Encyclopedia of Greek and Roman Mythology

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					  encyclopedia of

   G re e k
an d roman

      Lu k e Rom a n
 a n d Mon ic a Rom a n
Encyclopedia of Greek and Roman Mythology
Copyright © 2010 by Luke Roman and Monica Roman

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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Roman, Luke.
 Encyclopedia of Greek and Roman mythology / Luke Roman and Monica Roman.
    p. cm.
 Includes bibliographical references and index.
 ISBN 978-0-8160-7242-2 (hc : alk. paper) 1. Mythology, Classical—Encyclopedias. I. Roman,
Monica. II. Title. III. Title: Greek and Roman mythology.
 BL715.R65 2009

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   A-to-Z EntrIEs

sElEctEd BIBlIogrAphy


This reference work is designed to provide           myth comes, had various meanings, including
concise summaries of the major figures of            “speech,” “story,” and, later, “myth” or “fable.”
classical mythology, and, at the same time,          In modern English, the term myth often implies
synopses and discussions of major works of           a belief that is demonstrably false yet has none-
Greek and Roman literature from the eighth           theless achieved widespread credence. Maga-
century b.c.e. through the second century            zines and newspapers contrast myths with the
c.e. While there are many reference works            true facts gleaned from scientific study. In the
on classical mythology, the distinctive fea-         ancient world, by contrast, there was no strict,
ture of this encyclopedia is the inclusion of        consistently applied division between mythic
extensive discussion of classical authors and        knowledge and rationally discovered truth.
literary works to enable the study of ancient        Ancient philosophers and historians in some
mythology in the light of ancient literature. In     instances challenge the authority of myth as a
addition, we have selectively documented the         fundamental source of knowledge, but they do
representation of the classical myths in visual      not wholly reject it.
art, ranging from ancient statues to famous              For the archaic Greek poets Homer and
paintings of the Renaissance and later eras.         Hesiod (ca. eighth/seventh century b.c.e.), the
Myths were not narrated solely in verbal form,       traditional stories constitute divinely inspired
and the artistic representations often surprise      knowledge. The historian Herodotus (fifth
us by emphasizing scenes or dimensions of a          century b.c.e.) never suggests that there is any-
story less prominent or even omitted in tex-         thing inherently false in traditional stories or
tual versions. The underlying aim of this book       myths; nor does he imply that there is any bet-
is to enable the student to appreciate ancient       ter basis for understanding history. The Athe-
myth in the light of ancient literature and fine     nian historian Thucydides (fifth century b.c.e.)
art, rather than presenting myth as a fossilized     does claim that he has methods for bringing
set of stories abstracted from the multiple          greater accuracy to the study of history yet
contexts of their telling.                           refers to Homer’s Iliad in measuring the scale
                                                     of past wars as a basis of comparison for the
 Mythology and Literature in the                     Peloponnesian War. There was no clear divid-
     Greek and Roman World                           ing line between history and myth; indeed, it is
At the most basic level, myths are simply stories.   not clear that the ancients had a clearly defined
The Greek word mythos, from which our word           category corresponding to our “myth.” Rather,

i	                                                                                    Introduction

there were inherited stories, above all the sto-     philosophically informed myths in the name of
ries of the poets, and these stories were some-      an antitraditionalist form of knowledge.
times questionable and sometimes contained               The uses of myth inevitably change across
an element of truth.                                 different periods and contexts, but charac-
    It was never the case that the ancients          terizing the nature of such change is not a
simply believed their myths with dogmatic            straightforward undertaking. It is potentially
insistence. The divinely inspired Hesiod knew        misleading, for example, to suppose that classi-
that the Muses mixed truth with falsehood. Yet       cal authors’ attitude toward and use of mythol-
the classical writers frequently refer to myths      ogy became more sophisticated over time.
as a source of knowledge of the past, and they       There never was a phase of natural, unself-
almost never categorically equate myth with          conscious mythmaking, despite the romantic
falsehood. Ovid’s Metamorphoses (ca. 8 c.e.),        tendency to posit one. Homeric epic itself rep-
arguably the most sophisticated treatment of         resents an immensely sophisticated narrative
myth surviving from the ancient world, traces        undertaking based on the skilled manipulation
a series of transformations from the dawn of         of mythological traditions.
creation down to the apotheosis of Julius Cae-           Yet while mythographical self-conscious-
sar. Mythical figures such as Heracles, Midas,       ness, narrative sophistication, and awareness of
and Orpheus, Roman founder-figures such              multiple, diverging mythic traditions appear to
as Aeneas and Romulus, and the emerging              have been present in the earliest extant poetry,
mythology of the Roman imperial family all           later centuries did contribute at least one cru-
form part of a continuous narrative fabric. In       cial factor to the dissemination and reworking
Ovid’s poem, the new myths of imperial power         of myth: the institution of the library. The
are not obviously or fundamentally different         most famous library of the ancient world was
from the age-old stories of gods and heroes.         the great library at Alexandria, Egypt, built and
    Philosophers mounted the most radical            developed under the Ptolemies in the third
opposition to the authority of the traditional       and second centuries b.c.e. The Ptolemies
stories. In classical Greece, the poets, and above   patronized eminent writer/scholars, some of
all Homer, were still considered the prime           whom served as head librarians and worked
sources of knowledge. Homer offered not only         on creating canonical texts of Greek literature
precious insight into the past but also knowl-       (see Voyage of the Argonauts and Callimachus).
edge of the gods, religion, warfare, and proper      This immense focus on literature forms part
conduct in all areas of life. It is therefore not    of a complex awareness of Greek culture in the
surprising that Plato, as he strove to define a      wake of the conquests of Alexander the Great
new kind of knowledge called philosophy, chal-       and subsequent division of the conquered
lenged the authority of poetry and the poets’        territories among Greek ruling elites. Some
stories. Even so, Plato does not forgo mythic        scholars have employed the term “diaspora” to
modes of exposition altogether. Some of the          describe this sustained engagement with Greek
more famous passages in Plato, such as the           culture in locations geographically removed
story of Er in the Republic, assume a mythic for-    from the original Greek city-states. The proj-
mat. Plato is not so much banishing myth from        ect of sustaining Greekness amid non-Greek
the realm of rational discourse as inventing a       native populations thus becomes inextricably
new style of philosophical mythmaking. The           related to the poet/scholar’s erudition and the
Roman poet Lucretius (first century b.c.e.),         production of canonical texts, which in turn
a follower of the Greek philosopher Epicu-           furnish material for further erudite poetic cre-
rus, continues the philosophical tradition of        ations enriched with a dense fabric of literary
reworking inherited myths and fashioning new         allusions.
Introduction	                                                                                       ii

    Mythology in this period thus became an           Achilles on the island of Scyros while disguised
object of study and literary display, as well as      as a girl, or the identity of Hecuba’s mother. Yet
a key repository of Greekness. Mythography            as the example of Tiberius also illustrates, too
emerges as an area of study in its own right:         much Greekness could be seen in Rome as a bad
Scholars, gifted with a vast library, are able to     thing, despite the fact that Romans assimilated
sift and compare different versions of myths          Greek culture throughout their history in vora-
and record them in texts of their own. One            cious and sometimes brilliant fashion. A further
key arena of mythographical knowledge is the          layer of complexity arises in the question of
writing of scholia, or commentaries on classic        Roman myths and gods. The Romans had their
works, which require, among other forms of            own gods, rites, and, to a certain extent, their
attention, mythological elucidation. The post-        own traditional stories. The Roman gods are
classical period also saw the rise of new rational-   popularly viewed as simply the “equivalent” of
izing interpretations of mythology such as the        Greek gods. Yet Roman gods such as Jupiter
work of Euhemerus (fourth century b.c.e.), who        and Juno enjoyed their own independent exis-
saw the stories of the gods as being originally       tence and cult as Italic deities. Over time, they
developed out of the deeds of great men. It           were aligned with the Greek gods and merged
was not modern scholars, then, who first devel-       on the mythological plane. This book does not
oped methodologies for the interpretation of          offer separate entries on Zeus and Jupiter, since
myth but the ancients themselves. Rationalizing       in mythology they are best viewed together,
approaches, however, did not constitute a rejec-      yet it is important to remember the process of
tion of myth per se, so much as a new mode of         syncretization, not simply the outcome of their
engagement with the inherited stories.                (apparent) common origin.
    The increasingly cosmopolitan liter-                  Whether or not there can be said to be
ary exploitation and perpetuation of myths            a distinctly Roman mythology is a matter
deriving from the Greek city-states continued         of contention. There is little evidence for a
throughout the Roman period, above all in the         narrative fabric of myths comparable to and
period of the Second Sophistic. Lucian (second        autonomous of Greek mythology. The Roman
century c.e.) drew on mythic figures and situ-        myths that do exist—or, as they are often
ations with erudite humor in his dialogues and        called, legends—concern quasi-historical fig-
satirical sketches. Athenaeus (second/third cen-      ures, beginning with Romulus and including
tury c.e.), in his Deipnosophistae (Philosophers at   the great figures that people Livy’s history,
dinner), describes a series of banquets at which      such as Camillus and Coriolanus. Yet this series
learned topics were discussed, including litera-      of legends concerning the deeds of great men
ture and mythology. Lucian was from Samosata          is clearly not quite the same thing as Greek
in Syria, while Athenaeus hailed from Nau-            mythology, with its stress on the supernatural
cratis in Egypt. Greek culture by this period         and the interactions of men, gods, heroes,
was a thoroughly cosmopolitan and diasporic           and monsters. Ultimately, the Romans come
phenomenon. Throughout the Roman period,              to integrate their own legendary history with
mythology formed part of the body of knowl-           the myths of the Greek city-states. Bridging
edge that conferred the status of an educated         figures, such as Aeneas, Heracles, Diomedes,
person in the broader Mediterranean world.            Hippolytus, Evander, and Orestes, who, in
    One of the locations where Greek mythol-          some myths, travel from the Greek or Trojan
ogy flourished was, of course, Rome. The              world to Italy, and in some cases found cities,
emperor Tiberius, while in retreat on the island      are particularly salient examples of such inte-
of Rhodes, enjoyed discussing abstruse mytho-         gration. The resultant fusion is called “classical
logical questions, such as the name assumed by        mythology” by modern textbooks.
iii	                                                                                 Introduction

    Greek culture was the prestige culture for      of course, that Roman interests were not being
the Romans, and in assimilating it, the Romans      served. Catullus’s mythological poetry con-
were deliberately adding cultural prestige to       fronts questions of social disintegration and
their already established military and politi-      compromised virility in late republican Rome,
cal supremacy. Greek culture was present at         while Virgil’s Aeneid traces the hero Aeneas
Rome from the beginning not least because           to Italy and, through this legendary narrative,
there were significant Greek communities in         ponders the immense contemporary task of
Italy, especially southern Italy. Rome’s first      repairing a damaged society.
writers, such as Ennius, came from a bi- or              Aeneas was a figure of special significance
even trilingual background and were fluent in       in the Augustan period, since Julius Caesar
Greek language and culture. The incorporation       traced his ancestry back to Aeneas via the
of Greek culture in Roman society began in          hero’s son Ascanius/Iulus, and thus ultimately
earnest, however, in the late third and second      to the goddess Venus. Greek mythology, as
centuries b.c.e., when Rome was reaching the        Ovid elegantly demonstrates in the closing
definitive stage of military supremacy with         books of his Metamorphoses, is adapted to serve
the defeat of its major rival, Carthage. The        Rome’s conversion of men into gods during
first known works of Roman literature adapt         the emergence of imperial government. Other
the major Greek genres: tragedy, comedy, and        social uses of mythology were less tied to the
epic. Yet even in this early period, adaptation     prestige of a single family. Greek mythol-
of Greek literature served distinctively Roman      ogy formed part of the idiom of educated
ends, such as the commemoration of military         speech (as demonstrated magnificently by
victory and the deeds of eminent men.               Trimalchio’s bungling of mythology in Petro-
    The processes of Hellenization accelerate       nius’s Satyricon) and supplied rhetoricians and
in the first century b.c.e., as Rome continues      schoolboys with stock examples (exempla)
to absorb the cultural riches of the cities it      with which to adorn their arguments. Such
conquered, and as the stakes of intra-elite         developments might seem to provide sup-
competition intensify in the dangerous politi-      port for the old view that the Romans were
cal environment of the late republic. The           artificial and political, whereas the Greeks dis-
generation of poets that flourished around the      played a richly imaginative, almost childlike
middle of the first century b.c.e. marks a major    genius. The notion of the originality of the
watershed: Catullus and his contemporaries          Greeks versus the artificial imitations of the
espouse the erudite poetics of the Alexandrians,    Romans still persists despite being an evident
explicitly following in the path of Callimachus     relic of romantic thought. The Romans were
and Apollonius. This pattern equally defines        deliberate, calculating, consciously imitative,
the early works of Virgil and becomes the           and at times politically pragmatic in their
dominant paradigm among the Augustan poets.         adaptation of Greek mythology and literature,
Mythology is key in these developments: one         but this does not mean that they lacked genius
need only cite Virgil’s Aeneid, Ovid’s Metamor-     and originality in their adaptation; nor is it
phoses, Horace’s odes, and the love elegies of      true that the Greeks were free of deliberation,
Propertius. The Augustans, like Catullus, work      self-consciousness, artifice, and social and
on the Alexandrian model: They treat mythol-        political motives in creating, adapting, and
ogy with a sophisticated erudition fueled by an     disseminating their own myths. The Greeks
emerging book trade and Rome’s first public         deserve full credit for creating their myths, yet
libraries. The intensified Greekness of Roman       it is undeniable that some of the best versions
poetry of the first century b.c.e. does not mean,   of Greek mythology are Roman.
Introduction	                                                                                        ix

      Studying Mythology Today                         ingly, there is no single, fundamental meaning;
In studying classical mythology, we need to            rather, the story’s meaning changes depending
consider not only the Greeks and Romans who            on the interests and emphases of its teller. A
made the myths but also our own role as read-          major tendency of the modern discipline of
ers and interpreters. How do we determine the          mythology is to extract an independent set of
meaning of a given myth? This question is as           myths from the literary texts and visual images
old as the myths themselves: As we have already        that narrate them. On this conception, an
mentioned, the ancients derived various mean-          original, true story, or ur-story, underlies the
ings from their myths and applied different            numerous (imperfect, biased, partial) tellings.
schemes of interpretation. The last two cen-           The search for an ur-narrative is irresistible,
turies, however, have seen an unusually fertile        not least because it suggests the promise of a
range of approaches to the interpretation of           fundamental set of stories that a society tells
mythology. The main ones are enumerated in             to itself as a collectivity. Myths are sometimes
university-level courses and textbooks: ritual-        described as the shared dreams of a culture that
ist, structuralist, psychoanalytic, sociological.      reveal a society’s underlying desires, anxieties,
In each instance, the interpreter attempts to          and contradictions. Mythology, in this reading,
understand the deeper meaning of the myth for          furnishes a key for unlocking the secrets of the
those who tell it. In the sociological approach,       collective unconscious. Sigmund Freud’s use of
for example, mythology is read as a “charter”          the Oedipus myth is a remarkable instance of
for a society’s beliefs, a blueprint of social atti-   such an ambition. Yet this type of reading can-
tudes and codes. While all these approaches            not do justice to the diversity and richness of
have served to stimulate inquiry into classi-          the ancient literary texts and the mutability of
cal mythology and have enabled important               the myths themselves.
insights, they are all equally hampered by a
questionable premise. Modern methodologies                          About This Book
of mythological interpretation have in com-            If one accepts, as we do, the Ovidian view of
mon the notion that there is an underlying             myth as a body of stories in constant flux, it
narrative that encodes a deeper meaning—a              is necessary to abandon the hope for a stable,
distillation of that society’s psychic impulses,       transparent set of communal stories that pro-
social beliefs, systems of meaning, or ritual          duce a unified meaning. Abandoning such
practices. In short, modern interpretations of         hope, however, is far from dispiriting. One is
mythology tend to assume the existence of a            left with the rich diversity of texts and images
stable set of stories that affirm social concepts.     that re-create the myths in their constantly
Modern approaches for the most part—there              shifting forms. We have accordingly designed
are some exceptions—posit a stable entity des-         our reference book so as best to do justice to
ignated as the myth, which exists independently        the diversity of mythic narrative in literary and
of its individual manifestations and whose fun-        visual media. Encyclopedias, dictionaries, and
damental meaning can be elicited through the           textbooks on mythology are, in fact, especially
correct mode of interpretation.                        prone to editing out the diversity of classical
    Myths, however, undergo constant meta-             myth and thereby effacing the importance of
morphosis from telling to telling, as Ovid’s           the different tellings. There is an understand-
great poem demonstrates. There is no such              able tendency in any reference work to cre-
thing as the myth, since each author or visual         ate the impression of factual consistency—in
artist tells the story in a different way and          this instance, the impression that the classical
emphasizes different aspects of it. Accord-            myths are stable narratives easily susceptible
x	                                                                                       Introduction

to informational summary. Indeed, there are           entry detailing her basic story and, in addition,
many advantages to factual clarity and sim-           consult the entry on Apollonius’s Voyage of the
plicity, since a summary of the basic outlines        Argonauts, where she plays an important role.
of the most common versions of the story of           Cross-references to other entries are designed
Heracles, for example, will be more useful to a       to facilitate this movement between entries on
beginning student of mythology than a treat-          mythological figures and entries on ancient
ment weighed down with every variant version          authors and works. As we said above, the under-
extant in ancient literature. This leaves the         lying aim is to enable the student to appreciate
danger, however, that the student will be left        ancient myth in the light of ancient literature,
with the notion that there is essentially one         rather than presenting myth as a fossilized set of
Heracles consistent across all ancient texts.         stories abstracted from the multiple contexts of
Informational reference works tend to have a          their telling. In the same spirit, we have included
homogenizing effect on their subject.                 information on the visual representation of clas-
    We have attempted to deal with both poten-        sical myths in various media. Myths were not
tial problems by offering, on the one hand,           narrated solely in verbal form, and the artistic
concise entries on mythological figures that          representations often surprise us by emphasizing
contain the most important versions of the            scenes or dimensions of a story less prominent or
myths and the ones that are the most promi-           even omitted in textual versions.
nent in the major works of ancient literature             We have based our selection of entries
and, on the other hand, longer entries on             on their relevance to and prominence in the
ancient authors and their individual works.           central works of classical literature and art.
The entries on mythological figures are based         This reference work is not meant to be an
on a close reading of the primary sources. In         exhaustive repository of mythological figures.
creating these entries, we have striven to bring      More unusual mythological figures and, in gen-
to light important differences in the Greek           eral, recondite detail may be sought in Pierre
and Roman versions of the myth, rather than           Grimal’s richly erudite Dictionary of Classical
producing a streamlined narrative. We have            Mythology. The distinguishing feature of our
also included references to the major classical       book, by contrast, is the inclusion of substantial
sources; these references are necessarily selec-      entries on literary works, particularly those that
tive but allow the reader to consult the ancient      are significant in mythological terms. This latter
works themselves. Mythological figures are            criterion guided our selection of literary entries.
listed under their Greek names, with cross-           There is an individual entry, for example, on
references indicated under the Roman names.           each of Euripides’ plays, because the subject
The index can assist in finding entries.              matter of Euripidean tragedy is mythological.
    Entries on the more important literary works      By contrast, there is only one synthetic entry
include an introduction to the work, a synopsis,      on Aristophanes, and no entries on his indi-
and critical commentary. Users of this reference      vidual works, because Aristophanes’ comedies,
book, then, can begin by consulting the entry on      while they do sometimes include mythological
Heracles and become acquainted with his story.        elements, are not predominantly focused on
They can then go on to read about the differ-         myth but rather on a comic vision of contem-
ent representations of Heracles in Apollonius of      porary Athenian society. At the same time, some
Rhodes’s Voyage of the Argonauts, the eighth book     works and authors, while important in mytho-
of Virgil’s Aeneid, Sophocles’ Trachiniae, Ovid’s     graphical terms, are less likely to appear on an
Metamorphoses, and so forth. Conversely, a reader     undergraduate reading list, and, in general, are
of Statius’s Thebaid who is interested in the char-   more obscure. Thus, while we have included a
acter of Hypsipyle can read the mythological          brief informational entry on Diodorus Siculus,
Introduction	                                                                                 xi

there is no extensive discussion of his work. In        The myths of the classical world may be
effect, two criteria are at work in determining     classed among the richest legacies of Western
the inclusion and extent of literary entries: the   civilization. We hope that our reference work
importance of the work in literary terms and its    contributes to the understanding and enjoy-
relevance to our understanding of mythology.        ment of these astonishing stories.
Achelous A river god who engaged in a                 Only one book and a portion of the following
legendary combat with Heracles. Classical             book exist. Statius’s epic is notable for fol-
sources are Apollodorus’s Library (1.8.1, 2.7.5),     lowing the entire life story of a single hero,
Diodorus Siculus’s Library of History (4.34.3,        rather than relating a more concentrated series
4.35.3), Hyginus’s Fabulae (31), Ovid’s Meta-         of connected events forming part of a single
MorpHoses (9.1–100), Philostratus’s iMagines          phase of action. As elsewhere, Statius displays
(4.16), and Sophocles’ tracHiniae (9–21). Dur-        a playful yet rigorous self-consciousness as
ing the 11th of his Twelve Labors, Heracles           he simultaneously enacts well-established epic
descended to Hades, where he met the ghost            conventions, examines their mechanisms and
of Meleager. There, Meleager extracted from           internal tensions, and sometimes pushes them
Heracles the promise that on the hero’s return        to their breaking point. In the surviving frag-
from the underworld he would find and marry           ment, Statius pays special attention to the
his sister Deianira. Heracles successfully bat-       category of gender and its complex interaction
tled Achelous in a wrestling match for the            with the inherited codes of the epic genre.
hand of Deianira. The battle was hard fought
because the river god was capable of changing                            SynoPSIS
form. Achelous became a snake, then a bull.           Book 1
Heracles pulled off one horn and defeated him.        The poet addresses the muse (see Muses) and
This horn was associated with a cornucopia, or        bids her tell of Achilles. Homer has made him
horn of plenty. The combat of Achelous and            famous, but there is more to be told about the
Heracles was frequently represented in antiq-         hero. Statius, already author of the Thebaid, will
uity; Philostratus’s Imagines includes a descrip-     tell the hero’s entire life. He asks the emperor
tion of a painting showing various scenes from        Domitian to grant pardon that he does not yet
the myth.                                             write an epic on his deeds; Achilles will furnish
                                                      the prelude.
                                                          Paris is leaving Sparta with Helen and
Achilleid Statius (ca. 92–96 c.e.) The Achil-         making for Troy. Thetis, observing his ship, is
leid, an unfinished epic poem on which Statius        alarmed and delivers a speech: She recognizes
worked between the publication of his tHebaid         the fulfillment of a prophecy made by Pro-
(91/92 c.e.) and his death (ca. 96 c.e.), tells the   teus—war is coming, and her son Achilles will
beginnings of the story of the hero Achilles.         wish to join it. She wishes she had done more

to prevent this unhappy outcome but will ask        to keep her safely secluded. The group of girls
Neptune (see Poseidon) for a storm to oppose        accepts him happily. Thetis addresses the island
Paris’s ship. In pitiable tones, she approaches     and bids it keep Greek ships far away.
Neptune and asks him to oppose the ship car-            Agamemnon, in the meanwhile, stirs up war,
rying Paris, robber and profaner of hospitality.    inciting indignation at Paris’s deed. The poet
Neptune replies that the war between Greece         lists the numerous communities joining the
and Troy has been ordained by Jupiter (see          expedition—all except Thessaly, since Achilles
Zeus) and cannot be prevented: He consoles          is too young and Peleus too old. The Greek
her with a prophecy of Achilles’ heroic career.     fleet gathers at Aulis, including well-known
She conceives of another plan and seeks out the     heroes, but all yearn for the absent Achilles. He
dwelling of Chiron, who has charge of Achil-        is hailed already as the greatest of the Greeks
les. Chiron eagerly runs to meet her and leads      and most likely to defeat Hector. Protesilaus
her into the cave. She tells of her presages of     presses Tiresias to reveal to them the location
doom and demands that he hand over Achilles         of Achilles. Tiresias goes into a prophetic trance
to her immediately: Concealing her true aim,        and sees that Achilles is on the island of Lyco-
she claims that she is going to take him to the     medes, shamefully wearing women’s clothing.
edge of Ocean (Oceanus) and purify him. Chi-        T ydeus and Ulysses (see Odysseus) decide to
ron assents and comments that Achilles seems        seek him out and bring him back. They depart.
to be growing more aggressive and violent, less     In the meanwhile, Deidamia alone suspects
liable to listen to his tutor.                      that Achilles is a man, for he has been court-
    Achilles at that moment returns, holding        ing her, teaching her to play the lyre, while she
lion cubs he has just captured, and embraces        teaches him to weave. She half-knows that he
his mother. Patroclus follows closely behind.       is a man and desires her but will not allow him
They have a banquet together, and Achilles          to confess. In a grove sacred to Bacchus, the
sings songs of heroes. Thetis stays awake after-    women are celebrating a triennial rite at which
ward, trying to think of a good hiding place for    no men are allowed to be present. Achilles,
Achilles: After ruling out various possibilities,   however, begins to regret his lost male pursuits
she chooses the island of Scyros. She calls forth   and complains that he cannot even play the
her two-dolphin chariot, picks up the slumber-      man’s part in love. He rapes Deidamia, then
ing Achilles in her arms, and carries him down      reveals himself to her as Achilles. He consoles
to the sea. As she departs with her son, Chiron     her with the greatness of his lineage and com-
and the local deities lament. Waking up the         mits to protecting her from her father’s anger.
next day, a disoriented Achilles asks where he      Feeling love for Achilles herself, and also fear-
is. Thetis explains to him her concern about his    ing for his safety, she keeps his secret, conceals
mortality and the coming danger, and, draw-         her pregnancy, and eventually gives birth.
ing on mythical exempla, encourages him to              In the meantime, Ulysses and Diomedes
wear women’s clothing. Achilles resists until he    navigate the Cyclades and approach Scyros.
sees Deidamia, daughter of Lycomedes, king          The two heroes disembark and begin walking
of Scyros, participating in festivities of Pal-     toward the palace. Diomedes wonders why
las and becomes immediately infatuated. His         Ulysses purchased Bacchic wands, cymbals,
mother perceives this and encourages him to         and other objects, and Ulysses does not yet say
join their dancing in woman’s guise. He allows      why but bids him bring all these along with
the woman’s clothing to be placed on him. She       a shield, a spear, and the trumpeter Agyrtes.
fashions him into a woman and coaches him           Ulysses introduces himself and Tydeus and
on feminine demeanor. Thetis then presents          claims to be spying out approaches to Troy.
him to the king as Achilles’ sister, asking him     Lycomedes invites them to be his guests.

Rumor spreads of the Greek leaders’ arrival.         He was trained in running, hunting, warfare, and
Achilles is eager to see them and their arms.        other manly pursuits. He recalls all that he can,
The women are invited to join the banquet            then remarks that his mother knows the rest.
along with the guests. Deidamia strives to
conceal Achilles, but he begins to give himself                       CoMMEntARy
away by his unmaidenlike demeanor. In order          With the Achilleid, Statius continues his dar-
to draw Achilles out Ulysses craftily speaks         ing and highly original adaptation of the epic
of war and the ignoble choice of those who           tradition to unconventionally framed mytho-
remain behind.                                       logical themes. In the Thebaid, Statius took
    The next day Tydeus brings forth the gifts.      a mythological sequence—the Seven against
The maidens, including Achilles, perform Bac-        Thebes—with strong tragic associations and,
chic rites and dances, but Achilles stands out       in adapting them to epic narrative, went out
as unfeminine. Afterward, the women flock to         of his way to intensify the presence of tragedy
the Bacchic gifts and adornment, while Achilles      and tragic paradigms within the space of epic.
rushes to the weapons. Ulysses whispers to him       Statius is a writer at once intensely and self-
that he knows who he is and encourages him           consciously traditional, and at the same time
to join the war; the trumpeter blows a blast on      audaciously original. In the present instance,
the trumpet, and Achilles is revealed as a man.      Statius writes the story of the hero Achilles—
Deidamia cries out, and Achilles addresses           a figure so famously and indelibly represented
Lycomedes, revealing his identity and his rela-      by Homer in his Iliad that there would seem
tion with Deidamia, asking for her in marriage       to be no plausible area for improvement or
and placing his grandson at his feet. Lycomedes      emulation. Statius points out, however, that
is won over. That night, Deidamia laments that       there is more to Achilles’ story than Homer
their marriage is so soon to be over, that Achil-    wrote about, and this “more” constitutes an
les departs for war and will soon forget about       important justification for his epic. Statius
her or take other women as his companions.           will fill in the interstices with episodes Homer
He promises her that he will stay true to her        does not include, yet in such a way as to trans-
and bring her back gifts from Troy. The poet         form our perception of the properly heroic
observes that Achilles’ words are destined to        episodes that Homer does include and that
remain unfulfilled.                                  Statius now commits to rewriting (although,
                                                     in the event, the poem remained incomplete,
Book 2 (fragmentary)                                 and Statius did not arrive at the Iliadic por-
Achilles, splendid now in his arms, makes sac-       tion of Achilles’ narrative). Provocatively,
rifice and addresses his mother, informing her       Statius will write “the entire hero,” i.e., the
that he is joining the expedition against Troy.      whole story of his life, instead of a mere dis-
Deidamia, holding her child Pyrrhus (see Neo-        tillation of his heroic career. In making this
ptolemus), follows his departure with her eyes.      choice, Statius violates the epic convention,
Achilles is momentarily regretful as he gazes        spanning the period from Homer’s practice to
toward her but is drawn back to his warlike spirit   Horace’s precepts, of commencing epic narra-
by Ulysses, and he asks to hear the causes of the    tion in medias res, i.e., starting in the midst of
war. Ulysses tells of the rape of Helen and whips    an ongoing development rather than from the
up Achilles into a bellicose rage by imagining       very beginning.
how it would be if someone similarly seized Dei-         Statius was exceptionally alert to questions
damia. Diomedes then asks Achilles to recount        of beginning and ending, as, for example, the
his own upbringing. Achilles tells them how          beginning of his Thebaid demonstrates, and he
Chiron raised him to be very tough and strong.       was thus equally aware of the consequences

that choices of beginning and ending point              We are reading an epic in which, at the begin-
have for narrative structure. Aristotle, in writ-       ning, there is no hero, and where the opening
ing about tragedy, was dubious that a person’s          sequence of events is determined by a woman,
life afforded the basis for poetic unity, i.e., unity   and later there is a feminized hero. Epic is tra-
of action. The collection of incidents that hap-        ditionally gendered male in its broad outline,
pen to fall into an individual life are potentially     although, of course, women sometimes play
quite arbitrary and do not meet the require-            crucial roles. Here Statius seems determined
ments of literary coherence. Statius, in endow-         to bring to the fore the paradox of female
ing his epic poem with a biographical structure,        determination of male heroism, as Achilles’
thus constantly undergoes the risk of arbitrari-        mother masterfully takes control of the plot.
ness and unstructured flow of incidents, and            We see her manipulating and deceiving Chi-
yet, if he had completed the poem, it nonethe-          ron, pressuring Neptune, and, in a magnificent
less seems likely that he would have made this          scene, cradling the (presumably large and
tension between structure and deviation into            muscular) sleeping Achilles in her arms as if he
a matter of masterful play and manipulation.            were an infant and sweeping him off to Scyros
Certainly the surviving episodes betray an              on her two-dolphin sea chariot.
acute awareness of plot and deviation, narra-               Thetis thus tries to take control of the
tive momentum and delay, the essential and              plot, but there are also limits to her interven-
the arbitrary. Statius, then, takes epic structure      tion. The epic mythology of Achilles cannot
itself as one of his main objects of attention.         be deflected endlessly, since it is destined, as
    Where should he start, then? Playing,               well as established beyond doubt in the liter-
again, with his own premise, Statius begins,            ary tradition, that he will go to Troy, fight,
not with Achilles, but with Paris in the act of         and ultimately die on the battlefield. Thetis,
abducting Helen, thus bringing on Troy the              in some sense, opposes the epic identity that
Greek expedition. The abduction is a reason-            her son must inevitably assume. Statius thus
able beginning point, given that the war will           once again engages in subtle play on the
determine Achilles’ destiny, yet the hero is as         underlying identity of genre. In his epic’s
yet notably absent. He is still absent in the           opening scenario, a masculine warrior Achilles
following sequence, because it is his mother,           is constantly trying to burst out of the femi-
Thetis, who takes center stage. Moreover,               nine identity his mother has foisted on him
when we do finally see Achilles, he is a fairly         for his own protection—a struggle between
mature young man and is in the process of               two gender positions that is at the same time
being transferred from Chiron’s care to Scyros.         a self-conscious dialogue of genres. One sign
Thus, we might ask if Statius has truly written         of Achilles’ thus far unfulfilled epic potential
the “entire hero.” Later, however, Achilles will        is the density of references in these opening
imitate Aeneas by rehearsing his own embed-             books to lyric, and especially songs played on
ded narration (Book 2 in the Aeneid), in which          the lyre. These songs are typically songs of
he tells Ulysses and Diomedes of his childhood          heroes, such as Homer himself represented
feats and education under Chiron; for every-            Achilles as singing when, sequestered in his
thing that he does not remember, he refers to           tent, he received the embassy of Greek heroes.
his mother, who would no doubt recall even              Since Homer, singing songs of heroism is
his infant years with maternal affection. In            a nonactive alternative to heroic deeds for
a sense, then, the poet effectively completes           Achilles, and thus Statius takes full advantage
the circle and covers the territory of Achilles’        of this glancing mention in the Iliad to make
youthful years insofar as is possible. Statius          Achilles into a young lyric poet. Other lyric
seems aware of the subtle game he is playing:           references suggest nonheroic generic identi-

fications; for example, when Achilles suffers         and masculine in his movements, despite all his
from the symptoms of intense, overpowering            training in feminine comportment, first under
desire for Deidamia, the language used recalls        the tutelage of his mother, then under Dei-
the famous symptomology of desire in Sappho           damia. Statius depicts with great subtlety the
fragment 31, later adapted into Latin by Catul-       emergence of a truly masculine Achilles out
lus. Achilles’ desire, then, rehearses a lyric        of his feminine persona, a process that, while
literary history, from Greek to Latin, from           exaggerated by the circumstances of hiding
Catullus to Statius. Achilles is supposed to be       and disguise in Achilles’ story, is not totally out
an epic hero, yet, for the time being, he has         of keeping with the all-important passage to
been assimilated to a feminine gender identity        manhood as enacted generally in Roman cul-
and to lyric and erotic literary associations.        ture. In general, Statius devotes much insight-
Despite his yearning to be a warrior, Achil-          ful attention to the construction of gender
les must first define his manhood within the          through habits of body, dress, speech, gait, and
erotic, feminine frame of the Scyros episode.         gaze, although, as Achilles’ sometimes unfemi-
Becoming impatient with his shameful, female          nine behavior suggests, there is a limit to such
disguise, he announces that he will prove his         construction and artificial formation. Gender
manhood at least in the love arena, and then          is shown to be at once natural and a cultural
proceeds to rape Deidamia. The token of his           construct.
manhood—Deidamia’s pregnancy—remains                      When Achilles’ masculine identity is finally
concealed for the present.                            unambiguously revealed, all aspects of his man-
    The entire Scyros episode plays on the            hood—sexual, martial, political—are brought
ambiguity of gender and genre. There is a             to the fore at once in a quasi-theatrical scene,
male hero hiding, latent, beneath the disguise,       all the more so since it involves a dramatic
just as there is an epic trajectory of action that    surprise, props, and a change of costume.
is still latent with the present scenario of delay,   Ulysses lays out the gifts for men and women,
feminine wiles, and desire. Statius evokes an         and Achilles predictably cannot stay away from
Achilles who sometimes presents a “tomboy”            the weapons. After laying his hands on them,
version of feminine beauty—not entirely sur-          he needs little in the way of further encour-
prisingly or anomalously, since ancient Greeks        agement, and a clarion blast almost comically
and Romans viewed the period of boyhood               announces the theatrical entrance of “Achilles
that immediately precedes manhood as one              the Warrior” onto the stage of the epic. Then
during which the boy remains “smooth” and             he reveals the other outcome of his man-
effeminate in appearance and thus potentially         hood—his relationship with Deidamia, the
attractive to older men. Statius is particularly      pregnancy, and, in a further dramatic touch, the
interested, as in the Thebaid, in looking, gaz-       child himself. There is probably play here on
ing—the provocative game of trying to see             the word arma in Latin, which means primarily
through the ruse of gender ambiguity. Not             “arms” (as in the famous Virgilian incipit, “arms
surprisingly, Ulysses turns out to be an expert       and the man”) but can also refer to male geni-
at uncovering such ruses, as he is a notoriously      talia. Achilles’ weaponry is now fully on display
deft hand at creating them. At other times,           in every possible sense. Finally, he makes his
however, Achilles cuts a less ambiguous figure,       maiden speech as a warrior/leader/negotiator
and we can see his ungraceful, hard masculin-         by persuading Lycomedes not to punish him
ity despite the feminine costume. For example,        and Deidamia for their transgression, to accept
right before he is revealed by Ulysses’ trick of      their union, and even to contribute to the
the gifts, Achilles participates in the dance with    war effort. The nice rhetorical flourishes of
the other maidens, but he has become clumsy           this brief but lively speech are reminiscent of

Roman declamation, the rhetorical practice            one epic to the next, but whereas the Bacchic
speeches that became especially popular as both       references in the Thebaid largely concern the
educational tool and form of literary display in      paradox of an unwarlike, Bacchic city at war,
the early imperial period. Statius observes that      the Bacchic rites at Scyros concern the paradox
Achilles “wins” his point, using the same term        of a male hero concealed amid maidens—a
that is normally used for military conquest.          mild yet significant variation. To take another
    Achilles’ first major public victory, then, is    example, Statius describes Thetis’s process of
as a declaimer or orator. He is assuming his          deliberation as she rules out possibilities for a
manhood, though not yet fully as a warrior,           hiding place for her son. She considers Lemnos
and manhood turns out to include a broader            briefly, but then eliminates it as being danger-
variety of traits than simply martial might and       ous because of the women’s famous assault on
valor. Indeed, the diversity of Achilles’ pursuits    their men. Statius thus subtly alludes to the
and acquisitions might be interpreted not so          extended Hypsipyle episode in the Thebaid
much as shameful but as reflective of shifting        while announcing his intention not to repeat
definitions of virility in Roman culture. In          his previous performance.
Statius’s period, literary and rhetorical activity        Scyros fits nicely into the well-established
was increasingly set alongside political activity     epic nexus of woman/island/delay; we might
as a prime criterion of virile accomplishment         compare Calypso, Circe, Dido, and Hypsipyle,
and prestige, and since at least the second           where some or all of these elements are in play.
century b.c.e. Romans assimilated what might          Statius is therefore deciding, as self-conscious
be termed aesthetic practices into the arena of       epic poet, where to set the woman/island/delay
masculine identity: dancing, composing and            sequence of the Achilleid. As in other cases, the
reciting poetry, wearing fine clothing, speaking      hero eventually must leave a comfortable set-
in a sophisticated style influenced by Greek          ting and erotic relationship to achieve his des-
rhetoric, and so on. Achilles’ feminine phase         tiny—whether that means returning to Ithaca,
might be seen as an aberration in epic terms,         going to Italy, or joining the Greek expedition
but viewed from another perspective, it might         in Troy. Notable in this case is that the delay
be seen as offering the finishing touches to          occurs immediately at the outset of the narra-
his education, which, already under Chiron,           tive and near the beginning of the hero’s life,
included a wide array of cultural competencies        before he has accomplished anything of note.
and not simply warfare and use of weapons.            Moreover, it is not merely the hero’s return to
There were highly prestigious models for              the path of destiny that is delayed by his stay on
this broadened range of ability. The emperor          Scyros but the very emergence of his identity as
Domitian prided himself, as the opening pas-          male warrior. Statius, as usual, at once displays
sage recalls, on both his military and his literary   a keen attentiveness to his poem’s traditional
accomplishments.                                      features and refashions epic conventions to suit
    Statius is careful to recall his own The-         his distinctive project.
baid, to which he proudly refers in the pres-             Another element in the Achilleid that prom-
ent epic’s opening lines, but not to cover the        ises to respond to the Thebaid is the poet’s inter-
same ground again too closely. For example,           est in the pathos of departure and parental grief
the present epic, like the Thebaid, is replete        and anxiety. Statius as epic poet tends to focus
with Bacchic references and especially with           at least as much attention, if not sometimes
references to Bacchic rites and objects as signi-     considerably more attention, on the emotions
fiers of the feminine and/or effeminate. The          of sadness and worry that epic destinies inflict
concern with masculinity and its inversion is         on parents and wives of the warriors. We might
thus an important element of continuity from          recall Argia, wife of Polynices, in the Thebaid,

and that poem’s many scenarios of parental             Achilles, had he been born of Jupiter, would
grief and bereavement. The Achilleid opens             have replaced him on the throne; specifically,
with a representation of Thetis’s all-consuming        he states that Achilles would have succeeded
worry about her son that is highly reminiscent         him as ruler. In other words, the strong con-
of both Atalanta and Argia in the Thebaid and          cern with inheritance under the Flavians—for
suggests that this epic, too, will be devoted to       whom imperial rule was inherited from father
evoking the poignant dimension of war. Even            by son—seems to be reflected in the epic’s
the hardened centaur Chiron cannot help                opening theme. Achilles is a son greater than
shedding a tear as Achilles is removed from his        his father—so also, perhaps, is Domitian, the
care—a scene of departure echoed by the scene          successor to both his brother Titus and his
of Achilles’ departure from Scyros. Deidamia’s         father, Vespasian. These ideas, however, must
speech is highly affecting, and even the great         remain tentative and relatively undeveloped
warrior Achilles has to be distracted and made         due to the unfinished state of Statius’s epic.
to forget Scyros by Ulysses and Diomedes. He
is still, after all, a young man very much in love.
Statius’s attention to such psychological states       Achilles A Greek hero. Son of Peleus, king
is more acute than that of some of his prede-          of Phthia of Thessaly, and Thetis, a sea nymph
cessors, for whom the delaying woman figure            and daughter of Neseus. Achilles is the cen-
seems simply to fade from view the minute the          tral character of Homer’s iLiad and Statius’s
hero departs. Statius shows us the process and         acHiLLeid. Other sources include Apollodorus’s
the techniques whereby memory is made to               Library (3.13.6), Homer’s odyssey (11.470ff),
fade and is replaced with other things. In this        Hyginus’s Fabulae (96, 106, 107), and Ovid’s
as in other areas, Statius examines the conven-        MetaMorpHoses (12, 13). Achilles’ childhood
tions and plot machinery of the epic genre even        and early career, including his education by the
as he enacts them.                                     centaur Chiron on Mt. Pelion and his battle
    The political dimension of the Achilleid is        with the Amazons during which he kills their
hard to characterize, both because the poem            queen, Penthesileia, are described in the Epic
is a fragment and because of Statius’s typically       Cycle. Because of a prophecy that he would die
complex and elusive stance—perhaps neces-              an early death in battle, Thetis tried to make him
sarily so, given the dangers of speaking openly        invulnerable by dipping him into the river Styx.
under an emperor, and especially an emperor            The heel by which she held him was, however,
such as Domitian. It is worth noting, however,         unprotected: Achilles was to die from an arrow
that Statius, in suggesting that he will one day       shot into that heel by Paris. Another of Thetis’s
write an epic on Domitian’s deeds, remarks             attempts to protect her son is most fully treated
that his Achilleid will serve as a “prelude” to this   in Statius’s unfinished Achilleid. She sends him,
putative epic. If Achilles plays the opening act       dressed as a girl, to the court of Lycomedes,
to Domitian, what is the relation between the          king of Scyros, where he spends nine years, dur-
two? It is possible to sketch only a few pos-          ing which time he begets a son, Neoptolemus,
sible directions of thought on this topic. It is       with one of Lycomedes’ daughters. Eventually,
notable, as mentioned above, that Achilles, like       Odysseus finds him and persuades him to join
Domitian, is accomplished both in war and in           the Greeks in the war against the Trojans.
literature. It is also striking that he is compared        The main poem in which Achilles is repre-
with, and sometimes associatively assimilated          sented, and the work with which he is inextri-
to, Jupiter, to whom Domitian himself was              cably associated, is Homer’s Iliad, in which he
often assimilated in contemporary panegyric.           is characterized by his prowess in battle and
The opening lines of the poem recall how               his ungovernable temper. Homer either is not

Achilles and Ajax playing a board game. Detail from a black-figure amphora, ca. 500 b.c.e.
(Staatliche Antikensammlungen, Munich)

aware of, or more likely, designedly omits, most          rather, he is driven by the threat of damage
of the legends mentioned above as being sub-              to his honor. The “prize” (geras) awarded to
heroic. Certainly he does not bring up Achilles’          him is a concrete embodiment of how much
transvestitism, for example. For Homer, Achil-            his community values and honors him, and
les is the hero par excellence, and yet a hero            thus to have it taken away is an insult to his
who also turns away from his own army and                 heroic dignity. His deepest interest in life is to
violates aspects of the heroic code. At the open-         maximize his glory (kleos), a priority reflected
ing of the Iliad, he quarrels with Agamemnon              in his well-known choice to live a brief but
because the leader of the Greek expedition has            glorious existence rather than a long, ordinary
taken away the young woman Briseis, the prize             one. He is even willing to harm his own side to
awarded him by the Greeks. He resists killing             enhance his kleos as warrior. The Greek con-
Agamemnon through Athena’s intervention                   cept of the hero was not based on a calculation
but swears an impressive oath that he will with-          of the warrior’s social utility and helpfulness in
draw from the fighting and that the Greeks will           straightforward terms; rather, a hero’s great-
appeal to him in vain in their hour of need. His          ness is defined by how extraordinary he is, how
motivation is not sentimental or “romantic”;              far he transcends the lives of ordinary mortals.
Acontius and Cydippe	                                                                              

Achilles, in withdrawing from battle, makes an      he would rather be a serf in the world above
extraordinary choice and intensifies expecta-       than a king among the dead, yet he rejoices
tions about his return. His mother, Thetis, in      upon hearing of his son Neoptolemus’s deeds
the meanwhile, obtains from Zeus an assur-          and fame.
ance that he will turn the tide of battle against       A very different perspective on Achilles is
the Greeks precisely to make them understand        provided by Catullus ca. 64. In the latter part
how much they need Achilles and how much            of this poem, the Fates, who are attending
his loss means to them.                             the wedding of Peleus and Thetis, sing a dark
    The Greeks send an embassy to Achilles          prophecy as a somber version of a marriage
to persuade him to return to battle, offer-         song. They predict the birth of Achilles and
ing to return Briseis to him and to give him        outline his grim career: slaughter on the plains
other magnificent gifts in addition, yet he still   of Troy, the choking of the rivers with blood,
refuses. Only when his dear friend Patroclus,       and, after his death, the sacrifice of the Trojan
who donned Achilles’ armor, has perished in         Polyxena to Achilles’ shade. Catullus’s poem,
battle at the hands of Hector, is he willing        written during the discord of the late Roman
to return to the war. Most of the epic is taken     Republic, scrutinizes the dark side of heroism,
up in expectation of Achilles’ return, and so,      the violent and destructive elements in mas-
when at last he does, the effect is spectacular.    culinity. Achilles’ story is accordingly viewed
He fills the Trojans with terror, chokes the        through a deeply pessimistic lens.
rivers with blood, and even battles a river             In visual representations of the classical
god. At length, he meets Hector face to face        period, Achilles frequently appears fully armed.
and defeats him in one-to-one combat. At            For example, in an Attic black-figure calyx
this point, the extremity of Achilles’ character    krater from ca. 520 b.c.e. (Toledo Museum
once again manifests itself. He will not return     of Art, Ohio), Achilles carries a shield and
Hector’s body but instead abuses it, dragging       spear and wears a Corinthian helmet. In some
it around the walls of Troy behind his chariot.     images, he is shown playing a board game
It is only when Priam goes to Achilles’ tent        with his companion-at-arms Ajax. The motif
under cover of darkness, with Hermes as             of the board game appears also on an Attic
a guide, that Achilles relents and agrees to        black-figure amphora of the sixth century b.c.e.
return the body. In this much-discussed epi-        (Staatliche Antikensammlungen, Munich). In
sode, Achilles weeps in grief, recalling his own    the postclassical period, Peter Paul Rubens
father, Peleus, at home. The hero’s terrible,       prepared a series of designs entitled The History
unrelenting anger, which the Iliad declared in      of Achilles in ca. 1630–35 (copy in the Detroit
its opening line to be its subject matter, now      Institute of Arts). Another postclassical image
does finally relent as the two warriors from        is Luca Giordano’s The Story of Achilles of 1705
opposing camps are brought together, at least       (Alte Pinakothek, Munich).
temporarily, in a shared experience of pity for
the mortal condition.
                                                    Acis (Akis) See Galatea; Polyphemus.
    Achilles’ death occurs outside the scope of
the Iliad, when he is shot by an arrow from
the skilled archer Paris, helped by the hand of     Acontius and Cydippe A young man from
Apollo. Upon his death, the impetus of the          Chios. Classical sources are Callimachus’s Aetia
Trojan War is logically inherited by his son        (3.1.26) and Ovid’s Heroides (20, 21). Acontius
Neoptolemus, whose name means “New War.”            fell in love with Cydippe and followed her to
When, in the Odyssey, Odysseus meets Achil-         the temple of Artemis. He wrote on an apple
les in Hades, Achilles famously proclaims that      the words “I swear by Artemis that I will marry
0	                                                                                          Actaeon

Acontius.” Cydippe picked up the apple and             also to the heroes Achilles and Jason and
read the inscription aloud, inadvertently swear-       the gods Apollo and Asclepius. In Ovid’s
ing an oath by Artemis to marry Acontius.              Metamorphoses, Actaeon surprised Artemis
Cydippe’s parents, however, arranged for her to        and her nymphs bathing on Mount Cithaeron
be engaged to another man, and she became ill          in Boeotia. Outraged that she had been seen
as the time for the marriage neared. Cydippe’s         nude, Artemis transformed Actaeon into a
father discovered from the Delphic oracle that         stag. His own pack of dogs failed to recognize
Cydippe’s illness was caused by the potential          him, gave chase, and, after capturing him, tore
betrayal of the oath she had sworn to Artemis.         him apart. In other accounts, Actaeon offend-
Acontius was then accepted as a husband for            ed Artemis either by attempting to seduce
Cydippe.                                               her or by boasting of his superior hunting
                                                       skills. Apollodorus’s Library provides a coda
Actaeon A Boeotian hunter. Son of                      to the myth in which Actaeon’s howling dogs
Aristaeus and Autonoe. Grandson of Cadmus.             afterward searched fruitlessly for their master
Classical sources are Apollodorus’s Library            until Chiron created a sculptural likeness of
(3.4.4), Diodorus Siculus’s Library of History         Actaeon to console them. In yet another ver-
(4.81.4), Hyginus’s Fabulae (180, 181), Ovid’s         sion of the myth, Zeus punished Actaeon with
MetaMorpHoses (3.131–252), and Pausanias’s             death for his amorous pursuit of Semele, one
Description of Greece (9.2.3). Actaeon was             of Zeus’s consorts. The myth of Actaeon was a
raised by the centaur Chiron, who was tutor            popular theme in art, literature, and dance.

Diana and Actaeon. Lucas Cranach, ca. 1540 (Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Connecticut)

    In antiquity, visual representations of the      beauty attracted the amorous attention of the
myth of Actaeon commonly depicted his death.         gods and goddesses; others include Endymion,
An example is a black-figure krater attrib-          Ganymede, and Hyacinthus. Both Aphrodite
uted to the Pan Painter from ca. 470 b.c.e.          and Persephone loved Adonis.
(Museum of Fine Arts, Boston). Here Arte-                Because Myrrha neglected to worship Aph-
mis stands with drawn bow before the falling         rodite, the goddess punished her by making
figure of Actaeon while his hounds tear at           her fall in love with her own father, Cinyras.
his throat and torso. There is a magnificent         With her nurse’s help, Myrrha tricked her
relief of Actaeon attacked by his dogs from a        father into beginning an incestuous relation-
temple frieze in Selinunte, Italy, from ca. 465      ship with her. When Cinyras discovered the
b.c.e. (Museo Archeologico, Palermo). After          truth, he tried to kill her, but before he could
the fifth century b.c.e., artists take more inter-   do so, the gods mercifully transformed her
est in Actaeon’s physical transformation into        into a myrrh tree. Adonis was born of the
a stag, for example, Titian, Diana and Actaeon,      myrrh tree (he is associated with vegetation
1556–59 (National Gallery of Scotland, Edin-         and fertility) and given by Aphrodite into the
burgh), or in Actaeon’s discovery of the bath-       protection of Persephone. Both goddesses fell
ing Artemis and her company. This theme was          in love with the youth, and eventually Adonis
particularly well explored by a variety of artists   divided his time between them. Despite Aph-
from the 15th century onward. Some examples          rodite’s protective care, Adonis was killed by
are Lucas Cranach’s Diana and Actaeon from ca.       a boar while hunting. An anemone grew on
1540 (Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford). Here,           the spot where he died, and a red rose where
Actaeon’s spying on Artemis and his metamor-         Aphrodite’s tears fell.
phoses occur simultaneously. Another example             Representations of Adonis hunting and the
of this theme is Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot’s       moment of his death appear in early antique
Diana Surprised at the Bath from ca. 1836 (Met-      reliefs and pottery, where the emphasis is usually
ropolitan Museum of Art, New York). Later            placed on the youth’s beauty and tragic death.
literary interpretations of the myth of Actaeon      Depictions of Adonis in the company of one or
appeared in verse by Giovanni Boccaccio, The         both the goddesses with whom he was associ-
Hunt of Diana, ca. 1334, and Petrarch in ca.         ated appear from about the fifth century b.c.e.
1336. William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer              A Pompeian fresco from the first century b.c.e.
Night’s Dream, ca. 1595–96, evoked Actaeon           shows Adonis with Aphrodite. Aphrodite’s love for
and Diana in the characters Titania and Bot-         Adonis is a subject that appears frequently among
tom. The myth of Actaeon is also the subject         Renaissance and baroque painters. Examples
of several ballets choreographed by Bronisłava       include Titian’s Venus and Adonis from 1553–54
Nijinska and Rudolph Nureyev.                        (Prado, Madrid). This theme was also explored
                                                     by Paolo Veronese, Peter Paul Rubens, Nicholas
Admetus See aLcestis; Tibullus.                      Poussin, and the sculptor Antonio Canova. Wil-
                                                     liam Shakespeare wrote a poem based on the
                                                     myth, Venus and Adonis (1592–93).
Adonis A lover of Aphrodite. Son of King
Cinyras of Paphos and Myrrha (Smyrna).
Classical sources are Apollodorus’s Library          Adrastus The leader of the expedition of
(3.14.3–4), Hyginus’s Fabulae (58, 248, 251)         the Seven against Thebes. King of Argos,
Ovid’s MetaMorpHoses (10.476, 519–559, 708–          and for a certain period, of Sicyon. Classical
739), and Theocritus’s Idylls (15, 30). Adonis       sources are Aeschylus’s seven against tHebes,
is one of a group of mortal youths whose             Euripides’ suppLiant WoMen, and Statius’s

tHebaid. Adrastus quarreled with his cous-         Phocus. Peleus and Telamon were jealous of
in, the seer Amphiaraus. Later they made           Phocus and killed him. When Aeacus discov-
peace, and Amphiaraus married Adrastus’s sis-      ered the murder, he exiled his sons. Aeacus
ter Eriphyle on the understanding that she         was an honored figure in Hades in addition
would resolve any disputes between them. One       to Minos and Rhadamanthys.
night, Polynices, exiled from Thebes, where
his brother Eteocles maintained his rule, and
                                                   Aeetes A ruler of Colchis. Son of Helios
T ydeus, exiled from Calydon, took shelter at      and Perseis (a sea nymph). Classical sources are
Adrastus’s palace on a stormy night, where they    Apollodorus’s Library (1.9.1, 1.9.23), Apollonius
quarreled and fought. Adrastus broke up the        of Rhodes’s voyage of tHe argonauts (2.1,140–
fight and offered to help reinstate both, giving   4.240), Diodorus Siculus’s Library of History
to Polynices his daughter Argia in marriage,       (4.45.1–49), Hesiod’s tHeogony (956), Homer’s
and to Tydeus his other daughter, Deipyla.         odyssey (10.135), and Hyginus’s Fabulae (3, 12,
Polynices’s alliance with Adrastus is the origin   22, 23). Aeetes was the brother of Circe and
of the first Argive expedition against Thebes.     Pasiphae and the father of Chalciope, Medea,
Polynices secured Amphiaraus’s participation       and Apsyrtus. He received Phrixus and the
by bribing his wife, Eriphyle, with the fatally    Golden Ram at Colchis and married him to his
cursed necklace of Harmonia (see discussion        daughter Chalciope. The ram was sacrificed,
of Statius’s Thebaid). The expedition failed,      and the Golden Fleece was dedicated to Ares by
and Adrastus alone survived by escaping on         Aeetes. Later Aeetes refused to allow Jason to
his divine horse Arion. In Euripides’ Suppliant    take away the fleece, but the hero was aided by
Women, Adrastus seeks help from Athens and         Aeetes’ daughter Medea. In Medea’s attempt to
Theseus in recovering the bodies of the slain      escape with Jason, she killed Apsyrtus and dis-
Argive heroes, which Creon of Thebes refuses       persed the pieces of his body in the sea. Aeetes
to hand over for burial. The sons of the slain     was forced to stop to pick them up, giving Jason
heroes, called the Epigoni, mounted a second,      and Medea the chance to escape.
successful expedition against Thebes. The story
of Adrastus and the Seven against Thebes is well
represented in ancient literature: Aeschylus and   Aegeus A king of Athens and father of
Statius are major sources.                         the hero Theseus. Classical sources are
                                                   Apollodorus’s Library (3.15.5), Euripides’
                                                   Medea (663–758), Hyginus’s Fabulae (37, 43),
Aeacus Ruler of the Myrmidons. Son of              Ovid’s MetaMorpHoses (7.403, 420), Pausanias’s
Aegina (a river nymph) and Zeus. Sources           Description of Greece (1.22.5, 1.27.8), and
are Apollodorus’s Library (3.12.6), Hesiod’s       Plutarch’s Life of Theseus (3.12–17.22). While
tHeogony (1,003), Hyginus’s Fabulae (52),          Aegeus was still childless, he traveled to Delphi
and Ovid’s MetaMorpHoses (7.469). Aeacus           to consult the Oracle about his future heirs.
had a reputation for sound judgment and            The prophecy warned him not to beget a child
piety. Zeus transformed ants on the island         before he should return to Athens but in opaque
of Aegina into the Myrmidons, and Aeacus           terms that Aegeus did not understand. He
reigned over them. According to Ovid, the          consulted Pittheus, King of Troezen, and while
population of the island had been destroyed        there fathered Theseus by Aethra, the daughter
by a plague brought upon them by the jeal-         of Pittheus. Suspecting that Aethra was preg-
ousy of Hera. Aeacus married Endeis, and           nant with his child, Aegeus left behind, hidden
their sons were Peleus and Telamon. With           under a stone, a sword and shoes for the child.
Psamathe (a Nereid), Aeacus had a son,             He asked Aethra to send his son to him once he

was capable of lifting the stone. When Theseus       to Thyestes in a meal. In another version,
reached young manhood, he found the tokens           Thyestes committed incest with his daughter
left by his father and went to Athens to claim       Pelopia in order to have a son to avenge him,
his birthright. Aegeus recognized him as his son     and Aegisthus was born of their union. When he
by the sword that he bore. Aegeus had by then        grew up, Aegisthus became Clytaemnestra’s
married Medea, and she, perceiving Theseus to        lover and helped her to kill Agamemnon, son of
be a threat to the position of her own children      Atreus. Agamemnon’s son Orestes later killed
with Aegeus, tried at first to discredit and then    Aegisthus.
to poison Theseus. When Aegeus discovered her
schemes, he drove her out of Athens.
                                                     Aeneas Trojan hero and founder of the
    After his adventures in Crete, Theseus
                                                     Roman race. Son of Venus (Aphrodite) and
returned by ship to Athens. Aegeus had asked
                                                     Anchises. Father of Ascanius (also Iulus).
Theseus to hang a white sail as a sign that
                                                     Aeneas is the hero of Virgil’s aeneid and one of
Theseus had survived his adventures, but The-
                                                     the heroes of Homer’s iLiad. An additional clas-
seus neglected to hang the correct sail. When
                                                     sical source is Ovid’s MetaMorpHoses (13.623–
Theseus’s ships were sighted without the sail in
                                                     14.608). The Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite (see
question, Aegeus assumed the worst and, in his
                                                     HoMeric HyMns) tells how Aphrodite fell in
grief, threw himself into the sea, thus giving his
                                                     love with the mortal Anchises, and the product
name to the Aegean Sea. In literature, Aegeus
                                                     of their union was the hero Aeneas. In Homer’s
often plays an important but subsidiary role. In
                                                     Iliad, Aeneas is among the more impressive
Euripides’ Medea, Medea finds it convenient
                                                     Trojan warriors. He is also unusually favored
to marry Aegeus because he offers her escape
                                                     and protected by the gods. When Aeneas faces
and shelter. A particularly affecting represen-
                                                     Diomedes in battle, Aphrodite attempts to
tation of the tragedy of Aegeus’s death occurs
                                                     rescue him, and after Diomedes wounds Venus,
in Catullus c.64: Theseus’s “forgetful/incon-
                                                     Apollo completes the rescue. Later, in Book
siderate” abandonment of the Cretan princess
                                                     20, Poseidon saves Aeneas from Achilles.
Ariadne is symmetrically punished by his later
                                                     Poseidon then predicts that Aeneas’s line will
“forgetful” omission to raise the white sail and
                                                     survive the war to rule over the Trojans in
the resulting death of his father.
                                                     later years. Accounts of Aeneas’s escape from
    Aegeus appears at the Delphic Oracle in
                                                     Troy vary. Either he departed for Mount Ida
a red-figure kylix from ca. 430 b.c.e. (Antik-
                                                     before the fall of Troy with his family, or as
ensammlung, Berlin). The theme of Aegeus’s
                                                     in Virgil’s version, he departed in the midst of
recognition of Theseus by his sword was also
                                                     Troy’s sack.
represented by artists. A postclassical example
                                                         Stories of Aeneas’s escape and subsequent
is Hippolyte Flandrin’s Theseus Recognized by His
                                                     wanderings go back to the sixth century b.c.e.
Father of 1832 (École des Beaux-Arts, Paris).
                                                     Various versions exist in the Greek poets and
                                                     mythographers. The story takes on a new
Aegisthus Son of Thyestes. Classical sourc-          significance when the Romans begin to adapt
es are Aeschylus’s agaMeMnon and Libation            it in the third century b.c.e. to explain the
bearers, Apollodorus’s Library (Epitome 2.14),       origins of their civilization. As Rome emerged
Euripides’ eLectra, Homer’s odyssey (1.29–           as a major force in the Mediterranean world, it
43, 3.248–312, 4.512–537), Hyginus’s Fabulae         was necessary to find a sufficiently prestigious
(88), and Sophocles’ eLectra, Aegisthus was          foundation myth and founder figure. Troy has
the sole surviving son of Thyestes after Atreus      the advantage of being a glorious civilization,
killed his brother’s children and served them        favored by the gods, and endowed with heroic,

mythological, and literary pedigree, yet dis-        Aeneas sails up the Tiber and lands in Latium,
tinct from, and even opposed to, Greece. The         where king Latinus offers him his daughter in
Romans came into conflict with the great Hel-        marriage in accordance with a prophecy that
lenistic kingdoms in the third and second cen-       his daughter Lavinia is destined to marry a for-
turies b.c.e., and, in general, would have found     eigner. Juno causes Turnus, Lavinia’s favored
it unacceptable to be derived from a civilization    suitor hitherto, to take up arms against Aeneas.
to which they already owed a considerable por-       Evander, a Greek from Arcadia established on
tion of their culture.                               the Palatine, offers Aeneas support and gives
    As Roman founder figure, Aeneas departs          him a tour of the future site of Rome. After
from Troy and, in his subsequent wanderings,         several books of warfare, Aeneas kills Turnus in
sojourns in various places—e.g., Crete, Epirus,      one-on-one combat.
Carthage, Sicily—until finally landing in Italy          Virgil ends his epic with the death of Tur-
at Cumae. This basic narrative framework             nus. Aeneas later founds Lavinium. He dies, in
exists in early Roman poets such as Ennius and       some versions by mysterious disappearance, and
Naevius starting in the third century b.c.e. The     is deified as Jupiter Indiges (see the account in
canonical account, inevitably, is the version        Ovid’s Metamorphoses 14). Aeneas is the founder
contained in Virgil’s fully extant Aeneid (ca.19     of the Roman race and the Roman civilization,
b.c.e.). According to Virgil, Aeneas leaves Troy     not the founder of the city. This latter honor
in the midst of the Greek sack with his son,         goes to the eponymous Romulus, a descendant
called both Ascanius and Iulus; his father,          of Aeneas. Aeneas’s Trojans intermarry with the
Anchises; his wife, Creusa; and his household        native Latins, and their descendants become
gods, the Penates. He loses track of his wife        the Romans. Aeneas was of special interest in
during their flight, and her spirit appears to       the Augustan period because Julius Caesar and
him, urging him to continue pursuing his des-        his adoptive son the emperor Augustus claimed
tiny. Aeneas leaves Troy along with a substan-       descent from Aeneas; the name of Aeneas’s son
tial group of Trojan fugitives in several ships.     Iulus resembles the name of the Julian clan.
They do not know what their final destination        Aeneas enjoyed a prominent place amid the
is to be. There are several failed attempts, in      statuary of Augustus’s Forum and on the reliefs
which dire omens and other disastrous events         of the Ara Pacis, a major monument of Augus-
indicate that they must depart from a given          tan Rome. The Virgilian Aeneas is competent
place. At length, Aeneas learns that Italy is        at wandering adventures, like Odysseus, and
their goal. On their way to Italy, Juno (see         dominant in battle, like Achilles, but he also
Hera), who still angrily opposes the Trojans,        adds qualities of his own: He is dutiful (pius),
wrecks the fleet and causes it to wash ashore        patient, self-sacrificing, pragmatic, enduring
in Carthage. There Aeneas becomes involved           of many labors. Homer’s Trojan warrior has
in a serious love affair with Dido, queen of         become the quintessential Roman hero.
Carthage. Admonished by Mercury (Hermes),
he departs, and Dido commits suicide. Eventu-
ally, after stopping in Sicily and celebrating the   Aeneid Virgil (ca. 19 b.c.e.)
funeral games of his father, who died during
the journey, Aeneas comes to Cumae, where                         IntRoDuCtIon
the Sibyl offers prophecies and instructions         Virgil’s poetic career proceeded from humble
for visiting the underworld. In the underworld,      to grand. He began by composing a collection
Anchises shows him the souls of future Romans        of 10 elegant pastoral poems, the Eclogues (ca.
waiting to take on bodily form in the world          39 b.c.e.), went on to complete his didactic
above. After departing from the underworld,          poem on farming in four books, the Georgics

(ca. 29 b.c.e.), and finally, as the culmination      its moral, political, and religious dimensions.
of his career, produced his epic on the found-        Second, in adapting Roman historical legend
ing of Roman civilization by the Trojan hero          to the epic form, he incorporates and assimi-
Aeneas. The Aeneid was published unfinished           lates within his poetic vision Homer’s Iliad
after Virgil’s death in 19 b.c.e., and some           and odyssey, Apollonius of Rhodes’s voyage
incomplete half-lines attest to the fact that         of tHe argonauts, and the Annales of the
the work had not yet received the poet’s “final       Roman epic poet Ennius, to name only his
hand.” The poem, despite these minor flaws,           most important models. The task of writing the
is a masterpiece and constitutes Virgil’s most        classic epic of Roman civilization near the end
ambitious treatment of his central themes:            of the first century b.c.e. was not an easy one.
violence and civilization, the immense labor          The epic genre was not exactly out of fashion
of creating and sustaining human society, and         but had been rendered problematic for poets
the land of Italy itself as the site of violent       whose practice was informed by the sophisti-
struggle, idyllic habitation, exilic nostalgia, and   cated poetics of craft and erudition inherited
agricultural toil.                                    from Hellenistic Alexandria. Virgil does not
    At the opening of the third book of the           produce an outright panegyric or narration of
Georgics, Virgil appears to advertise his as yet      Augustus’s deeds yet manages to incorporate
unpublished epic. He proclaims he will build          reference to and awareness of Augustus and
a great temple that will honor Octavian (the          the moral concepts and civilizing ideology with
future emperor Augustus). To what extent the          which he was associated into his richly erudite
Aeneid stands as a proud monument to Augus-           and sophisticated mythological narrative.
tan society and Augustus as princeps (“first citi-
zen,” “leader”) remains a matter of intense and                        SynoPSIS
complicated debate. The epic treats the story         Book 1
of Aeneas’s exile from conquered Troy and his         The poet introduces his subject matter: the
subsequent wanderings. It was prophesied by           founding of Roman civilization. Juno (see
Homer that Aeneas’s line would survive Troy’s         Hera) is then identified as the goddess who
fall, and Virgil’s epic traces his story from the     caused all of Aeneas’s labors and wanderings:
terrible moment when the Greeks enter and             She is still bitter about the judgment of Paris
sack the city, to his perplexed wanderings by         and Ganymede and has heard a prophecy that
sea, through his eventual arrival in Italy, where,    the race deriving from Aeneas would one day
according to destiny, he is to found a new            overthrow her beloved Carthage. Profoundly
community that will become the basis for the          indignant that she cannot act on her hatreds
Roman race. Before he founds this community,          with the freedom granted to other gods and
however, he must contend with the local inhab-        goddesses, Juno bribes Aeolus to release the
itants, the Latins, with whom, against his will,      winds under his control with the promise of
he becomes engaged in a bloody conflict. At the       a nymph in marriage. The winds are released,
close of the epic, in order to marry King Lati-       and Aeneas, who is sailing with his fleet,
nus’s daughter Lavinia and found Lavinium, he         is introduced in a moment of terror as the
must slay his implacable rival, Turnus, in one-       storm descends. The ships are in great danger,
to-one combat, in a duel that replays, on Italian     and that of Orontes is overwhelmed before
soil, the final combat of Achilles and Hector         Aeneas’s eyes, but Neptune (see Poseidon)
as narrated in Homer’s iLiad.                         observes the seas in turmoil, chastises the
    Virgil’s ambitions in the Aeneid are immense.     unruly winds, and calms the seas. The remain-
He aims, first of all, to encapsulate in epic form    der of the fleet makes for the nearby shore of
the labor of founding Roman civilization and          Libya. Aeneas climbs a peak to look for signs

of the other ships, and shoots seven deer, one      the evening proceeds, Dido asks Aeneas to tell
for each of his ships. Aeneas and his fleet hold    the story of his adventures.
a feast and mourn for the comrades whom
they believe they have lost. Among the gods,        Book 2
Venus (see Aphrodite) turns to Jupiter (see         Although the memory is painful to him, Aeneas
Zeus) and complains of her son Aeneas’s fate.       agrees to tell the story of the fall of Troy. He
Jupiter consoles her by revealing the destiny       relates how the Greeks hid themselves on the
of the future Romans. They will have empire         nearby island of Tenedos, and the Trojans,
without limit, and one day Augustus Caesar          thinking they had departed for good, came out
will bring a new golden age. The gods dis-          of the gates of their city to discover the wooden
patch Mercury (see Hermes) to ensure a hos-         horse. During the debate as to what to do with
pitable welcome for the Trojans in Carthage.        it, Laocoon suggests that the Greek gift is a
The next morning, Aeneas goes to explore            trick and makes the hollow horse resound with
the nearby area and meets his mother, Venus,        his spear. At that moment, the captive Greek
disguised as a maiden huntress. She informs         spy Sinon is dragged onto the scene: He gains
Aeneas and his comrade Achates about Car-           the Trojans’ sympathy by a brilliant speech in
thage and its ruler, Dido, and encourages him       which he pretends to be a deserter victimized
to approach her; he rebukes her for mocking         by Ulysses (see Odysseus) and whom Ulysses
                                                    threatened to sacrifice; he persuades them that
him with disguises and images. Aeneas and
                                                    the horse was made as an act of atonement to
Achates arrive in the city, which is in the pro-
                                                    appease Minerva (see Athena) for the theft of
cess of being built and is bustling with activ-
                                                    the Palladium. The Trojans are convinced by
ity. When Aeneas perceives that events of the
                                                    his story and convinced, furthermore, that it
Trojan War are depicted on the walls of the
                                                    is right to accept the horse when two serpents
temple of Juno, he realizes that the inhabit-
                                                    appear from Tenedos and strangle Laocoon and
ants know about the Trojans and sympathize
                                                    his sons before settling at the feet of Minerva’s
with them; he is much heartened. He then
                                                    statue on the citadel. That night, the Greeks
sees Dido, and suddenly, his comrades from          descend from the horse, open the gates for
all the other ships except Orontes’ appear on       their comrades, and commence sacking the city.
the scene. While Aeneas and Achates remain          Aeneas, waking from a terrifying dream in which
hidden, Ilioneus steps forward and beseeches        Hector appeared to him and admonished him
Dido for hospitality, and she graciously offers     to flee the city, throws himself furiously into
to receive them and even to accept them as          the midst of the fighting. He eventually makes
fellow settlers. Aeneas and Achates are then        his way to the palace, sees the headless corpse
revealed; Aeneas addresses Dido and she leads       of Priam, slain by Neoptolemus, and remem-
him into the palace. Venus, in the meanwhile,       bers his own father and family. He turns around
comes up with a scheme to control Dido and          and sees Helen. For a moment, he considers
ensure her loyalty to Aeneas: She instructs her     killing her, but he is stopped by the appearance
son Cupid (see Eros) to take on the appear-         of his mother, Venus. She shows him the ter-
ance of Aeneas’s son, Ascanius, and, when           rible revelation that it is the gods, not Helen,
Ascanius is sent for, to take his place (the real   who are responsible for the destruction of Troy.
Ascanius has been plunged into magically            He goes home, consults with his family, and on
induced slumber). At the palace, Cupid sits         a sign from Jupiter, they decide to flee. Aeneas
on Dido’s lap and breathes a profound love          carries his father on his shoulders and leads
into her, gradually erasing the memory of her       his son, Iulus/Ascanius, by the hand, but in the
attachment to her dead husband, Sychaeus. As        confusion, he loses sight of his wife, Creusa.

Desperately, he retraces his steps to find her,    portion of his kingdom and took Andromache
but in vain. Finally, her shade appears to him     as his wife. They have constructed a dupli-
and bids him go on without her to achieve his      cate Troy in miniature, and Andromache does
destiny. He returns to the group of companions     honor to Hector’s cenotaph. Helenus offers
preparing to follow him into exile.                Aeneas advice and various prophecies that will
                                                   guide him on his journey: the portent of the
Book 3                                             white sow, the dangers of Scylla and Charyb-
Aeneas’s narration continues. He tells how         dis, the importance of offering prayers to Juno,
they built a fleet and he departed with his son,   the necessity of consulting the Sibyl of Cumae.
father, companions, and household gods (Pena-      They then sail off, avoiding Charybdis and
tes). They attempt a landing at various places,    passing by Aetna; as they pass the island of the
but in each case omens prevent a long-term         Cyclopes, they stop to rescue Achaemenides, a
stay: In Thrace, Aeneas pulls up some green        Greek who was stranded there when Ulysses’s
boughs to deck the altar in preparation for        crew left hastily. They depart just in time as
offering a sacrifice; they bleed and eventually    the Cyclopes begin to approach. They sail
the groaning voice of Polydorus arises from the    past other cities of Sicily until Aeneas’s father,
ground. He was a Trojan prince whom Priam          Anchises, dies at Drepanum. On this sad note,
had sent to the Thracian king along with a large   Aeneas ends his story.
amount of gold; after the fall of Troy, the king
had Polydorus killed and kept the gold. The        Book 4
Trojans depart and next go to Delos, where         Dido by now is hopelessly and painfully in
Aeneas receives a prophetic admonition that        love with Aeneas. She struggles with her guilt
they must seek out their “ancient mother” from     over betraying her dead husband, Sychaeus,
which their stock derives. Anchises interprets     to whom she had pledged lifelong loyalty, and
this on various grounds to mean Crete. They        debates with her sister Anna what to do. Dido
begin to establish a new Pergamum in Crete,        is so obsessed with her love that she ignores all
when a pestilence falls on them. In a dream,       else; even the construction of her town comes
the Penates tell Aeneas that he must seek out      to a halt. Venus and Juno discuss the develop-
Italy/Hesperia, the land of origin of the Trojan   ment and propose to promote the relationship
founder figure Dardanus. They sail for several     between the two, but each with her own, very
days and take shelter from bad weather on          different motivation—Juno to keep Aeneas
the island of Strophades, where the Harpies        from Italy, Venus to keep him safe for the time
dwell. They engage the Harpies in battle, and      being. The next day, Dido, Aeneas, and their
the chief harpy, Calaeno, delivers a worrisome     companions go on a hunt; there is a storm
prophecy: “They must sail for Italy but, because   (summoned by Juno); they seek shelter in the
of their mistreatment of the Harpies, they will    same cave, where, with Juno’s connivance,
be condemned to violence and hunger until,         they consummate a questionable “marriage.”
in their desperation, they will be driven to eat   Rumor, personified as a terrifying birdlike
their own tables.” They go on to Actium, where     monster with an eye, mouth, and ear for every
they celebrate the Trojan athletic games, which    feather, brings the news to Iarbas, a neighbor-
Aeneas commemorates with an inscription.           ing king whom Dido rejected as suitor. He
From there, they go to Buthrotum at Epirus,        complains to Jupiter, who gives him a favorable
where Priam’s son Helenus rules alongside          hearing and dispatches Mercury to remind
Andromache. She had been Neoptolemus’s             Aeneas of his destiny. Aeneas is terrified by
slave and bore his children, but when Neoptol-     the god’s apparition. He makes plans to depart
emus was killed by Orestes, Helenus ruled a        and prepares to explain his departure to Dido.

When she learns of his plans, she becomes furi-       her that they will arrive safely at the cost of a
ous and reproaches Aeneas bitterly. He protests       single life, “one for many.” The god Sleep then
that he departs to seek Italy against his will.       overpowers the helmsman Palinurus, who is
She vows that she will, as a shade, continue          thrown into the ocean. Aeneas himself sadly
to pursue him in vengeance even after death.          steers the ship the rest of the way.
After their conversation, she sends Anna to beg
him to stay, but Aeneas refuses to be swayed.         Book 6
Dido is assailed by visions and portents. On the      The fleet anchors at Cumae. On his way to con-
pretence that she is seeking a magical cure for       sult the Sibyl, Aeneas pauses to view the temple
her love, she begins preparations for his funeral     of Apollo on the acropolis. Daedalus dedicated
pyre. Mercury urges Aeneas to flee immedi-            this temple after his flight from Crete. Its doors
ately. Dido observes his departure, pronounces        depict the episodes in Cretan mythology in
a terrible curse on Aeneas and his descendants,       which Daedalus himself was involved except
and commits suicide with the sword that had           for his own son’s death. Aeneas then offers a
been Aeneas’s gift to her. Juno in pity sends         sacrifice as bidden by the priestess of Apollo
down Iris to release Dido’s soul by cutting a         and hears the voice of the Sibyl emanating
lock of her hair.                                     from the cave. She predicts a second “Trojan
                                                      War” on Italian soil. He then asks how he may
Book 5                                                descend to the underworld to meet his father,
The sight of Dido’s funeral flames fill the           and she instructs him to seek the golden bough.
departing Trojans with grim forebodings. Pre-         In the meantime, Misenus, one of Aeneas’s
vented from seeking Italy directly by bad             comrades, is drowned after challenging Triton
weather, they make for the land of Aeneas’s           to a music contest. Aeneas obtains the golden
brother Eryx in Sicily. When they land, Aeneas        bough, and the Trojans bury Misenus. Aeneas
announces that they will celebrate his father’s       proceeds to a deep cave by Lake Avernus,
funeral games on the first anniversary of his         where he offers a sacrifice, before descending
death. He presides as the Trojans and Sicilians       to the underworld with the Sibyl as his guide.
compete in a boat race, a foot race, a boxing         On the near side of the river Styx, where the
match, and an archery contest. Ascanius and           unburied are detained, he meets Palinurus, who
other Trojan boys then put on an equestrian           tells his story; Aeneas promises to bury him and
display that prefigures Rome’s lusus Troiae.          name a place after him. They present the bough
Juno, in the meanwhile, dispatches Iris to stir       to Charon, and he ferries them across. On the
up the Trojan women. In the guise of Beroe,           other side, Aeneas sees and addresses Dido,
she rouses their indignation at their wandering       who refuses to speak with him. He then meets
life, suggests that they settle down in the land of   Deiphobus, Helen’s lover after Paris’s death,
Eryx, and incites them to burn the ships. Asca-       whose visage still exhibits the mutilations that
nius, Aeneas, and others hear of the fire, rush to    the Greeks inflicted on him before they killed
the scene, and the women scatter. In response         him. Aeneas then goes on to visit Tartarus and
to Aeneas’s prayer, Jupiter quenches the flames       its fabled punishments and, finally, the abode of
with a thunderstorm. Aeneas then decides that         the blessed, Elysium, where he meets Anchises.
those who wish to stay will found their own           Anchises explains the process of transmigra-
community under the leadership of Acestes.            tion, whereby souls are purged of their flaws
Venus, in the meanwhile, seeks assurance from         in preparation for taking on new bodily form,
Neptune that Aeneas and his remaining com-            and then points out the souls whose future
panions will make it safely to Italy. He assures      selves will constitute Rome’s notable men and

heroes. The procession reaches its climax in           Latium cries out for war, and Latinus, besieged,
the figure of Augustus, but ends, somewhat             withdraws into the palace and gives up his rule.
mournfully, with the figure of his heir desig-         Since Latinus refused to open the gates of
nate, Marcellus, who died young. They leave            war according to Roman custom, Juno herself
the underworld through the ivory gate of false         smashes them open. For the remainder of the
dreams.                                                book, the poet rehearses a catalog of Italian
                                                       peoples and their leaders in war, ending with an
Book 7                                                 evocative description of the Volscian Camilla.
Aeneas performs funeral rites for his nurse
Caieta, who died during his absence, and sails         Book 8
forth from Cumae, past Circe, where they hear          As the opposing hosts gather, Tiberinus appears
the roaring of Circe’s victims in their animal         to Aeneas in his sleep to elaborate on the por-
forms. Aeneas’s fleet enters the Tiber; the poet       tent of the white sow with a litter of 30 and
addresses his muse, Erato, and announces the           suggests an alliance with Evander, the Arcadian
commencement of the battle narrative. The              who occupies the future site of Rome. The next
king of the local people, Latinus, has a daugh-        day, as predicted, Aeneas sees the white sow. He
ter, Lavinia, who, according to a prophecy, is to      then goes with his companions to see Evander.
marry a non-Latin stranger. Aeneas and Iulus,          Evander agrees to the alliance and extends his
in the meanwhile, spread a feast out on the            hospitality to Aeneas. As they are performing the
grass, placing food on top of wheat cakes; when        rites of Heracles, Evander takes the occasion
they eat the cakes too, Iulus remarks that they        of the feast to give a colorful explanation of the
have eaten their tables, and Aeneas perceives          origins of these rites. They were in memory of
that they have fulfilled the prophecy and arrived      Heracles’ killing of Cacus for having stolen his
at the land destined for them. Aeneas then sends       cattle. Evander then offers a history of Latium
envoys to Latinus’s palace. The king realizes          from the earliest period and a tour of key
that Aeneas must be the stranger fated to marry        sites of proto-Roman topography: the Asylum,
his daughter and responds favorably. Juno is           the Lupercal, the Argiletum, the Capitol, and,
furious at the Trojans’ success and decides that       finally, his own simple dwelling. In the mean-
if she cannot halt their progress, she will at least   time, Venus seduces her husband, Vulcan (see
make it bloody, resolving to employ the powers         Hephaestus), and persuades him to make armor
of the underworld to wreak havoc. Accordingly,         for Aeneas. In the middle of the night, Vulcan
she calls upon the fury Allecto, who afflicts          rises and visits his Cyclopes to instruct them
Latinus’s wife, Amata, with madness and drives         to put aside their other work to make armor
her to despair that her daughter is to be given        and, especially, a mighty shield fit for a hero.
in marriage to a foreigner. Amata takes Lavinia        The next morning, Evander addresses Aeneas
up into the mountains and initiates a Bacchic          and offers him the leadership of the Etruscans:
frenzy. Allecto then appears in the dreams of the      They have risen against their tyrant, Mezentius,
Rutulian Turnus, to whom Lavinia is currently          and driven him out; Mezentius has now taken
betrothed, and infects him with a frenzied rage        refuge with Turnus. Evander also offers to send
for battle. Finally, she brings it about that Iulus,   his own son Pallas with Aeneas so that he may
while hunting, shoots a pet stag of the royal          learn the art of war under his tutelage. Evander
household. The people of Latium are roused             sends his son off with a farewell speech full of
to anger; fighting breaks out between the Tro-         pathos and foreboding. As Aeneas is on his way
jans and local peoples. Allecto reports back to        to the Etruscan camp, he is met by Venus, who
Juno, who dismisses the Fury abruptly. All of          presents him with the shield and armor. He is
0	                                                                                               Aeneid

struck with admiration, particularly of the shield,   nus himself enters. The Trojans shut the gates,
although he does not fully understand its mes-        but Turnus remains inside and wreaks havoc
sage—it represents the future deeds and history       among them. Finally, the Trojans regroup in
of the Roman people, with special emphasis on         massed ranks to attack him. Realizing that he
Augustus’s victory over Antony and Cleopatra at       has done as much damage as he could, Turnus
Actium, and his consequent triumph.                   leaps into the Tiber, and the current carries
                                                      him back to his comrades.
Book 9
Iris comes down to speak to Turnus and                Book 10
informs him that Aeneas is away from the Tro-         On Olympus, the gods hold a council. Jupiter
jan camp. It is a good time to attack. As Turnus      reminds the company that war is not supposed
and his army advance on the camp, the Trojans         to take place now, and not between Latins and
withdraw behind defensive works. Turnus and           Trojans, but later, between Rome and Carthage.
his followers then begin to set the fleet on fire     Venus and then Juno speak, supporting the Tro-
to draw them out. These ships were said to be         jans and Latins, respectively. Jupiter announces
made of trees from the grove of Cybele, the           that discord still rules the day, and that each side
Phrygian mother goddess; Jupiter promised             must make its own fortune or misfortune. In the
her that they would one day assume the form           meanwhile, battle continues among the mortals.
of immortal sea goddesses. Cybele warns off           Aeneas has made an alliance with Tarchon and
the Rutulians, and to their horror, they see          the Etruscans. As he is returning by ship to the
the ships, now taking the form of goddesses,          camp, he meets the sea goddesses, who, before
sail off into the sea. Turnus, however, is not        their transformation, had been his fleet. One
intimidated but taunts the Trojans and rallies        of them, Cymodocea, addresses Aeneas to warn
his followers with promise of victory. Two            him of a threat to his camp and propels him on
Trojans, Nisus and Euryalus, joined by an ide-        his way. When he arrives and disembarks, he
alized homoerotic bond, decide to attempt to          goes on a violent rampage. At the same time,
break through the Rutulian lines at night and         Pallas puts on his own display of martial excel-
bear a message to Aeneas in Pallanteum. They          lence, slaying a series of foes until he, in turn, is
fall upon the camp of their sleeping, drunken         slain by Turnus. Turnus despoils the corpse of
enemies and wreak havoc. However, the gleam           his distinctive sword-belt, which represents the
of Euryalus’s newly acquired helmet gives them        murder of the sons of Aegyptus by the Danaids.
away. The older man, Nisus, escapes, but when         Aeneas, driven by grief and rage, renews his
he realizes that the youth Euryalus has been          onslaught with pitiless violence. On Olympus,
left behind, he turns back. Nisus cannot save         Juno persuades Jupiter to allow her to save Tur-
Euryalus but rushes to his death to slay the man      nus for the time being, even if she cannot change
who killed him. The Rutulians put their heads         the final outcome of the conflict. She takes on
on spears and display them before the Trojan          the appearance of Aeneas and lures Turnus onto
camp, where Euryalus’s mother sees them. Tur-         a ship, which takes him, in a state of shame
nus and his allies besiege the Trojans. Ascanius      and frustration, to Ardea. Mezentius now goes
slays the Rutulian warrior Numanus Remulus.           on a violent rampage, killing Trojans and their
Apollo, in human form, praises Ascanius but           allies until Aeneas wounds him in the groin, and
warns him to withdraw from further battle.            Mezentius’s son Lausus provides cover for his
Two Trojans open the gates to lure the enemy          father’s retreat. Aeneas ends up slaying Lausus
in to join battle. The enemy accept the chal-         with considerable remorse. He makes a point
lenge and rush in. Fighting starts and now Tur-       of returning his body without stripping it of

its armor. When Mezentius hears of his son’s        death blow with his spear. Opis kills him with
death, he accepts his fate and turns back to face   an arrow she shoots from the top of a tumulus.
Aeneas despite his own wounds. Before he dies       The Trojans gain the momentum from different
at Aeneas’s hands, Mezentius pleads to be buried    directions, and Aeneas and Turnus head for the
in the same tomb as his son.                        walls of the city. Night falls before any further
                                                    fighting ensues.
Book 11
Aeneas fulfills his vow to Mars (see Ares)          Book 12
by attaching Mezentius’s bloody spoils to a         Turnus’s spirits are now high, and he calls for
tree as a trophy (tropaeum) representing the        the duel with Aeneas. Latinus suggests that
defeated enemy. He then sends Pallas’s body         Turnus should retire from the dispute and save
back to Evander. Envoys from the Latins arrive      his own life. Amata also begs him not to fight
to ask for a truce while the dead are buried.       the Trojans. Turnus refuses both. He then dis-
Aeneas graciously grants it, and both sides bury    patches his herald Idmon to issue the challenge
their dead. Aeneas suggests, moreover, that         to Aeneas. Turnus arms himself while both
he is open to a peace agreement, to which the       Trojans and Rutulians prepare to view the duel.
Latin Drances, an enemy of Turnus, responds         Juno now bids Juturna—a river deity, Turnus’s
positively. But Evander calls on Aeneas for         sister and one-time paramour of Jupiter—to go
vengeance when he learns of Pallas’s death. The     offer what help she can to Turnus on this fatal
Latins are in doubt as to the course to pursue.     day. Aeneas and Latinus announce the terms
Eventually, the envoys whom they sent to make       of an agreement: If Aeneas loses, his people
an alliance with Diomedes return with the           will withdraw into Evander’s community and
news that they have failed. Diomedes does not       offer no further challenge; if Aeneas wins, the
wish to engage in further warfare and provoke       two peoples will be joined on equal terms, and
the anger of the gods, as had so many of the        he will found Lavinium. Turnus now looks
Greek heroes, to their great cost. He respects      pale and weak. Juturna assumes the form of
Aeneas as a brilliant warrior and urges the         Camertus, one of the leaders, and argues for a
Latins to make peace with him. In the council,      general battle, in which they will outnumber
King Latinus gives initial support to the path of   the Trojans, rather than a duel in which Tur-
peace; Drances opposes Turnus’s drive to war        nus is doomed to die. The augur Tolumnius
more vigorously and angrily. Turnus responds        is encouraged by a propitious omen: An eagle
with disdain for Drances and his proposals and      dropped a swan that it held in its talons, and the
declares that if need be he will face Aeneas in     swan flew away safely; he predicts the depar-
one-to-one combat as an alternative for all-out     ture of the predator Aeneas and casts a spear
war. Word comes suddenly that the Trojans           at the enemy. The truce is broken, and battle
are renewing their attack. Diana (see Artemis)      begins afresh. Aeneas is wounded by an arrow
commands Opis, one of her companions, to go         from an unknown source, and he withdraws,
down to the battlefield and punish anyone who       leaving the field open to Turnus, who goes on a
wounds her devotee, the warrior Camilla, with       rampage. Iapyx the healer works unsuccessfully
the goddess’s own arrow. The Trojan and Rutu-       on Aeneas’s wound until, unbeknown to him,
lian forces clash. Camilla distinguishes herself    Venus puts magic herbs into the water. Aeneas
in the battle, slaying many opponents. Arruns       returns to the battle and searches for Turnus.
looks for his chance to kill her, and while she     Encouraged by Venus, Aeneas decides to attack
is intently pursuing the Trojan Chloreus for his    the city itself. In despair, Amata hangs herself.
brilliant golden garb and armor, he deals her a     Turnus is fighting at the edge of the plain when

he hears the uproar coming from the city. He         who could not have been better chosen as a link
wants to rush back to its defense. Juturna, who      between Greek and Roman traditions of epic:
has disguised herself as his charioteer Metiscus     He literally travels from one into the other. It
but whom he now recognizes, tries to persuade        was prophesied in Homer that Aeneas’s line
him to follow a safer course. But when he hears      would survive the destruction of Troy. This
of the events in the city, he can be restrained      survival provides a basis for the mythology of
no longer, and he returns immediately to take        his voyage from Troy to Italy, where he even-
up the duel with Aeneas. As they fight, Turnus’s     tually merges his people with the indigenous
sword, actually Metiscus’s, which he picked up       Latins to form the Roman race. Both Greek
by mistake, shatters. Juturna eventually returns     and Roman writers, for generations before
his own sword to him, while Aeneas struggles         Virgil, had been generating mythological ori-
to retrieve his spear from a tree. Jupiter now       gins-stories to put Rome on the cultural map
forbids Juno, whom he has sequestered in a           in a way that was in keeping with its emerging
cloud, to interfere any further. Juno yields; she    status in the world. A major power needs a
admits that she can protect Turnus no longer         significant origin and a founder of importance,
but demands that the race resulting from the         whereas Rome seemed to leap out of rela-
merging of the two peoples keep the Latin            tive insignificance onto the world stage in the
name, tongue, attire, and manners. Jupiter           third and second centuries b.c.e. The story of
agrees. Then he sends down one of two terrify-       Aeneas, providing a link between Rome and an
ing hell-creatures called Dirae, which changes       important center endowed with mythological
into an ill-omened screech owl and appears           prestige, makes sense of its apparently sudden
before Turnus as a chilling portent: A numb-         and arbitrary greatness.
ness comes over him; his sister Juturna recog-           It is significant that what becomes the
nizes the sign of doom and withdraws into the        Roman origin myth is a story of cultural trans-
river. As the fight resumes, Turnus picks up an      fer, assimilation, and ethnic fusion. Virgil’s epic
immense stone and hurls it at Aeneas, but he         participates in a broader process of investing
senses that he has lost his own strength and         Rome with its own mythology, a mythology
capacity, and the stone falls short of the mark.     intertwined with diverse places and traditions
Aeneas hurls a spear and pierces Turnus’s thigh.     of the Italian mainland and Sicily, where Greek
Turnus falls before Aeneas and begs that his         meets Roman, and Rome emerges out of a
body be returned to his kin; implicitly, he begs     diversity of Italic peoples. Such origins-stories,
for his life. Aeneas hesitates but then sees the     or etiologies, are not uncommon in Greco-
sword-belt stripped from Pallas. Full of anger,      Roman antiquity. Typically ancient cities had
Aeneas offers up Turnus as a sacrifice to Pallas’s   stories of their founders and foundation nar-
shade and drives his sword into him. Turnus’s        ratives that they preserved and embroidered
shade passes to the underworld.                      with great civic pride. There is a difference in
                                                     scale, however, in the case of Rome. This is not
               CoMMEntARy                            the etiology of a city but of a civilization and,
Virgil’s epic tells the story of the origins of      ultimately, of an empire. For Virgil, then, the
Roman civilization. He could have chosen a           story of Aeneas’s flight to Italy takes on cosmic
broader narrative span for his epic if he had        dimensions that put it into a different category
wanted. Previous epic poets, notably Ennius,         than other tales of migration and colonization;
narrated Rome’s history from the beginning           whereas Homer’s Zeus upholds the destiny
up to recent times. Virgil elected to focus, like    that will bring down a rich and powerful city,
Homer and Apollonius in the Greek tradition,         Virgil’s Jupiter promises the future Romans
on a single hero and his story, moreover, a hero     “empire without end.”

