Tuesday, March 26, 2013

TFBT: Send Me to Some Man in Phrygia or Fair Maeonia

From the ramparts of doomed Ilion Helen’s heart yearned [Iliad 3:140] after her former husband, her city, and her parents…”   Sitting with her father-in-law King Priam  she says (Iliad 3:235) “…many other glancing-eyed Achaeans whose names I could tell you, but there are two whom I can nowhere find, Castor, breaker of horses, and Polydeukes the mighty boxer; they are children of my mother, and own brothers to myself. Either they have not left Lacedaemon, or else, though they have brought their ships, they will not show themselves in battle for the shame and disgrace that I have brought upon them." She knew not that both these heroes were already lying under the earth in their own land of Lacedaemon.” 

From the city wall Priam and Helen watched the winner-take-all duel between Menelaus, Helens’ former husband and Paris (Alexander) her current husband.  It rapidly becomes clear that Paris will lose the fight. 

Just before Menelaus drags the Trojan prince into the ranks of the Achaeans, the goddess Aphrodite snatches her favorite (Paris) from the victor’s grasp.  Then she takes the form of Aethra, mother of Theseus an elderly handmaiden “of whom she (Helen) was very fond. Thus disguised she plucked her by perfumed robe and said, (Iliad 3:390] "Come here; Alexander says you are to go to the house; he is on his bed in his own room, radiant with beauty and dressed in gorgeous apparel. No one would think he had just come from fighting, but rather that he was going to a dance or had done dancing and was sitting down." 395 With these words she moved the heart of Helen to anger “   When she marked the beautiful neck of the goddess, her lovely bosom, and sparkling eyes, she marveled at her and said, "Goddess, why do you thus beguile me?  (Iliad 3:400) Are you going to send me afield still further to some man whom you have taken up in Phrygia or fair Maeonia? “

Why would Helen think;
1.     she was going to be given away again?
2.     And why to some man in Phrygia or fair Maeonia?

Why Helen assumed she would be going to Phrygia or Maeonia (Lydia) might most easily be explained by  a conversation at Iliad 18:285 “In the old-days the city of Priam was famous the whole world over for its wealth of gold and bronze, [290] but our treasures are wasted out of our houses, and much goods have been sold away to Phrygia and fair Maeonia.”  In other words everything else the Trojans had of value ended up in these two nations to support the war effort  Why not golden Helen?.   Walter Leaf (Troy: a study in Homeric geography) suggests Helen infers that Aphrodite intends to  send her to the slave markets there, but that’s not really event in the text and we know that is not the goddess’ intention.  However, Helen might have a different perspective on this issue.  We will get to her unique perspective on slave auctions shortly.  It could also be that she was referring  to Aphrodite’s claim to  being a princess from Phrygia (The Homeric hymn to Aphrodite 106)

As to why Helen assumed she was going to be given to some man again; that’s probably because that’s what happen last time someone kidnapped her.     The previous time some man kidnapped Helen it was Theseus King of Athens.  Theseus handed the underage Helen off to his mother Aethra for safe keeping and went off on other adventures.  The Sparta army led by her brothers Castor and Polydeukes defeated Athens and took  their sister home.  (Apollodorus Epitome 1.23) A few months later she was of marriageable age and all the princes of Greece gathered at Sparta plying her father with gifts in hopes of obtaining her hand.  Even if Helen got to choose her husband which seems doubtful , the whole affair could look like nothing but a fancy slave auction.

So, here stood Helen upon the windy ramparts of her current kidnapper’s capital, a white shawl across her head and shoulders.  Surely during the extensive ceremony preceding the duel, she realized her brothers were dead.  They had rescued her before.  Every Achaean prince   stood  before the city.  She would have jumped to that sad conclusion.  Next she was publicly humiliated when her cowardly kidnapper/husband fled the field of battle.  By the terms of the truce Menelaus had won.  Based on passed previous experience  she would go home with him and a few months later be given to someone else.  This hurricane of emotions might explain the anger and vehemence of her response to the goddess of beauty and why Helen assumed Aphrodite was going to “send (her) afield still further to some man whom you have taken up in Phrygia or fair Maeonia”

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