Sunday, April 20, 2014

TFBT: “Hippota Nestor” by Douglass Frame

I attended a video conference with the suave Professor Frame at Hour 25.  We discussed Hippota Nestor.  Afterwards,  I was greatly excited to read his thick book about Nestor, the aged wise counselor of the Greeks during the Trojan War.  Frame studies Nestor’s appearances in both Homeric epics using the  “Indo-European Twin Myth” as his analytical tool.


If you research the genealogy of the characters in Greek mythology you will find an overabundance of male twins.  Those heroes without a twin will have a younger brother, nephew or close companion to share their adventures with.  The technical term from the Greek is “therapon”.  (Robert Graves used the Celtic term “tanist”)  Many cultures within the Indo-European language group show this tendency, hence “Indo-European Twin Myth”.  Frame postulates that Nestor had a twin, who was never fully acknowledged by Homer or Hesiod, but whose myth impacted their poems extensively


As to the “Indo-European Twin Myth” I have two comments here. 

  • My experience with using the structure of a particular myth for analytical purposes is that it works well on the material at hand and a few associated topics.  But as the argument continues it often veers far from the original source or intent.  By the end of my reading of this book every hero has a twin whether he wants one or not and it is sometimes the goddess Athena.
  • When you start your argument based on the intricacies of a hypothetical grammar of a hypothetical language dead for three thousand years, you are going to lose me.  Hence, I was not successful in following Frame’s argument. 


Though I did find some interesting insights along the way. 

  • Frame in Hippota Nestor “ proposes an interesting correspondence between Helios and Augeias the man of many herds who figured in the Labors of  Heracles. 
  • I observed that  the only twins among the “gods” are Apollo and Artemis, brother and sister rather than the twin males Frame requires.   Maybe Prometheus and Epimetheus.  Otherwise we have to wait for the appearance of the demi-gods Castor and Pollux.
  • Frame discusses a pair  Vedic demigods ( Endnote 1.2) Their patron attempts to include them in the divine sacrifice and “A violent dispute erupts between the gods and the sages and the sages create the demon Māda, “intoxication,” whereupon the gods are forced to yield to the sages’ superiority. It struck me here that marginalized gods benefit from divine warfare; Heracles in the Gigantomachy,  Cadmus when the gods battled Typhon, Hecate, the Hundred-handed Ones, Cyclops and Styx in the Titanomachy
  • §2.116 ” It is remarkable how the Phaeacian genealogy in Book 7 (of the Odyssey), from beginning to end, selects significant details to create an unmistakable correspondence to Nestor and his  family.”


In an interesting metaphor he states at §3. 3 “The Phaeacians are like performers in a play of which this is the synopsis, and which Athena stage-manages.” He continues by pointing out that the goddess introduces both Nausicaa and Arete, and then quits the stage in a way that correlates with the each. ” In her first departure Athena flies to Olympus and takes her place in her father’s household; this destination is appropriate to Nausicaa… Athena’s second destination is appropriate to Arete, a married woman, …” It is as if the two mortal actresses  “are in some sense the same person as Athena, and she therefore cannot appear with them in the same place at the same time.”  Personally, I was reminded of the Duel scene in the Iliad, which Helen is summoned to watch.  As soon as Zeus’ daughter gives off weaving about the battle before Troy, it stops


Frame makes some interesting observations on a possible relationship between the giant Tityos who attempted the rape of the Titaness Leto and Rhadamanthys, judge of the dead

Even if it is farther away than Euboea,
which is said to be farthest off by those of our people who saw it
when they took fair-haired Rhadamanthys
to see Tityos, Earth’s son.
(Odyssey 7.321–324):

The upshot is that the Phaeacians and Rhadamanthys lived near each other at the ends of the earth,” (2.117.n 156) and “If Rhadamanthys indeed inhabited the Elysian Fields he was already dead when he visited Tityos.“  (2.118. n157)


Now we come to the part where I quit reading the book.  My disenchantment began when Frame wrote, “ I do not make the suggestion of interpolations in the Homeric text lightly.” (§2.135)  The current view in mythological circles is that the Iliad and the Odyssey are oral compositions performed in front of a live audience.  Prior to this era when most classicists assumed that Homer “wrote” his epics, the experts were divided into two camps.  In those days many authorities believed that the epics were full of “interpolations” by other hands.  That is that other people had added , corrected or edited parts of Homer’s masterpieces.  Frame calls these people  khōrízontes or “separatists,”. 

The other traditional school of thought about the Homeric epics are the Unitarians.  Who believe that the epics were more or less composed by one person or a group of person and that the current version is pretty true to the original.  


Those that recognize “interpolations in the text” are generally pointing at a particular clause  that doesn’t fit their current theory.  The general problem I see in questioning the unity of the epics, is that if you start picking out pieces that you don’t want, the whole beautiful tapestry comes unraveled.  At another point where the facts don’t meet Frames needs he suggests that the scholar in question, “therefore seems to have slightly misquoted the first line of the passage.” (§2.139)   Finally for me he writes at  §3.8. “There is in fact explicit evidence that Athena was worshipped as a mother goddess in at least one city, namely Elis in the northwest Peloponnesus, which had a cult of Athena Mḗtēr. This of course does not mean that Athena Polias in Athens was a mother goddess, only that she may have been.  Or it could mean that a bunch of grateful mothers expressed their thanks to Athena.  (Graves, 138.g)


Apparently, I am not smart enough to read this book.  At this point what with its heavy reliance on the Indo-European language, Nestor’s absence twin and the abundance of interpolations I was too confused to read further.






  1. I had read in several scholarly articles that Epimetheus allegedly was a late and transparent addition to the Prometheus myth. On the other hand, Robert Graves thinks that the Mecone story is Hesiod's invention rather than true myth. (He often says that this or that is not "true myth" but his distinguishing criteria seem to me quite arbitrary.)
    So I was charmed to read the following reconstruction attempt of the Indo-European creation myth:
    "At the beginning of time there were two brothers, twins, one named Man (*Manu, in Proto-Indo-European) and the other Twin (*Yemo). They traveled through the cosmos accompanied by a great cow. Eventually Man and Twin decided to create the world we now inhabit. To do this, Man had to sacrifice Twin (or, in some versions, the cow). From the parts of this sacrificed body, with the help of the sky gods (Sky Father, Storm God of War, Divine Twins), Man made the wind, the sun, the moon, the sea, earth, fire, and finally all the various kinds of people. Man became the first priest, the creator of the ritual of sacrifice that was the root of world order."
    This is from David W. Anthony, The Horse, The Wheel, and Language. If the theory is correct, then Epimetheus and the ox are more ancient than most other elements of Greek myth.
    I made the two brothers twins anyway, to explain the low IQ of Epimetheus by the birth asphyxiation that is not infrequent for naturally born second twins.

  2. Maya,
    The story you told here sounds a lot like the Norse creation myth, only it was three brothers and yes oneof them wasn't too smart