The Best of the Achaeans: Concepts of the Hero in Archaic Greek Poetry

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Chapter 10. Poetic Visions of Immortality for the Hero

10§1. Upon having their lifespan cut short by death, heroes receive as consolation the promise of immortality, but this state of immortality after death is located at the extremes of our universe, far removed from the realities of the here-and-now. We in this life have to keep reminding ourselves that the hero who died is still capable of pleasure, that he can still enjoy such real things as convivial feasts in the pleasant company of other youths like him. It is in this sort of spirit that the Banquet Song for Harmodios is composed, honoring the young man who had achieved the status of being worshiped as a hero by the Athenians for having died a tyrant killer: [1]

The perfect tense of the verb οὐ … τέθνηκας ᾽you are not dead’ leaves room for the reality of the hero’s death: it is not that he did not die, but that he is not dead now. The fact of death, even for the hero, is painfully real and preoccupying. Consider this excerpt from a thrênos by Simonides: [
3] {174|175}

οὐδὲ γὰρ οἳ πρότερόν ποτ᾽ ἐπέλοντο
θεῶν δ᾽ ἐξ ἀνάκτων ἐγένονθ᾽ υἷες ἡμίθεοι,
ἄπονον οὐδ᾽ ἄφθιτον οὐδ᾽ ἀκίνδυνον βίον
ἐς γῆρας ἐξίκοντο τελέσαντες
Not even those whο were before, once upon a time,
and who were born hēmítheoi as sons of the lord-gods,
not even they reached old age by bringing to a close a lifespan that is without toil,
that is áphthitos [unfailing], that is without danger.

Simonides fr. 523P

Not even heroes, then, have a bíos ‘lifespan’ that is áphthitos ‘unfailing’; they too have to die before the immortality that is promised by the thrênoi comes true. [

10§2. Even in the Aithiopis, the immortality reached by Achilles is not an immediate but a remote state: after death, the hero is permanently removed from the here-and-now of the Achaeans who mourn him. For them, the immediacy of Achilles after death has to take the form of a funeral (Aithiopis/Proclus 106.12–16 Allen), which includes not only such things as the singing of thrênoi over his body (Aithiopis/Proclus 106.12–13 Allen) but also—even after Achilles has already been transported to his immortal state—the actual building of a funeral mound and the holding of funeral games in his honor (Aithiopis/Proclus 106.15–16 Allen). I conclude, then, that even in the Aithiopis the immortality of Achilles is predicated on his death, which is the occasion for the thrênoi sung by the Muses as a consolation for his death. In the Iliad, the theme of immortality is similarly predicated on the death of Achilles, but here the focus of consolation is not on the hero’s afterlife, but rather, on the eternal survival of the epic that glorifies him.

10§3. As we now proceed to examine the diction in which this theme is expressed, we must keep in mind the words in the thrênos of Simonides (523P): even the heroes themselves fail to have a bíos ‘lifespan’ that is áphthitos ‘unfailing’. In the Iliad, Achilles himself says that he will have no kléos if he leaves Troy and goes home to live on into old age (Iliad IX 414–416)—but that he will indeed have a kléos that is áphthiton ‘unfailing’ (Iliad IX 413) if he stays to fight at Troy {175|176} and dies young. [5] The same theme of the eternity achieved by the hero within epic recurs in Pindar’s Isthmian 8, and again it is expressed with the same root phthi– as in áphthito-; he will have a kléos that is everlasting (cf. Odyssey xxiv 93–94):

The key word of the moment, phthí-menos, which I translate here in the conventional mode as ‘dead’, is formed from a root that also carries with it the inherited metaphorical force of vegetal imagery: phthi– inherits the meaning ‘wilt’, as in karpoû phthí sin ‘wilting of the crops’ (Pindar Paean 9.14). [
7] Through the comparative method, we can recover kindred vegetal imagery in another derivative of the root, the epithet á- phthi -ton as it applies to the kléos of Achilles at IX 413. [8]

10§4. As in the Iliad, the contrast in this Pindaric passage concerns the mortality of Achilles and the immortality conferred by the songs {176|177} of the Muses. More specifically, Pindar’s words are also implying that the epic of Achilles amounts to an eternal outflow of the thrênos performed for Achilles by the Muses themselves. In this light, let us now consider again the Homeric evidence. In the Odyssey, the description of the funeral that the Achaeans hold for Achilles includes such details as the thrênos of the Muses (Odyssey xxiv 60–61) and ends with the retrospective thought that ‘in this way’ (ὥς: Odyssey xxiv 93) the hero kept his fame even after death and that he will have a kléos that is everlasting (Odyssey xxiv 93–94). We get more evidence from the Iliad in the form of a correlation between theme and form. The forms are the actual names of Akhil(l)eús (from *Akhílāu̯os ‘having a grieving lāós‘) and Patrokléēs (‘having the kléos of the ancestors’). As I have argued, [9] the figure of Patro- kléēs is in the Iliad the thematic key to the kléos áphthiton of Achilles, while Akhi -l(l)eús is commensurately the key to the collective ákhos ‘grief’ that the Achaeans have for Patroklos on the occasion of his funeral. Since this ákhos takes the social form of lamentations even within the epic of the Iliad, [10] we can say that the theme we found in Pindar’s Isthmian 8 is already active in the Homeric tradition; here too, lamentation extends into epic.

10§6. In Iliad VI, Diomedes is about to attack Glaukos, but first he asks his opponent whether he is a god, not wishing at this time to fight an immortal (Iliad VI 119–143; see the words for ‘mortal’/‘immortal’ at 123, 142/128, 140 respectively). In response, Glaukos begins by saying:

Here the life and death of mortals are being overtly compared to a natural process, the growing and wilting of leaves on trees. [
14] In another such Homeric display of vegetal imagery, in this case spoken by the god Apollo himself as he talks about the human condition, this natural aspect of death is expressed specifically with the root phthi-:

10§7. Let us straightway contrast the immortalized heroes on the Isles of the Blessed, whose abode flourishes with golden plant life (Pindar Olympian 2.72–74; Thrênos fr. 129.5SM). Also, let us contrast the First Generation of Mankind, whose very essence is gold (Works and Days 109). The immortality of the Golden Age is specifically correlated with the suspension of a vegetal cycle: in the Golden Age (Works and Days 117–118) as on the Isles of the Blessed (Works and Days 172–173), the earth bears crops without interruption. The description of Elysium supplements this picture: in the state of immortality, there is simply no winter, nor any bad weather at all (Odyssey iv 566–568).

10§8. In these images, we see gold as a general symbol for the artificial continuum of immortality, in opposition to the natural cycle of life and death as symbolized by the flourishing and wilting of leaves on trees, where the theme of wilting is conventionally denoted with derivatives of the root phthi-. As we now set about to look for specific words that express this cultural negation of the vegetal cycle, we come back again to the negative epithet áphthito-. Let us begin with the skêptron ‘scepter’ of Agamemnon (Iliad I 245–246), by which Achilles takes his mighty oath (Iliad I 234–244), and which is specifically described as ‘gold-studded’ (χρυσείοις ἥλοισι πεπαρμένον: Iliad I 246) and ‘golden’ (χρυσέου: Iliad II 268). This skêptron, by which Agamemnon holds sway in Argos (Iliad II 108) and which an Achaean chieftain is bound by custom to hold in moments of solemn interchange (Iliad I 237–239, II 185–187), also qualifies specifically as áphthiton aieí ‘imperishable forever’ (Iliad II 46, 186). It was made by the ultimate craftsman, Hephaistos (Iliad II 101), whose divine handicraft may be conventionally designated as both golden and áphthito- (e.g., Iliad XIV 238–239). [16] Significantly, this everlasting artifact of a skêptron provides the basis for the Oath of Achilles in form as well as in function:

ἀλλ᾽ ἔκ τοι ἐρέω καὶ ἐπὶ μέγαν ὅρκον ὀμοῦμαι·
ναὶ μὰ τόδε σκῆπτρον, τὸ μὲν οὔ ποτε φύλλα καὶ ὄζους
φύσει, ἐπεὶ δή πρῶτα τομήν ἐν ὄρεσσι λέλοιπεν,
οὐδ᾽ ἀναθηλήσει· περὶ γάρ ῥά ἑ χαλκὸς ἔλεψε {179|180}
φύλλα τε καὶ φλοιόν. νῦν αὖτέ μιν υἷες Ἀχαιῶν
ἐν παλάμῃς φορέουσι δικασπόλοι
But Ι will say to you and swear a great oath:
I swear by this skêptron , which will no longer ever grow leaves and shoots,
ever since it has left its place where it was cut down on the mountaintops—
and it will never bloom again, for Bronze has trimmed its leaves and bark.
But now the sons of the Achaeans hold it in their hands as they carry out díkai.

Iliad I 233–237

Achilles is here swearing not only by the skêptron but also in terms of what the skêptron is—a thing of nature that has been transformed into a thing of culture. [
17] The Oath of Achilles is meant to be just as permanent and irreversible as the process of turning a shaft of living wood into a social artifact. [18] And just as the skêptron is imperishable ‘áphthiton‘, so also the Oath of Achilles is eternally valid, in that Agamemnon and the Achaeans will permanently regret not having given the hero of the Iliad his due tīmḗ (Iliad I 240–244).

