The Greek Myths Vol IV
Το βιβλίο κυκλοφόρησε το 1955 σε τέσσερις τόμους. Συνεχίζει να κυκλοφορεί μέχρι και σήμερα και είναι διαθέσιμο από πολλές εκδόσεις σε Ελληνική μετάφραση.
Η σελιδοποίηση σχετίζεται με το κείμενο της πηγής 24grammata.com/Robert-Graves-The-Greek-Myths. Επιπροσθέτως έχει προστεθεί η μετάφραση μόνο των περιεχομένων και η σελιδοποίηση από την αρχική ελληνική μετάφραση (πηγή 4ου τόμου Πλειάς – Ρούγκας, 1979)
148 The Argonauts Assemble
149 The Lemnian Women And King Cyzicus
150 Hylas, Amycus, And Phineus
151 From The Symplegades To Colchis
152 The Seizure Of The Fleece
153 The Murder Of Apsyrtus
154 The Argo Returns To Greece
155 The Death Of Pelias
156 Medea At Ephyra
157 Medea In Exile
158 The Foundation Of Troy
159 Paris And Helen
160 The First Gathering At Aulis
161 The Second Gathering At Aulis
162 Nine Years Of War
163 The Wrath Of Achilles
164 The Death Of Achilles
165 The Madness Of Ajax
166 The Oracles Of Troy
167 The Wooden Horse
168 The Sack Of Troy
169 The Returns
170 Odysseus’s Wanderings
171 Odysseus’s Homecoming
The Argonauts Assemble
AFTER the death of King Cretheus the Aeolian, Pelias, son of Poseidon, already an old man, seized the Iolcan throne from his half-brother Aeson, the rightful heir. An oracle presently warning him that he would be killed by a descendant of Aeolus, Pelias put to death every prominent Aeolian he dared lay hands upon, except Aeson, whom he spared for his mother Tyro’s sake, but kept a prisoner in the palace; forcing him to renounce his inheritance.
b. Now, Aeson had married Polymele, also known as Amphinome, Perimede, Alcimede, Polymede, Polypheme, Scarphe, or Arne, who bore him one son, by name Diomedes. Pelias would have destroyed the child without mercy, had not Polymele summoned her kinswomen to weep over him, as though he were still-born, and then smuggled him out of the city to Mount Pelion; where Cheiron the Centaur reared him, as he did before, or afterwards, with Asclepius, Achilles, Aeneas, and other famous heroes.
c. A second oracle warned Pelias to beware a one-sandalled man and when, one day on the seashore, a group of his princely allies joined him in a solemn sacrifice to Poseidon, his eye fell upon a tall, long-haired Magnesian youth, dressed in a close-fitting leather tunic and a leopard-skin. He was armed with two broad-bladed spears, and wore only one sandal.
d. The other sandal he had lost in the muddy river Anaurus—which some miscall the Evenus, or Enipeus—by the contrivance of a crone who, standing on the farther bank, begged passers-by to carry her across. None took pity on her, until this young stranger courteously offered her his broad back; but he found himself staggering under the weight, since she was none other than the goddess Hera in disguise. Pelias had vexed Hera by withholding her customary sacrifices, and she was determined to punish him for this neglect.
e. When, therefore, Pelias asked the stranger roughly: ‘Who are you, and what is your father’s name?’, he replied that Cheiron, his foster-father, called him Jason, though he had formerly been known as Diomedes, son of Aeson. Pelias glared at him balefully. ’What would you do,’ he enquired suddenly, ‘if an oracle announced that one of your fellow-citizens were destined to kill you?’ ‘I should send him to fetch the golden ram’s fleece from Colchis,’ Jason replied, not knowing that Hera had placed those words in his mouth. ‘And, pray, whom have I the honour of addressing?’
f. When Pelias revealed his identity, Jason was unabashed. He boldly claimed the throne usurped by Pelias, though not the flocks and herds which had gone with it; and since he was strongly supported by his uncle Pheres, king of Pherae, and Amathaon, king of Pylus, who had come to take part in the sacrifice, Pelias feared to deny him his birthright. ‘But first,’ he insisted, ‘I require you to free our beloved country from a curse!’
g. Jason then learned that Pelias was being haunted by the ghost of Phrixus, who had fled from Orchomenus a generation before, riding on the back of a divine ram, to avoid being sacrificed. He took refuge in Colchis where, on his death, he was denied proper burial; and, according to the Delphic Oracle, the land of Iolcus, where many of Jason’s Minyan relatives were settled, would never prosper unless his ghost were brought home in a ship, together with the golden ram’s fleece. The fleece now hung from a tree in the grove of Colchian Ares, guarded night and day by an unsleeping dragon. Once this pious feat had been accomplished, Pelias declared, he would gladly resign the kingship, which was becoming burdensome for a man of his advanced years.
h. Jason could not deny Pelias this service, and therefore sent heralds to every court of Greece, calling for volunteers who would sail with him. He also prevailed upon Argus the Thespian to build him a fifty-oared ship; and this was done at Pagasae, with seasoned timber from Mount Pelion; after which Athene herself fitted an oracular beam into the Argo’s prow, cut from her father Zeus’s oak at Dodona.
i. Many different muster-rolls of the Argonauts—as Jason’s companions are called—have been compiled at various times; but the following names are those given by the most trustworthy authorities: Acastus, son of King Pelias Actor, son of Deion the Phocian Admetus, prince of Pherae Amphiaraus, the Argive seer Great Ancaeus of Tegea, son of Poseidon Little Ancaeus, the Lelegian of Samos Argus the Thespian, builder of the Argo Ascalaphus the Orchomenan, son of Ares Asterius, son of Cometes, a Pelopian Atalanta of Calydon, the virgin huntress Augeias, son of King Phorbas of Elis Butes of Athens, the bee-master Caeneus the Lapith, who had once been a woman Calais, the winged son of Boreas Canthus the Euboean Castor, the Spartan wrestler, one of the Dioscuri Cepheus, son of Aleus the Arcadian Cotonus the Lapith, of Gyrton in Thessaly Echion, son of Hermes, the herald Erginus of Miletus Euphemus of Taenarum, the swimmer Euryalus, son of Mecisteus, one of the Epigoni Eurydamas the Dolopian, from Lake Xynias Heracles of Tiryns, the strongest man who ever lived, now a god Hylas the Dryopian, squire to Heracles Idas, son of Aphareus of Messene Ismon the Argive, Apollo’s son Iphicles, son of Thestius the Aetolian Iphitus, brother of King Eurystheus of Mycenae Jason, the captain of the expedition Laertes, son of Acrisius the Argive Lynceus, the look-out man, brother to Idas Melampus of Pylus, son of Poseidon Meleager of Calydon Mopsus the Lapith Nauplius the Argive, son of Poseidon, a noted navigator Oileus the Locrian, father of Ajax Orpheus, the Thracian poet Palaemon, son of Hephaestus, an Aetolian Peleus the Myrmidon Peneleos, son of Hippalcimus, the Boeotian Peridymenus of Pylus, the shape-shifting son of Poseidon Phalerus, the Athenian archer Phanus, the Cretan son of Dionysus Poeas, son of Thaumacus the Magnesian Polydeuces, the Spartan boxer, one of the Dioscuri Polyphemus, son of Elatus, the Arcadian Staphylus, brother of Phanus Tiphys, the helmsman, of Boeotian Siphae Zetes, brother of Calais —and never before or since was so gallant a ship’s company gathered together.
j. The Argonauts are often known as Minyans, because they brought back the ghost of Phrixus, grandson of Minyas, and the fleece of his ram; and because many of them, including Jason himself, sprang from the blood of Minyas’s daughters. This Minyas, a son of Chryses, had migrated from Thessaly to Orchomenus in Boeotia, where he founded a kingdom, and was the first king ever to build a treasury.
The Lemnian Women And King Cyzicus
HERACLES, after capturing the Erymanthian Boar, appeared suddenly at Pagasae, and was invited by a unanimous vote to captain the Argo; but generously agreed to serve under Jason who, though a novice, had planned and proclaimed the expedition. Accordingly, when the ship had been launched, and lots drawn for the benches, two oars-men to each bench, it was Jason who sacrificed a yoke of oxen to Apollo of Embarkations. As the smoke of his sacrifice rose propitiously to heaven in dark, swirling columns, the Argonauts sat down to their fare banquet, at which Orpheus with his lyre appeased certain drunk brawls. Sailing thence by the first light of dawn, they shaped a course for Lemnos.
b. About a year before this, the Lemnian men had quarrelled with their wives, complaining that they stank, and made concubines of Thracian girls captured on raids. In revenge, the Lemnian women murdered them all without pity, old and young alike, except Thoas, whose life his daughter Hypsipyle secretly spared, letting adrift in an oarless boat. Now, when the Argo hove in sight and the Lemnian women mistook her for an enemy ship from Thrace, they took their dead husbands’ armour and ran boldly shoreward, to repel the threatened attack. The eloquent Echion, however, landing staff hand as Jason’s herald, soon set their minds at rest; and Hypsipyle called a council at which she proposed to send a gift of food and wine to the Argonauts, but not to admit them into her city of Myrine, for fear of being charged with the massacre. Polyxo, Hypsipyle’s aged nurse, then rose to plead that, without men, the Lemnian race will presently become extinct. ‘The wisest course’, she said, ‘would be offer yourselves in love to those well-born adventurers, and thus not only place our island under strong protection, but breed a new stalwart stock.’
c. This disinterested advice was loudly acclaimed, and the Argonauts were welcomed to Myrine. Hypsipyle did not, of course, tell Jason the whole truth but, stammering and blushing, explained that after ill-treatment at the hands of their husbands, her companions had risen in arms and forced them to emigrate. The vacant throne of Lemnos, she said, was now his for the asking. Jason, although gratefully accepting her offer, declared that before settling in fertile Lemnos he must complete his quest of the Golden Fleece. Nevertheless, Hypsipyle soon persuaded the Argonauts to postpone their departure; for each adventurer was surrounded by numerous young women, all itching to bed with him. Hypsipyle claimed Jason for herself, and royally she entertained him; it was then that he begot Euneus, and his twin Nebrophonus whom some call Deiphilus, or Thoas the Younger. Euneus eventual became king of Lemnos and supplied the Greeks with wine during the Trojan War.
d. Many children were begotten on this occasion by the other Argonauts too and, had it not been for Heracles, who was guarding the Argo and at last strode angrily into Myrine, beating upon the house doors with his club and summoning his comrades back to duty, it is unlikely that the golden fleece would ever have left Colchis. He soon forced them down to the shore; and that same night they sailed for Samothrace, where they were duly initiated into the mysteries of Persephone and her servants, the Cabeiri, who save sailors from shipwreck.
e. Afterwards, when the Lemnian women discovered that Hypsipyle, in breach of her oath, had spared Thoas—he was cast ashore on the island of Sicinos, and later reigned over the Taurians—they sold her into slavery to King Lycurgus of Nemea. But some say that Thracian pirates raided Myrine and captured her. On attaining manhood, Euneus purified the island of blood guilt, and the rites he used are still repeated at the annual festival of the Cabeiri: for the space of nine days, all Lemnian hearth-fires are extinguished, and offerings made to the dead, after which new fire is brought by ship from Apollo’s altar at Delos.
f. The Argonauts sailed on, leaving Imbros to starboard and, since it was well known that King Laomedon of Troy guarded the entrance to the Hellespont and let no Greek ship enter, they slipped through the Straits by night, hugging the Thracian coast, and reached the Sea of Marmara in safety. Approaching Dolionian territory, they landed at the neck of a rugged peninsula, named Arcton, which is crowned by Mount Dindymum. Here they were welcomed by King Cyzicus, the son of Aeneus, Heracles’s former ally, who had just married Cleite of Phrygian Percote and warmly invited them to share his wedding banquet. While the revelry was still in progress, the Argo’s guards were attacked with rocks and clubs by certain six-handed Earth-born giants from the interior of the peninsula, but beat them off.
g. Afterwards, the Argonauts dedicated their anchor-stone to Athene, in whose temple it is shown to this day, and, taking aboard a heavier one, rowed away with cordial farewells, shaping a course for the Bosphorus. But a north-easterly wind suddenly whirled down upon them, and soon they were making so little way that Tiphys decided to about ship, and ran back to the lee of the peninsula. He was driven off his course; and the Argonauts, beaching their skip at random in the pitch-dark, were at once assailed by well-armed warriors. Only when they had overcome these in a fierce battle, killing some and putting the remainder to flight, did Jason discover that he had made the eastern shore of Arcton, and that noble King Cyzicus, who had mistaken the Argonauts for pirates, lay dead at his feet. Cleite, driven mad by the news, hanged herself; and the nymphs of the grove wept so piteously that their tears formed the fountain which now bears her name.
h. The Argonauts held funeral games in Cyzicus’s honour, but remained weather-bound for many days more, At last a halcyon tiered above Jason’s head, and perched twittering on the prow of the Argo; whereupon Mopsus, who understood the language of birds, explained that all would be well if they placated the goddess Rhea. She had exacted Cyzicus’s death in requital for that of her sacred lion’s, killed by him on Mount Dindymum, and was now vexed with the Argonauts for having caused such carnage among her six-armed Earth-born brothers. They therefore raised an image to the goddess, carved by Argus from an ancient vine-stock, and danced in full armour on the mountain top. Rhea acknowledged their devotion: she made a spring—now called the Spring of Jason—gush from the neighbouring rocks. Fair breeze then arose, and they continued the voyage. The Dolionians, however, prolonged their mourning to a full month, lighting no fires, and subsisting on uncooked foods, a custom which is still observed during the annual Cyzican Games.
Hylas, Amycus, And Phineus
AT Heracles’s challenge the Argonauts now engaged in a contest to see who could row the longest. After many laborious hours, relieved only by Orpheus’s lyre, Jason, the Dioscuri, and Heracles alone held out; other comrades having each in turn confessed themselves beaten. Castor’s strength began to ebb, and Polydeuces, who could not otherwise induce him to desist, shipped his own oar. Jason and Heracles, however, continued to urge the Argo forward, seated on opposite sides of the ship, until presently, as they reached the mouth of the river Chius in Mysia, Jason fainted. Almost at once Heracles’s oar snapped. He glared about him, in anger and disgust; and his weary companions, thrusting their oars through the oar-holes again, beached the Argo by the riverside.
b. While they prepared the evening meal, Heracles went in search of a tree which would serve to make him a new oar. He uprooted an enormous fir, but when he dragged it back for trimming beside the canal fire, found that his squire Hylas had set out, an hour or two previously to fetch water from the near-by pool of Pegae, and not yet returned. Polyphemus was away, searching for him. Hylas had been Heracles’ mignon and darling ever since the death of his father, Theiodamas king of the Dryopians, whom Heracles had killed when refused the gift of a plough-ox. Crying ‘Hylas! Hylas!’, Heracles plunged frantically into the woods, and soon met Polyphemus, who reported: ‘Alas, I heard Hylas shouting for help; and ran towards his voice. But when I reached Pegae I found no signs of a struggle either with wild beasts or with other enemies. There was only his water-pitcher lying abandoned by the pool side.’ Heracles and Polyphemus continued their search all night, and forced every Mysian whom they met to join in it, but to no avail; the fact being that Dryope and her sister-nymphs of Pegae had fallen in love with Hylas, and enticed him to come and live with them in an underwater grotto.
c. At dawn, a favourable breeze sprang up and, since neither Heracles nor Polyphemus appeared, though everyone shouted their names until the hillsides echoed, Jason gave orders for the voyage to be resumed. This decision was loudly contested and, as the Argo drew farther away from the shore, several of the Argonauts accused him of having marooned Heracles to avenge his defeat at rowing. They even tried to make Tiphys turn the ship about; but Calais and Zetes interposed, which is why Heracles later killed them in the island of Tenos, where he set a tottering logan-stone upon their tomb.
d. After threatening to lay Mysia waste unless the inhabitants continued their search for Hylas, dead or alive, and then leading a successful raid on Troy, Heracles resumed his Labours; but Polyphemus settled near Pegae and. built the city of Crius, where he reigned until the Chalybians killed him in battle. For Heracles’s sake, the Mysians still sacrifice once a year to Hylas at Prusa, near Pegae; their priest thrice calls his name aloud, and the devotees pretend to search for him in the woods.
e. Hylas, indeed, suffered the same fate as Bormus, or Borimus, son of Upius, a Mariandynian youth of extraordinary beauty who once, at harvest time, went to a well to fetch water for the reapers. He too was drawn into the well by the nymphs and never seen again. The country people of Bithynia celebrate his memory every year at harvest time with plaintive songs to the accompaniment of flutes.
f. Some therefore deride the story of Hylas, saying that he was really Bormus, and that Heracles had been abandoned at Magnesian Aphetae, close to Pagasae, when he went ashore to draw water, soon after the voyage began; the oracular beam of the Argo having announced that he would be too heavy for her to carry. Others, on the contrary, say that he not only reached Colchis, but commanded the expedition throughout.
g. Next, the Argo touched at the island of Bebrycos, also in the Sea of Marmara, ruled by the arrogant King Amycus, a son of Poseidon. This Amycus fancied himself as a boxer, and used to challenge strangers to a match, which invariably proved their undoing; but if they declined, he flung them without ceremony over a cliff into the sea. He now approached the Argonauts, and refused them food or water unless one of their champions would meet him in the ring. Polydeuces, who had won the boxing contest at the Olympic Games, stepped forward willingly, and drew on the raw-hide gloves which Amycus offered him.
h. Amycus and Polydeuces went at it, hammer and tongs, in a flowery cell, not far from the beach. Amycus’s gloves were studded with brazen spikes, and the muscles on his shaggy arms stood out like boulders covered with seaweed. He was by far the heavier man, and the younger by several years; but Polydeuces, fighting cautiously at first, and avoiding his bull-like rushes, soon discovered the weak points in his defence and, before long, had him spitting blood from a swollen mouth. After a prolonged bout, in which neither showed the least sign of flagging, Polydeuces broke through Amycus’s guard, flattened his nose with a straight left-handed punch, and dealt further merciless punishment on either side of it, using hooks and jolts. In pain and desperation, Amycus grasped Polydeuces’s left fist and tugged at it with his left hand, while he brought up a powerful right swing; but Polydeuces threw himself in the direction of the tug. The swing wear wide, and he countered with a stunning right-handed hook to the ear, followed by so irresistible an upper cut that it broke the bones of Amycus’s temple and killed him instantly.
i. When they saw their king lying dead, the Bebrycans sprang to arms, but Polydeuces’s cheering companions routed them easily and sacked the royal palace. To placate Poseidon, Amycus’s father, Jason then offered a holocaust of twenty red bulls, which were found among the spoils.
j. The Argonauts put to sea again on the next day, and came to Salmydessus in Eastern Thrace, where Phineus, the son of Agenor, reigned. He had been blinded by the gods for prophesying the future too accurately, and was also plagued by a pair of Harpies: loathsome, winged, female creatures who, at every meal, flew into the palace and snatched victuals from his table, befouling the rest, so that it stank and was inedible. One Harpy was called Aellopus, and the other Ocypete. When Jason asked Phineus for advice on how to win the golden fleece, he was told: ‘First rid me of the Harpies!’ Phineus’s servants spread the Argonauts a banquet, upon which the Harpies immediately descended, playing their usual tricks. Calais and Zetes, however, the winged sons of Boreas, arose sword in hand, and chased them into the air and far across the sea. Some say that they caught up with the Harpies at the Strophades islands, but spared their lives when they turned back and implored mercy; for Iris, Hera’s messenger, intervened, promising that they would return to their cave in Cretan Dicte and never again molest Phineus. Others say that Ocypete made terms at these islands, but that Aellopus flew on, only to be drowned in the Peloponnesian river Tigris, now called Harpys after her.
k. Phineus instructed Jason how to navigate the Bosphorus, and gave him a detailed account of what weather, hospitality, and fortune to expect on his way to Colchis, a country first colonized by the Egyptians, which lies at the easternmost end of the Black Sea, under the shadow of the Caucasus Mountains. He added: ‘And once you have reached Colchis, trust in Aphrodite!’
l. Now, Phineus had married first Cleopatra, sister to Calais and Zetes and then, on her death, Idaea, a Scythian princess. Idaea was jealous of Cleopatra’s two sons, and suborned false whimsies to accuse them of all manner of wickedness. Calais and Zetes, however, detecting the conspiracy, freed their nephews from prison, where they were being daily flogged by Scythian guards, and Phineus not only restored them to favour, but sent Idaea back to her father
m. And some say that Phineus was blinded by the gods after the Argonauts’ visit, because he had given them prophetic advice.
From The Symplegades To Colchis
PHINEUS had warned the Argonauts of the terrifying rocks, called Symplegades, or Planctae, or Cyaneae which, perpetually shrouded in sea mist, guarded the entrance to the Bosphorus. When a ship attempted to pass between them, they drove together and crushed her; but, at Phineus’s advice, Euphemus let loose a dove or, some say, a heron, to fly ahead of the Argo. As soon as the rocks had nipped off her tail feathers, and recoiled again, the Argonauts rowed through with all speed, aided by Athene and by Orpheus’s lyre, and lost only their stern ornament. Thereafter, in accordance with a prophecy, the rocks remained rooted, one on either side of the straits, and though the force of the current made the ship all but go forward, the Argonauts pulled at their oars until they bent like bows, and gained the Black Sea without disaster.
b. Coasting along the southern shore, they presently touched at the islet of Thynias, where Apollo deigned to appear before them in a blaze of divine glory. Orpheus at once raised an altar and sacrificed a wild goat to him as Apollo of the Dawn. At his instance, the Argonauts now swore never to desert one another in time of danger, an oath commemorated in the Temple of Harmonia since built on this island.
c. Thence they sailed to the city of Mariandyne—famous for the near-by chasm up which Heracles dragged the dog Cerberus from the Underworld—and were warmly welcomed by King Lycus. News that his enemy, King Amycus, was dead had already reached Lycus by runner, and he gratefully offered the Argonauts his son Dascylus to guide them on their journey along the coast. The following day, as they were about to embark, Idmon the seer was attacked by a ferocious boar lurking in the reed-beds of the river Lycus, which gashed his thigh deeply with its great tusks. Idas sprang to Idmon’s assistance and, when the boar charged again, impaled it on his spear; however, Idmon bled to death despite their care, and the Argonauts mourned him for three days. Then Tiphys sickened and died, and his comrades were plunged in grief as they raised a barrow over his ashes, beside the one that they had raised for Idmon. Great Ancaeus first, and after him Erginus, Nauplius and Euphemus, all offered to take Tiphys’s place as navigator; but Ancaeus was chosen, and served them well.
d. From Mariandyne they continued eastward trader sail for many days, until they reached Sinope in Paphlagonia, a city named after the river Asopus’s daughter, to whom Zeus, falling in love with her, had promised whatever gift she wished. Sinope craftily chose virginity, having her home here, and spent the remainder of her life in happy solitude. At Sinope, Jason found recruits to fill three of the vacant seats on his benches: namely the brothers Deileon, Autolycus, and Phlogius, of Tricca, who had accompanied Heracles on his expedition to the Amazons but, being parted from him by accident, were now strand in this outlandish region.
e. The Argo then sailed past the country of the Amazons; and that the iron-working Chalybians, who neither till the soil, nor tend flocks but live wholly on the gains of their forges; and the country of the Tibarenians, where it is the custom for husbands to groan, as if in child bed, while their wives are in labour; and the country of the Moesynoechians, who live in wooden castles, couple promiscuously, and carry immensely long spears and white shields in the shape of ivy leaves.
f. Near the islet of Ares, great flocks of birds flew over the Argo dropping brazen plumes, one of which wounded Oileus in the shoulder. At this, the Argonauts, recalling Phineus’s injunctions, donned their helmets and shouted at the top of their voices; half of them rowing, while the remainder protected them with shields, against which they clashed their swords. Phineus had also counselled them to land on the islet, and this they now did, driving away myriads of birds, until no one was left. That night they praised his wisdom, when a huge storm arose and four Aeolians clinging to a baulk of timber were cast ashore close to their camp; these castaways proved to be Cytisorus, Aegeus, Phrontis, and Melanion, sons of Phrixus by Chalciope, daughter King Aeëtes of Colchis, and thus closely related to many of the present. They had been shipwrecked on a journey to Greece, when they were intending to claim the Orchomenan kingdom of their grandfather Athamas. Jason greeted them warmly, and all together offered sober sacrifices on a black stone in the temple of Ares, where its foundress, the Amazon Antiope, had once sacrificed horses. When Jason explained that his mission was to bring back the soul of Phrixus Greece, and also recover the fleece of the golden ram on which he has ridden, Cytisorus and his brothers found themselves in a quandary though owing devotion to their father’s memory, they feared to offer their grandfather by demanding the fleece. However, what choice has they but to make common cause with these cousins who had saved their lives?
g. The Argo then coasted past the island of Philyra, where Cronus once lay with Philyra, daughter of Oceanus, and was surprised by Rhea in the act; whereupon he had turned himself into a stallion, and galloped off, leaving Philyra to bear her child, half man, half horse—which proved to be Cheiron the learned Centaur. Loathing the monster she now had to suckle, Philyra prayed to become other than she was; and was metamorphosed into a linden-tree. But some say that this took place in Thessaly, or Thrace; not on the island of Philyra.
h. Soon the Caucasus Range towered above the Argonauts, and they entered the mouth of the broad Phasis river, which waters Colchis. First pouring a libation of wine mixed with honey to the gods of the land, Jason concealed the Argo in a sheltered backwater, where he called a council of war.
The Seizure Of The Fleece
IN Olympus, Hera and Athene were anxiously debating how their favourite, Jason, might win the golden fleece. At last they decided to approach Aphrodite, who undertook that her naughty little son Eros would make Medea, King Aeëtes’s daughter, conceive a sudden passion for him. Aphrodite found Eros rolling dice with Ganymedes, but cheating at every throw, and begged him to let fly one of his arrows at Medea’s heart. The payment she offered was a golden ball enamelled with blue rings, formerly the infant Zeus’s plaything; when tossed into the air, it left a track like a falling star. Eros eagerly accepted this bribe, and Aphrodite promised her fellow-goddesses to keep Medea’s passion glowing by means of a novel charm: a live wryneck, spread-eagled to a firewheel.
b. Meanwhile, at the council of war held in the backwater, Jason proposed going with Phrixus’s sons to the near-by city of Colchian Aea, where Aeëtes ruled, and demanding the fleece as a favour; only if this were denied would they resort to guile or force. All welcomed his suggestion, and Augeias, Aeëtes’s half-brother, joined the party. They approached Aea by way of Circe’s riverside cemetery, where male corpses wrapped in untanned ox-hides were exposed on the tops of willow-trees for birds to eat—the Colchians bury only female corpses. Aea shone splendidly down on them from a hill, sacred to Helius, Aeëtes’s father, who stabled his white horses there. Hephaestus had built the royal palace in gratitude for Helius’s rescue of him when overwhelmed by the Giants during their assault on Olympus.
c. King Aeëtes’s first wife, the Caucasian nymph Asterodeia, mother of Chalciope, Phrixus’s widow, and of Medea, Hecate’s witch-priestess, was dead some years before this; and his second wife, Eidyia, had now borne him a son, Apsyrtus.
d. As Jason and his companions approached the palace, they were met first by Chalciope, who was surprised to see Cytisorus and her other three sons returning so soon and, when she heard their story, showered thanks on Jason for his rescue of them. Next came Aeëtes, accompanied by Eidyia and showing great displeasure—for Laomedon had undertaken to prevent all Greeks from entering the Black Sea—and asked Aegeus, his favourite grandson, to explain the intrusion. Aegeus replied that Jason, to whom he and his brothers owed their lives, had come to fetch away the golden fleece in accordance with an oracle. Seeing that Aeëtes’s face wore a look of fury, he added at once: ‘In return for which favour, these noble Greeks will gladly subject the Sauromatians to your Majesty’s rule.’ Aeëtes gave a contemptuous laugh, then ordered Jason—and Augeias, whom he would not deign to acknowledge as his brother—to return whence they came, before he had their tongues cut out and their hands lopped off.
e. At this point, the princess Medea emerged from the palace, when Jason answered gently and courteously, Aeëtes, ashamed of himself, undertook to yield the fleece, though on seemingly impossible terms. Jason must yoke two fire-breathing brazen-hoofed bulls, creations of Hephaestus; plough the Field of Ares to extent of four plough gates; and then sow it with the serpent’s teeth given him by Athene, a few left over from Cadmus’s sowing at Thebes. Jason stood stupefied, wondering how to perform these unheard-of feats, but Eros aimed one of his arrows at Medea, and drove it into her heart, up to the feathers.
f. Chalciope, visiting Medea’s bedroom that evening, to help on behalf of Cytisorus and his brothers, found that she had fallen head over heels in love with Jason. When Chalciope offered herself to go-between, Medea eagerly undertook to help him yoke the breathing bulls and win the fleece; making it her sole condition that should sail back in the Argo as his wife.
g. Jason was summoned, and swore by all the gods of Olympus to keep faith with Medea for ever. She offered him a flask of lotion, blood-red juice of the two-sulked, saffron-coloured Caucasian crocus, which would protect him against the bulls’ fiery breath; this potent first sprang from the blood of the tortured Prometheus. Jason gratefully accepted the flask and, after a libation of honey, unstoppered it bathed his body, spear and shield in the contents. He was thus able to subdue the bulls and harness them to a plough with an yoke. All day he ploughed, and at nightfall sowed the teeth, which armed men immediately sprouted. He provoked these to fight one against another, as Cadmus had done on a similar occasion, throwing a stone quoits into their midst; then despatched the survivors.
h. King Aeëtes, however, had no intention of parting with his fleece, and shamelessly repudiated his bargain. He threatened to burn the Argo, which was now moored off Aea, and massacre her crew; Medea, in whom he had unwisely confided, led Jason and a part of Argonauts to the precinct of Ares, some six miles away. There fleece hung, guarded by a loathsome and immortal dragon of a million coils, larger than the Argo herself, and born from the blood of the monster Typhon, destroyed by Zeus. She soothed the hissing dragon with incantations and then, using freshly-cut sprigs of juniper, sprinkled soporific drops on his eyelids. Jason stealthily unfastened the fleece from the oak-tree, and together they hurried down to the beach where the Argo lay.
i. An alarm had already been raised by the priests of Ares and, in a running fight, the Colchians wounded Iphitus, Meleager, Argus, Atalanta, and Jason. Yet all of them contrived to scramble aboard the waiting Argo, which was rowed off in great haste, pursued by Aeëtes’s galleys. Iphitus alone succumbed to his wounds; Medea soon healed the others with ruineraries of her own invention.
j. Now, the Sauromatians whom Jason had undertaken to conquer were descendants of three shiploads of Amazons captured by Heracles during his Ninth Labour; they broke their fetters and killed the sailors set as guards over them, but knowing nothing of seamanship, drifted across to the Cimmerian Bosphorus, where they landed at Crenmi in the country of the free Scythians. There they captured a herd of wild horses, mounted them and began to ravage the land. Presently the Scythians, discovering from some corpses which fell into their hands that the invaders were women, sent out a band of young men to offer the Amazons love rather than battle. This did not prove difficult, but the Amazons consented to marry them only if they would move to the eastern bank of the river Tanais; where their descendants, the Sauromatians, still live and preserve certain Amazon customs, such as that every girl must have killed a man in battle before she can find a husband.
The Murder Of Apsyrtus
MANY different accounts survive of the Argo’s return to Thessaly, though it is generally agreed that, following Phineus’s advice, the Argonauts sailed counter sunwise around the Black Sea. Some say that when Aeëtes overtook them, near the mouth of the Danube, Medea killed her young half-brother Apsyrtus, whom she had brought aboard, and cut him into pieces, which she consigned one by one to the swift current. This cruel stratagem delayed the pursuit, because obliging Aeëtes to retrieve each piece in turn for subsequent burial at Tomi. The true name of Medea’s half-brother is said to have been Aegialeus; for ‘Apsyrtus’, meaning ‘swept down’, merely records what happened to his mangled limbs after he had died. Others place the crime at Aea itself, and say that Jason also killed Aeëtes.
b. The most circumstantial and coherent account, however, is that Apsyrtus, sent by Aeëtes in pursuit of Jason, trapped the Argo at the mouth of the Danube, where the Argonauts agreed to set Medea ashore on a near-by island sacred to Artemis, leaving her in charge of a priestess for a few days; meanwhile a king of the Brygians would judge the case and decide whether she was to return home or follow Jason to Greece, and in whose possession the fleece should remain. But Medea sent a private message to Apsyrtus, pretending that she had been forcibly abducted, and begging him to rescue her. That night, when he visited the island and thereby broke the truce, Jason followed, lay in wait and struck him down from behind. He then cut off Apsyrtus’s extremities, and thrice licked up some of the fallen blood, which he spat out again each time, to prevent the ghost from pursuing him. As soon as Medea was once more aboard the Argo, the Argonauts attacked the leaderless Colchians, scattered their flotilla, and escaped.
c. Some would have it that, after Apsyrtus’s murder, the Argo turned back and sailed up the Phasis into the Caspian Sea, and thence into the Indian Ocean, regaining the Mediterranean by way of Lake Tritonis. Others, that she sailed up the Danube and Save, and then down the Po, which joins the Save, into the Adriatic Sea; but was pursued by storms and driven around the whole coast of Italy, until she reached Circe’s island of Aeaea. Others again, that she sailed up the Danube, and then reached Circe’s island by way of the Po and the eddying pools where is joined by the mighty Rhone.
d. Still others hold that the Argonauts rowed reached its source; then dragged the Argo to the headwaters river which runs north into the Gulf of Finland. Or that from the Danube they dragged her to the source of the river Elbe and, borne on its waters, reached Jutland. And that they then shaped a westerly course towards the Ocean, passing by Britain and Ireland, and reached Circe’s island after sailing between the Pillars of Heracles and along the coasts of Spain and Gaul.
e. These are not, however, feasible routes. The truth is that the Argo returned by the Bosphorus, the way she had come, and passed through the Hellespont in safety, because the Trojans could no longer oppose her passage. For Heracles, on his return from Mysia, had collected a fleet of six ships [supplied by the Dolionians and their Percotean allies] and, sailing up the river Scamander under cover of darkness, surprised and destroyed the Trojan fleet. He then battered his way into Troy with his club, and demanded from King Laomedon the man-eating mares of King Diomedes, which he had left in his charge some years previously. When Laomedon denied any knowledge of these, Heracles killed him and all his sons, except the infant Podarces, or Priam, whom he appointed king in his stead.
f. Jason and Medea were no longer aboard the Argo. Her oracular beam had spoken once more, refusing to carry either of them until they had been purified of murder, and from the mouth of the Danube they had set out overland for Aeaea, the island home of Medea’s aunt: Circe. This was not the Campanian Acaca where Circe later went to live, but her former Istrian seat; and Medea led Jason there by the route down which the straw-wrapped gifts of the Hyperboreans are yearly brought to Delos. Circe, to whom they came as suppliants, grudgingly purified them with the blood of a young sow.
g. Now, their Colchian pursuers had been warned not to come back without Medea and the fleece and, guessing that she had gone to Circe for purification, followed the Argo across the Aegean Sea, around the Peloponnese, and up the Illyrian coast, rightly concluding that Medea and Jason had arranged to be fetched from Aeaea.
h. Some, however, say that Apsyrtus was still commanding the Colchian flotilla at this time, and that Medea trapped and murdered him in one of the Illyrian islands now called the Apsyrtides.
The Argo Returns To Greece
ARRIVING at Corcyra, which was then named Drepane, found the Argo beached opposite the islet of Macris; joyfully celebrating the successful outcome of their Colchian leader now visited King Alcinous and Queen Arëte, explaining on Aeëtes’s behalf the surrender of Medea and the fleece. Arëte, whom Medea had appealed for protection, kept Alcinous awake night by complaining of the ill-treatment to which fathers too often subject their errant daughters: for instance, of Nycteus’s cruelty to Antiope, and of Acrisius’s to Danaë. ‘Even now,’ she said, ‘that poor princess Metope languishes in an Epeirot dungeon, at the orders of her ogreish father, King Echetus! She has been blinded with brazen spikes, and set to grind iron barley-corns in a heavy quern: “When they are flour, I will restore your sight,” he taunts the poor girl. Aeëtes is capable of treating this charming Medea with equal barbarity, if you give him the chance.’
b. Arëte finally prevailed upon Alcinous to tell her what judgement he would deliver next morning, namely: ‘If Medea is still a virgin, she shall return to Colchis; if not, she is at liberty to stay with Jason.’ Leaving him sound asleep, Arëte sent her herald to warn Jason what he must expect; and he married Medea without delay in the Cave of Macris, the daughter of Aristaeus and sometime called Dionysus’s nurse. The Argonauts celebrated the wedding with a sumptuous banquet and spread the golden fleece over the bridal couch. Judgement was duly delivered in the morning, Jason claimed Medea as his wife, and the Colchians could neither implement Aeëtes’s orders nor, for fear of his wrath, return home. Some therefore settled in Corcyra, and others occupied those Illyrian islands, not far from Circe’s Aeaea, which are now called the Apsyrtides; and afterwards built the city of Pola on the Istrian mainland.
c. When, a year or two later, Aeëtes heard of these happenings, he nearly died of rage and sent a herald to Greece demanding the person of Medea and requital for the injuries done him; but was informed that no requital had yet been made for Io’s abduction by men of Aeëtes’s race (though the truth was that she fled because a gadfly pursued her) and none should therefore be given for the voluntary departure of Medea.
d. Jason now needed only to double Cape Malea, and return with the fleece to Iolcus. He cruised in safety past the Islands of the Sirens, where the ravishing strains of these bird-women were countered by the even lovelier strains of Orpheus’s lyre. Butes alone sprang overboard in an attempt to swim ashore, but Aphrodite rescued him; she took him to Mount Eryx by way of Lilybeum, and there made him her lover. Some say that the Sirens, who had already lost their wings as a result of an unsuccessful singing contest with the Muses, sponsored by Hera, committed suicide because of their failure to outcharm Orpheus; yet they were still on their island when Odysseus came by a generation later.
e. The Argonauts then sailed in fine weather along the coast of Eastern Sicily, where they watched the matchless white herds of Helius grazing on the shore, but refrained from stealing any of them. Suddenly they were struck by a frightful North Wind which, in nine days’ time, drove them to the uttermost parts of Libya; there, an enormous wave swept the Argo over the perilous rocks which line the coast and retreated, leaving her high and dry a mile or more inland. A lifeless desert stretched as far as the eye could see, and the Argonauts had already prepared themselves for death, when the Triple-goddess Libya, clad in goat skins, appeared to Jason in a dream and gave him reassurance. At this, they took heart, and setting the Argo on rollers moved her by the force of their shoulders to the salty Lake Tritonis, which several miles off, a task that occupied twelve days. All would have died of thirst, but for a spring which Heracles, on his way to fetch the golden apples of the Hesperides, had recently caused to gush from the ground.
f. Canthus was now killed by Caphaurus, a Garamantian shepherd whose flocks he was driving off, but his comrades avenged him. As hardly had the two corpses been buried than Mopsus trod upon Libyan serpent which bit him in the heel; a thick mist spread over his eyes, his hair fell out, and he died in agony. The Argonauts, after giving him a hero’s burial, once more began to despair, being unable to see any outlet to the Lake.
g. Jason, however, before he embarked on this voyage, had consulted the Pythoness at Delphi who gave him two massive brazen tripods, with one of which Orpheus now advised him to propitiate the deities of the land. When he did so, the god Triton appeared and took up the tripod without so much as a word of thanks, but Euphemus barred his way and asked him politely: ‘Pray, my lord, will you kindly direct us to the Mediterranean Sea?’ For answer, Triton merely pointed towards the Tacapae river but, as an afterthought, handed him a clod of earth, which gave his descendants sovereignty over Libya to this day. Euphemus acknowledged the gift with the sacrifice of a sheep, and Triton consented to draw the Argo along by her keel, until once more she entered the Mediterranean Sea, predicting, as he went, that when the descendant of a certain Argonaut should seize and carry off the brazen tripod from his temple, a hundred Greek cities would rise around Lake Tritonis. The Libyan troglodytes, overhearing these words, at once hid the tripod in the sand; and the prophecy has not yet been fulfilled.
h. Heading northward, the Argonauts reached Crete, where they were prevented from landing by Talos the bronze sentinel, a creation of Hephaestus, who pelted the Argo with rocks, as was his custom. Medea called sweetly to this monster, promising to make him immortal if he drank a certain magic potion; but it was a sleeping draught and, while he slept, she removed the bronze nail which stoppored the single vein running from his neck to his ankles. Out rushed the divine ichor, a colourless liquid serving him for blood, and he died. Some, however, say that, bewitched by Medea’s eyes, Talos staggered about, grazed his heel against a rock, and bled to death. Others, that Poeas shot him in the heel with an arrow.
i. On the following night, the Argo was caught in a storm from the south, but Jason invoked Apollo, who sent a flash of light, revealing to starboard the island of Anaphe, one of the Sporades, where Ancaeus managed to beach the ship. In gratitude, Jason raised an altar to Apollo; and Medea’s twelve Phaeacian bond-maidens, given her by Queen Arëte, laughed merrily when, for lack of a victim, he and his comrades poured water libations upon the burning brands of the sacrifice. The Argonauts taunted them in reply, and tussled amorously with them—a custom which survives to this day at the Autumn Festival of Anaphe.
j. Sailing to Aegina, they held a contest: as to who could first draw a pitcher of water and carry it back to the ship; a race still run by the Aeginetans. From Aegina it was a simple voyage to Iolcus, such as scores of ships make every year, and they made it in fair weather without danger.
k. Some minstrels arrange these events in a different order: they say that the Argonauts repopulated Lemnos on the homeward journey, not as they were sailing for Colchis; others, that their visit to Libya took place before the voyage to Aea began, when Jason went in the Argo to consult the Delphic Oracle and was driven off his course by a sudden storm. Others again hold that they cruised down the western coast of Italy and named a harbour in the island of Elba, where they landed, ‘Argous’ after the Argo, and that when they scraped off their sweat on the beach, it turned into pebbles of various forms. Further, that they founded the temple of Argive Hera at Leucania; that, like Odysseus, they sailed between Scylla and Charybdis; and that Thetis with her Nereids guided them past the flame-spouting Planctae, or Wandering Rocks, which are now firmly anchored to the sea-bed.
l. Still others maintain that Jason and his companions explored the country about Colchian Aea, advancing as far as Media; that one of them, Armenus, a Thessalian from Lake Boebe, settled in Armenia, and gave his name to the entire country. This view they justify by pointing out that the heroic monuments in honour of Jason, which Armenus erected at the Caspian Gates, are much revered by the barbarians; and that the Armenians still wear the ancient Thessalian dress.
