Nestor

All posts tagged Nestor

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!)

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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!

 

Words Crush Wednesday Metamorphosed

Published September 23, 2015 by Iphis of Scyros

Well, okay, it’s just a quote from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, but I thought that was a snappy post title.  So a couple of weeks ago for Words Crush Wednesday, you may have noticed that I highlighted a bit from Nestor — from the Iliad, naturally — mentioning Heracles laying siege to Pylos and killing all of Nestor’s brothers.

Well, the reason I wanted to quote that particular line was so I could quote this bit of Ovid.  Ovid follows Homer in making Nestor quite the long-winded chap (even more so than in Homer, in fact!) and Nestor is in the midst of telling the tale of the battle against the centaurs at the wedding of Pirithoos.

So from Book 12 of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, A. S. Kline translation:

As the hero from Pylos told of this battle between the Lapiths and the half-human centaurs, Tlepolemus, son of Hercules, leader of the Rhodians, could not keep silent in his indignation at Hercules, the descendent of Alceus, being overlooked.  He said “Old man, it is amazing that your recital forgot to priase Hercules:  certainly my father often used to tell me of the cloud-born centaurs he defeated.”  Nestor answered him sternly.  “Why do you force me to remember wrongs, to re-open wounds healed by the years, and to reveal hatred for your father and the injuries he did me?  He has done deeds beyond belief, the gods know, and filled the earth with his praises:  that, I wish I could deny.  But we do not praise Deiphobus, or Polydamas, or Hector; for who would praise an enemy?

“That father of yours razed Messene’s walls; destroyed the innocent cities of Elis and Pylos, and overthrew my household gods with fire and sword.  I say nothing of the others he killed:  there were twelve of us, sons of Neleus, outstanding young men, all except myself fell to Hercules’ s strength.”

Of course, that’s not actually the end of the speech, ’cause he then goes off into a tangent about a transformation in the battle, but…well, that is kind of the schtick of the whole work.  But the thing is, when I was reading this as research for my Trojan War novel, I was really struck by the fact that Ovid had sat down and thought about the fact that despite serving side by side with a son of Heracles (uh, for a little while longer, anyway), Nestor should only view Heracles as the hated enemy who killed his brothers.  The odd thing there is that in the Iliad, Nestor doesn’t seem to view Heracles as any kind of enemy:  he talks about the death of his brothers surprisingly casually.

I suspect that as someone who had witnessed civil war and its aftermath in Rome, that’s the kind of thing that struck Ovid a bit more deeply than it struck “Homer”; presumably that poet never witnessed the kind of internecine bloodshed that the final years of the Roman Republic and early years of the Empire presented.

I’m not fond of the misogyny in some of Ovid’s work — his version of Medusa’s transformation literally stopped me from reading the whole Metamorphoses straight through back when I bought this copy at Borders goodness-knows-when — but his grasp on the classic Greek texts was exemplary, and he clearly put a lot of thought into the interpersonal relationships between the major mortals.  (Not that there aren’t also oddities.  He has Poseidon (sorry, Neptune) being one of the gods most strongly pushing for Achilles’ death, despite that said deity was fighting on the Greek side, and was one of the gods who rescued Achilles from the angry god of the River Scamander.)

Still, I’m probably not going to be quoting Ovid here very often.  I may do some week-to-week comparisons of some sections of the Aeneid and the bits of the Iliad and/or Odyssey they’re imitating, though.  (Well, I am doing a research paper on Virgil and the Aeneid this semester.  So there’s gonna be more Roman stuff on the blog than usual for the duration of the semester…)

wcw

Words Crush Wednesday – The Homeric Version

Published September 9, 2015 by Iphis of Scyros

Today’s Words Crush Wednesday is continuing from last week‘s, but I’ll be skipping most of Nestor’s lengthy, lengthy speech.  Because that old guy can talk your ear off, even on paper.  I guess since he hasn’t got any strength to use on the field of battle, he gets to talk three times as much as everyone else?

Anyway, from Book XI of the Iliad, W.H.D. Rouse translation:

You see Heracles had come in former years and done a great deal of damage, when our best men were killed; for Neleus had twelve sons, and all perished but me alone.

That part was explaining why Elis had gotten cocky and made raids against Pylos, causing Nestor to lead reprisals by stealing the city’s cattle.  (I actually quoted this part for reasons that won’t become apparent until I’m done with this section of Iliad quoting…)

Anyway, Nestor spends a long time talking about that raid on Elis, to prove that he was once young, strong and a powerful warrior.  (Or something.)  When he finally finishes his lengthy digression, he resumes actually talking to Patroclos, instead of at him:

“Such was I, a man with men, as truly as I live.  But the valour of Achilles will profit Achilles alone–profit! no, repentance will be his lot, when our people are all destroyed.  And you, laggard!  What did Menoitios say to you, when he sent you from Phthia to Agamemnon?  We were there in the house, I and Odysseus, and heard all he said.

And then he spends a paragraph setting the scene.  Because apparently he thinks Patroclos doesn’t remember.  (Well, okay, it’s just poetic.  But…yeah, not typing all that.  It’s got some cool cultural details, but…that’s not the point right now.)

“Peleus told his son to be first and foremost in the field, and this is what Menoitios said to you:

” ‘My son, Achilles is above you in rank, and he is stronger than you, but you are the elder.  You must give him good advice and tell him what to do; he will obey you for his own good.’

“That was your father’s bidding, and you have forgotten it.  Yet even now you should remind Achilles of this and see if he will listen.  Who knows whether you may have the good luck to move him by your persuasions?  The persuasion of a friend is a blessing in the end.  If there is some oracle from Zeus he is shy of, something his gracious mother has told him, well then, let him send you out with the Myrmidons, and you may show us light in the darkness.  Let him lend you his armour to wear, and then the Trojans may take you for him; they may leave us alone to have a breathing-space from the battle.  Hardly time to take your breath in the face of sudden death!  But your men are all fresh, and they could easily beat a weary enemy back to the city!”

Worst.  Advice.  Ever.

Okay, maybe not, but…following it was a terrible mistake for poor Patroclos!  (Though at least he went out in a blaze of glory, unlike his precious Achilles.)

BTW, Nestor was wrong about one thing:  Achilles would not have felt any repentance (or sorrow or anything else) if all the other Achaians were killed, so long as he and Patroclos were both fine.  In fact, a little bit later in the poem, he actually wishes for that to happen!  And yet he was considered a great hero, and actually worshiped.  Kinda scary, huh?

wcw

Words Crush Wednesday – The Homeric Version

Published September 2, 2015 by Iphis of Scyros

(I know, it’s the first Wednesday of the month.  But…yeah, I’ve done too little writing lately to even have anything to say for IWSG.  So I’m just not bothering this month.)  So for Words Crush Wednesday lately, we’ve been following Patroclos as he finally gets to actually do something:  going to visit Nestor in his hut, and see if the wounded man he was bringing back from the battle was indeed Machaon, son of Asclepios.  (Yep, it was.  Because for some reason the Achaians didn’t stop to say “gee, maybe we shouldn’t send our healers out onto the battlefield.”)

Anyway, last week, Patroclos had only just gotten to Nestor’s hut, and wouldn’t sit down to accept Nestor’s hospitality, complaining that if he did, he might fall prey to Achilles’ bad temper.  (Silly of him; he’s the only person in the world Achilles would never get angry at!)  Now we’ll pick up from there, and see how Nestor responds.

From Book XI of the Iliad, W.H.D. Rouse translation:

Nestor answered:

“Indeed?  Why is Achilles crying about a wounded man?  Doesn’t he know the trouble that has come upon the whole army?  The best men are lying here in camp, wounded and stricken!  Diomedes Tydeides is shot, Odysseus has a spear-thrust, and so has Agamemnon; and here is this man I have just brought from the field, shot with an arrow from the bowstring.  But Achilles, brave man, cares nothing and pities none.  Is he waiting until all the ships along the shore are well warmed by a general conflagration, and we ourselves are killed in a row?

“Ah, my strength is not what it was when my limbs were supple.  If I were only young and strong now, as I was when that quarrel came up between Elis and our people over cattle-lifting, when I killed that brave man Itymoneus Hypeirochos’ son, who lived in Elis!

“I was driving away our reprisals; he was defending his flocks from seizure, and I struck him with my spear–

I’m going to cut Nestor off mid-sentence there because he keeps talking for three or four pages.  (And, actually, this seems a better abrupt stopping place than most of the sentence ends, if that makes any sense.)  Um, not all on that one story, mind you, but man!  I mean, I knew Nestor was the wordiest of the lot, even in a group who all like to make long speeches, but until I was trying to type out some of his dialog I hadn’t realized just how much more talkative the old man really was.

Anyway, notice that he is here proudly bragging about having raided cattle.  Yep.  That was honorable business in Nestor’s day.  Elis made Pylos mad, so the Pylians raided the Elis of its cattle.  Yeah, that makes sense.  The grim part there, of course, is that the manner in which it’s presented is so casual, so “naturally this is how the world works” that it probably is how the world worked, either at the time of the poem’s composition or some time not too long before that.

Much as I enjoy the myths, I wouldn’t want to go live in those times.  Yikes.

wcw

Anyway, when I pick up the story again next week, I’ll skip over the less necessary bits of Nestor’s massive, massive speech, and only present the parts that actually, you know, matter.  Because this whole sequence of quotes is supposed to be about Patroclos!  (*ahem*)  Okay, that’s not quite what I meant to say there….

Words Crush Wednesday – The Homeric Version

Published August 26, 2015 by Iphis of Scyros

And continuing from last week‘s Words Crush Wednesday, Patroclos has finally arrived in Nestor’s hut on Achilles’ errand.  Nestor is playing host to the wounded Machaon, son of Asclepios, when Patroclos arrives.

From Book XI of the Iliad, W.H.D. Rouse translation:

While they were talking together comfortably, Patroclos appeared at the door.  The ancient man sprang up from his chair, and led him in and bade him be seated.  But Patroclos declined:

“No sitting for me, my lord!  I can’t think of it.  Formidable, hot-tempered, is he that sent me, to ask who the wounded man was that you were bringing in.  But I know him myself.  I see it is his honour Machaon.  Now I will go back and tell Achilles.  You know well enough, reverend sir, what he is like.  A terrible man!  He might easily find fault where there is none.”

Actually, I’m going to stop the quote there because it’s such a remarkable speech.  This is the nastiest stuff anyone says about Achilles (well, that any of the Achaians say about him, anyway) and it comes from the one person who loves him best, and who literally sacrifices his own life for him, and then post-mortem insists on their bones being buried in the same golden amphora so that they’ll never be parted.

So why does Patroclos say those things about Achilles here?  It is, to me, one of the larger mysteries of the character.  Is he annoyed at being sent on this errand?  (It is rather beneath his station.)  Is he ticked off that Achilles is being such a selfish brat about all this and getting so many good men killed?  (This one seems likely.)  Is he jealous because Achilles is sleeping with other slave girls now that Briseis is out of the picture, instead of just with Patroclos?  (Yeah, probably not.)  Or is he just being accurate about the fact that Achilles has a hair-trigger temper and will turn on anyone and everyone (except Patroclos) for absolutely anything?

Whatever his reasons, the irony is that this passage actually gives the impression–furthered by Aischylos in the Myrmidons–that Achilles was more in love with Patroclos than Patroclos was with Achilles, which I don’t think is the right way to look at their relationship; they’re more of a partnership of more-or-less equals, y’know?  Though the partnership relationship was somewhat alien in ancient times, I suppose; one did tend to be “more equal” than the other, as it were.  That happens in an age-class society, where even one year’s difference is a significant one.  But the age difference, in their case, was evened out by their class difference, since Patroclos was older and Achilles was more important, so…uh, yeah…I’m probably putting too much thought into this.  (Yeah, I do that.  Plus I don’t really want to go back to reading about the Gracchii right now, even though I really should.)

wcw

Words Crush Wednesday – The Homeric Version

Published August 19, 2015 by Iphis of Scyros

So last week for Words Crush Wednesday, I started quoting the first time Patroclos actually gets to do something in the Iliad.  (Tragically, he only gets a few chances to really do things, and the biggest one culminates in his death.)  This week, I’ll continue the quote; where I left off, he was running after Nestor’s chariot, to see if the injured party was indeed Machaon the surgeon, son of Asclepios.

So, from Book XI of the Iliad, W.H.D. Rouse translation:

By this time the party had reached Nestor’s hut.  They got out; Eurymedon took out the horses, and the two men stood on the beach to dry the sweat off their garments in the sea-breeze.  Then they went in and sat down, and Hecamede set about making them a posset.  She was a woman from Tenedos, the daughter of Arsinoos; when Achilles sacked the place, she had been chosen as a special prize for old Nestor, in honour of his wisdom and good advice at all times.

Hecamede set before the two men a fine polished table with feet of blue enamel, and put on it a bronze basket, with an onion as a relish for the drink, and pale honey, and ground barley-meal.

Beside them she placed a splendid goblet which the ancient man had brought from home, studded with golden knobbs; it had four ears, and each ear had a pair of doves pecking their food, one on either side.  Under it were two supports.  Another man would hardly move it from the table when it was full, but old Nestor could lift it easily.

In this goblet the woman mixed them a posset with Pramnian wine, grating in goat’s cheese with a grater of bronze, and sprinkled over it white barley-meal.  Then she invited them to drink of her posset.  So they drank, and slaked their parching thirst.

Well, that turned out to be so long that we’ll have to get back to Patroclos last week, ’cause I have to get down to campus and get my parking pass (not to mention pay my tuition!) and buy my books.

But that was quite a glimpse into a disappeared material culture, wasn’t it?  Whether some of the verses were inherited from older times and reflect Mycenaean realities or (far more likely) they reflect the Archaic Age in which the Iliad was composed, one thing is for sure:  if I ever time travel to ancient Pylos, I do not want to sample Nestor’s hospitality.  Eeew.

Oh, and according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary:

posset:  (noun)  a hot drink of sweetened and spiced milk curdled with ale or wine.  Origin Middle English poshet, possot.  First use:  15th century.

Since I didn’t know the word, I thought there was a chance others also wouldn’t know it, either, and thought I’d share the definition.

Anyway, disgustingness of their post-battle drink aside, the really telling part of this quote is Hecamede herself.  Nestor, too old to fight, is one of the first kings awarded a concubine.  (Tenedos, for those less familiar with the story, is an island off the coast.  They sacked it before actually arriving at Troy, and after Achilles’ death, during the Trojan Horse ploy, they hid the ships behind Tenedos so the Trojans wouldn’t see them.)   This throws a very sharp relief on the quarrel between Achilles and Agamemnon, especially given the way the text goes out of its way to point out how early she was obtained, and by whose spear the city was taken.  (A further point is that the king of Tenedos, Tennes, was a son of Apollo, and many versions describe Apollo’s desire to slay Achilles personally as being at least in part as vengeance for Tennes.  So her presence doesn’t just recall the quarrel, but also what’s at stake for Achilles beyond his pride:  his very life.)  I’m sure entire essays have been written just on Hecamede and what she indicates about the quarrel over Briseis.  (And if there haven’t, then why not?!  Get with the program, classicists!)

wcw

The Calydonian Boar Hunt

Published March 26, 2015 by Iphis of Scyros

The life of Heracles is too freakin’ complicated.  I have to leave it until I have time to prepare a full analysis of all the material to decide how the chronology works out.  (The major heroes, like Heracles and the Dioscuri, keep jumping from one generation to another.  For example, in some tales, Heracles is the youngest of Zeus’ mortal children.  But if he’s the youngest, then how old does that make Helen?  Because Heracles is the one who set a young Priam on the throne of Troy…)

Aaaanyway, due to the A-to-Z challenge for next month, I’ve had to plan out my whole schedule (’tis a whole month of mythology, probably with more than one retold myth a week, depending on if I have anything to say about the person/place/concept selected for the letter of the day) in advance, and looking at my plans, it seemed like this was a good time to tell this story.


After returning from Colchis, Meleager felt depressed just to spend his days in Calydon.  His father, Oineus, arranged a marriage for him with the beautiful Cleopatra, daughter of Idas of Messenia.  But she was no match for the beauty of Atalanta, and no matter how much he feigned to love his wife, Meleager still pined for the virgin huntress.

Several years passed in the normal manner, and Meleager’s discontent grew and grew, until it was distracting all those around him.  His mother, Althaia, fretted constantly that her son had not fathered any children on his wife, and his father couldn’t stop worrying that his fine son was acting so listless, like a sick child.  And Cleopatra was beside herself with grief, because she knew that she was the cause of her husband’s unhappiness.

So Cleopatra decided that it was her job to cheer him up.  She tried everything she could to make him happy, but nothing worked, because he wanted only to see the woman he truly loved, fair Atalanta.  Resigning herself to misery, Cleopatra gently suggested to Oineus that the best way to improve Meleager’s mood was to invite many great heroes like himself to come to Calydon for a great feast.  “If he sees his friends again, perhaps he will feel better,” she explained to her father-in-law, knowing that it was only his female friend who could make Meleager smile once more.

Oineus agreed gladly, and sent out heralds in all directions, asking all the greatest heroes to come to Calydon, particularly any of the ones who had sailed on the Argo with his son Meleager.

The heroes began to arrive in Calydon at harvest time, but Meleager’s mood seemed to grow worse instead of better.  Every day, when the heralds arrived to announce their approaching lords, Meleager’s excitement grew, only to crash down in bitter disappointment when Atalanta was not among those arriving.

Seeing that his son was not reacting as expected, Oineus began to despair.  As the time approached for the harvest festivals, Oineus was so distracted that he accidentally omitted to sacrifice to Artemis as he was sacrificing to all the other Olympian gods.  This enraged the goddess, and she sent a gigantic boar to attack Calydon in retribution for the slight.

Only as rumors began to spread of the enormous boar did Atalanta finally arrive.  Meleager was overjoyed to see her, and quickly took her aside to ask her why she had arrived so late.  “I came to hunt the boar, not to take part in your symposium,” Atalanta informed him coldly.  “Such gatherings of men make me uncomfortable.”

But Meleager would not brook refusals now, and he spent every minute he could with Atalanta, even to the exclusion not only of his other guests, but even of his wife, who did not see him for days after Atalanta’s arrival.  By the time all the heroes had arrived, the Calydonian Boar had become a true menace, crashing through small villages and slaughtering any who had the misfortune to come near it.

Oineus begged his guests to help slay the beast.  Peleus and Telamon, the sons of Aiakos, were the first to volunteer to aid in the task, and once those grandsons of Zeus had volunteered, all the other guests were eager to join in the hunt.  As an incentive to get the job done quickly, Oineus offered to give the beast’s huge pelt to whatever hero could bring it down.

“That is a fine prize,” Atalanta told the king, “but the honor of killing such a terrible beast is the greater prize.”

Meleager was delighted with his beloved’s wise words, but most of the other men mocked her for daring to take part in something that was so clearly the domain of men.  They suggested that she should go join Meleager’s wife in spinning wool and waiting at home like a proper woman.  Atalanta was enraged by their presumption, and swore that she would be the one to bring down the boar:  they could all wait in the safety of the palace, where they wouldn’t get in her way.

The would-be boar hunters began a fearsome argument over whether or not Atalanta should be involved in the hunt.  Meleager was the first to speak in defense of the woman he loved, but his mother’s brothers, Toxeus and Plexippus, quickly insisted that the woman must not be allowed to join in the hunt, trying to use their power as his uncles to make him relent.  Peleus spoke up in Atalanta’s defense, having wrestled against her at the funeral games of Pelias, and his brother Telamon and his friend Nestor also joined Atalanta’s side, out of their loyalty to Peleus.  One by one, each hero joined one side or the other, but most sided with Toxeus and Plexippus, demanding that Atalanta be left behind, as she had been left behind by Jason.

It took some time for Oineus to calm tempers on both sides of the argument, but eventually the hunting party was able to set out in search of the terrifying boar.

The boar that the goddess of the hunt had sent to Calydon was larger than any of its hunters had expected.  It was fully twice the size of even the largest ox.  When they sighted it, it was pushing over a small house with its gigantic tusks.  Some of the heroes threw their spears at it, but others turned and ran at the sight of the boar.

Enraged by the spears thumping harmlessly against its flanks, the Calydonian Boar turned and charged at the heroes, wounding several, and fatally goring Ancaeus of Arcadia.

The hunt might have been in vain if the men had had their way and left Atalanta behind.  For she was the only one with the calm sense to wait until it had finished charging.  Then she fired an arrow at the boar, striking its eye.  The boar let out a bellow of pain, but it could not see its foe to strike her down, for she had already fired a second arrow and taken out its other eye.

Hurrying to put the monster down before it could recover from the shock of losing its eyes, everyone began to hack at it with sword and spear, but it was Meleager who dealt the final blow and killed the monster that had been ravaging his father’s kingdom.

That meant that the pelt was Meleager’s prize, but he gave it to Atalanta, since she had drawn first blood from the beast.

Atalanta was touched by his self-sacrifice, but his uncles were outraged.  They tried to take the pelt away from her, and Meleager struck them dead without a second thought.

No one knew how to react to this shedding of kindred blood.  Most of the other heroes reluctantly agreed that Toxeus and Plexippus had brought it upon themselves, since it had looked as though they intended to harm Atalanta, and Meleager’s blood had still been up from the battle against the beast.

