Monday, June 29, 2015

Good men are always exceedingly prone to tears

In this morning's Homer Multitext seminar we began exploring the scholia that accompany Iliad 19 in the Venetus A manuscript. In my previous post, I wrote about the poetics of the captive woman's lament in Homer, and the ways in which a traditional audience might understand Achilles' mourning for Patroklos as it is described in 19.4-6. In that post I was concerned to show how Achilles may have conjured for a traditional audience the image of the lamenting and soon to be captive woman who has fallen over the body of her husband slain in battle, as in the simile of Odyssey 8.521-531, in which Odysseus, weeping in response to the third song of Demodokos, is compared to just such a woman (see also here and here). As I have written about in my 2006 book, The Captive Woman's Lament in Greek Tragedy, the sorrow of both Achilles and Odysseus is compared to that of captive women, their own victims in war, in both the Iliad and the Odyssey. I was very intrigued therefore to find that the scholia of the Venetus A discuss Achilles' crying in this passage. Here is what the A scholia have to say at Iliad 19.4:
κλαίοντα λιγέως  πάντας τοὺς ἥρωας ἁπλότητος χάριν εὐχερῶς ἐπὶ δάκρυα ἄγει. Ἀγαμέμνονα· Πάτροκλον Ὀδυσσέα ἐφ' οὗ καὶ τὴν παραβολὴν τῆς χήρας ἔλαβεν. ἀεὶ δὲ ἀριδάκρυες ἀνέρες ἐσθλοί· 
"lamenting with piercing cries"  [Homer] leads all the heroes, because of their sincerity, to tears easily: Agamemnon, Patroklos, Odysseus, to whom he makes the comparison of the widow. And good men are always exceedingly prone to tears.
The comment refers explicitly to the simile of Odyssey 8, giving further support to the idea that the kind of weeping being attributed to Achilles at the beginning of book 19 is like that of generic captive woman of Odyssey 8, or of Briseis, whose lamentation for Patroklos later in Iliad 19 is described with similar formulaic language that explicitly invokes the death of her husband.

Just as intriguing to me is the comment that comes next: "And good men are always exceedingly prone to tears." Though it is not marked off in any special way in the Venetus A, the sentence clearly comes from a tradition of proverbs, as we find for example in the work of the Roman sophist Zenobius (1.14) and quite a few other authors:
Ἀγαθοὶ δ' ἀριδάκρυες ἄνδρες: ἐπὶ τῶν σφόδρα πρὸς ἔλεον ῥεπόντων. 
Good men are exceedingly prone to tears: [used] in reference to those exceedingly inclined towards pity.
The A scholion is slightly different from what we find in the authors of the proverb tradition; there we find the more Homeric sounding ἀνέρες ἐσθλοί in place of Ἀγαθοὶ... ἄνδρες.

