R is for Rhesos

Published April 21, 2015 by Iphis of Scyros

Thracian king, ally of Troy, or potentially immortal juggernaut of destruction?

Rhesos plays a very small part in the Iliad, being massacred by Diomedes in his sleep.  Euripides wrote a play about him, but it was lost very early on, and the play that survives named Rhesos was written by someone else, though we don’t know who or quite when.  (It’s clearly not the one by Euripides, however, because it’s about half as long as his plays are, and it’s awful.  And a very different type of awful than, say, Euripides’ Orestes, which at least has moments that shine through as brilliant.  Even if they’re all at the beginning.)

I mentioned Rhesos before, when I was talking about Diomedes, but left out most of the details, so I could discuss them here.  Basically, what happens is that when Diomedes and Odysseus go on their night raid into the Trojan forces, they find a Trojan named Dolon, who’s on his way to spy on the Achaian forces.  (And whose reward for a successful venture was to be the immortal horses of Achilles!)  Well, they obviously couldn’t have that!  They capture Dolon and force him to talk before Diomedes dispatches him.  Through Dolon, they learn that Rhesos has arrived with reinforcements for the Trojans, and that Rhesos owns some magnificently beautiful white horses.  Between the desire not to let their situation get any worse (the Achaian army is suffering badly because of Achilles’ withdrawal, as I’m sure you recall) and their desire for those horses, they decide to go take care of these Thracians before the night is out.  And they do just that:  Diomedes kills Rhesos and a number of his men, while Odysseus (being, after all, the grandson of the master thief Autolycos) steals the horses.  Despite the rather cowardly nature of the act of killing sleeping men, this is treated as a great act of heroism.

We know from commentaries and scholia (and the surviving play, no matter who wrote it) that when classical authors tackled the question of Rhesos, they gave the story a bit more meaning and purpose than it had in the Iliad.  In some versions, Rhesos fights for one battle against the Greeks, and racks up such a kill count that they have to send the sneaky party to murder him in the middle of the night, because otherwise they fear they’ll all be annihilated.  (I’m reminded of the bit from A Knight’s Tale:  “How would you beat him?” “With a stick as he slept.  But with a lance, on a horse?  Impossible.”)  More popularly, though, they learn of a prophecy that if he–or, more commonly, his horses–should once drink from the River Scamander (or eat the grass on its banks), then Rhesos will become immortal/invulnerable, and the Achaian forces will thus be doomed.  Or sometimes it’s that Troy itself will become invulnerable.  Either way, the prophecy gives their mission an urgency that it doesn’t have in the Iliad, where it really doesn’t serve any function except to make the audience once again wonder why the Greeks need Achilles when they have Diomedes.  (And given that the purpose of the Iliad was to sing about the wrath of Achilles, that can hardly have been the intended purpose of that little side-story.  That’s most likely one of the major reasons some scholars view the night raid as being a later interpolation.)

I have to say, though, it would be interesting to imagine what would have happened to the war if Rhesos had gained invulnerability/immortality.  Would he have stopped at wiping out the Greek forces?  Would he have conquered his own ally, Troy?  Or maybe gone across the sea to conquer all the kingdoms of Hellas?  Or would he have just gone back to Thrace, proud of a job well done?  Or would his invulnerability have been like that of Cycnos, so that he could still be killed by strangulation?  Or maybe, if the waters of the River Scamander had made him invulnerable, they could also be his undoing, and he could be drowned in the very river that made him invulnerable?

It could make for some very interesting alternate reality fiction, I think.  Because that’s the way my mind operates.

Vocaloid Tarot

Vocaloid, UTAU and Tarot; individually or all-in-one

Matthew Meyer

the yokai guy

Arwen's Butterflies and Things

My BJD creation blog. Here's where my sewing creations and projects are showcased. Some outfits are for sale. Please use the tags & catagories to navigate this blog. I love comments and reviews!

History From Below

Musings on Daily Life in the Ancient and Early Medieval Mediterranean By Sarah E. Bond

The Bloggess

Like Mother Teresa, only better.

My Tiny Joy

Where little things matter!

Klein's Other Toys

Comics, Funko Pops and Anime figures oh my!

BINARYTHIS

EVERYTHING YOU ALWAYS WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT GENDER BUT WERE TOO AFRAID TO ASK

Creating Herstory

Celebrating the women who create history

Kicky Resin

BJDs et al

Lala Land

(>°~°)><(°~°<)

A'Cloth the World

Where Textiles, Fashion, Culture, Communication and Art Come Together.

starshiphedgehog

Occasionally my brain spurts out ideas and this is where I put them

The Social Historian

Adventures in the world of history

medievalbooks

Erik Kwakkel blogging about medieval manuscripts

Sara Letourneau

Poet. Freelance editor and writing coach. SFF enthusiast.

Zounds, Alack, and By My Troth

A tragical-comical-historical-pastoral webcomic by Ben Sawyer

Project Doll House

never too old to play with dolls

knotted things

All about the things that I'm all about.

Eclectic Alli

A bit of this, a bit of that, the meandering thoughts of a dreamer.

Omocha Crush

Secret Confessions of a Toy Addict

C.G.Coppola

FIND YOUR ESCAPE

Onomastics Outside the Box

Names beyond the Top 100, from many nations and eras

Hannah Reads Books

This is an archival site for old posts. Visit hannahgivens.com for art, puppetry, and links to any current media commentary.

Ariel Hudnall

the writings, musings, and photography of a dream smith

Taking a Walk Through History

Walking back in time to discover the origins of every historical route on earth

SENTENTIAE ANTIQUAE

ΕΥΔΟΞΑ ΑΓΝΩΣΤΑ ΚΑΤΑΓΕΛΑΣΤΑ

Pullips and Junk

We're all mad about Pullips here!

Dutch Fashion Doll World

A Dutch Barbie collector in Holland

Confessions of a Doll Collectors Daughter

Reviews and News From the Doll World

It's a Britta Bottle!

Small Stories of a Twenty-Something Adventuring Through Life

DataTater

It's all small stuff.

The Photographicalist

Preserving the photographical perspective

The Daily Post

The Art and Craft of Blogging

We're All Mad Here!

<---This Way | . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . | That Way--->

WordPress.com News

The latest news on WordPress.com and the WordPress community.

%d bloggers like this: