Results 1 to 10 of 10

Thread: Aspects of Homer.

  1. #1
    MANICHAEAN MANICHAEAN's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Location
    Vietnam, Singapore, Japan, The Middle East, UK, The Philippines & Papua New Guinea.
    Posts
    2,499
    Blog Entries
    1

    Aspects of Homer.

    ASPECTS OF HOMER.

    In a sad sense, of the personality of Homer, the generally attributed writer of the "Iliad" and the "Odyssey," those great epic poems which were the common heritage of all Greeks, we have little knowledge.

    Tradition pictures him as blind and old. Seven cities claimed to be his birthplace. Probably he lived in the ninth century BC, since the particular stages of social life which he portrays probably belong to that era. Beyond this, a lot is conjecture. The poems were not written down till a later date, when their authorship was already a matter of tradition; and when what we may call the canon of the text of the epics was laid down in the sixth century BC, it may be readily supposed that they were not in the exact form which the master-poet himself had given them.

    Of the "Iliad," it suffices to say that it relates events immediately preceding the fall of Troy, at the close of the tenth year of the siege undertaken by the Greeks on account of the abduction of Helen from Menelaus by Paris.

    Let us examine the Illiad first of all.

    Achilles' anger with Agamemnon is the main theme of Homer’s “Iliad” which recounts the last year of the Trojan War, during which Achilles first withdraws from battle and then, enraged by the death of his beloved comrade Patroclus, brings the Greeks the body of Troy’s greatest warrior, Hector.

    One cannot but be impressed by, not so much the influence, as of motivational factors in the story of the Illiad, We have already mentioned the abduction of Helen. Then, in the tenth year of the Greek campaign against Troy, we have Agamemnon, the leader of the Achaeans, forced to give up his concubine Chryseis to appease Apollo and put an end to a plague sent by the god among the Greeks. In return for this, Agamemnon demands another hero’s war-prize – namely, Achilles’ concubine, Briseis. Very much a case of “cherche la femme.”

    Furious to be dishonored in such a way, Achilles withdraws from battle, even asking his mother, the sea goddess Thetis to convince Zeus to help the Trojans, so that Agamemnon and the Greeks recognize promptly the severity of the loss of their greatest warrior.

    Zeus nods in agreement and, pretty soon, the Trojans manage to successfully drive the Greeks towards their ships. Agamemnon realizes his mistake and sends Odysseus, Ajax, and Phoenix to Achilles’ tent with an apology and a promise of many fine gifts. Achilles accepts neither: educated by his mother that he is destined to either die at Troy as a glorious warrior or live a long life in obscurity at home, he informs Agamemnon’s embassy that he has now chosen the latter.

    Fearing ultimate defeat, Patroclus asks Achilles for his armor and, disguised as his treasured friend, he leads a successful attack against the Trojans.

    However, taken by the moment, he goes a step too far and is subsequently killed by the fearless Trojan prince, Hector.

    Enraged by his friend’s death, Achilles rejoins the battle and, adorned with new armor made by Hephaestus, he tracks down Hector and kills him in a face to face duel. Still burning with anger, Achilles drags Hector’s lifeless body with his chariot for eleven days straight, until the gods intervene and help Priam, Hector’s father, to reach Achilles’ tent and beg for the body of his son. Achilles is moved to tears by this act and agrees to give Priam his son’s body.

    We will come back to further aspects of this tale later.

    But in the meantime, a couple of extracts:

    “Achilles' baneful wrath resound, O goddess, that impos'd
    Infinite sorrows on the Greeks, and many brave souls loos'd.
    From breasts heroic; sent them far to that invisible cave
    That no light comforts; and their limbs to dogs and vultures gave;
    To all which Jove's will gave effect; from whom strife first begun
    Betwixt Atrides, king of men, and Thetis' god-like son.”

    “So Peleus' son, swift-foot Achilles, at his swift ship sate,
    Burning in wrath, nor ever came to councils of estate
    That make men honour'd, never trod the fierce embattled field,
    But kept close, and his lov'd heart pined, what fight and cries could yield,
    Thirsting at all parts to the host.”

  2. #2
    MANICHAEAN MANICHAEAN's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Location
    Vietnam, Singapore, Japan, The Middle East, UK, The Philippines & Papua New Guinea.
    Posts
    2,499
    Blog Entries
    1
    I mentioned a couple of females in the former instalment, and I thought now it might be of some interest to examine this further.

    Let's take first “Chryseis”, one of the female characters who appears during the events of the Trojan War in Greek mythology. Chryseis would become a prize of Agamemnon, the Achaean leader, but subsequent events would cause a divide amongst the Greeks.

    The name of Chryseis is simply said to mean the “Chryses' daughter”, and that was exactly who Chryseis was said to be, the beautiful blond haired daughter of a Trojan priest of Apollo, called Chryses.

    Chryseis had been resident in the city of Thebe, a city of east of Mount Ida, and it was in this city that Chryses (the father) paid homage to Apollo. The city of Thebe would be ruled by King Eetion, the father of Andromache, and Thebe was thus an ally of Troy.

    In the subsequent conquest of Thebe Chryses was captured and Agamemnon being completely taken by her beauty, for apparently, she also had a great ***, took her as his concubine. The father Chryseis, offered a generous ransom, and begged for the return of his daughter. To no effect. Agamemnon refused to yield, and even threatened Chryseis' father.

    Chryses left the Achaean camp humiliated and without his daughter, but he then called upon Apollo to avenge him, and of course, Apollo listened to the prayers of his priest.

    Apollo, in the darkness of night, came through the Achaean camp, and unleashing his arrows, brought down a plague upon the Achaeans, and the army was decimated by disease. Agamemnon subsequently called upon Calchas, the Achaean seer, to explain the plague ravaging his army, and of course Calchas revealed that the plague would not lift until Chryseis was returned to her father.

    Agamemnon was forced to heed the words of his seer, and Agamemnon agreed finally to return Chryseis. There was though a proviso, that Agamemnon would need a prize equal to Chryseis. There was one such prize already in the Achaean hands, for Achilles had taken the beautiful Briseis as his own prize; and so even as Odysseus was returning Chryseis to her father, orders were being sent to take Briseis from Achilles.

    Not exactly what one would call being a team player, or boosting army morale, when you arbitrarily grab your best fighter’s bed companion!! Hence one can understand an indignant Achilles in a fit of suppressed anger, playing silly buggers with his chief and refusing to take to the battlefield again, with a subsequent devastating impact upon the fortunes of the Achaeans.

    Agamemnon in saying he would help himself to someone else's prize, Achilles called the king a shameless schemer, and accused him of always taking the lion's share, and using others to pile wealth and luxuries for himself. But Agamemnon, displaying his authority as commander in chief, answered by letting Achilles know that, in the same way that Apollo was robbing him of Chryseis , he was now going to pay a visit to Achilles' tent, and by taking away his sweetheart Briseis, teach him a lesson in power and kingship.

    Agamemnon then set Chryseis in a ship under Odysseus' command, instructing him to sail to her father and give him his daughter back. But to his heralds Eurybates and Talthybius he gave the following orders:

    "Go to the hut of Achilles ... take the lady Briseis into your custody, and bring her here. If he refuses to let her go, I will myself go with a larger company and take her, which will be all the worse for him."

    These two came to Achilles' ship and hut, where they halted abashed without uttering a word; for those who carry out orders, which they themselves deem as unjust, suffer a great disgrace and are filled with shame. But Achilles helped them out, breaking the silence himself:

    "Heralds ... I welcome you. Come forward. My quarrel is not with you but with Agamemnon, who sent you here to fetch the girl Briseis."

    And addressing Patroclus, he said for all to hear:

    "... will you bring the lady out and hand her over to these men? I shall count on them to be my witnesses before the happy gods, before mankind, before the brutal king himself, if the Achaeans ever need me again to save them from disaster."

    Then Patroclus, doing as his friend has told him, brought out Briseis; and whispering in her ear, he said:

    "Why do you weep? But a short time ... will you be here."

    With those words he gave her up to the heralds, who made their way back to Agamemnon's tent. Briseis, who followed them to her second captivity unwilling and unhappy, is said to have later reproached her lover the readiness with which she was delivered to the heralds, without even a farewell kiss. And while she was away, she wrote to him saying that his wrath was not deep enough:

    "... all these nights I am absent from your side, and not demanded back; you delay, and your anger is slow."


    As for Briseis. She was initially married to King Mynes of Lyrnessus, a city east of Mount Ida that was Troy's ally. When Achilles sacked Lyrnessus, he slew Briseis' husband and her three brothers, and brought her to the Achaean camp as his prize and concubine. But despite these personal losses, Patroclus comforted her saying that he would make her Achilles' wedded wife, and that on their return to Phthia after the war, he would arrange a marriage-feast. She appears to be quite an adaptive young lady, as she found her captivity to Achilles sweet, until the feud between Achilles and Agamemnon, which costed so many lives, made her captive of the latter.


    One might perhaps examine at this point, and in this tale, what appears to be the evolving trouble regards the fair sex. Was this something experienced by Homer, or indeed by the Greeks in general? And yet this should not come as any great surprise in what is termed, by those wiser beyond their years, as the “big picture.”

    For example Agamemnon was destroyed by his own wife Clytaemnestra on account of Iphigenia and Cassandra; and Jason's past and prospective houses were turned into ashes by Medea on account of his marriage with Glauce and Athamas by wedding a second wife and then a third, which let intrigue enter his home, and by going mad himself; and Theseus cursed his own son and caused his death on account of Phaedra; and Heracles was destroyed by Deianira because of Iole; and for Hermione's sake, Orestes slew Neoptolemus, whose household was already a ruin because of Andromache.

    Thus, it is not perhaps the exception, when for the sake of Helen, a huge army was gathered to sail against Troy; and when ten years later that same army which was still beleaguering the city, was decimated by pestilence, that it revolved indirectly around Chryseis and Briseis.

    "... brought countless woes upon the Achaeans, and sent forth to Hades many valiant souls ..."

    But one can also argue that Achilles holds the responsibility; for he forgot that he had come to Troy in order to fight, and not for the purpose enjoying the delights of a new sweetheart.


    However whereas Achilles' wrath was, in the eyes of Briseis, not strong enough, in those of the Achaean army it meant disaster. For Achilles' mother Thetis obtained of Zeus the promise to teach Agamemnon a lesson for the outrage her son had suffered, by letting the army be defeated, for a while, by the Trojans.

    Yet it was not before the military situation had considerably deteriorated that Agamemnon tried to appease Achilles' wrath so that he would fight again, by offering him the seven tripods, the seven women, the seven cities, and many other gifts which included Briseis.

    But Achilles' considered Agamemnon's gifts hateful, since the king, being Menelaus' brother, had done to him what Paris had done to Menelaus, and it was just this kind of outrage the Achaeans had come to avenge at Troy. Said Achilles:

    "Why has he gathered and led here his host, this son of Atreus? Was it not for Helen's sake? Do they then alone of mortal men love their wives, these sons of Atreus? No, for he who is a true man loves his own and cherishes her, as I too loved Briseis with all my heart."

    This is how Achilles rejected Agamemnon's gifts, keeping himself and his men idle. However, when the Trojans and their fire reached the ships, he sent Patroclus with a force of Myrmidons to avoid complete disaster. But when his dear friend died in battle, then Achilles, nurturing a grief that was greater than his wrath, came to life again. He then called a council and, without asking anything, officially ended his feud with Agamemnon. The king in turn, acknowledging that he himself had been the one whom the gods blinded, declared that he was ready to make amends and pay Achilles the compensation of seven women, seven cities, and all other gifts which included Briseis. Yet Achilles, who now had his mind in the battlefield, replied that Agamemnon could produce the gifts or keep them at his convenience. And regarding Briseis, he uttered these thoughtless words:

    "Has it proved a good thing, either for you or for me, to keep up this desperate feud about a girl? I only wish that Artemis had killed her ... that day I chose her for myself."

    In this manner the quarrel was ended, and while the Myrmidons carried the king's gifts to Achilles' ship, Briseis returned to his hut, where she discovered Patroclus lying dead; and tearing her breast, neck, and cheeks, she mourned him who had always been so gentle towards her, and had never let her weep.

    Briseis remained with Achilles until his death, which soon came in the shape of an arrow shot by Paris. This plunged her in even greater grief; for her lover is said to have been an example of gentleness and courtesy: a warrior who never dishonoured the daughters of his foes, as do those who, letting their minds be perverted by war, exercise their cowardice upon the defenceless.

    That is why Briseis, although a captive, could say before laying her shorn tresses on Achilles' corpse:

    "Never on me came anguish like to this—not when my brethren died, my fatherland was wasted—like this anguish for your death! You were my day, my sunlight, my sweet life, my hope of good, my strong defense from harm, dearer than all my beauty—yes, more dear than my lost parents. You were all in all to me, you only, captive though I be. You took from me every bondmaid's task and like a wife you hold me."

    As a post note, Briseis was still heard of at the time when Achilles' son Neoptolemus—in her eyes looking like his father—came to Troy. But Neoptolemus, who after the sack of Troy received Hector 's wife Andromache, did not take home his father's prize; and Briseis, who once had been the cause of so much trouble, disappeared then from the chronicles.
    Last edited by MANICHAEAN; 12-24-2019 at 10:52 AM.

  3. #3
    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2016
    Location
    Beyond nowhere
    Posts
    6,192
    For example Agamemnon was destroyed by his own wife Clytaemnestra on account of Iphigenia and Cassandra; and Jason's past and prospective houses were turned into ashes by Medea on account of his marriage with Glauce and Athamas by wedding a second wife and then a third, which let intrigue enter his home, and by going mad himself; and Theseus cursed his own son and caused his death on account of Phaedra; and Heracles was destroyed by Deianira because of Iole; and for Hermione's sake, Orestes slew Neoptolemus, whose household was already a ruin because of Andromache.
    This looks to me like a "cherchez la femme"(don´t know if my spelling is correct), dear Manichaean. I want to turn these thesis a bit round.

    First of all it seems that our brave Homeric warriors were monogamist, but not excessively so. Secondly, it was apparently usual to kidnap the desired female, killing every one that might want to hinder it. One can´t forget that we are talking about the Greek nobility, who acted very much as it pleased them.

    Trying to look at it from the point of view from these females, we have basically two situations: that of the slaves or war prizes( which sometimes amounts to the same) and the ladies of the nobility.

    In the first case, the ladies seemed to have no choice at all, they could be happy enough if they found a considerate owner, even if he had slayed before all the male members of her family putting her utterly in his hands. That was the case specially with Briseis and Cassandra.

    The second case was the one of the noblewoman. You mentioned several examples, but what is more or less common to all their situation is that they depended of their husbands for a home and prestige.

    I want to refer to two of your examples which I think particularly interesting.

    First there is Clytaemnestra. There was the Iphigenia episode which she much resented, but, I think there were other things too. For ten years she had been mistress of her own house, a position she probably enjoyed. Then she had taken a lover. And she knew of course, that her lord and master, who had fooled around with Chriseis, Briseis and etc. would punish her severely, maybe kill her or at least send her away, once he crossed the threshold of his home. So she had to get rid of him very quickly and for ever. The thing she didn´t count on is that her children would be against her.

    Then there is Medea. When Jason came to Colchos to get the Golden Fleece, Medea did everything to help him.She even pardoned or was responsible that he killed her brother.
    After some years, father of children by Medea, Jason abandons her for Glauce the daughter of the King of Corinth. That probably means that Medea not only lost her husband, but being a princess herself she would become degraded to concubine. Medea then, says the legend, takes revenge by killing the princess with a poisoned dress. Then she kills her own children and flees.

    Neither of these two are what one calls nice ladies. Medea could have spared her innocent children. The question is, what choices these ladies had.
    "You can always find something better than death."
    Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, The Bremen Town Musicians

  4. #4
    MANICHAEAN MANICHAEAN's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Location
    Vietnam, Singapore, Japan, The Middle East, UK, The Philippines & Papua New Guinea.
    Posts
    2,499
    Blog Entries
    1
    Hi Danik

    Thanks for the response. If I might take the points you raise in roughly the same order.

    Monogamist Homeric hero's? Not so sure, as a bit of a mixed bag.

    Some were very much comfortable with one woman at a time e.g Hector and Andromache as far as I can discern.

    Achilles became close to Briseis, then was killed. So, though in a position to stray, appeared quite content with his concubine. She was of what you term as a “noble” female, initially having been married to King Mynes of Lyrnessus, that was Troy's ally. When Achilles sacked Lyrnessus, he slew Briseis' husband and her three brothers, and, as you know, brought her to the Achaean camp as his prize.

    Others seemed to play the field, including the Gods e.g. Agamemnon had both wife and concubine (Chryseis). Whilst Appolo was thwarted by his sexual advances to Cassandra, (hence the curse inflicted.) Hell hath no fury like a God spurned!!! In fact he had no wife, but 17 female lovers (including the nine Muses) and 40 kids that I know of. Must be that feta cheese!!

    Let me now take some of these specific ladies taken captive and try to answer your question, “What choices these ladies had?”

    First Cassandra, daughter of King Priam and Queen Hecuba of Troy. According to legend, Cassandra though beautiful and clever, was considered insane. She had served as a priestess of Apollo and taken a sacred vow of chastity to remain a virgin for life.

    It seems, as noted earlier, that he had other intentions.

    Having the gift of prophecy she foresaw the destruction of Troy. In various accounts of the war, she warned the Trojans about the Greeks hiding inside the Trojan Horse, Agamemnon's death, her own demise at the hands of Aegisthus and Clytemnestra, her mother Hecuba's fate, Odysseus's ten-year wanderings before returning to his home, and the murder of Aegisthus and Clytemnestra by the latter's children Electra and Orestes. Thus I suppose if anything, she could be described as a fatalist.

    At the fall of Troy, she sought shelter in the temple of Athena. There she embraced the wooden statue of Athena in supplication for her protection, but was abducted and brutally raped by Ajax the Lesser.

    Cassandra was then taken as a pallake (concubine) by King Agamemnon. Though technically slaves to be used, or brought and sold, the pallakai were in fact accepted as part of Greek society.

    Demosthenes writes:

    “We have hetairai for pleasure, pallakai for the body's daily needs and gynaekes for the bearing of legitimate children and for the guardianship of our houses.”

    But, unbeknown to Agamemnon, while he was away at war, his wife, Clytemnestra, had betrayed him by taking Aegisthus as her lover. Clytemnestra and Aegisthus then murdered both Agamemnon and Cassandra.

    Next Clytemnestra, who as noted was the wife of Agamemnon, king of Mycenae, and the sister of Helen of Troy.

    Clytemnestra was the daughter of Tyndareus and Leda, the King and Queen of Sparta, making her a Spartan Princess. Clytemnestra's first husband was Tantalus, King of Pisa; Agamemnon killed him and Clytemnestra's infant son, then made Clytemnestra his wife.

    After Helen was taken from Sparta to Troy, her husband, Menelaus, asked his brother Agamemnon for help. Greek forces gathered at Aulis. Agamemnon, accidentally kills a deer in a grove sacred to the goddess Artemis.

    She punishes him by interfering with the winds so that his fleet cannot sail to Troy.

    The priest Calchas said the winds would be favorable if Agamemnon sacrificed his daughter Iphigenia to the goddess Artemis. Agamemnon persuaded Clytemnestra to send Iphigenia to him, telling her he was going to marry her to Achilles. When Iphigenia arrived at Aulis, she was sacrificed, the winds turned, and the troops set sail for Troy.

    If anything it appears to me that Clytemnestra combines the attributes of: patience, realism, manipulation & cunning. She has now lost one son & one daughter to Agamemnon, but is a survivor.

    The Trojan War lasted ten years, and it was during this period of Agamemnon's long absence, that Clytemnestra began a love affair with Aegisthus, her husband's cousin.
    They began plotting Agamemnon's demise. Clytemnestra was enraged by Iphigenia's murder (and presumably the earlier murder of her first husband by Agamemnon, and her subsequent rape and forced marriage). Aegisthus saw his father Thyestes betrayed by Agamemnon's father Atreus (Aegisthus was conceived specifically to take revenge on that branch of the family).

