f L ydia. A risto p h a n e s does
so m eth in g sim ilar fo r his ow n com ic p u rp o ses: D ic a e o p o lis’ recip ro cal
ab d u c tio n s ro o t w h a t m ig h t otherw ise b e m erely a ‘deflatin g ’ p a ro d y
o f T elep h u s in reality a n d th u s give th e p a ro d ic arg u m e n ts o f his
T elep h u s p e rs o n a m o re to p ical p o in t. T h e recip ro cal ab d u c tio n s in
them selves a n d q u a p a ro d y m ay com e o ff as in cid en ts to o triv ial a n d
in d eed to o c h a rac te ristic o f ‘th e p o p u la r m e n ta lity ’ to enlist as tru e
m o tiv a tio n s fo r a g reat w a r (so T hucyd ides), b u t p ersu asiv e p o in ts
can o f co u rse be m a d e in a p a ro d ic a n d /o r satirical co n tex t, a n d th a t
th e a b d u c tio n s w ere to o triv ial to ju stify a w a r is exactly D ica eo p o lis’
p o in t ; 17 in d eed m u ch th e sam e p o in t h a d p ro b a b ly b een m a d e in
T e le p h u s 1
U n lik e H e ro d o tu s, how ever, D icaeo p o lis em braces th e p o p u la r
u n d ersta n d in g : fo r him , as fo r m o st o f th e audience, such m o tiv a tio n s
really h a d been d eterm in a tiv e fa cto rs in b rin g in g a b o u t th e p re sen t
w ar, m u ch as in th e re alm o f m y th th e a b d u c tio n o f H elen h a d b ro u g h t
a b o u t th e T ro ja n W ar; in b o th cases, leaders to o k th e p eo p le to w ar
fo r selfish p e rso n a l reasons. T h e sam e applies to th e sim ilar atta c k s
in P e a c e a n d o th e r com edies. O nly la te r w o u ld T h u cy d id es artic u la te
an a^nQsoxaxn npo^aoig th ro u g h a k in d o f h isto rio g ra p h ic analysis
u n fa m ilia r to m o st A th e n ia n s a t th e tim e, including A risto p h an e s.
T h u s P lu ta rc h (P ericles 30.4) w as n o t w ro n g to q u o te o u r lines as
re p resen tin g ac tu a l M e g a ria n co m p lain ts a n d to use o th e r passages
fro m c o n te m p o ra ry com edies as evidence o f p o p u la r know ledge a n d
u n d e rsta n d in g in th e ru n -u p to w a r .19

(footnote 16 continued)
conflate and somewhat jumble different sources, do not state that the dedication
and the trial were contemporaneous, only that the trial took place ‘after’ the statue
had been completed; the indictment could of course have been lodged at any time
thereafter. For detailed analysis see Bakola, Cratinus, pp. 305-12.
17 ‘The absurdity of these accounts of the war in no way proves that Ar. did not
intend or expect them to be taken seriously as arguments against the justice and
expediency of beginning or continuing it’ (Sommerstein, Knights, p. 233).
18 Cf. fr. 722, where Agamemnon apparently declines to risk his life simply to
help Menelaus recover Helen.
19 S. Hornblower, A Commentary on Thucydides. Volume I: Books I-II I (Oxford:
Clarendon Press, 1991), p. 111, argues that Thucydides took practically no
account of the popular tradition connecting personal scandals with the Megarian
decree(s) because ‘he found the personal aspect of the vulgar story distasteful,
perhaps; Pericles’ mistress Aspasia was supposedly behind it, and it would be out
of character for Th. to give prominence to this Herodotean female angle’.
M u c h o f th e persu asiv e p o w e r o f A ris to p h a n e s ’ p a ro d y , o r ra th e r
recycling, o f T elep h u s lies precisely in th e m o d e o f m y th ical th in k in g
th a t still in fo rm e d p o p u la r h isto ry in this p erio d : epic a n d trag e d y h a d
n o p ro b le m w ith a face th a t lau n ch e d a th o u s a n d ships, a n d n eith er
d id th e ir audiences. C o m ed y co u ld o p e ra te w ith in this m o d e as well
a n d a t th e sam e tim e still re p resen t th e real w o rld , a t least a t th e tim e
o f A ch a rn ia n s. A c h a rn ia n s, fo r all its p io n eerin g b rilliance in p a ra tra g -
edy, w as in fact u n ex c ep tio n al in u sing h ero ic m y th as th e p rim a ry lens
fo r view ing th e p a st, in clu d in g th e recen t p ast.
A s is am ply n o te d by P lu ta rc h a n d evident in plays like C ra tin u s’
D io n y sa le x a n d e r, N e m e sis a n d P lo u to i a n d H e rm ip p u s’ M o ira i, the
com ic p o ets h a d long been attac k in g Pericles in this m o d e, in m y th o ­
logical p lo ts th a t assim ilated Pericles to Z eus, a n d A sp asia variously
to H e ra, H elen, O m p h ale a n d D e ian eira, a n d th a t th u s p o rtra y e d the
m o tiv a tio n s fo r th e S am ian W a r a n d th e n th e P elo p o n n esian W a r as
selfish a n d p e rs o n a l .20 In view ing even th e recent p a s t th ro u g h th e lens
o f h ero ic m y th d ra w n fro m epic, ch o ral lyric a n d trag e d y - th e h is to ri­
cal m o d els m o st fam iliar a n d congenial to th eir audiences - th e com ic
p o ets so u g h t b o th to clarify a n d to en hance th e p o w e r o f th eir engage­
m en t w ith to p ical issues .21 W h a t they w ere d o in g in th e com ic m o d e was
n o t so different fro m th e m yth o lo g ical lensing em ployed by A eschylus
in P e rsia n s a n d E u m e n id e s, a n d n o d o u b t E uripides in T elephus, w hich
w as w hy D icaeo p o lis th o u g h t th e p lay so suitable fo r recycling.
A n d n o t o nly p oets: in this p e rio d m y th w as also th e m o d e in w hich
A th e n ia n p u b lic m o n u m e n ts dep icted th e p a st, p o rtra y in g n o h is to ri­
cal figures o r events o th e r, o r m o re recen t, th a n th e ty ran n icid es a n d
th e P ersian W a rs, w hich w ere cast in th e tim eless a n d h e ro ic m o d e
th a t en sh rin e d m em o ry o f an c estral d ee d s .22 P olitical, deliberative
a n d d ip lo m a tic speeches w o u ld occasionally, fo r p ra c tic a l p u rp o se s
in a d isp u te, h av e a p p e aled to th e m o re re cen t p a s t in n o n -p o e tic /
m y th o lo g ised fa sh io n , b u t b ey o n d co m m o n ly ag reed facts, such as
an in scrib ed re c o rd o r a g reem en t ,23 these ap p eals w ere selective,

20 Cf. the papyrus hypothesis to Cratinus’ Dionysalexander (I 44-8) Kro^roiSsixai 5’ sv


xim 5pa^an nspiK^qg ^aXa mGavrog 5i’s^9 aasi»g rog snayqoxrog Toig ABnvafoig xov
noXs^ov (‘in the play Pericles is very convincingly ridiculed by innuendo as having
brought the war on the Athenians’).
21 It is noteworthy that neither tragic nor comic dramatists took much interest
in Attic myths and legends, given their thin coverage by the panhellenic poetic
tradition; cf. A. M. Bowie, ‘Myth and ritual in the rivals of Aristophanes’, in
Harvey and Wilkins, Rivals o f Aristophanes, p. 321.
22 Recall that the insertion of a figure resembling Pericles in a public depiction
of the Amazonomachy could be considered an actionable offence: n. 12, above.
23 But note that inscribed decrees were not necessarily permanent records: they
could be altered, cancelled or effaced if they were deemed incompatible with
self-serving a n d co n testa b le , n o t g ro u n d e d in a universally ag reed (his­
to rica l) a c c o u n t o r c o n stra in e d by d isin terested m eth o d s o f research.
It is u n clea r w h e th e r th e a n n u a l fu n e ral o ra tio n (ep ita p h io s logos), a
n o n -a g o n istic event, reg u larly re ferred to th e m o re recen t p a s t: o u r
o nly fifth -cen tu ry exam ple, T h u cy d id e s’ version o f P ericles’ o ra tio n o f
431, does n o t. I t co u ld be th a t ‘by av oiding co m m en t o n such [histori­
cal] ex p lo its . . . Pericles show s know ledge o f th e p ra ctice o f including
th em in th e fu n e ra l o ra tio n ’,24 b u t it is a t least eq u ally likely th a t this
w as n o t th e p ractice; it is u n c o m m o n even in o u r la te r exam ples.
A s reflections o f p o p u la r h isto ry - h isto ry w ith o u t ioxop^a - the
co m ic ac co u n ts ca n th u s p ro v id e a c o n tro l to set beside th e ac co u n ts o f
h isto ria n s like H e ro d o tu s, w ho p ro b lem a tises m y th ic a l/p o p u la r ex p la­
n a tio n s , a n d T h u cy d id es, w ho ignores them . A lth o u g h T hucydides
d u ly registers th e a rg u m e n ts o v er th e M e g a ria n decree a n d over
P ericles’ cu lp ab ility fo r startin g th e w ar, h e p refers to tra c e a n d
em p h asise large n a tio n a l p a tte rn s going b a c k several g en eratio n s th a t
m o re o r less in ev itab ly led to w ar, a n d h e is com pletely silent a b o u t
A sp asia , P h eidias a n d o th e r p riv a te scandals. H e is th u s o u t o f sync, o r
b e tte r, o u t o f sy m p ath y , w ith th e em phases o f co m ed y a n d th e p o p u la r
o p in io n it reflects: a t th e tim e m o st p eo p le th o u g h t th a t th e w a r h a d
b een trig g ered b y im m ed iate issues like th e M e g a ria n D ecree a n d by
th e self-interest a n d in tran sig en ce o f th e O ly m p ian Pericles, a n d fo r
th e co m ic p o e ts all this co u ld b e p o rtra y e d as a re c a p itu la tio n o f tra d i­
tio n a l m y th s fo r a n aud ien ce ac cu sto m ed to th in k in g this w ay. C learly
H e ro d o tu s a n d T h u cy d id es h a d n o t yet ta u g h t p eo p le m o re accu rate,
critical a n d d isin terested w ays to k n o w th e p ast.
Y e t by th e m id-420s p o p u la r h isto ry w as beg in n in g to develop
its ow n m o d es o f critical in q u iry u n d e r th e tw in stim uli o f sophistic
re ality -testin g o f m y th a n d new tech n iq u es o f a rg u m e n t in o ra to ry ;
b o th d ev elo p m ents are reflected a n d a b s o rb e d by trag e d y , p a rtic u la rly
E u rip id e a n trag e d y , a n d by com edy. A sim ilar ch ange b eg a n to affect
p u b lic m o n u m e n ts such as th e tem p le o f A th e n a N ik e, w hose c o n stru c ­
tio n w as re su m e d a t a b o u t this tim e a n d w hose friezes, a p p a re n tly fo r
th e first tim e, b len d ed h isto rical w ith m y th -h isto ric al depictions.

(footnote 23 continued)
current interests, for example Th. 5.11 (when constituting Brasidas as their founder
after his death in 422, the Amphipolitans destroyed all record of the previous
founder, Hagnon); 5.56 (the footnote to the peace treaty of 421 inserted by the
Athenians in winter 419/8 and criticised in 411 in Lysistrata 513); IG i2 43 (378/7),
the decree moved by Aristoteles for the second Athenian league, prescribing that
the Athenian council be empowered to destroy any stelai in Athens that member
cities might consider objectionable thereafter.
24 V. Frangeskou, ‘Tradition and originality in some Attic funeral orations’,
C W 92 (1999), pp. 315-36, at p. 320 n. 23.
In th e a re n a o f m y th a n d o n th e role o f p o ets as th e ch ief a u th o rities
fo r th e p a st, A risto p h a n e s re sp o n d e d defensively. In C louds th e so p h ­
ists, alo n g w ith th e o ra to rs a n d litig an ts w ho e m b ra ced th e ir m eth o d s,
are d en o u n c ed fo r a critical tre a tm e n t o f m y th s th a t allow s th e m to
be literalised a n d m isap p lied , a n d E u rip id es is d en o u n c ed fo r trivialis-
ing a n d sen satio n alisin g m y th s. In A ris to p h a n e s’ view, these in n o v a ­
tio n s served to deprive m y th o lo g y o f its larg e r-th an -life dignity a n d
its n o rm a tiv e a n d in sp irin g fu n c tio n s, leaving h u m a n ity to its ow n,
in ev itab ly low a n d m u ta b le , m o ra l devices. T w o passages fro m C louds
(p ro d u c e d a t th e D io n y sia o f 423, in com pletely revised c. 417) will
serve to exem plify these claim s ag a in st th e sophists o n th e one h a n d
a n d E u rip id es o n th e other:

(W ro n g L o g os) N o w th en , I ’ll p ro c eed to th e necessities o f n a tu re .


Say y o u slip u p , fall in love, engage in a little ad u ltery , a n d th e n
get cau g h t: y o u ’re d o n e fo r because y o u ’re u n a b le to argue.
B u t if y o u follow m e, go a h e a d a n d ind ulge y o u r n a tu re , ro m p ,
lau g h , th in k n o th in g sham eful. I f y o u h a p p e n to get c a u g h t in
fla g r a n te , tell h im this: th a t y o u ’ve d o n e n o th in g w rong. T h en
p ass th e b u c k to Z eus, o n th e g ro u n d s th a t even h e is w o rste d
by lu st fo r w om en, so h o w can y o u , a m ere m o rta l, be stro n g er
th a n a god? (1075-92)
(S trepsiades o f his son, fresh fro m sophistic tra in in g ) T h en I ask ed
h im if h e w o u ld at least ta k e a m y rtle sprig a n d sing m e som e­
th in g fro m th e w o rk s o f A eschylus. A n d h e rig h t aw ay said,
‘In m y o p in io n , A eschylus is chief am o n g p o ets - chiefly full o f
noise, in co h eren t, a w indbag, a m a k e r o f lofty lo cu tio n s.’ C an
y o u im agine h o w th a t jo lte d m y h ea rt? B ut I b it b a c k m y anger
a n d said, ‘A ll rig h t th en , recite som ething fro m these m o d e rn
p o ets, th a t b ra in y stuff, w h atev er it is.’ A n d h e rig h t aw ay
to ssed o ff som e speech by E u rip id es a b o u t h o w a b ro th e r, god
save m e, u sed to screw his sister by th e sam e m other! (1364-72)

By th e tim e o f F ro g s (L e n aea 405), A risto p h a n e s still assum es th a t


p o ets are so ciety’s teach ers a n d th a t th e m y th ic al p a s t is th e to u c h ­
sto n e fo r e v a lu a tin g h u m a n events, b u t n o w h e concedes th a t n o t
ev ery th in g to be fo u n d in m y th o lo g y is benign, a n d h e an ticip ates
P la to by en jo in ing p o ets to a d o p t a critical a n d self-censoring fu n c ­
tio n , co n cealin g w h a t is b a d fo r society a n d fo r indiv id u als, a n d
rev ealin g o nly w h a t is good:

(E u rip id es) A n d w h a t h a rm , y o u b a sta rd , d id m y S th en eb o eas do


to th e co m m unity?
(A eschylus) Y o u m o tiv a te d resp ectab le w om en, th e spouses o f
resp ectab le m en, to ta k e h em lo ck in th e ir sham e over y o u r
B ellero p hons.
(E u rip id es) B u t th e sto ry I to ld a b o u t P h a e d ra w as alread y
estab lish ed , w a sn ’t it?
(A eschylus) O f co u rse it w as. B u t th e p o e t h a s a special d u ty to
co n ceal w h a t’s w icked, n o t stage it o r teac h it. F o r children
th e te a c h e r is th e o n e w ho in stru cts, b u t g ro w n u p s h av e th e
p o et. I t ’s very im p o rta n t th a t we tell th em th in g s th a t are good.
(1049-55)

T o ch an g es in th e fo ren sic a re n a , w here th e p o st-m y th o lo g ica l p a st


w as m o st in evidence, A risto p h a n e s w as m o re ad aptive: h ere, afte r
all, w as an a re n a in w hich h e chose to involve him self. In K n ig h ts
(L e n aea 424) h e in a u g u ra te d th e genre o f dem ag o g u e-co m ed y in
o rd e r to satirise th e ch a n g ed com p lex io n o f forensic co m p etitio n
a n d to en ter th e fray o n its o w n term s. K n ig h ts w as th e first com edy
d ev o ted en tirely to th e ridicule o f a single p o liticia n , C leon, a n d
a p p a re n tly th e first to a b a n d o n m y th o lo g ica l allegory as th e vehicle
fo r su stain ed (as d istin ct fro m in cid en tal, one-liner) p o litica l satire.
T o an ex ten t th is a d a p ta tio n w as forced: th e O ly m p ian a n d m y th ic
ca ricatu re s o f Pericles did n o t suit th e new p o liticia n s w ho em erged
afte r his d e a th in 429; fo r d o w n -to -e a rth n o v i h o m in e s like C leon a n d
fo r y o u n g , sophistically tra in e d o ra to rs like A lcibiades, new c a ri­
ca tu res w ere n e e d e d .25 In C le o n ’s case, th e w inning c a ric a tu re w as
fu rn ish e d b y C leon him self: all A risto p h a n e s n ee d ed to d o w as exag­
gerate C le o n ’s ow n qualities, in p a rtic u la r his novel a rg u m e n tativ e
a n d rh e to ric a l style.
K n ig h ts m ak es clear th a t in th e sh arp ly com petitive p o litica l envi­
ro n m e n t o f th e 420s, ap p eals to h isto rical events w ere b eco m in g m o re
p ro m in e n t in o ra to ry . A n exam ple o f A ris to p h a n e s ’ ta k e o n this
d ev elo p m en t is th e exchange in K n ig h ts 810-19, re sp o n d in g to C le o n ’s
self-co m p arison w ith T hem istocles:

(P a p h la g o n ) Is n ’t it really aw ful th a t y o u p re su m e to say such


th in g s a n d to slan d er m e b efo re th e A th e n ia n s a n d D em os,
afte r m y m a n y fine services - m a n y m o re, by D e m e te r, th a n
T hem istocles ever d id fo r th e city?

25 For details and analysis see J. Henderson, ‘Demos, demagogue, tyrant in


Attic Old Comedy’, in K. Morgan (ed.), Popular Tyranny: Sovereignty and its
Discontents in Classical Greece (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2003), pp.
155-79.
(S ausage Seller) ‘C ity o f A rg o s, h e a rk e n to his w o rd s!’26 A re you
m a tc h in g y o u rse lf w ith T hem istocles? H e fo u n d o u r c ity ’s
cu p half-fu ll a n d filled it th e re st o f th e w ay, a n d h e b a k e d th e
P iraeu s as dessert fo r h e r lu n ch , a n d a d d e d n ew seafo o d dishes
to h e r m en u w hile ta k in g aw ay n o n e o f th e old; w hereas y o u ’ve
trie d to tu rn th e A th e n ia n s in to tin y -to w n ies b y build in g
p a rtitio n s (5iaxsixlZrov)27 a n d c h a n tin g oracles. T h em isto cles’
m atch! A n d h e ’s exiled fro m th e co u n try , w hile y o u w ipe y o u r
fingers o n ‘peerless A chilles’ baguettes!

P ast h ero es are n o lo n g er b e y o n d co m p are, b u t this p a rtic u la r self­


c o m p a riso n can be discred ited by citing h isto rical facts th a t d id n o t
n eed to be e la b o ra te d fo r th e sp ectato rs. C learly T hem istocles h a d
been in th e new s, a n d n o t only in p o litical speeches. In A c h a rn ia n s
th ere are m a n y ev o catio n s o f A esch y lu s’ P e rsia n s , o u r only e x ta n t
(a n d a p p a re n tly th e last) to p ic a l trag e d y , a m o n g th e m th e assim ilatio n
o f th e final la m e n t o f D ica eo p o lis/T e le p h u s’ rival L am a ch u s to th a t o f
A esch y lu s’ X erxes, a n d they suggest th a t P e rsia n s h a d recently been
rev iv ed ,28 a n d w ith it a re m in d e r o f T h em isto cles’ h ero ic role, a n d
cred it fo r th e v ictory, a t Salam is.
P ositive m em o ries o f T hem istocles m ay h av e been co n n e cted w ith
E u rip id e s’ T elep h u s as well, a n d this w o u ld explain th e otherw ise m y s­
terio u s q u o ta tio n o f a line fro m th a t p la y in o u r p assag e fro m K nights:
‘C ity o f A rg o s, h e a rk e n to his w o rd s!’ T h is q u o ta tio n w o u ld m ak e
sense if E u rip id es h a d p la y e d u p th e sim ilarities betw een T elephus a n d
T h em istocles, w ho in exile h a d gone to th e c o u rt o f th e M o lo ssia n king
A d m etu s, a n d o n th e advice o f A d m e tu s’ wife h a d h e ld th e ir son a t an
a lta r as a su p p lian t, a sto ry th a t even T h u cy d id es saw fit to m e n tio n
(1.136-7). I t co u ld well be th a t A eschylus h a d alre ad y d ra w n a c o m ­
p a ris o n betw een T hem istocles a n d T elephus in his ow n T elep h u s, o r
even in v en ted th e h o sta g e m o tif itself o n th e m o d el o f T h em isto cles.29

26 From Euripides’ Telephus.


27 ‘Building partitions’ (which are otherwise unattested) seems (with the scholia) to
refer to proposed (‘you tried’) physical structures rather than being metaphorical
for political divisions; if they were defensive it may be that after the Pylos victory,
when the Spartans abandoned their investment of Attica, they were no longer
considered necessary.
28 For detailed discussion see C. Brockmann, Aristophanes und die Freiheit
der Komodie (Munich and Leipzig: Saur, 2003), pp. 42-141. Familiarity with
Aeschylus’ works would also be enhanced if, as seems likely from Plato, Rep.
376c-398b, they had already become school texts in the fifth century.
29 That the hostage scene featured in Aeschylus’ play is stated by the scholiast
on Acharnians 332, and the iconographic record suggests that it was indeed
introduced into the Telephus myth c. the 460s (E. Csapo, ‘Hikesia in the Telephus
In an y event, a c o n n e ctio n o f T hem istocles w ith T elephus w o u ld
fu rth e r deep en th e re so n an ce o f D ic a e o p o lis’ m y th ic p e rso n a , a d d in g
a n o th e r leg endary p a trio t u n ju stly co n d e m n e d , a n d th is reso n an ce
w o u ld n eed o nly b rie f signalling in th e K n ig h ts passage. T h e p assage
differs in n o t being c o n d u c te d th ro u g h th e m ed iu m o f m y th b u t ra th e r
in th e lig h t o f k n o w ab le h isto ry a n d citable facts, a n d th e c o n tra st
m ad e by th e S ausage Seller betw een T h em isto cles’ co n tin u in g exile
a n d C le o n ’s u n d ese rv ed privileges in th e P ry ta n e u m suggests c u rre n t
d eb a te a b o u t T h em isto cles’ re h a b ilita tio n , w hich w as in d eed to occu r
afte r th e w ar, w hen h e w as re in te rre d in a splendid to m b in P ira e u s.30
I t w o u ld seem th a t fro m th e 420s o n w a rd , references in o ra to ry
a n d co m ed y to h isto rical events as such follow ed a p a th th a t b eg an to
in tersect w ith th e p a th being ta k e n a t th e sam e tim e b y th e first h is to ­
rian s. In th is re g a rd L y s is tr a ta o f 411 is in tere stin g in th a t it tries sys­
tem atically to co rrec t p o p u la r m isco n cep tio n s a b o u t th e p a st, in d eed
a b o u t A th e n s ’ en tire d em o cratic p a st, fro m th e fall o f th e ty ra n ts to
th e P ersian invasions to th e su b seq u en t ten sio n s w ith S p a rta to the
c u rre n t w ar. O n th e o n e side are th e h e ro in e ’s ch ief a n ta g o n ists, the
C h o ru s o f O ld M en , fervid p a trio ts a n d S p a rta n -h a te rs w ho ch a m p io n
th e c u rre n t p o p u la r view o f th e d em o cratic p a s t as a ju stific atio n fo r
c o n tin u e d w ar, ap p ealin g n o t only to p erso n a l m em o ry b u t also to
official d ep ictions o f civic m y th o lo g y . T hey p ro c la im them selves v et­
eran s o f th e o cc u p a tio n o f L eip sy d riu m ag a in st th e forces o f th e ty ra n t
H ip p ias in 513; o f th e ex p u lsio n o f C leom enes a n d his S p a rta n allies
in 508/7, w hich effectively en d ed th e ty ra n n y ; o f M a ra th o n in 490; o f
Salam is in 480; o f th e cam p aig n s o f M y ro n id es in th e 470s to th e 460s;
a n d o f th e g en eralsh ip o f P h o rm io in th e early years o f th e p re se n t w ar
- a h isto ry th a t in a c tu a lity w o u ld m a k e th e m a b o u t a h u n d re d a n d
th irty years o ld .31 T h e O ld M en see th e w o m en ’s peace in itiativ e as an
a n tid e m o c ra tic co n sp ira cy to u n d o th e acco m p lish m en ts en sh rin e d in
th is h isto ry : th e w om en w o u ld co n sp ire w ith th e S p a rta n s a n d resto re
th e ty ra n n y o f H ip p ias, a n d th e ir o cc u p a tio n o f th e A cro p o lis recalls

(footnote 29 continued)
of Aeschylus’, QUCC 63 (1990), pp. 41-52; cf. C. Preiser, Euripides: Telephos
(Spudasmata 78; Zurich and New York: Olms, 2001), pp. 51-9).
30 In this regard the absence of Themistocles among the resurrected politicians
in Eupolis’ Demes is probably significant; cf. I. C. Storey, Eupolis: Poet o f Old
Comedy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), pp. 132-3.
31 We can imagine Thucydides’ response to such claims! All the same, these Old
Men may well echo their actual counterparts: A. H. Sommerstein, Aristophanes
Lysistrata (Warminster: Aris & Phillips, 1990), pp. 168-9, notes that Lysistrata
‘is the last Aristophanic play in which the chorus have recollections of the period
514-480, and in Eccl. (304) the (pretended) old men’s memories of their youth are
of the days of Myronides (i.e. in the 450s)’.
b a rb a ria n inv aders. A n d so th e O ld M en co m p a re them selves to
H a rm o d iu s a n d A risto g eito n , assum ing th e very p o s tu re o f th e b ro n z e
statu es o f th e y o u n g ty ran n icid es th a t sto o d in th e A g o ra (631-5), a n d
th ey co m p a re th e w om en to A rte m isia a t Salam is a n d to th e in vading
A m az o n s b a ttle d by T heseus, as d ep icted in M ic o n ’s p ain tin g s in th e
P eisian acteu m (672-9).
A fte r L y sistra ta h a s m a d e b o th th e A th e n ia n s a n d th e S p a rta n s h er
cap tiv e au d ien ce a n d p ro ceed s to b ro k e r a peace n eg o tia tio n , she sys­
tem atically co rrects th e O ld M e n ’s recollections in o rd e r to d iscredit
th e h isto rical case fo r co n tin u in g th e w ar. H e r ow n cred en tials fo r
speak in g a b o u t th e p a st, like th e O ld M e n ’s, are b ase d o n p erso n a l
reco llectio n a n d tra d itio n :

sy© y w n M-ev sip,, voug S’e v s a u poi.


au rn S’spau rn g ou KaK&g yvropng ^X®,
Toug S’ sk naxpog ts Kai yspansprov Xoyoug
noXXoug aK ouoao’ ou Msuouo©Mai KaK&g. (1124-7)

I t ’s tru e I ’m a w o m an , b u t still I ’ve go t a m ind: I ’m p re tty in te l­


ligent in m y ow n rig h t, a n d because I ’ve listened m a n y a tim e to
th e co n v e rsatio n s o f m y fa th e r a n d o th e r elders I ’m p re tty well
ed u c a te d to o .

H ere L y sistra ta echoes b u t significantly alters a speech b y th e h ero in e


o f E u rip id e s’ W ise M e la n ip p e , w ho h a d claim ed know ledge fro m h er
m o th e r, th e priestess H ip p o (fr. 484); L y sistrata, w ho h a s te m p o ra r­
ily u su rp e d m ale a u th o rity a n d is challenging m ale recollections,
need s th e a u th o rity a n d recollections o f m en. T h e h isto rical facts
th a t L y sistra ta goes o n to re la te are, as in delib erativ e o ra to ry , n o
m ere h isto ry lesson, o r m ere co rrec tio n s fo r th e re co rd , b u t selectively
ch o sen to su p p o rt h e r m a in arg u m e n t: th a t A th en s a n d S p a rta are old
a n d n a tu ra l allies w ho h av e n o g o o d re aso n s fo r fighting o n e a n o th e r
b u t in stead , as in th e g o o d old days, sh o u ld jo in tly lead G reece in a
spirit o f p an h e lle n ic u n ity ag a in st th e b a rb a ria n s . T h ere is n o th in g
o u tra g e o u s o r lu d icro u s a b o u t this arg u m e n t: since 431 it h a d been
fam iliar to th e sp ec ta to rs fro m a c tu a l d eb ates a b o u t th e w ar, a n d it
w o u ld c o n tin u e to b e u rg e d b y o ra to rs in sim ilar situ atio n s well in to
th e fo u rth ce n tu ry .32
A t th e sam e tim e, a n d ag ain as in o ra to ry , L y s is tra ta ’s version o f

32 For example, Thucydides 4.20.4 (424), 5.29.3 (421, cf. Aristophanes Peace
107-8, 406ff, 1082), Andocides 3.21, Isocrates Panegyricus passim, Xenophon,
Hellenica 6.5.33ff, Demosthenes 9.30-1.
h isto rical facts is ten d en tio u s, fo r exam ple h e r evidence o f m u tu a l
ben efactions:

N e x t, S p artan s, I ’m going to tu rn to you. D o n ’t y o u re m e m ­


b e r w h en P ericleidas th e S p a rta n cam e h ere once a n d sat a t th e
a lta rs as a su p p lia n t o f th e A th e n ia n s, p ale in his scarlet u n ifo rm ,
begging fo r tro o p s? T h a t tim e w hen M essenia w as u p in arm s
ag a in st y o u a n d th e g o d w as sh ak in g y o u w ith a n e a rth q u a k e ?
A n d C im o n w en t w ith fo u r th o u s a n d in fan try m e n a n d rescued
all S p arta? A fte r being tre a te d th a t w ay by th e A th en ian s, y o u ’re
n o w o u t to rav ag e th e c o u n try th a t ’s tre a te d y o u well? (1137-46)

A n d d o y o u th in k I ’m going to let y o u A th en ian s off? D o n ’t


y o u rem em b er h o w th e S p a rta n s in tu rn , w hen y o u w ere dressed
in slaves’ rags, cam e w ith th e ir spears a n d w iped o u t m an y
T h essalian fighters, m a n y friends a n d allies o f H ip p ias? T h a t day
w h en th ey w ere th e only ones h elp in g y o u to drive h im out? A n d
h o w th ey lib e ra te d you, a n d re p la ced y o u r slaves’ rags w ith a
w a rm clo ak , as suits a free people? (1149-56)

I t is tru e th a t C im o n h a d jo in e d a n allied ex p ed itio n to h elp S p a rta


p u t d o w n th e serf rebellion in 462, b u t to say th a t C im o n h a d ‘rescued
all S p a rta ’ is a stretch: th e allied a c tio n d id n o t e n d th e rebellion, a n d
th e A th e n ia n s did little o r n o a c tu a l fighting, th e S p a rta n s h av in g
su sp ected th em o f being rebel sy m pathisers a n d sent th e m h o m e
‘alo n e a m o n g th e allies’, a n in su lt th a t go t C im o n ostracised , b ro k e
th e A th e n ia n -S p a rta n alliance, a n d led in a few years to w a r betw een
A th en s a n d th e P elo p o n n esian L eague. D id A risto p h a n e s expect
th e au d ien ce to b e ta k e n in b y L y s is tra ta ’s ed ited acco u n t? O r did
h e expect th e m to lau g h know ingly? T h e sp ec ta to rs co u ld n o t h av e
been aw are o f th e later, fuller ac co u n ts w ritten by H e ro d o tu s a n d
T h u cy d id es, so th e ir sources w o u ld h av e been th e sam e as L y s is tra ta ’s:
fa th e rs a n d o th e r elders recollecting p o litica l d e b a te s.33 B u t it is telling
th a t ju s t ten years earlier, by th e term s o f th e P eace o f N icias o f 421
(T h. 5.23), A th en s h a d sw orn to send S p a rta as m a n y tro o p s as p o s ­
sible in case o f fu tu re rebellions; so a p p a re n tly L y sistra ta w as n o t the
on ly one p re p a re d to d o w n p lay C im o n ’s dism issal.

33 Even a century later an orator could appeal to family stories to enhance the
authority of a historical fact, e.g. Aeschines, On the Embassy 77-8: o t i y a p n a p a
T& v d X X oT plrov d X X a n a p a to C n& vTrov o iK sio r & T o u r a C r a s n u 0 a v 6 ^ n v . . . r o a r s o iK si&
^ o i K a i o u v ^ 0 n T a Tqg nO A srog d r u x n ^ a T a s i v a i r o i g r o a iv d K o u s iv (‘for I learned of
these events not from outsiders but from my very closest relative . . . and so the
city’s misfortunes are family stories that I am accustomed to hearing’).
OLD cOMEDY AND POPULAR HISTORY 159

Sim ilarly ten d e n tio u s is L y s is tra ta ’s p ro ffered S p a rta n ben efactio n :


h o w th e S p a rta n s d ro v e o u t th e ty ra n t H ip p ias a n d his allies a n d ‘lib ­
e ra te d ’ th e A th e n ia n s fro m v irtu al slavery. A g ain , slavery is a stretch,
a n d ag ain L y sistra ta om its th e sequel: a S p a rta n arm y u n d e r K ing
C leom enes cam e b a c k th ree years la te r to stifle th e n asc e n t d em o c­
racy b y su p p o rtin g th e a rc h o n Isa g o ra s ag a in st C leisth en es’ p o p u la r
fa ctio n , w ho w o n a re so u n d in g v ictory a n d th u s cleared th e w ay fo r
dem o cracy . E arlie r in th e p lay (271-80) th e O ld M en o f th e c h o ru s h a d
b o a s te d in d etail, a n d w ith gross ex a g g era tio n ,34 a b o u t th e ir v ictory
in th is very ac tio n , so L y s is tra ta ’s om ission o f it h ere a m o u n ts to
tru m p in g th e expulsion o f C leom enes w ith th e fa r m o re im p o rta n t
rem o v al o f H ip p ias, w hich also tru m p s th e O ld M e n ’s earlier e q u a tio n
o f th e S p a rta n s w ith ty ra n n y . A g ain , this w as evidently a live issue
in 411 a n d later: T h u cy d id es w as to co m m en t th a t a t th is tim e ‘th e
A th e n ia n s k new th a t it w as n o t th ey a n d H a rm o d iu s w ho h a d p u t an
e n d to th e ty ra n n y b u t th e S p a rta n s ’ (6.53.3), w hile H e ro d o tu s , th e
A tth id o g ra p h e rs, a n d th e o ra to rs w o u ld p lay d o w n th e role o f th e
S p a rta n s a n d stress th a t it w as th e A lcm aeo n id s w ho led th e exiled
d em o crats a n d w ho so u g h t D e lp h ic h elp in p re ssu rin g th e S p a rta n s to
com e to th e ir aid.
T h e a m o u n t o f h isto rical recollection a n d d eb a te in L y s is tr a ta
attests to th e grow ing im p o rta n c e , in p u b lic d e lib eratio n , o f facts
a b o u t th e p a s t a n d th e ir in te rp re ta tio n ; a to p ical com ic p o e t co u ld
n o t affo rd to neglect such facts in grin d in g his o w n axes. N o t q u ite yet
do we h av e to re c k o n w ith th e influence o f h isto rian s, w ho claim ed to
estab lish facts a n d ch ro n o lo g ies accu ra te ly a n d disinterestedly, a n d
to d istin g u ish th em fro m m ere m y th a n d h ea rsay , fro m ‘th e c o n v e r­
satio n s o f m y fa th e r a n d o th e r eld ers’. B u t to ju d g e fro m m a n y o f
th e facts served u p by la te r o ra to rs, a n d even by h isto ria n s, we m u st
w o n d e r w h e th e r th e av ailab ility o f h isto rio g ra p h y w o u ld h av e m ad e
m u ch o f a difference to A risto p h a n e s a n d his audiences.

