Words Crush Wednesday; Y is for Yikes!

Published April 29, 2015 by Iphis of Scyros

Since Greek doesn’t have Y, either, trying to find a quote to use for today’s Words Crush Wednesday was tricky.  I could have found a modern author/translator with a Y-name on the subject of Greek myths, and quoted them, or I could have talked about a concept like Youth or…uh…Young Love, or I could have looked for the ancient equivalent of a “Your Momma” fight.  (Thought about doing the latter, actually, but…since the insults in the Iliad tend not to be retorted, especially not succinctly, the closest I could think of was the argument between Teukros and the Atreidai in Sophocles’ Aias, and…it just didn’t feel right.  The setting is too terrible and serious for a “Your Momma” fight.)  But then I stumbled across a passage in Early Greek Myth by Timothy Gantz that made me say “Yikes!” and I thought, “Hey, I could use that as my Y-word!”

So, there you have it.  My Y entry for the April A-to-Z Blogging Challenge is on the theme of “Yikes!” in ancient Greek myth…with a decidedly satyric bent.

We’ll start with the one that inspired the theme, discussing the parentage of the god Pan.  (For the purposes of making it a little easier to read, I’ve removed all the parentheses where he makes direct references to the work or fragment that he’s talking about.  Most people aren’t going to get much out of things like “1F371: note emendation”, after all.  So just keep in mind that every author named below has such a parenthesis behind his name.)  After relating the best known version, Homeric Hymn 19, where Hermes fathered Pan on a daughter of Dryops, Gantz goes on to talk about rather different takes on Pan’s origin:

Other references to him in Archaic literature are rare, but it does emerge that his parentage was quite disputed:  Hekataios and Pindar apparently make him the son of Apollo and Odysseus’ wife Penelope, while for Herodotos, Cicero, Loukianos, Apollodoros, and Hyginus, he is the son of Hermes and Penelope, and the Theocritean Syrinx makes Odysseus himself the father;

Yep.  Some ancient authors had Odysseus cuckolded by a god, resulting in the goat-footed god Pan.  And given that one of the potential cuckolders is Odysseus’ great-grandfather…!

And, speaking of Odysseus, let’s move on to Yikes Quote Number 2, from the satyr play The Cyclops, by Euripides.  (The only satyr play for which we have the complete text, btw!)  The play is based on the episode in the Odyssey wherein Odysseus tricks and blinds the cyclops Polyphemos.  As was typical of satyr plays, the chorus was made up of satyrs and silenoi.  (The main difference being that satyrs are goat-legged and silenoi are horse-legged sons of Silenos.  So, technically, these are silenoi, since their father Silenos is one of the characters, but the book is calling them satyrs.)  The translation I’m using for this quote is by Paul Roche.

SATYR:  Look here, Odysseus,
there’s a matter we’d like to discuss with you.
ODYSSEUS:  Go ahead…Friend to friend.  Nothing nicer.
SATYR:  Well, when you laid waste Troy, did you also lay Helen?
ODYSSEUS:  [rather shocked]  We laid waste the whole house of Priam.

SATYR:  Yes, but
when you got hold of that little piece of fluff,
did you all line up to run her through
in a gang-bang (*bleep*)
give her for once her fill of a man?

Sorry about the (*bleep*), but I wasn’t comfortable using that kind of language in my blog.  That was, in fact, the first time I’d ever seen seen anyone use that word in the translation of an ancient text like this.  (I’ve seen it once more since then.)  And it’s still the only time I’ve seen a translation of an ancient text use the term “gang-bang” for that matter.  The satyr–who’s the lead member of the chorus–goes on at some length on that subject, concluding that

I just wish there were no women at all in the world,
except one or two–for me.

Classy blokes, those satyrs.  Still, that play is the nicest Odysseus I’ve ever encountered on the Athenian stage.  Well, sort of.  It’s hard to compare him to the one in Aias, because the subject matter and tone are so radically different.  But usually he’s treated like the root of all evil, so…

But, staying on the subject of the Athenian stage–and satyr plays!–let me quote you the description of a lost satyr play by Sophocles!  (I don’t know how to put Greek characters into a blog post, so I used a bold font for things that were written in Greek in the book.)


Casaubon’s deduction from fr. 153 that this was a satyr play is surely right; clearly the satyrs aspired to be the lovers of Achilles.  Achilles’ father Peleus and his tutor Phoenix were both characters; but we know nothing of the plot.  Mount Pelion is a likely haunt of satyrs, and Chiron’s cave there, where Achilles was educated, may have been the scene.

Were there other lovers?  Heracles was one in the Heracles of the proto-Cynic Antisthenes, and since Heracles figures in many satyr plays some people have suggested that he was a character in this play.  But Antisthenes’ allegorical motive is patent, and he is not a reliable witness.  In Aeschylus’ Achillean trilogy Achilles is the erastes of Patroclus; Plato in the Symposium (180A) complains that in Homer Patroclus is the older of the two.  Perhaps he figured in the play of Sophocles.  (Loeb Classical Library; Sophocles Fragments; Edited by Hugh Lloyd-Jones)

I so want to read that play.  (I’d also like to know more about the Heracles of Antisthenes, but the one attempt I’ve made to find out about  it turned up nothing.)

But what could be more “yikes” than a horde of horny satyrs chasing a young boy around?


One comment on “Words Crush Wednesday; Y is for Yikes!

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