    Thus, come the fateful day Agamemnon, having arrived at his palace with Cassandra, in tow, and being greeted by his wife, enters the palace for a banquet while Cassandra remains in the chariot. Clytemnestra waited until he was in the bath, and then entangled him in a cloth net and stabbed him. After the murders, Aegisthus replaced Agamemnon as king and ruled for seven years with Clytemnestra as his queen. Clytemnestra was eventually killed by Orestes, her son by Agamemnon.


    Finally, we have Medea who is the daughter of King Aeëtes of Colchis, a niece of Circe and the granddaughter of the sun god Helios. An influential and powerful, ruthless, almost divine figure, Medea figures in the myth of Jason and the Argonauts, and is known as a sorceress and is often depicted as a priestess of the goddess Hecate.

    Medea falls in love with Jason and promises to help him, but only on the condition that if he succeeds, he would take her with him and marry her. Jason agrees and they marry.

    In the ensuing journeys, and by the direct actions of this young lady, bodies appear to be littered everywhere.

    Thus when fleeing her father, she distracts him by killing her brother Absyrtus, dismembering his body and scattering his parts on an island, knowing her father would stop to retrieve them for proper burial.

    Then the Argo reaches the island of Crete, guarded by the bronze man, Talos who has one vein which went from his neck to his ankle, bound shut by a single bronze nail. Talos was slain when Medea drove him mad with drugs, deceived him that she would make him immortal by removing the nail. The madness dislodged the nail, ichor flowed from the wound, and he bled to death.

    Next, when Jason and Medea returned to Iolcus, Pelias refused to give up his throne, so Medea conspired to have Pelias' own daughters kill him. She told them she could turn an old ram into a young ram by cutting up the old ram and boiling it in magic herbs. During her demonstration, a live, young ram jumped out of the pot. Excited, the girls cut their father into pieces and threw him into a pot.

    Having killed Pelias, Jason and Medea fled to Corinth where Jason abandons Medea for the king's daughter, Glauce.

    Medea takes her revenge by sending Glauce a dress and golden coronet, covered in poison. This resulted in the deaths of both the princess and the king, Creon, when he went to save his daughter.

    Medea then continued her revenge, murdering two of her children herself. Afterward, she left Corinth and flew to Athens in a golden chariot driven by dragons sent by her grandfather, Helios, god of the sun.

    In Corinth, she marries the king of Athens (Aegeus) and bears him a son.

    Medea subsequently returns to Colchis and, finding that Aeëtes had been deposed by his brother Perses, promptly kills her uncle and restores the kingdom to her father.

    At this point I think it would it be fair to say that Medea does not fit into the mold of a “normal woman” according to Athenian philosophy. She is depicted as having great intelligence and skill, something typically viewed as a masculine trait by Euripides' original audience. On the other hand, she uses that cunning in order to manipulate the men around her, and manipulation of other people would have been a negative female trait to the Athenian audience. There is also the paradox of how she chooses to murder her victims. She poisons the princess, which would have been seen as a feminine way of murder, yet kills her children in cold blood, which is seen as more masculine.

    Conclusions? Over all, in the tales of the Homeric heroes, we have the problem of separating fact from the legends spun by distinguished writers. For the women caught up in these times; whether noble or less so, mortal or semi divine; they were obliged by circumstances, children, passion or whatever to play whatever cards they were dealt in life. Some were placid and accepted their fate. Others, as has been seen, played the long game, and played it well.

    I visited Troy (now in Turkey) as a young student and must confess was somewhat unappreciative of it at the time as I was more engaged in lusting after an architectural student. Now would be a different perspective.

  5. #5
    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2016
    Location
    Beyond nowhere
    Posts
    6,192
    Hi, Manichaean,
    Many thanks for your thorough answer. I love Greek Mythology as people today love Harry Potter.
    I just looked up some of the stories, for my memory isn´t any more, what it used to be, to follow your points.
    First of all, from the sexual point of view, Achilles is a controversial figure. Because of his great love of Patroclus, he is often suspected of being gay or bisexual…
    As to the position of women in Homer´s world, mind we are talking about the Greek nobility, servants only interested Homer, it seems, in relation to their masters. Anyway, as you reminded me, there was also another kind of nobility to consider, whether they were descendants of gods.
    I found your extract of Demosthenes very elucidative:
    “Demosthenes writes:

    “We have hetairai for pleasure, pallakai for the body's daily needs and gynaekes for the bearing of legitimate children and for the guardianship of our houses.”
    Maybe that is not so different from later days, anyway it shows that women had assigned a very definite position in a world organized by males (I don´t want to sound to feminist, but that is was it looks like). In this sense it is remarkable, that the Homerian Chronicle reserved a place for some of the noblewomen, who somehow, broke out of this scheme.
    There is first the Trojan Cassandra: Cassandra had to pay for not yielding to Apollo (who, as you stated, was already very well served). As a prophetess she foresaw the fate of her own and her city. As she was condemned to not be believed, this knowledge must only have added anguish. She foresaw every disgrace, but could not do anything to avert it.
    Clytemnestra married into the cursed family of the Atrides. I don´t know if Homer mentions their curse. It is one of the most gruesome family of Hellenic Mytology.
    According to Wikipedia:
    “The House of Atreus begins with Tantalus. Tantalus was a son of Zeus who enjoyed cordial relations with the gods until he decided to slay his son Pelops and feed him to the gods as a test of their omniscience. The gods brought Pelops back to life, replacing the bone in his shoulder (eaten by Demeter) with a bit of ivory with the help of Hephaestus, thus marking the family forever afterwards.”
    Pelops, at his turn, contents himself with causing the death of his prospective father in love during a race and then marries the daughter, Hippodamia.
    Then:
    “Pelops and Hippodamia had many sons; two of them were Atreus and Thyestes. Depending on myth versions, they murdered Chrysippus, who was their half-brother. Because of the murder, Hippodamia, Atreus, and Thyestes were banished to Mycenae, where Hippodamia is said to have hanged herself.”
    With Atreus the gruesome banquet is repeated:

    Atreus wife, Aerope becomes the lover of Thyestes, who craves his brother´s kIngdom of Mycenae.

    “Atreus then learned of Thyestes' and Aerope's adultery and plotted revenge. He killed Thyestes' sons and cooked them, save their hands and feet. He tricked Thyestes into eating the flesh of his own sons and then taunted him with their hands and feet. Thyestes was forced into exile for eating the flesh of a human. Thyestes responded by asking an oracle what to do, who advised him to have a son by his daughter, Pelopia, who would then kill Atreus. However, when Aegisthus was first born, he was abandoned by his mother who was ashamed of the incestuous act. A shepherd found the infant Aegisthus and gave him to Atreus, who raised him as his own son. Only as he entered adulthood did Thyestes reveal the truth to Aegisthus, that he was both father and grandfather to the boy. Aegisthus then killed Atreus, although not before Atreus and Aerope had had two sons, Agamemnon and Menelaus, and a daughter Anaxibia.
    Agamemnon married Clytemnestra, and Menelaus married Helen, her famously attractive sister. Helen later left Sparta with Paris of Troy, and Menelaus called on all of his wife's former suitors to help him take her back.”
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atreus
    The sequel of the story is told in your post. The difference is that Clytemnestra has her own reasons for revenge and thus takes a more active role than the Atrides wives, that preceded her. According to the Greek tragedies, also her daughters, Elektra and Iphigenia ( who was not killed but transported to the island of Tauride, where she became priestess) have an active role, when seeking revenge against their mother. Elektra summoned her brother Orestes, who was been raised elsewhere, and Iphigenia, by sort of purifying her brother, preparing him for the murder of his own mother.
    With the death of Orestes, the curse of the Tantalides extinguishes itself.

    (I intend to post some more on this topic, but this post became longer than I intended)
    "You can always find something better than death."
    Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, The Bremen Town Musicians

  6. #6
    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2016
    Location
    Beyond nowhere
    Posts
    6,192
    (continuing)

    It seems then, that the revenge of Clytemnestra against her husband Agamemnon marks the beginning of an active involvement of the women of the Atreid family, which condemned them to destroy their nearest kin, in the family curse. The background of it might have been the fights for the throne of Mycenae.
    About Medea I think you have said all that matters, she is a bit more violent than I remembered her. Anyway, one has to remember that her marriage with Jason according to at least one source brought her from the position of daughter of the king of Colchis to that of extreme destitution, by being warned by king Creon, to take her children and disappear from his domain. Obviously, he had no idea whom he was tampering with.
    Medea seems to be, by far, the most violent of these women. By occupying her husband’s throne during his absence, Clytemnestra probably learnt how to resort to violence too. Other Greek women resorted to resistance, like clever Penelope and brave Antigone.
    And the war of Troy even if prompted by the kidnapping of Helen, was in a sense Odysseus fault. He was one of Helen´s many suitors. Helen´s father was very much afraid to choose one of the suitors and have the rest of the Greek nobility against him. So Odysseus suggested (probably hoping he would be the chosen one), he should make all the suitors swear an oat that, whatever his choice, they would all stand by Helen´s husband, if any one attempted anything against the girl. Paris who trusted his Aphrodite never thought, that by kidnapping Helen, he would have the whole Greek nobility at his heels…
    Between men and women, I think it is difficult to decide, who destroyed the life of whom. It much depends how you look at it.
    "You can always find something better than death."
    Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, The Bremen Town Musicians

  7. #7
    MANICHAEAN MANICHAEAN's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Location
    Vietnam, Singapore, Japan, The Middle East, UK, The Philippines & Papua New Guinea.
    Posts
    2,499
    Blog Entries
    1
    Hi Danik.

    Thanks for taking a step back to pre-Iliad background material on the House of Atreus. It puts everything more into context.

    But let me just comment first on the initial observations of your last post.

    First Achilles: gay or straight? I really don’t think, that at that time, (or even in early Roman times,) if they even thought about it. Whatever turned them on, with no hang-ups. Don’t know what Homer would have made of today’s bewildering, almost formal, classifications; e.g. heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, transgender, pre-gender, neutral, cosmos sexual, metrosexual et al. The only one who comes to mind as playing the field, from every direction whatever, was Appollo.

