Imagining Illegitimacy in Classical Greek Literature

Chapter 2. Teucer, the Bastard Archer

Teucer is well known as a nothos in classical Greek literature, and he appears in a number of narratives, including the Iliad, Sophocles’ Ajax, and Euripides’ Helen. As a result of his frequent appearance in the ancient sources, there are multiple metaphorical associations connected to Teucer as a nothos. His case is also particular in that he is defined above all as a brother to Ajax rather than as son of Telamon. This overriding relationship of brother results, as we shall see, in some shifts in the metaphors and imagery that we have already been exploring. Teucer’s case will also present new connections, including associations with archers, foreigners, and slaves.

Teucer’s status in the Iliad as illegitimate or legitimate has been questioned. Arguments for a legitimate status for Teucer have been made on the basis of the doubts of Alexandrian scholars concerning Iliad 8.284, which explicitly makes him illegitimate, and the use of the term kasignêtos for Teucer and Ajax. [1] Modern editors accept Iliad 8.284, however, and that line leaves no doubt that Teucer is a nothos. Indeed, Teucer’s own name may hint at an illegitimate status if indeed it is related to his mother’s Trojan or “Teucrian” origins. It has been argued that it is rare for a son to have a name formulated from his mother’s qualities, and it seems that the cases where this naming pattern can be seen are illegitimate sons. [2] Also, as I hope to show, Teucer’s illegitimacy is structurally important in the definition of his relationship to his brother. The legitimate-illegitimate opposition is part of the portrayal of the brothers as dominant and recessive, respectively.

Before I deal with the relationship between the brothers in detail, however, let us look more closely at the speech in which Agamemnon calls Teucer a nothos. During Teucer’s aristeia in Iliad 8, Agamemnon expresses his delight at Teucer’s success and encourages him to continue. Agamemnon addresses Teucer in terms of his father, and also points out his illegitimacy.

280  στῆ δὲ παρ’ αὐτὸν ἰὼν καί μιν πρὸς μῦθον ἔειπε·
        Τεῦκρε φίλη κεφαλή, Τελαμώνιε κοίρανε λαῶν
        βάλλ’ οὕτως, αἴ κέν τι φόως Δαναοῖσι γένηαι
        πατρί τε σῷ Τελαμῶνι, ὅ σ’ ἔτρεφε τυτθὸν ἐόντα,
        καί σε νόθον περ ἐόντα κομίσσατο ᾧ ἐνὶ οἴκῳ·
285  τὸν καὶ τηλόθ’ ἐόντα ἐϋκλείης ἐπίβησον.

He stood, going next to him, and addressed a speech [mûthos] to him:
“Teucer, dear one, son of Telamon, commander of the people,
strike that way, so that you may be a light to the Danaans
and to your father Telamon, who raised you when you were little,
and took care of you in his house even though you are illegitimate;
bring him to glory, though he is far away.”

Iliad 8.280–285

Let us notice first that Agamemnon is speaking a mûthos—that is, he is performing. [3] The elaborate apostrophe to Teucer confirms that this is a special form of speech, and in it he addresses Teucer with a patronymic. This reference to his father Telamon becomes the focus of his exhortation. Agamemnon is flattering Teucer after a fashion, claiming that Teucer has an especially—if unexpectedly—close relationship with his father. The phrasing of τρέφω plus τυτθὸν ἐόντα is used in cases in which someone is raised by someone other than a parent or to signal a close relationship to a parent. [4] Mentioning that Teucer was taken care of in Telamon’s own house reinforces the sentiment. Agamemnon also encourages Teucer by saying that he can make his father proud, a concern of Teucer’s that we will see again in the Ajax. Here as there the impetus seems to be that Teucer can prove that he is truly Telamon’s son and perhaps also repay him for his active interest in Teucer. In this light, Teucer’s illegitimacy becomes a crucial aspect of Agamemnon’s motivational speech. As he tells Teucer to be a light that brings glory, Agamemnon exhorts Teucer to come out of the shadows in which a nothos resides, and in which Teucer literally fights in battle.

It is indeed in his method of fighting that another image connected to Teucer’s illegitimacy emerges. The description and characterization of this method of fighting in battle recalls some of the same qualities we have already seen in other narratives about nothoi, especially that of being hidden away with their mothers. Teucer is described in battle as standing behind the shield of Ajax, moving out to shoot, and, once he has hit someone, retreating to the safety of the shield of his brother. Significantly, as Teucer returns he is described as a child placing himself under the protection of his mother.

        Τεῦκρος δ’ εἴνατος ἦλθε, παλίντονα τόξα τιταίνων,
        στῆ δ’ ἄρ’ ὑπ’ Αἴαντος σάκεϊ Τελαμωνιάδαο.
        ἔνθ’ Αἴας μὲν ὑπεξέφερεν σάκος· αὐτὰρ ὅ γ’ ἥρως
        παπτήνας, ἐπεὶ ἄρ’ τιν’ ὀϊστεύσας ἐν ὁμίλῳ
270  βεβλήκοι, ὁ μὲν αὖθι πεσὼν ἀπὸ θυμὸν ὄλεσσεν,
        αὐτὰρ ὁ αὖτις ἰὼν πάϊς ὣς ὑπὸ μητέρα δύσκεν
        εἰς Αἴανθ’· ὁ δέ μιν σάκεϊ κρύπτασκε φαεινῷ.

Teucer came ninth, bending his curving bow back,
and he stood under the shield of Ajax, son of Telamon.
Then Ajax lifts his shield up and out. But the hero
once he looked around, when he shoots and hits someone in the crowd,
that man falling down on the spot is deprived of his life,
but Teucer goes back, like a child running behind his mother,
to Ajax. And he hides him with his shining shield.

Iliad 8.266–272

The visual nature of this description paints a picture for us. While in battle Teucer, an archer, hides behind the shield of the fully armed warrior Ajax. Ajax’s shield is famous as being enormous and covering the whole body: it is described as large (mega sakos at Iliad 11.572 and Iliad 23.820, where Diomedes can only get at Ajax’s neck, so we imagine it covering the rest of his body), like a tower (11.485), and very heavy (Iliad 13.709–711 and 16.106–107). Thus, we can imagine either that Teucer is completely covered by it, so that he cannot be seen when he is behind it, or that his head appears next to Ajax’s above the shield, but it covers both their bodies, and so they might appear like the Moliones—as conjoined twins. [5] Teucer is marked out by this passage as a fighter who is covered by another’s shield as a regular part of his fighting (the iteratives dusken and kruptaske indicate that this is a repeated procedure for the brothers). [6]

To shoot his arrows, Teucer darts out after looking around, and when he has hit someone, he goes back to Ajax. At this point he is described as a child running to his mother. In fact, Richmond Lattimore translates the second half of Iliad 8.271: “like a child to the arms of his mother,” rendering the expression ὑπὸ μητέρα in an easily evoked image familiar from many different cultures. What we have seen indicated implicitly through metaphors in other narratives about nothoi, that a nothos is especially associated with his mother and is pictured as a perpetual child hidden away with her, is here made explicit, but in a simile. Because Teucer is especially associated with his brother Ajax, Ajax is then comparable to a mother and Teucer the nothos is still figured as a child.

That Teucer hides behind the shield of Ajax tells us just how connected Teucer’s identity is with that of Ajax, since it is his shield that identifies Ajax both by the narrative and within the narrative. The formulaic epithets for Ajax have to do with his shield: it is described as Aiantos deinon sakos heptaboeion, Ajax’s terrible shield of seven ox hides, which Ajax carries like a wall (Aias d’enguthen êlthe pherôn sakos êüte purgon). [7] The shield-related terms that are also the names of Ajax’s father and his son are actually heard in descriptions of his shield: telamône (14.404) and euru … sakos (11.527). And this description of the broad shield of Ajax in Iliad 11 comes from the Trojan Kebriones, who identifies Ajax to Hektor (that is, within the narrative itself) by his shield: “Ajax, son of Telamon, drives on [the Trojans]. I know him well, for he carries the broad shield on his shoulders” (Iliad 11.526–527).

When Teucer is behind the shield of Ajax, then, his identity becomes one with Ajax. This equation or combination of the two with one identity is also seen in the use of the dual Aiante when it means ‘Ajax and Teucer’ rather than ‘Ajax and Ajax’. That this dual can refer to the two brothers was first recognized by Jacob Wackernagel and elaborated by Denys L. Page. [8] It is generally recognized that the meaning of the dual as ‘Ajax and Teucer’ is the older one. When viewed from a diachronic and evolutionary perspective, we can see that the Iliadic tradition transmits both meanings. [9] In fact, as I will now argue, the request by Menestheus for the Aiante to come and help him seems to be a self-reflexive comment on what Aiante can mean.

When Glaukos and Sarpedon attack Menestheus’s position, he sends for help, asking for Ajax. In the passage it is said that he could see the Aiante, and Teucer (12.335–336). Gregory Nagy has argued that this use of the dual does not have to mean the two Ajaxes and Teucer, but that Aiante could mean ‘Ajax and Teucer’ and that Teucer is then made explicit by naming him. [10] His argument is borne out by the way the request is phrased. Menestheus tells his runner Thoötes to call Ajax, singular, or rather, both of them, and then explains that he would prefer both Ajaxes, but needs at least Ajax and Teucer.

        ἔρχεο, δῖε Θοῶτα, θέων Αἴαντα κάλεσσον,
        ἀμφοτέρω μὲν μᾶλλον· ὃ γάρ κ’ ὄχ’ ἄριστον ἁπάντων
345  εἴη, ἐπεὶ τάχα τῇδε τετεύξεται αἰπὺς ὄλεθρος.
        ὧδε γὰρ ἔβρισαν Λυκίων ἀγοί, οἳ τὸ πάρος περ
        ζαχρηεῖς τελέθουσι κατὰ κρατερὰς ὑσμίνας.
        εἰ δέ σφιν καὶ κεῖθι πόνος καὶ νεῖκος ὄρωρεν,
        ἀλλά περ οἶος ἴτω Τελαμώνιος ἄλκιμος Αἴας,
350  καί οἱ Τεῦκρος ἅμα σπέσθω τόξων ἐῢ εἰδώς.

