Unit III: Myths of the Mortal Heroes 12/12/2013
Euripides (484406 BCE): his lifetime coincided with the rise and fall of Athens as the most powerful city
state polis ), and much of his career coincided with the Peloponnesian War (431404 BCE). Much of
Euripides’ work is implicitly critical of the war. He uses mythic wars (Trojan and Theban wars) to reflect on
the nature and effects of war in his own time. He is thought of as the most negative author.
Anne Carson’s preface to Hekabe focuses on the “unpleasantness” of Euripides. She says that his writing is
“a matter of technique as well as topic.” Carson focuses on the following elements of Euripides’ writing:
Organization of action: no satisfying shape or outcome
No clear moral issue or outcome: is revenge justice, and does it restore balance?
Lack of a satisfying plot: it begins at the end and unravels itself to a condition devoid of moral, emotional, or
Lack of a recognizable hero: Hekabe’s suffering is off the human scale; there is nowhere for her to go but
out of the species.
Compared to Homeric epics: the shape of the plots, different forms of heroism, and the values of aretē,
timē, kleos, and aidōs are present.
“Numbers combined with cunning”
The use of children
Brooches as weapons
Wholesale condemnation of the species
The last scene ofHekabe is ironic, because Polymestor, blinded, turns into the prophet, and Agamemnon
prays to “see all things happy in our houses;” there is a metaphor of the “rape” of the city.
The towers of the city represent the women’s head coverings
Summary of Hekabe
Polyxena, Hekabe’s last surviving daughter, is fated to be killed as a blood sacrifice to Achilles at his tomb.
Odysseus comes to take Polyxena to her death, ignoring Hekabe’s pleas to spare her daughter. Then,
Talthybius (a messenger) comes and tells of Polyxena’s heroic death. Afterwards, the body of Polydorus
(Hekabe’s son) is brought to Hekabe after being found washed up by the waves. Hekabe decides to avenge
her children’s deaths, but first asks Agamemnon to help her. He agrees. Polymestor (king of Thrace), who
was the guardian and eventual murderer of Polydorus, comes and fakes like he wants to know about how
Hekabe is doing. Though Hekabe knows what Polydorus has done, she acts nice and tells Polymestor that
she knows of a bunch of treasure, and then convinces him and his sons to come into her tent for more
treasure. With the help of her slaves, Hekabe brutally murders his sons and blinds Polymestor. Agamemnon
puts Hekabe and Polymestor on trial for the act, and decides that Hekabe was just in her actions. Then,
Polymestor foretells the deaths of Hekabe (by drowning) and Agamemnon (by his wife, Clytemnestra). Unit IV: Roman Myth 12/12/2013
Classics is the study of the Greek and Roman languages and cultures. The Greeks and Romans spoke
related (IndoEuropean) languages and worshipped similar gods. They had interconnected histories –
Rome conquered Greece eventually, but adopted Greek models in art and literature. Romans adapted
many Greek myths about the gods; original Roman myths were mostly about the founding and early history
of Rome (ex. theAeneid ).
Review of the gods:
Zeus = Jupiter/Jove
Hera = Juno
Athena = Minerva
Poseidon = Neptune
Artemis = Diana
Demeter = Ceres
Aphrodite = Venus
Ares = Mars
Hermes = Mercury
Hephaestus = Vulcan
Dionysus (Bacchus) = Liber
Hestia = Vesta
Apollo = Apollo
There are 2 myths of Rome’s founding, including the myth of Romulus and Remus, and then the myth of
Aneas, a founding hero of the Romans whose origins are in Greek myth as a Trojan.
Virgil is the author of the neid , which was completed in 19 BCE. During Virgil’s time, civil wars were
going on (transition from a Republic to an Empire). It was written for enjoyment.
In the Aeneid, the subjects of Dido (the queen of Carthage; also called Elissa) are referred to as
Carthaginians, Tyrians (from Tyre), Sidonians (from Sidon), Phoenicians, and Libyans. The
Trojans are also called Phrygians, Teucrians, and Dardinians.
Aeneas is a representation of Augustus, and Dido is a representation of Cleopatra VII.
The Aeneid is an epic of Rome’s origins. There are echoes of Homer throughout this epic. First, the hero
meets a young woman (Aeneas meets Venus in disguise, Odysseus meets Nausicaa and then Athena).
Also, the hero’s goddess/patron appeals to the king of the gods in both. Then, the hero finds evidence of his
own fame in both. Regarding both Odysseus and Aeneas, they are both heroes of the Trojan War and are
forced to wander for years afterwards (with different goals – homecoming v. finding a home). Each has a
divine enemy and a divine patroness, and each tells part of his own story. However, there is a contrast
between the two heroes’ selfpresentation. ThAeneid is a form of classical antiquity – there is the reuse
of classical characters, plots, imagery, and language, a blend of homage and renewal, and sometimes
subversion. Unit IV: Roman Myth 12/12/2013
Aeneas is a descendent of Trojan kings: Dardanus (hence why Trojans are referred to as Dardinians),
Teucer (hence why Trojans are referred to as Teucrians), Ilus, Assaracus, and Laomedon.
Historical context: the 3 Punic Wars; Carthage was the most powerful and Rome was the weakest at first,
and by the end of the wars, the two cities switch positions.
Geographic landmarks of the Aeneid
Hesperia/Ausonia = Italy
Latium = the part of Italy where Aeneas will settle
Lavinium = the city to be founded (in Latium) by Aeneas
Alba Longa = the city to be founded by Aeneas’ son, Iulus/Ascanius
Themes of the Aeneid
Pietas: devotion (duty, loyalty, piety to the gods, family, and state. It is similar to Greek aidōs, and can be
used in terms of kleos (kleos gets in the way of pietas/aidōs). There is a personal cost to pietas – Aeneas
loses Troy and Creusa, his father, Dido, and comrades (especially Pallas)
Furor: the madness/intensity of passion (love, anger); interferes with pietas.
Univira: “a oneman woman” (a highly esteemed value/quality in Rome); the woman was supposed to be
more in love with men than men were supposed to be with women.
Literary models for the Aeneid
The first half is modeled off of the Odyssey
The second half is modeled off of the Iliad
There are influences of the Argonautica (Apollonius of Rhodes) and Medea (Euripides)
Models for Dido are Calypso (from the Odyssey) and Medea (from the Argonautica and Medea )
Book 2 of the Aeneid
The reflexive dimension appears in a work of art when Aeneas sees himself carved on the temple of Juno,
and then when he tells part of his own story.
Many examples of Aeneas’ pietas are present:
His epithet is “pius Aeneas” (means devoted)
He refuses to leave without his father
He won’t touch the images of the gods with unclean hands Unit IV: Roman Myth 12/12/2013
He is inclined to furor when he sees Helen
Book 6 of the Aeneid : Aeneas visits the underworld (with Sibyl, the priestess of Apollo (who is possessed
by Apollo like the Pythia of Delphi), who is the god of prophecy. Sibyl is responsible for the Roman tradition
of the “Sibylline prophecies.”
Compared to Book 11 of the Odyssey…
The purpose of allusions is relatively the same. There is a concern for cultural tradition, homage to great
predecessors, ambition to rival great predecessors, and there is continuity and change (a familiar motif
adapted to a new context, put to new purposes)
There are elements borrowed from Homer, including the central position of the episode, supernatural help
for the hero (Circe; the golden bough), and meetings with the dead (an unburied comrade, an
advisor/prophet, an unreconciled enemy, a defeated ally, a beloved parent, and the famous sinners).
Virgil has his own innovations, too, including the geography of the underworld, the emphasis on the future,
the emphasis on the fate of an entire people rather than a limited group, and Aeneas’ need of
encouragement (the parent and the prophet are combined)
Tartarus and the Elysian Fields – reward or punishment is exceptional in Homer and systematic in