    Secondly on the women that did break through, what today is termed the “glass ceiling.” In these Homeric Tales, those that did were remarkable women, and it seemed to be based on whatever attribute was required, whether; cunning, manipulation, ruthlessness or playing the feminine sexual vulnerability card wisely.

    Anyway, back to what is called the Greek Heroic Age, when nymphs and satyrs played in groves & mountains and the gods played with mortals. It was in this period that the story of the House of Atreus begun. The royal progenitor of this family, Tantalus, committed such an atrocity against the gods that his descendants were cursed forever. This story is an example of the archaic Greek belief that guilt was inheritable and a person’s misfortune could be attributed to the crimes of an ancestor.

    You covered the main narrative of this family in the preceding mail. Indulge me if I throw a few tit bits into the pot.

    King Tantalus was beloved by the gods, who came to dine with him at his home on earth. But out of secretly held spite against the immortals, Tantalus murdered his son and fed the Olympians cooked human flesh. But the gods were not fooled. They brought the boy back to life and punished Tantalus by placing him in Tartarus, the Underworld. There he stood in a pool of water that evaporated when he leant down to take a drink. Above him was a vine blooming with fruit that the wind moved out of reach whenever he reached up to take a bite. Frustrating to say the least. Tantalus’ punishment gave us the English word “tantalizing.”

    The resurrected son of Tantalus, Pelops, went on to be worshipped in the region of lower Greece, which is named the Peloponnese after him. Pelops is credited with starting the family curse because of the way he won his wife, the princess Hippodamia.

    Hippodamia’s father challenged all of his daughters’ suitors to a chariot race, which he always won because of his unbeatable horses. With the help of the royal servant Myrtilus, Pelops rigged the king’s chariot to fall apart. Pelops won the race and married Hippodamia, but murdered Myrtilus for trying to sleep with his new wife. It is uncertain whether the family curse came about because of Pelops’ murder of Myrtilus or the blasphemy of Tantalus. Regardless, the family of Pelops would endure a tough future.

    Pelops’ sister Niobe became the mother of 14 children, and when the people of her town began worshipping the goddess Leto , Niobe grew vain and told them to worship her instead. Leto only had two children, the Olympians Apollo and Artemis , where Niobe herself had 14. She said that surely, she was more worthy of worship.
    Unfortunately, Apollo and Artemis heard Niobe’s boast, and they didn’t appreciate her insulting their mother. They came with bows and arrows and shot all of her sons and daughters to death.

    Niobe wept until she turned to stone. She is said to have transformed into a cliff side with a gushing waterfall, forever weeping.

    Pelops also had two sons, Atreus and Thyestes. Atreus became king of the region called Mycenae. Meanwhile, his younger brother Thyestes betrayed him by seducing his wife. In retaliation, Atreus murdered Thyestes’ children and invited his unwitting brother to dinner. Once Thyestes had finished eating, Atreus told him he had just eaten his own children. Thyestes would only get his revenge through the next generation, when Thyestes’ one living son would go on to murder the son of Atreus.

    Atreus’ children are well known, as noted earlier because of the part they played in the Trojan War . They were Agamemnon and Menelaus, the Greek princes who brought war to Troy after the Trojan prince Paris ran away with Helen, the wife of Menelaus.

    Fast forward later to when Orestes, the son of Clytemnestra and Agamemnon, returned home from abroad and found his sister Electra pouring ritual libations at their father’s grave. Orestes learned that his mother has killed his father and, encouraged by Electra and the god Apollo, he vowed revenge.

    Orestes fulfilled his filial duty to his father and murdered his mother Clytemnestra. In doing so, he awakened the Furies of the Underworld. The Furies were monstrous women with snakes for hair who avenge family murders. These creatures pursued Orestes across Greece to Athens. There, in Greek fashion, the Furies took Orestes to trial with Apollo as defense counsel and Athena as judge. In the end, Orestes was acquitted and the family curse finally died.


    What I find so interesting is the insight that these tales gives us into standards of behaviour & superstitions / beliefs prevailing in fifth century BC Greece. They were certainly not stupid, in so far as they combined vivid imaginations with rational norms. Yes, there were Gods supposedly living on Mount Olympus and mythical creatures; but behind it all was a desire for stability in Greek society. Even though they were embracing logic, the belief persisted that the guilt of a family member could be inherited by his descendants.

    This belief in inheritable guilt was popular because they considered the wellbeing of the family unit to be above the wellbeing of the individual.

    One must perhaps reflect in today’s world if the priority has shifted to focus more on the needs and desires of the individual?

