The Aethiopis: Neo-Neoanalysis Reanalyzed

  Davies, Malcolm. 2016. The Aethiopis: Neo-Neoanalysis Reanalyzed. Hellenic Studies Series 71. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies.

Chapter 2. The Aethiopis and Art

Under the rubric of art, of course, fall a vast number of books and articles covering a wide range of aspects. From the long list of works that deal with more than one category and are rich in bibliography I select for mention G. E. Lung, Memnon: Archäologische Studien zur Aithiopis (diss. Bonn 1912); E. Löwy, “Zur Aithiopis,” Neue Jahrbücher für das klassische Altertum, Geschichte und deutsche Literatur und für Pädagogik 33 (1914): 81–94; I. Mayer-Prokop, Die gravierten etruskischen Griffspiegel archaischen Stils (Mitteilungen des Deutschen Archäeologischen Instituts, Römische Abteilung Suppl. 13 [1967]) 64; and Clark and Coulson 1978. I have found the various remarks of K. Friis Johansen (see his book The Iliad in Early Greek Art [Copenhagen 1967] “Index,” s.v. “Trojan epics”) sane and helpful.


We know that Aeschylus composed a now-lost tragedy entitled Ψυχοστασία, which allegedly showed something similar. The testimonia for this drama are collected on pages 374–375 of Radt’s edition of Aeschylus’ fragments (TrGF 3). Note in particular Plutarch De audiendis poetis 2 p. 17A: ἐπὶ τοῦ Διὸς εἰρηκότος Ὁμήρου (Iliad XXII 210–213) τραγωιδίαν ὁ Αἰσχύλος ὅλην τῶι μύθωι περιέθηκεν ἐπιγράψας Ψυχοστασίαν καὶ παραστήσας ταῖς πλάστιγξι τοῦ Διὸς ἔνθεν μὲν τὴν Θέτιν, ἔνθεν δὲ τὴν Ἠῶ, δεομένας ὑπὲρ τῶν υἱέων μαχομένων. Σ A Iliad VIII 70 (2.313 Erbse): ὁ δὲ Αἰσχύλος … ἐποίησε τὴν Ψυχοστασίαν, ἐν ἧι ἐστιν ὀ Ζεὺς ἱστὰς ἐν τῶι ζυγῶι τὴν τοὺ Μέμνονος καὶ Ἀχιλλέως ψυχήν (cf. Eustathius 699.31 [2.531 Van der Valk]), Pollux 4.130 (1.240 Bethe): ἀπὸ δὲ τοῦ θεολογείου ὄντος ὑπὲρ τὴν σκηνὴν ἐν ὕψει ἐπιφαίνονται θεοί, ὡς ὁ Ζεὺς καὶ οἱ περὶ αὐτὸν ἐν Ψυχοστασίαι. See Taplin, The Stagecraft of Aeschylus (Oxford 1978) 431–432 for some timely skepticism as to just how much of this occurred on stage. Skepticism of a different kind comes from West (2000:245–247 = 237–240), who takes further Taplin’s objection to an Aeschylean Zeus on stage and the implied use by Aeschylus of the crane and theologeion. He concludes that the author of the relevant play, or at least its prologue and closing scene, with Memnon’s body removed by crane, was Aeschylus’ son Euphorion, whom West also sees as responsible for the Prometheus trilogy, with its similarly spectacular dramaturgy smacking of a post-Aeschylean date and taste.

Now, we possess numerous vase paintings of a Psychostasia involving Achilles and Memnon. Lung (1912:14–27) was able to list and describe seven of them. Beazley brought the total up to nine (in CB3:44–46), appending of course a limpid synthesis of the evidence. The nine relevant vases are catalogued with bibliography by A. Kossatz-Deissmann in LIMC I.1, s.v. “Achilleus,” 172–175 and VI.1, s.v. “Memnon,” 453–454. There is a full bibliography of earlier discussions in Beazley (CB3:45n1), to be supplemented by Wüst (“Psychostasie,” RE 23.2 [1959]: 1439–1458) and Taplin (Stagecraft of Aeschylus, 431n2). See further Reichardt 2007:62–70.

Davies 2 fig1

Figure 1. The “Ricci Hydria.” Caeretan black-figure hydria: Zeus weighs the fates of Achilles and Memnon, with Eos and Thetis before him. Attributed to the Ribbon Painter, ca. 520 BCE. Rome, Museo Nazionale Etrusco di Villa Giulia 80983. Photo by Dan Diffendale via Flickr, Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Now even without the contradiction between the identities of the holder of the scales on almost all of these vases and in Aeschylus’ Psychostasia, we could say for certain that the artifacts are not inspired by the Aeschylean play, because they predate it. We do not know when Aeschylus’ Psychostasia was first produced, but the earliest of the vases mentioned above dates from the third quarter of the sixth century, and “some of them are earlier than Aeschylus’ {27|28} trilogy can have been and indeed than his first appearance as a writer for the stage” (Beazley, CB3:44). It is not surprising, then, that most scholars have identified the source for these vases with our Aethiopis, that the habitually sanguine Coulson and Clark should confidently assert that “these scenes can be definitely linked to the Aethiopis” (1978:70–71; my italics), and that even the cautious Beazley concludes (CB3:45) that our vases’ inspiration “can hardly have been other than” the Aethiopis.