    The immense scope of cosmic and imperial         of the late republican period and, in particu-
time, however, conceals the more immediate           lar, from the civil wars that culminated in the
interests of the Augustan principate. Augus-         conflict between Octavian (later Augustus) and
tus is tracing not only the origins of Roman         Mark Antony. Augustan monuments and works
civilization in general but the origins of Augus-    of literature have a tendency to bypass recent
tus and his adoptive family (the Julian gens).       history in order to associate the princeps (“first
Aeneas’s son is called both Ascanius and Iulus.      citizen” = Augustus) with the ancient past and,
The latter name was already connected with           in particular, with the founder figures Romulus
the Julian clan by Julius Caesar, who claimed to     and Aeneas. Suetonius records that Augustus
have been descended from the goddess Venus           considered adding the honorific “Romulus”
via Anchises-Aeneas-Iulus. Augustus, who was         at the end of his name but finally decided on
adopted as Julius Caesar’s son by the terms          Augustus. The name “Augustus” (“Revered
of the latter’s will, therefore could claim the      One,” “Grand One”) itself has associations with
same divine and heroic lineage. It would be too      primordial sanctity and, in particular, with the
simple to state that Aeneas simply represents        “august augury” whereby Romulus founded
or symbolizes Augustus and his virtues, but it       Rome. King Latinus’s palace is described in the
is also impossible to extricate Virgil’s represen-   Aeneid as an “august building” (tectum augus-
tation of Aeneas from Augustus’s. Romans of          tum). Indeed, one strategy of Augustan writers
aristocratic families aspired to reembody the        such as Livy and Virgil is to “discover” the
virtue (virtus = manly excellence) and charac-       qualities that define “Augustus” already present
ter (mores) of their ancestors (maiores). At an      and immanent in Rome’s ancient past.
aristocratic Roman funeral, according to the             As founder of a civilization, Aeneas is an
historian Polybius, actors would wear masks          especially important ancestor of Augustus,
(imagines) representing the illustrious ances-       who viewed himself as one who founded Rome
tors of the deceased. The Aeneid accomplishes        anew. For Livy, as for Romans generally, there
such a procession of lineage in reverse: Aeneas,     is not just one single founder of Rome but,
when he carries the shield made by Vulcan at         rather, multiple founders who either contrib-
the end of Book 8, is bearing the image of his       uted important aspects to Roman civilization
future descendants, those who will inherit and       (e.g., Numa) or reestablished Rome on a
strive to reanimate a portion of his virtues and     more secure footing after a disastrous rever-
mores. Augustus is the most significant of those     sal or setback (Camillus, Augustus). Virgil
descendants: He carries within him the virtus        comments that it was an “immense labor” to
of the founder of Roman civilization. Virgil         found the Roman race, and we, as readers, are
thus succeeds in making the origins and destiny      meant to feel the immensity and complex-
of Rome converge with the origins and destiny        ity of Aeneas’s task, as he attempts to deal
of the ruler and the imperial family. This focus     with his people’s frustrations, his own doubts,
on origins and founding is in keeping with           the sometimes enigmatic signs sent by the
contemporary concerns. The Augustan histo-           gods, and the resistance of enemies, includ-
rian Livy likewise focuses special attention on      ing the goddess Juno herself. Roman readers
foundation in his vast work, From the Founda-        of Virgil’s time would have understood the
tion of the City (Ab urbe condita), and confesses,   implications of this grim view of history. They
in the prologue, that he prefers to focus on this    had lived through terrible times, but with the
earlier period rather than the more disturbing       help of Virgil’s narrative, they could begin
developments of recent history. Both Virgil and      to appreciate—and perhaps view Augustus
Livy, of course, are diverting our gaze (at least    through the lens of—a new kind of heroism,
temporarily and partially) from the conflicts        the dutiful (pius) heroism of Aeneas, who wins

out in the end through patience, endurance,            narrative frames the possibility that the destiny
and piety. Aeneas, significantly, is a reluctant       envisaged by the gods requires a period of suf-
warrior, albeit a fierce and merciless one when        fering and struggle before a great civilization
the moment requires. He is not gratuitously            can be founded—an age of darkness before
aggressive, not a violent, hubristic character         a renewed Golden Age. Virgil offers para-
like Mezentius, but is rather a humane hero.           digms of redemption and justification that could
Having witnessed the catastrophic havoc of             potentially be applied to Augustus and the soci-
the sack of Troy, he is sensitive to the suffer-       ety that he is attempting to found after a period
ings of others and is deeply cognizant of the          of great violence in which he was himself very
value of peace. Above all, he is bound, by duty        controversially involved.
to the gods, to carry out his sometimes violent            Teleological drive and elements of resistance
mission of wandering and eventual settlement.          to that drive define the narrative of the Aeneid.
It is hard not to see a parallel with the way that     In the opening lines, Virgil frames Aeneas’s
Augustus might have liked to be understood:            wanderings in terms of the drive to found
a hero of divine blood who, despite his disin-         Roman civilization. The constant stream of
clination to violence and love of peace, was           prophecies, portents, dreams, and signs forms
bound to avenge the death of his father, Julius        a key feature of the very syntax of the Trojans’
Caesar, and to free Rome from the oppression           journey. On a larger scale, the procession of
of his hubristic adversary.                            heroes in the underworld in Book 6 and on the
    The key aspect of Aeneas’s struggle, his           shield of Aeneas in Book 8 famously endows
labor of foundation, is that it is ultimately for      the immediate narrative with a more profound
something. The effect of this sense of purpose         sense of historical purpose. Jupiter’s prophecies
behind immense struggle, chaos, and discord            are especially authoritative from a Roman per-
can be understood when we perceive the simi-           spective and make an important early appear-
larity between Aeneas’s war with the Latins and        ance in Book 1, precisely at a moment when
civil war. Technically, of course, it is not a civil   Aeneas seems impotent and helpless, and his
war, but Romans of Virgil’s time could not help        expedition thrown into disarray. The mecha-
viewing the conflict between these two strands         nism of the plot of the epic, however, depends
of the Roman race as a battle of Romans                on forces that oppose, complicate, even call
against Romans. The war might also be seen to          into question in moral terms the otherwise
resemble the Social War of the earlier half of         relentless teleological drive toward Italy, the
the first century b.c.e., in which Rome fought         foundation of Roman civilization, and, ulti-
against communities of Italy that sought citizen       mately, the Augustan principate. One such
rights. In the Aeneid, too, different communi-         force is represented by the goddess Juno and
ties of Italy are pitted against each other, and       the hell forces that she musters and throws into
the question of potential Roman unity is posed         Aeneas’s way. Forces of order (typically male,
against the background of Italian strife. But the      celestial, rational) are opposed to the forces
civil wars of the closing decades of the republic      of chaos (typically female, chthonic/Tartarean,
are perhaps especially pertinent, since Virgil’s       irrational). Neptune in Book 1, when he calms
readers had just lived through these conflicts         the chaos of the water after Juno instigates the
and were currently living through Augustus’s           release of the winds, appears as a paradigm of
attempt to refound Roman society on a new,             the authoritative statesman—perhaps even as a
more secure footing. Like the comrades of              princeps—who calms civic turmoil. Obstruc-
Aeneas, Romans of the Augustan age may have            tions and hell raisings, however, are so crucial
been tempted to despair, to think that all the         to the plot and to Aeneas’s heroism that we may
struggle had been for nothing. Yet Virgilian           wonder, as Blake claimed of Milton, if Virgil

was at least partly of the devil’s party. Certainly   tended to concur with these estimates of Dido’s
his description, for example, of Allecto and the      centrality. And yet we must give up Dido if we
havoc she wreaks on human minds and hearts is         want the narrative to continue and Roman civi-
poetically thrilling.                                 lization to come into being.
    A similar poetic power resides in Virgil’s            The second half of the Aeneid focuses in
famous tendency to linger on the victims of           a broadly comparable fashion on the figure
Aeneas’s forward narrative momentum. These            of Turnus. It is his previous engagement with
victim narratives come in both micro- and             Lavinia that causes the war, and he is the chief
macro-units of narrative. A small example is          figure who continues to motivate the conflict
the mention of the death of one of Aeneas’s           with the Trojans that dominates this half of the
companions—such as his nurse Caieta at the            epic. His death marks the end of the war nar-
opening of Book 7. Palinurus and Creusa offer         rative and of the poem. He is hardly a wholly
examples of more expansive narratives about           unsympathetic character. He is not disposed
those left behind. Their deaths evoke pity and        to be recklessly violent and adversarial until
are especially designed to do so, but they are        Allecto overpowers his mind. He is brave and
explicitly framed as sacrifices necessary for         lives according to the hero’s code of honor.
the narrative to continue on its forward path.        Virgil is careful, of course, to create a strong
We as readers, like Aeneas, feel these losses,        justification for his death. He killed Pallas
but must also accept them to continue voyag-          without remorse and arrogantly stripped him
ing/reading.                                          of his sword-belt; these actions are in contrast
    On the grandest scale, narratives of sacrifice    with Aeneas’s honorable treatment of the slain
dominate entire books and portions of the epic.       Lausus. But then again at certain moments the
The first, Odyssean half of the epic is domi-         fury of battle has challenged the limits of even
nated by the Dido episode, beginning with             Aeneas’s sense of restraint.
the Trojans’ arrival in Carthage in Book 1 and            The question throughout is not simply
ending in Dido’s refusal to speak with Aeneas         whether or not to engage in violence but how
in the underworld in Book 6. Dido is one of           violence and morality interact. The more dis-
the most prominent victims in the poem. Her           turbing dilemma arises at the end of Virgil’s
death is brought about directly by Aeneas’s           text, which has furnished a topic of vigorous
need to continue on his destined course to            debate among scholars. Aeneas kills Turnus in
Italy. In terms of the Homeric tradition, Dido        anger, driven by “fury”—often a negative thing
corresponds with delaying temptresses such as         in the moral scheme of the Aeneid. Even more
Circe and Calypso. In terms of Roman history,         disturbingly, there is no ameliorative or ratio-
her curse on Aeneas constitutes an origins story      nalizing frame concluding the poem. The epic
for Rome’s terrible and nearly catastrophic           simply ends as Turnus’s soul descends to the
conflict with Carthage in the Punic Wars of the       underworld. We do not see even the hints of
third century b.c.e. Dido represents an enemy         the emergence of a peaceful social order, rituals
of Roman progress and civilization on many            of social unity, the beginnings of less divisive
levels. And yet Virgil evokes a great degree of       relations between Trojans and Latins, or the
pity for her, exploring her emotions in exquisite     like. Readers are free to fill in such elements by
detail in some of his most unforgettable poetry.      implication, yet they must make the decision
She is perhaps the most complex character             to do so. Whereas throughout the rest of the
in the poem. Ovid would later claim that of           epic, the sheer fact of forward narrative drive
the entire Aeneid, people really read only the        as justified by the necessity of destiny tended
Dido episode, and St. Augustine would confess         to prevent us from lingering too long on any
that he wept over Dido. Modern readers have           particular sacrifice or victimization, the ending

provides no such mechanism: We are left with          by, he merely hears the sounds of her captive
the raw fact of Aeneas’s violence as founda-          beasts.
tional act. Not accidentally, the killing resem-          The division, of course, is not perfect and is
bles and prefigures the prefoundational slaying       not meant to be. For example, the funeral games
of Remus by Romulus. By the end of the poem,          of Book 5 have the funeral games of Patroclus
we have had occasion to contemplate, and              in the Iliad as their chief model. The Iliadic
perhaps accept, the indissoluble link between         model, however, largely dominates throughout
violence and civilization, warfare and the emer-      Books 7–12, at the opening of which Virgil
gence of the Roman state. We can choose to            announces the commencement of his “greater
refuse or resist the justifying, teleological drive   task.” Here Virgil adapts the conventions of
that makes of Turnus a necessary martyr for the       Homeric battle narrative to Italy and a Homeric
foundation of Lavinium and the fusion of the          hero to a conflict among peoples on the Italian
two races; but the cost of such resistance is the     peninsula. Of course, imitation and reminis-
negation of Roman civilization.                       cence are not simply duplication. Virgil’s hero
    In creating his epic of civilization, Virgil      is very different from a properly Homeric hero:
draws on the two epic poems of Homer that             Aeneas is a hero of duty, endurance, and pained
enjoy the status of master texts of Greek civi-       remembrance, a hero who carries for so long
lization. They represent and exemplify Greek-         the burden and trauma of catastrophic failure.
ness, Greek paradigms of behavior, character,         Yet he is also not quite Homeric in his success.
and excellence. It was Virgil’s immense ambi-         Aeneas, as some scholars have noted, goes from
tion to combine the scope and subject matter of       being another Hector—dutiful, protective of
the two Homeric epics into his single 12-book         his family, a defender of Troy, one of history’s
poem. Broadly speaking, Books 1–6 engage              noble losers—to an Achilles: terrifying, merci-
in a sustained dialogue with Homer’s Odyssey.         less, formidable in battle, the slayer of Turnus
Aeneas is a hero wandering from place to place        in one-to-one combat outside the walls of his
in search of his elusive destination; he stays in     adversary’s city. This Trojan/Roman version of
one location with a woman who is not his wife         Achilles does not have as deepest impulse, how-
for a long period of time until warned to leave       ever, the maximization of personal kleos and
by Mercury; he encounters dangers at sea and          glory as, arguably, the Homeric Achilles does.
continual harassment at the hands of an oppos-        Achilles is intensely aware of the limitations of
ing deity; and, like Odysseus, he departs on his      his mortality and the need to shine all the more
wanderings with the city of Troy as starting          brightly while he is alive. Aeneas, by contrast,
point. At the end of this half of the epic, Aeneas,   even in the heat of battle, carries the burden
like Odysseus in Odyssey 11, descends to the          of the civilization that he is endeavoring to
underworld to hear a prophecy: He also meets          establish. He is a hero defined by his social
a dead parent, and in a pointed evocation of the      responsibilities rather than by his breathtaking
Ajax episode in the Odyssey, the shade of Dido        refusal of them.
refuses to enter into a dialogue with him. (Dido          A final epic model to be considered is Apol-
also resembles the Sophoclean Ajax in that she        lonius’ of Rhodes’s Voyage of the Argonauts.
kills herself, significantly, with her “enemy’s”      Virgil, like Apollonius, has created an epic
sword.) Finally, a series of smaller episodes are     of astonishing geographical and ethnographic
unabashedly Odyssean: the Cyclops; Circe;             erudition: In the Alexandrian manner, his poem
Scylla. In the case of Circe, Virgil knowingly        displays a rich knowledge of local rites and
alludes to the Odyssey even when he chooses           traditions. Indeed, scholars have noted how
not to engage in an extensive imitation: Aeneas       Virgil’s imitation of Homer is often mediated
does not land on the shore of Circe; as they sail     by and/or intertwined with his allusions to

Apollonius, who himself was a keen student          The poet must learn the same lesson of labori-
of Homer. Apollonius created his own un-            ous adaptation. The path of progress toward
Homeric hero in the figure of Jason. He is          Roman civilization and the path toward poetic
often “resourceless” and weak and requires          originality are at some level the same.
an immense amount of help along the way.                On these fronts, Virgil engages with his
The same cannot quite be said of Aeneas, but        Greek epic models quite explicitly and contras-
it is probably true that Apollonius’s antihero      tively. In particular, the Odyssean and Argo-
opened up a new set of possibilities, including     nautic paradigm of return, or nostos (“return
the interesting constellation of strength and       journey”), is found to be incapable of express-
weakness, confidence and self-doubt, that con-      ing the Roman concept of civilization and is
stitutes Virgil’s Aeneas.                           accordingly revised. The Odyssean Aeneas is
    Throughout the Aeneid, the labor of cultural    indeed wandering in search of his true home,
transfer undergone by the hero is paralleled by     and he is even going back, as the prophecy
the comparable labor of the epic poet. Just as      demands, to the land of Troy’s origins: the land
Aeneas must carry his Trojan Penates to Italy—      of Dardanus. This “return journey,” however, is
an immense task, as it turns out—so must            not nostos in the Odyssean sense of a return to
Virgil transfer a Greek epic hero and Greek         one’s own original land, household, and wife;
epic traditions into a Latin framework and the      nor is it a circular return to civilization with
Italian landscape. Virgil must laboriously trace    an emblematic object in tow according to the
Aeneas’s path from Troy—the location of the         Argonautic pattern. Jason goes to the edges of
Iliad—to Italy and Rome. In establishing his        the known world and brings an originally Greek
own originality as epic poet, moreover, Virgil      object back to Greece from the barbarian realm
must be careful not simply to repeat Homer.         of Colchis. The poem ends at the moment of
This literary requirement finds its echo within     that all-important return. Aeneas, by contrast,
the poem’s narrative in the recurrent theme of      is transferring his Trojan Penates to a new place
the dangers of mere replication and (attempted)     where they will attain a new meaning, where
restoration of the past. The weary and frus-        he will find a new Latin wife in place of his lost
trated Trojan women who attempt to burn the         Trojan one, and where the distinction between
boats in Sicily demand to know why they can-        civilized and barbarian becomes problematic.
not re-create their own Troy and give familiar      (Are not Aeneas’s Trojans, as the Latins taunt-
Trojan names to local rivers. Similarly, Andro-     ingly insist, effeminate Easterners, who wear
mache and Helenus make their own miniature,         perfume and strange clothing?) There is no
replica-Troy, complete with a paltry Simois         clear end point, moreover, included within the
and Scamander. Here repetition becomes a            poem’s central narrative frame, unless, perhaps,
failure to progress, to make a new and satisfy-     we construct one ourselves by leaping ahead to
ing social order of one’s own. Andromache is        Augustus’s Golden Age. The actual ending of
first seen offering rites at Hector’s cenotaph:     the poem represents only one stage on a very
She is still caught in a shadow image of her old    long journey. Aeneas, like Moses, will not live
life, tending to an empty tomb. The Trojans         to see the promised land of Rome, much less
themselves, in Book 3, engage in a series of        imperial Rome. The satisfyingly closed circle of
abortive foundations. They fail, in part, because   the Greek nostos no longer suffices. The Aeneid
they have not adequately understood how pro-        points toward a more difficult but also more
found is the transformation their community         fruitful paradigm of transfer, ethnic fusion, and
must undergo: how far they must travel from         assimilation. This pattern is in keeping, after all,
the familiar, and how hard the struggle must        with the assimilative pattern of Roman history
be to establish themselves in their new land.       and Roman historical legend.

    The mythological theme with which                skin, believing it to contain wine, and unwit-
Virgil’s epic ends provides a focus for such         tingly loosed a storm that returned the ship to
concerns with intermarriage and ethnic syn-          its point of departure in Aeolia.
thesis. Aeneas slays Turnus when he sees the             In the Aeneid, Aeolus is a minor god. The
sword-belt of Pallas displayed by his adversary.     winds under his command were so destructive
This sword-belt, we recall, depicted the story       that Aeolus kept them captive in a cavernous
of the Danaids, who, when forced to marry            dungeon. Hera bribed Aeolus (with the offer
the sons of Aegyptus, are instructed by their        of a nymph in marriage) to free the winds so
father, Danaus, to kill their husbands on their      that they might blow Aeneas’s ship off course.
marriage night. The myth is grimly appro-            The release of the winds represents cosmic and
priate to the current situation. The Trojans         political disorder that Neptune, in his role of
are in effect seeking to join the Latin race         celestial statesman, brings under control.
through intermarriage (primarily, Aeneas with            According to some authors, it is the same
Lavinia), while Turnus and his allies are resist-    Aeolus whose children, Canace and Macareus,
ing this attempt at synthesis. The story is also     committed incest. The incestuous unions of
appropriate to the Augustan context, when the        Aeolus’s children are the tragic subject matter of
emperor was laying stress on the importance of       Euripides’ Aeolus and of Ovid’s Heroides (11), an
marriage. Aeneas, by killing Turnus, is opening      epistolary first-person narrative by Canace, one
up the path to his own otherwise obstructed          of the daughters of Aeolus. In this version of the
marriage to Lavinia. Despite this implication,       story, Canace carried on a romantic relationship
the myth is not wholly grim. One of the Dan-         with her brother Macareus in secret. Aeolus was
aids, Hypermnestra, chooses not to kill her          furious when he discovered their affair. He took
husband. Racial fusion may be feasible after all.    the infant born to the couple and exposed it,
For the Trojans and Latins, it was ultimately        and forced Canace to kill herself.
possible to live together as one community,
and together they formed the Roman people.
                                                     Aeolus (2) Son of Hellen and the nymph
Virgil has shown us, however, the immense
                                                     Orseis. Ancestor of the Aeolians. Father of,
cost in suffering and human life incurred by
                                                     among others, Sisyphus, Athamas, Salmoneus,
this founding synthesis.
                                                     Canace, and Alcyone. This Aeolus may be the
                                                     one whose children committed incest. There is
Aeolus (1) (Aiolos) Either a minor god or            some confusion in the sources (see Aeolus [1]).
a mortal with sovereignty over the winds.
Classical sources are Homer’s odyssey (10.1–
                                                     Aeolus (3) Son of Poseidon and Melanippe.
77), Ovid’s MetaMorpHoses (1.268, 14.223ff),
                                                     The story of Aeolus and his brother Boetus is
and Virgil’s aeneid (1.50–86). In the Odyssey
                                                     the subject of two dramas by Euripides.
and Ovid’s Heroides, Aeolus is a mortal who lives
on the floating island of Aeolia, and has been
given control over the winds by the Olympian         Aeschylus (ca. 525 b.c.e.–ca. 456 b.c.e.) Ae-
gods. His six daughters, the Aioliades, married      schylus was an Athenian tragic playwright who
his six sons, and the clan lived in isolation from   was born in the 520s b.c.e. and died in 456
the rest of the world. When Odysseus arrived         or 455 b.c.e. Aeschylus fought in the battle of
in Aeolia with his shipmates, Aeolus received        Marathon and won the first prize at the tragic
him hospitably and provided him with a wind-         competition 13 times. He produced his first play
filled ox skin to use on their homeward journey.     in 499 b.c.e. Out of an oeuvre of approximately
Aboard ship, Odysseus’s men opened the ox            90 plays, only six tragedies securely attributable

to Aeschylus have survived. The proMetHeus           children by Clytaemnestra were Orestes,
bound, traditionally ascribed to him, is prob-       Electra, and Iphigenia, although in earlier
ably not by Aeschylus. Aeschylus was a great         sources his daughters are named Chrysomethis,
formal innovator and is said to have introduced      Laodice, and Iphianassa. Agamemnon appears
the second actor to the tragic stage. Aeschylus’s    throughout Homer’s iLiad and in the fol-
major themes are human suffering and its             lowing tragedies: Aeschylus’s agaMeMnon
causes, the justice of the gods, and the roles of    and euMenides and Euripides’ ipHigenia at
violence, persuasion, justice, sex, sacrifice, and   auLis and Hecuba. Additional classical sourc-
hubris in human society. Many of his plays fall      es are Homer’s odyssey (11.404), Hyginus’s
within a continuous tragic tetralogy consisting      Fabulae (98, 117), and Ovid’s MetaMorpHoses
in three tragedies and a satyr play. This format     (12.25). In one legend, Agamemnon killed
allows Aeschylus to explore the human, theo-         Clytaemnestra’s first husband, Tantalus, and
logical, and cosmic dimensions of a given myth-      their children. The Dioscuri, her brothers,
ic sequence in all its depth through its develop-    subsequently forced Agamemnon to marry her.
ment in successive phases. The individual story      After Paris abducted Helen, wife of Menelaus,
(such as the myth of Orestes or the Danaids)         Agamemnon assembled the Greek heroes for
often takes place against the background of a        the expedition against Troy. The Greek fleet
broader concern with the emergence of human          was held up at Aulis by unfavorable winds, and
civilization and its central institutions (law       the prophet Calchas declared that Artemis was
courts, marriage). Aeschylean tragedy does not       offended by Agamemnon (the reasons depend
tend to focus on intricate character portraiture     on the version; see Iphigenia). According to
or on nuances and surprises of plot but on the       Calchas, Agamemnon would obtain favor-
terrible unfolding of destined actions and their     able winds if he sacrificed his own daughter
consequences for mortals’ comprehension of           Iphigenia. The story of Iphigenia’s sacrifice
their own condition. A dynamic and even domi-        is not in Homer and first appears in the
nant chorus is a prominent feature of his plays.     Cypria, a poem of the Epic Cycle. According
Aeschylus’s most ambitious extant work, and the      to Euripides’ Iphigenia at Aulis, Agamemnon
only tragic trilogy to survive from the ancient      sends for Iphigenia on the pretext of marriage
world, is the Oresteia, comprising agaMeMnon,        to Achilles. Agamemnon struggled miserably
Libation bearers, and euMenides. Aeschylus,          with his choice: undermine an expedition mor-
an Athenian, also betrays throughout his works       ally required by the support of Zeus, and politi-
                                                     cally required because of the immense commit-
a concern with the polis (seven against tHebes,
                                                     ment of the Greek army, or defile himself by
suppLiants) and Athens in particular (persians,
                                                     killing his own kin. He decided to go through
                                                     with the sacrifice, although in most versions,
                                                     Iphigenia was replaced by an animal, often a
Aeson Son of Cretheus; king of Iolcus. See           deer, at the last moment by Artemis. (For very
Jason.                                               different versions, see Aeschylus’s Agamemnon,
                                                     and Euripides’ Iphigenia at Aulis.)
                                                         Homer’s Iliad, set in the ninth year of the
Aethra See Demophon.
                                                     Trojan War, begins with and is premised on
                                                     the quarrel between Agamemnon and Achilles.
Agamemnon Leader of the Greek forces in              Calchas reveals that the cause of the plague
the Trojan War. King of Argos or Mycenae. Son        afflicting the Greeks is the captive Chryseis,
of Atreus and Merope. Brother of Menelaus            daughter of Chryses, priest of Apollo. Agamem-
and husband of Clytaemnestra. Agamemnon’s            non must accordingly give up Chryseis, allotted
0	                                                                                                  Agamemnon

The Sacrifice of Iphigenia. Fresco from the House of the Tragic Poet, Pompeii, first century C.E. (Museo Archeologico
Nazionale, Naples)

to him as a prize of war, and demands that                   Later, Agamemnon realizes his error and claims
Achilles give him his own concubine Briseis in               that delusion or folly led him into the quarrel.
compensation. Achilles allows Agamemnon to                   Other episodes are similarly discrediting and
take Briseis but is deeply aggrieved at the loss             reveal Agamemnon as weak and easily discour-
of his prize. Agamemnon’s ruinous quarrel with               aged. For example, in Book 14, when the Trojans
Achilles leads to the death of many Greeks.                  are routing the Greeks, he suggests flight by

sea and is rebuked by Odysseus. Agamemnon            ers,   the euMenides, and the lost satyr play
has his moment of excellence in battle in Book       Proteus. The plays won first prize at the tragic
11, but other heroes—Diomedes, Ajax, Achil-          competition at Athens in 458 b.c.e. The three
les—are more impressive overall. Agamemnon           plays comprising the tragic trilogy, known as
is protective of his brother and his brother’s       the Oresteia after the character Orestes, are the
interests. In the Iliad, he talks Menelaus out of    only such trilogy still extant. This late work
facing Hector in a duel. In Athenian tragedy,        by Aeschylus is thematically complex, densely
Agamemnon is often accused of sacrificing his        layered in its figurative language and intercon-
own family, and Iphigenia in particular, for the     nected imagery, and dramatically powerful.
sake of his brother.                                 The subject is the troubled “house of Atreus,”
    When Agamemnon returned from Troy, his           i.e., the household of the ruling family of Argus
wife, Clytaemnestra, killed him along with his       that includes Atreus, father of Agamemnon and
captive concubine Cassandra. Homer gives a           Menelaus. This family has a dark mythological
greater role to Aegisthus, Clytaemnestra’s lover,    history. Tantalus, the grandfather of Agamem-
in the murder of Agamemnon, while Aeschylus          non, reportedly attempted to serve up his own
awards the dominant part in the action to            son Pelops to the gods as a stew; Atreus, his
Clytaemnestra. Agamemnon’s son Orestes and           father, served his brother Thyestes the flesh
daughter Electra later avenge his death by kill-     of his own children. Agamemnon himself sac-
ing Aegisthus and Clytaemnestra—a popular            rificed his daughter Iphigenia to enable the
subject in Greek tragedy. (See Aeschylus’s Liba-     Greek expedition to make its way to Troy. At
tion bearers, Euripides’ eLectra and orestes,        the opening of the present play, Agamemnon is
and Sophocles’ eLectra.) There are few if any        about to return from war, yet the household is
wholly positive representations of Agamemnon,        full of anxiety. Clytaemnestra, Agamemnon’s
although he is honored by his children after         wife, has taken Aegisthus, son of Thyestes, as a
his death, as they seek to avenge his murder.        lover, and plans to kill her husband. Aeschylus’s
In tragedy, Agamemnon is primarily a victim          play represents the ineluctable curse on a royal
or a catalyzing memory. In Euripides’ Hecuba,        household and the cycle of vengeance that
Agamemnon is an anxious figure controlled by         afflicts it for generations.
his public image and political expediency.
    The sacrifice of Iphigenia was represented                         SynoPSIS
in a Pompeian fresco from the first century c.e.,    The scene opens in front of the royal palace
which represents many of the main points of the      at Argos. The watchman is lying on the roof
myth. In this image, Iphigenia is being brought      of the palace. He begs the gods to release him
to be sacrificed, while Agamemnon, his head          from his toils; he lies awake night after night,
covered, appears distraught. Next to Iphigenia       ordered by Clytaemnestra to watch out for a
is Calchas, who declared that Iphigenia had to       beacon fire signaling the capture of Troy. He
die for the Greek fleet to sail. Overhead, Artemis   laments the misfortune of the house and its
is shown arriving with the hind that will take       present degradation. He sees the beacon, cries
Iphigenia’s place in the sacrificial rites.          out in joy, and dances, but the speech ends on a
                                                     more sinister note, as he suggests that he knows
                                                     more about the house than he is willing to say
Agamemnon Aeschylus (458 b.c.e.)                     openly. The watchman exits.
                                                         The Chorus of Argive elders enters. It
            IntRoDuCtIon                             observes that it is now the 10th year of war
Aeschylus’s Agamemnon is the first tragedy in        since Agamemnon and Menelaus went to Troy
a tetralogy that includes the Libation bear-         to recover Helen. It is compared to vultures

shrieking and circling around a nest from            and brought inevitable destruction down on
which their chicks have been taken. Zeus,            himself and his city. The Chorus describes the
guardian of guest-host relations, has sent the       desolation of Menelaus and then the conse-
Furies (Erinyes) as punisher, ordaining the          quent desolation of the households from which
death of Trojans and Danaans. They, the mem-         Greek soldiers departed, only to return as ash
bers of the Chorus, are old and thus have            in urns. Finally, the chorus wonders whether
remained behind. They then turn to face the          or not the beacon is a reliable sign and ques-
palace and address Clytaemnestra, asking her         tions the tendency of a woman to be quickly
what news she has received that she sends mes-       persuaded.
sengers and sacrifices. They are anxious, but            Clytaemnestra enters. She observes that
wonder if there might be cause for joy. The          a herald is arriving; he will confirm through
Chorus further sings how a sign appeared and         more certain knowledge the message of the
was interpreted by the prophet Calchas: Two          beacons. The herald expresses relief that he
eagles (the Atreidae) attacked and fed upon a        has come back to Argos after 10 years and
pregnant hare (Troy). Calchas also declared          hails Zeus, Apollo, and Hermes, and the
that Artemis was angry at the eagles’ feasting       royal palace itself. He confirms the destruc-
and feared that Artemis might bring about a          tion of Troy and Agamemnon’s imminent
delay that would lead to a sacrifice and a source    arrival. Troy has suffered profoundly. In dia-
of avenging anger in the house of Agamemnon.         logue with the herald, the Chorus declares
The Chorus then praises Zeus who defeated            that it has been longing for the return of
Cronus and instituted the law of learning            the army, just as the army longed to return,
through suffering. It then tells how Calchas         and hints that all has not been well in the
prophesied that only Iphigenia’s sacrifice would     house. The herald then goes on to describe
free the Greeks of the opposing winds that           the experience of the army at Troy. They
kept them in Aulis, and that Agamemnon, con-         lived in deplorable conditions and lost many
strained to carry out an expedition demanded         comrades, and yet he claims at the end that
by Zeus, found himself with an impossible            the city and her generals are to be praised,
choice and was compelled to commit the evil          and that the Greeks have achieved glory. Cly-
act of sacrificing his own daughter. It describes    taemnestra, who has been apparently (though
the scene in which, Iphigenia, gagged, is car-       debatably) present throughout this exchange,
ried to the altar and attempts to elicit pity from   then breaks in. She sneers now at those who
those around her, but it claims that they did not    criticized her feminine credulity, anticipates
see what happens next.                               the return of her husband, and bids that a
    Clytaemnestra enters. The Chorus questions       message be brought to him to the effect that
her respectfully regarding the recent news. She      she has been a faithful watchdog of the house
relates that Troy has been captured; the beacon-     and has known no other man.
fire signal has passed from Mount Ida near Troy          The Chorus ostensibly approves her
to Argos. Then she imagines the different fates      speech, then questions the messenger about
of conquerors and conquered in Troy. If the          Menelaus. He does not know exactly what
conquerors restrain themselves from violating        happened to Menelaus, but then, very reluc-
the city’s gods and ravaging what they should        tant to mar his good news with an unpleasant
not, they will return home safely. The Chorus        story, tells how a storm devastated the Greek
praises her speech, and she exits.                   fleet. The herald’s own ship managed to
    The Chorus then sings of the destruction         escape the damage. He does not know about
of Troy and Paris through the agency of Zeus.        the rest of his companions but harbors a hope
Paris, as guest of Menelaus, stole his wife,         that Menelaus lives and will one day return.

The Chorus then sings of Helen and relates           the Chorus’s encouragement, and Clytaem-
her name etymologically to the Greek word            nestra dismisses her as crazed. Clytaemnestra
meaning “destroy.” She was a true destroyer          exits.
of men, ships, and cities. Her marriage was              Cassandra proclaims that the house to which
ruinous to Troy; she is like a lion cub reared       she has been brought is a place of slaughter the
in a house—at first charming, later violent and      Chorus comments, sometimes with admiration
the cause of ruin. The Furies brought about          and sometimes with perplexity, as she contin-
her marriage. The Chorus then contrasts the          ues to speak in a prophetic frenzy dense with
just household and its happy outcomes with           metaphor and riddling speech. She alludes to
the wealthy yet immoral household that ends          ancient crimes of the house but moves quickly
in ruin.                                             to the imminent murder of Agamemnon, then
    Agamemnon enters in his chariot with             to her own murder. She then refers to her
Cassandra. The Chorus addresses him with             upbringing in Troy and the fate of the city.
respect and makes a sharp distinction between        Next, she shifts to a clearer mode of speech
flattery that is only seemingly sincere and an       and describes the grim history of the house of
authentic expression of support and gratitude.       Atreus. Then she tells how she denied Apollo
The Chorus’s previous criticism of the expedi-       full intercourse with her and he cursed her with
tion should be sufficient proof of their honesty.    prophetic knowledge that no one will believe.
Agamemnon expresses gratitude to the gods for        The Chorus claims to believe her. Cassandra
the fall of Troy, displays his awareness of false    first refers to Thyestes’ children’s fate, then
praise and hidden malice, praises Odysseus’s         to Clytaemnestra as a deceitful murderess and
loyalty to him, and suggests that if there is any    monster. The Chorus accepts her account of
“disease” in the city, it will be treated by knife   Thyestes’ children but is confused by the rest.
and cautery. Clytaemnestra then tells of her         It cannot comprehend that Agamemnon is
own grief and suicide attempts as she heard dark     being killed. Cassandra curses her art. She fore-
rumors of her husband’s demise, and attempts         sees her own brutal death but also prophesies
to explain Orestes’ absence as a maneuver to         the coming of Orestes as avenger. Cassandra
protect him from harm. She praises Agamem-           prays that her killer will pay for their act and
non as protector of the household and bids the       exits into the house.
handmaids spread purple tapestries before his            The Chorus hears the offstage cries of
path. Agamemnon is reluctant to be exposed to        Agamemnon as he is being stabbed. The Cho-
envy and charges of hubris by trampling fine         rus debates as to what action should be taken.
tapestries worthy of the gods. Clytaemnestra         In rapid-fire dialogue, the Chorus comes to the
presses him with diverse arguments and pleas,        conclusion that it should wait to see whether
and at last he reluctantly agrees to walk across     Agamemnon is truly dead. Clytaemnestra
them, expressing misgivings even as he does.         appears on stage, standing over the bodies
Clytaemnestra hails the return of the king to        of Agamemnon and Cassandra. Putting aside
the house as a sign of renewal and prays that        pretense, Clytaemnestra now admits to slaugh-
Zeus accomplish her prayer.                          tering Agamemnon. She threw a net over him
    The Chorus expresses a persistent sense          and stabbed him three times. She compares
of foreboding, an inward dirge that is quickly       herself, splashed with her dying husband’s
sung. The Chorus, however, cannot fully and          blood, to the crop rejoicing in rain sent by
publicly announce its fears. Clytaemnestra           Zeus. The Chorus is shocked. Clytaemnestra
enters. She calls on Cassandra to come in and        is not easily cowed. The Chorus states that
accept her lot as slave of an ancient, noble         because she has committed this murder, she
house. Cassandra does not respond despite            must go into exile. Clytaemnestra reminds it

that Agamemnon sacrificed his own child and          tragedy. The Oresteia would appear to resemble
was not sent into exile. The Chorus predicts         the other Aeschylean trilogies in its overall
doom as her punishment, but Clytaemnestra            thematic orientation. In each case, the mythol-
swears she has no fear with Aegisthus as her         ogy treated in dramatic form concerns violence
protector. Agamemnon, moreover, has paid for         between members of the same family, the
his promiscuity. The Chorus prays for death          repercussions and cycles of violence that result
and refers again to Helen as origin of the war.      from earlier violent acts, and after much suffer-
Clytaemnestra chides it for these sentiments.        ing, a peaceful outcome, achieved in the context
Singing in response, Clytaemnestra and the           of the polis. (The ending of the Danaid trilogy,
Chorus debate her act of murder. For her, the        while the subject of much learned speculation,
death was merited; for the Chorus, it is a trag-     is not known, and thus cannot be confirmed as
edy brought about by the daimon (spirit/fate)        conforming to the pattern. However, it seems
and the “spider” Clytaemnestra. The Chorus           possible, if not probable, that a resolution of
laments the fate of the house and wishes that        the violence between the Danaids and the sons
death had come to them before it had to see          of Aegyptus was achieved in the final play.) In
Agamemnon murdered.                                  the case of the present trilogy, Aeschylus is con-
    Aegisthus enters. He recalls the murder of       cerned not only with the cessation of a cycle of
Thyestes’ children by Atreus and the ghastly         violence but with the emergence of polis insti-
banquet. Aegisthus was the one surviving child       tutions and of civilization itself out of a more
of Thyestes, and Atreus was Agamemnon’s              primitive system of retributive justice.
father. Thus by bringing this scheme to frui-            To appreciate the complexity and sustained
tion, Aegisthus has achieved vengeance, or, as       exploration of myth made possible by the tril-
he says, “Justice.” The Chorus rebukes him,          ogy form, it is helpful to compare the present
but he threatens it with physical punishment         play with a play that does not form part of a
and deprivation. The Chorus asks why he did          trilogy, the Persians. The elements of similarity
not do the deed himself; Aegisthus responds          and difference are instructive. In both plays, a
that he was more suspect in Agamemnon’s              Chorus of elders and the Queen have assumed
eyes. The conflict between the Chorus of             a prominent role while the King is involved
Elders and Aegisthus threatens to become             in a war across the sea; the King has a grim
violent, when Clytaemnestra intervenes and           homecoming from war, and the master of an
urges calm. The two sides exchange a few more        abundantly wealthy house is brought low by
insults, before Clytaemnestra, in the play’s final   the gods. We see vividly the consequences of
words, announces her aim to rule the house and       an ambitious and destructive foreign war, for
order all things.                                    the army, the populace, and above all the rul-
                                                     ing household. In the Agamemnon, however,
               CoMMEntARy                            the King’s return from war is only the first in a
The Agamemnon begins Aeschylus’s great tril-         series of violent events within the royal house-
ogy on the house of Atreus and the cycle of          hold that will supply the subject for subsequent
violence that besets the ruling family of Argos.     plays. Perhaps more important, the final play in
As in other instances, Aeschylus has created a       the trilogy will also begin to salvage the hopes
trilogy of interconnected mythic subject mat-        of the household within the context of the
ter that represents a chronological progression      institutions of the Athenian polis. The Persian
from one play to the next (cf. his Theban and        King’s exemplary fate is self-contained and
Danaid trilogies). In this case, all three trag-     encompassed within a single play. He affords
edies are extant. The Oresteia is the only such      a powerful yet one-dimensional paradigm of
trilogy to survive out of the corpus of Athenian     hubris. The present trilogy is more complex:

The aristocratic household comes into con-            unfolding: his telos (end/goal) will be fulfilled,
tact with the polis, male opposes female, gods        though it may not be understood at present.
are set against gods, and a new order is seen         The trilogy form, with its successive stages of
emerging out of the old. Aeschylus enriches the       conflict and movement toward its final reso-
complexity of these interactions as they unfold       lution, is thus coherent with the teleological
over the course of three plays.                       dimension of Aeschylean tragedy. In the first
    The trilogy form, then, is well suited to the     play, a violent act, premised on previous vio-
content of the Oresteia and its various stages of     lence, is committed by Clytaemnestra and
conflict and ultimate resolution on the human         Aegisthus; in the second play, that violent act is
and cosmic level. Across the different phases of      avenged; in the third play, it is atoned for and
action, there is one continuous and consistent        expiated as the trilogy’s title character, Orestes,
presence that pervades the drama: the house           moves out of the royal household of Atreus and
itself. In the Agamemnon, the house is often          into the institutional fabric of the city-state.
personified by the speakers: e.g., the house,         The movement from one play to the next,
if it could speak, would tell terrible tales. We      with one act of violence answering another and
are aware of the house as physical space and          perpetuating the pattern, poses, in a lucid and
social entity from the very outset of the play:       powerful form, the central question: How does
The watchman lies on top of the palace roof           the cycle of revenge killing stop? How can vio-
in the opening scene and refers obliquely             lence provide the conditions for an emerging
to the misfortunes of the house. His words            civilization?
and emotions, suspended between hope and                  The chain reaction of violence is already a
fear, seem to encapsulate the situation of the        major theme in the Agamemnon and is symbol-
house as a whole, as the time approaches for          ized in a famous speech by Clytaemnestra. She
Agamemnon’s fateful return. Later, when Cas-          tells the Chorus how the system of beacon fires
sandra arrives on the scene, her first impres-        relayed the message of Troy’s fall from Mount
sion is of the evil nature of the house to which      Ida to Argos, bringing her the news before
she has been brought as captive, a sense of           the arrival of the army. One fire leads to the
wrongness inhering in the very place. Sub-            kindling of another in a sublime yet sinister
sequently, in her prophetic raving, she will          succession of signs, a trail of fire that is first
allude to key episodes in the house’s history,        ignited with the burning of the city of Troy
and particularly Thyestes’ feasting on his own        itself. It is no accident that the entire trilogy
murdered children. And yet the violence goes          begins with the stirring scene of the watch-
back even further: Tantalus, the grandfather of       man sitting on the roof, waiting for a sign of
Atreus and Thyestes, is said to have committed        his master’s return, and then rejoicing (inap-
various crimes against Zeus and the gods and,         propriately, as it turns out) when the beacon
in particular, to have served up his own son          signal appears. Clytaemnestra, for her part, is
Pelops in a stew to the gods. The mythology of        proud of her communication system and even
this particular household presents an unusually       arrogant. The Chorus dismisses her supposed
consistent and relentless example of a family         knowledge as a woman’s delusion, and now she
curse. In Aeschylus’s trilogy, the house itself       demonstrates to it her command of knowledge
seems to drive the pattern of violence bridging       and mastery of modes of communication. Yet
the family’s successive generations, as if it were    the playwright’s irony goes deeper and under-
itself an autonomous agent bent on carrying           cuts her triumphant tone. Clytaemnestra fails
out its dark designs.                                 to control fully the chain reaction of fire; she,
    At other moments, Zeus is awarded the cen-        too, will fall victim to the path of violence that
tral role as divine cause of the story’s inevitable   goes from Troy to Argos, engulfed in flames

of her own making. The message is clear. It is       paid in advance for the destruction of Troy
impossible to create such a chain or cycle with-     with the sacrifice of his daughter, and finally,
out becoming part of the pattern oneself.            on returning home, he pays for this latter
    The framing of mythic narrative in terms         sacrifice with his own life. Iphigenia’s death
of an inevitable chain of consequences and           created an avenging fury in the house, and thus
an eventual telos goes back to Homer’s iLiad         when Agamemnon reenters his own home, his
itself, the most important poetic predeces-          doom is sealed.
sor for Aeschylus’s Oresteia. In the Iliad, Zeus         Agamemnon is not only paying for his
is the major figure on the divine level who          daughter’s death when he is slaughtered in his
drives the narrative toward its final goal of        bath, however; he is also paying for the killing
the destruction of Troy, although this episode       of Priam and the sacking of his city. It is signifi-
is not itself narrated within the scope of the       cant that the destruction of Troy is figured by
epic. Zeus effectively presides over the entire      Aeschylus as the drawing of a net over its inhab-
expedition in his capacity as protector of guest-    itants, a net with a particularly dense mesh so
host relations (Zeus xenios), since it was Paris’s   that no one can escape it. The language of sac-
transgression as Menelaus’s guest that spurred       rifice here is intertwined with the language of
the war. Aeschylus is even more insistent and        the hunt. When Agamemnon comes home to
explicit about the chain of causation, on both       Argos, he is no longer the hunter but the prey,
human and divine levels, that determined the         and Clytaemnestra draws over him a similarly
war and continues to determine the destiny of        tight and ineluctable net—this time an actual,
those who participated in it. In choral passages,    physical mesh—to immobilize him before stab-
he emphasizes Paris’s violation of the guest-        bing him to death. The king of Argos and
host relation and the consequent necessity of        leader of the Trojan expedition must be slain
the expedition. Yet, when Agamemnon and his          like the king of Troy.
army were trapped at Aulis by contrary winds,            Another link between Priam and Agamem-
Artemis demanded the sacrifice of his own            non relates to the great riches of their house-
daughter Iphigenia for the expedition to go          holds and the attitude toward wealth. The
forward.                                             question of the preservation and squandering
    Aeschylus’s concept of sacrifice and Arte-       of wealth comes up when Agamemnon first
mis’s role is complex. Artemis, as a goddess, is     arrives home and is greeted by his wife after a
both huntress and a figure associated with care      long absence. In a sinister scene, Clytaemnestra
of young animals. Artemis feels both anger and       welcomes her husband home, while literally
pity at the omen of the two eagles (represent-       laying the path for his killing. The queen has
ing Agamemnon and Menelaus) feasting on              vastly expensive, purple-dyed tapestries rolled
the pregnant hare (representing Troy) and,           out before him and encourages the king to tread
in her anger, demands of them this sacrifice         on them as he enters the palace. Agamemnon is
of their own young as a kind of prospective          hesitant because it is wrong, he feels, to tread
compensation for the killing of the “hare” and       hubristically on tapestries that are appropriate
her young. Agamemnon must sacrifice his own          as gifts for the gods, and it is wrong to waste
daughter, in other words, to compensate for          household wealth in a display of conspicuous
the destruction of Troy and its many offspring.      consumption. An Eastern king such as Priam
Indeed, Aeschylus’s language specifically refers     might act this way, but Agamemnon feels he
to the sacking of Troy as a sacrifice, to which      would be tempting fate. Yet Clytaemnestra’s
the battles of the Trojan War itself are “prelim-    powers of persuasion are in the end too much
inary rites.” Finally, in Clytaemnestra’s words,     for him, and, in a fatal act of submission, he
Agamemnon is a sacrifice to the Furies. He           enters his own house on the path made by

the purple tapestries. This symbolic gesture         as sacrifice—remains shrouded in silence and
of pride, however unwillingly made, might            mystery.
be seen as the tipping point that enables his            It may be that Aeschylus does not wish to
fall—an act that, in the eyes of the gods, justi-    confirm explicitly a human sacrifice demanded
fies in advance his punishment. Wasting wealth       by Artemis and wishes to leave some room
wantonly, moreover, symbolizes and in fact           for vagueness and ambiguity, yet neither does
contributes to the destruction of the house-         he wish to diminish any of the burden of
hold, which, as we have seen, is being ruined        Agamemnon’s choice and ultimate guilt as
on multiple levels. The Chorus throughout the        killer of kin. To represent the animal substitute
play expresses its preference for a modest yet       for Iphigenia would be to undermine the full
safe existence as opposed to the dangers that        horror of the cycle of violence afflicting the
the mighty and wealthy undergo. Agamemnon            house and to soften the edges of Agamemnon’s
now assumes the role of arrogant rich man            insoluble dilemma. To abandon the expedition
primed for his fall. Finally, we might note that     would make him a deserter, the betrayer of
he is made parallel yet again with Priam, who        his own army, and, worst of all, violator of the
is represented as being capable of treading on       command of Zeus xenios, yet to sacrifice his
tapestries himself and who has already fallen in     own daughter makes him evil and subject to
a sacrificial killing, just as Agamemnon is about    the Furies; and, of course, it also causes his own
to fall.                                             death. The Chorus makes it clear that Agamem-
    Of course, none of these killings would          non is constrained by necessity, impelled by the
be seen as proper sacrifices in the eyes of          conflicting impulses of two gods, and thus faces
ancient Greeks. Human sacrifice was seen as          an impossible choice, and that, in sacrificing his
the extreme instance of an alien rite, a mark        daughter, he is committing a sacrilegious act
of the barbaric, and in variant myths, repre-        and has a mind warped by the evil drive for war.
sented, for example, in Euripides, Artemis saves     Modern readers may be struck by the apparent
Iphigenia at the last moment by replacing her        illogic of this situation—he cannot make any
with a hind. The use of sacrificial language         good or acceptable choice yet is blamed when
to describe what are properly seen as mur-           he does make a choice—but for the Greeks,
ders—for example, in the disturbing idea of a        he is an intensely tragic figure precisely at this
human sacrifice to the Furies—intensifies the        moment. He is caught somewhere between
perversion of ordinary ritual and the sense          morally informed free will and the inescapable,
of cosmic wrong that inheres in the house of         controlling power of the gods. He must make
Atreus. Sacrifice to the gods is not happening       a choice that is judged in ethical terms while
in the normal, healthy manner; therefore the         remaining utterly subject to the force of divine
royal household is in profound moral disorder.       destiny.
Even in Iphigenia’s case, where there might be           This kind of situation is typical of tragedy as
said to be a true human sacrifice demanded by a      opposed to epic. In Homer, Zeus presides over
god, the Chorus only describes the scene of her      the fate of human actors, and gods constantly
sacrifice up to the last moment before the kill-     intervene in the action, yet there is consider-
ing. It claims not to have seen what happened        able focus on the ability of the epic hero to cre-
and refuse to speak of it, only grimly noting        ate his own fame (kleos) through deeds. Despite
that Calchas’s art is not fallible. This conspicu-   great suffering (Odysseus), and/or early death
ous omission leaves some room for ambiguity,         (Achilles), the Homeric hero wins a good
and while we may assume that the killing was         name through his own unique abilities and the
carried out, this most persuasive instance of        gods’ unusual favor. We are constantly sur-
human sacrifice—as opposed to murder figured         prised, in the case of Odysseus, how the hero,

through the combination of divine help and            Homeric vision of war and the aristocratic
his own unconquerable wits, is able against the       warlord aggressively and brilliantly rewrites
odds to get out of the most unpromising situa-        Homer’s version of the undertaking. Homer
tions. Tragedy takes a very different perspective     never flinched from representing the cost of
on its heroes, and it is significant that Aeschylus   war—the loss of the warrior to his parents, his
chooses Agamemnon and his household as the            wife and children, and his homeland—but he
opening focus of his trilogy. Agamemnon’s fatal       did so without detracting from the ennobling
homecoming is cited in the Odyssey as a nega-         vision of the warrior’s courage in facing death
tive example of what Homer’s hero must avoid,         and without fundamentally questioning the
just as Clytaemnestra’s example counters that         aristocratic value system built around excel-
of the virtuous Penelope. In the Iliad, Agamem-       lence in battle and the glorious fame of the
non is, despite some properly heroic exploits, a      warrior. Achilles in some ways goes against the
lesser hero than Achilles, and comes off as blus-     heroic code by withdrawing from battle, but
tering and hubristic in the epic’s opening scene      only ultimately to maximize his own kleos and
of confrontation. Aeschylus, then, has carefully      make himself the most famous and admired of
chosen a figure who can be effectively associ-        the Greek warriors.
ated with the dark side of war, a man who does            The Aeschylean depiction of the Trojan
not win an unambiguously good kleos, and who          War is very different, and the perspective on
utterly fails, in the end, to be the master of his    war is not the Olympian perspective of the
destiny. Agamemnon is controlled by his own           epic poet describing signal deeds on the battle-
violent acts and the curse of his household, and      field but of more marginal figures who suf-
we are shown not heroism in a positive sense          fered because of the war. The herald, who has
but the heroism of a figure singled out for           returned from the war, is satisfied that the war
unusual suffering and doom. In representing           has ended with the capture of Troy but lingers,
the dark side of the Trojan War, Aeschylus also       in his speeches, on the tedium, weariness, and
understandably focuses on the phase of the            physical toils and torments of the battlefield.
nostoi (return journeys) of the Greek heroes.         Many of the details of his description are a far
Some return journeys were successful, like that       cry from the brilliant flashes of valor transmit-
of Odysseus, and yet even he spent 10 years           ted by Homeric epic: They lived in cramped,
getting home and was allowed to return only           filthy quarters aboard the ships, and on land,
after much suffering and the total loss of his        the dew soaked their clothes and filled their
companions. Other Greek heroes were pun-              hair with lice.
ished for impious acts committed during the               A different but related perspective emerges
sacking of the city, and, in an episode alluded       from those who remained at home in Greece.
to in the present play, Menelaus was driven           The Chorus of Argive elders powerfully evokes
off course to Egypt and was able to return to         the tragic loss of men from the homeland.
Sparta only after delays and trials of his own.       Warriors went to Troy and came back as ash
(This allusion to Menelaus’s fate anticipates         in urns. This negative assessment goes hand in
the subject of the tetralogy’s lost satyr play,       hand with a judgment of Helen that is much
Proteus, which, in telling the story of Menel-        harsher than Homer’s. In Homer, Helen is
aus’s sojourn in Egypt, would have treated the        hardly morally absolved, but there is a great
same mythological nexus in a somewhat lighter         deal of nuance and subtlety in his character
manner.) The immense cost of war is a persis-         sketches of the heroine in both epics. Her
tent theme, and Aeschylus is especially insistent     immense beauty is a curse also to her, and she is
that the price of violence must be paid for with      very much subject to the power of the goddess
further suffering and death. Aeschylus’s post-        Aphrodite. The Aeschylean Chorus, however,

links her name, through a false but rhetorically      as two eagles, one black and one white, devour-
effective etymology, with the Greek word for          ing a pregnant hare (their sacking of Troy).
“destroy” and makes her into the destroyer of         Animal metaphors are rife: Cassandra is first
Greece. There is a savage grief and anger in its      like a swallow singing incomprehensible notes
odes that cannot be assuaged even by the even-        (in Clytaemnestra’s description), then like a
tual victory. The epic narrative of war has been      nightingale singing out her grief. Clytaemnes-
assimilated and transformed to fit Aeschylus’s        tra (in Cassandra’s metaphor) is a lioness who
tragic vision. The mythology of the imploding         lies with the wolf while the lion is away.
royal household and the mythology of ruinous              Many metaphors in the play concern sound
war merge in the figure of Agamemnon, who             and expressive speech (e.g., the shrieking of
headed the war effort and whose house is in           birds), but some are also about silence. The
the course of being destroyed by events relat-        watchman, in the play’s opening scene, declares
ing to the war. Both the war and the revenge          that he has an “ox standing on his tongue.”
killings at Argos are framed by a broader causal      One reason for the special difficulty and at
sequence initiated by earlier originating events:     times near opacity of Aeschylean language
the theft of Helen, the crimes of Atreus and          in this play is the practical need for silence,
Tantalus. War is no longer the arena of heroic,       circumspect speech, and coded expression in
glory-conferring exploits but functions both as       a palace where an assassination plot is in prog-
consequence and cause in an inevitable chain          ress. The watchman and the Chorus cannot
of violent acts.                                      always give full expression to their anxieties
    A masterpiece of Aeschylus’s mature style,        and their criticisms of Clytaemnestra’s behav-
the Agamemnon weaves an intertwining fabric           ior. Clytaemnestra, at least until near the end
of diverse mythological themes and shifting           of the play, employs a kind of doublespeak,
temporal frames. The play is a notably long           whereby her words, ostensibly acceptable and
one and is enriched by a complex orchestration        welcoming, have a sinister second meaning
of metaphors that are activated and reactivated       when considered in the light of her murderous
in changing contexts. Aeschylus’s poetic style        intentions. When, upon Agamemnon’s return,
sometimes seems stilted, grandiose, and overly        Clytaemnestra delivers an enigmatic speech
complex to modern readers, yet it is integrally       that culminates with a prayer to Zeus to “bring
related to the manner in which he builds up           these things to pass,” it is not clear what these
a dense interrelation of themes and images            things are; and in retrospect, it seems likely that
across multiple characters and narrative frames.      she prays for the death of her husband, which
It will be helpful to consider a few examples         she herself is about to accomplish.
briefly. A legal metaphor is employed, to take            The most dramatic instance of blocked,
one notable instance, when Priam is described         tortured speech that both reveals and con-
as the great adversary at law of the Atreidae.        ceals the truth is the scene in which the Tro-
Later in the trilogy, of course, a forensic set-      jan prophetess Cassandra has a dialogue with
ting will be crucial to Orestes’ absolution,          the Chorus. Cassandra’s words come in thick,
and we might already begin to contemplate             frantic waves of semiopaque prophecy, and the
the shift from the “legal dispute” of two royal       Chorus sometimes confesses itself baffled and
households engaged in a violent conflict over a       other times recognizes the glint of truth in
stolen woman and the legal institutions of the        what she says. The scene comes at the climax
Athenian polis. To take another strand of imag-       of the play. We know that while she is speaking,
ery, the Atreidae are first described as vultures     Clytaemnestra is preparing the imminent mur-
deprived of their chicks (i.e., their initial reac-   der of Agamemnon, and toward the end of the
tion of outrage to the theft of Helen), and later     exchange we hear the king’s death cries from
0	                                                                                   Agamemnon

within the palace. The dramatic power of the        perversion of song and distortion of language
scene is considerable. The audience is driven       throughout the play. We hear, variously, of a
to an extreme of suspense as they await the         paean to the Fury, a wedding song that turns to
outcome of Clytaemnestra’s murderous design,        a dirge, the Furies’s dirge sung without a lyre
and as Cassandra’s prophetic frenzy grows           in the singer’s mind, and, finally, the ghastly
more and more intense with the approach of          cacophony of the choir of Furies. The song and
the moment of death. Cassandra is a perfect         revelry of the Furies—drunk not on wine but
distillation of the play’s obstructed and stifled   on blood—represent a kind of antisymposium,
modes of speech. For the act of breaking off        and their song is a perverted version of the
intercourse with Apollo, she has been pun-          traditional poetry of the Greek drinking party.
ished with the fate of always offering true         Tragic poetry, in the Agamemnon, is inspired by
prophecy that no one believes. Her prophetic        these anti-Muses, the Furies, and reflects the
communication, like her union with the god,         perversion of the social and cosmic order in its
is pointedly unfulfilled. Now she struggles to      grim, troubled cadences.
make her prophetic vision understood, but               Perhaps the most crucial disturbance that
whenever she nears the crucial point—that           arises both in the play’s network of human
Agamemnon is in the course of being mur-            relations and in the cosmic fabric itself is
dered—the Chorus seems to have a fog come           the unbalancing of male-female relations and
over its mind, and it fails to comprehend. She      roles as understood in ancient Greek terms.
reveals her prophet’s knowledge of the whole        Clytaemnestra is characterized by a strikingly
dark history of the house—indeed, she seems         masculine role that is implicitly or openly
to sense the evil in the place viscerally—but       criticized throughout the play. She dominates
cannot make clear to her listener the episode       discourse to an extent considered inappropri-
in its history that is taking shape that very       ate for a woman; she has cunning, bold, violent
moment. At one point she declares that she          designs like a man, and she appears to covet
will speak clearly and not cryptically, but         power over Argos. By entrapping Agamem-
even then she is able to communicate clearly        non, rendering him weak and passive with the
only her insights about the past. Not just in       net, and then stabbing him, she reverses the
this play, but in Athenian tragedy generally,       “natural” relation between man and woman,
the Chorus is typically unable to intervene         husband and wife. She appears to be similarly
to prevent tragic outcomes. In this instance,       in control of Aegisthus and to have taken the
Aeschylus provides an ingeniously appropriate       man’s role from him. In Homer, Aegisthus is
reason for their inaction.                          represented as Agamemnon’s murderer, and
    Cassandra’s scene is the culmination of         it is precisely this scenario that is feared in
the play on many different levels: With her         the case of Odysseus. A male suitor will claim
knowledge of the past and foreboding of the         his wife and throne and murder him in the
future, she alone seems able to perceive fully      event of his return. Clytaemnestra defies this
the mythic pattern of the house and heroically      expected narrative pattern and the constraints
attempts to break through the heavy veil of         of her gender role. Many of her comments
secrecy and silence as the murderous act is         about the injustice and condescension that
being put in motion. As prophet, narrator of        women must suffer are sharply eloquent, and
myth, singer, and weaver of dense, difficult        in this and other respects, she is an important
language, Cassandra is in a certain sense a         predecessor of the Euripidean Medea. She is
surrogate poet or tragic playwright. Her tor-       the most brilliant and disturbing character
tured, twisted words, however, offer only the       in the play and perhaps in the entire extant
most dramatic example of the theme of the           Aeschylean oeuvre.
Aglaurus and Herse	                                                                               

    The conflict between male and female, as        plot against Agamemnon. Aegisthus is a much
the trilogy goes on, will become a driving force    weaker character than Clytaemnestra, yet his
in the action and one of its central themes. We     late, surprise appearance comes as a revelation.
glimpse already the outlines of this conflict.      He is the embodiment of the house’s dark his-
The watchman in the opening scene is in the         tory of crime and vengeance, and, as his own
service of his mistress yet remains loyal to the    words seem to suggest, he will fall victim to it
master of the household, Agamemnon. The             in turn. The scene is set for the next phase in
male Chorus of Argive elders expresses disgust      the cycle of violence.
at Clytaemnestra’s act when it is revealed, an
act that, however, she justifies in the name of
                                                    Agave Daughter of Cadmus and Harmonia.
her murdered daughter, Iphigenia. The Cho-
                                                    Wife of Echion; their son was Pentheus. Agave
rus likewise expresses its hatred of Helen, the
                                                    appears in Euripides’ baccHae. Additional
cause of the Greeks’ and Trojans’ suffering in
                                                    classical sources are Apollodorus’s Library
war. Certain aspects of Clytaemnestra’s lan-
                                                    (3.5.2–3), Hyginus’s Fabulae (184), and Ovid’s
guage, however, hint at an even deeper divide
                                                    MetaMorpHoses (3.511–7.33).
than the one between mortal men and women,
                                                        Pentheus, king of Thebes, refused to accept
and a deeper unbalance. In her speech upon
                                                    the worship of Dionysus in Thebes. He was
Agamemnon’s entrance into the house, she
                                                    torn limb from limb by his own mother,
likens him to a godlike figure whose return
                                                    Agave, and his aunt, Autonoe, in a Bacchic
brings warmth and life to the house, yet the
                                                    frenzy. Their unwitting murder of Pentheus
metaphoric language she employs is deeply
                                                    was brought about by Dionysus in revenge
ambiguous and almost opaque. Later, after
                                                    for Pentheus’s lack of piety toward him. Agave
killing him, she is more direct. As Agamem-
                                                    was exiled from Thebes for the murder of
non died, he splattered her with blood, and
the blood for her was like the rain of Zeus
that fertilizes the earth. Clytaemnestra thus
employs the primal paradigm of the fertiliza-       Aglaurus and Herse Daughters of Aglaurus
tion of Earth by the sky god in the context of      and Cecrops, king of Athens. Textual sources
her murder of her husband and the “rain” of         are Apollodorus’s Library (3.14.2–3), Euripides’
his blood. She thus signals her action’s place in   ion (23ff, 270ff), Hyginus’s Fabulae (166), Ovid’s
a broader cosmic disturbance in the relations       MetaMorpHoses (2.708–832), and Pausanias’s
between the sexes. Later in the trilogy, the        Description of Greece (1.18.2). Cecrops had three
gods themselves will take sides in the family’s     daughters, Aglaurus, Herse, and Pandrosus.
conflict, and the question of male/female rela-     Athena had consigned for safekeeping a casket
tions will remain crucial to the resolution on      or box in which Erichthonius had been hid-
human and divine levels.                            den with the instruction to the daughters of
    The last speaker in the play is appropriately   Cecrops not to open it. Either all three sisters
Clytaemnestra, who signals her intention to         disobeyed or only Pandrosus obeyed the god-
rule Argos alongside Aegisthus. But the last        dess’s command and was saved. They opened
important character to make an appearance in        the casket and became alarmed when they
the play is Aegisthus, near the end. He reveals     saw Ericthonius, serpentlike, and protected by
his own story and motivations. Atreus, father       two snakes. An attendant of Athena’s temple
of Agamemnon and Menelaus, fed to Thyestes,         revealed the disobedience of the daughters
father of Aegisthus, two of his own children;       of Cecrops, and for her trouble the attendant
Aegisthus, the third, survived and has now          was transformed into a crow. Athena afflicted
finally obtained vengeance by designing this        the sisters with a madness that caused them to

throw themselves from the Acropolis (or into      the Trojan warrior Hector, who had chal-
the sea).                                         lenged the warriors of the Greek army to a
    In another version, Herse and Pandrosus       single combat to the death. The winner would
were able to resist the temptation but not        receive the weaponry of the vanquished as his
Aglaurus, who incurred the goddess’s wrath        prize, and the body of the vanquished would be
and was punished by being inflicted with a pas-   returned to his friends for proper burial. The
sionate envy of Herse, with whom Hermes had       Argives drew lots and Ajax was selected as their
fallen in love. At first Aglaurus demanded gold   champion. Zeus stopped the duel at a climactic
of Hermes to help him woo Herse, but then         moment in the combat. Afterward, the heroes
she sent him away. On another occasion, when      peaceably exchanged gifts; Hector received
Hermes attempted to enter Herse’s room,           Ajax’s purple war belt, and Ajax gave Hector a
Aglaurus blocked his entry by sitting on the      silver-studded sword.
threshold. With his wand, Hermes opened the           Ajax was part of the embassy of Greek war-
door and transformed Aglaurus into a black        riors who attempted to persuade Achilles to
stone. In Apollodorus’s Library, Herse bore a     reenter the battle; his speech appealed to Achil-
son, Cephalus, to Hermes, and Aglaurus had        les’ friendship and came closest to persuading
a daughter, Alcippe, by Ares. The myth was        Achilles to rejoin the fight—Achilles was more
depicted in a 16th-century painting by Paolo      moved by Ajax’s directness, honesty, and adher-
Veronese, Hermes, Herse and Aglauros (Fitzwil-    ence to the heroic code than by Odysseus’s
liam Museum, Cambridge, United Kingdom).          skilled oratory. After Achilles’ death, it was Ajax
                                                  who brought his body back to the Greek army.
                                                      During Patroclus’s funeral games, Ajax
Ajax (Aias) The Greater Ajax, a Greek hero        wrestled with Odysseus and, after Achilles’
of the Trojan War. Son of Telamon, king of        death, engaged in rhetorical battle with Odys-
Salamis and Periboea. Ajax is one of the heroes   seus over the distribution of Achilles’ arms.
of Homer’s iLiad and the central character in     Ajax reacted with fury when the arms were
Sophocles’s ajax. Additional classical sources    eventually given to Odysseus. He ran himself
are Apollodorus’s Library (Epitome 5.6–7),        through with a sword in the very place where
Homer’s odyssey (11.541–567), Hyginus’s           he was vulnerable, and died.
Fabulae (107), Ovid’s MetaMorpHoses (12.624–          Sophocles treated the hero’s death differ-
13.398), and Pindar’s Isthmian Odes (6.41–        ently; in his version, after the distribution of
54). According to Apollodorus and Pindar,         Achilles’ arms to Odysseus, Ajax went mad and
Heracles prayed to Zeus that Telamon might        slaughtered a herd of sheep, believing them to
have a male son. An eagle appeared to Heracles    be Greeks. When he came to his senses and
soon afterward, and thus Ajax was named after     discovered what he had done, he committed
aietos, or “eagle.” Ajax, like Achilles, has an   suicide but was nonetheless given an honorable
invulnerability story: Heracles wrapped the       burial. Ajax’s resentment of Odysseus contin-
infant Ajax in his own lion skin, thus making     ued in death: when, in the Odyssey, Odysseus
him invulnerable except in the part of his body   descended to Hades, he met the ghost of Ajax,
that touched Heracles’ quiver; this was where     who glared darkly at him and refused to speak
he would later receive his mortal wound.          to him.
    According to Homeric tradition, Ajax was          In visual representations, Ajax is depicted as
of great size and second only to Achilles in      a bearded, sometimes nude warrior. He appears
military prowess. His weaponry included a         frequently with Achilles or in the context of the
seven-layered oxhide shield. Book 7 of the        events of the Trojan War. The two warriors,
Iliad centers on the duel between Ajax and        Ajax and Achilles, were sometimes depicted

on vase paintings playing at dice together.         Athena addresses him, asking what he is look-
An example is a black-figure amphora vase           ing for. Odysseus states that he has heard that
painted by Exekias dating from ca. 540 b.c.e.       Ajax butchered a flock and its guard dogs the
(Vatican Museums, Rome). His combat with            night before. Athena replies that the report is
Hector was also a popular theme; an example         true, that Ajax wanted to kill the sons of Atreus,
is an Attic red-figure cup from ca. 485 b.c.e.      Odysseus, and other Greek chieftains because
(Louvre, Paris). Other themes appearing on          the armor of Achilles was awarded to Odys-
vase paintings and coins include Ajax’s combat      seus rather than to him, but that she made
with Odysseus over the arms of Achilles and         him go insane and slaughter livestock even as
his suicide.                                        he thought he was killing his enemies. Athena
                                                    proposes to summon Ajax. Odysseus is afraid,
                                                    but Athena summons him anyway. Ajax, still
Ajax Sophocles (ca. 440 b.c.e.) Sophocles’          demented, comes out of the tent. he claims that
Ajax was probably produced in the late 440s
                                                    he holds “Odysseus” prisoner and that he plans
b.c.e. around the time of the antigone. As in       to flog and kill him.
the Antigone, Sophocles presents an isolated            Enter the Chorus of sailors from Sala-
hero who turns against his own community and        mis who sailed to Troy with Ajax. It stresses
ends up embracing a radically solitary death.       its dependence on Ajax and its reluctance to
According to the post-Iliadic mythological tra-     believe Odysseus’s story.
dition, after Achilles’ death, the Greeks voted         Tecmessa enters. She reveals to the Cho-
to decide who of the Greek heroes was most          rus that Ajax has gone mad and has indeed
worthy of inheriting his armor. The armor           slain livestock. His mind is now clear but he
went to Odysseus. Ajax, feeling dishonored and      is suffering immense shame and horror at his
deeply resentful of Odysseus’ tricks and skill in   deed. The Chorus fears that it will become the
speaking, committed suicide. In the version that    object of the Greeks’ hatred and a target for
Sophocles here adapts (or possibly, invents),       reprisal. In a long speech, Tecmessa describes
Ajax decides to kill the Greek chieftains but is    how Ajax departed the night before with the
driven mad by Athena and slays and tortures         aim of killing his enemies, and now that his
herd animals instead. His suicide thus derives      sanity is restored, he is completely shattered.
from the immense shame he experiences on            Ajax groans from within, then calls for his
coming to his senses and realizing what he has      son Eurysaces. Tecmessa opens the door and
done. Sophocles’ play is a profound explora-        reveals Ajax inside, dejected, in the midst of
tion of the dark side of heroism. For all that      slaughtered bulls and sheep. The Chorus
Ajax is diminished and rendered ignominious         attempts in vain to calm and console him.
by his shameful deeds, he remains an object of      Ajax speaks of his own death, then, in a long
power and awe. Sophocles himself, according         speech, complains of the Atreidae and Odys-
to the biographical tradition, was conspicuously    seus and recalls how Athena destroyed his
involved in hero cults in Attica and was revered    sanity. Finally, he begins to contemplate how
as a hero after his death. This play goes to the    he can recoup some of his honor and come
heart of the tensions of the heroic code and the    to a suitably noble end. In a long speech of
paradoxes of the hero’s greatness.                  her own, Tecmessa reminds Ajax of her own
                                                    hard fortune in life as a freeborn woman who
                 SynoPSIS                           became a captive, of his duty to protect her
When the scene opens, Athena and Odysseus           and her son. She states that being “noble”
are in front of the tent of Ajax. Odysseus is       means remaining loyal to those who have been
pacing about, scanning the ground for tracks.       kind to one.

    Ajax asks to see his child. Tecmessa con-            Ajax enters. He stands alone on the stage
fesses that she removed the child because            with his sword. He fixes his sword in the
she was afraid that Ajax might kill him in his       ground, blade pointing upward. Ajax recalls
dementia. She now calls the servants to bring        that the sword was a gift from his enemy Hec-
in Eurysaces. He is brought before Ajax, who         tor, and then, in his farewell speech to life,
delivers another long speech in which he             invokes Zeus, Hermes, the Furies, Helios,
entrusts him to his half-brother Teucer to           Death, Salamis, and the springs and streams of
bring up after his own death, bequeaths him his      Troy. In particular, he asks Zeus to guarantee
famous sevenfold oxhide shield, and requests         that Teucer will take care of his body and pro-
that the rest of his armor be buried with him.       tect it from his enemies, the Furies to punish
Tecmessa begs him to abandon his dark mood           the Greeks, and Helios to bring news of his
and dark intentions, but he responds harshly         fate to his father and mother. He then falls on
and has the doors to his tent shut.                  his sword.
    The Chorus laments Ajax’s shameful mad-              The members of the Chorus enter in two
ness and its own fate. Ajax comes from the tent      groups, still searching for Ajax. Tecmessa fol-
carrying a sword. Again he speaks at length,         lows them. She goes to where Ajax has fallen,
claiming that his mood, which was once as            sees him, and cries out. The Chorus and Tec-
hard as a sword, has lost its “edge,” that he        messa lament. She insists that he should not
is affected by pity for his wife and child; that     be seen and covers him with a garment. The
he is going to cleanse himself and bury his          Chorus and Tecmessa continue their lamenta-
sword, which was given to him by his enemy           tions, blaming Odysseus and the sons of Atreus.
Hector, and that like all things, he, too, must      Teucer is heard shouting offstage. He enters
learn to yield, and humble himself before the        and hears from the Chorus that his half-brother
sons of Atreus. Ajax exits to the side; Tecmessa     is dead, and he immediately sends Tecmessa to
and Eurysaces go inside the tent. The Chorus         fetch Eurysaces to ensure his safety.
exults, filled with joy at Ajax’s decision and           As soon as she has left, Teucer uncov-
newfound wisdom.                                     ers Ajax’s face, and he, too, begins to lament
    A messenger enters. He reports that Teucer       bitterly. He imagines that Telamon will not
has just come back from Mysia, that he was           welcome him home when he returns without
treated abusively by the Greeks, and that Teucer     Ajax and will reproach him for being illegiti-
declared that Ajax must be made to stay indoors      mate. He predicts that he will be forced to go
until his arrival. Calchas the prophet had told      into exile and observes that the hospitality
him that if Teucer wanted to see his brother alive   gifts exchanged between Hector and Ajax have
again, Ajax must remain in his tent that entire      become the instrument of death for each.
day. The reason, explained Calchas, is that the          Menelaus enters with two heralds. He
goddess Athena is angry with Ajax because he         forbids Teucer to bury Ajax’s body. He explains
had, on one occasion, declared that he had no        himself at length: Ajax was a scofflaw and
need of the help of the gods and, on another, of     tried to kill the Greek leaders; laws must be
the help of Athena specifically. Athena means to     respected in a polis as in an army. He threatens
have her revenge on this very day.                   Teucer himself at the close. Teucer refuses to
    Tecmessa enters with Eurysaces. The Cho-         obey and insists that Ajax was his own master,
rus asks her to listen to the messenger’s news.      not subordinate to Menelaus. The Chorus
She is desperate and fearful, knowing that Ajax      does not fully approve of either speech. The
has already gone out, and commands the Cho-          two men trade insults and continue to threaten
rus to split up into search parties to find Ajax.    and contradict each other over the question of
All exit.                                            Ajax’s burial until Menelaus leaves.

    A moment later, Tecmessa enters with             Ajax, still resentful, refuses to speak with him.
Eurysaces. Teucer places three locks of hair,        Homer, however, is relatively reticent on the
his own, Tecmessa’s, and Eurysaces’, into            topic and is not nearly as interested as the tra-
Eurysaces’ hands as a suppliant’s offering and       gedians in the darker aspects of heroism and
instructs him to stay near Ajax while he pre-        the dementia of heroes. Tragedy is interested
pares a grave. He exits.                             in precisely such aspects of human behavior
    The Chorus now complain of war and               and action and also needs to occupy areas of
reminisces about Ajax. Teucer enters expecting       the mythological tradition not already authori-
Agamemnon’s arrival. Agamemnon enters with           tatively narrated by Homer. Yet Sophocles also
his retinue and immediately begins to bluster        develops themes already present in Homer.
at Teucer, insulting him, dwelling particularly      The iLiad is very much concerned with ten-
on his low birth. Teucer rebukes him in an           sions within the Panhellenic expedition to
answering speech. He reminds him how Ajax            Troy. The relative weakness of Menelaus and
defended Agamemnon and stood up to Hector,           even Agamemnon in comparison with some
then points out Agamemnon’s own dubious              other Greek heroes, as well as the loss of life
origins and the notorious events in his family’s     and the years spent away from home to retrieve
past, and defends the nobility of his own par-       Menelaus’s wife, all come up in the dispute
ents. He insists that he will not be moved from      between Agamemnon and Achilles. In the Ajax,
Ajax’s corpse.                                       there are once again questions of honor, the
    Odysseus enters and declares that he was         unity of the Greek chieftains, and the distribu-
Ajax’s enemy yet admires him as a brave hero.        tion of prized objects. And once again a domi-
He insists that enmity ought not to extend           nant but alienated warrior is set against the two
beyond the grave. Agamemnon reluctantly              nominal leaders of the expedition.
agrees not to prevent the burial, then exits.            Ajax fits the paradigm of the Sophoclean
    The Chorus praises Odysseus’s wisdom.            hero type. He is intensely self-isolating, in
Odysseus proclaims his willingness to be Teuc-       tension with and even dangerous to his com-
er’s friend rather than his enemy, offering          munity and those closest to him, and he relent-
even to participate in the burial of Ajax’s body.    lessly follows his own path and adheres to his
Teucer praises his attitude and calls on the         own principles. He resembles Antigone in
Furies to destroy Agamemnon and Menelaus             many respects, who also carries her principles
for their lack of respect for the dead. He sug-      to the extreme and opposes the leader of her
gests, however, that Odysseus not touch Ajax’s       polis, and values her sense of honor and what is
body for fear of offending the dead. Odysseus        right over her own life. We might also compare
respects his wish and exits. Teucer and the oth-     the obsessive concern with the burial of dead
ers begin to bury Ajax. All exit.                    heroes with the same theme in the Antigone.
                                                     Antigone insists on performing burial rites for
               CoMMEntARy                            her dead brother, Polynices, and, as her reward,
Like Aeschylus’s Oresteia and many other Greek       ends up being immured alive in a tomblike cave
tragedies, the Ajax takes as its subject post-Ili-   instead of achieving her normal role in life as
adic mythology: episodes that Homer does not         a wife. Ajax buries his sword in the ground and
mention or narrate directly, often related to        kills himself, praying before he does so that his
heroes’ nostoi (“return journeys”), episodes that    brother Teucer will be able to protect his body
in many cases bring out the darker side of hero-     and oversee his burial. The closing sequence
ism. In Book 11 of the odyssey, Homer alludes        of the play concerns precisely this, the burial
to the dispute between Achilles and Odysseus.        of Ajax. This latter part of the play, in which a
When Odysseus travels to the underworld,             sibling fights against the polis leader to ensure

the proper burial of someone who made him-          ure who surpasses ordinary mortal bounds and
self an enemy of his own community, affords a       whose value transcends, to a certain degree, the
very precise correspondence with the situation      moral scruples that constrain us in our every-
in the Antigone (hence the hypothetical dating      day lives.
of the play).                                           One path of approach to the question of
    Proper burial signifies acceptance of the       the harm caused by the hero, on the one hand,
hero’s special status, his place in the commu-      and his value, on the other, is the theme of
nity, even if he harmed or tried to harm mem-       intertwining friendship and enmity that runs
bers of the community. The community must           through the play. Ajax, like Achilles, is a char-
make the decision that the importance both of       acter who breaks with the ordinary version of
the hero and of burial customs transcends the       the heroic code by doing harm to those who
sum of the mundane interests of its members.        should be his friends. He attempted to harm
Sophocles is at pains to demonstrate how many       his enemies, as would be normal, but instead
people Ajax harms by his decisions and how          destroyed livestock. Hector was his enemy, but
profoundly. Tecmessa’s speeches drive home          he nonetheless exchanged gifts with Ajax as a
that she may face slavery again and will have       guest-friend; in a further twist, however, this
to bear the taunts of the rest of the Greeks:       act of friendship carried the seed of destruc-
Their son, Eurysaces, will have no father, and      tion, since Ajax ultimately killed himself with
thus he, too, will be humiliated and mistreated.    his friend/enemy’s sword—a deadly gift—and
Ajax’s parents will not have him to care for        even Ajax’s gift to Hector is construed by
them in their old age, and his father, Telamon,     Sophocles as having done him harm. The very
who is alluded to many times throughout the         parallelism of these two figures, however, links
play, will suffer shame on hearing of his son’s     them and makes them something more than
actions. The Chorus of Salaminian sailors con-      mere enemies. They are both great bulwarks
stantly draws attention to the ways in which        of their respective armies who meet an early
Ajax’s dishonor implicates it and makes it          death in part through the gifts they gave each
subject to the angry reprisals of the rest of the   other. Even if they are not, properly speaking,
Greek army. Teucer expands on the fact that         friends, heroes of the stature of Ajax and Hec-
he will now have to go home to their father,        tor have more in common with each other than
Telamon, without Ajax, he will face his father’s    with some of their ostensible allies. Finally,
harsh rebukes, and he will, ultimately, have to     Teucer finds in Odysseus an unexpected ally
go into exile. Essentially, everyone in contact     and friend at the end of the play. Odysseus
with Ajax is grievously harmed by his action.       supports Teucer’s insistence on proper burial
The only person who appears to benefit is his       of Ajax, and though enemies previously, they
enemy Odysseus. And yet it was Ajax’s inten-        accept each other as friends.
tion to kill him and the other Greek chieftains         Many of these concerns with what it means
too. The difficult insight that lies at the heart   to be a friend (philos) come to a head in the
of Sophocles’ play, and that the Athenian audi-     speeches of Ajax and Tecmessa on nobility.
ence could be expected to contemplate, is           Ajax stresses that being noble means not fear-
that although Ajax’s intentions and his effect      ing death and not living in dishonor merely
on all those around him are overwhelmingly          for the sake of survival in a minimal sense.
negative, he still deserves a degree of honor       Tecmessa seeks to remind him that men have
and even reverence after his death. This seem-      obligations to their friends and those who have
ing paradox relates to the Greek concept of the     shown them kindness. She stresses his links
hero as a figure who is at once extraordinary,      with others, whereas he isolates himself by his
isolated, destructive, and awe-inspiring, a fig-    own heroism and the hard principles by which

he lives and by which he wishes to be remem-        area, where he delivers his final soliloquy. For
bered. Neither viewpoint is necessarily meant       the rest of the play, Ajax is a corpse, hidden
to be undermined or defeated by the other:          beneath a mantle that Tecmessa puts over him.
Both stand in eloquent and rich tension as a        The massive, silent hulk of his body remains
comment on the potential contradictions of the      present in the closing scenes as Teucer and the
heroic code.                                        Atreidae trade insults back and forth. His very
    Sophoclean heroes are typically isolated:       silence and death are eloquent in this instance.
Antigone, Oedipus, Philoctetes. In some             Ajax does not take part in the dialogue that
cases, they are afflicted by intense shame and      will determine the fate of his body, and while
are made, for physical and/or moral reasons,        his status in the community is being negotiated
to appear repulsive to others. Philoctetes lives    in a wordy debate, he remains a silent, inert
like an desperate animal and is tormented by        presence. He is even careful to prevent his
a reeking wound. Oedipus is marked by the           possessions from being circulated communally
shame of having killed his father and married       after his death. He leaves the object that is the
his mother. In the case of Ajax, the intensifica-   most closely identified with him—his massive
tion of his shame, brought about by his very        shield—to his son, Eurysaces, and proclaims
unheroic, vindictive slaying of herd animals,       that the rest of his armor will be buried with
isolates him further from his fellow human          him. His suicidal act is all about bringing
beings. His place in society was predicated on      things to an end. He ends himself, ends the
his sense of honor and excellence; once he has      competition for honor through the distribu-
lost that, he can no longer find a way to go on     tion of armor. In broader terms, he represents
living with others. He could continue existing      the end of a form of heroism.
physically, but without the sense of self that          Ajax’s tragedy is that he finds himself in
previously defined and sustained him. The           an unthinkable situation. He is himself the
theme of hunting highlights Ajax’s distance         author of deeds that have no place in his code
from those around him. At the opening of the        of action, and he is at risk of losing his heroic
play, Odysseus is like a hound searching for        status. It is true that he aimed to kill the
Ajax’s tracks and hunting him down. Later,          Greek chieftains—a questionable act to begin
when Ajax is suspected of having committed          with—but this outcome would at least have
suicide, a desperate hunt is on for the hero:       been in accordance with his own conception of
Tecmessa and the Chorus, divided into dif-          forthright action against enemies. What actu-
ferent groups, go on a frantic manhunt. One         ally happens resembles the extremity of Eurip-
important outcome of the hunting metaphor           ides’ baccHae, where a god taunts a hubristic
is to create a distinction between the pack, on     mortal then destroys him by undermining the
the one hand, and the tragically individuated       integrity and rigidity of his own moral position
quarry, on the other.                               to an extreme degree. Here Ajax is punished
    The staging of the play contributes a fur-      by being made the author of the undoing of
ther element to the dynamic of isolation and        his own ideal of manly excellence and the
shame. Instead of the entrance to a royal pal-      warrior’s nobility of action. The repeated men-
ace, the central door of the stage of the Ajax      tion of Telamon underscores Ajax’s loss of a
opens onto Ajax’s tent, where, at the outset, he    sense of connection with the heroic example
is inside by himself amid the horrific carnage      of his father. The heroic chain of inheritance
of his slaughter of the herd. He occupies a         has been broken with Ajax; he even goes so as
sequestered domain of horror and madness. In        far as to lament that his father was allowed to
the central action of the play—Ajax’s suicide—      maintain his glory as a hero untainted, whereas
he stands alone on the stage in a deserted          he must accept dishonor.

    The chief instrument of Ajax’s undoing            has a connection with Athens. The Chorus of
is the madness that Athena inflicts on him.           Salaminian sailors stresses its place of origin—
Madness, as in the Bacchae, signifies the god’s       an important site of Athenian patriotism—and
destruction of a mortal’s identity and basic          apostrophizes Athens conspicuously. Ajax does
dignity. He loses not simply his position in life     the same shortly before his death. The Athe-
but his sense of self and the purpose behind          nians themselves honored Ajax’s memory in
his existence. As in Agave’s terrible moment of       their own way by sitting as spectators before
realization in Euripides’ play, it is the return of   this dark and fascinating play.
clarity that is the most destructive and painful.
Ajax realizes that it is too late, and that he can-
                                                      Alcestis Euripides (438 b.c.e.) Euripides’
not go back to being who he was.
                                                      Alcestis was produced in 438 b.c.e. and won
    Particularly notable in this version of the
                                                      second prize in the tragedy competition. The
Sophoclean hero estranged from his commu-
                                                      story concerns Admetus, king of Thessaly:
nity is the emphasis on the hero’s culpability.
Antigone and Philoctetes are not clearly cul-         He has learned that he must die unless he can
pable to the same degree. Even Oedipus seems          find someone to die in his stead. His parents
less obviously culpable than Ajax. Oedipus may        refuse, and the one person who agrees to do so
be intellectually arrogant, and given to violent      is his own wife, Alcestis. At the opening of the
outbursts, but it is also clear that an intricate     action, Alcestis is near death. The play was pre-
web of destiny has victimized him. Ajax, by           sented fourth in order, the place usually occu-
contrast, seems to invite his own doom. On two        pied by a satyr play—a humorous type of play
occasions, he hubristically proclaimed his lack       where heroic mythology is typically treated in
of need for divine support, and he specifically       a less serious manner. Indeed, we hear that an
refused Athena’s help. It is thus all the more        earlier tragedian, Phrynicus, had produced a
ironic when, in his demented state, he calls          satyr play on Alcestis and Admetus. The pres-
Athena his ally. She stood by the warrior in          ent play alludes to aspects of the satyr play but
battle—but drove him to slaughter livestock,          is best described as an unconventional tragedy.
not human enemies. It is also clear that he           Euripides often challenges the conventions and
aimed to carry out a slaughter of his fellow          high seriousness of the tragic genre and pres-
Greeks—a slaughter that does not seem mor-            ents his audience with sub-heroic or otherwise
ally justifiable. Other versions of the story were    perplexing characters and situations. Admetus
available. For Pindar, Ajax’s suicide simply fol-     hardly seems to fit the profile of the hard,
lowed from the disgrace of not receiving Achil-       unyielding tragic hero, yet his experience of
les’ armor. Sophocles has maximized the horror        grief and loss nonetheless achieves a profound
and shame by elaborating a version in which           resonance. The Alcestis is a play above all about
Ajax slays and tortures herd animals as part of       the necessity of death and its implications for
an abortive plan to slay the Greek chieftains.        the human condition.
    It is thus perhaps all the more dramatic in
this instance that Sophocles maintains the keen                        SynoPSIS
sense of pity for Ajax—above all through the          Apollo enters and stands before the house of
powerful characterization of Tecmessa—and             Admetus at Pherae in Thessaly. He explains
maintains the sense of his greatness even as he       that he has been in the service of Admetus,
falls on his own sword. Like Oedipus, he will be      king of Thessaly, as a lowly shepherd, because,
revered as a hero after his death—as an exam-         angry that Zeus had killed his son Asclepius
ple and an object of awe. And like Oedipus in         with a lightning bolt, he killed Zeus’s smiths,
Sophocles’ oedipus at coLonus, the hero Ajax          the Cyclopes. He was therefore condemned to

become a mortal’s servant. Yet because Admetus       tus, remarks on his grief, and imagines that life
revered and honored Apollo, Apollo became his        will no longer be worth living for him. While
friend and has protected him from death until        it is thus lamenting, Alcestis is carried out on a
this day. Admetus must now perish, unless he         litter accompanied by Admetus, her children,
can find someone willing to die in his place. He     and servants of the house. Alcestis and Adme-
tried his relatives and those near him, but only     tus converse: She addresses once more the sun,
his wife, Alcestis, would agree to die for him.      her land, and her marriage chamber. Then
She is, at this moment, in her husband’s arms,       she observes that Death has come for her, and
on the point of dying. The god Death is just         Charon is summoning her. Admetus begs the
now arriving. Death enters.                          gods not to let her die and implores her to
    He complains that Apollo contrived to            fight against death. In a long speech, Alcestis
save Admetus and now appears still to defend         describes the sacrifice she is making for him
Alcestis. Apollo wants to know why Alcestis          at that very moment and her reasons for mak-
cannot live to an old age. Death replies that        ing it; she notes that his parents, who are near
he is inflexible, as always. Apollo warns that a     death, did not wish to make this sacrifice and
man (Heracles) is coming to Admetus’s house          thus save their children from orphanhood and
and will take Alcestis away from Death. Death        him from being a widower. In recompense, she
insists that he will take Alcestis. Death exits by   asks him to promise her not to marry again, and
the central door leading to Admetus’s house.         thus make his children subject to an unsym-
Apollo also exits.                                   pathetic stepmother. Admetus promises: He
    The Chorus of citizens of Pherae enters. It      will spend his life in mourning her and hating
wonders whether or not Alcestis is still alive,      his parents; he will not enjoy any of the usual
scans for signs of her death, and debates among      pleasures in life; he will continue to be devoted
itself about the matter. It laments that nothing     to her, will be buried alongside her, and will
can be done to save her from death, and that         seek her in the underworld. On hearing this
there is no one who can save mortals from            promise, she commends the children to his
death, now that Asclepius himself has been           care. She now begins to sink into death and
struck down by Zeus.                                 bids her children and husband farewell. She
    A serving maid enters. The Chorus asks           dies. Admetus laments, and their son expresses
about Alcestis. She replies that the queen           his grief and shock. The Chorus consoles
will die soon. The Chorus laments. In a long         Admetus with the observation that all must
speech, the maid describes Alcestis’s final day.     die. Admetus proclaims public mourning for
She bathed and prayed to the Spirit of the           his wife throughout Thessaly.
Hearth for her children’s happiness in life,              The Chorus sings in praise of Alcestis, pro-
then went to the marriage bed and wept, and          claiming her to be a subject of future poetry.
predicted that her husband would soon have           Heracles enters. He asks after Admetus and
another wife. She kissed her children farewell,      reveals that he is stopping at Pherae on the way
and the household began to lament. The maid          to Thrace, where his next labor requires him
repeats that Alcestis is now dying and that          to procure the chariot of Diomedes. Admetus
Admetus is inconsolable. She also reports that       enters. Heracles notes signs of mourning and
Alcestis is asking to see the sun once more.         asks who has died. Admetus gives a somewhat
She goes in to announce the presence of the          obscure reply; he acknowledges that someone
Chorus to the king.                                  has died, but not that it is his own wife; he
    The Chorus prays to the gods, and to             even hints that it was some woman outside
Apollo in particular, for some means of escape       the family. Heracles suggests that perhaps it
from death. The Chorus then addresses Adme-          is not a good time for guests, but Admetus
0	                                                                                           Alcestis

insists on extending him hospitality. The Cho-       Heracles cannot understand the seriousness
rus is astounded by the decision to entertain a      of this, since he is still under the impression
guest during the period of mourning. Admetus         given him by Admetus that a woman “outside
stresses the importance of hospitality (xenia),      the family” has died. When, during the ensuing
and reveals that he did not tell Heracles openly     dialogue, it becomes clear that Alcestis died,
about Alcestis’s death because, in that case,        Heracles is appalled that he allowed himself to
Heracles would not have agreed to stay. Adme-        be misled into accepting Admetus’s hospitality.
tus goes into the palace.                            The servant exits after giving Heracles direc-
    The Chorus praises Admetus’s liberality          tions to the funeral. Heracles, moved by Adme-
and hospitality. Apollo himself was happy to         tus’s nobility of spirit in extending hospitality
live with him. Admetus reenters, followed by a       even at such a time, resolves to bring Alcestis
covered litter. He announces that the deceased       back from the clutches of Death. He exits.
(he does not name Alcestis) is being carried             Admetus and the Chorus enter. Admetus
to the place of cremation and burial. Pheres,        laments his widowhood and expresses envy for
Admetus’s father, enters. He comes to offer his      the dead. The Chorus responds to and consoles
last respects and praises Alcestis as a paragon of   him as he gives voice to his desolation. Adme-
womanhood. Admetus, in a long speech, scath-         tus now regrets his condition. Everything in his
ingly criticizes his father, calling him a coward    household and life reminds him of his dead wife,
who is ungrateful for the good treatment he          and many see him as an unmanly coward. The
has received; he renounces filial relation to him    Chorus sings of the terrible goddess Necessity
and claims to be the “child” of Alcestis rather      and stresses the finality of Alcestis’s death; it
than of his parents. Admetus declares that he        predicts that she will be worshipped as a god or
will not bury his father. Pheres responds with       hero. Heracles enters, leading a veiled woman
equally harsh words: He does not owe his son         by the hand. He first chides Admetus for mis-
his life, having given him everything else; it is    leading him as to the object of the household’s
not a Greek custom for fathers to die for their      mourning, then asks him to keep the woman
sons; it is Admetus who is a coward, who kills       safe for him in his house, claiming to have won
his wife to stay alive himself; perhaps Admetus      her as a prize at an athletic event. Admetus
will live forever by persuading a succession         regrets misleading Heracles but points out that
of wives to die for him. Admetus and Pheres          to have driven Heracles to another host would
exchange a series of brief, bitter remarks:          have been worse. He begs Heracles to take the
Pheres warns that Alcestis’s brother Acastus has     woman to someone else: He does not wish to
vowed vengeance; Admetus disowns his father.         invite criticism or impropriety, and it upsets
The body of Alcestis is borne off as the Chorus      him to look at her, since she resembles Alcestis.
laments; all exit.                                   In the following exchange, Heracles still does
    A servant enters from the house. In a solilo-    not reveal who the woman is but attempts to
quy, he complains that the guest currently stay-     persuade Admetus to remarry. He refuses, but
ing in the house is the worst they have ever         at Heracles’ insistence allows him to lead the
had: He is insensitive to the mourning of a          woman into the house. Admetus is persuaded
household, he drinks a huge amount of wine,          to take her hand against his instincts and then
and he sings drunken songs—off key. Heracles         to look upon her. He is amazed to see Alcestis.
enters. He chastises the servant for his gloomy      Heracles reveals that he wrestled with Death
demeanor, observes that all must die, but that       to obtain her back, and that Alcestis is silent
in the meanwhile we should enjoy life, love,         because she cannot speak until she has fulfilled
and wine. The servant insists that the current       her obligations to the gods of the underworld.
troubles of the household preclude revelry.          Heracles must depart for his next labor, though

urged to stay on as a guest. Admetus orders         weak or displaced virility. The obvious flaw
celebrations with dancing and sacrifices to the     at the heart of Admetus’s behavior is that he
gods, and proclaims his own happiness.              has allowed his wife to die in his stead and is
                                                    thus a coward. His wife is better able to face
               CoMMEntARy                           the simple fact of death than he is and is clear-
The Alcestis lacks the element of horror cen-       headed about her reasons for doing so. The
tral to some of the better-known Euripidean         flaw affects not only Admetus but his father as
tragedies such as the Medea and the Bacchae.        well, from whom we might presume Admetus
Yet other features of this early play are typical   to have inherited some aspects of his character.
of Euripidean tragedy. A god introduces the         Admetus is deeply bitter that his parents, who
play in a divine prologue speech (Apollo, in        had not long to live anyway, would not agree to
this instance), and three gods appear on stage:     die in his stead, and thus condemned his wife
besides Apollo, we also see Heracles and Death.     to death and himself to widowhood. When his
Heracles, of course, is only partially or debat-    father comes onstage to offer his last respects to
ably a divine figure, but in this case, he plays,   Alcestis, the father and son bicker unpleasantly.
very effectively, the role of deus ex machina. As   Euripides, as elsewhere, involves his characters
in the Medea, a character who just happens to       in sometimes shockingly petty motives and
be passing through, and who receives a favor        quarrels: They stoop to low insults and even
from the central character, plays a major role      sarcasm, as when Pheres suggests that Adme-
in the plot. Most significantly, we might note      tus will resort to a succession of dead wives to
the unconventional role of a woman in relation      prolong his own life. The effect of grotesque
to motherhood, death, and heroism. Euripides’       unmanliness is intensified if we recall that the
Medea character kills her own children and her      two men, father and son, are arguing as to
husband’s new bride and father-in-law, humbles      who is the greater coward in front of Alcestis’s
and destroys Jason, and magnificently controls      covered corpse. The silent body refutes and
the plot of the play throughout. In the Alcestis,   diminishes both of them.
too, a woman makes a highly unusual choice              Admetus has a tragic flaw but it is not a
that makes her famous, and that astonishes her      normal or expected one for a hero: Tragic
husband and reduces him to a wretched exis-         heroes are more often foolhardy and reck-
tence of deprivation. In particular, we might       less of their lives. The sadness he experiences
compare the scene in which Medea flies away         at losing Alcestis and his own fear of death,
at the end of the play and abandons Jason to        moreover, are very ordinary qualities. Admetus
his empty existence, and the scene here when        perhaps brings them into high relief by his
Alcestis departs for the other world: She, too,     unusual story, and, like other tragic heroes, he
leaves her husband prostrate and defeated. As in    does aspire to extraordinary status, yet he does
the Medea, so here we note a woman’s powerful       so for all too ordinary motives. His wife is the
concern for her “bed” and her husband’s fidel-      extraordinary character who will be treated like
ity—in this case posthumous. Alcestis might be      a god, not Admetus. Still, the destruction of
read as a kind of inverse Medea, and whereas        Admetus’s virile integrity is not total, as in, for
she is represented consistently as a paragon        example, the Bacchae, when Pentheus is made to
of womanhood, it remains intriguing that the        dress up as a woman to spy grotesquely on the
effect on her husband of her magnificent            Bacchantes, and then is slain by women, chief
departure is highly reminiscent of the final exit   among them his own mother. Admetus is not
of Euripides’ greatest villainess.                  fully and irredeemably ignoble: He does not
    Another way of viewing this relation is to      even seem to have fully realized what he was
observe that Euripides displays an interest in      doing until he had done it. Euripides is also

careful to endow him with at least one highly         Admetus and Alcestis engage in a prolonged
significant virtue: He is a good host, a worthy       conversation as gradually, line by line, she
friend of Apollo and Heracles. Apollo protected       fades from the world of the living. Euripides
him from death in the first place because             lingers on the simple, unbearable face of loss,
he was such a pleasant master and kindly              the minute changes in Alcestis whereby she
host; Heracles chose to save Alcestis because,        goes from being able to speak and see to an
despite his immense bereavement, he insisted          increasingly inert figure who cannot lift her
on extending hospitality to the wandering             head and eyes to look upon her children.
hero. Hospitality (xenia) was, since the time         After she is gone, her son’s naive yet powerful
of Homer, the litmus test of Greekness and            speeches of lament are also remarkable in a
civilization, whereas the archetypal monster or       genre that rarely awards speech of any length
villain was someone who violated the bonds of         to children: He is dismayed by the stillness of
the guest-host relation (e.g., Polyphemus, who        his mother’s eyes and hands, her inability to
eats his would-be guests). In its broad structure,    hear him crying out to her.
the story of Admetus’s hospitality to Heracles            Euripides, as elsewhere, displays a rich
correlates with other mythological narratives in      interest in pathos itself—intense emotions of
which a god, disguised and wandering among            pain, shock, and loss. We might compare the
mortals, is offered hospitality only by a truly       death scene described above with Medea’s
good person, who is subsequently rewarded             murder of her children and the sounds of their
(e.g., Baucis and Philemon). Thus we know             terrified, uncomprehending cries offstage. Pity,
that, on some level, however questionably he          fear, grief—such emotions are the stuff of
has acted in the present instance, Admetus            tragedy, yet it is worth considering how the
is good, precisely because he is a superlative        present version of the ruin of a royal household
host.                                                 has a different structure and focus from other
    While Admetus is not a typical tragic char-       tragedies. When the house of Atreus collapses
acter but merely a good, if flawed, man, the          before our eyes in Aeschylus’s Oresteia, we have
play nonetheless achieves real tragic intensity       a sense of cosmic ruin on multiple levels and
by evoking directly and unostentatiously the          the essential derangement of right and wrong:
simple facts of death and loss. Absent from           the killing of the king, the violent triumph of a
this scenario are the sublime tragic ironies of       woman over her husband, the derailing of royal
a mighty hero whose actions have contributed          succession and political stability, the murder of
to his own magnificent but fearsome downfall.         family members by family members according
The Alcestis presents instead, with touching          to a terrible curse that goes back generations.
simplicity, a scene of death such as occurs           Here the ruin, although royal, is more homely,
often in human life: A beloved family mem-            local, and, for all that, more touching. When
ber dies as her family stands by in grief and         Alcestis’s son laments that without her “the
dismay. Compared with other tragic deaths,            whole house is ruined,” he is picturing primar-
Alcestis’s occurs in painstaking slow motion.         ily a house without a comforting maternal
When the action of the play opens, she is             presence in it, no one to care for him and his
dying but not yet dead, and she remains in this       sister. Later, when Admetus’s true desolation is
transitional state of semidarkness for several        beginning to dawn on him more forcefully, the
hundred lines. First we see the grim figure of        details that haunt him are his wife’s empty bed,
Death approaching the house. Then we hear             the chairs that she would sit in, the unwashed
the maid’s speech, in which she recalls the           floors, and crying children. He cannot bear to
poignancy of Alcestis’s final day of life. Finally,   see his wife’s childhood friends. Admetus’s grief
in a highly unusual scene of onstage death,           is the grief of an ordinary man who cannot

endure the absence of a specific person, who,        retrieve his dead wife from the underworld.
though perhaps he did not fully realize it at the    The necessity of death and of accepting one’s
time, created the basis for his happiness and his    death even while appreciating life and the
very enjoyment of life.                              sunlight of the world above frequently affords
    Euripides does not mind contraposing the         the subject of aphorisms and choral interjec-
intensely poignant with the absurd. The play         tions. This emphasis might seem strange or
does not descend into farce but is pervasively       pointless, given that the central feature of the
tinted with mildly humorous and colloquial           present myth is a miraculous instance of return
elements: Charon is characterized as a pee-          from death—Heracles’ retrieval of Alcestis.
vishly impatient ship’s captain who does not         The deeper lesson for Admetus, however, is
want to wait for a tardy passenger; Heracles, in     the acceptance of mortality. He gradually real-
the speech of Admetus’s servant, is represented      izes the extent of his desolation, that his own
according to his more humorous character             life was not worth preserving at the expense of
type as a big drinker and maladroit symposiast.      his wife’s. The experience of having his wife
In conversation with the Chorus, he grumbles         taken away demonstrates this to Admetus: He
wearily and endearingly about his labors, the        has lost friends, enjoyment of life, and reputa-
now all too predicable dangers to which he is        tion—why does he remain alive? Previously,
exposed. Besides the low, sarcastic wrangling of     he was willing to sacrifice anyone or anything
Pheres and Admetus, we might also consider           to remain alive, but now, in a telling reversal,
the confusing and oafishly clumsy version of a       he envies the dead and sees no purpose in his
sophists’ debate between Heracles and Adme-          life. Admetus did not come to this realization
tus on the questions of death and life, being        immediately. Right after his wife’s death, his
and nonbeing. Despite the evident incoher-           son was the one who expressed his grief most
ence and evasiveness of Admetus’s responses,         directly and poignantly. Admetus was more
an untroubled Heracles goes off to enjoy wine        guarded; later, as Alcestis’s body is being car-
and revelry without a worry. But later, when he      ried out, he does not use her name but only
learns of Alcestis’s death, he is genuinely stupe-   calls her “the deceased,” just as he would not
fied by the revelation. Even the strange story       tell Heracles honestly of her death but only
of a shepherd Apollo that introduces the play        of the death of a woman “outside the fam-
sets a different tone for the tragedy. Instead of    ily.” Tellingly, it is only just before Heracles
a merciless, punitive, and terrifying tragic god,    restores Alcestis to him that Admetus achieves
we have role-playing and an amusing fish-out-        full, tragic awareness of his loss and his error
of-water scenario: The hyper-refined Apollo          in sacrificing her. He realizes that in condemn-
must play his lyre while tending a flock of          ing her to death, he has ended his own life for
sheep. Instead of announcing his intent to pun-      all intents and purposes, and thus has gained
ish a hubristic mortal, he declares his sympathy     nothing.
and inclination to save him.                             Admetus must learn the importance of liv-
    The play’s pervasive theme is simply death.      ing a worthwhile life rather than merely living.
The occasionally gruff, colloquial manner of         This is an insight that other tragic heroes, such
the Death character does not make him the            as Ajax, possess from the outset. Heroes, from
less relentless and less fearsome. The charac-       Achilles onward, typically value a glorious
ters’ conversations and the Chorus’s songs are       and noble life over the mere preservation of
full of references to Charon, Acheron, Hades,        life. Admetus is not such a hero but an ordi-
Death, and Orpheus. Orpheus, is a hero par-          nary man who must be driven by an extreme
ticularly relevant in the present context, as        circumstance to glean this insight. Nor has
a figure who attempted (without success) to          he or Alcestis been saved from death: Rather,
	                                                                          Alcestis and Admetus

Admetus now has another chance to face his          Hades and reunited with Admetus. Alcestis was
death in a more satisfactory way. The miracu-       resurrected either by the grace of Persephone
lous return of Alcestis in the closing scene may    or by the virtue of Heracles, who was said to
seem like a gaudy theatrical effect, the surprise   have wrestled Hades (or Thanatos) for her.
reappearance of a character thought dead with
ample use of suspense and dramatic irony—a
                                                    Alcmaeon See Amphiaraus.
recognition scene of the familiar type. This
crowd-pleasing theatricality, however, is a con-
scious effect knowingly employed by Euripides.      Alcmene (Alcmena) Mother of the famous
Admetus has been made into the spectator of a       Greek hero Heracles. Daughter of King
drama in which his wife disappears and is then      Electryon of Mycenae and wife of Amphitryon.
miraculously returned to him in a dramatic          Granddaughter of Perseus. Classical sources are
reversal of expectations. This mock bereave-        Apollodorus’s Library (2.4.8, 2.8.1ff ), Hyginus’s
ment gives him an opportunity to understand         Fabulae (29), and Pausanias’s Description of Greece
what the loss of his wife would really mean: He     (5.18.3). While Electryon was king of Mycenae,
undergoes an experiment in death that leaves        his sons became embroiled in a battle with the
him wiser at its close. The members of Eurip-       sons of Pterelaus and were slain. Electryon left
ides’ audience are perhaps similarly encouraged     Mycenae in the charge of Amphitryon while
to contemplate the significance of mortality        he pursued the sons of Pterelaus to avenge
in their own case and to discern the serious        the deaths of his sons. Electryon also married
message behind the play’s apparently frivolous      Alcmene to Amphitryon. Before Electryon
cheating of death.                                  left on his quest, an errant club thrown by
                                                    Amphitryon accidentally killed Electryon.
Alcestis and Admetus Daughter of Pelias.            Amphitryon fled with Alcmene to Thebes and
Wife of Admetus, king of Pherae in Thessaly.        then departed to avenge the death of Electryon’s
Alcestis is a central character of Euripides’       sons at the instigation of Alcmene, who refused
aLcestis. Additional classical sources are          to sleep with him until he did so. While
Apollodorus’s Library (1.9.14–15) and Hyginus’s     Amphitryon was away avenging the murder of
Fabulae (50, 51). Pelias decreed that only some-    her brothers, Zeus, disguised as Amphitryon,
one who could yoke together a lion and a boar       visited Alcmene and persuaded her that he was
would be an eligible suitor for Alcestis. At this   her husband. According to Apollodorus and
time Apollo was indentured to Admetus (in           Hyginus, Zeus prolonged his time with her for
expiation of his killing of the Cyclopes), and he   several days. It was then that Alcmene became
helped Admetus to yoke together the lion and        pregnant with Heracles. In some versions, on
the boar and win the hand of Alcestis. Admetus      the following night, Amphitryon returned to
neglected to offer a sacrifice to Artemis for       Alcmene, and she conceived Iphicles, Heracles’
the marriage, and this oversight incurred her       twin brother, with him.
wrath. Admetus found his marriage chamber               Zeus decreed that the child about to be
filled with serpents, which he interpreted as       born, a descendant of Perseus, would reign in
a portent of an early death. Apollo counseled       Argos. Zeus was outwitted by Hera, however,
Admetus to appease Artemis with a sacrifice         who arranged to delay the birth of Heracles by
and encouraged him to ask the Fates if some-        seven days. Heracles’ cousin Eurystheus, son
one else could die in his stead, but no one         of Sthenelus, also a descendant of Perseus, was
would agree to die in his place except Alcestis.    born first, and thus was entitled to the throne
After her death Alcestis was brought back from      of Argos.
Alpheus and Arethusa	                                                                                 

   Following the death of Amphitryon, Alc-            bird couple are able to nurture their young. This
mene married Rhadamanthys in Boeotia and,             is the basis for the modern term halcyon days,
according to Pausanias’s Description of Greece,       meaning a time without storm or strife, a time
she was buried and worshipped at Thebes.              of calm and peace.
   Alcmene appears on an Attic red-figure
stamnos vase painted by the Berlin Painter and
                                                      Allecto See Fates.
dating from ca. 480 b.c.e. (Louvre, Paris). Here,
Alcmene is flanked by Amphitryon and Athena.
She draws Iphicles into the protection of her         Aloadae (Ephialtes and Otus) The Aloadae
arms while the infant Heracles wrestles with          were Ephialtes and Otus, giant twin sons
the serpents sent by Hera to harm him.                of Aloeus or of Iphimedia and Poseidon.
                                                      Classical sources are Apollodorus’s Library
                                                      (1.7.4), Homer’s iLiad (5.385), and Hyginus’s
Alcyone and Ceyx Alcyone, daughter of
                                                      Fabulae (28). Iphimedia loved Poseidon, and she
Aeolus and Enarete, was married to King Ceyx
                                                      bore him the handsome giant twins Ephialtes
of Trachis. Classical sources are Apollodorus’s
                                                      and Otus (according to Hyginus’s Fabulae and
Library (1.7.4), Hyginus’s Fabulae (65), and Ovid’s
                                                      Virgil’s Aeneid, their father is Aloeus). At the age
MetaMorpHoses (11.410–748). According to the
                                                      of nine years the Aloadae were nine cubits broad
Library, Alcyone and Ceyx were transformed
                                                      and nine cubits high. In adulthood, Ephialtes
into birds, the halcyon (kingfisher) and gannet
                                                      and Otus resolved to overthrow the Olympian
(ceyx), respectively, for their impiety in compar-
                                                      gods. They piled Mount Pelion on Mount Ossa
ing themselves to Hera and Zeus. Ovid and
                                                      upon Mount Olympus in an attempt to reach
Hyginus suggest a different version of the myth;
                                                      the heavens. Ephialtes and Otus succeeded in
here the gods were kindly disposed toward the
                                                      imprisoning Ares for 13 months in a brazen
married couple, and when Alcyone threw herself
                                                      pot until, alerted by Eeriboea, stepmother of
into the sea after Ceyx drowned in a shipwreck,
                                                      the Aloadae, Hermes rescued Ares. Ephialtes
they were both transformed into halcyons. In
                                                      attempted to seduce Hera and Otus, Artemis.
Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Alcyone had a premoni-
                                                      According to Apollodorus’s Library, Artemis
tion of Ceyx’s death in the shipwreck, and the
                                                      transformed herself into a deer and placed her-
text lingers on the couple’s final farewells before
                                                      self between them so that Ephialtes and Otus
Ceyx goes on his sea voyage and describes the
                                                      accidentally killed each other while trying to
storm and shipwreck in detail. Unaware of
                                                      hunt her. Hyginus’s Fabulae gives an alternate
Ceyx’s death at sea, Alcyone continued to pray
                                                      version of the story; either Apollo surprised
at the altar of Hera for his safe return. Hera
                                                      the Aloadae in their attempt to scale the moun-
then persuaded Morpheus to appear to Alcyone
                                                      tains to the heavens and killed them, or Artemis
in her sleep in the guise of Ceyx and reveal his
                                                      was raped by Otus and Apollo sent the deer
death to her. A grief-stricken Alcyone found
                                                      in their midst, which provoked their deaths.
Ceyx’s body floating on the sea at the place
                                                      Hyginus writes that the Aloadal were punished
where she had last seen him. She then flung
                                                      by the Olympian gods by being consigned to
herself into the water and was transformed into
                                                      Hades, where they were bound together back-
the seabird. When she touched the body of her
                                                      to-back by serpents to a column.
dead husband, he, too, was metamorphosed into
a halcyon. According to Ovid, during the winter
season halcyons build their nests on the sea for      Alpheus and Arethusa A river god, and
seven days, during which time the sea is peace-       son of Oceanus and Tethys, Alpheus loved
ful, as Aeolus keeps the winds in check, and the      Arethusa, a follower of Artemis. Classical

sources are Hesiod’s t Heogony (338),               Description of Greece (1.2.1, 1.41.7). The Amazons
Lucian’s Dialogues of the Sea-Gods (3), Ovid’s      were said to have descended from Ares, god of
MetaMorpHoses (5.572–642), Pausanias’s              war, and Harmonia. Their name Amazon was
Description of Greece (5.7.2), and Virgil’s         interpreted by the ancients to mean “breastless”
aeneid (3.694). The Alpheus is a large river        and to refer to the practice of cutting off the
in Elis, flowing from Arcadia and running           right breast to facilitate use of a javelin. Cults
through the Peloponnesus. According to              and shrines dedicated to the Amazons appear
Ovid, who provides the most detailed treat-         in Greece and Asia Minor. Depending on the
ment, Arethusa was a nymph and disciple of          source, the Amazons established a colony in
Artemis. Returning from the hunt one day,           Thrace, or Scythia. Apollodorus places them
Arethusa disrobed and bathed in the waters of       in Themiscyra, on the Thermodon River in
the Alpheus. The river god Alpheus fell in love     Boeotia.
with her and began to speak to her, where-              The Amazons lived in isolation from men,
upon Arethusa fled in fright. Alpheus, taking       mingling with foreign men only to reproduce,
human form, chased after her. Arethusa called       and raising only female offspring. In epic,
to Artemis for help. The goddess created a          they fight various heroes in several Ama-
cloud of mist around her, and Arethusa was          zonomachies. Heracles’ Ninth Labor, which
transformed into a stream of water. Alpheus,        required him to bring back the girdle of the
taking on water form, leapt into the stream,        Amazonian queen Hippolyte (given to her by
but the earth opened and the stream pro-            Ares) provoked an Amazonomachy. According
gressed underground to emerge in a bay near         to Apollodorus, Hippolyte had been inclined
Syracuse, Sicily, near the island of Ortygia, a     to present the girdle to Heracles, but Hera,
location sacred to Artemis. Here, the waters        taking the form of Hippolyte, roused the
of the Alpheus mingle with the spring of            Amazons to war. Hippolyte was killed in the
Arethusa. In another version of the myth,           ensuing chaos. Theseus joined Heracles in the
in Pausanias’s Description of Greece, Alpheus       Amazonomachy and abducted the Amazon
began life as a mortal hunter who fell in love      Antiope (or Melanippe), who later gave him a
with Arethusa and chased her to Ortygia,            son, Hippolytus. The Amazons retaliated by
where she turned into the spring; Alpheus, for      attempting to storm Athens and were defeated
love of Arethusa, was transformed into a river.     by Theseus and the Athenians. In another
The spring of Arethusa was, and still is, a sym-    Amazonomachy, the Amazons were defeated by
bol of Syracuse. It was believed that the spring    the hero Bellerophon.
maintained a connection, via a passage under            During the Trojan War, the Amazons fought
the ocean, with the Apheus River in Greece.         on the side of Troy against the Athenians and
Strabo reports stories that a cup, thrown into      Greeks. The Amazonian army joined forces
the river at Olympia, leapt out of the fount of     with King Priam in return for his offer to
                                                    purify the Amazonian queen Penthesilea of
Arethusa, and that when oxen were sacrificed
                                                    blood-guilt for her accidental killing of her
at Olympia, the waters of the fountain were
                                                    sister Hippolyte (or Glauce or Melanippe).
                                                    Penthesilea, a daughter of Ares, was killed in
                                                    the Trojan War by Achilles.
Amazons A race of female warriors. Classical            The Amazonomachy was a popular theme
sources are Apollodorus’s Library (2.3.2, 2.5.9),   in art of the classical period, particularly in the
Diodorus Siculus’s Library of History (2.45,        Amazons’ combat against Heracles and The-
4.28.2), Herodotus’s Histories (4.110ff), Homer’s   seus. An Attic black-figure amphora excavated
iLiad (3.185–189, 6.186), and Pausanias’s           at Tarquinia from ca. 525 b.c.e. (University

Museum, University of Pennsylvania) shows              Amores 1.3, for example, the Ovidian lover
two Amazons struggling against Heracles.               addresses an unnamed woman and insists that
Achilles’ killing of Penthesilea is represented        he is faithful and monogamous, not a “circus-
on an Attic black-figure amphora painted by            rider” of love who jumps from horse to horse.
Exekias and dating from ca. 530 b.c.e. (British        Yet the mythological exempla employed near
Museum, London).                                       the elegy’s end to prove poetry’s capacity to
                                                       immortalize women include Leda, Io, and
                                                       Europa—all women seduced by the notori-
Amores Ovid (ca. 16 b.c.e.) The dating of
                                                       ously philandering Jupiter (see Zeus). Here as
Ovid’s Amores is highly uncertain. Work on the
                                                       elsewhere, Ovidian love is a game premised on
Amores probably commenced around 25 b.c.e.,
                                                       multiple layers of deception. Ovid’s manipula-
but the extant edition of three books was not
                                                       tion of genre, convention, and literary persona
published until 16 b.c.e. or later. In a verse pref-
                                                       in this early work lays the foundations for his
ace to the entire work, Ovid presents his three
                                                       later, more ambitious engagement with ele-
books as a second edition, reduced in length
                                                       giac subject matter in the ars aMatoria.
from the original five-book collection. The
Amores represent Ovid’s foray into love elegy, a
genre fashionable in the Augustan period. The          Amphiaraus A seer at Argos, Amphiaraus
basic premise of love elegy is the poet’s obses-       participated in the expedition of the Seven
sive pursuit of his mistress (domina); love is an      against Thebes. Classical sources are
incurable illness that undermines the poet’s           Aeschylus’s seven against tHebes (568ff),
virility. Traditionally, the poet designates his       Apollodorus’s Library (3.6.3), Hyginus’s Fabulae
elegiac mistress by a pseudonym. Ovid names            (73), Pausanias’s Description of Greece (5.17.7,
Corinna as his mistress in the fifth poem of his       9.41.2), and Statius’s tHebaid. The famous
first collection, although he already appears to       seer Melampus was Amphiaraus’s ancestor.
be in love and suffering from love’s symptoms.         Amphiaraus fought with his cousin Adrastus
It is not always clear whether Ovid is writing         but was later reconciled with him and married
about Corinna, or simply a generic puella (“girl-      Adrastus’s sister Eriphyle, who was empowered
friend”). He does not assume the persona of a          to resolve any disputes between them. Adrastus
lover chronically obsessed with a single woman.        and Polynices wanted Amphiaraus to join the
    While Ovid’s predecessors largely main-            expedition against Thebes, but Amphiaraus,
tain the fiction of an emotionally demanding           who had foreseen its failure, refused. Polynices
love affair, Ovid unapologetically presents            bribed Eriphyle with the necklace of Harmonia
elegiac love as a set of generic conventions.          to induce Amphiaraus to join them. The war
In Amores 1.1., Ovid claims to have been               ended in failure, and Amphiaraus was killed,
beginning the composition of an epic poem,             but not before asking his son Alcmaeon to
when Cupid (Eros) stole a metrical foot,               avenge him by killing Eriphyle. Alcmaeon’s
converting hexameter poetry (the meter of              murder of his mother aroused the vengeful
epic) into the elegiac couplet (one hexameter          Furies. In other stories, Amphiaraus was swal-
line followed by a pentameter line, the meter          lowed by a cleft in the earth and descended
of love elegy). For Ovid, literary conventions         to the underworld, still living in his chariot:
shape the lover’s behavior and personality,            Statius’s Thebaid presents a vivid and dramatic
not the other way around. Like other ele-              version of this latter story. Aeschylus’s Seven
gists, Ovid employs mythological exempla               against Thebes characterizes Amphiaraus as a
(examples, comparisons), yet his examples              good and honorable man, unlike his hubristic
sometimes subvert the nominal message. In              fellow warriors.
	                                                                        Amphion and Zethus

Amphion and Zethus Twin sons of                    appear together as young male nudes. An impe-
Antiope and Zeus. Classical sources include        rial Roman copy of a Greek original sculptural
Apollodorus’s Library (3.5.5–6), Homer’s           group from ca. first century b.c.e. shows Amph-
odyssey (11.260–265), Hyginus’s Fabulae (7, 8,     ion and Zethus in the act of yoking Dirce to a
9), and Philostratus’s iMagines (1.10).            bull (National Archeological Museum, Naples).
    The origins of Amphion and Zethus              The same theme appears in a ca. first-century
are as follows. According to Ovid, Zeus            b.c.e. wall painting from the House of the Vet-
transformed himself into a satyr to seduce         tii, Pompeii.
Antiope. Pregnant with his child and fearing
the wrath of her father, Nycteus, Antiope
                                                   Amphitrite A Nereid (sea nymph).
fled to Sicyon, where she married Epopeus.
                                                   Daughter of Doris and Nereus (or Oceanus
Antiope’s disgrace caused Nycteus to com-
                                                   and Tethys). The wife of Poseidon,
mit suicide, but his brother Lycus pur-
sued and captured Antiope, killing Epopeus         Olympian god of the sea. Classical sources are
as well. Lycus brought Antiope back from           Apollodorus’s Library (1.2.7, 1.4.5), Hesiod’s
Sicyon, and during that journey she gave           tHeogony (243, 254, 930), Homer’s odyssey
birth to Amphion and Zethus in a cave. He          (5.422, 12.60), and Pausanias’s Description of
forced her to abandon the children, but a          Greece (1.17.3). Amphitrite is mentioned only
herdsman found and raised them. Antiope            briefly in texts and has no myths specific to
was imprisoned by Lycus and maltreated by          her. In Apollodorus’s Library, Amphitrite is
his wife, Dirce, a nymph of a spring sacred        not a Nereid but an Oceanid, born of the
to Dionysus. After many years, she was             Titans Oceanus and Tethys. Hesiod’s Theogony
reunited with her sons, either because she         describes Amphitrite as fair-ankled and gives
managed to escape or because Amphion and           her the ability to calm the waves of the sea. By
Zethus rescued her. The brothers punished          Poseidon, Amphitrite conceived Rhodos and
Lycus and Dirce for their treatment of their       Triton. In Pausanias’s Description of Greece,
mother—Dirce, memorably, by yoking her             Theseus dived to the bottom of the sea and
to a bull that killed her, and Lycus, either by    was given a golden crown by Amphitrite. In
killing him or by forcing him to give up his       Homer’s Odyssey, Amphitrite represents the
throne to Amphion.                                 sea’s more threatening capacity; she breeds sea
    Homer recounts that Amphion and Zethus         monsters, and her great waves crash against
built the fortifications of Thebes, Zethus using   the rocks, imperiling sailors.
his great strength and Amphion the magi-               In visual representations of the classical
cal music of his lyre to move the foundation       period, Amphitrite often appears with Posei-
stones. Philostratus’s Imagines (1.10) evokes a    don and other maritime creatures. She and
scene in which Amphion sings and plays his         Poseidon mount a chariot drawn by horses in
lyre, a gift from Hermes, while the stones,        the Attic black-figure François Vase from ca.
moved by his music, assemble themselves into       570 b.c.e. (Museo Archeologico Nazionale,
the foundation walls of Thebes. Amphion mar-       Florence). Amphitrite appears with Theseus
ried Niobe, whose overweening pride in her         in the Attic red-figure Euphronios cup from ca.
children offended Apollo and Artemis and           500 b.c.e. (Louvre, Paris), offering the hero
brought about their deaths.                        a wreath. In the postclassical period, Amphi-
    Amphion was associated with music and          trite often appears in the retinue of Poseidon.
Zethus with agriculture and the hunt; their        Amphitrite’s identity is sometimes confused
attributes were, respectively, the lyre and the    with the sea nymph Galatea and the goddess
hunting dog. In visual representation, they        Aphrodite and associated with similar icono-

graphic elements—shells, dolphins, mermen,        Zeus. Zeus took on Amphitryon’s appearance
sea nymphs, and other creatures of the sea.       and described the victory over Pterelaus’s sons
                                                  in such convincing detail to Alcmene that
                                                  she accepted him as her husband. That night
Amphitryon Stepfather (sometimes father)
                                                  she conceived Heracles by Zeus, but the next
of the Greek hero Heracles. Son of King
                                                  evening Amphitryon returned and, in some
Alcaeus of Tiryns. Husband of Alcmene (a
                                                  versions, became pregnant by him too. As
descendant of Perseus). Classical sources are
                                                  a result, Alcmene bore twin sons: Heracles,
Apollodorus’s Library (2.4.5–11), Diodorus
                                                  whose father was Zeus, and Iphicles, whose
Siculus’s Library of History (3.67.2), and
                                                  father was Amphitryon.
Hyginus’s Fabulae (29). King Electryon of
                                                      Amphitryon and Heracles fought on the
Mycenae, father of Alcmene, left Amphitryon       same side in a war against the Minyans, during
in charge of Mycenae so that he could pursue      which Amphitryon died in battle. Pausanias’s
the Teleboans and avenge the deaths of his        Description of Greece places his grave at Thebes.
sons. But Electryon was killed accidentally by        Amphitryon appears on an Attic red-figure
a club thrown by Amphitryon. Amphitryon           stamnos vase painted by the Berlin Painter
accepted responsibility for avenging the death    and dating from ca. 480 b.c.e. (Louvre, Paris).
of Electryon’s sons, but Sthenelus, Electryon’s   Here, he stands next to Alcmene as she draws
brother, banished him and Alcmene from            Iphicles into the protection of her arms, while
Mycenae. He fled with Alcmene to Thebes,          the infant Heracles wrestles with the serpents
where he was purified by Creon.                   sent by Hera to harm him.
   To persuade Creon of Thebes to accompany
him on his pursuit of the Teleboans, Amphi-
tryon promised to kill a fox that was ravaging    Anaxarete See Iphis.
Cadmea. He borrowed a magical hound from
Cephalus. This hound never failed to catch its    Anchises Son of Capys and Themiste. A
prey and had been given to Cephalus by his        consort of Aphrodite, on whom he fathered
wife Procris, who had originally received it as   Aeneas. Classical sources are the Homeric
a present from Artemis. Zeus intervened by        Hymn to Aphrodite, Homer’s iLiad (5.260–272,
turning both fox and hound to stone. In com-      20.230–240), Pausanias’s Description of Greece
pany with Cephalus and Creon, Amphitryon          (8.12.8–9), and Virgil’s aeneid (2.634–804;
then continued on his quest for vengeance.        3.707–715; 6.106–117, 679–899). In the
At Taphos, Amphitryon discovered that King        Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite, Zeus, annoyed
Pterelaus of the Teleboans had golden hair that   that she had led him into so many intrigues,
made him invulnerable. Pterelaus’s daughter       persuaded Eros to shoot Aphrodite with an
Comaetho fell in love with Amphitryon and         arrow to cause her to fall in love with Anchises,
for his sake pulled out her father’s hair, thus   whom she saw herding sheep on Mount Ida.
enabling Amphitryon to kill him and to conquer    She seduced him without at first revealing her
the city. Amphitryon later killed Comaetho.       identity. Afterward she revealed her divinity
Her betrayal of father and city recalls those     to him, predicted the birth of his son, Aeneas,
of Ariadne on behalf of Theseus, Scylla for       and made him promise never to reveal their
Minos, and Medea for Jason: In each instance,     relations. He, however, became indiscreet after
the man on whose behalf the heroine commits       drinking too much wine. Zeus struck him with
her betrayal proves ungrateful.                   a thunderbolt as punishment, and he was left
   While Amphitryon was carrying out his          lame. He was rescued from the burning of Troy
revenge, his wife, Alcmene, was visited by        by his son and accompanied him on the first
0	                                                                                     Andromache

part of his travels, giving advice and interpret-   self is taken as a spoil of war by Neoptolemus
ing omens (on one occasion, erroneously). He        (the son of Achilles), who later marries her
never reached Rome, but died in Sicily. Aeneas      and fathers children on her. After his death,
buries him with great honor in the Homeric          she marries Priam’s son Helenus and with
funeral episode in Book 5 of the Aeneid, and, in    him constructs a miniature Troy in Epirus,
Book 6, Anchises guides his son through Hades.      where she continues faithfully to make offer-
It is fitting that Aeneas’s father should present   ings to Hector at his cenotaph. Andromache
to him the parade of great men and heroes,          was famous for her virtue and fidelity, and
who, for Romans of Virgil’s time, represented       her character was often used to represent the
the revered ancestors of the Roman people.          sufferings of Trojan women during war. Early
    Anchises’s myth became very important in        visual representations of Andromache center
the Roman period. As forebear of the Roman          on her farewell to Hector and her grief over
race through his son Aeneas, he gave the            the deaths of Astyanax and Hector. A postclas-
Romans the right to claim descent from Venus,       sical example is Jean-Louis David’s Andromache
just as Romulus, the son of Mars (see Ares) and     Mourning Hector of 1783 (Louvre, Paris).
founder of Rome, gave them the right to claim
descent from Mars. The Romans could thus
                                                    Andromache Euripides (ca. 430 b.c.e.) Eurip-
claim descent from two divine founders, the
                                                    ides’ Andromache was produced between 430 and
goddess of love and the god of war. Julius Cae-
                                                    424 b.c.e., most likely in 426. His play, often
sar further enriched the connection by claiming
                                                    criticized for fragmentation and lack of lucid
descent from the line of Aeneas and his son,
                                                    structure, might equally be appreciated for the
Iulus. This made the Julian family descendants
                                                    subtle interconnections among its different plot
both of the founder of Rome and of a goddess.
                                                    segments and characters. Andromache, the title
Finally, with Augustus, the adopted son of the
                                                    character, unwillingly bore a son to her captor,
deified Julius Caesar, as first emperor, the ori-
                                                    Neoptolemus, son of Achilles, who apparently
gins-story became enshrined among the central
                                                    prefers her to his own wife, Hermione, with whom
patriotic myths of the Roman state. Of par-
                                                    he has no offspring. Orestes, in the meanwhile,
ticular importance is the pietas (“dutifulness”)
                                                    seeks to abduct Hermione for himself and plots
demonstrated by Aeneas toward his father: The
                                                    to have Neoptolemus killed. Peleus, the father
Romans of the Augustan era frequently depicted
                                                    of Achilles and grandfather of Neoptolemus,
the pious Aeneas carrying his aged father on his
                                                    mourns his dead grandson and calls on his wife,
shoulders away from the burning ruins of Troy
                                                    the goddess Thetis, for aid. Thematic concerns
while leading Ascanius by the hand.
                                                    that potentially unify these diverse strands of plot
                                                    include marriage and the potentially destructive
Andromache A Trojan princess. Daughter of           outcome of marriages, the devastating effects
Etion and wife of Hector. Classical sources are     of war and military subjugation on human rela-
Euripides’ androMacHe and trojan WoMen,             tions, and the ignoble character of Spartans
Homer’s iLiad (6.390–502, 24.723–745), and          (Menelaus, Helen, Hermione) by contrast with
Virgil’s aeneid (3.294–348). Andromache’s           the good character of Phthians (Achilles, Peleus,
father and brothers were killed during the          Neoptolemus) and Trojans (Andromache). The
Trojan War. Her farewell to Hector as he            closing epiphany of Thetis offers a measure of
departs for battle against the Greeks is the        consolation for the weak victims and survivors,
subject of Book 6 of Homer’s Iliad. Astyanax,       such as Peleus and Andromache, who have seen
son of Andromache and Hector, is murdered           their world destroyed by the ambitions of the
during the fall of Troy, and Andromache her-        powerful and unscrupulous.

                   SynoPSIS                         anger when he returns. The nurse attempts to
The scene is set in Thessaly at Phthia, before      console her. Orestes enters, as if by chance, on
the shrine of Thetis. Andromache, Hector’s          his way to the oracle at Dodona. After inquir-
widow, was given to Achilles’ son Neoptolemus       ing about Hermione’s situation, he reveals that
after the fall of Troy, and she bore him a son.     he long resented that Menelaus gave Hermione
Neoptolemus then married Hermione, daugh-           to Neoptolemus after he had first promised
ter of Menelaus and Helen. Hermione began to        her to him. Orestes had then asked Neoptol-
persecute and threaten Andromache, claiming         emus to relinquish his rights, but Neoptolemus
that Andromache used drugs on Neoptolemus           referred insultingly to Orestes’ murder of
to render them unable to conceive a child.          his mother, Clytaemnestra. He now takes
Now Andromache has taken refuge at Thetis’s         advantage of the present crisis by offering to
shrine, in fear for her own life and that of her    restore her to her father, presumably with the
son, whom she has hidden in a secret place.         intention of marrying her himself. She defers
Neoptolemus is not there to protect her and         the question of marriage to her father but
his son—he had insulted Apollo after the god        agrees to leave with him. Orestes darkly hints
caused his father’s death, and now he is at Del-    that Neoptolemus’s insulting comment will be
phi, trying to make amends. Hermione enters         punished at Delphi. They exit.
and rebukes Andromache harshly for ruining              After the choral ode, Peleus enters and
her marriage. Andromache replies that it is         learns that Hermione has left with Orestes,
Hermione’s unpleasant character, not drugs,         and that Orestes intends to have Neoptolemus
that makes Neoptolemus despise her. After a         murdered. Before he has time to take steps
bitter exchange, Hermione exits. The Chorus         to save his grandson, a messenger enters and
of Phthian women sings of the Judgment of           reports that, with the god’s support, a gang of
Paris and the destruction it caused. Menelaus       Delphians killed Neoptolemus. The body is
enters with Andromache’s son, announcing            brought in, and Peleus laments his grandson’s
that he has found him. He threatens to kill the     death. Thetis appears: She bids them take
boy if Andromache does not leave the safety of      Neoptolemus’s body back to Delphi for burial.
the shrine; she thus will have to sacrifice her     She predicts that Andromache will marry Hele-
life to save her son. At length, after exchanging   nus in Molossia, and that thus the descendants
insults, Andromache agrees to be led away and       of Troy and Phthia will rule Molossia. She
comes forth, only to discover that Menelaus         promises that Peleus will, in time, become a
intends to let his daughter decide whether or       god and that they will live together once again.
not the boy dies. Andromache excoriates his         All exit.
treacherous Spartan character before leaving
with Menelaus and her child.                                      CoMMEntARy
    After the choral ode, Andromache and            Andromache has frequently been criticized as
her son, their hands bound, return onstage          an incoherent, rambling play without a dra-
with Menelaus. They are being led to their          matic or thematic core. The opening sec-
doom, when Peleus, Achilles’ father, enters.        tion deals with the love triangle involving
Peleus and Menelaus exchange long, insulting        Neoptolemus, Hermione, and Andromache.
speeches, until, at length, Menelaus gives way      Neoptolemus is absent; the drama is played
and withdraws but promises that he will return.     out first between Hermione and Andromache,
Andromache thanks Peleus and exits with her         then between Menelaus and Andromache, and,
son. Hermione’s nurse enters and reports that       finally, between Peleus and Menelaus. At that
Hermione is desperate and suicidal: Her father      point, not quite 800 lines into the play, Andro-
has abandoned her, and she fears her husband’s      mache makes her final exit, after thanking

Peleus for protecting her from Menelaus. The         Achilles, are dead; Achilles’ son remains sig-
title character has simply left the stage. The       nificantly absent and will himself be dead by
second significant sequence, and second “love        the end of the play. Peleus represents a more
triangle,” involve Orestes, Hermione, and the        old-fashioned style of virtue and integrity, but
still absent Neoptolemus. At the end of their        he is old and weak: He manages to scare off
conversation, at about line 1,000, Orestes and       the blustering, cowardly Menelaus, but just
Hermione make their final exit. The third and        barely, and the Chorus sings of his deeds of
final part of the play belongs to Peleus, who        old in battle with centaurs on the Argo and
first learns of the tragic death of his grandson     with Heracles at Troy. Other choral odes are
Neoptolemus, then is consoled by the epiphany        concerned with the Judgment of Paris and its
of his wife, Thetis. The three phases of action      catastrophic outcomes. The war looms large
are subtly and intricately interconnected yet        in the background, and the present situation
retain a degree of independence. There is no         is almost entirely determined by it. Menelaus
unbroken arc of tragic downfall, as in some          gave Hermione to Neoptolemus instead of
tragedies, whereby a single protagonist moves        Orestes to recruit him as a warrior at Troy;
inexorably toward his or her doom. The cen-          Orestes’ hands have been stained with blood
tral, heroic death of the tragedy is that of         in the aftermath of Agamemnon’s return from
Neoptolemus, who never appears on stage.             Troy; Andromache’s entire situation is deter-
     More recent interpretations have attempted      mined by her status as a prisoner of war. Pele-
to discern threads of thematic unity pervad-         us’s case is perhaps the most poignant: He is the
ing the play, and/or have revived the play’s         father of the Greeks’ greatest warrior, Achilles,
reputation by positing, on Euripides’ part, a        who perished through Apollo’s agency; now his
masterful manipulation of tragic structure and       grandson, Neoptolemus, dies at the hands of
conventions. On this reading, Euripides plays        the same god at Delphi.
with his audience’s expectations of dramatic             The present play allows us to see how
coherence, interweaving a complex plot that          relations of power and hegemony play out in
always threatens to lapse, but never quite           the domestic and sexual spheres. Hermione
lapses, into incoherence: He creates a subtle        takes her place alongside Clytaemnestra as a
tension between fragmentation and unity, chal-       Greek wife who becomes homicidally jealous
lenging us to ponder the connections and the         of a Trojan captive. In Euripides’ consciously
larger significance. There is more potential and     subheroic and ignoble milieu, she fails in her
probably more justification in this line of inter-   project—indeed, fails miserably. Aeschylus’s
pretation than in the older view that Euripides      Clytaemnestra displayed a disdainful hauteur
simply lost control of his plot, or was unable to    in the face of Cassandra and had her piti-
create a more integrated plot. It still remains      lessly murdered. Hermione does not hesitate
to be decided, however, what theme or themes         to lower herself to exchanging low, degrading
in particular unify the playwright’s bold experi-    insults with her slave rival. Like other Eurip-
ment in plot structure and to what extent the        idean heroines, she is obsessed with sex and,
play succeeds.                                       specifically, with exclusive sexual possession of
     As in so many of Euripides’ tragedies,          her husband. She accuses Andromache of using
the action of Andromache takes place in the          drugs to make her unattractive to her hus-
post–Trojan War period. The heroes of this           band, which makes her vulnerable to Andro-
period inhabit a world morally devastated and        mache’s triumphant sneer: It is not drugs, but
gutted by the war nearly to the same extent that     Hermione’s unattractive personality, that drives
Troy itself was physically devastated. Many of       Neoptolemus from her bed. This motif allows
the truly great and admirable heroes, such as        Andromache to dwell in detail on a savage por-

trayal of Hermione’s Spartan snobbery and her       by chance; it turns out, however, that he has
misplaced idolization of her father, Menelaus;      carefully calculated the moment of his arrival:
nor does she miss the opportunity to allude to      Neoptolemus is away, and his wife is vulner-
Helen’s questionable virtue. The most provoca-      able and in need of a protector. Orestes is
tive point scored by Andromache, however, is        somewhere between a rescuer and an abductor:
her frank reference to Hector’s extramarital        Women could not easily or safely travel alone
affairs, and how she served as wet nurse to his     in the ancient world, and Menelaus ignobly
bastard children: Is Hermione too self-cen-         abandoned his daughter. Hermione has little
tered to do the same for Neoptolemus? Andro-        choice but to go with the opportunist Orestes.
mache’s ferocious, and ferociously competitive,     Nor does he present himself even nominally
criticism of Hermione’s wifely comportment          as a devoted suitor: He is openly motivated
has the added outcome of portraying Homer’s         by hatred of Neoptolemus and, in any case,
morally flawless hero Hector in a markedly          cannot find anyone to marry him, given his
subheroic light.                                    well-known status as matricide. Hermione,
    Ironies abound: Andromache is a slave, but      for her part, is now fulfilling her mother’s role
the slave clearly is victorious over the legiti-    as abducted wife of a Greek hero. Menelaus,
mate Greek wife when it comes to Neoptole-          never the bravest of the Greek heroes, is here
mus’s bed. The slave, moreover, has no scruples     utterly weak and unimpressive. He exchanges
about picking apart her mistress’s character.       bitter taunts with Peleus, only to crumble
Neoptolemus himself married into the family         completely and depart, leaving his own daugh-
of Menelaus, victorious coleader of the Greek       ter unprotected and vulnerable to retribution.
expedition against Troy, yet appears to have        Neoptolemus’s reputation is relatively untar-
fallen in love with one of the defeated Trojan      nished but, significantly, he is absent: The
captives. Relations of military/political domi-     inheritor of the honest warrior ethos of his
nation do not align with domestic/sexual desire     father, Achilles, he is constantly expected, and
and are notably subverted by the crosscurrents      his arrival is constantly deferred, until, finally,
of sexual rivalry. Heroic valor of an Homeric       he is brought onstage as a corpse. It would
cast, moreover, does not make the transition to     be difficult to make a stronger statement of
the post–Trojan War world of intrigue, secret       the demise of the Greek heroic spirit of the
resentment, and deceit. Orestes, instead of fac-    Trojan War: Its last, great representative—heir
ing Neoptolemus in a heroic duel, arranges to       of Achilles, sacker of Troy, a hero whose name
have him ambushed at Delphi, while running          means “New War”—has been killed by ambush
off with his wife. Neoptolemus for a moment         and the deceit of a conniving matricide who did
looks as if he will be able to defend himself       not fight in the war.
against the pack of treacherous Delphians who           Marriage and the destructiveness it causes
surround him, as if his heroic virtue will result   constitute a major theme of the play: Neop-
in a display of traditional, Homeric excellence     tolemus’s marriage to Hermione dooms him;
in battle; yet in the end, the subheroic mob        Helen’s marriage and subsequent abduction, as
overcomes him and mangles his body gro-             Euripides frequently reminds us, was the cause
tesquely after he has fallen.                       of the war; and, before either of these, the mar-
    Orestes himself is hardly the morally           riage of Peleus and Thetis was the beginning
tortured and ultimately vindicated figure of        of the strife (eris) among the three goddesses.
Aeschylus’s Oresteia: He is “Clytaemnestra’s        Euripides often connects desire, sexual posses-
son,” murderous, treacherous, an adulterer          sion, and violence, and this play is no exception,
motivated to crime by petty resentment and          although the outcomes are notably oblique.
lust. He waylays Hermione as if meeting her         The murder takes place some distance away,

at Delphi, and Menelaus and Hermione fail in         words, cannot help observing the value of good
their self-assigned task as Euripidean domestic      matches in marriage and the destructiveness
murderers. We might expect the sexual rival          of bad matches, no matter the dowry. This
and her offspring to be killed. Yet Hermione         comment carries a not too oblique criticism of
cannot rise to the level of a Medea, Hecuba, or      Neoptolemus’s match with Hermione and con-
even a Phaedra, and, rather than taking on a         firms the excellence of his own with Thetis.
masculine role in a masterful act of vengeance,          The dating of the play—usually set between
she continually takes shelter behind a man. As       430 and 424 b.c.e.—falls within the broader
in her mother’s case, however, the question          period of the Peloponnesian War, but if the
of Hermione’s marriage results in violence           date of Andromache is specifically 426 b.c.e., as
between men. Contracting a bad marriage is           some scholars think, the massacre of Plataean
the ultimate cause of Neoptolemus’s end, as          prisoners in 427 b.c.e. would explain the play’s
Peleus querulously observes.                         fiercely anti-Spartan sentiments. In any case,
    The play’s resolution through the interven-      it seems reasonable to assume that the play
tion of Thetis as dea ex machina thus logically      belongs roughly to the mid-420’s b.c.e. (By the
involves a realignment of marriages in a more        time the Helen was produced in 412 b.c.e., after
positive way. Andromache will be married             the failure of the Sicilian expedition, the bias
to the Trojan seer Helenus in Molossia, and          tilts in Sparta’s favor and away from the illusory
Neoptolemus and Andromache’s son, Molossus,          gains of a large-scale war of conquest: Helen of
will be the founder of the race: Thus Peleus’s       Sparta is herself significantly reevaluated in a
Phthian race, and the Trojan race, will live on      kind of tragic palinode, or recantation.) Spar-
in Molossia. Marriage expands in significance        tan characters in the play are consistently pre-
to encompass the founding of communities:            sented as dissemblers, cowards, hypocrites, and
Whereas up to this point, the noble lines of         shallow materialists: Hermione comes onstage
the Greek and Trojan heroes appeared on the          boasting of her father’s wealth, while Menelaus,
verge of extinction in a subheroic world, in         who accuses Peleus of being “all talk,” is in
part because of the destructive consequences         fact himself capable of little more than empty
of marriages, the ending suggests new hope for       vaunting. The divide between Phthia, Achilles’
continuation. On the divine level, Peleus will       homeland, and Sparta, is significant: Achil-
be made immortal and will return to his divine       les and Neoptolemus were the hard-fighting
consort, from whom he appears to have been           soldiers who won the war, and Achilles died
separated for some time. Peleus and Thetis are       on the fields of Troy; the Spartan Menelaus,
at the origin of the Trojan War in many ways,        by contrast, both survives and profits. The war
as the Roman poet Catullus will later perceive.      was waged to retrieve his wife, and though
Their wedding saw the introduction of Strife,        as warrior he was far inferior to Achilles, he
and they were the parents of the great hero          benefited from its success through the acquisi-
of the war, Achilles. Now Peleus and Thetis,         tion of plunder and the recovery of his wife.
according to Thetis’s speech, will see their         The splintering of a Panhellenic expedition
son Achilles again on an island that his ghost       into resentment, recrimination, and conflict in
was supposed to haunt; Neoptolemus will be           the postvictory period not accidentally recalls
properly buried at Delphi, the shrine of his         the intensifying conflict between Athens and
own and his father’s divine nemesis; and Peleus      Sparta after the Persian Wars in which they
will return to his wife’s embrace. The Trojan        fought as allies.
War is being put to rights, buried, and its dead         What does all this amount to? In the end,
heroes assigned their proper kleos (“fame”); a       Euripides’ challengingly fragmented play is
cycle in history is ending. Peleus, in his closing   difficult to characterize by any one theme or

statement. Yet it is still possible to discern             more, the epiphany or the moral chaos that
broader patterns that are coherent with his                preceded it? Finally, the Andromache resembles
other plays and suggestive of the playwright’s             Euripides’ other plays in its persistent concern
deeper preoccupations. As elsewhere, Euripides             with speech (Logos), and the manifold, often
represents a subheroic world of petty, twisted             dishonest, and malevolent uses of the spoken
motivations and ignoble actions, where hypo-               word. His characters talk each other alternately
critical villains vaunt their power over charac-           into rage and submission. Gods, like Thetis,
ters of greater integrity and inferior strength.           speak in a very different way, without pettiness
He removes revered heroes of mythology                     or subterfuge, with directness, placidity, and
from their pedestal and represents a world in              clarity—yet another way in which the gods so
crisis. The play culminates with the disturb-              clearly do not belong to our world.
ing description of a treacherous killing sup-
ported by the god Apollo in his very shrine.               Andromeda Daughter of King Cepheus and
Yet even as Euripides undermines our sense of              Queen Cassiopeia of Ethiopia. Wife of the hero
the gods’ justice, he (at least partially) recovers        Perseus and ancestor of Heracles. Classical
it with a divine epiphany, as in so many other             sources are Apollodorus’s Library (2.4.3),
instances. We are left stranded between the all            Hyginus’s Fabulae (64), Lucian’s Dialogues of the
too realistic presentation of a degraded world             Sea-Gods (14), Ovid’s MetaMorpHoses (4.663–
presided over by unjust, or possibly nonexis-              5.249), and Philostratus’s iMagines (1.29).
tent, gods and an extraordinary intrusion of               Andromeda’s mother, Cassiopeia, insulted the
divine presence at the end that averts a total             Nereids, daughters of Poseidon, by claiming
sense of purposelessness. Which do we believe              that she (or her daughter) were superior to

Perseus and Andromeda. Piero di Cosimo (attrib.), ca. 1510 (Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence)

them in beauty. In punishment, Poseidon sent         Notus, the South Wind; Zephyrus, the West
a sea monster to destroy the land. Cepheus was       Wind; and Eurus, the East Wind. Hesiod and
informed by an oracle that only the sacrifice        Homer also mention four lesser winds. At times,
of his daughter would appease the monster.           the winds were represented as men, sometimes
Perseus, who had recently procured the head of       winged. For Homer, Ovid, and Virgil, the winds
the Gorgon Medusa, saw Andromeda bound to            were subject to Aeolus’s control.
a rock awaiting death. He fell in love with her
and, having gained the consent of her father to
                                                     Antigone Daughter of Oedipus and Jocasta,
marry her, rescued her, slaying the sea monster
                                                     sister of Polynices, Eteocles, and Ismene.
either by sword or using the Gorgon’s head.
                                                     Antigone appears as a character in Sophocles’
Cepheus’s brother Phineus, who had been prom-
                                                     antigone and oedipus at coLonus and
ised Andromeda’s hand in marriage, attacked
                                                     Euripides’ pHoenician WoMen. Other clas-
Perseus to recover Andromeda, but Perseus
                                                     sical sources include Apollodorus’s Library
defeated Phineus and his allies using the severed
                                                     (3.5.9, 3.7.1), Hyginus’s Fabulae (72), and
head of Medusa to turn them to stone.
                                                     Pausanias’s Description of Greece (9.25.2). In
    Eventually, Perseus and Andromeda traveled
                                                     Sophocles’ well-known version of Antigone’s
from Argus to Tiryns, where they remained
                                                     story, Oedipus has already gone into exile and
and Perseus became king. Their children were
                                                     met his death, and Oedipus’s sons Polynices
Alcaeus, Electryon, Heleius, Mestor, Sthenelus,
                                                     and Eteocles have killed each other in a civil
Gorgophone, and Perses, an ancestor of the
                                                     war over control of Thebes. Creon, ruler
Persian kings.
                                                     of Thebes, decrees that no one may offer
    The rescue of Andromeda by Perseus from
                                                     burial to Polynices, whom he defines as a
Poseidon’s sea monster was a popular theme in
                                                     traitor, whereas Eteocles defended the city
classical art. An example is an Apulian red-figure
                                                     and deserves full honors. Antigone, however,
krater attributed to the Sisyphus Group from
                                                     considers it sacrilegious not to offer burial
ca. 430 b.c.e. ( J. Paul Getty Museum, Malibu).
                                                     rites to dead kin, a violation of the laws of
It shows Perseus asking for Andromeda’s hand
                                                     the “gods below.” In defiance of the decree,
in marriage while Andromeda is chained nearby.
                                                     Antigone casts some dirt on her brother’s
A Roman fresco from Pompeii of the first cen-
                                                     corpse as a rite of burial. Creon condemns her
tury c.e. also depicts the myth. Andromeda is
                                                     to be entombed alive in a cave. Creon’s son
sometimes shown still bound with chains to
                                                     Haemon, to whom she was betrothed, finds
the rock or at the moment in which Perseus
                                                     that Antigone has hanged herself in the cave;
takes her arm to deliver her from her fate. A sea
                                                     he then kills himself with his sword. Creon’s
creature representing the monster is also often
                                                     wife, Eurydice, commits suicide. Antigone,
present. A postclassical painting of the myth is
                                                     by her death, ends up destroying her adver-
Piero di Cosimo’s Perseus and Andromeda of ca.
                                                     sary Creon’s household. In the Oedipus at
1510 (Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence).
                                                     Colonus, Antigone accompanies her aged blind
                                                     father into exile. In her extreme stubborn-
Anemoi (Venti) The winds. The progeny                ness and doomed existence, she resembles her
of Eos (Aurora) and Astraeus or, according to        father. The extant ending of Aeschylus’s seven
some accounts, T yphoeus. Classical sources are      against tHebes shows Antigone in defiance
Hesiod’s tHeogony (378, 869) Homer’s odyssey         of the edict forbidding Polynices’s burial,
(5.291), and Ovid’s MetaMorpHoses (1.56–67).         but this ending is probably a later addition
The Anemoi are storm winds associated with the       to the play’s script, influenced by the popu-
four cardinal points: Boreas, the North Wind;        larity of Sophocles’ Antigone. Euripides also

wrote a (lost) Antigone, and in his Phoenician       to her dead brother and to the “gods below,” i.e.,
Women has Antigone attempt unsuccessfully            the chthonic (subterranean) deities who preside
to persuade Eteocles and Polynices not to            over rites offered to the dead. The confronta-
fight each other. Hyginus presents a vari-           tion between the ruler of Thebes and a young
ant version in which Polynices’s wife, Argia,        unmarried woman, who would have been seen
helps Antigone carry Polynices’s body onto           as a mere “girl” in the ancient Greek perspective,
Eteocles’ pyre, and in which Haemon, to              is striking and unexpected. The female Antigone
whom Creon entrusts Antigone’s execution,            is certainly not a hero in the conventional sense,
instead deposits her with shepherds. Antigone        yet she displays many of the character traits of
then becomes pregnant with Haemon’s son.             the Sophoclean tragic hero: She is stubborn and
Creon later recognizes the son by a special          unrelenting in her adherence to her principles.
birthmark as a Theban when the young man
comes to Thebes for a competition. Haemon,                              SynoPSIS
despite an attempt by Heracles to intercede          The opening scene of Sophocles’ Antigone
on his behalf, is condemned to death by Creon        takes place at nighttime, in front of the royal
and kills himself and Antigone. In Apollodorus       palace of Thebes. The armies of Argus have
(3.5.8), however, Haemon is killed by the            just been defeated and are retreating from
sphinx and thus is already dead by the time          Thebes. Among the casualties are the sons of
Antigone defies Creon’s decree.                      Oedipus, Eteocles and Polynices, who fought
                                                     on opposite sides, Eteocles defending the city
                                                     and Polynices with the attacking forces. The
Antigone Sophocles (441 b.c.e.) An ancient           brothers are dead, having killed each other in
introduction to the Antigone states that Sophocles   battle. Their uncle, Creon, has assumed the
owed to the popularity of his play his election as   kingship. Antigone and Ismene, sisters of Eteo-
one of the generals for the campaign against         cles and Polynices, enter the scene. As Antigone
Samos of 441 b.c.e. This statement has been          emerges from the royal palace, she motions to
conventionally accepted as a basis for dating        Ismene that she wishes to speak with her. She
the Antigone to ca. 441 b.c.e., although the evi-    reveals that yet another sorrow, in addition
dence is far from secure. The Antigone is one of     to the death of their mother, father, and two
three extant plays by Sophocles devoted to the       brothers, awaits them: Polynices is to be denied
misfortunes of the Theban royal house. These         burial. While Eteocles’ has been given a hero’s
plays—oedipus tHe King, Antigone, and oedipus        burial, Polynices will not receive that honor
at coLonus—make up what is often termed              because he fought on the side of the invading
Sophocles’ Theban cycle, but it is important         army. Creon has decreed that Polynices’s body
to recall that they did not form part of a con-      shall not be mourned over, nor given any tra-
nected trilogy and were written and produced         ditional burial rites. Anyone who disobeys this
separately on different occasions. In the present    stricture shall be stoned to death inside the city
play, Oedipus’s sons Polynices and Eteocles,         walls. Antigone is in despair over this sacrilege.
doomed by their father’s curse, have both per-       Antigone then asks Ismene whether she will go
ished in mutual slaughter on the field of battle.    with her to bury their slain brother with the
Creon, ruler of Thebes, has decreed that no one      proper rites. Ismene, fearful of violating Cre-
may offer burial to Polynices on pain of death,      on’s orders, attempts to convince Antigone of
since he was the one who led his army against        the madness of such a course. Angered by her
the city, whereas Eteocles was defending the         sister’s caution, Antigone defends her right to
polis (city-state). Oedipus’s daughter Antigone,     give Polynices proper burial and thus to honor
however, refuses to ignore her obligations both      the gods. Ismene sympathizes but refuses to

defy Creon’s will. She urges Antigone not to       rushed away, enters the scene, and the Chorus
reveal her plans to anyone, but Antigone rejects   wonders aloud whether she is brought in as a
this idea and exits.                               prisoner and whether she has not committed an
    As day breaks, a Chorus composed of            act of “mad defiance” against the king’s laws.
Theban elders and their leader enters, chant-          Creon enters the scene, where he is informed
ing about the victory of Thebes over Argus         by a relieved sentry that they have indeed cap-
and the defeat of Polynices. Creon and his         tured the culprit. The sentry relates that after
attendants come out from the palace, and the       the guards uncovered Polynices’s corpse, they
Chorus reveals that Creon has gathered his         were keeping close watch on it, when a wind-
subjects for an announcement. He recounts to       storm obscured their view of the body. When
his subjects the recent history of Thebes up       the storm died down, they saw Antigone in the
to his accession to the throne. He explains that   act of performing the burial rites. Creon turns
his first command as king concerns the treat-      to Antigone for confirmation, and she admits
ment of Polynices’s body—no one, on pain of        the charge and also that she knew that what
death, is to give him a burial. Creon declares     she did was illegal. She defends her actions
that Polynices, though a member of the royal       by claiming a higher moral directive: She had
family, was a traitor to Thebes. He argues that    chosen to honor the laws of the gods and in
the integrity of the city depends on the con-      so doing to break the laws of mere mortals.
viction that ties of kinship are secondary to      Furious, Creon declares that Antigone will die
good citizenry. On behalf of the Chorus, the       for her defiance, and accuses Ismene of the
leader accepts Creon’s injunctions regarding       same crime. He orders his attendants to pro-
Polynices’s body.                                  duce her and condemns her to die. Antigone
    A sentry, breathless from running, enters      accuses Creon of tyranny; he rejoins that she
the scene, and from his speech it is clear he      showed utter disloyalty to Thebes in burying
has some news he is afraid to give Creon. The      Polynices. Antigone argues that ties of blood
sentry reveals that Polynices’s body has indeed    have stronger claims than the state, and,
been buried with the proper rites, but the sen-    furthermore, that all deaths equally deserve
tries were not able to see who had done this.      burial rites. The attendants now bring Ismene,
The leader of the Chorus suggests that perhaps     weeping, from the palace. Creon accuses her
it was the work of the gods. This comment          of sharing in Antigone’s crime and demands
angers Creon, who rages at the sentry, claim-      that she confess. Ismene confesses that she did
ing that it is more likely that the guards were    indeed participate in the crime, but Antigone
bribed to allow the burial of Polynices. Turning   contradicts her: Her sister shall share neither
on the sentry with threats of dire punishment,     in the credit for the deed nor in the punish-
Creon orders him and his fellow guards to          ment. Ismene pleads with Creon for Antigone,
produce the perpetrator of this act. The sentry    asking if he can possibly condemn to death
tries to say that he has not been corrupted, but   his son Haemon’s betrothed. Creon answers
Creon refuses to acknowledge any judgment          resolutely that he has no qualms on that score.
other than his own and quickly exits, return-      He insists that Antigone will not be spared
ing to the palace. The sentry decides to run off   and orders the guards to remove Ismene and
rather than try to find the culprit and exits.     Antigone to the palace. While the women and
    The Chorus now meditates on man’s              guards enter the palace, the Chorus gathers
resourcefulness in mastering his environment       and decries the ruin of the house of Oedipus.
but despairs over the impulsive and reckless       Haemon enters and the Chorus wonders
aspects of his nature. During its ode, Antigone,   about his reaction to the fate of his betrothed.
accompanied by the sentry who had earlier          Initially, Haemon calmly affirms his loyalty to

his family, and his father responds by explain-      to listen. Tiresias says that he has studied the
ing the circumstances of his decision. Haemon        omens and sees that the gods are outraged by
quietly suggests that public sympathy for            Creon’s treatment of Polynices’s body: As a
Antigone’s principles is strong and that Creon       consequence of his actions, Thebes is threat-
might reconsider and not be so intransigent.         ened by plagues and other misfortunes. He
The Chorus echoes Haemon’s thoughts, but             advises Creon to relent. Creon reacts angrily
Creon is annoyed by the advice. In the ensu-         to Tiresias’s words, insulting his prophesies and
ing dialogue between father and son, Haemon          insinuating that Tiresias is corrupt. Enraged,
argues ever more passionately in Antigone’s          Tiresias prophesies that the Furies will destroy
defense, while Creon becomes increasingly            Creon both for having desecrated a dead body
bitter. Convinced of his father’s poor judg-         and for the murder of an innocent. Tiresias
ment and intractability, Haemon storms off,          exits.
hinting that Antigone’s death will be followed           Frightened by Tiresias’s prophecies, the
by the death of another and that he will never       leader of the Chorus urges Creon to reverse
see his father again.                                his judgment and finally succeeds in con-
    The leader of the Chorus turns to Creon          vincing him. He asks Creon to set Antigone
and warns him of the possibility of future           free, and Creon rushes off to do this. The
violence, but Creon dismisses his anxiety. The       Chorus pleads with the gods to defend The-
leader asks if Creon means to kill both girls,       bes, but it is too late. A messenger enters to
and Creon states that Ismene will be spared          announce that Haemon is dead. Eurydice,
but that Antigone will be killed immediately.        mother of Haemon and wife of Creon, enters
He describes how she will die—he intends to          and demands that the messenger explain
wall her up alive. When he leaves, the Chorus        himself. The messenger had accompanied
reflects on the invincibility of love. Antigone is   Creon to the body of Polynices; they had
led out from the palace by the guards.               already performed the burial rites when they
    Antigone laments to the Chorus about the         heard Haemon cry out. Creon rushed to the
wedding that she will be denied. Contemplat-         vault in which Antigone had been walled up
ing her fate, the Chorus wonders whether             and found Haemon holding Antigone’s dead
Antigone is still another casualty of Oedipus’s      body in his arms: She had hanged herself
history and she agrees. As Creon enters, the         by the time Haemon reached her. While his
Chorus reminds Antigone that her passion-            horrified father watched, Haemon fell on his
ate defense of her principles has brought her        sword and died. When the messenger finishes
into conflict with royal authority and that this     his recitation, Eurydice turns wordlessly and
cannot be accepted. Creon demands Antigone           goes into the palace.
be taken away to her death, but Antigone                 Creon enters with Haemon’s body, borne
continues to lament her lost nuptials and her        on a bier by attendants. He is in despair over
cursed family. She remains convinced that her        the consequences of his actions when the mes-
actions were right. Creon demands again that         senger comes out from the palace to announce
she be removed. Antigone accepts that her fate       even more woe—Eurydice is also dead. Creon
has been determined by her reverence for the         cries out as the body of Eurydice is brought
gods and is taken away by the guards. Creon is       forth on a bier. The messenger tells him that
unmoved.                                             Eurydice blamed him for the deaths, then
    The Chorus sings about several mythologi-        stabbed herself. Creon acknowledges his guilt
cal figures that have suffered similarly at the      and kneels in prayer, begging to die, but his
hands of fate. Tiresias is then led in. He comes     prayers are unanswered. A distraught Creon is
to proffer Creon advice, and Creon is willing        led by the messenger and his attendants into the
0	                                                                                         Antigone

palace. The Chorus remarks that fate will, in the    leads to his or her (magnificent) destruc-
end, teach us about wisdom, good judgment,           tion. The suitable character for comparison
pride, and the reverence due to the gods.            is Oedipus, who persists in learning his own
                                                     origins, relentlessly seeking this object until it
                CoMMEntARy                           destroys him. Likewise, Antigone is so uncom-
The major theme of Sophocles’ Antigone is            promising that she will not renounce the
the limits of the polis (city-state). Antigone’s     actions demanded by her convictions, even
uncle Creon (whose name means, generically,          when threatened with death. This refusal to
“ruler”) decrees that the dead Eteocles rep-         compromise is the quintessential heroic, but
resented Thebes, and that Polynices was the          also antisocial, trait. The hero, as also in the
enemy of Thebes; therefore, no one may offer         case of Sophocles’ Ajax, refuses to accept the
Polynices burial rites. His decree, as Antigone      communis opinio, the reasonable viewpoint of
insists, cuts heedlessly across family ties and      consoling, moderating influences around him
dishonors the laws of the gods of the under-         or her, but presses on unbendingly to his or her
world. Here then is the conflict between the         self-chosen doom. This is the hero’s autonomy:
family as an integral unit and the polis that, in    to control the conditions of his or her own
its extreme form, recognizes only citizens and       death. Antigone’s sister Ismene serves as an
laws that apply to citizens.                         effective foil to her sister’s unbending nature:
     Antigone’s perspective suggests that the        She does not wish to stray into madness and
laws of the polis can go only so far in ignor-       continually urges compromise.
ing the ancient ties of kin. By offering burial          What goes counter to the heroic paradigm
rites to her brother, she insists that the city      in Sophocles’ tragedy is the simple fact that
cannot deny her the right to honor her dead          Antigone is a woman: Heroes tend to be men.
kin—something more primal and essential than         In a certain sense, Creon should be the tragic
the polis’s decrees, just as the laws of the gods    hero: He is the one left at the end utterly shat-
of the underworld represent a primal power           tered, destroyed by his own perversely stub-
that must not be disregarded by the polis.           born actions, his royal household imploded. It
It is important here that Antigone is female,        is a tragedy with two closely related tragic fig-
especially connected with the family and less        ures, and, despite the strong romantic prejudice
so with the polis, that is, the public sphere of     in favor of Antigone, it is not clear that either
government. Not only Antigone but Tiresias           one of them is fully in the right. Antigone goes
also is connected with those more primal pow-        obstinately against her own community, not lis-
ers, and he understands the need to honor            tening to reason, ultimately destroying herself
them. Sophocles thus recasts the old conflict        and the man she expects to marry. Ruthless as
between the ruler’s and the prophet’s author-        he is, Creon is attempting to establish policies
ity (a motif as old as Homer) to fit the present     that defend the integrity of the polis.
conflict between polis and kinship ties, a ruler’s       Given Antigone’s focus on death, her own
decree and the laws of the dead. The central         death is therefore appropriate: She will be
irony of the play is that when his own son dies,     entombed alive, enclosed in a space of death.
Creon will learn the value of kin, but by then       This is in some sense the logical outcome of
it is too late.                                      her actions. She was always devoted to the rites
     As Antigone comes into conflict with her        of the dead, perhaps even perversely focused
community’s ruler, she affords yet another           on death and the dead body of her brother, and
example of the Sophoclean hero, whose chief          so finally ends up being enshrouded in a living
characteristic is refusal to concede or give in:     death. Her story falls under the rubric of myths
an unconquerable stubbornness that typically         of “failed transitions.” As a young woman of

marriageable age, engaged but not yet a mar-       to Amphion. According to Homer’s Odyssey,
ried women, she is at a liminal stage between      Amphion and Zethus afterward established the
girlhood and womanhood. Many Greek myths           fortifications of Thebes.
represent instances of failed transition, where        Dionysus inflicted Antiope with madness
the central figure dies before moving from one     in retribution for Dirce’s death. According to
condition to another. Antigone’s end is at the     Pausanias’s Description of Greece, she wandered
same time a version of the “perverted ritual”      about in this condition until Sisyphus’s grand-
motif in tragedy, e.g., not a normal sacrifice,    son, Phocus, found and cured her. Antiope
but a human sacrifice. Here her entombment is      married Phocus and was buried in Tithorea.
a ghastly travesty of the rite of marriage: Her        In the postclassical period, painters repre-
tomb is a marriage chamber.                        sented the subject of Antiope within the larger
                                                   theme of Zeus’s loves and transformations.
                                                   Anthony van Dyck’s Jupiter and Antiope of ca.
Antilochus Son of Nestor. See Memnon;
                                                   1616 (Museum Voor Shone Kunsten, Ghent)
                                                   is good example of this treatment. It shows the
                                                   god in the form of a satyr, with his attribute,
Antiope (1) Consort of Zeus and by him             the eagle, observing the sleeping Antiope.
mother of Amphion and Zethus. Daughter             This is a variation on another related theme:
of either Nycteus, king of Beotia, or of the       a lone satyr observing a reclining nymph or
river god Asopus. The subject of a lost play       Aphrodite herself, sometimes in the presence
by Euripides. Classical sources include            of Eros.
Apollodorus’s Library (3.5.5), Hyginus’s Fabulae
(7, 8), Ovid’s MetaMorpHoses (6.110–111),
                                                   Antiope (2) (or Hippolyte or Melanippe) An
and Pausanias’s Description of Greece (1.38.9,
                                                   Amazon. Consort of the hero Theseus.
9.25.3). In Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Zeus trans-
                                                   Antiope was abducted by Theseus during the
formed himself into a satyr to seduce Antiope.
                                                   Amazonomachy that took place in the course
Pregnant with his child and fearing the wrath
                                                   of Heracles’ Ninth Labor, the quest for the
of her father, Nycteus, Antiope fled to Sicyon,
                                                   girdle of Hippolyte, the Amazon queen. The
where she married Epopeus. Antiope’s disgrace
                                                   Amazons attempted to storm Athens but
caused Nycteus to commit suicide, but his
                                                   were defeated by the Athenian forces under
brother Lycus pursued and captured Antiope,
                                                   Theseus’s leadership. Antiope bore Theseus a
killing Epopeus as well. Lycus brought Antiope
                                                   son, Hippolytus.
back from Sicyon, and during that journey she
gave birth to Amphion and Zethus in a cave.
Antiope was forced by Lycus to abandon her         Aphrodite (Venus) Olympian goddess of
twins, but they were discovered and raised by      love. Daughter of Uranus or Zeus. Aphrodite
a cattle herder. Antiope was imprisoned by         appears throughout Homer’s iLiad and Virgil’s
Lycus and maltreated by Lycus’s wife, Dirce,       aeneid. Additional classical sources are the
a nymph of a spring sacred to Dionysus.            Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite, Apollodorus’s
After many years, either Amphion and Zethus        Library (1.3.1, 3.9.2, 3.12.2, 3.14.3), Euripides’
rescued Antiope or she escaped her imprison-       HippoLytus (1–57), Hesiod’s tHeogony (188–
ment and was reunited with her sons. Lycus         206), Homer’s odyssey (8.266–366), and Ovid’s
and Dirce were punished for their treatment        MetaMorpHoses (10.534ff). Aphrodite was
of Antiope; Dirce, memorably, by being yoked       aligned with the Roman goddess of love, Venus.
to a bull causing her death. Lycus was either      In some versions of the story of her birth,
killed as well or forced to give up his throne     Aphrodite is the daughter of Dione and Zeus. In

                                                      Aphrodite was married to Hephaestus but
                                                  deceived him with Ares, god of war.
                                                      In Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Ares’ affair with
                                                  Aphrodite was discovered by Apollo, who
                                                  betrayed their affair to Aphrodite’s husband,
                                                  Hephaestus. Enraged, Hephaestus created a
                                                  fine bronze net in which the lovers were cap-
                                                  tured, then displayed for the entertainment of
                                                  the Olympian gods. Her children with Ares
                                                  were Anteros, Eros, Deimos, Harmonia, and
                                                  Phobos. Eros was worshipped at Thespiae and
                                                  Athens, both singly and with Aphrodite. Ante-
                                                  ros was also a love deity; he represented either
                                                  Reciprocal Love or Love Avenged. Aphrodite
                                                  and Hephaestus had no offspring.
                                                      Aphrodite also had affairs with several mor-
                                                  tal men, notably Adonis and Anchises. Adonis
                                                  was the son of Myrrha (Symrna). Myrrha
                                                  had neglected to worship Aphrodite, and so
                                                  Aphrodite punished her by making her fall
                                                  in love with her own father. With her nurse’s
                                                  help Myrrha tricked her father into beginning
                                                  an incestuous relationship with her. When he
                                                  discovered the truth, he tried to kill her, but
                                                  before he could do so, the gods mercifully
                                                  transformed her into a myrrh tree. Adonis was
                                                  born of the myrrh tree and given by Aphrodite
                                                  into the protection of Persephone. Both god-
                                                  desses fell in love with him, and eventually
                                                  Adonis divided his time between them. Despite
                                                  Aphrodite’s protective care, Adonis was killed
                                                  by a boar while hunting.
                                                      According to the Homeric Hymn to Aph-
                                                  rodite, Aphrodite annoyed Zeus because she
Venus and Cupid. Lucas Cranach, ca. 1509          continually caused him to fall in love with
(Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg)                mortal women and humiliate himself in
                                                  their pursuit. In retribution, he caused her
                                                  to become enamored of the mortal Anchises.
another account, she descends parthenogeneti-     By Anchises, Aphrodite became pregnant with
cally from Uranus (Heaven). Cronus castrated      Aeneas, hero of Virgil’s Aeneid, which is the
his father, Uranus, and cast the genitals away.   story of Aeneas’s exile from conquered Troy
When they touched Earth, they produced the        and his subsequent wanderings. Aphrodite
Furies and the giants. Cast into the sea, the     protects Aeneas as he travels to Italy, where he
genitals produced Aphrodite. Aphrodite’s rising   will found the Roman race. Aphrodite/Venus
from the sea is perhaps one of the most iconic    therefore enjoys a special status within the
mythological images.                              Roman pantheon of gods as the divine parent

of a founder figure. Julius Caesar, who claimed      to Aphrodite, and so the goddess inflicted a
descent from Aeneas and so also from Venus,          destructive passion upon Phaedra, stepmother
built a temple to Venus Genetrix (“Venus the         to Hippolytus. Aphrodite’s revenge resulted in
Begetter”) in his forum.                             the deaths of Hippolytus and Phaedra and the
    Another important myth for Aphrodite is          ruin of Theseus.
the Judgment of Paris. At the wedding of                 Aphrodite was one of the most frequently
Peleus and Thetis, Eris (Discord or Strife)          represented of the gods in classical and post-
threw a golden apple into the midst of the rev-      classical art. Aphrodite—in sculpture, relief,
elers that was to be given to the most beautiful     fresco, and painting—symbolized the feminine
of Athena, Aphrodite, or Hera. Since none            ideal of beauty, and her physical charms were
wished to be the arbiter of the competition,         central to her depictions. The earliest Helle-
Zeus asked Hermes to bring the three god-            nistic sculptures of Aphrodite emphasized the
desses to Mount Ida to be judged by Paris. The       symmetry and proportion of the classical female
goddesses attempted to sway Paris’s judgment.        nude. The influence of these representations on
Paris accepted Aphrodite’s proposal, the love        postclassical artists was lasting. Lucas Cranach’s
of the most beautiful mortal woman, Helen,           painting Venus and Cupid from ca. 1509 (Her-
and presented her with the golden apple. Paris       mitage Museum, St. Petersburg) owes much
sought Helen in Sparta and returned with her         to its classical forbearers. Here, the nude Aph-
to Troy, thereby setting off the Trojan War.         rodite with long flowing hair is accompanied
    Aphrodites’ anger and desire for retribu-        by Cupid. Cranach’s image echoes perhaps the
tion are displayed in several of her myths. The      most famous image of Aphrodite, that of Botti-
mortal Psyche possessed a beauty that aroused        celli. His The Birth of Venus of ca. 1485 (Galleria
Aphrodite’s envy. Aphrodite asked Eros to            degli Uffizi, Florence) remains the most famous
make Psyche fall in love with a monster, but on      image of the goddess of love, one whose ico-
seeing her, Eros fell in love with her himself.      nography has remained almost unchanged from
Psyche betrayed the trust of Eros but suc-           the classical period. Aphrodite was often shown
ceeded in winning him back after performing          with her son Eros or in the context of the myth
a variety of tasks imposed on her by Aphro-          of Adonis. Other themes are her affair with Ares
dite. In Homer’s Iliad, Diomedes succeeded in        and love for Adonis.
wounding Aphrodite. As retribution for Dio-
medes’ injury to her, Aphrodite incited Dio-
medes’ wife, Aegiale, to infidelity. Diomedes        Apollo Olympian god of the sun. Son of
was forced to flee the threat to his life posed by   Leto (daughter of the Titans Coeus and
her lovers. Aphrodite was also responsible for       Phoebe) and Zeus. Brother of Artemis, god-
Eos’s infatuation with Orion as punishment           dess of the moon and the hunt. Apollo appears
for Eos’s affair with Ares.                          throughout Homer’s iLiad. Additional clas-
    Throughout ancient literature, Aphrodite/        sical sources are the Homeric Hymn to Apollo,
Venus represents the power of love and sexual        Apollodorus’s Library (1.3.2, 1.4.1, 3.10.2),
desire, which, in the ancient conception, can        Euripides’ ion, Hesiod’s tHeogony (94–95,
be pleasurable and good but equally can be           346), Homer’s odyssey (8.226ff), Horace’s Odes
bitter, humiliating, and enslaving. In her own       (1.31), Hyginus’s Fabulae (49–51, 53), Ovid’s
way, Aphrodite is as destructive as her lover        MetaMorpHoses (1.439–568, 6.382–400,
Ares, and she was feared as well as adored. Yet      11.153–171), and Pindar’s Pythian Odes (I, 3.1–
avoiding Aphrodite could be dangerous too, as        47, 4.176ff, 8.12ff, 9.1–70).
the example of Hippolytus shows. Hippoly-                Apollo’s domains are the arts, music, medi-
tus, the son of Theseus, refused to show piety       cine, and prophecy. Apollo is “Phoebus,”

meaning “bright,” which recalls the name of            the Orphic Hymn to Leto put Artemis’s birth
his maternal grandmother, Phoebe. The bow              later. Yet others sources suggest that Artemis
is his particular weapon; thus he is often called      was first born and helped deliver Apollo. In the
by the epithet Far-Shooter. Apollo is termed           Homeric Hymn to Delian Apollo, the goddesses
“Pythian” for his defeat of the Python on the          assisting Leto during her labor persuaded
site where the oracle of Delphi was later estab-       Iris, with the promise of a necklace of golden
lished. Apollo’s attributes are the bow and the        thread, to summon Eileithyia, goddess of
lyre, and his tree is the laurel.                      childbirth, whom Hera had kept away for nine
    The Homeric Hymn to Apollo establishes             days and nights to prevent the births of Apollo
the god’s birth on the island of Delos after a         and Artemis.
long search by Leto to find a site that would              The sanctuary on Delos was the site of wor-
accept his birth. Fearing Hera’s wrath, none           ship of Apollo, Artemis, Zeus, and Leto. Apol-
would accept her except Delos. On Delos, Leto          lo’s most important site, however, was located
leaned against a palm tree in her labor pains.         at Delphi, the site of the most famous oracle of
In some texts Apollo is born at the same time          antiquity. Apollo killed the monstrous Python
as Artemis, but the Homeric Hymn to Apollo and         (a serpent or dragon) that had been ravaging

Apollo and the Muses on Parnassus. Engraving after Anton Raphael Mengs, 1784 (Metropolitan Museum of Art,
New York)

the countryside and established both the oracle    ing to Apollodorus’s Library, Hermes gave his
and the Pythian Games in Delphi. Later Apollo      pipe to Apollo in exchange for his trademark
would fight Heracles over the tripod of the        cadaceus (“golden wand”) and was also said to
Delphic Oracle, a battle that Zeus stopped by      have been taught the art of divination by the
separating them with a thunderbolt.                elder god. Hermes competed with Apollo for
    Apollo attempts, in several myths, to seduce   the affections of Chione. In Ovid’s Metamor-
women who have committed themselves to             phoses, Chione was impregnated on the same
chastity. Two examples are the wood nymph          day by Apollo and Hermes and she conceived
Daphne, a follower of Artemis, and the Cumean      twins: Autolycus, a trickster figure, took after
sibyl. In the Homeric Hymns to Artemis, the        his father, Hermes, while Apollo bestowed
closeness of the relationship between the sib-     musical skills on his son Philammon. Artemis
lings is emphasized. Artemis is said to have led   shot Chione with an arrow when she claimed
the Muses in dance at the home of her brother      superiority over the goddess of the hunt.
in Delphi. In defense of any injury committed          Apollo defended his musical skill in two
against their mother, Leto, Artemis and Apollo     separate contests with Marsyas and Pan.
were ferocious and quick with retribution.         The double flute (sometimes called “Pallas’s
    Both Apollo and Artemis fought on the side     reed”) was said to have been invented by
of the Olympian gods against the giants in the     either Athena or Marsyas. Marsyas’s skill
Gigantomachy. During the Trojan War, both          on the double flute led to a musical contest
Artemis and Apollo sided with the Athenians,       with Apollo. The competition, judged by the
but, at a certain point in the conflict, Apollo    Muses, was won by Apollo. For his hubris,
(in Homer’s Iliad) argued that the Olympians       Marsyas was hung by Apollo from a pine tree
should not fight each other for the sake of mere   and flayed alive. In Book 11 of Ovid’s Meta-
mortals. Artemis scolded her brother for his       morphoses, Pan entered into a musical contest
lack of valor, but since she opposed Hera in her   with Apollo, which was judged in favor of
defense of the Trojans, Hera attacked her and      Apollo and his lyre. King Midas, who was in
forced her to flee.                                the audience, expressed a preference for Pan’s
    Apollo also helped repulse another chal-       double flute, and for this remark, Apollo gave
lenge to Olympian authority, this time by the      Midas asses’ ears.
Aloadae, the twin giants Ephialtes and Otus.           The Homeric Hymn to Apollo highlights
According to Hyginus’s version of the myth,        the frightening aspect of Apollo. Apollo and
either Apollo surprised them in the midst of       Artemis are both partial to meting out violent
their attempt to reach Olympus and killed          punishment for impiety or challenges to their
them, or Artemis was raped by Otus and Apollo      functions (chastity, musical skill) and domains,
killed the Aloadae by sending a deer into their    or in defense of Leto. Their joint punish-
midst. The Aloadae, trying to hunt the deer,       ments of Niobe and Tityus were motivated
accidentally killed each other.                    by a desire to avenge their mother’s honor.
    In his role as god of music and poetry,        Niobe, wife of Amphion, King of Thebes, had
Apollo has a close association with the Muses,     a number of children—between five and 10
with whom he shares a domain on Mount              of each sex, depending on the source—called
Parnassus. Hermes’ association with Apollo         Niobids. She was very proud of her children
is based on a shared interest in music; several    and boasted that she was a superior mother to
myths and functions link the two gods. Hermes      Leto, who had only two children. Apollo and
is credited with the creation of the lyre, which   Artemis sought revenge on her behalf; Apollo’s
he later presented to Apollo, shortly after hav-   arrows killed the male children and Artemis’s
ing stolen cattle from Apollo’s herd. Accord-      the female. Tityus attempted to rape Leto and

was either killed by the arrows of Apollo and           Another unsuccessful love was Marpessa,
Artemis or the thunderbolt of Zeus.                 daughter of Evenus, who chose her mortal
    Many of Apollo’s myths feature unsuccess-       suitor Idas over Apollo, because of her fear that
ful love affairs in which the god is thwarted,      Apollo would one day abandon her.
deceived, or refused by the object of his affec-        In the myth of Coronis, Apollo was again
tions. In Ovid’s Metamorphoses the Cumean           supplanted by a mortal in the affections of a
sibyl tells Aeneas that she refused Apollo and      loved one. Apollo loved Coronis and discov-
rejected his offer of eternal youth in return for   ered from a raven that Coronis was betraying
her favors.                                         him. In a rage, he drew his bow and killed her,
    In Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Apollo, having         but not before she revealed that she was preg-
defeating the Python, saw Eros and told him         nant with his child. Apollo turned the raven
to leave bows and arrows to those more capable      from white to black for its part in the affair. He
of using them. Eros decided to have his revenge     repented of his actions and tried to save Coro-
for this insulting comment, specifically by         nis, but his skill in medicine failed him. Apollo
demonstrating his deadly skill with the bow         then took the unborn child, Asclepius, and had
and arrow: He shot Apollo with a gold-tipped        him raised by Chiron. Asclepius was famed for
arrow that incited desire, and Daphne, a wood       his skills in medicine, which he either came by
nymph, with a lead-tipped arrow that repelled       naturally as the son of Apollo or learned from
it. Daphne, in any case, already appears to have    Chiron. Asclepius’s skill was so great that he
been averse to marriage, as she was a follower      managed not only to save many lives but also to
of chaste Artemis. Apollo pursued her until,        resurrect some who had died. When he saved
despairing of escape, Daphne prayed to her          Hippolytus in this manner, Zeus became angry
father, the river god Peneus, for her beautiful     with him and struck him down with a thunder-
form to be changed. She metamorphosed into          bolt. Apollo was angered by the death of his
a laurel tree (Daphne means “laurel” in Greek).     son, and, in Apollodorus’s Library, was said to
Since he could not possess her as his wife,         have killed in revenge the Cyclopes, who made
Apollo made her his tree and the laurel became      Zeus’s thunderbolts. Apollo was forgiven for
his attribute.                                      this crime but was made to place himself in the
    Hyacinthus was a mortal youth from              service of Admetus, king of Thessaly, in expia-
Sparta also loved by Apollo. Hyacinthus was         tion. Admetus asked for Apollo’s help in win-
unwittingly killed when a discus thrown by          ning the hand of Alcestis, daughter of Pelias.
Apollo was blown off course by Zephyrus, the        In gratitude for Admetus’s good treatment of
west wind, who, in some versions of the myth,       him, Apollo helped Admetus accomplish the
was also enamored of the youth. A distraught        task of yoking together a lion and a boar so
Apollo attempted to revive Hyacinthus but           that Admetus could marry Alcestis. Apollo also
could not. A flower arose from the drops of         helped Admetus to avoid dying on his fated
blood shed by Hyacinthus—the hyacinth.              day: the consequences of this avoidance form
    Apollo also attempted to win over Cas-          the subject of Euripides’ Alcestis.
sandra, daughter of King Priam of Troy. He              Euripides’ tragedy Ion tells the story of
endowed Cassandra with prophetic abilities,         Ion, son of Apollo by Creusa, daughter of
but she would not give in to his amorous            King Erectheus of Athens (in Hesiod, Ion is
advances, so Apollo deprived her of the ability     not given divine parentage but is instead the
to convince others of the truth of her prophe-      son of Xuthus). Creusa exposed Ion after his
cies. Hecuba, mother of Cassandra and wife of       birth, but the child was raised by Apollo and
Priam, was said to be Apollo’s lover and bore       became an attendant at the god’s temple in
him a son, Troilus.                                 Delphi.
Apollonius of Rhodes	                                                                               

    Other children of Apollo include Aristaeus,     Apollodorus (fl. second century b.c.e.) A
by the nymph Cyrene; Dorus, Laodocus, and           scholar and writer from Athens who flour-
Polypoetes, by Phthia; Miletus and Mopsus,          ished in the second century b.c.e. and partici-
who had the gift of prophecy.                       pated in the intellectual culture of Alexandria.
    Apollo is one of the most frequently rep-       Apollodorus wrote the Chronica, a work of
resented gods in classical and postclassical art.   chronology and intellectual history, a trea-
In visual representation, Apollo typifies the       tise entitled On the Gods, and a commentary
perfectly formed classical male nude; he is         on Homer’s catalogue of ships. Apollodorus
often crowned with laurel and known by his          was probably not the author of the Library,
attributes, the bow and arrow. Apollo is some-      a comprehensive study of mythology and an
times pictured with the Muses on Parnassus.         important source for versions of the Greeks
An example of this presentation is Raphael          myths, but the work is still traditionally known
Morghen’s neoclassical engraving after Anton        as “Apollodorus’s Library.”
Raphael Mengs, Apollo and the Muses on Par-
nassus from 1784 (Metropolitan Museum of            Apollonius of Rhodes (ca. 295 b.c.e.–ca. 247
Art, New York). Here, the arrangement of the        b.c.e.) A major Greek poet of the third century
Muses recalls Raphael’s Apollo and the Muses        b.c.e., author of the voyage of tHe argonauts
in the Stanza della Segnatura from 1510–11          (the Argonautica). Apollonius may have come
(Vatican Museums, Rome). The Muses, hold-           from Rhodes or merely lived there for a cer-
ing their attributes, surround Apollo in a          tain period. His literary career, however, was
half-circle. Apollo wears a laurel crown and        centered in Alexandria, where Ptolemy I Soter
carries a lyre. Apollo appears with Artemis         (367–282 b.c.e.) and Ptolemy II Philadelphus
on an Attic red-figure amphora from ca. 520         (308–246) provided substantial support to liter-
b.c.e. (Louvre, Paris). Here, Artemis gestures      ary culture. Apollonius was among the scholars
in shock at the scene before her in which           and poets who benefited from the patronage
Tityus attempts to abduct Leto, and Apollo          of the Ptolemies: He was head librarian of
reaches forward to grasp his mother. Artemis        the Alexandrian library and served as tutor to
prepares to come to the assistance of Apollo        Ptolemy III Euergetes, son and heir of Ptolemy
with her quiver and arrows as Apollo wrestles       II Philadelphus. Apollonius’s only extant work
with Heracles for the Delphic tripod on an          is the Voyage of the Argonauts, an epic poem on
Attic red-figure belly amphora from ca. 500         the hero Jason’s retrieval of the golden fleece.
b.c.e. (British Museum, London). The most           Apollonius’s poetry is deeply and conspicuously
famous classical sculpture of Apollo is the         learned in the Alexandrian style: His epic poem
Apollo Belvedere. A well-known later repre-         includes a dense fabric of allusions to local rites,
sentation of the myth of Apollo and Daphne          ethnography, etiologies, mythological variants,
is Gianlorenzo Bernini’s famous Apollo and          and geography. Apollonius takes Homer as his
Daphne sculpture from 1622–25 (Galleria             constant point of reference, yet his poem’s
Borghese, Rome). The Marsyas myth inspired          hero, Jason, is markedly un-Homeric in certain
many classical and postclassical artists despite    aspects: He has neither the warlike ferocity of
the gruesomeness of Marsyas’s death. Apollo         Achilles, nor the resourcefulness of Odysseus. At
stands over the body of Marsyas, holding            the same time, Apollonius awards a central role
aloft his flayed skin, in Melchior Meier’s          to the power and resourcefulness of a woman
engraving Apollo, Marsyas, and the Judgment of      (Medea) and the force of erotic attraction.
Midas of 1582 (Metropolitan Museum of Art,          Apollonius’s learned epic of travel and adventure
New York).                                          was a major model for Virgil’s aeneid.

Apuleius Apuleius was born in 125 c.e. at             test. In Ovid’s account (which is nearly the sole
Medaurus in Africa Proconsularis. The exact date      source for the myth), Athena’s tapestry depicted
of his death is unknown but was sometime after        the 12 Olympian gods and the punishment
170. In 158–159, Apuleius wrote the Apologia,         and defeat of mythological figures who chal-
a speech delivered at Sabathra defending him-         lenged their authority. Arachne’s tapestry, by
self against charges of using magic to cause a        contrast, represented the unjust, exploitative,
woman to marry him. Apuleius’s major work is          or otherwise discreditable behavior of the gods
his Metamorphoses, a novel in Latin prose some-       toward mortals. Although Arachne’s tapestry
times called The Golden Ass. The Metamorphoses        was flawless, Athena angrily ripped it up and
is 11 books in length. In this novel, the first-      struck Arachne with her shuttle. Arachne tried
person narrator, Lucius, a young man from             to hang herself, but Athena wished to make
Corinth, is transformed into an ass through           an enduring example of her. She transformed
an experiment in magic and goes through               Arachne into a spider and made her spin webs
various adventures before being turned back           ceaselessly (and, it is implied, ignominiously
into a human being by the goddess Isis. The           and artlessly).
Metamorphoses, underappreciated until recent              The story does not appear to have been a
decades, is an immensely sophisticated narrative      major or well-known myth before Ovid, who
that opens up multiple perspectives onto a rich       incorporates it as a magnificent set piece in
cultural and social world. Apuleius’s novel is        Book 6 of his Metamorphoses. The story is both
truly cosmopolitan in its dense interweaving of       a prime example of the origins story (aetion)
Greek and Roman cultural elements within the          that is the poem’s defining narrative type and a
broader fabric of the empire. Apuleius’s most         suggestive encapsulation of the broader themes
significant contribution to mythology is the          and patterns of Ovid’s mythological epic. Ovid,
detailed telling of the story of Cupid (Eros) and     who wrote under, and was eventually exiled
Psyche in Books 4–6. The story is an internal         by, the emperor Augustus, may also have been
narrative told by a housekeeper of some robbers       commenting on the relation between art and
who have captured Lucius and a young woman            tyrannical power. In the ancient world, weaving
named Charite. Scholars have observed paral-          was a common metaphor for poetry: Arachne’s
lels between Lucius’s story and Psyche’s. She         rebellious artistry and Athena’s brutally cen-
too, undergoes trials because of her inappropri-      sorious reply have seemed to many to offer a
ate curiosity and is saved in the end through         provocative allegory of the writer’s role under
divine intervention. The story of Cupid and           an autocratic regime.
Psyche is a rare instance of a fairy tale preserved
in an ancient literary text.
                                                      Arcas (Arkas) Son of Zeus and the nymph
                                                      Callisto. Classical sources are Ovid’s Fasti
Arachne Daughter of Idmon of Colophon.                (2.155–192) and MetaMorpHoses (2.469, 496–
The classical source is Ovid’s MetaMorpHoses          507) and Pausanias’s Description of Greece (8.4.1,
(6.1–145). Arachne was a young Lydian woman           10.9.5). According to Pausanias, Arcas was the
renowned for her skill in weaving. She boast-         king of Arcadia, the region to which he gave his
ed that her skills surpassed those of Athena,         name. He was said to have introduced agricul-
the goddess of weaving. The goddess visited           ture (through the instruction of Triptolemus)
Arachne in the form of an old woman and               to Arcadia. He also encouraged the production
warned her to behave more modestly. When              of bread, clothing, and the arts of weaving.
Arachne gave an insolent reply, the goddess           Arcas was married to the Dryad Erato and with
revealed herself, and the two engaged in a con-       her had three sons.

     The story of Arcas’s origins is as follows.    producing Athena. Ares is accompanied by
His mother, Callisto, was an Arcadian nymph         Deimos (Fear) and Phobos (Panic) and drives
and favorite of Artemis who became pregnant         a chariot with four horses. His animals are
by Zeus.                                            the dog and the vulture, scavengers of war.
     When Callisto gave birth to Arcas, Hera        His attributes are a helmet, shield, and sword
became enraged with what she perceived was          or spear. Ares represents the more violent,
the flagrant display of her husband’s infidelity,   destructive capacity of war in contrast to the
and she transformed the nymph into a bear. (In      controlled and wisely waged war associated
another version, it was Zeus who changed Cal-       with Athena. In Homer’s Iliad, Ares is the “bane
listo to protect her from Hera.)                    of mortals,” and in the Orphic Hymn to Ares,
     Zeus gave Arcas into the care of Maia (one     the bloodthirsty god desires war for its own
of the Pleiades). As a young man, Arcas came        sake. By contrast, in the Homeric Hymn to Ares
upon Callisto as a bear while hunting. Zeus         he advocates war in defense of the city and in
stayed Arcas’s hand before he killed Callisto       other righteous causes.
and placed mother and son in the heavens as             Ares at times finds himself in opposition
the constellations Ursa Major and Arcturus.         to Athena. He is not an invulnerable warrior:
Under the directions of the Delphic Oracle,         During the Trojan War, he first assured Athena
Arcas’s bones were brought back to Arcadia and      that he would not interfere in the battle, but he
buried near an altar dedicated to Hera.             was persuaded by Apollo to fight on the side
     The infant Arcas appears on an Apulian         of the Trojans and while doing so was injured
red-figure chous vase dating from ca. 350 b.c.e.    by Diomedes, who was guided by Athena.
( J. Paul Getty Museum, Malibu). On one side        When he received the wound, Ares gave a
of the vase Callisto is changing into a bear and    tremendous cry, heard by all in the battlefield,
Hermes, an appropriate intermediary as the          and hastened to Olympus, where his wound
son of Maia, takes the young Arcas protectively     was healed and where Zeus decried Ares’ love
into his arms.                                      of violence. Later on during the Trojan War,
                                                    Athena injured him by throwing a stone against
                                                    his neck, which knocked him out. Athena stood
Ares (Mars) Olympian god of war. Son                over him laughing and boasting of her supe-
of Hera and Zeus. Ares appears throughout           riority as a warrior, and Ares was led away by
Homer’s iLiad. Additional classical sources are     Aphrodite. In another instance, Heracles got
the Homeric Hymn to Ares, Apollodorus’s Library     the better of Ares, and the god was forced to
(1.4.4, 1.7.4, 2.5.9, 3.4.1), Hesiod’s tHeogony     return to Olympus to be healed of his wound.
(921, 934), Homer’s odyssey (8.266ff), Ovid’s           The Aloadae, giant twin sons of Iphime-
MetaMorpHoses (4.172–187), and Pausanias’s          deia and Poseidon, managed to imprison Ares
Description of Greece (1.21.4, 1.28.5). Ares was    for 13 months in a brazen pot until he was
identified with the Roman god of war, Mars.         rescued by Hermes.
For Romans, Mars was an important god,                  Ares favored the Amazons, who were said to
second only to Zeus in the Olympic pantheon.        be his descendants. Penthesileia, an Amazon
In Hesiod’s Theogony, Ares is the only son of       and the daughter of Ares, was killed during
Hera and Zeus and brother to Hebe (goddess          the Trojan War by Achilles, and Ares was
of youth) and Eileithyia (goddess of child-         prevented by Zeus from entering the conflict
birth). In an alternate account, according to       to avenge her death. Ares’ sons by Astyiche,
Ovid’s Fasti, Chloris gave Hera a magic flower      Ascalaphus and Ialmenus, fought during the
that helped her conceive Ares spontaneously         Trojan War on the Greek side. Ascalaphus
because Hera wished to match Zeus’s feat in         was killed during the conflict, and Ares was
0	                                                                                               Arethusa

Venus and Mars. Sandro Botticelli, ca. 1485 (National Gallery, London)

restrained by Athena from avenging his death.             shield, and spear. In the Ares Borghese, a free-
Ares stood trial on the Hill of Ares for his              standing sculpture of ca. 125 c.e. (Louvre, Paris),
murder of Halirrhothius, who had raped Ares’              Ares stands nude, wearing a helmet. In classical
daughter Alcippe.                                         and postclassical paintings, Ares/Mars appears
    Ares’ most famous amorous alliance was                frequently with Aphrodite, as in a Pompeian
with Aphrodite. Their offspring were Anteros,             wall painting from the first century c.e. A post-
Eros, Deimos, Harmonia, and Phobos. In                    classical example is Sandro Botticelli’s Venus and
Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Ares’ affair with Aphro-            Mars from ca. 1485 (National Gallery, London).
dite was discovered by Helios, who betrayed               Here, the sleeping god of war is surrounded by
them to Aphrodite’s husband, Hephaestus.                  satyrs playing with his helmet and spear while
Hephaestus created a fine bronze net in which             Aphrodite looks on. Hephaestus’s entrapment
the lovers were captured and then displayed to            of Ares and Aphrodite was also a commonly
the ridicule of the Olympian gods.                        depicted theme in postclassical painting.
    Ares’ domains were Thrace and Thebes,
where he was associated with its founder, Cad-
                                                          Arethusa See Alpheus.
mus. Directed by an oracle to establish a city
at Thebes, Cadmus looked for a spring before
offering a sacrifice and found one guarded by             Argonautica See           voyage       of     tHe
the dragon of Ares. Cadmus killed the dragon              argonauts.
and, advised by Athena, planted its teeth in the
ground. These sprang up from the ground as
                                                          Argonauts See Jason voyage               of   tHe
fully grown warriors. Cadmus atoned for the
crime of killing Ares’ dragon by placing himself
in the god’s service for eight years. Cadmus was
afterward rewarded by ascending to the throne             Argus (Argos) Argus Panoptes, or “All-
of Thebes and was given Harmonia, daughter                Seeing,” a hundred-eyed herdsman. Son of Gaia.
of Ares, in marriage.                                     Classical sources are Aeschylus’s proMetHeus
    Ares was represented in depictions of the             bound (561–575), Apollodorus’s Library (2.1.3),
Olympian pantheon with his attributes, helmet,            and Ovid’s MetaMorpHoses (1.568–746). Argus

is sometimes said to be a giant. Traditionally,     Ariadne Daughter of Minos, king of Crete,
Argus has a hundred eyes that cover his body,       and Pasiphae. Classical sources are Apollodorus’s
but sources vary as to the precise number. In       Library (Epitome 1.7–10), Diodorus Siculus’s
some sources, Argus is the son of Gaia (Earth),     Library of History (4.61.5), Hyginus’s Fabulae
but in Apollodorus’s Library, he is made to         (42, 43), Ovid’s MetaMorpHoses (8.170–182),
be the son of King Agenor of Argos. In this         and Plutarch’s Life of Theseus. Ariadne belonged
human, heroic form, he performed many deeds,        to a line of fascinating and unusual women.
including the killing of a certain bull that rav-   Her mother, Pasiphae, mated with a bull and
aged Arcadia (he took its skin as a cape) and of    gave birth to the Minotaur. She was related
a satyr that had stolen Arcadian cattle. He also    on her mother’s side to the witch Circe and to
killed the monstrous Echidna. In myth, Argus        Medea. Her sister Phaedra married Theseus.
is the servant of Hera and appears in the story         Ariadne fell in love with Theseus when he
of Io. Io was the consort of Zeus and, to avoid     came as one of seven young men and seven
Hera’s wrath, was transformed into a white          young women to be offered to the Minotaur in
heifer that Hera set Argus to guard over. He        his labyrinth, as the tribute that Minos exacted
tethered Io to an olive tree in a sacred grove.     from Athens every nine years for the murder of
This made it impossible for Io to escape or         his son, Androgeos.
for Zeus to rescue her until Zeus commanded             Theseus, the son of King Aegeus of Athens,
Hermes to intervene. Disguised as a shepherd,       had insisted on volunteering to be one of the
Hermes lulled Argus to close all his eyes in        victims. He slew the Minotaur and, by unroll-
sleep with the aid of his reed pipe and the story   ing and rerolling a spool of thread that Ariadne
of its invention by Pan. After Argus fell asleep,   gave him, was able to escape from the labyrinth.
Hermes beheaded him and thereafter assumed          Having betrayed her father and her country for
the epithet Argeiphontes or “Argus-slayer.” In      her lover, Ariadne fled with Theseus, but he
honor of his service to her, Hera plucked out       abandoned her on the island of Naxos. The god
Argus’s many sightless eyes and placed them         Dionysus and his followers came upon her as
on the tail of her bird, the peacock. Afterward,    she was wandering, desolate and despairing, on
Hera sent a gadfly to drive Io mad. Chased by       the island. He fell in love with her and carried
the gadfly, Io fled to Egypt, where the ghost of    her away to be his bride, giving her a golden
Argus still haunted her.                            diadem that was afterward transformed into a
    In antiquity, visual representations of Argus   constellation.
occur in the context of the myth of Io. He is           Among the many treatments of the myth,
usually depicted as a large, bearded, male nude     Catullus’s poem 64 is outstanding for its
whose body is covered with eyes and frequently      extended description of Ariadne on the beach,
shown protecting the tethered heifer Io and/or      its examination of her emotions, and its com-
in combat with Hermes, as on an Attic red-          plex reinterpretation of the myth in the light
figure hydria from ca. 460 b.c.e. (Museum of        of Roman ethics and late republican society.
Fine Arts, Boston). Here, Argus stands beside       In general, Ariadne was a favorite theme in the
the bovine Io, with his chest, arms, and legs       Hellenistic and Roman period: Her story is a
covered in eyes, and defends himself against        prime example of the myths of suffering in love
Hermes, who unsheathes his sword. Zeus and          and the emotional plight of heroines that poets
Hera are also present. Hermes deals Argus           of this period enjoyed exploring. Apollonius of
the death blow in an Attic red-figure stam-         Rhodes, in his voyage of tHe argonauts, makes
nos from ca. 430 b.c.e. (Kunsthistorisches          much of her structural similarity to Medea. Like
Museum, Vienna). Argus’s body is here painted       Medea, she is a foreign women who falls in love
with white eyes.                                    with a Greek, helps him accomplish his heroic

Bacchus and Ariadne. Titian, 1520–23 (National Gallery, London)

quest, leaves behind her father and fatherland          Aristaeus See georgics.
for him, then is abandoned by him.
    Ariadne and Theseus, in particular her aban-
donment and subsequent rescue by Dionysus,
                                                        Aristophanes (ca. 450 b.c.e.–ca. 386 b.c.e.)
have been frequently represented in the visual          Greek poet of the Old Attic Comedy.
arts and in opera. This theme occurs in vase            Aristophanes was born between 460 and
painting from the fifth century b.c.e. onward.          450 b.c.e. and died ca. 386 b.c.e. Eleven
Ariadne appears on the François Vase from               plays by Aristophanes are extant: Acharnians
ca. 570 b.c.e. (Museo Archeologico, Florence).          (425), Knights (424), Clouds (423), Wasps
Perhaps the most famous painting of Dionysus’s          (422), Peace (421), Birds (414), Lysistrata
rescue of Ariadne is Titian’s Bacchus and Ariadne       (411), Thesmophoriazusae (411) Frogs (405),
1520–23 (National Gallery, London).                     Ecclesiazusae (“Assembly-Women,” 392 or 391),
Ars Amatoria	                                                                                      

Plutus (388). Surviving titles of lost plays        Ars Amatoria Ovid (ca. 1 b.c.e.) The Ars
include Banqueters (427), Babylonians (426),        Amatoria (“The Art/Technique of Love”), pub-
Amphiaraus (414), an earlier version of Plutus      lished around 1 b.c.e., is a didactic poem in
(408), Aiolosikon (after 388), and Cocalus (after   three books on the techniques of seduction.
388). Central features of Aristophanic comedy       Books 1 and 2 are written for men; Book 3 is
are boisterous action and deliberately fantastic    notionally meant to aid women. “Didactic” is a
and preposterous premises, sexually explicit        term for the genre of poetry that teaches. Some
and obscene language, constant puns and             known topics include astronomy, farming, phi-
wordplay, and personal attacks and satire on        losophy, and snakebites. Ovid’s combination of
politicians and other culturally prominent fig-     the didactic genre with erotic subject matter
ures (e.g., Euripides, Socrates). Old Comedy        and meter (elegiac couplets) produces provoca-
is a form of drama that makes sense in a face-      tive and witty effects. Love is conventionally
to-face democratic society. Aristophanes com-       an emotion not susceptible to manipulation or
ments on issues of the day, deeply familiar to      systematic, rational control, yet Ovid insists that
his Athenian audience, although without exces-      he will subject Love precisely to such rational
sive dogmatism. The Chorus is an integral part      control. In making these claims, and setting
of the action, and local references are crucial.    himself up as an urbane, calculating praecep-
Aristophanes’ later plays suggest the begin-        tor amoris (“teacher of love”), Ovid is playing
nings of the transition to New Comedy: The          with the conventions and underlying assump-
Chorus plays a less integral role, and there is     tions of elegiac love poetry, including his own
more attention to the mechanism of plot and         Amores. Ovid’s manual for carrying out love
story line. New Comedy, with its stock char-        affairs is often conspicuously “by the book,”
acters and repetitive plots, is designed to be      i.e., it repeats, as didactic advice and conscious
comprehensible to a broad audience not nec-         strategy, the well-known literary motifs of ele-
essarily rooted in a single city-state. There is    giac poetry, which, however, stress the lover’s
relatively little myth in comedy by comparison      inability to control his behavior and utter lack of
with tragedy, because comedy by definition          a rational strategy. Ovid picks apart the elegiac
represents ordinary life, not the exalted world     fiction and discovers a level of self-serving cal-
of heroes. Yet Aristophanes creates his own         culation beneath previous elegists’ protestations
outrageous “myths” than turn reality upside         of powerlessness. If the domina (“mistress”) of
down in revealing and thought-provoking             previous elegy was an appropriately dominating
ways: e.g., a city-state of birds. Aristophanes     figure, now she becomes the target of a series of
does sometimes write about mythological             cynical strategies of control and exploitation.
characters, usually in a spirit of comic defla-          Love has become a complicated, absorb-
tion: The title of the lost Amphiaraus sug-         ing game, the expanded playing field of which
gests something along these lines. A notable        encompasses the entire city, its vast, colonnaded
instance in the extant plays is the character       structures and large, diverse population. Ovid
of Dionysus in Frogs. Dionysus goes down to         has taken the fiction of elegiac exclusivity—the
Hades to bring back Euripides from the dead         una puella (“one and only girl”) of Proper-
in order to save Athens, but he ends up judging     tius—and converted it into a large-scale mode
a contest between Euripides and Aeschylus           of urban behavior: His lover is an eroticized
and choosing to bring back Aeschylus instead.       version of the flaneur. Ovid at the same time
Aristophanes presents a comic portrait both         expands the scope of elegiac mythological narra-
of the god Dionysus—so dear to the Athenian         tion. The opening of Book 2, for example, offers
theater—and of two of Athens’s most revered         a version of the story of Daedalus and Icarus
tragedians.                                         that doubles as an extended meditation on ars

(“technique,” “art”), both poetic and otherwise.   Orphic Hymn to Artemis, she is associated with
Ovid’s exile poetry singles out the Ars as one     female chastity but also with childbirth. In cult
of the two causes of his exile: a poem (carmen)    practice, this aspect of Artemis was important.
and a mistake (error). The ostensible content          The circumstances of Artemis’s birth vary
of Ovid’s Ars Amatoria—love affairs conducted      according to the source. In some, she is born
outside of marriage—went against the grain of      at the same time as Apollo, in others, earlier
the emperor Augustus’s marriage and adultery       or later. the Homeric Hymn to Apollo and the
legislation, although Ovid was careful to build    Orphic Hymn to Leto describe the long search
plausible denials of adulterous intent into his    by Leto to find a site where she could give
poem. Scholarly opinion, however, is divided       birth. Fearing Hera’s wrath, none would accept
on the extent to which Augustus was truly          her, except for Delos. In the Homeric Hymn to
motivated by Ovid’s poem in ordering his rel-      Delian Apollo, the goddesses assisting Leto dur-
egation. The Ars Amatoria is both an intriguing    ing her labor persuaded Iris (the messenger of
intervention in the ideological climate of the     the gods) to summon Eileithyia, goddess of
later Augustan principate and an example of        childbirth, whom Hera had kept away for nine
Ovid’s interest in combining genres and modes      days and nights, to prevent the births of Apollo
of poetic exposition in innovative ways.           and Artemis. Apollodorus’s Library maintains
                                                   that Artemis helped deliver her brother shortly
                                                   after her own birth. Artemis is sometime called
Artemis (Diana) Olympian goddess of the            “Cynthia,” after Mount Cynthus on Delos. The
hunt and the moon. Daughter of Leto (daugh-        sanctuary on Delos was the site of worship of
ter of the Titans Coeus and Phoebe) and            Apollo, Artemis, Zeus, and Leto.
Zeus. Twin sister of Apollo. Artemis appears           Apollo and Artemis are both partial to
in Euripides’ HippoLytus and ipHigenia in          meting out violent punishment for impiety or
tauris. Additional classical sources are the       challenges to their functions (chastity, musical
Homeric Hymn to Artemis, Apollodorus’s Library     skill) and domains, or in defense of Leto. Their
(1.4.1, 1.7.3, 1.9.15, 2.5.3, 3.8.2), Hesiod’s     joint punishments of Niobe and Tityus were
tHeogony (918–920), Homer’s iLiad (21.468)         motivated by a desire to avenge their mother’s
and odyssey (5.121), Hyginus’s Fabulae (9, 98,     honor. Niobe, wife of king Amphion of Thebes,
189), and Ovid’s MetaMorpHoses (2.415–465,         had a number of children—between five and 10
3.156–252, 6.205, 6.416, 7.745, 12.28). The        of each sex, depending on the source—called
Romans syncretized Diana, also a moon god-         Niobids. She was very proud of her children
dess, with Artemis, and worship of Diana was       and boasted that she was a superior mother to
practiced on the Aventine Hill, at her sanctuary   Leto, who had only two children. Apollo and
near Lake Nemi, and in Campania.                   Artemis sought revenge on her behalf; Apollo’s
    Like Apollo, Artemis is also “Phoebe,”         arrows killed the male children and Artemis’s
or “bright,” like her maternal grandmother.        the female. Tityus attempted to rape Leto and
Among Artemis’s epithets are “torch-bringer,”      was either killed by the arrows of Apollo and
because as goddess of the moon she brings          Artemis or the thunderbolt of Zeus.
light to darkness. Artemis carries a quiver and        Both Apollo and Artemis fought on the side
arrows, and she lets loose a “rain of arrows”      of the Olympian gods against the giants and the
and is “arrow-pouring,” while Apollo is the        Titans. During the Trojan War, both Artemis
“far-shooter” because of his association with      and Apollo sided with the Athenians, but at a
archery. Artemis’s domain is the woods, par-       certain point in the conflict, Apollo, according to
ticularly those of Arcadia, where she is both      Homer’s Iliad, argued that the Olympians should
protector and huntress of animals. In the          not fight each other over mere mortals. Artemis

scolded her brother for his lack of valor, but since          formed herself into a deer, and while trying to
she opposed Hera in her defense of the Trojans,               hunt it, Ephialtes and Otus accidentally killed
Hera attacked her and forced her to flee. Leto                each other. According to Hyginus’s version of
later retrieved the quiver and arrows that Arte-              the myth, either Apollo surprised the Aloadae
mis had hastily left behind on Olympus.                       in the midst of their attempt to reach Olympus
    Artemis and Apollo also jointly helped                    and killed them or Artemis was raped by Otus
repulse the challenge to the Olympians posed                  and Apollo killed the Aloadae by sending a deer
by the Aloadae, the twin giants Ephialtes and                 into their midst, whereupon the Aloadae acci-
Otus. In Apollodorus’s Library, Artemis trans-                dentally killed each other.

Artemis and Apollo. Detail from an Attic cup, Briseis Painter, ca. 470 B.C.E. (Louvre, Paris)

    In several texts, Artemis is characterized as    prised her. The nymph recognized Zeus when
an aloof figure, and though she is associated        he embraced her, but, defenseless, she was
with positive aspects, such as the protection of     unable to resist him. Despite her innocence, she
the young and chaste or women during child-          was banished by Artemis from her company.
birth, she has, like Apollo, a dark and terrifying       Artemis hears the prayers of those who
aspect as well. She is wrathful if proper piety is   wish to remain chaste and guard their virtue.
not shown to her or if her companions, domain,       In Ovid’s Metamorphoses, she transformed Nyc-
or animals are threatened. Artemis permitted         timene into a crow because she did not wish to
Heracles to capture the Ceryneian hind only          be seduced by Poseidon.
when the hero persuaded her that it was a                Another favorite of Artemis was the virtuous
Labor laid on him by Eurystheus.                     and chaste youth Hippolytus, son of Theseus.
    In retribution for King Oeneus of Calydon’s      Theseus’s wife, Phaedra, became enamored
failure to worship her, Artemis sent a wild          of Hippolytus and attempted to seduce him,
boar to ravage the countryside. This boar was        but he chastely refused, being a devotee of
hunted in the famous Calydonian Boar hunt            Artemis. Phaedra, scorned, accused Hippolytus
led by Meleager. Another who neglected to            of attempting to rape her. Theseus then called
sacrifice to Artemis was Admetus, husband of         on the help of Poseidon to kill Hippolytus. In
Alcestis. In punishment Artemis filled his           Euripides’ tragedy Hippolytus, Artemis revealed
marriage chamber with serpents, a portent            to Theseus that in his blindness he brought
of an early death. In another myth, Artemis          about the death of his blameless son. Accord-
first demanded, then prevented Agamemnon’s           ing to some sources, at the request of Artemis,
sacrifice of his daughter Iphigenia (the subject     Hippolytus was revived by the famed healer
of Euripides’ tragedy Iphigenia among the Tau-       Asclepius and lived on in his new incarnation
rians), substituting a deer in place of the young    as Virbius at the sanctuary of Diana at Aricia.
girl. Artemis made Iphigenia guardian of her             Artemis also showed favor to Procris, wife
temple, or made her immortal.                        of the hunter Cephalus. Tricked by Eos (Dawn)
    In the Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite, Artemis        into believing her husband had been unfaithful,
is singled out as one of three goddesses—along       Procris joined the company of Artemis on Crete.
with Athena and Hestia—over whom love                However, the goddess refused to accept her
has no sway. Defense of purity is the central        presence because she kept company only with
theme of Artemis’s best known myths, those           unmarried young women. Artemis was moved,
of Callisto and Hippolytus and the hunters           however, by Procris’s devotion to Cephalus and
Actaeon and Orion. In Ovid’s Metamorphoses,          presented her with a javelin that never missed
Actaeon surprised Artemis and her nymphs             its mark and a dog that always captured its prey.
bathing on Mount Cithaeron in Boeotia.               On the same theme of marital affection and
Enraged that she had been seen nude, Artemis         loyalty, Artemis took pity on the nymph Egeria,
transformed Actaeon into a stag. His own pack        who, in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, was lamenting
of dogs failed to recognize him, gave chase,         her dead husband, Numa, in Artemis’s grove.
and devoured him. Another hunter, Orion,             Artemis transformed her into a spring.
attempted to seduce either Artemis or one of             In visual representations, Artemis is depicted
her followers and was punished: The goddess          as a young, clothed huntress holding a bow,
sent a scorpion to sting him to death.               arrows, and quiver, and accompanied by ani-
    Callisto was an Arcadian wood nymph and          mals (especially hunting dogs). Her central
follower of Artemis. Seeing the nymph in the         attribute is the crescent or full moon. At times
woods of Arcadia, Zeus became enamored of            the crescent moon appears at her forehead,
her, and, disguising himself as Artemis, sur-        giving her the appearance of being horned.

Artemis, carrying a bow and accompanied by           nalizes Asclepius’s resurrection of the dead by
a hind, is shown with Apollo on the tondo of         maintaining that Asclepius was so skilled that
an Attic red-figure cup by the Briseis Painter       he could effect cures in cases that had been
dating to ca. 470 b.c.e. (Louvre, Paris). Here,      despaired of. According to Pindar’s Pythian
she carries a quiver and gestures in shock at the    Odes, Asclepius was bribed to resurrect the
scene before her in which Tityus attempts to         dead, but in most other accounts, he was simply
abduct Leto. Artemis prepares to assist Apollo       making use of all his skills as physician.
with her quiver and arrows as Apollo wrestles            The story of Asclepius’s origins, interest-
with Heracles for the Delphic tripod on an           ingly, involves a failed medical intervention.
Attic red-figure belly amphora from ca. 500          Apollo loved his mother, Coronis, and dis-
b.c.e. (British Museum, London).                     covered from a raven that Coronis, already
                                                     pregnant with Asclepius by Apollo, was betray-
                                                     ing him with the mortal Ischys. In a rage,
Ascanius (Iulus) See Aeneas; Aeneid.
                                                     Apollo drew his bow and killed Coronis, but
                                                     not before she revealed that she was pregnant
Asclepius (Asklepios) Greek god of medi-             with his child. Apollo repented his actions and
cine. Son of Apollo and Coronis (Arsinoe).           tried to save her, but even with all his skills as
Classical sources are the Homeric Hymn to            a healer, he was unsuccessful and she died. (On
Asclepius, Apollodorus’s Library (3.10.3),           another occasion, Apollo attempted to save
Hyginus’s Fabulae (49) and Poetica Astronomica       another lover, Leucothoe, and again failed.) In
(2.23), Lucian’s diaLogues of tHe gods (15),         Pindar’s Pythian Odes, Artemis killed Coronis
Ovid’s fasti (6.746–754) and MetaMorpHoses           for her betrayal of Apollo. Apollo rescued
(2.600–634), Pindar’s Pythian Odes (3.1–45), and     the unborn child from the pyre burning the
Virgil’s aeneid (7.760–783). Sources disagree        body of Coronis and brought it to the centaur
as to Asclepius’s mother: The Homeric Hymn to        Chiron. Chiron raised Asclepius and taught
Asclepius and Ovid’s Metamorphoses say that she is   him the arts of healing. Chiron’s daughter
Coronis, daughter of King Phlegyas of Thessaly,      Ocyrhoe prophesied that Asclepius would pos-
while Apollodorus’s Library maintains that she is    sess incredible healing skills and be able to
Arsinoe, daughter of Leucippus (the question         return the dead to life, but that his gift of resur-
is debated in Pausanias’s Description of Greece,     recting the dead would imperil his own life and
which favors Coronis as his mother). Nor do          he would be struck down by his grandfather’s
the sources agree as to whether Asclepius was        (Zeus’s) thunderbolt.
divine or whether he was accorded that status            Among the mortals whom Asclepius is said
after he was struck down by Zeus.                    to have restored to life are Capaneus, Glau-
    In the Homeric Hymn, Asclepius skillfully        cus (the young son of Minos, who had died
cures disease, and in the orpHic HyMn, Ascle-        by falling into a pot of honey), Hippoly-
pius charms misery away and wards off evil.          tus, Hymenaeus, Lycurgus, and Tyndareus
His attribute is a caduceus (a staff entwined by     (father of the Dioscuri). Diodorus Siculus
two serpents), and he deals with fevers, sores,      mentions that Asclepius was struck down by
wounds, and illnesses of all kinds. He provides      Zeus because he prevented so many souls
potions, treatment, and even surgery to all          from entering Hades that the lord of the dead
who require it. In Virgil’s Aeneid, Asclepius is     complained about the lack. In Virgil’s Aeneid,
“Phoebus-born,” and in Ovid’s Metamorphoses,         Asclepius resurrected Hippolytus at the request
he is the most skilled of healers, killed by Zeus    of Artemis after her young follower had been
because he dared to restore the dead to life.        killed in a chariot accident. In Ovid’s Fasti,
Diodorus Siculus’s Library of History ratio-         Asclepius touched Hippolytus three times with

healing herbs and three times spoke healing          Euripides’ androMacHe (10) and trojan
words to him in order to revive him. Asclepius’s     WoMen (118), Homer’s iLiad (6.400, 24.734),
skills challenged the omnipotence of Zeus, who       and Ovid’s MetaMorpHoses (13.415). Astyanax,
then killed Asclepius with a thunderbolt. In         whose name means “lord of the town,” ought
some sources, Apollo, angered by Zeus’s killing      to have inherited his father Hector’s role as
of Asclepius, revenged himself by killing the        protector of the city of Troy. Precisely to head
Cyclopes who fashioned Zeus’s thunderbolts.          off any possibility of later vengeance, Odysseus
    There was a temple of Asclepius on Tiber         or Neoptolemus killed Astyanax after the
Island in Rome. The temple’s origins were            defeat of Troy by throwing him from the walls
attributed to a moment of crisis in Roman            of Troy. In the Iliad, Andromache laments the
history. In the third century b.c.e., Rome was       fate of the fatherless boy. In Euripides’ Trojan
suffering from a plague, and the senators were       Women Astyanax was Hecuba’s (Hector’s moth-
directed by the Delphic Oracle to seek the aid       er’s) one remaining hope and consolation, and
of Asclepius. The Romans sailed to Epidaurus         the announcement of his death is the terrible
in Greece in search of the god; he entered the       climax of a long series of catastrophes.
ship in the form of a snake. On the ship’s return
to Rome, Asclepius descended at Tiber Island,
which he chose to make his new home.                 Atalanta (Atalante) Mythological Greek
    Asclepius married Epione, and their daugh-       heroine. Wife to Hippomenes and mother of
ter was Hygeia (Health). She shared her father’s     Parthenopaeus by either her husband or Ares.
abilities. In the Orphic Hymn to Asclepius, Hygeia   Classical sources are Apollodorus’s Library
is Asclepius’s mate, but in other sources, she his   (1.8.2, 3.9.2), Hyginus’s Fabulae (185), Ovid’s
daughter, a skilled healer in her own right, and     MetaMorpHoses (10.560–704), and Propertius’s
goddess of Health. Asclepius and Hygeia were         Elegies (1.1.9). Atalanta’s parentage is uncertain;
sometimes worshipped jointly. Asclepius passed       Apollodorus gives her father as Iasus, Ovid as
on his skills to his sons, Machaon and Podalei-      Schoeneus, and Euripides as Maenalus.
rius, who accompanied Agamemnon during the               Atalanta was exposed at birth on Mount
Trojan War.                                          Parthenion and raised by a bear. When she came
                                                     of age, Atalanta chose to become a huntress
                                                     and follower of Artemis. She took part in the
Asteria Daughter of the Titans Coeus and             famous Calydonian Boar hunt. King Oeneus of
Phoebe. Sister to Leto. Classical sources are        Calydon (Aetolia) had neglected to perform a
Apollodorus’s Library (1.2.2, 1.2.4), Hesiod’s       harvest sacrifice to Artemis; as a consequence,
tHeogony (414), Hyginus’s Fabulae (53), and          the goddess sent a wild boar to ravage the coun-
Ovid’s MetaMorpHoses (6.108). Asteria escaped        try. Oeneus’s son Meleager gathered a group of
the amorous pursuit of Zeus by being trans-          hunters including Atalanta, the Dioscuri, Jason,
formed into a quail. In this form, she threw         Phoenix, Theseus, and Telamon to hunt the
herself into the sea and gave her name to the        boar. Atalanta struck the first successful blow, but
island of Ortygia (“quail”). Ortygia is some-        Meleager managed to finish it off. He then gave
times known as or conflated with the island of       the prized hide to Atalanta, with whom he was
Delos, the location in which Leto gave birth
                                                     in love. This act of generosity on his part set in
to her children, Apollo and Artemis. Asteria
                                                     motion a series of events leading to his death.
married Perses and their child was Hecate.
                                                         Atalanta’s most famous myth is her race with
                                                     Hippomenes (a grandson of Poseidon). Accord-
Astyanax Young son of Hector and                     ing to Ovid, an oracle counseled Atalanta not to
Andromache. The classical sources are                marry but predicted that she would, nonethe-

Atalanta and Hippomenes. Guido Reni, ca. 1620–25 (Galleria Nazionale di Capodimonte, Naples)

less, marry and that the marriage would alter           ment for their offence, Aphrodite turned them
her. Atalanta’s father insisted on her marrying,        into lions, and thus the prophecy of Atlanta’s
and she agreed to accept the suitor who would           marriage was realized.
beat her in a foot race. Those suitors she defeated        Representations of Atalanta as a huntress
would be killed. She won all her races until Hip-       and participant in the Calydonian Boar hunt
pomenes saw her win a race and fell in love with        occur on pediments, vases, and in engrav-
her. He appealed to Aphrodite for her help, and         ings from the sixth century b.c.e. onward,
the goddess gave him three golden apples to use         for example, on the François Vase from ca.
in the race. Accordingly, Hippomenes threw the          570 b.c.e. (Museo Archeologico Nazionale,
apples down during the race, and while Atalanta         Florence). Here, the enormous boar tramples
paused to pick them up, he pulled ahead and             hunters and is surrounded by the heroes.
won both the race and the bride. In some ver-           Representation of Atalanta’s race with Hip-
sions, Atalanta loved Hippomenes and hoped              pomenes and the episode of the golden apples
that he would win. Hippomenes neglected to              occurs in a number of postclassical paintings,
thank Aphrodite, and the couple, made heed-             such as Guido Reni’s Atalanta and Hippomenes
less by passion, desecrated one of Cybele’s             from ca. 1620–25 (Galleria Nazionale di
sanctuaries by making love within it. As punish-        Capodimonte, Naples).
0	                                                                                       Athamas

Athamas A king of Boeotia. Son of Aeolus.          mother of Harmonia and grandmother of
Husband of Ino (daughter of Cadmus and             Ino, took pity on them and asked Poseidon
Harmonia). The children of Athamas and Ino         to transform the two into marine deities: Ino
were Learchus and Melicertes (or Melicerta).       became known as Leucothea, and Melicertes
Classical sources are Apollodorus’s Library        as Palaemon.
(1.9.1–3), Diodorus Siculus’s Library of               Athamas was said to have been exiled from
History (4.47), Hyginus’s Fabulae (1–5), Ovid’s    Boeotia, founded his own settlement in Thes-
MetaMorpHoses (4.416–542, and Pausanias’s          saly, and married Themisto, who bore him
Description of Greece (1.44.7–8). Euripides’ Ino   Erythrius, Leucon, Schoenus, and Ptous. In
and Sophocles’ Athamas survive in fragmentary      another version of the death of Ino, that of
form. There are several, sometimes contradic-      Hyginus’s Fabulae (based on Euripides’ Ino), the
tory, versions of the story of Athamas, Ino,       time line of events is reversed: Athamas, believ-
and their children. Athamas had two children,      ing Ino to be dead, married Themisto, who
Phrixus and Helle, by Nephele (a cloud god-        bore him Erythrius, Leucon, Schoenus, and
dess), before his marriage to Ino. Ino bore her    Ptous. Themisto, wishing to do away with the
stepchildren malice and plotted against them.      children of her predecessor, unwittingly killed
First, she arranged to have the crops fail, in     her own children instead of those of Ino. Fol-
response to which Athamas sent a messenger to      lowing this, Athamas was driven to the madness
consult the Delphic Oracle. Ino persuaded the      that provoked his killing of Learchus and Ino’s
messenger to say on behalf of the Oracle that      attempted suicide.
the sacrifice of Phrixus would renew the fertil-
ity of the crops. Athamas prepared to sacrifice
his son, but before the child was killed, he and   Athena (Minerva) Olympian goddess of
his sister Helle were carried off by their moth-   wisdom and war. Athena appears through-
er, Nephele. Nephele placed them on a Golden       out Homer’s iLiad and odyssey. Additional
Ram that had been given to her by Hermes to        classical sources are the Homeric Hymns to
journey through the sky. Helle fell off the ram    Athena, Aeschylus’s euMenides (397–1,047),
into the sea and drowned and gave her name to      Apollodorus’s Library (1.3.6, 2.4.3, 3.14.1,
the waters, the Hellesponte. Phrixus survived      3.14.6), Diodorus Siculus’s Library of
and was received by king Aeetes in Colchis,        History (3.70.1–6), Hesiod’s tHeogony
where he married one of the royal daughters.       (886ff ), Hyginus’s Fabulae (164–166), Ovid’s
Phrixus sacrificed the Golden Ram to Zeus,         MetaMorpHoses (4.790–803, 6.1–145), and
and its fleece was placed in a grove sacred to     Sophocles’ ajax (1–133). The Greek goddess
Ares. This fleece would later be sought by         Athena was later syncretized with the Roman
Jason and the Argonauts.                           Minerva, who was similarly associated with
    Hera was infuriated by Ino’s pride in her      intelligence and war. In some accounts, Athena
nephew, Dionysus, and she persuaded one of         was the daughter of Metis (a personification
the Furies, Tisiphone, to incite madness in        of intelligence) one of the Titans, and first
Athamas and Ino. In Ovid’s Metamorphoses,          wife of Zeus. In Hesiod’s Theogony, Metis was
Tisiphone, whose head writhed with snakes,         swallowed by Zeus because of the threat of
threw two snakes and a venomous potion             succession her second child would represent.
at the couple, which caused their insanity.        Zeus learned from Gaia and Uranus that
Athamas dashed his son against the wall, kill-     Metis would bear Athena and that Metis’s
ing him, and in grief and madness Ino with         second child would overthrow him, so Zeus
Melicertes in her arms threw herself from          swallowed Metis, who was already pregnant
a nearby cliff into the sea. Aphrodite, the        with Athena. Zeus had terrible pains in his

head, Hephaestus struck him with an ax, and          shaped, was born of Earth (Gaia) but nurtured
Athena emerged, fully grown, wearing a helmet        by Athena. In other sources, Hephaestus tried
and carrying her armor. Athena carries a shield,     to violate Athena, but she fought him off. As he
aegis, and spear. Her shield is decorated with       released her, his sperm fell to the ground and
the head of Medusa given to her by Perseus           impregnated Gaia, from whom Erichthonius
and can turn her enemies to stone. She is asso-      was born. Athena consigned a casket or box, in
ciated with the owl and the olive tree.              which Erichthonius was hidden, to the daughters
    Athena’s warlike capacity is sometimes dis-      of King Cecrops of Athens, Aglaurus, Herse,
tinguished from that of Ares, who is associated      and Pandrosus, and instructed them not to open
with the more violent, bloodthirsty aspects of       it. Herse and Pandrosus resisted the temptation
war. In some myths, Athena and Ares come             but not Aglaurus, who incurred the goddess’s
into conflict. During the Trojan War, Ares was       wrath (versions vary according to the source).
injured by Diomedes, who had been guided by          As punishment, Athena afflicted Aglaurus with a
Athena. Athena also injured Ares by throwing a       terrible jealousy of Hermes’ love for Herse.
stone against his neck that knocked him down.
Athena stood over Ares, laughing and boasting
of her superiority as a warrior.
    Athena argued with Poseidon for patron-
age of the city of Athens. Zeus adjudicated in
favor of Athena as she had planted the first
olive tree on Attic soil.
    Athena is a patron of the arts and music
and as such has associations with Apollo and
the Muses. In Ovid’s Fasti, Marsyas discovered
the double flute after it had been invented by
Athena (the double flute is sometimes called
“Pallas’s reed”). Ovid mentions a March festival
celebrating Athena’s invention, which involved
a procession of the guild of flute players. See-
ing that in the playing of the instrument her
cheeks puffed up unattractively, Athena threw
it away on a riverbank, where Marsyas found it
and became adept at playing it. In some sources,
Marsyas was punished by the goddess for his
temerity in having acquired the instrument, and
in others, Marsyas’s skill on the double flute led
to his ill-fated musical contest with Apollo.
    Athena is a chaste goddess and has no lovers.
In the Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite Athena is sin-
gled out as one of three goddesses—the others
are Artemis and Hestia—over whom love has
no sway. Despite her chastity, she is sometimes
identified as the mother of Erichthonius, an
early king of Athens. Details of Erichthonius’s      Athena Parthenos. Antiochos, first-century B.C.E. copy
parentage and birth vary. In Homer’s Iliad,          of a Greek fifth-century B.C.E. original (Palazzo Altemps,
Erichthonius, whose lower half was serpent-          Rome)

    In addition to her responsibility for the infant   A serpent on her shield refers to Erichthonius.
Erichthonius, Athena nurtured the newborn              Reliefs carved on the statue represented the
Heracles. Heracles’ mother, Alcmene, fearing           Amazonomachy, the Centauromachy, and the
Hera, exposed Heracles in a field where he was         Gigantomachy.
found by Athena. The goddess was struck by
the infant’s vigor and cared for him. Athena was
                                                       Atlas A Titan. Son of the Titan Iapetus and
thereafter his protector and appears in many of
                                                       of the sea nymph Clymene (or the Oceanid
the hero’s myths. She helped Heracles succeed
                                                       Asia). Brother of Epimetheus and Prometheus.
in driving the birds from Lake Stymphalos, and
                                                       Classical sources are Apollodorus’s Library
he brought the golden apples of the Hesperides
                                                       (1.2.3, 2.5.11), Hesiod’s tHeogony (507–517),
to her. Odysseus was another favorite. She pro-
vides aid to Odysseus at several critical moments      Homer’s odyssey (1.51), Hyginus’s Fabulae
in Homer’s Odyssey.                                    (150, 192), Ovid’s MetaMorpHoses (4.630–
    Athena’s most famous myth is the story of          662), Philostratus’s iMagines (20), and Virgil’s
Arachne. Arachne was a skilled weaver who              aeneid (4.246–250, 481). By Pleione, Atlas
claimed her efforts surpassed those of Athena,         had seven daughters, the Pleiades (Alcyone,
the patron goddess of weaving. The goddess             Asterope, Electra, Celaeno, Maia, Merope,
visited Arachne in the form of an old woman            and Taygete), and one son, Hyas. His children
and warned her to behave more modestly.                were immortalized in the heavens: Hyas was
When Arachne gave an insolent reply, the god-          killed by a lion and became the constellation
dess revealed herself, and the two engaged in          Aquarius, and the lion became the constellation
a contest. In Ovid’s account (which is nearly          Leo. His grieving sisters were transformed into
the sole source for the myth), Athena’s tapestry       the Pleiades constellation. Homer identifies the
depicted the 12 Olympian gods and the punish-          nymph Calypso as another of Atlas’s daughters.
ment and defeat of mythological figures who            Hermes is the son of the Pleaid Maia and
challenged their authority. Arachne’s tapestry,        thus a grandson of Atlas. Atlas is also said to
by contrast, represented the unjust, victimizing,      be the father of the Hesperides by Hesperis.
or otherwise discrediting behavior of the gods         Depending on the source, Atlas either holds
toward mortals. Although Arachne’s tapestry            the heavens on his shoulders, which prevents
was flawless, Athena, in her anger, ripped it up       them from meeting Earth, or he safeguards the
and struck Arachne with her shuttle. Arachne           pillars that hold the heavens. He also protects
tried to hang herself, but Athena wished to            his daughters, the Hesperides, and the golden
make an enduring example of her: She trans-            apples in their keeping.
formed Arachne into a spider and made her                  After the Olympian gods defeated the Titans
spin webs ceaselessly (and, it is implied, igno-       in the Titanomachy, Zeus punished Atlas by mak-
miniously and artlessly).                              ing him carry the bronze dome of the heavens on
    Athena was frequently represented in the           his shoulders or back. During his Twelfth Labor,
visual arts of antiquity. In a marble freestand-       Heracles sought Atlas’s help in obtaining the
ing sculpture of the first century b.c.e. (a Greek     golden apples of the Hesperides. Atlas obligingly
copy of a statue from the fifth century b.c.e.),       offered to fetch the apples if Heracles would tem-
Athena wears a peplos and helmet; she pos-             porarily hold the heavens up in his stead. Atlas
sibly carried a shield and spear in the original       returned with the fruit but refused to change
sculpture. An Athena Parthenos colossal statue         places again with Heracles, but he was tricked by
from ca. 430 b.c.e. used for cult purposes at the      Heracles into resuming his burden. According to
Acropolis in Athens shows the goddess hold-            some versions, Atlas was released from his pun-
ing a spear and wearing an aegis and helmet.           ishment, either by Zeus or by Heracles, and was

Perseus and Atlas. Engraving, Johann Wilhelm Bauer, illustration for Ovid’s Metamorphoses, 1703 (University of

required merely to guard the two tall pillars that       depicted on an Attic black-figure lekythos attrib-
henceforward bore the weight of the sky.                 uted to the Athena Painter from ca. 475 b.c.e.
    Ovid’s Metamorphoses describes an encoun-            (National Archaeological Museum, Athens) and
ter between Perseus and Atlas, during which              in relief on a metope from the Temple of Zeus
the former used the Gorgon’s head to turn                at Olympia from ca. 470–457 b.c.e. On a black-
Atlas into stone, in revenge for having been             figure vase by the Athenian Painter, Atlas stands
denied hospitality. Atlas became the mountain            before Heracles holding the golden apples of the
range in North Africa known by his name.                 Hesperides. Heracles holds the heavens and can
    Because of his physical connections to the           be identified by his club and lion skin. Perseus,
heavens, Atlas was said to have superior knowl-          holding the head of Medusa, confronts Atlas in
edge of the stars and constellations and is              an engraving by J. W. Bauer from 1703. Here,
closely associated with astronomy. The fate of           Atlas is outlined against the mountain range with
his children also attests to this connection.            which he is associated. A second-century Roman
    In the visual arts, Atlas is shown as a large,       copy of a Greek original sculpture shows Atlas
mature, bearded man bearing a weight rep-                straining under the weight of a globe (Museo
resenting the heavens on his bent shoulders.             Archeologico Nazionale, Naples), which pro-
A common visual theme is Atlas’s encounter               vided the inspiration for John Singer Sargent’s
with Heracles. Pausanias describes two items at          Atlas and the Hesperides of 1922–24 (Museum of
the Temple of Zeus depicting this theme: the             Fine Arts, Boston). On both the Roman sculp-
chest of Kypselos and a painted screen showing           ture and Sargent’s painting, the constellations are
Atlas, Heracles, and Prometheus. This theme is           outlined on the sphere carried by Atlas.

Atreus Son of Pelops and Hippodamia.                 Description of Greece (7.17.9–12). In one ver-
Father of Agamemnon and Menelaus. Classical          sion of the story of Attis, the young follower
sources are Aeschylus’s agaMeMnon (1583–             of Cybele demonstrated his dedication to the
1602), Apollodorus’s Library (Epitome 2.10),         goddess with self-emasculation. Following his
Homer’s iLiad (2.105ff), Hyginus’s Fabulae           example, later disciples of Cybele, called the
(86, 88), and Seneca’s Thyestes. Atreus and his      Galli, also made themselves eunuchs.
younger brother Thyestes disputed the king-              In another version, that of Ovid’s Fasti, Attis
ship of Mycenae. Thyestes committed adultery         fell in love with Sagaritis, a Naiad, breaking
with his brother’s wife, Aerope, and obtained        his vow of chastity to Cybele. Cybele revenged
from her the golden lamb, which, the brothers        herself on the nymph by wounding Sagaritis’s
had agreed, symbolized the right to the throne.      tree and thereby killing her. Filled with grief
Zeus, appalled, reversed the course of the sun,      and madness, Attis castrated himself. Accord-
and Atreus banished Thyestes.                        ing to Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Attis was himself
    Later, Atreus pretended reconciliation with      transformed into a pine tree.
his brother, lured him back to Mycenae, and,             In another myth, according to Diodorus
in revenge for his brother’s adultery, served up     Siculus’s Library of History, Cybele was exposed
his own children to him as a stew. Then Atreus       as an infant by her father, Maeon, but survived
showed Thyestes his sons’ heads and hands, so        and was raised by leopards and other wild
that he would know that he had eaten his own         beasts. While still young, she was recognized
children.                                            and received into her father’s household, but
    Aegisthus, Thyestes’ son by an incestuous        he became furious when he discovered that
relationship, later killed Atreus; he completed      she had become pregnant by Attis. Maeon
his revenge on his uncle’s line by seducing          put Attis to death, and Cybele wandered in
Agamemnon’s wife, Clytaemnestra, and help-           grief, accompanied by Marsyas and, for some
ing her kill her husband, afterward marrying         time, by Apollo. In response to plague and
her and taking over the throne. In Homer,            crop failure, the people of Phrygia provided
the myth appears to have taken a different           a proper burial for Attis and established rites
form: Atreus and Thyestes are not at odds            for Cybele.
with each other. In later versions, and espe-            Pausanias’s Description of Greece puts for-
cially in tragedy, the mythology of Atreus and       ward yet another version of the story of Attis
his sons represents the curse of a household         Attis was born a eunuch, offended Zeus and,
that destroys itself over successive generations.    was killed by a boar sent by the god. Still in
Aeschylus’s trilogy Oresteia, especially the first   Pausanias, another story has Attis born from a
play, Agamemnon, traces the path of violence         hermaphrodite deity Agdistis, who originated
through previous generations and the avenging        from Zeus’s sperm falling to earth. The gods
spirits that inhabit the house of Atreus. Seneca’s   castrated Agdistis and from her sexual organs
                                                     grew an almond tree; the river nymph Nana
play Thyestes dwells with particular horror
                                                     plucked a nut from it, and, placing it on her
on the murder of Thyestes’ children and his
                                                     body, became pregnant with Attis. Later, Agdis-
unknowing consumption of them.
                                                     tis fell in love with Attis and to prevent him
                                                     from marrying someone else drove Attis into
Attis (Atys) A young shepherd from Phrygia,          madness. In the grip of insanity, Attis castrated
a disciple of Cybele. Classical sources are          himself.
Catullus’s Poem 63, Diodorus Siculus’s Library           In representations, the pine tree or almond
of History (3.58.4ff), Ovid’s fasti (4.183)          tree and the Phrygian cap are attributes of
and MetaMorpHoses (10.104), and Pausanias’s          Attis, who is depicted as a beautiful youth. In

the postclassical period, Attis is rarely repre-      In Euripides’ tragedy Bacchae, Pentheus,
sented in the visual arts; however, the myth has   king of Thebes and grandson of Cadmus and
inspired literary works and operas, for example,   Harmonia, was slaughtered by his own mother,
Jean-Baptiste Lully’s Atys of 1676.                Agave, and his aunt Autonoe in a Dionysiac
                                                   frenzy. Their unwitting murder of Pentheus
Autonoe Daughter of Cadmus and                     was brought about by Dionysus as retribu-
Harmonia. Autonoe married Aristaeus and            tion for Pentheus’s lack of piety for the god.
their son was Actaeon. Classical sources are       Autonoe later left Thebes for Megara, where
Apollodorus’s Library (3.4.2–4), Euripides’        she died. Autonoe and Aristaeus’s son, the
baccHae, and Hesiod’s tHeogony (975–978).          hunter Actaeon, was killed by Artemis.
Bacchae Euripides (ca. 408–406 b.c.e.) Eu-          tomb, covered in vines. Dionysus, son of
ripides’ Bacchae was produced posthumously          Semele, enters wearing a fawn skin and smiling
in 405 b.c.e. as part of a tragic tetralogy that    mask and carrying a thyrsus. Dionysus voices
included the ipHigenia at auLis. The play is        his pleasure at observing Semele’s tomb cov-
set in Thebes, a city of special importance to      ered in vines by Cadmus, former king of The-
Athenian tragedy. Oedipus’s tragic downfall         bes. He has made his way, he says, from Lydia,
occurred at Thebes, as did the conflict between     Phrygia, and cities throughout Asia Minor,
his sons Polynices and Eteocles. Finally, in        establishing his rites among the people there.
Sophocles’ antigone, Thebes provides the            Here in Thebes, Dionysus continues, Semele’s
setting for the death of Oedipus’s daughter         sisters have slandered him, claiming that he
and destruction of Creon’s family. Euripides’       is not immortal and not the son of Zeus. To
Bacchae traces the dark mythological inheri-        punish them, Dionysus has driven the women
tance of Thebes back to an earlier phase, when      of Thebes mad, possessed by his worship.
Pentheus rules Thebes and attempts to repress       Among the women are Autonoe, Ino, and
the worship of Dionysus. The god punishes           Agave, mother of the current king of Thebes,
Pentheus by deranging his mind: He dresses          Pentheus. Cloaked in fawn skins and carrying
up as a woman in order to spy on the women          thyrsi, the women of Thebes are attending to
of Thebes as they carry out Dionysiac rites         the Dionysian rites on Mount Cithaeron. Dio-
on the mountain, and his own mother, Agave,         nysus is here in Thebes to confront the impi-
participates in his murder. The key role played     ety of Pentheus, but he has disguised himself
by the god Dionysus underpins the intensely         as a mortal. Dionysus summons his followers,
metatheatrical aspect of the play. This late        women gathered from distant Asian lands, the
tragedy by Euripides honors the terrible power      Bacchae, and they enter, also costumed in fawn
of the god in whose honor Athenian tragedies        skins and ivy crowns, while carrying thyrsi,
were performed.                                     timbrels, and flutes.
                                                        The Bacchae sing the praises of Dionysus,
                 SynoPSIS                           exhorting others to follow him. They describe
The action takes place in front of the royal        his mythical birth (see Semele) and his trium-
palace of Thebes. On the left, the path leads       phant ascendancy as a god.
to Cithaeron, and on the right, to the city of          The Bacchae form two semicircles as the
Thebes. In the center of the stage lies Semele’s    blind seer Tiresias enters. He is an unlikely

sight, clothed in Dionysian costume, using his      observing that ill befalls the man who does not
thyrsus as a guiding stick. He calls out to Cad-    recognize the limitations of his understanding
mus, who emerges, bent over with age, wearing       and accept the traditional and natural respect
a similar costume. In a semicomic dialogue, the     due to the gods. True wisdom for men, accord-
two men exchange remarks about the irony            ing to the Bacchae, lies in recognizing a supe-
of two such old men participating in this new       rior authority.
cult, which requires so much physicality and            Pentheus emerges from the palace as his
strength. Though they alone of Theban men           attendants arrive bearing Dionysus, captive,
take part in the rites, they do so because they     between them. The attendants inform Pen-
believe in the traditional respect and honor due    theus that the stranger came cooperatively
to the gods. Cadmus observes his grandson,          and that the women Pentheus had previously
Pentheus, entering from the city in agitated        imprisoned for participating in the rites have
conversation with his attendants. He is discuss-    been mysteriously liberated.
ing the Dionysian rites taking place and hopes          Pentheus examines Dionysus, questioning
to prevent more of the same by imprisoning          him about his origins and relationship to
the worshippers. Moreover, a foreigner has          Dionysus, never suspecting that he is speaking
been observed among the revelers, and Pen-          to the god himself. Dionysus is careful not to
theus hopes to capture him too.                     reveal his identity, and in the ensuing dialogue
    Pentheus comes on the two older men             Pentheus is frustrated by Dionysus’s obfusca-
and, remarking on their clothing, is disgusted      tions. Annoyed, Pentheus cuts away the god’s
at the sight. The Chorus leader objects to          long blond curls, takes his thyrsus, and orders
Pentheus’s obvious disrespect for the god.          his imprisonment in the stables. The Bacchae
Tiresias responds that he, Pentheus, is mad         become agitated and beat at their drums. Once
and foolish not to apprehend the greatness of       Pentheus exits and Dionysus has been led away,
Dionysus, who has given men the gift of wine,       the Bacchae repeat their recital of Dionysus’s
commands prophetic powers, and is able to           birth, express their anger at Pentheus’s impiety,
infect an army with panic. Further, Tiresias        and call on Dionysus to avenge this behavior
says, Dionysus does not, as Pentheus con-           with justice.
tends, encourage obscene behavior in women.             Thunder and lightning are heard, Dionysus
Chaste women continue to be so even if they         calls out to the Bacchae from within and calls
should take part in Dionysiac rites. For his        on thunder, lightning, and earthquake to raze
part, Cadmus attempts to persuade Pentheus          the palace of Thebes. An earthquake shatters
to join them in the worship of the new god.         the palace and flames leap up from the tomb of
He asks why Pentheus should withhold his            Semele to engulf it.
respect if all of Thebes is participating. Cad-         The Bacchae, amazed, prostrate themselves
mus also asks Pentheus to bear in mind the          before Dionysus, who emerges unharmed,
example of his cousin Actaeon, torn limb            calmly stepping through the ruins of the royal
from limb by his hounds because he did not          palace of Thebes. The Chorus leader expresses
respect Artemis.                                    anxiety for Dionysus, and he reassures them
    Furious, Pentheus rejects their entreaties      that his safety was never in question and
and arguments. He commands his attendants           his escape from Pentheus’s captivity never in
to imprison the male foreigner attending the        doubt.
rites, and they leave to do his bidding. Tiresias       An agitated Pentheus comes out from the
decries Pentheus’s folly, and he and Cadmus         ruins and demands of Dionysus how he man-
exit, while Pentheus enters the palace. The         aged to escape. Dionysus calmly responds that
Bacchae respond to Pentheus’s impiety by            Dionysus has made possible his escape.

    A messenger arrives from Cithaeron, a            theus’s costume and leads him to Cithaeron,
herdsman who has spied on the female revelers        meaning to offer the young man as a sacrifice
in the mountain and has come to report what          to the women who will kill him. The young
he has seen. He tells Pentheus that Autonoe,         man and the god exit as the Bacchae call on
Ino, and Pentheus’s own mother Agave are             justice to visit Pentheus’s impiety.
leading groups of dancing women through the              A messenger arrives bearing the news that
forests and that he has witnessed many of their      Pentheus has been killed. He describes the
miracles. The Maenads, or Dionysiac revelers,        scene thus: Dionysus placed Pentheus on a tree
have produced water from rock and milk and           in full view of his followers and commanded
wine from the ground. The herdsman helped            them to take revenge on the man who mocked
lay an ambush for Agave, but the women beat          and disdained their faith. Led by a maddened
them off and fled. The women then came upon          Agave, who did not recognize her son or
a herd of cattle, which they tore apart with their   acknowledge his cry of repentance, the women
bare hands. Afterward, the women pillaged and        tore Pentheus limb from limb. Agave impaled
destroyed an entire village, and despite attack      Pentheus’s head on her thyrsus and is now
by the men of the village, who fought them           coming toward the royal palace. The messen-
with spears, they were unharmed and the men          ger exits while the Bacchae sing triumphantly
forced to flee. These acts of physical strength      at Pentheus’s humiliation and death.
and the miracles that accompanied them awed              Agave enters bearing her grisly staff and the
the herdsman, who now can only acknowledge           Bacchae praise her. Cadmus, father of Agave,
the greatness of divinity these acts represent.      enters, accompanied by attendants bearing the
The messenger exits.                                 dismembered corpse of his grandson Pentheus.
    Pentheus turns to his attendants, preparing      He calls Agave out of her madness, and she
to call his army to march on the women. Dio-         gradually becomes aware of the death of her
nysus gives him a clear warning not to prepare       son and her own actions bringing it about.
to do violence against the worshippers of a god      Agave is grief-stricken, and Cadmus observes
and suggests that even now Pentheus can still        that Dionysus has shattered the entire fam-
repent.                                              ily. No male heir remains; his daughters are
    Because Pentheus does not heed the warn-         murderers and the palace in ruins because of
ing, Dionysus suggests a plan in which Pen-          Pentheus’s lack of piety. The Chorus leader
theus can first observe the revelers in disguise,    remarks that the scene before them should be
before he marches on them. Despite some              a lesson for those who deny the immortality of
misgivings, Pentheus is tempted by the plan          Dionysus.
and enters the palace to reflect on it. When he          Dionysus appears above the palace and in
is gone, Dionysus reveals that he has already        his speech explains that the sufferings of the
bewildered Pentheus, otherwise he would              royal house of Thebes are a consequence of
never have even considered this plan. Further,       the questioning of his immortality and the
Dionysus reveals that this plan, which Pen-          violence threatened against him by Pentheus.
theus will accept, will lead him to his death, a     Because of their murder of Pentheus, Agave
just fate for his impiety.                           and her sisters will be exiled from Thebes,
    Dionysus enters the palace after Pentheus        while Cadmus and his wife, Harmonia, will
to aid him in his disguise and exits later in        be transformed into serpents and also go into
triumph. Pentheus also exits; he is dressed in a     exile. Cadmus pleads with the god, but to no
linen dress over a fawn skin, carries a thyrsus,     avail. Agave and Cadmus bid each other a tear-
and wears a blond wig. He is completely under        ful farewell and move off to their appointed
the thrall of the god. Dionysus arranges Pen-        destinies in exile.

    The Bacchae’s final words concern the           laments the destruction of their household and
unexpected events brought about by the supe-        family—a familiar tragic motif here modified
rior authority and power of the gods.               by the inclusion of a divine figure within the
                                                    family matrix. Dionysus brings about the death
                CoMMEntARy                          of his cousin at the hands of his aunt to punish
Euripides’ Bacchae is remarkable for focusing       both his cousin’s resistance to his rites and his
on a myth whose central figure is of thematic       aunts’ denial of his divinity—a family tragedy
significance for the genre of tragedy: Dionysus     in which the god proves his divinity by destroy-
himself. Greek tragedies were performed dur-        ing his mortal relations.
ing festivals of Dionysus. These performances           Just as Dionysus both belongs to a mortal
took place in the precinct of the god, and a        family and brutally demonstrates his distance
representation of the god in statue form was        from it, he appears simultaneously as a foreign
located near the stage so as to watch as specta-    and a Greek god. The Greeks conceptualized
tor the plays that were performed in his honor.     Dionysus as a god who came from elsewhere,
Dionysus was a god associated with transforma-      presumably because of his connection with
tion, disguise, inebriation, and ecstatic states;   questionable qualities such as violence, wild-
he was also a terrifying god with destructive       ness, and drunkenness. In fact, he is among
tendencies. He was an appropriate patron god        the oldest Greek gods: His name has been
for ancient theater, but the Greeks themselves,     discovered on Linear B tablets. The essential
by a common saying, often observed that the         tension in Dionysus’s identity recurs here in an
plays’ content had “nothing to do with Diony-       intensified form: Dionysus returns from Asia
sus.” Some recent scholarship has challenged        as an invading barbarian to his native Thebes.
this idea, attempting to link the cultic, reli-     The Chorus of Asian Bacchae further embod-
gious, and civic background of the Dionysian        ies the duality. We cannot tell to what extent
festivals to the content and performance of the     they are meant to give voice to Greek values.
plays. To whatever extent these recent argu-        As in Euripides’ Medea, concepts of foreign
ments persuade, it is striking that Euripides, in   and barbarian are at the heart of the play. The
his late play the Bacchae, demonstrates a keen      opposition is highly marked but by no means
awareness of Dionysus’s role as tragic god and      uncomplicated. Greekness itself threatens to
powerfully plays on the interrelation among         dissolve or implode if an inadequate respect for
Dionysiac cult, myth, and tragedy.                  the irrational and the exotic is manifested. The
    The myth of Pentheus is an especially           old men Cadmus and Tiresias break with tradi-
appropriate episode in Dionysus’s mythology         tion and consciously violate norms of virility
for introducing the question of tragedy’s ori-      and old age in dressing up to dance for Dio-
gins. Thebes, by this point in the history of       nysus, but it is Pentheus’s overzealous Greek
the genre, has been established as the location     maleness that is presented as the true madness,
par excellence of tragic plots: One need only       the true derangement of tradition. The Chorus
recall the seven against tHebes (Aeschy-            compares him to a wild beast and a monster.
lus), antigone (Sophocles), and oedipus tHe             Pentheus resembles the character of Creon
King (Aeschylus), among others. Thebes is an        in Sophocles’ Antigone: Stubborn, devoted to
eminently tragic city-state from the Athenian       the primacy of the polis over irrational religious
viewpoint. Dionysus, the son of Semele and          beliefs, a misguided rationalist, he, too, ends up
Zeus, is related to the Theban royal family.        destroying his own family by resisting the tra-
Pentheus is his cousin. When Cadmus real-           ditional claims of the gods and overriding the
izes the full horror of Pentheus’s demise at the    feminine with an overly rigid version of the
hands of his own mother near the play’s end, he     masculine ethos. But whereas in the Antigone,
00	                                                                                         Bacchae

the laws of the polis are set in opposition to the   would not be wild. This paradox is at the core
laws of the dead, Euripides sets up an explicitly    of Dionysus’s identity and the play’s medita-
topographical opposition between city and wil-       tions, yet it is not one that Pentheus is able
derness. The polis and its laws are challenged       to accept: The failure to accept this paradox
by the numinous powers associated with the           is catastrophic. We can trace his attempts, and
wilderness outside the city, the Bacchic hunt-       ultimate failure, to control and defeat the wild,
ing grounds of Mount Cithaeron. Pentheus’s           dangerous energies of Dionysiac cult through
aggressive masculine approach, moreover, is          the highly conspicuous metaphor of the hunt.
contrasted with the female Bacchae and Diony-        Near the play’s opening, an arrogant Pentheus
sus’s languid, effeminate manner. Women, as in       proclaims that he will “hunt” and capture the
Sophocles, manifest a deeper connection with         stranger who has corrupted his city’s women.
cults and rites not sanctioned by the polis.         The women themselves, of course, are involved
    Too strict and puritanical an opposition,        in hunting of their own: They hunt wild ani-
however, is precisely the cause of the crisis        mals and, in a trademark Dionysiac rite, rip
instigated by Pentheus. The polis, according         them apart limb from limb. Hunting is a key
to the tragedians, can survive only if it incor-     point of contact with civilization and the wild:
porates a healthy awareness of its own limita-       Dionysiac rites represent an extreme version
tions and the importance of deeper obligations       of this confrontation, where the hunters take
and greater powers. The male-female divide           on characteristics of wild animals themselves.
is key to the Euripidean (and, to some extent,       Pentheus’s hypercivilized model ultimately
the Sophoclean) articulation of this awareness.      fails, however. In a grim irony, he is ripped
The god’s appearance is effeminate and Asian,        apart by the hunting Bacchae, and his head is
and he is dynamically represented by the Cho-        brought back from the wilds into the city of
rus of Bacchae, who offer him songs of praise        Thebes by the deranged Agave as a glorious
throughout the play and whose ecstatic singing       “trophy.” Euripides does not fail to uncover
and dancing drive the play forward with pow-         a deeper mythological layer within this The-
erful surges of rhythm. The men of Thebes,           ban pattern: Pentheus’s cousin Actaeon failed
and above all Pentheus, resist the god in large      to respect sufficiently the wild divinity of
part because his worship seems too much like a       Artemis and ended up being ripped apart by
morally dubious emancipation of women. But           his own hounds, the hunter converted into
in Euripides, it rarely pays to overestimate the     quarry. Finally, we might recall the hunting
male/polis–centered/rationalistic dimension.         enthusiast Hippolytus in another Euripidean
Even Medea was praiseworthy in her way—              play: He, too, ended up being mangled to the
barbarian, female, irrational, and destructive, a    point of unrecognizability by his own horses
good figure to compare with the god Dionysus.        for the crime of disdaining another power-
Medea may not be admirable, but she presents         ful god representing an irrational destructive
essentially the same challenge for men—a             force: Aphrodite. The Chorus, in the present
divine force of irrational destructiveness that it   play, explicitly links the pleasures of wine and
would be wiser to fear and revere than to chal-      Aphrodite, and so, even if Euripides insists
lenge directly.                                      that the Bacchae are sexually chaste, he does
    Dionysus represents a crucial wild element       draw a link between these essential yet poten-
in civilization itself: What is more essential       tially destructive elements of human life.
to Mediterranean civilization than wine, and             Just as Pentheus’s excessive resistance to
yet what potentially brings people closer to         wild, uncontrolled Dionysiac hunting ulti-
savagery? And yet if we were to tame Dio-            mately makes him a victim of the hunt, his
nysus fully, he would not be Dionysus—he             arrogant virility becomes an object lesson in
Bacchae	                                                                                           0

hubris by collapsing into its opposite by play’s    worship of Dionysus, even as they watched
end. He poses himself the option of either          Pentheus’s failure to incorporate Dionysiac
advancing on the women with his army—the            cult into the Theban polis. They were specta-
virile, polis-sanctioned mode of attack—or of       tors at a drama that did not engulf and destroy
disguising himself in women’s clothes and spy-      them. They could feel themselves reasonably
ing on the women amid their supposed orgies.        (if never wholly) in control of their responses
The choice is an impossible one—he will be          to the god’s dangerous duality. The young male
defeated either way—but it is significant that      Athenian chorus members, moreover, were
Dionysus destroys and makes an example of           aware of being able to dress up as women and
Pentheus by exploiting the ruler’s desire to see    Asians without losing their identity as Athenian
while remaining concealed himself. Dionysus         males. The young Pentheus, in the liminal
is a god specifically associated with disguise      state of young adulthood, does not become a
and deception, and he has demonstrated those        fully mature Theban male. Instead, his iden-
powers in this very play. Pentheus, however,        tity is erased before it can be properly estab-
is unable to handle such transitions, and his       lished. The aged Cadmus and Tiresias, on the
transvestitism is grotesque and bathetic, not       other hand, are able to assume Bacchic outfits
sleek and beguiling like the god’s. He has          with the proper humility. Dionysus teaches us,
invested the Bacchic rites, moreover, with his      among other things, that an ability to dress up,
own puritanical notions. Since the women are        try on new and unfamiliar identities through
uncontrolled and outside the polis, they must       acting and disguise, is an important component
be engaging in multifarious sexual acts. This       of our ordinary identity as citizens.
possibility revolts, fascinates, and, ultimately,       The story of Pentheus, however, does not
deranges Pentheus. He wants to see, to be a         represent a successful transition into maturity;
spectator, but to remain untouched himself,         nor does it offer a resolution of the conflicts
apart. This kind of spying on sacred rites,         between civilization and savagery, male and
however, is strictly wrong, and for his punish-     female, identity and disguise. Cadmus and Tire-
ment he is absorbed brutally into them: He          sias might seem like successful models of inte-
is pulled down from his isolationist perch,         gration and flexibility, yet they still cut slightly
and in a symbolic erasure of his identity, he       ridiculous figures in their Bacchic garb, and
is pulled limb from limb and mangled until          the justifications they offer for dressing up in
unrecognizable.                                     Bacchus’s honor come off as sophistic and self-
    Pentheus, then, fails to become a successful    interested. The closure of the play, moreover,
spectator, and fails to participate safely in the   punishes Pentheus and his family with stark
Dionysiac acts of deception, disguise, doubling,    extremity that goes beyond ordinary notions of
and mimesis. This metatheatrical dimension          justice: The god has demonstrated his power
of the play would have been intensified by          and above all his power to destroy, derange, and
the physical environment of the Theater of          transform in terrible ways. The Chorus—who
Dionysus when the play was being performed          in most ancient tragedies represents a kind of
before an Athenian audience. The god him-           communis opinio—exults ecstatically at the grue-
self—as represented by his statue—looked on         some death of Pentheus. The messenger, by
as Pentheus’s tragedy unfolded. Dionysus’s          contrast, demurs. Finally, Cadmus laments his
many ironic references to himself in the third      son’s death with a pathos that begins to make
person would have been further enriched by          the death seem not only cruel but also even
the god’s presence in statue form. Athenians in     pointless. Cadmus himself, as Euripides is care-
the theater were themselves successfully, safely,   ful to emphasize, undergoes a long, drawn-out
and (presumably) chastely participating in the      punishment and banishment in the form of a
0	                                                                                            Bacchus

serpent that he hardly merits. The singing and         Bacchus See Dionysus.
dancing of the Bacchic Chorus—whose effect
must have been electrifying from their first
appearance on stage—by the end is infused with
                                                       Baucis and Philemon An elderly Phrygian
a sense of cruelty and crazed violence.                couple who gave hospitality to Hermes
    Euripides’ tragedy, as in other instances,         (Mercury) and Zeus (Jupiter). The main textual
provides a pitiless demonstration of a god’s           source for this myth is Ovid’s MetaMorpHoses
brutality and inexorable will. Our value sys-          (8.616–724). The story of Baucis and Philemon
tems are ultimately powerless to suture the            is told by Lelex at a banquet held by the river
rifts created by divine violence. Euripidean           god Achelous in honor of Theseus. The stories
gods belong to another order of morality and           told by the banquet guests concern Zeus’s ability
of necessity. The best human beings can do is          to metamorphose and dispense justice to pious
to be aware of, and to treat with the proper           mortals. Pirithous objected to Achelous’s story,
humility and reverence, the terrible power of          which, he felt, attributed too much power to the
the gods, rather than attract their violence and       gods. Lelex answered the criticism with the story
punishment through disregard.                          of Baucis and Philemon. Zeus and Hermes were

Jupiter [Zeus] and Mercury [Hermes] in the House of Philemon and Baucis. Adam Elsheimer, ca. 1608
(Gemäldegalerie, Dresden)
Bellerophon	                                                                                     0

wandering, disguised, in Phrygia in search of       and Stheneboea (now lost), based on the story of
hospitality. Household after household refused to   Bellerophon. In Homer, Bellerophon is a great
host the travelers. Only Baucis and Philemon, an    warrior who, in a reversal of fortune, eventu-
older, humble and pious couple living in a straw-   ally earned the disfavor of the gods. According
thatched cottage, received them. This couple        to Pindar’s Olympian Ode 13, Athena gave him
bore their poverty with dignity and did not let     a charmed bridle to capture the winged horse
their humble surroundings prevent them from         Pegasus as he drank from a spring. Astride
providing food and shelter to the disguised gods.   this marvelous horse, Bellerophon fought and
During the simple meal, Baucis and Philemon         defeated the Amazons and killed the Chimaera.
were surprised to find the food and wine magi-      According to Pindar, when Bellerophon attempt-
cally replenishing themselves. Zeus and Hermes      ed to ride to Mount Olympus to join the gods,
revealed their true identities and led them into    Pegasus threw him off his back.
the nearby mountain. The area in which they             At the beginning of his adventures, Bel-
had lived was inundated by the gods, destroying     lerophon found himself in exile at the court of
the inhospitable population. The house of Baucis    Proteus as a consequence of a (possibly unwit-
and Philemon, meanwhile, was turned into a          ting) murder that he had committed. Depend-
temple, and the gods fulfilled the couple’s wish    ing on the source, the victim was either his own
to be together in eternity by transforming them,    brother or Belarus, a tyrant of Corinth. Prote-
upon their deaths, into an entwined oak and lin-    us’s wife Stheneboea (sometimes called Anteia)
den tree guarding the temple.                       attempted to seduce Bellerophon. He resisted
    In the 18th century, Jean de la Fontaine’s      her advances, so she accused him of attempting
fables included a story based on that of Baucis     to rape her and asked her husband to kill Bel-
and Philemon. Early-modern northern paint-          lerophon. (The myth is similar to that of Hip-
ers produced many versions of the theme,            polytus, who also rejected an adulterous liaison
including Adam Elsheimer’s Jupiter and Mer-         and was made the target of false accusations.)
cury in the House of Philemon and Baucis from ca.   Proteus was unwilling to violate the laws of hos-
1608 (Gemäldegalerie, Dresden), Peter Paul          pitality by personally killing his guest. Instead,
Rubens’s 1620 Landscape with Philemon and           he sent the young man to Stheneboea’s father,
Baucis (Kunsthistoriches Museum, Vienna), and       king Iobates of Lycia, with a letter detailing the
Rembrandt van Rijn’s Philemon and Baucis from       accusations and asking him to kill Bellerophon.
1658 (National Gallery of Art, Washington).         Equally unwilling to kill the young man himself,
Elsheimer’s painting shows the humble interior      Iobates set him several tasks, the first of which
of Baucis and Philemon’s cottage as they offer      was to slay the fire-breathing Chimaera. Bel-
Zeus and Hermes hospitality. The seated gods,       lerophon used a spear to insert a piece of lead
dressed in rustic garb, have yet to reveal their    into her throat, which her fiery breath melted
true identities.                                    and caused her to choke to death. Afterward
                                                    Bellerophon battled with the Solymi and the
                                                    Amazons, defeating them both. Finally, Iobates
Bellerophon A Corinthian hero. Son of               engineered an ambush by Lycian warriors, but,
Glaucus (or Poseidon) and Eurymede.                 here again, Bellerophon triumphed. His success
Grandson of Sisyphus. Classical sources are         in overcoming these trials convinced Iobates
Apollodorus’s Library (1.9.3, 2.3.2), Hesiod’s      that Bellerophon enjoyed the favor of the gods.
tHeogony (319–325), Homer’s iLiad (6.186f),         He accepted him into his household, made
Horace’s odes (4.11), Hyginus’s Fabulae (57), and   him his successor, and gave him his daughter,
Pindar’s Isthmian Odes (7.45) and Olympian Odes     Anticlea, in marriage. Anticlea and Bellerophon
(13.60). Euripides wrote two plays, Bellerophon     produced three children: Isander, Hippolochus,
0	                                                                                    Bibliotheca

and Laodamia. According to Homer, Bellero-         by their sister Iris (goddess of rainbows and
phon angered the gods (possibly because he had     herald of the Olympian gods), who pledged
attempted to ride Pegasus to Mount Olympus),       that the Harpies would cease to torment
and he ended his days miserably.                   Phineus. Diodorus Siculus’s Library of History
    In the visual arts, Bellerophon is often       has an alternate version of the story in which
represented riding Pegasus in the act of slay-     Phineus’s sons were imprisoned by him, freed
ing the Chimaera. A Laconian black-figure          by the Boreadae and by the crew of the Argo,
kylix attributed to the Boread Painter from ca.    and Phineus was killed by Heracles. Sources
570 b.c.e. ( J. Paul Getty Museum, Malibu) is      vary as to the ending of the myth: either Calais
one example. A similar image is depicted in a      and Zetes freed Phineus or were themselves
Palmyrian floor mosaic of the imperial period.     killed by the Harpies. According to Apollonius
Images of Bellerophon are thought to be the        of Rhodes and Hyginus, Calais and Zetes were
iconographic model for later representations of    later killed by Heracles. Heracles blamed them
St. George slaying the dragon.                     for having convinced the crew of the Argo to
                                                   abandon him in Propontis while he searched
Bibliotheca See Library.                           for his companion Hylas, and he revenged
                                                   himself on them by killing them both. Heracles
                                                   built a barrow at the graves of Zetes and Calais
Boreadae (Calais and Zetes) The Boreadae,          that shook with winds blown by their father,
twin sons of Boreas, the North Wind, and           Boreas. The winged Boreadae are shown res-
Oreithyia (daughter of Erectheus). Textual         cuing Phineus in an Attic red-figure column-
sources are Apollodorus’s Library (1.9.21),        amphora attributed to the Leningrad Painter
Apollonius of Rhodes’s voyage of tHe               from ca. 460 b.c.e. (Louvre, Paris), while in a
argonauts (2.211–223, 2.164–434), Hyginus’s        Chalcidian black-figure cup (Wagner Museum,
Fabulae (14, 19), and Ovid’s MetaMorpHoses         University of Würzburg) from ca. 530 b.c.e. the
(6.675–722). In Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Calais       Boreadae give chase to the Harpies.
and Zetes showed no signs of having inher-
ited their father’s divine status until manhood,
when they sprouted wings on their backs. In        Boreas The personification of the North
Hyginus’s Fabulae, they have wings at their        Wind. According to Hesiod, the progeny of
heads and feet. Calais and Zetes joined the        Eos (Aurora) and Astraeus; elsewhere, the son
expedition of the Argonauts in the company of      of T yphoeus. Classical sources are Apollodorus’s
Jason and Heracles. Their central myth is the      Library (3.15.1), Apollonius of Rhodes’s Voyage
rescue of King Phineus of Thrace. Phineus had      of the Argonauts (2.211–223), Hesiod’s tHeogony
been granted prophetic gifts by Apollo, but        (378) and Works and Days (504f), Homer’s iLiad
either his misuse of them or his maltreatment      (20.221), Ovid’s MetaMorpHoses (6.675–722),
of his sons brought the Harpies’ wrath down        and Pausanias’s Description of Greece (1.19.5,
upon him. They tormented him by snatching          8.27.14). The Anemoi were four storms winds
food away from his mouth but allowed him just      associated with the four cardinal points: Boreas
enough, a reeking morsel of food, to allow him     the North Wind, Notus the South Wind,
to linger in a weakened, aged, and blind state.    Zephyrus the West Wind, and Eurus the East
When the crew of the Argo came upon him            Wind. Boreas brings the bitter coldness of the
in this condition, Calais and Zetes resolved to    winter winds from the north. In his Works and
liberate him. Being sons of Boreas, they were      Days, Hesiod recommends avoiding the bitter
endowed with wings and chased the Harpies          cold and moist wind blown from Thrace by
to the Strophades. The Harpies were protected      “swift-pathed” Boreas in January and February.
Briseis	                                                                                       0

A cult was established in Athens in gratitude       of this typical representation is an Attic red-
to the North Wind after a storm destroyed           figure pelike attributed to the Niobid Painter
the approaching Persian fleet in 480 b.c.e. In      from ca. 460 b.c.e. (Wagner Museum, Univer-
Homer’s Odyssey, Boreas sent a wind to blow         sity of Würzburg). A postclassical example is a
Odysseus’s ship off course in obedience to          lunette fresco from the Galatea stanza of the
Zeus. Boreas loved Oreithyia, daughter of           Villa Farnesina (Rome) painted by Sebastiano
King Erectheus of Athens, and carried her off       del Piombo in ca. 1511.
by force after he failed to win her by persua-
sion. Their offspring were Calais and Zetes,
                                                    Briareus See Hundred-Handed Ones.
twins who seemed human until they came of
age and sprouted wings. The Boreadae, as the
youths were known, later joined the expedition      Briseis Concubine of Achilles. Daughter
of the Argonauts. Two daughters were also           of Brisis. Classical sources are Homer’s iLiad
born to the couple, Chione and Cleopatra; the       (1.181–187, 318–348; 2.688–694; 9.328–945;
latter married the Thracian king Phineus. In        19.245–302; 24.675–676) and Ovid’s Heroides
Homer’s Iliad, Boreas, in the form of a stallion,   (3). Briseis was married to Mynes. During
mated with the mares of Erectheus, producing        the Trojan War, Achilles killed Mynes and
12 swift mares. In the Orphic Hymn to Boreas,       captured Briseis as his slave but was forced
the North Wind is called on to bring good,          to give her to Agamemnon, who had himself
rather than cold, weather.                          given up his captive, Chryseis, to her father,
    In visual representations, Boreas is shown      Chryses, when it was revealed that her capture
as an older, bearded male figure with hair stiff-   was the cause of a plague afflicting the Greeks.
ened by cold. His abduction of Oreithyia was a      After being obliged to release Briseis, Achilles
popular theme in classical painting. An example     refused to reenter the battle.
Cacus A fire-breathing creature Hercules              afterward instituted the rite of Greek-style sac-
(see Heracles) encountered during his Tenth           rifice at Rome’s Ara Maxima (Greatest Altar).
Labor. Classical sources are Livy’s History
(1.7.4–15), Ovid’s fasti (1.543–582, 5.643–
                                                      Cadmus Founder of Thebes. Son of King
652), and Virgil’s aeneid (8.190ff ). The story of
                                                      Agenor of Tyre, in Phoenicia. Husband to
Caucus is a Roman addition to the myths of the
                                                      Harmonia (daughter of Aphrodite and Ares)
Twelve Labors of Hercules. In Hercules’ Tenth
                                                      and brother to Europa. The children of
Labor, he was sent to fetch the cattle of Geryon,
                                                      Cadmus and Harmonia are Autonoe, Agave,
a triple-bodied warrior whom he defeated. The
herd of beautiful cattle were driven by Hercules      Ino, and Semele, and a son, Polydorus. Cadmus
from Erythia (modern Spain) through (in the           appears in Aeschylus’s seven against tHebes
Latin addition to the story) Rome. According          and euripides’ baccHae. Additional classi-
to Livy, Ovid, and Virgil, Heracles encountered       cal sources are Apollodorus’s Library (3.4.1–
the cattle thief Cacus in Rome. In Livy, Cacus        2), Diodorus Siculus’s Library of History
is simply a covetous shepherd, but Virgil’s           (5.49.1–6, 58.2), Herodotus’s Histories (1.166ff),
Cacus is a part-human, fire-breathing monster         Hesiod’s tHeogony (937), Hyginus’s Fabulae
fathered by Vulcan (see Hephaestus). Cacus is         (6), Ovid’s MetaMorpHoses (3.1–136, 4.561–
equally grotesque in Ovid, who notes that he          603), Pausanias’s Description of Greece (9.5.1–3)
lives in caves on the Aventine Hill; in other ver-    and Strabo’s Geography (9.2.3). Sources are not
sions, he inhabits the Palatine. While Hercules       agreed on the parentage of Cadmus, neither do
was being entertained by Evander, Cacus stole         they agree about the number and name of his
several cattle from him and devised a plan for        siblings. Cadmus’s brothers are, variously, Cilix,
confusing him about their location; he pulled         Phineus, Phoenix, and Thasus, and it is usually
the cows backward into a cave, making it seem         agreed that his sister is Europa. Following the
as if the cattle had walked away from the cave (a     abduction of Europa by Zeus in the form of a
trick similar to the one perpetrated by Hermes        bull to Crete, Cadmus and his brothers were sent
on Apollo). When Hercules came to drive               by their father, King Agenor, to return with her
his herd away, some of these bellowed for the         or face exile themselves. The brothers did not
lost cattle. The hidden cattle answered, reveal-      find Europa but did move onto the European
ing their hiding place. Hercules recovered his        continent and there established several settle-
cattle and killed Cacus with his club. Hercules       ments. Cadmus, in particular, was renowned

Calchas	                                                                                        0

as the founder of the city of Thebes. He was         were transformed into snakes and brought to
also believed to have brought the Phoenician         Elysium. According to Hyginus’s Fabulae, they
alphabet—the basis of the Greek alphabet—to          metamorphosed into serpents because Cadmus
Greece. The Cadmea, the citadel of Thebes, is        had killed the dragon of Ares.
named after the founder of the city.                     Though Cadmus and Harmonia appear to
    Accompanied by his mother, Telephassa,           have been favored by the gods, their descen-
in his search for Europa, Cadmus first arrived       dants suffered misfortunes. Semele, mother
in Thrace, where they were warmly received.          of Dionysus, was tricked into bringing about
Cadmus consulted the Delphic Oracle, which           her own death by Hera. Ino’s care of her
advised him to abandon the search for Europa.        nephew Dionysus attracted Hera’s wrath, and
Instead, he was advised to follow a certain cow      she afflicted Ino with a madness that caused
and establish a city on the spot where the cow       Ino to throw herself into the sea with her
would fall down exhausted. This was Thebes.          son Melicertes. In Euripides’ tragedy Bacchae,
According to Pausanias’s Description of Greece,      Cadmus was humiliatingly forced to submit
the cow Cadmus followed had the markings             to the authority of Dionysus. In the same play,
of the full moon on her flanks. Before Cadmus        Pentheus was slaughtered by his own mother,
could sacrifice the cow, he searched for a spring.   Agave, and his aunt Autonoe in a Dionysiac
He found one protected by a dragon, Ares’ off-       frenzy. Their unwitting murder of Pentheus
spring, who proceeded to slaughter Cadmus’s          was brought about by Dionysus in revenge for
companions. Cadmus killed the dragon, and,           Pentheus’s lack of piety toward him.
following Athena’s advice, planted the dragon’s          In visual representation Cadmus is some-
teeth in the soil. These sprang up to become         times shown battling the dragon guarding the
fully armed Spartan warriors. Alarmed, Cadmus        Spring of Ares, as in a red-figure calyx krater
threw a rock among the warriors to provoke           from ca. 360 b.c.e. (Louvre, Paris). Here Cad-
a fight among them. Only five Spartoi (“sown         mus, shown with Harmonia, is preparing to kill
men”) survived the battle: Echion, Oudaeus,          the dragon coiled against rocks near the site of
Chthonius, Hyperenor, and Pelorus. Cadmus            the spring.
atoned for his killing of Ares’ dragon by giving
himself into the god’s servitude for eight years.
He was finally rewarded for his toils by ascending   Calaeno See Harpies.
to the throne of Thebes and was given Harmo-
nia, daughter of Aphrodite and Ares, in mar-         Calais See Boreadae.
riage. According to Diodorus Siculus’s Library
of History, their wedding was hosted by the
Olympian gods, and the couple were presented         Calchas A Greek seer. Son of Thestor.
with extraordinary gifts. Cadmus gave Harmo-         Classical sources are Homer’s iLiad (1.68–100,
nia a golden necklace. In some accounts, it was      2.303–330) and Euripides’ ipHigenia at auLis.
given to her directly by its maker, Hephaestus,      Calchas joined the Greek expedition against
or even given to Cadmus by his sister, Europa,       Troy and was the chief seer of the Greek army.
who had received it from Zeus. This necklace         He exposed the reason for the plague afflicting
was later associated with the ill fortune suffered   the army in Homer’s Iliad, which led to the
by the descendants of Cadmus and Harmonia.           quarrel between Achilles and Agamemnon.
Eventually Cadmus ceded the throne of The-           He also made prophecies motivating other
bes to his grandson, Pentheus, and settled in        major decisions during the Trojan War (e.g., the
Illyria with Harmonia, where, after death, they      construction of the wooden horse). According
0	                                                                                   Callimachus

to Euripides, Calchas delivered the prophecy      (recusatio). The Augustans are not so much
demanding Iphigenia’s sacrifice.                  reproducing Callimachus’s programmatic
                                                  statements as adapting Callimachean meta-
                                                  phors and terminology to their own situation.
Callimachus (fl. third century b.c.e.) Calli-
machus was a poet and scholar from Cyrene
who lived and worked in Alexandria and            Callirhoe (1) An Oceanid (sea nymph),
flourished under Ptolemy II and III in the        daughter of Oceanus and Tethys. Classical
third century b.c.e. He produced a rich and       sources are Apollodorus’s Library (2.5.10) and
varied body of work, which survives largely       Hesiod’s tHeogony (288ff). Callirhoe was mar-
in fragments: Aetia (“Origins”) in four books,    ried to the warrior Chrysaor (son of Medusa
Iambi (13 poems), and the Hecale. Callimachus     and Poseidon), and their son was the warrior
also wrote hymns to Zeus, Apollo, Artemis,        Geryon.
Delos, Athena, and Demeter; these survive
in full and loosely imitate the manner of
the HoMeric HyMns. Finally, he wrote epi-         Callirhoe (2) A river nymph, daughter of
grams and other erudite works. Callimachus’s      Achelous (a river god). The main classical
approach to mythology reflects his interest in    source is Apollodorus’s Library (3.7.5). Callirhoe
the recherché and the uncommon. Callimachus       was married to Alcmaeon and by him she had
participates in a broader Alexandrian ten-        two sons, Amphoterus and Acarnan. She sent
dency to carve out subheroic episodes within      Alcmaeon to acquire the golden necklace of
heroic mythology. In the Hecale, for example,     Harmonia, and Alcmaeon was killed during the
Callimachus relates how Theseus receives          attempt. Callirhoe became the consort of Zeus
hospitality from the aged Hecale on the way to    and asked him to grant her the favor of magi-
the bull of Marathon. Callimachus avoids the      cally aging her sons so that they could avenge
unbroken sweep of epic narrative, preferring      the death of their father.
shorter, carefully crafted segments of narra-
tion. In the prologue to his Aetia, he famously   Callirhoe (3) A young Calydonian woman.
enunciates some of his key poetic principles:     The classical source is Pausanias’s Description
He values the narrow, the slender, and the        of Greece (7.21.1–5). Callirhoe rejected the
finely crafted over the loud, the large, and      advances of Coresus, a priest of Dionysus.
the bombastic. He expresses this preference       Coresus informed Dionysus, who inflicted the
through a series of concrete metaphors, e.g.,     population with madness. Callirhoe was to be
the superiority of the pure, narrow stream to     sacrificed to appease the god but at the last
the vast, muddy river. Callimachus’s aesthetic    moment Coresus spared her and killed himself.
preferences and water metaphors enjoyed an        Callirhoe took her own life out of remorse and
extended afterlife among the Roman poets,         the spring where she died was given her name.
by whom he was revered as a master of liter-
ary craft and the sophisticated, erudite style:
Catullus, Horace, Virgil, Propertius, and         Callisto (Kallisto) An Arcadian wood nymph
Ovid all write in an avowedly Callimachean        and follower of Artemis. Daughter of King
tradition, albeit laying claim to different       Lycaon. Classical sources are Apollodorus’s
aspects of that tradition. The Augustan poets     Library (3.8.2), Hyginus’s Fabulae (177), Ovid’s
defend their Callimachean cult of poetic craft    fasti (2.155–192) and MetaMorpHoses (2.409–
against the demand for an epic on Augustus’s      531), and Pausanias’s Description of Greece (1.25.1,
or Agrippa’s deeds. This type of strategy has     8.3.6), Zeus disguised as Artemis, appeared to
been classified as the Callimachean “refusal”     Callisto when she had fallen asleep alone in the
Calypso	                                                                                          0

forest. She recognized Zeus when he embraced         furious Hera persuaded Tethys and Oceanus
her, but she had lain her bow aside and, defense-    to circumscribe the path of the constellations
less, was unable to resist his advances. Callisto    so that they never descended below the horizon
became pregnant by Zeus with a son, Arcas.           into the sea.
She was too ashamed to reveal to Artemis what            The infant Arcas appears on an Apulian red-
had taken place. However, nine months later,         figure chous vase dating from ca. 350 b.c.e. ( J.
a distraught Callisto’s pregnancy was revealed       Paul Getty Museum, Malibu). On one side of the
by the other nymphs (they had disrobed her           vase, Callisto is changing into a bear and Hermes,
before bathing). Despite her innocence, Artemis      an appropriate intermediary as the son of Maia,
banished her from her company. When Callisto         takes the young Arcas protectively into his arms.
gave birth to Arcas, Hera became enraged with        Postclassical artists painted several versions of
what she perceived was the flagrant display of       the story of Callisto, focusing on the seduction
her husband’s infidelity, and she transformed        of Callisto by Zeus as in Peter Paul Rubens’s
Callisto into a bear. In some versions of the        painting Jupiter and Callisto of 1613 (Staatliche
myth, it was Zeus who transformed Callisto           Kunstsammlungen, Kassel, Germany).
into a bear to protect her from Hera’s wrath.
    Arcas was given by Zeus into the care of
                                                     Calydonian Boar hunt See Meleager.
Maia (one of the Pleiades). As a young man,
Arcas came upon Callisto as a bear while hunt-
ing. Zeus stayed Arcas’s hand before he killed       Calypso A nymph or Pleiad. Daughter of
her and placed mother and son in the heavens         Atlas and Pleione or of Helios and Perseis.
as the constellations Ursa Major and Minor. A        Classical sources are Apollodorus’s Library

Mercury Orders Calypso to Release Odysseus. Engraving, John Flaxman, 1810
0	                                                                                           Canace

(Epitome 7.24), Hesiod’s Theogony (1,017),          and herself—but fails to affect the outcome,
Homer’s odyssey (1.13–15, 48–59; 5.13–281;          since no one believes her. The tragedians exploit
7.244–269). Ovid’s Ars Amatoria (2.125), and        to powerful effect the maddening inability of
Hyginus’s Fabulae (125), Propertius’s Elegies       her audience to understand her. Cassandra often
(1.15.9). Calypso lived on the island Ogygia,       appears to be mad or raving, unable to express
where Odysseus came to be shipwrecked. She          herself clearly, which makes it somewhat more
fell in love with him and kept him there for        plausible when her interlocutors cannot under-
either one, three, or seven years (depending on     stand her. Homer does not mention her pro-
the source) until Hermes, commanded by Zeus,        phetic powers but gives her a prominent place as
requested that she release Odysseus. Calypso        Priam’s most beautiful daughter and one of the
reluctantly and sadly allowed Odysseus to depart    mourners of the dead Hector. During the sack
for Ithaca. This scene is the subject of the neo-   of Troy, the lesser Ajax, son of Oileus, dragged
classical engraving by John Flaxman, Mercury        Cassandra away from the statue of Athena
Orders Calypso to Release Odysseus, illustrating    where she had taken refuge, thereby loosening
Homer’s Odyssey. During their affair one or         the statue from its plinth, and raped her. Athena
more sons were born to Calypso.                     subsequently caused him to die by drowning at
                                                    sea. Cassandra was awarded to Agamemnon as
                                                    his concubine after the sack of Troy and was
Canace See Aeolus (1).
                                                    killed along with him by Clytaemnestra on
                                                    their return.
Capaneus Son of Hipponous. Capaneus was
one of the Seven against Thebes. Classical
                                                    Catullus (ca. 84 b.c.e.–ca. 54 b.c.e.) Catullus
sources are Aeschylus’s seven against tHebes
                                                    was a young man of wealth and good con-
(422–451), Homer’s iLiad (2.564), and Statius’s
                                                    nections from Verona in Cisalpine Gaul. He
tHebaid (3.598, 4.165, 6.731, 10.827). As
                                                    probably lived until the age of 30 (84 to 54
Capaneus scaled the walls of Thebes, he declared
                                                    b.c.e.), although the details of his life are highly
that not even Zeus could stop him with his thun-
                                                    uncertain. Catullus is notable as the first in a
derbolts; yet Zeus killed him with a thunderbolt.
                                                    line of Roman poets of provincial origin who
Capaneus is a prime example of hubris.
                                                    devoted themselves full-time to the composition
                                                    of erudite, first-person poetry, often on convivial
Cassandra A Trojan prophetess. Daughter             or erotic topics. Roman poetry of the previous
of Hecuba and Priam. Cassandra appears in           century belonged for the most part to one of the
Aeschylus’s agaMeMnon and Euripides’                public genres: tragedy, comedy, or epic. Poets in
trojan WoMen. Additional classical sources are      Catullus’s time continued to write epic poetry,
Apollodorus’s Library (3.12.5), Homer’s iLiad       but they also turned increasingly to smaller
(24.699), Hyginus’s Fabulae (93, 108, 117), and     genres, such as epigrams and lyric poetry, and
Virgil’s aeneid (2.245ff, 3.183). In Aeschylus’s    nonheroic subject matter. While Greek influ-
Agamemnon, Cassandra tells how Apollo gave          ence on Roman poetry had always been strong,
her the power of prophecy in return for the         Catullus and his contemporaries brought these
promise of sex, but she went back on her word       Hellenizing tendencies to a new degree of inten-
and refused him. Apollo left her gift of prophecy   sity: Metrical, syntactic, and dictional features
intact but condemned her never to be believed.      of the “new poets” gave their poetry a refined,
Cassandra predicts many important events—           esoteric style that flaunted its Greekness and
such as the disastrous outcome of Paris’s abduc-    sophistication. Cicero, with no small disdain,
tion of Helen and the murder of Agamemnon           referred to them in a letter as neoteroi (“the more

recent ones,” or “new poets”), from which we get     to this day to what degree the extant collection
the term “neoteric.” While we do not have the        represents Catullus’s ordering and intentions. In
poetry of Catullus’s fellow “new poets” except       poem 1, he dedicates a “little book” of “trifling
in fragments, they appear to have participated       compositions” to his friend Cornelius Nepos—a
in an elegant cultural milieu centered in Rome.      book that many have supposed to be a collec-
Catullus, we know, especially prized the qualities   tion of polymetric poems, possibly 1–60. On
of urbanity, wit, charm, and elegance—qualities      balance, it is impossible to say (although hard
that were explicitly opposed to a severe tradi-      to abstain from attempting to guess) whether or
tionalist ethos, and that were as important in       not the extant collection represents a collection
poetry as they were in life.                         designed and published as such by its author.
    Catullus valued erudite poems of high qual-          The polymetrics and epigrams concern
ity as opposed to weighty, bombastic ones and,       largely scenes and figures from contemporary
in general, was highly influenced by the Alex-       Roman life. These shorter poems, written
andrian aesthetic associated with Callimachus,       often in a satirical, facetious, or invective man-
Theocritus, Philetas, Apollonius of Rhodes,          ner, contain only the rare mythic reference. In
and the epigrams of the Greek Anthology. Spe-        the fragmentary poem 2b, for example, Catul-
cific Alexandrian features that can be found in      lus appears to compare himself to Atalanta
Catullus include an interest in framed mytho-        loosening her girdle and thus losing her virgin-
logical narratives and a complex layering of         ity in marriage. It is in the longer poems, or
myths, focus on subheroic mythology and/or the       carmina maiora, that Catullus engages in more
darker side of heroism, an emphasis on female        extensive treatment of myths. Significantly, he
figures, irrational emotions and unsuccessful        does not write in the traditional genres of epic
eros, and a rich display of geographical, cultic,    and tragedy but prefers the exquisitely crafted
and mythological erudition. Some of the erudi-       mini-epic (sometimes called “epyllion”) in the
tion may have been encouraged and enriched           sophisticated modern style. Just as the epyllion
by the presence of the Greek scholar and poet        eschews traditional epic form and narrative
Parthenius of Nicaea, who was brought to             structure, so it opposes itself to the heroic
Rome by Catullus’s fellow neoteric poet C. Hel-      values of epic. Catullus’s friend Cinna labored
vius Cinna and who influenced both him and           nine years over his learned epyllion on Smyrna
C. Cornelius Gallus—another poet of broadly          (see Myrrha), the mythic figure who conceived
neoteric affinities who wrote love poetry and        Adonis through incestuous union with her
mythological/aetiological poetry. Parthenius’s       father. Catullus similarly displays an interest in
extant Erotika Pathemata (“Sufferings in Love”),     feminine (or feminized) mythic figures, often
dedicated to Gallus, is a collection of recherché    involved in unhappy or otherwise doomed love,
love stories of the kind that neoteric poets would   and in the darker aspects of male heroism.
have found useful for their poetry.                      To a certain degree, in subverting the epic
    The Catullan collection consists of 116          hero, Catullus is following in the tradition
poems divided into three sections: short poems       of Alexandrian poets such as Apollonius of
in various meters, often called the “polymet-        Rhodes. But he is also viewing Alexandrian
rics” (1–60); a series of longer poems in vari-      mythology through a distinctly Roman lens.
ous meters, called the carmina maiora (61–68);       Catullus, who lived and wrote in the age of
and epigrams in elegiac couplets (69–116). To        Caesar and Pompey, when the institutions and
complicate matters, however, poems 65–116            traditions of Roman public life were begin-
are all in the elegiac meter and thus form their     ning to fall apart and the traditional political
own subcategory, as do poems 1–64 (poems in          career became problematic, was profoundly
various meters, short and long). Scholars debate     skeptical of the heroic ideal of virtus (“manly

excellence”). The great dynasts were monopo-            diately on landing on the shore of Troy, with
lizing power and offices in an unconstitutional         Catullus’s loss of his brother, and his love affair
manner and ripping apart the republic through           with Lesbia. The themes of grief, loss, mar-
their rival ambitions: “manliness” becomes a            riage, and death are inextricably combined as
problematic quality. All but the most power-            Catullus shuttles between autobiography and
ful are deprived of their traditional virile role       myth. Myth is merged with first-person nar-
of political participation. Catullus himself, as        ration in a manner that perhaps prefigures the
a poet and aesthete, presents a novel style of          elegiac love poetry of Propertius and Ovid. And
virile identity, and in some cases flaunts a quasi-     once again, as in the Atalanta simile, Catullus
effeminate sophistication. His exploration of           associates himself closely with a female figure.
myth is thus related to his own poetic autobi-              Catullus’s most ambitious and important
ography and his interest in the degradation of          mythological work is poem 64. Here he focuses
virtus in his turbulent times.                          his most intensive poetic labors on a richly
    In poem 63, the mythic figure Attis wakes to        erudite mythic narrative, layered and interwo-
the terrible realization that he castrated himself      ven to a remarkable degree. In the outermost
in a moment of ecstatic worship of Cybele, the          frame of the story, Peleus, voyaging among
Anatolian goddess sometimes referred to as the          the heroes of the ship Argo, sees Thetis rise
Great Mother. The Phrygian cult of the Great            out of the ocean, is inflamed with desire, and
Mother was traditionally supposed to have been          ends up marrying her. Catullus then describes
brought to Rome in 204 b.c.e.: An annual festi-         the wedding and the guests, which include
val, the Megalesia, was celebrated in her honor.        both mortals and gods. On the wedding couch
Romans continued to view the cult as foreign,           is an amazing tapestry, woven with the stories
however; her castrated priests, the Galli, were         of heroic mythology. Specifically, the tapestry
foreign, and Romans were not allowed to take            tells the story of Ariadne, Theseus, and Bac-
part in her rites. In most legends, Attis is Cybele’s   chus. The framing story of Peleus and Thetis
Phrygian lover. Catullus, however, presents a           thus frames the story of another union of god
less familiar version in which Attis is a Greek         and mortal. As depicted in the tapestry, Ariadne
youth who sails to Phrygia out of devotion to           is abandoned on the island of Dia by Theseus,
the goddess. Catullus’s version allows Attis’s self-    who has just slain the Minotaur and is return-
destructive, unmanly, “Eastern,” ecstatic frenzy        ing to the Greek mainland. In a long soliloquy
to be contrasted with his previous male identity        (which, incidentally, the visual medium of tex-
as defined and fostered by the civic institutions       tile could not represent), she laments her sad
of the Greek city-state: the forum, the palaestra,      fate and Theseus’s faithlessness. At the end of
the gymnasium. He has lost that identity now            her speech, however, the god Bacchus and his
and regrets the excessive frenzy that drove him         train of followers arrive amid cacophonous
to destroy his own masculinity.                         music and revelry. The god will make Ariadne
    Catullus, who represents himself as subject         his bride, while her prayers to the gods will
to deranging passions and compromised in                doom the forgetful Theseus: He neglects to
his masculinity, might be suspected of explor-          change the black sail on his ship to a white one,
ing myths of personal significance to himself.          and his father, Aegeus, understanding the black
Whether or not this is true of Attis, poem              sail to mean that his son has been killed by the
68 undeniably interweaves personal biography            Minotaur, throws himself into the sea. In the
and mythic narrative. This highly experimental          final section of the poem, we move back to the
poem connects the story of Laodomia, who                framing narrative of the wedding. The Parcae
enjoyed only a single day of marriage with her          (Fates) arrive and sing a ghastly wedding song
husband, Protesilaus, before he died imme-              about the future deeds of the couple’s famous

son-to-be, Achilles. The song of the Parcae         weddings of Peleus and Theseus; they no lon-
emphasizes the darker side of Achilles’ accom-      ger deign to be seen in the clear light of day.
plishments, such as the glutting of the rivers of   The profoundly different world of the inherited
Troy with dead bodies and the sacrifice of the      myths has become a measure of the corruption
virgin Polyxena to his shade.                       of contemporary Roman society.
    The central connection between the
framed story and framing story is the mar-
                                                    Cecrops See Aglaurus and Herse; Athena.
riage of a mortal and a god: Peleus and Thetis,
Ariadne and Bacchus. In both stories, more-
over, male heroism is set in a questionable         centaur Hybrid creature whose upper half
light. Theseus is a faithless deserter, rather      is human and lower half is horse-shaped.
than a brave monster-slaying hero, and Achil-       The progeny of Ixion and a cloud. Classical
les’ deeds, represented as glorious in Homer,       sources are Apollodorus’s Library (1.2.3,
come off as ghastly and excessively violent in      2.5.4, 3.4.4, 3.10.3, Epitome 1.20), Hyginus’s
the speech of the Parcae. The most attractive       Fabulae (33, 62), and Ovid’s MetaMorpHoses
figure in the poem, in whom commentators            (9.123, 12.210–536). Ixion attempted to
have seen glimmers of Catullan autobiogra-          seduce Hera, he thought with some success,
phy, is not accidentally the female Ariadne:        but Zeus had created a cloud in her shape to
She was abandoned by her unscrupulous lover,        deceive him. The offspring of Ixion’s union
just as Catullus was abandoned by the cal-          with the Hera-shaped cloud was Centaurus,
lous and faithless Lesbia, and now weaves a         from whom centaurs descend. An alternate
rich web of lamenting words. It is hard to          version sees Cronus, in the form of a horse,
imagine a more carefully designed subversion        seducing Philyra, daughter of Oceanus and
of the traditional values of heroic epic than       producing Chiron as the ancestor of the
Catullus’s central focus on the emotionally         centaurs.
fraught, helpless, and hyperarticulate Ariadne.         Hybrid creatures such as centaurs repre-
The very use of the tapestry is an epic motif       sented the potential savagery of the human
turned against itself. As an extended descrip-      being, but they were sometimes capable of civi-
tion of an artwork, or ecphrasis, the passage       lized behavior. By contrast, satyrs, who were
recalls Homer’s Shield of Achilles. But rather      considered a more benign, if lascivious species,
than describing the scenes represented in           were, from the point of view of civilization,
metal on an epic hero’s mighty weapon forged        unredeemable creatures.
by the god Hephaestus, Catullus makes the               Several heroes of classical literature partici-
emotional complaint of a female figure the          pated in wars against the centaurs, or centau-
centerpiece of a finely wrought tapestry.           romachies, including Heracles and Theseus.
    Catullus’s use of mythology coheres with        The battle of Lapiths and centaurs is a famous
his counterclassical aesthetic and countertra-      instance of a centauromachy. Pirithous, king
ditional sensibility. He integrates mythic nar-     of the Lapiths in Thessaly and son of Ixion,
rative with the themes of his own literary          invited the centaurs to his wedding with Hip-
autobiography and his interpretation of pres-       podame. During the wedding feast the cen-
ent social conditions. The world of gods and        taurs, led by Eurytus, drank wine and became
heroes, however, ultimately belongs to the          unruly. Eurytus attempted to carry off the bride
past. In a coda to poem 64, the poet laments        but was prevented by Theseus, who killed him.
the hopelessly vitiated morals of contemporary      In Ovid’s Metamorphoses, the battle is a grue-
Rome: The gods abhor our behavior and no            some, violent struggle in which the combatants
longer mingle with mortals as they did at the       made use of whatever weapon lay at hand in the

wedding hall: votives, antlers, cups and cande-      Cephalus (Kephalus) An Athenian hunter.
labrum, a fire brand, an altar and nearby trees.     Son of Aeolus. Classical sources are Apollo-
The myth emphasized the centaurs’ violation          dorus’s Library (1.9.4, 2.4.7, 3.15.1), Hyginus’s
of the rules of hospitality.                         Fabulae (189), and Ovid’s Ars Amatoria
    On another occasion, the centaur Nessus          (3.687–746) and MetaMorpHoses (7.668–862).
attempted to abduct Heracles’ bride Deianira,        Cephalus was married to Procris, daughter of
and Heracles killed him with an arrow. Nessus        Erechtheus and sister of Orithyia. Ovid tells
tricked Deianira, however, into preserving some      the story of the tragic death of Procris by the
of his blood as a love potion, and years later she   hand of her unwitting husband. One morning
unwittingly poisoned Heracles with it.               Eos, goddess of dawn, fell in love with him
    Chiron and Pholus are exceptions to the          when she saw him out hunting and carried him
view of the centaurs as essentially uncivilized.     off. Cephalus protested his love for his wife
Chiron was a centaur skilled in medicine             and a scorned Eos sent him back to Procris,
and trusted by the Olympian gods; he was             although, according to some sources, not before
the tutor of Achilles, Asclepius, Jason, and         he fathered on her a son, Phaethon. In one ver-
Dionysus. Pholus was a centaur who offered           sion of the myth, Eos caused Cephalus to be
Heracles hospitality while he was on his way         suspicious of Procris’s fidelity or tricked him
to perform his Third Labor, the capture of the       into believing that she had been unfaithful.
Erymanthian Boar. He offered Heracles wine           Cephalus therefore set about testing Procris to
and thereby attracted the attention of other,        put his mind at ease. He changed his appear-
less civilized centaurs. Pholus was killed and,      ance (with the help of Eos) and attempted to
according to some accounts, Chiron himself           seduce his wife. The faithful Procris resisted his
was fatally wounded in the ensuing fray.             advances for a long time, but Cephalus finally
    The Battle of the Lapiths and centaurs           observed her hesitating and revealed his true
appears as a theme many times in ancient art.        identity to her. A distraught Procris sought ref-
It is the subject of a metope of the Temple of       uge in the woods of Artemis (in some sources,
Zeus at Olympia dating from the fifth century        on the island of Crete), but Artemis refused to
b.c.e. and a wall painting from Pompeii of the       accept her into her company because she was
first century b.c.e. It was treated by Michel-       married. She was, however, moved by Procris’s
angelo in his Battle of the Lapiths and Centaurs,    story and did not send her away empty-handed
a relief that depicts not the violent struggle       but presented her with a javelin that never
as much as the twisting, intertwined form of         missed its mark and a dog that always tracked its
hybrid centaurs and their human enemies,             prey. Cephalus eventually won Procris back by
blurring the distinction between the species.        begging forgiveness. The couple lived together
A more generalized notion of centauromachy           happily for some time, and Procris presented
also appeared on the François Vase from 570          her husband with the javelin and hound. But
b.c.e. (Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Flor-          later Procris heard rumors that he was unfaithful
ence). In the postclassical period, versions of      to her. Following him one day into the woods,
the centauromachy were painted by Piero di           she surprised him and he, thinking that she was
Cosimo and Peter Paul Rubens. An episode             a wild animal, killed her with his javelin.
of some interest is Heracles’ struggle with              In visual representations, Cephalus is
Nessus, as in the Nessus amphora from ca.            depicted as a hunter, sometimes carrying the
600 b.c.e. (National Museum, Athens) and             javelin given to him by Procris. Another visual
in sculptural form in Jean Boulogne’s bronze         theme is Cephalus as the object of Eos’s affec-
Heracles and Nessus of 1600 (Rijksmuseum,            tion, as in a red-figure cup from ca. 440 b.c.e.
Amsterdam).                                          (Antikenmuseen, Berlin). Here Eos is carrying

Cephalus away with her. A postclassical example         Library (2.5.12), Hesiod’s tHeogony (311, 769),
of this theme is Nicholas Poussin’s Cephalus            Homer’s iLiad (8.368) and odyssey (11.623),
and Eos of 1624 (National Gallery, London), in          Pausanias’s Description of Greece (3.25.6), and
which the hunter tries to free himself from her         Virgil’s aeneid (6.417–425). Heracles’ Eleventh
amorous embrace. The marital love between               Labor was to retrieve Cerberus for king
Cephalus and Procris is treated in Pierre Nar-          Eurystheus of Mycenae. Heracles was given per-
cisse Guérin’s Cephalus and Procris of 1810 (Lou-       mission by Hades, lord of the underworld, to take
vre, Paris) and Claude Lorraine’s Landscape with        Cerberus on the condition that Heracles subdue
Cephalus and Procris Reunited by Diana of ca. 1630      the dog without weapons. Heracles grasped it
(National Gallery, London). Here, the reconcili-        around the neck until Cerberus conceded defeat.
ation of Cephalus and Procris, orchestrated by          Later, Heracles returned Cerberus to Hades.
Artemis, is the focus of the image. The goddess’s       A Caeretan black-figure hydria from ca. 530
                                                        b.c.e. (Louvre, Paris) shows the three-headed
gifts of the javelin and hound are also depicted.
                                                        hound being mastered by Heracles. A postclas-
                                                        sical representation of Cerberus by William
Cerberus A three-headed dog that guards the             Blake, Cerberus, a watercolor from 1824–27 (Tate
entrance to Hades. Offspring of Echidna and             Gallery, London), shows a similarly fearsome
Typhoeus. Classical sources are Apollodorus’s           three-headed creature gnashing its teeth.