The Death Of Pelias
ONE autumn evening, the Argonauts regained the well-remembered beach of Pagasae, but found no one there to greet them. Indeed, it was rumoured in Thessaly that all were dead; Pelias had therefore been emboldened to kill Jason’s parents, Aeson and Polymele, and an infant son, Promachus, born to them since the departure of the Argo. Aeson, however, asked permission to take his own life and, his plea being granted, drank bull’s blood and thus expired; whereupon Polymele killed herself with a dagger or, some say, a rope, after cursing Pelias, who mercilessly dashed out Promachus’s brains on the palace floor.
b. Jason, hearing this doleful story from a solitary boatman, forbade him to spread the news of the Argo’s homecoming, and summoned a council of war. All his comrades were of the option that Pelias served death, but when Jason demanded an immediate assault on Iolcus, Acastus remarked that he could hardly be expected to oppose his father; and the others thought it wiser to disperse, each to his own home and there, if necessary, raise contingents for a war on Jason’s behalf. Iolcus, indeed, seemed too strongly garrisoned to be stormed by a company so small as theirs.
c. Medea, however, spoke up and undertook to reduce the city single-handed. She instructed the Argonauts to conceal their ship, on some wooded and secluded beach within sight of Iolcus. When they saw a torch waved from the palace roof, this would mean that Pelias was dead, the gates open, and the city theirs for the taking.
d. During her visit to Anaphe, Medea had found a hollow image of Artemis and brought it aboard the Argo. She now dressed her twelve Phaeacian bond-maidens in strange disguises and led them, each in turn carrying the image, towards Iolcus. On reaching the city gates Medea, who had given herself the appearance of a wrinkled crone, ordered the sentinels to let her pass. She cried in a shrill voice that the goddess Artemis had come from the foggy land of the Hyperboreans, in a chariot drawn by flying serpents, to bring good fortune to Iolcus. The startled sentinels dared not disobey, and Medea with her bond-maidens, raging through the streets like maenads, roused the inhabitants to religious frenzy.
e. Awakened from sleep, Pelias enquired in terror what the goddess required of him. Medea answered that Artemis was about to acknowledge his piety by rejuvenating him, and thus allowing him to beget heirs in place of the unfilial Acastus, who had lately died in a shipwreck off the Libyan coast. Pelias doubted this promise, until Medea, by removing the illusion of old age that she had cast about herself, turned young again before his very eyes. ‘Such is the power of Artemis!’ she cried. He then watched while she cut a bleary-eyed old ram into thirteen pieces and boiled them in a cauldron. Using Colchian spells, which he mistook for Hyperborean ones, and solemnly conjuring Artemis to assist her, Medea then pretended to rejuvenate the dead ram—for a frisky lamb was hidden, with other magical gear, inside the goddess’s hollow image. Pelias, now wholly deceived, consented to lie on a couch, where Medea soon charmed him to sleep. She then commanded his daughters, Alcestis, Evadne, and Amphinome, to cut him up, just as they had seen her do with the ram, and boil the pieces in the same cauldron.
f. Alcestis piously refused to shed her father’s blood in however good a cause; but Medea, by giving further proof of her magic powers, persuaded Evadne and Amphinome to wield their knives with resolution. When the deed was done, she led them up to the roof, each carrying a torch, and explained that they must invoke the Moon while the cauldron was coming to a boil. From their ambush, the Argonauts saw the distant gleam of torches and, welcoming the signal, rushed into Iolcus, where they met with no opposition.
g. Jason, however, fearing Acastus’s vengeance, resigned the kingdom to him, neither did he dispute the sentence of banishment passed on him by the Iolcan Council: for he hoped to sit upon a richer throne elsewhere.
h. Some deny that Aeson was forced to take his own life, and declare that, on the contrary, Medea, after first draining the effete blood from his body, restored his youth by a magic elixir, as she had also restored Macris and her sister-nymphs on Corcyra; and presented him, stalwart and vigorous, to Pelias at the palace gates. Having thus persuaded Pelias to undergo the same treatment, she deceived him by omitting the appropriate spells, so that he died miserably.
i. At Pelias’s funeral games, celebrated the following day, Euphemus won the two-horse chariot race; Polydeuces, the boxing contest; Meleager, the javelin throw; Peleus, the wrestling match; Zetes, the shorter foot race, and his brother Calais (or, some say, Iphiclus) the longer one; and Heracles, now returned from his visit to the Hesperides, the all-in fighting. But during the four-horse chariot race, which Heracles’s charioteer Iolaus won, Glaucus, son of Sisyphus, was devoured by his horses which the goddess Aphrodite had maddened with hippomanes.
j. As for Pelias’s daughters: Alcestis married Admetus of Pherae, to whom she had long been affected; Evadne and Amphinome were banished by Acastus to Mantinea in Arcadia where, after purification, they succeeded in making honourable marriages.
Medea At Ephyra
JASON first visited Boeotian Orchomenus, where he hung up the golden fleece in the temple of Laphystian Zeus; next, he beached the Argo on the Isthmus of Corinth, and there dedicated her to Poseidon.
b. Now, Medea was the only surviving child of Aeëtes, the legitimate king of Corinth, who when he emigrated to Colchis had his regent a certain Bunus. The throne having fallen vacant, without issue of the usurper Corinthus, son of Marathon (calling himself ‘Son of Zeus’), Medea claimed it, and the Corinthians happily accepted Jason as their king. But, after reigning for ten prosperous years, he came to suspect that Medea had secured his succession by poisoning Corinthus; and proposed to divorce her in favour the Theban Glauce, daughter of King Creon.
c. Medea, while not denying her crime, held Jason to the oath he had sworn at Aea in the name of all the gods, and when he protested that a forced oath was invalid, pointed out that he also owed the throne of Corinth to her. He answered: ‘True, but the Corinth learned to have more respect for me than for you.’ Since he didn’t recline, obdurate Medea, feigning submission, sent Glauce a wedding gift by the hands of the royal princess—for she had borne Jason seven daughters—namely, a golden crown and a long white tunic. No sooner had Glauce put them on, than unquenchable flame appeared and consumed not only her—although she plunged headlong to palace fountain—but King Creon, a crowd of other distinguished Theban guests, and everyone else assembled in the palace except of Jason; who escaped by leaping from an upper window.
d. At this point Zeus, greatly admiring Medea’s spirit, fell in love with her, but she repulsed all his advances. Hera was grateful, and she told her: “I will make your children immortal,’ said she, ‘if you lay them on sacrificial altar in my temple.’ Medea did so; and then fled in drawn by winged serpents, a loan from her grandfather Helius, bequeathing the kingdom to Sisyphus.
e. The name of only one of Medea’s daughters by Jason is remembered: Eriopis. Her eldest son, Medeius, or Polyxenus, who was educated by Cheiron on Mount Pelion, afterwards ruled the Media; but Medeius’s father is sometimes called Aegeus. Other sons were Mermerus, Pheres, or Thessalus, Alcimedes, Tisander and Argus; all of whom the Corinthians, enraged by the murder of Glauce and Creon, seized and stoned to death. For this crime they since made expiation: seven girls and seven boys, wearing white garments and with their heads shaven, spend a whole year in the temple of Hera on the Heights, where the murder was committed. By order of the Delphic Oracle, the dead children’s corpses were buried; their souls, however, became immortal, as Hera had promised. There are those who charge Jason with condoning this murder, but explain that he was vexed beyond endurance by Medea’s ambition on behalf of his children.
f. Others again, misled by the dramatist Euripides, whom the Corinthians bribed with fifteen talents of silver to absolve them of guilt, pretend that Medea killed two of her own children; and that the remainder perished in the palace which she had set on fire—except Thessalus, who escaped and later reigned over Iolcus, giving his name to all Thessaly; and Pheres, whose son Mermerus inherited Medea’s skill as a poisoner.
Medea In Exile
MEDEA fled first to Heracles at Thebes, where he had promised to shelter her should Jason ever prove unfaithful, and cured him of the madness that had made him kill his children; nevertheless, the Thebans would not permit her to take up residence among them because Creon, whom she had murdered, was their King. So she went to Athens, and King Aegeus was glad to marry her. Next, banished from Athens for her attempted poisoning of Theseus, she sailed to Italy and taught the Marrubians the art of snake-charming; they still worship her as the goddess Angitia. After a brief visit to Thessaly, where she unsuccessfully competed with Thetis in a beauty contest judged by Idomeneus the Cretan, she married an Asian king whose name has not survived but who is said to have been Medeius’s true father.
b. Hearing, finally, that Aeëtes’s Colchian throne had been usurped by her uncle Perses, Medea went to Colchis with Medeius, who killed Perses, set Aeëtes on his throne again, and enlarged the kingdom of Colchis to include Media. Some pretend that she was by that time reconciled to Jason, and took him with her to Colchis; but the history of Medea has, of course, been embellished and distorted by the extravagant fancies of many tragic dramatists. The truth is that Jason, having forfeited the favour of the gods, whose names he had taken in vain when he broke faith with Medea, wandered homeless from city to city, hated of men. In old age he came once more to Corinth, and sat down in the shadow of the Argo, remembering his past glories, and grieving for the disasters that had overwhelmed him. He was about to hang himself from the prow, when it suddenly toppled forward and killed him. Poseidon then placed the image of the Argo’s stem, which was innocent of homicide, among the stars.
c. Medea never died, but became an immortal and reigned in the Elysian Fields where some say that she, rather than Helen, married Achilles.
d. As for Athamas, whose failure to sacrifice Phrixus had been the cause of the Argonauts’ expedition, he was on the point of being himself sacrificed at Orchomenus, as the sin-offering demanded by the Oracle of Laphystian Zeus, when his grandson Cytisorus returned from Aeaca and rescued him. This vexed Zeus, who decreed that, henceforth, the eldest son of the Athamantids must avoid the Council Hall in perpetuity, on pain of death; a decree which has been observed ever since.
e. The homecomings of the Argonauts yield many tales; but that of Great Ancaeus, the helmsman, is the most instructive. Having survived so many hardships and perils, he returned to his palace at Tegea, where a seer had once warned him that he would never taste the wine of a vineyard which he had planted some years previously. On the day of his arrival, Ancaeus was informed that his steward had harvested the first grapes, and that the wine awaited him. He therefore filled a winecup, set it to his lips and, calling the seer, reproached him for prophesying falsely. The seer answered: ‘Sire, there is many a slip ‘twixt the cup and the lip!’, and at that instant Ancaeus’s servants ran up, shouting: ‘My lord, a wild boar! It is ravaging your vineyard!’ He set down the untasted cup, grasped his boar-spear, and hurried out; but the boar lay concealed behind a bush and, charging, killed him.
The Foundation Of Troy
ONE story told about the foundation of Troy is that, in time of famine, a third of the Cretan people, commanded by Prince Scamander, set out to found a colony. On reaching Phrygia, they pitched their camp beside the sea, not far from the city of Hamaxitus, below a high mountain which they named Ida in honour of Zeus’s Cretan home. Now, Apollo had advised them to settle wherever they should be attacked by earth-born enemies under cover of darkness; and that same night a horde of famished field mice invaded the tents and nibbled at bow-strings, leather shield-straps, and all other edible parts of the Cretans’ war-gear. Scamander accordingly called a halt, dedicated a temple to Sminthian Apollo (around which the city of Sminthium soon grew) and married the nymph Idaea, who bore him a son, Teucer. With Apollo’s help, the Cretans defeated their new neighbours, the Bebrycians, but in the course of the fighting Scamander had leaped into the river Xanthus, which thereupon took his name. Teucer, after whom the settlers were called Teucrians, succeeded him. Yet some say that Teucer himself led the Cretan immigrants, and was welcomed to Phrygia by Dardanus, who gave him his daughter in marriage and called his own subjects Teucrians.
b. The Athenians tell a wholly different story. They deny that the Teucrians came from Crete, and record that a certain Teucer, belonging to the deme of Troes, emigrated from Athens to Phrygia; and that Dardanus, Zeus’s son by the Pleiad Electra, and a native of Arcadian Pheneus, was welcomed to Phrygia by this Teucer, not contrariwise. In support of this tradition it is urged that Erichthonius appears in the genealogy both of the Athenian and the Teucrian royal houses. Dardanus, the Athenians go on to say, married Chryse, the daughter of Pallas, who bore him two sons, Idaeus and Deimas. These reigned for a while over the Arcadian kingdom founded by Atlas, but were parted by the calamities of the Deucalionian Flood. Deimas remained in Arcadia, but Idaeus went with his father Dardanus to Samothrace, which they colonized together, the island being thereafter called Dardania. Chryse had brought Dardanus as her dowry the sacred images of the Great Deities whose priestess she was, and he now introduced their cult into Samothrace, though keeping their true names a secret. Dardanus also founded a college of Salian priests to perform the necessary rites; which were the same as those performed by the Cretan Curetes.
c. Grief at the death of his brother Iasion drove Dardanus across sea to the Troad. He arrived alone, paddling a raft made of an inflated skin which he had ballasted with four stones. Teucer received him hospitably and, on condition that he helped to subdue certain neighbouring tribes, gave him a share of the kingdom and married him to the princess Bateia. Some say that this Bateia was Teucer’s aunt; others, that she was his daughter.
d. Dardanus proposed to found a city on the small hill of Ate, which rises from the plain where Troy, or Ilium, now stands; but when an oracle of Phrygian Apollo warned him that misfortune would always attend its inhabitants, he chose a site on the lower slopes of Mount Ida, and named his city Dardania. After Teucer’s death, Dardanus succeeded to the remainder of the kingdom, giving it his own name, and extended his rule over many Asiatic nations; he also sent out colonists to Thrace and beyond.
e. Meanwhile, Dardanus’s youngest son Idaeus had followed him the Troad, bringing the sacred images; which enabled Dardanus to teach his people the Samothracian Mysteries. An oracle then assured him that the city which he was about to found would remain invincible only so long as his wife’s dowry continued under Athene s protection. His tomb is still shown in that part of Troy which was called Dardania before it merged with the villages of Ileum and Taros into a single city. Ideas settled on the Idea Mountains which, some say, are called after him; and there instituted the worship and Mysteries of the Phrygian Mother of the Gods.
f. According to the Latin tradition, Iasion’s father was the Tyrrhenian prince Corythus; and his twin, Dardanus, the son of Zeus by Corythus’s wife Electra. Both emigrated from Etruria, after dividing these sacred images between them: Iasion went to Samothrace, and Dardanus to the Troad. While battling with the Bebrycians, who tried to throw the Tyrrhenians back into the sea, Dardanus lost his helmet and, although his troops were in retreat, led them back to recover it. This time he was victorious, and founded a city named Corythus on the battle-field in memory of his helmet (corys), as of his father.
g. Idaeus had two elder brothers, Erichthonius and Ilus, or Zacynthius and a daughter, Idaea, who became Phineus’s second wife. When Erichthonius succeeded to the kingdom of Dardanus, he married Astyoche, the daughter of Simoeis, who bore him Tros. Erichthonius, described also as a king of Crete, was the most prosperous of men, in possession of the three thousand mares with which Boreas fell in love. Tros succeeded his father Erichthonius, and not only Troy but the whole Troad took his name. By his wife Callirrhoë, a daughter of Scamander, he became the father of Cleopatra the Younger, Ilus the Younger, Asaracus, and Ganymedes.
i. Meanwhile, Ilus, the brother of Erichthonius had gone to Phrygia, entering for the games which he found in progress, he was victorious in the wrestling match and won fifty youths and fifty maidens as his prize. The Phrygian king (whose name is now forgotten) also gave him a dappled cow, and advised him to found a city wherever she first lie down. Ilus followed her; she lay down on reaching the hill of Ate; and there he built the city of Ilium though, because of the warbling oracle delivered to his father Dardanus, he raised no fortifications. Some, however, say that it was one of Ilus’s own Mysian cows which he followed, and that his instructions came from Apollo. But others hold that Ilium was founded by Locrian immigrants, and that they gave the name of their mountain Phriconis to the Trojan mountain of Cyme.
i. When the circuit of the city boundaries had been marked out, Ilus prayed to Almighty Zeus for a sign, and next morning noticed a wooden object lying in front of his tent, half buried in the earth, and overgrown with weeds. This was the Palladium, a legless image three cubits high, made by Athene in memory of her dead Libyan playmate Pallas. Pallas, whose name Athene added to her own, held a spear aloft in the right hand, and a distaff and spindle in the left; around her breast was wrapped the aegis. Athene had first set up the image on Olympus, beside Zeus’s throne, where it received great honour; but, when Ilus’s great-grandmother, the Pleiad Electra, was violated by Zeus and defiled it with her touch, Athene angrily cast her, with the image, down to earth.
j. Apollo Smintheus now advised Ilus: ‘Preserve the Goddess who fell from the skies, and you will preserve your city: for wherever she goes, she carries empire!’ Accordingly he raised a temple on the citadel to house the image.
k. Some say that the temple was already rising when the image descended from heaven as the goddess’s gift. It dropped through a dart of the roof which had not yet been completed, and was found standing exactly in its proper place. Others say that Electra gave the Palladium to Dardanus, her son by Zeus, and that it was carded from Dardania to Ilium after his death. Others, again, say that it fell from heaven at Athens, and that the Athenian Teucer brought it to the Troad. Still others believe that there were two Palladia, an Athenian and a Trojan, the latter carved from the bones of Pelops, just as the image of Zeus at Olympia was carved from Indian ivory; or, that there were numerous Palladia, all similarly cast from heaven, including the Samothracian images brought to the Troad by Idaeus. The College of Vestals at Rome now guard what is reputed to be the genuine Palladium. No man may look at it with impunity. Once, while it was still in Trojan hands, Ilus rushed to its rescue at an alarm of fire, and was blinded his pains; later, however, he contrived to placate Athene and regained his sight.
l. Eurydice, daughter of Adrastus, bore to Ilus Laomedon, Themiste who married the Phrygian Capys and, some say, the mother of Anchises. By Strymo, a daughter of Scamander and Leucippe, or Zeuxippe, or Thoösa, Laomedon had five sons: Tithonus, Lampus, Clytius, Hicetaon, and Podarces; as well as the daughters: Hesione, Cilla, and Astyoche. He also begot bastard twins on the nymph-shepherdess Calybe. It was he who decided to build famous walls of Troy and was lucky enough to secure the services gods Apollo and Poseidon, then under Zeus’s displeasure for a riot they made against him and forced to serve as day-labourers. Poseidon did the building, while Apollo played the lyre and fed Laomedon’s flocks; and Aeacus the Lelegian lent Poseidon a hand. But Laomedon cheated the gods of their pay and earned their bitter resentment. It was the reason why he and all his sons—except Podarces, now renamed Priam—perished in Heracles’s sack of Troy.
m. Priam, to whom Heracles generously awarded the Trojan throne, surmised that the calamity which had befallen Troy was due to its luckless site, rather than to the anger of the gods. He therefore sent once his nephews to ask the Pythoness at Delphi whether a curse still lay on the hill of Ate. But the priest of Apollo, Panthous the son of Othrias, was so beautiful that Priam’s nephew, forgetting his commission, fell in love with him and carried him back to Troy. Though vexed, Priam had not the heart to punish his nephew. In compensation for the injury done he appointed Panthous priest of Apollo and, ashamed to consult the Pythoness again, rebuilt Troy on the same foundations. Priam’s first wife was Arisbe, a daughter of Merops, the seer. When she had borne him Aesacus, he married her to Hyrtacus, by whom she became the mother of the Hyrtacides: Asius and Nisus.
n. This Aesacus, who learned the art of interpreting dreams from his grandfather Merops, is famous for the great love he showed Asterope, a daughter of the river Cebren: when she died, he tried repeatedly to kill himself by leaping from a sea-cliff until, at last, the gods took pity on his plight. They turned Aesacus into a diving bird, thus allowing him to indulge his obsession with greater decency.
o. Hecabe, Priam’s second wife—whom the Latins call Hecuba — was a daughter of Dymas and the nymph Eunoë; or, some say, of Cisseus and Telecleia; or of the river Sangarius and Metope; or of Glaucippe, the daughter of Xanthus. She bore Priam nineteen of his fifty sons, the remainder being the children of concubines; all fifty occupied adjacent bed-chambers of polished stone. Priam’s twelve daughters slept with their husbands on the farther side of the same courtyard. Hecabe’s eldest son was Hector, whom some call the son of Apollo; next, she bore Paris; then Creusa, Laodice, and Polyxena; then Deiphobus, Helenus, Cassandra, Pammon, Polites, Antiphus, Hipponous, and Polydorus. But Troilus was certainly begotten on her by Apollo.
p. Among Hecabe’s younger children were the twins Cassandra and Helenus. At their birthday feast, celebrated in the sanctuary of Thymbraean Apollo, they grew tired of play and fell asleep in a corner, while their forgetrial parents, who had drunk too much wine, staggered home without them. When Hecabe returned to the temple, she found the sacred serpents licking the children’s ears, and screamed for terror. The serpents at once disappeared into a pile of laurel boughs, but from that hour both Cassandra and Helenus possessed the gift of prophecy.
q. Another account of the matter is that one day Cassandra fell asleep in the temple, Apollo appeared and promised to teach her the art of prophecy if she would lie with him. Cassandra, after accepting his gift, went back on the bargain; but Apollo begged her to give him one kiss and, as she did so, spat into her mouth, thus ensuring that none would ever believe what she prophesied.
r. When, after several years of prudent government, Priam had restored Troy to its former wealth and power, he summoned a Council to discuss the case of his sister Hesione, whom Telamon the Acacid had taken away to Greece. Though he himself was in favour of force, the Council recommended that persuasion should first be tried. His brother-in-law Anterior and his cousin Anchises therefore went to Greece and delivered the Trojan demands to the assembled Greeks at Telamon’s court; but were scornfully sent about their business. The incident was a main cause of the Trojan War, the gloomy end of which Cassandra was now already predicting. To avoid scandal, Priam locked her up in a pyramidal building on the citadel; the guardians cared for her had orders to keep him informed of all her prophesised utterances.
Paris And Helen
WHEN Helen, Leda’s beautiful daughter, grew to womanhood at Sparta in the palace of her foster-father Tyndareus, all the princes of Greece came with rich gifts as her suitors, or sent their kinsmen to represent them. Diomedes, fresh from his victory at Thebes, was there with Ajax, Teucer, Philoctetes, Idomeneus, Patroclus, Menestheus, and many others. Odysseus came too, but empty-handed, because he had not the least chance of success—for, even though the Dioscuri, Helen’s brothers, wanted her to marry Menestheus of Athens, she would, Odysseus knew, be given to Prince Menelaus, the richest of the Achaeans, represented by Tyndareus’s powerful son-in-law Agamemnon.
b. Tyndareus sent no suitor away, but would, on the other hand, accept none of the proffered gifts; fearing that his partiality for any one prince might set the others quarrelling. Odysseus asked him one day: ‘If I tell you how to avoid a quarrel will you, in return, help me to marry Icarius’s daughter Penelope?’ ‘It is a bargain,’ cried Tyndareus. ‘Then,’ continued Odysseus, ‘my advice to you is: insist that all Helen’s suitors swear to defend her chosen husband against whoever resents his good fortune.’ Tyndareus agreed that this was a prudent course. After sacrificing a horse, and jointing it, he made the suitors stand on its bloody pieces, and repeat the oath which Odysseus had formulated; the joints were then buried at a place still called ‘The Horse’s Tomb’.
c. It is not known whether Tyndareus himself chose Helen’s husband, or whether she declared her own preference by crowning him with a wreath. At all events, she married Menelaus, who became King of Sparta after the death of Tyndareus and the deification of the Dioscuri. Yet their marriage was doomed to failure: years before, while sacrificing to the gods, Tyndareus had stupidly overlooked Aphrodite, who took her revenge by swearing to make all three of his daughters — Clytaemnestra, Timandra, and Helen — notorious for their adulteries.
d. Menelaus had one daughter by Helen, whom she named Hermione; their sons were Aethiolas, Maraphius—from whom the Persian family of the Maraphions claim descent—and Pleisthenes. An Aetolian slave-girl named Pieris later bore Menelaus twin bastards: Nicostratus and Megapenthes.
e. Why, it is asked, had Zeus and Themis planned the Trojan War? Was it to make Helen famous for having embroiled Europe and Asia? Or to exalt the race of the demi-gods, and at the same time to thin out the populous tribes that were oppressing the surface of Mother Earth? Their reason must remain obscure, but the decision had already been taken when Eris threw down a golden apple inscribed ‘For the Fairest’ at the wedding of Peleus and Thetis. Almighty Zeus refused to decide the ensuing dispute between Hera, Athene, and Aphrodite, and let Hermes lead the goddesses to Mount Ida, where Priam’s lost son Paris would act as arbiter.
f. Now, just before the birth of Paris, Hecabe had dreamed that she brought forth a faggot from which wriggled countless fiery serpents. She awoke screaming that the city of Troy and the forests of Mount Ida were ablaze. Priam at once consulted his son Aesacus, the seer, who announced: ‘The child about to be born will be the ruin of our country! I beg you to do away with him.’
g. A few days later, Aesacus made a further announcement: ‘The royal Trojan who brings forth a child today must be destroyed, and so must her offspring!’ Priam thereupon killed his sister Cilla, and her infant son Munippus, born that morning from a secret union with Thymoetes, and buried them in the sacred precinct of Tros. But Hecabe was delivered of a son before nightfall, and Priam spared both their lives, although Herophile, priestess of Apollo, and other seers, urged Hecabe at least to kill the child. She could not bring herself to do so; and in the end Priam was prevailed upon to send for his chief herdsman, one Agelaus, and entrust him with the task. Agelaus, being too soft-hearted to use a rope or a sword, exposed the infant on Mount Ida, where he was suckled by a she-bear. Returning after five days, Agelaus was amazed at the portent, and brought the waif home in a wallet hence the name ‘Paris’—to rear with his own new-born son; and took a dog’s tongue to Priam as evidence that his command had been obeyed. But some say that Hecabe bribed Agelaus to spare Paris and keep the secret from Priam.
h. Paris’s noble birth was soon disclosed by his outstanding behaviour, intelligence, and strength: when little more than a child, he routed band of cattle-thieves and recovered the cows they had stolen, thus winning the surname Alexander. Though ranking no higher than a slave at this time, Paris became the chosen lover of Oenone, daughter of the river Oeneus, a fountain-nymph. She had been taught the art of prophecy by Rhea, and that of medicine by Apollo while he was serving as Laomedon’s herdsman. Paris and Oenone used to herd their cattle and hunt together; he carved her name in the bark of beech-trees and poplars. His chief amusement was setting Agelaus’s bulls to fight one another; he would crown the victor with flowers, and the loser with straw. When one bull began to win consistently, Paris pitted it against the champions of his neighbours’ herds, all of which were defeated. At last he offered to set a golden crown upon the horns of any bull that could overcome his own; so, for a jest, Ares turned himself into a bull, and won the prize. Paris’s unhesitating award of this crown to Ares surprised and pleased the gods as they watched from Olympus; which is why Zeus chose him to arbitrate between the three goddesses.
i. He was herding his cattle on Mount Gargarus, the highest peak of Ida, when Hermes, accompanied by Hera, Athene, and Aphrodite, delivered the golden apple and Zeus’s message: ‘Paris, since you are as handsome as you are wise in affairs of the heart, Zeus commands you to judge which of these goddesses is the fairest.’ Paris accepted the apple doubtfully. ‘How can a simple cattle-man like myself become an arbiter of divine beauty?’ he cried. ‘I shall divide this apple between all three.’ ‘No, no, you cannot disobey Almighty Zeus!’ Hermes replied hurriedly. ‘Nor am I authorized to give you advice. Use your native intelligence!’ ‘So be it,’ sighed Paris. ‘But first I beg the losers not to be vexed with me. I am only a human being, liable to make the stupidest mistakes.’ The goddesses all agreed to abide by his decision. ‘Will it be enough to judge them as they are?’ Paris asked Hermes, ‘or should they be naked?’ ‘The rules of the contest are for you to decide,’ Hermes answered with a discreet smile. ‘In that case, will they kindly disrobe?’ Hermes told the goddesses to do so, and politely turned his back.
j. Aphrodite was soon ready, but Athene insisted that she should remove the famous magic girdle, which gave her an unfair advantage by making everyone fall in love with the wearer. ‘Very well,’ said Aphrodite spitefully. ‘I will, on condition that you remove your helmet —you look hideous without it.’ ‘Now, if you please, I must judge you one at a time,’ announced Paris, ‘to avoid distractive arguments. Come here, Divine Hera! Will you other two goddesses be good enough to leave us for awhile?’ ‘Examine me conscientiously,’ said Hera, turning slowly around, and displaying her magnificent figure, ‘and remember that if you judge me the fairest, I will make you lord of all Asia, and the richest man alive.’ ‘I am not to be bribed, my Lady … Very well, thank you. Now I have seen all that I need to see. Come, Divine Athene!’
k. ‘Here I am,’ said Athene, striding purposefully forward. ‘Listen, Paris, if you have enough common sense to award me the prize, I will make you victorious in all your battles, as well as the handsomest and wisest man in the world.’ ‘I am a humble herdsman, not a soldier,’ said Paris. ‘You can see for yourself that peace reigns throughout Lydia and Phrygia, and that King Priam’s sovereignty is uncontested. But I promise to consider fairly your claim to the apple. Now you are at liberty to put on your clothes and helmet again. Is Aphrodite ready?’
l. Aphrodite sidled up to him, and Paris blushed because she came so close that they were almost touching. ‘Look carefully, please, pass nothing over …. By the way, as soon as I saw you, I said to myself: “Upon my word, there goes the handsomest young man in Phrygia! Why does he waste himself here in the wilderness herding stupid cattle?” Well, why do you, Paris? Why not move into a city and lead a civilized life? What have you to lose by marrying someone like Helen of Sparta, who is as beautiful as I am, and no less passionate? I am convinced that, once you two have met, she would abandon her home, her family, everything, to become your mistress. Surely you have heard of Helen?’ ‘Never until now, my Lady. I should be most grateful if you describe her.’
m. ‘Helen is of fair and delicate complexion, having been born from a swan’s egg. She can claim Zeus for a father, loves hunting and wrestling, caused one war while she was still a child—and, when she came of age, all the princes of Greece were her suitors. At present she is married to Menelaus, brother of the High King Agamemnon; but that makes no odds—you can have her if you like.’ ‘How is that possible, if she is already married?’ ‘Heavens! How innocent you are! Have you never heard that it is my divine duty to arrange affairs of this sort? I suggest now that you tour Greece with my son Eros as your guide. Once you reach Sparta, he and I will see that Helen falls head over heels in love with you.’ ‘Would you swear to that?’ Paris asked excitedly. Aphrodite uttered a solemn oath, and Paris, without a second thought, awarded her the golden apple. By this judgement he incurred the smothered hatred of both Hera and Athene, who went off arm-in-arm to plot the destruction of Troy; while Aphrodite, with a naughty smile, stood wondering how best to keep her promise.
n. Soon afterwards, Priam sent his servants to fetch a bull from Agelaus’s herd. It was to be a prize at the funeral games now annually celebrated in honour of his dead son. When the servants chose the champion bull, Paris was seized by a sudden desire to attend the games, and ran after them. Agelaus tried to restrain him: ‘You have your own private bull fights, what more do you want?’ But Paris persisted and, in the end, Agelaus accompanied him to Troy.
o. It was a Trojan custom that, at the close of the sixth lap of the chariot race, those who had entered for the boxing match should begin fighting in front of the throne. Paris decided to compete and, despite Agelaus’s entreaties, sprang into the arena and won the crown, by sheer courage rather than by skill. He also came home first in the footrace, which so exasperated Priam’s sons that they challenged him to another; thus he won his third crown. Ashamed at this public defeat, they decided to kill him and set an armed guard at every exit of the stadium, while Hector and Deiphobus attacked him with their swords. Paris leaped for the protection of Zeus’s altar, and Agelaus ran towards Priam, crying: ‘Your Majesty, this youth is your long-lost son!’ Priam at once summoned Hecabe who, when Agelaus displayed a rattle which had been found in Paris’s hands, confirmed his identity. He was taken triumphantly to the palace, where Priam celebrated his return with a huge banquet and sacrifices to the gods. Yet, as soon as the priests of Apollo heard the news, they announced that Paris must be put to death immediately, else Troy would perish. This was reported to Priam, who answered: ‘Better that Troy should fall, than that my wonderful son should die!’
p. Paris’s married brothers presently urged him to take a wife; but he told them that he trusted Aphrodite to choose one for him, and used to offer her prayers every day. When another Council was called to discuss the rescue of Hesione, peaceful overtures having failed, Paris volunteered to lead the expedition, if Priam would provide him with a large, well-manned fleet. He cunningly added that, should he fail to bring Hesione back, he might perhaps carry off a Greek princess of equal rank to hold in ransom for her. His heart was, of course, secretly set on going to Sparta to fetch back Helen.
q. That very day, Menelaus arrived unexpectedly at Troy and enquired for the tombs of Lycus and Chimaerus, Prometheus’s sons by Celaeno the Atlantid: he explained that the remedy which the Delphic Oracle had prescribed him for a plague now ravaging Sparta was to offer them heroic sacrifices. Paris entertained Menelaus and begged, as a favour, to be purified by him at Sparta, since he had accidentally killed Antenor’s young son Antheus with a toy sword. When Menelaus agreed, Paris, on Aphrodite’s advice, commissioned Phereclus, the son of Tecton, to build the fleet which Priam had promised him; the figurehead of his flag-ship was to be an Aphrodite holding a miniature Eros. Paris’s cousin Aeneas, Anchises’s son, agreed to accompany him. Cassandra, her hair streaming loose, foretold the conflagration that the voyage would cause, and Helenus concurred; but Priam took no notice of either of his prophetic children. Even Oenone failed to dissuade Paris from the fatal journey, although he wept when kissing her good-bye. ‘Come back to me if ever you are wounded,’ she said, ‘because I alone can heal you.’
r. The fleet put out to sea, Aphrodite sent a favouring breeze, and Paris soon reached Sparta, where Menelaus feasted him for nine days. At the banquet, Paris presented Helen with the gifts that he had brought from Troy; and his shameless glances, loud sighs and bold signals caused her considerable embarrassment. Picking up her goblet he would set his lips to that part of the rim from which she had drunk; and once she found the words ‘I love you, Helen!’ traced in wine on the table top. She grew terrified that Menelaus might suspect her of encouraging Paris’s passion; but, being an unobservant man, he cheerfully sailed off to Crete, where he had to attend the obsequies of his grandfather Catreus, leaving her to entertain the guests and rule the kingdom during his absence?
s. Helen eloped with Paris that very night, and gave herself to him in love at the first port of call, which was the island of Cranaë. On the mainland, opposite Cranaë, stands a shrine of Aphrodite the Uniter, founded by Paris to celebrate this occasion. Some record untruthfully that Helen rejected his advances, and that he carried her off by force while she was out hunting; or by a sudden raid on the city of Sparta; or by disguising himself, with Aphrodite’s aid, as Menelaus. She abandoned her daughter Hermione, then nine years of age, but took away her son Pleisthenes, the greater part of the palace treasures, and gold to the value of three talents stolen from Apollo’s temple; as well as five serving women, among whom were the two former queens, Aethra the mother of Theseus, and Theisadie, Peirithotis’s sister.
t. As they steered towards Troy, a great storm sent by Hera forced Paris to touch at Cyprus. Thence he sailed to Sidon, and was entertained by the king whom, being now instructed in the ways of the Greek world, he treacherously murdered and robbed in his own banqueting hall. While the rich booty was being embarked, a company of Sidonians attacked him; these he beat off, after a bloody fight and the loss of two ships, and came safely away. Fearing pursuit by Menelaus, Paris delayed for several months in Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Egypt; but, reaching Troy at last, he celebrated his wedding with Helen. The Trojans welcomed her, entranced by such divine beauty; and one day, finding a stone on the Trojan citadel, which dripped blood when rubbed against another, she recognized this as a powerful aphrodisiac and used it to keep Paris’s passion ablaze. What was more, all Troy, not Paris only, fell in love with her; and Priam took an oath never to let her go.
u. An altogether different account of the matter is that Hermes stole Helen at Zeus’s command, and entrusted her to King Proteus of Egypt; meanwhile, a phantom Helen, fashioned from clouds by Hera (or, some say, by Proteus) was sent to Troy at Paris’s side: with the sole purpose of provoking strife.
v. Egyptian priests record, no less improbably, that the Trojan fleet blown of its course, and that Paris landed at Salinas in the Canopic mouth of the Nile. There stands Heracles’s temple, a sanctuary for runaway slaves who, on arrival, dedicate themselves to the god and receive certain sacred marks on their bodies. Paris’s servants fled here and, after securing the priests’ protection, accused him of having abducted Helen. The Canopic warden took cognizance of the matter and reported it to King Proteus at Memphis, who had Paris arrested and brought before him, together with Helen and the stolen treasure. After a close interrogation, Proteus banished Paris but detained Helen and the treasure in Egypt, until Menelaus should come to recover them. In Memphis stands a temple of Aphrodite the Stranger, said to have been dedicated by Helen herself.
w. Helen bore Paris three sons, Bunomus, Aganus, and Idaeus, all of them killed at Troy while still infants by the collapse of a roof; and one daughter, also called Helen. Paris had an elder son by Oenone, named Corythus, whom, in jealousy of Helen, she sent to guide the avenging Greeks to Troy.
