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).


1 comment: