The Oral Palimpsest: Exploring Intertextuality in the Homeric Epics

  Tsagalis, Christos. 2008. The Oral Palimpsest: Exploring Intertextuality in the Homeric Epics. Hellenic Studies Series 29. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies.

Chapter 5. Ἀχιλλεὺς Ἑλένην ἐπιθυμεῖ θεάσασθαι: From the Cypria to the Iliad

Unus testis, bonus testis: The Reliability of a Single Source [2]

Reconstruction and Interpretation

The second issue to be considered regards the reconstruction of and justification for the meeting between Achilles and Helen as well as its incorporation into the plot of the Cypria. We know that Achilles had never seen Helen before and that he was not one of her suitors. [11] In fact the scene of their meeting in the Cypria seems to cater to this problem, and, therefore, Achilles’ desire to see the abducted queen of Sparta is a narrative reflex of the poet’s plan to justify to his audience that Achilles will also fight the Trojans for her sake, [12] as can be inferred from his restraining the Achaeans, who attempt to return to their homeland (Proclus’ Chrestomathy 159–160 Severyns = 42 Kullmann). [13] Is it possible to fully exploit the brief extract of the Chrestomathy and reconstruct the entire Achilles-Helen scene? The involvement of the two goddesses, Aphrodite and Thetis, probably depending on their close connection to Helen and Achilles respectively, [14] constitutes a traditional narrative means of making the meeting possible. One may even infer that there was a transitional scene Proclus does not mention, in which Achilles would have revealed to his Nereid-mother, Thetis (who perhaps would emerge from her abode in the bottom of the sea), his strong desire to see Helen, the beautiful wife of Menelaus for whom the entire expedition was taking place. Later on, Thetis may either have come directly in contact with Aphrodite or have asked for the intervention of Zeus, who owed her (Thetis) a favor because she saved him from a plot that had been engineered against him by Hera, Poseidon, and Athena. [15]

Before selecting between the two aforementioned possibilities, we must examine the likely mythological connection between Thetis and Aphrodite. Would it have ever been possible for Thetis to ask Aphrodite for a favor? In the Aethiopis (Proclus’ Chrestomathy, 184–190 Severyns = 57–61 Kullmann), Eos and Thetis, the mothers of Memnon and Achilles respectively, are not only associated with the actual fighting between their two sons, but also with their plea to Zeus in the psychostasia scene, the ‘weighing of lives’, which is not attested in Proclus’ summary, but which almost certainly constituted an integral part of the Aethiopis. Such a claim is supported by the following evidence:

A. Black-figure pottery

(1) Attic dinos, Vienna, Kunsthist. Mus. IV 3619, found in Caere of Etruria, ci. 540 BC (LIMC I.2, 799:135). Zeus is seated, with Hermes to his right holding scales that weigh the souls of Achilles and Memnon. Eos is to the right of Hermes and Memnon is behind her. Memnon’s charioteer is standing behind him with his chariot. Thetis is depicted to the right of Hermes, and Achilles is behind her with his charioteer, Automedon, and his chariot behind him.

B. Red-figure pottery

(1) Kylix, Rome, Villa Giulia 57912, found in Caere of Etruria, with the signature of the painter Epictetus, ci. 520–510 BC. Hermes, who holds scales with the souls of dead men, is depicted between Achilles and Memnon. Eos and Thetis, who stand before Zeus and Hera, are portrayed behind Memnon. The seated divine couple is about to listen to the supplication of the two mothers.

(2) Bell-shaped krater, Palermo, Mus. Reg. V 779, found in Akragas, the work of the painter of Oreithyia, ci. 480–470 BC (LIMC III.2, 296:580). Zeus is seated with Eos to his left and Thetis to his right. The two goddessess supplicate Zeus with outstretched arms. The scales, though a typical feature of any psychostasia scene, are not depicted.

(3) Stamnos, Boston, Museum of Fine Arts 10.177, from Cyme, the work of the painter of Syracuse, ci. 470–460 BC (LIMC I.2, 800:135). Eos and Thetis stand to the right and left, respectively, of Hermes.

(4) Amphora, Campania, Leiden, Rijkmus AMM I, the work of the painter Ixion, ci. late 4th century BC (LIMC I.2, 805:136). Hermes stands above the two fighters (Achilles has hurled his javelin and wounded Memnon, who is depicted across from him). Next to Hermes is a tree from which scales holding the souls of the two heroes are suspended. Thetis is portrayed above Achilles, and Eos, pulling her hair in an act of grief, above Memnon.

C. Bronze sculpture

Votive offering of the people of Apollonia, Olympia, early classical period (non-extant), described by Pausanias (V 22.2-3). Zeus with the two goddesses and their two heroes-sons (Achilles and Memnon). Eos is named Ἡμέρα (Day) in Pausanias.

Given that Homeric Aphrodite represents the epic surrogate of Eos, we can search for latent connections with Thetis, the more so since Thetis is also able to save those she cares for. According to Proclus’ summary of the Aethiopis (199–200 Severyns = 66 Kullmann), Thetis takes the dead body of Achilles from the pyre and transports it to the island of Leuke ‘’ (καὶ μετὰ ταῦτα ἐκ τῆς πυρᾶς ἡ Θέτις ἀναρπάσασα τὸν παῖδα εἰς τὴν Λευκὴν νῆσον διακομίζει). [25] The similarities between these goddesses are not restricted to their ability to save their loved ones; they extend to their love affairs with mortals (Eos with Tithonus and Orion, Aphrodite with Anchises and Phaethon, Thetis with Peleus), with whom they beget famous sons (Eos-Memnon, Aphrodite-Aeneas, Thetis-Achilles) [26] In this light, it could be argued that both Aphrodite and Thetis might well have transferred their loved ones from one place to another, making the meeting between Achilles and Helen possible. Conversely, Thetis’ supplication to Zeus in Iliad I 493–516 constitutes such a strong parallel that we may plausibly opt for an intermediate scene in which Thetis would have asked Zeus to fulfill Achilles’ desire to see Helen (Ἀχιλλεὺς Ἑλένην ἐπιθυμεῖ θεάσασθαι). Even the use of the verb ἐπιθυμεῖ postulates the intermediate scene. This argument is further corroborated by the fact that, given Aphrodite’s overt support of the Trojan side and her opposition to Thetis, [27] as we may infer from Eos’ function in the Aethiopis and in the scene between Aeneas and Achilles in Iliad XX 205–212, [28] it would have been quite unlikely that the two goddesses would have cooperated to make the meeting possible, had Zeus not intervened.

