Sunday, June 10, 2018

TFBT: June Quotes

In the case of Hera, the main clues for understanding the various aspects of her persona are the notions of marriage, legitimacy, power, and sovereignty. This definitional structure of the goddess is largely rooted in the relationship with her husband and brother, the king of the gods. Therefore, any attempts to reconstruct a “prehistory” of Hera as a “great goddess” independent from Zeus has more to do with modern expectations and fantasy than with ancient evidence. (Vinciane Pirenne-Delforge and Gabriella Pironti)

But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.” John 16.13 - “Come thou, let us begin with the Muses who gladden the great spirit of their father Zeus in Olympus with their songs, telling of things that are and that shall be and that were aforetime with consenting voice. “ Hesiod 36

Epimetheus speaking of his brother and Zeus;
“For this tyrant, my brother paved the way,
having learned that the clever, not the strong,
Fate should guide and assist to win the day.”
       Carlos Prada

“The good is in the silence”. Sisters

"this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us."  2 Corinthians 4:7

Farnell in Hero Cults, page  10 calls Hermes “the god of sleep and herald of death”

“The Vain dream of the self-exaltion of man “ page 11, Farnell Hero Cults

Hesiod is superstitious and afraid. Page 12. Farnell Hero Cults

“Kuklopes, whose altar and worship at Corinth is recorded by Pausanias” 14, Farnell Hero Cults

intheoldestpoemoftheso-calledEpic cycle, the Thebais, there was an allusion to the immortality conferred upon Diomed after his death, page 14, Farnell Hero Cults

the children ofMedeia may represent the infants immolated in the prehistoric of Hera Akraia at Corinth ^to the oldest legend, which is evidently of ritualistic origin, they were slain in the temple of Hera, where they were also buried, and their spirits passed into the special protection of the goddess who before their death had promised them
immortality.   Page 19, Farnell Hero Cults

In scholarship one should fear nothing and try all things ; and preserving an open mind endeavour especially to dis- cover some criteria whereby we can decide of two opposite theories. Page 20, Farnell Hero Cults

For the momentary lightness of our affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory extremely beyond measure,” 2 Corinthians 4:17 

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Wednesday, June 6, 2018

TFBT: Come to a Most (Pitiable) Miserable End.

It is summer in Southeast Alaska.  Our seasonal employees arrived last week.  We are teaching them the dangers of the Last Frontier.  Yesterday we discussed whether you can swim to shore (in a life vest) from a sinking boat before hypothermia drags you down and drowns you.  Got me to thinking about Odysseus swimming with Leukothea’s scarf (Odyssey 5).  I vaguely recall him thinking it would have been better if he'd died at Troy.  

Recently at the Kosmos Society we had a great conversation with visiting scholars about “Exchanges in the Odyssey’s Underworld”  Even more vaguely I recall from that discussion Agamemnon saying something similar.  

 So I visited the wonderful collection of Ancient Greek texts posted by the Center for Hellenic Studies and the Kosmos Society and searched the Homeric epics.  Here is what I found; 

“Come to a most pitiable (miserable) end.” (Iliad 21.281, Odyssey 5.312 and Odyssey 24.34

Of course the full sentences look a little different, but all are lamenting a bad ending to someone’s life;
whereas now it seems that I shall come to a most pitiable end,

but now it seems that I shall come to a most pitiable end.

 whereas it has now been your lot to come to a most miserable end.”

In Iliad 21.281 the speaker is Achilles.  The River Scamander, choked with the bodies of Trojan soldiers has jumped his banks and Lord Xanthus is trying is hardest to kill our hero.    In Odyssey 5.312 Odysseus is within sight of Phaeancia put exhausted after several days in the sea and unable to swim against the current of the Phaeancian River even with Leukothea’s scarf.  The scene Odyssey 24.34 is Achilles consoling Agamemnon in Hades over his miserable ending.  Agamemnon changed the topic rapidly.  

Beside the similarity of the English translation, I noticed some other similarity. In all three scenes the specific “miserable end” is drowning.    If the river god of the Scamander slays Achilles it is by drowning.  If the river god of Phaeanica doesn’t still his current, Odysseus will drown.  And I am sure the multiple stab wounds didn’t help much but is it reasonable to assume that   “drowning” was the technical cause of Agamemnon’s death in his bath tub.  

So in these cases the most miserable end is drowning.

Monday, June 4, 2018

TFBT: Research Topics, Part V

Recently, I asked a friend familiar with the work on my blog and active in the forms here, what topics I had been missing (avoiding) in my research. She suggested;
  • The Absence of the Heraclidae at Troy
  • Meleager
    • And subsequently the suicides of his kinswomen
  • Otus and Ephialtes
Here are some insights. 

The Absence of the Heraclidae at Troy   
I came up with some ludicrous reasons why only three of Heracles descendants sailed off to Troy, but I could find no authorities to address the issue. The only hint I found was that after the death of Hyllus;
They now retired to Tricorythus, where they were allowed by the Athenians to take up their abodes. . During the period that followed (ten years after the death of Hyllus) the Trojan War took place.” (A new Classical Dictionary of…William Smith, Charles Anthon, 1880)
I will have to see if Tricorythus is listed in the catalogue of ships. Maybe upon those ships there were Heraclidae at Troy who “went nameless to the dank house of chill Hādēs’” (W&D 153)

S.C.R. Swain suggests that Meleager’s story is part of the earliest and pre-Homeric cycle in Greek myth; the Aetolian-Elean-Pylian Cycle, in addition to the Trojan Cycle, Theban Cycle and (an earlier)  Iolcus Cycle.  Meleager is often compared to Achilles, thanks to Phoenix’s story in the Iliad’s Embassy Scene.  But, Meleager and Achilles are not the same character.  The characters of the Theban Cycle are motivated by revenge particularly the Epigoni.  Whereas the heroes of the Homeric portion of the Trojan Cycle are motivated by a quest for unwilting glory. How could we know Meleager’s motivation until we know more about the genre? I hope to learn more about the Aetolian-Elean-Pylian Cycle and earlier Iolcus Cycle.  Can anyone help me there?  See Swain’s paper here;
A Note on Iliad 9.524-99: The Story of Meleager

Marpessa, Cleopatra, and Polydora 
Meleager’s’ mother-in-law Marpessa, wife Cleopatra, and daughter Polydora (sometimes called Laodamia) all committed suicide upon the deaths of their husbands. This looks similar to something called “suttee”.  Suttee is an Indo-European tradition famous in Vedic traditions and Norse mythology.  Philostratus the Elder at 2.30 tells us about Evadne, wife of Capeneus,  mother of Sthenelus. At her husband’s funeral she threw herself on his pyre and died.  Philostratus mentions other widows who committed suicide upon the husband’s death, but lists no names and tells no stories.
Apparently, I was in denial, but it appears that suttee is also an Ancient Greek tradition, but maybe is primarily an Aetolian tradition. Again I need to learn more about the Aetolian-Elean-Pylian Cycle

Otus and far-famed Ephialtes 
There are enough possibly parents and conflicting tales for two sets of twins.So here is the insight; strong Ephialtes and Otus were either
proto-Hesiods, founding-fathers and heroes in the Ancient and contemporary sense…
giants like the nine year olds of Hesiod Silver Age;
“A child was brought up at his good mother’s side… an utter simpleton, playing childishly in his own home. But when they were full grown and were come to the full measure of their prime, they lived only a little time in sorrow because of their foolishness,”

Friday, June 1, 2018

TFBT:Topics for Research, Part IV

Recently, in reviewing my blogposts I noticed many posts on similar topics.  I hope my research is building on itself rather than circling endlessly around the same two posts.  So I wrote my friend Maya for help.  I believe she is brilliant and having read everything I have written she might have some insights on my work.  Maya suggested: Meleager, The Lack of Herclidae in the Trojan War and Otus &Ephialtes.  I want to thank Maya M  for a wonderful couple of weeks and several insights.

So, here is Part IV; Otus &Ephialtes

Otus and far-famed Ephialtes were the twin sons of Iphimedia. She was the daughter of Triopas of Thessaly and Hiscilla (Daughter of Myrmidon).  Her father and brother Phorbas might have had some connection to Apollo. 

Shall I sing about you as a wooer, in loving liaisons…with Phorbas, a scion of Triops’ lineage, or with Ereútheus, or else along with Leukíppos, to Daphne the wife of Leukíppos…you on foot, he in chariot, nor did he come short of Triops.” (HH to Apollo 208-213, trans. Rodney Merrill at CHS)

Iphimedia wed her father’s brother Aleous, King of Alus in Aetolia.   Hence Iphimedia’s sons have the patronym Aloeidae.  A woman marrying her paternal uncle was a real common thing in great myth.  However, Iphimedia boasted the embrace of Poseidon, father of Polyphemus and Orion.   About the twin brothers we hear; according Diodorus (v. 50, &c.),

“The Aloeidae are Thessalian heroes who were sent out by their father Aloeus to fetch back their mother Iphimedeia and her daughter Pancratis, who had been carried off by Thracians. After having overtaken and defeated the Thracians in the island of Strongyle (Naxos), they settled there as rulers over the Thracians. [i] But soon after, they killed each other in a dispute which had arisen between them, and the Naxians worshipped them as heroes.” (Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology.)

According to Atsma,

"They say that Ephialtes and Otus were the first men to sacrifice to the Muses on Helicon and to declare this mountain sacred to the Mousai…Hegesinous wrote about this in his Atthis: ‘Askre and Poseidon who shakes the earth lay together…and she bore his son--Oeoclus; with the sons of Aloeus he built the foundations of Askre (in Boeotia) under the streaming feet of Helicon.’” 

(This reminds me of the cyclopean walls of Mycenae.)  The connection to Mt.Helicon, the Muses and Ascra, makes them the predecessors of that other fan of the Muses and Ascra dweller; Hesiod.   The tomb of Iphimedeia and her sons, was shown at nearby Anthedon. (Paus. 9.22.6)  When Iphimedeia passed away Aleous married Eriboea, who was surpassingly lovely.  Hmm, Iphimedeia, Aleous, Poseidon and Eriboea, there’s another parents here for two sets of twins.  Of course there are other stories about them, stories so different as to be to be a different set of twins by the same names.   They were giants as Poseidon is wont to sire.  

"Iphimedeia, whose boast it was to have lain beside Poseidon. She bore him two sons, though their life was short--Otos the peer of the gods and far-famed Ephialtes; these were the tallest men, and the handsomest, that ever the fertile earth has fostered, save only incomparable Orion; at nine years of age their breadth was nine cubits, their height nine fathoms. They threatened the Deathless Ones themselves Homer, Odyssey 11. 305

Each year they grew two feet in width and six feet in length. When they decided to fight the gods they began piling mountain upon mountain in order to attain the sky and bound Ares the god of war. Of course the poets gave them ludicrous amours intentions for nine year old mortals. (Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1.53) Hermes with the assistance of their step-mother Eriboea, after three months and ten stole Ares away from where he lay chained in a brazen cauldron. (Iliad 5. 385 ff)  At which point the children of Leto arranged for them to die one way or another. 

So there you have it;  strong Ephialtes and Otus were either founding-fathers and heroes in the Ancient and contemporary sense


like the nine year olds of Hesiod Silver Age;

“A child was brought up at his good mother's side… an utter simpleton, playing childishly in his own home. But when they were full grown and were come to the full measure of their prime, they lived only a little time in sorrow because of their foolishness,”


[i] Pancratis married Agassamenus, king of the Thracians in the island of Strongyle [Dio.5.50.6; Parth.19].

Monday, May 28, 2018

TFBT:Topics for Research, Part IIb

Maya also suggested I should look at the female suicides in Meleager’s family. Unique in that they occur at the death of the husbands. Just three generations as I recall like the curse on Laertes family only have one son, it too lasted three generations; 

Polydora, daughter of Meleager and Cleopatra, who married Protesilaus, the first of the Achaeans to die at Troy, committed suicide on the death of her husband. The same is said of Cleopatra who killed herself when Meleager died. And the same again is told of Cleopatra’s mother Marpessa, who killed herself when her husband Idas was slain by Polydeuces, one of the DIOSCURI. So all these women slew themselves on the death of their husbands.” ( 

But Maicar’s concise description and Maya’ assignment leave out one link in this chain of suicides, Marpessa’s father Evenus.  But before we look into the story of this suicidal Aetolian prince we need to discuss whether any of them actually died or not.
 Anyone who has studied Greek Mythology knows there is no such thing as death.  No one actually dies.  They might get tossed in Tartarus, or ushered into a dark, dank Hades or snatched up and carried off to the Isle of the Blest to live a life liken to the Golden Ages or kick in the blue doors of heaven and take their rightful spot on Olympus.  But no one dies.  They still exist and many cross back and forth between here and there.  Please keep this in mind as we study the “suicides” of the Evenides.

