7. Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite: Tradition and Rhetoric, Praise and Blame [1]

I. Introduction

The Homeric hymn is a traditional form of praise poetry. Employing traditional diction, theme, and structure, the hymn presents an epiphany of the god and an aetiology of his or her powers. [2] The traditional rhetoric of the Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite is, however, subversive of the genre, producing a complex and ambiguous αἴτιον “cause” that both praises and blames its goddess. [3]
The opening of the Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite inaugurates a structural antagonism that marks a sexual antagonism between Aphrodite and Zeus. The hymn resolves this structural and sexual rivalry by narrating how Zeus finally but equivocally imposes sexual domination upon Aphrodite. It reveals how Zeus arouses ἵμερος “sexual passion” in Aphrodite, so that for the first time, she seduces and sleeps with a mortal male – so that the goddess may no longer boast of making gods “mix” with mortals, herself exempt from such mating. In this epiphany of Aphrodite – her successful seduction and intercourse – the hymn discloses its rhetorical and aetiological ambiguity.
In Aphrodite’s seduction of Anchises, heteroerotic ἔρως “erotic desire” confronts the human male as an insoluble problem of knowledge: how to discern a sexually available virgin from Aphrodite disguised as a virgin, how to tell the truth from an imitation of the truth, when “either/or” logic is blinded by ἔρως, when the very desire for knowledge is born of a desire not to know (that the imitation is not true and available). As this ἔρως blurs diacritical difference in the eyes of the mortal man, so it blurs the distinction between praise and blame of the goddess as well. For her successful seduction praises her powers of visual and verbal allure, while testifying also to their subordination to the erotic domination of Zeus.
The rhetorical force of Aphrodite’s intercourse with Anchises is, according to the goddess herself, even more degrading. She terms their union – and thereby the hymn that reveals it – an ὄνειδος “reproach” (247), a specialized term within the diction of praise poetry denoting blame. [4] The aetiological import of Aphrodite’s union with Anchises is less certain. Does Aphrodite’s subjection to divine–human intercourse mean an end to such matings, with immortality henceforth available to humans only through progeny? Or will Aphrodite continue to mate gods with mortals, but just cease to boast about it? Will the force of sexual and ontological mixture thereby elude a system of meaningful distinction between men and gods? Here the rhetorical strategy of praise and/in blame, of acknowledgment and/in negation deprives the hymn of an ultimately stable aetiology.

II. Cosmos of Aphrodite vs. Cosmos of Zeus

The antagonistic structure of the hymn is set up in the first fifty-two lines, which divide into two versions of the poem’s essential opposition: A (1–6) vs. B (7–33), and A´ (34–44) vs. B´ (45–52). [5] In lines 1–6 the hymn starts off with an invocation to the Muse to narrate the ἔργα “works” of its subject, Aphrodite. [6]
μοῦσά μοι ἔννεπε ἔργα πολυχρύσου Ἀφροδίτης,
Κύπριδος, ἥτε θεοῖσιν ἐπὶ γλυκὺν ἵμερον ὦρσε
καί τ᾽ ἐδαμάσσατο [7] φῦλα καταθνητῶν ἀνθρώπων
οἰωνούς τε διιπετέας καὶ θηρία πάντα,
ἠμὲν ὅς᾽ ἤπειρος πολλὰ τρέφει ἠδ᾽ ὅσα πόντος·
πᾶσιν δ᾽ ἔργα μέμηλεν ἐυστεφάνου Κυθερείης.

Muse, narrate for me the works of golden Aphrodite [8]
the Cyprian, who rouses sweet sexual passion in gods
and tames the races of mortal men
and winged birds and all creatures,
as many as the dry land rears and as many as the sea,
to all the works of well-crowned Cythereia are a care.
Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite 1–6
The repetition of ἔργα closes off the unit in which these “works” of the goddess are defined in relation to the three categories that in early Greek thought make up the sphere of animate being: gods, humans, and beasts. In the gods she “rouses sweet sexual passion” (γλυκὺν ἵμερον ὦρσε, 2), and she “tames” (τ᾽ ἐδαμάσσατο, 3) the races of mortals and every variety of beast. This opening section of the hymn asserts the ἔργα Ἀφροδίτης as a cosmic power, extending to “all” (πᾶσιν, 6). [9] But in the use of the verb δαμνάω “tame,” a traditional term for the workings of the goddess, [10] there is a suggestion that a cosmos ruled by Aphrodite runs counter to the regular order of things.
Structuralist analysis has shown how in early Greek thought the entities of the universe are constituted by virtue of their differential relations. [11] Thus the human condition is defined by its difference from that of divinity, on the one hand, and bestiality, on the other. This differential relation is hierarchical and proportional, with mortals positioned below gods but above beasts: divinities are to humans as humans are to beasts. [12] But it is the function of the ἔργα Ἀφροδίτης “works of Aphrodite” to confuse this meaningful differentiation. The verb δαμνάω denotes the power of men to “tame” wild creatures into civilized form – beasts through domestication, children through education, and virgins through marriage. [13] Thus in her “taming,” Aphrodite blurs the distinction between humans and beasts by exercising over them all, the power of men over beasts: Aphrodite is to humans and beasts as humans are to beasts. And while not going so far as to name the gods explicitly as objects of δαμνάω, the use of πᾶσιν “all” in line 6 suggests that this “taming” is synonymous with the “rousing of sweet sexual passion” in them, an implication confirmed at the start of A´ (34–44), where gods and men are paired. [14]
τῶν δ᾽ ἄλλων οὔ πέρ τι πεφυγμένον ἔστ᾽ Ἀφροδίτην
οὔτε θεῶν μακάρων οὔτε θνητῶν ἀνθρώπων.

Of all others there is nothing that has escaped Aphrodite,
neither of the blessed gods nor of mortal men.
Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite 34–35
Thus even at this point Aphrodite’s sway threatens to reduce divinities, as well as humans and beasts, to a single status parallel to that of beasts: Aphrodite is to divinities and humans and beasts as humans are to beasts. Such a cosmos results in an “illicit mixture” of categories, recalling the fact that sexual intercourse is denoted in Greek by the verb μείγνυμι “to mix.” The ἔργα Ἀφροδίτης produce a cosmos of “mixture” that challenges the distinctions that make for cosmic meaning.
But is not this “mixture” essential to the human and the cosmic order? [15] Is it not necessary for the propagation of all living species? Does it not bring joy? Outside of calling ἵμερος “sexual passion” γλυκύς “sweet” and alluding in the use of δαμνάω “tame” to procreation through marriage, the opening of the hymn mentions none of the benefits of Aphrodite. [16] We hear nothing like τίς δὲ βίος, τί δὲ τερπνὸν ἄτερ χρυσῆς Ἀφροδίτης “what is life, what is delightful without golden Aphrodite?” (Mimnermus 1.1), but only the extent of Aphrodite’s power. [17] And indeed, once articulated, her power is immediately qualified, as if its working had to be countered at once.
Juxtaposed with the praise in A (1–6) comes the delimitation in B (7–33) of Aphrodite’s dominion. Here we meet three rival “mini-hymns” – each nearly as long as or longer than Aphrodite’s invocation – to the virgin goddesses who elude her, Athena (8–15 = 8 lines), Artemis (16–20 = 5 lines), and Hestia (21–32 = 12 lines). [18] Over against the ἔργα Ἀφροδίτης “works of Aphrodite” (9) are set the ἔργα of Athena (15); [19] the occupations of Artemis, whom Aphrodite cannot “tame” (δάμναται, 17); and the abstinence of Hestia, a καλὸν γέρας ἀντὶ γάμοιο “fair gift of honor instead of marriage” given by Zeus (29). The section as a whole is marked by the repetition of its first and last lines:
τρισσὰς δ᾽ οὐ δύναται πεπιθεῖν φρένας οὐδ᾽ ἀπατῆσαι:
But there are three whose wits she is not able to persuade or deceive.

τάων οὐ δύναται πεπιθεῖν φρένας οὐδ᾽ ἀπατῆσαι.
Of these three she is not able to persuade or deceive the wits.
Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite 7, 33
These terms πεπιθεῖν “persuade” and ἀπατῆσαι “deceive” introduce the verbal and intellectual dimensions of the ἔργα Ἀφροδίτης “works of Aphrodite,” but only under the cover of their incapacity – a figure of negated acknowledgment that is repeated in the hymn and ultimately sums up its rhetoric, as we will see later, for example, in the use of alpha-privatives. [20] For now, this almost verbatim repetition frames B (7–33) as a unit parallel and opposed to A (1–6) with its similar repetition of ἔργα “works” in lines 1 and 6. No sooner is it completed, however, than this opposition between A and B is itself repeated.
In A´ (34–44), the opening lines 34–35 recapitulate the force of A (1–6) by asserting that apart from these three virgin goddesses, neither god nor mortal has πεφυγμένον “fled, escaped” Aphrodite. [21] This claim is then proved by the exemplum of none less than Zeus himself:
καί τε [22] παρὲκ Ζηνὸς νόον ἤγαγε τερπικεραύνου,
ὅστε μέγιστός τ᾽ ἐστὶ μεγίστης τ᾽ ἔμμορε τιμῆς.
καί τε τοῦ, εὖτ᾽ ἐθέλοι, [23] πυκινὰς φρένας ἐξαπαφοῦσα
ῥηιδίως συνέμιξε καταθνητῇσι γυναιξίν,
Ἥρης ἐκλελαθοῦσα, κασιγνήτης ἀλόχου τε,
ἣ μέγα εἶδος ἀρίστη ἐν ἀθανάτῃσι θεῇσι.
κυδίστην δ᾽ ἄρα μιν τέκετο Κρόνος ἀγκυλομήτης
μήτηρ τε Ῥείη· Ζεὺς δ᾽ ἄφθιτα μήδεα εἰδὼς
αἰδοίην ἄλοχον ποιήσατο κέδν᾽ εἰδυῖαν.

She even subverted the mind of Zeus who delights in thunder,
he who is ever greatest and has the greatest honor as his share. [24]
Even of this one, whenever she wished, she utterly deceived the clever wits
and easily made him mix with mortal women,
by making him forget Hera, his sister and wife,
who is best by far in visible form among the immortal goddesses.
She is the most glorious of those whom Cronus of the crooked counsel bore
and the mother Rhea. Zeus knowing imperishable schemes
made her his revered wife, who knows what is trustworthy.
Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite 36–44
This example makes explicit the threat detected in the earlier rivalry of cosmic orders. For Aphrodite does not limit herself to the promotion of mating within the natural kind – divine, human, or beast – or within the culturally sanctioned bond, but rather has made even Zeus exceed the limits of legal marriage in liaisons that adulterate the divine/human boundary. [25] Easily and at will, Aphrodite makes the greatest of the gods engender children through a “miscegenation” that blurs the divine difference. [26] In the cosmos of Aphrodite, the hierarchical order dependent upon the preeminence of Zeus collapses, as he joins the other gods, men, and animals whom the goddess can interbreed. Aphrodite reigns supreme, exempt from her own workings: Aphrodite is to divinities (including Zeus) and humans and beasts as humans are to beasts.
But Zeus does not take this lying down. In B´ (45–52), the ratio of power is rewritten, as Zeus usurps the role of Aphrodite – himself now wielding γλυκὺς ἵμερος “sweet sexual passion” [27] with the goddess as the object – and puts her in his place among divinities subject to sexual desire across the divine/human line. Aphrodite, too, will assume, for once at least, the passive role to which she reduces others, lest her speech among the gods survive unsubordinated by the “negative purpose” of Zeus that renders her boast hypothetical:
τῇ δὲ καὶ αὐτῇ Ζεὺς γλυκὺν ἵμερον ἔμβαλε θυμῷ
ἀνδρὶ καταθνητῷ μιχθήμεναι, ὄφρα τάχιστα [28]
μηδ᾽ αὐτὴ βροτέης εὐνῆς ἀποεργμένη εἴη,
καί ποτ᾽ ἐπευξαμένη εἴπῃ μετὰ πᾶσι θεοῖσιν
ἡδὺ γελοιήσασα, φιλομμειδὴς Ἀφροδίτη,
ὤς ῥα θεοὺς συνέμιξε καταθνητῇσι γυναιξί,
καί τε καταθνητοὺς υἱεῖς τέκον ἀθανάτοισιν,
ὥς τε θεὰς ἀνέμιξε καταθνητοῖς ἀνθρώποις.

And even in the heart of the goddess herself Zeus cast sweet sexual passion
to be mixed with a mortal man, so that as quickly as possible
she herself might not be separated from a mortal bed
and ever say boasting among all the gods, [29]
laughing sweetly, smile-loving Aphrodite,
how she makes gods mix with mortal women
and they bear mortal sons to the immortals,
and she makes goddesses mix with mortal men.
Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite 45–52
As before, when Aphrodite’s power of persuasion and deceit was acknowledged only via negative example, here her words are allowed utterance only in the negative purpose clause – “so that she might not ever say” – that unsays them. [30] The narrative voice of the hymn thus acts as a proleptic ἀντιλογία to the λόγος of Aphrodite among the gods. The goddess is not to remain forever on top, separate from the mixture that frustrates separation. Her speech and the cosmos it represents are here subordinated to the hierarchical order of Zeus that the hymn will henceforth represent. For the remainder of the Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite – its account of Aphrodite’s love for the human Anchises – will demonstrate Zeus’ reduction and replacement of the goddess, while at the same time exemplifying her power over mortal men and beasts. Thus the hymn will attempt to resolve the tension between a cosmos controlled by Aphrodite and a cosmos controlled by Zeus into a stable hierarchy in which the immortal male “tames” the principle of sexuality as an immortal female, who herself “tames” the mortal male.
The mode of Zeus’ (and the hymn’s) subordination of Aphrodite is rhetorical, in the strong sense of a will that manifests itself in the metaphorization – the forcible transfer – of the power of speech and action. In the case of Aphrodite’s voice, the transference is proleptic, as the narrative voice renders her words a bygone potentiality, muted by the “negative purpose” of Zeus. This “purpose” is realized in an action, the arousing in Aphrodite of sexual desire for a human, that reverses the roles of goddess and god, leaving Zeus in the position of a “metaphorical Aphrodite” – Zeus is to divinities (including Aphrodite) and humans and beasts as humans are to beasts. [31] Yet it is the aim of the hymn to show that this metaphorical divinity of sex is, insofar as he “tames” Aphrodite, more truly “Aphrodite” than the goddess of sex herself, more able than she to control the power she embodies. [32] The very distinction, therefore, between figurative and literal, imitation and original, becomes blurred in the hymn and ultimately indecisive.
In the same way, Zeus’ exercise of the power of Aphrodite upon Aphrodite will subvert the genre of the hymn itself, leaving the generic aim of praise contradicted by the goddess’s own words, and leaving the text itself unique among the Homeric hymns, an ambiguously exalting and degrading document. But before returning to the overarching contest between Aphrodite and her metaphorical/literal supplanter, the hymn recounts the erotic blindness by which Anchises ultimately sees the goddess.

III. Aphrodite’s Visual Epiphany

A “Cosmos” of Sight, Smell, and Sound

The locus of Aphrodite’s conquest is pastoral, where epos “speech in epic” [33] and eros “sexual desire” work in analogous ways. The critical senses are sight, smell, and sound. Once Zeus casts γλυκὺν ἵμερον “sweet sexual passion” for Anchises into her heart (53), “then as soon as she saw him, laughter-loving Aphrodite loved him, and passion (ἵμερος) seized her wits utterly” (56–57). At once she retires to her temple at Paphos in Cyprus, where she prepares the “cosmetic” that rules her cosmos, overwhelming fragrance and visual adornment. [34] Her temple and altar are θυώδης “incense-smelling” (58, 59; compare θύω “burn as offering”). The Graces anoint her with “immortal oil such as blooms out upon (ἐπενήνοθεν) the everlasting gods, [35] for her immortal gown, which had been perfumed for her” (ἀμβροσίῳ ἑανῷ, τό ῥά οἱ τεθυωμένον ἦεν, 62–63). [36] Such is her fragrance that all of Cyprus becomes “sweet-smelling” (εὐώδεα, 66). Thus perfumed, Aphrodite incarnates the metonymy of allure, the part that promises a hidden whole. [37] As if to mark the cosmetic nature of fragrance, as well as to foreshadow its transformation into verbal seduction, the text structures this perfuming around the similarly decorative and intense sonic artifice of a triple, successive, line-initial anaphora: (1) ἐς Κύπρον, ἐς Πάφον (58, 59); (2) ἔνθ᾿, ἔνθα (60, 61); and (3) ἀμβρότῳ, ἀμβροσίῳ (62, 63). [38] This appeal to smell and sound is capped by a brief indication of Aphrodite’s visual “cosmos” – χρυσῷ κοσμηθεῖσα “ornamented with gold” (65). [39] But the text dramatically postpones our first full sight of the goddess until it can coincide with the gaze of her mortal lover.
The epiphany of Aphrodite is a θαῦμα ἰδέσθαι “wonder to behold” that evokes both eros “sexual desire” and epos “speech in epic.” As she approaches Anchises’ pastoral hut, wild animals follow (69–72). [40] Beholding this parade, Aphrodite “was delighted in her heart” (τέρπετο θυμόν, 72) [41] and in turn casts ἵμερον “sexual passion” into the breasts of the beasts, who lie down at once by twos in their shady glens (73–74). Having displayed her power over beasts, Aphrodite turns to her mortal lover, whom she finds all alone, playing the lyre (75–80). Is he, like so many pastoral poets, singing of love? [42] We never learn. But in the epiphany that interrupts his playing, the hymn stages his initiation as a mortal male into the problem of eros as a divine female and the epos by which he attempts to solve it.

Ambiguous Imitation

From the male perspective of Anchises and of the hymn itself, the appearance of Aphrodite presents a problem of knowledge and interpretation. The epiphany of Aphrodite – the form in and by which Anchises “sees” the goddess – is a “deception that persuades” (compare πεπιθεῖν and ἀπατῆσαι, 7, 33). More precisely, the epiphany of Aphrodite is an imitation:
στῆ δ᾽ αὐτοῦ προπάροιθε Διὸς θυγάτηρ Ἀφροδίτη
παρθένῳ ἀδμήτῃ μέγεθος καὶ εἶδος ὁμοίη, [43]
μή μιν ταρβήσειεν ἐν ὀφθαλμοῖσι νοήσας. [44]

Aphrodite, daughter of Zeus, [45] stood before him,
like to an untamed (ἀδμήτῃ: ἀ “not” + δαμνάω “tame”) virgin in size and appearance,
lest he tremble in fear, having recognized her with his eyes.
Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite 81–83
Direct sight, direct knowledge of Aphrodite would cause a man to “tremble in fear” and certainly not feel free to make love to her, for intercourse with goddesses was maiming, if not lethal. [46] So Aphrodite disguises herself as a female without experience of sexuality, an “untamed virgin,” like the goddesses posed against Aphrodite in the opening of the hymn (compare δάμναται, 17; παρθένος, 28).
To forestall the realistic reaction of the male, the goddess disguises herself as her opposite. But her opposite is not – as the alpha-privative, ἀ “not” + δμήτῃ “tamed,” and the principled, perpetual virginity of Athena, Artemis, and Hestia might suggest – a true absence of sexuality. [47] The opposite of female sexuality is not “female non-sexuality,” for any female old enough to be called παρθένος “virgin” is always “tame-able,” always potentially sexual. Even virgin goddesses can be made pregnant. In the logic of heterosexuality, the opposite of female sexuality is only a temporal, temporary precondition. The only real absence marked by the alpha-privative here is that of the phallus, for the virgin has not yet experienced the instrument by which the female is “tamed.” No wonder, then, that an “untamed virgin,” this absence heretofore of “Aphrodite” as sexual experience, is so attractive to Anchises, for it incites the presence of what is always only temporarily lacking.
An elaborate “costume” – evocative of the first “untamed virgin” – supports the goddess’s disguise:
πέπλον μὲν γὰρ ἕεστο φαεινότερον πυρὸς αὐγῆς,
εἶχε δ᾽ ἐπιγναμπτὰς ἕλικας κάλυκάς τε φαεινάς,
ὅρμοι δ᾽ ἀμφ᾽ ἁπαλῇ δειρῇ περικαλλέες ἦσαν
καλοὶ χρύσειοι παμποίκιλοι: ὡς δὲ σελήνη
στήθεσιν ἀμφ᾽ ἁπαλοῖσιν ἐλάμπετο, [48] θαῦμα ἰδέσθαι.

For she was dressed in a gown more shining than the gleam of fire,
and she wore spiral armlets and shining flower-cup earrings,
and around her tender neck were exceedingly beautiful necklaces,
beautiful, golden, all-variegated. And like the moon
there was a glow around her tender breasts, a wonder to behold.
Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite 86–90
Coupled with her description as “like to an untamed virgin,” this account of Aphrodite’s appearance evokes the creation of Pandora, the first human female, herself an artificial production παρθένῳ αἰδοίῃ ἴκελον “like to a respected virgin” (Theogony 572) and ἀθανάτῃς δὲ θεῇς εἰς ὦπα ἐίσκειν “like to the immortal goddesses in face” (Works and Days 62–63). [49] As Aphrodite is “ornamented” (κοσμηθεῖσα, 65) with gold, so Athena “ornamented” (κόσμησε) Pandora (Theogony 573 = Works and Days 72). Each woman is a θαῦμα ἰδέσθαι “wonder to behold”: [50] Aphrodite for the glow of the golden jewelry around her breasts (89–90) [51] and Pandora for her embroidered veil (Theogony 574–575) and for the many creatures wrought in her golden crown (Theogony 581) – “as many creatures as the land and sea nourish” (Theogony 582), [52] the same number as Aphrodite at the start of the hymn is said to “tame” (5). Aphrodite’s necklaces are παμποίκιλοι “all-variegated” (89), and both the veil and the crown of Pandora are “intricately wrought” (δαιδαλέην, δαίδαλα, Theogony 575, 581). When in the Theogony the dressing of Pandora as virgin bride is complete, “wonder (θαῦμα) possessed the immortal gods and mortal men” (588), just as Anchises “wondered” (θαύμαινεν, 84) at the sight of the disguised goddess. And in the Works and Days, after describing her dress, the account of Pandora mentions her ψεύδεα “falsehoods,” αἱμύλιοι λόγοι “tricky speeches,” and ἐπίκλοπον ἦθος “thief’s nature” (Works and Days 78), just as Aphrodite follows her visual disguise with its verbal counterpart.
The description of Aphrodite’s “costume” refers, then, to every aspect of Pandora’s appearance, every accoutrement of the virgin bride, [53] except for two essential items, the ζώνη “girdle” and the καλύπτρη or κρήδεμνον “veil.” [54] Among the Greek woman’s garments, the girdle and the veil are the two most basic symbols of female sexuality as something “inside” to be “uncovered,” something, therefore, paradoxically pointed to by its own “covering.” And in keeping with this paradoxical phenomenon of revealing by covering, the failure here to refer overtly to the girdle and veil of Aphrodite does not turn out, upon examination, to indicate their absence. Just as the description of Aphrodite’s dress is delayed (from the scene of her toilette) until it coincides with Anchises’ first sight of it, so reference to the ζώνη is delayed until the moment when Anchises “loosens” it (164), an act that is, like the lifting of the veil, both preliminary to and symbolic of intercourse itself. [55] The narrative does not allow us to “see” the “covering” that marks Aphrodite’s sexuality until we are allowed, like voyeurs, to see it uncovered. Similarly, there is no sign of the goddess’s veil until – and even then, it would be only indirect and after the fact – Anchises sees her face uncovered and recognizes, at last, divinity in the κάλλος ἄμβροτον “immortal beauty” that ἀπέλαμπεν “was glowing forth” from her now visible cheeks (παρειάων), “the beauty that belongs to well-crowned Aphrodite” (174–175). [56] What “glows” at first (ἐλάμπετο, 90) is the golden jewelry – the necklaces and armbands – around the goddess’s breasts. By directing our eyes in this first description to the shining jewelry, the text emphasizes what Anchises saw, the golden aura at the borders of the veil, the sign of all the veil promises.
So Aphrodite would appear here to be imitating Pandora, the prototype of the human virgin bride. But this imitation is far from simple, for what is the human bride except an imitation of Aphrodite? [57] Golden jewelry – both crown and necklaces – are as characteristic of Pandora (see above for her golden crown and Works and Days 74 for her ὅρμοι χρύσειοι “golden necklaces”) as of Aphrodite “of much gold” (πολυχρύσου 1, 9), “golden” (χρυσέῃ 93; Iliad IX 389; Odyssey iv 14; viii 337, 342, xvii 37 = xix 54) and “well-crowned” (ἐϋστεφάνου/–ῳ 6, 175, 287; Odyssey viii 267, 288; xviii 193). And in creating Pandora, Hephaestus “likened the beautiful, lovely form of a virgin to the immortal goddesses in face” (Works and Days 62–63), just as it is from her face that Aphrodite’s “immortal beauty” will shine upon Anchises (174–175). Thus in imitating a human virgin bride, Aphrodite imitates an imitation of herself. In this presentation of herself to Anchises, the “real” Aphrodite comes as an imitation of an imitation of the “real” Aphrodite. Is there any way by which a man could “see through” this imitation, could know that this is “really” Aphrodite in disguise? Some readers have thought the answer is “yes.”
According to Podbielski, “despite the fact that she [Aphrodite] plays the quasi-theatrical role of a chaste maiden, she does not lose her divine character at any moment. Her appearance and her dress, by which Anchises is stupefied, are proof of it.” [58] Despite the fact that the text says she is ὁμοίη “like, equal to” a virgin in εἶδος “appearance, that which is seen,” Aphrodite’s appearance, Podbielski argues, remains that of a goddess, since her πέπλος “gown” is termed “more shining than the gleam of fire,” a phrase applied elsewhere in hexameter only to the armor of Achilles (Iliad XVIII 610); earrings and twisted armbands like hers are attributed elsewhere only to goddesses; and her necklaces are qualified by four epithets, περικαλλέες “exceedingly beautiful,” καλοί “beautiful,” χρύσειοι “golden,” and παμποίκιλοι “all-variegated,” and are said to glow like the moon. Aphrodite here may resemble Pandora in kind, as it were, but exceed her in degree. The goddess’s necklaces are more beautiful, her gown more resplendent, and her earrings and armbands are extra, something Pandora does not wear at all. [59] To Podbielski, “it is incontestable that this portrait of Aphrodite represents her as the goddess of beauty. The ornaments presented with such precision are connected even aetiologically with her most frequent and most venerable epithet, χρυσέη.” [60]
We must conclude, it seems, that Aphrodite’s disguise is deliberately ambiguous. She likens her εἶδος “appearance” and μέγεθος “size” to that of a virgin, so that Anchises will not see her for who she is (82–83), and Anchises, when he does see (ὁρόων, 84) this εἶδος and μέγεθος (85, repeated from 82), “wondered” (θαύμαινεν, 84), as do those who view Pandora. But in her “shining apparel” (εἵματα σιγαλόεντα, 85), also the object of Anchises’ sight and wonder, Aphrodite permits an excess of golden glow and specific jewels that demarcate her from the model of her imitation (the virgin imitating Aphrodite). She permits one to see signs of her divinity and maybe even of her uniqueness as golden goddess of love. In her attempt to seduce Anchises, Aphrodite does not give up her inimitable singularity. Despite her disguise as human so as not to be “recognized with the eyes,” she remains recognizably divine so as not to give up her unique allure.
But can this be right? We have to ask whether Aphrodite could have deliberately included the visual marks that can unmask her disguise, the signs of her real identity, without forfeiting the imitation upon which her goal, as the “real” Aphrodite, depends. [61] Will such an ambiguous imitation – the εἶδος “appearance” of a human virgin, but still visibly divine – not be doomed to the either/or logic of the viewer? Or can Aphrodite have it both ways? Perhaps we are to conclude that the goddess’s epiphany is a “wonder to behold” precisely because it presents an ambiguity that confounds or, better, seduces the analytical capacity of the seer/knower – that such is the strange epistemology of the θαῦμα. And perhaps, then, Aphrodite’s ambiguous epiphany works such thaumaturgy by virtue of what is left unmentioned, “unseen” or not yet seen in this vision of the goddess – her veil. Is it by covering her face that Aphrodite’s unique glamour can work on her victim without giving her away? We must look to the victim’s reaction.

IV. Aphrodite’s Verbal Epiphany

ἔπος of the Male Seized by ἔρος

Anchises’ reaction to the θαῦμα of Aphrodite’s appearance is described thus:
Ἀγχίσην δ᾿ ἔρος εἷλεν, ἔπος δέ μιν ἀντίον ηὔδα.

eros seized Anchises, and he spoke an epos in reply.
Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite 91
Only gradually does the full significance of this line emerge. In a poem where the repetitions of structure, theme, word, and sound are, as Pellizer has demonstrated, [62] singularly extensive and meaningful, and the oppositional structures are so overtly thematic, we may notice the alliteration between ἔρος “eros, sexual desire” and ἔπος “epos, speech in epic,” two ἐ-initial, dissyllabic, –ος-ending words, framing the ἐ-initial εἷλεν “seized.” This specific collocation is unparalleled in extant hexameter, but the use of eros as subject elsewhere is so restricted as to suggest a special relationship between the two words here.
In the Iliad, eros appears in the nominative as subject only in the Διὸς ἀπάτη “deception of Zeus” of Book XIV and in the scene in the bedroom between Paris and Helen in Book III. In the “deception of Zeus,” eros figures in a pattern of sight and speech parallel to the one we find here in the hymn. [63] Hera suddenly appears before Zeus on Mount Ida, just as Aphrodite has suddenly appeared in the same place to Anchises:
                                           ἴδε δὲ νεφεληγερέτα Ζεύς.
ὡς δ᾿ ἴδεν, ὥς μιν ἔρως πυκινὰς φρένας ἀμφεκάλυψεν [64]
οἷον ὅτε πρῶτόν περ ἐμισγέσθην φιλότητι,
εἰς εὐνὴν φοιτῶντε, φίλους λήθοντε τοκῆας.
στῆ δ᾿ αὐτῆς προπάροιθεν ἔπος τ᾿ ἔφατ᾿ τ᾿ ὀνόμαζεν.

                                          Cloud-gathering Zeus saw her.
And as he saw her, so eros veiled his clever wits,
as when for the very first time they were mixed in love-making,
going together into the bed, having escaped the notice of their parents.
And he stood right in front of her, spoke an epos and called her by name.
Iliad XIV 293–297
In this epos Zeus calls Hera by name (for she is not visually disguised) and asks her purpose in coming, but in her reply Hera δολοφρονέουσα “devising a deception (δόλος)” claims to be on her way to reconcile Oceanus and Tethys, long estranged from love-making (Iliad XIV 297–298, 300–306). Accepting this verbal disguise, Zeus replies by urging that they turn to love-making:
οὐ γάρ πώ ποτέ μ᾿ ὧδε θεᾶς ἔρος οὐδὲ γυναικὸς
θυμὸν ἐνι στήθεσσι περιπροχυθεὶς ἐδάμασσεν
ὡς σέο νῦν ἔραμαι καί με γλυκὺς ἵμερος αἱρεῖ.
for not ever before has eros of goddess or woman so
flooded and tamed the heart in my breast …
as now I have eros for you and sweet sexual passion seizes me.
Iliad XIV 315–16, 328
In their bedroom, Paris lures Helen with the same language:
oὐ γάρ πώ ποτέ μ᾿ ὧδε γ᾿ ἔρως φρένας ἀμφεκάλυψεν, …
ὥς σεο νῦν ἔραμαι καί με γλυκὺς ἵμερος αἱρεῖ.
for not ever before has eros so veiled my wits, …
as now I have eros for you and sweet sexual passion seizes me.
Iliad III 442, 446
Both Hera and Helen yield to their husbands’ eros, a desire stronger than that of their first clandestine intercourse, a desire that “veils the wits.”
In the Διὸς ἀπάτη “deception of Zeus,” then, we see the relation between eros “sexual desire” and epos “speech in epic” unfold in the following sequence:
1. The male’s eros “veils his wits” and provokes an epos asking why the female has come.
2. A δόλος “deception” speech by the female disguises the truth.
3. Accepting the female’s verbal deceit, the male urges indulgence of eros.
4. The eros is consummated.
This sequence raises the possibility that a similar proceeding may follow the conjunction of eros and epos in the hymn. And indeed, without awareness of the Iliadic pattern, one can miss the full significance of Anchises’ first epos.
Anchises’ speech seems to ignore the ambiguity of the goddess’s epiphany. As if the θαῦμα “wonder” of Aphrodite were so dazzling that he did not notice her likeness to a παρθένος “virgin,” Anchises speaks as if she is unambiguously divine. [65] That is, he responds with a speech that bears, as Podbielski has shown, all the elements of a cult hymn: the hymnic invocation χαῖρε “hail”; a catalogue of alternate names; the promise to build her an altar and make seasonal offerings, in short, to found a cult; and the request for blessings in return, here, a long, wealthy, and prestigious life among the Trojans and a vigorous progeny (92–106). Unlike Odysseus who, when confronted by an unknown female in the countryside, seeks the identity of Nausicaa by posing both alternatives, “if you are a goddess” and “if you are a mortal” (Odyssey vi 149–153), Anchises acts as if he has not even considered the possibility that this apparition is not divine. His words would be the expression not of eros but of σέβας “reverential awe.” [66] And indeed his speech does work as the proper human response to Aphrodite’s true identity: his petition does foretell the true outcome of the encounter.
But we deduce such simplicity of motive – that Anchises has no idea that this female is not a goddess – at the cost of the same omission it imputes to the hero: we ignore the text’s clear insistence that Aphrodite appears “like an untamed virgin,” that is, as a sexually available mortal woman, and that “eros seized” Anchises. The evidence of the Iliad indicates that the epos following eros is an attempt to determine the reason why the female has come. And considered in light of the conventions of indirect speech in early Greek, Anchises’ words here could be in service of such an effort. Compare the αἶνος “testing discourse” by which the disguised Odysseus tells Eumaeus how the “real” Odysseus gave him a cloak at Troy, so as to test whether the swineherd will be hospitable to his master’s guest-friend and give him a cloak as well. [67] On analogy with this αἶνος, Anchises’ speech may be an attempt to resolve the ambiguity of this female’s appearance, to determine just who she is and to obtain from her satisfaction of his eros, should her identity permit. If such is his motive, a “cult hymn” is definitely the right way to begin.
Assuming the exclusivity of the options it presents, ambiguity can be resolved logically by treating one possibility as true and seeing what results. In the case of Aphrodite’s ambiguous epiphany, which possibility should be tested first? Surely that the female is a goddess, for if she were divine, any suggestion of mortality – especially an erotic overture – could be a dangerous insult. A fully detailed “cult hymn” is the right first response, whether Anchises believes she is a goddess or is not sure. Anchises’ speech can thus conform to the order of eros and epos in the Iliad, and need not imply that Aphrodite’s disguise as a mortal virgin has been in vain. What we should rather say is that as yet Anchises’ own belief cannot be certainly determined. In motivation his epos is as ambiguous as is the epiphany itself. But it is the right speech, whether he already recognizes or is testing her divinity.

Aphrodite’s Erotic Fiction

Just as Hera replies to Zeus’ epos with a δόλος “deception” speech, so Aphrodite now answers Anchises with a deceitful epos of her own. [68] The effect of her speech is specified at its conclusion:
ὣς εἰποῦσα θεὰ γλυκὺν ἵμερον ἔμβαλε θυμῷ
Ἀγχίσην δ᾿ ἔρος εἷλεν, ἔπος τ᾿ ἔφατ᾿ ἔκ τ᾿ ὀνόμαζεν.

By speaking thus, the goddess cast sweet sexual passion into his heart.
eros seized Anchises, and he spoke an epos and called her by name.
Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite 143–144
By recalling line 73, where Aphrodite “casts sexual passion (ἵμερον)” into the breasts of the beasts; lines 45 and 53, where Zeus “casts sweet sexual passion (γλυκὺν ἵμερον)” for Anchises into Aphrodite’s own heart; and line 2, where Aphrodite is said to “rouse sweet sexual passion (γλυκὺν ἵμερον)” in the gods, line 143 implies that Aphrodite’s “speaking thus” here is an instance of the power of “Aphrodite” in action. And by repeating the eros/epos conjunction that followed her earlier, visual epiphany (“eros seized Anchises, and he spoke an epos in reply,” 91), line 144 implies that the speech just concluded is that visual epiphany’s analogue, a verbal version of its deceptive ambiguity, a verbal θαῦμα “wonder” to parallel the earlier “cosmos” of sight and smell. By what means does the goddess’s speech achieve its erotic ἀπάτη “deception”? How does it succeed in persuading Anchises that she is an “untamed virgin” meant to be his own?
Wielding at will, like the Muses in the Theogony, both ἀληθέα “true things” and ψεύδεα ὁμοῖα ἐτύμοισιν “false things like to real things,” Aphrodite first denies the truth (her divinity) and then produces an imitation of truth, a convincing verisimilitude. [69] Successful imitation depends, as again the Speech of the Muses confirms, upon knowledge – knowledge in this case of what will “really” seduce a male of the heroic tradition, not only what plot will prove irresistible, but also the rhetorical means by which this tradition creates the “effect of the real.” [70] Accordingly, having contradicted Anchises’ earlier list of divine names (one of which is her own) with a fictitious human parentage (111–112), Aphrodite covers her fiction with the mechanics of persuasive credibility. Before being asked, she answers the question of how she knows Anchises’ language:
γλῶσσαν δ’ ὑμετέρην καὶ ἡμετέρην σάφα οἶδα.
Τρῳὰς γὰρ μεγάρῳ με τροφὸς τρέφεν: ἣ δὲ διαπρὸ
σμικρὴν παῖδ᾽ ἀτίταλλε, φίλης παρὰ μητρὸς ἑλοῦσα.
ὣς δή τοι γλῶσσάν γε καὶ ὑμετέρην εὖ οἶδα.

And I know clearly your language and mine,
for a Trojan nurse raised me in my home: and right from the time
I was a small child she nursed me, after taking me from my dear mother.
So indeed I know well your language too.
Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite 113–116
Chronological circumstructure (present result – past cause – present result), a figural guarantor of narrative reliability in epic, marks not only this “how I know the Trojan language” story, but also Aphrodite’s “how I got here” story: [71]
νῦν δέ μ᾽ ἀνήρπαξε χρυσόρραπις Ἀργειφόντης
ἐκ χοροῦ Ἀρτέμιδος χρυσηλακάτου, κελαδεινῆς.
πολλαὶ δὲ νύμφαι καὶ παρθένοι ἀλφεσίβοιαι
παίζομεν, ἀμφὶ δ᾽ ὅμιλος ἀπείριτος ἐστεφάνωτο.
ἔνθεν μ᾽ ἥρπαξε χρυσόρραπις Ἀργειφόντης·
πολλὰ δ᾽ ἔπ᾽ ἤγαγεν ἔργα καταθνητῶν ἀνθρώπων,
πολλὴν δ᾽ ἄκληρόν τε καὶ ἄκτιτον, ἣν διὰ θῆρες
ὠμοφάγοι φοιτῶσι κατὰ σκιόεντας ἐναύλους.

And now Hermes the Slayer of Argus, he of the golden wand, abducted me
from the dancing group of Artemis, she of the golden arrows, sounding loudly as she hunts.
Many of us, maidens and marriageable virgins,
we were playing, and an immense crowd was circling around.
From there Hermes the Slayer of Argus, he of the golden wand, abducted me.
Over many worked fields of mortal men he led me
and over much earth [sc. γαῖαν], both unapportioned and unsettled, where wild beasts
who eat raw flesh roam through shadowy glens.
Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite 117–124
And since the appearance of being a virgin, indeed, a helpless virgin, is the essential element in her disguise, she adds a plaintive intensity to her account of being abducted from the maidens’ chorus through insistent line-initial anaphora: πολλαί “many” (νύμφαι “virgins,” 119), πολλά “many” (ἔργα “worked fields,” 122), πολλήν “much” (sc. γαῖαν, 123), linked through the word-initial π’s with the crucial phrase παρθένοι παίζομεν “we virgins were playing” (119–120). These formal structures ornament the most seductive of epic plots: the ἁρπαγή “abduction.”
The plot of the ἁρπαγή “abduction” is appealing to men – as the Iliad might testify – because it provides the opportunity for both transgression and rectification of society’s social order: both the illicit pleasure of taking another man’s woman and the glory of (re-)appropriating the woman in legitimate marriage, often through mortal combat. [72] Aphrodite makes her version of this plot especially seductive by maximizing the glory and pleasure of its “hero” Anchises, while minimizing his guilt and risk. Anchises’ honor is not only preserved, it is actually increased by having a god abduct the woman he is supposedly to take for his own. The goddess’s tale then speaks of both legitimate and illegitimate love-making with the woman – and in that order, thus intimating the possibility (taken up later by Anchises) of the first as a justification for the second. Aphrodite first portrays a legal, fruitful marriage between the two of them as divine dictate (126–127): “And he [Hermes] used to declare that I would be called Anchises’ wedded wife beside the bed and would bear you glorious children.” She describes her coming as nothing less than κρατερὴ ἀνάγκη “strong necessity” (130).
Having thus established their legitimate marriage as divinely ordained, the goddess then puts into words the unlawful union that is her true desire. Her modus dicendi is the alpha-privative:
ἀλλά σε πρὸς Ζηνὸς γουνάζομαι ἠδὲ τοκήων
ἐσθλῶν· οὐ μὲν γάρ κε κακοὶ τοιόνδε τέκοιεν·
ἀδμήτην μ᾽ ἀγαγὼν καὶ ἀπειρήτην φιλότητος
πατρί τε σῷ δεῖξον καὶ μητέρι κέδν᾽ εἰδυίῃ
σοῖς τε κασιγνήτοις, οἵ τοι ὁμόθεν γεγάασιν.
οὔ σφιν ἀεικελίη νυὸς ἔσσομαι, ἀλλ᾽ εἰκυῖα.

But I beg you by Zeus and your noble
parents – for no base-born folk could beget such a man as you – 
lead me untamed (-δμήτην) and inexperienced (-πειρήτην) in love-making
and present me to your father and your careful-minded mother
and your relations descended from the same stock.
Not an unseemly (εικελίη) daughter- and sister-in-law shall I be to them, but seemly.
Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite 131–136
Just as her visual epiphany manifested the goddess of sexuality as her opposite – the un-/not-yet-tamed virgin – so the alpha-privatives here present the “premarital” union of Aphrodite and Anchises in its negated form. The effect is like that of a praeteritio: “I shall pass over saying that … etc.” What is denied and expelled at the level of the narrating is (re–)admitted at the level of the narration. One gets the satisfaction of saying something without the technical responsibility. Similarly, here, by means of the alpha-privatives, Aphrodite can include the pleasure of forbidden sex in her abduction plot. Or we should rather say that she gives a slight peek at such pleasure behind the “veil” of the negated adjectives – untamed (ἀ-δμήτην), inexperienced (ἀ-πειρήτην), οὔ ἀεικελίη (not unseemly), for she no sooner utters these seductive terms than she provides her tale with a “festive conclusion,” the marriage, complete with lavish dowry to enrich the groom and the prestigious wedding feast itself (137–142). [73] The “peek” of the alpha-privatives is enough, however. As we saw before in the case of the ἀδμήτη παρθένος “untamed virgin” (82), alpha-privative adjectives, expressing the lack of sexual experience are, when applied to human virgins, not complete negations – not absolutely “no,” but only “not yet.” They signify only the absence heretofore of the phallus and thus incite its presence. Such is the testimony of Anchises’ reaction to this tale.

ἔρος and Epistemology

In the pattern of eros and epos in the Iliad, the δόλος-speech of the female is followed by another epos by the male in which, without verifying the claims of the female’s verbal disguise, he urges consummation of his desire. Here in the hymn the male would seem to be more careful. In the epos in which Anchises displays the eros aroused by Aphrodite’s “epic” imitation of an untamed virgin, the hero makes his call for immediate love-making conditional upon the truth of the female’s tale:
εἰ μὲν θνητή τ᾽ ἐσσι, γυνὴ δέ σε γείνατο μήτηρ,
Ὀτρεὺς δ᾽ ἐστὶ πατὴρ ὀνομακλυτός, ὡς ἀγορεύεις,
ἀθανάτου δὲ ἕκητι διακτόρου ἐνθάδ᾽ ἱκάνεις
Ἑρμέω, ἐμὴ δ᾽ ἄλοχος κεκλήσεαι ἤματα πάντα·
οὔ τις ἔπειτα θεῶν οὔτε θνητῶν ἀνθρώπων
ἐνθάδε με σχήσει, πρὶν σῇ φιλότητι μιγῆναι
αὐτίκα νῦν· οὐδ᾽ εἴ κεν ἑκηβόλος αὐτὸς Ἀπόλλων
τόξου ἀπ᾽ ἀργυρέου προΐῃ βέλεα στονόεντα.
βουλοίμην κεν ἔπειτα, γύναι ἐικυῖα θεῇσι,
σῆς εὐνῆς ἐπιβὰς δῦναι δόμον Ἄιδος εἴσω.

If on one hand you are mortal, and a woman was the mother who bore you,
and famous-named Otreus is your father, as you say,
and you come here by the will of the immortal guide
Hermes, and you will be called my wife all our days,
no one then of gods or mortal men
will here restrain me from being mixed with you in love-making
immediately now. Not if far-shooting Apollo himself
should cast forth baneful arrows from his silver bow.
I would wish then, woman like to the goddesses,
if I could mount upon your bed, to go down into the house of Hades.
Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite 145–154
This speech complements Anchises’ first epos (92–106) in that it seems carefully constructed to test the second alternative of Aphrodite’s ambiguity, the possibility that she is a human virgin. If the first speech, while piously eschewing an overt conditional construction, nevertheless meant in effect, “if you are a goddess, I shall establish your cult here, and do you bless me accordingly,” this second speech is openly and profusely conditional. Anchises’ determination to make love immediately – even at the cost of death itself – is made dependent, for all its vehemence, on a five-fold protasis, listing the key items of Aphrodite’s tale.
By the logic of this grammar, everything depends upon the veracity of Aphrodite’s claimed identity. But how can Anchises’ conditional construction determine the identity of the female? The implied reasoning seems to be that if she is not a human virgin destined to be his wife, she certainly would not persist in her story and acquiesce to premarital loss of virginity. [74] If she is who she claims to be, she would have no need to resist, especially if her intended flatters her with a hyperbolic expression of desire – and what could be more flattering or hyperbolic than Anchises’ final vow? If she does not resist, her claim and Anchises’ reaction to it must be correct. The calculation would seem flawless: this female is ambiguously divine and human; to the conventionally correct treatment of a goddess, she has not responded as a goddess; if she is not the virgin she claims to be, she will not maintain the claim at the cost of an unlawful liaison that would jeopardize her subsequent marriageability. She must be, as the text with perfect irony makes Anchises call her, a “woman like to the goddesses” (153).
The only fault in this reasoning is the prior assumption of innocent ambiguity on the part of the veiled stranger. Anchises’ αἶνος-like speeches will determine the truth only if Aphrodite responds with truth and not its imitation. For all their accord with traditional protocols and sound logic, Anchises’ speeches ignore the possibility of duplicitous ambiguity, ever present in the capacity of language embodied in the Speech of the Muses:
ἴδμεν ψεύδεα πολλὰ λέγειν ἐτύμοισιν ὁμοῖα,
ἴδμεν δ’ εὖτ’ ἐθέλωμεν ἀληθέα γηρύσασθαι.

we know how to say many false things like to real things,
and we know, whenever we want, how to utter true things.
Theogony 27–28
As Aphrodite has disguised herself as “like to (ὁμοίη) an untamed virgin” (82) so the Muses know how to utter falsehoods “like to (ὁμοῖα)” the truth. Why is this alternative of knowledge-based ambiguity not anticipated by a male so cultivated as is Anchises in epic conventions? The repetition of eros as the motive of his epos suggests the answer: to discern the “truth” of this situation would be to discover the prohibition of his eros. Just as eros for Hera “veiled the clever wits” of Zeus, so the eros aroused by Aphrodite’s imitation “veils” the one logical alternative that Anchises’ speeches fail to take into account, that her story is an erotic fiction, one that covers not a “woman like to the goddesses” but a goddess deliberately (dissimulating by) simulating a mortal virgin. Aphrodite’s costume with its glow of gold blinds Anchises to this possibility, for were he to “see” it, he would “see through” it, he would “recognize the goddess with his eyes” (83) and could not “lift the veil.” Thus, through a sort of sympathetic magic, eros provoked by imitation turns the logical process of truth determination into an imitation of a sincere epistemological quest. [75] For when motivated by erotic desire, the goal of the process is not really to find the truth, but to find that the imitation of the true – the sexually available virgin – is truthful.
No man whose ardor is aroused by the “veiled Aphrodite” could discern that she is “really” the goddess of sexuality imitating a virgin and not his destined bride. But it would not make any difference, even if he could. For Pandora, the virgin bride, is herself an imitation of Aphrodite, and thus the “veiled Aphrodite” is the model of how all mortal virgins present themselves to men. The female is an “imitation” either way, and which way the imitation is “really” going can be decided only after the male – like Anchises here or Epimetheus in the Hesiodic texts – lifts the καλύπτρη and loosens the ζώνη, and thereby learns for himself what they conceal. But this knowledge cannot come from sight alone.

A Disguised Bridal Scene

Following Anchises’ second epos, Aphrodite’s answer – the reply that would parallel her earlier fiction – comes in the form of ambiguous silence, not denying and so apparently confirming the truth of the conditions he posed. This phase of her verbal disguise works so quickly that without the expectation of the female’s δόλος “deception” speech following the male’s erotically motivated epos, one would almost miss it. For at once the mode of encounter moves for the first time from sight and speech to action – more precisely, to actions suggestive of a marriage ceremony.
In keeping with the ambiguity of Aphrodite here, the ensuing bridal scene is both real and unreal. For the man, it is an actual passage from the “untamed virginity” of adolescence as a hunter to an adulthood productive of children – and to this degree a “real” marriage. [76] And if she were who she seems, it would be a similar sexual initiation for the goddess as well. It is at least her first liaison with a mortal. Accordingly, Anchises “takes her hand” – the initiatory gesture of the wedding ceremony – and she “walks, with her face turned around and her beautiful eyes downcast” with the shyness of a virgin bride (155–156). [77] From their sexual union she will give birth to Anchises’ child and become the mother of his race. But this “Pandora” is also a goddess in disguise, about to consummate her seduction of a mortal. And this “wedding” outside the city, apart from the company of the families it would unite, is an untamed imitation of the civilized institution.
Such is the symbolism of the coverings upon their marriage bed:
               αὐτὰρ ὕπερθεν
ἄρκτων δέρματ᾽ ἔκειτο βαρυφθόγγων τε λεόντων,
τοὺς αὐτὸς κατέπεφνεν ἐν οὔρεσιν ὑψηλοῖσιν.

               And on top
were laid the skins of bears and deep-roaring lions,
that he himself had killed in the high mountains.
Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite 158–160
As Anchises’ own trophies, these wild animal skins signal his success as a hunter, the status preliminary to legitimate marriage and the assumption it brings of the adult male’s role in the polis, where he will be called upon to father future citizens and to devote his hunting skills to defending the city as a warrior. The skins are thus the male counterpart to the accoutrements of the female virgin, marks of being ripe for the union from which new life is born. Specifying the animals killed by Anchises, the bear and the lion, reinforces this association with fertility by recalling the earlier mention of the beasts, including lions and bears, who respond to the advent of Aphrodite by lying down two by two (69–74). Now the goddess’s power embraces Anchises, too, as the killer of beasts will join the beasts in procreative coupling. [78] But this recollection of Aphrodite’s sway over beasts also points to the disparity of status between the man and the goddess and to the irregularity of their union.
By themselves the skins testify to Anchises’ prowess, his capacity to “break” wild beasts on high mountains. [79] Making love to the goddess upon these furs would seem a similar act of domination, a “breaking” of the παρθένος ἀδμήτη “unbroken virgin.” Yet by recalling the goddess’s earlier epiphany, these blankets also bespeak the universality of Aphrodite’s power – a power of confounding the distinction between real and imitation, and a universality confirmed in this imitation of domination wherein Anchises is actually subjected and, indeed, subjects himself to the goddess’s will. In “taking” his bride, every husband yields to Aphrodite, but his bride is not usually that goddess in disguise – or is she? Can he know for sure? This is a marriage outside the city. Can the city by its institution of father-rule securely exclude such a wildly paradoxical union in which the man “puts himself underneath by putting himself on top” – upon fur skins that figure this self-imposed sexual trope? [80]
This intertwining of sexual context and deception culminates in what is stated and unstated, seen and not seen, in the final act of the seduction. There is first a movement toward the ultimate moment in a wedding, the moment, in fact, usually hidden from all outside view, the deflowering of the bride. The hymn provides more than a brief, discreet glimpse. The text stages the progress of erotic arousal, as it describes Anchises detaching the goddess’s “cosmos” object by object, garment by garment – in the same words used to describe his first sight of them: the γναμπτάς θ᾿ ἕλικας κάλυκάς τε καὶ ὅρμους “spiral armlets and shining flower-cup earrings” (163 and 87) and the εἵματα σιγαλόεντα “shining apparel” (164 and 85). [81] We are offered the voyeuristic satisfaction of watching him strip off what he gazed at before. But shared terms also link this undressing with Aphrodite’s dressing of herself at Paphos: Anchises takes the “ornament from her skin” (κόσμον … ἀπὸ χροός, 162) as she was before “ornamented about her skin with gold” (περὶ χροῒ … χρυσῷ κοσμηθεῖσα, 64–65). The εἵματα σιγαλόεντα “shining apparel” he now lays upon the “silver-studded seat” (164–165) recall the εἵματα καλά “beautiful apparel” we saw her assume inside her redolent temple (64). As we watch Anchises take off what we saw the goddess put on before, we are forced to see, at the pinnacle of his erotic victory, his epistemological defeat – and to see it in the larger context of divine will.
This ironic vision of mortal deception and divine knowledge is what the hymn ultimately stresses about this mortal-plus-immortal union. After describing his removal of Aphrodite’s clothes, the text moves silently past any mention of how the goddess looked to Anchises or of how he felt. As if to save its hero and its audience as well from the penalty for seeing a goddess naked, [82] the hymn moves immediately to pronounce their union a function of human ignorance, with all the hieratic solemnity of a double expression of divine will (166–167):
ὁ δ᾿ ἔπειτα θεῶν ἰόντητι καὶ αἴσῃ
ἀθανάτῃ παρέλεκτο θεᾷ βροτός, οὐ σάφα εἰδώς.

Then he by the will of the gods and by fate
lay beside an immortal goddess, he a mortal, not knowing clearly. [83]
Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite 166–167
Now Anchises has taken off Aphrodite’s clothes. Now he could see her without any veil, but whatever else it may have offered, the sight was not enough to solve the ambiguity of her appearance. Here we do not have to wonder about the actual state of Anchises’ awareness – whether he is only pretending ignorance and did, as he will claim later to Aphrodite, recognize her from the start. It is not that he saw she was the goddess and just did not care, for we have him οὐ σάφα εἰδώς “not knowing clearly” on the authority of the hymnic voice itself.
In this context, it is significant that what we do not see, the part of the undressing that the text does not explicitly describe, is the actual removal of Aphrodite’s veil, the action that would parallel the ἀνακαλυπτήρια “unveiling” in an actual wedding. [84] Unless she is not wearing one – unless her disguise as an “untamed virgin” lacks this essential mark of modesty – Anchises must have lifted her veil, but the text says nothing about him doing so. It says nothing about his seeing the goddess’s face, the locus of unique identity, or more specifically, the mouth, the displaced parallel of the private parts below. By this omission, the hymn may reproduce Anchises’ own visual and mental experience. By not saying that he removes the veil, the text suggests that Anchises saw but did not really see, and that this would-be bride thus remained unrecognized in the very moment when a groom can view her in her uniqueness most intimately. As before when he questioned her, Anchises’ eros blinds him to Aphrodite’s true identity, even as he sees her. Thus does the goddess remain disguised, even when naked. Even seeing the goddess unveiled and even – as is perhaps silently implied – the knowledge that comes with love-making itself is not enough to give the clear knowledge that resolves ambiguity.
From the perspective of an Anchises – of any man whom Aphrodite and eros deceive – the inside of the woman, her truth, remains impenetrable even to intercourse. In its desire to tame, the phallus is blinded. A man can lift the veil of the goddess disguised as a virgin. He can see her body naked. He can “know” it, but such knowledge is not insight. The man can recognize the truth only after his eros is spent, when the woman herself “lifts her veil” and shows who and what she is.

V. Aphrodite’s Epiphany Unveiled

It is only when Aphrodite herself (αὐτή, 171) puts on her clothes, thus recalling the previous sequence of her dressing and undressing, [85] and stands to her full height that her true face is unveiled. Indeed, we see it before Anchises, upon whom she has “poured sweet, deep sleep” (170–171): the “immortal beauty, such as is characteristic of well-crowned Cythereia” [86] that now “shone (ἀπέλαμπεν) from her cheeks” (174–175), as before it was the glow of her jewelry that “shone around her tender breasts” (ἐλάμπετο, 90). [87] Thus is inaugurated the revelation to the mortal male of the goddess’s true identity, an epiphany that reverses their apparent positions in this confrontation, rendering the human male submissive and the goddess openly supreme. Yet this reversal itself reverses, as defeat becomes victory and praise becomes blame.
Aphrodite couples the visual revelation of her true identity with the speech that might have come, instead of silence, after the five-fold protasis of Anchises’ erotic epos (145–154), in which he called the goddess a “woman like to (εἰκυῖα) the goddesses” (153), ironically recalling the goddess’s initial disguise as “like to (ὁμοίη) an untamed virgin” (82) and its goal of clouding his vision, μή μιν ταρβήσειεν ἐν ὀφθαλμοῖσι νοήσας “lest he tremble in fear, having recognized her with his eyes” (83). In terms that recall this earlier disguise as well as its goal, she now addresses her sleeping lover:
ὄρσεο, Δαρδανίδη: τί νυ νήγρετον [88] ὕπνον ἰαύεις;
καὶ φράσαι, εἴ τοι ὁμοίη ἐγὼν ἰνδάλλομαι εἶναι,
οἵην δή με τὸ πρῶτον ἐν ὀφθαλμοῖσι νόησας.

Rise, son of Dardanus! Why do you sleep the sleep from which there is no waking?
And consider if I seem to you to be like to such a one
as I seemed, when you first recognized me with your eyes.
Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite 177–179
Anchises’ reaction, upon seeing her neck and the beautiful eyes no longer “cast down,” is the trembling (τάρβησεν, 182) her disguise aimed before to forestall, and in a repetition of her previous, bridelike gesture, “he turned his eyes askance in the other direction” (182).
The reversal is figured in privative-form adjectives that now characterize Anchises’ condition. Just as Aphrodite had disguised herself as a virgin un-tamed by sex, so now Anchises’ sexual initiation leaves him the mirror image – parallel but opposite – of his lover in a sleep termed “un-waking” (νήγρετον, 177), a state in which the phallus cannot rise again to tame. And so he now supplicates his earlier supplicant: [89]
αὐτίκα ς᾽ ὡς τὰ πρῶτα, θεά, ἴδον ὀφθαλμοῖσιν,
ἔγνων ὡς θεὸς ἦσθα· σὺ δ᾽ οὐ νημερτὲς ἔειπες.
ἀλλά σε πρὸς Ζηνὸς γουνάζομαι αἰγιόχοιο,
μή με ζῶντ᾽ ἀμενηνὸν ἐν ἀνθρώποισιν ἐάσῃς
ναίειν, ἀλλ᾽ ἐλέαιρ᾽· ἐπεὶ οὐ βιοθάλμιος ἀνὴρ
γίγνεται, ὅς τε θεαῖς εὐνάζεται ἀθανάτῃσι.

Immediately, when I first saw you, goddess, with my eyes
I recognized that you were divine. But you did not speak unerringly.
But by Zeus who holds the aegis, I beseech you – 
do not allow me, living but without strength, [90]
to dwell among men, but have pity. For no man’s life blooms
who sleeps with immortal goddesses.
Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite 185–190
Sympathy with Anchises’ dread of impotence might obscure his masterful use of traditional rhetoric to bolster a proposal that is in fact far from timid and that bears something of the same ambiguity with which he first addressed the disguised goddess.

Submissive Anchises: Erotic Hero or God?

Why should a plea to escape the punishment of one who sleeps with a goddess be prefaced by an insistence that he knew she was a goddess from the start? Would not a claim of simple and total ignorance be more logical? Anchises knows better. He knows the traditionally proper response to the epiphany of a previously disguised goddess, just as he knew before the right way to test her ambiguous appearance. This much is clear from comparing his words with those of Odysseus, after Athena dispels her disguise as a “grand, beautiful woman, who knows glorious handiwork” – another case of the goddess imitating a human imitation of herself (Odyssey xiii 289). [91] To Athena Odysseus says: “It is difficult, goddess, for a man to recognize you on meeting, even one exceedingly knowledgeable. For you liken yourself to everything” (xiii 312–313). [92] In both cases the hero aggressively defends his powers of perception, so that his defeat both proves and compliments the superiority of the goddess’s powers of deception, while making his mistake no more avoidable than his human condition.
If Anchises is more aggressively self-justifying and, by the logic of this approach, thereby more complimentary, it is because, unlike Odysseus, he is asking for something. He is asking for nothing less than the pinnacle of sexual success for a mortal male: to see the naked Aphrodite and get away with it, to sleep with her and not “go down into the house of Hades” (154). In this moment the rightness of his first response to the disguised Aphrodite shows most clearly. For his having hailed her as a goddess is now plausible evidence of having then recognized her as such. And reiterating that recognition now serves to acknowledge her divinity once again. So also, indirectly, does the charge that she spoke οὐ νημερτές “not unerringly” – again a privative form, here testifying to human error (ἁμαρτάνω) whose absence (ν-) is not absolute, but able itself to be negated (οὐ) simply by a goddess’s deceptive speech. The human knowledge that cancels error is itself cancelled when it comes up against divine lies.
Anchises’ apologia thus amounts to a reestablishment of the boundary that divides divine from human, the boundary crossed by his “mixture” with the goddess. In his intercourse with Aphrodite, Anchises has intruded upon divine knowledge. He has seen and thus knows what only a god should see and know, the goddess’s naked body. The normal compensation in early Greek thought for such an elevation above the level of the human mind is a corresponding degradation at the level of the body: blindness, maiming, impotence, or death. [93] For sexual access to divinity, a man pays with a loss of his capacity for sexual reproduction. Anchises seems to ask, in effect, that for reassuming the human condition of acknowledged powerlessness over against divine ambiguity, his body may be allowed to retain its human vigor. In epic tradition, this combination of experiencing divine knowledge with unimpaired human life is not without parallel. Odysseus braved Hades to gain wisdom from Teiresias and returned home successfully thereafter. What Anchises wants from Aphrodite would seem to be an erotic counterpart to Odysseus’ heroism, just as he earlier besought the goddess for distinction among the Trojans and a flourishing progeny (103–104). [94]
But Anchises may also be asking for something more, an experience of divine sexuality that ends not in erotic heroism but in immortality itself. It is the claim of van der Ben that we must give full force to ἐν ἀνθρώποισιν ναίειν in 188–189 and realize that Anchises is asking not “to dwell among men” but to dwell among the gods. [95] Taking ζῶντα as conditional, he translates: “But I beseech you, by Zeus who holds the aegis, not to let me, if I shall live [i.e., escape the normal punishment for intercourse with a goddess], dwell strengthless among humankind.” This interpretation is required, van der Ben argues, to make sense of Aphrodite’s reply that effectively grants Anchises erotic heroism, but refuses immortality by adducing the negative examples of Ganymede and Tithonus. Anchises seeks to resolve their illicit mixture not by returning to mortal status but by himself becoming Aphrodite’s undying lover.
To recapitulate the turnings of this scene: At the epiphany of Aphrodite unveiled, Anchises trembles and looks away. For the first time, he does not gaze directly at the goddess. Shielding his eyes is a sign of fearful submission. But it also affords a chance for Anchises to see apart from Aphrodite’s blinding beauty. From that point of view he can voice a prayer that perfectly reflects the double meaning of this gesture: he fearfully acknowledges violating the division between divine and human, in the same words that seek, instead of punishment, either heroism or divinity in the erotic sphere. The ambiguity seems as intentional here as in his first words to the veiled goddess. As Aphrodite’s reply to his plea will indicate, Anchises has suggested immortality for himself. But his prayer also leaves open the possibility of a vigorous life, if he cannot be divine. As he aimed before to determine from Aphrodite’s answer whether she was divine or human, so he now presents two options that ask the same question of her with regard to himself.
So important is this question that the rest of the hymn is devoted to Aphrodite’s response. Her answer – that he is to be mortal, not her divine lover, but sexually prolific, not impotent – focuses the hymn upon what most scholars take to be its key theme and αἴτιον, the boundary between immortality and mortality, mediated no longer by intercourse between divinities and humans but henceforth by mortal procreation alone. [96] It is thus Aphrodite’s own prophecy that voices Zeus’ success in staging this erotic encounter, the end of her cosmos of divine/human mixture and the stability of his own order.

VI. Aphrodite’s Prophecy

The rest of the hymn except for its last three lines is made up of the prophecy of Aphrodite, some ninety-nine lines (192–290). No other Homeric hymn has such a long stretch of narration by its divinity, and, indeed, Aphrodite speaks in toto far more lines in proportion to her whole hymn than does any other god. [97] More than of any other deity, the ἔργα “works” of Aphrodite are presented as speech. Yet the hymn never permits the goddess wholly direct discourse, never an expression unmediated by the ruling desire of Zeus. Her potential boast among the gods of mixing gods with women and goddesses with men is uttered only as indirect statement, subordinated to Zeus’ “negative purpose.” Her formally direct speech so far in the hymn serves a ἵμερος “sexual passion” that is at once both her own and originated by Zeus precisely to preclude this potential boast. In her prophecy to Anchises, Aphrodite’s words continue to bear this double origin. They are hers – they express her desire and her knowledge. But even though her passion is now fully spent, the expenditure leaves the goddess’s speech still subject ultimately to Zeus’ presiding will.
It is in light of this complex authorship – Aphrodite as herself authored by the hymnic voice that represents and implements the plan of Zeus – that the conflicting forces and apparently illogical turns of this long prophecy can be understood. Like the hymn itself, the prophecy is structured as an antagonism between Aphrodite’s cosmos of mixtures and the hierarchical order of Zeus. In this conflict, the effort to subordinate the goddess will serve finally by its success, however, to make her subordination uncertain.

The Structure of the Prophecy

Aphrodite’s long prophecy is structured in a ring-composition of three main movements: [98]
i. Aeneas: Anchises’ κῦδος “victory” vs. Aphrodite’s ἄχος “grief”
A About Anchises: 192–195
          κῦδος “victory” for Anchises
B About Aeneas and Aphrodite: 196–99
          ἄχος “grief” for Aphrodite
ii. Ganymede and Tithonus
C About Anchises’ race: 200–201
          Examples of Ganymede and Tithonus: 202–238
About Anchises and Aphrodite: 239–255
          θάνατος “death” for Anchises: 239–246
          ὄνειδος “blame” for Aphrodite: 247–255
iii. Aeneas: Anchises’ Boast vs. Aphrodite’s Blame and Praise
B´ About Aeneas: 256–280
          Aeneas’ Nurses: the Nymphs of Mt. Ida
A´ About Anchises and Aphrodite: 281–290
          Aphrodite’s Threat vs. Anchises’ Boast
Within this circular structure is an opposition, recalling the opening antagonism between Aphrodite and Zeus, between praise of Anchises and blame of Aphrodite because of their son, Aeneas. The prophecy thus mirrors in reverse the submissive grandiosity of Anchises’ plea. With all the power of the unveiled goddess to foretell the future, Aphrodite predicts a grief and shame for herself that are given voice even as she orders their silencing.

i. Aeneas: Anchises’ κῦδος “victory” vs. Aphrodite’s ἄχος “grief”

Aphrodite begins by responding both to the fear and to the implied question in Anchises’ appeal. She hails him with an epithet that reveals he is, indeed, to be mortal, not her divine lover, but far from impotent: κύδιστε καταθνητῶν ἀνθρώπων “most gifted with κῦδος of mortal men” (192) – the epithet bearing here the primary sense of κῦδος “magic talisman of victory given by a god.” [99] Anchises is to be granted a transcendent victory over the loss of procreative μένος “strength” (188) that normally follows intercourse with a goddess, and even over the mortality to which he remains consigned. Thus Aphrodite assures him: “you have no reason to fear suffering evil from me, at least, or from the other blessed ones, since indeed you are dear (φίλος) to the gods” (194–195). Instead of becoming a man οὐ βιοθάλμιος “not blooming in life” (189), he will receive the θάλος “bloom” of their union, a son who will rule the Trojans, and, from him, perpetual progeny (196–197). The epiphany of Aphrodite unveiled and the revelation of her erotic deception end by elevating Anchises to erotic heroism, to the status of being the first mortal man to sleep with Aphrodite and to be related to the gods through the child of this intercourse. Not only will he sleep with the goddess without penalty, their “mixture” will make him the father of a race of rulers who will keep his seed alive past his own death. Having thus declared his unending fatherhood, Aphrodite now names their son.
In naming the child who brings victory to his father, her erotic victim, the victorious Aphrodite bespeaks her own sexual defeat:
τῷ δὲ καὶ Αἰνείας ὄνομ᾿ ἔσσεται οὕνεκά μ᾿ αἰνὸν
ἔσχεν ἄχος ἕνεκα [100] βροτοῦ ἀνέρος ἔμπεσον εὐνῇ.

And so indeed Aeneas will be his name because a dread
grief held me because I fell upon the bed of a mortal man.
Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite 198–199
As with the negated acknowledgment of Aphrodite’s erotic power in the mini-hymns to the virgin goddesses, so here the goddess’s power of speech is confirmed by its negative trope. On the one hand, it is an assumption of authority unparalleled in early Greek literature for the mother to name the child, and children named for maternal attributes are rare. [101] But, on the other, that attribute is the “dread grief” of being degraded in her own sphere of power. Aeneas becomes a living memorial to this degradation, but also, more precisely, to the magnitude of the goddess’s suffering over it, thus confirming her majesty at the same time as he embodies the moment of its compromise. Signifying origins as names do, the choice of “Aeneas” accurately indicates his conception in an irresolvable ambiguity of power, subjection, and resistance to subjection by a divine intensity of grief.
Aphrodite might have ended her prophecy at that. The flourishing future of Anchises has been articulated. And with it, the desire of Zeus has been accomplished, for it is now clear why Anchises is and must be “dear (φίλος) to the gods,” why he must be spared the death or impotence that might follow intercourse with a goddess. If he dies then and there, or if he has no children, there will be no sign of Zeus’ subordination of Aphrodite, no ongoing αἰνὸν ἄχος “dread grief” for the goddess, no “Aeneas.” In this way, it is Zeus who names Aeneas even through the goddess’s own words. But the prophecy does not end here. Somehow the intention of Aphrodite and the intention of Zeus behind it are not yet fully articulated.

ii. Ganymede and Tithonus

Directly upon naming Aeneas, Aphrodite abruptly turns away from her pain to praise the beauty of Trojan men: “But always most near to the gods (ἀγχίθεοι) of all mortal men are those of your race in appearance and in stature” (200–201). [102] She then recounts two signal instances, Anchises’ ancestors, Ganymede and Tithonus. Why does Aphrodite (and Zeus, and the hymnic voice) want to introduce their stories? It would seem that her aim in this prophecy is not simply to predict the future, but also to justify to Anchises her denial of immortality. [103] For indeed, at this point, there is no reason to think that his fruitful but mortal life is not her own wish. Her theodicy is based upon the regular practice in early Greek thought of adducing analogical exempla, either positive or negative. [104] Here each story considers the fate of a Trojan abducted because of his beauty and then made immortal by his divine lover. [105] In each case, immortality results in everlasting loss of what is most valuable in a mortal man’s life. In the homoerotic union of Ganymede and Zeus, the father-son bond is severed in both the past and future generations, as the father’s mourning the loss of his son pre-figures Ganymede’s never being able to have a son himself. For Tithonus, immortality without perpetual youth reduces the body to incorporeality, a voice alone, sounding forever (ἄσπετος, 237), but in perpetual solitary confinement with no one to hear or to answer (236). As illustrations of an immortal life worse than the necessity of death, especially in its forfeiture of fatherhood, these accounts seem aimed at proving that Anchises is better off with a son alone, and without Aphrodite as what she had pretended she would be, his wife.
But this interpretation of the stories is not without problems. With regard to Ganymede, the father is ultimately happy with the situation. For the joy of Tros upon receiving the immortal horses as recompense for the loss of his son is emphasized by the repetition, γεγήθει “he rejoiced,” γηθόσυνος “rejoicing” (216–217), and will be repeated in Anchises’ own joy at the sight of his son (γηθήσεις ὁρόων, 279). [106] Perhaps in this respect the story is meant to persuade by similarity rather than difference, with Tros’ happiness at the immortal horses who replace the continuity that comes through a son (not his only son, however) acting as proleptic model of how Anchises should view the son who replaces immortality and brings continuity. [107]
The problematic implications of the case of Eos and Tithonus are harder to resolve. In relating this story to their present situation, Aphrodite reveals that she herself desires for Anchises the ageless youth he has been denied, the very denial her exempla would attempt to justify. Rather than proving the necessity of Anchises’ mortality, then, why does Eos’ omission not illustrate precisely what Aphrodite should do in order to assure undying happiness to her lover and herself? [108] Why does she not ask Zeus for the perpetual youth that Eos forgot? Could the son of Aphrodite and Anchises not, then, be immortal himself?

θάνατος “death” for Anchises

Aphrodite herself seems to raise this question by echoing the words with which Eos asked immortality but not agelessness of Zeus (“to be immortal and live for all days,” 221), but then she avoids it altogether, as if ageless immortality for Anchises were out of the question:
οὐκ ἂν ἐγώ γε [109] σὲ τοῖον ἐν ἀθανάτοισιν ἑλοίμην
ἀθάνατόν τ᾽ εἶναι καὶ ζώειν ἤματα πάντα.
ἀλλ᾽ εἰ μὲν τοιοῦτος ἐὼν εἶδός τε δέμας τε
ζώοις ἡμέτερός τε πόσις κεκλημένος εἴης,
οὐκ ἂν ἔπειτά μ᾽ ἄχος πυκινὰς φρένας ἀμφικαλύπτοι.
νῦν δέ σε μὲν τάχα γῆρας ὁμοίιον ἀμφικαλύψει
νηλειές, τό τ᾽ ἔπειτα παρίσταται ἀνθρώποισιν,
οὐλόμενον, καματηρόν, ὅτε στυγέουσι θεοί περ.

I, to be sure, would not choose for you to be of such a sort among the immortals,
both to be immortal and live for all days.
But if, being such as you are both in appearance and in build
you might live, and you might be called my husband,
then grief would not veil my clever wits. [110]
But now quickly cruel old age will veil you,
pitiless, which then stands beside men,
destructive, wearing them down, which even the gods forever hate.
Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite 239–246
Why does she not ask Zeus for divinity without old age, when her own words point to such a possibility? On this question Aphrodite is simply silent, thus calling for interpretation. Can a god not get such a status for a mortal lover? Zeus did for Ganymede (214). Could not Aphrodite? Or could Zeus not at least be petitioned by Aphrodite, as he is by Thetis in the Iliad? Of course, he could not grant such a petition without changing the future of Anchises, fixed in epic tradition, but it is precisely the moments that determined the tradition – in narratological terms, the story – that the hymn repeats. [111] The narrative tradition here tells the story of its own formation, its own authorizing aetiology. To present Zeus giving immortality to Anchises would set the story against the tradition that purports to repeat it. But just such a disjunction between story and narration has seemed the inevitable consequence of having Aphrodite tell the tale of Eos without attempting to act in accord with its lesson. Smith explains that the poet wanted “to use myth to explore the value of mortality by juxtaposing it with examples showing one or another of its negative aspects arbitrarily removed … even though the juxtaposition can lead to nothing in the story.” [112] The poet, the voice of epic tradition, seems to have achieved this goal in the narration even at the cost of verisimilitude in the story, where words are mimetic of a character’s desire.
But is it true that Aphrodite’s silence here has no mimetic import, that it indicates nothing about her desire or that of Zeus? Or, rather, is there no mimetic import in the fact that the hymnic voice is the representative of Zeus’ will and the ultimate author of Aphrodite’s words? In a brief but trenchant phrase, van der Ben points the way to such a mimetic reading, when he observes of Zeus’ immortalization of Ganymede, “quod licet Iovi non licet Veneri.” [113] The text simply denies Aphrodite permission to try to fulfill the desire it puts into her mouth, that Anchises should be as “near to the gods” in beauty as he is today, the desire which, if fulfilled, would save her from grief. And when considered from Zeus’ point of view, we can see the cosmic necessity for Aphrodite’s silencing here. Were she allowed to gain immortal youth for Anchises, she would suffer no grief – the “dread grief” that signifies Zeus’ appropriation of her power to instigate divine/human “mixtures.” The original plan of Zeus would be turned against itself into a triumph for the goddess, whose pleasure in Anchises would be unmixed with the pain of his mortality.
And why does she not at least mention to Anchises the possibility of appealing to Zeus, if only to insist upon its futility? It is a question of the rhetoric of silence. Were she permitted to voice this possibility instead of confining the expression of her displeasure to the intensity of her grief, her subordination to the order of Zeus would be qualified. Within the either/or logic of the hymn’s founding antagonism, the authority of Zeus is only so absolute and the distinctions of his order are only so stable and reliable as is their sign, the goddess’s grief. By voicing no active resistance, by expressing, but then simply suppressing, her desire for Anchises’ eternal youth and announcing his inevitable death, Aphrodite proves she accepts Zeus’ will as ineluctable. He need no longer try to restrain her, since she accepts his absolute authority and restrains herself. Anything less than total silence would qualify her acceptance and thus the security of Zeus’ victory.
But this argumentum ex silentio on the part of Aphrodite is no more conclusive than any other of its kind. Without the goddess’s silence in the face of her own stated wish, without her failure to ask for what her own story implies she can and must ask for, Zeus cannot demonstrate absolute sovereignty over the goddess’s desire. She must be allowed to voice her wish so that we can know what she wants. We must know from her own recollection of Eos’ omission that she knows how to pursue her wish. (And she must give the example of Eos in the first place, so that Anchises will accept a son, who will embody Zeus’ conquest.) Further, she must then fail to pursue her wish without a word about why. But her silent acquiescence leaves the actual state of her inner motivation and future intention an uncertainty. She does not voice any reasons of her own. The distinction between mortal and immortal has been sustained in this case only by the imposition of an ultimately ambiguous silence, disclosing the fact that Aphrodite can always pursue the option she omits now.

ὄνειδος “blame” for Aphrodite

The ultimate death of Anchises is not the only loss Aphrodite must accept as a result of her union with the mortal man. She must lose her prior powers of effecting divine/human unions through speech. Here, positioned at the center point of the goddess’s prophecy, is the αἴτιον of the hymn and the heart of its generic ambivalence. In a bold peripeteia from her earlier power to “tame” (ἐδαμάσσατο, 3) gods, humans, and beasts, the goddess is made to voice in her own prophecy and in her own hymn – each a laudatory sign of her divinity – the “great blaming speech” of the other gods that now will silence her boasts. She is permitted to name the verbal and mental mechanisms of her repeated “mixing” in the past (note the frequentatives) only in predicting their discontinuation:
αὐτὰρ ἐμοὶ μέγὄνειδος ἐν ἀθανάτοισι θεοῖσιν
ἔσσεται ἤματα πάντα διαμπερὲς εἵνεκα σεῖο,
οἳ πρὶν ἐμοὺς ὀάρους [114] καὶ μήτιας, αἷς ποτε πάντας
ἀθανάτους συνέμιξα καταθνητῇσι γυναιξί,
τάρβεσκον· πάντας γὰρ ἐμὸν δάμνασκε νόημα.
νῦν δὲ δὴ οὐκέτι μοι στόμα χείσεται [115] ἐξονομῆναι
τοῦτο μετ᾽ ἀθανάτοισιν, ἐπεὶ μάλα πολλὸν ἀάσθην,
σχέτλιον, οὐκ ὀνοταστόν, [116] ἀπεπλάγχθην δὲ νόοιο,
παῖδα δ᾽ ὑπὸ ζώνῃ ἐθέμην βροτῷ εὐνηθεῖσα.

While for me there will be a great blame among the immortal gods
for all days, continually, because of you – 
the gods, who before at my amorous conversations and plots,
by which I mixed gods with mortal women,
again and again trembled. [117] For my purpose again and again tamed them all.
But now indeed no longer will my mouth dare to name
this among the immortals, since I was very greatly deluded – 
a wretched thing, not to be made light of – and I was driven out of my mind,
and conceived a child under my girdle after going to bed with a mortal.
Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite 247–255
Yet the status of this ὄνειδος “blame” and the precise limitation upon the speech of Aphrodite in the future are not wholly clear.
There will be a great blame speech throughout all time to come among the gods, who used to tremble at the speech by which Aphrodite instigated demeaning liaisons among them. But will the gods ever actually utter this abuse? It is the interpretation of van der Ben that they will not, “since Aphrodite will be careful to avoid giving them any provocation.” The goddess will cease, in other words, her “mixing” speech and thereby the unions it used to create. And this cessation is the very αἴτιον of the hymn. [118] Such an aetiology would accord ideally with the cosmic antagonism delineated in the opening of the hymn and with the justification via the previous exempla of breaking up mortal/immortal unions, and it is for that reason a virtually irresistible conclusion. For what could restore the order of Zeus more securely than preventing Aphrodite from ever again collapsing divine and human into one category subject to herself? And what could be a more perfect counterpart to Anchises’ mortality than the restriction of Aphrodite to “mixings” that do not blur the boundary between humans and gods? Both man and goddess would then experience a loss – a sort of death – that paradoxically gains a cosmos of stable and meaningful difference between human and divine. But despite its appealing coherence, the certainty of this interpretation is undermined by two questions.
It would seem that there are two kinds of speech or at least two phases of speech mentioned by Aphrodite: that by which she creates god/woman unions (249–250) and that by which she speaks of these unions (ἐξονομῆναι τοῦτο “name this,” 252–253) to the gods. Aphrodite admits that she can no longer “name this” among the gods – no longer boast, as she might have before (ἐπευξαμένη, 48), of causing such divine/human bonds – since they can make the same boast over against her. The first question is whether this silenced boasting entails cessation of the speeches by which Aphrodite brings about such couplings. Is the possibility not left open that she will continue them, but simply henceforth not boast of them? [119] Perhaps not. Maybe Aphrodite would not want to exercise the power to blur the divine/human distinction, were she unable to “boast” about it. For in early Greek the verb εὔχομαι means to utter proudly, not something false or pretentious, but the truth of one’s nature. [120] To keep Aphrodite from boasting of the workings of her ὀάροι “amorous conversations” – designated in the Theogony (205) as part of her τίμη “sphere of honor” [121]  – would be tantamount to forbidding a mortal to utter his own genealogy. Would Aphrodite continue to instigate such “mixing” speech without mentioning it? To this question the text provides no unequivocal answer, thus leaving its apparent aetiology uncertain and, at best, subject to Aphrodite’s unstated desire.
The second question follows from the first. By ceasing her boasts or even indeed her “mixing” speech itself, can Aphrodite keep the μέγ᾿ ὄνειδος “great blame” forever unexpressed? Will the gods refrain from disgracing the goddess for her intercourse with a mortal, if she no longer boasts or even if she no longer couples gods and women through gossips and schemes? Again, the text offers no definitive answer. But Aphrodite’s curse of her liaison as οὐκ ὀνομαστόν “not to be named” seems virtually desiderative, and in this context suggests a possible quid pro quo by which in return for her no longer “naming this” (ἐξονομῆναι τοῦτο, 252–253), the gods would not mention her shame. [122] In the remainder of her prophecy, at any rate, the goddess appears to balance such a deal within the divine sphere by attempting to forestall this μέγ᾿ ὄνειδος among men.

iii. Aeneas: Anchises’ Boast vs. Aphrodite’s Blame and Praise

After completing her description of the disgrace that parallels the death Anchises eventually will suffer, Aphrodite again might have ended her prophecy. Both the positive and the negative poles of Anchises’ fate have been revealed. But again, the goddess’s desire is not yet exhausted. What she still wants, in fact, turns out to be the silencing of another potential boasting (286) and naming (290) speech, that of Anchises. As in the realm of ἵμερος “sexual desire,” she wants to exert over Anchises the power exerted over her by Zeus.
The mention of the child conceived in her unspeakable union with a mortal leads Aphrodite to an extended description of the nymphs who will nurse the infant apart from his mother (256–275). Through their own combination of divine and human properties, the nymphs embody Aeneas’ double heritage and thus serve the hymn’s characterization of him as the mediating figure that separates immortality from mortality. [123] This separation is fundamental to the cosmos of Zeus and the design of the hymnic voice. But if we ask why Aphrodite herself should expatiate upon these creatures, we find that both as signs of the divine/human cleavage and as alternative mothers of Aeneas, they figure importantly in the goddess’s attempt to camouflage her ὄνειδος “blame.”
In a final and apparently contradictory turn of her prophecy, Aphrodite makes promises that prove her motherhood of Aeneas and then prohibits Anchises from revealing it. She promises to assume the nurses’ role long enough to present him to his father in person – hence the doublet where first the nymphs, then Aphrodite “bring” (ἄξουσιν, 275; ἄγουσα, 277) Aeneas to Anchises. And, recalling his earlier prayers for offspring (θαλερὸν γόνον, 104; οὐ βιοθάλμιος, 189), she calls the child his θάλος “shoot” (278) and assures Anchises of a joy like that of Tros, since the boy will be, if not immortal, at least a visual imitation of divinity, “for he will be very like to a god (θεοείκελος)” (279). And then she forbids Anchises to reveal that the child is hers. But the promise and the prohibition here are actually complementary. For if Anchises believes Aeneas is her child and is content with him as compensation for his own lost divinity, he may be persuaded – that is, successfully threatened – to keep the child’s maternity secret.
In making her threat, she re-invokes the conventional fear of punishment for divine/human intercourse that she earlier assuaged:
ἢν δέ τις εἴρηταί σε καταθνητῶν ἀνθρώπων,
ἥ τις σοι φίλον υἱὸν ὑπὸ ζώνῃ θέτο μήτηρ,
τῷ δὲ σὺ μυθεῖσθαι μεμνημένος, ὥς σε κελεύω:
φάσθαι [124] τοι Νύμφης καλυκώπιδος ἔκγονον εἶναι,
αἳ τόδε ναιετάουσιν ὄρος καταειμένον ὕλῃ.
εἰ δέ κεν ἐξείπῃς καὶ ἐπεύξεαι ἄφρονι θυμῷ
ἐν φιλότητι μιγῆναι ἐυστεφάνῳ Κυθερείῃ,
Ζεύς σε χολωσάμενος βαλέει ψολόεντι κεραυνῷ.
εἴρηταί τοι πάντα: σὺ δὲ φρεσὶ σῇσι νοήσας,
ἴσχεο μηδὀνόμαινε, θεῶν δ᾽ ἐποπίζεο μῆνιν.

And if ever someone of mortal men asks you
who is the mother who conceived your dear child beneath her girdle,
do you tell the story to him, remembering what I order you.
Say that he is the offspring of a nymph with a flowerlike face,
one of those who dwell on this mountain clothed in forest.
But if you ever speak out and boast with senseless heart
that you mixed in love-making with well-crowned Cythereia,
Zeus in his rage will smite you with a smoking thunderbolt.
All has been said to you. Perceiving it in your mind, [125]
restrain yourself and do not name me. Respect the wrath of the gods.
Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite 281–290
For her threat to work, Anchises must really fear “the wrath of the gods.” He must believe there is indeed a real difference between gods and men – one such as is illustrated by Aphrodite’s shame at having slept with a mortal, by her separation from their half-human child, and by the intermediary creatures who will nurse Aeneas in her place. He must believe, too, that Zeus will punish the man who makes public his violation of this difference through boasting and naming the divine mother of his child. [126] And if he is to lie to avoid Zeus’ retribution, he must be armed with a plausible subterfuge, one that can account for the child’s godlike appearance. And so Aphrodite orders Anchises to name one of the child’s godlike nurses as his mother.
Once again, then, Aphrodite attempts to control her erotic victim through her own speech. She wants to reduce Anchises to her own verbal position vis-à-vis the gods to whom she can no longer “boast of” or “name” her erotic conquests. Were the rhetoric of this final movement of her prophecy successful, were Anchises to keep her secret, she would rescue her long prophecy and her hymn itself from the generic subversion of voicing her own blame. But she would also – such is the tropology of her intention – succeed in preventing the first articulation of the very tradition that the hymnic voice now repeats. In saving her praise, she would silence herself. And in this she does not succeed.
For Anchises evidently did not keep his secret. He did not fear punishment from Zeus. He told the story and by that telling initiated, at the level of the story, the sequence of retellings that make up the hymnic tradition and now culminate in the narration of the Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite itself, in which Aphrodite is “quoted” telling the story herself. This fact of narrative tradition and rhetorical subordination is demonstrated by the brief, formal sign of epic convention that marks the close of Aphrodite’s prophecy, a phrase as damaging here as it is usually innocuous: ὣς εἰποῦσ᾿ “thus having spoken” (291). And after this marker of the narration, comes the sign of the narrating itself in the closing apostrophe, again a formality with more than its usual force – the hymnic voice addressing the divine victim of its now transcendent speech: χαῖρε θεὰ Κύπροιο ἐυκτιμένης μεδέουσα “Hail, goddess, reigning over well-founded Cyprus” (292).

VII. Epilogue

Ambiguous Aetiology

In Anchises’ revelation of his secret, we see again the ultimate authorship of Zeus. Were Anchises to obey Aphrodite, the whole meaning of “Aeneas” would be lost. He would no longer be the living sign of Zeus’ humiliation of the goddess. His “name” would be changed. If Anchises did not tell the truth of Aeneas’ parentage, Zeus himself would have to do so. [128]
But can Anchises be allowed to tell the world that he fathered the child of a goddess with impunity? Aphrodite’s specific threat appears to allude to the tradition that Zeus did indeed punish Anchises for the very union he caused. Anchises does not suffer sterility or death for his love-making with the goddess, but neither does he escape entirely unscathed. Why would Zeus punish the man for what he made the goddess make the man do?
Here we have a hint about the future activity or the expected future activity of Aphrodite. If there are never again to be liaisons between mortals and immortals, if Aphrodite has been stopped from collapsing the cosmos of Zeus into her world of mixture, there is no need to validate the prohibition against divine/human intercourse with punishment of the mortal male. In his blasting of Anchises, Zeus himself proves that he must keep this prohibition alive and thus that the power of Aphrodite has not been completely subordinated to his order of meaningful distinctions. It is as if Zeus and the hymnic tradition itself realized the ambiguity in her failure to ask for ageless immortality for Anchises and feared its consequences. And so Aphrodite herself is made to allude to the mortal man’s punishment, as a warning to other men she might “mix” with goddesses.
But could we perhaps at least say, by way of compensation, that the challenge posed to Anchises by the disguised Aphrodite is not an αἴτιον, not a “first cause” of an eternal verity, not a “first” but a “once” that will never occur again, that never again will a mortal man be confronted by Aphrodite pretending to be his virgin bride? With all the paradoxical force of an assertion of ambiguity, the hymn, by virtue of its intertextual connections with the traditions of Pandora, is unequivocal in this element of its aetiology, its proclamation that any virgin bride might be Aphrodite in disguise and that no man “seized by eros” for the bride can possibly know the difference. The Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite is the αἴτιον of how female sexuality (and sexuality as female) first came to present itself to the mortal male as an eros blinding him to its true nature, of how the epistemo-erotic dilemma of the human male first entered the Western world.


[ back ] 1. An earlier version of this essay appeared in Classical Antiquity 8 (1989) 1–40. It is my pleasure to thank David Blank, Carolyn Dewald, Bernard Frischer, Simon Goldhill, and Richard Janko for critical reading of that text. I am grateful also to Nicole Loraux and Marcel Detienne for the invitation to present the paper in their seminars in Paris in 1987 and for the many helpful comments of those attending, especially Françoise Frontisi-Ducroux, François Lissarrague, Giulia Sissa, and Jean-Pierre Vernant.
[ back ] 2. For the traditional themes and diction of praise and blame in early Greek poetry, see Nagy 1979 and Detienne 1967.
[ back ] 3. It is an analytical resource of aetiological myth to defy the exclusions of logic, to separate the integrated components of a synchronic system into a “before” and “after,” and thereby to tell an αἴτιον: how something that has always existed first began. The Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite presents the “cause” of how “mixture” was once (is) integrated and subordinated (imperfectly, as we shall see) into a system in which meaning and value derive from hierarchical difference.
[ back ] 4. See Nagy 1976, esp. 223–224.
[ back ] 5. See Smith 1981a:33, who notes “so great a clarity of structure” in the introduction of the hymn. For other analyses of the structural function of word-repetitions in the introduction of the hymn, see Podbielski 1971:18–32; Porter 1949:251–254, 261–262; Pellizer 1978:119–123, who delineates the “ripetizione a cornice” that expresses the hymn’s fundamental polarity between divine and human mediated by ἵμερος “sexual passion,” wielded first by Aphrodite and then by Zeus against the goddess.
[ back ] 6. For such invocation as an optional feature in the corpus of Homeric hymns, and for other structural properties of the genre, see Janko 1981. For apostrophe in the hymns as establishing the poetic voice as able to make a divinity respond to invocation by presenting itself, see “Sacred Apostrophe: Re-Presentation and Imitation in Homeric Hymn to Apollo and Homeric Hymn to Hermes” in this collection. The apostrophe of the Muse here is a subtle but deliberate pointer toward the power of the narrating voice to represent the hymnic tradition of which the Muse is the voice. This self-reflection inaugurates the inclusion of the hymnist and the hymnic tradition within the thematics of the Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite itself.
[ back ] 7. According to Ruijgh (1971: paragraph 25), the use of epic τε with the aorist of acts by gods here and elsewhere is ambiguous, indicating either in the ordinary usage of the gnomic aorist a “permanent fact” or a “unique act of the far past and indeed close to the start of the world” – here, the moment when Aphrodite introduced love into the world – “but also an exemplary fact that implies a permanent fact,” to wit, that the goddess concerns herself with love in all times, that is, a “mythic fact.” He notes (paragraphs 746, 334) other instances of such usage in the hymn at lines 30, 36, 38 (see below, n. 21), and 261.
[ back ] 8. For the phrase ἔργα Ἀφροδίτης “works of Aphrodite” as a term for “sex,” see the “tender-skinned virgin who does not yet know the ἔργα Ἀφροδίτης” (Hesiod Works and Days 521), and the periphrastic constructions, φιλοτήσια ἔργα “sexual intercourse” between Tyro and Poseidon, disguised as the river-god Enipeus (Odyssey xi 246), and ἱμερόεντα ἔργα γάμοιο “passionate acts of marriage” as the sphere of Aphrodite, in contrast to the ἔργα πολεμήια “acts of war” (Iliad V 428–429). See also Podbielski 1971:18–19.
[ back ] 9. See Smith 1981a:33.
[ back ] 10. See Rissman 1983:4. See also Janko 1994 on Iliad XIV 198.
[ back ] 11. See, for example, Vernant 1981 and Detienne 1972b = 1981.
[ back ] 12. For this proportional formulation, compare Aristotle Nicomachean Ethics 1131a30–32.
[ back ] 13. See Calame 1977:I.411–420.
[ back ] 14. Compare Aphrodite’s claim later that her “purpose used to tame (δάμασκε) all the gods” (251).
[ back ] 15. In the Theogony, for example, it is through his mastery over mixture – both his matings with such older goddesses as Metis and his unions with mortal woman, such as that producing Heracles – that Zeus constructs a cosmos apparently stable and immune from the revolutions of the “succession myth.” As the aetiology of such mastery, the Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite exposes both the necessity of mixture for meaning and the continual threat that derives precisely from that necessity. Compare the ambiguity inherent in the woman’s necessary power of (dis)placement: she must be mobile in order to be exchanged by men in marriage, but that same mobility makes it possible for her not to stay put, not to maintain her position in the system of social meaning. For this spatial instability dramatized in the Herodotean “origin” of the Persian War, see “Language and the Female in Early Greek Thought,” and in the “place” of Penelope, see “The (Re)Marriage of Penelope and Odysseus” in this collection.
[ back ] 16. See AHS:350.
[ back ] 17. Note also τέρψίν γλυκερήν “sweet delight,” Hesiod Theogony 206, part of the τίμη “sphere of honor” of Aphrodite.
[ back ] 18. See AHS:350. In speculating upon the poet’s purpose here, Smith (1981:34) notes that “a power to which the exceptions can easily be listed is made more impressive by the production of the list.” It is in keeping with the hymn’s qualified praise of Aphrodite that the force of such an indirect compliment is diminished by the antithetical structuring in which these three exceptions to the goddess’s power in B (7–33) are paralleled with her subordination by Zeus in B´ (45–52).
[ back ] 19. See Podbielski 1971:19.
[ back ] 20. See below on the alpha-privative, παρθένῳ ἀδμήτῃ “untamed virgin” in line 82.
[ back ] 21. For the use of the neuter participle πεφυγμένον here, see AHS on 34, citing Iliad XXII 219. With the use of the verb φεύγω of the attempt to “flee, escape” Aphrodite, compare Sappho 1.21, 24 LP: καὶ γὰρ αἰ φεύγει, ταχέως διώξει … κωὐκ ἐθέλοισα “For indeed if she flees, quickly she will pursue … whether willing or not.”
[ back ] 22. Ruijgh (1971: paragraph 746) notes that καί τε here “expresses the nuance of a climax.”
[ back ] 23. The question of whether παρὲκ ἤγαγε and συνέμιξε here should be read as gnomic aorists (as they are usually translated), implying that Aphrodite continues to make Zeus mix with women, or as historical past tenses, implying an end to such unions, sums up the ultimate ambiguity in the apparent aetiology of the hymn. The problem is reflected in the textual tradition, since the manuscripts attest both a primary sequence subjunctive (ἐθέλῃ) read by Cassola 1975 and the secondary optative (ἐθέλοι) read by Allen 1961 [1946]; Smith 1981a; van Eck 1978; and van der Ben 1986. Van der Ben advocates taking the two aorists as different from one another (1986:4). Arguing (against Ruijgh) for the acceptability of the aorist rather than the imperfect after an optative, he claims that συνέμιξε is a “normal, historical past tense” with which καί τε indicates an act that is past, but exemplary of universal power. He further maintains that of the two verbs, συνέμιξε alone refers to unions with mortal women, since no such unions have been mentioned before παρὲκ ἤγαγε. The verb παρὲκ ἤγαγε then refers only to sexual intercourse in general, to which Zeus remains forever subject, and is therefore an instance of what Ruijgh terms a past but permanent “mythic fact.” This interpretation does not wholly eliminate the ambiguity, however, since it assumes rather than proves the temporal distinction between the verbs. Unable to reproduce the ambiguity in English, I indicate the intention of Zeus and of the hymnic voice by translating the past tense.
[ back ] 24. In the rhetoric of its structure, the Theogony parallels the hymn as an attempt to establish the cosmos of Zeus over against all chaotic opposition. Compare Arthur 1982. With the τιμή “sphere of honor” of Zeus, compare that of Aphrodite at Theogony 205–206, which includes among her powers of attraction and pleasure, that kind of speech ὀάροι “amorous conversations” by which she mates gods and mortal women (249, see below, notes 113 and 120).
[ back ] 25. For this opposition at the level of ritual, the promiscuous sexuality permitted in the Adonia, honoring Aphrodite vs. the restriction of sexuality within legitimate marriage, celebrated in the Thesmophoria, honoring Demeter, see Detienne 1972a:187–226 = 1977b:99–122.
[ back ] 26. Breeding across the human/beast boundary is not alluded to here, but is acknowledged elsewhere in Greek mythic thought through such “monstrous” creatures as centaurs, silenoi, sirens, and sphinxes.
[ back ] 27. On the repetition of this phrase here and in 53 below, as marking the reversal from the situation in line 2, see Podbielski 1971:20.
[ back ] 28. Kamerbeek (1967:390) stresses the “vivacity” lent by the formulaic ὄφρα τάχιστα to the expression of Zeus’ will.
[ back ] 29. Van der Ben (1986:6–7) astutely observes that the wording here can mean that after her intercourse with the mortal Anchises, Aphrodite can no longer speak about, but can continue to cause, such unions, whereas Zeus intends their complete cessation.
[ back ] 30. On the use of the subjunctive rather than the optative in clauses of negative purpose, see Goodwin Syntax:114§318, 321; Chantraine GH II.269§398, and Kühner-Gerth II.380: “the action of the main clause occurs in the past, but the purpose or the result itself must be represented as still continuing in the present time of the speaker.” Aphrodite’s boasting is to be silenced up to the time of the narrating of the poem.
[ back ] 31. For the formulation of metaphor as a proportion, see Aristotle Poetics 1457b7–30, Rhetoric 1411a33–b4.
[ back ] 32. For a similar relation between Zeus and a female power he would appropriate, compare the case of Metis in Theogony where Zeus succeeds in “swallowing” the goddess by conquering her with her own weapons (αἱμύλιοι λόγοι “wily words,” 890), and thereby makes himself μητίετα “endowed with mêtis,” even though he has been given this epithet before his conquest from the start of the poem (Theogony 56, 520). Zeus takes what he has always possessed, just as in the hymn he can, without any explanation of where or how he got it, wield the power of Aphrodite as “easily” as she made him breed with women. On this episode in Theogony, see “Language and the Female in Early Greek Thought” in this collection.
[ back ] 33. For epos as “speech in epic,” see Koller 1972:16–24; Nagy 1979:30, 271–274, 299, 304.
[ back ] 34. Pellizer (1978:132–133) argues for the traditionality of this scene by comparing the toilette of Hera about to seduce Zeus at Iliad XIV 166–172 and of Aphrodite herself at Odyssey viii 362–366. For a detailed comparison between the preparations of Hera in the Iliad and Aphrodite in the hymn, see Janko 1994 on Iliad XIV 166–186. For an analysis of the similarities and differences between the whole epiphany and the traditional patterns of seduction scenes, see Sowa 1984:67–94. As we shall see, the Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite depends for its meaning upon such traditional connections.
[ back ] 35. On ἐπενήνοθεν, see Cassola 1975:547 on 62 with bibliography.
[ back ] 36. The term ἑδανῷ is sometimes read here in place of the manuscript’s ἑανῷ on the basis of its use in Iliad XIV 171–174 of Hera’s toilette:

ἀλείψατο δὲ λίπ᾽ ἐλαίῳ
ἀμβροσίῳ ἑδανῷ, τό ῥά οἱ τεθυωμένον ἦεν:
τοῦ καὶ κινυμένοιο Διὸς κατὰ χαλκοβατὲς δῶ
ἔμπης ἐς γαῖάν τε καὶ οὐρανὸν ἵκετ᾽ ἀϋτμή.

And she anointed herself richly with oil,
ambrosial, sweet, which had been perfumed for her.
And when this is moved through the palace of Zeus with its bronze threshold,
its fragrance reaches both earth and heaven alike.

Here in the Iliad, as with Aphrodite’s perfume in Cyprus, the fragrance permeates its surrounding space. For the retaining of the manuscript’s ἑανῷ, see Janko 1982:161 and for the interpretation of ἑανῷ as “dress,” see also Janko 1994:174–175 on Iliad XIV 172–174, who maintains, following Hurst 1976, that the verb θυόω here refers to the boiling of oil to make perfume to scent clothes and cites Cypria 4 where the Graces and the Hours dip Aphrodite’s garments “in spring flowers,” so that she “wears perfumed [τεθυωμένα] dresses.”
[ back ] 37. For perfume as Aphrodite’s ambiguous instrument in promoting marriage, see Detienne 1972a:ix–x = 1977b: vi–vii.
[ back ] 38. Compare Pellizer (1978:123–124), who also notes the rhyming –οῦσα at the end of three alternating hemiepes: ἰδοῦσα (56), ἐλθοῦσα (58), εἰσελθοῦσα (60).
[ back ] 39. For Aphrodite’s adornment, especially her golden necklaces, as a κόσμος, see Homeric Hymn VI to Aphrodite 11, 12, 15.
[ back ] 40. For the connection of Anchises with the pastoral activity of cattle herding, see Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite 55 and Iliad V 313.
[ back ] 41. For τέρπω as indicating the “delight” taken in poetry, see Odyssey i 346–347, 421–422; viii 45, 91, 367–368, 429; xii 52; xvii 385; xxii 330; Iliad IX 186–189; XVIII 603–604; Homeric Hymn to Apollo 169–170; Hesiod Theogony 36–37; Hesiod fr. 274 MW. For τέρπω as indicating the “delight” taken in sex, see Mimnermus 1.1.
[ back ] 42. In Greek hexameter poetry we find no instances of playing the lyre without singing, except when accompanying the song of others. For singing to the lyre in relative seclusion, compare Achilles’ playing the phorminx and singing the κλέα ἀνδρῶν “famous deeds of men” (Iliad IX 186–189) during his withdrawal from the Achaean army. For the linkage of the lyre and song, see Iliad II 599–600 (where the poet Thamyris is termed a κιθαριστής “lyre-player”), XIII 731, and Odyssey i 159.
[ back ] 43. On ὁμοῖος as indistinguishably “similar” and “equal” in early Greek, see Pucci 1977:35n7.
[ back ] 44. Nagy (1983:35–55) shows how this verb denotes the recognition and interpretation of a sign, whether explicit or left implicit in context. Here the σῆμα “sign” is the ambiguous goddess in disguise.
[ back ] 45. The father-daughter relation between Zeus and Aphrodite is a subtle element in this story. As his daughter, Aphrodite belongs to Zeus to give to whomever he will. It is perhaps this patriarchal authority that permits Zeus in terms of sociological logic to assume the power of Aphrodite and exert it over the goddess herself.
[ back ] 46. See below, n. 92.
[ back ] 47. On the function of this alpha-privative form, see Puhvel 1953:14–25.
[ back ] 48. On the impersonal ἐλάμπετο, see AHS on 90 and van der Ben 1986:10. Janko 1994 on Iliad XIV 185–186 notes the traditionality of such a simile in toilette scenes.
[ back ] 49. Compare Pucci 1977:87–92 on Works and Days 61–63, and Janko 1982:161, 165–167. Loraux (1981:75–117) stresses the difference between the Theogony and the Works and Days with regard to Pandora as an imitation. Emphasizing the separation between men and gods rather than their mediation, the Theogony presents Pandora as an imitation not of goddesses but of a “respected virgin” – that is, of herself – and thus a wholly artificial creature, “the semblance of a copy without a model.” Accordingly, it is the Theogony (575, 581, 584, 588) that insists in litany-like fashion upon Pandora as a θαῦμα “wonder.”
[ back ] 50. Compare the effect of the κόσμος of Aphrodite upon the gods in Homeric Hymn VI to Aphrodite 18: εἶδος θαυμάζοντες “wondering at her appearance.”
[ back ] 51. Pandora, too, wears ὅρμοι χρυσείοι “golden necklaces” (Works and Days 74). On the θαῦμα of Pandora in the Theogony as embodying that of Aphrodite, see Loraux 1981:85.
[ back ] 52. In being θαυμάσια, ζώοιοσιν ἐοικότα φωνήεσσιν “wonderful, like to living beings endowed with speech” (584), these well-wrought creatures act as a metonymic gloss upon the artificiality of the θαῦμα of Aphrodite and Pandora.
[ back ] 53. Loraux (1981:85n51) notes also that Pandora’s robe is white, the color of wedding clothes.
[ back ] 54. For the ζώνη and the καλύπτρη of Pandora, see Theogony 573–575, where Athena “girded (ζῶσε) and ornamented her in silvery clothing” and “let down a veil (καλύπτρην) from her head,” and Loraux 1981:87–88. For the ζώνη and καλύπτρη together on women in daily life, see Odyssey v 231–232 of Calypso and x 544–545 of Circe; for the ζώνη with a κρήδεμνον, see Iliad XIV 181–185 of Hera.
[ back ] 55. For “loosening of the ζώνη” as an expression of intercourse, see Smith 1981a:60.
[ back ] 56. As to what the κρήδεμνον or καλύπτρη looked like, the etymology (κράς + δέω) and usage of κρήδεμνον suggest a “head-binder” from which hangs fabric that can be held to cover the cheeks, as in the formula signaling Penelope’s chastity and allure: ἄντα παρειάων σχομένη λιπαρὰ κρήδεμνα “holding the shining κρήδεμνα before her cheeks” (Odyssey i 334 = xvi 416, xviii 210, xxi 65; compare Nagler 1974:66ff., who cites the periphrasis of Apollonius of Rhodes Argonautica 3.445: λιπαρὴν σχομένη καλύπτρην). Since the text never mentions it overtly, we cannot be certain that Aphrodite is, in fact, wearing a veil here. Nagler’s analysis (1974, esp. 45–86) of the veil as a marker of female chastity in hexameter poetry makes it clear that no marriageable female would appear unveiled before the man whose betrothed she pretends – as Aphrodite will pretend – to be. But if Aphrodite is lacking a material κρήδεμνον or καλύπτρη here, her disguise – both her visual costume and her verbal response to Anchises’ epos – is nonetheless, as we shall see, an effective “veil,” one that ultimately disables Anchises’ powers of discernment, just as eros in the Iliadic counterparts to this scene φρένας ἀμφεκάλυψεν “veiled the wits” of Zeus and Paris. See below, n. 63.
[ back ] 57. Compare Pucci 1977:96–97. Such a mimesis is not inconsistent with the Theogony’s designation of Pandora as “like to a respected virgin,” for it is as an “imitation virgin” that Aphrodite here presents herself to the human male. The circularity of all this leaves the female, in the terms of Deleuze (in Logique du sens [Paris 1969], quoted by Loraux [1981:87n60]), a “simulacrum” who “puts in question the very notions of copy … and model.”
[ back ] 58. Podbielski 1971:42.
[ back ] 59. The phrase θαῦμα ἰδέσθαι, cited by Podbielski (1971:42) as evidence of Aphrodite’s manifest divinity here, is, however, used also of Pandora’s veil, Theogony 574–575.
[ back ] 60. Podbielski 1971:42–43.
[ back ] 61. Compare, by contrast, Iliad III 385–398, where Aphrodite disguises herself as an old woman to summon Helen to Paris, but leaves uncovered signs by which Helen recognizes (ἐνόησε) her identity: περικαλλέα δειρὴν, στήθεά θ᾿ ἱμερόεντα καὶ ὄμματα μαρμαίροντα “exceedingly beautiful neck, alluring breasts, and sparkling eyes.” Here, the success of Aphrodite’s mission depends ultimately, not upon the maintenance of her disguise, but rather upon Helen’s seeing that the old woman is indeed the goddess whose command may not be refused. Helen’s reaction upon recognizing the goddess without having first been deceived – θάμβησεν “she marveled” (398) – may be compared with that of Anchises, τάρβησεν “he trembled” (182), each in line-initial position.
[ back ] 62. Pellizer 1978:115–144.
[ back ] 63. For parallels between the two scenes, see Reinhardt 1956:1–14.
[ back ] 64. The verb here, ἀμφικαλύπτω “veil, cover around,” is cognate with καλύπτρη “veil, covering.”
[ back ] 65. Compare Sowa (1984:84) and Podbielski (1971:43, 45), who describes Anchises’ speech as a cult hymn, while acknowledging the inconsistency between such a response and the goddess’s disguise.
[ back ] 66. Compare Odysseus to Nausicaa: σέβας μ᾿ ἔχει εἰσορόωντα “reverential awe holds me, seeing you,” Odyssey vi 161.
[ back ] 67. See Nagy 1979:234–241, who describes the αἶνος as “a discourse that aims at praising and honoring someone or something or at being ingratiating toward a person … that is in direct or indirect connection with a gift or a prize” (235) and as “an allusive tale containing an ulterior purpose” (237).
[ back ] 68. Sowa (1984:83–84) maintains that these deceptions differ in that Hera’s purpose is “not to overcome Zeus’s objections, but to fool him into thinking that he must overcome her objections,” whereas Aphrodite must “overcome Anchises’ fears of sleeping with her.” As we shall see, however, Aphrodite’s method is the same as Hera’s: to make Anchises believe she is an “untamed virgin” whose objections to immediate love-making – “lead me untamed and inexperienced in love-making” (133) – he must overcome.
[ back ] 69. For the speech of the Muses, “we know how to say many false things like to real things, and we know, whenever we want, how to utter true things” (Theogony 27–28), see “Language and the Female in Early Greek Thought” in this collection.
[ back ] 70. Compare Barthes 1986.
[ back ] 71. Pellizer 1971:125 notes these repetitions.
[ back ] 72. For the Herodotean model of such exchange, see “Language and the Female in Early Greek Thought” in this collection.
[ back ] 73. For the concept of “festive conclusion” and its function in the muthos of comedy, see Frye 1965:72–76.
[ back ] 74. For modern and ancient Greek examples of maidens yielding to premarital sex, provided marriage is to follow, see Bickerman 1976:232–233.
[ back ] 75. I use the term epistemology here in its basic sense of a logos “speech, logical account” of epistêmê “knowledge.” Its component of “speech” applies both to the epos “speech in epic” of Anchises and to the muthos “story” of the hymn that narrates it. The epos of Anchises reveals the limits of either/or logic in speech as a means of gaining knowledge of the object of eros. In narrating this epos and its equivocal consequences, the muthos of the hymn becomes a logos, an account of the knowledge of knowledge itself – a “mythical” epistemology and a prephilosophical critique of the logical epistemology advocated by philosophy and illustrated in its invention of the difference between muthos and logos. See Detienne 1986.
[ back ] 76. Compare Vidal-Naquet 1986a and b.
[ back ] 77. Compare Jenkins 1983:139, with bibliography.
[ back ] 78. Compare Smith 1981a:58–59.
[ back ] 79. Compare Smith 1981a:59, who notes that this proof of prowess helps to keep Anchises from seeming “a hopelessly weaker and inappropriate partner in the love-making which is to follow.”
[ back ] 80. Richard Janko points out to me the revealing parallel of Medea, Jason, and the golden fleece.
[ back ] 81. Compare Sowa 1984:76.
[ back ] 82. Compare Janko 1994 on Iliad XIV 171 on how the poet “avoids giving too vivid a picture of the august Hera naked.”
[ back ] 83. Smith (1981a:122n67) shows that οὐ σάφα εἰδώς here means not complete ignorance, but “incomplete knowledge, conjecture” – the emphasis being upon σάφα “clearly.”
[ back ] 84. On the ἀνακαλυπτήρια, see Oakley 1982:113–118, with bibliography.
[ back ] 85. Line 64 from her dressing at Paphos is repeated in 172, except for the final εἵματα καλά, which comes at the end of the preceding 171. Note the repetition in 171–172 of χροΐ “skin,” subtly emphasizing the body, both covered and revealed.
[ back ] 86. Smith (1981a:63n71) notes that the predicate genitive here in place of the dative emphasizes Aphrodite’s unique possession of this beauty and renders it a “positive identifying mark” of the goddess in her “natural character when she is not disguised.”
[ back ] 87. Smith (1981a:63) makes the sensitive observation that shedding sleep over Anchises prevents him from seeing her dress – prevents him, that is, from seeing her naked, after their love-making is complete. That the hymnic voice describes this dressing to its audience thus implies such a vision for itself.
[ back ] 88. Another privative compound: the negative particle ν- (with elongation of the subsequent vowel) plus the root ἔργε- (compare ἐγείρω “wake up”).
[ back ] 89. See Smith 1981a:65, and Keaney 1981:261–264, on the diction of 184, 187–190.
[ back ] 90. On this term here, see Giacomelli 1980:13–19, and Segal 1986:43–44.
[ back ] 91. On the manifold intricacies of this scene and on epiphany elsewhere in Homer, see Pucci 1987.
[ back ] 92. The two passages display parallels of idea, diction, and word-order: σε … θεὰ … ἔγνων (Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite 185–186) / σε, τεά, γνῶναι (Odyssey xiii 312); σὺ δ᾿ νημερτὲς ἔειπες (end of Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite 186) / σὲ γὰρ αὐτὴν παντὶ ἐίσκεις (end of Odyssey xiii 313).
[ back ] 93. See Giacomelli 1980:18–19; Smith 1981a:65 and n. 77.
[ back ] 94. Compare θαλερὸν γόνον, 104 with βιοθάλμιος, 189. See Smith 1981a:65–66.
[ back ] 95. Van der Ben 1986:20–21. This view is in opposition to that of Sowa (1984:51), who maintains that Anchises, on analogy with Odysseus in relation to Calypso, does not desire immortality. Her evidence, that Anchises asks first only for mortal goods (103–106), is qualified by the fact that this appeal is made before he knows he has already slept with the goddess. The intervening intimacy has, it would seem, expanded his view of the possibilities.
[ back ] 96. See especially Segal 1974:205–212; Pellizer 1978:121; Smith 1981a:67; van der Ben 1986:29–32.
[ back ] 97. Aphrodite: 137 out of 293 (47 percent) in Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite; Hermes: 106 (18 percent); Apollo: 150 (26 percent) out of 580 in Homeric Hymn to Hermes; Apollo: 78 out of 546 (14 percent) in Homeric Hymn to Apollo; Demeter: 75 out of 495 (15 percent) in Homeric Hymn to Demeter.
[ back ] 98. This analysis follows with some elaboration that of Smith (1981a:67, 91).
[ back ] 99. See Benveniste 1969:II.57–69.
[ back ] 100. On the irregular but not unprecedented use of ἕνεκα as a conjunction here, see Cassola on 199.
[ back ] 101. We find examples of the opposite, sons named by males (Odysseus by his maternal grandfather and at the suggestion of his nurse) and after their fathers’ attributes (Telemachus, Astyanax, Neoptolemus). As instances of children named for maternal traits, there is Parthenopaeus, named after his mother’s παρθενεία “virginity” and Cleopatra, wife of Meleager, “by-named” Alcyone after the action of her mother, who mourned her abduction by Apollo with a cry like that of the halcyon (Iliad IX 561–564).
[ back ] 102. For a possible pun here on the name of Anchises, now “near (ἄγχι) a god,” see van der Ben 1986:24.
[ back ] 103. Smith (1981a:68) describes this portion of the goddess’s prophecy as “a rhetorically constructed speech of persuasion.”
[ back ] 104. Smith 1981a:69, 88.
[ back ] 105. For illuminating analyses of these stories and their thematic import in relation to the hymn as a whole, see Smith 1981a:71–86; Segal 1974:208–210; Segal 1986; King 1986.
[ back ] 106. The immortality of the horses is deduced from their being said to “carry the immortals” (211); note the tradition (Iliad V 265–272) that Anchises surreptitiously bred six horses from these gifts of Zeus, giving two to his son Aeneas.
[ back ] 107. For Tros’ sons, see the useful genealogy in Smith 1981a:127.
[ back ] 108. Among commentators upon the hymn, Smith 1981a:87–90, confronts this question most directly. See also Sowa, who notes the problem (1984:49) but later seems to minimize it in claiming, despite Aphrodite’s stated wish to give Anchises immortality, that she has already decided not to do so (1984:59).
[ back ] 109. See van der Ben (1986:29) for ἐγώ γε here as “I sc. as opposed to Eos.”
[ back ] 110. Compare the use of this phrase in the traditional pattern of eros and epos to describe erotic captivation: the goddess’s ἄχος “grief,” the result of her eros, reduces her to the condition of Zeus at Iliad XIV 294 and of her protégé Paris at Iliad III 442, where ἔρως φρένας ἀμφεκάλυψε “eros veiled his wits.”
[ back ] 111. For these terms of narratological analysis, see, for example, Genette 1980:25–32, histoire “story,” récit “narrative,” narration “narrating.” In terms of early Greek epic, the story refers to the events told in the text; the narrative, to the oral tradition, as manifested in either a given text such as the Odyssey or the Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite; and the narrating to any performance of that tradition whether in speech or writing.
[ back ] 112. Smith 1981a:90.
[ back ] 113. Van der Ben 1986:25: “What is permissible for Zeus is not permissible for Aphrodite.”
[ back ] 114. For this mode of speech as the “amorous conversation” that is the special province of “virgins,” the object of Aphrodite’s earlier imitation, see Loraux 1981:88n65.
[ back ] 115. See Cassola on 252 for στόμα τλήσεται in place of the στόμα χήσεται of the manuscripts with a review of other suggestions. See also van der Ben (1986:33), whose conjecture, γάμον ἔσσεται, depends upon his assumption that the gods will never express ὄνειδος of Aphrodite, since she will henceforth refrain from effecting divine/human liaisons.
[ back ] 116. For this reading see Kamerbeek 1967:393.
[ back ] 117. Compare Anchises’ earlier “trembling” (182) and Aphrodite’s earlier attempt to forestall it (83).
[ back ] 118. Van der Ben 1986:31.
[ back ] 119. For Aphrodite’s coupling speech vs. her boasts, see above, notes 23 and 28.
[ back ] 120. See Muellner 1976:68–99.
[ back ] 121. See above, n. 23.
[ back ] 122. Indeed, the phraseological parallel ἐξονομῆναι τοῦτο supports the conjecture, οὐκ ὀνομαστόν.
[ back ] 123. Compare Pellizer 1978:126–129; Segal 1974; Segal 1986; Smith 1981a:92–95; van der Ben 1986:34–35.
[ back ] 124. Reading with Smith the infinitive φάσθαι, rather than the φασίν of the manuscripts, since reporting what others “say” seems inconsistent with directing Anchises to vouch himself for the child’s maternity. For support of the manuscript, see AHS on 284.
[ back ] 125. Compare the command with which Apollo concludes the threat to the Cretans who are to become the priests of Delphi: “All has been said to you. Guard it in your mind” (Homeric Hymn to Apollo 544). Janko (1981:14) notes the tendency to end the myth-section of a hymn with the words of the god.
[ back ] 126. In Aphrodite’s account, it is not their union per se that will elicit divine wrath – for Aeneas is its god-given issue – but rather, Anchises’ publication of it.
[ back ] 128. Françoise Frontisi-Ducroux suggested at the presentation of this paper in Paris in 1987 that it was the Muses who revealed the truth. There is no indication of such a role for the Muses either in the hymn, unless it be the invocation of the Muse at the start (see above, n. 5), or in the extra-textual tradition. But it is nonetheless an arresting possibility. The question is whether the Muses could be conceived of as revealing such a fact apart from the will and knowledge of Zeus. Their parentage – they are daughters of Memory and Zeus (Theogony 53–55) – suggests for them the role of Zeus’ porte-parole, and in that case their revelation would amount to the means by which Zeus himself told the truth. But it would be interesting to investigate whether the Muses ever reveal what all humans and gods involved in an event determine to keep secret. The Muses are theoretically capable of doing so, given their invocation at Iliad II 485: πάρεστέ τε, ἴστε τε πάντα “you are present at, and you know (have seen) everything.” The problem in this situation would be to find a motive for the Muses’ independent intervention.