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6 talos See Daedalus; Hephaestus; voyage were momentarily stilled when Orpheus sang of tHe argonauts. his lament for Eurydice, his dead bride.


There are several versions of Tantalus's


crime. In Pindar, he is accused of stealing tantalus King of Sipylus in Lydia. Son of


ambrosia and nectar of the gods after having Zeus and the nymph Pluto. Tantalus married


dined with them and of having revealed secrets Dione (a Pleiad, daughter of Atlas). Their


of the gods to mortals. In another version, he children were Niobe and Pelops. Classical


is accused of serving his own son, Pelops, to sources are Homer's odyssey (11.583ff),


the gods to see whether they could perceive Hyginus's Fabulae (82), Lucian's Dialogues of


his trick. Only Demeter, distracted by the loss the Dead, Ovid's MetaMorpHoses (4.458­459;


of Persephone, ate some of Pelops's shoulder 6.172­176, 403­411), and Pindar's Olympian


before Tantalus's treachery was discovered. (But Odes (1.54­64). Tantalus is one of a group--


note an alternate version in Pindar.) In punish- which also includes Ixion, Sisyphus, and


ment for his crime, Tantalus was consigned to Tityus--of primordial violators of the social


T artarus, where he could never quench his order and of divine authority. Ixion commit-


thirst or sate his hunger: The water and fruit ted parricide, Tantalus was accused of can-


tree for which he reached shrank continually nibalism, Tityus tried to rape Zeus's consort


away from his grasp. The word "tantalize" Leto, and the wily Sisyphus attempted to


derives from the name of Tantalus. steal fire from the gods and defeat death. Their crimes varied, but all deeply offend- ed morality and/or challenged the author- tartarus The extremity of Hades. Classical ity of the Olympian gods, especially that of sources are Hesiod's tHeogony (119, 713­ Zeus, and their punishments were ingeniously 735, 820­822), Homer's iLiad (8.10­17, 478­ devised to provide gruesome spectacle and 481), and Virgil's aeneid (6.548­627). In the admonition. In his descent to Hades in the Theogony, Tartarus lies as far beneath Earth Odyssey, Odysseus witnessed the torments of (Gaia) as Heaven (Uranus) lies above Earth. Sisyphus, Tantalus, and Tityus, and in the It would take an anvil nine days and nights Aeneid, Aeneas encountered Tityus and Ixion. to fall from the heavens to the earth and nine In Ovid's Metamorphoses, their punishments days and nights again for the anvil to reach



telemachus


Tartarus. "Misty" Tartarus is in a pit encircled Circe then immortalized Odysseus, Penelope, by a bronze fence itself encircled three times by and their son, Telemachus. Telemachus mar- night. Uranus consigned the Hundred-Handed ried Circe; and Telegonus married Penelope. Ones, and the Cyclopes, Uranus's offspring According to Hyginus, the son of Circe and by Gaia, to Tartarus. They were released by Telemachus was the Latin king Latinus and the Zeus during the Titanomachy and played a son of Penelope and Telegonus was the similarly critical role in the defeat of the Titans by the eponymous Italus. Olympian gods. Zeus then imprisoned Cronus and the other defeated Titans in Tartarus, where they were surrounded by a bronze fence


telemachus Son of Odysseus and Penel- with a bronze gate and were guarded by the ope. Classical sources are Homer's odyssey Hundred-Handed Ones. (Books 1­4 and passim), Hyginus' Fabulae (127),


and the lost Telegony as summarized by Proclus.


Odysseus, bound by his oath to go to Troy, pre- telamon Son of Aeacus and Endeis. Brother of tended madness and began plowing his fields Peleus, and father of Ajax and Teucer. Classical with salt. Palamedes either threw Telemachus sources are Apollodorus's Library (1.8.2, 1.9.16, in front of the ploughshare or threatened 3.12.6­7), Apollonius of Rhodes's voyage of tHe him with a sword, and so caused Odysseus to argonauts (1.93­94), Ovid's MetaMorpHoses reveal that he was not insane. Odysseus thus (13.21­28), and Sophocles' ajax (202, 433ff). went to Troy when Telemachus was an infant. Telamon and Peleus killed their half-brother In Homer's Odyssey, the early books of the Phocus and were banished. Telamon departed epic focus on Telemachus, who is coming of for Salamis, where he became king. He married age as a young man in his father's absence in Periboea (or Eriboea), by whom he had his son a household filled with suitors of his mother, Ajax. Telamon participated in the voyage of the Penelope. This early portion of the epic, in Argo, the Calydonian Boar hunt, and Heracles' which Telemachus begins to establish his social sack of Troy. Heracles gave him Hesione, daugh- identity, is sometimes called the Telemacheia. ter of Laomedon, as a prize, and she gave birth to Telemachus is only just starting to stand up to Teucer. When Teucer returned from the Trojan the suitors and to assume authority over his War without his half-brother Ajax, Telamon household; on a few occasions, he surprises exiled Teucer, who subsequently founded a sec- Penelope by admonishing her. Encouraged by ond Salamis on the island of Cyprus (a story told Athena, Telemachus goes in search of news by Horace in Odes 1.7). of his father, first to Nestor at Pylos, then to


the palace of Menelaus and Helen at Sparta. telegonus Son of Odysseus and Circe. He evades the suitors' attempt to ambush him Classical sources are Apollodorus's Library on his return and is reunited with his father at (Epitome 7.16, 7.36­37), Hesiod's tHeogony the hut of the loyal swineherd, Eumaeus. He (1,014), and Hyginus's Fabulae (125, 127). then participates in his father's plot to kill the Telegonus is not mentioned in Homer's odyssey. suitors and joins him in the final battles. In the His story arises in the Telegony, a lost poem of Telegony, a poem in the Epic Cycle, Telemachus the Epic Cycle summarized by Proclus, where marries Circe, who makes him immortal. In he is said to have returned to Ithaca in search of general, Telemachus's mythology is closely tied his father and to have unwittingly killed him in a and subordinate to that of Odysseus. Within chance encounter. Telegonus then returned with the narrative economy of Homer's epic, he Penelope to Circe's island to bury Odysseus. functions as a prelude to his father. He is only 0 tereus


starting to learn the subtleties of foreign travel, Ovid follows the basic outlines of the ver- hospitality, concealment, and public speak- sion in Apollodorus but elaborates the story ing--all areas in which his father is a world- with rich, often horrifying detail and height- renowned master. ened pathos: Ovid's Tereus, for example, con-


tinued to rape the captive Philomela repeatedly


even after cutting out her tongue. Later, both tereus King of Thrace. Classical sourc-


Procne and Philomela stabbed the innocent es include Aeschylus's suppLiants (58­67),


Itys in their rage for revenge, and Philomela Apollodorus's Library (3.14.8), Homer's


hurled his severed head at Tereus after he had odyssey (19.518­523), Hyginus's Fabulae (45),


eaten the boy's flesh. In Greek and Roman Ovid's MetaMorpHoses (6.424­674), Pausanias's


poetry, the plaintive lament of the nightingale Description of Greece (1.41.8­9), and Virgil's


and Philomela's suffering are associated with ecLogues (6.78­81). Sophocles wrote a lost


songs of lamentation. play entitled Tereus. According to Apollodorus, Procne and Philomela were daughters of King Pandion of Athens. King Tereus of Thrace was tethys A Titan, the offspring of Gaia summoned by Pandion to help him in a war (Earth) and Uranus (Heaven). Sister to Iapetus, with Thebes over a boundary dispute. Pandion Hyperion, Coeus, Crius, Cronus, Mnemosyne, subsequently gave in marriage to Tereus his Oceanus, Phoebe, Rhea, Theia, and Themis. daughter Procne by whom Tereus had a son, Classical sources are Apollodorus's Library (1.1.3, Itys. However, Tereus also came to desire 2.1.1), Diodorus Siculus's Library of History Procne's sister Philomela, raped her, and then (4.69, 4.72), Hesiod's tHeogony (132­136, 337­ hid her away and cut out her tongue. She wove 370), Homer's iLiad (14.200­210), and Hyginus's the story of Tereus's act into a robe and thereby Fabulae (177). Oceanus married his sister Tethys, revealed the truth to Procne. Procne, in revenge, and their offspring are the 25 Rivers (among killed her son, Itys; boiled him; and served him them the Nile) and the 3,000 Oceanids (Ocean as a meal to her husband and then fled with nymphs). The most important of these rivers is Philomela. Tereus pursued them with an ax, but the Styx, which marks the boundary between the gods transformed Procne into a nightingale, Earth and Hades. Though Tethys appears in the Philomela into a swallow, and Tereus into a genealogies beginning with Hesiod, she does not hoopoe. Hyginus presents a slightly different otherwise appear in mythology or cult practice. version: Tereus lied to King Pandion, telling him that his wife, Procne, died, in order to per-


teucer Son of Telamon and Hesione. Half- suade him to hand over Philomela as his new


brother of Ajax. See ajax. wife. He subsequently raped her. In this version, Philomela became a nightingale, Procne a swal- low, and Tereus a hawk. According to Pausanias, Thebaid Statius (91­92 c.e.) Statius's Thebaid, however, Tereus committed suicide. He also published in 91­92 c.e. under the emperor notes that the story of the transformation of the Domitian, is the epic masterpiece of an early sisters into a swallow and nightingale was prob- imperial Roman poet who is only now begin- ably due to the plaintive sound of these birds' ning to receive the critical attention and admira- songs. In Homer's Odyssey, Penelope refers to tion he merits. Statius is an intensely self-aware a very different version of Philomela's story in poet who weaves into his poem a rich fabric which the nightingale, daughter of Pandareus, of allusions to his predecessors. His epic poem laments that she unwittingly killed Itylus, son on the Seven against Thebes responds both of King Zethus. to the tradition of Greek and Roman epic Thebaid


(Homer, Apollonius, Virgil, Lucan, and Ovid, is fatigued in particular by the house of Oedi- to name only a few) and Greek and Roman pus and the royal house of Argos, and vows to tragedy (Aeschylus, Sophocles, Seneca). Statius's punish both. Juno (see Hera) complains that tragic epic enacts a striking dialogue of genres, he singles out Argos, a land particularly dear while exploring the darker aspects of the epic to her. Jupiter calmly refuses to be persuaded tradition: violence, extreme hatred, madness, and sends Mercury (see Hermes) to send for moral and religious defilement, mourning, and the spirit of Laius in the underworld. In the bereavement. Statian characters are exhausted meanwhile, Polynices, wandering in exile, is by the violence they enact and are at times filled overtaken by a sudden storm. He takes shelter at with a sense of the futility of their own actions, the palace of Adrastus at Argos. Tydeus, in exile even as they carry them out. This sense of satu- for killing his brother, happens to take shelter ration and exhaustion reflects Statius's self-con- there on the same night. The two heroes quarrel sciousness as a poet who occupies a belated posi- and come to blows; Adrastus arrives to break up tion in the literary tradition, coming after Virgil their fight; Tydeus and Polynices become close and other canonical writers. Yet Statius deploys friends. Adrastus notices that Polynices wears his poetics of exhaustion to dazzling effect and the emblem of a lion and Tydeus the emblem creates great poetry out of a sense of weariness of a boar, suggesting the fulfillment of a proph- and satiety. Statian epic is thus densely packed ecy regarding his daughters' marriage. Adrastus on many levels--packed with literary allusions, holds a feast in honor of the guests and tells the accumulating violence and bodies, and ornate story of Phoebus Apollo and Coroebus. Phoe- rhetorical figures and descriptions. He also bus raped the Argive king's daughter. The child inserts into his poem complicated reflections on of their union was abandoned and devoured by political power and, implicitly, the early imperial dogs; when the mother found out, she lamented political culture of his times. inconsolably, thus revealing her secret. Her father


put her to death. Apollo, angry at his paramour's


SynoPSIS treatment, sent a monster to devour Argive Book 1 children; Coroebus killed it; Phoebus sent a The poet reviews potential subject matter, plague against the Argives as punishment for the rejects early Theban mythology, and chooses to slaying; Coroebus offered himself as expiatory focus on the house of Oedipus. He then praises victim, and Phoebus spared him. After the story, Domitian as a god, who, he hopes, will none- on being asked by Adrastus, Polynices reveals his theless remain content with ruling mortals. He ancestry. Adrastus offers prayer to Phoebus. predicts that he will sing of Domitian's deeds in the future. The poet, deliberating where to Book 2 begin, chooses the already self-blinded Oedipus. Mercury, sent by Zeus to retrieve Laius, travels He addresses Tisiphone and the infernal deities. to the underworld and takes him back to Thebes. After he blinded himself, his sons despised him; The Thebans are enjoying a festival in honor of he now curses them and bids Tisiphone destroy Bacchus (see Dionysus). Eteocles is asleep after his line. The ghastly Tisiphone hears, and feasting. Laius, as bidden by Mercury, disguises eagerly makes her way to Thebes. She fills the himself to look like the Theban seer T iresias and two sons of Oedipus, who now share the rule of speaks to Eteocles. He warns him of his brother's Thebes in alternate years, with rivalry for domi- marriage and intentions and bids him make nance. The people of Thebes become restless preparations for war. Then he pulls off his dis- under Eteocles, the first to hold rule. The gods guise, revealing himself to Eteocles as his mur- hold a council. Jupiter (see Zeus) complains of dered grandfather. Eteocles is now stirred to rage the wearisome transgressions of mortals. He against his brother. In the meanwhile, Adrastus Thebaid


offers his daughters, Argia and Deipyle, in mar- He brings the news of Tydeus's success to Eteo- riage to Polynices and Tydeus, respectively. They cles, condemns the king and his evil war, and accept, and Adrastus vows that he will help them commits suicide before the king can have him regain their rightful realms. News of the alliance killed. Eteocles forbids his burial. The Thebans reaches Thebes. The wedding day arrives in rush to the place of the slaughter, and family Argos, but as they approach the temple of Pallas members mourn and collect the remains of the unwedded, a shield falls from above, and a their slain kin. A Theban mother, Ide, finds the trumpet blare is heard from within. The omen remains of her slain twin sons. The aged Aletes is ascribed to the fact that Argia was wearing the compares the present slaughter with Theban necklace of Harmonia. Vulcan (see Hephaestus) catastrophes of old, and condemns Eteocles. originally made the necklace as bridal gift for Jupiter on Olympus summons Mars and bids Harmonia, Venus's (see Aphrodite) daughter him stir up the Argives to a frenzy of bellicose by Mars (see Ares), and in revenge for his wife's rage. Jupiter insists that the war is destined and continued adultery, he imbued it with violence, cannot be prevented: The peoples must pay grief, and discord. Harmonia, wife of Cadmus, for their sins. The other gods are cowed and founder of Thebes, ended up being transformed agree. As Mars descends to carry out Jupiter's along with her husband into a serpent; next the commands, Venus meets him and begs him not doomed Semele owned it; after her, Jocasta had to destroy their race, the Thebans, descended it. Now, Argia owns the necklace, but Adrastus's from their daughter, Harmonia. Mars is moved sister Eriphyle, married to the prophet Amphi- by her plea, and while he must foment war as araus, covets it intensely. Bribed by it, Eriphyle commanded by Jupiter, he declares that he will persuades her husband to go on a doomed expe- strive to protect Thebes and oppose the Argives dition, and her son, in vengeance, will slay her. in battle. In the meantime, Tydeus returns to Polynices, in the meantime, begins to turn his Argos and proclaims to the king and his council eye on Thebes. His wife is reluctant to see him that the war has begun: The Thebans ambushed go. It is decided that Tydeus will go to Thebes him and were slain. Polynices expresses outrage to request humbly Polynices's return. Eteocles is and offers to send himself alone to Thebes to committed to holding his throne by force, how- die, instead of bringing war and grief on Argos. ever, and Tydeus's speech to him is excessively His words succeed in manipulating the Argives candid and harsh. Eteocles flatly refuses, and into desiring war. Adrastus is more restrained. Tydeus leaves in anger. Eteocles sends a band of Tydeus tells the full story and inflames Poly- soldiers after Tydeus, despite his role as ambas- nices further. Mars fills the land with eagerness sador. They attempt to ambush him at the foot of for war. The seers Melampus and Amphiaraus the cliff from which the Sphinx fell to her death. are dispatched to observe omens. The entrails He crushes four immediately with a boulder, are discouraging, but they go on to read the and begins to slay the rest. Exhausted, he is per- sky. The birds and their actions are even more suaded by Athena to return to Argos. He spares disturbing, and in one instance, a group of one Theban to convey the outcome to Eteocles. eagles attacking a "city" of swans presages with Then he fastens the enemy's armor to a tree and some precision the defeat of the Seven. The dedicates it to Pallas Athena. He prays to Pallas seers are disheartened. Melampus retires to his and vows to build her a temple in Argos. country dwelling, while Amphiaraus retreats to


his chamber and refuses to speak. At length, as Book 3 the tide of war rises, Capaneus expresses impa- Eteocles cannot sleep, feeling shame and anxi- tience and demands that the prophet speak. ety over his act of perfidy. The spared Theban, Amphiaraus, coming forth at last, predicts Maeon, a prophet, returns in deep lamentation. doom as the outcome of the war. Capaneus is Thebaid


scornful and hubristically casts doubt on the known figures of Theban mythology as they gods. The crowd roars approval. Just before approach. Then, surprisingly, Tiresias himself dawn, Argia goes to see her father with her is able to see and describes the Argive dead child Thessander and, anguished by her hus- that appear, including the 50 slain warriors band's unhappiness, pleads with Adrastus to go who tried to ambush Tydeus. In order to speak, to war against Thebes, though she knows she the ghosts must drink the blood of the sacri- may regret it. He cautiously agrees. fice. Tiresias seeks out Laius in particular and


persuades him to speak, although he is initially Book 4 reluctant. He predicts terrible war and Theban Three years pass. The Argive forces are now on victory, but also that the Furies will possess the verge of departing for war. Adrastus is weary the city, and there will be a "double crime" in and reluctant, Polynices and Tydeus fierce and which the father will triumph. Meanwhile, the eager for war. The poet then rehearses the advancing Argives reach Nemea. But Bacchus, catalog of forces from various places that con- leading his train from Haemus, land of the tribute to the Argive expedition, including the Getae, sees the Argive army and complains seven famous heroes. The giant Capaneus leads that Juno, in anger at Semele, is contriving to one troop. Hippomedon leads the Pelopon- do further damage to his city. He decides to nesians. Amphiaraus has finally relented and delay them. He persuades the water nymphs to comes to war. Argia has agreed to give up the close up their springs, so that Nemea parches, necklace of Harmonia so that Eriphyle may and the soldiers become desperate. Only one be bribed to persuade her husband, the seer spring, Langia, still flows. In their search for Amphiaraus, to join the expedition he knows water, they come upon Hysipyle, daughter of is doomed. Parthenopaeus, son of Atalanta, Thoas, king of Lemnos, who, however, has is young and inexperienced in war, but very been captured by pirates and sold as a slave to handsome. He leads the Arcadians--a rough, Lycurgus, the Spartan king, whose son, Oph- hardy, and ancient people--into war. Atalanta, eltes, she looks after. Adrastus mistakes her for when she hears of Parthenopaeus's desire for the goddess Diana (see Artemis) and begs her battle, leaves the woods and confronts him, to help them find water. She responds that she vainly attempting to persuade him to stay clear is not a goddess, although of royal lineage, and of war until he is older. In the meantime, the informs them of the spring Langia. She puts Thebans reluctantly and without eagerness Opheltes down on the ground to guide them or pleasure prepare for war. They resent their more rapidly. They find the spring and drink leader's bidding and do not wish to leave their deeply. An Argive leader praises the stream. families. Sinister rumors run through the city of Thebes; dire omens are observed; the leader Book 5 of the Bacchantes cries out to Bacchus that she Adrastus asks Hysipyle her lineage and origins. can no longer keep up his rites properly and She names her place of origin, Lemnos, allud- complains of Eteocles' rule and war. Bacchus ing to the killing of the Lemnian women's himself withdraws. Eteocles, alarmed, consults husbands, and gives her name. Adrastus asks Tiresias. Tiresias offers rites to Hades and the to hear her story. She tells how the Lemnian other gods of the underworld and bids them women neglected the rites of Venus, and she release the spirits of the dead to the upper came with a Tartarean entourage to banish world. Tisiphone is to lead them up. The conjugal love from the island. The men of underworld is opened, and Theban and Argive Lemnos preferred to wage war in Thrace than ghosts come forth. The priestess who is help- to remain with their families. An old Lemnian ing Tiresias, Manto, describes to him the well- woman named Polyxo went into a frenzy and Thebaid


