Ovid, Metam., XIII, ll. 177-180

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hlawson38
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Ovid, Metam., XIII, ll. 177-180

Post by hlawson38 » Fri Oct 12, 2018 11:29 am

Context: In the debate over who should now bear the weapons of the slain Achilles, Ajax or Ulysses, now the latter is speaking. He reminds the assembled Greeks that he was the one who identified Achilles, whose mother had dressed him as a girl, to save Achilles from war and prophesied death. Ulysses uncovered Achilles's disguise by holding out to him a spear and small shield, which the youthful Achilles took in his hands. Presumably a real girl would said, "What do you expect me to do with those?" Achilles discovered, Ulysses brought him into the Greek alliance. Now Ulysses claims credit for all Achilles's feats of war, including the killing of Hector.
utque alios taceam, qui saevum perdere posset
Hectora, nempe dedi: per me iacet inclitus Hector.
Illis haec armis, quibus est inventus Achilles,
180 arma peto: vivo dederam, post fata reposco.
Translation: While I omit mention of others who possibly could have got rid of fierce Hector, the honest truth is, I did. Because of me famous Hector is dead. For those arms by which Achilles was made known, I ask for these arms: to him alive I gave, after his death I claim what is owed to me.

I am reading Ulysses as making a rhetorical equation of the light weapons he held out to uncover Achilles's disguise with the heavy arms the great warrior carried into battle. This seems to me rather tricky, and so I wonder if Ovid wants us to believe that Ulysses is just what Ajax said he is, a trickster.

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Re: Ovid, Metam., XIII, ll. 177-180

Post by Hylander » Fri Oct 12, 2018 1:51 pm

utque alios taceam -- "to pass over in silence the others" classic preterition, but what others? Ulysses doesn't tell us.

qui saevum perdere posset Hectora, nempe dedi: -- "surely I gave [i.e., I am responsible for bringing to Troy him] who was able to destroy savage Hector" The verb of the relative clause is singular, so it doesn't depend on alios. The antecedent is understood, not explicitly stated, and must be masculine singular; therefore Achilles. Ulysses is making a ridiculously overreaching claim.

Illis haec armis, quibus est inventus Achilles, arma peto: -- "in exchange for/as a price for the arms by which Achilles was discovered [the arms Ulysses gave Achilles to expose his disguise], I claim these arms". Ablative of price or exchange.

vivo dederam, post fata reposco. --"I had given to him when he was alive; after his death I reclaim" -- The omission of the direct objects of dederam and reposco cleverly elides the fact that the weapons Ulysses gave to Achilles to expose his disguise were quite different from, and of far less value than, those he's now claiming.

Yes, Ulysses is portrayed as an unscrupulous trickster here (as he is in much Greek literature; in the Odyssey, he's a trickster, but a sympathetic trickster). His entire speech in this passage from Ovid is full of outrageously, and transparently, specious arguments.

Ovid is comically juxtaposing the exaggerated arrogance of Ajax and the exaggerated lack of scruples of Ulysses. These are conventional attributes of these characters in Greek literature, and Ovid is playing with the conventional characterizations. In ancient schools of rhetoric, I believe, students were typically assigned to develop arguments on either side of the Contest of Arms between Ajax and Achilles, and Ovid is engaging in parody here (as he so often does). Enjoy the humor!

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Re: Ovid, Metam., XIII, ll. 177-180

Post by hlawson38 » Fri Oct 12, 2018 2:50 pm

Hylander wrote:

qui saevum perdere posset Hectora, nempe dedi: -- "surely I gave [i.e., I am responsible for bringing to Troy him] who was able to destroy savage Hector" The verb of the relative clause is singular, so it doesn't depend on alios. The antecedent is understood, not explicitly stated, and must be masculine singular; therefore Achilles. Ulysses is making a ridiculously overreaching claim.


Ah, very keen, I did not see that possibility, that the clause qui . . . Hectora might be the direct object of dedi. Neither did I catch the failure of agreement between alios and posset.

Many thanks, Hylander.

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Re: Ovid, Metam., XIII, ll. 177-180

Post by Hylander » Fri Oct 12, 2018 3:25 pm

utque alios taceam — actually not a classic preterition. A preterition subtly calls attention to the things passed over. Here Ulysses suggests he’s passing over other instances without specifying them. This is designed to give the impression that there are other instances, but of course there are none.

Update: see my later post.
Last edited by Hylander on Sat Oct 13, 2018 3:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Ovid, Metam., XIII, ll. 177-180

Post by mwh » Fri Oct 12, 2018 10:36 pm

utque alios taceam, qui saevum perdere posset
Hectora, nempe dedi.
“Not to mention others, I contributed one who could kill Hector.” This impiicitly claims he contributed others besides Achilles.* If challenged he could have instanced Philoctetes, whom he fetched from Lemnos and without whose bow Troy could not be taken. This is not quite playing fair, since it’s not actually recounted in the Iliad, but it’s clearly alluded to at 2.275 (the Greeks would “soon remember Philoctetes” after marooning him) and was the subject of plays by Aeschylus, Euripides, and Sophocles (ut alios taceam), and besides, since when does Ulysses play fair? (And if Ovid had had Ulysses claim responsibility for fetching Philoctetes to Troy he would also have had to deal with Ajax’accusation that Ulysses was responsible for marooning him in the first place.)

* WRONG. It must refer to others that Achilles killed, see Hylander’s update.
Last edited by mwh on Sat Oct 13, 2018 10:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Ovid, Metam., XIII, ll. 177-180

Post by Hylander » Sat Oct 13, 2018 12:09 am

The Iliad isn't the exclusive source for Ovid's treatment of the Contest of Arms. For example, Ajax refers not only to Philoctetes, but also to Ulysses' framing of Palamedes for theft, in revenge for Palamedes' exposure of Ulysses's feigned madness to avoid going to Troy, which also doesn't appear in the Iliad. Here and elsewhere Ovid draws on the entire Greek mythological tradition, including non-Homeric myths presented in Greek tragedy.

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Re: Ovid, Metam., XIII, ll. 177-180

Post by mwh » Sat Oct 13, 2018 1:19 am

Yes that’s quite right. As I put it in the previous thread, “Ovid’s representation of each of the two is founded in various Homeric events but is also colored by post-Homeric characterizations [and events, I could have added], esp. the Greek tragedians I think.”
And I wonder if Ovid also used the summaries of the rest of the Epic Cycle, e.g. the Little Iliad, which also fed into Greek tragedy, and in turn into Roman.

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Re: Ovid, Metam., XIII, ll. 177-180

Post by Hylander » Sat Oct 13, 2018 1:35 pm

It's ironic that Ovid is the chief source for Greek mythology in the modern world, given that Ovid's treatment of the myths is frequently far from serious, often humorous or ironic or parodic (sometimes black humor, as in the case of Actaeon). His stories of the gods usually do them no credit--the first third or so of the Metamorphoses is largely about the crimes of the gods, mostly rapes by male gods, but also Diana (Actaeon) and Minerva (Arachne) are portrayed as spiteful and cruel. These stories actually must have tended to undermine the religious basis of morality. The stories about the sufferings of human women in the second third (Myrrha, Philomela and Procnis) are much more sympathetic and moving.

Ovid's version of these stories has become the canonical version, even though, I think, he sometimes chose obscure variants and myths that were perhaps less well-known. Part of the reason for the popularity of the Metamorphoses from the 12th century on is that Ovid is such an entertaining and skillful story-teller. Phaeton, Actaeon, Icarus--these are rather minor myths that almost anyone who has had some exposure to literature or mythology is familiar with, largely because Ovid has told them so vividly.

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Re: Ovid, Metam., XIII, ll. 177-180

Post by Hylander » Sat Oct 13, 2018 3:00 pm

utque alios taceam, qui saevum perdere posset
Hectora, nempe dedi:


I see now that I misread this earlier. The alii whom Ulysses is passing over in silence are not heroes other than Achilles whom Ulysses has contributed to the Achaean army, but rather victims of Achilles other than Hector, whom Ulysses is now claiming as his own triumphs because it was he who made sure that Achilles came to Troy with the Achaean host.

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Re: Ovid, Metam., XIII, ll. 177-180

Post by mwh » Sat Oct 13, 2018 10:05 pm

I was misreading it too (as you are kind enough not to point out), because I wasn’t reading it in its context. Ulysses is claiming the credit for all of Achilles’ actions (just as Hugh said in his original post, if I’d been paying proper attention), and his killing of Hector is the culminating item; never mind all the others he killed.
The ut clause belongs with Hectora, despite being outside of the qui clause and in front of it. Reorganized, the sentence goes “I gave the one who killed Hector, not to mention others.” It’s ambiguous (in English as in Latin).

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Re: Ovid, Metam., XIII, ll. 177-180

Post by Hylander » Sun Oct 14, 2018 4:08 pm

I realized I 'd misunderstood utque alios taceam when I reread the entire Contest of Arms episode. One thing that I noticed is that Ajax makes a claim to be blunt and plainspoken at the outset -- a man of action and not words, and therefore at a disadvantage with the verbally adroit Ulysses; yet his speech is full of rhetorical tropes and figures.

Ovid's sweeping world-historical narrative in the Metamorphoses does not focus on many episodes from the Trojan War (apart from this and the weird Cygnus episode). At first blush, this evasion of the Trojan War seems odd: as a result of the Homeric poems, the war looms as the central event of Greek mythology. But Ajax' and Ulysses' speeches in the Contest of Arms episode rehearse in brief or allude to many of the events of the Trojan War in the Iliad and elsewhere. I think that Ovid has used these speeches as a way to pass rapidly through stories with which the ancient reader would have been all too familiar, and which, in addition, don't include many incidents involving metamorphoses. At the same time, part of the ancient reader's enjoyment and pleasure in these speeches would have been in connecting Ovid's brief allusions with the versions found in his Greek sources and seeing how Ovid shaped them into the two speakers arguments-- mostly disingenuously on their part.

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