On the other hand, one might argue that in an analogous case, specifically in the Aethiopis (189–190 Severyns = 61 Kullmann), Proclus refers to Eos meeting with Zeus in order to ensure the immortality of her son Memnon. Why then would another such scene relating to Aphrodite in the Cypria not be mentioned? The arguments that one could give in response to this valid question are the following:

(a) The scene of the Aethiopis is different from that of the Cypria. It does not include an intermediate phase, only the final stage of the conflict between Achilles and Memnon. One might even argue that its function is to counterbalance the victory of Achilles (and indirectly Thetis) while offering some benefit for Eos and Memnon.

(b) Eos asks for Zeus’s help because she is not able to ensure the gift of immortality on her own. In this case, the intervention of Zeus is necessary.

Proclus (Cypria, 158 Severyns = 41 Kullmann) refers to the actual meeting between Achilles and Helen with the expression ‘and Aphrodite and Thetis brought them together’ (καὶ συνήγαγεν αὐτοὺς εἰς τὸ αὐτὸ Ἀφροδίτη καὶ Θέτις). Yet, what is the exact meaning of this phrase? The verb συνάγειν is used in this way only one other time in the entire corpus of Proclus. Interestingly enough, this case too comes from the Cypria (100–102 Severyns = 11 Kullmann):

ἐν τούτῳ δὲ Ἀφροδίτη συνάγει τὴν Ἑλένην τῷ Ἀλεξάνδρῳ. καὶ μετὰ τὴν μίξιν τὰ πλεῖστα κτήματα ἐνθέμενοι νυκτὸς ἀποπλέουσι.

Meanwhile Aphrodite brings Helen and Alexander together, and after their union they sail off in the night with a great load of treasure.

The verb συνάγειν together with the noun μίξις and the intervention of Aphrodite overtly designate an erotic context. Is it possible to argue that the erotic element is latent in the meeting between Achilles and Helen, given that two of the three aforementioned features (συνάγειν and Aphrodite) are also present? Let us first look at certain other sources indicating that there was an erotic relationship between Achilles and Helen:

(2) According to Euripides (Helen 98–99), Achilles was considered one of Helen’s suitors: τὸν Πηλέως τιν᾿ οἶσθ᾿ Ἀχιλλέα γόνον; // ναί· // μνηστήρ ποθ᾿ Ἑλένης ἦλθεν, ὡς ἀκούομεν. This is the only ancient source that makes such a reference. The crucial point here lies in the interpretation of the phrase ὡς ἀκούομεν (99). From where does Euripides draw this information? Even in later sources such as Apollodorus (Bibliotheca III 10.8) and Hyginus (Fabulae 81) Achilles is not included among Helen’s suitors. [31] Wilamowitz and Schubart attempted to interpret the aforementioned Euripidean passage ‘internally,’ that is to say, they tried to explain Helen’s words based on her role in this particular tragedy. Thus, they argued that Euripides’ aim was to emphasize Helen’s vanity in her desire to present Achilles as one of her suitors. [32] Other scholars attempted to solve this riddle ‘externally,’ that is, they looked for the origins of the aforementioned information in earlier texts or authors. Mayer believed that Euripides’ source was Stesichorus. [33] Jouan [34] adopted the view of Wilamowitz, while Kannicht [35] argued that Euripides’ source was the Cypria, specifically the passage examined in this study: καὶ μετὰ ταῦτα Ἀχιλλεὺς Ἑλένην ἐπιθυμεῖ θεάσασθαι, καὶ συνήγαγεν αὐτοὺς εἰς τὸ αὐτὸ Ἀφροδίτη καὶ Θέτις (157–158 Severyns = 41 Kullmann). Kannicht’s explanation does not refute Wilamowitz’s and Schubart’s ‘internal’ explanation. On the contrary, it adds an interpretive color, since he shows that Euripides exploited the mythical narrative of the Cypria only to adapt it to his own tragedy. Helen, in a highly provocative display of female arrogance and vanity, aims at including among her suitors even Achilles, whom the epic tradition had notoriously excluded from the long list of male competitors flocking Tyndareus’ palace only to become the victims of her beauty and subsequently heroes of the Trojan War. [36]

(3) According to Pausanias (III 19.11–13), [37] Ptolemaeus Chennus (Kaine Historia 4.3 [in Photius, Bibliotheca 149a19]), [38] and Philostratus (Heroicus 54.8–13), Achilles [39] and Helen lived on the island of Leuke in the Black Sea, near the mouth of the Ister. [40] Philostratus’ text, the most valuable piece of information among the aforementioned authors, runs as follows:

ἐνταῦθα εἶδόν τε πρῶτον καὶ περιέβαλον ἀλλήλους Ἀχιλλεύς τε καὶ Ἑλένη, καὶ γάμον ἐδαίσαντό σφων Ποσειδῶν τε αὐτὸς καὶ Ἀμφιτρίτη, Νηρηίδες τε ξύμπασαι καὶ ὁπόσοι ποταμοὶ καὶ δαίμονες <ἐσ>έρχονται τὴν Μαιῶτίν τε καὶ τὸν Πόντον. οἰκεῖν μὲν δὴ λευκοὺς ὄρνιθας ἐν αὐτῇ φασιν, εἶναι δὲ τούτους ὑγρούς τε καὶ τῆς θαλάττης ἀπόζοντας, οὓς τὸν Ἀχιλλέα θεράποντας αὑτοῦ πεποιῆσαι κοσμοῦντας αὐτῷ τὸ ἄλσος τῷ τε ἀνέμῳ τῶν πτερῶν καὶ ταῖς ἀπ᾿ αὐτῶν ῥανίσι· πράττειν δὲ τοῦτο χαμαὶ πετομένους καὶ μικρὸν τῆς γῆς ὑπεραίροντας. ἀνθρώποις δὲ πλέουσι μὲν τὸ τοῦ πελάγους χάσμα ὁσία ἡ νῆσος ἐσβαίνειν, κεῖται γὰρ ὥσπερ εὐξεινος νεῶν ἑστία· οἶκον δὲ μὴ ποιεῖσθαι αὐτὴν πᾶσί τε ἀπείρηται τοῖς πλέουσι καὶ τοῖς περὶ τὸν Πόντον Ἕλλησί τε καὶ βαρβάροις. δεῖ γὰρ προσορμισαμένους τε καὶ θύσαντας ἡλίου δυομένου ἐσβαίνειν μὴ ἐννυχεύοντας τῇ γῇ, κἂν μὲν τὸ πνεῦμα ἕπηται, πλεῖν, εἰ δὲ μή, ἀναψαμένους τὸ πλοῖον ἐν κοίλῳ ἀναπαύεσθαι. ξυμπίνειν γὰρ δὴ λέγονται τότε ὁ Ἀχιλλεύς τε καὶ ἡ Ἑλένη, καὶ ἐν ᾠδαῖς εἶναι, τὸν ἔρωτά τε τὸν ἀλλήλων ᾄδειν καὶ Ὁμήρου τὰ ἔπη τὰ ἐπὶ τῇ Τροίᾳ καὶ τὸν Ὅμηρον αὐτόν. τὸ γὰρ τῆς ποιητικῆς δῶρον, ὃ παρὰ τῆς Καλλιόπης τῷ Ἀχιλλεῖ ἐφοίτησεν, ἐπαινεῖ Ἀχιλλεὺς ἔτι καὶ σπουδάζει μᾶλλον, ἐπειδὴ πέπαυται τῶν πολεμικῶν.

There Achilles and Helen first saw and embraced one another, and Poseidon himself and Amphitritê hosted their wedding feast, along with all the Nereids and as many rivers and water-spirits as flow into the Sea of Maiôtis and the Pontus. They say that white birds live on the island and that these marine birds smell of the sea. Achilles made them his servants, since they furnish the grove for him with the breeze and raindrops from the wings. They do this by fluttering on the ground and lifting themselves off a little bit above the earth. For mortals who sail the broad expanse of the sea, it is permitted by divine law to enter the island, for it is situated like a welcoming hearth for ships. But it is forbidden to all those who sail the sea and for the Hellenes and barbarians from around the Pontus to make it a place of habitation. Those who anchor near the island and sacrifice must go onboard when the sun sets, so that they do not sleep on its land. If the wind should follow them, they must sail, and if it does not, they must wait in the bay after mooring their ship. Then Achilles and Helen are said to drink together and to be engaged in singing. They celebrate in song their desire for one another, Homer’s epics on the Trojan war, and Homer himself. Achilles still praises the gift of poetry which came to him from Calliope, and he pursues it more seriously, since he has ceased from military activities.

(4) According to the most likely interpretation of the following iconographic representations on two vases, Achilles and Helen ‘lived’ together in the Isles of the Blessed.

In any case, the meeting between Achilles and Helen in the Cypria must have had a significant influence on Achilles, since according to Proclus’ summary, “[t]hen Achilles restrains the Achaeans in their desire to return home” (159–160 Severyns = 42 Kullmann: εἶτα ἀπονοστεῖν ὡρμημένους τοὺς Ἀχαιοὺς Ἀχιλλεὺς κατέχει). Achilles’ zeal in restraining the Greeks who want to return home can be explained only in light of a latent erotic atmosphere in the scene of his meeting with Helen. The best of women with respect to beauty has ‘captured’ the best of the Achaeans regarding valor and military might. Arma cedunt Helenae.

Rival Traditions: The Iliad and the Cypria

Before embarking on answering these questions, it will be useful first to study the context of the meeting between Achilles and Helen in the Cypria and then to search for similarities with the scene of Helen’s first Iliadic appearance, in the ‘Teichoscopia’ (Iliad III 161–244).

Are there any scenes or episodes in the Iliad that correspond to those framing the meeting between Achilles and Helen in the Cypria? In Iliad III, the Achaeans ask the Trojans to return Helen and the κτήματα (possessions) Alexandros took with him when leaving Sparta. The Trojans refuse to give Helen back but agree that the whole matter should be decided by a single conflict between the two rivals, Menelaus and Alexandros. The episode of the ‘Teichoscopia’ constitutes an effective interlude, allowing for the introduction of Helen (the prize of the duel) into the plot. The phrase τὴν Ἑλένην καὶ τὰ κτήματα ἀπαιτοῦντες ‘demanding Helen and her possessions’, which is employed by Proclus (152–153 Severyns = 38 Kullmann), is also used, albeit slightly altered, by Alexandros in Iliad III 70: συμβάλετ᾿ ἀμφ᾿ Ἑλένῃ καὶ κτήμασι πᾶσι μάχεσθαι ‘to fight together for the sake of Helen and all of her possessions’. Interestingly enough, the ensuing conflict, which results from the breach of the oaths by the Trojans when Pandarus wounds Menelaus, recalls the resumption of battle in the Cypria after the Trojan refusal to return Helen and her possessions to the Achaeans: ‘when they refuse, they then attack the walls’ (153–154 Severyns = 39 Kullmann: ὡς δὲ οὐχ ὑπήκουσαν ἐκεῖνοι, ἐνταῦθα δὴ τειχομαχοῦσιν). As far as the events following the meeting between Achilles and Helen in the Cypria are concerned, i.e. (a) the restraining of the Achaeans who wish to return to Greece, (b) the oxen of Aeneas and the capture of Lyrnessos and Pedasos, the following comments can be made:

Concluding Remarks

The comparative analysis between the Iliad and the Cypria shows that the Iliad contains episodes or scenes similar to the context that frames the meeting between Achilles and Helen in the Cypria. The Iliadic tradition makes occasional use of material that hardly fits its plot requirements, when not at odds with its basic interpretive viewpoint. Although the reference to a pre-Iliadic incident, the stealing of Aeneas’ oxen, for example, was not at all necessary and could have been easily omitted, the Iliad still incorporates it, since it does not downplay any of the Iliad’s fundamental narrative tenets.