summoned the women together. She suggested that Lycurgus would offer the first death in violence against their husbands and children. the war. Maddened by grief, Lycurgus calls for The women made an oath sealed by the slaugh- Hypsipyle's death. The Argive heroes interpose ter of a male child. The husbands returned, and themselves, and Tydeus exchanges harsh words their wives celebrated with them; Venus even with Lycurgus. There is a report that Hypsipyle breathed love into the husbands for one last is being dragged to death. Panic, confusion, night. During the night, the Lemnian women and armed conflict ensue. Adrastus, display- slaughtered the males of the island, including ing Hypsipyle in his chariot, calms the crowd those of Hypsipyle's family, although she did not of soldiers. Unexpectedly, Hypsipyle's sons, join in the slaughter. Instead, she chose to save Thoas and Euneus, from whom she had been her father, Thoas, leading him out of the city. long separated, appear and, after she recog- Bacchus appeared to them and urged Hypsipyle nizes them, enjoy a reunion with their mother. to send her father away by ship. She did so, then Amphiaraus addresses the Nemeans, declaring returned to the city. She held a sham burial that the entire sequence of events was the inevi- of her father to escape notice. She was made table outcome of destiny and that Archemorus queen. The Lemnians began to regret their should be honored as a hero. deeds and to remember the dead. The Argo- nauts arrived. The Lemnians mistook them for Book 6 their enemies. A great storm fell upon the ship. Rumor spreads through Greece that the Argives The Lemnians attacked them while they were are establishing the Nemean games as part of reeling from the storm. In a lightning flash, the Opheltes' funeral rites. The royal household heroes were revealed to them, and they ceased mourns. The mother and father of Opheltes their attack. The two sides established a truce. are inconsolable, and an elaborate funeral The Lemnian women welcomed the men and ceremony is carried out. The Argive army, at accepted them in their beds; Hypsipyle herself Amphiaraus's bidding, at the same time makes was taken by Jason against her will and gave offerings to expiate the slaying of the sacred birth to twin sons. Eventually, the Argonauts serpent. The cutting of wood required to build departed. A rumor circulated that Hypsipyle the altars is a scene of extravagant destruction. did not kill her father, the Lemnians became Eurydice, the mother, delivers a speech express- angry and resentful of her innocence, and she ing her rage, sorrow, and resentment toward departed for the shore, where she was captured Hypsipyle--who enjoyed her child's company by pirates; she was brought to her present loca- before causing his doom--and calls for her tion as a slave. While Hypsipyle tells her story, death. Lycurgus expresses his grief, and the Opheltes falls asleep in the grass unmonitored. body is burned on the sumptuous pyre. After- In the meantime, a giant serpent sacred to ward, they build a temple on which relief sculp- Jupiter is searching for water in the area and, tures represent the story of Opheltes' death. without knowing it, strikes and kills the infant They choose a wood-fringed vale as the site for with its tail. Hypsipyle hears the death cry and the games and gather there. Statues of heroes goes on a frantic search. She comes on the are brought to the place. Polynices (driving serpent, shouts, and Capaneus slays it with his Adrastus's horse Arion); Amphiaraus; Admetus; spear, declaring his indifference to any protec- the two sons of Hypsipyle, Thoas and Euneos; tor god the creature may have. The serpent dies Chromis; and Hippodamus line up to compete in Jupiter's temple, and Jupiter decides not to in chariot racing. Apollo, singing of the gods kill Capaneus yet. Hypsipyle grieves for Oph- and cosmology on Olympus, observes the eltes, also called Archemorus ("beginning of competition at Nemea and sees that two mor- doom/destiny"), whose death fulfills a prophecy tals favored by him, Admetus and Amphiaraus, Thebaid


are involved. He pities the short, unhappy life Book 7 remaining for Amphiaraus and speeds down Jupiter, watching from on high, is angered at to Nemea. Polynices has difficulty controlling the Argives' lack of progress and sends Mercury Arion, who senses an alien rider. Apollo, more- to chide Mars, currently among his favored over, makes a ghastly phantom appear, and a Thracians, for ignoring his task; he threatens terrified Arion causes Polynices to fall onto the to supplant him with Athena as leader in the ground. Polynices (unfortunately for Thebes war. Mercury goes to the north and arrives at and the Argives) survives; Amphiaraus wins as Mars's temple, grim, made of iron, and deco- rider, but Arion, continuing riderless, crosses rated with representations of the deities and the finish line first; Admetus comes second. trappings of warfare. Mercury approaches Mars All three, including Polynices, are rewarded. and reports Jupiter's commands; Mars assents. Then the foot race is held. Parthenopaeus, son At Nemea, the funeral games have ended, and of the swift Atalanta, competes. Near the finish Adrastus, praying to Opheltes, vows a temple line, Parthenopaeus leads Idas, but Idas pulls to him in return for victory at Thebes. Mars, him back by his long blond hair. In the follow- approaching, sends Panic (Pavor) ahead. Panic ing dispute, Adrastus rules that they must run confuses the Argives with phantom images and again on separate tracks. Parthenopaeus wins. sounds and makes them believe they are under Next comes the ring toss. Hippomedon wins. attack from the Thebans. They snatch up arms. After that comes the boxing match. Capaneus Bacchus, dismayed to see them making their challenges the crowd, and at length, the Spar- way toward Thebes, goes before Jupiter. He tan Alcidamas comes forth. Capaneus despises complains that Jupiter, in allowing unwarlike his opponent. The skillful Alcidamas, trained Thebes to be attacked, singles him out for dis- by Pollux, consistently gets the better of the honor, whereas the birthplaces of other gods powerful, raging Capaneus and knocks him are peaceful and protected. A smiling Jupiter down, but Adrastus, seeing Capaneus's rage declares that destiny, not his personal will, is redoubled and fearing fatal violence, calls off bringing about the present war. Thebes will the match. Alcidamas is hailed as winner, while not be destroyed until a later age. In the mean- Capaneus seethes and vaunts that he will send time, a report of the approaching Argive army the boy's corpse back to Pollux. The vast, but comes to Eteocles, who calls on his allies. On somewhat unwieldy Agylleus, claiming descent a lonely tower, Antigone questions Phorbas, from Hercules (see Heracles), then challenges who was once an attendant of Laius, about the the sinewy Tydeus in wrestling. Tydeus raises war. He provides information on the various him aloft and pins him to the ground, winning contingents joining their side in the war. He the match. Agreus and Polynices wish to fight lingers on the story of Lapithaon and his son with swords, but Adrastus forbids them, exhort- Alatreus, who appear very close in age because ing them to save their strength and lives for the the nymph Dercetis seduced Lapithaon when war to come. Adrastus gives prizes to both, and still a boy. He also singles out Hypseus, who has Polynices garlanded and proclaimed victor was the son of the river god Asopus, who raged of Thebes. The others bid Adrastus perform a against Zeus for abducting his daughter Aegina. feat with bow and arrow. He is to strike a tree Near the close of his catalog, he is reminded across the plain. The arrow hits its target but of Laius's death and breaks off in sobs. He then, amazingly, turns around and falls before remarks that he has put off his death only to Adrastus. They debate the cause, but the poet look after Antigone and deliver her safely to reveals the meaning of the omen: Unbeknown her marriage. Eteocles then delivers a speech to them all, the arrow is singling out Adrastus from a high mound and disposes the troops. as the only one who will survive the war. The Argives march toward Thebes relentlessly, Thebaid


indifferent to the many dire omens. They rior will feed on his enemy's head, that another cross the swelling Asopus and settle on a ridge will prevent the burial of corpses, and that one overlooking Thebes. The city is wracked with will make war on the gods. Then he turns to fear and anticipation of war. Oedipus wanders Amphiaraus and questions him. Amphiaraus abroad and prays to have his eyes back. Jocasta, swears that he does not come to the under- supported by her daughters, goes forth from world as an aggressor, nor as a guilty soul; the city to meet the enemy. She calls for her he was betrayed by his wife for gold and thus son; he embraces her, and she berates him bit- tricked into joining the Argive expedition. He terly. She pleads that he go to the city with her expresses respect for Pluto and begs to become and enter into negotiation with his brother. a shade. Pluto yields to his prayers. On Earth He is disposed to go, but Tydeus intercedes, above, no one can find traces of his chariot, recalls Eteocles' treachery, and stirs up warlike and they fear the place of its disappearance. feelings in the army. As it happens, two tigers, The news is brought to a horrified Adrastus. brought by Bacchus from the East and treated Soldiers begin to retreat, and night falls. The as beloved manifestations of the god by the Argives mourn the loss of Amphiaraus; they Thebans, are stung by the Fury and fall on now have no prophet and have lost a brave war- some Argives, including Amphiaraus's chari- rior; the oracles will fall silent; and he will be oteer, until they are driven, wounded, to the worshipped at his own shrine. In Thebes, there gates by Aconteus. The Thebans are outraged, is revelry and singing; the inhabitants rejoice and Aconteus is killed. The camp is thrown in the enemy prophet's death, and they sing into tumult, Jocasta flees, and, with Tydeus's the legendary history of Thebes. Even Oedi- encouragement, battle begins in earnest. The pus, pleased with the commencement of war, poet calls on the Pierian Muses to sing of wars joins the feasts. Adrastus sits in gloomy anxiety. waged in their own country. Capaneus kills At dawn, the Argives choose Thiodamas, son a priest of Bacchus; Eteocles fights fiercely, of Melampus, as their seer. In his first act as Polynices fights reluctantly against his own seer, Thiodamas sets up altars and prepares countrymen. Amphiaraus shines in battle with offerings to appease Earth. He prays to Earth Apollo's support and, doomed to die by no and to Amphiaraus. Thebes then sends forth mortal hand, slays many. When Hypseus kills warriors from all its seven gates. The Argives his charioteer, Apollo, in mortal guise, takes proceed less eagerly, still feeling the loss of his place. At length, Apollo reveals himself and their prophet. The poet calls on Calliope and proclaims the irreversibility of the prophet's Apollo to commence his battle narrative. The fate. Amphiaraus, in his last words, commends two sides meet in battle. A series of killings are to Apollo the punishment of his wife. The described: Theban Hypseus and Haemon, sup- earth begins to shudder and rip apart; all cease ported by the divine Hercules (see Heracles), their activity; an abyss opens and engulfs the distinguish themselves, as does Argive Tydeus, horses and Amphiaraus, who rides on into the supported by Pallas Athena. Hercules and Pal- underworld as the earth closes above him. las meet, and Hercules, expressing gratitude


and reverence before Minerva yields; she is Book 8 satisfied. Haemon senses the loss of his divine Amphiaraus enters the underworld, and all support and retreats; he is wounded by Tydeus the shades are amazed and frightened. Pluto but spared by Minerva. Tydeus goes on to kill complains at length about the invasion of his others. Atys, betrothed to Ismene, enters the realm. He sees it as an act of war and expresses fray in splendid clothes and, at first success- his defiance of Olympus. He further wishes the ful, challenges Tydeus, who disdainfully and two brothers to slay each other, that one war- briefly spears him. In the meanwhile, Antigone Thebaid


and Ismene, in their bedroom, converse. They him, and he calls on his mother in his dying lament the misfortunes of Thebes and doubt breath. His mother, Ismenis, searches for him whom to support in the war, but silently sup- in the crowded waters, at length finds him, port Polynices. Ismene confesses she dreamed mourns him, and calls on her father, Ismenos, that she was a bride and recalls an omen of to exact vengeance. He hears her from far fire that appeared when once she saw Atys by off and comes. He complains to Jupiter that, accident. Atys, mortally wounded, is brought despite his support of Jupiter's amours, his river in. He has called for Ismene, and when she is is choked with gore. The stream swells, and alone with him, she closes his eyes in death. Hippomedon is battered by its force, yet still Tydeus is still preeminent on the battlefield. fights against, and taunts, the god. Hippom- He even encounters Eteocles, but Enyo, the edon, beginning to be overwhelmed, grabs a goddess of war, prevents Eteocles from being tree trunk, which, however, falls onto him, and killed. Tydeus begins to falter eventually amid he begins to drown; he calls on the gods to save the immense slaughter. He is wounded in the him from an ignominious death by drowning, groin by Melanippus. After hurling a spear and Juno hears. Jupiter, at his wife's request, back at Melanippus, he is dragged to the causes the waters to subside. Hippomedon side of the field, where, dying, he demands crawls onto the bank, where he is killed by Melanippus's head. Capaneus finds the dying the Thebans. Hypseus displays Hippomedon's Melanippus and carries him to Tydeus. Driven helmet and vaunts over the corpse; Capaneus by Tisiphone, Tydeus eats Melanippus's brains. kills him and offers Hypseus's spoils to the Minerva, looking on, was about to request dead Hippomedon. Atalanta, in the meantime, immortality for the dying Tydeus, whom she has been having ominous dreams about her son favored, but now, seeing him defile himself in and Thebes. She prays to Diana for his safety. this way, averts her eyes and withdraws. Diana makes her way through the heavens


to Thebes and on the way meets her brother Book 9 Apollo, saddened by the death of Amphiaraus. All are disgusted by Tydeus's act, and the The- Apollo knows why she goes to Thebes and bans attempt to seize his corpse. Polynices, points out that he had to endure the death of learning the news of his friend's death, grieves. his prophet: Fate is immutable. She replies He is restrained from committing suicide by his brusquely that she can still ensure that Parthe- comrades. A group of Thebans led by Eteocles nopaeus will win glory by his death, and that advance toward the corpse. The two sides fight his death is avenged. Parthenopaeus, gloriously over Tydeus. Tisiphone, taking human form, arrayed, is much admired on the battlefield. occupies the battlefield. Hippomedon--the Diana laments to see him there and enters mainstay of the corpse's defense--is misled into the field herself. With Diana's aid, he kills by Tisiphone into thinking that Adrastus is many in a fierce onslaught. At one point, Diana in peril and follows her until she reveals her attempts to dissuade him from battle, but he true form, and he sees Adrastus unharmed. insists on remaining. From on high, Venus The Thebans obtain the corpse and mutilate observes Diana's actions at Thebes and chides it. Hippomedon mounts the horse of Tydeus Mars for standing aloof from battle while the and continues his onslaught. Hippomedon normally unwarlike Diana does harm to their comes to the river Ismenos and terrorizes the race. Mars descends and commands Diana to enemy there. The river is choked with bodies. depart; she has no choice but to comply. Mars Crenaeus, grandson of the river Ismenos, fights summons Dryas, descendant of Orion and with a great sense of security in the water. He thus enemy of Diana's follower. Parthenopaeus, challenges Hippomedon. Hippomedon kills struck by Dryas's weapon, falls. Dryas himself Thebaid


mysteriously falls, apparently untouched by any reveal the Argives' war strategy, and Dymas weapon. Parthenopaeus's comrades bear him commits suicide. In the meanwhile, there is from the field, and as he dies, he sends a care- rejoicing at the Argive camp when Thiodamas fully worded message to his mother. returns, and Amphion's band, discovering the


slaughter, turns back in horror. The Argives Book 10 pour forth in eagerness for war, while the Night falls, hastened by Jupiter. The Thebans, Thebans shut the gates. The Argives besiege emboldened by the killing of four Argive cap- the town and attempt to break its defenses; the tains and encouraged by Eteocles, keep watch Thebans defend the city from the walls. Inside, on their enemies' retreat rather than their own the inhabitants express a variety of sentiments camp. In Argos, women and children pray for and call on Tiresias, who, taking the omens, the men's return. They make offerings and pray declares that the latest-born of the serpent to Juno for the defeat of Thebes. Juno knows race must die as the price of victory. Creon she cannot change Argos's destiny but is deter- immediately understands that his son Menoe- mined to do what she can. She observes the ceus is meant. The goddess Virtue, who rarely Theban sentinels and sends Iris to the palace visits Earth, on this occasion comes down from of Sleep, which is described in exquisite detail. heaven in the form of the mortal prophetess Iris manages to rouse him with her brilliance Manto. Menoeceus is fighting alongside his and bids him put the Theban guards to sleep. brother Haemon, but Virtue approaches and Sleep descends on the battlefield and lulls the bids him embrace his noble destiny. He agrees Thebans, but not the Argives, into slumber. to do so and returns to the city. His father, Thiodamas is seized by a prophetic frenzy and realizing his son's intent, desperately attempts goes to Adrastus's tent, where the chieftains to dissuade him. The son affects to have no (some newly appointed) are gathered, and tells such intention and departs, leaving his father them that he has received a prophetic mes- in confusion, although he ends by believing his sage from Amphiaraus, who rose up from the son. Capaneus rages on the battlefield. Menoe- underworld to speak to him: The Thebans are ceus stands on the wall. He prays to Apollo for asleep and vulnerable to attack. Thiodamas victory, stabs himself with his sword, sprinkling chooses 30 to accompany him, though many the walls with his protective blood, and falls more wish to go. They slaughter many The- lightly to the ground. They bury him, and his bans in their sleep, aided by Juno herself. mother laments inconsolably. The poet now Thiodamas becomes weary with so much works up to the more daring act of represent- slaughter. At length, Actor suggests they set ing the wild audacity of Capaneus. Weary of a limit to their havoc. Thiodamas agrees and slaughter, Capaneus looks upward, takes a lad- prays to Apollo that he may one day return to der, and climbs the battlements. The Thebans his homeland. Two warriors on the expedition, hurl missiles at him. Not at all deterred, Capa- however, Hopleus and Dymas, companions of neus continues climbing, reaches the summit, Tydeus and Parthenopaeus, respectively, decide and taunts the Thebans. He begins destroying to search for the bodies of their slain captains. the walls and hurling down pieces onto the They obtain bright moonlight by praying to city below. Around Jupiter the various deities Diana. They find the bodies of Tydeus and are arguing, each presenting the case of their Parthenopaeus and begin carrying them back. favored side. Jupiter remains calm. Capaneus A troop led by Amphion calls on them to cries out, taunting the gods--Bacchus, Hera- halt, and Hopleus is shot down. They capture cles, and, finally, Jupiter himself--asking them Dymas, and he begs them not to mistreat his if any will come to Thebes's defense. Jupiter captain's corpse. Amphion commands him to laughs and strikes him with a thunderbolt. Thebaid


Capaneus is set on fire but manages to die still gods and men, complains of the present strife standing defiantly on the battlements. and comes down to prevent it in mortal guise.


For a moment, the two brothers repent of their Book 11 actions and weep. Tisiphone harshly rebukes Capaneus lies immense on the ground, with and intimidates Piety, who flees to Jupiter. a grim look on his face, having performed They exchange blows, and neither is wounded, famous deeds that are even praiseworthy in but Eteocles' horse is wounded. They rush at the eyes of Jupiter. The Argives are scattered each other in a torrent of uncontrolled rage, on the field in their fear of an angry Jupiter. and the Furies, no longer needed, stand aside Tisiphone, weary of the war, decides to bring it in admiration and envy. Polynices drives his to a conclusion by the brothers' duel, and sum- sword into Eteocles' groin and taunts his mons Megaera to help her. Tisiphone informs brother. Eteocles purposely falls to the ground, Megaera that while she has inspired the war's and as Polynices leans over him to strip him frenzy quite effectively thus far, she is wearying of his arms, Eteocles stabs him in the heart. and needs her help for the final chapter--the Polynices, predicting Eteocles' punishment in duel of the brothers. Megaera will incite Poly- the underworld for his treachery, falls dead nices, Tisiphone will handle Eteocles and The- on his brother. Oedipus, on hearing the news, bes. Jupiter, anticipating the coming events, comes out from his chamber and, supported by bids the gods, himself included, turn their eyes Antigone, is led to the bodies and flings him- away from the earth. Polynices, who has seen self on top of them. He feels a belated sense of an ominous vision of his wife, Argia, is lashed duty and affection toward his sons and regrets by the Fury into violent rage. He approaches his curse. Antigone foils his suicide attempt. Adrastus and announces his intention to meet Jocasta also attempts suicide. Creon holds Eteocles in a duel. He has caused the shed- power, becomes tyrannical, denies burial to ding of enough Argive blood. Megaera, in the Argive dead, and sends Oedipus into exile. human guise, hastens him to the field of battle. Oedipus responds with harsh, sarcastic words. Eteocles, in gratitude for the lightning bolt Antigone pleads on his behalf. Creon responds that struck down Capaneus, makes sacrifice that Oedipus may inhabit Theban territory in and prayer to Jupiter. News of Polynices's the wilds of Cithaeron. The remainder of the approach reaches the king, and Creon fiercely Argives flee under cover of darkness. demands that Eteocles, hesitating among vari- ous councils, face Polynices: Thebans, his son Book 12 Menoeceus in particular, have suffered enough The Thebans emerge cautiously from their city for their king's perjuries. Eteocles prepares for and attempt to sort out their kinsmen's bodies battle, threatening that he will punish Creon from the jumbled heap. They burn their dead, afterward. His mother passionately attempts while leaving the Argives' bodies, Polynices's to dissuade him. At the same time, Antigone, included, unburied. Menoeceus receives an from the walls, attempts to dissuade Polynices. elaborate burial, and Creon reiterates his decree Polynices begins to waver, when Tisiphone against burial of the Argives. A group of women abruptly smashes the gate and sends forth from Argos approaches Thebes in mourning: Eteocles. After exchanging harsh words, the Argia, Deipyle, Atalanta, Evadne, Eriphyle, and two brothers meet in battle, each supported by others. They are aided by sympathetic gods, but his own Fury. Adrastus attempts to intervene meet along the way a lone, wounded, fleeing and, failing, drives away from Thebes. The Argive soldier, Ornytus, who warns them that goddess Piety (Pietas), who long has dwelled Creon will not allow them to bury their loved in a remote region of the sky, alienated from ones and that they are in danger of their own 0 Thebaid


lives. The women entertain various options, yet again. The two sides meet in battle. After but Argia, driven by love for her slain husband, barely missing Haemon with his spear, The- decides to entreat the king personally, while the seus seeks out Creon. Creon taunts him, but rest of the group appeals to Theseus of Athens Theseus merely laughs and, offering Creon up for aid. Accompanied by her old tutor Meno- as a victim to the Argive dead, throws his spear, etes, Argia embarks on a long, relentless quest which strikes the death blow. Theseus, strip- for the Theban battlefield. Once there, she ping Creon of his armor, assures him of burial. searches through the bodies for her husband's A treaty is made, and Theseus is welcomed as by torchlight. Juno aids her by bidding the a guest in Thebes. The Argive women come moon to shine more brightly and Sleep to put down to find and bury their dead. The poet the watchmen to sleep. Argia recognizes first then affects inability to tell of the funeral that her husband's cloak, and then his body. She followed and its diverse episodes and declares speaks to his corpse in grief. In the meanwhile, the end of his poem's journey. He further prays Antigone manages to slip past the guards out for the survival of his poem into future ages, a of the city. The two women meet over the poem that, he remarks, has already achieved a corpse and join as partners in mourning. They measure of fame and is known to the emperor tell each other the stories of Argos and Thebes, (Domitian). He exhorts his poem to avoid respectively. They prepare the body and, in direct rivalry with the aeneid, but instead to their search for fire, come on the still burning follow reverently in its footsteps. pyre of Eteocles, although they do not know it is his. They place Polynices on the same pyre. CoMMEntARy The very flames and timbers strive against each Statius came from the Bay of Naples, a very other and push away from each other. The Greek part of Italy, and his father was a profes- women realize their error, and Antigone calls sional poet who composed in Greek. Given on their ghosts to be appeased and cease their Statius's deeply Greek cultural background, it discord. The pyre's discord only increases with make sense that the subject matter of his epic a great tremor, and the watchmen wake up. The poem draws on Greek mythology and displays two women fiercely contend with each other to his impressive erudition in Greek literature, take credit and demand punishment. The rest myth, geography, and ethnography. At the of the Argive women, meanwhile, approach same time, Statius writes in Latin, and the Athens as suppliants, supported by Juno and literary conventions of his poem are formed Athena. They come to the shrine of Clemency, within the context of the tradition of impe- a specially designated place of refuge. Theseus rial Roman epic. These two major dimensions returns from his Scythian wars in triumph. of Statius's work--Greek subject matter and Spoils of his victory over the Amazons are led Roman literary matrix--create an enlivening in procession. Capaneus's wife presents their tension throughout his epic poetry. Statian epic case to him: Creon wrongly forbids burial of is informed by the set of concerns specific to their kin. Theseus, deeply offended by Creon's the sociopolitical conditions of the emerging conduct, commits to immediate war. The Athe- and early Roman Empire: Foundation, empire, nians march against Thebes in eager spirits led city and world, conflicts over land and hege- by Theseus. Creon, however, is sending Anti- mony, the relation between the cosmic and the gone and Argia to their deaths. When they are mundane, race, and destiny. Those concerns about to be executed, a message from Theseus are submerged within and, yet at the same time, arrives, threatening war. Creon hesitates, then infuse a distinctly Greek mythological setting. sends back a taunting response. The exhausted To understand Statius's position within the Thebans drag themselves listlessly out to war Roman epic tradition and its ideological frame- Thebaid


work, it is necessary to recall its development their putative glories) are yet to come, there over the previous century and the figures is no strong impression of worthwhile destiny of Virgil and Lucan especially. Virgil, who pervading the narrative, which is filled instead founded the tradition of imperial Roman epic, with mangled bodies and a sense of purpose- appropriately wrote an epic of foundation, less brutality. Civil war is about discord rather the story of how the Trojan fugitive Aeneas than fusion and thus presents a darker, more comes to Italy and establishes the basis for divisive view both of foundation and of the Roman civilization. Aeneas must first fight a civilization that is founded. long war with the native Latins, with whom Statius, like Lucan, at once inherits the eventually his own Trojans will join to form ideological matrix of Virgilian epic, while the Roman race. The sacrifices Aeneas and his developing its subversive tendencies to the comrades make, and the deaths they both suf- point of undermining the central link between fer and cause in war, are thus notionally justi- narrative drive and teleological justification. fied within the broader scheme of the destiny As in Lucan, there is a profound sense of pur- of the Roman people. Virgil provides plenty poseless violence in Statius, a relentless war of space for the dissenting reader to ponder drive that pushes along the narrative toward the sacrifices of Roman destiny and to wonder its destined outcomes without providing any whether the violence involved in founding positive justification for the massive suffering civilization is truly worth it--whether that caused along the way. Statius situates his nar- means the early Roman civilization Aeneas and rative even further from the chain of Roman later Romulus founded or the imperial civiliza- historical causation, however, in choosing to tion Augustus founded at the cost of civil war. write about the Seven against Thebes. There Yet the driving engine of Virgilian narrative is is arguably even less teleological motivation, teleological, i.e., devised so as to suggest that from a Roman point of view, than in Lucan, great labors and suffering are directed toward since, in the latter case, we can at least fill in some end or goal. The teleological framework the succeeding periods of Roman history in our remains available and always at least potentially minds. Later mythological events are in store operative. for the future, but there is no sense of a particu-


Lucan, an epic poet writing under Nero, lar, worthwhile goal toward which the current inherits the same set of concerns with empire, sequence tends. Theban mythology is thus, destiny, foundation, and violence, yet he in in a certain sense, cut off from Virgilian epic many ways inverts the ideological emphasis destiny, trapped in a bubble of nonteleological of Virgil's foundation epic. His Civil War violence. Violence that is cyclical, inescapable, treats the relatively recent conflict between and purposeless, that ends in lamentation and Caesar and Pompey that formed part of the emotional exhaustion, is more reminiscent of disintegration of the Roman Republic. This tragedy than epic, and Thebes is the tragic city story, too, presents a teleological dimension, par excellence. The central problem of Thebes yet perversely so. As Lucan notes, without the is tragic repetition, the recurrence of patterns civil war that destroyed republican govern- of violence and defilement across generations. ment, there would be no principate, and no Thebes wins the war, but the victory is Pyrrhic, Nero. Caesar and Pompey, in their relentless to say the least, and Statius's Jupiter, far from discord, are arguably founders of the impe- guaranteeing some future "empire without rial system no less than Augustus. Yet they end," as in the Aeneid, guarantees only that one accomplish their "foundation" through civil day Thebes, in a future age, will be defeated violence and nefas ("not-right"). Although we and fall. The Argives have no greater hopes: know that the Julio-Claudian emperors (and The only "hopeful" prophecy of their future is Thebaid


that Adrastus, alone of the Seven, will survive Argos, for its part, presents almost equally the war. impeccable tragic credentials. While Mycenae


In developing this antiteleological vision, is the usual setting for the house of Atreus, Statius is not so much rejecting Virgil as Aeschylus places it in Argos. The abominable developing and intensifying some aspects of act of Atreus, who served up Thyestes' own Virgil at the expense of others. Or, to put it children to him as a meal, is alluded to several another way, he develops a reading of Virgil times throughout the epic. When, near the that privileges elements congruent with his beginning of the epic, Jupiter complains that own project. One of those elements is the two cities in particular have committed trans- presence of tragedy within epic. Thebes as a gressions that demand punishment, he singles place, as mentioned above, has strong tragic out Thebes and Argos. Argos, like Thebes, can associations. The assault of the Seven was the call on a longer history of dark myths. Just subject of an Aeschylean tragedy, which was as Thebes can claim Cadmus and Harmonia, itself the culminating play in a Theban trilogy; Semele, Actaeon, Pentheus, and Niobe, so Sophocles' oeuvre includes a famous group of Argos can claim the Danaids' murder of their Theban plays (Oedipus Rex, Antigone, Oedipus at husbands and other grim stories of ancient Colonus). Euripides' pHoenician WoMen affords legend. The expedition of the Seven appeals to yet another tragic version of Theban mythol- Statius because both sides are almost equally ogy, and his meta-tragic tragedy, the Bacchae, is tainted with criminality; neither has right on set in Thebes. For Roman writers and readers, its side, and both are associated with cycles of Thebes and Mycenae were common metonyms recurrent violence and ancestral curses that for the tragic. undermine the hopes of the living.


The place itself, however, does not establish The most vivid embodiment of tragic rage the presence of the tragic genre within epic, and violence is to be found in Statius's omni- for Statius might have developed his theme present Furies, sometimes designated, in an in a more straightforwardly epic manner. He Aeschylean reminiscence, as Eumenides. The chooses, rather, to emphasize and maximize the epic tradition provides precedents for this dia- tragic and--a closely related theme--the Diony- logue with the tragic genre: Apollonius's voyage siac in his representation of Thebes. The associa- of tHe argonauts is hardly unaware of the tion of Bacchus and Thebes is a constant theme, tragic Medea's later career. Even more strik- reinforced by references to Pentheus, Agave, ingly, Virgil stages his Dido episode, as some and Semele. Pentheus and Agave, are tragic commentators have observed, and as Virgil him- characters, and Dionysus/Bacchus, who brings self encourages us to observe, as a tragedy within about Pentheus's downfall for his resistance to the epic. Dido, trapped in the circuit of incur- Dionysiac rites, is the presiding deity of Athenian able desire, resists the epic's teleological drive theater. Bacchus himself appears on the scene in and, ultimately, is destroyed in its wake. She lives the epic's narrative and plays a key role in bring- out the plot of a tragedy, while Aeneas goes on ing about the delay of the Argives at Nemea. It to complete his epic destiny. Aeneas's forward is Bacchus in this play, not Juno as in the Aeneid, momentum defeats the self-imploding tendency who complains to Jupiter of his dishonor and the of the tragic character, while Virgil's narra- fate of a favored city. Other figures are equally tive overcomes the nonprogressive tendency of distinctive in their tragic resonance. Tiresias, tragic closure. Statius vastly expands the pres- for example, is close to being a stock character ence of the tragic within epic, and even allows in Theban tragedies; Hypsipyle is likewise the tragic cyclicality to eclipse epic progress. The subject of tragedy. Oedipus was, at least since forward drive of the Argive expedition in the Aristotle, the prototypical tragic character. end only serves to confirm the recurrent cycle Thebaid


of doom within the house of Oedipus. Apparent Thebes and its fated outcomes. Aeneas was a progression collapses into repetition, the fulfill- reluctant warrior in some respects and claimed, ment of the blind old man's curse, while the when justifying himself to Dido, that he was Fury becomes the poem's presiding deity. going to Italy against his will. Yet Aeneas ulti-


Related to the Statian concern with cycli- mately accepted his destiny as the founder of a cality and lack of progression is his version of civilization. Amphiaraus and Adrastus present the epic motif of delay (mora). Delay can be the case of heroes who would do anything to a powerful narrative device for building up put off or evade their destiny. expectation and tension and is used with great The destiny that the Thebaid enacts is effectiveness by Homer in both his epics: Achil- ultimately a negative one. Statius's Jupiter les' awe-inspiring return to battle is delayed for announces from the outset that he will employ most of the poem, and Odysseus's return to infernal power to punish two cities that have the role of master in his household is tantaliz- sinned against morality and the gods. In thus ingly and spellbindingly delayed, even after he framing his epic, Statius distinguishes himself has arrived home in Ithaca. Virgil ensures that from his Virgilian model. He foregrounds Aeneas wanders for most of the first half of the destruction, rather than the foundation, the epic before arriving in Italy and commenc- of cities, and at the same time, he confounds ing his war with the Latins. Statius, however, the Virgilian opposition between infernal and manages to push the poetics of delay to the Olympian powers and deities. In Virgil, Jupiter, breaking point. Statius has, first of all, chosen the sky god, supports the hero Aeneas in his a subject that, in mythological terms, does not quest for Italy and, along with other Olympi- obviously present a large number of major ans such as Neptune (see Poseidon), restores narrative units into which to break up his epic. order after Juno and her hellish lieutenants The assault of the Seven was compactly treated have wreaked havoc and created obstruction. by Aeschylus in a single play. It took a tour de This scheme may be too simple in the end, force of expansion to fill the Virgilian number but as a basic blueprint, it provides insight into of 12 books with these events. Statius manages an important aspect of the Aeneid's narrative to make the beginning of his war fall in the dynamic. No such dichotomy can be applied to seventh book, as in Virgil's Aeneid, even though the Thebaid. From the very beginning, Jupiter relatively little, in raw terms, actually happens turns to the underworld in handling the matter in the interval between Oedipus's curse and the of Thebes and Argos. Tisiphone, the epic's first start of the conflict. deity to make an appearance, continues direct-


The episode of Opheltes and Hypsipyle ing the action through to the final act, when is notable for its richly learned expansiveness the two brothers kill each other. and its incorporation of multiple layers of The idea of complicity between an Olym- narrative. Statius seems almost to have gone pian god and infernal forces derives from out of his way to include a highly complicated the Aeneid itself: Juno employs the terrifying episode with only a glancing relation to the figure of Allecto, the direct literary ancestor epic's central plotline. The principle of mora is of the Statian Tisiphone. Even Jupiter, at the maximized. But the Hypsipyle detour is only epic's close, summons the hell-demons called the most obvious instance: Adrastus, even after Dirae to help bring Turnus's story to a close. agreeing in principle to the war, still waits The pervasive presence of the infernal in the three years before commencing the expedi- Thebaid, however, presents yet another case tion. Amphiaraus, the other morally admirable where Statius develops a Virgilian feature to Argive hero, is equally slow and reluctant. Both the point where sheer quantity transforms would prefer to delay indefinitely the attack on literary quality. Statius's gods routinely employ Thebaid


Furies and hellish forces, and as Statius is keen ater and an allusion to Tiresias's role as ghostly to emphasize, there is often no clear dividing prophet in the Odyssey. line between the devices of the gods and the Later, in an even more explicit travesty of devices of Thessalian witches. Many instances Odysseus's consultation of the shades, Eteo- illustrate Statius's Fury-saturated world and the cles has Tiresias release the shades from the inextricable link between Olympian and infer- underworld, and this time Laius is consulted nal powers. Venus employs the infernal pow- as prophet of the coming war. The contrast ers to make Lemnos a hell on earth. Phoebus with the Aeneid is pointed: Laius predicts afflicts the Argives with a hellish child-eating Theban victory, but also the "twin death" monster. The fearsome serpent that emerges and the horrific triumph of the father's curse. to kill the infant Opheltes is sacred to Jupiter. Laius's and Tiresias's roles, with cruel irony, are Minerva, when Tydeus feasts on the brains of doubled. Laius caused the misfortunes of the Melanippus, averts her gaze, and as she turns household by not heeding prophecy, and now away, the image of the Gorgon on her shield he becomes, on two occasions, a posthumous seems to grow in stature and overshadow Tiresian prophet. Tiresias himself becomes a the goddess's face. Furies dominate the scene somewhat absurd figure, closer to a witch prac- and sometimes make disturbing, unexpected ticing necromancy than the revered prophet of appearances. Polynices, as he turns toward the Greek tragedy. Finally, rather than sending a city to face his brother in battle, glances back hero down to visit the dead, Statius brings up to see the sinister omen of the Fury's looming legions of the dead from the underworld, effec- shadow. tively undermining the barrier between the


Just as it is hard to distinguish between two realms. In doing so, he at once recalls and infernal and Olympian powers and projects, expands Lucan's ghastly scene of necromancy. given Statius's insistent and informed mixing In one instance, Statius does send a hero, of the two, so also does he go out of his way still living like Aeneas, down to the underworld. to make the boundary between the world of The prophet Amphiaraus is swallowed up by a the living and the world of the dead unusually chasm in the earth. Amphiaraus, however, will permeable. The journey to visit the dead is an not return; the finality of his doom is force- epic motif that goes back to the Odyssey and was fully impressed on the hero, when, descending notably revived in significant form by Virgil to the land of the dead, he has the unpleasant in the sixth book of the Aeneid, where Aeneas experience of observing the earth closing up visits the underworld to learn of Rome's future again above him. Pluto, when he observes this greatness. We might compare with Aeneas's trespass on his realm, becomes infuriated and journey the ghastly retrieval of the ghost of complains that the Olympians are attempting Laius by Mercury at Jupiter's behest. Statius's to undermine his sovereignty. The point is well Pluto justly complains that the boundaries of taken. The boundaries of hell in Statius's epic his realm are all too permeable, and that people are not hard; they are softer even than in the seem to be able to go back and forth with Aeneid, to the point that their constant perme- impunity. Laius himself is a prime example. ability becomes almost comic. Pluto himself is On his first exit from Hades, he appears to surprisingly loquacious in the epic and comes Eteocles and, in his dream, covers him in blood off as a much more lively and important char- from the fatal wound on his neck, thereby acter than elsewhere in epic. The pervasive stirring up feelings of violence and war in his infernal coloring of the narrative extends to descendant. Before revealing himself, however, the characters as well. Argia's epic quest to find he grotesquely dresses up as Tiresias--at once her husband's body is compared by the poet to a highly self-conscious reference to tragic the- Demeter's relentless search for her abducted Thebaid


child Persephone. Adrastus, departing from all too predictable. A plethora of signs and Thebes, is compared to Pluto, his spirits dashed omens accompanies the Argives as they march at the sudden realization that, in drawing the toward Thebes. Their plurality makes the effort underworld as his lot, he has lost the sky. This to ignore them all the more incredible. Every haunting vision of eternal loss would make death is presaged by disturbing dreams and Adrastus the king of a dead world. The only omens; every phase in the narrative is preceded one of the seven heroes to survive the war, by multiple emblems of future woe. This sense Adrastus now inhabits a desolated ghost realm. of hypersaturation extends to the temporal Everyone who mattered is dead. register as well: Generation after generation at


Ghosts fill the air at various moments in the Thebes has replicated the pattern of violence narrative and whistle about the heads of the and pollution. Statius consciously points up the living. Near the end, Argia must walk through effect of crowding; his narrative is dense with fields filled with corpses to find Polynices's. dark mythic exempla, just as it is almost cloy- To avoid contaminating the epic's least tainted ingly enriched by its multiple layers of allusion and most unproblematically heroic character to previous epic. Statius succeeds, in other (Theseus), Statius must find a bit of ground words, in making poetic exhaustion an absorb- unoccupied by bodies for the epic's final battle. ing poetic theme. The scarcity of undefiled space signifies in To take only one of many possible examples, literary terms as well. Statius, in writing about the night raid scene in Book 10 knowingly Thebes, is traversing a literary terrain that plays on the idea of exhaustion on multiple is both thick with previous practitioners and levels. On the level of the narrated events, thick with corpses. The site of Tydeus's slaugh- the raid intensifies the ordinary glut of vio- ter of 50 Thebans is emphatically identified by lence that constitutes epic warfare: Uncounted Statius with the site of the Sphinx's murder- Thebans are murdered in their sleep without ous perch and suicidal fall. Statius effectively effort or struggle, to the point that the kill- imitates and expands the scene in Aeneid 3, ers become disoriented by the possibilities for where the very soil is tainted by Polydorus's slaughter. Eventually, they must set an arbitrary murder, but not the sequence in Book 8, where limit, even though it seems like the waste of an Aeneas is shown the as yet humble sites of opportunity to do so. The prophet Thiodamas, Rome's future greatness. Statius focuses on who urged the expedition in the first place and the violence of the past and its defilement of is its prime hero, himself becomes weary and the present. The many mythologically famous even disgusted with the mechanical killing. It ghosts of Thebes--the Sown Men, Semele, is no accident that the night raid scene is one Actaeon, Pentheus--remind us of the city's of the most venerable in ancient epic and goes legions of violently killed dead who continue back to Homer's Iliad. Apollonius included a to haunt its soil. confusing night battle in his epic, and more


The soil's saturation with gore is only one important for Statius, the night raid passage among many Statian figures for exhaustion, in the Aeneid was singled out by its author as both in martial and in poetic terms. The cluster important and worthy of enduring the pas- of terms that belong to the semantic domains of sage of time. Statius, imitating Virgil's gesture, fatigue and satiety--filling, exhausting, drink- expresses the hope that his Hopleus and Dymas ing to the dregs, wearying, wearing down-- will be famous and immortal like Virgil's Nisus occurs with striking frequency throughout the and Euryalus. Statius is unusually explicit about epic, and in their overuse, the words themselves his act of emulation in this passage. It may not afford an example of the theme they express. be accidental that Statius foregrounds here The horror of Thebes is overdetermined and his Virgilian inheritance, given that the entire Thebaid


episode is about exhaustion, repetition, and nonetheless forges on and holds our interest as weariness. he does so.