It is not surprising: but is it inevitable? The absence of the alleged scene from Proclus’ summary of the Aethiopis will not sway us in the least towards skepticism (such absences are common). But Dihle (1970:139) mentions Stesichorus as a possible source, and although the conjuring of that particular name would, in any other context, be exceedingly irresponsible and vacuous, in this connection it provides a highly sane and sensible reminder of the hypothetical nature of the theory under discussion and the danger of narrowing down the possibilities at this early stage.

As regards the presence of the two mothers at the Psychostasia, most scholars have presumed a straightforward and direct debt to the version of things followed in the Aethiopis. Here my own feelings are considerably more complex. Can we be quite sure that the vase painters were incapable of adding {28|29} this detail to a kernel of events basically similar to the narrative we find in Iliad XXII 209–213? It may be objected that they seem not to have taken the initiative in the case of the Iliad itself, since no extant vase painting depicts the Homeric scene. But there is a speedy reply to this: the mothers of Achilles and Memnon seem to have formed a much more obviously antithetical pairing (their sons were clearly intended as foils to each other [see page 76 below] and so were the mothers). If both were divine and both fetched heavenly armor for their sons from Hephaestus and both won them immortality in the poem we are considering, a vase painter might well choose to symbolize their concern for their offspring by depicting them as spectators of the Psychostasia. This type of combining or telescoping two or more original scenes within one depiction has been mentioned above.

In considering this explanation, one is given pause by a single, solitary factor, the testimony of Plutarch (see page 26 above) concerning Aeschylus’ Psychostasia. According to Plutarch, we find Aeschylus in this play καταστήσας ταῖς πλάστιγξι τοῦ Διὸς ἔνθεν μὲν τὴν Θέτιν, ἔνθεν δὲ τὴν Ἠῶ, δεομένας ὑπὲρ τῶν υἱέων μαχομένων. If Aeschylus really did portray the scene thus, then it is hard to avoid the conclusion that he borrowed the motif from the Aethiopis. Unless he wishes to accept the notion that Aeschylus took the detail over from vase paintings, the cautious scholar will wish to leave open the possibility that some such scene did, after all, occur in the Aethiopis. [4] But the cautious scholar will also reflect on the relative insubstantiality of this reconstruction, and the relatively untrustworthy nature of the piece of testimony involved. It is interesting to find Taplin (Stagecraft of Aeschylus, 432) concluding (on quite independent grounds) “that not too much should be built on the Plutarch passage. It is unlikely that he had read the play, and he may have misrepresented his source (or his source may itself have been distorted).” In spite of this reservation we will continue to keep an open mind as to the Aethiopis. But it is a little ironical that the strongest item of evidence for the two mothers thus featuring in the epic should consist in a literary testimonium referring to quite another poetic composition!

What, finally, of the deity who holds the scales? Beazley (CB3:45) probably expresses the views of most of us when he observes that without the Villa Giulia hydria (page 27 above) we should doubtless take Hermes to have been the presiding god in the Aethiopis’s Psychostasia; Aeschylus will then have imported Zeus’ occupation of that rôle from the analogous scene in Iliad XXII. But in view of the single pre-Aeschylean vase painting that shows Zeus fulfilling this task, “we can no longer say that in the Aethiopis it was Hermes who held the {29|30} balance, and are left to conjecture why the Attic artists placed it in his hand.” The seeming absence from any vase painting of the Iliadic weighing of Hector and Achilles’ souls would appear to exclude an explanation of Zeus’ idiosyncratic presence in terms of contamination between Homer’s scene and that of the Aethiopis.

In most versions Anubis places Maat, the goddess of truth and justice (sometimes represented by her ideogram the feather, symbol of truth), in one of the pans of the balance. In the other pan he places the heart of the deceased. Thoth then proceeds to verify the weight, writes down the result on his tablets, and announces it to Osiris, god of the dead, who passes a favorable judgment in cases where the two pans are in perfect equilibrium.

