Homer the Classic

  Nagy, Gregory. 2008. Homer the Classic. Hellenic Studies Series 36. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies. http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:hul.ebook:CHS_Nagy.Homer_the_Classic.2008.

Chapter One. Homer the Classic in the Age of Virgil

1ⓢ1.An esthetics of rigidity

1§1 The poetry of Virgil, I take it as a given, rivals that of Homer. Historically, Virgil the Classic even displaced Homer the Classic in the Latin culture of the Roman empire (though not in the Greek) – already in the age of Virgil. But the question is: what is it exactly about the poetry of Virgil that made it rival the poetry of Homer in the first place – not so much as a Latin alternative but as an absolute classic in its own right? The answer, essentially, is to be found in the poetry of Virgil himself, especially in his epic masterpiece, the Aeneid.

1§2 As we can see from Virgil’s use of – and references to – Homer in the Aeneid, Homer was clearly a poetic model for Virgil, but this Homer in the age of Virgil had become too limited – too rigid – for the Roman poet. Virgil had to go beyond Homer the Classic in his own age in order to succeed as a rival.

1§3 Let us proceed now to the age of Virgil. In this age the text of Homer – and therefore the poetry of Homer – was defined by the editorial norms of the Library of Alexandria, which I have already surveyed in the Prolegomena. I have more to say in the twin book Homer the Preclassic about these and other editorial norms. For now, however, I focus on the simple fact that the Homer of Aristarchus was the definitive Homer in the age of Virgil. This fact is relevant to Virgil’s artistic goal, which was, to rival Homer in definitiveness. It is also relevant to another fact: that Virgil became, by hindsight, “Virgil the Classic,” rivaling Homer the Classic.

1§4 But what exactly was Homer to Virgil? For him, the Homer of Aristarchus was not only definitive: Homer had already become overdefined. Definitiveness had gone too far by the time of Virgil. In his time, Homer must have seemed too rigid, too perfect.

1§5 By saying “too rigid” I risk making the metaphor of rigidity sound negative. That is not at all my intention. I need to affirm that Homeric poetry {73|74} treats rigidity as a positive esthetic value. This poetry can picture itself as absolutely rigid, and such absolute rigidity is seen as beautiful and even ideal, the essence of perfection. I am about to give an example, taken directly from the Homeric Iliad.

1§6 Before I go any further, though, I need to affirm that Virgilian poetry likewise treats rigidity as a positive esthetic value. As we will see presently, Virgilian poetry can also picture itself as absolutely rigid, and again this absolute rigidity is seen as beautiful and even ideal, the essence of perfection. Still, the relatively less rigid Homer of earlier times, as in the age of Callimachus, must have seemed more accommodating for poets like Virgil who hoped to imitate Homer and thereby rival him. As we will see later on, Virgil’s imitation of Homer can draw from more fluid phases of Homer in order to achieve its own rigidity.

1§7 In order to avoid any further negative connotations of rigidity, let me proceed to offer some specialized metaphors that convey the idea of absolute rigidity – without the negative associations conveyed by the word rigid in English. In my previous work, I have found it apt to use the metaphor of crystallization. [1] Another apt metaphor is freezing, as in the expression freeze-frame used by filmmakers. Far less suitable is the word stereotyping. Perhaps least suitable is sclerosis. Less unsuitable, on the other hand, is rigor mortis – provided we appreciate the aestheticizing of death within the freeze-frame of a perfect moment.

1ⓢ2. Sculpting a perfect Homeric moment

1§8 The notion of a stop-motion picture at the moment of death brings me finally to the Homeric example I have in mind. As we set out to visualize the picture, however, it is essential for me to reiterate: I am not saying that Homeric poetry is rigid. I am saying only that it can idealize itself as absolutely rigid. Here, then, is my example from the Iliad. It is a passage where Homeric poetry pictures itself in terms of absolute rigidity. The operative metaphor, this time, is that of petrifaction:

1ⓣ1 Iliad II 299-332

299     τλῆτε φίλοι, καὶ μείνατ’ ἐπὶ χρόνον ὄφρα δαῶμεν
300     ἢ ἐτεὸν Κάλχας μαντεύεται ἦε καὶ οὐκί. {74|75}
301     εὖ γὰρ δὴ τόδε ἴδμεν ἐνὶ φρεσίν, ἐστὲ δὲ πάντες
302     μάρτυροι, οὓς μὴ κῆρες ἔβαν θανάτοιο φέρουσαι·
303     χθιζά τε καὶ πρωΐζ’ ὅτ’ ἐς Αὐλίδα νῆες Ἀχαιῶν
304     ἠγερέθοντο κακὰ Πριάμῳ καὶ Τρωσὶ φέρουσαι,
305     ἡμεῖς δ’ ἀμφὶ περὶ κρήνην ἱεροὺς κατὰ βωμοὺς
306     ἕρδομεν ἀθανάτοισι τεληέσσας ἑκατόμβας
307     καλῇ ὑπὸ πλατανίστῳ ὅθεν ῥέεν ἀγλαὸν ὕδωρ·
308     ἔνθ’ ἐφάνη μέγα σῆμα· δράκων ἐπὶ νῶτα δαφοινὸς
309     σμερδαλέος, τόν ῥ’ αὐτὸς Ὀλύμπιος ἧκε φόως δέ,
310     βωμοῦ ὑπαΐξας πρός ῥα πλατάνιστον ὄρουσεν.
311     ἔνθα δ’ ἔσαν στρουθοῖο νεοσσοί, νήπια τέκνα,
312     ὄζῳ ἐπ’ ἀκροτάτῳ πετάλοις ὑποπεπτηῶτες
313     ὀκτώ, ἀτὰρ μήτηρ ἐνάτη ἦν ἣ τέκε τέκνα·
314     ἔνθ’ ὅ γε τοὺς ἐλεεινὰ κατήσθιε τετριγῶτας·
315     μήτηρ δ’ ἀμφεποτᾶτο ὀδυρομένη φίλα τέκνα·
316     τὴν δ’ ἐλελιξάμενος πτέρυγος λάβεν ἀμφιαχυῖαν.
317     αὐτὰρ ἐπεὶ κατὰ τέκνα φάγε στρουθοῖο καὶ αὐτήν,
318     τὸν μὲν ἀρίζηλον θῆκεν θεὸς ὅς περ ἔφηνε·
319     λᾶαν γάρ μιν ἔθηκε Κρόνου πάϊς ἀγκυλομήτεω·
320     ἡμεῖς δ’ ἑσταότες θαυμάζομεν οἷον ἐτύχθη.
321     ὡς οὖν δεινὰ πέλωρα θεῶν εἰσῆλθ’ ἑκατόμβας,
322     Κάλχας δ’ αὐτίκ’ ἔπειτα θεοπροπέων ἀγόρευε·
323     τίπτ’ ἄνεῳ ἐγένεσθε κάρη κομόωντες Ἀχαιοί;
324     ἡμῖν μὲν τόδ’ ἔφηνε τέρας μέγα μητίετα Ζεὺς
325     ὄψιμον ὀψιτέλεστον, ὅου κλέος οὔ ποτ’ ὀλεῖται.
326     ὡς οὗτος κατὰ τέκνα φάγε στρουθοῖο καὶ αὐτὴν
327     ὀκτώ, ἀτὰρ μήτηρ ἐνάτη ἦν ἣ τέκε τέκνα,
328     ὣς ἡμεῖς τοσσαῦτ’ ἔτεα πτολεμίξομεν αὖθι,
329     τῷ δεκάτῳ δὲ πόλιν αἱρήσομεν εὐρυάγυιαν.
330     κεῖνος τὼς ἀγόρευε· τὰ δὴ νῦν πάντα τελεῖται.
331     ἀλλ’ ἄγε μίμνετε πάντες ἐϋκνήμιδες Ἀχαιοὶ {75|76}
332     αὐτοῦ εἰς ὅ κεν ἄστυ μέγα Πριάμοιο ἕλωμεν.

299     Endure, my near and dear ones, and stay as long as it takes for us to find out
300     whether Calchas is prophesying something that is true or not.
301     For I know this well in my heart, and you all
302     are witnesses, those of you who have not been carried off by the demons of death.
303     It is as if it was yesterday or the day before, when the ships of the Achaeans at Aulis
304     were gathered, portending doom to Priam and the Trojans.
305     Standing around a spring, at a sacred altar,
306     we were sacrificing perfect [ telēessai ] [
2] hecatombs to the immortal ones
307     under a beautiful plane tree, in a place where sparkling water flowed.
308     Then there appeared [phainesthai] a great sign [sēma], a serpent [drakōn] with blood-red markings on its back.
309     Terrifying it was. [
3] The Olympian [= Zeus] himself had sent it into the zone of light.
310     It darted out from underneath the altar, and it rushed toward the plane tree.
311     Over there were the nestlings of a sparrow, helpless young things.
312     In the highest branch amidst the leaves they were hiding in fear,
313     eight of them. The ninth was the mother that had hatched the young ones.
314     Then it devoured them, in a way that is pitiful [eleeina], [
4] while they were chirping. {76|77}
315     And their mother was fluttering above, lamenting [oduresthai] for her dear little things.
316     Then it threw its coils around her, catching her by the wing as she was wailing over [amphiakhuia] [
5] them.
317     And when it devoured the young ones of the sparrow and the mother as well,
318     the same god that had made it visible [phainein] now made it most visible [arizēlos]. [
319     For the son of crafty Kronos now made it into stone. [
320     We just stood there, struck with awe [thauma] at what happened,
321     how such frightful [
8] portents invaded the hecatombs of the gods.
322     Then, right away, Calchas spoke, speaking the words of seers [theopropeîn]:
323     “Why are you speechless, Achaeans with the elaborate hair?
324     Zeus, master of craft, made visible [phainein] this great portent [teras].
325     It is late in coming, late in reaching its outcome [telos], and its fame [kleos] will never perish.
326     Just as this thing devoured the young ones of the sparrow and the mother as well,
327     eight in number, while the mother made it nine, the one that hatched the young ones,
328     so also we will wage war for that many years in number,
329     and then, on the tenth year, we will capture the city with its broad streets.” {77|78}
330     Thus spoke that man. And now I see that all these things are reaching their outcome [telos]. [
331     So come now, all of you, hold your place, all you Achaeans with the fine shin-guards,
332     stay here until we capture the great city of Priam.

1§9 The narrative of the Iliad is quoting the words of Odysseus, who in turn is quoting the words of Calchas the seer. These embedded quotations recall an incident that took place in the first year of the ten-year Trojan War. This incident, as Odysseus relates, was interpreted by Calchas as a portent. This portent of the nine birds and the serpent prompts the seer Calchas to respond with an oracular utterance, a prophecy. The seer responds not only to the portent. He responds also to the vision of the portent, and that vision is represented as something eternal – that is, something made eternal by the medium of poetry. I have studied this passage before in another work, concentrating on the interaction we see here between the media of poetry and prophecy. [10] Here I concentrate on two other aspects of the passage. First, I will analyze the portent of the nine birds and the serpent as a poetic vision, a scene of terror and pity that takes place in the unexpected setting of an ongoing sacrifice. As we will see, this poetic vision captures the entire story of the Trojan War in one single frozen motion picture. Second, I will analyze the references in this passage to the ending of the story – a story that ends on a theme of terror and pity. As we will also see, this ending of the story is represented as the ultimate defining point of the epic that is currently in progress.

1§10 Here I must interrupt the flow of my argumentation in order to highlight the combined themes of terror and pity in this Homeric story. I find it pertinent to recall here a well-known formulation of Aristotle, who speaks of the emotions of terror (phobos) and pity (eleos) as essential aspects of tragic poetry (Poetics 1449b24-28). What is less well known is that these same two emotions are essential aspects of Homeric poetry as well. [11]

1§11 Now I restart the argumentation, offering an analysis of the poetics built into the ominous vision of the serpent and the birds in Iliad II. The setting {78|79} is a sacrifice (306) at a sacrificial altar (305). When the serpent appears, the wording that describes its appearance, phainesthai ‘appear, be made visible’ (308), expresses the idea of a sacred epiphany. The epiphany was caused by the Plan of Zeus (309). The god is later described by the seer as the agent of the epiphany: the middle verb phainesthai ‘appear, be made visible’ now becomes the active verb phainein ‘cause to appear, make visible’, and the subject of the verb is Zeus himself as the active agent of the epiphany (318, 324). Now let us proceed to the poetic aspects of the vision, with specific reference to the poetics of terror and pity. When the serpent first makes its appearance, it is described as ‘terrifying’ (309 smerdaleos); it is a ‘terrifying’ thing (deina), says the narrating Odysseus, that portents like this should intrude upon an ongoing sacrifice (321). And the serpent proceeds to devour the eight little birds ‘in a way that is pitiful’ (314 eleeina). As the little birds are being swallowed, one after the other, the mother bird is pictured as ‘lamenting’ (314 oduromenē) while fluttering helplessly over the nest. [12] This scene of holy terror reaches its critical moment when the serpent lunges at this ninth bird, striking her in midair and swallowing her as well. At that precise moment, marked by the emotions of terror and pity, the same god who had sent the serpent, Zeus himself (309), now turns it into stone (319).

1§12 Calchas the seer instantly responds to the vision with this formulation: just as surely as the serpent, who is the tenth and last part in the ten-part sequence of the vision, has devoured the nine birds, so will the Achaeans destroy the city of Troy in the tenth year of the ten-year sequence of the story of the Trojan War (326-329). Responding to the petrifaction of the serpent in Iliad II, the voice of the seer Calchas is being quoted by Odysseus, and, ultimately, by Homeric poetry, and this prophetic voice equates the petrified serpent with the Troy story all told. At the moment of the equation, however, that Troy story is still in the process of being narrated. The narration is in progress, it is current, and it will not be over until it is over. Once it is really over, then and only then will the narration become rigid like the petrified serpent- and permanent. The storytelling itself is animated or live – in the parlance of modern technology – and it must remain animated until the story is fully told. The petrified serpent is a prophecy of this fulfillment, and it too is animated and life-like in the sense that it predicts the live performance of the narration all the way to the very end, which is the outcome of the narration. {79|80} And the word that conveys the idea of reaching an ending or outcome is teleîn (325, 330), which I have been translating so far as ‘reach an outcome’.

1§13 So the portent of the nine birds and the serpent in Iliad II is a prophetic vision of the Troy story. Just as the vision of the seer Calchas concentrates on the ending of the vision, which is the tenth part of a ten-part sequence of nine birds and a serpent, so also the Troy story concentrates on the tenth year of its own sequence of ten years, and on a particular moment of terror and pity in that tenth year, the capture of the city. The tenth year marks the moment when the action is arrested. And the serpent – as the tenth part of the visionary sequence – marks the moment when the motion is arrested. The climactic moment of terror and pity in the vision of the serpent and the birds is marked by the petrifaction.

1§14 What is the technical term for a seer’s response to such a vision? In Homeric diction, oracular statements uttered by theopropoi ‘seers’ like Calchas are conventionally signaled by the word hupokrinesthai (ὑποκρίνεσθαι) ‘respond’. This word designates a verbal response to an ominous event or portent that is seen by someone. That is, hupokrinesthai designates a verbal message that responds to a visual message. Having examined every Homeric attestation of this verb hupokrinesthai, I can report what I have found: just as the poetic words of an oracular prophecy are expected to match exactly the realities of the future that is being ‘seen’ by a seer, so also the poetic words of Homeric narrative are expected to match exactly the realities of the past. [13] The epic poetry of Homer figures itself as the fulfillment of the prophecies made in its own past, and to that extent the epic is coextensive with oracular poetry: just as oracular poetry guarantees the future, epic poetry can guarantee the past. This mentality is embedded in Homeric references to seers:

1ⓣ2 Iliad XII 228

ὧδε χ᾿ ὑποκρίναιτο θεοπρόπος

thus would a seer [theopropos] respond [hupokrinesthai].

1§15 In the Homeric context I just quoted, the speaker’s point is that his quoted words are the same words that a theopropos ‘seer’ would use in response – that is, if such a seer were to see what the speaker has just seen. The equation of the speaker’s wording with some seer’s potential wording reinforces {80|81} not only the credibility but also the exactness of the Homeric wording that generates the speaker’s wording in the first place. [14]

1§16 In the passage about the nine birds and the serpent, it is essential that Calchas speaks as a theopropos ‘seer’ when he interprets the vision:

1ⓣ3 Iliad II 322

Κάλχας δ’ αὐτίκ’ ἔπειτα θεοπροπέων ἀγόρευε

Then, right away, Calchas spoke, speaking the words of seers [theopropeîn].

1§17 The words of the seer need to be remembered exactly and quoted back exactly, as they are indeed quoted back at Iliad II 323-329. It is a necessity for the words to be quoted back exactly, since the realities will turn out exactly the way the seer had foretold them. But the exact recovery of the words is a necessity not only for the seer but also for the poet. When the words of the seer’s oracular poetry are quoted back exactly by the figure of Odysseus at II 323-329, that act of quoting becomes a demonstration or proof of the unchangeability of these poetic words. [15]

1§18 This idea of unchangeability is conveyed by the words of Odysseus that frame what he had just quoted. I focus on the verse featuring the verb teleîn, which is derived from the noun telos ‘outcome’ and which I have been translating as ‘reach an outcome [telos]’:

1ⓣ4 Iliad II 330

τὰ δὴ νῦν πάντα τελεῖται

And now I see that all these things are reaching their outcome [telos].

1§19 The recurring sameness of Homeric quotations, as signaled by such oracular words as hupokrinesthai ‘respond’, corresponds to the recurring sameness of the given vision that calls for the question that calls for the response. In the case of the words of the seer Calchas as quoted back by the Iliad at II 323-329, the sameness of the original vision – as retold – is concretized [16] in the image of petrifaction: Zeus turns the serpent into stone at the critical moment when it has just devoured the nine birds (II 319). In doing so, the same god {81|82} who had made the original epiphany has now made the centerpiece of that epiphany into a permanent landmark: [17]

1ⓣ5 Iliad II 318

τὸν μὲν ἀρίζηλον θῆκεν θεὸς ὅς περ ἔφηνε

The same god that had made it visible [phainein] now made it most visible [arizēlos].

1ⓢ3. Variations on a perfect Homeric moment

1§20 Aristarchus, the premier Alexandrian commentator on Homer, athetizes the next verse:

1ⓣ6 Iliad II 319

λᾶαν γάρ μιν ἔθηκε Κρόνου πάϊς ἀγκυλομήτεω·

For the son of Kronos, the one with the oblique plans, now made it into stone.

1§21 Aristonicus, an Aristarchean scholar who flourished in the age of Virgil, well over a century after Aristarchus, has this to say about the verse, in the scholia A for Iliad II 319 (a1): ἀθετεῖται ‘it is athetized’ – that is, this verse is athetized by Aristarchus. Such an athetesis by Aristarchus should not be misunderstood to mean that verse 319 of Iliad II is a substandard verse. From the standpoint of the history of Homeric textual transmission, as surveyed in the Prolegomena, it is just the opposite: this verse, like the many hundreds of other verses athetized by Aristarchus, belongs to the standard version of Homer, the Koine. Moreover, Aristarchus featured this verse in the text of his own edition of Homer. This verse would have looked like any other verse in the edition of Aristarchus – except for one small detail. Aristarchus placed a mark in the left-hand margin next to all verses that he athetized. That sign is the obelos (–).

1§22 Here I return to the conclusions I formulated in the Prolegomena concerning the editorial policy of Aristarchus. In cases where this editor was {82|83} uncertain whether a given Homeric verse was genuinely Homeric, he had two choices, in terms of his own editorial system:

(1) If he found the given verse only weakly attested in the available manuscripts, he would omit the verse from his base text.
(2) If he found the given verse strongly attested, then he would keep the verse in his base text, marking that verse with an obelos (–), the sign of athetesis, in the left-hand margin.

As I argued in the Prolegomena, the base text of Homer as established by Aristarchus was designed to reflect as accurately as possible the standard version of Homer, the Koine. Aristarchus confined to his hupomnēmata ‘commentaries’ whatever information and opinions he had about non-Koine variant readings, which in many cases he thought were more likely to be Homeric than the readings he featured in his own base text.

1§23 Applying what I formulated in the Prolegomena about the editorial policies of Aristarchus, I reaffirm what I just said about the verse at Iliad II 319 as I quoted it. To put it in the most simple terms, this verse stems from the base text of Aristarchus. And, like all other verses in that base text, verse 319 of Iliad II stems from the Koine tradition.

1§24 The Homeric scholia report another relevant detail about verse 319 of Iliad II. So far, we have seen that this verse must have been strongly attested in the standard Homer texts available to Aristarchus. But now we will see that it was also attested in a Homer text that particularly interested Aristarchus – the Homer edition of Zenodotus, who predates Aristarchus by well over a century. According to Zenodotus (scholia A for Iliad II 318), the verse that we know as II 319 was connected in meaning to an epithet in the previous verse 318. That epithet is aridēlos (ἀρίδηλον) ‘most visible’, with reference to the petrified serpent. To quote the wording of Aristonicus (scholia A for II 318 1): ὅτι Ζηνόδοτος γράφει ρίδηλον καὶ τὸν ἐχόμενον προσέθηκεν ‘[Aristarchus disagrees with the reading of Zenodotus] because Zenodotus writes ἀρίδηλον in his text, and he [= Zenodotus] added the line that follows’. [18] {83|84}

1§25 I must take a moment to offer some words of caution here about the wording of Aristonicus, which can be misleading. When Aristonicus says that Zenodotus had ‘added’ the next verse, that is, verse 319 as we know it, he is speaking retrospectively: by hindsight, Aristarcheans like Aristonicus in the age of Virgil make it seem as if Zenodotus had ‘added’ such verses – as if the verses athetized by Aristarchus had come from outside the manuscript tradition of Homer. From the standpoint of Aristarchus himself over a century earlier, however, the verses that he athetized had not been added by previous editors like Zenodotus. [19] Rather, as I showed in the Prolegomena, Aristarchus was simply expressing his own editorial opinion that such verses should now be subtracted from the corpus of verses supposedly composed by Homer himself. Moreover, as I also showed in the Prolegomena, such editorial opinions of Aristarchus were confined to his hupomnēmata ‘commentaries’. Aristarchus did not actually subtract from his base text the verses that he athetized. To repeat, the base text of Aristarchus continued to reflect the standard manuscript tradition of Homer.

1§26 Returning to verse 318 of Iliad II, I repeat the testimony of Aristonicus concerning what Aristarchus found in the edition of Zenodotus: in that Homeric text, the epithet of the serpent was spelled ἀρίδηλον – which would have been pronounced ἀρίδδηλον. [20] In the standard Homeric texts consulted by Aristarchus, the epithet was spelled ἀρίζηλον, and it was evidently this spelling that Aristarchus featured in the base text of his own edition. These two phonological byforms ari-dēlos and ari-zēlos are parallel in morphology, but the meaning is transparent only in the phonological byform ari-dēlos – ‘most visible’. [21]

1§27 It is essential to keep in mind that such information about the Homeric textual variation ἀρίζηλον / ἀρίδηλον, as mediated by the Homeric scholia, is derived ultimately from the hupomnēmata of Aristarchus. In these hupomnēmata, as we see further from the abridged reportage of the Homeric scholia, Aristarchus linked his discussion of the variants ἀρίζηλον and ἀρίδηλον at verse 318 with yet another variant, ἀίζηλον. Whereas arizēlos and aridēlos mean ‘most visible’, aïzēlos means the opposite, ‘invisible’. In this case, unfortunately, the abridgment in the scholia is so severe that the actual mention of the variant ἀίδηλον has dropped out, though the basic argument adduced by Aristarchus in favor of this reading has been preserved. I will {84|85} confront the argument in a moment, but first I need to stress the morphological validity of the variant aïzēlos, which is a phonological byform of aïdēlos just as arizēlos ‘most visible’ is a phonological byform of aridēlos ‘most visible’ at verse 318: the form a-ïzēlos / a-ïdēlos must have the basic meaning ‘invisible’ (derived from earlier *a-widēlos). [22]

1§28 Next I turn to the argumentation of Aristarchus. The basic meaning of a-ïdēlos / a-ïzēlos as ‘invisible’ helps explain why Aristarchus was interested in the variant reading ἀίζηλον ‘invisible’ as an alternative to ἀρίζηλον ‘most visible’ at verse 318 of Iliad II. Even in their abridged form, the Homeric scholia show clearly what Aristarchus said in his hupomnēmata about the meaning of this variant. I give here the wording of scholia A: λέγει μέντοι γε ὅτι ὁ φήνας αὐτὸν θεὸς καὶ ἄδηλον ἐποίησεν ‘he [= Homer] says that the same god that had made it [= the serpent] visible [= phainein] also made it invisible [a-dēlos]’ (scholia A for Iliad II 318 1). The point is reinforced by the wording of scholia T for verse 319: ἀθετεῖται· πιθανώτερον γὰρ αὐτὸν καθάπαξ πεποιηκέναι ἀφανῆ τὸν καὶ φήναντα θεόν ‘[This verse] is athetized [by Aristarchus]: for it is more plausible that the same god who made it [= the serpent] visible [= phainein] should straightaway make it disappear [= make it a-phanēs ‘invisible’].

1§29 So the variant verse at Iliad II 318 would look like this:

1ⓣ7 Iliad II 318 (variant reading attested by Aristarchus)

τὸν μὲν ἀίζηλον θῆκεν θεὸς ὅς περ ἔφηνε

And the god that had made it [= the serpent] visible [phainein] now made it invisible [a-ïzēlos].

1§30 This version of Iliad II 318 is evidently incompatible with II 319 as we have it, which tells about the petrifaction of the serpent. The theme of making the serpent disappear is evidently incompatible with the theme of making the serpent into stone:

1ⓣ8 Iliad II 318-319

τὸν μὲν ἀρίζηλον θῆκεν θεὸς ὅς περ ἔφηνε·
λᾶαν γάρ μιν ἔθηκε Κρόνου πάϊς ἀγκυλομήτεω {85|86}

The same god that had made it visible [phainein] now made it most visible [arizēlos].
For the son of Kronos, the one with the oblique plans, now made it into stone.

1§31 Some modern commentators have attempted to discredit the standard version I just quoted. One of these commentators claims that the contrast being made at verse 318 in this version is “rather pointless,” and he expresses his preference for the alternative version adduced by Aristarchus. [23] This commentator implies that the standard version conveys a redundancy, which we may paraphrase this way: “the snake was made visible by the god who had made it visible.” But such a paraphrase blunts the point of the intensifying prefix ari- in the compound ari-zēlos ‘most visible’. I translate ari– as ‘most’ rather than ‘very’ in order to convey a rhetoric of extreme intensification here, which serves to express a competitively outstanding quality. Hence my translation: ‘The same god that had made it visible [phainein] now made it most visible [arizēlos]’. I maintain, then, that the standard version of verses 318-319 of Iliad II makes just as much sense as the non-standard version of verse 318 minus verse 319.

1§32 Although Aristarchus personally preferred a configuration of textual variants that expresses the idea that Zeus made the serpent appear and then disappear, it is clear that he recognized the reality of the alternative configuration of variants expressing the idea that Zeus made the serpent appear and then made that appearance permanent by turning it into a physical landmark. It is also clear that he recognized that this alternative configuration of variants was considered the standard Homeric version even in his own time. The clearest indication of this recognition, as we saw earlier, is the fact that he included verse 319 of Iliad II in his base text instead of omitting it. In other words, the verse that signals the non-disappearance of the serpent occupies a place in the base text of Aristarchus, even though he athetizes it. Similarly at verse 318, Aristarchus featured in his base text the variant arizēlos ‘most visible’ as the epithet of the serpent, again indicating its non-disappearance, relegating to the hupomnēmata his comments on the variant aïzēlos ‘invisible’ – which he linked in his commentary with his proposal to athetize verse 319. As we noted earlier, the linkage is self-evident: if the serpent disappears after its epiphany, then the subsequent verse describing the petrifaction of the serpent is out of place. But this non-Koine version, which features a scene of epiphany {86|87} followed by disappearance, simply could not be formatted as the true Homeric alternative to the Koine version, which features a scene of epiphany followed by petrifaction. I must stress again: even though Aristarchus preferred the non-Koine version, he kept the Koine version in the base text of his edition. [24]

1§33 Elsewhere too, Aristarchus reacts in a comparable way to a scene of petrifaction. A relevant case in point is the myth of Niobe as retold in another most memorable passage of the Iliad. Although it is important for my short-term argumentation to consider this passage right away, those readers who are more interested in my long-term argumentation may prefer to postpone what follows here in §§33-36 for another occasion and to shift forward to §37 in their reading. For those readers who prefer to stay on course with the short-term argumentation, I now proceed to consider the passage about the myth of Niobe:

1ⓣ9 Iliad XXIV 601-620

601     νῦν δὲ μνησώμεθα δόρπου.
602     καὶ γάρ τ’ ἠΰκομος Νιόβη ἐμνήσατο σίτου,
603     τῇ περ δώδεκα παῖδες ἐνὶ μεγάροισιν ὄλοντο
604     ἓξ μὲν θυγατέρες, ἓξ δ’ υἱέες ἡβώοντες.
605     τοὺς μὲν Ἀπόλλων πέφνεν ἀπ’ ἀργυρέοιο βιοῖο
606     χωόμενος Νιόβῃ, τὰς δ’ Ἄρτεμις ἰοχέαιρα,
607     οὕνεκ’ ἄρα Λητοῖ ἰσάσκετο καλλιπαρῄῳ·
608     φῆ δοιὼ τεκέειν, ἣ δ’ αὐτὴ γείνατο πολλούς·
609     τὼ δ’ ἄρα καὶ δοιώ περ ἐόντ’ ἀπὸ πάντας ὄλεσσαν.
610     οἳ μὲν ἄρ’ ἐννῆμαρ κέατ’ ἐν φόνῳ, οὐδέ τις ἦεν
611     κατθάψαι, λαοὺς δὲ λίθους ποίησε Κρονίων·
612     τοὺς δ’ ἄρα τῇ δεκάτῃ θάψαν θεοὶ Οὐρανίωνες.
613     ἣ δ’ ἄρα σίτου μνήσατ’, ἐπεὶ κάμε δάκρυ χέουσα.
614     νῦν δέ που ἐν πέτρῃσιν ἐν οὔρεσιν οἰοπόλοισιν
615     ἐν Σιπύλῳ, ὅθι φασὶ θεάων ἔμμεναι εὐνὰς
616     νυμφάων, αἵ τ’ ἀμφ’ Ἀχελώϊον ἐρρώσαντο, {87|88}
617     ἔνθα λίθος περ ἐοῦσα θεῶν ἐκ κήδεα πέσσει.
618     ἀλλ’ ἄγε δὴ καὶ νῶϊ μεδώμεθα δῖε γεραιὲ
619     σίτου· ἔπειτά κεν αὖτε φίλον παῖδα κλαίοισθα
620     Ἴλιον εἰσαγαγών· πολυδάκρυτος δέ τοι ἔσται.

601     But now the two of us [= Achilles speaking to Priam] must think of eating.
602     Even Niobe, the one with the beautiful hair, thought of eating grain,
603     the one who had twelve children, and all of them were killed in the palace,
604     six daughters and six sons in the bloom of youth.
605     Apollo killed the sons, shooting from his silver bow.
606     He was angry at Niobe – and the daughters were killed by Artemis, shooter of arrows –
607     angry because she [= Niobe] tried to make herself equal to Leto, the one with the beautiful cheeks.
608     She [= Niobe] said that she [= Leto] gave birth to two, while she herself produced many.
609     So the two of them [= Apollo and Artemis], only two though they were, destroyed the many.
610     They [= the children of Niobe] lay there in their gore for nine days, and there was no one
611     to bury them. The people had been turned into stone by the son of Kronos.
612     Then on the tenth day they [= the children of Niobe] were given a burial by the sky-dwelling gods themselves.
613     And she [= Niobe] thought of eating, since she was exhausted by her shedding of tears,
614     and now, somewhere amidst the rocks, on the desolate heights,
615     in Sipylos, where they say the goddesses have places to sleep
616     – the goddess nymphs, the ones who dance on the banks of the Akhelōios – {88|89}
617     there does she [= Niobe], though she has been turned into stone, digest her sorrows inflicted by the gods.
618     So too now the two of us must think, radiant old man,
619     of eating grain. And then, after that, for your dear child you may weep again,
620     after you have brought him to Troy. And there will be many tears shed for him.

1§34 In the logic of this complex simile, Niobe weeps, then consumes grain, and then resumes her weeping as she continues to ‘digest’ her sorrows for all eternity: so also Priam weeps, then is invited to eat grain, and then he too will resume his own weeping. The point is, ‘even’ Niobe ate grain, though the sorrows she had to ‘digest’ were eternal. Her sorrows, in the rhetoric of the simile spoken by Achilles, are overwhelmingly greater than the sorrows of Priam over the death of Hector – or than the sorrows of Achilles over the death of Patroklos. The sorrows of Niobe are in fact so overwhelming that she continues to weep eternally even after the gods turn her into stone. A petrified figure should be drained of emotion, as we see from the logic of the narrative contained in the simile: when the population in the realm of Niobe is petrified, there can be no weeping, no mourning, and therefore no funeral, so that the gods themselves must conduct a funeral and bury the children of Niobe. But Niobe, even after she is petrified, is like a human figure in that she continues to dissolve into tears. So overwhelming are her sorrows. Unlike the dissolving of a human figure in mourning, however, this petrified figure dissolves for eternity because her tears come from an inexhaustible source. Relevant is the use of the word tēkesthai ‘dissolve’ in Sophocles’ Antigone (828) picturing a weeping Niobe in a state of petrifaction. This word, as we will see later, conjures the image of a cold mountain stream that flows without interruption from the heights where Niobe turned into stone; her tears are the uninterrupted source of that eternal stream. [25]

1§35 In this Koine version as it comes down to us by way of the medieval manuscript tradition, we see at verse 611 that all the people in the realm of Niobe were turned into stone after her sons and daughters were destroyed by Apollo and Artemis, so that they could not bury Niobe’s children; then, at verses 614-617, we see further that Niobe herself was turned into stone. {89|90} Commenting on all five of these verses in his hupomnēmata, Aristarchus argues that verse 611 is genuinely Homeric while verses 614-617 are not, and he athetizes all four of these supposedly non-Homeric verses (scholia A for Iliad XXIV 614-617a 1). It would be a mistake to infer, however, that verses 614-617 had no prehistory of their own. Aristarchus reports that there was indeed a version of the story where Niobe herself became petrified, and he ascribes this version to poets later than Homer, referring to them as the neōteroi ‘newer ones’; by contrast, according to Aristarchus, the supposedly older poet Homer did not have such a version (scholia A for Iliad XXIV 613a 1).

1§36 I postpone till Chapter 2 my examination of Homeric textual variations where Aristarchus assigns one variant to Homer as the older poet and the other variant or variants to poets whom he considers to be neōteroi ‘the newer ones’. As we will see, the Koine tends to include and accommodate variants that Aristarchus ascribes to the neōteroi, whereas Aristarchus isolates such variants as non-Homeric and even post-Homeric accretions – though he continues to include and accommodate them in his base text, which as I showed in the Prolegomena is meant to correspond as closely as possible to the Koine as he understood it.

1§37 I return to the standard or Koine version of the vision of the nine birds and the serpent. The petrified serpent at verse 319 of Iliad II, like some splendid statue sculpted by natural forces, radiates a permanent vision matching the permanent words that give it meaning. Such words provide the permanent response to the question posed by the permanent vision. It is this kind of definitive response that we see conveyed by the word hupokrinesthai, conveying the idea of prophetic words responding to prophetic visions.

1§38 What, then, is this permanent and perfect vision? It is a moment of terror and pity, and it captures in essence the story of Troy. This single moment pertains not only to the birds and the serpent that devoured them: it pertains to an audience that is getting caught up in the story of Troy’s capture. That captivating story, if we are to use the exact word for story of Troy in Greek, is Ilias, that is, the ‘Iliad’. [26]

1ⓢ4. Metaphors of unchangeability

1§39 I describe the Homeric vision of the petrified serpent as a statue sculpted by natural forces. That is because I see a metaphor at work in the sculpting of real statues that is comparable to the metaphor inherent in the vision of the {90|91} petrified serpent. The unchangeability of the petrified serpent is a metaphor for the notional unchangeability of the verbal art that reports it. We can see a comparable notion of unchangeability in the sculpting of real statues. I give two examples.

1§40 The first example has to do with the wording inscribed on a bronze statue dated to somewhere between 490 and 480 BCE. The statue has disappeared, but the base and its inscription have survived. Here is the inscription:

1ⓣ10 CEG 286 [IG I3 533]. Inscription for a bronze statue dedicated by Antiphanes

1§41 The mentality of unchangeability, where the response to the question inherent in a vision is always an equivalent thing said in equivalent words, is signaled here, as in Homeric diction, by the word hupokrinesthai. In this case, of course, it is also signaled by the fact that the response is written down in the inscription. The letters will not change, just as the words of oracular response will not change. Still, I contend that the actual writing down of the words is not at all the cause of the notional unchangeability of this inscription but simply an effect. So also with the word hupokrinesthai: the usage of this word can be viewed as the effect, not the cause, of the notional unchangeability of oracular poetry and, by extension, of Homeric poetry. [30]

1§42 Continuing to focus on the inscription featuring the word hupokrinesthai, I note that the letters of this inscription give potential voice to the words of response. I say potential because the voice is not inherently built into the inscription. In the mentality of early Greek poetic inscriptions, including this one, readers who happen to read a given inscription have to lend their own {91|92} voice by reading the letters aloud, so that these letters may then transmit the words that the inscribed object is saying. [31] The speaker is not the inscription itself, nor is it the actual writing in a more general sense. Rather, the speaker is the dedicated art object, which – or ‘who’ – is conventionally marked as the ‘I’ of the discourse. The words of this discourse are inherent in the dedicated art object, and it is the actual vision of the object that leads to asking it any question in the first place: who are you and why are you here? The response of the art object – I am such-and-such an object and I have been dedicated by so-and-so – is likewise dependent on the vision, which had set the framework of the question in the first place. The dedicated art object can always give the equivalent response because it always gets the equivalent question, given shape by the unchangeability of the vision that radiates from the object.

1§43 In this case, then, the unchanging response is notionally spoken by the dedicated art object, the statue, who is the ‘I’ that responds to all the questions that come from all those who engage with the vision of the statue. Yes, the mentality of unchangeability is reinforced by the writing down of these words. Still, notionally, these words of response would be constant even without writing, since they are predicated on the overall vision of the statue.

1§44 The usage of hupokrinesthai in Homeric Greek, as also in the inscription we have just read, helps explain the meaning of the classical Greek word hupokritēs ‘actor’, derived from hupokrinesthai. This theatrical word can be better understood by juxtaposing it with another theatrical word, theatron ‘theater’, composed of verb-root thea- ‘have a vision’ and noun-suffix –tron, indicating an instrument; thus the whole word can be interpreted etymologically as ‘instrument for having a vision [thea-]’. The etymological implications of these two words, theatron and hupokritēs, can be interpreted together. The audience of theater, of theatron, which is the instrument for achieving thea, or vision, literally sees a vision of a character, such as the Antigone of Sophocles in the drama that is named after her, and this vision of Antigone can then speak for itself. Moreover, the word for ‘audience’ is theatai ‘spectators’. Thus the mask-wearing actor who is the visualization of, say, Antigone is a hupokritēs of the theatrical vision of Antigone and of the whole drama that is the Antigone of Sophocles. Such an interpretation of the two words theatron and hupokritēs taken together is illustrated in this striking turn of phrase concerning the acting of the character of Antigone by the noted actors Theodoros and Aristodemos: {92|93}

1ⓣ11 Demosthenes 19.246

Ἀντιγόνην δὲ Σοφοκλέους πολλάκις μὲν Θεόδωρος, πολλάκις δ’ Ἀριστόδημος ὑποκέκριται

… many times has Theodoros, many times has Aristodemos acted [perfect of hupokrinesthai] the Antigone of Sophocles. [32]

1§45 Just as writing is not a necessity for expressing a fixed message emanating from a fixed mental image, so also the physical reality of a work of art is not a necessity for achieving such a fixed image. In other words, you don’t need a painting or a statue to express a fixed mental image any more than you need letters to write down what it looks like.

1§46 I now turn to my second example illustrating the notion of unchangeability in the sculpting of real statues. As in the case of the petrified serpent in the standard version of the Homeric narrative, we are about to see a freeze-frame of a perfect moment. In this case, however, the moment is one of happiness, not of terror and pity. Such a perfect moment is captured by Herodotus in his retelling of a story told by Solon about two young men, Kleobis and Biton, who performed a superhuman feat at the Heraia, the festival of the goddess Hera in their native city of Argos:

1ⓣ12 Herodotus 1.31.3-5

ταῦτα δέ σφι ποιήσασι καὶ ὀφθεῖσι ὑπὸ τῆς πανηγύριος τελευτὴ τοῦ βίου ἀρίστη ἐπεγένετο, διέδεξέ τε ἐν τούτοισι ὁ θεὸς ὡς ἄμεινον εἴη ἀνθρώπῳ τεθνάναι μᾶλλον ἢ ζώειν. Ἀργεῖοι μὲν γὰρ περιστάντες ἐμακάριζον τῶν νεηνιέων τὴν ῥώμην, αἱ δὲ Ἀργεῖαι τὴν μητέρα αὐτῶν, οἵων τέκνων ἐκύρησε. Ἡ δὲ μήτηρ περιχαρὴς ἐοῦσα τῷ τε ἔργῳ καὶ τῇ φήμῃ, στᾶσα ἀντίον τοῦ ἀγάλματος εὔχετο Κλεόβι τε καὶ Βίτωνι τοῖσι ἑωυτῆς τέκνοισι, οἵ μιν ἐτίμησαν μεγάλως, τὴν θεὸν δοῦναι τὸ ἀνθρώπῳ τυχεῖν ἄριστόν ἐστι. Μετὰ ταύτην δὲ τὴν εὐχὴν ὡς ἔθυσάν τε καὶ εὐωχήθησαν, κατακοιμηθέντες ἐν αὐτῷ τῷ ἱρῷ {93|94} οἱ νεηνίαι οὐκέτι ἀνέστησαν, ἀλλ’ ἐν τέλεϊ τούτῳ ἔσχοντο. Ἀργεῖοι δέ σφεων εἰκόνας ποιησάμενοι ἀνέθεσαν ἐς Δελφοὺς ὡς ἀνδρῶν ἀρίστων γενομένων.

After they [= Kleobis and Biton] had done these things and had been seen [op -] doing these things by everyone participating in the festival [panēguris], the very best ending [teleutē] of life followed up for them. [33] And in all this the god made it clear that it is better for a man to be in a state of death than in a state of life. [34] For the men of Argos, standing around the two youths, declared them blessed [makares] for having such physical strength, while the women of Argos declared the mother of the youths blessed for having such children as these two. And the mother, with feelings of utmost happiness [perikharēs] about what had been done and about what had been said about the things that had been done, stood before the statue [= of Hera] and prayed on behalf of Kleobis and Biton, her two children, who had given her such great honor [timē]. She prayed that the goddess [= Hera] should give them [= the two youths] the very best thing that can happen to a human. After this prayer, the people sacrificed [thuein] and feasted [euōkheîn], and the youths went to sleep [katakoimâsthai] right then and there in the sacred precinct [of Hera]. And they [= the two youths] never got up [an-histasthai] again, but were held fast [ekhesthai] in this outcome [telos]. And the people of Argos made likenesses [eikōn plural] of them and dedicated these at Delphi, saying that these were images of men who had become the very best of men.

1§47 Amidst the sacrificing and the feasting, as the two youths fall asleep inside the sacred precinct of the goddess, the euphemistic wording highlights the idea that they will be permanently encapsulated in the perfect state that they had reached at this precise moment in the story of their lives: οὐκέτι ἀνέστησαν ‘they never got up again’ (1.31.5). Now they are held fast forever, in exactly the state of the moment, and the wording captures perfectly the earlier point I was making about a freeze frame: ἐν τέλεϊ τούτῳ ἔσχοντο ‘they were held fast [ekhesthai] in this outcome [telos]’ (1.31.5). The verb ekhein ‘hold’ in the middle voice, ekhesthai, is used here in the sense of capturing a snapshot {94|95} moment, such as the moment captured by the photographer’s expression hold it right there. [35] In other words, the two youths die at the perfect moment – in a perfect pose.

1§48 My choice of the word pose here is based on the meaning of the noun derived from the verb ekhesthai ‘hold’, that is, skhēma (σχῆμα) ‘pose’, derived from ekhesthai, as in Herodotus’ expression ἐν τέλεϊ τούτῳ ἔσχοντο ‘they were held fast [ekhesthai] in this outcome [telos]’ (1.31.5). This word skhēma – from which the English word ‘scheme’ is derived, can indeed mean the ‘pose’ of a dancer or even the ‘pose’ of a statue. [36] So we see the two youths settling into a perfect and eternal pose, which becomes a visible sign of their telos.

1§49 I propose here to take a closer look at this word telos (τέλος), which I have been translating as ‘outcome’ and which can also be translated as ‘end’, ‘ending’, ‘completion’, ‘fulfillment’. To these translations I add another: ‘coming full circle’. In terms of a straight line, telos is the ‘end’ of that line; in terms of a circle, however, telos is a ‘coming full circle’. [37] In terms of a process, telos is the achieving or perfecting of that process. In Homeric Greek, as we will see later, the noun telos and its corresponding verb teleîn convey the perfection inherent in the perfect tense.

1§50 In the case of Herodotus’ narrative of Solon’s narrative, it reaches its own telos in an aetiology. By aetiology here I mean a myth that motivates an institutional reality, especially a ritual. [38] In this case the aetiology has to do with the rituals and the ritual objects connected with the hero cult of Kleobis and Biton at Argos. The ritual objects are the statues of the two young men, and their status as cult heroes is evidently visualized in the form of these statues. As we learn from Herodotus, the outcome of the story of these two young men is formalized in these statues. The perfect pose of their perfect moment, rigid to the point of rigor mortis, is captured by the creation of their statues. And the two statues have actually survived: you can see them today in the Museum at Delphi (Figure 2). [39] {95|96} 

Homer the Classic: Figure 2
Figure 2. [Poly]medes of Argos, “Kleobis and Biton.” Marble, free standing, height approx. 2.2 m. Archaic, ca. 580 BCE. Delphi, Archaeological Museum, 467 and 1524.

1§51 In the context of the Herodotean narrative, a perfect moment of happiness was experienced by all who took part in the festival of Hera, and this moment became concretized in the form of the statues. In the context of the Homeric narrative, by comparison, a perfect moment of terror and pity is experienced by all who take part in the narrative about the capture of Troy, and it becomes concretized in the form of the petrified serpent.

1ⓢ5. Homeric poetry as visual art

1§52 The petrified serpent of Iliad II is not a statue, since it was made not by the art of sculptors but by the art of poets – or, to say it in terms of Homeric poetry, it was made by a god as viewed by the art of poets. Although the artifice of a sculptor as an artisan is like the artifice of a poet as an artisan, in that both kinds of artisans produce artifacts that are by definition artificial, what makes the artifice of the poet unlike the artifice of the sculptor is the way in which the poet can imagine his artifact as natural, not artificial. The poet’s work of art can be natural if it is like the god’s work of art, which is natural as well as artificial. What we see here is the idea that the verbal art of Homeric poetry can create a visual artifact that is natural. This visual artifact could have been a statue – or let us say a piece of three-dimensional artwork – if it had not already been created by verbal art. The verbal art of Homeric poetry demonstrates that it can bypass the visual arts of sculpture, painting, and so on. I am talking about poetic imagination. [40]

1§53 Here I return to the actual wording of the poetic visualization in this Homeric passage, drawing attention again to the epithet arizēlos describing the marvel of the petrified serpent:

1ⓣ13 Iliad II 318

τὸν μὲν ἀρίζηλον θῆκεν θεὸς ὅς περ ἔφηνε

The same god that had made it visible [phainein] now made it most visible [arizēlos].

1§54 That the petrified serpent is a work of art is made explicit by this epithet arizēlos. To back up this formulation, I compare a detail from the City of War as pictured on the Homeric Shield of Achilles in Iliad XVIII. In this detail we see a visualization of the gods Ares and Athena: {97|98}

1ⓣ14 Iliad XVIII 516-519

οἳ δ’ ἴσαν· ἦρχε δ’ ἄρά σφιν Ἄρης καὶ Παλλὰς Ἀθήνη
ἄμφω χρυσείω, χρύσεια δὲ εἵματα ἕσθην,
καλὼ καὶ μεγάλω σὺν τεύχεσιν, ὥς τε θεώ περ
ἀμφὶς ἀριζήλω· λαοὶ δ’ ὑπολίζονες ἦσαν.

And they [= warriors represented on the Shield] were on their way. Leading them were Ares and Pallas Athena.
They were both golden. And they were wearing golden clothing.
Beautiful and immense they were in their armor, gods that they are,
most visible [arizēlō], side by side. But the warriors were smaller in size.

1§55 The two gods, marked as arizēlō at verse 519, are described as larger than life-size, by contrast with the human figures who are framing them. These humans are the supporting cast, as it were, of the gods; they are therefore smaller in size than the gods, as signaled by hup-olizones at verse 519. [41] The proportion matches the inherent distinction between larger-than-life-size statues of gods and the life-size humans who must worship them. In terms of the metaphor we see at work here in the Shield passage, larger-than-life size means immortality. There is also an inherent metonymy: because the Olympians are immortal, they are artificial as well as natural. As I argued in my work on the Homeric epithet aphthitos ‘unwilting, imperishable’, living things in the divine realm are aphthita, imperishable and artificial as well as natural, by contrast with the human realm, where living things are phthita, perishable and only natural. [42] In Homeric poetry, anything immortal is perfectly artificial as well as natural. [43]

1§56 This Homeric passage, showing the gods Ares and Athena in all their golden radiance, has given me the first opportunity to view the Homeric Shield of Achilles. The Shield, a verbal picture that claims to show a perfect {98|99} world of visual art, the work of the god Hephaistos himself, will be an essential point of interest in Homer the Classic – as well as in Homer the Preclassic. Much has been said about the Shield, and there is surely a universe of things still waiting to be said, so vast is the subject. And yet, the vastness of it all should not deter me from attempting to capture the essence of the Shield as a form of visual communication. For me an ideal point of entry into the world of images radiating from the Shield is the epithet arizēlō ‘radiant’, which shows the gods Ares and Athena in their golden state of perfection.

1§57 It is important that the same epithet applies to the petrified serpent, likewise arizēlos ‘radiant’, in Iliad II 318. Zeus had sent it as an epiphany, ephēne (318), and, once the serpent is petrified, it becomes arizēlos ‘radiant’ (318). This epithet marks the petrified serpent as a permanent vision, pictured by the poetry as a perfect work of art, not only a perfect work of nature. The petrified serpent may seem like a natural rock formation, but it is at the same time a work of art, made by Zeus himself – by the god who had produced the vision in the first place, ephēne. The verbal art of Homeric poetry captures this concretized vision, signaling the petrified serpent as arizēlos.

1§58 Now I go one step further by arguing that the petrified serpent in Iliad II is a concretized three-dimensional visualization of the telos of composition-in-performance. So far, I have translated telos as the ‘outcome’ of the story in the making, of the composition-in-performance. As we will see, however, such a telos is more than an outcome. It is a perfect outcome. And, as we will also see, it is perfection itself.

1§59 The petrifaction of the serpent in Iliad II, as a three-dimensional visualization, is made to seem natural as well as artificial – to the extent that it cannot be equated explicitly with artifacts produced by the art of sculpture or metalwork or other three-dimensional handiwork – not to mention the two-dimensional handiwork of painting and the like. But there remains an implicit equation of petrifaction with divine art pure and simple, in that the petrified serpent is a product of a verbal art that re-creates the divine art. In its depiction of the petrified serpent, verbal art can claim to be natural as well as artificial, since it bypasses the referential world of artifacts hand-made by human artisans. The petrified serpent may seem like a three-dimensional work of art, but the artistry is conveyed purely by verbal art.

1§60 The question remains: how can there be such a thing as arrested motion within the medium of performance, which is to be understood as continuing motion? In a performance medium, after all, poetry is in the making. It is alive and in motion. This motion can be seen as static only after {99|100} the story is told. What, then, is the answer? It is to be found in the vision of the petrified serpent: its arrested motion, within the motion that is the performance, is a prophetic vision of the notionally unchangeable ‘outcome’ of the performance, its telos.

1§61 As I observed earlier, the notion of an unchangeable ‘outcome’ is conveyed by the words of Odysseus that frame what he had just quoted. I highlight again the verb teleîn, derived from the noun telos:

1ⓣ15 Iliad II 330

τὰ δὴ νῦν πάντα τελεῖται

And now I see that all these things are reaching their outcome [= verb teleîn, from telos].

1§62 We may compare this wording with the wording of the prophecy itself:

1ⓣ16 Iliad II 324-325

ἡμῖν μὲν τόδ’ ἔφηνε τέρας μέγα μητίετα Ζεὺς
ὄψιμον ὀψιτέλεστον, ὅου κλέος οὔ ποτ’ ὀλεῖται

Zeus the planner made visible [phainein] this great portent [teras].
It is late in coming, late in reaching its outcome [telos], and its fame [kleos] will never perish.

1§63 The word opsiteleston ‘late in reaching its outcome [telos]’ makes it explicit that the telos ‘outcome’ of the narrative as signaled by the teras ‘omen’ will have to wait till later – till the performance is complete. The word kleos ‘fame’, further, makes it explicit that the narrative equates itself with the plot of the Troy story. The usages of the verb teleîn ‘bring to telos’ in Homeric diction indicate clearly, by way of contrasting imperfective and perfective tenses, whether the narrative is still in progress or whether it is being considered a finished composition. The present imperfective teleîtai ‘is reaching its outcome’ here in Iliad II 330 – and the imperfect eteleieto ‘was reaching its outcome’ in Iliad I 5 – refer to the story of Troy as it is being told, in progress, as it is heading toward a finish. [44] By contrast, the perfect tetelesmenon ‘having reached its outcome’ refers to the story after it is told, that is, as it turns out after the narrative is finished. A case in point is Odyssey xix 547, where the {100|101} talking eagle of Penelope’s dream prophesies that this dream (hupar) will come to fulfillment – that it will be tetelesmenon (verb teleîn). [45] All these usages of teleîn ‘reach an outcome’ are relevant to the status of Zeus as the absolute referent in the poetic form of the humnos ‘hymn’. [46]

1§64 By contrast with the petrified serpent in Iliad II, the Shield of Achilles in Iliad XVIII is an explicit, not implicit, equation of three-dimensional artwork – in this case, metalwork – with the artwork of poetry. The divine creativity that produced the petrified serpent was overtly natural; by contrast, the divine creativity that produces the Shield is overtly artificial, since it is seen as an artistic product achieved by the divine artisan himself, Hephaistos the metalworker. The Homeric gods, in their artistic creativity, are not confined to the natural world. As ultimate masters of the artistic world, not just the natural world, the gods can express the world of nature as a work of art in its own right. For the Homeric gods, all nature is a work of art. Moreover, the Shield of Achilles, as a masterpiece of metalwork created by the divine artisan Hephaistos, expresses the whole world as a work of art.

1§65 In the history of literature, the Shield of Achilles is considered the premier example of ecphrasis. For a working definition, I say that ecphrasis is an act of verbal art shown in the act of depicting non-verbal art – such as painting, sculpting, or, as in this case, metalwork. Verbal art is different from the visual art of artisans. As a specific example, I take the art of metalworkers who make bronze shields that have pictures on them made of bronze – or of even more precious metal, such as gold. Of course, verbal art cannot produce real bronze shields that have real pictures on them, but it can indeed produce an idealized shield, and the pictures on such a shield will of course be idealized as well.

1§66 Such a distinction is relevant to the picturing of the immortal gods Ares and Athena on the Shield as larger than mortals. Since everything is already idealized by the verbal art on the Shield, including mortals, the immortals need to be distinguished from mortals in some special way – in this case, by making the mortals relatively smaller in size. In addition, the immortals are made of gold and marked by a special epithet, arizēlō ‘radiant’, which draws attention to the idealization of the immortals – and away from the idealization of the mortals likewise pictured on the Shield. Unlike mortals, who are natural outside of art, the immortals are forever artificial as well as natural, {101|102} both inside and outside of art, and so they must always be seen as perfect works of art. [47]

1§67 The same kind of thing can be said about the petrified serpent of Iliad II, likewise marked as arizēlos ‘radiant’. The epithet applies only after petrifaction. The serpent, once petrified, becomes like the immortals, since from here on it too must be seen as a perfect work of art forever. In this case, the art that shows the petrified serpent is explicitly verbal art, and the non-verbal art of, say, a sculptor is bypassed altogether. In the case of the Shield, the art that shows the golden immortals is likewise verbal, even if it pretends to be the non-verbal art of a virtuoso metalworker. [48]

1§68 My emphasis on verbal art, as an alternative to visual art, brings me to a most celebrated essay by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, originally published in 1766 (Berlin), entitled Laocoön: an Essay on the Limits of Painting and Poetry (Laokoon, oder über die Grenzen der Mahlerey und Poesie). [49] In the title of this essay, we notice that Lessing says painting or, in the original German, Malerei (Mahlerey), but he really means, as we see from the essay itself, all non-verbal arts that produce objects of art – for example sculpture as well as painting.

1§69 The central thesis of Lessing’s essay is that painting (in his generalized sense of painting), as a vehicle of the imagination, concentrates on a unique moment in any action, while the verbal art of poetry expresses the given action as a continuum. I aim to extend the formulation of Lessing by arguing that verbal art as well, being a vehicle of the imagination, can concentrate on a unique moment – without depending on painting as a point of reference.

1§70 In the example of the petrified serpent in Iliad II, for example, we have seen Homeric poetry actually visualizing itself as a unique moment, in the form of a stop-motion picture. The emotions of this moment are terror and pity. The picture of this one single moment of terror and pity is like a snapshot (hold-it-right-there). [50] It is a way of capturing the entire story of Troy’s capture.

1§71 Words like snapshot or even picture imply only images that are two-dimensional, but I mean to include the three-dimensional as well when I speak of the power of verbal art in Homeric poetry. From here on, I will use picture {102|103} to refer to three-dimensional as well as two-dimensional images. This kind of usage requires some effort. Whenever you use the noun image in everyday English, you may have noticed that you tend to picture in your mind images that are only two-dimensional. You have a better chance of imagining three-dimensionally when you use the verb imagine, in a concentrated effort to keep from lapsing back into a two-dimensional frame of mind.

1§72 In saying this I rely on the insights of cognitive psychology. I take it that the human capacity for imagining, as a process, tends to default to a two-dimensional vision of images that are projected on the “screen” of the mind’s eye. [51] It requires a special effort to be able to imagine three-dimensionally. [52]

1§73 In various cultures, we can track the evolution of various traditions that train the mind to break free of its innate two-dimensional constraints and to pass into the realm of three-dimensional imagination. When I speak of traditions that train the mind to imagine, three-dimensionally as well as two-dimensionally, I am of course thinking primarily of the verbal arts, especially of song and poetry. In the verbal arts, two-dimensional imagination needs to integrate the sense of seeing with the sense of hearing. Seeing must be verbalized in order to be shared. A shared vision depends on verbalization. As for three-dimensional imagination, it needs to integrate the sense of touch with the sense of seeing. [53] The sense of touch can activate the mind to imagine what is three-dimensional, solid, and substantial – moving beyond what is two-dimensional, “thin,” insubstantial. In some cultural contexts, the metaphorical world of the two-dimensional can be seen as a foil for the virtuosity of three-dimensional imagination. For example, the two-dimensional can be seen as thin and filmy – to be contrasted with dense and solid as positive terms for the three-dimensional. [54]

1§74 All this is not to say that a two-dimensional object of art, as produced by the fine arts, is less imaginative than a corresponding three-dimensional object. It can even be said that a two-dimensional work of art actually requires more imagination than a three-dimensional one. Along this line of thinking, in any case, verbal art requires the most imagination. And the greater the imaginative power, the greater the art.

1§75 Here is an example taken from the medium of film. In a work by the French auteur Jean-Jacques Beineix, Betty Blue (1986), the character Zorg wants to capture ‘all of it’ for the character Betty. He tries to use his words, a verbal {103|104} art of sorts, to make things three-dimensional – to break out of the filmy two-dimensionality of the film screen that defines his existence. Here are the words used by the character Zorg in his attempt to break into the three-dimensional:From Betty Blue (1986, directed by Jean-Jacques Beineix), Zorg shows ‘perfection’ to Betty…

Z: Look! See the little wall?

B: The little Wall of China?

Z: The one that stands at the lake. And that big rock, see?

B: That big thing?

Z: Yeah. And isn’t that little house over there nice?

B: But what are you driving at?

Z: I love this place. [J’adore ce coin.]

B: You’re right. It’s perfect. Everything in its place. Fantastic.

Z: It’s all for you, all of it! It starts at the wall and goes beyond the rock. And the house is in the middle.

B: But…

Z: And – sh! That’s not all… [55]

In Zorg’s attempt to show perfection to Betty, we see an ironic contrast between the ideal three-dimensional macrocosm desired by Zorg and by his director-filmmaker and the all-too-insubstantial and “filmy” two-dimensional microcosm of the “silver screen.” The words and the camera angles keep trying to push out of the two-dimensional frame.

1ⓢ6. A rethinking of terms for artistic imagination

1§76 I now restate my ongoing argument, rethinking it in terms that suit the poetics of imagination. My thesis is that the imaginative power of Homeric poetry is essential for understanding the reception of Homer the Classic in the poetic world of Virgil. {104|105}

1§77 Before I proceed to read carefully an example I selected from Virgil’s poetry, I need to set up two signposts:

A) First, I offer a long-term observation on the Latin word pictura ‘picture, painting’ and on related words. When Virgil and other Augustan poets say pictura, we do not need to worry whether this word refers to the two-dimensional art of painting or to the three-dimensional art of sculpture. As with Lessing’s usage of Malerei (Mahlerey), the Latin word pictura can refer to the visual arts in general – not only to painting or sculpture. Later on in this chapter, I will show examples taken from the Aeneid of Virgil. So also in Greek poetry, the word poikilia, meaning ‘variety, patterning’, refers to all visual arts, even though its root poik-, related to the root pic- of Latin pictura, is associated mostly with the art of painting. Before we even get to see the examples of Greek poikilia and Latin pictura, I need to stress here, already at this early point in my argumentation, that I will be including metalwork – especially bronzework – within the general category of sculpture.
B) The second signpost is about another essential form of visual arts. Besides painting and sculpting – including all manner of metalwork – there is weaving. As we will see, both Latin pictura and Greek poikilia can refer to weaving.

1ⓢ7. Virgil’s sculpting of a perfect Homeric moment

1§78 Moving past these two signposts, I proceed to search for a place where the poetry of Virgil most clearly imagines itself as a single moment. My intended point of comparison in the poetry of Virgil is something as close as possible to what we have seen in the poetry of Homer, that is, the way in which the whole Iliad – in its etymological sense of ‘Troy story’ – imagines itself as a single moment, through the image of the petrified serpent. What makes my attempt to compare Virgil and Homer different from most other attempts is that I see comparable levels of artistry in both. I am ready to say that whatever artistry we admire in Virgil the Classic is already at work in Homer, considered a classic in Virgil’s age. In other words, I choose not to say that Virgil has accomplished an artistic feat that he thinks Homer has failed to accomplish. Rather, he is trying to accomplish something that he knows has already been accomplished by Homeric poetry. This proposition is difficult to accept only for those who {105|106} refuse to appreciate the Homeric accomplishment in the first place. Here I take the opportunity of criticizing those who think there must be some kind of unintended or unconscious genius in Homer, just waiting to be systematized by later poets. I hold that the poetic systematization was in fact already in place and at work in Homer. Homeric poetry already had its own poetics.

1§79 Book 2 of Virgil’s Aeneid is the place where I find a passage most directly comparable to the Homeric passage about the nine birds and the serpent. Virgil designed his passage, as I hope to show, with a preconceived understanding of Homer as a Classic – and I think his passage was meant to rival the artistic feat already accomplished by this classical ‘Homer’. I have in mind Aeneid 2 199-227, where we see Aeneas in the act of narrating to the queen Dido and her Carthaginian subjects his own entrancing visualization of events leading up to the capture of Troy. As we will see, the visualization is entrancing because it is driven by an ominous vision that emanates from the mind of the narrator and enters the minds of his listeners. [56] Aeneas has just reached a point in his narration where the Trojan hero Laocoön has been chosen ‘by lot’, that is, ad hoc, to serve as priest of Poseidon / Neptune (201). At this point, Laocoön is in the act of sacrificing a bull to the god at an altar [57] when, suddenly, twin serpents come into view (203). [58] And, as they come into view, the ominous vision begins to control the narration. The twin serpents are swimming over a calm sea (203 tranquilla per alta) from the direction of Tenedos, which is the island where the main force of the Achaeans is hidden away from view. The Achaeans at Tenedos are waiting to join the other Achaeans hiding inside the Wooden Horse at the gates of Troy, and all are ready to penetrate the city’s walls. [59] The twin serpents, swimming at full {106|107} speed, are aiming for the shore, their menacing heads erect, protruding well above the waves left behind in their wake (207 superant undas). [60] Once they reach shore, they speed toward Laocoön. As I said, we have just seen Laocoön in the act of sacrificing, as an ad hoc priest of Poseidon / Neptune. [61] But now the epiphany of the two serpents has interrupted the story that would have told the sequence of the sacrifice. This interruption has canceled the meaning of the sacrifice and has substituted the meaning of the epiphany that we see in progress. And the interruption is signaled by the word ecce ‘behold!’ (203). This word demands a visualization of the epiphany. [62]

1§80 We saw something similar happening in Iliad II. It was the scene showing the epiphany of a serpent sent by Zeus. There too, a sacrifice was in progress, and I will return in a minute to the details of that sacrifice, as interrupted by that other epiphany of a serpent. But now I have in the meantime interrupted my own retelling of the ongoing epiphany of the twin serpents in Aeneid 2. So, I return to this epiphany at the point where I stopped: just now, the serpents have finally reached the place where Laocoön is sacrificing at the altar. Immediately, each of the two serpents devours one of the priest’s two children. Like the mother bird in the epiphany of Iliad II, Laocoön is helpless. He struggles in vain against the overwhelming force of the twin serpents, which now proceed to sting him and choke him to death. [63] It is a scene of terror and pity (199 miseris … tremendum; 204 horresco referens; 212 diffigimus visu exsangues; 215 miseros). And it rivals the scene of terror and pity in Iliad II.

1§81 We see in this scene not just an opportunity for rivalry between Virgil and Homer. The newer classic complements and thus validates the older classic, and that is part of the rivalry. Homeric poetry as an oral poetic tradition {107|108} stems from a comparable principle of poetic rivalry: the performance of the moment rivals all previous performances because it fulfills them in the here and now. Virgil the Classic clarifies this aspect of Homer the Classic.

1§82 The rival passages in Aeneid 2 and Iliad II both center on a moment when a ritual goes wrong – when the master-plan of the ritual is interrupted. In both the Virgilian and the Homeric passages, that same moment of interruption activates another master-plan, which is the overarching plot of the master-narrative. Let me test this formulation by taking a second look at the passage about the nine birds and the serpent in Iliad II. This time I focus on this question: how was the epiphany of the serpent introduced into the narrative? Here again is my translation of the relevant verses I have already quoted:

1ⓣ17 Iliad II 299-310 (once again: enter the serpent …)

299     Endure, my near and dear ones, and stay as long as it takes for us to find out
300     whether Calchas is prophesying something that is true or not.
301     For I know this well in my heart, and you all
302     are witnesses, those of you who have not been carried off by the demons of death.
303     It is as if it was yesterday or the day before, when the ships of the Achaeans at Aulis
304     were gathered, portending doom to Priam and the Trojans.
305     Standing around a spring, at a sacred altar,
306     we were sacrificing perfect [telēessai] hecatombs to the immortal ones
307     under a beautiful plane tree, in a place where sparkling water flowed.
308     Then [entha] there appeared [phainesthai] a great sign [sēma], a serpent [drakōn] with blood-red markings on its back.
309     Terrifying it was. The Olympian [= Zeus] himself had sent it into the zone of light.
310     It darted out from underneath the altar, and it rushed toward the plane tree.

1§83 As we compare this part of the passage in Iliad II with the rival passage in Aeneid 2, we may now observe some details in Iliad II that may {108|109} easily be overlooked. We notice how the serpent slips into view from a dark hole underneath the altar (319). [64] Sent by Zeus, this serpent emerges from the darkness and heads for the light (309). The word entha ‘then’ (308), which signals the epiphany as expressed by the very next word, ephanē ‘there appeared’ (308), interrupts the sequence of a ritual sacrifice. This sacrifice of the Achaeans has just been interrupted by a portent that portends the overarching plot of the master-narrative, the story of Troy.

1§84 As we now take a second look at Aeneid 2, we may observe comparable details that may easily be overlooked here as well. I note again how the word ecce ‘behold!’ (203), which signals the epiphany of the two serpents, interrupts the narration – and the rationale – of the ritual. [65] I must add that the function of ecce here in Aeneid 2.203 transcends the Latin usage and connects with the Homeric function of entha ‘right then and there’ in introducing the epiphany of the serpent in Iliad II 308. The epiphany of this serpent is relevant to the look of the serpent, by which I mean the power of a serpent to entrance its victims simply by looking at them. The notion of such a power is evident in the etymology of the word that is used for ‘serpent’ here in Iliad II: that word is drakōn (308). Etymologically, drakōn ‘serpent’ is ‘the one who looks’ (from derkesthai ‘look’). [66]

1§85 An essential question remains to be answered. What kind of master-plan, what overarching narrative, is being signaled by the epiphany of the twin serpents in Aeneid 2? And what divinity is actually sending this epiphany? The answer has to do with the master-plan of the plot driving the overarching narration of Virgil’s Aeneid, which is a frame for the inner narration of Aeneas as performed for the queen Dido and her Carthaginian subjects. This inner narration seems to be driven by the plot of the Iliou Persis. This traditional title marks the story of Troy as retold in what is known as the epic Cycle. [67] The Iliou Persis or ‘The Destruction of Troy’, attributed to the poet Arctinus of Miletus, survives for us only in meager fragments, but we have at least the plot summary of Proclus. I quote here the entire text of that summary, following the page- and line-numbering of Allen’s Oxford Classical Text volume V of Homer (1912): {109|110}

1ⓣ18 Arctinus of Miletus Iliou Persis plot summary by Proclus pp. 107-108 ed. Allen

16  Ἕπεται δὲ τούτοις Ἰλίου πέρσιδος βιβλία δύο Ἀρκτίνου
Μιλησίου περιέχοντα τάδε. ὡς τὰ περὶ τὸν ἵππον οἱ
Τρῶες ὑπόπτως ἔχοντες περιστάντες βουλεύονται ὅ τι χρὴ
ποιεῖν· καὶ τοῖς μὲν δοκεῖ κατακρημνίσαι αὐτόν, τοῖς δὲ
20  καταφλέγειν, οἱ δὲ ἱερὸν αὐτὸν ἔφασαν δεῖν τῇ Ἀθηνᾷ
ἀνατεθῆναι· καὶ τέλος νικᾷ ἡ τούτων γνώμη. τραπέντες
δὲ εἰς εὐφροσύνην εὐωχοῦνται ὡς ἀπηλλαγμένοι τοῦ πολέ-
μου. ἐν αὐτῷ δὲ τούτῳ δύο δράκοντες ἐπιφανέντες τόν τε
Λαοκόωντα καὶ τὸν ἕτερον τῶν παίδων διαφθείρουσιν. ἐπὶ
25  δὲ τῷ τέρατι δυσφορήσαντες οἱ περὶ τὸν Αἰνείαν ὑπεξῆλθον
εἰς τὴν Ἴδην. καὶ Σίνων τοὺς πυρσοὺς ἀνίσχει τοῖς Ἀχαιοῖς,
πρότερον εἰσεληλυθὼς προσποίητος. οἱ δὲ ἐκ Τενέδου
προσπλεύσαντες καὶ οἱ ἐκ τοῦ δουρείου ἵππου ἐπιπίπτουσι
τοῖς πολεμίοις καὶ πολλοὺς ἀνελόντες τὴν πόλιν κατὰ
30  κράτος λαμβάνουσι. καὶ Νεοπτόλεμος μὲν ἀποκτείνει
Πρίαμον ἐπὶ τὸν τοῦ Διὸς τοῦ ἑρκείου βωμὸν καταφυγόντα.
p. 108 Μενέλαος δὲ ἀνευρὼν Ἑλένην ἐπὶ τὰς ναῦς κατάγει, Δηΐ-
φοβον φονεύσας. Κασσάνδραν δὲ Αἴας ὁ Ἰλέως πρὸς
βίαν ἀποσπῶν συνεφέλκεται τὸ τῆς Ἀθηνᾶς ξόανον. ἐφ’
ᾧ παροξυνθέντες οἱ Ἕλληνες καταλεῦσαι βουλεύονται τὸν
5    Αἴαντα. ὁ δὲ ἐπὶ τὸν τῆς Ἀθηνᾶς βωμὸν καταφεύγει καὶ
διασῴζεται ἐκ τοῦ ἐπικειμένου κινδύνου. ἔπειτα ἐμπρή-
σαντες τὴν πόλιν Πολυξένην σφαγιάζουσιν ἐπὶ τὸν τοῦ
Ἀχιλλέως τάφον. καὶ Ὀδυσσέως Ἀστυάνακτα ἀνελόντος,
Νεοπτόλεμος Ἀνδρομάχην γέρας λαμβάνει. καὶ τὰ λοιπὰ
10  λάφυρα διανέμονται. Δημοφῶν δὲ καὶ Ἀκάμας Αἴθραν
εὑρόντες ἄγουσι μεθ’ ἑαυτῶν. ἔπειτα ἀποπλέουσιν οἱ
Ἕλληνες, καὶ φθορὰν αὐτοῖς ἡ Ἀθηνᾶ κατὰ τὸ πέλαγος
μηχανᾶται. {110|111}

16  After the preceding [= four scrolls of the Little Iliad, by Lesches of Lesbos] there follow two scrolls of the Iliou Persis, by Arctinus
of Miletus, containing the following. With regard to the things concerning the Horse, the
Trojans, suspicious about the horse, stand around wondering what they should
do. Some think it should be pushed off a cliff, while others
20  think it should be burned down, and still others say that it should be dedicated as sacred [hieros] to Athena.
In the end, the opinion of the third group wins out. They turn
to merriment, feasting as if they had been freed from the war.
At this point two serpents appear and
destroy Laocoön and one of his sons. At the sight of
25  this marvel, Aeneas and his followers get upset and withdraw
to Mount Ida. Sinon lights signal fires for the Achaeans.
He had previously entered the city, using a pretext. And they [= the Achaeans], some of them sailing from Tenedos
[toward Troy] and others of them emerging from the Wooden Horse, fall upon
their enemies. They kill many, and the city
is taken by force. Neoptolemos kills
Priam, who has taken refuge at the altar of Zeus Herkeios.
p. 108 Menelaos finds Helen and takes her back down to the ships, after
slaughtering Deiphobos. Ajax son of Oileus takes Kassandra by
force, dragging her away from the wooden statue [xoanon] of Athena. At the sight
of this, the Achaeans get angry and decide to stone
5   Ajax to death, but he takes refuge at the altar of Athena, and so
is preserved from his impending destruction. Then {111|112}
the Achaeans put the city to the torch. They slaughter Polyxena on the
tomb of Achilles. Odysseus kills Astyanax,
and Neoptolemos takes Andromache as his prize. The rest
10  of the spoils are distributed. Demophon and Akamas find Aithra
and take her with them. Then the Greeks sail off [from Troy],
and Athena begins to plan destruction for them at sea.

1§86 It is commonly thought that Virgil adapted his version of the Troy story mainly from the epic Cycle, more specifically, from the Iliou Persis of Arctinus of Miletus. I highlight here the most relevant parts of Proclus’ plot summary of this Iliou Persis: we read of an epiphany of two serpents (Arctinus of Miletus Iliou Persis 107.23 δύο δράκοντες ἐπιφανέντες), who kill Laocoön along with one of his children (23-24). Aeneas and his followers, understanding this as a teras ‘portent’ that portends the capture of Troy (25), decide to withdraw from Troy and relocate to Mount Ida (25-26). [68] Right after the exit of Aeneas, the Proclus plot summary of the Iliou Persis mentions the character Sinon for the first time (26). Even his name says it all: he is the agent of destruction (Greek sinesthai ‘harm, hurt’) for Troy. Sinon, having already gained entrance within the walls of Troy by pretending not to be what he really is (27 πρότερον εἰσεληλυθὼς προσποίητος), aids the Achaeans who are now seen emerging from within the Wooden Horse (as I infer from the compressed wording of Proclus). [69]

1§87 There are remarkable similarities between this version of the Troy story, drawn from the epic Cycle, and the version of Aeneid 2. Still, the dissimilarities are just as remarkable. Moreover, we find still other dissimilarities in still other versions, especially with reference to the fate of Laocoön and his children: in one version, as we have seen, only one of the children is killed; in {112|113} another, both children die, but Laocoön survives; [70] in some of these versions, moreover, the serpents are envisioned as pleusantes ‘swimming’ not from Tenedos but from Kalydnai. [71]

1§88 Such variations are characteristic of Homer the Classic in the age of Callimachus and earlier, not Homer the Classic in the age of Virgil. One variant detail stands out, because it turns out to be indispensable for Virgil’s Aeneid: Aeneas and his followers must not depart from Troy immediately after the portent of the twin serpents, but only after the city has already been set on fire. Some might think that Virgil invented the postponement of Aeneas’ departure. I see no such invention, and I am about to argue that this detail in the Aeneid derives from a genuine epic tradition, involving a sacred statue of Athena, known as the Palladium, situated on the acropolis of Troy.

1ⓢ8. A statue of Athena in the epic Cycle and beyond

1§89 A most remarkable thing about the Palladium is that we find it mentioned nowhere in our text of Homer, either in the Iliad or in the Odyssey. Moreover, it is hardly ever mentioned in modern Homeric and Virgilian studies. The reasons are easy to appreciate. The Palladium seems non-Homeric – at least, on the surface – and the surviving information about it seems confused. The confusion stems from the vast number of variant myths and rituals surrounding the Palladium. The sheer variety, in its vastness, bewilders the modern mind. I maintain that this variety, in and of itself, is an important historical fact – and it can help provide an explanation for the absence of the Palladium in Homer as we know Homer – and as Virgil knew Homer. I also maintain that the Palladium is in fact not absent but very much present in {113|114} Homeric poetry – as an absent signifier. As we will see, Virgil was aware of such an absent signification and wove it into his Aeneid.

1§90 The essentials of the story of the Palladium, its aetiology, can be found in the Library of “Apollodorus” (3.12.3): [72] there we read that it was a three-dimensional image of Athena, which fell from the sky in response to Ilos, who prayed to Zeus for a signal when he founded Ilion, that is, Troy. [73] This image is described by “Apollodorus” as a primitive – or, better, primal – statue: it was three cubits high, holding a spear in its right hand and a distaff or spindle in its left (again, Library 3.12.3). [74] In terms of this sacred narrative, the original resting place of the Palladium was Troy. The statue signaled not only the foundation but also the continuity of the city. Myth had it that Troy could not be captured so long as the Palladium remained there (Servius commenting on Virgil Aeneid 2.166). The capture of Troy thus depended on the taking of the Palladium from Troy. Here is where a vast variety of different versions enters the picture. The burning question was: who took the Palladium from Troy and where was its “final resting place”? [75]

1§91 The farther back we go in time, the more hotly contested was the possession of the Palladium, this sign that fell from the sky, as a source of wealth, power, and prestige for those who possessed it. Possessing the Palladium was essential not only for the survival or destruction of one city, Troy, but also for the foundation or re-foundation of other cities – if Troy was destroyed and never rebuilt. It is a historical fact that many régimes in many different cities of the ancient world claimed to possess the Palladium. A moment ago, however, I added this qualification: if Troy was destroyed and never rebuilt. This qualification was necessary because one city that claimed to possess the Palladium was Troy itself – by which I mean the “New Troy” that was actually rebuilt as a new Ilion sometime around the eighth century BCE and that lasted all the way into the classical Roman period and beyond. [76]

1§92 For purposes of validating the possession of the Palladium, the myths and rituals connected with it had to keep evolving to fit the ever-evolving {114|115} cultural politics of the here and now. The burning question, in the ongoing competition to appropriate this statue, centered on the last days of Troy before it was captured and set on fire by the Achaeans. So let us return to this question: who took the Palladium from Troy and where did they take it?

1§93 According to the local mythology of the city of Argos, it was Diomedes who captured the Palladium from the acropolis of Troy and ultimately brought the sacred object to the city of Argos as its final resting place (Pausanias 2.23.5). There are many variations in telling about how, when, and why Diomedes took the Palladium from the acropolis of Troy, and many of the variant stories involve Odysseus as a partner of Diomedes in the quest to take it. According to some of these variant stories, the partnership modulates into an intense rivalry. As we are about to see, there are even versions where Odysseus is represented as scheming to keep the Palladium for himself. The basic idea of a partnership linking Diomedes with Odysseus in capturing the Palladium is attested in the epic Cycle. There is a brief reference in the Proclus plot outline of the Little Iliad that says simply: καὶ μετὰ ταῦτα σὺν Διομήδει τὸ παλλάδιον ἐκκομίζει ἐκ τῆς Ἰλίου ‘and after this [= after Odysseus infiltrates Troy in a previous adventure] he [= Odysseus] along with Diomedes takes out [ek-komizein] the Palladium from Ilion’ (Lesches of Lesbos, [77] Little Iliad 107.7-8). [78]

1§94 According to the local mythology of the city of Athens, which rivals the local mythology of the city of Argos, the final resting place of the Palladium was not Argos but Athens. Here is a summary of this Athenian mythology as reported by a variety of sources:

Diomedes, sailing home from Troy with the Palladium in his possession, happened to stop over at the Athenian seaport of Phaleron. Mistaken for an enemy, Diomedes was attacked by the Athenians, led by a hero called Demophon. The Palladium was taken by mistake from Diomedes, and thus it found its final resting place in Athens. It was housed in the ancient building used for trials involving {115|116} involuntary homicide; by metonymy, the building itself was called Palladium. [79]

1§95 In Virgil’s time, the canonical final resting place of the Palladium was the aedes of Vesta in Rome, [80] and only the Vestal Virgins were allowed to see it. [81] The question is, who brought the Palladium to Rome after the capture of Troy? A contemporary of Virgil, Dionysius of Halicarnassus, says it explicitly: according to Dionysius, Aeneas was the one who rushed up to the acropolis of Troy and snatched the Palladium from the fires of destruction at the very last moment, as the city was going up in flames; then he brought the Palladium with him to Italy, along with other sacred objects he rescued from the acropolis of Troy (Roman Antiquities 1.69.2).

1§96 Such a version of the myth is perfectly suited to the ideology of the Roman empire in the age of Augustus. [82] It links Augustus with the heroes of Troy, since his adoptive father Julius Caesar was a notional descendant of Aeneas by way of Ascanius, otherwise named Iulus, the son of Aeneas. Our source is Strabo (13.1.27 C594-595). [83] As we will soon see, however, the actual rescuing of the Palladium by Aeneas is a theme that predates – and is thus originally independent of – any such Roman appropriation.

1§97 Possession of the Palladium was evidently essential for Rome – at least, for earlier phases of Roman history as also for at least some later phases, including the eras of Cicero and Virgil. Referring to the Palladium, which he also calls a signum, Cicero recalls an incident in early Rome when a pontifex rescued this sacred object from a fire in 241 BCE and lost his eyesight (pro Scauro 48). [84] Judging from such an early date, I infer that the Palladium had been in Italy, in Cicero’s mind, ever since Aeneas had taken it there. The aetiology that justified the Roman appropriation of the Palladium must have evolved over time, but the basic idea remained the same: Rome possessed the Palladium as an expression of its own identity as an empire. In the same context where Cicero mentions the rescue of the Palladium from a fire in Rome, he refers to it as ‘that Palladium which is kept in Vesta’s guardianship as the pledge of our {116|117} safety and empire [imperium]’ (pro Scauro 48). [85] For my overall argumentation, the link between the idea of empire and the Palladium is essential. By the time we reach Chapter 4, it will be clear that such cultural agenda of the Roman empire reflect the earlier cultural agenda of the Athenian empire.

1§98 The Palladium in Athena’s temple on the acropolis of Troy can be imagined to look like the archaic statue of Athena Polias in the temple of Athena Polias on the acropolis of Athens. [86] Pausanias mentions that statue (1.26.4), and he also reports a myth that tells how it had fallen from the sky (1.26.6). We have already noted a similar myth about the Palladium at the acropolis of Troy: it too had fallen from the sky (“Apollodorus” Library 3.12.3).

1§99 When Aeneas narrates in Virgil’s Aeneid the destruction of Troy, his narrative as embedded within Virgil’s framing narrative is true to the Roman version of the myth about the Palladium. Things are different, however, in the narrative of Sinon that is embedded within the framing narrative of Aeneas. From the standpoint of the framing narrative, the embedded narrative of Sinon is a fabrication devised by Sinon for the purpose of persuading the Trojans to take the Wooden Horse within their city walls. Taken out of its embedded context, however, the narrative by Sinon about the Palladium matches a non-Roman version of the myth about the Palladium. In the wording of the narrative of Sinon as embedded in the framing narrative told by Aeneas in Virgil’s Aeneid, we see clear references to this alternative non-Roman version (2.162-175, 182). According to this alternative version of the myth, the two heroes Diomedes and Odysseus together captured the Palladium from the Trojans by infiltrating the citadel of Troy even before the capture of the city. Once captured by the Achaeans, the Palladium reacts by radiating a variety of ominous signs (2.171-175), and it even comes alive, that is, it undergoes mechanical animation as it starts to brandish its shield and spear (2.175 parmamque ferens hastamque trementem). In this case, the signs of the goddess conjure the ways in which Athena Promakhos is represented on the acropolis of Athens. [87] From here on, according to this version of the myth as reused by Sinon, the goddess will no longer look favorably upon the Achaeans (2.170 {117|118} aversa deae mens). The Wrath of Athena is about to afflict them. I will have more to say presently about this theme of Athena’s anger.

1§100 This alternative version of the myth about the Palladium, as narrated by Sinon in the narrative embedded within the framing narrative of Aeneas in Aeneid 2, matches what we find in the epic known as the LittleIliad of Lesches of Lesbos (Proclus summary p. 107.7-8). [88] As for the canonical Roman version of the myth about the Palladium, as narrated by Aeneas in his framing narrative, we will now see that it matches what was narrated in the epic known as the Iliou Persis of Arctinus of Miletus.

1§101 For background, I start by focusing on three alternative versions of the myth of the Palladium as it was current in the age of Virgil. These three are made explicit in the relevant wording of Ovid’s Fasti (6.433-435): it was Diomedes or Odysseus or Aeneas – one of these three – who took possession of the Palladium (seu genus Adrasti seu furtis aptus Ulixes | seu pius Aeneas eripuisset eam | auctor in incerto, res est Romana…). The first two heroes would have done so as an act of theft, while the third hero did it out of piety. The third of these three versions, according to which Aeneas ‘snatched’ the Palladium from destruction (eripuisset), is based on a preconceived notion: the Palladium that had been taken earlier by Diomedes or by Odysseus or by both from the acropolis of Troy must have been something other than the real thing. It must have been false.

1§102 This notion, that there had been a false Palladium as well as a real one, stems from ancient traditions. The story was told in the Iliou Persis of Arctinus of Miletus (F 1), as we know from the retelling of Dionysius of Halicarnassus (Roman Antiquities 1.69.3). According to this story, the Palladium was stolen by Diomedes and Odysseus – but that object was an eikōn ‘likeness’, which had been made to look exactly like the real thing in order to fool any thief, while the real Palladium was stored in an abaton ‘inner sanctum’, where it remained till Troy went up in flames. [89] We may compare versions of the Troy story that tell about the eidōlon ‘likeness’ of Helen in Troy, while the real Helen stayed in Sparta – or at least in Egypt, according to other versions. [90] {118|119}

1§103 As we have just seen from the retelling of Dionysius, the story about the Palladium in the Iliou Persis of Arctinus of Miletus claimed that a false copy had been stolen by the Achaeans while the real thing remained in a secret place on the acropolis of Troy. The outcome of this story in the retelling of Dionysius is that the Palladium stayed on the acropolis of Troy until the city was about to be captured:

1ⓣ19 Dionysius of Halicarnassus Roman Antiquities 1.69.3

Ἀρκτῖνος δέ φασι ὑπὸ Διὸς δοθῆναι Δαρδάνῳ Παλλάδιον ἓν καὶ εἶναι τοῦτο ἐν Ἰλίῳ μέχρις ἡ πόλις ἡλίσκετο κεκρυμμένον ἐν ἀβάτῳ.

Arctinus [of Miletus] says about this one [real] Palladium that it had been given by Zeus to Dardanos, and that it was in Ilion all the way up to the time when the city was being captured, [91] hidden in an inner sanctum.

It is of special interest here that the original recipient of the Palladium is specified as Dardanos, not Ilos.

1§104 The narrative in the Iliou Persis about the two Palladia, the false and the real, could accommodate the canonical Roman version of the myth: [92] as Dionysius notes (1.69.2), it was of course the genuine Palladium and not the eikōn ‘likeness’ that Aeneas had rescued just before Troy went up in flames. [93] Once the Palladium is rescued by Aeneas, its destiny is clear from the standpoint of the Roman version: as Dionysius goes on to say, Aeneas took the Palladium with him to Rome.

1§105 But where did Aeneas take the Palladium in the version of the myth as narrated in the Iliou Persis of Arctinus of Miletus? Dionysius does not say. The dichotomy of the false and the real Palladium in the narrative of the Iliou Persis indicates that its own version of the myth of the Palladium conflicted with other versions. The variety of conflicting versions in the archaic period is evident from the examples given by Strabo (13.1.53 C608). {119|120}

1§106 In reporting about the plot of the Iliou Persis of Arctinus of Miletus, Dionysius mentions a telling detail that provides an answer to my question about the destiny of the Palladium in that epic. In the Iliou Persis, as we saw a moment ago, it was Dardanos rather than his son Ilos who had been given the Palladium by Zeus. The significance of this variation is obviously political as well as poetic: though only Priam could be traced back genealogically to Ilos, son of Dardanos, both Priam and Aeneas could be traced back to Dardanos. So the possession of the Palladium by Aeneas as the descendant of Dardanos could qualify him to rule a “New Troy,” just as he had been qualified to rule the “Old Troy” if it had not been for the genealogical superiority of Priam.

1§107 A place that figured as such a “New Troy” was the city of Scepsis, located in the highlands of Mount Ida. According to Demetrius of Scepsis as mediated by Strabo (13.1.52 C607), this city was ruled by Aeneas after the Trojan War; then it was ruled jointly by Ascanius the son of Aeneas and by Scamandrius the son of Hector; then it was ruled by their descendants, who were an ‘oligarchy’; and then it was ruled by a ‘democracy’ that included immigrants from the city of Miletus.

1§108 The city of Scepsis was the rival of another “New Troy,” a city that was actually named New Ilion. According to the Trōïka of Hellanicus (FGH 4 F 31) as mediated by Dionysius of Halicarnassus (Roman Antiquities 1.45-4-1.48.1), the city of New Ilion was ruled jointly by Ascanius the son of Aeneas and by Scamandrius the son of Hector; then it was ruled jointly by their descendants; and then, as we learn from the scholia T for the Iliad (XX 307-308a1), it was ruled exclusively by the descendants of Scamandrius the son of Hector after the descendants of Aeneas were expelled.

1§109 The epic of the Iliou Persis, attributed to Arctinus of Miletus, evidently validates the “New Troy” of Scepsis at the expense of the “New Troy” called New Ilion. As we have seen, the Palladium in the Iliou Persis is linked with Dardanos, not with Ilos. This link is decisive, since a link with Ilos would have favored only the descendants of Priam whereas a link with Dardanos favors not only the descendants of Priam (by way of Hector) but also the descendants of Aeneas.

1§110 In terms of the Iliou Persis, the power of a dynasty founded by Aeneas depended on the appropriation of the Palladium and on the appropriation of Aeneas himself as the genealogical ‘beginning’ of that dynasty. [94] {120|121} Attempts made by various cities to appropriate Aeneas as a dynastic ancestor were thus linked with the appropriation of the Palladium. [95]

1§111 Let us look again at the moment in the narrative of the Iliou Persis of Arctinus of Miletus when Aeneas along with his followers withdraws from Troy and moves to the highlands of Mount Ida (Proclus summary p. 107.25-26). By taking this action, Aeneas is responding in two ways to the portent of the death of Laocoön: he not only avoids the pollution that leads to the destruction of Troy but he also sets the stage for the founding of a “New Troy.” In the logic of this narrative, Aeneas must relocate the Palladium from the “Old Troy” to the “New Troy” that is Scepsis.

1§112 This version of the Aeneas myth reflected the prestige of the city of Scepsis as a relocated “New Troy.” But there was an alternative version that reflected the prestige of the city of New Ilion as an alternative “New Troy” that was not relocated but built on the ruins of the “Old Troy.” As we have seen, the descendants of Aeneas had an initial role in the rule of both cities in both versions of the Aeneas myth (Hellanicus FGH 4 F 31), but they were eventually ousted from New Ilion (scholia T for Iliad XX 307-308a1). As I argue in the twin book Homer the Preclassic, this ouster shows that the prestige of New Ilion as the “New Troy” that was founded at the site of the “Old Troy” eventually overshadowed the prestige of Scepsis as a rival “New Troy.” [96] Even later, the prestige of Scepsis was further overshadowed by the prestige of Rome as another rival “New Troy,” supposedly founded by Aeneas himself. Rome’s new link to the descendants of Aeneas would have fatally weakened any older link to Scepsis. [97]

1§113 It is in this context that I introduce an aberrant reference to the Palladium myth involving the city of New Ilion in the Roman era. This version, as reported by Appian (Mithridateios 8.53), concerns what happened when this city was captured by the Roman general C. Flavius Fimbria in 85 BCE, during the war against Mithridates. [98] After the Romans burned the temple of Athena, the supposedly real Palladium was found there, all intact: it had been hidden within a wall. [99] From Troy the Palladium was then transferred to Rome (Servius on Aeneid 2.166). Comparing this version with the version we have already seen, where Cicero refers to an incident in 241 BCE involving {121|122} the Palladium in Rome, I infer that Appian’s version about the Palladium was based on claims that ultimately became discredited.

1§114 Unlike the Iliou Persis of Arctinus of Miletus, the Aeneid of Virgil omits – as we have already noted – the detail about the withdrawal of Aeneas to Mount Ida in response to the portent of the death of Laocoön. In Virgil’s retelling, Aeneas stayed in Troy till the final hours, when he rushed up to the acropolis and rescued the Palladium before Troy went up in flames. As far as we can tell, however, an actual rescue of the Palladium could have happened even in the narrative of the Iliou Persis of Arctinus of Miletus: that is, Aeneas could be imagined as returning to Troy in the final hours to rescue the Palladium while the old city went up in flames. [100]

1§115 To sum up, Virgil follows the plot of the Iliou Persis of Arctinus of Miletus in the framing narrative of Aeneas in Aeneid 2 but he follows the plot of the Little Iliad of Lesches of Lesbos in the embedded narrative of Sinon. The story of Sinon as embedded within the larger story of Aeneas in Aeneid 2 is of course “false” in the immediate context, since Sinon “invents” such details as the mantic utterance of the Achaean seer Calchas. Still, Sinon’s “lies” may represent alternative “truths” – if they derive from a genuine epic tradition. We may compare the “Cretan lies” of the Homeric Odyssey. These “lies” are “false” short-range, in that Odysseus is “lying” to his interlocutors in each immediate context, but they are “true” long-range, since the Cretan epic traditions behind these “lies” turn out to validate the master narrative of the Odyssey. [101]

1§116 One commentator observes that the death of Laocoön, as narrated by Aeneas to the queen Dido and her Carthaginian subjects in Aeneid 2, “clinched” Sinon’s “fiction,” making it believable for the Trojans. [102] This “clinching” was of course valid for the Trojans only short-range. Long-range, the death of Laocoön signaled their doom. I say signaled because the death of Laocoön is not just an epic event in Aeneid 2. It is also an epiphany, a portent. As an epic event, it makes the Trojans believe something that is false – for them. As an epiphany or portent, however, the death of Laocoön signals or portends something that is true – both for the Achaeans, who will set Troy on fire, and for Aeneas and his followers, who will have to abandon Troy, sooner or later. Longer-range, the death of Laocoön “clinches” a version of the Troy story that derives from the epic Cycle and that validates the overall plot of the Aeneid. As {122|123} we will see, the death of Laocoön signals – that is, portends – an overarching epic theme that is shaded over in the Homeric Iliad but highlighted in the epic Cycle. That theme is the Wrath of Athena.

1§117 Just as the death of Laocoön is not just a narrative event but a portent, so too is the appearance of the Wooden Horse. When Sinon reports the words of the seer Calchas, who says that Athena wants the Horse to penetrate the walls of Troy as a compensation for the stealing of the Palladium by the Achaeans (Aeneid 2.183-184), his words are of course a fiction in the immediate context, but they become a genuine portent, an unintended prophecy that must be fulfilled by the overall plot of the Troy story. I said the plot of the Troy story, not the plot of the Aeneid itself. Once the Horse enters Troy, the city will go up in flames, and the revenge of Athena against the Trojans will have been fulfilled; once Troy goes up in flames, Athena can now start to have revenge against the Achaeans as well. This second round of revenge compensates for the taking of the Palladium – as also for other outrages committed against the goddess. [103] The fulfillment of this second round of revenge is formally predicted at the point where the narrative of the Iliou Persis of Arctinus of Miletus draws to a close. Here is the relevant wording: ἔπειτα ἀποπλέουσιν οἱ Ἕλληνες, καὶ φθορὰν αὐτοῖς ἡ Ἀθηνᾶ κατὰ τὸ πέλαγος μηχανᾶται ‘then the Greeks sail off [from Troy], and Athena begins to plan destruction for them at sea’ (Iliou Persis 108.11-13). [104] It is the Wooden Horse that inaugurates the two-fold revenge of Athena.

1§118 The revenge of Athena against the Achaeans / Argives is actually retold, however briefly, in Odyssey iii 132-135: Zeus planned for them a nostos ‘homecoming’ that was lugros ‘baneful’ (132), because some of them were ‘unthinking and unjust’ (133), and they were marked for destruction because of the mēnis ‘anger’ of Athena against them (135). It is significant that some Achaeans seem to be exempted from the destruction caused by the Wrath of Athena. [105] Similarly with the Trojans: Aeneas, rescuer of the Palladium, has been exempted from the destruction of the Trojans.

1§119 The theme of Athena’s two-fold revenge, first against the Trojans and then against the Achaeans, is integrated into Homeric poetry. The essential {123|124} passage is Odyssey viii 504-512, part of the ‘Iliou Persis’ as retold by Demodokos, blind singer of the Phaeacians. [106] We see here the Trojans debating about three possible choices of what to do with the gift Horse: to take it apart with ‘pitiless bronze’ (507), or to throw it off the heights of ‘a steep rock’ (508), or to leave it inside Troy (509). In this version the Horse is already inside the walls. [107] The wording of each of the three alternatives is suggestive:

1ⓣ20 Odyssey viii 504-512

1§120 The third of the three alternatives, to ‘leave’ the Horse within the walls of Troy (viii 509), is not just an alternative, like the other two. It connects with the plot of the master-narrative that is the Troy story. The connection of this alternative to the plot of the Troy story is signaled in the Odyssey through the usage of teleîn ‘reach an outcome [telos]’ and mellein ‘is sure to’ (viii 510). [113] The telos that is the capture of Troy, as an inevitable outcome of the narrative in progress, signals the chain reaction of events that lead to this inevitable outcome. This chain reaction of events, as made explicit here in the Odyssey (viii 510-512), is motivated in the Aeneid through the portent of the killing of Laocoön by the twin serpents. This portent “clinches” not only the Aeneid but also, ultimately, the Homeric version of the Troy story as retold here in three verses from the Odyssey (viii 510-512). Virgil the Classic connects with Homer the Classic.

1§121 It is relevant to ask: how exactly is the Wooden Horse an agalma, an ‘artifact’? As we read in the Odyssey (viii 509), this agalma is a thelktērion ‘charm’ of the gods. By comparing this Greek story of the Wooden Horse with similar stories attested around the world, we find a common theme in this “international {125|126} tale type”: the purpose of such a “gift horse” is to enchant those to whom it is given as a gift. [114] It is relevant that the noun thelktērion ‘charm’ is derived from the verb thelgein, which means ‘put a trance on’ or ‘enchant’ or ‘charm’. More than that, the contexts of thelgein in Homeric poetry include one particular way of being metaphorically ‘entranced’ or ‘enchanted’ or ‘charmed’ – through the beauty and the pleasure of poetry (Odyssey xvii 521). And one particular way of being physically ‘entranced’ or ‘enchanted’ or ‘charmed’ is through the eyes: in Homeric diction, the eyes are conventionally featured as the direct object of thelgein (Iliad XIII 435, 343; Odyssey v 47, xxiv 3). [115] The prehistory of the meaning of thelgein has its uncertainties, but the most plausible etymological explanation is that this Greek verb is cognate with the Lithuanian verb žvelgiù ‘look’. [116] If this explanation is valid, then the meaning of thelgein has to do with visual attraction. [117] That is, thelgein conveys the basic idea of being riveted by a vision, a vision of something that enchants those who see it, putting them into a trance. That kind of vision is an innervision, the vision of the imagination, activated by the sound of verbal art. What I just said is relevant to what I we saw earlier in the epiphany of the serpent that was turned into stone in Iliad II. The look of that serpent, as we noted, is relevant to the etymology of the word that is used for ‘serpent’ there and elsewhere in Greek: that word is drakōn (Iliad II 308). Etymologically, drakōn ‘serpent’ is ‘the one who looks’ (from derkesthai ‘look’). [118]

1§122 How, then, can we imagine the Wooden Horse of Odyssey viii 509 as a work of art? Destined to go up in flames along with the old city of Troy, the Horse could not be imagined as a permanent work of art, in the sense of a sacred art object like the Palladium, which will supposedly last forever. It could not be a substitute, as a sacred art object, for the Palladium. Nor could it be a substitute for the requirement of returning the Palladium to the acropolis: the Wrath of Athena against the Achaeans could not be canceled by a substitution of the Wooden Horse for the Palladium. Unlike the Palladium, the Wooden Horse was destined to go up in flames, along with the old city of Troy. And yet, the Horse was indeed recognized as a permanent work of art, destined to enchant forever as an agalma ‘artifact’, a sacred art object, in the sense that it is made as a permanent work of verbal art. It achieves its substantiality as {126|127} a work of the poetic imagination. Its maker, aided by Athena herself, was the ultimate artisan of epea (epos plural) whose name is none other than Epeios. [119]

1§123 The story of the Wooden Horse in Virgil’s Aeneid affirms not only the tradition of the epic Cycle but also the tradition of Homer the Classic – as represented by Odyssey viii 509. This affirmation was made possible by the portent of the twin serpents that killed Laocoön. And the narration of this portent in Aeneid 2 is a moment that connects Virgil the Classic with Homer the Classic.

1§124 But the question is, can we really say that Virgil’s narration is a moment? Here we return to the central thesis of Lessing’s essay, Laocoön. We have seen Lessing argue that Malerei or painting, in his generalized sense of the word as a vehicle of the imagination, concentrates on a unique moment in any action, while the verbal art of poetry expresses that given action as a continuum. To repeat, my aim is to extend the formulation of Lessing by arguing that verbal art too, as a vehicle of the imagination, can concentrate on a unique moment – without depending on ‘painting’ as a point of reference. In the case of Homeric poetry, I have found such a moment in Iliad II, where we see the portent of the nine birds and the serpent. In the case of Virgilian poetry, I argue for a comparable moment in Aeneid 2, where we see the portent of Laocoön and the twin serpents. But the question remains: is the Virgilian narration really a moment?

1§125 Continuing my search for an answer, I propose to have a look at yet another version of the Laocoön story. This version is mediated by the visual art of sculpture. I am referring to “the Vatican group,” a set of marble statues dated to somewhere around the middle or second half of the first century BCE, depicting the death of Laocoön and his children. [120] It was discovered in 1506 CE near the Baths of Titus and is currently housed in the Vatican Museum. In the judgment of Pliny the Elder (Natural History 36.37), this work of sculpture was superior to all other paintings and sculptures in his time – opus omnibus et picturae et statuariae artis praeferendum. Although there is some uncertainty over whether Virgil knew the work – or an earlier version of the work (perhaps a painting), [121] I have my own reasons for feeling certain that he did in fact know it – or a version of it. [122] But it is far more important for now to examine this art object simply as an independent witness. Let us look at an image of the statue (Figure 3). {127|128}

Homer the Classic: Figure 3
Figure 3. Cover of a modern paperback edition of Ephraim Gotthold Lessing’s seminal Laocoön: an essay on the limits of painting and poetry (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1984).

Featured on the cover: The Laocoön group. Roman free standing marble copy, perhaps after Agesander, Athenodorus, and Polydorus of Rhodes. 1st century CE. Marble. Vatican Museums.

1§126 As we contemplate the image, I stress the essential: we behold here a unique moment of terror and pity. The question is, how do we compare this moment with the poetic visualization of Laocoön and the two serpents in Virgil’s Aeneid and, ultimately, with the visualization of the nine birds and the serpent in the Homeric Iliad? {128|129}

1§127 For the moment, I will block in my mind the Iliadic image and restrict my field of vision to the two Roman visualizations of the death of Laocoön – the Vatican group sculpture and Virgil’s verses in Aeneid 2. I will also restrict my terminology to two media, poetry and painting. It will not affect my argument whether the three-dimensional artwork of the Vatican group was modeled on the two-dimensional artwork of an older painting, or whether Virgil used as a model either the painting or the sculpture or both. In examining the dichotomy of poetry and painting as formulated by Lessing, I am also giving myself a chance to renew my own long-standing interest in this dichotomy, dating back to a work I published over a quarter of a century ago. In that work, I had started with a dictum of Simonides as mediated by Plutarch (On the glory of the Athenians 346f): as the saying goes, painting is silent poetry, but poetry is talking pictures. [123]

1§128 Lessing draws attention to some details in the sculpture – or “painting” – of the death of Laocoön that differ markedly from the version captured by the poetry of Virgil. “Virgil winds the serpents twice around the body and neck of Laocoön and has their heads project high above him” (Aeneid 2.218-219). [124] “This picture,” Lessing continues, “satisfies our imagination fully; the most essential parts of the body are squeezed to the point of strangulation, and the venom is aimed toward the face.” [125] By contrast, the artist of the sculpture needs the pain in these “essential parts” of the priest’s body to be fully visible, in order to show his “suffering nerves and laboring muscles.” [126] The priest must be seen in his nakedness. [127] For the second time now, we have seen a priest stripped naked to the world in all his vulnerability.

1§129 In the sculpture, the coils of the twin serpents gravitate toward the lower rather than the upper parts of the priest’s body. As Lessing interprets it, the sculpture “transferred all the coils from the body and neck to thighs and feet, where they could conceal and squeeze as much as necessary without detriment to the expression, and where at the same time they could awaken the idea of suddenly arrested flight and a kind of immobility … .” [128]

1§130 In this most arresting moment of eternally arrested mobility, in this stop-motion picture of terror and pity, we see the two legs of Laocoön and the coils of the twin serpents intertwined forever. The moment captured {129|130} by such an artistic vision is I think a perfect analogue to the moment when the serpent in Iliad II is turned into stone – when the imaginative power of Homeric poetry creates its own piece of three-dimensional artwork. It is also a moment that signals further meanings, heretofore unexplored, in the representations of Laocoön’s death. Let me anticipate my conclusion: in this image of Laocoön in agony, showing twin serpents intertwined with his twin legs, I see a reference to traditional imagery derived from a central myth in the calendar of the Athenian city state. That myth narrates the battle of the gigantes ‘giants’ against the goddess Athena and the other Olympian gods, who established cosmic order by defeating the rebellious giants. That primal battle is called the Gigantomachy or gigantomakhia (Figures 4, 5, 6). [129]

Homer the Classic: Figure 4
Figure 4. Relief sculpture: Athena Parthenos defeats the giant Alkyoneus. From the Great Altar of Zeus, Pergamon. Marble, ca. 180 BCE. Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Pergamonmuseum.

Homer the Classic: Figure 5
Figure 5. Relief panels from square column bases: anguiped Giants battle with the Olympian gods. Marble, ca. CE 200. From a temple in the Severan Forum, Lepcis Magna (Libya). Tripoli, Jamhariya Museum, 225.

Figure 6. Marble sarcophagus: Gigantomachy, with anguiped Giants. From Rome, Porte Pignattara, probably 2nd century BCE. Vatican, Museo Pio-Clementino, 549.

1§131 I fold in here a rudimentary outline of the overall myth of the Gigantomachy, in order to help clarify the connections I see between its imagery and the imagery of the Laocoön sculpture. The myth tells how the giants, generated by the primal goddess Earth, rebelled against the gods who {130|131} dwell on Mount Olympus. The giants attempted to storm the heavens but were repelled by the Olympians, chiefly by Zeus and by his daughter, Athena, goddess of Athens; Athena had been born on the same day that marks her victory over these giants. [130] Once the earth-born prodigies start to lose their struggle against the sky-born Olympians, their legs begin to turn into serpents. In surviving pictorial representations of the Gigantomachy, some of the struggling giants are shown still having human legs to stand on while others of the giants are already showing serpents where we expect to see legs, and I interpret this variation as a dynamic representation of their devolution – from the status of aspiring sky-dwellers back to the status of the earth-bound denizens they really are. I show here one such pictorial representation (Figure 7).

Figure 7. Attic red-figure calyx krater: Giants repelled from Olympus by the Olympians. The panorama is based on a masterpiece of metalwork by Pheidias, situated inside the concave interior surface of the gigantic shield of Athena Parthenos in the Parthenon of Athens. Attributed to the Pronomos Painter, ca. 425-375 BCE. Naples, Museo Archeologico Nazionale, 815.

1§132 Once the Olympian gods start winning the battle, the giants find themselves having no leg to stand on. Their resistance collapses. The twin serpents we see extending from their lower bodies may now be allowed to follow the natural instincts of serpents and slip back, head first, into the hollows of the same mother Earth that had generated them in the first place. [131]

1§133 In this light, I need to take a second look at the Vatican group sculpture of Laocoön’s death, capturing the moment when this ad hoc priest of Poseidon is being punished for unwittingly resisting the will of Athena by {132|133} opposing the penetration of the Wooden Horse within the walls of Troy. The coils of the twin serpents intertwining with his own legs make him look like some earth-born giant struggling in vain against the overriding will of the Olympians (Figure 8, as Figure 3 above).

Figure 8 (as Figure 3 above).

1§134 For Lessing, the representation of Laocoön’s death in sculpture becomes a perfect example of the ways in which “painting” has the power to capture a single moment, as opposed to poetry. All along, I have been arguing that poetry has that same power. So I come back to my question: does Virgil’s poetry in his description of Laocoön’s death possess that kind of imaginative power? If it does, then Virgil the Classic has indeed validated Homer the Classic in the age of Virgil.

1§135 To answer my own question, I need to start with another question. After the twin serpents kill the priest of Poseidon / Neptune in Aeneid 2, I ask: what happens to them? At the very next sighting, the twin serpents are seen heading for the acropolis of Troy, up to the sacred precinct of Athena that looms over the city; one mighty leap, and the next thing you know they have {133|134} slipped inside the temple on high, and now we see them nestled at the feet of the goddess – that is, at the feet of the statue of the goddess.

1ⓣ21 Virgil Aeneid 2.225-227

at gemini lapsu delubra ad summa dracones {134|135}
effugiunt saevaeque petunt Tritonidis arcem,
sub pedibusque deae clipeique sub orbe teguntur.

But then the twin serpents slip away and to the sacred spaces way up high
they flee, heading straight for the citadel of fierce Athena,
and, at the feet of the goddess, under the orb [orbis] of her Shield, they find cover.

1§136 So now we see that the twin serpents from Tenedos had slipped into the acropolis of Troy even before the Wooden Horse penetrated the city’s walls – and before the Achaeans waiting at Tenedos – along with the Achaeans waiting inside the Horse – converge to begin their work of destruction. [132] What is the point of this narrative detail about the serpents? What was Virgil imagining? His wording does not say it explicitly, but the idea must be that the twin serpents of Aeneid 2, once they had slipped inside the acropolis and nestled next to the statue of the goddess in her sacred precinct, were now turned into statues themselves.

1§137 Essential for such a vision is the surviving testimony about the statue of Athena Polias on the acropolis in Athens. According to the testimony of Phylarchus (FGH 81 F 72), the goddess was attended by two serpents. Our immediate source for this testimony is Photius (Lexicon s.v. οἰκουρὸν ὄφιν), who observes that other sources like Aristophanes (Lysistrata 759) and Herodotus (8.41.2) indicate a single serpent (οἰκουρὸν ὄφιν· τὸν τῆς Πολιάδος φύλακα· καὶ Ἡρόδοτος, Φύλαρχος δὲ αὐτοῦ δύο). As for the tradition about two serpents, it is reported also in the ancient lexicographical tradition as subsumed under the name of Hesychius:

1ⓣ22 Hesychius s.v. οἰκουρὸν ὄφιν

τὸν τῆς Πολιάδος φύλακα δράκοντα. καὶ οἱ μὲν ἕνα φασίν, οἱ δὲ δύο ἐν τῷ ἱερῷ τοῦ Ἐρεχθέως. τοῦτον δὲ φύλακα τῆς ἀκροπόλεώς φασι, ᾧ καὶ μελιτοῦτταν παρατίθεσθαι {135|136}

On the expression oikouros ophis ‘serpent that guards the dwelling [oikos]’: [133] it is the serpent [drakōn] who is the guardian [phulax] of the goddess [= Athena] Polias. Some say that there is one such serpent while others say that there are two in the sacred space of Erekhtheus. And they say that he [= such a serpent] is a guardian [phulax], and that an offering of a barley-cake kneaded with honey is offered to him.

1§138 As we are about to see, Erekhtheus is the name of the cult hero whose sacred space, the Erekhtheion or Erechtheum, was contiguous with the sacred space of the goddess Athena Polias on the acropolis in Athens. There is a reference to the hero cult of this Erekhtheus in Iliad II 547, where he is described as a prototypical human: born of the goddess Earth and ‘nursed’ (548 threpse) by the goddess Athena, he is said to be worshipped by the Athenians in a festive setting of seasonally recurring sacrifices. The link between Athena Polias and this cult hero Erekhtheus on the acropolis of Athens is reflected also in another Homeric reference, in Odyssey vii 81. [134] At some point after the embedding of these references to Erekhtheus in the Homeric tradition, however, the figure of this cult hero underwent a mitosis. The one figure with one name becomes two figures with two names. In the evolution of Athenian myths and rituals, the name Erikhthonios displaced the name Erekhtheus in occupying the older role of the prototypical human conceived by the goddess Earth, while the name Erekhtheus was reassigned to the newer role of a dynastic grandson of Erikhthonios, as we see from the references made by Pausanias (1.2.6 and 1.5.3 respectively on Erekhtheus and Erikhthonios). In terms of this pattern of displacement and reassignment, as we see most clearly from the narrative of “Apollodorus” (Library 1.187-189), Erikhthonios now became the name of the prototypical human who was begotten by the god Hephaistos, born of the goddess Earth, and ‘nursed’ (1.189 line 2 etrephen) by the goddess Athena. At one point, Pausanias says ostentatiously that he knows the myth about the relationship of Erikhthonios and Athena (1.14.6); at an earlier point, he refers to Erikhthonios as begotten by the god Hephaistos and born of the goddess Earth (1.2.6). All the same, the whole cult complex that housed the myths and rituals concerning Erikhthonios and the goddess Athena Polias continued to be defined by the name Erekhtheus, as we see from {136|137} the context of the reference made by Pausanias to the whole sacred space as the Erekhtheion or Erechtheum (1.26.5).

1§139 Unlike the linking of the old statue of Athena Polias with the oscillating figure of Erekhtheus / Erikhthonios, the newer statue of Athena Parthenos was linked exclusively with Erikhthonios. This newer statue, made by the Athenian master sculptor Pheidias, was inaugurated in the Parthenon, the new temple of Athena Parthenos, in 438 BCE. While we have conflicting reports about two serpents or a single serpent attending the statue of Athena Polias in her old temple on the acropolis of Athens, it is clear that only one serpent attended the statue of Athena Parthenos in her new temple, the Parthenon. In his eyewitness account of the statue of Athena Parthenos in the Parthenon, Pausanias identifies the statue of the single serpent attending the goddess as Erikhthonios himself:

1ⓣ23 Pausanias 1.24.5-7

αὐτὸ δὲ ἔκ τε ἐλέφαντος τὸ ἄγαλμα καὶ χρυσοῦ πεποίηται. μέσῳ μὲν οὖν ἐπίκειταί οἱ τῷ κράνει Σφιγγὸς εἰκών […] καθ’ ἑκάτερον δὲ τοῦ κράνους {6} γρῦπές εἰσιν ἐπειργασμένοι. […] καὶ γρυπῶν {7} μὲν πέρι τοσαῦτα εἰρήσθω· τὸ δὲ ἄγαλμα τῆς Ἀθηνᾶς ὀρθόν ἐστιν ἐν χιτῶνι ποδήρει καί οἱ κατὰ τὸ στέρνον ἡ κεφαλὴ Μεδούσης ἐλέφαντός ἐστιν ἐμπεποιημένη· καὶ Νίκην τε ὅσον τεσσάρων πηχῶν, ἐν δὲ τῇ χειρὶ δόρυ ἔχει, καί οἱ πρὸς τοῖς ποσὶν ἀσπίς τε κεῖται καὶ πλησίον τοῦ δόρατος δράκων ἐστίν· εἴη δ’ ἂν Ἐριχθόνιος οὗτος ὁ δράκων. ἔστι δὲ τῷ βάθρῳ τοῦ ἀγάλματος ἐπειργα σμένη Πανδώρας γένεσις. πεποίηται δὲ Ἡσιόδῳ τε καὶ ἄλλοις ὡς ἡ Πανδώρα γένοιτο αὕτη γυνὴ πρώτη·

The statue [agalma] itself is made of gold and ivory. In the middle of the helmet is placed a likeness of Sphinx. [Pausanias here gives a cross-reference to a later excursus on the Sphinx.] On each side of the helmet there are griffins worked in. [Pausanias here gives an excursus on griffins.] Enough said about griffins. The statue [agalma] of Athena is standing, wearing a khiton [khitōn] that extends to her feet. On her chest is the head of Medusa, made of ivory. She has [in one hand] a [figure of] Nike, around four cubits in height, and she holds in her [other] hand a spear. A shield [aspis] is positioned at her {137|138} feet. And near the spear is a serpent [drakōn]. Now this serpent [drakōn] would be Erikhthonios. And on the surface of the base of the statue is a relief of the genesis of Pandora. The story of the genesis of this first woman Pandora is told by Hesiod in his poetry as well as by others.

1§140 The wording makes it clear that Pausanias is well aware of the highly charged mysticism of what he was saying when he says that the serpent who attends Athena Parthenos is none other than the autochthonous hero of Athens, Erikhthonios. The potential optative, which I translate as ‘would be’, marks the speaker’s self-awareness at a sacral moment of contemplation. He is touching on a matter of the greatest importance.

1§141 To help visualize the goddess Athena and her serpent attendant, I offer some reconstructions of the statue of Athena Parthenos, in the company of the statue serpent (Figure 9).

Figure 9. Plaster model: Reconstruction of Pheidias’ chryselephantine statue of Athena Parthenos on the acropolis of Athens, with serpent. Reconstruction by G. P. Stevens and Sylvia Hahn, ca. 1970. Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Royal Ontario Museum.

1§142 The question arises, how did Virgil imagine the statue of Athena on the acropolis of Troy? Since this statue was attended by the two serpents who killed Laocoön, I propose that it resembled the old statue of Athena Polias in the old temple of the goddess. In one version, as we saw earlier (Phylarchus FGH 81 F 72), Athena Polias was attended by two serpents.

1§143 It still remains to ask, however, how these two serpents were visualized as statues. In a search for answers, I start here by drawing attention to a detail clearly visible in the reconstructions of the single serpent attending Athena Parthenos: both in the Toronto reconstruction and in the surviving miniature copies of Athena Parthenos, you can see a statue serpent at the feet of the goddess, standing erect near the inside of her shield. You can see how this serpent, stationed at the feet of the goddess, is literally being shielded by the Shield of Athena, finding cover there. In describing the reconstructed modern serpent this way, I have in mind the image shown by Virgil, who sees the twin serpents finding cover under the orb of Athena’s shield.

1§144 Looking at the figure of the serpent shielded by the Shield of Athena in the picture of the Toronto reconstruction, we see that this figure actually blocks the view of the concave space inside the Shield. I doubt that this aspect of the reconstruction is correct. [137] Any blocking of the view to be seen inside that concave space would have been unthinkable in the era of Classical Athens, the age of Pheidias. There was a masterpiece to be seen there. Inside {138|139} that concave space, within the inner surface of the Shield of Athena, was a masterpiece of metalwork, and the metalworker was none other than Pheidias himself. This metalwork, primarily in gold, pictured the Gigantomachy, the battle of the gods and giants. I will treat more fully in Chapter 4 this lost masterpiece of Pheidias, along with its grand theme, the Gigantomachy. But I highlight already here a fact that we will consider more thoroughly in Chapter 4. The fact is, there was at the same time another masterpiece of artwork representing the Gigantomachy. Besides the metalworked version of the Gigantomachy, representing a classical moment frozen in time, there was also a woven version, rewoven every four years at the feast of the quadrennial Great Panathenaia. [138] This other version was woven into the peplos or ‘robe’ presented to the goddess Athena at the climax of a sacred procession in her honor. The woven version, which can be seen as an ongoing classical process in contrast to the single classical moment sculpted by Pheidias, figures prominently not only in Chapter 4 but also in the twin book Homer the Preclassic. As I argue there, this version is relevant to the Homeric visualization of the peplos or ‘robe’ that the women of Troy present to the statue of the goddess Athena in her temple situated on the acropolis of Troy in Iliad VI. [139] This Homeric visualization is in turn relevant to Virgil’s visualization of the same statue in Aeneid 2.

1§145 A question needs be raised in the light of Virgil’s image of the two serpents. What would be the conventional poetic way of imagining the moment signaled by the verse in Aeneid 2.203 when we behold for the first time Virgil’s twin serpents? The visual force of this verse shines forth already in the first word, ecce ‘behold!’. Some may think that the poet’s visualization of this moment depends merely on his familiarity with the conventions of “fine arts” in his own life and times: as one commentator remarks about this verse, “any old picture of the sea-serpent will well illustrate Virgil here.” [140] I argue, to the contrary, that the artistic convention of picturing these twin serpents is far more specific in its referential power. We have already seen an ancient poetic precedent in the epic Cycle, which shows an epiphany of two serpents instead of one (Arctinus of Miletus Iliou Persis 107.23 δύο δράκοντες ἐπιφανέντες). As arresting as the image of these serpents may be, what I find even more arresting about their epiphany is something that is missing from the picture in the Aeneid. The absent signifier is the goddess Athena herself. {139|140} Here I turn to the visual arts. There is a painting that actually pictures Athena as riding on a chariot drawn by two serpents on the occasion of a grand ceremonial entrance. In this painting, three Olympian goddesses are arriving to participate in a primal occasion known as the Judgment of Paris: they are Hera, Aphrodite, and Athena. [141] Each of the three goddesses is making an individualized ceremonial entrance. Hera is shown arriving on the scene riding in a chariot drawn by horses; Aphrodite pulls up in a chariot drawn by adolescent ‘cupids’, that is, by Erotes; and then there is Athena, who makes her own grand ceremonial entrance riding in a chariot drawn by twin serpents (Figures 10a and 10b).

Figure 10a. Attic red-figure pyxis lid: panorama of all three goddesses arriving in their chariots drawn by customized chariot-teams. Unattributed, ca. 425-375 BCE. Copenhagen, National Museum, 731.

Figure 10b. Copenhagen pyxis: detail, Athena riding on chariot drawn by two serpents.

1§146 The fact that the two serpents who kill Laocoön have their own names in the Laocoön of Sophocles (F 372 ed. Radt) reinforces the idea that they, too, like the two divine horses of Hera and the two divine Erotes of Aphrodite, are a divine chariot team. All three divine chariot teams of all three goddesses are divine counterparts of a conventional chariot team of two horses driven by a conventional chariot-driver. The specialized role of the serpents as the chariot team of Athena is what generates the idea of two serpents instead of one serpent – such as the single serpent who is stationed next to Athena Parthenos in the Parthenon. Similarly, the specialized role of the Erotes as the chariot team of Aphrodite is what generates the idea of two Erotes instead of one Eros – such as the single god Eros who is pictured in the Hesiodic Theogony (120, 201). [142]

1§147 A moment ago, I quoted Pausanias saying, with ostentatious ritual reverence, that the single serpent stationed next to Athena Parthenos in the Parthenon ‘would be’ the primordial Athenian cult hero Erikhthonios. We see here the single serpent of Athena being personalized as an archetypal male companion, but twin serpents are stylized as her chariot team. Analogously, Eros as a single god figures as a male attendant of Aphrodite, while twin Erotes are stylized as her own chariot team. I see yet another analogy in the myths of the dawn goddess Eos: she is said to have a son called Phaethōn in the Hesiodic Theogony (987), but she also has a chariot team drawn by divine twin horses named Phaethōn and Lampos in the Homeric Odyssey (xxiii 246). [143]

1§148 Besides the grand ceremonial entrances, by chariot, of the three goddesses involved in the Judgment of Paris, there are other such scenes as well. {One striking example is the grand ceremonial entrance of the combatant gods in iconographic representations of the Gigantomachy: the Olympians are shown pulling up in their personal chariots at the scene of battle.} In Homeric poetry, the most spectacular of all such chariot-powered {141|142} arrivals is the grand ceremonial entrance of the god Poseidon on the battlefield in Iliad XIII. He is shown riding in his horse-drawn chariot, skimming effortlessly over the surface of the sea as he heads for the scene of battle in Troy:

1ⓣ24 Iliad XIII 23-31

ἔνθ’ ἐλθὼν ὑπ’ ὄχεσφι τιτύσκετο χαλκόποδ’ ἵππω
ὠκυπέτα χρυσέῃσιν ἐθείρῃσιν κομόωντε,
25   χρυσὸν δ’ αὐτὸς ἔδυνε περὶ χροΐ, γέντο δ’ ἱμάσθλην
χρυσείην εὔτυκτον, ἑοῦ δ’ ἐπεβήσετο δίφρου,
βῆ δ’ ἐλάαν ἐπὶ κύματ’· ἄταλλε δὲ κήτε’ ὑπ’ αὐτοῦ
πάντοθεν ἐκ κευθμῶν, οὐδ’ ἠγνοίησεν ἄνακτα·
γηθοσύνῃ δὲ θάλασσα διίστατο· τοὶ δὲ πέτοντο
30   ῥίμφα μάλ’, οὐδ’ ὑπένερθε διαίνετο χάλκεος ἄξων·
τὸν δ’ ἐς Ἀχαιῶν νῆας ἐΰσκαρθμοι φέρον ἵπποι.

Arriving there [= at Aigai], he [= Poseidon] harnessed to his chariot his two bronze-hooved horses
– swift they were, with golden manes streaming from their heads –
25   and he put on his golden armor, which enveloped his skin, and he seized his whip,
golden it was, beautifully made, and he stepped on the platform of his chariot,
and off he went over the waves, and the sea creatures were frolicking underneath as we went along.
They came out from all their hiding places down below, recognizing their lord and master.
Gladly did the sea part as they [= the divine horses] were speeding ahead.
30   So lightly they moved that the wetness did not touch from below the bronze axle
as he [= Poseidon] was being conveyed toward the ships of the Achaeans by his prancing horses. {143|144}

1§149 I suspect that a grand ceremonial arrival of Athena in the Iliou Persis of Arctinus of Miletus could have been expressed in words that matched closely the words expressing Poseidon’s arrival here in the Homeric Iliad. In the version as shaped by Virgil, however, the divine chariot-rider and her chariot are invisible. Only the twin serpents, the team that draws her chariot, are visible to the Trojans. Athena produces an epiphany that keeps her out of the picture, as an absent signifier. In fact, the goddess is not really absent: she is only hidden, invisible. It is her agency that sends the twin serpents, who are then reunited with her after their deed is done, after they destroy Laocoön. The goddess Athena is invisible as she drives her chariot drawn by twin serpents, but she is visible as the statue that forms an ensemble with the twin serpents that become statues that attend her. Athena is invisible at the moment of her agency in killing Laocoön, just as she is invisible at the moment of her agency in preventing the killing of Agamemnon by Achilles in Iliad I. But the instruments of her agency are visible as live serpents at the moment of this agency – and as statues of serpents after the moment is over. Similarly, Athena herself is a statue when the moment of her agency is over.

1§150 Given the fragmentary state of the epic Cycle as we have it today, we have no way of being certain whether Virgil was following the Iliou Persis when he imagined the twin serpents petrified as statues at the foot of Athena’s own statue in her sacred precinct on top of the Trojan acropolis. It remains a question whether Virgil’s poetic imagination captured a moment that corresponds to a moment that comes from the Iliou Persis. Such questions, in any case, are secondary for my argumentation. The primary question centers on Virgil’s rivalry with Homeric poetry. My point remains that the petrifaction of the twin serpents in Aeneid 2 is a scene that rivals, as an artifact of poetic imagination, the scene of the petrified serpent in Iliad II.

1§151 As an artifact, the petrified serpent of Iliad II is not a creation of the visual art of sculpture: it is exclusively a creation of verbal art. The petrified serpents of Aeneid 2 seem at first glance different in this regard: they are juxtaposed with the sculpture of the goddess, and, to that extent, they must become part of the sculpture as an artistic ensemble. On second thought or, better, at second glance, however, the vision is blurred. The artificial and the natural are no longer readily distinguishable: even the sculpture of the goddess is pictured in Virgil’s words as the goddess herself, not as a piece of artwork in and of itself. What notionally animates the art is the {144|145} creative impulse of the artist – whether that artist’s medium is sculpture or poetry or both. There is a paradox here: animation is realized in the absolute rigidity of a single moment captured by the art. This absolute rigidity of the moment, of a single eternity, embodies the perfect self-expression of the art.

1ⓢ9. Ovidian variations on a theme of rigidity in art

1§152 The paradox of animation, as realized in the absolute rigidity of artistic perfection, is illuminated by the poetry of another artist of Virgil’s age. I have in mind the story of Pygmalion in Ovid’s Metamorphoses. This poet’s use of the Latin words rigidus ‘rigid’ and rigor ‘rigidity’ captures the metaphor of absolute rigidity as perfection.

1ⓣ25 Ovid Metamorphoses 10.238-297

Sunt tamen obscenae Venerem Propoetides ausae
esse negare deam; pro quo sua numinis ira
240  corpora cum fama primae vulgasse feruntur,
utque pudor cessit, sanguisque induruit oris,
in rigidum parvo silicem discrimine versae.
Quas quia Pygmalion aevum per crimen agentis
viderat, offensus vitiis, quae plurima menti
245  femineae natura dedit, sine coniuge caelebs
vivebat thalamique diu consorte carebat.
interea niveum mira feliciter arte
sculpsit ebur formamque dedit, qua femina nasci
nulla potest, operisque sui concepit amorem.
250  virginis est verae facies, quam vivere credas,
et, si non obstet reverentia, velle moveri.
ars adeo latet arte sua. miratur et haurit
pectore Pygmalion simulati corporis ignes.
saepe manus operi temptantes admovet, an sit
255  corpus an illud ebur, nec adhuc ebur esse fatetur. {145|146}
[oscula dat reddique putat loquiturque tenetque] [
et [
145] credit tactis digitos insidere membris
et metuit, pressos veniat ne livor in artus,
et modo blanditias adhibet, modo grata puellis
260  munera fert illi conchas teretesque lapillos
et parvas volucres et flores mille colorum
liliaque pictasque pilas et ab arbore lapsas
Heliadum lacrimas; ornat quoque vestibus artus,
dat digitis gemmas, dat longa monilia collo,
265  aure leves bacae, redimicula pectore pendent:
cuncta decent; nec nuda minus formosa videtur.
conlocat hanc stratis concha Sidonide tinctis
adpellatque tori sociam adclinataque colla
mollibus in plumis, tamquam sensura, reponit.
270  Festa dies Veneris tota celeberrima Cypro
venerat, et pandis inductae cornibus aurum
conciderant ictae nivea cervice iuvencae,
turaque fumabant, cum munere functus ad aras
constitit et timide “si, di, dare cuncta potestis,
275  sit coniunx, opto,” non ausus “eburnea virgo
dicere, Pygmalion “similis mea” dixit “eburnae.”
sensit, ut ipsa suis aderat Venus aurea festis,
vota quid illa velint et, amici numinis omen,
flamma ter accensa est apicemque per aera duxit.
280  ut rediit, simulacra suae petit ille puellae
incumbensque toro dedit oscula: visa tepere est;
admovet os iterum, manibus quoque pectora temptat:
temptatum mollescit ebur positoque rigore
subsidit digitis ceditque, ut Hymettia sole {146|147}
285  cera remollescit tractataque pollice multas
flectitur in facies ipsoque fit utilis usu.
dum stupet et dubie gaudet fallique veretur,
rursus amans rursusque manu sua vota retractat.
corpus erat! saliunt temptatae pollice venae.
290  tum vero Paphius plenissima concipit heros
verba, quibus Veneri grates agat, oraque tandem
ore suo non falsa premit, dataque oscula virgo
sensit et erubuit timidumque ad lumina lumen
attollens pariter cum caelo vidit amantem.
295  coniugio, quod fecit, adest dea, iamque coactis
cornibus in plenum noviens lunaribus orbem
illa Paphon genuit, de qua tenet insula nomen.

But the obscene Propoetides dared to say that Venus
is not a goddess. To compensate for this, through the wrath of the goddess,
240  they are said to have been the first to prostitute their bodies along with their fame.
and, as their sense of shame receded and the blood of their faces hardened,
into rigid stone they were turned. You could barely tell them apart from the stone.
Because Pygmalion had seen these women spending an eternity in a state deserving of reproach,
and because he was deeply offended by their shameful faults, so many of which the mind
245  of females has by nature inherited, he chose to live unmarried, without a spouse.
That is how he lived for the longest time, without someone to share with him his bed.
Meanwhile a snow-white figure, with an artistry that must be marveled at, did he successfully {147|148}
sculpt. It was an ivory figure, and he gave it a beautiful form. With this kind of beauty no woman can be born,
not a single one can, and he conceived a love for his own handiwork.
250  Its looks are the looks of a real girl, and you would think that she is alive
and, if modesty were not in the way, you would think it is desiring to be moved.
That is how much his art is hiding behind his art. Pygmalion marvels at it and inhales
in his heart the flames of love for something that looks like a body.
Often he places his hands on the work to test whether it is a
255  body, that thing, or ivory. And he just cannot admit that it is ivory.
He gives it kisses and thinks his kisses are returned. He speaks to it, holds on to it
and thinks he is feeling his fingers press down on the limbs when he touches them; [
and then he gets scared that bruises might show on the parts where he pressed too hard.
One moment, he tries to use fond words of love. The next moment, things that please girls,
260  gifts, does he bring to that thing – gifts like shells and smooth precious stones
and little birds and flowers of thousands of different colors,
and lilies and colored balls, and dripping from trees,
the teardrops of the Heliades. He adorns its limbs also with precious fabrics.
He gives its fingers rings with gems on them, and he gives its neck a long necklace.
265  Smooth pearls hang from its ears and chains hang from its neck to adorn its breasts. {148|149}
All these adornments enhance her beauty. But she looks no less beautiful when she is nude. [
He lays her on a bed spread with coverlets dyed with the extract from murex shells from Sidon, [
and calls her his bedmate. He rests her reclining head
on soft, downy pillows, as if she could feel the softness.
270  And now the day of the festival of Venus had come, celebrated throughout all of Cyprus,
yes, it had come. Heifers with their expansive horns covered with gold
had fallen from the blow of the sacrificial axe aimed at their snow-white throat,
and the altars smoked with incense. Pygmalion, having performed his sacrifice at the altar,
stood and hesitantly prayed: “If you, O gods, are able to grant everything,
275I wish that the wife …” – not daring to say “ivory virgin,”
Pygmalion went ahead and said – … “that my wife could be just like the ivory one.” [
But she sensed – golden Venus did, for she herself was present at her festival –
what that prayer meant; and, as an omen of favorable divine presence,
three times did the flame [of sacrifice] burst forth and shoot high up into the air.
280  When he returned he went straight for the image of his girl,
and, bending over the bed, he kissed her. She seemed warm to the touch.
Again he moved his lips to her flesh, and with his hands also he touched her breasts. {149|150}
The ivory softens to the touch and, its hardness [rigor] set aside,
gives in and yields to his fingers, as wax from Hymettus, under the sun,
285  softens and, molded by the thumb, into many different
appearances is reshaped, becoming usable by way of being used.
In his amazement, rejoicing but still in doubt, fearing he is deluded,
the lover tests his hopes with his hand again and again.
Yes, it was a real body! The veins were pulsing to the touch of his testing thumb.
290  Then did the hero from Paphos conceive the most fully-formed words
with which to give thanks to Venus, and lips that were at last
not false lips did he press with his own lips. And the kisses given by him the girl
could feel, and she blushed, while the timid light of her eyes toward the lights
she raised, seeing at the same time the sky and her lover.
295  The goddess was present for the marriage she made, and, with the filling
of the crescent moon into a full orb for the ninth time,
she [= the wife of Pygmalion] gave birth to a daughter, Paphos, and the island takes its name from her.

1§153 In these verses of Ovid, we see distinctions being made between art and nature, between the artificial and the natural. The rigidity of petrifaction is imagined as natural, to be distinguished from the rigidity of sculpture, which is seen as artificial. And the artificial rigidity of sculpture is being ostentatiously distinguished from the natural softness of the living body.

1§154 Let us re-examine the narrative in terms of these distinctions. The sculptor Pygmalion is horrified to see women being turned into stone. As natural beings, they have failed to see the divinity of Aphrodite, viewing her divine sexuality only in terms of their own human sexuality. The “natural” petrifaction of the women is pictured as a negative consequence of natural {150|151} female sexuality. Pygmalion reacts to this petrifaction by canceling all contact with female sexuality, with the natural. So he avoids sex with “live” women (I am thinking here of the metaphor of “live” performance). He makes something artificial as a substitute or compensation for the natural, sculpting the ideal female. She – or it – is an ivory statue, and she is absolutely rigid. The “natural” petrifaction of real females in all their sexuality inspires an artificial creation, the sculpting of the ideal female as an ivory virgin. This image of an ivory virgin invites an unholy equation with the ivory statue of Athena the virgin, Athena Parthenos, on the acropolis of Athens. Any direct equation, however, is playfully canceled by the poetry of Ovid. [150] By contrast with the divine sexuality of Aphrodite, Athena is a model of divine asexuality. Mistaking divine sexuality for human sexuality was dangerous enough, but now an even more dangerous possibility emerges: the sculptor conceives a desire to change divine asexuality into human sexuality. Pygmalion starts wishing for the statue to become “live.” The story works toward a wish-fulfillment. The sculptor prays that the gods grant his wish that his sculpture should become “live.” He does not dare to say directly that the eburnea virgo, evoking visions of the ivory statue of Athena Parthenos on the acropolis, should be his wife. He says it only indirectly. The sculpting of the ideal female inspires a male desire for the softening of her absolute rigidity. Once the softening of the rigor gets underway, the absolute and the asexual become the real and the sexual. The statue becomes a real woman. This softening cancels the poetics of perfection implied by the absolute rigidity of the ‘ivory virgin’. In the end, it is no longer a matter of art after all. At first glance, the statue loses its rigidity (rigor) as it responds to the loving touch of the artist. At second glance, however, that loving touch comes from a lover, no longer from an artist.

1§155 By contrast with Ovid’s false Athena Parthenos, a playful challenge to the paradoxical idea of rigidity as animation, I view Virgil’s image of the true Athena at Troy attended by her twin serpents as a serious effort to elaborate on this same idea of rigidity and to link it with the making of poetry. This true Athena resembles not the Athena Parthenos of the Parthenon but the {151|152} Athena Polias of the Erekhtheion or Erechtheum. In Virgil’s imagination, this true Athena is the Palladium.

1ⓢ10. A poet’s lasting response to permanent beauty

1§156 I return to the metaphor of absolute rigidity as a sign of perfection in art. This metaphor, as we have seen, is alive in Virgil’s poetry. And the model is to be found in Homeric poetry. It is the perfect and permanent mental image of the petrified serpent in Iliad II. This image is to be visualized forever in the same way, reflecting on the perfection that is the story of Troy, in a single gloriously beautiful moment of terror and pity. Such an exquisite moment is brought back to life once again in the poetry of Virgil. The depiction of the death of Laocoön in Aeneid 2 demonstrates Virgil’s own appreciation of Homer the Classic.

1§157 In Homeric poetry, a perfect and permanent mental image demands a response worthy of a seer, of a poet. In Iliad II, as we have seen, such a response is conveyed directly by the seer Calchas, and, indirectly, by the poet who narrates what the seer had seen and had said. The word that expresses such a response, as we have also seen, is hupokrinesthai.

1§158 The responsiveness of hupokrinesthai, to repeat, is a matter of performance. The very act of performing can be considered an act of interpretation, as we see from such modern usages as French interpréter in the sense of perform – as when you sing a composition or play it on a musical instrument. In this light, let us consider the idea inherent in usages of krinein, from which the compound form hupokrinesthai is derived. This verb krinein, in the active voice, can be translated as ‘interpret’ when combined with the noun opsis ‘vision’ as its object (Herodotus 7.19.1-2) or with enupnion ‘dream’ as its object (Herodotus 1.120.1). [151] It is a question of interpreting-in-performance. In the middle voice, hupokrinesthai suggests that the performer is interpreting for himself as well as for others. [152] The basic idea of hupokrinesthai, then, is to see the real meaning of what others see and to quote, as it were, what this vision is really telling them. [153]

1§159 Here I return to my initial observations about the responsiveness of Homeric poetry as conveyed by hupokrinesthai: the framing words of Homer require the same responsive mentality as required by the framed {152|153} words of heroes and gods as quoted by the poetry. The performance of Homer as a speaker mirrors the performances of the heroes and gods whose speeches he frames. [154] Homer as the framing narrator mirrors the poetic virtuosity of his framed epic characters, especially Achilles. [155] The responsive mentality of speakers in Homeric song extends ultimately to Homer himself, who becomes re-enacted again and again in the traditions of performance. [156]

1§160 The responsiveness of Homeric poetry, as conveyed by hupokrinesthai, is parallel to the responsiveness of theatrical poetry, as likewise conveyed by the same word hupokrinesthai. Earlier, I argued for the relevance of theatrical contexts of hupokrinesthai in the sense of ‘act’, as in ‘act the role of a persona’, and of hupokritēs in the sense of ‘actor’. Now I am arguing that Homer himself is such a ‘persona’ in his own right. In that sense, Homer is the embodiment of theater.

1§161 I will postpone till Chapter 3 an examination of contexts where the concept of performing the ‘persona’ of Homer is explicitly analogized with the concept of acting in theater, and I concentrate here simply on the analogies implicit in theatrical usages of relevant words. Besides hupokrinesthai ‘act’ and hupokritēs ‘actor’, I recall here a third relevant word, which I have already analyzed at an earlier stage of my argumentation. It is the ancient Greek word for ‘theater’, theatron, composed of the verb-root thea- ‘have a vision’ and noun-suffix –tron, indicating an instrument. Etymologically, the word can be interpreted as meaning ‘instrument for having a vision [thea-]’.

1ⓢ11. Virgil as theatrical spectacle

1§162 The relevance of the Greek word theatron to Homer is comparable to the relevance of the Latin word spectaculum to Virgil. Earlier, I said that Homer, as a master of visualization, is the embodiment of theater. I am now ready to argue that the same can be said of Virgil, as a master of visualization in his own right.

1§163 To start the argumentation, I propose to take a brief look at the visual arts. In one celebrated mosaic, we see a staging of Virgil in the company of the Muses. The picture shows Virgil seated on a throne, with scroll in hand, {153|154} attended by the Muses Clio, goddess of history, and Melpomene, goddess of tragedy. [157]

1§164 Next I turn to the staging of Virgil in the verbal arts. In the passage I am about to quote from the Dialogus of Tacitus, Virgil himself has just been spotted in a crowd. He is in the midst of an audience of spectators attending a theatrical performance. The spectators have just been listening to the sound of Virgil’s verses being performed, and then, suddenly, there is a sighting of Virgil himself amidst the crowd of spectators. The crowd’s reaction is instantaneous. The spectacle of the theater becomes instantly transformed into the spectacle of Virgil himself. The sound of Virgil has become the sight of Virgil in person. Virgil has become the embodiment of theater:

1ⓣ26 Tacitus Dialogus 13.1-2

Ac ne fortunam quidem vatum et illud felix contubernium comparare timuerim cum inquieta et anxia oratorum vita. licet illos certamina et pericula sua ad consulatus evexerint, malo securum et quietum Virgilii secessum, in quo tamen neque apud divum Augustum gratia caruit neque apud populum Romanum notitia. testes Augusti epistulae, testis ipse populus, qui auditis in theatro Virgilii versibus surrexit universus et forte praesentem spectantemque Virgilium veneratus est sic quasi Augustum.

I have no fears [158] about comparing the good fortune of poets, and the happiness they feel in the company they keep [contubernium], to the anxious and troubled life of orators. They may be propelled to the consulship by way of their struggles and the risks they take; but I prefer the peace and serenity of Virgil’s withdrawal from public life – and he did not go without favor [gratia] in the eyes of divus Augustus or fame [notitia] in the eyes of the Roman people. The letters of Augustus bear witness, and the people themselves bore witness, who all stood up when they heard the verses of Virgil in the theater, thus venerating the poet – who happened to be present in the audience – as though he was Augustus himself. [159] {154|155}

1ⓢ12. Virgil’s imperial poetry

1§165 In this passage taken from the Dialogus of Tacitus, the private and reclusive figure of the poet Virgil stands in sharp contrast to the public and dominating figure of the emperor Augustus. And yet, the public reacts to the poet as if he were the emperor. The emperor is not the only public figure. So too is the poet. The private sphere of the poet is just as imperial as the public sphere of the emperor. Why? It is because the poet’s poetry has the same imperial prestige as the emperor’s power – in terms of a codependency claimed by both sides. The word for this codependency, as we saw in the passage taken from the Dialogus of Tacitus, is gratia, which I translate for the moment as ‘favor’.

1§166 This word gratia clarifies why I said age of Virgil in the title of this chapter, not age of Augustus. I highlight the poetry of Virgil, not the imperium of Augustus. But the fact remains that Virgil’s golden age of poetry was also an imperial age, and the poetry depended on imperial gratia ‘favor’, as the words of Tacitus make clear. To become the people’s favorite was not enough. The emperor’s favor was also needed. The poetry of Virgil was imperial as well as popular. Because this poetry was popular, however, it was needed by the imperial power. That power depended on the gratia ‘favor’ of the popular poet. This poetic gratia was not just a ‘favor’ to be returned. The word gratia conveys not only the idea of favor (‘graciousness’) but also the ideas of pleasure (‘gratification’) and beauty (‘gracefulness’). Implicitly, poetry returns the favor (‘graciousness’) of power by offering the pleasure (‘gratification’) of beauty (‘gracefulness’). Something very similar can be said, as I argue in the twin book Homer the Preclassic, about the kharis ‘favor’ returned by the poetry of Homer in the glory days of the Athenian empire. [160]

1§167 Aside from what I quoted from the Dialogus of Tacitus, there is another passage that refers to the performance of Virgil’s verses in theater. In the commentaries of Servius to Virgil’s Eclogues (6.11), we are told of performances, in theater, of selections from Virgil’s Eclogues. [161] This information about the choice of Virgil’s Eclogues for performance in theaters is relevant to what we are told in the Dialogus. The pastoral setting of the Eclogues is the key. In the passage I quoted from the Dialogus, such a pastoral setting is the actual subtext of the reference to Virgil. In other words, Virgil is imagined as interacting {155|156} with the Muses in a pastoral setting that mirrors the Eclogues. When the speaker in the Dialogus speaks about the happiness that poets feel in their contubernium ‘companionship’ with others, the poet he has in mind is Virgil, and his ‘companions’ are none other than the Muses in a pastoral setting:

1ⓣ27 Tacitus Dialogus 13.5

Me vero dulces, ut Vergilius ait, Musae, remotum a sollicitudinibus et curis et necessitate cotidie aliquid contra animum faciendi, in illa sacra illosque fontes ferant. …

As for me, may the Muses sweet to the taste, as Virgil says, carry me away, far away from the worries and cares and obligations of performing each and every day something that goes against my spirit – far away to those sacred places, to those sacred springs. …

The speaker here is referring to the words of Virgil’s Georgics, where the poet is pictured as the main participant in the sacred rites of the Muses, celebrated at their sacred spring:

1ⓣ28 Virgil Georgics 2.475-477, 485-486

1§168 Although the speaker in the Dialogus seems to be referring to the passage I just quoted from the Georgics, Virgil himself is referring to the Muses in his own Eclogues. Moreover, he is referring to the Muses of his Eclogues in poetic terms that suit most closely the Muses of the Hesiodic Theogony. I offer here an overview of those parts of the Theogony that are relevant to Virgil’s allusion in the passage I just quoted.

1§169 The Hesiodic Theogony begins with the naming of the Muses local to Mount Helicon (verses 1-2), who are pictured as dancing (3-4) around the source of a sacred spring (3), next to which is an altar of Zeus (3-4). These local Muses of Mount Helicon are pictured as a choral ensemble (7-8) who are both dancing (8) and singing with a beautiful voice (10). The Muses proceed to teach Hesiod their song (22), enjoining him to perform it (33). In order to get this song started, the poet is told that that he must begin with the Muses and end with the Muses (34), and in fact we have already heard at the beginning of the song that Hesiod has indeed already begun with the Muses (1-2). These Muses of Mount Helicon, as they perform their song, are heard by Zeus himself in the heights of Mount Olympus (37). There is an emphasis on the ‘voicing’ of the Muses’ song (39 φωνῇ and αὐδή, 41 ὀπί, 43 ὄσσαν) and on the ‘sweetness’ of this voice that literally ‘flows’ from their mouths, as if from a spring (39-40): τῶν δ’ ἀκάματος ῥέει αὐδὴ | ἐκ στομάτων ἡδεῖα ‘inexhaustible is the sweet voice that flows from their mouths’.

1§170 The ultimate source of this song, equated with the Theogony in the course of its being performed, is the authority of Zeus as king of the immortals (71-74), and it emanates from there to the Olympian Muses (75-79), especially to the Muse Kalliope, whose own authority literally flows to kings (75-93). [163] The metaphor of fluidity becomes explicit in the following description of the ideal king who is favored by the Muses:

1ⓣ29 Hesiod Theogony 83-84

τῷ μὲν ἐπὶ γλώσσῃ γλυκερὴν χείουσιν ἐέρσην,
τοῦ δ’ ἔπε’ ἐκ στόματος ῥεῖ μείλιχα

For this man [= for this ideal king] they [= the Muses] pour [kheîn] sweet dew,
and from his [= the king’s] mouth flow [rheîn] sweet words. {157|158}

1§171 Whereas the authority of kings flows from Zeus, the authority of poets flows from the authority of the Muses, and of Apollo as their choral leader:

1ⓣ30 Hesiod Theogony 94-97

ἐκ γάρ τοι Μουσέων καὶ ἑκηβόλου Ἀπόλλωνος
ἄνδρες ἀοιδοὶ ἔασιν ἐπὶ χθόνα καὶ κιθαρισταί,
ἐκ δὲ Διὸς βασιλῆες· ὁ δ’ ὄλβιος, ὅντινα Μοῦσαι
φίλωνται· γλυκερή οἱ ἀπὸ στόματος ῥέει αὐδή.

The Muses and far-shooting Apollo are the sources
for the existence of singers [aoidoi] and players of the lyre [kitharis] on this earth.
And Zeus is the source for the existence of kings. Blessed [olbios] is he whom the Muses
love. And a sweet voice [audē] flows [rheîn] from his mouth.

1§172 As in the previous passage that I quoted from the Hesiodic Theogony (35-45), we see in this passage as well the metaphor of fluidity: the voice of the Muses, sweet as it is, literally ‘flows’ from their mouths (97).

1§173 In Hesiodic poetry, then, the ideal king and the ideal poet are both kingly. So also in the poetics of Virgil: the ideal emperor and the ideal poet are both imperial. Further, as we saw in the Dialogus, the gratia of the poet and the gratia of the emperor are coextensive. Virgil’s poetic gratia is an imperial gratia. Virgil’s poetry is imperial poetry. In the twin book Homer the Preclassic, we see how the cosmos and imperium of the age of Augustus comes alive in the words of Virgil, whose imperial poetry becomes the global theater staged by the Roman empire. [164]

1§174 To say that the poetry of Virgil was imperial is not to deny that this poetry was a humane and civilizing force. It is not my aim to raise moral questions about Virgil’s imperial poetry. Here I will go only so far as to say that I do feel morally troubled by the historical realities of the Roman empire – and of empires in general. That is because I am persuaded that humanity faces moral decisions precisely in the context of historical realities, and that these realities cannot be invoked as an excuse to rationalize any failure in one’s own personal moral decisions. Still, a questioning of Virgil’s moral decisions is surely beyond {158|159} my reach here. For the moment, I simply accept Virgil’s imperial poetry as a historical given. Virgil’s poetry is its own historical reality. [165]

1§175 Virgil’s poetry accepts the reality of the Roman empire, but it also presupposes an ideal that transcends this reality. As I just said, Virgil’s imperial poetry was meant to be seen as a humane and civilizing force. So the poetics of terror and pity, and the compassion evoked by such poetics, can be seen as a hallmark of Roman imperial poetry.

1§176 As I have observed in this chapter, the poetics of terror and pity can also be seen as a hallmark of Homeric poetry. And, as I will argue in Chapter 4, Homeric poetry too became imperial in its own right. The Athenian empire, in appropriating Homeric poetry, will make it imperial. In the process, the poetics of terror and pity will become a hallmark of Athenian imperial poetry, and here I mean not only Homer but also classical tragedy. This Athenian hallmark, as I will also argue in Chapter 4, is in fact a model for Virgil. In using the term terror and pity, I have in mind a passage about these emotions in the Poetics of Aristotle (1449b24-28). Although Aristotle in this passage is thinking of tragedy, not of Homeric poetry, we must keep in mind that he thinks of Homeric poetry as a prototypical form of tragedy in its own right (Poetics 1459a37-b16). I will have more to say about this topic when we reach Chapter 3, but I must highlight already now the word used here by Aristotle in observing the emotions of terror and pity. That word is pathos, in the sense of ‘emotion’. The emotions of terror and pity are captured by that single word as it is used today, pathos.

1§177 So far, I have concentrated on two epic scenes of pathos – of terror and pity. One scene was a stop-motion picture of the serpent who turned into stone in Iliad II and the other scene, of the serpents who turned into statues in Aeneid 2. The petrified serpent in Iliad II is viewed by the seer – and by the poetry of the Iliad – as a generalized metonym for all the pathos of the Trojan War. A similar view is achieved in Virgil’s epic vision of the petrified serpents in Aeneid 2. From here on, I will refer to all this pathos as the sorrows of the Trojan War. {159|160}

1ⓢ13. Sunt lacrimae rerum

1§178 Virgil’s epic vision extends further. As I will now argue, he views the sorrows of the Trojan War as a foundation for comprehending the genesis of the Roman empire. I begin with a passage showing a general scene of the Trojan War as pictured by Virgil. I mean literally pictured. The actual medium of the visual art that is being represented in this passage is not precisely specified, but it is in any case called pictura. This picture, as we are about to see, is a veritable panorama of the Trojan War as a spectacle to end all spectacles:

1ⓣ31 Virgil Aeneid 1.441-493

lucus in urbe fuit media, laetissimus umbrae,
quo primum iactati undis et turbine Poeni
effodere loco signum, quod regia Iuno
monstrarat, caput acris equi; sic nam fore bello
445  egregiam et facilem victu per saecula gentem.
hic templum Iunoni ingens Sidonia Dido
condebat, donis opulentum et numine divae,
aerea cui gradibus surgebant limina nexaeque
aere trabes, foribus cardo stridebat aënis.
450  hoc primum in luco nova res oblata timorem
leniit, hic primum Aeneas sperare salutem
ausus et adflictis melius confidere rebus.
namque sub ingenti lustrat dum singula templo
reginam opperiens, dum quae fortuna sit urbi
455  artificumque manus inter se operumque laborem
miratur, videt Iliacas ex ordine pugnas
bellaque iam fama totum vulgata per orbem,
Atridas Priamumque et saevum ambobus Achillem.
constitit et lacrimans ‘quis iam locus’, inquit, ‘Achate,
460  quae regio in terris nostri non plena laboris?
en Priamus. sunt hic etiam sua praemia laudi,
sunt lacrimae rerum et mentem mortalia tangunt. {160|161}
solve metus; feret haec aliquam tibi fama salutem’.
sic ait atque animum pictura pascit inani
465  multa gemens, largoque umectat flumine vultum.
namque videbat uti bellantes Pergama circum
hac fugerent Grai, premeret Troiana iuventus;
hac Phryges, instaret curru cristatus Achilles.
nec procul hinc Rhesi niveis tentoria velis
470  agnoscit lacrimans, primo quae prodita somno
Tydides multa vastabat caede cruentus,
ardentisque avertit equos in castra prius quam
pabula gustassent Troiae Xanthumque bibissent.
parte alia fugiens amissis Troilus armis,
475  infelix puer atque impar congressus Achilli,
fertur equis curruque haeret resupinus inani,
lora tenens tamen; huic cervixque comaeque trahuntur
per terram, et versa pulvis inscribitur hasta.
interea ad templum non aequae Palladis ibant
480  crinibus Iliades passis peplumque ferebant
suppliciter, tristes et tunsae pectora palmis;
diva solo fixos oculos aversa tenebat.
ter circum Iliacos raptaverat Hectora muros
exanimumque auro corpus vendebat Achilles.
485  tum vero ingentem gemitum dat pectore ab imo,
ut spolia, ut currus, utque ipsum corpus amici
tendentemque manus Priamum conspexit inermis.
se quoque principibus permixtum agnovit Achivis,
Eoasque acies et nigri Memnonis arma.
490  ducit Amazonidum lunatis agmina peltis
Penthesilea furens mediisque in milibus ardet,
aurea subnectens exsertae cingula mammae
bellatrix, audetque viris concurrere virgo. {161|162}

There was a grove in the middle of the city, most lush in shade.
It was here that, in the beginning, after being tossed around by waves and swirling winds, the Phoenicians
dug up the sign [signum] that queenly Juno
had pointed out, the head of a fierce horse; for this is the way it was to be, that in war
445  they would be outstanding and that their way of life would be well cared for, this nation [of Carthaginians].
Here an enormous temple, dedicated to Juno, was being set up by Sidonian [
166] Dido.
She was the founder. It was well endowed with gifts and with the aura of the goddess.
Made of bronze was its threshold, looming over the steps that led up to it.
Made of bronze were its lintel-beams, and its hinges creaked on doors made of bronze.
450  It was in this grove that, for the first time, something totally new presented itself to him, and it released him from his fear,
smoothing it away. [
167] It was here for the first time that Aeneas dared to hope for salvation and,
in this act of daring, have more confidence that his adverse situation would get better.
For as he looks up from the ground level of the immense temple, scanning with his eye [lustrare] [
168] every single thing one by one [singula] {162|163}
while he is waiting for the queen, seeing what good fortune befell the city [of Carthage]
455  as he contemplates the mutual [
169] handiwork of the artisans and the labor of their workmanship,
he is filled with wonder. He sees in due order [ex ordine] [
170] the battles of Troy,
the wars that have become public knowledge by way of a fame [fama] that by now extends throughout the entire orb [orbis] of the world.
He sees the sons of Atreus, and Priam, and Achilles, who is savagely angry at both.
Then he stops and says, with tears streaming [lacrimare] down his face: “What place, Achates,
460  what region on earth is now not saturated with the story of our pain [labor]?
Look! It is Priam! So you see here once again that things requiring praise have their own reward. [
There are tears [lacrimae] that connect with the real world [res plural], and things that happen to mortals touch [tangere] the mind [mens].
Dissolve your fears: this fame [fama = the fame of the story of our pain] will bring for you too a salvation of some kind.” {163|164}
So he speaks, feasting [pascere] his mind [animus] on the insubstantial picture [pictura],
465  and he groans over and over, flooding his face with a vast stream of tears.
For he saw how, as they fought round the walls of Pergamon,
the Greeks were on the run in one zone, with the Trojan youth closing in on them,
while in another zone it was the Phrygians who were on the run, and attacking them in his chariot was the man wearing the crest on his helmet, Achilles.
Not far away the tents of Rhesus, with canvas as white as snow,
470  he recognizes, as tears continue to stream [lacrimare] down his face. These tents, betrayed during the first hour of sleep,
did the son of Tydeus destroy, stained with the gore of all those he slaughtered,
and he drove the fiery war-horses [of Rhesus] away [from Troy] and into the camp [of the Achaeans] before
they could taste Trojan fodder or drink of the waters of the river Xanthos.
Elsewhere Troilus, with his armor thrown away as he was fleeing,
475  ill-starred boy, and ill-matched in conflict with Achilles,
is carried along by his horses and, fallen backward, clings to the empty [inanis] chariot,
still holding on to the reins. His neck and hair are dragged
over the ground, and the dust is inscribed by his inverted spear.
Meanwhile, to the temple [templum] [
172] of a not impartial Pallas Athena were proceeding
480  the Trojan women with streaming tresses, and they were carrying the peplos, {164|165}
in the mode of suppliants, sadly, and beating their breasts with the flat of the hand.
With averted face the goddess kept her eyes fixed on the ground.
Three times had Achilles dragged Hector around the walls of Troy
and he was now selling the lifeless body for gold.
485  And then it was that, from the depths of his heart, he [= Aeneas] heaved an enormously heavy groan,
as the spoils of war, as the chariot, as the body of his friend – yes, his body –
met his gaze, [
173] and so too the sight of an unarmed Priam, supplicating with outstretched hands.
Himself, too, all mixed into the thick of battle with the Achaean princes, he [= Aeneas] recognized,
and the battle line of Eos the dawn-goddess, featuring the armor of shining-black Memnon.
490  Leading the crescent-shielded battle lines of the Amazons
is Penthesileia in all her martial fury, glowing in the heat of battle and surrounded by her thousands of fellow she-warriors,
wearing a golden cincture that binds her exposed breast,
she-warrior that she is, and she dares to compete against men, this virgin. [

1§179 The composite picturing of the sorrows of the Trojan War, as conveyed by the word pictura at verse 464, is described here as inanis or ‘insubstantial’. This epithet, as I read it, conveys the idea that the picturing is not the actual ‘substance’ of the real things that happened at Troy. This is not to say, however, that the picturing is not real or that the things being pictured are {165|166} not real. They are very much for real. The decisive word is pascit ‘nourishes’ in the same verse: the viewer is said to be ‘nourishing’ his mind or animus by virtue of looking at the pictura, by feasting his eyes on what is being pictured. The viewer is forming a mental picture, and that picture derives from the substance of the real things that happened at Troy, as mediated by the pictura. The pictura is the act of mediation, not the mediated thing itself. As the mediation, that is, as the medium, the pictura can be said to lack the substance of the real things it mediates, which are exterior. Nevertheless, the use of the verb pascit ‘nourishes’ makes it clear that the mental ‘nourishment’ of feasting the eyes on the pictura comes from exterior stimuli that are quite real. Those real exterior stimuli can even be invisible, as we see from the following passage, taken from Lucretius, where the eye ‘feasts’ on atoms that convey pleasant visions as contrasted with atoms that convey unpleasant ones:

1ⓣ32 Lucretius De rerum natura 2.418-420

neve bonos rerum similes constare colores
semine constituas, oculos qui pascere possunt,
et qui conpungunt aciem lacrimareque cogunt

Nor should you think that the good colors of the real world [res plural], colors that nourish [= are a feast for] the eyes, are similarly constituted in their atomic seed as the [bad] colors [of the real world], which cause a sharp sting [for the eyes] and compel the shedding of tears. [175]

1§180 In this description, the exterior stimuli come from invisible particles, but these particles are still part of the real world. [176] I am using the word real here in the sense of its etymology as an adjective derived from the noun res, which refers here and elsewhere in Lucretius and Virgil to the world of reality.

1§181 The medium of the pictura at verse 464 of Aeneid 1 is making contact between the mental faculty of the animus and reality – the reality of the sorrows experienced in the Trojan War. The idea of actual contact is made clear earlier in the use of mens ‘mind’ at verse 462. There as well as elsewhere, {166|167} mens is a synonym of animus. [177] A clear example is this poetic formulation, where the mens or animus is pictured as residing in the pectus ‘chest’:

1ⓣ33 Lucretius De rerum natura 3.136-144

136  nunc animum atque animam dico coniuncta teneri
inter se atque unam naturam conficere ex se,
sed caput esse quasi et dominari in corpore toto
consilium, quod nos animum mentemque vocamus.
140  idque situm media regione in pectoris haeret.
hic exultat enim pavor ac metus, haec loca circum
laetitiae mulcent: hic ergo mens animusquest.
cetera pars animae per totum dissita corpus
paret et ad numen mentis momenque movetur

136  The animus and the anima, I say, are held joined together one with the other,
and form one single nature of themselves,
but the chief and dominant thing in the whole body [corpus]
is still that faculty of reasoning that we call the animus or mens,
140  which is lodged in the middle region of the chest [pectus].
Here is where fear and terror flourish; it is around these places
that moments of happiness offer their caresses; here, then, is the mens or animus.
The remaining part of the anima is scattered throughout the whole body [corpus],
but it obeys and is moved [movēre] according to the assent and the motion of the mens.

1§182 Like animus at verse 464 of Aeneid 1, the word mens at verse 462 there designates the mental faculty that perceives reality by distinguishing it from the unreal. And, at verse 462, the reality of the Trojan War and all its sorrows {167|168} are making contact with the mind of Aeneas. I quote again the overall context of verses 462 and 464:

1ⓣ34 Virgil Aeneid 1.459-465

constitit et lacrimans ‘quis iam locus’, inquit, ‘Achate,
460  quae regio in terris nostri non plena laboris?
en Priamus. sunt hic etiam sua praemia laudi,
sunt lacrimae rerum et mentem mortalia tangunt.
solve metus; feret haec aliquam tibi fama salutem’.
sic ait atque animum pictura pascit inani
465  multa gemens, largoque umectat flumine uultum.

Then he stops and says, with tears streaming [lacrimare] down his face: “What place, Achates,
460  what region on earth is now not saturated with the story of our pain [labor]?
Look! It is Priam! So you see here once again that things requiring praise have their own reward.
There are tears [lacrimae] that connect with the real world [res plural], and things that happen to mortals touch [tangere] the mind [mens].
Dissolve your fears: this fame [fama; = the fame of the story of our pain] will bring for you too a salvation of some kind.”
So he speaks, feasting [pascere] his mind [animus] on the insubstantial picture [pictura],
465  and he groans over and over, flooding his face with a vast stream of tears.

1§183 The particular things that Aeneas sees ‘here’ (461) in the artwork of artisans bear out, ‘once again’, a universal formula, that ‘things requiring praise have their own reward’ (again, 461). In other words, real things that happen in our universe deserve and demand to be credited by the artwork of artisans. This universal formula is then extended by way of a parallel universal formula, which says that the reality of the universe is somehow connected with the shedding of tears (462). The neuter plural mortalia, which I translate as ‘things that happen to mortals’, is a universalizing reference to the res ‘things’ (as in rerum) in the real world that connect with the shedding of tears, {168|169} and these realities are further connected with the mental faculty of the mens or animus. The mental connection here is a matter of genuine contact with things that are real. These real things literally touch the mens. The mind is touched by these real things mediated through the art of the artisans (462), and it feasts on this reality (464). In the poetic world inherited by Virgil, the experience of touching, like feasting, cannot be insubstantial. If something touches and is touched, it must be substantial, real. What is substantial may be either visible or invisible, like the atom, but it must be a corpus ‘body’:

1ⓣ35 Lucretius De rerum natura 1.304

tangere enim et tangi, nisi corpus, nulla potest res

No thing [res] can touch [tangere] and be touched [tangere] unless it is a body [corpus].

1§184 So the cause of the tears of Aeneas is real, substantial, even though the real Hector and the real Priam and all the other Trojans he mourns are absent from the medium of the pictura, which is thus sadly inanis ‘insubstantial’. The hero’s loved ones are sadly missing from the vehicle of the pictura.

1§185 The pathos of desiring what is not there is subjectively replicated in the inner world of the pictura that is being scanned by the eye of Aeneas: at verse 476, the beautiful Troilus has just been struck down by Achilles and falls from his chariot, which is pictured as rushing onward but now inanis, that is, sadly deprived of its beautiful rider. Troilus is now pathetically absent or missing from the vehicle. The void left by Troilus in the vehicle of the chariot is comparable to the void left in the metaphorical vehicle of a picture that conveys realities sadly no longer inside the picture. The real men and women who suffered and died at Troy are no longer present in a picture that is now sadly inanis ‘insubstantial’ because it lacks their presence. Enhancing the pathos is the understanding that the imagined temple of Juno, picturing the destruction of Troy, will likewise no longer exist once Carthage itself is destroyed by the Roman empire of the future.

1§186 Although the pictura of Troy’s destruction is described as insubstantial in the Aeneid, the tears of Aeneas are substantial and therefore not at all in vain, since the sorrows of the Trojan War have made real contact with his mind, that is, with his animus or mens. In other words, the mind of the hero is moved with genuine emotion in this context. This emotion is contrasted in a later context with another emotion experienced by Aeneas. In that later context, the hero’s mind will remain unmoved by the tears of the queen Dido, and so his tears will now be insubstantial, not substantial: {169|170}

1ⓣ36 Virgil Aeneid 4.449

mens immota manet, lacrimae volvuntur inanes

The mind [mens] [= of Aeneas] remains unmoved [movēre] but tears [lacrimae] keep rolling from his eyes – tears that are insubstantial [inanes].

1§187 Though the tears of Aeneas reveal a deeply felt response to the reported tears of Dido, they are nevertheless inanes ‘insubstantial’. This time, the hero’s feeling comes implicitly from his anima, not from his animus or mens. The part of Aeneas that is his mens ‘mind’ is in this instance not moved. It fails to make contact with the alluring sorrows of the beautiful queen.

1§188 We can find a reason for this failure in the poetic formulation of Lucretius, for whom the mens or animus is only a part of the anima. It is the part that resides in the pectus ‘chest’, which is the seat of emotions controlled by reason. Those emotions are real, and that is why they can literally touch the mind that is lodged in the heart, that is, in the middlemost part of the pectus ‘chest’. An example of such real emotions is what a father feels when he is kissed by a loving son:

1ⓣ37 Lucretius De rerum natura 3.896

et tacita pectus dulcedine tangent

… and they [= the kisses] will touch [tangere] the heart [pectus] with a silent sweetness.

1§189 By contrast with such real emotions, the part of Aeneas that is so deeply moved by the reported tears of Dido is not the mind that is lodged in his heart. The anima of Aeneas is moved, but not his controlling animus. Being moved by this deluding emotion causes Aeneas to weep just as intensely as he had wept before, but the emotion he now feels is caused by something insubstantial, not substantial, and so the tears he now sheds are inanes ‘insubstantial’, not substantial. The hero’s tears for Dido are thus in vain, whereas his tears for Hector and Priam and all the other doomed Trojans were not in vain.

1§190 Like the tears of Aeneas, the tears of Andromache, another survivor of Troy’s destruction, are not in vain. The first time we see her in the Aeneid, Virgil pictures her in the act of weeping for her lost husband Hector and her lost infant son Astyanax, both killed in the war:

1ⓣ38 Virgil Aeneid 3.303-305

1§191 The causa ‘cause’ of the tears shed by Andromache is substantial, real, in contrast with the tomb of her loved ones. That tomb is literally an ‘empty tomb’, a cenotaph. That tomb is sadly inanis ‘insubstantial’, since the beloved bodies of Hector and Astyanax are absent, missing, from this place made sacred by Andromache’s rituals.

1§192 So also when Aeneas weeps for the Trojans as he contemplates the picturing of their sorrows, the cause of the tears he sheds is substantial, real, even though the real Hector and all the other Trojans he mourns are absent, missing, from the medium of the pictura, described as sadly inanis ‘insubstantial’ at verse 464 of Aeneid 1. [179]

1§193 The causation of the tears is only implicit, not explicit, in the syntax of the expression sunt lacrimae rerum ‘there are tears [lacrimae] that connect with the real world’ at verse 462 of Aeneid 1. The genitive case of rerum, the plural noun referring to the ‘real things’ that are the cause of the tears, expresses merely the idea of a connection between the cause and the effect. The actual causation is then made explicit by the universalizing thought that follows in the same verse, namely, that ‘real things’ suffered by mortals make contact with the mind: et mentem mortalia tangunt ‘and things that happen to mortals touch the mind’. Then and only then are the cause and the effect to be understood as exactly that, cause and effect.

1§194 What makes this universalizing formula apply to the here-and-now of Aeneas as he awaits his audience with the queen of Carthage is the pictura that nourishes his eye with the sorrows of the Trojan War (464). It is the medium of this pictura that makes possible the mental contact between the {171|172} universalizing formula and the specific situation. It is the pictura that mentally connects the reality of human suffering with the reality of the tears that respond to this suffering. Only after the mental connection is made can the controlling mind finally release the flood of tears that respond to the countless sufferings of humankind.

1§195 I continue to focus on the word inanis ‘insubstantial’ describing the pictura of the Trojan War at verse 464 of Aeneid 1, corresponding to inanis ‘insubstantial’ describing the tomb of Hector and Astyanax at verse 304 of Aeneid 3. Just as the material substance of the human body is sadly missing from the tomb of Hector and Astyanax, so also the material substance of the artwork that supposedly created the pictura seen by Aeneas is sadly missing from the artwork of Virgil’s poetry, which is of course what really created the pictura in the first place. Pointedly, there is no specific indication of the material substance that is being used in the art of creating the pictura seen by Aeneas. Moreover, as I noted earlier, the material substance of this imagined pictura in the imagined temple of Juno would in any case no longer exist once Carthage is destroyed by Rome.

1§196 The question remains, how are we to imagine the artwork of this pictura at verse 464 of Aeneid 1? The word pictura will not give us a specific answer. Like the German word Malerei (Mahlerey) used by Lessing in his essay Laocoön, Latin pictura can refer to painting, sculpture, and a variety of other kinds of picturing. As we have seen already, pictura can even refer to the kind of picturing achieved by way of the verbal arts exclusively – without any access to the material substances required by any of the conventional visual arts. And yet, despite the generality of associations, there is a specific answer to the question. As we will see when we reach Chapter 4, the pictura of Aeneid 1 is to be imagined as a masterpiece of reliefsculpture. [180]

1ⓢ14. The sorrows of Andromache

1§197 The verbal art of Virgil pictures the sorrows of the Trojan War not only in the pictura seen by Aeneas at the temple of Juno in Aeneid 1. In Aeneid 3, Virgil’s words picture these sorrows again. This time, however, the medium of the picturing is different. This time, Virgil’s words achieve a theatrical restaging of a single scene of terror and pity in the Homeric Iliad. That scene pictures Andromache at the dramatic moment of hearing the news of Hector’s death in Iliad XXII. As we will see, the centerpiece of that scene is a piece of {172|173} fabric that Andromache is weaving when she hears the news. So also in the scene restaged by Virgil in Aeneid 3, the centerpiece is a piece of fabric that is woven by Andromache, and the artistry of her weaving is expressed by way of a word derived from pictura.

1§198 In what follows, then, I will be looking at a scene in the Aeneid that centers on the sorrows of Andromache. In each of the four chapters of Homer the Classic and in each of the two parts of the twin book Homer the Preclassic, I focus on one such scene.

1§199 In Aeneid 3.294-355, Virgil produces a theatrical restaging of what happened to Andromache in the Homeric Iliad. [181] As the scene opens, we see Aeneas making his way uphill from the harbor of Buthrotum and heading toward that city’s acropolis on high (293). Along the way, he sees a grove, and in that grove he recognizes Andromache herself in the act of sacrificing at the cenotaph of Hector and Astyanax. I repeat here the wording:

1ⓣ39 Virgil Aeneid 3.303-305

libabat cineri Andromache Manesque vocabat
Hectoreum ad tumulum viridi quem caespite inanem
et geminas, causam lacrimis, sacraverat aras

Andromache was pouring libations for the ashes and invoking the spirits of the dead,
at the tomb of Hector which, with its covering of green grass, empty [inanis] though it was,
she consecrated, along with twin altars for burning sacrifices [for Hector and Astyanax], a cause for her tears [lacrimae].

1§200 The description inanis that applies here to the tomb of Hector and Astyanax is metonymic, since it applies also to the whole setting of the scene. That setting, the city of Buthrotum in Epirus, is a replica of the original Troy. Buthrotum is a virtual New Troy, featuring the same landmarks and the same names attached to the landmarks: like the original Troy, this new version features the rivers Xanthos (350) and Simoeis (302), the citadel called Pergamon / Pergama (350), the Scaean Gates (351), and so on, though the new setting seems miniature in comparison to the greatness of the old setting (349-350). In fact, this New Troy cannot be the real Troy, since it is devoid of the Trojans and therefore inanis, just as the tomb of Hector and Astyanax is {173|174} inanis, that is, devoid of their bodies. The only Trojans in this New Troy are two survivors of the original Troy, Andromache and Helenos. They had been brought to Buthrotum as captives enslaved by Neoptolemos, destroyer of Troy, who is also known as Pyrrhos. After the unexpected death of Pyrrhos, Andromache and Helenos become the queen and king of a New Troy, which can now become a restaging of the real Troy. And the centerpiece of the whole scene will be the weaving of Andromache herself, as expressed by the word pictura. Besides the pictura seen by Aeneas in the temple of Juno, Andromache has created her own pictura of all the sorrows of the Trojan War. As Aeneas and his retinue prepare to leave the New Troy, they are offered parting gifts by Helenos and Andromache, including the following gift of Andromache to the son of Aeneas, Ascanius (whose alternative name is Iulus):

1ⓣ40 Virgil Aeneid 3.482-491

1§201 The adjective picturatae ‘pattern-woven’, applied to the plural of the noun vestis ‘fabric’ at verse 483 of Aeneid 3, is derived from the noun pictura, which refers not only to the process of painting but also to a kind of fabric work that highlights the virtuosity of patterning (as in Apuleius Florida 15 tunicampicturis variegatam ‘a tunic variegated with patterned fabric work’). [186] This kind of pattern-weaving is achieved by way of a subtemen. The noun subtemen (/ subtegmen), which means ‘traverse threading’, is derived from the verb texere ‘weave’ and designates a process of interweaving the horizontal threading or weft with the vertical threading or warp, thus creating the ongoing foregrounded narrative of the pattern-weaving. Here the foregrounding is in gold, while elsewhere it can be in purple (Tibullus 3.7.121 fulgentem Tyrio subtemine vestem ‘fabric gleaming with Tyrian traverse threading’).

1§202 These vestes ‘fabrics’ woven by Andromache would have clothed Astyanax, son of Hector and Andromache, if he had lived to grow up to manhood as had Ascanius, son of Aeneas and Creusa. The clothing that will never fit Astyanax will now fit Ascanius, just as it had once fit Hector, who is called the avunculus ‘uncle’ of Ascanius (Aeneid 3.343). This relationship {175|176} with the Trojan kinfolk is at the heart of a mother’s need to give ‘these final gifts’ to a maternal nephew, who will thus become reconnected to his own people. By implication, the vestes ‘fabrics’ that had been picturatae ‘pattern-woven’ by Andromache for Hector and then for Astyanax to wear are now to be worn by the maternal ‘nephew’ Ascanius, who will take the place of Astyanax in wearing monimenta ‘reminders’ that connect with the epic past of the Trojan War. By way of this gift of textiles woven by Andromache, a gift so generous that its sheer weight almost overburdens the recipient (495 onerare ‘weigh down’), Ascanius has received a direct connection with this epic past. Andromache’s onerous gift of textiles to Ascanius is Virgil’s metaphor for the burden of this epic past, which is the poet’s own onerous gift to the notional descendant of Ascanius (whose alternative name is Iulus), that is, to Caesar Augustus, who is the ultimate patron of Virgil’s Roman epic.

1§203 This Virgilian usage of picturatae vestes ‘pattern-woven fabrics’ as a metaphor for the poetic burden of the epic past is an evocation of Homeric poetry. I quote here the relevant Homeric narrative in Iliad XXII, starting from the moment when the lamenting Hecuba announces the news of Hector’s death to Andromache. At that moment, Andromache is weaving a fabric:

1ⓣ41 Iliad XXII 437-515

437  Ὣς ἔφατο κλαίουσ’, ἄλοχος δ’ οὔ πώ τι πέπυστο
Ἕκτορος· οὐ γάρ οἵ τις ἐτήτυμος ἄγγελος ἐλθὼν
ἤγγειλ’ ὅττί ῥά οἱ πόσις ἔκτοθι μίμνε πυλάων,
440  ἀλλ’ ἥ γ’ ἱστὸν ὕφαινε μυχῷ δόμου ὑψηλοῖο
δίπλακα πορφυρέην, ἐν δὲ θρόνα ποικίλ’ ἔπασσε.
κέκλετο δ’ ἀμφιπόλοισιν ἐϋπλοκάμοις κατὰ δῶμα
ἀμφὶ πυρὶ στῆσαι τρίποδα μέγαν, ὄφρα πέλοιτο
Ἕκτορι θερμὰ λοετρὰ μάχης ἐκ νοστήσαντι
445  νηπίη, οὐδ’ ἐνόησεν ὅ μιν μάλα τῆλε λοετρῶν
χερσὶν Ἀχιλλῆος δάμασε γλαυκῶπις Ἀθήνη.
κωκυτοῦ δ’ ἤκουσε καὶ οἰμωγῆς ἀπὸ πύργου·
τῆς δ’ ἐλελίχθη γυῖα, χαμαὶ δέ οἱ ἔκπεσε κερκίς·
ἣ δ’ αὖτις δμῳῇσιν ἐϋπλοκάμοισι μετηύδα·
450  δεῦτε δύω μοι ἕπεσθον, ἴδωμ’ ὅτιν’ ἔργα τέτυκται. {176|177}
αἰδοίης ἑκυρῆς ὀπὸς ἔκλυον, ἐν δ’ ἐμοὶ αὐτῇ
στήθεσι πάλλεται ἦτορ ἀνὰ στόμα, νέρθε δὲ γοῦνα
πήγνυται· ἐγγὺς δή τι κακὸν Πριάμοιο τέκεσσιν.
αἲ γὰρ ἀπ’ οὔατος εἴη ἐμεῦ ἔπος· ἀλλὰ μάλ’ αἰνῶς
455  δείδω μὴ δή μοι θρασὺν Ἕκτορα δῖος Ἀχιλλεὺς
μοῦνον ἀποτμήξας πόλιος πεδίον δὲ δίηται,
καὶ δή μιν καταπαύσῃ ἀγηνορίης ἀλεγεινῆς
ἥ μιν ἔχεσκ’, ἐπεὶ οὔ ποτ’ ἐνὶ πληθυῖ μένεν ἀνδρῶν,
ἀλλὰ πολὺ προθέεσκε, τὸ ὃν μένος οὐδενὶ εἴκων.
460  Ὣς φαμένη μεγάροιο διέσσυτο μαινάδι ἴση
παλλομένη κραδίην· ἅμα δ’ ἀμφίπολοι κίον αὐτῇ
αὐτὰρ ἐπεὶ πύργόν τε καὶ ἀνδρῶν ἷξεν ὅμιλον
ἔστη παπτήνασ’ ἐπὶ τείχεϊ, τὸν δὲ νόησεν
ἑλκόμενον πρόσθεν πόλιος· ταχέες δέ μιν ἵπποι
465  ἕλκον ἀκηδέστως κοίλας ἐπὶ νῆας ᾿Αχαιῶν.
τὴν δὲ κατ’ ὀφθαλμῶν ἐρεβεννὴ νὺξ ἐκάλυψεν,
ἤριπε δ’ ἐξοπίσω, ἀπὸ δὲ ψυχὴν ἐκάπυσσε.
τῆλε δ’ ἀπὸ κρατὸς βάλε δέσματα σιγαλόεντα,
ἄμπυκα κεκρύφαλόν τε ἰδὲ πλεκτὴν ἀναδέσμην
470  κρήδεμνόν θ’, ὅ ῥά οἱ δῶκε χρυσῆ ᾿Αφροδίτη
ἤματι τῷ ὅτε μιν κορυθαίολος ἠγάγεθ’ Ἕκτωρ
ἐκ δόμου Ἠετίωνος, ἐπεὶ πόρε μυρία ἕδνα.
ἀμφὶ δέ μιν γαλόῳ τε καὶ εἰνατέρες ἅλις ἔσταν,
αἵ ἑ μετὰ σφίσιν εἶχον ἀτυζομένην ἀπολέσθαι.
475  ἣ δ’ ἐπεὶ οὖν ἔμπνυτο καὶ ἐς φρένα θυμὸς ἀγέρθη
ἀμβλήδην γοόωσα μετὰ Τρῳῇσιν ἔειπεν·
Ἕκτορ ἐγὼ δύστηνος· ἰῇ ἄρα γεινόμεθ’ αἴσῃ
ἀμφότεροι, σὺ μὲν ἐν Τροίῃ Πριάμου κατὰ δῶμα,
αὐτὰρ ἐγὼ Θήβῃσιν ὑπὸ Πλάκῳ ὑληέσσῃ
480  ἐν δόμῳ Ἠετίωνος, ὅ μ’ ἔτρεφε τυτθὸν ἐοῦσαν
δύσμορος αἰνόμορον· ὡς μὴ ὤφελλε τεκέσθαι. {177|178}
νῦν δὲ σὺ μὲν Ἀΐδαο δόμους ὑπὸ κεύθεσι γαίης
ἔρχεαι, αὐτὰρ ἐμὲ στυγερῷ ἐνὶ πένθεϊ λείπεις
χήρην ἐν μεγάροισι· πάϊς δ’ ἔτι νήπιος αὔτως,
485  ὃν τέκομεν σύ τ’ ἐγώ τε δυσάμμοροι· οὔτε σὺ τούτῳ
ἔσσεαι Ἕκτορ ὄνειαρ ἐπεὶ θάνες, οὔτε σοὶ οὗτος.
ἤν περ γὰρ πόλεμόν γε φύγῃ πολύδακρυν Ἀχαιῶν,
αἰεί τοι τούτῳ γε πόνος καὶ κήδε’ ὀπίσσω
ἔσσοντ’· ἄλλοι γάρ οἱ ἀπουρίσσουσιν ἀρούρας.
490  ἦμαρ δ’ ὀρφανικὸν παναφήλικα παῖδα τίθησι·
πάντα δ’ ὑπεμνήμυκε, δεδάκρυνται δὲ παρειαί,
δευόμενος δέ τ’ ἄνεισι πάϊς ἐς πατρὸς ἑταίρους,
ἄλλον μὲν χλαίνης ἐρύων, ἄλλον δὲ χιτῶνος·
τῶν δ’ ἐλεησάντων κοτύλην τις τυτθὸν ἐπέσχε·
495  χείλεα μέν τ’ ἐδίην’, ὑπερῴην δ’ οὐκ ἐδίηνε.
τὸν δὲ καὶ ἀμφιθαλὴς ἐκ δαιτύος ἐστυφέλιξε
χερσὶν πεπλήγων καὶ ὀνειδείοισιν ἐνίσσων·
ἔρρ’ οὕτως· οὐ σός γε πατὴρ μεταδαίνυται ἡμῖν.
δακρυόεις δέ τ’ ἄνεισι πάϊς ἐς μητέρα χήρην
500  Ἀστυάναξ, ὃς πρὶν μὲν ἑοῦ ἐπὶ γούνασι πατρὸς
μυελὸν οἶον ἔδεσκε καὶ οἰῶν πίονα δημόν·
αὐτὰρ ὅθ’ ὕπνος ἕλοι, παύσαιτό τε νηπιαχεύων,
εὕδεσκ’ ἐν λέκτροισιν ἐν ἀγκαλίδεσσι τιθήνης
εὐνῇ ἔνι μαλακῇ θαλέων ἐμπλησάμενος κῆρ·
505  νῦν δ’ ἂν πολλὰ πάθῃσι φίλου ἀπὸ πατρὸς ἁμαρτὼν
Ἀστυάναξ, ὃν Τρῶες ἐπίκλησιν καλέουσιν·
οἶος γάρ σφιν ἔρυσο πύλας καὶ τείχεα μακρά.
νῦν δὲ σὲ μὲν παρὰ νηυσὶ κορωνίσι νόσφι τοκήων
αἰόλαι εὐλαὶ ἔδονται, ἐπεί κε κύνες κορέσωνται
510  γυμνόν· ἀτάρ τοι εἵματ’ ἐνὶ μεγάροισι κέονται
λεπτά τε καὶ χαρίεντα τετυγμένα χερσὶ γυναικῶν.
ἀλλ’ ἤτοι τάδε πάντα καταφλέξω πυρὶ κηλέῳ {178|179}
οὐδὲν σοί γ’ ὄφελος, ἐπεὶ οὐκ ἐγκείσεαι αὐτοῖς,
ἀλλὰ πρὸς Τρώων καὶ Τρωϊάδων κλέος εἶναι.
515  Ὣς ἔφατο κλαίουσ’, ἐπὶ δὲ στενάχοντο γυναῖκες.

437  So she [= Hecuba] spoke, lamenting, but the wife [= Andromache] had not yet heard anything,
Hector’s wife: for no true messenger came to her
and told her any news, how her husband was standing his ground outside the gates. [
440  She [= Andromache] was weaving [huphainein] a web in the inner room of the lofty palace,
a purple [porphureē] [
188] fabric that folds in two [= diplax], and she was inworking [en-passein] [189] patterns of flowers [throna] that were varied [poikila]. [190]
And she called out to the attending women, the ones with the beautiful tresses [plokamoi], in the palace
to set a big tripod on the fire, so that there would be
a warm bath for Hector when he had his return [nostos] from battle. [
445  Unwary [nēpiē] as she was, she did not know [noeîn] that, far from the bath,
the hands of Achilles had brought him [= Hector] down. It was the work of Athena, the one with the look of the owl.
She [= Andromache] heard the wailing and the cries of oimoi coming from the high walls [purgos]. {179|180}
Her limbs shook, and she dropped on the ground her shuttle.
And then she stood among the women slaves attending her, the ones with the beautiful tresses, and she spoke to them:
450  “Come, I want two of you to accompany me. I want to see what has happened.
I just heard the voice of my venerable mother-in-law, and what I feel inside is that
my heart is throbbing hard in my chest right up to my mouth, and my knees down below
are frozen stiff. I now see that something bad is nearing the sons of Priam.
If only the spoken word had been too far away for me to hear. But I so terribly
455  fear for my bold Hector at the hands of radiant Achilles.
I fear that he has got him cut off from the rest, putting him on the run toward the open plain,
and that he has put a stop to a manliness that has gone too far, the cause of so much sorrow.
It was a thing that had a hold over him, since he could never just stand back and blend in with the multitude of his fellow warriors.
Instead, he would keep on running ahead of the rest of them, not yielding to anyone as he pushed ahead with his vital force [menos].”
460  So speaking she rushed out of the palace, same as a maenad [mainás], [
with heart throbbing. And her attending women went with her.
But when she reached the tower and the crowd of warriors,
she stood on the wall, looking around, and then she noticed him.
There he was, being dragged right in front of the city. The swift chariot team of horses was {180|181}
465  dragging him, far from her caring thoughts, back toward the hollow ships of the Achaeans.
Over her eyes a dark night spread its cover,
and she fell backward, gasping out her life’s breath [psukhē].
She threw far from her head the splendid adornments that bound her hair
– her frontlet [ampux], her snood [kekruphalos], her plaited headband [anadesmē],
470  and, to top it all, the headdress [krēdemnon] that had been given to her by golden Aphrodite
on that day when Hector, the one with the waving plume on his helmet, took her by the hand and led her
out from the palace of Eëtion, and he gave countless courtship presents.
Crowding around her stood her husband’s sisters and his brothers’ wives,
and they were holding her up. She was barely breathing, to the point of dying.
475  But when she recovered her breathing and her life’s breath gathered in her lung,
she started to sing a lament in the midst of the Trojan women, with these words:
“Hector, I too am wretched. For we were born sharing a single fate,
the two of us – you in Troy, in the palace of Priam,
and I in Thebe, the city at the foot of the wooded mountain of Plakos
480  in the palace of Eëtion, who raised me when I was little
– an ill-fated father and a daughter with an equally terrible fate. If only he had never fathered me.
But now you [= Hektor] are headed for the palace of Hades inside the deep recesses of earth,
that is where you are headed, while I am left behind by you, left behind in a state of hateful mourning [penthos], {181|182}
a widow in the palace. And then there is the child, not yet bonded to you, so young he is,
485  whose parents we are, you and I with our wretched fate. Neither will you be for him,
no you will not, Hektor, of any help, since you died, nor will he be of any help for you,
even if he escapes the attack of the Achaeans, with all its sorrows,
still, for the rest of his life, because of you, there will be harsh labor for him,
and sorrows. For others will take his landholdings away from him. The time of bereavement
490  leaves the child with no agemates as friends.
He bows his head to every man, and his cheeks are covered with tears.
The boy makes his rounds among his father’s former companions,
and he tugs at one man by the mantle and another man by the tunic,
and they pity him. One man gives him a small drink from a cup,
495  enough to moisten the boy’s lips but not enough to moisten his palate.
But another boy whose parents are living hits him and chases him from the banquet,
beating him with his fists and abusing him with words:
“Get out, you! Your father is not dining with us!”
And the boy goes off in tears to his widowed mother,
500  the boy Astyanax, who in days gone by, on the knees of his father,
would eat only the marrow or the meat of sheep that were the fattest.
And when sleep would come upon him after he was finished with playing,
he would go to sleep in a bed, in the arms of his nurse, {182|183}
in a soft bed, with a heart that is filled in luxury.
505  But now he [= our child] will suffer many things, deprived of his father,
our child Astyanax, as the Trojans call him by name.
That is what he is called because you all by yourself guarded the gates and long walls.
But now, you are where the curved ships [of the Achaeans] are, far from your parents,
and you will be devoured by writhing maggots after the dogs have their fill of you.
510  There you lie, naked, while your clothes are lying around in the palace.
Fine clothes they are, marked by pleasurable beauty [kharis], the work of women’s hands.
But I will incinerate all these clothes over the burning fire.
You will have no need for them, since you will not be lying in state, clothed in them. [
But there is to be fame [kleos] [for you] from the men and women of Troy.”
515  So she [= Andromache] spoke, weeping, and the women mourned in response.

1§204 In the age of Virgil, this picturing of Andromache weaving her fabrics is understood as a Homeric metaphor for epic narration, as revealed by Virgil’s reference in his own epic to the picturatae vestes ‘pattern-woven fabrics’ of Andromache. This reference, as we have seen, is a metaphor for the burden of the epic past.

1§205 More than that, this reference is a metaphor for the burden of the epic past of Homeric poetry. As we are about to see, Virgil’s wording actually evokes the passage I just quoted from Iliad XXII, showing Andromache in the act of pattern-weaving her web. The picturatae vestes ‘pattern-woven fabrics’ {183|184} that Andromache gives to Ascanius in the Aeneid are pictured as a continuation of the patterns she had been weaving for Hector in the Iliad at the very moment when the news of her husband’s death reached her. Virgil’s evocation of that Iliadic moment is confirmed by other details that evoke the same moment. The most revealing of these details involve pictorial impressions of Andromache in the New Troy of Buthrotum in Epirus. Just as Andromache swooned when she saw Hector dead in the Iliad (XXII 466-474), she now swoons when she sees Aeneas alive in the Aeneid (3.306-309). To see Aeneas is to recall the Old Troy. The exact moment before Andromache fell into her swoon in the Iliad, she looked like a woman possessed, a mainás ‘maenad’ (XXII 460 μαινάδι). [194] Now that she recovers from her swoon in the Aeneid, she looks once again like a woman possessed, a furens (3.313 furenti).

1§206 Virgil’s epic poetry is returning to the picture of Andromache at that Iliadic moment by evoking what Andromache herself pictures. The weaving of Andromache is her way of picturing her own world. It is her way of not losing sight of the picture. She pictures herself inside that picture, which is a picture of returning to the picture. It is an act of infinite regression, infinite retrospection.

1§207 I see an analogy in another picture, based on a historical moment in the formative stages of imperial Rome. It is a picture of a doomed couple, Brutus and Porcia. We are about to see, in infinite regression, a picture looking back at a picture of another doomed couple, Hector and Andromache:

1ⓣ42 Plutarch Brutus 23.2-5

ὅθεν ἡ Πορκία μέλλουσα πάλιν εἰς Ῥώμην ἀποτραπέσθαι, λανθάνειν μὲν ἐπειρᾶτο περιπαθῶς ἔχουσα, γραφὴ δέ τις αὐτὴν προὔδωκε, τἆλλα γενναίαν οὖσαν. ἦν γὰρ ἐκ τῶν Ἑλληνικῶν διάθεσις, προπεμπόμενος Ἕκτωρ ὑπ’ ᾿Ανδρομάχης, κομιζομένης παρ’ αὐτοῦ τὸ παιδίον, ἐκείνῳ δὲ προσβλεπούσης. ταῦτα θεωμένην τὴν Πορκίαν ἡ τοῦ πάθους εἰκὼν ἐξέτηξεν εἰς δάκρυα, καὶ πολλάκις φοιτῶσα τῆς ἡμέρας ἔκλαιεν.

As Porcia was preparing to return from there [= from the headquarters of Brutus] to Rome, she tried to conceal her extreme emotional state, but a certain painting [graphē] gave her away, in spite of {184|185} her noble character. The subject [of the painting] was derived from Greek traditions. It showed Hector at the moment when Andromache is saying goodbye to him as he goes off [to war] and she is taking back from his arms their little child while her gaze is riveted on him [= Hector]. As Porcia was gazing at all this, the picture [eikōn] of the emotion [pathos] caused her to dissolve into tears, and she kept on revisiting it many times a day and weeping over it. [195]

1§208 The story goes on to compare Porcia with Andromache, who was sent back to her weaving after her own final farewell to Hector:

1ⓣ43 Plutarch Brutus 23.5-6

Ἀκιλίου δέ τινος τῶν Βρούτου φίλων τὰ πρὸς Ἕκτορα 
τῆς Ἀνδρομάχης ἔπη διελθόντος·

Ἕκτορ, ἀτὰρ σύ μοί ἐσσι πατὴρ καὶ πότνια μήτηρ
ἠδὲ κασίγνητος, σὺ δέ μοι θαλερὸς παρακοίτης

Iliad VI 429-430

μειδιάσας ὁ Βροῦτος “ἀλλ’ οὐκ ἐμοί γ’” εἶπε “πρὸς Πορκίαν ἔπεισι φάναι τὰ τοῦ Ἕκτορος·

<ἀλλ’ εἰς οἶκον ἰοῦσα τὰ σαυτῆς ἔργα κόμιζε,>
ἱστόν τ’ ἠλακάτην τε καὶ ἀμφιπόλοισι κέλευε·

Iliad VI 490-491

σώματος γὰρ ἀπολείπεται φύσει τῶν ἴσων ἀνδραγαθημάτων, γνώμῃ 
δ’ ὑπὲρ τῆς πατρίδος ὥσπερ ἡμεῖς ἀριστεύσει.” ταῦτα μὲν ὁ τῆς Πορκίας υἱὸς ἱστόρηκε Βύβλος.


And when Acilius, one of the friends of Brutus, quoted the verses spoken by Andromache to Hector,

Hector, you are for me my father and my mother the queen
and my brother as well as my vibrant partner in lovemaking

Iliad VI 429-430

Brutus smiled and said: “But it does not even occur to me that I should say to Porcia the verses spoken by Hector: {185|186}

But you [= Andromache] go back to the household and attend to your own work,
that is, the loom and the shuttle, giving orders to the handmaidens [who work for you].

Iliad VI 490-491

Even if she may not be physically up to performing deeds of valor that equal those of men, when it comes to her powers of mind, she can perform the greatest deeds of valor just like me.” This story about Porcia was told by her son Bibulus [HRR 2.51].

1§209 The idea of being sent back to your weaving is being equated in this story with the idea of being sent back, again and again, to the original picture. We see here a poetics of retrospection, which is already at work in Homeric poetry. In an exquisite moment, we see Andromache herself returning again and again to the original picture of her last farewell to Hector:

1ⓣ44 Iliad VI 496

1§210 Andromache and Hector have just parted, turning away from each other and heading in opposite directions. He is going off to die while she is going back to her weaving. As she is being led away, Andromache keeps turning her head back again and again, entropalizomenē, hoping to catch one last glimpse of the receding view of her doomed husband. [197]

1§211 Just as Andromache is shaping her last mental image of her last parting with Hector, so also the poetry of epic is shaping the last mental image of Andromache in its own act of retrospective, of returning to the fixed image. Every time Homeric poetry is performed, it can return once again to the picture of Andromache in the act looking back to see if she can capture one last glimpse of Hector. It is a world of tears, and there is a world of beauty in these tears. To quote Virgil once again, sunt lacrimae rerum. To look back on this world is to look back on perfection, in all its frozen beauty. Homeric poetry is like that: it looks back on its own crystallized perfection. {186|187}


[ back ] 1. HQ 109.

[ back ] 2. As we see from this context, the word telos can be used to express the idea of perfection in sacrifice.

[ back ] 3. The narrative here draws attention to the theme of terror. More in a moment.

[ back ] 4. The narrative here draws attention to the theme of pity. More in a moment.

[ back ] 5. The amphi– of amphiakhuia in the sense of ‘wailing over’ a loved one is comparable in its associations with the amphi– of amphi-khumenē (Odyssey viii 527) in the sense of ‘weeping over’ a loved one.

[ back ] 6. More in a moment about the translation ‘most visible’.

[ back ] 7. This verse was athetized by Aristarchus. More in a moment.

[ back ] 8. Again the narrative draws attention to the theme of terror. More in a moment.

[ back ] 9. The particle δή here has an “evidentiary” force, indicating that the speaker has just seen something, in other words, that the speaker has achieved an insight just a moment ago (‘aha, now I see that…’). See Bakker 1997:74-80, 2005:146.

[ back ] 10. HR 25-27.

[ back ] 11. Shankman 1983. See especially his p. 108, with reference to the poetics of terror and pity in Odyssey xvii 415-444, as observed by Shankman’s teacher, Elroy Bundy, in a course that Bundy gave on the Aristotelian theory of criticism in the spring of 1973.

[ back ] 12. On the picturing of a lamenting woman as a grieving mother bird that has lost her nestlings, see Euripides Trojan Women (146-151 and 826-830), with the commentary of Dué 2006:140-141.

[ back ] 13. HR 23, 29, 32, 34.

[ back ] 14. HR 23, 29, 32, 34.

[ back ] 15. HR 23, 29, 32, 34.

[ back ] 16. I draw attention to the etymology of this word.

[ back ] 17. I used the work landmark here with reference to the petrified serpent in view of other examples of landmark poetics involving the theme of petrifaction. The premier example is the story of the petrifaction of the ship of the Phaeacians, as narrated in Odyssey xiii 160-164. See Nagy 2001c.

[ back ] 18. In the Homeric A scholia, the use of ὅτι ‘because’ as the word that introduces information derived from Aristonicus is a conventional way of indicating that ‘Aristarchus writes a marginal sign in the margin because …’. In this case ὅτι was keyed to the marginal sign of the diplēperiestigmenē (>:) placed at the left of Iliad II 318 in the base text of Aristarchus, and this placement of the sign is still attested in the Venetus A manuscript of the Iliad. Then there was the marginal sign of an obelos (–) placed at the left of Iliad II 319, and this placement is also still attested in the Venetus A.

[ back ] 19. In making this point, I agree with Montanari 2008.

[ back ] 20. On the pronunciation ἀρίδδηλον, see Chantraine DELG s.v. ἀρίζηλος, with further citations.

[ back ] 21. Again, Chantraine DELG s.v. ἀρίζηλος.

[ back ] 22. Chantraine DELG s.v. ἀίδηλος. He discusses both the morphology and the meaning of aïdēlos, reconstructing an active sense of ‘causing someone or something to become invisible’ alongside the intransitive sense of ‘invisible’. I propose that the meaning ‘invisible’ is attested also in the figurative sense of ‘inconspicuous, undistinguished’ in Homeric contexts where aïdēlos is applied as an insult to morally undistinguished characters (as in Odyssey xxii 165).

[ back ] 23. Kirk 1985:149.

[ back ] 24. See also Montanari 2008, who shows that the reasoning of Aristarchus was influenced by the earlier reasoning of Aristotle about these same lines 318-319 of Iliad II (Aristotle F 145 ed. Rose via the commentary of Porphyry on the Iliad (vol. I, pp. 32-33 ed. Schrader).

[ back ] 25. The visualization of Niobe is associated with a cold stream flowing down a mountainside (Dué 2006:161).

[ back ] 26. BA2 Preface §17 ( = p. xii).

[ back ] 27. In my previous work, I translated isa here at CEG 286 [IG I3 533] as ‘in the same way’ (HR 30, with further citations). Now I prefer to translate ‘equally’. When I say ‘equally’, I mean notional equality, which is not necessarily real equality.

[ back ] 28. On the use of the relative pronoun for expressing an indirect question, see PH 8§7n34 (= pp. 220-221).

[ back ] 29. This translation follows what I give in HR 30n14, where I attempt to improve on my earlier translation in HQ 35n25. I now think that the genitive plural construction ‘among men’ must go with ‘who’, not with ‘Antiphanes’.

[ back ] 30. HR ch. 1.

[ back ] 31. Svenbro 1988.33-52 (= 1993:26-43), esp. pp. 36-38 (= 29-31); also Day 1989.

[ back ] 32. The verb hupokrinesthai can take as its direct object not only the name of the character in the drama but also the name of the drama itself. There is an example to be found in the same context that we have just considered. Just before he speaks of the Antigone of Sophocles, Demosthenes (19.246) is speaking of a drama by Euripides, the Phoenix, which is named after the hero Phoenix. Demosthenes refers to this drama as drāma (δρᾶμα), and he uses the noun drāma here as a direct object of the verb hupokrinesthai: ταῦτα μὲν γὰρ τὰ ἰαμβεῖ’ ἐκ Φοίνικός ἐστιν Εὐριπίδου· τοῦτο δὲ τὸ δρμ’ οὐδεπώποτ’ οὔτε Θεόδωρος οὔτ’ Ἀριστόδημος πεκρίναντο ‘these iambic lines [that I have just quoted] come from the Phoenix of Euripides: neither Theodoros nor Aristodemos ever acted [hupokrinesthai] this particular drama’.

[ back ] 33. The visualizing of this scene, as indicated here by op– ‘see’, is essential to the narrative. Relevant is the insightful analysis by Danielle Arnold Freedman (1998:11-13).

[ back ] 34. On the mystical subtext of this formulation, see PH 8§§45-48 (= pp. 243-247).

[ back ] 35. PH 1§39n111 (= p. 38). Freedman (1998:13) describes this moment as “photographic.”

[ back ] 36. PH 1§39n111 (= p. 38). Relevant is a poem by Dioscorides in the Anthology (7.37), as analyzed by Fantuzzi 2007a.

[ back ] 37. The form from which Greek telos and related forms derive cannot be reduced to a single Indo-European root. As the discussion proceeds, we will see that there are two roots involved in the formation of telos and related forms: *kwel– and *tel-. The first of these two roots conveys the idea of ‘come full circle’.

[ back ] 38. For more on this definition of aetiology, see BA 16§2n2 (= p. 279).

[ back ] 39. It does not affect my argument whether or not Kleobis and Biton were the original referents at the time when these statues were made. What matters is that they were truly the referents as far as the Argives were concerned, with reference to the time of Herodotus’ own narration.

[ back ] 40. See Ferrari 1997, who shows that metaphor in the verbal art of Aeschylus is independent of visual art.

[ back ] 41. I deliberately use the expression supporting to convey the idea underlying the prefix hupo-.

[ back ] 42. Nagy 1974:244, 250-255; BA 6§11 (= p. 102), §30 (= pp. 116-117); 7§§1-2 (= pp. 118-120); 10§§1-18 (= pp. 174-188); PH 0§5n10 (= p. 3); 6§3n9 (= p. 147).

[ back ] 43. PH 8§15 (= p. 225), 8§46n126 (= pp. 244-245), 10§9n21(= p. 278), 10§11n27 (= p. 280).

[ back ] 44. I offer a detailed commentary on these passages in HPC I§§263 and following.

[ back ] 45. HR 24, 26-29.

[ back ] 46. Again, HPC I§§263 and following.

[ back ] 47. The exceptions to this formulation of what happens ‘always’ have to do with epiphanies of gods in human form.

[ back ] 48. The noun khalkeus ‘bronzeworker’ can designate any kind of ‘metalworker’, not just workers in khalkos ‘bronze’. In Odyssey iii 432, for example, the referent of khalkeus is a smith who works in gold, not in bronze.

[ back ] 49. For references to this work of Lessing, I use the 1984 edition of the 1962 translation by E. A. McCormick.

[ back ] 50. I note again the term “photographic” as used by Freedman 1998:13.

[ back ] 51. Kosslyn 1994.

[ back ] 52. Scarry 1999.

[ back ] 53. Scarry 1999.

[ back ] 54. For an example of the use of the term filmy, see Scarry 1999:10.

[ back ] 55. My translation from the original French. For details about the film: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0090563/

[ back ] 56. Relevant is the commentary in Nagy 1972:50 on the Greek word thelgein in the sense of put into a trance by way of conjuring a vision. In the analysis that follows, I will have more to say about this word.

[ back ] 57. In the Laocoön of Sophocles (F 370 ed. Radt), we see a description of the altar.

[ back ] 58. The artistic motif of twin serpents, as we see it here in Virgil’s Aeneid (2.203 and following), occurs elsewhere as well in the Aeneid (7.450, 8.289, 8.697).

[ back ] 59. In the version as narrated by Aeneas, the Wooden Horse is at this point still outside the city walls. In terms of this same version of the story of Troy, as we know from Servius (on Aeneid 2.13, 2.241, 3.351), the lintel over the Scaean Gate of Troy contained the corpse of Laomedon, father of Priam, and the sacred power of this corpse protected Troy from destruction. When the Wooden Horse was brought inside the city walls of Troy through the Scaean Gate, this lintel had to be lifted, and the power of the corpse was thus canceled. See Robertson 1970, who connects this theme with a theme represented in a grand painting by Polygnotus, housed in the Lesche of the Cnidians at Delphi (Pausanias 10.27.3): this painting, dated to the mid-fifth century BCE, pictured the destruction of Troy, and one of the details it showed was the removal of the corpse of Laomedon by Sinon and Ankhialos.

[ back ] 60. In the Latin, it is emphasized that the upper halves of the serpents, in all their immensity, protrude from the water. At a later point, I will refer to a sculpted figure of a serpent with its upper half practically standing, waist-high, next to a sculpted figure of the goddess Athena.

[ back ] 61. I repeat here a significant detail: Laocoön was chosen sorte ‘by lot’ as priest of Poseidon / Neptune. In one version of the Laocoön story, he was a hereditary priest of Apollo. Comments by Williams 1972:229. It is as if the priest of Apollo were a stand-in for the priest of Poseidon.

[ back ] 62. Austin 1964:101 on ecce ‘behold!’ in Aeneid 2.203 notes the interruption and then proceeds to show other instances of ecce autem as a “formula” that marks in each case “an unexpected interruption of action in progress.” I agree, except that the action is more than an action here: it is a ritual procedure. On this point, I refer to my discussion in PP 43-53 on the root *deuk-. Austin 1964:101 adds, with reference to Aeneid 2.202, that Laocoön was “performing a ritual act at the appointed place for it.” {At this point Austin 1964:101 compares Heinze 1915:18n1, without details.} Then he goes on to say that “the word marks the importance of the occasion and the correctness of the ceremonial act, thus increasing the dreadfulness of what is to come.” {Austin 1964:101 compares as a “like setting” Aeneid 3.19ff, 4.453ff; also Valerius Maximus 1.6.4, where Sulla is sacrificing: cum … ante praetorium immolaret, subito ab ima parte araeprolapsamanguem prospexit.} I will have more to say on ritual correctness when I analyze Aeneid 3.307, where Andromache is making ritual offerings to Hector’s shade at the moment when Aeneas approaches her.

[ back ] 63. The actual moment of death is left unspoken.

[ back ] 64. Similarly, as we will see later, Virgil’s serpents dart into Athena’s holy of holies on the acropolis.

[ back ] 65. I have already noted the interruptive usage of ecce here and elsewhere in Latin poetry.

[ back ] 66. Chantraine DELG s.v. δέρκομαι.

[ back ] 67. This is the first time I use the term epic Cycle. I offer a working definition of this term in PP 74, 150.

[ back ] 68. A fragment from the Laocoön of Sophocles (F 373 ed. Radt) shows six verses of a messenger speech reporting the departure of Aeneas from Troy: the hero is carrying his lame father on his back and is accompanied by a large retinue (see also Dionysius of Halicarnassus Roman Antiquities 1.48). Another fragment from the Laocoön (F 370) shows two verses describing the altar at which Laocoön sacrifices. Yet another fragment (F 371) features a choral lyric passage containing four lines of a prayer to Poseidon, addressed as ruler of the Aigaios (pontos) ‘Aegean (sea)’.

[ back ] 69. In Virgil Aeneid 2.259, it is Sinon who opens the door of the Wooden Horse that lets the Achaeans out: laxat claustra Sinon. Austin 1964:121 remarks that “Virgil gives Sinon a far more dramatic part than that of mere call-boy; the drama of the Horse began with him and with him it ends.” I think that the Iliou Persis of Arctinus, as we can see even from the summary of Proclus, already contained this “drama.”

[ back ] 70. In Quintus of Smyrna 12.390-500, Laocoön is not killed by the serpents, but he is blinded; in “Apollodorus” Library epitome 5.18, the two children are both devoured, but the fate of the father is not made explicit.

[ back ] 71. Scholia for Lycophron 347; also Servius on Aeneid 2.204, reporting the version of Bacchylides (F 9 ed. Snell / Maehler p. 88). See Sophocles Laocoön (F 372 ed. Radt, with apparatus). Strabo (13.1.46 C604) says that the island of Tenedos has a polisAiolis ‘Aeolian city’, with a hieron ‘sacred space’ of Apollo Smintheus, and that the island is flanked by two smaller islands called Káludnai; he adds that, according to another version, the entire island of Tenedos is called Káludna. I note with interest that Servius refers to Calydnae in the plural (a Calydnis insulis). The variation between singular Kaludna and plural Kaludnai is comparable to the variation between a single serpent and twin serpents in describing the attendant(s) of the goddess Athena. In the version of Bacchylides, according to Servius, the serpents were turned into humans (de serpentibus a Calydnis insulis venientibus et in homines conversis). The twin serpents were apparently given names: Porkis and Khariboia (Sophocles Laocoön F 372 ed. Radt; via scholia for Lycophron 347).

[ back ] 72. See also the Tzetzes scholia for Lycophron 355. For an overall view of the sources, the commentary of Frazer 1929 IV 260 on Ovid Fasti 6.421 is most useful.

[ back ] 73. See also Dictys of Crete 5.5. Later on, we will see other versions where the Palladium came not to Ilos but to his father, Dardanos.

[ back ] 74. Hedreen 2001:28.

[ back ] 75. I borrow the expression “final resting place” from Frazer 1929 IV 260 on Ovid Fasti 6.421.

[ back ] 76. For a glimpse of the historical and archaeological evidence surrounding the Palladium as venerated in New Ilion in the Troad during the Hellenistic as well as Roman periods, see Rose 2006:148.

[ back ] 77. I say Lesbos instead of specifying the city in Lesbos, whether Mytilene or Pyrrha. As I show in HPC II§31, the poetic traditions of Lesbos were federal in that they transcended the individual traditions of cities like Mytilene and Pyrrha.

[ back ] 78. This retelling assumes a positive attitude about the role of Odysseus in his partnership with Diomedes; according to the logic of the narrative as it plays out here, the infiltration of Troy by Odysseus in partnership with Diomedes would not have succeeded if Odysseus had not already succeeded in an earlier adventure when he infiltrated Troy all by himself (as we have already seen). Also, the use of the word ekkomizein assumes a positive attitude about the actual taking of the Palladium: in terms of this word, the Palladium was not stolen but carried to safety. On the usage of komizein in the sense of ‘rescuing’ something precious and sacred, see LP (Nagy 1998) 197n38.

[ back ] 79. Frazer 1929 IV 263 collects the sources, including Pausanias 1.28.8-9, Polyaenus 1.5, Harpocration (s.v. ἐπὶ Παλλαδίῳ), and the Suda (s.v. ἐπὶ Παλλαδίῳ).

[ back ] 80. Dionysius of Halicarnassus Roman Antiquities 1.69, 2.66.5; Plutarch Camillus 20; Pausanias 2.23.5.

[ back ] 81. Frazer 1929 IV 260 collects the sources, including Plutarch Camillus 20.

[ back ] 82. For an overview of the historical and archaeological evidence concerning the Roman appropriation of myths and rituals related to New Ilion in the age of Augustus and beyond, see Rose 2006:152-153.

[ back ] 83. See also Frazer 1929 IV 265.

[ back ] 84. See also Austin 1964:84.

[ back ] 85. See Frazer 1929 IV 262-263, with further citations. See also Dionysius of Halicarnassus Roman Antiquities 2.66.4.

[ back ] 86. For observations about the relevant archaeological evidence in New Ilion, see Rose 2006:148.

[ back ] 87. Hedreen 2001:28 refers to iconographical representations of the Palladium as looking like the Athena Promakhos of the acropolis in Athens. Earlier, I noted that Athena in the acropolis of Athens can also be visualized as Athena Polias. In ch. 4 I have more to say about the various different representations of Athena on the acropolis of Athens.

[ back ] 88. With reference to the provenience of Lesches, as I have already indicated earlier (1§93), it is preferable to say Lesbos instead of Mytilene or Pyrrha.

[ back ] 89. Burgess 2001:142 takes note of this reference to the stealing of the Palladium in Iliou Persis F 1. As he points out, “the event occurs only in the Little Iliad section of Proclus.” To put it another way, the event is recorded only in that section of the Proclus summaries. When it comes to the plot of the Iliou Persis, the reference to the Palladium may have taken the form of a narrative flashback.

[ back ] 90. PH 14§13 (= p. 419).

[ back ] 91. The imperfect of ἡλίσκετο may imply that someone did rescue the Palladium before the final capture: I could translate ‘was about to be captured’. The rescuer would be none other than Aeneas. I will return to this point in a moment.

[ back ] 92. In the descriptions of Dionysius of Halicarnassus (especially Roman Antiquities 2.66.5), the Palladium is named together with the other hiera ‘sacred objects’ that Aeneas brought from Troy to Italy. See Austin 1964:84.

[ back ] 93. As for Virgil’s version in the Aeneid, he chooses not to follow through on various different Roman traditions about the Roman appropriation of the Palladium. And why should he? After all, the narrator of his version is Sinon, and that character’s narration is “fiction” in any case. Austin 1964:83-84 gives a survey of variant traditions concerning the fate of the Palladium.

[ back ] 94. It is in this sense of ‘beginning’ that arkhē means also ‘empire’.

[ back ] 95. On the appropriation of Aeneas as dynastic ancestor of Julius Caesar, I cite again Strabo 13.1.27 C594-595. See also Frazer 1929 IV 265 and, in general, Gruen 1992.

[ back ] 96. HPC II§§171-181.

[ back ] 97. HPC II§§182.

[ back ] 98. For historical and archaeological background, see Rose 2006:151-152.

[ back ] 99. See Frazer 1929 IV 262, with reference to Appian Mithridateios 8.53; Frazer also gives references to other sources on the destruction: Livy Periochae 83; Strabo 13.1.27 C594; Dio Cassius 30-33 F 104 ed. Cary.

[ back ] 100. Such a version could be posited also for the Laocoön of Sophocles. Aeneid 2 may show traces.

[ back ] 101. BA 12§§14-15 (= pp. 234-236), Nagy 1985 §73.

[ back ] 102. I am using the expression of Austin 1964:93. At p. 92 on Aeneid 2.189, he reminds us that Sinon is reporting the words of Calchas. Austin says that Sinon’s version of Calchas’ instructions is “bogus.”

[ back ] 103. When Cassandra holds on to the xoanon of Athena for sacred protection, Ajax the son of Oileus forcibly drags her away, xoanon and all (Iliou Persis Proclus summary p. 108.2-3). I take it that the xoanon is distinct from the Palladium.

[ back ] 104. This type of ending is a typical rhapsodic “cliffhanger.” For this concept, see PR 63-65.

[ back ] 105. There are interesting attenuations here: not all of the Achaeans will be punished. Ultimately, Odysseus will be reconciled with Athena in the Odyssey. Moreover, as we will see later, the heroes of the Athenians cannot even be identified with the Achaeans.

[ back ] 106. Burgess 2001:199n34, with reference to Cook 1999:15n29. Erwin Cook writes me (6 27 03): “In my […] article ‘Active and Passive Heroics,’ p. 159, I note that in telling the story of his return, Odysseus picks up the Trojan War story where Demodokos leaves off in good rhapsodic fashion, and in my note, 29, go on to say: ‘This observation is relevant to G. Nagy’s argument, in Poetry as Performance. Homer and Beyond (Cambridge 1996) chap. 3, that the Homeric epics display awareness of the principle of rhapsodic succession. In Od. 8, Demodokos narrates a quarrel between Akhilleus and Odysseus that most likely belonged to the Kypria tradition (on which, see W. Kullmann, Die Quellen der Ilias, Hermes Einzelschriften 14 [Wiesbaden 1960] 100). This is followed by Odysseus’ participation in athletic games with the Phaiakian youths and his pointed refusal to compete in the foot race, an event that he won in the games of Il. 23. Demodokos then sings the story of the Wooden Horse, known from the Iliou Persis, and the narrator continues with a simile that dramatizes the immediate aftermath of that story. Odysseus himself continues the narrative with his Apologoi, thus bridging the Iliou Persis and the Nostoi. It is, moreover, Odysseus himself who requested the Wooden Horse story, so that he is responsible for the fact that these stories are related in their proper sequence.’ That there are no less than five narrative segments related in order seems to me a massive confirmation of your position here.”

[ back ] 107. I take it that the Wooden Horse is on the acropolis, and the wording akrē reinforces this idea.

[ back ] 108. So the Wooden Horse is within the acropolis already, not as in Aeneid 2.

[ back ] 109. I draw attention to the word doru here. This word evokes what Laocoön does when he drives a bronze-tipped spear into the wood.

[ back ] 110. As I noted before, the epithet akrē is evocative of the acropolis.

[ back ] 111. It is like a substitute for the Palladium. The statue of Athena in her temple on the acropolis of Troy is called an agalma in a song of Alcaeus (F 298.21).

[ back ] 112. The wording here is particularly suggestive, especially the use of the word thelktērion ‘charm’, the meaning of which I will analyze in what follows.

[ back ] 113. On mellein in the sense of ‘is sure to’, see Bakker 2005:97-101, 107-108, 111-112.

[ back ] 114. Hansen 2002:169-176 (the number for the tale type is AT 854).

[ back ] 115. Nagy 1972:50.

[ back ] 116. Chantraine DELG s.v. θέλγω.

[ back ] 117. Nagy 1972:50.

[ back ] 118. Chantraine DELG s.v. δέρκομαι.

[ back ] 119. Detailed analysis at 2§282 below.

[ back ] 120. Austin 1964:96.

[ back ] 121. Austin 1964:96 mentions the possibility of an earlier version, a lost painting that may be dated as early as the fourth century BCE, “of which the sculptors of the Vatican group were aware.”

[ back ] 122. Lessing was inclined to think that the Vatican group was post-Virgilian; see Austin 1964:96.

[ back ] 123. Nagy 1974:21. See also Lessing [1984] 4.

[ back ] 124. Lessing [1984] 36-37.

[ back ] 125. Lessing [1984] 37.

[ back ] 126. Lessing [1984] 37.

[ back ] 127. Lessing [1984] 38.

[ back ] 128. Lessing [1984] 37.

[ back ] 129. I note, en passant, the example of serpent-legged monsters throwing rocks, as mentioned by Hardie 1985:24; below the waist, they look like Laocoön entwined by serpents.

[ back ] 130. The mythological synchronicity linking the day of Athena’s birth and the day of her defeating the giants needs to be stressed. I will have more to say about this synchronicity in ch. 4.

[ back ] 131. Douglas Frame reminds me that the figure of the prototypical Athenian king Cecrops is conventionally pictured as diphuēs ‘double-natured’: his upper half is human but his lower half is serpentine (a rare example of an explicit reference is the wording in the scholia for Aristophanes Wasps 438).

[ back ] 132. Contrast Quintus of Smyrna 12.488, on which Austin 1964:108 comments: “the serpents vanish into Apollo’s temple (i.e. the tradition is followed that Virgil abandoned, see [Austin] p. 95). On Laocoön’s first appearance he is shown as coming summa ab arce (41): now the serpents who have killed him go summa ad delubra, perhaps a deliberate pattern of events.”

[ back ] 133. The expression οἰκουρὸν ὄφιν ‘serpent that guards the dwelling’ comes from Aristophanes Lysistrata 759.

[ back ] 134. HTL 159-160.

[ back ] 137. See my earlier remark about the proximity of the serpent to the spear.

[ back ] 138. Here and hereafter, I note the distinction between the quadrennial Great Panathenaia, celebrated every fourth year, and the annual Lesser Panathenaia, celebrated in the other years.

[ back ] 139. HPC II§298.

[ back ] 140. Page 1894:224.

[ back ] 141. There is an evocative reference to the Judgment of Paris in Iliad XXIV 28-30.

[ back ] 142. Eros is a primordial god in “Orphic” traditions: Orphic Fragment 28 ed. Kern (further references in West 1966:195).

[ back ] 143. GM 249-250.

[ back ] 144. For a questioning of the authenticity of verses 256: Tarrant 2005:75n15.

[ back ] 145. For the possibility of reading sed instead of et here: Tarrant 2005:75n15.

[ back ] 146. See the previous two notes.

[ back ] 147. Suddenly there is a shift from neuter (‘it’) to feminine (‘she’), from the inanimate to the animate.

[ back ] 148. Here in Ovid Metamorphoses 10.266, we see that the provenience of purple is traditionally associated with the city of Sidon in Phoenicia.

[ back ] 149. Ovid’s wording achieves a “hesitation effect” in what Pygmalion says. See the next note.

[ back ] 150. Relevant is the “hesitation effect” in Metamorphoses 10.275-276, where we read “sit coniunx, opto,” non ausus “eburnea virgo” | dicere, Pygmalion “similis mea” dixit “eburnae.” In my translation, I attempt to simulate this effect: ‘I wish that the wife … – not daring to say “ivory virgin,” Pygmalion went ahead and said – “… that my wife could be just like the ivory one.”’ The hesitation effect is achieved not only by not saying ‘I wish that my wife were the ivory virgin’ and instead saying ‘I wish that my wife could be just like the ivory virgin’. It is achieved also by postponing the ‘my’. And then by not saying ‘virgin’ at all.

[ back ] 151. Koller 1957:101.

[ back ] 152. Koller 1957:102.

[ back ] 153. Most of this paragraph is taken from what I wrote in HR 37-38.

[ back ] 154. This point is argued most effectively by Martin 1989; see esp. pp. 231-239.

[ back ] 155. Martin 1989:220-230.

[ back ] 156. I offer a fuller argumentation in HR 38.

[ back ] 157. Mosaic showing Virgil and the two Muses. Early 3rd century CE. From Hadrumentum (modern Sousse), Tunisia. Tunis, Musée National du Bardo.

[ back ] 158. The figure of Maternus is speaking.

[ back ] 159. My translation is based on that of Winterbottom in Russell and Winterbottom 1972:439.

[ back ] 160. HPC E§200.

[ back ] 161. See also Suetonius Life of Virgil 26-27 and Ovid Tristia 2.519-520. For a reference to the spontaneous generation of instant celebrity in the public setting of theatrical performances, see Cicero Pro Sestio 115-116.

[ back ] 162. At this point, the poet prays to the Muses to tell him about the workings of the cosmos (Virgil Georgics 2.477-482); then the poet shifts from contemplating the cosmos (2.483-484) to participating in the joys of the countryside (2.485-486).

[ back ] 163. The idea that the Olympian Muse Kalliope authorizes kings is related to another idea: that Kalliope is the mother of Orpheus (as in Apollonius of Rhodes Argonautica 23-25). I analyze the relationship between these ideas in HPC E§109.

[ back ] 164. HPC E§§ 152-157.

[ back ] 165. There is a most striking example in Virgil’s Aeneid (6.851): tu regere imperio populos, Romane, memento ‘keep in mind, O Roman, that you must rule over the peoples of the world with your imperium’.

[ back ] 166. I note here the theme of an “epic detour,” which I analyze in HPC I§§184-186, II§367. Just as Carthage is an epic detour for Aeneas in the Aeneid, so also is Sidon an epic detour for Paris in the Iliad.

[ back ] 167. Here we see the first reference to the fear experienced by Aeneas in this context.

[ back ] 168. The metaphor of performing a lustration – lustrare – depends on the ritual symbolism of the Roman concept of templum. The templum is a mapping of the sky on the earth, which is circular and directionless until the quadrilateral sky gives it direction – the four directions – thereby giving it orientation, order. I offer a detailed analysis in GM 107-111. When a priest performs a lustration within a sacred place, that is, within a templum, he is making a sacred sequence by making sacred connections modeled on the connections of the heavenly bodies within the cosmic order that is the sky. In contemplating the sky, the observer is making mental connections that correspond to ritual connections made in performing a lustration.

[ back ] 169. The idea of mutuality in workmanship, as expressed here, may be an indirect allusion to the ideology of the building program of Pericles on the acropolis of Athens in the fifth century BCE. This ideology can be reconstructed from a relatively late source, Plutarch’s Pericles 13.13, where we read that Athena, goddess of artisans, was imagined in the act of ‘lending a hand’ to the handiwork of artisans in executing the building program of Pericles. Commentary at 4§§114-118 below. This Athenian ideology may have inspired a parallel Roman ideology in the poetics of the Aeneid, where a doomed building program of the past, in the Carthage of Dido, is imagined as a foil for a successful building program of the present, in the Rome of Augustus.

[ back ] 170. The syntax of ex ordine ‘in due order’ is relevant to the morphology of the technical word exordium, which refers to the ‘initial threading’ of the weave and, by metaphor, to the prooimion of a verbal weave. See PR 80. On the concept of ordo ‘order’ as a metaphor derived from the process of weaving, see PR 78, 80. Elsewhere, I examine metaphors of weaving that extend to sculpting. The ‘order’ of the sculpted images of the temple, as a quadrilateral superimposition from the sky, imposes a logic on the sequence of looking at the details that are being narrated by the sculpture. By contemplating the order of the details in the temple, Aeneas is metaphorically performing an act of lustration.

[ back ] 171. In other words, the particular things that Aeneas sees ‘here’ bear out, ‘once again’, a universal formula, that ‘things worthy of praise have their own reward’.

[ back ] 172. The art of the temple of Juno now begins to represent the art of the temple of Athena.

[ back ] 173. So the vision of the dragging of Hector’s corpse behind the chariot of Achilles is a primary impetus for the sorrow of Aeneas here.

[ back ] 174. The choice of the theme of Penthesileia as the closure of this ecphrasis by Virgil may be a way of cross-referring to the theme of Penthesileia as the beginning of the Aithiopis. One version of the Aithiopis began at the closure of the Iliad, where the last word of the last verse of the Iliad narrative, hippodamoio ‘horse-tamer’ (referring to Hector) was replaced by the first words of the Aithiopis narrative, ēlthe d’ Amazōn ‘and an Amazon came’ (Iliad XXIV 804).

[ back ] 175. In translating this particular passage, I gave up on my usual practice of simulating the original verse-boundaries.

[ back ] 176. Pagliaro 1953:174-175.

[ back ] 177. Pagliaro 1953:176-179. For an outstanding example of mens and animus used together in Virgil, I cite Aeneid 6.11.

[ back ] 178. For a comparable theme, see Euripides Trojan Women 740-779, where Andromache laments for Astyanax. For the child’s funeral, his grandmother dresses him in the clothes that were woven for his wedding (1218-1220). See Dué 2006:145.

[ back ] 179. Pagliaro 1953:175.

[ back ] 180. 4§251.

[ back ] 181. On the Andromache scenes of the Iliad, see in general Lohmann1988; also Segal 1971.

[ back ] 182. The wording nec minus expresses the idea that the parting gifts about to be given by Andromache are just as wondrous as the parting gifts just given by Helenos.

[ back ] 183. That is, Aeneas and his followers are finally taking leave of Andromache and of her new husband Helenos, who stay behind in the new Troy at Buthrotum in Epirus.

[ back ] 184. That is, receive these gifts that are added to the gifts given by Helenos.

[ back ] 185. Andromache calls herself wife of Hector, though she is now married to another son of Priam, the Trojan Helenos, who has become the new king of the New Troy.

[ back ] 186. For an introduction to the concept of pattern-weaving, as expressed by the Latin noun pictura and by the verb from which it is derived, pingere, see Barber 1991:359n2.

[ back ] 187. The news must be subjectivized here: Andromache is expecting to hear news of Hector, how he is standing his ground, and in her present state of mind she is not yet ready for the news that Hector has already been killed.

[ back ] 188. In ch. 4, I consider also a variant reading: besides porphureē ‘purple’, marmareē ‘gleaming’ is also attested here at Iliad XXII 441.

[ back ] 189. Metaphorically, enpassein is to ‘sprinkle’: PR 93.

[ back ] 190. In HPC II§§373-374, I analyze the technical meanings of the words having to do with pattern-weaving in this verse.

[ back ] 191. The wording here at Iliad XXII 444 needs to be compared with the wording at Iliad XVII 207, where Zeus expresses his Plan for Hector and Andromache: the return (nostos) of Hector from battle will be altogether different. On the inherent irony of the wording here, see Grethlein 2007.

[ back ] 192. I will have more to say later about Andromache as a ‘maenad’.

[ back ] 193. This prophecy of Andromache turns out to be mistaken: after Priam is granted his request to recover the body of Hector, Achilles himself arranges for Hector’s body to be covered with various fabrics, two pharea and one khitōn, which had been brought by Priam as ransom for the body of Hector. The relevant wording can be found in Iliad XXIV 580-581. Comments by Grethlein 2007:38.

[ back ] 194. Earlier in the Iliad, in an analogous context (VI 389), Andromache is pictured as μαινομένῃ ἐϊκυῖα ‘looking like a woman possessed’ as she rushes toward the walls of Troy to see for herself the fate of the Trojans on the battlefield. For more on the theme of Andromache as a ‘maenad’, see Signore 2006.

[ back ] 195. This detail about revisiting a picture of sadness, over and over again, was first pointed out to me by David Konstan.

[ back ] 196. A related image is Iliad VI 484, where Andromache is described as δακρυόεν γελάσασα ‘smiling through her tears’.

[ back ] 197. There is a comparable image in Euripides Hecuba 939.