First, Evenus   

"Evenus, the son of Ares and Sterope, married Alcippe, the daughter of Oenomaus, and begat a daughter Marpessa, whom he endeavored to keep a virgin. Idas, the son of Aphareus, seized her from a band of dancers and fled. Her father gave chase; but, since he could not capture them, he hurled himself into the river Lycormas and became immortal. So Dositheos in the first book of his Aetolian History." (Pseudo-Plutarch, Greek and Roman Parallel Stories 40) 

So, Evenus died after losing a chariot race to his new so-in-law just as the Oenomaus died after losing a chariot race to his new Elian son-in-law Pelops.  This might be part of the greater motif of ALL the other suitors dying when the groom is selected. Evenus throwing himself into the water and becoming immortal might be a little harder to explain.   It was not uncommon for mortals to become the personification or god of the body of water they drown in.  Hence, Atsma describes Eurotas as a river-god of Lacedaemonia and “an early king of the region and possessed a mortal, rather than typical river-god, genealogy.”  We also hear via Atsma at;

"As I , Helle,  fell into the Hellespont Sea from the back of the Golden Ram, Cymothoe, a Nereid] and Glaucus came swift to my succour; this abode too, this realm the father of the deep , Poseidon  himself awarded me [i.e. he transformed Helle into a sea-goddess], willing justly, and our gulf envies not Ino’s sea the Gulf of Corinth."  Valerius Flaccus, Argonautica 2. 585 ff :  

Likewise Homer and Pindar both testify (Odyssey 5. 333 & Olympian Ode 2. 22) that Ino daughter of Cadmus and her son Melicertes were made immortal by the sea nymphs after leaping into the sea. (I just got to mention that Sabrina became goddess the same way. Per Milton, Comus 840)

Next in the line of suicidal Evenides is Marpessa.  

But Idas came to Messene, and Apollo, falling in with him, would have robbed him of the damsel. As they fought for the girl's hand, Zeus parted them and allowed the maiden herself to choose which of the two she would marry; and she, because she feared that Apollo might desert her in her old age, chose Idas for her husband.” (Apollodorus 1.7.9)

So clearly she feared the life of being old and alone, maybe that prompted her suicide after her husband Idas died.  (Of course the counter argument was she was probably in her twenties when this happen.  

Cleopatra clearly explained the horrors of a captured city to her husband (Iliad 9.590-4) maybe those horrors as a consequence of her husband’s death (at the hands of Apollo) is what prompted her suicide.

Polydora as mentioned above is the daughter of Cleopatra.  She married Protesilaus, the first of the Achaeans to die at Troy.  She committed suicide on the death of her husband.  Protesilaus was the first Greek to leap ashore at Troy thereby insuring his eternal fame and quick doom.  The catch is he didn’t stay dead.  Philostratus in his Hērōikos (2.6–3.6) makes it quite clear that he return for a conjunctly  visit with his wife.  (Here called Laodamia). He continued to return to hero shrine often with buddies, working with the groundskeeper and (later in the text 10.1-2) looking like he did when left home “He was about twenty years old at most when he sailed to Troy. He teems in his life force with the luxuriant fuzz on his cheeks,” (The groundskeeper seems to have quite a thing for him.) Presumably Protesilaus and his buddies were visiting from Achilles’ White Island on the Black Sea  or the Isle of the Blest.  From what Philostratus says our hero convinced his wife to join them in the other side.  From other tellings she was anxious to be with him again.  

In short: the first and fourth Evenides did not die, apparently the second and third did (Ring composition!) Now that we have reviewed why the Evenides did or did not kill themselves, we can move onto the larger question. Do the suicides of the widowed Marpessa, Cleopatra,  and Polydora (Laodamia) represent an Aetolian tradition of suttee?


Suttee according to Wikipedia is an Indo-European tradition, where the wife (oldest wife?) commits suicide upon the death of her husband often by leaping into the funeral pyre!  It is a well know custom in Vedic and Hindu culture.  As a Greek example Wikipedia shares the story of Capaneus and Evadne;

 Evadne, daughter of Iphis of Argos or Phylax and wife of Capaneus, with whom she gave birth to Sthenelus. Her husband was killed by a lightning bolt at the siege of Thebes and she threw herself on his funeral pyre and died.”   

Philostratus the elder at 2.30 tells pretty much the same story but mentions other widows who committed suicide upon the husband’s death, but lists no names and tells no stories.  (I will check the list of suicides in Greek myth at 1) Of course Capaneus and Evadne were Argives not Aetolian.  But, more critically Capaneus didn’t die. According to Stesichorus, Fragment 147, Apollo’s son Asclepius raised Capaneus from the dead once and forever. Following the Protesilaus and Polydora example (along with the Dioscuri & their wives and Achilles & eight different woman associated with him) we can assume that Evadne survived her fiery death and awoke in a better place

I had some doubts about suttee being an Ancient Greek custom, but that is four examples with Philostratus knowing of more. Now I am leaning towards this actually being an Indo European custom because I know the story of the Norse goddess Nana

“Then was the body of (the god) Balder borne out on shipboard; and when his wife, Nanna the daughter of Nep, saw that, straightway her heart burst with grief, and she died ; she  was borne to the pyre, and fire was kindled“  Prose Edda

But as usual in our stories today Balder and Nanna did not die. Victor Rydberg in Teutonic Mythology tells us that the Aesir sent Balder’s brother on their fastest horse to rescue them from the goddess of death.  She was named Hel. But when the messenger arrived he found Balder and Nanna living in the Grove of Mimir in a beautiful castle with tables heavily laden. And the poets tell us that when the universe is destroyed at Ragnarök, the couple would be the gracious rulers of world that will rise to replace it.



Footnote 1) Homer has something else to say about Cleopatra “Her of old in their halls had her father and honoured mother called Halcyone by name” (Iliad 9.556 ). I looked at the lists of suicides at for deaths matching the suttee motif. Two of them were late, peculiar and barbarians.  The third was “Alcyone ; Out of grief for the death of her husband, she threw herself into the sea and was transformed into a halcyon or a kingfisher  (Apd.1.7.3-4; Hyg.Fab.65).  



Sunday, May 27, 2018

TFBT:Topics for Research, Part III

Absence of the Heraclidae at Troy

    Recently, in reviewing my blogposts I noticed many posts on similar topics.  I hope my research is building on itself rather than circling endlessly around the same two posts.  So I wrote my friend Maya for help.  I believe she is brilliant and having read everything I have written she might have some insights on my work. So the question here, is why there were so few Heraclidae at Troy.  My answwer is threefold, speculative and maybe a little ludicrous. 

First, tradition informs us that Heracles had myriad sons, after all Thespius had fifty daughters.  But our knowledge of that tradition is based on Herodotus (5th century BC ) and Pausanias &  Apollodorus (2nd century AD). Hesiod (8th century BC) mentions none and Homer only four;

And Tlepolemus, son of Heracles, a valiant man and tall, led from Rhodes nine ships” (Iliad 2.653)

And they that held Nisyrus and Crapathus and Casus and Cos, the city of Eurypylus, and the Calydnian isles, these again were led by Pheidippus and Antiphus, the two sons of king Thessalus, son of Heracles. And with them were ranged thirty hollow ships. “ (Iliad 2.676)

So my first suggestion on why there are so few Hraclidae at Troy is that they did not enter literary tradition for another 300 years yet.

Second suggestion involves the notion of  many people who confound the Heraclidae and Dorians.  If the Dorians did not enter Greece until 1100 BC and the traditional date for Troy is 1285, then there can be no Heraclidae at Troy because their people (the Dorians) haven't arrived yet.

Third, a belief among the Greeks “particularly the anti-Dorian Athenians with their marked likeness to Ionians”  that the Dorians were not true Greeks. (1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Dorians).  If the primal audiences of god-like Homer were Ionian and his publisher the Athenian Peisistratos, maybe Homer and his Athenian editors removed reference to the Dorians in order to better please their audience

In summary, the Heraclldae did not appear in large numbers at Troy, because there were not that many in the mythic tradition at that time, there were no Dorians in Greece at the time of the Trojan War and anti-Dorian bias among audiences and editors required their removal from the cultural memory.