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Discourse 63

This webpage reproduces one of the
Discourses

by
Dio Chrysostom

published in the Loeb Classical Library, 1951

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 65

(Vol. V) Dio Chrysostom
Discourses

p43 The Sixty-fourth Discourse: On Fortune (II)

This laudatio of the goddess Fortune, though longer than the foregoing, is hardly on a higher level. Arnim was doubtless correct in denying it a place among the genuine works of Dio. There is a monotony in its phrasing which one would be reluctant to associate with him, and also a certain indifference toward hiatus. But more objectionable still is a tedious parade of erudition, ranging all the way from the commonplaces of myth and history to points so obscure that one is tempted to ascribe them to the fertile imagination of the author. Was it his purpose to overawe with his learning a less erudite company?

Where was his address delivered? In §§ 12‑17 he traces the ancestry of his hearers to Athens via Euboea. His account sounds a bit fanciful and the twofold migration from Athens is not found elsewhere in Greek tradition, so that it is impossible to identify with certainty the people to whom he is speaking. However, Strabo (5.246) reports that, after the original settlement of Naples by citizens of Cumae, additional settlers later came from Athens. Furthermore, a Neapolitan coin of about the middle of the fifth century B.C. depicts Pallas wearing an olive crown, and at some time or other the name Phaleron came to be associated with Naples. Finally, the complimentary remarks regarding the city in which the address was being delivered seem to fit Naples better than any other likely possibility. It might seem surprising, however, that the Naples of the first century of our era should still cherish the memory of Athenian contributions to its parent stock. Possibly our Discourse was addressed to a select group of Neapolitans, who, however unintelligently, strove to keep alive traditions of ancient days.

p45 The Sixty-fourth Discourse:
On Fortune (II)

The charges which men lay to the account of Fortune I would consider to be highest encomia in her favour. For example, the inscrutable vicissitudes in their affairs they ascribe to her, and whenever they unwisely set their hands to certain projects and meet with failure they imagine they have been robbed of their purposes by her, since, in their opinion, she could do any and every thing if she only would. Again, you may hear farmers, shippers, and men of wealth blaming her for their loss of money, dandies for their persons, Pantheia for her husband,1 Croesus for his son,2 Astyages for his defeat,3 and Polycrates for his capture.4 Moreover, the Persians blamed Fortune after the slaying of Cyrus,5 as did the Macedonians after Alexander's death.

2 Furthermore, men even reproach Fortune for some of their own emotional weaknesses — Medea for her p47passion,6 Midas for his prayer,7 Phaedra for her false accusation,8 Alcmaeon for his wandering,9 Orestes for his madness. But I will tell you also a certain Cyprian tale if you wish. The days of old produced women of distinction as well as men — Rhodogunê the warrior,10 Semiramis the queen,11 Sappho the poetess, Timandra the beauty;12 just so Cyprus too had its Demonassa,13 a woman gifted in both statesmanship and law-giving. 3 She gave the people of Cyprus the following three laws: a woman guilty of adultery shall have her hair cut off and be a harlot — her daughter became an adulteress, had her hair cut off according to the law, and practised harlotry; whoever commits suicide shall be cast out without a burial — this was the second law of Demonassa; third, a law forbidding the slaughter of a plough-ox. Of the two sons which she had, the one met his death for having slain an ox, while the other, who slew himself, she refrained from burying. 4 Now for a time she not only bore with fortitude the loss of her children but also persevered in her regulations; but having observed a cow lowing in sorrow over a calf which was dying, and having recognized her own misfortune in the case of another, Demonassa melted bronze and leaped into the molten mass. And there used to be at that place an ancient tower holding a bronze image, an image embedded in bronze, both in order to insure the stability of the statue and also as a p49representation of the story; and near‑by on a tablet there was an inscription:

Wise was I, yet in everything ill-starred.14

5 Well then, let not Fortune be condemned unheard, and let us not fear the clamour of those who accuse her. For perhaps even she herself might aid us somewhat in speaking well of her. In the first place, the artists are believed to have revealed her power by the way they have equipped her. For, to begin with, she stands ready for her tasks; secondly, in her right hand she holds a rudder and, as one might say, she is sailing a ship. But why, then was this? Was it in the belief that sailors more than others need Fortune, or was it because she steers our lives like some great ship15 and preserves all on board — the Assyrians until the wanton luxury of Sardanapalus;16 the Medes until the rearing of Cyrus; the Persians until they crossed the sea;17 the Athenians until their capture;18 Croesus until the visit of Solon?19