  8. #8
    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2016
    Location
    Beyond nowhere
    Posts
    6,192
    I can only agree to your first comment. It seems that the Greeks didn´t make moral issues out of sexuality. Homer possibly would think us very complicated. What seems more complicated to me is that it also seemed normal to kill who might stand in the way of their pleasure, for example in several stories the male relatives of a female are killed, in order that they may not try to rescue the kidnapped females. Paris didn´t do it and soon he was pursued but all the Greek nobility.
    “Secondly on the women that did break through, what today is termed the “glass ceiling.” In these Homeric Tales, those that did were remarkable women, and it seemed to be based on whatever attribute was required, whether; cunning, manipulation, ruthlessness or playing the feminine sexual vulnerability card wisely.”
    Again, I agree, but the same also applies in a sense to the men to the sagas: Homer wrote mainly about exceptional people of noble birth, who were close to the gods by birth or circumstances and who had to act under remarkable conditions. But it seems the women had to held their own in this world of warriors and princes.
    Thanks for so carefully completing the chronic of the Tantalids.
    “What I find so interesting is the insight that these tales gives us into standards of behaviour & superstitions / beliefs prevailing in fifth century BC Greece. They were certainly not stupid, in so far as they combined vivid imaginations with rational norms. Yes, there were Gods supposedly living on Mount Olympus and mythical creatures; but behind it all was a desire for stability in Greek society. Even though they were embracing logic, the belief persisted that the guilt of a family member could be inherited by his descendants.”
    Maybe for us today the idea of so many gods may be bewildering, specially as the all seem to act very much like humans, their deeds being dictated mainly by their feelings and their personal interests. But I suppose the Greeks knew somehow, how to live with them. If one was lucky it was the work of some protective deity. If something bad happened, one probably had angered one of the Gods. Anyhow it was a way of trying to understand the contradictions of destiny, I think.
    “Orestes fulfilled his filial duty to his father and murdered his mother Clytemnestra. In doing so, he awakened the Furies of the Underworld. The Furies were monstrous women with snakes for hair who avenge family murders. These creatures pursued Orestes across Greece to Athens. There, in Greek fashion, the Furies took Orestes to trial with Apollo as defense counsel and Athena as judge. In the end, Orestes was acquitted and the family curse finally died.”
    I had quite forgotten this part of the story of Orestes. Could it be that Orestes was the first Atride to feel real remorse at his deed and that he therefore experienced a kind of redemption or am I taking to Christian a view of this episode? I should like to have your opinion on it.
    "You can always find something better than death."
    Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, The Bremen Town Musicians

  9. #9
    MANICHAEAN MANICHAEAN's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Location
    Vietnam, Singapore, Japan, The Middle East, UK, The Philippines & Papua New Guinea.
    Posts
    2,499
    Blog Entries
    1
    Hi Danik

    Orestes: remorse or redemption?

    I’m not sure, as (a) we are dealing with mythology, and (b) it depends on which of the accounts you are reading of either of the Greek playwrights, Aeschylus or Euripides. Neither is clear on moral responsibility.

    All we really get is Orestes going to Delphi and being instructed via the god Apollo to avenge his father by killing his mother. Flashbacks to Nurenberg war criminal defenses of “I was only obeying orders.”


    More important was the resultant trail overseen by Athena where we see the new initiative of the rule of law i.e All trails in future to be in court and no longer personal vengeance. The Furies disbanded into a more constructive force of vigilance in Athens.

    We talk today of cases of people with a troubled childhood. In Orestes case he had a father who sacrificed his sister. Then his mother takes a lover and murders his father. Must have left an imprint on him! We never know either, if he was close to either parent.

    I would like to think, he felt that in committing matricide, that he was doing the right thing by his father; who after all sacrificed his daughter for a higher cause. The mother had her reasons for revenge as well, but overshadowed by her passion for her lover and desire for power.

    Don’t you just love the whole drama of the story and the interactions of: divine capricious gods, mortals of human frailty and passions; mixed in a rich backdrop of historical drama?

  10. #10
    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2016
    Location
    Beyond nowhere
    Posts
    6,192
    Hi, Manichaean
    I have read several of the Greek tragedies and also some modern versions but the stories that really stuck with me where those of Gustav Schwab, whose compilation of the Greek legends was very popular in Germany.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gustav_Schwab. I never read Homer, but I read and reread Schwab.

    To me the furies seem a sort of personification of remorse. Why else would Orestes be so tormented specially if one considers that his ancestrals killed and on two occasions even stewed their relatives, without being visited by the furies!

    "I would like to think, he felt that in committing matricide, that he was doing the right thing by his father; who after all sacrificed his daughter for a higher cause."
    To me Orestes was moved by a sense of duty, but he never felt well about killing his mother, hence his long preparation.

    "Don’t you just love the whole drama of the story and the interactions of: divine capricious gods, mortals of human frailty and passions; mixed in a rich backdrop of historical drama?"

    No question of it, dear Manichaean!
    "You can always find something better than death."
    Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, The Bremen Town Musicians

Similar Threads

  1. Aspects Of War # 2
    By Biggus in forum Personal Poetry
    Replies: 0
    Last Post: 11-04-2014, 04:56 AM
  2. Aspects Of War # 1
    By Biggus in forum Personal Poetry
    Replies: 2
    Last Post: 10-29-2014, 03:31 PM
  3. Aspects of War
    By Biggus in forum Personal Poetry
    Replies: 6
    Last Post: 11-29-2013, 04:23 PM
  4. Aspects of God
    By Biggus in forum Personal Poetry
    Replies: 0
    Last Post: 07-31-2013, 08:15 AM
  5. Aspects of War
    By Biggus in forum Personal Poetry
    Replies: 2
    Last Post: 10-30-2009, 04:54 AM

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •