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Discourse 58

This webpage reproduces one of the
Discourses

by
Dio Chrysostom

published in the Loeb Classical Library, 1946

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though, please let me know!


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Discourse 60

(Vol. IV) Dio Chrysostom
Discourses

p438 The Fifty-ninth Discourse:
Philoctetes

This Discourse, as possibly also the one preceding, paraphrases a drama, the prologue of Euripides' Philoctetes. Dio has furnished a synopsis of practically the same material in Or. 52, by comparison with which we are enabled to identify the original drama. The synopsis, however, contains two details not found in the paraphrase, namely, that Diomedes arrived in company with Odysseus (§ 14) and the nature of the chorus and its behaviour toward Philoctetes. Arnim believes that these omissions, and the abortive reference to the Trojan mission, indicate either that Dio failed to complete our Discourse or else that his editor, for some unknown reason, chose to eliminate certain portions of the work.

Such a conclusion seems not inevitable. As Lemarchand observes (Dion de Pruse, p17), Dio himself, when recommending that the student of oratory should memorize for recitation speeches from Xenophon, prescribes that he should not make a slavish copy of the original but that he should rather select such passages as seemed most pertinent (Or. 18.19). Whether our Discourse be viewed as a school exercise or as intended for Dio's own delivery, it has undeniable unity as it stands. The rôle of Diomedes was undoubtedly minor. As handled by Euripides, after his initial entry with Odysseus Diomedes may well have temporarily withdrawn, leaving his companion to deliver the soliloquy with which our paraphrase begins. Furthermore the dialogue between Odysseus and Philoctetes took place prior to the entry of the chorus, as is obviously true of the entry of the Trojan envoys. Indeed, the concluding words of Philoctetes give the impression that at this point in the play both he and Odysseus went indoors, thus paving the way for the entry of the chorus.

p439 Though unpretentious in style and marked by frequent hiatus, our paraphrase is so like Greek tragedy in spirit that more than one have been tempted to try to recover from Dio's version the original lines of Euripides. Nauck, Trag. Graec. Frag., p616, prints six such lines, which, with very little change, have been recreated with some degree of probability. These six lines are given below, preceded in each instance by the prose wording from which they were evolved:

1. (§ 6):

πολλὴν ἔοικας φράζειν ἀλογίαν τῆς δεῦρο ὁδοῦ

πολλὴν γ᾽ ἔοικας ἀλογίαν φράζειν ὁδοῦ.

2. (§ 7):

πόθεν δή; τοῦτο γὰρ πρῶτον εἰκός με εἰδέναι.

πόθεν δέ; πρῶτον γὰρ τοδ᾽ εἰδέναι θέλω.

3. ibid.:

πόθεν; εἰπὲ πάλιν, ὡς εἰδῶ σαφέστερον.

πόθεν; λεγ᾽ αὗθις, ἵνα μάθω σαφέστερον.

4. ibid.:

οὐ δυνατόν, εἴπερ Ἕλλην ὢν τυγχάνεις, τὸ μὴ ἀπολωλέναι σε ἐν τῇδε τῇ ἡμέρᾳ.

οὐ δυνατόν, εἴπερ τυγχάνεις Ἕλλην γεγώς,
τὸ μὴ οὐκ ὀλωλέναι σε τῇδ᾽ ἐν ἡμέρᾳ.

5. (§ 8):

πότερον ἐκ τοῦ φανεροῦ μάχῃ κρατήσας ἢ μετὰ δόλου τινός;

μάχῃ κρατήσας ἢ δόλου τινός μετά;1

By good fortune, four of the seventeen fragments of the play now extant find their parallel in Dio's version and will be reported in the notes, each in its appropriate place.

p441 The Fifty-ninth Discourse:
Philoctetes

Odysseus. I fear 'twill prove that my allies were rash when they conceived of me the thought that I, in sooth, am best and wisest of the Greeks. And yet what kind of wisdom and prudence may this be which makes a man to toil beyond the others to gain the salvation and the victory of the group, seeing that, were he deemed to be but one among the throng, 'twere his to share these blessings with the best?2 Ah well, no doubt 'tis difficult to find a thing so proud, so jealous of honour, as man is born to be. For 'tis the prominent, those who dare to undertake more labours than the rest, I dare say, whom we all do view with wonder and regard as truly men.3

2 This thirst for glory is what leads even me to bear unnumbered woes and live a life of toil beyond all other men, accepting ever fresh peril, fearing to mar the glory won by earlier achievements.4 So now a task most hazardous and hard brings me to Lemnos p443here, that Philoctetes and the bow of Heracles I may bear off for my allies. For the one most gifted in prophecy of all the Phrygians,5 Helenus Priam's son, when by good fortune taken captive, disclosed that without these the city never could be seized.

3 Now to the princes I did not agree to undertake the venture, knowing well the malice of that man,6 since 'twas I myself caused him to be marooned, that day when by ill fortune he was stung by a fierce and deadly viper. Thus I could not hope to find persuasion such that he should ever feel a kindly feeling toward me; nay, I thought he'd slay me out of hand. But after, Athena urging me in dreams, as is her wont, boldly to go and fetch the man — for she herself would change my form and voice, that I might meet him safe from detection — so did I pluck up courage, and am here.

4 But word has come that envoys from the Phrygians too have secretly been sent, if haply they may win Philoctetes by means of bribes, and through his hatred of us Greeks as well, and so take back to Troy him and his bow. With such a prize before him, why should not any man grow keen? For, should one fail in this endeavour, all previous achievements, it seems, have been but labour lost.

5 (Aside) Hah! the man draws nigh. 'Tis he himself, the son of Poeas, as is plain from his affliction, toiling along with labour and in pain. Oh what a grievous, awful spectacle! Aye, his person is frightful, thanks to his disease, his garb unwonted too — skins of wild beasts cover his nakedness. Come, p445Mistress Athena, be thou mine aid, nor show thyself to have promised me safety all in vain!

6 Philoctetes. What is thy purpose, whoe'er thou art, by what audacity inspired hast thou come to this my poor retreat — to pillage, or to spy upon my evil fortune?

Od. Believe me, no man of violence dost thou see.

Phil. Yet surely not of thy former wont hast thou come here.

Od. Aye, not former wont; yet may it prove that coming even now is opportune.

Phil. Methinks thou dost betray much lack of reason in thy coming here.

Od. Then rest assured, not lacking reason have I come, and to thee at least no stranger shall I prove.

7 Phil. How so? This first of all 'tis fair that I should know.

Od. Well, I'm an Argive, one of those who sailed for Troy.

Phil. How can that be? Repeat thy words, that I may more clearly know.

Od. Then dost thou hear it yet a second time: of those Achaeans7 who advanced on Troy I claim to be.

Phil. Faith, thou didst well in claiming to be friend of mine, seeing thou art revealed among my bitterest foes, the Argives! So for their injustice shalt thou this very instant pay the penalty.

Od. Nay, by the gods, forbear to loose thy shaft!

Phil. It cannot be, if haply thou art Greek in truth, that thou shouldst fail to die this very day.

p447 8 Od. Nay, I have suffered at their hands such things that I should rightly be a friend to thee, to them a foe.

Phil. And what is this thou hast suffered so terrible?

Od. Odysseus drove me an exile from the camp.

Phil. What hadst thou done to meet with such a doom?

Od. Methinks thou knowest Palamedes son of Nauplius.

Phil. In truth no common man was he who sailed with us, nor little worth to men and generals.

Od. Aye, such the man the common spoiler of the Greeks destroyed.

Phil. O'ercoming him in open fight, or with some guile?

Od. Charging betrayal of the camp to Priam's sons.

Phil. But was it so in fact, or has he met with calumny?

Od. Could aught at all that scoundrel8 did be just?

9 Phil. Oh thou who hast refrained from naught most cruel, thou utter villain both word and deed, Odysseus, once more how fine the man thou hast destroyed, of no less value to the allied host than thou, methinks, inventing and devising the best and sagest plans! Just so in fact didst thou make me a castaway, when for the salvation and the victory of us all I met with this disaster, because I showed them Chrysê's altar,9 where they must first make p449sacrifice if they would overcome the foe; else, I declared, our expedition was being made in vain. Yet what hast thou to do with Palamedes' lot?

10 Od. Know well, the cursed feud was visited on all his friends, and all have perished, save such as could take to flight. Thus I too during the night just sped, sailing across alone, found refuge here. So I myself am placed in much the same necessity as thyself. If, then, thou hast some scheme, by adding thy eagerness to mine touching my voyage home, thou wilt have done a kindly deed toward me and wilt besides send home to thy own friends him who will bear the story of thy present ills.

11 Phil. Nay, wretched creature, thou art come for aid to such another as thou art, helpless himself and lacking friends besides, an outcast on this shore, in niggard fashion and with toil providing with this bow both food and clothing, as thou dost see. For what raiment I had before time hath consumed. But if thou wilt share with me here this life of mine until some second chance of safety falls thy way, I'd grudge it not. Distressing, truly, what thou wilt see indoors, my friend10 — wrappings polluted with an ulcer's filth and other tokens of my malady — and I myself am far from being pleasant company when the pain comes on me. And yet the worst of my disease time hath assuaged, though at the start it was in no wise bearable.


The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 Warmington finds additional traces of Euripides in §§ 2, 6, 8, and 11. Indeed, the number of such passages might be considerably enlarged without much trouble.

2 Cf. Nauck, Trag. Graec. Frag., Euripides, frag. 787:

πῶς δ᾽ ἂν φρονοίην, ᾧ παρῆν ἀπραγμόνους

ἐν τοῖσι πολλοῖς ἠριθμημένῳ στρατοῦ

ἴσον μετασχεῖν τῷ σοφωτάτῳ τύχης;

3 Ibid., frag. 788:

οὐδὲν γὰρ οὕτω γαῦρον ὡς ἀνὴρ ἔφυ·

τοὺς γὰρ περισσοὺς καί τι πράσσοντας πλέον

τιμῶμεν ἄνδρας τ᾽ ἐν πόλει νομίζομεν.

4 Ibid., frag. 789:

ὀκνῶν δὲ μόχθων τῶν πρὶν ἐκχέαι χάριν

καὶ τοὺς παρόντας οὐκ ἀπωθοῦμαι πόνους.

5 I.e., the Trojans.

6 I.e., Philoctetes.

7 The words Argive and Achaean are used indifferently as in the epic.

8 Odysseus.

9 Chrysê was a tiny islet not far from Troy. There dwelt Apollo's priest, father of Chryseïs, who was the cause of the feud between Agamemnon and Achilles. Both Euripides and Sophocles attribute the affliction of Philoctetes to the bite of the serpent which guarded Apollo's altar.

10 Cf. Nauck, Trag. Graec. Frag., Euripides, frag. 790:

δύσμορφα μέντοι τἄνδον εἰσιδεῖν, ξένε.


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