Cerberus. Illustration for The Divine Comedy, William Blake, 1824–27 (Tate Gallery, London)

Ceres See Demeter.                                dead to row themselves to the underworld while
                                                  he steers. In visual representations, Charon is
                                                  shown as an old man ferrying his boat, as in a
Ceyx See Alcyone.
                                                  white-ground red-figure lekythos vase attrib-
                                                  uted to the Reed Painter, dating from ca. 425
Charon A guardian of Hades. Son of Erebus         b.c.e. (British Museum, London). A postclassical
and Nyx. Classical sources are Aristophanes’s     image of Charon is the 19th-century engraving
The Frogs (180–270), Diodorus Siculus’s Library   Charon Crossing the Acheron by Gustave Doré.
of History (1.92), Pausanias’s Description of
Greece (10.28.1–2), and Virgil’s aeneid (6.298–   Charybdis A female creature living in a cave
301). Charon ferried the dead, brought to him     above a narrow sea passage across from another
by Hermes, across the river Styx (Acheron)        monster, Scylla. The offspring of Gaia and
to the underworld. Every soul he transported      Poseidon. Classical sources are Apollodorus’s
paid for the passage, and if the soul had not     Library (1.9.25), Apollonius of Rhodes’s
received the proper burial rites, Charon was      voyage of tHe argonauts (4.789ff), Homer’s
forbidden to deliver her or him to Hades.         odyssey (12.73–126, 222–59, 426–427), Ovid’s
During Heracles’ Eleventh Labor, to retrieve      MetaMorpHoses (13.730–734), and Virgil’s
Cerberus, the hound guarding Hades, Heracles      aeneid (3.420–432). In the Library and the
physically attacked Charon until the ferryman     Odyssey, Charybdis sends up a spray of water
agreed to bring him across to the underworld.     that she has sucked from the sea, and these
In some myths, a ruthless Charon forces the       thrice-daily occurrences formed deadly whirl-
                                                  pools. Jason and the Argonauts were success-
                                                  fully guided past Charybdis with the protection
                                                  of Hera. Odysseus survived Charybdis’s whirl-
                                                  pool by clinging to a fig tree beside it until it
                                                  spat up the wreckage of his ship. He then leapt
                                                  onto a plank and paddled himself to safety.

                                                  Chimaera A fire-breathing creature.
                                                  Offspring of Echidna and T       yphoeus. Sister
                                                  of Orthus (a dog), Cerberus, who guards the
                                                  gates of Hades, and the Hydra of Lerna. The
                                                  Chimaera mated with Orthus, and their prog-
                                                  eny was the Sphinx and the Nemean Lion.
                                                  Classical sources are Apollodorus’s Library
                                                  (1.9.3, 2.3.1), Hesiod’s tHeogony (319–325),
                                                  Homer’s iLiad (6.179), Hyginus’s Fabulae (57),
                                                  and Ovid’s MetaMorpHoses (9.647). Like the
                                                  Sphinx and the Griffon, Chimaera, or “she-
                                                  goat,” is composed of different animal parts.
                                                  Hesiod describes her as having three mon-
                                                  strous heads: a lion’s, a goat’s, and a dragon’s.
                                                  In Homer, she has the head of a lion, the
Charon Crossing the Acheron. Illustration for     body of a goat, and a serpent’s tail. The main
Dante’s Inferno, Gustave Doré, ca. 1857           associative animal is the goat. The Chimaera

ravaged the countryside but was ultimately           11.830–832), Ovid’s MetaMorpHoses (2.630–
defeated by the hero Bellerophon. Riding             649), Pausanias’s Description of Greece (5.19.8),
on the Pegasus, Bellerophon used a spear             and Pindar’s Pythian Odes (3.1–45). Chiron is
to thrust a piece of lead into the Chimaera’s        the prime example of the “civilized centaur.”
throat. It was melted by her fiery breath and        He was skilled in medicine and, as such, linked
choked her to death.                                 to Apollo. He was trusted by the Olympian
    Visual representations of the Chimaera are       gods and was the tutor of Achilles, Asclepius,
usually based on Homer’s description of the tri-     Jason, and Dionysus.
partite beast. Bellerophon riding on the winged           The following story of Chiron’s death appears
horse Pegasus is often shown with the Chi-           in Apollodorus and Diodorus Siculus. A cen-
maera. A Laconian black-figure kylix attributed      tauromachy broke out when Heracles visited
to the Boread Painter from ca. 570 b.c.e. ( J.       the civilized centaur Pholus. Chiron was fatally
Paul Getty Museum, Malibu) is one example.           wounded in the fight of Pholus and Heracles
Here the leonine head tops a goat’s torso com-       against a group of savage centaurs. Being immor-
pleted with a serpent’s head for a tail. A similar   tal, Chiron could not die but lay in excruciating
image is depicted in a floor mosaic of the impe-     pain until Prometheus offered to exchange his
rial period in Palmyra, Syria, dating from ca.       mortality for Chiron’s immortality.
260 c.e. The Chimaera is rare in the art of later         After his death, Zeus set Chiron in the sky
periods. It appears in the work of the French        as the constellation Centaurus. In the clas-
symbolist poets Gustave Flaubert and Stéphane        sical period, Chiron was frequently depicted
Mallarmé and their contemporary, the painter         alongside the heroes he mentored, as in an
Odilon Redon, who provided illustrations of          Attic red-figure stamnos vase from ca. 500
the Chimaera for Flaubert’s prose poem The           b.c.e. (Louvre, Paris). Here, the young Achil-
Temptation of St. Anthony (1874).                    les is given into the care of Chiron by his
                                                     father, Peleus. In a similar scene, painted on
                                                     an Attic red-figure amphora vase from ca.
Chione Daughter of King Daedalion (son
                                                     520 b.c.e. (Louvre, Paris), Chiron carries the
of Lucifer, the Morning Star). Textual sourc-
                                                     infant Achilles in his hand. In both vase paint-
es are Hyginus’s Fabulae (200) and Ovid’s
                                                     ings, Chiron wears human garb and stands on
MetaMorpHoses (11.291–345). Chione was
                                                     human legs while the torso and rear legs of a
impregnated on the same day by Apollo and
                                                     horse emerge from his back. Chiron’s role as
Hermes and conceived twins: Autolycus, a
                                                     tutor of the young hero Achilles is also repre-
trickster figure, took after his father, Hermes,
                                                     sented in postclassical painting, for example,
while Apollo bestowed musical skills on his
                                                     Gustav Moreau’s The Education of Achilles (The
son Philammon. Artemis shot Chione with
                                                     Centaur) of 1884.
an arrow when she claimed superiority over
the goddess of the hunt. Her grieving father,
Daedalion, was transformed into a hawk.              Chloris See Flora.

Chiron A centaur, friendly to the Olympian           Chrysaor Son of Medusa and Poseidon.
gods and tutor to several heroes. Son of Philyra     Classical sources are Apollodorus’s Library (2.4.2,
and Cronus. Classical sources are Apollodorus’s      2.5.10), Diodorus Siculus’s Library of History
Library (1.2.3, 2.5.4, 3.4.4, 3.10.3), Apollonius    (4.17), Hesiod’s tHeogony (278, 979), Hyginus’s
of Rhodes’s voyage of tHe argonauts (1.554–          Fabulae (151), and Ovid’s MetaMorpHoses
8, 2.510, 2.1229–42), Diodorus Siculus’s Library     (4.782–786). The hero Perseus beheaded
of History (4.12.3–13), Homer’s iLiad (4.218,        Medusa, and at the moment of her death,

the warrior Chrysaor and the winged horse            his companions, and she turns the others back
Pegasus sprang from her neck. Pegasus was later      into men. Odysseus and his companions spend
acquired by the hero Bellerophon. Chrysaor,          a month with Circe, while the hero himself
so named because of his attribute—a golden           shares the goddess’s bed. Their union is said to
sword—married an Oceanid named Callirhoe.            have produced the hero Telegonus and other
Their offspring was Geryon, a three-headed, or       children. Circe later gives Odysseus instructions
three-bodied, warrior. Chrysaor was killed by        for traveling to Hades, the land of the dead. As
Heracles when Chrysaor attempted to prevent          in the case of Calypso, Odysseus significantly
him from acquiring a herd of cattle belonging        prefers to return to his mortal wife, Penelope,
to Geryon in Heracles’ Tenth Labor. A black-         rather than remain as the consort of a goddess.
figure (white-ground) pyxis from ca. 525 b.c.e.      Circe, however, is a more menacing version of
(Louvre, Paris) depicts the death of Medusa and      the female figure obstructing the hero’s journey,
the birth of Chrysaor and Pegasus.                   or nostos (homeward voyage): She resembles the
                                                     Sirens and the lotus eaters in her capacity to
                                                     seduce the unwary into thoughtlessness and loss
Circe Daughter of Helios and Perseis.
                                                     of identity.
Classical sources are Apollodorus’s Library
                                                         In Apollonius of Rhodes’s voyage of tHe
(1.9.24), Apollonius of Rhodes’s voyage of tHe
                                                     argonauts, Circe plays a cameo role as Medea’s
argonauts (4.559–591, 659–752), Hesiod’s
                                                     aunt: She purifies Jason and Medea after the
tHeogony (956f, 1,011–1,014), Homer’s odyssey
                                                     murder of Apsyrtos but refuses to offer hospi-
(10.133–574), Hyginus’s Fabulae (125), Ovid’s
                                                     tality to Jason. The fact that Circe, a notorious
MetaMorpHoses (13.966–14.71, 14.247–440),
                                                     witch, morally recoils from the epic’s hero is
and Virgil’s aeneid (7.10–20). Circe belongs to
                                                     a disturbing revelation and demonstrates one
a family of formidable and sometimes magical
                                                     way in which Apollonius differentiates his
figures: Aeetes is her brother; Medea, her niece;
                                                     antihero from Odysseus. Virgil does not fail
and Pasiphae, her sister. A goddess known for her
                                                     to allude to Circe in the Odyssean adventure
skill in magic and drugs, Circe plays a notable
                                                     portion of his Aeneid but pointedly refuses to
role in the two major Greek epics of adventure
                                                     include a fully developed episode: Her role is
and sea travel. In Homer’s Odyssey, Odysseus and
                                                     reduced to a glancing mention.
his companions arrive on the island of Aeaea after
                                                         The transformation of Odysseus’s men is
departing from the land of the Lastrygonians.
                                                     vividly portrayed on an Attic black-figure cup
Eurylochus and others of Odysseus’s crew come
                                                     from ca. 550 b.c.e. (Museum of Fine Arts, Bos-
upon Circe’s palace and are invited inside to a
                                                     ton). Here, Odysseus, sword in hand, stands
feast. At the end of the feast, Circe waves her
                                                     before Circe, who holds a cup of potion, and
wand, turning the men into various animals and
                                                     his men, some of whom have been partially
herding them into a stable. Eurylochus, who is
                                                     changed into animals.
standing on guard outside, reports the news to
Odysseus, who is waiting at the ship. As Odysseus
makes his way toward Circe’s palace, Hermes          Clytaemnestra Daughter of Tyndareus
appears to him and instructs him to place a magic    and Leda. Sister of Helen and the Dioscuri
herb in the drink Circe will give him. The herb      (Castor and Pollux). Clytaemnestra married
will prevent her enchantment from working, and       Agamemnon and their children are Electra,
Odysseus should then draw his sword and make         Iphigenia, and Orestes. Clytaemnestra
her swear an oath. All this occurs as Hermes         appears in Aeschylus’s agaMeMnon, Libation
predicted: Circe fails to transform Odysseus,        bearers, and euMenides; Euripides’ eLectra
she swears that she will not harm Odysseus and       and ipHigenia at auLis; and Sophocles’

eLectra. Additional classical sources are           Clytaemnestra as an insult. She appears to have
Homer’s iLiad (1.113–115) and odyssey               planned his murder long before Cassandra’s
(11.409–453, 24.199–202). In earlier sourc-         arrival. In the tragedians, Clytaemnestra often
es, Clytaemnestra and Agamemnon’s daugh-            stresses Agamemnon’s sacrifice of Iphigenia as
ters are named Chrysomethis, Laodice, and           a motivating factor. Aeschylus’s Agamemnon
Iphianassa. In one legend, Agamemnon killed         vividly describes the scene of sacrifice, and
Clytaemnestra’s first husband, Tantalus, and        Euripides’ Iphigenia at Aulis subtly sketches the
their children, and was subsequently forced to      origins of Clytaemnestra’s alienation from her
marry her by her brothers, the Dioscuri. This       husband and the beginning of long years of
beginning of their marriage boded ill for the       resentment of his betrayal of their trust.
remainder. After Agamemnon went to war,
Clytaemnestra took Aegisthus, the surviv-
                                                    Clytie (Clytia) An Oceanid (Ocean nymph).
ing son of Thyestes, as a lover. Aegisthus,
                                                    Daughter of the Titans Oceanus and
whose father had been the deadly enemy of
                                                    Tethys. The main classical source is Ovid’s
Agamemnon’s father, Atreus, may have had
                                                    MetaMorpHoses (4.169–270). Clytie loved
reasons of his own to seduce Clytaemnestra (as
                                                    Helios, but he was inflamed by Aphrodite (he
revealed at the end of Aeschylus’s Agamemnon).
                                                    had betrayed her tryst with Ares to her hus-
On Agamemnon’s return, Aegisthus and
                                                    band, Hephaestus) to love Leucothoe. Filled
Clytaemnestra murdered him and his cap-
                                                    with envy, Clytie betrayed the secret affair
tive concubine Cassandra. In Aeschylus,
                                                    between Helios and Leucothoe to Leucothoe’s
Clytaemnestra takes an active role and mur-
                                                    father, Orchamus. Orchamus was ashamed
ders Agamemnon by trapping him in a net in
                                                    of Leucothoe’s conduct and buried her alive.
his bath. Homer, in the Odyssey, mainly focuses
                                                    Helios attempted to save Leucothoe, but even
on Aegisthus’s actions as usurper. Years later,
                                                    his warms rays could not revive her dead body.
Orestes avenges his father’s murder by killing
                                                    The god poured nectar over her corpse, and
Aegisthus and Clytaemnestra. In the tragedi-
                                                    her body was transformed into a frankincense
ans, he has the help of Pylades and his sister
                                                    bush. Despite her rival’s defeat, Helios would
Electra. Homer represents him as the sole
                                                    not love Clytie, and the nymph was driven mad
avenger. In Aeschylus’s and Euripides’ Electra,
                                                    with despair. She sat on the ground and was,
but not in Sophocles’ Electra or in Homer, the
                                                    over the course of nine days, slowly transformed
Furies afterward hound Orestes.
                                                    into a sunflower (or heliotrope), a flower whose
    The most important development in the
                                                    face follows the sun around the sky.
tradition occurs in Aeschylus, where Aegisthus
is no longer the main actor, and Clytaemnestra
dominates. The Aeschylean Clytaemnestra is a        Coeus (Koios) A Titan offspring of Gaia
character of astonishing power, a woman who         (Earth) and Uranus (Heaven). Brother
usurps a masculine role and, in the process, dis-   of Hyperion, Iapetus, Crius, Cronus,
rupts the natural order of the Greek cosmos. In     Mnemosyne, Oceanus, Phoebe, Rhea,
Sophocles and Euripides, Clytaemnestra is still     Tethys, Theia, and Themis. Classical sources
a central character, but she never quite recovers   are Apollodorus’s Library (1.2.2) and Hesiod’s
her Aeschylean grandeur and dominance. Her          tHeogony (132–136, 404–410). Cronus, encour-
motives for killing her husband are debatable.      aged by Gaia, castrated his father with a flint
One possible interpretation is that she simply      (or adamant) sickle, liberated his siblings, and
desired power for herself. Less convincing is the   succeeded Uranus. Following a 10-year battle
idea that Agamemnon’s choice to bring home          for supremacy against the Olympian gods, the
Cassandra as his concubine was experienced by       Titans were in turn defeated and imprisoned in
0	                                                                                           Coronis

Tartarus. Coeus married his sister Phoebe, and        coLonus; Euripides’ suppLiant WoMen; and
their daughters were Asteria and Leto (mother         Statius’s tHebaid. Additional classical sources
of Apollo and Artemis). Coeus appears in the          are Apollodorus’s Library (2.4.6, 2.4.11, 3.5.8,
genealogies of Hesiod, Apollodorus and Ovid           3.6.7, 3.7.1), Hyginus’s Fabulae (67, 72), and
but has no specific myths.                            Pausanias’s Description of Greece (1.39.2). Creon’s
                                                      name simply means “ruler.” After Oedipus killed
Coronis Consort of Apollo and mother                  Laius, Creon took control of the city, but the
of Asclepius. Daughter of King Phlegyas of            Sphinx began to terrorize the Thebans. Oedipus
Thessaly. Textual sources are the Homeric             solved the Sphinx’s riddle, the Sphinx threw
Hymn to Asclepius, Apollodorus’s Library              herself from her rock in despair, and Creon
(3.10.3), Hyginus’s Fabulae (202), Ovid’s             gave Oedipus both the kingship of Thebes and
MetaMorpHoses (2.542–636), Pausanias’s                Jocasta in marriage. In Sophocles’ Oedipus the
Description of Greece (4.3.2), and Pindar’s Pythian   King, Oedipus sends Creon to consult the oracle
Odes (3). In the Homeric Hymn to Asclepius and        at Delphi to discover the cause of the plague
Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Coronis is said to be the       afflicting the city. Creon becomes ruler or
mother of the famous healer, Asclepius, while         regent after Oedipus’s self-blinding and retire-
Apollodorus and Pausanias maintain that his           ment, and also after the death of Eteocles and
mother is Arsinoe, daughter of Leucippus.             Polynices. In Sophocles’ Antigone, Creon for-
Apollo loved Coronis and discovered from a            bids Polynices’s burial and condemns Antigone
raven that Coronis was betraying him with an          to death when she defies his decree. Creon’s son
Arcadian youth named Ischys. In Hyginus’s             Haemon, who was Antigone’s fiancé, kills himself
Fabulae, the raven had been set by Apollo to          by her corpse, and Creon’s wife, Eurydice, then
guard over Coronis and so was simply fulfilling       hangs herself. In another version, the Sphinx
his duty. In Ovid’s Metamorphoses, however, the       killed Haemon. In Sophocles’ Oedipus at Colonus,
raven was simply passing by, observed the lov-        Creon attempts to persuade Oedipus to return
ers, and, despite encountering a crow that tried      to Thebes because of a prophecy stating that
to dissuade it from bearing bad news to the           Oedipus’s tomb will guarantee Thebes’s power,
god, reported what he had seen to Apollo. For         but Oedipus refuses. During the assault of the
his pains, he was turned from white to black. A       Seven against Thebes, Creon’s son Menoeceus
furious Apollo drew his bow and killed Coronis,       sacrifices himself to guarantee Thebes’s safe-
but not before she revealed that she was preg-        ty. (Statius has Creon cynically manipulate
nant with his child. Apollo repented his actions      Menoeceus’s death for political purposes in his
and tried to save her with his skill in medicine      Thebaid.) After the war with Argos, Creon refus-
but failed. Apollo then took the unborn child,        es to hand over the bodies of the slain Argive
Asclepius, to the centaur Chiron, who raised          heroes, according to Euripides’ Suppliant Women
him. In Pindar’s Pythian Odes, Coronis was            and Statius’s Thebaid. In Statius’s epic, Theseus
killed by Artemis, in revenge for her betrayal        slays Creon in battle.
of Apollo. Either Artemis shot her with arrows
or sent a plague that killed her.                     Creon (2) A king of Corinth. Medea killed
                                                      Creon, along with his daughter, by means of a
Cottus (Kottos) See         Hundred-Handed            poisoned robe. See Jason.
                                                      Creusa See Aeneas; aeneid.
Creon (1) Regent or king of Thebes on
various occasions. Son of Menoeceus and broth-        Crius (Krius) A Titan, the offspring of
er of Jocasta. Creon appears in Sophocles’            Gaia (Earth) and Uranus (Heaven). Brother
oedipus tHe King, antigone, and oedipus at            of Hyperion, Iapetus, Coeus, Cronus,

Mnemosyne, Oceanus, Phoebe, Rhea,                    overpowered by his son. Rhea, grieving for her
Tethys, Theia, and Themis. Classical sources         children, sought the advice of her parents, Gaia
are Apollodorus’s Library (1.1.3) and Hesiod’s       and Uranus, who told her to hide Zeus in a cave
tHeogony (132–136, 375–377). Crius married           in Crete. She did so, and, in Zeus’s place, gave
Eurybia, daughter of Pontus, and their children      Cronus a stone wrapped in swaddling clothes,
were Astreus, Pallas, and Perses. Crius appears      which he swallowed. At length, Cronus vomited
in the genealogies of Hesiod and Apollodorus         up the stone along with his other children, and
but has no specific myths.                           Zeus drove out his father and became king in
                                                     his place. Cronus ended up being confined to
                                                     T artarus, along with the other defeated Titans,
Cronus (Kronos) A Titan, ruler of the                as Homer attests in the Iliad. Apollodorus offers
gods before Zeus. Son of Uranus and Gaia.            an account with minor differences: Gaia sum-
Husband and brother of Rhea. Father of               moned all the Titans to attack Uranus and gave
Hestia, Demeter, Hera, Hades, Poseidon, and          the sickle to Cronus; they attacked as a group,
Zeus. Classical sources include Apollodorus’s        and Cronus castrated Uranus. There is no men-
Library (1.1–2.4), Hesiod’s tHeogony (137–138,       tion in Apollodorus of the Titans’ imprisonment
154–187, 453–506) and WorKs and days (109–           within Gaia. Apollodorus, moreover, records
126), Homer’s iLiad (14.200–204, 271–279),           that Rhea gave birth to Zeus in Crete and put
Ovid’s fasti (1.235–238, 3.795–808, 4.197–210)       him in the care of the Curetes and the nymphs
and MetaMorpHoses (1.113–115, 6.126, 9.498,          Adrasteia and Ida: The Curetes stood guard over
14.320), and Virgil’s aeneid (7.45–49, 8.319–        the cave where Zeus was kept and banged their
329, 357A). In the Roman period, Cronus was          shields with their spears to conceal the sounds of
syncretized with the Italic god Saturn (Saturnus).   the baby from Cronus. Finally, Metis, as Zeus’s
According to the succession myth retailed in         accomplice, gave Cronus a drug that caused him
Hesiod’s Theogony, Uranus (Heaven), anxious to       to vomit the stone and Rhea’s other children.
avoid being deposed by one of his children, kept     The war with the Titans ensued. According to
all his offspring imprisoned in their mother Gaia    Apollodorus and Ovid’s Metamorphoses, the cen-
(Earth). Gaia, in pain, devised a plan: She fash-    taur Chiron was Cronus’s son by Philyra.
ioned a sickle of adamant and encouraged her             Homer and Hesiod agree in designating
sons to take vengeance on their father. Cronus       Cronus as “crooked-counselled,” and their pic-
accepted the challenge, and when Uranus came         ture of him is generally negative. Yet another
to have intercourse with Gaia at night, Cronus       strand within Cronus’s mythology identifies him
lay in wait, hiding, and castrated his father with   as the ruler of the world in humanity’s Golden
the sickle. Drops of blood from the severed          Age. According to Hesiod’s Works and Days,
genitals, when they fell on Gaia, impregnated        human beings in the time of Cronus’s rule lived
her with the Erinyes (see Furies), and giants,       a carefree life untroubled by toils, and the earth
and the Melian nymphs. When Cronus cast the          produced crops for them of its own accord. A
genitals into the sea, foam rose up around them,     similar mythology becomes associated with the
and from the foam arose Aphrodite.                   Italic Saturn in the Roman tradition. According
    Cronus, having thus defeated his father and      to Ovid’s Fasti and Virgil’s Aeneid, Saturn, driven
taken his place as ruler, raped his sister Rhea,     from the throne by Jupiter, went into hiding in
and she gave birth to Hestia, Demeter, Hera,         Latium (modern Lazio, the region of Italy that
Hades, Poseidon, and Zeus. Cronus, in order          includes Rome), and from his “hiding” (Latin,
to avoid succumbing to the same fate as his          latens), Latium received its name. Saturnus’s rule
father, swallowed his children; Gaia and Ura-        was Italy’s Golden Age. In Virgil’s Aeneid, Lati-
nus had predicted that he was destined to be         nus, king of the Latins at the time of the Trojan

hero Aeneas’s arrival, derived his ancestry from     ciated with orgiastic frenzy, and her priests, the
Saturn: Saturn was the father of Picus, who sired    Galli, were self-castrated. The Romans distanced
Faunus (see Pan), who was, in turn, the father       themselves from some aspects of Cybele’s cult by
of Latinus. This makes Saturn the founder of         allowing only Easterners to serve as priests at her
the race of Latin kings and, thus, one of the        temple in Rome.
ancestors of the Romans. According to Ovid’s             In Diodorus Siculus’s Library of History,
Metamorphoses, Saturn’s wife was his sister Ops      Cybele was exposed as an infant by her father,
(Abundance). A Temple of Saturn, first built         Maeon, but survived and was raised by leopards
in the early fifth century b.c.e., was one of the    and other wild beasts. In youth, she was beautiful
major monuments of the Roman Forum. The              and virtuous and was said to have invented the
Roman festival in Saturn’s honor, the Saturna-       multi-reed pipe, the kettledrum, and cymbals.
lia, was celebrated in December: During the          Marsyas, also associated with the playing of the
Saturnalia, Romans exchanged gifts, feasted,         reed pipe, was a follower. While still young, she
drank, wore leisure suits instead of the toga, and   was recognized and received into her father’s
gambled. Slaves were allowed freedom of speech       household, but he became furious when he dis-
and dined before their masters; everyone wore        covered that she had become pregnant by the
the pilleus, a cap normally worn by freed slaves.    Phrygian youth Attis. Maeon put Attis to death,
                                                     and Cybele wandered in grief, accompanied by
                                                     Marsyas, and, for some time, by Apollo. After
Cupid See Eros.
                                                     being punished by plague and crop failure, the
                                                     people of Phrygia provided a proper burial for
Cybele Anatolian mother goddess. In mythol-          Attis and established rites for Cybele.
ogy, the daughter of King Maeon of Phrygia               There are several versions of the myth of
and Dindyme. Classical sources are the Homeric       Attis; the central one is Attis’s self-emasculation
Hymns to the Mother of Gods, Apollonius of           as an act of dedication to Cybele.
Rhodes’s voyage of tHe argonauts (1.1,092–               In Apollonius of Rhodes’s Voyage of the Argo-
1,152), Catullus’ Poem 63, Diodorus Siculus’s        nauts and Lucian’s Dialogues of the Gods, Cybele
Library of History (3.58.1–3.59.8), Livy’s           is merged with Rhea, mother of the Olympian
History of Rome (29.5ff), Lucretius’s De Rerum       gods. Cybele’s attendants were called Corbyantes,
Natura (2.594–643), Ovid’s fasti (4.179–244) and     in some sources identified with the Curetes, who
MetaMorpHoses (10.102–105, 686–704; 14.530–          made a great din to hide the cries of the infant
561), Pausanias’s Description of History (7.17.9–    Zeus (hidden by Rhea so that Cronus would not
12), and Virgil’s aeneid (10.252–255). Cybele        swallow him). These calls and music were seen as
was a mother goddess worshipped throughout           originating aspects of her later worship. Following
Asia Minor. She was associated with wild nature,     the example of Attis, the disciples of Cybele, called
mountains, and fertility. Her cult was introduced    the Galli, were self-made eunuchs. The musi-
into the Greek world starting in the fifth century   cal instruments played by her devotees and her
b.c.e., and was Hellenized over time. In 204–205     association with lions and wolves are mentioned
b.c.e., during the Second Punic War, the Romans      in the Homeric Hymn to the Mother of the Gods.
transferred the black, aniconic stone represent-     In Catullus’s poem 63, the procession resembles
ing Cybele from her cult center at Pessinus          a Dionysiac frenzy. The Dionysiac connection is
in Phrygia to her new temple on the Palatine         reinforced in Apollodorus’s Library, who main-
Hill in Rome. The Romans called Cybele the           tains that Dionysus had been initiated into her
“Great Mother” (Latin Magna Mater), and her          worship before he established his own cult.
festival, the Megalesia, was incorporated into the       Cybele was represented in reliefs, coins,
Roman religious calendar. Cybele’s cult was asso-    painting, and sculpture. Her attributes are a

turret crown and wild beasts, often a lion. She       mal features, often interchangeable with “Sileni,”
rides a lion and wears a turret crown in a silver     and forming part of the sacred troupe (thiasos) of
sculptural group from 200 c.e. (Museum of             Dionysus. Satyrs and Sileni are only partly civi-
Fine Arts, Boston).                                   lized and often embody untamed energies and
                                                      desires normally restrained by civilization, espe-
                                                      cially sexual impulses and drunkenness. Silenus,
Cyclopes One-eyed creatures. Classical
                                                      prime companion and teacher of Dionysus, is
sources are Apollodorus’s Library (1.1.2, 1.1.4–5,
                                                      also known as the father of the satyrs. A “satyr
1.2.1), Hesiod’s tHeogony (139–146), Homer’s
                                                      play” with its chorus of Dionysiac revellers,
odyssey (9.104–115), Hyginus’s Fabulae (49),
                                                      thus forms an appropriate part of the festival of
Pausanias’s Description of Greece (2.2.1, 2.25.8,
                                                      Dionysus—more appropriate in some ways than
7.25.6), Theocritus’s Idylls (2), and Virgil’s
                                                      tragedy proper—and, as Aristotle suggests, may
aeneid (3.616–681, 8.424–454) and georgics
                                                      represent an earlier component of the festivities
(4.170ff). The Cyclopes were enormously strong
                                                      than the tragedies themselves. As tragedy devel-
beings with a single eye set in the middle of
                                                      oped into its known form, the satyr play appears
their foreheads. The Cyclopes born of Gaia
                                                      to have been preserved, if only in the fourth
(Earth) and Uranus (Heaven) were named
                                                      place, as an honored relic of the earlier form of
Brontes, Steropes, and Arges, names associated
                                                      dramatic performance in Dionysus’s honor.
with thunder, lightning, and thunderbolts. The
                                                          The Cyclops presents in dramatic form the
Cyclopes were hidden away by Uranus in the
                                                      story of Odysseus and Polyphemus familiar
earth until they were released by Cronus. The
                                                      from Homer’s odyssey, and while the often
T itans confined them to T   artarus until they
                                                      bawdy jokes and pranks of the satyrs are evi-
were released, this time by Zeus. In gratitude,
                                                      dently meant to contrast with the higher tone
the Cyclopes forged thunderbolts for Zeus, an
                                                      of epic, Euripides remains surprisingly faithful
invisibility helmet for Hades, and Poseidon’s         to the underlying plot of Homer. The play reca-
trident. The Cyclopes were also critical in assur-    pitulates and comments on the central themes of
ing the defeat of the Titans by the Olympian          the Homeric episode, while weaving in a Diony-
gods. The Cyclopes are sometimes found in             siac subplot: Silenus and the satyrs, attempting
the forge of Hephaestus. A thunderbolt killed         to rescue Dionysus from the band of Lydian
Asclepius, son of Apollo, and the god was             pirates, end up as captives of the Cyclops, who
said to have slain the Cyclopes in revenge. In        makes them his slaves. As Odysseus completes
Homer’s Odyssey, Odysseus’s encounter with the        his epic feat of blinding the Cyclops, the Diony-
Cyclops Polyphemus is recounted in Book 9.            siac troupe remains present as a constant source
                                                      of comic relief and facetious commentary. At the
Cyclops Euripides (ca. 450 b.c.e.) Euripides’         end, they will have the opportunity to escape the
Cyclops is the only surviving example of a satyr      oppressive Cyclops, and win their freedom.
play from antiquity. Otherwise, only fragments
survive, including a large number of lines from                          SynoPSIS
Sophocles’ play Trackers. The satyr play pre-         The scene is set in front of the cave of the
sented a more boisterous, drunken, and rowdy          Cyclops in Sicily near Aetna. Silenus enters. He
version of heroic mythology than the tragedies        complains of the many tasks he has to perform
it typically followed. A satyr play was typi-         in the service of Dionysus, including the present
cally performed in the fourth place following         one: Having heard that Lydian pirates captured
a playwright’s trilogy of tragedies. It is called a   Dionysus and intended to sell him as a slave, he
“satyr” play because the chorus was composed of       took his sons, the satyrs, on a sea voyage to find
satyrs—mythical wild male creatures with ani-         him. They were driven by the East Wind to the

shores of Sicily and the land of the Cyclopes:       how he made a stew out of two of Odysseus’s
One of the Cyclopes, Polyphemus, made them           men. Odysseus, however, gave Polyphemus
his slaves. The Chorus of satyrs enters. As it has   some of his wine, and he has begun to be tipsy.
been put to work as shepherds, their entry song      He offers the satyrs hope of liberation and
concerns the herd and their pastoral labors.         enlists their help in his plan: He intends to
Silenus calls for silence and announces the          convince Polyphemus to drink all the wine by
arrival of a Greek ship: The sailors and their       himself and then, when he is drunk and sleepy,
captain are coming toward the cave. Odysseus         destroy the monster’s one eye with a sharpened,
and his crew enter. Odysseus asks for food and       heated wooden spike. The Chorus members
water and introduces himself. Silenus reveals        are eager to take an active role.
that they have come to the uncivilized land of           Polyphemus enters drunk. The Chorus
the Cyclopes: They have no cities, laws, gov-        sings enthusiastically with him about drinking,
ernment, or agriculture. Moreover, they eat          eros, and marriage. Odysseus persuades him
their visitors rather than treating them hospi-      that it is best to drink alone, in his own cave.
tably. Odysseus offers to trade some wine for        When asked his name, Odysseus replies that it
food. Silenus happily agrees and drinks some         is “Nobody.” Polyphemus (and, when he gets
of Odysseus’s excellent wine.                        the chance, Silenus) continues to drink until
    A satyr asks Odysseus whether or not the         he is quite drunk. Polyphemus and Silenus go
Greeks raped Helen after sacking Troy. Odys-         into the cave. Odysseus summons the satyrs to
seus is given his food. They hear the Cyclops        help him with his plan, and they respond with
coming, but Odysseus refuses to flee. The            unabated enthusiasm. Odysseus enters the cave.
Cyclops Polyphemus enters and asks who the           The Chorus sings of the coming blinding of
strangers are and why they have his lambs and        Polyphemus. Odysseus returns. The satyrs are
cheese. Silenus comes out of the cave, having        now trying to get out of helping with the task,
made himself appear to have been bruised in          and Odysseus calls them cowards. He enters
a fight, and claims that the strangers beat him      the cave with his crew. The Chorus chants an
for attempting to obstruct their robbery. Poly-      incantation to help Odysseus. The Cyclops is
phemus decides that he will eat the strangers.       heard bellowing in the cave as Odysseus and his
Odysseus insists that he purchased the food          crew drive the stake into his eye. Polyphemus
by giving wine to Silenus. Polyphemus asks           comes out to the entrance of the cave. The
where they are from, and Odysseus tells him          satyrs taunt him as he complains that “Nobody
that they have come from Troy. Then Odysseus         blinded me.” They all escape from the cave
beseeches Polyphemus as the son of Poseidon          toward Odysseus’s ships as Polyphemus gropes
not to eat them. He refers to the gods, to the       in vain for them. Odysseus reveals his identity,
fact that he and his companions fought on            and Polyphemus declares that Odysseus will
behalf of Greece, and to the laws of hospital-       be cursed to wandering because of his actions.
ity. But as long as there is food in his cave, the   Odysseus announces his departure as Poly-
Cyclops cares for nothing and no one, not Zeus       phemus rages impotently. The satyrs proclaim
himself. He worships his own stomach and still       their intention to go with Odysseus’s crew and
intends to eat Odysseus’s crew. Polyphemus           then seek Dionysus. Odysseus, Silenus, and the
herds Odysseus and his crew into the cave;           Chorus exits.
they exit. The Chorus expresses disgust at the
Cyclops’s cannibalism.                                             CoMMEntARy
    Odysseus enters with members of his crew.        Dionysus is the absent hero of the play. The
In conversation with the Chorus leader, he           play begins with a reference to him and his
describes the horrors of the Cyclops’s cave, and     capture by pirates and ends with the proclama-

tion of the Chorus’s intention to seek him out.     is one of the central tokens of Greek and Medi-
Throughout the play, the audience sees Diony-       terranean civilization as opposed to barbaric
sus’s thiasos (sacred troupe) singing and dancing   lands. Silenus, at one point, offers the Cyclopes
before them. In a few notable instances, praises    a semifacetious lesson on wine drinking: how to
of Dionysus have been conspicuously inserted        recline properly while drinking, how to savor
amid the dialogue. Greek plays, we recall, were     the wine, how to mix the wine first with water.
performed at festivals of Dionysus, above all at    Silenus, of course, is an expert wine drinker
the City Dionysia that took place in Athens and     and symposiast. Polyphemus, however, is eager
included the tragic competition at the Theater      to gulp down the wine indiscriminately and
of Dionysus—a theater located within the god’s      does not bother to mix it with water first—a
sacred precinct. Dionysus was in some sense         necessary precaution for a civilized symposium.
present to oversee the tragic competition in his    Odysseus, moreover, succeeds in persuading
honor, not only as the festival’s honored god,      Polyphemus to drink alone, in his cave, without
but also in more physical terms: His statue was     company. This solitary gulping of wine is the
placed in the theater, and thus “viewed” the        antithesis of the Greek symposium, and Poly-
action of the plays. It was often observed by       phemus comes off as the very opposite of the
Athenian theatergoers that the tragedies had        members of the Dionysiac thiasos. The Chorus
“nothing to do with Dionysus.” Whatever the         members are joined together in drinking and
truth of this commonplace saying, it certainly      in worship of the god, whereas Polyphemus is
cannot be said with any plausibility of satyr       a solitary, godless drunkard.
plays, and certainly not of this one.                   The fact that Polyphemus cannot handle
    As protagonist, the god may be physically       his wine is just one, albeit important and
absent throughout the play, but in another          highly emphasized, facet of his broader lack
sense, he is not absent at all: He is the spirit    of civilization as a Cyclops. This theme is
of wine; he is wine itself personified and mani-    taken over directly from the Odyssey. As in
fested in divine form; and wine is present in       Homer’s epic, so in this play, it is made clear
the play. Euripides no doubt chooses Book 9         that the Cyclopes do not have laws, govern-
of the Odyssey as the play’s basic mythological     ment, agriculture (including viticulture), or
framework because of the striking prominence        any of the other elements of civilized society.
of wine in this episode—both as the hero’s          The Cyclopes also lacks proper religion and
unusual weapon against his monstrous foe            respect for the gods. Though born from the
and as a symbol of Greek civilization and its       god Poseidon, he proclaims his indifference to
superiority over barbarians. Wine turns out to      his father’s temples and to Zeus himself. He is
be the play’s true hero: It tames Polyphemus,       uncivilized because radically self-isolating and
makes him vulnerable to Odysseus and his            self-sufficient, i.e., he has no need for or inter-
men, and acts as liberator of the satyrs and        est in society and its religion: He enjoys himself
Silenus in more than one sense. Dionysus, from      in his cave without any care of Zeus or the rest
this perspective, may be considered the hero        of the world. This means, of course, that he has
of the play—absent from its action yet power-       no respect for the laws of hospitality upheld by
fully present as the inebriating force inherent     Zeus xenios. Here, too, a theme is taken delib-
in wine.                                            erately from the Odyssey: Instead of feeding and
    One underlying premise both of the present      hosting guests and strangers, Polyphemus eats
play and of its Odyssean model is that barbar-      them. He is thus the worst host imaginable and
ians do not understand how to drink wine            an outrageous violator of xenia. Guest-host
properly and cannot enjoy its effects moder-        relations constitute another of the central lit-
ately and nonself-destructively. Wine, after all,   mus tests for Greekness and civilized behavior:

He who treats a guest or host badly is barbaric      it clear that they see sex as the perfect accom-
and will be punished. The foreign prince Paris       paniment to drinking. In their present situation
violated his host Menelaus’s hospitality, and        of enslavement and hard work, they are per-
the Trojan War ensued under Zeus’s guidance.         haps particularly liable to fantasize about such
Polyphemus here horribly mistreats the strang-       things and linger on them. When a hero from
ers who should be treated as guests, and, as in      the Trojan War arrives somewhere and meets
the Odyssey, is duly punished.                       another hero or character, it is traditional
    In general, Euripides follows quite closely      according to epic conventions for him to be
the actual events and central themes of the          asked questions about the progress or outcome
Odyssean narrative: the eating of Odysseus’s         of the war and how various well-known figures
men, Odysseus’s use of wine to overpower the         have fared—whether they are dead, on their
Cyclops, his assumption of the name “Nobody”         way home, or have successfully returned. The
as a clever ruse, and the exchange of “hospital-     only thing the satyrs ask Odysseus is whether
ity” gifts. The last of these items is especially    the Greeks, after capturing Troy, gang-raped
closely reproduced: Odysseus gives Polyphe-          Helen as an apt punishment for her “marriage”
mus a “gift” (the wine that will enable his blind-   to more than one man. As the trap is being laid
ing), while Polyphemus, as his “xenia-gift,”         for Polyphemus, the Chorus sings a wedding
offers Odysseus the privilege of being eaten         song that alludes grimly to his coming fate:
last. Odysseus himself is not quite his usual        The bridegroom’s eye gleams in anticipation of
heroic self, yet he remains relatively true to       the bride, the torches are lit, and so on. These
his epic character in broad outlines: He does        remarks are perhaps especially ironic, given the
not lower himself to the level of the Chorus’s       phallic image of the giant stake plunging into
bawdy discourse and remains brave in compari-        the Cyclops’s eye cavity: He will be penetrated
son with the cowardly and entertainingly base        and made weak and impotent—not exactly the
Silenus and satyrs. On the one hand, Euripides       bridegroom he might hope to be. Immedi-
has carefully chosen an Odyssean episode,            ately before the blinding, the drunken Cyclops
which, in its extravagance (a one-eyed cannibal)     admits that he prefers boys and expresses a
and elements of wit and humor (the Cyclops’s         desire to make Silenus his Ganymede—once
drunkenness, Odysseus’s pseudonym) is already        again, an inappropriate choice, since Silenus is
adaptable to the format of the satyr play and,       too old to be the object of pederastic affection
in hindsight, can be construed as having its         (the Cyclops can do nothing right as a sympo-
own protosatiric elements. On the other hand,        siast—not even choose an appropriate object of
Odysseus, who, in the epic, is a clever, witty       pederasty). The declaration of this desire, too,
foil to Polyphemus’s unmannered brutishness          is grimly ironic, since it is Polyphemus who is
and naïveté, now plays the role of “straight         about to be violated by the wooden spike.
man” to the Chorus. Dionysus’s thiasos has been          The satyr play is basically a tragedy in a
inserted into the basic narrative of the Odyssey,    different key. The subject matter is similarly
on which it provides a continual, rowdy com-         mythological, and the themes are often similar
mentary. The Chorus of satyrs uses Odysseus’s        as well. For example, in tragedy mortals typi-
heroic feat as material for its gleefully low        cally dwell on the opaque designs and attitudes
humor and as background for its scene-stealing       of the gods: Do they truly exist, and if so, do
antics.                                              they pity mortals and attempt to help them,
    The nature of the satyrs’ lively, disruptive     or not? In the Cyclops, Odysseus asks the same
humor generally concerns their strong interest       questions. Here also are themes of chance,
in drinking and sex. The satyrs’ comments have       hubris, and a tyrant toppled and brought low.
intermittent phallic references, and they make       In seeing Polyphemus blinded, we view the

intense sufferings of one who, because he vio-       the goats that were in their care. In other words,
lated the laws of the gods, has been severely        as slaves of Polyphemus, they had to sing his
punished. There is also the extravagance of          pastoral tune. By the end of the play, he has to
horror and carnage we see in many tragedies          sing to their drunken Dionysiac tune—i.e., he
(e.g., ajax, the story of Atreus and Thyestes,       has, effectively, been assimilated to their mode
etc.). Odysseus describes the horrors of the         of song. Of course, as a tuneless, clumsy, one-
Cyclops’s cave in a satyric version of the tragic    eyed monster, Polyphemus performs this kind
“messenger speech.” Cannibalism itself is a          of song and movement with laughable awkward-
well-known tragic theme. We might also note          ness, and his performance becomes part of the
the theme of the absent god who nonetheless          humor—the brutish Polyphemus attempting to
seems to be constantly behind the action, in         become fluid and Dionysiac. A humorous ver-
this instance, Dionysus. Finally, the form of the    sion of a tragic tyrant, Polyphemus finds himself
play corresponds, albeit more briefly, with the      humiliated by the god (in this case, Dionysus,
main elements of a tragedy: prologue, parados,       god of wine) by being transformed into his own
episodes punctuated by choral song, and exo-         opposite. As the play goes on, the Chorus marks
dos. Silenus, as in other Euripidean prologue        this shift in mood. At first cowed, long-suffer-
speeches, outlines the basic situation. The          ing, and absorbed into its pastoral occupation,
play employs stichomythia (single-line retorts       it builds up enthusiasm and Dionysiac rowdi-
exchanged back and forth), and there are con-        ness, until at last, it exits, alongside Odysseus,
tests in speech between two protagonists where       in triumph.
one persuades the other to take a path of action         Liberation is a major theme and dynamic
decisive for his fate. Particularly notable is the   of the play, as of other satyr plays, insofar as
Chorus’s inability to intervene directly in the      scholars have been able to reconstruct them.
action: When it comes to it, they are too cow-       The Chorus and Silenus were on a mission
ardly to help Odysseus blind Polyphemus and          to save Dionysus, but they have been thus
sing a supportive song instead. Euripides here       far completely ineffective (only succeeding in
appears to comment knowingly and even sar-           getting themselves enslaved), and in any case,
donically on the well-known limitations of the       Dionysus, as we know, does not need sav-
tragic Chorus: It can help only with words.          ing. He is able to free himself at any time, as
    The Chorus’s dialogue with a main protago-       Euripides’ baccHae demonstrates. Dionysus,
nist, in which the actor’s response forms part of    moreover, is the one who saves them, without
the choral song, is also a feature of many trag-     even being present: The force inherent in
edies. In the Cyclops, the Chorus of satyrs at one   wine defeats the Cyclops and ensures their
point absorbs Polyphemus into their drunken          liberation with Odysseus. Freedom is perhaps
song: The Chorus speaks the strophe, the Cyclo-      not surprisingly the theme of this most Dio-
pes the antistrophe, and the Chorus closes with      nysiac play performed at Dionysus’s festival.
the epode (the three formal units of the choral      Wine/Dionysus was seen as having liberat-
ode). This song occurs near the blinding episode     ing, loosening, and freeing effects: liberation
in the latter part of the play and strikes a very    from pain and sorrow, for example. Even
different note from their song at the beginning.     more concretely, the City Dionysia were in
The Dionysiac Chorus of satyrs first entered         honor of Dionysus Eleuthereus (“Dionysus
singing about pastoral matters and addressing        the Liberator”).
Daedalion See Chione.                               Minotaur, the monstrous half-man, half-bull
                                                    offspring of this union. But it was also Dae-
                                                    dalus who revealed to Ariadne how to help
Daedalus An Athenian inventor and crafts-
                                                    Theseus escape from the labyrinth after killing
man of great skill. Classical sources are
                                                    the Minotaur, by giving him a ball of thread to
Apollodorus’s Library (3.15.8ff, Epitome 1.8–
                                                    unroll as he entered the monster’s lair and then
15), Diodorus Siculus’s Library of History
                                                    to rewind as he left the labyrinth.
(4.76.1–79.2), Homer’s iLiad (18.590),
                                                        Minos imprisoned Daedalus in the laby-
Hyginus’s Fabulae (39, 40), Pliny’s Natural
                                                    rinth, possibly because of the aid he gave Ari-
History (7.56.168), Ovid’s MetaMorpHoses
                                                    adne. Daedalus constructed wings that attached
(8.152–262), and Virgil’s aeneid (6.14–33).
                                                    to the shoulder with wax in order to escape
Daedalus’s parentage is uncertain; his father
                                                    from the island of Crete with his son Icarus.
was either Palaemon, a sculptor, or Eupalamus,
                                                    Daedalus warned Icarus not to fly too high, but
an architect. Daedalus himself was an architect,
                                                    Icarus ignored his father’s warnings, and the
sculptor, and inventor. He built three-dimen-
                                                    heat of the sun melted the wax. Icarus lost his
sional wooden works, machines, and sculptures
                                                    wings and plunged to his death. His distraught
(for example, of Heracles). What is generally
                                                    father landed in Sicily, either at Cumae or
agreed on is that Daedalus fled or was forced
                                                    Camicus, and took shelter with King Cocalus.
into exile from Athens to Crete for the mur-
                                                    Minos pursued him to Sicily but died there,
der of his nephew, Talos. The story goes that
                                                    possibly through Daedalus’s agency.
Daedalus killed Talos by throwing him off the
Acropolis because he was jealous that Talos had
invented the saw.                                   Danae Consort of Zeus and by him, mother of
    In Crete, Daedalus was accepted at the          Perseus. Daughter of Euridyce and King Acrisius
court of King Minos, where he proved himself        of Argos. Classical sources are Apollodorus’s
useful to the royal family. Ovid relates that       Library (2.4.1–5) Homer’s iLiad (14.319ff),
when Minos’s wife, Pasiphae, was enflamed           Horace’s Odes (3.16), Ovid’s MetaMorpHoses
with passion for a bull and desired to mate with    (4.605–611), Pindar’s Pythian Odes (12), and
it, Daedalus helpfully built her a wooden cow       Virgil’s aeneid (7.371–372, 408–413). Euripides
in which she could mate with the animal. He         and Sophocles both wrote tragedies, now lost,
constructed an intricate labyrinth to house the     based on the myth of Danae. An oracle foretold


Danae and the Shower of Gold. Titian, 1553–54 (Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg)

that Acrisius would die at the hand of Danae’s         resentations are often thematically related to
son, so Acrisius imprisoned her in an under-           the loves of Zeus. There is a particular interest
ground chamber of bronze. Zeus, in the form of         in Zeus’s transformation into a golden shower.
a shower of gold, was nonetheless able to visit her,   In some paintings, Zeus is depicted as a shower
and she gave birth to the hero Perseus. In a sec-      of golden rain and in others as a shower of
ond attempt to forestall the oracle, Acrisius cast     golden coins. An example of the latter is the
Danae and the infant Perseus adrift in a wooden        red-figure krater from ca. 490 b.c.e. (Hermit-
chest, but they survived the ordeal. According to      age Museum, St. Petersburg). Scenes in which
Apollodorus, Danae and Perseus drifted to the          Danae and Perseus are cast adrift by Acrisius
island of Seriphos, where they were rescued and        are common, as in an Attic red-figure lekythos
offered shelter by King Polydectes. He became          attributed to the Providence Painter from ca.
enamored of Danae and sent Perseus on a quest          480 b.c.e. (Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo,
to capture the head of the Gorgon Medusa.              Ohio). In postclassical representations of the
Eventually, through a complicated series of inci-      theme, Zeus’s seduction of Danae is central.
dents, Perseus unwittingly killed Acrisius and         Many such images relied on formal concep-
fulfilled the oracle. In a later, Roman version of     tions already established in Attic vase painting:
the story, Danae and Perseus drift to Latium,          a nude or seminude Danae set on a low couch
where Danae marries Pilumnus, with whom she            close to the picture plane with the shower
founds the city of Ardea, near Nemi.                   of gold falling over her torso. She is often in
    Depictions of Danae occur on vase painting         the company of attendant or hovering cupids.
from the fifth century b.c.e. onward. Such rep-        Versions of this visual theme include Correg-
0	                                                                           Danaus and Danaids

gio’s Danae of ca. 1531 (Galleria Borghese,         the underworld by having constantly to refill
Rome), Titian’s Danae and the Shower of Gold of     leaky vessels. One of the Danaids, Amymone,
1553–54 (Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg),         was rescued by Poseidon from a satyr attempt-
Rembrandt’s Danae of 1636–37 (Hermitage,            ing to rape her while she went to fetch water;
St. Petersburg), and Gustav Klimt’s Danae of        she was then seduced by Poseidon. Amymone
1907–08 (private collection).                       was the subject of the satyr play completing
                                                    Aeschylus’s tetralogy on the Danaid myth. The
                                                    Danaids were of special interest in Augustan
Danaus and Danaids Danaus was the son
                                                    Rome: Statues of Danaus and the Danaids
of Belus, the brother of Aegyptus, and father
                                                    adorned the portico of Augustus’s Palatine
of 50 daughters, the Danaids. The Danaids
                                                    Apollo complex (described by Propertius and
appear in Aeschylus’s suppLiants. Additional
                                                    Ovid), while Virgil represented this myth on the
classical sources are Aeschylus’s proMetHeus
                                                    crucial baldric of Pallas in his aeneid. It is possi-
bound (850ff), Apollodorus’s Library (2.1.4),
                                                    ble that the destruction of aggressive Egyptians
Horace’s Odes (3.11), Hyginus’s Fabulae (168,
                                                    was meant to recall Augustus’s defeat of the
170), Ovid’s Heroides (14), and Pindar’s Pythian
                                                    Egyptian Cleopatra at Actium. Hypermnestra’s
Odes (9.111–116). The 50 sons of Aegyptus
                                                    act of defiance, however, is viewed in a positive
wished to marry their cousins, the Danaids, who
                                                    light by the Augustan poets.
were unwilling. Aeschylus’s Suppliants tells how
the Danaids flee to Argos, where their father,
Danaus, persuades King Pelasgus to receive          Daphne A nymph, daughter of the river god
them as suppliants. Aeschylus’s play was part of    Peneus. Classical sources are Hyginus’s Fabulae
a tetralogy, the subsequent plays of which do       (203), Ovid’s MetaMorpHoses (1.452–567), and
not survive except in fragments. Other sources,     Pausanias’s Description of Greece (10.7.8).
including the Prometheus Bound, relate how              In Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Apollo, proud and
the Egyptians followed them and continued to        haughty after defeating the Python, told Eros
demand marriage. Danaus assented but com-           to leave bows and arrows to those more capable
manded his daughters to kill their husbands         of using them. Eros decided to have his revenge
on their wedding night. Only one daughter,          for this insulting comment by demonstrating
Hypermnestra, defied her father and spared          his deadly skill with the bow and arrow: He shot
her husband, Lynceus, either because of love or     Apollo with a gold-tipped arrow that incited
because he spared her virginity. On this story,     desire, and Daphne, a wood nymph, with a lead-
see the letter from Hypermnestra to Lynceus in      tipped arrow that repelled it. Daphne already
Ovid’s Heroides and Horace’s Odes. At this point,   appears to have been averse to marriage, as she
the mythological tradition becomes uncertain.       was a follower of chaste Artemis. Apollo pur-
In some versions, Danaus attempts to marry          sued her, until, despairing of escape, Daphne
off his daughters by offering them as prizes in     prayed to her father, the river god Peneus, for
a race. In others, Lynceus avenges his brothers’    her beautiful form to be changed. She meta-
deaths by freeing the imprisoned Hypermnestra       morphosed into a laurel tree (Daphne means
and killing Danaus and the other Danaids.           “laurel” in Greek). Since he could not possess
Lynceus and Hypermnestra, according to the          her as his wife, Apollo made her his tree and the
Prometheus Bound, subsequently rule and origi-      laurel became his attribute. Victorious Roman
nate a race of kings. The Danaans, a term used      generals wore laurels. The emperor Augustus’s
to designate the Greeks, are supposed to arise      house is adorned with laurels (the special honor
from the line of Danaus and his daughters. In       called the “civic crown,” or corona civica); and
Roman versions, the Danaids are punished in         although Ovid does not mention it, laurels are

associated with poets, as in the case with Apollo      ure of Peneus, who reclines in the background.
himself, patron god of poetry. The story of            Peneus has answered the desperate plea of his
Daphne is singled out for extended treatment by        daughter to evade Apollo’s grasp and caused
Ovid and is among his mythological epic’s first        her transformation.
stories of metamorphosis. It may be no accident
that it tells the origins-story of a tree associated
with poetry and with a god who was especially
                                                       Deianira Daughter of Althaea and King
favored under Augustus.                                Oeneus of Calydon. Sister of Meleager. Wife
    The myth of Apollo and Daphne is the               of the greatest of Greek heroes, Heracles. The
subject of a mosaic in the House of Dionysus,          fullest treatment of Deianira and Heracles’ story
Paphos. For postclassical artists, the myth of         is Sophocles’ tracHiniae. Other classical sourc-
Daphne has been a rich source of inspiration: A        es include Apollodorus’s Library (1.8.1, 2.7.5),
famous example is Gianlorenzo Bernini’s Apollo         Diodorus Siculus’s Library of History (4.34.1,
and Daphne of 1622–25 (Galleria Borghese,              4.38.1), Hyginus’s Fabulae (33, 34, 36), Ovid’s
Rome). A mid-16th-century engraving after              MetaMorpHoses (9.5–133), and Pausanias’s
Baldassare Peruzzi (Metropolitan Museum of             Description of Greece (6.19.12). During one of his
Art, New York), Apollo’s Pursuit of Daphne             Twelve Labors, Heracles descended to Hades,
exemplifies the most common representation             where he met the ghost of Meleager. Heracles
of the myth: The god pursues the fleeing               promised Meleager that upon his return from
nymph in the foreground, and in the back-              the underworld that he would find and marry
ground, Daphne has begun her transformation            Meleager’s sister Deianira. First, Heracles suc-
into the laurel tree. An addition here is the fig-     cessfully defeated the river god Achelous in a
                                                       wrestling match for her hand in marriage. Then
                                                       the centaur Nessus, who was carrying Deianira
                                                       across a river, attempted to violate her. Heracles
                                                       killed him with an arrow dipped in the poisonous
                                                       blood of the Hydra. The dying Nessus tricked
                                                       Deianira into collecting some of his blood, tell-
                                                       ing her it could be used as a love potion. Many
                                                       years afterward, when Heracles fell in love with
                                                       Iole, Deianira gave him a robe with the potion,
                                                       unwittingly causing his death. In grief and hor-
                                                       ror at what she had done, Deianira committed
                                                           In visual representations, Deianira is fre-
                                                       quently shown being rescued from Nessus by
                                                       Heracles. An example is an Attic black-figure
                                                       hydria from ca. 560 b.c.e. (Louvre, Paris).
                                                       Here, a bearded Heracles pursues Nessus,
                                                       who is escaping with Deianira astride his back.
                                                       The scene also occurs on a wall painting at the
                                                       House of the Centaur in Pompeii. An Attic
                                                       red-figure pelike from ca. 440 b.c.e. (British
Apollo’s Pursuit of Daphne. Engraving Master of        Museum, London) focuses on the tragic death
the Die (after Baldassare Peruzzi), mid-16th century   of the hero brought about by the wife who
(Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York)                 loved him. Here, Heracles, identified by his

                                                      grain. Later, the Romans syncretized her with
                                                      the goddess Ceres. In the Theogony, the Homeric
                                                      Hymn, and the Odyssey, Demeter loved the
                                                      hero Iasion, and their son Ploutos (meaning
                                                      “wealth”) was conceived, appropriately consid-
                                                      ering her sphere of activity, on a thrice-plowed
                                                      field. In some accounts, when Zeus became
                                                      aware of their affair, he struck Iasion dead with
                                                      a thunderbolt, on the grounds that a mortal was
                                                      not to have such relations with a god. In other
                                                      accounts, Iasion survived.
                                                          Demeter’s brother Poseidon forced himself
                                                      upon her, and she became pregnant with two
                                                      children; Despoine, a goddess worshipped in
                                                      the Eleusian Mysteries, and Aerion, a dark-
                                                      colored horse, because when Poseidon came
                                                      upon her, Demeter had transformed herself
                                                      into a mare in an unsuccessful attempt to avoid
                                                      his advances. Demeter is the fourth wife of
                                                      her brother Zeus, and their daughter is Perse-
                                                      phone, with whom Demeter is closely associ-
                                                      ated in mythology and cult practice.
The Abduction of Deianira by the Centaur Nessus.          In a myth recounted by Ovid, she punished
Guido Reni, 1621 (Louvre, Paris)                      Erysichthon for having violently and inso-
                                                      lently cut down a grove of trees sacred to her.
                                                      She cursed him with perpetual hunger, and
lion skin and club, holds out his hand for the        eventually Erysichthon, driven to madness by
(poisoned) tunic Deianira is presenting to him.       his hunger, consumed himself.
    In a 17th-century image of the myth, The              Central to the Demeter myth is the abduc-
Abduction of Deianira by the Centaur Nessus           tion of her daughter Persephone by Hades, and
(Louvre, Paris) by Guido Reni, Deianira is            her imprisonment in the underworld. Demeter,
being spirited away by Nessus as Heracles             disguised as an old woman, searched the world
reacts in the background of the image.                in vain for her daughter. Though no one had
                                                      seen Persephone, many offered the disguised
                                                      goddess comfort or food. In return for their
Demeter (Ceres) The goddess of agri-                  kindness, Demeter taught them agriculture and
culture. Daughter of the Titans Cronus and            initiated them into her rites.
Rhea. Demeter’s Olympian siblings are Hades,              In the course of her wanderings, Demeter
Hera, Hestia, Poseidon, and Zeus. Classical           arrived in Eleusis and became the nurse of
sources include the Homeric Hymns to Demeter,         Demophon, the son of King Celeus. Because of
Apollodorus’s Library (1.1.5, 1.5.1, 2.1.3, 2.5.12,   her attachment to the child, Demeter hoped to
3.6.8, 3.12.1, 3.14.7), Hesiod’s tHeogony             make him immortal by dipping him in ambro-
(453–506, 969–974), Homer’s odyssey (5.125–           sia and burning his mortality away in the fire,
8), Hyginus’s Fabulae (146, 147), and Ovid’s          but she was discovered in the act and prevented
MetaMorpHoses (5.346–571). Demeter is asso-           from doing so by Celeus’s wife, Metaneira, and
ciated with the fertility of crops, especially of     the child remained mortal. Demeter shed her
Demophon and Acamas	                                                                                 

disguise and asked the Eleusinians to build her      sionally, a crown of flowers. It is common to find
an altar so that by their worship they would         the goddess and her daughter together, where
secure the boy honors after his death. This          both are clothed in long gowns, as on an Attic
myth is evidently intended to explain the ori-       red-figure, white-ground lekythos from ca. 450
gins of Demeter’s cult at Eleusis and the Ele-       b.c.e. (National Museum, Athens). Here, Perse-
usinian mysteries. According to some sources,        phone pours libations on the ground before
Demeter, after failing to immortalize Demo-          Demeter. A colossal statue of Demeter (Vatican
phon, gave Demophon’s brother Triptolemus            Museums, Rome) shows the goddess carrying a
a chariot with dragon wings and seeds of wheat       sheaf of wheat and holding a scepter. In a few
so that he could spread the practice of agricul-     instances, Demeter and Persephone are joined
ture throughout the world.                           by Triptolemus in a wheeled or winged chariot
    When both altar and temple were finished,        (Demeter’s gift to him), as in a bas-relief from
the goddess took shelter there, keeping away         Eleusis dating to ca. 440 b.c.e.
from the other gods and, in her grief at the
loss of her daughter, neglected to assure the
                                                     Demophon (1) Son of Metaneira and Celeus
fertility of the crops causing famine. Finally,
                                                     of Eleusis. See Demeter.
Zeus persuaded Hades to return Persephone
to the upper world and her mother, but since
Persephone had eaten a pomegranate seed              Demophon (2) and Acamas Demophon,
while in the underworld, she was fated to            a king of Athens, and Acamas were sons of
remain there for part of every year. Her time in     Phaedra and Theseus. Classical sources are
the underworld coincides with winter and her         Apollodorus’s Library (Epitome 1.18, 1.23, 5.22,
reappearance above with spring and summer,           6.16), Hyginus’s Fabulae (59), Ovid’s Heroides
the seasons of fertility and growth.                 (2), and Pausanias’s Description of Greece (10.25.8).
    Demeter and Persephone, also known as            Demophon and Acamas are, with some varia-
Kore (“girl”), are the central cult figures in       tions in the sources, linked with the bringing of
the practice of the Eleusinian Mysteries. The        the Palladium to Athens. Their father, Theseus,
sanctuary to Demeter and Kore in Eleusis, west       abducted Helen, but she was rescued by her
of Athens, was originally housed in a temple         brothers, the Dioscuri. In revenge, the Dioscuri
dating to the Geometric period, but as the           kidnapped Theseus’s mother, Aethra. Aethra
cult grew in importance and popularity, it was       became either a servant or a handmaiden to
replaced and enlarged. The festival spanned          Helen and accompanied her to Troy. Acamas and
seven days in autumn, during which initiates         Demophon undertook the rescue of their grand-
presented themselves at the shrine to offer sac-     mother Aethra in Troy. Pausanias’s Description
rifices and perform rituals, the precise nature      of Greece mentions that Demophon was given
of which is not fully known. Another major           permission by Helen and Agamemnon to return
festival of Demeter is the Thesmophoria. This        with Aethra, but other sources maintain that
festival took place in autumn, lasted for three      Aethra was liberated only after the fall of Troy.
days, and excluded men.                              While on their way to rescue Aethra, Demophon
    In the classical period, visual representa-      and Acamas came to Thrace, where Demophon
tions of Demeter and Persephone were put on          fell in love with Phyllis, daughter of the king.
vases, reliefs, coins, and mosaics. Demeter is       After a time, Demophon wished to return home
usually depicted as a fully clothed matron-type      but promised Phyllis that he would return to her
figure. She may be standing, seated, or riding       in a year’s time. Phyllis presented Demophon
in a chariot, and she carries such attributes as a   with a casket and instructed him to open it only
scepter, sheaf of wheat, ears of corn, and, occa-    if he should decide not to return to her. After a
	                                                                          Deucalion and Pyrrha

year passed without Demophon’s return, Phyllis        tury b.c.e. Eighty-two works in prose surviving
killed herself (either by throwing herself into the   from the ancient world are ascribed to Lucian,
sea or hanging herself ). Demophon opened the         but not all have an equal claim to authentic-
casket and was driven mad by the sight of its con-    ity. His best-known works are his satirical
tents. Diodorus Siculus writes that trees growing     dialogues, a form that Lucian developed by
on Phyllis’s grave had leaves (phylla, in Greek)      combining features of the Platonic dialogue,
that fell every autumn in grief over her death. In    comedy, and mime. Among his satirical dia-
another version of the myth, Phyllis was trans-       logues, the Dialogues of the Gods are among
formed upon her death into an almond tree that        the most admired. In these brief, humorous
blossomed when Demophon embraced it. In               sketches, Lucian normally presents two gods
some sources, Acamas, rather than Demophon,           in dialogue to flesh out a familiar episode
is the hero of these adventures.                      in their mythology. The tone is refreshingly
    Demophon and Acamas are pictured on an            direct and humorously quotidian. Hermes,
Attic black-figure amphora from ca. 545 b.c.e.        for example, complains to his mother, Maia,
(Antikenmuseen, Berlin). Here, the brothers           of being exploited as the gods’ errand boy;
are accompanied by horses and carry spears.           he is especially exhausted with attending to
                                                      the details of his father Zeus’s love affairs. In
                                                      another brief exchange, Prometheus offers
Deucalion and Pyrrha The son of Clymene
                                                      Zeus the crucial prophecy regarding Thetis’s
and Prometheus. Deucalion’s wife is Pyrrha,
                                                      offspring and thereby wins his freedom. Lucian
daughter of Epimetheus and Pandora. Classical
                                                      wears his erudition lightly, and the effect is one
sources are Apollodorus’s Library (1.7.2–3),
                                                      of exquisitely maintained levity and wit.
Hyginus’s Fabulae (153), Ovid’s MetaMorpHoses
(1.125–415), and Pindar’s Olympian Odes (9.42–
53). When Zeus sent a flood to destroy human          Diana See Artemis.
civilization, he elected to save only the worthy
Deucalion and Pyrrha. They built a chest and
                                                      Dido Queen of Carthage. Also called Elissa,
took refuge in it for nine days and nights,
                                                      daughter of Mutto, king of Tyre. The principal
until the flood brought them to Parnassus.
                                                      classical source for the story of Dido is Virgil’s
They repopulated the earth by throwing rocks
                                                      aeneid (1.335–756, 4.1–705, 5.1–7, 6.450–476).
over their shoulders. The rocks thrown by
                                                      There may be a precursor in Naevius’s Punic
Deucalion became men and those thrown by
                                                      War, although his fragmentary preservation
Pyrrha, women.
                                                      makes this uncertain. An additional classical
                                                      source is Ovid’s Heroides (7). Dido, according to
Dialogues of the Gods Lucian (ca. 150) The            Virgil’s narrative, was deceived by her treacher-
Dialogues of the Gods were written by Lucian,         ous brother Pygmalion, then king of Tyre, who
a Greek author from Samosata in Syria, who            murdered her husband, Sychaeus (elsewhere
lived in the second century c.e. (ca. 115–80).        called Sicharbas), for his treasure. She fled her
Lucian traveled throughout the Mediterranean          native Tyre and set up a new colony in Carthage,
world as a lecturer or sophist, i.e., a typi-         where she reigned as queen of the emerging
cally itinerant practitioner of public, rhetorical    city-state. In Aeneid Book 1, the Trojan hero
display and instruction. The cultural milieu          Aeneas took refuge on her shores after enduring
in which Lucian wrote has been called the             a terrible storm at sea. He was encouraged to see
“Second Sophistic” (ca. later first and second        relief sculptures of scenes from the Trojan War
centuries c.e.) because of its (debatable) revival    depicted in Carthage, and even more so when
of the practices of the sophists of the fifth cen-    Dido offered him and his men hospitality in her

Dido Performing a Sacrifice. Manuscript illustration, fifth century C.E. (Vatican Library, Rome)

land. He, like Dido, was an exile, and she both             unshaken by her pleas and feared for his men’s
pitied and admired his astonishing sufferings. To           safety as they made hasty preparations for depar-
make her son Aeneas secure in Carthage, Venus               ture. Dido killed herself in despair. Later, when
(see Aphrodite) determined to make Dido fall                Aeneas descended to the Hades, Dido refused
in love with him. She replaced Aeneas’s son,                to speak to him, just as Ajax refuses to speak to
Ascanius/Iulus, with her own son, Cupid (see                Odysseus in Book 11 of Homer’s odyssey.
Eros), and in a strange and sinister scene, Dido                Virgil’s etiological myth offers Dido’s endur-
unwittingly drew the poison of love into herself            ing rage as an explanation of the calamitous
as she held Ascanius in her arms. During a hunt-            enmity of Carthage and Rome during the Car-
ing expedition, Aeneas and Dido took shelter in             thaginian wars. At the same time, Virgil assimi-
a cave from a storm. They there consummated                 lates the Dido myth to epic paradigms of female
what the love-struck Dido mistakenly consid-                obstruction of the hero’s journey and purpose:
ered a “marriage.” Eventually, Jupiter (see Zeus),          She resembles the Homeric Calypso and Circe.
swayed both by the angry prayers of a rival suitor          Finally, she comes to resemble a tragic heroine,
of Dido (the neighboring King Iarbas) and by                driven by madness and the Furies and, ulti-
his concern that Aeneas was failing to fulfill his          mately, bringing about her own destruction.
destiny to found Rome, dispatched Mercury                   Virgil, however, profoundly transforms the myth
(see Hermes) to send Aeneas on his way to Italy.            for his own purposes. Dido’s story was likely, in
Reluctantly, Aeneas announced his departure to              its origins, a colonization and foundation myth
the incredulous and irate queen. He remained                in its broader emphasis. Virgil subordinated
	                                                                                    Diodorus Siculus

Dido’s foundation story to his own myth of cul-           of Agrius who managed to survive, however, later
tural transfer: the foundation of Rome.                   ambushed and killed Oeneus.
   A crucial stage in the transmission of Virgil’s             Diomedes was one of the greatest Greek
epic was the copying of manuscripts in the late           heroes of the Trojan War—possibly the greatest
antique and medieval periods. An illustration             after Achilles. In Book 5 of the Iliad, Diomedes
from an illuminated manuscript of the fifth               goes on an unstoppable onslaught: In particular,
century c.e., Dido Performing a Sacrifice (Vati-          he wounds the goddess Aphrodite while she
can Library, Rome) shows Dido and her court               attempts to protect Aeneas; subsequently, he
engaged in a sacrificial rite.                            has to be warned away from Aeneas four times
                                                          by Apollo before he desists; and, with Athena’s
                                                          encouragement, he wounds the god Ares in the
Diodorus Siculus (fl. first century b.c.e.) A
                                                          belly. Diomedes, in this extraordinary sequence,
Greek historian from Agyrium, Sicily, often
                                                          appears invincible and a rival to the gods in war-
referred to as Diodorus Siculus (Diodorus of
                                                          fare. In Iliad 6, Diomedes encounters the Trojan
Sicily). Diodorus lived and wrote in the first cen-
                                                          Glaucus: In conversation, the two discover that
tury b.c.e. but very little is known of his life. He is
                                                          there was a relation of hospitality and friendship
the author of the Library of History (Bibliotheke),
                                                          between the families dating to an exchange of
a history of the world from its legendary begin-
                                                          gifts between their grandfathers, Oeneus and
nings to 60 b.c.e. in 40 books. Fifteen Books are
                                                          Bellerophon; instead of fighting, they exchange
extant: 1–5 and 11–20. He focuses on the history
                                                          armor. In other episodes, Diomedes is often
of Greece, Sicily, and, starting in the period of
                                                          associated with Odysseus in feats that involve
the Punic Wars (third century b.c.e.), Rome.
                                                          cunning, deception, and/or transgression. In the
Diodorus’s project is thus truly world historical
                                                          night raid scene in Iliad 10, Diomedes and Odys-
in scope. He also provides extensive treatment
                                                          seus kill the Trojan spy Dolon and massacre a
of what we would categorize as myth, treating
                                                          larger number of sleeping Thracians and their
mythology prior to the Trojan War. Diodorus,
                                                          leader, Rhesus. Diomedes is also said to have
like most ancient writers, includes mythology
                                                          aided Odysseus in the murder of Palamedes,
within his broader view of world history.
                                                          the expedition to obtain the hero Philoctetes
                                                          (in Apollodorus and Hyginus), and the theft of
Diomedes A major hero of the Trojan War.                  the Paladium, Athena’s sacred statue, from Troy
Son of Tydeus and Deipyle, husband of Aegiale.            (Apollodorus). Diomedes is also listed among
Diomedes appears throughout Homer’s iLiad.                the soldier hiding in the Trojan Horse. At the
Additional classical sources include Apollodorus’s        funeral games in honor of Patroclus, Diomedes
Library (1.8.5–6, 3.7.2–3, Epitome 5.8, 5.13, 6.1),       wins the chariot race.
Homer’s odyssey (3.141–182), Hyginus’s Fabulae                 Diomedes, like other Greek heroes of the
(102, 108, 175), Ovid’s MetaMorpHoses (14.457–            Trojan War, encounters serious difficulties
511), and Virgil’s aeneid (8.9–17, 11.222–295).           returning home, in part because of the sacrile-
Diomedes fought on the side of the Greeks dur-            gious behavior of the Greeks generally during
ing the Trojan War. Before the war, he took part          the sack of Troy and in part because Aphrodite
in the expedition against Thebes as one of the            still harbors a grudge against him for wound-
Epigoni, the sons of the Seven against Thebes.            ing her in battle. In Ovid’s Metamorphoses,
He also was known for avenging his grand-                 Diomedes’ comrades despair of wandering and
father Oeneus. The sons of Agrius, Oeneus’s               complain of Aphrodite’s ill treatment of them,
brother, drove him from the throne of Calydon.            and they are transformed into birds. Accord-
Diomedes killed most of the sons of Agrius and            ing to various, mostly late, sources, including
restored his family to the throne. Two of the sons        Servius’s commentary on the Aeneid, Aphrodite

punishes Diomedes by making his wife commit         (daughter of Cadmus, king of Thebes) and
adultery while he is away at Troy. On returning     Zeus. Dionysus appears in Euripides’ baccHae.
home, he either leaves of his own accord after      Additional classical sources are the Homeric
discovering her infidelity or is driven out by      Hymns to Dionysus, Apollodorus’s Library,
her adulterer. (Ovid’s Ibis lists Diomedes’ wife    (3.4.2–3.5.3), Diodorus Siculus’s Library of
Aegiale among examples of immoral women.)           History (3.67–74, 4.2–5, 5.75.4–5), Homer’s
Finally, in some accounts, Diomedes ends up         iLiad (6.130–143), Hesiod’s tHeogony (940–
arriving in Italy, where he helps king Daunus in    942, 947–949), Lucian’s diaLogues of tHe
warfare, receives a tract of land from him, mar-    gods (3, 12, 22), and Ovid’s MetaMorpHoses
ries his daughter, and founds Italian communi-      (3.253–315, 511–733; 11.85–145). Dionysus is
ties. In Virgil’s Aeneid, Turnus and his Latin      the god of wine and of the harvest. Dionysus
allies seek Diomedes’ support against Aeneas,       used to be considered a foreign god who only
but he refuses, not wishing to incite Venus         later joined the Olympians, but the discov-
(Aphrodite) to further anger against him.           ery of his name on Linear B tablets (ca. 1250
                                                    b.c.e.) confirms his status as one of the older
                                                    Greek gods. The Roman called him Bacchus
Dione An early Greek goddess and consort
                                                    after one of his cult titles and associated him
of Zeus. Classical sources are the Homeric
                                                    with the Italic Liber Pater. Dionysus was said
Hymn to Apollo, Apollodorus’s Library (1.1.3,
                                                    to be effeminately beautiful. He appeared mild
1.2.7, 1.3.1), Hesiod’s tHeogony (353), Homer’s
                                                    but could be dangerous, as he is presented in
iLiad (5.370–417), and Hyginus’s Fabulae (82,
                                                    Euripides’ Bacchae. In the Homeric Hymns dedi-
83). There was a cult of Dione, alongside
                                                    cated to Dionysus, of which there are three,
that of Zeus, at Dodona, and her name is the
                                                    Dionysus is “ivy-crowned” and terrible when
feminine version of Zeus. There are few myths
                                                    roused. Dionysus wears a panther skin, his
relating to Dione; instead, she is variously
                                                    cortege is pulled by panthers, and his attributes
conceived by ancient authors as a Nereid, an
                                                    are vegetal: grapes, ivy, and myrtle. His entou-
Oceanid, or a Titan. In Hesiod’s Theogony,
                                                    rage includes Sileni, maenads, and satyrs.
Dione is the daughter of Oceanus and Tethys.
                                                    Dionysus carries a thyrsus, or ivy-covered staff,
In Apollodorus’s Library, Dione is both the
                                                    with which he is able to induce frenzy.
name of a Titan and a Nereid (daughter of
                                                        Dionysus is also able to change form at
nereus and Doris) whose union with Zeus
                                                    will. In the Orphic Hymn to Dionysus, the god
produces Aphrodite. However, according to
                                                    is “two-horned” and “bull-faced.” During his
Hyginus’s Fabulae, Dione is the daughter of
                                                    rites, goats and bulls were sacrificed, and,
the Titan Atlas; she married Tantalus, by
                                                    unusually, his rites appear to have involved
whom she had a son, Pelops. In Homer’s Iliad,
                                                    offerings of raw meat: In the Orphic Hymn
which provides the fullest treatment of her,
                                                    Dionysus is the “eater of raw flesh.” Because of
Dione is the mother of Aphrodite. In the Iliad,
                                                    Dionysus’s association with wine and the free-
Aphrodite sought the comfort and aid of her
                                                    dom from ordinary restraint its consumption
mother on Mount Olympus, after having been
                                                    induces, the Dionysiac rites, at least in myth,
injured by Diomedes during the Trojan War.
                                                    were wild revelries that included dancing,
Dione healed her injured arm with herbs and
                                                    shrieking, and orgiastic and more violent ele-
consoled her by listing the various injuries that
                                                    ments, such as ripping apart animals and con-
the gods had suffered at the hands of mortals.
                                                    suming raw flesh. In reality, behavior in cult
                                                    practice may not have been so uncontrolled.
Dionysus (Bacchus) Greek god of wine in             His followers—Bacchantes or maenads—were
the Olympic pantheon of gods. Son of Semele         female, though men could participate in a lim-

                                                       inflicted a madness on her that caused Ino and
                                                       her son Melicertes to throw themselves into
                                                       the sea. Afterward, Zeus transformed Dionysus
                                                       into a goat to prevent Hera from finding him,
                                                       and he was brought by Hermes to Nysa. In the
                                                       Homeric Hymns, his birthplace is Nysa, where
                                                       the nymphs raised him and became his first
                                                       adherents. In youth, Dionysus discovered wine,
                                                       which was his gift to humanity. At this time,
                                                       Hera afflicted him with madness. In its grip he
                                                       wandered to Egypt, Syria, and India. When he
                                                       had recovered, he established Dionysiac rites in
                                                       Syria, India, and Greece.
                                                           Dionysus could be ruthless to those who
                                                       resisted his authority. Lycurgus refused to
                                                       accept Dionysus’s worship in Thrace, and, in
                                                       retribution, Dionysus afflicted him with mad-
                                                       ness. In another version of the story, according
                                                       to Homer’s Iliad, Lycurgus killed Dionysus’s
                                                       nurses, and Dionysus was forced to shelter with
Bacchus. Michelangelo Caravaggio, ca. 1595 (Galleria   Thetis beneath the sea. Zeus punished Lycur-
degli Uffizi, Florence)                                gus by blinding him.
                                                           In Euripides’ tragedy Bacchae, Pentheus,
ited role. In alternate years, Dionysus’s female       grandson of Cadmus and now king of Thebes,
worshippers would “go to the mountain” to              was slaughtered by his mother, Agave, and his
celebrate his rites. The departure from the            aunt Autonoe in a Dionysiac frenzy. Their
civilized space of the polis for the wilds is a key    unwitting murder of Pentheus was brought
theme of Dionysiac worship.                            about by Dionysus as retribution for Pentheus’s
    Dionysus is called the twice-born god              lack of piety toward him. Agave was pun-
because of the curious story of his birth.             ished because she slandered Dionysus’s mother,
According to Apollodorus’s Library and Ovid’s          Semele. Later, Dionysus would descend into
Metamorphoses, Hera became aware of Zeus’s             Hades by way of the bottomless Alcyonian
love for Semele. Disguised as Semele’s nurse,          Lake and return with Semele, whom he made
she persuaded Semele to ask him to show him-           immortal.
self to her in his full divinity as proof that he          In the Homeric Hymns, Dionysus encoun-
was, indeed, Olympic Zeus. Zeus had already            tered Tyrrhenian pirates who kidnapped him
promised to grant Semele a request, and he was         for ransom. They tried unsuccessfully to bind
obliged to fulfill his promise. Zeus manifested        him. The helmsman recognized him as a god
himself in the form of a lightning bolt, and           and attempted to persuade the crew to release
Semele perished in the blaze. Zeus plucked the         him, but they refused. Suddenly vines grew
unborn Dionysus from her womb and sewed                aboard ship, wine ran throughout, and Dio-
him into his thigh until the child was ready to        nysus terrified the pirates by taking the shape
be born. After his birth, Dionysus was given           of a lion. The pirates were transformed into
into the care of King Athamas and his wife,            dolphins as they leapt overboard, but Dionysus
Ino, sister of Semele. Ino’s care of her nephew        promised good fortune to the helmsman who
Dionysus attracted the wrath of Hera, who              had recognized his divinity.

    King Midas also encountered Dionysus.           (3.236–244) and odyssey (11.298–304), Ovid’s
Dionysus granted Midas the ability to turn          fasti (5.699–720) and MetaMorpHoses (8.301–
everything he touched to gold either because        302, 372–377), Pindar’s Pythian Odes (11.61–4)
Midas recognized Dionysus’s divinity or because     and Nemean Odes (10.49–90), and Theocritus’s
he was responsible for rescuing Silenus, one of     Idylls (22.137–213). Spartan heroes with prob-
the god’s companions.                               lematic parentage and claims to immortality,
    Having established his cult in Greece, Dio-     Castor and Pollux are known as the Dioscuri,
nysus came to the island of Naxos, where he fell    “sons of Zeus,” but also as the “Tyndaridae,” the
in love with Ariadne, who had been abandoned        “sons of Tyndareus.” They were skilled horse-
there by Theseus. Dionysus carried her off to       men and are associated with hunting, boxing,
become his bride, and they had a son named          wrestling, and sailing. Leda, Tyndareus’s wife,
Oenopion. A wreath that he gave Ariadne was         was impregnated by Zeus in the form of a swan.
placed as a constellation in the sky, the Corona    The brothers were born from one egg, and
Borealis. By Aphrodite, Dionysus was said to        from another were born their sisters, Helen and
have sired the god Priapus.                         Clytaemnestra. Some sources claim that only
    In visual representations of the classical      Polydeuces was fathered by Zeus, and there-
period, Dionysus is often shown on vase paint-      fore only he inherited his immortality, whereas
ings accompanied by satyrs and his attributes:      Castor was the son of Tyndareus, and as such
grapes, vines, and ivy. An Attic black-figure       was born a mortal like him. When he died, Zeus
amphora from ca. 560–525 b.c.e. by the Ama-         granted him immortality at the request of his
sis Painter (Antikenmuseum Kä, Basel) shows         brother. In still other sources, both men were
Dionysus, satyrs, and maenads at a vintage. In      mortal. In the Iliad, the twins share their mortal-
postclassical art, the character of the god, mild   ity, taking turns living in the underworld.
yet threatening, was captured in Michelangelo            The Dioscuri took part in the Calydonian
Caravaggio’s Bacchus of ca. 1595 (Galleria degli    Boar hunt alongside Meleager and were part
Uffizi, Florence). In this image, Dionysus,         of the crew of the Argo. In one episode of
crowned with grape leaves, is shown with his        the voyage, Polydeuces defeated Amycus in a
customary attributes: vegetal motifs and wine.      boxing match. The Dioscuri pursued Theseus
    Ariadne’s rescue by Dionysus has been           when he abducted their sister Helen and res-
a richly employed theme in the visual arts.         cued her. In revenge they abducted Theseus’s
The theme occurs in vase painting from the          mother, Aethra. Their central myth is the
fifth century b.c.e. onward. One example is         abduction and rape of the daughters of Leucip-
the François Vase from ca. 570 b.c.e. (Museo        pus, which led to Castor’s death. After their
Archeologico Nazionale, Florence). The most         deaths, they took their place in heaven as the
famous postclassical painting of this theme is      constellation Gemini (the Twins).
Titian’s Ariadne in Naxos of ca. 1520 (National          In visual representations, the Dioscuri usu-
                                                    ally appear together, young males of athletic
Gallery, London).
                                                    build, often as horsemen, sometimes wearing
                                                    caps decorated with stars. A metope of the
Dioscuri (Castor and Polydeuces or Pollux)          Sicyonian building at Dephi, dating from the
Twin sons of Leda and Zeus (or Tyndareus,           sixth century b.c.e., shows the abduction of
king of Sparta). The Dioscuri appear as the dei-    the daughters of Leucippus. The Prado Group
ex-machina in Euripides’ eLectra and HeLen.         dating from the first century c.e. represents
Additional classical sources are the Homeric        the Dioscuri and behind them a female figure
Hymns to the Discuri, Apollodurus’s Library         holding what seems to be an egg. In this Roman
(3.10.7, 3.11.2, Epitome 1.23), Homer’s iLiad       sculptural group, Castor and Pollux are shown
0	                                                                                        Dryads

nude and wear laurel crowns. The remains of         Also in Rome, another colossal pair of Dioscuri,
the temple of Castor and Pollux can be seen         copies of ancient bronzes, are displayed in front
in the Roman Forum. According to Roman              of the Palazzo Quirinale. In postclassical paint-
tradition, it was built and dedicated to the gods   ing, Peter Paul Rubens’s Rape of the Daughters of
following the defeat of the Latin League at         Leucippus of ca. 1616 (Alte Pinakothek, Munich)
the battle of Lake Regillus in the fifth century    shows the muscular horsemen carrying off
b.c.e., a victory the Romans attributed to the      Leucippus’s barely clad daughters as a cupid
aid of the Dioscuri. Images of Castor and Pollux    hangs onto the bridle of their horse.
also appear throughout the imperial period on           Jean-Philippe Rameau’s opera Castor et Pol-
coins. Colossal statues of the Dioscuri frame the   lux of 1737 focuses on the question of their
entrance to the Campidoglio in Rome, designed       immortality.
by Michelangelo in 1536–1546. Here, Castor
and Pollux, wearing caps, stand with horses.        Dryads See nymphs.
Echidna A female serpentine monster,                  motives and cursed her with the inability
offspring of Phorycs and Ceto. Sister of the          to speak, except in repetition of the words
Graeae and the Gorgons. Textual sources are           of others. She was pursued by the amorous
Apollodorus’s Library (2.1.2, 2.3.1, 2.5.11, 3.5.8,   Pan but fled from his advances. Echo’s most
Epitome 1.1) and Hesiod’s tHeogony (295–              famous myth is her hopeless love for the youth
332). Alternately, her parents are given as Gaia      Narcissus. With her limited speech she was
and T artarus. In Hesiod’s tHeogony, Echidna          unable to make him understand her. Narcissus
is part beguiling, beautiful woman and part           rejected her, and in her grief, the nymph with-
monstrous snake, immortal and ageless. She eats       ered away, her bones became stones, and she
raw flesh and lives in a cave deep in the earth in    was left with nothing but a voice.
Arima. The offspring of Echidna and T    yphoeus          Echo and Narcissus were represented
are Cerberus, the three-headed dog who guards         on several wall paintings in Pompeii. One
the entrance to Hades; the Chimaera; the              example, now in the National Archaeological
Hydra of Lerna; and Orthus, the dog that              Museum in Naples, shows Narcissus sitting
guards the cattle of Geryon (see Heracles).           beside the stream showing his reflection while
The Lernian Hydra and Orthus were slain by            a cupid points at him. Narcissus faces away
Heracles, and he successfully carried Cerberus        from the seated Echo who gazes sadly at him.
from Hades as part of his Twelve Labors. The          The theme was popular with artists in the
Chimaera was slain by Bellerophon. Echidna,           postclassical period as well. Examples include
possibly by mating with her offspring Orthus, is      Nicholas Poussin’s Echo and Narcissus of 1628–
also said to be the mother of the Nemean Lion         30 (Louvre, Paris), Benjamin West’s Narcissus
and the Sphinx. Echidna was killed by Argus           of 1805 (Alexander Gallery, New York), and
Panoptes, the “All-Seeing.”                           J. W. Waterhouse’s Echo and Narcissus of 1903
                                                      (Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool).
Echo A nymph from Mount Helicon in
Boeotia. Classical sources are Ovid’s Meta-           Eclogues Virgil (ca. 38 b.c.e.) Virgil’s Eclogues
MorpHoses (3.356–510), Pausanias’s Description        was his first major poetic work, a slender,
of Greece (9.31.6–9), and Philostratus’s iMagines     elegantly arranged collection of 10 poems in
(1.23). Echo distracted Hera with conver-             the erudite Alexandrian style. Virgil deliberately
sation while Zeus pursued his love inter-             imitates Theocritean bucolic and initiates the
ests. Eventually, Hera became aware of Echo’s         Augustan pattern of writing Roman versions

of Greek poetic masterpieces. The Eclogues,           identity are at some level quite logical: The
probably published around 38 b.c.e., revises          pastoral gains definition and clarity through
Theocritus’s pastoral model at an unexpected          the recurrence of antipastoral motifs, and vice
moment in Roman history. If we assume the             versa. Virgil creates a pastoral world, or a pas-
publication date is correct, Virgil’s idyllic pas-    toral “myth”: He evokes a literary landscape,
toral world made its appearance in the midst          neither fully Italian nor totally Greek, peopled
of bitter partisan conflict, in the wake of the       with nymphs, Dryads, herdsmen, shepherd-
murder of Julius Caesar (44 b.c.e.), and, most        singers, and the god Pan. Departure from that
strikingly, the land confiscations carried out by     world, as in the case of Meliboeus at the begin-
Octavian (later the emperor Augustus) in 42–41        ning and Gallus at the end of the collection,
b.c.e. Due to the efforts of Octavian to settle his   intensifies the pathos and fragility pervading
veterans on arable land, the Italian countryside      Virgil’s bucolic fiction.
was in tumult: Old owners were driven out, and             In other cases, Virgil incorporates mythology
revolts were put down with force. Eclogues 1          proper into his pastoral landscape of notionally
and 9 refer directly to the confiscations; it even    illiterate shepherd-singers. Eclogue 2 reworks
appears that Virgil himself lost some of his land.    Theocritus’s story of Polyphemus and Galatea,
(Scholars argue about the details of Virgil’s         while Gallus in Eclogue 10 recalls the Theocri-
situation and the extent to which autobiography       tean Daphnis. Eclogue 4 proclaims that the
informs the poetry: His patrons, Varus, Pollio,       order of time is running backward: We will see
and, if the “young man” and “god” praised in          first a new heroic age, and then a new golden
Eclogue 1 can be thus identified, Octavian, are       age heralded by the birth of a mysterious boy.
supposed to have helped to recover some of            (Scholars have offered various answers to the
his land, although this, too, is far from certain.)   boy’s identity: The leading candidate has tradi-
Virgil’s pastoral collection thus presents a para-    tionally been the putative future son of Antony
dox: He offers an oasis of tranquility amid chaos     and Octavia. For Christian interpreters of the
and violence that infects the pastoral world          late antique period, Virgil’s poem prefigured
itself. The pastoral refuge offers shelter to the     the birth of Christ.) Eclogue 6 constitutes the
pastoral singer and his audience, yet there can       most ambitious engagement with mythology in
be no truly secure place of safety, given the cur-    the Eclogues: two boys and a Naiad bind Sile-
rent conditions.                                      nus, the companion of Bacchus (see Diony-
    Virgil imitates Theocritus’s bucolic poetry,      sus), and demand that he sing them a song. His
yet he goes further than Theocritus in defining       song includes the story of the flood, the golden
and distilling the essence of the pastoral genre.     age, Prometheus, Hylas, Pasiphae, Atalanta,
Theocritus did not clearly demarcate his rural        Phaethon’s sisters, Scylla, and Tereus and
poems from his urban ones: Both types of              Philomela—a veritable catalog of myths of
Theocritean poem represent in hexameter               interest to erudite poets of the immediately
verse ordinary persons of low status going            preceding and present generation. Much of
about their everyday lives; the rural does not        the Eclogues is about song itself—a society built
clearly correspond to a separate set of ethical       around song, mythic singers such as Orpheus
associations. Virgil creates a more coherent          and Linus, traditions of song passed from gods
and exclusive pastoral milieu but, at the same        to mortals, and from great poets of the past to
time, incorporates a greater sense of menace          poets of the present. It is only appropriate that
through reference to non- or antipastoral             Virgil should begin his distinguished career as
elements: war, arms, violence, eviction, exile.       poet by building up the impression of poetry’s
This simultaneous narrowing of generic iden-          numinous power, legendary associations, and
tity and intensification of the threat to that        deep traditions.

Eileithyia (Ilithyia) The Greek goddess of           Electra emerges as a major figure in Athenian
childbirth. Daughter of Hera and Zeus. Sister        tragedy. After Clytaemnestra and Aegisthus
of Ares and Hebe. Classical sources are the          murder Agamemnon and Cassandra, Electra
Homeric Hymn to Apollo (97–119), Apollodorus’s       is deeply angry with her mother. According to
Library (1.3.1.), Hesiod’s tHeogony (921–            Sophocles’ Electra, she saved Orestes by send-
923), Homer’s iLiad (11.269–272, 16.187–188,         ing him away from the palace at the time of
19.95–133), Ovid’s MetaMorpHoses (9.280–             the murders. According to Euripides’ Electra,
323), Pausanias’s Description of Greece (1.18.5,     she lives a life of humble drudgery, married to
6.20.2–6), and Pindar’s Nemean Odes (7.1–4).         a peasant, who, however, has chosen to spare
Hera and Artemis also share an association           her virginity. In both cases, she resents her
with childbirth. Eileithyia keeps company with       mother’s high lifestyle and exchanges harsh
Hera and on occasion prevents the birth of           words with her. Orestes, who has been stay-
Zeus’s illegitimate children at Hera’s behest.       ing with his uncle Strophius, returns with his
The birth of Apollo was delayed by nine              companion Pylades. Orestes and Electra are
days and nights because Hera, jealous of             reunited, and their reunion is brought about
her rival Leto, kept Eileithyia from attend-         in artfully arranged recognition scenes by each
ing the birth. Finally, the other goddesses in       of the three tragedians. (See the discussions of
attendance, Amphitrite, Dione, Rhea, and             Aeschylus’s Libation Bearers, Sophocles’ Electra,
Themis, persuaded her to arrive and allow for        and Euripides’ Electra). Together Electra and
Apollo’s birth by offering her a golden neck-        Orestes plot the murder of Clytaemnestra
lace. Hera also arranged to delay Heracles’          and Aegisthus. Orestes and Pylades murder
birth by seven days so that Eurystheus, son          Agamemnon. In Aeschylus, Electra plays no
of Sthenelus and cousin to Heracles, should          direct role in the murder. In Sophocles, she
be born first and rule over Mycenae instead          is fiercer in her hatred of Clytaemnestra and
of Heracles. Eileithyia prevented the birth          more grimly fixated on her death—an intran-
of Heracles by sitting with crossed legs on          sigent Sophoclean heroine. In Euripides, she
the threshold of the door of the room where          plays an active role, holding the sword along
Heracles was to be born, until Alcmene sent          with Orestes at the moment of the murder. At
a false report of Heracles’ birth. Eileithyia        the end of Euripides’ Electra, Orestes is exiled
relaxed her limbs and finally allowed Heracles       and Electra is to marry Pylades. In Euripides’
to be born.                                          Orestes, the citizens of Argus vote to execute
    In classical art, Eileithyia appears in child-   Electra and Orestes for their crimes, but Apollo
birth scenes, even unconventional ones such as       intervenes to avert the crisis: Electra once
the birth of Athena. While Eileithyia observes,      again is to marry Pylades, while Orestes will
an adult Athena emerges from the head of Zeus        marry his cousin Hermione.
in a scene on a black-figure amphora from ca.
550 b.c.e. (Louvre, Paris).
                                                     Electra (2) Daughter of Atlas and Pleione.
                                                     See Pleiades.
Electra (1) Daughter of Agamemnon
and Clytaemnestra. Sister of Orestes and
                                                     Electra (3) Daughter of Oceanus and
Iphigenia. Electra appears in Aeschylus’s
Libation bearers, Euripides’ eLectra and
orestes, and Sophocles’ eLectra. An addi-
tional classical source is Hyginus’s Fabulae         Electra Euripides (ca. 413 b.c.e.) The precise
(117–122). Though not mentioned in Homer,            date of performance of Euripides’ Electra is not

known: An apparent reference to the Sicilian         grandfather’s death. The farmer has not forced
Expedition has often suggested a date of 413         Electra to consummate their marriage.
b.c.e., although not all scholars agree that this        Electra enters, her head is shaved in mourn-
reference is decisive in dating the play. The        ing, and she bears a water jug. Usually, the task
question is an important one, not least because      of collecting water is left to a slave, but Electra
Sophocles’s Electra is often conventionally dated    performs it, she says, to remind herself of the
to the same approximate period (ca. 418–410          lowly status her marriage has imposed on her.
b.c.e.). Since both dates are hypothetical, we       The farmer asks her why she persists in such
do not know which play came first and which          tasks, but Electra insists that she wishes to con-
playwright is responding to his predecessor in       tribute to the household. They exit together.
his handling of the theme. In Euripides’ play,           Orestes and Pylades enter, after first making
Electra, daughter of the treacherously slain         sure that they are alone. Orestes thanks Pylades
Agamemnon, is married to a peasant. Electra’s        for his loyalty. It is revealed that they have
mother Clytaemnestra, who was responsible            come to Argos in secret and that he intends
for the murder of her father, arranged the           to avenge his father. Orestes declares that he
marriage in an attempt to humiliate Electra          has performed rites at his father’s grave on his
and neutralize any threat to her own power.          arrival and is now looking for his sister, who he
Electra’s brother Orestes has returned from          hopes will be his partner in vengeance.
exile, accompanied by his friend Pylades, and            Both men notice Electra returning with
after a complicated recognition sequence, the        a full water jug and mistake her for a slave.
brother and sister together plan the murder of       Electra is singing about her life, her mother’s
Clytaemnestra and her accomplice and lover,          betrayal of her husband, her brother’s exile,
Aegisthus. Euripides, who is treating the same       and her father’s death. She is met by a Chorus
mythic subject matter as Aeschylus’s Libation        of Argive peasant women who invite her to
bearers, stresses the shaky moral underpin-          perform rites with it. Electra replies that she
nings of the murder, the pettiness of the            is too distraught to do so, and, moreover, has
murderers’ motives, and the subsequent sense         no finery for such an occasion. The Chorus
of horror and remorse. Electra herself plays a       attempts to persuade her to honor the gods
strikingly active role in planning and carrying      nonetheless, but she resists and at this point
out the killings.                                    observes Orestes and Pylades. She does not
                                                     recognize her brother and takes the strangers
                   SynoPSIS                          for criminals, but Orestes, having heard her
The scene is the Argive hills overlooking to         song, knows who she is and approaches her. He
the left the road to Argus and to the right the      does not wish to reveal himself and so pretends
passes to Sparta. A farmer stands before a cot-      that he is Orestes’ friend and sympathetic to his
tage at center stage and speaks about the recent     plight and to hers. Encouraged, Electra reveals
history of Argos: Agamemnon’s war in Troy,           her present condition: her removal from Aegis-
his triumphant return, then his murder at the        thus’s house and her marriage to a farmer, the
hands of his wife’s lover, Aegisthus. In addition,   unusual state of her marriage, and the reason
Agamemnon’s son, Orestes, was forced to flee to      why Aegisthus wished to prevent a noble mar-
save himself from Aegisthus, and Agamemnon’s         riage. Still without revealing himself, Orestes
daughter Electra was for many years kept from        probes her desire to revenge her father’s death.
a suitable marriage until, finally, she was forced   He is satisfied with her resolve for vengeance
to marry him, a low-born farmer. Aegisthus           when Electra bitterly describes the funeral
had feared that Electra might have children          rites denied her father and the prosperity in
of noble birth, strong enough to avenge their        which Clytaemnestra and Aegisthus now live

compared to her poverty and loss of status and    Argos; thus, any plan will have to be put into
her brother’s life in exile.                      action by Orestes alone.
    Electra’s husband enters and demands to           On his way to Electra’s cottage, the Old
know who the strangers are. Assured by Elec-      Man had observed Aegisthus preparing to
tra that they are friends of Orestes and sym-     sacrifice a bull to the nymphs. Orestes decides
pathetic to his wife, he insists on inviting      to seek him out, contrive to be invited to the
them into his home. Orestes is struck by the      sacrifice, and find an opportunity to kill him.
noble character of the farmer despite his lack    Electra proposes that in the meanwhile the Old
of status or wealth. Orestes and Pylades enter    Man bring a message to Clytaemnestra saying
the cottage. Outside, the Chorus delights that    that Electra has recently had a baby. Electra is
Electra has such sympathetic visitors, but        convinced her mother will come to her imme-
Electra chides her husband, replying that she     diately on hearing this news, and Electra will
has nothing to offer guests. She bids him find    take that opportunity to murder her. Electra,
one of her father’s former servants to bring      Orestes, and the Old Man call on the gods to
some fare for the guests. This man, now an        favor their plans, Electra and Orestes calling in
old shepherd, saved Orestes as a child and        particular on Agamemnon for protection. The
helped him flee. Electra follows Orestes and      Old Man leads Orestes and Pylades off to find
Pylades into the cottage while the farmer sets    Aegisthus, and Electra enters the cottage.
out toward the Argive hills. The Chorus sings         The Chorus sings of Atreus and Thyestes.
of the Trojan War and warns Clytaemnestra         They call out to Electra to emerge when they
that she may pay with her life for her murder     hear shouting in the distance. Electra comes
of Agamemnon.                                     outside and impatiently awaits news of the suc-
    The Old Man appears with the gift of a        cess of their plan. A messenger arrives with the
newborn lamb. He greets Electra and startles      report of Orestes’ victory and Aegisthus’s death:
her by asking if Orestes has somehow secretly     As Orestes had hoped, when Aegisthus noticed
come into Argus; rites have apparently been       him and Pylades, he invited both to share in the
performed at Agamemnon’s tomb. He holds           sacrifice to the nymphs. Aegisthus gave Orestes
a lock of hair that was left at the grave up to   the honor of butchering the bull, but he was
Electra’s own head. Electra dismisses the idea,   alarmed by an ill omen: The bull was missing a
saying that if Orestes were to enter Argus, he    part of his liver. While Aegisthus reached down
would do so boldly. The Old Man asks if there     to continue examining the entrails, Orestes
are any signs by which she would recognize        smashed his ax down on him, breaking his back
her brother were he to come; she replies in the   and killing him. When the messenger finishes
negative, as she has not seen her brother since   his narration, the Chorus bursts out in joyful
they were both children.                          song. Electra is triumphant.
    Orestes and Pylades emerge from the cot-          Orestes, Pylades, and servants enter bear-
tage and greet the Old Man. Electra explains      ing the corpse of Aegisthus. Electra’s next
who he is. The Old Man is arrested by the sight   speech, charged with bitterness and venom, is
of Orestes and, after looking at him search-      addressed to the dead Aegisthus. She condemns
ingly, recognizes Orestes by a scar above his     his adultery with her mother and hints at his
eye. Electra is stunned and delighted by the      other adulteries. She calls his marriage into her
revelation. The brother and sister embrace.       family social climbing. She describes Aegisthus
The Old Man and Electra are overjoyed by          as in every way a lesser man than her father,
his appearance in Argus. Quickly they begin to    whose place he usurped, and as a man unable
discuss plans for revenge. The Old Man warns      even to recognize his own inferiority. Thus, she
them that they have no allies remaining in        finishes, his death is well deserved.

    The corpse is carried indoors, and Clytaem-         The Dioscuri, Castor and Polydeuces, twin
nestra is seen approaching. Orestes and Electra     brothers to Clytaemnestra, appear hovering
quickly debate their plans. Orestes hesitates to    over the roof of the house. Looking down on
kill his mother, but Electra is adamant. Orestes    the siblings, the Dioscuri tell them that justice
is unwilling to believe that the oracle of Phoe-    was not wrought the right way by Electra and
bus would urge matricide. Electra is insistent.     Orestes, and they even cast doubt on Apollo’s
She sends Orestes inside the house and tells        wisdom. The matricide will call the Furies on
him that Clytaemnestra should be killed when        Orestes, and he must make his way to Athens
she enters the house.                               to face trial for this murder, but he will be
    When Clytaemnestra arrives, she and             acquitted: He must then found a city bearing
Electra exchange accusations. Clytaemnestra         his name in Arcadia. Electra will be given to
defends her participation in the murder of          Pylades as his wife. Electra and Orestes accept
Agamemnon by pointing to his sacrifice of           their fates: They will never be together, and
their daughter Iphigenia. Electra retorts that if   they will never return home to Argos. Electra
this justifies Agamemnon’s death, then she her-     and Orestes tearfully take leave of each other.
self would be justified in killing Clytaemnestra    The Chorus bids them farewell and comments
to avenge her father’s death. She adds that her     on the good fortune of mortals who do not lead
mother was always self-interested, even before      lives filled with grief.
the death of Iphigenia, and cites her treatment
of Electra and Orestes following Agamemnon’s                       CoMMEntARy
death. If Clytaemnestra had been motivated          In focusing on the figure of Electra, Euripides
primarily by care for her children, Electra         inevitably invites comparison with the treat-
claims, Clytaemnestra would not have deprived       ments of other tragedians (Sophocles’ Electra,
them of their home, their comforts, and their       Aeschylus’s Libation Bearers) and thereby all
status. Electra at length persuades Clytaemnes-     the more effectively showcases his own unique
tra to enter the cottage with her on the pretext    style and approach. Unlike Aeschylus, Eurip-
that she needs Clytaemnestra’s help in carrying     ides focuses a great deal of attention on the
out the customary sacrifice on the 10th day         character of Electra, but unlike Sophocles,
after a child’s birth.                              he does not present her tragic situation in a
    After a moment, Clytaemnestra’s cries are       noble or heroic light. Electra comes off as a
heard from inside the house; she asks her chil-     sulky, envious, resentful, self-absorbed figure,
dren for mercy. Outside the Chorus announces        who is too young and too inexperienced to
that justice has been meted out to Clytaemnes-      comprehend truly the horror of the events
tra and that terrible deed has met terrible deed.   that she instigates. In fact, almost none of the
    Electra and Orestes emerge from the cot-        play’s characters is particularly admirable. It is
tage. Behind them, the doors of the house are       true that they do not have very good options:
opened to reveal the bodies of Aegisthus and        Euripides carefully reproduces the Aeschylean
Clytaemnestra lying together. The brother and       scenario of the impossible decision—the choice
sister are stunned by what they have done and       to kill kin or leave the death of kin shame-
are overcome by horror and remorse. Only            fully unavenged. But in Euripides’ play, mixed
now, when it is too late, do they seem to realize   among the lofty, if terrible, motives that drove
the brutality and impiety of their actions. They    Aeschylus’s characters are more sordid, banal
are inconsolable. They describe their mother’s      interests: envy, sexual desire, personal vanity,
piteous cries and their violence to her—Electra,    resentment of others’ material wealth.
too, placed her hand on the sword to deal the           Electra consistently displays a melodramatic
death blow. The Chorus joins in their lament.       sense of her own suffering, albeit in an incon-

sistent manner that sometimes comes off as            shrewd commentary on his mythological tradi-
simple moral confusion. In the opening scene,         tion, but hardly a justification that meets the
she appears as a servant, with shorn hair and         standards for heroic homicide. Electra unlooses
carrying a water vessel on her head—a point-          a whole bundle of complaints—some serious
edly unheroic figure. Euripides was famous            and some petty—at a moment when words have
for lowering his heroes and heroines, dressing        become superfluous.
them in rags; yet here, Electra has made some             The characters are often shown moving
effort to dramatize her own abasement. She            from high-sounding sentiments—the kinds
praises the self-restraint of her husband (who        of utterances they think they should mouth
has abstained from intercourse with her), but in      as exalted figures on a tragic stage—to the
other moments, she reveals her disdain for his        peevish snobbery that more accurately rep-
social position and humble material resources:        resents their attitude. Orestes utters a long,
He is not worthy of marriage to a princess            sententious speech on the mismatch between
such as herself, and no amount of noble senti-        external attributes and true merit, praising
ments can conceal her underlying revulsion.           the poor but virtuous man by contrast with
Electra introduces him to the visiting stranger       the aristocratic coward. Elsewhere, however,
(Orestes) as a man of good character in humble        he reveals his own aristocratic bias and snob-
circumstances, but when it comes to hospital-         bish instincts, as when he first observes
ity, she harshly indicates that his house and         Electra’s dwelling and describes it as being
food are inappropriate for noble guests. Con-         worthy of a cowherd or ditchdigger. Orestes
versely, bitter comments about her mother’s           and Electra inhabit a world of ethical confu-
materially rich and sexually promiscuous life         sion where it is impossible to know where (if
seem more like a display of envy than of moral        anywhere) truly noble qualities dwell: They
integrity.                                            are affected by a profound sense of inconsis-
    Even in the midst of action, Electra is           tency and moral panic as they try to live up to
not particularly appealing: She is vicious and        the tragic destinies they fail even remotely to
petty toward her mother, Clytaemnestra. One           comprehend.
moment she glories in their plan of bloody                This sense of moral confusion pervades the
revenge, then the next, she weakly anticipates        killing sequences. Specifically, Euripides allows
defeat. When Orestes has killed Aegisthus             the “bad” characters, Aegisthus and Clytaem-
and rumors are beginning to circulate, Electra        nestra, to appear reasonably (although not
assumes the worst, prepares for suicide, and has      totally) sympathetic, and, in Clytaemnestra’s
to be talked patiently out of her despair. It takes   case, to display moments of appealing honesty.
some time to persuade her that Orestes has pre-       We begin to perceive just how immature the
vailed, and in her aristocratic snobbery, she fails   killers are, and how circumscribed their view-
even to recognize the bringer of the good news        points. Clytaemnestra’s speech and the moral
as Orestes’ servant. One of the most disturbing       complexity it evinces are not truly answered
and yet brilliant scenes has an only momentarily      but simply silenced by violence. Clytaemnes-
embarrassed Electra finally speaking her mind         tra’s speech brilliantly picks apart the gendered
and “bravely” rehearsing all her resentments          logic driving the entire Trojan War. She point-
to the corpse of Aegisthus. Euripides could not       edly asks: If Menelaus (instead of Helen) had
demonstrate more lucidly that the motives of the      been abducted, would she herself have been
tragic agents in his play are messier and more        required to sacrifice Orestes (instead of Iphi-
ignoble than the morally required vengeance           genia) so that the Greek forces could set out
for the killing of kin. Many of her comments          to rescue Menelaus? In Aeschylus’s euMen-
revolve around Aegisthus’s lack of manliness—a        ides, Athena finally resolved the vengeance-

cycle by insisting on her preference for the         a common motif in Greek tragedy generally, is
male (Agamemnon, Orestes, polis institutions)        the recognition sequence in which one charac-
over the female (Clytaemnestra, Iphigenia, the       ter (here Electra) comes to recognize another
Furies), whereas the Euripidean Chorus merely        character (here Orestes) by some irrefutable
responds: “You should defer to your husband.”        token or object. In this play, the Old Man notes
We might recall Medea. She, too, is a mur-           first the signs of sacrifice at Agamemnon’s
deress driven by sexual betrayal, and she too        tomb, and then a lock of hair that he swears
offers a provocative critique of ancient gender      is the twin of Electra’s. Electra is immediately
systems. The scene of murder is itself reminis-      rude and dismissive: How can the Old Man be
cent of the other play: Here we hear offstage        so foolish? He then goes on to suggest other
the cries of the mother begging her children’s       possible tokens, running through a veritable
mercy as they kill her, whereas in the Medea, we     repertoire of familiar devices: footprints, an
hear the pitiful cries of the children.              unforgettable style of clothing. Electra con-
    It is significant that neither Clytaemnestra     tinues to be contemptuous. Finally, Orestes
nor Aegisthus conveniently delivers a hubristic      arrives, and after some time, the Old Man
speech that might serve to justify and catalyze      finally persuades her on the basis of the oldest
their murder: Aegisthus is genial and hospi-         and most trite recognition token of all, dating
table; Clytaemnestra is darker, but she is at        back to Homer’s Odyssey—the scar—that the
times regretful and penitent and invites Electra     stranger is indeed Orestes. The entire episode
to articulate her feelings. Neither comes off as     might even be labeled a recognition comedy:
excessively overbearing or tyrannical. Both fig-     It takes an immense amount of time to be
ures, moreover, are shown piously sacrificing at     resolved after many false starts, it brings out
the moment of their deaths: They are engaged         the main character’s worst qualities rather than
in an act of devotion to the gods and thus           her virtues, it parodies Aeschylus mercilessly,
incriminate their murderers at the moment of         and the necessity for drawing it out at such
their demise. This coincidence of killing with       length is never made wholly clear.
animal sacrifice also frames the murders as a             The recognition scene seems to deconstruct
perversion of ritual—a well-worn tragic motif,       tragic conventions and even hints at their futil-
here intensified to the point of baroque inge-       ity. There is a darker side to such futility, how-
nuity. Just as Agamemnon perversely sacrificed       ever. In the speech of the Dioscuri at the end
Iphigenia like an animal, now Aegisthus and          of the play, the twin gods reveal that their sister
Clytaemnestra fall in the same manner. In com-       Helen, in accordance with an alternate version
parison with the Aeschylean trilogy, however,        of the myth, never went to Troy: Instead, Zeus
Euripides’ play devotes little space to resolv-      sent a mere image (eidolon) of Helen to Troy
ing the cycle of violence. The speech of the         “so men might die in hate and blood” (tr. Ver-
Dioscuri at the end suggests a path to expia-        meule). This is a terrible revelation. Through-
tion, but we do not see Orestes suffering and        out the play, Helen features strongly as the
struggling through a trial of atonement—and          catalyst of the war and thus as the origin of the
that makes a very important difference.              intrafamilial violence in the house of Atreus. If
    Euripides often seems to play at the edges       Helen had not gone off with Paris, Agamem-
of the tragic genre and to wreak havoc on tragic     non would not have had to sacrifice Iphigenia
seriousness and tragic conventions. It is worth      to initiate the expedition, and he would not
considering a signal example of Euripides’ trav-     have returned with Cassandra. None of the
esty of high tragic seriousness and his flirtation   killings would have taken place—and yet this
with the bathetic and the parodic. A key ele-        originating factor turns out to be a phantasm
ment in the Electra story since Aeschylus, and       created by a sadistic Zeus. Euripides leaves his

audience with a devastating sense of the futility     virtue of feminine modesty, yet feels obliged to
of everything.                                        cast it aside to denounce Clytaemnestra’s and
    In this context, it may or may not be rel-        Aegisthus’s misdeeds. Like Antigone, she refus-
evant that in the closing lines of the play, the      es to yield to tyrannical power. Sophocles writes
Dioscuri announce their eagerness to fly to the       his own version of the mythology of the house
help of the Athenian fleet on its way to Sicily       of Atreus while maintaining his signature trait:
(and thereby allow us to hypothesize the date         the tight focus on the unyielding temper of a
of the play). These eminently Euripidean dei          hero or heroine in the face of difficult if not
ex machina have (at least nominally) sorted           overpowering circumstances.
out the ending of the Electra story, but now
they must go off to sort out another impossibly                         SynoPSIS
muddled exchange of violence for violence.            The scene is set before the palace of Agamem-
Are the origins for this massive expedition of        non at Mycenae. Orestes, Pylades, and Orestes’
warriors as illusory and phantasmic as that of        servant, his aged tutor, enter. The servant
the Trojan expedition? Euripides’ meditations         points out Mycenae and its landmarks to
on violence, the banality of evil, and the moral      Orestes and urges the two young men to form
confusion these cause may well have a histori-        a plan. Orestes recalls that Apollo’s oracles
cal resonance that goes well beyond the mythic        commanded him to carry out his vengeance
frame of the house of Atreus.                         by stealth. The servant is to go to the palace,
                                                      pretending to be a Phocian stranger, and report
                                                      that Orestes is dead; meanwhile, Orestes and
Electra Sophocles (fifth century b.c.e.) The          Pylades will make offerings at Agamemnon’s
date of composition and production of Sophocles’      tomb. Electra is heard from within, crying
Electra are unknown. In this play, Sophocles          out in distress, but they decide to carry out
engages persistently with Aeschylus’s Libation        their tasks instead of waiting to listen to her.
bearers, at once paying homage to, and ringing        All three exit. Electra enters from the palace.
the changes on, his predecessor’s play. Sophocles     She laments the murder of her father and her
treats the subject of Aeschylus’s middle play:        solitude. The Chorus enters and begins an
Electra’s oppressive existence in her slain           exchange with Electra: It sympathizes with her
father’s palace, followed by Orestes’ return and      sorrow and attempts to console her. Together
slaying of Aegisthus and Clytaemnestra. Two           they lament Agamemnon’s death, but Electra
major differences are the self-containedness          cries out for vengeance, whereas the Chorus
of Sophocles’ play, which does not form part          recommends prudence. Electra claims that
of a broader trilogy of interconnected subject        she cannot restrain her rage. She describes
matter, and its focus on Electra as protagonist.      her humiliating position in the palace ruled by
Orestes’ role remains significant, yet his story is   Aegisthus and her mother’s shamelessness. She
simplified: There is no mention of his hounding       relates that although Orestes has repeatedly
by the Furies, and the matricide itself comes         sent to say that he is coming, he has not yet
off as less morally disturbing than in Aeschylus      appeared.
and Euripides. Stress is laid, rather, on the lib-        Chrysomethis, Electra’s sister, enters. She
eration of the palace through the slaying of the      differentiates herself from Electra: She admits
usurper Aegisthus. Electra’s character, by con-       that Electra is right to rage, but she feels that
trast, is more closely rendered than in Aeschylus     she is powerless to do anything and, therefore,
and receives more attention. As an outspoken,         must restrain herself. Electra sharply rebukes
strong-willed woman, she resembles her moth-          her cowardice and her taking their mother’s
er, yet profoundly hates her; she appreciates the     side. The Chorus advises them to be reconciled
0	                                                                                          Electra

to each other. Chrysomethis warns Electra of       are now bringing his remains in an urn. Cly-
a new source of danger: Clytaemnestra and          taemnestra expresses ambivalence: His death
Aegisthus plan to imprison Electra if she does     relieves her anxiety, yet he was her child; on
not stop complaining. Electra is not intimi-       the whole, however, she is not deeply saddened.
dated; she welcomes this fate. Chrysomethis        Clytaemnestra and Electra exchange bitter
announces that she is departing to make offer-     remarks. Clytaemnestra and the servant exit,
ings to Agamemnon’s tomb, as commanded             leaving the despairing Electra behind to long
by Clytaemnestra. According to Chrysome-           for death and, together with the Chorus, to
this, her mother had dreamed that she saw          lament Orestes’ demise and the extinction of
Agamemnon take Aegisthus’s scepter and plant       their hopes. Chrysomethis enters. She reports
it at the household altar, from which it grew      happily that Orestes is alive and present.
into a tree that overshadowed all of Mycenae.      Electra is incredulous; Chrysomethis tells
Electra pleads with her sister not to make a       how she found offerings and a lock of hair at
false offering from Clytaemnestra but a true       the tomb and realized the hair must be that
one, locks of hair from Electra and herself.       of Orestes. Electra contradicts her story with
Chrysomethis agrees but enjoins silence from       the story of the servant, and Chrysomethis
the Chorus. She exits.                             is persuaded. Electra tries to enlist Chryso-
    The Chorus takes courage from the dream.       methis’s help in a plot to murder Aegisthus,
It believes that Clytaemnestra will be pun-        but Chrysomethis is overawed by Aegisthus’s
ished. Nonetheless, it laments the woes of the     strength in comparison with their weakness.
household, going back to the chariot race of       Electra endeavors to do the work alone. The
Pelops and Oenomaus. Clytaemnestra enters          two sisters have an adversarial exchange, and
and rebukes Electra for her continual com-         Chrysomethis exits.
plaints, claiming that justice was on her side         The Chorus ponders the discord in the
when she killed Agamemnon because he had           house of Atreus and praises Electra’s generosity
killed Iphigenia for his brother Menelaus’s        of spirit. Orestes enters. He introduces him-
sake. Electra replies that Agamemnon sacri-        self as a Phocian visitor and presents Orestes’
ficed his daughter not for Menelaus’s sake,        “remains” in an urn. Electra laments bitterly.
but because he had once displeased Artemis         Orestes confirms that he is speaking with
by killing her hind. But even if Menelaus had      Electra and is dismayed to see her brought so
been the cause, her mother would not have          low. He learns of her situation and, once he is
been justified in killing Agamemnon; more-         sure that the Chorus is trustworthy, gradually
over, there is certainly no justification for      reveals that Orestes is alive, and that he is actu-
remaining with Aegisthus. The dialogue ends        ally Orestes. They embrace joyfully. Orestes
in bitter recriminations, and Clytaemnestra        counsels restraint and silence, but Electra can-
prays to Apollo to fulfill her prayers regarding   not restrain herself. They begin to plan the
the ambiguous dream.                               murder. The servant enters and chides them
    The servant of Orestes enters and asks         for speaking out unguardedly. He reports that
whether it is King Aegisthus’s house. He greets    his deception has worked: They think Orestes
Clytaemnestra and, as planned, reports that        is dead. Orestes tells Electra that this is the man
Orestes is dead. Electra cries out in distress.    to whom she entrusted him as a child. The ser-
Clytaemnestra is eager to get the news. The        vant announces that the time is ripe: Clytaem-
servant tells how Orestes competed splendidly      nestra is alone. Orestes and Pylades enter the
at the Delphian Games but was killed when he       palace. Electra prays to Apollo for success; the
crashed his chariot: His body, dragged along       Chorus anticipates the act of vengeance that is
by it, was mangled beyond recognition. Envoys      under way. Clytaemnestra is heard crying out

from within. Orestes and Pylades emerge to            a female member of the royal family defiantly
report that the deed was successfully carried         opposes those in power by openly support-
out. Aegisthus is now seen approaching. Electra       ing a brother who is either dead or believed
sends Orestes and Pylades back to the palace.         to be dead. To underline further the central
Aegisthus asks after the Phocian strangers;           figure’s isolation and extremity of defiance,
she replies that they are inside and confirms         Sophocles in both instances creates a more
the report of Orestes’ death: Aegisthus may           conventional, timid sister, who serves as foil:
view his mangled corpse inside Aegisthus is           Ismene in Antigone, Chrysomethis in Electra.
triumphant. The palace doors open to show a           The substitution is marked; Chrysomethis, as
shrouded corpse beside Orestes and Pylades.           bearer of Clytaemnestra’s hypocritical offering
Aegisthus lifts the cloth to see the dead Cly-        to Agamemnon’s tomb, replaces Aeschylus’s
taemnestra. Orestes and Electra refuse to let         Chorus of captive servants, who were highly
Aegisthus speak for himself, and Orestes drives       sympathetic to Electra and showed some cour-
him inside the palace to kill him where his           age in supporting the siblings’ plans. Sopho-
father died. The Chorus proclaims the libera-         cles’ Electra is much more radically isolated,
tion of the house of Atreus.                          and her dialogues with Chrysomethis set up a
                                                      series of oppositions reminiscent of the Anti-
               CoMMEntARy                             gone: concern with personal safety and comfort
Sophocles’ Electra covers the same mythologi-         versus a brave devotion to principles; respect
cal ground as Aeschylus’s Libation Bearers. The       for the powerful versus defiance; a more mod-
most obvious difference between the two is            est female role versus a more daring, masculine
that, whereas Aeschylus’s play is part of a trilogy   character; hypocrisy versus relentless, danger-
of tragedies—the Oresteia—Sophocles’ play is a        ous honesty; a diplomatic style versus a harsh,
self-contained drama focusing on Electra. This        at times sarcastic manner of engaging with
focus on the female sibling is itself notable. In     others. In the case of both female protagonists,
the Libation Bearers, Electra’s sense of victimiza-   their status as women, and thus nominally weak
tion is both amplified and diluted by the pres-       and vulnerable, highlights all the more sharply
ence of the Chorus of captive women, who are          their indomitable temper.
similarly enslaved, cut off from loved ones, and          Sophocles in general tends to focus on
enveloped in despair. She is not radically alone.     individual character and the uniquely inflex-
Orestes’ role, moreover, is arguably the more         ible temperament of the hero. The choice to
crucial one: His unbearable dilemma—to leave          maintain such a focus in his Electra, where the
his father unavenged or kill his mother—is at         subject matter extends significantly beyond the
the center of the play. When the play ends, the       title character backward and forward in time,
advancing Furies, visible only to Orestes, single     is all the more intriguing. Not accidentally
him out as the key figure of the following play,      did Aeschylus find the house of Atreus apt for
the euMenides.                                        treatment in trilogy form: The consequences of
    The title of Sophocles’ Electra thus already      violent acts extend from generation to genera-
conveys important information about his               tion, from divine to human levels of causation,
approach to the subject. It soon emerges that         in a manner that enmeshes multiple characters
Electra is an isolated, quasi-heroic female fig-      in the same “net” of doom. Aeschylus’s point is
ure on the model of Antigone; although much           that none of the characters can simply take fate
uncertainty surrounds the dating of Sophocles’        into his or her own hands; their decisions come
plays, the Electra and antigone are often             already overburdened with the weight of the
thought to have been composed in the same             past. It will take the intervention of the gods
period of the playwright’s career. In both cases,     and the institution of a new court in Athens to

resolve the knotty impasse of the royal house           version of the myth. For Sophocles, Clytaem-
of Argos.                                               nestra did not send Orestes into exile to get
    For Electra, the key issue is one of indi-          him out of Aegisthus’s way; Electra sent him
vidual choice, whether to give in to those in           off with his tutor to save his life. In Aeschylus,
power or to continue voicing her complaints             the nurse describes the sweet labor of taking
and exhibiting resistance to a state of affairs         care of Orestes as a child, thereby undermin-
that she must, on principle, abhor. This choice,        ing Clytaemnestra’s claims to motherhood and
as she herself tell us, was already made long           nursing of the baby Orestes. In Sophocles’ play,
ago, and thus in some sense the play affords            it is Electra who plays this role: She declares
the spectacle of her spirited maintenance of            that Orestes was her child, that she cared for
that choice. At a key point in the plot, when           him and was steadfastly devoted to his welfare.
Aegisthus comes on stage shortly before his             In general, she is more active in the plot, and
ambush and murder, Electra affects to have              while men still do the actual killing, her role in
made peace with those in power, to have finally         tricking Aegisthus is crucial.
given in and subordinated herself. Of course,               Orestes’ particular fate as matricide and
this pose is mere pretense, a part of the deceit        subsequent object of the Furies’ hounding is
that leads Aegisthus to his doom. Here Electra          correspondingly much diminished. The order
recalls not Antigone, but Ajax, who similarly           in which the murders take place is itself sig-
affects to have decided to reconcile with the           nificant. In both Aeschylus’s and Euripides’
Greek leaders and yield; in fact, he has finally        versions, Aegisthus is killed first, then Clytaem-
decided to kill himself. The preoccupation with         nestra. The reasoning behind this ordering
death is another trait of Sophoclean heroes:            should be clear: Clytaemnestra’s murder is the
Several of them pursue a course of action that          more morally problematic of the two killings.
leads to their death (Ajax, Antigone, Oedipus),         As Orestes himself proclaims in Libation Bear-
and others are obdurate to the point of wish-           ers, the killing of Aegisthus is legally allowed;
ing for death (Philoctetes, Electra). Death             there is no crime in slaying an adulterous lover
is the ultimate means of not compromising, of           and usurper. The morally problematic slaying
solidifying personal self-determination in the          is thus logically the final, culminating action
face of superior forces beyond one’s control.           of the play. Nor should we be surprised that
More than once, Electra appears to accept or            the appearance of the Furies follows shortly
welcome death as the outcome of her inflexible          after Orestes’ murder of his parent. Sophocles
choice.                                                 chooses the reverse order, however: Clytaem-
    One peculiar consequence of the focus on            nestra is killed first, offstage, in an almost
Electra’s character and determination is that           casual manner. Then, in a sequence signifi-
there is correspondingly little interest in the         cantly reminiscent of the Aeschylean slaying of
ethics of Orestes’ action. Orestes does not             Clytaemnestra, Aegisthus is driven into the
require Pylades’ support to steel his resolve           palace in the final scene with much greater
to kill his mother; Pylades, who is present as          dramatic focus. The effect of this choice is that
a companion to Orestes, as indicated by the             the pollution and hounding incurred by kin
servant’s opening speech, does not speak at             killing are de-emphasized, while the just rid-
all throughout the play. One inference is that          ding of the palace of a usurper is emphasized.
Sophocles has no interest in creating dialogue          Sophocles comes close to reproducing the
around Orestes’ choice and has, therefore,              emphasis and perspective of Homer’s odyssey,
devoted a character (Chrysomethis) to bringing          where Aegisthus, as usurper of Agamemnon’s
out aspects of Electra’s character. Electra’s role is   role, is singled out as the object of Orestes’
systematically foregrounded in the Sophoclean           vengeance. Elsewhere, Sophocles refers to the

myth of Amphiaraus: The prophet was swal-                  Clytaemnestra and Aegisthus, who were
lowed alive by the earth on the expedition             not sympathetic characters in Aeschylus, are
against Thebes; his wife, bribed by the offer          now even less so. According to Electra, her
of Harmonia’s necklace, had persuaded him to           mother celebrates the day of her husband’s
go despite his own premonitions, and their son         murder with a festival. Whereas in the Libation
in turn killed her in vengeance. It is significant     Bearers, Clytaemnestra and Aegisthus at least
that Sophocles applies this relatively straight-       feigned dismay at the report of Orestes’ death,
forward mythic paradigm of wifely perfidy (she         in Sophocles their response to the story of his
was bribed to send her husband to his doom)            death is nearly unconcealed delight. Aegisthus
and justified vengeance.                               is a simple usurper, and he is never allowed
    Agamemnon’s murder and Clytaemnestra’s             to defend his actions, as he did in a certain
perfidy, by contrast, have some moderately             sense at the end of Aeschylus’s Agamemnon.
plausible justification. In a long speech, Sopho-      Orestes drives him into the palace before he
cles’ Clytaemnestra justifies herself: She killed      can speak, even though he, as the surviving son
Agamemnon in revenge for having sacrificed             of Thyestes, had some plausible justification
their daughter Iphigenia; there was no good            for killing the son of Atreus, at least within the
reason for him to kill her, if it was only to          logic of Greek vengeance killing (a logic within
gratify his brother; since Menelaus’ interests         which Orestes himself still acts). The Sopho-
were being served, why did he not offer up one         clean Clytaemnestra and Aegisthus are more
of his own for sacrifice? One key motivation for       straightforwardly cold, manipulative charac-
giving Clytaemnestra this long speech of self-         ters. We might also compare Sophocles’ play to
justification is to give Electra a chance to refute    Euripides’ Electra, though we cannot be certain
her, which she does at length. Whereas Cly-            of its relative dating. Euripides seems to go out
taemnestra protests that Agamemnon displayed           of his way to generate sympathy for Orestes’
a perverse preference for Menelaus and his fam-        and Electra’s victims: The murderous couple
ily over his own kin, Electra demonstrates, by         have settled into an anxious, quasi-repentant
telling the story of Agamemnon’s slaying of the        middle age and appear to wish to live out their
hind of Artemis, that he was not motivated by          lives in peace. Aegisthus is shown as genial,
the desire to gratify his brother but compelled        hospitable, and pious; he is actually offering a
by the anger of the goddess to sacrifice Iphi-         sacrifice at the moment that he is murdered.
genia. This argument may seem a bit oblique,           Orestes is at once a murderer and a violator of
but divine anger will probably have struck the         Aegisthus’s hospitality. The Euripidean Cly-
Greek audience as a more compelling reason             taemnestra is also killed during an act of piety,
than deference toward one’s brother. On the            and in Aeschylus, Clytaemnestra pitiably begs
other hand, it is significant that the tragic tradi-   her son for her life.
tion must constantly invent reasons for down-              Sophocles generally plays down moral
playing the culpability of Agamemnon and               Orestes’ dilemma. There is no allusion to
making Clytaemnestra the truly guilty and evil         his later hounding and punishment, and the
one. If we believe that Agamemnon was driven           Chorus wholeheartedly endorses his act. Allu-
to his terrible choice by the gods, whereas Cly-       sions to Furies are relatively sparse, and one
taemnestra used Iphigenia as a pretext to clear        instance, significantly, identifies Aegisthus and
the way for her lover Aegisthus, then we will be       Clytaemnestra as a “double Fury” of which
persuaded that Orestes’ act is (barely) just. The      Orestes rids the palace. Clytaemnestra’s dream
argument is not entirely convincing, and we            is also notably altered: Whereas in the Liba-
can see Sophocles adding further refinements           tion Bearers, the dream identified Orestes as
with the story of Artemis’s hind.                      a viper biting his own mother’s breast, in

Sophocles’ Electra, it refers to the wresting of      indomitable spirit, a harsh temper, skill in
power from the usurper Aegisthus. The sinister        adversarial speech, and a vindictive streak.
resonance of the poisonous snake imagery of           Electra points to this tension in her own char-
the Aeschylean dream is replaced by a dream           acter at the end of her long speech: Her mother
signifying the restoration of proper succes-          should not be surprised if she, Electra, is skilled
sion and rule. The underlying themes of the           in the arts of bitter speech, for she has inherited
play stress, not matricide, but the removal of        her nature/temperament (physis) from Cly-
an illegitimate ruler and the restoration of the      taemnestra. Whereas, in Aeschylus’s play, stress
house. The last words of the play, spoken by the      is placed on Orestes’ difficult role as inheri-
Chorus, proclaim that the race of Atreus, after       tor of the tradition of male kin slaying in the
having suffered much, has at last completed its       house of Atreus (Atreus-Agamemnon-Orestes);
passage to liberation; the play’s very last word      like his father, he is driven by the gods to kill
stresses completion (telos). This is surprising,      his own female kin. In Sophocles’ version, it is
and perhaps even consciously provocative, on          Electra’s difficult legacy as her mother’s daugh-
the part of Sophocles. The whole point of             ter that comes to the fore.
Aeschylus’s ending of the Libation Bearers is              There is a valid question as to how success-
that the story is not yet finished: What end, the     ful Sophocles’ play is in integrating the focus
Chorus asks, can be there to fury? The end-           on Electra’s character into the broader mytho-
ing has not yet been found, and the closural          logical fabric of the house of Atreus. Antigone is
scene of Orestes being hounded off the stage          unquestionably compelling in its dramatization
by the Furies is only a paradoxical closure, for      of a young woman’s simple act of casting dust
it signals the beginning of a new struggle. The       on her brother’s body. Sophocles achieves a
fortunes of the house of Atreus cannot truly be       relentless focus and drive as he moves from this
repaired until Orestes has undergone purifica-        act to her entombment at the end—an embodi-
tion and been absolved by a court in Athens.          ment of her isolation and detachment from
Sophocles’ play, by contrast, is emphatically         society and, ultimately, from life itself. The plot
self-contained: The crucial act of liberation has     strands of Sophocles’ Electra, by contrast, are
been completed.                                       multiple: Orestes is a major actor alongside his
    Sophocles has sharpened the characteriza-         sister, and their opponents, Clytaemnestra and
tion of Electra at the expense of simplifying         Aegisthus, are likewise dual. The ending, how-
Orestes’ moral dilemma. It may be argued that         ever self-contained Sophocles strives to make
the most complex and absorbing scene in the           it, only makes us think ahead to the question of
play is Electra’s exchange with Clytaemnes-           Orestes’ absolution. In some sense, Sophocles
tra, where they debate their differing views          has attempted to set an Antigone-like protago-
of the justification, or lack of justification, for   nist in the midst of a complicated, multiphase
Agamemnon’s murder. Electra is at first subtly        myth that does not easily permit such focus. To
manipulative: She affects to be placidly accom-       maintain focus and to produce a self-contained
modating to be allowed to speak her mind; the         play, Sophocles has arguably simplified Orestes’
next moment, she launches into a savage, at           act of matricide to a problematic degree.
times sarcastic, condemnation of her mother’s              On the other hand, Sophocles’ handling of
life and actions. Her relationship with her           this complex plot is highly skilled, and he ele-
mother is complex: She, like Clytaemnestra,           gantly unfolds its various scenes of recognition,
displays what may seem to many a deficit of           suspense, and surprise. Like Euripides, Sopho-
feminine “shame,” i.e., the sense of modesty          cles was evidently unimpressed by Aeschylus’s
and restraint appropriate to women in Greek           recognition scene, in which Orestes, whom
moral thought. Electra displays a comparably          Electra does not even know by appearance, is

somehow identified on the basis of a lock of        Latmus, during the dark phase of the Moon.
hair. This scene is at once subtly incorporated     There are variations in the story, mainly one in
in the form of a prerecognition scene assigned      which Endymion figures as the first king of Elis
to Chrysomethis, who discovers Orestes’ lock        in the Peloponnesus. Another tradition makes
of hair, and displaced by the later recognition     him the ancestor of the Aetolians.
proper between Orestes and Electra. The ruse            In classical art, Endymion is represented
of Orestes’ supposed death is also brilliantly      variously as a hunter or shepherd, as in an
handled: His death is narrated by the servant in    imperial-era Roman mosaic (Bardo Museum,
a false-messenger scene, which is all the more      Tunis). Here, the goddess, holding a crescent
effective and believable for its employment         moon, observes the sleeping Endymion. The
of the rich descriptive detail conventional in      associations between Endymion’s endless sleep
tragic messenger scenes. Sophocles thus plays       and death are made by sarcophagi reliefs, as in
on the conventions of the genre in such a way       the mid-Imperial Endymion Sarcophagus from
that the exigencies of the plot (deception) con-    the early third century b.c.e. (Metropolitan
verge with the inversion of traditional features    Museum of Art, New York). There are several
(a messenger’s lengthy, veristic description of     postclassical versions of Endymion, includ-
something that did not happen). The final           ing Titian’s Landscape with Endymion from ca.
twist comes with the revelation of “Orestes’ ”      1520, Parmigianino’s Diana and Endymion of ca.
body, which turns out to be Clytaemnestra’s.        1540 (Frick Art Museum, Pittsburgh), François
Aegisthus, at the very moment that he has           Boucher’s Endymion of ca. 1729 (National Gal-
begun to triumph in his own good luck and           lery, Washington), and Anne-Louis Girodet’s
security, looks on his adulterous lover’s body      The Sleep of Endymion from 1791 (Louvre,
and realizes his own fate: a fitting ending for a   Paris).
well-crafted play.
                                                    Ennius (239 b.c.e.–169 b.c.e) Quintus Ennius
Elpenor See odyssey.                                was a Roman poet of Messapian origin who
                                                    lived from 239 to 169 b.c.e. He is supposed to
                                                    have been brought to Rome by M. Porcius Cato
Elysium (Elysian) Fields See Hades.
                                                    in 204 b.c.e. and given citizenship by Q. Fulvius
                                                    Nobilior, Ennius’s noble patron, in 184 b.c.e. In
Endymion A mortal youth loved by Selene             addition to teaching Latin and Greek grammar
(Greek goddess of the Moon). Son of Calyce          to the sons of aristocratic households, Ennius
and Aethlius or perhaps even of Zeus. Classical     wrote a number of literary works that largely
sources are Apollodorus’s Library (1.7.5–           survive in fragments. He wrote over 20 trag-
6), Apollonius of Rhodes’s voyage of tHe            edies, the Epicharmus (a poem on the gods and
argonauts (4.57–58), Lucian’s diaLogues of          the universe), the Euhemerus (a prose treatise
tHe gods (19), and Pausanias’s Description of       on theology), the Hedyphagetica (a poem on gas-
Greece (5.1.3–5). Endymion is one of a group        tronomy), the Sota (humorous, abusive poetry
of mortal youths whose beauty attracts the          in the style and meter of Sotades of Maroneia),
amorous attention of the gods; others include       and informal verse in diverse meters that comes
Adonis, Ganymede, and Hyacinthus. Selene            down to us under the title of Satires. His most
fell in love with the beautiful Endymion, to        famous and influential work is the Annales,
whom Zeus granted perpetual sleep in which          an epic poem in 15 books on Roman history
he would neither grow old nor die. Selene           from the fall of Troy to recent events. Ennius,
would visit Endymion in a cave on Mount             like Virgil and Livy, does not draw a clear line

between legend and history. He represents an             Eos and Tithonus had two sons, Emathion
important early example of a Roman writer            and Memnon. Emathion died as he was trying
tracing the origins of Rome through such leg-        to protect the Golden Apples of the Hesper-
endary figures as Aeneas and Romulus. Ennius         ides, which Heracles was seeking during his
brought about changes in the nature of Roman         Twelve Labors. Memnon, an Ethiopian war-
epic that were decisive for the later tradition:     rior, was killed by Achilles during the Trojan
He replaced Saturnian meter—an early Italic          War. Ovid writes that following her son’s death,
verse form—with dactylic hexameters along            Dawn’s glow was dulled and the tears she wept
the lines of the Greek tradition, and the Latin      became the dew. She begged Zeus to honor
Camenae with the Greek Muses.                        Memnon’s death, and he did so by transform-
                                                     ing the ashes that rose from his funeral pyre
                                                     into birds called Memnonides.
Enyo See Gorgons.
                                                         Eos fell in love with several mortals. Accord-
                                                     ing to Homer, she was in love with Orion and
Eos (Aurora) A Greek personification of              carried him off to be her consort. According to
dawn. Daughter of the Titans Hyperion and            Apollodorus, Aphrodite caused Eos to fall in
Theia. Sister of Helios (god of the Sun)             love with Orion as punishment for having once
and Selene (goddess of the Moon). Classical          been the lover of Ares. Eos also abducted the
sources are Apollodorus’s Library (1.2.2–4,          hunter Cephalus, who rejected the goddess in
1.4.4–5, 1.9.4, 3.12.4–5), Hesiod’s tHeogony         favor of his wife, Procris.
(371–382), Homer’s odyssey (15.249–251,                  Eos is iconographically linked with Helios,
23.241–246), Hyginus’s Fabulae (189), and Ovid’s     the sun god. He is represented driving a chariot
MetaMorpHoses (7.661–865, 13.576–624). In            across the sky, and Eos is also often depicted in
the Theogony, Eos “shines for all those on the       a chariot, though a less grand one. In antiquity,
earth and for the immortal gods that possess         she is shown winged and fully clothed, some-
the broad sky” (translation G. Most), and in         times in the company of her brother and sister,
Homer, Eos is “rosy-fingered” dawn. Eos drives       as on an Attic red-figure cylix krater from ca.
a horse-drawn carriage across the sky, bringing      430 b.c.e. (British Museum, London). Here,
Dawn in her wake. According to Hesiod, Zeus          Helios drives a four-horse chariot while Eos
prevented Eos, Selene, and Helios from shin-         pursues the hunter Cephalus (shown with his
ing during the Gigantomachy to enable the            hunting dog) on foot and Selene rides on horse-
Olympian gods to defeat the giants. At the end       back. Eos is sometimes shown wearing a cap
of the Odyssey, during the nighttime reunion of      under which her hair is gathered, for example,
Odysseus and Penelope, Eos was persuaded             in an Attic red-figure cup from ca. 485 b.c.e.
by Athena to hold back the dawn. Eos reined          (Louvre, Paris), where a grieving Eos clasps the
in her colts, until Odysseus and his wife had        motionless body of her son Memnon, his eyes
sufficiently rejoiced in each other’s presence.      closed in death. In visual representations of the
In the Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite, Eos is said to     classical period, a common thematic treatment
have became so enamored of Tithonus (son of          is Eos’s loves, as in an Attic red-figure cup from
King Laomedon of Troy) that she carried him          Vulci dating to ca. 470 b.c.e. (Museum of Fine
away to be her husband. At her request, Zeus         Arts, Boston). Here Eos holds Tithonus around
bestowed immortality on Tithonus, but since          the neck and wrist as the young man tries to
she had neglected to ask for eternal youth as        flee from her, but she has him firmly in her
well, he grew ever older until he literally shrank   grip, and her glance is already directed heav-
away. Finally, he disappeared, leaving behind        enward. In the postclassical period, Nicholas
only his voice.                                      Poussin painted Eos’s abduction of Cephalus in

his Cephalus and Eos of 1624 (National Gallery,   Epimetheus Son of Iapetus (a Titan) and
London). Here, again, the hunter struggles to     the sea nymph Clymene. Brother of Atlas and
free himself from the goddess’s grasp. During     Prometheus. Classical sources are Aeschylus’s
the Renaissance and baroque periods, the fig-     proMetHeus bound, Apollodorus’s Library
ure of Eos/Aurora continued to provide a rich     (1.2.3, 1.7.2), Hesiod’s tHeogony (507–616) and
source of inspiration for artists emphasizing     WorKs and days (47–105), Hyginus’s Fabulae
the metaphorical potential of “light-bringing”    (142), and Plato’s Protagoras (320ff ). Epimetheus,
or “illuminating” Eos.                            whose name means “afterthought,” is the dia-
                                                  metrical opposite of his brother Prometheus,
Epaphus Son of Io and Zeus. Ancestor of           whose name in ancient etymology was thought
the Danaids. Textual sources are Aeschylus’s      to mean “forethought.” Epimetheus is muddle-
suppLiants (40–48, 312–315) and proMetHeus        headed where Prometheus is clever and wily.
bound (846–854), Apollodorus’s Library (2.1.3–    They earned the enmity of the Olympian gods
4), Herodotus’s Histories (2.153, 3.27, 3.28),    by defending humanity and advancing its inter-
and Ovid’s MetaMorpHoses (1.748f ). Epaphus’s     ests, although sources vary as to the specific
name resembles the Greek word for “touch,”        offence that aroused the gods’ ire. According
which refers to the story that Zeus fathered      to Plato, the gods had charged Epimetheus and
Epaphus on Io simply by touching her. Io, the     Prometheus with the responsibility of distribut-
consort of Zeus, was transformed into a white     ing positive qualities among men and animals.
heifer. In some version of the myth, she was      Epimetheus began by giving out a number of vir-
transformed by Zeus to protect her from Hera’s    tues to the animals and, too late, realized that he
jealousy, and in others she was changed by        had very little left to give humans. Prometheus,
Hera herself. Hera sent a gadfly to madden the    therefore, tried to steal gifts (fire, the practical
bovine Io. Chased by the gadfly, Io left Greece   arts) for men from the gods to make up for what
and in her wanderings met Prometheus, who         they lacked because of his brother’s thoughtless-
advised her to found a colony in Egypt, the       ness. According to Hesiod, Prometheus tried to
city of Memphis. Hera ordered the Curetes         trick Zeus into accepting the inferior portion of
to abduct Epaphus, but Io found him in Syria      the sacrificial animal at Mekone. Zeus allowed
and returned with him to Egypt. Epaphus           Prometheus to carry out his trick but, then, as
was commanded by Zeus to reign over Egypt         a punishment, took fire away from humankind.
and, in some sources, founded the city of         Prometheus then stole fire back. In retribution,
Memphis. According to Aeschylus, Epaphus          Zeus ordered Hephaestus to create a woman,
married Libya (who gave her name to the           Pandora. The gods provided her with every
country), and their son was Agenor. In another    gift and charm to make her attractive to men,
source, Epaphus married Cassipoea, with whom      and Epimetheus, despite having been warned
he conceived Libya, and in yet another ver-       by Prometheus against taking gifts from Zeus,
sion of the story, Epaphus married Memphis,       accepted Zeus’s offering of Pandora for a wife.
daughter of the Nile, named the city after her,   And so, unintentionally, Epimetheus introduced
and their daughter was Libya. Epaphus is the      suffering into the world of men. The gods
ancestor of Belus and Danaus and the Danaids,     had given Pandora a storage jar containing all
who eventually return to Greece from Egypt. In    the evils of the world, which she set loose on
Ovid’s Metamorphoses (Book 1), Epaphus is the     humanity when she opened the jar.
companion of Phaethon. Epaphus’s skepticism           Epimetheus and Pandora had a daughter
provoked Phaethon to seek his father, Helios,     Pyrrha, who married Deucalion, the son of
which ultimately led to Phaethon’s death.         Prometheus. They alone of humanity survived

the deluge sent by Zeus and afterward repopu-         Erinyes See Furies.
lated the earth.
    In classical art, Epimetheus appears in repre-
                                                      Eriphyle See Amphiaraus.
sentations of the myth of Pandora. An example
is an Attic red-figure krater from ca. 475–425
b.c.e. (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford). Here,              Eris (Strife) See Paris.
the first mortal woman is seen rising from the
ground while Epimetheus waits to receive her
                                                      Eros (Cupid) God of love and desire. Classical
in the company of Zeus and Hermes.
                                                      sources are Apollonius of Rhodes’s voyage of
                                                      tHe argonauts (3.119–166, 275–298; 4.445–
Erato See Muses.                                      451); Apuleius’s MetaMorpHoses; Euripides’
                                                      ipHigenia in auLis (543–551), Medea (627–
Erichthonius (Erecthonius) An               early     634), and HippoLytus (1,268–1,282); Hesiod’s
king of Athens. Son of Athena (or Gaia) and           tHeogony (120–123, 201); Horace’s Odes
Hephaestus. Classical sources are Apollodorus’s       (2.8.13–16); Lucian’s diaLogues of tHe gods
Library (3.14.6), Euripides’ ion (20–24,              (6, 20, 23); Ovid’s MetaMorpHoses (1.452–476,
260–274), Homer’s iLiad (2.546f ), Ovid’s             5.362–384); Sophocles’ antigone (781–800)
MetaMorpHoses (2.552–565), Pausanias’s                and tracHiniae (441–444); and Virgil’s aeneid
Description of Greece (1.2.6, 1.18.2), and Virgil’s   (1.657–722). Eros is the god of love and lust
Georgics (3.113–114). Erichthonius is some-           whose name signifies physical or sexual love
times confused with his descendant Erechtheus,        and from which the word “erotic” is derived. In
both of whom are associated with early Attic          Greece, Eros was worshipped in Thespiae and
history and cult practices on the Acropolis.          Athens among other cult centers, both alone and
Details of Erichthonius’s parentage and birth         with Aphrodite. The Roman Cupid, personify-
vary. In Homer’s Iliad, Erichthonius, whose           ing love, was later merged with the Greek Eros.
lower half was serpent-shaped, was born of            There are multiple versions of Eros’s parentage.
Earth (Gaia) and nurtured by Athena. In Ovid’s        Hesiod’s Theogony holds that Eros is one of the
Metamorphoses, Erichthonius has no mother.            primordial beings, the child of Chaos and broth-
In other sources, Hephaestus tried to rape            er of Gaia, Erebus, Nyx (Night), and T    artarus.
Athena but she fought him off. As he released         According to Hesiod, Eros overpowers the
her, his sperm fell to the ground and impreg-         rational thought of mortals and immortals alike
nated Gaia, giving rise to Erichthonius. Athena       and is the companion of Aphrodite, goddess
consigned a box, in which Erichthonius was            of love. In other sources Ares and Aphrodite
hidden, to the daughters of King Cecrops of           are said to be the parents of Eros, Harmonia
Athens, Aglaurus, Herse, and Pandrosus, and           and Anteros, also a love deity (Reciprocal Love
instructed them not to open it. Herse and             or Love Avenged). In another tradition, Eros
Pandrosus resisted the temptation, but not            is the son of Iris, messenger of the gods, and
Algaurus, who incurred the goddess’s wrath            Zephyrus, the West Wind. In Aristophanes’
(versions vary according to the source). As           Birds, Eros is born from an egg of Erebus and
punishment, Athena afflicted Aglaurus with a          Nyx and emerges with wings of gold.
terrible jealousy of Hermes’ love for Herse.              In literature, Eros is represented variously as
In Apollodorus’s Library, Erichthonius became         a playful, beautiful youth or a mischievous little
king of Athens after driving out Amphictyon,          boy. His attributes are bows and arrows and his
and he married Praxithea (a Naiad), on whom           flower is the rose. Eros can also appear as mul-
he fathered a son, Pandion.                           tiple figures, called “erotes.” Eros’s power, like

Aphrodite’s, is universal; there is no realm or
boundary that he cannot breach. Eros’s arrows
can cause a frenzy of passion, such as the pain-
ful, unnatural love of Phaedra for her stepson
Hippolytus, and it can bewitch and confuse
its victim. In Sophocles’ Trachiniae, Heracles’
love for Iole is viewed as a sickness by Heracles’
wife Deianiera. In Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Eros,
instructed by Aphrodite, directed his arrow at
the heart of Hades, who fell in love with Perse-
phone and carried her off to be his bride.
    In Apollonius of Rhodes’s Voyage of the Argo-
nauts, Eros, at the bidding of Aphrodite (who
has promised him a beautiful toy once belonging
to Zeus), pierces the heart of Medea with his
arrow, causing her to full in love with the hero
Jason. The force of Medea’s passion, accord-
ing to Virgil’s Eclogues, would later cause her to
murder her own children. In the Aeneid, Virgil       Eros and Psyche. Fresco from the House of Terenzio
attributes Dido’s love for Aeneas to the work        Neo, in Pompeii, first century c.e. (Museo Archeologico
                                                     Nazionale, Naples)
of Eros, again acting on behalf of his mother,
Aphrodite, to ensure the safety of her other
son, Aeneas. In Lucian’s Dialogues of the Gods,      Psyche himself. She was brought by Zephyrus
Eros’s youthful mischievousness is rebuked by        to an isolated place where Eros would visit
Aphrodite, who scolds him for causing so much        her by night, never showing Psyche his true
trouble among the Olympian gods with his             form. Driven by the envy and curiosity of her
indiscriminate use of the arrows of love.            sisters, Psyche one night examined the sleep-
    In Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Apollo, having          ing god by the light of a candle. Eros awoke,
defeated the Python, haughtily told Eros to          became enraged, and fled. Psyche, however,
leave bows and arrows to those more capable          loved Eros and to win him back agreed to
of using them. Eros had his revenge for this         perform a variety of tasks imposed on her by
insult, specifically by demonstrating his deadly     Aphrodite, in which she was ultimately suc-
skill with the bow and arrow: He shot Apollo         cessful. The myth inspired several later retell-
with a gold-tipped arrow that incited desire,        ings of which the best known is the fairy tale
and Daphne, a wood nymph, with a lead-tipped         Beauty and the Beast.
arrow that repelled it.                                  Eros is one of the most frequently depicted
    In Apuleius’s second-century c.e. Metamor-       of all Greek and Roman mythological charac-
phoses (also known as the The Golden Ass), Eros      ters. He is variously represented as a beautiful
(Cupid) succumbed to his own weapons when            young man or a small boy, usually nude. He
he fell in love with Psyche. Psyche, a mortal        can be winged, as in an Attic red-figure amph-
whose beauty was universally admired, drew           oriskos from ca. 425 b.c.e. (Museum of Fine
the envious attention of Aphrodite. The god-         Arts, Boston) or not, and usually carries bows
dess of love asked Eros to make Psyche fall in       and arrows or is garlanded with flowers, in
love with the most wretched creature alive,          particular, roses. Eros appears during wedding
but seeing her, Eros pricked himself acci-           scenes or in the company of Aphrodite. Erotes
dentally with his arrow and fell in love with        appear on an Attic red-figure pyxis from ca.
0	                                                                                     Erysichthon

350 b.c.e. (University Museum, University of         Eumenides See Furies euMenides.
Pennsylvania) depicting the marriage of Hebe
and Heracles on its lid. The Renaissance tradi-
                                                     Eumenides Aeschylus (458 b.c.e.) Aeschy-
tion of the putto draws on the classical example
                                                     lus’s Eumenides, written in 458 b.c.e., is the
of Eros as a cherubic little boy. In postclassical
                                                     third play in his Oresteia, on the subject of
painting, Eros appears in scenes of romantic
                                                     the house of Atreus, which also included a
love, whether reciprocated, as in the case of
                                                     fourth, satyr play. “Eumenides” is a positive,
Aphrodite and Adonis, or unrequited love, as
                                                     euphemistic term for the terrifying Erinyes, or
in the case of Echo and Narcissus. The vari-
                                                     Furies, who punish the shedding of kindred
ous themes is which Eros is shown include his
                                                     blood in Greek mythology. At the end of the
education, chastisement, or the myth of Psyche.
                                                     previous play in the trilogy, Libation Bearers, the
This last theme is the subject of a charming
                                                     Furies appeared and began to hound Orestes
Pompeian fresco from the House of Terenzio
Neo dating to the first century c.e.                 for killing his mother, Clytaemnestra, in
                                                     vengeance for her murder of her husband and
                                                     Orestes’ father, Agamemnon. Apollo, how-
Erysichthon An impious mortal from                   ever, had commanded Orestes’ crimes and was
Thessaly. Classical sources are Callimachus’s        accordingly committed to helping him. At the
Hymns (6.24–115) and Ovid’s MetaMorpHoses            beginning of the present play, Orestes is at
(8.738–778). Erysichthon violated a grove            Apollo’s shrine of Delphi, where he has under-
sacred to Demeter (Ceres) and as punish-             gone purification. The Furies have been put to
ment was afflicted with unending, inexhaust-         sleep by the god. Apollo instructed Orestes to
ible hunger. His daughter, Mnestra, who had          go to Athens, where, to be free of the Furies,
the capacity to change shape, acquired food for      he will have to be acquitted in a trial presided
her desperate father by undergoing a series of       over by Athena. This final play in the trilogy
transformations. Yet she could not save him,         will be concerned with finding a resolution to
and in the end, he devoured himself.                 the cycle of revenge and violence afflicting the
                                                     house of Atreus. Such a resolution, however,
Eteocles Elder son of Jocasta and Oedipus.           will not be found within the house itself but
Brother of Polynices. Eteocles appears in            in the emerging institutions of the Athenian
Aeschylus’s seven against tHebes, Sophocles’         polis. The solution will also involve renegotiat-
oedipus at coLonus, and Statius’s tHebaid.           ing, on both the divine and the human level,
Additional classical sources are Apollodorus’s       the conflict between male and female that has
Library (3.6.1) and Hyginus’s Fabulae (68).          pervaded the trilogy.
Eteocles and Polynices agreed to share the
Throne of Thebes in turn. After Eteocles’ first                        SynoPSIS
reign he refused to honor his agreement with         The play opens at Delphi in front of the sanc-
Polynices, and Polynices responded by lay-           tuary of Apollo. The Pythia enters. The Pythia
ing siege to Thebes. (For the story of the two       offers a genealogy of prophets and prophecy
brothers’ conflict, see Polynices.) Aeschylus’s      going back to Earth herself, and a history of
seven against tHebes takes the perspective of        Phoebus Apollo’s association with the site of his
the Theban leader Eteocles attempting to rally       oracle at Delphi. She also honors Pallas Athena,
defense of his city, while the invaders are rep-     Dionysus, and Zeus. She enters the temple to
resented as violent and hubristic. The Eteocles      see who is there and comes out aghast. She
of Statius’s Thebaid, by comparison, is a more       has seen a man (Orestes) with blood dripping
sinister and tyrannical figure.                      from his hands in the suppliant’s seat. In front

of him, sleeping, are gorgonlike women of            proclaiming its rights and powers of vengeance
horrible appearance. She calls on Apollo’s help      for the shedding of blood. It claims to operate
and exits. The doors open to show Orestes, the       independently of the Olympians and vaunts
Furies, Apollo, and Hermes. Apollo asserts his       its power to overthrow men and entire house-
commitment to aid Orestes and shows how              holds. Athena enters. She has come from Troy,
he has put the Furies to sleep. He commands          is amazed to see Orestes and the Furies, and
Orestes to continue fleeing from their relent-       asks who they are. Athena learns that Orestes is
less pursuit until he reaches Athens. There          a matricide, and the Furies agree to allow her
his case will be judged, and he will be freed        to adjudicate his case. He explains that he has
of his affliction. He asks Hermes to look after      been purified by sacrifices and running waters
Orestes. Apollo, Orestes, and Hermes exit. The       and thus is allowed to speak. He presents his
ghost of Clytaemnestra enters. She berates the       case: He avenged the death of Agamemnon by
Furies for sleeping and complains of her treat-      killing his mother and was driven to do so by
ment at the hands of her matricidal son. They        Apollo. Athena, facing the dilemma of either
moan in their sleep as Clytaemnestra continues       leaving Orestes to his fate or provoking the
to taunt them until they wake up. Clytaemnes-        Furies to afflict the land with plague, decides to
tra encourages them to pursue and torment            set up a court and select judges. Athena exits.
Orestes. The Chorus of Furies expresses rage             The Chorus complains of the overthrow of
at the fact that its “prey” has been allowed         laws and justice; it will no longer oversee the
to get away and complains that the youthful          doing of justice. It speaks of the vengeance and
upstart Apollo is aiding a matricide.                doom that will fall on the transgressor. Athena
    Apollo enters. He threatens it with his          enters guiding 12 chosen jurors and a herald.
bow, proclaiming that it is vile and violent and     She bids the herald to announce the trial. Apollo
does not belong in his shrine. It blames Apollo      enters and is challenged by the Chorus. He
for encouraging Orestes’ act and giving him          defends his presence at the trial. Athena com-
harbor. It does not put the killing of Agamem-       mands the Furies to present their case. They
non in the same category as the murder of            interrogate Orestes and confirm that he killed
Clytaemnestra, because it was not an instance        his mother on Apollo’s orders. The Furies insist
of the shedding of kindred blood, i.e., they         on the primacy of blood ties. Apollo claims the
were married, not kin. Apollo criticizes their       authority of Zeus and recounts vividly the man-
lack of interest in upholding marriage vows.         ner of Agamemnon’s murder. The Chorus points
The Chorus of Furies will continue to pursue         out that Zeus shackled his own father, Cronus.
Orestes, and Apollo to aid Orestes. The Furies       Apollo replies angrily that shackling is less per-
and Apollo exit separately.                          manent than death. Apollo goes on to argue that
    The scene is now the Athenian Acropolis, in      the mother is only the nurse of the male seed;
front of the temple of Athena. Orestes enters.       the male is the true parent, as proven by the case
He prays to be received by Athena, for he comes      of Pallas Athena, brought forth without need of
at the behest of Apollo. The Chorus of Furies        a womb. The time comes for the casting of votes.
enters. It is still hunting Orestes, following his   Athena proclaims that henceforth the judges will
trail like hounds and demanding his punish-          deliberate on the present ground, called the Hill
ment. Orestes insists that, guided by Apollo, he     of Ares. She calls on the jurors to consider their
has gone through a long process of purification      votes. The Chorus and Apollo in the meanwhile
and is no longer an unclean presence; he calls       quarrel over the outcome and their respective
on Athena to aid him. The Chorus continues           rights. Athena proclaims that she will vote on
to claim him as its own for punishment: It will      Orestes’ side, since she, having no mother, sup-
drain away his life. It sings a fearsome song        ports the male side, that of the father; her vote

will break a tie. Athena proclaims that the ballots   has emerged: Each death must be punished by
are equal, and thus Orestes is acquitted. Orestes     another answering death. Even Orestes, for
thanks Athena for saving his household. He will       whom there is no obvious human avenger, is
go home but first swears that his city (Argos) will   in danger of falling victim to the same pattern.
never oppose Athens. He promises to be a friend       The Furies have been literally sucking the life
to Athens and exits.                                  out of him, wasting him away with torment
    The Chorus of Furies complains of being           and sapping his life force to send him down to
dispossessed and angrily threatens to poi-            the underworld for further punishment. The
son and bring pollution on the land. Athena           Furies, the deities embodying his mother’s
encourages it: It should not feel that it is          rage, are taking vengeance for the spilling of
beaten—it was a fair ballot, supported by             her blood.
the gods. She exhorts it not to take its anger            At the beginning of the Eumenides, the dark
out on Athens and promises its own place              pattern of the previous plays is still in operation.
underground where it will accept offerings.           One notable element of continuity is the use of
In a long exchange, the Chorus reiterates its         hunting as a metaphor. Previously, Agamemnon
angry chant and threats, and Athena answers           was caught in a fatal net by the hunter Clytaem-
them each time with diplomatic words that are         nestra, and Orestes, in turn, hunted down and
by turns threatening and mollifying. Athena           killed his mother and her lover. The brutal treat-
urges it to accept an honored place in a city-        ment of humans as animal quarry underscores
state that will grow greater over time. She           the moral disorder of the house and its descent
continues to insist on her point, and at length,      into anarchy and violence. Now, the Furies are
the Chorus begins to ask about the place of           a group of hunters, or rather hunting dogs, who
honor offered it and to be persuaded. The             sniff out the guilty Orestes and track him relent-
Chorus of Furies accepts its new place in the         lessly as he flees. The pattern is thus confirmed:
city and blesses the land instead of cursing it.      The victorious hunter becomes the hunted. The
It further banishes civil discord from the city.      pattern of gender alternation likewise contin-
Now, as kindly deities (Eumenides), it is led by      ues unflagging: Woman (Clytaemnestra) hunts
Athena and the citizens of Athens in a proces-        man (Agamemnon); man (Orestes) hunts woman
sion to its new abode.                                (Clytaemnestra); female divinities (Furies) hunt
                                                      man (Orestes). We can trace the pattern back
               CoMMEntARy                             even further, if we wish: Agamemnon previously
In the third play of the Oresteia trilogy, Aeschy-    killed Iphigenia like a sacrificial animal. Even
lus begins to work toward resolving the dilem-        further back, the male eagles, symbol of Zeus
mas that have thus far kept his characters            and kingly power, slaughtered the pregnant hare
trapped within the horizon of painfully destruc-      and her young, i.e., Menelaus and Agamemnon
tive alternatives. The interest in resolution,        destroyed Troy, figured in the metaphor not only
however difficult that may be, appears to be an       as female (pregnant) but also as a hunted animal.
Aeschylean trait. Not only here, but probably             Another element of continuity is Clytaem-
also in the Danaid trilogy, patterns of recipro-      nestra herself and her presence on stage as
cal violence are resolved or ameliorated by the       ghost or ghostly dream figure. She appears to
end of the third play. At the start of the present    the sleeping Furies at Delphi and goads them
play, Orestes has killed his mother in ven-           awake with her sharp, taunting words. This
geance for the killing of his father and is being     scene counterbalances the looming presence of
hounded by the Furies, who first made their           Agamemnon’s tomb at the opening of Libation
appearance at the end of the last play, Libation      Bearers and the implicit presence of his angry
Bearers. So far no clear principle of resolution      spirit whom his children address and who is the

notional object of appeasement for Clytaem-           From such a perspective, this third play really
nestra and her servants. The dead continue to         is the culmination of the trilogy: The dark dei-
exert their force over the living in vivid ways.      ties who have been lurking in the background
Clytaemnestra, in particular, has emerged as a        of the house of Atreus have now appeared fully
crucial element of continuity in the trilogy. She     embodied on stage.
was a magnificent force of malevolence and                The Furies, as they insist, have a place
ruin in the Agamemnon, the target of Orestes’         ordained, fixed, primeval. They do not seem to
vengeance and object of his painful doubts            belong to the same order of being as the other
and equivocations in Libation Bearers, and now,       gods and the Olympians, in particular. They
with stunning confidence and arrogance, she           describe themselves as outcasts and divided
commands the Furies as her personal cadre             from the Olympian peers by their appearance,
of avengers, castigating them for their delay         their chthonic associations, and their garments:
and motivating them with shame. She is the            They wear black, whereas the Olympians are
one continuous presence throughout the three          described as white-robed. Athena, when she
plays and still drives the mechanism of violence      first sees them, does not recognize them and
and retribution by lashing the Furies back into       has to ask their identity; it turns out she did
action.                                               know about them but apparently had not met
    It could be said that the Furies are equally an   them before. Apollo is especially disdainful
element of continuity from beginning to end.          of them and treats them as repulsive beings
While the Furies did not make an appearance           unworthy of appearing within the precincts
as characters or chorus in the two earlier plays,     of his sanctuary. They are associated with the
they were often alluded to as dark presences in       most horrible things—violence, pain, torture,
the house. For example, they were imagined            death. The word clusters associated with them
singing in a sinister chorus. Now, indeed, the        often involve the mixing or pouring out or
Furies constitute the Chorus. Aeschylus has           spewing forth of liquid—blood, venom, vomit.
been building up to their terrible appearance         They are represented as chewing, grinding,
on stage throughout the trilogy, and now we           and sucking the life blood out of their victims.
actually see them in corporeal form on the            By contrast with the clean, perfect outlines of
stage, singing their grim songs.                      the Olympians, there is an emphatically nasty
    The Furies, in Greek mythology, are con-          corporeality about these creatures; they are
cerned with retribution for killing, especially       “unclean.”
of kin. They are also generally associated with           The Furies, however, have certain valid
upholding proper behavior and the cosmic              claims to make even in the face of Olympians
order and are linked with night, darkness,            such as Apollo. They do have an important
death, and the underworld. In the Aeschylean          role appointed to them, as they insist: Without
conception, they are tightly focused on punish-       fear of punishment, mortals would not obey
ment for kin killing and have a ghastly physical      laws and would live in anarchy. The prohibi-
appearance that reflects their domain of con-         tion against killing kin is an especially impor-
cern and their methods of punishment. Their           tant moral rule to uphold. Orestes, moreover,
eyes ooze; they are compared to Gorgons;              indisputably did kill his mother, and thus their
their robes are black; their breath reeks; and        role should be clear: to punish him relentlessly.
they are generally repulsive. We can imagine          While Apollo’s stance is highly adversarial,
that an entire Chorus of Furies in elaborate          Athena recognizes early on that these deities
costume chanting grimly and advancing on              must be treated diplomatically, that they cannot
their “quarry” Orestes would have had a ter-          simply be pushed aside, and that their function
rifying and thrilling effect on the audience.         remains important in human society and thus

must be maintained, even while undergoing           son’s right to avenge his father’s murder ulti-
transformation.                                     mately undermines Zeus.
    The separate status of the Furies has given         The trial brings these issues to a head.
them a certain degree of autonomy, and thus,        The Furies are in effect the prosecution, while
early in the play, they claim the right to ignore   Apollo provides the defense. Two issues emerge
the demands of the Olympians and denounce           as key in arriving at a decision. First, there is
Apollo’s interference within their realm of         the question of blood. The Furies insist that
authority. They also seem to belong to an           their special mission is retribution for spilling
older order of being, just as they represent an     the blood of kin. Since Agamemnon and Cly-
older, increasingly outmoded vision of justice.     taemnestra were married but not kin, the killing
The relative youth of the Olympians, Apollo         of Clytaemnestra by Orestes falls within their
especially, is frequently referred to, and in       concern, not the earlier killing of husband by
general, the Furies speak as the outraged pro-      wife that motivated Orestes. Apollo, in answer-
tectors of traditional values: The young gods       ing this argument, points to the sacred status
are ruining everything and promoting anarchy.       of marriage vows, to the marriage of Zeus and
Aeschylus is thus setting up a series of inter-     Hera, and to the divinity of Aphrodite—hence
locking oppositions: new and old; Olympian          the holy status of all that belongs within her
and chthonian; gods associated with immortal-       realm of concern. Here, the Furies do not seem
ity and deities associated with death; light and    to be on very strong ground. Yet even if we
dark. Aeschylus sets the stage for a conflict of    accept Apollo’s point and value the relation of
cosmic dimensions that will require a confron-      marriage as much as relations of blood, the cru-
tation of and negotiation among divine powers       cial issue remains unresolved: Orestes has still
for resolution.                                     killed his mother, and if, on Apollo’s argument,
    We witness on stage a divine power strug-       he has not done something more evil than his
gle in process. The youthful Apollo, son            mother did in killing his father, we as yet have
of Zeus and an Olympian himself, opposes            no grounds for arguing that he is in any way
the ancient Furies and, in opposing them,           less culpable or more excusable.
claims Zeus’s authority for his acts. Zeus is           The resolution of this dilemma ultimately
at the center of the play’s action and resolu-      coincides with the resolution of the gender
tions, although we do not see him on stage.         dynamic that runs throughout the trilogy. The
In the end Athena, likewise, sides with her         male Orestes killed his mother for killing her
father, Zeus, and with Apollo. When Apollo          husband, and now Orestes is pursued by the
defends the rights of fathers, the Furies           female deities who are driven by his mother’s
sharply point out that Zeus shackled his own        ghost. The male god Apollo supports him, and,
father, Cronus. Apollo is furious, since they       it appears, Zeus supports his son in turn. It is in
have not only undermined his argument to            this context that Apollo presents an argument
some degree; they also dared to challenge his       of pivotal importance: The woman’s womb, he
father’s legitimacy and rule. The stakes are        suggests, is only the container of the seed that
thus high in Orestes’ trial. The legitimacy of      derives from the male; and thus the male, and
the Olympian order is also on trial. If Orestes     not the female, is the true parent of the child.
is not acquitted, then Phoebus’s prophetic          The priority of the male parent therefore justi-
authority risks being impugned, and the kill-       fies Orestes’ killing: His father was the more
ing of Agamemnon, the mortal representative         important of his two parents; hence it was
of Zeus’s kingly authority, is insufficiently       his moral responsibility to avenge his father’s
condemned. Zeus supported Agamemnon’s               death, even if it meant killing the mother (the
expedition to Troy. A failure to support the        less crucial parent). Apollo supports his argu-

ment by pointing to Pallas Athena herself: She       closely with male Greek heroes, such as Odys-
was born without the participation of a mother,      seus, and here gives her support to Orestes. Yet
directly brought into being by Zeus.                 she remains female as well, and this dual status
    For Aeschylus, Zeus is the central figure of     makes her the ideal negotiator to bring about a
the divine order, and thus also the most impor-      resolution of the conflict.
tant figure for human beings as they strive to           In a long interchange, Athena mixes
act and understand their fate. This was not          threats with promises to persuade the Furies
always so. The opening speech of the Pythia          to accept their new role within the city rather
alludes to an earlier time, when Earth (Gaia)        than to poison it and set themselves against
was the first god to offer prophecy. After her       the Olympians. Unlike Apollo, she is respect-
came Themis, another goddess, and finally            ful of them and respectful of their rights. She
Phoebe. It was only when Phoebe ceded the            is thus not purely adversarial and male in this
seat of prophecy to Phoebus that it fell into        regard. Along with such mollifying remarks,
the hands of a male god. In the theogonic            however, she includes a reference to force, the
vision of the Greeks, Earth produced a series        thunderbolt of Zeus. She is still a warrior and
of challenges to male sky gods, and it was only      still supports, and is supported by, her father,
with the reign of Zeus that a stable, patriarchal    even as she adopts a diplomatic stance. In the
power structure came into being. Orestes’ mur-       end, the Furies are persuaded to accept their
der of his mother in his father’s name is thus set   new role as beneficent deities that protect the
within the context of a broad cosmic vision that     city and uphold its order in a positive sense.
includes the ascension of Zeus as king of the        Athena, then, resolves the crisis of the house
gods. The references to Zeus’s bird, the eagle,      of Atreus and, at the same time, resolves
in connection with Agamemnon, and Clytaem-           the gendered opposition that has driven the
nestra’s perverse, murderous references to the       sequence of violent acts from the start of the
fertilization of Earth by the sky god in the         trilogy.
trilogy’s first play are thus brought full circle        It is no accident that Athena accomplishes
in the third play. The rent in the cosmic fabric     this in the city that shares her name, Athens, in
caused by Clytaemnestra’s audacious slaying of       a play that was performed by an Athenian play-
the king is being repaired as the Olympian gods      wright before an Athenian audience. Aeschylus
reassert the divine and human order based on         connects his ancient mythological theme with
the priority of the male.                            pride in the institutions of his own city-state.
    Key to this restoration is the mediating role    The larger pattern of the trilogy and its resolu-
played by Athena in her city, Athens. Athena,        tion in the third play suggests, in broad terms,
as Apollo shrewdly pointed out in making his         a movement from the irresolvable violence and
argument, playing to the most important judge        implosion of the royal household to the ben-
in the case, was born from Zeus without a            eficial institutions of the polis. Such a theme
mother. When Athena herself announces her            would in itself have pleased Aeschylus’s audi-
crucial vote, she reiterates this fact and further   ence in democratic Athens and coheres with
states that she supports her father and supports     a broader tendency in Athenian tragedy to
the male in general. She, after all, is female,      connect the ancient myths with contemporary
but, as a warrior, is male in appearance, and, as    cults, communities, and institutions (compare,
a virgin, distances herself from the traditional     for example, Sophocles’ oedipus at coLonus
female roles of wife and mother. When she            or the cult of Medea’s children in Euripides’
arrives on the stage, she is fresh from the scene    Medea). Ultimately, Aeschylus suggests, the
of the Trojan War, an expedition supported by        aristocratic household cannot regulate itself,
her father, Zeus. She is in general associated       since it has no institution outside itself to

impose a procedural resolution on its cycle of      of recent concern to the playwright and his
revenge violence, i.e., kin kill kin without any    audience. Aeschylus intriguingly set his tril-
outside body to intervene or regulate. Athena’s/    ogy on the house of Atreus in Argos, not in
Athens’s court provides an institution capable      Mycenae, where Agamemnon is more usually
of imposing such resolution.                        supposed to have ruled. One possible motive
    The Areopagus is the specific court to          for this shift comes to our attention in the
which Aeschylus refers. Its name means “Hill        Eumenides: After Orestes is acquitted and
of Ares,” and the playwright means to suggest       announces his attention to return to Argos, he
that Orestes’ case, tried, as Athena declares,      says, with semiprophetic overtones, that his
on the Hill of Ares, is the first homicide case     city will always maintain good relations with
brought before that court. Until the middle of      Athens in the future. Argos, starting in the
the fifth century b.c.e., this court had special    late 460s and repeatedly throughout the cen-
powers that put the state itself within its pur-    tury, offered support to the Athenians in the
view. In 461 b.c.e., however, Ephialtes brought     conflict with Sparta. While their contribution
about a radical reform of the court, newly          was not decisive, the Argives were notewor-
circumscribing the scope of its power. This         thy allies. Here, too, the chronology fits with
reform was highly controversial, and Ephialtes      the composition of the Oresteia and suggests
himself ended up being murdered. Aeschylus’s        that Aeschylus is celebrating a contemporary
play, produced only a few years later in 458        development.
b.c.e., surely reflects and in some way com-            Orestes’ final speech announces his inten-
ments on these developments in Athenian pol-        tion to return to Argos and to repair his house’s
itics. It is not wholly clear, however, whether     fortunes. Thus, while the polis proves itself
Aeschylus, in focusing on the court’s func-         capable of resolving the aristocratic household’s
tion in adjudicating homicide, approves the         apparently irresolvable violence, the restoration
limitation of scope, or whether he is lauding its   of that household remains a significant concern
ancient status and foundation by the goddess        for Aeschylus. The house, from the beginning
Athena herself so as to promote its importance      of the trilogy, has been a major focus of the
and oppose its reform. On balance, the former       drama and has at times taken on the appear-
seems more likely, since the entire theme of        ance of a character in its own right. The house
the play is (in the case of the Furies) about       observes, in silence, the succession of murders
the value of accepting a valued if circumscribed    that culminates in the departure of the surviv-
role within the polis; a lesson might easily be     ing male heir, Orestes, into exile. The prime
transferred to Aeschylus’s own day. Ephialtes’      function of the Furies, in their own words, is to
remarks about the value of external wars as         drive matricides out of their houses: They did
opposed to internal discord cohere both with        so in the case of Orestes. Now, however, the
the broader themes of the trilogy and with the      Furies, who lived off the blood of the house
internal unrest in Athens surrounding Athena’s
                                                    throughout the three plays, have been placated
reforms. Possibly Aeschylus means to demon-
                                                    and have accepted a new, positive position
strate the value of compromise, diplomacy, and
                                                    within the Athenian polis. Orestes is free to
civic cohesion over polarization and violence.
                                                    return home.
It is clear that Aeschylus’s representation of
Orestes’ story and the court’s foundation is
highly relevant to developments at the time of      Euripides (ca. 485 b.c.e.–ca. 407 b.c.e.) Eu-
the play’s composition.                             ripides was an Athenian tragic playwright
    The Areopagus is not the only topic of          who was born in the 480s b.c.e. and died
present relevance. The city of Argos is also        in 407–406 b.c.e. He wrote approximately

90 plays, of which 17 securely Euripidean         HeracLes, HippoLytus, ipHigenia aMong
tragedies and one satyr play, the cycLops,        tHe taurians, orestes, pHoenician WoMen,
survive. The Rhesus, transmitted to us as         suppLiant WoMen, and trojan WoMen.
part of his oeuvre, is probably not genuinely
Euripidean. Euripides first produced plays
                                                  Europa A consort of Zeus. Daughter of
for the tragic competition in Athens in 455
                                                  Telephassa and King Agenor of Tyre, in
b.c.e., while his last plays, which included
                                                  Phoenicia. Sister of Cadmus. Classical sources
the ipHigenia at auLis and baccHae, were
                                                  are Apollodorus’s Library (3.1.1–2), Diodorus
produced posthumously. Euripides won first
                                                  Siculus’s Library of History (40.6.2, 5.78.1),
prize in the Athenian dramatic competition
                                                  Herodotus’s Histories (4.147.5), Homer’s iLiad
only four times in his life. In 408, Euripides
left Athens for the court of King Archelaus       (14.321–322), Horace’s Odes (3.27), Lucian’s
of Macedon and died there. Euripides’ extant      Dialogues of the Sea-Gods (15), and Ovid’s fasti
plays are characterized by a great variety of     (5.605–616) and MetaMorpHoses (2.833–875).
subject, themes, and moods, yet certain pre-          Sources vary as to Europa’s parentage. Some
occupations are recurrent: the Trojan War         give her mother as Argiope or Perimede and
and its resonance with the contemporary           her father as Phoenix, while others disagree on
Peloponnesian War; the formidable and often       the names of her brothers, variously, Cadmus,
destructive passions of female characters; the    Cilix, Phoenix, and Thasus. They were said to
cynical maneuvers of those in power; the          have founded several ancient settlements dur-
moral chaos of a fragmented world; the expe-      ing their search for their sister.
rience of immense suffering and the effects of        Zeus is said to have seen Europa playing
such experiences on the victim. Euripides was     near the sea with other maidens and to have
seen as having a propensity for innovation, a     become enamored of her. He transformed
virtuoso’s facility with morally dubious turns    himself into a bull to carry her off. Ovid’s
of argument and verbal tricks, and a preoc-       Metamorphoses provides details of the abduction.
cupation with dark subject matter and ignoble     Zeus asked his son Hermes to drive a herd of
characters. Sophocles is reported by Aristotle    cattle near the playing maidens, while he meta-
as having declared that Euripides represented     morphosed into a beautiful white bull, mingled
people not “as they ought to be” but “as they     with the herd, and attracted Europa’s attention.
were.” Certainly many of Euripides’ central       Charmed by the beauty and gentleness of the
characters are represented in a subheroic         white bull, Europa garlanded his horns with
light: Jason, in the Medea, is a weak, self-      flowers and finally sat on the bull’s back. Slowly
serving, and, in the end, broken man. Orestes     Zeus made for the sea, and, once immersed,
and Electra, in the eLectra, are by turns self-   with a fearful Europa holding on to his horns,
pitying, bloodthirsty, confused, and repentant:   he swam with her to Crete. When Zeus arrived
They lack clarity of moral purpose. Euripides’    with Europa on the island of Crete, he resumed
later plays often feature a deus ex machina       his own shape, and according to Ovid’s Fasti, the
at the close and a complicated plot involving     bull went into the heavens and became the con-
recognition and escape. In many cases, e.g.,      stellation Taurus. Europa’s father, Agenor, sent
the ion and aLcestis, Euripides presses at the    his sons to search for her but without success.
boundaries of tragic conventions. His apparent    Europa’s brother Cadmus, on the advice of the
lack of consistent success with Athenian audi-    Delphic Oracle, followed a bull to the location
ences is more than compensated by the fasci-      where he would found the city of Thebes.
nation he holds for modern readers. See also          Three sons were born from the union of
androMacHe, Hecuba, HeLen, HeracLeidae,           Zeus and Europa: Minos, Rhadamanthys, and

The Rape of Europa. Titian, 1559–62 (Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston)

Sarpedon (though Homer cites only the first            nently, that of the Minotaur. Rhadamanthys
two as their issue). Zeus gave Europa three            was said to have introduced a legal system to
presents: the bronze man of Talos, which pro-          Crete and married Alcmene, mother of Hera-
tected the island of Crete; a javelin that never       cles. Minos and Rhadamanthys became judges
missed its mark; and a hound that always found         in Hades after their deaths.
its prey. The hunting dog and javelin were later           In classical art Europa’s abduction by Zeus in
given to Procris. Afterward, Europa married            the shape of a bull was a popular theme. Ovid’s
King Asterius of Crete, and her children by            Fasti describes the young yellow-haired Europa
Zeus were adopted by him and brought up in             being carried on the bull’s back; gradually becom-
his household; they eventually inherited his           ing aware of her predicament, she holds the bull’s
kingdom. Minos, or possibly a descendant of            mane in one hand and her garments are blown
the same name, was the king of Crete involved          in the wind as they travel across the sea to Crete.
in another myth in which a bull features promi-        The Ovidian passage is quite similar to many

classical and postclassical artists’ representation      because they entailed subjugation to his cousin
of the scene. Europa is shown thus on an Archaic         Eurystheus. In many sources, Eurystheus is
temple metope from 600 b.c.e. A Roman wall               described as a lesser man than Heracles, an
painting from the House of Fatal Love, Pompeii,          ungracious and cowardly master. Throughout
dating to the first century b.c.e., fills in the scene   his trials, Eurystheus made Heracles feel the
with a group of Europa’s friends watching her            indignity of his servitude, particularly in the
astride the bull’s back. Postclassical examples of       task that called on him to clean out the Augean
the myth of Europa include Titian’s The Rape of          Stables. Though some sources acknowledge
Europa from 1559–62 (Gardner Museum, Bos-                only 10 tasks, the commonly accepted number
ton) and Rembrandt’s The Abduction of Europa             of tasks set for Heracles by Eursytheus is 12.
from 1632 (J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles).           These are 1. The Nemean Lion 2. The Hydra
                                                         of Lerna 3. The Erymanthian Boar 4. The
                                                         Ceryneian Hind 5. The Stymphalian Birds 6.
Eurus One of the Anemoi, or Four Winds,
                                                         The Augean Stables 7. The Cretan Bull 8. The
offspring of Eos (Aurora) and Astraeus, accord-
                                                         Mares of Diomedes 9. The Girdle of Hip-
ing to Hesiod’s tHeogony. Some accounts
                                                         polyte 10. The Cattle of Geryon 11. Cerberus
claim that their father was T   yphoeus. The
                                                         in Hades 12. The Apples of Hesperides
Anemoi are storm winds associated with the
                                                             Euripides’ the Heracleidae concerns the fate
four cardinal points: Boreas, the North Wind;
                                                         of Heracles’ children after his death. In this trag-
Notus, the South Wind; Zephyrus, the West
                                                         edy, Eurystheus’s hatred of Heracles extended
Wind; and Eurus, the East Wind, which brings
                                                         to his children, the Heracleidae, after Heracles’
the Dawn with it.
                                                         death. Eurystheus exiled them from Trachis,
                                                         and they found refuge in Athens. Once they had
Eurydice See Orpheus.                                    grown to adulthood, Eurystheus went to war
                                                         against them. The Heracleidae, in the company
                                                         of Iolaus and under the leadership of the Athe-
Eurystheus A king of Mycenae. A descen-
                                                         nian king Demophon (son of Theseus), prepared
dant of Perseus, son of Sthenelus and cousin to
                                                         for war against Eurystheus. The Athenians were
Heracles. Classical sources are Apollodorus’s
                                                         counseled to sacrifice a maiden to ensure mili-
Library (2.4.12–2.5.12, 2.8.1), Euripides’
                                                         tary success, and Heracles’ daughter Macaria
HeracLeidae (928–1,052), and Pindar’s Pythian
                                                         volunteered. The sacrifice was performed, and
Odes (9.79–81). Perseus had several children of
                                                         Hyllus, Iolaus, and Demophon led the Athe-
whom two were Electryon, father of Alcmene,
                                                         nians to victory. The tragedy ends as the captive
and Sthenelus. Zeus had decreed that a child
                                                         Eurystheus is brought before Heracles’ mother,
about to be born, a descendant of Perseus,
                                                         Alcmene, who orders his death.
would reign over the Argolid. He intended
Heracles to be this child, but Hera arranged
to delay the birth of Heracles by seven days             Evander An Arcadian hero. Classical
so that Eurystheus, son of Sthenelus, would be           sources are Livy’s From the Foundation of
born first and should rule instead of Electryon’s        the City (1.5.1–2), Ovid’s fasti (1.461–586,
grandson Heracles.                                       5.91–100), Pausanias’s Description of Greece
    Heracles was commanded by the Olympian               (8.43.2, 8.44.5), and Virgil’s aeneid (8.51–369,
gods through the Delphic Oracle to perform               455–607). Evander is sometimes identified as
labors that would purify him of slaying his kin          the son of Hermes and a nymph. In Rome,
and also win him immortality. Heracles was ini-          his mother is called Carmenta/Carmentis,
tially reluctant to undertake the Twelve Labors,         a prophetess associated with song (carmen).
0	                                                                                   Evander

Evander came to Rome from Arcadia and was         and becomes his ally. He tells Aeneas the
allowed by Faunus to settle on the left bank of   story of Heracles and Cacus, gives him a tour
the Tiber on the Palatine Hill. He was said to    of the future site of Rome, and sends his son
have introduced the art of writing to the local   Pallas with Aeneas to war. When Turnus kills
population. In Livy’s history of Rome, Evander    Pallas, he strips Pallas’s distinctive baldric
welcomes Hercules (Heracles), defends him,        (see Danaus and Danaids). At the end of the
and proclaims his divinity after killing Cacus,   epic, Aeneas recognizes the baldric on Turnus
and establishes the cult of the Ara Maxima in     and kills him. The name of the Palatine was
Heracles’ honor. In Virgil’s Aeneid, Evander, a   believed to derive from “Pallas” by some
Greek, welcomes the Trojan Aeneas in Italy        ancient authors.
Fasti Ovid (ca. 8 c.e.) Fasti means “calendar”         and Horace’s fourth book of odes. And yet,
in Latin. Ovid’s calendar poem is incomplete,          precisely by showing how deeply Augustus
covering only January to June. Each of its six         pervades the social and religious fabric, Ovid’s
books is devoted to a single month. Ovid wrote         poem betrays its critical edge. Some scholars
the Fasti in the years leading up to his exile         have suspected that Ovid stopped with June
in 8 c.e., and he appears to have continued            to avoid writing about July and August, named
revising it while in exile. He discusses the rites     after Julius Caesar and Augustus, respectively.
celebrated on the various days of the Roman            The poem contains notable mythological nar-
calendar, their nature, their settings, and their      ratives, including the story of the rape of
origins. This format produces a literary work at       Proserpina (see Persephone), which merits
once provocatively fragmented and diverse in           comparison with Ovid’s versions of the myth in
its subject matter. Ovid discusses inter alia reli-    the roughly contemporary MetaMorpHoses.
gion, history, mythology, and city monuments.
Recent scholarship has appreciated how Ovid’s          Fates (Moirai, Parcae) Greek personifica-
poem on the calendar explores the ways in              tions of fate. Classical sources are Aeschylus’s
which the emperor Augustus appropriated and            proMetHeus bound (515–517) and euMenides
influenced aspects of Roman religion, space,           (723–728, 956–967f ), Apollodorus’s Library
and time. By adding new festivals to the Roman         (1.3.1, 1.6.2–3, 1.8.2, 1.9.15), Aristophanes’ Frogs
calendar connected with himself and his rule,          (448–453), Euripides’ aLcestis (10–14), Hesiod’s
by reviving and transforming existing rites and        tHeogony (217–223) and Shield of Heracles (258–
cults, and by building and restoring numerous          263), Homer’s iLiad (13.602; 18.119; 20.127–128;
temples, Augustus effectively made himself             24.49, 209–210) and odyssey (7.197–198), and
part of the densely bundled set of practices           Pindar’s Pythian Odes (4.145–146). The Fates,
modern scholars term “Roman religion.” Ovid’s          or Moirai (from the Greek word for “share” or
erudite, Alexandrian poem displays the poet’s          “portion”), represent the Greek conception of
etiological knowledge while making forays into         destiny as fixed at birth and unknown to mortals.
sensitive political and cultural territory. On one     The Romans would later blend their own ver-
level, Ovid’s poem coheres with the movement           sion of the Moirai, the Parcae, with the Greek
toward more overtly “Roman” and patriotic              notion of fate. The Fates, who are personified
subject matter in the later works of Augustan          in Homer’s Odyssey as spinners weaving together
poets; e.g., Propertius’s fourth book of elegies       the threads of mortal lives at birth, are usually

three sisters. In Hesiod’s Theogony, their mother     right to live in peace in the woods and forests.
is Nyx (Night). She gave birth parthenogeneti-        Fauns are to be distinguished from centaurs,
cally to Atropos, Clotho, and Lachesis, but later     who have human torsos and horses’s legs and are
in the poem, their parentage is attributed to         more violent in nature, and satyrs, who resem-
Zeus and Themis (Titan goddess of Law). In this       ble fauns physically but are more lascivious.
context, the Fates embody concepts of Rightness       Satyrs, fauns, and Sileni as well as their female
and are made to be the sisters of Dike (Justice),     counterparts, nymphs and maenads, participate
Eirene (Peace), Eunomia (Lawfulness), and the         in the Bacchic processions of Dionysus. Fauns
Horae (Seasons). In the Theogony, the Fates           were followers of Pan, a bucolic god of Arcadia.
shape destinies both good and evil, but in the        Romans merged the figure of Pan with that of
Shield of Heracles, they are bloodthirsty creatures   Faunus, who, likewise, was a bucolic god. In
whose fangs drip with the blood of the dying. In      the Orphic Hymn to Silenus, Silenus leads the
the Prometheus Bound and Eumenides, the Fates         Bacchanalia and is followed by satyrs, Naiads,
shape destiny in ways that even Zeus cannot.          and Bacchantes.
    According to one conception of his powers,            Fauns were frequently depicted by classical
only Zeus is aware of what is in store for humans,    vase painters in one of two themes: the satyrs’
but even he is limited in what he can do to change    amorous pursuit of a woodland nymph or a
specific destiny. In a dialogue written by Lucian,    Bacchanalia. An Attic black-figure amphora
between Minos, judge of Hades, and Sostra-            from ca. 560–525 by the Amasis Painter (Anti-
tus, a dead soul, the tension between personal        kenmusem Kä, Basel) shows Dionysus, satyrs,
responsibility and destiny shows an awareness         and maenads at a vintage.
of the limits of concepts of predestination. In
Homer’s Iliad, Zeus contemplates saving his son
                                                      Flora (Chloris) A nymph who represents
Sarpedon, whose destiny is to die at the hands
                                                      springtime. The main classical source is Ovid’s
of Patroclus. Hera persuades Zeus to accept
                                                      fasti (5.183ff ). The Romans aligned Chloris
his death because to do otherwise would upset
                                                      with Flora, who is also associated with veg-
the natural order. When the natural order is
                                                      etation, especially grains. In the Fasti, Flora is
transgressed, for example, in a killing of a family
                                                      carried off by Zephyrus, one of the aneMoi,
member, the related figures of the Furies appear.
                                                      or winds associated with the cardinal points.
The Fates were pictured as female figures weav-
                                                      (He was following the courtship example of
ing or binding thread together. They appear on
                                                      his brother, Boreas, who had also abducted
the sixth-century François Vase (Museo Archeo-
                                                      his bride.) Flora and Zephyrus were married,
logico Nazionale, Florence), where they accom-
                                                      and Flora carried Spring perpetually with her.
pany Hermes and Maia.
                                                      Zephyrus granted her the privilege of reigning
                                                      over flowers. Flora claimed that she gave Hera
fauns Hybrid creatures, part human male               a flower from the field of Olenus, which caused
and part animal. Classical sources are Ovid’s         Hera to conceive Ares parthenogenetically.
MetaMorpHoses (193–196) and Virgil’s                      The most famous instance of the represen-
ecLogues (6). Fauns have human torsos and             tation of Flora is Sandro Botticelli’s Primavera
goats’ legs. They have in common with satyrs          from ca. 1478 (Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence).
and Sileni (followers of Silenus) their syl-          Zephyrus, depicted as a forceful youth blowing
van domain and their association with revelry         wind through his mouth arriving on the right-
and music. In Ovid’s Metamorphoses, fauns are         hand side of the image, is preceded by his bride,
classed with other sylvan creatures and bucolic       Flora, under whose feet flowers spring and out
divinities and have been granted by Zeus the          of whose mouth tumble more blossoms.

Furies (Erinyes) Female personifications           them as being dressed in black, with Gorgon-
of curses and vengeance. Offspring of Gaia         like snakes for hair. In other sources, we are
(Earth) and Uranus (Heaven). Sisters of the        told that blood drips from their eyes. The
giants and the Titans. The Roman Furies            Furies’ most important function is to avenge
absorbed the characteristics of the Greek          intrafamilial homicide. But they also punish
Furies. Classical sources are Apollodorus’s        other crimes, such as perjury, disrespect for
Library (1.1.4), Hesiod’s tHeogony (182–187),      elders, and violations of the laws of hospital-
Homer’s iLiad (9.453–456, 566–572; 19.259–         ity. The Furies are pitiless in their pursuit of
260; 418; 21.412–414) and odyssey (2.135,          justice, and as chthonic deities, they oversee
15.234, 20.77–78), Ovid’s MetaMorpHoses            punishments in Hades. In Aeschylus’s Oresteia,
(4.451–511), Pindar’s Olympian Odes (2.38–42)      they pursue Orestes relentlessly for having
and Virgil’s aeneid (6.570–572, 7.324–571,         murdered his mother Clytaemnestra until
12.845–886). Aeschylus, Ovid, and Virgil refer     finally, in the last play of the trilogy, Eumenides,
to the Furies as the Daughters of Night,           Athena persuades the Furies to accept a new
but in the Theogony, the Furies were born          role as protectors of Athens, under the name
of Gaia, fertilized by the blood of Uranus’s       Eumenides. A sanctuary dedicated to the Furies
genitals after he was castrated by his son         was located in Athens.
Cronus. Apollodorus and the Orphic Hymn                In visual representations, the Furies were
give their names as Tisiphone, Megaera, and        sometimes represented as winged creatures. A
Alecto. They are sometimes designated euphe-       Fury appears, whip in hand, with Sisyphus on
mistically as Eumenides (“kindly ones”) or         an Apulian red-figure krater from ca. 330 b.c.e.
Semnai (“revered ones”). The Furies are the        (Antikensammlungen, Munich) and in an Attic
Eumenides of Aeschylus’s tragedy euMenides.        black-figure lekythos from 470 b.c.e. (National
Their appearance is ghastly. Aeschylus describes   Museum, Athens).
Gaia (Ge) A Greek goddess personify-                  but Uranus foretold the eventual downfall of
ing Earth. Classical sources are the Homeric          the Titans. During the Titanomachy (the battle
Hymn to Earth, Aeschylus’s euMenides (1–11),          between the Olympian gods and the Titans),
Apollodorus’s Library (1.1.1–5, 1.2.1. 1.2.6,         Gaia favored the Olympians and suggested to
1.3.6, 1.6.1–1.7, Hesiod’s tHeogony (116–200,         Zeus that he free the giants, Hundred-Handed
233–239, 453–506, 617–735, 820–900), and              Ones, and Cyclopes from Tartarus and to enlist
Pausanias’s Description of Greece (1.2.6, 5.14.10,    them on his side against the Titans. With these
7.25.13, 8.29.4, 10.5.5–7).                           reinforcements, the Olympians were victori-
    Gaia’s cult was practiced throughout Greece,      ous, the Titans defeated and imprisoned in
particularly at Delphi. According to Hesiod,          Tartarus.
Gaia was one of the four spontaneously gener-             In visual representations of the classical
ated primeval deities. Chaos (“gaping void”)          period, Gaia was depicted as a buxom, mature
came into being at the beginning of time, fol-        woman, in keeping with her association with
lowed first by Gaia and then by Eros and Tar-         fertility and maternity. She appears together
tarus. Gaia gave birth to Ourea (Mountains)           with Atlas in an Apulian red-figure krater
and Pontus (Sea). She produced the sea gods           from ca. fourth century b.c.e. (Dallas Museum
Eurybia, Keto, Nereus, Phorkys, and Thau-             of Art, Texas), where she is holding the tree that
mas. With Tartarus, she produced the monster          will bear the golden apples of the Hesperides
T yphoeus and the giants. She gave birth to           (her gift to Hera at her marriage to Zeus). Gaia
Uranus (Heaven), and she later conceived with         is shown coming to the aid of one of the giants
him the Titans: Coeus, Crius, Cronus, Iapetus,        in a relief of the Great Altar of Zeus at Per-
Hyperion, Mnemosyne, Oceanus, Phoebe,                 gamon dating from the second century b.c.e.
Rhea, Tethys, Theia, and Themis. Uranus and           (Pergamonmuseum, Berlin).
Gaia also produced the Hundred-Handed
Ones and the Cyclopes. Uranus consigned the           Galatea A Nereid (sea nymph). One of the 50
Hundred-Handed Ones and the Cyclopes to               daughters of Nereus and Doris. Classical sourc-
Tartarus and prevented the birth of his many          es are Apollodorus’s Library (1.2.7), Hesiod’s
children by keeping them inside Gaia, in the          tHeogony (250), Homer’s iLiad (18.45),
earth. Cronus, encouraged by Gaia, castrated          Lucian’s Dialogues of the Sea-Gods (1), Ovid’s
him. Gaia was then able to give birth to the          MetaMorpHoses (13.738–897), Philostratus’s
other children. Cronus succeeded his father,          iMagines (2.18), and Theocritus’s Idylls (11).

    According to Theocritus, the Cyclops Poly-     were popular and occurred in a variety of
phemus fell in love with Galatea. He attempted     media. Polyphemus is often shown in a pasto-
to woo her with love songs, but Galatea was        ral setting playing or carrying a pan pipe, as in
in love with Acis, son of Faynus (see Pan), and    a first-century b.c.e. fresco from the Imperial
did not respond to his overtures. Philostratus’s   Villa at Boscotrecase (Metropolitan Museum of
Imagines describes a painting of the myth. In a    Art, New York). Here, Galatea and Polyphemus
landscape of harvesting Cyclopes, a lovelorn       are shown in a rocky landscape surrounded by
Polyphemus, pan pipes under his arm, a single      a flock of goats. Galatea shares iconographic
bushy eyebrow crowning his single eye atop         similarities with Aphrodite; her attributes are
a broad nose, watches Galatea astride a team       also dolphins and other sea animals. She holds
of four dolphins. Polyphemus offered Galatea       a windblown cloth above her head and is often
his wealth of flocks of sheep and orchards,        accompanied by Nereids and Tritons. These
but Galatea would not be tempted. Surpris-         iconographic elements greatly influenced post-
ing Acis and Galatea in an embrace one day,        classical images of Galatea, such as Raphael’s
Polyphemus was overcome with jealous rage          Triumph of Galatea of 1511 in the Villa Farne-
and crushed the fleeing Acis with a boulder.       sina (Rome), which is placed beside its the-
Ovid informs us that after his death, Acis was     matic pair, Sebastiano del Piombo’s Polyphemus.
transformed into a river god.                      Another famous example is Annibale Carracci’s
    In the classical period, visual representa-    paired frescoes, Polyphemus Wooing Galatea and
tions of the myth of Galatea and Polyphemus        Polyphemus Slaying Acis in the Palazzo Farnese
                                                   from ca. 1597 (Rome). A postclassical example
                                                   of the theme is Gustave Moreau’s The Cyclops
                                                   (Observing a Sleeping Nymph) from ca. 1898
                                                   (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam).

                                                   Ganymede A mortal youth from Troy. Son
                                                   of Tros and Callirrhoe. Classical sources are
                                                   the Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite (202–217),
                                                   Apollodorus’s Library (2.5.9, 3.12.2), Euripides’
                                                   trojan WoMen (821–840), Homer’s iLiad
                                                   (5.265–267, 20.231–235), Lucian’s diaLogues
                                                   of tHe gods (8.10), Ovid’s MetaMorpHoses
                                                   (10.152–161), Pindar’s Olympian Odes (1.40–
                                                   145), and Virgil’s aeneid (1.28, 5.253).
                                                   Ganymede is one of a group of mortal youths
                                                   who attract the amorous attention of the
                                                   gods; others include Adonis, Endymion, and
                                                   Hyacinthus. Virgil and Pindar relate that
                                                   Zeus became enamored of Ganymede because
                                                   of his beauty. In Diodorus Siculus’s Library of
                                                   History, the Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite, and
                                                   the Iliad, Ganymede was carried off by an eagle
                                                   (either Zeus’s eagle or the god himself in the
Triumph of Galatea. Fresco Raphael, 1511 (Villa    form of the bird) to become Zeus’s cupbearer
Farnesina, Rome)                                   on Olympus. Zeus was said to have compen-

sated Ganymede’s family with a gift of beautiful   on the compelling visual moment in which
horses.                                            Ganymede is physically carried away by the
    The story of Ganymede’s abduction was a        eagle, while others emphasized his function as
popular theme in classical imagery in sculp-       cupbearer to the Olympian gods. A late Roman
ture, relief, and pottery. Some images focused     mosaic (Sousse, Tunisia) shows the boy wearing
                                                   a Phrygian cap in the presence of Zeus’s eagle,
                                                   while a red-figure bell krater from ca. 525–475
                                                   b.c.e. (Louvre, Paris) depicts Ganymede hold-
                                                   ing a hoop, as a symbol of his youthfulness, and
                                                   a rooster, a typical gift that suitors presented to
                                                   young boys. Ganymede as cupbearer is repre-
                                                   sented on an Archaic red-figure kylix (National
                                                   Museum, Tarquinia). The more overtly erotic
                                                   aspects of the myth were popular with post-
                                                   classical painters, a prime example of which is
                                                   Antonio Correggio’s Ganymede from ca. 1530
                                                   (Kunsthistoriches Museum, Vienna).

                                                   Georgics Virgil (29 b.c.e.) Virgil published
                                                   his Georgics, a didactic poem in four books
                                                   on farming, in 29 b.c.e., the same year as
                                                   Octavian’s celebration of a triple triumph in
                                                   Rome, and shortly following Octavian’s vic-
                                                   tory over Antony and Cleopatra at Actium
                                                   (31 b.c.e.) and Alexandria (30 b.c.e.). Virgil’s
                                                   first work, the ecLogues, was published ca. 38
                                                   b.c.e. in the midst of the turbulent crises of the
                                                   waning years of the Roman republic. By 29
                                                   b.c.e., Octavian, the future emperor Augustus,
                                                   was decisively triumphant over his enemies,
                                                   while Virgil became associated with the great
                                                   patron of the Augustan age, Maecenas, and
                                                   with Octavian himself. At the opening of the
                                                   Georgics, Virgil makes Maecenas his prima-
                                                   ry addressee but also addresses Caesar (i.e.,
                                                   Octavian), and, in a striking instance of early
                                                   Augustan panegyric, hesitates among the vari-
                                                   ous divine roles that Octavian may choose to
                                                   assume. The topic of his poem is not Octavian
                                                   or his deeds but the ostensibly humble and
                                                   practical topic of farming. Farming and the
                                                   land are traditional Roman concerns, and the
                                                   farmer (agricola) is a Roman figure endowed
Ganymede. Antonio Correggio, ca. 1530              with symbolic importance. The sturdy small-
(Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna)                 holder of the Italian countryside represents

the archetypal citizen/soldier and exemplar of       Virgil tells the story of Aristaeus, Orpheus and
old-fashioned, rustic values and behavior. In        Eurydice. Aristaeus, the son of Apollo and the
recent years, farming and land had become            nymph Cyrene, is said to have played a part in
contentious issues. Octavian, in an effort to        causing Eurydice’s death. He desired her, and
settle his veterans in the late 40s b.c.e., had      while he was chasing her, a poisonous snake bit
to expropriate land from Italian landowners,         her foot. In punishment for this, Aristaeus lost
causing discontent in the countryside. Virgil        all the bees he was keeping. He then learned
appears to have initially suffered from the          from Proteus how to appease Eurydice by
confiscations (see discussion of his Eclogues).      making sacrifice: From the decaying flesh of the
After this shaky beginning, however, Augustus        slain oxen there came forth swarms of bees. This
and his poets and architects would stress the        closing epyllion (“mini-epic”) of Virgil’s didactic
benefits of peace, the bounty and fertility of       poem combines the productive, social image of
the land, and the “golden age” tranquility of the    the regenerated bees with the intense pathos of
Italian countryside.                                 Orpheus’s personal loss. The Orphic passage
     Virgil’s Georgics contributes to the Augustan   recalls the neoteric style of Catullus’s genera-
focus on the land of Italy and farming; indeed,      tion, while the regenerated bees may express the
a uniting theme of all three of his major works      hopes of the present generation for expiation of
is Italy and the potentially destructive conflict    the violence of the recent past. Taken together,
over Italian land. (The civil wars were fresh in     Orpheus and Aristaeus encapsulate the distinc-
Italian memories, nor had the Social Wars of the     tive vision and power of Virgilian poetry.
early decades of the first century b.c.e. between
Rome and its Italian allies been forgotten.) Vir-
                                                     Geryon See Chrysaor; Heracles.
gil’s didactic poem on farming is written in the
tradition of Hesiod’s WorKs and days, but also
imitates Homer and Hellenistic didactic poetry.      giants The offspring of Gaia (Earth)
A more recent model for Virgil is the didactic       and Uranus (Heaven). Classical sources
poem of Lucretius, On the Nature of Things, writ-    are Apollonius of Rhodes’s voyage of tHe
ten around the middle of the first century b.c.e.    argonauts (1.940–1010), Diodorus Siculus’s
Virgil’s view of things, however, is markedly dif-   Library of History (5.71.2–6), Euripides’
ferent from the Epicurean Lucretius’s rationaliz-    HeracLes (177–178), Hesiod’s tHeogony (185),
ing vision of the universe. For Virgil, nature and   Homer’s odyssey (7.58–60), and Pausanias’s
the cosmos are difficult to read, at times opaque,   Description of Greece (1.25.2, 8.29.1–4). The
although traditional lore and religious practices    giants were conceived when the blood of
can help; above all, relentless hard work (Latin,    Uranus, after his castration by Cronus, fell
labor) is required to prevent slippage into disor-   on Earth. Gaia sent the giants to destroy the
der. While Virgil focuses on farming, he builds      Olympians in retribution for their impris-
several famous digressions into his poem, e.g.,      onment of her offspring the Titans, in
the myth of the golden age and the portents          Hades. The subsequent battle was called the
preceding Julius Caesar’s murder in Book 1;          Gigantomachy. Enormously large and strong,
the praises of Italy in Book 2; the description      the giants had dragon’s scales for feet. In Ovid’s
of the “temple” the poet plans to build in honor     MetaMorpHoses the giants had serpents’ feet
of Octavian in Mantua at the opening of Book         and 100 hands. According to Ovid, the giants
3; the cattle plague at Noricum at the end of        were slain by the thunderbolts of Zeus. The
the same book; and the description of the old        giants included Alcyoneus, Clytius, Enceladus,
man of Tarentum in Book 4. The most famous           Ephialtes, Eurytus, Gration, Hippolytus,
digression is mythological: At the end of Book 4,    Mimas, Pallas, Polybotes, and Porphyrion.

                                                            a race of giants descended from Gaia (Earth).
                                                            Gaia sent the giants to destroy the Olympians
                                                            in retribution for their imprisonment of her
                                                            offspring the Titans. The giants challenged
                                                            the Olympian gods, hurling rocks and flaming
                                                            trees at the heavens. According to Ovid, the
                                                            giants were slain by the thunderbolts of Zeus,
                                                            but other sources suggest more protracted
                                                            engagement with giants. An oracle prophesied
                                                            that the giants were undefeatable without the
                                                            aid of a mortal. The mortal was Heracles, who
                                                            went on to slay the giant Alcyoneus. According
                                                            to Apollodorus’s Library, who cataloged the
                                                            deaths of the giants, Heracles shot an arrow into
                                                            Alcyoneus, but without killing him, because the
                                                            giant was able to revive and regain his strength
                                                            while he touched his native earth. On the advice
Poseidon Battles the Giant Polybotes. Detail from           of Athena, Heracles dragged Alcyoneus away
an Attic kylix, ca. 475 B.C.E. (Bibliothèque nationale de   from the land where he had been born and
France, Paris)                                              there killed him. Either Zeus or Apollo killed
                                                            Porphyrion, who tried to violate Hera, while
    The Gigantomachy was a popular theme                    Gration was slain by Artemis. Ephialtes was
and frequently depicted on vases, architectural             killed by an arrow in each eye aimed by Apollo
relief, and sarcophagi. According to Euripides,             and Heracles, while Dionysus used his thyrsus
one such relief decorated the outside of the                to kill Eurytus. Hecate set Clytius afire with
temple of Apollo at Delphi. In ancient art,                 torches, and Hephaestus used heated metal to
the giants were large, sometimes nude figures.              kill Mimas. Athena also participated in the war;
They were often bearded and sometimes rep-                  she skinned Pallas and used his skin as a shield
resented as serpent-footed, as, for example,                for her body, and she killed Enceladus, who,
in a late imperial mosaic from the triclinium               according to Virgil’s aeneid, lies under Sicily’s
at Piazza Armerina (Sicily) and the second-                 Mount Etna. Poseidon crushed Polybotes with
century b.c.e. Gigantomachy frieze of the                   a piece of the island of Cos, and Hermes, invis-
Pergamon Altar. On the relief of the Siphnian               ible while wearing the helmet of Hades, killed
Treasury at Delphi from ca. 525 b.c.e., the                 Hippolytus.
giants are shown fighting Olympians. The
                                                                The Gigantomachy was a popular theme
giant Polybotes has human form in an image
                                                            and frequently depicted on vases, architectural
on the tondo of an Attic red-figure kylix of ca.
                                                            relief, and sarcophagi. According to Euripides,
475 b.c.e. (Bibliothèque nationale de France,
                                                            one such relief decorated the outside of the
Paris) as he fights Poseidon.
                                                            temple of Apollo at Delphi. In ancient art,
                                                            the giants were large, sometimes nude figures,
Gigantomachy The battle between the                         often bearded, and sometimes, though not
giants (offspring of Gaia) and the Olympian                 always, represented as serpent-footed. Exam-
gods. Classical sources are Apollodorus’s                   ples in which they were depicted as snake-
Library (1.6.1) and Diodorus Siculus’s Library              footed is the late imperial mosaic from the
of History (5.71.2–6). The defeat of the Titans             triclinium at Piazza Armerina (Sicily) and the
by the Olympians was followed by the war with               second-century b.c.e. Gigantomachy frieze of

the Pergamon Altar. On the relief of the Siph-      Glaucus (2) A Lycian hero of the Trojan War.
nian Treasury at Delphi from ca. 525 b.c.e., the    Son of Hippolochus. Cousin of Sarpedon. The
giants are shown fighting the Olympians.            principal classical source is Homer’s iLiad (2.876,
                                                    6.119–235, 12.310–470, 16.493ff). Glaucus and
                                                    Sarpedon fought on the side of the Trojans
Glaucus (1) (Glaukos) A sea god. Glaucus
                                                    during the Trojan War. During the fighting,
had the torso of a man and lower half of a fish.
                                                    Glaucus came upon Diomedes, fighting on the
Classical sources are Apollonius of Rhodes’s
                                                    side of the Greeks. The two remembered the
voyage of tHe argonauts (1.1,310–1,328),
                                                    friendship between their families—dating to an
Euripides’ orestes (362–369), Hyginus’s
                                                    exchange of gifts between their grandfathers,
Fabulae (199), Ovid’s M etaMorpHoses
                                                    Oeneus and Bellerophon—and they peaceably
(13.898–14.69), Pausanias’s Description of
                                                    exchanged armor. When Sarpedon was badly
Greece (9.22.6–7), and Philostratus’s iMagines
                                                    injured during battle, Glaucus attempted to res-
(215). According to Ovid’s Metamorphoses,
                                                    cue him but was prevented because he sustained
Glaucus began life as a mortal fisherman
                                                    a wound himself. He prayed to Apollo to be
living in Boeotia. Spreading his catch on a
                                                    quickly cured, a prayer that the god granted.
field one day, Glaucus was amazed to find
                                                    Glaucus was not able to save Sarpedon but
the fish move about and escape back into the
                                                    brought back his body. Sarpedon’s armor, in the
sea. Speculating that the grass on which they
                                                    meantime, had been stripped by the Greeks.
had been laid had magical power, Glaucus ate
                                                        Glaucus fought Hector for the possession
some and was transformed into a merman.
                                                    of Patroclus’s body, but while doing so, he was
He fell in love with the nymph Scylla, but
                                                    killed by Ajax. Under the direction of Apollo,
she fled from his advances. He sought Circe’s
                                                    Glaucus’s body was borne back to Lycia by the
aid, but she loved Glaucus herself. When she
was scorned by him, she revenged herself
upon Scylla. Circe poisoned the waters in           Golden Fleece See Jason; voyage            of tHe
which Scylla was accustomed to bathe, and           argonauts.
the nymph was transformed into a monstrous
canine creature. She appears in the maritime        Gorgons Daughters of the sea gods Phorcys
adventures of Apollonius of Rhodes’s Voyage of      and Ceto. Sisters of the Graeae. Classical sources
the Argonauts and Homer’s odyssey.                  are Apollodorus’s Library (3.10.3), Euripides’
    Glaucus had prophetic abilities, which he       ion (989–1,017), Hesiod’s tHeogony (270–
displayed in Euripides’ Orestes by revealing the    283), Homer’s iLiad (5.738–742), Hyginus’s
death of Agamemnon to his brother Menelaus          Fabulae (64, 151), Ovid’s MetaMorpHoses
and again in Apollonius of Rhodes’s Voyage of       (4.614–620, 770–803), Pausanias’s Description
the Argonauts, where he emerged from the sea        of Greece (1.24.7, 5.18.5, 9.34.2) and Pindar’s
to insist that Heracles abandon his search          Pythian Odes (12.6–27). The Gorgons are
for the youth Hylas and return to the Twelve        the monstrous sisters Sthenno, Euryale, and,
Labors. In Diodorus Siculus’s Library of History,   most famous of all, Medusa. Described by
he also reveals the future destinies of the mem-    Apollodorus as having serpentine hair, a fierce
bers of the Argonautic expedition.                  gaze, a fierce glance, and vicious teeth, the
    In appearance, Glaucus is usually mature,       Gorgons were so frightening in appearance
long-haired, and bearded, and is recognizable       that they turned to stone anyone who looked
for his merman shape. According to Philos-          on them. In one version of the myth, unlike
tratus’s Imagines, Glaucus is accompanied by        her sisters Medusa was originally mortal and
singing kingfishers.                                beautiful, but Athena discovered that Medusa
0	                                                                                            Graces

and Poseidon had sex in her sanctuary, and she            In the classical period, Medusa appears fre-
destroyed Medusa’s beauty and turned her into         quently in images depicting Perseus’s adventures.
a monster.                                            The Gorgons, like the Graeae, are depicted as
    The Gorgons appear in the myth of the             winged creatures, as in a red-figure hydria
hero Perseus. The hero was sent by King               attributed to the Pan Painter from ca. 500 b.c.e.
Polydectes to retrieve the head of Medusa.            (British Museum, London). Here, the Gorgon’s
Perseus was fortunate enough to have the help         winged and headless body falls to the ground
of Athena and Hermes, who gave him a sickle           as Perseus strides away with Medusa’s head
of adamant, the cap of Hades (which gave him          peeking out of his bag. Medusa’s horrifying
invisibility), and winged shoes. He compelled         appearance is the focus of an Attic red-figure
the Gorgons’ almost equally unlovely sisters,         amphora attributed to the Berlin Painter from
the Graeae, to reveal Medusa’s whereabouts.           ca. 490 b.c.e. (Antikensammlungen, Munich).
He found Medusa asleep, and while Athena              Here, Medusa runs from Perseus; she has wings
held her shield as a mirror to guide him so           and serpents for hair, and her tongue hangs
that he would not have to look at her directly,       between her fanged teeth. Caravaggio’s Medusa
he cut off Medusa’s head with his sickle.             from ca. 1592 (Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence)
The winged horse Pegasus and the warrior              shows the gruesome severed head of Medusa
Chrysaor sprang from her neck. Perseus was            with its still writhing snakes. The birth of Pega-
afterward pursued by the remaining Gorgons,           sus from Medusa’s headless corpse is another
whom he avoided by wearing the cap of Hades.          theme. A white-ground lekythos attributed to
In some versions of the myth, Perseus killed all      the Diospos Painter from ca. 500 (Metropolitan
three Gorgons. After further adventures, Per-
                                                      Museum of Art, New York) shows the wing-san-
seus returned the magical objects to Hermes
                                                      daled hero Perseus fleeing from the decapitated
and Athena, and gave Medusa’s head to Athena,
                                                      body of Medusa while from her neck springs
who placed it on her shield.
                                                      the fully formed Pegasus.

                                                      Graces (Charites, Gratiae) Greek god-
                                                      desses representing grace, charm, and beau-
                                                      ty. Classical sources are Apollodorus’s Library
                                                      (1.3.1), Hesiod’s tHeogony (64–65, 907–911,
                                                      945–946), Homer’s iLiad (5.338, 14.263–276,
                                                      18.382–387) and odyssey (8.362–366, 18.192–
                                                      194), Pausanias’s Description of Greece (3.18.9–10,
                                                      6.24.6–7, 9.35.1–7), and Pindar’s Olympian Odes
                                                      (14.3–17). The Graces live in Olympus with the
                                                      Muses, with whom they share similar character-
                                                      istics. Cults dedicated to them appear in Athens
                                                      and elsewhere in Greece. The Charites were
                                                      later identified with the Roman Gratiae. There
                                                      is some variation in the names and functions
                                                      of the Graces. Homer mentions them in asso-
                                                      ciation with Aphrodite but gives neither their
                                                      names nor their number. In his Theogony, Hesiod
Medusa. Michelangelo Caravaggio, ca. 1592 (Galleria   described the Graces as three daughters of Zeus
degli Uffizi, Florence)                               and Eurynome, named Aglaea, Euphroysne,
Gyges, Gyes                                                                                     

                                                    would come to influence postclassical artists,
                                                    as in Botticelli’s depiction of the three Graces
                                                    in his Primavera of 1478 (Galleria degli Uffizi,
                                                    Florence). In this image, the Graces appear
                                                    with figures symbolizing Spring. Raphael’s
                                                    The Three Graces from ca. 1504 (Musée Condé,
                                                    Chantilly) shows the nude, graceful trio in
                                                    their characteristic pose.

                                                    Graeae (Graiai) Daughters of the sea gods
                                                    Phorcys and Ceto, sisters of the Gorgons.
                                                    Classical sources are Apollodorus’s Library
                                                    (2.4.2) and Hesiod’s tHeogony (270–273). The
                                                    Graeae, also known as the Crones, are winged,
                                                    gray-haired hags that share between them a sin-
                                                    gle tooth and a single eye. In Hesiod’s Theogony,
                                                    two of the Graeae are named Pemphedro and
The Three Graces. Raphael, ca. 1504 (Musée Condé,   Enyo, while in Aeschylus, a third is mentioned
Chantilly, France)                                  that Apollodorus calls Deino. Perseus captured
                                                    the eye of the Graeae, forcing them to reveal
                                                    the location of the Gorgons. He afterward
and Thalia. Here, they represent poetry, dance,
                                                    defeated the Gorgon Medusa. The haplessness
singing, and festivity. Aglaea, also sometimes
                                                    of the Graeae stands in contrast to the murder-
called Charis (Beauty), in Homer, is the wife of
                                                    ous strength of the Gorgons.
Hephaestus. Because of their associations with
                                                        The Graeae are the model for the witches
beauty, both aesthetic and moral, the Graces are
                                                    that appear in Shakespeare’s Macbeth. In classi-
often attendants to the Olympian deities with
                                                    cal art, the Graeae appear within the context of
similar associations: Aphrodite, Hera, Apollo,
                                                    the myth of Perseus, as in an Attic red-figure
Dionysus, Hermes, and Eros.
                                                    krater of ca. fifth century b.c.e. (Archaeologi-
    In the classical period, the Graces appear
                                                    cal Museum, Delos). Here, Perseus, in winged
in vase paintings, bas-reliefs, and sculptural
                                                    sandals and the cap of Hades, furtively steals
works. On a wall painting from Pompeii
                                                    the eye from the seated Graeae.
dating to the first century b.c.e., the Graces
appear unclothed with their arms around each
other’s shoulders. This type of representation      Gyges, Gyes See Hundred-Handed Ones.
Hades (Pluto, Dis) Olympian god of the                 to Olympian gods, including Hades, but Cro-
underworld. Son of the T      itans Cronus and         nus swallowed each child whole shortly after its
Rhea. The brother of Demeter, Hera, Hestia,            birth. When Zeus, the youngest child, was born,
Poseidon, and Zeus. Classical sources are the          Rhea wrapped up a stone in swaddling clothes
Homeric Hymn to Demeter (1–87, 334–433),               and gave it to Cronus in lieu of the infant. Zeus
Apollodorus’s Library (1.1.5–1.2.1), Hesiod’s          forced Cronus to disgorge his other children
tHeogony (453–506, 765–778, 850), Homer’s              into the world. Hades joined Zeus and Posei-
iLiad (5.394–402, 15.187–193, 20.61–66),               don in the Titanomachy, the protracted battle
Hyginus’s Fabulae (146), Lucian’s Dialogue of the      of the Olympian gods against the Titans. Zeus
Dead (passim), Ovid’s MetaMorpHoses (5.346–            eventually fulfilled the prophecy that he would
424), Pausanias’s Description of Greece (6.25.2–3),    unseat his father, and the Olympians triumphed
and Strabo’s Geography (3.2.9). Hades’ epony-          over the Titans. Poseidon was given the sea as
mous realm is the underworld, the kingdom of all       his domain, Zeus ruled over the heavens, and
dead souls. Together with his wife, Persephone,        Hades’ reign extended over the underworld.
who joins him in ruling the underworld, they are       According to Homer, the gods determined this
the prime deities of the underworld. The name          division of the world by casting lots.
Hades, according to ancient etymology, means               The myths concerning Hades are few. In
“invisible”; thus, Hades is sometimes called the       Homer’s Iliad, Hades is wounded by Heracles
ruler of the invisible world, or underworld. His       during an encounter in Pylos. The most impor-
helmet, the cap of Hades, causes its wearers           tant myth of Hades is the abduction of Perse-
to become invisible. It was used by the hero           phone. The abduction of Demeter’s daughter
Perseus when he killed Medusa, and Athena              Persephone is vividly described in Ovid’s Meta-
wore it in the Iliad. Hades was sometimes con-         morphoses: Hades seized the girl from among
ceived of as the “other Zeus,” but unlike Zeus,        her maiden companions in a Sicilian meadow.
no cults were dedicated to him. He was also            Demeter refused to return to Olympus but
referred to as Pluto, meaning “wealth,” and this       wandered over the earth, seeking her daughter.
aspect of his characterization was more favor-         In her grief, she neglected the harvest, and a
ably viewed. In the Roman period, Hades/Pluto          famine ensued. Finally, Zeus persuaded Hades
was merged with a similar god, Dis.                    to return Persephone, but she had eaten one
    The story of Hades’ origins is as follows.         or more pomegranate seeds (sources vary as to
Cronus married his sister Rhea, who gave birth         the number) while in the underworld, and she


was fated to remain there for part of every year.        pay their respects to Hades and Persephone.
Persephone’s time in the underworld coincides            Others who, through guile or courage, tres-
with winter, and her reappearance above with             pass in Hades include Heracles and Theseus.
spring and summer.                                       Theseus’s friend Pirithous decided to kidnap
    Like Hades, Persephone occupies a dual               and marry Persephone. Theseus joined him
role. As Demeter’s daughter, she is connected            in the unsuccessful attempt, and they were
with youthful vitality, but as goddess of the            both imprisoned in Hades. Heracles’ visit to
underworld, she is also connected with death.            the underworld while he was performing his
Persephone is the “Hera of the Dead,” accord-            Twelfth Labor had better results; Persephone
ing to Virgil, in the same way that Hades is the         welcomed him and allowed him to take Cer-
“other Zeus.” It is thus appropriate that Hades’         berus, the three-headed hound guarding the
union with Persephone does not result in any             entrance of Hades. Heracles was also given
offspring.                                               permission to rescue Theseus, and, in some ver-
    Hades’ kingdom is seldom visited by the              sions Pirithous, from their underworld prison.
living, and, of the dead, only Alcestis and                 In classical art Hades was commonly
Eurydice were permitted to return to the                 depicted as a bearded, solemn figure. Hades’
world above, although in Eurydice’s case, the            abduction of Persephone was a popular visual
return to life was ultimately unsuccessful. On           theme. An example is a red-figure hydria
the rare occasion when a hero such as Odys-              from the fourth century b.c.e. (Metropolitan
seus or Aeneas travels to Hades, they must               Museum of Art, New York) that shows a flee-

Pluto Abducting Persephone. Fresco, Luca Giordano, 1682–83 (Palazzo Medici Riccardi, Florence)

ing Hades with Persephone in his grasp. The         rare occasion when a hero such as Odysseus
myth of Persephone as an allegory of the after-     or Aeneas travel to Hades, they must pay their
life was used by artists on sarcophagi. A wall      respects to Hades and Persephone. Others that
painting from a royal tomb at Vergina, dating       through guile or courage trespass in Hades
from the fourth century b.c.e., shows the main      include Heracles, Theseus, and Orpheus. Of
iconographic elements of this theme: a bearded      the dead, only Alcestis and Eurydice were
Hades carrying off the struggling Persephone        permitted to leave Hades.
in his chariot. Postclassical representations           Minos, Rhadamanthys, and Aeacus are the
include Luca Giordano’s fresco Pluto Abducting      three judges of the underworld. In Virgil’s
Persephone of 1682–83 (Palazzo Medici Ric-          Aeneid, Minos has the task of deciding whether
cardi, Florence) and Gianlorenzo Bernini’s The      a soul will proceed to Elysium or Tartarus,
Abduction of Persephone of 1622 (Villa Borghese,    and in Dante’s Divine Comedy, Minos directs
Rome), which forms a thematic pair with the         the soul to the appropriate circle of hell.
Apollo and Daphne sculptural group. In their            In Book 11 of the Odyssey, Circe sends
associations with the fertility of the earth,       Odysseus to consult the seer Tiresias in Hades.
Hades and Persephone are sometimes shown            Following her directions, Odysseus and his
with attributes of a cornucopia or vegetation, as   crew sail to the end of the world to find Hades.
in an Attic red-figure kylix from ca. 450 b.c.e.    Odysseus offers sacrifices to the dead, promises
(British Museum, London). A similar scene is        to bury the body of his companion Elpenor
carved in marble relief dating to ca. 480 b.c.e.    with the proper rites, and calls on Persephone.
(Museo Nazionale, Reggio Calabria). Here            Tiresias’s ghost appears before Odysseus and,
the chthonic deities are enthroned, and Hades       after drinking the blood of the sacrificed ani-
holds a cornucopia, while Persephone holds a        mals, prophesies a treacherous journey home
sheaf of wheat.                                     for Odysseus and his crew. Odysseus also
                                                    speaks to his mother’s ghost, whom he cannot
                                                    embrace, but who recognizes and speaks to him
Hades (Underworld) The eponymous realm              after she also has drunk sacrificial blood. Fol-
of Hades, ruler of the kingdom of all dead          lowing the appearance of his mother, a host of
souls. Classical sources are Hesiod’s tHeogony      female ghosts sent by Persephone, the mothers
(227, 310–312, 361, 383–403, 769–776, 777–          of heroes—Alcmene, Ariadne, Antiope, Leda,
805) and WorKs and days (167–173), Homer’s          and Megara—speak to Odysseus. The ghost
Odyssey (11, passim), Ovid’s MetaMorpHoses          of Agamemnon comes before Odysseus. He is
(4.434–464, 10.15–77), Pausanias’s Description      enraged at his murderers, his wife, Clytaem-
of Greece (8.17.5–18.6, 9.39.8, 10.28.1–8), and     nestra, and her lover, Aegisthus. Odysseus
Virgil’s aeneid (6, passim). Much of the geog-      also speaks with other heroes of the Trojan
raphy of Hades is drawn from Homer’s Odyssey        campaign: Achilles, Antilochus, and Patro-
and Virgil’s Aeneid. Dead souls whose bodies        clus. He attempts to make amends to Ajax,
have received proper burial are brought to          whom he defeated in the contest over Achilles’
Hades by Charon, who ferries them across the        arms, but Ajax cannot forgive him and refuses
river Styx. The river Acheron flows through         to speak with him.
Hades, and the river Lethe brings oblivi-               Odysseus sees Orion hunting in Hades
on to those who drink its waters. Cerberus,         and finds Minos holding court as a judge in
the three-headed dog, guards the entrance           the underworld. He also sees the less fortu-
to Hades, providing a gruesome welcome to           nate inmates of Hades: Tityus tormented
new arrivals and preventing any exit. Hades’        by vultures eating his liver, Tantalus with
kingdom is seldom visited by the living. On the     food and water continually receding from

his grasp, and Sisyphus eternally pushing          Hades through the Ivory Gate (the gate of false
his enormous boulder. Odysseus comes upon          dreams).
Heracles, who is still powerful in death.             The Christian conception of hell shares
Though he had hoped to speak with more             similarities with Hades as a place for the dead,
heroes, Odysseus is overcome by the crowd          many of whom exist in torment. Hades, how-
of ghosts around him; he turns back to his         ever, includes its own paradise in Elysium. In
ship and speeds away from Hades. The next          the Christian geography of the afterlife, the
morning, having reached safety, Odysseus and       heavens occupy a physically separate space
his crew fulfill their promise to the ghost of     above the human world, which for the Greeks
Elpenor and perform the proper burial rites        and Romans had been the domain of the
for his corpse.                                    Olympian gods. Following the tradition of
    In Book 6 of the Aeneid, Aeneas descends to    Homer and Virgil, Dante’s early 14th-century
Hades to communicate with his father, Anchises.    Divine Comedy describes his own exploration of
Aeneas was instructed by the Cumaean Sibyl on      the levels of hell under Virgil’s guidance.
how to accomplish this: perform the burial rites
for his dead shipmate and obtain the golden
bough for Persephone. When he had fulfilled        Harmonia Daughter of Aphrodite and
her prescriptions and offered animal sacrifices    Ares. Wife of Cadmus. The daughters of
to both Hades and Persephone, the Sibyl led        Harmonia and Cadmus are Autonoe, Agave,
him into Hades, through gloomy halls where         Ino, and Semele. Their son is Polydorus.
he encountered Grief, Conscience, Disease and      Classical sources are Apollodorus’s Library
Old Age, Dread, Hunger, and Poverty. Fur-          (3.4.2), Hesiod’s tHeogony (933–937, 975–
ther on, Aeneas recognizes War, Strife, Death,     978), Pausanias’s Description of Greece (9.12.3),
and his twin Sleep. The inhabitants of Hades       and Pindar’s Pythian Odess (3.86–103). In estab-
include centaurs, beasts, ghosts, and famous       lishing the city of Thebes, Cadmus killed
monsters such as Briareus, the Chimaera, the       the dragon of Ares, then made atonement by
Gorgons, the Harpies, and Scylla. The Sibyl        serving the god for eight years. Cadmus was
guided Aeneas past the crowd of dead souls         afterward rewarded by the Olympians with
awaiting Charon’s transport to Hades. His gift     his marriage to Harmonia. At their wedding,
for Persephone, the golden bough, assured him      Cadmus gave Harmonia a golden necklace (in
passage in Charon’s boat. The Sibyl gave Cer-      some accounts its maker, Hephaestus, gave
berus drugged food to enable Aeneas to enter       it to her). Harmonia’s necklace brought its
Hades. In the Fields of Mourning, an area for      future owners, descendants of Cadmus, ill for-
those who suffered cruelly in their love, Aeneas   tune. Eventually, Cadmus ceded the throne of
encountered Dido, the lover he abandoned,          Thebes to his grandson Pentheus and settled
but she refuses to speak to him. Further on,       in Illyria with Harmonia where, after death,
Hades divides into Elysium and Tartarus. Tar-      they were transformed into snakes and brought
tarus, guarded by the Hydra, is reserved for the   to Elysium. According to Hyginus’s Fabulae,
worst transgressors, mortal or immortal. The       the transformation occurred because Cadmus
Titans were consigned to Tartarus by Zeus,         had killed Ares’ dragon. Though Cadmus and
and they were joined by others who earned the      Harmonia appear to have been favored by the
enmity of the gods, including Ixion, Sisyphus,     gods, their descendants suffered misfortunes.
Tantalus, and Tityus. Aeneas found Anchises in     In Euripides’ tragedy Bacchae, Pentheus, grand-
the fields of Elysium, where reside the virtu-     son of Cadmus and Harmonia and now king of
ous dead, and, after learning from him about       Thebes, was slaughtered by his own mother,
the future destiny of Rome, emerged from           Agave, and his aunt Autonoe in a Dionysiac

frenzy. Autonoe later fled Thebes, and her son      been granted prophetic gifts by Apollo and
Actaeon offended Artemis and was killed.            either his misuse of them or his maltreatment of
Semele, mother of Dionysus, was tricked by          his sons caused him to be tormented by the Har-
Hera into provoking her own death, and Ino’s        pies. The Harpies snatched food from his mouth
care of her nephew Dionysus attracted the ire       but allowed him just enough, a reeking morsel of
of Hera, who incited the madness that caused        food, to allow him to linger in a weakened, aged,
Ino and her son Melicertes to throw themselves      and blind state. When the crew of the Argo came
into the sea.                                       upon him in this condition, Zetes and Calais
   In visual representation, Harmonia is often      (the Boreadae) resolved to liberate him. Being
shown with Cadmus and the dragon at the             sons of Boreas, they were endowed with wings
Spring of Ares. An example is a red-figure          and were thus able to chase the Harpies to the
calyx krater from ca. 360 b.c.e. (Louvre, Paris).   Strophades. There, the Harpies were defended
An Attic red-figure (white-ground) epinetron        by Iris, who made a pledge to the Boreadae that
from ca. 430 b.c.e. (National Archaeological        they would cease their torment of Phineus.
Museum, Athens) depicts the wedding of Har-             In another myth, the Harpies carried off
monia and Cadmus attended by the gods.              the daughters of Pandareus, who had stolen
                                                    from the gods and thus incurred the wrath of
                                                    Zeus. The gods killed Pandareus and his wife
Harpies Daughters of Electra (an Oceanid)
                                                    but, according to Homer (Odyssey 20), took
and Thaumas (son of Gaia and Pontus).
                                                    pity on the daughters: Aphrodite, Artemis, and
Sisters to Iris, herald to the Olympian gods.
                                                    Athena cared for them and bestowed skills and
Classical sources are Apollodorus’s Library
                                                    attributes on them. Nevertheless, just as Aph-
(1.9.21), Apollonius of Rhodes’s voyage of tHe
                                                    rodite was arranging their marriage, they were
argonauts (2.164–499), Hesiod’s tHeogony
                                                    snatched away by Harpies and handed over
(265–269), Homer’s iLiad (16.148–151) and
                                                    to the Erinyes (see Furies). As in the myth of
Odyssey (20.61ff), and Virgil’s aeneid (3.209–
                                                    Phineus, the Harpies represent a ruthless form
267). Sources disagree as to their parentage
                                                    of justice or fate acting independently of con-
and number. Their names are usually Aello,
                                                    ventional sources of authority.
Celaeno, Ocypete, and Podarge. The Harpies
                                                        In classical art, the Harpies were depicted
(“snatchers” in Greek) are winged creatures
                                                    as winged females or as monstrous, clawed
and travel through the air. They personify the
                                                    females. The winged Boreadae are shown res-
storm winds and are often associated in their
                                                    cuing Phineus on an Attic red-figure column-
myths with other air or wind deities such as the
                                                    amphora attributed to the Leningrad Painter
sons of Boreas and the winds.
                                                    from ca. 460 b.c.e. (Louvre, Paris), while in a
    In Virgil’s Aeneid, they are monstrous bird-
                                                    Chalcidian black-figure cup (Wagner Museum,
creatures with female faces and clawed hands.
                                                    University of Würzburg) from ca. 530 b.c.e. the
They are accompanied by a horrible stench and
                                                    Boreadae are shown chasing the Harpies.
befoul food. In the Aeneid, the Harpy Celaeno
prophesies to Aeneas and his company that
they will arrive in Italy but not before becom-     Hebe Olympian goddess of youth and cup-
ing so racked with hunger that they eat their       bearer of the gods. Daughter of Hera and Zeus.
own tables. Aeneas also sees the Harpies in his     Sister of Ares (god of war) and Eileithyia
descent to Hades, among other monsters and          (goddess of childbirth). Wife of Heracles, fol-
dark creatures.                                     lowing the hero’s apotheosis. Textual sources are
    The Harpies figure in the story of Phineus,     Apollodorus’s Library (1.3.1, 2.7.7), Euripides’
king of Thrace and son of Agenor. Phineus had       Heraceidae (915ff), Hesiod’s tHeogony (921–

922, 950–955), Homer’s iLiad (4.2–3, 5.719–          context. She is most consistently associated with
723) and odyssey (11.601–604), and Ovid’s            witchcraft, crossroads, the underworld, graves,
MetaMorpHoses (9.397–403). Hebe shared the           the night, and barking dogs. Hecate is also linked
function of cupbearer of the Olympian gods           with the number three: She is often described as
with Ganymede (Pausanias’s Description of Greece     triple-formed or triple-faced. In mythology and
gives Ganymede as an alternate name for Hebe).       cult, Hecate is linked with Artemis, Demeter,
Hebe, who personifies youth, is commonly             and Persephone. She accompanied Demeter
found in the company of the Olympian gods but        in her search for Persephone, bearing flaming
has few myths of her own. She was worshiped          torches in her hands. Hesiod’s Theogony devotes
in connection with her mother, Hera, or with         a surprisingly long and fervent passage to the
Heracles. Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey provide only     praise of Hecate and her manifold powers: She
a few details, such as Hebe’s pouring of nectar      offers protection to many as well as various gifts
into golden goblets for her fellow gods.             but does not appear in her more familiar guise of
    Hebe’s parentage is established in Hesiod’s      goddess of witchcraft, the nocturnal, and the sin-
Theogony, which also notes her marriage to the       ister. There is little in the way of an independent
deified Heracles. Heracles’ marriage to Hebe         mythological tradition of Hecate, but she is typi-
reconciled him with his enemy, Hera, and he          cally invoked by mythological figures—Medea,
received immortality and eternal youth. Hebe         for example—who practice witchcraft.
also restores Heracles’ nephew Iolaus, king of           In classical art Hecate is represented in
Thessaly, to youthfulness in Euripides’ Hera-        triple form or in association with figures from
cleidae. Hebe’s marriage to Heracles, according      Hades. She is holds twin torches on a red-
to Apollodorus’s Library, produced two sons,         figure volute krater from ca. 330 b.c.e. (Anti-
Alexiares and Anicetus.                              kensammlungen, Munich) in a scene showing
    The lid of an Attic red-figure pyxis from ca.    Heracles subduing Cerberus in Hades.
350 b.c.e. (University Museum, University of
Pennsylvania) shows the marriage of Hebe and
                                                     Hector (Hektor) Son of Priam, King of Troy,
Heracles. In this image, Hebe is represented as a
                                                     and Hecuba. Husband of Andromache and
white-painted figure in a long robe whom a nude
                                                     father of Astyanax. Brother of Paris. Classical
Heracles, holding his club, takes by the hand as
                                                     sources are Apollodorus’s Library (Epitome
flying erotes (see Eros) hold back Hebe’s veil.
                                                     4.2–8), Homer’s iLiad (passim), Hyginus’s
                                                     Fabulae (106), and Pausanias’s Description of
Hecate Goddess of magic and prosper-                 Greece (9.18.5). Hector is a central figure in the
ity, associated with Artemis, Demeter, and           Iliad, the chief Trojan warrior and opponent of
Persephone. Daughter of the T      itans Asteria     Achilles. Homer makes much of the contrast
(sister of Leto) and Perses. Classical sources are   between the characters of Hector and Paris: On
the Homeric Hymn to Demeter (22–63, 438–440),        the one hand, the mild-mannered lover Paris,
Apollodorus’s Library (1.2.4), Apollonius of         who must be goaded into action, and on the
Rhodes’s voyage of tHe argonauts (3.477–478,         other, the duty-driven Hector, who in the end
528–530, 1,035–1,041, 1,207–1,224), Euripides’       dies in the struggle to protect his city. Hector is
Medea (395–397), Hesiod’s tHeogony (411–             frequently described by Homer as a formidable
452), Pausanias’s Description of Greece (1.43.1,     fighter, but his most important function in
2.30.2), and Virgil’s aeneid (4.511, 609; 6.247,     the Homeric narrative is to die. He is a prime
564–565). Hecate was a goddess with highly           example of Homer’s ability to sympathize with
varied associations, forms, and appearances. Her     dying warriors on both sides of the war, and the
cult also varied greatly, depending on period and    epic poet’s ability to evoke the immense pathos

                                                    rades and encouraged him to stop and face
                                                    Achilles. Achilles killed Hector in the ensuing
                                                    confrontation. In his dying words, Hector
                                                    begged that his dead body be treated well and
                                                    returned to his father. Achilles instead dragged
                                                    Hector’s body around the walls of Troy and
                                                    then kept it in his tent. The gods, appalled by
                                                    Achilles’ treatment of the corpse, preserved the
                                                    body. Priam finally made his way to Achilles’
                                                    tent and successfully negotiated the return of
                                                    his son’s body. Homer emphasizes the pathos
                                                    of the future fate of Andromache, who will be
                                                    taken off into slavery and another man’s bed,
                                                    and of young Astyanax, who will be killed by
                                                    the Greeks.
                                                        In classical art, Hector’s duel with Ajax and
                                                    combat with Achilles were common themes.
                                                    An example of the former is an Attic red-figure
                                                    cup from ca. 485 b.c.e. (Louvre, Paris), and of
The Grief of Andromache. Jacques-Louis David,       the latter, an Attic black-figure hydria from
1782 (Musée du Petit Palais, Paris)                 ca. 520 b.c.e. (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston).
                                                    A fine postclassical depiction of the Hector
                                                    myth is Jacques-Louis David’s The Grief of
and cost of war even as he insists on the glory     Andromache.
of martial achievement. Hector slays Achilles’
comrade Patroclus when Patroclus, wearing
Achilles, armor in an attempt to turn the tide      Hecuba Daughter of Dymas or of Cisseus.
of war back in the Greeks’ favor, approaches        Wife of Priam, and mother of 19 of his 50
the walls of Troy. The death of Patroclus causes    sons, including Hector and Paris. Hecuba
Achilles to reenter battle after his famous with-   appears in Euripides’ trojan WoMen and
drawal. Book 7 of Homer’s Iliad centers on the      Hecuba. Additional classical sources are
duel of Hector and Ajax. Hector challenged          Apollodorus’s Library (3.12.5, Epitome 5.23),
the warriors of the Greek army to a single com-     Ovid’s MetaMorpHoses (13.422–575), Homer’s
bat to the death, where the victor was to receive   iLiad (6.251–311; 22.79–92, 405–409, 430–436;
the weaponry of the vanquished and the body         24.193–227, 283–301, 747–60), Pausanias’s
of the dead hero would be given back into the       Description of Greece (10.27.2), and Virgil’s
care of his allies for proper burial. The Argives   aeneid (2.506–558, 7.319–320). When Paris
drew lots, and Ajax was selected as their cham-     was born, Hecuba dreamed that she was giving
pion, but Zeus stopped the duel before either       birth to a torch that would destroy Troy and
was killed. Afterward, the heroes exchanged         had him exposed. In Homer’s Iliad, Hecuba
gifts; Hector received Ajax’s purple war belt,      plays a limited but dignified role. In Euripidean
and Ajax gave Hector a silver-studded sword.        tragedy, she becomes a more complex character.
    Achilles eventually met Hector in a duel.       In Euripides’ Trojan Women, Hecuba’s seem-
Hector fled around the walls of Troy; Achil-        ingly endless suffering frames the play; she
les was aided by the deceit of Athena, who          emerges as an impressive and majestic figure
appeared in the guise of one of Hector’s com-       even in her downfall. Hecuba must endure the

sacrifice of her daughter Polyxena, the murder        experienced while denying him the satisfying
of her grandson Astyanax, and the enslave-            outlet she had. Hecuba is a study in human evil
ment of the Trojan women, including herself;          and the relation among suffering, degradation,
she was awarded to Odysseus as captive slave.         and violence.
In the same play, she attempts to persuade
Menelaus to kill Helen. In Euripides’ Hecuba,                           SynoPSIS
a darker story emerges. The first part of the         The scene is set in the Thracian Chersonese
play concerns the sacrifice of Polyxena; in the       before the tent of Hecuba. The ghost of Poly-
latter part, Hecuba learns that the Thracian          dorus, the son of Hecuba and Priam, explains
king Polymestor, to whom her son, Polydorus,          how he was sent to King Polymestor of Thrace
had been entrusted, murdered Polydorus and            for safekeeping, but after the fall of Troy,
took his gold. Going from passive victim to           Polymestor killed him, threw his body into the
violent avenger, Hecuba blinds Polymestor and         sea, and took the gold that Priam had sent with
kills his sons. At this point the tradition diverg-   him. Polymestor’s ghost exits. Hecuba enters.
es: Hecuba is transformed into a dog either           She has dreamed of the death of her son Poly-
while being transported by ship to Greece, or         dorus and daughter Polyxena. The Chorus of
while being stoned by the Greeks as punish-           captive Trojan women enters. It reports that
ment for her violent crime, or while being            the ghost of Achilles demanded the sacrifice
pursued by Polymestor’s companions. Ovid’s            of a young maiden, and Odysseus persuaded
Metamorphoses (Book 13) offers a version of the       the Greeks to sacrifice Polyxena. Hecuba sum-
story of Hecuba and Polymestor.                       mons Polyxena and tells her of the Greeks’
                                                      plans. Odysseus enters, and although Hecuba
                                                      reminds him how she once saved his life, he
Hecuba Euripides (ca. 425 b.c.e.) The date            insists on taking Polyxena. Polyxena herself
of the Hecuba is not definitely known, but it         nobly declares her willingness to die. Hecuba
is usually considered to have been produced           begs to die in her place, but Odysseus refuses
in 425–424 b.c.e. Euripides writes about an           and leads Polyxena away. After the choral ode,
episode that occurs after the fall of Troy, when      the Greek herald Talthybius enters with news
Hecuba and other Trojan women are beginning           of Polyxena’s death: She freely offered herself
their lives as captive slaves, and the Greeks are     up to Neoptolemus’s sword. Hecuba laments.
preparing to depart for their homes. Hecuba,          Hecuba’s handmaid, followed by other women
who has already lost so many of her children,         carrying a shrouded corpse, brings to Hecuba
now suffers a twofold misfortune. First, her          the news of the death of her son Polydorus,
daughter Polyxena is sacrificed to appease            whose body washed up onto the shore. Hecuba
Achilles’ spirit; then, her son Polydorus is dis-     is now overwhelmed with grief. Agamemnon
covered to have been treacherously murdered           enters to ask about the burial of Polyxena.
by his guardian, King Polymestor of Thrace.           Hecuba seeks his help in punishing Polyme-
This latter discovery motivates Hecuba to             stor; he refuses to help openly but agrees to
change from an attitude of passive suffering          turn a blind eye. Hecuba sends a handmaid
to active revenge. Her revenge is terrible:           to summon Polymestor and his sons. When
She blinds Polymestor and kills his children.         Agamemnon leaves, the Chorus sing of the
Hecuba not only forces Polymestor to experi-          destruction of Troy and Helen’s culpability for
ence the wrenching pain of losing his children;       the war. Polymestor enters with his sons. On
she simultaneously renders him incapable of           the pretext of revealing to him the location of
obtaining revenge in turn. Hecuba provokes            Priam’s gold and her own jewels, Hecuba leads
in Polymestor the feelings of fury she herself        him and his sons into the tent. Polymestor is
0	                                                                                         Hecuba

heard screaming within. Hecuba emerges, then        bidder. In the description of her death given by
Polymestor. Hecuba and her attendants have          the herald Talthybius, we learn that she specifi-
blinded him and murdered his sons. Agamem-          cally demanded to be freed, so that she could
non enters and presides over an impromptu           freely present her neck to the sword, and so die
trial. Polymestor and Hecuba explain their          nobly. She makes a final, spectacular display of
motives, and Agamemnon concludes that               her beauty, tearing her robe and revealing her
Polymestor is guilty of murdering his ward          breasts, yet, as Talthybius comments, even in
out of greed for gold. In the closing dialogue,     falling onto the ground dead, she manages to
the blind Polymestor predicts that Hecuba           do so in such a way as to preserve her modesty.
will drown at sea after being transformed into      She is singled out for doom in the way that oth-
a dog, and that Cassandra and Agamemnon             ers were not, yet, as we are reminded through-
will be killed by Clytaemnestra. Agamemnon          out the play by the enslaved female Chorus, she
sends Polymestor away and prepares for the          also manages to avoid the grinding misery of a
return journey to Argos.                            slave’s life that awaits the others.
                                                        Slavery, then, is not simply a matter of
               CoMMEntARy                           domination and social position. Certainly, raw
The main character of the play, Hecuba, is a        compulsion plays a role in a person’s range
slave. She was the wife of Priam, king of Troy,     of choices, as, for example, when Odysseus
and has now been captured by the victorious         brusquely reminds Hecuba that she cannot insist
Greeks. Her family and kingdom are largely          on her own preferences, even self-destructive
destroyed, and she now must live out the dis-       ones (i.e., when she demands to be allowed to
mal aftermath of the fall of Troy. The Chorus,      die in place of, or at least alongside, her daugh-
whose singing and dancing set the broader           ter). Yet freedom and slavery depend also on
tone for the play, is composed of captive Trojan    ethical orientation and force of will. The free
women. The stage setting speaks to the condi-       action of political figures such as Agamemnon
tion of the protagonist: It is not set before the   are hedged round with cautious considerations
doors of the royal palace, but before the tent      of public opinion and expedience. Agamemnon
that the female Trojan prisoners occupy in the      sympathizes with Hecuba’s need for Polyme-
Greek army’s camp. The catastrophic situation       stor to be punished, yet, as he himself admits,
of the Trojan women was a recurrent one in the      his hands are tied. The army would mutter that
ancient world: It was normal practice to enslave    he is motivated by his connection with Cas-
and sell defeated enemies. Yet Hecuba’s situa-      sandra. He is enslaved by his own public image
tion is especially appropriate for tragedy. She     and the constraints it imposes on his actions.
was once the queen of a great city and is now a     Hecuba is quick to point up the irony. She,
miserable slave. As the play continues, her suf-    although a slave, pursues her aims freely; he,
ferings intensify, and we come to realize how       the leader of the Greek army, cannot.
far even the greatest mortals can fall.                 Agamemnon is skillfully inserted by Eurip-
    The theme of slavery forms part of the          ides amid this complex of themes. Already in
play’s broader reflections on compulsion, free-     the mythic and tragic tradition, he is a figure
dom, necessity, and the nature of evil. Polyxena    marked by compulsion and the grim necessi-
is a case in point. Like her mother, she is a       ties foisted on him by his own role as leader of
slave, yet, when faced with death, she insists      the expedition. In Aeschylus’s Oresteia, he was
on freely choosing it. Before she is led off, she   caught between the horror of killing his own
explicitly reflects on the life she would have      daughter and the impossibility of abandoning
had to lead as a slave: compulsion, humiliation,    an expedition supported by Zeus: Necessity
forced service as the bedmate of the highest        drove him to kin killing. Now, by a certain nar-

rative symmetry, the return voyage requires the    a sobering realization: Passive suffering can be
sacrifice of another maiden, not his own daugh-    converted into violent rage, a slave can become
ter, but the daughter of his enemy and counter-    a purposeful agent of vengeance, a woman can
part Priam. The sacrifice scene is reminiscent     maim and kill. Hecuba is almost by definition a
of Aeschylus’s description of the sacrifice of     long-suffering victim. After Priam’s death, she
Iphigenia: Both are virgins of royal blood sac-    represents fallen Troy in all its wretchedness,
rificed before a sympathetic Greek army.           and, unlike Priam, she continues to drag out
    We are also not allowed to forget the later    her existence after Troy’s fall. Her capacity for
consequences of Agamemnon’s act: He will be        violence reminds us of the potential effect of
killed by his own wife on his return to Argos.     degrading treatment on the conquered.
Besides the killing of Iphigenia, the main jus-        How do we evaluate this change in Hecuba?
tification of Clytaemnestra’s murderous plan is    On one level, what she accomplishes is simply
her husband’s relations with the enslaved Cas-     a harsh form of justice. Polymestor killed
sandra, to which the present play refers several   her son, his guest and ward; she kills his
times. Agamemnon, who now, as leader of the        sons. According to Hecuba’s grim metaphor,
Greek army, sententiously passes judgment on       Polymestor, who both killed her son and stole
others’ sorrows, will soon be engulfed in his      his money, has “paid his debt.” Hecuba further
own misfortune. In the play’s closing dialogue,    observes that there are deep, unchanging laws
Polymestor predicts the death of Cassandra and     overseen by the gods, and these laws cannot
Agamemnon. Agamemnon silences Polymestor,          be broken. The maintenance of such primal
and, in his final words, expresses with ignorant   justice transcends the expediencies and institu-
optimism his hope for a successful return to       tions of human society. In the trial that follows
Argos. The ominous implications are clear:         Hecuba’s revenge, her arguments demolish
Agamemnon thinks he is free to depart, but the     Polymestor’s self-serving claims of loyalty to
dark necessity that determines his fate is even    the Greeks and political necessity. If he was
now drawing him into its net. His own tragedy      such a good friend to the Greeks—and his
is about to begin.                                 status as barbarian undermines any such claim
    It is possible to read in Hecuba’s violence    from the outset—he ought to have rendered
a demonstration of the potential, motivating       up Polydorus to them before, not after the
principles behind Clytaemnestra’s subsequent       fall of Troy. No, Polymestor’s motivation was
actions. With immensely cruel irony, Euripides     greed; he pretends to be the “friend” of who-
even has Agamemnon express utter disbelief         ever will best serve his purposes. Agamemnon
at the idea that women could successfully          judges, therefore, that the punishment exacted
plan and commit violence against men. What         was just.
Agamemnon does not seem to realize is that             Agamemnon, however, is not really a reli-
in tragic mythology women, when motivated          able judge. He has shown himself to be utterly
by powerful emotions such as bereavement,          controlled by political expediency and has
are perfectly capable of violent acts (above       already committed himself to supporting
all, in Euripides). His incredulousness is the     Hecuba’s cause tacitly. Euripides, moreover,
basis of his future vulnerability, and, finally,   encourages us to view Hecuba’s act within
his death. Polymestor clearly also underesti-      the broader mythic context of revenge killing
mates Hecuba. Perhaps the audience does too.       and female violence: Her plan is compared to
Throughout the earlier portion of the play, the    the Danaids’ murder of the sons of Aegyptus,
focus has fallen on Hecuba as grieving woman       and the Lemnian women’s slaying of their
and enslaved victim. Her sudden conversion         male family members—both highly question-
into murderess comes as a shock and inspires       able actions on moral grounds, especially the

latter one. Finally, the explicit anticipation        Oresteia, in which revenge killing is equally the
of Clytaemnestra’s murder of Cassandra and            focus, and in which the first act of violence is
Agamemnon at Argos poses the question of              a human sacrifice. These animal metaphors
revenge more sharply. Agamemnon, who here             suggest, not a loss of humanity per se, but an
judges revenge killing an acceptable form of          uncivilized state of humanity.
justice, will soon himself fall victim to the cycle       The violence of feminine emotions is a
of revenge killing dramatized in Aeschylus’s          special theme of Euripides, and the present
Oresteia. The three central figures of the pres-      play is reminiscent of the Medea. In a certain
ent play’s final scene—Hecuba, Polymestor,            sense, Euripides combines two plot types, two
and Agamemnon—are tainted by violent acts,            tragic scenarios. On the one hand, there is the
and in particular, the killing of children. Each      sequence of unbearable sufferings to which
figure lives out his or her own tragedy, and none     the protagonist is subjected, as in the trojan
is capable of truly assuming moral authority.         WoMen; on the other hand, there is a chilling
The blinded Polymestor appears to assume the          sequence of female revenge, as in the Medea.
prophetic “inner sight” of other similar figures      The pivotal moment of the play is the revela-
in Greek mythology—Tiresias, Oedipus—yet              tion of Polydorus’s death. Polyxena’s death is
in the present degraded context, he can only          a terrible blow for Hecuba, but Polydorus’s
be viewed as a grotesque travesty of the blind        corpse provokes a further, different reaction:
seer. He is a seer who only recently ran around       fury and an insatiable desire for revenge. The
on all fours in vain pursuit of his tormentors,       long-suffering Hecuba becomes a Medea-type
and whose main motivation in life has been            character, who commits daring, ingenious acts
greed. Polymestor’s prophecy is the last resort       and survives to taunt her male victim at play’s
of exasperated fury.                                  end with the destruction of his family. Women,
    It is tempting to speak of the “dehumaniza-       on the Euripidean reading, are devoted to their
tion” of Hecuba, how the suffering to which           family and their “bed,” i.e., exclusive sexual
she is subjected by the victorious Greeks robs        relations with their husband, but, when pushed
her of her humanity. Yet it is not clear whether      beyond a certain point, become capable of
she becomes less “human” throughout the               destroying everything they previously devoted
course of the play, or more so. The savage need       themselves to maintaining.
to make Polymestor feel the same pain she                 Hecuba does not destroy her own family, yet
feels, to match child killing with child killing,     the killing scene is carefully designed as a grim
and, by blinding him, render him as power-            perversion of the domestic: The women draw
less and impotent as herself, might be seen as        Polymestor indoors, enfolding him in feminine
an unpleasant but all too accurately depicted         talk and touch; they examine the “Thracian”
aspect of human nature. The animal metaphors          weave of his clothing, remove his weapons,
are indeed striking: Polymestor, emerging from        and dandle his children in an affectionate
the tent, rushes around like an animal on all         manner, passing them from hand to hand until
fours and later compares himself to a wounded         they are out of sight. The seamless merging of
animal hunting a pack of hounds. Later, as pre-       domestic kindliness and murder is especially
dicted by Polymestor, Hecuba herself will be          chilling here and recalls Medea’s capacity to
transformed into a dog. One could argue that          mollify Creusa with a poisoned gift, or to kill
it all began earlier when Polyxena, a human           her own children in their home. Medea’s vio-
being, was sacrificed instead of the usual type       lent, unfeminine revenge nonetheless occurs in
of victim, an animal. This metaphorical nexus,        the domestic sphere. She deprives Jason of his
and the way in which the roles of hunter              children, and the capacity to make more chil-
and hunted are confounded, recall Aeschylus’s         dren (i.e., with Creusa). When Polymestor first

enters, Hecuba for a long time will not answer       Greece (1.35.1, 2.22.6), Theocritus’s Idylls (18),
or look at him. She offers feminine modesty as       and Virgil’s aeneid (2.567–603). Zeus seduced
a pretext, although her real reason must be her      Leda in the form of a swan, and Helen was
intense loathing for the man who killed her          subsequently born from an egg. Helen’s mortal
son and whom she is about to kill. The effect is     father was T  yndareus, the husband of Leda.
brilliantly disturbing: Polymestor’s long string     Her brothers were the Dioscuri, and her sister
of nervous pleasantries only intensifies the         was Clytaemnestra.
impression of Hecuba’s malign presence and               While Paris is the most famous abductor
his impending doom.                                  of Helen, there is a story of an earlier abduc-
    Euripides’ play about Hecuba presents a          tion by Theseus. Theseus, with the help of
different figure than the stately, long-suffer-      Pirithous, kidnapped Helen with the inten-
ing queen we might expect. Her Euripidean            tion of marrying her, but Helen’s brothers the
rage destroys this venerable image of Priam’s        Dioscuri rescued her. Helen was said to be the
wife but also makes her into a memorable and         most beautiful woman in the world and had
significant literary character, later treated by     many suitors. Her father, Tyndareus, made
Ovid and Dante. Euripides reminds us of the          all her suitors swear an oath that they would
violent rage that potentially lies concealed         uphold the rights of whichever one of them
within suffering and subjugation—an insight          should marry her. Menelaus was chosen as her
that may have been particularly relevant             husband and after the death of Tyndareus he
during the Peloponnesian War. Aeschylus’s            became king of Sparta.
Clytaemnestra appears as an evil woman,                  Paris’s abduction of Helen sparked the
capable of violence and of justifying her vio-       Trojan War. The story begins with the famous
lence in subtle ways, but the same cannot be         Judgment of Paris. At the wedding of Peleus
said of the Hecuba represented in the earlier        and Thetis, Eris (Discord or Strife) threw a
half of the play. Hecuba still appears as the        golden apple into the midst of the revelers,
noble victim, a queen fallen from greatness.         which was to be given to the most beautiful
The problem of evil is not explicable by             of Athena, Aphrodite, or Hera. Since none
inherently bad character. By the play’s end,         wished to be the arbiter of the competition,
Hecuba has recovered some of her grandeur            Zeus asked Hermes to bring the three god-
at the expense of her moral integrity; she has       desses to Mount Ida and there be judged by
achieved revenge and will be memorialized            Paris. The goddesses attempted to sway Paris’s
by the site of Cynossema (“dog’s tomb”). The         judgment. By Athena, Paris was offered wisdom
Chorus of captive women, however, will not           and unparalleled military victory; Aphrodite
achieve any such distinction. It is bleak words      offered him the love of the most beautiful
end the play. For it, there is only a long life of   mortal woman—Helen; and Hera promised
unremitting servitude.                               him the rule of Asia. Paris accepted Aphrodite’s
                                                     proposal and presented her with the golden
                                                     apple. He stayed as a guest at Menelaus’s pal-
Helen Daughter of Zeus and Leda. Helen               ace, while Menelaus himself was away in Crete
appears in Euripides’ HeLen, orestes, and            at a funeral, and carried Helen off with him
trojan WoMen. Addition classical sources are         to Troy. In some accounts, Helen went with
Apollodorus’s Library (3.10.7–3.11.1, Epitome        Paris willingly. In other accounts, he forcibly
3.1–6, 3.28, 5.8–22, 6.29), Herodotus’s Histories    abducted her. Because her former suitors had
(2,112–2,120), Homer’s iLiad (3.121–447,             sworn the oath to defend the rights of Helen’s
6.313–369, 24.761–776) and odyssey (4.81–85,         husband, her removal from Menelaus triggered
120–305, 15.56–181), Pausanias’s Description of      the war against Troy.

                                                      caused and does not fully admire her second
                                                      husband, Paris. Helen’s terrible beauty, in the
                                                      Homeric viewpoint, comes from the gods,
                                                      and this divine aspect of Helen makes her an
                                                      object of admiration and wonder, aside from
                                                      any questions of blame. In Athenian tragedy,
                                                      Helen’s name is normally evoked as the cause
                                                      of immense destruction, although Euripides’
                                                      Helen is more sympathetic. She appears vain in
                                                      Euripides’ Orestes, but at the end she is saved
                                                      from harm by being made immortal. The hero
                                                      Aeneas, in a disputed passage in Virgil’s Aeneid,
                                                      briefly considers killing Helen for all the havoc
                                                      she caused. There is a story that the Greek
                                                      poet Stesichorus, writing in the sixth century
                                                      b.c.e., was at first critical of Helen but then
                                                      was struck blind. He subsequently composed a
                                                      recantation, or palinode. The rhetorician Gor-
                                                      gias wrote a speech in praise of Helen. Helen
                                                      was a figure who clearly inspired strong, and
                                                      often opposing, viewpoints throughout classi-
                                                      cal antiquity.
The Love of Helen and Paris (detail). Jacques-Louis
David, 1788 (Louvre, Paris)
                                                      Helen Euripides (ca. 412 b.c.e.) Euripides’
                                                      Helen was produced in 412 b.c.e. In this play,
    A radically variant tradition, best repre-        Euripides develops an alternative trajectory of
sented by Herodotus’s Histories and Euripides’        the Helen story: Rather than actually going
Helen, insists that Helen never went to Troy but      to Troy, she spends the duration of the war in
remained in Egypt throughout the war. In this         Egypt. In the Euripidean version, Hera was
version, the gods, for reasons that vary depend-      angry at Paris for awarding Aphrodite the
ing on the author relating them, fashioned a          golden apple as the most beautiful of the god-
phantom image of Helen, and this phantom              desses, and decided to punish him by creating
image went to Troy, causing the war and the           a phantom image of Helen out of ether. Thus,
loss of so many lives. In Euripides’ Helen,           Paris did not possess Helen, and yet Troy,
Menelaus began to take the phantom image              because of the mistaken impression created
home with him after the war, when suddenly            by the phantom Helen, still had to suffer the
she disappeared. He then came to Egypt, where         consequences of the Greek expedition. As a
he met the real Helen, and he escaped with her        result, countless heroes perished and lives were
from the barbarian ruler Theoclymenus.                destroyed for a mere illusion. Euripides bril-
    Helen’s reputation and character in lit-          liantly explores themes of doubling, mimesis,
erature vary widely. Homer’s Iliad represents         deception, and theatricality, while at the same
Helen in a relatively positive light, given that      time reflecting on the destructiveness of war
she is the cause of the war. Aphrodite bul-           in the context of the failed Sicilian Expedition.
lies her ruthlessly, and it seems clear that          Helen, like the approximately contemporary
Helen deeply regrets the destruction she has          ipHigenia aMong tHe taurians, ends “happily”

with a successful escape, yet the implications      her for having a character “very different” from
of Euripides’ tragedy remain troubling and          Helen’s, Teucer exits.
provocative.                                            Helen laments her fate. The Chorus of
                                                    captive Greek women enters. She continues
                  SynoPSIS                          to rehearse woefully what she learned from
The scene is set in front of the palace of Theo-    Teucer: the death of Leda and the Dioscuri, her
clymenus, king of Egypt; the tomb of Proteus,       husband lost at sea. She laments that Hera and
Theoclymenus’s father, is in the foreground.        Aphrodite have brought about strife between
Helen, alone on stage, tells of the Egyptian        Greece and Troy. Then, in a long speech, she
royal family and her own lineage. She goes          describes her unfortunate condition: She has
on to relate how she was granted to Paris as        done nothing wrong, yet suffers from a bad
a result of the contest of the three goddesses,     reputation, and now that her husband is dead,
and how, subsequently, Hera, angry at Paris         there is no one who will know her true iden-
for choosing Aphrodite, substituted a phantom       tity by sure signs. She considers suicide. The
image of Helen, not Helen herself. The war          Chorus consoles her, casting doubt on some of
over the false Helen was waged between Tro-         Teucer’s information. The Chorus persuades
jans and Greeks. Zeus, in the meantime, had         her to consult Theonoe as to whether or not
Hermes take her to Egypt, since the king of         her husband is still alive. Helen continues to
Egypt at that time, Proteus, was considered to      lament her own fate and that of Troy, and then
have considerable self-restraint. When he died,     enters the palace with the Chorus.
however, his son Theoclymenus came to the               Menelaus enters. He expresses the wish
throne, and, lacking his father’s self-restraint,   that Pelops had never lived to beget his line.
began pursuing Helen. Now she is a suppli-          He has been wandering since the fall of Troy,
ant at Proteus’s tomb, seeking to maintain her      and now, shipwrecked, wasted with hunger, and
honor and chastity in the expectation that, as      clad in rags, he seeks help from the palace; he
prophesied by Hermes, she will one day return       has left “Helen” in a cave, guarded by his sur-
to Sparta and live with her husband, Menelaus.      viving comrades. He knocks at the palace gate.
The Greek hero Teucer enters. He is aston-          An old woman, the porter, opens the door. She
ished by the woman’s “similarity” to the hated      tells him to go away, informing him that he is
Helen, declares that he would like to kill her,     in Egypt, that the ruler, Proteus’s son, hates
but then controls his anger and apologizes. He      Greeks, and that Helen, daughter of Tyndareus
identifies himself as Teucer, son of Telamon.       of Lacedaemon, is within: She came to Egypt
He was exiled by his father, when his half-         before the Greek expedition to Troy. She, too,
brother Ajax killed himself at Troy because         warns Menelaus of the king’s hostility toward
he had not been awarded Achilles’ armor. He         Greeks before she departs, closing the door
also reports that Troy fell seven years ago, and    behind her. Menelaus is momentarily con-
that Menelaus took back Helen, but has not          founded. Can there be two Helens, two Tyn-
yet arrived home, and is rumored to be dead;        dareuses, and two Lacedaemons? He concludes
Helen’s mother, Leda, is said to have killed her-   that there is simply a duplication of names,
self in shame. The Dioscuri are said to be dead     resolves to await the king, and withdraws to the
and yet not dead, and to have killed themselves     background.
out of shame for their sister. Teucer has come          The Chorus enters and reports that The-
to consult the prophetess Theonoe, daughter         onoe has revealed that Menalaus is not dead
of Proteus, regarding the foundation of his new     but still wandering from land to land. Helen
Salamis. Helen warns him of the murderous           enters and gladly reports the same news. At this
Theoclymenus. After thanking her and praising       point, Menelaus comes forward, and Helen,

not recognizing him in his current state, is             The Chorus sings of Helen and her strange
afraid that he is a thug sent by Theocly-            destiny: She is the daughter of Leda and Zeus
menus. After some time she recognizes him,           and is yet deemed faithless and godless by
but he remains confused by her resemblance           Greece. Theoclymenus enters with attendants.
to Helen. She insists she is Helen, and tells        He is dismayed that Helen seems to have dis-
him how Hera fashioned the phantom Helen             appeared, but then Helen enters in mourning
from ether. Menelaus is still unconvinced. A         clothes. She reports that her husband has died
messenger enters. The messengers reports that        at sea, as testified by Theonoe and the man
the “Helen” in the cave vanished after revealing     (actually Menelaus) by the tomb. For his part,
Hera’s trick and proclaiming the true Helen’s        Menelaus provides a detailed account of the
innocence. Menelaus is now convinced and             Greek funeral ceremony customary for a man
joyfully embraces his wife. Helen tells him that     perished at sea. The ceremony requires, among
Leda committed suicide from shame and that           other things, a ship; the wife’s presence on the
their daughter Hermione has neither child nor        ship, moreover, is essential. Menelaus, Helen,
husband. The messenger expresses wonder at           and Theoclymenus exit.
the present turn of events. Menelaus orders him          The Chorus sings of the abduction of Perse-
to bring the news to their friends, who are wait-    phone, and how Aphrodite was the first to suc-
ing for them by the shore. The messenger, com-       ceed in distracting Demeter from her grief and
menting on the ignorance of prophets, exits.         making her laugh. It hopes that Helen may find
    Helen warns Menelaus that he is in danger        a way to appease the goddess and make atone-
from Theoclymenus. Menelaus wishes to face           ment for whatever act caused Aphrodite to hate
him in combat, but Helen demurs. She sug-            her. Helen enters. She reports that everything
gests that they persuade Theonoe not to reveal       is going smoothly and asks the Chorus to keep
Menelaus’s presence to her brother Theocly-          their secret. Menelaus and Theoclymenus enter.
menus. They swear an oath to each other that         Theoclymenus somewhat grudgingly gives
they will die if they cannot escape together.        Helen permission to go on the ship and happily
Theonoe enters. She must either obey Hera,           anticipates their marriage. He exits. Menelaus
who now favors Menelaus and Helen, and con-          calls on Zeus and the gods for aid, and then he
ceal his presence, or obey Aphrodite and her         and Helen leave also.
brother’s command by warning him of Menel-               The Chorus wishes Helen a speedy and
aus’s arrival. She is about to inform her brother,   successful return to Greece. The king enters
when Helen supplicates her. She beseeches her        from the palace. A messenger arrives with the
to adhere to her father Proteus’s commitments        news that Menelaus, who falsely reported his
rather than bending to her brother’s will to buy     own death, has succeeded in departing on the
his gratitude. Menelaus, stating that womanly        ship with Helen. Theoclymenus is enraged,
tears are not appropriate for him, insists that      not least by his sister’s betrayal. In rapid-fire
she be worthy of her father and that he and          dialogue, he announces his murderous designs
Helen will die rather than give in to Theo-          on his sister, while the Chorus attempts to dis-
clymenus. Theonoe is persuaded to support            suade him. The Dioscuri appear from above.
Menelaus and Helen and vows not to tell her          They command Theoclymenus to check his
brother, although they must devise their own         anger; it is Helen’s destiny to return now
escape. She exits. Helen proposes that Menel-        with her husband; they address Helen herself
aus pretend to bring the news of his own death       and guarantee her a safe return journey; they
and that she demand a cenotaph burial at sea in      promise her that she will be worshipped as a
a ship. They can then meet with his crew and         goddess and receive rites along with her broth-
use the ship to escape. She exits.                   ers, and that an island on the Attic coast where

she stayed on her travels will be named after       abducted by Paris, resides in Troy during the
her, and that Menelaus, after his death, will       war that the Greeks wage to obtain her. Helen
dwell on the Island of the Blessed. Theocly-        is not represented in a totally negative light
menus agrees to desist and hails Helen’s noble      by Homer, since it is clear that her destructive
spirit. All exit.                                   role is forced on her by Aphrodite, and yet in
                                                    the broader picture she is not wholly innocent
               CoMMEntARy                           and is perceived to be the cause of many deaths
The similarity between Helen (412 b.c.e.) and       and great destruction. The lyric poet Stesicho-
Iphigenia among the Taurians (ca. 414 b.c.e.) is    rus (sixth century b.c.e.) is said to have first
quite close. A Greek woman vitally connected        written of her in the traditional fashion as the
with the Trojan War, stranded in a barbar-          cause of destruction and, later, when he was
ian land and under the control of a barbarian       blinded as a punishment for what he wrote, to
tyrant who displays a propensity for killing        have written a palinode, recanting his earlier
Greeks, meets, in a dramatic recognition scene,     criticism of Helen and claiming that she never
her beloved kinsman or husband, and subse-          went to Troy. The historian Herodotus records
quently escapes with him by fooling the tyrant      a comparable version. Helen, on the way to
with a sham ceremony. Like Iphigenia, Helen         Troy with Paris, was detained in Egypt by
is closely associated with a leader of the expe-    Proteus. In Euripides’ play, Helen did not even
dition (in her case, Menelaus), and because of      board a ship with Paris but was deposited for
a mysterious divine intervention, her true fate     safekeeping with Proteus in Egypt by Hermes:
and location are unknown. Iphigenia is sup-         Only her phantom image (Greek eidolon) was
posed to have died in the sacrifice, but really     sent to Troy.
resides among the Taurians, while Helen is              How seriously should we take this myth?
supposed to have been taken to Troy, but really     Helen is traditionally the cause of the Trojan
remains in Egypt. Finally, in each case, the play   War, and thus the justification for the most
ends with the intervention of a deus ex machina     important sequence of events in Greek mythol-
(Athena, Dioscuri), who prevents the barbar-        ogy. Aeschylus, in agaMeMnon, linked her
ian king from pursuing the Greeks as they           name with the Greek word for “destroy,” and
escape by sea.                                      elsewhere poets, including Euripides, play on
    Both plays were written during the Pelo-        the similarity of Helen and Hellas (Greece):
ponnesian War, close to the time of the Sicilian    She stands for Greece, the most beautiful Greek
Expedition. The positive representation of the      woman, but also the cause of Troy’s destruction
Spartan Helen may suggest an inclination for        and many Greek deaths. Yet the version of the
peace on the playwright’s part, while the ele-      myth that Euripides presents reduces Helen’s
ments of romance and escape in a foreign land       centrality as cause of the Trojan War to mere
would have provided the Athenian audience           report, a falsity foisted on the Greeks by the
with a much-needed distraction. Both plays are      gods. It is merely her name that resides in Troy,
suspenseful and broadly (but hardly uniformly)      a name that has become a byword for disgrace
optimistic in tone, and both emphasize the cul-     and faithlessness, and that has caused such
tural solidarity of Greeks as opposed to intra-     mayhem; her body is innocent of wrongdoing
Hellenic strife; yet in the background of both      and has remained in Egypt throughout the war.
plays there looms an immensely destructive          Helen is forced to adopt two identities at once,
war waged for questionable purposes.                a virtuous one and an evil one: She experiences
    The myth represented in Euripides’ Helen        a split reality.
is a particularly interesting one. Homer’s iLiad        Euripides is engaging in subtle play with
and odyssey tell the traditional story: Helen,      the categories of illusion, reality, and story. The

“real” Helen is not the one the world knows,         ues and even intensifies after the war itself.
and when Teucer meets her, he mistakes the           Helen can thus assess from his example how
real Helen for a copy or likeness. In the same       much suffering her “name” has caused among
speech, Teucer compares the palace of Theo-          the Greek heroes. In addition, the scene with
clymenus to the palace of Pluto (see Hades),         Teucer, who comes from Salamis, an island
king of the underworld, a place associated           closely associated with Athens, may implicitly
with insubstantial wraiths (eidola) and dreams.      suggest rapprochement with Sparta. When
Egypt, for the Greeks, is likewise a land of mys-    he first sees the Spartan Helen, he wishes to
terious inversions of reality, of phantoms and       kill her because of her physical similarity to
likenesses. While Euripides’ play, in large part,    “Helen,” but by the end of their dialogue,
insists on Helen’s innocence as substantiated by     they are friendly to and sympathetic with each
the alternative myth of her residence in Egypt,      other. Finally, we might include Teucer among
we cannot help recalling that the play itself        examples of doubling. According to Telamon,
offers a representation or mimetic likeness that     he should have died at Troy like his brother, yet
has no inherent priority over other versions         the duality of these two brothers is imperfect:
of the myth. The playwright has sculpted his         One is legitimate, the other a bastard son; one
“Helen” out of words, just as the gods in the        perished by his own hand at Troy, one survived.
myth shape the phantom Helen out of ether.           Teucer, moreover, since he has been exiled, is
    Throughout the play there is a thematic          destined to found a new homeland for him-
concern with doubling and mimesis, naming,           self, a second Salamis. This doubling produces
truth, and illusion. The origins of Helen, born      further ironies: The beloved, legitimate son
from Leda’s egg and the swan-formed Zeus,            dies shamefully, while the rejected, illegitimate
are a fantastic story, not easy to believe. Teucer   son reproduces his father’s city. The figure of
arrives with the stories of Leda’s suicide and       Teucer, in other words, recapitulates many of
the death of her brothers, the Dioscuri: Helen       the themes associated with Helen herself: exile,
is then in the difficult position of mourn-          doubling, a bad reputation unjustly assigned,
ing deaths that she has experienced only by          the death of brothers.
rumor. The Dioscuri are an appropriate duo               Life and death are part of the play of illusion.
for the play, since, as twins, they reflect the      The same word often used of Helen’s phantom
play’s theme of doubling and likeness: Helen,        image (eidolon) is also used of the empty images
in being split into two identical selves, has        or wraiths of the dead in the underworld. The
come to resemble her twin brothers. Their            Dioscuri are perfect as presiding deities of the
reality is also dual; they are dead, yet immor-      play—twins, half-dead, half-immortal, dead
tal, and their story about them, as Teucer           and living by alternation. A key shift in the
reports, is double. Menelaus, when he arrives        play comes when the central characters, Helen
in Egypt, is confounded by the doubling of           and Menelaus, begin to employ the strategies
reality: Can there be two Spartas, two men           of doubling, illusion, and false death on their
named Tyndareus?                                     behalf, i.e., they take control of tendencies that
    The choice of Teucer as representative of        have hitherto victimized them. Menelaus will
the Greek expedition in Egypt is intriguing          “die,” but only by report (Logos), just as, previ-
and potentially relates to the same complex          ously, Helen (to her grief) went to Troy only in
of themes. In an immediate sense, Teucer             name. The trick is old and trite, as Menelaus
has experienced catastrophic loss due to the         himself concedes, and goes back to Aeschylus’s
war notionally caused by Helen. He has lost          Libation bearers, but it nonetheless succeeds.
his brother Ajax and now has been exiled by          In reclaiming their own reality, Menelaus and
his father, Telamon. His misfortune contin-          Helen produce a triumphant, metatheatrical

ruse—a strategic play within a play that facili-     would destroy themselves for no reason. The
tates their escape.                                  messenger, before exiting, reflects on the emp-
    With complex irony, Euripides has his char-      tiness of prophecy and mendacity of prophets,
acters assume theatrical roles morally anti-         for neither the Greek prophet Calchas nor the
thetical to the moral integrity that they have       Trojan Helenus revealed the nullity and point-
been attempting to reclaim. The false burial         lessness at the heart of the war.
ceremony, with its counterfeit rites designed to         The question of divine justice and truth as
fool the barbarian Theoclymenus, simulates a         revealed through prophets pervades the play.
false Greekness. The barbarian Theoclymenus,         As in Iphigenia among the Taurians, the gods
moreover, becomes a model host to Menelaus,          are at least in part revalidated by the play’s
who in turn betrays his hospitality, stealing        ending. Theonoe, whose name refers to divine
Helen by deceit. Menelaus, in other words,           knowledge, turns out to be a true prophet of
must play the part of guest turned robber, i.e.,     Menelaus’s survival and, after some hesitation,
the part of Paris. Helen, to prove she is not        sides with her pious father, Proteus, rather than
“Helen,” i.e., the faithless traitor and destroyer   her impious, violent brother. She does need
of Greek lives, must assume the very character       to be persuaded, however, to follow the path
of “Helen,” an ingenious trickster and escape        of moral integrity and courage: Her initial
artist by ship. The two characters live out an       instinct is to tell her brother immediately of
inverted reality in a foreign land, a place of       Menelaus’s presence in Egypt. The appearance
exotic unreality, to recover their proper exis-      of the Dioscuri at the end, moreover, prevents
tence in Sparta. Whereas previously the false        Theoclymenus from carrying out further vio-
report/name of Helen in Troy overshadowed            lent designs. The two gods then reveal Helen’s
the true Helen residing in Egypt, now the            and Menelaus’s future destinies, which seems
false report of the dead Menelaus allows the         to make good their previous suffering to some
real Menelaus to escape from Egypt by the            extent: An island will be named after Helen,
device of a false cenotaphic burial. Menelaus        while the gods will grant Menelaus a dwell-
is reported dead but absent in body; in reality,     ing on the Island of the Blessed. Even Hera,
he is alive and present. The themes of life and      Helen’s victimizer, who created her phantom
death, insubstantial phantom and solid bodily        image and caused the Trojan War out of pique,
reality, report and reality thus end up apply-       has come around by the end and supports the
ing to Menelaus just as much as they apply to        couple’s escape from Egypt. Only Aphrodite
Helen.                                               remains hostile and destructive.
    If there was no true Helen in Troy, this sim-        The appearance of gods ex machina, how-
ple alteration wreaks havoc with vast stretches      ever, is an exceptional circumstance and goes
of Greek mythology: the Iliad, the Odyssey, the      to show how brittle and fragile the sense of
story of the return voyages, and so on. All the      justice and meaningful resolution is in Eurip-
stories of Greek heroes associated with Troy         idean tragedy; divine intervention, as in Iphi-
are thereby infused with a bitter sense of futil-    genia among the Taurians, is required to salvage
ity. It may not be accidental that this motif        something from a hopeless muddle, a world
arises in a play performed after the spectacular     in which arbitrary destruction, loss of iden-
failure of Athens’ Sicilian Expedition, an expe-     tity, and confused wandering appear to be the
dition that was immensely destructive for the        norm. Euripides, as elsewhere, radically polar-
Athenians, based on a hope that turned out to        izes the options, so that we are asked to choose
be delusive. The gods in particular are revealed     between belief in the gods’ capacity to order
in a sinister light by Euripides’ play: They fash-   our lives and a violent chaos. As elsewhere,
ioned a phantom Helen so that human beings           radical division that threatens to fracture our
00	                                                                                         Helenus

sense of the wholeness of reality and of our        Demeter (22–27, 62–89), Apollodorus’s Library
lives is a central Euripidean theme. Helen ends     (1.2.2, 1.4.3, 1.4.6, 1.9.28, 2.5.10–11, Epitome
“happily” yet remains tragic in many of its         2.12, 7.22), Apollonius of Rhodes’s voyage
core aspects: The audience has had occasion         of tHe argonauts (4.964–969), Hesiod’s
to appreciate the arbitrary power of the gods       tHeogony (371–374, 956–962), Homer’s
over human lives, the constant possibility of       iLiad (3.277, 19.259) and odyssey (8.270–271,
radical reversals of fortune, and the evanes-       12.127–241), Ovid’s MetaMorpHoses (1.750–
cence and fragility of human perceptions and        2.380, 4.169–270), Pausanias’s Description of
knowledge.                                          Greece (2.1.6), and Pindar’s Olympian Odes
                                                    (7.54–76). Helios drives a blazing chariot across
                                                    the sky from east to west bringing daylight
Helenus A Trojan seer. Son of Hecuba                hours. He is preceded by Eos, who drives her
and Priam. Classical sources are Homer’s            own, lesser chariot, followed by Selene, after
iLiad (6.76, 12.94, 13.576, 24.249) and Virgil’s    Helios’s disappearance on the western horizon.
aeneid (3.333). In the Iliad, Helenus is wound-     According to Apollodorus, Helios cured the
ed by Menelaus. He is later captured by             hunter Orion of blindness. Phaethon, Helios’s
Odysseus and reveals that Philoctetes’ bow          son by Clymene, recklessly drove his father’s
is required for the capture of Troy. After the      chariot across the sky to his death. Also by
war, Helenus and Andromache were given              Clymene, Helios’s daughters were Leucothoe
to Neoptolemus as captive slaves. When              (see Clytie) and Eurynome. Helios was also
Orestes killed Neoptolemus, Helenus and             the father, by Perseis, of the sorceress Circe,
Andromache married and ruled in Epirus,             Aeetes (king of Colchis), and Pasiphae (wife
where they recreated a “little Troy,” according     of Minos). Medea was his granddaughter, and
to Virgil’s aeneid. Helenus and Andromache          Helios provided her with his chariot as means
host the wandering hero, Aeneas, and Helenus        of escape after she murdered her children. The
offers prophecies of the remainder of his voy-      Heliades are also daughters of Helios. The
age to Italy.                                       Heliades guarded the herds of Helios on the
                                                    island of Thrinacia. In Homer’s Odyssey, the
Heliades Daughters of Clymene and Helios.           crew was warned not to eat the cattle of Helios,
Classical sources are Hyginus’s Fabulae (154) and   but driven by hunger, they neglected the warn-
Ovid’s MetaMorpHoses (2.340–365). Sisters,          ing and were later punished by death at sea.
whose names are alternately given as Aegiale,           In visual representations, Helios is often
Aegle, and Aetheria or Helia, Merope, Phoebe,       shown in his chariot, sometimes in the com-
Aetheria, and Dioxippe. Their brother was           pany of his sisters, as in an Attic red-figure cyc-
the ill-fated Phaethon, who drove his father’s      lix krater from ca. 430 b.c.e. (British Museum,
chariot recklessly across the sky to his death.     London).
In their grief, his sisters were transformed into
poplar trees and their tears into amber.            Helle See Athamas; Phrixus.