6 At first a fortunate man was Oedipus.20

Yes, for Fortune, trying to provide freedom from suffering, granted him ignorance, which was tantamount to freedom from suffering. Then at one and the same time he reached the end of his good fortune and began to understand. For my part I call even his blindness good fortune.21 For let Tellus behold p51his children,22 and Cydippê,23 and Aeolus,24 and whoever else may have been fortunate as a parent; yet by his blindness Oedipus

Will gain escape from shameful sights.25

7 And, to resume, in her other hand the goddess holds fruits plucked and ready for use, indicating the multitude of good things she herself provides — this, you see, would be both Golden Age and Isles of the Blest, as it were, with foods for the taking, and Horn of Heracles,26 and life of the Cyclopes27 all in one, since to those who have toiled for their living an abundance of good things comes thereafter spontaneously. But Tantalus, you know, was idle in old age; on that account, therefore, he was prosperous only as far as his lips, fortunate only with his eyes, while all those things he longed for — lake, fruits, food, and drink — vanished, snatched away by Fortune as by a blast of wind.28

8 Again, Fortune has been given many names among men. Her impartiality has been named Nemesis or Retributive Justice; her obscurity, Elpis or Hope; her inevitability, Moira or Fate; her righteousness, Themis or Law — truly a deity of many names and many ways. Farmers have given her the name Demeter; shepherds Pan; sailors Leucothea, pilots Dioscuri.29

p53 With ease the eminent he curbs, the meek

Exalts, makes straight the crooked, blasts the proud.30

9 This refers, of course, to Zeus, holding in his right hand his weapon31 and in his left his sceptre, for the reason that to martial men he gives kingship too.

Furthermore, Euripides censures the sailor

Untimely seeking to cross the broad sea's waves;32

he also utters reproof in the following, when he says

To slender hopes do they entrust themselves.

10 O son of Mnesarchides,33 you were a poet, to be sure, yet not at all wise! For they entrust this lives to neither pitch nor ropes, nor is it a two-inch plank of pine that keeps them safe; nay, they entrust them to a sure and mighty thing, Fortune. A weak thing is wealth unless accompanied by Fortune; an uncertain thing is friendship unless Fortune bears a hand. She preserves alike the sick man in his extremity, the swimmer amidst the waves, Agamemnon sailing with his thousand ships, and Odysseus drifting on his raft. 11 What dost thou fear, thou craven? Dost fear the vastness of the sea? Poseidon, indeed, will spy thee, summon his winds, seize his trident, and stir up all the blasts; yet he will not slay thee, for Fortune wills it not.

p55 Thus do thou wander now upon the deep,

With many an evil mischance, till the day

When thou dost meet with men beloved of Zeus.34

An utterance of a god vanquished by Fortune!

12 What is more, the ancient stock of your ancestors, those autochthonous and earliest Athenians who boasted the soil as mother, Demeter as nurse, and Athena as namesake and ally, Fortune first led forth from Athens to Euboea; but since if they remained there the sea could not please them nor the land support, and since also they could not endure the disgrace of what had happened, their having turned islanders instead of occupants of the mainland, Fortune made a second and better plan. 13 For though Euboea is truly a venerable island, still who among you ever was able to endure dwelling in a rugged land,35 or being neighbour to narrow waters and subjected to many shifts of condition, more numerous than the shifts of current in the strait?36 At one moment you must needs endure the Boeotians and the stupidity of the Thebans,37 and the next it was the Athenians, who treated you no longer as sons, but rather as slaves. So it came to pass that the goddess took and established you here,38 with one of her hands contriving and directing the voyage, and with the other abundantly providing and bestowing her fruits.

p57 Now the idea in what yet remains to say it is difficult to portray. 14 But as for me, O Mistress Fortune — for to thee, no doubt, my words would justly be addressed — if some one should raise me aloft and transport me through the sky, either, as it were, on the back of some Pegasus or in some winged car of Pelops,39 offering me the whole earth and its cities, neither would I choose the luxury of Lydia or the thrift of Attica40 or the meagre living of Laconia, nor would I choose Croton or Sybaris,41 because they do not toil, or the Scythians, because they do not farm,42 or the Egyptians, because they farm for others,43

15 And Libya, where the lambs have horns at birth44 —

a shepherd's haven! No, I would not choose Egyptian Thebes,

Which hath a hundred gates, and at each one

Two hundred men go forth with chariots and steeds45 —

a life for grooms and gate-keepers!

In Delos such a tree I once did see

Beside Apollo's altar46 —

an altar does not satisfy my wants, since I have naught to sacrifice thereon; no more do trees, if they afford no food.

'tis rugged, yet a goodly nurse of youth47 —

This land48 not only is not rugged but a nurse of youth besides.

p59 16 O Athens, august mistress of them all!49

Say not so, fellow: those Athenians no more are masters.

How beauteous too thy shipyard is to view.

Nay, rather say ugly, after the Hellespont and Lysander.50

Peiraeus is a lovely sight.51

Yes, for your mind's eye still sees it with its walls.52

What other city yet obtained such groves!53

It did have, yes, but it was ravaged and, like a woman in her mourning, it had its tresses shorn.

For climate, so they say, 'tis nobly set.

Indeed! how so, since they are subject to plague and sickness, and more of them are slain by their climate than by the foe?54

17 Now let no one be vexed that I speak thus of his forebears. We could not attain first rank in any other way than by competing with those who are first. Why, not only did a certain warrior of old take pride in having proved superior to his sire,55 but even for the Athenians it is no disgrace, ancestors of ours though they be, to be outstript by their sons. For they will share your merit while being surpassed in their own. How, then, could you help being grateful p61to Fortune for all this — both for parentage, in that you are Greek, and for your changed condition, in that, though once poor, you now are prosperous? Socrates, at any rate, counted himself fortunate for many reasons — not only because he was a rational being, but also because he was an Athenian. 18 Diogenes the Cynic, on the other hand, with boorishness and downright discourtesy was wont to rail at Fortune, claiming that, though she shot many shafts with him as her target, she could not hit him. I cannot endure a philosopher's behaving so brazenly. Do not lie about Fortune, Diogenes, for the reason why she does not shoot you is that she has no wish to do so; on the contrary, if Fortune did wish it, she could easily hit you wherever you might be. While I do not use those "pithy laconic expressions" — slaves to the Persians, Dionysius at Corinth, Socrates' condemnation, Xenophon's exile, Pherecydes' death, luck of Anaxarchus56 — still, let me ask you, with how many shafts has she hit this difficult mark itself?57 She made you an exile; she brought you to Athens; she introduced you to Antisthenes;58 she sold you into Crete. But if staff and wallet and a meagre, simple mode of living serve you as a cloak of affectation, you have Fortune p63to thank even for these things, for it is by grace of Fortune that you practise philosophy.

19 Again, there was once an Athenian general, Timotheüs,59 who was fortunate in everything and could not stand being made the butt of jokes; and one day he committed some act of effrontery against Fortune, and in turn he began to be unfortunate. Who would ever have expected that a barber would become ruler of the Indians;60 that a shepherd would become king of the Lydians;61 that a woman would become leader of Asia;62 that a tunic and a woman would cause the death of Heracles;63 that a slave and a goblet would cause the death of Alexander?64 The explanation is that Fortune has within herself the essence of royalty ever in fullest measure, and she destroys those who exalt themselves unduly. For instance, Alexander did many daring things — 20 he could not stand being called the son of Philip; he lied about Zeus;65 he scorned the Dioscuri; he abused Dionysus, though indulging so lavishly in that god's gifts. Moreover, he slew his saviour Cleitus, the handsome Philotas, the aged Parmenion, his teacher Callisthenes; he aimed to slay Aristotle and had planned the death of Antipater.66 Therefore p65Fortune made him while yet alive admit that he was a human being. 21 At any rate when he had been wounded he said to his friends, "Why, this fluid which I behold is not ichor but real blood!"67 But by his dying he admitted fully that Fortune is a mighty being and truly invincible. At any rate after escaping from the Theban hoplites, the Thessalian cavalry, the Aetolian javelin-throwers, the Thracians with their daggers, the martial Persians, the tribe of irresistible Medes, from lofty mountains, impassable rivers, unscalable cliffs, from Darius, Porus,68 and many other tribes and kings I might name, yet in Babylon, remote from battle and from wounds, our warrior died!

22 But what should one say of those who took over his empire, or of those who followed after them, with their braggart titles69 — Thunderbolts, Takers-of‑cities, Eagles, Gods? One of the lot death proved mistaken; another found Fortune to be a loftier being than himself, though he had considered her pedestrian; our Taker-of‑cities, Demetrius, was taken captive and died a shameful death from wine and drunkenness, beleaguered as he was by Fortune! Why, then, are tyrants proud of their ramparts? Why does Amphion sing,70 Deïoces toil,71 Semiramis build,72 Apollo work for hire,73 Meles encompass the p67wall with his lion?74 For Cyrus will master the Medes, Zopyrus the Babylonians,75 a Mardian Sardis, and the horse Troy!

23 Yes, as some one has put it, Fortune is a great weight in the scales, or rather the whole thing.76 She found the infant Pindar lying exposed in Boeotia, Telephus in Arcadia, the kings of Rome in Italy; and to Pindar she sent honey-bees,77 to the kings of Rome shepherds,78 to Telephus a deer,79 and to Cyrus either a dog or a woman.80 Eumenes was a wagoner's son, but for all that he became king;81 Heracles was Alexander's son, yet he did not become king;82 in fact, his body, denied the rites of burial, was brought to Olympias, and after mourning for him she too died, a god's mother, forsooth! 24 Moreover the mother of Darius made obeisance, not merely to Alexander, but, what is more disgraceful, to Hephaestion.83 What about the king of the Libyans? Did he not sack five hundred cities of the Romans? Did he not lift up his tunic and display it to his fellow townsmen filled with Roman finger rings, each of which he had as loot from foes he had slaughtered? yet after he had done all this he met an ignominious p69death, having contended much with Fortune all in vain.84

25 This, it seems to me, is why men entrust all their important matters to Fortune, making their public offices and generalships subject to allotment;85 brothers also divide their patrimony in that way. And so Polyneices too, if indeed he had been well advised, ought to have drawn lots with his brother for the throne; but as it was, not only was he himself slain, he destroyed his brother as well, all because he referred the matter to priority of birth and not to Fortune.86

26 Now shake the lot in turn and see who draws;

For the well-greaved Achaeans he will aid87 —

and, having drawn, aid he did; however, Hector was defeated because he trusted to judgement and not to Fortune.

For on his threshold Zeus has set two jars.88

These are storage jars for mankind in the keeping of the gods; however, it is Fortune who administers them with regard to what is allotted — to orator or to general, to rich or poor, to old or young. 27 To Croesus she gives gold, to Candaules a wife,89 to p71Peleus a sword,90 to Nestor a shield,91 to Pterelas golden locks,92 to Nisus a purple tress,93 to Alcibiades beauty, to Socrates wisdom, to Aristeides uprightness, to Spartans land, to Athenians a sea. Then in turn she takes from these and gives to others. And it seems to me that the life of man in its daily vicissitudes is in no wise different from a procession.94


The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 Pantheia, wife of Abradatas, king of Susa, was taken captive by Cyrus. Through her efforts Abradatas accepted service with Cyrus and was slain fighting at his grave. Xenophon devotes much space to the tale in his Cyropaedeia but he fails to note anywhere that Pantheia blamed Fortune.

2 Warned in a dream, Croesus vainly tries to save his son Atys; cf. Herodotus 1.34‑35.

3 Learning that his daughter is fated to bear a son who will bring ruin on her father, Astyages tries to thwart fate, but to no avail, and he is dethroned by that son (Cyrus); cf. Herodotus 1.107‑130.

4 Though warned by soothsayers, Polycrates, tyrant of Samos, is taken captive and crucified by the Persian Oroetes; cf. Herodotus 3.120‑125.

5 Though warned in a dream, Cyrus is slain by Tomyris, the nomad queen; cf. Herodotus 1.205‑213.

6 Medea, in his tragedy of that name, is depicted by Euripides as resentful for the evil results of her passion for Jason but without remorse for her own misdeeds.

7 Midas owed his ruin to his prayer that all that he might touch should turn to gold.

8 Instead of feeling shame because of her passion for her stepson Hippolytus, Phaedra at her death leaves a false accusation that causes his death too; cf. Euripides' Hippolytus.

9 Both Alcmaeon and Orestes were punished by the Furies for matricide. In Euripides' Iphigeneia among the Taurians Orestes blames Apollo as the author of his crime.