34 See Sommerstein, Aristophanes Lysistrata, p. 168.


ATTIC HEROES AND THE
CONSTRUCTION OF THE ATHENIAN
PAST IN THE FIFTH CENTURY

H. A. Shapiro

T h e A th e n ia n s o f th e classical p e rio d w ere m asters o f rein v en tio n .


B eginning in th e w ake o f th e P ersian W a rs, if n o t earlier, th ey c o n tin u ­
ally re -cre ated th e early h isto ry o f th e ir city to m a k e it m o re a p p ro p ri­
ate to th e im p erial p o w e r a n d cu ltu ra l h eg em o n y th a t ra p id ly evolved.
M a n y in d iv id u als w ere in volved in th e p ro je c t o f in v en tin g A th e n s’
p a st, in clu d ing m y th o g ra p h e rs, tra g e d ia n s, visual artists a n d even
statesm en like K im o n , w hen h e ‘d isco v ered ’ th e b o n es o f T heseus on
th e islan d o f S kiros a n d , w ith g re at fa n fare , b ro u g h t th e h e ro h o m e to
A th en s in 4 7 6/5.1
A s a n arch aeo lo g ist, I focus in th is c h a p te r o n th e ro le o f th e visual
arts in creatin g A th e n s’ early h isto ry , a n d especially o n th e crucial
figures o f T heseus a n d his fam ily. B u t first, a few p re lim in ary re m a rk s
o n th e ro le o f p u b lic m o n u m e n ts in A th en s in th e early years o f the
d em ocracy: m o n u m e n ts n o t ju s t as arc h ite c tu ra l o r art-h isto ric al
w o rk s, b u t as fo rm s o f c o m m e m o ra tio n , as places o f m em o ry , as one
o f th e m o st co n sp icu o u s fo rm s o f m ak in g ‘h isto ry w ith o u t h is to ria n s ’.
I b egin w ith a few sentences fro m T o n io H o lsch er, w ho fo r som e
fo rty years h a s been p e rh a p s o u r m o st th o u g h tfu l stu d e n t o f th e c o n ­
n ectio n s a m o n g h isto ry , m em o ry , a n d th e visual a rts in b o th G reece
a n d R o m e. H e w rites,

M o n u m e n ts are designed a n d erected as signs o f p o w e r a n d


su p erio rity . A s such, th ey are effective fa c to rs o f p u b lic life: n o t
seco n d ary reflections b u t p rim a ry o bjects a n d sym bols o f p o liti­
cal ac tio n s a n d concepts. M o n u m e n ts h av e th e ir p lace in p u b lic
space . . . T h ey inev itab ly ad d ress th e co m m u n ity a n d , precisely

I am most grateful to John Marincola for the invitation to participate in the Leventis
Conference.

1 Plut. Theseus 36.1-2; Kimon 8.5-6.


becau se o f th e ir p u b lic n a tu re , challenge it, p ro v o k in g co n se n t o r
co n tra d ic tio n ; th ey do n o t allow indifference because re co g n itio n
a u to m a tic a lly m ean s a c cep tan c e.2

In th e A th e n ia n co n tex t, th e m o n u m e n t h a s a d d itio n a l h isto rical


v alu e b ecau se it is alm o st in v aria b ly a c co m p an ied by a n in scrib ed
text. T ak e , fo r exam ple, th e first v icto ry m o n u m e n t set u p by th e new
d em o cracy in 506, a m ere tw o years afte r K leisth en es’ refo rm s h a d
b een p u t in p lace in 508.3 C o m m e m o ra tin g th e defeat, o n a single day,
o f B o eo tian a n d C h a lk id ia n forces, th e m o n u m e n t o n th e A k ro p o lis
c o n sisted o f a b ro n z e fo u r-h o rse c h a rio t a n d th e ch ain s o f th e p ris ­
on ers o f w a r w hose ra n s o m p a id fo r th e m o n u m e n t. A ll this was
re c o rd e d in an in scrib ed e p ig ra m o n th e base (tw o elegiac co u p lets), a
frag m en t o f w hich still survives. A new base, w ith a revised version o f
th e ep ig ram , w as m a d e p ro b a b ly in th e 450s, w hen th e o rig in al m o n u ­
m en t, d am ag e d o r d estro y e d by th e P ersians in 480, w as re p la ced .4
H e ro d o to s saw this re p lacem en t co p y a n d re c o rd e d it in his H isto rie s
(5.77) - a nice in stan ce o f th e m o n u m e n t serving as p rim a ry source
m a te ria l fo r th e lite rary h isto ria n .
O r co n sid er th e statu e g ro u p o f th e ty ran t-sla y ers H a rm o d io s a n d
A risto g e ito n .5 W h e th e r this m o n u m e n t w as set u p in th e A g o ra re la ­
tively so o n a fte r th e deed, a b o u t 510, o r - as I w o u ld p re fer to believe -
som e tw o decades later, sh o rtly afte r th e v ictory a t M a r a th o n ,6 it also

2 T. Holscher, ‘Images and political identity: The case of Athens’, in D. Boedeker


and K. Raaflaub (eds), Democracy, Empire and the Arts in Fifth-Century Athens
(Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998), pp. 153-83, esp. p. 156.
3 A. E. Raubitschek, Dedications from the Athenian Akropolis (Cambridge, MA:
Harvard University Press, 1949), pp. 168, 173; J. M. Hurwit, The Athenian
Akropolis (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), p. 25, fig. 24, 144;
Holscher, ‘Images and political identity’, pp. 163-4.
4 R. Meiggs and D. Lewis, A Selection o f Greek Historical Inscriptions to the End
o f the Fifth Century b c (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998), pp. 28-9. See O. Dally,
‘Zwischen serieller Ausfertigung und “Kopie”: Zur Bedeutung der Wiederholung
von Inschriften im ostlichen Mittelmeerraum zwischen dem 6. Jahrhundert v. Chr.
Und der romischen Kaiserzeit’, in K. Junker and A. Stahli (eds), Original und Kopie
(Wiesbaden: Richert, 2008), pp. 227-41, esp. pp. 231-3, and P. Funke, ‘Wendezeit
und Zeitenwende: Athens Aufbruch zur Demokratie’, in D. Papenfuss and V. M.
Strocka (eds), Gab es das griechische Wunder? (Mainz: Phillip von Zabern, 2001), pp.
1-20, esp. pp. 12-13, who argues that the replacement base and monument should
have been made very soon after the victory over the Persians, in order to highlight the
success of the young democracy, and not, as is usually assumed, in the 450s.
5 On the statue group see most recently S. Kansteiner, Text und Skulptur: Beruhmte
Bildhauer undBronzegiesser der Antike in Wort und Bild (Berlin: de Gruyter, 2007),
pp. 8-14, with earlier references.
6 For the early date: M. W. Taylor, The Tyrant Slayers (New York: Arno Press, 1981),
pp. 34-7; for post Marathon: H. A. Shapiro, ‘Religion and politics in democratic
Athens’, in W. D. E. Coulson, F. J. Frost, O. Palagia, and H. A. Shapiro (eds), The
ca rried an in scrib ed ep ig ram (p a rtia lly p reserved) giving th e h isto rical
c o n te x t.7 T h is is n o t a fu n e ra ry m o n u m e n t, n o r a votive offering (like
th e b ro n z e q u a d rig a o n th e A k ro p o lis), b u t a n entirely new class o f
object: th e p o litical m o n u m e n t.8
A s we w o u ld expect, th e victories over th e P ersian s in 490 a n d
ag ain in 480/79 led to a n ever g re ater o u tp o u rin g o f m o n u m en ts,
fro m statu es to w hole b u ild in g s,9 b u t I w o u ld like to focus h ere on
one m o n u m e n t in p a rtic u la r. In one o f th e m o p p in g -u p o p e ra tio n s
as th e P ersian s w ith d rew fro m G reece, afte r 479, K im o n cleared o u t
an enem y stro n g h o ld a t E io n , o n th e riv er S try m o n in T h ra ce (T huc.
1.98.1), a n d h e w as p e rm itte d to co m m e m o ra te this v icto ry w ith a set
o f th re e h erm s in th e A th e n ia n A g o ra (P lut. K im o n 7). A red-figure
vase m a d e sh o rtly th e re a fte r seem s to echo K im o n ’s m o n u m e n t (Figs
1 0 .1 -2 ).10 T h e grin n in g faces o f th e h erm s a n d th e ir ex ag g erated
p h a llo i h av e seem ed to som e observers in co n sisten t w ith a p u b lic
v icto ry m o n u m e n t. B ut, in th e light o f th e n o to rio u s E u ry m e d o n oino-
c h o e , w hich p o rtra y s K im o n ’s g reat v ictory in A sia M in o r ju s t a few
years la te r as a k in d o f sexual a s sa u lt,11 we m a y w o n d e r if th e p a in te r
o f th e th re e -h e rm s p e lik e , in re n d erin g th e h erm s as h e did, d id n o t also
find a cheeky sexual h u m o u r in his reflection o n K im o n ’s m o n u m e n t.12
In d eed , th is w o u ld be in keeping w ith th e o ffbeat sense o f sexual
h u m o u r to b e fo u n d elsew here in th e w o rk o f th e P an P ain ter, startin g

(footnote 6 continued)
Archaeology o f Athens and Attica under the Democracy (Oxford: Oxbow Books,
1994), pp. 123-9, esp. p. 124, following A. E. Raubitschek, ‘Two monuments
erected after the victory at Marathon’, AJA 44 (1940), pp. 53-9, esp. pp. 58-9, n.
2; and several scholars of the early twentieth century cited by Raubitschek.
7 See S. Brunnsaker, The Tyrant-Slayers o f Kritios and Nesiotes (Lund: Hakan
Ohlssons Boktrycheri, 1955), pp. 84-95.
8 As stressed by Holscher, ‘Images and political identity’, pp. 158-60.
9 W. Gauer, Weihgeschenke aus den Perserkriegen (Berlin: Wasmuth, 1968),
and, most recently, M. Meyer, ‘Bild und Vorbild: Zu Sinn und Zweck von
Siegesmonumenten Athens in klassischer Zeit’, OJh 74 (2005), pp. 277-312.
10 Louvre Cp 10793; J. de la Geniere, ‘Une pelike inedite du Peintre de Pan au Musee
du Louvre’, REA 62 (1960), pp. 249-53; R. Osborne, ‘The erection and mutilation
of the hermai’, PCPS 211 (1985; n.s. 31), pp. 47-73, esp. pp. 61-3, pl. 3.
11 Hamburg, Museum fur Kunst und Gewerbe 1981.173; K. Schauenburg,
‘EYPYMEAON EIMI’, AthM itt 90 (1975), pp. 97-121; D. Wannagat,
‘“Eurymedon eimi”: Zeichen von ethischer, sozialer und physischer Differenz in
der Vasenmalerei des 5. Jahrhunderts v. Chr.’, in R. von den Hoff and S. Schmidt
(eds), Konstruktionen von Wirklichkeit (Stuttgart: Steiner, 2002), pp. 51-71, with
earlier references.
12 For very different interpretations of the scene on the pelike see Osborne, ‘Erection
and mutilation of the hermai’, pp. 61-3, and C. W. Clairmont, Patrios Nomos
(Oxford: British Archaeological Reports, 1983), pp. 151-3, the latter arguing that
it is a kind of ancient ‘political cartoon’, satirising Kimon and his followers. I do
agree there is a self-conscious humour about it, but not in Clairmont’s sense.
Figure 10.1 Three herms. Attic red-figure pelike, Louvre Cp 10793. C. 470.

w ith his w ell-k n ow n nam e-vase, a b ell -k r a te r in B o sto n , w ith a ra n d y ,


ith y p h allic P a n ch asin g a sta rtle d y o u n g g o a th e rd th ro u g h a lan d scap e
m a rk e d by a ru stic w o o d e n h e rm w hose oversized p h a llo s echoes th a t
o f th e g o d .13 C o u ld this scene be a sim ilarly subversive riff o n th e
p a trio tic sto ry o f P a n sto p p in g th e A th e n ia n ru n n e r P heidippides ju s t
b efo re th e b a ttle o f M a ra th o n to offer his assistance to th e A th en ian s,
if o nly th ey will a d o p t his w o rsh ip (H e ro d o to s 6.105)?
T h ere is n o n e o f this o v ert h u m o u r o n th e reverse o f th e L o u v re
vase (Fig. 10.2), w hich show s a y o u n g w o m an steadying an offering

13 Boston, Museum of Fine Arts 10.185 AR V 2 550, 1; de la Geniere, ‘Une pelike


inedite’, pl. 12, 1. De la Geniere also illustrates a third vase by the Pan Painter (pl.
12, 2), in Laon, with a youth standing between two strikingly ithyphalic herms. Cf.
also below, n. 18.
Figure 10.2 Kanephoros and youth with hydria. Side B of the pelike in
Fig. 10.1.

b ask e t, o r k a n o u n , o n h e r h e a d , w hile a y o u th p re p a re s to lift a b ro n ze


h yd ria . B u t o nce ag ain , th e scene m a y ta k e o n an a d d itio n a l n u an c e
w hen view ed in th e co n tex t o f th e p a in te r’s o th e r w o rk . A p e lik e o f
sim ilar shape, n o w in N ew castle, also fe atu res a ka n e p h o ro s, w earing
a lo n g festival m an tle, a n d steadying th e b a sk e t o n h e r h e a d w ith
b o th h a n d s .14 H e re th e p a in te r’s w ry h u m o u r stem s fro m th e o ld er
w o m an b e h in d h er, m o st p ro b a b ly h e r m o th e r, desp erately reach in g

14 Newcastle University, Shefton Collection 203; N. Kaltsas and A. Shapiro,


Worshiping Women: Ritual and Reality in Classical Athens (New York: Onassis
Cultural Center, 2008), pp. 218-19, no. 95 [S. A. Waite].
o u t b o th h a n d s. She m a y be w o rried a b o u t th e ka n o u n falling o r
p e rh a p s fussing o v er th e fancy ro b e cascad in g d ow n h e r d a u g h te r’s
b a c k like a w edding dress. In eith er case, th e m o tif o f th e y o u n g girl
w ho h a s been selected fo r a g reat h o n o u r, alo n g w ith h e r loving b u t
irrita tin g m o th e r, lends th e vignette an a d d e d ch a rm . T h e ka n e p h o ro s
o n th e L o u v re p e lik e (Fig. 10.2) is m u ch m o re m o d est, w earing only
a ch ito n a n d w ith h e r h a ir c ro p p e d sh o rt. B u t we m ay w o n d e r if she
a n d th e y o u th w o u ld n ’t m a k e a g o o d couple, as we are to ld th a t
festivals w ere ra re occasions w hen A th e n ia n girls co u ld be seen in
p u b lic a n d a d m ire d by th e o p p o site sex. Som e h av e assu m ed th a t
these tw o b ea rers o f ritu a l im p lem en ts are m o v in g to w a rd s th e herm s
o n th e o th e r side o f th e vase, in o rd e r to engage in som e cu lt activity
in fro n t o f th e m .15 A ltern ativ ely , since th e fem ale k a n e p h o ro s a n d th e
m ale h yd ria p h o ro s are well a tte ste d fo r large pro cessio n s, such as th e
P a n a th e n a ia as d ep icted o n th e P a rth e n o n frieze,16 we m ig h t suppose
th a t th e th re e K im o n ia n h erm s serve h ere as a to p o g ra p h ic a l m a rk e r
o f th e e n tra n c e to th e A g o ra fro m th e n o rth w e st, th ro u g h w hich th e
P a n a th e n a ic p ro cessio n p asse d o n its w ay to th e A k ro p o lis.
T h e precise o rig in al lo catio n o f th e E io n h erm s is n o t k n o w n , b u t at
som e p o in t th ey sto o d in th e S to a o f th e H erm s, o n th e n o rth side o f
th e A g o ra , a n d m ay h av e been m o v ed th ere in th e co u rse o f th e fifth
ce n tu ry , as E velyn H a rris o n h a s su ggested.17 A eschines certain ly saw
th e m th ere in th e m id d le o f th e fo u r th ce n tu ry a n d also re co rd s th e
th ree ep ig ram s (3.184-5), in a version th a t diverges fro m P lu ta rc h ’s in
o nly a few w o rd s. T h e arra n g e m e n t o f th e h erm s is likew ise u n k n o w n ,
b u t a k in d o f c o n v e rsatio n al g ro u p in g , as suggested by th e L o u v re
p e lik e (Fig. 10.1), seem s lik ely .18
T h e choice o f h erm s b ea rin g in scrib ed verses fo r this v icto ry m o n u ­
m e n t is surely significant, since it co u ld n o t h elp b u t call to m in d th e
fa m o u s h erm s o f H ip p a rc h o s, set u p a ro u n d A ttik a by th e y o u n g er

15 So, e.g., de la Geniere, ‘Une pelike inedite, pp. 249, 253.


16 See J. Neils, The Parthenon Frieze (Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 2001), pp. 157-8 (kanephoroi), 146-50 (hydriaphoroi), with discussion of the
Louvre pelike on p. 149.
17 E. B. Harrison, Archaic and Archaistic Sculpture (Agora XI; Princeton: American
School of Classical Studies at Athens Harrison, 1965), p. 111. See R. E. Wycherley,
Literary and Epigraphical Testimonia (Agora III; Princeton: American School of
Classical Studies at Athens, 1957), nos. 296-313, for all the testimonia pertaining
to the Eion herms.
18 We may contrast another pelike by the same painter that also shows three
herms, but disposed entirely differently (and probably not referring to a specific
monument), with two side by side on one side of the vase and the third alone on
the other side, approached by a youth bringing an offering of a pig: Berlin 1962.62;
A R V 2 1659, 91bis; B. Ruckert, Die Herme im offentlichen undprivaten Leben der
Griechen (Regensberg: Roderer, 1998), p. 200, fig. 10.11.
ty ra n t in th e years b efo re his assa ssin a tio n in 514 a n d ca rry in g sim ple
in scrib ed m a x im s.19 K im on m ig h t well h av e chosen h erm s delib­
erately , in o rd e r to p ro c la im th a t these stylised im ages o f th e god
H erm es n o lo n g er b o re th e ta in t o f ty ra n n y , b u t co u ld serve equally
well as in stru m e n ts o f th e d em o cracy .20
T h e tw o sh o rte r ep ig ram s, each a p a ir o f elegiac co u p lets, em ploy
elev ated epic d ictio n to describe in general term s th e h a rd sh ip s o f th e
m en w ho fo u g h t a t E io n a n d th e exam ple they h av e set fo r fu tu re
g en eratio n s o f A th en ian s. T h e second ep ig ra m in p a rtic u la r seem s to
echo th e spirit o f th e y o u n g A th e n ia n dem o cracy w hen it speaks o f
th e eu erg esia (b en efactio n ) o f th e A th e n ia n c o m m an d e rs a n d th eir
d e d ica tio n to x s u n o is p r a g m a s i (the co m m o n g o o d ).21
T h e th ird a n d longest ep ig ra m (three co u p lets) also uses epic
d ictio n , b u t in a very different vein (P lut. K im o n 7.5; tr. au th o r):

sk tcots t^ oSsnoXnog a p ’ ATps^Sflol Msvso0si>g


^ysiTo ZaQsov TproiKov sg nsSfov:
ov n o 0 ’ "Opnpog Aava&v nuKa 0®pnKTa®v
KoopnT^pa paxng e^oxov ovTa poXslv.
ow © g ouSsv asiKsg A 0nvafoioi KaXsio0ai KoopnTalg
noXepou t ’ a p ^ i Kai ^vopsng.

O nce fro m this city M en esth eu s, to g e th e r w ith th e Sons o f


A treu s,
L ed his m en to th e divine T ro ja n plain;

19 [Plato] Hipparchos 228B-229D; on the herms of Hipparchos see Ruckert, Die


Herme im offentlichen, pp. 57-67; Osborne, ‘Erection and mutilation of the
hermai’, pp. 47-51; H. A. Shapiro, ‘Autochthony and the visual arts in fifth-
century Athens’, in Boedeker and Raaflaub, Democracy, Empire and the Arts in
Fifth-Century Athens, pp. 125-51, esp. pp. 125-6.
20 Cf. B. D. Meritt, ‘Epigrams from the battle of Marathon’, in S. Weinberg (ed.),
The Aegean and the Near East: Studies Presented to Hetty Goldman on the
Occasion o f her Seventy-Fifth Birthday (Locust Valley, NY: J. J. Augustin, 1956),
pp. 268-80, esp. pp. 274-8, who suggested that some of the earliest epigrams
celebrating the victory at Marathon had also been carved on herms that stood in
the same area as the Eion herms. This would be another argument for the early
appropriation of the herm as a ‘democratic’ monument.
21 The most detailed study of the epigrams and attempt to reconstruct the original
poem (‘for a poem it was, not a series of three epigrams’) is that of F. Jacoby,
‘Some Athenian epigrams from the Persian Wars’, Hesperia 14 (1945), pp. 157­
211, esp. pp. 185-211 (quotation on p. 187). Cf. also the comments of A. Blamire,
Plutarch: Life o f Kimon (London: Institute of Classical Studies, University of
London, 1989), pp. 112-14, and Harrison, Archaic and Archaistic Sculpture, pp.
116-17. The authenticity of the epigrams as recorded by Aeschines is defended by
R. B. Kebric, The Paintings in the Cnidian Lesche at Delphi and their Historical
Context (Leiden: Brill, 1983), pp. 43-4.
M en esth eu s, w ho H o m e r said w as a n o u ts ta n d in g m a rsh a lle r o f
b a ttle ( k o s m e te r )
A m o n g th e w e ll-a rm o u red A c h aea n s w ho cam e to T roy.
T h u s th ere is n o th in g unseem ly fo r th e A th e n ia n s to b e called
M arsh a lle rs (k o s m e ta is ), b o th o f w a r a n d o f m an ly prow ess.

T hese verses, d a te d securely ju s t th ree years a fte r th e e n d o f X erx es’


in v asio n , are surely a m o n g th e earliest expressions o f th e p arallel
b etw een th e T ro ja n a n d P ersian W a rs, as G re e k v ictories over an
ea ste rn b a rb a ria n , a m o tif to w hich th e A th e n ia n s w o u ld re tu rn over
a n d o v er in th e rh e to ric , lite ra tu re a n d a r t o f th e fifth ce n tu ry .22 T he
T ro ja n W a r w as p a r t o f th e early h isto ry o f every G re ek polis, b u t
its su d d en to p icality in th e 470s p o se d a p ro b le m fo r th e A th en ian s,
w hose new p o w e r a n d p restig e w ere o u t o f all p ro p o rtio n to th e ir very
m o d e st ro le in th e H o m eric epics.
T h e p ro ta g o n is t o f th e E io n p o e m is M en esth eu s, w ho led th e
A th e n ia n c o n tin g e n t a t T ro y (Ilia d 2.552), an d , as such, h e is given
m o re p ro m in en c e in th e I lia d th a n a n y o th e r A th e n ia n h ero . Y et
M en e sth e u s’ ap p e ara n ces in th e epic are few, a n d h e h a s n o g reat aris-
te ia . Still, h e w as v irtu ally all th e A th e n ia n s o f th e fifth ce n tu ry h a d
to w o rk w ith in asserting th e ir ow n c o n trib u tio n to th e G re e k victory
a t T ro y , a n d th ey seem d eterm in e d - as in this ep ig ra m - to m a k e th e
m o st o f him .
M en esth eu s, w ho h a d ea rlier been one o f th e su ito rs fo r th e h a n d
o f H e le n ,23 b ro u g h t fifty A th e n ia n ships to T ro y , acco rd in g to th e
C a ta lo g u e in Ilia d 2 (556). A s a h e ro , h e is ce le b rate d in th e epic less as
a d o e r o f g reat deeds th a n as a g o o d o rg a n ise r o f c h a rio ts a n d a rm e d
w a rrio rs - k o s m e s a i h ip p o u s te k a i a n era s a sp id o d o ta s (2.554) - in this,
second o nly to N e sto r. T h ere is a delib erate echo o f H o m e r’s lan g u ag e
in th e E io n ep ig ram , describing M en esth eu s as th e k o s m e te r a m a ch es
ex o c h o n (line 4). F o llo w in g his lead, th e A th e n ia n s o f th e p re sen t
d ay p rid e them selves o n being th e g re at k o s m e ta i o f m en. T h e w o rd
is given special im p o rta n c e in th e e p ig ra m as a line-beginning b o th

22 A. Erskine, Troy between Greece and Rome (Oxford: Oxford University Press,
2001), pp. 61-92; D. Castriota, Myth, Ethos, and Actuality: Official Art in Fifth-
Century B . C. Athens (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1992), pp. 102-9.
An even earlier expression of this parallel would be Simonides’ recently discovered
elegy on the battle of Plataea, assuming it was written directly after the battle in
479: D. Boedeker and D. Sider, The New Simonides: Contexts o f Praise and Desire
(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001).
23 E. Cingano, ‘A catalogue within a catalogue: Helen’s suitors in the Hesiodic
Catalogue of Women (FF 196-204 M-W)’, in R. Hunter (ed.), The Hesiodic
Catalogue o f Women: Constructions and Reconstructions (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 2005), pp. 118-52.
Figure 10.3 D eparture of Greek heroes for Troy. Attic black-figure
kantharos, Berlin, Antikenmuseum F 1737. C. 550.

tim es it occurs. O nly a few years earlier, in 481, H e ro d o tu s re p o rts, an


A th e n ia n en v oy to G e lo n o f S yracuse h a d asse rted th a t A th en s w o u ld
n ev er relin q u ish c o m m a n d o f th e allied G re e k fleet a n d cited H o m e r’s
p ra ise o f M e n e sth e u s’ skill in m arsh a llin g th e m en to b a c k u p this
claim (7.161). T h e A th e n ia n sp eak er does n o t even n eed to m e n tio n
M en esth eu s b y n am e, only th e telltale p h ra se a risto n d ia k o sm e sa i
s tr a to n . T h o u g h K im o n w as surely c o n stra in e d fro m p u ttin g his ow n
n am e o n th e herm s by th e A th e n ia n d e m o cracy ,24 h e seems to a p p ro ­
p ria te fo r h im self th e role o f a ‘new M en e sth e u s’, m arsh a llin g the
forces o f A th en s a n d its allies to c o n ta in th e (now m u ch dim inished)

24 This is the implication of Plutarch’s remark, ‘Although Kimon’s name is nowhere


mentioned [in the epigrams], his fellow men took it to be a surpassing honour’
(Kimon 8.1). Cf. Aischines 3.183, who says none of the generals of the Eion
campaign was allowed to have his name on the dedication, and Blamire, Plutarch:
Life o f Kimon, pp. 112-14.
P ersian th re a t a n d drive th e enem y b a c k to A sia. H e w o u ld soon
m a rsh a l th o se sam e forces to a new p u rp o se , A th e n s’ h eg em o n y in th e
A eg ean , in th e decade th a t follow ed.
A cro ss th e w hole o f th e a rc h a ic p e rio d th a t sep arates H o m er
fro m K im o n , we h av e only a single surviving visual reference to
M en esth eu s, o n a n u n u su a l b lack-figure vase o f th e m id -six th ce n tu ry
(Fig. 10.3).25 T h e scene show s M en elao s in h is role as m a rsh a lle r o f
h ero es fo r th e ex p ed itio n to T ro y . T he focus, how ever, is o n A chilles
w ith his m o th e r T hetis, giving h im som e last-m in u te advice, a n d his
c o m p a n io n P a tro k lo s. B ringing u p th e re a r are O dysseus (here w ritten
as O ly tteu s) an d , lastly, M enestheus. H is in clusion seem s to be a b it
o f lo cal p rid e o n th e p a r t o f th e A th e n ia n p a in te r, w ho even calls
a tte n tio n to it w ith th e co llo q u ial hodi: ‘H ere h e is! T his is h im !’
T h e epic tra d itio n associates M en esth eu s closely w ith A th e n s’
n e a re st allies, th e h ero es fro m Salam is. In o n e episode o f th e Ilia d ,
M en esth eu s, th re a te n e d b y th e L y cian forces o f G la u k o s a n d
S arp e d o n , sends fo r h elp fro m A jax a n d his h a lf-b ro th e r T eucer
(12.319-412). In th e C a ta lo g u e o f Ships, th e c o n tin g en t fro m Salam is,
tw elve ships led b y A jax, follow s im m ed iately a fte r th e A th e n ia n (Ilia d
2 .5 5 7 -8 ) - a ju x ta p o s itio n th a t th e A th en ian s u sed as early as th e tim e
o f S olon to su p p o rt th e ir claim to th e isla n d .26 By th e tim e o f K im o n ,
S alam is h a d becom e fully in c o rp o ra te d in to th e A th e n ia n state, A jax
o n e o f th e E p o n y m o u s H eroes, a n d his son E u ry sak es th e p o ssesso r o f
a h e ro shrine in th e ce n tre o f A th e n s.27
T h e biggest p ro b le m fo r th e A th e n ia n s o f th e fifth ce n tu ry w as th a t
th e ir n a tio n a l h e ro p a r e x c e lle n c e , T heseus, h a d n o t b een at T ro y . H e
b elo n g ed to a n ea rlier g en e ratio n o f h ero es, th e o n e th a t fo u g h t th e
c e n ta u rs a t th e w edding o f P e rith o o s.28 In ste a d , his fam ily w as re p re ­
sen ted o nly b y his m o th e r A ith ra , w ho h a d en d e d u p in T ro y as one o f
H e le n ’s h a n d m a id e n s (Ilia d 3.144), a n d by his tw o sons, A k a m a s a n d
D e m o p h o n (one o f th em , A k a m a s, n o w also a n E p o n y m o u s H e ro ,
alo n g w ith T h eseu s’ fa th e r A egeus), w ho figure only in th e last days
o f th e T ro ja n W a r.29 A ro u n d th e tim e o f M a ra th o n a n d ju s t before,

25 Kantharos, Berlin F 1737; E. Simon and M. Hirmer, Die griechischen Vasen


(Munich: Hirmer, 1976), pp. 80-1, pl. 65.
26 Taylor, Tyrant Slayers, pp. 21-2.
27 See U. Kron, ‘Zur Schale des Kodros Malers in Basel: Eine interpretatio attica ’,
in M. Schmidt (ed.), Kanon: Festschrift Ernst Berger, Antike Kunst 15 (1988), pp.
291-304, esp. p. 298 on Ajax and Eurysakes.
28 L IM C VII 922, s.v. Theseus [J. Neils] for the sources, and S. Mills, Theseus, Tragedy
and the Athenian Empire (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), pp. 6-13.
29 See E. Cingano, ‘Teseo e i Teseidi tra Troia e Atene’, in P. Angeli Bernardini
(ed.), L ’epos minore, le tradizioni locali e la poesia arcaica (Rome: Fabrizio Serra
Editore, 2007), pp. 91-102, for a detailed study of the sons of Theseus at Troy.
th e v ase-p ain ters offer evidence th a t A k a m a s a n d D e m o p h o n n eed ed
to be rescu ed fro m th e o b scu rity o f th e ir absence fro m H o m e r’s Ilia d
(they m a y h av e arriv ed in T ro y only a fte r th e events n a r ra te d in the
p o em ), w ith a t least tw o h e ro ic deeds a t T ro y .30 O ne is th e rescue o f
th e ir g ra n d m o th e r A ith ra . T his scene is in tro d u c e d in to A ttic red-
figure as early as th e 490s a n d becom es especially p o p u la r a b o u t 460,
p e rh a p s u n d e r th e influence o f P o ly g n o to s’ g reat Iliu p e rsis at D elp h i,
w here th e ep isode w as in clu d ed .31
T h e second is th e ir c a p tu re o f th e P allad io n , th e h o ly cu lt im age
o f A th e n a in T ro y , w hich they will b rin g b a c k to A th e n s.32 T h e ea rli­
est allu sio n to th is episode is o n a re m a rk a b le cu p b y M a k ro n in the
H e rm ita g e (F igs 10.4-6).33 A vicious fight h a s b ro k e n o u t betw een
O dysseus a n d D io m ed es, each claim ing to h o ld th e ‘tr u e ’ P allad io n
(Fig. 10.4). A k a m a s a n d D e m o p h o n are a m o n g th e h ero es w ho try
to m ed iate (all figures are lab elled by in scrip tio n s). T h e council o f
u n n a m e d h ero es o n th e o th e r side (Fig. 10.5) will a w a rd th e statu e to
D e m o p h o n , w ho will h av e it b ro u g h t b a c k to A th en s a n d set u p in a
sa n c tu a ry th a t will be k n o w n as ‘Z eus a t th e P a lla d io n ’.34 A lth o u g h
T h ese u s’ sons a t first seem to d isa p p e a r in to th e crow d, th e p a in te r
h a s cleverly m a d e sure we reg ister th e ir presence by p u ttin g th eir
fa th e r a n d g ra n d m o th e r in th e to n d o o f th e cu p (F ig. 10.6): th e y o u n g
T heseus setting o u t fro m T ro ize n a n d b ra n d ish in g th e sw o rd th a t is

30 A third, less heroic instance of Akamas’ involvement in the sack of Troy is hinted
at by a vase of c. 490, the Brygos Painter’s well-known cup Louvre G 152; A R V 2
369, 1; L. Giuliani, Bild und Mythos (Munich: Beck, 2003), pp. 215-18, fig. 44. In
a panoramic depiction of the Ilioupersis (death of Priam, Andromache defending
herself with a pestle), a warrior labelled Akamas is shown leading Polyxena by
the hand. Given the context, we may assume Polyxena is being led to her death,
sacrificed to appease the ghost of Achilles. Euripides, Hecuba 123-5, knows of the
involvement of the sons of Theseus in the sacrifice of Polyxena.
31 M. D. Stansbury-O’Donnell, ‘Polygnotos’s Iliupersis: A new reconstruction’, AJA
93 (1989), pp. 203-15, esp. pp. 207-8, fig. 3. Cf. Kebric, Paintings in the Cnidian
Lesche, pp. 16-31, who argues strongly for the pro-Athenian, pro-Kimonian
flavour of Polygnotos’ painting at Delphi, no less so than in the second version
of the same subject that he executed in the Stoa Poikile in Athens. For depictions
of the rescue of Aithra see L IM C I 426-7, s.v. Aithra I [U. Kron]. Attempts to
recognise the scene on black-figure vases of the sixth century (e.g. Kron p. 426,
nos. 59-65) remain speculative: see M. Mangold, Kassandra in Athen (Berlin:
Dietrich Reimer, 2000), p. 104.
32 LIM C I 436; 442, s.v. Akamas et Demophon [U. Kron]; M. A. Tiverios, ‘Peri
Palladiou: Oti duo klepseian Diomedes kai Odysseus’, in Schmidt, Kanon, pp. 324-30.
33 St Petersburg B 649; A R V 2 460, 13; N. Kunisch, Makron (Mainz: Phillip von
Zabern, 1997), pp. 134-5, pl. 113. Cf. the discussion of U. Kron, Die zehn attischen
Phylenheroen (AthMitt 5; Berlin: Gebr. Mann, 1976), pp. 150-1, and Kron, in
LIM C I 442, who points out that the episode recorded on this cup is not attested
in any literary source before the fourth century.
34 See Kron, Die zehn attischen Phylenheroen, p. 150, for the sources.
Figure 10.4 Odysseus and Diomedes competing for the Trojan Palladion,
with Akamas, Dem ophon and Agamemnon. Attic red-figure cup, St
Petersburg, Herm itage B 649. C. 480.

Figure 10.5 Greek heroes at Troy deliberating on the Palladion. Side B of


the cup in Fig. 10.4.

o n e o f th e g n o rism a ta , th e to k en s o f his p a te rn ity .35 T h u s th ree g en ­


era tio n s o f A th e n s ’ lead in g fam ily are p o rtra y e d o n a single d rin k in g
cu p , m a d e so o n a fte r 480, w hen m u ch o f th e A th e n ia n p o p u la c e was

35 On this much-discussed scene, see Kunisch, Makron, p. 134, with earlier references.
I have discussed it again most recently in H. A. Shapiro, ‘Mother and son:
Theseus’s farewell to Aithra’, in C. Weiss and E. Simon (eds), Folia in Memoriam
Ruth Lindner Collecta (Dettelbach: J. H. Roll, 2010), pp. 89-94.
Figure 10.6 Farewell of Theseus and Aithra. Interior of the cup in
Fig. 10.3.

ev a cu ated a h e a d o f th e P ersian in v asio n a n d fo u n d refuge in T h eseu s’


n ativ e to w n o f T ro iz e n .36
Several o f these asso c ia tio n s co n v erg ed in a re m a rk a b le m o n u ­
m e n t m o re th a n a h a lf-cen tu ry later. In th e years a b o u t 420, the
scu lp to r S tro n g y lio n m a d e a b ro n z e g ro u p depicting G re ek w a rrio rs
em erging fro m th e T ro ja n H o rse, d ed ica ted by o n e C h aired em o s
o n th e A th e n ia n A k ro p o lis, ju s t w est o f th e P a rth e n o n .37 T h e fo u r
h ero es show n, acco rd in g to P au san ias, w ere M en esth eu s, T eu cer th e
S alam in ian , a n d th e tw o sons o f T heseus, A k a m a s a n d D e m o p h o n .
A re m a rk a b le vase frag m en t a g en e ratio n la te r echoes th e m o n u m e n t

36 Plutarch, Themistokles 10; cf. the Themistokles decree, line 8: Meiggs and Lewis,
Greek Historical Inscriptions, p. 48.
37 Pausanias 1.23.8; Raubitschek, Dedications, pp. 208-9, no. 176; Hurwit, Athenian
Akropolis, p. 229; F. W. Hamdorf, ‘Zur Weihung des Chairedemos auf der
Akropolis von Athen’, in N. Kontoleon (ed.), Stele: Tomos eis mnemen Nikolaou
Kontoleontos (Athens: Friends of Nikolaos Kontoleon, 1980), pp. 80-1. The
monument seems to be referred to in both Aristophanes’ Birds (1128) and
Euripides’ Trojan Women (13-14), produced in 414 and 415, respectively. The date
c. 420 for the monument is partly an assumption that it will have been a recent
addition to the Akropolis landscape when the two playwrights mention it.
in its to p o g ra p h ic a l settin g .38 T h o u g h K im o n ’s ep ig ram o n th e E io n
h e rm h a d n a m e d only M en esth eu s, it n o w seem s clear th a t h e w a n te d
to evoke th e w hole A th e n ia n a n d S alam in ian co n tin g en ts a t T ro y ,
in clu d in g th e fam ily o f T heseus.
B u t h o w are we to reconcile all these p a trio tic tra d itio n s w ith th e
very different story, b est k n o w n fro m P lu ta rc h ’s L ife o f T h eseu s 34-5,
o f M en esth eu s as th e evil u s u rp e r w ho seized p o w e r in A th e n s w hile
T heseus a n d P erith o o s w ere o ff in H ad es; w elcom ed th e D io sk o u ro i
w hen th ey in v ad ed A ttik a to reco v er th e ir sister H elen afte r T heseus
h a d a b d u c te d h e r fro m S p arta; a n d th en , o n T h eseu s’ re tu rn to
A th en s, d ro v e th e hapless h e ro in to exile a n d a tre a c h e ro u s d e a th
a t th e h a n d s o f K in g L ykom edes o f Skyros? T h o u g h several o th e r
a u th o rs also re p o rt th e story, all are o f a t least im p erial d a te .39 T he
several A ttic tragedies th a t deal w ith T h eseu s’ k in g sh ip nev er h in t
a t th e u s u rp a tio n o f M enestheus. H ip p o ly to s h a s T heseus in exile
a t T ro izen , b u t u n d e r very different circu m stan ces.40 T h e lik elih o o d
sh o u ld , I believe, be co n sid ered th a t th e co n n e cted n a rra tiv e th a t we
fin d in P lu ta rc h , a n d especially th e villainous role o f M enestheus,
p o s t-d a te th e fifth cen tu ry . A s a m o ralisin g b io g ra p h e r, P lu ta rc h h a d
to h a v e T heseus com e to a b a d e n d o n a c c o u n t o f his reckless b e h a v ­
io u r in late m id d le age, a b d u c tin g th e u n d er-ag e H elen a n d going o n
th e ill-advised ad v e n tu re to th e U n d e rw o rld w ith P erith o o s. T h ere is
n o evidence w h a te v er fo r a neg ativ e tre a tm e n t o f M en esth eu s in eith er
th e a rt o r lite ra tu re o f th e fifth cen tu ry , startin g w ith th e E io n ep ig ram
a n d in clu d in g th e T ro ja n H o rse o f S tro n g y lio n a n d th e p a trio tic cu p
by th e K o d ro s P a in te r o f c. 430, to w hich we shall tu rn next. T h o u g h
n o h e ro cu lt o f M en esth eu s is yet a tte ste d in A th e n s o r A ttik a , th is is
surely ju s t a n accid en t o f p re se rv a tio n , as E rik a S im on h a s recently
w ritte n .41 P a u san ias saw th e sp o t at th e o ld h a r b o u r o f P h a le ro n
w hence M en esth eu s a n d th e fifty ships set sail fo r T ro y (1.1.2), a n o th e r
lin k w ith T h eseus, w ho left fro m th e sam e h a r b o u r fo r C rete in th e
p re v io u s g en e ratio n (P lut. T h eseu s 17.6; P au san ias 1.1.2).
T h e w ell-know n cu p in B o lo g n a th a t gives his n a m e to B eazley’s

38 Wurzburg H 4695; CVA (Wurzburg 2), 55, pl. 39, 3.


39 Diodoros 4.63; Apollodoros epit. I 23; Sch. Lykophron 513; Hyginus 79; Servius
on Aeneid 2.61; 6.21; 6.121. Of fifth-century authors, only Herodotos (9.73)
makes a negative comment on Theseus’ hubris in kidnapping Helen (see M. A.
Flower and J. Marincola, Herodotus Histories Book I X (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 2002), pp. 237-8), but he makes no mention of Menestheus in
this context.
40 On Theseus’ role in tragedy see Mills, Theseus, Tragedy and the Athenian Empire,
esp. pp. 186-221, on the Hippolytos; and D. Mendelsohn, Gender and the City in
Euripides’ Political Plays (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), pp. 152-79.
41 L i M c VI 474, s.v. Menestheus.
Figure 10.7 Greek heroes leaving for Troy in the presence of Athena. Attic
red-figure cup, Bologna, M useo Civico P U 303.

Figure 10.8 Theseus and Phorbas setting out for war. Side B of the cup in
Fig. 10.7.

K o d ro s P a in te r rep resen ts a n e x tra o rd in a ry interw eaving o f p a s t a n d


p re sen t o n th e eve o f th e P elo p o n n esian W a r (F igs 10.7-9).42 O nly
one o f th e ten figures o n th e ex terio r is a divinity recognisable w ith o u t
in scrip tio n - A th e n a in th e m iddle o f side A (Fig. 10.7) - b u t we are
fo rtu n a te th a t all are labelled. A h e a d o f A th e n a are th e b e a rd e d L ykos

42 Bologna PU 303; A R V 2 1268, 1; most fully discussed by C. Sourvinou-Inwood,


‘The cup Bologna PU 273: A reading’, Metis 5 (1990), pp. 137-53, with earlier
references, and, most recently, A. Avramidou, The Codrus Painter: Iconography
and Reception o f Athenian Vases in the Age o f Pericles (Madison: University of
Wisconsin Press, 2011), pp. 31-3.
Figure 10.9 K odros and Ainetos. Interior of the cup in Fig. 10.7.

a n d a y o u th fu l, a rm e d A jax. T h e goddess lo o k s b a c k to w a rd s a n o th e r
y o u th , M en esth eus, a n d a w o m an n a m e d M elite. T h e co m p o sitio n o n
side B is ro u g h ly sim ilar (Fig. 10.8), w ith th e cen tral figure n o w M ed ea,
h o ld in g u p a helm et. T h e o ld er/y o u n g er p a ir to th e left o f h e r is A egeus
a n d T heseus, fa th e r a n d son, w hile a b e a rd e d a n d a rm e d w a rrio r,
P h o rb a s, strides u p fro m th e rig h t, a n d A ith ra stan d s quietly beh in d .
T h e th em e o f this cu p is clear - ‘m obilising fo r w a r’ - w ith in te re st­
ing p arallels betw een th e tw o sides. Side A show s th e d e p a rtu re o f
th e A th e n ia n c o n tin g en t a t T ro y , led, a p p ro p ria te ly , b y M enestheus.
A jax h a s b y n o w lo n g since b een fully c o -o p te d as a n A th e n ia n h ero .
T h e p o in t is d riv en h o m e b y p lacin g th e v ig o ro u s A th e n a betw een
these tw o hero es. She seems to b e h u rry in g M en esth eu s along,
p e rh a p s rem in d in g h im to ch ange o u t o f his tra v e lle r’s g a rb a n d in to
his a rm o u r. M elite is a fu rth e r re m in d e r o f A ja x ’s in te g ra tio n in to
th e A th e n ia n p olis, since th e h e ro shrine o f his son E u ry sak es, w hich
d o u b le d as th e trib a l shrine o f A ian tis, w as lo c a te d in th e dem e M elite,
in ce n tral A th e n s.43 L y k o s is p e rh a p s less co n n e cted to th e figures o n

43 Kron, Die zehn attischen Phylenheroen, pp. 138, 172.


this side o f th e vase th a n to his b ro th e r A egeus, stan d in g in th e sam e
p o sitio n o n th e o th e r side (Fig. 10.8).
T h a t side refers m o st p ro b a b ly to w a rfare closer to h o m e, the
defence o f A th en s fro m th e A m az o n in v asio n , led by T heseus a n d
P h o rb a s .44 T h e la tte r is several tim es show n as T h ese u s’ ch ief c o m ra d e
o n A m a z o n o m a c h y vases o f this p e rio d ,45 a n d h e h a d even ac co m ­
p a n ie d T heseus b efo re th a t, in th e ta k in g o f A n tio p e, w hich p ro v e d
to be th e ca su s b elli fo r th e in v asio n o f th e A m a z o n s.46 T heseus is
s u rro u n d e d by n o few er th a n th re e m em bers o f his fam ily - fa th e r,
m o th e r a n d step m o th er M edea. U ta K ro n is surely rig h t in p o in tin g
o u t th a t M e d e a is p re se n t h ere as a n A ttic h ero in e , ra th e r th a n in h er
d u b io u s ro le as w icked ste p m o th e r.47 T h o u g h , acco rd in g to th e c o n ­
v en tio n s o f A ttic v ase-p ain tin g , A th e n a sh o u ld only be show n o n one
side o f th e cup, h e r expansive (a n d sym bolic) presence clearly extends
to b o th scenes. M e d e a co u ld alm o st b e m ista k e n fo r A th e n a a t first
glance, since she h o ld s u p a h elm et in th e sam e m a n n e r as th e goddess
freq u en tly do es.48 T h e overall m essage o f th e c u p ca n b e sta te d suc­
cinctly: A th e n ia n hero es sta n d re ad y to fight fo r th e ir city, w h eth er
a b ro a d o r a t h o m e. W e are also in v ited to d ra w a p arallel betw een tw o
ea ste rn enem ies, th e A m azo n s a n d th e T ro jan s. B o th w ere a t v ario u s
tim es ev o k ed as stan d -in s fo r th e P ersians, m o st con sp icu o u sly in the
scu lp tu ral p ro g ra m m e o f th e P a rth e n o n .49
Since th e ceram ic d ate o f th e B o lo g n a cu p coincides alm o st exactly
w ith th e o u tb re a k o f th e P elo p o n n esian W a r, m u ch h a s been m a d e o f
its p ro p a g a n d a v alue as a h e ro ic m o d el fo r th e A th e n ia n s o f 431.50
T h o u g h th is m a y b e tru e in a general sense, w h a t is m o re striking to
m e is th e absence o f a n y o v ert reference in th e ex terio r p ictu re s to
th e struggle ag a in st S p a rta a n d its P e lo p o n n esian allies. R a th e r, the
p a ra d ig m a tic scenes o n th e K o d ro s P a in te r’s c u p s ta n d in th e sam e
re la tio n to A th e n ia n m ilitary en g agem ents o f th e d ay as th e p u b lic

44 So also Kron, Die zehn attischen Phylenheroen, p.138, following Carl Robert.
45 E.g. the dinos London 1899.7-21.5; A R V 2 1052, 29; S. B. Matheson, Polygnotos
and Vase-Painting in Classical Athens (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press,
1995), p. 452, PGU 34, 165, pl. 143. This vase also includes Akamas, a unique
instance of father and son fighting side by side. Euripides, Suppliants 680, refers to
Phorbas as a fighting companion of Theseus.
46 On the cup attributed to Euphronios, London E 41; A R V 2 58, 51 (at that
time attributed to Oltos); Euphronios der Maler. Exhibition catalogue (Berlin:
Antikenmuseum, 1991), pp. 190-2.
47 Kron, Die zehn attischen Phylenheroen, p. 137.
48 For the motif see N. Kunisch, ‘Zur helmhaltenden Athena’, AthM itt 89 (1974), pp.
85-104.
49 Castriota, Myth, Ethos, and Actuality, pp. 134-74.
50 See especially Sourvinou-Inwood, ‘Cup Bologna PU 273’ for this approach, though
she sees both Medea and Menestheus here as sinister figures, which I do not believe.
fu n e ral o ra tio n s (e p ita p h io i lo g o i ) sto o d to th e b attles (including th o se
o f th e P e lo p o n n esian W a r) th a t th ey m em orialised. In these speeches,
th e A m a z o n o m a c h y is o n e o f a ca ta lo g u e o f m y th o lo g ica l exem p la fo r
th e b ra v e ry a n d th e su p erio rity o f A th en s. N icole L o ra u x fam ously
show ed h o w th e A th e n ia n s ‘in v e n te d ’ th e ir p a st th ro u g h th e m ed iu m
o f th ese speeches,51 a n d I w o u ld arg u e th a t v ase -p ain tin g w as able to
do so m eth in g sim ilar. T h e T ro ja n W a r, how ever, so p ro m in e n t o n
th e vases, is p o in ted ly o m itte d fro m th e e p ita p h io i logoi, fo r reaso n s
L o ra u x h a s e x p lo re d .52
E ven b efo re th e in tro d u c tio n o f th e e p ita p h io s logos, a ca ta lo g u e
o f th e g lo rio u s deeds o f th e A th e n ia n s ap p e a rs in th e speech deliv­
ered b y a n A th e n ia n b efo re th e b a ttle o f P la ta ia a n d re c o rd e d by
H e ro d o to s (9.27). O f th e fo u r deeds fro m th e d ista n t p a s t (M a ra th o n
is th e fifth a n d m o st recent), tw o are th o se re ferred to o n th e K o d ro s
P a in te r’s cup: th e defeat o f th e A m az o n in v asio n a n d th e A th e n ia n
c o n trib u tio n a t T ro y (vaguely describ ed as ‘second to n o n e ’). T he
o th e r tw o are th e recovery o f th e bo d ies o f th e d efeated Seven ag ain st
T heb es a n d th e ir b u ria l a t Eleusis, w hich to o k p lace in th e kingship o f
T heseus (E u rip id es, S u p p lia n ts ), a n d th e friendly re cep tio n o f H yllos
a n d th e H e rak leid ai a n d th e defeat o f th e ir evil co u sin E u ry th eu s,
w hich to o k p lace in th e reign o f T h ese u s’ son D e m o p h o n (E uripides,
H e r a k le id a i).53 In o u r c o n tex t, it is o f p a rtic u la r in tere st th a t w h a t
links all five episodes in th is ca ta lo g u e (including M a ra th o n , w here
T heseus a p p e a re d in a n ep ip h an y ) is th e p a rtic ip a tio n o f T heseus o r
his sons, o r b o th .
T h e allu sio n to c o n te m p o ra ry events m issing fro m th e ex terio r o f
th e cu p m a y well be fo u n d in th e to n d o (Fig. 10.9). T h e w a rrio r is
K o d ro s , th e A th e n ia n king w hose n a m e becam e sy n o n y m o u s w ith
h e ro ic self-sacrifice o n b e h a lf o f th e city d u rin g a n early in v asio n
o f A th e n s b y a P e lo p o n n esian a rm y .54 H is co m p a n io n in th e to n d o

51 N. Loraux, L ’invention d’Athenes (Paris: Mouton, 1981), pp. 133-56; W. Kierdorf,


Erlebnis und Darstellung der Perserkriege (Gottingen: Vandenhoek & Rupprecht,
1966), pp. 84-95.
52 Loraux, L ’invention d’Athenes, pp. 69-72, arguing that the orators did not want the
greatness of the wars of the fifth century to be overshadowed by memories of Troy.
53 See Flower and Marincola, Herodotus Histories Book IX, pp. 152-3, on the
relationship of the Athenian’s speech in Herodotos to the epitaphioi logoi, and L.
H. Jeffery, ‘The battle of Oinoe in the Stoa Poikile: A problem in Greek art and
history’, BSA 60 (1965), pp. 41-57, esp. p. 51, who suggests that all four subjects
in the Stoa Poikile were drawn from this catalogue and that Herodotos could have
had the paintings in mind when he composed the Athenian’s speech.
54 For the sources see Kron, Die zehn attischen Phylenheroen, pp. 196, 221-7; LIM C
VI, 86-7, s.v. Kodros [E. Simon]; N. Robertson, ‘Melanthus, Codrus, Neleus,
Caucon: Ritual myth as Athenian history’, G RBS 29 (1988), pp. 201-61, esp. pp.
224-30, on the late invention of the myth of Kodros.
Figure 10.10 Grave stele of a warrior with his father. Athens, N ational
Archaeological M useum 731. C. 350.
h a s th e en ig m atic n a m e A inetos. W h o e v er this m y sterio u s figure is
- o b scu re h e ro o r p erso n ific atio n (‘th e p ra ise w o rth y o n e ’)55 - h e h as
very m u ch th e lo o k o f a m a tu re A th e n ia n of his d a y , in th e ty p ical
citizen h im a tio n , w ho co u ld b e th e fa th e r o f this w a rrio r. T h e im age
an ticip ates m a rb le grave stelai o f a few decades later, o n w hich a
fa th e r gazes solem nly a t th e b ra v e son w ho h a s fallen in his p rim e
(Fig. 10.10).56 It is as if, w hile th e w a rrio rs o n th e c u p ’s ex terio r are
ju s t setting o u t fo r w ar, this one is alre ad y d ead , b u t m em o rialised fo r
his sacrifice.
I e n d w ith a n o th e r re m a rk a b le c u p by th e sam e p a in te r, w hich
illu strates h o w A th e n ia n m y th m a k in g , genealogical m an o eu v res a n d
th e fa b ric a tio n o f th e city ’s h e ro ic p a s t w ere all alive a n d o p e ra tin g in
th e fifth cen tu ry. T w o late sources, P lu ta rc h a n d A th en a eu s, re p o rt
th a t T heseus w as actu ally th e fa th e r o f A jax, by a w o m an w hose n am e
is v ario u sly given as P e rib o ia (in P lu ta rc h ), M elib o ia (in A th en a eu s)
a n d E rib o ia o r E p ib o ia in o th e r sources.57 N o t th a t A ja x ’s H o m eric
fa th e r, T ela m o n , h a s been fo rg o tte n , m erely p u sh e d aside in fa v o u r
o f a ‘tru e ’ fa th e r m o re p e rtin e n t to A th e n ia n interests. W e m ig h t well
h av e dism issed this sto ry as a late v a ria n t (like th e sto ry o f M enestheus
th e u su rp e r) if n o t fo r this cu p o f a b o u t 435 bce th a t cam e to light
som e th irty years ago a n d is n o w in th e B asel A n tik en m u seu m (Figs
10 .11-13).58 T h e loss o f several key in scrip tio n s p re v en ts a full a p p re ­
ciatio n o f th e scenes, b u t th e general sense is clear.
A jax is th e b a b y w ra p p e d in sw addling clothes, w hose m o th e r,
E rib o ia (h er n am e is inscribed), h a s b o rn e h im o u t o f w edlock (Fig.
10.11). She shyly p resen ts th e b a b y to h e r h u s b a n d T elam o n . T h a t he
will accep t th e child a n d raise it as his ow n m a y b e in ferred n o t only
fro m o u r kn o w ledge o f th e story, b u t fro m th e presence o f A p o llo
o n th e o th e r side o f th e cu p (Fig. 10.12), th e g o d w ho san ctio n s such
fam ilial ac co m m o d atio n s. T h e b a b y ’s tru e fa th e r, T heseus, ap p e a rs in
th e c u p ’s to n d o as a y o u n g w a rrio r, stan d in g quietly w ith a w o m an
w hose n a m e co u ld be A rg eia (Fig. 10.13).59
T hese are th e m a in o utlines o f th e ico n o g ra p h ical p ro g ra m m e

55 See Sourvinou-Inwood, ‘Cup Bologna PU 273’, pp. 139-40.


56 Stele from Salamis, Athens NM 731; C. W. Clairmont, Classical Attic Tombstones
(Kilchberg: Akanthus, 1993), vol. II, p. 805, no. 2.930 (with plate).
57 For the sources see R E 11 (1907), 438, s.v. Eriboia [Tumpel].
58 Inv. BS 432; first illustrated in AntK 11 (1968), pl. 19, and discussed by E. Berger,
‘Zur Deutung einer neuen Schale des Kodrosmalers’, Antike Kunst, 11 (1968), pp.
125-36; CVA (Basel 2), pp. 48-50, pl. 26, 4; 30; 31, 1-3.
59 The inscription is poorly preserved, and despite several attempts has not been read
satisfactorily: see Berger, ‘Zur Deutung einer neuen Schale des Kodrosmalers’,
p. 130; Kron, ‘Zur Schale des Kodros Malers in Basel’, p. 304; CVA (Basel 2), 48
[V. Slehoferova].
Figure 10.11 Eriboia presenting the baby Ajax to Telamon. Attic red-
figure cup, Basle, Antikenmuseum + Sammlung Ludwig BS 432.

Figure 10.12 Apollo and others. Side B of the cup in Fig. 10.11.

o f th e cu p , as re c o n stru c te d by E rn st B erger a n d m odified by U ta


K ro n .60 F o r th e ro le o f A p o llo ’s oracle in th e life o f T heseus, we m ay
b e re m in d e d o f th e sam e p a in te r’s w ell-know n B erlin cu p w ith A egeus
c o n su ltin g th e P y th ia (here labelled, significantly, as T hem is) in the
to n d o .61 It w as this e n c o u n te r th a t sent A egeus, w ho w as in search o f
a rem ed y fo r his childlessness, o ff to T ro ize n a n d in to th e arm s o f the

60 Berger, ‘Zur Deutung einer neuen Schale des Kodrosmalers’; Kron, ‘Zur Schale
des Kodros Malers in Basel’. For a different interpretation, Avramidou, Codrus
Painter, pp. 40-2.
61 Berlin, Antikenmuseum F 2538; A R V 2 1269, 5; K. Schefold and F. Jung, Die
Urkonige: Perseus, Bellerophon, Herakles und Theseus (Munich: Hirmer, 1988),
p. 234, fig. 282; Avramidou, Codrus Painter, pp. 39-40.
Figure 10.13 Theseus and a woman (Argeia?). Interior of the cup in
Fig. 10.11.

y o u n g A ith ra . T h e m issing in scrip tio n s o n th e B asle c u p p re v e n t us


fro m u n d e rsta n d in g som e details o f th e sto ry to ld h ere, such as w ho
th e cru cial figure is w ho is co n su ltin g A p o llo a n d w hy th e u n id en tified
co u p le b e h in d h im are jo in e d in a n in tim a te h an d c la sp . Since A p o llo is
also th e g o d w ho au th o rises th e fo u n d in g o f colonies, I w o n d e r if these
tw o y o u th s co u ld be A k a m a s a n d D e m o p h o n , w ho w ere said to be th e
o ik is ts o f n u m e ro u s colonies in A sia M in o r, T h ra ce a n d C y p ru s.62
T h e sto ry o f T heseus fa th e rin g A jax m a y h av e been h in te d a t as
fa r b a c k as th e early sixth cen tu ry , w hen K leitias p lace d E p ib o ia
alo n g sid e T heseus o n th e F ra n c o is V ase, as th e A th e n ia n y o u th s a n d
m aid en s d ise m b a rk o n C re te .63 In B acchylides 17, E rib o ia is th e girl
T heseus p ro te c ts fro m th e u n w a n te d ad v an ces o f th e C re ta n M inos
(line 14), p e rh a p s w ith a subtle im p lica tio n th a t th e y o u n g p rin ce m ay

62 See LIM C I 435-6, s.v. Akamas et Demophon [U. Kron]. The two heroes seem
to be depicted in their role as oikists on a slightly earlier vase, the pelike now in
Kyoto, Greek and Roman Museum; E. Simon, The Kurashiki Ninagawa Museum
(Mainz: Philipp von Zabern, 1982), pp. 94-9, no. 40.
63 Florence 4209; ABV 76, 1; see Simon and Hirmer, Die griechischen Vasen, pp.
73-4 and fig. 2 (printed reversed), for a detail of the Theseus frieze and discussion
of Epiboia.
fancy h e r fo r h im self.64 B u t th e full story m u st h av e been eith er quite
recen tly in v en ted o r little k n o w n w hen th e K o d ro s P a in te r u n fo ld ed
it in th e u n iq u e im ages o n th e B asle cup. S o p h o k le s’ A ja x , p ro b a b ly
p ro d u c e d in th e 440s, m ak es n o m e n tio n o f it (o r o f T heseus, fo r th a t
m a tte r, in an y co n te x t).65 W e m a y also recall th a t o n e o f th e m o st
sp ec ta cu lar re n d itio n s o f T h ese u s’ y o u th fu l deeds fills th e inside a n d
th e o u tsid e o f a cup, n o w in th e B ritish M u seu m , by n o n e o th e r th a n
o u r sam e a rtist, th e K o d ro s P a in te r.66
T h is p a in te r w as a p a rtic u la r devote o f A th e n ia n h ero es a n d early
genealogies. H is re n d erin g o f th e b irth o f E ric h th o n io s, fo r exam ple,
o n a n o th e r cu p in B erlin, is o n e o f th e finest a n d m o st com plex
we h a v e .67 A m o n g th e v ario u s ‘w itnesses’ to th e b irth are n o t only
E rech th eu s, th e king this divine ch ild will grow u p to be, b u t also
T h ese u s’ fa th e r A egeus, th u s creatin g a lin k fro m T heseus reach in g
all th e w ay b a c k to th e first A th e n ia n king, K e k ro p s th e a u to c h to n ,
d ep icted o n th e fro n t o f th e c u p .68 In this w ay, th e sem blance o f a
c o n tin u o u s a n d u n in te rru p te d d y n asty o f early kings is c re a te d w here
n o n e is ever re c o rd e d by th e m y th o g ra p h e rs.
T his is an astonishing, a n d p e rh a p s u n iq u e, situ atio n , in w hich a
single v ase-p ain ter perfectly ca p tu res th e A th e n ia n Z e itg e is t o f a criti­
cal decade, th a t o f th e 430s. A th en s w as busily w riting a n d rew riting its
early h isto ry , n o t in th e pages o f h isto rian s like T hucydides, w ho largely
ignores m y th ical figures like E rechtheus, T heseus o r K o d ro s, b u t in
m an y o th e r m edia, fro m genealogical p o e try a n d trag e d y to big sculp­
tu ra l m o n u m en ts o n th e A k ro p o lis a n d elegant d rin k in g cups p assed
a ro u n d at th e sym posia o f th e aristocracy, w ho co n tin u ed to p a rty like
it w as 475, even as th e storm -clouds o f w a r g a th ered o n th e h o rizo n .

64 G. Ierano, ‘Il filo di Eriboia (Bacchilide 17)’, in A. Bagordo and B. Zimmermann


(eds), Bakchylides: 100 Jahre nach seiner Wiederentdeckung (Munich: Beck,
2000), pp. 183-92, has suggested that the poem hints at a forthcoming wedding of
Theseus and Eriboia. G. Danek, ‘Heroic and athletic contests in Bacchylides 17’,
WSt 121 (2008), pp. 71-83, esp. p. 75, n. 19, records a suggestion of H. Maehler
that Bacchylides chose the name Eriboia more or less randomly from a traditional
list of the Athenian maidens, but the repeated references to her in the fifth century,
as on the new cup in Basle, indicate that the choice was quite deliberate.
65 In the play, Ajax refers to Eriboia as his mother (569), but only Telamon is named
as his father. Pindar, Isthmian 6.45, also refers to Ajax as the son of Eriboia by
Telamon.
66 London E 84; A R V 2 1269, 3; Taylor, Tyrant Slayers, pls. 20-1; Avramidou,
Codrus Painter, pp. 37-8.
67 Berlin F 2537 A R v 2 1268, 2; most recently, Kaltsas and Shapiro, Worshiping
Women, pp. 178-9, cat. 75 [A. Avramidou] and Avramidou, Codrus Painter,
pp. 33-6.
68 I have discussed more fully the imagery of this cup in Shapiro, ‘Autochthony and
the visual arts’, pp. 136-7.
FAMILY TIME: TEMPORALITY,
GENDER AND MATERIALITY IN
ANCIENT GREECE

Lin Foxhall

INTRODUCTION: THE GREEKS AND THEIR PASTS


T h e collective p a sts o f th e G reek s are th o se m o st fa m iliar to us fro m
n a rra tiv e h isto rical ac co u n ts, rh e to ric , in scrip tio n s a n d o th e r k in d s o f
w ritten sources tra d itio n a lly u sed to piece to g e th e r h isto rical events.
H o w ev er, it h a s lo n g b een reco g n ised th a t as in m a n y societies in th e
an cien t a n d m edieval w orlds, literacy a n d w ritin g d id n o t d o m in ate
all aspects o f m em o ry a n d reco rd -k e ep in g in G re ek c o m m u n itie s.1
A s a resu lt, th e w ritten p asts o f p o lities a n d co m m u n ities w ere c o m ­
p lem en ted by o th e r kinds o f te m p o ra l in fo rm a tio n o p e ra tin g a t a
different level, o ften residing in fam ilies, th o u g h it w as n o t alw ays
w ritten do w n . In som e cases m em o ry o f these altern ativ e tem p o ralities
b ecam e e m b ed d e d in m a te ria l objects. E specially in th e case o f elite
fam ilies, w here th e collective p a s t m ig h t in tersect w ith fam ily h isto ry ,
such fam ily stories som etim es m a d e it to th e w ritten re co rd , a n d a link
to a p lace o r a n object m ig h t reinforce th e m em o ry . H ow ever, in o th e r
cases it is clear th a t m a te ria l o bjects them selves m a rk e d re la tio n sh ip s
a n d c a rrie d m em ories a t a level below th e ra d a r o f w h a t we usually
th in k o f as h isto ry . T h is in fo rm a tio n is n o t, o f course, ‘h isto ric a l’ in
an y tra d itio n a l sense o f th e w o rd , b u t it m u st h av e been critical fo r
h o w G reek s u n d e rs to o d them selves a n d th e ir rela tio n sh ip s in tim e.
T his c h a p te r will ad d ress th e w ays in w hich m a te ria l c u ltu re offers
us a view o f G re e k fam ilial p asts b o th in d ialogue w ith a n d ou tsid e
th e w ritten reco rd . In p a rtic u la r I will focus o n th e w ays in w hich
these altern ativ e p asts w ere gendered, th a t is, h o w th e re la tio n sh ip o f
w o m en to b o th th e fam ilial a n d th e collectively re m e m b ered p a s t a n d
fu tu re differed fro m th a t o f m en. I shall s ta rt w ith th e n o tio n o f m a te ­
riality , to ex p lo re h o w objects becom e en tan g le d w ith p eo p le in th e

1 R. Thomas, Oral Tradition and Written Record in Classical Athens (Cambridge:


Cambridge University Press, 1989), pp. 15-30, 95.
first p lace, a n d h o w th ey m ig h t ta k e o n te m p o ra l significance. In the
follow ing section I investigate an cien t G re e k n o tio n s o f kin sh ip a n d
th e ir im p act o n co n stru c tio n s o f fam ily a n d m em o ry . F in a lly I c o n ­
sider re la tio n sh ip s betw een w om en in classical a n tiq u ity as th ey w ere
p lay ed o u t th ro u g h th a t m o st q u in tessen tially fem inine o f activities,
textile m a n u fa c tu re , a n d h o w we can see vestiges o f these re la tio n sh ip s
m a rk e d o n th e w eaving to o ls them selves.

MATERIALITY
M a te ria lity is a b ro a d n o tio n w idely a n d v ario u sly u sed by a rc h a e ­
ologists a n d an th ro p o lo g ists to en co m p ass h o w th in g s becom e w oven
in to th e fa b ric o f h u m a n social life a n d re la tio n sh ip s, b lu rrin g the
d istin c tio n betw een subject a n d object. T h ere is co n sid erab le d e b a te in
th e scholarly lite ra tu re a b o u t precisely w h a t it does o r d o e sn ’t m ean.
‘T h in g s’ n eed n o t b e sim ply co n crete item s o r arte fac ts, b u t ca n also
in clude o th e r kinds o f less o bviously co n c rete th in g s such as im ages,
th e in tern e t, m usical w o rk s a n d even in stitu tio n s; basically an y th in g
w hich ca n b e objectified. H ow ever, th e v arie d a n d in tere stin g lite ra ­
tu re re p resen tin g c u rre n t d eb ates o n m a te ria lity in a n th ro p o lo g y a n d
arch aeo lo g y sch o larsh ip co n c en trate s heavily o n m a jo r m o n u m e n ts
a n d ‘n o ta b le ’ o r ‘special’ o b jects,2 a n d m u ch o f b o th th e a rc h a e o ­
logical a n d an th ro p o lo g ic a l research h a s fo cu sed o n ‘a r t ’ in o n e fo rm
o r a n o th e r. A nalysis h a s p rim arily c e n tre d o n th e social a n d p o litical
re la tio n s o f m ateria lity , in arch ae o lo g y o ften specifically o n th e links
betw een m o n u m e n ta lity a n d m e m o ry .3 T h e th in g s w ith w hich I will
be m o st co n c ern e d in this c h a p te r are con crete arte fac ts generally o f
th e m o st m u n d a n e kind.
T ech n o lo g ies th e re fo re also p la y a key m ed iatin g ro le in dialectic
b etw een p e rso n a n d th in g , a n d th u s th e b lu rrin g o f subject a n d object.
T ech n o lo g y is som etim es seen as a p erfo rm a n c e , actin g o u t a re la tio n ­
ship w ith th e m a te ria l w o rld .4 C ertain ly n u m e ro u s eth n o g ra p h ic
studies h av e ex p lo red h o w p eople, especially ch ild ren , learn skills a n d
crafts, by w atch in g , im itatin g , p a rtic ip a tin g a n d p ra ctisin g w ith skilled
w o rk ers as p a r t o f a social g ro u p . A n d as a p e rso n p ractises a skill, th e
ta s k becom es m o re a n d m o re fam iliar a n d e m b o d ied so th a t th e ta s k

2 L. Meskell, ‘Objects in the mirror appear closer than they are’, in D. Miller
(ed.), Materiality (Durham, NC, and London: Duke University Press, 2005),
pp. 72-87; C. Tilley, The Materiality o f Stone (Oxford: Berg, 2004).
3 E.g., N. J. Saunders, ‘Crucifix, cavalry and cross: Materiality and spirituality
in Great War landscapes’, World Archaeology 35 (2003), pp. 7-21.
4 L. Douney and M. Naji, ‘Editorial’, Journal o f Material Culture 14 (2009),
pp. 411-32.
FAMILY TIME 185

(o r a t least elem ents o f it) can be d o n e ‘w ith o u t th in k in g ’: driving a ca r


is a g o o d ex am ple in th e m o d e rn w o rld .5
M a te ria l objects are c re a te d by p eople, b u t th ey can also ta k e o n a
life o f th e ir o w n ,6 to becom e subjects, a n d m u ch as th ey are ‘o b je c ts’
in a d y n am ic d ialectical re la tio n sh ip . O bjects m a y th u s becom e p a r t
o f o u r ‘w a llp a p e r’ because they b ecom e so e m b ed d e d in o u r lives a n d
daily activities th a t we sto p n o ticin g th e m .7 O bjects once c reated
can tra n sc e n d tim e a n d space. So, fo r exam ple, a ro a d o r a b uilding,
o nce b u ilt, ch an nels traffic a n d p lay s a role in sh ap in g th e use o f space
b e y o n d th e lifetim e o f th e p eo p le w ho b u ilt th e m (a n d to som e ex ten t
th e specific in te n tio n s o f th o se people).

It is n o t ju s t th a t objects ca n be agents; it is th a t p ractices a n d


th e ir rela tio n sh ip s create th e a p p e a ra n c e o f b o th subjects a n d
objects th ro u g h th e dialectics o f objectification, a n d we n eed to be
able to d o cu m en t h o w p eo p le in tern alize a n d th e n externalize the
n o rm ativ e. In sh o rt we n ee d to show h o w th e th in g s th a t p eople
m ak e, m a k e p e o p le .8

O bjects them selves b ecom e agents in h u m a n social in tera ctio n s. T hey


do n o t sim ply serve as a reflection o f h u m a n social en g ag em en t o r
a signifier o f so m eth in g else,9 p ro je c te d o n th e m by h u m a n social
in te ra c tio n s ,10 as th ey h av e a life b ey o n d th e re ach o f th e social re la ­
tio n sh ip s a n d th e te m p o ra l h isto rical setting w hich p ro d u c e d th e m in
th e first p la c e .11 A s such, th ey also sim u ltan eo u sly accrue a d d itio n a l
s tra ta o f en tan g le m e n t in h u m a n re la tio n s over tim e.
H u m a n g ro u p s, like objects, h av e life cycles a n d life h isto ries. T he
re la tio n sh ip betw een p e rso n (o r p eo p le) a n d object develops o v er tim e
w ith use, so th e life h isto ry o f a n object is m u ch m o re th a n its itin e r­
ary o f p assin g fro m h a n d to h a n d , since th e tra d itio n s o f p ro d u c in g
objects, a n d o f re p re se n ta tio n , develop a life o f th e ir o w n as a set o f

5 M. Naji, ‘Gender and materiality in the making: The manufacture of Sirwan


femininities through weaving in southern Morocco’, Journal o f Material Culture
14(2009), pp. 47-73.
6 D. Miller, ‘Materiality: An introduction’, in Miller, Materiality, pp. 1-50, at
p. 11; B. Latour, Pandora’s Hope: An Essay on the Reality o f Science Studies
(Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999).
7 Miller, ‘Materiality’, p. 5.
8 Miller, ‘Materiality’, p. 38.
9 W. Keane, ‘Signs are not the garb of meaning: On the social analysis of
material things’, in Miller, Materiality, pp. 182-205.
10 S. Kuchler, ‘Materiality and cognition: The changing face of things’, in Miller,
Materiality, pp. 206-30, at p. 209.
11 C. Pinney , ‘Things happen: Or, from which moment does that object come?’, in
Miller, Materiality , pp. 256-72.
loosely ag reed co n v e n tio n s w hich tra n sc e n d a n y p a rtic u la r h isto rical
m o m e n t to som e e x te n t.12 T h e key h ere is th e focus o n th e en ta n g le d
rela tio n sh ip as th e an aly tical en tity , n o t o n th e agency o f eith er p erso n
o r th in g , subject o r object.
O bjects ca n a ttra c t a n d evoke stories o f th e h u m a n re la tio n sh ip s
en g ag ed in th e ir fo rm a tio n , use a n d m o v em en t. S om etim es in d icato rs
o f th ese stories becom e visibly ‘m a rk e d ’ o n th e object itself, eith er
th ro u g h d elib erate m a rk in g o r v ia w ear, b re a k a g e o r re p air. O f course,
th e rela tio n sh ip s o f m a te ria lity can be p ositive o r negative, stro n g o r
w eak, o r an y w here in betw een. T h e ac q u isitio n o f skills, w hich m ay
en tail th e em b o d im en t o f know ledge over m a n y years, m a y easily
beco m e e n ta n g le d w ith p erso n a l rela tio n sh ip s a n d th u s serve as a
focus fo r em b o d y in g a n d re m em b erin g th o se re latio n sh ip s.
S en tim en ts can tra n sc e n d tim e. O bjects som etim es c o n stitu te a n d
re p resen t rela tio n sh ip s betw een p eo p le set in tim e, recalling a n d
stren g th en in g ties o f affection. H ow ever, I w o u ld arg u e th a t such
em b ed d e d o b jects h av e th e p o w e r to create ties even in th e absence
o f ac tu a l face-to-face re la tio n sh ip s. T his ca n en ab le th em to becom e
‘h isto ric a l’ m a rk e rs in th e absence o f texts, m e asu rin g layers o f re la ­
tio n sh ip s (som etim es g en eratio n s) ra th e r th a n , literally, th e p assin g
o f years. Such o bjects n ee d n o t be m o n u m e n ta l, b u t as n o te d above,
th o se w hich are n o t h av e b een less o ften studied, especially in the
classical w o rld. In th e w o rd s o f C o lin R enfrew :

I t is in th e re p e rto ire o f arte fac ts o f daily use th a t th o se


m em o ries a n d experiences reside w hich d eterm in e th e tru e n a tu re
o f a society. T h e m a te ria l c u ltu re th ro u g h w hich th o se experi­
ences are u n d erg o n e, th ro u g h w hich th a t en g ag em en t is effected,
em b o d ies th e fu n d a m e n ta l a n d m a in stre a m m em ories o f th a t
so ciety .13

FAMILY AND MEMORY


It m u st be said a t th e sta rt th a t an cien t G re e k stru ctu re s o f kinship
w ere n o t p a rtic u la rly con d u civ e to th e lo n g -term p re se rv a tio n o f
m em o ries, w hich seldom ex ten d ed b e y o n d th ree g e n e ra tio n s.14
R elated n ess w as re c k o n e d b ilaterally , th ro u g h b o th th e m ale a n d

12 Pinney, ‘Things happen’, pp. 265-8.


13 C. Renfrew, Towards a theory of material engagement’, in E. de Marrais, C.
Renfrew and C. Gosden (eds), Rethinking Materiality (Cambridge: Macdonald
Institute, 2004), p. 30.
14 Thomas, Oral Tradition, pp. 124-9
FAMILY TIME 187

fem ale lines, sim ilarly to p re se n t-d a y E u ro p e a n k in sh ip system s. In


A th en s, descent, a t least in th e sh o rt term , w as critical fo r h o ld in g
citizen statu s. T h is p rin cip le h a d b een fo rm ally estab lish ed w ith th e
re fo rm s o f K leisthenes late in th e sixth ce n tu ry bce, a n d w as stre n g th ­
en ed by P erik les’ ‘law a b o u t b a s ta rd s ’ in 451 b ce, lim iting citizenship
to th o se w hose fa th e r a n d m o th e r w ere b o th o f citizen statu s. T he
difficulty w ith b ila te ra l k in sh ip is th a t afte r tw o o r th ree gen eratio n s
re la tio n sh ip s m u ltip ly p ro fu sely a n d o ften b ecom e co m p licated , so
th a t it is h a r d to keep tra c k o f all o f them . (In d eed , h o w m a n y p eople
in th e m o d e rn w estern w o rld kn o w th e ir second o r th ird cousins p e r­
sonally, o r even w ho th ey are?) A g o o d exam ple is th e lim it p lace d
o n related n ess in A th e n ia n law . R esp o n sib ilities a n d privileges c o n ­
cern in g succession a n d in h eritan c e w ere confined to th e a n g ch isteia ,
defined b y D e m o sth en e s (47.73) as ‘th o se re la te d u p to th e ch ild ren o f
c o u sin s’, th o u g h in p ra ctice th e use o f th e co n c ep t o f a n g ch iste ia m ig h t
h av e b een so m ew h at m o re flexible.15 E ven w ith this lim ita tio n , re la t­
edness w as reg u larly co n tested , as d e m o n stra te d by th e large n u m b e r
o f legal d isp u tes over in h eritan c e a n d citizenship in th e co rp u s o f A ttic
o ra to ry , w here p ro v in g o r d isp ro v in g k in sh ip co n n e ctio n s becom es
critical. T h e difficulty a n d u n c e rta in ty o f estab lish in g k in sh ip a p p e a r
fro m a n o th e r p erspective in P la to ’s P o litic u s (257d), w here S okrates
claim s to b e re la te d to tw o y o u n g m en, o n e because h e a n d S okrates
lo o k e d alike a n d th e o th e r b ecau se th ey sh are a n a m e so th ey m u st be
re la te d (nam es, o f course, o ften ra n in fam ilies).
C h ild ren o f cousins, obviously, sh are th e sam e g re a t-g ra n d fa th e r,
p re su m in g a te m p o ra l line o f fo u r gen eratio n s. H ow ever, it is in te r­
esting th a t th is vertical, te m p o ra l lin k is n o t h o w D e m o sth en es
expresses th e p rin cip le o f th e a n g c h iste ia . In ste a d , h e focuses o n
th e c o n te m p o ra ry h o riz o n ta l link, alm o st certain ly m u ch m o re
im p o rta n t in th e everyday discourse o f social, p o litical, legal a n d
eco n o m ic re la tio n sh ip s, in so fa r as these ca n be disentangled. In
o th e r w o rd s, h e p re su m e d th a t related n ess w as n o rm ally re ck o n ed
via th e m in im u m te m p o ra l depth: if y o u knew th a t y o u r fa th e r
a n d so m eo n e else’s fa th e r w ere cousins, th e n y o u w o u ld k n o w th a t
th e tw o o f y o u w ere related . H ow ever, even if y o u co u ld in th eo ry
w o rk it o u t, y o u d id n o t necessarily k n o w o r th in k a b o u t y o u r
co m m o n g re a t-g ra n d fa th e r, since fo r m o st q u o tid ia n p u rp o se s th a t
re la tio n sh ip w as n o t relevant.
In A th en s a n d elsew here in th e G re e k w o rld , extensive fam ily
trees w ith lo n g lines o f an cesto rs d o c u m e n te d w ere ra re , except fo r

15 S. C. Todd, The Shape o f Athenian Law (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993),


pp. 217-18.
a few elite fam ilies,16 o r ro y a l fam ilies, such as th e tw o lineages o f
th e S p a rta n kings. M o st G re ek ‘genealogies’ begin to include leg­
e n d a ry o r m y th ical figures afte r a b o u t th ree o r fo u r gen eratio n s,
a n d th e re is o ften a g ap betw een th e ‘real p e o p le ’ a n d th e leg en d ary
h e ro e s .17 H o w ever, th e re still existed co n tex ts a n d situ atio n s w hen
real o r p erceived m u lti-g e n e ra tio n a l links w ere im p o rta n t. F a m ily ­
like o rg a n isa tio n s, g ro u p s w hich claim ed to be b ase d o n k in sh ip links
(a n d genuinely w ere to a lim ited extent), b u t w here it is o b vious th a t
n o t all th e m em bers w ere actu a lly re la te d to each o th e r, w ere alw ays
ag n atic, fo u n d e d u p o n a c tu a l a n d su p p o sed links o f m en to m en. T his
p ractice, o f fo cusing o n a single line o f relatedness, sim plifies th e links
a n d lim its th e n u m b e r o f re la tio n sh ip s th a t n eed to b e rem em bered.
R eg u larly th ese a g n a tic g ro u p s p la y e d im p o rta n t roles in b o th p o liti­
cal a n d social o rg a n isa tio n , a n d th e m em o ry o f related n ess over tim e.
A n im p o rta n t a n d w ell-studied exam ple is th e p h ra trie s o f classical
A th e n s .18 M e n ’s citizenship in classical A th en s is n o rm ally defined
by m o d e rn scholars, follow ing th e A risto te lia n A th . P o l. (42.1), as
e n ro lm e n t in a dem e. A t one level this is c o rrec t, b u t skim s over the
fa ct th a t v irtu ally all A th e n ia n citizens, rich a n d p o o r, a p p e a r to
b elo n g to p h ra trie s. (T he exceptions a p p e a r to be a few cases o f g ro u p
g ra n ts o f citizenship, fo r exam ple th e P la ta e a n s g ra n te d A th e n ia n
citizen sh ip in 427 b c e .19) W h e n citizenship w as challenged, o r in o th e r
circu m stan ces w here a m a n h a d to p ro v e his p a re n ta g e , fo r exam ple
in d isp u tes o v er in h eritan ce, it w as n o rm a lly th e g ro u p m em o ry o f
th e p h ra try , p a rtic u la rly th e o ral testim o n y o f m em bers p re se n t at
cerem onies m a rk in g key life stages such as m arria g e, th e b irth o f a
ch ild o r th e in tro d u c tio n o f a son, w hich w as cited as definitive p ro o f
o f his claim s.20 T h e dem e w as an in stitu tio n o f th e A th e n ia n state,
directly lin k ed to m em b ersh ip in o n e o f th e ten trib es, a n d th ere b y
to office h o ld in g , m ilitary service a n d o th e r c e n tral state d uties, as
well as h a v in g local p o litical fu n c tio n s o f its ow n. T h e n u m b e r o f
dem es ch a n g ed so m ew h at over tim e b u t seems to h av e been relatively

16 Thomas, Oral Tradition, pp. 105-6, 123-31; J. K. Davies, Athenian Propertied


Families, 600-300 b c (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971); S. C. Humphreys, The
Family, Women and Death (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1983), pp.
108-11.
17 Thomas, Oral Tradition, pp. 157, 190.
18 S. D. Lambert, The Phratries o f Attica , 2nd edn (Ann Arbor: University of
Michigan Press, 1998).
19 Lambert, Phratries, pp. 50-3.
20 A. C. Scafuro, ‘Witnessing and false witnessing: Proving citizenship and kin
identity in fourth century Athens’, in A. L. Boegehold and A. C. Scafuro (eds),
Athenian Identity and Civic Ideology (Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins
University Press, 1994), pp. 156-98; Lambert, Phratries, pp. 34-40.
static).21 In c o n tra st, p h ra trie s h a d n o b u re a u c ra tic ro le o r o th e r ‘offi­
c ial’ fu n c tio n in th e A th e n ia n state, a lth o u g h they co n d u c te d th eir
ow n b u siness using s ta n d a rd d em o cratic p ro c e d u re s,22 a n d do n o t
seem to h av e been re g u la te d b y th e state to a n y significant extent,
d esp ite th e ir critical ro le in p o litica l m em o ry .
A g n a tic co n n e ctio n s w ere also u sed to m a in ta in , o r p re se n t th e illu ­
sion of, tim e -d ep th in G re e k fam ilies. A fam ily th a t co u ld be ‘sh o w n ’
to ex ten d o v er tim e e n h a n ced its claim s to b e p a r t o f a p o litica l elite.23
R are ly w ere such claim s m a d e o vertly o n th e basis o f fem ale lines o f
descent, o r even fem ale links. T his is n o t to say m a te rn a l relatives
o r k in sh ip links th ro u g h fem ale lines w ere n o t im p o rta n t, b u t th a t
th e ir im p o rta n c e lay in th e everyday p ra ctice a n d h a b its o f k in sh ip .24
T h e ‘o u tlin e s’ o f a lineage em b o ld en e d a n d set in a w ider tim e fram e
w ere generally d ra w n alo n g m ale lines. Som e o f th e ‘fam ily sto ries’
re c o u n te d by H e ro d o to s a b o u t A th e n ia n fam ilies still p ro m in e n t in his
ow n tim e p ro v id e g o o d exam ples o f these sorts o f claim s. In 6.103-4,
in th e n a rra tiv e leading u p to th e b a ttle o f M a ra th o n , H e ro d o to s
p au ses to ex p lain th e h isto ry o f th e general M iltia d e s’ fam ily, th e
P h ilaidai:

T h e A th e n ia n tro o p s w ere c o m m a n d e d by ten generals, o f w h o m


th e te n th w as M iltiades. M iltiad e s’ fa th e r, K im o n th e son o f
S tesag o ras, h a d been b an ish e d fro m A th en s by P eisistrato s son
o f H ip p o c ra te s. W hile in exile h e h a d th e g o o d fo rtu n e to w in the
c h a rio t race at O lym pia, th ere b y g aining th e sam e d istin c tio n as
h is b ro th e r by th e sam e m o th e r M iltiades. A t th e n ex t gam es he
w o n th e p rize ag ain w ith th e sam e te a m o f m ares, b u t this tim e
w aived his v ictory in fa v o u r o f P eisistrato s, a n d fo r allow ing the
la tte r to b e p ro c la im e d th e w in n er w as given leave to re tu rn to
A th en s. A t a la te r O lym pic festival h e w on a th ird tim e, still w ith
th e sam e fo u r m ares. S oon after, P eisistrato s h a v in g died, h e w as
m u rd e re d by P eisistra to s’ sons, w ho sent m en to w aylay h im one
n ig h t n e a r th e C ouncil H o u se. H e w as b u rie d o u tsid e A th en s,
b e y o n d w h a t is called th e S u n k R o a d , a n d o p p o site his grave w ere
b u rie d th e m ares w hich h a d w on th e c h a rio t race th ree tim es. T his
trip le v icto ry h a s once b efo re been achieved b y a single team , th a t
o f E u a g o ra s th e L a k o n ia n , b u t th ere are n o o th e r in stances o f it.
A t th e tim e o f K im o n ’s d e a th , S tesagoras, th e elder o f his tw o

21 Lambert, Phratries, p. 111.


22 Lambert, Phratries, pp. 105-6.
23 Thomas, Oral Tradition, p. 98.
24 L. Foxhall, ‘The running sands of time: Archaeology and short-term timescales’,
World Archaeology 31.3 (2000), pp. 484-98; and see below.
sons, w as living in th e C h erso n n ese w ith M iltiad es his uncle, a n d
th e y o u n g er son, w ho w as called M iltiad es a fte r th e fo u n d e r o f
th e settlem ent in th e C h ersonnese, w as w ith his fa th e r in A thens.
I t w as th is M iltiad es w ho w as n o w an A th e n ia n general.

H e ro d o to s p o s t-d a te d M iltiad es th e general b y a t least tw o g en e ra­


tio n s, a n d o f co u rse M iltia d e s’ fa th e r a n d g ra n d fa th e r w ere even m o re
re m o te in tim e. T h e in fo rm a tio n h e p re se n te d so u n d s very m u ch like
th e so rt o f in fo rm a tio n a fam ily w o u ld re m e m b e r,25 a n d it seems a
re a so n a b le guess th a t H e ro d o to s ’ in fo rm a n t w as a c o n te m p o ra ry
d esc en d an t o f K im o n a n d M iltiad e s.26
T h o m a s suggests th a t th e genealogy in H e ro d o to s w as likely to
h av e been w idely k n o w n b ecau se o f th e o ld er M iltia d e s’ p o sitio n as
th e fo u n d e r o f a co lo n y , a n d th a t H e ro d o to s m a y even h av e g o t his
in fo rm a tio n directly fro m th e C h erso n n e se.27 H ow ever, th e story
in th is p assag e is strongly A th e n o c e n tric a n d focuses o n a local
A th e n ia n m o n u m e n t. T h e focus o n a fam ily to m b m ig h t suggest th a t
th e in fo rm a tio n w as re m e m b ered a t least in p a r t b ecau se o f its link
to a k n o w n grave. I t w o u ld ce rtain ly h av e been in th e in terests o f
th e la te r fifth -cen tu ry m em b ers o f this fam ily to ensure th a t th e story
a tta c h e d to this p a rtic u la r grave w as w idely dissem inated. I t seems
p lau sib le th a t som eone in th e fam ily n o t only ta lk e d to H e ro d o to s,
b u t even en c o u ra g e d h im to include this a n d o th e r generally co m p li­
m e n ta ry stories (H d t. 6 .34-41, 109, 132-6, 140) a b o u t th e fam ily in th e
H isto rie s. T h ere are som e possible ca n d id a tes fo r d esc en d an ts o f the
P h ilaid ai c o n te m p o ra ry w ith H e ro d o to s d o cu m en te d in o th e r h isto ri­
cal sources: (1) T h e tta lo s son o f K im o n son o f M iltiad es th e general
w as o n e o f th e p ro se c u to rs o f A lk ib iad es fo r im piety in 415 b c (P lut.
A lc . 19.3, 22.4); a n d (2) O ulios son o f K im o n son o f M iltiad es the
general, o r O u lio s’ son A risto k ra te s. K leito , th e wife o f A risto k ra te s,
m ad e a d ed ica tio n to A th e n a late in th e fifth ce n tu ry b c e .28 It is gen­
erally accep ted th a t p a rts o f th e H isto r ie s w ere re a d alo u d publicly
o r sem i-publicly, alth o u g h we k n o w n o th in g a b o u t th e venues o r the
o ccasio n s.29 H ow ever, in th e co n tex t o f fifth -cen tu ry A th en s, a certain
a m o u n t o f p riv a te sp o n so rsh ip in th e fo rm o f offering h o sp ita lity

25 Thomas, Oral Tradition, pp. 111, 127-8.


26 See Thomas, Oral Tradition, pp. 171-2; Davies, Athenian Propertied Families, p.
307.
27 Thomas, Oral Tradition, pp. 171-2.
28 Davies, Athenian Propertied Families, p. 307.
29 R. Thomas, Herodotus in Context: Ethnography, Science and the Art o f
Persuasion (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), pp. 20, 257-60; W.
Johnson, ‘Oral performance and the composition of Herodotus’ Histories’, GRBS
35 (1994), pp. 229-54.
a n d p e rfo rm a n c e venues (even w ith o u t o v ert p ay m en t) in re tu rn fo r
e n c o u rag e m e n t to h ig h lig h t th e activities o f p a rtic u la r fam ilies in
his m o n u m e n ta l w o rk m ig h t n o t seem o u t o f p la c e .30 I f this w ere th e
case, it is easy to see w hy H e ro d o to s m ig h t n o t explicitly cite ‘fam ily
tra d itio n ’ as his so u rce.31
In H e ro d o to s ’ a c co u n t, all o f th e p erso n s m e n tio n e d are m ale,
th o u g h it is clear th a t th e fam ily line c o n ta in e d a n im p o rta n t fem ale
link: K im o n th e son o f S tesag o ras a n d his h a lf-b ro th e r M iltiades
sh ared th e sam e m o th e r, n o t th e sam e fa th e r, yet she is n o t id e n ti­
fied, even by circ u m lo c u tio n , as ‘d a u g h te r o f X ’. In d e ed , it seem s th a t
h e r n a m e a n d origins w ere b y H e ro d o to s ’ tim e entirely u n k n o w n .
C learly th e re la tio n sh ip s betw een h e r tw o sets o f ch ild ren w ere close,
fo r M ilitad es th e general w as n a m e d a fte r his fa th e r’s h a lf-b ro th e r
M iltiad es th e ty ra n t in th e C hersonnese. In fact, th e y o u n g er M iltiades
ev en tu ally succeeded his uncle as ty ra n t in th e C hersonnese. T he
im p o rta n t p o in t fo r th e a rg u m e n t h ere is th a t an cestry stretch in g b a c k
b e y o n d tw o o r th re e g en e ratio n s survived only as links in a c h a in o f
m en - th e on ly fam ily m em bers to be re m e m b ered as in d iv id u a ls.32
In terestin g ly , a lite rary genealogy o f this sam e fam ily w hich o v er­
lap s b u t does n o t agree w ith H e ro d o to s also survives, p reserv ed in a
frag m en t o f P herekydes, an A th e n ia n w ritin g in th e first h a lf o f th e
fifth cen tu ry . O n a larg e r scale, it is clear th a t G re e k co m m u n ities h a d
a lo n g tra d itio n o f using genealogies to ju stify ‘e th n ic ’ a n d te rrito ria l
claim s.33 It m a y be th e case th a t th e c o n stru c tio n o f th is genealogy
w as in sp ired a n d affected by p o litical co n cern s o f th e fam ily in th e fifth
ce n tu ry .34

P h ilaio s, son o f A jax. L ived in A th en s. P h ilaio s b e g a t D a ik lo s,


a n d h e b eg a t E pilykos, a n d h e b eg a t A k e sto r, a n d h e b eg at
A g en o r, a n d h e b eg a t O ulios, a n d h e b eg a t Polykles, a n d he

30 Apart from the Peisistratids, always portrayed as villains, the three Athenian
families which Herodotos discusses in detail are the Philaidai, the Gephyrai
(the descendants of Harmodios and Aristogeiton, the tyrant-slayers), and the
Alkmeonidai (Thomas, Oral Tradition, pp. 144-54). All of these families had
living descendants in Athens over the period when Herodotos was active there
(Davies, Athenian Propertied Families, pp. 472-7, 379-83, 304-8). In the case
of the Alkmeonidai he makes reference to contemporary or near-contemporary
family members, Pericles (Hdt. 6.131) and Alcibiades’ father Kleinias (Hdt. 8.17).
31 Cf. Hdt. 5.57.1, where he gives the Gephryais’ own account of their origins
and his preferred alternative; Thomas, Oral Tradition, p. 98.
32 See Thomas, Oral Tradition, pp. 161-73, and Davies, Athenian Propertied
Families, pp. 298-307.
33 J. M. Hall, Ethnic Identity in Greek Antiquity (Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 1997), pp. 77-99.
34 Thomas, Oral Tradition, pp. 164-5.
b e g a t A u to p h o n , a n d h e b eg a t P hilaios, a n d h e b eg a t A g am esto r,
a n d h e b eg a t T eisan d er, a n d h e b eg a t M iltiades, a n d h e b eg at
H ip p o k leid es w ho w as a rc h o n w hen th e P a n a th e n a ic festival w as
estab lish ed , a n d h e b eg a t M iltiad es w ho fo u n d e d th e co lo n y o f
th e C h erso n n e se.35

P h ere k y d es’ genealogy is strikingly artificial in term s o f th e realities


o f A th e n ia n kinship. I t begins w ith th e leg en d ary h e ro A jax. I t is
p reserv ed as a single line o f m en w ith n o in fo rm a tio n a b o u t w om en
(o r even siblings), a n d in th a t sense is clearly n o t ‘re a l’, a p a rt fro m
an y issues a b o u t its accuracy. T his does, how ever, suggest th a t
w o m en w ere n o t felt to h av e th e sam e k in d o f place in lo n g -term
m em o ry as m en, despite th e fact th a t G re ek sources reg u larly im ply
th a t w om en, especially o ld w om en, w ere im p o rta n t co nveyors o f
tra d itio n a l tales a n d in fo rm a tio n .36 T h e in fo rm a tio n o n w hich it w as
b ase d is also likely to h av e o rig in a te d w ith th e fam ily ,37 som e one
o f w h o m p e rh a p s co m m issio n ed h im to w rite it. A lth o u g h atte m p ts
h av e been m a d e to explain th e discrepancies w ith H e ro d o to s, o r to
reconcile th em , it m a y be th a t fam ilies them selves d id n o t necessarily
agree a b o u t th e ir p a st, a n d different in d iv id u als o r p a rts o f a fam ily
u n d e rs to o d it differently. T h e com plexities o f b ila te ra l k in sh ip a n d
th e c o n c o m ita n t lack o f tim e -d ep th leave co n sid erab le ro o m fo r such
disputes.

WOMEN’S RELATIONSHIPS IN THE ANCIENT


GREEK WORLD
In c o n tra st, w o m en ’s re la tio n sh ip s in th e an cien t G re e k w o rld are in
effect ‘p re h is to ric ’, relatively u n to u c h e d b y w ritin g d espite th e a b u n ­
d an ce o f w ritten sources. G en erally w h a t we kn o w a b o u t w om en is
th e ir rela tio n sh ip s to m en, a n d even o n to m b sto n e s th ey are o ften
co m m e m o ra te d as th e wife o r d a u g h te r o f som e m an . W h e n we
occasio n ally h e a r a b o u t rela tio n sh ip s betw een w om en in th e w ritten
re co rd , it is ra rely in th e ir ow n w ords. W e k n o w th a t w om en reg u larly
d id th in g s to g e th e r in g ro u p s, a n d genre scenes in A ttic v ase-p ain tin g
show ing w o m en to g e th e r a t th e fo u n ta in h o u se, p re p a rin g fo r w ed­
dings o r w eaving a n d p re p a rin g w ool suggest th a t such activities
w ere co m m o n p lace. S om etim es such activities m ig h t b e elev ated to
th e ritu a l sphere: w om en w o rk in g to g e th e r to p ro d u c e th e p e p lo s

35 FGrHist 3 F 2. Translation as in Thomas, Oral Tradition, p. 162.


36 Thomas, Oral Tradition, p. 109 and n. 44.
37 Thomas, Oral Tradition, p. 163.
fo r th e statu e o f th e goddess p re se n te d in th e G re a te r P a n a th e n a ia
m u st sim ply h av e b een do in g o n a g ra n d er, civic scale w h a t g ro u p s o f
w o m en reg u larly did all over th e city every day.
Sisters, m o th e rs a n d d a u g h te rs w ere reg u la rly physically sep a rated
by m arria g e, b u t th a t did n o t m e a n th a t th e e m o tio n al ties em b e d ­
d ed in these rela tio n sh ip s ceased to be m ean in g fu l o r im p o rta n t.
M o re o v er, w om en, o n m o v in g to new h o m es o n m arria g e, w o u ld
h av e d ev elo p ed new ties a n d re la tio n sh ip s w hich over tim e becam e
em o tio n ally m ean in g fu l. A lth o u g h in texts w om en are m o st o ften
defined in co n n e ctio n w ith m en, th ere are h in ts th a t affective re la tio n ­
ships betw een w om en w ere im p o rta n t. T h is is p a rtic u la rly clear in
th e case o f closely re la te d w om en, w here ties re m a in ed p o w erfu l even
w hen th ey lived in sep a rate h o u seh o ld s. H ow ever, th e re are exam ples
p re se n te d in th e lite rary sources o f affective links betw een w om en
w ho w ere u n re la te d a n d /o r o f different statuses. A g o o d exam ple o f
th e b o n d s betw een re la te d w om en is th e sto ry in H e ro d o to s (1.61) o f
th e d a u g h te r o f M egakles m a rrie d to P eisistrato s as p a r t o f a po litical
alliance. W h e n P eisistrato s refu sed to h av e sex w ith h e r ‘p ro p e rly ’,
h e r fa th e r h e a rd a b o u t his in a p p ro p ria te tre a tm e n t o f th e girl because
she h a d ta lk e d to h e r m o th e r. W h e th e r th e story is tru e (a n d p r o b ­
ab ly it is n o t) does n o t m a tte r; w h a t is im p o rta n t fo r m y p u rp o se s is
th a t th e a c c o u n t presu m es th e n o rm a lity o f a n in tim a te re la tio n sh ip
m a in ta in e d betw een a y o u n g b rid e a n d h e r m o th e r. In A n tip h o n 1,
th e citizen wife o f th e h o u se h o ld is alleged to h av e co llu d ed w ith th e
fa m ily ’s (u n related ) lo d g er, a p ro s titu te ‘k e p t’ by a fam ily frie n d in
th e h o u se, in th e m u rd e r o f h e r h u sb a n d . W o m e n ’s ritu a ls w ere also
ce le b rate d in g ro u p s w ith fam ily a n d friends. In L ysias 1.20, th e a d u l­
te ro u s wife o f th e speaker, E u p h ileto s, is re p o rte d as a tte n d in g th e
lo cal T h e sm o p h o ria w ith th e m o th e r o f h e r illicit lover. In M e n a n d e r’s
S a m ia 2 1 -4 6 , th e A d o n e ia is dep icted as being ce le b rate d by th e
w o m en o f n eig h b o u rin g h o u seh o ld s to g eth er, d espite th e fact th a t one
is a ‘re sp ectab le’ citizen wife a n d th e o th e r is a h e ta ira .
Som e o f th e m o st to u c h in g ac co u n ts we h av e o f w o m en ’s re la tio n ­
ships involve se p a ra tio n a n d re u n ificatio n o f m o th e rs a n d d au g h ters.
T h e H o m e r ic H y m n to D e m e te r hig h lig h ts th e e m o tio n al reu n ifica­
tio n o f D e m e te r a n d P erse p h o n e in setting o u t th e aetiological m y th
b e h in d th e ritu a l o f th e T h e sm o p h o ria , a festival w here w om en
u su ally se p a ra te d by m a rria g e m ig h t b e re u n ite d fo r a b rie f p e rio d in
th e year.

[386] A n d w hen D e m e te r saw th em , she ru sh e d fo rth as does a


M a e n a d d o w n som e th ick -w o o d e d m o u n ta in , w hile P ersep h o n e
o n th e o th e r side, w hen she saw h e r m o th e r’s sweet eyes, left the
c h a rio t a n d h o rses, a n d leap ed d o w n to ru n to h e r, a n d falling
u p o n h e r n eck, e m b ra ced her.

So d id th ey th en , w ith h e a rts a t one, [435] greatly cheer each th e


o th e r’s soul a n d spirit w ith m a n y a n em brace: th e ir h e a rts h a d
relief fro m th e ir griefs w hile each to o k a n d gave b a c k joyousness.

T h en b rig h t-co iffed H e cate cam e n e a r to th em , a n d o ften d id she


em b ra ce th e d a u g h te r o f h o ly D em eter: [440] a n d fro m th a t tim e
th e lad y H e cate w as m in ister a n d c o m p a n io n to P ersephone. ( H H
D e m e te r 386-440)

S ap p h o sp eaks in sim ilarly affectio n ate term s a b o u t h e r d au g h ter:

I h av e a b ea u tifu l child w ho lo o k s like golden flow ers, m y d arlin g


K leis, fo r w h o m I w o u ld n o t ta k e all L y d ia o r lovely . . . (S ap p h o
fr. 132)

. . . fo r m y m o th e r (once said th a t) in h e r y o u th , if som eone h a d


h e r locks b o u n d in a p u rp le h e a d b a n d , th a t w as in d eed a great
a d o rn m e n t; b u t fo r th e girl w ho h a s h a ir th a t is yellow er th a n a
to rc h (it is b e tte r to d ec o rate it) w ith w re ath s o f flow ers in b loom .
R ecen tly . . . a d e c o ra te d h e a d b a n d fro m S ardis . . . (Ionian?)
cities . . .

B u t fo r y o u , K leis, I h av e n o w ay o f o b ta in in g a d e c o ra te d h e a d ­
b a n d ; b u t . . . th e M y tile n ean . . . to h av e . . . if . . . d e c o ra te d . . .
(th e city has?) these m em o rials o f th e exile o f th e sons o f K lean ax ,
fo r th ese (o f ours?) . . . w aste d aw ay d read fu lly . . .(S ap p h o fr.
98a & b)

L im ite d as th ey are, these texts show m u ch m o re th a n social re la tio n ­


ships fo u n d e d o n o b lig atio n o r tra d itio n . F o r w om en, m a n y o f th eir
rela tio n sh ip s w ith o th e r w om en w ere close a n d a n im p o rta n t source o f
stren g th in a w o rld w here th e ir cap acity fo r a u to n o m o u s ac tio n w as
o ften co n stra in e d , a n d th e ir m o v em en t w as som etim es subject to the
co n tro l o f th e m en in th e ir lives.

LEARNING WOOL-WORKING IN ANCIENT GREECE


T h ere are few activities o r arte fac ts in an y society w hich can b e said
to b e ‘g en d e red ’, b u t in th e a rch aic a n d classical G re e k w o rld , th e act
o f m a n u fa c tu rin g textiles a n d th e e q u ip m e n t fo r m a k in g th em w ere
FAMILY TIME 195

closely asso c ia te d w ith w om en, b o th in p ra c tic a l term s a n d sym boli-


cally .38 W h e n a b a b y w as b o rn in to a n A th e n ia n h o u se h o ld , th e d o o r
w as d ra p e d in olive b ra n ch es fo r a b o y , b u t in sp u n w ool fo r a girl, a
sign o f h o w she w o u ld sp en d m u ch o f th e re st o f h e r life (H eschyius
s.v. ste p h a n o n e k fe re in ). W h e n textiles a n d lo o m w eights w ere d ed i­
ca te d as votives in san ctu aries, in th e cases w here we k n o w th e n am e
o f th e d o n o rs, th ey are alw ays fem ale. In A th e n ia n v ase -p ain tin g this
asso c ia tio n betw een w om en a n d w eaving is prolifically d ep icte d .39
It a p p e a rs also in texts: X e n o p h o n p o rtra y s Isc h o m a c h o s’ wife as
co m in g to h im ‘k n o w in g only h o w to receive w ool a n d p ro d u c e a
clo ak , a n d h a v in g seen h o w th e tex tile-m ak in g task s are given to th e
slaves’ (X en. O ec. 7.6). W h a t is in tere stin g in this re p re se n ta tio n is th e
u n d erly in g p rem ise th a t a girl in h e r early to m id-teens w o u ld h av e
alre ad y learn ed som e (b u t n o t all) o f th ese critical skills grow ing u p
a t h o m e.
It is clear fro m m a n y w ell-d o cu m en ted e th n o g ra p h ic a n d h is to ri­
cal tra d itio n s th a t b ecom ing a skilled textile w o rk e r tak es m a n y years
a n d m u ch p ractice. A n n a P o rtisc h stu d ied textile p ro d u c tio n am o n g
K a z a k h w o m en in w estern M o n g o lia .40 T extiles are m a d e a t h o m e
fo r d o m estic use a n d are p a rtic u la rly im p o rta n t c o m p o n e n ts o f th e
w ealth ex ch an g ed o n m arria g e. G irls sta rt learn in g to m a k e textiles
as ch ild ren g ra d u ally a n d in fo rm ally fro m th e ir m o th e rs a n d o th e r
fem ale relativ es.41 A lth o u g h m en occasionally h elp o u t w ith specific
tex tile-related task s, overall re sp o n sib ility is in th e h a n d s o f w o m en .42
C h ild ren (boys a n d girls) e n c o u n te r these textiles p ractically fro m
b irth . T h ey follow p a re n ts, siblings a n d o th e r relatives, im itate w h a t
th ey are d o in g a n d try to ‘h e lp ’. C h ild ren b ecom e p a rtly responsible
fo r lo o k in g afte r th e sheep w hose w ool is u sed fo r textiles fro m th e
age o f a b o u t 7 o r 8. N o t u n til th ey are large a n d stro n g en o u g h at
th e age o f a b o u t 12 o r 13 do girls begin to h elp w ith th e p re p a ra tio n
o f w o o l fo r felt.43 T his ta s k is d o n e as a g ro u p , w ith each in d iv id u al
a d ju stin g th e ir m o v em en ts a n d th e ir rh y th m to synchronise w ith each
o th e r, som etim es to th e ac co m p an im en t o f songs a n d speech. By 14
o r 15 girls learn to h elp w ith spinning, startin g by p ro d u c in g ‘ro v e s’

38 S. Lewis, The Athenian Woman: An Iconographic Handbook (London and


New York: Routledge, 2002), p. 62.
39 S. Bundrick, ‘The fabric of the city: Imaging textile production in classical
Athens’, Hesperia 77 (2008), pp. 283-334.
40 A. Portisch, ‘Techniques as a window onto learning: Kazakh women’s domestic
textile production in western Mongolia’, Journal o f Material Culture 14 (2009),
pp. 471-93.
41 Portisch, ‘Techniques as a window’, pp. 473, 475.
42 Portisch, ‘Techniques as a window’, p. 476.
43 Portisch, ‘Techniques as a window’, p. 477.
o f flu ffed -o u t w ool re ad y fo r spinning a n d b y w inding th e sp u n w ool,
b efo re th ey p ra ctise spinning o n th e ir ow n. In a d d itio n th ey also begin
to h elp w ith sew ing a n d quilting. E ven w hen they m a rry , girls c o n tin u e
to w o rk u n d e r th e d irec tio n o f a m o th er-in -la w .44

G irls ’ d ev eloping o f c ra ft know ledge th u s in teg ra te s several types


o f u n d e rsta n d in g s ro o te d in th e practices o f o th ers a n d th eir
o w n p a rtic ip a tio n in these. T h ro u g h a c o m b in a tio n o f w a tc h ­
ing, p ra ctisin g a n d m im ick in g o th e rs’ actio n s, a n d in c o rp o ra tin g
o ccasio n al d irect in stru ctio n s, th ey becom e p ro ficien t in craft
p ro d u c tio n . T h ere is a n o scillatio n betw een w a tc h in g a n d m im ­
icking, w a tc h in g a n d p ra ctisin g , a n d these elem ents are equally
im p o rta n t in th e learn in g p ro cess . . . O ne c a n n o t le a rn sim ply
b y w atch in g , yet w ith o u t th e social en v iro n m e n t in w hich co ­
learn ers a n d elders engage in these specific task s, it is very h a rd
to fo rm a n u n d e rsta n d in g o f th e steps th ro u g h w hich a finalized
s y r m a q is co m p leted .45

A m o n g th e B erb er carp et-w eav in g fam ilies o f th e S irw a M o u n ta in s


in M o ro c co , stu d ied by M y riem N a ji, th e lo o m is set u p as a sem i­
p e rm a n e n t fixture in th e h o u se. B abies a n d to d d lers p lay a ro u n d
it w hen th ey are very sm all, b u t g ra d u ally boys begin to d istance
them selves p hysically a n d psychologically fro m th e lo o m .46 L ittle
girls, ho w ev er, begin to learn th e ‘rig h t’ w ays to sit a n d to h o ld th e
b o d y straig h t, so th a t b y th e tim e they re ach adolescence a n d begin
to p a rtic ip a te fully in w eaving they h av e ‘e m b o d ie d ’ (i.e. learn ed th em
so th o ro u g h ly th a t th ey h av e b ecom e a u to m a tic ) all o f th e ‘c o rre c t’
p o sitio n s a n d m o v em en ts, a n d can b len d in w ith th e m o v em en ts a n d
gestures o f th e o th e r w eavers so th a t th e w o rk progresses sm o o th ly
a n d n o o n e is in ju re d .47 E ven th o u g h th e finished p ro d u c ts are des­
tin e d fo r sale, w om en w o rk in g to g e th e r develop close a n d em o tio n ally
ch a rg ed re la tio n sh ip s w ith each o th e r as well as w ith th e lo o m a n d
o th e r to o ls, so th a t ‘e m b o d ied en g ag em en t w ith m a te ria lity in the
m ak in g c o n stru c ts gen d ered subjects th ro u g h p e rfo rm a n c e o r bod ily
m o d ific a tio n ’.48 In th e co u rse o f th e com plex a n d c o o rd in a te d m o v e­
m en ts essential fo r creatin g a c a rp e t o n th e loom , ‘w eavers sh are a n d
co n stru c t m o to r re p re se n ta tio n s th a t allow th em to w o rk to g e th e r

44 Portisch, ‘Techniques as a window’, p. 475.


45 Portisch, ‘Techniques as a window’, p. 478.
46 Naji, ‘Gender and materiality’, pp. 52-3.
47 Naji, ‘Gender and materiality’, pp. 54-5.
48 Naji, ‘Gender and materiality’, p. 48.
sm o o th ly o ften w ith little v erb al c o m m u n ic a tio n ’.49 T h e re p e titio n
o f m o v em en ts a n d c o n tin u a l p ra ctice in w hich these w eavers engage
th u s teac h th e b o d y to p e rfo rm th e rig h t m o v em en ts a u to m a ti­
cally (like driv ing a car, o r learn in g to p la y a m usical in stru m en t);
in o th e r w o rd s, tech n o lo g y becom es th e em b o d im en t o f technique.
S im u ltan eo u sly , th e p ra ctice o f w o rk in g w ith w ool a n d th e asso ciated
to o ls p h ysically m a rk s a n d shapes th e b o d y , e.g. leaving calluses o n
th e fingers, stiff jo in ts a n d m uscles well d ev eloped fo r specific task s
asso ciated w ith w eaving.50 H ow ever, th e act o f w eaving, especially
th e m o st skilled a n d com plex elem ents, is also intensely p le a su ra b le .51
W eav in g also epitom ises th e m o ra l q u alities v alu ed in w om en: stead ­
fastn ess, p atien c e a n d self-co n tro l.52
In b o th o f th ese e th n o g ra p h ic exam ples, girls learn th e tech n iq u es o f
tex tile-w o rk in g th ro u g h a ra n g e o f social in te ra c tio n s w ith o th ers w ith
w h o m th ey are em o tio n ally co n n ected , as well as th ro u g h re p e a te d
p h y sical en g ag em en t w ith m ateria ls a n d to o ls. Sociality, e m o tio n al
a tta c h m e n ts, p h y sical b o d ily m o v em en t a n d th e en g ag em en t w ith
objects a n d m ateria ls all b ecom e deeply e n ta n g le d in this learn in g
p ro cess. In g eneral term s, th ese e th n o g ra p h ic a lly d o c u m e n te d le a rn ­
ing scenarios are unlikely to b e a m illio n m iles aw ay fro m th e k in d o f
learn in g girls m u st h av e p ra c tise d in th e an cien t w orld.
W h a t is p a rtic u la rly in terestin g is th e relatively late age a t w hich
girls b egin to p lay a significant ro le in textile p ro d u c tio n a n d th e
social n e tw o rk c o n stru c te d a ro u n d it. M a n y o f th e task s associ­
a te d w ith w eaving n ee d ed co n sid erab le ph y sical stren g th as well as
c o o rd in a tio n . In p a rtic u la r, b e a tin g th e w eft to m a k e it tig h t is a
difficult jo b o n a m o d e rn lo o m w here th e w eaver b ea ts eith er d o w n ­
w a rd o r to w a rd s h erself (d ep en d in g o n th e k in d o f lo o m ).53 O n an
an cien t w a rp -w eig h ted lo o m , it w as n ecessary fo r th e w eaver to b e a t
u p w a rd s, n ecessitatin g fa r m o re ph y sical stren g th , as well as sufficient
h eig h t. W o rk in g th e sh u ttle a n d p u llin g th e h ed d le ro d s b ac k w ard s
a n d fo rw ard s sim ilarly d e m a n d e d a lo n g re ach as well as stren g th .
T h e p h y sical d em an d s o f w eaving o n w arp -w eig h ted lo o m s are well
d o cu m en te d b y M a r ta H o ffm a n n ’s stu d y o f N o rw eg ian a n d L a p p
w eavers still w o rk in g o n these lo o m s in th e 1950s. In d e e d a t th e sta rt
o f w eaving, w eavers h a d to sta n d o n a b en ch to re ach th e w o rk .54

49 Naji, ‘Gender and materiality’, p. 55.


50 Naji, ‘Gender and materiality’, p. 62.
51 Naji, ‘Gender and materiality’, pp. 68-9.
52 Naji, ‘Gender and materiality’, p. 69.
53 Naji, ‘Gender and materiality’, p. 62.
54 M. Hoffmann, The Warp-Weighted Loom (Oslo: Norwegian Research Council for
the Sciences and Humanities, 1974; 1st pub. 1964), pp. 43-4.
B efore th e age o f a b o u t 11 o r 12, m o st girls w o u ld n o t h a v e b een large
o r stro n g en o u g h to d o these jo b s. In this light it is significant th a t
y o u n g ch ild ren d o n o t a p p e a r in w eaving a n d textile m a n u fa c tu rin g
scenes as p a rtic ip a n ts. B abies a n d sm all ch ild ren are, h ow ever, re g u ­
larly d ep icted o n A th e n ia n a n d o th e r G re e k vases a n d te rra c o tta s w ith
w o m en in g ro u p s o r w o rk in g , fo r exam ple w hen w om en are grin d in g
g rain. T h e o n e re p re se n ta tio n w hich is som etim es th o u g h t to show a
ch ild in a scene o f textile-w orking, a votive p la q u e fro m th e A cro p o lis
(A cro p o lis M u seu m 2525), in fact alm o st certain ly show s g ra in g rin d ­
ing, fro m its sim ilarity w ith o th e r g ra in -g rin d in g scenes (e.g. B erlin
S taatlich e M useen 1966.21). In d eed , it is p ossible th a t to d d lers a n d
y o u n g ch ild re n w ere d isco u ra g ed fro m p lay in g to o close to th e lo o m
lest th ey d am ag e th e w eaving, th e lo o m assem bly o r them selves.55
V ery sm all girls p ro b a b ly p la y e d w ith bits o f w ool a n d th re a d
d ro p p e d by w om en in th e co u rse o f th e ir w o rk , a n d th ere b y developed
a feel fo r textiles, w hile at th e sam e tim e they w a tc h ed a n d im ita te d the
m o v em en ts a n d actio n s o f w om en a t w o rk , listening to th e ir co n v e rsa­
tio n s a n d learn in g th e ir songs. It seems likely th a t girls first s ta rte d to
h elp by en g aging w ith o th e rs in cleaning a n d so rtin g w ool, p re p a rin g
fibres fo r sp in ning, as well as p a rtic ip a tin g in v ario u s ta sk s asso ciated
w ith finishing a n d sto rin g textiles a n d clothing. It seem s p ro b a b le
th a t learn in g to spin o n a d ro p spindle w as th e n ex t step, a n d p e rh a p s
also learn in g to w eave b a n d s a n d fillets o n a fixed-heddle lo o m (these
b a n d s w ere also u sed as th e sta rtin g p o in t o f th e w a rp th re a d s to be
fixed o n th e loom ), b efo re h elp in g w ith a c tu a l w eaving o n th e lo o m
w h en th ey w ere big enough.
I f G re ek (o r a t least A th e n ia n ) w om en reg u larly m a rrie d as y o u n g
as we co n v e n tio n a lly believe, a t a ro u n d 14 years old, th e n it seems
likely th a t a girl w o u ld h av e b eg u n h e r tra in in g in textile m a n u fa c ­
tu re in h e r n a ta l h o m e w ith h e r m o th e r a n d o th e r fem ale relatives,
p e rh a p s a ro u n d 12 o r so, b u t th a t this tra in in g m u st h av e co n tin u e d
in th e co m p an y o f h e r m o th er-in -la w a n d th e fem ale relatives o f h er
h u s b a n d o nce she w as m arrie d . In th e w edding scenes dep icted on
A th e n ia n vases, th e b rid e o ften h o ld s a d istaff,56 n o t only a con v en ien t
ico n o f h e r fem inine in d u stry , b u t possib ly also in d icatin g th e level o f
ach iev em en t in w o o l-w o rk in g she h a s re ach e d b efo re m a rria g e (sp in ­
n in g , b u t n o t full-scale proficiency in w eaving). F e rra ri h a s a rg u ed
th a t o n A ttic vases th e co m m o n m o tif, w ith its m a n y v a ria tio n s, o f
th e w o m an spinning o r in th e presence o f w o o l-w o rk in g eq u ip m en t
is in te n d e d to suggest th e b ea u ty , sexiness, g la m o u r a n d m o d esty

55 Naji, ‘Gender and materiality’, p. 52.


56 Lewis, Athenian Woman, p. 62.
o f y o u n g girls displaying th e ideals o f fe m in in ity .57 In terestin g ly
in th ese re p re se n ta tio n s th e girls are n o t w eaving, b u t spinning o r
ca rry in g o u t o th e r p re p a ra to ry processes. T h e task s o f w eaving a n d
textile m a n u fa c tu re u n d e r th e d irectio n o f a m o th er-in -la w a n d o th e r
sen io r w o m en in h e r h u s b a n d ’s fam ily m u st h a v e p ro v id e d one o f th e
p rim a ry co n tex ts fo r a y o u n g b rid e to becom e in te g ra te d w ithin this
new h o u se h o ld by w o rk in g as p a r t o f th e g ro u p , a n d th u s to develop
a w hole new set o f e m o tio n al ties. In this co n tex t, Isc h o m a c h o s’ sta te ­
m e n t a b o u t th e ex ten t o f his y o u n g w ife’s know ledge a n d skills is quite
in terestin g : she w o u ld h av e seen tex tile-m ak in g task s d istrib u te d to th e
slaves, b u t p ro b a b ly n o t h av e d o n e it herself, a n d she co u ld p ro d u c e
a very b asic g arm e n t, a c lo a k (h im a tio n ). A n d , a lth o u g h X e n o p h o n
depicts Isc h o m a ch o s as ‘tra in in g ’ his wife, th e reality in m o st fam ilies
is likely to h av e b een th a t th e tra in in g o f girls a n d y o u n g w om en (free
a n d slave) w as u n d e rta k e n by o ld er w om en.
It sh o u ld n o t be su rp risin g , th erefo re, th a t th e to o ls o f w eaving
a n d tex tile p ro d u c tio n reco v ered th ro u g h arch aeo lo g y can reveal
so m eth in g o f th e com plex affective n etw o rk s o f fem ale re la tio n sh ip s
w hich th e texts b arely to u c h u p o n . T hese are objects w hich w ere once
e m b ed d e d in th e everyday task s a n d re la tio n sh ip s o f v irtu ally all
w o m en in th e an cien t G re e k w orld. In a society w here w o m en ’s id e n ­
tity w as c o n stra in e d in m a n y aren as, a n d m o st w om en h a d little p r o p ­
e rty a n d few po ssessions th a t th ey co u ld tru ly call th e ir ow n, it is easy
to see h o w th e to o ls w hich defined th e ir w o rk a n d th e ir fem ininity,
a n d w ith w hich th ey p ro d u c e d w ealth, cam e to be v alued, even th o u g h
th ey w ere n o t v alu ab le as w ealth in th e ir ow n rig h t. In d e e d these w ere
th e to o ls th ro u g h w hich close rela tio n sh ip s betw een w om en, w o rk in g
to g e th e r in in tim a te g ro u p s, w ere co n stru c te d . In th e n ex t section o f
th is c h a p te r I will explore h o w we can see these re la tio n sh ip s o n th e
g ro u n d , th ro u g h th e lo o m w eights them selves.

NETWORKS OF WOMEN IN THE METAPONTO


COUNTRYSIDE
T h e ch o ra o f M e ta p o n to , th e ru ra l te rrito ry asso c ia te d w ith th e
an cien t city, h a s been th e subject o f a lo n g sta n d in g p ro g ra m m e o f
intensive survey a n d ex cav atio n by Jo sep h C a rte r o f th e In s titu te o f
C lassical A rch aeo lo g y , U n iv ersity o f T exas a t A u stin . T h is p ro s p e r­
ou s c o u n try sid e w as lo c a te d so u th o f th e ‘h ee l’ o f Italy , o n th e A d ria tic
co ast, in close p ro x im ity to in d ig en o u s Ita lic settlem ents in lan d .

57 G. Ferrari, Figures o f Speech: Men and Maidens in Ancient Greece (Chicago


and London: University of Chicago Press, 2002), pp. 35-60.
T h e lo o m w eights fro m th e w ell-d o cu m en ted survey assem b lag e58
alo n g w ith th e m a te ria l fro m th e ex c av ated fa rm h o u ses p ro v id es
us w ith in fo rm a tio n a b o u t th e n e tw o rk s o f w om en resid en t in this
G re ek ru ra l lan d scap e. A b o u t 400 lo o m w eights w ere also d ep o sited
as votives in th e P an ta n e llo san c tu a ry . It is clear to o , b u t b ey o n d the
scope o f th is c h a p te r, th a t we ca n tra c e re la tio n sh ip s a n d links betw een
w o m en fro m G re e k a n d fro m in d ig en o u s Ita lic co m m u n ities in the
re g io n .59 M o st o f th e lo o m w eights fo u n d in th e chora o f M e ta p o n to
a p p e a r to h av e been u sed (n o t necessarily all in th e sam e w ay), as in d i­
c a te d by w ear m a rk s a ro u n d th e holes, a n d w ear a n d chips w here they
k n o ck e d o th e r lo o m w eights w hen h u n g o n th e loom .
T h e ta p h o n o m y o f lo o m w eights itself suggests th a t th ey w ere
valued. E ven in ex cav ated assem blages it is u n u su a l to find ‘full sets’
o f lo o m w eights: a G re ek lo o m w o u ld n o rm a lly h av e n ee d ed a t least
6 0 -7 0 lo o m w eights, som etim es m o re. E ven a t O ly n th o s, w here the
city w as a b a n d o n e d in so m eth in g o f a ru sh because o f th e in v asio n
o f P h ilip in 348 bce, w om en seems to h av e ta k e n m o st o f th e ir lo o m
w eights w ith th em , a n d relatively few ‘co m p lete sets’ w ere re co v ered .60
In th e survey d a ta fro m th e chora o f M e ta p o n to , relatively few sites
h a d m o re th a n o n e lo o m w eight, suggesting th a t fo r th e m o st p a r t they
w ere rem o v ed w hen th e h o u ses w ere a b a n d o n e d (T ab le 11.1).

Table 11.1 Metaponto survey data (numbers of loom weights per site)

Number of loom weights Number of sites

1 57 (70%)
2 or more: 24 (30%)
2 18
3 4
5 1
6 1

58 L. Foxhall, ‘The loom weights’, in J. C. Carter and A. Prieto (eds), The Chora
o f Metaponto 3: The Archaeological Survey Bradano to Bassento vol. 2 (Austin:
University of Texas Press, 2011), pp. 539-54.
59 A. Quercia and L. Foxhall, ‘Temporality, materiality and women’s networks:
The production and manufacture of loom weights in the Greek and indigenous
communities of southern Italy’, in K. Rebay-Salisbury, L. Foxhall and A.
Brysbaert (eds), Material Crossovers: Knowledge Networks and the Movement
o f Technological Knowledge between Craft Traditions (London: Routledge,
forthcoming).
60 N. Cahill, Household and City Organization at Olynthus (New Haven: Yale
University Press, 2002), pp. 51-2: D. M. Robinson, The Hellenic House: Olynthus
VIII (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1938), pp. 88-9, 90, 96, 128,
136, 209.
T h ro u g h o u t th e G re e k w o rld (a n d b ey o n d ) m an y , th o u g h by n o
m ean s all, lo o m w eights are m a rk e d , a n d a g re at m a n y o f these m ark s
a p p e a r to in d icate p erso n a l p o ssession a n d p e rh a p s fam ily identity.
T h e m a rk s m o st co m m o n ly k n o w n are stam p s fro m signet rings
(eith er stam p seals m a d e fro m gem s o r sim ply en g rav ed in to th e m etal
o f th e rin g itself). A p a rtic u la rly large p ro p o rtio n o f th e lo o m w eights
reco v ered in th e M e ta p o n to assem blages w ere stam p ed in this w ay,
in d icatin g h o u seh o ld s w ith w om en sufficiently w ealth y to ow n such
jew ellery.
F o r th e m o st p a r t these gem s a n d seals h av e n o rm a lly been stu d ied
as ‘a r t’ ra th e r th a n fo r th e ir significance as p e r s o n a l seals. ‘I f gem s a n d
rings w ere w o rn b y w om en it w o u ld p ro b a b ly be fo r th e ir value as je w ­
ellery ra th e r th a n fo r th e ir use as signets.’61 H ow ever, we k n o w fro m
o th e r sources th a t such signet rings w ere co m m o n ly u sed fo r p erso n a l
id en tificatio n in classical a n tiq u ity , so m ew h at as we use P IN n u m b ers
to d a y . A n d , as w ith P IN n u m b ers, n o tw o stam p seals w ere identical.
T h ere seems to be n o o b vious re aso n w hy they w o u ld n o t be u sed in
th is w ay by w o m en as well as by m en. In d e ed , lo o m w eights co u ld be
m a rk e d in m a n y o th e r w ays, including in scrib ed letters, n am es a n d
o th e r graffiti, fin g erp rin ts, a n d im pressions o f o th e r o bjects such as
seeds, ea rrin g s, dress p in s (fibulae), p e n d a n ts, tw eezers a n d gam ing
pieces (a stra g a lo i, th e k n u ck le b o n es o f sheep) (F igs 11.1a a n d 11.1b).
T h e use o f jew ellery o th e r th a n signet rings a n d co sm etic p a r a p h e r­
n a lia , fem inine p e rso n a l item s, strongly su p p o rts th e id ea th a t th e
m a rk in g o f lo o m w eights, a t least in m o st p a rts o f th e G re e k w orld,
w as e n ta n g le d w ith p erso n a l a n d fam ily identities. T h is tak es o n p a r ­
tic u la r significance w ith objects specifically u sed by w om en w o rk in g
to g e th e r in g ro u p s, a n d in situ atio n s w here a w o m a n ’s w o rk in g g ro u p
m ig h t ch an g e d u e to circum stances largely b e y o n d h e r co n tro l, e.g. o n
m arria g e, div o rce o r th e d e a th o f a h u sb a n d .
C o n crete exam ples show h o w we ca n tra c k links betw een w om en
v ia th e lo o m w eights they left behind. F ig u res 11.2a a n d b show tw o
lo o m w eights (2 2 1 -L 2 a n d 3 58-L 1) w ith identical ‘fo o tp rin t’ stam ps.
S tam p s in this fo rm are extrem ely u n u su a l in th e G re ek w orld,
a lth o u g h a n u m b e r o f v a ria n t fo o tp rin ts are fo u n d a t M e ta p o n to , sug­
gesting th a t th is is som ething o f a local h a b it o r fashion. T h e closest
p arallels fo r th e M e ta p o n to ‘fo o tp rin t’ stam p s are generally fo u n d in
areas w ith a significant P h o en ician o r P u n ic presence such as C y p ru s
a n d S ard in ia. T h o u g h we c a n n o t b e ce rtain , it is th u s possible th a t
th e fo o tp rin t a t M e ta p o n to re ta in e d som e k in d o f ‘e th n ic ’ o r g ro u p

61 J. Boardman, Greek Gems and Finger Rings, 2nd edn (London: Thames and
Hudson, 2001), p. 236.
Figure 11.1a and b Pantanello, M etaponto: loom weights impressed with
(a) a fibula (dress pin) and (b) earrings.

co n n ectio n w ith ‘P h o en ician s’, w h eth er im ag in ed o r real. M o re in te r­


esting in th e case o f th e specific exam ples co n sid ered h ere is th a t th e
tw o lo o m w eights w ere fo u n d a t c o n te m p o ra ry sites a b o u t 3 k m a p a rt,
o n o p p o site sides o f th e V enella valley (F igs 11.2a a n d b). T h e sim plest
ex p lan a tio n w o u ld be th a t th e w om en in these tw o h o u seh o ld s w ere
related , p e rh a p s ta k in g lo o m w eights fro m th eir n a ta l h o m e w ith th em
o n m arriag e. T his is n o t a n iso lated exam ple: in several o th e r cases in
th e M e ta p o n to survey assem blage, lo o m w eights w ith identical stam ps
a p p e a r o n different sites. H ow ever, th ere are n o t so m a n y identical
stam p s as to suggest th a t th ey w ere a m a n u fa c tu re r’s m a rk ra th e r th a n
a p erso n al identifier. In cases w here lo o m w eights w ere p rofessionally
m ad e a n d d e c o ra te d by th e m a n u fa c tu re r (as in th e case o f m o u ld -
m ad e relief-d eco rated exam ples), th e d istrib u tio n p a tte rn is different.
A n o th e r exam ple o f a lo o m w eight w hich seems to h av e trav elled
th ro u g h tim e as well as space w as fo u n d in th e ex c av atio n o f th e
F a tto ria F a b riz io fa rm h o u se (Fig. 11.4). It w as reco v ered inside
th e h o u se as p a r t o f a do m estic d ep o sit fro m use-life o f th e h o u se in
th e late fo u rth ce n tu ry bc e . H ow ever, th e in scrip tio n o n this p y ra m i­
dal lo o m w eight, ‘I N ’, d ates it to a ro u n d 500 bce o r n o t m u ch afte r
at th e latest: th e cursive, wiggly io ta w as n o t in use a fte r th is tim e.
In d eed , in m o st M e ta p o n tin e in scrip tio n s o f th e a rch aic p e rio d the
wiggly io ta w as an g u lar, n o t cursive; th e la tte r is m o re ty p ical o f cities
fu rth e r so u th such as R h eg io n . So, th is lo o m w eight w as ce rtain ly an
h eirlo o m w hen it w as in use a t th e tim e th e h o u se w as a b a n d o n e d ,
a n d it is p o ssible th a t it w as b ro u g h t to th e h o u se b y a w o m an fro m a
different city.
Figure 11.2a and b M etaponto survey: loom weights 221-L2 and 358-L1,
with identical footprint stamps found at contem porary sites about 3 km
apart, on opposite sides of the Venella valley.

Figure 11.3a and b M etaponto survey: two loom weights with identical
rosette stamps.

‘H e rita g e ’ stam p s are fo u n d reg u larly th ro u g h o u t th e G re e k w o rld ,62


a n d a p p e a r also in th e M e ta p o n to assem blage. T h e th re e identical
stam p s o n 5 3 1 -L 1 , 5 3 1 -L 2 a n d 532-L 1 (Fig. 11.1b) com e fro m tw o
ad jac en t sites, o n e slightly la te r th a n th e o th er. A s in th e case o f th e
id en tical fo o tp rin t stam p s discussed ab ove, this suggests th a t th e
w o m en in th ese tw o h o u ses w ere re lated , p e rh a p s sisters, o r m o re likely
m o th e r a n d d a u g h te r o r g ra n d m o th e r a n d g ra n d d a u g h te r (Fig. 11.3a
a n d b). H o w ev er, th e ro se tte stam p s o n these late fo u rth /e a rly th ird -
ce n tu ry lo o m w eights (th e oscillum /disc ty p e w as n o t in use u n til well
in to th e fo u rth ce n tu ry bce ) h av e th e ir closest p arallels in seals o f th e
late seventh/sixth ce n tu ry bc e . T he sim plest ex p la n a tio n w o u ld be th a t
th e stam p itself h a d been p asse d d ow n th e fam ily th ro u g h th e fem ale
line.
T his m ay also be th e case w ith th e e x tra o rd in a ry stam p o n 3 09-L 6
(Fig. 11.5). T his lo o m w eight w as fo u n d w ith five o th e r p la in disc
w eights ty p ical o f th e fo u rth /th ird ce n tu ry w hich are very close in

62 G. M. A. Richter, Engraved Gems o f the Greeks, Etruscans and Romans, 1: A


History o f Greek Art in Miniature (London: Phaidon, 1968), p. 143; G. R.
Davidson, D. Thompson and H. Thompson, Small Objects from the Pnyx I
(Hesperia Suppl. 7; Princeton: American School of Classical Studies in Athens,
1943), p. 84 no. 56, Corinth XII 152.
Figure 11.4 F attoria Fabrizio farmhouse: inscribed late archaic loom
weight found in late fourth century b c e use context.

w eight a n d seem to b elo n g to g eth er. T h is one, how ever, is som ew hat
lig h ter, a n d m a y be slightly e arlier in type, p e rh a p s earlier in th e fo u rth
century: it lo o k s as if this o n e h a d been jo in e d w ith a n o th e r ‘set’.
H ow ever, b o th th e shape o f th e stam p a n d th e m o tif, a deity h o ld in g
tw o h o rses in a k in d o f p o tn ia th ero n (‘m istress o f th e a n im a ls’) pose,
suggest a six th -cen tu ry d a te fo r th e stam p. T h e closest p arallels I h av e
been able to find fo r th e m o tif com e fro m th e lead figurines in th e san c­
tu a ry o f A rtem is O rth ia in S p a rta .63
T h e arch aeo lo g ical re c o rd in c o n ju n c tio n w ith w h a t we k n o w a b o u t
w o m en ’s w o rk in g p ractices a n d lives suggests p ro fo u n d engagem ents
w ith o th e r w o m en th ro u g h th e p ra ctice o f textile m a n u fa c tu re . It
seems clear th a t th e to o ls them selves b ecom e a deeply em b ed d e d p a r t
o f th ese n e tw o rk s o f w om en a n d literally com e to show th e m a rk s o f
th e ir re la tio n sh ip s. T h e very concreteness o f th e lo o m w eights a n d
o th e r to o ls w hich w om en u sed to g e th e r in w o rk in g g ro u p s m a y h av e
served as a solid ev o c atio n o f em o tio n a l a tta c h m e n t across tim e a n d
space, in a w o rld w here w om en som etim es h a d little c o n tro l o v er th eir

63 R. M. Dawkins, The Sanctuary o f Artemis Orthia at Sparta (JHS Suppl. 5;


London: British School at Athens, 1929), p. 266.
Figure 11.5 M etaponto survey: 309-L6, heritage stamp on fourth-century
b c e loom weight.

ow n m o v em en ts. S u ch objects alm o st ce rtain ly a ttra c te d stories c o n ­


n ectin g th em w ith o th e r p eo p le a n d places, p a s t a n d p resen t. In texts
we som etim es see jo y fu l re u n io n s betw een m o th e rs a n d d a u g h te rs; in
th e lo o m w eights we m a y m o re o ften be seeing sep a ratio n s invisible in
th e texts, p e rh a p s m itig a te d b y th e c o n tin u e d im p o rta n c e o f e m o tio n al
a n d fam ilial ties em b ed d e d in th e re la tio n sh ip o f p e rso n a n d object.
E ven if we do n o t k n o w th e ir precise c o n te n t, h ere we see evidence fo r
th e existence o f stories a b o u t w om en a n d th e ir fam ilies w hich w ere
n ev er w ritte n dow n.

CONCLUSION
In th is c h a p te r I h av e p u lle d o u t a n d follow ed w idely d isp a ra te th rea d s
o f evidence, w hich in tertw in e to show us G re ek p a sts below th e ra d a r
o f co n v e n tio n a l h isto rical texts. T hese p a sts a p p e a r to be fo u n d e d
largely o n fam ilial re la tio n sh ip s, real o r perceived. H ow ever, b o th th e
co n c ep tu alisatio n s o f ‘fa m ily ’ a n d th e kinds o f stories a n d m em ories
tra n s m itte d v ary alo n g th e lines o f statu s, a n d even m o re, o f gender.
T h e stories o f elite m en are, n o t surprisingly, th o se m o st likely to
p e n e tra te th e w ritte n re c o rd o f th e lite rate, collective p ast. T h e ex ten t
to w hich w o m en w ere reg u larly ‘w ritten o u t’ o f such m em ories, even
w hen th ey p ro v id e d crucial links b etw een m en, is significant. R eg u larly
fam ilial m em o ries are lo d g ed in m a te ria l objects, w hich m a y th u s serve
as foci o f fo r th e ir tran sm issio n , b u t th e kinds o f objects, as well as th e
kin d s o f m em ories th ey evoke, m a y v ary co n sid erab ly . Such objects
m ay be m o n u m e n ta l, b u t even h u m b le a n d n o n -m o n u m e n ta l objects
p reserv ed altern ativ e p a sts, m o stly n o w b e y o n d o u r reach. H ow ever,
th e w id er v alue o f c o m p a rin g these altern ativ e p asts is to expose one
asp ect o f th e com plex a n d d y n am ic rela tio n sh ip s betw een gender,
space a n d tim e as p ra c tise d in an cien t G re e k societies.
COMMON KNOWLEDGE AND THE
CONTESTATION OF HISTORY IN SOME
FOURTH-CENTURY ATHENIAN TRIALS

Jon Hesk

G iv en th e freq u en cy w ith w hich they refer to p a s t events, th e A th e n ia n


o ra to rs offer us a n o bvious o p p o rtu n ity fo r co n sid erin g th e ro le o f
‘h is to ry ’ in th e key p u b lic in stitu tio n s a n d discourses o f A th e n ia n
dem o cracy . Som e scholars h av e tra c e d tendencies a n d developm ents
w ith resp ect to th e events a n d p erso n alities w hich th e o ra to rs allude
to o r p ass over. Such p a tte rn s across th e w hole co rp u s offer us a sense
b o th o f th e in d iv id u al p o litical o r fo ren sic ag en d as o f c e rta in o ra to rs
a n d o f b ro a d e r c u rre n ts o f late fifth- a n d fo u rth -c e n tu ry policy a n d
id eo lo g y .1 Surveys o f th e en tire co rp u s also offer us a sense o f th e
ex ten t o f th e o ra to r s ’ h isto rical know ledge (a n d arg u ab ly th a t o f th e
d e m o s ).2 O th ers h av e fo cu sed o n th e w ays in w hich th e o ra to rs are
clearly selecting, concealing o r d isto rtin g th e p a st in o rd e r to serve
th e ir in d iv id u al rh e to ric a l p u rp o s e s.3 T h e use o f h isto ry (a n d d iscus­
sion o f th e difficulty o f using h isto ry in fresh a n d a p p ro p ria te w ays)
is p a rtic u la rly ce n tral to Iso c ra te s ’ vision o f rh e to ric , statesm an sh ip
a n d p an h e lle n ism .4 A n d speeches co m m em o ra tin g A th e n s ’ w a r d ea d

1 See S. Perlman, ‘The historical example, its use and importance as political
propaganda in the Attic orators’, SH 7 (1961), pp. 150-66; M. Nouhaud,
L ’utilisation de l’histoirepar les orateurs attiques (Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1982);
J. Ober, Mass and Elite in Democratic Athens: Rhetoric, Ideology and the Power
o f the People (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1989), pp. 319-22. On
references to Solon as a nostalgic strategy to criticise present behaviours and
policies, see M. Hansen, ‘Solonian democracy in fourth-century Athens’, C & M
40 (1989), pp. 71-99.
2 See L. Pearson, ‘Historical allusions in the Attic orators’, CPh 36 (1941), pp.
209-29; R. D. Milns, ‘Historical paradigms in Demosthenes’ public speeches’,
Electronic Antiquity 2.5 (1995).
3 E.g. I. Worthington, ‘History and oratorical exploitation’, in Worthington (ed.),
Persuasion: Greek Rhetoric in Action (London: Routledge, 1994), pp. 109-29.
4 E.g. Isoc. Pangyr. 7-10 and Panath. 149-50 with the discussion of J.
Marincola, Authority and Tradition in Ancient Historiography (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1997), pp. 276-9. See also the discussion and
bibliography of M. Fox and N. Livingstone, ‘Rhetoric and historiography’, in
(the e p ita p h io i log o i ) d id th e ir p o w erfu l ideological w o rk by c o n ­
stru ctin g a stable a n d yet a d a p ta b le version o f A th e n ia n h isto ry as
‘a lo n g c o n tin u u m th a t relies o n th e re -en a ctm e n t o f g re at deeds by
each g e n e ra tio n ’.5 Several re cen t studies focus o n th o se speeches o f
D e m o sth en e s, A eschines a n d L y cu rg u s w hich w ere delivered in p o liti­
cally ch a rg ed cases in th e a fte rm a th o f C h aero n ea. T hese speeches
fro m ‘L y cu rg an A th e n s’ c o n tra st p re se n t depravities in p o litical
p ro c e d u re a n d p erso n a l c o n d u c t w ith a heavily id ealised p a s t o f c o n ­
stitu tio n a l o rd e r, p o litical d ec o ru m a n d g re at m ilitary achievem ents.
T h ey do th is to shape th e ju r y ’s o u tlo o k o n th e case a t h a n d . B u t they
are also em b lem atic o f ‘a n intense p re o c c u p a tio n w ith, engagem ent
a n d focus o n th e city ’s o w n p a s t’ in L y cu rg an A th e n s.6 T his ‘p ast-
co n n e ctiv ity ’ w as a resp o n se to a sense o f decline in c o m p a riso n w ith
th e S o lo n ian a n d fifth -cen tu ry glory days. A n d it d ro v e all m a n n e r o f
fresh p o litical, religious a n d cu ltu ra l initiatives as L y cu rg u s a n d o th e r
p ro m in e n t p o liticia n s so u g h t to re sto re th e city ’s stren g th , confidence
a n d self-im age to line u p w ith th a t idealised p a s t.7
T h is c h a p te r atte m p ts to c o n trib u te fu rth e r to o u r u n d e rsta n d in g o f
ap p eals to th e p a s t w hich a p p e a r in speeches fro m high-profile p u b lic
trials b etw een 345 a n d 330. B ut I will focus o n a p a rtic u la r re ad in g o f
th e significance o f these ap p eals w hich is p u t fo rw a rd in an a d m ira ­
ble, fa scin atin g a n d p ro v o c ativ e recen t b o o k by Jo siah O b e r en title d
D e m o c ra c y a n d K n o w led g e: In n o v a tio n a n d L e a rn in g in C lassical
A th e n s . T h e o v erarch in g claim o f this b o o k is th a t d em o cratic A th en s
w as a successful state because it w as able to overcom e b a rrie rs to
collective a c tio n th ro u g h th e efficient a g g reg atio n a n d ap p lica tio n
o f know ledge. A n d w hile I am sy m p ath etic to its in n o v ativ e ex p lo ­
ra tio n o f A th en s as an ‘ep istem ic’ o r ‘d elib erativ e’ d em ocracy, m y

(footnote 4 continued)
I. Worthington (ed.), A Companion to Greek Rhetoric (Malden, MA, and Oxford:
Blackwell, 2007), pp. 542-60, at pp. 551-3.
5 J. Grethlein, The Greeks and Their Past: Poetry, Oratory and History in the Fifth
Century b c e (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), p. 123. See also the
classic account of N. Loraux, The Invention o f Athens: The Funeral Oration in the
Classical City (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1986).
6 S. Lambert, ‘Some political shifts in Lykourgan Athens’, in V. Azoulay and P.
Ismard (eds), Clisthene et Lycurgue d’Athenes: Autour du politique dans la cite
classique (Paris: Publications de la Sorbonne, 2011), pp. 175-90, at p. 187.
7 See e.g. H. Yunis, ‘Politics as literature: Demosthenes and the burden of the
Athenian past’, Arion 8 (2000), pp. 97-118; F. Hobden, ‘Imagining past and
present: A rhetorical strategy in Aeschines 3, Against Ctesiphon’, CQ 57.2 (2007),
pp. 490-501; Lambert, ‘Some political shifts’; V. Azoulay, ‘Lycurgue d’Athenes
et le passe de la cite: Entre neutralisation et instrumentalisation’, Cahiers des
Etudes Anciennes 46 (2009), pp. 149-80; Azoulay, ‘Les metamorphoses du koinon
athenien: Autour du Contre Leocrate de Lycurgue’, in Azoulay and Ismard,
Clisthene et Lycurgue d’Athenes, pp. 191-217.
COMMON KNOWLEDGE AND THE CONTESTATION OF HISTORY 209

arg u m e n ts d o n o t aim eith er to s u p p o rt o r to deny this big claim .8


In ste a d , I will arg u e th a t O b er h a s m isch ara cterise d th e re la tio n sh ip
b etw een th e o ra to r s ’ use o f h isto rical exam ples in th e A th e n ia n co u rts
a n d th e b o d y o f ‘co m m o n k n o w led g e’ w hich h e sees as cru cial to th e
o n g o in g stab ility a n d effectiveness o f th e dem ocracy. M y p o in t is th a t
A th e n ia n s ’ d ecisio n -m ak in g w as in fo rm e d by a m u ch m o re co n tested ,
so p h isticated , sceptical a n d highly self-conscious rh e to ric a l discourse
a b o u t th e p o litica l a n d legal ap p lica tio n s o f h isto rical ‘k n o w led g e’
th a n O b e r’s analysis adm its.
W e m u st b egin w ith a d etailed ac co u n t o f O b e r’s p o sitio n . H e rightly
p o in ts o u t th a t ‘w here th e law offered n o clear gu id an ce o r th e facts o f
th e case w ere o b scu re, A th e n ia n ju ries w ere re q u ire d b y th e ir o a th to
seek th e m o st ju s t o u tc o m e ’.9 In situ atio n s like this, ju ries relied o n a
b o d y o f c o m m o n know ledge to in fo rm th e ir verdict. O b e r also argues
th a t ‘references to p a s t events by litig an ts ad d e d to th e re p erto ire
o f A th e n ia n co m m o n kn o w led g e’.10 In m a n y cases, th en , co m m o n
kn o w led g e a b o u t (fo r exam ple) A th e n s’ glorious role in th e P ersian
W a rs o r its p a s t tre a tm e n t o f an ti-d e m o c ra tic tra ito rs , th e exem plary
c o n d u c t o f fa m o u s p o liticia n s o r u n n a m e d ‘a n c e sto rs’, a n d especially
th e p a s t decisions o f ju ries a n d assem blies o n re le v an t issues m u st h av e
p la y e d a cru cial ro le in in fo rm in g A th e n ia n ju rie s ’ d elib eratio n s.
B u t O b e r’s m a in p o in t is th a t this know ledge a b o u t th e p a st, alo n g
w ith a co m m itm e n t to d em o cratic values, w as crucial fo r estab lish ­
ing a n d m a in ta in in g re aso n ab ly p r e d ic ta b le alignm ents o f attitu d e ,
ju d g e m e n t a n d decisio n -m ak in g o n th e p a r t o f citizen ju ro rs a n d
A ssem b ly -g o ers.11 W ith o u t this elem ent o f p re d ic tab ility , n e ith e r th e
elite citizens n o r th e m ass o f A th e n s’ citizenry w o u ld h av e b een able
to p la n th e ir lives a n d su stain a social eq u ilib riu m betw een them .
B u ild in g th is so rt o f co m m o n know ledge in p u b lic in stitu tio n s also
a d d ressed th e ‘ca rry th ro u g h ’ p ro b le m faced by p eo p le w ho share
goals, b u t w ho will n o t ind iv id u ally act to achieve th em unless each
believes th a t o th ers will act likewise. T h e co m m o n know ledge o f

8 See J. Ober, Democracy and Knowledge: Innovation and Learning in Classical


Athens (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008), pp. 1-38. ‘Epistemic’
democracy: C. List and R. E. Goodin, ‘Epistemic democracy: Generalizing
the Condorcet jury theorem’, Journal o f Political Philosophy 9 (2001), pp.
277-306; E. Anderson, ‘The epistemology of democracy’, Episteme: Journal o f
Social Epistemology 3 (2006), pp. 8-22. ‘Deliberative’ democracy: J. Elster (ed.),
Deliberative Democracy (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press,
1998).
9 Ober, Democracy and Knowledge, p. 191. See also A. M. Lanni, Law and Justice in
the Courts o f Classical Athens (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006).
10 Ober, Democracy and Knowledge, p. 192.
11 Ober, Democracy and Knowledge, pp. 168-83.
A th e n s’ p a s t actio n s a n d achievem ents w hich w as p u b licised in legal
speeches especially p ro m o te d aw areness o f th e city ’s sh ared goals a n d
its citizen s’ sh ared co m m itm e n t to achieving th o se goals. B u t O b er
also stresses th e im p o rta n c e o f ritu als, p u b lic m o n u m e n ts a n d A ttic a ’s
rich a rra y o f in w ard -facin g p u b lic bu ild in g s as crucial fo r th e creatio n
o f c o m m o n know ledge a n d th e aw areness o f sh ared co m m itm e n ts th a t
such kn o w led ge fo ste rs .12
L y cu rg u s’ speech A g a in s t L e o c r a te s o f 331/30 b ce is O b e r’s case
stu d y fo r d e m o n stra tin g th a t legal speeches co u ld d raw o n th e p a s t in
th e ir a tte m p t to align a n d c o o rd in a te citizens’ a ttitu d e s a n d collective
co m m itm en ts in o th e r p u b lic do m ain s. L eo crates w as an A th e n ia n
b la c k sm ith -tu rn e d -tra d e r w h o m L ycurgus p ro se c u te d o n charges o f
trea so n o u sly leaving A th en s w hen h e o u g h t to h av e re m a in ed to h elp
d efen d th e city follow ing th e defeat a t C h a e ro n e a in 338. H e h a d
re m a in ed ab se n t fro m th e city u n til 332. A c co rd in g to L ycurgus, the
defeat h a d p ro m p te d th e A ssem bly to p ass em ergency m easu res w hich
allo w ed th e city ’s generals to assign an y o n e still resid en t in A th en s
to u n d e rta k e g u a rd d u ty (Lyc. 1.16). T h e legislation m a y also h av e
ex ten d ed th e definition o f tre a so n to include ‘fleeing fro m risk on
b e h a lf o f o n e ’s c o u n try ’.13 A lth o u g h L ycurgus argues th a t L e o c ra te s’
sailing to R h o d e s c o n stitu te d an act o f tre a so n (p r o d o s ia ), h e is n o t
able to show th a t L eo crates left th e city a fte r th e legislation cam e in to
force. A s O b e r p o in ts o u t, this w as a key w eakness in his case. B u t it
is also p o ssib le th a t L ycurgus w as stretch in g th e definition o f p ro d o sia
to cover sins o f om ission a n d n o n -p a rtic ip a tio n w hen th e law really
o nly p ro v id e d fo r active acts o f trea ch ery , such as giving strategic
in fo rm a tio n to an enem y o r desertin g to th e o th e r side. I t is fairly
clear th a t L y curgus w as using a n im p eac h m e n t p ro c e d u re (eisangelia)
ag a in st in d iv id u als w ho w ere n o t th e n o rm a l targ e ts o f im p eac h ­
m e n t a n d in re la tio n to offences w hich w ere n o t n o rm a lly co v ered by
th a t p ro c e d u re .14 B y th e tim e o f th e tria l L ycurgus w as b ecom ing a
p o w erfu l figure in A th e n s th ro u g h his c o n tro l o f th e p u b lic finances
a n d his p ro m in e n t o p p o sitio n to M a c e d o n .15 W e kn o w th a t h e h a d

12 Ober, Democracy and Knowledge, pp. 190-210.


13 See D. M. Macdowell, The Law in Classical Athens (Ithaca, NY: Cornell
University Press, 1978), pp. 178-9, 185, citing a fragment of Theophrastus’ Laws
(= Pollux 8.52; Lexicon Cantabrigiense s.v. eisangelia).
14 Azoulay, ‘Metamorphoses du koinon athenien’, pp. 197-204.
15 S. C. Humphreys, ‘Lycurgus of Butadae: An Athenian aristocrat’, in J. W. Eadie
and J. Ober (eds), The Craft o f the Ancient Historian: Essays in Honor o f Chester
G. Starr (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1985), pp. 199-252; B.
Hintzen-Bohlen, Die Kulturpolitik des Eubulos und des Lykurg: Die Denkmaler-
undBauprojekte in Athen zwischen 355 und322 v. Chr. (Berlin: Akademie, 1997); P.
Ismard and V. Azoulay, ‘Clisthene et Lycurgue d’Athenes: Le politique a l’epreuve
alre ad y successfully p ro se c u te d th e general Lysicles fo r th e failu re o f
C h a e ro n e a .16 W e d o n o t k n o w th e n a tu re o f th e ch arg e b u t it is likely
to h av e inv o lv ed alleg atio n s o f b etra y in g A th en s to th e enem y. H e
also seems to h av e successfully p ro se c u te d a m em b er o f th e A re o p ag u s
co uncil called A u to ly cu s fo r sending his fam ily o u t o f A th en s am id st
th e p a n ic o f C h a e ro n e a .17 In th e light o f all this, it is in terestin g th a t
L y cu rg u s’ p ro se c u tio n w as unsuccessful: in a speech delivered la te r th e
sam e year, A eschines tells us th a t L eo crates w as a c q u itte d b y a single
v o te (3.252). W h y d id L e o c ra te s’ p ro se c u tio n fail w hen sim ilar ones
h a d clearly succeeded a n d L ycurgus h im self w as in th e ascendancy?
O b e r arg u es th a t th e speech co n c en trate s o n w h a t h e calls tw o ‘c o m ­
m itm e n t eq u ilib ria ’ w hich d ep e n d o n aligning th e ju ry w ith co m m o n
k n o w led g e .18 T h e first o f these e q u ilib ria is th e c o m m itm e n t o f th e citi­
zenry to u n d e rta k e sacrifices necessary to m a in ta in po lis security, as
evidenced by th e ir actio n s in th e a fte rm a th o f A th e n s’ m ilitary defeat
a t C h a e ro n e a in 338. T h e id ea h ere is th a t L ycurgus ch aracterises th e
security o f th e polis in this p e rio d as w h a t p o litical th eo rists call ‘a
co m m o n p o o l re so u rce’. A s a v alu ed p o ssession w hich is collectively
o w n ed by th e citizenry, polis security is v u ln erab le to w h a t th eo rists
call ‘a trag e d y o f th e co m m o n s’. I f self-interested indiv id u als ta k e
m o re fro m th e p o o l th a n they give b ac k , th e po lis becom es insecure.
A s L y cu rg u s explicitly says, ‘if everyone a c te d like L eo crates o u r city
w o u ld be a w a ste la n d ’ (1.60). T h e second eq u ilib riu m is th e citizen s’
co m m itm e n t to en fo rcin g legal san ctio n s ag a in st in dividuals w hose
b e h a v io u r th re a te n s th e first equilibrium .
L y cu rg u s d eliberately show s th a t these tw o eq u ilib ria are linked:
each citizen ’s co m m itm e n t to saving th e state m u st b e credible to
A th e n ia n s a n d o u tsid ers alike. A n d b o th in te rn a l a n d ex tern al a u d i­
ences m u st also believe th a t A th en s really is p re p a re d to ta k e sanctions
ag a in st th o se w ho deviate fro m such a co m m itm e n t to c o n trib u te to
p o lis security th ro u g h th e ir acts o f d esertio n a n d treach ery . B ecause
th e claim th a t L eo crates h a d actu ally b ro k e n an y law o f tre a s o n w as
q u estio n ab le, L y cu rg u s’ strateg y in his speech w as to seek w h a t O ber
calls ‘a cascad e o f fo llo w in g ’ b ase d o n these tw o eq u ilib ria. T h e o ra to r
effectively stresses th a t a co n v ictio n o f L eo crates b y a m assive m a jo r­
ity w o u ld signal th a t polis security w as a co m m o n ly h e ld A th e n ia n

de l’evenement’, in Azoulay and Ismard, Clisthene et Lycurgue d’Athenes, pp.


5-13.
16 See the testimonia and fragments of Against Lysicles collected in N. C.
Conomis, Lycurgus: Oratio in Leocratem (Leipzig: Teubner, 1970), pp. 112-13.
17 See Lyc. 1.53 and testimonia and fragments of Against Autolycus collected in
Conomis, Lycurgus, pp. 96-7.
18 Ober, Democracy and Knowledge, pp. 180-94.
preferen ce, a n d th a t th e legal san ctio n s w hich su stain ed this sh ared
goal w ere b ase d o n ra tio n a l c o o rd in a tio n o f sh ared in terests (e.g.
6 3 -7 , 141-9). T his w ay th e ju ry w o u ld reaffirm a n d republicise b o th
th e cred ib ility o f th e citizen s’ sh ared co m m itm e n t to sacrifice th e m ­
selves fo r p olis security a n d th e ir co m m itm e n t to crim inalise a n d
p u n ish an y o n e d ev iatin g fro m a w illingness to sta n d a n d fight. I f the
ju ry a c q u itte d L eo crates, o n th e o th e r h a n d , it w o u ld th ere b y im ply
th a t L e o c ra te s’ ch o o sin g to leave th e city w as ra tio n a l a n d c o m p re ­
hensible. T his w ould, in tu rn , signal th a t A th e n ia n citizens w ere n o t
credibly c o m m itte d to collective self-sacrificial ac tio n to save th e polis.
A n a c q u itta l w o u ld in itself u n d erm in e citizens’ a n d o u tsid e rs’ belief
th a t A th e n ia n s w ere u n ite d in th e ir p re p a re d n e ss to fight fo r th e city.
F o r O b er, th e fact o f L e o c ra te s’ a c q u itta l show s th a t L y cu rg u s’
strateg y w as tru m p e d by a th ird equ ilib riu m . T his w as th e ju r o r s ’
o a th -b o u n d co m m itm e n t to ju d g e o n th e basis o f th e law w here the
law w as clear a n d to ju d g e in a c co rd a n ce w ith ju stic e w here th e law
w as silent. T h e ju r o r s ’ d iscretio n to ju d g e cases in a c co rd a n ce w ith
em o tio n , eq u ity a n d th e litig a n ts’ re p u ta tio n s w as co nsiderable. B ut
elite citizens n ee d ed to k n o w th a t ju ries w o u ld lim it th e scope o f th eir
d iscretio n th ro u g h a co m m itm e n t to th e law a n d justice. T h is is w here
th e social eq u ilib riu m w hich u n d e rp in s A th e n ia n dem o cracy com es
in to play: if ju ries d o m in a te d by n o n -elite citizens d e m o n s tra te d n o
co m m itm e n t to th e law as a lim it o n th e ir d iscretio n , th e n elite liti­
g an ts w o u ld be faced w ith a n u n p re d ic ta b le ju stic e system . T h is w o u ld
su b stan tially th re a te n th e ir c o n tin u e d in v estm en t in th e d e m o c ra c y ’s
in stitu tio n s. T h e ju ry n a rro w ly a c q u itte d L ycurgus because they
d ecided th a t L eo c rates h a d n o t b ro k e n an y law a n d because th ey saw
th a t a guilty verdict w o u ld d am ag e th e c o u rts ’ re p u ta tio n fo r fairness
m o re th a n a n a c q u itta l w o u ld d isru p t citizen s’ sh ared co m m itm e n t to
p o lis security. F o r O ber, ‘b o th th e c o n te n t o f L y cu rg u s’ speech a n d the
o u tc o m e o f th e tria l u n d erlin e th e delicate b alan c e betw een co m p etin g
social g o o d s o f e n h a n ced c o o rd in a tio n a n d th e p re se rv a tio n o f a social
eq u ilib riu m th a t w as p re d ic a te d u p o n a credible co m m itm e n t to legal
ru le s’.19
N o w L y cu rgus uses ‘an u n u su a l a n d excessive n u m b e r o f h is to ri­
cal exam ples a n d q u o ta tio n s fro m th e p o e ts ’.20 U n su rp risin g ly , he
n a rra te s a n d p raises th e A th e n ia n s w ho d ied a t C h a e ro n e a to defend

19 Ober, Democracy and Knowledge, p. 185. See also (with a different emphasis)
the important discussion of L. Rubinstein, ‘Arguments from precedent in Attic
oratory’, in E. Carawan (ed.), Oxford Readings in the Attic Orators (Oxford:
Oxford University Press, 2007), pp. 359-71.
20 D. S. Allen, ‘Changing the authoritative voice: Lycurgus’ Against Leocrates’,
Classical Antiquity 19 (2000), pp. 5-33, at p. 10.
G re ek freed o m (46-9). B u t h e links th e ir fine c o n d u c t to th e statu es o f
generals, ty ran t-sla y ers a n d ath letes fro m earlier tim es w hich can be
seen th ro u g h o u t th e city: th e v a lo u r show n a t C h a e ro n e a is exp lain ed
by th e fa ct th a t ‘alo n e o f th e G re e k s’ th e A th e n ia n s k now h o w to
h o n o u r g o o d m en (50). B u t ju s t as A th e n s fosters m o re g re at deeds by
h o n o u rin g th em , it m u st also p u n ish th e crim es o f m en like L eo crates
(51-2).
A fte r som e a n tic ip a tio n o f L e o c ra te s’ a rg u m e n ts, L ycurgus
lau n ch es in to a passag e o f h isto rical a n d p o e tic p a r a d e ig m a ta th a t
ex ten d s fo r 64 o f th e speech’s 150 sections. W e h av e th e follow ing
exam ples: th e A th e n ia n s’ role in en su rin g v icto ry at S alam is a n d th e
c ity ’s g lo rio u s h eg em o n ic a fte rm a th (6 8 -7 4 ); th e ephebic o a th a n d th e
ro le o f o a th s in p reserv in g dem o cracy (7 5 -9 ); th e b ra v e o a th sw orn
by th e G reek s a t P la ta e a a n d th e p a rtic u la r glory w hich th a t victory
co n ferre d o n A th en s (80-2); th e sto ry o f h o w K in g C o d ru s sacrificed
h im self fo r A th en s d u rin g a w a r (83-8); th e story o f h o w th e D e lp h ic
oracle e n a b le d th e execu tio n o f th e A th e n ia n p o liticia n C allistra tu s
(92-3); th e fab le o f h o w th e gods re w ard e d a y o u n g Sicilian m a n fo r
n o t desertin g his fa th e r, involving th e ‘P lace o f th e P io u s’ (95-7);
P ra x ith e a ’s sacrifice o f h e r d a u g h te r v ia a fifty-five-line q u o ta tio n
fro m E u rip id e s’ E re c th e u s (98-101); q u o ta tio n s fro m th e I lia d a n d
T y rta e u s w hich exem plify th e im p o rta n c e o f m ilitary d u ty , including
an a c c o u n t o f th e la tte r’s h isto rical c o n trib u tio n to S p a rta n discipline
a n d h o p lite ideology (102-8); th e S im onidean tex t o f th e m o n u m e n t to
th e A th en ian s a t M a ra th o n a n d o f th e m o n u m e n t to th e S p a rta n s at
T h erm o p y la e, a c co m p an ied by n a rra tiv e o f th e ir achievem ents (108­
10); fo u r n a rra tiv e s o f ex em p lary a n d co n sisten t p u n ish m e n ts m eted
o u t to A th e n s ’ tra ito rs in th e fifth ce n tu ry (111-23); th e stele set u p in
th e a fte rm a th o f 404/3 w hich re c o rd e d th e im m u n ity g ra n te d to th o se
w ho th w a rt ty ra n n ic a l subversion o f th e dem o cracy (1 2 4 -6 );21 th e
S p a rta n s ’ tre a tm e n t o f th e ir king P a u san ias a n d th e ir law ag a in st co w ­
ard ice (128-9); a n d q u o ta tio n s fro m tw o a n o n y m o u s p o ets (92, 132).
A ll th e w ay th ro u g h this to u r de fo rc e we h a v e L e o c ra te s’ c o n d u c t
co n d e m n e d by c o n tra st o r an a lo g y (e.g. 74, 82, 89, 97, 110). A n d it
is m a d e clear th a t L eo c rates m u st be co n v icted if th e ju ry them selves
are to b e fa ith fu l to th e values, pledges, c o n d u c t a n d sacrifices o f th eir
an cesto rs, all o f w hich h av e en su red A th e n s ’ glory a n d th e survival o f
its d em o cracy (e.g. 74, 82, 89, 123, 127).

21 Lycurgus seems to have misattributed the motion of Demophantus in 411 to


the aftermath of the Thirty: I. Worthington, C. R. Cooper and E. M. Harris,
Dinarchus, Hyperides, and Lycurgus (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2001),
p. 195.
T h ere is n o th in g q u ite like this ex ten d ed passag e o f po sitiv e a n d
n eg ativ e exem plars elsew here in th e e x ta n t co rp u s o f o ra to ry .22 A n d
b efo re we co n sid er O b e r’s in c o rp o ra tio n o f it in to his a rg u m e n t it
is w o rth stressing th a t th ere are actu ally several entirely c o m p a t­
ible ex p lan a tio n s fo r it. D an ielle A llen convincingly ch aracterises
L y cu rg u s’ h isto rical a n d p o etic p a ra d ig m s as a sy m p to m o f his
ra d ic al d e p a rtu re fro m co n c ep tio n s o f p u n ish m e n t a n d p o litics w hich
A th en ian s u su ally accep ted .23 In ste a d o f in v o k in g his ow n p erso n al
stak e in L e o c ra te s’ case o r referrin g to his ow n an g er a t his co n d u c t
in o rd e r to sto k e th e ju r y ’s ire (as w as n o rm a l), L ycurgus presen ts
h im self as a d isp assio n ate p ro s e c u to r a n d p ro jec ts an ‘a u th o rita ­
tive v oice’ w hich w ard s o ff th e tra d itio n a l view th a t lack o f p erso n al
in v o lv em en t w ith th e d efen d an t b eto k en s sycophancy. L y cu rg u s is
stressing th a t it is in th e in terests o f th e en tire state a n d fu tu re g en e ra­
tio n s o f citizens th a t L eo crates be m a d e an exam ple of. T h e h isto rical
a n d p o e tic exam ples w hich e m b o d y th e A th e n ia n s ’ collective co u rag e
a n d b o th A th e n s’ a n d S p a rta ’s w illingness to deal severely w ith tra i­
to rs rein fo rce these p o in ts. L y cu rg u s does ask th e ju ry to display an g er
at L eo crates fo r w h a t h e h a s d o n e (e.g. 16, 25, 26, 57). B u t h e p o in ts
o u t th a t th e ju r y ’s an cesto rs co nsistently p u n ish e d tra ito rs w ith d ea th
b ecau se o f ‘t r u th ’ (a leth eia ) ra th e r th a n ‘a n g e r’ (orge) a n d because it
w as in th e ir n a tu re (p h u sis ) to ‘m a k e w a r’ o n tre a c h e ro u s deeds (116).
V in cen t A z o u la y ’s analysis o f L y cu rg u s’ extensive use o f exam ples
fro m th e p a s t usefully co m p lem en ts th a t o f A llen .24 F o r A zoulay,
L y cu rg u s is p a rtly using this speech to p ro je c t his statu s as a senior
statesm an o f experience a n d know ledge. H e a d o p ts th e p o s tu re o f a
suprem e ed u c a to r. S om e o f his p o etic a n d h isto rical exam ples even
seem d esigned to d ra w a tte n tio n to his ow n p o litical role a n d his spe­
cific in itiatives. B u t A z o u lay also show s th a t th e speech’s v ast a rra y o f
h isto rical exam ples are p iled o n to p o f each o th e r as p a r t o f a d elib er­
ate rh e to ric a l ta c tic o f re p e titio n a n d ac cu m u latio n . A s L y cu rg u s says
him self, th e fact th a t A th en s re p e a te d ly a n d co n sisten tly p u n ish e d tra i­
to rs w ith d e a th a u th e n tic a te s his a rg u m e n t (116). T h e a c c u m u la tio n o f
exam ples also im plies th a t L eo c rates is being p ro se c u te d as m u ch by
h isto ry itself as by L ycurgus. H a v in g q u o te d th e ep igram s fo r th o se

22 It is undoubtedly significant that the nearest parallels are the passages of quotation
found in Aeschines’ Against Ctesiphon and Demosthenes’ On the Crown, which
were pitted against each other only a few months after the trial of Leocrates.
Although many speeches before 331/30 use historical examples and a few use
quotations from classical and archaic poetry, these three speeches must represent
something of a shift in tone and tactics. See Hobden, ‘Imagining past and present’;
Lambert, ‘Some political shifts’, pp. 187-90, for some explanations.
23 Allen, ‘Changing the authoritative voice’.
24 Azoulay, ‘Lycurgue d’Athenes et le passe de la cite’.
w ho fell a t M a ra th o n a n d T h erm o p y la e, L ycurgus says these lines
offer ‘p ra ise a n d glory fo r o u r city w hich will alw ays be re m e m b e re d ’
(snaivog Kai xfi no^si So£,a as^v n o x o g , 110). B y c o n tra st, L eo crates
h a s ‘d elib erately disg raced th e glory th e city h a s b u ilt u p th ro u g h all
tim e ’ ( sk&v x^v e£ anavxog xou ai&vog auvnBpoia^evnv xfl no^si So£,av
Kax^oxuvsv, 110).
O b e r focuses o n o n e o f L y cu rg u s’ stories a b o u t fifth -cen tu ry
A th e n s ’ ex em p lary p u n ish m e n t o f tra ito rs . H ip p a rc h u s, a p ro m in e n t
A th e n ia n o f th e early fifth cen tu ry , fled th e city ra th e r th a n face tria l
fo r tre a so n (117-19). W e are to ld th a t th e A th e n ia n s sentenced him
to d e a th in his absence. T h en , ‘as they d id n o t secure his p e rso n to
an sw er fo r th e crim e, th ey to o k do w n his statu e fro m th e A cropolis
a n d , m eltin g it d ow n, m a d e a stele o f it, o n w hich th ey decreed th a t
th e n am es o f w ro n g d o e rs a n d tra ito rs w o u ld be inscribed. H ip p a rc h u s
h im self h a s his n a m e re c o rd e d o n th is stele a n d o th e r tra ito rs to o ’
(117). L y cu rg u s n ex t directs th e clerk o f th e c o u rt to re a d th e decree
w hich a u th o ris e d th e ta k in g do w n o f H ip p a rc h u s ’ statu e a n d tells him
also to re a d th e stele’s in scrip tio n a n d list o f tra ito rs (118). L ycurgus
th e n draw s th e lessons fro m this h isto rical exam ple: first, A th en ian s
th e n w ere n o t over-lenient as th ey are to d ay . By o b lite ra tin g his
m em o rial, th ey d id all they co u ld to p u n ish a n d h u m iliate H ip p a rc h u s
in his absence. S econd, ‘th e sim ple fact o f m eltin g d ow n th e b ro n z e
statu e w as n o t en o u g h fo r th em ; th ey w ished to leave b e h in d to th eir
successors a lastin g exam ple (p a ra d e ig m a ) o f th e ir a ttitu d e to tra ito r s ’
(119). F o r O b er, th is is excellent evidence o f th e w ay in w hich p u b lic
ac tio n co m m itm en ts (in this case th e p u n ish m e n t o f tra ito rs ) are m ad e
credible th ro u g h m ech an ism s o f p u b licity a n d c o m m o n know ledge:

In L y cu rg u s’ a c c o u n t it is a co n cern w ith creatin g a n d sustaining


co m m o n kn o w ledge re g a rd in g credible co m m itm e n t to san ctio n
th a t is th e th re a d th a t ties to g e th e r th e choices o f tw o c h ro n o ­
logically d istin ct speakers in th e p u b lic interest: th e an o n y m o u s
p ro s e c u to r o f H ip p a rc h u s in th e early fifth ce n tu ry b c , a n d
L y cu rg u s h im self som e 150 years later. T h e sam e co n c ern ties
to g e th e r th e A ssem b ly ’s act o f au th o riz in g a p riv a te m o n u m e n t
to b e re p la ced by a p u b lic one, a n d th e m o n u m e n t itself. F in ally
co m m o n k n ow ledge ties to g e th e r v ario u s A th e n ia n audiences,
across tim e a n d space. T he ju ro rs listening to L ycurgus in the
A th e n ia n c o u rtro o m in 330 b c , th e ir an cesto rs sitting in the
A ssem bly place a c e n tu ry a n d a h a lf earlier, a n d th e m a n y visitors
to th e A cro p o lis w ho h a d n o tic e d th e stele in th e years in betw een
w ere im ag in atively b ro u g h t to g eth er, th ro u g h L y cu rg u s’ w ords,
in to a unified co m m u n ity o f know ing. T h a t im ag in ed co m m u n ity
sh ared k n o w ledge a b o u t th e in iq u ity o f tre a so n a n d th e A th e n ia n
c o m m itm e n t to p u n ish in g tra ito rs .25

T his is a b rillia n t analysis o f th e rh e to ric a l dynam ics th a t lie b e h in d


b o th L y cu rg u s’ ap p e al to h isto ry a n d th e ideological rh e to ric
im plicit in p e rm a n e n t p u b lic in scrip tio n s a n d m o n u m en ts. A n d we
co u ld a d a p t th e b asic p o in ts o f this a rg u m e n t to cover m a n y o f th e
o th e r h isto rical a n d p o e tic exam ples in L y cu rg u s’ speech. I t sh o u ld
n o w be clear h o w well L y cu rg u s’ use o f h isto ry fits w ith O b e r’s
o verall thesis.
B u t O b er does n o t a sk w h a t L eo c rates a n d his su p p o rte rs said in
his defence w hen faced w ith th is a n d o th e r p o w erfu l ap p eals to the
p a st. E ven th o u g h we do n o t h av e an y speeches fo r th e defence, we
can m a k e som e in fo rm e d guesses fro m h in ts in L y cu rg u s’ speech a n d
by lo o k in g a t strategies in o th e r e x ta n t speeches. O b e r’s e x p la n a tio n
as to w hy L y c u rg u s’ tactics failed suggests th a t th e d efen d an t m u st
h av e stressed th a t h e h a d n o t b ro k e n an y ac tu a l law in force a t the
tim e. T his is certain ly c o rro b o ra te d by L y cu rg u s’ a n tic ip a tio n s o f the
defen ce’s arg u m e n ts. T h ey clearly a rg u ed th a t L e o c ra te s’ m o tiv e fo r
sailing to R h o d e s w as tra d e ra th e r th a n d esertio n (55). H e n e ith e r
in te n d e d to h a rm A th en s n o r w as liable u n d e r th e law o f trea so n .
A fte r all, h e d id n o t d esert an y official d u ty re la te d to defence o f the
city th a t h a d b een assigned to h im (5 5 -9 , 68). T h e defence m a y well
h av e stressed th a t L y cu rg u s w as very m u ch stretch in g th e definition
o f tre a so n laid o u t in th e law o n e isa n g elia . B u t L e o c ra te s’ c a m p also
seem to h av e re so rte d to exam ples fro m h isto ry . F o r L y cu rg u s tells us
th a t th e o th e r side h av e u sed th e A th e n ia n s’ a b a n d o n m e n t o f A ttic a
in 480 as a p re ced e n t fo r th e d e fe n d a n t’s d e p a rtu re fro m A th en s afte r
C h a e ro n e a (6 8 -9 , tr. H arris):

I get very angry, g entlem en, w henever I h e a r o n e o f his associates


say th a t it is n o t tre a so n if som eone leaves th e city. F o r exam ple,
y o u r an cesto rs once left th e city w hen they w ere fighting ag ain st
X erxes a n d crossed o v er to Salam is. T his m a n is so foolish a n d
h o ld s y o u in such co m p lete c o n te m p t th a t h e th in k s it rig h t to
c o m p a re th e m o st glorious deeds w ith th e m o st sham eful. W h ere
is th e v alo u r o f these m en n o t well know n? W h a t m a n is so g ru d g ­
ing o r so com pletely lacking in a m b itio n th a t h e w o u ld n o t p ra y
to h av e ta k e n g reat p a r t in th ese deeds? T hey d id n o t d esert th e
city b u t o nly m o v ed fro m o n e place to a n o th e r as p a r t o f th eir
b rillia n t p la n to c o n fro n t th e d a n g e r th a t faced them .

