Chapter 3. Vedic

{58|59} §1.42 The twin gods of the Rig-Veda have two dual names: they are not only Aśvínā, “horse-possessors,” a name that occurs 398 times in the Rig-Veda, but also Nā́satyā, a name that occurs 99 times in the Rig-Veda. [117] The name Nā́satyā is old. It has an exact cognate in Avestan Nā̊ŋhaiθya, the name of a demon in the Zoroastrian religious system. [118] The Iranian singular suggests that in Common Indo-Iranian the twins’ dual name also occurred in the singular to name one twin in opposition to the other. [119] It would have been this twin that was demonized by the Zoroastrian religious reform. [120] The name Nā́satyā also occurs in Mitanni, the branch of Indic that became separated from the main branch of Indic and settled in northwest Mesopotamia, and was transformed through contact with native Hurrian speakers. Among the Indic elements preserved in Mitanni are the names of certain gods, and in particular the name Nasattii̯a(nna), which occurs beside Mitanni equivalents of the Vedic gods Mitra, Varuṇa, and Indra, and which must designate the same twin gods as Vedic Nā́satyā. [121] {59|60}

§1.43 We do not know whether the twins’ old name Nā́satyā still had a clear meaning in the Rig-Veda. In the post-Vedic period it did not. Various interpretations of the name were then current, all based on folk etymologies. [122] Although the etymology of Nā́satyā has yet to be established with certainty, the prevailing modern view is to derive the form from the root *nes-. The Vedic twins have the characteristic functions of “saving” and “healing” distressed mortals, and this has suggested a connection with the Gothic verb nasjan, “save” and “heal,” which contains this root. [123] The {60|61} underlying meaning of Gothic nasjan, as earlier discussed, is “bring back to life.” [124] A similar implication of the name Nā́satyā is indicated by the twins’ rescue myths, in several of which they are said to bring mortals “back to life.” The mortal Rebha was bound, stabbed, and cast into the waters for nine days and ten nights before being saved by the twins; RV 10.39.9 says that he was “dead” (mamṛvā́ṃsam) when the twins “raised (him) up” (úd airayatam). [125] Bhujyu was saved after his father or evil companions abandoned him at sea; RV 1.119.4 refers to the twins as “bringing (Bhujyu) home from the dead ancestors” (niváhantā pitṛ́bhya ā́). [126] Little is known of Śyāva, to whom there are only two references in the Rig-Veda. [127] But one of these, RV 1.117.24, says that he was “split in three” (trídhāvíkastam) when the twins “raised him up to live” (új jīvása airayatam).

§1.44 The Vedic twins not only “bring back to life,” they also “bring back to the light,” and this is equally significant for the meaning of their name Nā́satyā. To Bhujyu, who was “cast forth on the unsupporting darkness” (anārambhaṇé támasi práviddham, 1.182.6), the twins gave “light-bringing help” (svàrvatīrūtī́r, 1.119.8). Rebha they “raised up to see the sun” (údaírayataṃ svàr dṛśé, 1.112.5), [128] as they did Vandana as well (ibid.). Vandana, who was buried in a pit when he disintegrated with old age, is the object of a pair of similes that strikingly connect the ideas of “returning from death” and “returning from darkness” in a solar context: RV 1.117.5 says that the twins restored Vandana “like one who had fallen asleep in the womb of the {61|62} death goddess” (suṣupvā́ṃsaṃ ná nírṛter upásthe) [129] and “like the sun dwelling in darkness” (sū́ryaṃ ná…támasi kṣiyántam).

§1.45 A solar context marks the twins’ cult as well as their myths. They are invoked at dawn, the time of their principal sacrifice, and they have a close connection with Uṣas, the dawn goddess. Uṣas is bidden to awaken them (8.9.17), they follow her in their chariot (8.5.2, etc.), she is born when they hitch their steeds (10.39.12), and their chariot is once said to arrive before her (1.34.10). By their invocation at dawn the twins are closely associated with a “return from darkness” in cult as well as myth. In three hymns the poet marks the time of invocation with the phrase “we have reached the other shore of this darkness” (átāriṣma támasas pārám asyá). [130] In another hymn the poet prays for “sustenance (íṣam) that will deliver us across the darkness” (yā́ naḥ pī́paradtámas tiráḥ, 1.46.6). The twins are called “darkness slayers” (tamohánā, 3.39.3), and their horses and chariot are described as “uncovering the covered darkness” (aporṇuvántas táma ā́ párīvṛtam, 4.45.2). One hymn invokes the twins as “you who have made light for mankind” (yā́vjyótir jánāya cakráthuḥ, 1.92.17). [131]

§1.46 In the Rig-Veda the twins are viewed as an identical pair almost without exception. Their names and epithets are thus virtually always in the dual. But there were distinctions between the twins which both the Rig-Veda, in one exceptional verse, and Sanskrit epic, in an indirect form, have preserved. These distinctions can be correlated with a distinction between the two names Nā́satyā and Aśvínā as they are used in the Rig-Veda. This is of great importance for the twins’ two names, for they are thus seen to contrast with one another, each properly designating a different twin. [132]

§1.47 RV 1.181.4, the only verse of the Rig-Veda that explicitly contrasts the two twins, says that they were “born here and there” (ihéha jātā́) [133] and that each was the son of a different father: one is called the son of Súmakha, the other the son of Dyaús. Dyaús is the Indo-European sky god, cognate with Greek Zeús; Súmakha is otherwise unknown. The twin who is said to be the {62|63} son of Súmakha has the epithets jiṣṇú, “conquering,” and sūrí, “lordly,” characterizing him as a warrior. The name of this twin’s father, Súmakha, most likely means “good warrior,” and so interpreted it reinforces this twin’s own characterization as a warrior. The other twin has the less distinctive epithet subhága, “bountiful.” [134]

§1.48 The opposition between the two twins revealed by this single verse of the Rig-Veda is confirmed indirectly by Sanskrit epic. [135] The heroes of the Mahābhārata are the five Pāṇḍavas, “sons of Pāṇḍu,” who in addition to being the sons of the mortal Pāṇḍu are the sons of different gods. The two youngest brothers are the twins Nakula and Sahadeva, and they are the sons of the twin gods. All of the Pāṇḍavas are characterized in terms of their divine fathers, who as a group represent a highly archaic religious structure. [136] The Pāṇḍavas, who reembody this structure, reveal archaic features of their fathers that even the Rig-Veda does not attest. In particular the twins Nakula and Sahadeva preserve old oppositions between their fathers that confirm and go beyond what is found in RV 1.181.4. As a survey of their characteristic epithets shows, Nakula is consistently portrayed as “warlike,” whereas Sahadeva is portrayed as uniquely “intelligent.” Sahadeva’s distinctive epithets are “wise” (vidvān, 17.2.54), “intelligent” (prājña, 17.2.56), “endowed with understanding” (buddhimān, 14.72.2103), “learned” (paṇḍita, 2.63.2155), “clever” (matimān, 3.269.15710), “acute” (nipuṇa, 5.49.1838), and “clairvoyant” (cakṣuṣin, 6.75.3282). Nakula’s distinctive epithets, on the other hand, are “skillful in all forms of war” (sarvayuddhaviśārada, 7.165.7364), “good in {63|64} war” (kuśalaṃ yuddhe, 7.98.3976), and, most characteristically, “fighting in a wondrous manner” (citrayodhin, 1.139.5533, 5.47.1832, 5.49.1996, 5.89.3168, 8.76.3814, 9.10.477). Nakula’s other epithets concern his warrior’s “beauty”; he is called “beautiful” (darśanīya, 3.27.1020, 4.3.61, 5.49.1996), “the most beautiful in the world” (darśanīyatamo loke, 2.78.2625), and “the most beautiful of heroes” (darśanīyatamo nṛṇ̣ām, 2.75.2555). [137] Two scenes in the Mahābhārata underscore the contrast between Nakula’s “warrior beauty” and Sahadeva’s “intelligence.” [138] In the great dice game, Yudhiṣṭhira, the twins’ eldest brother, characterizes each of them when he puts them up as stakes: Nakula he calls “dark, young, with eyes of flame, the shoulders of a lion, and huge arms” (2.63.2152), but Sahadeva, he says, “teaches justice and has acquired a reputation in this world for being learned” (paṇḍita, 2.63.2155). Similarly, near the end of the poem, when the twins die, Yudhiṣṭhira interprets their deaths as the result of peculiar moral flaws: [139] Nakula’s flaw was to think “there is no one equal to me in beauty” (rūpeṇa matsamo nāsti kaścid iti, 17.2.62); Sahadeva, on the other hand, “always thought that no one was as intelligent as himself” (ātmanaḥ sadṛśaṃ prājñaṃ naiṣo ’manyata kañcana, 17.2.56). [140]

§1.49 The contrast between the warrior Nakula and his brother Sahadeva confirms the contrast between the divine twins in RV 1.181.4, where only the {64|65} son of Sumakha is characterized as a warrior. The characterization of Sahadeva as uniquely “intelligent,” on the other hand, goes beyond what is found in RV 1.181.4 and bears directly on our primary concern, namely the name Nā́satyā as a derivative of the IE root *nes- and a cognate of Greek Néstōr and Greek nóos. But before we can address the name Nā́satyā itself, there is a second contrast between Nakula and Sahadeva which bears on both names of the divine twins, Aśvínā as well as Nā́satyā. This contrast is found in the fourth book of the Mahābhārata, where the twins and their three older brothers all assume different disguises to spend the last year of their thirteen-year exile at the court of king Virāṭa. The twins both disguise themselves as vaiśyas (members of the third caste), and this is itself a reflection of their fathers’ archaic nature. [141] But the twins’ disguise as vaiśyas also reveals a contrast between them that would not have been suspected otherwise: while Nakula disguises himself as a groom and takes charge of Virāṭa’s “horses,” Sahadeva speaks warmly of his preference for “cattle” and becomes Virāṭa’s cowherd. [142]

§1.50 The warrior Nakula is associated with horses, as one would expect. The intelligent Sahadeva is associated with cattle, and this is a revelation. The question then is whether the contrast between horses and cattle that characterizes the epic twins also characterizes their divine fathers. The answer is that it does, for a contrast between cattle and horses is found in several of the twins’ Vedic hymns, one of which is particularly significant. [143] In RV 2.41.7 the contrast between cattle and horses is correlated with a contrast between the twins’ two names, Nā́satyā and Aśvínā: the name Aśvínā is associated with horses, as one would expect, and the name Nā́satyā is associated with cattle. The verse is divided into three segments, the first two of which articulate the {65|66} double opposition in question: “cattle” and “horses” are contrasted in these two segments by two neuter adjectives modifying the noun vartís, “path,” which is in the third segment. The first segment begins with the adjective gómad, “rich in cattle,” and ends with the vocative Nāsatyā, whereas the second segment begins with the adjective áśvāvad, “rich in horses,” and ends with the vocative Aśvinā. The parallelism between these two segments makes it crystal clear that “cattle” are associated with the name Nā́satyā and “horses” with the name Aśvínā:

gómad ū ṣú nāsatyā / áśvāvad yātam aśvinā / vartī́ rudrā nṛpā́yyam
Quickly come (ū ṣú…yātam) along the path (vartī́) rich in cattle, you Nā́satyā; quickly come along the path rich in horses, you Aśvínā; quickly come, you rudrā, along the man-protecting (nṛpā́yyam) path (RV 2.41.7). [144]

§1.51 The articulation of this verse, which is masterful, is wholly designed to associate the first word, gómad, with the name Nā́satyā. This association is confirmed by another verse in the Rig-Veda, which likewise associates the name Nā́satyā with cattle in opposition to horses. This verse, RV 7.72.1, has two segments, and the adjectives “rich in cattle” (gómatā) and “rich in horses” (áśvāvatā) again contrast with each other in different segments of the verse (the adjectives modify the noun ráthena, “chariot,” which is in the instrumental case). In this verse the name Aśvínā is omitted in the second segment concerning “horses,” but “cattle” are closely associated with the name Nā́satyā in the first segment:

ā́ gómatā nāsatyā ráthena / áśvāvatā puruścandréṇa yātam
Come here (ā́yātam) on your chariot (ráthena) rich in cattle, you Nā́satyā; come here on your chariot rich in horses and abundant with gold (puruścandréṇa) (RV 7.72.1). {66|67}

The evidence of RV 2.41.7, which is supported by the evidence of RV 7.72.1, is given additional weight by another factor: RV 2.41.7 belongs to one of the rare Vedic hymns that present the gods of the three “functions” who are found also on the Mitanni treaty from the fourteenth century BC. [145] There is thus good reason to regard the content of RV 2.41.7 as highly traditional.

§1.52 On the evidence of RV 2.41.7 we can conclude that the name Nā́satyā properly belonged to the father of the intelligent Sahadeva, the divine twin who is called the son of Dyaús in RV 1.181.4. The name Aśvínā, by the same token, properly belonged to the father of the warrior Nakula, the divine twin who is called the son of Súmakha in RV 1.181.4. Next we must consider whether Sahadeva’s reputation for “intelligence” also characterized the divine twin who was properly called Nā́satyā. The answer to this question is again yes, and the evidence is provided by the twins’ Vedic epithet dasrā́. This epithet, which is used 44 times of the twins, means “miracle-working (wundertätig),” and it relates to the twins’ function as “magic healers”: twice they are called dasrā́ bhiṣájā(u), “miracle-working physicians.” [146] Etymologically dasrā́ means simply “clever, skillful”: these are the meanings of the exact Avestan cognate daŋrō, and the Vedic adjective too must have implied “intelligence.” [147] What {67|68} associates this epithet with the twin properly called Nā́satya- is a contrast between cattle and horses in three further verses of the twins’ Vedic hymns. In these verses cattle are associated with the epithet dasrá- just as they are with the name Nā́satyā in the two verses that we have already considered. In all three verses with dasrā́ the cattle side of the opposition is expressed by the same eight-syllable segment, gómad dasrā híraṇyavat, in which the dual vocative dasrā is addressed to the twins, and the words gómad, “rich in cattle,” and híraṇyavat, “rich in gold,” are neuter adjectives modifying a noun which is outside the segment. The double opposition between cattle and the epithet dasrā́ on the one hand and horses and the name Aśvínā on the other hand is clearest in RV 8.22.17, a three-segment verse, in which the collocation áśvāvad Aśvinā in the first segment balances the collocation gómad dasrā in the third segment; the neuter adjectives modify the noun vartís, “path,” in the second segment:

ā́ no áśvāvad aśvinā / vartír yāsiṣṭam madhupātamā narā / gómad dasrā híraṇyavat
Come to us (ā́ no…yāsiṣṭam) along the path (vartír) rich in horses, you Aśvínā; come, you who most enjoy the sacrificial drink, you heroes (madhupātamā narā); come along the path rich in cattle, you dasrā́, rich in gold (RV 8.22.17). [148]

In the other two Vedic verses that contain the segment gómad dasrā híraṇyavat the segment pertaining to “horses” is modified, but the contrast between “horses” and “cattle” remains clear. The first of these verses, RV 1.30.17, is a Gāyatrī, with three eight-syllable segments, and the contrasting segments are the first and the third. In this verse the syntax is varied in the segment pertaining to horses so that the adjective “rich in horses” now appears in the feminine instrumental (áśvāvatyā) to agree with the noun iṣā́, “sustenance,” and the segment gómad dasrā híraṇyavat is appended loosely, its two neuter accusative adjectives no longer agreeing with the noun that they modify:

ā́śvināv áśvāvatyā / iṣā́ yātaṃ śávīrayā / gómad dasrā híraṇyavat {68|69}
Come here (ā́yātam) with surpassing sustenance (iṣā́śávīrayā) rich in horses, you Aśvínā; rich in cattle, you dasrā́, rich in gold (RV 1.30.17).

The traditional noun which the adjectives “rich in cattle” and “rich in horses” modified in this context was vartís, “path” (as in RV 2.41.7 and 8.22.17). This noun appears again in the final example, RV 1.92.16, and the neuter adjective gómad thus agrees with it. But in the segment pertaining to “horses” the adjective áśvāvad is omitted altogether, leaving only the vocative Aśvinā to express the contrast of “horses” to “cattle.” The contrasting segments in this three-segment verse are the first and the second, which both have eight syllables, as opposed to the third segment, which has twelve syllables:

áśvinā vartír asmád ā́ / gómad dasrā híraṇyavat / arvā́g ráthaṃ sámanasā ní yachatam
Being of one mind rein in your chariot in this direction [segment 3], along the path toward us, you Aśvínā [segment 1], (which is) rich in cattle, you dasrā́, rich in gold [segment 2] (RV 1.92.16).

It is clear from a comparison of the three verses in which the segment gómad dasrā híraṇyavat occurs that this segment was itself traditional; the grammatical freedom with which the segment is used in RV 1.30.17 is a further sign of its traditionality. The evidence of RV 8.22.17, supported by the evidence of RV 1.30.17 and RV 1.92.16, leaves no doubt that in the opposition between cattle and horses in the twins’ hymns the epithet dasrā́, like the name Nā́satyā, belongs on the cattle side of the opposition. [149] {69|70}

§1.53 It was the father of Sahadeva, the epic “cowherd,” to whom the two Vedic duals, Nā́satyā and dasrā́, properly belonged. Another of the twins’ dual epithets, divó nápātā, “sons of Dyaús,” properly belonged to this twin as well: in RV 1.181.4, where the twin gods are distinguished from each other, one is called the “son of Dyaús,” the other the son of Súmakha. As we have seen, the son of Súmakha must be the father of the warrior Nakula, and the son of Dyaús, by default, must be the father of Sahadeva. In the dual epithet divó nápātā, which occurs five times of the twins, the distinctive mark of this twin is extended to both twins as a pair. This is what takes place in the case of the duals Nā́satyā and dasrā́ as well.

§1.54 The relationship between the name Nā́satyā and the epithet dasrā́, which are both associated with cattle, is one of close similarity: they are isofunctional terms in hymns of the twins that contrast cattle with horses. This close relationship between the two terms seems to have given rise to the Sanskrit epic dual form Nāsatyadasrau, which names one of the twins Nāsatya- and the other Dasra-. Wikander takes this late form as evidence for an old opposition between the name and the epithet. [150] But, as Wikander recognizes, there is no Vedic evidence for such an opposition. [151] One could even argue that two of the four verses in the Rig-Veda in which both terms occur suggest the contrary, and that the epithet dasrā́ actually serves to gloss the twins’ old name Nā́satyā. In one such verse the twins are invoked as having restored a mortal’s eyes; the mortal is Ṛjrāśva, who was blinded by his father after he offered a hundred rams to a she-wolf: the verse in question is a Triṣṭubh whose final two eleven-syllable segments are:

tásmā akṣī́ nāsatyā vicákṣa / ā́dhattaṃ dasrā bhiṣajāv anarván {70|71}
To him you two Nā́satyā, you two miracle-working physicians, gave eyes to see securely (RV 1.116.16cd).

In this verse the phrase dasrā́ bhiṣájau, “miracle-working physicians,” clearly fits the context of magic healing, and it is thus tempting to think that Nā́satyā is also used to suit this context. The same is perhaps true in RV 1.116.10, which concerns the aged Cyavāna, whom the twins made young again; the name Nā́satyā occurs in the first half of this verse and the epithet dasrā́ in the second half, and both parts of the verse concern the same miraculous deed of rejuvenation. These examples cannot be pressed; [152] nevertheless they suggest how the epic compound Nāsatyadasrau may have arisen. Far from contrasting one twin with the other, this dual seems instead to be like such dual English expressions as “might and main,” “hue and cry,” and “time and tide,” in which only one of the two terms still has its own meaning, and it thus glosses the other term, which is obsolete. [153] The relationship between Nā́satyā (with a faded meaning) and dasrā́ (with a clear meaning) is similar, particularly when dasrā́, “miracle-working,” is amplified to dasrā́ bhiṣájau, “miracle-working physicians.”

§1.55 We will return to the question of how far the name Nā́satyā had lost its meaning in the Vedic period. The question that we must address first is how to interpret this name as a singular belonging only to the son of Dyaús. To this question the Sanskrit evidence, including the “intelligent” Sahadeva, offers no clue, and we must make use of comparative evidence. Fortunately there is solid comparative evidence for an Indo-European form of the twin myth, to which we now turn. The starting point for this comparison is the fact that in three Indo-European traditions, including Indic, there are twins called the sons of the Indo-European sky god *Di̯ēus. In Vedic the twins have {71|72} the epithet divó nápātā, “sons of Dyaus,” and in Greek they have the corresponding name Dióskouroi, “sons of Zeus.” The correspondence between these two traditions is confirmed by Baltic, where the Latvian twins are called Dieva dēli and the Lithuanian twins Dievo sunėliai, both meaning “sons of (the sky-)god.” [154] The Baltic traditions, which have survived into the modern era, attest another striking component of the Indo-European myth. The Baltic twins have a sister who corresponds to Helen, the sister of the Dioskouroi. Vedic has an equivalent figure, but she is the twins’ common wife rather than their sister. The name of the Vedic figure is Sūryā́, the feminized form of sū́rya, the “sun,” and this figure is also called duhitā́ sū́ryasya, “daughter of the sun.” The sister of the Baltic twins is likewise called “daughter of the sun,” Latvian saules meita and Lithuanian saulės dukterys. The corresponding Vedic and Baltic names insure the Indo-European origins of this female figure; they also insure a solar context for the Indo-European twin myth itself. [155] In Indo-European the “daughter of the sun” was apparently at once the sister and the common wife of the twins. [156] {72|73}

§1.56 The function of the Vedic twins as “saviors” and their attribute as “horsemen,” to which their names Nā́satyā and Aśvínā respectively correspond, both have Indo-European origins. The Greek Dioskouroi have the same function as “saviors” and the same attribute as “horsemen,” as do the Baltic twins. [157] It is the Greek twins that matter most to us. They are famous “horsemen,” who, for example, are called takhéōn epibḗtores híppōn, “mounters of swift horses (chariots)” in two Homeric hymns. [158] They are also “saviors” of mortals in distress, particularly at sea; [159] Homeric Hymn 33 vividly portrays one such rescue at sea, as sailors caught in a storm pray to the twins, and the twins, heeding the {73|74} prayer, fly to the rescue and calm the seas (Homeric Hymn 33.5–17; the excerpt begins with Leda, who gives birth to the two “saviors” of men and ships): [160]

κελαινεφέϊ Κρονίωνι
σωτῆρας τέκε παῖδας ἐπιχθονίων ἀνθρώπων
ὠκυπόρων τε νεῶν, ὅτε τε σπέρχωσιν ἄελλαι
χειμέριαι κατὰ πόντον ἀμείλιχον. οἱ δ' ἀπὸ νηῶν
εὐχόμενοι καλέουσι Διὸς κούρους μεγάλοιο
ἄρνεσσιν λευκοῖσιν ἐπ' ἀκρωτήρια βάντες
πρύμνης· τὴν δ' ἄνεμός τε μέγας καὶ κῦμα θαλάσσης
θῆκαν ὑποβρυχίην, οἱ δ' ἐξαπίνης ἐφάνησαν
ξουθῇσι πτερύγεσσι δι' αἰθέρος ἀΐξαντες,
αὐτίκα δ' ἀργαλέων ἀνέμων κατέπαυσαν ἀέλλας,
κύματα δ' ἐστόρεσαν λευκῆς ἁλὸς ἐν πελάγεσσι,
ναύταις σήματα καλὰ πόνου σφίσιν· οἱ δὲ ἰδόντες
γήθησαν, παύσαντο δ' ὀϊζυροῖο πόνοιο.

To the dark-clouded son of Cronus
she bore sons, saviors of men who dwell on earth
and of swift-sailing ships, whenever squalls rush
in storms across the pitiless deep. From ships men
call on the sons of great Zeus, praying,
climbing with white sheep onto the highest part
of the stern; and the great wind and the waves of the sea
have put the stern under water when suddenly they appear,
with rapid wings darting through the sky,
and immediately they stop the squalls of the hard winds,
and smoothe the waves of the white sea upon the deep,
good signs for sailors and their toil; they, seeing them,
rejoice and cease from their grievous toil.

§1.57 Distinctions found between the two Vedic twins are also closely matched by the Greek twins. The basic correspondence is dual paternity. The Greek twins as a pair are called Dióskouroi, “sons of Zeus,” but only Polydeuces {74|75} is really the son of Zeus; Castor is the son of Tyndareus. [161] Castor is further distinguished from Polydeuces in that he alone is characterized as a “horseman” when the two are contrasted with each other; Polydeuces is instead known for his boxing skill. [162] Castor is a “warrior,” and, as with the son of Sumakha in RV 1.181.4, this sets him apart from his brother, the son of the sky god. [163]

§1.58 There is another more basic contrast between the Greek twins: whereas Polydeuces, the son of Zeus, is immortal, Castor, the son of Tyndareus, is mortal. [164] This contrast is inherited from the twins’ two fathers, for Tyndareus too is a mortal. [165] Castor, who is fated to die, is killed in a battle with the twins Idas and Lynkeus, cousins of the Dioskouroi. Polydeuces brings his brother back to life by sharing his immortality with him, and by accepting a share of his brother’s mortality. Thenceforth the twins together are alive and dead on alternate days. This is the central myth of the Dioskouroi, for it explains how they were changed in mid-career from heroes to gods. It is this myth that also explains what it means for just one twin to be a “savior.” When Castor is killed Polydeuces is given a choice by Zeus between sharing his immortality with his brother or becoming entirely a god himself. As Pindar tells the myth, Polydeuces “chose the life of his brother who had perished in battle” (Nemean 10.59):

εἵλετ' αἰῶνα φθιμένου Πολυδεύκης Κάστορος ἐν πολέμῳ.

Polydeuces chose the life of Castor, who had perished in battle. {75|76}

Pindar attenuates the force of the word phthiménou, “perished,” in the actual narrative, where Polydeuces finds his brother “not yet dead, but gasping for breath.” [166] Nevertheless it is clear that when Polydeuces “opens the eye, then the voice” of Castor, [167] he brings his brother back to life in terms of the underlying myth. [168]

§1.59 An originally singular form Nā́satya- in Indo-Iranian, interpreted as “he who brings back to life and light,” is well explained by the Greek myth. The question is whether the Greek myth originated in Indo-European and also survived in Indo-Iranian. RV 1.181.4, which attests the dual paternity of the Vedic twins, shows that there was more to their myth than was commonly articulated by the Vedic poets. Sumakha, the father of one of the twins, is not called a mortal like the Greek Tyndareus, but he is known from only this one verse of the Rig-Veda and he is therefore unlikely to be a god. [169] If Sumakha was a mortal, presumably the twin who was his son was also mortal, as in the Greek myth. The distinction between an immortal and a mortal twin may be further indicated by the twins’ Vedic ritual. The evidence of the Rig-Veda is almost entirely for a morning ritual, which was the only important one for these two light-bringing divinities. [170] But in addition to the morning ritual there is also evidence for an evening ritual. In three hymns of the Rig-Veda the two times, evening and morning, are paired and contrasted: doṣā́uṣási, 8.22.14; doṣā́m uṣā́saḥ, 10.39.1; doṣā́ vástor, 10.40.4. [171] The evening/morning contrast that characterizes the twins’ ritual is likely to have characterized {76|77} the twins themselves. A passage quoted by Yāska (Nirukta 12.2) supports this conclusion by stating that “one (of the twins) is called the son of night, the other the son of dawn.” [172] In terms of solar myth, just as sunrise is associated with a “return to life,” sunset is associated with “death.” If the distinction between a morning and evening ritual has to do with a distinction between the twins themselves, the myth of a mortal twin who dies and is brought back to life is indicated. Whether this myth remained alive in Vedic times we have no way of knowing. The evening ritual itself seems to have been close to extinction. [173]

§1.60 The death of a mortal twin, if it was closely associated with sunset, would have been seen as a daily occurrence. This would fit with a singular name Nā́satya-, for the role of the immortal twin in bringing his brother back to life would also have been seen as a daily occurrence. But the identification of one twin with sunset and the other twin with sunrise separates the brothers, [174] and there is another perspective from which they remain paired, even in the alternation between life and death. This perspective survives in the Greek myth where the alternation between life and death takes place on successive days and the twins themselves are thus seen as remaining together. [175] In Pindar, who emphasizes the twins’ common fate, they spend {77|78} one day on Olympus with Zeus and the next day beneath the earth at Therapne, their cult site near Sparta (Nemean 10.55–57):

μεταμειβόμενοι δ' ἐναλλὰξ ἁμέραν τὰν μὲν παρὰ πατρὶ φίλῳ
Δὶ νέμονται, τὰν δ' ὑπὸ κεύθεσι γαίας ἐν γυάλοις Θεράπνας,
πότμον ἀμπιπλάντες ὁμοῖον.