This same proverb is also adduced in the B scholia at Iliad 1.349, which similarly discusses the propensity of heroes to cry. (The note in B is considerably longer than the one in A, but they overlap in many respects.) In Iliad 1.349 Achilles weeps after the two heralds of Agamemnon take away Briseis:
ἣ δ᾽ ἀέκουσ᾽ ἅμα τοῖσι γυνὴ κίεν: αὐτὰρ Ἀχιλλεὺς
δακρύσας ἑτάρων ἄφαρ ἕζετο νόσφι λιασθεί 
The woman [= Briseis] went together with them, unwilling. Meanwhile Achilles
wept and straightaway sat apart from his companions, withdrawn
In the Venetus B scholion on this passage, the passage from Odyssey 8 is actually quoted, and the phrase ἀεὶ δ' ἀριδάκρυες ἀνέρες ἐσθλοί (with the same wording as in A) is explicitly called a παροιμία, a proverb:
ἕτοιμον τὸ ἡρωϊκὸν πρὸς δάκρυα· καὶ Ὀδυσσεὺς· ὡς δὲ γυνὴ κλαίῃσι [= Odyssey 8.523]· καὶ ἡ παροιμία· ἀεὶ δ’ ἀριδάκρυες ἀνέρες ἐσθλοί· ἄλλως τε καὶ φιλότιμος ὢν ἀνιᾶται τῇ ὕβρει· παλαιᾶς τε γὰρ συνηθείας στέρεται· καὶ τοῦ γυναίου ἀκουσίως ἀπαλλάττεται· ἄκρως δὲ ἐρῶντα χαρακτηρίζει· οὗτοι γὰρ ταῖς ἐρημίαις ἥδονται, ἵνα τῷ πάθει σχολάζωσι· τὸ δὲ νόσφι, ὅπως μὴ γνώριμον τοῖς ἑτέροις ᾖ τὸ πρὸς τὴν μητέρα ἐντύχημα. τὸ δὲ ἄφαρ δηλοῖ καὶ τὸ ἔπειτα :~ 
The heroic nature is prone to tears. [For example,] Odysseus: “As when a woman weeps” [= Odyssey 8.523]. And [there is] the proverb: “Good men are always exceedingly prone to tears.” And otherwise being a lover of honor he is grieved by the hubris [i.e. of Agamemnon] and also he is deprived of his former intimacy [i.e., with Briseis]. And he is removed from the woman unwillingly. And [Homer] characterizes him as desiring her passionately. For these take pleasure in solitary places, in order that they have a respite from suffering. And the “νόσφι” [= “apart’], in order that the meeting with his mother not be known to his companions. And the “ἄφαρ” means “ἔπειτα.”
Variations on this same scholion can also be found here in the Townley manuscript (Burney 86), the Υ.1.1, and the Ω.1.12. The Townley scholion reads as follows:
δακρύσας ἑτάρων· ἕτοιμον τὸ ἡρωϊκὸν πρὸς δάκρυα· καὶ Ὀδυσσεὺς· ὡς δὲ γυνὴ κλαίῃσι [= Odyssey 8.523]· καὶ ἡ παροιμία·· ἀεὶ δ’ ἀριδάκρυες ἀνέρες ἐσθλοί· Ἀγαμέμνων· ἥτε κατ' αἰγίλιπος πέτρης [= Iliad 9.15]· ἄλλως τε καὶ φιλότιμος ὢν· ἀνιᾶται τῇ ὕβρει· παλαιᾶς τε συνηθείας στέρεται· ἴσως δὲ καὶ τὸ γύναιον ἀκουσίως ἀπαλλαττόμενον ἐλεεῖ· ἄκρως δὲ ἐρῶντα χαρακτηρίζει· οὗτοι γὰρ ταῖς ἐρημίαις ἥδονται, ἵν' οὕτω τῷ πάθει σχολάζωσιν· ὑπὸ μηδενὸς ὀχλούμενοι :~
δακρύσας ἑτάρων The heroic nature is prone to tears. [For example,] Odysseus: “As when a woman weeps” [= Odyssey 8.523]. And [there is] the proverb: “Good men are always exceedingly prone to tears.” Agamemnon: “which down from a steep rock” [= Iliad 9.15]. And otherwise being a lover of honor he is grieved by the hubris [i.e. of Agamemnon] and also he is deprived of his former intimacy [i.e., with Briseis]. And perhaps he feels pity for the woman being removed unwillingly. And [Homer] characterizes him as desiring her passionately. For these take pleasure in solitary places, in order that they have a respite from suffering in this way, being disturbed by no one.
This version of the note contains an additional example (Agamemnon, who is also listed in the Venetus A scholion) and an additional citation of the text to go with it (Iliad 9.15) as well as other variations of syntax and an additional clause at the end not found in B. It also lacks the comment on νόσφι found at the end of the B scholion.

Finally, we also find the proverb in the Genavensis 44 scholia at 1.349, according to the edition of Nicole, in two forms, both of which are closer to the version of Zenobius than they are to what we find in other manuscripts of the Iliad:
ἔστι γὰρ παροιμία ἣ λέγει· «ἀγαθοὶ δ' ἀριδάκρυες ἄνδρες,» ἤτοι· «οἱ ἀγαθοὶ ἄνδρες οὐκ ἀδάκρυες. 
For there is a proverb which says "Good men are exceedingly prone to tears" or "The good men are not without tears."
It is fascinating to find the proverb and the larger comment in which it is embedded in all six of the oldest manuscripts of the Iliad with scholia, and to note that the comment varies considerably in wording and length from manuscript to manuscript. Even the proverb - the type of saying that might be expected to resist change - is seemingly multiform. As Neel Smith observed in our seminar session today, it is clear that our scholia in the various manuscripts do not go back to a single source that was faithfully excerpted, but have been drawn from a variety of scholarly reference works from which the scribes made selections, expanding and compressing as they had space and inclination. In other posts on this blog Mary Ebbott and I have argued that we should be thinking of these scribes as editors, not copyists, and this one note provides a perfect example of why we should see them this way.

The content of the scholion is fascinating as well. Greek heroes lament like captive women and they are ἐσθλοί. They cause suffering and they experience suffering, and it is their suffering that unites them with their female victims. For more on the weeping of Achilles, I highly recommend the work of H. Monsacré, Les larmes d'Achille. Le héros, la femme et la souffrance dans la poésie d'Homère (1984).

Friday, June 26, 2015

Achilles and the captive woman's lament in Iliad 19

This year at the Homer Multitext Summer Seminar the student-faculty teams are creating an edition of book 19 of the Iliad in the Venetus A, as well exploring the poetics of this particular book, which happens to feature a lament by Achilles' concubine Briseis, the only words she speaks in the poem. In one of our sessions Mary Ebbott and I spoke with the students about lament as a traditional genre of song, primarily performed in Ancient Greece by women, that has been incorporated into and infuses the epic poetry of the Iliad. We wanted to show the students how oral traditional poetry not only works differently, but also is received differently by its audience. We began by exploring two passages. The first comes immediately after the third song of Demodokos in Odyssey 8, in which Demodokos sings about Odysseus raging through the streets like Ares during the sack of Troy:

ταῦτ’ ἄρ’ ἀοιδὸς ἄειδε περικλυτός· αὐτὰρ Ὀδυσσεὺς
τήκετο, δάκρυ δ’ ἔδευεν ὑπὸ βλεφάροισι παρειάς.
ὡς δὲ γυνὴ κλαίῃσι φίλον πόσιν ἀμφιπεσοῦσα,
ὅς τε ἑῆς πρόσθεν πόλιος λαῶν τε πέσῃσιν,
ἄστεϊ καὶ τεκέεσσιν ἀμύνων νηλεὲς ἦμαρ·
ἡ μὲν τὸν θνῄσκοντα καὶ ἀσπαίροντα ἰδοῦσα
ἀμφ' αὐτᾠ χυμένη λίγα κωκύει· οἱ δέ τ’ ὄπισθε
κόπτοντες δούρεσσι μετάφρενον ἠδὲ καὶ ὤμους
εἴρερον εἰσανάγουσι, πόνον τ’ ἐχέμεν καὶ ὀϊζύν·
τῆς δ’ ἐλεεινοτάτῳ ἄχεϊ φθινύθουσι παρειαί·
ὣς Ὀδυσεὺς ἐλεεινὸν ὑπ' ὀφρύσι δάκρυον εἶβεν.

The renowned singer sang these things. But Odysseus
melted, and wet the cheeks below his eyelids with a tear.
As when a woman laments, falling over the body of her dear husband
who fell before his city and people,
attempting to ward off the pitiless day for his city and children,
and she, seeing him dying and gasping,
falling around him wails with piercing cries, but men from behind
beating her back and shoulders with their spears
force her to be a slave and have toil and misery,
and with the most pitiful grief her cheeks waste away,
So Odysseus shed a pitiful tear beneath his brows. (Odyssey 8.521-531)

The simile is so striking because the generic woman of the simile, who has fallen over the body of her husband slain in battle, and who will soon be captive slave, could easily be one of Odysseus’ own victims in the Trojan War. Although the woman does not actually speak, the formulaic language of the simile has powerful associations with the lamentation of captive women elsewhere in epic, with the result that the listener can easily conjure her song.

In the second passage, Achilles makes the connection between heroic kleos and the grief of women explicit:

νῦν δὲ κλέος ἐσθλὸν ἀροίμην,
καί τινα Τρωϊάδων καὶ Δαρδανίδων βαθυκόλπων
ἀμφοτέρῃσιν χερσὶ παρειάων ἁπαλάων
δάκρυ’ ὀμορξαμένην ἁδινὸν στοναχῆσαι ἐφείην,
γνοῖεν δ’ ὡς δὴ δηρὸν ἐγὼ πολέμοιο πέπαυμαι·