Go, running, godlike Thoötes, and call Ajax,
or, rather, both of them. For that would be the
best by far, since utter destruction is quickly being made here.
For such do the leaders of the Lykians oppress us, who even before
have proved to be fierce fighters in strong combat.
But if hard labor and strife has arisen for them there also
at least let stout Ajax, son of Telamon, come by himself
and let Teucer follow with him, since he is skilled with the bow.

Iliad 12.343–350

So when the messenger addresses the “Aiante” to ask for help, two possibilities present themselves. Either the two Ajaxes will come, which Menestheus would prefer, or at least Ajax son of Telamon will, with Teucer following. What the narrative is doing is indirectly referring to the two possible meanings of Aiante: Menestheus asks for the dual (“both of them”) with the “new” meaning of the two Ajaxes, but says he will accept the “old” meaning of the dual, Ajax and Teucer. The composer is not confused and does not make mistakes about this dual, as some modern commentators would have us believe. Rather, the oral tradition can use both meanings of the dual, and can make explicit when Teucer is involved, or when Ajax, son of Oileus is meant, or when they both are. The poetry here shows how the tradition is aware of the suppleness of the shifting meaning of the dual Aiante.

This use of Ajax’s name to form the dual Aiante reveals its elliptical nature when it means ‘Ajax and Teucer’, as Nagy argues. [11] An elliptical plural names one element as a way of elliptically including the others, such as the plural of Crete at Odyssey 16.62, which should be understood as “Crete and everything that belongs to it.” [12] Nagy also gives the example from Sanskrit of an elliptical dual pitarau, which means not ‘two fathers’ but ‘father and mother’. In both of these examples, it is the “dominant” member of the group or pair that gives its name to the elliptical plural or dual. The parallel example from Indian epic of the dual “the two Kṛṣṇas” meaning the deity Kṛṣṇa and his mortal companion Arjuna, shows a similar construction of the dual carrying the name of the dominant party. [13] Thus the dual Aiante names the brothers using the name of the dominant brother, Ajax. In the example of the Kṛṣṇas, ोas well as in that of Castor and Polydeuces (which I discuss below), the opposition of dominant and recessive is expressed as immortal and mortal. The brothers Castor and Polydeuces are collectively called the Dioskouroi, ‘Sons of Zeus’, although in many versions this technically applies only to the immortal twin, Polydeuces. [14] The opposition of legitimate and illegitimate with the brothers Ajax and Teucer is a parallel contrasting pair. The shift may result from the fact that Ajax and Teucer have different mothers but the same father whereas Castor and Polydeuces have different fathers and share the same mother. [15]

The “recessive” nature of Teucer is characteristic of his illegitimate status and is visualized in his hiding behind the shield that identifies his brother. That is, both the description of Teucer’s method of fighting and his inclusion in a dual form derived from Ajax’s name point to a definition of Teucer’s identity as the “recessive” brother of Ajax. But, as I argued above, this depiction of their fighting method and their inclusion together in the older dual form also creates a shared identity between the brothers.

This sharing of identity and method of fighting as a pair may stem from a paradigm that has its roots in early Greek or even Indo-European mythology. Peter von der Mühll suggested in 1930 that Ajax should be understood as one of a semidivine or heroic pair, similar to Castor and Polydeuces. [16] Building on this suggestion, Robert Edgeworth argues that in the Iliad, “Ajax and Teucer are in a sense the same person under two separate aspects. Together they constitute the two halves of the paradigm of the perfect Mycenean warrior.” [17] In Edgeworth’s reading, Ajax and Teucer are a great defensive and offensive combination, but unique in their cooperation. He also argues that they are both portrayed with “anachronistic” weapons. [18] In fact, there is evidence not adduced by Edgeworth to show that the fighting arrangement of Teucer and Ajax described in the Iliad may relate to a Minoan and/or Mycenean motif. A seal on a flattened cylinder shows one warrior holding a shield to protect both himself and an archer, who crouches behind as he prepares to shoot an arrow. [19] Their target is a lion, and so this is called a hunting scene. Yet this fighting partnership does not seem like a method of hunting lions, and the depiction of the lion is suggestive of the metaphor of a lion used for an enemy warrior. In any case, the cooperative fighting between the spearman and the archer behind a shared figure-eight shield is evident in the seal’s illustration. Thus, a source independent of the Iliad (that is, it does not depend on the Iliad for its meaning, nor does the poetry of the Iliad draw on it) presents a scene similar to the description of Ajax and Teucer in Iliad 8.

I conclude, then, that the portrayal of Ajax and Teucer in the Iliad draws on an ancient paradigm of brothers and fighting pairs. The organization of their relationship along lines of dominant/recessive and legitimate/illegitimate is structurally parallel to the immortal/mortal opposition of Polydeuces and Castor. [20] It defines a difference between the brothers, but one that will eventually bind them together through the death of one of them. I now propose to turn to Sophocles’ Ajax to see how this linked identity between the brothers plays out there.

Illegitimacy as an Insult

In the Iliad, Teucer’s illegitimate status is made explicit once, as we saw in Iliad 8.284, but it is also indicated through metaphor and other imagery. Teucer is figured as the “recessive” brother as part of a fighting pair with Ajax, but this status, parallel to his illegitimacy, does not seem to carry any particularly unfavorable connotation. In Sophocles’ Ajax, by contrast, the circumstances of Teucer’s illegitimate status are used in insults and taunts.

In the confrontations between Teucer and the sons of Atreus, Menelaos and Agamemnon engage in the sorts of name-calling that have given the second half of the tragedy a poorer reception. The type of mockery employed shows not just how to insult someone in fifth-century Athens, but also the mutual categories that the nothos shares with other “outsiders.” The relationship between the categories is one of interconnection. Shared perceived traits connect one status to another, but the connections can be made along several points within the cluster of terms.

Agamemnon delivers the most abuse. As he enters, he addresses Teucer as “the one born from a spear-captive woman” (τὸν ἐκ τῆς αἰχμαλωτίδος, Ajax 1228), and wonders how high talking he would be if he were actually from a well-born mother (1229–1230). He scoffs at Teucer’s defense of his brother, saying that Teucer, being nothing himself (οὐδὲν ὤν) makes a stand on behalf of one who is nothing now (i.e., he is dead, 1231). This coupling of the live Teucer with the dead Ajax is meaningful, as I will discuss below.

The question of Teucer’s parentage leads as well to insults from Agamemnon such as calling Teucer a ‘slave’ (doulos, 1235), asking for a free man to plead the case of Ajax instead (1260–1261), and claiming not to understand Teucer’s barbarian language (1263). That such taunts are effective is evidenced by Teucer’s response. He defends his mother’s origins and proclaims who his father is (1299–1307), after impugning the origins of Agamemnon (including calling his mother a foreigner and an adulteress, 1291–1298). As part of the larger important theme of what it means to be wellborn (eugenês), Teucer questions the claim to “legitimacy” of the leader of the Greek army. [21]

Menelaos—whose appearance comes before that of his brother within the drama—employs another element of insult in this inventory of connections to other low statuses. After Teucer has asserted that he will bury Ajax despite the prohibition of Menelaos, Menelaos remarks on Teucer’s manner of speech as well, saying “The archer seems to think big of himself” (ὁ τοξότης ἔοικεν οὐ σμικρὸν φρονεῖν, 1120). Agamemnon uses Teucer’s role as archer metaphorically when he says “you weaklings will always either pelt (βαλεῖτε) us with slander or prick us with deception” (1244–1245). Both the idea of pelting and trickiness relate to archer imagery. [22] Thus we have a conglomeration of insults directed at the illegitimate brother of the man seen as a traitor to the Greeks: he is called a son of a war captive, an archer, a deceiver, a foreigner, a slave, and one lacking in free speech and agency.

Many of these associations can be understood as connected to developments in the definition of nothoi under the Periclean citizenship law. Once the definition of legitimate children was limited to those born from two Athenians, the category of nothoi gains similarities with other types of non-Athenians. [23] For example, if one parent was not Athenian and therefore “foreign,” the child is also considered foreign, since he is not eligible for Athenian citizenship. [24] In reality the number of non-Athenian women in Athens would include other Greeks as well as “barbarians,” but, obviously, barbaros is a stronger insult, and fits with Teucer’s Trojan mother and her captive status. That status then leads to derogatory correlations with slavery, and we can see how a series of associations connect to one another. That is, “foreigner” may have associations with both nothos (son of a foreign woman) and with “slave”; therefore, nothos and slave can also be equivalents.

The taunt that Teucer needs to find a free man to plead his case points to not only the slavery connection but also to restrictions on the right to speak freely (parrhêsia) for nothoi in Athens. [25] Excluded from the political assembly, where the freedom to speak is symbolized by the extension of the right to ‘whoever wishes’ (ho boulomenos), nothoi would easily be associated with a lack of free speech and with the agency with which citizens were endowed. [26] All of these categories can be lumped together as noncitizens.