Helios (Sol) Greek god of the sun. Son of           Hephaestus (Vulcan) Olympian god of the
the Titans Hyperion, the sun god, and Theia.        forge and of fire. Son of Zeus and Hera.
Brother of Eos and Selene, who, respectively,       Hephaestus appears in Euripides’ aLcestis
represent the Dawn and the Moon. In some            and HeracLes and Sophocles’ tracHiniae.
cases, Helios is conflated with the god Apollo.     Additional classical sources are the Homeric
Classical sources are the Homeric Hymn to           Hymn to Hephaestus and the Homeric Hymn
Hephaestus	                                                                                        0

to Apollo (316–320), Apollodorus’s Library              for Hera, which, once she sat on it, held her
(1.3.5–6, 1.4.3, 1.7.1, 1.9.26, 2.4.11, 2.5.6, 3.4.2,   down and prevented her from rising. Dionysus
3.14.6), Apollonius of Rhodes’s voyage of tHe           persuaded Hephaestus (in some accounts, by
argonauts (1.202–206, 850–860), Hesiod’s                making him drunk) to return to Olympus and
tHeogony (570–584, 927–929, 945–946) and                free his mother.
WorKs and days (60–71), Homer’s iLiad                       In some sources, Hephaestus was married to
(1.571–608, 5.9–24, 18.368–617, 21.328–382)             one of the three Graces, but, more commonly,
and odyssey (7.91–94, 8.266–366), Hyginus’s             his wife was said to be Aphrodite. Notoriously
Fabulae (148, 166), Lucian’s diaLogues of tHe           she deceived him with Ares, god of war. Hep-
gods (11, 13, 17, 21), Pausanias’s Description          haestus was informed of their affair by Helios,
of Greece (1.20.3, 2.31.3), Pindar’s Olympian           and he devised an incredibly fine chain-link
Odes (7.35–38), and Virgil’s aeneid (8.416–454).        net to ensnare the entwined lovers, whom he
Hephaestus was later identified by the Romans           then exhibited to the mockery of the other
with Vulcan, their own god of fire. Hephaestus’s        gods. The union of Aphrodite and Ares pro-
domain is the forge, and he represents black-           duced Harmonia, wife of Cadmus and ancestor
smiths, artisans, and sculptors. He is sometimes        of Oedipus. Hephaestus presented Harmonia
paired with Athena. It was from these two               with a finely worked, yet cursed, necklace that
Olympians that Prometheus stole the crafts              brought suffering to her descendants.
that would enable humanity to survive and pros-             In the Iliad, Hephaestus was married to
per. Hephaestus is a remarkable figure among            Charis, one of the Graces. It was Charis who
the pantheon of Olympian gods; he does not              received Thetis warmly into their home when
possess physical perfection nor does he elicit          she came to ask Hephaestus to make arms for
the fearful respect of the other gods. Within the       her son Achilles. Hephaestus obliged her
realm of his forge, however, Hephaestus’s cre-          unhesitatingly in gratitude for Thetis’s care of
ations are masterpieces, described in some detail       him in infancy. The shield Hephaestus created
in the Iliad and The Aeneid and on this account         for Achilles, with its five layers of bronze, is
his praises are sung in the Homeric Hymns.              famously described in Book 18 of the Iliad.
Hephaestus built incredible mansions on Mount               Virgil tells a comparable story in the
Olympus for himself and the Olympian gods,              Aeneid. Here Hephaestus’s wife is Venus (Aph-
the bronze man of Talos, and fantastic armor for        rodite), who requested arms for her son
the gods and mortal heroes.                             Aeneas. Hephaestus descended to his forge in
    There are different versions of the origins         an underground cavern on a volcanic island
of Hephaestus. According to Apollodorus and             off the coast of Sicily, where, amid the roar of
Homer, he was the son of Zeus and Hera,                 an enormous furnace and scorching heat, he
but in Hesiod, the Homeric Hymn, and Hygi-              created spectacular arms for Aeneas: a crested
nus, he was born of Hera parthenogenetically.           helmet, a breastplate of bronze, sword, spear,
Hephaestus was known as the “Lame One,”                 and shield. Again, the shield was exquisite;
either because he was born with a deformity             Hephaestus carved onto its surface the very
or because of an incident in his childhood in           history of Rome.
which either Zeus or his mother threw him                   In another myth, Hephaestus attempted to
down from Olympus. In Homer’s version of the            rape Athena. She broke away from his amorous
myth, Hephaestus was crippled from birth, and           grasp, but as she did so, his seed fell on the
in disgust, his mother, Hera, threw him down            earth and from it was born Erichthonius, an
to earth, where he was rescued and raised by            early ruler of Athens.
Eurynome and Thetis. To take revenge on his                 Hephaestus appears as a minor character in
mother, Hephaestus created a golden throne              other myths. He broke open Zeus’s aching head
0	                                                                                       Hephaestus

Vulcan [Hephaestus] at His Forge with Mars and Venus. Engraving, after Parmigianino, 1543 (Metropolitan
Museum of Art, New York)

from which Athena emerged fully formed.               from ca. 430 b.c.e. (Toledo Museum of Art,
According to Hesiod, Hephaestus created Pan-          Toledo). His attributes are blacksmith’s tools,
dora, the first mortal woman, out of clay.            which he is shown carrying in the François Vase
Hephaestus also gave aid to the giant Orion,          of ca. 570 b.c.e. (Museo Archeologico Nazio-
helping to lead the blind hunter toward the           nale, Florence). Here, Hephaestus carries a large
west to regain his vision. At the command of          hammer on his return to Mount Olympus. Other
Zeus, Hephaestus chained Prometheus to the            themes include the creation of Pandora and his
boulder that would be the site of his torments.       attendance at the birth of Athena. An example
During the Trojan War, Hephaestus was on the          of the latter is an Attic red-figure kylix from ca.
side of the Greeks, and in Iliad 21, at Hera’s urg-   560 b.c.e. (British Museum, London), on which
ing, subdues the river Scamander with flame in        Hephaestus holds the mallet with which he
order protect Achilles.                               struck Zeus’s head to allow the birth of Athena.
    In visual representations, Hephaestus is often    Pausanias’s Description of Greece refers to a simi-
bearded, stocky, and muscled. He is sometimes         lar scene carved in relief around the base of the
depicted wearing the round cap associated with        pedestal of the statue of Athena on the Acropo-
artisans and shown riding a donkey on his return      lis. In a wall painting from Pompeii from the
to Olympus, as in an Attic red-figure skyphos         ca. first century b.c.e., Hephaestus, surrounded
Hera	                                                                                               0

by the Cyclopes, presents Thetis with the arms       children by him: Ares (god of war), Eileithyia
that he made for Achilles (Museo Archeologico        (goddess of childbirth), Hebe (goddess of eter-
Nazionale, Naples). A visual theme popular in        nal youth), and Hephaestus (god of fire and
the postclassical period was Hephaestus’s cap-       the forge). In some sources, Hera is said to
ture of Aphrodite and Mars in the golden net,        have conceived Hephaestus parthenogeneti-
as in Martin Van Heemskerk’s painting Mars           cally. Hera is said to have thrown Hephaestus
and Venus of 1536. In Enea Vico’s engraving,         from Mount Olympus because he was lame;
Vulcan at His Forge with Mars and Venus, after a     in some versions, the fall caused his lame-
work by Parmigianino, from 1543 (Metropoli-          ness. Hephaestus revenged himself on Hera by
tan Museum, New York), Hephaestus works at           creating for her a throne that bound her to it
his forge in the foreground of the image while       went she sat on it. Hephaestus was eventually
in the background Aphrodite embraces Ares in         persuaded by Dionysus to return to Mount
her bed. On the same theme, Hephaestus (iden-        Olympus and liberate Hera.
tified as Vulcan) appears in Andrea Mantegna’s           The majority of Hera’s myths represent
Parnassus from 1497 (Louvre, Paris). Among the       the goddess as a jealous and vindictive wife.
frescoes of the Villa Farnesina (Rome), painted      Zeus’s extramarital loves were numerous, and
in 1508–13 by Baldassare Peruzzi, a grand fresco     his infidelities attracted Hera’s wrath. She
over the fireplace in the Room of Perspectives       sometimes directed her anger at Zeus but was
shows Hephaestus working in his forge. Other         more commonly angry toward Zeus’s consort
postclassical images include Peter Paul Rubens’s     and the offspring of the affair. The myth of
Vulcan Forging the Thunderbolts of Jove from ca.     Io is a good example. Io was an attendant
                                                     of the Temple of Hera at Argos when she
1616 (Museum of Ancient Art, Brussels) and
                                                     came to Zeus’s attention. According to Ovid’s
François Boucher’s The Forge of Vulcan of 1747
(Louvre, Paris).

Hera (Juno) Olympian goddess of mar-
riage. Wife of Zeus. Daughter of the Titans
Cronus and Rhea. Classical sources are the
Homeric Hymn to Hera, Aeschlyus’s proMetHeus
bound (1.81, 365–369), Apollodorus’s Library
(1.1.6, 2.1.3–4, 2.4.8, 3.6.7, 3.8.2, Epitome
3.2), Apollonius of Rhodes’s voyage of tHe
argonauts (passim), Hesiod’s tHeogony
(326–332, 453–506, 921–929), Homer’s iLiad
(passim), Hyginus’s Fabulae (5.13, 22, 102,
150), Lucian’s diaLogues of tHe gods (9,
18, 22), Ovid’s MetaMorpHoses (1.568–746),
Pausanias’s Description of Greece (2.13.3, 2.17.1–
7, 8.22.1–2, 9.2.7–3.8), Pindar’s Nemean Odes
(1.33–72), and Virgil’s aeneid (passim). Juno,
Roman goddess of marriage and childbirth, was
syncretized with the Greek goddess Hera. Juno
gave her name to the month of June, which
was seen as a propitious time for weddings.          Juno. Rembrandt van Rijn, ca. 1660–65 (Metropolitan
Hera married her brother Zeus and had four           Museum of Art, New York)
0	                                                                                          Hera

Metamorphoses, Zeus set a cloud cover over         of a golden necklace) to arrive and allow for
the place in which he was seducing Io. Hera        Apollo’s birth.
descended from Mount Olympus in the hope               The most famous instance of Hera’s enmity
of catching Zeus in his deceit, but he heard her   was that of Heracles. Zeus had impregnated
coming and quickly transformed Io into a cow       Alcmene and decreed that the child about to
(in some sources, Hera turned Io into a cow        be born would reign over the Argolid. Hera,
herself). Hera suspiciously asked for the heifer   aided by Eileithyia, delayed Heracle’s birth by
as a gift, and Zeus was obliged to acquiesce.      seven days and nights so that Eurystheus, son
Hera then set Argus, the All-Seeing, to watch      of Sthenelus and cousin to Heracles, should be
over Io, whom he tethered to an olive tree in      born first and rule instead of Heracles. Accord-
Hera’s sacred precinct. Hermes, commanded          ing to Diodorus Siculus, Alcmene, fearing for
by Zeus, freed Io and beheaded Argus. In           the infant Heracles, exposed him in a field,
honor of his service to her, Hera plucked out      where he was found by Athena. The goddess
Argus’s many sightless eyes and placed them        was struck by the child’s vigor and persuaded
on the tail of her bird, the peacock. Io was       Hera to nurse him. Hera agreed but, alarmed
liberated from Argus’s surveillance, but while     by the strength of the baby, gave him back to
she was still in bovine form, Hera sent a gadfly   Athena, who took Heracles back to Alcmene
to drive her mad. Chased by the gadfly, Io fled    to be nursed. Hera sent two serpents to kill
to Egypt. According to Aeschlyus’s Prometheus      him in his cradle, but Heracles strangled them.
Bound, it was the ghost of Argus, in the form of   Hera’s resentment continued during Heracles’
a gadfly, that pursued and tormented her.          later adventures, but eventually Hera was rec-
    When Callisto gave birth to her son,           onciled with him, and he was married to her
Arcas, by Zeus, Hera was furious with the          daughter Hebe.
flagrant display of her husband’s infidelity and       In the Judgment of Paris, Hera offered
transformed her rival into a bear. Many years      Paris the rule of the world in exchange for his
later, Arcas, hunting in the woods, came upon      decision in her favor, but he rejected her offer
Callisto in bear form. Zeus stayed Arcas’s hand    for Aphrodite’s. As a result, Hera sided with
before he killed her and placed mother and son     the Greeks in the Trojan War and was espe-
in the heavens as the constellations Ursa Major    cially protective of Achilles.
and Ursa Minor. An angry Hera persuaded                Ixion attempted to rape Hera, but Zeus
Oceanus and Tethys to circumscribe the path        tricked him into mating with a cloud, and the
of the constellations.                             offspring of this union was Centaurus, father
    Hera tricked Zeus’s consort Semele into        of the centaurs. Hera was also attacked by the
bringing about her own death. Semele’s son         giant Porphyrion during the Gigantomachy,
by Zeus, Dionysus, was given into the care         and he was killed by Zeus.
of Semele’s sister Ino, but Ino’s care of              In Apollonius of Rhodes’s Voyage of the
her nephew attracted Hera’s fury, and she          Argonauts, Hera was sympathetic to the crew of
inflicted a madness upon her that caused           the Argo and helped them navigate safely past
her to throw herself into the sea. In order to     Scylla and Charybdis.
protect Dionysus, Zeus transformed him into            In classical art, Hera has a matronly appear-
a kid goat.                                        ance and is shown fully clothed. She often
    The birth of Apollo was delayed by nine        wears a crown and is depicted alongside Zeus.
days and nights because Hera, jealous of her       An example of this presentation occurs on
rival Leto, kept Eileithyia from attending the     a red-figure calyx krater from ca. 420 b.c.e.
birth. Finally, the other goddesses in atten-      (Museo Arqueológico Nacional de España,
dance persuaded Eileithyia (with the bribe         Madrid). Hera appears in representations of
Heracleidae	                                                                                        0

the myths of Heracles or in the Judgment of          assaults Iolaus, and Iolaus calls on the men of
Paris. A postclassical example of the regal Hera     the town to protect him. The Chorus of old
is Rembrandt’s 17th-century Juno (Metropoli-         men of Marathon comes to his defense, insist-
tan Museum of Art, New York).                        ing on the sanctity of the altar and Iolaus’s status
                                                     as suppliant. The two kings of Athens, Demo-
                                                     phon and Acamas, enter. They learn of the situ-
Heracleidae (The Children of Heracles)
                                                     ation, then listen to the respective arguments
Euripides (ca. 430 b.c.e.) The dating of
                                                     of Copreus and Iolaus. Demophon announces
Euripides’ Heracleidae is uncertain, but it is
                                                     his intention to protect the suppliants for three
believed to have been produced around 430–
                                                     reasons: They have taken refuge at the altar of
429 b.c.e. Euripides here enacts the classic
                                                     the god; they are bound to each other through
tragic scenario of supplication, in which a vic-
                                                     kinship; and Heracles performed a service for
timized group, driven from their home, seeks
                                                     Demophon and Acamas’s father, Theseus, by
protection from another city-state. Euripides’       rescuing him from the underworld. Before leav-
play examines the relations between city-            ing, Copreus announces that an army headed by
states and foregrounds the role of his own           Eurystheus awaits him and will attack Athens.
Athens as pious defender of divine laws.             Iolaus expresses his gratitude to Demophon.
The play’s action has implications for later         Demophon exits. When he reenters after the
legendary history, since the descendants of          choral ode, he brings dire news: The oracles
Heracles’ children (called the Heracleidae)          insist that a well-born young woman must be
were believed to have invaded and occupied           sacrificed to Persephone. It would be madness
the Peloponnese. The play’s ending, in which         for him to sacrifice his own child or to demand
the condemned Eurystheus prophesies his              that one of his own citizens do so. Iolaus is in
own protective power as buried hero, antic-          despair. Heracles’ daughter Macaria enters and,
ipates the contemporary conflict between             on learning the situation, offers herself as a sac-
Sparta and Athens.                                   rifice. Iolaus expresses his admiration, and, after
                                                     bidding them farewell, Macaria exits to meet her
                   SynoPSIS                          end. After the choral ode, an attendant enters to
The scene is set before the Temple of Zeus at        announce that Heracles’ sons, including Hyllus,
Marathon. After Heracles’ death, Eurystheus,         have arrived with a troop of soldiers. He sum-
king of Argos and Mycenae, fearing that Hera-        mons Alcmene, and she rejoices at the news.
cles’ sons would grow up to avenge their father,     Iolaus resolves to join the battle despite his age,
sent his herald to each city where the children      and despite the protests of Alcmene and the
sought sanctuary, using intimidation to have         attendant, he leaves prepared for battle. After
them expelled. After wandering throughout            the choral ode, another attendant enters with
Greece, accompanied by their grandmother             news of victory: All the children are alive; Hyl-
Alcmene and Iolaus, their old kinsman and            lus and Demophon have distinguished them-
their father’s comrade at arms, the children have    selves by their bravery; Iolaus was transformed,
at last come to Athenian territory at Marathon.      apparently by Heracles and his wife Hebe
Iolaus, standing as a suppliant before the temple,   (Youth), into his youthful self and captured
summarizes the situation: Two small boys are         Eurystheus. They then bring in Eurystheus in
with him, the girls are inside the temple with       chains; Alcmene taunts him and orders that he
Alcmene, while Hyllus and the older boys have        be killed. The Chorus is affronted at the idea of
gone to find a refuge elsewhere in case a quick      putting to death a prisoner of war without trial.
escape is needed. Copreus, Eurystheus’s herald,      Alcmene suggests that she take responsibility
enters. In an adversarial exchange, Copreus          for having him killed so that the city of Athens
0	                                                                                     Heracleidae

will not be polluted by his death. The Chorus       at Marathon stand up for Heracles’ persecuted
agrees. Eurystheus reveals an oracle of Apollo      children.
stating that if Eurystheus’s body is buried at          The set of oppositions that emerges is
Athena’s shrine, his spirit will defend Athens      familiar and falls along the same lines as simi-
in the future. In particular, he will oppose the    lar scenarios in Sophocles and Aeschylus: The
descendants of the children of Heracles when        foreign tyrant figure, here Eurystheus as rep-
they come as invaders. He is led away, and all      resented by the herald Copreus (cf. Creon in
exit.                                               Oedipus at Colonus), hubristically threatens both
                                                    the suppliants and the supplicated leader, in
               CoMMEntARy                           this case, Demophon (cf. Theseus in Oedipus at
Euripides’ Heracleidae begins with the familiar     Colonus). Moreover, as in Aeschylus’s Suppliants
tragic scenario of supplication. In Aeschylus’s     and Euripides’ Suppliant Women, an older male
suppLiants, Euripides’ suppLiant WoMen,             figure acts of protector and representative of a
and Sophocles’ oedipus at coLonus, a group          larger group, either of women or of children.
(or an individual), driven from their home,         There follows a military conflict or confronta-
seek refuge in another city-state by means of       tion, in which the supplicated city-state usually
the rite of supplication. By assuming suppliant     defeats the army of the foreign tyrant. Eurip-
status, the refuge seekers ensure that they can-    ides, then, is working within a fairly conven-
not be killed, assaulted, or expelled without       tional framework.
serious consequences for those who do so.               The dominant tone of the play is political,
They are protected by the god at whose altar        and the focus is the relations among city-states.
they seek refuge, and thus have the power           Elements of contemporary relevance are thus
to bring pollution to the land. Politics both       inevitable. The play, usually dated to around
within the city-state and among city-states at      430–429 b.c.e., must be read in the context
this point can become complicated, however;         of the Peloponnesian War and Euripides’ ear-
offering refuge to asylum seekers typically         lier, more enthusiastically pro-Athenian stance.
will offend, and may trigger an aggressive          Here Athens represents piety, respect for kin-
response from the city-state that has expelled      ship, and hospitality; Demophon, although
them or seeks them for its own purposes.            occupying a leader’s role, appears to rule jointly
The citizens of the supplicated city-state may      with his brother Acamas without conflict and
worry that the consequences of protecting           to be dutifully democratic in respecting the
suppliants may be damaging to themselves;           citizens’ wishes. Notably, when the sacrifice of
the suppliants, for their part, are by definition   a well-born maiden is demanded, he declares
weak and cannot offer substantial benefits in       that he will not consider the possibility of sac-
return. In Euripides’ Suppliant Women, Sopho-       rificing an Athenian. The Chorus of old men of
cles’ Oedipus at Colonus, and the present play,     Marathon stands up for the rights of suppliants
the supplicated city-state is Athens. Athenian      and prisoners of war. The play ends with an
playwrights, perhaps not surprisingly, tend         Athenian victory in battle.
to represent Athens as a place of democracy,            The closing scene between Alcmene and
justice, and piety. They do not impiously send      Eurystheus, however, presents a somewhat
away suppliants or allow them to be assaulted;      more complicated picture. Alcmene, who has
nor do they ignore the justice of their claims.     played only a small role in the drama up to
In Euripides’ Suppliant Women, for example,         this point, brutally orders Eurystheus’s death.
the Athenian Theseus condemns, and forc-            The Chorus objects that he is a prisoner of
ibly corrects, Creon’s impious refusal to allow     war, and that killing him would pollute the
burial of the Argive dead. Here, the Athenians      city. Alcmene undertakes to have the killing
Heracleidae	                                                                                     0

carried out herself, thus avoiding the pollu-        cal derangement of her act more vividly. In
tion of Athens. Athens, for its part, will benefit   the Heracleidae, Alcmene sentences Eurystheus
from the hero’s grave; like Oedipus in Oedipus       to death after briefly rebuking him and easily
at Colonus, the dead Eurystheus will constitute      persuades the Chorus to be complicit in her
a force of resistance against future invaders.       act. The ethical problem never fully emerges
Specifically, Eurystheus will repel the advance      or presents itself for examination.
of the descendants of Heracles’ children. The            The other important death in the play is
prophecy has contemporary relevance: The             the self-sacrifice of Macaria, who volunteers
Heracleidae were believed to have invaded and        to die as the victim required by the oracle.
subsequently ruled over the Peloponnese, and         Here, too, we might feel that the importance
thus the Spartans would have been considered         of the act has been glossed over: She appears
their descendants. Athens, as in the case of the     onstage only at the moment of her choice,
Sophoclean Oedipus, neatly avoids being pol-         and the only person to mourn her is Iolaus
luted by the hero’s death while benefiting from      himself, who does express his grief, but only
the protective power of his tomb. The Spartans       momentarily. Later he becomes more focused
are doubly undermined: Their ancestors, the          on personal participation in battle; Macaria’s
Heracleidae, are shown to be in the Athenians’       act is largely self-contained. Her speeches are
debt; the victim of their ancestors will ward off    vivid and forceful. She is fiercely disgusted by
their attack.                                        the idea that they would seek refuge and sup-
    The closing focus on hero cult, Athens, and      port from the Athenians but refuse to undergo
etiology are typical of Euripides. The violent       any dangers or make any sacrifices themselves.
turn of Alcmene is more surprising, given that       She displays, as Iolaus appreciatively notes, the
her character has not been built up in any           character of her father, Heracles, and a proud
significant way throughout the play, and we          nobility. She disdains the idea of deciding on a
have had little or no opportunity to appreciate      sacrificial victim by lot, proclaiming “I won’t
her motives for revenge until she is actually        be butchered as a gambling debt” (translated
carrying it out. The questionable ethics of the      by Ralph Gladstone). Still, the episode in itself
act are made clear by the Chorus’s response,         offers a dutiful display of virtue without much
significantly balancing its earlier expression       in the way of accompanying pathos.
of horror at Copreus’s violent treatment of              There is little sustained focus in the play,
the suppliant Iolaus. The ending in some ways        and the only candidate for a main protagonist is
resembles the ending of Hecuba. A female             Iolaus, Heracles’ aged comrade in arms. Eurip-
character, previously a victim, takes violent        ides sometimes offers vivid touches of charac-
revenge on her victimizer. On one possible           terization verging on the humorous, but the
interpretation, she has been brutalized by her       overall impression is that of a quintessentially
suffering, and cannot refrain from offering a        minor character placed in a central role. The
response in kind to the cruelty to which she         emphasis falls on his old age—strangely, since
has been subjected for so long. In both the          a nephew of Heracles should not necessarily
Hecuba and the Heracleidae, moreover, the            be decrepit at this point. His age, moreover, is
victim himself gives voice to a prophecy of a        emphasized almost to the point of absurdity.
future punishment: Hecuba will die at sea after      The sequence in which he makes himself ready
being transformed into a dog; the descendants        for battle, and shrugs off the warnings of Alc-
of the Heracleidae will be defeated by Eurys-        mene, is ridiculously long, and at times comic.
theus’s ghost. In the Hecuba, however, Eurip-        Alcmene has to act as Iolaus’s “nursemaid” as
ides has drawn a much more detailed portrait         he goes into battle. We are surely in the pres-
of the female avenger and presented the ethi-        ence of Euripides’ interest in the subheroic—a
0	                                                                                          Heracles

tendency here taken to the extreme. Not only is       and Heracles the hero. In legend, Heracles
Heracles dead at the outset of the play, there is     occupies a place between mortal and divine.
no decidedly heroic presence to take his place.       His hero/god status forms of part of his image
Demophon is no Theseus, and Eurystheus is a           in the Odyssey. Heracles’ courage and physical
weak and morally repugnant figure. As reported        strength are divine, but he also displays all-too-
in the messenger speech, Iolaus miraculously          human flaws.
recovers his youth in battle and captures Eurys-          In some sources, he is called Alcides after his
theus. The point of all this focus on Iolaus’s age,   mortal grandfather, but generally he is known
however, is difficult to comprehend. There may        by his more familiar name. Heracles’s name
be some contemporary reference, or a reference        means “Glory of Hera” or “glorious through
to a lost work of another tragedian.                  Hera.” His life was marked by Hera’s hatred of
    Heracleidae, while not one of Euripides’ best     him—the cause of many of the hardships that
works, affords interesting points of compari-         the hero endured—and not their mutual devo-
son with broader themes and structures in his         tion. Nevertheless, the name is appropriate
oeuvre.                                               enough since, according to Diodorus Siculus,
                                                      Heracles owed his fame to the heroism with
                                                      which he overcame these hardships. The god-
Heracles (Hercules) The most famous of                dess thus unwittingly and unwillingly contrib-
all Greek and Roman heroes. Son of Alcmene            uted to the creation of his glorious reputation.
and Amphitryon (or Zeus). Heracles appears                With the important exception of Hera, the
in Euripides’ aLcestes and HeracLes and               Olympian gods were kindly disposed toward
Sophocles’ tracHiniae. Heracles also appears          him as the favored son of Zeus, and he enjoyed
in Apollonius of Rhodes’s voyage of tHe               the powerful protection of Athena. He par-
argonauts and many other sources. A selec-            ticipated in many wars and adventures (some of
tion of classical sources are the Homeric Hymn        which date from well after his putative lifetime),
to Heracles, Apollodorus’s Library (2.4.8–2.7.8),     including an Amazonomachy, several Centauro-
Diodorus Siculus’s Library of History (4.9–39),       machies, and the Gigantomachy. His help was
and Hyginus’s Fabulae (29–36). Some stories of        critical in the gods’ victory over the giants. He
Heracles were Greek and Roman in origin, but          featured in the adventures of Theseus, joined
others were adaptations of legends from the           the expedition of Jason and the Argonauts,
wider ancient world. It is likely that intermin-      and freed Prometheus from the punishment
gling and overlapping traditions of local heroes      inflicted on him by Zeus. He was absent from
from different regions have been amalgamated          some notable events, such as the Calydonian
into the figure of Heracles. Under the circum-        Boar hunt led by Meleager, although he later
stances, it is not surprising that the image that     came to marry Meleager’s sister Deianira.
emerges of the hero is complex and at times
contradictory, and that a chronological narra-                          oRIGInS
tive of his adventures is difficult.                  Heracles was descended from Perseus, king of
    Like many heroes, Heracles sprang from            Mycenae. Electryon and Sthenelus were both
the union of a god (Zeus) and a mortal woman.         sons Perseus. Electryon, king of Mycenae, and
Although mortal by birth, he became the great-        father of Alcmene, left Amphitryon in charge
est hero of Greek myth and finally achieved           of Mycenae while he pursued the Teleboans to
divine status. Cult practice throughout Greece        avenge the deaths of his sons. But Electryon
offers testimony of his status as both god and        was killed accidentally by a club thrown by
as hero. In his Histories, Herodotus made a dis-      Amphitryon. Amphitryon vowed to pursue
tinction between the cults of Heracles the deity      the Teleboans on Electryon’s behalf. While
Heracles	                                                                                       0

                                                   be born first and become ruler. The sources
                                                   name various places as the site of Heracles’
                                                   birth, but it is often placed at either Thebes or
                                                       Fearing the wrath of Hera, Alcmene exposed
                                                   the infant Heracles in a field as soon as he was
                                                   born, where he was found by Athena. She was
                                                   struck by the infant’s vigor and persuaded Hera
                                                   to suckle the child, but he nursed so vigorously
                                                   that he hurt the goddess, and she cast him
                                                   from her. Athena then took Heracles away to
                                                   be reared by his own mother. From then on,
                                                   Athena was his protector. In another episode
                                                   of his infancy, Heracles killed two serpents that
                                                   Hera had sent to kill him and his twin brother
                                                   in their cradle.
                                                       Raised by Amphitryon and taught by him
                                                   to drive a chariot, Heracles was also instructed
                                                   in archery, wrestling, and singing. While
                                                   Heracles was still a child, he killed his lyre
                                                   instructor Linus, in a fit of indignant fury. As
                                                   punishment, Amphitryon sent him to mind
                                                   cattle on Mount Cithaeron. There Heracles
                                                   stayed until his 18th year, when he killed
Heracles and Three Other Figures in a Landscape.   the lion of Cithaeron. In the same period
Albrecht Dürer, 1496–97 (British Museum, London)   of his life, a famous incident occurred that
                                                   would later inspire many classical and post-
                                                   classical artists, writers, and composers: the
he was away, Zeus took on his appearance           “choice of Heracles,” or, later, “Heracles at the
and described his victory over the Teleboans       crossroads.” The young hero was met at the
in such convincing detail to Alcmene that she      crossroads by two women, the female personi-
accepted him as her husband. By him she con-       fications of Virtue and Vice. The more sensual
ceived Heracles, but the next evening Amphi-       female, Vice, represented the path of ease and
tryon returned, and as a result, Alcmene bore      pleasure in contrast to Virtue and a life of labor
twin sons: Heracles, whose father was Zeus,        and heroism. Heracles chose Virtue.
and Iphicles, whose father was Amphitryon.             While still young, Heracles organized the
Several sources insist on Alcmene’s innocence      young men of Thebes to liberate their city
in this betrayal of Amphitryon. According to       from the Minyans, whose leader Heracles him-
Diodorus Siculus, her natural chastity would       self killed in battle. In gratitude Creon, king
have made it impossible to seduce her.             of Thebes, gave his daughter Megara to him
    When Alcmene was about to give birth,          in marriage. Hera now caused a madness to
Zeus decreed that the child about to be born,      descend upon Heracles. While in its grip, he
a descendant of Perseus, would reign over the      killed Megara and his children by her. Accord-
Argolid. Hera thwarted him by delaying Hera-       ing to some sources, Heracles killed only his
cles’ birth for seven days, so that Eurystheus,    sons and abandoned Megara. (For a very dif-
son of Sthenelus and cousin to Heracles, would     ferent version of Heracles murderous frenzy,
0	                                                                                        Heracles

see Euripides’ Heracles.) In penance for this        tures. In his very first labor, Heracles acquired
crime, Heracles went into exile and was forced       the attribute, the lion skin, by which he would
to serve Eurystheus, now king of Mycenae,            become universally known.
for whom he performed the famous Twelve                  His Second Labor was the defeat of the
Labors.                                              Hydra of Lerna, a nine-headed serpent born
                                                     of the union of Echidna and T        yphoeus. To
      tHE LABoRS oF HERACLES                         help the Hydra, Hera sent a crab that bit Hera-
Though some sources acknowledge only 10              cles’ foot. The crab was afterward placed in the
tasks, the conventionally accepted number is         heavens as the constellation Cancer. Heracles
12. Different texts have arranged them in dif-       cut off each of the serpent’s heads and asked
ferent orders. One common ordering is:               Iolaus, his nephew and companion, to sear each
                                                     wound shut to prevent more heads from grow-
    1.   The Nemean Lion                             ing; he was thus able finally to kill the monster.
    2.   The Hydra of Lerna                          Heracles then dipped his arrows in the Hydra’s
    3.   The Erymanthian Boar                        poisonous blood. The Hydra became a constel-
    4.   The Ceryneian Hind                          lation located south of Cancer. In his second
    5.   The Stymphalian Birds                       task, Heracles provided himself with a formi-
    6.   The Augean Stables                          dable weapon—poison-tipped arrows—these,
    7.   The Cretan Bull                             however, would later come to figure in his own
    8.   The Mares of Diomedes                       death.
    9.   The Girdle of Hippolyte                         In his Third Labor, that of the Eryman-
   10.   The Cattle of Geryon                        thian Boar, Heracles was required to bring the
   11.   Cerberus in Hades                           boar back alive from Arcadia to Eurystheus.
   12.   The Apples of Hesperides                    This was difficult because it required not only
                                                     great strength but judgment and good timing.
    The Olympians commanded Heracles                 Heracles captured the creature and brought it
through the Delphic Oracle to perform a series       back to Eurystheus on his shoulders.
of tasks. These would not only purify him of             The Fourth Labor was similar: He had to
the killing of his wife and children but would       bring the Ceryneian Hind back alive. The hind
also win him immortality. At first, Heracles         was sacred to Artemis. Heracles pursued it and,
was reluctant to undertake the Labors, because       at length, captured it in a net.
they entailed subjugation to his cousin Eurys-           Heracles then went on to his Fifth Labor:
theus, a subjugation he felt bitterly because, had   to drive the birds out of the region of the
it not been for the enmity of Hera, he would         Stymphalian Lake in Arcadia, where they had
now have been king of Argos and Mycenae.             become a nuisance. This he achieved by shak-
In many of the texts, Eurystheus is described        ing a bronze rattle (or bronze castanets) given
as a lesser man than Heracles, an ungracious         to him by Athena, until the birds took flight.
and cowardly master. From the beginning and          Once they were in the air, he shot them down
throughout the trials, he endeavors to make          with his bow and arrows.
Heracles feel the indignity of his position.             The Sixth Labor that Eurystheus imposed
    Heracles’ First Labor was a combat against       was cleaning the stables of King Augeas, which
the Nemean Lion, an enormous lion impervi-           had become polluted by many years of accumu-
ous to all weapons. Heracles defeated it by          lation of dung. Heracles accomplished this by
cornering it in a rocky impasse and strangling       breaching the wall of the stable and diverting
it. He then skinned it and wore its hide. It pro-    the river Alpheus to flow through it, cleansing
vided him with protection in his further adven-      the stable of its squalor.

    In his Seventh Labor, Heracles captured the     gadflies to madden and disperse the herd, but
Cretan Bull, brought it before Eurystheus, then     Heracles managed to bring a sufficient number
released it. Later, this bull ravaged Marathon      back to Eurystheus.
until it was slain by Theseus.                          Heracles’ Eleventh Labor was to fetch
    Heracles subdued the man-eating mares           Cerberus, the three-headed dog (offspring,
of Diomedes of Thrace as his Eighth Labor.          like the Hydra and Orthus, of Echidna and
According to some sources, he tamed them            Typhoeus) that guarded Hades. Athena and
by feeding them the body of their master,           Hermes guided him in his descent to the
Diomedes.                                           underworld. Hades (Pluto) agreed to allow
    As his Ninth Labor, Heracles fought the         Heracles to take Cerberus on condition that
Amazons, and captured the belt, or girdle, of       he subdue the dog without using his weapons.
Ares from Hippolyte. In one version of the          Heracles managed this by grasping the dog
myth, Hippolyte at first willingly offered the      around the neck until Cerberus conceded
belt, but Hera incited the battle by spreading      defeat. While still in the underworld, Heracles
false rumors.                                       released Theseus from his imprisonment there
    Heracles’ Tenth Labor was to fetch the          and spoke with the ghost of Meleager, whose
cattle of Geryon, a triple-bodied warrior           sister, Deianira, he promised to marry on his
born of Chrysaor (offspring of Medusa and           return from Hades. Later, Heracles returned
Poseidon). This adventure took Heracles to          Cerberus to Hades.
the island of Erythia, near the boundaries of           Heracles’ Twelfth Labor sent him to the
Europe and Libya. The fantastic herd was            Garden of the Hesperides, at the extrem-
guarded by Orthus, a dog (offspring of Echidna      ity of the known world, to fetch the apples
and Typhoeus), which Heracles dispatched            of the Hesperides. Atlas, whose task was to
with a blow from his club. He then defeated         hold the heavens on his shoulders, agreed
Geryon in battle and herded the cattle toward       to bring the apples to Heracles if the hero
Greece. A later addition to the story appears       would temporarily bear his burden. But when
in Livy’s From the Foundation of the City, Ovid’s   Atlas returned with the apples, he refused to
Fasti, and Virgil’s Aeneid in which Heracles        take back the weight of the heavens. Heracles
encountered Cacus. In Livy, Cacus is simply         tricked Atlas into reassuming his burden and
a covetous shepherd, but in Virgil, he is a         brought the apples to Eurystheus. In Dio-
part-human fire-breathing monster fathered          dorus Siculus’s Library of History, the Hes-
by Vulcan (see Hephaestus). He is equally           perides, Atlas’s daughters, had been abducted
grotesque in Ovid, who notes that he lives in       by pirates. Heracles rescued them, and Atlas
caves on the Aventine Hill in Rome. While           helped the hero in gratitude. Another version
Heracles was being entertained by Evander,          relates that Heracles killed Ladon, the dragon
Cacus stole several of the cattle and devised a     that protected the tree of the Hesperides, and
plan to hide them by confusing Heracles. He         acquired the apples without the aid of Atlas.
pulled the cows backward into a cave, making        Heracles presented the apples to Athena, and
it seem that the cattle had walked away from        she later returned them to the Garden of
the cave rather than gone in (a trick similar to    Hesperides.
the one perpetrated upon Apollo by Hermes).
When Heracles came to drive his herd away,                 FuRtHER ADvEntuRES
some of these bellowed for the stolen animals.      Some of Heracles’ adventures occurred dur-
The hidden cows responded, thereby reveal-          ing the period when he was performing the
ing their hiding place. Heracles recovered his      Twelve Labors but do not form part of them.
cattle and killed Cacus with his club. Hera sent    He wrestled and killed the giant Antaeus. Since

Antaeus remained invincible as long as he           his attentions elsewhere, was a deadly poison
remained in contact with the earth (his mother,     and eventually killed Heracles. In yet another
Gaia), Heracles lifted him off the ground and       adventure, Heracles is also said to have killed
crushed him. He also killed Busiris of Egypt,       the centaur Eurytion, either because he was on
who put all strangers in the land to death. He      the point of marrying Heracles’ own fiancée or
cleared Crete and Libya of wild beasts. One of      because he was carrying away the daughter of
his exploits echoed the most famous episode         Heracles’ friend Dexamenus by force. Accord-
in the life of his ancestor Perseus: the rescue     ing to Diodorus Siculus, Heracles was purified
of Andromeda from a sea monster sent by             of the centaurs’ blood by the institution of the
Poseidon. In Troy, he saved Hesione, daughter       Lesser Mysteries, which Demeter established
of King Laodemon and sister of Priam, from a        for his sake.
similar fate. Heracles saved her in exchange for        Heracles underwent a second period of
the mares that Zeus had given as recompense         servitude, this time in expiation for the murder
for having abducted Ganymede, but Laode-            of Iphitus, son of King Eurytus of Oechalia.
mon refused to make good on his promise of          Sources disagree as to the method and motiva-
payment. In revenge, Heracles returned to lay       tion for the murder. In Apollodorus’s Library,
siege to Troy. He captured the city, killed the     Heracles is said to have fallen in love with Iole,
king, and gave Hesione in marriage to his fol-      sister of Iphitus, and competed in an archery
lower, Telamon.                                     match to win her. Though he won the compe-
    Heracles displayed enormous strength and        tition, Eurytus refused Heracles the prize, and
capacity for battle. During the Gigantomachy,       in a rage Heracles killed him and his sons. To
Heracles’ arrow struck the giant Alcyoneus but      purify himself of this murder, Heracles became
failed to kill him, since the giant could revive    the slave of Queen Omphale of Libya. First,
and regain his strength as long as he touched       however, he sought guidance from the Delphic
his native soil. On Athena’s advice, Heracles       Oracle, and when he received no response
dragged Alcyoneus away from the land where          from it, he angrily grasped the tripod of the
he had been born, and there he was able to kill     Oracle and was obliged to fight with Apollo
him.                                                over its possession. Zeus intervened between
    Heracles had repeated conflicts with cen-       his sons, sending a thunderbolt to separate
taurs. He inadvertently caused one Centauro-        them, and eventually reconciled them. The
machy (battle with centaurs) during a friendly      sources do not agree on Heracles’ relationship
visit to the centaur Pholus. Pholus was enter-      to Omphale. In some, she became his mistress
taining him hospitably, but the opening of          and bore him a son, Agelaus; in others, he was
a flask of wine unleashed a savage attack by        simply her servant. According to Ovid, while
centaurs of the surrounding area. Heracles          Heracles was in Omphale’s employ, he was
subdued the majority of them, but Pholus            made to dress in feminine clothes while she
was injured by a poisoned arrow and died.           wore his lion skin.
Heracles gave him burial. In another episode,           Heracles also participated in military cam-
the centaur Nessus tried to assault Deianira,       paigns against the Iberians and Celts and put
the hero’s second wife. Nessus offered to carry     down lawlessness and savagery along the roads
her across a river, but once she was on his back,   of Europe. In Sicily, Heracles defeated Eryx
he attempted to abduct her. Heracles shot           in a wrestling match, acquired his land, then
and killed him with his poisoned arrow. The         passed it on to its native inhabitants. Heracles
dying Nessus had his revenge, however: The          and his army sacked Sparta and restored the
blood that he convinced Deianira to collect, to     exiled Tyndareus (father of the Dioscuri) to
use as a love potion should her husband turn        the throne.

           LovES AnD oFFSPRInG                     He found a spring but the nymphs there fell
Heracles’ first wife was Megara, with whom         in love with him, drew him into the water,
he had several children. In Euripides’ Heracles    and held him fast. Heracles searched for him
(Heracles Furens), Heracles murdered her and       frantically, even allowing the Argonauts to sail
their children in a fit of madness induced by      on without him, but he was unable to discover
Hera. In other sources, Heracles spared Meg-       what had became of Hylas. Eventually, grief-
ara but passed her on as a wife to his nephew      stricken, he was forced to concede defeat and
and companion, Iolaus. To purify himself of        to continue on his journey to Colchis, on foot
these murders, Heracles was indentured to          and alone.
King Eurystheus and was forced to perform the
Twelve Labors. Deianira was Heracles’ second                           DEAtH
wife. Heracles won her hand in marriage by         Sophocles’ Trachiniae describes the death of
defeating the river god Achelous in a wrestling    Heracles by the unwitting agency of his wife
match.                                             Deianira. Many years before, Heracles had shot
    Heracles had numerous offspring, some          an arrow dipped in the poisonous blood of the
from his wives, some from the many extra-          Hydra and used it to kill the centaur Nessus
marital liaisons for which he was famous. The      as he attempted to abduct Deianira. Before he
Thespiades (the daughters of king Thespius)        died, Nessus encouraged Deianira to collect
alone bore him 50 children. These went on to       the blood around his wound and keep it as a
settle the island of Sardinia. The most famous     love potion for Heracles should his attentions
of Heracles’ progeny are Hyllus and three          stray elsewhere. When Heracles brought his
other sons by Deianira. Euripides’ Heracleidae     mistress Iole into their home, Deinaria accord-
concerns the fate of these children after their    ingly presented him with a robe that she had
father died. In this tragedy, Eurystheus, who      anointed with this “love potion.” Heracles put
bore Heracles great enmity throughout his life,    on the robe and was immediately seized by
continued to persecute his children after his      agonizing pain. Maddened by his torment, he
death. With the aid of Demophon, son of The-       killed Lichas, the servant who had brought
seus and now king of Athens, and accompanied       him the poisoned tunic. Realizing too late that
by Iolaus, the Heracleidae began to mobilize       she had unknowingly poisoned her husband,
for war against Eurystheus. The Athenians          Deianira killed herself. In the midst of dread-
were advised to ensure military success by sac-    ful suffering, Heracles asked his son Hyllus to
rificing a maiden. Heracles’ daughter Macaria      build a funeral pyre on Mount Oeta, and there
offered herself. The sacrifice was performed,      he ended his own life.
and Hyllus, Iolaus, and Demophon led the               Apollodorus’s Library is the main source
Athenians to victory. In his account of Hera-      for the story of Heracles’ apotheosis. A cloud
cles’ life, Apollodorus lists many more children   appeared beneath the hero as he mounted his
born of his amorous encounters. After his death    funeral pyre and carried him off to the heav-
and apotheosis, Heracles married Hebe, the         ens, where he became immortal. In Diodorus
daughter of Zeus and Hera; with her, he had        Siculus’s Library of History, Heracles died in
two more sons, Alexiares and Anicetus.             the conflagration of the funeral pyre, but his
    According to Theocritus’s Idylls, Heracles     bones were never found, possibly a sign of
also loved the Argive youth Hylas. Hylas           his transformation into a god. In yet other
accompanied Heracles when he joined the            sources, Athena brought Heracles up to Mount
expedition of the Argonauts. During the voy-       Olympus at Zeus’s behest. Hera was finally per-
age, the crew put in at Propontis and made         suaded, after his apotheosis, to be reconciled
camp while Hylas was sent to fetch water.          with the hero.

             REPRESEntAtIon                          the image, the hero is about to throw himself
Classical artists depicted Heracles frequently       on the funeral pyre; and in another, he is shown
and in a variety of media: coins, reliefs, sculp-    in a chariot driven by Athena rising toward
ture, mosaics, wall paintings, and vase paintings.   Mount Olympus.
Like many other heroes, such as Theseus and              Artists in the postclassical period continued
Perseus, Heracles is depicted as a large male,       to find Heraclean myths a rich source of inspi-
often nude, with strongly defined musculature.       ration, primarily in painting and sculpture. The
Unlike many others, however, Heracles is often       influence on postclassical artists of the Farnese
represented bearded, and thus not a youthful         Heracles sculpture from the first century c.e.
hero so much as one in the prime of life. He         was immense. Antonio del Pollaiuolo’s Heracles
is easily identified by his attributes: a club and   Slaying the Hydra of Lerna from ca. 1460 (Gal-
a cape made from the hide of the Nemean              leria degli Uffizi, Florence) shows Heracles
Lion. The Twelve Labors of Heracles were             wearing his lion’s skin and dispatching the
often represented in antiquity. Some were indi-      Hydra with his club; his Heracles is a strong,
vidual scenes. A black-figure oinochoe from ca.      virile, dominant presence. Albrecht Dürer’s
500 b.c.e. (Harvard Art Museum, Cambridge)           Heracles and Three Other Figures in a Landscape
shows Heracles subduing the Cretan Bull; on          of 1496–97 (British Museum, London) shows
a black-figure (white-ground) oinochoe from          the muscular strength of the hero. Many
ca. 520 b.c.e. (British Museum, London), a vic-      postclassical artists recognized the moraliz-
torious Heracles grasps the standing Nemean          ing potential of “Heracles at the crossroads,”
Lion in its final throes; a Caeretan black-fig-      the scene of his choice between Virtue and
ure hydria from ca. 530 b.c.e. (Louvre, Paris)       Vice. It was a theme that lent itself well to the
shows Heracles, carrying his club and clothed        religious environment in which Renaissance
in his lion skin, in front of Eurystheus with        and baroque artists lived and worked, and
the three-headed hound Cerberus; a Caere-            was therefore frequently represented in these
tan black-figure hydria from ca. 525 b.c.e.          periods. Examples of the theme are Albrecht
( J. Paul Getty Museum, Malibu) depicts the          Dürer’s engraving Heracles (at the Crossroads)
nine-headed Hydra grasped by Heracles as he          from 1498 and Annibale Carracci’s Heracles at
raises his club over it. The Labors were also        the Crossroads from 1595–97 (Galleria Nazio-
treated serially, as in the carved reliefs of the    nale di Capodimonte, Naples). Carracci’s work
Twelve Labors of Heracles on the Metopes of          formed part of a series of frescoes dedicated to
the Temple of Zeus at Olympia from ca. 470           the life of Heracles from the Camerina of the
b.c.e. (Olympia Archaeological Museum, Ath-          Palazzo Farnese, Rome, which also included a
ens). Heracles frequently appears with Athena,       series on the loves of the gods.
with whom he had a special relationship. Of
12 metopes, she is present in four. Heracles’
death was also depicted, for example, in an Attic    Heracles Euripides (ca. 416 b.c.e.) Euripides’
red-figure pelike from ca. 440 b.c.e. (British       Heracles was produced around 416 b.c.e. As in
Museum, London), where Heracles is reach-            Sophocles’ tracHiniae, the final phase of the
ing out his hand for the poisoned tunic that         hero’s life is catastrophic, despite his heroic
Deianira is presenting to him; he still holds        achievements. Euripides has rearranged the
one of his attributes, the lion skin, but he has     usual ordering of events, however, and placed
deposited the other, his club, on the ground.        Heracles’ killing of his family chronologi-
An Attic red-figure pelike from ca. 410 b.c.e.       cally after his Twelve Labors, not before them,
(Antikensammlungen, Munich) depicts not just         thereby providing a tragic culmination to his
his death but also his apotheosis. In a section of   career. The idea that Zeus’s son, the greatest

hero of Greece, could be brought to so pitiful      consider how best to face their fate. Megara
and shameful an end not by any misdeed of           asks Lycus to allow the house to be opened up
his own but by the jealousy roused in Hera by       so that they might place funeral adornments on
Zeus’s adulterous intrigues is disturbing, and      the children. Lycus consents, and exits. Megara
affords one of the play’s central preoccupations.   and her children enter the house. Amphitryon
Is the divine ordering of human lives guided in     criticizes Zeus bitterly, accusing him of sneak-
any way by justice?                                 ing into other men’s beds without later show-
                                                    ing any concern for his offspring. Amphitryon
                  SynoPSIS                          exits.
The scene is set in Thebes before the house             The Chorus sings in praise of Heracles’
of Heracles, near an altar of Zeus the Savior.      Twelve Labors but ends on a pessimistic note:
Amphitryon, Megara, and Heracles’ three chil-       Heracles has failed to return from the land
dren sit before the altar as suppliants. Amphi-     of the dead, where his children will soon go.
tryon recalls the origins of Thebes, and how        Megara, Amphitryon, and the children, dressed
Megara, son of Creon, was married to Hera-          for burial, enter from the house. She mourns
cles. Heracles, however, desired to reestablish     her children’s dashed hopes and calls on Hera-
himself and his family in Argos, from which         cles to rescue them. Amphitryon calls on Zeus
Amphitryon had been banished for killing his        and prepares for the end. Heracles enters. He
father-in-law, Electryon. To secure his return,     learns that Lycus has usurped the throne vio-
Heracles offered to give Eurystheus the price       lently and is now preparing to kill his family.
of his labors, which he has been accomplishing;     Heracles declares his intention of killing Lycus
he has descended to the underworld to perform       and defending his family. In consultation with
his last labor, which is to retrieve Cerberus,      Amphitryon, he decides to wait at the house
but has not returned. In the meanwhile, Lycus,      until Lycus returns. In the interval, he relates
who usurped the throne of Thebes after killing      how he captured Cerberus and freed Theseus
Creon, intends to slay Megara and her entire        from the underworld. As he goes into the
family to destroy potential rivals. They are        house with his family clinging to him, Heracles
now taking refuge at the altar of Zeus. Megara      expresses his love for his children.
is in despair and wonders if there is any point         The Chorus sings of the unpleasantness of
in drawing out life. Amphitryon attempts to         old age and the lack of a reward in life for good
encourage her.                                      actions. It ends with a new commitment to
    The Chorus of old men of Thebes enters          song and the Muses, praising Heracles’ deeds.
and expresses sympathy for the plight of the        Lycus enters, and Amphitryon comes forth
family. Lycus enters with his retinue. He taunts    from the house. Lycus calls for his victims,
them, sarcastically belittling Heracles’ reputa-    and Amphitryon affects to be reconciled to his
tion, calling him cowardly, and openly declar-      fate. Tricked by Amphitryon into believing that
ing his motives for wishing to destroy Megara’s     Megara and her children are still fruitlessly
children. Amphitryon indignantly defends Her-       praying for Heracles’ return, Lycus enters the
acles’ reputation, calls Lycus himself a coward,    house with his retinue to retrieve her. Amphi-
and laments that no one has stepped forward to      tryon follows him into the house so that he can
help the children of Heracles. Lycus announces      enjoy the sight of Lycus being killed.
his intention to set a fire around the altar            The Chorus sings in triumph, praising
and burn them, and threatens the Chorus for         Heracles as the offspring of Zeus and pro-
expressing sympathy for Megara’s family. The        claiming that good conduct is rewarded by
Chorus reviles Lycus, calling him non-Theban        the gods; Lycus’s death cries are heard from
and an immigrant. Megara and Amphitryon             within. Iris, the messenger goddess, and Lyssa,

goddess of madness, descend onto the roof of        with Amphitryon, he gradually learns that
the house from above. The Chorus cries out          he has killed his wife and children in a fit of
in fright. Iris declares that the anger of Hera     madness. He considers suicide, but then sees
is being directed at Heracles and his house:        his friend Theseus enter. He veils his head
Zeus preserved his life until his labors were       because he fears that the sight of him will pol-
accomplished, but now he must incur the pol-        lute Theseus. Theseus, who has come because
lution of killing his own kin; otherwise Hera’s     he heard of Lycus’s threats against Heracles’
authority as goddess will be undermined. Lyssa      family, learns from Amphitryon what Heracles
announces her lineage from Night and Heaven         has done. He bids Heracles unveil himself
(Uranus) and expresses reluctance to harm so        and proclaims his intention to join Heracles
renowned a hero. Iris rebukes her. Lyssa is still   in misfortune as a sign of true friendship.
reluctant but states that, since she is obliged,    Heracles removes the veil. He is defiant
she will invade Heracles’ breast and fill him       toward the gods, and Theseus advises him
with madness; he will kill his children and not     to restrain himself. Heracles argues that his
realize what he is doing. Lyssa descends into       life is not worth living, and as proof recounts
the house while Iris rises into the sky.            his life, starting with Amphitryon’s killing of
    The Chorus laments the reversal of Hera-        his father-in-law and continuing through his
cles’ fortune. Amphitryon is heard crying out       last “labor,” the killing of his children; he has
within. A servant comes forth in the role of        nowhere to go: Hera has triumphed over a
messenger. He reports the children’s death to       guiltless man. Theseus argues that all beings,
the Chorus, then tells how it happened: Her-        gods included, suffer misfortune and commit
acles was carrying out a purification ceremony      bad actions; Heracles should not wish to have
with his family, since he had just killed Lycus;    a better fate than the gods. Theseus offers
in the middle of the ceremony, he stopped and       to host Heracles in Athens, where he will be
declared that he might as well kill Eurystheus      welcomed as a great hero. Heracles declares
first and purify himself afterward; he then         that he does not believe the stories about the
moved about the house under the illusion            misdeeds of the gods, for true gods need noth-
that he was traveling to Mycenae, stopping on       ing. He agrees, however, to follow Theseus to
his way to participate in the Isthmian games;       Athens. He addresses his father and dead wife
upon “arriving,” he proceeded to kill his chil-     and children one last time. Theseus encour-
dren and wife in the belief that he was killing     ages Heracles to depart with manly fortitude,
Eurystheus’s children. At length Pallas Athena      yet Heracles finds it hard to do so. Heracles
appeared and stunned him with a stone before        asks Amphitryon to bury his family and prom-
he could kill his father. The servants helped       ises to bury him after his death. He departs for
Amphitryon tie Heracles to a pillar to prevent      Athens with Theseus. The Chorus laments the
him from doing more damage on returning to          loss of its friend and then also exits.
    The Chorus laments the immensity of                           CoMMEntARy
Heracles’ misfortune, as the hero, tied to the      Euripides’ Heracles is founded on a deviation
pillar and surrounded by his slaughtered fam-       from the usual Heraclean mythology. In most
ily, is wheeled out on a rolling stage device       accounts, he kills his family in a fit of madness
(the eccyclema) from the doors of the house.        early on, and in expiation for this he must
Amphitryon enters. He begs them to allow            carry out the labors assigned to him by Eurys-
Heracles to sleep longer and fears that he          theus. In the present version, he carries out
will add further to his own defilement by kill-     the labors to win the right for himself and his
ing his father. Heracles awakens. In dialogue       father to return to Argos, from which Amphi-

tryon was banished for killing his father-in-         a herd of sheep in a state of madness. There,
law, and it is only after finishing the Twelve        too, a goddess causes the madness as a means
Labors that he is driven mad by Hera and kills        of punishing the hero, and the scene of violence
his family.                                           occurs inside the hero’s tent/home. Returning
    This reordering of events has important           home, ever since Aeschylus’s agaMeMnon, is a
outcomes for the framing of Heracles’ life in         problematic proposition for heroes. The home
Euripides’ play. First, and most important, it        is an extension or symbol of the hero’s self, and
makes the murder of his family the terrible           thus the inevitable site of self-destruction.
culmination of his career as a hero, not its              Another consequence of Euripides’ innova-
beginning. As Heracles himself states in dia-         tive version of Heraclean mythology is that
logue with Theseus, his last “labor,” and most        emphasis is placed on the kin slaying commit-
difficult, was reserved for the end, the killing of   ted by Heracles’ father, Amphitryon. Certainly,
his family. Euripides thus maximizes the effect       Euripides gives Amphitryon a very strong
of reversal of fortune—from famous hero to            paternal role, in view of the usual identification
tainted pariah—and leaves Heracles polluted           of Zeus as his true father. Amphitryon boasts
by a murder that he cannot easily expiate by          that he shared his wife and the act of begetting
subsequent labors (they have already been             Heracles with Zeus, and identifies himself with
completed). Euripidean tragedy brings into            his son to a great extent: His entire happiness
focus the difficult question of what is the pur-      and sense of self evidently depend on Heracles.
pose of the hero’s life, given that it concludes      When Heracles is away, he assumes his son’s
with seemingly pointless slaughter. For all that      role as protector of the family, albeit ineffectu-
he may receive the honors of a hero in Athens,        ally. Heracles, as killer of his kin, becomes truly
he has been brought low and tainted; he has           his father’s son. In his speech to Theseus late in
shelter only by Theseus’s mercy and is now the        the play, he begins his life story with his father’s
recipient of aid from a hero whom he previ-           act of kin slaying and states that a life begun in
ously saved.                                          this crooked fashion cannot be straightened out
    For Sophocles, also, Heracles’ final “end”        again. In Euripides’ version, then, Heracles is
(telos) coincides with the return to his house-       not only the tragic murderer of his own family
hold. In the Trachiniae, the hero has been            and destroyer of his household; he is also sub-
brought low, first by desire, then by his wife’s      ject, like so many other tragic protagonists, to
(Deainira) unknowing act of poisoning. Her-           an ancestral curse.
acles’ heroic itinerary reaches its final phase,          The theme of the household is physi-
not in the far-off lands where his labors were        cally embodied in aspects of the staging of
gloriously completed, or on the field of battle,      the play. The play is set in front of Heracles’
but in his home. For both tragedians, in other        house, which affords a visual focus throughout
words, making Heracles into a properly tragic         the action. The house comes under siege by
hero involves detaching him from the serialized       Lycus and his attendants. Later, when Heracles
catalog of exploits, bringing him to a stop with      returns, his family clings to him as his massive
the implosion of his house in classic tragic fash-    form enters the house. Lycus is lured into the
ion. He is converted from a hero that conquers        house to be killed, but subsequently, when Iris
monsters and makes lands safe for civilization        and Lyssa arrive, the goddess of madness initi-
to a hero who tragically destroys his own kin         ates her attack on Heracles by physically invad-
and reputation. Along these lines, we might           ing the household from above, a destructive dea
also compare him with Sophocles’ Ajax—a               ex machina. Heracles’ madness takes the form
similarly isolated figure, who undermines the         of an attack on the household, resulting in the
basis of his previous reputation by slaughtering      slaughter of his family but also in the ravaging

of the house’s structure. At the end of his frenzy,   house for the broader world in which he nor-
Heracles is tied to a significantly broken pillar.    mally wanders and wreaks heroic havoc. Nor
In symbolic terms, Heracles is the pillar of the      is it accidental that the moment the madness
household, its main force and support. The            comes on him as he is carrying out a rite of
shattered pillar to which he is tied provides all     purification for his slaying of Lycus, a rite that,
too accurate an image of the hero as failed sup-      if completed, should have ensured his success-
port-structure of his house. Comparably, after        ful transition from violent warrior to protective
he regains consciousness, Heracles declares           father and husband. The border between the
that he has “put the topmost layers of stones         realm of “labors” and home is never fully estab-
on the wall” of his house’s catastrophe. The          lished. Another emblem of this fatal intermin-
hero’s connection with his household, however,        gling of the two realms is that he kills his family
is severed once he has destroyed his family. At       with arrows steeped in the Hydra’s blood. He
the play’s end, he is led away from his home by       never manages to put aside his warrior identity.
Theseus to Athens, where he will lead the life        Indeed, at the play’s close, Heracles comes to
of an honored exile.                                  the terrible realization that he must keep with
    Heracles’ madness and violence against his        him the weapons with which he both carried
own kin can be interpreted as a failed transition.    out his labors and murdered his family—an apt
Heracles is a hero associated with wandering,         symbol of his divided mythic legacy.
banishment, and labors of expiation. Heracles             The catastrophic outcome of Heracles’
has not led a normal life as citizen and master       return to his own house enacts a reversal of
of his household, since he has spent much of          fortune, and this theme dominates the play:
his life devoted to his famous labors (ponoi). He     Heracles goes from being the most famous of
has no stable domestic space or civic identity. It    Greek heroes to the “most unfortunate man
is no accident, then, that in this play, as well as   in the world.” Ship imagery traces the change.
in Sophocles’ Trachiniae, the hero who frees the      He first offers a tow line to his children; then
world of monsters comes to grief on returning         he is moored like a ship to the shattered pillar;
to his own household and family. The Twelve           finally, in the play’s closing lines, he is “towed”
Labors are respectfully praised by the Chorus         by Theseus toward Athens. The theme is a
as a quasi-canonical unit, and when Heracles          persistent one in Greek tragedy generally, and
returns home, he proclaims “farewell to my            is also recurrent among Euripidean tragedies
labors.” His labors, however, have not been           of the penultimate decade of the fifth cen-
completed. After Heracles kills his family, his       tury b.c.e. In ipHigenia aMong tHe taurians
father calls him “man of much toil” (polyponos),      (414), ion (414), and HeLen (412), a grim fate
which now has a somewhat different meaning.           is averted by a surprise revelation or exciting
Heracles confirms the idea, when he states            escape from danger. In the trojan WoMen
that his final labor was the killing of his own       (415), however, we see a reversal of fortune
children, the “coping stone” of the destruction       of another type: The royal family of Troy
of his house.                                         falls from its high station and its members are
    Heracles has failed to make the transition        slaughtered or enslaved by the Greeks. Heracles
from violent labors to stable home life. His          (416) combines both types of plot in an inter-
murderous frenzy perfectly mimics this failure.       esting way. The opening portion of the tragedy,
Even though he remains within the walls of            in which Lycus threatens Heracles’ family,
his house, he is under the deluded impression         conforms with the former type, where mem-
that he is traveling from place to place in his       bers of a family escape a terrible fate at the last
usual manner and carrying out violent, heroic         moment. Euripides has ingeniously set up his
deeds. Heracles crucially mistakes his own            audience to be lulled into a false sense of relief.

The scene unfolds before the altar of Zeus the       under Heracles’ murderous assault, compares
savior, and it seems only logical, as Amphitryon     his violence to the violence of Athena against
pointedly insists, that Zeus should come to          Enceladus in the Gigantomachy. There is an
his descendants’ aid when they are in distress.      unpleasant grain of truth in the comparison.
The family’s impending doom threatens to             Heracles, son of Zeus, is carrying out a violent
render pointless Heracles’ labors on behalf of       act endorsed by the Olympian regime. Athena
humanity and his divine ancestry. Later, when        herself will descend later, to stun Heracles
Heracles returns to punish Lycus, he is hailed       and prevent him from doing further damage,
as savior in place of Zeus. Finally, when Lycus      but the slaughter itself has evidently been
is slain, the Chorus crows that the outcome          condoned. Zeus the savior has chosen not to
proves the gods’ support of just conduct.            intervene on his son’s behalf. Heracles himself,
    The story, at this point, might be com-          in the face of these shattering events, echoes
pleted. Lycus, the hubristic tyrant, is brought      the thinker Xenophanes in declaring that true
low by the anger of the gods and the timely          divinities are not motivated by petty reasons
return of Heracles, just as, in Helen and Iphige-    of pride or a desire to master others: They are
nia among the Taurians, the protagonists escape      self-sufficient. This dogma would appear to be
from a barbaric tyrant at the last moment. The       contradicted by the action of the play, yet aptly
benevolence and justice of the gods has seem-        represents Heracles’ attempt to come to grips
ingly been established. It is at this point—some     with the disturbing theological implications of
800 lines into the play—with Heracles and his        his own life.
family within the house and Lycus slain, that            We should not forget that these terrible
Iris and Lyssa descend, throwing the apparently      events occur at Thebes, a prime setting of
secure situation into turmoil again. Whereas in      tragedy. The action takes place in the mar-
other plays, the descent of dei ex machina sig-      gins of central Theban tragic myths. Lycus,
nifies a positive divine intervention on behalf      the usurper, takes the place of Creon, son
of the protagonists, here the intervention is        of Menoeceus, who took the throne after
wholly destructive. Now the true reversal of         Oedipus’s banishment. Mythic emblems of
fortune—from good to bad—takes place, and            Thebes recur at intervals throughout the
Heracles’ story reaches its true ending.             play, e.g., the motif of the Sown Men. Finally,
    Whereas the outcome of Iphigenia among           when Heracles kills his family, the Chorus
the Taurians vindicates the justice of the gods in   characterizes it as a Bacchic frenzy that ends
the protagonists’ eyes, the present play comes       in death, not the making of wine. Dionysus,
close to demolishing the sense of divine justice.    after all, is associated with madness and delu-
The sight of the altar of Zeus “the savior” on       sion, and Heracles’ awakening to the realiza-
the stage is increasingly tinged with a dark         tion of his own kin slaying resembles that of
irony, and Amphitryon’s speeches against Zeus        Agave. Like the kin killer Oedipus, he will not
become bolder and more fiercely embittered.          end his days in Thebes. Sophocles’ Oedipus is
Even Lyssa, the hellish, snake-haired goddess        received in the Attic town of Colonus; Medea
of madness, displays moral scruples about fol-       similarly speeds off from Corinth to Athens
lowing Hera’s directives. She is reluctant to        as a guest of Aegeus at the end of Euripides’
incite Heracles’ insanity and has to be forced       play. Euripides thus conforms to the tragic
to do so. Ironically, she is the only one to show    pattern whereby a hero who can no longer
“good sense,” to appreciate the wrongness of         dwell in his own community is received with
destroying the son of Zeus, who has accom-           honor by Athens. Theseus wins the reputation
plished so much for humanity. The Chorus, as         for loyal friendship and acquires the honor
it woefully observes the house being battered        of being Heracles’ host, even though, as he
0	                                                                                      Hercules

himself states, he is not subject to pollution     and Zeus. Hermes is the Olympian god of
for helping a friend. Athens thus appropriates     travelers, prosperity (commerce), thieves, and
the heroes of other communities, remaining         fertility; but he is also a psychopomp (“guide
largely untainted by the hero’s violent deeds,     of souls”). Classical sources are the Homeric
yet adding to its own prestige by furnishing       Hymn to Demeter (334–384) and the Homeric
his final resting place. The theme of the hero’s   Hymn to Hermes, Apollodorus’s Library (1.6.2–
appropriation was enacted before Euripides’        3, 1.9.16, 2.1.3, 2.4.2–3, 3.2.1, 3.10.2, 3.14.3),
audience: Heracles was honored at Athens as        Diodorus Siculus’s Library of History (5.75.1–
the subject of Euripides’ play.                    3), Homer’s iLiad (24.334–469, 679–694) and
                                                   odyssey (5.28–148, 10.275–308, 24.1–10),
                                                   Lucian’s diaLogues of tHe gods (1, 2, 4, 11,
Hercules See Heracles.                             12, 14, 16, 17, 21, 25), Ovid’s MetaMorpHoses
                                                   (1.671, 2.686, 8.627ff), Pausanias’s Description
Hermaphroditus A mythic figure with both           of Greece (2.3.4, 9.22.1–2), and Philostratus’s
female and male physical characteristics. Son      Imagines (1.26). Hermes was aligned with the
of Aphrodite and Hermes. Classical sources         Roman god Mercury, and, according to Roman
are Diodorus Siculus’s Library of History          tradition, a temple in his name was erected in
(4.6.5), Ovid’s MetaMorpHores (4.285–388),         the fifth century b.c.e. in Rome.
and Strabo’s Geography (14.2.16). In Ovid’s            Hermes is a youthful, trickster figure in the
Metamorphoses, the youth Hermaphroditus            Olympian pantheon. Hermes’ attributes are a
bathed in a fountain at Salmacis. A nymph fell     wand (caduceus), a wide-brimmed hat (petasus),
in love with him, but Hermaphroditus rejected      a purse, and winged sandals (talaria). His
her. The nymph (sometimes called Salmacis)         wand is magical. It can either bring on sleep or
wrapped herself around him, praying that she       rouse from sleep. Hermes is both messenger
might never be parted from him. Her prayers        and guide to Hades; in this role, he brings the
were answered as their two bodies became one.      dead to Charon, to be transported across the
The waters in which he bathed were afterward       river Styx. In general, Hermes is associated
said to deprive men of virility.                   with mediation and crossing of boundaries.
    In classical art, Hermaphroditus was rep-          As messenger of the gods, Hermes is some-
resented with both female and male physical        times credited with having invented speech.
attributes. In a red-figure lekythos from ca.      Diodorus Siculus maintained that Hermes per-
b.c.e. (Museum of Art, Rhode Island School         fected clear and concise speech and such verbal
of Design), Hermaphroditus has a female head       skills as a messenger requires. In the Orphic
and breasts and male genitalia and is winged.      Hymn to Hermes, Hermes is a judge of contests,
The Borghese Hermaphrodite, a Roman copy           a friend of mortals, a trickster, and skilled in
from the second century c.e. of a Greek sculp-     speech. Among his epithets are Cyllenius in
                                                   reference to his birthplace, Mount Cyllene in
ture from the second century b.c.e., shows the
                                                   Arcadia. Hermes Koinos is another epithet, which
sleeping figure of Hermaphroditus. A post-
                                                   Diodorus Siculus interprets in light of Hermes’
classical painting by Bartholomeus Spranger,
                                                   ability to negotiate for the common good.
Salamacis and Hermaphroditus, from ca. 1585
                                                       Hermes is said to have invented the lyre,
(Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna) depicts
                                                   which he later presented to Apollo, with whom
the myth as recounted in Ovid.
                                                   he shares interests in music and prophecy. In
                                                   Ovid’s Fasti, Hermes attached seven strings
Hermes (Mercury) A messenger and herald            to a tortoise shell, one for each of the seven
of the Olympian gods. Son of Maia (a Pleiad)       Pleaides, in honor of his mother, Maia. In the

Parnassus. Andrea Mantegna, 1497 (Louvre, Paris)

Homeric Hymn to Hermes, the first song Hermes      mislead their owner. In Ovid’s version, Hermes
sang, accompanying himself on the newly cre-       hid the cattle but was witnessed by one old man
ated lyre, celebrated his own birth. In Apol-      named Battus. He bought Battus’s silence with
lodorus’s Library, Hermes exchanged his pipe       a cow, and Battus insisted he would be as silent
with Apollo for his trademark golden wand and      as a stone. Later, Hermes returned in disguise
was taught by the elder god the art of divina-     and successfully bribed Battus to reveal the
tion. Hermes is also credited with inventing the   cattle’s location. For this disservice, Battus was
reed pipe (in some sources this is attributed to   transformed by Hermes into flint.
Pan, whose parentage is sometimes attributed           Hermes’ motivation for the cattle theft
to Hermes and a nymph).                            is not clear, in Apollodorus’s Library and the
    Hermes, on the day he was born, both cre-      Homeric Hymn to Hermes, he claimed hunger.
ated the lyre and stole 50 cows from the flock     In Apollodorus, he afterward roasted two
of his older brother Apollo. He obscured the       of the cattle and ate a portion, but in the
tracks of the stolen cattle in an attempt to       Homeric Hymn he did not eat the cattle at all.

Philostratus’s Imagines describes a painting         Apollodorus, Hermes killed the giant Hippoly-
that features the main outlines of Hermes’           tus in the Gigantomachy.
birth and theft of the cattle. Hermes is shown           Hermes is associated with fertility and
hiding the cattle in a crevice of the earth          prosperity. A herm, a phallic pillar surmounted
and slipping back into swaddling clothes             by a head, was placed in towns and on thresh-
while Apollo confronts a confused Maia               olds as a good omen. Despite this link to
with Hermes’ misdeeds. In the same paint-            fertility, Hermes’ offspring were few—when
ing, Hermes also attempts to steal Apollo’s          they can be said with authority to be his—and
weapons, but when he is caught, Apollo is            his loves were few. Some authors, but not
more charmed than aggrieved (a scene also            all, identify Autolycus, Cephalus, Eurytus,
described in Horace’s Odes [1.10]).                  Eudorus, and Pan as sons of Hermes. Another
    Hermes and Apollo shared the same love           offspring attributed to him is Hermaphrodi-
interest; they competed for the affections of        tus, whose mother was Aphrodite. In Ovid’s
Chione. In Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Hermes and          Metamorphoses, Hermes fell in love with Herse
Apollo impregnated her with twins on the same        (see Aglaurus and Herse), daughter of King
day. Autolycus, a trickster figure, took after his   Cecrops of Athens, and when Herse’s sister
father, Hermes, while Apollo bestowed musical        Aglaurus became inflamed by Envy (at the
skills on his son Philammon.                         instigation of Athena), Hermes turned her to
    Many myths feature Hermes in his role            stone. In Apollodorus’s Library, Hermes loved
as guide: He brought the newborn Ion, son            Apemosyne, descendant of King Minos of
of Apollo, to Apollo’s temple at Delphi in           Crete.
Euripides’ Ion, returned Persephone to her               In addition to his more prominent functions
mother, Demeter, following her abduction,            as messenger and guide, Hermes was associated
and escorted Pandora to her earthly husband,         with prosperity in commerce—he is said to
Epimetheus. He also led Athena, Aphrodite,           have invented weights and measures—and cre-
and Hera to Mount Ida for the Judgment of            ated the first wrestling schools. Hermes’ broad
Paris. He guided Perseus to the Graeae in            domain of responsibility is the basis for a comic
his quest to slay Medusa. In Homer’s Iliad,          complaint, in Lucian’s Dialogues of the Gods (4),
Hermes guided Priam to Achilles’ tent so             about the incredible quantity of work for which
that the king could offer a ransom for his son       the young god is responsible.
Hector’s body.                                           Visual representations of Hermes in antiq-
    Hermes has a close relationship to Zeus,         uity depict a youthful god, sometimes bearded
whom he sometimes aided in the subterfuge            and sometimes not, wearing easily identifi-
necessary for his extramarital seductions, as in     able attributes: winged sandals, helmet, and
Zeus’s affairs with Europa, Ganymede, and Io.        caduceus. Postclassical images such as Andrea
Hermes was commanded by Zeus to free his             Mantegna’s Parnassus of 1497 (Louvre, Paris)
beloved Io, who had been transformed into a          follow similar iconographic conventions. He
white heifer and was watched over by Argus,          is shown stealing the cattle of Apollo on an
servant of Hera. Disguised as a shepherd,            Attic black-figure hydria from the sixth cen-
Hermes lulled the herdsman into closing his          tury b.c.e. (Louvre, Paris). Hermes appears in
many eyes in sleep with the aid of his reed          images that represent the underworld as on an
pipe. Hermes then beheaded Argus (in other           Apulian red-figure volute krater from ca. 330
versions, he killed the Argus with a stone) and      b.c.e. (Antikensammlungen, Munich). Here
thereafter assumed the epithet Argeiphontes, or      Hades and Persephone are shown with other
“slayer of Argus.” Hermes also accompanies           figures associated with the world of the dead,
Zeus in the myth of Baucis and Philemon. In          including Orpheus, Sisyphus, and Hermes.

Another popular theme for Hermes is his com-       lived in Sestos, across the Hellespont strait
bat with Argus, often in the presence of the       (now the Dardanelles) from Abydos, where
bovine Io, as on an Attic red-figure hydria from   her lover Leander lived. With Hero’s torch
ca. 460 b.c.e. (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston).      to guide him, Leander swam across the strait
Here the Hundred-Eyed Argus defends him-           to meet her nightly. In Ovid’s Heroides, the
self from Hermes, who unsheathes his sword.        young lovers send letters back and forth.
Hermes deals Argus the death blow in an Attic      Leander laments that the rough sea some-
red-figure stamnos from ca. 430 b.c.e. (Kun-       times prevents him from going to her. She
sthistoriches Museum, Vienna), which draws         begs him to swim only when the seas are
on the same myth.                                  calm. The wind extinguished her torch one
                                                   night during a storm, and Leander drowned
Hermione Daughter of Menelaus and                  in the rough seas. In her sorrow, Hero threw
Helen. Hermione appears in Euripides’              herself from her tower and died. The story has
androMacHe and orestes. Additional classi-         inspired many postclassical poetic works, such
cal sources are Apollodorus’s Library (Epitome     as Christopher Marlowe’s Hero and Leander
3.3, 6.14, 6.28), Homer’s odyssey (4.1–14),        (1593) and Byron’s Written after Swimming
Ovid’s Heroides (8), Pausanias’s Description       from Sestos to Abydos (1810).
of Greece (1.33.8), and Virgil’s aeneid (3.327–
332). Menelaus, while away at Troy, prom-          Herodotus (fl. fifth century b.c.e.) Herodotus
ised Hermione to Neoptolemus to secure his         of Halicarnassus, the first historian of the clas-
support of the war. She had previously been        sical world and sometimes called the “father
promised to Orestes, either by Menelaus            of history,” flourished in the fifth century
or T  yndareus. In Euripides’ Andromache,          b.c.e. Herodotus’s history, or his “inquiries” to
Hermione is deeply jealous of Neoptolemus’s        adopt a more precise translation of his work’s
concubine Andromache, with whom he has             title, is nine books in length. In broad terms,
had a child, Molossus. Neoptolemus departs for     Herodotus treats the conflict between Greeks
Delphi to discover the reason for Hermione’s       and barbarians, East and West. Specifically,
childlessness, and Orestes arranges to have        he examines the origins and history and the
him murdered there in a riot. (In other ver-       conflict between Greece and Persia. The
sions, Orestes himself kills him.) In the same     Persian Wars took place in the early decades of
play, Orestes carries Hermione away with           the fifth century b.c.e. Decisive Greek victories
him and makes her his wife. Their child is         took place at Marathon (490 b.c.e.) and Salamis
Tisamenus. In Euripides’ Orestes, Apollo com-      (479 b.c.e.); the Athenians played a central role
mands Orestes to marry Hermione, at whose          in both cases. Herodotus narrates the history
throat Orestes has been holding a sword in a       of the wars, but also explores their background.
bid to force Menelaus to defend him against        He first discusses the Lydian king Croesus, then
the hostile citizens of Argos.                     the Persian kings Cyrus, Cambyses, Darius,
                                                   and Xerxes. He includes in his discussion the
Hero and Leander Mythological lovers               internal politics of their realms, their contact
from Asia Minor. Classical sources are             with neighboring kingdoms, and their encoun-
Musaeus’s Hero and Leander, Ovid’s Heroides        ters with Greece.
(18, 19), and Virgil’s georgics (3.258–260).           Herodotean history does not follow a
The fullest treatment of this story is given       straight line. It is full of detours and anecdotal
in a poem by the fifth century c.e. poet           episodes. Herodotus openly relies on oral tra-
Musaeus. Hero, a priestess of Aphrodite,           dition, the information he has collected in

his various conversations and travels, and the       species of myth, and Phaon is a mythic figure.
traditions retailed by particular peoples and        Heroides 16–21 are distinct: They are paired
ethnic groups. In many cases, Herodotus must         letters exchanged, in each case, between a hero
negotiate among differing versions; there is no      and a heroine. Scholars, on stylistic grounds,
clearly objective truth but a web of sometimes       date these paired letters later, roughly to the
conflicting opinions among which the historian       period of composition of Ovid’s fasti in the
must strive (when possible) to choose the most       early years c.e.
likely or persuasive. Herodotus, like Thucy-
dides, does not draw a hard, clear line between                        SynoPSIS
history, myth, and legend. For Herodotus, the        The following is a summary of the 21 letters of
series of abductions of mythological heroines        the Heroides. 1: Penelope writes to her husband
such as Medea and Helen form part of the             Ulysses (see Odysseus) to tell him of her long-
history of conflicts between Greeks and bar-         ing for his return. 2: Phyllis, a Thracian prin-
barians culminating in the Persian Wars. In          cess, writes to Demophon, son of Theseus; she
Book 2, Herodotus considers different versions       was seduced and then abandoned by Demo-
of the Helen myth and chooses the version            phon, and now laments his behavior. 3: Briseis,
in which she never goes to Troy, but instead         a captive slave, writes to her former master and
remains in Egypt. His basis for choosing this        lover Achilles. Achilles was obliged to give her
version is a rationalist evaluation of likelihood,   up to Agamemnon; she reproves him for giving
suggesting perhaps a historian’s perspective as      her up so easily and wishes to return to him.
opposed to a poet’s. Herodotus for a long time       4: Phaedra, wife of Theseus, writes to Hip-
was denigrated in favor of the more “scientific”     polytus, his son by the Amazon Hippolyte, and
approach to history of Thucydides, but now,          attempts to seduce him. 5: Oenone, a nymph
given the postmodernist enthusiasm for subjec-       whom Paris married in his youth, pleads with
tive involvement in the construction of history,     him to give Helen back to the Greeks and
Herodotus has become the object of renewed           return to her. 6: Hypsipyle, with whom Jason
appreciation.                                        sojourned on Lemnos, writes to her former
                                                     lover (she claims they were married), rebukes
                                                     him for taking up with Medea, and warns him
Heroides Ovid (ca. 16 b.c.e.) The precise date       of Medea’s dangerous nature. She ends her let-
of publication of Ovid’s Heroides (Heroines)         ter with a curse. 7: Dido, queen of Carthage,
is not known, but it is believed that Heroides       writes to her lover Aeneas, who is on the point
1–15 are among his earlier works, possibly           of departing for Italy. She begs him to stay and
published around the same time as the second         threatens to kill herself with the knife he gave
edition of his Amores (sometime after 16 b.c.e.).    her if he does not. 8: Hermione, daughter of
Heroides 1–14 are all single, unanswered let-        Menelaus and Helen, writes to Orestes, to
ters addressed by mythological heroines to           whom she was first promised by her maternal
male heroes, who, in most cases, abandoned           grandfather, Tyndareus. Menelaus, however,
or otherwise betrayed them. Some scholars            offered her to Pyrrhus (also called Neoptole-
suspect that letter 15, from the poet Sappho to      mus), Achilles’ son, in return for his help in the
her lover Phaon, is not authentically Ovidian,       Trojan War. She is unhappy as Pyrrhus’s wife
on the grounds that Sappho is a historical and       and exhorts Orestes to claim her as his bride.
not a mythological figure. The objection in          9: Deianira writes to her husband, Heracles,
itself is not decisive, since ancient writers did    who has fallen under the spell of Iole, daugh-
not always draw a strict distinction between         ter of King Eurytus, whose city, Oechalia, he
the two. Sappho’s biography, in any case, is a       has just sacked. She compares Heracles’ great

deeds of the past with his ignoble position now,     Troy with him. He advances many arguments:
contemplates her own suicide, and desperately        Aphrodite gave Helen to him, therefore she is
regrets sending Heracles the robe she now            rightfully his; he is very handsome; he is driven
realizes was poisoned. 10: Ariadne, daughter         by love; her beauty is so great she cannot expect
of King Minos, writes to Theseus, whom she           to remain chaste; Troy has great wealth and
aided in his plans to slay the Minotaur. He has      will afford her great luxury. 17: Helen responds
abandoned her and is now sailing to Athens.          to Paris. She is pleased by his love but does not
She begs him to sail back to her and anticipates     feel Troy offers any great advantages; nor is she
her own death. 11: Canace, daughter of Aeolus,       willing to give up her position as Menelaus’s
writes to her brother Maraceus, with whom she        wife and her good name. She fears war and
has committed incest. She became pregnant,           destruction. For the time being, however, she
attempted abortion, failed, and gave birth.          expresses cautious interest in his adulterous
The nurse tried to remove the baby from the          propositions. 18: Leander from Abydos writes
palace but was discovered. Aeolus has ordered        to Hero of Sestos. Leander has already crossed
Canace to commit suicide and the baby to be          the Hellespont by swimming to visit his lover,
exposed. 12: Medea writes to Jason, who has          Hero. Now the rough seas obstruct him, and
now taken a new wife, Creusa, daughter of the        he hopes they will soon relent; he imagines his
king of Corinth. She reminds Jason of all that       dead body washed up on shore and discovered
he owes her and asks him to come back to her         by Hero. 19: Hero responds to Leander. She
bed. She threatens unspecified revenge if he         is eager to see him, and encourages him to
does not. 13: Laodamia writes to her husband,        brave the waters. But she is also anxious for his
Protesilaus, who has departed for the Trojan         safety and relates how she dreamed that a dead
War. She begs him to be careful to stay alive so     dolphin was washed up on shore. 20: Acontius
that he may return to her. (Protesilaus is said to   writes to Cydippe. He tricked her by rolling an
have been the first to land on Trojan soil, and      apple before her with an inscription stating “I
the first to die. In some versions, Laodamia,        will swear I will marry Acontius” on it; she read
because she grieves so deeply, is allowed to be      it aloud and thus unwittingly made an oath to
with Protesilaus for three hours after his death     marry him. He admits the deception, but urges
at Troy. She then commits suicide to remain          her to accept him nonetheless. He observes
with him.) 14: Hypermnestra, one of the 50           that she is engaged to be married to another
daughters of Danaus, writes to Lynceus, the          man, and that she has become ill; the goddess
only surviving son of the 50 sons of Aegyptus.       Diana (see Artemis), in whose temple she made
Danaus instructed all his daughters to kill, on      her “oath,” is punishing her for not keeping her
their wedding night, their 50 cousins, who had       word. 21: Cydippe responds to Acontius. She
pursued them aggressively and forced them            deplores his trickery and argues that an oath
to consent to the marriage. Hypermnestra             made unwittingly and without active intention
alone spared her husband. Her father, Danaus,        is not a true oath. Nonetheless, she appears to
imprisoned her, and she now asks Lynceus to          be indifferent to her promised husband and
come and save her. 15: The poet Sappho writes        to harbor feelings of love for Acontius despite
to her lover Phaon, who has left her and gone to     herself. In the letter’s closing words, she bids
Sicily. She implores him to return and threatens     him come to her.
to commit suicide by leaping from the Leuca-
dian cliffs. 16: Paris writes to Helen. Menelaus                   CoMMEntARy
has departed for Crete, and he sees this to be       Ovid’s Heroides are a series of letters notionally
the perfect opportunity to commence their            composed by mythological heroines and heroes
love affair. Moreover, he urges her to return to     in elegiac couplets, the meter characteristic of

Latin love elegy. The salient feature of original-    Achilles’ sense of honor, and Briseis is a token
ity in this Ovidian collection is the combination     or trophy exchanged between two men in a
of the epistolary mode with elegiac genre and         struggle for authority. In the Heroides, Briseis
mythological subject matter. Most Roman love          has a viewpoint and a will of her own, which
elegy is spoken by a first-person lover identified,   she does not hesitate to express.
in broad terms, with the poet himself. The love           The epistolary mode adds its own distinc-
elegist speaks as a lover defined generically and     tive set of concerns and perspectives. The
conventionally within a literary fiction of amor      epistle is, at times, almost provocatively partial
(love/passion), and thus only in a complicated        and limited in its vision. The letter writer is dis-
way can the lover/speaker represent the bio-          tanced from the person he or she is addressing;
graphical author. Still, the terms of the fiction     the writer does not even enjoy the expanded
work to merge the identities of lover and poet.       scope of knowledge achieved by direct dia-
In Ovid’s Heroides, the meter, style, subject, and    logue. Is Ulysses dead or alive? How would
many of the individual flourishes and motifs are      Hippolytus view Phaedra’s passion for him?
those of love elegy, yet the writers are diverse      The letter writer must produce his or her side
mythological figures, mostly women, rather            of the entire communication in ignorance of
than the male poet-lover. There are limited           these crucial pieces of the puzzle. The epistle
precedents both for sustained mythological            provides a form of mythological narrative, if it
focus and for ventriloquism of female figures         can even be termed narrative, that is emphati-
in previous elegy. Yet Ovid, in combining these       cally not omniscient, not synoptic, not objective,
different strands, has created a literary work of     and thus thrives on the already rich ambiguities
a new and different kind.                             of mythological traditions. At the same time,
    Previous elegists, including Ovid himself,        the epistolary form returns the reader to the
inserted mythological comparisons into their          material act of writing itself, whereas most pre-
first-person discourse as a way of expanding,         vious elegiac poetry privileges fictions of voice
complicating, and illustrating some aspect of         and song. We are reminded that much of what
their love affair. The new form of the Heroi-         we call myth depends on written traditions
des allows Ovid to rewrite major myths and            and written modes of preservation and circula-
mythic sequences from an elegiac perspective.         tion. The letter writer’s perspective, however
Among Ovid’s enduring interests is the juxta-         partial and slanted, is in this sense truer to
position of different genres and the sometimes        the sometimes crooked paths of mythography
sharply dissonant and ironic effects of their         than synoptic narrative. As we read the letter
differing perspectives on the same event or           writers of the Heroides deliberately and even
situation. The myths that make up the Heroi-          artfully construing their situation from their
des have been treated, in many cases famously         own inevitably biased viewpoints, we may have
and definitively, in other genres, above all in       occasion to observe that the writing of myth by
tragedy and epic. Ovid inserts his letters in         mythographers and poets is not fundamentally
the interstices of epic and tragic narratives,        more objective or less calculating.
challenging the reader to relate the subjective           A further element in this mix of genres,
utterances of the heroines to the traditional         styles, and modes is the presence of rhetoric
elements of their story. For example, Briseis         and, in particular, the contemporary phenom-
writes to Achilles, and in so doing, shifts the       enon of declamation. Declamation was the
emphases of the Homeric narrative. Achilles,          delivery of rhetorical practice speeches on set
in her view, ought to have made a greater effort      themes. In the Augustan period, declamation
to keep her, and could still claim her if he          ceased to be exclusively a pedagogical prac-
wished to do so. In the Iliad, the key factor is      tice and became an arena of adult display and

competition as well. According to Seneca the        carry strongly tragic undertones. The letter is
Elder, who wrote on declamation and famous          packed with references to their shared family
declaimers, Ovid himself practiced declama-         members and ancestors (Atreus, Pelops, Tan-
tion. One form of declamation is the suasoria,      talus) and, in the closing lines, refers to their
a speech persuading a historical or mythologi-      common descent from Tantalus. The result is a
cal figure to follow a certain course of action.    letter of seduction pervaded by a sense of sinis-
Many of Ovid’s Heroides broadly fit the profile     ter menace and barely contained violence.
of a verse suasoria. These letter writers are not        In letter 14, which Hypermnestra addresses
shy about their underlying aim of persuading        to Lynceus, tragic subtexts are similarly discern-
others to do what they want them to do, and         ible. Hypermnestra, alone among the daughters
at times assume the manner of a lawyer fluidly      of Danaus, chose not to kill her husband on
and authoritatively summoning arguments to          the night of their marriage, although she had
support his case.                                   been ordered to do so by her father. Her father
    The declamatory spe