Chapter 17. Penelope and the Penelops

So far I have argued that Penelope’s myths, above all the Pandareid myths, have special affinity to their poetic environment in the Odyssey, namely a crisis and a turning point from dissolution to “light and life,” which in the Odyssey is marked by the festival of Apollo. In this chapter, I am pulling even further back to an even larger frame, to look at Penelope’s own intrinsic relatedness to just such a transition. By virtue of being concerned with questions both fundamental and overarching, the observations that follow will not apply directly to the dialogue in Book 19. They are relevant, however, in a more general way because they are about the mythological persona of Penelope, and this persona reaches its fullest manifestation in the Odyssey in Books 19 to 23, beginning with the dialogue between Penelope and disguised Odysseus and ending with their open embrace and a night together. What follows is one way of trying to reconstruct some of Penelope’s mythological background, not in a sense of origins, of something left in the past, but in a sense of something present and active in the Odyssey as we know it. I will not make any claims regarding the antecedents of Penelope as a mythological figure, or try to imagine what she might have been before the Odyssey took its familiar shape. I will instead attempt to uncover a set of affiliations that describes Penelope as a particular kind of mythological character. I do think this kind of figure is likely to have substantial and deep roots, but my main point is that her qualities are palpably present in the Odyssey. In other words, what follows is primarily about the diachronic (rather than historical) dimensions of Penelope, and my suggestion is that these dimensions are also synchronically active in the Odyssey.
A good point to begin looking for Penelope’s diachronic dimension is her name, which, I suggest, is a nom parlant. When Penelope compares herself to Aedon, she compares herself both to a woman with a bird name, and to a bird. Penelope’s own name is also derived from that of a bird, and it signals her belonging to a thematically related group of bird-women in myth. Penelope’s {287|288} belonging to this group, however, is not entirely obvious, and its elucidation requires a certain amount of reconstruction.
Among several folk etymologies of the name Penelope, which are mostly concerned with weaving (and which may also be operative in the Odyssey), Eustathius cites on the authority of Didymus a derivation from the name of a water bird, πηνέλοψ, the penelops. This derivation is linguistically unobjectionable, but it has enjoyed little popularity. The reason is a perceived lack of relevance for the Odyssey: as Farnell put it, “some of us felt when we were informed that Queen Penelope had been discovered to be a wild duck, that the discovery of origins darkens rather then enlightens our understanding of the evolution of myth.” [1] In contrast with the folk etymologies related to weaving, (involving, for example πήνη, ‘woof’), there is no immediately apparent link between Penelope and water birds. [2]
Eustathius himself addresses the problem of relevance by relating Didymus’s explanation: Penelope used to have a different name, but on one occasion she was thrown into the sea by Palamedes and saved by the πηνέλοπες, hence the change of her name. [3] More will be said about this story later, but for now it is simply important to mention that it takes us beyond the Homeric Odyssey. My argument, on the other hand, is that the etymological connection with the πηνέλοψ is relevant for Penelope as we know her in Homer. [4]
The main difficulty in interpreting Penelope’s name lies in the scarcity of information provided by the Greek sources about the penelops: less than ten lines is all that we have by way of description, and even a certain identification of the bird is lacking. It is generally accepted that the penelops is some species {288|289} of wild duck or goose, but evidence connecting it to both is tenuous, since no ancient source actually identifies the penelops with either. The idea that the penelops is a duck seems to be based on one confusing passage in the scholia to Aristophanes, and the identification with geese on the fact that the penelops appears in various lists of birds next to several species of goose and sheldrake. [5] All that is actually clear from these references is that the penelops is a smallish water bird, and Aristotle mentions additionally that it lives at sea. [6]
Since the penelops is consistently mentioned in the company of geese, it must have had something in common with them, and several scholars have explored a connection between the penelops, Penelope, and geese. Penelope’s delight in her geese (in her dream tale) and the extraordinary grief she displays at their destruction have long been noticed, [7] and Kretschmer has connected Penelope’s affection for her geese with the penelops. [8] He argues that geese are traditionally regarded as faithful and loving mates, and it is this quality that connects them to Penelope, the proverbial faithful wife. This connection is signaled by the derivation of her name from penelops. Further, Pratt points out that geese were known for their vigilance and prudence, especially in guarding their nest: Aristotle speaks of their ἤθεα αἰσχυντηλὰ καὶ φυλακτικά, ‘prudent and vigilant habits’, and, in a Hellenistic epigram, a goose on a woman’s tomb is said to be a sign of δόμων φυλακὰν μελεδήμονα, ‘careful guardianship of the house’. [9] Both prudence and guardianship of the house are, of course, two of Penelope’s most prominent qualities. [10]
As will be clear from what follows, fidelity is in fact a likely point of contact between the penelops and the geese, and it is therefore likely that Penelope’s name signals, among other sings, her fidelity to Odysseus. No textual links, however, have been noticed between the descriptions of the penelops and those of geese as faithful guardians; the connection here is based entirely on the assumption that the penelops is a type of goose. Such an {289|290} assumption is not justified: the penelops shares a trait or perhaps several traits with geese, (both are water birds, for example), but that is not the same as being one.
Poetic references to the penelops are as scarce as prosaic ones, but they are also interestingly different and more useful for interpreting Penelope’s name. Of particular interest are two fragments of lyric poetry, which I cite in full:
ὄρνιθες τίνες οἵδ’ Ὠκεάνω γᾶς ἀπὺ πειράτων
ἦλθον πανέλοπες ποικιλόδειροι τανυσίπτεροι;
(Alcaeus 345 LP) [11]
What are these birds that came from the ends of the earth,
long-winged penelopes with varied song?
τοῦ μὲν πετάλοσιν ἐπ’ ἀκροτάτοις
ἱζάνοισι ποικίλαι αἰολόδειροι
πανέλοπες ἁλιπορφυρίδες <τε> καὶ
ἀλκυόνες τανυσίπτεροι.
(Ibycus PMG 317a) [12]
On its topmost branches
perch many-colored glittering-voiced
penelopes, gleaming like the sea,
and long-winged halcyons.
The Ibycus fragment comes from a corrupt and obscure passage in Athenaeus’s Deipnosophistae, where it is cited in unmetrical form. [13] The meter can be corrected without significantly altering the syntax of the passage; the resulting word order, accepted in most modern editions, is the one cited here. But the most difficult problem of the fragment is the manuscript reading αδοιπορφυρίδες, which seems to the editors to be meaningless. Here I choose the reconstructed reading ἁλιπορφυρίδες, ‘gleaming or flashing like (or in?) {290|291} the sea’, suggested by Schneidewin (and accepted by Hermann and by D’Arcy Thompson). [14]
In the Ibycus fragment penelopes are mentioned together with halcyons, and the two birds also come together in Aristophanes’ Birds:
οὑτοσὶ δὲ πηνέλοψ· ἐκεινοσὶ δέ γ’ ἀλκυών.
(Birds 298)
This one here is a penelops, that one there is a halcyon.
Given the scarcity of references to the penelops, it is important that in two of them it is mentioned together with the halcyon. If the penelops has traits in common with the goose, it also appears to have something in common with the halcyon. And in fact while dictional links between the penelops and geese seem lacking, it does share with the halcyon the epithets ποικίλος, ‘of varied color’, τανυσίπτερος, ‘long-winged’, and ἁλιπορφυρίς – if this reading should be restored in Ibycus. This restoration is important because ἁλιπόρφυρος is a fairly rare adjective that is, however, consistently used of the halcyon and birds closely related to it, for example the κηρύλος, whose name Thompson defines as “a doubtful, perhaps foreign, word, sometimes applied to the Halcyon, sometimes compared with it.” [15] Sometimes the kerulos is regarded as the male counterpart of the halcyon, as seems to be the case in the following fragment of Alcman:
οὔ μ’ ἔτι, παρσενικαὶ μελιγάρυες ἱαρόφωνοι,
γυῖα φέρην δύναται· βάλε δή, βάλε κηρύλος εἴην
ὅς τ’ ἐπὶ κύματος ἄνθος ἅμ’ ἀλκυόνεσσι ποτῆται
ἀδεὲς ἦτορ ἔχων ἁλιπόρφυρος εἴαρος ὄρνις. [16]
(Alcman PMG 26) {291|292}
No longer, o honey-toned holy-voiced maidens,
can my limbs carry me. If only I could be a kerulos,
who flies over the bloom of the waves together with the
halcyons, having a fearless heart, the sea-shining bird of spring.
Identified with kerulos as a male halcyon is another seabird, κῆυξ or κῆξ, whose name, clearly onomatopoeic, also imitates the cry of the female halcyon. [17] The keux is a seagull or tern, according to D’Arcy Thompson, [18] who describes the name as a “vague, poetic, and even legendary word . . . hardly used as a concrete and specific bird-name.” I suggest that, as a poetic concept, the penelops belongs to the same group of birds as the kerulos, the keux, and the halcyon. The penelops appears alongside the halcyon in poetry (as opposed to natural history), shares epithets with it, and, like the halcyon, lives at sea. This last bit of information about the penelops, the only specific thing Aristotle says about it, is confirmed by Alcaeus 345, where the penelopes come not simply from the sea, but from the very ends of the earth and the Okeanos. Here, the penelopes seem to be envisaged as a kind of seabird that flies far over the water and rarely sees shore, and in that too it is similar to the halcyon. Not only does the halcyon fly over the waves, as in Alcman, but it famously even nests at sea. [19]
Among the fabulous birds of Greek mythology the halcyon has a fair claim to first place, so much legendary and mysterious information is associated with it, but for the moment I will only point out two features that are relevant for discussion of the penelops and the Odyssey. First, halcyons are known for their mournful song, often described as a lament (θρῆνος): a song of a female who has lost her mate. For example, here is how the halcyon is described by Dionysius: {292|293}
ἀλκυών· εἰ τὸν ἄρρενα τελευτῆσαι συμβαίη, βορᾶς ἀπεχόμεναι καὶ ποτοῦ ἐπὶ πολὺ θρηνοῦσι καὶ διαφθείρονται, καὶ τὰς ᾠδὰς δ’ εἰ καταπαύειν μέλλοιεν, κήυξ κήυξ συνεχῶς ἐπειποῦσαι σιγῶσιν.