Achilles would not, of course, have been on the battlefield in the episode of the ‘Teichoscopia’, when Helen stood on the walls of Troy and described the major Achaean leaders to Priam. The plot of the poem rules out this possibility. As we know, Achilles had withdrawn from the battlefield after his quarrel with Agamemnon in Iliad I. However, the epic is able to bypass such difficulties when necessary. A characteristic example is Helen’s reference to her brothers, Castor and Polydeuces (Iliad III 236–238), who would not have been able to participate in the Iliadic war because they had already died before the expedition to Troy. In fact, the very episode of Castor’s death, Polydeuces’ subsequent killing of Idas and Lynceus and Zeus’ bestowing alternative immortality upon the Dioscuri (by allowing each one return to the world of the living every other day) formed part of the Cypria (106–109 Severyns = 14–16 Kullmann). In the ‘Teichoscopia’ the Iliad alludes to a well-known episode stemming from a tradition reflected in the post-Homeric Cypria, an episode that had nothing to do with the plot of the Iliad whatsoever. Likewise, the Iliad would have been able to avoid the technical difficulty of Achilles’ absence from the battlefield and the fact that Helen does not know what the Achaean hero looks like, since she has never seen him. It would have been possible in the ‘Teichoscopia’ (e.g.) for Priam to ask Helen to show him Achilles, the renowned Achaean hero, the more so since Priam is unaware of the conflict between Achilles and Agamemnon as well as Achilles’ subsequent decision to withdraw from the battlefield. Alternatively, Helen herself may have inquired about Achilles, just as she inquired about Castor and Polydeuces.

I would like to argue that there are several other reasons explaining the Iliad’s silence when it comes either to a meeting between Achilles and Helen or even to any reference made by the one to the other. The one exception is Iliad XIX 325: εἵνεκα ῥιγεδανῆς Ἑλένης Τρωσὶν πολεμίζω (make war upon the Trojans for the sake of accursed Helen), which stands as a bold manifestation of the Iliadic Weltanschauung. The thelxis by which Achilles is attracted to Helen after their meeting in the Cypria has been replaced by his tragic outlook on the heroic code as embodied in the world of the Iliad. The love episode of the meeting between the ἄριστος Ἀχαιῶν and the καλλίστη γυναικῶν does not have a place in the Iliad, given the critical turning point that Iliadic heroes face. [50] Mythical nomenclature does not necessitate identical epic behavior; the names of the heroes and heroines may be the same, but the characters they represent and the way they behave may well be different. Thus, Achilles and Helen cannot ‘coexist’ in the Iliad, since the presence of one of them rules out the presence of the other. [51] The Iliad is the poem of the wrath (μῆνις) of Achilles that systematically refuses to abide by ‘Cyclic’ standards and accommodate romantic scenes. The two most important meetings between husbands and wives in the Iliad, namely those between Helen and Alexandros in Iliad III and between Hector and Andromache in Iliad VI, are anything but romantic. In the first, Alexandros is bitterly scorned by Helen, whereas in the second Andromache’s and Hector’s life stories converge at the fulcrum of an impending danger leading to an inevitable end. Achilles and Helen cannot coexist in the Iliad because their meeting appears to be linked inseparably with the content and viewpoint of another epic tradition reflected in the post-Homeric Cypria, one that the monumental composition of the Iliad is trying to surpass. The Iliad would have betrayed its own idiosyncratic, though unique, interpretation of heroic κλέος if Helen and Achilles were brought together.

I attempted to demonstrate that we must treat archaic epic more from the perspective of song-traditions than as a set of texts fixed by writing and bound by absolute chronological termini. The selection of the episode between Achilles and Helen was mainly intended to show how the rival poetic traditions of the Cypria and the Iliad can be studied from either side, as they coexisted and were simultaneously shaped during the Archaic period. By way of the particular episode that I examined, I tried to explore how the Iliad differentiated itself from mythical material that did not suit its plot or its perspective on the heroic world. Being, at present, encumbered with a lack of information, we are unable to trace all the details of the meeting between Achilles and Helen in the Cypria, to know exactly what the Achaean hero saw, how he was filled with such strong admiration that he did not hesitate to restrain the Achaeans who were willing to return home. Conversely, by reconstructing this lost episode and exploring the implications it puts forth, we are able to comprehend how the Iliad zoomed its interpretive lens on the relevant scene between Achilles and Helen that featured in a rival tradition.

In this light, intertextuality as a system of simple (quotations) or complex (allusions) cross-references allows the audience to evaluate each song-tradition by its relation to other song-traditions. Helen thus acquires a meta-traditional function, as she emblematizes an oral tradition that is incompatible with the tragic notion of the heroic world thematized by Iliadic Achilles. In the Iliad, Achilles ‘erases’ his admiration for Helen as reflected in the Cypria. When the listeners hear the son of Thetis say εἵνεκα ῥιγεδανῆς Ἑλένης Τρωσὶν πολεμίζω (Iliad XIX 325), they are invited to recall the meeting scene between the most beautiful woman in the world and the best of the Achaeans and to realize that the erotic framework of the Cypria tradition has been turned into a lament scene in the Iliadic tradition. Beautiful Helen is now coined ‘accursed’ (ῥιγεδανή), whereas infatuated Achilles has become a mourner. He no longer desires to see Helen, but wishes simply to lament.


[ back ] 1. The question of Proclus’ identity has yet to be completely resolved, that is to say, whether the second century AD grammarian or the well-known fifth century AD Neo-Platonic philosopher are concerned. For the problematic identification of Neo-Platonic Proclus with the author of the Chrestomathy see the crucial comments of Sicherl 1956:210n1, who argues that this identification is supported exclusively by an observation of Tzetzes (codex Ottob. Gr. 58). For Proclus, see Severyns 1938, 1953, 1963.

[ back ] 2. The allusion to the well-known expression unus testis, nullus testis is apparent and deliberate.

[ back ] 3. These sorts of ‘objections’ have been raised by Rzach 1922:2391 (RE s.v. Kyklos). See Forsdyke 1956:131; Griffin 1977:43–45; Jouan 1980:102.

[ back ] 4. See Proclus’s Chrestomathy 178–181 Severyns = 54–55 Kullmann: καὶ Ἀχιλλεὺς Θερσίτην ἀναιρεῖ, λοιδορηθεὶς πρὸς αὐτοῦ καὶ ὀνειδισθεὶς τὸν ἐπὶ τῇ Πενθεσιλείᾳ λεγόμενον ἔρωτα. See also: (1) the ancient scholia on Sophocles’ Philoctetes 445 (364, 12–15 Papageorgius): φονευθείσης γὰρ τῆς Πενθεσιλείας ὑπὸ Ἀχιλλέως ὁ Θερσίτης δόρατι ἔπληξε τὸν ὀφθαλμὸν αὐτῆς· διὸ ὀργισθεὶς ὁ Ἀχιλλεὺς κονδύλοις αὐτὸν ἀνεῖλεν. (2) Apollodorus Epitome V 1: Πενθεσίλεια, Ὀτρήρης καὶ Ἄρεως, ἀκουσίως Ἱππολύτην κτείνασα καὶ ὑπὸ Πριάμου καθαρθεῖσα, μάχης γενομένης πολλοὺς κτείνει, ἐν οἷς καὶ Μαχάονα· εἶθ᾿ ὕστερον θνήσκει ὑπὸ Ἀχιλλέως, ὅστις μετὰ θάνατον ἐρασθεὶς τῆς Ἀμαζόνος κτείνει Θερσίτην λοιδοροῦντα αὐτόν. (3) Eustathius, in B 220 (208. 1–3 van der Valk): Ἡ δὲ νεωτέρα ἱστορία καὶ ἀναιρεθῆναι τὸν Θερσίτην ὑπ᾿ Ἀχιλλέως λέγει κονδυλισθέντα, ὁπηνίκα τὴν Ἀμαζόνα Πενθεσίλειαν ἐκεῖνος ἀνελὼν οἶκτον ἔσχεν ἐπὶ τῇ κειμένῃ. (4) Tzetzes on Lycophron Alexandra 999 (Scheer): (a) μετὰ θάνατον Πενθεσιλείας ἠράσθη αὐτῆς ὁ Ἀχιλλεύς, ὁ δὲ Θερσίτης λαθὼν ἐξώρυξε τοὺς ὀφθαλμοὺς αὐτῆς, ὁ δὲ νεανίας ὀργισθεὶς ἀνεῖλεν αὐτῷ πλήξας κονδύλῳ, οἱ δὲ τῷ δόρατι (312, 4–11); (b) οἱ μὴ εἰδότες φασὶν Ἀχιλέα ἀνελόντα Πενθεσίλειαν μετὰ θάνατον αὐτῆς ἐρασθῆναι, ἧς τοὺς ὀφθαλμοὺς ὁ Θερσίτης λαθὼν ἐξώρυξεν. ὁ δὲ Ἀχιλεὺς ὀργισθεὶς ἀνεῖλεν αὐτὸν μὲν πλήξας δόρατι, κατ᾿ ἐμὲ δὲ καὶ τοὺς λοιποὺς κονδύλῳ ἤτοι γρόνθῳ μηδὲ διὰ τὸ ἐξορύξαι τοὺς ὀφθαλμοὺς ἀλλ᾿ ὅτι αἰσχροὺς λόγους κατ᾿ Ἀχιλέως ἀπέρριπτεν ὡς δῆθεν ἐρῶντος συγγενέσθαι νεκρᾷ τῇ Πενθεσιλείᾳ (312, 4–17); (a) + (b): ἀντιμαχησάμενος γὰρ Ἀχιλεὺς ἐκείνῃ καὶ πολλάκις ὑπ᾿ αὐτῆς ἡττηθείς, μόλις δέ ποτε περιγενόμενος καὶ ἀνελὼν αὐτὴν θαυμάζων τὴν ῥώμην ἐκείνης ὁμοῦ καὶ τὸ κάλλος καὶ τὸ νεαρὸν τῆς ἡλικίας ἐδάκρυε καὶ τοὺς Ἕλληνας παρεκάλει ταφῆς ἀξιοῦν τὴν νεάνιδα. ἐφ᾿ οἷς Θερσίτης συμπλάττων καὶ λέγων μίξεις ἀθέσμους καὶ ἔρωτας γρόνθῳ ὑπ᾿ αὐτοῦ πληγεὶς ἀναιρεῖται (312, 18–24)]. (5) scholia vetera on Iliad II 220 (Erbse): ὅτι Ζηνόδοτος τοῦτον καὶ τοὺς μετ᾿ αὐτὸν τρεῖς (B 221–3) ἠθέτηκεν. πρὸς ὑπόθεσιν δέ τινα λέγονται. For the death of Thersites, see also Sodano 1951:68; Vian 1959:20; Griffin 1977:44.

[ back ] 5. The translation is my own.

[ back ] 6. See Hyginus Fabulae 127.5–6: “quem postquam cognovit qui esset, iussu Minervae cum Telemacho et Penelope in patriam reduxerunt, in insulam Aeaeam.” In Hyginus, the intervention of Athena-Minerva is as vital for the transportation of Telemachus and Penelope to Aiaia, the island of Circe, as it is for the subsequent double marriages (127.8–9: eiusdem Minervae monitu Telegonus Penelopen, Telemachus Circen duxerunt uxores).

[ back ] 7. See Proclus’ Chrestomathy 327–330 Severyns = 128–130 Kullmann: Τηλέγονος δ᾿ ἐπιγνοὺς τὴν ἁμαρτίαν τό τε τοῦ πατρὸς σῶμα καὶ τὸν Τηλέμαχον καὶ τὴν Πηνελόπην πρὸς τὴν μητέρα μεθίστησιν· ἡ δὲ αὐτοὺς ἀθανάτους ποιεῖ, καὶ συνοικεῖ τῇ μὲν Πηνελόπῃ Τηλέγονος, Κίρκῃ δὲ Τηλέμαχος.

[ back ] 8. By the term “comparable”, I designate those features that are linked by either similar or different connections, that is to say, analogies, and are neither converging nor diverging. This observation is crucial for my reasoning. It is clear that there is a difference between the Aethiopis and the Cypria, since in the former the στάσις (‘revolt’) was due to the murder of Thersites and not to Achilles’ love for Penthesileia, while in the latter Achilles’ determination to prevent the Achaeans from returning to their homeland is a result of his meeting with Helen. Revolt (στάσις) is, indeed, recurrent in epic poetry, forming a sort of motif commonly used in order to carry out the narration (see the episode with Thersites in Iliad II and Nestor’s narrative in Odyssey iii 135–150 and 160–166 about the two strifes in the Achaean camp). However, what interests us here is that the analogies (the convergent and divergent connections) between the meeting of Achilles and Helen and the abovementioned episodes undoubtedly authenticate the meeting.

[ back ] 9. According to Hyginus (Fabulae 127), the arrival of Telemachus and Penelope in Aiaia and the double marriages between Telegonus and Penelope, on the one hand, and Telemachus and Circe, on the other, are equally dependent on the orders and advice (respectively) of Athena (iussu Minervae – Minervae monitu). Proclus’ summary does not mention anything about the intervention of Athena. We are not in a position to know the source of Hyginus. The similarities detected in the wording of Hyginus and Proclus (ἐπὶ ζήτησιν τοῦ πατρός – ut genitorem quaereret, Ὀδυσσεὺς ὑπὸ τοῦ παιδὸς ἀναιρεῖται κατ᾿ ἄγνοιαν – Ulixes et Telemachus ignari arma contulerunt. Ulixes a Telegono filio est interfectus, Τηλέγονος δ᾿ ἐπιγνοὺς τὴν ἁμαρτίαν τό τε τοῦ πατρὸς σῶμα καὶ τὸν Τηλέμαχον καὶ τὴν Πηνελόπην πρὸς τὴν μητέρα μεθίστησιν – quem postquam cognovit qui esset, iussu Minervae cum Telemacho et Penelope in patriam reduxerunt, καὶ συνοικεῖ τῇ μὲν Πηνελόπῃ Τηλέγονος, Κίρκῃ δὲ Τηλέμαχος – eiusdem Minervae monitu Telegonus Penelopen, Telemachus Circen duxerunt uxores) indicate that they have both drawn material from a mythological compendium or synopsis in Greek. The intervention of Athena is reminiscent of the function of a dea ex machina, which leaves us unable to exclude the possibility that Hyginus (or his Greek mythological source) drew his material from some now unknown tragedy. However, godlike intervention is also at work in Proclus’ summary (329 Severyns = 129 Kullmann: ἡ δὲ [Κίρκη] αὐτοὺς ἀθανάτους ποιεῖ).

[ back ] 10. On immortalization, see Burgess 2001:167, 255n148.

[ back ] 11. See Hesiod Catalogue of Women fr. 204.89–92 (M.-W.). On the so-called ‘Tyndaric Oath’, see Iliad II 339 (though this oath may be referring to all the soldiers, cf. Latacz 2003:103); Hesiod Catalogue of Women fr. 204.78–85 (M.-W.); Stesichorus fr. 190 (PMGF). For a balanced discussion of the ‘Tyndaric Oath’ in the Hesiodic Catalogue of Women, see Cingano 2005:128-130.

[ back ] 12. See Kullmann 1960:153n1.

[ back ] 13. Griffin 1977:44 believes that “[h]ere we have re-using and transformation of an Iliadic motif.” This Neoanalytical approach presupposes a linear theory of epic tradition, with the Iliad being a text that preceded and influenced the later Cypria.

[ back ] 14. Aphrodite would easily have transported Helen close to the ships where she would meet Achilles. Although Aphrodite rescues Paris twice by transporting him far from the battlefield (Iliad III and XX, respectively), Helen refers ironically (Iliad III 400–401) to Aphrodite in terms of her ability to transport Helen to one of the goddess’ best loved cities. See Clader 1976:73–74.

[ back ] 15. See Iliad I 396-406, where Achilles reminds Thetis that he often heard her speaking of how she had saved Zeus, whom Hera, Poseidon, and Athena had planned to put in chains. Thetis asked for the help of Briareos, the hundred-hander Agaion, who came to Olympos and rescued Zeus. On this episode, see chapter 10.

[ back ] 16. See Schadewaldt 19654:155–202, especially 155–158.

[ back ] 17. See Radt, TrGF 3, frs. 279–280a. It is not clear whether the scene of the psychostasia would have featured in Aeschylus’ Memnon (Radt, TrGF 3, frs. 127–130). If it belonged to the same tetralogy as the play Psychostasia (Radt, TrGF 3, TRI B VI, 1–5), this possibility is decisively discounted. Sophocles also wrote a tragedy, the Aethiopis, in which Achilles and Memnon were the main characters (Radt, TrGF 4, frs. 28–33), but it is extremely risky to postulate on these grounds a scene of psychostasia in this play.

[ back ] 18. For iconography referring to the scene of the psychostasia, see LIMC III, 1:781–783, s.v. Eos. See also Burkert 1985:121n24.

[ back ] 19. See Laimou 1999–2000:11–50 (34).

[ back ] 20. It is worth emphasizing that the two black-figure vases (A1-2) and the red-figure kylix (B1), which are dated to the sixth century, belong to the pre-Aeschylean period. Consequently, the psychostasia of Memnon and Achilles and the supplication of their mothers to Zeus formed an integral part of the mythical tradition of the Archaic period, which makes it highly likely that this episode was already treated in epic poetry.

[ back ] 21. This deity is represented in the Old Indic mythological tradition by the goddess Uṣas. See Slatkin 1991:28.

[ back ] 22. See the extensive studies of Boedeker 1974; Friedrich 1978.

[ back ] 23. The rescue of mortals is carried out by the typical method, especially in the Greek epic tradition, of divine intervention into human affairs (see e.g. Poseidon’s interventions in Iliad XI 751–752 and XX 325 and Apollo’s in Iliad XX 443–444). The difference here is that in the case of Eos and Aphrodite it is the erotic element, either directly or indirectly, that determines their intervention.

[ back ] 24. See also Kakridis 1986:232.

[ back ] 25. See Nagy 1990b: 242–257. Slatkin 1991:26 explains: “The tradition represented by the Aethiopis and by our iconographic examples thus posits an identity not only between Achilles and Memnon but between Thetis and Eos, based on their roles as immortal guardians and protectors of their mortal children. From a narrative standpoint this parallelism is more than an instance of the Cycle’s fondness for repetition or doublets.” See Howald 1937; 1946:125.

[ back ] 26. For a detailed presentation of the mythical lore shared by these goddesses, see Boedeker 1974:68–70.

[ back ] 27. The mythological variant of Charis as Hephaestus’ wife (instead of Aphrodite in Odyssey viii) is perhaps due to the difficulties created by Thetis’ desire to give her son a new suit of armor. Ancient audiences might have felt quite uncomfortable if Achilles’ new armor was made by the god Hephaestus, whose wife was unsympathetic towards the Achaeans. The substitution of Aphrodite by Charis removes the problem altogether.

[ back ] 28. ὄψι δ᾿ οὔτ᾿ ἄρ πω σὺ ἐμοὺς ἴδες οὔτ᾿ ἄρ᾿ ἐγὼ σούς. // φᾶσι σὲ μὲν Πηλῆος ἀμύνονος ἔκγονον εἶναι // μητρός τ᾿ ἐκ Θέτιδος καλλιπλοκάμου ἁλοσύδνης· // αὐτὰρ ἐγὼν υἱὸς μεγαλήτορος Ἀγχίσαο // εὔχομαι ἐκγεγάμεν, μήτηρ δέ μοί ἐστ᾿ Ἀφροδίτη. // τῶν δὴ νῦν ἕτεροί γε φίλον παῖδα κλαύσονται // σήμερον· οὐ γάρ φημ᾿ ἐπέεσσί γε νηπυτίοισιν // ὧδε διακρινθέντε μάχης ἒξ ἀπονέεσθαι. (I have never with my eyes seen yours parents, nor have you seen mine. / For you, they say you are the issue of blameless Peleus / and that your mother was Thetis of the lovely hair, the sea’s lady; / I in turn claim I am the son of great-hearted Anchises / but that my mother was Aphrodite; and that of these parents / one group or the other will have a dear son to mourn for / this day. Since I believe we will not in mere words, like children, / meet, and separate and go home again out of the fighting.)

[ back ] 29. As she did with Paris in Iliad III 380-382. For Thetis, see Slatkin 1991:44: “Thetis, like Kalypso and Aphrodite, is associated by the Iliad with impenetrable clouds and with veils and with concealment.”

[ back ] 30. The translation is my own.

[ back ] 31. Pausanias (III 24.10–11) attempts (by using complex reasoning not withstanding scientific inquiry) to demonstrate that Achilles could never have been included in the list of Helen’s suitors. Pausanias’ account is only worth mentioning in that it attests to the growing interest (mainly, but not exclusively in the imperial years) in response to the silence of the mythical tradition regarding the relationship between Achilles and Helen. The best of the Achaeans had somehow been connected to the most beautiful woman.

[ back ] 32. See Wilamowitz-Moellendorff and Schubart 1907:39.

[ back ] 33. Mayer 1883:20.

[ back ] 34. See Jouan 1966:161.

[ back ] 35. See Kannicht 1969:45–46 (ad 99). Kannicht refers to Lycophron’s Alexandra 143 and 146, which alludes to Helen’s five husbands, Theseus, Paris, Menelaus, Deiphobus, and Achilles. On the contrary, Pattichis 1978:15–16 and 198 (ad verse 99) states that we are in the dark concerning the source Euripides might have used in his Helen, in order to present Achilles as Helen’s suitor.

[ back ] 36. See also Kullmann 1960:153: “Das Schauen der Helena in den Kyprien ist für Achill also die nachgeholte ‘Freite um Helena’.” See also Lange 2002:122–125; Pallantza 2005:265–275; Tsagalis 2008.

[ back ] 37. Pausanias, III 19.11–13.

[ back ] 38. καὶ ὡς Ἑλένης καὶ Ἀχιλλέως ἐν μακάρων νήσοις παῖς γεγόνοι, ὃν διὰ τὸ τῆς χώρας εὔφορον Εὐφορίωνα ὠνόμασαν. Despite the spread of ‘deceptive literature’ during this era, Ptolemaeus Chennus may be an exception. See Kullmann 1960:141n1, who uses Ptolemaeus Chennus as a possible source. For a systematic study of the sources of Ptolemaeus Chennus and of the literary value of his work, see Tomberg 1968, and in particular for Achilles and Helen on the Isles of the Blessed according to the variant found in Ptolemaeus Chennus, 108–109, 124–125, 166.

[ back ] 39. Apart from the Aethiopis, the account of Achilles’ relocation to and stay on the Isles of the Blessed (with no mention of Helen) is provided by Pindar (Olympian 2.79–80, Nemean 4.49–50), Ibycus (fr. 291 PMGF), Simonides (fr. 558 PMG), Euripides (Andromache 1260–1262, Iphigenia in Tauris 435–437), Plato (Symposium 179e). Achilles’ transfer to the island of Leuke must be seen in light of Thetis’ consistent attempts to prevent his death, either by not sending him to Troy (Achilles is hidden in the island of Scyros disguised as a woman) or by making him immortal (she plunges him in the waters of Styx). For this topic, see Waldner 2000:96–101 with bibliography.

[ back ] 40. This tradition must be connected to Achilles’ post mortem transfer to the island of Leuke by Thetis, which featured in the Cyclic Aethiopis (199–200 Severyns = 66 Kullmann).

[ back ] 41. See table 1 with caption: The Portland Vase, British Museum, London (from: JHS 87 [1967], table II).

[ back ] 42. The bibliography in relation to the interpretation of the figures on the famous Portland vase is immense. See Haynes 19752:27–32, whose figure identification I have followed. In spite of the many alternative interpretations, I think that the arguments of Haynes 1995:146–152 and Hind 1995:153–155 are more than convincing.

[ back ] 43. See Ashmole 1967:1–17, especially 11–14. Theocritus’ text (18.43–48) runs as follows: πρᾶταί τοι στέφανον λωτῶ χαμαὶ αὐξομένοιο // πλέξαισαι σκιαρὰν καταθήσομεν ἐς πλατάνιστον· // πρᾶται δ᾿ ἀργυρέας ἐξ ὄλπιδος ὑγρὸν ἄλειφαρ // λαζύμεναι σταξεῦμες ὑπὸ σκιαρὰν πλατάνιστον· // γράμματα δ᾿ ἐν φλοιῷ γεγράψεται, ὡς παριών τις // ἀννείμῃ Δωριστί· ‘σέβευ μ᾿· Ἑλένας φυτόν εἰμι.᾿

[ back ] 44. See LIMC IV.1:554 s.v. Hélène [L. Ghali-Kahil].

[ back ] 45. The only exception is Iliad XIX 325: εἵνεκα ῥιγεδανῆς Ἑλένης Τρωσὶν πολεμίζω.

[ back ] 46. See 152–156 Severyns = 38–40 Kullmann: [the Achaeans] καὶ διαπρεσβεύονται πρὸς τοὺς Τρῶας, τὴν Ἑλένην καὶ τὰ κτήματα ἀπαιτοῦντες. ὡς δὲ οὐχ ὑπήκουσαν ἐκεῖνοι, ἐνταῦθα δὴ τειχομαχοῦσιν. ἔπειτα τὴν χώραν ἐπεξελθόντες πορθοῦσι καὶ τὰς περιοίκους πόλεις (“[they] send an embassy to the Trojans, demanding Helen and the goods back. When those refuse, they then attack the walls. Then setting out, they plunder the land and surrounding cities”).

[ back ] 47. See 159–160 Severyns = 42 Kullmann: εἶτα ἀπονοστεῖν ὡρμημένους τοὺς Ἀχαιοὺς Ἀχιλλεὺς κατέχει (“Then Achilles restrains the Achaeans in their desire to return home”).

[ back ] 48. Kullmann 1955:253–273.

[ back ] 49. Kullmann 1960:285 has rightly argued that the details concerning the destruction of Lyrnessos can hardly fit the Iliadic plot, and so it is possible that the poet of the Iliad might have taken this information from a source consonant with the content of the Cypria.

[ back ] 50. Achilles and Helen form a unique but illicit pair. Schmidt 1996:23–38 maintains that the genealogical, catalogue-based tradition has substituted Achilles for Patroclus as the suitor of Helen. The tradition repeatedly attempts to connect the best of the Achaeans with the most beautiful woman, even indirectly. Schmidt 1996:38 argues that their coexistence on the Isles of the Blessed, the wedding of Neoptolemus with Hermione, daughter of Helen and Menelaus (Odyssey iv 3–9; Euripides Andromache 29), and also the incorporation of Patroclus into the catalogue of Helen’s suitors must be interpreted in this light. In this way, Patroclus becomes Achilles’ surrogate. Even if unable to win the heart of Helen, he wins, in the Iliadic tradition, a place in Achilles’ heart, as his best friend.

[ back ] 51. On the contrary, in the Cypria the meeting between Achilles and Helen is perfectly justifiable. See also Ghali-Kahil (1965) 34: “Car Achilles, trop jeune pour avoir été l’un des Prétendants n’avait point connu Hélène, et l’auteur pouvait logiquement supposer qu’il désirait la voir, pour donner un sens à sa participation à la guerre; après l’entrevue, Achille empêchera les Achéens de lever le siege de Troie. De toute façon ne fallait-il pas mettre en présence le héros principal de la guerre et l’héroine qui en était la cause? Le plus fort ne devait-il pas au moins apercevoir la plus belle?

[ back ] 52. For a ‘specular reading’ between epic traditions, see Pucci 1987:41–43. For the Cypria versus the Iliad, see Marks 2002:4.

[ back ] 53. Marks 2002:1–24.

[ back ] 54. See Mayer 1996:1–15, who speaks for “Zeus’ double device of Achilles and Helen” (14), “a πῆμα for mankind” (12).

[ back ] 55. 167–168 Severyns = 49 Kullmann.

[ back ] 56. PEG 1, fr. 1 = EGF fr. 1.