But Althaia did not take the deaths of her brothers so well.  When she heard that her own son had killed her brothers, she began to curse his name, and prayed to the gods to strike her son down in vengeance for his unspeakable crime.

Perhaps the gods listened to her.

For as soon as the news of the slaying of Toxeus and Plexippus reached their kin, the Curetians, they marched on Calydon and laid siege to the town.

By that time, all of the heroes had all gone their separate ways, and there was no one of might to defend Calydon but Oineus and his son.  At first, Meleager fought more bravely than any other of the defenders.  But then one day he came back from the battlefield, glowing with pride at his accomplishments, and his mother once again cursed him for bringing this slaughter upon them all.

Infuriated by the mistreatment, Meleager retreated to his chamber at the outer edge of the palace, and would not come out.  He refused to return to the defense of Calydon, swearing that he would never fight again, no matter what happened, even if the Curetians should destroy the entire town.

Oineus begged his son to return to the fight, and promised him an even greater share of the kingdom than he was already due to inherit.  But his son turned a deaf ear to his pleas.  Meleager’s sisters pleaded with him, begging him to save them from the foe outside the gates.  But their brother didn’t care for their words.  His mother recanted her curses, and apologized to her son, asking him to defend her from her own kin.  Still Meleager was unmoved.

Finally, the Curetians threw down the outer walls of the city, and swarmed through the town, laying siege to the palace itself, the last bastion of the defenders.  Then Cleopatra fell to her knees before her husband, weeping and clutching at his knees.

“Please, my husband, don’t let this city fall!  Our people are being slaughtered in the streets–the men die in agony, and the women are dragged off to be slaves of our enemies!  Children are left on the ground, half dead, bleeding out as they beg for help.  Don’t let all these innocents die for your pride!  Don’t let your own wife become a slave because you were insulted!”

Meleager looked at her sadly.  His heart was moved by her tears, and yet he was still unsure if he should allow himself to back down.  If he gave up on his pride now, when it was all he had left, then what would he have?  What would men say of him after he died?

“If I were a man, I would go out and fight in your place, but I have not the strength of arm, nor the training in the wielding of a blade,” Cleopatra lamented.  “But if you will not fight, then perhaps I must.  It would be better to be slain by mistake than to end up as a slave.”

Meleager lifted his wife back to her feet, and rose from his chair, embracing her.  “I will let no man say of me that I asked a woman to fight in my place,” he assured her.  “I can’t allow my wife to suffer so.  I’ll fight.”

Quickly, he armed himself, and Cleopatra began to make offerings to the gods, sprinkling libations of wine over the altar flames, begging that Meleager return from the battle safely.

But as the battle wore on, and Cleopatra continued to make her offerings, the flame sputtered and went out.

Meleager fought with all the strength and might of the very boar he had vanquished, but every enemy who saw him targeted him and him alone, as though no other man fought on the side of the Calydonians.  At the end of the day, the battle was won, and the Curetians were driven out of Calydon.  But Meleager succumbed to the many wounds he had received in that terrible battle.

When she found out that her last son had died, Althaia killed herself in grief.

Cleopatra considered doing likewise, knowing that it had been her words that had sent her husband out to die on the battlefield.  But she remembered how worried he had been about his honor.  How he had fretted about the insults that had been piled upon his name.  And she thought it would be better for her to preserve and magnify his great honor for the future.  She remained in the house of Oineus, and when he remarried, she told all his children by his second wife–including the great hero Tydeus–what a fine man their half-brother Meleager had been, and how the Fates had cheated him of his life.

She told them that Althaia had been visited by the Fates on the day Meleager had been born, and that they had told her the log currently burning in the fire was Meleager’s life, and that he would die when it finished burning.  Althaia had pulled the log off the flames immediately, Cleopatra assured them, and had safeguarded it for years and years.  But when Meleager killed her brothers, Althaia suffered a fit of rage, and threw the log back into the fire, where it burned up before she could come to her senses.  Then she had taken her own life in guilt over having taken the life of her son.  By telling this story, Cleopatra tried to hide her husband’s terrible pride, and her own role in his death.


 

Hmm, I think the ending still needs work.  But…well, I wanted to go with the Homeric version of Meleager’s death.  (I’ll have more to say about it in April, ya see…)  However, since everyone knows Ovid’s version better, I thought I’d tack it onto the end there.  It worked better in my head than it does now that I’ve written it down.  That happens a lot with me…

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