Victim of the Muses: Poet as Scapegoat, Warrior and Hero in Greco-Roman and Indo-European Myth and History

  Compton, Todd M. 2006. Victim of the Muses: Poet as Scapegoat, Warrior and Hero in Greco-Roman and Indo-European Myth and History. Hellenic Studies Series 11. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies.

Chapter 18. The Stakes of the Poet: Starkaðr/Suibhne

These treatments of the warrior have been among Dumézil’s most impressive works. [3] The comparison of Starkaðr and Śiśupāla is especially convincing, as both warriors are generals devoted to specific kings and kingship, who are pruned of monstrous supernumerary appendages by inimical gods (Kṛṣṇa in Śiśupāla’s case, Thor in Starkaðr’s case), who commit grave sins against the king (as part of the canonical sins against the functions), and who die by beheading, bestowing a sort of immortality as they die (and, in Śiśupāla’s case, obtaining a sort of immortality—his essence flows into Kṛṣṇa, and he continues to live through the god who has just killed him). The third member of this martial triptych, Heracles, is not as neat a comparison, though Dumézil makes a reasonable case for him. Like Starkaðr, he is bandied about by the gods, one persecuting him (Hera), the other helping him (Athena, backed by Zeus); he commits a version of the required functional sins. [4] As in the case of the other two warriors, Heracles has a paradoxical link with the divinity who persecutes him, Hera: she nurses him while he is a baby and he derives his name from her; later, in Olympus after his “death” and deification, he will be adopted by Hera as her son and will marry her daughter. Analyzing the persecuting god theme purely from a Greek perspective, Burkert has formulated the pattern: continuity in cult will accompany opposition in myth. [5] (But, in the case of Heracles, we have continuity within the myth itself, for Hera nurses the exposed babyhero. However, this theme of maternal nurturing is turned into a symbol for enmity, for Heracles bites her breast.)

This may be a valuable line of inquiry, since Archilochus, though a poet, is preeminently a warrior, and a therapōn of Ares. Other poets and scapegoat figures (Tyrtaeus, Alcaeus, Androgeus, Codrus, Aglauros) also have strong war associations. And, on the other hand, Starkaðr is a famous poet, the preeminent skald of his tradition. Dumézil treats Starkaðr’s poetic vocation, but only as a comparative note in relation to Heracles—not a strong comparison, since Heracles is not known for his poetic gifts, though he had some association with music and the Muses.

However, David Cohen has proposed a Celtic warrior who fits the Stakes pattern—the mad tree-dwelling wanderer Suibhne Geilt. Suibhne is, for our purposes, a particularly attractive comparison because he, like Starkaðr, is a famous poet. If Suibhne is a valid parallel, we may conclude that the poetic aspect of the warrior may be important to the genetic paradigm; before, with only Heracles as a comparand, the case was not as strong. (Śiśupāla, like Heracles, has little or no reputation as a poet, though he was verbally abusive.)

We may then examine Starkaðr and Suibhne more closely, paying special attention to their poetic vocations, looking for continuities with the themes we have been examining in Greece and Ireland.

Starkaðr: Sacrificer, Sacrifice, Satirist

Starkaðr is the best, extraordinary in many categories. He had an “incredible preeminence of spirit and body.” [7] “Nature had equipped him with a superhuman physique and spiritual endowments to match, so that men believed that in bravery he was second to none.” [8] He was remarkable “for his unusual size, famous for his courage and his artistry in composing songs [or spells].” [9] Like Aesop and numerous other Greek poets, he was ugly and animalistic in appearance:

Hlæja rekkar,
er mik séa,
ljótan skolt,
langa trjónu,
hár úlfgrátt,
hangar tjálgur,
hrjúfan háls,
húð jótraða.

“Warriors laugh who see me,” he complains, “with ugly muzzle, long snout, wolfgrey hair and hanging paws, rough neck and rugged hide.” [
10] Nevertheless, he had a saving, culture hero aspect, was “a man regularly at the side of the distressed, one who often happily intervened to rescue people in desperate straits.” [11] Thus he is a remarkable hero in every way, extraordinary in size, courage, generosity; and also extraordinary in his skill in carmina, whether that is translated “songs” or “spells.” Hatherus, Starkaðr’s final executioner, addresses him as “adept composer of native poetry … fluent bard [uates] of a Danish muse.” [12] In the Skáldatal (List of Poets), Starkaðr is the first poet mentioned, the oldest of the poets. [13] Starkaðr receives his poetic gifts from Odin, in the curious consecration scene in which Odin and Thor award him his good and bad fates. The last three fate themes are battle success (Odin), balanced by a wound in every combat (Thor); the gift of poetry (skáldskap) and “improvisation” [14] (Odin), balanced by inability to remember his poetry (Thor); a strong tie to the highborn (Odin), balanced by hatred of the common people (Thor). [15] Thus, his gifts of poetry and war prowess are parallel. [16]

There is an important emphasis on posture as a defensive satirist: on Starkaðr’s reception he was viciously mocked:

Aulici risu populi lacessor
advenae digno vacuus receptu,
aspero carpor sale, dum loquaci
mordeor ausu.
I am baited by the titters of this courtly throng,
denied the welcome a stranger deserves,
rent with their thorny wit and gnawed by
presumptuous gibing.

VI.171; 188 = 205

Thus the satirist is mocked, and retaliates with interest. The theme of inhospitality is also explicitly brought to the fore.

Starkaðr accompanies the violence of his words with the violence of his arm, helping Ingel in his slaughter, and displays “outstanding bravery himself” (fortitudinem … in se plenissimam) in killing the evil men. The poet and the warrior are precisely in harmony.

As Dumézil notes, this sacrifice is beneficial to all concerned, Odin, Vikar, and Starkaðr. Vikar receives an honorable death, is received into the presence of Odin, the warrior’s paradise. The god has called a devoted servant into his presence. Starkaðr, in turn, has faithfully followed the commands of a god from whom he had just received great favors; he has helped a friend and king receive a happy afterlife. Yet the sacrifice is still a crime, for Starkaðr feels guilt after perpetrating it:

Skylda ek Víkar
í viði hávum
goðum of signa;
lagða ek geiri
gram til hjarta,
þat er mér harmast

“I was made to dedicate Vikar (the killer of Geirthjof) to the gods high up in the tree. I thrust with a spear into the king’s heart: no act of mine has brought me such pain.” [
45] It is one of the sins Thor has cursed him with, and Starkaðr blames that god for forcing him to commit the crime: “I was forced without glory to do evil.” [46] “From this deed Starkaðr became much despised by the people, and was exiled from Hördaland.” [47] Here we have the theme of exile, though it has nothing obvious to do with poetry. Instead he is exiled for deceitful regicide, a godordered sacrifice. [48] He is exiled as sacrificer. But the sacrifice has a relationship to the giving of poetry. Not only is poetry one of the gifts that obligates Starkaðr to perform the regicide, but there is an even tighter link in the myth of Odin’s poetic consecration through hanging on a tree.

Donald Ward has analyzed the sacrifice of Vikar as an attestation of the threefold death theme, [54] in which each aspect of a death corresponds to one of the functions: hanging is characteristic of first function; a blow by a weapon is characteristic of second function; drowning is characteristic of third function (all of which may vary from story to story). Thus, in the sacrifice of Vikar, we have the hanging and the spear blow; Ward suggests that the drowning was in the original version of the tale, but was weakened to falling from a stump. Ward does not compare Odin’s parallel hanging/consecration, in which the god also hangs and is wounded by a spear, but this parallel is so obvious as to be implicit. If we can interpret these two sacrifices as decadent versions of the threefold death theme—and their very closeness might argue against such an interpretation, though not necessarily, as one version might be modified to follow the other—we have, first, a picture of Odin giving Starkaðr a threefold gift, a triple lifespan, in which he will commit three functional sins, then requiring that a royal victim be executed by a trifunctional death. Starkaðr’s execution of the trifunctional death against a king is his sin against the first function. In the second case, a first-function god sacrifices himself to himself by the threefold death, and as a result gains poetic knowledge. In both cases, poetic knowledge depends on the trifunctional death of a first-function figure. Perhaps the complex interplay between king-priest and the entire scope of society is suggested. There is one significant difference between the two accounts; in the first, the warrior sacrificing the king becomes the poet; in the second, the sacrificed king becomes the poet. Yet in the first case, the warrior receives his poetry from a first-function god by killing a first-function figure.

This analysis only hints at the complexity of the situation, which is augmented by the problematic nature of Germanic myth in Indo-European studies.

In conclusion, Starkaðr is the best (at war, at poetry); ugly; a wandering, wolf-like warrior-poet, wedding physical and verbal aggression; given to violent, nearly uncontrollable rages; sporadically criminal, and suffering intense guilt as a result. He receives a poetic consecration; is a moral satirist; functions by the psychological mechanism of defensive satire, fighting back at inhospitable hosts; acts as general to a king, and is a therapōn, servant, representative of the king. He is exiled once, not for his poetry, but for his enmity to the common people. His death is engineered by an ambiguously friendly god. He acts as priest and victim for the god at different times of his career. Thus, a central figure in the Indo-European mythology of the warrior is a poet, and not only a poet, but a savagely eloquent satirist.

Suibhne: Warrior, Poet, Madman

After a series of offenses against the cleric Ronan, including the murder of Ronan’s foster son by a spear (the sacral first-function sin), the warrior is cursed by the saint to live a life of nakedness and birdlike, subhuman flight, wandering for years throughout Ireland, and then to die by the same kind of spear thrust he had inflicted on Ronan’s foster son. As a result, when he is fighting in the battle of Mag Rath, the clamor of war reaches a peak and the din drives Suibhne mad; he flees the battle (his second-function crime). His life of madness and misery—wandering, naked, “flying” about, living in trees, fleeing from other men—begins. It is interrupted only briefly by two lapses into sanity. Paradoxically, it is only now that Suibhne becomes a poet.

This is perhaps the central theme of Suibhne’s life—the utter misery of his wandering outcast existence. It is expressed frequently in his poetry:

Mór múich a ttá-sa anocht,
rotreaghd mo chorp an gháoth ghlan,
toll mo throighthiu, glas mo ghrúadh,
a Dhé mhóir, atá a dhúal damh.
… anocht robhretait mo bhoill
i nglaic chroinn i nGáille ghlúair.
Rofhuilnges mór ttreas gan tlás
ó rofhás clúmh ar mo chorp,
ar gach n-oidhche is ar gach ló
as mó sa mhó fhuilghim d’olc.
Romchráidh sioc, síon nach súairc,
romthuairg snechta ar Sléibh mhic Sin,
anocht romgeóghain an ghaéth
gan fraech Ghlenna Bolcáin bil.
Utmhall mh’imirce in gach íath …
Dúairc an bhetha bheith gan teach,
as truagh an bhetha, a Chríosd chain …
Tuisledh do bharraibh chraobh ccríon,
imthecht aitin, gníom gan gháoi,
seachna daoine, cumann cúan,
coimhrith re damh rúadh dar raéi.
Feis oidhche gan chlúimh a ccoill
i mullach croinn dosaigh dhlúith,
gan coisteacht re guth ná glór,
a mhic Dé, is mór an mhúich.
I am in great grief tonight,
the pure wind has pierced my body,
wounded are my feet, my cheek is wan,
O great God! it is my due.
… tonight my limbs are racked
in the fork of a tree in pleasant Gaille.
I have borne many a fight without cowardice
since feathers have grown on my body;
each night and each day
more and more do I endure ill.
Frost and foul storm have wrung my heart,
snow has beaten on me on Sliabh mic Sin;
tonight the wind has wounded me,
without the heather of happy Glen Bolcain.
Unsettled is my faring through each land …
Wretched is the life of one homeless,
Sad is the life, O gentle Christ! …
Stumbling from withered tree-tops,
faring through furze—deed without falsehood—
shunning mankind, keeping company with wolves,
racing with the red stag over the field.
Sleeping of nights without feathers in a wood
in the top of a thick, bushy tree,
without hearing voice or speech;
O Son of God, great is the misery! [

“I am the most discontented and unhappy creature in the world,” says the unfortunate poet. [
77] Thus Suibhne is an outcast/exile par excellence. He cannot tolerate the company of men for fear they will kill him or imprison him. [78]

It is not absolutely clear that the “death-swoon” is a real death, though many details suggest that it is—the association with a tomb, the funeral lament, the call of Moling for the poet to give him his hand “from the grave and from the tomb.”

Thus Suibhne is, like Starkaðr, a famous warrior-champion-general for a king; he is also a famous early poet. Like Starkaðr he was a wanderer, uncouth; unlike him, he does not specialize in invective, and his poetic aspect is clearly separated from his warlike aspect. He is a remarkable example of our central theme: the poet as exile, outcast. As soon as Suibhne becomes mad, he flees all social intercourse and lives with animals, as an animal, in the wilds. There his poetic manticism is balanced by his utter misery, or perhaps is produced by it.

Śiśupāla as Satirist

In the fable Śiśupāla uses to attack Bhīṣma (99), the birds bring food to a lawpreaching goose, and leave their eggs for him to guard; when the birds find that the goose has been eating the eggs, they band together to kill him. This is a strangely Aesopic motif, the abusive animal fable in the last speech before death, accusing and threatening the object of the blame. Everything is inverted though; the blamer is evil, accusing falsely; the victim of the attack is righteous.