Alternating back and forth they spend one day with their father
Zeus, the next day under the depths of the earth in the hollows of Therapne,
both fulfilling a like fate. [176]

The death of the Dioskouroi on alternating days is only implied in Pindar. In Odyssey 11 it is made explicit, but in this passage, in the catalogue of heroines met by Odysseus in the underworld, the alternation between life and death takes place entirely beneath the earth (Odyssey 11.298–304):

καὶ Λήδην εἶδον, τὴν Τυνδαρέου παράκοιτιν,
ἥ ῥ' ὑπὸ Τυνδαρέῳ κρατερόφρονε γείνατο παῖδε,
Κάστορά θ' ἱππόδαμον καὶ πὺξ ἀγαθὸν Πολυδεύκεα,
τοὺς ἄμφω ζωοὺς κατέχει φυσίζοος αἶα·
οἳ καὶ νέρθεν γῆς τιμὴν πρὸς Ζηνὸς ἔχοντες
ἄλλοτε μὲν ζώουσ' ἑτερήμεροι, ἄλλοτε δ' αὖτε
τεθνᾶσιν· τιμὴν δὲ λελόγχασιν ἶσα θεοῖσι. {78|79}

And I saw Leda, the wife of Tyndareus,
who under Tyndareus gave birth to two strong-minded sons,
horse-breaking Castor and Polydeuces, good with his fists,
both of whom the life-giving earth holds alive;
and they, having honor from Zeus even under the ground,
are alive on alternate days, and then in turn
they are dead; and they receive honor equal to the gods.

This passage, with the phrase “under the earth,” comes close to picturing the twins as heroes rather than gods. [177] Like Pindar, the passage in Odyssey 11 seems to have the twins’ cult site at Therapne in mind; [178] hero cults are strongly localized, and that is how the twins’ worship is here portrayed. The twins are in fact half heroes and half gods, and this passage emphasizes their heroic side, rooted in the earth. [179] In their career before the climactic death and return to life of Castor the twins are imagined entirely as heroes. In Iliad 3, when Helen looks out from the walls of Troy, she expects to see her brothers fighting with the other Achaean heroes for her return; thus they once fought for her when Theseus carried her off to Aphidna. [180] When she cannot see her {79|80} brothers she thinks that they either stayed home in Lacedaemon or avoid battle out of shame for her (Iliad 3.236–242). But in fact, the poet says, the life-giving earth held them fast in Lacedaemon (Iliad 3.243–244):

ὣς φάτο, τοὺς δ' ἤδη κάτεχεν φυσίζοος αἶα
ἐν Λακεδαίμονι αὖθι φίλῃ ἐν πατρίδι γαίῃ.

So she spoke, but already the life-giving earth held them
there in Lacedaemon in their dear fatherland.

This passage even more than Odyssey 11 portrays the twins as dead heroes, buried in their homeland: the first line closely parallels Odyssey 11.301, except that it omits the word zōoús, “alive.” But if the Iliad does not use the word zōoús, it also does not exclude it. Rather the two Homeric passages complement each other, the Iliad making explicit the location of the twins’ grave in Lacedaemon, the Odyssey making explicit the twins’ continued existence beneath the earth there. It was possible to emphasize either the mortal or the immortal side of the twins’ dual nature. The Iliad emphasizes their mortal side more than the Odyssey does, and both Homeric passages emphasize their mortal side more than Pindar does. But in each case it is simply a matter of emphasis, for the twins themselves are both gods and heroes. [181]

§1.61 There is nothing comparable in the Vedic hymns, where the twins are treated entirely as gods. Thus, for example, they are invited to receive the Soma sacrifice like the other gods. [182] But in later tradition, {80|81} starting with the Vedic Brāhmaṇas, there is a myth that the twins were at first excluded from the Soma sacrifice because they associated too closely with mortals. It required a special act to include them in the Soma sacrifice with the other gods. Their mythic career thus has two stages to it like that of the Dioskouroi: at first they live close to mortals and do not receive sacrifices as gods; then they are accepted among the gods. [183] In one form of the myth Viṣṇu, who represents divine sacrifice as a whole, is beheaded, and the twins, as physicians, are asked to restore his head; their reward for this cure is to receive their part of the sacrifice, which is precisely the “head.” [184] The better-known form of the myth features the ascetic Cyavana, who in the Rig-Veda (there called Cyavāna) is the subject of one of the twins’ rescue myths: he is rejuvenated by the twins in his extreme old age; one hymn says that the twins made him again the “husband of girls” (pátim kanī́nām, RV 1.116.10); [185] another says that the rejuvenated Cyavāna again “arouses the desire of his bride” (RV 5.74.5). [186] In the Rig-Veda the twins are the {81|82} benefactors of the aged Cyavāna, but in the later myth Cyavana, through the power of his asceticism, is no less the benefactor of the twins, gaining their admission to the gods’ sacrifice. Cyavana’s bride in the later myth is called Sukanyā, and she is given to the aged ascetic to appease him when he is inadvertently offended. The twins, who try to seduce this ill-matched but faithful princess, are rejected by her, and Cyavana, whom the twins deride for his old age, tells them through Sukanyā that they are incomplete. To learn how they are incomplete he forces them to rejuvenate him, and then he tells them that the gods do not include them in their sacrifice at Kurukṣetra. The twins go to the gods and say that the gods worship with a headless sacrifice. The twins are then admitted to the sacrifice to restore its head, which is their libation. This is the version in the Śatapatha-Brāhmaṇa–15. [187] In the Mahābhārata Cyavana is a more potent figure still. [188] He defeats the twin gods in a contest for the hand of Sukanyā, although this is due more to her than to him. [189] His truly awesome deed in the epic is to force Indra, the king of the gods, to admit the twins to the gods’ sacrifice despite Indra’s vehement objections. Cyavana uses the power of his austerity to create the monster Māda, “intoxication,” which threatens to engulf not only the gods but the entire world. The twins thus owe their {82|83} inclusion in the gods’ sacrifice to the spiritual power of an ascetic. This is a distinctively Indian myth. [190]

§1.62 In the Indic myth, even before the twins are admitted to the gods’ sacrifice, they already have the function that characterizes them as gods in the Rig-Veda, namely saving and healing. Their nature is thus not fundamentally changed when they join the other gods, as it is in the Greek myth. The starting point for the Indic myth is precisely the twins’ old rescue myths, one of which, the myth of Cyavana, has become the specific context for their joining the other gods. The restoration of Viṣṇu’s severed head likewise derives from the twins’ old function as magic healers. What underlies the same “rescuer” function in the Greek myth, namely the immortal twin’s rescue of his mortal brother, has disappeared from the Indic myth. What remains that is directly comparable to the Greek myth is the notion that the twins are not fully gods in the first half of their career, that they are “incomplete.” Although they are not portrayed as heroes like the Greek Dioskouroi at the same stage of their career, they are nevertheless thought of as very close to mortals. This motif, the closeness of the twins to mortals, is a constant in the various versions of the myth of their inclusion in the sacrifice. In Śatapatha-Brāhmaṇa 4.1.5, for example, the motif occurs twice: when the twins encounter Sukanyā and wish to seduce her, the scene is set with the words: “the Asvins wandered over this (world) performing cures” (aśvinau ha vai idam bhiṣajyantau ceratuḥ,; and when the twins approach the gods and ask to be admitted to the sacrifice, the gods at first refuse with the words: “we will not invite you, for you have wandered about very familiarly among men, performing cures” (bahu manuṣyeṣu saṃsṛṣṭam acāriṣṭam bhiṣajyantau, [191] The original myth, in which the twins {83|84} were themselves mortal until they became gods, is lost in Indic, but it is preserved by the Greek Dioskouroi. [192]

§1.63 The Greek distinction between a mortal and an immortal twin seems to have belonged to the Indo-European form of the twin myth and at some point to have been eliminated from the Indic myth. Two further features of the Indo-European myth remain to be considered, both of which are well preserved in Indic. They both concern Sahadeva, the “intelligent cowherd,” who contrasts with Nakula, the “warrrior horseman,” in Sanskrit epic. Both parts of this contrast, as we have found, also once characterized the twin gods in the Rig-Veda: an “intelligent cowherd” is indicated by the Rig-Veda’s use of the epithet dasrā (and the name Nāsatyā) in close association with the notion of cattle; a contrasting “horseman” is indicated by the use of the name Aśvinā in the same contexts in close association with the notion of horses; in addition, one of the twins is specifically characterized as a “warrior” in the only verse of the Rig-Veda that makes explicit distinctions between the two twins (RV 1.181.4). For the Indo-European form of the myth we have already found a “warrior horseman” indicated by the close correspondence with Indic of the Greek Castor, who is a warrior, and who is distinguished from his brother the boxer by the epithet “horse-breaking”: Kástorá th’ hippódamon kaì pùx agathòn Poludeúkea (Iliad 3.237 = Odyssey 11.300). [193] To be {84|85} considered now is whether the immortal twin was associated with “cattle” and characterized by “intelligence” in the Indo-European form of the myth. In the Greek myth these traits are not marked, but they have left clear traces nonetheless, so that the answer in both cases seems to be yes. To begin with the second trait, Polydeuces’ skill as a boxer is a specialized instance of “intelligence.” [194] The evidence for this does not occur until the Hellenistic poets, but there it occurs twice. Theocritus and Apollonius of Rhodes tell the same myth of a boxing match that took place during the voyage of the Argo, when Polydeuces defeated the Bebrycian giant Amykos in his own kingdom. In both versions it is the triumph of brains over brawn. [195] The myth itself was traditional, and this feature of the myth, the cleverness of Polydeuces, was very likely traditional too. [196]

§1.64 In Apollonius, when the fight is about to begin, Polydeuces is compared to the evening star, and Amykos is compared to the monstrous offspring of Typhoeus or of Earth herself (Apollonius of Rhodes 2.38–42). When the fight actually begins Amykos is compared to a wave cresting over a ship, which the ship narrowly avoids by the “skill” of the “crafty” helmsman (hē d’ hupò tutthòn / idreíēi pukinoîo kubernētē̂ros alúskei, 2.71–72); Amykos presses his foe relentlessly, but Polydeuces, “by his cunning” (hḕn dià mē̂tin, {85|86} 2.75), avoids his opponent’s onrush. “Perceiving” (noḗsas, 2.76) his opponent’s brutish fighting, both his strengths and his weaknesses, Polydeuces holds his ground, gains the advantage, and delivers a fatal blow. In Theocritus’s version (Theocritus 22) Polydeuces gains an initial advantage by maneuvering Amykos into the sun’s glare, and the poet congratulates him for outwitting the big man with his “skill” (idreíēi mégan ándra parḗluthes, ō̂ Polúdeukes, Theocritus 22.85). In Theocritus Amykos is compared to Tityos as he presses in against his foe with his eyes to the ground, but Polydeuces stands firm and pummels him on this side and that with both hands in turn (22.91–96). [197] Amykos reels with the blows and spits blood, and his eyes are swollen shut; Polydeuces throws feints from every direction, [198] and when he “perceives” (enóēse, 22.103) that Amykos is baffled he knocks him to the ground. The fight continues when Amykos gets up, and it ends when he is knocked down again and swears to cease forcing strangers to fight with him when they enter his kingdom.

§1.65 There is a second striking piece of evidence for the “intelligence” of Polydeuces: Mnāsínoos is the name of his son on two works of art from the sixth century BC. Both of the Dioskouroi had sons by the daughters of Leukippos, and on the two works of art in question the name of Castor’s son was Ánaxis or Anaxías. Pausanias describes both works: a statue group in the temple of the Dioskouroi in Argos (2.22.5), and a relief sculpture on a throne in the temple of Apollo at Amyklai (3.18.13). The statue group in Argos, by the sculptors Dipoinos and Skyllis, represented the two daughters of Leukippos, Hilaeira and Phoibe, the two Dioskouroi, and their two sons, Ánaxis and Mnāsínous; the throne in Amyklai, by the sculptor Bathykles, contained, among others, mounted figures of Anaxías and Mnāsínous and mounted figures of the two Dioskouroi. Pausanias does not match the two sons with the two fathers, or the two fathers with the two mothers. But “Apollodorus” 3.11.2, who presents the variant forms Anṓgōn and Mnēsíleōs of the sons’ names, makes the affiliations explicit: Castor had Anogon by Hilaeira, Polydeuces had Mnesileos by Phoibe. [199] To use the names attested by Pausanias for the Archaic period, {86|87} Castor’s son was Ánaxis or Anaxías, and Polydeuces’ son was Mnāsínous (i.e. Mnāsínoos). The name of Castor’s son contains the element anaxi-, which occurs in such compound forms as anaxiphórminx, Anaxídāmos, Anaxagóras, etc. [200] The name is thus related to ánax, “lord, king”/anássō, “rule,” and to ánakes, the cult title of the Dioskouroi in Sparta. Mnāsínoos, the name of Polydeuces’ son, is a particular type of Greek compound named after the compound terpsímbrotos, “delighting mortals” (cf. the compounds with first element anaxi- cited above). The first element, Mnāsí- (Attic-Ionic Mnēsí-), contains the (enlarged) root *mn-ā (<*mn- 2) and means “remembering,” as in the adjective mnēsíkakos, “remembering evil, vindictive.” [201] Mnāsínoos has the interesting meaning “remembering nóos.” How exactly this meaning should be construed is not clear, but the importance of the name is not its precise reference, but the connection it establishes between Polydeuces, the immortal twin, and nóos, “mind.” For our purposes it is enough to say that the name of Polydeuces’ son confirms Polydeuces’ own characterization in terms of “intelligence.” [202] {87|88}

§1.66 The final element to be established for the Indo-European form of the twin myth is the immortal twin’s association with “cattle.” The Vedic twin called “son of Dyaus” has a clear association with cattle when Sanskrit epic is taken into account. [203] Greek, however, has nothing like the clear opposition of Sanskrit epic between Sahadeva the cowherd and Nakula the horseman, or the Vedic text that opposes the names Nā́satyā and Aśvínā in terms of cattle and horses (RV 2.41.7). The distinction between cattle and horses exists in Greek, but it is not emphasized in our sources, despite the fact that it figures in the twins’ central myth. This myth actually has two episodes, the second of which is the battle between cousins in which the warrior Castor dies. In Pindar, our oldest source for the myth, all attention is focused on this second episode, except for a brief allusion to the first episode, which is a cattle raid: in the introduction to the narrative Idas is said to have wounded Castor with his spear “out of anger for some cattle” (amphì bousín pōs kholōtheís, Nemean 10.60). We cannot be certain about the specifics of this episode; [204] but the mere fact that there are two episodes, a cattle raid followed by a battle, is itself highly significant in this central myth of the Dioskouroi. [205] This much {88|89} of the Greek evidence must suffice for now to establish the association with cattle of the immortal twin in the Indo-European myth. [206]

§1.67 There is a close correspondence between Indic and Greek regarding oppositions between the two twins. The Vedic name Nā́satyā completes the picture of these oppositions if it indicates that in Indo-Iranian, as in Greek, an immortal twin had the function of bringing his mortal brother back to life. What precisely did the name Nā́satyā mean? I have proposed an etymology that presupposes that the name was originally singular like its Iranian cognate Nā̊ŋhaiθya. [207] The starting point for this etymology is the {89|90} Sanskrit cognate of Greek néomai, namely násate, “approach, resort to, join.” [208] Although the Sanskrit verb and its Greek cognate are classified as “middle only verbs” (media tantum), we have already seen that Greek had an easily reconstructed active verb néō, “bring back,” beside the middle verb néomai, “return.” I believe that Indo-Iranian had the same active verb, *násati, beside the middle verb násate. [209] The active verb, in my view, is contained in the name Nā́satyā, which I have proposed to derive from an archaic syntagma, *nasati-ya, “he who brings back to life,” of which the first element is the third person singular of the verb in question and the second element is the relative pronoun ya-; Nā́satyā is then the nominalization (with vṛddhi lengthening of the root vowel) of this syntagma. This proposal follows exactly Gregory Nagy’s proposal for the etymology of Old Persian xšāyaθiya-, “king” (New Persian šāh), namely, that the underlying Iranian form *xšāyatya- is the nominalization (with vṛddhi) of an archaic syntagma *kšayati-ya “he who has power.” [210] Nagy proposed this etymology on the basis of evidence for similar formations in Celtic as discussed by Calvert Watkins. [211] Watkins himself, in discussing the Celtic evidence, noted that the syntactic order of third person verb followed by relative pronoun is well attested in Vedic. This is significant for the proposed reconstruction of Vedic Nā́satyā/Avestan Nā̊ŋhaiθya, and of Old Persian xšāyaθiya-. [212] {90|91}

§1.68 The reconstruction *nasati-ya, “he who brings back to life,” is supported by the scansion of Vedic Nā́satyā. In 67 of 100 occurrences in the Rig-Veda the name has four syllables instead of three. This is in sharp contrast to the name Ā́ditya-, which has the same metrical shape as Nā́satya-, but which requires resolution of one of its syllables in only 7 of 135 occurrences. This contrast in metrical behavior casts further doubt on the proposal to derive Nā́satya-, like Ā́ditya-, from an abstract noun in -ti-; the difference in metrical behavior between the two names suggests that they are also derived by different processes. [213] I propose that the metrical resolution in fully two-thirds of the occurrences of Nā́satyā in the Rig-Veda has an etymological basis in the combination of third-person singular verbal ending and {91|92} relative pronoun (-ti ya-). The original scansion of the name, in other words, was Nā́satiyā, and this accounts for the striking preponderence of four-syllable as opposed to three-syllable instances of the name. [214] The additional complication, however, is that the four-syllable form of the name can also be scanned Náasatyā, with resolution of -ā- in the initial syllable into -aa-, and it is not easy to say which pattern of resolution, Nā́satiyā or Náasatyā, was actually used. Vedic meter, which like Greek meter is based on the alternation of long and short syllables, is a matter of rhythmical tendencies, in contrast to the more fixed patterns of Greek meter (i.e. of Greek lyric meters, which, like Vedic meters, have fixed syllable counts). The rhythmical patterns Nā́satiyā ( — ⏑ ⏑ — ) and Náasatyā ( ⏑ ⏑ — — ) are each favored in different positions in the verse, but they are not required in those positions. Thus it is possible that only one of the two patterns was used in all 67 instances of resolution, but which of the two patterns this would have been does not emerge. [215] A more balanced view is that both rhythmical patterns seem to have been used in the Rig-Veda. [216] I believe that this was in fact the case, but I would argue that {92|93} Nā́sati-, reflecting the etymology of the name, was the original rhythm, and that this rhythm was altered as the original meaning of the name was forgotten. The new rhythm was -asatyā, which reinterprets the name as the colorless (but synchronically transparent) “not untrue ones.” [217] The shift from one rhythm to the other was of course gradual, hence the apparent use of both rhythms in the Rig-Veda. The four-syllable rhythm itself, as I have interpreted it, is a great archaism, going back to Common Indo-Iranian. It was only in poetic diction that the name still had four syllables; in the natural language the name had three syllables, and 33 (one third) of the examples of the name in the Rig-Veda reflect this new synchronic reality. [218] I think it is a measure of how deeply rooted the four-syllable form of the name was in the traditional diction of the Rig-Veda that the original number of syllables was preserved in a majority of instances even as this four-syllable form developed a new rhythm and a new meaning. [219]

§1.69 We have reconstructed the syntagma *nasati-ya, “he who brings back to life and light,” as the basis of the Common Indo-Iranian name Nā́satya-. There is good reason to think that this syntagma described not only a mythic act, in which an immortal twin brought his mortal brother back to life, but also a mental function. [220] The original context for the combined mythic act and mental function was the Indo-European twin myth, from which Greek Néstōr and Greek nóos (as I argue) also derive. We may ask exactly {93|94} what the mental function was that was represented by this myth. Since the solar context of the twin myth contrasts sunrise and sunset perhaps the basic notion was simply “consciousness” as opposed to “unconsciousness,” in the daily alternation between the two. [221] “Consciousness” suits the basic myth of the Dioskouroi, in which Polydeuces “opens the eye, then the voice” of his fallen brother (ἀνὰ δ' ἔλυσεν μὲν ὀφθαλμόν, ἔπειτα δὲ φωνὰν χαλκομίτρα Κάστορος, Pindar Nemean 10.90). In Vedic the idea that the returning light of day sets the mind in motion is present even apart from the twins’ hymns, [222] and the twins themselves are twice called dhiyaṃjinvā́, “thought-awakening,” in the context of their morning ritual (RV 1.182.1, 8.26.6); [223] in a third verse (8.5.35) they are called by the equivalent epithet dhī́javanā, “thought-awakening.” [224] But “consciousness” is just the starting point in defining the mental function represented by the twin myth. [225] The key to the more developed mental functions represented by this myth is the Greek Néstōr insofar as he personifies nóos, “mind,” in his own myths and in his role in the Homeric poems. We will consider this aspect of the Homeric figure as we examine his Homeric role in the next part of this study. We have now reached the point where the double comparison between the Nā́satyā Aśvínā and hippóta Néstōr puts the Homeric figure squarely in the frame of the Indo-European twin myth, and we must now address his myth accordingly. {94|95}


[ back ] 117. The 99 occurrences of the dual include a single instance of the compound name Indranāsatyā (“Indra and the Nā́satyā”). In addition to the 99 occurrences of the dual there is one occurrence of a singular Nā́satya- (RV 4.3.6; see n1.207 below).

[ back ] 118. The name occurs twice in the Avesta (Vīdēvdāt 10.9 and 19.43).

[ back ] 119. For dual forms like Homeric Aíante as originally meaning “Ajax and his brother” (“elliptic duals”), see Wackernagel 1877.

[ back ] 120. For discussion of the Iranian demon see Frame 1978:169–170 (with bibliography); cf. also §1.67 below.

[ back ] 121. The name occurs on a treaty in the fourteenth century BC between the Mitanni king Matiwāza and the Hittite king Suppiluliuma; for the Mitanni evidence, see Mayrhofer 1966:14–15, Burrow 1973:27–30. The same group of gods found in Mitanni is found (with the addition of the war god Vāyu) in two hymns of the Rig-Veda; these gods have been interpreted by Dumézil as the Indic representatives of what he calls the three “functions” of Indo-European ideology: priestly magic and authority (Mitra and Varuṇa), war (Indra and Vāyu), and agricultural production and fertility (the twin gods). In India the three functions of Indo-European ideology became rigidified as three castes: brahmans (priests), kṣatriyas (warriors), and vaiśyas (agricultural producers). Hence the gods of the three functions are also gods of these three castes, and the twins in particular are the vaiśya gods.

[ back ] 122. One of these, deriving the name from na-a-satya, “not-un-true,” may have originated already in the Vedic period. Although this derivation is first found in Pāṇini, the name’s metrical pattern in the Rig-Veda may already have suggested it (see §1.68 below). There are good formal and semantic reasons for rejecting this derivation: na- instead of an- for “not” in such a compound would be highly unusual, and the meaning “not untrue” (or “not unreal”) is too abstract and undistinctive to be old; cf. Lommel 1951:29. A different derivation, nāsā-tya, “nose-born,” is given by Yāska (Nirukta 6.13) and this too, although it has been defended in modern times (Lommel 1951:29–31), must be rejected. The story on which it is based is found in the Bṛhaddevatā 6.162–6.167.7 to RV 10.17.1–2: the twins’ mother Saraṇyū conceived them when she and her husband Vivasvat, in the form of horses, attempted to mate; the seed of Vivasvat fell on the ground and Saraṇyū breathed it in through her nostrils. This myth, which has a close parallel in the Purāṇas (see Lommel 1951:30), cannot have to do with the original meaning of the name Nā́satyā. The decisive objection, which will be argued in detail below, is that Nā́satyā was originally singular and designated one twin in opposition to the other. The interpretation “nose-born,” which must concern both twins equally, is thus to be rejected. Another derivation, (i.e. nar = netar-) + satya, “true leaders,” is clearly impossible (Böhtlingk and Roth 1855–1875, who cite all three etymologies, do not give the source for this one).

[ back ] 123. The basic evidence for the existence of the root *nes- in Sanskrit is the middle verb násate, “approach, resort to, join,” an exact cognate of Greek néomai; for the meanings of the Sanskrit verb, which have developed too far to shed light on the original Indo-European verb, see n1.68 above. For Gothic nasjan, “save, heal,” see n1.77 above. The comparison of Gothic nasjan with Vedic Nā́satyā was first suggested by Brunnhofer 1892:99 (cited by Güntert 1923:259 and Lommel 1951:29). The problem has been to explain the morphology of Nā́satyā. Güntert proposed the most widely accepted solution (Debrunner accepts it [Wackernagel-Debrunner 1957:939], and Mayrhofer, to whom a derivation from *nes- seems likely, regards Güntert’s solution as the best [Mayrhofer 1956–1980 s.v.; 1986ff. s.v.]). Güntert began with the Indo-Iranian ancestor of Sanskrit násate, to which he ascribed the meaning “hasten to safety” on the basis of the Germanic evidence. He then posited a nominal derivative *nasati-, “salvation through hastening to the rescue,” on the parallel of vasatí-, “dwelling,” from vásati, “to dwell.” The name Nā́satyā would then be derived from *nasati- just as the name Ā́ditya- (used of a particular group of gods) is derived from the abstract noun áditi- (“unboundedness”). Güntert’s solution is possible, but the hypothetical abstract noun *nasati- is weak. One would expect *nasti- in view of Gothic ga-nists, “salvation,” or even *asti- on the basis of Indo-Iranian astam, “home” (for Gothic ganists, see Frame 1978:128). In addition the names Nā́satya- and Ā́ditya-, which have the same metrical shape, are treated differently in Vedic verse with regard to metrical resolutions, and this makes it doubtful that the two were created through the same process of word formation (see §1.68 below). I have proposed a different solution for the formation of Nā́satyā, which assumes that the name, in line with Avestan Nā̊ŋhaiθya, was originally singular. I will return to the question of word formation at the end of this discussion, once it is clear that the name Nā́satyā had to do with distinctions between the twins, and that it properly named one twin in opposition to the other.

[ back ] 124. n1.77 and §1.27 above.

[ back ] 125. Cf. also RV 1.117.4, another reference to the myth of Rebha: “you two, by your miraculous powers, put him back together again when he had come apart” (sáṃ táṃ riṇītho víprutaṃ dáṃsobhir). For other references to this myth see Geldner 1951–1957 on RV 1.116.24.

[ back ] 126. Geldner takes pitṛ́bhya ā́ as “to his parents,” but the Rig-Veda always uses the dual when the meaning is “parents,” and the case ending (ablative) is against the meaning “to.” For other references to the myth of Bhujyu, see Geldner on RV 1.116.3–5.

[ back ] 127. RV 1.117.24 and 10.65.12.

[ back ] 128. Rebha, who was bound, stabbed, and cast into the waters for ten nights and nine days, is evidently conceived as having been saved by the twins at dawn on the tenth day.

[ back ] 129. Vedic nírṛti- can be either the goddess or the concept of “destruction” or “dissolution,” and it is not clear which is meant in this verse. The related verbal adjective nírṛta- is applied to Vandana in 1.119.7: “Vandana, who was decomposed by old age (nírṛtaṃ jaraṇyáyā), you miracle-workers put back together again (sám invathaḥ) as craftsmen do a chariot.”

[ back ] 130. RV 1.183.6, 1.184.6, and 7.73.1. The same phrase occurs in RV 1.92.6 to Uṣas.

[ back ] 131. See §1.55 below for the twins’ close connection with a female figure called alternatively Sūryā́ (the feminized form of sū́rya, “sun”) and duhitā́ sū́ryasya, “daughter of the sun.”

[ back ] 132. They are “elliptic duals” (cf. n1.119 above).

[ back ] 133. Cf. RV 5.73.4, which says that the twins were “born differently” (nā́nā jātāú) but does not elaborate further.

[ back ] 134. The meaning of the Vedic noun makháḥ in the name Súmakha is difficult to determine on its own and more than one etymology is possible; see Mayrhofer 1956–1980 s.v. For a possible connection with Greek μάχομαι see (besides Mayrhofer) Chantraine 1999 s.v. Grassmann 1873 glosses súmakha as “schön (kräftig) kämpfend, kampftüchtig”; cf. also Güntert 1923:257–258. The complete text of RV 1.181.4 is as follows:

ihéha jātā́ sám avāvaśītām / arepásā tanvā̀ nā́mabhiḥ svaíḥ
jiṣṇúr vām anyáḥ súmakhasya sūrír / divó anyáḥ subhágaḥ putrá ūhe
Born in different places the two faultless ones agreed in body [or the two agreed in faultless body] and in their names; one of them (is considered) the conquering, lordly (son) of Sumakha, the other is considered the bountiful son of Dyaus.

