Sunday, August 10, 2014

TFBT: The Five Horseman of Patroclus’ Funeral

An Ancient tradition in Greek mythology and epic is funeral games in honor of the deceased.  The first (literally) and foremost of such games is in honor of the hero Patroclus in Book XXIII of The Iliad.  His best friend and king, Achilles announces a chariot race in honor of the deceased, lays out the prizes, sets the course and makes his retainer Phoenix judge of the event. 

 “First among them all stood up Eumelos, king of men, son of Admetos, a man excellent in charioteering.” Nowhere else in Greek literature or art is there mention of  Eumelos being an excellent charioteer.  But Admetos was famous for driving a chariot. In order to win his bride his future father-in-law Pelias required him to yoke a boar and a lion to his chariot. (Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheke 1.9.15; Hyginus, Fabulae, 50)  Admetus lived  his own private golden-age existence.  He  “dwelt in ease and peace upon their lands with many good things, rich in flocks and loved by the blessed gods.” (Hesiod Works and Days 120)  He was immune to death (Aeschylus, Eumenides, 728) and dined with the god daily.  So it was Apollo who yoked a lion and boar to Admetos bridal chariot and sent him to Pelias to fetch his future wife Alcestis. 

“Next to him rose mighty Diomedes son of Tydeus” A seer told Tydeus’ future father in law to yoke a lion and a boar to his kingdom.  One night in his entryway he found Tydeus whose shield bore a boar fighting with Polyneices of Thebes whose shield bore a lion. Adrastus married his daughters to the two exiled princes. “(Diomedes)  yoked the Trojan horses which he had taken from Aeneas,” The Trojans were famous for their horses descended from a small herd given them by Zeus.  Diomedes attained some of these horses when he defeated in a duel their master Aeneas, son of Anchises. 

Third arose fair-haired Menelaus, beloved younger brother of the penultimate bronze aged king Agamemnon and  yoked his fleet horses;  his own horse Podargos and  Agamemnon’s mare Aithe, given to Agamemnon by Echepolos son of (another) Anchises.  So, Aithe’s yokemate is Menelaus’ horse Podargos. Admittedly there are a limited number of horse names allowed in Greek mythology, but these two horses share names with Prince Hector’s lead horses Aithon and Podargos. 

“ Fourth in order Antilokhos, son to noble Nestor son of high-hearted Neleus, made ready his horses. These were bred in Pylos, and his father came up to him

to give him good advice”   At which point follows the most famous advise on how to win a horse race, center on how to turn the post at the far end of the race.  Of course, Nestor’s advice had nothing to do with horseracing but came in handy in when god-like Antilochus debated over the prizes after the race.  After the famous and lengthy discourse… 

“fifth in order Meriones got ready his horses”  Meriones, son of Molos,  is a Cretan and squire to Idomeneus.  We are told nothing of his horses here.

 In short two of the charioteers have fathers who were part of a boar/lion/charioteer trio.  Two of the charioteers drove horses that once belonged to Anchises.  One charioteer drove horses that shared a name with his enemy Hector’s horses.  One charioteer received the best chariot driving advice ever and we know nothing about one charioteer’s horses.

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