The violence of Śiśupāla’s verbal attack hits its targets; Bhīma is thrown into a war rage, and is restrained with difficulty by Bhīṣma (100 [2.39.10–15]). Just as Śiśupāla’s fable had predicted the kings’ collective killing of Bhīṣma, the kings become filled with fury, and threaten to kill Bhīṣma like a sacrificial animal, or by burning. (103 [2.41.29]). Thus Śiśupāla’s last speech is military paraenesis used on behalf of the ideology of kingship.

At this point, Bhīṣma calls upon the kings to duel with Kṛṣṇa, and hot-blooded, aggressive (103 [2.42.1]) Śiśupāla takes up the challenge, not knowing that he has committed his one hundredth crime and is vulnerable to his enemy. But the time for the physical combat has not yet come—another stage in the verbal duel must take place. Vasudeva, eagerly accepting Śiśupāla’s challenge, takes the opportunity to revile the demonic warrior, listing his many crimes.

The effect on the kings is immediate; in a curious reversal, they turn against Śiśupāla and begin to revile him (104 [2.42.16–17]). Śiśupāla is unconcerned, bursts into laughter, and jeers at them. He accuses Kṛṣṇa of having married a defiled woman; while he has barely begun this final attack, even as he speaks, violent words escalate into violent acts: Kṛṣṇa throws his discus and slices off his opponent’s head—an argument that proves entirely persuasive. There follows the mystical scene in which Śiśupāla’s body gives forth a “sublime radiance” that enters into Kṛṣṇa:

tathā bruvata evāsya bhagavān madhusūdanaḥ
vyapāharac chiraḥ kruddhaś cakreṇāmitrakarṣaṇaḥ
sa papāta mahābāhur vajrāhata ivācalaḥ
tataś cedipater dehāt tejo ’gryaṁ dadr̥śur nr̥pāḥ
utpatantaṁ mahārāja gaganād iva bhāskaram
tataḥ kamalapatrākṣaṁ kr̥ṣṇaṁ lokanamaskr̥tam
vavande tat tadā tejo viveśa ca narādhipa
tad adbhutam amanyanta dr̥ṣṭvā sarve mahīkṣitaḥ
yad viveśa mahābāhuṁ tat tejaḥ puruṣottamam
anabhre pravavarṣa dyauḥ papāta jvalitāśaniḥ
kr̥ṣṇena nihate caidye cacāla ca vasuṁdharā

He was still speaking when the blessed Madhusūdana, scourge of his enemies, irately cut off his head with his discus. The strong-armed king fell like a tree that is struck by a thunderbolt. Thereupon the kings watched a sublime radiance rise forth from the body of the king of the Cedis, which, great king, was like the sun rising up from the sky; and that radiance greeted lotus-eyed Kṛṣṇa, honored by the world, and entered him, O king. When they saw that, all the kings deemed it a miracle that that radiance entered the strong-armed man, that greatest of men. In a cloudless sky heaven rained forth and blazing lightning struck and the earth trembled, when Kṛṣṇa slew the Caidya.

Mahābhārata 104 (2.42.22)

There are numerous remarkable elements in this account—especially the verbal violence paralleling the physical violence, producing war madness, berserker behavior. The conflict of blame between Bhīṣma and Kṛṣṇa on the one hand and Śiśupāla on the other is also notable; the execution of Śiśupāla by weapon seems merely an extension of verbal violence, a tool of the verbal violence. Most interesting, though, is the final isolation of the blame poet, after an unpredictably swift peripety, when all the kings turn against him and revile him. He who had the power nearly to make another man a sacrifice is suddenly himself the center of collective hostility and will be beheaded in a moment. It is his power to make another a victim that has made him a victim. He undergoes a typically ambiguous death, for our hero type: killed by his divine enemy, he flows into the god, and receives salvation.

Śiśupāla as master of violence-generating invective, deployed in support of kingship, is particularly close to Starkaðr as poet, and thus enables us to view Śiśupāla as a blame poet, and a valuable parallel to Starkaðr and Suibhne.


For Heracles’ ties with Hera, we first have his name. [114] As a baby Heracles was nursed by Hera, despite her enmity. [115] After his apotheosis, Hesiod writes,

καὶ] θάνε καί ῥ’ Ἀΐδ[αο πολύστονον ἵκε]το δῶμα.
νῦν δ’ ἤδη θεός ἐστι, κακῶν δ’ ἐξήλυθε πάντων,
ζώει δ’ ἔνθά περ ἄλλοι Ὀλύμπια δώματ’ ἔχοντες
ἀθάνατος καὶ ἄγηρος, ἔχων καλλ[ίσ]φυρον Ἥβην,
παῖδα Διὸς μεγάλοιο καὶ Ἥρης χρυσοπεδίλου·
τὸν πρὶν μέν ῥ’ ἤχθηρε θεὰ λευκώλενος Ἥρη
ἔκ τε θεῶν μακάρων ἔκ τε θνητῶν ἀνθρώ[πων,
νῦν δ’ ἤδη πεφίληκε, τίει δέ μιν ἔξοχον ἄλλ[ων
ἀθανάτων μετά γ’ αὐτὸν ἐρισθενέα Κρ[ο]νίωνα.

And he died and went down into the house of Hades. But now he is a god, and he has escaped all evils. And he lives in the same place as others having homes on Olympos, immortal [athanatos] and ageless, having fair-ankled Hebe, daughter of great Zeus and golden-sandled Hera. Before, the white-armed Hera hated him above all the other gods and mortals, but now she loves him, and honors [tiei] him above all the other gods after mighty Kronion himself.

Just as Heracles seems to fit as the Indo-European warrior to a certain extent, but not neatly, so he only fits problematically as poet. Heracles is definitely a singer, aoidos, a mousikos anēr. [
117] Yet he is not a thoroughgoing poet, like Starkaðr or Suibhne. His poetic aspects are merely a component in his all-around heroic persona, just as the warrior Achilles will take time out to play the lyre on occasion. Starkaðr, on the other hand, is given to savage satire that parallels, and often leads to, his warlike aggressiveness, and is known as a famous poet; Suibhne is primarily a poet. Archilochus, primarily a poet and warrior, is a much closer parallel to the Starkaðr/Suibhne poetic warrior type. And a closer parallel to Heracles as poet is Cuchulainn or Lugh, who, though they are primarily warriors, have strong poetic aspects.

Four Heroes

Suibhne and Starkaðr are overt, versifying, famous poets. Śiśupāla is a “blame poet” in theme; Heracles is a poet, if something of a dilettante. Starkaðr and Śiśupāla are specialists in invective; Suibhne’s poetry has its blame aspects.

Starkaðr and Suibhne are revolting in appearance; they are both lonesome wanderers; they are both associated with the wolf—this lupine association expresses both their grizzled ugliness and outcast, wandering temperaments, as well as associations with the Männerbund, perhaps. Starkaðr and Suibhne both express powerfully the misery of wandering in their poetry. Heracles also was a wanderer.

The themes of the poetry of Starkaðr, Suibhne, and Śiśupāla closely parallel each other. Starkaðr and Śiśupāla both employ violent invective and praise in support of kingship. This supports their functions as ambiguous king supporters, a function shared by Suibhne. All three are also generals in armies, warrior underkings for higher kings in the cases of Suibhne and Śiśupāla. Both Starkaðr and Suibhne act as champions for kings in combat situations.

A related poetic theme, hatred of common man, is found strongly expressed in the invective of Starkaðr and Śiśupāla. The common people drive Starkaðr into exile on occasion. Starkaðr and Suibhne also share misogyny as a poetic theme.

Madness is a characteristic of poets: all four of our figures suffer forms of lunacy, often connected with poetry. Starkaðr has frequent rages bordering on madness, rages leading both to violent poetry and violent deeds. Śiśupāla’s rage is quite similar; he expresses fury through invective, and incites others to violence with it. Heracles has frequent bouts of violent insanity (one directed against his music teacher, Linus, whom he kills with a lyre). Suibhne’s madness, in contrast, is mantic, a characteristic of his liminal state on the way to redemption, partaking of both humiliation and holiness. However, he was also given to violent rages before his liminal manticism.

Suibhne would seem to be our only overtly mantic poet. However, the theme of divine poetic consecration creates the mantic poet, and Starkaðr receives his poetic consecration from Odin, as Suibhne receives his consecration (an ambiguous “curse” that makes him both a miserable outcast and sacral) from his “bright god,” St. Ronan. Both these poets are given to violent rage, and have mantic aspects, though in opposite proportions. Heracles’ association with the Muses may have aspects of poetic consecration.

At the moment of death, Suibhne, Śiśupāla, and Starkaðr grow close to their poetic aspects as they deliver long final speeches. Suibhne’s and Starkaðr’s are intertwined with poetry; Śiśupāla’s includes an insulting animal fable.

Yet the Starkaðr–Śiśupāla connection is more close than one would expect, considering that Śiśupāla has no reputation as a poet. Both are violent abusive verbalists, masters of invective; they both attack enemies of kingship, those of lower caste, in their invective; their poetic madness expresses their rage and causes violence. Both are generals for kings.

The Suibhne–Śiśupāla axis is not strong. Their strongest common trait is their dominantly demonic nature, and this may derive from the hostile sectarian environment in which their stories have been preserved. However, they were both generals for kings, underkings themselves.

Heracles does not link strongly with anyone, though he was a general (of sorts), warrior (of sorts), and a poet (of sorts). He was also a wanderer, and a savior figure, as was Starkaðr. He also had a persecuting/protective deity, Hera.

Thus we have, perhaps, an archetype, a poet-warrior given to violent rages and violent poetry, in some ways a liminal manticist, a general of kings and a supporter of kingship in poetry and life. A weary, lonesome wanderer; inspired by a god in poetry and life, and persecuted by another god (who, however, helps civilize him); a noble warrior figure who yet commits execrable crimes against the range of society, especially against the king he so fanatically supports, and who is finally killed by the god who inspired his poetry and civilized him. He delivers a final dramatic speech before death.

There are significant parallels here to our theme of legendary Greek poet as scapegoat and warrior, protected and persecuted by ambiguously malevolent/benevolent gods. This similarity is strengthened by the fact that Starkaðr and Suibhne are famous poets in their own right, and that Starkaðr and Śiśupāla are masters of violent invective, Śiśupāla even employing a blame-oriented animal fable in a last speech. All of these “poets,” incidentally, are outcasts, all examples of the poet as exile or scapegoat, each in his own unique way.

The Warrior-Poet

The ambiguities of warrior and poet are also related—just as society often cannot tolerate the violence of the warrior in times of peace (thus the conflict of the warrior with the farmer and pastoralist, even with the king), so it is hard to tolerate the violence of the blame poet. As the Irish myths show, it is most useful to have satirical poets in wartime; but if a king’s poets turn their verbal weapons against him, the poet cannot be tolerated. Either the king must abdicate, or the poet must be exiled or killed.

One wonders if poetry is characteristically linked with the second function, considering its strong associations with the archetypal IndoEuropean warrior. One might suggest that the blame poet, the Archilochus, the wielder of verbal weapons, is peculiarly suited to war, while the praise poet, the Pindar, might be applicable to other levels, aspects of society. However, as we have previously noted, there probably is no such thing as a pure praise or blame poet. Archilochus can write military paraenesis and love poetry; Sappho can write iambics.

Eventually the warrior, the specialist in violence, became the king’s substitute. The warrior would have to have almost a supernatural loyalty to the king; but, if he had any intelligence, he would always feel ambivalent about his role, as he had to undergo the danger of violent death on another’s behalf.

One remembers the role played by Aesop when Croesus besieges Samos. He is the best in the city, but when the Croesus threatens the destruction of the city unless they give up Aesop, they are first willing to sacrifice him, then they they become unwilling; but Aesop voluntarily goes, and persuades the king to spare the city. Thus a city threatened by the disaster of war seeks to give up their best citizen, not their worst. There is ample ambiguity here, though, as anyone considered expendable can also be considered the worst in society’s eyes. Aesop the best riddle warrior is also the worst in terms of physical ugliness.


[ back ] 1. On Dumézil, see Littleton 1982; Puhvel 1987; Mallory 1989. Dumézil developed the theory that embedded in myths, rituals, formulae, and epics in the Indo-European traditions were references to three social “functions”: first, priest-sovereign; second, warrior; and third, herder-cultivator. Thus we have a kind a social structuralism influenced by Durkheim. Often these “functions” have complex (and often prickly) interrelationships, and interdependencies. For instance, both kings and warriors are dependent on the herder-cultivators for food. The first and third functions rely on the warrior when the tribe is menaced by outsiders. But the warrior is difficult to control, and sometimes is an internal menace to the rest of society, see below. In Dumézil’s view, by comparing similar themes in myths from different Indo-European countries, we can work back to genetic Proto-Indo-European myth.

[ back ] 2. Translated as The Stakes of the Warrior (1983).

[ back ] 3. According to Littleton, Aspects “must indeed be ranked among Dumézil’s most significant publications” (1982:127). See Puhvel, “The Warrior at Stake,” in Puhvel 2002:30–38, which summarizes Dumézil’s accomplishment in pursuing the warrior theme, but warns of the dangers of over-imposing the three sins pattern.

[ back ] 4. Diodorus Siculus 4.9.6, 4.10.1; Etymologicum Magnum p. 435, 10ff., cf. Photius Library p. 147b, 16ff.

[ back ] 5. See Burkert 1975; cf. above, chapter 16 (Apollo kills Achilles).

[ back ] 6. Nagy 1979:303.

[ back ] 7. Saxo Grammaticus (died ca. 1204), History of the Danes VI.151; 170, Fisher translation = Holder ed., 182: ob incredibilem corporis animique prestanciam. Translation in Fisher and Davidson 1979 vol. 1, including the first nine books of the History of the Danes. Translations of Saxo in this chapter are from Fisher, unless otherwise noted. The Latin text is from Holder 1886, or from an online version from the Danish Royal Library,

[ back ] 8. Ibid. Siquidem excellentius humano habitu corpus a natura sortitus, ita id animi magnitudine aequabat, ut nulli mortalium virtute cedere putaretur.

[ back ] 9. VI.152; 171=184: inusitata prius granditate conspicuum, non solum animi fortitudine, sed etiam condendorum carminum pericia.

[ back ] 10. Gautrekssaga, see Turville-Petre 1964:206. Translation thanks to Randall Gordon, who remarks that the literal translation makes the wolf persona very obvious. For the poet as wolf (as in the case of Alcaeus, chapter 9) i.e. outsider, see Kershaw 2000:133–179. Another notable theme surfaces in this passage: ugliness making the poet the victim of mockery (as in the case of Hipponax, chapter 4). Cf. Pálsson and Edwards 1968:41.

[ back ] 11. VI.162; p. 179=194: … qui indigentibus adesse et tristes plerumque casus felici interventu redimere soleat.

[ back ] 12. VIII.226; p. 249=271: patrias solitus scriptare poeses … Danicae vates promptissime Musae.

[ back ] 13. Turville-Petre 1964:212, cf. Clover 1980:452.

[ back ] 14. Óðinn mælti: “Ek gef honum skáldskap, svá at hann / skal eigi seinna yrkja en mæla.” Pálsson and Edwards (1968:39) translate, “I give him the art of poetry, so that he shall compose verses as fast as he can speak.”

[ back ] 15. Gautrekssaga chapter 7, pp. 28–31, cf. Dumézil 1983:14–15. For Starkaðr as an Odin or Thor hero, see Turville-Petre 1964:326 (de Vries vs. Dumézil), 205–211; Polomé 1990.

[ back ] 16. Thor’s last three curses form a trifunctional pattern, if poetry is linked to the first function: war, poetry, common people.

[ back ] 17. VI.158; 176–177= 191, translation by Fisher, Cumque Starcatherus circumspectam undique familiam recenti hospitis iactura indoluisse cognosceret, ignominiam saucii invectivis exaggerandam curavit insultandoque sic coepit.

[ back ] 18. Ibid. 179, my translation, His dictis, Starcatherus, non minorem ex voce quam opere voluptatem sortitus, Haldanum repetit eiusque militiam promixa familiaritate complexus numquam bellorum exercitio abstitit, ita ut abstractum deliciis animum continua armorum intentione torqueret.

[ back ] 19. Some have seen the influence of Horace and Juvenal in Saxo, and particularly in the poems Saxo has Starkaðr recite (see Fisher and Davidson 1979 2:106n89, 135n81). Was Saxo drawing on Roman models because they were comparable to poetic traditions connected with Starkaðr, or did he simply apply Juvenal and Horace to a poet with a general reputation for abusiveness? In Starkaðr’s long poem on the miseries of old age, comparable to Juvenal’s tenth satire, there are no close verbal echoes, as Fisher notes. Davidson 1981:39 admits the classical influence in Saxo, but writes that his heroes “were, after all, breathing a northern air, with their feet firmly set on Danish soil, in a region which had remained outside the domination of Rome.” Speaking specifically of Starkaðr’s poetry, she writes that Saxo has “combined the use of language … in the classical manner with the rich traditions of his own background and the verbal skills of the North” (1981:50). FriisJensen 1981b, speaks of that poem spoken by Starkaðr “rising from a fruitful combination of Nordic and Latin tradition.” See also Gudnason 1981:79–93, esp. 85, on Starkaðr (with useful bibliography).

[ back ] 20. Cf. O’Leary 1984.

[ back ] 21. Cf. Fisher 1979 2:105n81.

[ back ] 22. VI.166; 184=200: adeo ipsa parietum robora demissi corporis impulsu contudit, ut tectum ruina paene eximia tignorum trepidatione submitteret.

[ back ] 23. VI.168; 185=202.

[ back ] 24. VI.167; 185=201: ne bellicam claritatem convivalibus illecebris absumendam permitteret.

[ back ] 25. fumidoque ac rancidulo cibo. The theme is immorality expressed by excessive cookery—Starkaðr [ back ] particularly disapproves of meat that has been both roasted and boiled (VI.167; 185=201; VI.169; 186=204). The question of Juvenalian influence must again be considered. But food and sexuality are standard targets at which blame is directed. If Ingel is immoral, his food will define him.

[ back ] 26. The effeminacy of such music is emphasized; all of the warrior’s temptations, food, clothing, and music are defined by effeminacy.

[ back ] 27. VI.170; 187=204: quod nimiae saturitatis usu oscitans partam edendo crapulam foeda ructatione exhalaret.

[ back ] 28. VI.170ff.; p. 180ff.; cf. Friis-Jensen 1981b.

[ back ] 29. VI.168: Videns autem Starcatherus eos, qui Frothonem oppresserant, in summa regis dignatione versari, concepti furoris magnitudinem acerrimo oculorum habitu prodidit internosque motus externo oris indicio patefecit, occultam animi procellam aperta luminum saevitia testatus. For the “war fury” of the Indo-European warrior, see on Cuchulainn in chapter 17. All these warriors had a dark, demonic side. I have not yet seen Frédéric Blaive, Impius Bellator: Le Mythe Indo-Européen du Guerrier Impie (1996), but see a review by Miller 2001b.

[ back ] 30. VI.173; 190 = 208.13–14: neglegens morum vitiique cultrix, / femina turpis.

[ back ] 31. VI.172; 188 = 206.1–2: Quid dapem deses colis otioque / mollior scortis stomachum reclinas? Cf. ibid., lines 23–24: “the joys of an obese belly” (obesi gaudia uentris).

[ back ] 32. VI.172; 188–206.

[ back ] 33. Starkaðr is, as Dumézil notes in dealing with this episode, “imperiously and didactically, a true educator” (1983:38).

[ back ] 34. VI.178; 194 = 213: His namque continuo trucidatis, sacra mensae sanguine involvit.

[ back ] 35. VI.178; 194 = 213: cruore quam mero calices imbuens.

[ back ] 36. VI.163; 181 = 196: … aduersarios prius dictis quam armis contemnendos putabat. One can compare this military blame with military paraenesis; see the nine brothers who bark at Starkaðr like dogs and “were animating one another for the fight [with Starkaðr] by mutual encouragement.” See following note.

