Tuesday, February 28, 2017

TFBT: The Hero Echelos and his Bride Iasile

A few days ago I ran across this tweet and image of the Nymph Basile and the Hero Echelos. Basile is not mentioned as a goddess by Atsma at http://www.theoi.com . Echelos is not mentioned as a hero by Maicar at Greek Mythology Link. Most of the information on the internet looks similar to the attached image. And originally based on an article by Nicholas E. Crosby: “A Basrelief from Phaleron” (1895)

Crosby tells us the inscriptions on the marble votive relief identify the characters on it; “the youth in front of the chariot is Hermes, while the occupants of the chariot itself are Echelos and Basile, though present condition of the letters points to Iasile”  That said Crosby continues to identify the Nymph as Basile even thought the inscription says “Iasile”.  Following several sources he says that;

 “Echelos was hero-eponymous of deme Echelaidai… between the Peiraieus and the Herakleion in which latter place the gymnastic games were held for the Panathenaic festival, undoubtedly the ancient hippodrome.”   

The problem with that is that there is no record of an official deme (neighborhood) called Echelaidai.  This problem can be solved if we assume the neighborhood around Echelos’ hero-shrine would informally be known at Echelaidai.  Hellenismo[i] explains that “Echelos was honored with Iasile in Echelidai. It is a place within the deme Xypete rather than a constitutional deme itself

Crosby following Diodoros (3.57) then tells us a myth about the Titaness Basile, far outside the traditions and paradigms established by Hesiod and Homer and as adopted by Greek culture.  Basile, according to Crosby’s sources, was the Magna Mater (Mother of the Gods).  This is a great goddess, not one to be snatched up by a passing hero, particularly because she “forbids any one to touch her body” and on the occasion that happen “a shower of rain and thunder” followed.  The nymph in the chariot doesn’t look like a formidable Titaness and Echelos does not appear to be cowering from lightning. This is not Basile, it is Iasile  

Then Crosby discuss the possibility that Echelos is an epithet of Hades and we are viewing the rape of Persephone.  And that Hermes might be conducting her to or from the underworld.  Before leaving Echelos he compares him to Echetlos, a “divine hero who appeared on the field of Marathon”. Except Echetlos was a man of rustic appearance and dress who slaughtered many of the Persians with a plowshare.  [Pausanias1.32.5]   Not exactly the heroic image portrayed by our hero Echelos and his four horse chariot
In short,  our study here in the following blog-posts is about the Hero Echelos and his Bride Iasle.

[i] https://hellenismo.wordpress.com/tag/ancient-attica/

Sunday, February 19, 2017

TFBT: Random Notes on Aeneid Chapters Three and Four

I had forgotten how much I enjoy the Aeneid.  With my focus on Greek mythology, the Aeneid offers fresh new traditions in an unknown world with a Hellenized perspective.  It is the joy and pleasure of discovery I first felt when my fourth grade teacher introduced us to mythology.  Also, it is very well written, to quote Robert Service, “T’s right.  T’s human true. “   Virgil’s description of the eruption of Aetna is impressive! And every chapter seems to start with a bang. (The inclusion of steel tipped javelins during the Bronze Age is a little jarring, but maybe only to me.  I have read translations by Williams and Fitzgerald so far. Fitz was much easier to understand.
First question; at line 3.3 why is Troy Neptune’s town? Last I saw him in the
Aeneas to Helenus "Then to the prophet-priest I made this prayer:". We had just discussed the separation of priests and prophets in Hebrew tradition with Keith Stone. I noted a similar separation in Greek between seer and priest(ess) . The latter often a member of the royal family.  Does this foreshadow Roman tradition?  FitzGerald’s translation seems to fit better 3.357. ” Trojan interpreter of the god's will.”  Seems like better description of Helenus 
“Than this no more the Sister Fates to Helenus unveil, and Juno, Saturn's daughter, grants no more."  Hera as conservative faction?  Like in the Iliad making clear the separation of men and gods. 
Helenus instructions to Aeneas sure feels like Circe's to Odysseus
Just a little something beautiful; \
"of those who are thy kin—O thou that art
of my Astyanax in all this world
the only image! His thy lovely eyes!
Thy hands, thy lips, are even what he bore,
and like thy own his youthful bloom would be.”  
4.441. And just as when the north winds from the Alps this way and that contend among themselves to tear away an oak tree hale with age the wind and the tree cry and the buffeted trunk showers high foliage to earth, but holds on bedrock for the roots go down as far into the Underworld as cresting boughs. 
Prophecy about Rome;
  • "that he of Teucer's seed a race should sire, and bring beneath its law the whole wide world."  Wow!  There's a prophecy!
  • 3.498. We shall make a single troy in spirit may this task await our heirs.  Aeneas to Helenus about Rome and Epirus
3.97. For offerings, veil your head in red robe.” It was purple in Williams 

Saturday, February 18, 2017

TFBT: Refugees in the Aeneid

Refugees across the world are in our thoughts and prayers lately. The Aeneid is all about Trojan refugees (and Tyrian) trying to find a new home. Regardless how you feel about the issue,  every possible scenario seems to play out in the first four chapters;  


• Settled in Aeneadae, ghost of local hero chased them off,

“O fly from this unhospitable shore,

Warn'd by my fate; for I am Polydore!” 


• Settle in Pergamum plague breaks out;

"A season black with death and pregnant with disease"


• Strophades attempted to drive the locals (Harpies) from their country;

          “High on a craggy cliff Celaeno sate,

And thus her dismal errand did relate:

'What! not contented with our oxen slain,

Dare you with Heav'n an impious war maintain,

And drive the Harpies from their native reign?”


  • Arrive Chaonia set away by local king (Aeneas' brother-in-law!)

“This is what Heav'n allows me to relate:

Now part in peace; ” 


• Actian shore near a little town; peaceful winter spent nude wrestling


• Carthage, Tyrian refugees tricked locales into selling them land and are now the envy of their neighbors:

“A wand'ring woman builds, within our state,

A little town, bought at an easy rate;

She pays me homage, and my grants allow

A narrow space of Libyan lands to plow;

Yet, scorning me, by passion blindly led,

Admits a banish'd Trojan to her bed!”


• Carthage, Trojan refugees settle here, upset balance of power and then abandon hostess;

“For you I have provok'd a tyrant's hate,

Incens'd the Libyan and the Tyrian state;

For you alone I suffer in my fame,

Bereft of honor, and expos'd to shame.

Whom have I now to trust, ungrateful guest?”

TFBT: Carthage to Rome

Over at the Kosmos Society Rien asked which route the Trojans took fleeing Carthage. Here is my response I live in the Alexander Archipelago East of the Gulf of Alaska. We never take the Outside Waters, always the Inside Passage. The Trojan sailors would do the same
As to their route thru Penelope’s realm ( Odysseus was back yet) I would allow Virgil a little poetic license, leaving Ithaca at the end of the list for dramatic effect.
My only question is if they had to go outside to get around Leucas or could they take the strait between there and the mainland. Maicar at Greek Mthology says that “The Leucadian Rock: A peninsula (now an island) of Acarnania ) So cutting thru the strait is out
I came across a discussion in
“Vergil’s Aeneid Books I-6″ by Maud Elma Kingsley, 1908. Book 3 Note 33. “The Trojans leave the Strophades and sail directly north past the islands Zacynthus(modern name Zante) Dulichium, Same (modern name Cephalonia) Neritos (identity unknown) Ithaca (modern name Thiaki). They sail between these islands and the mainland of Greece until they leave Ithaca when they sail around the island of Leucadia (St. Maura) as we judge fro the fact that they see the cloud-covered summit of Mount Leucate (the modern Cape Ducato) on the south-west coast of the island. On the cape is a famous temple of Apollo”
Kingsley’s book can be downloaded for free from Google books;
Having shared Kingsley’s note I have a few thoughts. (I have limited references at the moment because my wife and I are on the jet headed to Little Italy, in San Diego for Valentines Day.)I don’t think Neritos is unknown. Maicar records Mt. Neritum on Ithaca and I believe Neritos is its bay named for Nereus’ sole son Nerites, charioteer of Poseidon, first lover of Aphrodite and father of Eros and Himeros. (Remember Aphrodite came ashore for the first time in this world accompanied by Love and Desire). Also Casanova wrote of Zante and I don’t think it was this far south from Venice. Of course, I always carry a copy of his Memoirs (along with Maicar’s master piece) so I will start checking them.  Jjust checked Casanove Zantecorresponding to Leucas is about right

TFBT: Caucasian Tigresses

When Dido accuses Aeneid of coldness she declares; that 
Mount "Caucasus bore thee, and the tigresses of fell Hyrcania to thy baby lip their udders gave." Aeneid 4

Immediately I thought of "gray sea bore you and the sheer cliffs begot you,” in reference to Achilles (Iliad 16:30-34)  and Dr. Spock called “a simpering, devil-eared freak, whose father was a computer and his mother an encyclopedia?" (This Side of Paradise)

Of course, Achilles and his father Peleus we raised in Chiron's cave on the sheer cliffs of Pelion and his mother was a goddess of the Aegean waves.  At least Spock's father was an emotionless man and mother a school teacher.  But, Aeneas was quite famously conceived on Mt. Ida and raised by the local nymphs

Why would Dido (Ovid) say Mt Caucasus and what is a tigress from s Hyrcania?  Apparently Pliny the Elder is our source  for all this (Nnatural History, Book 8, 25) saying that The tiger, "lives in Hyrcania and India" .  Hyrcania is south of Mount Caucasus. 

But, anyone got any idea Dido mentions Mount Caucasus?

Saturday, February 4, 2017

TFBT: Random Notes on “Power Games”

 I love David Studdard’s book “Power Games; Ritual and Rivalry at the Ancient Greek Olympics”.  He explains the Ancient games by focusing on the “pivotal Games of 416 BC”, but pulls plenty of examples from other Olympics in explanation.


The Introduction starts at spring equinox 416 BC,


when the world was balanced equally between light and darkness, the king-priest of Elis had climbed the wooded slopes above Olympia to make their offering to Kronos, one of the most primeval and terrifying of all their gods.


Chapter 1 starts with ceremonies before the Zeus of Olympia, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.


When its sculptor, Phidias, had finished, he had prayed to the god to indicate somehow if he approved of the creation.  Immediately a light bolt crashed how from Heaven shattering part of the temple’s marble paving.


To the modern earth that sound ominous, but in the ancient world it was a sign of sanctification.  for Pausanias (famous travel writer) nowhere comped to Olympia and nothing to the great statue of Zeus.” The sculptor of the statute had been inspired by three lines from the Iliad;


“Zeus, the son of Kronos, spoke and he inclined his head with its dark brows

And the mighty king’s hair, anointed with ambrosial oil,

Fell forward from his immortal head; and great Olympus trembled.”


Stuttard proceeds day by day with each ceremony, dinner and athletic event, illustrating along the way that to the winner “Olympic victory (brought) at home, the adulation of his city; throughout the Greek world praise envy and undying fame. “


Chapter Two mentions women at the Olympic Games. “from this cliff should be thrown any woman discovered at the Olympic Festival … Actually they say that no woman ever has been caught except only Pherenike.”  Pherenike disguised as a man had coached her son to an Olympic victory.  In her jubilation, she leapt too high and revealed her sex.  She was forgiven and the incident overlooked but henceforth coaches must appear naked as the athletes had for a long time. 

The Spartan princess Kynisca entered a chariot in the Olympic games.  Though she did not attend.  “She erected a victory statue engraved with an inscription which read;

My father and brothers were Spartan kings.  I proclaim myself the only woman in the whole of Greece to have so won the crown. 


In Chariot races of 416 Alcibiades of Athens had unfairly entered six teams to insure his city a victory.  His tent and lifestyle were opulent in sharp contrast to the majority of the attendees and Spartan quarters of the soldiers of Helen’s homeland.  And in a spectacular hubristic display of his wealth and power he hosted a dinner for the thousands in attendances.  Athens under Alcibiades had a “new philosophy; if you were not for her you were against her.  “This was bad news for smaller neighbors like Melos.  His and his city’s behavior was the very picture of Hubris


hubris…the moment when a tragic hero crosses the dividing line between what is acceptably within the bounds of human behavior and what is not… It means a failure to recognize man’s limitations.  It means a blindness to accept wheat every sane person knows.  “Alcibiades…like the goddess Strife…had introduced dissension where none should have been.”


Shortly thereafter the Peloponnesian War re-ignited.  Eventually;


 “A starving Athens surrounded to her Spartan enemy.  She was in no position to make terms,   Eleven years before an arrogant Athenian assembly had voted to put the male citizens of Melos to the sword and to drag the woman and children off to slavery.  Now Athens could expect the same fate at the Spartans’ hands. But it did not come.  Instead the Spartans dismantled the defenses and the long walls linking Athens to the sea, installed a government and spared them.  In victory the fiercest fighting force in Greece had shown a tender clemency…


To say that the end of Athens has its beginning in the Olympic Festival of 416 BC is too simplistic.  Yet it was here on the verge of the disastrously hubristic Sicilian campaign that Alcibiades, the city’s favorite son, behaved with such reckless abandon and with unrestrained extravagance.  What should had been indeed what had been until then a festival which celebrated everything that united the Greek world, had been hijacked and used by one man Alcibiades to promote his ambitions.  In many ways it was the end of one world and the beginning of another. “


Stuttard’s detailed description of the events of the 416 BC Olympics is followed by an epilogue.  It is a brief history of the next 877 years of the Olympics and the events there that foreshadowed the effects of the Macedonian, Roman and Christian impacts on the world.   


This is a well written, well researched and very readable book on a fascinating subject; the Olympic Games and a fascinating time in History.