No one will deny the similarities, but Dietrich (1964:111–112 and 114–116) demonstrates important differences too. In particular, the Egyptian weighing of souls was (naturally enough) envisaged as happening after the death of the humans involved: the fates of Hector and Achilles, of Achilles and Memnon, are decided while they still live. And a further point ensues: judgment of the dead seems to many scholars an alien concept that finds no place in Greek religious thinking before the sixth century: see Dodds on Plato Gorgias 523A–524A (pp. 373–375), Richardson on Homeric Hymn to Demeter 367–369 (pp. 270–275). For its role in later Greek literature see A. Setaioli, “L’imagine delle bilance e il giudizio {30|31} dei morti,” Studi Italiani di Filologia Classica 44 (1972): 38–54; W. Bühler, Zenobii Athoi Proverbia 5 (Göttingen 1999) 263–264; J. Gwyn Griffiths, The Divine Judgement (Leiden 1990). Nevertheless, I still think it possible that a stray feature of Egyptian religious belief was taken up and adapted by Greek poets for their own ends and to new purposes, or by Greek artists from comparable motives. [6] On the general question of Greek absorption of Egyptian ideas on the judgment of the dead, see F. Graf, Eleusis und die orphische Dichtung Athens in vorhellenistischer Zeit (Berlin 1974) 125–126. In such a context the replacement of the Egyptian Anubis and Thoth by their Greek equivalent or near-equivalent would (so Wüst and Kullmann are especially vehement in urging) be a natural step. This particular aspect of Hermes may well be primitive (cf. Nisbet and Hubbard on Horace Odes I 10.17, H. Herter, “Hermes: Ursprung und Wesen eines griechischen Gottes,” Rheinisches Museum 119 [1976]: 215–220, esp. 218n90). The Greeks themselves in later times identified Thoth with Hermes messenger of the gods (cf. Roeder in Roscher s.v. “Thoth” (5.861–862); P. Boylan, Thoth, the Hermes of Egypt (London 1922); Herter, 210n65) and Anubis with Hermes conductor of souls.

Combat between Achilles and Memnon

A duel between Achilles and Memnon was depicted on the Chest of Cypselus (Pausanias V 19.2: Ἀχιλλεῖ δὲ καὶ Μέμνονι μαχομένοις παρεστήκασιν αἱ μητέρες) and later the Amyclaean throne (Pausanias III 18.12: καὶ Ἀχιλλεώς μονομαχιά πρὸς Μέμνονα ἐπείργασται). We have numerous vase paintings of the subject: Lung (1912:28–48) listed sixteen examples, two of which were adequately inscribed. But again the fullest and best account of depictions of Achilles’ duel with Memnon is Beazley’s (in CB2:13–19), who lists inscribed black-figure vases (15), uninscribed black-figure vases (17), and uninscribed red-figure vases (17–19). There is a selective catalogue with bibliography by A. Kossatz-Deissmann in LIMC I.1, s.v. “Achilleus,” 175–180 and VI.1, s.v. “Memnon,” 453–455. See further Reichardt 2007:62–70. {31|32}

It is striking that so many of our specimens resemble the Chest of Cypselus in adding the combatants’ mothers to the central μονομαχία. Thetis and Eos (the latter usually winged) stand at either side of their sons, encouraging and supporting their offspring (and in the case of Eos sometimes sustaining him physically and literally as he slumps, wounded at Achilles’ hand) on many a vase. When scholars claim that the Aethiopis is the source of such depictions—when, for instance, Clark and Coulson write (1978:70) “there can be no doubt … that these representations have been inspired by the single combat” in that poem—what precisely do they mean? Are we to assume that the epic described each of the relevant goddesses as present on the battlefield?

Anyone making such an assumption is likely to be wrong. In the first place, as Martin Robertson pointed out, “the Grieving Mother is … a regular type in archaic art” (“Geryoneis: Stesichorus and the Vase-Painters,” Classical Quarterly 19 [1969]: 217–218). See Reichardt 2007:73–77, 83–85. Vase paintings of Heracles’ combats with Geryon and Cycnus exemplify this tendency: see Davies and Finglass, Stesichorus: The Poems (Cambridge 2015) 233 and 463, where we mention the possibility that the pair of women who adorn several depictions of the fight against Cycnus may have been “transferred” from the duel between Achilles and Memnon. For, as Robertson observes, “the classic example is Eos, always present at the combat of Memnon with Achilles, watching with apprehension as her son rushes in, or mourning already as he is struck down, while Thetis triumphs on the other side” (1969:217).

Nevertheless, and despite the frequency of this motif in ancient art, it might be alleged in reply that most of the instances are descended from Eos and Thetis, and that art took this pair directly from epic. But then there is another consideration to face. While there are numerous vase paintings that show Athena standing behind Heracles during his struggle against Geryon, we are not instantly to assume that this is a literal representation of what happened in Stesichorus’ Geryoneis: the vase painters may merely be symbolizing her earlier support for Heracles in a council of the gods (see Davies and Finglass, Stesichorus: The Poems, 280). So too here: as we have already seen (page 28 above), some vases combine the monomachy of Achilles and Memnon with the Psychostasia, and the presence of the two mothers at the former in depictions restricted to that event may be intended to remind us of or symbolize their previous activity in the latter.

And we must take into account one further factor. A μονομαχία on a vase will occupy little of the available surface and runs the risk of being monotonous. Far better to variegate the scene by symmetrically grouping other figures about the central pair. Again, the most obvious corroboration of this statement {32|33} is provided by illustrations of Heracles’ fight with Cycnus (see Stesichorus: The Poems, 463 for examples). Here is a further, purely visual, explanation of the appearance of Eos and Thetis in terms of the technique of vase painting.

Due to copyright restrictions, this image cannot be displayed online. To view it, visit the MFA website.

Figure 2. Attic red-figure calyx krater: combat between Achilles and Memnon, with Athena and Eos looking on. Attributed to the Tyszkiewicz Painter, ca. 490–480 BCE. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Catharine Page Perkins Fund, 97.368.

It will certainly account for the occasional subsidiary figure in the design, as when Athena replaces Thetis on a vase by the Tyszkiewicz Painter (Boston 97.368: ARV 2 290.1 = LIMC I.1, s.v. “Achilleus,” no. 833 [ca. 480]: see Figure 2) and on one or two other vases besides (e.g. Louvre G342: ARV 2 590.12 = LIMC I.1, s.v. “Achilleus,” no. 839 = VI.1, s.v. “Memnon,” no. 46 [ca. 460]). Now it is perfectly true that the Aethiopis’s Athena could quite easily have helped Achilles against Memnon just as she helped him against Hector in Iliad XXII 214–231, but the vases {33|34} are not necessarily evidence that she did. [7] Likewise with such supernumeraries as Memnon’s charioteer (labeled) on an Aeolian black-figure vase in Izmir (LIMC VI.1, s.v. “Achilleus,” no. 810 = VI.1, s.v. “Memnon,” no. 28) or Automedon (Florence 4210: LIMC I.1, s.v. “Achilleus,” no. 809 = VI.1, s.v. “Memnon,” no. 35 [ca. 540]); on the use of chariots as space-fillers in several vase paintings of the fight between Heracles and Cycnus, see Davies and Finglass, Stesichorus: The Poems, 463.

An incidental figure only once creates serious problems from our point of view. The vase by the Tyszkiewicz Painter mentioned above has a dead warrior lying between the two principal combatants, and he is labeled “Melanippus” rather than the usual “Antilochus.” Who is he? Does he derive from the Aethiopis? Robert (Scenen der Ilias und Aithiopis auf einer Vase der Sammlung des Grafen Michael Tyskiewicz [Hallisches Winckelmannsprogramm 15 (1891)] 3) took him to be a Trojan whom Memnon encountered in the fray. Lung (1912:46–48), noting that Melanippus’ corpse faces towards Achilles, deduced that he is meant to be interpreted as a Greek: the rule thus implied is usually observed, but Beazley (CB2:14–15) is able to cite five exceptions, and even if we set aside these significant exceptions, we are not obliged to accept as corollary Lung’s conclusion that the name is a slip for Antilochus. Clearly there are other possibilities. For instance, there is Beazley’s suggestion (CB2:15) that in Melanippus “the artist has selected a more obscure figure from Memnon’s aristeia, which must have included several victims beside Antilochus.”

Eos and the Corpse of Memnon

The relevant vases were listed by Lung (1912:51–53). A fuller list, description, and bibliography, together with illustrations of many of the vases, were provided by A. Minto, “Lamine di bronzo figurate a sbalzo di arte paleoetrusca in stile protoionico,” Monumenti Antichi 28 (1922): 268–288. Still more up-to-date are the lists and information produced by Mayer-Procop (1967:65); cf. von Bothmer, “Notes on Makron,” in The Eye of Greece: Studies in the Art of Athens (Martin Robertson Festschrift [Cambridge 1982]) 33, 41; Reichardt 2007:77–81. Two black-figure and three red-figure Attic vases, all roughly contemporaneous, depict the scene. Memnon and Eos are only labeled as such on two vases, but this is enough to allow secure identification of the scene on the remainder. The episode also appears on Etruscan mirrors: see the specimen now in Copenhagen (National {35|36} Museum inv. 3403: Mayer-Prokop 1967:64–67 = Pfister-Roesgen S24 [43–44]; LIMC VI.1, s.v. “Memnon,” no. 84: see Figure 3) and that in Berlin–Charlottenburg (Staatliche Museen Fr. 28 = Pfister-Roesgen S14 [33–34]; LIMC VI.1, no. 82).

Due to copyright restrictions, this image cannot be displayed online. To view it, see LIMC VI.1, s.v. “Memnon,” no. 84, Figure 3.

Figure 3. Etruscan bronze mirror: Eos with the corpse of Memnon. From Piansano, ca. 470–450 BCE. Copenhagen, National Museum of Denmark 3403.

This seems the simplest and least problematic correlation between the evidence of art and our epic. Ironic again, then, that the episode presumably reflected is not directly attested by any literary source.