10 Daughter of Mithradates I and wife of Demetrius Nicator; cf. Or. 21.7.

11 Semi-mythical queen of Assyria, frequently named as builder of the walls of Nineveh or Babylon.

12 Probably the mistress of Alcibiades; cf. Plutarch, Alcibiades 39.

13 Nothing is known of Demonassa of Cyprus.

14 Nauck, T.G.F., adesp. 124.

15 Cf. Or. 63.7.

16 Cf. Or. 62.5‑6.

17 To invade Greece.

18 At the close of the Peloponnesian War.

19 One of the most famous tales in Herodotus (1.29‑33).

20 Nauck, T.G.F., Euripides, frag. 157.

21 In the Oedipus Rex of Sophocles, at first self-confident and happy, on learning that he has slain his father and married his mother, Oedipus puts out his eyes; cf. especially verses 1369‑1383.

22 See Herodotus 1.30.

23 Argive priestess whose sons, Cleobis and Biton, were rewarded for their piety by the gift of painless death; cf. Herodotus 1.31. Their archaic statues may be seen at Delphi.

24 Aeolus had six sons and six daughters, each of whom enjoyed a happy wedded life; cf. Odyssey 10.2‑12.

25 Nauck, T.G.F., adesp. 125.

26 Called the Horn of Amaltheia in Or. 63.7.

27 For the carefree life of the Cyclopes see Odyssey 9.106‑111.

28 According to Apollodorus (epitome 2.1), Tantalus, mythical king of Phrygia, was punished for presumption, not for idleness.

29 Tutelary deities of these respective callings.

30 Hesiod, Works and Days 6‑7.

31 The thunderbolt. Zeus is here viewed as a form of Fortune.

32 For this and the following verse see Nauck, T.G.F., Euripides, frag. 921.

33 The reference is to Euripides.

34 Odyssey 5.377‑378; spoken by Poseidon to Odysseus after the loss of his raft.

35 Euboea is conspicuous for its lofty mountains, yet it afforded good pasturage for Athenian cattle.

36 The Euripus, which separates Euboea from the mainland, is so narrow that it was bridged even in antiquity. Its current is very swift and changes direction frequently.

37 Theban stupidity was a byword with Attic writers. Chalcis, which led in the founding of Cumae, the forerunner of Naples, faced Boeotia across the Euripus.

Thayer's Note: but see Fiske, The Dutch and Quaker Colonies in America, pp139‑140.

38 Presumably Naples; cf.  Introduction.

39 The horses were winged. Pelops' horses were so depicted on the Chest of Cypselus; cf. Pausanias 5.17.7.

40 Pericles boasted φιλοκαλοῦμέν τε γὰρ μετ᾽ εὐτελείας (Thucydides 2.40).

41 Croton and Sybaris typify ancient wealth. Croton decayed after the Second Punic War and Sybaris was wiped out in 510 B.C.

42 They were nomads.

43 Egypt was the granary of the Mediterranean world.

44 Odyssey 4.85.

45 Iliad 9.383‑384.

46 Odyssey 6.162. Odysseus is about to speak of the palm tree sacred to Apollo. Dates do not ripen so far north.

47 Ibid. 9.27; Odysseus' tribute to his native Ithaca.

48 Naples; see Introduction.

49 Kock, C.A.F., adesp. 340. It has been suggested that this and the next four verses are from the Demes of Eupolis.

50 Spartan Lysander destroyed the Athenian navy at Aegospotami.

51 The first part of the verse read ὡς καλός ὁ Παρθενών, How beautiful the Parthenon.

52 The walls were torn down after the Peloponnesian War.

53 Kock, ad loc. cit., refers this specially to the Academy.

54 Possibly an allusion to the plague of 430 B.C.; cf. Thucydides 2.47‑52.

55 Sthenelus son of Capaneus; cf. Iliad 4.405‑410.

56 These phrases were doubtless hackneyed illustrations of Fortune's unfairness. On "Dionysius at Corinth" cf. Or. 37.19. Xenophon was exiled for his association with Cyrus, who had favoured Sparta in the Peloponnesian War; cf. Anabasis 3.1.5. Plutarch (Pelopidas 21) says of this Pherecydes that he was slain by the Spartans in accordance with an oracle and thereafter his skin was carefully guarded by the Spartan kings. Anaxarchus of Abdera, a Democritean philosopher, favoured by Alexander the great, won the sobriquet εὐδαιμονικός, but later he suffered the tragic end referred to in Or. 37.45.

57 Diogenes.

58 Pupil of Socrates and founder of the Cynic School.

59 Famous Athenian of the fourth century B.C. Maligned by a colleague, he fled to Euboea, where he died shortly after.

60 Angrammes. Quintus Curtius (9.2.6‑7) calls him son of a barber.

61 Gyges; cf. Plato, Republic 359C‑360B.

62 Semiramis.

63 The story is told by Sophocles in his Trachiniae; cf. Or. 60.

64 Plutarch (Alexander 76‑77) says he died of a fever, not of poison.

65 Olympias is said to have told him that Zeus was his father, and the priest of Ammon hailed him as paidios, either "son of Zeus," παῖ Διός, or an Egyptian blunder for paidion, "son." On at least one occasion he is said to have resented doubts as to Philip's fatherhood.

66 Cleitus, Philotas, and Parmenion were his generals. Plutarch reports their murder and that of Callisthenes, but he is less clear as to Alexander's plans concerning Aristotle and Antipater, the aged Macedonian whom he had left in charge of European affairs.

67 Cf. Plutarch, Alexander 28.

68 An Indian prince subdued by Alexander.

69 The first of these "braggart titles" would refer to either the elder son of Ptolemy Soter or Seleucus III; the remaining three refer respectively to Demetrius, Pyrrhus, and Antiochus II. Their fortunes are sketched, in reverse order, in the following sentence.

70 At his music the stones for the walls of Thebes moved into place.

71 Founder of the Median empire; cf. Herodotus 1.96‑100.

72 Cf. § 2 and note.

73 Apollo served more than one mortal, but the reference to Troy points to his serving Laomedon in building the walls of that city.

74 Meles, king of Sardis, had a concubine who bore him a lion. An oracle said that Sardis would be safe if he carried the lion around the citadel, but he neglected a spot where the rock was sheer, and so the Mardian Hyroeades took the city; cf. Herodotus 1.84.

75 Zopyrus took Babylon for Darius; cf. Herodotus 3.151‑158.

76 A quotation from Demosthenes, Olynthiac 2.22.

77 Photius says a bee dropped honey on Pindar's lips as he lay asleep on Helicon. Similar tales were told of other Greeks.

78 The familiar tale of Romulus and Remus.

79 Telephus, son of Heracles, was exposed on Mt. Parthenium.

80 Herodotus (1.110‑113) says the wife of his rescuer was named Spako, which meant Dog.

81 He became governor, not king, of Cappadocia and Paphlagonia after Alexander's death; cf. Plutarch, Eumenes 1.

82 Son of Alexander by Brasinê, he was murdered by Polyperchon; cf. Diodorus 20.28.

83 One of Alexander's generals. Mistaken for Alexander according to Curtius, Hist. Alex. III.12.16 f.

84 Our author must have Hannibal in mind. However, his data do not square completely with common tradition. Appian says Hannibal sacked 400 cities; and it was his brother Mago, according to Livy (23.12), who after the battle of Cannae dumped the signet rings at the entrance to the senate house in Carthage. Hannibal committed suicide when Prusias, king of Bithynia, was about to surrender him to the Romans.

85 Most Athenian offices were filled by lot, but not that of general.

86 Polyneices and Eteocles were sons of Oedipus, king of Thebes. Aeschylus tells the tale in his Seven against Thebes.

87 Iliad 7.171‑172; spoken by Nestor as the Greeks were choosing a champion to oppose Hector. The lot fell to Ajax.

88 Ibid. 24.527.

89 Herodotus (1.7‑12) tells of the infatuation of Candaules for his wife that caused his death and the transfer of the throne to Gyges.

90 When Peleus was a fugitive on Pelium, Hephaestus brought him a sword with which to ward off wild beasts.

91 Nestor's shield is shrouded in mystery. It is referred to only once in classical literature (Iliad 8.192‑193).

92 According to Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 2.4.5, a grandson of Poseidon named Pterelaüs (sic) was made immortal by the gift of a strand of golden hair.

93 Nisus, king of Megara, had a purple hair on which his life depended. His daughter Scylla plucked it out for love of his enemy, Minos of Crete; cf. Apollodorus, op. cit. 3.15.8.

94 The simile of the procession perhaps has reference to the temporary dignity with which some of the participants were clothed. That the speech ends thus abruptly, without elaboration of the simile, suggests that we have it in an unfinished state.


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