Thursday, February 28, 2013

Stirpes: Rome "a new kind of city"

What we've seen in Metamorphoses 14 is, in part, a developing sense of what Romans are, and what they are not. What they are not, to come right to it, is Greeks, Phrygians, Carthaginians, or Sicilians. It's harder to say what they are. 

The merger of the Trojans and the Latins in the marriage of Aeneas and Lavinia, daughter of Evander, is a key moment in the genealogy of Romanness, but why?

To probe this key fellow Evander is to find a culture hero who brought gods, laws and letters of the Latin alphabet to Italy from his home of Pallantium in Arcadia. He knew letters from Carmenta, his mother, who is the chief of the four nymphs known as the Camenae. The spot where Canens, lamenting Picus, dissolved into the Tiber became associated with the Camenae, blending a kind of Orphic power (Canens < cano) into the river where the Roman Muses dwell.

The initial encounter of Aeneas and Evander is rich in mythological resonance in book 8 of the Aeneid. Evander founded his city, Pallanteum, 60 years before the Trojan War, on the site of what would become Rome. Here's a small bit of Kline's translation:
The king walked clothed with years, and kept Aeneas and his son
near him for company, lightening the road with various talk.
Aeneas marvelled, and scanned his eyes about
eagerly, captivated by the place, and delighted
to enquire about and learn each tale of the men of old.
So King Evander, founder of Rome’s citadel, said:
‘The local Nymphs and Fauns once lived in these groves,
and a race of men born of trees with tough timber,
who had no laws or culture, and didn’t know how
to yoke oxen or gather wealth, or lay aside a store,
but the branches fed them, and the hunter’s wild fare.
Saturn was the first to come down from heavenly Olympus,
fleeing Jove’s weapons, and exiled from his lost realm.
He gathered together the untaught race, scattered among
the hills, and gave them laws, and chose to call it Latium,
from latere, ‘to hide’, since he had hidden in safety on these shores.
Under his reign was the Golden Age men speak of:
in such tranquil peace did he rule the nations,
until little by little an inferior, tarnished age succeeded,
with war’s madness, and desire for possessions.
Then the Ausonian bands came, and the Siconian tribes,
while Saturn’s land of Latium often laid aside her name:
then the kings, and savage Thybris, of vast bulk,
after whom we Italians call our river by the name
of Tiber: the ancient Albula has lost her true name.
As for me, exiled from my country and seeking
the limits of the ocean, all-powerful Chance,
and inescapable fate, settled me in this place,
driven on by my mother the Nymph Carmentis’s
dire warnings, and my guardian god Apollo.’
Here's an interesting passage from the 19th c. French historian Fustel de Coulanges, pondering all this:
The origin of Rome and the composition of its people are worthy of remark. They explain the particular character of its policy, and the exceptional part that fell to it from the beginning in the midst of other cities. The Roman race was strangely mixed. The principal element was Latin, and originally from Alba; but these Albans themselves, according to traditions which no criticism authorizes us to reject, were composed of two associated, but not confounded, populations. One was the aboriginal race, real Latins. The other was of foreign origin, and was said to have come from Troy with Aeneas, the priest-founder; . . .. [Big snip in which Hercules and more races are mixed in] Rome did not seem to be a single city; it appeared like a confederation of several cities, each one of which was attached by its origin to another confederation. It was the centre where the Latins, Etruscans, Sabellians, and Greeks met. The Ancient City, p. 311.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Circe, Odysseus, Telegonus, Penelope, Telemachus

For Mario ~
Having murdered her husband, the prince of Colchis, she was expelled by her subjects and placed by her father on the solitary island of Aeaea
A not atypical intro to Circe, daughter of Helios and Perse, or of Hecate. She is prominent in Metamorphoses 13 - 14, using her power to disrupt the love of Glaucus for Scylla, and of Picus for Canens, as well as to turn Macareus and Odysseus's other men into boars. 

But her involvement with Odysseus goes much further, according to some ancient sources:

Towards the end of Hesiod's Theogony (1011f), it is stated that Circe bore Odysseus three sons: Ardeas or Agrius (otherwise unknown); Latinus; and Telegonus, who ruled over the Tyrsenoi, that is the Etruscans. The Telegony (Τηλεγόνεια), an epic now lost, relates the later history of the last of these. Circe eventually informed him who his absent father was and, when he set out to find Odysseus, gave him a poisoned spear. With this he killed his father unknowingly. Telegonus then brought back his father's corpse, together with Penelope and Odysseus' other son Telemachus, to Aeaea. After burying Odysseus, Circe made the others immortal. According to Lycophron's Alexandra (808) and John Tzetzes' scholia on the poem.

Even that's not enough:

Dionysius of Halicarnassus (1.72.5) cites Xenagoras, the second century BC historian, as claiming that Odysseus and Circe had three sons: Romus, Anteias, and Ardeias, who respectively founded three cities called by their names: Rome, Antium, and Ardea.

The stories link Circe to Odysseus and to Rome, one way or another.

Apollonius Rhodius tells of Jason and Medea seeking purification from Circe for the murder of Medea's brother, Absyrtus. Medea was the witch of the East responsible for the utter destruction of Jason, his children, his new wife, and father in law, King Creon. Her aunt, Circe is the witch of the West, who apparently meets her match in Odysseus. Thanks to Macareus, Aeneas never meets her at all.

The union of Circe and Odysseus bred Telegonus, who according to some stories killed his father and married his mother. Pseudo-Hyginus claims that from these unions came Italus and Latinus:
Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 127 :
"Telegonus, son of Ulysses [Odysseus] and Circe, sent by his mother to find his father, by a storm was carried to Ithaca . . . Telegonus with Telemachus and Penelope returned to his home on the island of Aeaea by Minerva’s [Athena's] instructions. They brought the body of Ulysses to Circe, and buried it there. By the advise of Minerva [Athena] again, Telegonus married Penelope, and Telemachus married Circe. From Circe and Telemachus Latinus was born, who gave his name to the Latin language."
From Circe and Telemachus Latinus was born, who gave his name to the Latin language; from Penelope and Telegonus Italus was born, who called the country Italy from his own name.
The tale of Telgonus, Odysseus, Penelope, Telemachus and Circe apparently was the subject of the Telegony.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Diomedes in Italy

The figure of Diomedes (Meta. 14.445 ff) is complex and rich in incident and fortune, both good and not so good. The story of his early life and exploits at Troy is of interest, but so are the stories of his peculiar odyssey after the fall of Troy, and his eventual divinization in Italy.

There might be a clue as to the identity of those "swan-like" birds that Acmon and his friends metamorphose into in the tale of his death. See below.

From Wikipedia:
Diomedes then migrated to Aetolia, and thence to Daunia (Apulia) in Italy. He went to the court of King Daunus, King of the Daunians. The king was honored to accept the great warrior. He begged Diomedes for help in warring against the Messapians, for a share of the land and marriage to his daughter. Diomedes agreed the proposal, drew up his men and routed the Messapians. He took his land which he assigned to the Dorians, his followers.

Diomedes later married Daunus's daughter Euippe and had two sons named Diomedes and Amphinomus.

He founded about ten Italian cities (in the eastern part of Italy) including Argyrippa (Arpi/Arpus Hippium/Argos Hippion), Aequum Tuticum, Beneventum and Brundusium. Also Canusium, Venafrum, Salapia, Spina, Garganum, Sipus (near Santa Maria di Siponto) were said to have been founded by him.[12]

Some say that he named a city as "Venusia" (or Aphrodisia) after Venus (Aphrodite) as a peace-offering. When war broke out between Aeneas and Turnus, Turnus tried to persuade Diomedes to aid them in the war against the Trojans. Diomedes told them he had fought enough Trojans in his lifetime, and urged Turnus that it was best to make peace with Aeneas than to fight the Trojans. He also said that his purpose in Italy is to live in peace.[13] Virgil's Aeneid describes the beauty and prosperity of Diomedes' kingdom.

The worship and service of gods and heroes was spread by Diomedes far and wide : in and near Argos he caused temples of Athena to be built.[14] His armour was preserved in a temple of Athena at Luceria in Apulia, and a gold chain of his was shown in a temple of Artemis in Peucetia. At Troezene he had founded a temple of Apollo Epibaterius, and instituted the Pythian games there.[15]

Other sources claim that Diomedes had one more meeting with his old enemy Aeneas where he gave the Palladium back to the Trojans.

He lived a long life but there is no clear record as to how he died. Some claim that he was buried or mysteriously disappeared on one of the islands in the Adriatic called after him (Diomedeae). Others say that he did not have to face a mortal death.

Legend has it that, on his death, the albatrosses got together and sang a song (their normal call). This is where the family name for albatrosses comes from (Diomedeae).

According to the post Homeric stories, Diomedes was given immortality by Athena, which she had not given to his father. Pindar says that Diomedes became a minor god in southern Italy or the Adriatic. He was worshipped as a divine being under various names in Italy where Statues of him existed at Argyripa, Metapontum, Thurii, and other places.

There are traces in Greece also of the worship of Diomedes. Greek sources say that he was placed among the gods together with the Dioscuri.