25 Ober, Democracy and Knowledge, pp. 188-9.


L y cu rg u s goes o n to d etail A th e n s’ decisive ro le in engineering a n d
w in n in g th e b a ttle o f Salam is a n d asks: ‘w as this in an y w ay sim ilar to
th e m a n w h o fled his c o u n try fo r a fo u r-d a y voyage to R h o d es? W o u ld
an y o f th ese m en o f o ld h av e p e rh a p s to le ra te d such a crim e?’ (70).
T h e answ er, o f course, is th a t th ey w o u ld h av e sto n ed a d eserter like
L eo c rates to d e a th (71).
It h a s been a rg u e d th a t L eo crates a n d his friends c a n n o t really
h av e m a d e a n an alo g y betw een his trip to R h o d es a n d th e A th e n ia n s ’
m ass e v a cu atio n to S alam is in 480.26 B u t I th in k it is only h a r d fo r us
to im ag in e h o w L eo c rates a n d his te a m co u ld h av e spun th e Salam is
ep iso d e in his fa v o u r because L ycurgus does such a g o o d jo b o f
m a k in g th e an a lo g y seem a b s u rd a n d offensive. W e ca n readily c o n ­
ceive o f a n a rg u m e n t fro m L e o c ra te s’ side w hich u sed th e e v a cu atio n
as a m ean s o f c h a rac te risin g L y cu rg u s’ search fo r tra ito rs a n d d ese rt­
ers as an excessive a n d a b su rd ly zealous w itch h u n t. T h e arg u m e n t
w o u ld h av e ru n like this: if L y c u r g u s p u rs u e s m e a fte r seven y e a r s have
p a sse d , w hen I a m an u n im p o r ta n t m e rc h a n t w ho h e ld no p u b lic offices
in re sp e c t o f d e fe n d in g th e c ity a t th e tim e, a n d j u s t beca u se I w e n t on a
bu sin ess trip w ith m y fa m ily , then he w o u ld d o u b tless even im p u g n the
m o tiv e s o f th e A th e n ia n s w ho a b a n d o n e d A ttic a a fte r T h e rm o p y la e .21
By im ag in in g L ycurgus p ro se cu tin g th e A th e n ia n evacuees o f 480,
th e defence w o u ld th ere b y d isru p t his c o n stru c tio n o f a n ‘im ag in ed
co m m u n ity o f k n o w in g ’ th ro u g h w hich th e ju ry are en c o u ra g e d to
p u n ish L eo crates as th e la test in a lo n g line o f n o to rio u s tra ito rs. F o r
if L eo crates is n o m o re a tra ito r th a n th o se o f th e ju r y ’s an cesto rs w ho
escap ed th e M ed e to fight a n o th e r d ay, th e n L y cu rg u s’ p ro se c u tio n
o f h im b ecom es a n ab u se o f law a n d p ro c e d u re th e ju r y ’s an cesto rs
w o u ld ab h o r.
It is likely th a t L eo crates also ch a rac te rised som e o f L y cu rg u s’
lessons fro m h isto ry as irre le v an t to th e case. A n an a lo g o u s arg u m e n t
can be fo u n d in D e m o sth e n e s’ O n th e C row n (18.209):

stcsit’, b Kaxapaxs Kai y p a^axoK u^rov, au ^sv x^g n a p a xouxrovi


x i ^ g Kai 9iA,av0p©mag s ^ ’ a n o a x sp ^ a a i P ouA ^svog xponaia Kai
M-axag Kai n a ^ a f spy’ s^sysg, ©v xtvog n poas5sI0’ o naprov ayrov
o rn o a ^

26 S. Usher, Greek Oratory: Tradition and Originality (Oxford: Oxford University


Press, 1999), p. 327.
27 Lycurgus himself anticipates that Leocrates’ supporters will argue that one
man alone cannot cause the destruction of an entire city by his failure to participate
in its defence (63). What the defence probably added was that Leocrates was being
unfairly victimised.
A fte r th a t, y o u accu rsed a n d h u n c h b a c k e d clerk [i.e. A eschines],
in y o u r desire to deprive m e o f respect a n d affection o f m y fellow
c o u n try m e n , y o u spoke o f prizes a n d b attles a n d deeds o f old.
W h ich o f th e m is p e rtin e n t to th e case a t issue rig h t now ?28

D e m o sth en e s is h ere referrin g to A eschines’ use o f A th e n s’ glorious


an cestral p a s t to re p resen t D e m o sth en e s as u n w o rth y o f a n h o n ­
orific cro w n by co m p a riso n (A esch. 3.181-7). A s we will see later,
A esch in es’ a rg u m e n ts fro m h isto ry lo o k very p e rtin e n t to th e issue o f
D e m o sth e n e s’ crow ning. A n d D e m o sth e n e s’ re m a rk s h ere ac tu ally
follow a section o f arg u m e n t in w hich h e h im self d eploys m a n y o f the
sam e h isto rical events a n d p erso n ag es w hich A eschines h a d m e n tio n e d
to show th a t they are in alig n m en t w ith his ow n policy o f c o n fro n tin g
M a c e d o n a n d th e h e ro ic failu re th a t w as C h a e ro n e a (18.202-8). H e
is clear th a t h e deserved to be c ro w n ed fo r this policy. W hy? B ecause
A th e n s’ p a s t show ed th a t it w as ‘n e ith e r tra d itio n a l, n o r to lera b le , n o r
n a tu r a l’ fo r A th e n ia n s to accept su b ju g atio n (203).29
I t m a d e sense fo r L eo crates a n d his fellow speakers to a tta c k the
relevance o f L y cu rg u s’ use o f h isto ry in a sim ilar fash io n . A n d w hile
th ey m ay n o t h av e asso c ia te d th e ir p o w e rfu l o p p o n e n t’s fo n d n ess fo r
h isto rical p a r a d e ig m a ta w ith a p a s t as a low ly ‘cle rk ’ in th e w ay th a t
D e m o sth en e s does, it is telling th a t L y cu rg u s’ speech an ticip ates a
claim fro m L eo crates th a t h e is a p riv a te citizen (id io tes) w ho h a s been
e n tra p p e d by a rh e to r a n d a clever sy co p h a n t (31). D esp ite L y cu rg u s’
fram in g o f his p a r a d e ig m a ta a n d q u o ta tio n s as co m m o n know ledge,
th e sheer ex ten t o f th em co u ld be re p resen te d as th e so rt o f ab u se o f
expertise a n d learn in g w hich w as ty p ical o f p o liticia n s o f his statu re.
W h a t is th e im p lica tio n o f all this fo r O b e r’s arg u m en ts? W ell, in
one resp ect, they are u n affected by th e p o in t th a t litig an ts co u ld use
h isto rical p re ced e n t to claim u n ju st victim isatio n via a n ab u se o f
law a n d p ro c ed u re . O b e r does n o t claim th a t a n ap p e al to m a in ta in
a ‘cred ib le co m m itm e n t to legal ru le s’ as a lim it to a ju r y ’s discre­
tio n is in co m p atib le w ith discussion o f h isto rical analogies. A n d h e
is clear th a t th e ag o n istic fra m e w o rk o f th e c o u rts h e lp e d ju ries to
resist atte m p ts by p o w erfu l o ra to rs to use co m m o n know ledge in
o rd e r to create ‘cascades o f fo llo w in g ’ in w ays w hich flo u ted ju stice
o r c o rru p te d difficult decisio n -m ak in g w ith ‘g ro u p th in k ’.30 B ut m y

28 My translation here draws on those of S. Usher, Demosthenes: On the Crown


(De corona) (Warminster: Aris & Phillips, 1993), and H. Yunis, Demosthenes: On
the Crown (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), p. 207.
29 For an excellent discussion of the novel and tragic dimensions of Demosthenes’
strategy in this speech, see Yunis, ‘Politics as literature’.
30 Ober, Democracy and Knowledge, p. 181.
p o in t is ra th e r different. I am observing th a t th e sam e item o f h isto ry
co u ld be u sed by one side as c o m m o n know ledge in o rd e r to ap p e al to
‘cred ib le co m m itm e n t to legal ru le s’, b u t th e n co u ld be re in te rp re te d
to c o n stitu te co m m o n know ledge re g ard in g ‘credible co m m itm e n t to
sa n c tio n ’, o r co m m o n know ledge re g ard in g ‘credible co m m itm e n t
to p o lis secu rity ’. T his m e a n t th a t h ow ever m u ch a ju ry knew a b o u t
A th e n s ’ p a s t tre a tm e n t o f tra ito rs o r its a n c e sto rs’ collective actio n s, it
still h a d to w eigh litig a n ts’ conflicting in te rp re ta tio n s o f th o se ev e n ts’
ap p licab ility to th e case a t h a n d . A n d th o se conflicts in clu d ed explicit
o r im plicit d isp utes a b o u t w h e th e r a n d in w h a t w ay th e ju ry w as in
a p o sitio n to exercise its d iscretio n o r h o w fa r its verdict w as subject
to m o re specific a n d d e m o n stra b le legal c o n stra in ts. T h e co m m o n
kn o w led g e o f h isto ry w hich th e o ra to rs u n d o u b te d ly c o n trib u te d to
th e d e m o s ’ d elib eratio n s c a n n o t in itself h av e h elp ed a ju ry to arrive
a t th e rig h t b alan c e betw een ‘th e co m p etin g social goods o f e n h a n ced
c o o rd in a tio n a n d th e social eq u ilib riu m th a t w as p re d ic a te d o n a c re d ­
ible co m m itm e n t to legal ru le s’. T his is because th e conflicting appeals
to th e p a s t w hich cam e fro m b o th sides in a case sim ply offered fu rth e r
evidence th a t b o th o f these social goods n ee d ed to be ta k e n ac co u n t
of. T hese ap p eals ca n h av e d o n e little to h elp w ith th e q u estio n o f
w hich verd ict w o u ld m a in ta in th e rig h t b alan c e betw een th o se goods
in a p a rtic u la r case.
H o w ev er, a fra m e w o rk in w hich th e ex em p larity a n d relevance o f
h isto ry w ere p u blicly a n d ro u tin ely co n teste d m u st h av e fo stered a
m easu re o f critical distan ce a n d c a u tio n in ju ries. T h is critical a w a re ­
ness o f th e m a n ip u la tiv e p o te n tia l a n d ‘rh e to ric ity ’ o f h isto rical p a ra -
d e ig m a ta m a y c o n stitu te a fuller a n d m o re ac cu ra te c h a ra c te risa tio n
o f th e useful ‘h isto rical k n o w led g e’ w hich A th e n ia n ju ry -m em b e rs
g ain ed fro m litig an ts a n d ap p lied to fu tu re cases over tim e.
O ne p ro se c u tio n speech a n d m y o w n h y p o th e tic a l re c o n stru c ­
tio n o f th e defence are n o t en o u g h to give a full sense o f th e so rt o f
sceptical a n d critical d istan ce o n h isto rical ex em p larity w hich I am
ta lk in g a b o u t. B u t th ere are tw o speeches b y D e m o sth en e s a n d th ree
by A eschines w hich offer us a u n iq u e chance to see h o w h isto rical
exam ples w ere u sed a n d critiq u e d b y b o th sides across th ree tria ls.31

31 It is possible that these speeches may have been revised and lengthened for
publication. They may thereby develop their critiques of the other side in more
extended and pronounced ways. See I. Worthington, ‘Greek oratory, revision of
speeches and the problem of historical reliability’, C & M 42 (1991), pp. 55-74
and Worthington, ‘History and oratorical exploitation’. Evidence in the texts for
revision prior to publication after these three trials is limited to one or two specific
cases. See E. M. Harris, Aeschines and Athenian Politics (Oxford and New York:
Oxford University Press, 1995), pp. 10-15.
T hese speeches are A eschines’ A g a in s t T im a rc h u s (A eschines’ p ro se c u ­
tio n o f T im arc h u s in 345); D e m o sth e n e s’ On th e F a lse E m b a s s y a n d
A esch in es’ On th e E m b a s s y (D e m o sth e n es’ p ro se c u tio n o f A eschines
fo r a m b a ssa d o ria l m isco n d u ct in 343); a n d A eschines’ A g a in s t
C tesip h o n a n d D e m o sth e n e s’ On th e C row n (A eschines’ p ro se c u tio n
o f C tesip h o n over his p ro p o sa l to a w a rd a cro w n to D e m o sth en e s in
330). W e d o n o t h av e D e m o sth e n e s’ defence speech fro m th e tria l o f
his frien d T im arc h u s, b u t A eschines’ speech is c o m m en ted u p o n by
D e m o sth en e s in O n th e F a lse E m b a s sy . Space p erm its m e to offer only
a few b rie f a n d highly selective illu stra tio n s.
W e h a v e seen h o w D e m o sth en e s slam m ed A eschines fo r th e alleged
irrelev an ce o f his references to ‘prizes a n d b attles a n d deeds o f o ld ’ in
O n th e C row n (18.209). D e m o sth en e s is talk in g a b o u t a very p o w e r­
ful section o f A eschines’ p ro se c u tio n speech (A esch. 3.181-90). In
o rd e r to arg u e th a t D e m o sth en e s is u n w o rth y o f th e h o n o rific crow n
w hich C te sip h o n p ro p o se d , A eschines c o n tra sts D e m o sth e n e s’ alleged
lip o ta x ia (d esertio n ) w ith th e victories o f T hem istocles a n d M ilitiades
d u rin g th e P ersian W a rs (3.181). H e also invokes th e d em o cratic forces
fro m P hyle a n d A risteides ‘th e J u s t’. A eschines even calls D e m o sth en e s
‘th is b e a s t’ ( to u to th e rio n ), saying th a t it is n o t rig h t to n a m e h im on
th e sam e d ay as these h ero es o f th e an c estral city (181-2). A eschines
goes o n to p o in t o u t th a t n o w ritten o rd e r w as m a d e to cro w n these
an cestral figures fo r th e ir efforts. In ste a d th ey w ere h o n o u re d by
gain in g a p lace in th e im m o rta l m em o ry o f all A th e n ia n s ‘to this d a y ’
(182). T h en h e gives th e ju ry a to u r o f th e S to a o f th e H erm s, th e S to a
P oikile a n d th e M e tro o n , in o rd e r to exam ine in scrip tio n s a n d p a in t­
ings c re a te d in ce le b ratio n o f key m o m e n ts in A th e n s’ histo ry : b attles
ag a in st th e P ersian s a t E io n a n d a t M a ra th o n , fighting o n th e p lains
o f T ro y , a n d th e v ictory o f th e d em o crats fro m P hyle over th e T h irty
a n d th e ir S p a rta n allies (3.183-7, 190). A t each m o n u m e n t, A eschines
‘p erfo rm s a re a d in g ’ o f th e buildings, th e ir in scrip tio n s a n d im ages, to
show th a t in th e o ld days th e A th e n ia n s h o n o u re d th e collective v alo u r
o v er a n d ab o v e th e achievem ents o f in d iv id u a l lead e rs.32 H is p o in t is
th a t th is o ld h a b it b e tte r served A th en s th a n th e p re se n t-d a y p ractice
o f cro w n in g in d iv id u a l b en e fac to rs a n d un d eserv in g scoundrels like
D e m o sth en e s. A s F io n a H o b d e n show s, A eschines’ tactics h ere are
skilful, creative (w ith o u t being id io sy n cratic) a n d striking; a n d w hile
th ey p la y fa st a n d loose w ith th e sym bolism o f th e in scrip tio n s a n d
p a in tin g s h e in te rp re ts, they are very p e rtin e n t to th e case a t h a n d .33

32 Hobden, ‘Imagining past and present’, p. 495.


33 Hobden, ‘Imagining past and present’, pp. 494-8. Hobden draws convincing
parallels with Dem. 23.196-201, delivered in 352 bce, and sees Aesch. 3.183-90
A s we h av e seen, D e m o sth en e s dism isses these ap p eals to th e
p a s t as irrelev an t. B u t h e clearly knew th a t m ere dism issal m ig h t
n o t be en o u g h . So, in th e closing sections o f th e speech, a n d w hile
h e is defen d in g his c o n d u c t since C h a e ro n e a , h e a d o p ts a different
a p p ro a c h (18.314, tr. U sher):

Y o u recall th e g o o d m en o f fo rm e r tim es ( s k a t&v npoTspov


ysysvnpsvrov aya0&v avSp&v pspvnoai): a n d y o u are rig h t to do
so. H ow ever, A th e n ia n s, it is n o t rig h t fo r h im to ta k e ad v a n ta g e
o f th e re g a rd y o u feel fo r th e d e a d by exam ining m e, w ho live
a m o n g y o u , a n d co m p arin g m e w ith them .

D e m o sth en e s co n tin u es w ith a co n v e n tio n a l arg u m en t: m en are


en v ied w hile alive b u t even th e ir enem ies sto p h a tin g th em once they
are d e a d .34 I t is only ju s t a n d fa ir fo r D e m o sth en e s to be ju d g e d a n d
view ed in c o m p a riso n w ith his co n te m p o ra rie s, n o t his predecessors.
F u rth e rm o re , it is w ro n g th a t th e h u g e services w hich these an ces­
to rs re n d e re d sh o u ld b e cited as a m ean s o f eng en d erin g in g ra titu d e
a n d ab u se to w a rd s th o se w ho act w ith g o o d will (eunoia) these days
(316). A s U sh e r p o in ts o u t, this a tta c k o n th e n eg ativ e use o f h isto rical
m o d els h a s affinities w ith A ris to tle ’s a n d A n a x a m in e s’ discussions o f
th e p ro p e r use o f h isto ry in delib erativ e a n d epideictic o ra to ry .35 B ut
D e m o sth e n e s’ n ex t p o in t is less co n v e n tio n a l (317-8, tr. U sh e r ):

M o re o v er, if I m u st say as m u ch , m y policies a n d p rinciples, w hen


ex am in ed , will be seen as sim ilar a n d to h av e th e sam e objectives
as th o se o f th e m en w ho w ere p ra ise d in th e p a st, w hile y o u rs
resem ble th o se o f th e ir d e tra c to rs (^ Ss o^ Talg t&v Toug Toiowoug
tots ouK o^avT ow rav). F o r it is clear th a t in th e ir tim e th e re w ere
m en w ho c a rp e d a t th e living a n d p ra ise d th o se o f p a s t ages, the
sam e m alicio u s p ra ctice (PaoKavov np ay p a) as y o u are follow ing.
So y o u say th a t I am in n o w ay like them ? A re y o u like th em ,
A eschines? Is y o u r b ro th e r? Is an y o f o u r c o n te m p o ra ry p o liti­
cians (t&v vuv pnTop®v)? N o n e , I say. T o say n o m o re, m y fine

as a considerable elaboration of an existing forensic technique found especially in


Demosthenes and Lycurgus, namely ‘the advancement of an argument through
the physicality of the city’ (p. 498). The question of the legality of Ctesiphon’s
proposal to crown Demosthenes and (hence) the respective merits of each
side’s cases and tactics is vexed. See e.g. E. M. Harris, ‘Law and oratory’, in
Worthington, Persuasion, pp. 130-52, at pp. 143-4; Yunis, Demosthenes, pp.
174-83.
34 For the topos, see Thuc. 2.45.1
35 Usher, Demosthenes, p. 275. See Arist. Rhet. 2.22.5-6, Anax. Rhet. ad Alex. 8.
fellow , c o m p are th e living w ith th e living, w ith his peers as in
every o th e r sphere - p o ets, d an cers, athletes.

D e m o sth en e s n o w brings in th e exam ple o f an A th e n ia n b o x e r called


P h ila m m o n w ho h a d clearly w o n th e O lym pic gam es in recen t years.
D e m o sth en e s p o in ts o u t th a t P h ila m m o n did n o t leave O lym pia
w ith o u t a cro w n because h e w as n o t as stro n g as G lau c u s o f C a ru stu s
(a leg en d ary six th -cen tu ry b o x er w ho w on victories in all fo u r p an -
h ellenic gam es). H e w as c ro w n ed a n d p ro c la im e d v icto r because h e
d efeated th o se w ho e n te re d th e rin g a g a in st h im (319). D e m o sth en e s
th e n d raw s a lesson w hich subtly d raw s o n this an a lo g y to ath letic
contests: w hen ‘lo y alty to th e state w as th e focus o f p u b lic c o m p eti­
tio n o p en to all’ - a n d h ere h e is referrin g to th e E la te a assem bly a n d
its a fte rm a th - D e m o sth en e s w as p ro v e d to be th e clear w in n er (320).
All h e asks is th a t h e be c o m p a re d w ith c o n te m p o ra ry rivals in such
co n tests ra th e r th a n b e p itte d ag a in st g reat m en fro m th e p rev io u s
cen tu ry .
T h ese arg u m e n ts fro m D e m o sth en e s exhibit a g re at degree o f c riti­
cal d istan ce a n d self-consciousness co n cern in g th e force a n d a p p lic a ­
bility o f h isto rical p arad ig m s. H e effectively historicises A eschines’
use o f h isto rical exam ples as a n ag e-o ld tac tic o f liars a n d sycophants.
A eschines is ju s t do in g w h a t m alicio u s o ra to rs h av e alw ays done.
E ven th e likes o f M iltiad es a n d T hem istocles w ere subjected to the
PaoKavov n p ay ^ a o f d en ig ra tin g p re se n t c o n d u c t b y c o m p a rin g it w ith
th a t o f d ea d a n c e sto rs.36 O f co u rse D e m o sth en e s h im self uses th e very
tactic h e is h ere criticising in his o th e r speeches.37 B u t h e does n o t
co m m it th a t h y p o crisy in this speech. T h e closest h e com es is to stress
th a t A eschines is n o different fro m D e m o sth en e s in n o t m e asu rin g u p
to th e g reat leaders o f th e early fifth century.
T h is critical h isto ric isa tio n o f A eschines’ use o f h isto ry reso n ates
b ey o n d th e im m ed iate co n c ern to sw ay th e ju ry in this case. F o r it
p re sen ts th e use o f co m m o n ly k n o w n m o d els fro m th e p a s t to belittle
p o litician s o f th e p re se n t as a m e re to p o s designed to secure a n u n ju st
v erd ict o n its victim s.38 W h a t D e m o sth en e s does here, in o th e r w ords,
is to en h a n ce scepticism , suspicion a n d vigilance in his audience c o n ­
cern in g th e w ay in w hich h isto rical co m m o n know ledge is p re sen ted

36 PaoKavog has negative connotations to do with sorcery, envy and (especially)


sycophancy: J. Hesk, Deception and Democracy in Classical Athens (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 2000), p. 213 n. 33; Yunis, Demosthenes, p. 173.
37 E.g. Dem. 21.143-50; 23.196-203.
38 On similar debunkings of other topoi and their significance for thinking about
rhetorical creativity, see J. Hesk, ‘“ Despisers of the commonplace”: Meta-topoi
and para-topoi in Attic oratory’, Rhetorica 25.4 (2007), pp. 361-84.
a n d ap p lied in all fu tu re occasions in w hich they fin d them selves listen ­
ing to arg u m e n ts o f th e so rt w hich A eschines h a s p u t fo rw ard .
T his is n o t to im ply th a t ju ries m ig h t n o t also learn to be w ary o f
D e m o sth e n e s’ ow n ‘h isto ricisin g ’ arg u m e n ts. A eschines’ p ro se c u tio n
speech in th is tria l actu a lly an ticip ates these a rg u m e n ts, including
his reference to P h ila m m o n a n d G lau c u s (3.189). A eschines says th a t
b o x ers are m e a su re d ag a in st each o th e r w hereas th o se w ho a sk fo r a
cro w n fro m th e city are m e a su re d ag a in st ‘v irtu e itself’ (rcpog a m ^ v x^v
apsx^v). D e m o sth en e s c a n ’t expect to be c ro w n ed ju s t b ecau se h e can
d e m o n stra te th a t h e is ‘a b e tte r citizen th a n P a ta e c io n ’. (P atae cio n is
u n k n o w n to us b u t h e w as o bviously a g o o d a n d w ell-know n negative
exam ple o f a c o n te m p o ra ry scoundrel.) T h e p recisio n o f this ‘a n tic i­
p a tio n ’ m ak es it p ossible th a t A eschines ad d e d it to his g re at passage
o n th e g lo rio u s m en a n d deeds o f fifth -cen tu ry h isto ry w hen h e cam e
to revise th e speech fo r p u b lic a tio n . E ven so, it offers a n A th e n ia n
re ad ersh ip a n o th e r layer o f critical distan ce a n d scepticism as they
are sh o w n h o w a h isto ricisin g critiq u e o f h isto rical ex em p larity can
itself be ch allen ged by assertin g th a t th e re are a b so lu te values w hich
are tra n sh isto ric a l. T h e likes o f T hem istocles a n d M iltiad es em b o d y
v irtu es a n d s ta n d a rd s o f c o n d u c t w hich do n o t change.
So we h av e a b a c k -a n d -fo rth p rocess, w hereby th e a p p lica b il­
ity o f alig n m en t strategies b ase d o n co m m o n ly k n o w n exam ples is
d isru p te d th ro u g h a ce rta in critical d istan ce a n d self-consciousness
a b o u t th e use a n d ab u se o f h isto rical a rg u m e n ta tio n . Ju ries w o u ld
also h av e le a rn e d fro m an an a lo g o u s p rocess in a fa m o u s exchange
b etw een D e m o sth en e s a n d A eschines w hich ac tu ally cu ts across
tw o different trials. In A g a in s t T im a rc h u s, A eschines h a d c o n tra ste d
th e d e fe n d a n t’s d ru n k e n a n d flailing p e rfo rm a n c e as a n o ra to r w ith
th e m o d est, self-contained stances o f b y g o n e o ra to rs such as S olon,
Pericles, T h em istocles a n d A ristides (1.25-6). H is evidence is th e
h a n d -in -c lo a k p o se o f S o lo n ’s statu e in th e a g o ra o n Salam is. In O n
the F a lse E m b a ss y , D e m o sth en e s recalls th is arg u m e n t a n d m ak es
th e p o in t th a t th e locals in fo rm ed h im th a t th e statu e is m erely fifty
y ears o ld (19.251). N e ith e r th e scu lp to r n o r even his g ra n d fa th e r was
alive in S o lo n ’s day. D e m o sth en e s th ere b y q u estio n s th e assu m p tio n
th a t th e statu e accu rately m em orialises S o lo n ’s ch a ra c te ristic o r a ­
to ric a l d e m e a n o u r a n d m ak es fu n o f th e fact th a t A eschines im ita te d
th a t sc h e m a to th e ju ry (252). T h e im p lica tio n is th a t A eschines h a d
succeeded in d u p in g th e ju ry w ith b o g u s h isto rical evidence.
T h e statu e re m in d e d th e ju ry o f th e values a n d law s w hich
T im arc h u s w as tra m p lin g on: it w as a so p h ro su n es p a ra d e ig m a (‘a
m o d el o f self-restra in t’, 19.251). A eschines w as using this visible
m o n u m e n t to get th e ju ry to v o te in a c co rd a n ce w ith th e sorts o f
collective co m m itm e n t to rig h t b e h a v io u r w hich th e sta tu e em bodied.
B u t D e m o sth en e s uses th e h isto rical m e th o d o f d a tin g th e evidence
to show th a t A eschines’ alig n m en t strateg y w as achieved at th e cost
o f h isto rical tru th . H e th ere b y co n trib u te s to his au d ien c e’s general
w ariness a b o u t th e legitim acy o f such alig n m en t strategies b y subject­
ing th e m to h isto rical m eth o d : d a te a n a rte fa c t to see if th e claim s
m ad e a b o u t its significance are tru e. D e m o sth en e s th e n realigns the
ex em p larity o f S olon in his ow n fa v o u r (252-3):

his m im icry d id n o t include w h a t, politically, w o u ld h av e been


m u ch m o re p ro fita b le th a n a n a ttitu d e - a view o f S o lo n ’s spirit
a n d p u rp o se , so w idely different fro m his ow n. W h e n Salam is h a d
rev o lted , a n d th e A th e n ia n p eo p le h a d fo rb id d e n u n d e r p en a lty
o f d e a th an y p ro p o sa l fo r its recovery, S olon, accepting th e risk
o f d e a th , co m p o sed a n d recited an elegiac p o em , a n d so retriev ed
th a t c o u n try fo r A th en s a n d re m o v e d a stan d in g d ish o n o u r.
A eschines, o n th e o th e r h a n d , gave aw ay a n d sold A m p h ip o lis, a
city w hich th e king o f P ersia a n d all G reece recognised as yours,
sp eak in g in su p p o rt o f th e re so lu tio n m o v ed by P hilocrates.

S o lo n ’s Salam is elegy h a d a m u ch b e tte r claim to being g o o d h is to ri­


cal evidence fo r S o lo n ’s v irtu es th a n th e statu e. A n d so, D e m o sth en e s
ra m s h o m e th e c o n tra s t betw een p a trio tic S olon a n d tre a c h e ro u s
A eschines. A ju ry m ay n o t h av e seen h o w th ey w ere being p lay ed
by D e m o sth en e s h ere b u t, once ag ain , th ey w ere a t least offered an
exam ple o f h o w to test a n d critiq u e a n o r a to r ’s h isto rical claim s
th ro u g h a fo rm o f h isto ricisin g scepticism a n d suspicion a b o u t the
evidence p resen ted .
M y final exam ple o f th e w ay in w hich th e o ra to rs co n test th e force
a n d ap p lica b ility o f w ell-know n h isto rical p a ra d ig m s com es fro m
A esch in es’ speech O n th e E m b a s s y . I t offers us a ra re , if u n d o u b te d ly
p a rtia l, re p re se n ta tio n o f th e w ay in w hich th e significance o f h isto rical
p re ced e n t w as co n teste d in th e p olicy d eb ates o f th e A ssem bly d u rin g
th e fo u rth ce n tu ry . D e m o sth e n e s’ ch arg e o f a m b a ssa d o ria l m isco n ­
d u ct ag a in st A eschines p a rtly re ste d o n th e claim th a t A eschines h a d
ch a n g ed his tu n e d u rin g A ssem bly d eb ates o v er w h e th e r to accept
a p eace ag reem en t w ith M ac ed o n . In response, A eschines describes
his ow n c o n trib u tio n to a n A ssem bly d eb a te as to w h e th e r to accept
P h ilo c ra te s’ p ro p o s a l o f a peace (2.74-8). W e h e a r h o w th e o p p o n e n ts
o f p eace a tte m p te d to co m p a re th e ir s u p p o rt fo r c o n tin u in g hostilities
to th e v icto ry a t S alam is a n d h o w th ey u rg e d th e citizens to lo o k to th e
P ro p y la e a o f th e A cro p o lis a n d ‘th e to m b s a n d tro p h ies o f o u r an ces­
to rs ’ (2.74). B u t A eschines go t u p a n d p o in te d o u t th a t th e A th en ian s
sh o u ld ‘im itate o u r a n c e sto rs’ w isdom (eu b o u lia ) b u t av o id th e ir e rro rs
a n d ill-tim ed a m b itio n ’ (a k a iro s p h lio n ik ia , 75). H e called o n th em
to em u late P la ta e a , Salam is, M a ra th o n , A rte m isiu m a n d th e h ero ic
ca m p a ig n o f T olm ides. B u t h e also e n u m e ra te d fifth -cen tu ry acts o f
folly w hich sh o u ld b e avoided: th e Sicilian ex p e d itio n a n d (especially)
th e c o rru p t C le o p h o n ’s refu sal to accep t p eace o n fa v o u ra b le term s
w ith S p a rta afte r C yzicus a n d A rg in o u sa e (76). H e th e n d etailed th e
resu ltin g folly (a b o u lia ) o f th e T h irty T y ra n ts a n d th e ir atro cities (77).
A eschines th e n links th e h isto rical lesson h e delivered to th e A ssem bly
to th e p erso n a l testim o n y a n d experience o f his ow n fam ily (7 7 -8 , tr.
C arey):

A n d I learn ed o f these events n o t fro m o u tsid ers b u t fro m


m y closest relativ e o f all. O u r fa th e r A tro m e tu s, th e m a n you
in su lt th o u g h y o u do n o t k n o w h im a n d nev er saw th e m a n he
w as in his y o u th - d espite th e fact, D e m o sth en e s, th a t y o u ’re
d escen d ed fro m S cy th ian n o m a d s o n y o u r m o th e r’s side - w ent
in to exile u n d e r th e T h irty a n d p a rtic ip a te d in th e re sto ra tio n
o f dem o cracy. A n d o u r m o th e r’s b ro th e r, o u r uncle C leo b u lu s
son o f G lau c u s o f A c h a rn a e , served w ith D e m a e n e tu s o f the
B uzygae w h en h e d efeated th e S p a rta n ad m ira l C h ilo n a t sea.
So th e city ’s m isfo rtu n es are w ell-know n fam ily stories I h av e
h e a rd often.