(Dionysius De Avibus 2.7)
Halcyon: if the male chances to die, the females lament for a long time and perish, abstaining from food and drink. And if they are about to leave off singing, they utter “keux, keux” at frequent intervals and then fall silent.
Second, because of this song as well as other features, the halcyon is often compared to the nightingale. In fact, D’Arcy Thompson observes that ἀλκυών and ἀηδών are easily confused. [20] For example, different manuscripts of Aristotle’s Historia Animalium 8.593b9 give either ἀλκυών or ἀηδών. The Suda lists ἀλκυών between ἀηδών and κῆυξ as θαλάσσια ζῷα, ‘marine animals’. [21] And, most strikingly, there is a version of the Itylus-myth, recorded by Boios, where the mother of Aedon-nightingale is transformed into a halcyon. [22]
The voice of the halcyon is often described in the same terms as the voice of the nightingale, as sweet (ἡδύς), as shrill or clear (λιγύς), and also by a variety of adjectives with the underlying meaning ‘mourning’, (e.g. πολύθρηνος, πολύδακρυς), as in the following passages:
τῶν ἀλκυόνων δ’ οὐκ εἴποι τις εἰς φωνὴν ὄρνεον ἥδιον.
(Dionysius De Avibus 2.7)
No one could name a bird with a sweeter voice than the halcyon.
πάντη δ’ ὀρνίθων γενεὴ λιγύφωνον ἀείδει,
ἀλκυόνες περὶ κῦμα, χελιδόνες ἀμφὶ μέλαθρα,
κύκνος ἐπ’ ὄχθαισιν ποταμοῦ, καὶ ὑπ’ ἄλσος ἀηδών.
(Anthologia Palatina 9.363.16–18) {293|294}
The whole race of birds sings in clear voices,
halcyons over the waves, swallows around houses,
swans on the river banks, and the nightingale in groves.
θαλαττία τις ὄρνις . . . πολύθρηνος καὶ πολύδακρυς, περὶ ἧς δὴ παλαιὸς
ἀνθρώποις μεμύθευται λόγος.
(Lucian Halcyon 1)
A kind of sea bird . . . much-lamenting and of many tears, about which there is an old story among men.
In descriptions of the nightingale, epithets referring to the bird’s song often merge with those referring to its appearance. For example, in Works and Days (203) it is called ποικιλόδειρος, ‘with varied throat’, and Nagy has argued that this word refers not to the color of the bird’s neck but to its variegated (ποικίλος) song, in this sense being synonymous with another epithet ποικιλόγηρυς, ‘with varied voice’, which is given by the scholia to the same passage. [23] Another interesting epithet of the nightingale is αἰολόδειρος (Nonnus 47.33), which probably stands in the same relationship to αἰολόφωνος, ‘shifting in sound’, as ποικιλόδειρος to ποικιλόγηρυς. Liddell and Scott translate αἰολόδειρος as ‘with sheeny neck’, but there is more to the epithet: αἰόλος means ‘swift, rapid, changeable’, and by extension ‘changeful of hue, glittering’, so that the word could refer not only to the bird’s color, but also to its voice, which in the case of the nightingale is more justifiable.
It is through these characteristic epithets that the nightingale is linked not only with the halcyon, but, more interestingly, with the penelops. The penelops is described as ποικιλόδειρος in Alcaeus’ fragment and αἰολόδειρος in that of Ibycus, where it is also ποικίλος – yet another epithet connecting it with the halcyon. [24]
Moreover, in Ibycus’ fragment penelopes and halcyons are represented as sitting πετάλοισιν ἐπ’ ἀκροτάτοις, ‘on the topmost leaves’, literally ‘petals’, a topos about the nightingale, who sings δενδρέων ἐν πετάλοισι καθεζομένη πυκινοῖσι, ‘sitting in the dense leaves (petals) of the trees’ in the Odyssey (19.520). This might seem unremarkable, since many birds sit in trees, but in fact only particular creatures sit ‘on the petals’. In the whole of Greek poetry {294|295} outside of the Ibycus fragment, this expression is applied only to the nightingale, the swallow, the sparrow, the cuckoo and the cicada, and only about the nightingale is it used repeatedly. [25] In every case, the image is that of a small and fragile creature, whose delicacy is matched by the delicacy of petals in which it hides. [26] And without exception, the creatures who sit ‘in the petals’ sing in a voice that is like the nightingale’s in its mournful tone. The swallow in Aristophanes’ Frogs (682) ‘twitters the tearful nightingale song’ (τρύζει δ’ ἐπίκλαυτον ἀηδόνιον νόμον), the cicada in Alcaeus 347a LP ‘laments out of the petals’ (ἄχει δ’ ἐκ πετάλων), and the sparrow in the Iliad (2.315) flies around her nest ‘bewailing her dear children’ (ὀδυρομένη φίλα τέκνα), reminding one of the nightingale in the Odyssey (19.522), who sings ‘mourning her dear son Itylos’ (παῖδ’ ὀλοφυρομένη Ἴτυλον φίλον). The nightingale, about whom the expression ἐν πετάλοισι, ‘among the leaves/petals’, is used most often, is par excellence the tiny bird with a musical voice, the main manifestation of a poetic figure of which the sparrow, the swallow, and even the cicada can be seen as variations. [27] The penelopes and the halcyons who sit πετάλοισι ἐπ’ ἀκροτάτοις, ‘on the topmost petals’, in the Ibycus fragment are presented in the light of the same theme. Here, then, we see the nightingale, the halcyon, and the penelops linked by poetic associations. It would be contrary to the poetic diction of the Ibycus fragment to see the penelops here as a duck or a goose: in Greek poetry as much as in actuality, it is unusual for many ducks or geese to sit even on trees, not to mention leaves or petals.
It is probably not an accident, however, that the kingfisher, identified early on with the halcyon, is an exception among the water birds: only slightly larger than the sparrow, this bird lives on tree-covered banks of rivers and lakes and has a habit of sitting on the tips of slender branches which project over the water, and diving off them. [28] On the other hand, if the penelops is indeed similar to the halcyon, it is not entirely surprising that sometimes it {295|296} should be grouped with geese. The halcyon is both a water bird and a bird of lament. As a bird of lament, it is similar to the nightingale. But as a water bird, the halcyon can be grouped with geese, perhaps especially because of its proverbial faithfulness. Water birds in general are often seen as faithful and affectionate mates – a perception based on their actual behavior. If the same two possibilities were open to the penelops , this may explain why this bird, nightingale-like in poetry, is listed among geese in Aristotle.
From the meager evidence we have it appears that the penelops shares most of its features with the halcyon. This may be an impression created by the scarcity of our information. On the other hand, the halcyon also gives its name to several female mythological characters, and the remarkable fact is that the best known of these Alkyones is quite similar to Penelope. The story of Alkyone and her husband Keyx was told in the Hesiodic Ehoiai, but the papyrus evidence is so fragmentary that virtually only the names are left. Later sources, however, are unanimous on two points: that Keyx is either lost or dead, and that Alkyone remains faithful, waits for a long time, and laments for her husband until both are transformed into birds. In other words, the central fact of the Alkyone and Keyx myth is their unwavering loyalty to each other, very much reminiscent of Odysseus and Penelope.
Moreover, in both cases there is a negative side effect to this loyalty, namely its tendency to provoke jealousy in the gods. In early versions of the Alkyone and Keyx myth, the couple grows too proud of their harmonious union and this becomes their undoing: they boast that they love each other more than Zeus and Hera, are punished for that, and finally are turned into birds. [29] There is, needless to say, no such impious boast in the Odyssey, since that would be incompatible with the eventual happy reunion of the couple. But there is a hint at the same theme. Penelope does at one point remark to Odysseus that the gods were jealous of their happiness as a married couple:
θεοὶ δ’ ὤπαζον ὀϊζύν,
οἳ νῶϊν ἀγάσαντο παρ’ ἀλλήλοισι μένοντε
ἥβης ταρπῆναι καὶ γήραος οὐδὸν ἱκέσθαι.
(Odyssey 23.210–212)
But the gods gave us sorrow,
they begrudged us enjoyment of our youth by each other’s side,
and reaching the threshold of old age. {296|297}
Like Alkyone and Keyx, Penelope and Odysseus are a perfect match and content with each other, perhaps too content, Penelope seems to say, enough to arouse the jealousy of the gods. In both cases the happy couple is separated, the husband goes away and disappears, (temporarily in one myth, forever in the other), and the lonely wife, ever faithful, laments in his absence. The similarity between the two myths and the two women with bird-names indicates that the similarity between the birds who give them these names is also not an illusion. Each parallel is interesting in itself but they acquire a different weight in combination, and it is the combination that suggests that cognate myth-making patterns are here at work.