[ back ] 37. And he, true to form, has attacked them verbally before dispatching them with physical violence. The treatment of these brothers is striking—they are portrayed as a pack of dogs, a canine Männerbund (see previous note, for their mutual military paraenesis). Starkaðr seems to find their berserker-type madness degraded (cf. Fisher 1979 2:105n73): VI.162; 180 = 195.

[ back ] 38. Curiously, though, he finally accepts help from a farmer’s son, and he praises the farmer’s life as honest labor. Thus the warrior’s attitude toward the lower class may be complex—just as he has an ambivalence toward kingship (he kills two kings, but is their passionate champion and defender), he also has an ambivalence toward the third function. He disapproves of their excesses of sexuality and eating, which would tend to sap a warrior’s strength, make him unfit and unprepared for battle, but will allow for the necessity of the food producer within certain limits.

[ back ] 39. vulnerum acerbitate cruciari quam sordidae condicionis hominum ministerio uti praeoptans.

[ back ] 40. VI.164; 182=197: spernere non contentus etiam convicio proculcavit.

[ back ] 41. VIII.227; 250 = 272: Hic primum didici, quid ferramenta valerent incudis, quantumve animi popularibus esset.

[ back ] 42. Aside from the question of how functional gods may be applied to Starkaðr, here we face the problem of Germanic functional slippage, see Puhvel 1987:191–192.

[ back ] 43. VIII.221; 244 = 265: Postmodum paenitentia ac pudore perculsus, tanta animi acerbitate commissum facinus luxit, ut, si mentionem eius incidere contigisset, a lacrimis temperare non posset. Adeo culpae atrocitatem resipiscens animus erubescebat.

[ back ] 44. Pálsson and Edwards 1968:40. Saxo has a slightly different, less precise and convincing, version of Vikar’s execution, VI.152–153; 170=184.

[ back ] 45. Translation by Pálsson and Edwards 1968:41.

[ back ] 46. Gautrekssaga, stanzas 31, 32, cf. Dumézil 1983:28. hlaut ek óhróðigr / illt at vinna.

[ back ] 47. Af þessu verki varð Starkað mjök / óþokkaðr af alþýðu, ok af þessu verki varð hann fyrst / landflótti af Hörðalandi.

[ back ] 48. For the ambiguity of sacrifice, which is at the same time paradigmatically sacred and at the same time an act of profane violence, cf. Burkert: “Sacrament and sacrilege merge in every act of sacral killing” (1985:81, cf. 57, 58).

[ back ] 49. See Turville-Petre 1964:49.

[ back ] 50. See Chadwick and Chadwick 1932 1:620.

[ back ] 51. Cf. verses 144 and following. Translation from Turville-Petre 1964:42, except for the last verse, which is from Hollander 1962:36, slightly modified. Turville-Petre, in the last two lines, speaks of words and deeds, not verses and poems. See also below, chapter 19, on Odin’s consecrations.

[ back ] 52. Hollander 1962:36n67; Turville-Petre 1964:44–50. Cf. Puhvel 1987:194, who emphasizes shamanic aspects of this sacrifice/consecration.

[ back ] 53. The classic problem in Norse myth, the degree of Christian influence, must also be considered here. One could also think of Prometheus, as a hanging, suffering demigod. However, Turville-Petre concludes that all of the elements of the Norse account are authentically Scandinavian; even if they were influenced by the New Testament or Greek myth, the theme of poetic consecration is entirely absent from the crucifixion or Aeschylus’ Prometheus Bound.

[ back ] 54. Ward 1970.

[ back ] 55. VIII.223–224; 247=268. Dying through illness was regarded as dishonorable by warriors, Saxo explains. The volition is explicit: “voluntarium … exitum … proprio … arbitrio.”

[ back ] 56. VIII.228: Quod utrum instruendi percussoris gratia an puniendi dixerit, incertum est.

[ back ] 57. Quod corpori avulsum impactumque terrae glaebam morsu carpsisse fertur, ferocitatem animi moribundi oris atrocitate declarans.

[ back ] 58. Quoted in Dumézil 1983:48.

[ back ] 59. De Vries, quoted in Dumézil 1983:48.

[ back ] 60. Dumézil 1983:49.

[ back ] 61. Dumézil 1983:46.

[ back ] 62. Note the theophorous name: Stark(h)athr ‘Strong as god’, like Heracles, cf. Puhvel 1987:247, 250. Thus Starkaðr is priest, victim, and god at the same time. Cf. chapter 19, on poet-priests of Odin.

[ back ] 63. Poetic Edda, “Helgakviða Hundingsbana” II (Stanza 20–21) as cited in Polomé 1990:270.

[ back ] 64. For further on Starkaðr, see Polomé 1990 and Miller 1991 (both on the duality of the hero, divided between loyalty to functions one and two).

[ back ] 65. He is forgivably peevish toward Mongan, the herd who has speared him by mistake, O’Keefe 1913:147–151; all subsequent citations of Buile Suibhne will refer to the O’Keefe edition by page number. There are also elements of misogynist blame in his poetry, see J. Nagy 1982–1983:57n76; however, Suibhne’s relationships with women are very ambivalent, as Nagy shows. One must also bear in mind that the lampoons of Irish blame poetry are often so subtle that only the initiated can perceive them, cf. Ward 1973:136; Robinson 1912:106 (white, black, and speckled satire).

[ back ] 66. He boasts of this in a poem, O’Keefe 1913:113–115. See also 11.

[ back ] 67. 113: áit ina mbíodh treas nó troid / robsam comhlann do thríochaid.

[ back ] 68. 57, 59, 54.

[ back ] 69. 27: ar mo ríghe raith / robsam rígh maith mór. Cf. 3, 145.

[ back ] 70. See 1982–1983:59n84. Cf. 3, 145.

[ back ] 71. xxxi, cf. Cohen 1977:115–116.

[ back ] 72. See Dumézil 1983:59, 54, 57.

[ back ] 73. Odyssey xxi 25; Rose 1959:211: “The real Herakles was indeed a lord of Mycenaean times, but a vassal of the greater lord of Argos or of Mycenae.”

[ back ] 74. Deichneamhar is deich cét laoch / rob é mo shlúagh ag Druim FraochMúichnidhe mh’aghaidh anocht / gan giolla is gan longphort.

[ back ] 75. 1987:242; and though the king later became detached from a purely militarist focus, the military aspect always remained. We may compare Yudhiṣṭhira, Mitraic king, who takes part in battle, though his brothers Bhīma and Arjuna are military specialists. See Dumézil, who discusses the weapons of all five Pāṇḍava brothers, including Yudhiṣṭhira and other sovereign figures in IndoEuropean myth (1968 1:99–100). Even if weapons define sovereignty, they are still weapons of war. See also Oguibenine 1978, and below, this chapter.