The First Gathering At Aulis
WHEN Paris decided to make Helen his wife, he did not expect to pay for his outrage of Menelaus’s hospitality. Had the Cretans been called to account when, in the name of Zeus, they stole Europe from the Phoenicians? Had the Argonauts been asked to pay for their abduction of Medea from Colchis? Or the Athenians for their abduction of Cretan Ariadne? Or the Thracians for that of Athenian Oreithyia? This case, however, proved to be different. Hera sent Iris flying to Crete with news of the elopement; and Menelaus hurried to Mycenae, where he begged his brother Agamemnon to raise levies at once and lead an army against Troy.
b. Agamemnon consented to take this course only if the envoys whom he now sent to Troy, demanding Helen’s return and compensation for the injury done to Menelaus, came back empty-handed. When Priam denied all knowledge of the matter—Paris being still in Southern waters—and asked what satisfaction his own envoys had been offered for the rape of Hesione, heralds were sent by Menelaus to every prince who had taken his oath on the bloody joints of the horse, reminding him that Paris’s act was an affront to the whole of Greece. Unless the crime were punished in an exemplary fashion, nobody could henceforth be sure of his wife’s safety. Menelaus now fetched old Nestor from Pylus, and together they travelled over the Greek mainland, summoning the leaders of the expedition.
c. Next, accompanied by Menelaus and Palamedes, the son of Nauplius, Agamemnon visited Ithaca, where he had the greatest difficulty in persuading Odysseus to join the expedition. This Odysseus, though he passed as the son of Laertes, had been secretly begotten by Sisyphus on Anticleia, daughter of the famous thief Autolycus. Just after the birth, Autolycus came to Ithaca and on the first night of his stay, when supper ended, took the infant on his knee. ‘Name him, father,’ said Anticleia. Autolycus answered: ‘In the course of my life I have antagonized many princes, and I shall therefore name this grandson Odysseus, meaning The Angry One, because he will be the victim of my enmities. Yet if he ever comes to Mount Parnassus to reproach me, I shall give him a share of my possessions, and assuage his anger.’ As soon as Odysseus came of age, he duly visited Autolycus but, while out hunting with his uncles, was gashed in the thigh by a boar, and carried the scar to his grave. However, Autolycus looked after him well enough, and he returned to Ithaca laden with the promised gifts.
d. Odysseus married Penelope, daughter of Icarius and the Naiad Periboea; some say, at the request of Icarius’s brother Tyndareus, who arranged for him to win a suitors’ race down the Spartan street called ‘Apheta’. Penelope, formerly named Arnaea, or Arnacia, had been flung into the sea by Nauplius at her father’s order; but a flock of purple-striped ducks buoyed her up, fed her, and towed her ashore. Impressed by this prodigy, Icarius and Periboea relented, and Arnaea won the new name of Penelope, which means ‘duck’.
e. After marrying Penelope to Odysseus, Icarius begged him to remain at Sparta and, when he refused, followed the chariot in which the bridal pair were driving away, entreating her to stay behind. Odysseus, who had hitherto kept his patience, turned and told Penelope: ‘Either come to Ithaca of your own free will; or, if you prefer your father, stay here without me’. Penelope’s only reply was to draw down her veil. Icarius, realizing that Odysseus was within his rights, let her go, and raised an image to Modesty, which is still shown some four miles from the city of Sparta, at the place where this incident happened.
f. Now, Odysseus had been warned by an oracle: ‘If you go to Troy, you will not return until the twentieth year, and then alone and destitute.’ He therefore feigned madness, and Agamemnon, Menelaus, and Palamedes found him wearing a peasant’s felt cap shaped like a half—egg, ploughing with an ass and an ox yoked together, and flinging salt over his shoulder as he went. When he pretended not to recognize his distinguished guests, Palamedes snatched the infant Telemachus from Penelope’s arms and set him on the ground before the advancing team. Odysseus hastily reined them in to avoid killing his only son and, his sanity having thus been established, was obliged to join the expedition.
g. Menelaus and Odysseus then travelled with Agamemnon’s herald Talthybius to Cyprus, where King Cinyras, another of Helen’s former suitors, handed them a breastplate as a gift for Agamemnon, and swore to contribute fifty ships. He kept his promise, but sent only one real ship and forty—me small earthenware ones, with dolls for crews, which the captain launched as he approached the coast of Greece. Invoked by Agamemnon to avenge this fraud, Apollo is said to have killed Cinyras, whereupon his fifty daughters leapt into the sea and became halcyons; the truth is, however, that Cinyras killed himself when he discovered that he had committed incest with his daughter Smyrne.
h. Calchas the priest of Apollo, a Trojan renegade, had foretold that Troy could not be taken without the aid of young Achilles, the seventh son of Peleus. Achilles’s mother Thetis had destroyed his other brothers by burning away their mortal parts, and he would have perished in the same way, had not Peleus snatched him from the fire, replacing his charred ankle-bone with one borrowed from the disinterred skeleton of the giant Damysus. But some say that Thetis dipped him in the river Styx, so that only the heel by which she held him was not immortalized.
i. When Thetis deserted Peleus, he took the child to Cheiron the Centaur, who reared him on Mount Pelion, feeding him on the umbles of lions and wild boars, and the marrow of bears, to give him courage; or, according to another account, on honey-comb, and fawns’ marrow to make him run swiftly. Cheiron instructed him in the arts of riding, hunting, pipe-playing, and healing; the Muse Calliope, also, taught him how to sing at banquets. When only six years of age he killed his first boar, and thenceforth was constantly dragging the panting bodies of boars and lions back to Cheiron’s cave. Athene and Artemis gazed in wonder at this golden-haired child, who was so swift of foot that he could overtake and kill stags without the help of hounds.
j. Now, Thetis knew that her son would never return from Troy if he joined the expedition, since he was fated either to gain glory there and die early, or to live a long but inglorious life at home. She disguised him as a girl, and entrusted him to Lycomedes, king of Scyros, in whose palace he lived under the name of Cercysera, Aissa, or Pyrrha; and had an intrigue with Lycomedes’s daughter Deidameia, by whom he became the father of Pyrrhus, later called Neoptolemus. But some say that Neoptolemus was the son of Achilles and Iphigeneia.
k. Odysseus, Nestor, and Ajax were sent to fetch Achilles from Scyros, where he was rumoured to be hidden. Lycomedes let them search the palace, and they might never have detected Achilles, had not Odysseus laid a pile of gifts—for the most part jewels, girdles, embroidered dresses and such—in the hall, and asked the court-ladies to take their choice. Then Odysseus ordered a sudden trumpet-blast and clash of arms to sound outside the palace and, sure enough, one of the girls stripped herself to the waist and seized the shield and spear which he had included among the gifts. It was Achilles, who now promised to lead his Myrmidons to Troy.
l. Some authorities disdain this as a fanciful tale and say that Nestor and Odysseus came on a recruiting tour to Phthia, where they were entertained by Peleus, who readily allowed Achilles, now fifteen years of age, to go off under the tutorship of Phoenix, the son of Amyntor and Cleobule; and that Thetis gave him a beautiful inlaid chest, packed with tunics, wind—proof cloaks, and thick rugs for the journey? This Phoenix had been accused by Phthia, his father’s concubine, of having violated her. Amyntor blinded Phoenix, at the same time setting a curse of childlessness on him; and whether the accusation was true or false, childless he remained. However, he fled to Phthia, where Peleus not only persuaded Cheiron to restore his sight, but appointed him king of the neighbouring Dolopians. Phoenix then volunteered to become the guardian of Achilles who, in return, became deeply attached to him. Some, therefore, hold that Phoenix’s blindness was not true loss of sight, but metaphorical of impotence—a curse which Peleus lifted by making him a second father to Achilles.
m. Achilles had an inseparable companion: his cousin Patroclus, who was older than he, though neither so strong, nor so swift, nor so well-born. The name of Patroclus’s father is sometimes given as Menoetius of Opus, and sometimes as Aeacus; and his mother is variously called Sthenele, daughter of Acastus; Periopis, daughter of Pheres; Polymele, daughter of Peleus; or Philomele, daughter of Actor. He had fled to Pelcus’s court after killing Amphidamas’s son Cleitonymus, or Aeanes, in a quarrel over a game of dice.
n. When the Greek fleet was already drawn up at Aulis, a protected beach in the Euboean straits, Cretan envoys came to announce that their King Idomeneus, son of Deucalion, would bring a hundred ships to Troy, if Agamemnon agreed to share the supreme command with him; and this condition was accepted. Idomeneus, a former suitor of Helen’s, and famous for his good looks, brought as his lieutenant Meriones, son of Molus, reputedly one of Minos’s bastards. He bore the figure of a cock on his shield, because he was descended from Helius, and wore a helmet garnished with boar’s tusks. Thus the expedition became a Creto-Hellene enterprise. The Hellenic land forces were commanded by Agamemnon, with Odysseus, Palamedes and Diomedes as his lieutenants; and the Hellenic fleet by Achilles, with the support of Great Ajax and Phoenix.
o. Of all his counsellors, Agamemnon set most store by Nestor King of Pylus, whose wisdom was unrivalled, and whose eloquence sweeter than honey. He ruled over three generations of men, but remained, despite his great age, a bold fighter, and the one commander who surpassed the Athenian king Menestheus in cavalry and infantry tactics. His sound judgement was shared by Odysseus, and these two always advised the same course for the successful conduct of the war.
p. Great Ajax, son of Telamon and Periboea, came from Salamis. He was second only to Achilles in courage, strength, and beauty, and stood head and shoulders taller than his nearest rival, carrying a shield of proof made from seven bulls’ hides. His body was invulnerable except in the armpit, and some say, at the neck, because of the charm Heracles had laid upon him. As he went aboard his vessel, Telamon gave him this parting advice: ‘Set your mind on conquest, but always with the help of the gods.’ Ajax boasted: ‘With the help of the gods, any coward or fool can win glory; I trust to do so even without them!’ By this boast, and others like it, he incurred divine anger. On one occasion, when Athene came to urge him on in battle, he shouted back: ‘Be off, Goddess, and encourage my fellow-Greeks: for, where I am, no enemy will ever break through!’ Ajax’s half-brother Teucer, a bastard son of Telamon and Hesione, and the best archer in Greece, used to fight from behind Ajax’s shield, returning to its shelter as a child runs to his mother.
q. Little Ajax the Locrian, son of Oileus and Eriopis, though small, outdid all the Greeks in spear-throwing and, next to Achilles, ran the swiftest. He was the third member of Great Ajax’s team of fighters, and could easily be recognized by his linen corslet and the tame serpent, longer than a man, which followed him everywhere like a dog. His half-brother Medon, a bastard son of Oileus and the nymph Rhene, came from Phytace, where he had been banished for having slain Eriopis’s brother.
r. Diomedes, the son of Tydeus and Deipyle, came from Argos, accompanied by two fellow-Epigoni, namely Sthenelus, son of Capaneus, and Euryalus the Argonaut, son of Mecisteus. He had been deeply in love with Helen, and took her abduction by Paris as a personal affront.
s. Tlepolemus the Argive, a son of Heracles, brought nine ships from Rhodes.
t. Before leaving Aulis, the Greek fleet received supplies of corn, wine, and other provisions from Anius, king of Delos, whom Apollo had secretly begotten on Rhoeo, daughter of Staphylus and Chrysothemis. Rhoeo was locked in a chest and set adrift by her father when he found her with child; but, being washed ashore on the coast of Euboea, gave birth to a boy whom she named Anius, because of the trouble she had suffered on his account; and Apollo made him his own prophetic priest-king at Delos. Some say, however, that Rhoeo’s chest drifted directly to Delos.
u. By his wife Dorippe, Anius was the father of three daughters: Elais, Spermo, and Oeno, who are called the Wine-growers; and of a son, Andron, king of Andros, to whom Apollo taught the art of augury. Being himself a priest of Apollo, Anius dedicated the Wine-growers to Dionysus, wishing his family to be under the protection of more than one god. In return, Dionysus granted that whatever Elais touched, after invoking his help, should be turned into oil; whatever Spermo touched, into corn; and whatever Oeno touched, into wine. Thus Anius found it easy enough to provision the Greek fleet. Yet Agamemnon was not satisfied: he sent Menelaus and Odysseus to Delos, where they asked Anius whether they might take the Wine-growers on the expedition. Anius refused this request, telling Menelaus that it was the will of the gods that Troy should be taken only in the tenth year. ‘Why not all remain here on Delos for the intervening period?’ he suggested hospitably. ‘My daughters will keep you supplied with food and drink until the tenth year, and they shall then accompany you to Troy, if necessary.’ But, because Agamemnon had strictly ordered: ‘Bring them to me, whether Anius consents or not!’, Odysseus bound the Wine-growers, and forced them to embark in his vessel. When they escaped, two of them fleeing to Euboea and the other to Andros, Agamemnon sent ships in pursuit, and threatened war if they were not given up. All three surrendered, but called upon Dionysus, who turned them into doves; and to this day doves are closely protected on Delos.
v. At Aulis, while Agamemnon was sacrificing to Zeus and Apollo, a blue serpent with blood-red markings on its back darted from beneath the altar, and made straight for a free plane-tree which grew near by. On the highest branch lay a sparrow’s nest, containing eight young birds and their mother: the serpent devoured them all and then, still coiled around the branch, was turned to stone by Zeus. Calchas explained this portent as strengthening Anius’s prophecy: nine years must pass before Troy could be taken, but taken it would be. Zeus further heartened them all with a flash of lightning on their right, as the fleet set sail.
w. Some say that the Greeks left Aulis a month after Agamemnon had persuaded Odysseus to join them, and Calchas piloted them to Troy by his second—sight. Others, that Oenone sent her son Corythus to guide them. But, according to a third, more generally accepted account, they had no pilot, and sailed in error to Mysia, where they disembarked and began to ravage the country, mistaking it for the Troad. King Telephus drove them back to their ships and killed the brave Thersander, son of Theban Polyneices, who alone had stood his ground. Then up ran Achilles and Patroclus, at sight of whom Telephus turned and fled along the banks of the river Caicus. Now, the Greeks had sacrificed to Dionysus at Aulis, whereas the Mysians had neglected him; as a punishment, therefore, Telephus was tripped up by a vine that sprang unexpectedly from the soil, and Achilles wounded him in the thigh with the famous spear which only he could wield, Cheiron’s gift to his father Peleus.
x. Thersander was buried at Mysian Elaea, where he now has a hero-shrine; the command of his Boeotians passed first to Peneleos and next, when he was killed by Telephus’s son Eurypylus, to Thersander’s son Tisamenus, who had not been of age at the time of his father’s death. But some pretend that Thersander survived, and was one of those who hid in the Wooden Horse.
y. Having bathed their wounded in the hot Ionian springs near Smyrna, called ‘The Baths of Agamenmon’, the Greeks put to sea once more but, their ships being scattered by a violent storm which Hera had raised, each captain steered for his own country. It was on this occasion that Achilles landed at Scyros, and formally married Deidameia. Some believe that Troy fell twenty years after the abduction of Helen: that the Greeks made this false start in the second year; and that eight years elapsed before they embarked again. But it is far more probable that their council of war at Spartan Hellenium was held in the same year as their rerrement from Mysia; they were still, it is said, in great perplexity because they had no competent pilot to steer them to Troy.
z. Meanwhile, Telephus’s wound still festered, and Apollo announced that it could be healed only by its cause. So he visited Agamemnon at Mycenae, clad in rags like a suppliant, and on Clytaemnestra’s advice snatched the infant Orestes from his cradle. ‘I will kill your son,’ he cried, ‘unless you cure me!’ But Agamemnon, having been warned by an oracle that the Greeks could not take Troy without Telephus’s advice, gladly undertook to aid him, if he would guide the fleet to Troy. When Telephus agreed, Achilles, at Agamemnon’s request, scraped some rust off his spear into the wound and thus healed it; with the further help of the herb achilleos, a vulnerary which he had himself discovered. Telephus later refused to join the expedition, on the ground that his wife, Laodice, also called Hiera, or Astyoche, was Priam’s daughter; but he showed the Greeks what course to shape, and Calchas confirmed the accuracy of his advice by divination.
The Second Gathering At Aulis
CALCHAS, the brother of Leucippe and Theonoë, had learned the of prophecy from his father Thestor. One day, Theonoë was walking on the seashore near Troy, when Carian pirates bore her off, and she became mistress to King Icarus. Thestor at once set out in pursuit, but was shipwrecked on the Carian coast and imprisoned by Icarus. Sever years later, Leucippe, who had been a mere child when these sad event took place, went to Delphi for news of her father and sister. Advised by the Pythoness to disguise herself as a priest of Apollo and go to Caria in search of them, Leucippe obediently shaved her head and visited the court of King Icarus; but Theonoë, not seeing through the disguise, fell in love with her, and told one of the guards: ‘Bring that young priest to my bedroom!’ Leucippe, failing to recognize Theonoë, and fearing to be put to death as an impostor, rebuffed her; whereupon Theonoë, since she could not ask the palace servants to commit sacrilege by killing a priest, gave orders that one of the foreign prisoners must do so, an sent a sword for his use.
b. Now, the prisoner chosen was Thestor, who went to the bedroom in which Leucippe had been locked, displayed his sword, and despairingly told her his story. ‘I will not kill you, sir,’ he said, ‘because I too worship Apollo, and prefer to kill myself! But let me first reveal my name: I am Thestor, son of Idmon the Argonaut, a Trojan priest.’ He was about to plunge the sword into his own breast, when Leucippe snatched it away. ‘Father, father!’ she exclaimed, ‘I am Leucippe, your daughter! Do not turn this weapon against yourself; use it to kill King Icarus’s abominable concubine. Come, follow me!’ They hurried to Theonoë’s embroidery-chamber. ‘Ah, lustful one,’ cried Leucippe, bursting in and dragging Thestor after her. ‘Prepare to die by the hand of my father, Thestor son of Idmon!’ Then it was Theonoë’s turn to exclaim: ‘Father, father!’; and when the three had wept tears of joy, and given thanks to Apollo, King Icarus generously sent them all home, laden with gifts.
c. Now Priam, after rejecting Agamemnon’s demand for the return of Helen, sent Thestor’s son Calchas, a priest of Apollo, to consult the Delphic Pythoness. Having foretold the fall of Troy and the total ruin of Priam’s house, she ordered Calchas to join the Greeks and prevent them from raising the siege until they were victorious. Calchas then swore an oath of friendship with Achilles, who lodged him in his own house, and presently brought him to Agamemnon.
d. When the Greek fleet assembled for the second time at Aulis, but was wind-bound there for many days, Calchas prophesied that they would be unable to sail unless Agamemnon sacrificed the most beautiful of his daughters to Artemis. Why Artemis should have been vexed is disputed. Some say that, on shooting a stag at long range, Agamemnon had boasted: ‘Artemis herself could not have done better!’; or had killed her sacred goat; or had vowed to offer her the most beautiful creature born that year in his kingdom, which happened to be Iphigeneia; or that his father Atreus had withheld a golden-lamb which was her due. At any rate, Agamemnon refused to do as he was expected, saying that Clytaemnestra would never let Iphigeneia go. But when the Greeks swore: ‘We shall transfer our allegiance to Palamedes if he continues obdurate,’ and when Odysseus, feigning anger, prepared to sail home, Menelaus came forward as peace-maker. He suggested that Odysseus and Talthybius should fetch Iphigeneia to Aulis, on the pretext of marrying her to Achilles as a reward for his dating feats in Mysia. To this ruse Agamemnon agreed, and though he at once sent a secret message, warning Clytaemnestra not to believe Odysseus, Menelaus intercepted this, and she was tricked into bringing Iphigeneia to Aulis.
e. When Achilles found that his name had been misused, he undertook to protect Iphigeneia from injury; but she nobly consented to die for the glory of Greece, and offered her neck to the sacrificial axe without a word of complaint. Some say that, in the nick of time, Artemis carried her off to the land of the Taurians, substituting a hind at the altar; or a she-bear; or an old woman. Others, that a peal of thunder was heard and that, at Artemis’s order and Clytaemnestra’s plea, Achilles intervened, saved Iphigeneia, and sent her to Scythia; or that he married her, and that she, not Deidameia, bore him Neoptolemus.
f. But whether Iphigeneia died or was spared, the north-easterly gale dropped, and the fleet set sail at last. They first touched at Lesbos, where Odysseus entered the ring against King Philomeleides, who always compelled his guests to wrestle with him; and, amid the loud cheers of every Greek present, threw him ignominiously. Next, they landed on Tenedos, which is visible from Troy, and was then ruled by Tenes who, though reputedly the son of Cycnus and Procleia of Laomedon, could call Apollo his father.
g. This Cycnus, a son of Poseidon and Calyce, or Harpale, ruled in Colonae. He had been born in secret, and exposed on the seashore, where was found by some fishermen who saw a swan flying him. After the death of Procleia, he married Philonome, daughter of Tragasus; she fell in love with her step-son Tenes, failed to seduce him, and vengefully accused him of having tried to violate her. She called the flautist Molpus as a witness; and Cycnus, believing them, closed Tenes and his sister Hemithea in a chest and set them adrift on the sea. They were washed ashore on the island of Tenedos, where Tenes was hitherto called Leucophrys, which means’ white brow’. Later, when Cycnus learned the truth, he had Molpus stoned to death, and Philonome buried alive. On hearing that Tenes survived and was living on Tenedos, hastened there to admit his error. But Tenes, in an unforgiving mood, cut the cables of Cycnus’s ship with an axe: hence the proverbial expression for an angry refusal—’He cut him with an axe from Tenedos.’ Finally, however, Tenes softened, and Cycnus settled near him on Tenedos.
h. Now, Thetis had warned Achilles that if ever he killed a son of Apollo, he must himself die by Apollo’s hand; and a servant named Mnemon accompanied him for the sole purpose of reminding him of this. But Achilles, when he saw Tenes hurling a huge rock from a cliff at the Greek ships, swam ashore, and thoughtlessly thrust him through the heart. The Greeks then landed and ravaged Tenedos; and realizing too late what he had done, Achilles put Mnemon to death because he had failed to remind him of Thetis’s words. He buried Tenes where his shrine now stands: no flautist may enter there, nor may Achilles’s name be mentioned. Achilles also killed Cycnus with a blow on the head, only vulnerable part; and pursued Hemithea, who fled from him like a hind, but would have been overtaken and violated, had not the earth swallowed her up. It was in Tenedos, too, that Achilles first quarrelled with Agamenmon, whom he accused of having invited him to join the expedition only as an afterthought.
i. Palamedes offered a hecatomb to Apollo Smintheus in gratitude for the Tenedan victory but, as he did so, a water-snake approached the altar and bit Philoctetes, the famous archer, in the foot; Neither unguents nor fomentations availed, and the wound grew so noisome, and Philoctetes’s groans so loud, that the army could no longer tolerate his company. Agamemnon therefore ordered Odysseus to put him ashore in a deserted district of Lemnos, where he sustained life for several years by shooting birds; and Medon assumed the command of his troops.
j. According to another account, the accident happened on Chryse, an islet off Lemnos, which has since vanished beneath the sea. There either the nymph Chryse fell in love with Philoctetes and, when he rejected her advances, provoked a viper to bite him while he was clearing away the earth from a buried altar of Athene Chryse; or else a serpent that guarded Athene’s temple bit him when he came too close.
k. According to a third account, Philoctetes was bitten in Lemnos itself by a serpent which Hera sent as a punishment for his having dared to kindle Heracles’s funeral pyre. He was, at the time, raptly gazing at the altar raised to Athene by Jason, and planning to raise another to Heracles.
l. A fourth account is that Philoctetes was bitten while admiring Troilus’s tomb in the temple of Thymbraean Apollo. A fifth, that he was wounded by one of Heracles’s envenomed arrows. Heracles, it is said, had made him swear never to divulge the whereabouts of his buried ashes; but when the Greeks learned that Troy could not be sacked without the use of Heracles’s arrows, they went in search of Philoctetes. Though at first denying all knowledge of Heracles, he ended by telling them exactly what had happened on Mount Oeta; so they eagerly asked him where they might find the grave. This question he refused to answer, but they became so insistent that he went to the place, and there wordlessly stamped on the ground. Later, as he passed the grave on his way to the Trojan War, one of Heracles’s arrows leaped from the quiver and pierced his foot: a warning that one must not reveal divine secrets even by a sign or hint.
Nine Years Of War
AT what point the Greeks sent Priam envoys to demand the return of Helen and of Menelaus’s property, is disputed. Some say, soon after the expedition had landed in the Troad; others, before the ships assembled at Aulis; but it is commonly held that the embassy, consisting of Menelaus, Odysseus, and Palamedes, went ahead from Tenedos. The Trojans, however, being determined to keep Helen, would have murdered them all had not Antenor, in whose house they were lodging, forbidden the shameful deed.
b. Vexed by this obduracy, the Greeks sailed from Tenedos and beached their ships within sight of Troy. The Trojans at once flocked down to the sea and tried to repel the invaders with showers of stones. Then, while all the others hesitated—even Achilles, whom Thetis had warned that the first to land would be the first to die—Protesilaus leaped ashore, killed a number of Trojans, and was struck dead by Hector; or it may have been Euphorbus; or Aeneas’s friend Achates.
c. This Protesilaus, an uncle of Philoctetes, and son of that Iphiclus whom Melampus cured of impotence, had been called Iolaus, but was renamed from the circumstance of his death. He lies buried in the Thracian Chersonese, near the city of Elaeus, where he is now given divine honours. Tall elm-trees, planted by nymphs, stand within. his precinct and overshadow the tomb. The boughs which face Troy across the sea burst early into leaf, but presently go bare; while those on the other side are still green in winter-time. When the elms grow so high that the walls of Troy can be clearly discerned by a man posted in their upper branches, they wither; saplings, however, spring again from the roots.
d. Protesilaus’s wife Laodameia, daughter of Acastus (whom some call Polydora daughter of Meleager) missed him so sadly that as soon as he sailed for Troy she made a brazen, or wax, statue of him and laid it in her bed. But this was poor comfort, and when news came of his death, she begged the gods to take pity and let him revisit her, if only for three hours. Almighty Zeus granted Laodameia’s request, and Hermes brought up Protesilaus’s ghost from Tartarus to animate the statue. Speaking with its mouth, Protesilaus then adjured her not to delay in following him, and the three hours had no sooner ended than she stabbed herself to death in his embrace. Others say that Laodameia’s father Acastus forced her to remarry, but that she spent her nights with Protesilaus’s statue until one day a servant, bringing apples for a day sacrifice, looked through a crack in the bedroom-door and saw her embracing what he took to be a lover. He ran and told Acastus who bursting into the room, discovered the truth. Rather than letting her torture herself by fruitless longing, Acastus ordered the statue to be burned; but Laodameia threw herself into the flames and perished with it.
e. According to another tradition, Protesilaus survived the Trojan War and set sail for home. He took back, as his prisoner, Priam’s sister Aethylla. On the way he landed at the Macedonian peninsula of Pellene but, while he went ashore in search of water, Aethylla persuaded the other captive women’ to burn the ships; and Protesilaus, thus obliged to remain on Pellene, founded the city of Scione. This, however, is an error: Aethylla, with Astyoche and her fellow-captives, set fire to the vessels beside the Italian river Navaethus, which means ‘burning of ships’; and Protesilaus did not figure among their captors.
f. Achilles was the second Greek to land on the Trojan shore, closely followed by his Myrmidons, and killed Cycnus son of Poseidon with a well-flung stone. Thereupon the Trojans broke and fled back to their city, while the remainder of the Greeks disembarked and pressed murderously on the rout. According to another account, Achilles, mindful of Protesilaus’s rite, was the very last to land, and then took such a prodigious leap from his ship that a spring gushed out where his feet struck the shore. In the ensuing battle, it is said, Cycnus, who was invulnerable, killed Greeks by the hundred; but Achilles, after trying sword and spear against him in vain, battered furiously at his face with the hilt of his sword, forced him backwards until he tripped over a stone, then knelt on his breast and strangled him with the straps of his helmet; however, Poseidon turned his spirit into a swan, which flew away. The Greeks then laid siege to Troy and drew up their strips behind a stockade.
g. Now, the city was fated not to fall if Troilus could attain the age of twenty. Some say that Achilles fell in love with him as they fought together, and ‘I will kill you,’ he said, ‘unless you yield to my caresses!’ Troilus fled and took refuge in the sanctuary in the temple of Thymbraean Apollo; but Achilles cared nothing for the god’s wrath and since Troilus remained coy, beheaded him at the altar, the very place where he himself later perished. Others say that Achilles speared Troilus while he was exercising his horses in the temple precinct; or that he lured him out by offering a gift of doves, and that Troilus died with crushed ribs and livid face, in such bear-like fashion did Achilles make love. Others, again, say that Troilus sallied vengefully from Troy after the death of Memnon and encountered Achilles, who killed him—or else he was taken prisoner and then publicly slaughtered in cold blood at Achilles’s orders—and that, being then middle-aged, with a swarthy complexion and a flowing beard, he can hardly have excited Achilles’s passion. But whatever the manner of his death, Achilles caused it, and the Trojans mourned for him as grievously as for Hector.
h. Troilus is said to have loved Briseis, Calchas’s beautiful daughter, who had been left behind in Troy by her father and, since she had played no part in his defection, continued to be treated there with courtesy. Calchas, knowing that Troy must fall, persuaded Agamemnon to ask Priam for her on his behalf, lest she should be made a prisoner of war. Priam generously gave his assent and several of his sons escorted Briseis to the Greek camp. Although she had sworn undying fidelity to Troilus, Briseis soon transferred her affections to Diomedes the Argive, who fell passionately in love with her and did his best to kill Troilus whenever he appeared on the battle-field.
i. On a night expedition, Achilles captured Lycaon, surprising him in his father Priam’s orchard, where he was cutting fig-tree shoots for use as chariot-rails. Patroclus took Lycaon to Lemnos, and sold him to Jason’s son, King Euneus, who supplied the Greek forces with wine; the price being a silver Phoenidan mixing-bowl. But Eëtion of Imbros ransomed him, and he returned to Troy, only to perish at the hand of Achilles twelve days later.
j. Achilles now set out with a band of volunteers to ravage the Trojan countryside. On Mount Ida he cut off Aeneas the Dardanian from his cattle, chased him down the wooded slopes and, after killing the cattlemen and Priam’s son Mestor, captured the herd and sacked the city of Lyrnessus, where Aeneas had taken refuge. Mynes and Epistrophus, sons of King Evenus, died in the fighting; but Zeus helped Aeneas to escape. Mynes’s wife, another Briseis, daughter of Briseus, was made captive, and her father hanged himself.
k. Though Aeneas had connived at Paris’s abduction of Helen, he remained neutral for the first few years of the war; being born of the goddess Aphrodite by Anchises, the grandson of Tros, he resented the disdain shown him by his cousin Priam. Yet Achilles’s provocative raid obliged the Dardanians to join forces with the Trojans. Aeneas proved a skilled fighter and even Achilles did not dispatch him: for if Hector was the hand of the Trojans, Aeneas was their soul. His divine mother frequently helped him in battle; and once, when Diomedes had broken his hip with the cast of a stone, rescued him from death; and when Diomedes had wounded her too, with a spear-thrust in the wrist, Apollo carried Aeneas off the field for Leto and Artemis to cure. On another occasion his life was saved by Poseidon who, though hostile to the Trojans, respected the decrees of fate and knew that the royal line of Aeneas must eventually rule Troy.
l. Many cities allied to Troy were now taken by Achilles: Lesbos, Phocaea, Colophon, Smyrna, Clazomenae, Cyme, Aegialus, Tenos, Adramyttium, Dide, Endium, Linnaeum, Colone, Lyrnessus, Antandrus, and several others, including Hypoplacian Thebes, where another Eëtion, father of Hector’s wife Andromache, and his comrade Podes, ruled over the Cilicians. Achilles killed Eëtion, and seven of his sons besides, but did not despoil his corpse: he burned it fully armoured and around the barrow which he heaped, mountain-nymphs planted a grove of elm-trees. The captives included Astynome, or Chryseis, daughter of Chryses, priest of Apollo in the island of Sminthos. Some call Astynome Eëtion’s wife; others say that Chryses had sent her to Lyrnessus for protection, or to attend a festival of Artemis. When the spoils were distributed, she fell to Agamenmon, as did Briseis to Achilles. From Hypoplacian Thebes, Achilles also brought away the swift horse Podasus, whom he yoked to his immortal team.
m. Great Ajax sailed to the Thracian Chersonese, where he captured Lycaon’s blood-brother Polydorus—their mother was Laothoë—and in Teuthrania killed King Teuthras, and carried off great spoils, among them the princess Tecmessa, whom he made his concubine.
n. As the tenth year of the war approached, the Greeks refrained from raiding the coast of Asia Minor, and concentrated their forces before Troy. The Trojans marshalled their allies against them—Dardanians, led by Aeneas and the two sons or Antenor; Thracian Ciconians; Paeonians; Paphlagonians; Mysians; Phrygians; Maeonians; Carians; Lycians; and so forth. Sarpedon, whom Bellerophon’s daughter Laodameia had borne to Zeus, led the Lycians. This is his story. When Laodameia’s brother Isander and Hippolochus were contending for the kingdom, it was proposed that whichever of them might shoot an arrow through a gold ring hung upon a child’s breast should be king. Each hotly demanded the other’s child as the victim, but Laodameia prevented them from murdering each other by offering to tie the ring around the neck of her own son, Sarpedon. Astounded at such noble unselfishness, they both agreed to resign their claims to the kingdom in favour of Sarpedon; with whom Glaucus, the son of Hippolochus, was now reigning as co-king.
o. Agamemnon had sent Odysseus on a foraging expedition to Thrace, and when he came back empty-handed, Palamedes son of Nauplius upbraided him for his sloth and cowardice. ‘It was not my fault,’ cried Odysseus, ‘that no corn could be found. If Agamemnon had sent you in my stead, you would have had no greater success.’ Thus challenged, Palamedes set sail at once and presently reappeared with a ship-load of grain.
p. After days of tortuous thought, Odysseus at last hit upon a plan by which he might be revenged on Palamedes; for his honour was wounded. He sent word to Agamemnon: ‘The gods have warned me in a dream that treachery is afoot: the camp must be moved for a day and a night.’ When Agamemnon gave immediate orders to have this done, Odysseus secretly buried a sackful of gold at the place where Palamedes’s tent had been pitched. He then forced a Phrygian prisoner to write a letter, as if from Priam to Palamedes, which read: ‘The gold that I have sent is the price you asked for betraying the Greek camp.’ Having then ordered the prisoner to hand Palamedes this letter, Odysseus had him killed just outside the camp, before he could deliver it. Next day, when the army returned to the old site, someone found the prisoner’s corpse and took the letter to Againchinon. Palamedes was court-martialled and, when he boldly denied having taken gold from Priam or anyone else, Odysseus suggested that his tent should searched. The gold was discovered, and the whole army ordered Palamedes to death as a traitor.
q. Some say that Agamemnon, Odysseus, and Diomedes were all plicated in this plot, and that they jointly dictated the false letter to the Phrygian and afterwards bribed a servant to hide it with the gold under Palamedes’s bed. When Palamedes was led off to the place of stoning he cried aloud: ‘Truth, I mourn for you, who have predeceased me!’
r. Others, again, say that Odysseus and Diomedes, pretending to have discovered a treasure in a deep well, let Palamedes down into it by a rope, and then tumbled large stones on his head; or that they drowned him on a fishing excursion. still others say that Paris killed him with an arrow. It is not even agreed whether his death took place at Trojan Colonae, at Geraestus, or on Tenedos; but he has a hero-shrine near Lesbian Methymna.
s. Palamedes had deserved the gratitude of his comrades by the invention of dice, with which they whiled away their time before Troy; and the first set of which he dedicated in the temple of Tyche at Argos. But all envied him his superior wisdom, because he had also invented lighthouses, scales, measures, the discus, the alphabet, and the art of posting sentinels.
t. When Nauplius heard of the murder, he sailed to Troy and claimed satisfaction; yet this was denied him by Agamemnon, had been Odysseus’s accomplice and enjoyed the confidence off all the Greek leaders. So Nauplius returned to Greece with his surviving son Oeax, and brought false news to the wives of Palamedes’s murderers, saying to each: ‘Your husband is bringing back a Trojan concubine as his new queen.’ Some of these unhappy wives thereupon killed selves. Others committed adultery: as did Agamemnon’s wife Clytaemnestra, with Aegisthus; Diomedes’s wife Aegialeia, with Comethes son of Sthenelus; and Idomeneus’s wife Meda, with one Leucus.