Memnon (?) Transported by Sleep and Death

On this group of vases see most recently von Bothmer 1981:72–80 and in LIMC VII, (1994), s.v. “Sarpedon,” 697. Here even the usually sanguine Clark and Coulson confess (1978:71) that “the identification of the scene as stemming from the Aethiopis is far less certain.” Lung (1912) cited four vases:

  • Black-figure neck-amphora by the Diosphos Painter (Louvre F388: LIMC VII.1, no. 7). {36|37}
  • Black-figure cup (the relevant scene is repeated on both sides) in the manner of the Haemon Painter (Athens National Museum [ANM] 505: ABV 564.580 .
  • Red-figure cup by the Nicosthenes Painter (British Museum [BM] E12: ARV2 126.24 = LIMC VII, no. 5).
  • Red-figure calyx-krater by the Eucharides Painter (Louvre G153: ARV2 227.12 = LIMC VII, no. 6).

Despite individual differences (presently to be detailed) it may be said that each of these vases shows two winged beings transporting a corpse. For a useful historical survey of scholarly interpretations of these artifacts see von Bothmer 1981:72–73 and 76–77 and in LIMC VII.1, s.v. “Sarpedon,” 698–700. Robert (Thanatos [39. Programm zum Winckelmansfeste (Berlin 1879)] 4–8) alone of earlier scholars detected Sarpedon’s body, while Löwy in particular (“Zur Aithiopis,” 81–83), closely followed by Mayer-Prokop (1967:65–66), argued strongly that we have here depictions of the brothers Ὕπνος and Θάνατος carrying Memnon, on his mother Eos’ behalf, to the regions where she is especially at home, the boundaries of the Earth and the shores of Oceanus: here he will dwell immortal forever (cf. Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite 227, where Tithonus lives with Eos, and Pindar Olympian II 83 [Memnon among the heroes in the Islands of the Blessed]).

On this particular area of inquiry, perhaps the most useful introduction is the luculent summary by Lesky in RE s.v. “Thanatos” (5A [1934]) 1250–1251 and 1260. See too K. Heinemann, Thanatos in Poesie und Kunst der Griechen (diss. Munich 1913) 56–68 (on “Thanatos und Hypnos auf den mythologischen Vasenbildern”); Johansen, The Iliad in Early Greek Art, 255–256; von Bothmer 1981, which provides illustrations of the relevant works (plates 74–87); and LIMC VII, as cited.

Davies 2 fig4

Figure 4. Attic red-figure cup: Hypnos and Thanatos with the body of Sarpedon, attended by two female figures. Attributed to the Nikosthenes Painter, ca. 510–500 BCE. London, British Museum 1841,0301.22 (Vases E12). Photograph © British Museum, used under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-SA 4.0.

ANM 505 contains a central group consisting of a bearded corpse again carried in the arms of Sleep and Death, and tended by a winged female. To the right of this group stands a bearded male figure wearing high boots and carrying a petasos. Several scholars have claimed him as Hermes Psychopompus (e.g. Robert, Thanatos, 18; Clark and Coulson 1978:71). To the left, a young woman and a young man, identified as Memnon’s wife and brother by Robert (17–18). The vase’s status as a representation of Death and Sleep translating the corpse of Memnon in the presence of his mother is accepted by, for instance, Beazley and von Bothmer. But we cannot decide the issue in isolation from the other alleged instances of the story.

British Museum E12 (see Figure 4) likewise displays a central group, similar to that of ANM 505. To the right of this we find a female figure with her right arm stretched towards the corpse. To the left a female figure bearing a caduceus—“she can be identified as Iris, who, as the messenger of the gods, has called Sleep and Death to the place where Eos has washed and annointed Memnon’s body” (so Clark and Coulson [1978:72], who, not surprisingly, choose to interpret the other female form as the grief-stricken Eos). The corpse has been identified with Sarpedon and the mourning woman on the right consequently as his mother, Europa, by scholars of the calibre of Beazley, Robertson (1969:217–218), and von Bothmer (first in “Greek Vase Painting,” Bulletin of the Metropolitan Museum of Art 31 [1972]: 34–35, and then in 1981:71–73; and LIMC VII) as earlier by e.g. Wilamowitz (Ilias und Homer, 135 and 141) or Schmid, GGL 1.1.211n4. According to {38|39} Clark and Coulson, “such an identification … is difficult to substantiate” (1978:72) because, instead of Apollo and Zeus (whom the Iliadic narrative would lead us to expect), we see two female figures, neither of whom Homer finds cause to mention. But again, the presence of these figures has an artistic rather than a literary motive, one that is amply explained by Robertson’s reminder (cited page 32 above) that “the Grieving Mother … is a regular type in archaic art.”

Louvre G153, as Clark and Coulson allow, is in its “origin … more ambiguous.”Indeed, it simply depicts a bearded corpse held in the arms of Sleep and Death, and that corpse has been presumed to be Sarpedon by, for instance, Beazley and von Bothmer.

It is time to stress the very real danger of circular argument. The American scholars’ interpretation of this last scene as the transportation of Memnon’s body rests merely on their assumption of “the popularity of the Memnon story as an inspiration for artistic representation” (Clark and Coulson 1978:72). Johansen too—as part of a general defense of all the vases’ reference to Memnon rather than Sarpedon—asserts that “whereas Memnon is an extremely popular figure in archaic Greek art, Sarpedon is depicted very rarely there” (The Iliad in Early Greek Art, 256). But by the start of the twenty-first century it could be claimed that, on the contrary, “the death of Sarpedon is by far the more popular picture,” with “only one vase certainly depicting Memnon carried by” Hypnos and Thanatos: J. H. Oakley, “A New Black-Figure Sarpedon,” in Essays in Honor of D. von Bothmer I, ed. A. J. Clark and J. Gaunt (Amsterdam 2002), 246, noting ten Attic vases and two South Italian that depict the former theme, and adding another on an olpe in Sydney (cf. J. R. Mertens, “Laodamas and Hippolytus,” in the same volume, 211–212).

Conversely (and equally awkward for the theory under discussion), when on one vase the corpse can safely be interpreted as Memnon’s (a late black-figure lekythos: LIMC VI.1, s.v. “Memnon,” no. 61) it is because that corpse is being conveyed by two Ethiopians and not by a winged pair of carriers. Even if the earlier ANM 505 does relate to Memnon’s conveyance by the same pair, we may choose to argue (with von Bothmer [1981:78]) that it represents a rare “conflation of the traditional scene of Sleep and Death with the body of Sarpedon, and those pictures that show Eos mourning her dead son.”

It is not as if several far more appropriate candidates do not offer themselves for the task. If the evidence of vases (page 35 above) indicates that Eos snatched her son’s corpse from the battlefield, why should she not transport him personally to the region at the end of the world (see page 18 above) where she is so much at home? The motif underlying the whole myth (page 35 above) and the parallel between Eos and Thetis (page 35 above) require that the goddess herself {40|41} should carry the young man to her home. In the words of Wilamowitz, such a hypothesis is easier than the assumption that “erst Aischylos die Eos selbst ihren Sohn aus dem Schlachtfelde tragen liess. Eos hat ja auch den Tithonos und den Kephalos selbst entführt: sie bedarf also keiner anderen Hilfe” (Ilias und Homer, 141).

Davies 2 fig5

Figure 5. Megarian terracotta relief bowl: series of “Homeric” scenes, including Penthesileia before Priam. Once Berlin, Staatliche Museen 3161h, now lost. Drawing after C. Robert, Homerische Becher (Berlin 1890), p. 26 fig. D.

Several “Homeric cups” (listed most recently by U. Sinn, Die Homerischen Becher [Berlin 1979] 92–93 [cf. plates 12–14] and LIMC VII.1, s.v. “Penthesileia,” nos. 3a and 3b) provocatively juxtapose a scene we know to have occurred near the end of the Iliad with two scenes that in all probability occurred near the start of the Aethiopis. A summary of the contents of the famous specimen once in Berlin (Staatliche Museen [previously Königliches Antiquarium] inv. 3161h: MB23 = LIMC VII.1, s.v. “Penthesileia,” nos. 3a = s.v. “Priamos,” no. 71a: see Figure 5)—of which Robert (Homerische Becher [Berlin 1890] 25–28) provided a detailed description and discussion—may serve for the rest too. In the first scene, a kneeling Priam beseeches a standing Achilles within his tent (here, as everywhere else on this cup, the relevant figures are clearly identified with labels). In the next scene the same Priam, this time standing at the left rather than kneeling to the right, faces and clasps the hand of the Amazon Penthesileia.

One obviously sympathizes with the comparison Robert draws between this cup and the notorious “alternative ending” to the Iliad (28). But the analogy is by no means exact (the two lines in question juxtapose Hector’s funeral and the Amazon’s arrival), and an impartial examination of the passage reveals that these hexameters have no claim to derive from the Aethiopis (let alone from that poem’s opening): see pages 90–94 below.

In view of all this it is hard to see why Weitzmann should so automatically presume (Ancient Book Illumination, 45) that the scenes which accompany Penthesileia’s pledge to Priam on the sarcophagus lid derive from the Aethiopis and thus constitute “a representation of a text passage no longer in existence.” These scenes are, respectively, to the left of Penthesileia a group of women in mourning: they include Andromache holding Astyanax in her lap while Hecuba approaches her from behind; and to the right the consoling of Andromache—who holds the ashes of her husband in her lap—by a Paris clad in a Phrygian cap; and a number of Amazons arming for battle. Again the subject matter is the sort that would instinctively occur to any artist. {43|}


[ back ] 1. Scholars have long debated whether there is any significant difference between κῆρες and ψυχαί in this particular context. That there is has been vehemently asserted by, for instance, Wilamowitz (Glaube der Hellenen 1.271–272), who points to the obvious fact that Memnon and Achilles are still alive. Recent discussion and bibliography in Dietrich 1965:240–241; M. Hengel, Achilleus in Jerusalem: Eine spätantike Messingkanne mit Achilleus-Darstellungen aus Jerusalem (Sitzungs-berichte der Heidelberger Akademie der Wissenschaften Philosophisch-historischen Klasse [1982]).

[ back ] 2. On an Etruscan mirror now in the Vatican (Mus. Greg. Etr. inv. 12257 = Pfister-Roesgen S18 [36–37]). Zeus is vigorously besought by Thetis and Eos while Athena looks on. What he holds in his hands, however, is not a pair of scales but thunderbolts. This detail is plausibly derived from the artifact’s Etruscan milieu by J. Heurgon, “De la balance aux foudres,” in Mélanges offerts à P. Wuilleumier (Paris 1980) 193–195.

[ back ] 3. As Dietrich has put it (1965:241), “Hermes is imagined as weighing the lots of death of the two heroes which the artist paints in the likeness of the εἴδωλα because he does not know how to draw keres.” On winged souls in Greek art, see e.g. O. Waser in Roscher s.v. “Psyche” (3.3224); Nilsson GGR 1.197–198; J. Bremmer, The Early Greek Concept of the Soul (Princeton 1983) 94–95n61. More general discussion of the topic in T. H. Gaster, Myth, Legend, and Custom in the Old Testament (New York 1969) 769 and 881.

[ back ] 4. Either hypothesis is formally at odds with Plutarch’s implication that Aeschylus’ only predecessor in his use of the motif was Homer: cf. Gruppe, Gr. Myth. 1.681n6.

[ back ] 5. Add J. Gwyn Griffiths, The Conflict of Horus and Seth from Egyptian and Classical Sources: A Study in Ancient Mythology (Liverpool 1960) 74–80, esp. 79–80; C. Seeber, Untersuchungen zur Darstellung des Totengerichts im Alten Ägypten (Münchner Ägyptologische Studien 35 [1976]); A. J. Spencer, Death in Ancient Egypt (Harmondsworth 1982) 144; M. Hengel, Achilleus in Jerusalem: Eine spätantike Messingkanne mit Achilleus-Darstellungen aus Jerusalem (Sitzungsberichte der Heidelberger Akademie der Wissenschaften Philosophisch-historischen Klasse [1982]) 55–56.

[ back ] 6. Boardman reminds me that it is common in Orientalizing or Egyptianizing Greek art for a motif to be borrowed and used for a different purpose, probably without knowledge of what the original model signified (see Boardman, The Greeks Overseas [London 1980] 149–157). Compare, for instance, the depiction of Heracles slaying Busiris and his followers on a sixth-century Caeretan hydria now in Vienna (3576: LIMC s.v. “Bousiris” C9: illustration in Boardman, Greeks Overseas, 150). In the memorable words of Ernst Gombrich (Art and Illusion: A Study in the Psychology of Pictorial Representation, 115), “Egyptian renderings of some victorious campaign … show the gigantic figure of Pharaoh confronting an enemy stronghold with its diminutive defenders begging for mercy. Within the conventions of Egyptian art the difference in scale marks the difference in importance. To the Greek … the type must have suggested the story of a giant among pigmies. And so he turns the Pharaoh into Heracles wreaking havoc among the puny Egyptians.”

[ back ] 7. Athena’s presence between two fighting warriors is anyway a common motif in vase paintings from the mid-sixth century onwards. See the examples and discussion offered by Johansen (The Iliad in Early Greek Art, 262–263), especially his concluding generalization that “Athena between two struggling heroes is a favourite pattern, which in different variations might be used in many contexts.”

[ back ] 8. On the incompatible scheme in Quintus Smyrnaeus 2.445–446 see Vian ad loc. (i.73n1).

[ back ] 9. In the sense indicated page 28 above.

[ back ] 10. Perhaps after first lamenting over him (Fenik, Iliad X and the Rhesus: The Myth [Collection Latomus 73 (1964)] 32n4). On the meaning of the similar phrase ἡ Θέτις ἀναρπάσασα τὸν παῖδα see page 76 below.