Further, there is an echo of the divine jealousy theme in a version of the Aedon story, thus bringing together all three related bird-women. This version, told only by Antoninus Liberalis (11), has been largely excluded from the discussion of the myth on the grounds that it is late, possibly Hellenistic, and composite. And so it is no doubt, but it is interesting nevertheless to observe what this story is composed of. The main elements of the story are largely the same as in the Attic myth: two sisters (named Aedon and Khelidon), the rape of Khelidon by Aedon’s husband, the killing of the child. The husband, however, is not Tereus as in the Athenian version, but one Polytekhnos, the father is Pandareos rather than Pandion (as in the Odyssey); the setting is Asia Minor, and there are several features of the story that are unique. Aedon and Polytekhnos commit the same mistake as Alkyone and Keyx did: they claim that they love each other more than Zeus and Hera. Angry Hera takes vengeance by inciting the couple to a competition as to who will finish first, Aedon weaving a fabric or Polytekhnos making a chariot. When Aedon wins, Polytekhnos retaliates by raping her sister. The two women then plan the usual revenge: they kill Itys, cook him, and serve his flesh to Polytekhnos before their flight. Then they flee back to their parents in Ephesos. When Polytekhnos pursues them, he is captured by Pandareos and his attendants and bound and subjected to a strange punishment: his body is smeared with honey and he is tied to a tree to be tormented by flies. Aedon, however, pities him – a feature completely absent from all versions of the Athenian story – and chases away the flies. In the end, of course, the whole family is turned into birds. It may be that the Ephesian Aedon story in Antoninus Liberalis is influenced by the story of Alkyone and Keyx, but even if so, the very fact that the two myths are susceptible to such a combination is noteworthy because it confirms the long-standing connectedness of Alkyone and Aedon, halcyon and nightingale, and also their mutual connection to Penelope, a character reminiscent of Alkyone who compares herself to Aedon. Or it {297|298} may be that in Aedon and Polytekhnos we have yet another independent but cognate couple to add to Alkyone and Keyx and Penelope and Odysseus. In any case, it seems that, different though they are, all these myths in some way belong together, just as the two versions of the Aedon myth belong together.
In what may or may not be a strange coincidence, one detail of Liberalis’ myth is actually reminiscent not only of the other versions of the Aedon myth, or of Alkyone and Keyx, but rather of Penelope and Odysseus. Like Penelope, this Aedon is a weaver, and like Odysseus who builds a raft to sail from Kalypso’s island and a house on Ithaca with its tree-bed, Polytekhnos is a master-carpenter, whose very name brings to mind Odysseus’ characteristic epithets such as polutropos and polumetis.
This detail suggests that the story of Aedon and Polytekhnos is not just a mixture of Alkyone and Keyx with the better known Aedon myth, but contains features not attributable to either, which makes it look very much like an independent myth. The fact that a myth with such a mixture of features could exist and that some of its idiosyncrasies are reminiscent of Odysseus and Penelope suggests yet again that all three mythological couples are in some way related. An extreme fidelity is always a part of the Alkyone and Keyx story (as it is of the halcyon myth) and it is also the cardinal feature for Penelope, but it is optional for Aedon. Penelope and Alkyone are thus closer to each other than to Aedon, though all three share important features, and can influence each other. In all three myths, there is a disruption or a breakdown of marriage, and in all cases the women, and birds, lament. Alkyone is left without a husband (and consequently offspring), Aedon without a son, and Penelope is threatened with losing both.
By the same token, it seems that the penelops and halcyon are more similar to each other than to the nightingale, yet here too there are persistent associations linking all three birds.
Furthermore, the association between the penelops and the halcyon goes beyond the themes of fidelity and lament. To follow its ramifications it is necessary to consider a striking feature of the penelopes in the Alcaeus fragment, the fact that they come from the banks of the Okeanos and the ends of the earth (Ὠκεάνω γᾶς ἀπὺ πειράτων). This detail does not seem to be accidental, since Pliny mentions the penelopes in a similar near-Oceanic habitat:
Mnases Africae locum Sicyonem appellat et Crathin amnem in oceanum effluentem e lacu, in quo aves, quas meleagridas et penel- {298|299} opas vocat, vivere; ibi nasci [sc. electrum] ratione eadem qua supra dictum est.
(Pliny Natural History 37.11)
Mnases mentions Sicyon, a place in Africa, and the river Crathis, which flows into the Ocean out of a lake, in which there live birds, called meleagrides and penelopes. It is said that amber arises there in the same way as described above.
Although the lake in Pliny’s passage is in Africa, it is connected by a water-way to the Ocean, and bears amber, a substance generally associated with the sun and consequently with places such as the edges of the Ocean, where the sun sets and rises. In the same chapter Pliny mentions another lake where amber drips from poplar trees into the water, and this lake is situated in the extreme West, near the garden of the Hesperides. Pliny also mentions the myth of the sisters of Phaethon, who, after their brother is struck down by Zeus, are turned into poplars and forever mourn his death, dropping their tears into the waters of the Eridanos, (which is mythologically identified with Okeanos). [30] The tears become amber. According to Pliny, this tale of amber’s origins is first mentioned by Aeschylus, who calls the river not Eridanos, but Rhodanos, and places it in Spain. [31] The same myth is alluded to by Euripides in the Hippolytus:
ἠλιβάτοις ὑπὸ κευθμῶσι γενοίμαν
ἵνα με πτεροῦσαν ὄρνιν
θεὸς ἐν ποταναῖς
ἀγέλαις θείη·
ἀρθείην δ’ ἐπὶ πόντιον
κῦμα τᾶς Ἀδριηνᾶς
ἀκτᾶς Ἠριδανοῦ θ’ ὕδωρ
ἔνθα πορφύρεον σταλάσ-
σουσ’ εἰς οἶδμα τάλαιναι
κόραι Φαέθοντος οἰκτῷ δακρύων
τὰς ἠλεκτροφαεῖς αὐγάς.
(Euripides, Hippolytus 732–740) {299|300}
If only I were in the hidden hollows of the rocks,
where a god might turn me into
a winged bird among the flying flocks.
If only I could fly over the
waves of the Adriatic coast
and over the water of the Eridanos,
where the unhappy girls lament for Phaethon and
drip the amber-gleaming rays of their tears
into the glittering swell of water.
The myth of Phaethon is, of course, full of solar themes since Phaethon is Helios’ son, and is driving his father’s chariot when he dies and falls into the streams of Eridanos, (an image that seems to be a parallel to the sun’s setting into Okeanos). In keeping with the solar theme, Phaethon’s sisters are turned into amber-producing trees. In Sophocles, a similar fate befalls Meleager’s sisters: according to Pliny, Sophocles located them in countries beyond India, in other words, in the far East rather than the far West, and instead of turning into trees they are turned into birds, but like Phaethon’s sisters they eternally shed tears, which become amber. [32] Meleager’s sisters are turned into meleagrides, the birds that share Mnases’ amber-bearing lake with penelopes. Meleagrides, in other words, have a reason for swimming in the amber lake, and presumably so do penelopes. If penelopes come from the ends of the earth in Alcaeus and are set in a typical ends-of-the-earth solar landscape in Mnases, this suggests that there was an association between the penelops and the ends of the earth, and this association probably had something to do with the sun. If so, a connection to this bird would not be amiss for a heroine of the Odyssey.
It hardly needs pointing out that solar themes occupy an important place in the Odyssey. Indeed, it has been argued, convincingly in my opinion, that Odysseus’ return as a whole follows a solar model, complete with travel across the waters of Okeanos to the land of the dead, and back. Nagy puts it as follows: {300|301}
In fact, the entire plot of Odysseus’ travels is interlaced with diction that otherwise denotes the theme of sunset followed by sunrise. To put it more bluntly, the epic plot of the Odyssey operates on an extended solar metaphor. [33]
This solar metaphor has as its foundation the basic notion of death and rebirth of the sun, sunset and sunrise. Sunset is described as plunging into the waters of Okeanos (Iliad 8.485, Odyssey 20.63–65) and also as going underneath the earth to the land of the dead, sunrise as rising from the Okeanos (Iliad 7.421–423, Odyssey 19.433–434). Moreover, it seems that sun symbolism even played a role in the etymological development of the root *nes- and its derivatives, including nostos, a word which arguably captures the central theme of the Odyssey. As Frame has shown, this word means fundamentally a “return to light and life,” in other words a return that is simultaneously a rebirth, such as that of the sun. [34] Solar symbolism is to be found in many episodes of Odysseus’ apologoi, including the Cyclops, Circe, Kikones and Laestrygonians, and also, of course, the crucial episode on the island of Helios. This episode, moreover, was felt to be thematically so important as to be mentioned in the proem, alone of all Odysseus’ adventures at sea. There is no need to elaborate further on this point. [35]
The Oceanic regions, apparently frequented by penelopes, also play an important role in the Odyssey, and not only in Odysseus’ wanderings. In Odyssey 24, the souls of the suitors are led by Hermes to the underworld and pass the stream of Okeanos, a landmark called Leukas Petre, ‘the white rock’, the gates of the sun, and the district of dreams. The mythical Leukas Petre has its topographical equivalent in a number of places in Greece: prominent rocks on the coastline that are called by the same name, Leukas. The most famous of them, Cape Leukas (Strabo 10.2.9), had a ritual connected with it: leaping from its top into the sea was believed to be a cure for love. According to Menander, Sappho jumped off it for the love of Phaon. [36] But the first to jump was Aphrodite herself, out of love for Adonis. [37] Nagy argues that the rock at Cape Leukas is a topographical analogue to the mythical white rock in Odyssey 24, and the {301|302} plunge from it is related to the sun’s plunge into the Okeanos. This plunge is symbolic of leaving the realm of the day. Taken to the extreme, this plunge means death, but can also mean unconsciousness, forgetfulness, and sexual release. [38] Symbolic implications of death and rebirth are present both in the myths associated with Cape Leukas and in the ritual associated with it, about which more will be said later. For now, suffice it to say that the white rock, in the Odyssey and elsewhere, marks the boundary between life and death envisaged specifically in terms of the solar plunge into the waters of Okeanos.