The Wrath Of Achilles
WINTER now drew on, and since this has never been a battle season among civilized nations, the Greeks spent it enlarging their camp arid practising archery. Sometimes they came across Trojan notables in the temple of Thymbraean Apollo, which was neutral territory; and once, when Hecabe happened to be sacrificing there, Achilles arrived on the same errand and fell desperately in love with her daughter Polyxena. He made no declaration at the time but, returning to his hut in torment, sent the kindly Automedon to ask Hector on what terms he might marry Polyxena. Hector replied: ‘She shall be his on the day that he betrays the Greek camp to my father Priam.’ Achilles seemed willing enough to accept Hector’s conditions, but drew back sullenly when informed that if he failed to betray the camp, he must swear instead to murder his cousin Great Ajax and the sons of Athenian Pleisthenes.
b. Spring came and fighting was resumed. In the first engagement of the season Achilles sought out Hector, but the watchful Helenus pierced his hand with an arrow shot from an ivory bow, Apollo’s love gift, and forced him to give ground. Zeus himself guided the arrow-head; and as he did so decided to relieve the Trojans, whom the raids and the consequent desertion of certain Asiatic allies had greatly discouraged, by plaguing the Greeks and detaching Achilles from his fellow-chieftains. When, therefore, Chryses came to ransom Chryseis, Zeus persuaded Agamemnon to drive him away with opprobrious words; and Apollo, invoked by Chryses, posted himself vengefully near the ships, shooting deadly arrows among the Greeks day after day. Hundreds perished, though (as it happened) no kings or princes suffered, and on the tenth day Calchas made known the presence of the god. At his instance, Agamemnon grudgingly sent Chryseis back to her father, with propitiatory gifts, but recouped his loss by taking Briseis from Achilles, to whom she had been allotted; whereupon Achilles, in a rage, announced that he would take no further part in the War; and his mother Thetis indignantly approached Zeus, who missed her satisfaction on his behalf. But some say that Achilles kept out of the fighting in order to show his goodwill towards Priam as Polyxena’s father.
c. When the Trojans became aware that Achilles and his Myrmidons had withdrawn from the field, they took heart and made a vigorous sortie. Agamemnon, in alarm, granted them a truce, during which Paris and Menelaus were to fight a duel for the possession of Helen and the stolen treasure. The duel, however, proved indecisive, because when Aphrodite saw that Paris was getting the worst of it, she wrapped him in a magic mist and carried him back to Troy. Hera then sent Athene down to break the truce by making Pandarus son of Lycaon shoot an arrow at Menelaus, which she did; at the same time inspired Diomedes to kill Pandarus and wound Aeneas and his mother Aphrodite. Glaucus son of Hippolochus now opposed Diomedes, but both recalled the close friendship that had bound their fathers, courteously exchanged arms.
d. Hector challenged Achilles to single combat; and when Achilles sent back word that he had retired from the war, the Greeks sent Great Ajax as his substitute. These two champions fought without pause until nightfall, when heralds parted them and each praised the other’s skill and courage. Ajax gave Hector the brilliant purple baldric by which he was later dragged to his death; and Hector gave Ajax the silver-studded sword with which he was later to commit suicide.
e. An armistice being agreed upon, the Greeks raised a long barrow over their dead, and crowned it with a wall beyond which they dug a deep, palisaded trench. But they had omitted to appease the deities supported the Trojans and, when fighting was resumed, were driven across the trench and behind the wall. That night the Trojans encamped close to the Greek ships.
f. In despair, Agamemnon sent Phoenix, Ajax, Odysseus and two heralds to placate Achilles, offering him countless gifts and Briseis (they were to swear that she was still a virgin) if only he would fight again. It should be explained that Chryses had meanwhile brought back his daughter, who protested that she had been very well treated by Agamemnon and wished to remain with him; she was pregnant at the time and later gave birth to Chryses the Second, a child of doubtful paternity. Achilles greeted the deputation with a pleasant smile, but refused their offers, and announced that he must sail home next morning.
g. That same night about the third watch when the moon was high, Odysseus and Diomedes, encouraged by a lucky auspice from Athene—a heron on their right hand—decided to raid the Trojan lines. They happened to stumble over Dolon, son of Eumelus, who had been sent out on patrol by the enemy and, after forcibly extracting information from him, cut his throat. Odysseus then hid Dolon’s ferret-skin cap, wolf-skin cloak, bow and spear in a tamarisk bush and hurried with Diomedes to the right flank of the Trojan line where, they now knew, Rhesus the Thracian was encamped. He is variously described as the son of the Muse Euterpe, or Calliope, by Eioneus, or Ares, or Strymon. Having stealthily assassinated Rhesus and twelve of his companions in their sleep, they drove off his magnificent horses, white as snow and swifter than the wind, and recovered the spoils from the tamarisk bush on their way back. The capture of Rhesus’s horses was of the highest importance, since an oracle had foretold that Troy would become impregnable once they had eaten Trojan fodder and drunken from the river Scamander, and this they had not yet done. When the surviving Thracians awoke, to find King Rhesus dead and his horses gone, they fled in despair; the Greeks killed nearly every one of them.
h. On the following day, however, after a fierce struggle, in which Agamemnon, Diomedes, Odysseus, Eurypylus, and Machaon the surgeon were all wounded, the Greeks took to flight and Hector breached their wall. Encouraged by Apollo, he pushed on towards the ships and, despite assistance lent by Poseidon to the two Ajaxes and Idomeneus, broke through the Greek line. At this point Hera, who hated the Trojans, borrowed Aphrodite’s girdle and persuaded Zeus to come and sleep with her; a ruse which allowed Poseidon to turn the battle in the Greeks’ favour. But Zeus, soon discovering that he had been duped, revived Hector (nearly killed by Ajax with a huge stone), ordered Poseidon off the field, and restored the Trojans’ courage. Forward they went again: Medon killing Periphetes son of Copreus, and many other champions.
i. Even Great Ajax was forced to yield ground; and Achilles, when he saw flames swirling from the stern of Protesilaus’s ship, set on the Trojans, so far forgot his grudge as to marshal the Myrmidons an hurry them to Patroclus’s assistance. Patroclus had flung a spear into the mass of Trojans gathered around Protesilaus’s ship and transfixed Pyraechmes, king of the Paeonians, At this the Trojans, mistaking him for Achilles, fled; and Patroclus extinguished the fire, saving the of the ship at least, and cut down Sarpedon. Though Glaucus tried to rally his Lycians and so protect Sarpedon’s body from despoiling, Zeus let Patroclus chase the whole Trojan army towards the city, Hector being the first to retire, wounded severely by Ajax.
j. The Greeks stripped Sarpedon of his armour, but at Zeus’s order Apollo rescued the body, which he prepared for burial, whereupon Sleep and Death bore it away to Lycia. Patroclus meanwhile pressed the route, and would have taken Troy single-handed, had not Apollo hastily mounted the wall, and thrice thrust him back with a shield as he attempted to scale it. Fighting continued until nightfall, when Apollo wrapped in a thick mist, came up behind Patroclus and buffeted him smartly between the shoulder blades. Patroclus’s eyes started from head; his helmet flew off; his spear was shattered into splinters; shield fell to the ground; and Apollo grimly unlaced his corslet. Euphorbus son of Panthous, observing Patroclus’s plight, wounded him without fear of retaliation, and as he staggered away, Hector, who had returned to the battle, despatched him with a single blow.
k. Up ran Menelaus and killed Euphorbus—who is said, by the way to have been reincarnate centuries later in the philosopher Pythagoras and strutted off to his hut with the spoils; leaving Hector to strip Patroclus of his borrowed armour. Menelaus and Great Ajax then reappeared and together defended Patroclus’s body until dusk, when they contrived to carry it back to the ships. But Achilles, on hearing news, rolled in the dust, and yielded to an ecstasy of grief.
l. Thetis entered her son’s hut carrying a new suit of armour, which included a pair of valuable tin greaves, hurriedly forged by Hephaestus. Achilles put the suit on, made peace with Agamemnon (who delivered Briseis to him inviolate, swearing that he had taken her in anger, not in lust) and set out to avenge Patroclus. None could stand against wrath. The Trojans broke and fled to the Scamander, where he divided them into two bodies, driving one across the plain towards the city and penning the other in a bend of the river. Furiously, the River-god rushed at him, but Hephaestus took Achilles’s part and dried up the waters with a scorching flame. The Trojan survivors regained the city, like a herd of frightened deer.
m. When Achilles at last met Hector and engaged him in single combat, both sides drew back and stood watching amazed. Hector turned and began to run around the city walls. He hoped by this manoeuvre to weary Achilles, who had long been inactive and should therefore have been short of breath. But he was mistaken. Achilles chased him thrice around the walls, and whenever he made for the shelter of a gate, counting on the help of his brothers, always headed him off. Finally Hector halted and stood his ground, but Achilles ran him through the breast, and refused his dying plea that his body might be ransomed for burial. After possessing himself of the armour, Achilles slit the flesh behind the tendons of Hector’s heels. He then passed leather thongs through the slits, secured them to his chariot and, whipping up Balius, Xanthus, and Pedasus, dragged the body towards the ships at an easy canter. Hector’s head, its black locks streaming on either side, climbed up a cloud of dust behind him. But some say that Achilles dragged the corpse three times around the city walls, by the baldric which Ajax had given him.
n. Achilles now buried Patroclus. Five Greek princes were sent to Mount Ida in search of timber for the funeral pyre, upon which Achilles sacrificed not only horses, and two of Patroclus’s own pack of nine hounds, but twelve noble Trojan captives, several sons of Priam among them, by cutting their throats. He even threatened to throw Hector’s corpse to the remaining hounds; Aphrodite, however, restrained him. At Patroclus’s funeral games Diomedes won the chariot race, and Epeius, despite his cowardice, the boxing-match; Ajax and Odysseus tied in the wrestling match.
o. Still consumed by grief, Achilles rose every day at dawn to drag Hector’s body three times around Patroclus’s tomb. Yet Apollo protected it from corruption and laceration and, eventually, at the command of Zeus, Hermes led Priam to the Greek camp under cover of night, and persuaded Achilles to accept a ransom. On this occasion Priam showed great magnanimity towards Achilles whom he had found asleep in his hut and might easily have murdered. The ransom agreed upon was Hector’s weight in gold. Accordingly, the Greeks set up a pair of scales outside the city walls, laid the corpse on one pan, and invited the Trojans to heap gold in the other. When Priam’s treasury had been ransacked of ingots and jewels, and Hector’s huge bulk still depressed the pan, Polyxena, watching from the wall, threw down her bracelets to supply the missing weight. Overcome by admiration, Achilles told Priam: ‘I will cheerfully barter Hector against Polyxena. Keep your gold; marry her to me; and if you then restore Helen to Menelaus, I undertake to make peace between your people and ours.’ Priam, for the moment, was content to ransom Hector at the agreed price in gold; but promised to give Polyxena to Achilles freely if he persuaded the Greeks to depart without Helen. Achilles replied that he would do what he could, and Priam then took away the corpse for burial. So great an uproar arose at Hector’s funeral—the Trojans lamenting, the Greeks trying to drown their dirges with boos and cat-calls—that birds flying overhead fell down stunned by the noise.
p. At the command of an oracle, Hector’s bones were eventually taken to Boeotian Thebes, where his grave is still shown beside the lot-retain of Oedipus. Some quote the Oracle as follows: Hearken, ye men of Thebes, who dwell in the city of Cadmus, Should you desire your land to be prosperous, wealthy and blameless, Carry the bones of Hector, Priam’s son, to your city. Asia holds them now; there Zeus will attend to his worship.’ Others say that when a plague ravaged Greece, Apollo ordered the reburial of Hector’s bones in a famous Greek city which had taken part in the Trojan War.
q. A wholly different tradition makes Hector a son of Apollo, who Penthesileia the Amazon killed.
The Death Of Achilles
THE Amazon Queen Pentheseleia, daughter of Otrere and Ares, had sought refuge in Troy from the Erinnyes of her sister Hippolyte (also called Glauce or Melanippe), whom she had accidentally shot, either while out hunting or, according to the Athenians, in the fight which followed Theseus’s marriage to Phaedra. Purified by Priam, she greatly distinguished herself in battle, accounting for many Greeks, among them (it is said) Machaon, though the commoner account makes him fall by the hand of Eurypylus, son of Telephus. She drove Achilles from the field on several occasions—some even claim that she killed him and that Zeus, at the plea of Thetis, restored him to life but at last he ran her through, fell in love with her dead body, and committed necrophilia on it there and then. When he later called on volunteers to bury Pentheseleia, Thersites, a son of Aetolian Agrius, and the ugliest Greek at Troy, who had gouged out her eyes with his spear as she lay dying, jeeringly accused Achilles of filthy and unnatural lust. Achilles turned and struck Thersites so hard he broke every tooth in his head and sent his ghost scurrying down to Tartarus
b. This caused high indignation among the Greeks, and Diomedes, who was a cousin of Thersites and wished to show his disdain for Achilles, dragged Penthesileia’s body along by the foot and threw it into the Scamander; whence, however, it was rescued and buried on the bank with great honour—some say by Achilles; others, by the Trojans. Achilles then set sail for Lesbos, where he sacrificed to Apollo, Artemis, and Leto; and Odysseus, a sworn enemy to Thersites, purified him of the murder. The dying Penthesileia, supported by Achilles, is carved on the throne of Zeus at Olympia. Her nurse, the Amazon Clete, hearing that she had fled to Troy after the death of Hippolyte, set out to search for her, but was driven by contrary winds to Italy, where she settled and founded the city of Clete.
c. Priam had by now persuaded his half-brother, Tithonus of Assyria, to send his son Memnon the Ethiopian to Troy; the bribe he offered was a golden vine. A so-called palace of Memnon is shown in Ethiopia, although when Tithonus emigrated to Assyria and founded Susa, Memnon, then only a child, had gone with him. Susa is now commonly known as the City of Memnon; and its inhabitants as Cissians, after Memnon’s mother Cissia. His palace on the Acropolis was standing until the time of the Persians.
d. Tithonus governed the province of Persia for the Assyrian king Teutamus, Priam’s overlord, who put Memnon in command of a thousand Ethiopians, a thousand Susians, and two hundred chariots. The Phrygians still show the rough, straight road, with camp-sites every fifteen miles or so, by which Memnon, after he had subjugated all the intervening nations, marched to Troy. He was black as ebony, but the handsomest man alive, and like Achilles wore armour forged by Hephaestus. Some say that he led a large army of Ethiopians and Indians to Troy by way of Armenia, and that another expedition sailed from Phoenicia at his orders under a Sidonian named Phalas. Landing on Rhodes, the inhabitants of which favoured the Greek cause, Phalas was asked in public: ‘Are you not ashamed, sir, to assist Paris the Trojan and other declared enemies of your native city?’ The Phoenician sailors, who now heard for the first time where they were bound, stoned Phalas to death as a traitor and settled in Ialysus and Cameirus, after dividing among themselves the treasure and munitions of war which Phalas had brought with him.
e. Meanwhile, at Troy, Memnon killed several leading Greeks, including Antilochus, son of Nestor, when he came to his father’s rescue: for Paris had shot one of Nestor’s chariot horses and terror made its team-mate unmanageable. This Antilochus had been exposed as a child on Mount Ida by his mother Anaxibia, or Eurydice, and there suckled by a bitch. Though too young to sail from Aulis at the beginning of the war, he followed some years later and begged Achilles to soothe Nestor’s anger at his unexpected arrival. Achilles, delighted with Antilochus’s warlike spirit, undertook to mediate between them and, at his desire, Nestor introduced him to Agamemnon. Antilochus was one of the youngest, handsomest, swiftest and most courageous Greeks who fought at Troy and Nestor, having been warned by an oracle to protect him against an Ethiopian, appointed Calion as his guardian; but in vain. The bones of Antilochus were laid beside those of his friends, Achilles and Patroclus, whose ghosts he accompanied to the Asphodel Fields.
f. That day, with the help of Memnon’s Ethiopians, the Trojans nearly succeeded in burning the Greek ships, but darkness fell and they retired. After burying their dead, the Greeks chose Great Ajax to replace Memnon; and next morning the single combat had already begun, when Thetis sought out Achilles, who was absent from the camp, and broke the news of Antilochus’s death. Achilles hastened back to take vengeance, and while Zeus, calling for a pair of scales, weighed his fate against that of Memnon, he brushed Ajax aside and made the combat his own. The pan containing Memnon’s fate sank in Zeus’s hand, Achilles dealt the death-blow, and presently black head and bright armour crowned the flaming pyre of Antilochus.
g. Some, however, report that Memnon was ambushed by Thessalians; and that his Ethiopians, having burned his body, carried the ashes to Tithonus; and that they now lie buried on a hill overlooking the mouth of the river Aesepus, where a village bears his name. Eos, who is described as Memnon’s mother, implored Zeus to confer immortality upon him and some further honour as well. A number of phantom hen-birds, called Memnonides, were consequently formed from the embers and smoke of his pyre, and rising into the air, flew three times around it. At the fourth circuit they divided into two flocks, fought with claws and beaks, and fell down upon his ashes as a funeral sacrifice. Memnonides still fight and fall at his tomb when the Sun has all the signs of the Zodiac.
h. According to another tradition, these birds are Memnon’s girl companions, who lamented for him so excessively that the gods, in pity, metamorphosed them into birds. They make an annual visit to his tomb, where they weep and lacerate themselves until some of them fall dead. The Hellespontines say that when the Memnonides visit Memnon’s grave beside the Hellespont, they use their wings to sprinkle it with water from the river Aesepus; and that Eos still weeps tears of dew for him every morning. Polygnotus has pictured Memnon facing his rival Sarpedon and dressed in a cloak embroidered with these birds. The gods are said to observe the anniversaries of both their deaths as days of mourning.
i. Others believe that Memnon’s bones were taken to Cyprian Paphus, and thence to Rhodes, where his sister Himera, or Hemera, came to fetch them away. The Phoenicians who had rebelled against Phalas allowed her to do so on condition that she did not press for the return of their stolen treasure. To this she agreed, and brought the urn to Phoenicia; she buried it there at Palliochis and then disappeared. Others, again, say that Memnon’s tomb is to be seen near Palton in Syria, beside the river Badas. His bronze sword hangs on the wall of Asclepius’s temple at Nicomedeia; and Egyptian Thebes is famous a colossal black statue—a seated stone figure—which utters a sound the breaking of a lyre-string every day at sunrise. All Greek—speaking people call it Memnon; not so the Egyptians.
j. Achilles now routed the Trojans and pursued them towards city, but his course, too, was run. Poseidon and Apollo, pledged to avenge the deaths of Cycnus and Troilus, and to punish certain insolent boasts that Achilles had uttered over Hector’s corpse, took counsel together. Veiled with cloud and standing by the Scaean Gate, Apollo sought out Paris in the thick of battle, turned his bow and guided fatal shaft. It struck the one vulnerable part of Achilles’s body, the heel, and he died in agony. But some say that Apollo, assuming likeness of Paris, himself shot Achilles; and that this was the acer which Neoptolemus, Achilles’s son, accepted. A fierce battle raged that day over the corpse. Great Ajax struck down Glaucus, despoiled of his armour, sent it back to the camp and, despite a shower of arrows carried dead Achilles through the midst of the enemy, Odysseus bring up the rear. A tempest sent by Zeus then put an end to the struggle.
k. According to another tradition, Achilles was the victim of a plot. Priam had offered him Polyxena in marriage on condition that siege of Troy was raised. But Polyxena, who could not forgive Achilles for murdering her brother Troilus, made him disclose vulnerability of his heel, since there is no secret that women cannot extract from men in proof of love. At her request he came, bare and unarmed, to ratify the agreement by sacrificing to Thymbraean Apollo; then, while Deiphobus clasped him to his breast in pretended friendship, Paris, hiding behind the god’s image, pierced his heel with a poisoned arrow or, some say, a sword. Before dying, hovering Achilles seized firebrands from the altar and laid about him vigorously, felling many Trojans and temple servants. Meanwhile, Odysseus, Ajax, and Diomedes, suspecting Achilles of treachery, had followed him to the temple. Paris and Deiphobus rushed past them through the doorway, they entered, and Achilles, expiring in their arms, begged them, after Troy fell, to sacrifice Polyxena at his tomb. Ajax carried body out of the shrine on his shoulders; the Trojans tried to capture them but the Greeks drove them off and conveyed it to the ships. Some on the other hand, claim that the Trojans won the tussle and did not surrender Achilles’s body until the ransom which Priam paid for Hector been returned.
l. The Greeks were dismayed by their loss. Poseidon, however, promised Thetis to bestow on Achilles an island in the Black Sea, where the coastal tribes would offer him divine sacrifices for all eternity. A company of Nereids came to Troy to mourn with her and stood desolately around his corpse, while the nine Muses chanted the dirge. Their mourning lasted seventeen days and nights, but though Agamemnon and his fellow-leaders shed many tears, none of the common soldiers greatly regretted the death of so notorious a traitor. On the eighteenth day, Achilles’s body was burned upon a pyre and his ashes, mixed with those of Patroclus, were laid in a golden urn made by Hephaestus, Thetis’s wedding gift from Dionysus; this was buried on the headland of Sigaeum, which dominates the Hellespont, and over it the Greeks raised a lofty cairn as a landmark. In a neighbouring village called Achilleum stands a temple sacred to Achilles, and his statue wearing a woman’s ear-ring.
m. While the Achaeans were holding funeral games in his honour—Eumelus winning the chariot race, Diomedes the foot-race, Ajax the discus-throw, and Teucer the archery contest—Thetis snatched Achilles’s soul from the pyre and conveyed it to Leuce, an island about twenty furlongs in circumference, wooded and full of beasts, both wild and tame, which lies opposite the mouths of the Danube, and is now sacred to him. Once, when a certain Crotonian named Leonymus, who had been severely wounded in the breast while fighting his neighbours, the Epizephyrian Locrians, visited Delphi to enquire how he might be cured, the Pythoness told him: ‘Sail to Leuce. There Little Ajax, whose ghost your enemies invoked to fight for them, will appear and heal your wound.’ He returned some months later, safe and well, reporting that he had seen Achilles, Patroclus, Antilochus, Great Ajax, and finally Little Ajax, who had healed him. Helen, now married to Achilles, had said: ‘Pray, Leonymus, sail to Himera, and tell the libeller of Helen that the loss of his sight is due to her displeasure.’ Sailors on the northward run from the Bosphorus to Olbia frequently hear Achilles chanting Homer’s verses across the water, the sound being accompanied by the clatter of horses’ hooves, shouts of warriors, and clash of arms.
n. Achilles first lay with Helen, not long before his death, in a dream arranged by his mother Thetis. This experience afforded him such pleasure that he asked Helen to display herself to him in waking life on the wall of Troy. She did so, and he fell desperately in love. Since he was her fifth husband, they call him Pemptus, meaning ‘fifth’ on Crete; Theseus, Menelaus, Paris, and finally Deiphobus, having been his predecessors.
o. But others hold that Achilles remains under the power of Hades, and complains bitterly of his lot as he strides about the Asphodel Meadows; others, again, that he married Medea and lives royally in the Elysian Fields, or the Islands of the Blessed.
p. By order of an oracle, a cenotaph was set up for Achilles in the ancient gymnasium at Olympia; there, at the opening of the festival, the sun is sinking, the Elean women honour him with funeral rites. The Thessalians, at the command of the Dodonian Oracle, also sacrifice annually to Achilles; and on the road which leads northward from Sparta stands a sanctuary built for him by Prax, his great-grandson which is closed to the general public; but the boys who are required to fight in a near-by plane-tree grove enter and sacrifice to him before.
The Madness Of Ajax
WHEN Thetis decided to award the arms of Achilles to the most courageous Greek left alive before Troy, only Ajax and Odysseus, who had boldly defended the corpse together, dared come forward to claim them. Some say that Agamemnon, from a dislike of the whole House of Aeacus, rejected Ajax’s pretensions and divided the arms between Menelaus and Odysseus, whose goodwill he valued far more highly; others, that he avoided the odium of a decision by referring the case to the assembled Greek leaders, who settled it by a secret ballot; or that he referred it to the Cretans and other allies; or that he forced his Trojan prisoners to declare which of the two claimants had done them most harm. But the truth is that, while Ajax and Odysseus were still competitively boasting of their achievements, Nestor advised Agamemnon to send spies by night to listen under the Trojan walls for the enemy’s unbiased opinion on the matter. The spies overheard a party of young girls chattering together; and when one praised Ajax for bearing dead Achilles from the battlefield through a storm of missiles, another, at Athene’s instigation, replied: ‘Nonsense! Even a slave-woman will do as much, once someone has set a corpse on her shoulders; but thrust weapons into her hand, and she will be too frightened to use them. Odysseus, not Ajax, bore the brunt of our attack.’
b. Agamemnon therefore awarded the arms to Odysseus. He and Menelaus would never, of course, have dared to insult Ajax in this manner had Achilles still been alive: for Achilles thought the world of his gallant cousin. It was Zeus himself who provoked the quarrel.
c. In a dumb rage, Ajax planned to revenge himself on his fellow Greeks that very night; Athene, however, struck him with madness and turned him loose, sword in hand, among the cattle and sheep which had been lifted from Trojan farms to form part of the common spoil. After immense slaughter, he chained the surviving beasts together, hauled them back to the camp, and there continued his butcher’s worth. Choosing two white-looted rams, he lopped off the head and tongue of one, which he mistook for Agamemnon, or Menelaus; and tied the other upright to a pillar, where he flogged it with a horse’s halter, screaming abuse and calling it perfidious Odysseus.
d. At last coming to his senses in utter despair, he summoned Eurysaces, his son by Tecmessa, and gave him the huge, sevenfold shield after which he had been named. ‘The rest of my arms will be buried with me when I die,’ he said. Ajax’s half-brother Teucer, son of Priam’s captive sister Hesione, happened to be away in Mysia, but Ajax left a message appointing him guardian of Eurysaces, who was to be taken home to his grandparents Telamon and Eriboea of Salamis. Then, with a word to Tecmessa that he would escape Athene’s anger by bathing in a sea pool and finding some untrodden patch of ground where the sword might be securely buried, he set out, determined on death.
e. He fixed the sword—the very one which Hector had exchanged for the purple baldric—upright in the earth, and after calling on Zeus to tell Teucer where his corpse might be found; on Hermes, to conduct his soul to the Asphodel Fields; and on the Erinnyes, for vengeance, threw himself upon it. The sword, loathing its task, doubled back in the shape of a bow, and dawn had broken before he contrived to commit suicide by driving the point underneath his vulnerable arm-pit.
f. Meanwhile Teucer, returning from Mysia, narrowly escaped murder by the Greeks, who were indignant at the slaughter of their livestock. Calchas, having been granted no prophetic warning of the suicide, took Teucer aside and advised him to confine Ajax to his hut, as one maddened by the wrath of Athene. Podaleirius son of Asclepius agreed; he was as expert a physician as his brother Machaon was a surgeon, and had been the first to diagnose Ajax’s madness from his flashing eyes. But Teucer merely shook his head, having already been confirmed by Zeus of his brother’s death, and went sadly out with Tecmessa to find the corpse.
g. There Ajax lay in a pool of blood, and dismay overcame Teucer. How could he return to Salamis, and face his father Telamon? As he stopped, tearing his hair, Menelaus strode up and forbade him to bury Ajax, who must be left for the greedy kites and pious vultures. Teucer sent him about his business, and leaving Eurysaces in suppliant’s dress to display locks of his own, Teucer’s, and Tecmessa’s hair, and so guard Ajax’s corpse—over which Tecmessa had spread her robe—he came crying before Agamemnon. Odysseus intervened in the ensuing dispute, and not only urged Agamemnon to permit the funeral rites, but offered to help Teucer carry them out. This service Teucer declined, while acknowledging Odysseus’s courtesy. Finally Agamemnon, on Calchas’s advice, allowed Ajax to be buried in a suicide’s coffin at Cape Rhoeteum, rather than burned on a pyre as if he had fallen honourably in the battle.
h. Some hold that the cause of the quarrel between Ajax and Odysseus was the possession of the Palladium, and that it took place after Troy had fallen. Others deny that Ajax committed suicide, and say that since he was proof against steel, the Trojans killed him with lumps of clay, having been advised to do so by an oracle. But this may have been another Ajax.
i. Afterwards, when Odysseus visited the Asphodel Fields, Ajax was there only ghost who stood aloof from him, rejecting his excuses that Zeus had been responsible for this unfortunate affair. Odysseus had by that time wisely presented the arms to Achilles’s son Neoptolemus; while the Aeolians who later settled at Troy say that he lost them in a shipwreck as he sailed home, whereupon by Thetis’s contrivance the waves deposited them beside Ajax’s tomb at Rhoeteum. During the reign of the Emperor Hadrian, high seas washed open the tomb and his bones were seen to be of gigantic size, the knee-caps alone being as big as a discus used by boys for practising for the pentathlon; at the Emperor’s orders, they were at once reinterred.
j. The Salaminians report that a new flower appeared in their island when Ajax died: white, tinged with red, smaller than a lily and, like the hyacinth, bearing letters which spell Ai! Ai! (‘woe, woe!’). But it is generally believed that the new flower sprang from Ajax’s blood where he fell, since the letters also stand for Aias Aiacides, ‘Ajax the Aeacid’. In the Salaminian market place stands a temple of Ajax, with an ebony image; and not far from the harbour a boulder is shown on which Telamon sat gazing at the ship which bore his sons away to Aulis.
k. Teucer eventually returned to Salamis, but Telamon accused him of fratricide in the second degree, since he had not pressed Ajax’s claim to the disputed arms. Forbidden to land, he pleaded his case from the sea while the judges listened on the shore; Telamon himself had been forced to do the same by his own father Aeacus, when accused of murdering his brother Phocus. But as Telamon had been found guilty and banished, so also was Teucer, on the ground that he had brought back neither Ajax’s bones, nor Tecmessa, nor Eurysaces; which proved neglect. He set sail for Cyprus, where with Apollo’s favour and the permission of King Belus the Sidonian he founded the other Salamis.
l. The Athenians honour Ajax as one of their eponymous heroes, and insist that Philaeus, the son of Eurysaces, became an Athenian citizen and surrendered the sovereignty of Salamis to them.
The Oracles Of Troy
ACHILLES was dead, and the Greeks had begun to despair. Calchas now prophesied that Troy could not be taken except with the help of Heracles’s bow and arrows. Odysseus and Diomedes were therefore deputed to sail for Lemnos and fetch them from Philoctetes, their present owner.
b. Some say that King Actor’s shepherd Phimachus, son of Dolophion, had sheltered Philoctetes and dressed his noisome wound for past ten years. Others record that some of Philoctetes’s troops settled beside him in Lemnos, and that the Asclepius cured him, with Lemnian earth, before the deputation arrived; or that Pylius, or Pelius, a son of Hephaestus, did so. Philoctetes is said then conquered certain small islands off the Trojan coast for the king Euneus, dispossessing the Carian population—a kindness that Euneus acknowledged by giving him the Lemnian district of Acesa. Thus, it is explained, Odysseus and Diomedes had no need to tempt Philoctetes with offers of medical treatment; he came willingly carrying his bow and arrows, to win the war for them and glory himself. According to still another account, the deputation found him long dead of the wound and persuaded his heirs to let them borrow the bow.
c. The truth is, however, that Philoctetes stayed in Lemnos painfully, until Odysseus tricked him into handing over the bow and arrows; but Diomedes (not, as some mistakenly say, Neoptolemus) declined to be implicated in the theft and advised Philoctetes to demand the return of his property. At this, the god Heracles intervened. ‘Go with them to Troy, Philoctetes,’ he said, ‘and I will send an Asclepid there to cure you; for Troy must fall a second time to my arrows. You shall be chosen from among the Greeks as the boldest fighter of all! You shall kill Paris, take part in the sack of Troy, and send home rich spoils, reserving the noblest prize for your father Poeas. But remember: you cannot take Troy without Neoptolemus son of Achilles, nor can he do so without you!’
d. Philoctetes obeyed, and on his arrival at the Greek camp he bathed with fresh water and put to sleep in Apollo’s temple; and as he slept, Machaon the surgeon cut away the decaying flesh from the wound, poured in wine, and applied healing herbs and the serpentine stone. But some say that Machaon’s brother Podaleirius, the physician, took charge of the case.
e. No sooner was Philoctetes about again, than he challenged Paris to a combat in archery. The first arrow he shot went wide, the second pierced Paris’s bow-hand, the third blinded his right eye, and the fourth struck his ankle, wounding him mortally. Despite Menelaus attempt to despatch Paris, he contrived to hobble from the field, and take refuge in Troy. That night the Trojans carried him to Mount Ida, where he begged his former mistress, the nymph Oenone, to heal him; from an inveterate hatred of Helen, however, she cruelly shook her head and he was brought back to die. Presently Oenone relented, and ran to Troy with a basketful of healing drugs, but found him already dead. In a frenzy of grief she leaped from the walls, or hanged herself, or burned herself to death on his pyre—no one remembers which. Some excuse Oenone by saying that she would have healed Paris at once, had not her father prevented her; she was obliged to wait until he had left the house before bringing the simples, and then it proved too late.
f. Helenus and Deiphobus now quarrelled for Helen’s hand, and Priam supported Deiphobus’s claim on the ground that he had shown the greater valour; but, though her marriage to Paris had been divinely arranged, Helen could not forget that she was still Queen of Sparta and wife to Menelaus. One night, a sentry caught her tying a rope to the battlements in an attempt to escape. She was led before Deiphobus, who married her by force—much to the disgust of the other Trojans. Helenus immediately left the city and went to live with Arisbe on the slopes of Mount Ida.
g. Upon hearing from Calchas that Helenus alone knew the secret oracles which protected Troy, Agamemnon sent Odysseus to waylay and drag him to the Greek camp. Helenus happened to be staying as Chryses’s guest in the temple of Thymbraean Apollo, when Odysseus came in search of him, and proved ready enough to disclose the oracles, on condition that he would be given a secure home in some distant land. He had deserted Troy, he explained, not because he feared death, but because neither he nor Aeneas could overlook Paris’s sacrilegious murder of Achilles in this very temple, for which no amends had yet been made to Apollo.
h. ‘So be it. Hold nothing back, and I will guarantee your life and safety,’ said Odysseus. ‘The oracles are brief and clear,’ Helenus answered. ‘Troy falls this summer, if a certain bone of Pelops is brought to your camp; if Neoptolemus takes the field; and if Athene’s Palladium is stolen from the citadel—because the walls cannot be breached while it remains there. Agamemnon at once sent to Pisa for Pelops’s shoulder-blade. Meanwhile, Odysseus, Phoenix, and Diomedes sailed to Scyros, where they persuaded Lycomedes to let Neoptolemus come to Troy—some say that he was then only twelve years old. The ghost of Achilles appeared before him on his arrival, and he forthwith distinguished himself both in council and in war, Odysseus gladly resigning Achilles’s arms to him.
i. Eurypylus son of Telephus now reinforced the Trojans with an army of Mysians, and Priam, who had offered his mother Astyoche a golden vine if he came, betrothed him to Cassandra. Eurypylus proved a resolute fighter, and killed Machaon the surgeon; which is why, in Asclepius’s sanctuary at Pergamus, where every service begins with a hymn celebrating Telephus, the name of his son Eurypylus may not be spoken on any occasion. Machaon’s bones were taken back to Pylus by Nestor, and sick people are healed in the sanctuary at Geraneia; his garlanded bronze statue dominates the sacred place called ‘The Rose’. Eurypylus himself was killed by Neoptolemus.
j. Shortly before the fall of Troy, the dissensions between Priam’s sons grew so fierce that he authorized Antenor to negotiate peace with Agamemnon. On his arrival at the Greek camp Antenor, out of hatred for Deiphobus, agreed to betray the Palladium and the city into Odysseus’s hands; his price was the kingship and half of Priam’s treasure. Aeneas, he told Agamemnon, could also be counted upon to help.
k. Together they concocted a plan, in pursuance of which Odysseus asked Diomedes to flog him mercilessly; then, bloodstained, filthy, and dressed in rags, he gained admittance into Troy as a runaway slave. Helen alone saw through his disguise, but when she privately questioned him, was fobbed off with evasive answers. Nevertheless, he could not decline an invitation to her house, where she bathed, anointed and clothed him in free robes; and his identity being thus established beyond question, swore a solemn oath that she would not betray him to the Trojans—so far she had confided only in Hecabe—if he revealed all the details of his plan to her. Helen explained that she was now kept a prisoner in Troy, and longed to go home. At this juncture, Hecabe entered. Odysseus at once threw himself at her feet, weeping for terror, and implored her not to denounce him. Surprisingly enough, she agreed. He then hurried back, guided by Hecabe, and reached iris friends in safety with a harvest of information; claiming to have killed a number of Trojans who would not open the gates for him.
l. Some say that Odysseus stole the Palladium on this occasion, single-handed. Others say that he and Diomedes, as favourites of Athene, were chosen to do so, and that they climbed up to the citadel by way of a narrow and muddy conduit, killed the sleeping guards, and together took possession of the image, which the priestess Theano, Antenor’s wife, willingly surrendered. The common account, however, is that Diomedes scaled the wall by climbing upon Odysseus’s shoulders, because the ladder was short, and entered Troy alone. When he reappeared, carrying the Palladium in his arms, the two of them set out for the camp, side by side, under a full moon; but Odysseus wanted all the glory. He dropped behind Diomedes, to whose shoulders the image was now strapped, and would have murdered him, had not the shadow of his sword caught Diomedes’s eye, the moon being still low in the heavens. He spun about, drew his own sword and, disarming Odysseus, twisted his hands and drove him back to the ships with repeated kicks and blows. Hence the phrase ‘Diomedes’s compulsion’, often applied to those whose actions are coerced.
m. The Romans pretend that Odysseus and Diomedes carried off a mere replica of the Palladium which was on public display, and that Aeneas, at the fall of Troy, rescued the authentic image, smuggled it out with the remainder of his sacred luggage, and brought it safe to Italy.
The Wooden Horse
ATHENE now inspired Prylis, son of Hermes, to suggest that entry should be gained into Troy by means of a wooden horse; and Epeius, son of Panopeus, a Phocian from Parnassus, volunteered to build one under Athene’s supervision. Afterwards, of course, Odysseus claimed all the credit for this stratagem.
b. Epeius had brought thirty ships from the Cyclades to Troy. He held the office of water—bearer to the House of Atreus; as appears in the frieze of Apollo’s temple at Carthea, and though a skilled boxer and a consummate craftsman, was born a coward, in divine punishment for his father’s breach of faith—Panopeus had falsely sworn in Athene’s name not to embezzle any part of the Taphian booty won by Amphitryon. Epeius’s cowardice has since become proverbial.
c. He built an enormous hollow horse of fir planks, with a trap-door fitted into one flank, and large letters cut on the other which consecrated it to Athene: ‘In thankful anticipation of a safe return to their homes, the Greeks dedicate this offering to the Goddess.’ Odysseus persuaded the bravest of the Greeks to climb fully armed up a rope-ladder and through the trap-door into the belly of the horse. Their number is variously given as twenty-three, thirty or more, fifty, and, absurdly enough, three thousand. Among them were Menelaus, Odysseus, Diomedes, Sthenelus, Acamas, Thoas, and Neoptolemus. Coaxed, threatened, and bribed, Epeius himself joined the party. He climbed up last, drew the ladder in after him and, since he alone knew how to work the trap-door, took his seat beside the lock.
d. At nightfall, the remaining Greeks under Agamemnon followed Odysseus’s instructions, which were to burn their camp, put out to sea, and wait off Tenedos and the Calydnian Islands until the following evening. Only Odysseus’s first cousin Sinon, a grandson of Autolycus, stayed behind to light a signal beacon for their return.
e. At break of day, Trojan scouts reported that the camp lay in ashes and that the Greeks had departed, leaving a huge horse on the seashore. Priam and several of his sons went out to view it and, as they stood staring in wonder, Thymoetes was the first to break the silence. ‘Since this is a gift to Athene,’ he said, ‘I propose that we take it into Troy and haul it up to her citadel.’ ‘No, no!’ cried Capys. ‘Athene favoured the Greeks too long; we must either burn it at once or break it open to see what the belly contains.’ But Priam declared: ‘Thymoetes is right. We will fetch it in on rollers. Let nobody desecrate Athene’s property.’ The horse proved too broad to be squeezed through the gates. Even when the wall had been breached, it stuck four times. With enormous efforts the Trojans then hauled it up to the citadel; but at least took the precaution of repairing the breach behind them. Another heated argument followed when Cassandra announced that the horse contained armed men, and was supported in her view by the seer Laocoön, son of Antenor, whom some mistakenly call the brother of Anchises. Crying: ‘You fools, never trust a Greek even if he brings you gifts!’, he hurled his spear, which stuck quivering in the horse’s flank and caused the weapons inside to clash together. Cheers and shouts arose: ‘Burn it!’ ‘Hurl it over the walls!’ But, ‘Let it stay,’ pleaded Priam’s supporters.
f. This argument was interrupted by the arrival of Sinon, whom a couple of Trojan soldiers were marching up in chains. Under interrogation, he said that Odysseus had long been trying to destroy him because he knew the secret of Palamedes’s murder. The Greeks, he went on, were heartily sick of the war, and would have sailed home months before this, but that the uninterrupted bad weather prevented them. Apollo had advised them to placate the Winds with blood, as when they were delayed at Aulis. ‘Whereupon,’ Sinon continued, ‘Odysseus dragged Calchas forward, and asked him to name the victim. Calchas would not give an immediate answer and went into retirement for ten days, at the end of which time, doubtless bribed by Odysseus, he entered the Council hut and pointed at me. All present welcomed this verdict, every man relieved at not being chosen as the scapegoat, and I was put in fetters; but a favourable wind sprang up, my companions hurriedly launched their vessels, and in the confusion I made my escape.’
g. Thus Priam was tricked into accepting Sinon as a suppliant, and had his fetters broken. ‘Now tell us about this horse,’ he said kindly. Sinon explained that the Greeks had forfeited Athene’s support, on which they depended, when Odysseus and Diomedes stole the Palladium from her temple. No sooner had they brought it to their camp than the image was three times enveloped by flames, and its limbs sweated in proof of the goddess’s wrath. Calchas thereupon advised Agamemnon to sail for home and assemble a fresh expedition in Greece, under better auspices, leaving the horse as a placatory gift to Athene. ‘Why was it built so big?’ asked Priam. Sinon, well coached by Odysseus, replied: ‘To prevent you from bringing it into the city. Calchas foretells that if you despise this sacred image, Athene will ruin you; but once it enters Troy, you shall be empowered to marshal all the forces of Asia, invade Greece, and conquer Mycenae.’
h. ‘These are lies,’ cried Laocoön, ‘and sound as if they were invented by Odysseus. Do not believe him, Priam!’ He added: ‘Pray, my lord, give me leave to sacrifice a bull to Poseidon. When I come back I hope to see this wooden horse reduced to ashes.’ It should be explained that the Trojans, having stoned their priest of Poseidon to death nine years before, had decided not to replace him until the war seemed to have ended. Now they chose Laocoön by lot to propitiate Poseidon. He was already the priest of Thymbraean Apollo, whom he had angered by marrying and begetting children, despite a vow of celibacy and, worse, by lying with his wife Antiope in sight of the god’s image.
i. Laocoön retired to select a victim and prepare the altar but, in warning of Troy’s approaching doom, Apollo sent two great sea-serpents, named Porces and Chariboea, or Curissia, or Periboea, rushing towards Troy from Tenedos and the Calydnian Islands. They darted ashore and, coiling around the limbs of Laocoön’s twin sons Antiphas and Thymbraeus, whom some call Melanthus, crushed them to death. Laocoön ran to their rescue, but he too died miserably. The serpents then glided up to the citadel and while one wound about Athene’s feet, the other took refuge behind her aegis. Some, however, say that only one of Laocoön’s sons was killed and that he died in the temple of Thymbraean Apollo, not beside Poseidon’s altar; and others that Laocoön himself escaped death.
j. This terrible portent served to convince the Trojans that Sinon had spoken the truth. Priam mistakenly assumed that Laocoön was being punished for hurling his spear at the horse, rather than for having insulted Apollo. He at once dedicated the horse to Athene and although Aeneas’s followers retired in alarm to their huts on Mount Ida, nearly all Priam’s Trojans began to celebrate the victory with banquets and merry-making. The women gathered flowers from the river banks, garlanded the horse’s mane, and spread a carpet of roses around its hooves.
k. Meanwhile, inside the horse’s belly, the Greeks had been trembling for terror, and Epeius wept silently, in an ecstasy of fear. Only Neoptolemus showed no emotion, even when the point of Laocoön’s spear broke through the timbers close to his head. Time after time he nudged Odysseus to order the assault—for Odysseus was in command—and clutched his lance and sword-hilt menacingly. But Odysseus would not consent. In the evening Helen strolled from the palace and went around the horse three times, patting its flanks and, as if to amuse Deiphobus who was with her, teased the hidden Greeks by imitating the voice of each of their wives in turn. Menelaus and Diomedes squatting in the middle of the horse next to Odysseus, were tempted to leap out when they heard themselves called by name; but he restrained them and, seeing that Antielus was on the point of answering, clapped hand over his mouth and, some say, strangled him.
l. That night, exhausted with feasting and revelry, the Trojans slept soundly, and not even the bark of a dog broke the stillness. But Helen lay awake, and a bright round light blazed above her chamber as signal to the Greeks. At midnight, just before the full moon rose—the seventh of the year—Sinon crept from the city to kindle a beacon of Achilles’s tomb, and Anterior waved a torch. Agamemnon answered these signals by lighting pine-wood chips in a cresset on the deck of his ship, which was now heaved—to a few bow-shots from the coast; and the whole fleet drove shorewards. Antenor, cautiously approaching the horse, reported in a low voice that all was well, and Odysseus ordered Epeius to unlock the trap door.
m. Echion, son of Portheus, leaping out first, fell and broke his neck; the rest descended by Epeius’s rope-ladder. Some ran to open the gate for the landing party, others cut down drowsy sentries guarding the citadel and palace; but Menelaus could think only of Helen, and run straight towards her house.