[ back ] 11. Antiquity represented Eos as generally addicted to the snatching up and carrying off of young men (usually from erotic motives, of course); cf. Σ Odyssey v 1 (on the story of Tithonus): ἡ δὲ θερα-πεία τοῦ μύθου ὅτι τοὺς ἔτι νέους ὄντας καὶ ἀφνιδίως ἀποθνήισκοντας ἔλεγον ἁρπάζεσθαι παρὰ τῆς Ἠοῦς; ps.–Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Art of Rhetoric VI 5 (2.282.6–9 Usener–Radermacher):εἰ μὲν νέος ὢν τοῦτο πάθοι ὅτι θεοφιλής· τοὺς γὰρ τοιούτους φιλοῦσιν οἱ θεοί. καὶ ὅτι καὶ τῶν παλαιῶν πολλοὺς ἀνήρπασαν, οἷον τὸν Γανυμήδην, τὸν Τιθωνόν, τὸν Ἀχιλλέα; cf. Horace Odes I 28.8 and Nisbet–Hubbard ad loc., and West on Hesiod Theogony 986–991. Also D. D. Boedeker, Aphrodite’s Entry into Greek Epic (Mnemosyne Suppl. 31 [1974]) 66–68 and “Index I” (93) s.v. “Dawn-goddess … erotic role of”; S. Kaempf-Dimitriadou, Die Liebe der Götter in der Attischen Kunst des 5 Jahrhunderts v. Chr. (Basel 1979) 16–21 and P. Bloch, LIMC III.1 (1986), s.v. “Verfolgung eines Geliebten,” 759–779 (artistic evidence).

[ back ] 12. A very similar composition on a neck-amphora by the same painter (New York inv. 56.171.25) shows the corpse bearded and the two carriers sans wings. “Hence it is doubtful whether they are meant to be Hypnos and Thanatos” (Johansen, The Iliad in Early Greek Art, 255). It is also doubtful whether the corpse is Memnon’s (it is Sarpedon’s, according to Dietrich von Bothmer, “Greek Vases from the Hearst Collection,” Bulletin of the Metropolitan Museum of Art 15 [1957]: 172 and in LIMC VII.1, no. 8 [p. 697]).

[ back ] 13. They are taken by von Bothmer (“Der Euphronioskrater in New York,” Archäologischer Anzeiger 80 [1976]: 485–512) to be Lycian and Trojan names, and to symbolize the Trojan battlefield from which Sarpedon is being spirited away (compare his remarks 1981:69–70). Clark and Coulson (1978:72) prefer to suppose that they represent those Trojans and their allies who gave Sarpedon his last rites.

[ back ] 14. There is no evidence for Gruppe’s guess (Gr. Myth. 1.682n1, followed by Kullman [1960:36n1]) that the Aethiopis made Eos daughter of Nyx (like Quintus Smyrnaeus II 626) and therefore sister of Thanatos and Hypnos (offspring of Nyx according to Hesiod Theogony 212, which, however, has quite a different parentage for Eos [371–373]). Perhaps the bravest defense is Rzach’s (2402.4–8): “In sinnvoller Darstellung gilt der eine als Symbol des Todes, dem Memnon eben verfiel, während der andere kunden soll, dass der Held nur schlafe, um zu neuem ewigen Leben zu erwachen” (similarly Pestalozzi 1945:13–14). Rohde (1886.1:86n1 = 84n28 [Engl. transl.]) supposed the frequent equating of sleep and death in funerary epigrams (cf. R. A. Lattimore, Themes in Greek and Latin Epitaphs [Urbana 1962] 164) to explain the presence of the brothers on the vases (though not in Homer, whose use of them he supposed [see page 18] to predate the Aethiopis’s employment of the motif).

[ back ] 15. It has indeed been suggested that the two winged figures on the vases considered above should be identified as wind gods. For bibliography and arguments against see O. Waser in Roscher s.v. “Thanatos” (5.484.40–59). On winged wind gods in general see Pearson on Sophocles TrGF 4 F23.3 (Radt) (1.19); H. Lloyd-Jones, “Notes on Sophocles’ Antigone,” Classical Quarterly 7 (1957): 25 = Academic Papers [I], 383–384; K. Neuser, Anemoi: Studien zur Darstellung der Winde und Windgottheiten in der Antike (Rome 1982).

[ back ] 16. Memnon’s transportation by Death and Sleep has also been detected on an Etruscan mirror that is no longer extant (cf. Mayer-Prokop 1967:125–127 [with plate 56 = Pfister-Roesgen]) and two Etruscan gems from the first half of the fifth century (New York 42.11.28; Boston, Lewis House Collection, where, however, as von Bothmer observes [1981:78], it “cannot be excluded that the winged figures are mere daemons of death of which the world of Etruria is full, and the dead an ordinary mortal”).

[ back ] 17. Far more cautious an appraisal from Robert: “zu entziffern habe ich nichts vermocht, kann daher auch nicht entscheiden, ob es Verse waren … oder eine allgemeine Bezeichnung der dargestellten Scene” (Homerische Becher 27–28).

[ back ] 18. The sarcophagus lid is LIMC VII.1, s.v. “Penthesileia” B5, and the other artifact is B7.