All of this brings me back to the halcyon and one of its most distinctive features, namely its habit of vertical diving. I am not the first to suspect that the vertical plunge of diving birds such as the halcyon is thematically parallel not only to jumping off the white rock, but also to the solar plunge into the waters of Okeanos. [39] Birds had a role to play in the yearly ritual at Cape Leukas, as described by Strabo, [40] since every year a criminal would be cast off the rock ‘for the aversion of evil’, (ἀποτροπῆς χάριν), and wings and even birds would be tied to him. In myth, bird-transformations often go together with leaps into the sea. In a myth reported by the Suda, for example, seven daughters of the giant Alkyoneus after their father’s death throw themselves into the sea off a headland. Out of pity, Amphitrite turns them into birds and calls them, in memory of their father, Ἀλκυόνες, ‘the halcyons’. [41] Alkyone, the wife of Keyx, leaps off a jetty and is also transformed into a halcyon. In Boios, Aedon’s mother, after turning into a halcyon, immediately wants to dive into the sea. [42]
The halcyon, moreover, has much to do with notions of death and rebirth and with solar symbolism. Alkyone was the principal star in the constellation of Pleiades, whose rising movement ancient astronomers connected with the increase of daylight in spring, and which had special significance as indicators of seasonal change, especially times of planting, harvesting, and sailing. [43] The Suda says that the Pleiades were called Ἀλκυόνες. [44] But the central part of the halcyon lore is, of course, the ancient notion of the “halcyon days,” during which the halcyon supposedly builds its nest and lays its eggs at sea. Aristotle says that the halcyon reproduces at the time of the winter solstice, and that {302|303} the “halcyon days” consists of seven days of calm weather before the solstice, when the mother bird makes her nest, and seven days after the solstice, when she lays the eggs and sees them hatch. [45] Simonides, quoted by Aristotle, also refers to fourteen days of calm, a sacred period when the halcyon rears her young:
ὡς ὁπόταν
χειμέριον κατὰ μῆνα πινύσκηι
Ζεὺς ἤματα τέσσερα καὶ δέκα,
λαθάνεμον δέ μιν ὥραν
καλέουσιν ἐπιχθόνιοι
ἱερὰν παιδοτρόφον ποικίλας
(PMG 508)
as when,
in a winter month,
Zeus makes a calm for a fortnight,
the season that knows not wind
the earth-dwellers call it,
the sacred season of child-rearing for the variegated
The mysterious period when the halcyon builds her nest, which is supposed to be floating at sea, is preceded by equally mysterious interaction between the male and female birds. In the fragment of Alcman quoted further above (Alcman PMG 26), the poet wishes to be like a kerulos who flies above the waves with the halcyons. Antigonus of Carystus, who quotes these lines in his Historia mirabilium, explains that the kerylos is a male halcyon and that when he becomes old and weak the female supports and carries him on her wings. [46] This is, of course, an example of the famous devotion of the female to her mate, a feature that is closely tied to her lament once the male is dead. Plutarch, commenting on the halcyon’s philandria, says that the female remains with the male throughout the year like a wedded wife, and when he becomes too weak to fly, carries him, feeds him, and remains with him to the end: {303|304}
φίλανδρος μὲν οὕτως ἐστίν, ὥστε 
μὴ καθ’ ἕνα καιρὸν ἀλλὰ δι’ ἔτους συνεῖναι καὶ προσδέχεσθαι τὴν τοῦ ἄρρενος ὁμιλίαν, οὐ διὰ τὸ ἀκόλαστον 
(ἄλλῳ γὰρ οὐ μίγνυται τὸ παράπαν) ἀλλ’ ὑπ’ εὐνοίας 
ὥσπερ γυνὴ γαμετὴ καὶ φιλοφροσύνης· ὅταν δὲ διὰ γῆρας 
ἀσθενὴς ὁ ἄρρην γένηται συνέπεσθαι καὶ βαρύς, ὑπολαβοῦσα γηροφορεῖ καὶ γηροτροφεῖ, μηδαμοῦ προϊεμένη μηδὲ 
καταλείπουσα χωρίς, ἀλλὰ τοῖς ὤμοις ἐκεῖνον ἀναθεμένη 
καὶ κομίζει πανταχόσε καὶ θεραπεύει καὶ σύνεστιν ἄχρι 
(Plutarch On the intelligence of animals 983a)
She is so devoted to her mate that she stays with him and accepts his company not only for the breeding season but throughout the year, not on account of intemperance (for she has no intercourse at all with any other), but out of love and friendliness, like a married wife. And when the male becomes too weak and heavy to fly with her because of old age, she picks him up and carries and feeds him in his old age, never letting him fall or leaving him behind, but instead she puts him on her shoulders and takes him everywhere and attends to him and stays with him until the end.
Immediately after this comment, Plutarch turns from the halcyon’s wifely loyalty to her care for her offspring, saying that as soon as the female halcyon perceives that she is pregnant she constructs her remarkable floating nest, woven out of spikes so tightly and perfectly fitted together that it can hardly be destroyed, even by stone or iron. The male is never mentioned again, and the impression is created that it is only after his death that the female turns to nest-building, since the mates are apparently inseparable in life, and yet the male is nowhere to be seen when it comes to raising the young. Gresseth summarizes the order of events described in Plutarch, as follows: “The male and female halcyon are constantly together through the course of a year; then mysteriously but apparently quite regularly and in the natural course of their lives the male, who has another name, grows weak, is fed and carried by his mate, and finally dies. The female then turns her entire care to the birth and protection of her offspring.” [47] The male halcyon grows weak, but the female does not, and the loving birds, instead of ageing together, seems to have vastly different biological clocks. Nothing is said of the death of the female halcyon. {304|305}
Guessing what a myth is about is a hazardous activity, but it is possible to shed some light on its workings without attempting to unduly confine its meaning. To my mind, Gresseth’s interpretation of the halcyon myth is the best one to date, and it does account for its major aspects and idiosyncrasies in a systematic way. Gresseth points out that in many cultures the sun is symbolized by a bird, and that birds in myth sometimes have the ability to renew themselves. [48] Relying both on the internal logic of the Greek myth and on comparative evidence, he suggests that the myth of the halcyon has to do with the rebirth of the sun at the time of the winter solstice. The equation of the halcyon with kingfisher would be easily understandable in this case, as Gresseth observes: “The kingfisher has bright sky-colored markings, for one thing; moreover, a further correspondence, which I think applies to my interpretation of this myth, is that the kingfisher plunges almost vertically into the sea and rises again, as mythologically does Helios in Ocean.” [49]
This solar symbolism would also explain the strange, apparently yearly, weakening and death of the male halcyon, which would correspond to the weakening of the sun. Gresseth points out that there is an inconsistency here, since the sun, though weakened, cannot be said to die during winter, though it can be said to die at night. His suggestion is that perhaps the two cycles are somehow combined in the halcyon myth. Further, citing example of myths in which birds renew themselves, sometimes through contact with water, Gresseth suggest that in the pattern of the halcyon myth, (the death of male, followed by the female’s laying of the egg), we have “a story of rebirth rather than one of death and birth.” [50] He points out that the nest of the halcyon, which floats at sea unlike any actual bird’s nest, means that the young halcyons will rise like the sun out of the water and concludes that the myth of the halcyon emerges, at least in part, as a “story of the birth or rebirth of the sun, symbolized as a bird, from his nest or floating island somewhere in the sea.” [51] It seems that there is certainly some truth to this interpretation. The idea that the offspring of the halcyon are somehow the reborn husband, whom she will again mourn when he dies and bear again in a year’s time, is remarkably reminiscent of the sun myth. In the Rig Veda the dawn-goddess Uṣas is both the wife or bride of the sun god and his mother. [52] As Nagy observes, the incestuous aspect of this arrangement is partially attenuated in Indic by {305|306} putting the dawn-goddess in the plural, so that each Dawn is the wife of the previous Dawn’s son rather than her own. The attenuation is partial, however, because the husband and son is always the same, Surya, the sun. Gresseth was apparently unaware of the Indic evidence when he formulated his theory regarding the halcyon myth, but that makes the fact that he detected the same pattern all the more salient. Some of this pattern, of course, may be due to the naturalistic logic of the myth. In Nagy’s words, “In the logic of the myth, it appears that the setting sun mates with the goddess of regeneration so that the rising sun may be reborn. If the setting sun is the same as the rising sun, then the goddess of regeneration may be viewed as both mate and mother.” [53]
Such an overtly incestuous myth is nowhere to be found in Greek sources, but what can be found, and even in abundance, are myths that can be seen as derivatives of, and variations on, the fundamental solar pattern. The halcyon myth is only one example, but there are others that are of relevance to the Odyssey, and are indeed mentioned in the poem. Of particular interest is Nagy’s investigation of the myth of Phaethon and its cognates, the myths in which a hero is abducted by a goddess. [54] In such myths, the hero is envisaged as carried away by a gust of wind (with the goddess being the ultimate agent of the action) and taken to the ends of the earth, where his fate can be alternatively imagined as death, immortalization, or both. The dynamics of the solar myth are often discernible in such abductions, and the goddesses who perform them can be said to continue in a function that, on the basis of Vedic comparative evidence, can be assigned to the dawn goddess. One victim of such abduction is none other than Phaethon, a hero with overt solar associations, who is the son of Helios in the best-known version of his myth and whose name is in fact an epithet of the sun. [55] In Hesiod’s Theogony, however, Phaethon is not the son of Helios but rather of Eos, the dawn goddess, and instead of dying by falling into the Eridanos with his father’s burning chariot, he is abducted by Aphrodite:
τόν ῥα νέον τέρεν ἄνθος ἔχοντ’ ἐρικυδέος ἥβης
παῖδ’ ἀταλὰ φρονέοντα φιλομμειδὴς Ἀφροδίτη {306|307}
ὦρτ’ ἀνερειψαμένη, καί μιν ζαθέοις ἐνὶ νηοῖς
νηοπόλον μύχιον ποιήσατο, δαίμονα δῖον.
(Theogony 988–991)
When the tender flower of splendid youth was on him,
a child with tender thoughts, the smile-loving Aphrodite
snatched and carried him away and in her sacred shrine
made him a hidden temple attendant, a divine spirit.
Nagy suggests that the two different myths about Phaethon, one more overtly solar than the other, are nevertheless cognate and both center on “the inherited personification of a solar child and consort.” [56] In the Hesiodic myth Aphrodite plays an ambiguous role. On the one hand, death is implied by her abduction of Phaethon, in particular by the use of the participle ἀνερειψαμένη (990), a verb used of abduction by the snatching winds, such as is envisaged by Penelope when she ostensibly prays for death in Odyssey 20 (ἀναρπάξασα θύελλα, 63). Similarly, Phaethon’s epithet mukhios, ‘hidden, innermost’, implies the notion of death and the underworld, since Tartaros is described as hidden in the mukhos, ‘the innermost place’, of the earth at Theogony 119. On the other hand, in the Hesiodic myth Phaethon becomes a daimon, and that implies immortalization, and moreover the notion of preservation beyond death is implicit in his birth from the dawn goddess.
Nagy compares the combined role of Eos and Aphrodite in the Hesiodic Phaethon myth to the function of the Vedic Uṣas, who is both the mother and the consort of the sun, suggesting that, “the Hesiodic tradition seems to have split the earlier fused role of mother and consort and divided them between Eos and Aphrodite respectively.” [57] Another similar abduction is that of Kleitos, who is abducted by Eos herself (Odyssey 15.250), and who, like Phaethon, has a genetic affinity to a solar figure, being the grandson of the seer Melampous. [58] As shown by Frame, the myth of Melampous centers on the theme of the cattle of the sun. [59] The myth of Kleitos, like that of Melampous, appears in the Odyssey, and surely not by accident, given Odysseus’ own involvement with the cattle of the sun theme. Nagy analyzes the myth as follows:
The wording herpasen for the abduction of Kleitos at Odyssey 15.251 implies that he was taken by a maleficent Harpy and dropped into {307|308} Okeanos. This theme of death is parallel to sunset. On the other hand, the subject of herpasen is Eos herself, and the theme of sunrise is parallel to rebirth. Since the abductor of Kleitos is represented as the Dawn, it is at least implicit that Kleitos is to be reborn like the Sun and thus preserved. [60]
Aphrodite comes to share the function of Eos as both the abductor and preserver not only in the myth of Phaethon but also in that of Adonis, who is also said to be hidden by the goddess. It is out of love for Adonis that Aphrodite is said to leap off the White Rock, and Nagy argues that the idea of plunging Aphrodite may have been inspired by the Near Eastern association of the goddess with the planet Venus, also known as Hesperos, ‘the evening star’, and Heosphoros, ‘the dawn-bearer’. In the evening, Venus (Hesperos) sets after the sun, appearing to follow it, and in the morning it rises before dawn (Heosphoros), appearing to lead the sun back. Nagy suggests that a similar logic governs Aphrodite’s leap off the White Rock, in effect to bring back her lover. Certainly this is how the scholia to Hesiod imagine Aphrodite’s function in the Phaethon myth: ὁ ἑῷος ἀστὴρ ὁ ἀνάγων τὴν ἡμέραν καὶ τὸν Φαέθοντα ἡ Ἀφροδίτη ἐστίν, ‘Aphrodite is the dawn star which leads up the day and the Phaethon [Sun]’. [61]
Furthermore, Nagy argues that the same themes are expressed in the tale, presumably derived from Sappho’s poetry, in which she too jumped off the White Rock, out of love for Phaon. In Nagy’s words, “The ‘I’ of Sappho’s poetry is vicariously projecting her identity into the goddess Aphrodite, who loves the native Lesbian hypostasis of the Sun-God himself.” [62] Like Phaethon, Phaon attains a solar-like preservation, or rather rejuvenation in a myth attested in Sappho’s poetry (Sappho fr. 211 Voigt): as an old man, Phaon ferries Aphrodite in the guise of an old woman across a strait of water and in gratitude the goddess restores to him youth and beauty.
It amounts to pointing out the obvious to say that the same themes find expression in the Odyssey. The poem is our earliest source for two of the abduction stories, that of Kleitos by Eos (Odyssey 15.250) and that of Orion, also by Eos (Odyssey 5.121). The latter story is told by Kalypso explicitly as a precedent for her own detention of Odysseus, and while Odysseus is not literally abducted, his relatives on Ithaca speak of him as if he is, using the verb ἀνερείπομαι, ‘to snatch up and carry off’, and imagining him blown away by the snatching {308|309} winds. [63] Like the heroes who are in fact abducted, Odysseus is both hidden by Kalypso on her remote island and offered preservation, since the nymph plans to make him immortal (5.135–136). And arguably Odysseus does in the end achieve preservation, though not of the kind promised by Kalypso, because he, following the solar model, returns from the underworld to the land of the living. It has been argued, though certainty is hardly possible, that Arete, the queen of the Phaeacians whom Odysseus petitions for protection, can be seen as a female figure, in effect a surrogate mother, presiding over Odysseus’ rebirth. [64]
Be that as it may, one point that can be derived from a survey of the solar myth and heroic abductions by the dawn goddess is the very notion of the solar consort who has a role to play in solar or solar-like return. Aphrodite’s jump off the White Rock following Phaethon, or Sappho’s following Phaon, can be seen as an act of despair or, alternatively, it can be seen, in effect, as a mission of rescue driven by love. In its starkest form, the logic of the myth is that the female consort brings back the solar hero by mating with him and allowing him to be reborn. In its literal form this scheme may apply only to the sun god himself, but its modification takes a parallel course. In the Theogony, Phaethon is not literally reborn, but, as Nagy observes, his preservation as Aphrodite’s attendant and a daimon is expressed in terms of hero cult. As Nagy puts it, “If the hero is situated in a sacred precinct and if he is propitiated at set times, then he is being treated like a god and it follows that he must be like a god; thus he must be in some sense alive. From the standpoint of myth, he is explicitly dead, but from the standpoint of cult, he is implicitly reborn and thus alive.” [65]
To return to the myth of Alkyone and the halcyon, I suggest that Alkyone’s jump off the jetty to follow her drowned husband is parallel to Aphrodite’s and Sappho’s jumps off the White Rock. Just like the myth of Phaethon who crashed his father’s solar chariot, that of Keyx is tragic: Keyx dies and Alkyone follows her beloved husband in death. And just as Phaethon is forever lamented by his sisters who turned into trees, so Keyx is forever lamented by his wife who turned into a bird. Both myths are entirely pessimistic in their firm focus on death and give no direct intimation of rebirth at all, except for the general presence of the solar theme. And yet notions of {309|310} rebirth, in both cases, are intimated outside of the main myth. In the case of Phaethon, the correlative notion of rebirth is implicit in the Hesiodic version of the myth, while in the case of Keyx and Alkyone the clearer hints at rebirth are to be found not in the myth about humans but in that about birds, though it is noteworthy that both in Ovid and in Apollodorus Keyx is in fact the son of Eosphoros, the morning star. [66]
The connection between the tale of Alkyone, the human wife of a human husband, and the halcyon myth is not universally recognized. Gresseth regarded their combination as secondary, an accident perhaps based on the similarity of their names, but I think such an ad hoc explanation is unnecessary. [67] Even in the case of the halcyon, the solar symbolism is not always overt: sometimes, the focus is only on the grief and mournful song of the female. And yet there is a meaningful connection between the two myths, one of death and the other of rebirth. Alkyone is deprived of her husband and cannot renew his life through a son, but the bird halcyon does just that, on a solar model. The thematic connections between Alkyone and the mythic halcyon go beyond lament and involve a vertical leap into the sea – out of love, like Aphrodite and Sappho. There is no rebirth in the human story, only death, yet the form of this death establishes a link with the myth about the bird, which may also involve rebirth.
This brings me finally to my main suggestion, namely that just as Odysseus’ return operates on a solar metaphor and Odysseus himself, in one part of his complex identity, can be seen as a solar hero, so Penelope in her prayer to Artemis hints at the role of a solar consort. When Penelope prays to Artemis she addresses the goddess as ‘daughter of Zeus’, an epithet that is applied to Aphrodite in her abducting function and that has an exact cognate in Vedic, where it applies exclusively to the dawn-goddess Uṣas. While the epithet is much less restricted in Homer and applies to a number of goddesses, this is the only instance of its use about Artemis. [68] Praying to a thus markedly characterized Artemis, Penelope expresses a wish to follow her husband into the underworld, precisely by being carried away by the snatching winds and falling into Okeanos, like the heroes abducted by Dawn. Most importantly, Penelope wishes not simply for death, but specifically to follow Odysseus underneath the earth (20.80–81), and in this desire for an Oceanic {310|311} leap after her husband, she emerges as a figure similar not only to Alkyone, but to Aphrodite and Sappho with their leaps off the White Rock for love of their solar partners. Penelope’s prayer with its references to the fate of the Pandareids evokes the solar regions, and the twin themes of falling into the Okeanos and going beneath the earth recall the movements of the sun.
In this way, while Penelope speaks only of death, the solar themes hint at rebirth as well, and this is confirmed by the context of the prayer. Book 20 opens at night, when Odysseus, unable to sleep and consumed with desire for revenge, is comforted by Athena. The goddess promises victory and puts her protégé to sleep, as she has often done for Penelope. [69] But just as Odysseus falls asleep, Penelope wakes up. It is at this moment that she utters her prayer, and so soon as she speaks her last word, the dawn comes:
Ὣς ἔφατ’· αὐτίκα δὲ χρυσόθρονος ἤλυθεν Ἠώς.
(Odyssey 20.91)
So she spoke, and the golden-throned Eos came at once.
While Penelope speaks of disappearance and loss, her diction and the context of her prayer hint that there is a possibility of re-emergence and return. The day of the contest is Penelope’s chance to regain what she has lost or to lose it forever, and the two possibilities are reflected in Penelope’s prayer, signaled by the fruitless Pandareids on the one hand, and a suddenly vivid recollection of Odysseus on the other. At the moment, both possibilities are open, though the solar theme implicit in the scene presages, at least for the external audience, the outcome of the coming trial.
Penelope may have good mythological reasons for assuming the role of a solar consort to Odysseus: it is not an ad hoc equation. This role may even be signaled in her connection to the penelops, just as Alkyone is expressed through her identification with the halcyon. We know nothing of the penelops’ diving habits, but at the very least we are told that it lives at sea and frequents the Oceanic regions, and this, in conjunction with its similarities to the halcyon, makes vertical diving a distinct possibility. More remarkable is the fact that there are at least two different myths in which Penelope herself is cast into the sea and rescued by birds, penelopes. Both versions of Penelope’s plunge are mentioned by various scholia and Eustathius as a way of explaining her name. According to one myth, Penelope is cast into the sea by her parents and saved {311|312} by the birds. There is no explanation for her parents’ strange action, and once she is rescued they take her back, now with two names:
λέγεται γὰρ Ἀρναία πρότερον καλουμένη παρὰ τῶν φύντων εἰς τὴν θάλασσαν ἐκριφῆναι, εἶτα ὑπό τινων ὄρνεων πηνελόπων λεγομένων εἰς 
τὴν χέρσον ἐξενεχθῆναι, καὶ οὕτως ἀναληφθεῖσαν ὑπὸ τῶν γεννησάντων ὀνομασθῆναι Πηνελόπην ἀπὸ τῆς τῶν ὀρνίθων ὁμωνυμίας, καὶ τραφεῖσαν διώνυμον εἶναι τὸ λοιπόν. [70]
(Scholia vetera to Pindar, Olympian 9.85, scholion 79d)
It is said that she was first called Arnaia and was thrown into the sea by her parents, and then carried to shore by some birds called penelopes. And in this way she was recovered by her parents and named Penelope, by the same name as the birds, and when she grew up she had two names for the rest of her life.
In the second version of Penelope’s sea adventure the explanation is different, as is her initial name. She is first called either Ameirake or Arnakia but then receives the name Penelope after Nauplios throws her into the sea as a vengeance for Odysseus’ treatment of his son Palamedes. Again, she is brought to shore by penelopes. [71] The version with Penelope’s parents is both more mysterious and in some sense more logical, since in the other story Penelope would only get her name after Palamedes’ death at Troy. The existence of the two versions, however, is important because it shows what is the most salient and therefore the least variable feature of the myth: that Penelope falls into the sea but returns to shore, thanks to her avian namesakes.
The plunge into the sea is yet another link between Penelope and Alkyone, and for both of them it has to do with birds. If that is so, then it seems that Penelope has deep ties to the theme of solar-like disappearance and re-emergence that is so prominent in the Odyssey. There is, in other words, a diachronic dimension to her complexity and her very name signals not only her fidelity to her husband, but her intrinsic connectedness to the cyclic sequence of darkness, disappearance, and lament, followed by light, return, and rebirth. The effects of this diachronic depth are felt synchronically in the Odyssey as we have it, where Penelope is both a figure of lament and a figure of return to light and life. Her tears are more visible than her links to the {312|313} theme of rebirth, but both aspects of her mythic personality are active in the Odyssey. [72]
Finally, Penelope’s mythic background may have its own links with the festival of Apollo. I have tried above to tease out possible pointers to a connection between Apollo and the Pandareids, suggesting that their myths are suited to appear in the context of Apollo’s festival in the Odyssey and may derive from cognate local settings. If that is so, then Penelope, of course, connects herself to the festival through the Pandareids. But there may be an even deeper connection too, because the whole complex of ideas that seems to be encapsulated by Penelope’s name may also intersect with mythological themes clustering around Apollo and his female counterpart and sister, Artemis, the addressee of Penelope’s prayer. It is an accident that leaps off the White Rock at Cape Leucas, discussed above, are in fact associated with Apollo. According to Strabo, the temple of Apollo Leucatas stood on the very rock from which Sappho and others jumped for love, and the yearly flinging of a criminal off the same rock took place at a festival of Apollo. [73]
For her part, Artemis also has ties to the themes important in the mythology of the halcyon and, in all likelihood, of the penelops, themes that are certainly prominent in the Odyssey: the Oceanic regions, the solar cycle, abduction, and a deadly plunge into the sea conceptualized through the image of a diving or falling bird. Twice in the Odyssey there is a mention of an island called Ortygia, a word derived from the Greek name for a quail, ortyx. The place-name is most strongly connected to Artemis, who is often said to be born on the island, and who is even herself called Ortygia in Sophocles’ Trachiniae (213). [74] Several historical places bore that name, and some of them had a cult of Artemis or claimed to be her birthplace. The most prominent of these locations is Delos itself, also said to be called Ortygia, according to one explanation because quails landed on it during their migrations, carried from the sea by winds. [75] The birth of Artemis is not mentioned in the Odyssey, but her connection to Ortygia is present in a different way. Kalypso tells the story of Orion’s death, by an arrow of Artemis at Ortygia: {313|314}
ὣς μὲν ὅτ’ Ὠρίων’ ἕλετο ῥοδοδάκτυλος Ἠώς,
τόφρα οἱ ἠγάασθε θεοὶ ῥεῖα ζώοντες,
ἧος ἐν Ὀρτυγίῃ χρυσόθρονος Ἄρτεμις ἁγνὴ
οἶς ἀγανοῖς βελέεσσιν ἐποιχομένη κατέπεφνεν.
(Odyssey 5.123–126)
Just as when rose-fingered Dawn took Orion for herself,
you, the easy-living gods, were resentful then,
until on Ortygia the pure golden-throned Artemis
came and killed him with her gentle arrows.
Here Ortygia seems to be the place where Orion is taken by Eos, a place therefore associated with sunrise and sunset and presumably located near Okeanos. The collocation of abduction to the ends of the earth and of death by Artemis’ arrows is certainly reminiscent of Penelope’s prayer in Book 20. Ortygia is mentioned for the second time by Eumaeus, in description of his native land:
νῆσός τις Συρίη κεκλήσκεται, εἴ που ἀκούεις.
Ὀρτυγίης καθύπερθεν, ὅθι τροπαὶ ἠελίοιο,
οὔτι περιπληθὴς λίην τόσον, ἀλλ’ ἀγαθὴ μέν,
εὔβοτος, εὔμηλος, οἰνοπληθὴς, πολύπυρος·
πείνη δ’ οὔποτε δῆμον ἐσέρχεται, οὐδέ τις ἄλλη
νοῦσος ἐπὶ στυγερὴ πέλεται δειλοῖσι βροτοῖσι·
ἀλλ’ ὅτε γηράσκωσι πόλιν κάτα φῦλ’ ἀνθρώπων,
ἐλθὼν ἀργυρότοξος Ἀπόλλων Ἀρτέμιδι ξύν,
οἷς ἀγανοῖς βελέεσσιν ἐποιχόμενος κατέπεφνεν.
(Odyssey 15.403–411)
There is an island called Syria, perhaps you have heard of it,
above Ortygia, where the turns of the sun are.
It is not very populous, but good,
suitable for cattle and sheep, full of vineyards, rich in wheat.
Hunger never visits people there, nor is there any other
dreadful illness for poor mortals,
but, when people in the city grow old,
Apollo of the golden bow comes along with Artemis
and approaches and kills them with his gentle arrows.
The description of Eumaeus’ Syria fits its location at the ends of the earth: it is reminiscent of blissful golden age lands like that of the Phaeacians or {314|315} Hyperboreans. One aspect of the inhabitants’ charmed existence is a gentle death by the arrows of Artemis and Apollo, comparable with Odyssey 5.123–126, where Orion is the victim of the goddess’s shafts. Ortygia evidently belongs to this environment. Moreover, the island is again associated specifically with the solar theme, since it is located near the ‘turning places of the sun’, presumably a reference to the solstices. [76]
What happens to Eumaeus in this setting is abduction by a Sidonian woman. She dies shortly after, and the manner of her death is significant:
τὴν μὲν ἔπειτα γυναῖκα βάλ’ Ἄρτεμις ἰοχέαιρα,
ἄντλῳ δ’ ἐνδούπησε πεσοῦσ’ ὡς εἰναλίη κήξ.
(Odyssey 15.478–479)
And then Artemis of the arrows struck down the woman,
and she fell with a thud into the bilge, like a diving sea bird [kex].
Eumaeus’ story presents a non-fabulous version of abduction and also a realistic, even comic, version of the plunge into Okeanos. These details are part of Eumaeus’ supposed biography, but they are also a variation on an already familiar theme, and again Artemis’ arrow is combined with a watery fall and the fall is compared to the dive of a sea bird (kex).
If Artemis wields her deadly arrows in such solar contexts, then so does Apollo. It is perhaps noteworthy that our earliest evidence for the linking of the sun with Apollo comes from Euripides’ Phaethon: when the hero’s mother, Klymene, laments her dead son she says that he was destroyed by Helios, ‘whom men rightly call Apollo’, referring to the folk etymology of Apollo as ‘destroyer’ (224–226). But suggestive as this testimony is of Apollo’s solar proclivities, it is relatively late and very complex. More directly applicable to the Odyssey is Apollo’s role in an undoubtedly early myth of Idas and Marpessa as told by Simonides. The myth, uprooted and incomplete as we have it, is hard to interpret, but it is clear that it involves a number of themes and elements paralleled in the Odyssey, including archery, abduction, death by falling into water, and even Ortygia. In Simonides (PMG 563), Idas abducts his bride {315|316} Marpessa from Ortygia, (the one located in Chalcis, on the island of Euboea). Her father, Euenos, pursues them up to the river Lykormas in Aitolia, where he commits suicide by casting himself down into the river, which henceforth is called Euenos. Next, Apollo appears and takes hold of Marpessa, but Idas resists and lifts his bow against the god. The duel is judged by Zeus, who gives the choice to Marpessa, and she chooses Idas.
The first thing to observe about this myth is its striking structural similarity to the story of Odysseus and Penelope, if the latter story is considered as a chronological whole, including parts that are not mentioned in the Odyssey. In both cases, the hero has to win his bride not once, but twice. When Idas abducts Alkyone from her father that is not the end of the story because he still has to face Apollo. Similarly, Odysseus first has to win Penelope’s hand in marriage and then to regain her with his bow. [77] Interestingly, Pausanias reports that Odysseus and Penelope were pursued by her father Ikarios as they drove off from Lacedaemon, a detail reminiscent of Idas and Marpessa being followed by her father Euenos, even if Ikarios seems to have a less hostile intent and the situation is resolved without the loss of life. According to Pausanias, upon giving his daughter to Odysseus, Ikarios tried to make his new son-in-law settle in Lacedaemon instead of returning to Ithaca. When that failed, he attempted to keep Penelope from going with Odysseus and followed them in his chariot, imploring her to stay. Odysseus finally asked Penelope either to come willingly with him or go back to her father, and in response she said nothing but veiled her face, this being a sufficient sign for Ikarios that she wished to go with her husband. [78]
In both myths, then, there is a first part in which a daughter is separated from her reluctant father and taken away by her new husband, and a second part in which the husband has to compete for her with his bow against a challenger or challengers. [79] The role of Apollo in the story of Idas and Marpessa {316|317} is also to some extent parallel to his role in the Odyssey. The god threatens the marriage of Idas and Marpessa, though in the end Idas succeeds in withstanding the challenge. In the Odyssey there is no such evident hostility on the god’s part, but the crisis point of Odysseus’ return falls on his festival and Odysseus attributes his success at archery to the god’s favor (Odyssey 22.5–7). This suggests that Apollo is indeed the power that controls the way to Odysseus’ reunion with Penelope, a power whose challenge has to be met if the resumption of their marriage is to be achieved. There is a point of contact and a morphological similarity between the way in which Apollo is involved in each myth. The threat to the marriage of Odysseus and Penelope that is implicit in the figure of Apollo can also perhaps be compared to the deadly threat that Artemis, also as an archer, presents to the union of Eos and Orion. When it is a question of males abducting and competing for a female, the threat comes from Apollo, but when it is female Eos who abducts the male Orion the threat correspondingly comes from Artemis. [80]
Furthermore, an additional element can be added to Simonides’ presentation of the myth of Idas and Marpessa on the basis of the Iliad, and it is a telling one. In the Iliad, Meleager’s wife, Kleopatre, a figure of lament and the daughter of Idas and Marpessa, is said to be nicknamed Alkyone:
τὴν δὴ τότ’ ἐν μεγάροισι πατὴρ καὶ πότνια μήτηρ
Ἀλκυόνην καλέεσκον ἐπώνυμον, οὕνεκ’ ἀρ’ αὐτῆς
μήτηρ ἀλκυόνος πολυπενθέος οἶτον ἔχουσα
κλαῖεν ὅ μιν ἑκάεργος ἀνήρπασε Φοῖβος Ἀπόλλων.
(Iliad 9.561)
At that time in their house her father and her lady mother
called her by the nickname Alkyone, because her
mother wept, having the fate of the sorrowful halcyon,
when Apollo the far-shooter stole her. {317|318}
Here the central theme is once more the separation of the devoted couple, Marpessa and Idas, which will be ended by way of the bow. Here the halcyon finds its place in the story, both as a bird of lament, and as a source of Kleopatre’s nickname. Like Penelope, Marpessa seems to be firmly attached to her husband, whom she chooses over Apollo in Simonides’ telling of the myth, and her lament is reminiscent not only of the halcyon but also of Penelope.
When Penelope laments and prays to Artemis on the day of Apollo’s festival and when she mentions abduction by the snatching winds, a fall into Okeanos, death by an arrow of Artemis, separation from Odysseus, and the daughters of Pandareos, it seems that she does much more than simply re-enact her role as a bride. Rather, she gives voice to the themes that are constituent of her own mythic persona, some of them even signaled by her very name. The same themes turn out to be not only appropriate for the festival of Apollo, but essential to it, so that both Penelope and Odysseus seem inseparable from the festival, not in the sense that there could never be an Odyssey without the festival of Apollo, but in the sense that in the Odyssey as we have it the festival brings together and positions within a larger system of mythic and religious thought the very themes that are fundamental to Penelope and Odysseus. The festival is a match for its protagonists, and, conversely, almost everything they say and do as it approaches is attuned to its workings. Penelope’s myths in Book 19 and her prayer in Book 20 are exquisitely integrated into their contexts, immediate and broad, precisely by virtue of being to a striking extent not ad hoc. They belong to a particular nexus in a rich and living system of myth-making, a system that includes Homer and that is at work in the creation of Odysseus’ return and of Apollo’s festival. The very character who utters these speeches, Penelope herself, is part of the same nexus, and it is this factor that allows her words to have such resonance and fit in such a complex and intricate way both with their setting and with her own poetic and mythic personality. {318|}


[ back ] 1. Farnell 1921:62.
[ back ] 2. For an interpretation of Penelope’s name different from the one suggested in this study, see Bader 1998. In Bader’s opinion Penelope’s name results from a wordplay: the p- of πήνη is substituted for the initial kh- of χηνέλοψ or χηνάλοψ, a name of a bird. According to Bader, χηνέλοψ was reinterpreted and “mutated” to give χηναλώπηξ, a combination of χήν, ‘goose’ and ἀλώπηξ, ‘fox’. Bader thus argues for an identification of πηνέλοψ with χηναλώπηξ, with πηνέλοψ being at first only a poetic formation based on Penelope’s name. Thus, according to Bader, Penelope’s name is based not on πηνέλοψ (which post-dates the name) but instead on χηνέλοψ/χηναλώπηξ, which fits Penelope’s behavior: ‘goose’ corresponds to her fidelity, while ‘fox’ symbolizes her cunning. See also Bader 1997a, 1197b.141–142. I find it very hard, however, to reconcile poetic usage of πηνέλοψ outside of Homer with the theory that it is dependent on Penelope’s name. The fact that πηνέλοψ is not even mentioned in Homer seems to me to argue against this theory.
[ back ] 3. Scholia to Odyssey 4.797.
[ back ] 4. I have made this point elsewhere (Levaniouk 1999), and what follows is an abridged and re-thought version of that argument.
[ back ] 5. According to the scholia to Aristophanes Birds 1302 the penelops is similar to a duck (νήττῃ μέν ἐστιν ὅμοιον), but larger, though the same scholia claim that it is about the size of a pigeon (περιστερή). Penelops is listed with geese and sheldrake by Aristotle in Historia Animalium 593b23. The sheldrake (χηναλώπηξ) is a species of duck, but it is goose-like in appearance and was seen as a goose by the Greeks. Aristophanes (Birds 1302) also lists it next to the goose.
[ back ] 6. Historia Animalium 593b23.
[ back ] 7. For several divergent interpretations, all of which agree on the importance of Penelope’s grief, see e.g, Rankin 1962: 617–624, Russo 1992:103, Pratt 1994:149–151, Heitman 2005:73–75, Rozokoki 2001:2–3.
[ back ] 8. Kretschmer 1945:80–93.
[ back ] 9. Aristotle, Historia Animalium 488b23, Anthologia Palatina 7.425.7.
[ back ] 10. In discussing the poetic relevance of Penelope’s geese I rely on Pratt 1994.
[ back ] 11. For a justification of ‘with varied-[sounding] throat’ as a translation of ποικιλόδειρος see Nagy 1996:59 n1, following Irwin 1974:72–73.
[ back ] 12. For a remark on the translation of αἰολόδειρος see below, p294.
[ back ] 13. Athenaeus 9.388d. The manuscript reading of the fragment is: τοῦ μὲν πετάλοισιν ἐπ’ ἀκροτάτοις (Π ἐπακροτάτοισι) ξανθοῖσι (B ξανθίαι) ποικίλαι πανέλοπες αἰολόδειροι αδοιπορφυρίδες (B ἀδ.) καὶ ἀλκύονες τανυσίπτεροι.
[ back ] 14. Schneidewin, 128–131 and Hermann as quoted by Bergk Poetae Lyrici Graeci 239 (on Ibycus 8 [13]), Thompson 1936:46.
[ back ] 15. Thompson 1936:139. In the list of birds in Aristophanes’ Birds, quoted above, kerulos is mentioned immediately after the halcyon (Birds 299): Πε. τίς γάρ ἐσθ’ οὕπισθεν αὐτῆς; | Ευ. ὅστις ἐστί; κηρύλος. Note also that the halcyon is female in this passage.
[ back ] 16. I retain the reading εἴαρος in the last line although most modern editions, including the PMG, adopt Hecker’s emendation to ἱαρός, ‘sacred’. The halcyon, however, is specifically associated with winter solstice, which may be regarded as the beginning of spring (see below), and it seems reasonable that kerulos should share this association. The reading εἴαρος is attested unanimously by the three ancient sources to quote the verse: Antigonus of Carystus Historia Mirabilium 23.1, Athenaeus 9.16 and Photius (Lexicon s.v. ὄρνις). In the beginning of the same line Photius has ἀδεὲς, Antigonus νηλεὲς. I opt for the former, because it is easier to understand, though the latter is perhaps to be seen as the lectio difficilior. I am puzzled by the editorial preference (Page, PMG 26) for the conjectural νηδεές (Boissonade), since this is not a word attested elsewhere, while both ἀδεές, and νηλεές are metrically unobjectionable and make sense.
[ back ] 17. Scholia on Lucian 1.178.
[ back ] 18. Thompson 1936.22.
[ back ] 19. The main sources on the halcyon’s nest are Aristotle Historia Animalium 524b4, Aelian 9.17, Dionysius De Avibus 2.7 and Plutarch On the intelligence of animals 35 (959a–985c). For further references and comments see Thompson 19 66:48. Plutarch’s description of the halcyon’s nest is especially relevant for what follows because he reports that the nest is constructed of artfully interwoven thorns without any binding materials, and compares the process to weaving and the result to Apollo’s famous horn altar on Delos, also constructed without any binding.
[ back ] 20. Thompson 1936.22.
[ back ] 21. Suda s.v. Ἡμερινὰ ζῷα.
[ back ] 22. Antoninus Liberalis 11. According to Antoninus Liberalis and Athenaeus (9.49), Boios is the author of the Ὀρνιθογονία, ‘Origin of Birds’, but there is some confusion about his identity. Some scholars think that the name is a re-interpretation of Boio, the name of an ancient Delphic priestess, to whom the Ὀρνιθογονία is apparently attributed by the antiquarian Philochorus (4–3 century BCE). See RE s.v. Boio.
[ back ] 23. Nagy 1996:59 n1.
[ back ] 24. Simonides PMG 508 = Aristotle Historia Animalium 542b4.
[ back ] 25. Odyssey 19.520, Homeric Hymn 19.17–18, Anthologia Palatina 12.2.3, 12.136.3.
[ back ] 26. The only bird noticeably larger than a nightingale or a sparrow who is said to sit ἐν πετάλοισι is the cuckoo in Works and Days 486, and it is interesting that only here the expression is qualified: δρυὸς ἐν πετάλοισι, ‘in oak leaves’: a larger bird calls for sturdier ‘petals’. Note also that the cuckoo is also a bird with a remarkable voice, sometimes seen as a voice of lament in the Greek poetic tradition. Cf. Alexiou’s list of birds who join the lamentation in Greek folk songs: cuckoo, halcyon, nightingale, swallow, turtledove (Alexiou 1974:93–97).
[ back ] 27. That the creatures who can sit in the petals do form a recognizable group is confirmed, for example, by the corresponding perception of Joannes Chrysostomus (In Acta Apostolorum 60.61.16): εἴ τις δὲ καὶ ἠχὴ γένοιτο, λιγυρὰ καὶ πολλὴν καταχέουσα τῶν ἀκουόντων τὴν ἡδονήν. Ἢ γὰρ ὄρνιθες ᾠδικοὶ ἄκροις τῶν δένδρων ἐφιζάνουσι τοῖς πετάλοις, καὶ τέττιγες, καὶ ἀηδόνες, καὶ χελιδόνες, συμφώνως μίαν τινὰ ἀποτελοῦσι μουσικήν . . .
[ back ] 28. Thompson 1936:46–47.
[ back ] 29. Hesiod fr. 10d MW.
[ back ] 30. Nagy 1992:236–239.
[ back ] 31. Pliny is quick to debunk the Greek notion that amber is to be found in the Eridanus, or that there are islands in the Adriatic known as “Electrides” because the amber is carried there by the water. He concludes that the Greek poets are terribly ignorant both of amber and of geography (Natural History 37.11).
[ back ] 32. It is noteworthy that the solar theme is present in both cases, since the life of Meleager himself is inextricably joined with fire of the hearth, and thus with the theme of the celestial fire. Nagy (1992:148–150) suggests that Greek words for dawn (Ionic ἠώς/Aeolic αὐως) and for hearth (ἑστία) ultimately go back to the same root meaning ‘shine’ and observes that “the semantic connection between the macrocosm of dawn and the microcosm of the sacrificial fireplace is explicit in the Rig-Veda, where the coming of the dawn is treated as an event parallel to the simultaneous kindling of the sacrificial fire.” Pliny (Natural History 37.11) is amusingly outraged by the notion that so respectable a character as Sophocles could entertain a notion that amber is produced (and in large quantities) from birds’ tears.
[ back ] 33. Nagy 1990:225, and more generally 223–262.
[ back ] 34. Frame 1978:1–33.
[ back ] 35. See Frame 1978:34–80, and Cook 1995:15–48 on the proem and the role of the episode of the Cattle of the Sun in it.
[ back ] 36. Menander F 258 K. The concept of the White Rock is discussed in detail by Nagy 1990:224–235. On Phaon’s solar aspect see Nagy 1990:235 (like Phaethon, the name Phaon means ‘bright’). See also below for more on this point.
[ back ] 37. According to Ptolemaios Chennos, in Photius, Bibliotheca 152–153.
[ back ] 38. For relations between love, sleep and death in Greek poetics see Vermeule 1979:145–178.
[ back ] 39. Gresseth 1964:95 (quoted below).
[ back ] 40. Strabo 10.2.9.
[ back ] 41. Suda, s.v. Ἀλκυονίδες ἡμέραι.
[ back ] 42. In Antoninus Liberalis 11.
[ back ] 43. West 1978:253-255 with references.
[ back ] 44. s.v. Ἀλκυονίδες ἡμέραι.
[ back ] 45. Historia Animalium 8.542b4.
[ back ] 46. Historia Mirabilium 23.8.
[ back ] 47. Gresseth 1964:91.
[ back ] 48. Gresseth 1964:93–94 with references.
[ back ] 49. Gresseth 1964:95.
[ back ] 50. Gresseth 1964:98.
[ back ] 51. Gresseth 1964:98.
[ back ] 52. Rig Veda 1.115.1, 7.75.5, 7.63.3, 7.78.3. See Nagy 1990:246–247 on this point.
[ back ] 53. Nagy 1990:246.
[ back ] 54. Nagy 1990:242–255.
[ back ] 55. Nagy 1990:235. φαέθων, meaning ‘bright, shining’ is an epithet of sun in Homer, part of the formulaic expression ἠέλιος φαέθων (Iliad 11.735, Odyssey 5.479, 11.16, 19.441, 22.388). Phaethon’s story was probably told in the Hesiodic Catalogue of Women (Hyginus Fabulae 154 = Hesiod fr. 311 MW) and was dramatized by Aeschylus (Heliades fr. 68–73 R) and Euripides (Phaethon fr. 773–781 N). A version of the story is also preserved in the Scholia to Odyssey 17.208, with reference to unspecified tragedians.
[ back ] 56. Nagy 1990:255.
[ back ] 57. Nagy 1990:248–249.
[ back ] 58. Melampous’ story is told twice in the Odyssey: 15.225–255 and 11.287–297.
[ back ] 59. Frame 1978:91–92.
[ back ] 60. Nagy 1990:252.
[ back ] 61. Scholia to Hesiod Theogony 990.
[ back ] 62. Nagy 1990:259.
[ back ] 63. Telemachus at 1.241 and Eumaeus at 14.371 utter the same words: νῦν δέ μιν ἀκλειῶς Ἅρπυιαι ἀνηρέψαντο. Cf. Penelope speaking of Telemachus: νῦν αὖ παῖδ’ ἀγαπητὸν ἀνηρέψαντο θύελλαι (2.727).
[ back ] 64. Newton 1984.
[ back ] 65. Nagy 1990:254.
[ back ] 66. Ovid Metamorphoses 11.271, Apollodorus 1.7.4. Here, however, Eosphoros is not identified with Aphrodite, and is accordingly imagined as Keyx’s father.
[ back ] 67. Gresseth 1964:98.
[ back ] 68. See Nagy 1990:246–251 for a detailed examination of this epithet and its two variants (diva(s) duhitar and duhitar- divas in Vedic, Διὸς θυγάτηρ and θυγάτηρ Διός in Greek).
[ back ] 69. Odyssey 20.44–55.
[ back ] 70. The same story is told by Tzetzes on Lycophron, scholion 792.
[ back ] 71. Eustathius 1.64 on Odyssey 1.344 with reference to Didymus.
[ back ] 72. It could be argued that there is a notion, clear in the Odyssey, that a woman provides a link between the generations of males, and in that sense assures her husband’s continuation into the future. Telemachus is not Odysseus reborn, but his survival is one of the several different ways in which Odysseus returns to life. From that point of view, a wife’s devotion to her husband goes hand in hand with her ability to give birth to his sons.
[ back ] 73. Strabo 10.2.9.
[ back ] 74. Artemis is born on Ortygia according to, e.g., Homeric Hymn to Apollo 16.
[ back ] 75. Phanodemos (FHG I 366), cited by Athenaeus 9.47.
[ back ] 76. The expression τροπὰς ἠελίοιο is used of solstices in Hesiod (Works and Days 564, 663). The ends-of-the-earth characteristic of Eumaeus’ native land need not contradict Hoekstra’s suggestion that the swineherd’s description is “in accord with the normal meaning of Συρίη.” Hoekstra suggests that in Eumaeus’ account this phrase signifies “the place on the horizon where the sun was seen to rise on midwinter day,” which would in fact point to Syria (Hoekstra 1990:257 with references).
[ back ] 77. There are no early sources on the marriage of Odysseus and Penelope. Apollodorus reports that Odysseus gave Tyndareus the idea of binding Helen’s suitors by an oath in order to enlist his help in procuring Penelope’s hand from Ikarios. Pausanias mentions that Ikarios proposed a footrace for the suitors of Penelope, and that Odysseus dedicated an image of Athena Keleuthea and set up three sanctuaries to her along the Aphetaid road, the course of the race (3.12.1–5).
[ back ] 78. Pausanias 3.20.10–11.
[ back ] 79. This double plot belongs to a very widespread type, though the similarities between the two myths in question are closer than those they share with other such tales. Zhirmunsky (1967:281) discusses a large number of tales consisting of two successive parts, the “heroic wooing” and the “return of the husband.” In all these tales the hero wins, after several feats, a beautiful bride but is then separated from her, usually when the other competitors for her hand treacherously attempt to kill or imprison him and abduct the bride. The hero returns, after more adventures, on the day of the rival’s wedding with his abducted bride, usually in disguise, and in many tales a bow contest becomes the means both of his recognition and his vengeance. Along with many fairy tales, the Uzbek epic Alpamysh follows this pattern, and Zhirmunsky concludes that the two parts of that epic are not joined accidentally, but rather form two parts of the single plot. Zhirmunsky further compares the Odyssey to Alpamysh and suggests that the Odyssey in effect excluded the “heroic wooing” part of the plot and represents only the “second round” of Odysseus’ tale, but the first part nevertheless exists in the story of Odysseus’ wooing of Penelope as attested in Apollodorus and Pausanias: Zhirmunsky 1967:281–283. For more on the Odyssey and the Alpamysh, see above pp235-236.
[ back ] 80. The symmetry here is not complete, of course, since Artemis challenges Eos only implicitly, by killing Orion.