A esch in es’ p o in t h ere is th a t h e d a re d to sp eak o f A th e n s ’ p a s t failures


a n d fo o lish n ess as well as its glories. H e ch allen g ed a b lin d m ilitary
h aw k ish n ess g ro u n d e d in an id ealised im age o f A th e n s ’ fifth -cen tu ry
a d v e n tu res w ith a m o re critical a n d p ra g m a tic stance in w hich A th e n s’
h isto ry in clu d ed terrib le m istak es a n d th e ir d isastro u s consequences.
A n d th a t stance, h e claim s, w as th e p ro d u c t n o t o f p u b lic know ledge
o r ex tern al influences b u t o f th e very p e rso n a l a n d in tim a te first-h a n d
kn o w led g e a n d experience w hich h e g ain ed fro m his fa th e r a n d his
fam ily.
O bviously, this is m e a n t to tu g a t th e ju r y ’s h e a rtstrin g s a n d re p ­
resen t A eschines as a n adviser o f som e acu m en a n d d arin g , w hose
learn in g is h o m e sp u n ra th e r th a n b o o k ish . H e also show s th a t his
a p p lic a tio n o f h isto rical ju d g e m e n t to th e q u estio n o f P h ilo c ra te s’
peace is u ltim ate ly derived fro m his ow n fam ily ’s ro o ted n e ss in th e
struggles o f th e city ’s p a st. A tro m e tu s a n d C leo b o u lu s h av e fo u g h t
o n th e side o f th e d em o crats a n d ag a in st th e S p a rta n s respectively.
T h eir in v o lv em en t in h isto ry u n d ersco res A eschines’ legitim acy in all
senses a n d p ro v id es a c o n tra s t w ith D e m o sth e n e s’ alleged S cythian
b lo o d . B u t A eschines’ d esc rip tio n o f th e A ssem bly d eb a te also show s
us th a t th e d em o s nev er h a d one settled o r d o m in a n t set o f h isto rical
p ara d ig m s w hich sh ap e d a n d c o o rd in a te d th e ir ac tio n s a n d attitu d e s.
A eschines stressed th e foolishness a n d th e c o n se q u en t suffering o f
his au d ien c e’s an c esto rs as m u ch as o r m o re th a n th e ir b ra v ery a n d
w isd o m in o rd e r to m a k e his p o in t. A lig n m en t strategies w ere q u es­
tio n e d a n d c o u n te re d w ith different selections a n d in n o v ativ e fram ings
o f th e p a st. A eschines’ rh e to ric h ere also show s th a t it w as som etim es
im p o rta n t a n d effective to co u ch co m m o n ly k n o w n events in term s o f
th e very p e rso n a l, p riv a te a n d p ain fu l ‘kn o w led g e’ o f in d iv id u als a n d
fam ilies.
N o w , I stress th a t n o n e o f this deals a fa ta l blow to O b e r’s a rg u ­
m en ts a b o u t th e crucial ro le th a t th e c re a tio n a n d dispersal o f
co m m o n k n ow ledge p la y e d in successfully aligning citizens in re la tio n
to p u b lic ac tio n p ro b lem s. O b e r sees in n o v a tio n , new learn in g a n d
critiq u e as th e lifeb lo o d o f th e A th e n ia n d em o cracy ’s special success.39
A n d h e n ev er claim s th a t co m m o n know ledge w as perfectly achieved
o r alw ays co rrectly ap p lied in A th e n s’ legal o r delib erativ e spheres.
So, h e co u ld easily say th a t D e m o sth e n e s’ a n d A eschines’ a n ta g o n istic
a n d creativ e self-consciousness a b o u t h isto rical exam ples are grist to
his m ill.
B u t O b e r’s em p h asis o n ‘co m m o n k n o w led g e’ a b o u t th e p a s t as
a re so u rce fo r in fo rm in g verdicts a n d d elib eratio n s w hich w o u ld be
p re d ic tab le a n d m a in ta in ce rta in co m m itm en ts does n o t do full ju stic e
to th e w ay in w hich h isto rical exam ples are co n teste d in A th e n ia n
o ra to ry . W e h av e seen th a t these o ra tio n s fro m 345-330 bce also
en c o u rag e d ju ries to be aw are th a t th e m ak in g o f know ledge is never
a d isin terested o r n e u tra l business; th a t it is o n e th in g to k n o w the
p a st, b u t q u ite a n o th e r to ap p ly th a t know ledge fairly o r usefully. F o r
in A th en s, th e p a s t is n ev e r p re se n te d to th e p re se n t fo r its ow n sake.
In th a t sense it w as a n aw areness o f th e rh e to ric ity o f th e m ak in g o f
k n o w ledge a b o u t th e p a s t in c e rta in settings w hich w as as useful as th e
m ak in g o f th e know ledge itself. T h a t aw areness m ean s th a t we h av e
to b alan c e O b e r’s stress o n th e im p o rta n c e o f p u b lic know ledge o f th e
p a s t as a m ean s o f aligning citizens w ith a c o n c o m ita n t em phasis on
th e law -c o u rts’ fo sterin g o f a critical a n d suspicious aw areness th a t
one is alw ays being m a d e subject to alignm ent.

39 Ober, Democracy and Knowledge, pp. 105, 122-3, 180-1.


PLATO AND THE STABILITY OF
HISTORY

Kathryn A. Morgan

It is a difficult ta s k to iso late a P la to n ic th e o ry o f h isto ry , a n d equally


p ro b le m a tic to specify th e fu n c tio n h e th o u g h t h isto rical discourse
sh o u ld p erfo rm . P la to surely knew th e w o rk s o f H e ro d o tu s a n d
T h u cy d id es, a n d also th e m o re p o p u la r fo rm s o f h isto rical discourse,
as his m asterly p astich e o f th e fu n e ral o ra tio n in th e M e n e x e n u s
sh o w s.1 L ike T h u cy d id es, h e nev er explicitly defines th e genre we
call ‘h is to ry ’, p re ferrin g to sp eak o f ‘in q u iry in to an c ie n t m a tte rs ’ o r
‘th e tr u th a b o u t an cien t m a tte rs ’. W h e n h e talk s a b o u t th e a u th o rs
o f su g g r a m a ta , technical treatises, h e ca n envision w o rk s o n law a n d
g o v ern m en t, m edicine o r rh e to ric , b u t n o t (a p p are n tly ) h isto rical
co m p o sitio n s. A s we shall see, h isto rical n a rra tiv e in P la to strays
in to te rrito ry closely asso ciated w ith m y th , a n d p a r t o f th e ta s k o f
th is c h a p te r is to investigate th e im p licatio n s o f this overlap. I shall
be fo cu sin g m y a tte n tio n o n a g ro u p o f n a rra tiv e s fro m dialogues
th a t are generally re g a rd e d as late a n d th a t allow us a g o o d view o f
th e sweep o f th e p ast: th e S ta te s m a n , th e T im a e u s a n d C ritia s, a n d
B o o k 3 o f th e L a w s. A ll o f th em p re se n t a cosm ic h isto ry m a rk e d
by catacly sm a n d d estru c tio n , a lth o u g h each h a s a slightly different

The author wishes to express her thanks to Claudia Rapp, Andrea Nightingale, Alex
Purves and Mario Telo.
1 R. Weil, L ’‘archeologie’ de Platon (Paris: C. Klincksieck, 1959), pp. 26, 45. For
an example of Plato’s intertextual relationship with Herodotus see the discussion
of Plato’s Solon in Egypt below. For Thucydides and Plato see S. Hornblower,
Thucydides (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987), pp. 112-25. For
a recent discussion of the Menexenus (and connections with the funeral oration)
see S. D. Collins and D. Stauffer, ‘The challenge of Plato’s Menexenus’, Review o f
Politics 61 (1999), pp. 85-115; F. Pownall, Lessons from the Past: The Moral Use
o f History in Fourth-Century Prose (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press,
2004), pp. 38-64. On the whole I align myself with Loraux’s view of the oration in
the Menexenus as an ironic manipulation of generic commonplaces (N. Loraux,
The Invention o f Athens, tr. A. Sheridan (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University
Press, 1986), pp. 176, 189, 264-70; first published as L ’invention d’Athenes:
Histoire de l’oraison funebre dans la ‘cite classique’ (Paris: Mouton, 1981)).
flav o u r. S urveying these n a rra tiv e s will allow us to c o n c e n tra te on
som e d istinctive featu res o f P la to ’s a p p ro a c h to th e p ast: th e w ay th a t
th e p a s t a n d th e in v estig atio n o f it are cu t o ff fro m th e p re sen t, a n d
th e circu m stan ces u n d e r w hich th e p a s t m ay b e allow ed to in fo rm
o u r c u rre n t p ro jects. A fte r sketching th e c o n te n t o f these cosm ic h is­
to ries, I shall lo o k briefly a t a n influential p a ra d ig m fo r in te rp re tin g
P la to ’s ‘th e o ry o f h isto ry ’ b efo re suggesting a ch an g e in focus: ra th e r
th a n ask in g w h e th e r P la to th o u g h t h isto ry co n fo rm ed to a p a tte rn ,
we sh o u ld exam ine h o w h e h istoricises th e h isto rio g ra p h ic im pulse
a n d th e ro le a n d usefulness h e assigns to h isto rical know ledge. In this
c o n n e c tio n it will p ro v e significant th a t P la to c o n stru c ts a universe
w here lo n g -term ac cu ra te h isto rical know ledge tu rn s o u t to be b o th
im p o ssib le a n d p o ssib ly irrelev an t.

HISTORIES OF CATACLYSM
Issues o f h isto rical tim e a n d n a rra tiv e are n o t p ro m in e n t in P la to ’s
early a n d m id d le dialogues. T his is in keeping w ith th e ir ethical focus;
discussion centres o n u n d e rsta n d in g th e soul a n d its v ario u s virtues.
T h e te m p o ra l p erspective u n d e r w hich we are to view th e soul is a long
one, since th e soul is im m o rta l a n d will b e re b o rn (R e sp . 4 9 8 c-d ) a n d
in d iv id u a l lifetim es are trivial in co m p a riso n w ith all o f tim e (R esp .
6 0 8 c-d ). In som e o f th e la te r dialogues, how ever, we see a g re ater
in tere st in (tru ly u n iv ersal) h isto ry a n d in th e p rocess by w hich h is­
to ric a l n a rra tiv e s are c o n stru c te d . T h e co n tex t o f these ac co u n ts is
co sm ic h isto ry (an alo g o u s to th e longue d u ree in w hich we m u st place
th e soul), a n d leaves ro o m fo r th e c o n sid e ra tio n (in S ta te s m a n a n d
T im a e u s ) o f th e activity o f a c re a to r deity. T hese ac co u n ts all spring
fro m th e p o s tu la tio n o f cosm ic u p h ea v al a n d deploy a p a rtic u la r h is­
to rio g ra p h ic strategy: th a t o f th e ra tio n a lisa tio n o f m yth.
L et us s ta rt w ith th e S ta te s m a n . H ere (268d-269c) an E leatic
S tran g er tells th e y o u n g er S ocrates th a t th ey m u st use a ‘g re at m y th ’
in th e ir search fo r th e definition o f a king - p a rtic u la rly a p p ro p ria te
since y o u n g S ocrates is only ju s t b e y o n d c h ild h o o d .2 In this instance
th e m y th s in q u estio n are, first, th e sto ry o f A tre u s a n d th e reversal
o f th e co u rse o f th e sun a n d o th e r h eavenly bodies in th e sky; second,
th a t o f th e A ge o f C ro n u s; a n d th ird , a u to c h th o n y .

2 For the connection between myth and childhood, see L. P. Brisson, Plato the
Myth Maker, ed. and tr. G. Naddaf (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998),
pp. 62, 82-3; K. A. Morgan, M yth and Philosophy from the Presocratics to Plato
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), pp. 175-7, 251-2.
A ll o f th ese arise fro m th e sam e event, a n d in ad d itio n to these
co u n tless o th e rs even m o re am azin g th a n these, b u t because o f
th e len g th o f tim e som e o f th e m h av e fa d ed fro m m em o ry , w hile
o th ers are sp oken o f separately, sca tte red each fro m th e o th er.
N o o n e h a s to ld th e event th a t causes all o f th em , b u t it m u st now
be to ld . F o r telling it will be fittin g fo r o u r d e m o n stra tio n o f the
king.

T h e tr u th in q u estio n is th a t th e w o rld goes th ro u g h p h ases in its


ro ta tio n , in w hich G o d a lte rn a te ly helps th e ro ta tio n a n d th e n lets
go, so th a t th e d irectio n o f ro ta tio n is reversed. W h en ev er a reversal
o ccurs, th ere is g reat d e stru c tio n (269c-271a). A u to c h th o n y belongs
to a p e rio d o f divine c o n tro l u n d e r th e rule o f C ro n u s (2 7 1 a -d ),
w h ereas sexual re p ro d u c tio n belongs to th e c u rre n t age a n d th o se like
it (273e-274a). W h e n g o d gives u p c o n tro l o f th e w o rld , a g ra d u al
decline in to ch ao s occurs because o f th e p re d o m in a n c e o f th e b odily
fa c to r, a n d this, in th e en d , causes g o d to ta k e c o n tro l once m o re .3 T he
‘h is to ry ’ in th is scenario is fairly m in im al a n d schem atic, b ro u g h t in
to set u p p o litical analysis. I t does, h ow ever, m a k e use o f th e fa m iliar
h isto rio g ra p h ic tro p e o f th e fa d in g o f m em o ry th ro u g h tim e, a n d also
th e discovery o f an u n d erly in g cause th a t explains a n u m b e r o f d if­
feren t p h en o m en a . I t also uses tra n sfo rm a tio n s o f m y th as basis fo r
a new analysis. L ike H e catae u s a n d A cusilaus w ith th e ir ra tio n a lisin g
n a rra tiv e s, th e S tran g er lo o k s fo r a h isto rical tr u th th a t lies b e h in d
m y th o lo g ica l ac c o u n ts.4
In th e T im a e u s, th e focus shifts fu rth e r (th o u g h n o t so very far)
to w a rd s h isto rical n a rra tiv e as we w o u ld u n d e rsta n d it a n d to w ard s
th e p ro cesses by w hich such n a rra tiv e s are developed a n d tra n sm itte d .
T h e ac tio n o f b o th T im a e u s a n d C ritia s is set in m o tio n by S o cra te s’
desire to see th e ideal p o lis in ac tio n a n d p erfo rm in g som ething
w o rth y o f it (Ti. 19b-c). T his desire will be fulfilled b y th e n a r ra tio n in
su m m ary (a n d p a rtly also in full) o f th e sto ry o f th e an cien t struggle
b etw een th e em pire o f A tla n tis a n d A th en s m a n y th o u s a n d s o f years
b efo re. N o one in A th en s know s this story, a p a rt fro m its n a r ra to r
C ritia s a n d his fam ily (a n d n o w his audience in th e dialogue). H o w

3 This scenario of alternating revolutions is fraught with interpretative difficulties. Is


our current age one controlled by deity or not? Is the ‘Age of Cronus’ in the myth
opposed to the ‘Age of Zeus’ in terms of its revolution? Consideration of these
problems is beyond the scope of this chapter, but G. R Carone, ‘Reversing the
myth of the Politicus’, CQ 54 (2004), pp. 88-108, works through the issues in detail
(with a review of the scholarship).
4 For Hecataeus and Acusilaus, see C. Fornara, The Nature o f History in Greece
and Rome (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983), pp. 4-6; Morgan, Myth
and Philosophy, pp. 65-6.
th e n h a s it b een preserved? B ecause S olon once, we are to ld , b ro u g h t
th e tale b a c k fro m his travels in E gypt, w here h e h a d h a d a n in te re st­
ing e n c o u n te r w ith a n E g y p tian p riest. O f p a rtic u la r in tere st fo r us is
th e p rie s t’s assessm ent o f G re e k h isto rical know ledge. H e tells S olon,
w ho is a tte m p tin g to d ra w h im o u t a b o u t th e p a st, th a t th e G reek s are
in tellectu al children:

‘Y o u are all y o u n g ,’ h e said, ‘in y o u r souls, fo r y o u h av e in th em


n o an cien t re p o rt fro m a n tiq u e h ea rsay , n o r an y learn in g grey
w ith age. T h e re a so n fo r this is th e follow ing: th e re h av e been
a n d will b e m a n y d estru c tio n s o f m a n k in d fo r m a n y re aso n s, th e
g re atest th ro u g h fire a n d w ater, b u t o th e r lesser ones because o f
co u n tless different causes. T h e sto ry th a t is to ld even by y o u - th a t
P h a e th o n , th e child o f th e Sun, once y o k ed his fa th e r’s c h a rio t,
b u t becau se h e w as u n a b le to drive alo n g his fa th e r’s ro u te h e
b u rn e d som e p a rts o f th e e a rth a n d w as h im self d estro y e d b y a
th u n d e rb o lt - this h a s th e fo rm o f a m y th , b u t th e tru th is a devia­
tio n o f th e h eavenly bo d ies as they m o v ed a ro u n d th e e a rth , a n d
th e d e stru c tio n o f th e surface o f th e e a rth o v er a lo n g p e rio d o f
tim e .’ (T i. 2 2 b -d )

O nce ag ain G re e k m y th s are p re se n te d as reflections o f a n u n d e rly ­


ing h isto rical reality to w hich th e G reek s them selves are oblivious.
G re ek ig n o ran c e m ean s th a t th ey are u n a w a re o f th e am azin g story
o f an cien t A th en s a n d A tla n tis, b o th cities fo u n d e d by gods, w here
th e fo rm e r a p p ro x im a te d th e excellences o f th e ideal state o f the
R e p u b lic a n d th e la tte r declined fro m an cien t v irtu e in to greed a n d
im perialism .
In o u r th ird exhibit, L a w s B o o k 3, th e in te rlo c u to rs, led by an
A th e n ia n S tran g er, are try in g to in v estig ate th e first beg in n in g o f a
state, as p a r t o f th e ir in q u iry in to law s a n d law givers, alo n g w ith the
d ev elo p m en t o f v irtu e a n d vice.

- I th in k [th at we ca n stu d y th e dev elo p m en t o f vice a n d v irtu e in


a city] sta rtin g fro m th e expanse o f tim e a n d o u r inexperience o f
it a n d th e changes th a t ta k e p lace in it.
- W h a t do y o u m ean?
- W ell, d o y o u th in k th a t y o u ever co u ld learn th e a m o u n t o f tim e
th a t h a s o cc u rre d in th e p e rio d cities h a v e existed a n d m en h av e
fo rm e d g o v ern m en ts in them ?
- N o t a t all easily.
- B u t it w o u ld be im m ense a n d im possible to g ra p p le w ith?
- A b so lu tely.
- So th en , is n ’t it th e case th a t countless cities in countless
lan d s h a v e com e in to existence a m o n g us d u rin g this tim e, a n d
acco rd in g to th e sam e ca lc u latio n o f ex ten t n o few er h av e been
d estro y ed . A n d these cities h av e been go v ern ed w ith all fo rm s o f
g o v ern m en t a t v ario u s tim es in every lo catio n . S om etim es they
h av e b eco m e g re ater a fte r being sm all a n d som etim es sm aller
afte r b eing g reat, a n d w orse a fte r being b e tte r a n d b e tte r afte r
b eing w orse. (L e g . 6 7 6 a-c)

T h e im m en sity o f h isto rical tim e is a n o b stacle to d etailed kno w led g e.5


A n in tere stin g co ro lla ry is th a t alm o st an y conceivable fo rm o f gov­
ern m e n t h a s ex isted a t som e p o in t. T h e ta sk , th erefo re, is to discover
th e cause o f ch an g e a n d in tu rn th e b asic fo rm o f a city. Y et th e n o tio n
o f th e h isto rical p a s t as a k in d o f archive in w hich all p ossible po litical
c o m b in a tio n s a n d th u s h isto rical traje cto ries are sto red challenges th e
significance o f an y o n e h isto rical n a rra tiv e . A ny h isto ry one tells will
be m erely a n ex am ple o f a m o re general type. W e shall see la te r h o w
th e a c c o u n t o f th e L a w s , d espite its claim s to do ju stic e to p a rtic u la r
G re ek h isto ries, is in fact in th ra ll to a m o d el o f p a ra d ig m a tic h isto ry .
F o r th e m o m en t, h ow ever, we m u st re tu rn to th e ra tio n a lis a tio n o f
m y th , w hich m ak es its a p p e a ra n c e a t L eg . 677a. H e re th e S tran g er
asks C linias th e C retan :

- D o y o u th in k th a t an cien t tales h av e a ce rtain tru th ?


- W h a t so rt o f tales?
- T h a t th ere h av e been m an y d estru c tio n s o f m a n k in d d u e to
in u n d a tio n s a n d sicknesses a n d m a n y o th e r th in g s, in w hich only
a sm all p a r t o f m a n k in d is left.
- E v ery o n e th in k s th a t so m eth in g like this is credible.

H ere in th e L a w s th e A th e n ia n S tra n g e r’s in te rlo c u to r finds n o th in g


stran g e in th e ra tio n a lisin g a ssu m p tio n th a t th e re is tr u th b e h in d
m y th s o f d isaster; it is so o b v io u s as alm o st n o t to n eed co m m en t.
T his is certain ly n o t th e case w hen th e th e o ry o f cyclic d estru c tio n s
o f m a n k in d is p re se n te d in th e T im a e u s a n d th e S ta te s m a n , w here
th e E leatic S tran g er a n d th e E g y p tian p riest are telling th e ir resp ec­
tive audiences so m eth in g th ey d id n o t k n o w b efo re . T h e L a w s , th en ,
gen erates a n a tm o sp h e re o f consensus ra th e r th a n rev elatio n , a n d it is
n o accid en t th a t this occurs in a d ialogue w here th e m o v em en t fro m

5 The adjectives apleton and amechanon here (‘immense’ and ‘impossible to


grapple with’) lend a heroic note, as though the investigator is wrestling with a
monstrous beast.
p a s t to p re se n t to fu tu re is m o st sm o o th ly effected - a p o in t to w hich
we shall re tu rn .
In th e T im a e u s, S ta te s m a n a n d L a w s , th e p ro b le m w ith h isto rical
k n o w ledge is n o t ju s t th e n o rm a l difficulty o f finding o u t w h a t h a p ­
p e n e d lo n g ago, b u t th a t cosm ic obstacles are set in th e w ay o f inves­
tig atio n . I f m o st o f h u m a n ity is perio d ically w iped o u t by fires, floods
a n d /o r cosm ic reversals, we h av e to deal n o t ju s t w ith th e p ro b lem s o f
m em o ry o r p a rtisa n sh ip , b u t also w ith cu ltu ra l tra u m a as civilisation is
p erio d ically fo rced to begin anew . A s we shall see, th e cultures o f each
cycle h av e n o u n d e rsta n d in g o f th e cycle th a t h a s p reced ed th e ir ow n,
o r even o f th e fact (a n d its im p licatio n s) th a t h isto ry is cyclic. T h eir
view p o in t m u st, th erefo re, be ch ro n o lo g ically p a ro c h ia l. T h e im m e n ­
sity o f tim e envisaged by P la to ’s speakers is expo n en tially g re ater th a n
th a t w hich causes p ro b lem s fo r H e ro d o tu s a n d T hucydides, b o th o f
w h o m face th e p ro b le m th a t know ledge is lo st w ith th e passage o f
tim e .6 T h e g re at stretch o f h isto ry in q u estio n in P la to ’s dialogues
is n o t con fin ed to th e ages analy sed by th e G re ek h isto rian s, b u t
stretches b a c k even fu rth e r. T o be sure, w ithin o u r cycle o u r fam iliar
h isto ria n s m a y well h av e p ro d u c e d in terestin g ac co u n ts (w hich w ould,
in tu rn , h av e to b e ju d g e d by P la to n ic p o litical a n d ethical stan d ard s),
b u t th e sch em a we h av e b een sketching reco n tex tu alises th em a n d th u s
ch an g es th e ir m ean in g , b y p ro jec tin g a fu tu re p o in t afte r w hich b o th
th e ir k n ow ledge a n d th e ir m eth o d o lo g y will b e lost. T h e only cu ltu ra l
m em o ry th a t survives th e cycles is one o f cosm ic tra u m a a n d th e p a st,
as a resu lt, becom es m yth o lo g ised . L ike early historicising ra tio n a lis­
ers, P la to ’s a u th o rita tiv e speakers ca n strip aw ay th e m y th o lo g ical veil
a n d reveal th e m o re m u n d a n e tru th u n d e rn e a th . T h ere is, how ever,
a difference. In v e stig ato rs such as H e catae u s w o u ld ra tio n a lise m y th
b y strip p in g aw ay th e m arv ello u s to leave th e m erely credible (thus
H eracles d id n o t descend to th e U n d e rw o rld a n d defeat th e h o u n d o f
hell, b u t killed a p a rtic u la rly p o iso n o u s snake n ic k n a m e d th e ‘h o u n d
o f H a d e s ’, F G r H is t 1 F 27). P la to ’s ra tio n a lisa tio n s w o rk in th e o p p o ­
site d irectio n , revealing a tru th m o re terrifying a n d m arv ello u s th a n we
h a d expected: n o t P h a e th o n falling fro m his c h a rio t, b u t th e e n d o f life
as we k n o w it. W h e n th e E leatic S tran g er in th e S ta te s m a n m en tio n s
th e m y th s o f A tre u s a n d P h a e th o n , h e tak es care to in fo rm his a u d i­
ence th a t th ere are ‘countless o th ers even m o re am azin g th a n th ese’.
T h e u n iverse is, th en , m o re surp risin g th a n we th in k . P la to ’s re le n t­
less focus o n th e big (cosm ic) p ic tu re m ak es th e w o rk o f th e h isto ria n s

6 Hdt. 1.1, Thuc. 1.1.3: ‘What happened before [this war] and even earlier was
impossible to discover because of the amount of time (aaqxag |isv stipsiv Sia xpovou
nXfjBog aSwaxa qv).’ Cf. Weil, L ’‘archeologie’ de Platon, p. 17.
a n d h isto ricisin g ra tio n a lisers o f m y th seem sm all by c o m p ariso n .
O n e w ay o f u n d e rsta n d in g th e c o n tra st is to view it as reflecting th e
difference betw een cosm ology (w ith its u n iversal in terests) a n d h is­
to rio g ra p h y (w ith its focus o n res g e s ta e ). T h is is in d eed a g erm ane
d istin c tio n , b u t w h a t is m o st in tere stin g fo r p re se n t p u rp o se s is th a t
th e k in d o f cosm os we in h a b it (one ch a rac te rised by c a ta stro p h e a n d
d isco n tin u ity ) d ictates th e n a tu re o f h isto rio g ra p h y a n d its co n n e ctio n
w ith th e disco u rse o f m y th .7 T h e im p o sitio n o f p e rio d ic c a ta stro p h e
m ean s th a t h isto rical a n d m y th o lo g ica l in v estig atio n m u st address
issues o f ra d ic al d isco n tin u ity . M o re o v er, because c a ta stro p h e creates
c u ltu ra l d isco n tin u ity a n d tra u m a , m y th o lo g isin g becom es a n in es­
c a p ab le asp ect o f th e in v estig atio n o f th e p a st, ra th e r th a n (as it is fo r
T h u cy d id es) a p o e tic o r sen tim en tal ten d en cy th a t can b e overcom e
by th e rig o ro u s a p p lic a tio n o f strin g en t m eth o d o lo g ic al stan d ard s.
T h e d e stru c tio n o f c u ltu re a t th e tim e o f c a ta s tro p h e w o u ld also en tail
th e d e stru c tio n o f an y h isto rio g ra p h ic sta n d a rd s. P o p u la r m y th s
a b o u t floods a n d co n fla g ratio n are all th a t is left a n d access to lo n g ­
te rm h isto ry is th u s th ro u g h ra tio n a lisa tio n o f m y th , so th a t m y th ical
p a tte rn s ta k e a p rivileged a n d fo u n d a tio n a l role.

A PATTERN OF DECADENCE?
T h e recu rren ce o f p a tte rn s o f catacly sm h a s te m p te d som e to re a d
‘d ec ad en c e’ as P la to ’s g o verning n o tio n o f h isto ry . In 1951, R . G .
B u ry p re se n te d a succinct su m m ary o f this a p p ro a c h . W e h av e seen
alre ad y h o w in th e S ta te s m a n th e w o rld slow ly decays w hen g o d
rem oves his h a n d fro m th e tiller o f th e cosm os. T h is is cau sed by th e
b o d ily elem ent in th e cosm os, w hich g ra d u ally causes th e w o rld to
m o v e to w a rd s its o rig in al d ish arm o n y u n til it is in d a n g e r o f d e stru c ­
tio n (a t w hich p o in t g o d a g a in tak es over) (273a-e). In th e R e p u b lic
th e id ealised p o lis is subject to decline: ‘since ev erything th a t is b o rn is
subject to d estru c tio n , n o t even a c o n stitu tio n like this will e n d u re fo r
all tim e, b u t it will b e d issolved’ (8.546a). A fte r th is in tro d u c tio n , we
are p re se n te d w ith th e g ra d u a l d eg e n era tio n o f th e city in to ty ran n y .
So to o in th e T im a e u s/C ritia s we observe A tla n tis sinking (so to
speak) in to vice a n d defeat because o f th e fa d in g o f th e divine elem ent
in its kings a n d th e co n c o m ita n t g ro w th o f greed. F in a lly B o o k 3 o f
th e L a w s n a rra te s th e d e te rio ra tio n o f th e D o ria n states (except fo r
S p arta), as well as th a t o f A th en s a n d P ersia (th e rep resen tativ es o f
p u re d em o cratic a n d m o n a rc h ic c o n stitu tio n s).8 I f we a d d to this

7 A point also made in passing by Weil, L ’‘archeologie’ de Platon, pp. 13-14.


8 R. G. Bury, ‘Plato and history’, CQ 44 (1951), pp. 86-93, at pp. 86-9.
p ic tu re a n o stalg ic p o rtra y a l o f th e A ge o f C ro n u s in L a w s B o o k 4
(7 1 3 b -e), we h av e a tem p tin g ly sim ple p ic tu re o f th e pessim istic p h i­
lo so p h er. In this a p p ro a c h , h u m a n greed a n d c o rru p tio n , stem m ing
fro m th e b o d ily n a tu re o f th e cosm os, d ic ta te h isto rical d eg e n era­
tio n , o n b o th th e cosm ic a n d th e h isto ric level. F o r B u ry a n d o th e r
ad h e ren ts o f this a p p ro a c h , h u m a n n a tu re gives shape to h istory:
‘U ltim a te ly all th e p h e n o m e n a , all th e seco n d ary causes o f H isto ry are
to be tra c e d b a c k to o n e a n d th e sam e p rim a ry C ause, th e Soul. T h a t
is th e lesson w hich P la to w o u ld teac h th e h isto rian : it is th e core o f his
P h ilo so p h y o f H is to ry .’9 In a sim ilar vein R a y m o n d W eil a rg u e d th a t
th e p seu d o -h isto ry o f th e T im a e u s , a h isto ry th a t h a d all th e virtues
o f m y th , allo w ed P la to to define h isto rical cau sality specifically as
th e rh y th m s o f th e w o rld a n d th e q u ality o f souls. T hese tw o w ere
in terlin k ed : ‘I t is only th ro u g h th e m ed ia tio n o f p assio n s th a t m a te ria l
causes o p e ra te .’10 T h u s cataclysm s a n d h eavenly d eclin atio n s w o u ld
be m a te ria l causes th a t express psychic d istu rb an ces. W e w o u ld be
d ealing w ith th e o p e ra tio n s o f a n en -so u led cosm os w here th e p a th e tic
fallacy o f p ro jec tin g h u m a n p assio n s o n to n a tu re is n o fallacy.
T h is line o f in te rp re ta tio n , especially in its cru d e fo rm , is ov erstated .
It seem s u n likely th a t th e schem atic p re se n ta tio n o f psychic a n d civic
decline in to ty ra n n y th a t we m eet in th e R e p u b lic is m e a n t to reflect
ac tu a l processes. T his is surely one in stan ce w here we m a y fru itfu lly
dep lo y F ru tig e r’s n o tio n th a t d iach ro n ic p re se n ta tio n in P la to can
som etim es be a h eu ristic device fo r u n ta n g lin g a com plex synchronic
re a lity .11 A n d re a N ig h tin g ale h a s show n th a t P la to ’s scenario, p a r ­
ticu larly as we m eet it in L a w s B o o k 3, is m u ch m o re com plex th a n a
sim ple tale o f decline. In som e w ays h u m a n s p ro g ress over tim e w hile
in o th ers th ey lose v alu ab le q ualities; tech n o lo g y ca n b e a blessing o r
a c u rse .12 N e ith e r p ro g ress n o r decline is sim ple, a n d a n a rra tiv e o f
increasin g social com plexity can be given e ith e r a p ositive o r a n e g a ­

9 Bury, ‘Plato and history’, p. 89.


10 Weil, L ’‘archeologie’ de Platon, p. 32. Weil allows that decadence is not inevitable,
since god may intervene, but it seems clear that decline is the natural course in the
absence of divine control. He concludes that Plato never harmonises accounts of
progress and decadence.
11 P. Frutiger, Les mythes de Platon (Paris: F. Alcon, 1930), pp. 190-1.
12 A. Nightingale, ‘Historiography and cosmology in Plato’s Laws’, Ancient
Philosophy 19 (1999), pp. 299-326, at pp. 306-11. J. de Romilly, The Rise and
Fall o f States According to Greek Authors (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan
Press, 1977), pp. 1-12, mounts a more general argument that imposing patterns
of decadence on Greek authors (including Plato) is misguided. G. Naddaf, ‘The
Atlantis myth: An introduction to Plato’s later philosophy of history’, Phoenix
48 (1994), pp. 189-209, at pp. 200-3, 208, while arguing against Vidal-Naquet’s
version of the decadence thesis, also pushes for a reading of the Laws as expressing
a ‘wholly realizable solution’ (p. 208) to problems of political deterioration.
tive cast. In th e ac co u n ts o f b o th T im a e u s/C ritia s a n d L a w s it is clear
th a t th e m a rc h o f tim e b rings im p ro v em en t as well as decline; only th e
S ta te s m a n envisages a scenario o f pro g ressiv e a n d inevitable deg en ­
era tio n . T his la tte r vision is co n n e cted to th e role p la y e d by divinity.
I f th e m y th ical p a r t o f th e d ialo g u e p resen ts th e w o rld being w o u n d
u p a n d ru n n in g d o w n like a spinning to p u n d e r divine agency a n d
its lack , th e n th e social a n d p o litical p ro g ressio n o f h u m a n ity is c o n ­
n ec te d to th e issue o f divine guidance. W h en th e w o rld is left to its ow n
devices, it, a n d we, declin e.13
W e sh o u ld g u a rd ag a in st th e n o tio n th a t re c u rre n t catacly sm com es
as a k in d o f divine p u n ish m e n t fo r c o rru p tio n . In th e S ta te s m a n , th e
re tu rn o f g o d to th e helm , w hile it causes cataclysm , is in fa ct a n a m e­
lio ra tio n o f th e situ atio n . In T im a e u s, S o lo n ’s E g y p tian p riest tells
us th a t d e stru c tio n com es w henever civilisation is a d v a n ced a n d at
m o d e ra te ly re g u la r in terv als (except, o f course, in th e case o f E gypt):

each tim e y o u r civilisation a n d th a t o f o th ers h av e ju s t been


e q u ip p e d w ith letters a n d ev erything else cities need, th e n once
ag ain afte r th e u su al n u m b e r o f years a deluge com es sw eeping
d o w n u p o n th em fro m th e skies like a p lag u e a n d leaves only
th o se w h o are illiterate a n d u n c u ltu re d , so th a t once ag ain you
beco m e y o u n g, as it w ere, a n d sta rt fro m th e beginning, know ing
n o th in g o f w h a t h a p p e n e d h ere o r in y o u r ow n c o u n try in an cien t
tim es. (2 3 a -b )

T o be sure, th e re p e a te d floods ta lk e d a b o u t b y th e E g y p tian priests


are seen in term s o f th e gods p u rify in g th e e a rth w ith w a te r (T i. 22d),
b u t w h en th e catacly sm overw helm s c o rru p t A tla n tis (in C ritia s’
su m m ary ac co u n t), th ere is n o in d icatio n th a t th is is a p u n ish m e n t -
fo r if it w ere it w o u ld be a p u n ish m e n t also fo r th e v irtu o u s A th en ian s
w hose exploits are cele b rate d in th e m y th .14
It is th u s to o red u ctiv e a n in te rp re ta tio n o f com plex m a te ria l to

13 Yet even here, the comments made by the Eleatic Stranger about the Age
of Cronus make us doubt whether many ethical or intellectual advances were
made when mankind was managed directly by god. At Plt . 272b-d he remarks
that if humans in that age did not use their leisure for inquiry and philosophical
discussion, their state would be inferior to our own. As J. Dillon, ‘Plato and the
golden age’, Hermathena 153 (1992), pp. 21-36, at pp. 28-30, points out, it is by no
means certain from the text that their leisure was so employed. For an optimistic
reading of human progress in the Statesman myth, see Carone, ‘Reversing the
myth’, esp. pp. 106-7.
14 See S. Broadie (2001), ‘Theodicy and pseudo-history in the Timaeus’, OSAP 21
(2001), pp. 1-28, at pp. 2-6, for an illuminating examination of how issues of
theodicy are not connected with cataclysm in the Timaeus account.
re a d P la to n ic ac co u n ts o f catacly sm as expressing a m a te ria l reflec­
tio n o f th e o p e ra tio n o f th e soul in h isto ry o r as in d icatio n s o f som e
belief P la to m a y h av e h e ld a b o u t th e w ay th e universe really w orks. It
is d o u b tless tru e to say th a t th e p ro b le m a tic s o f th e h u m a n soul are
ce n tral to an y P la to n ic n o tio n o f h isto ry , b u t it is equally tru e to say
th a t T h u cy d id es th in k s th a t h u m a n n a tu re is th e p rim a ry d riv er o f h is­
to rica l change. T h e in tere st is in h o w this n o tio n cashes o u t a n d w h a t
difference it m ak es in th e k in d o f h isto ry th a t each o f th e m envisions.
P la to ’s p seu d o -h isto ries are n o t going to tell us a n y th in g a b o u t w h a t
really h a p p e n e d o r even a b o u t w h a t P la to th o u g h t really h ap p e n ed .
It m a y be fru itfu l to sideline issues o f div