Monday, March 9, 2015

TFBT: Maya’s Question

1: Introduction  My friend Maya wondered about the coincidence between Achilles epithet swift-footed which in the Greek is podarces and Priam’s birth name of Podacres.  So, I asked around at Hour 25.  You’d have thought I’d tossed the golden apple into Thetis’ wedding reception.   

2: The Two Questions   

First off; why was Achilles called swift-footed?   Maya M pointed out a comment by John A. Scott; “Achilles, whether he be standing or seated, is... (swift-footed) podarces, yet on the one occasion where he has the opportunity to show the fleetness of foot he was unable to overtake Hector, and must receive the help of Athena, who... induces Hector to come near”[i]   Nor can he outrun the flooding Scamander (Iliad 21. 211)    Sarah at Hour 25 found the epithet swift-footed comes up 21 times in Iliad, and always in the phrase “ποδάρκης δῖος Ἀχιλλεύς  It is not used to describe anyone else.   Achilles is also referred to by the phrase “πόδας ὠκὺς” and this is the more frequent form, coming up 41 times, 30 of those being with reference to Achilles.  The other person of whom this epithet in this form is used is Iris.  

I found Sarah’s last comment interesting, because I happen to recall  that Achilles got his “swift-footedness” from Iris’ sister;

“It is said . . . that he [Achilles] was called podarkes (swift-Footed) by the Poet , because, it is said, Thetis gave the newborn child the wings of Arke and podarkes means that his feet had the wings of Arke. And Arke was the daughter of Thaumas and her sister was Iris; both had wings, but, during the struggle of the gods against the Titans, Arke flew out of the camp of the gods and joined the Titans. After the victory Zeus removed her wings before throwing her into Tartarus and, when he came to the wedding of Peleus and Thetis, he brought these wings as a gift for Thetis.”  [ii] 

Second question; Why was Priam originally named Podarces?  Kimie found “Priam was originally called Podarces and he kept himself from being killed by Heracles by giving him a golden veil embroidered by his sister, Hesione. After this, Podarces changed his name to Priam. This is a folk etymology based on πριατός priatos, ‘ransomed’”.[iii]  Sarah  did a bit of searching and it seems to be mentioned in Apollodorus 2.6.4 and Apollodorus 3.12.3. But there doesn’t seem to be any detail about him before the name change to explain why he was originally called that.  I thought maybe his swiftness had something to do with the famous “swift” horses of the Trojans, but using Google and English translations of the Iliad all I noticed is the divine horses of Aeneas and Achilles being called “swift-horses”.  

3: Protesilaus and Podarces, Patroclus and Achilles 

Sarah said, the name “Podarkēs” comes up only twice in The Iliad at 13.693 where he gets the epithet μενεπτόλεμος 'battle-stubborn'  and as the brother of Protesilaus is ordering the troops at (2.704);  

“now his people were organized  by Podarkes, attendant of Arēs, He was son of Iphiklos, rich in sheep, who was the son of Phylakos,  and he Podarkes was the blood brother of Protesilaus, the one with the great heart .  But he was younger, Protesilaus being both older and more Arēs-like,  yes, that hero  Protesilaus, the Arēs-like. Still, his people were not   without a leader, though they longed   for him Protesilaus, noble   man that he was.”  [iv] 

If you don’t know Protesilaus, he was the first of the Achaeans that jumped ashore at Troy even though it was foretold doing such would seal his doom. Hence the title “Protesilaus” his real name was Iolaus according to Hyginus in  Fabulae, 103.  

Kimie provided an interesting quote from John Crossett in The Art of Homer's Catalogue of Ships;
"In the story of Protesilaus and his younger brother Podarces, we may see a foreshadowing of Achilles and Patroclus, for Patroclus, like Protesilaus, will die eagerly leading the Greek troops; and Achilles, younger than Patroclus, will have the responsibility for marshalling the leaderless troops..."

I think Crossett is brilliant! Protesilaus and his brother Podarces as a doublet for Patroclus and the man closer than a brother; swift-footed Achilles.

 4: The Princely Titles of Troy 

 Nagy has a theory that the names of sons are often epithets of their fathers. “the son really carries those significant qualities of the father (in his name). Telemachus “fighting from the distance”, you know”  (CHS Open House, with Gregory Nagy, on nostos, names, and the younger generation of heroes;)  [v] I can find nothing about Priam’s father Laodmedon being swift nor Achilles’ father Peleus.  Achilles has no brothers, so I looked at Priam's brothers to see if there was any clue as to why he got the name .  I looked at “Genealogy of the Greek Gods” by Vanessa James; Laomedon’ sons were Priam/Podacres, Tithonus, Bucolion, Hicetaon, Lampus and Clytius. For name meanings I looked at the index in Robert Graves’ The Greek Myths. Not the best I know, but the only ready source I had;  

·      P/P = Swift-footed/Redeemed,

·      Tithonus = Partner of the queen of day,

·      Bucolion = Herdsman,

·      Hicetaon,  = Suppliant,  

·      Lampus = Torch, and

·      Clytius = Famous  

“Partner of the Queen of the Day” could actually apply to several of those eastern princes; you know how much the Olympians loved those Trojan princes. (See chart below.)    

Mark H. Mann in The Mother of Gods explains of Bucolion that “Shepherd and Herdsman are, of course, titles of Dumuzi and all king beloved of the goddess in Sumerian poetry.”    Just like Agamemnon, Hectors and Achilles’ epithets of “Shepherd of the People (Army) in the Iliad. (Sarah looked up the epithet in

Chicago Homer website as : ποιμνα λαν,   Chicago Homer only covers Homeric epic, Homeric Hymns, and Hesiod, it gives the following references: 1.poimena laôn (29) 2.poimeni laôn (29) List of all occurrences (58)  

When I read that Prince Lampus’ name/title meant “Torch”, I immediately,  thought of Paris who was mystically represented as a firebrand even before his birth;     

“his wife, again pregnant, in a dream saw herself (Hecuba, wife of Priam) giving birth to a glowing firebrand from which many serpents issued. When this vision was reported to all the seers, they bade her slay whatever child she should bear to avoid its being the ruin of the country.”  (Hyginus, Fabulae, 91) 

So, though this analysis got us no further on discovering why Priam was named Podarces at birth and took Priam as his regnal name, it provides some interesting things to think about in names/titles of Trojan princes.  (See Table below.)  

The Princely Titles of Troy 

Generations after   Tros
snatched up by the gods
3 Sons of Tros
Ilus/ Troop
2 Grandsons of  Tros
Laomedon/  ruler of the people
Capys/  Snatcher
8  G,Grandsons of  Tros
bucolion/ herdsman
Anchises/ Living with Isis, Tithonus/husband of Eos
Clytius/ Suppliant
50+   G,G,Grandsons of Tros
Alexander/ he wards off men,  
Hector/ Stay, Memnon/Resolute
Aesacus/ myrtle branch
? G, G, G, Grandsons
Astyanax/ King of the City

5: Two Languages, Two Names, Two Stories.  

Maya pointed out that “The Alaksandu Treaty” observes   a Trojan king at Wilusa named “Alexander (i.e. Paris), rather than Priam or Hector around 1280 BC. Three decades later the Hittite king sends a letter to the Achaean king who has a brother named Tawagalawa, interpreted as Eteocles.” [vi]  Still referencing Wikipedia[vii]  Maya writes, “You may be interested in Piyama-Radu, though he was a pretender and troublemaker rather than a prince: His name "appears to be a compound with Luwian piyama "gift" as its first part."  That seems to coincide with Greek myth!   She then lists three documents in which the name/title is referenced and concludes, “So, if the documents are correctly dated, Piyama-Radu was important for at least 45 years. It is difficult for me to imagine a warlord active for half a century, so I speculate that "Piyama-Radu" indicated a title or position, rather than a name.” 

Kimie quoted the wikipedia article on Trojan language ; “Modern scholars derive his name (Priam) from the Luwian name Pariya-muwas, which meant “exceptionally courageous”.   

Maya found in "Troy and the Trojan War" edited by M.J. Mellink;  

"Laroche, in good structuralist fashion, thought the... homogenous series [i.e. sons' names derived from father's name] was absent because Priam's son bore Greek names. But we must recall that one bore two names, one Anatolian and the other Greek, just like Hector's son Skamandrios - Astuanaks: precisely Paris - Aleksandros. If we compare Priamos with Pariya-muwas, can we not also compare Paris with the name of a Hittite scribe Pari-LU?  
  • Priamos ------ Pariya-muwas |
  • Paris ---------- Pari-LU 
The last name is to be read Pari-zitis, as Laroche gives it in his catalogue of Hittite names; and it too can be linguistically identified as Luwian. The second element of the compound is the Luwian word for "man"... It would not surprise us that a king *Pariya-muwas would name a son from the same onomastic stock, but with a variant: Pari(ya)-MAN. It is just coincidence that Paris' other name is Aleks-ANDROS, with the Greek word for man as second member?"

Although I’m not smart enough to understand Mellink’s Luwian or the differing translations above, it does give me reason to pause, particularly; “two names, one Anatolian and the other Greek, just like Hector's son Skamandrios - Astuanaks: precisely Paris – Aleksandros”.   I always thought that Paris' birth name being Alexander was because sometimes Homer needs four syllables rather than two to match the meter. But, what if we are reconciling two different languages.  Okay, wait a minute. Do epithets do the same thing? Are Agamemnon, Hector and Achilles "the shepherd of the people" because that is an Luwian phrase and they war-lords in the Luwian version of the myth? (See Mann above.) 

6.  The non-Homeric Iliad 

When it comes to myths about Troy pre-dating Homer, maybe scholars have always looked in the wrong direction. The Iliad is set in Asia Minor, maybe we should be looking for a tradition in that direction. For example;  

·      There is a fragment named KTU 1.2 i 40. It deals with Ugarit mythology; that town being located far to the southeast of Troy on the now Syrian border with Turkey. When Baal, the storm god, loses his temper in the divine council the goddesses Anat and Ashtart forcibly restrain him.[viii]  Anat seizes his right hand and Ashtart his left. [ix]    There is an oddly similar seen in the Iliad where the goddess Thetis forcibly removes the bounds from the hands on the storm god Zeus.  I’m not suggesting that Homer created Thetis rescue of  Zeus by inverting KTU 1.2 i 40, but the many diverse and inter-related cultures of Asia Minor might offer several versions of this event that Homer could have used.   

·      It occurred to me to look in “the Greek Myths” for a non-Homeric source of Thetis’ story.   Graves suggests; “Homer has drawn on the Babylonian Gilgamesh epic for the Achilles story; with Achilles as Gilgamesh, Thetis as Nanson, and Patroclus as Enkidu”.  Graves is referring Tablet III, starting at line 21 in the Assyrian version.  It has vague similarities to Achilles asking his mother to demand a favor from Zeus.

7.  Conclusion

Let me apologize for such a long rambling blog of epic proportions.  But, I saw such great research and insights in the conversations that raced back and forth in the forums at Hour 25 and Bill’s Classical Studies and I didn’t want to lose it.  So to summarize.

1.    The question was about the coincidence between Achilles epithet, swift-footed which in the Greek is podarces and Priam’s birth name of Podacres. 

2.    Looking for a connection led us to ask two questions.  How did Achilles get the epithet “swift-footed?  And why was Priam’s birth name Podarce?  Our research revealed a late source saying that Achilles was given the wings of the Titaness Arce, although he didn’t really run that fast.  And no solution was found for the birth name of Priam.

3.    However we did discover a comparison  between protesilaus Iolaus & his brother Podarces  to Patroclus and podarces Achilles.

4.    Studying the names of Priam’s brothers offered no solution to his birth name, but provided some research I found interesting on princely Trojan titles.

5.    Then came a long discussion in Luwian, about the practice of Trojan princes having  two names; one Anatolian and the other Greek. 

6.    This suggested to me, that there were two different version of the Trojan War and we should look for non-Greek sources.  

One last thing, kind of wild I know, but here goes.  There is some suggestion that Homer was Ionian.  Is it even possible to consider the idea, that on high Anatolian holidays Homer slipped across the border and sang the tragic “Death of Hector to a non-Greek audience?



[i] Paris and Hector in tradition and in Homer", by John A. Scott.
[ii] Ptolemy Hephaestion, New History Book 6 (summary from Photius, Myriobiblon 190)
[iv] Helen provided the quote from the Hour 25 version of the Iliad
[v] Sarah thanks for the reference!
[viii] Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible edited by Karel van der Toorn, Bob Becking, Pieter Willem van der Horst
[ix] Poetic Heroes: The Literary Commemorations of Warriors and Warrior Culture … By Mark S. Smith


  1. Thank you! You have written it excellently!

  2. Maya,

    Thank you for your comment. It really was a blog of epic proportions, following on the heels of a similarly long one on Aethra for Hour 25. It should be coming out in a week or so., (We've talked about her before on this blog.) I gotta get back 1/2 pagers.


  3. "Is it even possible to consider the idea, that on high Anatolian holidays Homer slipped across the border and sang the tragic “Death of Hector” to a non-Greek audience?"

    Writers/poets often include personal experience in their works. I am thinking of Phemius from the Odyssey, the bard who amused both sides in the conflict and got away with this, and sang about Troy.