Diomedes

All posts tagged Diomedes

MLM No “I” Repost – “The Party”

Published January 23, 2017 by Iphis of Scyros

“The Party”

The megaron* at Mycenae sets the scene.
Agamemnon offers couches to the guests,
So many couches; no need to share.
But the red-headed son of Peleus objects:
“There’s one place too few!”
Patroclos mutters that he should go,
Of too small note for such great company.
“No way! You can’t leave!”
Patroclos’ dearest comrade demands.
“Normally, the couches are shared,”
Odysseus tells them,
A wry form upon the mouth.
“Then you’ll share my couch,”
Peleus’ son asserts, as he takes Patroclos’ hands.
Reluctant, the young man takes a seat,
Upon the couch of the pretty boy.
The son of Telamon laughs, and takes up a cup.
“Not yet!” Agamemnon remonstrances.
“We must pour for the gods.”
Drops are poured out neat,
And the gods assuaged.
Then the party can truly start.
“Many thanks to you all,”
Menelaos tells them, at a frown,
“For your help to restore my Helen.”
“Thank the oath,” the son of Telamon grumbles.
“But any honest man who fears Zeus,
And would see decency overcome rude cruelty,
Would gladly come to your help,
Even unbound by such an oath,”
Odysseus oozed, smarmy.
“Just as young Ach–”
“Hadda restore my name, after you shamed me,
Back on Scyros,” the boy growls.
“How much have you already had?”
Patroclos asks, and pulls the empty cup away.
“Your father would rebuke me
For such a drunken state!”
“Let the boy have all he wants,”
Laughed the son of Tydeus.
“All too soon we cross the sea for Troy,
And leave all joy at our backs.
For now, let the boy enjoy what we have.”
“Such enjoyment forms the core of the event,”
Agreed old Nestor, and nodded that gray head.
“Let us all enjoy each other’s good company,
As long as lovely Selene travels the sky.”
Toasts were drunk to Nestor’s plan,
And all cheered as the party got underway.


*Megaron = throne room/great hall.


MLM icon init bonus points MLM I


Made one small change from 1st post on 1/25/16.  (Whoa, almost exactly a year!)

Advertisements

Missing Letter Mondays – No “I”

Published January 25, 2016 by Iphis of Scyros

“The Party”

The megaron* at Mycenae sets the scene.
Agamemnon offers couches to the guests,
So many couches; no need to share.
But the red-headed son of Peleus objects:
“There’s one place too few!”
Patroclos mutters that he should go,
Of too small note for such great company.
“No way! You can’t leave!”
Patroclos’ dearest comrade demands.
“Normally, the couches are shared,”
Odysseus tells them,
A wry form upon the mouth.
“Then you’ll share my couch,”
Peleus’ son asserts, as he takes Patroclos’ hands.
Reluctant, the young man takes a seat,
Upon the couch of the pretty boy.
The son of Telamon laughs, and takes up a cup.
“Not yet!” Agamemnon remonstrances.
“We must pour for the gods.”
Drops are poured out neat,
And the gods assuaged.
Then the party can truly start.
“Many thanks to you all,”
Menelaos tells them, at a frown,
“For your help to restore my Helen.”
“Thank the oath,” the son of Telamon grumbles.
“But any honest man who fears Zeus,
And would see decency overcome rude cruelty,
Would gladly come to your help,
Even unbound by such an oath,”
Odysseus oozed, smarmy.
“Just as young Ach–”
“Hadda restore my name, after you shamed me,
Back on Scyros,” the boy growls.
“How much have you already had?”
Patroclos asks, and pulls the empty cup away.
“Your father would rebuke me
For such a drunken state!”
“Let the boy have all the drops he wants,”
Laughed the son of Tydeus.
“All too soon we cross the sea for Troy,
And leave all joy at our backs.
For now, let the boy enjoy what we have.”
“Such enjoyment forms the core of the event,”
Agreed old Nestor, and nodded that gray head.
“Let us all enjoy each other’s good company,
As long as lovely Selene travels the sky.”
Toasts were drunk to Nestor’s plan,
And all cheered as the party got underway.


*Megaron = throne room/great hall.


 

 

MLM icon init bonus points MLM I


Oh.  My.  God.  So.  Much.  Harder.  Than.  Expected!

 

The Sons of the Seven

Published June 4, 2015 by Iphis of Scyros

Unfortunately, the majority of the texts describing the Epigonoi–the “born afters”–are lost, existing only as fragments, titles and summaries.  So much of what follows is necessarily my own invention to match what little we know of the vengeance of the sons of the Seven against Thebes.  But the tale itself is very old, having been mentioned in the Iliad.  Unfortunately, due to different sources, there are more than seven names recorded for the original Seven, and in making my choices about which to include, I left out one that I should have used; consequently, one of the Argives in the Iliad doesn’t get to be one of the Epigonoi in this version.  (Not that the Iliad mentions him as having joined Diomedes and Sthenelos in taking Thebes.  It just gives him a glass jaw during the boxing match at the funeral games of Patroclos…)


 

Adrastos returned to Argos nearly alone; a few of his troops had also escaped, but the majority of his Argive army died around the walls of Thebes.  The widows of the other leaders of the Argive army wept and most of them heaped curses upon Polynices for having led their husbands into that futile war, and upon Adrastos for helping, and for his cowardly survival.

Those widows raised up their sons–some of whom had not even yet been born when their fathers died–in the memory of the fathers who had been stolen away from them by the Theban defenders.  And as the sons grew towards manhood, they frequently spoke of the idea of avenging their fathers.  The sons of Amphiaraos spoke most loudly on the topic, being old enough to remember their father.

But one night, nearly eighteen years after the failure of the Argive army to defeat Thebes, as the sons of the fallen champions were beginning their serious plans to invade Thebes, Alkmaion, elder son of Amphiaraos, dreamed of his father.

In the dream, Amphiaraos appeared before his son in a darkened cave, looking much older than he had when he left, as though he was not dead, but lived still beneath the earth that had swallowed him so many years earlier.  “If you obey their signs and dictates as we did not, then the gods will permit you victory where we were defeated.  But first you must keep your word to me and obey my final request!”

When he woke from the dream, Alkmaion thought back to the day when his father left their home to depart for the fatal war at Thebes.  Alkmaion and his brother had heard the whole argument earlier, of course, when their mother Eriphyle coerced their father into agreeing to help Polynices attempt to regain his throne, and it had made both boys reluctant to see their father ride off to the battle.  But for some reason, until today Alkmaion had forgotten his father’s parting words to himself and his brother Amphilochos:

“Boys, if I don’t come back, kill your mother for me.”

Eriphyle still prized the necklace she had been given by Polynices, the bribe he had given her to force her husband to take part in the battle he had known would cost his life.  She had valued that bit of gold and jewels above her own husband’s life!  The more he thought about it, the more Alkmaion realized that his mother might as well have killed her husband herself.  It was Eriphyle, more than the Thebans, who needed to die for Amphiaraos to be avenged.

The question was if Alkmaion should undertake the terrible task himself, or if he should include his brother in it.  Their father had been speaking to both of them, but surely it was better for him to protect his younger brother from having to take part in the killing of such close kin.

Having made up his mind, Alkmaion reminded his brother of the part Eriphyle had played in their father’s death, then sent him to join up with Aigialeus, son of Adrastos, and Diomedes, son of Tydeus, who were planning their assault on Thebes in vengeance for the fallen Argive heroes buried before its walls.

Once only Eriphyle and a few slaves were in the house, Alkmaion confronted his mother with her complicity in the death of Amphiaraos, then drew his sword and slew her.  While the slaves were panicking, Alkmaion ran out of the house and left the city as quickly as he could.  He didn’t want to bring the pollution of murder–especially matricide!–upon Argos, or the noble venture to raze Thebes.

Unaware of Alkmaion’s actions, Amphilochos and the others laid out their plans for the assault on Thebes.  They knew that its king had only recently come to his throne on the death of Creon, the regent, and the king–Laodamas, son of Eteocles–was no older than most of their own champions.  Having been raised by the elderly Creon, Laodamas was sure to have gotten an insufficient training as a warrior, all the young heroes were convinced, and would be unable to lead his troops to victory.

Though everyone was shocked when the report came in that Alkmaion had murdered his own mother, Amphilochos was able to explain his brother’s actions to avenge their father’s death, and everyone agreed that–brutal as it had been–Alkmaion had acted correctly.  Though Thersander, son of Polynices, agreed somewhat less than the others, since Eriphyle’s sin implicated his late father as well.

The planning continued for many weeks, as the young men trained themselves hard, and gathered an army to avenge their fathers.  It was a smaller army than the one that had marched with Polynices, but they were confident that they would succeed where their fathers had failed.

Soon, they were marching on Thebes, each son planning to assault the gate that had foiled his father.  Diomedes was thus to take the Gate of Proitos, where Tydeus had fallen in battle, and–though Diomedes didn’t know it–Athene marched by his side to aid him towards victory.

Sthenelos, son of Capaneus, marched for the Gate of Electra, where Zeus himself had struck down his father.  But he had made many offerings of apology to the king of the gods to make up for his father’s behavior, so he was confident that he would not meet his father’s fate.

Aigialeus, son of Adrastos, marched on the Neis Gate, but he felt keenly the shame that his father still lived, having turned and fled from the battle in a most craven manner.  He was determined that nothing could ever compel him to leave the field while his enemies still stood.

Promachos, son of Parthenopaios, was to take the Northern Gate, and he bore a shield decorated with his grandparents Meleager and Atalanta killing the Calydonian Boar.  Amphilochos was planning on laying siege to the Homoloian Gate that had foiled his father Amphiaraos, and Thersander was marching on the seventh gate, where his father and uncle had slain each other in equal combat.

As they forded the Asopos River, they were surprised to find Alkmaion waiting for them.  “I’ve been purified by the gods,” he explained, “because I was acting on my father’s orders to avenge him.  The oracle was clear that I must take part in this expedition, too,” he added.

Amphilochos was glad to have his brother rejoin them, and everyone agreed that this was a favorable omen for their success.

The Thebans were seemingly taken by surprise by the army as it arrived, and one the gates stood open, blocked only by the defending army.  This changed the entire strategy the Argive army had planned, and they all focused their attention on defeating that army and passing through the open gate beyond.

The young king Laodamas himself led the defense, and struck down Aigialeus, son of Adrastos, but was quickly killed in retribution by Alkmaion, who then was the first one through the gates into the city.

But as the Argive army was looting the city before burning it to the ground, they were surrpised to see not a single woman or child within to take as slaves and add profit to their venture.  Eventually, they came across a lone woman, sitting before the altar to Zeus.

“Who are you?” Alkmaion asked her warily.  “Where is everyone else?”

“I am Manto, daughter of Tiresias,” she told him, with a smirk.  “My father saw your attack coming, and knew that it would succeed.  So he led the civilians in fleeing the city to safety, though he told me that he would die before they reach their destination.”

“Why didn’t you go with him, then?”

“He said my destiny required me to be captured by your army, of course,” Manto laughed.  “I don’t mind a brief slavery, considering what the gods have in store for me afterwards.”

With that, she rose, and accompanied him out of the temple of her own will, allowing him to enslave her and bring her before Thersander, who was just pronouncing himself the new king of Thebes.  Thersander quickly ordered riders to pursue the Theban civilians, offering to take them back as his citizens, but also demanding that they enslave any who resisted.  Manto laughed so at the futility of his command that Thersander couldn’t stand having her around, and sent her off to Delphi as a thank offering to the gods.  As this was exactly what her father had predicted, Manto was glad to hear the command, and offered no resistance as she was led away.


Uh…yeah, that one didn’t work.  Sorry.  And Diomedes barely even got mentioned, which sucks.

Okay, I owe this one a new re-telling later, once I know what I’m doing.

 

Words Crush Wednesday – The Homeric Version

Published May 27, 2015 by Iphis of Scyros

So, last week’s Words Crush Wednesday was from Book IV of the Iliad, where Agamemnon is trying to goad Diomedes into getting pumped up for the battle by insulting him.  (Well, okay, not exactly, but close enough.)  So here’s the reply to Agamemnon’s speech.  (W. H. D. Rouse translation)

Diomedes made no answer, for he respected the King’s reproof:  but Sthenelos spoke out:

“My lord, do not say what is false when you know the truth.  We are better men than our fathers, and we are proud of it!  We took the fortress of sevengate Thebes, although we had a weaker force against a stronger wall, because we trusted in the help of Zeus and omens from the gods above:  but our fathers perished through their own reckless folly.  So please don’t put them equal to us!”

You know, the implication of Sthenelos’ speech is that the Achaian force at Troy doesn’t trust in “the help of Zeus and omens from the gods above” in that they have a stronger force, and yet haven’t breached Troy’s walls in ten years of fighting.  (I doubt the siege of Thebes took ten years…though I haven’t started researching the Epigoni yet, so I’m not sure.)  For that matter, he’s implying lesser faith on the part of their fathers, too, despite that Amphiaraos, one of the original Seven against Thebes, was a priest and seer.  And Tydeus was one of Athene’s most favored mortals.  (More so, in fact, than even Odysseus, in that…well, actually, I’ll be getting to that tomorrow…)

Tomorrow’s myth will be about their fathers’ deaths, though, because it took me too long last week to set up the quarrel.  So the triumph of Diomedes, Sthenelos and their comrades won’t be until next week.

wcw

 

Afterthought…

…ohmigod…I almost sent this flowing out into the ether while saying “do not saw with is false” instead of “do not say what is false”.  How in the heck did I make such an insane typo?  I’m just glad I noticed it before I hit “Publish”…

(Sorry.  I just thought it was such a crazy typo that I would share.  Because I thought it was mildly amusing.  But maybe I’m alone in that?)

Words Crush Wednesday – The Homeric Version

Published May 20, 2015 by Iphis of Scyros

Since this week’s myth is finally going to be the rest of the Theban cycle (or, more likely, just the first half of it, or possibly even only a third), so I thought for this week’s Words Crush Wednesday I’d post some of the oldest text about the conflict at Thebes.  From Book IV of the Iliad, W.H.D. Rouse translation, what we have here is Agamemnon taunting Diomedes to get him riled up for the fight.  (And oh boy does he succeed!  Diomedes is about to kick all kinds of ass!)

“What pity to find you skulking here, goggling your eyes at the battlefield!  what would your noble father have said!  It was not your father’s way to skulk.  He used to be first at the enemy by a long way, as they say who never saw him about the business.  I never met him myself, never saw him, but they say he had no equal.  Once indeed he came to Mycene, not in war–he came as a guest with Prince Polyneices to enlist men; for they were besieging the sacred walls of Thebes.  They begged hard for volunteers, and the people were ready to go, but Zeus changed their minds by showing unfavorable signs.  So the envoys went away and got as far as the river Asopos.  There they waited in the reeds and grass while Tydeus went on a parley to Thebes.  He found a party of the Cadmeians feasting in the house of Eteocles.  There was Tydeus alone among a host of Cadmeians, a stranger; but he feared nothing, he challenged them to trials of strength and beat them all easily by the help of Athena.  Then the Cadmeians were enraged, and laid an ambush for him on his way home, forty lads with two leaders, Maion Haimon’s son and Polyphontes the son of Autophonos.  Tydeus made an end of these also; he killed them all but one, whom he sent back.  Maion was the man, and he let him go in obedience to omens from heaven.  Such a man was Aitolian Tydeus; but his son is not so good on the battlefield, although he is a better talker.”

Next week, I’ll post the response; it’s really good.  (Okay, I didn’t need to say that latter part, did I?)

wcw

Words Crush Wednesday – The Homeric Version

Published May 13, 2015 by Iphis of Scyros

Due to life stuff, I had almost forgotten about Words Crush Wednesday this week.  So I wasn’t thinking about “oh, what would be a good quote for this week?”  So I just flipped through my post-it-noted pages in the Iliad and picked one.  This is a passage that makes mythology-archaeology hybridists like myself squirm with delight.

It’s Book X of the Iliad, and Odysseus and Diomedes are preparing their night raid against the Trojans, which will end in the death of Rhesos.  From the W. H. D. Rouse translation.

Then both men armed themselves.  Tydeides had left his own sword behind, so Thrasymedes gave him one, and a shield; he put on a leather headpiece without boss or plume, what the lads wear–they call it a skullcap.  Meriones gave Odysseus bow and quiver and sword, and a well-made headpiece of leather; this was stiffened inside with a strong web of leather laces and padded with felt, and outside rows of boars’ tusks were fixed in a pattern.

This fine piece was one of the thefts of Autolycos; he took it once in Eleon, after breaking into the house of Amyntor Ormenides, and gave it to Cytherian Amphidamas, who took it home to Scandeia; Amphidamas gave it to Molos his guest, and Molos gave it to his son Meriones to wear.  Now it was fitted upon the head of Odysseus.

(NB, “Tydeides” is a patronymic meaning “son of Tydeus” and referring to Diomedes.  Also, Autolycos was Odysseus’ grandfather, so it’s extra appropriate for Odysseus to be wearing a helmet he’d stolen.)

Now, you’re probably wondering why this passage is so exciting?  (Unless you’ve read my A-to-Z entry on Diomedes, as I think I said most of this then.)  That’s because boar’s tusk helmets like that actually were used in Mycenaean times.  The remains of one was found at Dendra.  And given its age, boar’s tusk helmets would have been out of date by at least a hundred years by the time of the Trojan War, and given all the owners this one has passed between, it’s probably a hundred years old itself.  An awesome little bit of ancient fact working its way into literature of a later era.  (Which is not to say that I think the whole myth is based on reality.  But I do think it has roots in the myths, culture and events of the Late Bronze Age.)  Also, the “skullcap” Diomedes is wearing?  Patroclos might be wearing a similar one in the Sosias cup.  (Or he might have shaved his hair to make his helmet fit better; interpretations vary.)

wcw

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.

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.

Read the rest of this entry →

D is for Diomedes

Published April 4, 2015 by Iphis of Scyros

Actually, a lot of names in Greek myth start with delta, but…Diomedes is the one I know the best, so he’s going to be easiest for me to talk about quickly and get back to work.

Of course, there are actually two different men named Diomedes in the major Greek myths.  One is a Thracian king who owned mares that ate human flesh, and the usual end of his tale is that Heracles feeds him to those mares while he’s fetching the horses as one of his labors.  He’s not the one I want to talk about.  (Though it’s worth noting that the cruel tyrant Diomedes is a son of Ares, who was strongly associated with Thrace, and sometimes even said to live there.  The heroic Diomedes has little divine blood.)

The Diomedes I’ll be talking about is one of the heroes of the Trojan War.  His father was Tydeus, one of the Seven who marched against Thebes in the bitter war between the two sons of Oedipus.  (Interesting fact:  in some early versions, the children of Oedipus had not been fathered on his wife/mother.  It was probably only the tragedies of the Athenian stage that made that become the dominant view.  (Though I admit that I’m not sure which version the fragmentary Theban epic cycle presents…))  Anyway, because of that, Tydeus died while Diomedes was just an infant, so he never really knew his father.  But–like his father–he was a favorite of Athene, goddess of wisdom and warfare.  Because Diomedes wasn’t just a powerhouse on the battlefield, he was also a clever thinker.

Read the rest of this entry →

Starting the year right…

Published January 1, 2015 by Iphis of Scyros

…blog-wise, by going back to my heartland.  That is, by talking about Greek myths.  The Trojan War, of course.  (It’s like a red letter day when it’s anything else, for the past year…well, almost a year.  A year minus two weeks, roughly.)

However, today’s is also different, ’cause today I want to talk about Helen.  Why she goes to Troy with Alexander/Paris is ultimately one of the biggest sticking points of the myth.  And by “sticking points” I more mean “hurdles on the track, which can trip the whole story and leave it flat on its face, unable to finish the race.”  It’s just that “sticking point” is more economical, in terms of number of words.

It seems like a lot of versions–even one of the earliest (technically, merely a reference (by Sappho), rather than a full telling)–insist that Helen went willingly out of love for Alexander/Paris.  That actually makes zero sense.  In fact, it makes negative sense.

