Iliad 9, the story of Meleager

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huilen
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Iliad 9, the story of Meleager

Post by huilen » Sat Oct 24, 2015 1:16 pm

Hello everybody!

I'm completely stuck in this passage.

ἣ δὲ χολωσαμένη δῖον γένος ἰοχέαιρα
ὦρσεν ἔπι χλούνην σῦν ἄγριον ἀργιόδοντα,
540ὃς κακὰ πόλλ᾽ ἕρδεσκεν ἔθων Οἰνῆος ἀλωήν:
πολλὰ δ᾽ ὅ γε προθέλυμνα χαμαὶ βάλε δένδρεα μακρὰ
αὐτῇσιν ῥίζῃσι καὶ αὐτοῖς ἄνθεσι μήλων.
τὸν δ᾽ υἱὸς Οἰνῆος ἀπέκτεινεν Μελέαγρος
πολλέων ἐκ πολίων θηρήτορας ἄνδρας ἀγείρας
545καὶ κύνας: οὐ μὲν γάρ κε δάμη παύροισι βροτοῖσι:
τόσσος ἔην, πολλοὺς δὲ πυρῆς ἐπέβησ᾽ ἀλεγεινῆς.
ἣ δ᾽ ἀμφ᾽ αὐτῷ θῆκε πολὺν κέλαδον καὶ ἀϋτὴν
ἀμφὶ συὸς κεφαλῇ καὶ δέρματι λαχνήεντι,
Κουρήτων τε μεσηγὺ καὶ Αἰτωλῶν μεγαθύμων.

Till here, everything is fine: the goddess sends the calydonian boar (since she was angry because the father of Meleager had forgotten her in his sacrifices to the gods, as it is explained in the previous passage). Then Meleagre kills the boar, and it seems that a war arises between the people that participated with him in the hunt.

550ὄφρα μὲν οὖν Μελέαγρος ἄρηι φίλος πολέμιζε,
τόφρα δὲ Κουρήτεσσι κακῶς ἦν, οὐδὲ δύναντο
τείχεος ἔκτοσθεν μίμνειν πολέες περ ἐόντες:
ἀλλ᾽ ὅτε δὴ Μελέαγρον ἔδυ χόλος, ὅς τε καὶ ἄλλων
οἰδάνει ἐν στήθεσσι νόον πύκα περ φρονεόντων,

Here is when I lost: he says that everything was under control while Meleager fight in that war, but when the wrath entered into Meleager... and here starts a digression that has lost me.

555ἤτοι ὃ μητρὶ φίλῃ Ἀλθαίῃ χωόμενος κῆρ

It says that he was angry with her mother, but I didn't understand the reason. Is it something from a traditional myth that the reader should already know, maybe?

κεῖτο παρὰ μνηστῇ ἀλόχῳ καλῇ Κλεοπάτρῃ
κούρῃ Μαρπήσσης καλλισφύρου Εὐηνίνης
Ἴδεώ θ᾽, ὃς κάρτιστος ἐπιχθονίων γένετ᾽ ἀνδρῶν
τῶν τότε: καί ῥα ἄνακτος ἐναντίον εἵλετο τόξον
560Φοίβου Ἀπόλλωνος καλλισφύρου εἵνεκα νύμφης,

I'm not sure of who is talking about. Which is the antecedent of ὃς? The father of his wife? And of what nymph is he talking about?

τὴν δὲ τότ᾽ ἐν μεγάροισι πατὴρ καὶ πότνια μήτηρ
Ἀλκυόνην καλέεσκον ἐπώνυμον, οὕνεκ᾽ ἄρ᾽ αὐτῆς
μήτηρ ἀλκυόνος πολυπενθέος οἶτον ἔχουσα
κλαῖεν ὅ μιν ἑκάεργος ἀνήρπασε Φοῖβος Ἀπόλλων:

I didn't understand the story about the fathers of his wife, nor what has this to do with Meleager.

565τῇ ὅ γε παρκατέλεκτο χόλον θυμαλγέα πέσσων
ἐξ ἀρέων μητρὸς κεχολωμένος, ἥ ῥα θεοῖσι

And at this point I'm irremediably lost. Who is this ὅ? I suppose that it refers to Meleager, because it says that he was angry with her mother. It seems as if I should expect a ring structure here: "he was angry with his mother...because xxxx...and then he was angry with his mother", but I don't understand the "because xxxx" :P

πόλλ᾽ ἀχέουσ᾽ ἠρᾶτο κασιγνήτοιο φόνοιο,
πολλὰ δὲ καὶ γαῖαν πολυφόρβην χερσὶν ἀλοία
κικλήσκουσ᾽ Ἀΐδην καὶ ἐπαινὴν Περσεφόνειαν
570πρόχνυ καθεζομένη, δεύοντο δὲ δάκρυσι κόλποι,
παιδὶ δόμεν θάνατον: τῆς δ᾽ ἠεροφοῖτις Ἐρινὺς
ἔκλυεν ἐξ Ἐρέβεσφιν ἀμείλιχον ἦτορ ἔχουσα.

And here it seems that is the mother who is angry with the son... Here I gave up.

Then it continues the story saying that because of his angry, Meleager rehused to fight, and that that resulted in bad for him and his people. So I can understand that all this story is like a moral lesson that is given to Achilles in order to persuade him of coming back to the battle. I just didn't understand the details of the story. Could you give me maybe some guidelines to understand this passage?

mwh
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Re: Iliad 9, the story of Meleager

Post by mwh » Sun Oct 25, 2015 1:05 am

Hello again huilen!

This is one of Homer’s more forced and complex paradigms.
How to get Achilles to rejoin the fighting?
Phoenix uses Meleager as a negative exemplum.
Mel was angry, angry (553, 555) and nursed his anger (565-6) as he lay with Cleopatra [Kleo-patrh ~ Patro-klos!]. His people were under threat from an enemy (573), and everyone pleaded with him and offered gifts, but he could not be persuaded (585, 587)
[That’s how the present situation is with Achilles, of course]
—until finally he yielded to Cleopatra’s pleas (590ff., cf. Patroclus later) and went out and drove the enemy back (596-8). —But too late: they now refused him the gifts he’d earlier refused himself.
This is meant as a warning to Ach not to leave it so late—which of course he will. 600-605 spells out the moral of the tale.

The traditional Meleager story (it’s recounted in Bacchylides 5 and elsewhere) has been massaged to fit the currrent circumstances. Where you find difficulty is precisely where Homer has to force the Mel./Ach. analogy. At 553, out of nowhere, we hit Mel.’s anger. In the story, his mother cursed him (or somehow caused his death) for killing her brother(s) in the fighting over the boar (567), so Homer makes that the cause of Mel’s anger. For the exemplum to work at all, Meleager has to be angry, like Achilles; that’s the starting-point (553); and then his anger has to motivated somehow.

That takes us down to 572, when we switch to the next point, the Aetolians (~ Greeks) in peril from an enemy (~ Hector&Trojans) and the supplications to Mel (~ Ach).

557-564 just provides the improvised wife with a genealogy: daughter of Marpessa and Idas, who …. Yes ὅς is Idas, strongest of men, he even contested with Apollo over the νυμφη (Marpessa). The genealogy—fabricated by Homer, along with Cleo herself—hooks Cleo up with what must have been the known myth of Marpessa and Idas. Marpessa was daughter of king Euenus (557), she was kidnapped by Idas (a suitor), kidnapped in turn by Apollo, which led to fight between Idas and Apollo over her. Then Homer expands this in turn(561-4): Marpessa’s parents called her Halcyon, on account of Apollo’s abduction of her.
This section is not Homer at his most lucid; unless he’s extemporizing everything, his condensed and selective allusion to the tale is scarcely intelligible without prior knowledge of it.

By this time we’ve lost touch with Meleager. But notice the structure:
556 Angry, “he (Mel) was lying with Cleopatra”
557-564 Digression re Cleo.
565 “With her (Cleo) he (ὅ γε, Mel) was lying in bed beside, nursing his anger”
We pick up just where we left off.

Only then is his anger explained: he was angry “from his mother’s curses” (566). Which leads to explanation of that (566-72).

And on we go.

That’s basically my take on it anyway.

Michael

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Paul Derouda
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Re: Iliad 9, the story of Meleager

Post by Paul Derouda » Sun Oct 25, 2015 9:00 am

Hello Huilen!

I don't have much to add to mwh's excellent post. I suppose you could call this a case of "Homer nodding", it's one of those digressions in Homer that don't work so well. It brings to my mind Theoclymenus in the Odyssey.

Jasper Griffin's commentary on book 9 has a nice treatment. It's ring composition, like you said (it begins earlier than the lines you site). Griffin summarizes the first ring as follows:
A 529-32 the Couretes and the Aetolians were at war;
B 533-4 Artemis had sent an evil thing on Oeneus;
C 534-7 Oeneus had omitted to sacrifice to Artemis;
B 538-46 so Artemis sent the Boar: its career and death;
A 547-9 Couretes and the Aetolians were at war over the trophy
Line 549 closely echoes 529 and closes the ring
In a ring composition, after a digression the narrative continues were it left before the digression began (ABCBA).

As mwh hinted, the name Cleopatra looks like an invention of the poet to adapt the story to this context (analogy with Patroclus), and her ἐπώνυμος Halcyone is probably her "real" name in the original myth.

Bart
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Re: Iliad 9, the story of Meleager

Post by Bart » Sun Oct 25, 2015 12:38 pm

Martin West in the making of the Iliad has interesting things to say about this passage (most of them in line with mwh's post). Apparently some scholars have argued that the story of the wrath of Achilles was modelled on that of the Meleager's wrath, but West thinks -as mwh- that it's the other way around; the wrath motif was not original in the Meleager story and invented by Homer to parallel Achilles' situation.

West writes that there had once been two separate stories about Meleager
-the boar hunt, in which he killed the beast
-the story of the log, bound up with Meleager's life. His mother kept it save to prevent his death, but when he killed a brother of her she burned it and Melegaer died.

Again according to West (I'm not making this up myself, in case there was any doubt ;-)), there was originally no link between the two stories. In time a connection was created by making Meleager kill his uncle during the boar hunt or during a dispute over the spoils.
Still later the dispute over the spoils was transformed into a full scale war and the magic log suppresed. Instead Meleager's mother just prays to the gods that her son might die in the same way as her brother. To avoid fulfillment of the curse Melegaer withdrew from the war, which allowed the enemy to get the upper hand. At last, when the situation on the battle field had become hopeless, his wife succeeded in persuading Meleager to rejoin the fight. He did so to save his city knowing that it would cost him his life in the process.

West thinks Homer made the following modifications to the story above to mirror Achilles' predicament
-Meleager's real reasons for staying at home are supressed, Althaia's curse being described in vague terms without reference to death in battle. Now anger is his motive
-his best friends join in the effort to persuade him

huilen
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Re: Iliad 9, the story of Meleager

Post by huilen » Mon Oct 26, 2015 10:36 am

Your replies are great as always, thank you very much guys! :)

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