[ back ] 76. Translation adapted from O’Keefe 1913:119–120.

[ back ] 77. 133: uair as meisi dúil as anshádhaile & anshocra. Cf. 25–29, 125–127, 135.

[ back ] 78. See 133.

[ back ] 79. Cf. 13. See J. Nagy 1982:50, for further references and discussion. Nagy treats the theme as shamanic; for further on Suibhne and shamanism, see Benesch 1961. For shamanism in IndoEuropean culture, Closs 1968. See above, chapter 16, on poet as prophet/shaman.

[ back ] 80. See p. 153; Kershaw 2000:133–143. Cf. chapter 9 (Alcaeus); chapter 19, on Odinic berserkers.

[ back ] 81. Suibhne’s poems are scattered throughout his story. Like Starkaðr, he will break into verse periodically, often in moments of crisis.

[ back ] 82. “While many of the Suibhne poems are laments about life in the wilderness, others are virtual paeans to his wild existence in isolated places” (J. Nagy 1982–1983:51, see O’Keefe 1913:63–83). Suibhne even praises the watercress and strong wind that elsewhere cause him special agony, p. 71.

[ back ] 83. See O’Keefe 1913:xvi–xvii; cf. J. Nagy 1982–1983:44n3. In Tom Stoppard’s Travesties, James Joyce rebukes a Dadaist by remarking that without Homer Troy would now be nothing but dust and broken pots (1975:62). Much of Suibhne’s poetry is agonic—e.g. 101, 134–135, 137–141. In this last passage, Suibhne trades couplets with St. Moling to make up quatrains; their competitive, riddling nature is clear. Often Moling asks questions, which the poet answers; often his answers “cap” the saint’s, as is shown by their frequent use of comparatives: “More delightful … more wearisome … more grievous.”). The poetic dialogue is explicitly mantic, for in it Suibhne displays supernatural knowledge, predicts his own death, and commends Moling’s prophetic gifts.

[ back ] 84. 141; cf. J. Nagy 1982–1983:45n7. For further on the mantic nature of geilt, see Chadwick 1942; for Suibhne’s prophetic nature, see 110.

[ back ] 85. Fios tig dhamh óm Thigerna / gach madain ‘s gach nóin.

[ back ] 86. Perhaps he is portrayed as demonic because of the sectarian (Christian) coloring of the received Suibhne tale, just as the Śiśupāla tradition comes to us only with sectarian overlay, making him entirely demonic, too (Puhvel 1987:250, 253). On the other hand, Starkaðr has his pronounced demonic aspects. One detail that might point to a more positive coloring in the original Śiśupāla tradition is his name, which can mean ‘protector of the small’ (Dumézil 1983:57)—paralleling Starkaðr’s and Heracles’ soteric aspects; Heracles’ role as culture hero, destroyer of destructive monsters, is well known. However, Śiśupāla can also be interpreted as ‘smalllord’, a Sivaistic epithet, “Junior Śiva” (Puhvel 1987:247).

[ back ] 87. 144: mairg domharb a los a neirt / an rígh, an náomh, an náomhgheilt.

[ back ] 88. 143. He later, after Suibhne’s deathswoon, recalls the joy and pleasure Suibhne’s association gave him (155). Suibhne’s life in nature, outside of human intercourse, has obvious monastic overtones. Much of his nature poetry has close parallels in Irish medieval poetry praising the isolated monastic life.

[ back ] 89. 145, 147, 151 (twice).

[ back ] 90. This death in a door emphasizes the theme of death as passage, a liminal rather than terminal experience. Cf. J. Nagy’s “Liminality and Knowledge in Irish Tradition,” 1981–1982. Comparable is the death-swoon, see Eliade, 1964:33ff., for death and resurrection as a shamanic theme. The death-swoon would be part of an initiatory, liminal experience. Nagy interprets Suibhne as a sacral man (king) who experiences a different, less social kind of sacrality (shamanic madness) as an “end in itself.” For my view of Suibhne as an underlord, see above. He is also associated with asacral, violent, clericpersecuting, warmongering (Ronan had tried to make peace between kings, and Suibhne had intentionally flouted the saint’s ban on bloodshed). Thus there is a simpler symmetry in the story: evil, warriorking, enmity with a saint; wandering, subhuman, asocial, mantic madness; death, reconciliation and salvation, friendship with a saint. The middle state is truly liminal, a state of passage, for Suibhne looks back in misery on his glory days as a warrior, yet his poetic/mantic aspects point him forward to his final meeting with Moling.

[ back ] 91. See below.

[ back ] 92. In light of the importance placed on the warrior’s executioner in the cases of Starkaðr (an Odin double), and Śiśupāla (the warrior’s opposite, the righteous Kṛṣṇa), one may consider the possibility that Mongan as executioner has some connection with the mystical stature of the swineherd in Ireland, see Ni Chatháin 1979–1980. Thus, Suibhne would be killed by a shamanic figure; Mongan is already a member of Moling’s household. The “friendly” “god” is behind Suibhne’s death. In some traditions, Suibhne’s killer suffered the threefold death, see above.

[ back ] 93. 143–145.

[ back ] 94. See 151, 147. Mongan’s life is literally shortened in Moling’s prophecy—a safely clerical equivalent to murder. Hesiod’s murderers undergo sacrificial execution—see above, chapter 6.

[ back ] 95. 154.

[ back ] 96. Eliade 1964:53. See also ibid., pp. 33–66; Benesch 1961:317–318, who compares Suibhne’s death to the burial of a shaman, not the initiation.

[ back ] 97. Cohen 1977:118 admits that his case would be stronger if there were an actual sexual sin, not just an accusation, in this crime against the third function. “There is no totally convincing means to explain away this discrepancy.” If there were a variant tradition of Starkaðr being guilty of sexual sin, as in the case of Hesiod, one could explain this equivocal theme. (For variant traditions in Suibhne’s life, cf. e.g. the tradition that has him killed in the battle of Mag Rath, see Cohen 1977:116.) See above, chapter 3 (Archilochus); chapter 17, the poet DonnBo killed in battle, and the various poetic victims of Cuchulainn.

[ back ] 98. In St. Moling legends, Suibhne’s murderer suffers the threefold death, see Ward 1970:136–137; in the Wild Man of the Wood stories, of which Suibhne’s legend is an example, the hero often dies by the threefold death, see Cohen 1977:120. Suibhne’s death by spear is possibly a remnant of an original threefold death tradition. On the other hand, we may note the strong parallel with our other warriors in Suibhne’s death by weapon only; Starkaðr and Śiśupāla also die by means of weapons alone, fitting warriors’ deaths. (Heracles, as often, is anomalous in this group, dying by fire and poison.)

