Wednesday, January 28, 2015

TFBT: Homeric Conversation

I started reading Deborah Beck’s book with a little trepidation.  Several people recommended “Homeric Conversation to me after I presented a paper on proper personal conversation in epic at Hour 25’s first symposium.    After a few tentative peeks to see if Beck would destroy my pet theory, I began reading with enthusiasm. 

 Beck’s work on Homeric conversations evolved from the popular field of research into “speeches”. (My work is descended from the popular field of research into “prayer”.)   This book is incredibly well researched and incredibly well written. I found it full of close readings, statistics, sharp insights and asides worth tweeting.  For example, did you know that “both neoanalysts and oral theorists tend to be unitarian in their attitude towards Homeric epics?”  Who knew?  

Her book is full of insights; like the fact that Homeric speakers are rarely interrupted, the Homeric formula that initiates a reply and the fact that in all two hundred incidents of that formula a version of the verb ameib-.  She does a great analysis of the Telemachy and suggests the lame “duex de machina” finale of the Odyssey was a late addition. She writes some really good stuff about Penelope’s speeches and discusses the field of conversation analysis, in a way I found understandable.  (Did you know we intentional categorize people when we talk to them?  Sort of like calling a stray dog; “Good dog.”)

If you have any interest in Homeric conversations and speeches, this is the interesting and very readable book for you.  (As to my own research, Beck helped great in better defining my own research and giving me the phraseology to better express my thoughts come publishing time.)

Monday, January 19, 2015

TFBT: Titanophobia

Uneasy Lies the Head that Wears a Crown

Zeus is the King of the Greek gods on Mount Olympus, but “Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.” In the first book of The Iliad the hero Achilles tells the tale of his mother the goddess Thetis rescuing the divine king from a conspiracy of Hera and Poseidon and Pallas Athena. The poet Hesiod tells us about the second generation of Titans, sons of the elder gods revolting against Zeus (Bulfinch uses the word revolt). Of course, the victorious Olympians hurled the Titans into far Tartarus in the black abyss of the netherworld. Next “because of her anger over the Titans, Earth gave birth to the Giants “ After a battle so desperate that for the first time in Greek mythology the goddesses took up arms, the Giants were defeated. Next "Now after Zeus had driven the Titans out of heaven, gigantic Gaia, in love with Tartarus…bore the youngest of her children, Typhoeus." Typhon in turn was defeated.

Those Gods Beneath the World with Cronus Heard our Quarrel

So at this point you would think Zeus’ reign should be secure, but maybe the Olympians have reason for concern.
Starting in Iliad XIV there are several references to the Titans and their King Cronus bound in the world below. As Sara S at Hour 25points out Hera at Iliad XIV.275 swears by the Styx and “invoked all the gods of the nether world, who are called Titans, to witness.” Tritogenia at Hour 25 points out that Theogony 780 Cronion sends the goddess Iris to fetch a golden ewer of water from the dread Styx “when by chance strife and quarrel shall have arisen among the immortals” And finally “It is better for both that he (Poseidon) yielded to my power despite his indignation, before those gods beneath the world with Cronus heard our quarrel,” (Maya M. - Iliad 15.220 ) It is the goddess Iris who delivers the message to Poseidon and uses her own arguments to convince him of the wisdom of Zeus’ words. So it appears that the gods take care to minimize strife and quarrels amongst themselves invoking their most awesome oaths. IIris would be the joiner or conciliator, or the messenger of heaven, who restores peace in nature. In Statius’ Thebaid 8.42 “Hades speaks of “ the Giants, and of the Titans, eager to force their way to the world above, and his own unhappy sire”



Unbar the Bolts of the Darksome Hollows

So the gods had reason to fear their strife being overheard by the Titans and arousing them into revolt. They appointed processes and goddess to handle their quarrels and placed “warders” like Lord Hades and the Hekatonkheires, namely Kottos and Gyes; and Briareos, to guard them.

But how could they escape? Hera called upon them to help with the creation of Typhon and to destroy Zagreus. Colluthus in the Rape of Helen 48 says [Eris was furious at being turned away from the wedding of Peleus & Thetis :] Fain would she unbar the bolts of the darksome hollows and rouse the Titans from the nether pit and destroy heaven the seat of Zeus, who rules on high." Although it all sounds a little ludicrous and un-Homeric it does remind us that Zeus all on his own slew the jailress Campe and released the Hekatonkheires and Cyclopes from Tartarus.

In addition to the examples of Hera, Eris and Zeus releasing prisoners from Tartarus, we know mortals similarly escaped from Hades; Theseus, Semele and almost Eurydice.

Finally we can recall Thetis releasing Zeus from captivity. None of the rebel gods spoke out against her or took up arms against Briareus her faithful ally. But if she could release Cronion so easily, how much more so the Titans if she wished since Briareaus is the “trusty warder” of the Titans.

This might explain the silence around her rescue of Zeus. The gathered Olympians; rebel or loyalist could not make known “strife and quarrel … arisen among the immortals” for fear of the Titans.

Even Immortal Cronion Released the Titans
Wondering what became of the Olympians’ dread of the ancient forces lying beneath the earth waiting, waiting for the first falling out among the allies of Zeus in order to return to power themselves? The riddles is answer in an Ancient proverb used by Pindar in Pythian 4.2; “Even Immortal Zeus released the Titans” Hesiod places them eventually on the Isles of the Blest ( Works and Days 156 )and Aeschylus makes them free to be the chorus in the lost “Prometheus Unbound”.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

TFBT: Sex Slaves in Heaven?

We are familiar with slavery in Ancient Greece;

    • Fair-tressed Hecamede who prepared a cup for Nestor  (Iliad 11. 616 ) along with Chrysies and Briseis, who were slaves to Agamemnon and Achilles (Iliad Book I),
    • Eumaeus Odysseus’s swineherd a slave purchased by Laertes who owned his own slave (Odyssey 14. 450]
    • Eurycleia, Odysseus’ nanny who Laertes bought for twenty oxen (Odyssey 1.425]   and Aethra, handmaiden to Helen; a gift from her brothers the Dioscuri.

Someone at Hour 25 points out that were divine slaves among the Ancient Greeks;

  • As consequence to his rebellion against Zeus “Phoebus, didst herd the sleek kine of shambling gait amid the spurs of wooded Ida, the many-ridged.” (Hom. Il. xxi. 446)
  • When Admetus reigned over Pherae, Apollo served him as his thrall,”   (APOLLODORUS, LIBRARY 1.9.15)  Because he slew the younger Cyclops that forged Zeus’ thunderbolts.
  • While Apollo herded Laomedon’s kine above, Poseidon (and Aecaeus Achilles’ grandfather) “built for the Trojans round about their city a wall, wide and exceeding fair, that the city might never be broken”  But rather then pay the two gods at the end of the term of their hire the Trojan King did send them “away with a threatening word”, said he would  bind them and sell them into slavery, even made as if “he would lop off with the bronze the ears of … both”(Il. xxi. 446)  Not the sort of reward you offer freemen, much less gods.
  • Herakles’ servitude to Queen Omphale (DIODORUS SICULUS 4.31.8]  Apparently Heracles services to his queen included the bed as witness by their son.
    But was there slavery in the heavens above?

    • When Sarah S. and I discussed this the other day we thought of Zeus’ cupbearer. (Iliad 20. 232) Ganymede was abducted and taken to Olympus but his duties were not so inferior that Hera’s own children didn’t perform them, plus in the deal he got immortality and endless youth.  That said, rumor has it the youth was a “favorite” of Zeus
    • The ancient sea-god Proteus was servant of Poseidon and shepherd of Poseidon’s herds. (Iliad 4)
    • an obscure daemon named Menoetius was a guard of the oxen of Hades. (Apollod. ii. 5. § 10.) But every other shepherd on Mt. Ida was a Trojan prince, so a shepherd is not necessarily a slave
    • Hera’s handmaiden help with the horses and chariots, but She and Athena do the duties too.  That said Hera seems empowered to dispose of them as she pleases; as a bribe to Sleep in the Iliad and as a replacement for the faithless Aphrodite to Hephaestus.


Were divine cupbearers, handmaidens and shepherds slaves?



Thursday, January 8, 2015

TFBT: Tracking Rhoecus

I just wanted to share a bit of fun research I did.  Maya and I were researching eponymous nymphs with heroic husbands that became their community’s found father.  To that end I I checked all the placenames in the catalogue of ships and the names of all the Oceanides.   I came up with a list of 15 such pairings, thanks to    See list at

The whole time I am looking up name after name, I keep thinking about the story of the shepherd Rhoecus who rescued and wed a hamadryad. The earliest reference I could find for the story was a poem by James Russell Lowell (1873) under the name "Rhoecus" .  It finally occurred to me to use N-gram;     Years ago, Google scanned millions of books;  you can track word usage over time in their collections by using the website.  N-gram made it clear that Lowell was the source of the stories fame, but also included evidence that the story was around and the name of Rhoecus long before.
So then I googled “Rhoecus” with various dates previous to 1873 until I stumbled upon “Bell’s Neo Pantheon” (1790) which offered the alternative spelling of “Rhaecus”.  The name was written in that old style with the “a” and “e” stuck together, which Sarah told me is called an “ash”.)  Anyway, Bell’s reference for the story is  the Scholiast of Apollonius Rhodius II 471, quoting Charon of Lampsacus.
I just thought all this sleuthing was cool, so I had to share!


Monday, January 5, 2015

Eponymous Nymphs and Heroic Husbands

I checked all the placenames in the catalogue of ships and the names of all the Oceanides. Here is the resulting list of eponymous nymphs who married mortals. (Thanks to  

KLONIE (or Clonia) was the Naiad Nymph of a spring or fountain of the town of Hyria in Boiotia (central Greece). She was the wife of the town's eponymous founder, Hyrieus, and the mother of Lykos and Nykteus, regents of the city of Thebes.

MEROPE was one of the seven Pleiades, star-nymph daughters of the Titan Atlas. She married the impious king Sisyphos

CALLIRHOE (or Callirhoe) was the Naiad Nymph of a spring or fountain of the main town of Akarnania (central Greece). She was a daughter of the river-god Akheloios (Achelous), who married the Argive prophet Alkmaion (Alcmaeon)

Menoitios, the child of the nymph Aigina and Aktor."

MYCE′NE (Mukênê), a daughter of Inachus and wife of Arestor, from whom the town of Mycenae or Mycene

SPARTE was the Naiad Nymph of the main spring, well or fountain of the town of Sparta in Lakedaimonia (Lacedaemonia) (southern Greece). She was a daughter of the river Eurotas, and wife of the country's eponymous king Lakedaimon.

KYLLENE (or Cyllene) was an Oreiad or Naiad nymph of Mount Kyllene (Cyllene) in Arkadia, southern Greece. She was the wife of Pelasgos the first Arkadian king who lived in the days before the Great Deluge.

MELIBOIA (or Meliboea) was an Okeanid Nymph of the region of Mounts Kyllene (Cyllene0 in Arkadia (southern Greece). She was the wife of King Pelasgos, the eponymous first king of the aboriginal Pelasgian tribes of Arkadia.

SAMIA was the Naiad Nymph of the spring, well or fountain of the main town of the island of Samos in the Aegean. She was a daughter of the mainland river Maiandros (Meander), and the wife of Ankaios (Ancaeus), the island's first king.

MAIRA (or Maera) was the nymph of the dog-star Seirios whose rising in conjunction with the sun brought on the scorching heat of midsummer. Like the Pleiades and Hyades, Maira was a starry daughter of the Titan Atlas. She married a mortal king, the Arkadian Tegeates.

KYANEE (Cyanea) was the Naiad Nymph of a spring or fountain of the town of Miletos in Karia (south-western Anatolia). She was a daughter of the River Maiandros (Meander), and the wife of the town's founding king, Miletos.

ORSEIS was the Naiad Nymph of spring in the region of Hellas, Thessalia (northern Greece). She married Hellen, an early King of Northern Greece, sole son of Deukalion and Pyrrha, survivors of the Great Deluge

METHONE was the Naiad Nymph of the spring, well or fountain of the town of Methone in Pieria (northern Greece). She was the wife of the country's eponymous king, Pieros.

EIDYIA (or Idyia) was an Okeanis nymph of the town of Kolkhis (Colchis) in Aia at the far eastern end of the Black Sea and the wife of the magician-king Aeetes. (He might be immortal)

NEPHELE (1) A Nymphe "cloud" who was the wife of the mortal King Athamas