10§10. In fact, the epithet áphthito- functions as a mark of not only culture but even cult itself. In the Homeric Hymn to Demeter, the infant Demophon is destined by the goddess to have a tīmḗ ‘cult’ that is áphthitos (Hymn to Demeter 261, 263), and this boon is contrasted directly with the certainty that he is not to avoid death (Hymn to Demeter 262). [21] As Demophon’s substitute mother, Demeter had actually been preparing him for a life that is never to be interrupted by death (Hymn to Demeter 242, 261–262), but the inadvertence of the infant’s real mother had brought that plan to naught (Hymn to Demeter 243–258). Still, Demophon is destined by the goddess to achieve immortality on the level of cult, so that her preparation of the infant was not in vain. We in fact catch a glimpse of the child’s destiny as a hero of cult in the following description of how the goddess had been preparing him to be immortal:

The underscored phrase [in bold] at verse 235, meaning ‘and he grew up like a daímōn’, contains a word that we have in fact already seen in the specific function of designating heroes on the level of cult (Hesiod Works and Days 122, Theogony 991). [

10§13. In this light, let us reconsider the epithet áphthito-. We have already seen that it conveys the cultural negation of a natural process, the growing and the wilting of plants, and also, by extension, the life and the death of mortals. Now we must examine how this epithet conveys the theme of immortality in its application to Demophon and Achilles as heroes of cult and epic respectively. As compensation for the death that he cannot escape, Demophon gets a tīmḗ that is áphthitos (Hymn to Demeter 261, 263); likewise, Achilles gets a kléos that is áphthiton (Iliad IX 413). Thus both heroes are destined for immortality in the form of a cultural institution that is predicated on the natural process of death. For Demophon, this predication is direct but implicit: by getting tīmḗ he is incorporated into hero cult, a general institution that is implicitly built around the basic principle that the hero must die. [38] For the Achilles of our Iliad, this same predication is explicit but indirect: by getting kléos he is incorporated into epic, which is presented by epic itself as an eternal extension of the lamentation sung by the Muses over the hero’s death (Odyssey xxiv 60–61, 93–94). [39] Thus the specific institution of lamentation, which is an aspect of hero-cult and which is implicit in the very name of Achilles, leads to the kléos of epic. For both heroes, the key to immortality is the permanence of the cultural institutions into which they are incorporated—cult for Demophon, epic for the Achilles of our Iliad. Both manifestations of both institutions qualify as áphthito-.

10§14. For the Achilles of our Iliad, the kléos áphthiton of epic (Iliad IX 413) offers not only an apparatus of heroic immortality but also a paradox about the human condition of the hero. Achilles himself says that the way for him to achieve this kléos áphthiton is to die at Troy {184|185} (Iliad IX 412–413), and that the way to lose kléos is to live life as a mortal, at home in Phthī́ē (Iliad IX 413–416). The overt Iliadic contrast of kléos áphthiton with the negation of kléos in the context of Phthī́ē is remarkable in view of the element phthi– contained by the place name. From the wording of Iliad IX 412–416, we are led to suspect that this element phthi– is either a genuine formant of Phthī́ē or is at least perceived as such in the process of Homeric composition. We see the actual correlation of the intransitive verb phthi– (middle endings) ‘perish’ with Phthī́ ē at XIX 328–330, where Achilles is wishing that he alone had died at Troy and that his surrogate Patroklos had lived to come home. Again, coming home to Phthī́ ē (Iliad XIX 330) is overtly contrasted with dying ‘ phthī́ sesthai‘ at Troy (Iliad XIX 329). [40] If indeed the name for the homeland of Achilles is motivated by the theme of vegetal death as conveyed by the root phthi-, then the traditional epithet reserved for the place is all the more remarkable: Phthī́ē is bōtiáneira ‘nourisher of men’ (Iliad I 155). The combination seems to produce a coincidentia oppositorum, [41] in that the place name conveys the death of plants while its epithet conveys the life of plants—as it sustains the life of mortals. The element bōti– in this compound bōti -áneira stems from the verb system of bóskō ‘nourish’, a word that specifically denotes the sustenance, by vegetation, of grazing animals, as at xiv 102, and of men, as at xi 365. In the latter instance, the object of the verb bóskei ‘nourishes’ is anthrṓpous ‘men’, and the subject is actually gaîa ‘Earth’. [42] Thus the life and death of mortal men is based on the life and death of the plants that are grown for their nourishment: this is the message of the epithet bōtiáneira in its application to the homeland of Achilles. Phthī́ē is the hero’s local Earth, offering him the natural cycle of life and death as an alternative to his permanent existence within the cultural medium of epic.

10§15. In the Homeric Hymn to Demeter, the foil for the permanence of cult as a cultural institution is also expressed by way of vegetal imagery: this time the image that we are considering is not the prolonged life but the prolonged death of plants, as denoted by the {185|186} root phthi-. In contrast with the application of áphthito- to the tīmḗ of Demophon, let us consider the wording of the myth that tells how the permanence of all cult was endangered when the goddess Demeter prolonged indefinitely the failure of plant life:

First, we are shown what the prolonged death of vegetation does to mortals, and we start with the adjective amenēná ‘without ménos‘ at verse 352, derived from the noun ménos ‘power’. [
44] This epithet is proleptic, in that it anticipates what Demeter does to mortals by virtue of taking away the sustenance of vegetation: she thereby takes away their ménos, and this action is here equated with the action of phthîsai at verse 352, meaning ‘destroy’ or, from the metaphorical standpoint of human life as plant life, ‘cause [plants] to fail’. [45] In Homeric diction, the intransitive uses of the same verb phthi– can designate the failing of wine supplies (Odyssey ix 163) and of food supplies (Odyssey xii 329); when the food supplies fail, katé phthi to, the ménea of men who eat them fail also (Odyssey iv 363). Second, we are shown what the prolonged death of vegetation does to the immortal gods: again, the action of Demeter is designated with the verb phthi– (kata phthi núthousa, verse 353), but here the image of plant failure applies not to the gods directly but to their tīmai ‘cults’ instead. The impact of prolonged plant failure on cult is explicit:

We see, then, that the indefinite perpetuation of vegetal death as expressed by phthi– is a natural image of cosmic disorder; it functions as a foil for the cultural image of cosmic order, as represented by the indefinite perpetuation of vegetal life and as expressed by áphthito-. We also see now more clearly the suitability of this epithet áphthito- for the function of defining not only cult in particular but also the eternal cosmic apparatus of the immortal gods in general. [

10§16. The cosmic order of the Olympians is of course not only permanent but also sacred, and in fact both these qualities are conveyed by the same epithet áphthito-. [48] As we see from the Hesiodic tradition, nothing is more sacred or binding for the Olympians than taking an oath in the name of the Styx (Theogony 793–805), and the river’s waters in this particular context are specifically called áphthito- (Στυγὸς ἄφθιτον ὕδωρ: Theogony 805). If a god breaks such an oath, he has to endure the worst of punishments (Theogony 793–805), which include the temporary withdrawal of divine sustenance, nectar and ambrosia (Theogony 796–797). [49] The children of the Styx, Krátos and Bíē (Theogony 385), uphold the cosmic régime of Zeus (Theogony 385–403), and in this context the river herself is called áphthito- (Στὺξ ἄφθιτος: Theogony 389, 397). In the Homeric tradition as well (the Hymns included), to swear by the Styx is for any god the most sacrosanct of actions (Iliad XV 37–38, Odyssey v 185–186, Hymn to Apollo 85–86). When the goddess Demeter thus takes her oath in the name of the Styx (Hymn to Demeter 259), what she swears is that the infant Demophon would {187|188} have had a life uninterrupted by death (Hymn to Demeter 260–261) and a tīmḗ that is áphthitos (Hymn to Demeter 261). Demeter then says that the inadvertence of the infant’s real mother has negated the first part of the Oath (Hymn to Demeter 262), but the second part remains valid: Demophon will still have a tīmḗ that is áphthitos (Hymn to Demeter 263). We now see that the epithet áphthito- in this context conveys not only the permanence of Demophon’s cult, but also its intrinsic sacredness, as conferred by the essence of Demeter’s Oath. [50]

10§17. So also Achilles swears by the skêptron of King Agamemnon (Iliad I 234–239), affirming both that the Achaeans will one day yearn for him and that Agamemnon will then regret not having given “the best of the Achaeans” his due tīmḗ (Iliad I 240–244). Here we must keep in mind that the skêptron itself is áphthiton (Iliad II 46, 186). Accordingly, the Oath of Achilles is not only permanent in its validity but also sacred. Moreover, the wish that the mother of Achilles conveys from the hero to Zeus is phrased from the standpoint of the Oath: let the Achaeans be hard pressed without the might of Achilles, and let their king regret not having given the hero his due tīmḗ (Iliad I 409–412). It is this wish that Thetis presents to Zeus (Iliad I 503–510), with special emphasis on the tīmḗ of Achilles (Iliad I 505, 507, 508, 510 bis), and it is this wish that Zeus ratifies irrevocably (Iliad I 524–530). In this way, the Oath of Achilles is translated into the Will of Zeus, which, as we have seen, is the self-proclaimed plot of our Iliad. [51] The oath is sacred because it is founded on the skêptron, which is áphthiton; now we see that the epic validating the tīmḗ of Achilles is also sacred, for the very reason that it is founded on this Oath. Accordingly, the epithet áphthito- as it applies to the kléos of Achilles (Iliad IX 413) conveys not only the permanence of the hero’s epic but also its intrinsic sacredness as conferred by the essence of the hero’s Oath.

10§18. The traditional application of áphthito- to both the cult of Demophon and the epic of Achilles serves as a key to what is for us a missing theme in the archaic story of Achilles. In the case of Demophon, we have seen how the hero gets a tīmḗ that is áphthitos because the goddess swears by the Styx, which is itself áphthitos. We have yet to follow through, however, on what such a combination of {188|189} Stúx and áphthitos implies: that the waters of the Styx are an elixir of life. [52] The lore about the cosmic stream Styx applies commensurately to the actual stream Styx in Arcadia, [53] and in fact the belief prevails to this day that whoever drinks of that stream’s waters under the right conditions may gain immortality. [54] The point is that there survives for us a story telling how Thetis had immersed the infant Achilles into the waters of the Styx, in an unsuccessful attempt to exempt him from death (Statius Achilleid 1.269; Servius ad Virgil Aeneid 6.57; etc.). This failure of Thetis must be compared with the failure of Demeter in her attempt to make Demophon immortal. It would indeed be conventional for scholars to consider the story of Achilles in the Styx as a parallel to that of Demophon in the fire, if it were not for the fact that there is no attestation of such an Achilles story in archaic poetry. [55] This obstacle may now perhaps be overcome with the indirect testimony of the epithet áphthito-: for both Demophon and Achilles, this word marks a compensatory form of immortality, and the Stygian authority of this deathlessness is overt in the case of Demophon. In the case of Achilles, we may say that the authority of the skêptron is a worthy variation on the authority of the Stúx, in that both skêptron and Stúx are intrinsically áphthito-. From the standpoint of diction, either could ratify the kléos of Achilles as áphthiton.

10§20. It remains to ask a more important question: whether the theme of the hero immortalized in cult is compatible with the poetic visions of the hero immortalized by being transported to Elysium, to the Isles of the Blessed, or even to Olympus itself. Rohde, for one, thought that the concept of heroes being transported into a remote state of immortality is purely poetic and thus alien to the religious concept of heroes being venerated in cult. [57] From the actual evidence {189|190} of cult, however, we see that the two concepts are not at all treated as if they were at odds with each other. [58] In fact, the forms Ēlúsion ‘Elysium’ and Makárōn nêsoi ‘Isles of the Blessed’ are appropriate as names for actual cult sites. The proper noun Ēlúsion coincides with the common noun en-ēlúsion, meaning ‘place made sacred by virtue of being struck by the thunderbolt’ (Polemon fr. 5 Tresp); correspondingly, the adjective en-ēlúsios means ‘made sacred by virtue of being struck by the thunderbolt’ (Aeschylus fr. 17N = fr. 263M). [59] The form Ēlúsion itself is glossed in the Alexandrian lexicographical tradition (Hesychius) as κεκεραυνωμένον χωρίον ἢ πεδίον ‘a place or field that has been struck by the thunderbolt’, with this added remark: καλεῖται δὲ καὶ ἐνηλύσια ‘and it is also called enēlúsia‘. As for Makárōn nêsos, there is a tradition that the name was actually applied to the old acropolis of Thebes, the Kadmeion; specifically, the name designated the sacred precinct where Semele, the mother of Dionysos, had been struck dead by the thunderbolt of Zeus (Parmenides ap. Suda and pa. Photius, s.v. Makárōn nêsos; Tzetzes ad Lycophron 1194, 1204). [60] We are immediately reminded of the poetic tradition that tells how Semele became immortalized as a direct result of dying from the thunderbolt of Zeus (see Pindar Olympian 2.25, in conjunction with Hesiod Theogony 942). [61]

10§21. We are in fact now ready to examine the general evidence of poetic traditions, in order to test whether the medium of poetry distinguishes this concept of heroes (or heroines) being transported into a state of immortality from the concept of their being venerated in cult. As with the evidence of cult itself, we will find that poetic diction reveals no contradiction between these two concepts.

10§22. Actually, there are poetic themes that tell of a hero’s actual veneration in cult, and these themes are even combined with those {190|191} that tell of his translation into immortality. Such combinations in fact form an integral picture of the heroic afterlife, as in the Hesiodic version of the Phaethon myth: [62]

Phaethon in the afterlife is overtly presented as a daímōn of cult (Theogony 991) who functions within an undisturbed corner plot, múkhos, of Aphrodite’s precinct (hence múkhios at Theogony 991) [
64] as the goddess’s nēópolos ‘temple attendant’ (again Theogony 991). The designation of Phaethon as daímōn also conveys the immortal aspect of the hero in his afterlife, since it puts him in the same category as the Golden Generation, who are themselves explicitly daímones (Works and Days 122). [65] As for the mortal aspect of Phaethon, we may observe the vegetal imagery surrounding his birth and adolescence. When he is about to be snatched away forever, he bears the ánthos ‘bloom’ of adolescence (Theogony 988). Earlier, the verb that denotes his very birth from Eos is phītū́sato (Theogony 986): the Dawn Goddess ‘sprouted’ him as if he were some plant. We see here in the Theogony the only application {191|192} of phīt ū́ ein ‘sprout’ to the act of reproduction, which is elsewhere conventionally denoted by tíktein and geínasthai. [66] The most immediate parallel is the birth of the Athenian hero Erekhtheus, who was directly sprouted by Earth herself:

As with Phaethon, the immortal aspect of the hero Erekhtheus is conveyed by his permanent installation within the sacred precinct of a goddess. [

10§23. We have yet to examine the actual process of Phaethon’s translation into heroic immortality. [69] The key word is the participle anereipsaménē (Theogony 990), describing Aphrodite at the moment that she snatches Phaethon away to be with her forever. The word recurs in the finite form anēreípsanto (Iliad XX 234), describing the gods as they abduct Ganymedes to be the cup bearer of Zeus for all time to come. In the next verse, we hear the motive for the divine action:

κάλλεος εἵνεκα οἷο, ἵν᾽ ἀθανάτοισι μετείη
on account of his beauty, so that he might be among the Immortals.

Iliad XX 235

The Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite elaborates on the same myth: it was Zeus himself who abducted Ganymedes (Hymn to Aphrodite 202–203). Here too, the motive is presented as the same: {192|193}

ὃν διὰ κάλλος, ἵν᾽ ἀθανάτοισι μετείη
on account of his beauty, so that he might be among the Immortals.

Hymn to Aphrodite 203

In this retelling as well as in all the others, Ganymedes becomes the cup bearer of Zeus; and as such he abides in the gods’ royal palace at Olympus (Hymn to Aphrodite 204–206). By virtue of gaining Olympian status, he is in fact described as an Immortal himself:

As cup bearer and boy-love of Zeus, Ganymedes also qualifies as a daímōn:

The parallelisms between this Theognidean passage about Ganymedes and the Hesiodic passage about Phaethon (Theogony 986–991) are remarkable not just because of the convergences in detail (both heroes are described as daímōn, both have the ánthos ‘bloom’ of youth, etc.). An even more remarkable fact about these parallelisms is that the processes of preservation on Olympus and preservation in cult function as equivalent poetic themes.

10§25. The meaning of thúella ‘gust of wind’ is certain (see the collocation of thúella with anémoio ‘of wind’ at Iliad VI 346, etc.). As for hárpuia, a word that is also personified as ‘Harpy’ (Theogony 267), [74] the same meaning ‘gust of wind’ is apparent from the only remaining Homeric attestation of the verb anēreípsanto ‘abducted’. After Penelope wishes that Artemis smite her dead and take her thūmós immediately, we hear her make an alternative wish:

ἢ ἔπειτά μ᾽ ἀναρπάξασα θύελλα
οἴχοιτο προφέρουσα κατ᾽ ἠερόεντα κέλευθα,
ἐν προχοῇς δὲ βάλοι ἀψορρόου Ὠκεανοῖο
or later, may a thúella abduct me;
may it go off and take me away along misty ways,
and plunge me into the streams of Okeanos, which flows in a circle.

Odyssey xx 63–65

As precedent for being abducted by a gust of wind and cast down into the Okeanos, her words evoke the story about the daughters of Pandareos: {194|195}

ὡς δ᾽ ὅτε Πανδαρέου κούρας ἀνέλοντο θύελλαι
as when the thúellai took away the daughters of Pandareos

Odyssey xx 66

This mention of abduction is followed by a description of how the Pandareids were preserved by the Olympian goddesses (Odyssey xx 67–72). The preservation of the girls is then interrupted by death, at the very moment that Aphrodite is arranging for them to be married (Odyssey xx 73–74). Death comes in the form of abduction:

10§27. In the imagery of passages featuring the forms anēreípsanto/anereipsaménē, you experience death when the abducting winds plunge you into the earth-encircling river Okeanos. So we have seen from Penelope’s death wish (Odyssey xx 63–65). As we see further from Homeric diction, especially at Odyssey xxiv 1–14, the Okeanos is one of the prime mythical boundaries that serve to delimit light from darkness, life from death, wakefulness from sleep, consciousness from uncon-{195|196} sciousness. [77] The River Okeanos marks the cosmic extremities beyond Earth and Seas (cf. Iliad XIV 301–302). The Sun himself, Helios, plunges into it every sunset (Iliad VIII 485) and emerges from it every sunrise (Iliad VII 421–423, Odyssey xix 433–434). As the Sun thus rises at Dawn from the Okeanos, he stirs the árourai ‘fertile lands’ (Iliad VII 421, Odyssey xix 433), [78] and we are reminded by this action that the noun ároura itself traditionally attracts such epithets of fertility as zeídōros ‘grain-giving’ (Iliad II 548, VIII 486, etc.). [79] Since plunging into the Okeanos overtly conveys death (Odyssey xx 63–65), it follows that the notion of emerging from it conveys regeneration. For the Sun, we infer that regeneration through Okeanos is cosmic, bringing with it the fertility of Earth itself; in fact, Okeanos qualifies not only as theôn génesin ‘genesis of gods’ (Iliad XIV 201, 302) but even as génesis pántessi ‘genesis for all things’ (Iliad XIV 246).

10§32. On the level of celestial dynamics, these associations imply the theme of a setting sun mating with the goddess of regeneration so that the rising sun may be reborn. Let us pursue this scheme—so far hypothetical only—one step further: if the setting sun is the same as the rising sun, then the goddess of regeneration may be viewed as both mate and mother. Such an ambivalent relationship actually survives in the hymns of the Rig-Veda, where the goddess of solar regeneration, Uṣas– ‘Dawn’, is the wife or bride of the sun god Sūrya– (Rig-Veda 1.115.2, 7.75.5, etc.) as well as his mother (Rig-Veda 7.63.3, 7.78.3). In the latter instance, the incestuous implications are attenuated by putting Uṣas– into the plural, representing a succession of dawns. Similarly, Uṣas– in the plural can designate the wives of Sūrya– (4.5.13). Yet even if each succeeding dawn is wife of the preceding dawn’s son, the husband and son are always one and the same Sūrya– and the basic theme of incest remains.

10§33. There is more than one reason for comparing these Indic traditions about Sūrya– ‘Sun’ and Uṣas– ‘Dawn’ to such Greek traditions as we see in the myth of Phaethon. First and most obvious, the actual forms Sūrya– and Uṣas– are cognate with Hḗlios ‘Sun’ and Ēṓs ‘Dawn’. [86] Second, there are instances in Homeric diction where the relationship of the forms Ēṓs and Phaéthōn is directly parallel to the relationship of Rig-Vedic Uṣas– and Sūrya– Besides being an epithet of Hḗlios (Iliad XI 735, etc.), the form Phaethôn also functions as a name for one of the two horses of Ēṓs:

Λάμπον καὶ Φαέθονθ᾽ οἵ τ᾽ Ἠῶ πῶλοι ἄγουσι
Lámpos and Phaéthōn , who are the horses that pull Ēṓs

Odyssey xxiii 246

We may note that Lámpos, the name of her other horse, is also associated with the notion of brightness. The Rig-Vedic parallel here is that Sūrya– the sun god is called the ‘bright horse’, śvetám … áśvam, of the Dawn Goddess Uṣas– (Rig-Veda 7.77.3; cf. 7.78.4). There is also, within Homeric diction itself, an internal analogue to the combination of Phaéthōn and Lámpos at xxiii 246. The names for the daughters of Hḗlios the sun god are Phaéthousa and Lampetíē (Odyssey xii {198|199} 132), which are feminine equivalents of Phaéthōn and Lámpos. [
87] The Rig-Vedic parallel here is that the name for the daughter of Sūrya– the sun god is Sūryā (Rig-Veda 1.116.17), a feminine equivalent of the masculine name. The comparative evidence of this contextual nexus suggests that the Horses of the Dawn at xxiii 246 had once been metaphorical aspects of the Sun. As in the Rig-Veda, the Sun could have been called the bright horse of the Dawn—by such names as Phaéthōn or Lámpos. Once the metaphor is suspended, then the notion ‘Horse of the Dawn’ becomes reorganized: if the Dawn has a horse, she will actually have not one but two for a chariot team, and the two kindred solar aspects Phaéthōn ‘bright’ and Lámpos ‘bright’ will do nicely as names for two distinct horses. Yet the surviving function of Phaethousa and Lampetiê as daughters of Helios serves as testimony for the eroded personal connotations of the names Phaéthōn and Lámpos. By contrast, the metaphor is maintained in the Rig-Veda, where Sūrya– the sun god is both bridegroom and horse of the dawn goddess Uṣas-. There is even a special word that conveys both functions of Sūrya– namely márya– (Rig-Veda 1.115.2, 7.76.3). In fact, the metaphorical equation of horse and bridegroom is built into various rituals of Indic society, such as that of initiation, and a key to this equation is the same word márya – and its Iranian cognate. [88]

10§34. Significantly, there is a corresponding Greek attestation of such a metaphorical equation, in the context of a wedding song:

Ὑμήν Ὑμήν·
τὰν Διὸς οὐρανίαν ἀείδομεν,
τὰν ἐρώτων πότνιαν, τὰν παρθένοις
γαμήλιον Ἀφροδίταν.
πότνια, σοὶ τάδ᾽ ἐγὼ νυμφεῖ᾽ ἀείδω,
Κύπρι θεῶν καλλίστα,
τῷ τε νεόζυγι σῷ
πώλῳ τὸν ἐν αἰθέρι κρύπτεις,
σῶν γάμων γένναν
Hymen, Hymen!
We sing the celestial daughter of Zeus,
the Mistress of Love, the one who gets maidens united in matrimony, Aphrodite.
My Lady, I sing this wedding song to you, {199|200}
O Kypris, most beautiful of gods!
—and also to your newly yoked
pôlos [horse], the one you hide in the aether,
the offspring of your wedding.

Euripides Phaethon 227–235D

The pôlos ‘horse’ of Aphrodite is Hymen himself, [
89] and we note that the same word at xxiii 246 designates the horses of Eos, Phaethon and Lampos. We also note that Hymen’s epithet νεόζυγι ᾽newly yoked’ (line 233) marks him as Aphrodite’s bridegroom (compare the diction in Aeschylus Persians 541–542; Euripides Medea 804–805; also fr. 821N). As for the appositive σῶν γάμων γένναν ‘offspring of your wedding’ (line 235), it conveys that Hymen is also Aphrodite’s son. We must at the same time appreciate that this entire wedding song to Aphrodite and Hymen is being sung in honor of Phaéthōn, and that his bride-to-be is in all probability a daughter of the Sun. [90] Finally, we note that Aphrodite here functions as τὰν Διὸς οὐρανίαν ‘the celestial daughter of Zeus’ (line 228). This characterization now brings us to a third important reason for comparing the Indic traditions about Sūrya-‘Sun’ and Uṣas– ‘Dawn’ with the Greek traditions about Phaéthōn and Ēṓs.

10§36. The replacement of Eos as Diòs thugátēr/thugátēr Diós by Aphrodite and other goddesses leads to a fragmentation of her original functions. From the comparative evidence of the Rig-Veda, we might have expected Eos to be both the mother and the consort of a solar figure like Phaethon. Instead, the Hesiodic tradition assigns Aphrodite as consort of Phaethon, while Eos is only his mother (Theogony 986–991). We may infer that the originally fused functions of mating with the consort and being reborn from the mother were split and divided between Aphrodite and Eos respectively. However, such a split leaves Phaethon as son of Eos simply by birth rather than by rebirth.

10§39. One related star which does not set, however, is the Árktos ‘Bear’:

οἴη δ᾽ ἄμμορός ἐστι λοετρῶν Ὠκεανοῖο
She alone has no share in the baths of Okeanos.

Odyssey v 275 = Iliad XVIII 489

Since the theme of plunging into the Okeanos conveys the process of death (see again Odyssey xx 63–65), it follows that the exemption of Arktos from ever having to set into the Okeanos conveys her immortality. The Arktos ‘stalks Orion’, Ōrī́ōna dokeúei (Odyssey v 274 = Iliad XVIII 488), and the verb dokeúei ‘stalks’ implies doom. In Homeric diction, it applies when marksmen or beasts take aim at their victims (Iliad XIII 545, XVI 313, VIII 340). [
98] In the lore reported by Pausanias (8.35.6–7), the name Arktos applies also to Kallisto as mother of Arkas and hence progenitrix of the Arkades ‘Arcadians’; she is represented as being turned into a bear and being killed by Artemis. The heroine Kallistṓ herself is the ritual antagonist of Artemis Kallístē, whose sanctuary is located on the “Mound of Kallisto” (Pausanias 8.35.8). [99] On the basis of such traditions, featuring an intimate nexus between Artemis and the concept of Árktos, we are encouraged to infer an actual identification in the astral scheme: an immortal Árktos stalks a mortal Orion at v 273–275 and XVIII 487–489, and the image implicitly retells the myth of Artemis killing Orion, explicit at v 121–124. As Odysseus is floating along on his nocturnal sea voyage, he contemplates this image of Arktos stalking Orion in the sky above (Odyssey v 271–275), which Kalypso had marked out for him to fix the direction in which his raft is to sail (Odyssey v 276–277). Since Kalypso {202|203} herself had compared her seduction of Odysseus with the abduction of Orion by Eos (Odyssey v 121), the connected theme of Orion’s death from the shafts of Artemis (Odyssey v 122–124) makes the image of Arktos stalking Orion at v 271–275 an ominous sign indeed for Odysseus. He is being guided away from the Island of Kalypso by a celestial sign that points to the fate awaiting him if he had stayed behind as bedmate of the immortal goddess.

10§40. Such is the power of a myth that results ultimately from the fragmentation of the functions once encompassed by one figure, the pre-Olympian goddess Eos. It is through this figure that we can better appreciate the traditional nature not only of myths concerned with the immortalization of the hero but also of sundry other myths concerned with how this process can go wrong.

10§42. This much, in any case, can be said with some confidence: the functions of Eos that prevail in the Greek myths have been by and large restricted to beneficent ones, in that we find her consistently promoting the immortality of the hero. The functions associated with her inherited epithet, on the other hand, remain ambivalent. We have already noted that this epithet, Diòs thugátēr/thugátēr Diós, [104] along with its thematic associations, has been reassigned to other goddesses, who are thereby endowed with maleficent as well as beneficent functions. The clearest example of the maleficent aspect in Homeric diction is the passage where Penelope prays to Artemis for death, invoking her in this context as thugátēr Diós (Odyssey xx 61). As for {204|205} the beneficent aspect, there are many examples available, and most of them are suited—no surprise—to the particular requirements of epic narrative. For instance, Athena qualifies as Diòs thugátēr (Iliad IV 128) when she rescues Menelaos from certain death on the battlefield (Iliad IV 127–130); in this context, she is specifically compared to a mother fostering her child (Iliad IV 130–131). This function of the Diòs thugátēr as a motherly goddess who preserves the hero from mortal harm is typical on the level of epic narrative. [105] On a more fundamental level, however, this function of the Diòs thugátēr entails not only the temporary preservation of the hero in epic action but also his permanent preservation in the afterlife. There is actually an important attestation of this basic function in epic action. Even more important, the goddess in question is not some derivative Diòs thugátēr but Eos herself. The only surviving attestation of her taking a direct part in epic action is the Aithiopis, where she translates her dead son Memnon into a state of immortality (Proclus 106.6–7 Allen). [106]

10§44. This instance of coincidentia oppositorum, [108] where identity consists of two opposites, has an interesting parallel involving Okeanos and Eos directly. Again we are about to see how two opposite places can add up to the same place. To begin, from the overall plot of the Odyssey, we know that Odysseus is wandering in the realms of the extreme West when he comes upon the island of Aiaia (Odyssey x 135). It is from Aiaia, island of Circe, that Odysseus is sent on his way to the underworld by traveling beyond the sea until he and his men reach the cosmic river Okeanos (Odyssey xi 21–22). [109] Later, on the way back from the underworld, the ship of Odysseus has to leave the Okeanos before returning to Aiaia, which is now described as situated not in the extreme West but in the extreme East. [110] In fact, Aiaia now turns out to be the abode of Eos and sunrise:

αὐτὰρ ἐπεὶ ποταμοῖο λίπεν ῥόον Ὠκεανοῖο
νηῦς, ἀπὸ δ᾽ ἵκετο κῦμα θαλάσσης εὐρυπόροιο
νῆσόν τ᾽ Αἰαίην, ὅθι τ᾽ Ἠοῦς ἠριγενείης
οἰκία καὶ χοροί εἰσι καὶ ἀντολαὶ Ἠελίοιο
But when the ship left the stream of the river Okeanos,
and reached the waves of the sea with its wide-flung paths,
and then the Island Aiaia—and there are the abode and the dancing places
of early-born Eos, and the sunrises of Helios

Odyssey xii 1–4

In short, the Okeanos in the extreme East is a key to the emergence of Odysseus from his sojourn in the world of the dead—a sojourn that began when he reached the Okeanos in the extreme West.


[ back ] 1. On the incorporation of Harmodios into the institutions of Athenian cult and myth, see Taylor 1975, esp. pp. 20–25, 47–70.

[ back ] 2. For the epithet esthlós ‘worthy, good’ describing Diomedes on the Isles of the Blessed, see §3n6; also Ch9§4n6.

[ back ] 3. Previous references to this thrênos: Ch.9§16n40, Ch.9§31n76. Kegel 1962:47 argues that ἄφθιτον at line 3 makes no sense and should therefore be considered corrupt; I offer the following discussion (§§1–18) as a counterargument.

[ back ] 4. In the case of Ino, she apparently dies and then gets a bíotos ‘lifespan’ that is áphthitos: see Pindar Olympian 2.29, as discussed at §41n101. On the affinities of Pindar’s Olympian 2 with the poetic form of the thrênos, see again Ch.9§31.

[ back ] 5. Ch.2§3.

[ back ] 6. For the epithet esthlós ‘worthy, good’ describing Achilles here, cf. §1n2; also Ch.9§4n6. The collocation of esthlós and phthí menos as epithets of Achilles should be compared with the collocation of esthlón and á phthi ton as epithets of the kléos of Achilles, at Iliad IX 415 and 413 respectively. Compare also the repeated use of esthlós at Odyssey viii 582 and 585, describing the hypothetical relative or comrade who perished at Troy (the word for ‘perished’ at Odyssey viii 581 is actually apé phthi to!). The context for these occurrences is suggestive: Alkinoos is asking Odysseus why he wept over the epic song of Demodokos (Odyssey viii 577–578), and his weeping is called an ákhos at Odyssey viii 541. For the contrast of lamentation and Epos in this passage, see Ch.6§§8–9.

[ back ] 7. Cf. also phthi nókarpos ‘having fruits that wilt’ at Pindar Pythian 4.265.

[ back ] 8. See §§5–15 and Nagy 1974:231–255; also Schmitt 1967:61–69. Note that áphthito– in Homeric diction regularly refers to things made by Hephaistos (scholia V to Iliad XIV 238), and that the armor of Achilles is all made by Hephaistos—except for the hero’s spear (see Ch.9§12).

[ back ] 9. Ch.6§§22–23; see also Sinos 1975:99–125.

[ back ] 10. Ch.6§23.

[ back ] 11. For the validity of the distinction nature/culture from the vantage point of anthropology, see Redfield 1975.

[ back ] 12. For the distinction made in Homeric diction between genēḗ ‘long-range lineage, complete ancestry’ and génos ‘immediate ancestry’, see Muellner 1976:77.

[ back ] 13. The response continues until the conclusion at Iliad VI 211: “It is from this genēḗ and bloodline that I boast to be.” Note the intervening use of génos at Iliad VI 209, in collocation with patéres in the sense of ‘ancestors’ (πατέρων: on which see Ch.6§12).

[ back ] 14. The same theme recurs in Mimnermus fr. 2W; also in Hesiod fr. 204.124 ff. MW, where the correlation seems to apply specifically to the life and death of heroes who died in the Trojan War (discussion at Ch.11§14).

[ back ] 15. The form za- phlegé -es ‘very radiant’ (Iliad XXI 465) is interesting. Consider its relation to Phlegú -ās, as discussed at Ch.7§5. Cf. Vian 1960:219.

[ back ] 16. Otherwise, the handicraft of Hephaistos is brazen and áphthito-, as at Iliad XVIII 369–371. The scholia (V) to Iliad XIV 238 claim that anything made by Hephaistos qualifies as áphthito– in Homeric diction. Compare the application of ámbroto– ‘immortal’ to the teúkhea ‘armor’ of Achilles at Iliad XVII 194, 202, as discussed at and Ch.9§33 and Ch.9§33n83.

[ back ] 17. Cf. Watkins 1975:22–23.

[ back ] 18. On the cult of Agamemnon’s skêptron at Khaironeia, where its local name is the dóru ‘wood, shaft’, see Pausanias 9.40.11–12. Discussion by Nagy 1974:242–243n16; see now also Watkins 1975:22–23.

[ back ] 19. For the interrelation of island (nêsos) and mainland (peraíā) in archaic patterns of colonization, see Jeffery 1976:50–59 in general and pp. 50–51 in particular.

[ back ] 20. Cf. Kirk 1970:165 en passant.

[ back ] 21. On Hymn to Demeter 263, I prefer the direct sort of interpretation as offered by Richardson 1974:245, which does not presuppose any textual conflation involving verses 260–263.

[ back ] 22. On the internal rhyme here, possibly connoting the magic of incantation, see Richardson pp. 239.

[ back ] 23. I interpret θεοῦ here as ‘of the goddess’ rather than ‘of a god’. For a parallel treatment of the infant god Apollo, see Hymn to Apollo 123–125.

[ back ] 24. Consider the infant’s name, Dēmophóōn ‘shining for the dêmos’, also attested as ΔΕΜΟΦΑΟΝ = Dēmopháōn (Kretschmer 1894:142n126) and even as ΔΗΜΟΦΑFΩΝ = Dēmophaáōn (Priscian Institutiones Grammaticae 1.22, 6.69). For the parallel forms Pháōn and Phaéthōn, see Nagy 1973:148. On the semantics of dêmos, see Ch.8§11n25.

[ back ] 25. On the thematic associations inherent in dālós ‘smoldering log’, see Detienne 1973b [= 1970]:298–299, who adduces the relevant myths about Meleager and the dālós; cf. also Odyssey v 488.

[ back ] 26. This same phrase ὁ δ᾽ ἀέξετο δαίμονι ἶσος ‘and he grew up like a daímōn‘ at Hymn to Demeter 235 has a formal parallel at Hymn to Demeter 300, describing the temple of the goddess herself: ὁ δ᾽ ἀέξετο δαίμονος αἴσῃ ‘and it [the temple] grew up by the aîsa [dispensation] of the daímōn‘. The daímōn here is surely Demeter. For the application of the word daímōn to god and hero alike, see Ch.9§6; also Ch.7§15n43, §21n60.

[ back ] 27. Sinos 1975:28–36.

[ back ] 28. Verses 56–60 are also at Iliad XVIII 437–441.

[ back ] 29. The phrasing ἥ τ᾽ … ἔξοχον ἡρώων at 55–56 serves to elaborate on the compound epithet dusaristotókeia at 54, with the culminating theme conveyed by the epithet éxokhos hērṓōn ‘the very best of heroes’. (The element dus– ‘bad, sad’ of the compound dus-aristo-tókeia is metalinguistic, in that it motivates the application of the epithet –aristo-tókeia ‘mother of the very best’ in the context of ṓ moiṓ moi, the language of lamentation.) Compare too the epithet éxokhos hērṓōn ‘the very best of heroes’ with the phraseology at Alcaeus 42.13LP.

[ back ] 30. For an instance where anatrékhō ‘shoot up’ applies directly to the growth of a plant, see Herodotus 8.55, where the perfect participle of this verb (ἀναδεδραμηκότα) describes the new shoot that grew from the stump of Athena’s olive tree after the burning of Athens by the invading Persians; significantly, the tree was in the precinct of the local hero Erekhtheus. See Sinos 1975:28–29.

[ back ] 31. Note that the underscored phrases [in bold] at Iliad XVIII 56 and Hymn to Demeter 235, describing the growth of Achilles and Demophon respectively, are both directly connected with the theme of nurturing goddesses. On the relationship of the nurturing goddess, Kourotróphos, with the koûros on the level of cult and with the éphēbos on the level of society in general, see Sinos 1975:29–30 and Clader 1976:75–77; also Vidal-Naquet 1968:947–949 and Detienne 1973b:302, esp. n. 7. The word koûros ‘male youth’ is the Ionic reflex of *kóru̯os, which in Attic yields kóros ‘shoot [of a plant]’; see Merkelbach 1971. For Kourotróphos as a distinct cult figure in Attica, to whom the éphēboi made sacrifice (IG II2 1039), see Quinn 1971:153. In Harpocration s.v. Kourotróphos, we read that the custom of sacrificing to Kourotrophos was “founded” by the Athenian hero Erekhtheus: he was the first to sacrifice to her, in gratitude to Gaia ‘Earth’ for having given him birth. In the Athenian myth of Erekhtheus, there eventually prevailed a distinction between one goddess (Athena) who nurtures the hero and another goddess (Earth) who gives him birth; see Iliad II 547–551. The relationship of Kourotrophos to Erekhtheus hints at a stage where Athena is not yet distinct from Mother Earth. For more on the subject of Kourotrophos, see Hadzisteliou Price 1978.

[ back ] 32. Besides the application of phutòn hṓs ‘like a shoot’ to Achilles at Iliad XVIII 57 (and 438), this simile is applied to no one else in the Iliad or Odyssey.

[ back ] 33. See Reiner 1938:12–13, who also adduces an interesting parallel from Euripides Suppliants 918–924.

[ back ] 34. See Ch.6§24

[ back ] 35. Note too the comparison of the dead Euphorbos to an érnos ‘sprout’ cut off from an olive tree, at Iliad XVII 52–58.

[ back ] 36. Compare Iliad XXII 87: here the mother of Hektor addresses him as phílon thálos in the context of conjuring up a future scene where Hektor will be laid out on the funeral couch and his mother will be mourning him.

[ back ] 37. We should also note the ritual laments for Adonis in the Athenian festival known as the Adṓnia. From Plutarch’s account (Alcibiades 18.5), we see that lamentation was but one aspect of an overall “funeral” for Adonis (see Alexiou 1974:217n2, who surveys the references to the Adṓnia in comedy). For the significance of the vegetal imagery surrounding the Adonis figure, especially the theme of premature growth and death, see Detienne 1972; cf. also Sinos 1975:9–37.

[ back ] 38. Cf. Ch.6§27.

[ back ] 39. See §§2–4. Of course, the inherited semantic range of the word kléos itself covers not just Epos in particular but praise poetry in general. Praise is in fact an integral element of lamentation; see Reiner 1938:23n1 and pp. 63 n. 3 on Iliad XXII 303–305. In the latter passage, Hektor recognizes that he will die but hopes that he will thereby get kléos if indeed he has acted heroically (line 304); then “those in the future” will also hear about him (line 305).

[ back ] 40. Note also the ring composition in the placement of phthi– at Iliad XIX 322 (apophthiménoio puthoímēn / ) and Iliad XIX 337 (apophthiménoio puthētai / ), denoting respectively the hypothetical deaths of father and son, Peleus and Achilles.

[ back ] 41. For the term, see Eliade 1963:419–429; see also §§43–44.

[ back ] 42. Note the application of the same epithet bōtiáneira ‘nourisher of men’ to khthṓn ‘Earth’ at Hymn to Apollo 363 and Hymn to Aphrodite 265.

[ back ] 43. On the mental and supernatural aspects of the verb mḗdomai: Nagy 1974:265–278.

[ back ] 44. On the cosmic aspects of ménos and its Vedic cognate mánas-: Nagy 1974:268–269.

[ back ] 45. Cf. §3.

[ back ] 46. On the word géras ‘honorific portion’: Ch.7§19n57.

[ back ] 47. The Indic cognate of Greek áphthito– is ákṣita ‘unfailing’, and the semantic range of this epithet reveals interesting parallels with that of its Greek counterpart. In the Rig-Veda, the epithet ákṣita– applies to the unfailing flow of the cosmic powers inherent in water, fire, light, milk, semen, urine, and soma-sap; for a survey of the nouns that correspond to these elements and attract the epithet ákṣita-, see Nagy 1974:231–240.

[ back ] 48. In the hymns of the Rig-Veda, by virtue of its being a sacrosanct medium, the elements described as ákṣita– are uniformly sacred; see again Nagy 1974:231–240.

[ back ] 49. One consequence of being deprived of nectar and ambrosia is that the punished god loses his breath: he lies ‘breathless’ (anápneustos: Theogony 797), enveloped in a ‘bad sleep’ (kakònkôma: Theogony 798). On the supernatural connotations of kôma ‘sleep’, see West 1966:375.

[ back ] 50. Cf. also the application of áphthito– to sébas ‘object of reverence’ at Iliou Persis fr. 1.1 Allen, referring to the Palladium of Troy, which its founder Dardanos is instructed by the Oracle to ‘revere’ by guarding it and by instituting sacrifices and songs/dances for its cult (sébein: fr. 1.2 Allen).

[ back ] 51. Ch.5§25n36.

[ back ] 52. See Richardson 1974:245.

[ back ] 53. In Herodotus 6.74, we see that swearing by the Styx is a most sacred act for the Arcadians; see Frazer 1898 IV: 253–254 ad Pausanias 8.18.4.

[ back ] 54. For documentation, see West 1966:377–378.

[ back ] 55. On the stories of Achilles in the fire, see Richardson 1974:237–238.

[ back ] 56. See again §15.

[ back ] 57. Rohde I 68–110. His assumption has generally been followed; cf. Dihle 1970:18–20.

[ back ] 58. As Walter Burkert points out to me (per litteras 6/16/1977), there is a clear archaic example where the cult of a hero at his tomb coexists with the myth of his immortalization, in the report on Hyakinthos by Pausanias 3.19.4.

[ back ] 59. See Burkert 1961:209; in the Aeschylus fragment, the form enēlúsios applies to Kapaneus, who was struck by the thunderbolt of Zeus. For the semantic relationship of enēlúsios/enēlúsion, compare hierós/hierón ‘sacred’/’sacred place’. Note that the body of the thunderstruck Kapaneus is described as hieró– in Euripides Suppliants 935.

[ back ] 60. See Burkert 1961:212n2; cf. Vian 1963:123.

[ back ] 61. See also Diodorus Siculus 5.52, Charax FGrH 103.14, etc. In the Pindaric account (Olympian 2.25), her abode of immortality is Olympus itself. Cf. the immortalization of Herakles on Olympus, as discussed at §41n100. Cf. also the testimony of the Thurian gold leaves at A1.4, A2.5, A3.5 (Zuntz 1971:301–305), where the persona of the dead man declares in each instance that his immortalization was preceded by death from the thunderbolt.

[ back ] 62. For the parallelism between the names Phaéthōn/Pháōn and Dēmopháōn, see §10n24.

[ back ] 63. For more on this epithet, see Boedeker 1974:20, 23–26, 32–35.

[ back ] 64. On the nature of the múkhos, see Rohde I 135 n. 1 (cf. also Nagy 1973:171). I disagree, however, with Rohde’s specific assumption that Phaethon’s abduction does not involve death. See also §22n65.

[ back ] 65. We may note that even those in the Golden Generation are subject to death, although this death is more like sleep (Hesiod Works and Days 116). The point is that death does not disqualify them from becoming daímones in cult. As such, they are immortalized and merit the title of athánatoi ‘immortals’ (Works and Days 250, 253). For a cogent set of arguments that the wording of Works and Days 249–255 applies to the same daímones as at Works and Days 122–126, see Vernant 1966 [= 1960]:29.

[ back ] 66. West 1966:427.

[ back ] 67. For the division of motherly functions, giving birth and nurturing, between Earth and Athena, see §11n31. On the eventual distinction between Erekhtheús and Erikhthónios in Athenian mythology, see Burkert 1972:176, 211.

[ back ] 68. Cf. Nock 1972 [= 1930]:237 for other examples of goddess/hero symbiosis within a sacred precinct.

[ back ] 69. In the discussion that follows, I have incorporated and revised parts of my earlier work on the subject of Phaethon (Nagy 1973:148–172).

[ back ] 70. These words are the “correct” formula for immortalization; when the words are “incorrect,” as in the myth of Eos and Tithonos, then the immortalization is ruined by the failure of preservation. See §30 below.

[ back ] 71. For the mystical meaning of anágō as ‘bring back to the light from the dead’, see Nagy 1973:175.

[ back ] 72. For what follows, see also Nagy 1973:156–161.

[ back ] 73. The identical verse recurs when Eumaios mourns the unknown fate of his absent master Odysseus (Odyssey xiv 371).

[ back ] 74. Note that one of the Hárpuiai ‘Harpies’ is Aellṓ (Hesiod Theogony 267), a name derived from áella.

[ back ] 75. I regret my earlier view (Nagy 1973:158–159, 167–168) that Odyssey xx 66 and xx 77 represent two stages of action. If instead they represent the same action, then we can understand Odyssey xx 61–81 as operating on the principle of ring composition. Penelope wishes an immediate death caused by the shafts of Artemis (Odyssey xx 61–63) or a delayed death caused by the abducting winds (Odyssey xx 63–65); Odyssey xx 66 introduces as precedent the abduction of the Pandareids; an elaboration of the story follows at Odyssey xx 67–76, climaxed by xx 77, which recaps xx 66. Then Odyssey xx 79 returns to Penelope’s wish for a delayed death, and Odyssey xx 80 recaps her alternative wish for an immediate death. The force of ἢ ἔπειτα ‘or later’ in expressing a delayed death at Odyssey xx 63 is that the winds would snatch Penelope away later, just before her marriage to one of the suitors. There is in that case a neat parallelism with the story of the Pandareids, who were abducted just before their own arranged marriage (see Odyssey xx 73–74). I would therefore stand by my view (Nagy 1973:159n64) that the context of ἢ ἔπειτα ‘or later’ at Odyssey xx 63 helps explain the epithet metakhróniai ‘delayed’ as applied to the Hárpuiai at Hesiod Theogony 269.

[ back ] 76. Of course, this death may be more like sleep, of the sort that overcomes the Golden Generation (Works and Days 116); see §22n65.

[ back ] 77. For a defense of this formulation, see Nagy 1973:149–153. The root *nes-, which Frame (1978) defines as ‘return to life and light’, denotes the act of crossing these boundaries: from darkness to light, from death to life, from sleep to wakefulness.

[ back ] 78. The verb is proséballen; cf. the use of éballen at Odyssey v 479; for the notion of fertilization implied by such verbs of ‘striking’, consider the comparative evidence of Rig-Vedic diction, as discussed by Watkins 1971:347.

[ back ] 79. Besides giving life directly to crops (cf. also the epithet pūrophóroio ‘wheat-bearing’, as at Iliad XII 314), the ároura gives life indirectly to men, who eat the crops (as at Iliad VI 142 and XXI 465; cf. §6). At Iliad II 548, the Ároura gives life directly to man, by giving birth to Erekhtheus (cf. §22).

[ back ] 80. See Ch.9§28n72.

[ back ] 81. On the corresponding negative function of Zephyros: §41n103.

[ back ] 82. For an illuminating internal and comparative reconstruction of this theme, see Boedeker 1974.

[ back ] 83. See §23.

[ back ] 84. We may note an interesting elaboration in the myth of Eos and Tithonos, which makes a distinction between preservation and immortalization (Hymn to Aphrodite 218–238). Tithonos is immortalized and lives by the banks of Okeanos (Hymn to Aphrodite 225–227), but his hḗbē ‘adolescence’ is not made permanent (Hymn to Aphrodite 220–227); consequently, his preservation is corroded by old age (Hymn to Aphrodite 228–238). This failure is formalized by a lapse in the wording of the request made by Eos to Zeus for the preservation of Tithonos, at Hymn to Aphrodite 221 (also 240). We see the “correct” wording for the concept of preservation at Hymn to Aphrodite 214 (cf. Odyssey v 136, vii 257, etc.), while the “incorrectness” of the wording by Eos is motivated at Hymn to Aphrodite 223–224. Since hḗbē ‘adolescence’ (Hymn to Aphrodite 224) is the key to the “correct” formulation of the request for immortalization, it is significant that the immortalization of Herakles is formalized by his being married to H incarnate: see Hesiod fr. 25.28MW, as discussed at Ch.9§25.

[ back ] 85. See §22.

[ back ] 86. See Schmitt 1967:169–175.

[ back ] 87. On the morphology of Lampetíē, see Nagy 1973:164n72; also Frame 1978:135–137 on Indic Nā́satyā.

[ back ] 88. On the meaning and contexts of márya-: Wikander 1938:22–30, 81–85, esp. 84.

[ back ] 89. See Diggle 1970:148–160.

[ back ] 90. See Diggle 1970:158–160. For an interpretation of the Phaethon myth as preserved in the drama of Euripides, which is distinct from the Phaethon myth as preserved in the Hesiodic tradition, see Nagy 1973:147–156.

[ back ] 91. Schmitt 1967:169–175.

[ back ] 92. Besides Aphrodite (Iliad III 374, etc.), we find Artemis (Odyssey xx 61), Athena (Iliad IV 128, etc.), Persephone (Odyssey xi 217), Helen (Odyssey iv 227), etc.

[ back ] 93. See Boedeker 1974 for a discussion from the comparative viewpoint.

[ back ] 94. I disagree with Delcourt 1966:148, who suggests that the verses about the death of Orion are interpolated.

[ back ] 95. Even Persephone, goddess of the dead, qualifies as Diòs thugátēr (Odyssey xi 217).

[ back ] 96. For still another variation on a theme, consider the myth of the Pandareids (Odyssey xx 66–78): here the sequence is preservation followed by abduction/death. Note that the Olympian goddesses who preserve the girls all qualify as Diòs thugátēr/thugátēr Diós: Aphrodite, Artemis, and Athena. The only exception is Hera, wife of Zeus. The word hárpuiai denoting the winds that abduct the girls (Odyssey xx 77) is apparently suitable for such a negative situation, where abduction/death follows a period of preservation. Such a situation seems connected with the epithet metakhróniai ‘delayed’, describing the Hárpuiai ‘Harpies’ at Hesiod Theogony 269. See §25n75.

[ back ] 97. Formally, Ōríōn (Ōaríōn) seems to be connected with óar ‘wife’, óaros ‘companionship, keeping company’, etc.

[ back ] 98. Iliad XIII 545: Antilokhos catches Thoön off guard and deals him a mortal blow. Iliad XVI 313: similarly, Phyleides kills Amphiklos. Iliad VIII 340: Hektor is compared to a hunting dog stalking a boar or lion. Cf. also Detienne/Vernant 1974:21n15.

[ back ] 99. See Sale 1965 for a conscientious discussion of the sources and for a critical survey of previous studies on Artemis/Kallisto. I especially agree with Sale’s distinguishing between goddess and heroine, although I find his treatment of the separate figures overly restrictive, partly because he offers no systematic coordination of the attested mythological variants.

[ back ] 100. This type has been at least partially treated in the preceding discussion, since the concept of Ēlúsion seems to be directly connected with it (cf. §20). From the standpoint of poetic diction, one of the clearest examples is the fate of Semele in Pindar Olympian 2.25 (to be read in conjunction with Hesiod Theogony 942). From the standpoint of poetic theme, the foremost example of immortalization by the thunderbolt is the fate of Herakles: as the hero is smitten by Zeus, he is elevated to Olympus as an immortal god; unfortunately, our best source for this theme is prosaic (Diodorus Siculus 4.38.4–4.39.1); see also Rohde I 320–322. Another important example on the level of theme is the myth of Phaethon as preserved in Euripides Phaethon (fragments edited by Diggle). In the traditions of this myth, Phaethon is struck dead by the thunderbolt of Zeus (for an extended discussion, see Nagy 1973:148–156; for the implication of Phaethon’s rebirth through the river Ēridanós, see Nagy 1973:161). Finally, note that there is a myth that tells of Erekhtheus as another hero who was struck dead by the thunderbolt of Zeus (Hyginus 46).

[ back ] 101. See Nagy 1973:141–148, 172–173, esp. 145n31 on Ino Leukothea. Myth has it that Ino plunged into the deep from atop the white rock formations known as the Skirōnídes Pétrai (Pausanias 1.44.7–8). On her transformation from mortal to immortal, see Odyssey v 333–335. As an immortal, she is said to have a bíotos ‘life’ that is áphthito– ‘unfailing’ in Pindar Olympian 2.29; note the parallelism at Olympian 2.25–26, telling of Semele’s immortalization after death from the thunderbolt of Zeus. For an interesting anecdote about the custom of singing thrênoi for Leukothea, see Xenophanes fr. 13DK (ap. Aristotle Rhetoric 1400b5).

[ back ] 102. The discussion by Rohde I 111–145 is irreplaceable. We may wish to modify, however, his conclusion that there is no death involved in the process of being engulfed by the Earth. If, for example, we examine the attestations for the engulfment of Amphiaraos (Rohde I 114), we find that the emphasis on his being alive has to do more with his status in the here-and-now of cult than with his status at the moment of his engulfment. If we can agree that death is part of the process of engulfment, then Rohde’s difficulties (I 114–115) with Odyssey xv 247 and 253 are eliminated: in these passages Amphiaraos is overtly said to have died. As for Rohde’s idea that a cult name like Zeùs Amphiárāos implies that Amphiaraos is a ‘faded god’ (I 125), there are other explanations available. Such combinations may imply that the name Amphiaraos is motivated primarily by the theme of ritual antagonism between god and hero. Cf. Chapter 8.

[ back ] 103. In the storm that finally destroys all the remaining comrades of Odysseus (Odyssey xii 403–426), the thúella of Zephyros (Odyssey xii 409; cf. also thúōn at 408, 426) is directly coordinated with Zeus and the thunderbolt that he hurls at the hapless ship (Odyssey xii 415–417). The storm itself was initiated by Zeus (Odyssey xii 405), and it brings about a loss of nóstos ‘safe homecoming’ for the comrades (Odyssey xii 419). The coordination of the thúella of Zephyros with the thunderbolt of Zeus in this narrative about the antithesis of immortalization serves to remind us of a local cult in Arcadia (Pausanias 8.29.1), where the following triad is worshipped: Astrapaí, Thúellai, and Brontaí. Note that the first and third are the personifications of lightning and thunder respectively. These traditional combinations suggest that the theme of death/immortalization by the thunderbolt of Zeus may not always have been distinct from the theme of death/immortalization by thúellai of wind. (There is also an interesting collocation of thuúellai with pūròsolooîo ‘of baneful fire’ at Odyssey xii 68.)

[ back ] 104. For the sake of convenience, I will henceforth arbitrarily refer to the nominative of this epithet by using only one word order: Diòs thugátēr.

[ back ] 105. Other examples: Athena/Odysseus (Odyssey xiii 359), Aphrodite/Paris (Iliad III 374), Aphrodite/Aeneas (Iliad V 312).

[ back ] 106. The deeply traditional nature of the Memnon/Eos myth can be verified not only from the comparative standpoint of its Indo-European heritage. The internal evidence of iconographical representations confirms that the Memnon/Eos myth is a basic and pervasive tradition among the Hellenes: see Lung 1912, Clark and Coulsen 1978. It is in fact so much more pervasive than the parallel Sarpedon/Apollo myth of Iliad XVI that Clark and Coulsen consider the Iliadic story of Sarpedon’s death to be modeled on that of Memnon’s death. I would maintain, however, that the two stories are simply multiforms. To prove that there are artistic inadequacies in the Sarpedon/Apollo multiform that do not exist in the Memnon/Eos multiform is not to prove that one was modeled on the other.

[ back ] 107. The gods’ participation in the sacrifices of the Aithiopes is conventionally pictured as a communal feast: Ch.11§9.

[ back ] 108. See also §14.

[ back ] 109. See also Frame 1978:48–50, whose discussion takes into account the thematic intrusion of a northerly direction into the narrative.

[ back ] 110. Cf. Rohde I 75n2.

[ back ] 111. In Quintus of Smyrna II 550 ff., the agents of Eos are the winds Zephyros and Boreas, who snatch Memnon’s body away (anēreípsanto: QS II 563). Memnon is even designated as their brother (QS II 555). The tradition that Zephyros and Boreas are the sons of Eos is also attested in Hesiod Theogony 378–379. See Kakridis 1949:81–82.

[ back ] 112. Pace Dihle 1970:18–20.

[ back ] 113. See Ch.9§§2–6.

[ back ] 114. The translation is essentially that of Frazer 1898 I:546; see also his commentary Iliad V 387. Besides this passage from Pausanias, see also Dionysius Ixeuticon 1.8 and the comments of Vian 1959:28–29.

[ back ] 115. See also §20n58.

[ back ] 116. See Büchner 1937:116. I cannot agree with Schnaufer 1970:103–107, who argues that Odyssey xi 602 is an interpolation. See also Ch.9§26n68.

[ back ] 117. See Rohde I 159–166.

[ back ] 118. See Ch.9§28n72.

[ back ] 119. See especially Meuli 1946, Uhsadel-Gülke 1972, Burkert 1972.

[ back ] 120. = Orphicorum Fragmenta 301 Kern.

[ back ] 121. For a brief survey of attestations: Uhsadel-Gülke 1972:40–41. Besides the 1975 article of Henrichs, I call attention to his forthcoming edition of Philodemus De pietate.

[ back ] 122. For an illuminating synthesis: Detienne 1977.

[ back ] 123. See Uhsadel-Gülke 1972:41–42.

[ back ] 124. See Uhsadel-Gülke 1972:41–42.

[ back ] 125. In this connection, it may be well to recall the traditions that picture an immortalized hero in the form of a solar horse, as discussed at §§33–34. Such traditions may underlie the figure of Xánthos, the immortal horse of Achilles (Iliad XVI 149–154). It is this Xanthos who pointedly tells Achilles that the hero’s death cannot be prevented—any more than the death of Patroklos (Iliad XIX 408–417). And this affirmation of the hero’s mortality is immediately preceded in the narrative by a simile comparing Achilles to Helios the Sun (Iliad XIX 398)! After the immortal horse has finished telling the mortal hero of his future death, the Erīnúes prevent him from speaking further (Iliad XIX 418). Perhaps the Iliad has here taken one segment from the cycle of heroic immortalization and stylized it with an ending imposed to suit the dimensions of the Epos. Perhaps also the figure of Xanthos conjured up a vision of Achilles beyond the narrative that ends with his death. Born on the banks of the Okeanos from the union of the Wind Zéphuros with an abducting gust described as a Hárpuia (Iliad XVI 150), Xanthos seems a model of solar regeneration into immortality (on which see again §§23–36). We may note that heroes who have been immortalized attract the epithet xanthós ‘blond’: e.g., Rhadamanthys in Elysium (Odyssey iv 564) and Ganymedes in Olympus (Hymn to Aphrodite 202). Menelaos is the hero who attracts this epithet by far the most frequently in the Iliad (III 284, IV 183, etc.) and the Odyssey (iii 257, 326, etc.)—and he is the only Homeric hero who is overtly said to have been immortalized (Odyssey iv 561–569). Significantly, Achilles himself has hair that is xanthó– (Iliad I 197, XXIII 141). (In Homeric diction, Demeter is the only deity who is xanthḗ [Iliad V 500], and as Dēm tēr Er īnū́ s in Arcadian cult she is actually said to have the form of a horse [Pausanias 8.25.4 ff.]. The thematic association of Erīnū́s/horse may be relevant to Iliad XIX 418, where the Erīnū́es prevent Xanthos from speaking to Achilles of anything beyond the mention of his death.)