The Sack Of Troy
ODYSSEUS, it seems, had promised Hecabe and Helen that all who offered no resistance should be spared. Yet now the Greeks poured silently through the moonlit streets, broke into the unguarded houses, and cut the throats of the Trojans as they slept. Hecabe took refuge with her daughters beneath an ancient laurel-tree at the altar raised to Zeus of the Courtyard, where she restrained Priam from rushing into the thick of the fight. ‘Remain among us, my lord,’ she pleaded, ‘in this safe place. You are too old and feeble for battle.’ Priam, grumbling, did as she asked until their son Polites ran by, closely pursued by the Greeks, and fell transfixed before their eyes. Cursing Neoptolemus, who had delivered the death blow, Priam hurled an ineffectual spear at him; whereupon he was hustled away from the altar steps, now red with Polites’s blood, and butchered at the threshold of his own palace. But Neoptolemus, remembering his filial duty, dragged the body to Achilles’s tomb on the Sigaean promontory, where he left it to rot, headless and unburied.
b. Meanwhile Odysseus and Menelaus had made for Deiphobus’s house, and there engaged in the bloodiest of all their combats, emerging victorious only with Athene’s aid. Which of the two killed Deiphobus is disputed. Some even say that Helen herself plunged a dagger into his back; and that this action, and the sight of her naked breasts, so weakened the resolution of Menelaus, who had sworn ‘She must die!’, that he threw away his sword and led her in safety to the ships. Deiphobus’s corpse was atrociously mangled, but Aeneas later raised a monument to him on Cape Rhoeteum. Odysseus saw Glaucus, one of Antenor’s sons, fleeing down a street with a company of Greeks in hot pursuit. He intervened, and at the same time rescued Glaucus’s brother Helicaon, who had been seriously wounded. Menelaus then hung a leopard’s skin over the door of Antenor’s house, as a sign that it should be spared. Anterior, his wife Theano, and his four sons, were allowed to go free, taking all their goods with them; some days later they sailed away in Menelaus’s ship, and settled first at Cyrene, next in Thrace, and finally at Henetica on the Adriatic. Henetica was so called because Antenor took command of certain refugees from Paphlagonian Enete, whose King Pylaemenes had fallen at Troy, and led them in a successful war against the Euganei of the Northern Italian plain. The port and district where they disembarked was renamed ‘New Troy’, and they themselves are now known as Venetians. Antenor is also said to have founded the city of Padua.
c. According to the Romans, the only other Trojan family spared by the Greeks was that of Aeneas who, like Anterior, had lately urged the surrender of Helen and the conclusion of a just peace; Agamemnon, seeing him lift the venerable Anchises upon his shoulders and carry him towards the Dardanian Gate without a sideways glance, gave orders that so pious a son should not be molested. Some, however, say that Aeneas was absent in Phrygia when the city fell. Others, that he defended Troy to the last, then retired to the citadel of Pergamus and, after a second bold stand, sent his people forward under cover of darkness to Mount Ida, where he followed them as soon as he might with his family, his treasure, and the sacred images; and that, being offered honourable terms by the Greeks, he passed over into Thracian Pellene, and died either there or at Arcadian Orchomenus. But the Romans say that he wandered at last to Latium, founded the city of Lavinium and, falling in battle, was carried up to Heaven. All these are fables: the truth is that Neoptolemus led him away captive on board his ship, the most honourable prize won by any of the Greeks, and held him for ransom, which in due course the Dardanians paid.
d. Helicaon’s wife Laodice (whom some call the wife of Telephus) had lain with Acamas the Athenian, when he came to Troy in Diomedes’s embassy ten years before, and secretly borne him a son Munitus, whom Helen’s slave-woman Aethra—mother to Theseus, and thus the infant’s great-grandmother—had reared for her. At the fall of Troy, as Laodice stood in the sanctuary of Tros, beside the tombs of Cilla and Munippus, the earth gaped and swallowed her before the eyes of all.
e. In the confusion, Aethra fled with Munitus to the Greek camp, where Acamas and Demophon recognized her as their long-lost grandmother, whom they had sworn either to rescue or to ransom. Demophon at once approached Agamemnon and demanded her repatriation, with that of her fellow-captive, the sister of Peirithous. Menestheus of Athens supported their plea, and since Helen had often shown her dislike of Aethra by setting a foot on her head and tugging at her hair, Agamemnon gave his assent; but obliged Demophon and Acamas to waive their claims to any other Trojan spoil. Unfortunately, when Acamas landed in Thrace on his homeward voyage, Munitus, who was accompanying him, died of a serpent’s bite.
f. No sooner had the massacre begun in Troy than Cassandra fled to the temple of Athene and clutched the wooden image which had replaced the stolen Palladium. There Little Ajax found her and tried to drag her away, but she embraced the image so tightly that he had to take it with him when he carried her off into concubinage; which was the common fate of all Trojan women. Agamemnon, however, claimed Cassandra as the particular award of his own valour, and Odysseus obligingly put it about that Ajax had violated Cassandra in the shrine; which was why the image kept its eyes upturned to Heaven, as if horror-stricken. Thus Cassandra became Agamemnon’s prize, while Ajax earned the hatred of the whole army; and, when the Greeks were about to sail, Calchas warned the Council that Athene must be placated for the insult offered to her priestess. To gratify Agamemnon, Odysseus then proposed the stoning of Ajax; but he escaped by taking sanctuary at Athene’s altar, where he swore a solemn oath that Odysseus was lying as usual; nor did Cassandra herself support the charge of rape. Nevertheless, Calchas’s prophecy could hardly be disregarded; Ajax therefore expressed sorrow for having forcibly removed the image, and offered to expiate his crime. This he was prevented from doing by death: the ship in which he sailed home to Greece being wrecked on the Gyraean Rocks. When he scrambled ashore, Poseidon split the rocks with his trident and drowned him; or, some say, Athene killed him. Thetis buried his corpse on the island Myconos, whose inhabitants wore black for a whole year, and now annually launch a black-sailed ship, heaped with gifts, and burn it in his honour.
g. Athene’s wrath then fell on the land of Opuntian Locris, and the Delphic Oracle warned Ajax’s former subjects that they would have no relief from famine and pestilence unless they sent two gifts to Troy every year for a thousand years. Accordingly, the Hundred Houses of Locris have ever since shouldered this burden in proof of their nobility, they choose the gifts by lot, and land them at dead of night on the Rhoetean headland, each time varying the season; with them go kinsmen who know the country and can smuggle them into the sanctuary of Athene. If the Trojans catch these girls, they are stoned to death, burned as a defilement to the land, and their ashes scattered on the sea; but once inside the shrine, they are safe. Their hair is then shorn, they are given the single garment of a slave, and spend their days in menial temple duties until relieved by another pair. It happened many years ago that when the Trarians captured Troy and killed a Locrian priestess in the temple itself, the Locrians decided that their long penance must be over and therefore sent no more gifts; but, famine and pestilence supervening, they hastened to resume their ancient custom, the term of which is only now drawing to an end. These girls gain Athene’s sanctuary by way of an underground passage, the secret entrance to which is at some distance from the walls, and which leads to the muddy culvert used by Odysseus and Diomedes when they stole the Palladium. The Trojans have no notion how the girls contrive to enter, and never know on what night the relief is due to arrive, so that they seldom catch them, and then only by accident.
h. After the massacre, Agamemnon’s people plundered and burned Troy, divided the spoils, razed the walls, and sacrificed holocausts to their gods. The Council had debated for awhile what should be done with Hector’s infant son Astyanax, otherwise called Scamandrius; and when Odysseus recommended the systematic extirpation of Priam’s descendants, Calchas settled the boy’s fate by prophesying that, if allowed to survive, he would avenge his parents and his city. Though all other princes shrank from infanticide, Odysseus willingly hurled Astyanax from the battlements. But some say that Neoptolemus, to whom Hector’s widow Andromache had fallen as a prize in the division of spoil, snatched Astyanax from her, in anticipation of the Council’s decree, whirled him around his head by one foot and flung him upon the rocks far below. And others say that Astyanax leaped to his death from the wall, while Odysseus was reciting Calchas’s prophecy and invoking the gods to approve the cruel rite.
i. The Council also debated Polyxena’s fate. As he lay dying, Achilles had begged that she should be sacrificed upon his tomb, and more recently had appeared in dreams to Neoptolemus and other chieftains, threatening to keep the fleet windbound at Troy until they fulfilled his demand. A voice was also heard complaining from the tomb: ‘It is unjust that none of the spoil has been awarded to me!’ And a ghost appeared on the Rhoetean headland, clad in golden armour, crying: ‘Whither away, Greeks? Would you leave my tomb unhonoured?’
j. Calchas now declared that Polyxena must not be denied to Achilles, who loved her. Agamemnon dissented, arguing that enough blood was already shed, of old men and infants as well as of warriors, to glut Achilles’s vengeance, and that dead men, however famous, enjoyed no rights over live women. But Demophon and Acamas, who had been defrauded of their fair share in the spoils, clamoured that Agamemnon was expressing this view only to please Polyxena’s sister Cassandra and make her submit more readily to his embraces. They asked: ‘Which deserves the greater respect, Achilles’s sword or Cassandra’s bed?’ Feeling ran high and Odysseus, intervening, persuaded Agamemnon to give way.
k. The Council then instructed Odysseus to fetch Polyxena, and invited Neoptolemus to officiate as priest. She was sacrificed on Achilles’s tomb, in the sight of the whole army, who hastened to give her honourable burial; whereupon favouring winds sprang up at once. But some say that the Greek fleet had already reached Thrace when the ghost of Achilles appeared, threatening them with contrary winds, and that Polyxena was sacrificed there. Others record that she went of her own free will to Achilles’s tomb, before Troy fell, and threw herself on the point of a sword, thus expiating the wrong she had done him.
l. Though Achilles had killed Polydorus, Priam’s son by Laothoë, the youngest and best-loved of his children, yet another prince of the same name survived. He was Priam’s son by Hecabe and had been sent for safety to the Thracian Chersonese, where his aunt Iliona, wife of King Polymnestor, reared him. Iliona treated Polydorus as though he were a true brother to Deiphilus, whom she had borne to Polymnestor. Agamemnon, pursuing Odysseus’s policy of extirpation, now sent messengers to Polymnestor promising him Electra for a wife and a dowry of gold if he would do away with Polydorus. Polymnestor accepted the bribe, yet could not bring himself to harm a child whom he had sworn to protect, and instead killed his own son Deiphilus in the presence of the messengers, who went back deceived. Polydorus, not knowing the secret of his birth, but realizing that he was the cause of Iliona’s estrangement from Polymnestor, went to Delphi and asked the Pythoness: ‘What ails my parents?’ She answered: ‘Is it a small thing that your city is reduced to ashes, your father butchered and your mother enslaved, that you should come to me with such a question?’ He returned to Thrace in great anxiety, but found nothing changed since his departure. ‘Can Apollo have been mistaken?’ he wondered. Iliona told him the truth and, indignant that Polymnestor should have murdered his only child for gold and the promise of another queen, he first blinded and then stabbed him.
m. Others say that Polymnestor was threatened by the Greeks with relentless war unless he would give up Polydorus and that, when he yielded, they brought the boy to their camp and offered to exchange him for Helen. Since Priam declined to discuss the proposal, Agamemnon had Polydorus stoned to death beneath the walls of Troy, afterwards sending his body to Helen with the message: ‘Show Priam this, and ask him whether he regrets his decision.’ It was an act of wanton spite, because Priam had pledged his word never to surrender Helen while she remained under Aphrodite’s protection, and was ready to ransom Polydorus with the rich city of Antandrus.
n. Odysseus won Hecabe as his prize, and took her to the Thracian Chersonese, where she uttered such hideous invectives against him and the other Greeks, for their barbarity and breaches of faith, that they found no alternative but to put her to death. Her spirit took the shape of one of those fearful black bitches that follow Hecate, leaped into the sea and swam away towards the Hellespont; they called the place of her burial ‘The Bitch’s Tomb’. Another version of the story is that after the sacrifice of Polyxena, Hecabe found the dead body of Polydorus washed up on the shore, her son-in-law Polymnestor having murdered him for the gold with which Priam was defraying the expenses of his education. She summoned Polymnestor, promising to let him into the secret of a treasure concealed among the ruins of Troy, and when he approached with his two sons, drew a dagger from her bosom, stabbed the boys to death and tore out Polymnestor’s eyes; a display of ill-temper which Agamemnon pardoned because of her age and misfortunes. The Thracian nobles would have taken vengeance on Hecabe with darts and stones, but she transformed herself into a bitch named Maera, and ran around howling dismally, so that they retired in confusion.
o. Some say that Antenor founded a new Trojan kingdom upon the ruins of the old one. Others, that Astyanax survived and became King of Troy after the departure of the Greeks; and that, when he was expelled by Antenor and his allies, Aeneas put him back on the throne to which, however, Aeneas’s son Ascanius eventually succeeded, as had been prophesied. Be that as it may, Troy has never since been more than a shadow of its former self.
‘LET us sail at once,’ said Menelaus, ‘while the breeze holds.’ ‘No, no” replied Agamemnon, ‘let us first sacrifice to Athene.’ ‘We Greeks owe Athene nothing!’ Menelaus told him. ‘She defended the Trojan citadel too long.’ The brothers parted on ill terms and never saw each other again, for whereas Agamemnon, Diomedes, and Nestor enjoyed a prosperous homeward voyage, Menelaus was caught in a storm sent by Athene; and lost all but five vessels. These were blown to Crete whence he crossed the sea to Egypt, and spent eight years in southern waters, unable to return. He visited Cyprus, Phoenicia, Ethiopia, an Libya, the princes of which received him hospitably and gave him many rich gifts. At last he came to Pharos, where the nymph Eidothea advised him to capture her prophetic father, Proteus the sea-god, who alone could tell him how to break the adverse spell and secure southerly breeze. Menelaus and three companions accordingly disguised themselves in stinking seal-skins and lay waiting on the shore, until they were joined at midday by hundreds of seals, Proteus’s flock. Proteus himself then appeared and went to sleep among the seals: whereupon Menelaus and his party seized him, and though he turned successively into lion, serpent, panther, boar, running water, and leafy tree, held him fast and forced him to prophesy. He announced that Agamemnon had been murdered, and that Menelaus must visit Egypt once more and propitiate the gods with hecatombs. This he duly did, and no sooner had he raised a cenotaph to Agamemnon, beside the River of Egypt, than the winds blew fair at last. He arrived at Sparta, accompanied by Helen, on the very day that Orestes avenged Agamemnon’s murder.
b. A great many ships, though containing no leaders of note, were wrecked on the Euboean coast, because Nauplius had kindled a beacon on Mount Caphareus to lure his enemies to their death, as if guiding them into the shelter of the Pagasaean Gulf; but this crime became known to Zeus, and it was by a false beacon that Nauplius himself met dead-end many years later.
c. Amphilochus, Calchas, Podaleirius and a few others travelled by land to Colophon, where Calchas died, as had been prophesied, on meeting a wiser seer than himself—none other than Mopsus, the son of Apollo and Teiresias’s daughter Manto. A wild fig-tree covered with fruit grew at Colophon, and Calchas, wishing to abash Mopsus, challenged him as follows: ‘Can you perhaps tell me, dear colleague, exactly how many figs will be harvested from that tree?’ Mopsus, closing his eyes, as one who trusts to inner sight rather than vulgar computation, answered: ‘Certainly: first ten thousand figs, then an Aeginetan bushel of figs, carefully weighed—yes, and a single fig left over.’ Calchas laughed scornfully at the single fig, but when the tree had been stripped, Mopsus’s intuition proved unerring. ‘To descend from thousands to lesser quantities, deer colleague,’ Mopsus now said, with an unpleasant smile, ‘how many piglings, would you say, repose in the paunch of that pregnant sow; and how many of each sex will she farrow; and when?’ ‘Eight piglings, all male, and she will farrow them within nine days,’ Calchas answered at random, hoping to be gone before his guess could be disproved. ‘I am of a different opinion,’ said Mopsus, again closing his eyes. ‘My estimate is three piglings, only one of them a boar; and the time of their birth will be midday tomorrow, not a minute earlier or later.’ Mopsus was right once more, and Calchas died of a broken heart. His comrades buried him at Nothium.
d. The timorous Podaleirius, instead of asking his prophetic friends where he should settle, preferred to consult the Delphic Pythoness, who advised him irritably to go wherever he would suffer no harm, even if the skies were to fall. After much thought, he chose a place in Caria called Syrnos, ringed around with mountains; their summits would, he hoped, catch and support the blue firmament should Atlas ever let it slip from his shoulders. The Italians built Podaleirius a hero-shrine on Mount Drium in Daunia, at the summit of which the ghost of Calchas now maintains a dream oracle.
e. A dispute arose between Mopsus and Amphilochus. They had jointly founded the city of Mallus in Cilicia, and when Amphilochus retired to his own city of Amphilochian Argos, Mopsus became sole to reign. Amphilochus, dissatisfied with affairs at Argos, came back after twelve months to Mallus, expecting to resume his former powers, but Mopsus gruntly told him to be gone. When the embarrassed Mallians suggested that this dispute should be decided by single combat, the rivals fought and each killed the other. The funeral pyres were so divided that Mopsus and Amphilochus could not exchange unseemly scowls during their cremation, yet the ghosts somehow became so tenderly linked in friendship that they set up a common oracle; which has now earned a higher reputation for truth even than Delphic Apollo’
s. All questions are written on wax tablets, and the responses given in dreams, at the remarkably low price of two coppers apiece.
f. Neoptolemus sailed homeward as soon as he had offered sacrifices: to the gods and to his father’s ghost; and escaped the great tempest which caught Menelaus and Idomeneus, by taking the prophetic advice of his friend Helenus and running for Molossia. After killing King Phoenix and marrying his own mother to Helenus, who became king of the Molossians and founded a new capital city, Neoptolemus regained Iolcus at last. There he succeeded to the kingdom of his grandfather Peleus, whom the sons of Acastus had expelled; but on Helenus’s advice did not stay to enjoy it. He burned his ships and marched inland to Lake Pambrotis in Epirus, near the Oracle of Dodona where he was welcomed by a command of his distant kinsmen. They were bivouacking under blankets supported by spear-butts, stuck into the ground. Neoptolemus remembered the words of Helenus: ‘When you find a house with foundations of iron, wooden walls, and a woollen roof, halt, sacrifice to the gods, build a city!’ Here he begot two more sons on Andromache, namely Pielus and Pergamus.
g. His end was inglorious. Going to Delphi, he demanded satisfaction for the death of his father Achilles whom Apollo, disguised as Paris, was said to have shot in his temple at Troy. When the Pythoness coldly denied him this, he plundered and burned the shrine. Next he went to Sparta, and claimed that Menelaus had betrothed Hermione to him before Troy; but that her grandfather Tyndareus had instead given her to Agamemnon’s son Orestes. Orestes now being pursued by the Erinnyes, and under a divine curse, it was only just, he argued, that Hermione should become his wife. Despite Orestes’s protests, the Spartans granted his plea, and the marriage took place at Sparta. Hermione, however, proving barren, Neoptolemus returned to Delphi and, entering the smoke-blackened sanctuary, which Apollo had decided to rebuild, asked why this should be.
h. He was ordered to offer placatory sacrifices to the god and, while doing so, met Orestes at the altar. Orestes would have killed him then and there, had not Apollo, foreseeing that Neoptolemus must die by another hand that very day, prevented it. Now, the flesh of the sacrifices offered to the god at Delphi has always been a perquisite of the temple servants; but Neoptolemus, in his ignorance, could not bear to see the fat carcasses of the oxen which he had slaughtered being hauled away before his eyes, and tried to prevent it by force. ‘Let us be rid of this troublesome son of Achilles!’ said the Pythoness shortly; whereupon one Machaereus, a Phocian, cut down Neoptolemus with his sacrificial knife. ‘Bury him beneath the threshold of our new sanctuary,’ she commanded. ‘He was a famous warrior, and his ghost will guard it against all attacks. And if he has truly repented of his insult to Apollo, let him preside over processions and sacrifices in honour of heroes like himself.’ But some say that Orestes instigated the murder.
i. Demophon the Athenian touched at Thrace on his return to Athens, and there Phyllis, a Bisaltian princess, fell in love with him. He married her and became king. When he tired of Thrace, and decided to resume his travels, Phyllis could do nothing to hold him. ‘I must visit Athens and greet my mother, whom I last saw eleven years ago,’ said Demophon. ‘You should have thought of that before you accepted the throne,’ Phyllis answered, in tears. ‘It is not lawful to absent yourself for more than a few months at most.’ Demophon swore by every god in Olympus that he would be back within the year; but Phyllis knew that he was lying. She accompanied him as far as the port called Enneodos, and there gave him a casket. ‘This contains a charm,’ Phyllis said. ‘Open it only when you have abandoned all hope of returning to me.’
j. Demophon had no intention of going to Athens. He steered a south-easterly course for Cyprus, where he settled; and when the year was done, Phyllis cursed him in Mother Rhea’s name, took poison, and died. At that very hour, curiosity prompted Demophon to open the casket, and the sight of its contents—who knows what they were—made a lunatic of him. He leaped on his horse and galloped off in panic, belabouring its head with the flat of his sword until it stumbled and fell. The sword flew from his hand, stuck point upwards in the ground, and transfixed him as he was flung over the horse’s head. A story is told of another Thracian princess named Phyllis, who had fallen in love with Demophon’s brother Acamas and, when storms, delayed his return from Troy, died of sorrow and was metamorphosed into an almond-tree. These two princesses have often been confused.
k. Diomedes, like Agamemnon and others, experienced Aphrodite’s bitter enmity. He was first wrecked on the Lycian coast, where King Lycus would have sacrificed him to Ares, had not the princess Callirrhoë helped him to escape; and, on reaching Argos, found that his wife Aegialeia had been persuaded by Nauplius to live in adultery with Cometes or, some say, with Hippolytus. Retiring to Corinth, he learned there that his grandfather Oeneus needed assistance against certain rebels; so he sailed for Aetolia and set him firmly on his throne again. But some say that Diomedes had been forced to leave Argos long before the Trojan War, on his return from the Epigoni’s successful Theban campaign; and that Agamemnon had since assisted him to win back his kingdom. He spent the remainder of his life in Italian Daunia, where he married Euippe, daughter of King Daunus; and built many famous cities, including Brundisium, which may have been why Daunus jealously murdered him when he was an old man, and buried him in one of the islands now called the Diomedans. According to another account, however, he suddenly disappeared by an act of divine magic, and his comrades turned into gentle and virtuous birds, which still nest on those islands. Diomedes’s golden armour has been preserved by the priests of Athene at Apulian Luceria, and he is worshipped as a god in Venetia, and throughout Southern Italy.
l. Nauplius had also persuaded Idomeneus’s wife Meda to be faithless. She took one Leucus for her lover, but he soon drove her and Idomeneus’s daughter Cleisithyra from the palace and murdered them both in the temple where they had taken sanctuary. Leucus then seduced ten cities from allegiance to their rightful king, and usurped the throne. Caught in a storm as he sailed for Crete, Idomeneus vowed to dedicate to Poseidon the first person whom he met; and this happened to be his own son or, some say, another of his daughters. He was on the point of fulfilling his vow when a pestilence visited the country and interrupted the sacrifice. Leucus now had a good excuse for banishing Idomeneus, who emigrated to the Sallentine region of Calabria, and lived there until his death.
m. Few of the other Greeks reached home again, and those who did found only trouble awaiting them. Philoctetes was expelled by rebels from his city of Meliboea in Thessaly, and fled to Southern Italy, where he founded Petelia, and Crimissa near Croton, and sent some of his followers to help Aegestes fortify Sicilian Aegesta. He dedicated his famous bow at Crimissa, in the sanctuary of Distraught Apollo, and when he died was buried beside the river Sybaris.
n. Contrary winds forced Guneus to the Cynips river in Libya, and he made his home there. Pheidippus with his Coans went first to Andros and thence to Cyprus, where Agapenor had also settled. Menestheus did not resume his reign at Athens, but accepted the vacant kingship of Melos; some say, however, that he died at Troy. Elpenor’s followers were wrecked on the shores of Epirus, and occupied Apollonia; those of Protesilius, near Pellene in the Thracian Chersonese; and Tlepolemus’s Rhodians, on one of the Iberian islands, whence a party of them sailed westward again to Italy and were helped by Philoctetes in their war against the barbarous Lucanians. The tale of Odysseus’s wanderings is now Homeric entertainment for twenty-four nights.
o. Only Nestor, who had always shown himself just, prudent, generous, courteous, and respectful to the gods, returned safe and sound to Pylus, where he enjoyed a happy old age, untroubled by wars, and surrounded by bold, intelligent sons. For so Almighty Zeus decreed.
ODYSSEUS, setting sail from Troy in the sure knowledge that he must wander for another ten years before he could hope to regain Ithaca, touched first at Ciconian Ismarus and took it by storm. In the pillage he spared only Maro, Apollo’s priest, who gratefully presented him with several jars of sweet wine; but the Ciconians of the interior saw the pall of smoke spread high above the burned city, and charging down on the Greeks as they drank by the seashore, scattered them in all directions. When Odysseus had rallied and re-embarked his men with heavy losses, a fierce north-easterly gale drove him across the Aegean Sea towards Cythera. On the fourth day, during a tempting lull, he tried to double Cape Malea and work up northward to Ithaca, but the wind rose again more violently than before. After nine days of danger and misery, the Libyan promontory where the Lotus-eaters live hove in sight. Now, the lotus is a stoneless, saffron-coloured fruit about the size of a bean, growing in sweet and wholesome clusters, though with the property of making those who have tasted it lose all memory of their own land; some travellers, however, describe it as a kind of apple from which a heavy cider is brewed. Odysseus landed to draw water, and sent out a patrol of three men, who ate the lotus offered them by the natives and so forgot their mission. After a while he went in search of them at the head of a rescue party, and though himself tempted to taste the lotus, refrained. He brought the deserters back by force, clapped them in irons, and sailed away without more ado.
b. Next he came to a fertile, well-wooded island, inhabited only by cottadoss wild goats, and shot some of these for food. There he beached the whole fleet, except a single ship in which he set out to explore the opposite coast. It proved to be the land of the fierce and barbarous Cyclopes, so called because of the large, round eye that glared from the centre of each forehead. They have lost the art of smith craft known to their ancestors who worked for Zeus, and are now shepherds without laws, assemblies, ships, markets, or knowledge of agriculture; living sullenly apart from one another, in caverns hollowed from the rocky hills. Seeing the high, laurel-hung entrance of such a cavern, beyond a stock-yard walled with huge stones, Odysseus and his companions entered, unaware that the property belonged to a Cyclops named Polyphemus, a gigantic son of Poseidon and the nymph Thoösa, who loved to dine off human flesh. The Greeks made themselves at home by lighting a large fire; then slaughtered and roasted some kids that they found penned at the back of the cavern, helped themselves to cheese from baskets hung on the walls, and feasted cheerfully. Towards evening Polyphemus appeared. He drove his flock into the cavern and closed the entrance behind him with a slab of stone so huge that twenty teams of oxen could scarcely have stirred it; then, not observing that he had guests, sat down to milk his ewes and goats. Finally he glanced up from the pail and saw Odysseus and his comrades reclined around the hearth. He asked gruffly what business they had in his cavern. Odysseus replied: ‘Gentle monster, we are Greeks on our way home after the sack of Troy; pray remember your duty to the gods and entertain us hospitably.’ For answer Polyphemus snorted, seized two sailors by the feet, dashed out their brains on the floor, and devoured the carcasses raw, growling over the bones like any mountain lion.
c. Odysseus would have taken bloody vengeance before dawn, but dared not, because Polyphemus alone was strong enough to shift the stone from the entrance. He passed the night, head clasped between hands, elaborating a plan of escape, while Polyphemus snored dreadfully. For breakfast, the monster brained and killed another two sailors, after which he silently drove out his flock before him and closed cavern with the same slab of stone; but Odysseus took a stake of grey olive-wood, sharpened and hardened one end in the fire, then concealed it under a heap of dung. That evening the Cyclops returned and ate two more of the twelve sailors, whereupon Odysseus politely offered him an ivy-wood bowl of the heady wine given him by Maro in Ciconian Ismarus; fortunately, he had brought a full wine-skin ashore. Polyphemus drank greedily, called for a second bowlful, never in his life having tasted any drink stronger than buttermilk, and condescended to ask Odysseus his name. ‘My name is Oudeis,’ Odysseus replied, ‘or that is what everyone calls me, for short’. Now, Oudeis means ‘Nobody’. ‘I will eat you last, friend Oudeis,’ Polyphemus promised.
d. As soon as the Cyclops had fallen into a drunken sleep, the wine having been untempered with water, Odysseus and his remaining companions heated the stake in the embers of the fire, then drove it into the single eye and twisted it about, Odysseus bearing down heavily from above, as one drills a bolt hole in ship’s timber. The eye hissed, Polyphemus raised a horrible yell, which set all his neighbours hurrying from near and far to learn what was amiss. ‘I am blinded and in frightful agony! It is the fault of Oudeis,’ he bellowed. ‘Oudeis is to blame!’ ‘Poor wretch’ they replied. ‘If, as you say, nobody is to blame, must be in a delirious fever. Pray to our Father Poseidon for recovery, and stop making so much noise!’ They went off grumbling, and Polyphemus felt his way to the cavern mouth, removed the slab of stone and, groping expectantly with his hands, waited to catch the surviving Greeks as they tried to escape. But Odysseus took withies and tied each of his comrades in turn under the belly of a ram, the middle one of three, distributing the weight evenly. He himself chose an enormous tup, the leader of the flock, and prepared to curl up underneath it, gripping the fleece with his fingers and toes.
e. At dawn, Polyphemus let his flock out to pasture, gently stroking their backs to make sure that no one was astride of them. He lingered awhile talking sorrowfully to the beast under which Odysseus lay concealed, asking it: ‘Why, dear ram, are you not to the fore, as usual? Do you pity me in my misfortune?’ But at last he allowed it to pass.
f. Thus Odysseus contrived both to free his companions and to drive a flock of fat rams down to the ship. Quickly she was launched, and as the men seized their oars and began to row off, Odysseus could not refrain from shouting an ironical goodbye. For answer, Polyphemus hurled a large rock, which fell half a length ahead of the ship; its backwash nearly fetched her ashore again. Odysseus laughed, and cried: ‘Should anyone ask who blinded you, answer that it was not Oudeis, but Odysseus of Ithaca!’ The enraged Cyclops prayed aloud to Poseidon: ‘Grant, father, that if my enemy Odysseus ever returns home, he may arrive late, in evil plight, from a foreign ship, having lost all his comrades; may he also find a heap of troubles massed on the threshold!’ He hurled another, even larger, rock and this time it fell half length astern of the ship; so that the wave which it raised carried her swiftly to the island where Odysseus’s other followers were anxiously awaiting him. But Poseidon listened to Polyphemus, and promised the required vengeance.
g. Odysseus now steered to the north, and presently reached the Isle of Aeolus, Warden of the Winds, who entertained him nobly for an entire month and, on the last day, handed him a bag of winds, explaining that while its neck was secured with silver wire, all would be well. He had not, he said, imprisoned the gentle West Wind, which would waft the fleet steadily over the Ionian Sea towards Ithaca, but Odysseus might release the others one by one, if for any reason he needed to alter his course. Smoke could already be descried rising from the chimneys of Odysseus’s palace, when he fell asleep, overcome by exhaustion. His men, who had been watching for this moment, untied the bag, which promised to contain wine. At once the Winds roared homeward, driving the ship before them; and Odysseus soon found himself on Aeolus’s island again. With profuse apologies he asked for further help, but was told to be gone and use oars this time; not a breath of West Wind should he be given. ‘I cannot assist a man whom the gods oppose,’ cried Aeolus, slamming the door in his face.
h. After a seven days’ voyage, Odysseus came to the land of the Laestrygones, ruled over by King Lamus, which is said by some to have lain in the north-western part of Sicily. Others place it near Formiae in Italy, where the noble House of Lamia claims descent from King Lamus; and this seems credible, because who would admit descent from cannibals, unless it were a matter of common tradition? In the land of the Laestrygones, night and morning come so close together that shepherds leading home their flocks at sunset hail those who drive theirs out at dawn. Odysseus’s captains boldly entered the harbour of Telepylus which, except for a narrow entrance, is ringed by abrupt cliffs, and beached their ships near a cart track that wound up a valley, Odysseus himself, being more cautious, made his ship fast to a rock outside the harbour, after sending three scouts inland to reconnoitre. They followed the track until they found a girl drawing water from a spring. She proved to be a daughter of Antiphates, a Laestrygonian chieftain, to whose house she led them. There, however, they were mercilessly set upon by a horde of savages who seized one of them and killed him for the pot; the other two ran off at full speed, but the savages, instead of pursuing them, made for the chiffons and stove in the ships with a cascade of boulders before they could be launched. Then, descending to the beach, they massacred and devoured the crew at their leisure. Odysseus escaped by cutting the hawser of his ship a sword, and calling on his comrades to row for dear life.
i. He steered his sole remaining vessel due east and, after a long voyage, reached Aeaea, the Island of Dawn, ruled over by the goddess Circe, daughter of Helius and Perse, and thus sister to Aeëtes, the baleful king of Colchis. Circe was skilled in all enchantments, but had little love for human-kind. When lots were cast to decide who should stay to guard the ship and who should reconnoitre the island, Odysseus’s mate Eurylochus was chosen to go ashore with twenty-two others. He found Aeaea rich in oaks and other forest trees, and at last came upon Circe’s palace, built in a wide clearing towards the centre of the island. Wolves and lions prowled around but, instead of attacking Eurylochus and his party, stood upright on their hind legs and caressed them. One might have taken these beasts for human beings, and so indeed they were, though thus transformed by Circe’s spells.
j. Circe sat in her hall, singing to her loom and, when Eurylochus’s party raised a halloo, stepped out with a smile and invited them to dine at her table. All entered gladly, except Eurylochus himself who, suspecting a trap, stayed behind and peered anxiously in at the windows. The goddess set a mess of cheese, barley, honey, and wine before the hungry sailors; but it was drugged, and no sooner had they begun to eat than she struck their shoulders with her wand and transformed them into hogs. Grimly then she opened the wicket of a stable, scattered a few handfuls of acorns and cornel-cherries on the floor, and left them there to wallow.
k. Eurylochus came back, weeping, and reported this misfortune to Odysseus, who seized his sword and went off, bent on rescue, though without any settled plan in his head. To his surprise he encountered the god Hermes, who greeted him politely and offered him a charm against Circe’s magic: a scented white flower with a black root, called moly, which only the gods can recognize and cull. Odysseus accepted the gift gratefully and, continuing on his way, was in due course entertained by Circe. When he had eaten his drugged meal, she raised her wand and struck him on the shoulder. ‘Go join your comrades in the stable’ she commanded. But having surreptitiously smelt the moly flower, he remained unenchanted, and leaped up, sword in hand. Circe fell weeping at his feet. ‘Spare me,’ she cried, ‘and you shall share my couch and reign in Aeaea with me!’ Well aware that witches have power to enervate and destroy their lovers, by secretly drawing off their blood in little bladders, Odysseus exacted a solemn oath from Circe not to plot any further mischief against him. This oath she swore by the blessed gods and, after giving him a deliciously warm bath, wine in golden cups, and a tasty supper served by a staid housekeeper, prepared to pass the night with him in a purple-covered bed. Yet Odysseus would not respond to her amorous advances until she consented to free not only his comrades but all the other sailors enchanted by her. Once this was done, he gladly stayed in Aeaea until she had borne him three sons, Agrius, Latinus, and Telegonus.
l. Odysseus longed to be on his way again, and Circe consented to let him go. But he must first visit Tartarus, and there seek out Teiresias the seer, who would prophesy the fate prepared for him in Ithaca, should he ever reach it, and afterwards. ‘Run before the North Wind,’ Circe said, ‘until you come to the Ocean Stream and the Grove of Persephone, remarkable for its black poplars and aged willows. At the point where the rivers Phlegethon and Cocytus flow into the Acheron, dig a trench, and sacrifice a young ram and a black ewe—which I myself will provide—to Hades and Persephone. Let the blood enter the trench, and as you wait for Teiresias to arrive drive off all other ghosts with your sword. Allow him to drink as much as he pleases and then listen carefully to his advice.’