Let me explain.  Helen is the Queen of Sparta.  (Actually, of Lacedaemon or Laconia, but Sparta is faster to type, so I’m going with that for this discussion.  And by that logic, I think I’ll start just calling him the later name Paris instead of the Homeric Alexander.)  And when I say she’s the Queen of Sparta, I mean it literally.  Not that she’s the “wife of the king”  but that she, herself, is the queen.  In other words, it’s her birthright to be the queen.  Menelaos only became king by marrying her.  So what the “she’s doing it for love” crowd are claiming is that she left behind the land of her birth, where the throne itself was her birthright, in order to move to a faraway kingdom (where, realistically, she wouldn’t speak the language or worship the same gods (though the myths themselves don’t reflect that)) where her beloved was only second in line to the throne.  So she’s sacrificing her royal birthright to be the foreign “bride” of a prince who has little chance of succeeding to the throne, given that his elder brother is a god among men, while Paris himself is a weakling.

Now let’s stop and look at a few other Greek queens in the same larger myth who decided that they didn’t love their husbands.  Clytemnestra spent years cavorting with Aigisthos until Agamemnon finally returned home, at which time they murdered him and then had their own wedding and settled in to rule Mycenae in peace.  (Until Orestes came home and killed them both, but that’s another story.)  Diomedes’ wife (sorry, I don’t remember her name) decided she didn’t love him, so she hooked up with a man from one of the other ruling families of Argos, and as soon as Diomedes returned home from the war, they drove him out of Argos, then ruled the city as husband and wife.  Clytemnestra’s case is complicated, but Diomedes’ wife’s case is open and shut.  Diomedes gained his throne by marrying her, so when she decided she wanted another husband, he was out of luck, out of wife, and out of home.  In other words, his position is exactly what Menelaos’ would have been if Helen simply fell in love with Paris; they would have driven him out of Sparta on his return from Crete.  Or, if Helen turned out to be more like her sister, they would have murdered him on his return.  Either way, her simply running away from Sparta–leaving behind her daughter as well as her homeland!–makes no sense.  If I had my reference books with me, I could come up with some more obscure cases that would parallel Diomedes’ pretty much exactly.  And probably a few that parallel Agamemnon’s, too.  (Though in most (or all) of those cases it would be the wife’s lover who did the killing, not the wife.  The fact that Clytemnestra herself took part in the murders was what really shocked them about the story.)

So, why did she go to Troy?  Well, that’s the big thing that every version has to decide on, isn’t it?  It’s easiest if you’re going to accept interference by the gods.  Then the gods made her go, in one way or another, for one reason or another.  That’s really the standard explanation, when one’s specifically given, in ancient times.  (There are exceptions, of course.  The Trojan Women of Euripides established that she went for reasons of lust and greed, and Sappho said she went for love, just to name two.)  The Iliad didn’t make a big deal of it, but it did have one small mention that did point out that Aphrodite’s gift to Paris made Helen unable to refuse him, thus explaining why she left with him, and moving the blame from Helen to Aphrodite.  The Cypria apparently told the story more fully, and made it even more clear that it was divine will that she go.

But how about if one wants to tell the story without the gods, or at least without allowing them much agency to interfere directly in the actions of humans?  Then, if you want it to make sense, there are only a few good explanations, and two of them specifically turn one side into the “good guys” and the other into the “bad guys.”

1)  This is one of the “taking sides” explanations.  Helen could have left with Paris if the Greeks specifically wanted an excuse to invade Troy.  In other words, Menelaos could have told her to elope with Paris as soon as his back was turned, in order to give him and Agamemnon an excuse to invade.  This is incompatible with Menelaos’ portrayal in most ancient works, of course, but that’s not really the point here; I’m just trying to outline the possible reasons a modern author could give Helen for her departure to Troy.  Of course, it wouldn’t necessarily have to be Menelaos who gave her the order to elope:  it could have been Agamemnon, or Tyndareos could see Paris’ flirting with her as an opportunity for his sons-in-law to gain even more power and prestige, or it could even be Odysseus’ suggestion (via his wife, Penelope, perhaps, since she’s Helen’s cousin) or whoever.  Point is, one could make the Trojans out to be essentially blameless by making Helen a knowing tool literally out to cause a war.

2)  To take the other side, Paris could abduct her by force (in many tellings, Aineias goes with him to Sparta, and he’s actually a powerful warrior, unlike his cousin Paris), not so much for reasons of sexual desire, but for political or financial reasons.  Since Helen is the rightful queen, her husband is automatically King of Sparta.  He could attempt to seduce her in order to gain Menelaos’ throne, and when that doesn’t work, steal her by force, intending to coerce her into the union at his leisure, only to find that her husband isn’t willing to wait for Paris’ plan to work.  Or he could steal her for some other political scheme hatched by himself, one of his brothers, one of the Trojan elders, or even by the High King in Hattusa.  (The real Troy was, after all, a Hittite vassal state.)  As a way to make the Greeks out to be blameless, this is a version unlikely to be used by any modern author.  (Except maybe if they’re Greek?)

3)  Helen could go with Paris specifically because she alone wants to foment war between the Greeks and the Trojans.  In most versions–though not all, as there’s no indication in Homer of the story–Helen was abducted by a horny, widowed Theseus when she was a young girl, and her brothers Castor and Polydeuces chased after them with the entire Spartan army, conquering Attica to get her back.  (This is why the King of Athens during the Trojan War is Menestheus rather than Theseus or one of his sons.  The Dioscuri put Menestheus, a friend of theirs as well as a member of a branch of the Athenian royal family, on the throne while they were at it.)  Having once before caused a war by being abducted, Helen would know that her departure to Troy would lead to another war over her, so that could be her real motivation, though exactly why she would want to cause a war would depend on the modern writer’s goals.  (Credit where credit’s due, this one isn’t my idea.  My professor was the one who suggested it, but it makes perfect sense.  It’s heartless, yes, but at least the logic of it is sound, unlike the “she’s doing it for love” version.)

4)  Helen runs off with Paris not because she wants to be married to him, but because she wants to reach Troy for other reasons.  For example, maybe she’s decided that she actually hates men, and wants to be an Amazon.  Troy is much closer to Scythia (where the historical women who inspired the tales of Amazons came from) so she could hope to escape from Troy and join the Amazons.  Or maybe she has some other reason for needing to be in Anatolia:  a prophecy to fulfill, a treasure to seek, a cure for some mystical plague, foretellings of doom if she remains in Greece, there are countless possibilities for whatever the modern storyteller might want.  This version can make not only the Greeks and Trojans out to be essentially blameless as instigators of the war, but can also salvage Helen’s own reputation, if her reasons are right, so it ought to be a modern writer’s go-to logic for Helen’s departure, and yet I doubt it’s seen much (if any) use.

Despite all these versions that would actually work, I have a feeling that if I did a survey of all Trojan War novels, movies and so forth of the last hundred years, I suspect that all (or almost all) of the versions that avoid or reject the intervention of the Greek gods in mortal affairs would go with some variation on the “love” version that doesn’t actually make a lick of sense.  I hope I’m wrong about that, but I fear I’m not.

(Admittedly, my own novel, Ilios, does not do anything groundbreaking in that regard, either.  But that’s because I wanted to follow the myths, so I had Aphrodite send Eros to blind her with one of his arrows.  It still doesn’t make sense, but at least she’s literally out of her head, so it doesn’t need to make sense.  Or not as much sense, anyway.)

So what’s my point?  Mostly, my point is “c’mon, guys, let’s see some creativity here!”  If you’ve gotta muck about with the myths, at least do it in a manner that’s gonna be interesting and make at least some sense.

MatthewMeyer.net

paintings, illustrations, and blog

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

Yureya

Breath of moments

Rose B. Fischer

Author. Artist. Evil Genius.

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

Rose B. Fischer

Author. Artist. Evil Genius.

The Social Historian

Adventures in the world of history

medievalbooks

Erik Kwakkel blogging about medieval manuscripts

Sara Letourneau's Official Website & Blog

Poet and speculative fiction writer for teens and adults

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

Fantasy & Science-Fiction romance Writer

WordDreams...

Jacqui Murray's

Onomastics Outside the Box

Names beyond the Top 100, from many nations and eras

Hannah Reads Books

"To absent friends, lost loves, old gods, and the season of mists; and may each and every one of us always give the devil his due." -Neil Gaiman

Memoirs of a Time Here-After

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!

mycupofteaminiatures

Handmade miniatures

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

The WordPress.com Blog

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