So how does the term “archer” fit into this pattern? To answer this question, I propose to look at the visual imagery of archers in art as well as in texts. In his study of the visual portrayal of archers, François Lissarrague sees the role defined already in the sixth century b.c. in opposition to that of the hoplite. [27] With reference to Teucer in the Ajax he argues, “L’opposition hoplite/archer est ainsi renforcée dans cette tragédie d’une double opposition implicite légitimité/ bâtardise, liberté/esclavage.” [28] Thus the role of archer, which is commonly seen as opposed yet complementary to that of the hoplite, continues the categories of noncitizens, since the hoplite or hero role would be associated with the citizen-soldier. Lissarrague argues for a general sense of “altérité” associated with the archer. [29]

The archer imagery holds other associations in common with nothoi as well. Lissarrague points out that another opposition parallel to hoplite/archer is masculine/feminine, since the archer is in a parallel position as the woman depicted in scenes of warriors arming or departing. [30] In the Iliad, Diomedes disparages that other archer, Paris, after Paris has shot him in the foot by likening him to a woman, among other taunts:

385  τοξότα λωβητὴρ κέρᾳ ἀγλαὲ παρθενοπῖπα
        εἰ μὲν δὴ ἀντίβιον σὺν τεύχεσι πειρηθείης,
        οὐκ ἄν τοι χραίσμῃσι βιὸς καὶ ταρφέες ἰοί·
        νῦν δέ μ’ ἐπιγράψας ταρσὸν ποδὸς εὔχεαι αὔτως.
        οὐκ ἀλέγω, ὡς εἴ με γυνὴ βάλοι ἢ πάϊς ἄφρων·
390  κωφὸν γὰρ βέλος ἀνδρὸς ἀνάλκιδος οὐτιδανοῖο.

Archer, worthless miscreant, famous for your hair, girl-watcher,
if indeed you should try your chances in close combat with arms,
your bow and thick-flying arrows would not help you;
but now having grazed me on the flat of my foot, you boast even so.
I do not care, just as if a woman should strike me, or a senseless child;
for the missile of an impotent, no-account man is blunt.

Iliad 11.385–390

In this litany of abuse that is obviously sexually charged, Diomedes starts by calling Paris an archer first. The taunts that Paris fights from afar rather than hand to hand portray him as less than a man, and so equal to a woman or a very young child. Thus archers and nothoi both share an affiliation with women and young boys (we saw this connection between nothoi and women, and the visualization of nothoi as perpetual children in chapter 1). One of the connecting strands between these categories is again a lack of agency. And as we saw that the feminized nothoi can be pictured as boys who never grow up, archers are also figured as not fully-grown men.

The archer god Apollo is an example of this depiction. Never to inherit his father’s estate, Apollo is a perpetual youth just on the verge of manhood but never completing the transition. [31] Representations of Apollo in sculpture and vase painting picture him as beardless. For example, visual representations of the struggle between Apollo and Herakles over the tripod at Delphi show a contrast between the beardless Apollo and a (more) bearded Herakles. [32]

It is worth noting that the “Scythian” archers that appear on several vases of the late sixth century are often pictured as having a short, thin beard, “growing on the chin but not on the cheeks, and very different from the full beard of the Greeks.” [33] This Scythian dress is also seen on an archer identified as Teucer: on a black-figure amphora an archer crouches next to a warrior who is identified by inscription as Ajax. [34] The dress identifies him as both an archer and a foreigner. Lissarrague describes a vase fragment that pictures a young man handing a helmet to a warrior with a shield. The young man himself is nude but wears a Scythian cap. Lissarrague argues that the “marginality” of the Scythian hat is used “pour marquer un écart par rapport à l’hoplite, écart qui dans le cas présent vient relayer une opposition d’âge (imberbe/barbu).” [35] The young man appears not to be an archer himself, but the distinctive mark of the archer is used, like his beardlessness, to set him off as younger than the hoplite warrior. And Photius, in his lexicon under the entry sunephêbos, says that the Eleians called their ephebes “Scythians” (τοὺς δὲ ἐφήβους ̓Ηλεῖοι μὲν Σκύθας καλοῦσιν). [36] Through their beardlessness (or possessing a very slight beard), as well as other markers, archers, like nothoi, are figured as boys or adolescents who are in some way underage, and thus the two categories can be interchanged or combined. [37]

In these cases we again see a transference across categories that do not necessarily include one another. Apollo is depicted as a perpetual youth and an archer, but he is no bastard. I introduced the scenes of Apollo and Herakles struggling over the tripod, though, because Herakles is figured at times as a nothos, regardless of his beard. [38] As the son of Zeus with a mortal woman, he falls into the category of skotioi paides that the Alcestis describes as mortal (this passage was examined in chapter 1). In Euripides’ Herakles, his mortal father, Amphitryon, is contrasted with his “absent” divine father, Zeus. His markedly uncertain parentage is also combined with an emphasis on his role as an archer in this drama.

Herakles is not called a nothos directly in Euripides’ tragedy, but the play opens with Amphitryon describing himself as the man who “shared his wife” with Zeus (τὸν Διὸς σύλλεκτρον, Herakles 1), introducing a suggestion of adultery and the question of who is the father of Alcmene’s son. The Chorus (353–354) and Herakles himself (1263–1265) add to the ambiguity over who should be called the father of Herakles. [39] The words of the tyrant Lykos combine the question of dual paternity and Herakles’ role as archer. He derides Amphitryon for claiming that Zeus shared his wife and produced a child with him (ὡς σύγγαμός σοι Ζεὺς τέκνου τε κοινεών, 149); he also ridicules Herakles’ achievements, saying that he is a coward since he is an archer (157–164). The famous debate about archery has been much discussed, and I do not want to rehearse arguments about its place within the drama. [40] My purpose in introducing this passage into this discussion is to point out that archery is here connected with the uncertain parentage of the archer, as well as attributes of cowardice and unmanliness that we just saw in Diomedes’ insult of Paris and will see again later in Teucer’s imagined confrontation with his own father. Also, there has been an enticing suggestion that Lykos’s description portrays Herakles as “an ephebe who has failed to become a man.” [41] The statement that Herakles has never held a shield is taken to mean that he is not fully adult. [42] Like the archers in vase painting, Lykos’s speech casts Herakles as a nonhoplite, and therefore as not a man. So in this case as well we see the series of connections between bastard, archer, and underage youth.

Family “Resemblance” and Legitimacy in the Ajax

Let us return from the sneers of Lykos in the Herakles to the snide comments of Agamemnon in the Ajax and look again at the problems of legitimacy that Sophocles’ drama offers. When as part of his many insults Agamemnon says that he wants a free man to plead Ajax’s case, he accuses Teucer of not knowing who he is by birth: οὐ μαθὼν ὃς εἶ φύσιν (1259). Here is the central question of identity connected with legitimacy: knowing your origins. The answer begins with who your parents are. Teucer asserts that he does indeed know who his parents are, echoing Agamemnon’s phrasing:

ὃς ἐκ πατρὸς μέν εἰμι Τελαμῶνος γεγώς,
ὅστις στρατοῦ τὰ πρῶτ ̓ ἀριστεύσας ἐμὴν
ἴσχει ξύνευνον μητέρ ̓, ἣ φύσει μὲν ἦν
βασίλεια, Λαομέδοντος·

I am one who was born from my father Telamon,
who gaining the first prize by his excellence from the army
holds as a bedmate my mother, who by birth was
royalty, the daughter of Laomedon.

Ajax 1299–1302

Asserting your lineage to an opponent is frequently seen in the epic tradition, of course, but in tragedy such matters can be complicated. Moreover, in the Ajax, the question of origins is presented in terms of proving yourself to be the son of your father.

Ajax himself, although a legitimate son of Telamon, feels that he, too, must prove that he is his father’s son. After he says that he cannot face his father as things stand now, he considers what he should do to redeem himself. He first wonders whether he should attack Troy by himself and accomplish something that way, dying as he does it (467–469). He rejects this attempt at a warrior’s death because he might please Agamemnon and Menelaos that way (470–471). He must find another way, he says:

πεῖρά τις ζητητέα
τοιάδ’ ἀφ’ ἧς γέροντι δηλώσω πατρὶ
μή τοι φύσιν γ’ ἄσπλαγχνος ἐκ κείνου γεγώς.

Some attempt must be sought
such that from it I will prove to my aged father
that I, born from him, am not by nature gutless.

Ajax 471–473

Again we see the idea of one’s nature (phusis) connected with parentage and identity. Ajax must make manifest that he is truly his father’s son. This issue is connected with the important theme in the drama of eugeneia, the connection between birth and nobility, but establishing identity through the shared characteristics between fathers and sons is a theme that reverberates through many characters.

When it comes to his own son, Ajax expects the same continuity of qualities that will show that Eurysakes is truly Ajax’s child. When his son is brought to him, Ajax says that he will not be frightened seeing the fresh gore of slaughter, “if truly he is mine on his father’s side” (εἴπερ δικαίως ἔστ ̓ ἐμὸς τὰ πατρόθεν, 547). And after this sideways reference to the always fearful possibility that a man is not truly his child’s father, Ajax explains how a son of his will know who his father is and vice versa: “But immediately in the raw ways of his father he must be broken in and assimilated to his nature” ἀλλ ̓ αὐτίκ ̓ ὠμοῖς αὐτὸν ἐν νόμοις πατρὸς δεῖ πωλοδαμνεῖν κἀξομοιοῦσθαι φύσιν (548–549). [43] Eurysakes, whose name comes from the broad shield of his father (see 574), will find his identity and legitimacy if he shares in his father’s customs and becomes like him in phusis. [44] In this way, the lingering question of how to prove that a man’s son is really his seems to be answered in the conduct of the son. [45] And he expects that when Eurysakes has grown up, he will show (deiknumi is the verb used) his enemies who his father is (556–557).

It has been pointed out that, although Eurysakes is in the same position as Teucer, born from a mother who is a captive of war, Eurysakes’ status is left vague while Teucer’s illegitimacy is accentuated. [46] This difference may have to do with the Athenian claim that Eurysakes became an Athenian citizen, and therefore was in a sense legitimized at Athens. [47] But within Sophocles’ narrative, Ajax’s instructions give Teucer the task of ensuring Eurysakes’ place in Ajax’s family home. Ajax says that he is leaving Teucer as a strong guard for Eurysakes, who will be steadfast in his care (trophê, 562–563). Teucer’s guardianship seems limited to the time remaining in Troy, for Ajax then emphatically asks the chorus to deliver his behest to Teucer: Teucer is to take the boy home and present him to Telamon and to Ajax’s mother Eriboia, so that Eurysakes will tend to them always in their old age (568–570). This detail seems to emphasize that Eurysakes is not thought of as a nothos, since in a law ascribed to Solon, nothoi are not responsible for caring for their parents in old age. [48] Thus when Teucer reveals Eurysakes to Ajax’s parents, Eurysakes seems to be—or perhaps become—a legitimate son. The ‘revealing’ that is enacted here is the same word, deiknumi, used also for Eurysakes ‘revealing’ that he is truly Ajax’s son.

The question of identity and legitimacy for Teucer is also grounded in his relationship with his father, of course. For all the associations with nothoi that the insults of Agamemnon and Menelaos contain, only in the imagined rebuke from Telamon is Teucer actually called a nothos. Teucer pictures his father’s powerful reaction to his returning home without Ajax, thinking that his father will severely reproach him:

οὗτος τί κρύψει; ποῖον οὐκ ἐρεῖ κακόν,
τὸν ἐκ δορὸς γεγῶτα πολεμίου νόθον,
τὸν δειλίᾳ προδόντα καὶ κακανδρίᾳ
σέ, φίλτατ’ Αἴας, ἢ δόλοισιν, ὡς τὰ σὰ
κράτη θανόντος καὶ δόμους νέμοιμι σούς.

What will he conceal? What sort of malicious thing will he not say?
Bastard, born from my war spear,
who betrayed because of cowardice and unmanliness
you, dearest Ajax! Or by deception, so that with you dead
I might possess your position of power and your home.

Ajax 1012–1016

Calling Teucer a nothos is clearly set out as a malicious (kakon) thing to say, but it is an especially pointed insult coming from a father. For although Teucer’s mother is seemingly insulted together with Teucer when it is said that he is born from a captive of Telamon’s spear, the thought of a (supposed) father calling his son nothos can be read as an act of disowning him. A man calling his presumed son nothos indicates that he is rejecting the child, saying that, in fact, the child is not his. Indeed, a few lines later in this speech, Teucer will predict that he will be exiled from his father’s home: “In the end I will be disowned, driven away from his land, made to appear a slave by his words instead of a free man” (τέλος δ’ ἀπωστὸς γῆς ἀπορριφθήσομαι, / δοῦλος λόγοισιν ἀντ’ ἐλευθέρου φανείς, 1019–1020). There are other narratives of bastards who are exiled for killing family members, and Teucer frames his situation here in this mode. [49] The accusation from his father that he was trying to usurp the legitimate son’s place is both a further rejection by the father and also a particularly harsh misinterpretation of the close identification between the brothers, attributing devious motives to Teucer in his relationship with his brother.

Ajax and Teucer each express anxieties over being recognized as their father’s son within their own relationship to Telamon. This is one of the similarities between the brothers, and one that we need to explore further. As we look at the relationship and similarities between the two in the Ajax, I will argue that the brothers share a strong identification with each other. This shared identity, in turn, hints at the same mythological paradigm of pairs of brothers that we saw in play in the portrayal of Ajax and Teucer in the Iliad.

As we saw in the Iliad, the character of Teucer is defined above all as the brother of Ajax, and it is in that signature role that he feels he failed in Sophocles’ Ajax. When Teucer returns and finds that Ajax has committed suicide, he delivers a lamentlike speech for his brother. [50] He wonders where he can go, and among what sort of people, now that he has not stood by or helped his brother in his travails (1006–1007). The verb used, arêgô, means to aid someone, especially in battle, and is used in that sense frequently in the Iliad, particularly in cases of gods helping mortals. [51] Teucer thus describes his failure in terms in which Ajax never failed him, since Ajax in the Iliad stands by Teucer and protects him. [52] As we have just seen, Teucer also predicts that Telamon will accuse him of betraying his brother (προδόντα … σέ, φίλτατ’ Αἴας, 1014–15), seemingly indicating that Teucer feels he has in fact done so.

Many have noted that Teucer’s lament is markedly similar in form to that of Tecmessa (485–524). His position is also parallel to that of Tecmessa: he is a dependent of Ajax, and now that Ajax is gone, he does not know where he will go, and he predicts dire things that may happen to him. But more than another Tecmessa, the speech suggests that Teucer is another Ajax. To begin to see how this substitution relationship is portrayed in the Ajax, let us recall Teucer’s imagined confrontation with Telamon when he returns home without Ajax. This speculation is part of Teucer’s lamenting speech. I include the parts of this passage that we have already examined because I will emphasize different aspects of them here. Before we looked at how the imagined reproach of nothos would indicate Telamon’s complete repudiation of Teucer. Here, I want to concentrate on how Teucer imagines Telamon will look in his reaction as well as some of the other details of what he says.

         ποῖ γὰρ μολεῖν μοι δυνατόν, εἰς ποίους βροτούς,
         τοῖς σοῖς ἀρήξαντ’ ἐν πόνοισι μηδαμοῦ;
         ἦ πού <με> Τελαμών, σὸς πατὴρ ἐμός θ’ ἅμα,
         δέξαιτ’ ἂν εὐπρόσωπος ἵλεώς τ’ ἴσως
1010 χωροῦντ’ ἄνευ σοῦ· πῶς γὰρ οὔχ; ὅτῳ πάρα
         μηδ’ εὐτυχοῦντι μηδὲν ἥδιον γελᾶν.
         οὗτος τί κρύψει; ποῖον οὐκ ἐρεῖ κακόν,
         τὸν ἐκ δορὸς γεγῶτα πολεμίου νόθον,
         τὸν δειλίᾳ προδόντα καὶ κακανδρίᾳ
1015 σέ, φίλτατ’ Αἴας, ἢ δόλοισιν, ὡς τὰ σὰ
         κράτη θανόντος καὶ δόμους νέμοιμι σούς.
         τοιαῦτ’ ἀνὴρ δύσοργος, ἐν γήρᾳ βαρύς,
         ἐρεῖ, πρὸς οὐδὲν εἰς ἔριν θυμούμενος·
         τέλος δ’ ἀπωστὸς γῆς ἀπορριφθήσομαι,
1020 δοῦλος λόγοισιν ἀντ’ ἐλευθέρου φανείς.

Where is it possible for me to go, to what sort of mortals,
having helped you not at all in your troubles?
I suppose Telamon, your father and mine, too,
might receive me with glad countenance and perhaps kindly
when I arrive without you—sure he will! He is never
sweetly smiling even when times are good.
What will he conceal? What sort of malicious thing will he not say?
Bastard, born from my war spear,
who betrayed because of cowardice and unmanliness
you, dearest Ajax! Or by deception, so that with you dead
I might possess your position of power and your home.
Such things the angry man, severe in his old age,
will say, angry and ready for quarreling even at nothing.
In the end I will be disowned, driven away from his land,
made to appear a slave by his words instead of a free man.

Ajax 1006–1020

Teucer’s status as nothos is certainly highlighted here: he imagines that his father will even use the term nothos as a reproach, as part of the vitriol that includes calling him a coward or a swindler who would forsake his brother’s life so that he might get Ajax’s inheritance. [53] He predicts that he will be exiled, and will be in a position more like a slave’s than like a free man’s. We see once again accusations of the nothos being less than a man in the imagined words of Telamon. When we considered the confrontations between Teucer and both Agamemnon and Menelaos, we saw that many of these same associations are used against Teucer there as well: that his mother was a spear-won slave (and therefore a foreigner); that Teucer, too, is not a free man but like a slave, and that he is deceitful. Now, let us turn to the confrontation Ajax envisions having with Telamon.

In Ajax’s version of a reception by Telamon, he imagines going home without the highest prize, the armor of Achilles, and without honor (atimos, 440) among the Greeks. This sort of return is especially painful, since Telamon came home from Troy having won the most beautiful prize (Teucer’s mother, in fact) and bringing home all glory (πᾶσαν εὔκλειαν φέρων, 436), whereas Ajax will have failed to live up to the standard set by his father. And so he cannot imagine how he could face his father if he does leave Troy and goes home.

Καὶ ποῖον ὄμμα πατρὶ δηλώσω φανεὶς
Τελαμῶνι; πῶς με τλήσεταί ποτ’ εἰσιδεῖν
γυμνὸν φανέντα τῶν ἀριστείων ἄτερ,
ὧν αὐτὸς ἔσχε στέφανον εὐκλείας μέγαν;
Οὐκ ἔστι τοὔργον τλητόν.

And showing up there what sort of face will I show my
father Telamon? How will he ever bear to look at me
appearing naked, without prizes of excellence,
of which he has the great crown of glory?
This is an unbearable deed.

Ajax 463–467

Significantly, both brothers imagine first the look on their father’s face or even his inability to look at them. Ajax wonders how his father will tolerate looking at him (464, using a similar word for his own feelings on the situation—that it will not be tolerable, 467). Teucer wonders what the expression on his father’s face will be (euprosôpos, with glad countenance, 1009) as he receives him. Ajax cannot look Telamon in the eye (463) and imagines himself naked (gumnos, 465), both indications of shame. [54] The shame that Ajax felt over his failure to win the arms of Achilles and his mad slaughter of the cattle is then transferred to Teucer, who feels shame over his failure to protect his brother.

But should Teucer be the one protecting Ajax? In the Iliad, as we have seen, Ajax is the protector, wielder of the great shield that can cover both his brother and himself. He is the wall of the Achaeans. [55] P. E. Easterling argues that in her appeal to Ajax, “Tecmessa understands that it is part of Ajax’s greatness to be protector of his own philoi (158–61, 410f.).” [56] The role of protector was a specialty of Ajax.

Yet Teucer’s imagined confrontation with his father seems to imply that Teucer was just as responsible for his brother’s life as Ajax was for his. Many scholars have suggested that Homeric poetry had influence of various kinds on Sophocles’ portrayal of Ajax. [57] The close connection between Ajax and Teucer, as a pair akin to Castor and Polydeuces, which is suggested in the Iliad, is also hinted at in the Ajax. But just as the scene between Tecmessa and Ajax has striking differences with that of its model between Hektor and Andromache, so, too, the idea of the coordinating pair of fighting brothers that is present in the Iliad shifts as the death of one of them is considered. In short, once Ajax is dead, Teucer takes on the characteristics of Ajax. [58]

It might be argued that it is “natural” for Teucer to take on a protective role of Ajax’s philoi once Ajax is dead, but this shift of attributes to Teucer goes beyond his taking charge of the burial of his brother and the protection of Eurysakes (which Ajax himself asked that he do, 565–573). [59] We have already noted that the shame which Ajax felt, and which he remedied through suicide, has been transferred to Teucer, and that this shame results in the same type of imagined encounter with their father. Teucer is also treated by the Greeks as though he were Ajax, his brother.

When Ajax has realized what he has done, he worries that “the whole army, armed with a spear in each hand, would kill me” (πᾶς δὲ στρατὸς δίπαλτος ἄν με χειρὶ φονεύοι, 408–409), for, as he later says, the Greek army hates him (μισεῖ μ ̓ Ἑλλήνων στρατός, 458). In fact, it is Teucer who faces the hatred and the weapons of the Greek army firsthand. As the messenger reports Teucer’s return, he describes how the Greek army lay in wait for Teucer, surrounded him, taunted him as the brother of a madman and a traitor to the army, threatened to kill him by stoning, and even drew their swords before the elders put a stop to it (721–732). What Ajax imagines is in store for him is realized to an extent for Teucer. A transferal of qualities from Ajax to Teucer is also hinted at when Agamemnon, in his reproach to Teucer, asks him, “Will you not have self-control?” (οὐ σωφρονήσεις, 1259). Ajax asked a similar question of himself: “Will I not learn self-control?” (ἡμεῖς δὲ πῶς οὐ γνωσόμεσθα σωφρονεῖν, 677). These similarities are more than a “two peas in a pod” phenomenon if they are tapping into a mythological paradigm of brothers whose very lives are connected.

This identification between Ajax and Teucer after Ajax’s death is also suggested in dramatic terms. In terms of the structure of the drama, it is likely that the same actor played both roles, although this is not known for certain. But if the same actor did play both Teucer and Ajax, the repeated questions about Teucer’s whereabouts are imbued with further meaning. Ajax first calls for Teucer when he comes out of his madness, and his question “Where is Teucer?” (ποῦ Τεῦκρος; 342) is picked up twice more by Tecmessa (797 and 921). Teucer will not appear until after Ajax has killed himself, though, and the effect of being portrayed by the same actor may have added to the sense that the brothers “alternate” with one another. Teucer’s willingness to join his brother in death in his efforts to protect him (1310–1311) fits into the paradigm seen in the case of Castor and Polydeuces, although it is reversed, since the illegitimate (which, structurally speaking, is equivalent to mortal) brother will choose to share death instead of the legitimate/immortal brother, as in the case of Castor and Polydeuces. The paradigm at work seems to be that the brothers, while alive and working together, had complementary qualities (as seen in the Iliad). When the dominant brother dies, the recessive brother takes on his traits.

Teucer on His Own

When we look at Teucer’s post-Trojan War career, then, he has absorbed the qualities of Ajax. Euripides’ Helen presents a version of the next episode in Teucer’s life. Ajax is dead, and Teucer has returned to Salamis and has been turned out by Telamon, just as Teucer in the Ajax predicted he would. Now his story must become his own, for he is not with his brother any longer.

The appearance of Teucer in Euripides’ Helen seems at first glance somewhat arbitrary. Never a major figure in any version of Helen’s life story, he is not strictly “necessary” to the events in this drama either. Indeed, the central question surrounding Teucer’s role in the Helen may be “why is he a part of this drama at all?” Certainly, his appearance seems very convenient, and Teucer’s role has often been considered simply one of an informer. [60] With his arrival in the prologue, Helen has the opportunity to converse with a Greek man who is not directly connected to her situation. In this conversation Helen (and the audience) is told that she is an object of hatred for the Achaeans who fought long and hard in the war over her (Helen 81). She learns that Troy has been sacked, that the Trojan War lasted ten years, and that it has been over for seven (106–114). Most importantly, she learns that Menelaos recovered the phantom Helen, but that they have not yet reached home and, in fact, many consider Menelaos dead (115–132).

Helen, however, understands immediately that Teucer hates her because he is an Achaean warrior who was at Troy—she does not need him to explain that to her (85). She already knows about the eidôlon Helen and the war fought for her, and even the reputation these events have made for her (42–55). As far as the plot is concerned, the important piece of information that Teucer provides is that the Greeks were scattered in their homecoming, and that Menelaos is believed lost. Again, it could be argued that it is convenient for it to be Teucer who tells Helen this, since he is not on his way back to his Greek homeland and so cannot be expected to rescue Helen himself. I will argue, however, that there is more at stake in the encounter of Teucer and Helen. The details of their conversation show, as I hope to demonstrate, that Teucer is an appropriate figure in the story of the Egyptian Helen because they both have a transferred sense of shame from the events of the war, but each also has a possibility of redemption and a new life after leaving Egypt. I will also argue that Teucer’s life story as a nothos is a key aspect to these similarities.

Teucer’s status as nothos needs no explicit mention in the Helen—it is a fact that can be taken for granted. Helen, on the other hand, is not usually thought of as illegitimate, yet in Euripides’ narrative, her own descriptions of her birth use tropes commonly associated with illegitimacy. Helen gives versions of her origins both before and shortly after Teucer’s appearance that problematize the circumstances of her birth. In the opening monologue, she introduces Sparta as her homeland and Tyndareus as her father, but then she immediately adds that the story is told that Zeus sired her in the form of a swan and concludes, “if the story is true” (17–21). [61] As he did in the Herakles, Euripides here casts lineage from Zeus as an ambiguous situation, and doubt over the identity of one’s father is a fundamental condition of illegitimacy. This ambivalence is later compounded with the story of Helen’s birth from an egg, where “they say” that she did not come into the world in the usual way (256–259). Her displacement from her own identity because of the eidôlon is conveyed by her figurative illegitimacy at the beginning of this drama. Although the authenticity of lines 257–259 has often been doubted, I would argue that the sentiments expressed actually fit in well with her situation. In any case, the question she asks in line 256, which modern editors do not excise, also has a hint of illegitimacy, as Helen asks whether her mother bore her as a teras. We will see further in chapter 3 how recent scholarship has connected the ideas of bastardy and this sort of unnatural or monstrous birth. [62]

Thus the presence of Teucer, an undisputed nothos, is an indication of illegitimacy as an analogy to Helen’s loss of identity, and this loss is in a sense retrospectively applied to the circumstances of Helen’s birth as well. The unstable identity of both Helen and Teucer is seen as well in their disconnect from their respective parents: Teucer has been disowned by his father and Helen’s mother has committed suicide because she is ashamed of Helen (Teucer, in fact, tells Helen that this is the report, 136; see also 687 when Helen repeats this news for Menelaos). [63] Indeed, these profound reactions of Telamon and Leda to the supposed actions of Teucer and Helen indicate another characteristic that the two share: that is, they are both intensely shamed, though the disgrace is not their own doing.

The words that Helen speaks as Teucer enters announce the idea of a “transferred” shame. At the end of her opening monologue, Helen is explaining that Theoclymenus is now pursuing her for marriage and that she has made herself a suppliant at the tomb of Proteus so that she may keep her bed for her husband, concluding, “so that although I bear an ill-famed name throughout Greece, my body may not bring shame to me here at least” (ὡς, εἰ καθ ̓ Ἑλλάδ’ ὄνομα δυσκλεὲς φέρω, μή μοι τὸ σῶμά γ ̓ ἐνθάδ ̓ αἰσχύνην ὄφλῃ, 66–67). This contrast between a name with duskleia in Greece and an existence without shame elsewhere introduces Teucer, and we will see that these sentiments are appropriate to Teucer’s situation as well as Helen’s. He, too, has found shame at home but hopes for another kind of life in another place.

The source of the shame of each is brought out in the details of their conversation. [64] Once he has been convinced that the woman he is speaking to is not really Helen, Teucer tells her that he is a Greek who has been exiled from his homeland (84–90). [65] When Helen learns that it was Telamon, Teucer’s own father, who expelled him, she asks what Teucer could have done that would make his father cause him such suffering. Teucer’s response shows the cause of his disgrace: “Ajax, my brother, destroyed me by dying in Troy” (94). Although it is made clear that Ajax committed suicide, the implication is that the death of his brother has caused a kind of “social death” for Teucer and that this results from the deep connection of identity between the two brothers: that is, both were destroyed by the death of one of them. Just as Helen has lost her true identity because of the eidôlon, Teucer has also been deprived of his through the death of his brother.

Thus the sharing of identity between Ajax and Teucer that we saw in the Ajax is apparent in this narrative as well. When Teucer tells Helen the story of Ajax’s suicide, she asks him: “Are you then sick with the sufferings of that man?” (σὺ τοῖς ἐκείνου δῆτα πήμασιν νοσεῖς; 103). In other words, she asks whether Ajax’s misfortune affects Teucer, but her words describe this in terms of sickness, of corporeally experiencing the pain of his brother. The connection between the brothers is represented as sharing the same disease, feeling the same pain and suffering. [66]

Teucer’s response shows what the connection should have been: “Because I did not perish together with him” (ὁθούνεκ ̓ αὐτῷ <γ ̓> οὐ ξυνωλόμην ὁμοῦ, 104). The pain that Ajax felt, that Teucer as his alter ego or other half would be expected to feel with him, he says that he feels because he did not die with him. What is the pain that Ajax was feeling? Shame, the very shame that led to his suicide, as Bernard Williams has argued. [67] And shame is now what Teucer feels because Ajax is dead and he is still alive. Just as we have seen that Teucer takes over the traits and role of his brother once Ajax is dead, he also takes on the shame Ajax felt after he realized his actions.

The personal shame of Teucer is that which he took over from Ajax, and this sense of shame was reinforced by his actual confrontation with his father, when Telamon rejected him. The conversation between Helen and Teucer next moves on to matters of shame in connection with Troy as a whole. Helen asks Teucer if he went to the famous city of Troy, and he replies that in sacking it he destroyed himself as well (105–106), once again connecting himself to a dishonorable devastation. The description of fire consuming the city until there is no trace left (107–108) conjures the shameful sack of the city, and in the disgrace associated with the destruction of Troy we find the common ground between Helen and Teucer. The progression of their dialogue confirms this. From Teucer’s personal shame, we have moved to shared shame of the Trojan War Helen, for example, says that “Helen” is wretched for causing the deaths of the Phrygians who died on her account (109). [68] The subject then continues to Helen’s personal shame.

Helen asks Teucer whether the Greeks recovered “the Spartan woman,” and when he replies that Menelaos led her off dragging her by the hair, Helen asks whether Teucer actually saw the wretched woman or if he is speaking by report (115–117). Teucer replies, “I saw her with my own eyes, no less than I see you” (ὥσπερ σέ γ ̓, οὐδὲν ἧσσον, ὀφθαλμοῖς ὁρῶ, 118). This line alludes to the discrepancy between what Teucer thinks he saw (Helen) and what he really saw (Helen’s eidôlon) as he looks at the real Helen and compares the seeing of the false vision with the real thing. The emphasis on seeing, however, also relates to the mechanism of shame. As Bernard Williams explains, “The basic experience connected with shame is that of being seen, inappropriately, by the wrong people, in the wrong condition.” [69] The vivid detail of Helen being dragged off by her hair (ἐπισπάσας κόμης) with Achaean soldiers looking on certainly fits this definition of being seen inappropriately.

Since shame is associated with seeing and being seen, it is thus connected not only to the plot of the Helen but also to the prominent antithesis of seeming and being in the drama. [70] For both Helen and Teucer, the shame they feel is due to the connection with another; it is a transferred shame, one that manifests itself in how they are seen by others. As long as the eidôlon is thought to be the real Helen, Helen partakes of the shame attached to the eidôlon that results from the events at Troy. Teucer’s case is more refracted because his identity is connected, but not identical, to that of Ajax. Nevertheless, since Teucer is seen as the “other self” of Ajax who did not fulfill his fraternal duties, he, too, partakes of the shame that overwhelmed Ajax.

Thus Teucer’s appearance at the beginning of the Helen emphasizes the shame inherent in his situation and in Helen’s, and shame is connected to the important theme of appearance versus reality. The stated purpose of Teucer’s visit to Egypt also points to another important theme of the drama, that of death and rebirth, and his journey suggests the possibility of redemption from this shame. [71] Just as Helen and Menelaos have a symbolic death from their former selves and a rebirth into a new life in the drama, so Teucer is in Egypt as part of a voyage that will give him a rebirth, and this time as legitimate.

The drama’s setting in Egypt taps into cultural associations of Egypt as an upside-down place, as seen in Herodotus’s famous description in the second book of his Histories, especially 2.35.2, where he says that in character and customs (êthea te kai nomous) the Egyptians differ from all other humans. With its “other-worldly” feel, Egypt shares characteristics with Hades as a place of death. [72] Egypt is not Hades or death as an end, however, but as a transition. As Charles Segal describes it in his discussion of the setting for the characters of Helen and Menelaos, “Like the Odyssean Phaeacia, Egypt is a mysterious point of transition between worlds, a point where the past can be relived and in some sense transformed.” [73] Teucer, like Helen and Menelaos, is making a transition between worlds and rewriting his past.

At last in this conversation, we learn that Teucer is in Egypt to get help from Theonoe in finding the course to Cyprus, where he is to found a New Salamis. He has been expelled from his father’s home and from his fatherland, but the oracle of Apollo has directed him to make a settlement in Cyprus. This is what Teucer tells Helen about his journey:

ὧν δ’ οὕνεκ’ ἦλθον τούσδε βασιλείους δόμους,
τὴν θεσπιωιδὸν Θεονόην χρήιζων ἰδεῖν,
σὺ προξένησον, ὡς τύχω μαντευμάτων
ὅπηι νεὼς στείλαιμ’ ἂν οὔριον πτερὸν
ἐς γῆν ἐναλίαν Κύπρον, οὗ μ’ ἐθέσπισεν
οἰκεῖν Ἀπόλλων, ὄνομα νησιωτικὸν
Σαλαμῖνα θέμενον τῆς ἐκεῖ χάριν πάτρας.

Concerning the matters for which I came to these royal halls,
needing to see the prophet Theonoe,
you, be my proxenos, so that I may obtain prophecies
about how I should set forth the wings of my ship on a fair wind
toward the land of Cyprus on the sea, where Apollo has declared by oracle that I am
to found a colony, giving it the island name
of Salamis for the sake of my fatherland there.

Helen 143–150

Segal has argued that the word kharis in this drama sums up Helen’s “distinctive quality in effecting this movement” from death to life. About Teucer’s kharis in this passage, Segal has said, “This charis in the new settlement suggests a benign movement from the Trojan world to peace, and thus it serves as a potential paradigm and encouragement for Helen and Menelaos: eventual escape from the grip of Troy, rest from wandering, and the acquisition of a stable home.” [74] Later in the play, kharis is associated with the joy of rebirth. [75] Teucer’s stop in Egypt is part of his rebirth to a new life.

Teucer plans to consult with Theonoe about founding the colony. This interview is parallel to the consultation of the Delphic oracle in other foundation narratives, and is doubled with a Delphic consultation alluded to here (Helen 148–149). [76] Consulting a seer in Egypt also implies another cultural association with that place. In Plato’s Timaeus, Egypt is represented as a place of knowledge, specifically knowledge of history. It is the only culture to have a continual society that can retain knowledge while other cultures are destroyed and begin again from nature. [77] It has been pointed out that Teucer leaves with his purpose unfulfilled. He is not given the chance to consult with Theonoe. [78] Perhaps this has to do with Teucer’s status as still illegitimate. He does not have access to knowledge produced by this oldest culture since he is a “natural” child, one born, that is, outside of marriage.

In any case, Teucer’s overall plan of reaching Cyprus and founding a New Salamis is not obstructed. Teucer will found his new city and find his new life. The stop in Egypt is like Odysseus’s stop in Phaeacia: Teucer confronts his Trojan past, in the form of Helen who is not Helen, before moving on to his new life. [79] It is after the visit to the underworld-like Egypt that Teucer can be reborn. [80]

Teucer is in mid-journey. He has died to his old life and is on his way to being born into a new one. When he leaves the transition point of Egypt, he can leave his past, his shame, and his status as nothos behind. When he completes his journey, he will take on a legitimate status as a colony founder. In the next chapter I will look more closely at types of colonial narratives that achieve a sort of legitimization for nothoi. In Teucer’s case, however, we can see that his appearance in the Helen elicits early on in the drama the feelings of shame that he and Helen each feel in connection with the events at Troy that have been transferred to them by their other selves. The explicit purpose of his journey, however, is part of the drama’s larger theme of death and rebirth.

Teucer’s story thus provides a model, a counterpoint exemplum, for Helen in Egypt. He arrives shamed and illegitimate, just as Helen is at that point. His journey out of Egypt is the first “rebirth” in the drama, a movement from dishonor to a new life of legitimacy. We know that the shame Helen feels in connection with the eidôlon is lifted in the course of the drama’s events, allowing her to be recognized as faithful wife. [81] Whether or not Helen and Menelaos achieve the same sort of legitimacy when they actually leave Egypt is a larger question complicated by Euripides’ ending. For Teucer, however, the journey and the colony of New Salamis provide him with a new identity, for he comes out of the shadows of his brother’s shame, just as he has left behind the shadow of Ajax’s shield.


[ back ] 1. The A scholia on I liad 8.284 say that Zenodotus omitted the line and Aristarchus athetized it on the basis that it was not appropriate for Agamemnon to call Teucer a n othos in an exhortation, since this term would be more akin to blame. The bT scholia try to explain the incongruity by saying that Agamemnon is in some way praising Teucer in that he was raised to be a good man even though he was illegitimate. These scholia also say that there was no blame in illegitimacy among the ancients, a stand akin to Patterson 1990. As for k asignêtos, it is used for half brothers Paris and Lykaon (3.333), who have the same father (Priam) but different mothers, and other siblings with the same father but different mothers, such as Ares and Aphrodite (5.357). Ajax and Teucer are in the same situation, of course, sharing a father (Telamon), but having different mothers. Thus, k asignêtos does not necessarily imply “legitimate” status for Teucer. I would argue that the case is the same with the term o patros (applied to Teucer and Ajax at I liad 12.371—but note that it is used within a speech of Ajax, and may represent his point of view). See Edgeworth 1985.27n4 for a different conclusion.

[ back ] 2. Higbie 1985.11–12 notes that it is rare for a son’s name to originate from a quality of his mother (while it frequently does from that of his father), and she cites as examples of the phenomenon Teucer and Eudoros in I liad 16, whose narrative was discussed in the first chapter. Higbie does not note, however, that both of her examples are illegitimate sons, and thus it makes more sense that they are associated with their mothers through their names. (We will see another example in the next chapter: the P artheniai are so called because they are illegitimate and their mothers are p arthenoi.) See also Janko 1992, ad loc. 13.46 for possible associations of Teucer’s name.

[ back ] 3. Martin 1989.12 defines m ûthos in Homer as a speech-act, with the emphasis on the performance of the speaker.

[ back ] 4. Using this same phrasing, it is said that Iphidamas is raised by his grandfather (I liad 11.223) and that Aeneas was raised in the house of his brother-in-law (I liad 13.466). This formulaic phrase is also used for Andromache and her father Eëtion (I liad 22.480), as well as Eurykleia caring for Telemakhos (O dyssey 1.435), and with reference to Odysseus and both his father (O dyssey 11.67) and his mother (O dyssey 23.325).

[ back ] 5. The Moliones (so-called after their mother, in fact) are frequently shown with one body but two heads and two sets of limbs. In a black-figure vase painting found in the Athenian Agora (now in the Agora Museum, P 4885), the Moliones are shown in battle as they mount a chariot with a shared square body, presumably holding a shield. Page 1959.236 notes that the M olione are the only other case besides A iante of a dual formed from the name of one of the two persons called by that dual (what Nagy calls an “elliptical” dual, see note 109 below). Below I discuss the dual A iante with respect to Ajax and Teucer, but I note here that the Moliones are, like Ajax and Teucer, another pair of brothers who fight together. Two sons of Priam, one legitimate and one illegitimate, also fight together as spearman and driver, respectively (I liad 11.101–104).

[ back ] 6. Teucer is also covered when he is injured (I liad 8.330–331), so that he may retreat, just as other warriors are when injured or killed (Eurypylos by the shield of Ajax at 11.592–594, Hypsenor by the shields of the Achaeans in general at 13.420, and Patroklos by Ajax’s shield at 17.132 as well as those of all the Achaeans at 17.267, 17.354). That Teucer is covered by another’s shield while fighting and not injured is distinctive, however.

[ back ] 7. Aiantos deinon sakos heptaboeion at I liad 7.246, 7.266, see also 7.222 and 11.545 for the description of the shield as made of seven layers of ox hides. Aias d’enguthen êlthe pherôn sakos êüte purgon at I liad 7.219, 11.485, 17.128. Page 1959.232–235 argues that Ajax’s name is part of these formulae. His conclusion is that the figure of Ajax is a figure in poetry from the Minoan-Mycenean era, when a shield such as his would have been the norm.

[ back ] 8. Page 1959.235–238, citing Wackernagel 1877 [“Zum homerischen dual,” Zeitschrift für vergleichende Sprachforschung 23 (1877): 302–310, reprinted in Wackernagel 1953, Kleine Schriften, Göttingen, 538–546], discusses this use of the dual and argues (236), “If Αἴαντε was a very ancient term, it cannot have meant ‘the two persons who happen to be called Ajax’; but it could have meant ‘Ajax and his brother’; and the Iliad indicates that this is just what it did mean at an earlier period.” Edgeworth and Mayrhofer 1987.186–188 strengthen the argument by adducing the dual used in the Indian epic the M ahâbhârata. The dual “the two Kṛṣṇ̣as” is used eighty-five times to mean Kṛṣṇ̣a and Arjuna, that is, the dual is used for two persons who do not share the same name. See also Higbie 1985.30n15, Kirk 1985 ad loc. 2.406, Janko 1992, ad loc. 13.46.

[ back ] 9. See Nagy 1997, esp. 178ff. for the use and meaning of this dual from an evolutionary perspective.

[ back ] 10. Nagy 1997.178.

[ back ] 11. Nagy 1997.175–183; on 168 he defines an elliptical dual as one designating A + B, rather than A + A of the “normal” dual.

[ back ] 12. Nagy 1997.175.

[ back ] 13. See Edgeworth and Mayrhofer 1987 for the evidence for this dual in Indian epic.

[ back ] 14. See Frame 1978.146–147, where he argues that the dual names of twins in Vedic traditions are parallel to D ioskouroi and also to T undaridai. He also argues that the title D ioskouroi “represents the extension of one twin’s title to both twins” (147).

[ back ] 15. See Frame 1978.141–142 for possible Indo-European traces in the immortal/mortal opposition and the connection to different paternity.

[ back ] 16. Edgeworth 1985.27 cites this source as background to his discussion of Ajax and Teucer. He also notes that H. J. Rose 1931 rejected the suggestion “with icy contempt” in C lassical Review 45.151.

[ back ] 17. Edgeworth 1985.29. I find this suggestion provocative, but, as is now obvious, I must take exception with his conclusions that the “monumental poet” Homer misunderstood the older use of the dual A iante (28).

[ back ] 18. Edgeworth 1985.29–30.

[ back ] 19. C orpus der Minoischen und Mykenischen Siegel, 1972: vol. 9, no. 7D. The ‘D’ indicates “dubitandae,” and the editors of the volume explain that they have designated it such because of the color of the jasper and the “extraordinary” technique (p. x). Yet, it is questionable whether the seal is, in fact, not ancient or not “genuine,” since the question of authenticity of any piece without provenience tends to be a vexed one. I profoundly thank Dr. Ingo Pini, who in correspondence with me explained that although some features of the image, such as the lion’s mane and landscape elements, are unique, that this fact alone should not disqualify the seal. He additionally stipulated that the material, the shape of the seal, and its style are all in favor of its ancient origin. He also kindly referred me to J. H. Betts’s review (Betts 1977) of this volume of the C orpus der Minoischen und Mykenischen Siegel, and Betts, too, takes issue with the designation of this piece as “dubitandae”: “Shape and composition of 7D are unusual but the technique, p ace the editors’ comments (p. x), seems no more doubtful than 114 or the peculiar 115, which they accept as genuine” (Betts 1977.229) The editors also do note that if the scene depicted “a ppartient b ien a u r épertoire m inoen,” such a theme may have survived the destruction of the Minoan world. Thus according to some experts, the piece can easily be considered genuinely Minoan, and it seems that even those who doubt the Minoan date of this particular piece nevertheless classify the scene itself as a Minoan theme.

[ back ] 20. See my discussion in chapter 1 of the association of illegitimacy and mortality as seen in Euripides A lcestis 988–990.

[ back ] 21. Ormand 1999.105 points out that “every major hero in the drama (except Ajax) has his birth called into question at some point.” I will argue below that Ajax nevertheless also feels that he must prove his descent from his heroic father through his actions.

[ back ] 22. In chapter 4, the theme of deception as related to illegitimacy will be further developed.

[ back ] 23. See Patterson 1981 for a monograph on the Periclean citizenship law. More recently, Boegehold 1994 considers the question of why this law was instituted, and Ogden 1996.32–82 traces the development of laws at Athens regarding legitimacy, including the Periclean law of 451/0 b.c. (59–69). Ormand 1999.108–109 emphasizes that Agamemnon’s insults employ a fifth-century definition of n othos, and connects the taunt of the “barbarian language” in 1263 to the Periclean citizenship law excluding sons of foreign women from citizenship.

[ back ] 24. Vernant 1990.61 argues that the status of n othoi after Cleisthenes was not strictly x enoi but instead was comparable to metics. In tragic poetry, however, the association with foreigners provides a stronger imagery.

[ back ] 25. I will also discuss the importance of p arrhêsia in connection with legitimacy in chapter 4 with respect to Euripides H ippolytos 421–423. Ogden 1996.171, 196, 198 discusses the right of speaking freely with respect to the H ippolytos and to the A ndromache.

[ back ] 26. A lack of agency for n othoi was also seen in chapter 1 in their association with women.

[ back ] 27. Lissarrague 1990.

[ back ] 28. Lissarrague 1990.17.

[ back ] 29. Lissarrague 1990, especially chapter 1.

[ back ] 30. Lissarrague 1990.19 for the opposition of masculine/feminine, 53 for the interchangeability of the archer with the woman in the scene.

[ back ] 31. See Nagy 1994 for Apollo as an eternal youth.

[ back ] 32. There are numerous examples of this scene in both sculpture, such as the West Pediment of the Siphnian Treasury at Delphi, and vase painting. For two examples of the latter, see the black-figure kylix of the Lysippides painter (Munich 2080) and a red-figure amphora of the Andocides painter (Berlin F 2159).

[ back ] 33. Pinney 1983.127.

[ back ] 34. Munich 1408, A BV 368, 106.

[ back ] 35. Lissarrague 1990.52–53.

[ back ] 36. See Lissarrague 1990.170–172 for his discussion of this entry.

[ back ] 37. Lissarrague 1990.53 notes that on the archaic vases the Scythian archer is not necessarily a young man nor a future hoplite. He argues that although archers on archaic vases are marked as noncitizens, they are not depicted as “pre-citizens.” But see Pinney 1983 for her argument that the Scythian archer marks the scene as belonging to epic narrative. My argument is simply that he is shown as underage, whether this is a scene of epic (and I do agree with Pinney) or a “genre” arming scene.

[ back ] 38. See Aristophanes B irds 1649ff. for a comic example of Herakles as n othos.

[ back ] 39. Michelini 1990.254–258 discusses Herakles’ two fathers as part of the larger theme of divinity versus humanity. Gregory 1991.128–132 centers her discussion of the dual fatherhood on notions of e ugeneia.

[ back ] 40. George 1994.146n4 collects some of the many studies of this question.

[ back ] 41. George 1994.147. He builds this argument on Vidal-Naquet’s analysis of ephebes in T he Black Hunter (Baltimore 1986).

[ back ] 42. George 1994.148.

[ back ] 43. Goldhill 1986.187 discusses the paradox of “raw” and therefore “uncivilized” n omoi.

[ back ] 44. It is quite striking that n omos and p husis are used here in tandem, instead of being opposed as they often are in Euripidean tragedy. The n omos may refer to the development of the son through the father’s “nurture” of him, but the reinforcement of nature and nurture here strengthens the “proof” that the son is really the child of the father.

[ back ] 45. Compare the assertion of the chorus in Euripides H erakles that Herakles’ heroic deeds prove that he is truly Zeus’s son (798–808), although the heroism of Herakles will be undercut soon after this when he murders his family.

[ back ] 46. Easterling 1997.25–26, who says that especially with the characterization of Tecmessa, “one is not supposed to find oneself wondering about the legal status of the child Eurysaces.” See also Ormand 1999.109–123, whose focus is on Tecmessa’s position as concubine or wife. He argues that Sophocles presents the category of n othos as “a challenge to the notion of noble blood” (109).

[ back ] 47. See Plutarch S olon 10 for the settlement of Eurysakes and his brother Philaios (not mentioned in the A jax) in Attica. This act was important for Athens gaining power over Salamis. See Ham 1999.202–203 for the connection between Eurysakes and the C hoes festival at Athens, and for the festival’s relationship in turn to Athenian citizenship.

[ back ] 48. Plutarch S olon 22.4. That n othoi have no responsibility toward their parents is the corollary to the exclusion of n othoi from inheritance. For discussion of this part of Solon’s law on n othoi, see Ogden 1996.37, 39; Patterson 1990.51; Vernant 1990.61; Wolff 1944.87.

[ back ] 49. For one example, see I liad 13.694–697, where Medon, the bastard son of Oileus and brother of the other Ajax, is described as living “far from his father’s land (g ês)” because he killed the brother of Oileus’s wife (Medon’s stepmother).

[ back ] 50. Heath 1987.199 shows how the form of this speech conforms to lament conventions as outlined in Margaret Alexiou’s 1974 landmark study, T he Ritual Lament in Greek Tradition, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

[ back ] 51. Zeus is described as helping the Trojans in battle with this verb in e.g., I liad 1.521, 12.68; Apollo, as well, at 16.701, when the Achaeans would have taken Troy if he had not helped the Trojans. At 5.507 and 5.511, Ares helps the Trojan side while Athena helps the Achaeans. It can also apply to mortals, such as Iphidamas, who is described as coming to help the Trojans at 11.242. In this drama, Tecmessa had used this verb asking the chorus to aid Ajax, 329; and Teucer uses it in reference to the Chorus protecting the corpse of Ajax in 1183.

[ back ] 52. See, for example, Iliad 8.267–268, where their normal way of fighting together is described, and 8.330–331, when Teucer is wounded, and Ajax is described as “not forgetful of his fallen brother, but running he stands around him and covers him with his shield.”

[ back ] 53. A similar suspicion about n othoi using nefarious ways of getting an inheritance is seen also at H ippolytos 1010–1013, which I will discuss in chapter 4.

[ back ] 54. See Williams 1993.78 for the connection between being seen in the wrong condition, especially naked, and shame. Williams 1993.85 discusses A jax 463–467 in particular with regard to shame.

[ back ] 55. See, for example, I liad 7.211.

[ back ] 56. Easterling 1984.3.

[ back ] 57. Easterling 1984.8 draws the conclusion that “Sophocles’ highly individual response to Homer had profound significance for the composition of Ajax.” For other discussions of the A jax and Homeric models, see Knox 1961; Goldhill 1986.154–161; Zanker 1992.20–25. A prime example of Homeric influence (one that has been noted as far back a s the scholiasts) is the influence of Andromache’s speech to Hektor in I liad 6 on the speech of Tecmessa (485–524). For discussions of Tecmessa’s speech as a proleptic lament that draws on Andromache’s speech to Hektor in I liad 6, see, among others, Easterling 1984, who points out that the scholiasts noted this as well. On how Tecmessa uses the speech to position herself, see Ormand 1999.113–123.

[ back ] 58. Stanford 1979.xlv, not an admirer of Teucer, says that “Sophocles portrays him as an alter Ajax, loyal, high-spirited and fearless, but without Ajax’s greatness of passion and spirit, and with a noticeable lack of δεινότης.” My argument here is not whether Teucer is a successful other Ajax, but that his character as presented in the A jax taps into the mythical paradigm of the brother-pair that is also suggested in the I liad.

[ back ] 59. Note, however, that Teucer will make up for his perceived lapse to his brother in the protective role. As he prepares for the burial, he makes sure that the Chorus will stand by the corpse in his absence, using again a rêgô in his request (1183). See page 53 above for my discussion of this verb in its other instances in the play. Thus when he once again has to be away, he takes care of the protection which he feels he failed to give when Ajax committed suicide.

[ back ] 60. Karsai 1992.217 notes that in the previous discussions of Teucer’s role in this drama, the emphasis has been on his role as an informer.

[ back ] 61. Dale loc. notes that the “ambivalence is curious and a little upsetting.” She also notes the more explicit doubt of Zeus’s parentage in the H erakles.

[ back ] 62. Ogden 1997.9–14. See p. 77 below.

[ back ] 63. In Helen’s case, there is the additional possibility that her brothers also committed suicide in shame over her actions (137–142). For a similar suggestion that Castor and Polydeuces may have felt shame over Helen, compare Helen’s words at I liad 3.236–242, in which she assumes that she does not see her brothers among the Greek forces because they are too ashamed to come to the battlefield or perhaps to come to Troy at all. See Ebbott 1999.15. The mention of her brothers here may be an allusion to their role as rescuers of Helen from Theseus and so potential rescuers of her now, but following the mention of Leda, who would not be in a position to rescue Helen, the emphasis seems to be on the shame that led to their deaths. Of course, the appearance of Castor and Polydeuces as divinities at the end of the play resolves the question of which story is accurate within the drama.

[ back ] 64. Karsai 1992.219–222 characterizes their conversation as an “interrogation.” He argues that Helen asks the vast majority of the questions and gets what she wants out of Teucer, but that Teucer has nothing that he came for when he leaves. Karsai does not mention, however, that much of the questioning centers on Teucer and his story.

[ back ] 65. Diggle in his 1994 edition (Oxford: Oxford University Press) excises lines 86–89, in which Teucer explicitly identifies himself by name, as Teucer, son of Telamon, from Salamis. Yet even without these lines, Teucer’s background is established: it is made clear that Telamon is his father (92), Ajax is his brother (94), and Salamis is his homeland (150).

[ back ] 66. Note that language and imagery related to disease are used in the A jax as well for referring to what Ajax must cure by cutting it out in a sort of surgical procedure (581–582).

[ back ] 67. Williams 1993. 84–85, 101 argues that in Ajax’s case, the internalized other which is a mechanism of shame is someone very much like his father. The imagined homecoming shows that Ajax feels shame over who he has become, and his suicide is due to shame, since “he [=Ajax] has no way of living that anyone he respects would respect—which means that he cannot live with any self-respect” (85). His decision to commit suicide was “grounded in his own identity, his sense of himself as someone who can live in some social circumstances and not others, and what mediated between himself and the world was his sense of shame” (101).

[ back ] 68. Teucer reminds Helen in the next line (110) that Achaeans died for her as well, perhaps implying which side she should feel sorry for. Segal 1986b.233 argues that in Euripides’ characterization of her, Helen has “an intense consciousness of shame.”

[ back ] 69. Williams 1993.78.

[ back ] 70. Segal 1986b.224 argues that the central irony of the H elen is the antithesis of appearance and reality.

[ back ] 71. Segal 1986b.224 points out the “frequent use of the archetypes of death and rebirth” in romances and argues that “the motif of death and rebirth not only governs the rhythm of the action but also helps clarify the ethical side of the play’s antitheses” (1986b.248).

[ back ] 72. Segal 1986b.252: “Egypt functions, in part, as a sort of Hades, a place of death,” especially in connection with the death and rebirth vegetation cycle associated with (a) Hyacinthus, who is mentioned in a choral ode of the H elen (1465–1475), (b) Helen in her role as vegetation goddess, and (c) the Persephone myth that frames the drama.

[ back ] 73. Segal 1986b.229.

[ back ] 74. Segal 1986b.255.

[ back ] 75. Segal 1986b.256.

[ back ] 76. See Dougherty 1993.8–9 for the importance of the Delphic oracle in colonial narratives.

[ back ] 77. See Ferrari 1999.359–366 for this representation of Egypt.

[ back ] 78. Karsai 1992.222 argues that Teucer has been duped in giving Helen the information she wants while he does not get the information he came for. His conclusion is that Teucer is his same old self as in Sophocles’ A jax, the hero who is picked on and manipulated by others, and also that Helen reveals herself to be the more usual Helen even though she is in Egypt. He does not note the thematic connections between their characterizations.

[ back ] 79. Compare Odysseus hearing the story of his role in Troy through the songs of Demodokos in O dyssey 8 as a confrontation with his Trojan narrative. See Nagy 1999.101 for Odysseus’s reaction to this song.

[ back ] 80. Segal 1986b.253 points out that in this drama the sea seems to be a place of death when really it is a source of life. In Teucer’s case, as well, the sailing to Cyprus will be a source of new life for him.

[ back ] 81. Notice that once the e idôlon has absolved Helen with its departing words, the servant who reports its disappearance can say to Helen that she never shamed her father or brothers nor did what was reported: οὐκ ἄρα γέροντα πατέρα καὶ Διοσκόρω / ᾔσχυνας οὐδ ̓ ἔδρασας οἷα κλῄζεται (720–721). Segal 1986b.249 notes that the e idôlon frees Helen from the burden of past guilt and shame.