Another example is afforded by the cutting Statius goes beyond recording the exhaus- of trees in Book 6 to build altars. Tree cutting tion of the better-established areas of epic is yet another epic type scene that goes back to narrative, however; he also injects new energy Homer, is featured in Virgil, and can even now into areas of the epic tradition that, while be found near the beginning of Derek Walcott's certainly important, had not been developed Omeros. Statius, not surprisingly, surpasses his to their full potential. One of these areas is predecessors' violation of nature, multiplying the representation of grief, and especially the devastation to new extremes. Yet there is mourning for the loss of children. The inter- added irony in this instance, since, by ruthlessly est in dead children on Statius's part seems hewing down an ancient grove, the Argives aim consistent and even programmatic. Recurrent to appease an angry god and thus display their mythic reference is made to the killing of Thy- piety. "Wood," in Latin, is one way of referring estes' children, the slaughter of the children of to material or poetic subject matter. Thus, a Niobe, and, perhaps more distinctively, the scene featuring the violent hacking of a wood story of Ino/Leucothea and Palaemon/Meli- is at the same time a violent metaphor for liter- certes. In that story, Athamas, driven mad ary creation and the extravagant, exploitative at Juno's behest, killed one of his wife Ino's


children, and she dove with the other into use of the age-old materials provided by one's


the sea, where they were transformed into sea revered predecessors in the epic tradition. Sta-


creatures and renamed. The two latter stories tian imitation has an edge of violence and car-


are carefully chosen: They are both Theban ries suggestions of conscious exploitation and


and concern grief for dead children. defilement that are in tension with the reverent


The theme of dead children comes up tones of his poem's closing envoi.


throughout the epic. In the story told by Adras-


Another area where literary imitation is at


tus in Book 1, the Argive king's daughter aban- once inevitable and problematic is the descrip-


doned her child by Apollo, then learned to her tion of the violence of warfare. Death and immense grief that the child was devoured by wounding have been exhaustively described by dogs. After her execution, Apollo's punishment epic poets. Already in Homer, various modes of came in the form of a child-eating monster. extinguishing life were employed to add vari- The Lemnian women killed both male adults ety to battle narration. What can a new poet and male children of the island--murders add, except greater accumulation and novel they later come to regret. The most elaborate provocations, to disgust and horror? Statius development of the theme is the Hypsipyle has the dubious honor of writing in the wake episode, in which Opheltes/Archemorus dies of Lucan, who seemingly maximized epic's due to Hypsipyle's neglect. Her own grief and potential for the fragmentation and destruction the grief of the child's mother and father are of bodies. Extreme violence of warrior heroes, represented in painful detail, and his funeral then, is itself paradoxically the site of fatigue. rites and subsequent funeral games take up a This paradox creates a continual narrative significant portion of the epic. Statius has a tension between weariness and the dynamism sharp eye for the pathos of the heartrending required for fresh acts of destruction. Statius's detail, which he uses to powerful effect. Creon's achievement mirrors that of some of his heroes. fatherly concern for Menoeceus, and later Aware of the immense power of the past over his heartless political exploitation of his son's his present venture, of the wearisome nature memory, contribute to a memorable psycho- of repetition, and even of a certain futility, he logical portrait. Statius's comparison of Argia's Thebaid


search for Polynices's body to Demeter's search of its own and no longer merely functions as for Persephone assimilates her grief to the loss a measure of war's cost, the warrior's heroism, of a child. Many of these parents and caretakers and the community's loss when its defenders are at least in some way responsible for their are slain. The Homeric Achilles' grief for the children's death--a detail that may help to dead Patroclus does play a major role in the explain the pattern and its larger significance Iliad and continues to drive Achilles' actions for Statius. Oedipus, who furnishes the begin- even after he has avenged his friend's death ning point of the narrative, reemerges near the by killing Hector. At the same time, however, end: He regrets cursing his sons and throws Achilles' grief for Patroclus must be understood himself on top of their corpses. The culmina- as a means of justifying his return to battle tion of the epic's central myth is the slaying of and magnifying his battle fury to magnificent two children through the dreadful agency of proportions. Grief fuels Achilles' rage, and his their father. rage makes him a splendid and memorable


Epic poets since Homer made the cost warrior. Virgilian and post-Virgilian epic, with of war and thus the glory of the hero's death its assimilation of tragic paradigms of action manifest by embedding miniature biographies and emotion, gives new scope to the expression into the battle narrative. Before he dies, we of grief and, as in the case of Dido, explores learn the warrior's city of origin and informa- the destructive power of emotion outside the tion about the father, mother, or wife who will battlefield. Grief, especially in Statius, begins mourn his death. These small but often vividly to come into its own as a feature of mortal life evocative details of the hero's life story intensify and is the more vividly and intensely evoked in the emotional power of the battle narrative and certain cases where the object of mourning is give war its emotional and moral complexity. not an adult warrior. Virgil made a decisive intervention in the epic There are many cases where grief is tradition by introducing his distinctive mode of expressed for a warrior, but even in these cases, pathos. There is a much-noted mournful qual- the theme of grief itself begins to overshadow ity to some of Virgil's poetry that some critics the exposition of war, and the proportion subtly have seen as a counterpoint to the martial drive shifts in favor of emotive response over action of his epic and its patriotic themes. Virgilian and deed. The Theban Atys, who is engaged mournfulness, his sense of the "tears of things" to be married to Ismene, calls out her name (lacrimae rerum), builds on and transforms the when he is brought into the city mortally Homeric awareness of the cost of war. Virgil wounded, and it is his bride-to-be, alone with goes beyond the Homeric paradigm of the hero him for the first and only time, who closes his as object of mourning for his kin and com- eyes in death, then mourns her dead fiancé. munity and ponders broader aspects of sadness This small, private scene has great power. The and tragedy in human existence. There is even culmination of the whole narrative sequence some precedent for Statius's interest in grief concerning Atys takes place outside the battle- for the death of children. In a key passage in field, in an unmarried girl's wordless expres- Book 6, Virgil describes the Temple of Apollo sion of grief. We might compare the death of built by the master artisan Daedalus, who rep- Parthenopaeus. Like a Homeric hero, he enjoys resented in relief sculpture various stories from a display of martial splendor, supported by a Cretan mythology, but not the death of his own patron god, before he dies, and the pathos of son, Icarus. his death is heightened by descriptive atten-


Roman epic, starting with Virgil, extends tion to his youth and beauty. Yet, intertwined the space of grief within epic, so that it gradu- with the sequence of his glory in battle and ally begins to take on a weight and importance subsequent demise is a long, richly detailed Thebaid


narrative of Atalanta's premonitions, anxieties, of learned periphrasis and a hypererudite style and actions on her son's behalf. In a certain of naming. Rarely will Statius simply employ a sense, the central meaning of the episode is the hero's name, but uses instead a topographical mother's grief, and yet, in this instance, Statius adjective that itself only obliquely indicates his brilliantly subverts our expectation of an elabo- place of origin; in other cases, he uses a pat- rately described mourning scene. He ends the ronymic. Both features are traditional in epic, sequence instead with Parthenopaeus's dying and yet Statius is so consistently oblique in his directions for the messenger who will, eventu- manner of reference as to create an overt effect ally, inform his mother of his death. In this case, of opacity. the sense of Atalanta's terrified concern for her Statian allusion is perhaps the most con- son has been so profoundly built up that the spicuous dimension of his epic poetry and has choice not to represent her actual grief is much been the object of much study in recent years. more powerful than a more conventional griev- Not surprisingly, Statius retreads his predeces- ing scene would have been. sors' ground in a manner that is at once exhaus-


The overt emotionalism of Statian epic is tive and eccentric, reverent and laced with only one facet of a hypercharged literary style aggression, self-denigrating and ambitious. He that constantly intensifies the impact of the is constantly allusive and, above all, alludes events and surrounds events with a rich fabric to Virgil. To take only a few examples: The of associations. The epic simile is a traditional funeral games for Opheltes replay the funeral feature of epic and goes back to Homer; Apol- games both for Hector in the Iliad and, yet lonius and Virgil inherited and reworked it in more closely, the funeral games for Anchises turn. In Statius, similes come with striking fre- in the Aeneid; the terrible storm in Book 1 of quency. They are so densely packed, at times, the Thebaid reworks the storm of Aeneid 1; that they seem to equal the narration to which in both Virgil's and Statius's epic, a wounded they are notionally subordinate. Statius, more- animal or animals especially favored by the over, often uses simile not simply as a compari- local population are the cause of the beginning son that adds vividness to the narrated event of hostilities. The poet's closing remarks, in but as a juxtaposed field of meaning that is often which he claims to follow Virgil at a reverent with tension with, or even supplants, the narra- distance, has been traditionally taken at face tion. The simile can bring out darker implica- value but is more recently viewed as at once tions and a more disturbing emotional tenor concealing and expressing proud poetic ambi- than the events themselves directly suggest, tions. Certainly, Statius is not hesitant about and thus functions as a complex counterpoint inviting direct comparison with Virgilian epic to the narrative, interweaving it with double as, for example, in his explicitly declared emu- entendres and imbuing it with a rich tonal dis- lation of Virgil's Nisus and Euryalus episode. sonance. Another feature of Statius's densely Statian allusion typically works at several levels ornate style is the sometimes whimsical detail and alludes to more than one predecessor text of his physical description. The magnificently at once, and thus reflects, on the level of liter- described Tisiphone descends holding a funeral ary inheritance, the rich exuberance of his style. torch in one hand and a live water snake in the One example among a vast multitude will have other. Mercury, on his voyage to the northern to suffice. Hypsipyle, when she tells the story lands, finds that his broad Arcadian hat is ill of the events on Lemnos, is likened to Aeneas designed to ward off the hail rattling about his telling the story of the fall of Troy in Aeneid 2: head. Statius presses at the boundaries of epic The Lemnos episode, like Aeneid 2, is a first- decorum, and his descriptions are the richer for person narration, and as in Virgil, the narrator it. One final feature worth remarking is his use tells how she dutifully saved her aged father Thebaid


from the ruin of her own city. Equally, however, suicide, is still alive, and Oedipus, rather than we might think of the Lemnos episode in Apol- going into exile, remains at Thebes during the lonius, which, likewise, fulfills the function of war. His blind presence is crucial to Statius's narrative delay within the broader frame of the thematic emphases. The verb Statius uses to epic journey. The list could be expanded. Statius describe Oedipus's act of self-blinding (scrutor) combines multiple, intertwining allusive strands means "to search, explore, probe." This unusual in fashioning his narrative, and invites multiples usage suggests that the poet is consciously play- lines of comparison and interpretation. ing on the irony of Oedipus's character, a figure


The epic genre has a long tradition of who, in Sophocles' play, was a great scrutinizer incorporating elements that are, at least osten- and investigator of his own life and fate. Now, sibly, opposed to the "classic" version of its he has probed and delved into his own eye identity as the narration of heroic deeds. From sockets so as to look no longer on the horror the time of Homer, delay, narrative detour, of what he has discovered--his wife/mother, representation of women, the expression of his misbegotten children, his life, and himself. emotions such as grief and erotic desire, the Moreover, in a dark travesty of the motif of the display of erudition apparently for its own sake, blind seer endowed with inner sight, Oedipus is and a concern with the subheroic and ignoble afflicted with a "cruel daylight" that shines with have formed an important part of epic poetry, harsh brightness in his mind. Later, Tiresias, constituting its identity at least in part through although blind, will be unexpectedly capable tension and contrast and paradox. Statius, in of seeing the ghosts of dead Thebans as they this perspective, is no different from his pre- come up from the underworld, as if, by a logical decessors going back to Homer. And yet, in inversion, blindness in the world of light and another sense, he is distinctive precisely in his life conversely conveys sight in the realm of determination to maximize the presence of the death. Jocasta, in turn, when Eteocles is on anti-epic within epic, creating a paradoxical the verge of dueling with his brother, will call epic of the sinister, the defiled, the pointless, to mind the blinded Oedipus and suggest the the baroque, and the absurd. Stylistic and same treatment for her own eyes and ask why allusive ornateness play into the same project. the present day must be gazed upon. Finally, The medium, with its allusive density, stylisti- when Oedipus comes to regret the curse he cally baroque texture, hypererudite manner, earlier inflicted in the wake of his self-blinding, and simile-burdened narration, is in constant he will wish, on feeling the dead bodies of his tension with the narrated message, baffling and sons, that he had his eyes back so that he could obstructing the unrolling of the plot. It thus tear them out again. makes sense that there are multiple instances in Mortals are not the only ones who wish the Thebaid of blocked, fragmentary, and ellip- they could not look upon the horror of their tical speech. Statius, a poet capable of tremen- fate. The gods also sometimes choose not to dous fluidity when he wishes, combines verbal see. Minerva, when Tydeus feeds on the skull profusion and blockage, speech and a sense of of Melanippus, averts her gaze so as not to the futility of speech. watch the polluting act. Even more strikingly,


Related to the theme of speech and silence when the two brothers are about to enter battle is that of seeing and not seeing. The entire against each other, Jupiter calls on the other epic begins with the gory spectacle of the gods to join him in turning their gaze away blinded visage of Oedipus. Statius, moreover, from the coming events. This injunction is a has developed a distinctive version of the myth, fairly disturbing idea. The culminating action which resembles Euripides' Phoenician Women, of Statius's epic is unworthy even to be seen and in which Jocasta, rather than committing by the gods and, uniquely in the epic tradition, 0 Thebaid


goes ahead without the spectating Olympians. and infrastructure. The Temple of Mars, the We, the readers/audience, do view/read the Palace of Sleep, and the Shrine of Clemency final act of the two brothers' story and, pre- are all described in extended ecphrastic pas- sumably, defile ourselves in being privy to their sages that illustrate how a building, its location, grotesque end. Statius plays with his readers' and artistic adornment belong to a broader simultaneous sense of disgust and continu- program congruent with the qualities of the ing desire to see it all played out nonetheless. particular deity. Statian ecphrasis reflects the This concern with violence and the desire to way in which Roman emperors since Augustus see/not see is not unrelated to broader cultural used public architecture, including temples developments. The emergence of spectacle and forums, to articulate the ideology of their and spectatorship as defining paradigms for regimes. literature and reading in the early empire has Statius's description of the necklace of Har- often been observed in recent scholarship. The monia, insofar as it responds both to Homer's spectacles of violence in Lucan's Civil War can shield of Achilles and to the Virgilian shield be interpreted as responding to the violent of Aeneas, is a good example of how he uses spectacles that become increasingly popular in ecphrastic description of a work of artisanship the early imperial period: beast hunting, public to define his poetic project. Ecphrasis of an executions, and gladiatorial combat. Statius, art object, insofar as it describes the process of writing under the Flavian dynasty, lived in a making and artistic representation, has been period when ampitheatrical spectacle was given interpreted as a metapoetic device, i.e., a device enduring and conspicuous public form. The that comments on the poet's own creation Colosseum, a massive monument to the Roman of the literary work. Homer, for example, taste for spectacle, was built by the Flavians. describes Hephaestus, the divine artificer, in Statius effectively integrates the contemporary the act of making the shield. The shield of cultural paradigm of spectacle into the mytho- Aeneas appropriately represents the political logical framework of the Thebaid, where blind- history of Rome and its great men--a subject ness and sight have thematic prominence. that is central to the poem's identity as epic of


Another reflection of contemporary cul- civilization. Apollonius, by focusing ecphras- ture in the Thebaid can be found in the epic's tic attention on the cloak of Jason given him many artistic and architectural ecphrases, i.e., by Hypsipyle, emphasizes his hero's status as extended descriptions of artworks and build- lover and attractive young man, as opposed to ings. The most famous example of artistic indomitable warrior. Statius interestingly fol- ecphrasis is the Homeric "Shield of Achilles" lows Apollonius in choosing an object associ- in the Iliad, to which Virgil responded with his ated with the world of women and adornment shield of Aeneas. Yet Virgil also goes beyond his rather than the battlefield, yet his ecphrastic Homeric model by including further ecphras- object is imbued with sinister signs, black tic passages describing temples, palaces, relief magic, and destructive forces: gorgons' eyes, sculptures, and the early topography of Rome. embers from the thunderbolt, serpents' crests. Virgil is responding to the increasing monu- Hephaestus resembles a witch in his use of mentalization of the city under Augustus, the certain ingredients, and he is driven by mali- transformation of Rome's visual culture to cious intent: Harmonia, daughter of Venus and create an imperial capital city. Statius inher- Mars, receives the present as a bridal gift, and its the Virgilian vocabulary and interest in Hephaestus is taking revenge on their continu- visual culture, not least because the Flavian ing adultery. He is driven not by love for his emperors under whom he wrote manifested a wife or positive eros, as in other cases, but by renewed interest in urban monumentalization "Grief and Rage and Pain and Discord"--a fair Thebaid


sample of the emotions driving Statian epic. For the Romans, moreover, "war between The object is also inherited, a curse passed brothers" was a common way of referring to from woman to woman, and its making goes civil war, and their myth of foundation--the back to the very origins of Thebes. Now in the slaying of Remus by Romulus--represents the hands of an Argive woman, once among the first of many civil conflicts as an instance of Thebans, it is a perfect physical embodiment discord between brothers. Statius also know- of the two doomed cities. In the end, it will ingly invites comparison in minor but telling destroy Amphiaraus's family, sending him to details. The Argive exile Polynices at times war, bringing about the death of his wife, and recalls the exiled Trojan prince Aeneas, who the pollution of his son. Statius thus announces similarly is destined to marry into a royal the dark principles of his poetics through an family, and who likewise ends his siege on a emblematic object. city by a one-to-one duel. The Thebans, for


A key question informing the epic narrative their part, are seen as descended from both is the degree to which the politics of Thebes Mars and Venus, since their child was Har- and Argos relate to Roman politics in the early monia, wife of the Theban founder, Cadmus. empire. The Aeneid, while focusing on early In this respect, the Thebans are being made legendary history, did not disguise its inter- to resemble the Romans, descended from est in the broader span of Roman history and Venus through Aeneas and from Mars through especially recent history in the late republican Romulus. The Romans, who were apt to view and Augustan periods. The hero of Virgil's violent episodes of discord in their own his- epic was the ancestor of Julius Caesar and thus tory as a manifestation of the gods' anger of Augustus himself, and its subject was the at their race, might have sympathized with creation of the Roman community in Italy. In the Thebans, and may have seen themselves writing such a poem, Virgil participates in the reflected in them. Roman tradition of political/martial epic about Readers of Statius may also be struck by Roman history, a tradition that goes back to the initial resemblance between Statius's and Ennius and Naevius. Lucan, who chose to write Lucan's central theme: civil war and the dis- not only about history, but relatively recent cord it embodies. Statius's significant literary history, and who removed the Olympian gods inheritance from Lucan would thus only work from his narrative, brought about an even more to further underscore the Roman dimension of striking convergence of epic poetry and Roman his Theban civil war narrative. Lucan wrote history. about the civil discord that preceded the estab-


Statius, by contrast, does not write about lishment of the Augustan principate, and thus a subject overtly connected with Roman his- also the Julio-Claudian dynasty under which he tory: His epic is both mythological and Greek. lived. Statius wrote under the Flavians, whose For the ancients, however, there was no hard regime had been preceded by a particularly and clear line between history and myth, unpleasant bout of civil war: In the year 69 and thus the world of the Thebaid, for all c.e., after Nero's death, there was a succession its apparent remoteness, is not totally dis- of three short-lived emperors, who fought sociated from Roman historical themes. In bloody and ultimately ineffectual battles for Thebes, as well as Rome, there is contention supremacy, sometimes in the very center of over political supremacy, inheritance, and the Rome. Vespasian managed to hold on to power problem of tyrannical rule. The political cate- in the wake of these violent skirmishes and, as gories and terms that Statius uses--e.g., patres an experienced general, made his way slowly to ("senators"/"elders")--are often anachronistic Rome before establishing a dynasty that would and distinctly Roman as opposed to Greek. last nearly three decades. His two sons, first Thebaid


Titus, then Domitian (under whom Statius sentation of the relation between the emperor wrote), succeeded him. and the senate in the historical works he wrote


When we consider these political circum- under the Antonine emperors in the following stances, Statius's choice of mythological sub- generation. ject--two brothers who enter into rivalry for Statius's Eteocles is a far more dominant power after their father's abdication and end and lonely figure than the Eteocles in Aeschy- up killing each other--is striking, if not pro- lus's Seven against Thebes. In that play, he vocative. There are even hints in the his- engages in a spirited debate with the Chorus torical record of rivalry between Titus and his and works out his strategy in open discussion brother Domitian. While Statius is probably with the messenger. Statius's representation of not intending to criticize the Flavian dynasty Eteocles' role as ruler can be read as respond- through some kind of implicit, coded narra- ing to the shift toward a more authoritarian tive, he does bring to the fore tensions and style of imperial role in this period. There ambiguities endemic to the system of imperial is a further potential parallel with the figure government, conditions that contributed to the of Jupiter. In court poetry under Domitian-- crisis in 69 c.e. It is no doubt significant that primarily Statius's and Martial's--the emperor the Flavian trio of father and two sons largely is straightforwardly put on the same plane as, succeed where the Theban royal family failed, or even made out to be superior to, Jove him- and thus may be seen to represent everything self. Domitian was treated as a god during his the house of Oedipus is not. Still, the possibility own life, and not only that, as the supreme god. of renewed civil war must have remained in the The Statian Jupiter perhaps not accidentally back of many Romans' minds, even under the wields a degree of authority that seems to rule relatively stable regime of the Flavians. Such out any serious dissent from the outset. By fears would not have been entirely ungrounded. comparison with the fierce struggle between Domitian, who became one of the most hated Juno and Jupiter in the Aeneid, dissenting acts emperors in Roman history, was increasingly of other gods in the Thebaid are few, minor, terrified of conspiracies, and he ended his reign and limited. Statius's Jupiter may be read, on by being assassinated. this line of thought, as an idealized version of


The themes of tyrannical rule and the Flavian imperial authority. repression of free speech provide similar fodder An even more strikingly Roman and impe- for speculation without offering any explicit rial scenario arises in the narrative of Creon's criticism of Domitian. The tyrant was a cliché rule near the end of the epic. Creon, who spoke of Roman philosophical writing and rhetorical out as a voice of libertas ("freedom of speech") exercises, and so we should not be surprised against the tyrannical Eteocles, appears in ret- to see Eteocles accommodated to this role by rospect to have been calculatingly ambitious in Statius. He does not brook dissent and dis- his comments, as Eteocles himself suspected. plays a savage anger when provoked. He has a He may well have wanted power for himself tyrant's capacity for cruelty and openly threat- from the start, and in the event, he turns out to ens his critics. Yet despite the conventional be a tyrant just as deplorable as his predecessor. nature of the tyrant's role, the resemblance Statius displays here a shrewd insight regarding between Eteocles' character and negative traits the capacity of power, and the "imperial" sys- in Roman emperors as viewed by the Roman tem itself, to corrupt those who hold and aspire upper classes cannot be entirely accidental. to power. Even more subtly, Statius demon- We note, for example, a minor but significant strates how a justifying ideology is fashioned to theme of feigned sentiments and flattering reinforce the ruler's position. In this instance, speech that matches well with Tacitus's repre- Menoeceus, Creon's son, is made into a kind of Thebaid


martyr figure symbolizing the piety and sacri- the duel between Aeneas and Turnus. Statius fice of the ruler's family. While the Argives are provocatively offers his own closural duel, but allowed to lie unburied, Menoeceus is awarded instead of depicting a slaying motivated by a a spectacular hero's funeral--an episode whose sense of justice and duty toward a slain com- resemblance to the various public rituals and rade by the founder of the future Roman race, pageants involving members of the imperial he depicts two brothers killing each other in a family would not have gone unnoticed by grim, impious duel that the gods themselves Statius's readers. Creon cynically manipulates refuse to watch, and that ends only in a tragic his son's memory and sacrifice to fortify his rule sense of defilement and loss. Aeneas, defeat- against criticism. ing his political rival and thus paving the way