Diomedes was worshipped as a hero not only in Greece, but on the coast of the Adriatic, as at Thurii and Metapontum. At Argos, his native place, during the festival of Athena, his shield was carried through the streets as a relic, together with the Palladium, and his statue was washed in the river Inachus.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Mapping Jason, Odysseus, Aeneas

The three great voyages of the ancient Mediterranean, in order of occurrence - click to enlarge:


Also under construction: a digital atlas of ancient waters, showing multi-layered maps of land, sea, shipwreck sites and more. Found it here via the remarkable rogueclassicism.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Latin in the 6th century BC

Following up on the Etruscan Chimaera d'Arezzo, we note that it's the Etruscans whom Aeneas has to defeat in order to establish his people in Latium.

Here's a map offering a view of the chief languages of Italy in the Iron Age. Notice the relatively diminutive size of Latin.


The Chimaera of Arezzo

From an appreciation of a famous bronze imitation of the Chimaera d'Arezzo, an ancient Etruscan statue of the monster slain by Bellerophon:
This snarling, fire-snorting Chimera, which has a storied history, epitomizes the mythical monster that figures in many classical Greek texts and was first mentioned, among those that survive, in Homer's "Iliad": it's a dramatic fusion of a lion's head and body, a serpent forming the tail, and a horned, bearded goat's head and neck protruding from the spiked spine of the lion.

Remarkably, the artist—or multiple craftsmen, as many scholars believe—who created this frightening concoction managed to make it look menacingly real.  
Catching the moment when the defiant monster is fighting for its life, the Chimera of Arezzo is a lean and savage beast, nearly starved for food. The skin is taut, revealing ribs and veins in the torso, muscles in the haunch and legs. The eyes have lost the inlays of another unknown material that once were there, but they still glare, heightening the tension created by the creature's aggressive pose. At one time, the lion also had teeth, but they are hardly needed to convey the beast's ferocity. 
Throughout, the artist cleverly captures varying textures, such as the goat's smooth neck and the lion's hairy mane; details, such as its sharp claws and lined forehead; and, most of all, movement.

Wounded on its left rear rump, the lion howls out in pain, and the goat's head lists to the left, bleeding from the neck in bronze drops of blood. It looks ready to pounce at an attacker.

More photos of the Chimaera d'Arezzo, now in Florence. The full story is below the fold. Curious that Bellerophon never appears in the Metamorphoses, although the Chimaera is mentioned twice.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Memory of Fire, Italian Style

An exhibit coming in March to the British Museum is titled Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum.

As an extension of the exhibit, a filmed tour of the show will be screened worldwide.

Street in Pompeii

The subterranean tremors and fiery eruptions of Typhoeus are ever on Ovid's mind as his poem approaches Italy. The landscape still attracts tourists:
Our adventure in Italy’s south—the mezzogiorno—is framed by a sublime setting: the dramatic volcano-isles of Stromboli, Vulcano, Lipari, and tiny Panarea, as well as magnificent Mt. Etna. After a hike on the crater rim of Mt. Vesuvius and a visit to ancient Pompeii, we ferry to the Aeolian Islands, believed by the ancient Greeks to be the home of Aeolus, the king of the winds. Our hikes bring us to the summits of Stromboli and Vulcano, while coastal walks on Panarea and Lipari reward us with Roman ruins and views of the blue Mediterranean. The surreal moonscapes of Mt. Etna (10,500'), dominating the Sicilian skyline, are the memorable backdrop for our final hikes. We end our journey in lovely Taormina, with its breathtaking panoramas of sea and sky.

Itinerary of Aeneas

An undersea volcano in the region south of Naples has not erupted since the beginning of recorded history. Scientists say it's bursting with magma and has "fragile walls."

Monday, February 4, 2013

Virgil's Achaemenides

For ease of comparison with Ovid's scene with Macareus and Achaemenides, here's the Achaemenides scene from Aeneid, Book 3, also translated by Tony Kline.

First part - Encountering Achaemenides.

Second part - Polyphemus

Gluttons for intertexual relationships might also have a look at the Sinon scene of Aeneid 2, which bears some definite similarities to the Achaemenides scene, and includes interesting references to Palamedes and Ulysses.


Friday, February 1, 2013

Aeneas in history and myth

For the final books of the Metamorphoses, it might help to revisit Prof. Peter Meineck's lectures, perhaps especially Lecture 5 (it's labeled 3 in our series), entitled Trojan Ancestors: The Myth of Aeneas, which asks, "Would Roman possible have been possible without this myth?"

His course notes are here.