Pyrrha

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Pyrrha’s Original

Published August 23, 2015 by Iphis of Scyros

As promised, now that I’ve posted my version, I’m going to talk about the 18th century original play.  I’ve mentioned it before, a bit, but I’m going to go into more detail now.  The title of the opera was “Achilles in Petticoats“, and it was performed in 1774 at Covent Garden, at the Theatre Royal.  The copy of the libretto I have is a .pdf of a microfiche–microfilm?–something?–of the original souvenir booklet from the time, or something.  So it has the cast list–all listed as “Mr. So-n-so” or “Miss Such-n-such”–and those horrible “long s” letters that look like “f”s and everything’s blurry like a bad old photocopy, and there’s dirt and obstructions, so sometimes it’s very hard to read.

Anyway, the interlibrary loan data on the front page of the .pdf provides the full data on the composer as the “author”, so I have his full info–Arne, Thomas Augustine, 1710-1778–but all I have on the lyricist is the “Mr. Gay” provided in the libretto itself.  Oh, no, wait, it’s here in The Oxford Guide to Classical Mythology in the Arts, 1300-1990s (by Jane Davidson Reid) which first told me about this opera in the first place:  “John Gay, 1685-1732, Achilles. Ballad opera (4 tunes attributed to Arcangelo Corelli).  Libretto, composer.  First performed 10 Feb 1733, Theatre Royal, Covent Garden.”  So Arne had altered (and presumably expanded) Gay’s original libretto, as well as changing the title.

Now, the most obvious changes in my version, apparent right from the start, are that I went with all-Greek names.  The 18th century preferred Roman names.  The cast list literally has “Ulysses” on it.  (Seriously.  Except it looks like it says “Ulyffes.)  So “Ulysses” and “Ajax” regained their dignity as Odysseus and Aias.  And I changed a few spellings while I was at it, preferring the Greek -os to Roman -us.  (The -eus ending actually is Greek, however.  Which is why it’s Odysseus, and not Odysseos.  In case anyone was wondering about that.)

Next major change, just in the cast list, is that I replaced the queen’s nephew with Patroclos.  In the course of “Achilles in Petticoats,” the queen engineers an engagement between her nephew and Pyrrha, and a jealous Ajax challenges her nephew to a duel over that engagement (which is fought entirely off-stage), yet her nephew, intent on sailing off to the war at Troy, has zero interest in Pyrrha.  (He is, in fact, about the only character in the play immune to Achilles’ charms.)  That doesn’t make sense and isn’t interesting or entertaining.  So I thought that if the nephew was replaced with Patroclos, then we could restore the bisexuality of the original myths, and give all those events some meaning and impact because all parties involved are actually interested.  Plus I thought that Patroclos is one of the few people who would stand a chance of surviving a duel with Aias for more than three seconds.  Also, as my favorite Achaian, I’m always eager to include him.  (May as well be honest, right?)

The final cast list change is the addition of Polyphonos, an aid to Lycomedes.  (Well, also there’s the nurse Eurycleia, but…she’s a minor character, just a servant.  And I removed Diomedes, who arrived at the end with “Ulysses,” but there was no need of him.  It had just become the traditional view that Diomedes had gone with Odysseus to fetch Achilles from Scyros, but it was hardly a task requiring two, and there wasn’t dialog enough to justify the addition of another character there.)  Polyphonos is mostly used as an aid to the death of Theseus sub-plot I introduced, but he’s also a good advisor to off-set the panderer imported from the original play.

Let’s talk about that sub-plot now, as we veer off into the changes I made to the plot.  My main goals in changing the story of the play were two-fold:  restore mythical accuracy (somewhat) and reduce sexism as much as possible (within the confines of the ancient Greek world it’s set in, at any rate).  I still kept various story angles added to the myth in “Achilles in Petticoats,” such as Lycomedes and Ajax falling in love with Pyrrha, and the jealous queen trying to marry Pyrrha off to get her out of the way, and the scene where Lycomedes tries to “ravish” Pyrrha.  (Little knowing that “Pyrrha” is actually a demi-god, and could have snapped him in half if he’d chosen.)

Read the rest of this entry →

Pyrrha: A Play, Scenes 20 and 21

Published August 22, 2015 by Iphis of Scyros

For the earlier scenes, see this page.


Scene: Cliff overlooking the sea (Day)

Pyrrha is marching along past the cliff when Patroclos catches up to her.

Patroclos: Please, listen!

Pyrrha sighs, and turns to face him.

Pyrrha: To what?

Patroclos: I just wanted to explain that it wasn’t my fault. Aias seemed to think that I had tricked the queen into—

Pyrrha: Look, I don’t care what he thought, said or did.

Patroclos: But…you…

Pyrrha grimaces, then looks around.

Pyrrha: This seems like a quiet enough spot. Maybe I can finally tell you.

Patroclos: Tell me what?

Pyrrha: Why Aias was so sure he’d seen me before.

Patroclos: I don’t understand…

Pyrrha: The truth is, I’m— Read the rest of this entry →

Pyrrha: A Play, scenes 17, 18 and 19

Published August 21, 2015 by Iphis of Scyros

For the earlier scenes, see this page.


 

Scene: The chambers of Lycomedes (Dusk)

{The king’s chambers would be ornately decorated, but not heavily furnished.  Possibly not really recognizable as a bedroom in the modern sense.  In fact, it wouldn’t have to be “his chambers,” just a setting where they wouldn’t be disturbed or overheard.}

Lycomedes paces his chambers, muttering angrily to himself. Diphilos approaches the king at a run, and bows low before him.

Lycomedes: You have nerve to lie to me, Diphilos. How shall I punish you for the gross deception you have played upon my fragile heart?

Diphilos: It is not I, sire, who stands in the way of your union with the young lady.

Lycomedes: No, it’s the young lady herself!

Diphilos: Nay, sire, listen to me, I pray you! It is those strangers, the men sent by Agamemnon!

Lycomedes: What? What do you mean by this cryptic accusation?

Diphilos: They both covet her for themselves, and their handsome youth distracts her from the love she truly bears for you.

Lycomedes: Then you think she will restore her affection for me once they’ve sailed off to die in battle?

Diphilos: Not if the queen has her way, sire.

Lycomedes: That blasted woman! Always standing in my way!

Diphilos: But I have a plan, sire. If her two handsome beaus should kill one another, then the lady Pyrrha will have no man but you. Read the rest of this entry →

Pyrrha: A Play, scenes 15 and 16

Published August 18, 2015 by Iphis of Scyros

For the earlier scenes, see this page.


Scene: Cliff overlooking the sea (Day)

Aias stands near the cliff, looking down at the ocean.

Aias: As fair and untamed as Artemis, with eyes that flash like Athene’s, and as warm as Hestia’s hearth…

He sighs deeply, shaking his head.

Aias: If only I could remember where I’ve met her before. If I knew why she feels so familiar, perhaps I could banish her from my thoughts. The eve of war is no time to fall in love…

Sighing even more deeply, he leaves the stage. Almost immediately, Theaspe enters from the same direction that Aias exited, and Patroclos enters from the other side.

Theaspe: Ah, there you are!

Patroclos: Were you looking for me?

Theaspe: I was, yes. You know, I hear from my daughters that you are quite the ardent suitor of young Pyrrha.

Patroclos blushes, and looks down at the sea.

Patroclos: I wouldn’t…I wouldn’t dare. I’m no one of the rank to pay court to a princess. Read the rest of this entry →

Pyrrha: A Play, scenes 12, 13 and 14

Published August 16, 2015 by Iphis of Scyros

For the earlier scenes, see this page.  Scene 12 is going to feel pretty weird, fair warning, but it’s directly adapting a scene out of the 18th century opera this is based on.  I’ll explain in more detail after I’ve posted the full play.


 

Scene: A wide courtyard (Day)

{It’s a wide courtyard, surrounded by columns, which hold up the upper level of the palace. There would be a balcony overlooking the courtyard, but likely the balcony would just be part of the matte painting. Mycenaean columns, like Minoan columns, were wider at the top than at the base; they’re very cool-looking. The courtyard would be brightly painted and highly decorated.}

Lycomedes is just entering from one side of the stage as Pyrrha enters from the other.

Lycomedes: Ah, I’ve been looking for you, Pyrrha.

Pyrrha: Hmm? Why?

Lycomedes: Surely you know why.

Pyrrha: This isn’t about the silver vessel, is it?

Lycomedes: Vessel?

Pyrrha: I guess not. In that case, I can’t imagine what business you could have with me. But I’m expected in the garden, so—

Lycomedes: You will accept this token from me.

He holds out the ring.

Pyrrha: Zeus, give me strength! (to Lycomedes) Sire, I have no interest in your ring.

Lycomedes: There’s no need to play coy, my dear. No one can overhear us here.

Pyrrha: As I told your sycophant last night, I have not the slightest interest in receiving love tokens from you or any other man. I had hoped, for Deidameia’s sake, that he did not actually act on your instructions, but it would seem that my hopes were in vain.

Lycomedes: I will not have my hopes be in vain. Accept the ring, and with it my affections.

Pyrrha: I don’t want either.

She tries to leave, but Lycomedes blocks her path. Read the rest of this entry →

Pyrrha: A Play, scenes 10 and 11

Published August 15, 2015 by Iphis of Scyros

For the earlier scenes, see this page.  Scene 11 is one of my favorites; Aias and Pyrrha discuss the causes of the war.


 

Scene: Megaron of Lycomedes (Day)

Lycomedes sits on his throne, looking glum. Diphilos enters, and bows before him.

Diphilos: Good morning, sire.

Lycomedes: Forget the good mornings. Did you give her my ring?

Diphilos: She would not take it from me, sire. From the look upon her face, I’m sure she hoped to hear from you directly, not through an intermediary.

Lycomedes: Says the man who insisted on acting as an intermediary.

Diphilos: In the normal scheme of things, that is the way this would proceed.

Lycomedes: (to himself) Scheme is right. (to Diphilos) What did she say in refusing the ring?

Diphilos: Nothing meaningful, your majesty. I’m sure she feared a trick.

Lycomedes sighs.

Lycomedes: Precisely what do you think her mother instructed her before leaving the girl here?

Diphilos: I cannot say precisely, sire. I’m quite certain she was trained to incite you to love her, though. Her glances at you cannot be understood in any other way. The question is what you intend from her.

Lycomedes: You know what I intend.

Diphilos: Yes, but she does not. Perhaps her fear is that you will simply discard her after you have had your fill of her.

Lycomedes: I see how that could worry her. But so long as she can give me a son, she will have nothing to fear; what her virtue will lose, her honor will regain. Read the rest of this entry →

Pyrrha: A Play, Scenes 8 and 9

Published August 14, 2015 by Iphis of Scyros

For the earlier scenes, see this page.


 

Scene: Cliff overlooking the sea (Night)

Queen Theaspe stands at the edge, leaning against a wall and staring sadly at the sea below. Patroclos enters, and approaches her.

Patroclos: Forgive me for interrupting you, but I seem to have gotten lost. Where am I?

The queen chuckles lightly.

Theaspe: This is the cliff where the Earth-shaker devours his own.

Patroclos: What?

Theaspe: There used to be more of the palace here, but an earthquake sent it tumbling down into the sea below. And some years ago, in this very spot, my husband…

She shakes her head.

Theaspe: But I shouldn’t say that. Terrible and unfaithful as he is, he is still my husband.

Patroclos: Unfaithful?

Theaspe: He thinks I can’t see what’s going on, but I know the signs all too well. But what he sees in that intemperate ragamuffin, I’ll never understand!

Patroclos: Ah…is there something I can do to help?

Theaspe: I doubt it. Though in truth, I was thinking more of my poor brother’s fate than my own just now. You really do look precisely like him. If only he had never marched off to war! I’ve always prayed to Eileithuia, begging her not to deliver any sons of my womb, so I won’t have to see them die on the fields of battle.

Patroclos laughs sadly.

Patroclos: That sounds much like what my mother said in begging me not to sail to Troy.

Theaspe: Why are you going? Surely it doesn’t matter to you whether or not the Laconian adulteress is returned? Or did your father move to Laconia when he left Locris?

Patroclos shakes his head.

Patroclos: No, we moved north when I—when my father left Locris for my sake. As I’m sure you know, my father sailed on the Argo along with Jason and his companions, so when we left Locris, my father thought we should seek shelter—a new home—with one of the others who had sailed to Colchis with him.

Theaspe: Then you went to Thessaly?

Patroclos: Yes, to the court of Peleus, in Phthia.

Theaspe: My! That’s certainly an improvement over Opoeis! I’ve heard many a rumor about Peleus’ marriage to the immortal Nereid. How beautiful she’s supposed to be, and how all the gods themselves came to the wedding, and gave their blessings to the couple and their children. Though I’ve heard there’s only the one son, isn’t there?

Patroclos nods. He seems about to speak, but the queen steamrolls over his words.

Theaspe: I’m sure a fine, noble young man like yourself must have instantly become the bosom companion of the young prince.

Patroclos: Sadly, the prince—and his mother—disappeared from the court about a year before our arrival there, so I’ve never met him. Read the rest of this entry →

Prometheus Ticks Off Zeus, Part 3

Published August 13, 2015 by Iphis of Scyros

Finally, we’re up to the part I actually set out for in the first place!  Yay!  This time, although the narrative assumes you’re reading straight off of the previous post, there’s actually a time jump between them.  And the title’s not really appropriate anymore, but…I liked it, so I’m sticking with it.  (It’ll be more appropriate in the later parts.  Yes, there are still more parts to come.)


A few years after the birth of Prometheus’ son, Epimetheus and Pandora had a beautiful daughter, who was named Pyrrha, even though she didn’t have red hair, a name which confused her parents greatly.  The name was Prometheus’ idea, and he wouldn’t explain it to his brother and sister-in-law, because it was sure to go over their heads; he was naming her after the fire he had stolen from Zeus, which had caused the god’s fiery temper to send the baby’s mother down to marry Epimetheus in a failed attempt at punishment.

Prometheus didn’t have to explain the name, because the one person who needed to get the reference got it, and every time he heard the name, it made him grind his teeth in fury, and contemplate hurling a thunderbolt at anything and everything he saw, but particularly at Prometheus.  The other gods didn’t dare leave Zeus alone for a minute, for fear he would lay waste to the entire realm below out of his anger at Prometheus.

As the years passed, Deucalion and Pyrrha slowly grew up.  Now, life for them was rather an odd thing.  They knew only their parents, the bronze men from the village, and the occasional Oceanid, dryad, or other immortal.  Their parents and their immortal guests often talked about going to the village as going to the “mortal village,” so they early on began to associate being mortal with being bronze.  But then one day Pyrrha made a comment about herself as  immortal, and was surprised to find her uncle raising his hand as if to strike her.