In the latter portion of Book 10, in which for the fusion of the two peoples, has truly Statius represents Menoeceus's act of sacrifice, come into his own as Achillean warrior and he intriguingly juxtaposes it with the hubristic civilization founder. Statius's closural duel, by assault of Capaneus. The parallels are con- contrast, is not for anything. Yet neither does it spicuous: Menoeceus kills himself and falls coincide with the actual close of the epic. The from the city walls as an act of piety, obedience penultimate, as opposed to final, position of to the gods, and self-sacrifice, to save the city the duel is signified by its placement in Book of Thebes; Capaneus, in an attempt to destroy 11, not Book 12, as in the Aeneid. The duel Thebes, ends up suicidally and impiously chal- is the logical culmination of the plot, yet that lenging Jupiter himself and, struck by his plot continues with what might be called a thunderbolt, falls from the walls to the ground. supplemental phase. Here, Statius draws special Statius does not allow us to remain content attention to his mythography and his choices in with this apparently lucid juxtaposition of piety ordering his Theban narrative. In Sophocles' and impiety, self-sacrifice and bloodthirsty Antigone, Creon, who rules Thebes after the aggression, however. Menoeceus's self-sacrifice death of the two brothers, condemns Antigone ends up serving politically dubious ends, while to death, and her death is followed by that of Capaneus unexpectedly emerges as a hero. his own son Haemon. Here, however, Statius Even Jupiter seems to harbor a bemused admi- follows a version in which Theseus slays Creon ration for his immensely spirited rage, and he while Antigone and Haemon remain alive at is described by Statius, like Theseus, as "great- the end of the poem (compare Theseus's role spirited" (magnanimus). Statius's treatment of as guarantor of burial rites in Euripides' sup- questions of authority, rebellion, and the ideol- pLiants.) Statius thus brings in Theseus as a ogy of imperial rule offers no easy dichotomies kind of deus ex machina, who effectively saves or moral lessons, and in that sense, he follows Antigone and Argia, while restoring proper in the tradition of Virgilian ambiguity and rites for the dead. complexity of political vision. He offers a depic- The ending is unusually positive after an tion of authoritarian rule that could be read as epic that had few bright spots. Theseus comes implicitly critical of the Roman imperial system, off as a heroic figure in a way that none of the although we do not know to what extent it can epic's other main characters does. The "good" be applied to any particular emperor. Statius's ending of the poem may point gently toward a Jupiter is, on the one hand, supremely power- positive Flavian ending to the civil conflict of 69 ful and authoritative and, at the same time, the c.e. Theseus, a relatively untainted hero, is wel- author of destruction and mayhem. comed as a guest in a city defiled and wracked


The ending of the epic should logically by civil war. Even as he conquers, he installs a come with the mutual slaying of the two restored set of moral values. We might com- brothers. Virgil's Aeneid ended in Book 12 with pare Vespasian, a figure who similarly comes theia


from abroad, as an experienced general, to a of History (5.66), Hesiod's tHeogony (132­ city tainted by civil conflict, and restores order 136, 901­906), Homer's odyssey (2.68­69), and piety: The end of civil war, in both Theban Hyginus's Fabulae (Theogony 3.25), and Ovid's and Roman terms, may be the beginning of a MetaMorpHoses (1.321, 379; 4.643; 9.403, positive new phase in history. Still, the Theban 418). Themis was the second Titan wife of story, in any case, is not unequivocally positive, Zeus (after Metis) and with him she pro- and the epic's close is tantalizingly open-ended. duced the Horae (Seasons), the Fates (Atropos, Just as Statius begins his poem with delibera- Clotho, and Lachesis), as well as Order, Peace, tion as to where to start (since there are many and Justice. The Homeric Hymn to Apollo links possible beginning points for the story of The- her particularly to Apollo as an oracular deity. bes), so also at the end he engages in a highly conspicuous praeteritio ("passing over"): He will not tell of the funerals that followed and their theocritus (fl. third century b.c.e.) A poet diverse episodes. Nor do we hear the fate of of the third century b.c.e. Very little is known the city and the surviving characters. Following of his life. He almost certainly came from in Virgil's footsteps, Statius ends his epic with Sicily but also seems to have spent some time a new beginning and many still unanswered writing in the Ptolemaic court at Alexandria. questions. Theocritus is the inventor of the pastoral


genre. His Idylls are poems written in the meter


of epic, the dactylic hexameter, yet are much theia A Titan, the offspring of Gaia (Earth) shorter than any epic and profoundly different and Uranus (Heaven). Sister of Iapetus, in subject matter and style. His typical form Hyperion, Coeus, Crius, Cronus, Mnemosyne, is the mimetic dialogue. We see the pastoral Oceanus, Phoebe, Rhea, Tethys, and Themis. figures in dialogue with each other, and from Classical sources are Apollodorus's Library these dialogues, gain glimpses of their rural (1.1.3, 1.2.2) and Hesiod's tHeogony (233­239, existence. Theocritus was a highly sophisti- 265­269). Neither Diodorus Siculus's Library cated poet who subscribed to the Alexandrian of History nor Hyginus's Fabulae lists Theia as aesthetic of intricately learned, highly crafted one of the Titans: the total number of Titans poetry for educated readers. Yet, he often in their genealogies is six male and five female. chooses to represent very humble figures in Theia does appear, however, in the genealogies the midst of ordinary circumstances, express- of Apollodorus and Hesiod. Theia married her ing naive sentiments with little sophistication. brother Hyperion, and their offspring are Eos This contrast between aesthetic sophistica- (Dawn), Helios (Sun), and Selene (Moon). tion and "primitive" subject matter is central Though Theia appears in the genealogies of to Theocritus's poetic project: Theocritean Hesiod, she does not otherwise appear in pastoral's "rustic chic" only serves to highlight mythology or cult practice. further the elegant, learned dimension of the


poetry. themis A Titan personifying concepts of Theocritus is a poet extremely sensitive to Justice and Law. Daughter of Gaia (Earth) place, and many of his poems are set in spe- and Uranus (Heaven). Sister of Coeus, Crius, cific locations throughout the Mediterranean. Cronus, Iapetus, Hyperion, Mnemosyne, While he favors Sicily to some extent, Theocri- Oceanus, Phoebe, Rhea, Tethys, and Theia. tus does not use any one location exclusively Classical sources are the Homeric Hymn to but evokes a broader, more varied concept of Apollo (12.3­5), Apollodorus's Library (1.1.3, Greekness. In this regard, he is an eminently 1.3.1, 1.4.1, 3.13.5), Diodorus Siculus's Library Hellenistic poet: Greek culture, for Theocritus, theocritus


is not rooted in a particular place and its tradi- in the myth have been edited and transformed. tions. Rather, with the aid of a deep reservoir of Daphnis now resembles Hippolytus: Although erudition, he evokes different Greek locations, loved passionately by a nymph, he resists traditions, rites, and dialects throughout the Aphrodite and chooses to perish rather than Hellenic world. Nor are all his locations rural. give in to the antagonizing goddess. Daph- Some of the surviving idylls occur in urban nis thus becomes an originating hero of the settings, including Ptolemaic Alexandria. Here, pastoral myth, a semidivine herdsman who too, the characters are humble, the observa- establishes the pastoral landscape as a space tions homely and naive, and the literary form of tranquility and refuge from desire. Daph- dialogue. Theocritus was later associated with nis, not accidentally, refers to the myth of an exclusively rural milieu, but his own topo- Adonis--another mythic figure with pastoral graphical orientation was more complex. associations, a connection with Aphrodite,


The Theocritean poems that have played and a tragic demise. Daphnis is hardly an epic a central role in creating the Western concept hero. His central act is to die by mysteriously of pastoral are dialogues among humble herds- melting into a river. men/singers who, in their spare time, exchange Theocritus does not relate a multitude of observations, casual conversation, anecdotes, myths, but the mythological stories that he and songs on various subjects. Music, includ- does tell are chosen with exquisite care. Like ing song, is an essential feature of the pastoral Apollonius of Rhodes, he relates the story of world, and thus pastoral is a richly self-reflex- Hylas, the beautiful youth stolen away from ive poetic genre, which includes within its Heracles by water nymphs. The sylvan set- own mimetic fiction the representation of the ting of this story and Hylas's elegant idyll of contexts and mechanisms of poetic produc- desire and disappearance integrate well with tion, circulation, and criticism. Unlike epic, Theocritus's pastoral, counter-heroic aes- the "heroes" of pastoral are not major mythic thetic. The brutish strength of Heracles will figures but generic herdsmen who inhabit an not be the main focus here. Perhaps the most idealized countryside. Pastoral is in many ways explicitly anti-epic mythological narrative in a counter-epic genre: Its very premise--the Theocritus is his versions of the love songs of tranquil life of simple herdsmen in the coun- the Cyclops Polyphemus. In Theocritus (7, tryside--lies at the opposite extreme from epic 11), it is not the Odyssean Polyphemus who warfare and the pursuit of martial glory. makes an appearance--the repulsively violent


Theocritean pastoral elaborates certain and brutish eater of Odysseus's men--but myths central to its conception as a poetic Polyphemus in his earlier, lesser known guise genre. In Theocritus 1, one of the herds- as Sicilian herdsman/singer desperately in men/singers tells the story of Daphnis, who love with the sea nymph Galatea. Theocri- takes on the role of an archetypal pastoral tus thus lays claim to a mythological fig- herdsman. Daphnis is a shadowy mythological ure who sustains associations with his place figure, but the stories about him concern love of origin (Sicily), his genre (pastoral), and and his status as pastoral singer and/or subject its central themes: the naive pastoral idyll of pastoral song. He is sometimes the son of and the intrusion of desire. Like Apollonius, Hermes, and his name associates him with the Theocritus cunningly achieves chronological laurel (daphne). In one version, he is loved by a priority over Homer, reaching back into the nymph (variously named), but a princess gets pre-Homeric mythological past. To put pasto- him drunk and has sex with him. The nymph ral on the literary map, Theocritus transforms then blinds or even kills him. In Theocritus's elements of the mythic tradition and makes version, however, the less idealizing elements them his own. Theogony


Theogony Hesiod (ca. eighth­seventh century The characterization of the Muses in Hesiod, b.c.e.) Hesiod wrote in the eighth or possi- however, is richer and more nuanced than bly seventh century b.c.e., around the time of in Homer. The Hesiodic Muses are at once Homer. He was a native of the town of Askra. delightful, generous, and harshly intimidat- Unlike Homer, Hesiod reveals aspects of his ing (they refer to shepherds such as Hesiod as life and personality in the first person. He has "mere bellies"); they make false things seem a brother, Perses, with whom he had a dispute true, yet they also, sometimes, tell the truth. over inheritance, and he won a prize at a poetry Hesiod thus begins his poem with an intrigu- contest at a festival. Hesiod's two major works ingly ambiguous vision of his inspiring deities. extant are Theogony and WorKs and days. In At this point, the account of the gods' ori- the Theogony, Hesiod writes about the birth gins itself commences: first Chaos (more liter- of the gods and, in a broader sense, about the ally "Chasm" or "yawning gap"), then Earth origination of the divine order prevailing in his (Gaia), Eros, and Night (Nyx). Earth brought time, in which the Olympians were preeminent forth Uranus (sky/heaven). Hesiod is present- and Zeus was king of the gods. ing the formation of the basic constituents of


Poetry itself, and Hesiod's role as singer, reality and the universe. Earth and Uranus then enjoy an important place in this order of things. go on to bring forth further deities through Hesiod, like Homer, begins his poem by invok- sexual intercourse. Throughout the poem, Hes- ing and stressing his own connection with the iod continues to unravel the tangled story of a divine, namely, the Muses who inspire him. multitude of genealogical connections among The Muses' origins are of some significance, a vast multitude of gods, goddesses, giants, since they are the daughters of Zeus through monsters, water deities, divine personifications, Mnemosyne (Memory). They sing for Zeus on heroes, and so on. Some sections are close Olympus, and the content of their song mirrors to being a pure catalog of names and acts of with some precision the content of Hesiod's conception. It is easy to become overwhelmed Theogony: the origins of the gods, giants, and by the intricate texture of genealogical knowl- men, and of Zeus's ascendancy. They also edge that Hesiod's poem weaves, but it is also infuse earthly rulers with the power of persua- important to remember the crucial importance sion and can dispel sorrows. By a marked irony, of the information contained in the poem for the daughters of "Memory," Hesiod observes, his audience. Through his privileged access to are able to bring "forgetfulness" of cares to the Muses, the singer Hesiod is able to reveal humankind. the emergence of the divine order and the vast


In a passage that would inspire imitation family of the gods in their myriad intercon- and emulation in later poets, Hesiod recalls nections. Just as Homer, through the power of how the Muses filled him with inspiration and the Muse, is able to tell the stories of heroes gave him song. While he was tending sheep who lived in the distant past, Hesiod is able on Mount Helicon, the Muses addressed him, to narrate the beginnings of the universe. The breathed inspiration into him, and gave him a breadth of vision is impressive: We move, by staff. They are the divine patrons of his song, degrees, from the primeval "gaping" of Chaos and while he is to sing of the gods in general, to the family relations of gods and, finally, to he is to offer the Muses special honor, singing mortal heroes. of them first and last. It is surely significant that Nor is Hesiod's account of genealogy both Hesiod and Homer, writing roughly in unstructured in thematic and narrative terms. the same period, place great emphasis on their The broader trajectory of the poem represents indebtedness to the Muses for their special the violent succession of sky gods and ultimate knowledge as poets and for their poetic gift. ascendancy of Zeus. Uranus, to check the threat Theogony


of a son stronger than him, buries his children is unwilling to admit that Zeus was truly within the earth, i.e., keeps them imprisoned deceived. To avoid imputing such a weakness within Gaia's womb so they cannot emerge. to Zeus, he resorts to the problematic idea that Gaia, in great pain, enlists the help of her son Zeus saw through Prometheus's deception and Cronus, who castrates his father when he comes also foresaw the punishment he would inflict to have intercourse with Gaia. One striking on mortals as a result (the removal of fire). He consequence of this act is the birth of Aph- knew that he was choosing the inferior portion, rodite from the foam that rises up in the sea justifying in advance the punishment he would around the discarded genitals of Uranus. Cro- later inflict. nus, in turn, attempts to profit from his father's For Hesiod, Zeus is both physically pow- example. He does not entrust his children to erful and cunning, and Prometheus's story Gaia (the consequences were unpleasant for demonstrates how Zeus gets the best of a Uranus) but swallows them himself. Gaia once challenger. When Prometheus subsequently again comes up with a counter-scheme: Zeus is steals fire in a fennel stalk, Zeus has an answer: spirited away to Crete, where he is allowed to He inflicts another punishment on mankind grow into strength, while a stone is deposited in the form of woman. This first woman, not in Cronus's stomach instead. named here but called Pandora ("all-gifted")


The female principle in Hesiodic myth is in Works and Days, presents a further example often destructive and subversive in its effects. of the Hesiodic mistrust of the female: Except Gaia is constantly bringing forth from her in rare cases, a woman will wear down a man's womb new threats with the potential to desta- resources while contributing nothing herself, bilize the current power structure. She is the yet men need women, without whom they can- mother of monsters and giants. Her capacity not generate an heir. The themes of male and for reproduction and "feminine" cunning are female, sex and reproduction, have now been a constant source of danger for the sky gods transposed to the human sphere, yet it is by whom she also produces. Hesiod thus thema- no means clear that mortal men can maintain tizes the tension between male and female, sky mastery over the feminine element in the way and earth, in his account of the origins of the that the god Zeus has succeeded in doing. divine order and of our world. Even Heracles' rescue of Prometheus, nar-


In the earlier stages of this succession, Gaia rated proleptically at the beginning of the remains effective and dangerous as a political entire passage, is purposely brought about by player. Zeus, however, ultimately establishes Zeus. Though angry at Prometheus, he wishes his reign as one in which the male sky god is his son Heracles to obtain glory. Zeus's will permanently in control. A key question that is behind everything. The entire passage ends Hesiod must answer is how Zeus stabilized his with an explicit declaration of the moral of the regime--what made him successful where Cro- story: It is impossible to evade Zeus, whose will nus and Uranus were not. One challenge comes has the force of necessity. Subsequent sections from Prometheus, the son of Iapetus, who in the poem contribute to confirm this idea: acts as patron of humankind in his attempts to The defeat of the Titans--a battle on a truly deceive Zeus. Prometheus hides good flesh in cosmic scale--removes Zeus's main remaining unattractive tripe and bones and misleads Zeus rivals from the field and shows how he deploys into choosing the wrong portion at Mekone. the brute force of the Hundred-Handed This story offers an origins myth of Greek sac- Ones when he needs them--a diplomatic coup. rifice, explaining why the gods get the less valu- Finally, Gaia brings forth one more monstrous able parts of the animal, while humans receive threat, T yphoeus, who is almost a caricature of the edible portion. Even in this case, Hesiod an earthborn monster. He has a multitude of theseus


serpents' heads that make the sounds of a bull, a tion to Heracles, who marries Hebe. After he lion, and a dog in alternation. Zeus overwhelms bids the Olympian gods farewell, he calls upon him with the power of his thunderbolt, and the Muses to sing of the unions of goddesses Typhoeus is reduced to living on as the source with mortal men and the children of those of occasionally destructive storm winds. Zeus's unions: Ploutos, Geryon, Memnon. Finally, he rivals in general are relegated to the edges of summarizes the story of Jason and the births of the world in the isolated prison compound of Achilles, Aeneas, and Nausithous (the child Tartarus. of Calypso and Odysseus). Hesiod does not


At length even Gaia admits Zeus's suprem- develop longer narratives from any of these acy, and at her suggestion, he is made king of figures, and thus the closing portion of his the gods. His first act as king is to wed, and poem is largely a catalog of heroes and the cir- subsequently ingest, Metis, whose name means cumstances of their begetting. The lines with "cunning" or "practical intelligence." Zeus thus which our text ends evidently serve as a transi- absorbs into himself the subversive power of tion to Hesiod's Catalog of Women, which is not the feminine and of cunning--ideas that are extant. (The poem that does survive under this here closely associated--and the outcome is title is not considered to be Hesiod's.) Hesiod that their offspring Athena is born from his has taken us from the origins of the universe own head. Gaia and Uranus had predicted and the gods to the birth of heroes and the that the second child of Zeus and Metis after human world. The Theogony is at times baffling Athena would be a son who would challenge for modern readers, who might expect more Zeus's rule. Zeus thus heads off this threat and narrative sweep and structure, yet we must at the same time produces a female child loyal attempt to appreciate its great power within to himself. In Aeschylus's euMenides, Athena an ancient context. Hesiod's divinely inspired supports her father and the male side in general. poetry affords access to the realm of the divine Zeus's solution to the problem of succession and the sequence of begettings that form the thus involves a neutralization of the subversive basis of the world that we inhabit and know. effects of women and of cunning (Metis). The episode, moreover, is linked thematically with the Prometheus episode: Prometheus, whose theseus A famous Athenian hero. Son of name is interpreted as meaning "fore-thinker," either Poseidon or Aegeus (king of Athens) and from the same root as metis ("cunning"), is dan- Aethra. Theseus is a descendant of Erectheus gerous chiefly because of his intelligence. Zeus, and Pelops. Classical sources are Apollodorus's however, outmaneuvers him, just as he absorbs Library (1.8.2, 2.6.3, 3.10.7, 3.15.6, Epitome the potential threat of Metis. 1.24), Diodorus Siculus's Library of History


The remainder of the poem recounts Zeus's (4.16, 4.28, 4.59­63), Euripides' HippoLytus, other marriages and liaisons (Themis, Deme- Homer's odyssey (11.321­325, 631) and ter, Hera, Leto, Maia, Semele) and the gods iLiad (1.262­265), Hyginus's Fabulae (37­38, born from these unions (Persephone, Apollo, 42­43, 47, 79), Ovid's Heroides (4, 10) and Artemis, Ares, and Hermes, among others). MetaMorpHoses (7.404­452, 8.155­182), To these, Hesiod adds Athena born from Zeus's Pausanias's Description of Greece (1.17.2­6, own head, and Hephaestus, produced by Hera 1.22.5, 1.27.7­10, 2.33.1, 10.28.9), Plutarch's on her own without Zeus's help. Significantly, Life of Theseus, and Virgil's aeneid (6.617­618). he does not fail to mention Mnemosyne, and Theseus first loved Ariadne and later mar- Zeus's children by her, the Muses, with whom ried Phaedra, both daughters of King Minos the poem began. Hesiod then moves on to of Crete and Pasiphae. Two sons, Acamas heroes born from gods, paying special atten- and Demaphon, were born to Theseus and theseus


Phaedra. Theseus's relationship with the Amazon Antiope (or Hippolyta) produced a son, Hippolytus. Theseus was known as clearheaded, astute, strong, brave, and a fierce warrior. He is credited with the unification of Attic territory, the establishment of Athens as its capital, and the introduction of key Athenian political institutions.


In some sources, Poseidon is said to be The- seus's father, which lends the hero semi-divine status, but his paternity is more commonly ascribed to Aegeus. Aegeus had traveled to Del- phi to consult the Oracle on the subject of his future heirs. The prophecy warned him not to beget a child before his return home to Athens. He misunderstood the prophecy and fathered Theseus on Aethra, the daughter of Pittheus, king of Troezen. Before he returned home, and Theseus Fighting the Minotaur. Detail from Kylix, suspecting that Aethra was pregnant with his ca. 430 B.C.E. (Museo Arqueológico Nacional de España, child, Aegeus hid a sword and shoes under a Madrid) rock for the child to recover. He asked Aethra to send his son to him once he was capable one in which conformity is achieved by violent of lifting the stone concealing the sword and and indiscriminate methods.) In addition, The- shoes. When Theseus reached young man- seus slew the Crommyonian sow, an enormous hood, he took the tokens left by Aegeus and set wild sow that had killed many people. Before off for Athens to claim his birthright. arriving at Athens, Theseus was purified of the


While he was making his way to Athens, blood he had shed in the course of these early Theseus sought to emulate Heracles in exploits adventures, and he had also become a father similar to those he had performed in the course (by rape) of a son, Melanippus, by Perigune, of the Twelve Labors. Theseus subdued a series daughter of Sinis. of villains. These included Corynetes, who In the intervening years, Aegeus had married killed with a club; Sinis, who tore his victims Medea. She saw Theseus as a threat to her own apart by tying their arms to two pine boughs children's position in the household. She first bent together then loosened; Sceiron, who persuaded Aegeus to send Theseus to confront forced his victims to wash his feet in a precari- the Marathonian bull. This was the bull that ous spot overlooking the sea, then kicked them Poseidon had given to King Minos of Crete down the cliff to their death; Cercyon, who and that sired the Minotaur on Minos's queen, killed whomever he defeated in a wrestling Pasiphae. Heracles had brought it from Crete contest. The most infamous of these villains and set it free, but it was now wreaking havoc was Procrustes. Procrustes' gruesome tech- in Marathon. Theseus killed the bull, sacrificed nique of killing his victims--forcing them to lie it to Apollo, and returned triumphant to Ath- on a bed and cutting off those parts that did not ens. Medea then attempted to poison Theseus, fit within its confines or, alternately, stretching but when Aegeus discovered Medea's plot, he them to fit the bed--was applied to Procrustes drove her out of Athens. Aegeus did not recog- himself by Theseus. (From this villain origi- nize his son until he saw Theseus's sword, the nates the concept of a Procrustean principle, token that proved his ancestry. Aegeus officially 0 theseus


recognized Theseus and appointed him his suc- version of his life that Theseus had captured cessor, thereby angering the sons of Pallas, who Antiope, thus provoking an Amazonomachy had hoped to succeed him. The Pallantidae (battle with the Amazons). laid an ambush for Theseus, but he survived Theseus took part in other adventures as the attack. well. He joined in the Calydonian Boar hunt


Theseus is perhaps most famous for his led by Meleager. King Oeneus of Calydon adventure with the Minotaur, the half-man, neglected to perform a sacrifice to Artemis half-bull monster whose sire he had killed in following the harvest, and as a consequence, Marathon. Every year, Athens had to send seven the goddess sent a wild boar to ravage the young men and seven young women as tribute to country. Meleager gathered a group of hunters Crete, to be sacrificed to the Minotaur in its lair, who included Atalanta, the Dioscuri, Jason, the tortuous labyrinth that Daedalus had con- Phoenix, Telamon, and Theseus, with his best structed for it. Theseus volunteered to be one friend Pirithous. of the sacrificial victims so that he could kill the Theseus also took part in the Centauro- monster. Minos's daughter Ariadne fell in love machy (battle with the centaurs). Pirithous, with Theseus and gave him a ball of string. The- king of Lapiths in Thessaly, had graciously seus used the string to lay a trail he followed out invited the centaurs to his wedding with Hip- of the daunting labyrinth, once he had located podame. During the wedding feast, the centaurs and killed the Minotaur. Theseus brought Ari- drank wine and became unruly. The centaur adne with him when he left Crete, but he later Eurytus attempted to carry off the bride and abandoned her on the island of Naxos (accounts was killed by Theseus. This sparked the battle vary as to the reasons for his abandonment). In between the Lapiths and the centaurs, which some versions of the story, Theseus and Ariadne Ovid depicted in the Metamorphoses as a grue- were together long enough to have had children. some, violent struggle that ended in the defeat Ovid's Heroides features a lament by Ariadne, of the centaurs. who, awakening, finds herself abandoned on During a period of exile from Athens, The- Naxos and watches in anguish as the sails of his seus came to live in Troezen, near Athens, with ship disappear from sight. She was later rescued his family. It was during this time, when Hip- by Dionysus, who carried her away from Naxos polytus was a young man, that Phaedra became to be his companion. enamored of him. As a follower of Artemis,


Aegeus had asked Theseus to hang a white Hippolytus rebuffed her chastely. Sources dif- sail as a sign that Theseus had survived his fer as to what followed. In some, a scorned adventures in Crete. Theseus neglected to hang Phaedra told Theseus that Hippolytus had the correct sail because he had forgotten the attempted to seduce her. Theseus was unsure prearranged signal. When Theseus's ships were whom to believe and sent for Hippolytus, who sighted without the white sail, Aegeus assumed succumbed to an accident while driving his the worst and, in grief, threw himself into the chariot to meet his father. An alternate account sea, which was afterward known as the Aegean sees Theseus convinced of his son's guilt and Sea in his honor. asking Poseidon to kill Hippolytus; Poseidon


Theseus assumed the throne of Athens sent a bull that caused the chariot accident in and married Phaedra, Minos's daughter and which Hippolytus died. Out of guilt Phaedra Ariadne's sister. In Apollodorus's account, the hanged herself. Amazonian Antiope, with whom Theseus had After Phaedra's death, Pirithous and The- fathered Hippolytus, threatened the wedding seus agreed to help each other abduct brides celebration but was killed before she could worthy of their lineage. Together they kid- make good her threat. We learn from another napped Helen, who was at the time very young, thucydides


as a bride for Theseus, and then descended to Aeschylus's proMetHeus bound (767), Hades to kidnap Pirithous's desired bride, Apollodorus's Library (1.2.7, 1.3.5, 1.9.25, 3.5.1, Persephone. The plot was foiled, and the two 3.13.5­8, Epitome 3.29, 6.5, 6.12), Catullus's remained trapped in Hades until Heracles poem 64, Euripides' androMacHe (12.31ff), rescued them. In some accounts, it was only Hesiod's tHeogony (1,003­1,007), Homer's Theseus who returned to his life above ground. iLiad (1.348­430, 493­533; 9.410­416; 18.35­ In the meantime, Helen's brothers, Castor 147; 18.369­19.39; 24.74­142), Hyginus's and Polydeuces (the Dioscuri) rescued Helen Fabulae (54, 96, 106), Pindar's Isthmian Odes from Theseus and, in retaliation, abducted his (8.26­47) and Nemean Odes (4.62­68), Ovid's mother, Aethra. MetaMorpHoses (11.217­269), and Statius's


Theseus returned to Athens after his res- acHiLLeid. According to Pindar Isthmian 8 and cue from Hades, but he found that he had the Prometheus Bound, Thetis was destined to become the object of hostility for various bear a child greater than his father, and since political groups. He left Athens in despair, sent Zeus and Poseidon were courting her, it was his children away from the city, found refuge deemed prudent to marry her to the mortal on the island of Scyros, and there died, either Peleus. The great warrior Achilles was their accidentally, as a result of a fall down the steep son. She is said to have left Peleus after he cliffs of Sycros, or because he was murdered by interfered with her attempt to make Achilles Lycomedes, the local king. His remains were immortal, although at the end of Euripides' eventually brought back to Athens for burial. Andromache, she returns to Peleus and makes


In literature, the myth of Theseus provided him immortal. In Homer's Iliad, Thetis pleads the inspiration for Giovanni Boccaccio's Teseida on the angry Achilles' behalf to Zeus, persuad- of ca. 1340. In visual representation, the adven- ing Zeus to turn against the Greeks to intensify tures of Theseus, either as a cycle or in isolated the Greeks' need for Achilles and magnify his incidents, were frequently depicted in Attic prestige. She also persuades Hephaestus to art, especially in vase painting. An example make new armor for Achilles' after Patroclus's is an Attic red-figure cup from ca. 480 b.c.e. death and conveys to Achilles the gods' com- (Louvre, Paris) showing Theseus's adventures mand to give back Hector's body. with Procrustes, Sinis, and the Crommyonian sow. His defeat of the Minotaur, perhaps the


thucydides (second half of the fifth century most popular visual theme, is depicted on the


b.c.e.) The Greek historian Thucydides was François Vase of 570 b.c.e. (Archaeological


born between 460 and 455 b.c.e. and died ca. Museum, Florence), where he appears as a


400 b.c.e.. Thucydides was a member of the youthful and powerful nude figure. Athena is


Athenian upper class and was a general dur- present in an image showing Theseus defeating


ing the Peloponnesian War in 424 b.c.e. He the Minotaur, on the tondo of an Attic red-fig-


was not able to arrive early enough to defend ure kylix, ca. 430 b.c.e. (Museo Arqueológico


Amphipolis against the Spartan general Brasidas Nacional de España, Madrid). A postclassical


and was exiled. Thucydides fits the pattern of treatment of the myths is by Paolo Uccello,


the statesman sidelined from active participa- Episodes from the Myth of Theseus from ca. 1460


tion in public life, who then turns to history. In (Seattle Art Museum, Seattle).


Rome, the historian Sallust is an example of a


similar pattern. Thucydides wrote the History thetis A sea nymph brought up by Hera. of the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Daughter of Nereus. Wife of Peleus, and Sparta, which, however, remained incomplete at mother of Achilles. Classical sources are his death. Thucydides stresses the seriousness of thyestes


his concern for fact, detail, chronology, and the Love poets generally occupy an urban milieu; accuracy of his research: He strives to base his Tibullus provocatively combines the tranquility account on autopsy, documents, and interviews. of the countryside with Love's perpetual worries Thucydides has often been compared favorably and emotional turbulence. By comparison with with Herodotus, who relies a great deal on Ovid and Propertius, Tibullus makes very few oral tradition and legend. The contrast between references to mythology. In one notable excep- the two, however, may be overstated, and now tion, however, he refers to the myth of Apollo Herodotus is less often criticized. Thucydides and Admetus: The myth refers to Apollo's labors himself, in the opening portion of his history, as guardian of Admetus's flocks. Tibullus, who examines Homer's account of the Trojan War in accommodates poetry and the countryside, love order to prove his point that the Peloponnesian and farming, in his own poetry, makes much War was greater than previous conflicts. of the contrast between the refined lover poet


Apollo and his rustic surroundings. thyestes Son of Pelops and Hippodamia. Twin brother of Atreus. Father of Aegisthus tiresias The famous seer of Thebes. Classical and Pelopia. sources are Apollodorus's Library (2.4.8, 3.6.7,


3.7.3­4), Euripides' baccHae and pHoenician tibullus (ca. 50 b.c.e.­19 b.c.e.) The Roman WoMen, Homer's odyssey (10.490­495, 11.84­ poet Tibullus was born between 55 and 48 151), Ovid's MetaMorpHoses (3.316­338), and b.c.e.; he died in 19 b.c.e. Among the poets of Sophocles' antigone and oedipus tHe King. his generation, Tibullus is distinctive in hav- The stories about how Tiresias became blind ing the Roman aristocrat M. Valerius Messalla and received his gift of prophecy vary. In one Corvinus, and not Maecenas, the close associ- version, he was blinded because he saw Athena ate of the emperor Augustus, as his patron. He nude while she was bathing, but at the request makes no direct mention of Augustus in his of his mother, Chariclo, a nymph favored by poetry, nor, however, is there any sign that he Athena, he received the gift of prophecy in belongs to a dissident or anti-Augustan set. The compensation for his loss of sight. In another works of Tibullus came down to us in a collec- version, Tiresias saw two snakes copulating, tion of three books of poetry called the Tibullan and when he wounded them, or separated corpus. Only the first two books are by Tibullus; them, or killed the female snake, he was turned the third book is composed of poems written by into a woman. Later, when he saw two snakes various members of Messalla's circle. Tibullus, copulating again, he was turned back into a like Propertius, Cornelius Gallus, and Ovid, man. Zeus and Hera, when they were disputing was an elegiac love poet. His poetic mistress in whether men or women had greater pleasure the first book of elegies is called Delia, in accor- from intercourse, referred the question to dance with a tradition that names mistresses Tiresias, since he had experience of both roles. after cult titles of Apollo; in the second book, He replied that women's pleasure was much his mistress has become the more all-absorbing greater, thereby angering Hera, who deprived and destructive Nemesis. Tibullus, unlike his him of his sight. Zeus, in compensation, gave fellow Augustan elegists Propertius and Ovid, him the gift of prophecy and an exceptionally also wrote love poems to boys, specifically, a long life. (He is supposed to have lived seven boy named Marathus. Tibullus is also unusual in generations, starting from the time of Cadmus.) combining love as the main occupation and focus Tiresias appears frequently in Greek tragedy, of his life with military service under Messalla especially in the plays of Sophocles. His role in and the role of country gentleman and farmer. Sophocles' Oedipus the King is crucial. In gener- tityus


al, Tiresias is the morally stringent purveyor of and is surrounded by a bronze fence with bronze a truth those in power may not wish to accept, gate, where they were guarded by the Hundred- although his very frequent appearances in trag- Handed Ones. Some of the Titans were personi- edy begin to become a cliché, which Euripides fications of elements such as the sun (Hyperion) exploits. (For example, note his somewhat less and the sea (Oceanus) or abstract concepts such than respectable appearance in the Bacchae, or as memory (Mnemosyne) and law (Themis); his nearly comic weariness and irritation in these functions were later identified with vari- Phoenician Women.) When Odysseus, in Book ous Olympian gods. Titans such as Coeus, 11 of Homer's Odyssey, travels to the under- Crius, Phoebe, Theia, and Tethys appear in the world, he seeks, above all, to speak with the genealogies of Hesiod but are not associated spirit of Tiresias, who offers prophecies and with other myths or cult practice. In Hesiod, instructions regarding the remainder of his Helios rode through the sky in a horse-drawn journey home and the outcome of his life. chariot, bringing the light of day with him--an


image later applied to Apollo. Hyperion mar-


ried his sister Theia, and their children were tisiphone See Furies. Eos, Helios, and Selene. Tethys married her


brother Oceanus, and their offspring were the titanomachy See Titans. 3,000 Oceanids (sea nymphs) and the major


rivers. Iapetus married Klymene (an Oceanid);


their offspring were Atlas, Epimetheus, titans A generation of deities preceding Menoetius, and Prometheus. Cronus wed his the Olympian gods. The classical sources are sister Rhea, with whom he produced the genera- Apollodorus's Library (1.1.2­1.2.5), Hesiod's tion of Olympian gods: Demeter, Hades, Hera, tHeogony (132­138, 207­210, 389­396, 617­ Hestia, Poseidon, and Zeus. Phoebe married 735, 807­814), and Homer's iLiad (14.277­279, her brother Coeus, and their daughters were 15.224­225). The Titans were the offspring of Asteria (mother of Hecate) and Leto (mother Gaia (Earth) and Uranus (Heaven) and, accord- of Apollo and Artemis by Zeus). Mnemosyne ing to the genealogy given in the Theogony, num- bore Zeus the Muses, and Themis bore him bered 12: six male and six female: Coeus, Crius, the Horae (Seasons) and the Fates (Atropos, Cronus, Iapetus, Hyperion, Mnemosyne, Clotho, and Lachesis), as well as Order, Peace, Oceanos, Phoebe, Rhea, Tethys, Theia, and and Justice. Themis. Some sources include Metis in the list of Titans, while others classify her as Oceanid. Uranus and Gaia also produced the Hundred- tithonus See Eos (Aurora); Sappho. Handed Ones and the Cyclopes. Uranus pre- vented the birth of his children, keeping them tityus (Tityos) Son of either Gaia or Elara inside Gaia. Cronus, encouraged by Gaia, cas- and Zeus. Tityus is the father of Europa (a con- trated his father with a flint (or adamant) sickle, sort of Zeus). Classical sources are Apollonius liberated his brothers and sisters, and succeed- of Rhodes's voyage of tHe argonauts (1.761), ed Uranus. Cronus swallowed his children by Homer's odyssey (11.576­581), Hyginus's Rhea, but Zeus, with Rhea's help, escaped his Fabulae (55), Ovid's MetaMorpHoses (4.457­ fate and dethroned Cronus (see tHeogony). 458), Pausanias's Description of Greece (10.4.5­ Following the Titanomachy, a 10-year battle for 6, 10.29.3), and Virgil's aeneid (6.595­600). supremacy between Titans and the Olympian Tityus is one of a group--which includes Ixion, gods, the Titans were defeated and consigned to Sisyphus, and T antalus--of primordial viola- T artarus, which lies at the extremity of Hades tors of the social order and of divine authority. Trachiniae


Ixion committed parricide, Tantalus was accused Trachiniae takes place in Trachis, a Spartan of cannibalism, Tityus tried to rape Zeus's con- settlement located close to Thermopylae and sort Leto, and the wily Sisyphus attempted to Mount Oeta. Heracles and Deianira have come steal fire from the gods and defeat death. Their there from Tiryns, after Heracles killed Iphitus, crimes varied, but all deeply offended morality son of Eurytus, king of Oechalia. Trachiniae and/or challenged the authority of the Olympian tells the story of the death of Heracles through gods, especially that of Zeus, and their punish- the agency of his wife, Deianira. Many years ments were ingeniously devised to provide grue- before, Heracles had shot an arrow dipped in some spectacle and admonition. In his descent the blood of the Hydra and killed the centaur to Hades in the Odyssey, Odysseus witnessed the Nessus as he attempted to abduct Deianira. torments of Sisyphus, Tantalus, and Tityus, and Before his death, Nessus encouraged Deianira in the Aeneid, Aeneas encountered Tityus and to collect the blood around his wound and Ixion. Ovid relates that their punishments were keep it as a love potion for Heracles. Deianira momentarily stilled while Orpheus sang his later sent Heracles a robe that she anointed lament for Eurydice, his dead bride. with Nessus's "love potion." Realizing too late


There are several versions of Tityus's ori- that she has unwittingly poisoned her husband, gins. In one, Zeus hid the pregnant nymph Deianira commits suicide. Heracles suffers Elara within the earth until Tityus, a giant, great physical anguish until he ends his life on emerged. According to Homer and Virgil, a funeral pyre on Mount Oeta. Tityus was simply the son of Gaia. In Apollo- The Trachiniae presents both a familiar nius of Rhodes's Voyage of the Argonauts, Tityus and an unfamiliar Heracles. He is physically was born of Elara but nursed by Gaia. Tityus powerful, courageous, and nearly indomitable. was killed for his attempt to rape Leto either by Yet, he is no longer the endlessly resilient hero the arrows of Apollo and Artemis or by Zeus's who accomplishes one seemingly impossible thunderbolt. Zeus consigned him to Tartarus task after another but a figure coming to his as punishment. He is bound across nine acres end--an end both mysterious and terrible. while two vultures or serpents (depending on He is also a hero more in danger from the the source) tear at his liver in perpetuity. impulses and vulnerabilities of his own charac-


Because of the similarity in their punish- ter and body than from the threats of external ments, Tityus can be confused with Prometheus enemies. The present crisis is motivated by eros in visual representations. Pausanias mentions ("love"/"desire"), both his own and Deianira's. that the defeat of Tityus by Apollo and Artemis Zeus and Aphrodite, in their different ways, was carved in relief on the base of the throne of are the presiding gods of the tragedy, and the Apollo at Amyclae. An Attic red-figure pelike hero is at once singled out as the son of a god from ca. 450 b.c.e. by Polygnotes (Louvre, Paris) and brought down to the level of everyone else shows the giant Tityus shot through with Apol- by being humbled by an infatuation. His final


choice will be determined not by his mighty lo's arrows in the presence of a modest Leto. In


hands and their power to vanquish foes but by postclassical art, Titian included Tityus in his


the magnitude of his helpless suffering. cycle of paintings The Four Condemned.


Sophocles, in telling the story of Heracles,


draws on an immensely rich and intricately var- Trachiniae Sophocles (latter half of the fifth ied mythic tradition embodied both in poetry century b.c.e.)Scholars have offered various and in works of visual art. He has many Hera- hypotheses as to the date of production of clean heroes to choose from, and in a sense, they Sophocles' Trachiniae, or Trachinian Women, are all present, although Sophocles consciously but there is no reliable evidence for a date. constructs his own particular story line. The Trachiniae


messenger Lichas first tells one version of Her- during his exchange with Deianira. Lichas tells acles' motives for sacking Oechalia, and then, Deianira that Heracles is indeed well; he is at when pressed, tells another--the true one, given the moment in Euboea consecrating an altar the demands of Sophocles' tragic plot. Yet, in the to Zeus and will shortly return home. Lichas broader picture, both are valid mythic variants recounts Heracles' adventures. Eurytus, king and known as such. Deianira and the Chorus are of Oechalia, had insulted Heracles, and as ven- constantly asking about Heracles--his where- geance, Heracles killed Eurtyus's son Iphitus by abouts, condition, and destiny--and, in a very guile. For this act of deceit, Zeus sold Heracles real sense, so is Sophocles' audience. Even the into slavery to Omphale for a year. Therefore, hero's death brings no certainty or final clarity. Heracles killed Eurytus, whom he blamed for


his humiliation, and sacked Oechalia, so that its


SynoPSIS population, too, would know the humiliation The scene is set in front of Deianira and Her- of bondage. The captive women are, Lichas acles' house in Trachis. Deianira pours out her tells Deianira, the result of Heracles' sack of anxieties about Heracles' absence to the nurse, the city. Noticing Iole, one of the women, who suggests that Deianira send Hyllus in Deianira approaches her and asks whether she search of news of his father. Hyllus enters and is of royal blood and whether she is a maiden tells his mother that he has heard that Heracles or a mother. Iole remains silent, but Lichas is waging war on Eurytus. Deianira reveals replies to the questions: Iole may be of royal to him that she is particularly concerned for blood, but he does not know who she is, not Heracles' safety, because it was prophesied that even her name. Lichas enters the house with he would either have died by now or, having the captured women in preparation for return- completed his task, would live happily the rest ing to Heracles. of his life. A concerned Hyllus agrees to find In the meantime, the messenger approaches Heracles and sets off to do so. Deianira indicating that the truth has not been


A Chorus of Trachinian women enter; the fully revealed to her by Lichas. According substance of its speech is ever-changing for- to the messenger, Heracles did not capture tune, sometimes good, sometimes bad, and its the city of Oechalia for the sake of wounded unknowability; it attempts to console Deianira pride but for love of Iole. In fact, Heracles with the observation that Heracles is typi- had wished to take Iole as a concubine, but cally buoyed up by good fortune in the end. her father, Eurytus, had refused, and so for her Deianira reveals to the Chorus the nature of sake, Heracles had waged war against Eurytus the prophesies concerning Heracles' fate. One and enslaved Iole. Emerging from the house, year and three months previously, Heracles had Lichas is confronted by Deianira and the left behind tablets indicating that either he will messenger. Deianira appeals to Lichas to be have survived one year and three months on truthful, insisting that she fears a lie more than his current adventure or he will perish at the a painful truth, and that if the messenger's ver- end of that time. A messenger arrives reporting sion of events is true, she does not harbor any that Heracles is alive and well, and victorious. anger toward the girl or Lichas. Lichas finally He has heard as much from Heracles' herald, reveals the truth, confirming the messenger's Lichas, who is on his way to Heracles' home. story. Furthermore, Lichas says, the dissimula- Deianira is relieved and gives thanks to Zeus. tion was his alone: Heracles did not ask him to In its joy at the news, the Chorus sings the lie and has no wish to conceal the fact that Iole praises of Apollo and Artemis. was brought home to be his concubine.


Lichas comes before Deianira; he is leading Deianira goes into the house with the mes- a group of captive women who stand silently by senger and Lichas to prepare a gift for Heracles Trachiniae


that she will send back with Lichas, leaving The Chorus sings a lament. Too late, it the Chorus to recount the history of the battle perceives the extent of Nessus's manipulation fought between Achelous and Heracles over of Deianira. The Chorus hears wails of lament, Deianira. Deianira emerges from the house and inquiring of the nurse, who has emerged with a copper urn, and she recounts another grief-stricken, it finds out that Deianira has episode from her history--her abduction by stabbed herself with a sword on Heracles' Nessus and Heracles' slaying of him with bed. The nurse had tried to warn Hyllus, but arrows dipped in the Hydra's venom. Before they were too late. Hyllus, when he found out, his death, however, Nessus told Deianira that groaned at the consequences of his accusation if she gathered the blood around the wound in and lamented his orphanhood. his side made by Heracles' arrows, she could Hyllus enters with an old man and attendants obtain a love potion that would keep Heracles bringing Heracles. Heracles wakes to terrible from desiring another woman. Deianira has pain and decries his fate and denounces his wife. kept this salve and has just now rubbed it onto Hyllus prevails on him to listen to an explana- a robe that she will send to Heracles via Lichas. tion of what had happened: It was Nessus's trick She refuses to act in anger or wickedly toward that killed him. Heracles does not comment Heracles and Iole, but this charm, she believes, on Deianira's role; he laments his doom and is a benign action with which she hopes to recognizes that the revenge wreaked on him by keep Heracles' love. The Chorus responds Nessus fulfills the prophecy he received from his cautiously but does not dissuade her. Lichas father Zeus's grove at Dodona: His death would enters, and Deianira bids him bring the robe to be caused by one already dead. Heracles then Heracles; he assents and departs. Deianira goes extracts two promises of Hyllus--that he will back into the house. The Chorus sings hope- build a funeral pyre on Mount Oeta, on which fully of its longing that Heracles may return, Heracles means to throw himself, and that Hyl- having succumbed to Deianira's love potion. lus will marry the captive Iole. Hyllus reluctantly


Deianira returns in a state of nervous agita- assents, unwilling to help his father to his death tion, regretting her use of the love potion. The or to marry the woman who was the cause of his piece of wool she had used to rub the salve onto mother's death and his father's suffering. In the the robe has all but dissolved in the sunlight in closing words of the tragedy, Hyllus expresses which it lay. She fears that Nessus has tricked dismay at the gods' lack of compassion, above all her into harming Heracles. She resolves that at Zeus's apparent indifference to the suffering if Heracles is destroyed, she will also die. The of his own son and grandson. Chorus objects that it is yet too early to know the result of her actions. Hyllus enters; he has CoMMEntARy just seen his father, and he confirms Deianira's Central to Sophocles' Trachiniae is the rela- fears. He is convinced that his mother has acted tionship between Deianira and Heracles. Even with deliberate malice and in his rage recounts though the two do not appear in any scene bitterly what he has seen: Lichas presented together, their relations as husband and wife Heracles with Deianira's gift, but when he put and their domestic drama are fundamental to it on, the robe caused excruciating physical the logic of Heracles' destruction. Especially agony. Heracles, enraged, threw Lichas from notable is the contrast between Deianira's focus the cliff, killing him. Heracles denounced his on the domestic realm and Heracles' conspicu- marriage to Deianira and his association with ous neglect. Deianira, patiently (if anxiously) her father, Oeneus, and asked Hyllus to bring awaiting the return of her long-departed hus- him home. When he finishes, Deianira turns band to the household, calls to mind that para- and silently enters the house. gon of female domestic virtue, Penelope. Yet Trachiniae


unlike Heracles, Odysseus comes home from goes off on his adventures. Deianira's anxiety his adventures to his wife and home, leaving his regarding his safety was already at a high pitch affairs with other women discreetly behind. By at the opening of the play, because before he contrast, Heracles is out in the world, waging left, Heracles revealed a written oracle, stating war and imperiling himself, not only neglecting that he was destined either to die on his present his wife and falling in love, but bringing his cur- task or return home to safety. She is relieved to rent mistress, Iole, into his home. This last sign hear that Heracles is alive and well and on his of carelessness with his domestic life decides his way home, but her happiness turns out to be fate. When Heracles has transferred his affection short-lived: She learns that Heracles has fallen to another, his wife does not respond with anger, in love with another woman. Her desperation but in a last attempt at keeping her husband's at this revelation leads her to take the only real interest, she turns to Nessus's "love potion." action of her life--with tragic consequences.


The pathos of Deianira's actions emerges Is Deianira culpable? Sophocles certainly when contrasted with Medea, another female makes her out to be a good woman in most character whose husband joins himself to a respects; even when sending the love potion, younger woman. In Euripides' version of the she is hardly malevolent or ill intentioned. She play, Medea uses magic to revenge herself on becomes stingingly eloquent at the moment the adulterous Jason--sending his new bride she realizes that she has been betrayed, evoking a poisoned robe--and murdering their chil- the image of two women under a single bed- dren. Deianira knowingly dabbles in magic, sheet awaiting with erotic longing the return also sending a tainted robe, but her naïveté of the same man. She is not tranquil, and not in such matters--why would the blood of a fully passive, but hardly a Medea, and not even centaur dying from a poisoned arrow be a love deeply angry. Deianira does admit to feeling potion?--results in unanticipated and tragic ashamed, however, and in general, the "love consequences. Deianira's unwitting actions potion" is associated with secrecy and darkness. earn her the enmity of her husband, the real- The potion, in accordance with the centaur's ization of her worst fears. Even after Hyllus instructions, had to be stored in the dark defends his mother's innocence, Heracles does depths of the household--a lurking source of not regret or recant his savage anger; he simply destruction over the years. The potion resem- ceases to speak of her altogether. bles the sword Hector gave to Ajax, ostensibly


Deianira's lack of control over her fate is a gift, but one that turned out to be a fatal one. several times referred to over the course of the A gift from an enemy in Sophocles is generally play. Her marriage to Heracles was the result a bad thing, and this particular gift--composed of his fight with another suitor, the river god of blood from the centaur and venom from Achelous, in the form of a bull, while Deianira the Hydra--is doubly inimical. The centaur's waited, too frightened to watch the battle. The true intention, however, remained hidden for a Chorus thus describes her as a prize of battle, a long time, as did the poison itself. It becomes spear-won bride. The second part of her story, fully destructive only at the moment when it her abduction by Nessus, is an equally frighten- comes into the light and touches Heracles' ing ordeal in which Deianira again plays a pas- skin. Deianira has a premonition of what this sive role. For the second time, Heracles comes destructive force is like when she leaves a piece to her rescue, delivering her from the threat of wool soaked with the poison out in the sun of yet another union with a beast, this time a for a few minutes, then watches it burn away centaur. Her life as Heracles' wife has not been and dissolve into shreds. The Chorus, in its easy. Heracles is present only occasionally--for first entrance (or parodos), apostrophizes the the conception and birth of his children--then Sun that sees all things, and a theme of seeing Trachiniae


and light is sustained throughout the play. lust for Iole. Lust, in turn, is associated with the Heracles, when the agony of the robe possesses part-wild element in human nature. Achelous him, wishes to be taken from the sight of men. took the form of a snake and a bull, while the Hyllus emphasizes that he had to look on his centaur Nessus represents a classic instance of father's horrible ordeal. At the end, Heracles no the mixture of human/civilized and animal/ longer keeps his eyes open to see. uncivilized. It is his animal side in particular


Much hinges on what is visible and known that is meant to suggest lack of sexual restraint, as opposed to what is dark and hidden. The although human beings are the species notori- playwright lays significant stress on Lichas's ously driven to self-destructive action by eros. deception. Deianira delivers a speech on how The venom/love potion bestowed by the lust- unworthy it is of him to be dishonest. At length, ful then dying Nessus affords a rich emblem she prevails on him to tell the truth. Then, of the conjunction of eros with violence, dark- driven by her own passions, she concocts a ness, and the monstrous. Heracles, who slew deception of her own, and sends Lichas back the Hydra, could not control the many-headed with the cloak. Lichas, who was condemned monster of eros that ultimately brought him to for deceitfulness, is now being sent on a new his destruction. mission of deceit, of which he is unaware. He Sophocles' emphasis is not moralizing in is all too faithful to his mistress in this instance the Victorian sense. Desire is not the sign and, for his reward, is smashed against a rock by of a moral flaw but a compulsion to which, his master. If Heracles is untrue to his marriage unfortunately, all human beings are sometimes with Deianira, and yet forthright and honest subject. As Deianira herself concedes on learn- about it, Deianira is deeply faithful to Heracles ing of Heracles' infatuation with Iole, eros is in affection, yet for that very reason deceives not in a person's control and cannot be blamed him. The two worlds, of masculine and femi- on him. In its most destructive form, eros can nine, husband and wife, are tragically out of have a violent, identity-eroding force. The joint. The dual status of the poison/potion is an venom/potion of Nessus, though not truly a effective emblem of the disjointedness: What love potion, is nonetheless suggestive of eros's the female Deianira intends as a love cure violence, insofar as it is motivated both in its becomes, when it passes into Heracles' mascu- creation and in its deployment by a context of line domain, an enemy's weapon. The tragedy desire. Its effect, as it is described, is the dissolu- occurs, in a certain sense, due to a profound tion of form. It melts away whatever it touches, misalignment of understanding. taking away its shape and internal structure. In


While both main characters occupy differ- its identity-destroying aspect, eros resembles ent mental worlds, they are equally, if differ- a kind of madness, and Deianira's action in ently, affected by the power of eros. Next to sending the love potion no longer seems fully Zeus, Aphrodite is the most powerful god in rational. (We might compare other scenarios in the play. In its opening lines, Deianira recalls tragedy, e.g., Sophocles' ajax, in which a char- her fear of marriage because of the unwanted acter acts in a state of frenzied emotion or mad- attentions of the multiform river god Ache- ness then recovers mental clarity, only to realize lous. Her own beauty, she notes, was baneful the tragic consequences of his or her action.) to her on more than one occasion. She later When Heracles insists on forcing his son Hyl- has occasion to observe that the captive Iole's lus to marry Iole after his death, his son believes beauty was the cause of destruction of her city his father to be mad. In a sense, he is. and the suffering of her people. Beauty incites Heracles is excellent at killing monsters desire, and desire causes irrational and violent and completing seemingly impossible tasks. behavior. Heracles sacks an entire city out of He runs into serious trouble, however, when it Trachiniae


comes to domestic matters--women and chil- their completion, oversees the terrible process. dren in particular. In a famous fit of madness, he The Heraclean mythology is eminently serial slew his entire family (the subject of Euripides' in nature--a long series of labors, one after HeracLes). Here, it is a domestic matter--a another, and he succeeds at each one only to wife's neglected love--that brings an end to the commence another. In Euripides' aLcestis, labors and to the hero himself. In general, Her- we meet him between labors--one of the few acles has more trouble with women than with moments that Heracles might be inserted male adversaries. Omphale, to whom Heracles into a narrative that does not form part of his was sold as a slave, provides another example canonical labors. He is constantly defined by of humiliation at the hands of a woman. Or the ongoing sequence of tasks. Thus, bring- was he humiliated? It is perhaps significant in ing that sequence to an end requires a special the present context of Heracles' womanizing situation, a culminating labor or task distinct that some versions of the Omphale story make from the rest. Zeus, who in the iLiad is the one Omphale into Heracles' mistress during the who brings things to the final end/comple- duration of his servitude. According to another tion/purpose (telos), is thus somehow behind story, however, he ended up wearing women's everything that happens to his suffering son, clothing at Omphale's behest--a humiliation yet he is also strangely and disturbingly absent. for this most masculine of heroes. In a more The relation of Zeus and Heracles' final end serious vein, Heracles proclaims that the atro- are metonymically signaled on more than one cious physical pain inflicted on him by the occasion when a character, without apparent poison of Nessus has made him like a woman, awareness of the fatal significance, refers to and that after defeating so many monsters, he Mount Oeta as being sacred to Zeus. is being defeated by feminine wiles. The last, uncanonical labor of Heracles that


In cultic terms, the rites of Heracles are culminates there, however, does not feature a known for their focus on male initiates-- positive task to be accomplished or a foe to be ephebes (young men on the verge of manhood overcome. Mount Oeta will witness only the and military service)--and for explicitly exclud- horrors of the hero's own self-consuming body. ing women. The structure of the present play, Reduced to suffering, Heracles experiences the in a certain sense, replicates the ritual exclusion purest labor he has had--relentless, unimagi- of women in Heraclean cult. The first portion nable pain--and, rather than having an outlet of the action consists largely of the dialogue for his aggressive, masculine valor, the hero is between Deianira and the Chorus of Trachinian turned in upon his own nature and resources. women; the latter part, after Deianira is dead, Heracles does the best he can, given the cir- consists of the exchange between two men, cumstances, and assumes control of his own Heracles and his son Hyllus. The play's dra- death. By having himself burned alive, he forces matic structure, in other words, itself embodies himself to endure the ultimate in pain to escape the radical division between husband and wife, his present humiliation. We might compare Heracles and the world of women. Heracles Ajax, who escapes the grotesquery of his deeds and Deianira never speak to each other and and subsequent mental anguish by suicide, or effectively inhabit different worlds. Philoctetes, whose unbearable wound makes


At the play's end, Heracles is even more him wish for death. In being thus turned onto profoundly divided from his wife. She is dead himself and his own suffering, grotesque body and apparently no longer much of a concern as the object and goal of his final labor, Hera- to him. His own life is ending, and at the cles becomes a truly Sophoclean hero. same time, a major mythological sequence is The big question that surrounds this coming to an end. Zeus, who brings things to end is the question of Heracles' apotheosis. 00 Trachiniae


In Philoctetes, Heracles appears as a deus ex Deianira's suicide provides another per- machina: He is linked with the play's central spective on Heracles' end, coming before it figure, Philoctetes, not only because Philoctetes and even prefiguring it. We might compare inherits Heracles' bow, but also because both it with Jocasta's suicide by hanging followed heroes are associated with Mount Oeta. Fur- by Oedipus's own separate yet complementary thermore, Heracles presents himself as an self-blinding in oedipus tHe King. Deianira's example of heroic labor and suffering rewarded death is located indoors, in her bedroom, on in the end with greater things. Are we also to their very marriage bed--a clear emblem of understand in the present play, then, that after her focus in life and the motive of her death. his sufferings, Heracles will be rewarded with Before she dies, she looks sadly on the house- Olympus and immortality? If so, Sophocles hold items she will not use again and her gives us no indications of such an afterlife. household servants. Yet, in other ways, she The end of suffering, as far as we know from dies like a man: Notably, she employs a sword. the Trachiniae, is simply the end for Heracles. The irony of the fact that Heracles himself There is no further purpose. dies by feminine deceit and poison, groaning


A hero is not quite a god, and Sophocles and defeated by pain like a woman, would likes to focus his plays on the magnificent not be lost on the Athenian audience. Yet, in self-destruction of heroes. When they are wor- the end, he heroically embraces his end, and shipped, it is as chthonic figures, in close con- rather than being surrounded by the trappings nection with their tomb. Possibly Sophocles of domestic life, he is isolated on a mountain, chooses not to comment, or is strategically engulfed by his own funeral pyre, perishing agnostic on the question of immortality, since under the gaze of Zeus. this would needlessly dilute the purity of Her- The character who will ensure this ending acles' suffering and heroic end. The intimation for Heracles is his son, Hyllus. Just as Zeus of a divine Heracles would dissolve the tragic makes his son Heracles suffer in carrying tensions and contradictions that define the out his destiny, so Heracles enforces a hard suffering hero Heracles--godlike, yet a man; series of tasks on his son. Not only in the case son of Zeus, yet cruelly humiliated; the master of his wife, but here, too, Heracles appears of his fortunes, yet pathetically at the mercy of monumentally egotistical. He does not care destiny. The tragedians in general focus on epi- about his son's pain but only that he himself sodes in Heraclean mythology that have tragic achieves the death he wishes, and that Iole's potential. The exception of Philoctetes is thus body will not be possessed by a man outside perfectly conformant with the broader rule: his family. Still obsessed with her, he passes Heracles can appear as a god in a play where her on as a kind of sexual inheritance. Hyllus he is not the tragic hero. We are not allowed agrees and, in agreeing, comes into his own to forget his divine blood at any time, how- proper tragic legacy--killer of his father and ever. Mount Oeta, alluded to ominously and husband of the woman who was the cause powerfully throughout the play as the site of of his father's and mother's deaths. Hyllus is Heracles' final conflagration, is also associated an intriguing figure, as he is the one person with Zeus. Zeus is bringing about a strange and who can truly appreciate both halves of the horrible end for Heracles, but we, as mortals, tragedy. He shuttles back and forth between cannot fully comprehend what that end is or father and mother and, for a moment at least, what it means. Human beings can never fully sees truly the perspective and motives of each. comprehend the ways of gods--an admission In that sense, he is the play's linchpin, the that, while it does not predict apotheosis, does only thing that keeps this disturbingly frac- not quite rule it out. tured tragedy together. triton 0


triptolemus Inventor of agriculture, tolemus the chariot and grain, and he spreads follower of Demeter. Classical sources are the practice of agriculture, but when he returns the Homeric Hymn to Demeter (153, 474); home, King Celeus, who succeeded the dead Apollodorus's Library (1.5.1­2); Hyginus's Eleusinus, tries to kill Triptolemus. Deme- Fabulae (147, 259, 277); Ovid's fasti (4.507­ ter, however, prevents the murder and orders 560), MetaMorpHoses (5.642­616), and Tristia Celeus to give his kingdom to Triptolemus, (3.8.1­2); and Pausanias's Description of Greece who names it Eleusis after his father and estab- (1.4.1­3, 1.38.6, 7.18.1). Son of Celeus and lishes the Thesmophoria (a festival in honor of Metaneira, or of Eleusis (or Eleusinus) and Demeter and Persephone). Cothonea, or of Oceanus and Gaia. In the In visual representations, Demeter and Homeric Hymn to Demeter, Triptolemus is only Persephone are sometimes joined by Triptol- one of several local notables of Eleusis to emus in a wheeled or winged chariot given to whom Demeter teaches her rites. In later ver- him by Demeter. An example is a bas-relief sions, however, he plays a more important role. from Eleusis dating to ca. 440 b.c.e. In Apollodorus, Triptolemus is the son of King Celeus of Eleusis and Metaneira. (Apollodorus also reports that Pherecydes, in a variant tradi- triton A sea god. Son of Amphitrite and tion, identifies Oceanus and Gaia as the parents Poseidon. Classical sources are Apollodorus's of Triptolemus.) Demeter, wandering after the Library (1.4.6, 3.12.3), Apollonius of Rhodes's abduction of her daughter Persephone, arrives voyage of tHe argonauts (4.1,588­1,622), at Eleusis, where, disguised as an old woman, Hesiod's tHeogony (930­933), Lucian's Dia- she becomes the nurse of Demophon, son logues of the Sea-Gods (8, 14), Ovid's Meta- of king Celeus and Metaneira. She attempts MorpHoses, Pausanias's Description of Greece


to immortalize the child by placing him in (7.22.8, 9.20.4), Pindar's Pythian Odes (4.19ff), the fire at night, burning away his mortality. and Virgil's aeneid (1.44­145). Sea deities with Metaneira interrupts the goddess in the midst no specific mythology are called tritons and are of this rite, causing the child to be destroyed not to be confused with Triton, the offspring of in the fire. The goddess reveals herself and Poseidon. In the Theogony, Triton's domain is then gives Demophon's brother Triptolemus a the seafloor, where he lives in a golden palace chariot with dragon wings and seeds of wheat. close to Amphitrite and Poseidon. In some He spreads the practices of agriculture around sources, Triton's home is located either in the world. In one of several similar stories, Boeotia or near Libya. In Apollodorus's Library Triptolemus's host, King Lyncus of Scythia, and Pausanias's Description of Greece, Triton was becomes jealous of his glory and benefaction associated with a specific river. Triton is similar to humankind and tries to kill him. Demeter in appearance to another sea creature, Glaucus, transforms Lyncus into a lynx before he can who also has a human upper body and a lower strike with his sword (Ovid's Metamorphoses, body in the form of a fish's tail. Triton's attri- Hyginus). butes are a trident and a conch shell, into which


In other versions, as in Ovid's Fasti, Trip- he blows to control the seas. According to Ovid, tolemus, not Demophon, is the child whom the flood witnessed by Deucalion ceased in Demeter attempts to immortalize. But whereas obedience to Triton's command. in Ovid, Celeus and Metaneira are Triptole- Triton appeared in human form to the mus's parents, Hyginus identifies his parents crew of the Argo, which had been blown off as Eleusinus and Cothonea. Demeter attempts course. The Argonauts gave him the tripod to immortalize Triptolemus and is interrupted of Apollo; in exchange, he offered them the by Eleusinus, whom she kills. She gives Trip- gift of a bit of earth and guided them out of 0 Trojan Women


the Tritonian Lake. In the Aeneid, Misenus and Poseidon at the play's opening, look challenged the gods to surpass his skill in forward to the compensatory suffering and blowing a conch shell and was drowned by deaths of the Greeks on their journeys home. Triton for his hubris. There are few myths It does not seem accidental that what is argu- specifically related to Triton, but he appears ably Euripides' bleakest tragedy was produced regularly in the retinue of his parents, Posei- in the wake of some of the more disturbing don and Amphitrite, as well as with nymphs events of the Peloponnesian War, including and goddesses associated with the sea, such as the killing and enslavement of the population Galatea and Aphrodite. of Melos in 416­415 b.c.e.


In visual representation, Triton, like Glau- cus, is represented as mature and bearded. In SynoPSIS postclassical art, Triton often appears with The scene is set on the plains of Troy, with the Poseidon in the decoration of fountains or city in the background, before the tents of the on his own as in Gianlorenzo Bernini's Triton captive Trojan women. Troy has been taken, fountain in Piazza Barberini (Rome) dating and the Greeks are preparing to depart with from 1642. their captives and plunder. The god Poseidon


surveys the destruction of the city he helped


build and summarizes the situation: Polyxena Trojan Women Euripides (415 b.c.e.) Euri- has been sacrificed to Achilles' ghost, Hecuba pides' Trojan Women was produced in 415 b.c.e. mourns endlessly, Priam is dead, and Cassandra as part of a tetralogy that included Alexander, has been allotted to Agamemnon as concubine. Palamedes, Trojan Women, and Sisyphus. The Athena enters. Although she destroyed Troy, first play concerns the life and destructive she is appalled by the victorious Greeks' reli- destiny of Paris; the second an episode in gious offences; Poseidon agrees to help her which Odysseus treacherously brings about punish them with terrible storms at sea. The the death of a fellow Greek, Palamedes, at gods depart, and Hecuba, who has been lying Troy; and the final satyr play deals with the down on stage, oblivious to the presence of the famous trickster and liar Sisyphus. The first gods, arises and together with the Chorus of three plays are united by the theme of Troy captive Trojan women, laments the fate of Troy and its destruction. Some commentators have and her own and other Trojan women's enslave- suggested that the last play, Sisyphus, is con- ment. The Greek herald Talthybius enters and nected to the others by the figure of Odysseus, reports the fate of well-known Trojan women: whose true father, in some stories, is said to Cassandra is allotted to Agamemnon, Andro- be Sisyphus. The Trojan Women represents mache to Neoptolemus, Hecuba to the hated the series of misfortunes that afflicts the Odysseus; Polyxena's fate is darkly alluded to women of Troy after its defeat: Andromache, but not stated outright. Cassandra enters and, Cassandra, Hecuba, and many others are in what appears to be a demented frenzy, sings enslaved; Polyxena is sacrificed to Achilles' of her "marriage" to Agamemnon. She rejoices ghost; and Odysseus persuades the Greeks to in the destructive effect it will have on their kill Hector's son, Astyanax, by throwing him enemies. She is dragged offstage, and Hecuba from the walls of Troy. The play's main themes mourns her degraded status. As the Chorus include human cruelty, slavery, degradation, sings, Andromache is led onstage on a wagon, and the apparent absence or indifference of the along with her son, Astyanax. Together, she and gods. There is little plot development and no Hecuba bewail Troy's fate, and Andromache hope for salvation, although Cassandra's fren- reveals to Hecuba that Polyxena has been slain zied words, and the dialogue between Athena as a sacrifice. She declares that it is preferable to Trojan Women 0


die like Polyxena than to live on as a slave and loss is total, and there is almost no plot in the be forced to go to another man's bed. Hecuba ordinary sense of the word. Critics of the play is urging Andromache to forget Hector and have noted its lack of articulated structure and be obedient to her new master, and to place development, but this seems to be the point: hope in Astyanax as future rebuilder of Troy, There is no more story to be told. The story when suddenly Talthybius enters and reports of Troy is finished, and all that remains is lam- that Odysseus has persuaded the Greeks to kill entation and exploration of the effects of the Astyanax by throwing him from the walls of defeat of the city on those who survive. the city. Andromache must relinquish her child Such exploration is indeed the substance to the herald, who takes the boy away. After of Euripides' play. One significant action takes the choral ode, in which the Chorus laments place, but the decision that brings about the that the gods have abandoned Troy, Menelaus action is made offstage, and we see only its enters with his soldiers: He rejoices that he lamentable outcome. Otherwise, the play con- has killed Paris, destroyed his kingdom, and sists of a series of dialogues and long speeches reclaimed his wife as captive slave; he intends that elaborate the main characters' sense of to execute her in Sparta. Hecuba encourages despair and loss. The figure who endows this him to kill her but to beware of her enchant- series of lamenting voices with a certain unity ing looks. Helen is brought forth and asks to is the enslaved queen of Troy, Hecuba. Excep- be allowed to defend herself. Hecuba agrees to tionally, she remains on stage throughout the speak for the prosecution in a kind of "trial." entire tragedy and absorbs each new shock of Helen blames Hecuba for giving birth to misfortune in its turn. When Poseidon begins Paris; she claims that the Trojan War was to the play with his speech, Hecuba is lying down, the Greeks' advantage and observes that it was weeping continuously. As queen, and mother impossible to resist the power of Aphrodite. of so many children--now mostly dead--she She finally claims that she was held in Troy stands as an emblem of Troy's endless suffer- against her will. Hecuba refutes these argu- ing. She is widowed, deprived of her children, ments, declaring that Helen was motivated by reduced in status, and enslaved all at once. lust and the luxury of Paris's household. Menel- She encapsulates Troy's suffering. Like other aus agrees with Hecuba, but sends Helen to the Euripidean characters, she is a figure who, once ships rather than executing her immediately. As grand, has been brought low, a slave in rags the Chorus sings of Helen's vileness, Talthybius rather than Priam's royal consort. enters with the body of Astyanax: Andromache Not surprisingly in a play that focuses on was sent off on one of Neoptolemus's ships the sufferings of newly enslaved women, and before she could bury her son, and so she has that features a chorus of captive Trojan women, asked Hecuba to prepare his burial. Talthybius slavery is a major theme. The main characters exits, and Hecuba prepares Astyanax to be bur- now have the opportunity to meditate on what ied with Hector's shield. As the rites are carried it means to lose all control over one's fate, what out, and the Chorus laments, the city of Troy it means to become another person's property. begins to burn and to fall into ruin. Hecuba and At the end of the play, the herald Talthybius the Chorus sing a dirge for the city's destruc- gives an order to prevent Hecuba from killing tion as they are led offstage. herself. She is not allowed even this freedom,


since she is now the property of Odysseus.


Andromache cannot stay in Troy long enough


CoMMEntARy to bury her own son, Astyanax, since Neoptol- Euripides' Trojan Women represents the ruin emus is in a hurry to return to Phthia to help of a city. The atmosphere of hopelessness and his grandfather Peleus. She is simply cargo, 0 Trojan Women


and so has no choice about her departure. The As priestess of Apollo, who receives prophe- destructive effect of subjugation on human rela- cies from the god, yet is doomed never to tions is a theme Euripides explores in his other be believed by others, Cassandra speaks an post­Trojan War plays as well: Hecuba and ominous idiom, full of hints and suggestions androMacHe, which take their titles from two that we, the audience, can understand from of the main characters of this play, are deeply our broader knowledge of the myths, but that concerned with the condition of slavery. the other characters within the frame of the


Andromache, in particular, considers the play cannot fully comprehend. In particular, question of whether or not a life of servitude is she bids Hecuba rejoice at her servitude to worth living. She compares her own condition Agamemnon, since it will do harm to their unfavorably with that of Polyxena, who was enemy. She understands, in other words, that fortunate enough to die. A dead person, she her status as Agamemnon's bedmate will func- points out, cannot experience pain and cannot tion as catalyst of his murder at the hands compare previous happiness with a present of Clytaemnestra and thus will contribute state of grief. Andromache further reflects on to the implosion of the house of Atreus. In the unexpected result of her own virtue and a significant allusion to Aeschylus's Oresteia, modesty. She restrained herself from going Cassandra declares that the house of Atreus outside her house, practiced modest behavior, will be destroyed in compensation for the and subordinated herself to her husband. Now, destruction of Priam's house. by a cruel irony, her reward for this voluntary Cassandra further offers a condensed obedience is to be specially singled out for slav- account of the wanderings of Odysseus. His ery as another man's bedmate. Because of her homecoming, in the Homeric view, was ulti- excellent reputation for virtue, Neoptolemus mately successful, by comparison with the neg- chose her as his slave. Andromache's thinking ative example of Agamemnon: He wandered for on this point is both subtle and pointed. She 10 years but came home laden with treasures knows that her life as a woman was hardly and kleos (fame), and successfully drove out the "free" in the fullest sense of the term, yet cru- suitors with the help of his son. Yet, Cassandra cially, she chose to be obedient, silent, modest. here emphasizes the misfortunes and sufferings Now, as her reward, she can no longer even of Odysseus, which, in the present context, choose her habitual self-restraint: Subservience seem merited. He does not appear on stage is forced on her. Worst of all, from her perspec- in the present play, but in the Palamedes, a lost tive, she must accept another man as lover. play that preceded the Trojan Women in Eurip- Andromache is a paragon of loyalty, and she is ides' sequence of four plays, Odysseus would being forced to betray Hector after his death. have certainly played the part of villain. The Euripides has already explored these themes to present play singles out Odysseus as author a certain extent in Andromache, where we see of Astyanax's death. Moreover, in what might the outcome of her life as slave and reluctant appear to be a sophistic performance, Cassan- bedmate of Neoptolemus. dra argues that the Trojans enjoy a happier fate


Cassandra's case is at once typical and than the Greeks. They died defending their city exceptional. Like other Trojan women, she and were buried in the earth of the homeland; must accept a master and lover she despises: the Greeks have died far from home, and their Agamemnon. She no longer has control over families have suffered terribly in their absence. her own life and fate. Cassandra's manner The argument, while apparently counterintui- of perceiving and describing her situation, tive, has some justification. At the opening of however, is very different and points toward the play, the dialogue of Poseidon and Athena events well beyond the ending of the play. shows the gods turning against the victorious Trojan Women 0


Greeks, plaguing their return voyage with a punished, yet will not be, whereas Andromache catastrophic storm. The punishment of the ought to be rewarded for her virtue, yet ends up Greeks is only just beginning. a slave instead. The play's structure encourages


Cassandra, whose words seem barely com- and intensifies the juxtaposition. The episode prehensible to her immediate auditors within of Helen's "trial" falls between the removal of the play, speaks over their heads to the audi- Astyanax and the scene of the preparations for ence, just as Poseidon and Athena spoke (lit- Astyanax's burial. Andromache is the mirror erally) over the head of the weeping Hecuba. opposite Helen: She is loyal, steadfast, virtuous, Beyond the immediacy of suffering, there is yet she must lose her husband and her child the deeper question of justice, and yet, to all and live out her life as a slave. Helen, whose but a very few, the gods' justice is incompre- disloyalty caused the war, will return to Sparta hensible and inaccessible. Cassandra is one of to live with her husband. In the very moment the few who has access to it, yet she cannot she relinquishes Astyanax, Andromache fiercely communicate her knowledge to others. Helen denounces the Greeks, and Helen in par- presents a difficult case in point. Her punish- ticular. She denies that T yndareus or Zeus was ment would appear to be especially merited, Helen's father, but Vengefulness, Hate, Blood, yet it does not seem likely that she will be and Death. The playwright thus draws a direct punished in any way. Helen also presents an link between Helen's actions and the death exceptional case within the sequence of cap- of Andromache's child. Even more pointedly, tive speakers. On the one hand, she is explic- the body of Astyanax is brought in at the very itly presented as a captive woman, Menelaus's moment that the Chorus of captive Trojan slave, and yet, in other ways, it becomes clear women is expressing the wish that Menelaus be that she is not truly and irrevocably a slave in denied a successful return to Sparta after for- the same way as the Trojans. As an (apparently giving Helen's shameful betrayal. The enslaved willing) abductee of Paris, she caused the suf- members of the Chorus are cut off from ferings of both the Greeks and the Trojans, the homeland and their dead husbands, while and thus, if there is any justice, she should be Menelaus and Helen return to their homeland a prime candidate for punishment. Menelaus, together to live out their lives comfortably. in fact, declares that he is bringing her back to Despite these sharp condemnations, how- Sparta to be executed. Hecuba, however, warns ever, the case of Helen is not simple, and Menelaus not to look at her or bring her back Euridipes' present play takes part in a long in the same boat with him; her immense, and debate over her culpability in the Trojan War, immensely destructive, power of attraction will to which Herodotus, Stesichorus, Homer, and surely master him. Menelaus's inability to put others variously contribute. Homer made a Helen to death immediately implies that she good case for the bullying power of Aphrodite is already beginning to bring him under her over Helen, and so Helen's present argument sway. Hecuba's refutation of Helen's defense is regarding the goddess's irresistible force is fairly devastating and convinces Menelaus at less implausible than it seems. Moreover, least on a rational level, but the deeper power Alexander, the first play in Euripides' tetralogy, of persuasion clearly resides in Helen's per- may well have provided some support for the son. Her terrible beauty destroyed Troy and arguments that Helen makes: Paris was fated, decimated the Greek warrior class. Words, set from his birth, to destroy Troy, and if that is against the divine power of her beauty, are of the case, Helen's personal culpability becomes minor import. even more debatable. Helen is the offspring of


Helen appears as an exception to both the Zeus, and from that perspective, her destruc- rules of slavery and of justice. She ought to tive effect on humankind ultimately has its 0 Trojan Women


divine origin in Zeus's rape of Leda. The for the city, and, specifically, for the defense problem of Helen, therefore, is not simply one of the city. Thus the fact that Astyanax, whose of personal culpability but also has a theologi- name means "lord of the city" in Greek, falls cal dimension. One could truly say that Zeus's from those walls to his death produces a doubly act of lust in swan form caused the central, cruel irony: The boy born to inherit Hector's catastrophic event in Greek mythology, the role as city defender dies by falling from the Trojan War. city's defensive walls. The scene of his burial is


Hecuba and the Chorus are clearly dis- followed immediately and significantly by the turbed by the theological implications of the destruction of the city itself by fire. fall of Troy. The gods are abandoning the city By contrast with several other late Eurip- that honored and worshipped them; they are idean plays, no deus ex machina intervenes to abandoning their own temples to destruc- save the day and vindicate the justice of the tion. Troy was a city traditionally favored by gods. To console us, we have only the opening the gods, and as the Chorus points out, the dialogue between Poseidon and Athena, which gods are known to have very close relations promises that the Greeks will be punished for with Trojans. The Trojan Ganymede serves as their crimes. The destruction of Greek lives Zeus's cupbearer and sexual object; the god- and households, however, is not the same thing dess Dawn (Eos) chose the Trojan Tithonus as as any kind of salvation for Troy. The prospect spouse; Apollo and Poseidon built the walls of remains bleak for Trojans and Greeks alike. Troy, which they now allow to fall into ruin. The political background of the period, as Hecuba, in two brief speeches near the end of commentators have observed, may have some- the play, comes close to nihilistic despair: The thing do with the dark mood of the play and gods have done nothing except cause suffering its exposure of human cruelty in war. By the for Hecuba and Troy, which they now annihi- time Euripides produced Trojan Women in 415 late and consign to oblivion. b.c.e., he had had the opportunity to observe


The play's darkest moment, which deprives some of the grimmer moments in the Pelo- Hecuba of her last vestiges of hope, is the ponnesian War and, in particular, the recent appearance on stage of Astyanax's corpse. The events on the island of Melos in 416­415. The killing of Astyanax is the play's one true action. Melians, who sought to maintain neutrality, Polyxena is already dead at the opening of the were besieged by Athens and surrendered. play, Priam has been killed, and the fates of the The men were killed, and the women and Trojan captives have been decided. Hecuba children enslaved. The focus of the play on earlier consoled Andromache with the survival the pointless sufferings inflicted on women of her son and the possibility that he might one and children, and on the cold realpolitik that day renew the greatness of Troy. This hope is motivates characters such as Odysseus, reso- cruelly extinguished by his murder. Hecuba's nates strikingly with the punishment of the long, poignant speech over his corpse, which Melians. In certain passages, Euripides refers she prepares for burial, maximizes the emo- to Athens, albeit in broadly positive terms. The tional impact of his death. Both symbolically Chorus of captive Trojan women wishes to be and concretely, Hecuba is burying what is left sent to Athens and later recalls how Telamon, of Troy. She buries him, significantly, with from Salamis near Athens, participated in an Hector's shield, the same shield that defended earlier sack of Troy. While the references are the city against the Greek invaders. The sym- not openly critical, Athens is implicated in the bolism here functions in parallel to the manner Greek war effort and its subsequent inhuman- of Astyanax's death--being thrown from the ity. Euripides reminds us that the Athenians, walls of Troy. The walls stand metonymically both in the play and in contemporary history, typhoeus 0


have done their share of killing and enslaving during the period when the T itans were being innocents civilians. defeated by Zeus and the other Olympian gods.


Gaia encouraged Typhoeus to battle against


Zeus and the Olympians in revenge for their turnus King of the Rutulians and Italian


imprisonment of the Titans. Zeus perceived the hero. Son of Daunus and the nymph Venilia.


danger that Typhoeus represented and quickly Brother of the nymph Juturna. Classical sourc-


tried to destroy him by setting his many heads es are Dionysius of Halicarnassus's Roman Antiquities (1.64), Livy's From the Foundation of on fire with his thunderbolts. In the Theogony, the City (1.2.1­6), and Virgil's aeneid (Books Zeus succeeds without serious difficulty and 7­12). In Virgil, Turnus is the favored suitor confines Typhoeus in Tartarus. According to of Lavinia, daughter of King Latinus. When Apollodorus, Typhoeus initially had the upper Aeneas arrives in Italy, Latinus recalls a proph- hand. Many of the gods fled to Egypt and trans- ecy that he should give his daughter in mar- formed into various animals. Typhoeus captured riage to a stranger and offers Lavinia to Aeneas. Zeus, cut Zeus's sinews out with the god's own Turnus, at first inclined to diplomacy, is mad- adamantine scythe, and imprisoned him in his dened by the hell demon Allecto at Juno's cave is Cilicia. Zeus was rescued by Hermes instigation and raises his Rutulians and other and finally defeated Typhoeus. As he crashed Italian allies against Aeneas. Latinus withdraws to earth, Typhoeus created a volcanic eruption into his palace and refuses to participate in the (Mount Etna, with which Typhoeus is identi- war. Aeneas slays Turnus in a duel at the close fied). Zeus then consigned him to T artarus of the epic. Other versions existed as well, among the Titans. in which Turnus and Latinus fought against Before his defeat, Typhoeus mated with Aeneas, or Aeneas and Latinus joined forces Echidna, partly a beautiful nymph and partly against Turnus. a serpent, and she gave birth to the dog


Orthus; Cerberus, the dog that guards the


gates of Hades; the Hydra of Lerna; the tyndareus Husband of Leda. See Helen; Chimaera; and the Sphinx. In other sources, Menelaus; orestes. his descendants include the Nemean Lion,


the Crommyonian sow, the eagle that ate at typhoeus (Typhon) A monstrous offspring Prometheus's liver, and the dragon of the of Gaia and T artarus. Classical sources are Hesperides. In some accounts, Typhoeus also Apollodorus's Library (1.6.3), Hesiod's tHeogony fathered the great and terrifying winds that (820­880), Ovid's MetaMorpHoses (5.321­358), destroy sailors on the open sea and cause chaos and Pindar's Pythian Odes (1.15­28). Typhoeus on land. A Chaldician black-figure hydria from is described as an enormous creature with fiery ca. 540 b.c.e. (Antikensammlungen, Munich) eyes glittering in 100 snake heads rising from his shows Zeus in battle with Typhoeus. Here, neck. Apollodorus claims that he was larger than Zeus draws back a hand holding thunderbolts a mountain and that his head brushed the stars. and faces Typhoeus, who is depicted as hav- The sounds issuing from the multiple heads var- ing wings, a serpentine lower body, long hair, ied from the animalistic to the human and were and beard. In the postclassical period, Gustav horrible to hear. Aphrodite incited the union Klimt's Beethoven Frieze in Vienna from 1902 of Gaia and Tartarus, and Typhoeus was born shows Typhoeus with a more simian aspect.



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