Friday, December 2, 2016

TFBT: The Fathers of the Achaeans

We often contrast Odysseus and Achilles, I got to thinking that maybe a similar contrast existed between their fathers.

 Using the short biographies at I started making a list. I ended up finding more similarities than I expected. Both were alive during and after the Trojan wars, had their kingdom overrun, saved by their grandsons, maybe married a pregnant bride, fathered a son and a daughter, hunted the Calydonian Boar, sailed aboard the Argo and were made young again by some goddess at the end of their lives.

These surprising similarities got me thinking about the rest of the characters in the Iliad. Menelaus and Agamemnon’s father was not alive, nor Diomedes’. Nestor and Priam’s fathers were not alive. I haven’t started looking, but I am pretty sure Neleus, Atreus and the fathers of the Epigoni were too busy battling one another to sail on the Argo. I wonder, if with a broad-brush, the events (Theban Wars, Boar Hunt, Argo) of the father’s lives affect the son’s. 

The lists of The Crew of the Argo (Wikipedia), the Epigoni (Wikipedia), the Seven Against Thebes (Wikipedia), the List of the Calydonian Hunters (Wikipeida) and list of the Leaders of the Achaeans (Maicar) is a lot of data to sort through.  But here goes.   Rather than trying to set up a massive database and then trying to sort the data, I picked individual hypotheses to test.  

Hypothetis One;  If your father died at the first Theban War;  you had an extraordinary chance of surviving the Second Theban War, surviving the bulk of the Trojan War and being part of the ambush in the Trojan Horse.  Research; Six out of Seven Against Thebes died, but only one out of their seven sons (the Epigoni) died in the Second Theban War.   Of the six remaining Epigoni, the Bibliotheca list four them in the Trojan Horse; Diomedes, Euryalus, Sthenelus and Thersander

Hypothetis Two; If you were an Achaean hero at Troy your father (grandfather or you) fought the Calydonian Boar and/or boarded the Argo.  Research   Wrong!  Only half the Achaean leaders had fathers fighting the boar or boarding the Argo, including Agamemnon, Menelaus and Diomedes.   

          Hypothetis Three; Why aren’t their father’s listed among the boar hunters?  Why did they miss the boat?  It is a geographic or racial thing?  

                     Hypothetis Four; Apparently Menelaus and Diomedes' fathers were busy with cannibalistic dinners rather than boating or boar hunting.  The other thing that M & D have in common is they were both beloved of the gods.  Menelaus was promised the Isle of the Blest by Proteus and Athena gave Diomedes the cup of immortality intended for his father.  I dont know yet if the link between your father's involvement in canniballism and your blessedness applies to the heroes in item three. (I doubt it).   But elsewhere we fan note the Tantalus served up human flesh and his son Pelops was loved by the gods.  (Well loved by Poseidon at least!). If we believe the stag Odysseus killed and ate on Circe''s island was a transforned man it follows that she sould make Odysseus'  son Telemachus immortal.


  1. The only Epigon who died in the Epigoni War was son of the only member of the Seven who survived the expedition. Of the first expedition against Troy, I remember only the leaders Heracles and Telamon; both have sons who perish in the Trojan War. Sophocles makes the death of Ajax the Great a consequence of his father's glorious return.

    Laertes is a mystery to me. Still alive, he surrenders the throne to his son and retires to work on a farm. He doesn't even become a regent when his son departs for the Trojan War. Penelope says she weaves a funeral item for him, which in some cultures would be considered a death wish. Odysseus isn't in a hurry to see him, and when finally sees him, pretends for a long time to be someone else. And indeed, there is a version that Odysseus isn't Laertes' son. What's wrong with the poor old man? Is he the village idiot?

  2. Maya,

    I always felt like Odysseus wasn't king until he married Penelope. No proof of course, just a feeling


  3. If Penelope had dynastic importance, this could explain her irresistible sex appeal to men who were half her age.

  4. Maya,

    Them broze age babes seem to keep their looks. Apoarently Andromache was hot enough for teenage Neoptolemus. Helen returned home at forty and was still a startingly supernatural beauty


  5. Interesting observation. Historical Greek men typically married teen girls half their age and arrested their mental development by confining them at home and demanding from them to be "virtuous". At the same time, they were sexually attracted to active, intelligent women who kept their good looks through a lot of interesting years. Almost like goddesses. Pericles had a family life similar to that of Aeacus.

  6. Maya
    I am always confused about our concept of the Ancients.. Life was had and they died young, except Sophocles was active and brillant at ninety Women can't attend the Olympics but a Sparta princess took first in a chariot race. What?


  7. I think our concept is accurate. "They died young" means that their average life duration was low. There was huge variance, with many individuals living to old age and many dying in infancy or youth. The legend of Niobe was created for a reason.

    The story of Cynisca seems to me a travesty. If I understand the sources correctly, she never drove a chariot at the Olympics. She was the rich sister of a king, and she was proclaimed the winner because she owned the horses. They say she trained the horses - why should we believe? The whole story reminds me of Aisha Gaddafi and of Lyudmila Zhivkova, the daughter of our last dictator Todor Zhivkov:

    She was credited, among other things, with discoveries in history of ancient Thrace that were of course done by other people robbed of their achievements. There was an epigram about her (rhymed in the original):

    My name is Lyudmila,
    And under my father's protection
    I have discovered something new:
    That Thracian burial mounds
    Have been built by the Thracians!

  8. Maya,

    Lyudmila reads like a siren casting her song upon the deep riffs of the cold gray sea. How many cold and lonely sailors smiled to hear that song even if for a little while?