[ back ] 135. As Wikander 1957 demonstrates.

[ back ] 136. The gods are those of the three Indo-European “functions,” as Wikander 1947 showed; part of Wikander’s article was translated from Swedish to French by Dumézil 1948:37–53. The only difference from the Vedic scheme (see n1.121 above) is that Mitra and Varuṇa, the two “first-function” gods of Vedic, have been replaced by Dharma, “moral right,” in the epic scheme: Dharma is the father of Yudhiṣṭhira, the oldest of the Pāṇḍavas; Indra and Vāyu, the war gods, are the fathers of Bhīma and Arjuna, who are next in age; and the Aśvins are the fathers of Nakula and Sahadeva, the youngest of the Pāṇḍavas.

[ back ] 137. The references, which are Wikander’s, are to the Bombay and the Calcutta edition of the Mahābhārata. Note that when the twins are characterized as a pair at their birth, both are said to possess incomparable beauty (see Dumézil 1968:56 on Mahābhārata 1.124.4836–4852 [critical edition 1.115]; this illustrates how the distinctive attribute of one twin is automatically shared by the other if the context does not specify distinctions between them.

[ back ] 138. Wikander 1957:73–74.

[ back ] 139. Yudhiṣṭhira interprets the deaths of Arjuna, Bhīma, and Draupadī (the Pāṇḍavas’ common wife) in the same way in this episode; see Dumézil 1968:81–82 for each character’s flaw as that character’s essential feature.

[ back ] 140. Sahadeva’s “intelligence” is also a marked feature in two aberrant traditions of the Mahābhārata, as Dumézil 1968:82–85 has shown. The first of these is the Persian account of the “Sons of Pan” (see Dumézil 1968:82–83). According to this text, each of the five sons received a particular talent as a result of his teacher’s prayers; Sahadeva, “who looked for wisdom and who did not speak unless spoken to, asked for the science of the stars and a knowledge of hidden matters.” The other aberrant version is that of the eighteenth-century Swiss Colonel de Polier, who studied with an Indian teacher and whose extensive notes, including a résumé of the Mahābhārata, were published as La Mythologie des Indous by his cousin, the Chanoinesse de Polier, in 1809 (see Dumézil 1968:42–43 for the nature and value of this text). In the Mahābhārata of the Colonel de Polier, the five Pāṇḍavas are all characterized at their births, and Sahadeva is called “the most enlightened of mortals, the most perspicacious, and the most learned in the knowledge of past, present, and future” (see Dumézil 1968:84). The fault that causes Sahadeva’s death in this version is more particular than it is in the vulgate: Sahadeva did not tell his brothers that their mother Kuntī had had a son (Karṇa) by the sun god Sūrya before they were born, “although he had penetrated this mystery by means of his great intelligence” (see Dumézil 1968:85).

[ back ] 141. For the divine twins as the vaiśya gods see n1.121 above; for the twins’ disguises at Virāṭa’s court see Dumézil’s translation of Wikander 1947 (Dumézil 1948:48). The disguises of all five Pāṇḍavas reflect the natures of their divine fathers, who are the gods of the three castes, brahmans, kṣatriyas (warrriors), and vaiśyas; see Dumézil 1948:48–50 and 1968:70–71 for the disguises of the three older brothers: Yudhiṣṭhira as a dice-playing brahman, Arjuna as a eunuch dancemaster, and Bhīma as a butcher. In Vedic the two war gods Indra and Vāyu represent different aspects of warfare, Indra the warrior’s finesse, Vāyu (whose name means the “wind”) brute force; this difference is reflected in their sons Arjuna and Bhīma, whose disguises as dance master and butcher show the difference clearly. Strictly speaking Yudhiṣṭhira does not disguise himself, for his brahman code does not allow it.

[ back ] 142. Wikander 1957:76. Sahadeva expresses his preference for and competence in handling cattle in 4.3.67–72 and 4.10.288–293 (English translation van Buitenen 1978:29–30, 39–40; van Buitenen follows the Poona [critical] edition of the Mahābhārata, in which the second passage is 4.9, not 4.10).

[ back ] 143. For the following analysis see Frame 1978:146–152; in it I depart from Wikander, who did not notice the evidence in question and was thus misled about the name Nā́satyā (cf. §1.54 below).

[ back ] 144. RV 2.41.7 is a Gāyatrī, consisting of three eight-syllable segments. The verse’s simple prose message, ū ṣúyātamvartís, “quickly come on the path,” is deployed across all three segments of the verse, one word per segment (ū ṣú, “quickly,” in the first segment functions as one word). Each segment also contains a neuter adjective modifying the noun vartís, “path,” and a dual vocative addressed to the twins. There are thus three words in each segment, each with a separate function. The arrangement of these three words is identical in the first two segments, but in the third segment it is different: the order 1, 2, 3 of the first two segments (neuter adjective, prose message, dual vocative) becomes 2, 3, 1 in the third segment (prose message, dual vocative, neuter adjective). The different word order of the third segment puts the twins’ epithet rudrā, “ruddy,” and the neuter adjective nṛpā́yyam, “man-protecting,” outside the double contrast of the first two segments.

[ back ] 145. For the Mitanni gods as the representatives of the three “functions” of Indo-European society, see n1.121 above; for a modified form of the same group of gods embedded in the structure of Sanskrit epic, see n1.136 above. This manifestly old scheme of gods is found in a few hymns of the Rig-Veda (see Dumézil 1947:45–56, 1968:51), among which RV 2.41 has a particularly clear structure. The first nine verses of RV 2.41 are arranged in three groups of three verses each: verses 1–3 are addressed to Indra and Vāyu, the second-function gods; verses 4–6 are addressed to Mitra and Varuṇa, the first-function gods; and verses 7–9 are addressed to the twins, the third-function gods. Our attention has been focused on the first verse of the three verses addressed to the twins, RV 2.41.7. The other principal text for this scheme of gods, which Dumézil also analyzes, is RV 1.139.1–3; Dumézil cites two further texts, RV 1.2 and, “with alterations,” RV 1.23, but neither of these includes the twins.

[ back ] 146. RV 1.116.16 and 8.86.1.

[ back ] 147. The Indo-Iranian adjective contains the root*dn̥s-, which is also found in Greek daē̂nai, “learn,” and daḯphrōn, “wise [in mind], prudent” (see Mayrhofer 1956–1980 s.v. dasráḥ). For the connotation of intelligence of the Vedic adjective note the collocation dasra mantumaḥ, “you miracle-working wise one,” which twice modifies the god Pūṣan (RV 1.42.5 and 6.56.4). This collocation corresponds to the Avestan collocation daṇgrā maṇtū, “by wise resolution” (Yasna 46.17), and a Common Indo-Iranian origin for the phrase is thus indicated (see Schmitt 1967:160–161). Related to the Vedic adjective is the Vedic neuter noun dáṃsaḥ, “miraculous power, wonderful deed,” to which Greek dḗnea, “counsels, plans,” corresponds (see Mayrhofer 1956–1980, Frisk 1960–1972 s.vv.). The Vedic noun dáṃsaḥ, like the Vedic adjective dasrá-, is used in relation to the twins’ miraculous cures, as in the myth of Rebha: “you two, by your miraculous powers (dáṃsobhir), put him back together again when he had come apart” (RV 1.117.4, quoted n1.125 above); the twins are five times called purudáṃsaḥ, “having many marvelous deeds.” As the cognates of dáṃsaḥ and dasrá- all show, what is taken in Vedic as “miraculous” is in origin a matter of “intelligence.” Geldner translates the dual vocative dasrā as “ihr Meister,” which captures the basic sense of “skillful”; Gonda 1959:115 translates the epithet as “exhibiting marvellous skill.”

[ back ] 148. In this verse the first and third segments, which have eight syllables, are parallel, and the second segment, which has twelve syllables, is not; the double contrast is articulated in the two parallel segments. The articulation of RV 2.41.7, analyzed in n1.144 above, is similar insofar as two of the verse’s three segments are parallel, the third not.

[ back ] 149. Gonda 1959:115 argues that the twins’ epithet dasrā́ has to do with their skill as horsemen; but in ten of eleven verses that he cites to support this argument dasrā́ occurs in the same verse with Aśvínā, and an opposition between these two terms (dasrā́ and Aśvínā) rather than an equivalence is most likely at issue (cf. n1.151 below). Gonda draws particular attention to the epithet híraṇyavartani-, which occurs six times in the dual of the twins (and twice in the singular of rivers); in five of the six occurrences of the twins the vocative collocation dásrā (dasrā́) híraṇyavartanī makes up an eight-syllable verse segment. Gonda (with Geldner) understands híraṇyavartanī to mean “having gold wheel rims,” and he infers from this meaning a connection between the twins’ skill as horsemen and the epithet dasrā́, with which híraṇyavartanī is collocated. While the feminine noun vartaní can mean “wheel rim,” its more common meaning is “path,” which is (as we have seen) the meaning of the closely related noun vartís (for vartaní of the twins’ “path,” see RV 4.45.3). The verse segment dásrā híraṇyavartanī cannot be separated from the verse segment gómad dasrā híraṇyavat, in which the two neuter adjectives, gómad and híraṇyavat, modify the noun vartís, “path,” which is outside the verse segment itself; in dásrā híraṇyavartanī the noun vartís is simply incorporated within the verse segment through its equivalent vartaní. The epithet dásrā in this verse segment has no more to do with the twins’ skill as horsemen than it does in the verse segment with the adjective gómad, “rich in cattle.”

[ back ] 150. Wikander 1957:77, 81, 84.

[ back ] 151. Wikander 1957:81: “pour ce qui concerne les termes nāsatyā et dasrā, on n’observe nulle part, dans les texts vediques, une relation claire entre les deux, ni d’opposition ni d’autre sort”; Wikander rightly rejects Geldner’s contention that the terms Nā́satyā and dasrā́, wherever they occur in the twins’ hymns, represent the result of a split dual compound containing two opposed terms; the basic problem with this argument is that the two terms Nā́satyā and dasrā́ occur only rarely (four times) in the same verse. Wikander’s own attempt to apply a similar argument to other epithets of the twins is interesting but does not bear on the name Nā́satyā; his main result is to show that, by the criterion of frequent co-occurrence in the same verse, it is the two dual terms dasrā́ and Aśvínā that are opposed to each other (Aśvínā occurs in the same verse in 24 of 44 instances of dasrā́ in the twins’ hymns; cf. Frame 1978:147, 149–150). Wikander’s supposition that the Iranian figure Nā̊ŋhaiθya was demonized because he was a warrior and a “horseman” has no positive evidence to support it (cf. Frame 1978:169–170).

[ back ] 152. In the abstract there is no way to distinguish verses in which two dual terms reinforce each other from those in which they contrast with each other, or in which no particular relationship may be present. For example, the duals divó nápātā and Aśvínā each properly designate a different twin (on this there is agreement), and both terms occur in a verse, RV 1.117.12, whose context is again a miraculous rescue: this verse says that the twins dug up a buried mortal (perhaps Vandana) on the tenth day “like a pot of gold,” and in the first half of this verse the twins are called divó nápātā, in the second half Aśvínā.

[ back ] 153. “Main” and “hue” are no longer independent nouns in English (“hue” in the meaning “color” has a separate etymology); English “tide,” cognate with German “Zeit” (cf. “noontide,” “Yuletide,” etc., for the meaning “time”), still exists as an independent noun in English but with a new meaning. Two other examples of such phrases are “wrack and ruin” and “part and parcel” (“parcel” still means “part” in e.g. Shakespeare Henry IV, Part 1, 3.2.164). Not all English “twin words” are synonyms (in the phrase “kith and kin” “kith” means friends, not relatives). The alliteration of the English expressions (apart from “hue and cry”) does not apply to the two Sanskrit names.

[ back ] 154. Ward 1968 offers a convenient summary of the comparative evidence for the Indo-European twin myth; the main source for the Baltic twins is popular songs, Latvian dainas and Lithuanian dainos (Ward 1968:9–10).

[ back ] 155. The Greek Helen is called the daughter of Helios in the late first-century/early second-century AD Ptolemaios Chennos Nova Historia as excerpted by Photius Bibliotheca 190, Bekker p. 149a. See Dihle RE ‘Ptolemaios’ 1862 no. 77 for this generally unreliable source. It is possible, given the Vedic and Baltic correspondences, that even so late a source as this has preserved something old (cf. Ward 1968:11). In Helen the Indo-European female figure associated with the twins was apparently combined with a native Aegean vegetation deity; cf. Helénē dendrī̂tis in Rhodes, Pausanias 3.19.10, and a plane tree sacred to Helen in Sparta, Theocritus 18.45–48. For Helen as a vegetation deity see Nilsson 1967:315, 487; for Helen as an Indo-European figure see Clader 1976. Steets 1993 is a recent study of the Indo-European female figure. For Helen’s divine status in Sparta, cf. EN1.1 to n1.181 below.

[ back ] 156. The Vedic Sūryā́ characteristically mounts the twins’ chariot at dawn (e.g. RV 5.73.5, ā́ yád vāṃ sūryā́ ráthaṃ tiṣṭhad, “when Sūryā mounts your chariot…”); as “daughter of the sun” she mounts their chariot (RV 1.116.17, 1.118.5, and 6.63.5) and “chooses” their chariot (RV 1.117.13 and 4.43.2). The verb avṛṇīta, “chose,” in the last two passages is significant because it reflects the twins’ role as Sūryā’s suitors, whom she “chose”; cf. RV 1.119.5, “the splendid maiden chose (avṛṇīta) you two as husbands,” and RV 7.69.4, “the maid, the daughter of the sun, chose (avṛṇīta) the beauty of you both.” The twins are called not only Sūryā’s “husbands” (pátī, RV 1.119.5, 4.43.6), but also her “suitors” (varā́, RV 10.85.8–9: the noun varā́, “suitors,” contains the root of avṛṇīta, “chose”). There is no real evidence that the wife of the Vedic twins was also their sister. There is one reference to a sister of the twins who is said to “bring” them (RV 1.180.2), but the reference in this isolated text is not clear (Macdonell 1897:51 thinks that Dawn is meant; so also Geldner 1951–1957 ad loc.). The Latvian Dieva dēli, on the other hand, are actually said to be their sister’s suitors; see Ward 1968:11 and 95n19. In Greek, where the Dioskouroi are Helen’s brothers, a second pair of brothers, Agamemnon and Menelaus, are her (successful) suitors. In the Greek myth one brother woos for the other (Agamemnon woos for Menelaus), whereas in Vedic both twins are called suitors and both are called husbands of Sūryā. This may be another case in which Vedic has lost a distinction between the twins. The Greek form of the myth appears again in the case of the brothers Melampus and Bias, who woo Nestor’s sister Pero (Melampus, like Agamemnon, woos for his brother; cf. §1.11 above); both these differentiated pairs of brothers are discussed §2.102–§2.103 below.

[ back ] 157. For the twins as “horsemen,” see Ward 1968:11–12; for their role as “saviors” and “magic healers,” see Ward 1968:14–15, 18. In Baltic tradition there are scores of Latvian dainas in which the horses of the Dieva dēli are described. Although the Dieva dēli are not saviors of mortals in distress, they row a boat to save their sister, the “daughter of the sun,” when she is drowning at sea (386–33969); another daina says that they appeared on horseback to save the sun when its sledge overturned (381–33912; see Ward 1968:95n19 for the standard collection of Latvian dainas, which he cites by page and song number). In the Baltic myth, as in the Greek myth, twin chariot drivers became twin horseback riders. The Indo-European myth of the twin horsemen has been dated to the last quarter or the end of the third millennium BC, when the horse-drawn chariot evolved in the steppes of southeastern Europe; this setting “best explains the distribution of the early chariot lore among the Aryans, Greeks and Balts” (Parpola 2004/2005:6). Cf. also Mallory 1989:136–137, 241.

[ back ] 158. Homeric Hymn 33.18 = 17.5; they are called hippótai sophoí, “skilled horsemen,” in Alcman fr. 2 Page [PMG 2], leukópōloi, “having white horses,” in Pindar Pythian 1.66; in Euripides Helen they are imagined as flying through the air with horses (μόλοιτέ ποθ' ἵππιον οἶμον / δι' αἰθέρος ἱέμενοι / παῖδες Τυνδαρίδαι, “may you come rushing through the air on the path for horses, you youthful sons of Tyndareus,” Helen 1495–1497), and as “riding over the sea” (πόντον παριππεύοντε, Helen 1665). After the Homeric period the image doubtless changes from chariot drivers to horseback riders, but the phrase takhéōn epibḗtores híppōn, “mounters of swift horses,” in the two Homeric hymns still implies chariots (cf. in Odyssey 18.263 the phrase híppōn t’ ōkupódōn epibḗtoras, “mounters of swift-footed horses,” used of the Trojans). The evidence for both Vedic twins as “horsemen” (apart from the nearly 400 occurrences of the name Aśvínā in the Rig-Veda) is summarized by Macdonell 1897:50; the twins’ chariot, which is drawn by horses in RV 1.117.2, 4.45.7, etc. is drawn by birds, eagles, swans, buffaloes, and an ass in other verses, but the comparative evidence shows that horses are old in this context.

[ back ] 159. Sōtē̂re(s), “saviors,” is both a literary epithet and a cult title: the epithet occurs in Homeric Hymn 33.6 (see below), Euripides Helen 1500 (sōtē̂re tā̂s Helénas, “Helen’s two saviors”) and 1664 (also in reference to Helen), and in Theocritus 22.6; for the cult title in Attica see Aelian Varia Historia 4.5, IG II2 4796 (Roman imperial period), and cf. Furtwängler, Roscher’s Lexikon ‘Dioskuren’ 1166.

[ back ] 160. The electrical phenomenon known as St. Elmo’s fire, which appears in ships’ rigging during storms, was thought to signal the presence of the Dioskouroi.

[ back ] 161. Just as both twins are called Diòs koûroi, “sons of Zeus” (e.g. Homeric Hymn 33.1), both are also called Tundarídai, “sons of Tyndareus” (e.g. Homeric Hymn 17.2, 5; Homeric Hymn 33.2, 18; cf. Odyssey 11.299).

[ back ] 162. In epic Castor’s fixed epithet is hippódamos, “horsebreaking”; Polydeuces, on the other hand, is pùx agathós, “good with his fists” (Κάστορά θ' ἱππόδαμον καὶ πὺξ ἀγαθὸν Πολυδεύκεα, Iliad 3.237 = Odyssey 11.300), aethlophóros, “prizewinning” (Κάστορά θ' ἱππόδαμον καὶ ἀεθλοφόρον Πολυδεύκεα, Cypria fr. 11.6 Allen), and amṓmētos, “blameless” (Κάστορά θ' ἱππόδαμον καὶ ἀμώμητον Πολυδεύκεα, Homeric Hymn 33.3).

[ back ] 163. Cf. “Apollodorus” 3.11.2: “Of the sons of Leda Castor practiced the arts of war, Polydeuces boxing” (τῶν δὲ ἐκ Λήδας γενομένων παίδων Κάστωρ μὲν ἤσκει τὰ κατὰ πόλεμον, Πολυδεύκης δὲ πυγμήν).

[ back ] 164. Cypria fr. 6 Allen makes this distinction explicitly:

Κάστωρ μὲν θνητός, θανάτου δέ οἱ αἶσα πέπρωται,
αὐτὰρ ὅ γ' ἀθάνατος Πολυδεύκης, ὄζος Ἄρηος.

Castor was mortal, and a fate of death was allotted to him,
but Polydeuces, scion of Ares, was immortal.

[ back ] 165. In Pindar Nemean 10.80–82 Zeus tells Polydeuces that he, Polydeuces, is his own son, but that a “hero” fathered Castor: ἐσσί μοι υἱός· τόνδε δ' ἔπειτα πόσις / σπέρμα θνατὸν ματρὶ τεᾷ πελάσαις / στάξεν ἥρως, “You are my son; but as for this one, a hero afterwards instilled his mortal seed when he approached your mother as her husband.”

[ back ] 166. καί νιν οὔπω τεθναότ', ἄσθματι δὲ φρίσσοντα πνοὰς ἔκιχεν, “and he found him not yet dead, but gasping out his halting breath,” line 74.

[ back ] 167. ἀνὰ δ' ἔλυσεν μὲν ὀφθαλμόν, ἔπειτα δὲ φωνὰν χαλκομίτρα Κάστορος, “he opened the eye, and then the voice of bronze-clad Castor,” line 90.

[ back ] 168. In “Apollodorus” 3.11.2 Castor’s death is unambiguous: Idas “kills” (kteínei) Castor, and Polydeuces refuses immortality from Zeus “while Castor is a corpse” (óntos nekroû Kástoros); cf. also Cypria fr. 6 (quoted in n1.164 above), which speaks of the “fate of death” (thanátou aîsa) allotted to the mortal Castor.

[ back ] 169. While it is unlikely that a god should be named in one Vedic verse and be otherwise unknown, the name Sumakha, “good warrior,” could conceivably be an epithet of another god, such as Indra. But again it seems unlikely that such a god’s fame would be deliberately concealed through use of an otherwise unknown epithet. Dual paternity is a common feature of twin mythology and a contrast between a god and a mortal often characterizes the two fathers (cf. Ward 1968:3–8 on “universal Dioscurism,” and p. 4 on dual paternity in particular). Such a contrast would seem to be the likeliest case in Vedic even apart from the Greek comparison.

[ back ] 170. See §1.44–§1.45 above for the twins’ connection with dawn in myth and ritual; for ritual cf. also Oldenberg 1894:208, and for myth Macdonell 1897:51.

[ back ] 171. Cf. also RV 5.76.3, which bids the twins to come “day and night” (dívā náktam), but apparently a third time as well, namely “midday” (madhyáṃdine).

[ back ] 172. The Vedic twins were probably also identified with the morning and evening stars; for bibliography see Ward 1968:15–18, who considers the evidence of other Indo-European twins as well.

[ back ] 173. One of the twins’ hymns, RV 5.77.2, after calling for their morning sacrifice (prātár yajadhvam), specifically rejects the evening sacrifice, saying that it does not reach the gods (ná sāyám asti devayā́) and is unpleasing (ájuṣṭam).

[ back ] 174. The identification of the twins with the morning and evening stars also implies their separation.

[ back ] 175. The two different perspectives, though logically incompatible, probably coexisted in the Indo-European form of the myth; such a double perspective is characteristic of both the Greek and the Vedic myth. For the identification of the twins with the morning and evening stars, see Ward 1968:15–18, who regards the evidence for the Indo-European twins as “not entirely conclusive,” and points out that for the Greek twins most of the evidence is late. With respect to the Greek twins, cf. Frazer 1921, vol. 2, 32n1, on “Apollodorus” 3.11.2: “It has been plausibly argued that in one of their aspects the twins were identified with the Morning and Evening Stars respectively, the immortal twin (Pollux) being conceived as the Morning Star, which is seen at dawn rising up in the sky till it is lost in the light of heaven, while the mortal twin (Castor) was identified with the Evening Star, which is seen at dusk sinking into its earthy bed…. It would seem that this view of the Spartan twins was favoured by the Spartans themselves, for after their great naval victory at Aegospotami, at which Castor and Pollux were said to have appeared visibly in or hovering over the Spartan fleet, the victors dedicated at Delphi the symbols of their divine champions in the shape of two golden stars, which shortly before the fatal Battle of Leuctra fell down and disappeared, as if to announce that the star of Sparta’s fortune was about to set for ever” (see Cicero On Divination 1.34.75, 2.32.68 and Plutarch Lysander 12.1). For stars as attributes of the Dioskouroi in Greek iconography see Hermary LIMC ‘Dioskouroi’ nos. 232–237, 239–241, 243, 245–248; no. 232 is the Spartan dedication at Delphi after Aegospotami. For the attribute in Etruscan and Roman iconography, see De Puma LIMC ‘Dioskouroi/Tinas Cliniar’ nos. 7, 23, 24, 29, 42, 43, 46, 48, 53 and Gury LIMC ‘Dioskouroi/Castores’ 631, who comments that the star is the most systematically retained attribute of the Dioskouroi from the republican era on.

[ back ] 176. Cf. also Pythian 11.61–64:

καὶ Κάστορος βίαν,
σέ τε, ἄναξ Πολύδευκες, υἱοὶ θεῶν,
τὸ μὲν παρ' ἆμαρ ἕδραισι Θεράπνας,
τὸ δ' οἰκέοντας ἔνδον Ὀλύμπου.

And mighty Castor,
and you, lord Polydeuces, both sons of the gods,
living from day to day now in your sanctuary at Therapne,
now in Olympus.

[ back ] 177. Line 304, which says that the twins obtained “honor (i.e. sacrifices) equal to the gods’,” seems to distinguish between the twins on the one hand and the gods on the other, and this too suggests the twins’ heroic as opposed to divine status (cf. Nagy 1979:118–119 for timḗ in relation to hero cults). Note also that the mortal Tyndareus is presented as the father of the twins in this passage (11.299). The twins’ name in Sparta was Tindarídai, and the passage in Odyssey 11 seems to have this cult name in mind (for the twins’ name in Sparta, see Ziehen RE ‘Sparta [Kulte]’ 1478–1479). Zeus’s role as father is implied in Odyssey 11 (the twins live on alternate days even beneath the earth because Zeus grants them “honor,” line 302), but it is not emphasized.

[ back ] 178. Alcman also represented the Dioskouroi as living beneath the earth at Therapne according to the scholia to Euripides Troades 210: οἰκητήριόν φασι τὰς Θεράπνας τῶν Διοσκούρων παρόσον ὑπὸ τὴν γῆν τῆς Θεράπνης εἶναι λέγονται ζῶντες, ὡς Ἀλκμάν φησιν, “they say that Therapnai is the dwelling place of the Diokouroi inasmuch as they are said to be alive beneath the earth of Therapne, as Alcman says” (the quotation of Alcman’s verse has unfortunately not been preserved).

[ back ] 179. For formal differences between divine cults and hero cults, see Brelich 1958, and cf. Nagy 2005:86–89.

[ back ] 180. The story of Helen’s earlier abduction is not told in the Iliad, but it is suggested by the presence of Theseus’s mother Aithra as Helen’s attendant in Iliad 3.144. With Aithra at her side Helen approaches the Trojan elders on the city walls and looks out with them at the Achaean heroes fighting to win her back; the reminder of her earlier abduction in the person of Aithra is clearly significant at this point (cf. Jenkins 1999; Iliad 3.144 was athetized by Aristarchus and is regarded as Athenian by some modern editors, including Kirk 1985 ad loc.). The myth of Helen’s earlier abduction is attested for Alcman (scholia to Iliad 3.242) and Stesichorus (Pausanias 2.22.6–7), and is told at some length by Herodotus 9.73. According to Plutarch Theseus 31.3 and 34.1 Theseus made Aithra Helen’s companion at Aphidna, and the Dioskouroi took her as well when they rescued Helen. For other ancient references to the myth see “Apollodorus” 3.10.7 with Frazer’s note (Frazer 1921, vol. 2, 25n2).

[ back ] 181. The Dioskouroi are referred to as “heroes” in literary sources: Pindar Isthmian 1.17 calls Castor and the Theban Iolaos “the mightiest chariot drivers among heroes” (κεῖνοι γὰρ ἡρώων διφρηλάται…κράτιστοι); in Theocritus 22.163 the Dioskouroi are called “distinguished among all heroes” (ὑμεῖς δ' ἐν πάντεσσι διάκριτοι ἡρώεσσι). The cult title of the Dioskouroi in Sparta, namely ánakes, “lords” (Doric for ánaktes), fits either gods or heroes (Homeric ánax is used of both). If the Dioskouroi were thought of as buried beneath the earth at Therapne, as Alcman and Pindar (and less specifically Homer) attest, their cult must have included the principal feature of hero cults, namely a grave (for attempts to define features of hero cults, which are not uniform, see Nagy 1979:114–117, 159–161; Snodgrass 1988; Kearns 1989:1–4). Unfortunately nothing is known of the twins’ cult at Therapne, which is never again mentioned after Pindar (Pausanias says nothing of it in his remarks concerning Therapne, 3.19.9–3.20.1). The issue of a grave for the Dioskouroi at Therapne is discussed further in EN1.1.

[ back ] 182. As in e.g. RV 3.58.7, 9; 8.8.5; 8.35.7–10. In RV 8.35 the first three verses all end with the phrase “together with Uṣas and Sūrya drink the Soma, you Aśvins”; in the first verse various other gods are simltaneously invited (8.35.1), and in the third verse all the gods are included in the invitation with the phrase víśvair devaís (8.35.3).

[ back ] 183. Dumézil has compared the initial exclusion of the twins from the Soma sacrifice in India with other Indo-European traditions, notably in Scandinavia and Ireland (also in Rome in a transposed form), where third-function gods are at first separated from first- and second-function gods, and are then integrated with these gods. In India the separation of the twins from the gods of the first and second functions is also reflected in the sons of the gods in the Mahābhārata, where the twins Nakula and Sahadeva have a different mother, Mādrī, from the three older Pāṇḍavas, whose mother is Kuntī (see Dumézil 1968:54–56, 69–70, 73–76). My comparison between the Indic twins and the Greek Dioskouroi does not conflict with Dumézil’s interpretation of the Indic evidence, but parallels it, and also, I think, underlies it. The Indic twins, although they are gods of the third function, also comprise the first and second functions in their contrasting attributes of “intelligence” and “war” (cf. below EN1.2 to n1.190); one can make the case that the third function, comprising the other two functions, is the basic one, and that the opposition between the twins is more basic than their place in the trifunctional scheme.

[ back ] 184. Śatapatha-Brāhmaṇa–15 tells how Viṣṇu’s head was cut off and became the sun when his bowstring was cut by ants (text and translation in Muir 1874, vol. 4, 124–126). The Taittirīya-Saṃhitā tells how the twins replaced the head and this became their share of the sacrifice; but first the gods required the twins to be purified, saying “these two are unclean, going about as physicians among men” (apūtau vai imau manuṣyacarau bhiṣajau). In this text the focus is less on the twins’ closeness to men than on their function as physicians, since this function is forbidden to brahmans as unclean and making one unfit to sacrifice (text and translation in Muir 1874, vol. 5, 253). The Taittirīya-Āraṇyaka 5.1.1–7 gives a more precise identification of the twins’ libation (āśvina graha) with the “head” of the sacrifice in this myth (Muir 1874, vol. 4, 127–129); cf. also the Pañcaviṃśa-Brāhmaṇa 7.5.6 (Muir 1874, vol. 4, 129).

[ back ] 185. For this verse, in which the twins are invoked with the two dual vocatives Nāsatyā and dasrā, cf. §1.54 above.

[ back ] 186. There are nine references to the myth of Cyavāna in the Rig-Veda: 1.116.10, 1.117.13, 1.118.6, 5.74.5, 5.75.5, 7.68.6, 7.71.5, 10.39.4, 10.59.1. Note that I use different forms of his name to distinguish Cyavāna in the Rig-Veda from the Cyavana of later tradition (long versus short second vowel).

[ back ] 187. Muir 1874, vol. 5, 250–253. Jaiminīya-Brāhmaṇa 3.121 is similar: Cyavana rewards the twins for his rejuvenation by giving them information that leads to their inclusion in the Soma sacrifice (cf. Goldman 1977:166n11).

[ back ] 188. The story was a popular one in epic. It is told three times in the Mahābhārata: the principal text is Mahābhārata 3.121.22–3.124.10 (translation in Goldman 1977:50–59); the other two texts are Mahābhārata 13.141.16–30 and 14.9.31–36 (cf. Goldman 1977:117; Muir 1872:470–471 gives the version in Book 13).

[ back ] 189. When the twins fail to seduce the faithful Sukanyā, they offer to rejuvenate Cyavana provided that she then choose between him and the two of them; they then both assume the appearance of the rejuvenated Cyavana when, with the twins beside him, he steps from the pool in which he is transformed; Sukanyā uncannily still succeeds in choosing her own husband among the three identical youths (Mahābhārata 3.123.1–23). What seems noteworthy here is that the twins, who in the Rig-Veda are the successful suitors of the “daughter of the sun”—she “chooses” them (see n1.156 above)—here lose to Cyavana as suitors. It is a more subtle exaltation of the human sage over the twin gods than in the Śatapatha-Brāhmaṇa, where the twins are forced to rejuvenate Cyavana to learn how they are incomplete. A suggestion for this development of the myth was perhaps found in the juxtaposition of myths in RV 1.117.13:

yuváṃ cyávānam aśvinā járantam / púnar yúvānaṃ cakrathuḥ śácībhiḥ
yuvó ráthaṃ duhitā́ sū́ryasya / sahá śriyā́ nāsatyāvṛṇīta

You Aśvínā made the aged Cyavāna young again by your might;
the daughter of the sun chose your chariot with its wealth, you Nā́satyā.

[ back ] 190. Hostility toward the gods, as displayed by Cyavana in his confrontation with Indra, is characteristic of the myths of a particular family of priests, the Bhārgavas. They were said to be descended from a semi-mythical family of priests in the Rig-Veda, the Bhṛgus, and their myths, which include that of Cyavana, play a prominent part in the Mahābhārata. Their myths are in fact so prominent in the poem’s overall structure that Bhārgavas are thought to have made a thorough revision of the great warrior epic of the Bhāratas (the Mahābhārata). This theory was proposed by Sukthankar 1936/1937, and the myths on which the theory is based have been further studied by Goldman 1977. Hostility toward the gods is one of the distinctive Bhārgava themes (Goldman 1977:113–128). Another is a preoccupation with violent death and a consequent return to life (Goldman 1977:75–92). These themes are discussed further in EN1.2.

[ back ] 191. In the Mahābhārata the twins are refused admission to the sacrifice by Indra until Cyavana forces him to yield. In the version in Book 3 Indra says: “Doctors, tradesmen, changing their appearance at will, wandering about in the world of mortals (loke carantau martyānām), how could these two be worthy of Soma?” (3.124.12). In the version in Book 13 Indra refuses Cyavana’s request with the words, “How can they become drinkers of Soma when they are reviled by us and do not measure up to the gods (devair na sammitāv etau)?” (13.141.17). In the Taittirīya-Saṃhitā (cf. n1.184 above) the gods grant the twins a libation but then make them purify themselves, saying, “These two are unclean, going about as physicians among men (apūtau vai imau manuṣyacarau bhiṣajau).” Since in the Indic myth the twins are already magic healers before they become “complete,” the gods throw up against them the charge that they are doctors as a mark of low status. This motif is secondary, having to do with a brahman prejudice, but as such it goes well with the new form of the myth.

[ back ] 192. Closeness to mortals is a somewhat ambiguous characteristic, for the Dioskouroi are close to mortals not only as heroes but also as gods: the twins (Vedic as well as Greek) can appear suddenly and rescue sailors at sea precisely because they are close enough at hand to be invoked in a desperate situation. But this closeness to mortals derives from the mortal side of the twins’ nature even when they act as gods. We may think of the earth that “holds” the Dioskouroi once they become gods. This earth, which is the mark of the mortal part of their nature, actually holds the gods close to their mortal worshippers in Lacedaemon. The twins’ closeness to mortals and their own mortality are thus intertwined, and this was presumably once also true of the Indic twins.

[ back ] 193. Cf. n1.162 above. In Theocritus 22 Castor alone fights the battle with Idas and Lynkeus; Polydeuces has his own episode, a boxing match. Theocritus introduces Castor’s battle with a series of epithets marking him as a “warrior” and a “horseman” (22.135–136): σὲ δέ, Κάστορ, ἀείσω, / Τυνδαρίδη ταχύπωλε, δορυσσόε, χαλκεοθώρηξ, “I will sing of you, Castor, son of Tyndareus, having swift horses, spear-brandishing, with bronze breastplate” (for Castor as khalkeothṓrēx, “with bronze breastplate,” cf. khalkomítra Kástoros, “Castor with the bronze mítra,” in Pindar Nemean 10.90, quoted above n1.167.) Even in Polydeuces’ episode, when Castor calls the other Greek heroes to watch his brother’s boxing match, Theocritus characterizes him as hupeírokhos en daï̀ Kástōr, “Castor pre-eminent in war” (22.79).

[ back ] 194. One may say in general that skill with the two hands characterizes the crafts, and makes their practitioners “crafty”; for boxing as a craft, cf. Theocritus 22.67, where Amykos, the opponent of Polydeuces, calls on him to exert himself with his fists and not to spare his “skill”: πὺξ διατεινάμενος σφετέρης μὴ φείδεο τέχνης.

[ back ] 195. There is no agreement as to which poet followed which in narrating this episode; see Köhnken 1965:84–121 and 2001, who argues for the priority of Theocritus, and Sens 1997:24–36, who argues for the priority of Apollonius. There is the same issue with respect to the treatment of the Hylas myth in both poets. Köhnken 2001:73n2 cites recent opinion on the question, which remains undecided; Hunter 1999:264–265 thinks it more likely that the two Theocritus poems, Idylls 13 and 22, presuppose a knowledge of Apollonius of Rhodes Books 1 and 2 than vice versa.

[ back ] 196. Epicharmus in the early fifth century BC wrote a comedy Amykos; in a fragment Castor tells Amykos not to abuse his older brother (Ἄμυκε, μὴ κύδαζέ μοι / τὸν πρεσβύτερον ἀδελφεόν, Epicharmus fr. 6 Kassel and Austin 2001), from which it is clear that Polydeuces encounters the same truculent figure as in the Hellenistic poets; the scholia to Apollonius of Rhodes 2.98–100 (see on Epicharmus fr. 7 Kassel and Austin 2001) say that in Epicharmus Polydeuces ties Amykos up, sparing his life; in Theocritus Polydeuces likewise spares Amykos, but in Apollonius he kills him. Sophocles wrote a satyr play called Amykos, but apart from two phrases quoted for unusual words by Athenaeus 9.400b and 3.94e (Sophocles frs. 111–112 Radt) its contents are unknown (for possible artistic representations of the play see Radt 1999:150).

[ back ] 197. Polydeuces’ skill with his fists is expressively portrayed in lines 95–96, especially in the alliterative second line: ἤτοι ὅγ' ἔνθα καὶ ἔνθα παριστάμενος Διὸς υἱός / ἀμφοτέρῃσιν ἄμυσσεν ἀμοιβαδίς, “standing beside him the son of Zeus on this side and that / ripped him with both hands in turn.” See n1.194 above for skill with the hands as a token of “craftiness.”

[ back ] 198. τὸν μὲν ἄναξ ἐτάρασσεν ἐτώσια χερσὶ προδεικνύς / πάντοθεν, “the lord (Polydeuces) baffled him, displaying empty blows (feints) from all sides” (Theocritus 22.102–103).

[ back ] 199. “Apollodorus” 3.11.2: καὶ γίνεται μὲν Πολυδεύκους καὶ Φοίβης Μνησίλεως, Κάστορος δὲ καὶ Ἱλαείρας Ἀνώγων, “and Mnesileos was born from Polydeuces and Phoibe, Anogon from Castor and Hilaeira.” Consistent with this positive information is the order of names of the two sons (Anaxis and Mnasinoos) and two mothers (Hilaeira and Phoibe) in Pausanias’s description of the statue group in Argos: μετὰ δὲ ταῦτα Διοσκούρων ναός. ἀγάλματα δὲ αὐτοί τε καὶ οἱ παῖδές εἰσιν Ἄναξις καὶ Μνασίνους, σὺν δέ σφισιν αἱ μητέρες Ἱλάειρα καὶ Φοίβη, “After these is the temple of the Dioskouroi. The statues are the Dioskouroi themselves and their sons Anaxis and Mnasinous, and with them their mothers Hilaeira and Phoibe” (Pausanias 2.22.5). The order of the names pairs Anaxis with Hilaeira and Mnasinoos with Phoibe.

[ back ] 200. For these terpsímbrotos compounds see Knecht 1946:45; Risch 1974:191–193; Chantraine 1999 s.v. ánax; and cf. below in text. The names Ánaxis and Anaxías appear to be “short-forms” (cf. n1.51 above on the name Nēleús).

[ back ] 201. Cf. also the related verb mnēsikakéō, “remember past injuries, bear a grudge.” For other compounds in mnēsí- see Chantraine 1999 s.v. mimnḗskō, sections 11–12; for Mycenean Manasiweko = Mnāsiwergos (later Greek Mnēsíergos), cf. also Bader 1965:93–94.

[ back ] 202. It is worth noting that in Pindar’s Nemean 10 the verb noéō occurs in connection with Polydeuces’ act of bringing his brother back to life; when Zeus gives Polydeuces a choice of fates, either to become entirely a god himself or to share his immortality with Castor, he expresses the second alternative with the phrase: “but if you are minded (noeîs) to share everything equally” (Nemean 10.85–88):

εἰ δὲ κασιγνήτου πέρι
μάρνασαι, πάντων δὲ νοεῖς ἀποδάσσασθαι ἴσον,
ἥμισυ μέν κε πνέοις γαίας ὑπένερθεν ἐών,
ἥμισυ δ' οὐρανοῦ ἐν χρυσέοις δόμοισιν.

But if you fight for your brother,
and are minded to share everything equally,
you would breathe half the time being under the ground
and half the time in the golden houses of the sky.

The poet’s use of a particular word is of course less significant than the name of Polydeuces’ son, attested in two separate cults of the Archaic period, but the context is still suggestive.

[ back ] 203. The twins’ opposition in terms of cattle and horses also seems to have been preserved in Iranian despite the absence of the twins themselves in the Zoroastrian system. Dumézil argues that the Indo-European twins were transformed into two other pairs of figures in Iranian: Old Avestan Haurvatāt, “Wholeness, Health,” and Amərətāt, “Immortality” (Dumézil 1945:89–90, 91–92, 158–170, cf. 1968:88, 105); and Young Avestan Drvāspā, “mistress of healthy horses,” and Gə̄uš Tašan, “builder of the cow,” or Gə̄uš Urvan, “soul of the cow” (Dumézil 1968:88–89). The latter pair seems to preserve the old opposition.

[ back ] 204. “Apollodorus” 3.11.2 presents the following version: the four cousins together steal cattle from Arcadia; Idas and Lynkeus make off with all the spoil after cheating the Dioskouroi of their share; the Dioskouroi raid the cattle back again and set an ambush for their cousins; Lynkeus discovers the ambush and Castor is killed in battle. Lynkeus’s role in discovering the ambush is also found in the Cypria and Pindar: in Cypria fr. 11 Allen Lynkeus looks out from Taygetos with his extraordinary eyes and sees the Dioskouroi inside a hollow oak; Pindar Nemean 10.61–63 follows this closely. In the Cypria Lynkeus appears to kill Castor, but in “Apollodorus” Idas kills Castor; Pindar leaves the point vague. The cattle raid carried out by the Dioskouroi against their cousins motivates the battle in which Castor dies, and these two episodes, the cattle raid and the battle, are the two essential parts of the myth. There was a variant tradition that the conflict between the cousins arose when the Dioskouroi carried off the daughters of Leukippos, who had been betrothed to the Apharetidai (Theocritus 22 is the earliest literary source). The relationship between the two different traditions is discussed in EN1.3.

[ back ] 205. Dumézil 1968:87 sees Polydeuces as differentially associated with cattle in this myth: “la seule fois que des vaches jouent un rôle dans la vie du couple, Polydeukès y triomphe et Kastôr y succombe.” This formulation seems to me essentially correct, but I add the important qualification that the mortal Castor succumbs not in the cattle raid itself, but in the battle that follows: the two episodes are distinct. The cattle raid, on the other hand, should be seen as belonging primarily to the immortal twin. In Homeric Hymn 33, as discussed earlier, both twins act as “saviors” of distressed sailors; it is worth noting that sheep appear in this context: as the ship sinks the sailors retreat to the highest point of the stern “with white sheep” (árnessin leukoîsin) and pray to the Dioskouroi, who come to the rescue (Homeric Hymn 33.8–12; see §1.56 above). As tokens of sustenance and life sheep are equivalent to cattle (thus the “cattle” of Helios in Odyssey 12 include sheep as well as cattle, and Helios likewise has sheep in the Homeric Hymn to Apollo 411–413; cf. Frame 1978:40–47). The connection between sheep and “salvation” in Homeric Hymn 33 is very striking; it recalls the Vedic association of the adjective gómad, “rich in cattle,” with the name Nāsatyā, “you two saviors.” A final point about the two distinct episodes in the central myth of the Dioskouroi: Theocritus 22 also devotes distinct episodes to the two twins, but in such a way that Castor does not participate in Polydeuces’ episode (the boxing match) and (more striking from the standpoint of tradition) Polydeuces does not participate in Castor’s episode (the battle against Idas and Lynkeus, which Castor now fights—and wins!—on his own); furthermore, the two episodes in Theocritus are unconnected, in contrast to the central myth of the Dioskouroi. Theocritus manipulates the twins’ tradition to his own ends, but by having a pair of episodes, one for each twin, he still recaptures an essential feature of their central myth.

[ back ] 206. A myth consisting of two episodes, a cattle raid followed by a battle, is also central to Nestor’s version of the twin myth (see §2.1–§2.5 below); Nestor, no less than the Dioskouroi, constitutes the Greek comparison to the Indic twins and allows a reconstruction of essential features of the Indo-European twin myth. Cattle raiding is sometimes seen as the primary Indo-European form of warfare (e.g. Lincoln 1976 and 1981), but this blurs the distinction between cattle and horses made clear by the Indo-European twin myth; cf. n2.7 below on Nestor’s cattle raid.

[ back ] 207. Frame 1978:135–137. For the Iranian demon Nā̊ŋhaiθya as deriving from an Indo-Iranian immortal twin (and as attesting an old use of the singular form of the name) see above §1.42 and n1.120. The Vedic name Nā́satyā itself occurs in the singular in RV 4.3.6; it is modified here by the epithet párijman, “traversing,” which elsewhere in the Rig-Veda is used of the twins as a pair and of their chariot. There is a metrical problem in the verse (it is a syllable short) making this evidence for the singular uncertain. The metrical problem is eliminated by changing the singular nā́satyāya to the dual nā́satyābhyām and by taking the epithet párijmane with the god Vāta in the previous segment of the verse (Vāta has this epithet elsewhere in the Rig-Veda; see Geldner 1951–1957 ad loc.). A better solution, proposed by Karl Hoffmann in Schindler 1972:15, is to change the dative kṣé, “to the earth,” to yakṣé, an infinitive from yakṣ-, “appear,” in the sequence párijmane nā́satyāya <ya>kṣé: the verse will then say “What do you want to say, Agni (kádagnebrávas) to the traversing Nā́satya-, that he appear”; cf. Goto 1991:979.

[ back ] 208. For the meanings of the Sanskrit verb, which have developed too far to shed light on the meaning of the Indo-European middle verb, cf. n1.68 above.

[ back ] 209. The Indo-European middle verb is *nesetoi (> Sanskrit násate, Greek néetai); the active verb is *neseti (> Sanskrit *násati, Greek *néei; the Greek active ending is an innovation of obscure origin; cf. Chantraine 1961:297). I think that it is likely that the active verb existed in Indo-European, but I do not insist on it; the correspondence between Greek and Indo-Iranian that I propose could be due to common innovation instead of common retention.

[ back ] 210. Nagy 1970:43n121. The Old Persian form is a Median borrowing; for the verb in question, cf. Old Persian xšay-, “rule,” Avestan xšāy-, “have power,” and Sanskrit kṣay-, “possess.”

[ back ] 211. Watkins 1963:24. Old Irish has special relative forms that combine the relative pronoun with a verb in the third singular, third plural, or first plural. The etymology of these forms, which is no longer clear in Irish, is still clear in Gaulish dugiiontiio, “who serve.” Thus e.g. Old Irish bertae, “who carry,” comes regularly from *bheronti-i̯o. In the Old Irish forms the relative pronoun can also be the object of the verb; thus bertae is both “who carry” and “whom they carry.”

[ back ] 212. For the syntactic order of third person verb followed by relative pronoun, Watkins cites e.g. RV 1.70.5: dā́śad yó asmāi, “who worships him.” Nagy reports a number of parallels in Italic and Celtic for the process of noun formation, and in Hittite for the syntactic order, which Watkins suggested to him (Nagy 1970:43n121):

Lūcetius, the name of one of the followers of Turnus: Vergil, Aeneid IX 570. Servius ad loc.: …lingua Osca Lucetius est Iuppiter, dictus a luce. Cf. also Gaulish Leucetios, epithet of the god of war. For references and further instances (including a possible occurrence in the Carmen Saliare), cf. J. Whatmough, The Prae-Italic Dialects of Italy II 197.


Δουκέτιος, the name of a king of the Sicels: Diodorus Siculus 11.78.5. For references and further instances, cf. again Whatmough, PID II 452.


Hence *leuketi-i̯o “he who shines” and *deuketi-i̯o “he who leads,” both nominalized. There is a parallel syntagma in Hittite: e.g. in Laws I 25, paprizzi kuiš “he who defiles” (a well, in this case); also, in an Akkadian-Hittite vocabulary (Keilschrifttexte aus Boghazköi I 42 31), the Akkadian participle ḫābilu “gewalttätig” is glossed as dammešḫiškizzi kuiš, literally “welcher schädigt.”

Nagy has subsequently (1979:198–199) suggested as a Greek parallel Lampetíē, the name of one of the two daughters of Helios who guard Helios’s cattle in Odyssey 12.132: νύμφαι ἐϋπλόκαμοι, Φαέθουσά τε Λαμπετίη τε, “the fair-haired nymphs, Phaethousa and Lampetie.” The names Phaéthousa and Lampetíē, both meaning “bright, shining,” are feminine equivalents of masculine Lámpos and Phaéthōn, the names of the horses who bring the dawn goddess in Odyssey 23.246: Λάμπον καὶ Φαέθονθ', οἵ τ' Ἠῶ πῶλοι ἄγουσι. Reconstructed as *lampeti-yā, Lampetíē means “she who shines”: *lámpeti, from the thematic verb lámpō, has the athematic third singular ending -ti, which, like the formation itself, would be an archaism; the lack of assibilation (-ti versus -si) is also an archaism (cf. the names Ortílokhos and Orsílokhos of a grandfather and grandson in Iliad 5.546 and 549 and see Chantraine 1933:40); * in the reconstruction is the feminine relative pronoun (Greek hḗ). The name Lampetíē is discussed further in EN1.4. These possible examples are sufficient, I think, to support the process of noun formation proposed for Nā́satya-. The etymology is acknowledged by Mayrhofer 1986ff. s.v. Nā́satya-, who cites Nagy 1990:93n46 and 249n80; Nagy in both places cites Frame 1978:135–137 (cf. also Nagy1979:199n2); Frame 1978 cites Nagy 1970 for the basis of the etymology, Old Persian xšāyaθiya-. The proposed etymology of Nā́satya- occurred to Nagy and me in the late 1960s after Calvert Watkins had made Nagy’s etymology of Old Persian xšāyaθiya- known to me in a different context. I hasten to add that for Nā́satya- Mayrhofer regards an etymology based on the hypothetical noun *nasati- (see n1.123 above) as probable.

[ back ] 213. See n1.123 above for Güntert’s derivation of Nā́satyā from a hypothetical abstract noun *nasati-, parallel to the derivation of Ā́ditya- from áditi-. Other factors may also bear on the difference in metrical treatment of these two names: whereas Nā́satyā is dual, Ā́ditya- is usually plural and thus has a different metrical shape overall; I have also not excluded that the time of composition of the hymns in which the two names occur may differ. (For áditi-, “unboundedness,” understood as “freedom from offense, innocence,” and for the Ā́ditya-s as the “gods who uphold áditi-,” see Brereton 1981:197 and 288–292).

[ back ] 214. The form Nā́satiyā (four syllables) was presumably shortened to Nā́satyā (three syllables) in the natural language once the etymology was no longer transparent. This parallels the situation of such nominal derivatives with alternate forms in -iya and -ya in the Rig-Veda as e.g. ápiya vs. ápya, “watery”: the forms in -iya are inherited from a stage of the language at which the morpheme boundary was still perceived (ap + iya) and the derivational process was still productive, whereas the forms in -ya belong to a later stage when the morpheme boundary was no longer perceived and the derivational process had ceased to be productive (cf. Nagy 1970:7–8 and 41–42). In Nā́satiyā the original morpheme boundary (Nā́sati + ) is differently placed than in such nominal derivatives, but the result of the erosion of this boundary is the same. Avestan Nā̊ŋhaiθya also reflects erosion of the original morpheme boundary, presumably by the same process as in Vedic (see Nagy 1970:41 for pairs of nominal derivatives in -iya and -ya in Avestan paralleling those in Vedic). Old Persian xšāyaθiya-, as derived by Nagy, has likewise eroded the morpheme boundary between the third person singular ending and the relative pronoun (-θiya < *-tya; original *-tiya would have remained -tiya); see Nagy 1970:43 and n121, who also points out that the Old Persian form is a Median borrowing since Old Persian -θiya > -šiya. Besides the evidence of the Rig-Veda, which is still to be discussed, the Mitanni form Nasattii̯a(nna) perhaps reflects an original rhythm Nā́satiyā.

[ back ] 215. Oldenberg 1909:17, commenting on RV 1.20.3, points out that the numerous instances in which a four-syllable form of the name comes immediately after the early caesura in trimeter (i.e. after syllable 4) favor the rhythm Náasatyā, except that this is also the most convenient metrical position for Nā́satiyā (“doch wird dies Argument [for Náasatyā] dadurch abgeschwächt, dass auch für Nā́satiyā eben dies die bequemste metrische Stellung war”); on the other hand, the instances in which a four-syllable form occupies syllables 3–6 of a dimeter favor the rhythm Nā́satiyā; the other scattered instances of a four-syllable form “entscheiden nicht.” In EN1.5 to n1.219 below the statistical evidence is analyzed and elaborated.

[ back ] 216. Oldenberg 1909:17 and Arnold 1905:99 both favor this view.

[ back ] 217. This interpretation is first found in Pāṇini (cf. n1.122 above), but it is based, I suggest, on an actual pronunciation of the name in Vedic verse.

[ back ] 218. The coexistence in the Rig-Veda of the four- and three-syllable forms of the name has the same explanation as the coexistence of e.g. the alternative forms ápiya and ápya (see n1.214 above).

[ back ] 219. In EN1.5 it is argued that in RV 2.41.7, which contrasts the vocatives Nāsatyā and Aśvinā in terms of cattle and horses, the scansion Nāsatiyā is found, and that the influence of this archaic verse explains the other unusually frequent instances of a four-syllable form of the name in syllables 5–8 of dimeters. It is also argued that it was in syllables 5–8 of trimeters, where both scansions of the name are possible (cf. n1.215 above), that the scansion Náasatyā began to replace the scansion Nā́satiyā, in accord with the reinterpretation of the name as the “not untrue ones.”

[ back ] 220. The twins’ epithet dasrā́, “miracle-working,” which connects their role as “saviors” with the notion of “intelligence,” is indicative of a similar semantic link in their name Nā́satyā; in addition the case of the epic hero Sahadeva, whose reputation for “intelligence” contrasts him with his brother Nakula, shows that the epithet dasrā́, with its implication of “intelligence,” must also have distinguished one of the twin gods from the other. The contrast in the twins’ Vedic hymns between the two dual vocatives dasrā and Aśvinā, paired with “cattle” and “horses” respectively, bears out this conclusion. The myth in which one twin is dasrá-, “miracle-working,” in relation to the other is preserved in Greek, where Polydeuces not only brings Castor back to life, but is also characterized by “intelligence” in contrast to his brother.

[ back ] 221. For the possibility that “consciousness” is the basic underlying notion in nóos, cf. Frame 1978:30.

[ back ] 222. Note in particular the well-known “Gāyatrī,” repeated daily by brahmans, which prays for the light of the sun god Savitar who will “set our thoughts in motion” (RV 3.62.10):

tát savitúr váreṇyam / bhárgo devásya dhīmahi / dhíyo yó naḥ pracodáyāt

May we receive this choice light of the god Savitar who will set our thoughts in motion.

[ back ] 223. The basic notion of the element -jinva (root jinv) is “set in rapid motion, arouse”; Geldner translates dhiyaṃjinvā́ as “Gedankenwecker, Gedanken anregend.”

[ back ] 224. In the verse in question (RV 8.5.35) the epithet dhī́javanā occurs first in a dimeter where it is followed by a four-syllable form of the name Nā́satyā (see above n1.219 and EN1.5 to n1.219 for RV 2.41.7 as setting the rhythmical pattern for the name Nā́satyā in this position); the collocation of dhī́javanā with Nā́satyā in this verse may be significant insofar as the name Nā́satyā itself still carries the meaning of the epithet dhī́javanā (cf. §1.54 above on the name Nā́satyā as being glossed by the epithet dasrā́).

[ back ] 225. Duality is central to the twin myth in general, and to the mental function that it represents in particular. As a physical basis for duality in the mental function at issue one might consider not only the use of the two hands (see n1.194 and n1.197 above on the notion of “craftiness” associated with skillful use of the two hands), but also the functions of the two hemispheres of the brain; ancient cultures were presumably not aware of the different functions of the brain’s hemispheres, but it is another (perhaps unanswerable) question whether the effects of the different functions were nevertheless experienced and given expression in the twin myth.