He refrained when he saw the look of fear on her face, but his anger had not subsided.  “Don’t think yourself immortal, Pyrrha,” Prometheus told her.  “You’re even more mortal than the bronze men are, being made only of fragile flesh.”

“But why do you call it the mortal village, then?  Are you different than I am, even though we have the same flesh and blood?”

“I am,” her uncle told her.  “You’re mortal, and I am immortal.”

“But why?”

“Because your mother is mortal, and little girls must be as their mothers are,” Prometheus answered.  It was a lazy and cheap answer, but he had long ago learned that ‘why’ was the endless question that children would ask forever if you let them.

“Then I must be immortal like you,” his son suddenly said, entering the conversation.

“No, you aren’t,” Prometheus sighed sadly.  “You should be, but you aren’t.”  He sat down, and took hold of his son’s hand.  “I wanted to wait until you were older to explain this, but perhaps now is as good a time as any.”  He paused uncomfortably before continuing.  “There are two things anyone needs to be immortal.  They must have at least one immortal parent–preferably two–and they must be fed only on nectar and ambrosia, the food of immortality, particularly when they’re young.  After they’ve hit a certain age, they can partake of mortal foods without risk, but as infants, mortal foods confer mortality on a child who would otherwise be immortal.  When you were born, if you could have been fed on ambrosia, you would have become immortal as your mother and I are, but Zeus and the other gods prevented that from happening, so you are mortal, just as Pyrrha is.  That is part of Zeus’ punishment to me, that I must watch my son grow old and die.”

“Why does Zeus want to punish you?” Deucalion asked.  “You’re always saying to come inside whenever there’s a storm, in case he tries to hit us with lightning.  Why would he do that?”

Prometheus was reluctant, but sadly explained the whole feud.  He told the children how the Titans ruled over the world before the gods defeated them and threw them down into Tartaros, and how Prometheus and Epimetheus had kept out of that fight, but Zeus and the other gods still distrusted and resented them for being Titans all the same.  And how Zeus had frowned on Prometheus for creating mortals, and how Prometheus had been forced to steal fire to keep the mortals alive in the cold of the winter, and how all those terrible, stinging vices had been sent down to the mortal world with Pyrrha’s mother as a punishment from Zeus, though they weren’t able to do much to Prometheus other than annoy him a little.

“We should stamp out all those vices,” Pyrrha suggested.  “It’s painful when they bite you.  My arm swelled up awfully big.”

“It did, and that’s why you shouldn’t go outside without me or your father to protect you,” Prometheus told her.  “Preferably me.  Your father’s somewhat useless.”

I’ll protect Pyrrha,” Deucalion insisted proudly.

“I don’t think you could protect yourself, let alone someone else,” Prometheus chuckled.  “Not until you get older.”

Deucalion insisted that he could protect his cousin just fine, but he didn’t fight against his father’s order to stay in the house without adult supervision.  He was, after all, a good boy, on the whole.

As the children grew into adulthood, they began to grow into new feelings for each other that they weren’t entirely sure what to do about.  Now that they were grown-ups themselves, they were allowed to go outside freely, and they asked around in the village, but none of the bronze men had ever had such feelings before, or none that they would admit to Deucalion, at any rate.

Pyrrha asked her mother about them, and Pandora told her everything that Hera had once told her about a wife’s secret duties to her husband.  Pyrrha was red-faced for days, and couldn’t look Deucalion in the face for nearly a week, and even after that, kept blushing whenever she saw him, to the extent that he became quite worried that she was dreadfully ill.  He asked his father about it, and Prometheus gave her an examination, and pronounced her to be thoroughly healthy.  That didn’t reassure Deucalion in the slightest, so he tried asking his mother, instead.  She spoke to Pandora about it, and the two of them laughed about it, and told Deucalion that Pyrrha’s condition was one of the heart, and it was a very happy thing, and that he shouldn’t worry at all, and should just be patient until she learned how to control it.  That only placated his worries a little because it assured him that there was a safe end in sight.

In order to distract himself from Pyrrha’s condition–whatever it was–Deucalion decided to spend some time in the village of the bronze men.  While there, he started organizing the men to try and hunt down those annoying little vices.  They didn’t much bother the bronze men, of course, since their stingers couldn’t penetrate the bronze, but they certainly bothered Deucalion!  The bronze men always enjoyed spending time with Deucalion, so they were happy to do ask he asked, and parties were sent out in every direction, to all the little farms that had spread out across the region, hunting for the horrid little vices.

By the end of the expedition, many of the vices lay dead, in pools of their own sickly green ichor.

But many of the bronze men had dropped their torches in the process of their hunts, and fires raged throughout forests and fields.  A few bronze men were trying to put out the fires closest to their huts, but most were ignoring them.

On Mt. Olympos, Zeus scowled down at the fires burning out of control.  “That’s it!” he shouted.  “I’m not putting up with this for a moment longer!”  He called for the winds to gather up all the storm clouds they could.

“What are you planning, Father?” Athene asked.

“I’m going to drown out all the fires in the world below,” Zeus said firmly.  “And maybe take those irritating bronze men with them.”

Athene wasn’t entirely sure about the idea of drowning the bronze men–they were a little uncouth at times, and certainly had no respect for the gods, but they didn’t seem entirely unsalvageable, either–but she wasn’t about to argue with the idea of putting out those fires.  “What about the other mortals?  Prometheus’ son and–”

“The children of Titans are as guilty as their parents,” Zeus replied, even as he started the rain falling on the world below.

“But Father…your own father is a Titan,” Athene pointed out.  Zeus didn’t seem to hear her.

Down below, it began to rain.

It rained and it rained, and it didn’t stop.  It didn’t stop and it didn’t stop, and the rain began to accumulate.  Rivers overflowed their banks, and lakes began to flood and rise up, filling valleys, even as rivers began inching their way up the sides of mountains.

Poseidon came up to Mt. Olympos to see what Zeus was up to as the salty sea began to mix with the fresh river water, making a colossal mess everywhere.  “What are you doing?” he asked, looking at the maniacal look on Zeus’ face.  “Do you know it hasn’t stopped raining for three days?  Half those bronze men have already drowned.  It’s going to be a right mess to clean that up when the flood subsides, and it’s all going to flow downstream into my living room, you know.”

“It’s not going to stop raining for several days yet,” Zeus told him.  “Some of the fires aren’t out yet.”

“They look all out to me,” Ares said, peering down at the land.  As usual, no one listened to him.

“But what about the corpses in my living room!?!” Poseidon shouted.  He was not going to let go of that one so easily.

“They belong to Prometheus.  Make him clean them up,” Zeus laughed.

Poseidon muttered something under his breath about the impossibility of forcing Prometheus to do anything, but he didn’t press the issue.  Zeus was clearly not himself at present, and arguing with him wasn’t going to accomplish anything.  Better to let him vent his anger, then maybe he’d go back to normal and they could all relax a little…

Down on the mortal plane, as the flood waters were rising, Prometheus was in the village of the bronze men, alternating between trying to find a way to get them to safety and trying to talk the winds into blowing the storm away.  Neither was working, of course, and he was soon entirely underwater, having to glub his way home.

As their house was subsumed in the waves, Deucalion and Pyrrha found themselves doing their best to swim, clinging to the sides of one of the only things that was floating; the chest that Pandora had brought with her from Olympos.

“You know, this chest is big enough that we could sit in it,” Pyrrha suggested.  “Let’s do that instead of just holding on to the outside.”

“My arms are getting tired,” Deucalion agreed, opening the lid of the chest.  He climbed inside, and then helped Pyrrha in, before closing the lid to keep the rain out.  But then they found that they were cold and wet and clammy, because their clothes were soaked.

Blushing–though no one could see in the darkness within the chest–Pyrrha suggested that they would have to get rid of their wet clothes.  Once they did that, they soon warmed up inside the chest…

The chest floated with its mortal cargo through the floodwaters as the bronze men all drowned, and all the fires went out.  After the rain finally stopped–and it only stopped because Hera finally managed to distract Zeus by calling him into bed with her–and the flooding began to recede, the chest came to a landing on Mt. Parnassos.

The hapless mortals within were reluctant to come out at first, but once they did, they found that they were once again on dry land, and that there was no sign of anyone about.

They found their way to where the village of the bronze men had been, but it was gone.  They found where their home had been–and found some clothes to replace the ones they had cast out of the chest–but their parents weren’t there.  Deucalion and Pyrrha were utterly alone in an empty world, and it was hard for them to keep from weeping at the thought.

Since Zeus was still distracted, the rest of the gods decided that they felt sorry for the mortals, and elected to give them a message, one chance to improve their lot.  They played a quick game of chance to see who would go speak to them, and Hermes lost.  (Or seemed to lose, at any rate.)

Hermes appeared before them, and smiled at them in a friendly way.  Unlike when he had appeared before them in the past–and he had done so many times, because he found it fun to mess with mortals–this time he wore his own appearance.  “If you would not be the only mortals on this earth, then you must throw your mother’s bones over your shoulders,” he told them, and then dashed off again.  It was a fairly simple riddle, he thought, and the son of Prometheus should have no problem solving it.

“But my mother’s immortal,” Deucalion objected in the direction of the disappearing god.  “And she’s not even here!”

“I don’t think he meant it literally,” Pyrrha sighed.  “I wonder where my mother is,” she added, looking around.  “Your father said she’s mortal, like us.  Does that mean she drowned, or did my father save her?”

“It doesn’t seem very respectable, throwing bones around,” Deucalion grumbled.

“I don’t think we’re supposed to be throwing actual bones,” Pyrrha insisted.  “It’s a riddle, I’m sure of it.”  She frowned, and kicked at the dirt with one dainty foot.  A stone came unlodged, and tumbled away from her toes.  “Oh!  Gaia is the mother of all creation, isn’t she?  That’s what he must have meant!  We should throw her bones–that is, rocks–over our shoulders!”

“Okay, but I’m not sure what good that’ll do us,” Deucalion said, picking up a handful of small stones.

“It can’t hurt, right?”  Pyrrha, too, picked up a handful of stones, and together they began to walk away from the hut, throwing the stones behind them over their shoulders.

Every time a stone hit the earth’s surface, a new mortal sprang up out of the ground, fully formed.  For every stone thrown by Deucalion, a man rose out of the ground, and for every stone thrown by Pyrrha, there arose a new woman.  Once they were out of stones, the pair turned around, and were delighted to see a whole village’s worth of people milling about behind them, naked and confused.

When he arose, Zeus was not entirely pleased that there was a whole new race of mortals on the earth, but his children all assured him that these new mortals were going to be taught to respect and even worship the gods, so they managed to convince him to let the mortals live.


 

Okay, where do I start?  The reason for the Flood, I suppose.  The familiar “to drown out wickedness” motive is not attested until Ovid, so that’s a very late version indeed.  (In fact, I think it’s plausible that that particular version is probably inspired by the Biblical version, given the strong interactions between the Romans and the Jews.  The Romans didn’t respect the Jews–or anyone else they conquered, including the Greeks–but that didn’t stop them from stealing anything and everything they could from them, and Ovid recognized good story elements when he saw them, so…yeah, definitely plausible.)  Putting out the fire Prometheus stole and drowning the bronze men (who were in that case left over from Hesiod’s stages of man thing, not hand-crafted by Prometheus) are both attested motives for the Flood in ancient sources, though not at the same time.

As to why Deucalion and Pyrrha are in Pandora’s box/chest instead of an ark, well…okay, my main source for different variations on these myths, as always is Timothy Gantz’s Early Greek Myth, and there was a brief mention there at one point that one of the–surprisingly few–direct references to the Flood does describe a “chest” rather than an ark or other traditional vessel.  That was when I knew I had to do this story, and had to have them survive the Flood in a chest built for two.  Because how freakin’ cool is that?  (Though I apologize profusely for the implication that they were getting up to hanky panky in there.  It’s just that since their clothes were wet, they were going to have take them off, and, well, um…you know…uh…yeah, I’m deeply ashamed of myself.)  Making said chest also Pandora’s box was just to complete the full cycle of “how cool is that?”  Because what’s the point of writing out all the myths like this if you’re not going to tie them all together like that?

I’m not sure if the significance I assigned to Pyrrha’s name was correct–probably not, in fact–but it made logical sense to me, and I believe it’s correct etymologically.  And it fits nicely with something that will come up later on…

And speaking of floods, or rather of trickles, my water heater started leaking.  Not sure when.  Noticed it last night, but I think it’s been doing it for a while.  The new one’s being installed later today, hopefully.  How does a $389 water heater end up costing $837?  Maybe I could have gotten the old one fixed, but…it was at least 16 years old (it was already there when I got the house) and it only had two settings:  scalding and ice-cold.  So it was kind of time for it to go.  I just wish it wasn’t so expensive.

Pyrrha: A Play, Scene 7

Published August 11, 2015 by Iphis of Scyros

For the previous scenes, see this page.


 

Scene: Megaron of Lycomedes (Dusk)

The court has been set up for the banquet. There are large tables, set with food. Reclined on couches beside the tables are Lycomedes, Theaspe, Polyphonos, Diphilos and other members of the Scyran court, along with Aias and Patroclos.

Lycomedes: I hope my island fare is suitable to your palate?

Aias: (irked) Salamis is also an island.

Patroclos coughs uncomfortably.

Patroclos: Everything is excellent, sire.

Theaspe: My husband tells me your father’s name is Menoitios?

Patroclos: Yes, your majesty. I doubt you will have heard of him.

Theaspe: Is he not the one from Locris?

Patroclos: Formerly of Locris, yes. I’m surprised you would know of him.

The queen laughs.

Theaspe: I should I hope I would! He married my sister, after all.

Patroclos: Wh-what?!

Theaspe: I don’t find it too surprising, looking at you. You resemble my poor, late brother.

Patroclos: Y-yes, that’s what my mother says, too.

Theaspe: I don’t know why he joined those fools in their struggle against Thebes.

Patroclos: My father tells me my late uncle was very fond of Tydeus, and that was why he joined their mad quest.

Aias: At least Diomedes avenged them.

Patroclos: That’s true. I probably ought to thank him on my mother’s behalf.

Aias laughs.

Aias: Better not to. He might get a swelled head.

Patroclos chuckles.

Lycomedes: Ah, here they come! My friends, as I keep no bards or other entertainers, the only diversion I can offer you is a simple song, performed by a few of my own daughters. But I do hope their meager talents will still please you.

Pyrrha, Deidameia and other daughters of Lycomedes enter. They assemble in a group, with Pyrrha and Deidameia at the center front, and begin to sing.

Girls: (singing) Once on a time Hera bare him because she was angry with father Zeus, when the Son of Cronos bare all-glorious Athena in his head. Thereupon queenly Hera was angry and spoke thus among the assembled gods: ‘Hear from me, all gods and goddesses, how cloud-gathering Zeus begins to dishonour me wantonly, when he has made me his true-hearted wife. See now, apart from me he has given birth to bright-eyed Athena who is foremost among all the blessed gods. But my son Hephaestus whom I bare was weakly among all the blessed gods and shrivelled of foot, a shame and disgrace to me in heaven, whom I myself took in my hands and cast out so that he fell in the great sea. But silver-shod Thetis the daughter of Nereus took and cared for him with her sisters: would that she had done other service to the blessed gods! O wicked one and crafty! What else will you now devise? How dared you by yourself give birth to bright-eyed Athena? Would not I have borne you a child—I, who was at least called your wife among the undying gods who hold wide heaven. Beware now lest I devise some evil thing for you hereafter: yes, now I will contrive that a son be born me to be foremost among the undying gods—and that without casting shame on the holy bond of wedlock between you and me. And I will not come to your bed, but will consort with the blessed gods far off from you.’ [Homeric Hymn to Pythian Apollo, translated by Hugh G. Evelyn-White, as far as I can tell; this Kindle thing is really kind of hard to navigate through; temporary song, just to give an idea of what the content would be]

The room is silent for too long after the song ends.

Theaspe: What are you hanging about for? Go back inside!

The girls dutifully leave, though Pyrrha lingers at the door, staring expressionlessly in the direction of the table. Because Aias, Patroclos and Lycomedes are all sitting near each other, it’s impossible to see which of them she’s looking at.

Polyphonos: Strange choice of song.

Lycomedes glances at his wife suspiciously.

Lycomedes: Yes, it was.

Aias: Who was the maiden with the red hair? I feel as though I have seen her before.

Lycomedes: Ah, that was Pyrrha. I had not intended for her to take part in this diversion. She was entrusted to me by her mother many years ago, and has been raised with my daughters ever since.

Patroclos: She’s beautiful…but she also looked sad. Is something troubling her?

Lycomedes: She has been a bit melancholy of late.

Theaspe laughs bitterly.

Lycomedes: I’m sure it’s nothing serious. You know how young girls are.

Aias: That last look from her was haunting.

Patroclos: It felt like she was looking into my soul.

Aias: (a bit jealous) Why should she have been looking at you?

Patroclos: I didn’t mean that she—

Lycomedes: She was merely curious about our guests, I’m sure.

Theaspe: I don’t see why our guests should concern Pyrrha, my husband.

Lycomedes: Young girls are naturally curious, my dear.

Theaspe: Perhaps she simply wanted another look at them because they’re such handsome young men.

Lycomedes scowls. Aias and Patroclos both look embarrassed.

Lycomedes: I’m sure Pyrrha is not so shallow as that.

Theaspe: No, I’m sure not. She’ll have been more interested in their fortunes than their faces.

Lycomedes slams his fist into the table.

Lycomedes: That is no way to speak of our guest!

Polyphonos: Sire, perhaps this is not the time to discuss the young lady…

Lycomedes clears his throat uncomfortably.

Lycomedes: Perhaps not. But I don’t want my guests thinking that they will be gossiped of so crudely as—

Theaspe: Crudely? You ignorant dolt!

She rises from the table and storms out of the room. Lycomedes sighs.

Lycomedes: I apologize that you had to witness such a display. She’s normally better behaved than that.

Aias nods silently.

Patroclos: I’m used to that sort of thing. My mother’s the same way.

Polyphonos: I must say, I find the sudden claim of shared blood between yourself and the queen somewhat…hard to believe.

Patroclos: As did I, until just now. But I’ve never seen any other woman act that way before. Must be something in the blood.

Aias starts laughing.

Polyphonos: Your mother never mentioned her sister being a queen?

Patroclos: She never really talks about her family, other than her late brother. But she did say once that she had five sisters, and only the one brother.

Aias: That must be the reason Odysseus asked you to come. He knew about the queen being your aunt.

Patroclos: I guess. Wish he’d mentioned it to me, though.

Aias laughs.

Lycomedes: (suspicious) I thought you were here on behalf of the King of Mycenae. Why should the king of such a remote place as Ithaca have been giving you orders?

Patroclos: Odysseus is one of Agamemnon’s most trusted advisors.

Aias: (chuckling) The most trusted, if you ask Odysseus.

Lycomedes: One hears bad rumors about the man.

Patroclos: I think most of them are unfounded.

Lycomedes: Only most?

Patroclos laughs uncomfortably.

Aias: Will you be sending ships to help recover the Queen of Lacedaemon?

Lycomedes: I can’t come to such a momentous decision so quickly!

He shakes his head.

Lycomedes: That being said, of course, I’m sure that there must be many young men here who would wish to go and make their fortunes in war. I cannot spare many of my own soldiers, and I am certainly not young enough to go myself, but I will provide ships to carry any volunteers from the island.

Aias: You should at least send one of your sons to lead them.

Lycomedes: Alas, I have no sons. My stubborn wife refuses to deliver any. Keeps insisting that it must be my fault that she’s had ten daughters and not a single son.

Patroclos: I think it’s safe to say that she’s wrong about that, sire. It seems to run in the family.

Polyphonos: Oh? Are you secretly a woman?

Patroclos: Of course not! But I do have four sisters.

Polyphonos: My sympathies to your father.

Patroclos: I’m sure he’d appreciate them. He and the king are always moaning about their bad luck in producing offspring.

Lycomedes: Which king would that be? Surely not Telamon!

Patroclos laughs.

Patroclos: Certainly not! No, my father and I reside at the court of—

A servant runs into the room, interrupting Patroclos, and whispers something to Polyphonos, then runs out again.

Lycomedes: What was that?

Polyphonos: As you requested, housing has been arranged for the men aboard the Salaminian ship. They’ve been safely moved ashore, and are being fed.

Lycomedes: Ah, excellent.

Aias frowns, and gets to his feet.

Aias: I want to see to their provisions myself.

Polyphonos: I’ll show you the way, my lord.

Polyphonos rises, and leads Aias out of the room.

Lycomedes: Ah, that reminds me, Diphilos, did you see to the matter I requested of you?

Diphilos: I have been unable to so far, my lord, but I should be able to complete your task instantly.

He rises, and scurries out. Lycomedes frowns.

Lycomedes: I shan’t be able to rest until I have my answer…

He rises, and walks out of the room.

Patroclos: What…?

He looks around. The other courtiers can only look back at him uncertainly.

Patroclos: I suppose the banquet’s over, then.

He, too, rises, and leaves the stage.


Just as the ancient sources say sod-all about Lycomedes’ wife, they also tend to be silent about Patroclos’ mother.  (Uh, in those sources that don’t make him first cousin to Achilles, that is.  In some of those cases, we probably know more about his maternity.  Probably.)  Anyway, given that, I figured it was okay to play fast and loose like this.  Because, you see, Patroclos was not in the play I’m basing this on.  He’s taking the place of a character who was not in the original myth, a character who was the queen’s nephew.  So I decided that, since we know so little of Patroclos’ mother, we could make her the queen’s sister, so he’s still the queen’s nephew.  Stupid?  Yes, probably.  As for the whole bit about the Seven against Thebes, well, that just seemed like an easy talking point, something that everyone would know about, so that they could discuss a lost relation that Patroclos resembled, someone who had died in a manner that everyone present–relative or not–would know about.  It was just a cheap-and-dirty “neither of them is making it up” thing.  I hope it worked acceptably, and didn’t make it sound more fake instead of less.  (It’s hard to judge these things from the inside, y’know?)

 

Pyrrha: A Play, Scenes 5 and 6

Published August 9, 2015 by Iphis of Scyros

For the earlier scenes, consult the links on this page.  Scene 5 is where the play really picks up, because it’s when Patroclos and Aias arrive.  Yay!  (Yes, I’m biased.  So what’s your point?)


Scene: Megaron of Lycomedes (Day)

The throne is empty. Aias and Patroclos enter.  Aias is an enormous man, but Patroclos is of a more normal size.  Both wear armor and carry a sword, but only Patroclos has a shield.  {Shields, as I forgot to mention in discussing Bronze Age armor, tended to be gigantic in the Bronze Age, and warriors literally had to have guards on the backs of their ankles to protect them from chafing from their shields.  (Seriously, there’s mention of those guards in the Iliad, in talking about Hector’s shield.)  Aias does not have his shield with him because his was larger than most, and carrying it outside of battle is impractical.}

Aias: Hoh? No one at home?

Patroclos: Is it just me, or does this feel like a trap?

Aias laughs.

Aias: It’s just you.

Patroclos: “They will be welcomed as royally as they deserve.” That didn’t sound suspicious to you?

Aias: It’s just flowery court talk.

Patroclos grimaces.

Patroclos: I don’t know why they sent me on this mission, anyway. What do I know about courts and kings?

Aias: Ask Odysseus.

Patroclos: I’d rather not.

Aias laughs.

Aias: How long are we going to be made to wait?

He looks around.

Aias: (shouting) Is the palace deserted?

Patroclos: Don’t shout like that!

Lycomedes, Polyphonos and others enter.

Lycomedes: My pardon, guests! I was preparing for your arrival.

Aias: And yet you missed it.

Patroclos: (sotto) A-Aias! That’s rude!

Lycomedes turns to his servants.

Lycomedes: Fetch some wine immediately! Have the feast made ready at once!

Several servants bow, and run from the room.

Aias: We can talk business while we wait.

Lycomedes: I should not like to be so rude as to ask my guests’ business before they’ve supped.

Aias: You’re not asking. I’m offering.

Lycomedes coughs uncomfortably. Patroclos is stifling laughter.

Polyphonos: I’m sure it won’t offend the gods, sire.

Lycomedes sighs, and takes a seat on his throne.

Lycomedes: Very well, then. The herald said he worked for Aias, son of Telamon. No other man could have such godlike proportions, so you must be he.

Aias: (laughing) Godlike?

Patroclos: Yes, he is Aias, sire.
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