m. Odysseus forced his men aboard, unwilling though they were to sail from pleasant Aeaea to the land of Hades. Circe supplied a favourable breeze, which wafted them swiftly to the Ocean Stream and those lost frontiers of the world where the fog-bound Cimmerians, citizens of Perpetual Dusk, are denied all view of the Sun. When they sighted Persephone’s Grove, Odysseus landed, and did exactly as Circe advised him. The first ghost to appear at the trench was that of Elpenor, one of his own crew who, only a few days previously, had drunken himself to sleep on the roof of Circe’s palace, awoken in a daze, toppled over the edge, and killed himself. Odysseus, having left Aeaea so hurriedly that Elpenor’s absence had escaped his notice until too late, now promised him decent burial. ‘To think that you came here on foot quicker than I have come by ship!’ he exclaimed. But he denied Elpenor the least sip of the blood, however piteously he might plead.
n. A mixed crowd of ghosts swarmed about the trench, men and women of all dates and every age, including Odysseus’s mother Anticleia; but he would not let even her drink before Teiresias had done so. At last Teiresias appeared, lapped the blood gratefully, and wanted Odysseus to keep his men under strict control once they had sighted Sicily, their next landfall, lest they be tempted to steal the cattle of the Sun Titan Hyperion. He must expect great trouble in Ithaca, and though he could hope to avenge himself on the scoundrels who were devouring his substance there, his travels would not yet have finished. He must take an oar and carry it on his shoulder until he came to an inland region where no man salted his meat, and where the oar would be mistaken for a winnowing-bat. If he then sacrificed to Poseidon, he might regain Ithaca and enjoy a prosperous old age; but in the end death would come to him from the sea.
o. Having thanked Teiresias and promised him the blood of another black ewe on his return to Ithaca, Odysseus at last permitted his mother to quench her thirst. She gave him further news from home, but kept a discreet silence about her daughter-in-law’s suitors. When she had said goodbye, the ghosts of numerous queens and princesses trooped up to lap the blood. Odysseus was delighted to meet such well-known personages as Antiope, Iocaste, Chloris, Pero, Leda, Iphimedeia, Phaedra, Procris, Ariadne, Maera, Clymene, and Eriphyle.
p. He next entertained a troop of former comrades: Agamemnon, who advised him to land on Ithaca in secret; Achilles, whom he cheered by reporting Neoptolemus’s mighty feats; and Great Ajax, who had by no means yet forgiven him and strode sulkily away. Odysseus also saw Minos judging, Orion hunting, Tantalus and Sisyphus suffering, and Heracles—or rather his wraith, for Heracles himself banquets at ease among the immortal gods—who commiserated with him on his long hours.
q. Odysseus sailed back safely to Aeaea, where he buried the body of Elpenor and planted his oar on the barrow as a memorial. Circe greeted him merrily. ‘What hardihood to have visited the land of Hades!’ she cried. ‘One death is enough for most men; but now you will have had two!’ She warned him that he must next pass the Island of the Sirens, whose beautiful voices enchanted all who sailed near. These children of Achelous or, some say, Phorcys, by either the Muse Terpsichore, or by Sterope, Porthaon’s daughter, had girls’ faces but birds’ feet and feathers, and many different stories are told to account for this peculiarity: such as that they had been playing with Core when Hades abducted her, and that Demeter, vexed because they had not come to her aid, gave them wings, saying: ‘Begone, and search for my daughter all over the world!’ Or that Aphrodite turned them into birds because, for pride, they would not yield their maidenheads either to gods or men. They no longer had the power of flight, however, since the Muses had defeated them in a musical contest and pulled out their wing feathers to make themselves crowns. Now they sat and sang in a meadow among the heaped bones of sailors whom they had drawn to their death. ‘Plug your men’s ears with bees-wax,’ advised Circe, ‘and if you are eager to hear their music, have your crew bind you hand and foot to the mast, and make them swear not to let you escape, however harshly you may threaten them.’ Circe warned Odysseus of other perils in store for him, when he came to say goodbye; and he sailed off, once more conveyed by a fair breeze.
r. After ship approached Siren Land, Odysseus took Circe’s advice, and the Sirens sang so sweetly, promising him foreknowledge of all future happenings on earth, that he shouted to his companions, threatening them with death if they would not release him; but, obeying his earlier orders, they only lashed him tighter to the mast. Thus the ship sailed by in safety, and the Sirens committed suicide for vexation.
s. Some believe that there were only two Sirens; others, that there were three, namely Parthenope, Leucosia, and Ligeia; or Peisinoë, Aglaope, and Thelxepeia; or Aglaophonos, Thelxiope, and Molpe. Still others name four: Teles, Raidne, Thelxiope, and Molpe.
t. Odysseus’s next danger lay in passing between two cliffs, one of which harboured Scylla, and the other Charybdis, her fellow-monster. Charybdis, daughter of Mother Earth and Poseidon, was a voracious woman, who had been hurled by Zeus’s thunderbolt into the sea and now, thrice daily, sucked in a huge volume of water and presently spewed it out again. Scylla, the once beautiful daughter of Hecate Crataeis by Phorcys, or Phorbas—or of Echidne by Typhon, Triton, or Tyrrhenius—had been changed into a dog-like monster with six fearful heads and twelve feet. This was done either by Circe when jealous of the sea-god Glaucus’s love for her, or by Amphitrite, similarly jealous of Poseidon’s love. She would seize sailors, crack their bones, and slowly swallow them. Almost the strangest thing about Scylla was her yelp: no louder than the whimper of a newly-born puppy. Trying to escape from Charybdis, Odysseus steered a trifle too near Scylla who, leaning over the gun-wales, snatched six of his ablest sailors off the deck, one in each mouth, and whisked them away to the rocks, where she devoured them at leisure. They screamed and stretched out their hands to Odysseus, but he dared not attempt a rescue, and sailed on.
u. Odysseus took this course in order to avoid the Wandering, or Clashing, Rocks, between which only the Argo had ever succeeded in passing; he was unaware that they were now rooted to the sea-bed. Soon he sighted Sicily, where Hyperion the Sun-Titan, whom some call Helius, had seven herds of splendid cattle at pasture, fifty to a herd, and large flocks of sturdy sheep as well. Odysseus made his men swear a solemn oath to be content with the provisions which Circe had supplied, and not steal a single cow. They then landed and beached the ship, but the South Wind blew for thirty days, food grew scarce, and though the sailors hunted or fished every day, they had little success. At last Eurylochus, desperate with hunger, drew his comrades aside and persuaded them to slaughter some of the cattle—in compensation for which, he hastened to add, they would build Hyperion a splendid temple on their return to Ithaca. They waited until Odysseus had fallen asleep, caught several cows, slaughtered them, sacrificed the thighbones and fat to the gods, and roasted enough good beef for a six days’ feast.
v. Odysseus was horrified when he awoke to find what had happened; and so was Hyperion on hearing the story from Lampetia, his daughter and chief herdswoman. Hyperion complained to Zeus who, seeing that Odysseus’s ship had been launched again, sent a sudden westerly storm to bring the mast crashing down on the helmsman’s skull; and then flung a thunderbolt on deck. The ship foundered, and all aboard were drowned, except Odysseus. He contrived to lash the floating mast and keel together with the raw-hide back-stay, and damper astride this makeshift vessel. But a southerly gale sprang up, and he found himself sucked towards Charybdis’s whirlpool. Clutching at the bole of a wild fig-tree which grew from the cliff above, he hung on grimly until the mast and keel had been swallowed and regurgitated; then mounted them once more and paddled away with his hands. After nine days he drifted ashore on the island of Ogygia, where lived Calypso, the daughter of Thetis by Oceanus, or it may have been Nereus, or Atlas.
w. Thickets of alder, black poplar, and cypress, with horned owls, falcons, and garrulous sea-crows roosting in their branches, sheltered Calypso’s great cavern. A grape-vine twisted across the entrance. Parsley and irises grew thick in an adjoining meadow, which was fed by four clear streams. Here lovely Calypso welcomed Odysseus as he stumbled ashore, and offered him plentiful food, heady drink, and a share of her soft bed. ‘If you stay with me,’ she pleaded, ‘you shall enjoy immortality and ageless youth.’ Some say that it was Calypso, not Circe, who bore him Latinus, besides the twins Nausithous and Nausinous.
x. Calypso detained Odysseus on Ogygia for seven years—or perhaps only for five—and tried to make him forget Ithaca; but he had soon tired of her embraces, and used to sit despondently on the shore, staring out to sea. At last, taking advantage of Poseidon’s absence, Zeus sent Hermes to Calypso with an order for Odysseus’s release. She had no option but to obey, and therefore told him to build a raft, which she would victual sufficiently: providing a sack of corn, skins of wine and water, and dried meat. Though Odysseus suspected a trap, Calypso swore by the Styx that she would not deceive him, and lent him axe, augers, and all other necessary gear. He needed no urging, but improxed a raft from a score of tree-trunks lashed together; launched it on rollers; kissed Calypso goodbye, and set sail with a gentle breeze.
y. Poseidon had been visiting his blameless friends the Ethiopians, and as he drove home across the sea in his winged chariot, suddenly saw the raft. At once Odysseus was swept overboard by a huge wave, and the rich robes which he wore dragged him down to the sea-depths until his lungs seemed about to burst. Yet being a powerful swimmer, he managed to divest himself of the robes, regain the surface, and scrollable back on the raft. The pitiful goddess Leucothea, formerly Ino, wife of Athamas, alighted beside him there, disguised as a sea-mew. In her beak she carried a veil, which she told Odysseus to wind around his middle before plunging into the sea again. This veil would save him, she promised. He hesitated to obey but, when another wave shattered the raft, wound the veil around him and swam off. Since Poseidon had now returned to his underwater palace near Euboea, Athene dared send a wind to flatten the waves in Odysseus’s path, and two days later he was cast ashore, utterly exhausted, on the island of Drepane then occupied by the Phaeacians. He lay down in the shelter of a copse beside a stream, heaped dry leaves over himself, and fell fast asleep.
z. Next morning the lovely Nausicaa, daughter of King Alcinous and Queen Arëte, the royal pair who had once shown such kindness to Jason and Medea, came to wash her linen in the stream. When the work was done she played at ball with her women. Their ball happened to bounce into the water, a shout of dismay rang out, and Odysseus awoke in alarm. He had no clothes, but used a leafy olive-branch to conceal his nakedness and, creeping forward, addressed such honeyed words to Nausicaa that she discreetly took him under her protection and had him brought to the palace. There Alcinous heaped gifts on Odysseus and, after listening to his adventures, sent him off to Ithaca in a free ship. His escort knew the island well. They cast anchor in the haven of Phorcys, but decided not to disturb his sound sleep, carried him ashore and laid him gently on the sand, stacking Alcinous’s gifts beneath a tree not far off. Poseidon, however, was so vexed by the Phaeacians’ kindness to Odysseus that he struck the ship with the fiat of his hand as she sailed home, and turned her into stone, crew and all. Alcinous at once sacrificed twelve choice bulls to Poseidon, who was now threatening to deprive the city of its two harbours by dropping a great mountain between; and some say that he was as good as his word. ‘This will teach us not to be hospitable in future!’ Alcinous told Arëte in bitter tones.
WHEN Odysseus awoke he did not at first recognize his native island, over which Athene had cast a distorting glamour. Presently she came by, disguised as a shepherd boy, and listened to his long, lying tale of how he was a Cretan who, after killing Idomeneus’s son, had fled northward in a Sidonian ship, and been put ashore here against his will. ‘What island is this?’ he asked. Athene laughed and caressed Odysseus’s cheek: ‘A wonderful liar you are, indeed!’ she said. ‘But for knowing the truth I might easily have been deceived. What surprises me, though, is that you did not penetrate my disguise. I am Athene; the Phaeacians landed you here at my instructions. I regret having taken so many years to fetch you home; but I did not dare offend my uncle Poseidon by supporting you too openly.’ She helped him to stow away his Phaeacian cauldrons, tripods, purple cloaks and golden cups in the shelter of a cave, and then transformed him beyond recognition—withered his skin, thinned and whitened his red locks, clothed him in filthy rags, and directed him to the hut of Eumaeus, the faithful old palace swineherd. Athene was just back from Sparta, where Telemachus had gone to ask Menelaus, recently returned from Egypt, whether he could supply any news of Odysseus. Now, it should be explained that, presuming Odysseus’s death, no less than one hundred and twelve insolent young princes of the islands which formed the kingdom—Dulichium, Samos, Zacynthus, and Ithaca itself—were courting his wife Penelope, each hoping to marry her and take the throne; and had agreed among themselves to kill Telemachus on his return from Sparta.
b. When they first asked Penelope to decide between them, she declared that Odysseus must certainly still be alive, since his home-coming had been foretold by a reliable oracle; and later, hard-pressed, promised a decision as which she must weave against the death of old Laertes, father-in-law. But she took three years over the task, weaving it by day and unravelling it by night, until at last the suitors detected the ruse. All the time they were disporting themselves in Odysseus’s palace, drinking his wine, slaughtering his pigs, sheep, and cattle, and seducing maid-servants.
c. To Eumaeus, who received Odysseus kindly, he gave another false account of himself, though declaring on oath that Odysseus was alive and on the way home. Telemachus now landed unexpectedly, evading the suitors’ plots to murder him, and came straight to Eumaeus’s hut; Athene had sent him back in haste from Sparta. Odysseus however, did not disclose his identity until Athene has permitted it and magically restored him to his true appearance. A touching scene of recognition between father and son followed. But Eumaeus had not yet been taken into the secret, nor was Telemachus allowed to enlighten Penelope.
d. Once more disguised as a beggar, Odysseus went to spy upon the suitors. On the way he encountered his goat-herd Melantheus, who railed indecently at him and kicked him on the hip; yet Odysseus refrained from immediate vengeance. When he reached the palace court, he found old Argus, once a famous hunting hound, stretched a dunghill, mangy, decrepit, and tormented by fleas. Argus wagged his raw stump of a tail and drooped his tattered ears in recognition of Odysseus, who covertly brushed away a tear as Argus expired.
e. Eumaeus led Odysseus into the banqueting hall, where Telemachus, pretending not to know who he was, offered him hospitality. Athene then appeared, though inaudible and invisible to all but Odysseus, and suggested that he should make a round of the hall scraps from the suitors, and thus learn what sort of men they were. This he did, and found them no less niggardly than rapacious. The most shameless of the entire company, Antinous of Ithaca (to whom he told a wholly different tale of his adventures) angrily threw a footstool at him. Odysseus, nursing a bruised shoulder, appealed to the other suitors, who agreed that Antinous should have shown more courtesy; and Penelope, when her maids reported the incident, was scandalized. She sent for the supposed beggar, hoping to have news from him of her lost husband. Odysseus promised to visit the royal parlour that evening, and tell her whatever she wished to know.
f. Meanwhile, a sturdy Ithacan beggar, nicknamed ‘Irus’ because, like the goddess Iris, he was at everyone’s beck and call, tried to chase Odysseus from the porch. When he would not stir, Irus challenged him to a boxing match, and Antinous, laughing heartily, offered the winner a goat’s haggis and a seat at the suitors’ mess. Odysseus hoisted his rags, tucked them under the frayed belt which he was wearing, and squared up to Irus. The ruffian shrank away at sight of his bulging muscles, but was kept from precipitate flight by the taunts of the suitors; then Odysseus felled him with a single blow, taking care not to attract too much notice by making it a mortal one. The suitors applauded, sneered, quarrelled, settled to their afternoon’s feasting, toasted Penelope, who now came to extract bridal gifts from them all (though with no intention of making a definite choice), and at nightfall dispersed to their various lodgings.
g. Odysseus instructed Telemachus to take down the spears which hung on the walls of the banqueting hall and store them in the armoury, while he went to visit Penelope. She did not know him, and he spun her a long, circumstantial yarn, describing a recent encounter with Odysseus; who had, he said, gone to consult Zeus’s Oracle at Dodona, but should soon be back in Ithaca. Penelope listened attentively, and ordered Eurycleia, Odysseus’s aged nurse, to give him a foot-bath. Eurycleia presently recognized the scar on his thigh, and cried out in joy and surprise; so he gripped her withered throat and hissed for silence. Penelope missed the incident; Athene had distracted her attention.
h. On the following day, at another banquet; Agelaus of Samos, one of the suitors, asked Telemachus whether he could not persuade his mother to make up her mind. Penelope thereupon announced that she was ready to accept any suitor who would emulate Odysseus’s feat of shooting an arrow through twelve axe-rings; the axes to be set in a straight row with their butts planted in a trench. She showed them the bow which they must use: one given to Odysseus by Iphitus, twenty-five years ago, when he went to protest at Messene against the theft from Ithaca of three hundred sheep and their shepherds. It once belonged to Eurytus, the father of Iphitus, whom Apollo himself had instructed in archery, but whom Heracles outshot and killed. Some of the suitors now tried to string the powerful weapon, and were unable to bend it, even after softening the wood with tallow; it was therefore decided to postpone the trial until the next day. Telemachus, who came nearest to accomplishing the feat, laid down the bow again at a warning sign from Odysseus. Then Odysseus, despite protests and vulgar insults—in the course of which Telemachus was forced to order Penelope back to her room—seized the bow, strung it easily, and twanged the strung melodiously for all to hear. Taking careful aim he shot an arrow through every one of the twelve axe-rings. Meanwhile Telemachus, who had hurriedly slipped out, re-entered with sword and spear, and Odysseus declared himself at last by shooting Antinous in the throat.
i. The suitors sprang up and rushed to the walls, only to find that the spears were no longer in their usual places. Eurymachus begged for mercy, and when Odysseus refused it, drew sword and lunged at him, whereupon an arrow transfixed his liver and he fell dying. A fierce fight ensued between the desperate suitors armed with swords, and Odysseus, unarmed except for the bow but posted before the main entrance to the hall. Telemachus ran back to the armoury, and brought shields, spears and helmets to arm his father and Eumaeus and Philoetius, the two faithful servants who were standing by him; for though Odysseus had shot down the suitors in heaps, his stock of arrows was nearly expended. Melantheus, stealing off by a side door to fetch weapons for the suitors, was caught and trussed up on his second visit to the armour, before he had succeeded in arming more than a few of them. The slaughter then continued, and Athene in the guise of a swallow flew twittering around the hall until every one of the suitors and their supporters lay dead, except only Medon the herald, and Phemius the bard; these Odysseus spared, because they had not actively wronged him, and because their persons were sacrosanct. He now paused to ask Eurycleia, who had locked the palace women in their quarters, how many of these had remained true to his cause. She answered: ‘Only twelve have disgraced themselves, my lord.’ The guilty maid-servants were summoned and set to cleanse the hall of blood with sponges and water; when they had done, Odysseus hanged them in a row. They kicked a little, but soon all was over. Afterwards, Eumaeus and Philoetius docked Melantheus of his extremities—nose, ears, hands, and genitals, which were cast to the dogs.
j. Odysseus, at last reunited with Penelope, and with his father Laertes, told them his various adventures, this time keeping to the truth. A force of Ithacan rebels approached, the kinsmen of Antinous and other dead suitors, and seeing that Odysseus was outnumbered, the aged Laertes joined vigorously in the fight, which was going well enough for them until Athene intervened and imposed a truce. The rebels then brought a combined legal action against Odysseus, appointing as their judge Neoptolemus, King of the Epirot Islands. Odysseus agreed to accept his verdict, and Neoptolemus ruled that he should leave his kingdom and not return until ten years had passed, during which time the heirs of the suitors were ordered to compensate him for their depredations, with payments made to Telemachus, now king.
k. Poseidon, however, still remained to be placated; and Odysseus set out on foot, as Teiresias had instructed, across the mountains of Epirus, carrying an oar over his shoulder. When he reached Thesprotis, the countryfolk cried: ‘Stranger, why a winnowing-bat in Springtime?’ He accordingly sacrificed a ram, bull, and boar to Poseidon, and was forgiven. Since he could not return to Ithaca even yet, he married Callidice, Queen of the Thesprotians, and commanded her army in a war against the Brygians, under the leadership of Ares; but Apollo called for a truce. Nine years later, Polypoetes, Odysseus’s son by Callidice, succeeded to the Thesprotian kingdom, and Odysseus went home to Ithaca, which Penelope was now ruling in the name of their young son Poliporthis; Telemachus had been banished to Cephallenia, because an oracle announced: ‘Odysseus, your own son shall kill you!’ At Ithaca, death came to Odysseus from the sea, as Teiresias had foretold. His son by Circe, Telegonus, sailing in search of him, raided Ithaca (which he mistook for Corcyra) and Odysseus sallied out to repel the attack. Telegonus killed him on the seashore, and the fatal weapon was a spear armed with the spine of a sting-ray. Having spent the required year in exile, Telegonus married Penelope. Telemachus then married Circe; thus both branches of the family became closely united.
l. Some deny that Penelope remained faithful to Odysseus. They accuse her of companying with Amphinomus of Dulichium, or with all the suitors in turn, and say that the fruit of this union was the monstrous god Pan—at sight of whom Odysseus fled for shame to Aetolia, after sending Penelope away in disgrace to her father Icarius at Mantinea, where her tomb is still shown, Others record that she bore Pan to Hermes, and that Odysseus married an Aetolian princess, the daughter of King Thoas, begot on her his youngest son Leontophonus, an died in prosperous old age.
1. In Homer’s day, a ballad cycle about the Argo’s voyage to the land of Aeëtes (‘mighty’) was ‘on everyone’s lips’ (Odyssey), and he places the Planctae—through which she had passed even before Odysseus did—near the Islands of the Sirens, and not far from Scylla and Charybdis. All these perils occur in the fuller accounts of the Argo’s return from Colchis.
2. According to Hesiod, Jason, son of Aeson, after accomplishing many grievous tasks imposed by Pelias, married Aeëtes’s daughter who came with him to Iolcus, where ‘she was subject to him’ and bore his son Medeius, whom Cheiron educated. But Hesiod seems to have been misinformed: in heroic times no princess was brought to her husband’s home—he came to hers. Thus Jason either married Aeëtes’s daughter and settled at his court, or else he married Pelias’s daughter and settled at Iolcus. Eumelus (eighth century) reports that when Corinthus died without issue, Medea successfully claimed the vacant throne of Corinth, being a daughter of Aeëtes who, not content with his heritage, had emigrated thence to Colchis; and that Jason, her husband, thereupon became king.
3. Neither Colchis, nor its capital of Aea, are mentioned in these early accounts, which describe Aeëtes as the son of Helius, and the brother of Aeaean Circe. Nor must it be supposed that the story known to Homer had much in common with the one told by Apollodorus and Apollonius Rhodius; the course, even, of the Argo’s outward voyage, let alone her homeward one, was not yet fixed by Herodotus’s time—for Pindar, in his Fourth Pythian Ode (462 BC.), had presented a version very different from his.
4. The myth of Pelias and Diomedes—Jason’s original name—seems to have been about a prince exposed on a mountain, reared by horseherds, and set seemingly impossible tasks by the king of a neighbouring city, not necessarily a usurper: such as the yoking of fire-breathing bulls, and the winning of a treasure guarded by a sea-monster—Jason, half-dead in the sea-monster’s maw, is the subject of Etruscan works of art. His reward will have been to marry the royal heiress. Similar myths are common in Celtic mythology—witness the labours imposed upon Kilhwych, the Mabinogion hero, when he wished to marry the sorceress Olwen—and apparently refer to ritual tests of a king’s courage before his coronation.
5. It is indeed from the Tale of Kilhwych and Olwen, and from the similar Tale of Peredur Son of Evrawc, also in the Mabinogion, that the most plausible guesses can be made at the nature of Diomedes’s tasks. Kilhwych, falling in love with Olwen, was ordered by her father to yoke a yellow and a brindled bull, to clear a hill of thorns and scrub, sow this with corn, and then harvest the grain in a single day; also to win a horn ofp!enty, and a magic Irish cauldron. Peredur, falling in love with an unknown maiden, had to kill a water-monster, called the Avanc, in a lake near the Mound of Mourning—Aeaea means ‘mourning’. On condition that he swore faith with her, she gave him a magic stone, which enabled him to defeat the Avanc, and win ‘all the gold a man might desire.’ The maiden proved to be the Empress of Cristinobyl, a sorceress, who lived in great style ‘towards India’; and Peredur remained her lover for fourteen years. Since the only other Welsh hero to defeat an Avanc was Hu Gadarn the Mighty, ancestor of the Cymry, who by yoking two bulls to the monster, dragged it out of the Conwy River (Welsh Triads), it seems likely that Jason also hauled his monster from the water, with the help of his fire-breathing team.
6. The Irish cauldron fetched by Kilhwych was apparently the one mentioned in the Tale of Peredur: a cauldron of regeneration, like that subsequently used by Medea—a giant had found it at the bottom of an Irish lake. Diomedes may have been required to fetch a similar one for Pelias. The scene of his labours will have been some ungeographical country ‘towards the rising sun’. No cornucopia is mentioned in the Argonaut legend, but Medea, for no clear reason, rejuvenates the nymph Macris and her sisters, formerly the nurses of Dionysus, when she meets them on Drepane, or Corcyra. Since Dionysus had much in common with the infant Zeus, whose nurse, the goat Amaltheia, provided the original cornucopia, Medea may have helped Diomedes to win another cornucopia from the nymphs by lending them her services. Heracles’s Labours (like those of Theseus and Orion) are best understood as marriage tasks and included ‘the breaking of the horns of both bulls’ (the Cretan and the Acheloan).
7. This marriage-task myth, one version of which seems to have been current at Iolcus, with Pelias as villain, and another at Corinth, with Corinthus as villain, evidently became linked to the semi-historical legend of a Minyan sea expedition sent out from Iolcus by the Orchomenans. Orchomenus belonged to the ancient amphictyony, or league, of Calaureia (Strabo), presided over by the Aeolian god Poseidon, which included six seaside states of Argos and Attica; it was the only inland city of the seven and strategically placed between the Gulf of Corinth and the Thessalian Gulf. Its people, like Hesiod’s Boeotians, may have been farmers in the winter and sailors in the summer.
8. The supposed object of the expedition was to recover a sacred fleece, which had been carried away ‘to the land of Aeëtes’ by King Phrixus, a grandson of Minyas, when about to be sacrificed on Mount Laphystium, and to escort Phrixus’s ghost home to Orchomenus. Its leader will have been a Minyan—which Diomedes son of Aeson was not—perhaps Cytisorus (Herodotus), son of Phrixus, whom Apollonius Rhodius brings prominently into the story, and who won the surname Jason (‘healer’) at Orchomenus when he checked the drought and plague caused by Phrixus’s escape. Nevertheless, Diomedes was a Minyan on his mother’s side; and descent is likely to have been matrilineal both at Orchomenus and Pelasgian Iolcus.
9. In this Minyan legend, the land of Aeëtes cannot have lain at the other end of the Black Sea; all the early evidence points to the island of the Adriatic. The Argonauts are believed to have navigated the river Po, near the mouth of which, across the Gulf, lay Circe’s Island of Aeaea, now called Lussin; and to have been trapped by Aeëtes’s Colchians at the mouth of the Ister—not the Danube but, as Diodorus Siculus suggests, the small river Istrus, which gives Istria its name. Medea then killed her brother Apsyrtus, who was buried in the neighbouring Apsyrtides; and when she and Jason took refuge with Alcinous, King of Drepane (Corcyra), a few days’ sail to the southward, the Colchians, cheated of their vengeance, feared to incur Aeëtes’s anger by returning empty-handed and therefore built the city of Pola on the Istrian mainland. Moreover, Siren’s land, the Clashing Rocks, Scylla and Charybdis, all lie close to Sicily, past which the Argo was then blown by the violent north-easter wind. ‘Colchis’ may, in fact, be an error for ‘Colicaria’ on the Lower Po, not far from Mantua, apparently a station on the Amber Route; since Helius’s daughters, who wept amber tears, are brought into the story as soon as the Argo enters the Po. Amber was sacred to the Sun, and Electra (‘amber’), the island at which the Argo is said to have touched, will hardly have been Samothrace, as the scholiasts believe; but ‘the land of Aeëtes’, a trading post at the terminus of the Amber Route—perhaps Corinthian, because Aeëtes had brought his Sun cult from Corinth, but perhaps Pelasgian, because according to Dionysius’s Description of the Earth a Pelasgian colony, originating from Dodona, once maintained a powerful fleet at one of the mouths of the Po.
10. To the ungeographical myth of Diomedes, now combined with the legend of a Minyan voyage to the land of Aeëtes, a third element was added: the tradition of an early piratical raid along the southern coast of the Black Sea, made at the orders of another Minyan king. The sixth city of Troy, by its command of the Hellespont, enjoyed a monopoly of the Black Sea trade, which this raid will have been planned to challenge. Now, the Minyans’ supposed objective on their Adriatic voyage was not a golden, but, according to Simonides (quoted by scholiast on Apollonius Rhodius) a purple fleece which the First Vatican Mythographer describes as that ‘in which Zeus used to ascend to Heaven.’ In other words, it was a black fleece worn in a royal rain-making rite, like the one still performed every May Day on the summit of Mount Pelion: where an old man in a black sheep-skin mask is killed and brought to life again by his companions, who are dressed in white fleeces (Annals of the British School at Athens). According to Dicearchus, this rite was performed in Classical times under the auspices of Zeus Actaeus, or Acraeus (‘of the summit’). Originally the man in the black sheepskin mask will have been the king, Zeus’s representative, who was sacrificed at the close of his reign. The use of the same ceremony on Mount Pelion as on Mount Laphystium will account for the combining of the two Iolcan traditions, namely the myth of Diomedes and the legend of the Black Sea raid, with the tradition of a Minyan voyage to undo the mischief caused by Phrixus. 11. Yet the Minyans’ commission will hardly have been to bring back the lost Laphystian fleece, which was easily replaced: they are far more likely to have gone in search of amber, with which to propitiate the injured deity, the Mountain-goddess. It should be remembered that the Minyans held ‘Sandy Pylus’ on the western coast of the Peloponnese—captured from the Lelegians by Neleus with the help of Iolcan Pelasgians—and that, according to Aristotle (Mirabilia), the Pylians brought amber from the mouth of the Po. On the site of this Pylus (now the village of Kakovatos) huge quantities of amber have recently been unearthed.
12. On the easterly voyage this fleece became ‘golden’, because Diomedes’s feat of winning the sea-monster treasure had to be included; and because, as Strabo points out, the Argonauts who broke into the Black Sea went in search of alluvial gold from the Colchian Phasis (now the Rion), collected by the natives in fleeces laid on the river bed. Nor was it only the confusion of Colchis with Colicaria, of Aea (‘earth’) with Aeaea (‘wailing’), and of the Pelionian black fleece with the Laphystian, that made these different traditions coalesce. The dawn palace of Aeëtes’s father Helius lay in Colchis, the most easterly country known to Homer; and Jasonica, shrines of Heracles the Healer, were reported from the Eastern Gulf of the Black Sea, where the Aeolians had established trading posts. According to some authorities, Heracles led the Black Sea expedition. Moreover, since Homer had mentioned Jason only as the father of Euneus, who provided the Greeks with wine during the siege of Troy, and since Lemnos lay east of Thessaly, the Argo was also thought to have headed east. The Wandering, or Clashing, Rocks, which Homer placed in Sicilian waters, have thus been transferred to the Bosphorus.
13. Every city needed a representative Argonaut to justify its trading rights in the Black Sea, and travelling minstrels were willing enough to introduce another name or two into this composite ballad cycle. Several nominal rolls of Argonauts therefore survive, all irreconcilable, but for the most part based on the theory that they used a fifty-oared vessel—not, indeed, an impossibility in Mycenaean times; Tzetzes alone gives a hundred names. Yet not even the most hardened sceptic seems to have doubted that the legend was in the main historical, or that the voyage took place before the Trojan War, sometime in the thirteenth century BC.
14. Jason’s single sandal proved him to be a fighting man. Aetolian warriors were famous for their habit of campaigning with only the left foot shod (Macrobius; Scholiast on Pindar’s Pythian Odes), a device also adopted during the Peloponnesian War by the Plataeans, to gain better purchase in the mud (Thucydides). Why the foot on the shield side, rather than the weapon side, remained shod, may have been because it was advanced in a hand-to-hand struggle, and could be used for kicking an opponent in the groin. Thus the left was the hostile foot, and never set on the threshold of a friend’s house; the tradition survives in modern Europe, where soldiers invariably march off to war with their left foot foremost.
15. Hera’s quarrel with Pelias, over the withholding of her sacrifice, suggests tension between a Poseidon-worshipping Achaean dynasty at Iolcus and the goddess-worshipping Aeolo-Magnesians, their subjects.
1. Jason is made to call at Lemnos because, according to Homer, Euneus, who reigned there during the Trojan War, was his son; and because Euphemus, another Argonaut, begot Leucophanes (‘white appearance’) on a Lemnian woman (Tzetzes: On Lycophron), thus becoming the ancestor of a longlived Cyrenean dynasty. The Lemnian massacre suggests that the islanders retained the gynocratic form of society, supported by armed priestesses, which was noted among certain Libyan tribes in Herodotus’s time, and that visiting Hellenes could understand this anomaly only in as a female revolution. Myrine was the name of their goddess. Pherhaps the Lemnian women were said to have stunk because they worked in woad—used by their Thracian neighbours for tattooing—which plant has so nauseous and lingering a smell that Norfolk woad-making tribes have always been obliged to intermarry.
2. Samothrace was a centre of the Helladic religion, and initiates into Moon-goddess Mysteries—the secret of which has been well kept—were entitled to wear a purple amulet (Apollonius Rhodius), valued as a protection against dangers of all kinds, but especially shipwreck. Philip of Macedon and his wife Olympias have were initiates (Aristophanes: Peace); Germanicus Caesar was prevented from taking part in the Mysteries only by an omen and died soon after (Tacitus: Annals). Certain ancient bronze vessels laid up in Samothrace were said to have been dedicated by the Argonauts.
3. Rhea’s brothers, the six-armed Earth-born of Bear Island, are perhaps deduced from pictures of shaggy men, wearing bear-skins with the paws extended. The account of Cyzicus’s death is circumstantial enough to suggest a genuine tradition of the Black Sea raid, though one as little connected with the annual extinction of fires at Cyzicus, as was the supposed Lemnian massacre with a similar ceremony at Myrine, during the nine-day festival of the Cabeiri. At the close of the year, when the sacred king was sacrificed, fires were habitually extinguished in many kingdoms, to be renewed afterwards as one of the rites in the new king’s installation.
4. The killing of Rhea’s lion probably refers to the suppression of her worship at Cyzicus in favour of Olympianism.
5. Halcyons were messengers of the Sea-goddess Alcyone (‘the queen who wards off [storms]’).
1. In the legend of the Iolcans’ easterly voyage to the Black Sea—though not in that of the Minyans’ westerly voyage to Istria—Heracles may have led the expedition. The story of Hylas’s disappearance was invented to explain the Mysian rites, still practised at Prusa, near Pegae, in Roman times, of mourning for Adonis of the Woods. Hylas’s fate at the hands of Dryope and her nymphs will have been that of Leucippus, Actaeon, Orpheus, or any other sacred kings of the oak cult: namely, to be dismembered and eaten by wild women, who then purified themselves in a spring and announced that he had unaccountably vanished. ‘Dryope’ means ‘woodpecker’ (literally: ‘oak-face’), a bird whose tapping on the oak-trunk suggested the search for Hylas, a Dryopian by birth, and was held to portend wet weather; the main object of this sacrifice being to bring on the autumn rains. Heracles, as the new king, will have pretended to join in the search for his predecessor. Bormus, or Borimus, is possibly a variant of Brimos’s son Brimus.
2. The story of Amycus may be derived from an icon which showed the funeral games celebrated after the old king had been flung over a cliff. Boxing, a Cretan sport, mentioned in the Iliad and Odyssey, seems to have been clean enough until the civic rivalry of the Olympic Games introduced professionalism. Roman amphitheatre pugilists used spiked gloves and knuckle-clusters, not the traditional raw-hide thongs; Theocritus, in his expert account of the Polydeuces-Amycus fight, is lamenting the lost glories of the ring. Harpies were originally personifications of the Cretan Death-goddess as a whirl-wind (Homer: Odyssey), but, in this context, appear to have been sacred birds, kites or sea-eagles, for which the Thracians regularly set out food. Diodorus Siculus, when describing the Argonauts’ visit to Phineus’s court, studiously avoids any mention of the Harpies—for fear perhaps of incurring their wrath—yet contrives to hint that blind Phineus’s second wife, a Scythian, tricked him by pretending that Harpies were snatching away his food, and befouling what they left, whereas his own servants were doing this at her orders. Phineus was slowly starving to death when Calais and Zetes—the brothers of his first wife—detected her guilt and released their nephews from the prison into which she had persuaded Phineus to cast them.
3. The Strophades (‘turning’) islands were so called because ships could expect the wind to turn as they approached.
4. Logan-stones, enormous boulders so carefully balanced that they will rock from side to side at the least impulse, are funerary monuments, apparently set up by avenue-building emigrants from Libya, towards the end of the third millennium. A few are still working in Cornwall and Devon, others have been displaced by the concerted efforts of idle soldiers or tourists. The dedication of a Tenian logan-stone to Calais and Zetes, the winged sons of Boreas, suggests that spirits of heroes were invoked to rock the boulder in the form of winds, and thus crush a live victim laid underneath.
1. The Clashing, Wandering, or Blue Rocks, shrouded in sea mist, seem to have been ice-floes from the Russian rivers adrift in the Black Sea; reports of these were combined with discouraging accounts of the Bosphorus, down which the current, swollen by the thawing of the great Russian rivers, often runs at five knots. Other Wandering Islands in the Baltic Sea seem to have been known to the amber-merchants.
2. Cenotaphs later raised by Greek colonists to honour the heroes Idmon and Tiphys may account for the story of their deaths during the voyage. Idmon is said to have been killed by a boar, like Cretan Zeus, Ancaeus, and Adonis—all early sacred kings. The name Idmon (‘knowing’) suggests that his was an oracular shrine and, indeed, Apollonius Rhodius describes him as a seer.
3. Mariandyne is named after Ma-ri-enna (Sumerian for ‘high fruitful mother of heaven’), alias Myrine, Ay-mari, or Mariamne, a well-known goddess of the Eastern Mediterranean. Chalybs was the Greek for ‘iron’, and ‘Chalybians’ seems to have been another name for the Tibarenians, the first iron workers of antiquity. In Genesis their land is called Tubal (Tubal-Tibar), and Tubal Cain stands for the Tibarenians who had come down from Armenia into Canaan with the Hyksos hordes. Modified forms of the couvade practised by the Tibarenians survive in many parts of Europe. The customs of the Moesynoechians, described by Xenophon—whose Anabasis Apollonius Rhodius had studied—are remarkably similar to those of the Scottish Picts and the Irish Sidhe, tribes which came to Britain in the early Bronze Age from the Black Sea region.
4. Jason’s encounter with the birds on the islet of Ares, now Puga Islet, near the Kessab river, suggests that the Argo arrived there at the beginning of May; she will have navigated the Bosphorus before the current grew too powerful to stem, and reached Puga at the time of the great spring migration of birds from the Sinai peninsula. It appears that a number of exhausted birds, having flown across the mountains of Asia Minor, on their way to the Volga, found their usual sanctuary of Puga islet overcrowded and alighted on the Argo, frightening the superstitious crew nearly out of their wits. According to Nicoll’s Birds of Egypt, these migrants include ‘kestrels, larks, harriers, ducks and waders,’ but since the islet was dedicated to Ares, they are credited by the mythographers with brazen feathers and hostile intentions. Heracles’s expulsion of the Stymphalian birds to an island in the Eastern Black Sea is likely to have been deduced from the Argonauts’ adventure, rather than contrariwise as is usually supposed.
5. Cheiron’s fame as a doctor, scholar, and prophet won him the title Son of Philyra (‘linden’); he is also called a descendant of Ixion. Linden flowers were much used in Classical times as a restorative, and still are; moreover, the bast, or inner bark, of the linden provided handy writing tablets, and when torn into strips was used in divination (Herodotus). But Philyra island will have derived its name from a clump of linden-trees which grew there, rather than from any historical ties with Thessaly or Thrace. None of these coastal islands is more than a hundred yards long.
6. Colchis is now known as Georgia, and the Phasis river as the Rion.
1. This part of the legend embodies the primitive myth of the tasks imposed on Diomedes by the king whose daughter he wished to marry.
2. Aphrodite’s love charm, carefully described by Theocritus, was used throughout Greece, including Socrates’s circle (Xenophon: Memorabilia). Because the wryneck builds in willows, hisses like a snake and lays white eggs, it has always been sacred to the moon; Io (‘moon’) sent it as her messenger to amorous Zeus. One of its popular names in Europe is ‘cuckoo’s mate’, and the cuckoo appears in the story of how Zeus courted the Moon-goddess Hera. Fire-kindling by friction was sympathetic magic to cause love as the English word punk means both tinder and a harlot. Eros with torch and arrows is post-Homeric but, by the time of Apollonius Rhodius, his naughty behaviour and Aphrodite’s despair had become literary joke which Apuleius took one stage further in Cupid and Psyche.
3. The Colchian custom of wrapping corpses in hides and exposing them on the tops of willow-trees recalls the Parsee custom of leaving them on platforms for the vultures to eat, in order not to deface the sacred principle of fire, the Sun’s holy gift, by the act of cremation. Apollonius Rhodius mentions it, apparently to emphasize Pelias’s concern for Phrixus’s ghost: being a Greek, he could not consider it an adequate funeral rite. Aeëtes’s fire-breathing bulls, again, recall, those brazen one in which prisoners were roasted alive by Philtres of Argumentum—Rhodium colony—presumably in honour of their god Helius, whose symbol was a brazen bull (Pander: Python Odes), but the sown men with whom Jason contended are inappropriate to the story. Though it was reasonable for Cadmus, a Canaanite stranger, to fight the Pelasgian autochthons when he invaded Bogotá, Jason as a native-born candidate for the kingship will rather have been set Colwich’s task of ploughing, sowing, and reaping a harvest in one day—a ritual act easily mimed at midsummer—then wrestle with a bull and fought the customary mock battle against men in beast disguise. His winning of the golden fleece is paralleled by Heracles winning of the golden apples, which another unsleeping dragon guarded. At least four of Heracles’s Labours seem to have been imposed on him as a candidate for the kingship.
4. Jason and Heracles are, in fact, the same character so far as the marriage-task myth is concerned; and the First and Seventh Labours survive vestigial here in the killing of the Mariandynian Boar and the Cyzican Lion, with both of which Jason should have been credited. ‘Jason’ was, of course, a title of Heracles.
5. Medea’s Colchian crocus is the poisonous colchicines, or meadow saffron, used by the ancients as the most reliable specific against gout, still remains. Its dangerous reputation contributed to Medea’s.
6. The Sauromatians were the mounted Scythian bowmen of the steppes; no wonder Aeëtes laughed at the notion that Jason and his heavily armed infantry could subdue them.
1. The combination of the westerly with the easterly voyage passed accepted until Greek geographical knowledge increased and it became the principal elements in the story: namely, the winning of the fleece from the Phasis, and the purification of Medea and Jason by Circe, who lived either in Istria or off the western coast of Italy. Yet, since no historian could afford to offend his public by rejecting the voyage as fabulous, the Argonauts were supposed, at first, to have returned from the Black Sea by way of the Danube, the Save, and the Adriatic; then, when explorers found that the Save does not enter the Adriatic, a junction was presumed between the Danube and the Po, down which the Argo could have sailed; and when, later, the Danube proved to be navigable only up to the Iron Gates, and not to join the Po, she was said to have passed up the Phasis into the Caspian Sea, and thus into the Indian Ocean (where another Colchis stretched along the Malabar coast —Hephaestionos), and back by way of the ‘Ocean Stream’ and Lake Tritonis.
2. The feasibility of this third route, too, being presently denied, mythographers suggested that the Argo had sailed up the Don, presumed to take its source in the Gulf of Finland, from which she could circumnavigate Europe, and return to Greece through the Straits of Gibraltar. Told somehow to have reached the Elbe by way of the Danube and a long portage, then sailed down to its mouth and so home, coasting past Ireland and Spain. Diodorus Siculus, who had the sense to see that the Argo could have returned only through the Bosphorus, as she came, discussed the problem most realistically, and made the illuminating point that the Ister (now the Danube) was often confused with the Istrus, a trifling stream which entered the Adriatic near Trieste. Indeed, even in the time of Augustus, the geographer Pomponius Mela could report that the western branch of the Danube ‘flows into the a turbulence and violence equal to that of the Po.’ The seizure of fleece, the Colchians’ pursuit, and the death of Apsyrtus, will originally taken place in the northern Adriatic. Ovid preferred to believe that Apsyrtus had been murdered at the mouth of the Danube and at Tomi because that was his own destined death-place.
3. Aeaea is said to have belonged to father of Minyas, and great-grandfather of Phrixus; and Chryses ‘golden’. It may well have been his spirit, rather than that which the Minyans were ordered to appease when they fleece. According to Strabo, Phrixus enjoyed the Black Sea, ‘where a ram is never sacrificed’; this been a late foundation, prompted by the fame of the Argo’s voyage thus the Romans also built temples to Greek heroes and heroines piously introduced into their national history.
4. The name ‘Apsyrtus’, which commemorates the remains downstream, was perhaps a local title of Orpheus after dismemberment by the Maenads.
5. Valerius Flaccus and Diodorus Siculus both record that sacked Troy on the outward, not the homeward, voyage; to be a mistake.
1. The myth of Metope, given in full neither by Homer nor by Apollonius Rhodius, recalls those of Arne and Antiope. She has, it seems, been deduced from an icon showing the Fate-goddess seated in a tomb; her quern being the world-mill around which, according to Varro’s Treatise on Rustic Affairs, the celestial system turns, and which appears both in the Norse Edda, worked by the giantesses Fenja and Menja, and in Judges, worked by the blinded Tyrian Sun-hero Samson. Demeter, goddess of corn-mills, was an underground deity.
2. Herodotus’s account of Aeëtes’s embassy to Greece makes little sense, unless he held that the Argive princess Io did not flee to Colchis in a fit of madness, disguised as a heifer, and eventually become deified by the Egyptians as Isis, but was taken in a raid by the Colchians (whom he describes as relics of Pharaoh Sesostris’s army that invaded Asia) and sold into Egypt.
3. The three Sirens—Homer makes them only two—were singing daughters of Earth, who beguiled sailors to the meadows of their island, where the bones of former victims lay mouldering in heaps (Odyssey). They were pictured as bird-women, and have much in common with the Birds of Rhiannon in Welsh myth, who mourned for Bran and other heroes; Rhiannon was a mare-headed Demeter. Siren-land is best understood as the sepulchral island which receives the dead king’s ghost, like Arthur’s Avalon; the Sirens were both the priestesses who mourned for him, and the birds that haunted the island—servants of the Death-goddess. As such, they belonged to a pre-Olympian cult—which is why they are said to have been worsted in a contest with Zeus’s daughters, the Muses. Their home is variously given as the Sirenusian Islands off Paestum; Capri; and ‘close to Sicilian Cape Pelorus’ (Strabo). Pairs of Sirens were still carved on tombs in the time of Euripides (Helen), and their name is usually derived from seirazein, ‘to bind with a cord’; but if, as is more likely, it comes from the other seirazein which means ‘to dry up’, the two Sirens will have represented twin aspects of the goddess at midsummer when the Greek pastures dry up: Ante-vorta and Post-vorta—she who looks prophetically forward to the new king’s reign and she who mourns the old. The mermaid type of Siren is post-Classical.
4. Helius’s herd consisted of three hundred and fifty head, the gift of his mother, the Moon-goddess. Several colonies from Corinth and Rhodes, where his sky-bull was worshipped, had been planted in Sicily. Odysseus knew Helius as ‘Hyperion’.
5. Lake Tritonis, once an enormous inland sea that had overwhelmed the lands of the Neolithic Atlantians, has been slowly shrinking ever since, and though still of respectable size in Classical times—the geographer Stylax reckoned it at some nine hundred square miles—is now reduced to a line of sack marshes. Neith, the skin-clad Triple-goddess of Libya, anticipated Athene with her aegis).
6. Mopsus, whose death by snake-bite in the heel was a common one appears also in the myth of Derceto, the Philistine Dictynna. Another Mopsus, Teiresias’s grandson, survived the Trojan War.
7. Caphaurus is an odd name for a Libyan—caphaura being the Arabic for ‘camphor’, which does not grow in Libya—but the mythographers had a poor sense of geography.
8. Talos the bronze man is a composite character: partly sky-bull, partly sacred king with a vulnerable heel, partly a demonstration of the cire-perdue method of bronze casting.
9. The water-sacrifice at Anaphe recalls that offered by the Jews on the Day of Willows, the climax of their festival of Tabernacles, when water was brought up in solemn procession from the Pool of Siloam; the Aeginetan water-race will have been part of a similar ceremony. Tabernacles began as an autumn fertility feast and, according to the Talmud, the Pharisees found it difficult to curb the traditional ‘light-headedness’ of the women.
10. ‘Pebbles of variegated form’, iron crystals, are still found on the shores of Elba. 11. Thetis guided the Argo through the Planctae at the entrance to the Straits of Messina, as Athene guided her through the Planctae at the entrance to the Bosphorus. Odysseus avoided them by choosing the passage between Scylla and Charybdis). The western Planctae are the volcanic Lipari Islands.
12. Armenia, meaning Ar-Minni, ‘the high land of Minni’—Minni is summoned by Jeremiah to war against Babylon—has no historical connection with Armenus of Lake Boebe. But Minni is apparently the Minyas whom Josephus mentions (Antiquities) when describing Noah’s Flood: and the name of the Thessalian Minyas, ancestor of the Minyans, offered a plausible link between Armenia and Thessaly.
1. The Cretans and Mycenaeans used bull’s blood, plentifully diluted with water, as a magic to fertilize crops and trees; only the priestess of Mother Earth could drink it pure without being poisoned.
2. Classical mythographers find it hard to decide how far Medea was an illusionist or cheat, and how far her magic was genuine. Cauldrons of regeneration are common in Celtic myth; hence Medea pretends to be a Hyperborean, that may mean a British, goddess. The underlying religious theory seems to have been that at midsummer the sacred king, wearing a black ram’s mask, was slaughtered on a mountain top and his pieces stewed into a soup, for the priestesses to eat; his spirit would then pass into one of them, to be born again as a child in the next lambing season. Phrixus’s avoidance of this fate had been the original cause of the Argonauts’ expedition.
3. Medea’s serpent-drawn chariot—serpents are underworld creatures—had wings because she was both earth-goddess and moon-goddess. She appears in triad here as Persephone—Demeter—Hecate: the three daughters of Pelias dismembering their father. The theory that the Sun-king marries the Moon-queen, who then graciously invites him to mount her chariot, changed as the patriarchal system hardened: by Classical times, the serpent-chariot was Helius’s undisputed property, and in the later myth of Medea and Theseus he lent it to his granddaughter Medea only because she stood in peril of death. The Indian Earth-goddess of the Ramayana also rides in a serpent-chariot.
4. Callimachus seems to credit the huntress Cyrene with winning the foot race at Pelias’s funeral games.
1. Glauce’s death was perhaps deduced from an icon showing the annual holocaust in the Temple of Hera, like that described by Lucian at Hierapolis (On the Syrian Goddess). But Glauce will have been the diademed priestess who directed the conflagration, not its victim; and the well, her ritual bath. Lucian explains that the Syrian goddess was, on the whole, Hera; though she also had some attributes of Athene and the other goddesses. Here Eriopis (‘large-eyed’) points to cow-eyed Hera, and Glauce (‘owl’) to owl-eyed Athene. In Lucian’s time, domestic animals were hung from the branches of trees piled in the temple court of Hierapolis, and burned alive; but the death of Medea’s fourteen children, and the expiation made for them, suggest that human victims were originally offered. Melicertes, the Cretan god who presided over the Isthmian Games at Corinth, was Melkarth, ‘protector of the city’, the Phoenician Heracles, in whose name children were certainly burned alive at Jerusalem (Leviticus). Fire, being a sacred element, immortalized the victims, as it did Heracles himself when he ascended his pyre on Mount Oeta, lay down and was consumed.
3. Whether Medea, Jason, or the Corinthians sacrificed the children became an important question only later, when Medea had ceased to be identified with Ino, Melicertes’s mother, and human sacrifice denoted barbarism. Since any drama which won a prize at the Athenian feasts in honour of Dionysus at once acquired religious authority, it is very probable that the Corinthians recompensed Euripides well for his generous manipulation of the now discreditable myth.
4. Zeus’s love for Medea, like Hera’s for Jason (Homer: Odyssey; Apollonius Rhodius), suggests that ‘Zeus’ and ‘Hera’ were titles of the Corinthian king and queen. Corinthus, though the son of Marathon, was also styled ‘son of Zeus’, and Marathon’s father Epopeus (‘he who sees all’) had the same wife as Zeus (Pausanias).
1. An Attic cult of Demeter as Earth-goddess has given rise to the story of Medea’s stay at Athens. Similar cults account for her visits to Thebes, Thessaly, and Asia Minor; but the Marrubians may emigrated to Italy from Libya, where the Psyllians were adept in the art of snake-charming (Pliny: Natural History). Medea’s reign in the Elysian fields is understandable: as the goddess who presided over cauldron of regeneration, she could offer heroes the chance of another life on earth. Helen (‘moon’) will have been one of her titles.
2. In the heroic age, it seems, the king of Orchomenus, when his reign ended, was led for sacrifice to the top of Mount Laphystium. This king was also a priest of Laphystian Zeus, an office hereditary in the matrilineal Minyan clan; and at the time of the Persian Wars, according to Herodotus, the clan chief was still expected to attend the Council Hall when summoned for sacrifice. No one, however, forced him to obey the summons, and he seems from Herodotus’s account to have been represented by a surrogate except on occasions of national disaster, such as plague or drought, when he would feel obliged to attend in person. The deaths of Jason and Ancaeus are moral tales, emphasizing dangers of excessive fame, prosperity, or pride. But Ancaeus dies royally in his own city, from the gash of a boar’s tusk; whereas Jason like Bellerophon and Oedipus, wanders from city to city, hated of men, and is eventually killed by accident. In the Isthmus where Jason had reigned, the custom was for the royal pharmacos to be thrown over the cliff, but rescued from the sea by a waiting boat and banished to the life of an anonymous beggar, taking his ill-luck with him.
3. Sir Isaac Newton was the first, so far as I know, to point out the connection between the Zodiac and the Argo’s voyage; and the leger may well have been influenced at Alexandria by the Zodiacal Signs: the Ram of Phrixus, the Bulls of Aeëtes, the Dioscuri as the Heavenly Twins, Rhea’s Lion, the Scales of Alcinous, the Water-carriers of Aeginetan Heracles as Bowman, Medea as Virgin, and the Goat, symbol of lecher to record the love-making on Lemnos. When the Egyptian Zodiacal Signs are used, the missing elements appear: Serpent for Scorpion; and Scarab, symbol of regeneration, for Crab.
1. The situation of Troy on a well-watered plain at the entrance to the Hellespont, though establishing it as the main centre of Bronze Age trade between East and West, provoked frequent attacks from all quarters. Greek, Cretan, and Phrygian claims to have founded the city were not irreconcilable, since by Classical times it had been destroyed and rebuilt often enough: there were ten Troys in all, the seventh being the Homeric city. The Troy with which Homer is concerned seems to have been peopled by a federation of three tribes—Trojans, Ilians, and Dardanians—a usual arrangement in the Bronze Age.
2. ‘ Sminthian Apollo’ points to Crete, sminthos being the Cretan word for ‘mouse’, a sacred animal not only at Cnossus, but in Philistia and Phocis; and Erichthonins, the fertilizing North Wind, was worshipped alike by the Pelasgians of Athens and the Thracians. But the Athenian claim to have founded Troy may be dismissed as political propaganda. The white mice kept in Apollo’s temples were prophylactic both against plague and against sudden invasions of mice such as Aelian (History of Animals) and Aristotle (History of Animals) mention. Dardanus may have been a Tyrrhenian from Lydia or Samothrace; but Servius errs in recording that he came from Etruria, where the Tyrrhenians settled long after the Trojan War. ‘Zacinthus’, a Cretan word, figuring in the Trojan royal pedigree, was the name of an island belonging to Odysseus’s kingdom; and this suggests that he claimed hereditary rights at Troy.
3. The Palladium, which the Vestal Virgins guarded at Rome, as the luck of the city, held immense importance for Italian mythographers; they claimed that it had been rescued from Troy by Aeneas (Pausanias) and brought to Italy. It was perhaps made of porpoise-ivory. ‘Palladium’ means a stone or other cult-object around which the girls of a particular clan danced, as at Thespiae, or young men leaped, pallas being used indiscriminately for both sexes. The Roman College of Salios was a society of leaping priests. When such cult-objects became identified with tribal prosperity and were carefully guarded against theft or mutilation, palladio was read as meaning palta, ‘things hurled from heaven’. Palta might not be hidden from the sky; thus the sacred thunder-stone of Terminus at Rome stood under a hole in the roof of Juppiter’s temple—which accounts for the similar opening at Troy.
4. Worship of meteorites was easily extended to ancient monoliths, the funerary origin of which had been forgotten; then from monolith to stone image, and from stone image to wooden or ivory image is a short step. But the falling of a shield from heaven—Mars’s ancile (Ovid: Fasti) is the best-known instance—needs more explanation. At first, meteorites, as the only genuine palta, were taken to be the origin of lightning, which splits forest trees. Next, Neolithic stone axes, such as the one recently found in the Mycenaean sanctuary of Asine, and early Bronze Age celts or pestles, such as Cybele’s pestle at Ephesus, were mistaken for thunderbolts. But the shield was also a thunder instrument. Pre-Hellenic rain-makers summoned storms by whirling bull-roarers to imitate the sound of rising wind and, for thunder, beat on huge, tightly-stretched ox-hide shields, with double-headed drum-sticks like those carried by the Solion priests in the Anagni relief. The only way to keep a bull-roarer sounding continuously is to whirl it in a figure of eight, as boys do with toy wind-mills, and since torches, used to imitate lightning, were, it seems, whirled in the same pattern, the rain-making shield was cut to form a figure-of-eight, and the double drum-stick beat continuously on both sides. This is why surviving Cretan icons show the Thunder-spirit descending as a figure-of-eight shield; and why therefore ancient shields were eventually worshipped as palta. A painted limestone tablet from the Acropolis at Mycenae proves, by the colour of the flesh, that the Thunder-spirit was a goddess, rather than a god; on a gold ring found near by, the sex of the descending shield is not indicated.
5. Cassandra and the serpents recall the myth of Melampus, and Apollo’s spitting into her mouth that of Glaucus. Her prison was probably a bee-hive tomb from which she uttered prophecies in the name of the hero who lay buried there.
6. Aesacus, the name of Priam’s prophetic son, meant the myrtle-branch which was passed around at Greek banquets as a challenge to sing or compose. Myrtle being a death-tree, such poems may originally have been prophecies made at a hero-feast. The diving bird was sacred to Athene in Attica and associated with the drowning of the royal pharmacos). Scamander’s leaping into the river Xanthus must refer to a similar Trojan custom of drowning the old king; his ghost supposedly impregnated girls when they came there to bathe. Tantalus, who appears to have suffered the same fate, married Xanthus’s daughter.
7. Priam had fifty sons, nineteen of whom were legitimate; this suggests that at Troy the length of the king’s reign was governed by the nineteen-year metonic cycle, not the cycle of one hundred lunations shared between king and tanist, as in Crete and Arcadia. His twelve daughters were perhaps guardians of the months.
8. The importance of Aeacus’s share in building the walls of Troy should not be overlooked: Apollo had prophesied that his descendants should be present at its capture both in the first and the fourth generation, and only the part built by Aeacus could be breached (Pindar: Pythian Odes). Andromache reminded Hector that this part was the curtain on the west side of the wall ‘near the fig tree,’ where the city might be most easily assailed (Homer: Iliad), and ‘where the most valiant men who follow the two Ajax’s have thrice attempted to force an entry—whether some soothsayer has revealed the secret to them, or whether their own spirit urges them on.’ Dorpfeld’s excavations of Troy proved that the wall was, unaccountably, weakest at this point; but the Ajax’s or ‘Aeacans’ needed no soothsayer to inform them of this if, as Polybius suggests, ‘Aeacus’ came from Little Ajax’s city of Opuntian Locris. Locris, which seems to have provided the Ilian element in Homeric Troy, and enjoyed the privilege of nominating Trojan priestesses, was a pre-Hellenic Lelegian district with matrilineal and even matriarchal institutions; another tribe of Lelegians, perhaps of Locrian descent, lived at Pedasus in the Troad. One of their princesses, Laothoë, came to Troy and had a child by Priam (Homer: Iliad). It seems to have been the Locrian priestesses’ readiness to smuggle away the Palladium to safety in Locris that facilitated the Greeks’ capture of the city.
9. Since one Teucer was Scamander’s son, and another was Aeacus’s grandson and son of Priam’s sister Hesione, the Teucrian element at Troy may be identified with the Lelegian, or Aeacan, or Ilian; the other two elements being the Lydian, or Dardanian, or Tyrrhenian; and the Trojan, or Phrygian.
1. Stesichorus, the sixth-century Sicilian poet, is credited with the story that Helen never went to Troy and that the war was fought for ‘only a phantom’. After writing a poem which presented her in a most unfavourable light, he went blind, and afterwards learned that he lay under her posthumous displeasure. Hence his palinode beginning: ‘This tale is true, thou didst not go aboard The well-benched ships, nor reach the towers of Troy,’ a public declamation of which restored his sight (Plato: Phaedrus). And, indeed, it is not clear in what sense Paris, or Theseus before him, had abducted Helen. ‘Helen’ was the name of the Spartan Moon-goddess, marriage to whom, after a horse-sacrifice, made Menelaus king; yet Paris did not usurp the throne. It is of course possible that the Trojans raided Sparta, carrying off the heiress and the palace treasures in retaliation for a Greek sack of Troy, which Hesione’s story implies. Yet though Theseus’s Helen was, perhaps, flesh and blood, the Trojan Helen is far more likely to have been ‘only a phantom’, as Stesichorus claimed.
2. This is to suggest that the mnesteres tes Helenes, ‘suitors of Helen’, were really mnesteres tou Hellespontou, ‘those who were mindful of the Hellespont’, and that the solemn oath which these kings took on the bloody joints of the horse sacred to Poseidon, the chief patron of the expedition, was to support the rights of any member of the confederacy to navigate the Hellespont, despite the Trojans and their Asiatic allies. After all, the Hellespont bore the name of their own goddess Helle. The Helen story comes, in fact, from the Ugarit epic Keret, in which Keret’s lawful wife Huray is abducted to Udm.
3. Paris’s birth follows the mythical pattern of Aeolus, Pelias, Oedipus, Jason, and the rest; he is the familiar New Year child, with Agelaus’s son for twin. His defeat of the fifty sons of Priam in a foot-race is no less familiar. ‘Oenone’ seems to have been a title of the princess whom he won on this occasion. He did not, in fact, award the apple to the fairest of the three goddesses. This tale is mistakenly deduced from the icon which showed Heracles being given an apple-bough by the Hesperides—the naked Nymph-goddess in triad—Adanus of Hebron being immortalized by the Canaanite Mother of All Living, or the victor of the foot-race at Olympia receiving his prize; as is proved by the presence of Hermes, Conductor of Souls, his guide to the Elysian Fields.
4. During the fourteenth century BC, Egypt and Phoenicia suffered from frequent raids by the Keftiu, or ‘peoples of the sea’, in which the Trojans seem to have taken a leading part. Among the tribes that gained a foothold in Palestine were the Girgashites (Genesis), namely Teucrians from Gergis, or Gergithium, in the Troad (Homer: Iliad; Herodotus; Livy). Priam and Anchise; figure in the Old Testament as Piram and Achish (Joshua and Samuel); and Pharez, an ancestor of the racially mixed tribe of Judah, who fought with his twin inside their mother’s womb (Genesis), seems to be Paris. Helen’s ‘bleeding stone’, found on the Trojan citadel, is explained by the execution there of Priam’s nephew Munippus: Paris remained the queen’s consort at the price of annual child sacrifice. Antheus (‘flowery’), is a similar victim: his name, a title of the Spring Dionysus, was given to other unfortunate princes, cut down in the flower of their lives; among them the son of Poseidon, killed and rayed by Cleomenes (Philostephanus: Fragment); and Antheus of Halicarnassus, drowned in a well by Cleobis (Parthenius: Narrations 14).
5. Cilla, whose name means ‘the divinatory dice made from ass’s bone’ (Hesychius sub Cillae) must be Athene, the goddess of the Trojan citadel, who invented this art of prognostication and presided over the death of Munippus.
1. After the fall of Cnossus, about the year 1400 BC, a contest for sea arose between the peoples of the Eastern Mediterranean. This is decked in Herodotus’s account, which John Malalas supports; the raids preceding Helen’s abduction, and in Apollodorus’s record of how Paris raided Sidon, and Agamemnon’s people, Mysia. A Trojan confederacy offered the chief obstacle to Greek mercantile ambitions, until the High King of Mycenae gathered his allies, including the Greek overlords of Crete, for a concerted attack on Troy. The naval war, supposed to the siege of Troy, may well have lasted for nine or ten years.
2. Among Agamemnon’s independent allies were the islanders of Samos, Dulichium, and Zacynthus led by Odysseus; the Southern Thessalians led by Achilles; and their Aeacan cousins from Locris and led by the two Ajaxes. These chieftains proved an awkward to handle and Agamenmon could keep them from each other’s only by intrigue, with the loyal support of his Peloponnesian henchmen Menelaus of Sparta, Diomedes of Argos, and Nestor of Pylus. Ajax’s rejection of the Olympian gods and his affront to the Zeus-born Athene have been misrepresented as evidence of atheism; they record, rather, his religious conservatism. The Aeacids were of Lelegian stock and worshipped the pre-Hellenic goddess.
3. The Thebans and Athenians seem to have kept out of the war; though Athenian forces are mentioned in the Catalogue of Ships, they play no memorable part before Troy. But the presence of King Menestheus has been emphasized to justify later Athenian expansion along the Black Sea coast. Odysseus is a key-figure in Greek mythology. Despite his birth from a daughter of the Corinthian Sun-god and his old-fashioned foot-race winning of Penelope, he breaks the ancient matrilocal rule by insisting that Penelope shall come to his kingdom, rather than he to hers. Also, like his father Sisyphus, and Cretan Cinyras, he refuses to die at the end of his proper term—which is the central allegory of the Odyssey. Odysseus, moreover, is the first mythical character credited with an irrelevant physical peculiarity: legs short in proportion to his body, so that he ‘looks nobler sitting than standing.’ The scarred thigh, however, should be read as a sign that he escaped the death incumbent on boar-cult kings.
4. Odysseus’s pretended madness, though consistent with his novel reluctance to act as behoved a king, seems to be misreported. What he did was to demonstrate prophetically the uselessness of the war to which he had been summoned. Wearing a conical hat which marked the mystagogue or seer, he ploughed a field up and down. Ox and ass stood for Zeus and Cronus, or summer and winter; and each furrow, soaked with salt, for a wasted year. Palamedes, who also had prophetic powers, then seized Telemachus and halted the plough, doubtless at the tenth furrow, by setting him in front of the team: he thereby showed that the decisive battle, which is the meaning of ‘Telemachus’, would take place then.
5. Achilles, a more conservative character, hides among women, as befits a solar hero (White Goddess) and takes arms in the fourth month, when the Sun has passed the equinox and so escapes from the tutelage of his mother, Night. Cretan boys were called scotioi, ‘children of darkness’, while confined to the women’s quarters, not having yet been given arms and liberty by the priestess-mother. In the Mabinogion, Odysseus’s ruse for arming Achilles is used by Gwydion (the god Odin, or Woden) on a similar occasion: wishing to release Llew Llaw Gyffes, another solar hero, from the power of his mother Arianrhod, he creates a noise of battle outside the castle and frightens her into giving Llew Llaw sword and shield. The Welsh is probably the elder version of the myth, which the Argives dramatized on the first day of the fourth month by a fight between boys dressed in girls’ clothes and women dressed in men’s—the festival being called the Hybristica (‘shameful behaviour’). Its historical excuse was that, early in the fifth century, the poetess Telesilla, with a company of women, had contrived to hold Argos against King Cleomenes of Sparta, after the total defeat of the Argive army (Plutarch: On the Virtues of Women). Since Patroclus bears an inappropriately patriarchal name (‘glory of the father’), he may have once been Phoenix (‘blood red’), Achilles’s twin and tanist under the matrilineal system.
6. All the Greek leaders before Troy are sacred kings. Little Ajax’s tame serpent cannot have accompanied him into battle: he did not have one until he became an oracular hero. Idomeneus’s boar’s tusk helmet, attested by finds in Crete and Mycenaean Greece, was originally perhaps worn by the tanist; his cock, sacred to the sun, and representing Zeus Velchanos, must be a late addition to Homer because the domestic hen did not reach Greece until the sixth century BC. The original device is likely to have been a cock partridge. These cumbrous shields consisted of bull’s hides sewn together, the extremities being rounded off, and the waist nipped, in figure-of-eight shape, for ritual use. They covered the entire body from chin to ankle. Achilles (‘lipless’) seems to have been a common title of oracular heroes, since there were Achilles cults at Scyros, Phthia, and Elis (Pausanias).
7. Rhoeo, daughter of Staphylus and Chrysothemis (‘Pomegranate, daughter of Bunch of Grapes and Golden Order’) came to Delos in a thest and is the familiar fertility-goddess with her new-moon boat. She also appears in triad as her grand-daughters the Wine-growers, whose names mean ‘olive oil’, ‘grain’ and ‘wine’. Their mother is Dorippe, or ‘gift mare’, which suggests that Rhoeo was the mare-headed Demeter. Her cult survives vestigially today in the three-cupped kernos, a vessel used by Greek Orthodox priests to hold the gifts of oil, grain, and wine brought to church for sanctification. A kernos of the same type has been found in an early Minoan tomb at Koumasa; and the Wine-growers, being great-grandchildren of Ariadne, must have come to Delos from Crete.
8. The Greeks’ difficulty in finding their way to Troy is contradicted by the ease with which Menelaus had sailed there; perhaps in the original legend Trojan Aphrodite cast a spell which fogged their memory, as she afterwards dispersed the fleets on the return voyage.
9. Achilles’s treatment of the spear wound, based on the ancient homeopathic principle that ‘like cures like’, recalls Melampus’s use of rust from a gelding-knife to restore Iphiclus.
10. Maenads, in vase-paintings, sometimes have their limbs tattooed with a woof-and-warp pattern formalized as a ladder. If their faces were once similarly tattooed as a camouflage for woodland revelling, this might explain the name Penelope (‘with a web over her face’), as a title of the orgiastic mountain-goddess; alternatively, she may have worn a net in her orgies, like Dictynna and the British goddess Goda. Pan’s alleged birth from Penelope, after she had slept promiscuously with all her suitors in Odysseus’s absence, records a tradition of pre-Hellenic sexual orgies; the penelope duck, like the swan, was probably a totem-bird of Sparta. 11. No commentator has hitherto troubled to explain precisely why Calchas’s nest of birds should have been set on a plane-tree and devoured by a serpent; but the fact is that serpents cast their slough each year and renew themselves, and so do plane-trees—which makes them both symbols of regeneration. Calchas therefore knew that the birds which were devoured stood for years, not months. Though later appropriated by Apollo, the plane was the Goddess’s sacred tree in Crete and Sparta, because its leaf resembled a green hand with the fingers stretched out to bless—a gesture frequently found in her archaic statuettes. The blue spots on the serpent showed that it was sent by Zeus, who wore a blue nimbus as god of the sky. Cinyras’s toy ships perhaps reflect a Cyprian custom borrowed from Egypt, of burying terracotta ships beside dead princes for their voyage to the Otherworld.
12. The fifty daughters of Cinyras’s who turned into halcyons will have been a college of Aphrodite’s priestesses. One of her rifles was ‘Alcyone’, ‘the queen who wards off [storms]’, and the halcyons, or king-fishers, which were sacred to her, portended calms.
1. The lost play from which Hyginus has taken the story of Thestor and his daughters shows the Greek dramatists at their most theatrical; it has no mythological value.
2. A version of the ‘Jephthah’s daughter’ myth seems to have been confused with Agamemnon’s sacrifice of a priestess at Aulis, on a charge of raising contrary winds by witchcraft; Six Francis Drake once hanged one of his sailors, a spy in Cecil’s pay, on the same charge. Agamemnon’s high-handed action, it seems, offended conservative opinion at home, women being traditionally exempt from sacrifice. The Taurians, to whom Iphigeneia was said to have been sent by Artemis, lived in the Crimea and worshipped Artemis as a man-slayer; Agamemnon’s son Orestes fell into their clutches.
3. Odysseus’s wrestling match with King Philomeleides, whose name means ‘dear to the apple-nymphs’, is probably taken from a familiar icon, showing the ritual contest in which the old king is defeated by the new and given an apple-bough.
4. Achilles killed a second Cycnus; Heracles killed a third, and was prevented by Zeus from killing a fourth. The name implied that swans conveyed these royal souls to the Northern Paradise. When Apollo appears in ancient works of art riding on swan back, or in a chariot drawn by swans (Overbeck: Griechische Kunstmythologie) on a visit to the Hyperboreans, this is a polite way of depicting his representative’s annual death at midsummer. Singing swans then fly north to their breeding grounds in the Arctic circle, and utter two trumpet-like notes as they go; which is why Pausanias says that swans are versed in the Muses’ craft. ‘Swans sing before they die’: the sacred king’s soul departs to the sound of music.
5. Philoctetes’s wound has been associated with many different localities because the icon from which his story derives was widely current. He is the sacred king of Tenedos, Lemnos, Euboea, or any other Helladic state, receiving the prick of an envenomed arrow in his foot beside the goddess’s altar.
6. Heracles was not the only sacred king whose grave remained a secret; this seems to have been common practice on the Isthmus of Corinth, and among the primitive Hebrews (Deuteronomy).
7. Tenes hurling rocks may be a misinterpretation of the familiar icon which shows a sun-hero pushing the sun-boulder up to the zenith, since Talos, a Cretan sun-hero, also hurled rocks at approaching ships. The ships in this icon would merely indicate that Crete, or Tenedos, was a naval power.
1. The Iliad deals in sequence only with the tenth year of the siege, and each mythographer has arranged the events of the preceding in different order. According to Apollodorus (Epitome), Achilles kills Troilus; captures Lycaon; raids Aeneas’s cattle; and takes many cities. According to the Cypria (quoted by Proclus: Chrestomathy), the Greeks, failing to take Troy by assault, lay waste the country an round about; Aphrodite and Thetis contrive a meeting between Achilles and Helen; the Greeks decide to go home but are restrained by Achilles, who then drives off Aeneas’s cattle, sacks many cities, and kills Troilus; Patroclus sells Lycaon on Lemnos; the spoils are divided; Palamedes is stoned to death.
2. According to Tzetzes (On Lycophron), Troilus outlives Mnemon and Hector. Similarly, according to Dares the Phrygian, Troilus succeeds Hector as commander of the Trojan forces (Dares), until one of his chariot horses is wounded and Achilles, driving up, runs him with a spear. Achilles tries to drag away the body, but is wounded by Memnon, who he kills; the Trojans take refuge within the city and Priam gives Troilus and Memnon a magnificent funeral (Dares).
3. The Trojan War is historical, and whatever the immediate reason may have been, it was a trade war. Troy controlled the valuable Black Sea trade in gold, silver, iron, cinnabar, ship’s timber, linen, hemp, fish, oil, and Chinese jade. When once Troy had fallen, the Greeks were able to plant colonies all along the eastern trade route, which grew as those of Asia Minor and Sicily. In the end, Athens, as the main maritime power, profited most from the Black Sea trade, especially its cheap grain; and it was the loss of a fleet guarding the entrance to Hellespont that ruined her at Aegospotamus in 405 BC., and ended the Peloponnesian Wars. Perhaps, therefore, the constant negotiations between Agamemnon and Priam did not concern the return of Helen, as much as the restoration of the Greek rights to enter the Hellespont.
4. It is probable that the Greeks prepared for their final assault series of raids on the coasts of Thrace and Asia Minor, to cripple the power of the Trojan alliance; and that they maintained a camp mouth of the Scamander to prevent Mediterranean trade from supplying Troy, or the annual East-West Fair from being celebrated. But the Iliad makes it clear that Troy was not besieged in the sense that her lines of communication with the interior were cut, and while Achilles was about, the Trojans did not venture by day off the Dardanian Gate, the one which led inland (Iliad v. 789); and Greek laundresses feared to wash their clothes at the spring a bow fly from the walls (Iliad); yet supplies and reinforcements entered freely, and the Trojans held Sestos and Abydos, which kept them in close touch with Thrace. That the Greeks boasted so loudly of a raid on the cattle of Mount Ida, and another on Priam’s fig-orchard, suggests that they seldom went far inland. The fig-shoots used for the rail of Lycaon’s chariot were apparently designed to place it under the protection of Aphrodite. In the pre-Trojan-War tablets found at Cnossus, a number of ‘red-painted Cydonian chariots’ are mentioned, ‘with joiner’s work complete’, but only the wood of the rails is specified: it is always fig. Yet fig was not nearly so suitable a wood for the purpose as many others available to the Cretans and Trojans.
5. Agamemnon had engaged in a war of attrition, the success of which Hector confesses (Iliad) when he speaks of the drain on Trojan resources caused by the drying up of trade, and the need to subsidize allies. The Paphlagonians, Thracians, and Mysians were producers, not merchants, and ready to have direct dealings with the Greeks. Only the mercantile Lycians, who imported goods from the South-east, seem to have been much concerned about the fate of Troy, which secured their northern trade routes; indeed, when Troy fell, the trade of Asia Minor was monopolized by Agamemnon’s allies the Rhodians, and the Lycians were ruined.
6. The cold-blooded treatment of women, suppliants, and allies serves as a reminder that the Iliad is not Bronze Age myth. With the fall of Cnossus and the consequent disappearance of the pax Cretensis, imposed by the Cretan Sea-goddess upon all countries within her sphere of influence, a new Iron Age morality emerges: that of the conquering tyrant, a petty Zeus, who acknowledges no divine restraint. Iphigeneia’s sacrifice, Odysseus’s hateful revenge on Palamedes, the selling of Lycaon for a silver cup, Achilles’s shameless pursuit of Troilus and the forced concubinage of Briseis and Chryseis are typical of barbarous saga. It is proper that Palamedes should have been the innocent victim of an unholy alliance between Agamemnon, Odysseus, and Diomedes, since he represents the Cretan culture planted in Argolis—the inventions with which he is credited being all of Cretan origin. His murder in a well may have been suggested by ‘Truth, I mourn you, who have predeceased me !’ and by the familiar connection of truth with wells. Palamedes means ‘ardent wisdom’ and, like Hephaestus, his Lemnian counterpart, he was an oracular hero. His inventions reveal him as Thoth or Hermes. Dice have the same history as cards: they were oracular instruments before being used for games of chance.
7. The elm-tree, which does not form part of the tree-calendar, is mainly associated with the Dionysus cult, since the Greeks trained vines on elm-saplings; but elms were planted by nymphs around the tombs of Protesilaus and Eëtion, presumably because the leaves and the bark served as ruineraries (Pliny: Natural History), and promised to be even more efficacious if taken from the graves of princes who had succumbed to many wounds.
8. Laodameia’s perverse attachment to Protesilaus’s statue may have been deduced from a sacred-wedding icon: in some Hittite marriage-seals, the procumbent king is carved so stiffly that he looks like a statue. The apples brought by a servant, and Acastus’s sudden entry, suggest that the scene represented a queen’s betrayal of a king to her lover the tanist, who cuts the fatal apple containing his soul—as in the Irish legend of Cuchulain, Dechtire, and Curoi. Briseis (accusative case: Briseida) became confused with Chryses, or Chryseis, daughter of Chryses, who had borne a bastard to Agamemnon; and the mediaeval Latin legend of Criseis (accusative case: Criseida) developed vigorously until Henrysoun’s Testament of Cresseis and Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida.
9. Teuthrania may have been so called after the teuthis, or octopus, sacred to the Cretan Goddess, whose chief priestess was Tecmessa (‘she who ordains;). Though the Sarpedon myth is confused, its elements are all familiar. Apparently the kingdom of Lycia, founded by another Sarpedon, uncle of another Glaucus—Greek-speaking Cretans of Aeolian or Pelasgian stock, who were driven overseas by the Achaeans—was a double one, with matrilineal succession, the title of the Moon-priestess being Laodameia (‘tamer of the people’). Its sacred king seems to have been ritually ‘born from a mare’—hence his name, Hippolochus, and Isander (‘impartial man’) acted as his tanist. Sarpedon’s name (‘rejoicing in a wooden ark’) refers apparently to the annual arrival of the New Year Child in a boat. Here the Child is the interrex, to whom Hippolochus resigns his kingship for a single day; he must then be suffocated by honey, like Cretan Glaucus, or killed in a chariot crash, like the Isthmian Glaucus, or transfixed with an arrow by the revived Hippolochus, like Learchus son of Athamas.
10. To shoot an apple poised upon the head, or at a penny set of one’s own son was a test of marksmanship prescribed to mediaeval archers, whose guild (as appears in the Malleus Maleficarum and in the Little Geste of Robin Hood) belonged to the pagan witch cult both in England and Celtic Germany. In England this test was, it seems, designed to choose a ‘gudeman’ for Maid Marian, by marriage to whom he became Robin Hood, Lord of the Greenwood. Since the northern witch cult had much in common with Neolithic religion of the Aegean, it may be that the Lycians did not place the ring on a boy’s breast, but on is head, and that it represented a golden serpent; or that it was the ring of an axe which he held in his hand, like those through which Odysseus shot when he recovered Penelope from the suitors. The mythographer has perhaps confused the shooting test demanded from a new candidate for the kingship with the sacrifice of an interrex. 11. Aethylla means ‘kindling timber’, and the annual burning of a boat may have originated the Scione legend. Protesilaus (‘first of the people’) must have been so common a royal title that several cities claimed his tomb.
1. According to Proclus (Chrestomathys), Homerus means ‘blind’ rather than ‘hostage’, which is the usual translation; minstrelsy was a natural vocation for the blind, since blindness and inspiration often went together. The identity of the original Homer has been debated for some two thousand five hundred years. In the earliest tradition he is plausibly called an Ionian from Chios. A clan of Homeridae, or ‘Sons of the Blind Man’, who recited the traditional Homeric poems and eventually became a guild (Scholiast on Pindar’s Nemean Odes), had their headquarters at Delos, the centre of the Ionian world, where Homer himself was said to have recited (Homeric Hymn). Parts of the Iliad date from the tenth century BC; the subject matter is three centuries older. By the sixth century unauthorized recitals of the Iliad were slowly corrupting the text; Peisistratus, tyrant of Athens, therefore ordered an official recension, which he entrusted to four leading scholars. They seem to have done the task well but, since Homer had come to be regarded as a prime authority in disputes between cities, Peisistratus’s enemies accused him of interpolating verses for political ends (Strabo).
2. The twenty-four books of the Iliad have grown out of a poem called The Wrath of Achilles—which could perhaps have been recited in a single night, and which dealt with the quarrel between Achilles and Agamemnon over the possession of a captured princess. It is unlikely that the text of the central events has been radically edited since the first Iliad of about 750 BC. Yet the quarrels are so unedifying, and all the Greek leaders behave so murderously, deceitfully, and shamelessly, while the Trojans by contrast behave so well, that it is obvious on whose side the author’s sympathy lay. As a legatee of the Minoan court bards he found his spiritual home among the departed glories of Cnossus and Mycenae, not beside the camp fires of the barbarous invaders from the North. Homer faithfully describes the lives of his new overlords, who have usurped ancient religious titles by marrying tribal heiresses and, though calling them godlike, wise, and noble, holds them in deep disgust. They live by the sword and perish by the sword, disdaining love, friendship, faith, or the arts of peace. They care so little for the divine names by which they swear that he dares jest in their presence about the greedy, sly, quarrelsome, lecherous, cowardly Olympians who have turned the world upside down. One would dismiss him as an irreligious wretch, were he not clearly a secret worshipper of the Great Goddess of Asia (whom the Greeks had humiliated in this war); and did not glints of his warm and honourable nature appear whenever he is describing family life in Priam’s palace. Homer has drawn on the Babylonian Gilgamesh epic for the Achilles story; with Achilles as Gilgamesh, Thetis as Ninsun, Patroclus as Enkidu.
3. Achilles’s hysterical behaviour when he heard that Patroclus was dead must have shocked Homer, but he has clothed the barbarities of the funeral in mock-heroic language, confident that his overlords will not recognize the sharpness of the satire—Homer may be said, in a sense, to have anticipated Goya, whose caricature-portraits of the Spanish royal family were so splendidly painted that they could be accepted by the victims as honest likenesses. But the point of the Iliad as satire has been somewhat blunted by the Homeridae’s need to placate their divine hosts at Delos; Apollo and Artemis must support the Trojans and display dignity and discretion, in contrast at least with the vicious deities of the Hellenic camp. One result of the Iliad’s acceptance by Greek city authorities as a national epic was that no one ever again took the Olympian religion seriously, and Greek morals always remained barbarous—except in places where Cretan mystery cults survived and the mystagogues required a good-conduct certificate from their initiates. The Great Goddess, though now officially subordinate to Zeus, continued to exert a strong spiritual influence at Eleusis, Corinth and Samothrace, until the suppression of her mysteries by early Byzantine emperors. Lucian, who loved his Homer and succeeded him as the prime satirist of the Olympians, also worshipped the Goddess, to whom he had sacrificed his first hair-clippings at Hierapolis.
4. Hector’s bones were said to have been brought to Thebes from Troy, yet ‘Hector’ was a title of the Theban sacred king before the Trojan War took place; and he suffered the same fate when his reign ended—which was to be dragged in the ‘wreck of a circling chariot’, like Glaucus, Hippolytus, Oenomaus, and Abderus. Since ‘Achilles’ was also a title rather than a name, the combat may have been borrowed from the lost Theban saga of Oedipus’s Sheep, in which co-kings fought for the throne.
1. Penthesileia was on of the Amazons defeated by Theseus and Heracles: that is to say, one of Athene’s fighting priestesses, defeated by the Aeolian invaders of Greece. The incident has been staged at Troy because Priam’s confederacy is said to have comprised of all the tribes of Asia Minor. Pentheseleia does not appear in the Iliad, but Achilles’s outrage of her corpse is characteristically Homeric, and since she is mentioned in so many Classical texts, a passage about her may well have been suppressed by Peisistratus’s editors. Dictys Cretensis modernizes the story: he says that she rode up at the head of a large army and, finding Hector dead, would have gone away again, had not Paris bribed her to stay with gold and silver. Achilles speared Pentheseleia in their first encounter, and dragged her from the saddle by the hair. As she lay dying on the ground, the Greek soldiers cried: ‘Throw this virago to the dogs as a punishment for exceeding the nature of womankind!’ Though Achilles demanded an honourable funeral, Diomedes took the corpse by its feet and dragged it into the Scamander. Old Nurses in Greek legend usually stand for the Goddess as a Crone; and Penthesileia’s nurse Clete (‘invoked’) is no exception.
2. Cissia (‘ivy’) seems to be an early title of the variously named Goddess who presided over the ivy and vine revels in Greece, Thrace, Asia Minor, and Syria; Memnon’s ‘Cissians’, however, are variant of ‘Susians’ (‘lily-men’), so called in honour of the Goddess Lirio, Susannah, or Astarte. Priam probably applied for help not to Syrians but to the Hittites, who may well have sent reinforcements by land, and also by sea, from Syria. ‘Memnon’ (‘resolute’), a common title of Greek kings—intensified in ‘Agamemnon’ (‘very resolute’)—has been confused with Mnemon, a title of Artaxerxes the Assyrian, and Amenophis, the name of the Pharaoh in whose honour singing statue was constructed at Thebes. The first rays of sun fall at the hollow stone, making the air inside expand and rush through narrow throat.
3. Achilles in his birth, youth, and death is as the ancient Pelasgian sacred king, destined to become the ‘lipless’ oracular hero. His mythic opponent bore various names, as ‘Hector’ and ‘Paris’ and ‘Apollo’. Here it is Memnon son of Cissia. The duel with Memnon, each supported by his mother, was carved on the Chest of Cypselus (Pausanias), and on the throne of Apollo in Amyclae (Pausanias); besides figuring in a large group by the Lycius, which the inhabitants of Apollonia dedicated to him in Olympia. These two represent sacred king and tanist—Achilles of the Sea-goddess, bright Spirit of the Waxing Year: Memnon, son of the Ivy-goddess, dark Spirit of the Waning Year, to whom the vine is sacred. They kill each other alternately, at the solstices; the king always succumbs to a heel-wound, his successor decapitates him with a sword. Achilles, in this ancient sense, untainted by behaviour of the Achaean and Dorian chieftains who usurped the name, was widely worshipped as a hero; and the non-Homeric story of his betrayal by Polyxena, who wormed from him the secret of his vulnerable heel, places him beside Llew Llaw, Cuchulain, Samson, and other Bronze Age heroes of honest repute. His struggle with Penthesileia likely to have been of the same sort as his father Peleus’s Thetis. The recipient of Helen’s message from Leuce—which is now a treeless Romanian prison island—was the poet Stesichorus.
4. Because Memnon came from the East to help Priam, he was styled ‘the son of Eos’ (‘dawn’); and because he needed a father, Eos’s lover Tithonus seemed the natural choice. A fight at the winter solstice between girls in bird-disguise, which Ovid records, is a more likely explanation of the Memnonides than that they are fanciful embodiments of sparks flying up from a corpse on the pyre; the fight will originally have been for the high-priestess-ship, in Libyan style.
5. Achilles as the sacred king of Olympia was mourned after the summer solstice, when the Olympic funeral games were held in his honour; his tanist, locally called ‘Cronus’, was mourned after the winter solstice. In the British Isles these feasts fell on Lammas and St. Stephen’s Day respectively; but though the corpse of the golden-crested wren, the bird of Cronus, is still carried in procession through country districts on St. Stephen’s Day, the British Memnonides ‘fell a-sighing and a-sobbing’ only for the robin, not for his victim, the wren: the tanist, not the sacred king.
6. Achilles’s hero-shrine in Crete must have been built by Pelasgian immigrants; but the plane is a Cretan tree. Since the plane-leaf represented Rhea’s green hand, Achilles may have been called Pemptus (‘fifth’) to identify him with Acesidas, the fifth of her Dactyls, namely the oracular little finger, as Heracles was identified with the first, the virile thumb.
7. Priam’s golden vine, his bribe to Tithonus for sending Memnon, seems to have been the one given Tros by Zeus in compensation for the rape of Ganymedes.
1. Here the mythological element is small. Ajax was perhaps shown on some Cyprian icon tying the ram to a pillar; not because he had gone mad, but because this was a form of sacrifice introduced into Cyprus from Crete.
2. Homer’s hyacinth is the blue larkspur—hyacinthos grapta—which has markings on the base of its petals resembling the early Greek letters AI; it had also been sacred to Cretan Hyacinthus.
3. The bones of Ajax reinterred by Hadrian, like those of Theseus, probably belonged to some far more ancient hero. Peisistratus made use of Ajax’s alleged connection with Attica to claim sovereignty over the island of Salamis, previously held by Megara, and is said to have supported his claim by the insertion of forged verses into the Homeric canon (Iliad, Aristotle: Rhetoric; Plutarch: Solon). Aia is an old form of gaia (‘earth’), and aias (‘Ajax’) will have meant ‘countryman’.
4. To kill a man with lumps of clay, rather than swords, was a primitive means of avoiding blood guilt; and this other Ajax’s murder must therefore have been the work of his kinsmen, not the Trojan enemy.
5. That Odysseus and Ajax quarrelled for the possession of the Palladium is historically important; but Sophocles has carelessly confused Great Ajax with Little Ajax.
1. All this is idle romance, or drama, except for the stealing of the Palladium, Hecabe’s mysterious refusal to betray Odysseus, and the death of Paris from a wound in his ankle. Pelops’s shoulder-blade was probably of porpoise-ivory. The account which makes Philoctetes succumb to poison of Heracles’s arrows dipped in the Hydra’s blood seems to be the earliest one.
2. Pausanias reports: ‘When the Greeks returned from Troy, the ship that carried the shoulder-blade of Pelops was sunk off Euboea in a storm. Many years later an Eretrian fisherman named Damarmenus (“subduer of sails”) drew up a bone in his net, which was of such astonishing size that he hid it in the sand while he went to ask the Delphic Oracle whose bone it was, and what ought to be done with it. Apollo had arranged that an Elean embassy should arrive that same day requiring a remedy for a plague. The Pythoness answered the Eleans: “Recover the shoulder-blade of Pelops.” To Damarmenus she said: “Give your bone to those ambassadors.” The Eleans rewarded him well, making the custodianship of the bone hereditary in his house. It was no longer to be seen when I visited Elis: doubtless age and the action of the sea-water in which it had lain so long had mouldered it away.’
1. Classical commentators on Homer were dissatisfied with the story of the wooden horse. They suggested, variously, that the Greeks used a horse-like engine for breaking down the wall, (Pausanias); that Antenor admitted the Greeks into Troy by a postern which had a horse pointed on it; or that the sign of a horse was used to distinguish the Greeks from their enemies in the darkness and confusion; or that when Troy had been betrayed, the oracles forbade the plundering of any house marked with the sign of a horse—hence those of Antenor and others were spared; or that Troy fell as the result of a cavalry action; or that the Greeks, after burning their camp, concealed themselves behind Mount Hippius (‘of the horse’).
2. Troy is quite likely to have been stormed by means of a wheeled wooden tower, faced with wet horse hides as a protection against incendiary darts, and pushed towards the notoriously weak part of the defences—the western curtain which Aeacus had built. But this would hardly account for the legend that the Trojan leaders were concealed in the horse’s ‘belly’. Perhaps the Homeridae invented this to explain a no longer intelligible icon showing a walled city, a queen, a solemn assembly, and the sacred king in the act of rebirth, head first, from a mare, which was the sacred animal both of the Trojans and of the Aeacids. A wooden mare built of fir, the birth-tree, may have been used in this ceremony, as a wooden cow facilitated the sacred marriage of Minos and Pasiphaë. Was the struggle between Odysseus and Antielus deduced perhaps from an icon that showed twins quarrelling in the womb?
3. The story of Laocoön’s son, or sons, recalls that of the two serpents strangled by Heracles. According to some versions, their death occurred in Apollo’s shrine, and Laocoön himself, like Amphitryon, escaped unharmed. The serpents will, in fact, have merely been cleansing the boys’ ears to give them prophetic powers. ‘Antiphas’ apparently means ‘prophet’— ‘one who speaks instead of the god.’
4. On the divine level this war was fought between Aphrodite, the Trojan Sea-goddess, and the Greek Sea-god Poseidon—hence Priam’s suppression of Poseidon’s priesthood.
5. Sweating images have been a recurrent phenomenon ever since the Fall of Troy; Roman gods later adopted this warning signal, and so did the Catholic saints who took their places.
6. In early saga Epeius’s reputation for courage was such that his name became ironically applied to a braggart; and from braggart to coward is only a short step.
1. Odysseus’s considerate treatment of such renegades as Antenor and Calchas is contrasted here with the treachery he showed to his honest comrades Palamedes, Great Ajax, Little Ajax, and Diomedes, and with his savage handling of Astyanax, Polydorus, and Polyxena; but because Julius Caesar and Augustus claimed descent from Aeneas—another traitor spared by Odysseus, and regarded at Rome as a model of piety the—satiric implications are lost on modern readers. It is a pity that the exact terms of Hecabe’s invectives against Odysseus and his comrades in dishonour, which must have expressed Homer’s true feelings, have not survived; but her conversion into the Cretan Hecate, Maera, or Scylla the sea-bitch, suggests that he regarded the curses as valid—kingdoms founded on barbarity and ill-faith could never prosper. Maera was Scylla’s emblem in heaven, the Lesser Dog-star, and when it rose, human sacrifices were offered at Marathon in Attica: the most famous victim being King Icarius whose daughter Odysseus had married and whose fate he will therefore have the original myth.
2. The well-authenticated case of the Locrian girls is one of the most mysterious in Greek history, since Little Ajax’s alleged violation of Cassandra is dismissed by reputable mythographers as an Odyssean lie, and it is evident that the Locrian girls gained entry into Troy as a matter of civic pride, not of penance. A genuine attempt was made by the Trojans to keep them out, if we can trust Aeneas Tacticus’s account—he is discussing the danger of building cities with secret entrances—and that they defilement of the land if caught, and as slaves if they managed to gain entry, is consistent with this view. Little Ajax was the son of Locrian Oileus; whose name, also borne by a Trojan warrior whom Agamenmon killed (Iliad), is an early form of ‘Ilus’; and Priam’s Ilium had, it seems, been partly colonized by Locrians, a pre-Hellenic tribe of Lelegians (Aristotle; Dionysius of Halicarnassus; Strabo). They gave the name of the Locrian mountain Phricones to what was hitherto called Cyme; and enjoyed a hereditary right to supply Athene with a quota of priestesses. This right they continued to exercise long after the Trojan War—when the city had lost its political power and became merely a place of sentimental pilgrimage—much to the disgust of the Trojans, who regarded the girls as their natural enemies.
3. The curse, effective for a thousand years, ended about 264 BC—which would correspond with the Delian (and thus the Homeric) dating of the Trojan War, though Eratosthenes reckoned it a hundred years later. Odysseus’s secret conduit has been discovered in the ruins of Troy and is described by Walter Leaf in his Troy: A Study in Homeric Geography. But why did Theano turn traitress and surrender the Palladium? Probably because being a Locrian—Theano was also the name of the famous poetess of Epizephyrian Locri—she either disagreed with Priam’s anti-Locrian trade policy, or knew that Troy must fall and wanted the image removed to safety, rather than captured by Agamemnon. Homer makes her a daughter of Thracian Cisseus, and there was at least one Locrian colony in Thrace, namely Abdera. As a Locrian, however, Theano will have reckoned descent matrilineally (Polybius); and was probably surnamed Cisseis, ‘ivy-woman’, in honour of Athene whose chief festival fell during the ivy-month.
4. Sophocles, in the Argument to his Ajax, mentions a quarrel between Odysseus and Ajax over the Palladium after the fall of Troy; but this must have been Little Ajax, since Great Ajax had already killed himself. We may therefore suppose that Little Ajax, rather than Diomedes, led Odysseus up the conduit to fetch away the Palladium with the connivance of his compatriot Theano; that Odysseus accused Little Ajax of laying violent hands on a non-Locrian priestess who clung to the image which Theano was helping him to remove; and that afterwards Ajax, while admitting his error, explained that he had been as gentle as possible in the circumstances. Such an event would have justified the Trojans of later centuries in trying to restrain the Locrian girls from exercising their rights as Trojan priestesses; in representing their continued arrival as a penance due for Ajax’s crime, even though Athene had summarily punished him with a thunderbolt; and in treating them as menials. Odysseus may have insisted upon accompanying Little Ajax into the citadel, on the ground that Zacynthus, eponymous ancestor of his subjects the Zacynthians, figured in a list of early Trojan kings.
5. This, again, would explain Hecabe’s failure to denounce Odysseus to the Trojans when he entered the city as a spy. She too is described as a ‘daughter of Cisseus’; was she another Locrian from Thrace who connived at Ajax’s removal of the Palladium? Hecabe had no cause to love Odysseus, and her reason for facilitating his escape can only have been to prevent him from denouncing her to the Trojans. Odysseus doubtless slipped out quietly by the culvert and not, as he boasted, by the gate ‘after killing many Trojans’. Presumably he demanded old Hecabe as his share of the spoil because she had been a material witness of the Palladium incident and he wanted to stop her mouth. She seems, however, that she have revealed everything before she died.
6. One of the principal causes of the Trojan War was Telamon’s abduction of Priam’s sister Hesione, the mother of Great Ajax and thus a kinswoman of Little Ajax; this points to long-standing friction between Priam and the Locrians of Greece. Patroclus, who caused the Trojans such heavy losses, was yet another Locrian, described as Abderus’s brother. The name Astyanax (‘king of the city’), and the solemnity of the debate about his death, suggests that the icon on which the story is based represented the ritual sacrifice of a child at the dedication of a new city—an ancient custom in the Eastern Mediterranean (Kings).
7. Agamemnon’s allies did not long enjoy the fruits of their triumph over Troy. Between 1100 and 1050 BC, the Dorian invasion overwhelmed Mycenaean culture in the Peloponnese and the Dark Ages supervened; it was a century or two before the Ionians, forced by the Dorians to emigrate to Asia Minor, began their cultural renascence; which was based solidly on Homer.
8. Aeneas’s wanderings belong to Roman, not Greek, mythology; and have therefore been omitted here.
1. The mythographers make Aphrodite fight against the Greeks because, as Love-goddess, she had backed Paris’s abduction of Helen. But she was also the Sea-goddess whom the Trojans invoked to destroy the commercial confederacy patronized by Poseidon—and the storms allegedly raised by Athene or Poseidon to deny the victors a safe return, must first have been ascribed to her. This principle of vengeance enabled a great many cities in Italy, Libya, Cyprus, and elsewhere to claim foundation by heroes shipwrecked on their way back from Troy; rather than by refugees from the Dorian invasion of Greece.
2. To bury a young warrior under a temple threshold was common practice, and since Neoptolemus had burned the old shrine at Delphi, the Pythoness naturally chose him as her victim when a new building was planted on its ruins. The previous guardians of the threshold had been Agamedes and Trophonius.
3. Rhea, who sanctified the mysterious object in Demophon’s casket, was also called Pandora, and this myth may therefore be an earlier version of how Epimetheus’s wife Pandora opened the box of spites: a warning to men who pry into women’s mysteries, rather than contrariwise. ‘Mopsus’ was an eighth century BC royal title in Cilicia.
4. The birds into which Diomedes’s followers were transformed are described as ‘virtuous’ evidently to distinguish them from their cruel bird-neighbours, the Sirens.
5. A vow like Idomeneus’s was made by Maeander (‘searching for a man’), when he vowed to the Queen of Heaven the first person who should congratulate him on his storm of Pessinus; and this proved to be his son Archelaus (‘ruler of the people’). Maeander killed him and then remorsefully leaped into the river (Plutarch: On Rivers). A more familiar version of the same myth is found in Judges, where Jephthah vows his daughter as a burnt offering to Jehovah if he is successful in war. These variants suggest that Idomeneus vowed a male sacrifice to Aphrodite, rather than to Poseidon; as Maeander did to the Queen of Heaven, and as Jephthah doubtless did to Anatha, who required such burnt offerings on her holy Judaean mountains. It looks, indeed, as if sacrifice of a royal prince in gratitude for a successful campaign was once common practice—Jonathan would have been slaughtered by his father, King Saul, after the victory near Michmash, had not the people protested—and that the interruption of Idomeneus’s sacrifice, like Abraham’s on Mount Moriah, or Athamas’s on Mount Laphystium was a warning that this custom no longer pleased Heaven. The substitution of a princess for a prince, as in the story of Jephthah, or in the First Vatican Mythographer’s account of Idomeneus’s vow, marks the anti-matriarchal reaction characteristic of heroic saga.
6. Menelaus’s wanderings in the Southern Mediterranean refer to Achaean piracies and attempts at colonization. According to Xanthus, an early Lydian historian, the Phoenician city of Ascalon was founded by Ascalus (‘untilled’), brother of Pelops, and therefore a collateral ancestor of Menelaus. Again, when Joshua conquered Canaan in the thirteenth century BC, the men of Gibeon (Agabon in one Septuagint text, meaning Astu Achaivon, ‘the city of the Achaeans’) came as suppliants to Joshua in Greek fashion, pleading that they were not native Canaanites, but Hivites, i.e. Achaeans, from overseas. Joshua recognized their rights as foresters of the sacred groves and drawers of sacred water (Joshua). It seems from verse 9 that they reminded Joshua of the ancient maritime league of Keftiu presided over by Minos of Cnossus, to which the Achaeans and Abraham’s people both once belonged. Abraham, who came into the Delta with the Hyksos kings, had married his sister Sarah to ‘Pharaoh’, meaning the Cnossian ruler of Pharos—then the chief trading depot of the confederacy. But by the time of Menelaus, Cnossus lay in ruins, the confederates had turned pirates and been defeated by the Egyptians at the Battle of Piari (1229 B.C.)—’I trapped them like wildfowl, they were dragged, hemmed in, laid low on the beach, their ships and goods were fallen into the sea’—and Pharos, no longer the largest port in the ancient world, became a mere breeding place for seals. A submarine disaster had overwhelmed its harbour works, and in early Classical times foreign trade passed through Naucratis, the Milesian enterprise.
7. Menelaus’s struggle with Proteus is a degenerate version of a familiar myth: the Seal-goddess Thetis has been masculinized into Proteus, and Menelaus, instead of waiting for the seal-skin to be discarded, and then amorously grappling with the deity, as Peleus did, uses a seal-skin as a disguise, calls upon three men to help him, and requires no more from his captive than an oracular answer. Proteus rapidly transforms himself, as Thetis did with Peleus, or as Dionysus-Zagreus, who is associated with Pharos, did when threatened by the Titans. The Homeric list of his transformations is a muddied one: two or three seasonal sequences have been telescoped. Lion and boar are intelligible emblems of a two-season year; so are bull, lion, and water-serpent, of a three-season year; the panther is sacred to Dionysus; and the ‘leafy tree’, paralleled in the story of Periclymenus, refers perhaps to the sacred trees of the months. Proteus’s changes make amusing fiction, but are wholly inappropriate to the oracular context, unless the real story is that after a reign of eight years, and the annual killing of an interrex in Cretan style, Menelaus became the oracular hero of a settlement founded beside the River of Egypt.
1. Apollodorus records (Epitome) that ‘some have taken the Odyssey to be an account of a voyage around Sicily.’ Samuel Butler came independently to the same view and read Nausicaa as a self-portrait of the authoress—a young and talented Sicilian noblewoman of the Eryx district. In his Authoress of the Odyssey, he adduces the intimate knowledge here shown of domestic life at court, contrasted with the sketchy knowledge of sea-faring or pastoral economy, and emphasizes the ‘preponderance of female interest’. He points out that only a woman could have made Odysseus interview the famous women of the past before the famous men and, in his farewell speech to the Phaeacians, hope that ‘they will continue to please their wives and children,’ rather than the other way about (Odyssey); or made Helen pat the Wooden Horse and tease the men inside. It is difficult to disagree with Butler. The light, humorous, naive, spirited touch of the Odyssey is almost certainly a woman’s. But Nausicaa has combined, and localized in her native Sicily, two different legends, neither of them invented by her: Odysseus’s semi-historical return from Troy, and the allegorical adventures another hero—let us call him Ulysses—who, like Odysseus’s grandfather Sisyphus, would not die when his term of sovereignty ended. The Odysseus legend will have included the raid on Ismarus; the tempest which drove him far to the south-west; the return by way of Sicily and Italy; the shipwreck on Drepane (Corfu); and his eventual vengeance on the suitors. All, or nearly all, the other incidents belong to the Ulysses story. Lotus land, the cavern of the Cyclops, the harbour of Telcpylus, Aeaea, Persephone’s Grove, Siren Land, Ogygia, Scylla and Charybdis, the Depths of the Sea, even the Bay of Phorcys—all are different metaphors for the death which he evaded. To these evasions may be added his execution of old Hecabe, otherwise known as Maera the Lesser Dog Star, to whom Icarius’s successor should have been sacrificed.
2. Both Scylax (Periplus) and Herodotus knew the Lotus-eaters as a nation living in Western Libya near the matriarchal Gindians. Their staple was the palatable and nourishing cordia myxa, a sweet, sticky fruit growing in grape-like clusters which, pressed and mixed with grain (Pliny: Natural History; Theophrastus: History of Plants), once fed an army marching against Carthage. Cordia myxa has been confused with rhamnus zizyphus, a sort of crab-apple which yields a rough cider and has a stone instead of pips. The forgetfulness induced by lotus-eating is sometimes explained as due to the potency of this drink: but lotus-eating is not the same as lotus-drinking. Since, therefore, the sacred king’s tasting of an apple given him by the Belle Dame Sans Merci was tantamount to accepting death at her hands. The cautious Ulysses, well aware that pale kings and warriors languished in the Underworld because of an apple, will have refused to taste the rhamnus. In a Scottish witch-cult ballad, Thomas the Rhymer is wanted to touch the apples of Paradise shown him by the Queen of Elphame.
3. The cavern of the Cyclops is plainly a place of death, and Odysseus’s party consisted of thirteen men: the number of months for which the primitive king reigned. One-eyed Polyphemus, who sometimes has a witch-mother, occurs in folk-tale throughout Europe, and can be traced back to the Caucasus; but the twelve companions figure only in the Odyssey. Whatever the meaning of the Caucasian tale may have been, A. B. Cook in his Zeus shows that the Cyclops’s eye was a Greek solar emblem. Yet when Odysseus blinded Polyphemus, to avoid being devoured like his companions, the Sun itself continued to shine, only the eye of the god Baal, or Mooch, or Tesup, or Polyphemus (‘famous’), who demanded human sacrifice, had been put out, and the king triumphantly drove off his stolen rams. Since the pastoral setting of the Caucasian tale was retained in the Odyssey, and its ogre had a single eye, he could be mistaken for one of the pre-Hellenic Cyclopes, famous metal-workers, whose culture had spread to Sicily, and who perhaps had an eye tattooed in the centre of their foreheads as a clan mark..
4. Telepylus, which means ‘the far-off gate [of Hell]’, lies in the extreme north of Europe, the Land of the Midnight Sun, where the incoming shepherd hails the outgoing shepherd. To this cold region, ‘at the back of the North Wind’, belong the Wandering, or Clashing, Rocks, namely ice-floes, and also the Cimmerians, whose darkness at noon complemented their midnight sun in June. It was perhaps at Telepylus that Heracles fought Hades; if so, the battle will have taken place during his visit to the Hyperboreans. The Laestrygones (‘of a very harsh race’) were perhaps Norwegian fiord—dwellers, whose barbarous behaviour the amber merchants were warned on their visits to Bornholm and the Southern Baltic coast.
5. Aeaea (‘wailing’) is a typical death island where the familiar Death-goddess sings as she spins. The Argonautic legend places it at the head of the Adriatic Gulf; it may well be Lussin near Pola. Circe means ‘falcon’, and she had a cemetery in Colchis, planted with willows, dedicated to Hecate. The men transformed into beasts suggest the doctrine of metempsychosis, but the pig is particularly sacred to the Death-goddess, and she feeds them on Cronus’s cornel-cherries, the red food of the dead, so they are perhaps simply ghosts. What Hermes’s moly was, the grammarians could not decide. Tzetzes (On Lycophron) says that the druggists call it ‘wild rue’; but the description in the Odyssey suggests the wild cyclamen, which is difficult to find, thanks to being white-petalled, dark-bulbed and very sweet-scented. Late classical writers attached the name ‘moly’ to a sort of garlic with a yellow flower which was believed to grow (as the onion, squill, and true garlic did) when the moon waned, rather than when it waxed, and hence served as a counter-charm against Hecate’s moon magic. Marduk, the Babilonian hero, sniffed at a divine herb as an antidote to the noxious smell of the Sea-goddess Tiamat, but its species is not particularized in the epic.
6. Persephone’s black-poplar grove lay in the far-western Tartarus, and Odysseus did not ‘descend’ into it—like Heracles, Aeneas and Dante—though Circe assumed that he had done so. Phlegethon, Cocytus, and Acheron belong properly to the Underground Hell. However, the authoress of the Odyssey had little geographical knowledge, and called upon West, South or North winds at random. Odysseus should have been taken by east winds to Ogygia and Persephone’s Grove, and by south winds to Telepylus and Aeaea: yet she had some justification for making Odysseus steer due East to Aeaea, as Island of Dawn, where the heroes Orion and Tithonus had met their deaths. The entrances of Mycenaean bee-hive tombs face east; and Circe, being Helius’s daughter, had Eos (‘dawn’) for an aunt.
7. Sirens were carved on funeral monuments as death-angels chanting dirges to lyre music, but also credited with erotic designs on the heroes whom they mourned; and, since the soul was believed to fly off in the form of a bird, were pictured, like the Harpies, as birds of prey waiting to catch and secure it. Though daughters of Phorcys, or Hell, and therefore first cousins of the Harpies, they did not live underground, or in caverns, but on a green sepulchral island resembling Aeaea or Ogygia; and proved particularly dangerous in windless weather at midday, the time of sunstroke and siesta-nightmares. Since they are also called daughters of Achelous, their island may originally of the Echinades, at the mouth of the river Achelous. Sicilians placed them near Cape Pelorus (now Faro) in Sicily; on the Sirenusian Islands near Naples, or on Capri (Strabo).
8. ‘Ogygia’, the name of yet another sepulchral island, same word as ‘Oceanus’, and Ogen being an intermediate form; and Calypso (‘hidden’ or ‘hider’) is one more Death-goddess, as is shown by her cavern surrounded with alders—sacred to the Death-god Cronus, Bran—in the branches of which perch his sea-crows, or choughs, and her own horned owls and falcons. Parsley was an emblem of mourning, and the iris a death flower. She promised Odysseus ageless youth, but he wanted life, not heroic immortality.
9. Scylla (‘she who rends’), daughter of Phorcys, or Hecate, and Charybdis (‘the sucker-down ‘), are titles of the destructive Sea-goddess. These names became attached to rocks and currents on either side of Straits of Messina, but must be understood in a larger sense. Leucothea as a sea-mew was the Sea-goddess caring over a shipwreck. Since the Cretan Sea-goddess she is represented as an octopus, and Scylla dragged the sailors from Odysseus’s ship, it may be that Cretans who traded with India knew large tropical varieties, unknown in the Mediterranean with this dangerous habit. The description of Scylla’s yelp is of more mythological importance than first appears: it identifies her with white, red-eared death-hounds, the Spectral Pack or Bitches of Gabriel from a British legend, which pursue the souls of the damned. They were ancient Egyptian hunting dogs, sacred to Anubis and still bred in the island of Ibiza, which when in pursuit of their quarry make a ‘questing sound like the whimper of puppies or the music of the migrating barnacle-goose (White Goddess).
10. Only two incidents falling between Odysseus’s skirmish with the Ciconians and his arrival at Phaeacia seem not to concern the ninefold rejection of death: namely his visit to the Island of Aeolus, and the theft of Hyperion’s cattle. But the winds under Aeolus’s charge were spirits of the dead; and Hyperion’s cattle are the herd stolen by Heracles on his Tenth Labour—essentially a harrowing of Hell. That Odysseus claimed to have taken no part in the raid means little; neither did his maternal grandfather Autolycus own up to his lifting of sun-cattle. 11. Odysseus, whose name, meaning ‘angry’, stands for the red-faced sacred king, is called ‘Ulysses’ or ‘Ulixes’ in Latin—a word probably formed from oulos, ‘wound’ and isches, ‘thigh’—in reference to the boar’s-tusk wound which his old nurse recognized when he came back to Ithaca. It was a common form of royal death to have one’s thigh gored by a boar, yet Odysseus had somehow survived the wound.
1. Odysseus’s assassination of the suitors belongs to the Ulysses allegory: one more instance of the sacred king’s refusal to die at the close his reign. He intervenes, that is to say, in the archery contest held decide his successor, and destroys all the candidates. A primitive archery test of the candidate for kingship seems to have consisted in shooting through a ring placed on a boy’s head. The Odyssey nowhere directly suggests that Penelope has been unfaithful to her husband during his long absence, though she bewitches the suitors by her coquetry, extorts tribute from them, and shows a decided preference for Amphinomus of Dulichium. But Odysseus does not trust her well enough to reveal himself until he has killed his rivals; and his mother Anticleia shows that there is something to conceal when she says not one word him about the suitors. The archaic account that makes Penelope the mother of Pan by Hermes, or alternatively by all the suitors refers, it seems, to the Goddess Penelope and her primitive spring orgies. Her cuckolding of Odysseus and eventual return to Mantinea, another archaic story, are a reminder of his insolence in forcing her to come with him to Ithaca, against ancient matrilocal custom.
2. But Nausicaa, the authoress, tells the story in her own way, white-washing Penelope. She accepts the patriarchal system into which she has been born, and prefers gentle irony to the bitter satire found in the Iliad. The goddess is now displaced by Almighty Zeus, kings are no longer sacrificed in her honour, and the age of myth has ended—very well! That need not greatly disturb Nausicaa, while she can still joke and play ball with her good-natured servant girls, pull the hair of those who displease her, listen to old Eurycleia’s tales, and twist Father Alcinous around one finger.
3. So the Odyssey breaks off with Laertes, Odysseus, and Telemachus, patriarchal male triad of heroes, supported by Zeus-born Athene and triumphing over their foes; while the serving wenches hang in a row for their lack of discretion, to show that Nausicaa disapproves of pre-marital promiscuity as cheapening the marriage-market. The end has been preserved by other mythographers. Odysseus is banished to Thesprotia, and Telemachus to Cephallenia, whereas Penelope stays contentedly at the palace, ruling in the name of her son Poliporthis. Teiresias’s prophecy remains, of course, to be fulfilled: Odysseus will not die comfortably of old age, like the respected and garrulous Nestor. Death must strike him down in the traditional style which he thought to abolish: the New Year Child riding on dolphin-back will run him through with a sting-ray spear. Much the same fate overtook Catreus of Rhodes: his son Althaemenes accidentally speared him on the beach. Sting-ray spears, also used by the Polynesians, cause inflamed wounds, which the Greeks and Latins held to be incurable; the sting-ray (trygon pastinaca) is common in the Mediterranean. Heracles is said to have been wounded by one.
4. Telemachus’s marriage to Circe, and Telegonus’s to Penelope, are surprising at first sight. Sir James Frazer connects these apparently incestuous unions with the rule by which, in polygamous societies, a king inherited all his father’s concubines, except his own mother. But polygamy never became a Greek institution, and neither Telemachus, nor Telegonus, nor Oedipus, a New Year Child, ‘born of the swelling wave’, who killed his father and married the widowed Iocaste, nor Heracles’s son Hyllus, who married his step-mother Iole, was polygamous. Each merely killed and succeeded the King of the Old Year in the ancient mythic style, and was thereafter called his son. This explains why Telemachus prepares to string the bow—which would have given him Penelope as his wife—but Odysseus frowns at him, and he desists; it is a detail suturing from the Ulysses story, uncritically fettled in the Odyssay.
5. Who knows whether Odysseus’s red hair has any mythic significance, or whether it is an irrelevant personal peculiarity, like his short legs, belonging to some adventurer in Sicily whom Nausicaa has portrayed as Odysseus? Autolycus, of course, named him ‘the angry one’ at birth, and red hair is traditionally associated with ill temper. But though masquerading as an epic, the Odyssey is the first Greek novel; and therefore wholly irresponsible where myths are concerned. I have suggested the possible circumstances of its composition in another novel: Homer’s Daughter.