Words Crush Wednesday; G is for Glaucos

Published April 8, 2015 by Iphis of Scyros

So, once more it’s Words Crush Wednesday, but it’s also still the Blogging A-to-Z Challenge!  And that means I’m going to have to do something a little tricky here.  Because I wanted to quote the encounter between Glaucos of Lycia and Diomedes of Argos.

Which is about four pages long in the translation I’m using.

I don’t want to type all that out.  (In fact, since I still have five pages of paper to write today, I don’t even have time for any of this.  Though I’m doing it anyway…)

So I’m just going to quote bits and pieces to get the story across, skipping lots of chunks of dialog with […] to show where there’s a gap imposed by my laziness and time constraints.  I hope that doesn’t bug anyone too much, but…what can I do?  Anyway, anyone wanting to see what I skipped over–and the rest of the epic–can easily go pick up a copy of the Iliad in one of the ten gazillion available translations.  (Okay, technically, most bookstores only have about half a dozen English translations, but…)

Anyway, this is from the early part of Book VI, W.H.D. Rouse translation.  (In case you’re wondering why I always use that translation–despite having several others on hand–it’s primarily because he uses all the original Greek names, especially Aias, who most translators (even very modern ones) tend to call by his Roman name of Ajax, which drives me up the bleeding wall.)

Into the space between the armies came out Glaucos the son of Hippolochos and Diomedes Tydeus’ son, hot for a fight.  But as soon as they were close enough, Diomedes spoke first:

“Who are you, noble sir, of all men in the world?  I have never seen you before in the battlefield, but now here you are in front of the whole host, bold enough to face my long spear!  Unhappy are they whose sons will face my anger.  But if you are some god come down from heaven, I had rather not fight against the gods of heaven. […]  But if you are a mortal and one of those who eat the fruits of the field, come here, and you shall soon be caught in the bonds of destruction!”

Glaucos answered undismayed:

“Proud son of Tydeus, why do you ask my name and generation?  The generations of men are like the leaves of the forest.  Leaves fall when the breezes blow, in the springtime others grow as they go and come agen so upon the earth do men.  But if it is your pleasure to learn such a thing as that, and to know the generations of our house, which indeed many men know–there is a city Ephyra, in a nook of Argos the land of horses; and there lived Sisyphos the cleverest man ever born, Sisyphos Aiolides.  He had a son Glaucos, and Glaucos was father of the incomparable Bellerophontes.  The gifts of the gods to him were handsome looks and noble manhood.  But Proitos plotted mischief against him, and drove him from the land of Argos; for he was stronger and Zeus had subdued the land under his sceptre.

What follows is the tale of Bellerophon, on which I based my B is for Bellerophon myth re-telling, so I’m not going to write it out again here.  (Especially since Homer’s is so much better than mine.  It’ll make me feel bad to type out his, and since I still have five more pages to write today, that’s not a good idea right now.)  But I will quote one section of the tale of Bellerophon, because it’s the only Homeric mention of writing:

He gave him a folded tablet with a message scratched on it in deadly signs,

The translator notes that we shouldn’t read too much into the fact that it’s the only Homeric mention of writing, since Shakespeare never mentions the process of printing, but the thing is that we know for a fact that–whether he mentions it or not–Shakespeare had the vocabulary to discuss printing.  We do not know that the poet composing the Iliad had vocabulary for discussing writing, and the fact that he had to use words like “scratched” and “signs” instead of words like “written” and “letters” to me indicates that no, he did not have that vocabulary, because it didn’t exist yet.  (Which isn’t to say that the poem was necessarily composed before writing became available in Ionia.  Just that the vocabulary to discuss writing had not yet entered the Ionian dialect.)

Anyway, I’ll just return to Glaucos’ speech at the end of the tale of Bellerophon, after the slaying of the Chimera and the other mighty feats.

So the King saw at last that he was a true son of the godhead.  Accordingly he kept him there, and gave him his own daughter, and half of all his royal honour.  The Lycian people allotted him the finest estate in the land, orchards and farms for his use.  His wife bore him three children, Isandros and Hippolochos and Laodameia.  Zeus lay with Laodameia, and she bore him a son Sarpedon, the warrior prince. […]  Hippolochos was my father, and I am his son.  He sent me to Troy, and commanded me strictly always to be first and foremost in the field, and not to disgrace my fathers who were first and best, both in Ephyra and in broad Lycia.  There you have my lineage, and the blood which is my boast.”

Diomedes was delighted with this speech.  He planted his spear in the ground and said in a friendly tone:

“I declare you are my family friend from a long way back!  Oineus once entertained the incomparable Bellerophontes in his house, and kept him there for twenty days.  When they parted, they exchanged gifts of friendship; Oineus gave a girdle bright with crimson, Bellerophontes a double cup of gold–it was there in my house when I came away! […]  So I am your friend and host in Argos, and you are mine when I go to Lycia!  Let us avoid each other if we happen to meet.  There are plenty of Trojans and Trojan allies for me to kill, if God grants me to catch them, and plenty of Achaians for you to spoil if you can.  Let us exchange armour, and show the world that we are family friends!”

They both dismounted and clasped hands, and swore friendship.  Then Zeus Cronides sent Glaucos clean out of his wits; for he gave his armour in exchange to Diomedes Tydeides, golden for brazen, the price of a hundred oxen for nine.

BTW, no matter what the narrator says, no matter what value says, armor made of gold wouldn’t actually be effective, so Glaucos realistically got the better of the deal.  (Though he still got killed by Aias over the corpse of Achilles anyway, so I suppose it didn’t matter in the long run…)

I love this encounter between the two of them, though.  It’s so telling about the society in which the poet lived, and the cultural values it had inherited from the Late Bronze Age.

Um…you know, I was about to launch into a big spiel about the whole guest-friendship thing, but maybe I’ll save that for later this month, when the letter of the day is X, and talk about xenia (guest-friendship) instead of Xanthos (one of Achilles’ horses), like I had planned…..that’s a thought, all right….

Anyway, I should finish my lunch break and get back to work.  Those five pages won’t write themselves, unfortunately.  (But who assigns a fifteen page paper with only one week to do both the research and the writing?  Seriously, my school is in crazy town.)  So, assuming I’m not killed by my dessert (why did I buy ice cream bars called “Death by Chocolate” anyway?), I’ll be back tomorrow with a somewhat, uh, unconventional myth about Heracles…

(BTW, Serendipity was at work today, again.  Ever since I decided to do the A-to-Z blogging challenge, I’d planned on doing this section of the Iliad for today’s quote, so Bellerophon and the Chimera were always on the schedule for today.  And when I went to this site I know that sells hand-made resin parts to for use in OOAK Monster High customization projects, they finally had a torso in stock, and while I was ordering that, I finally also ordered the chimera tail I’d been eyeing for a long time.  I got the last one of both, according to the Web site!  But, so, Chimera myth and chimera tail…that seemed serendipitous to me.  Or maybe I just like the word serendipitous…)


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