But now may I win good kleos,
and may I cause some one of the deep-girdled Trojan and Dardanian women
to wipe the tears from their delicate cheeks with both hands
and lament unceasingly.
And they may know that too long I have held back from battle. (Iliad 18.121-125)

Some of the most beautiful passages of the Iliad are not generic, however, but feature the first person laments of such figures as Andromache, Hecuba, Helen, and Briseis. John Foley has shown, for example, that Andromache's speech to Hektor in Iliad 6 conforms in every way to the structure and content of women's laments for the dead in the Greek tradition (Foley 1999: 188–98; see Dué 2002, chapter 4 and my earlier blog post).  Briseis' lament for Patroklos in Iliad 19 echoes many of the same structure and themes and even particular phrases that we find in Andromache's speech:

Βρισηῒς δ' ἄρ' ἔπειτ' ἰκέλη χρυσέῃ Ἀφροδίτῃ
ὡς ἴδε Πάτροκλον δεδαϊγμένον ὀξέϊ χαλκᾠ,
ἀμφ' αὐτᾠ χυμένη λίγ' ἐκώκυε, χερσὶ δ' ἄμυσσε
στήθεά τ' ἠδ' ἁπαλὴν δειρὴν ἰδὲ καλὰ πρόσωπα.
εἶπε δ' ἄρα κλαίουσα γυνὴ ἐϊκυῖα θεῇσι·

(I) Πάτροκλέ μοι δειλῇ πλεῖστον κεχαρισμένε θυμᾠ
ζωὸν μέν σε ἔλειπον ἐγὼ κλισίηθεν ἰοῦσα,
νῦν δέ σε τεθνηῶτα κιχάνομαι ὄρχαμε λαῶν
ἂψ ἀνιοῦσ'· 

(II) ὥς μοι δέχεται κακὸν ἐκ κακοῦ αἰεί.
ἄνδρα μὲν ᾧ ἔδοσάν με πατὴρ καὶ πότνια μήτηρ
εἶδον πρὸ πτόλιος δεδαϊγμένον ὀξέϊ χαλκᾠ,
τρεῖς τε κασιγνήτους, τούς μοι μία γείνατο μήτηρ,
κηδείους, οἳ πάντες ὀλέθριον ἦμαρ ἐπέσπον.
οὐδὲ μὲν οὐδέ μ' ἔασκες, ὅτ' ἄνδρ' ἐμὸν ὠκὺς Ἀχιλλεὺς
ἔκτεινεν, πέρσεν δὲ πόλιν θείοιο Μύνητος,
κλαίειν, ἀλλά μ' ἔφασκες Ἀχιλλῆος θείοιο
κουριδίην ἄλοχον θήσειν, ἄξειν τ' ἐνὶ νηυσὶν
ἐς Φθίην, δαίσειν δὲ γάμον μετὰ Μυρμιδόνεσσι.

(III) τώ σ' ἄμοτον κλαίω τεθνηότα μείλιχον αἰεί.

ὣς ἔφατο κλαίουσ', ἐπὶ δὲ στενάχοντο γυναῖκες
Πάτροκλον πρόφασιν, σφῶν δ' αὐτῶν κήδε' ἑκάστη. 

Then Briseis like golden Aphrodite,
when she saw Patroklos torn by the sharp bronze,
wailed with piercing cries, falling around him. And with her hands she struck
her breast and tender neck and beautiful face.
And then lamenting she spoke, a woman like the goddesses:

(I) “Patroklos, most pleasing to my wretched heart,
I left you alive when I went from the hut.
But now returning home I find you dead, O leader of the people.

(II) So evil begets evil for me forever.
The husband to whom my father and mistress mother gave me
I saw torn by the sharp bronze before the city,
and my three brothers, whom one mother bore together with me,
beloved ones, all of whom met their day of destruction.
Nor did you allow me, when swift Achilles killed my husband,
and sacked the city of god-like Mynes,
to weep, but you claimed that you would make me the
wedded wife of god-like Achilles and that you would bring me in 
the ships 
to Phthia, and give me a wedding feast among the Myrmidons.

(III) Therefore I weep for you now that you are dead ceaselessly, 
you who were kind always.”

(Refrain) So she spoke lamenting, and the women wailed in response,
with Patroklos as their pretext, but each woman for her own cares. (Iliad 19. 282-302)

In terms of narrative, Briseis’ widowed and captive status is quite personal. Lament is a powerful form of speech in which women can narrate their own life experiences, and this is the only place in the Iliad where we learn about Briseis’ life prior to her capture. But her lament gains a great deal of power from the fact that Briseis’ grief foreshadows the grief of every Trojan wife. When Briseis throws herself down on the body of Patroklos, she is already a captive woman—something that Andromache only imagines herself to be in Iliad 6.

Such resonances and interconnections are made possible by the traditional diction and formulaic language in which the Iliad and Odyssey have been composed. The audience's familiarity with such language likewise allows them to receive these passages on a deeper level than would an audience hearing this passage for the first time. When Briseis falls over the body of Patroklos and and begins lamenting with piercing cries, a traditional audience can not only think of the generic husband of Odyssey 8, but also Briseis' first husband, whom she has already lamented, and look ahead to the death of her current would be husband, Achilles, whom she mourns here just as much as she does Patroklos. (See again my earlier blog post for Briseis' lament for Achilles in the Posthomerica of Quintus of Smyrna as well as the Introduction to Dué 2002.)

We concluded this exploration of the poetics that underlie Iliad 19 by looking at the opening lines of the book, in which Thetis brings Achilles his new set of armor to wear into battle, where she and he know he will soon die. She finds him like this (Iliad 19.4-6):

εὗρε δὲ Πατρόκλῳ περικείμενον ὃν φίλον υἱὸν
κλαίοντα λιγέως: πολέες δ᾽ ἀμφ᾽ αὐτὸν ἑταῖροι

She found her dear son fallen about [the body] of Patroklos,
lamenting with piercing cries. And his many companions around him
were weeping

We asked the students to consider how they might understand the passage differently in light of the poetics of the captive woman's lament that we had been exploring. In Odyssey 8, Odysseus' tears and grief are compared to those of a captive woman. Here in Iliad 19 Achilles physically embodies the actions, tears, and lamentation of such a woman while mourning his comrade. And just as the women antiphonally respond to Briseis as she concludes her lament (cf. the women of Andromache's household in Iliad 6.499 and the women of Troy at Iliad 22.515 and 24.746), so too do Achilles' comrades respond to him. In fact the A scholia on these lines gloss μύροντο (19.6) as ἐθρήνουν. When viewed in this way, the grief of Achilles reverberates with the grief of the many women whose husbands he has killed (and the husband he has yet to kill, Hektor), and we realize that Achilles' kleos comes at the cost of not only the unceasing lamentation of the women of Troy, but also his own never ending sorrow. 

Nikolai Ge, Achilles Lamenting the Death of Patroclus (1855)

Works Cited

Dué, C. Homeric Variations on a Lament by Briseis. Lanham, MD, 2002.
Foley, J. M. Homer’s Traditional Art. University Park, 1999.

For more on the poetics of lament that underlie the Iliad and Odyssey and the unnamed woman of Odyssey 8 see G. Nagy, "An unnamed woman’s lament as a signal of epic sorrow."

Thursday, June 4, 2015

First Week of Summer Research and First Presentation of Summer Research

It is an exciting week here at the College of the Holy Cross, where students are beginning their first week of summer research working on Book 18 of Venetus A. Joining us this summer is a team of seven composed of Holy Cross alums, Brian Clark '15 and Stephanie Lindeborg '13, and current students, Claude Hanley '18, Stephanie Neville '17, Charlie Schufreider '17, Alex Simrell '16, and Melody Wauke '17.

Already the students have formally presented on their current and past work, when this morning, they were visited by representatives from Loyola Chicago's John Felice Rome Center, where Holy Cross sends their Classics study abroad students. Claude and Stephanie led off the presentation discussing some of their past work on the Chronicle of Jerome. Charlie and Melody shared their work on the HMT, talking first about their work on Iliad 14 and then looking forward to their upcoming work on Iliad 18. Brian wrapped up the presentation by presenting on aspects of his senior thesis with the HMT and reflecting on how his study abroad experience related to his ability to conduct this research.

Left to right: Stephanie Neville, Melody Wauke, Brian Clark,
Claude Hanley, and Charlie Schufreider

We're looking forward to seeing what else this summer has in store for the HMT. Keep an eye out for future work from these great researchers and stay tuned for our upcoming summer seminar at the Center for Hellenic Studies!