III. Creation of Gender and Heroic Identity between Legend and Cult: The Political Creation Of Theseus By Bacchylides

Gender is a constitutive element of social relationships based on perceived differences between the sexes,” or “a primary way of signifying relationships of power.” [1] Quoting definitions taken out of their contexts could hardly be said to show intellectual rigor or academic collegiality. But such quotes are certainly a practical way of introducing a reading intended specifically to show how a modern concept, stemming from the social development of industrial and technological neo-capitalist civilization can, through comparison, throw light on a representation of time and space in a poetic configuration of memory in a culture where this modern and western idea was never operative.

1. Sexual social relationships and spatial-temporal representations

By adopting this pragmatic point of view (de rigueur in discourse anthropology), and then moving on from the question of the argumentative (intra-discursive) role of a narrative spatial-temporal logic to the problem of the extra-discursive function of a poetic narrative, we propose a reading of a composition by the poet Bacchylides, with its complex spatial-temporal element, in light of recent questions about social relationships between the sexes. This poem of the classical era, performed ritually in conditions which we shall explore, tells a previously unknown episode in the heroic biography of Theseus of Athens. The poem is in the great genre of lyric poetry and takes the form of a dithyramb. But before studying the process of fictional creation in the poem from the perspective of semio-narrative analysis and before being led to the external situation of its “performance” and its pragmatic effects in maintaining a civic memory (especially given the poetic and religious genre to which it belongs), we must first give a few more details concerning what is meant by “gender,” as well as concerning representations of time and space.

1.1. Enunciation of representations of gender

Why gender as grasped in the practical and discursive representations that each of the sexes creates of the other sex in given historical and cultural conditions?
It is not new to say that social relationships of sex have been one of the nuclei of academic debate in the social sciences in the past three decades. Even the section titles in major American university libraries offer evidence of this. While we witnessed a substitution of “cognitive sciences” for “linguistics” toward the end of the last century, “women’s studies” have proven remarkably resistant. On the European side of the Atlantic and just as significantly, the University of Lausanne, in a rather forced collaboration with its sister institution in Geneva, and after the prudent delay always advisable in a Calvinist country, created a program in “gender studies” several years ago, and integrated it into the curriculum of students in the social sciences. [2]
This chapter employs a perspective which, resistant though it may seem to be, could also fall victim to the inevitable changes of the hermeneutic and epistemological paradigm in human sciences. But the intention is not simply to follow new trends and to allow the reader to breathe a bit of contemporary air. It is intended to show how an idea relevant to modern times can prove to be a useful instrument in transcultural translation, in this study’s reflections on Greek representations of temporality and spatiality.
Decidedly non-restrictive (explicative), the perspective of social relationships and representations of sex must be explained within the meaning of the enunciative approach generally adopted in these chapters. From a discursive and enunciative point of view, the definitions quoted as a prelude to this chapter are phrased not only in a neutral mode as simple affirmations, but in a surprisingly abstract and impersonal formulation, as if the perception of sexual relationships had no subject, as if the representation of sex differences were not itself subject to differentiation from asymmetrical relationships. But the mutual perception of each sex by the other, based on biological reality and on the symbolic representation of sex differences, is never symmetrical. This culturally- determined asymmetrical perception varies, of course, from one society to another, from one historic period to another, from one individual to another, and from one age to another. Neither of the two sexes ever gives itself, or concedes to the other sex, the same way of seeing itself and of seeing the other. And each of these perceptions is constructed as a representation largely in terms of language and discourse.
This enunciative observation should be especially relevant for a Hellenist whose attention is drawn to the specifics of Greek poetry during what is termed the “archaic” period, during the development of the pólis. It falls to him to account for the “lyric” poems composed by an adult male poet, under the control of a small civic community still dominated by a double monarchy, and sung by groups of young men, but also by choruses of young girls. The question posed by the relationships implied in such performances in the Sparta of the seventh century, ritual in nature and generally religious in purpose, probably cannot be reduced to a simple game of combining structural opposites, even though this arrangement of a conceptual system using binary opposites like individual/collective, adolescent/adult, and feminine/masculine is all the more tempting in that these contrasting classifications were widely used by Greek thinkers themselves!
Both the historiographic term “archaic” and the literary genre category of “lyric” are subject to epistemological criticism, but beyond that what is involved in these ritually-destined poems is the distinction that must be made between on the one hand the historic situation of communication with other social actors in a ritualized “performance”, and on the other hand the fictional return of this situation in the poetic discourse involved; this external situation manifests itself as the “utterance of the enunciation” (“énoncé de l’énonciation”). In the case of the Lacedaemon of the poet Alkman, we must take into account the poetic and collective expression, by a feminine plural I, of erotic feelings aroused by a more mature girl, through the intermediary of a traditional discursive form; its historic and ritual “performance” implies the choral group of adolescent girls singing and dancing the poem, as well as the young girl leading their movements, and finally the poet who composed their song and who is their music master. [3] Only the use of a ritualistic and traditionally poetic language can account for the paradox of an adolescent female perspective composed by an adult male poet such as Alkman (or later, Pindar in Thebes) but assumed by a group of young female aristocrats; through the creative control of a poet working in his “author-function,” the choral group under the direction of a choregos performs a danced and sung ritual, probably with an initiatory purpose.
In the wider context of the poetics of épainos and mômos, of praise and reproach, through the intervening poetic discourse and ritual “performance,” this strange discursive interference between representations and very distinct gender identities must be thought of in terms of intersection and complementarity; these relationships of reciprocal complementarity are often established by poetic and symbolic means, as we shall see. On this point, the comparison given in the conclusion of this chapter, with the social and symbolic workings of the ritual complex belonging to an exotic contemporary community, may throw light on the Greek discursive situation; the comparative approach should also confirm the social appropriateness of modern attention to the definition of “gender” and to the practical representations to which it gives rise.

1.2. Temporalities between line and circle

Sketchy as they may be, these preliminary remarks on our postmodern sensitivity to social relationships marked by gender should prove useful to the reading of temporal and spatial development in a poem composed at the end of the Persian wars by the poet Bacchylides of Keos, very probably intended for a mixed choral group; the performance of this lyric composition by a group of young Athenian women and men was integrated into a religious and civic celebration dedicated to Apollo. But this brief preview on ritual conditions of communication (which we shall examine from the point of view of the uttered enunciation) calls for two additional remarks about the temporalization and spatialization of an essentially narrative dithyramb.
First, as we said in the introductory chapter, Benveniste saw historic and social time, scanned in a linear chronology using a regular scale of measurement, as “calendar time” (or as “time of the calendar”). [4] In so doing, he failed to think that the notion of a calendar also refers to the measured rhythm of the cyclical scansion of social time shared by the community. This scansion is given to calendar time by the recurrence of ritual celebrations, generally spaced out over the lunar year, following several different cyclic rhythms; this ritual scansion gives to the memory of the community a practical rhythm, belonging to a procedure of “anthropopoiesis.” Especially in classical Greece, this putting-into-discourse of history gets its temporal (and spatial) rhythm by narrative means, from a combining of these two ways of measuring time: on the one hand the chronological line organized according to different calculations provided by the succeeding generations or the quadrennial list of winners in the Olympic games or the annual succession of the archons of Athens; on the other hand the circle, with its circular logic organized according to different rhythms, furnished by the annual or quadrennial repetition of great local or Panhellenic festivals and celebrations, but also from the simple circular change of the seasons. [5]
Poetic discourse, with its own narrative and enunciative temporal structures, plays an essential role in this calendar combining chronological time and cyclical temporality. Hesiod’s didactic poem, with its narrative of the succession of the five human families, confronted us with a narrative that combines both a narrated time and a time of narration oriented toward the time and space of the uttered enunciation in the poem; this convergence moves toward a judicial action, along with a pedagogical effect on the (punctual) present of communicating the poem. In following the development of time and space in Bacchylides’ poem 17, we shall see how integrating discursive narrated time into the linear development of narration and of the song itself leads to the cyclical time of ritual for which the melic poem is intended. From the articulation between narrated time-space and time-space of narration, then the (intra-discursive) time-space of the uttered enunciation which encompasses them, we shall move on to the (extra-discursive and festive) time-space of “performance” of the poetic composition. We may then ask our questions regarding social relationships of the sexes, in the wider political and ideological context of the religious and cultural celebration. The poetic narration of a past which leads to a present ritual will lead us finally not only to tackle the question of the relationship between what we think of as “myth” and what we consider historiographic representation, but will also lead us to explore how this discourse relationship refers to a complex historic situation.
Secondly, we shall return to the clever distinction Ricoeur made between the stability of an “idem-identity” (in the “sameness” of the character!) and the mobility of an “ipse-identity” (in its moral “ipseity”!). But this distinction can be introduced here, from the start, as it relates both to the poetic construction of time and space and to the social relationships of the sexes that this discursive representation implies. [6] Without taking on the psychoanalytical basis for dialectical movement between the stable core of the human identity and its possible alterations in the development of cultural and anthropopoietic construction of the individual, we must point out that, especially as regards gender, the moral ipse-identity is built on the individual and personal level as well as from the collective and cultural point of view. And we shall see that in the case of the poetic representation of past time and space subordinated to a ritual efficiency, the individual identity will be configured more in the recounted history (and thus in the “myth”), while the collective identity will be formed in the course of the sung “performance;” this process of creating both an individual and a collective human identity, of an anthropopoietic human identity, is accomplished thanks to the temporal unfolding and the spatial localization of the ritual and religious celebration into which this complex representation is integrated. This dialectic movement between individual identity and social identity in a movement of “anthropopoiesis” through social memory offers at least a chance of giving a positive answer to the question of the aesthetic value of Bacchylides’ Dithyramb 17, a composition which is often condemned for its apparent narrative inconsistencies. [7]

2. Narrative movements in time and space

The narrative parts of Pindar’s compositions are characterized by various effects of extension, suspension, focusing, prolepsis and analepsis, numerous and often embedded ring structures. [8] By contrast, the narration of Bacchylides’ Dithyramb 17 follows a distinctly linear development, and the narrative covers nearly the entirety of the poem. Before turning our attention to its spatial unfolding, we must first briefly explain the temporal structure.

2.1. Essay on semio-narrative analysis

Bacchylides’ narration follows a line so regular that its rhythm practically coincides with the linear development of recounted time. That is to say its narrative logic exactly fits the “canonic schema” of the narrative, with its sequence of four phases of “Manipulation,” “Competence,” “Performance,” and “Sanction,” confronting a (semio-narrative) “Subject,” manipulated by a “Sender,” and supported by various “Helpers,” and an adversary set up as an “Anti-subject.” [9] And so the development of narration in Dithyramb 17 shows a strange and rare correspondence between this logical and analytical structure and the representation of time and space on which it is based. This coinciding is based on a unity of time coupled with a remarkable unity of place. Unfolding on a ship (naûs, line 1) between Athens and Crete (Krētikòn pélagos, line 4), the narrative action takes place in a single day: a certain day on the sea, heading toward Crete, in the time of “history” or “narrative,” and without the least incursion in the time (or space) of “discourse.” [10] The narration starts immediately, without the enunciative intervention of the poet’s I to be expected in any epic or lyric poem, and without any invocation of the inspirational authority of the Muse.
The ship with the blue-black prow, as it carried Theseus, steadfast in the battle din, and the twice seven splendid youths and maidens of the Ionians, was cleaving the Cretan sea, for northerly breezes fell on the far-shining sail thanks to glorious Athena, the aegis-shaker; but Minos’ heart was chafed by the dread gifts of the Cyprian goddess with desire in her headband, and he could no longer keep his hand from the girl but touched her white cheeks. Eriboia shouted for the bronze-corseleted descendant of Pandion, and Theseus saw it and rolled his eyes darkly beneath his brows...
Bacchylides Dithyramb 17.1-17 (trans. Campbell 1992:217)
The narrative action of Bacchylides’ Dithyramb 17 begins with the usual situation of “Lack” ; it brings on the break in equilibrium which is necessary to the confrontation of the two protagonists of the action. Both are presented at the beginning of the narration, a Subject and an Anti-subject both manipulated by a specific Sender. First Theseus borne toward Crete by the vessel itself (naûs . . . ágousa, lines 1-2) with the help of Athena, then Minos whose heart is led astray, indirectly manipulated by Aphrodite. The victim of the break in equilibrium between the two (semio-narrative) Subjects of the narrative is the young Athenian woman Eriboia, on whom Minos, motivated by erotic desire, unjustifiably tries to lay his hands.
The Manipulation phase of the narrative begins with line 16. Because of the inappropriate gesture of Minos toward the girl, Theseus becomes the first Subject of the action. It is he, the Athenian, who provokes the hero of Crete by criticizing him for not being able to master himself. Carried away by his thumós (line 23), his affective force, Minos is in some ways the victim of his own emotions: by overstepping the limits, he has committed an act of húbris (line 41). Just as in the usual scenario of the Iliad, Theseus as a prelude to the duel compares his own genealogy with that of his Cretan adversary. In so doing, the Athenian hero gives the names of the principal Senders of the heroic action to come, in collaboration with the feminine divinities already mentioned. Confronted with Aegeus, the son of Zeus, and of the daughter (kóra, line 32) of Phoinix (which is to say, Europa) Theseus affirms his own birth from the union of Poseidon and the daughter of king Pittheus; at the same time, he insists on the previous virginity of his mother whose union with the god was honored by the gift of a veil (or a belt? kálumma, line 37) from the Nereids. From a spatial point of view which corresponds to opposing Zeus and Poseidon, the birth of Minos is linked to the earth since the Cretan hero was born on Mount Ida, while Theseus’ genealogy is linked to the sea.
The break in narrative equilibrium and the fact that justice is at stake is alluded to by Theseus himself. In aspiring to fulfill the moîra (line 24) and thus to realize what is apportioned by the gods, he shows that he is conscious of the danger of “tilting the balance of justice” (lines 25-26). [11] And so at the end of his address to Minos, in a ring structure, he declares his will to respond to the violence and arrogance of Minos (bían, line 23; húbrin, line 41), as much by his own force (bían, line 45) as by the decree (krineî, line 46) of a god. Just like the tragic hero Oedipus who assumes his own action while asserting that his sufferings are inflicted by Apollo in the accomplishment of his moîra and his daímōn, Theseus declares himself the subject of his own act, while at the same time claiming his divine father Poseidon and placing himself consciously within the fulfillment of the moîra, the force superior to the gods. Not just the “double motivation” generally spoken of when trying to explain the motives for action of a tragic hero who assumes the decision deliberated by a god, but “triple determination” to account for a heroic will which is always doubly determined, by the deity and by destiny. [12]
Minos’ reaction to Theseus’ intervention can be considered the second part of the initial phase of Manipulation. By his challenge to the Athenian hero, the hero of Crete imposes the narrative contract, which takes the form of a provocation. In his retort to Theseus, Minos also bases himself on his ancestry, which he compares with his adversary’s genealogy; in both cases, he also insists more on his own relationship and his adversary’s with the young mother, rather than on them both being descended from divine fathers. But first, Minos speaks directly to Zeus: if it is true that the god fathered him with the white-armed Phoenician maiden, let him send from the heavens a recognizable sign (sâm’ arígnōton, line 57)! As for Theseus, son of the woman of Troizen and of Poseidon who shakes the earth, let him bring back the ring which Minos will throw in the depths of the sea! And so the terms of the (semio-narrative) contract which consecrates the Manipulation phase are drawn up and imposed, in this particular case, by the Anti-subject become the subject, in the name of the power incarnate in Zeus, one of the main Senders in the narrative.
Particularly well-developed because of the presentation of the two narrative subjects of the action along with their respective Senders, and the imposed narrative contract which sets the logical bases of the narrative action, the Manipulation phase thus sets off the sequence of three successive phases that the canonic schema leads us to expect. In Bacchylides’ poetic narrative, the narrative development of these three other phases is much more succinct. Indeed, while introducing the two heroes and concluding the narrative contract occupies the entire first part of the poem, the rhythm of narration picks up speed in the second part in such a way that the three remaining phases (along with the brief enunciative conclusion) form a second unit of composition. This articulation into two narrative parts corresponds to the metrical form of the poem, and thus also to its choreographic form. The poem is composed of two triads, sung and danced in a “Cretic” rhythm, with several paeonic resolutions. [13] Reflected in its metrical and rhythmic structure, the diptych narrative structure of Bacchylides’ poem seems to make this composition ideal for a reader inspired by structural analysis!
In this structural and semio-narrative perspective, the Competence phase thus coincides with the beginning of the second part of the dithyrambic composition. Responding immediately to Minos’ call, Zeus not only occupies the role of Sender in the narrative action, but also associates his son with that position, at his side. Intending to grant his “dear son” (phílōi paidí, line 69) an exceptional honor, the god throws down a dazzling lightning bolt. This wonder (téras, line 72) causes an imbalance in the symmetry expected between the two Subjects confronting one another. Through the support granted by his father Zeus, Minos becomes the competent hero who apparently will have to take up conducting the narrative action regarding Theseus. For a while, in any case...
As a result, we go immediately from the Competence phase to the narrative Performance proper. Given that at the end of the brief preceding phase Minos had appropriated the semio-narrative Competence, Theseus immediately obeys the challenge of the Cretan hero: he plunges into the depths of the sea without even invoking the name of his divine father Poseidon, who is nonetheless the Sender of his action. Minos recalls it once again in his final address to the young Athenian: “your father Poseidon will achieve for you the highest glory” (kléos, line 80). This means that the symmetric terms of the narrative contract imposed by Minos in the Manipulation phase are not respected. In fact, the development of the Performance shows a decided reorientation from that moment on. Neither Minos’ ring nor Poseidon himself (except indirectly in lines 99 and 109 as Theseus’ father) will be mentioned again. The narrative consequence is that Minos continues his voyage toward Crete (implicitly abandoning the confrontation and the ordeal); the explicit logical and moral consequence: Moira (Moîra, line 89) was preparing “another course” (different from the one laid out in the narrative contract)! It is the narrator who makes this declaration, an omniscient narrator here since he shows the superior force which presides over the destiny of mortals. One of the rare indirect enunciative interventions included in the narrative, this declaration echoes Theseus’ claim that he is respecting the all-powerful destiny (Moîra pagkratḗs, line 24) pointed out by the gods. From the beginning of the narrative, the hero does indeed show his will to realize the ineluctable portion allotted to him (peprōménan aîsan, lines 26-27) “when it comes” (hótan élthēi, lines 27-28; once again the image of progressing!).
It all happens as if the narrative action were now following a divergent program, different from the contract imposed by Minos. [14] With the help of Moira, who in Greek epic narrative represents a force that the gods themselves cannot alter, Theseus now becomes the real Subject of the heroic action. [15] From this point on, he fulfills destiny’s plan, and not the one invented by the Cretan sovereign, who is once again in the position of Anti-subject. The Athenian hero confronts the narrative Performance alone.
...but the whole group of young Athenians had trembled when the hero sprang into the sea, and they shed tears from their lily-bright eyes, expecting a woeful doom. But sea-dwelling dolphins were swiftly carrying great Theseus to the house of his father, god of horses, and they reached the hall of the gods. There he was awe-struck at the glorious daughters of blessed Nereus, for from their splendid limbs shone a gleam as of fire, and round their hair were twirled gold-braided ribbons; and they were delighting their hearts by dancing with liquid feet. And he saw his father’s dear wife, august ox-eyed Amphitrite, in the lovely house....
Bacchylides Dithyramb 17.93-111 (trans. Campbell 1992:223-225)
The heroic test thus no longer involves bringing back the ring Minos flung into the depths of the sea, but being received in the “benevolent sanctuary of the sea” (line 85). The test is accomplished against Minos’ plan, first thanks to the help of dolphins (dear to Apollo), then by the benevolence of the daughters of Nereus engaged in a choral dance (khóroi, line 107), and finally thanks to the protection of Amphitrite, wife of Poseidon. [16] The narrative Performance thus consists of a victory over necessity (anágkē, line 96). It develops in contrast to the waiting of Theseus’ young companions, who are obliged to follow Minos toward Crete for a while longer, separated from the itinerary (and the narrative program) of which Theseus is the protagonist (and the Subject)!
Corresponding from the point of view of meter to the epode of the second of the two triads which constitute Bacchylides’ poem, the phase of the narrative Sanction is not delayed. Its unfolding is enhanced by a series of visual and aural figures.
...(Amphitrite) put a purple cloak about him and set on his thick hair the faultless garland which once at her marriage guileful Aphrodite had given her, dark with roses. Nothing that the gods wish is beyond the belief of sane morals: he appeared beside the slender-sterned ship. Whew, in what thoughts did he check the Cnossian commander when he came unwet from the sea, a miracle for all, and the gods gifts shone on his limbs; and the splendid-throned maidens cried out with new-found joy, and the sea rang out; and nearby the youths raised a paean with lovely voice.
Bacchylides Dithyramb 17.112-129 (trans. Campbell 1992:225-227)
The glorifying conclusion of the plot is thus first marked by the two gifts of Amphitrite to Theseus: a purple garment (aïṓna porphuréan, line 112) and a crown given by Aphrodite to Poseidon’s spouse at her own marriage. Brought back from the depths of the sea, the red garment and crown of roses in some ways take the place of the ring that Theseus was supposed to bring back according to the narrative contract established by Minos. Seen from the narrative’s logic, this first element of Sanction confirms the reorientation of the plot and its focus on Theseus, subject of the narrative action. The crown evokes the matrimonial union of the divine father of Theseus with Amphitrite, the young daughter of Nereus, while the purple garment echoes the kálumma given by the Nereids to the very young mother of Theseus at her union with the god (lines 35-38). [17]
The semio-narrative Sanction is extended by the sudden reappearance of Theseus, leaping from the sea to rejoin the Cretan ship. This exploit, presented as a cause for astonishment to everyone (thaûma pántessin, line 123) and confronting the defeated Minos, is a response to the thunderbolt thrown down by Zeus to confirm his son’s legitimacy (lines 56-57); to the wonder (téras, line 72) produced by Minos’ father, there is now a corresponding visual miracle, the return of Theseus from his father’s home in the sea. The identical metrical position taken by the two expressions involved confirms this correspondence formally. [18] In recalling the brightness “visible to all” (panderkéa, line 70) of the sign sent by Minos’ divine father, the gifts of the gods are conspicuous through their light which shines on the limbs of the young Athenian hero. Finally, the Sanction phase concludes with the ritual cries of the maidens (koûrai, line 125), accompanied by the echo of the sea itself and by the paean sung by the young men accompanying Theseus (ēítheioi . . . néoi, lines 128-129). This song of victory and thanks adds auditory impressions to the different visual facets of a luminous Sanction.
The forms ōlóluxan (line 127) and paiánixan (line 129) in the aorist, designating ritual cries and the paean, mark the end of the narrative: time of narration and recounted time come together. The Sanction of this heroic action recounted at length by Bacchylides proves finally to be a song of thanks.

2.2. From ordeal to tribal initiation ritual

Since the time of narration in Bacchylides’ Dithyramb 17 follows a development which practically coincides with time recounted, independently from the time of the uttered enunciation, its very linear rhythm has fueled modern critics in their accusations concerning the poet’s imagination. This narrative and temporal unfolding, which does indeed conform to the logic of the plot, nonetheless offers spatial devices which should arouse curiosity.
Certainly the space in which the narrative action takes place shows some blurring within its very unity. The protagonists of the plot are on a vessel propelled by Boreas on the “sea of Crete” (line 4), which is to say—for us—on a boat sailing south on the Aegean sea, somewhere between Athens and Knossos. But along with this horizontal movement on the sea, a vertical dimension is also developed. As regards Minos, the relationship of the Cretan hero with his father Zeus implies not only the lofty ether (line 73) from where Zeus sends the heavenly bolt of lightning (ap’ ouranoû, line 55), but also the heights of Ida (line 30) where the hero of Crete was born (line 30). From this perspective, as we have mentioned, Minos pictures for Theseus glory which will spread throughout the “wooded earth” (khthóna kat’ ēúdendron, line 80). For Minos, Poseidon is the god who “shakes the earth” (seisíkhthōn, line 58), even if his palace is to be found at the bottom of the sea (line 63)! In contrast to these celestial and terrestrial spatial images, Theseus’ relationship with the depths of the sea is illustrated from the very beginning, and by Minos himself. Theseus is introduced as the son of Poseidon of the sea (Póntios, line 36), his birth under the protection of the Nereids (line 38). It is also the Nereids who receive the young Athenian hero in the undersea palace of their sister Amphitrite (lines 110-111). And the entire second part of the poem is dedicated to the Athenian’s dive into the depths of the sea.
This structure, which we can reconstruct as the basis of the spatial configuration sketched in Bacchylides’ poem, thus has three poles: the heavens (dominated by Zeus), the depths of the sea (the kingdom of Poseidon and his spouse Amphitrite), and the surface of the earth and sea on which mortals progress (with the help of Aphrodite and Athena, auxiliary Senders, but finally victims of their own moîra).
The structure of this tri-polar configuration and spatial representation apparently depends heavily on the temporal and logical development of the narration. After the long Manipulation phase, marked by a verbal exchange between the surface of the sea and the heavens, the moment of Competence is distinguished, in poem 17 of Bacchylides, by the vertical and punctual movement of the lightning bolt which descends from the ether toward the surface where mortals (heroes) progress. From a spatial point of view, the Performance phase is also characterized by a vertical movement, in this particular case from the surface toward the depths of the sea. But because of the divergence in reorienting the narrative program (already mentioned), this downward movement is accompanied by the horizontal movement of the vessel which stays on course toward Crete. Finally, the Sanction phase takes place partly in the depths of the sea (as regards the divine consecration which it represents), and partly on the deck of the ship (as regards the recognition by men). Multidimensional, the narrative episode put into poetry by Bacchylides ends up linking together the principal elements of the cosmos, as Greeks of the classical period imagined it. It takes on a cosmological depth which is essential to its pragmatic function, especially as it relates to the position of the island of Delos at the geographic center of what will become the Aegean sea. [19]
Modern readers, not particularly sensitive to the cosmological dimension of Bacchylides’ narrative, have mostly focused their attention on the second part of the poem: Theseus’ plunge into the sea, his welcome into the divine residence of Amphitrite, and his return celebrated by the choral victory ode performed by the young men and women accompanying the Athenian hero. Focusing on the dive, Theseus’ marine itinerary has often been interpreted in initiatory terms, referring to three different types of rite of passage:
- tribal initiation rite securing the transition from adolescence to adulthood, like the version of the “myth” which tells of young Eumolpos, thrown into the sea, picked up by his father Poseidon, raised by a daughter of Poseidon and Amphitrite, as an adult befriending the people of Eleusis and participating in the founding of the rites;
- rite of immortalization, like Glaukos, a young fisherman from Anthedon in Boeotia, who jumps into the sea to become a daímōn, and hence a seer for men;
- “ordeal” as a test of innocence with its purifying effect, like Aerope, the granddaughter of Minos who was accused of allowing herself to be seduced by a slave and was thrown into the sea, and later married Pleisthenes to whom she bore Agamemnon and Menelaus. [20]
Anne Pippin Burnett, summarizing the different interpretations given to Theseus’ dive, concludes: “Theseus left the ship a boy but returns a man, prepared for a form of marriage with Ariadne, and prepared also to assume his father’s duties when he gets back to Athens.” [21]
But if we take into account the status of the protagonists both for the dive and for the entire narrative, along with the types of objects exchanged during that dive, the “initiatory” nature of the transition and the transformation undergone by Theseus is far from obvious.

2.3. Erotic images

First of all, as regards the figurative qualities of the principal protagonists of the plot, both Minos and Theseus are introduced from the start as heroes—war heroes, and consequently epic heroes. Minos is first explicitly described as a “hero” (hḗrōs, line 23), then as “warlord of the Knossians” (polémarkhe Knōsíōn, line 39) by Theseus, while the speaker-narrator describes him as “staunch in battle: (meneptólemos hḗrōs, line 73) and as “general of Knossos” (Knṓsion stratagétan, lines 120-121). The poet calls Theseus himself first “steadfast in battle” (menektu[pon, line 1), “bronze-corsleted” (khalkothóra[ka, lines 14-15), “spear-valiant hero” (arétaikhmos hḗrōs, line 47), then, in turn, just at the moment when he dives, in front of the young people on the deck of the boat, simply “hero” (hḗrōs, line 94)! Minos’ only advantage over Theseus is the wartime superiority granted him by his status as general, but he is never described as king (of Knossos).
As for the Athenian hero, he is never presented as an adolescent or as a young man, either before or after his visit to the home of Poseidon and Amphitrite. Theseus reappears perfectly dry (adíantos, line 122) after his dive into the sea. This miraculous fact no doubt relates to the visual wonder (thaûma, line 123) of the hero’s appearance, in the light which shines on his body from the flash of the divine gifts he wears. It is also in this context that the reference to his curly hair (kómai oûlai, line 113) must be understood. This is undoubtedly not so much an allusion to the long hair of an adolescent as a reference to the curls “like hyacinth flowers” that Athena gives to Odysseus, when she intends to make the hero appear a god to Nausicaa; “truly, he looks a god,” declares the girl, stricken by the graceful beauty of the adult metamophosed by Athena. [22] In this scene, the curls evoke both erotic light and divine appearance. Divine light emanating from Theseus himself, when he reappears from the bottom of the sea in a kind of epiphany, is substituted for the light of Zeus’ lightning bolt brought on by Minos.
These, then, are the values implied in several of the images taken by the Sanction phase of Bacchylides’ long poetic narrative. Much the same could be said of the gifts which Amphitrite gives to the Athenian hero. In itself an entirely polysemic ritual object, the crown that Theseus wears when he reappears on the deck of the ship sailing toward Crete is explicitly introduced as a wedding present given originally by the guileful Aphrodite. In this context, the purple garment (aïóna porphuréan, line 112), with the probable erotic connotation of its color, can be referred to the cloak which, in both love poetry and iconography, represents the union (matrimonial or not) between two adults, under the sign of Aphrodite and her familiar Eros. Associated with the erotic bond of marriage, the divine gifts (line 124; see also line 116) echo the “sacred gifts of Kypris” (Kúpridos hagnà dôra, line 10), the goddess with the headband who inspires the desire of love; it is she who, just like the “bitter-sweet” Eros of Sappho, touches the heart of Minos; it is she who thus brings about the situation of Lack which begins the narrative told in Bacchylides’ poem. [23]

2.4. Aphrodite and marriage

Before granting any sort of initiatory interpretation to the transformation of Theseus after the test represented by his plunge into the sea and his welcome in the home of Amphitrite, we must turn to the semantic contrast which brings into relation the beginning of the narrative and its conclusion, and which carries the entire plot: the attempt at sexual violence by a hero and warlord on a girl (parthenikâs, line 11) contrasts with the reception of a warrior hero by the adult spouse of a sea god. The young spouse Amphitrite takes the place of the girl Athena as an additional Sender of Theseus. On the other hand, the initial narrative action and the final action are both placed under the sign of erotic gifts from Aphrodite, who, to accomplish the initial action, wears “a headband that inspires loving desire” (himerámpukos, line 9), and who, for the final action, is designated by the traditional description of “guileful” (dólios, line 116): Kypris attached by her name to an insular territory at the start of the poem, Aphrodite associated by legend with the sea at its conclusion—this may not be coincidental. However that may be, the “(aphrodisiac) gifts of the gods” (theôn dôra, line 124) given to Theseus when he reappears from the waves correspond to the “sacred gifts” of Kypris which strike Minos at the beginning of the poem (hagnà dôra, line 10), as we have just shown. [24]
What is striking in the miraculous reappearance of Theseus from the sea after his brief stay in the home of the divine Amphitrite, much more than any initiatory passage from adolescence to adulthood, is the deification of the epic hero, in a sort of epiphany. The process of deification is matched with a passage from the relationship of son to a nearly matrimonial relationship. After being recognized by the wife of his father, Theseus himself is treated like a young bridegroom; rather than a son-in-law, he in some ways acquires the status of Amphitrite’s fiancé, while she herself seems to assume the status of young bride implied in having no child! Because the presents Amphitrite gives to the young Athenian hero all bear Aphrodite’s values, it is as if the adult woman were seducing and attaching the young man to herself in an erotic relationship, in contrast to the beginning of the narrative where it is the adult male, Minos, who lays hands on the young girl Eriboia. If a comparative parallel is needed to confirm the plausibility of this reading of Theseus’ deifying plunge into the waves, one could cite the narrative of the young Phoebus Apollo leaping like a dolphin onto the vessel of Cretan sailors (from Knossos!) to guide them to Krisa, then to commit them to found the sanctuary at Delphi, which could confirm the etiological and founding role of Bacchylides’ narrative. We shall return to this. And as for a ritual parallel, it could be found in the wish of “Anacreon,” as a poet “drunk with Eros,” [25] to leap into the sea from the famous promontory of Leukas.
From a semantic point of view, an erotic isotopy under the sign of Aphrodite and her symbols, runs throughout all of Bacchylides’ Dithyramb 17. We witness the transition from the erotic relationship of an adult hero with an adolescent girl to the ambiguous relationship of an adult divinity with a young hero; in a sort of passage from war to love, this transfer by its reorientation leads us to witness a sort of “feminization” of the main protagonist of the plot. Theseus finally reappears among the young Athenian men and women being carried toward Crete, wearing the symbolic garment and crown that mark him as a young bride! From that, it is probably not a simple coincidence that the young Athenian hero bears a strange resemblance to the young Nereids he has just left. If the Nereids are said to be bathed in a bright light emanating from their limbs as they rejoice their hearts in a choral dance (khorôi d’éterpon, line 107-108), we learn that Theseus is also miraculously flooded with light coming from the gifts of the gods. His appearance prompts the choral song that has been mentioned, sung in a voice which inspires erotic desire (eratâi opí, line 129), in the expression which closes the entire narrative.
The Athenian hero thus attains a new status as a quasi-bride. His accession to this highly ambiguous status by his legitimization in the watery divine palace is accompanied by a substitution of his stepmother Amphitrite for his father Poseidon, but also by a narrative substitution of a quasi-matrimonial relationship for one of sexual violence. Recognition and legitimization through the conferring of gifts, preparations reminiscent of a marriage ceremony, deification in epiphany: Theseus’ destiny as it is redrawn by Bacchylides is nevertheless very different from that of the hero of marriage itself, Hymenaeus, who dies an adolescent before the transition takes place. And from this point of view it contrasts with the destiny reserved for the son of the Athenian hero, Hippolytus.
Starting from a debatable initiatory interpretation, we thus come to a spatial-temporal configuration that implies gender relationships so paradoxical and so ambiguous that only comparison with the workings of a contemporary exotic culture seems capable of supplying a hermeneutic expedient which could be relevant. We thus come to the third point of the proposed comparative triangle: from the contemporary idea of gender, to classical Greek poetics, and finally to the initiatory rites practiced along the banks of the Sepik.

3. From the Aegean Sea to the banks of the Sepik: comparisons

And so we issue an invitation to a brief comparative incursion into Papua New Guinea, to the banks of the Sepik. The author of these lines once visited the curved banks of this meandering and languid river, occupied by the lake- dwelling Iatmul in the central part, and by the land-dwelling Abelam a bit farther north. The occasion was to spend several weeks there in order to give a comparative aspect to a research project on political and “initiatory” reorientations of the legend of Theseus in classical Athens. But the brief and again comparative visit I offer here is based less on my own experience in the field than on reports and interpretations offered by my colleagues of the Ethnologisches Seminar in Basel. The glimpse which I shall try to provide of two communities and two cultures of the Sepik will thus be even more asymmetric, since the very quick spatial-temporal configuration I would like to display here is based on my own prefigurations and on some of the discursive and textual configurative elaborations supplied by those who visited the Iatmul and the Abelam before I did. [26] This double asymmetry is somewhat analogous to the general position of the Hellenist, whose discursive configurations not only are marked by his own cultural preconstructions, but also depend on the orientation and representations which belong to the indigenous “documents” which make up his “field.” Because of the essentially mediate nature of an “observation” which can be based only on the enargeia produced by discourses, I shall demonstrate here several analogies which are at a rather abstract and functional level, leaving behind the contrasts praised at the end of the preceding chapter.

3.1. Masculine tribal initiation: the Iatmul

Despite the integration of both boys and girls into a European-type school system generally run by Christian missionaries, the various village communities of the Middle Sepik Iatmul continue to impose on their male adolescents a tribal initiation ritual, in the strict sense of that term in modern anthropology. After a period of several weeks of separation and seclusion, not in the forest but in the upper part of haus tambaran, the house of the men and the ancestors, young adolescents all of about the same age undergo a long and painful scarifying operation; the ritualized sequence takes place inside a ritual enclosure built on the ceremonial square in the middle of the village. Through practices easily interpreted in terms of a symbolic death, the initiates receive marks which leave folds in the skin on their backs, making them resemble the crocodiles of the Sepik. They leave the enclosure through a narrow opening, a ritual symbol of a new birth, following the same interpretive line. The public reappearance of the new initiates is marked by various ritual dances of welcome, in particular by their biological mothers. These choreographic movements are accompanied by the musical beating of drums made from hollowed-out tree trunks, whose sound is supposed to imitate the sounds of the crocodile. From this day forward, the young initiates will bear, inscribed on their bodies, the marks of a metaphoric identity which makes the Iatmul the sons of the Sepik. [27]
The etiological explanation of the initiatory tattooing summarized here was given to a researcher from Basel by a native of Yensan, the “mother village” of Palimbei where I once stayed before my reading of Athenian narratives on Theseus. [28]
In the time of the ancestors (the Greeks would speak of próteroi), only one man carried the scars on his back, a man named Korubangi. The other men, who also wanted to have such marks, decided to catch as many crocodiles as there were men and male children. They enclosed the animals in a strong pen from which they could not escape, built just for this and called ndimba. When released inside the enclosure, the crocodiles attacked the ancestors and ate their sons. The men killed the crocodiles, and buried only the heads of their children, to let the skin and flesh rot away. The fathers kept the secret of their sons’ deaths, and let their wives bring food for the children up to the moment when their wounds had scarred over and when they decided to leave the crocodile pen. The dancing women wept when they received the heads of their children, then buried them once again in the enclosure, and organized a large feast to mourn the deaths of their sons. Then, taking the initiative after the dramatic failure of their husbands, the women decided to take action on a symbolic level. They devised knives of bamboo, and inside a new enclosure they gashed their children’s skin, then treated the wounds with salve made from a tree. When the scarring was complete, they took wood from another tree and made sound boxes whose vibrations, produced by a piece of rope, imitated the sound of crocodiles. When their children’s scars were completely formed, the women and their relatives organized a celebratory dance in costumes around the house of the men, to welcome their sons who, healed, had left the enclosure.
More than with the narrative of Theseus’ plunge into the Sea of Crete, this etiological narrative of the Sepik offers some strange analogies with the episode of the heroic biography of Theseus which immediately follows it: the test of the Labyrinth at Knossos. Superficial resemblances include not only the (symbolic and perhaps initiatory) death which the young Athenian men and women are subjected to when they are sent to be devoured by the Minotaur, but the various functions attributed to women as well. In both the Greek mûthos and in the Melanesian sagi, women take on the role of nursing mother (deipnophóroi) as regards their sons, but Ariadne’s intelligent skill in mastering the Labyrinth and in inspiring the dance which celebrates it calls to mind the art of practical metaphor implemented by the women of Yensan! [29] However, these surface images offer nothing but figurative analogies which are not necessarily functional. The comparison cannot be confined to this very superficial level.
Nonetheless, the prose narrative from the Yensan “informant” offers several more pertinent semantic and pragmatic kernels to aid in understanding what is at stake narratively and functionally in the version of Theseus’ dive poetically formulated by Bacchylides. On the one hand, we note the role played by women with regard to a series of symbolic objects and practices, in an etiological narrative meant to account for a tribal ritual initiation sequence intended for a group of adolescents. This narrative is part of an anthropology (understood as a representation of the human being and his creation) where one believes that the flesh is fed by the mother’s blood, while growth of the bones depends on the male sperm. This representation of the differentiated development of the human organism must be understood within the context of an anthropopoiesis (understood as a representation of man’s fabrication); according to this anthropopoietic conception realized in the ritual, at adolescence the mother’s blood must be eliminated from the body of the young man and future adult. [30] We must also note the semantic position and profile assumed by an animal which, in various versions of the Iatmul cosmogonic narrative, represents the foundation of the world: a Yensan version, for example, puts forth a primordial crocodile reduced to feeding on air, in the process of creating the cosmos. His lower jaw becomes the earth, his upper jaw the sky, his eyes become the sun and the moon, while from his tongue are born the first two human brothers. [31]

3.2. Puberty rites for girls: the Abelam

The comparatist incursion into the Iatmul region of rivers and lakes showed us a version of a basic legend meant to explain the creation of a tribal initial rite for adolescent boys. If we are to glance at speculations brought about by social roles and reciprocal representations of both genders within ritual practice itself and involving adolescents, we must leave the banks of the Sepik to move on to the nearby hill country inhabited by the Abelam.
The very rapid geographic and intellectual tour offered here is conditioned by historic development, as well as by my own personal trip, which the flooding of the Sepik turned away from Palimbei and its crocodile-haunted banks toward Kimbangawa in the area where yams are cultivated. The Iatmul, once headhunters, stopped organizing tribal initiation rites for groups of girls from prominent families and clans toward the end of the nineteenth century. And though the entire initiatory program for adolescent girls has been eliminated, an individual rite of passage for adolescent girls is still practiced today in the nearby villages occupied by the Abelam. In terms of categories accepted by anthropologists, this is not a tribal initiation rite, but rather a puberty rite, celebrated individually in that it is attached to the highly individual first menses of the girl. [32]
The Abelam puberty rite culminates in a public ceremony called wambusuge, from wambe, the name of the cane whose juice is used to wash the girl when she leaves the menstruation hut at the very edge of the forest; she is confined there at the first appearance of menstrual blood. While the adolescent girl is still confined in the ritual hut, her mother, helped by her relatives and also by her husband, collects various vegetarian foods, among them the yams called wapi. Exceptionally and for this occasion, women are allowed to handle these oblong ceremonial potatoes which are grown and cultivated by men and which are displayed before the painted facade of the ceremonial house. Cut up by the brothers and the father, these yams are then distributed, along with other foods, among the mainly female guests at the ceremony, in a large exchange involving only women. It is only the following day that the girl can leave the menstruation house, after having been washed with the juice of the cane called wambe. Her head is shaved, and during the several days which mark her return to the community she wears shell necklaces, as well as new textile made by her mother. About fifty years ago, the chest, stomach, and arms of the young Abelam girl initiate were scarified by a specialist, who used the same stone knife used to draw blood from the penis of the young bridegroom; through this practice equivalent to feminine scarification, the body of the young man was supposed to be freed from the blood accumulated during the first period of intense sexual relations with his young spouse.
Certainly the way of conducting puberty rites for young Abelam girls shows no surface similarities either to Bacchylides’ narrative inspired by initiation or to what we know generally of initiatory rites of passage for adolescent girls in the cities of ancient Greece. But in order to understand the implications both for spatio-temporality and for the gender relationships, it is essential to have some understanding of the meaning conferred by the natives on the ritual yams cultivated by the men of Abelam villages. Western anthropologists of course attributed to these ceremonial tubers the phallic meaning which their oblong shape evokes, along with their relationship to a typically masculine ethos, but the Abelam consider the wapi as human beings. In the metaphoric interpretation of the ritual potatoes, the different parts of the yam take the names of different limbs of the human body, while all signs of growth are associated with female childbearing organs; reciprocally, a ceremonial dancer is viewed as a yam. From that, the production of these long tubers represents for men their way of engendering and educating children, through an impressive series of metaphors referring to birth and nursing. Conversely, the young adolescent girl experiencing her first menstruation is compared to the secret stone kept in the ceremonial house; in comparison to the vulva or to a menstruating woman, this stone (despite its phallic shape!) is supposed to contribute to the growth of the wapi yams. [33] While a ritual for girls and women is involved, the technical practices and metaphorical anthropopoietic games are taken on by the men.
Consequently, practices of anthropopoiesis—or more precisely of andropoiesis and gynecopoiesis—of a native community depend heavily on an overall concept of human beings, of their organic and sexual identity. These relationships between ritual practices and anthropopoietic representations are so strong that their “translation” for a Western public precludes any projection of metaphors that support our own representations and relationships between the sexes, so strong that their specific nature forbids any direct transfer from an initiatory schema to the etiological legends which explain them and which justify their being carried out. The brief trip into Iatmul territory showed that in the etiological narrative, the central role played by women in a symbolic temporality and spatiality contrasts with the minor practical duties they assume in the time and space of the tribal initiation ritual for young men. By way of contrast, among the Abelam, the entire series of ritual gestures and manipulations brought about by a young girl’s first menstrual blood is marked by interaction and complementarity between the organic and procreational duties specific to women, and the technical and metaphorical production role assumed by men. Through a concept of the nature of human beings and of anthropopoiesis in which metaphor plays an essential role, the symbolic practices of ritual in some ways redress the “natural” and biological imbalance between the gender roles, where engendering is concerned. All in all, it is a compensation through symbolic means for the physiological and organic asymmetry between the sexes.

4. The practices of enunciative poetry

From this overly brief and too rapid comparative approach, we can draw at least two more general semantic conclusions. First of all, it seems that from the point of view of narration, the etiological explanation given for instituting a tribal ritual initiation practice can be founded in the narrative of the creation of the cosmos. And in moving from the (cosmogonic) “myth” to “ritual,” we notice that ritual practice is composed of such a dense fabric of symbolic procedures and relevant concepts related to the practical metaphor that this interplay of symbolic creation and metaphoric translation can, both in social institutions and through the work of culture, rebalance the organic contribution and the “biological” status of each sex.
Through the metaphoric and symbolic rebalancing discussed, the question of syntactic and semantic logic which fits the sequence of ritual practices into the development of a narrative for memory thus brings us back to Bacchylides’ Dithyramb 17 and its spatial-temporal logic. [34]

4.1. Time and space recounted in the spatial-temporal frame of enunciation

In Bacchylides’ composition, the expected narrational movement from recounted time and space to the time and space of the (uttered) enunciation takes place only at the very end of the poem, in the last three lines. From a spatial point of view, the address to Apollo as the god of Delos relates the time of the poem’s “performance” to that sacred island: the god is invited to rejoice in the choral dances of the people of Keos (khoroîsi Keíōn, lines 130-131). In the same way, Apollo is involved in the interplay of do ut des which concludes many Homeric Hymns. This poem itself, both in its long narrative of the great deeds of Theseus and in its choral performance, is thus presented to the god of Delos as an offering in exchange for the benefits which the gods may send to the performers of the composition. [35]
From this enunciative perspective, which poses the question of spatial relationship between the uttered enunciation and the historical circumstances of the poem’s communication, one might well wonder why Apollo, as god of the lyre and of choral dance, is neither evoked nor invoked at the beginning of the poem, as the gods concerned are addressed in a Homeric Hymn, or as the Muses are at the beginning of an epic narrative poem, or even of a lyric poem. As we have already mentioned, the beginning of the composition of Dithyramb 17 coincides atypically with the incipit of the narrative. In this beginning, which is narrative from the very start, the introduction of Theseus (line 2) in some ways substitutes for the expected address to the authority who inspires the poem. This may simply be one possibility offered by the rules of the dithyramb genre. Not content with an especially developed narration, the lyric form may also permit a “dramatic” staging, to take up the concept Plato develops concerning narrative and mimetic poetry. [36] Devoted to an exchange between king Aegeus and a choral group narrating the young Theseus’ arrival in Athens, Bacchylides’ Dithyramb 18, for example, shows the affinities of certain of these compositions labeled Dithyrambs with contemporary tragedy: and in this there is no place for a prelude or an invocation of the Muse. Unless Theseus, introduced narratively in the very first part of the poem and destined to reappear in an epiphany at the end of the narrative, takes the place of inspirational authority...
There is also the question of the practical relationship between the fictional space shaped in the poem and the real space of its performance. This passage between two narrative utterances, the utterance of the enunciation and the situation of communication, leads us back to the spatial and temporal profile shaped by these three internal and external levels of discourse; it brings us back to the spatial-temporal regime formed by their interweaving and coinciding. But this question of temporal putting-into-discourse and pragmatics also immerses us in the controversy concerning the genre of Bacchylides’ poem 17: a dithyramb as it is termed in the Alexandrian edition of the work of the poet of Keos, or a paean, as a series of intra-discursive allusions indicate?
The conclusion of Bacchylides’ lyric composition is particularly significant both for the space and time configured in the poem and for the question of poetic genre to which it belongs. During the concluding Sanction phase of the narrative, the luminous return of Theseus to the deck of the Cretan ship, like a god in epiphany, is celebrated with ritual cries (ōlóluxan, line 127; again in the aorist) of the young women (koûrai, line 125), while beside them the young men (ēítheoi d’ eggúthen néoi, lines 128-129) sing the paean of victory (paiánixan, line 129; also in the aorist); they sing with a voice which arouses erotic desire (eratâi opí, line 129). Here we can recognize the complementarity established between ololugé and paîan in the religious tradition. In Bacchylides’ poem 17, this ritual song is danced and sung by a mixed choral group; this group corresponds to the “twice seven youths and maidens” (dìs heptà koúrous, lines 2-3) mentioned along with Theseus in the initial part of the poem, by way of prelude to the poem. It is probably not a simple coincidence that the ring structure, which refers the end of recounted time and the time of narration back to their common beginning, places prominently this group, henceforth choral, of Athenian youths and maidens. It is certainly the mention of this choral group, from recounted space and time, that introduces the final evocation of choral groups which, in the time and space of the (uttered) enunciation, are likely to sing Bacchylides’ poem.
God of Delos, rejoice in your heart at the choirs of the Keans and grant a heaven-sent fortune of blessings.
Dithyramb 17.130-132 (trans. Campbell 1992:227)
In concluding the Dithyramb, choral groups of the Keans are thus called upon to rejoice the heart of Delian Apollo, who is invoked directly. But the mention of “choirs,” in the plural, leaves unresolved several ambiguities concerning the precise relationship between this reference to the uttered enunciation and the cultural and historical reality of the “performance” of Bacchylides’ poem.
For the moment, and quite separately from the question of the genre (paean or dithyramb?) to which Bacchylides’ narrative composition belongs, we must turn from time toward space, to try to grasp the delicate passage that these final lines bring about, from the (uttered) enunciation to the situation of communication. Indeed, the epithet Dḗlios (Dálie, line 130) used to invoke Apollo, relates back not only to the island of Delos—as we have already mentioned—but also to the festival of Delia, celebrated in honor of the god protecting the island. Everyone knows that even the bard of the Homeric Hymn to Apollo sang of the festive and religious gathering of the Ionians on Delos to celebrate and rejoice in the god of the lyre through their songs and dances. Thucydides himself, speaking of the purification of the island after the first five years of the Peloponnesian Wars, mentions the choral groups traditionally sent by Ionian cities to Delos for this event. Later, the Athenians themselves joined in a quadrennial celebration which included musical competitions, notably in the famous naval procession which, according to Plato, postponed the time set for Socrates’ execution. [37]
We should also mention the famous etiological legend of the crane dance, a ritual dance probably included in the celebration of the Delia. The legend tells that it was instituted and performed for the first time at Delos by the youths and maidens who had escaped from the Labyrinth in Crete, led by their choregos Theseus, along with honors given to both Apollo and Aphrodite at the same time. The crane dance refers metaphorically not only to the alternating flights of this bird, but, by imitation, to the comings and goings of the young Athenian men and women in the dwelling of the Minotaur. By staging after the Knossos episode the same young Athenian males and females that Bacchylides describes before their experience in the Labyrinth, this legend could help confirm the supposition that some of the adolescent choirs singing and dancing for the Delia were mixed groups. And including in the great festival of Delos a celebration related to Aphrodite seems to offer for the Delia the strong semantic correspondence which Bacchylides’ narrative maintains with the seductions of Eros and with the transition to adult love. [38]
In summary, the last three lines of Bacchylides’ poem offer not only a very clever temporal transition from the temporality of narration (Theseus sailing toward Crete) and recounted time (the era of Theseus) to the time of the uttered enunciation (choral performance by the Keans), to lead finally to the historical time of the extra-discursive communication of the poem, in Delos itself for the celebration of Apollo in the context of the Delia. But through their musical activity, these three lines also provide a geographical passage from recounted space (the depths of the sea) marked by the choral song of the Nereids to the equally narrative space of Minos’ ship, with its choral “performance” of the paean by the fourteen young men and women accompanying Theseus, finally leading to the space enunciated in the poem (the choral area where the choral groups of Keans perform), which corresponds to the religious space of Delos devoted to Apollo. [39] Defining the twice seven young Athenian women and men as Ionians at the beginning of the poem is probably only a poetic way of indicating both their heroic quality and their Athenian origins, to make of them finally and etiologically the choral group paradigmatic of the one called upon to perform Bacchylides’ dithyramb, in the hic et nunc of the celebration of the Delia. [40]

4.2. Signature, aition, and poetic genre

From an enunciative point of view, three conclusions may be drawn from this spatial-temporal movement which is narrative, enunciative, and pragmatic.
First of all, while probably echoing the description of the mixed group of young Athenian women and men as Ionians at the beginning of the poem, the concluding mention of the Kean choruses who are called upon to delight Apollo is doubly significant. Not only does this evocation represent a sort of synecdoche, recalling all the choral groups—from Ionia, from the islands of the Aegean sea, from Athens—who dance at the Delia in honor of the god of Delos, but because of the civic identity of these young men and women chorally celebrating Theseus’ return to the Cretan ship, there is little doubt that this synecdoche also offers a form of sphragís at the end of the composition.
This signature in the form of a seal is double, in that it applies both to the choral quality and to the Kean origin of the groups mentioned. Indeed, both the voice of the probably mixed choral groups who perform the poem at Delos, and the voice of the poet Bacchylides of Keos who composed it, converge in the choral voice which realizes the interaction between the different spatial-temporal levels. Very probably, and contrary to what is generally believed, this chorus is Athenian rather than Kean, modeled on the legendary choral group celebrating Theseus’ return to the ship. Such coincidence between the voice of the poet and the voice of the chorus singing the poem, despite a divergent civic identity, can be detected in a number of Pindar’s compositions, whether in the Epicinian Odes, the Parthenia (sung by a chorus of girls), or the Paeans; through a subtle game of “choral delegation,” the forms of I/we assuming the position of the speaker, either alternately or simultaneously recall both the choral group singing the poem and the poet who composed it. [41]
I have tried elsewhere to show how, in the legend, the place of the mixed dance (without song?), organized and directed by Theseus under the watchful eye of Ariadne, following the victory over the Minotaur, was moved from Knossos to Delos. The move from the choral area laid out by Daedalus on Crete to Apollo’s sanctuary on Delos no doubt relates to the etiological role given to this episode in the saga of the young Athenian hero, very probably in the first half of the fifth century. By moving from Knossos to Delos, this heroic scene became the foundation legend for the choral and ritual dance of the crane which we just discussed and which Theseus first led around the celebrated Altar to the Horns; as Callimachus’ Hymn to Delos in particular reminds us in its etiological perspective, the twists and turns of its choreography evoked the wanderings of the young companions, male and female, of Theseus in the Labyrinth. [42]
It is as if in the enunciative movement as I have described it, this episode of the Athenian hero’s dive and his visit to the home of Amphitrite, with its celebration by the seven Athenian youths and the seven Athenian maidens, assumes, in connection with the Delia ritual (a part of which is the “performance” of Bacchylides’ poem 17), the same kind of etiological purpose as the episode of the first performance of the crane dance, also led by Theseus, assumes, in connection with the Aphrodisia. A ritual poem, probably sung and danced by an Athenian mixed chorus, to celebrate Theseus in a first victory over Minos takes the place of the crane dance led by an actual choregos who can be identified with Theseus in the legend, leading a mixed choral dance to celebrate victory over the Minotaur. The choral group singing Bacchylides’ poem takes as its etiological and legendary model the chorus improvised on the Cretan ship by the seven Athenian youths and seven maidens sailing toward the Labyrinth. From the same etiological point of view, everything then points toward relating Theseus’ legendary and victorious crossing, as well as the paean which celebrates it, to the repeated performance of Bacchylides’ composition at the Delia, but also to the ritual commission of the Athenians’ envoys to this great festival; before the celebration of Delian Apollo at the center of the Aegean sea, this maritime procession (which we have already mentioned) was believed to be led by a ship equipped with sailing tackle said to be that of Theseus himself! [43]
Finally, hypothesizing the etiological function of a poetic narrative which places before us the performance of a paean confronts us with the controversial question of which poetic label we should apply to Bacchylides’ poem 17. While its etiological dimension and the fact that it is destined for Apollo designate it as a paean, its narrative character, as well as the absence of any refrain, leads us to believe that the Alexandrian editors are correct in seeing in this highly original poem a dithyramb. We know, for example, that dithyrambs were sung in honor of Apollo at the Thargelia in Athens; we know also that the religious poem of Philodamos found at Delphi gives an example of a paean devoted to Dionysus, with a refrain which calls on the presence of Bacchus, while also invoking the god Paean. [44]
Through the narration of an original maritime episode in the heroic biography of Theseus prior to the test of the Labyrinth of Knossos, Bacchylides’ Dithyramb 17 thus represents a religious offering to Delian Apollo; modeled on the legendary paean but also following the formal rules of the dithyramb, this musical offering is sung by a mixed choral group, probably Athenian; it is related to the maritime mission sent by the city of Athens beginning in the fifth century for the celebration of the Delia, at Delos.

4.3. The poetic legitimization of a maritime “empire”

Coming as it does between language rules and ritual and social rules, the question of poetic genre thus invites us to return to the circumstances of enunciation marked in space and time. In other words, it sends us back to the space and time of history, but also to the representation of it formed by contemporaries and practitioners, with the discursive configurations that they make of it. Related to calendar time in the space of its realization, and in the twofold linear and cyclical dimension of the calendar as defined in the introduction, this geographic and historical aspect of the ritual poetic “performance” finally brings up the double question of the date of its composition and of its ideological context, in a particular political and historical situation.
In the absence of any encoded data in the poem itself, three different dates have been proposed for the composition and performance of Bacchylides’ Dithyramb 17. While comparison with iconography of Theseus’ visit to the undersea home of Poseidon and Amphitrite directs us toward the first decades of the fifth century, and while the hypothesis of a linguistic influence by the Persians of Aeschylus would take the first “performance” of the poem to 472, the communis opinio places the poem immediately after the Persian Wars, which is to say between the founding of the Attic Delian League in 478/7 and the defeat of Naxos in 470/69. [45]
But we should repeat that history is not simply a matter of dates and chronology, either in its prefigurations or configurations of social time. The point of view adopted here is that of community representations, which select the most memorable events and configure them by transforming them into collective memory, thus inscribing them within a tradition. From this perspective, no historian from Thucydides on could deny that the major consequence of the Persian Wars was the decisive turning point that territorial, economic, and ideological expansion in the Aegean Sea imprinted on the politics of the city of Athens. This “imperialist” movement became a reality from 478/7 on with the progressive creation of the Delian League, which bore the name of what was its religious center and for a time its economic center. Tribute paid by the allies of Athens was collected on Delos, and their meetings took place in Apollo’s sanctuary. [46] Among the practical consequences of this ideologically essential alliance was the religious and political appropriation by Athens of the celebration of the Delia honoring Apollo, along with the probable institution of the ritual maritime mission.
In this context of representation of historical and social time and the concomitant reconfiguration of its space, it is surely not by chance that in the eyes of this same Thucydides, and despite accounts recognized as belonging to an oral tradition, Minos appears as a completely historical person, as does Polykrates, the tyrant of Samos, later on. The Athenian historian introduces Minos as the most ancient (palaítatos) of the pre-Hellenics who was able to control (êrxe) a large part of the “Greek Sea” (hellenikḕ thalássē), thus colonizing most of the Cyclades. As for Polykrates, the “archaeology” which opens Thucydides’ treatise tells us that the tyrant of Samos subdued some of the islands of the Aegean Sea by relying on his fleet, and that he dedicated the island of Rhenia, neighboring Delos, to a god who was none other than Delian Apollo. Along with the Ionians who dominated these islands during a certain period in the time of Cyrus, Minos and Polykrates in some ways represent precursors to the political turn Athens took at the end of the Persian Wars: this turning point is marked by new aspirations to “thalassocracy.” [47]
Following Themistocles and with Kimon, the Athenians launched a new policy of expansion no longer directed toward land, but toward the sea; legitimizing that policy pushed them to rethink the origins of their own community and consequently to reconfigure the past. In this symbolic speculation on the birth of a “nation” with its own political system, the paradigm of autochthony chosen by Athens and by other Greek cities as well to justify their territorial claims, is not completely pertinent; a few decades later, the city of Athens would be obliged to allow the devastation of its traditional territory—Attica—in order to plan for the sea defense of its maritime “empire.” [48]

4.4. Symbolic births from the sea and iconography

In this historical and ideological context, the narrative of Theseus’ dive and the “rebirth” of the hero when he reappears from the depths of the sea, shining like a god in epiphany, may be read as a legend of “autothalassy,” or “autopelagia.” It is less a parallel to the more ancient narrative of the autochthonous appearance of Kekrops, the first half-serpent king of Attica, than it is to the birth of little Erichthonios from the bowels of the earth. [49]
In the classical legend of the founding of Athens, Erichthonios is born from the soil of Attica made fertile by the sperm of Hephaestus, in his first attempted rape of Athena. As Erechtheus, he becomes the conquering king of Eleusis and civilizes Attica. Similarly, Theseus the founding king of Athens and the inventor of democracy, reappears in a symbolic rebirth from the depths of the sea and consequently from the domain protected by the other tutelary deity of Athens: not Athena, but Poseidon! [50] We should also remember that just as Erechtheus himself is struck down and buried by Poseidon in the very earth which he helped to civilize, so also Aegeus, the mortal father of Theseus, kills himself by plunging into the waves of the sea which henceforth will bear his name: upon Theseus’ triumphant return to Athens, the Sea of Crete becomes the Aegean Sea. In addition, in the description of the fresco of Mikon in the Theseion, contemporary with Bacchylides’ poem, which depicts the young Athenian hero’s dive into the waves, Pausanias speaks of the “reascendence” (aneltheîn) of Theseus from the depths of the sea; the reappearance of the hero is thus interpreted as a marine anodos. And similarly, when he describes the homologous fresco of the Poecile Portico showing the hero appearing from the earth of Marathon under the eyes of Athena and Herakles in an autochthonous rebirth, the geographer sees Theseus “issuing from the earth” (ek gês aníesin)...And in the contemporary iconography where Apollo himself appears as the main protagonist in many scenes, Theseus in his poetic epiphany seems to undergo a sort of “apollonization” which transforms him not into a neo-initiate, but into a young god with feminine features. [51]
Just as in the episode of Erichthonios’ autochthonous birth, the contribution of women proves indispensable in the “autothalassic” birth of the young Athenian. While for the young Theseus the sea essentially plays the role which Gaia, the Earth, plays in the legend of little Erichthonios, Theseus’ stepmother Amphitrite, occupies a position analogous to Athena’s role as regards the future Erechtheus. This quite appealing set of analogies could be represented in the following schema:

Birth   Rebirth
Earth-mother: Athena : : Sea-mother: Amphitite
Erichthonios/Erechtheus   Theseus
In both cases, for Hephaestus as well as for Poseidon, the male contribution is (almost) negligible! In the legend of Theseus’ poetic dive, we find a symbolic compensation procedure concerning gender roles which is analogous to those noted in the etiological legend and in the ritual practice of the initiatory process of the Iatmul and the Abelam of Papua-New Guinea.
In this way, it is possible to grasp the poetic and metaphorical use Bacchylides makes both of the possible schema at the base of any tribal initiation rite and of that other rite of passage, marriage, while he also exploits the frequent inversion of signs marking the social relationships of the sexes in these two rituals of transition. [52] If Theseus reappears from the waves of the sea not only as a god resembling Apollo, but also like a young fiancée, it is because for Poseidon’s young wife, Amphitrite, he acquires a position and status homologous to those of the child Erichthonios-Erechtheus for Athena, the virgin goddess, probably through a metaphorical play on the sexual ambiguities of adolescence. We should also remember that in Bacchylides’ poem, Amphitrite as númphē takes the place of Athena the parthénos as Sender of the young hero, in a kind of feminine ring structure! From the point of view of sex roles and their representations in classical Greece, the ambivalence conferred by Bacchylides’ poem on the future king, hero of Athenian democracy, finds unexpected confirmation in contemporary iconography.
And again, it is certainly not by chance that among the eight images we have of Theseus being welcomed in the depths of the sea, the first dates from 490, most of the others from 480 to 470, and the last from 420! [53] The high point for iconographic representations of Theseus being received in the sea coincides with the restoration of the heroic sanctuary dedicated to the young Athenian king and to its painted ornamentation, begun in 475. In a description which replaces the represented scene with a mythographic sort of narrative which follows the plot that Bacchylides perhaps imagined, but which doesn’t entirely conform to it, Pausanias says that the previously mentioned Mikon fresco showed Theseus springing from the sea with the golden crown given by Aphrodite, but also with the ring (sphragís) Minos threw into the sea. [54] And so both the temporal coincidence of this painting with the maritime reorientation of Athens’ political expansion, and the location of the Theseion between the political space and the religious space of the city, show the correspondence between the symbolic creation of an entirely specific episode from the heroic biography of the hero of classical Athens, the time and space which are constructed in them, and the geographical-historical conjunction which is at the origin of its dissemination.
The decoration of a very beautiful red-figure cup dated to around 480 sets out the represented meaning of the episode as if it were a comic strip. [55] A first scene (Figure 1a), very probably in the Athenian palace of Aegeus, shows the protection which armed Athena grants the young hero; he holds in his left hand a sword (unsheathed but at rest) while three of the four young girls (of Athens?) who surround him offer him ritual headbands. A second scene (Figure 1b) shows the arrival (or departure?) of Theseus in Amphitrite’s home; he is guided by Triton under the eye of a Poseidon gesturing protectively and of three Nereids, one of whom prepares a libation. Dressed in these two scenes in a short chiton, the young Athenian directs a gesture of adoration both to Athena and to Poseidon. But in the center of the cup (Figure 1c), it is Amphitrite alone who prepares to place a crown on the head of Theseus, shown here beardless, an ephebe wearing both a sword and a short chiton, but with the cloak which Poseidon’s wife probably gave him. In a syntactic connection which is certainly debatable, the three scenes seem to bring together three of the senders who guarantee the action of Theseus that is heroicized in the narrative episode as Bacchylides imagined it, first Athena, then Poseidon, and finally Amphitrite at the bottom of the cup. While the absence of any allusion to Delos may explain the absence of Apollo in an iconographic sequence which cannot hope to represent all the imagery of the poetic narrative, the predominance of feminine figures is striking, all facing a Theseus whose features here recall those that contemporary iconography attributes to Apollo.
calame-memory fig1a
Figure 1a. Attic red-figure kylix, side A: Theseus in the palace of Aegeus. Attributed to the Briseis painter, Ca. 480 BC.
calame-memory fig1b
Figure 1b. Side B: Poseidon, Triton, Theseus, Nereids.
Figure 1c. Interior: Theseus and Amphitrite
Feminine presence also distinguishes the other classical representations of Theseus’ reception by Amphitrite, including the central image of a famous cup by Euphronios, dating to the first decade of the fifth century, and displayed in the Louvre (Figure 2). The marine scene constitutes the high point of the cycle of the Athenian hero’s great deeds, shown on the outside face of the cup in his combat against Skiron, Procrustes, Kerkyon, and the bull of Marathon. Seated and richly dressed, Amphitrite offers a crown to the young Theseus who wears a short chiton and a sword, and who is carried by a little Triton, while at the center of the image it is Athena, fully armed as a warrior, who oversees the scene of welcome; this contrasts with several other analogous images where this role is more naturally taken by Poseidon, as on the red-figure pelike in Copenhagen (Figure 3), roughly contemporary with Bacchylides’ Dithyramb 17. [56]
calame-memory fig2
Figure 2. Attic red-figure cup, interior: Theseus and Amphitrite, with Athena. Attributed to Onesimos, signed by Euphronios as potter, ca. 500–490 BC.
Figure 3. Attic red-figure pelike: Theseus and Amphitrite, with Poseidon. Attributed to the Triptolemos Painter, ca. 480–470 BC.
But for someone attempting to address a poetic and practical configuration of time and space from an anthropological gender perspective, the best surprise was a visit to the Fogg Art Museum at Harvard University, where these remarks were first presented. In the collection is the well-known and remarkable crater with colonettes dating from about 475, which presents the young Theseus wearing a short chiton and a sword, between his divine father Poseidon and his stepmother Amphitrite (Figure 4a). [57] Turned toward the god whose hand he has taken, the young hero wears the shawl probably given by Amphitrite; the goddess herself is giving him the (matrimonial?) crown mentioned in Bacchylides’ text; to the left of Poseidon, recognizable from his trident, is an old man (Nereus or Aegeus?) as well as a Nereid who consecrates the scene of welcome with a libation. Direct observation allows us to establish a strong relationship between the recognition of Theseus’ divine and maritime legitimacy and the double scene on the other side of the vase (Figure 4b) where, beside what is probably a scene of erotic courtship between an adult and an ephebe, another ephebe plays the kithara, facing a young trainer. And the same brief “field” work, without allowing us to identify the rounded object that Theseus holds in his hand, reveals that the young beardless man wears the same kind of chiton as the beautiful Amphitrite, leaving them both with bare shoulders. Facing the tutelary god of Athens, Theseus assumes the position of a young bride whose eyes are turned to her spouse, while perhaps also being associated with the young lyre player engaged in the Muses’ art on the other side of the crater.
Figure 4a. Attic red-figure column crater, side A: Theseus and Poseidon clasp hands. Nereus (or Aegeus?) and a Nereid at left, Amphitrite at right. Attributed to the Harrow Painter, ca. 475 BC.
Figure 4b. Side B: bearded man with three youths, one playing the kithara.
The iconography, like the poetic narrative devised or transfigured by Bacchylides, through the different versions it presents of an ideologically charged legendary episode, presents the effect of symbolic compensation necessary to reestablishing the complementarity and balance between the roles of sexes, just as do the cosmogonic and cosmological etiological legends and the tribal initiation and puberty rituals of the Iatmul and the Abelam. The transition (first narrative, then linear and enunciative) created by Bacchylides in his Dithyramb dedicated to Apollo, from the recounted time and space of the legend (with its foundational effect of arkhḗ, origin), to the truly cyclical time of ritual practice through the hic et nunc of the poetic performance, leads to three results, from the perspective adopted here: the passage from a feminized individual narrative identity to a mixed community and political ritual identity, but also the metaphoric collaboration of the genders in the cosmological legitimization of a territorial policy dependent on a particular historical situation, and finally the practical collaboration between the sexes in the ritual and religious fulfillment of this policy in the sanctuary of Apollo at Delos. The musical and ritual performance of Bacchylides’ Dithyramb and of Theseus’ narrative at the Delia gives to the Athenian politics in the Aegean a new “historical” and practical meaning, inscribing it in a new common memory. Is it going too far or is it too simplistic to state that there is also coincidence between temporal origin and spatial center? Be that as it may, from the Homeric Hymn to Apollo to the historiographer Thucydides, all discourses on the honors given to Apollo at Delos stress the participation of girls and women. [58] It looks as if the musical and religious performance of the narrative and poetic creation of Bacchylides would be a symbolic and memorial enactment of Athens’ new politics.
In the context of spatial-temporal passage from a singular identity to a collective identity, as well as in procedures for the political creation of the human, marked by gender, this is an opportunity for us to rethink the modes of social distribution of sex roles, in time and in space, in ancient Greece as well as in contemporary post-modernity. This anthropopoietic procedure, both symbolic and ritual, depends on a spatial-temporal configuration which fully displays its effect, narratively and historio-poetically, in a religious performance, presented as an offering to the very god of Athens’ control of the maritime domain of the Aegean.


[ back ] 1. Scott 1986/1989:94-95.
[ back ] 2. Laboratoire Interuniversitaire en Études Genre (LIEGE), Universités de Genève et de Lausanne.
[ back ] 3. I tried to address this enunciative aspect of (discursive) representation and of (collective) expression of gender in my study 1998a; see also 2000b:32-48. On the question of the discursive identity of the lyric “I,” cf. n41 below.
[ back ] 4. Benveniste 1974:70-76; cf. chapter I, section 2.2. For the study of another Bacchylides poem from the same perspective of pragmatic temporalization shared between linear and oriented narrated time, time of narration, time of the uttered enunciation, and ritual time, cf. Calame 2000c.
[ back ] 5. On this last point, see Bouvier 2000:120-131.
[ back ] 6. See chapter I, section 2.2 and chapter V, section 5.
[ back ] 7. Critics have denounced the fact that the ring Minos throws overboard in his challenge to Theseus is forgotten; they have also denounced the contrast between the heroic and masculine first part, and the lighter and more feminine second part; cf. references in Segal 1979/1998:300; see also Käppel 1992:158-161. On the notion of “anthropopoiesis” as an operative category including the different processes of creation and representation of the human by various symbolic and practical means, see Affergan et al. 2003:1-16 and 41-74.
[ back ] 8. These different procedures are summarized by Griffith 1993:607-609; for several specific cases, see Calame 1996a:66-78, with references to other studies on narrative temporality in Pindar’s odes.
[ back ] 9. (Critical) details on the operative value of the canonic schema of narration in Adam 1991:69-95, and in Calame 1996b:55-59. To distinguish them from the semantic values they assume in each specific narrative, the elements (actants and actions) of semio-narrative syntax are written here with capital letters.
[ back ] 10. To return to the two categories developed by Benveniste 1966:237-240; cf. above chapter I, section 2.4.
[ back ] 11. The meaning of this expression is explained by Maehler 1997:189-190; see also Gentili 1995:57-59. For possible meanings of kálumma, cf. n17 below.
[ back ] 12. Sophocles Oedipus Tyrannus 1300-1311 and 1329-1332. The theory of double motivation was taken up and commented notably by Vernant 1972: 63-73.
[ back ] 13. On the thematic and metrical structure of the poem, cf. Maehler 1997:171-174; cf. also Käppel 1992:169-173.
[ back ] 14. Ieranò, 1989:174-176, described this plot reorientation particularly well: “La moira pagkratḗs (v. 24), Dika (v. 25), aîsa (v. 27) e il daímōn (v. 47) sono richiamati da Teseo come gli unici e veri arbitri della contesa.” Remember that this divergence has been interpreted as incoherent; cf. n7 above.
[ back ] 15. On the purpose of the Homeric moîra, see the parallels given by Maehler 1997:189; on Bacchylides’ poem, cf. Scodel 1984:140-143.
[ back ] 16. Daughter of Nereus and of an Oceanid, Amphitrite is already Poseidon’s spouse in Hesiod Theogony 930 (cf. 240-243); in both legend and religion Apollo maintains a special relationship with dolphins: cf. Calame 1996b:319-322.
[ back ] 17. The meaning of aïṓn (hapax) has been debated as much as the meaning of kálumma: cf. Maehler 1997:191-192 and 203-204. Perhaps it means the scarf which Theseus wears on the famous red-figure crater at Harvard (Side A, Theseus and Poseidon clasp hands, with Nereus, Amphitrite, and a Nereid. Attributed to the Harrow Painter, ca. 480-470 B.C. Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Harvard University Art Museums, accession # 1960.339), mentioned in n57 below; cf. Gentili 1954, and Maehler 1997:179-180, and the bibliographic references given here in n31.
[ back ] 18. As pointed out so well by Burnett 1985:25-26.
[ back ] 19. For the cosmogonic and cosmologic position of Delos, see Calame 1996a:84-85.
[ back ] 20. Biography of Eumolpos: Apollodorus Library 3.15.4 (cf. Euripides fTr GF 349 Kannicht2); Glaukos: Pausanias 9.22.6-7, summarizing the plot of Glaukos Pontios by Aeschylus (TrGF 142-148 Radt); Aerope: Apollodorus Library 3.2.1-2. Organized somewhat differently, the various interpretive possibilities and more or less pertinent examples are touched on by Burnett 1985:29-32; associated with them are notably the names of Gustave Glotz, Louis Gernet, Henri Jeanmaire, Angelo Brelich, Pierre Vidal-Naquet, etc.; see also Ieranó 1987:168-172, for a comparison with the propitiatory rite performed by Jason before facing the test of the golden fleece (Apollonius Rhodius 3.1201-1224).
[ back ] 21. Burnett 1985:32.
[ back ] 22. Odyssey 6.224-243; on the meaning of adíantos, cf. Maehler 1997:207.
[ back ] 23. Eros glukúpikros: Sappho fr. 130.1-2 Voigt; descending from the sky, this same Eros wears a purple mantle: fr. 54 Voigt; see also frr. 44.9 and 92.8 Voigt as well as Simonides fr. 543.16-17 Page. On the iconographic and textual meaning of erotic union under the mantle, see the references I gave in 1996a:134-138. The aphrodisiac connotations of the roses and the crown are described by Burnett 1985:165n16.
[ back ] 24. This semantic echo which reinforces the erotic isotopy running through the poem is well explained by Brown 1991. On the two qualifiers used to describe Aphrodite, see the relevant parallels given by Maehler 1997:186-187 and 204. The probable contrast between the insular Kypris and the marine Aphrodite (see on this Walker 1995:92-94) was suggested to me by one of the participants in the EHESS seminar where this reading of the Bacchylides’ poem was first presented.
[ back ] 25. Homeric Hymn to Apollo 388-501: Anacreon fr. 376 Page, with the interpretation proposed by Nagy 1990a:228-234 (cf. also Ieranò 1989:182n42); other, less pertinent parallels are given by Burnett 1985:33-35. I owe to David Bouvier the remark on the status of númphē assumed by Amphitrite (in contrast to Athena parthénos).
[ back ] 26. On this constituent asymmetry of the anthropological view and on the subject of aspects of prefiguration and schematization found in the “documents” and “accounts,” cf. chapter I, n46 and n57.
[ back ] 27. Various ethnographic descriptions of the Iatmul tribal initiation ritual are reported by Roscoe and Scaglion 1990:415; see also Stanek 1983:292-296.
[ back ] 28. Text in pidgin and in German translation in Schmid and Kocher-Schmid 1992:237-239 and 179-180. They report another etiological version (175-178) where the women undergo scarification, as well.
[ back ] 29. On various aspects of the episode of the Labyrinth at Knossos, see Calame 1996b:145-146 and 239-242.
[ back ] 30. A detailed description of such an anthropology and its initiatory and anthropopoietic use by men of the Sambia tribe is given by Herdt 1994:217-254 (for the feminine counterpart, see 172-202).
[ back ] 31. Cf. Schmid and Kocher-Schmid 1992:10-12, 115-116 and 189 for Yensan; Stanek 1983:200-204, in Palimbei, for an entirely different cosmogonic version.
[ back ] 32. Cf. Hauser-Schäublin 1995:35-41, who refers to his own work related to this ritual. The occasional submission of girls to the tribal initiation ritual intended for boys among the Iatmul is reported by Schmid and Kocher-Schmid 1992:171-173.
[ back ] 33. The different metaphorical effects stemming from the ceremonial tubers are touched on by Hauser-Schäublin 1995:41-47, who gives references to different phallic interpretations proposed by modern anthropologists (41).
[ back ] 34. I tried to envisage this etiological relationship between “myth” and “rite” in semio-narrative terms in my work 1996b:162-177.
[ back ] 35. The movement of reciprocity in the offering is pointed out by Maehler 1997:209-210; it is explained for various forms of hymns by Vamvouri-Ruffy 2004b.
[ back ] 36. Plato Republic 392c-395b, along with several remarks on this subject I made in 2000b:22-23; Plato himself (394c), places the dithyramb with the narration assumed by the poet (di’ appaggelías autoû toû poiētoû, 394c); see also Schröder 2000:137-149 or Ieranò.
[ back ] 37. Homeric Hymn to Apollo 146-175; Thucydides 3.104.1-6; Plato Phaedo 58a-b (cf. n43 below); cf. Burnett 1985:22 and 35-37; Ieranò 1989:151-161; Käppel 1992:173-178; and Maehler 1997:167-170, with the additional bibliographic information I gave in 1996b:159-161.
[ back ] 38. Delia and Aphrodisia, as related to the etiological use of the Cretan episode of the Theseus legend, was the subject of a detailed study which I presented in 1996b:116-121, 159-162, and 251-254. On the crane dance, cf. n42 below.
[ back ] 39. The chorus formed on Minos’ ship by the seven Athenian youths being taken to Crete, accompanied by the ritual cries of their female companions, must not be confused with the chorus of the Nereids. (sic Ieranò 1987:173-174): cf. Calame 1996b:206-209 and Maehler 1997:208-209, who points out that inserting the gnomic remark in lines 117-118 corresponds to the passage from the divine world to the mortal world.
[ back ] 40. In the same way, in Bacchylides Dithyramb 18.2, Aegeus the king of Athens is called “Lord of the Ionians”; on this, see commentary by Maehler 1997:220-221.
[ back ] 41. For an overview of the controversy that has lasted over ten years on the individual or collective aspect of the “lyric I”, see the study by Lefkowitz 1995, who quotes most contributions to the philological dispute; cf. also n3 above. On the procedure of the sphragís, see Calame 2000b:70-72.
[ back ] 42. Callimachus Hymn to Delos 307-315; see also Plutarch Life of Theseus 21.1-3; other accounts, information on iconography, and comments on the crane dance in Calame 1996b:118-120, 198-209, 239-242, and 424-429.
[ back ] 43. Pseudo-Xenophon Constitution of the Athenians 3.4, and Antiphon 6.11; Philodemos Paean 39 Käppel; cf. especially Käppel 1992:156-158 and 178-83, who goes too far in thinking that Bacchylides’ poem could have been performed as a crane dance, and Maehler 1997:167-168. On the theōrís, see also Callimachus Hymn to Delos 314-315, Plato Phaedo 58a-b; cf. Calame 1996b:159-161, with additional references.
[ back ] 44. And so there is no need to suppose a Delian dithyramb contest, nor a classification of Bacchylides’ poem as a hyporchema, as hypothesized by Hose 1995:304-307 and 311-312, as well as by Schröder 2000:128-144; see also Calame 1996b:366-9, with additional information given in n144, as well as Suárez de la Torre 2000:74-76 and 84, for other arguments justifying the placing of the ode in the category of dithyrambs and for other bibliographic information (n19); this in a study paired with the reflections of L. Käppel, who attributes the classification of poem 17 as a dithyramb to a performance by a kúklios khorós, those of F. García Romero who introduces the narrative character of Dithyramb 17 and the dramatic dimension of Dithyramb 18 as a new feature announcing the “new dithyramb,” and those of J. M. Bremer, who follows Maehler in briefly defining the poem as a paean! For Schröder 2000:157-159, it would be for him a paean from which Bacchylides dropped the formal features (especially the refrain). On the Paean of Philodamos sung for Apollo and Dionysus, see Vamvouri-Ruffy, 2004: 187-200.
[ back ] 45. The various arguments leading to these three dates are summarized by Hose 1995:307-312, and by Maehler 1997:169-184.
[ back ] 46. Thucydides 1.95.7-1.97.1; Pseudo-Aristotle Constitution of Athens 23.5.
[ back ] 47. Thucydides 1.4, 1.8.2, and 1.13.6; see also Herodotus 3.122.1; as related to Bacchylides’ poem 17, see Segal 1979/1998:307.
[ back ] 48. This is exactly what Pericles’ speech, reformulated by Thucydides (2.62.2-2.63.3 ; cf. also 1.81.2 and 2.41.4), tries to commit the Athenians to at the beginning of the Peloponnesian War, after the second invasion of Attica by the Spartans and their allies. On the Attic stage, see also the pleas by Sophocles Oedipus Colonus 707-719 (through the voice of the chorus) and Aristophanes Wasps 1091-1101 (also through the chorus).
[ back ] 49. The different versions of these two autochthonous births are very well described by Parker 1987:193-204 ; other sources and studies on this in Calame 2000b:133-135 (together with the numerous bibliographic references given in n40).
[ back ] 50. Theseus appears as king and as champion of democracy in several classical tragedies: see Walker 1995:143-169, as well as Mills 1997:58-86 and 87-128, with the additional references I gave in 1996b:406-408 and 415-419.
[ back ] 51. Pausanias 1.17.3 (cf. n54 below) and 1.15.3; I commented on this “autothalassy,” which bears the marks of a symbolic death and an initiatory rebirth, in 1996c:438-441. It is to Moret’s perceptiveness in 1982:121-136, that we owe the acknowledgement of Apollo’s predominant role, often alongside Athena, in Attic iconography following the Persian Wars. On the feminization of Athenian ephebes, cf. Vidal-Naquet 1983:152-164.
[ back ] 52. References to a number of studies devoted to practices and metaphoric actions which first confuse and then reaffirm the values of the two “genders” on these occasions in Calame 2002a:101-145. Walker 1995:84-92, rightly insists on the role played by women and particularly by the (step)mother in the narrative of Bacchylides Dithyramb 17.
[ back ] 53. This iconographic case is taken up exhaustively by Maehler 1997:174-181, who gives all the essential bibliographic references.
[ back ] 54. Pausanias 1.17.3 and 1.17.6 (cf. n51 above), indicating that the restoration of the Theseion coincides with the return of the hero’s bones from the island of Skyros by Kimon, the son of Miltiades. cf. also Hyginus Astronomica 2.5, who follows the same version, but substitutes Thetis for Amphitrite. The function, dating, and iconographic program of the Theseion are referred to in Calame 1996c:153-156, 262-266, 630-632, and 443-446.
[ back ] 55. Metropolitan Museum of Art, 53.11.4; ARV2 406.7, Add. 115 (LIMC, Amphitrite 76 and Theseus 219 and 309); see the analysis of iconographic decoration suggested by Sourvinou-Inwood 1990:416-422, who develops good arguments for seeing the first scene rather as a representation of Theseus’ return to Athens.
[ back ] 56. Musée du Louvre, G 104; ARV2 318, 1 (LIMC Amphitrite 75 and Theseus 36); compare with the pelike in Copenhagen (Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek), IN 2695; ARV2 362, 19 (LIMC, Amphitrite 78a).
[ back ] 57. Cambridge, MA, Arthur M. Sackler Museum, 1960.339; ARV2 274, 39 (LIMC, Amphitrite 78 and Theseus 220). The antiquities personnel at the Sackler Museum were kind enough to offer to this philologist / anthropologist the distinct pleasure of an active individual viewing of this exceptional piece.
[ back ] 58. Cf. n37 above.