[ back ] 99. Mahābhārata, book 2, The Book of the Assembly Hall, 33–42; van Buitenen 1975 2:93–104. Subsequent references to the Mahābhārata will be to van Buitenen’s edition.

[ back ] 100. Śiśupāla is described as “berserk in battle” (89). See Mahābhārata 2.31.14: śiśupālo mahāvīryaḥ saha putreṇa bhārata / āgacchat pāṇḍaveyasya yajñaṁ saṁgrāmadurmadaḥ (Śiśupāla of great gallantry, and berserk in battle, came with his son, O Bhārata, to the sacrifice of the Pāṇḍaveya). The violence of his words nearly leads the kings at Yudhiṣṭhira’s coronation to a violent riot, 103. See above, chapter 17 on “war fury” in Ireland.

[ back ] 101. Van Buitenen 1975: 93, Mahābhārata 2.33.32: sa upālabhya bhīṣmaṁ ca dharmarājaṁ ca saṁsadi / apākṣipad vāsudevaṁ cedirājo mahābalaḥ. Dumézil notes the parallel with Irish feast strifes over points of honor; cf. Starkaðr’s slighting reception at the feast of Ingellus, see above.

[ back ] 102. Cohen 1977:121.

[ back ] 103. P. 93, Mahābhārata 2.34.3. bālā yūyaṁ na jānīdhvaṁ dharmaḥ sūkṣmo hi pāṇḍavāḥ. “You are children, you don’t know! For the Law is subtle, Pāṇḍavas!”

[ back ] 104. ye tvāṁ dāsam arājānaṁ bālyād arcanti durmatim / anarham arhavat kr̥ṣṇa vadhyās ta iti me matiḥ. (In their folly they honored you, a vicious serf, not a king, as though you had earned the honor, Kṛṣṇa. Yes I hold I must kill them!).

[ back ] 105. śiśupāla uvāca / sa me bahumato rājā jarāsaṁdho mahābalaḥ / yo ’nena yuddhaṁ neyeṣa dāso ’yam iti saṁyuge. (Śiśupāla said: Highly did I esteem him, the powerful King Jarāsaṁdha, who refused to give battle to this one, saying he was no more than a serf).

[ back ] 106. Littleton 1980.

[ back ] 107. Puhvel 1987:129.

[ back ] 108. See Strutynski 1980; Puhvel 1987:126–143; Dumézil 1994:209–286; Sergent 1998; Miller 2001.

[ back ] 109. Diodorus Siculus 4.39.2–3; Homer Odyssey xi 601–626; Hesiod Theogony 950–955; Pindar Nemean Odes 10.18.

[ back ] 110. Translation by Lattimore, ἀλλὰ θεῶν βασίλεα / σπερχθεῖσα θυμῷ πέμπε δράκοντας ἄφαρ.

[ back ] 111. See Euripides, Heracles Crazed.

[ back ] 112. Hesiod Theogony 313–315, translation by Evelyn-White, τὸ τρίτον Ὕδρην αὖτις ἐγείνατο λυγρὰ ἰδυῖαν / Λερναίην, ἣν θρέψε θεὰ λευκώλενος Ἥρη / ἄπλητον κοτέουσα βίῃ Ἡρακληείῃ.

[ back ] 113. Hesiod Theogony 328–332; Bacchylides 9.6–9.

[ back ] 114. See Pindar fr. 291, Apollodorus 2.4.12 (the Delphic sibyl renames Heracles); scholion on the Iliad XIV 324; Diodorus Siculus 4.10.1. Pötscher 1971 (who suggests a chronological division of Hera’s enmity and friendship for Heracles); Davidson 1980; Cook 1906, which is unconvincing for Heracles as husband of Hera, but valuable for surveying the close ties between the two deities. For enmity between hero and goddess, see p. 371.

[ back ] 115. Lycophron 38–39, 1327–1328; “Eratosthenes” Constellations 44; Hyginus Astronomy 2.43; Pausanias 9.25.2; Diodorus Siculus 4.9.6. Evidence from art shows that this theme predated the Hellenistic era, Gantz 1993:378.

[ back ] 116. Translation by Gantz 1993:461.

[ back ] 117. See above, chapter 16.

[ back ] 118. Starting with Eumaeus, Odyssey xvii 514, 518–521. Cf. Nagy 1979:234; Bergren 1982:44, 57–58; Segal 1994. If we accept Odysseus as a kind of storytelling poet, he becomes the wandering poet who is denied hospitality as the hosts, especially Antinous, offer him inadequate food and insult him, Nagy 1979:232. Odysseus blames Antinous, and violent retribution comes to the satirist, in the form of a thrown footstool. The inhospitable hosts pay a horrible price.

[ back ] 119. See Dumézil 1983:135–144, cf. Puhvel 1987:244–255.

[ back ] 120. 1987:251.

[ back ] 121. For other warrior heroes who were also poets, such as the skald Egil, Gunnlaugr Serpent-Tongue, or Finn, see Miller 2000:232–238, 251–254. Some skalds were anti-monarchical, 235, 252–253, though one could argue that abuse of a bad king supports the insitution of just monarchy.

[ back ] 122. For the combination of verbal and physical attack in epic, see Miller 2000:234–236.

[ back ] 123. See Dumézil 1973:32–37. As Puhvel notes, Odin “does not ‘embody’ martial ecstasy, he dispenses it … an orchestrator of conflict rather than a combatant” (1987:193). Thus we have the warrior Starkaðr influencing kings, and the king of gods and men influencing the warrior class. The king’s control of the warrior is a crucial element of his power, as Latin American politics, with its democratic governments often overthrown by military strong men, still shows. One thinks of Agamemnon, the Greek overking, stalking the Greek battle lines in the Iliad, dispensing military praise and blame to ensure optimum fighting efficiency, see above, chapter 17, Lugh exhorting his troops. For kings as poets, see below, chapter 19, Odin as king and poet.

[ back ] 124. Snodgrass 1980:98, 97.

[ back ] 125. See Winn 1995:130–131; Puhvel 1987:242–243; Dillon 1946–1947:260.

[ back ] 126. 1979:71.

[ back ] 127. Eichner 1975:81; Puhvel 1989:360. For the poet as craftsman in the archaic Greek and Indo-European traditions, see Nagy 1979:297–300; Durante 1971–1974 II:170. Thus Odysseus polutropos, as storyteller/creative artist/poet, shrewd, tricky warrior, and ruler has special interest. For smiths in epic legend, Miller 2000:260–266.

[ back ] 128. Dumézil 1968:50 examines a pattern in which there are complementary pairs of warriors, one more violent than the other: Slugger and Runner (Wind), Force and Quickness. See also Miller 2000:280–281.

[ back ] 129. See above, chapter 11 (Tyrtaeus’s poetry creates “divine fury” [enthousiasmos] in young Spartan soldiers approaching war); chapter 17, on Dubthach Chafertongue.