Animus Classics Journal: Vol. 1, Issue 1

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Animus is the undergraduate Classics journal from the University of Chicago. This is the first edition of Animus, published in Spring 2021.



University of Chicago

Volume 1

June 2021






Editors-in-Chief Brinda Rao ‘22 and Dante Vaisbort ‘22

Managing Editor Natalie Nitsch ‘23

Translation Editor Don Harmon ‘22

Creative Writing Editor Hannah Halpern ‘23

Blog Editor Emily O’Heir ‘22

Academic Paper Editor Jonathan Kim ‘21

Production Editor Sarah Ware ‘24

Assistant Section Editor Alexander Urquhart ‘24

Layout Editor Claire Dennis ‘22

Design Editor Nell Rydzewski ‘24


Jacob Botaish ‘23

Josephine Dawson ‘23

Madeleine Moore ‘23

Evan Gittler ‘22

Elma Ling Hoffman ‘21

Ryan Murphy ‘21

Isabella Cisneros ‘23

Robert Luo ‘23

Gwendolyn Jacobson ‘23

Celia Scowcroft ‘22

Gabriela Garcia ‘23

Jonathan Badonsky ‘23

Victor Tyne ‘24

Gibson Morris ‘22

Allison Kanter ‘23

Alex Lapuente ‘24

Sarah M. Kim ‘23

Max Saintfort ‘22

Gabriel Sánchez Ainsa ‘22

Gabriel Clisham ‘24

Rohan Vencat ‘23

Sophia McCreary ‘22

Holden Fraser ‘22

Shane Kim ‘23

Daniel Harris ‘23

Liam Pak ‘24

Amala Karri ‘23

Nashatay Crawford ‘24


Josephine Dawson ‘23

Madeleine Moore ‘23

Robert Luo ‘23

Sarah Ware ‘24

Victor Tyne ‘24

Gwendolyn Jacobson ‘23



Letter from the Editors

From the initial stages of planning Animus, we knew that we wanted

this journal to promote a diversity of forms and perspectives. The field

of Classics is not known for being interdisciplinary or open to new ideas;

however, our generation of classicists has the opportunity to change that.

We received over 160 submissions from more than 50 universities and have

accepted outstanding pieces from institutions based around the country and

world including Wooster, Ohio, Fayetteville, Arkansas, and Halifax, Nova

Scotia, among others. These new voices will not only use their talents to

transform the field of Classical Studies, but also evangelize the value of a

classical education in all their other endeavors.

The Animus Editorial Board represents majors in Classical Studies,

but also English, Near Eastern Languages and Cultures, Religious Studies,

Comparative Literature, Medieval Studies, and Economics. It has been our

pride and joy to work alongside this team, consisting of students who brought

their diverse knowledge and robust thoughtfulness into every editorial board


While both of us leave our formal Classical Studies education in the

coming months, we carry the attentive passion and profound curiosity Classical

Studies has instilled in all of us. Post-graduation, Brinda is matriculating

to the Committee on International Relations, and Dante will be employed in

the business sector. We both feel strongly that a classical education prepares

students for a breadth of academic disciplines and professional careers. What

undergraduate could better understand the dynamics of neorealism and the

Thucydides trap than someone who has read The History of the Peloponnesian

War? Who has more experience in making logical inferences based on limited

data than a student who has done the same with the added challenge of using

nothing but pottery shards and papyrus scraps?

Despite its flaws, the discipline of classics is as pure a space for

intellectual discovery and debate as exists anywhere. We hope that Animus

promotes, in some small way, the evolution of Classical Studies into a field

that encourages divergent perspectives while retaining that unique quality

that we so value.


Brinda Rao and Dante Vaisbort



Page 8: Marble Prisons, Bronze Chains

Page 12: The Bacchante

Page 13: Lanam Fecit, Generem Creavit


Table of Contents

Page 26: Anaktoria, γυναιξ οὐ παρεοίσα: Epithalamia and Priamel


Page 36: Catullus, Carmen Seventy-Six

Page 38: What, Why, and How “Solvo” Means in Seneca’s Moral


Page 48: Hector the Achaean: The “Invasion” of Troy in Iliad VI

Page 55: Seen and Not Heard, Heard and Not Seen: Echo’s Reflection

of Patriarchal Femininity

Page 66: Elegia Sine Titulo - An Untitled Elegy

Page 68: “Urgetur a Tota Sicilia”: The Importance of the United

Sicilian Voice for Cicero’s Verrine Orations

Page 78: Andromeda Vision: Reading Identity Through Mythical


Page 94: Homer’s Song of Sympathy: Andromache and Her Portrayal

in the Iliad

Page 104: Iphigeneia

Page 105: The Wolf Who Cried “Mother”

Page 106: Heroic aretē in Euripides’ Iphigenia at Aulis

Page 118: On the Trials of Love: Translations of Catullus 83,

70, and 60

Page 120: Cybele Through the Roman Eye

Page 134: Heart on Sleeve // Autoharuspicy



Marble Prisons,

Bronze Chains


College of Arts and Sciences, Wake Forest University

Everything is rhetoric.


Suppose that, by some phenomenon beyond human comprehension, a

man—a great man, perhaps Sophocles or Vergil or Homer himself—were

plucked from the waters of time and thrown, gasping, onto the shores of

the present. Suppose he were spat out, by some similarly strange cosmic

coincidence, at the foot of Stone Mountain in Georgia, and that he looked

up to see the monument engraved there. There, brutally carved into the otherwise

beautiful flesh of the mountain, he would see the figures of Jefferson

Davis, and Stonewall Jackson, and Robert E Lee. And he would look upon

the monument with awe and wonder, ingesting the magnitude and totality

of it with no hope of comprehension—even if it were thoroughly explained

to him by another.

Suppose—but it is not so.


It was told to me—by Apollo himself!—that in Heaven, the people know

nothing except for kindness, and that in Hell, they know everything except

for it. So it is that a better world cannot be brought forth merely through

knowledge, but through understanding.


In his dedication speech delivered at the unveiling of the Confederate

monument Silent Sam, Julian Carr says (among many, many other Classical


As Niobe wept over her sons slain by Apollo, so the tears of our women

were shed over the consummate sacrifice of their loved ones. 1


Robert E. Lee the Younger writes that his father (Robert E. Lee the

Elder) once received a copy of Homer’s Iliad, translated into English by

Philip Stanhope Worsley. On the flyleaf of the the translation, Worsley wrote:

Thy Troy is fallen,—thy dear land

Is marred beneath the spoiler’s heel—

I cannot trust my trembling hand

To write the things I feel.

and also:

Ah, realm of tears!—but let her bear

This blazon to the end of time:

No nation rose so white and fair,

None fell so pure of crime. 2 -

Perhaps Worsley forgot that Troy was destroyed in retribution for the

abduction of Helen of Sparta, or that the Confederacy fought in—and was

razed in—stubborn and treasonous defense of the institution of slavery.

Perhaps this similarity—a ruinous war fought to defend an indefensible

crime—slipped the mind of Worsley, and he would otherwise have included

it in his poem to enhance the aptness of his comparison of Troy and the


Perhaps—but it is not so.


I wonder what thoughts ran through the minds of descendants of Athenian

slaves as they looked up at the Parthenon, and whether they are at all

similar to the thoughts that run through the minds of descendants of American

slaves as they look up at the White House.


Executive Order 13967 says:

Ancient Greek and Roman public buildings were designed to be sturdy

and useful, and also to beautify public spaces and inspire civic pride,

and orders:

In the District of Columbia, classical architecture shall be the preferred

and default architecture for Federal public buildings absent exceptional

factors necessitating another kind of architecture. 3


Some say that it is not fair to judge Classical figures or their works by

modern standards, as they came from a culture wholly different from our

own, and they are not able to speak for themselves.

Maybe this is true.

Some say that it is not fair to judge other historical (but much more

recent) figures or their actions, as they came from cultures significantly

different from our own, and they are no longer able to speak for themselves.

Maybe this, too, is true.



Maybe if those who erect and maintain statues of these figures, or who

translate and interpret the texts of these figures, or who mandate curricula

that uncritically include the work of these figures, were from a culture at all

different from our own, and were no longer able to speak for themselves,

then it would be not be fair to judge them.

Maybe—but it is not so.


Intentional choices define rhetoric. As everything is rhetoric, all things

are thus defined by the intentional choices that create and preserve them.

This includes societies, their institutions, and their laws.


In his dedication speech delivered at the unveiling of the Confederate

monument Silent Sam, Julian Carr also says:

I horse-whipped a negro wench until her skirts hung in shreds, because

upon the streets of this quiet village she had publicly insulted

and maligned a Southern lady, and then rushed for protection to these

University buildings where was stationed a garrison of 100 Federal

soldiers. I performed the pleasing duty in the immediate presence of

the entire garrison. 4


Deflecting responsibility from translators for the intentional choices

they make in their texts is an insult both to the creativity of the translator

and to the intelligence of their audience. A translation is a text in and of

itself, and is thus rhetoric in and of itself.


There is no such thing as neutral rhetoric; it does not exist.


Executive Order 13967 also says:

President George Washington and Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson

consciously modeled the most important buildings in Washington,

DC, on the classical architecture of ancient Athens and Rome. They

sought to use classical architecture to visually connect our contemporary

Republic with the antecedents of democracy in classical antiquity,

reminding citizens not only of their rights but also their responsibilities

in maintaining and perpetuating its institutions.


In Washington, DC, classical buildings such as the White House, the

Capitol Building, the Supreme Court, the Department of the Treasury,

and the Lincoln Memorial have become iconic symbols of our system

of government. 5 -

It should be surprising, then, that—just the other day!—that very same

President who issued Executive order 13967 incited and encouraged the

vandalism and desecration of that very same Capitol building in an attempt

to subvert that very same democracy.

It should be—but it is not so.


While there is no such thing as neutral rhetoric, there is such a thing as

empty rhetoric. Rhetoric, unaccompanied by appropriate action, is empty.


1. Carr, “Silent Sam.”

2. Lee, “Recollections.”, Chapter XI.

3. “Executive Order No. 13967.”

4. Carr, “Silent Sam.”

5. “Executive Order No. 13967.”


Carr, Julian. “Julian Carr’s Speech at the Dedication of Silent Sam.” Hilary N.

Green, PhD. Accessed April 19, 2021.

Federal Register. “Executive Order No. 13967: Promoting Beautiful Federal

Civic Architecture,” December 23, 2020.


Lee, Captain Robert E. “Recollections and Letters of General Robert E. Lee.”

Project Gutenberg. Accessed April 19, 2021.




The College, Washington and Lee University


The Bacchante

10.5”x14”, oil on canvas (digitized)

The Bacchante is part of a series of works that combine master studies

with examinations of how alt-right internet groups can distort Greek and Roman

myth to suit their own narratives. The masterwork in this instance is Jean-Leon

Gerome’s “the Bacchante’’, which has been modernized into the madwoman of

alt-right forum infamy, a bright-haired feminist. My work seeks to build upon a

foundation laid out by Donna Zuckerberg’s Not All Old White Men to bring light

to the deeply misogynistic and white supremacist ideologies of the past which

still thrive in hidden corners behind computer screens. With this piece, in particular,

I ask why a woman’s power is so deeply frightening to the “manosphere”

and reclaim the maenad’s righteous anger as a symbol that has united women

for centuries.

lanam fecit,

generem creavit


Carleton College

Spinning wool, as the basis of all woolen textiles, must have been

omnipresent in Rome. More than any other form of wool-working—in

Latin, lanificium, which referred to anything from spinning to weaving to

weighing wool for processing—spinning was the exclusive domain of women.

Roman spinning was done with a drop spindle held in the right hand

and a distaff supporting the unspun fibers in the left. 1 Figure 1, an Athenian

lethykos, depicts a woman spinning (center); her distaff is above her head,

and her drop spindle hangs down at her feet. Though this work is Greek,

Romans used the same technique. Beyond its everyday nature, spinning

also figured in stories and mythology. Spinning was the ideal women’s work

in the Roman world, both because of its cultural representation of good

housekeeping but also its metaphorical significance as ordered creation, a

biological power seated and valued in women.

Spinning and wool-work were tasks for all women in Rome, though

women of lower social classes and slaves did most of the spinning for general

textile needs. Spindles are often found on women’s gravestones, representing

not just a domestic task of the deceased but also a social role (see

Figures 2 & 3; Regina has a spindle on her lap and her wool basket to the

right of her feet, and spindles and wool baskets decorate the Bursan tomb). 2

Private columbaria listing names and occupations of Imperial household

slaves reveal that while men and women were weavers, clothes-makers, or

lanipendi (managers of wool-work, literally “wool-weighers”), spinners

(quasillariae) were exclusively female. Though men worked wool, women

outnumbered them in all wool-related tasks about three-to-one. And

spinning, unlike weaving, is portable and does not require great technical

skill, 3 so ancillae who spun could do other tasks, and probably were not

recorded as quasillariae. 4 Even Roman law asserted that lanificium was

women’s work. If a wife made her own clothes with her wool, even with her

husband’s maids, the clothes were hers, but if he made clothes for her with

his wool (and his maids), they belonged to him, “nor does the fact that the

wife acted … as though she were a wool-weigher … make any difference.” 5

Women of all statuses in one household might create a single garment: the

wife as lanipenda, and maids as spinners, weavers, and seamstresses. But

despite the image of Roman matrons making their own clothes, spinning



was moving out of households throughout the Republic; by the second

century BCE, buying pre-made garments for slaves was cheaper than

home-making them. 6 Spinning was literally iconic for women, and was exclusively

women’s work, but not every Roman woman participated equally.

Spinning was also an idealized female activity, as a multitude of

epigraphs equating spinning with other virtues demonstrate. A common inscription

on a woman’s tombstone was lanam fecit, “she worked with wool.”

The epigraph for a woman named Claudia is often cited:

“Friend, I have not much to say; stop and read it. This

tomb, which is not fair, is for a fair woman. Her parents

gave her the name Claudia. She loved her husband in her

heart. She bore two sons, one of whom she left on earth,

the other beneath it. She was pleasant to talk with, and

she walked with grace. She kept the house and worked in

wool. That is all. You may go.” 7

“Domum servavit, lanam fecit” relates her primary role as household-keeper

directly with wool-working; these, and bearing sons, are her only deeds,

and they are written last, in a position of prominence. A eulogy to Murdia,

given by her son and inscribed on her tomb, explicitly counts lanificium as a

virtue; he wrote, “my dearest mother deserved praise greater than all others,

Black figure lethykos by the Amasis Painter, from Athens, c. 540 BC. (© Metropolitan

Museum of Art, Fletcher Fund, 1931, New York.

since in modesty, propriety, chastity, obedience, woolworking, industry, and

loyalty she was on an equal level with other good women.” 8 Wool-working

was not just Murdia’s task, it was a virtue like chastity or modesty, befitting

a proper Roman woman. Another epitaph has similar connotations: “Here

lies Amymome, wife of Marcus, best and most beautiful, worker in wool,

pious, chaste, thrifty, faithful, a stayer-at-home (domiseda).” 9 As we will

see, being a domiseda also denoted virtuosity, and the proper activity of a

domiseda was lanificium. Even just in the day-to-day of Roman life, spinning

and lanificium signified these ideal feminine virtues and values.

These associations meant that lanificium played an important role

in Roman public rituals and public spaces. A Roman bride wove her own

wedding outfit on an old-fashioned loom, and she, or an attendant, carried

a distaff and spindle in the procession to the groom’s house, which was

decorated with wool. These rituals symbolized that she could weave for and

manage her new household, and contribute her textile work to its economy .10

And Roman looms were, “following ancient custom, … in the atrium,” 11

Just as Livy’s Lucretia spins “in the hall of her house.” 12 We even have

archaeological evidence: Pompeiian atria were for activities like cooking as

well as formal reception, and about 50 loom-weights (which could be from

one loom) have been found in the atrium of the “House of the Weaver.” 13

Although this is not certain evidence, it suggests that weaving was a public

activity in Roman houses; the virtue of a household’s women was always on

display for visitors or onlookers to investigate.

But as slaves or craftspeople began to work wool more often

than aristocratic women, lanificium became seen as an ancient virtue that

Romans were abandoning. Augustus used this perception; Suetonius says

that “in bringing up his daughter and his granddaughters he even had them

taught spinning and weaving,” and he wore the clothes his family made. 14

The “even” suggests that this was not a common lesson for aristocratic

women, so his home-made clothes symbolized a return to the simplicity of

ancient Rome; whether his clothes actually were made by Julia and Octavia

is less important than that he said they were. In the first century CE,

Columella bemoaned that “most women so abandon themselves to luxury

and idleness that they do not deign to undertake even the superintendence of

wool-making and there is a distaste for home-made garments and their perverse

desire can only be satisfied by clothing purchased for large sums.” 15

He laments women’s loss of virtue in each of the ways we have seen

spinning represent: they are idle and go out of their homes to buy outfits,

instead of being industrious, thrifty domisedae and lanipendae. He even

connects the lack of wool-working with the aristocratic loss of interest (of

men and women) in directly managing farms, necessitating intermediaries

like the bailiff and his wife and separating Romans from the land. 16 Losing



Roman tombstone of a freed slave called Regina © Tyne & Wear Archives & Museum,

from _ sSp-


touch with proper Roman mores like farming was a common theme in late

Republican literature, and spinning and wool-working were included in that


Why spinning had these positive connotations is connected to

another of women’s extremely important functions, one both real and

glorified: bearing children, and educating them as Romans. Having a large

family was a political distinction; Augustus ordered that governors should

be chosen by lot, “except when a senator enjoyed a special privilege because

of the large number of his children.” 17 And the Augustan Lex Papia Poppaea

explicitly valued women’s childbearing potential in money; it “assessed

heavier taxes on unmarried men and women, and by contrast offered awards

for marriage and childbearing.” 18 Augustus may have been trying to fix the

perception that the Civil Wars were eradicating Romans from Italy. 19 As

early as 46 BCE, Cicero called on Julius Caesar to “to reanimate all that you

see shattered … by the shock of the war itself … the growth of population

[must be] fostered.” 20 Even if Italy was not depopulated of Roman stock,

Cicero could argue that it was. And this sentiment must have only grown

as Rome struggled through thirty more years of civil war. The fear that Romans

were destroying each other, and thus themselves, explains all the more

why Roman women—especially aristocratic ones—were monetarily valued

for their fertility by their society.

Idealization of the fertility and proper child-rearing techniques of

real Roman women is seen in inscriptions and philosophy. Claudia, whose

epigraph is quoted above, bore two sons; the ending “That is all. You may

go” sums up her childbearing, housekeeping, and lanificium as everything

worth knowing of her life. Another inscription, on a twenty-four year old

mother’s sarcophagus, begins “Graxia Alexandria, distinguished for her

virtue and fidelity. She nursed her children with her own breasts.” 21 Graxia’s

nursing is her only deed in her epigraph, the best epithet her husband

could summon to explain her virtue and worth. The philosopher Favorinus

explicitly connects child-bearing and breastfeeding, asking why a woman

who “nourished in her womb with her own blood something she could not

see” would not “feed it with her own milk.” 22 He makes these functions of

motherhood the same deed, both valuable for nourishing potential life. And

Tacitus eulogizes, “In the old days, every child born to a respectable mother

was brought up not in the room of a bought nurse but at his mother’s knee.

It was her particular honor to care for the home and serve her children,” 23

which further idealizes personally raising (and, implied by the absence of

a nurse, breastfeeding) a child as the deed of a respectable Roman who was

also domiseda, caring for her home. Bearing and nourishing children was a

valuable trait for a woman, and raising them correctly was just as important.

The best Roman women in literature were, of course, the best

mothers, an extension of this idealization, and one of the most famous mothers

was Cornelia, mother of the Gracchi, lauded most for her education of

her sons. Plutarch wrote that Cornelia bore twelve children, only three of

whom survived, and “proved to be so proper … and such a good and principled

mother,” that Romans agreed her husband was wise in choosing to die

in her place. 24 Not only did she have many children (whose mortality rate

is chilling), but she raised them so well that her presence in their lives was

more valuable than their father’s. Plutarch continues that she raised “Tiberius

and Gaius with such devotion that … their education was generally held

to have played a more important part than nature in forming their excellent

qualities,” 25 an impressive concession from a historian interested in the

native characteristics of his subjects. And Cicero agrees. Working from

his own primary source, he wrote, “We have read the letters of Cornelia,

mother of the Gracchi; it appears that her sons were brought up not so much

at their mother’s breast as by her speech.” 26 Her letters were so admired

that they were saved for at least a century, and Cicero actually credits her

with the Gracchi’s oratory skills, rating that education more highly than her

breastfeeding. But even praise of her intellectualism is embedded in praise

for how she educated her children; she is the best mother because she was

smart enough to raise her sons to be excellent Romans, not for her own sake.

Bearing children was one of Roman women’s highest valued

abilities, as the Lex Papia codified, but so was bringing them up correctly,

as Graxia and Cornelia did. Raw creation of offspring was not enough—

ordered creation, the type that birthed not just children but good Roman



Pfuhl & Mobius 1979, Taf. 322, No. 2280. Image, Cottica (2007, 221).

citizens like the Gracchi was the valuable trait. And spinning—the domain

of women in literature and metaphor as well as inscriptions, both perfect

Roman wives and supernatural powers—is another form of structured creation.

It variously represents being a domiseda and a storyteller; these metaphors

have such resonance through their connection to ordered creation.

Spinning was often simply a convenient shorthand for femininity.

To accuse a man of spinning (not wool-working, since men wove and acted

as lanipendi) was to deride him. 27 A rare example of a man spinning is the

story of Hercules and Omphale: as penance for murder, Hercules exchanged

clothes, and gender roles, with Omphale, as her servant, 28 demeaning both

because she was a woman, and an Easterner. 29 Figure 4 is a Roman statue of

Hercules, wearing Omphale’s dress and carrying her spindle, and Omphale,

clad only in his lion skin and leaning on his club. Hercules’s symbol of masculine

aggression has been replaced by a spindle, the symbol of a virtuous

woman; the effect is probably meant to be humorous.

Spinning represents the perfect domiseda in literature, a sitter-athome

who managed the household, exemplified by Lucretia, most famous

for killing herself to preserve her honor. Livy narrates that Tarquin and

Brutus discovered most Roman wives were dissolute, but “Lucretia, though

it was late at night, was busily engaged upon her wool, while her maidens

toiled about her in the lamplight as she sat in the hall of her house.” 30

Lucretia is a domiseda, working late into the night to support her home

instead of out carousing; a proper lanipenda, managing her maids; and a

spinner herself, all in one image. Unsurprisingly, “the prize of this contest

in womanly virtues fell to Lucretia.” 31 Her work is both just spinning and

a metaphor for every positive virtue on Claudia or Murdia’s tombstones, a

household task and a representation of her chastity and temperance, values

evoked and reinforced by Livy’s text. Ovid describes the same scene, first

emphasizing that Lucretia encourages her maids, “by dim light … spinning

their allotted stints of yarn,” but later makes clear that she herself is

spinning, for she “drop[s] the stretched yarn,” while mourning her absent

husband. 32 He evokes the tireless lanipenda, then reminds us that Lucretia

is a virtuous wife missing her husband, weeping as she spins. Stories about

Lucretia make her the original, perfect domiseda, and deepen the connections

between spinning and the chaste, hardworking, devoted Roman female


Tanaquil, or Gaia Caecilia, equated spinning with virtue but also

genesis. She was Tarquinius Priscus’s wife, so famed for her spinning and

lanificium that “the wool on [her] distaff and spindle … was still preserved

in the temple of Sancus,” and a robe she made for Servius Tullius was in the

shrine of Fortune. 33 As wife to and spinner for Roman kings, her spinning

was part of the creation of Rome, and its tools were actually holy. Arguably,

a society’s creation story is one of its ideal forms of creation, and

Tanaquil’s spinning was important enough to pass on to future generations.

She is also associated with weddings—she was said to have woven the first

tunica recta, the bridal outfit 34 —and not just the customs related to wool.

Plutarch believed the marital formula “Where you are Gaius, there I am

Gaia” evoked Gaia Caecilia, “a fair and virtuous woman” whose sandals

and spindle were dedicated in the temple “as tokens of her love of home

and of her industry respectively.” 35 As weddings are a simple metonymy for

fertility and the children born from it, Tanaquil and her sacred spinning can

be associated with this creation as well. Spinning for her household, which

women did every day, also connected Tanaquil to marriages and the actual

foundation of Rome.

But spinning was not just the domain of perfect wives and housekeepers;

it was also the occupation of the female storytellers of literature.

Book 4 of Ovid’s Metamorphoses is framed by the Minyades, royal sisters

who, instead of joining into Bacchic rites in their city, “are carding wool

within their fastened doors, / or twisting with their thumbs the fleecy yarn,

/ or working at the web. So they corrupt / the sacred festival with needless

toil, / keeping their hand-maids busy at the work.” 36 Every type of lanificium

women might do—carding, spinning, weaving, and managing—is contained

in a few lines, which must have evoked images of mothers, sisters,

and wives who did the same work. But their lanificia and being domisedae

do not make them good citizens, since they are corrupting sacred festivities;

this is not the association Ovid intends. Instead, their wool-working is the

backdrop to their storytelling. One sister suggests telling a “novel tale” to

lighten work, “and swiftly as she told it unto them / the fleecy wool was



twisted into threads.” 37 The juxtaposition is telling: the storyteller creates

thread and a story intertwined together. And as each sister frames each

narrative, their well-structured stories, framed in turn by wool-working,

so offend Dionysus that he turns them into bats (who cling to the eaves

of houses, truly becoming domisedae) as vines grow up over their looms,

ceasing both wool-work and storytelling together. 38 The Minyades’ spinning

represents storytelling and creation rooted in order, the opposite of Bacchic


Spinning was also the Fates’ method of ordering the lives they

controlled. (Figure 5 is a relief from Rome of the Parcae; the leftmost has

her distaff and spindle in hand.) In Carmen 64, Catullus describes how the

Fates, and thus a Roman, spun: “In their left a distaff wound with supple

wool, / While the right hand spun the threads and, with angled fingers, /

Shaped them, then with a flat thumb twisted them / And turned the spindle

with its smooth-running wheel.” 39 They even the fibers with their teeth, so

wisps of wool stick to their dry lips, and at their feet are baskets heaped

with the thread of lives. As they spin, they chant prophecies, stories about

Peleus and Thetis’s marriage and Achilles’s life, how he will be born, fight,

kill, and die. Each prophetic verse is capped by the phrase, “Run, spindles,

tease out the threads, run on.” 40 The Fates’ spinning represents the stories

they are prophesying, especially since the poem also contains an enormous

ecphrasis of a bed-covering tapestry, a complex device to tell heroic stories.

1st century CE copy of a 1st century BCE original, Museo Archeologico Nazionale,

Naples. Image, Kravitz-Lurie (2016, 132).

But as they turn wisps of wool into smooth yarn, they are ordering their

world, which is intimately concerned with death but also the generation of

life. They sing in honor of the wedding and Achilles’s conception, and their

spinning and “soft balls of shining wool” 41 create and represent that. The

Parcae do not have children, but they engender every child and their fate:

that is their orderly creative output. Spinning in all sorts of literature—mythology,

history, philosophy, and poetry—is sometimes the trait of a housekeeper

and a virtuous woman, but it is also about storytelling, and creating

order among chaos.

Spinning became the ideal work for women, the task of Lucretias

and Claudias, because it represents the domestic traits that women were

valued for—housekeeping, industriousness, thriftiness, and chastity—and

the orderly creation that both storytelling and child-bearing and -rearing

are. Romans idealized spinning even outside of literature: omnipresent in

the Roman world, it represented virtue in epitaphs and Augustan propaganda.

And bearing children, and rearing them properly, was women’s other

function, even given an actual monetary value to show its worth to Rome.

Both are a form of orderly creation, and that is what spinning is, at its

metaphorical heart, creating yarn from a fuzzy mass of fiber, a well-raised

baby from one’s own body, complex and structured storytelling out of a

Bacchic evening, or a fate from a yet-to-be-lived life, taking the potential

of fertile chaos and using it to create proper order. And thus spinning has

these resonances throughout the Roman world—on gravestones, in poems,

and everywhere in between—because it represents all these ideas at once. A

domiseda will be a good mother, and a storyteller, because she spins.

Second c. AD; LIMC, VI, 2, 376, ‘Moirai 18’. Image Cottica (2007, 222).




1. This is how Catullus 64.311-314 describes the hand placement, and it is

supported by artistic evidence like the lethykos. But typically a distaff is held

between the knees, or by a belt at the spinner’s side, or planted in the ground,

since a spinner uses both hands to spin with a drop spindle (Alejandra Sanchez,

pers. comm. 11/11/19).

2. Cottica “Spinning in the Roman world,” 221.

3. Wild “Textiles,” 169. He notes that the thread made by a skilled spinner and a

spinning machine are not very different.

4. Treggiari “Jobs for Women,” 82-85 & 91.

5. Digesta 24.1.31, from Pomponius On Sabinus 4; Lefkowitz and Fant, 141-


6. Larsson Lovén “LANAM FECIT,” 87-89, cf. Cato De Agricultura Origines


7. ILS 8403, Rome, 2nd c. BCE, Lefkowitz and Fant.

8. ILS 8394, Rome, 1st c. BCE, Lefkowitz and Fant.

9. ILS 8402, Rome, 1st c. BCE, Lefkowitz and Fant.

10. Larsson Lovén “Wool Work as a Gender Symbol,” 230.

11. Asconius, commentary on Pro Milone 38, Wallace-Hadrill.

12. Livy, 1.57.9.

13. Wallace-Hadrill “Engendering the Roman House,” 109 and 112.

14. Suetonius, Divus Augustus 64 & 73.

15. Columella, De re rustica, 12 praef. 9.

16. Columella, De re rustica, 12 praef. 10.

17. Dio Cassius, 53.13.12. See also Treggiari 1991, 66.

18. Dio Cassius, 54.16.1-2.

19. Field “The Purpose of the Lex Iulia,” 399-400.

20. Cicero, Pro Marcello, 8, 23.

21. Rome, 2nd-3rd c. CE, CIL VI.19128, Lefkowitz and Fant.

22. Aulus Gellius, Noctes Atticae 12.1, Lefkowitz and Fant.

23. Tacitus, Dialogus de oratoribus, 28, Lefkowitz and Fant.

24. Plutarch, Gracchi, 1.

25. Plutarch, Gracchi, 1.

26. Cicero, Brutus, 58.211, Lefkowitz and Fant.

27. Larsson Lovén “Female Work and Identity,” 232.

28. Sophocles, Trachiniae, lines 68-70.

29. Johnston (translator of Sophocles Trachiniae), n.7.

30. Livy, 1.57.9.

31. Livy, 1.57.10.

32. Ovid, Fasti, 2.741-44 and 755.

33. Pliny, Naturalis historia, 8.194.

34. Larsson Lovén “Wool Work as a Gender Symbol,” 230. Larsson Lovén uses

the epithet “summa lanifica” for Tanaquil, and connects the decorating of the

groom’s house with wool to her as well.

35. Plutarch, Quaestiones Romanae, 30.

36. Ovid, Metamorphoses, 4.33-35.

37. Ovid, Metamorphoses, 4.39 & 54.

38. Ovid, Metamorphoses, 4.390-415.

39. Catullus 64.311-314.

40. Catullus 64, first at line 327 and then repeated throughout.


Brill’s New Pauly. Entry on “Textiles, production of” by Hans Jörg Nisen (Berlin)

and Anastasia Pekridou-Gorecki (Frankfurt/Main), 2006.

Catullus. 64: At the Wedding of Peleus and Thetis. Translated by Linda Clader

and Keith Harrison. Minneapolis: Black Willow Press, 1981.

Cicero. Pro Milone. In Pisonem. Pro Scauro. Pro Fonteio. Pro Rabirio Postumo.

Pro Marcello. Pro Ligario. Pro Rege Deiotaro. Translated by N. H.

Watts. Loeb Classical Library 252. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University

Press, 1931.

Clark, Gillian. “Roman Women.” Greece & Rome 28, no. 2 (1981): 193-212.

Columella. On Agriculture, Volume III: Books 10-12. On Trees. Translated by

E. S. Forster, Edward H. Heffner. Loeb Classical Library 408. Cambridge,

MA: Harvard University Press, 1955.

Cottica, Daniela. “Spinning in the Roman world: from everyday craft to metaphor

of destiny.” In Ancient Textiles: Production, Craft and Society,

edited by C. Gillis and M-L Nosch, 220–228. Ancient Textiles Series

Vol. 1. Oxford, 2007.

Dio Cassius. Roman History, Volume VI: Books 51-55. Translated by Earnest

Cary, Herbert B. Foster. Loeb Classical Library 83. Cambridge, MA:

Harvard University Press, 1917.

Field, James A., Jr. “The Purpose of the Lex Iulia et Papia Poppaea.” The

Classical Journal 40, no. 7 (1945), 398-416.



Kravitz-Lurie, Esthy. “Hercules and Rinaldo: Annibale Carracciʼs Invenzione

of Tassoʼs Epic Hero.” Athens Journal of Humanities and Arts 3, no. 2

(2016), 123-142.

Larsson Lovén, Lena. “LANAM FECIT: Woolworking and Female Virtue.” In

Aspects of women in Antiquity: Proceedings of the First Nordic Symposium

on Women’s Lives in Antiquity, edited by Lena Larsson Lovén and

A. Strömberg, 85-95. Jonsered, 1998.

Larsson Lovén, Lena. “Wool Work as a Gender Symbol in Ancient Rome.

Roman Textiles and Ancient Sources.” In Ancient Textiles: Production,

Craft and Society, edited by C. Gillis and M-L Nosch, 229-236. Ancient

Textiles Series Vol. 1. Oxford, 2007.

Larsson Lovén, Lena. “Female Work and Identity in Roman Textile Production

and Trade: A Methodological Discussion.” In Making Textiles in

pre-Roman and Roman Times: People, Places, Identities, edited by

Margarita Gleba and Judit Pásztókai-Szeőke, 109-125. Oxbow Books,


Lefkowitz, Mary R. and Maureen B. Fant. Women’s Life in Greece and Rome:

A Source Book in Translation. 4th edition. Johns Hopkins University

Press, 2016.

Livy. History of Rome, Volume I: Books 1-2. Translated by B. O. Foster. Loeb

Classical Library 114. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1919.

Ovid. Fasti. Translated by James G. Frazer. Revised by G. P. Goold. Loeb

Classical Library 253. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1931.

Ovid. Metamorphoses. Translated by Brookes More. Boston: Cornhill Publishing

Co, 1922.

Oxford Classical Dictionary. Entry on “Textile Production” by Helen King and

J.P. Wild, 2012.

Pliny. Natural History, Volume III: Books 8-11. Translated by H. Rackham.

Loeb Classical Library 353. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press,


Plutarch. Roman Lives: A Selection of Eight Roman Lives. Translated by Robin

Waterfield, Oxford University Press, 1999.

Plutarch. Moralia, Volume IV: Roman Questions. Greek Questions. Greek and

Roman Parallel Stories. On the Fortune of the Romans. On the Fortune

or the Virtue of Alexander. Were the Athenians More Famous in War or

in Wisdom?. Translated by Frank Cole Babbitt. Loeb Classical Library

305. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1936.

Suetonius. Lives of the Caesars, Volume I: Julius. Augustus. Tiberius. Gaius.

Caligula. Translated by J. C. Rolfe. Introduction by K. R. Bradley. Loeb

Classical Library 31. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1914.

Sophocles. Trachiniae (Women of Trachis). Translated by Ian Johnston, Vancouver

Island University, Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada, 2018.

Accessed November 13, 2019.

Treggiari, Susan. “Jobs in the Household of Livia.” Papers of the British

School at Rome, 43 (1975): 48-77.

Treggiari, Susan. “Jobs for Women.” American Journal of Ancient History 1

(1976): 76-104.

Treggiari, Susan. Roman marriage: iusti coniuges from the time of Cicero to

the time of Ulpian. Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1991.

Wallace-Hadrill, Andrew. Engendering the Roman House. In I, Clavdia:

Women in Ancient Rome, edited by Diana E. Kleiner and Susan B.

Matheson, 104-115. Yale University Art Gallery, University of Texas

Press, 1996.

Wild, J.P. “Textiles.” In Roman Crafts, edited by Donald Strong David Brown,

167-177. New York University Press, 1976.



Anaktoria, γυναιξ οὐ παρεοίσα:

Epithalamia and Priamel Forces


Division of Humanities, University of California, Santa Cruz

Author’s Translation: Sappho Fragment 16

Some men say armies of horses, others say footmen, still more say

that fleets of ships are the most beautiful thing upon the black

earth, but I say that the most beautiful thing is whatever one


It is simply too easy to make this idea understandable to all.

For she, Helen, who surpassed by much other humans in beauty

Abandoned the very best man,

And sailing, departed to Troy, and did not even recall her child or

her dear parents,

But [Kupris] led her entirely astray.

For the mind perceives lightly…and perhaps that reminded me now of


Who is no longer around;

For I would prefer to see her charming walk and the bright sparkle of

her countenance than the chariots of Lydians or armed foot


“Still more say that fleets of ships are the most beautiful thing

upon the black earth, but I say that the most beautiful thing is whatever

one loves.” 1 Sappho’s Fragment 16 describes a beautiful woman,

whose shining face and charming step are heavily missed by the poet.

She, Anaktoria, like Helen of Troy, is “the most beautiful thing” (τὸ

κάλλιστον), and yet goes after another entity which is, in her eyes,

what is most beautiful. 2 The poem echoes tones of desertion brought

on by creatures of superlative beauty, who find τὸ κάλλιστον in others

and leave behind those who loved them the most. While scholars such

as Denys Page have voiced disappointment in Sappho’s choice of the

Helen-Menelaus parable, 3 Sappho riffs off the traditional exemplum and

encourages the reader to investigate the subjective nature of “whatever

is loved” (τις ἔραται) 4 by referring to the original ideal of beauty, who

metamorphosed from an object of love (ἔρως) to an actant of it. The

woman goes after what she herself considers to be worthy of love and the

most beautiful thing to her, much to her husband’s chagrin.

Greek lyric poetry, as scholars have sought to understand its

performative aspects, is often sorted into one of two showcase contexts,

either executed in a monodic fashion or a choral situation. Sappho’s

poetry has been classified primarily as a member of the monodic

genre, given, besides other reasons, her repeated use of the first-person

singular “I” (see Fragment 1), as well as outside artistic representations

which neglect to show her in a choral situation but rather in a private

location performing for female companions (hetairai). 5 Epithalamia

in particular are a genre of lyric poetry performed by choruses during

wedding ceremonies in the Classical period of Greece. It is undeniable

that Sappho was aware of the genre and wrote poems fitting its metrical

and topical restrictions. 6 However, it is more difficult to argue whether

or not certain fragments of her poetry can be identified as epithalamial

choral pieces instead of monodic. Such a statement is true when it comes

to the identification of Fragment 16 and Sappho’s allusion to Anaktoria, a

“woman who is no longer around” (γυναιξ οὐ παρεοίσα). 7

In “Sappho’s Parachoral Monody,” Timothy Powers stresses the

need to not define Sappho’s poetry as either monodic or epithalamaic, but

instead considers her work as “Parachoral” poetry—poetry that is created

for monodic purposes but heavily influenced by the culture of parthenian

choreia. 8 Ηis avoidance of a definitive genre proves to be problematic,

especially in the context of Fragment 16. The tropes of the fragment both

support and combat the idea of Sappho’s monody in private environments

and echo choral sentiments found in epithalamia. The latter tones prompt

the question of context for Anaktoria and her relation to Sappho. If she is

indeed the subject of private poetry, is her behavior an echo of Sappho’s

mystery lover in Fragment 1, one who “flees…[and] soon will pursue…

[and] soon will love” (φεύγει…τακέως διώξει…τακέως φιλήσει)? 9 If she

is an epithalamiac subject, why the poignant comparison with Menelaus

and Helen? I contest that she is an epithalamiac subject and that Sappho

highlights her role as an actant of ἔρως within the wedding through

comparison with τὸ κάλλιστον, Helen. Like Helen, Anaktoria also

pursues whatever it is she loves, leaving behind a choral group of singers

whose sentiments Sappho voices in Fragment 16.

The poem folds in on itself topically and verbally. The reader

is constantly brought back to the center of the fragment by means of

the unexpected: someone, who is traditionally an object of love, is

now absent, pursuing another object of desire. Sappho digresses about

the strange nature of objects of love that unexpectedly (and to the

grief of others) turn into actants of ἔρως. To add to the forcefulness of

Anaktoria’s and Helen’s departures, Sappho likens their attraction to

that of ships, horses, and footmen—the very entities which went after



Helen when she made her escapade to Troy. As a poetic device, the

priamel, defined as a “focusing or selecting device in which one or more

terms serves as foil for the point of particular interest,” 10 holds a multifaceted

purpose. It serves as a direct allusion to Helen as an object of

love which the same military utilities pursued during the mythic Trojan

War, acts as an ideological funnel which minimizes the desires of the

state and the city (πόλις) to the subjective desires of the individual, 11

and is finally a personal echo of what Sappho wishes she could deploy

in pursuit of Anaktoria. The latter observation is justified by the

priamel’s reappearance at the close of the poem, after Sappho laments the

disappearance of the bride’s ἔρατον βᾶμα (charming step). 12 If only she,

like the grief-stricken Menelaus, could send a fleet πεσδομάχεντων (of

armed foot soldiers) to bring back the object of her desire. 13 The chiastic

structure, begun with the first priamel, forces the comparison of Helen

and Menelaus against Sappho and Anaktoria. If Fragment 16 was truly

a relic of Sappho’s monodic predilections, the image is powerful. As

a part of an epithalamia, Sappho’s mythic choice of comparison for a

supposedly happy occasion is a curious one to the modern reader.

Topically, the connection between Helen and Anaktoria is not

difficult to miss within Fragment 16. As the only two figures of beauty

and framed within the echoes of military domination and supremacy,

they reside as two manifestations of τὸ κάλλιστον within nesting

priamels. Syntactically and verbally, Sappho makes their connection

explicit through verbs of recall in the third and fourth stanzas. While

Helen leaves for Troy not even “recalling” (ἐμνάσθη) her child or dear

parents, 14 Sappho abandons Helen in thought and instead does not neglect

to forget Anakatoria, whose charming steps have taken her far away

and can only be brought back by means of Sapphp’s memory (ὀνέμναι). 15

Helen and Anaktoria, two representations of τὸ κάλλιστον, are both

guilty of forgetting those who should be dearest to them, and instead opt

to disappear by going after whatever it is they love the most, despite the

lovers and the ships and foot soldiers that may wish to thwart them.

The aorist forms of both verbs mentioned above indicate a simple

past temporality that leads to the creation of two separate timelines

with Fragment 16. The first begins with Sappho’s reflection within the

priamel and circumscribes the second. Sappho’s recall of Anaktoria is

connected to the aforementioned/older remembrance of Helen, whose

actions of departure and abandonment are somehow synonymous to those

of Anaktoria’s. The aorist of “ἐμνάσθη” cements the time point of Helen

within Fragment 16. Her actions, having occurred already, are compared

to a newer, completed reality, where Sappho remembers another woman

who has already departed. Sappho, as both author and participant in the

events of the poem, is left a lonely figure in the present, contemplating

the past, completed departures of those who are considered most


The art of recall, specifically concerning women who have

departed or were abducted while acting in accordance with Aphrodite’s

compulsion is an important element within Greek marriage ritual. If the

motif of disappearance is a direct connection to epithalamial tradition,

then the rationale for the presence of Helen’s departure in the poem is

not so far-fetched. As Eric Dodson-Robinson writes, the “abduction”

of Helen mirrors the mock abduction of a bride from her father’s οἶκος,

while the underlying tones of autonomy for both Anaktoria and Helen

show that each departure was done semi-willingly, choosing to go, under

Kupris’ persuasion, from the protection of a father’s house to that of a

groom’s. 16 Sappho’s sudden but completed recall of Anaktoria (“And now

this reminds me…” (με νῦν… ὀνέμναι)) 17 harkens to a particular moment

in the wedding ceremony, the performance of an epithalamium right after

the bride departs from her father’s abode to her groom’s.

A consideration within the genre question for Fragment 16

features what Helen left behind, and who Sappho chooses to name. Helen

left behind “the very best man but forgets her child and her dear parents”

(ἄνδρα τὸν άριστον καλλίποισ᾽…κωὐδὲ παῖδος οὐδὲ φίλων τοκήων …

ἐμνάσθη). 18 While this best man is a reference to Menelaus, Dodson-

Robinson posits that Menelaus plays the role of a father, rather than a

groom, in the context of Fragment 16. 19 The “dear parents” refer back

to the original heads of Helen’s household, while the child (παῖδος) is

Helen herself, a role she must abandon in order to become a part of a

her husband’s household. The reshaping of the old myth is not to warp

the story of Helen and Menelaus per se, but to mimic the emotions of

the addressed bride (Anaktoria) and to communicate to the audience the

grief of her parents and the shifting of alliance from one household to

another. She leaves (καλλίποισα) for another’s house and, in order to do

so effectively, must forget (ἐμνάσθη) her allegiance to childhood and

parents. 20

To consider Fragment 16 outside of an epithalamia-context,

Menelaus’ role switches from a father to his original mythological status

as a man intent on retrieving his wife. The poem consequently focuses

on two women guilty of forgetting and two lovers who remember their

dearly departed all too well. While Menelaus is mentioned by attribute

only as “the very best man” (ἄνδρα τον ἄριστον), 21 Sappho recalls him

along with Helen and Anaktoria as a mythical personification of her

own grief. As a pseudo-Menelaus, she hungers for the woman who is οὐ

παρεοῖσα, but avoids the hate-seeped reaction Menelaus suffers by again

referring back to the priamel. 22 Despite Anaktoria’s absence, Sappho

prefers her presence over Lydian chariots or armed forces. 23 In myth,



Menelaus welcomes their presence, if only to employ them as weapons to

win Helen back forcefully.

The topic of forces and armed men is a subtle nod to another

comparison which Sappho draws through the fragment, framed

perfectly by the repeating priamel. While Ilja Pfeijffer, in her article on

Fragment 16, sees the topic of the priamel as a reiteration of Sappho’s

and Menelaus’ similarities, it also highlights the differences in power

and capability between Sappho and Menelaus. 24 Helen’s subjective

interpretation of the most beautiful thing upon the black earth ended up

as a disastrous and a fruitless endeavor. Menelaus was able to deploy

troops and retrieve his wife while destroying her ability to choose what

is τὸ κάλλιστον. He denies her role as an actant of love and reduces her to

an object which must be pursued. In regard to Sappho, who is powerless,

the exemplum of Menelaus and Helen does not hold in comparison.

Sappho’s object of desire is highlighted through Helen, who in leaving

her husband “[gave] a higher priority to the object of her love than to the

possible belligerent effects of her preference.” 25 The “Belligerent effects”

are the expendable troops which Menelaus sent in pursuit of his love,

a luxury that is not at Sappho’s disposal. The author’s predilection for

Anaktoria in lieu of armed forces demonstrates both powerlessness and

why such objects would be desirable in the first place. 26 If Sappho were a

true Menelaus, Anaktoria would be παρεοίσα (forcefully) and not gone.

Sappho’s grief, whether it is personal or performative, is

difficult to gauge without the context of the poem’s cultural reception

and knowledge of how the poem was performed. If Sappho’s longing for

Anaktoria is personal and being voiced within monodic strains, then the

Helen/Anaktoria connection is eerily similar to the subject of Sappho’s

ἔρως in Fragments 1 and 31. The latter poem details Sappho’s extremely

personal reaction to a specific woman, sitting opposite a man who, in his

appearance, is “equal to the gods” (ἰσος θέοισιν), 27 demonstrating antiepithalamion

strains to the highest degree. In the following, “It appears to

me that that man is equal to the gods…who listens to your (sweet) voice

and (lovely) laughter,” 28 the gender of the participles for “voice” and

“laughter” indicates the sexuality of Sappho’s desire, while subsequent

lines detail her fierce jealousy at “κῆνος” (that man’s) privileged position

opposite her love. In the same vein, Fragment 1 features Sappho’s plea to

Aphrodite to bring back the object of her love who, while not explicitly

stated, is understood to be οὐ παρεοίσα, like Anaktoria. In regard to

Fragment 16, if Dodson-Robinson’s thesis is believable, Sappho’s grief

is not personal, but representative of a group’s grief and elation after a

bride’s departure. 29 Yes, Anaktoria has departed, but the chariots and

footmen are not tools to cause her forceful return but members of the

parade which follow after her blissful exit. They, as physical objects

and motifs of the fragment, are an appropriate nod to the traditions

of a wedding procession. Sappho’s mention of them fits within the

requirements of the epithalamic genre, not echoes of a personal desire to

retrieve what has departed.

In addition to the priamels’ arms of war being transformed

into harbingers of celebration, the particular attributes of Anaktoria

mentioned in Fragment 16 recall the traditions of marriage instead of

Sappho’s personal fascinations. In the second and final utterance of

Sappho’s archetypal first-person singular, she utters that she would

rather see Anaktoria’s charming step or bright-sparkling face than troops

and horsemen (τᾶς κε βολλοίμαν ἔρατόν τε βᾶμα κἀμάρυχμα λάμπρον

ἴδην προσώπω). 30 Anaktoria’s bright face (or the lack of it) is perhaps a

reference to the unveiling of a bride. While the timing and context of the

unveiling (ἀνακαλυπτήρια) 31 is contested, it is argued that the visage of

a bride hid behind a veil until after the bride and groom spent their first

night together. 32 Sappho’s longing for Anaktoria’s face, as an epithet in

an epithalamium, is another cultural reference and not the reflection of

a personal desire. ἔρατόν βᾶμα (charming walk) is an explicit wedding

epithet and is a familiar trope which Sappho reiterates in other poems

which describe brides, particularly within Fragments 103 and 103B with

her statements of “εὐποδα νύμφαν” (well-shod brides). 33

Andre Lardinois famously argued against the monodic

construction which scholars shoved Sappho within his “Who Sang

Sappho’s Songs.” In Fragment 16, other scholars have argued against

his position, citing that while Anaktoria’s departure reflects classical

wedding ritual within the poem, the subject of the fragment should

not infer that the performance of the poem was restricted to just an

epithalamial context. 34 They posit that Fragment 16 was performed in

a multitude of public arenas, as well as privately with hetairai. Such

a conclusion plays into the receptive theories of Sappho, rather than

the original intent of her poetry and the context in which they were

performed. As Sappho’s poetry has been transmitted into a variety

of media, the context and meaning behind her pieces are constantly

manipulated to fit within either scholastic expectations or the feelings

of a personal reader, to name a few. While the fragmentary state of

Sappho’s poems in general allow for a subjective interpretation from the

modern-day reader, it is risky to assume that classical audiences had the

same maneuverability. The exact conditions of a poem’s performance can

rarely be determined precisely. To any one particular fragment, allotting

multiple genres and occasions of production is a modern influence,

which dismisses the ancient world’s purpose for poetry.

The subjectivity of the interpretation of Menelaus and Helen is

worthy of discussion especially when compared with a peer’s analysis of



the same myth, e.g with Alcaeus in his 42nd Fragment. His epic narrative

describing the wedding of Thetis and Peleus is thrown into sharp relief

against his exemplum of destructive femininity: Helen and her wicked

deeds (κακοὶ ἔργοι). 35 While Sappho constructs a comparison focusing

on love and desire between Helen and Anaktoria, Alcaeus paints her

as a scourge and a cause of pain against Thetis, a true feminine ideal. 36

The manipulation of a common example of extreme beauty and extreme

destruction in Helen lends itself to the poet’s imagination in constructing

various genres of poetry. Alcaeus utilizes Helen and her relationship with

Paris as an image of death and annihilation, an “improper relationship,”

while Thetis and Peleus are reflectors of a “proper relationship” which

results in conjugal love and procreation. 37 Sappho goes against Alcaeus in

her image of Helen by focusing on the love and autonomy she exudes in

her pursuit of Paris. Instead of Helen as a catalyst of destruction, Sappho

employs her myth as an example of subjective love and the concept that

even the most beautiful creatures can find something more τὸ κάλλιστον

and deem it to be the best the “black earth” has to offer. 38

Considering Sappho’s Fragment 16 as an exemplum of

epithalamia, performed in a public choral arena, instead of a monodic

piece for private concert, encourages readers to explore both the

tradition of wedding rituals in classical Greece as well as the concept

of females behaving as actants of ἔρως. Sappho achieves the latter

image in her analysis of particular aspects of Helen and Menelaus’ story

while comparing it to the charming feet of a bride who has recently

departed. The conceptualization of women, οὐ παρεοίσαι, reflects a

twist on the antiquated ideas of constrained women in Greek history and

encourages scholars to consider Helen and Anaktoria through Sappho’s

eyes. Whatever one loves has a habit of being what is no longer present.

Helen, departed from Menelaus, is pursued by auxiliaries of war, while

Anaktoria departs to a new household flanked by chariots and armed


The completed form of Fragment 16 is a beautiful chiastic

structure, with nesting priamels forcing Sappho’s comparison of Helen

and Anaktoria to be taken seriously. By placing Helen against Anaktoria,

the bride, Sappho awards both with the title of τὸ κάλλιστον while also

reflecting upon their joint disappearances. Their charming steps and

sparkling faces have departed completely—Helen after the object of her

ἔρως in Troy, and Anaktoria after her groom as an actant proceeding

with a wedding procession. Fragment 16 represents Sappho’s talent as

an author of epithalamia while forcing readers to question what the most

beautiful thing is, and whether they would be willing to send armies after

that object of their desire.


1. All translations, unless otherwise noted, are done by the author. Sappho, frag.

16 Budelmann, 1-4.

2. Sappho, 3.

3. Page, Sappho and Alcaeus: An Introduction, 53.

4. Sappho, frag. 16 Budelmann, 4.

5. Fig 1, Unknown, Hydria, Red Figure Pottery, 450BC, British Museum, https://

6. “Generum vero pro marito positum multi accipiunt iuxta Sappho, quae in libro

qui inscribitur Ἐπιθαλάμια ait.” In Georgics 1.3, Frag. 234 V.

7. Sappho, frag. 16 Budelmann, 16.

8. Powers, “Sappho’s Parachoral Monody,” 91-92.

9. Sappho, frag. 1 Budelmann, 21-23.

10. Bundy, Studia Pindarica, 5.

11. Race, “Sappho, fr. 16 L-P. and Alkaios, fr. 42 L-P.” 17.

12. Sappho, frag. 16 Budelmann, 17.

13. Sappho, 20.

14. Sappho, 11.

15. Sappho, 15.

16. Dodson-Robinson, “Helen’s ‘Judgement of Paris’ and Greek Marriage.” 11.

17. Sappho, frag. 16 Budelmann, 15.

18. Sappho, 8-11.

19. Dodson-Robinson, “Helen’s ‘Judgement of Paris’ and Greek Marriage.” 11.

20. Sappho, frag. 16 Budelmann, 9.

21. Sappho, 8.

22. Anne Carson, Eros: The Bittersweet, 5-6.

23. Sappho frag. 16 Budelmann, 19-20.

24. Pfeijffer, “Shifting Helen: An Interpretation of Sappho.” 6.

25. Pfeijffer, 4.

26. Pfeijffer, 6.

27. Sappho, frag. 31 Budelmann, 1.

28. Sappho, 1, 3-5.

29. Dodson-Robinson “Helen’s ‘Judgement of Paris’ and Greek Marriage.” 16.

30. Sappho, frag. 16 Budelmann, 17-18

31. An Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon, 7th ed., s.v. ἀνακαλύπτω.

32. Dodson-Robinson, “Helen’s ‘Judgement of Paris’ and Greek Marriage.” 14.

33. Sappho, frag. 103, 2 and 103B, 2 in If not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho, 204,


34. Dodson-Robinson, “Helen’s ‘Judgement of Paris’ and Greek Marriage.” 2.

35. Alcaeus, frag. 42 Budelmann, 1-2.

36. See Budelmann’s commentary on Sappho 16 and Alcaeus 42 in Greek Lyric:

A Selection, 89, 128.



37. Budelmann, 89.

38. Sappho, frag. 16 Budelmann, 2.


Budelmann, Felix (ed.) Greek Lyric: A Selection. Cambridge: Cambridge

University Press, 2018.

Carson, Anne. Eros the Bittersweet: An Essay. Princeton: Princeton University

Press, 1986. If not, Winter. New York City: Random House Publishing,


Dodson-Robinson, Eric. “Helen’s ‘Judgement of Paris’ and Greek Marriage

Ritual in Sappho 16.” Arethusa, Vol. 43, No. 1 (2010): 1-20.

DuBois, Page. “Sappho and Helen” in Reading Sappho: Contemporary

Approaches, edited by Ellen Greene, 80-89. Berkeley: University of

Berkeley Press, 1996.

Greene, Ellen (ed.) Reading Sappho: Contemporary Approaches. Berkeley: UC

Berkeley Press, 1996.

Page, Denys. Sappho and Alcaeus: An Introduction to The Study of Ancient

Lesbian Poetry. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1979.

Pfeijffer, Ilja Leonard. “Shifting Helen: An Interpretation of Sappho, Fragment 16

(Voigt).” The Classical Quarterly, Vol. 50, No. 1 (2000): 1-6.

Power, Timothy. “Sappho’s Parachoral Monody” in Genre in Archaic and

Classical Greek Poetry: Studies in Archaic and Classical Greek Song,

Vol. 4, edited by Margaret Foster, Leslie Kurke, and Naomi Weiss, 82-108.

Leiden: Brill Publishing, 2020.

Race, William H. “Sappho, fr. 16 L-P. and Alkaios, fr. 42 L-P.: Romantic and

Classical Strains in Lesbian Lyric.” The Classical Journal, Vol. 85, No. 1

(1989): 16-33.

Long, A. A. “The Logical Basis of Stoic Ethics.” Proceedings of the Aristotelian

Society, New Series 71 (1970-1971): 85-104.


Noyes Jr., Russel. “Seneca on Death.” Journal of Religion and Health 12, no. 3

(1973): 223-240.

Traupman, John C. “Luo” and “Solvo” In The New College Latin Dictionary,

Revised and Updated, 3rd edition, 252. New York, NY: Bantam Dell, 2007.

Seneca. Ad Lucilium Epistulae Morales, volumes 1-3, ed. Richard M.

Gummere. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1917-1925),

Perseus Digital Library.


White, Nicholas P. “Stoic Values.” The Monist 73, no. 1 (1990): 42-58. https://www.



University of Wisconsin-Madison


catullus, carmen


if any pleasures exist

for a man recounting his acts of kindness,

when he knows he is wholehearted,

knows he violated no inviolable trust,

knows he never abused divine authority to deceive others,

then for you, catullus,

many pleasures still remain—

pleasures designed by this reckless love of yours.

for whatever kindness

humans can say or do,

they have been said and done by you:

but such gifts have been wasted

on a heart so careless.

so why, catullus,

why keep torturing yourself?

why not find strength

in this heart of yours

and get out of the past?

stop pitying yourself because the gods won’t save you.

it is difficult to suddenly

lose a long lasting love;

surely, it is difficult,

but you must work this out somehow.

this is the only path to recovery—

you need to conquer this;

you must do this—

whether you think it possible or not.

oh gods, if you would ever pity me, or if at any time

you could revive a man

already on the brink of death,

acknowledge me and my misery;

and if i’ve lead a faultless life

cleanse me from this disease,

this plague that creeps inside

the innermost depths of my body

just as numbness creeps into limbs:

a plague that purges all joy from my hollowed chest.

i’m not going to ask

that she love me in return,

i’m not going to ask

that she be modest—that’s impossible;

i just want to be cured,

to be remedied of this loathsome sickness.

please, gods, i’ve shown my piety,

so grant me this one request.



What, Why, and How

“Solvo” Means in

Seneca’s Moral Epistles


College of Arts and Sciences, Loyola University Chicago

Barbara Johnson writes that “[the] reader’s task is to read what

is written rather than simply attempt to intuit what might have been

meant.” 1 This paper takes that task seriously, focusing in on a single word,

solvo, in Seneca’s Ad Lucilium Epistulae Morales, or Moral Epistles, and

endeavoring to parse out the various valences of that word, rather than

simply accepting its particular meaning in each context where it appears.

Such a reading leads to a fuller picture of Seneca’s philosophical thought

than would have been possible to glean from a reading that did not take

such pains over “what is written.” A fluent reader, able to intuit a complex

word’s meaning from context, may view words that are used in different

ways as having multiple definitions; this approach would limit our view of

the full gestalt of a word’s possible meanings. As Johnson writes, words

bear traces of their other meanings even when they are used differently. 2

Seneca (the Younger) was a Stoic philosopher who flourished

in Claudian and Neronian Rome. Stoicism was a school of thought

inaugurated by the Greek philosopher Xeno of Citium, and eventually

adopted by prominent Romans from Cicero to Marcus Aurelius. Stoicism’s

central precept is that one should behave in accordance with nature, and

the goal of a Stoic is to live a happy life. Happiness is therefore attained

by behaving with virtus, “virtue,” and this concept of virtue is itself

rooted in behaving in accordance with nature. Nature is understood as

itself being governed by a divine rationality, so reason and nature are

deeply intertwined in the Stoic framework. To learn how to behave in

accordance with nature and reason, one must aspire to be sapiens, “wise”

or “discerning.” A discerning, virtuous person will exhibit sound, rational

judgment and will, through rigorous self-control and self-discipline, arrive

at a state of security and peace which cannot be disturbed by the forces

of changing emotions and fortunes. 3 Seneca’s Moral Epistles are the most

substantial surviving document of Roman Stoicism. They take the form of

letters to a poet friend of Seneca’s, one Lucilius, a framing that is possibly

fictive. 4 The major themes of the letters include human mortality, personal

moderation and restraint, and how best to engage with philosophical

thought, expressed as advice Seneca gives to Lucilius in his journey to

become sapiens, insulate himself against fortune and inner turmoil, and

live in accordance with nature and reason. Seneca’s thinking is deeply

rooted in the Stoic philosophy that came before him, and the innovation

or lack thereof in Seneca’s thought is debated, but the letters are not just a

rote rehash of earlier Stoic thinking: the strong emphasis Seneca places on

interpersonal relationships throughout are peculiar to Roman Stoicism. 5

The word this paper focuses on, the third declension verb solvo,

roughly meaning “release” or “loosen,” comes from the prefix se, meaning

“away” or “apart,” and the verb luo, meaning “to set free.” 6 A versatile

word, it can be used in a variety of situations, adopting meanings that

range from the melting of snow to the suffering of a punishment to the

allayment of the siege of a city. 7 Seneca employs some form of the word

solvo 40 times in the Epistles. 8 In these didactic letters, its meaning is often

abstract: Seneca uses this word, which has a physical, kinetic meaning,

figuratively, to explain the mechanics of concepts. A careful reading of

solvo as written rather than merely as meant—a reading attentive to the

traces that solvo carries—will enrich a reader’s appreciation of Seneca’s

approach to topics ranging from gender to death to finance. By using

this vivid word, Seneca imbues his philosophy with an evocative sense

of motion and of relationship in shared space—a physicality which has

serious implications for how his philosophical ideas come across.

There are several cases of basic, prosaic use of solvo in the

Epistles, in which Seneca uses the word to depict cases where something

concrete is literally released. Purely physical uses occur in Sen. Ep. 45.9

(hailstones melting), 53.1 (a ship setting out to sea), 55.2 (sand crumbling),

79.4 (snow melting), 80.9 (removing a blanket), 80.10 (removing a diadem),

90.21 (loosening soil) and 114.6 (loosening a shirt). These more basic

connotations carry over to Seneca’s philosophical applications of the word,

where they contribute to his creation of meaning. Literal cases provide a

sense of the kind of physical or kinetic action solvo conveys, and the kind

of emotional and moral connotations that it might bear. These prosaic

applications thus generate meanings that can be mapped onto the situations

in which Seneca uses solvo abstractly. This makes his more conceptual

uses of the word easier and more fruitful to interpret for Seneca’s modern

and ancient readers. The example in 45.9 inclines a reader to understand

solvo as entailing the removal of a threat, the examples from epistle 80

as entailing the revelation of true nature, the examples in 55 and 79 as

entailing loss of integrity, and the example in 114 as entailing distasteful

luxury. And so Seneca later relies upon all these connotations, here

expressed in purely physical narration, in his more abstract statements. The

word solvo thus becomes a concrete expression of abstract ideas for the

philosopher, who uses its physicality to represent his ideas intuitively.



The more conceptual uses range from the fairly simple, like

images of death and payment as events of release, to the more elaborate,

wherein this simple physical verb succinctly and legibly expresses

complicated issues of thought and morality. Solvo appears frequently when

Seneca turns to mortality: a repeated image in discussions of death in the

Epistles is the release of the soul from the body. Seneca views the fear of

death as a central concern of human life, and dedicates much of his writing

to learning how to overcome this fear, a project consistent with the Stoic

ideal of tranquility in the face of loss and struggle. To Seneca, the fear of

death is harmful and futile, and the contemplation and acceptance of death

is a far preferable response to mortality. 9 This quintessentially Stoic view

of death as inevitable, natural, and fulfilling is thus elegantly expressed in

Seneca’s choice to use solvo.

In epistle 65, Seneca ponders the afterlife and describes the

immorality of the soul: “What seats awaits my soul, released from the laws

of human slavery?” 10 The 71st epistle explains that “for us, to be released is

to perish,” but that “[while] whatever currently exists will no longer, [...] it

will not perish, but will be dissipated again.” 11 The latter of these sentences

also features resolvo, a derivative of solvo, which in this context holds the

meaning “to undo” or “to become again” (rendered here as “dissipate”),

used to describe a dying person being taken back up into the cycles of

nature. The 76th epistle is concerned with old age, and asserts that our

souls will be much happier, “if only they remain once released from

bodies.” 12 In the 102nd epistle, Seneca takes a very Stoic view of afterlife:

“Should one who awaits death fear anything? This man, who also believes

the soul remains as long as it is contained by the chain of the body, scatters

it when it has been released, so that it may be useful even after death.” 13

Here Seneca promotes a view of the soul, like the body, returning to nature,

combining the 71st and 76th epistles’ insights on death.

Notably, each of these examples places solvo in the passive,

suggesting that death is something done to people by an outside force.

Seneca makes this attitude even more explicit with an example using the

active voice: “Is any departure better,” Seneca asks, “than slipping away

into your destination, with nature unwinding you?” 14 Here nature itself

is the subject and agent, intervening to release the tension of a man’s

life. A fully-committed Stoic sapiens operates under the assumption

that one cannot control what happens to them, only how they respond to

it; by casting death as the subject, Seneca underlines that, as with all a

person undergoes, death should be viewed with tranquility and stability.

The word choice of solvo is subtly figurative, euphemizing death as the

loosening of whatever binds souls to bodies, or living beings to life; and

the grammatical arrangement in which Seneca uses the word enacts the

dignified, passive acceptance with which Seneca believes death should be


In other contexts, Seneca emphasizes different implications of

the concept of release. The single most common usage of solvo in the

epistles is in the sense of paying a debt or fulfilling a vow. 15 Many of these

instances concern literal issues of finance, as in epistle 81, which concerns

retirement. Others, such as when Seneca says, “this is the moment of

releasing debt, for I am able to… release this letter,” 16 refer to the “debt”

of the obligation two letter-writers have to reply to one another. The word

solvo concretizes the concept of debt with subtlety and nuance, using its

kinetic meaning to succinctly express the nature of the loan-relationship

as one of tension and attachment. In one example, Seneca responds to

Lucilius’ request that Seneca write him more letters by saying that if

the letters were added up, Lucilius “would not be the one who must be

repaid.” 17 In this example, the future passive participle solvendo is used;

in the previous one, Seneca as debtor was the agent and subject of those

forms of solvo. This voicing is counterintuitive to Anglophone sensibility.

The idea that “paying a debt” is similar to “unraveling” makes some sense

in English, but we would likely imagine that, when a debt is fulfilled, the

debtor is the one “released”; in these cases, however, Lucilius is not “to be

released” because the deficit in letters is to his disadvantage, nor is Seneca

“releasing” by holding a debt fulfilled, but rather by repaying the debt he

himself owes. Apparently, in Seneca’s conception, repayment “releases” the

creditor, not the debtor. The implications of this subtlety are interesting:

who is entangled with whom? What does this suggest about the relative

duties of debtor and creditor as understood by Seneca? Seneca, with his

particularly Roman Stoic view on personal relationships, does not view

friendships as necessary for an individual’s journey towards developing

virtue, but they are important because friendship is natural, and because

it provides opportunities for exercising virtue. 18 That the onus of relieving

the tension then falls on the creditor is not entirely surprising: Seneca is

offering advice on how to restore a relationship to its natural state, and how

to practice virtue.

With the connotation of debt in mind, Seneca elsewhere uses

solvo to describe more generally all duties between people, often in simile.

Seneca uses the analogy of a debt, further concretized in solvo’s language

of release and untying, to make abstract ideas of duty and interaction more

accessible and intuitive to his audience. For instance, in epistle 67, Seneca

imagines someone objecting to his characterization of the endurance of

suffering as virtuous. This hypothetical objector says “I certainly don’t

know anyone who has fulfilled a vow by [undergoing torture],” 19 using

debt and payment as a metaphor for the more abstract systems of value at

work in epistle 67’s interrogation of the virtue of endurance. In all these

depictions of points of tension, solvo expresses a return to a natural state.



Release from a point of tension is also invoked in more intellectual

contexts. Seneca uses solvo to describe the liberation which philosophy

can bring, with the verb often, essentially, meaning “to free.” He asks

“Am I currently unbound?” and speaks of release from chains, laws, and

desires. For example, in epistle 122, he says that natural things are full

of liberty, an idea he expresses by saying that natural things are soluti,

“having been released.” 20 Seneca also frequently uses the word solvo in

cases referring to problems or puzzles being solved. Examples of this occur

in epistles 48, 49, 82, 87, and 117. Among these cases, a recurring image

is the simile of the untying of a knot. These knots represent philosophical

problems or conundrums, and solvo is repeatedly the verb used to describe

their solving. For instance, Epistle 22’s knot represents the troubles of

life, which one should “more effectively unravel rather than sever.” 21 The

Stoic preference for tranquility over aggravation in mental activity is

especially apparent in this example. In some ways these are literal uses

of the word—its basic definition is rarely more directly applicable than

when talking about tangles—but while solvo is used to mean a literal

loosening of physical string, the string is not literal: the loosening occurs

at a separate level of diegesis, for illustrative purposes only. By using knots

as analogies, Seneca casts life’s problems as both artificial and capable

of being solved. Bearing in mind solvo’s physical, kinetic meaning—the

non-violent detachment of two objects—deepens a reader’s appreciation

for the nature of more conceptual actions like becoming free or solving

problems, and suggests that the bearings of patience and dexterity, which

are associated with the work of untying knots, are also useful for life’s

problems. These implications, of seeking a natural state of being and of

arriving there in a calm, detached manner, accord with Stoic ideals.

The word solvo, in its capacity as a term of relaxation, also

appears in the Moral Epistles as a derisive term for carelessness, sloth,

and general lack of rigor. Seneca says it is impossible to “condemn death

with a relaxed face” because “true joy is a serious matter.” 22 Seneca holds

a negative view of luxury, novelty, and excess in general. In letters on

these topics, solvo takes on a character of indulgence; luo, an etymological

component of solvo, can mean “wash” as well as “loosen” 23 —an

association which may emphasize Seneca’s sense of solvo’s relaxation as

being a kind of leisure or luxury. Seneca’s criticism of Maecenas’ loose

clothing, in which a literal usage of solvo occurs, exemplifies this: such

unmanly, newfangled fashion indicates moral rot to Seneca. He elsewhere

says that some men “soften themselves with luxuries.” 24 He goes on also to

describe how “a single winter” of rest and relaxation softens and “undoes

Hannibal,” 25 whose military might is destroyed by sloth and indulgence.

Seneca also uses solvo to discuss linguistic style with similar derision. In

the 108th epistle, he criticizes “careless wording” 26 — styles characterized

by excess and clever novelties. The release denoted by solvo can be natural

and virtuous, or contrived and vicious.

These examples have broad implications, and complicate our

reading of Seneca’s Stoicism. Roman concepts of virtus are inseparably

tied to gender (virtus and vir, “man,” being cognates); Seneca’s disdainful

uses of solvo to describe examples of lax morals and objectionably

effeminate personality traits reinforce this association. In epistle 82,

he explains his claim that “the soul is made womanish bit by bit” by

elaborating that when one relaxes too much “the soul is weakened until it

is similar to the leisure and laziness in which it lies.” 27 Seneca thus casts

his criticism of moral character in terms of gender. This association also

appears in his criticism of Maecenas, with his “loosened” clothes, in epistle

114; Seneca follows this criticism of Maecenas’ indulgence and leisure

by claiming that he is less manly than a eunuch. 28 Seneca’s association

of solutus-ness with luxury, vice and femininity gives us a window into

how he associates manliness with tightness, composure, and disciplined


But the juxtaposition of these negative usages of solvo with

more positive cases of release also illuminates the complexities of the

Stoic attitude toward nature. The Stoics believe that it is moral to live in

accordance with nature, yet they also revile certain human impulses. 29

Seneca’s stylistic critiques exhibit such contradiction: though his criticism

of Maecenas focuses on excessive stylization that is “soluta,” he also

criticizes the historian Arruntius for not writing words as they come to his

head, and using too much artifice. So are natural impulses good, or do they

need to be tempered? A similar contradiction arises among aforementioned

references to death: solvo is frequently the verb describing death, yet in

Epistle 23 a solutus demeanor is antithetical to the Stoic attitude towards

death. The overall approach seems to be that to be solutus is good when

it is natural, and bad when it is out of line with natural virtue—yet what

precisely the Stoic concept of the natural is remains obscure. Do human

lasciviousness and appetite not qualify as natural?

It is appropriate, then, to regard the Stoic concept of nature

and the natural not as reflective of actual natural phenomena, but rather

as capital-N Nature, a constructed ideal representing, rather circularly,

the sum of all those behaviors and reasonings that a Stoic would prefer

to endorse as virtuous. In an attempt to parse out whether nature and

reason are synonymous for the Stoics, and on what observational basis

Stoics base their characterizations of nature, A. A. Long characterizes the

Stoic understanding of nature as based on two key attributes: “Nature as

provident and right-reasoning on the one hand, and Nature as destiny on

the other hand.” 30 But even Long’s rigorous philosophical parse of Stoic

thought cannot fully dissolve the dissonance. “By giving man reason,”



Long writes, proposing an explication for Stoic thought, “Nature provides

the necessary conditions of good or bad actions; for actions are good or bad

if and only if the reason of their agents accords with or fails to accord with

Nature. By endowing man with ‘impulses towards virtue’ Nature provides

conditions sufficient to direct him towards what accords with Nature.” 31

Here Long reiterates the circularity, saying that Nature is right reason

because an individual’s impulses towards right reason come from Nature.

No meaningful information about reason or virtue can be derived

from this set-up. Stoic ideals of remaining tranquil and impassive in the

face of adversity complicate the concept of Nature: if Nature is destiny, are

those bad situations not Natural, and is resisting one’s instinctive emotional

upset in response to them not then a resistance to Natural impulse and

Natural destiny? If we have both impulses to virtue and impulses to vice,

why are only those towards virtue deemed Natural? And how can we

assess the virtue or Naturalness of any given impulse? Long’s eventual

assertion is that the Stoics do not in fact understand all that is natural to

be good, a result which makes their overarching association of the good

life with living according to nature fraught and tenuous. Stoics prescribe

moral precepts that hold on smaller scales, but the school of thought’s

attempt to view all these precepts as rooted in a coherent, universal

Natural reason introduces all manner of complication. All this profound,

and perhaps irreconcilable tension between the Stoic Natural ideal and the

Stoic precepts of personal restraint and moderation are legible in Seneca’s

diverse applications of the verb solvo, which Seneca uses to describe both

natural things and instances of vice.

It would likely not surprise Seneca to see his word choice

examined so closely. In his view, literary style is not simply the decoration

that makes an idea attractive, but an integral part of how the meaning of

the idea is created. Seneca is “notably alert to … the figural properties

of language,” Catharine Edwards says; he uses figurative language as a

“cognitive and communicative force” 32 that both constructs and transmits

meaning. Seneca himself says that the function of figurative language is

to “lead the speaker and the listener to the situation at hand.” 33 And that

is what solvo does throughout these letters: a vivid verb like solvo, rich

with echoes of other meanings and an evocative sense of physicality, leads

a reader to entirely different imaginations of abstract ideas than another

verb might. That Seneca sees the speaker as being guided by metaphor just

as much as a listener is significant: for Seneca, the selection of a word like

solvo is not simply craft, but also contemplation; not merely the expression

of a thought but also how a thought is developed.

Though solvo can mean very different things in different contexts,

it is always the same word, and that gives all its different facets a powerful

continuity, allowing it to capture important subtleties that other words

might miss. By choosing the word solvo where he has, Seneca shows,

variously, that solving a philosophical puzzle is like untying a knot; that

bad writing is like flowing clothing, which is like vice, negligence, and

licentiousness; that dying is like paying a debt or keeping a promise, which

is like gaining freedom from chains, which is like revealing what lies


I wish to extend my deep gratitude to Dr. John Makowski, whose generous

and insightful feedback helped this paper find its shape and its focus.

1. Johnson, “Writing,” 346.

2. Johnson, 346.

3. Edwards, introduction to Seneca: Selected Letters, 10-2.

4. Edwards, 3.

5. Edwards, 14-5.

6. Etymological Dictionary of Latin (2008), s.v. “Solvo.”

7. New College Latin Dictionary, 3rd ed. (2007), s.v. “Solvo.”

8. Among these is its occurrence in Ep. 8.10, where it occurs in an excerpt

quoted from Epicurus, and in 10.5, where it occurs in an excerpt quoted

from Athenodorus. The other 38 are original to Seneca.

9. Noyes Jr., “Seneca on Death,” 227-229.

10. Sen. Ep. 65.20. Translations from Seneca are the author’s; English

words which render forms of solvo are italicized. A challenge to these

translations is that there is not always fidelity of voice between English and

Latin. The epistles include cases in which a passive form of solvo is used

in Latin, but it makes sense to use an active English form; in other cases

an active form of solvo must be translated passively or reflexively for the

English to communicate the same idea about what is loosening what. That

“loosen” and “relax,” two English words which concisely replicate solvo’s

meaning, can also be transitive or intransitive, only worsens this potential

for distortion. For this reason, the voice of the form of solvo in question is

explicitly stated in the body of the paper in cases where voice bears on its

interpretation but may not be obvious in the English translation.

11. Sen. Ep. 71.13-14. Any italics indicate that quotation’s particular

translation of solvo.

12. Sen. Ep. 76.25.

13. Sen. Ep. 102.30.

14. Sen. Ep. 26.4.

15. It is worth noting that de Vaan (2008) suggests that solvo’s economic

meaning may come from a different etymology than its more basic

definition, but Seneca’s usage of solvo to explore debt and transaction

still contributes to the word’s accumulation of abstract meanings. Even

if economic solvo has a different origin than the other uses, the two have



collapsed into the same lexeme, and now bear traces of one another. By

identifying the conceptual overlaps in different meanings of a word (here,

how solvo’s meaning of “loosen” and its meaning of “payment” have

similar senses of resolution and fulfillment) we can gain a greater insight

into how the word is used, and experience more richly the full implications

of its use in any one context.

16. Sen. Ep. 23.9.

17. Sen. Ep. 118.1.

18. Edwards, 14-15.

19. Sen. Ep. 67.3.

20. Sen. Ep. 122.17.

21. Sen. Ep. 22.3.

22. Sen. Ep. 23.4.

23. New College Latin Dictionary, 3rd ed. (2007), s.v. “Luo.”

24. Sen. Ep. 95.18.

25. Sen. Ep. 51.5.

26. Sen. Ep. 108.10.

27. Sen. Ep. 82.2.

28. Sen. Ep. 114.6.

29. White, “Stoic Values,” 42.

30. Long, “The Logical Basis of Stoic Thought,” 91.

31. Long, 92.

32. Edwards, 26.

33. Sen. Ep. 59.6.


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Johnson, Barbara. “Writing.” In Literary Theory, An Anthology, ed. Julie

Rivkin and Michael Ryan, 2nd edition, 340-347. Maiden, MA:

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Aristotelian Society, New Series 71 (1970-1971): 85-104. https://

Noyes Jr., Russel. “Seneca on Death.” Journal of Religion and Health 12, no.

3 (1973): 223-240.

Traupman, John C. “Luo” and “Solvo” In The New College Latin Dictionary,

Revised and Updated, 3rd edition, 252. New York, NY: Bantam Dell,


Seneca. Ad Lucilium Epistulae Morales, volumes 1-3, ed. Richard M.

Gummere. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1917-1925),

Perseus Digital Library.


White, Nicholas P. “Stoic Values.” The Monist 73, no. 1 (1990): 42-58. https://



Hector the Achaean:

The “Invasion” of Troy in

Iliad VI

Written By DIDO WANG

College of Letters and Science, University of California, Los Angeles

Book VI of the Iliad diverts the attention of the audience from the

battlefield with an interlude, in which Hector visits the city of Troy and meets

with his family. However, what may appear to be a respite from the bloodshed

is revealed to be another host of inferred terrors, as Hector’s appearance

and actions in the city resemble an enemy rather than a friend. Throughout

his stay, Hector causes disturbances all over the city in his warlike guise and

foreshadows the doom that will eventually befall both the Trojans and himself.

When he meets the grieving Andromache by the city walls, this identification

with an Achaean invader illustrates that a warrior like Hector is just

like an enemy to his city, since it is his own stubborn adherence to the heroic

code that will bring death and devastation to all those dependent on him. The

superficial identification of Hector with an Achaean invader achieves deeper

significance in the encounter of Hector and Andromache, which turns the

confrontation of husband and wife into a clash between the masculine world

of battlefield glory and the feminine world of familial bonds, and shows that

the warrior who adheres stubbornly to the pursuit of glory brings death and

devastation to all those dependent on him just like an enemy.

Hector goes into Troy straight from the battlefield, looking every

inch like a terrifying warrior, and interrupts the calm order of everyday

life within the walls with his strange and threatening presence. During his

visit, he is described six times with his typical epithet κορυθαίολος “of the

gleaming helmet”, with at least one use in each interaction with one of his

family members. In his encounter with Andromache, his name also appears

twice with the epithet φαίδιμος “shining”, which conveys the same type of

cold, metallic brilliance of a bronze-clad warrior as κορυθαίολος. There are

also two instances of κορυθαίολος being coupled with μέγας “great, tall” to

magnify his already imposing and highly visible presence. The fearsome

battlefield appearance of a warrior expressed through these typical heroic

epithets is further articulated by actual physical descriptions of Hector. While

refusing the offer of wine from Hecuba, he claims to be αἵματι καὶ λύθρῳ

πεπαλαγμένον “spattered with blood and gore”. 1 The disharmony between his

bloodiness and the majestic and beautiful surroundings of Priam’s palace is

both emphasized and exacerbated by λύθρῳ and πεπαλαγμένον, two words

associated with defilement by bodily fluids, 2 and together they fix Hector

firmly in a perfective state of pollutedness, one that estranges him from those

familiar Trojan rituals that punctuate everyday life in the city. Even though

Hector, the premier and model citizen, has as much right as anyone to pour

libations and to implore the gods for his city to be protected, his bloodiness

from so many woundings and killings poses a threat to the purity of the divine

realm, making his presence ineffective and even potentially harmful. Moreover,

as Hector goes into the palace of Paris and Helen in his warlike guise,

he holds in his hand a massive weapon, namely ἔγχος ἔχ’ ἑνδεκάπηχυ “a spear

eleven cubits long”. 3 This massive spear, furnished with a gleaming point,

evokes Hector’s own epithets μέγαςand κορυθαίολος, and the necessary enjambment

of αἰχμὴ χαλκείη, “bronze point”, 4 draws attention to the sharp tip,

gleaming ahead (πάροιθε δὲ λάμπετο) of even Hector himself, which effectively

pierces through the beautiful palace like flesh, straight up to the couple’s

chamber—the very heart and center of a palace. The intrusion of a warrior

and his spear into a domestic space prefigures future plundering, especially

since that chamber contains Helen, the ultimate prize for whom the war is


Troy, on the other hand, is presented during this visit as an especially

rich, attractive, and defenseless town into which Hector’s fierce and metallic

presence, just as his spear, effortlessly pierces. Inside its goodly palaces

lie beauteous possessions such as the all-variegated (παμποίκιλα) robes of

Hecuba and the very beautiful (περικαλλέα) arms of Paris. 5 However, there

is no man to guard these riches; instead, attractive women alone, themselves

another type of desirable possession, fill the fragrant chambers and well-built

streets of Troy. In addition to these beautiful individuals, such as Laodike,

the fairest of Hecuba’s daughters, or Helen herself, the women of Troy as a

collective are often described as well-dressed (ἑλκεσιπέπλους, “of the trailing

robes”) 6 and lovely-haired.Despite being formulaic expressions, these adjectives

remain meaningful and effective. Notably, these women are the most

and almost only visible characters within Troy. Even though Hector, before

returning to the city, claims to his comrades that he will go and talk to “the

elder councilors and our wives” (βουλευτῇσι καὶ ἡμετέρῃς ἀλόχοισι), 7 and

even though the old men of Troy have appeared in previous and later books,

no old man is ever seen during the whole visit, which only serves to emphasize

the feminine beauty and vulnerability associated with the city. Indeed, the

only adult male depicted is Paris, who fits comfortably into the broader group

of Trojan women, with his famously pretty face and utter negligence of fighting.

The portrayals of Hector and Troy, which accentuate the hostile fierceness

of one and the undefended desirability of the other, evoke the images

of a plundering soldier and a plundered town, and thus allow the interaction



between the two to foreshadow the city’s fall and Hector’s own death. Everywhere

he goes, Hector seems to cause a disturbance that pierces deep into

the innermost parts of the city, hidden in private chambers or enclosed gates.

After passing through the Skaian gates, Hector goes straight to the royal

palaces, which are both ἐν πόλει ἄκρῃ, “the highest point of the city” and,

presumably, the most distinguished. 8 There, he first ordered Hecuba to enter

her personal chamber and lifting out of all her robes the most precious one,

which is explicitly said to be buried νείατος ἄλλων “beneath the others”; 9

then, this order causes the gates of the temple of Athena, also on the Acropolis,

to be unlocked and entered as well. Hector himself simultaneously

penetrates into the inner chamber of Paris and Helen, and searches for Andromache

throughout his own house. This series of disruptions resembles the

ravages that are bound to occur after Hector dies and Achaeans take the city.

These two events, in fact, are treated as synonyms by the Trojans, who call

Hector’s son Astyanax, “for Hector alone guarded Ilium” (οἶος γὰρ ἐρύετο

Ἴλιον Ἕκτωρ). 10 Since Hector comes into the city in the likeness of a ravaging

Achaean, his beloved, benevolent Trojan identity becomes temporarily

lost. Not only does his warlike presence suggest his own death by evoking

the depredation of Troy, but the deprivation of Hector’s Trojan identity in

turn also suggests the fall of Troy by creating a metaphorical death for its

defender. From this perspective, Hector’s bloodiness, in addition to symbolizing

the bloodthirsty terror of the warrior, can also prefigure Hector’s

own blood-stained corpse. Andromache’s mourning of her live husband is in

harmony with the Hector of this book, who, although living, is enveloped so

deeply within an aura of death, that he seems both dead and alive.

The entanglement of dead and living Hectors is most visible in his

encounter with Andromache. She begins her speech by exclaiming that Hector’s

own courage (τὸ σὸν μένος) will kill him, and accuses him of having

no pity (οὐδ’ ἐλεαίρεις) for his wife and son. 11 Then she ends the speech by

entreating him again to have pity (ἐλέαιρε), and “do not make your son an orphan,

and your wife a widow” (μὴ παῖδ’ ὀρφανικὸν θήῃς χήρην τε γυναῖκα). 12

To Andromache, the destruction of their family will be the direct result of

Hector’s hardhearted stubbornness, and, rather than some Achaean soldier,

it is his unswerving drive to fight that she will hold responsible for his death.

This sentiment, which she will express again when lamenting her truly dead

husband 13 resonates with the strange dual existence of Hector as both an enemy

and himself, both his murderer and his victim. The paradox is still more

palpable from his interaction with Astyanax. Because the boy is frightened

by his father’s helmet, Hector removes it from his head and puts it on the

ground. In line 473, which describes the putting down of the helmet, there

is a subversion of expectation in the phrase ἐπὶ χθονὶ παμφανόωσαν, “on the

ground (he put the helmet) all-shining”. One expects a typical adjective de-

scribing the ground following χθονὶ, such as πουλυβοτείρῃ “many-feeding”,

which appears earlier in this book 14 in the same metrical position. However,

what follows is instead παμφανόωσαν, an adjective for the helmet. This unexpected

subversion draws attention towards the helmet and imitates syntactically

its surprising, eye-catching brilliance as it is lowered down onto the

earth. For a moment, the helmet shines forth as an unusually visible object,

and its displacement becomes consequently a significant action within the

scene. On the one hand, Hector temporarily disables that terrifying warrior

side of himself to become completely the loving husband and father; on the

other hand, since he is most often associated with his “gleaming helmet”(as

in the epithet κορυθαίολος), its removal serves also as a temporary self-destruction

of identity. In addition, apart from “killing” himself, Hector also

“despoils” himself in the same act, which may evoke battlefield despoilment

in general or his later stripping by Achilles in particular.

In the next line, Hector affectionately tosses his son in the air. This

verb here, πῆλέ, is from πάλλω, which is generally applied to the energetic

swaying of a spear before throwing it. 15 A few hundred lines prior, Hector

himself is described as being πάλλων δ’ ὀξέα δοῦρα, “brandishing his sharp

spears”, as he rallies the troop before visiting the city. 16 Thus, the innocently

playful and paternal action is merged with an aggressive battlefield gesture,

which leaves ominous implications for an audience familiar with epic lores.

Unlike spears, Hector has no intention to throw Astyanax after swaying him

in the air. However, as Burgess argued, there is a pre-Homeric tradition in

which Astyanax dies from being thrown by an Achaean soldier from the

rampart, and the poet of Iliad works with the knowledge of this tradition. As

Burgess pointed out, the situation in Book VI suggests the mythological episode,

since the boy is terrified of a soldier by the walls of Troy. 17 Therefore,

in this scene, the loving father doubles again as the ruthless enemy warrior,

and Andromache’s fear that Hector will bring ruination upon their whole family

is prophetically enacted by Hector’s unconsciously threatening gesture

towards their son.

However, Hector’s quasi-incursion into Troy is not merely a foreshadowing

of the fall of the hero and the city for the sake of pathos, but

a commentary on the warrior’s fraught relationship with his city and the

people enclosed within its walls. It is his meeting with Andromache which

reveals the full implication of Hector’s identification with a hostile Achaean:

namely, there is in fact no difference between Hector, the pitiless enemy, and

Hector, the pitiless warrior, whose blind pursuit of glory will ruin those very

things he hopes to protect. It is to this encounter that the whole journey has

been building. “The ascending scale of affections” has long been employed

to interpret Hector’s progression from Hecuba to Paris to Andromache. However,

the term does not mean that Hector loves Paris more than Hecuba; rather,

it is used to underscore the importance of the conjugal partner through

the way in which she differs from but also confirms the pattern set by the



previous two, who remain largely undifferentiated in their own category

of “not Andromache”. 18 Hector looks for and finds Hecuba or Paris without

any detours, and proceeds to cause something significant to be brought out

of the domestic spheres they inhabit, either by ordering an offering of robe

or urging the slacker to arm and fight. However, he fails to find Andromache

on the first attempt, and while he searches the house, it is not his visit

that causes the mistress, the central fixture within the halls, to run out in a

state of disorder, but rather her own fear and worry. Nevertheless, it does

not mean that she escapes his influence. Rather, she is the one who feels his

presence so strongly and constantly in her mind that there is no need for an

actual Hector to stir her to action. Moreover, unlike the others, he meets her

not deep within the domestic space, but the liminal location of the walls of

Troy. It is an out-of-place location for Andromache to be, but her presence

is justified by wifely worries, and more importantly, a meeting at the spot

which separates the city and the battlefield is a perfectly symmetrical way to

bring together the husband and wife who was driven into each other’s sphere

by mutual love and anxiety. 19 While the conversations of Hector with others

either falls into simple urging and obeying, or straightforward rejection of

their attempt to delay him, the balance and mutuality that characterize the

relationship between Hector and Andromache is all the more evident in their

speeches: the woman argues for the preserving of life and invokes emotional

bonds, while the man speaks of the heroic code and the inescapable duty, 20

and neither convinces the other to their point of view. She is, essentially,

the female counterpart of Hector the model male, and they are both so thoroughly

versed in their respective values that their inevitable and mournful

clash of views is the collision between two worlds.

When the necessity of battle forcibly separates the two sexes into

two clearly demarcated localities, any dialogue between the two becomes

a metaphorical discourse between the battlefield and the city. Troy itself

is portrayed as palpably feminine throughout its engagement with Hector.

At the very beginning of the episode, the appearance of the Trojan women

crowding around Hector to ask about their male family members defines the

atmosphere within the city as one permeated by female familial concerns.

Just like the meeting between Hector and Andromache, this scene takes place

near the Skaian gates, 21 but while these women dispersed without being

allowed any direct speech, their collective anxiety is vocalized through Andromache’s

individual grief. There, Andromache, speaking with the voice

of all the women enclosed within the walls, morphs into the embodiment of

female Troy, the city which, like the women within it, is at once the nurturer,

the desired, and the mourning. By the Skaian gates, at the end of his journey,

Hector’s dual existence within the city merges with Andromache’s twofold

view of him. She is the victim of that cold, pitiless, spear-holding figure that

pierces into the city’s heart, whose impetuous μένος will widow her and orphan

her son; but just as Hector is viewed as the sole defender of Troy, he is

also the sole anchor of her existence, as she exclaims in those famous lines

Ἕκτορ ἀτὰρ σύ μοί ἐσσι πατὴρ καὶ πότνια μήτηρ / ἠδὲ κασίγνητος, σὺ δέ μοι

θαλερὸς παρακοίτης, “But Hector, you are my father and lady-mother / and

my brother, you are my blooming husband”. 22 Her insistence that Hector will

become his own killer reveals that “Hector the Achaean”, whose martial

appearance threatens and disrupts life within the defenseless city, is none

other than Hector the brave hero, whose relentless pursuit of glory will doom

himself and all those whose life and happiness depend on him. Later, in her

formal lament, Andromache calls the Achaean who will enslave her an “ungentle

lord” (ἄνακτος ἀμειλίχου) before asserting that in battle Hector is never

“gentle” (μείλιχος). 23 The two almost identical phrases, appearing in close

succession, blur again the distinction between the Trojan and the Achaean,

who are both bound by the intangible but all-important honor in a cycle of

mutual destruction which admits no tenderness of heart, and which must necessarily

lead to a total devastation of home and life.

Hector’s appearance within the walls of Troy is full of hostile and

aggressive implications. While he comes in as a friend and defender, his actions

foreshadow later Achaean plunder, and his own existence becomes an

ambiguous amalgamation of present life and future death. His encounter with

Andromache, who speaks with the voice of feminine Troy to the masculine

warrior, resolves the paradox by identifying the pitiless hero Hector with the

enemy he unconsciously represents, and turns the ominous visit into a commentary

upon the relationship between an honor-bound warrior and his city.

The hero, seeking glory in fighting for his city, by that very act of protective

fighting dooms himself to a violent death and his beloved people to tears

and slavery. The rich, beautiful Troy that Iliad VI presents, along with all its

blooming lives and dear attachments, is only another unpitied victim to the

sterile brilliance of glory.



Iliad, line 6.268.


Graziosi and Haubold, “Commentary,” 154.


Iliad, line 6.319.


Iliad, line 6.320.


Iliad, line 6.289, 321.


Iliad, line 6.442.


Iliad, line 6.114.


Iliad, line 6.317.


Iliad, line 6.295.


Iliad, line 6.403.




Iliad, line 6.407.


Iliad, line 6.431-32.


Iliad, line 24.739-40.


Iliad, line 6.213.


Graziosi and Haubold, “Commentary,” 216. LSJ, s.v. “πάλλω” A.


Iliad, line 6.104.


Burgess, “The Hypertext of Astyanax,” 213-215.


Arthur, “The Divided World of Iliad VI,” 27.


Schadewaldt, “Hector and Andromache,” 131.


Schadewaldt, 133.


Iliad, line 6.237.


Iliad, line 6.429-30.


Iliad, line 24.734, 739.


Arthur, Marilyn B. “The Divided World of Iliad VI.” In Reflections of Women

in Antiquity, edited by Helene P. Foley, 19-44. New York: Gordon and

Breach Science Publishers, 1981.

Burgess, Jonathan. “The Hypertext of Astyanax.” Trends in Classics 2, no.2

(2010): 211-24.

Graziosi, Barbara, and Johannes Haubold. “Commentary.” In Homer: Iliad

Book VI, edited by Barbara Graziosi and Johannes Haubold, 76-234.

Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

Iliad Book VI. Edited by Barbara Graziosi and Johannes Haubold. Cambridge:

Cambridge University Press, 2010.

Schadewaldt, Wolfgang. “Hector and Andromache.” In Homer: German Scholarship

in Translation, translated by G. M. Wright and P. V. Jones,

124-142. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997.

Seen and not heard,

heard and not seen:

Echo’s reflection of

patriarchal femininity


Weinberg College, Northwestern University

Although Ovid makes Echo a significant part of Narcissus’s story

in the Metamorphoses, in extant Greek literature, the two figures were

not written together. Narcissus, perhaps unsurprisingly, did not share the

spotlight in his mythology, and Echo was originally joined with the deity

Pan. The earliest extant appearance of Echo comes from the Homeric

Hymn to Pan, and although the text is ambiguous whether ἠχώ (ancient

Greek for ‘echo’) in the Hymn refers to a personified nymph or just the

abstract phonetic process, Robert Germany presents compelling evidence

that the nymph is meant. 1 The first known instance of Echo as undoubtedly

anthropomorphic can be found from a fragment of Moschus dated to the 2 nd

century BCE, in which Pan falls into unrequited love with Echo, who loves

a Satyr. 2 In the Metamorphoses, Ovid noticeably excludes Echo from the

scene in which Pan chases the nymph Syrinx, where, following her Greek

mythological background, we might expect her presence most. 3

Regarding Narcissus, two Greek mythographers, Parthenius

of Nicaea and Conon, wrote down his story slightly earlier than Ovid,

but Ovid is credited with bringing the myth to the Romans via the

Metamorphoses. 4 In the Greek texts, Narcissus commits a violent suicide

and the eponymous flowers grow out of his blood, whereas Ovid’s

Narcissus transforms directly, and bloodlessly, from a corpse into a flower. 5

Clearly, Ovid was inspired by the earlier Greek versions of Echo and

Narcissus, but took much creative liberty in shaping them to serve new

purposes, which is most evident from the literal metamorphosis to these

two separate myth traditions that he initiates by weaving them together for

apparently the first time in (written) poetic history.

To understand Ovid’s interpretation of Echo, Anne-Emmanuelle

Berger and Rachel Gabara have taken a woman-centered stance. The

authors boldly contend that “Echo is the poet,” adding that “Ovid insists

on this,” and argue that Echo has complete control over her words during

the conversation with Narcissus, despite the punishment from Juno. 6

They also note that in line 376 of the text, Ovid chooses sonos (“sounds”)



to describe how Echo hears Narcissus’s speech, but verba (“words”) for

Echo’s perspective of her own speech. 7 To Berger and Gabara, this diction

corroborates that Ovid was empowering and lifting up Echo’s voice, since

he constructs her such that she “speaks when Narcissus emits sounds”

(emphasis theirs). 8

Other, non-feminist accounts explaining why Ovid inserted Echo

into the story of Narcissus have mainly relied on the linguistic benefits

that ‘echoing’ provides to the text. Germany argues that Echo in the

Homeric Hymn to Pan “helps to characterize the reiterative nature of the

poetry itself,” suggesting that her character may have been specifically

created with metapoetic purposes in mind. 9 Ingo Gildenhard and Andrew

Zissos point out that Ovid “swerves boldly from his all but predetermined

narrative path by recounting the episode of Narcissus at the very juncture

when the sequence of Theban legends calls for the appearance of an

Oedipal figure,” which must have been a calculated authorial choice to have

Narcissus stand in for Oedipus. 10 Gildenhard and Zissos outline how Ovid’s

writing style in Narcissus’s story models that of Sophocles in Oedipus,

and justify the presence of Echo from the fact that “the verbal interplay

between Echo and Narcissus, with its curious doubling and refracting, thus

illustrates Ovid’s deft recalling and rewriting of Sophocles.” 11

In general, these authors seem to sum up Echo as merely a poetic

tool for Narcissus’s vocal reflection, analogous to the river in which he

sees his image. As Paige Ambroziak puts it, “an echoless version of the

myth lacks a key element: its vocal reflexivity.” 12 Such a perspective does

provide solid reasoning for why Ovid chose to supplement Narcissus’s story

with Echo, of all mythological characters: Echo’s auditory ‘mirroring’

complements the river’s visual mirroring and intensifies the sensory

dimensions of the text. However, I disagree with Ambroziak that auditory

reflection is a “key element” in depicting Narcissus’s fate, since the earlier

Greek versions included only the river, and not Echo.

In a further comparison to Oedipus, Ambroziak proposes that

Echo’s “ability to reflect the words of another is a gift comparable to

Tiresias’s foresight,” since she may be “bringing necessary insight and

awareness to that which is lacking in [Narcissus’s] life” by reflecting

his speech, a capability on par with Tiresias’ powers as a soothsayer. 13

Within Sophocles’s Oedipus, Tiresias, although he has a rich mythological

background that is fascinating in its own right, was primarily a plot device

to move along the storyline and foreshadow Oedipus’s eventual blindness.

If we follow this parallel, we must also assume that Echo is nothing

more than a minor character in the Metamorphoses, and that Ovid’s main

purpose in describing her disembodiment was to foreshadow Narcissus’s

transformation into a flower—neither of which I agree with. Although Echo

in the Metamorphoses depends on Narcissus’s plotline and seems to be

just a digression from his story, Ovid did center her as the main character

within her lines, providing himself a pathway to explore contemporaneous

societal beliefs on the female voice.

Rather than to serve a purely “metapoetic function,” as

Gildenhard and Zissos believe, or to give “back to Echo, against Juno’s

decree, the initiative of speech,” as Berger and Gabara claim, I argue that

Ovid brought Echo into Narcissus’s story to take advantage of the themes

of reflection already present with Narcissus and apply them to Echo,

effectively making her an inverted reflection of what men believe women

should be. 14 Drawing upon the fact that her character is already an extreme

manifestation of an independent female voice, Ovid constructs Echo to

represent the deep anxiety of male Romans about women who could not be

controlled, and subsequently removes all individuality and agency from her

in order to tear her down. Ovid exploits her story as a form of propaganda

against the female voice by highlighting the contrast between Echo’s

initial command over her speech and how powerless and voiceless the

transformations ultimately leave her.

Echo enters the Metamorphoses just after the introduction of

Narcissus: vocalis nymphe, quae nec reticere loquenti / nec prior ipsa

loqui didicit, resonabilis Echo (“a vociferous nymph, who learned neither

to keep silent to someone speaking, nor to speak first herself, resounding

Echo”). 15 Vocalis nymphe and resonabilis Echo, surrounding the two

clauses explaining her speech deficiencies, form a trans-line chiasmus that

degrades and infantilizes Echo’s voice. Didicit implies that Echo ought to

have learned how to be silent when others are speaking (reticere loquenti)

and how to initiate conversation (prior ipsa loqui), but she lacks these basic

capabilities. At this point in the story, Ovid has not yet told us that Juno

inflicted Echo’s transformation, or that Echo had been transformed at all,

and so vocalis and resonabilis come across not as simple descriptors of her

condition, but as belittling criticisms on her youthfulness and femininity,

linking these qualities to her inability to govern her speech.

Resonabilis is a strikingly Ovidian word, and his choice to add

the prefix re- to sonabilis has a significant impact on the entire story. 16

Line 356, (given above; nec prior ipsa loqui didicit, resonabilis Echo) is

holodactylic, which is only possible because Ovid used resonabilis instead

of simply sonabilis. The dactyls compel us to move quickly through the

line, only slowing down at the final foot, literally making the word Echo

“resound.” The prefix re- also anticipates how Ovid will describe Echo’s

speech in later lines: reddere, reportat, and remittat are the verbs that

generally characterize Echo’s capabilities, and, out of the four verbs used

for Echo in conversation with Narcissus (responderat; vocat; rettulit, which

appears twice), all except vocat are prefixed by re-. 17 At first glance, the

use of vocat (instead of revocat) may make the action of calling seem like



Echo’s own undertaking, but the polyptoton of vocat and vocantem (vocat

illa vocantem, “she calls him calling”) already communicates that Echo’s

calling is a reflection of Narcissus’s, so ‘revocat’ is not necessary. 18

Berger and Gabara interpret responderat in particular as a sign

of Ovid allowing Echo to reclaim some power of speech, if not returning

her voice entirely. In their opinion, “Echo does not repeat, she answers

(“responderat”) the call, as the text indicates precisely.” 19 However, the

construction of the line in which it appears (dixerat ‘ecquis adest?’ et

‘adest!’ responderat Echo, “he had said, ‘Is there anyone here?’ and,

‘Here!’ had responded Echo”) provides evidence suggesting otherwise. 20

The strong caesura in the line is delayed until the fourth foot, between

adest and responderat (dīxĕrăt ēcquĭs ădēst ĕt ădēst || rēspōndĕrăt Ēchō),

which assimilates Echo’s speech (the second adest in the line) more directly

to Narcissus’s verb (dixerat), rather than her own (responderat).

The verbs Ovid chooses for Narcissus’s side of the conversation,

compared to the verbs chosen for Echo’s side, further indicate that he is

using responderat to remove, not return, Echo’s verbal agency. Narcissus

dixerat, clamat, inquit, dixit, and ait, all of which are straightforward,

assertive actions; 21 Echo, in contrast, has no autonomy of speech and

is compelled to repeat (re-) whatever Narcissus says. Additionally, the

juxtaposition of dixerat in line-initial position of 3.378 and responderat

in line-final position contributes to the contrast between Narcissus’s

verbal agency and Echo’s lack thereof. 22 Although the literal meaning

of responderat does have stronger associations with ‘answering’ than

‘repeating,’ I argue that, based on the construction of line 378 and the

trends in diction throughout the passage, Ovid’s use of responderat does

not empower Echo’s voice, and instead reinforces her inability to construct

and regulate her own speech.

A similar verbal pattern appears in the scene of Narcissus’s

death. Narcissus dixerat, but Echo iterabat, reddebat, remisit, inquit, and

adsonat. 23 Iterabat entails repetition in its meaning, reddebat and remisit

contain the re- prefix, and inquit is followed by adverbial et, indicating that

her words are formed in imitation of Narcissus. Similarly to ‘vocat’ in line

380, discussed above, the polyptoton of planxerunt and plangentibus in the

line containing adsonat (planxerunt dryades: plangentibus adsonat Echo,

“the wood nymphs wailed: to them wailing, Echo replies back”) reveals

that Echo’s verbal expression of grief does not originate from herself, but is

only possible because she is copying the other nymphs. 24

The consonance of re, not just as a prefix but within words as

well, is especially prominent in every scene where Echo is present. 25 Ovid

makes the sound ‘re’ literally echo throughout the text, which forces us

constantly back to the phrase resonabilis Echo and its derogatory subtext,

revealing Ovid’s lack of respect or compassion towards his construction

of Echo’s character. Echo’s words are first and foremost a reflection (re-)

of Narcissus, but her personhood ultimately belongs to Ovid alone, who

exploits her misery by usurping the epithet ‘resonabilis’—which he himself

assigned to her—and integrating ‘re’ into his own writing.

Rather than using her echoing capabilities to emphasize the

parallelism in his poetry or augment Narcissus’s story (as Ambroziak,

Germany, and Gildenhard and Zissos all maintain), I argue that the

text suggests the opposite relationship between author and character. 26

Ovid actively employs his writing to illustrate and comment on Echo’s

voicelessness and seems almost to be mocking and taunting her through

the prevalence of re sounds: Echo cannot choose when to speak or what to

say, but Ovid, as the poet, has total freedom in that regard. By including

such a high frequency of re sounds in his text, Ovid is flaunting the ability

to govern his own speech and reminding the readers that he holds absolute

power over Echo’s words, even more power than Juno—a goddess—could

exert upon Echo. Moreover, through this stylistic choice, he is openly

proclaiming his authorial right to dictate the story of Echo, and more tacitly

reinforcing the societal norm that men are entitled to dictate the lives of


The apparent dissonance between the portrayals created

by vocalis/resonabilis in lines 355-356 and non vox erat in the line

immediately following (“she was not [implied ‘only’] a voice”) represents

the tension between women’s desires to have their own voice (i.e., to be

freely vocalis and resonabilis) and the male-dominated systems designed

to keep them voiceless (i.e., non vox erat). 27 To enter into this societal

discourse, Ovid commandeers Echo’s story to place the blame for female

powerlessness on women themselves. He tells us that Juno curbed Echo’s

speech because illa deam longo prudens sermone tenebat (“she, practised,

was holding the goddess with a long conversation”), and the diction in this

account is particularly revealing. 28 Ovid could have easily used a more

neutral verb such as colloquitur for Echo engaging Juno in conversation,

but instead adopted a hostile tone with longo prudens sermone tenebat,

which paints her as an impious girl who foolishly thought she could deceive

the queen of the gods. The choice of prudens (“practised”) specifically

implies expertise in deception from Echo’s part, but here seems ironic and

mocking. 29 Echo was obviously unsuccessful in distracting Juno for long,

evidenced by the simple description given for Juno’s realization of the trick

(postquam Saturnia sensit, “after the daughter of Saturn noticed”), so it

would not make much sense for Ovid to consider Echo genuinely prudens. 30

I argue that prudens is more likely a sarcastic belittlement of Echo thinking

herself to be clever, and serves to underscore just how unqualified and

foolish Echo truly is (and more generally, all women are) when trying to

command her speech.



Earlier in the passage, Ovid described Echo, still pretransformation,

as garrula (et tamen usum / garrula non alium, quam nunc

habet, oris habebat, “and still she, babbling, had no use for her mouth other

than what she has now”), further characterizing her voice as incompetent. 31

The adjective garrula is often used for the chattering speech of animals,

which is both constant and meaningless. 32 In applying it to Echo, Ovid is

asserting that when she had complete agency over her speech, she was not

actually using her voice in any productive way and was no more mentally

competent than an animal. Such misogynistic descriptions (prudens,

garrula) of Echo’s vocal actions undermine and ridicule the female voice

and demonstrate that the female temperament is inherently irrational,

providing a justification for Roman patriarchal hegemony.

Moreover, the punishment Juno doles out to Echo is especially

focused on diminishing the power of the female voice: “huius” ait

“linguae, qua sum delusa, potestas / parva tibi dabitur vocisque

brevissimus usus,” (“she said, ‘a small power over this tongue, by which I

have been made a fool, will be given to you, and the narrowest employment

of your voice’”). 33 Through her arrogance and attempts to use her voice

for the benefit of her sister nymphs, Echo brought the punishment of

limited speech upon herself. Ovid’s (male) Roman audience likely would

have understood that Echo, because she was a vocalis, resonabilis, and

garrula woman who tried to entrap (tenebat) Juno using her speech as a

weapon (longo sermone), not only deserved, but even needed, the literal

restrictions placed on her voice, the same restrictions which Roman society

metaphorically placed on women overall. 34

Of any line in the text about Echo, line 393 is the most dense with

the consonance of re sounds: sed tamen haeret amor crescitque dolore

repulsae (“but nevertheless, love clings and grows from the pain of the

rejection”), which is a perfect example of how Ovid uses re in his writing

to taunt Echo. 35 Although Narcissus would have never been convinced

to love anyone but himself, Echo’s inability to communicate her true

desires, which her resonabilis nature caused, perhaps contributed to, and

even worsened, the disastrous consequences of their meeting. It is Ovid

who narrates the pitiful effects of the rejection on Echo (haeret amor

crescitque dolore repulsae), since she obviously cannot speak for herself.

The abundance of re in line 393 asserts and solidifies Echo’s voicelessness,

in a purposeful move from Ovid to remind us that Echo’s inability to

communicate her personal grief, although tragic, is fundamentally her own


After Echo’s final transformation, she transcends physicality (vox

manet; ossa ferunt lapidis traxisse figuram, “the voice remains; they say

that the bones took the form of a rock”) and comes to represent a profound

inversion of the standard male gaze. 36 In the Roman patriarchal system,

men wanted women to remain under their vigilant eye, and generally did

not care to hear female thoughts or opinions—that is, women should be

seen and not heard, but Echo, antithetically, is heard and cannot be seen

(inde latet silvis nulloque in monte videtur / omnibus auditur: sonus est, qui

vivit in illa, “from then on, she hides in forests and is seen on no mountain,

she is heard by all: it is sound which lives in her”). Ovid writes her as not

only an incredibly dangerous threat to social order, but also an entirely

distorted reflection of femininity. 37

Even before Echo is disembodied, Ovid does not take an

eroticizing approach to describing her. As discussed above, her primary

epithets are vocalis and resonabilis, and we never hear anything about her

forma or outward appearance, likely because Narcissus was not attracted to

her. The word used for her physical presence is corpus, which appears only

three times and never in a context praising her looks. The first instance

is the phrase corpus adhuc Echo, non vox erat (“Echo was still a body,

not [implied ‘only’] a voice”), which objectifies her, but noticeably not as

a sexual entity. 38 Ovid immediately moves back to discussing her vocal

qualities after this phrase, so her corpus is brushed over and treated as

unremarkable. The second and third instances come during the scene of her

final transformation into a bodiless voice, where Ovid writes that she is a

corpus miserabile (“wretched body”) and in aera sucus / corporis omnis

abit (“every moisture of her body disappears into the air”), both of which

make it clear that we should be looking at Echo’s degrading body with

disgust and horror, certainly not arousal. 39 Even though Echo is a nymph

(and therefore, most likely attractive), her beauty is disregarded by Ovid,

which tacitly makes the point that if a woman has a voice (an inherent

feature of Echo’s mythology), she is not truly “feminine,” in that she is

not a sexual object desirable to men. The centrality of Echo’s voice to her

character leaves no room for sexuality or beauty, revealing Ovid’s belief

(which likely reflects an ideology active in Roman society) that female

vocality cannot coexist with desirability.

Just as Echo’s story begins with her seeing Narcissus, she vanishes

from the Metamorphoses with his death. Of all the possible plotlines

in the text where he could have written about Echo, Ovid decided upon

Narcissus’s story, affording himself the opportunity to play with the themes

of a person’s relationship to their reflection, and render Echo also as a

reflection, but not of her original self. Ovid’s interpretation of Echo mirrors

all the qualities (resonabilis, invisible, and intangible) that men feared

and despised most in women. Her metamorphosis from a corpus to a vox

therefore functions as a cautionary tale about the supposed dangers that

an empowered woman would pose to patriarchal order, and as propaganda

warning women that if they experiment with the power of speech, they will

consequently lose everything which society deems beautiful in them.




1. Germany, “The Figure of Echo.”

2. Germany, “The Figure of Echo.”

3. Ovid, Metamorphoses, 1.699-710.

4. Keys, “The Ugly End of Narcissus”; Oxford Classical Dictionary, s.v.

“Narcissus (1),” by Herbert Jennings Rose and Antony Spawforth, Oxford

Reference Encyclopedias Online.

5. nusquam corpus erat; croceum pro corpore florem / inveniunt foliis

medium cingentibus albis, “nowhere was there a body; in place of the

body, they find a yellow flower with white leaves surrounding its center,”

Metamorphoses 3.509-510; see Appendix for the Latin text of the lines

referenced in the paper. The Latin text is from the Loeb edition, and all

translations are my own.

6. Berger and Gabara, “The Latest Word from Echo,” 632.

7. Ovid, Metamorphoses, 3.376.

8. Berger and Gabara, “The Latest Word from Echo,” 631.

9. Germany, “The Figure of Echo,” 203.

10. Gildenhard and Zissos, “Echoes of Oedipus,” 130.

11. Gildenhard and Zissos, 142.

12. Ambroziak, “Poussin’s Echo of Ovid,” 17.

13. Ambroziak, 20.

14. Berger and Gabara, “The Latest Word from Echo,” 629; Gildenhard and

Zissos, “Echoes of Oedipus,” 143.

15. Ovid, Metamorphoses, 3.355-356.

16. Oxford Latin Dictionary (1968), s.v. “Resonabilis.”

17. Ovid, Metamorphoses, 3.359 (reddere); 3.367 (reportat), 3.376 (remittat);

3.378 (responderat); 3.380 (vocat); 3.385 & 3.390 (rettulit). Verba recepit

(3.382) refers not to Echo’s speech directly, but rather to Narcissus

“receiving his words” back from Echo, which is why I did not include it in

this list, although it also is prefixed by re-.

18. Ovid, 3.380.

19. Berger and Gabara, “The Latest Word from Echo,” 631.

20. Ovid, Metamorphoses, 3.378.

21. Ovid, 3.378 (dixerat); 3.380 (clamat); 3.381 (inquit); 3.382 (dixit); 3.384

& 3.389 (ait).

22. Ovid, 3.378.

23. Ovid, 3.494 (dixerat); 3.494 (iterabat); 3.496 (reddebat); 3.498 (remisit);

3.499 (inquit); 3.505 (adsonat).

24. Ovid, 3.505.

25. Instances of re are highlighted in red in both Latin passages in the

26. Ambroziak, “Poussin’s Echo of Ovid.”; Germany, “The Figure of

Echo”; Gildenhard and Zissos, “Echoes of Oedipus.”

27. Ovid, Metamorphoses, 3.355-357.

28. Ovid, 3.361.

29. Oxford Latin Dictionary (1968), s.v. “Prudens (1).”

30. Ovid, Metamorphoses, 3.363.

31. Ovid, 3.357-358.

32. Oxford Latin Dictionary (1968), s.v. “Garrulus.”

33. Ovid, Metamorphoses, 3.364-365.

34. Ovid, 3.361.

35. Ovid, 3.393.

36. Ovid, 3.397.

37. Ovid, 3.398-399.

38. Ovid, 3.567.

39. Ovid, 3.394-396.


Ambroziak, Paige. “Poussin’s Echo of Ovid.” Wreck 4, no. 1 (2013).

Berger, Anne-Emmanuelle, and Rachel Gabara. “The Latest Word from

Echo.” New Literary History 27, no. 4 (1996): 621-40.

“Garrulus”. Oxford Latin Dictionary. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1968.

Germany, Robert. “The Figure of Echo in the “Homeric Hymn to Pan”.”

American Journal of Philology 126, no. 2 (2005): 187-208.

Gildenhard, Ingo, and Andrew Zissos. “Ovid’s Narcissus (Met. 3.339-510):

Echoes of Oedipus.” The American Journal of Philology 121, no. 1

(2000): 129-47.

Homeric Hymns. Homeric Apocrypha. Lives of Homer., Edited and

Translated by Martin L. West. Loeb Classical Library 496.

Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003.

Ovid. Metamorphoses, Volume I: Books 1-8. Edited and Translated by

Frank Justus Miller. Loeb Classical Library. Cambridge, MA:

Harvard University Press, 1916.

“Prudens (1)”. Oxford Latin Dictionary. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1968.

“Resonabilis”. Oxford Latin Dictionary. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1968.

Theocritus. Moschus. Bion. Edited and Translated by Neil Hopkinson.

Loeb Classical Library. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University

Press, 2015.



Latin text

NB: The bold face indicates words/phrases used in the essay, and the red

highlighting indicates

instances of ‘re’ (discussed in the essay).

Echo’s backstory and pursuit of Narcissus (3.354-399):

Adspicit hunc trepidos agitantem in retia cervos

vocalis nymphe, quae nec reticere loquenti, 355

nec prior ipsa loqui didicit, resonabilis Echo.

Corpus adhuc Echo, non vox erat; et tamen usum

garrula non alium, quam nunc habet, oris habebat,

reddere de multis ut verba novissima posset.

Fecerat hoc Iuno, quia, cum deprendere posset 360

cum Iove saepe suo nymphas in monte iacentes,

illa deam longo prudens sermone tenebat,

dum fugerent nymphae. Postquam Saturnia sensit

“huius” ait “linguae, qua sum delusa, potestas

parva tibi dabitur vocisque brevissimus usus”: 365

reque minas firmat. Tantum haec in fine loquendi

ingeminat voces auditaque verba reportat.

Ergo ubi Narcissum per devia rura vagantem

vidit et incaluit, sequitur vestigia furtim,

quoque magis sequitur, flamma propiore calescit, 370

non aliter, quam cum summis circumlita taedis

admotas rapiunt vivacia sulphura flammas.

O quotiens voluit blandis accedere dictis

et molles adhibere preces: natura repugnat

nec sinit incipiat. Sed, quod sinit, illa parata est 375

exspectare sonos, ad quos sua verba remittat.

Forte puer comitum seductus ab agmine fido,

dixerat “ecquis adest?” et “adest!” responderat Echo.

Hic stupet, utque aciem partes dimittit in omnes,

voce “veni!” magna clamat: vocat illa vocantem. 380

Respicit et rursus nullo veniente “quid” inquit

“me fugis?” et totidem, quot dixit, verba recepit.

Perstat et, alternae deceptus imagine vocis,

“huc coeamus!” ait: nullique libentius umquam

responsura sono “coeamus” rettulit Echo, 385

et verbis favet ipsa suis egressaque silva

ibat, ut iniceret sperato bracchia collo.

Ille fugit fugiensque “manus complexibus aufer:

ante” ait “emoriar, quam sit tibi copia nostri.”

Rettulit illa nihil nisi “sit tibi copia nostri.” 390

Spreta latet silvis pudibundaque frondibus ora

protegit et solis ex illo vivit in antris.

Sed tamen haeret amor crescitque dolore repulsae.

Extenuant vigiles corpus miserabile curae,

adducitque cutem macies et in aera sucus 395

corporis omnis abit. Vox tantum atque ossa supersunt:

vox manet; ossa ferunt lapidis traxisse figuram.

inde latet silvis nulloque in monte videtur;

omnibus auditur: sonus est, qui vivit in illa.

Narcissus’s death scene (3.489-508):

Et neque iam color est mixto candore rubori,

nec vigor et vires et quae modo visa placebant, 490

nec corpus remanet, quondam quod amaverat Echo.

Quae tamen ut vidit, quamvis irata memorque,

indoluit, quotiensque puer miserabilis “eheu”

dixerat, haec resonis iterabat vocibus “eheu”;

cumque suos manibus percusserat ille lacertos, 495

haec quoque reddebat sonitum plangoris eundem.

Ultima vox solitam fuit haec spectantis in undam,

“heu frustra dilecte puer!” totidemque remisit

verba locus, dictoque vale “vale!” inquit et Echo.

Ille caput viridi fessum submisit in herba; 500

lumina mors clausit domini mirantia formam.

Tunc quoque se, postquam est inferna sede receptus,

in Stygia spectabat aqua. Planxere sorores

naides et sectos fratri posuere capillos,

planxerunt dryades: plangentibus adsonat Echo. 505

Iamque rogum quassasque faces feretrumque parabant:

nusquam corpus erat; croceum pro corpore florem

inveniunt, foliis medium cingentibus albis.


A Latin Composition By ANGUS WILSON

University of King’s College


Elegia Sine Titulo -

An Untitled Elegy

Nec clipeos densos gladiis nec proelia saeva

nec regnum canto: sit mihi frigus opus.

Namque gelus maestum tam tristem me glaciavit

ut non sat possent pingere verba manu.

Tunc ea foedus sectum et focos protinus hostis

adspexit – gelido lumina fixa metu.

Illi duri inclementes oculique, lacunae

Aegaea impletae caeruleae bis aqua

et cinguntur adusto celsi litore vultus

sub magno occasus soleque praecalido.

Implicita est dense ramis tendentibus ei

circumdans oras undique silva comae.

Ignosco unde venit lacerandum pectora mentes,

tunc in equo grandi miti et equestris atro,

velataque fluentibus aura vestibus albis

fata tulit manibus nunc quibus excrucior.

Aequore sal meam dextram tunc asperat austro;

nunc siccabat eius crinibus implicitis.

Temporis ingenium confutant vincula nobis.

Non mox mittantur trans Stygem atram tenebris

cum nullo duce ducenti vos passibus, et quem

sectari possum non, oculi gelidi.

An Untitled Elegy

Not of shields close-packed with swords, nor of savage battles, nor of a kingdom

do I sing: let my task be coldness.

For the melancholic chill so sorrowfully froze me that the words from my hand

are not able to describe it fittingly.

At one time she saw a treaty severed and the distant campfires of the enemy – her

eyes were transfixed by a cold fear.

Those harsh and merciless eyes, blue pools twice filled by Aegean waters,

And bound by the tanned shoreline of her upright face, beneath the great and

white-hot sun of the west.

For her there was a forest of locks everywhere encircling the shore, densely

entangled with stretching boughs.

I know not whence she came to rend our hearts [and] minds, then mounted upon

a great and meek black horse;

She was draped in white robes flowing in the wind, and bore in her hands the fate

by which I am now afflicted.

The salt from the south sea then roughened my right hand; now it is drying in

her entangled locks.

The bonds of time confound artistry for me; may your cold eyes not be soon sent

across the Styx, black with shades,

Without a guide leading you in his footsteps, whom I cannot follow.



Hillsdale College


“Urgetur a Tota Sicilia”:

The Importance of the United

Sicilian Voice for

Cicero’s Verrine Orations

Cicero’s Verrine orations are a prosecution of Gaius Verres, an

ex-governor on trial for extortion and profiteering in Sicily. However, as much

as the Verrines are a prosecution, they are also a defense of the Sicilian provincials

whom Verres had allegedly abused. Much of the existing work on the

Verrines has devoted itself to Cicero’s characterization of the Sicilians and of

the provincial perspective, in service of that defense. 1 This paper focuses on

a specific aspect of Cicero’s strategy in respect to the Sicilians: his bold rhetorical

choice to unify all Sicilians and their values into a single monolithic

voice. 2 Cicero states in his Divinatio that “defendo enim multos mortales, multas

civitates, provinciam Siciliam totam.” 3 The climax of this rising tricolon

communicates to the audience that in defending Sicilia tota as a single entity,

Cicero includes the interests of all the mortales and civitates that are part of

the province, and that he can include them so easily because their interests are

already all the same. Cicero states that “si universa, ut dixi, provincia loqui

posset, hac voce uteretur,” 4 implying that the province has a unified set of values

that exactly represents each individual interest. Throughout the Verrine

orations, Cicero continually emphasizes the importance of this set of values, 5

directly quoting what the unified Sicily would say in court, were she able. 6 He

passes over the reasonable doubt that Sicily, as a large province representing

numerous and diverse groups, might also represent a variety of values and loyalties.

7 This presentation of Sicily as unified and singular plays a critical role

in Cicero’s rhetorical strategy. By unifying and essentializing Sicilian voices,

Cicero enables himself to equate their unified and essentialized values with

Roman values, and so to make the interests of his clients seem worth defending

to a Roman jury.

In order to secure a condemnation of Verres, Cicero needed to show

how such a condemnation would benefit not only Sicilian interest, but also

Roman interest. In the Roman court, it was imperative to highlight one’s “Roman-ness”

to the jury so as not expose oneself to any suspicion of excessive

sympathy toward the socii. 8 Furthermore, financial profiteering by Roman

magistrates in the provinces was widespread, and particularly in the Late Republic

it had developed to the extent that a jury might reasonably dismiss an

extortion case as part of everyday provincial administration. 9 Finally, provincial

and Roman financial interests often came into diametrical opposition with

each other, and in the case of such opposition, the jury would almost certainly

side with the Roman interest. These factors rendered a clear demonstration of

Roman values and care for Roman interests paramount for Cicero’s success.

Cicero aims, then, to show that the unified Sicilian values are not, in

fact, contradictory to Roman values, but rather complement and equal them in

both concrete and theoretical ways. Cicero connects each Sicilian complaint

to a common Roman value or interest to provide sufficient reason for a Roman

intervention. He accomplishes this both by stressing the material dependency

that Rome has on Sicily because of her grain tithe and her past military

assistance, and by insisting that Sicily’s moral values are uniquely similar to

Rome’s. Thus, because Sicily is both helpful to and similar to Rome, Rome

should take interest in her causes for both practical and theoretical reasons. 10

In light of this, Cicero spends considerable time in the speeches equivocating

Sicilian and Roman values by rephrasing Sicilian complaints against Verres

in Roman terms.

In carrying out his objective to show that Rome has just as much

interest in condemning Verres as Sicily, 11 Cicero means to convince the court

that Rome has not merely an incentive for action, but rather an urgent moral

imperative. He begins his defense of this imperative by reminding the court of

Sicily’s historical importance to Rome as the first of Rome’s provinces and as

an instrumental agent in the formation of the Roman identity of imperialism:

Nam cum omnium sociorum provinciarumque rationem diligenter habere

debetis, tum praecipue Siciliae, iudices, plurimis iustissimis de

causis, primum quod omnium nationum exterarum princeps Sicilia

se ad amicitiam fidemque populi Romani applicavit. Prima omnium,

id quod ornamentum imperii est, provincia est apellata. Prima

docuit maiores nostros quam praeclarum esset exteris gentibus

imperare. 12

This passage is crucial to the development of Cicero’s argument, as it connects

Sicily to Rome’s past in a powerful way. He argues that as Rome’s first province,

Sicily has had an influential and even didactic relationship with Rome in

teaching her how to run an empire. Further, Cicero’s association of Sicily with

the Roman maiores is crucial to forging the link between Rome and Sicily. Cicero’s

declaration of Sicily as teacher of the maiores, then, has significant implications

about the respect that current Romans should have for the province.

In addition to highlighting Sicily’s past influence over Rome, Cicero

describes how Sicily’s current role as the breadbasket of Rome 13 makes her

crucial to Rome’s prosperity. Quoting Cato the Younger, he reminds the court

that “itaque ille Cato Sapiens cellam penariam rei publicae nostrae, nutricem



plebis Romanae Siciliam nominabat.” 14 Not only does Sicily have a didactic

role in Roman history, but also a maternal, nurturing role as nutrix. Further,

Cicero points out, Sicily served a utilitarian role in Roman affairs during the

Punic Wars: “Itaque maioribus nostris in Africam ex hac provincia gradus

imperii factus est; neque enim tam facile opes Carthaginis tantae concidissent

nisi illud et rei frumentariae subsidium et receptaculum classibus nostris

pateret.” 15 Since Sicily was of such value to Rome through provision of grain

supply and military alliance, Rome should recognize her past and present

dependence on the province and should take substantial interest in Sicily’s protection.

16 Cicero also shows that by seeking the protection of the Roman courts,

Sicily herself is aware of and appealing to this duty of Rome to protect her.

Ever loyal to Rome, the unified and personified Sicily wants to serve Rome as

a loyal province but is unable to do so when so abused by Verres. Rome, Cicero

points out, has placed a great agricultural load on Sicily that can only be

fulfilled if the province is allowed to produce grain unimpeded by Verres. 17

In this way, Cicero not only presents Sicily unified in her desire to see Verres

condemned, but also transfers this desire to the Roman perspective by showing

that Sicily is invaluable to the flourishing of Rome. Despite the possible objection

that in reality, not all of Sicily is involved in the grain tithe and not all of

Rome benefits from it, Cicero covers over this objection to emphasize the depth

of Rome’s dependence on Sicilian resources.

Not only does Cicero conflate Roman and Sicilian interest with an

argument about Sicily’s practical and historical value to Rome, but he also

does so through the highlighting of her moral similarities to Roman values.

Throughout the Verrines, Cicero continually implies that Sicily deserves to

enjoy a unique protection and affection from Rome due to her national virtues

that are similar to those of the Roman people. Here, again, Cicero relies

on sweeping characterizations and the use of a single, united Sicilian voice to

accomplish his rhetorical task. The first instance of Cicero’s employment of

this strategy occurs in the Divinatio, where he emphasizes the singular desire

of Sicily to have Cicero as her advocate. 18 He implies that through her choice

of Cicero, an individual obviously in tune with his own Roman-ness, Sicily

herself shows both a high esteem of that Roman-ness and a willing identification

of herself with it. 19 He tells the court that “ex Sicilia testes erant ii qui

quaestorem me in provincia cognoverant.” 20 In the context of his discussion

of Verres’ early career, Cicero contrasts the lack of “Roman-ness” of Verres

with Cicero’s exceptional “Roman-ness” which was well-known and respected

by Sicily. A few lines down, he claims that “non enim spolia C. Verris sed

existimationem populi Romani concupivi.” 21 With this antithesis between Cicero’s

love for Rome and Verres’ love for himself, Cicero sets himself up to argue

later on that in choosing Cicero and hating Verres, Sicily is showing herself to

possess a certain amount of “Roman-ness” which Rome should honor by protecting

her. 22

At the end of Verr. 2.1, Cicero equates Sicilian and Roman values by

asserting that the standards of justice should be the same in the province as

in Rome. 23 He says, “utrum digniores homines existimasti eos qui habitant in

provincia quam nos qui aequo iure uteremur, an aliud Romae aequum est, aliud

in Sicilia?” 24 Here, he maintains that the Sicilians, as lovers and protectors

of justice, should deserve the same legal protection as would a Roman. Further,

he points out a strong Sicilian sense of duty, making claims such as “nullam

enim reperietis aut officiis fideliorem aut copiis locupletiorem aut auctoritate

graviorem.” 25 The mention of officium and auctoritas does much to bring

together the shared virtues of Rome and Sicily. In addition to this, Cicero repeatedly

stresses the integrity of Sicily by reminding the court of her relative

administrative autonomy compared with other provinces. 26 When discussing

the history of the corn tithe, Cicero notes that the Romans chose to leave many

of the old Sicilian laws in place instead of instituting new ones. 27 This suggests

both that the Romans historically had a sense of trust in Sicilian morals and

first principles, and that the preexisting Sicilian laws were consistent enough

with Roman values that Rome did not see a need to replace them.

Finally, Cicero’s representation of Sicilian religious piety is crucial to

his equivocation Roman and Sicilian values. 28 He goes to great lengths to show

that the Sicilians possess the same kind of religious piety that the Romans

value and hold as essential to their collective identity. Specifically, he tells

the court that “tanta religione obstricta tota provincia est, tanta superstitio

ex istius facto mentes omnium Siculorum occupavit, ut quaecumque accident

publice privatimque incommode propter eam causam sceleris istius evenire

videantur.” 29 This passionate appeal to Sicilian piety draws Roman and Sicilian

values closer and causes the Roman court to identify with the justified terror of

the Sicilians. Just as in the rest of his characterization of Sicily, Cicero chooses

to present the whole province (tota provincia, omnium Siculorum) as equally

pious and united in her religious beliefs, rather than pointing out a few individual

examples of Sicilian piety. This makes it easier for Cicero to then draw

comparisons between Sicilian and Roman piety and for the jury to ultimately

conclude that Sicilian and Roman piety are equivalent. Further, Cicero uses the

concept of religious piety to unite Sicily and Rome against Verres. He shows

that since Verres desecrated so many temples to Roman gods and committed

so many grievous religious outrages, Rome and Sicily have found a common

enemy in Verres. 30 This drives home Cicero’s point that it is not only in the interest

of Sicily, but just as much in the interest of Rome to condemn Verres.

In light of Cicero’s heavy emphasis on Sicily’s practical value and

moral similarity to Rome, Cicero’s characterization of Sicily is not one that

shows the typical subordinated relationship of the province to Rome or the usual

discrepancy between provincial and Roman interests, but rather is one that

shows Sicily as an old friend, helper, and ally of Rome, as well as an advocate



of Roman interests. Given this image of Sicily, Cicero challenges Rome to respect

her time-honored relationship with the province and to fulfill her duty to

protect Sicily from Verres. 31 Rome owes protection to Sicily both in return for

the material ways in which Sicily has aided Rome in the past, as well as out of

respect for the ideological similarities between Rome and the province, made

clearer by the antithesis drawn between Verres’ nature and the shared national

values of Rome and Sicily. By connecting the Sicilian interests to Roman interests

in every way he can, Cicero shows that Verres is as much a hindrance

to Rome’s well-being as he is to Sicily’s. Not only does Verres steal grain from

the Sicilian farmers, but he also denies Rome of her share of the tithe. 32 Not

only does he abuse private Sicilian citizens, but he also abuses Roman citizens

who live in the province. Finally, not only does he commit the greatest outrages

against Sicilian institutions of religion, but he does so to Rome in the same

way by offending Roman gods. Thus, Rome and Sicily have equal reason to

hope for and work toward the condemnation of Verres.



See esp. Vasaly, in “Ethnic Personae,” where she gives a comprehensive study of

Cicero’s characterization of Sicily, noting some of the areas of that characterization

that would be particularly appealing to a Roman audience. See also Alexander, Badian,

Dilke, Frazel, Gildenhard, Lintott, Pfuntner, Prag, Pritchard, & Tempest.


See esp. Vasaly, in “Ethnic Personae,” where she gives a comprehensive study of

Cicero’s characterization of Sicily, noting some of the areas of that characterization

that would be particularly appealing to a Roman audience. See also Alexander, Badian,

Dilke, Frazel, Gildenhard, Lintott, Pfuntner, Prag, Pritchard, & Tempest


Div. 5.


“If the province, as I have said, were able to speak all together, she would use this

voice” (Div. 19). All translations in this paper are my own.


Cf. Div. 65, Verr. 2.2.1, Verr. 2.2.146, and Verr. 2.5.139.


Cf. Verr. 2.5.124.


On the actual diversity of interests within Sicily, see Dilke, “Divided Loyalties in

Eastern Sicily under Verres” and Pfuntner, “Cooperation and Conflict between Governor

and Poleis in the Verrines.”


This conflict of interest between Rome and her provinces was so pronounced that it

was a common rhetorical technique in repetundae defense speeches to capitalize on

it. See Vasaly, “Ethnic Personae,” for a discussion of this practice.


See Tan, Power and Public Finance.


See Vasaly, “Cicero, Domestic Politics, and the First Action of the Verrines,” for

a discussion on why the trial of Verres was relevant to Roman interests and politics.

She comments on Cicero’s unification of Sicilian and Roman interest, observing that

“the prosecution of Verres afforded Cicero the opportunity to assume the persona of

one defending not only the Sicilians but the res publica” (Vasaly, 116). She continues,

“Cicero transforms his prosecution of Verres into defense: of provincials and Roman

citizens harmed by Verres, of Roman financial interests, and of the stability and reputation

of Roman imperium, which was being undermined not just by Verres, but by

all such rapacious governors” (Vasaly, 118). Vasaly provides valuable insight into the

ways Verres was dangerous not only to Sicily, but to Rome as well.


See Alexander, The Case for the Prosecution, 63. Alexander notes that “Cicero

paints a picture of a Sicily united in hatred of Verres, not only hatred from the Sicilians

themselves, but also hatred from the Roman citizens of all ranks doing business

there” (Alexander, 63). Alexander helpfully draws out the universal nature of the hatred

for Verres that Cicero is trying to incite throughout the speeches.


“For you must not only take care of all (your) allies and provinces, but especially

Sicily, judges, for many of the most justified reasons, first, because Sicily, foremost

of all foreign nations, devoted herself to the friendship and loyalty of the Roman

people. She, first of all, was called “province,” that thing which is the jewel of empire.

She first taught our ancestors how distinguished it is to command foreign peoples”

(Verr. 2.2.2). Emphasis added.


See Tan, Power and Public Finance. Tan explains that since Sicily was the breadbasket

of Rome, profiteering in the provinces was at its worst in 1 st century Sicily

(Tan, 71). See also Lintott, “Imperial Expansion and Moral Decline in the Roman

Republic” and Verbrugghe, “Sicily 210-70BC.”


“That Sapiens Cato, accordingly, used to call (her) a storehouse for our nation, the

wet nurse of the Roman people” (Verr. 2.2.5).


“And so, from this province a great step of imperial power was taken by our ancestors

into Africa; for such a great power (as that) of Carthage would not so easily have

collapsed unless that grain supply and refuge for our fleets were available” (Verr.



For another potential motive for Roman action on Sicily’s behalf, i.e. the preservation

of Roman self-image abroad, see Braund, “Cohors: the Governor and His Entourage

in the Self-Image of the Roman Republic.”


Tan, Power and Public Finance, 45. Tan describes the characteristics of a strong

tax-farmer as having minimal regulations, the ability to coerce, a long period of

contact, no security to enforce fulfillment of obligations, and freedom from state

accountability. Verres, though not a tax-farmer, nevertheless fulfilled all of these conditions.

By Tan’s metrics, Verres’ tenure in Sicily provided the ideal conditions for

extreme economic abuse.


See also Div. 2, where Cicero links Roman and Sicilian interests with himself as

the key link between the two.


According to Lintott, “Citadel of the Allies,” it is reasonable to think that Cicero

really was Sicily’s first choice, and that Cicero did not totally exaggerate the degree to

which he was desired by the province. Lintott writes that “we have no reason to reject

Cicero’s picture of himself as the preferred accuser of Verres for a number of Sicilians

and patrons, one who had been sought after for some time before proceedings



actually started” (Lintott, 6).


“Those men were witnesses from Sicily who became acquainted with me as a

Quaestor in the province” (Verr. 2.1.17).


“For I do not covet the plunder of Gaius Verres, but the good opinion of the Roman

people” (Verr. 2.1.21). For an exploration of Cicero’s possible motives outside the

promotion of Roman prosperity, see Alexander, “Praemia in the Quaestiones of the

Late Republic.” Alexander proposes, quite reasonably, that Cicero did not take on

the Sicilian case for wholly selfless reasons but may have seen in it opportunities for

personal advancement.


According to Verr. 2.5.129, the Sicilians do not only prefer Cicero over other prosecutors

but are utterly desperate for his help. He tells Verres the way a group of Sicilians

came to him, “ita me suam salutem appellans, te suam carnificem nominans.”

Here, Cicero makes it clear that Sicily sees the difference between Cicero, the exemplary

Roman advocate, and Verres, the self-serving abuser.


This equivocation of Roman and Sicilian standards of justice is relevant to Cicero’s

analogy between public repetundae and private furtum. See Frazel, “Furtum and the

Description of Stolen Objects in Cicero In Verrem.”


“Did you consider those men who live in the province more worthy than we who

use just law, or is one thing just in Rome, another in Sicily?” (Verr. 2.1.118).


“For you will find no (province) either more faithful in duties, or more abundant in

resources, or more important in (its) influence” (Verr. 2.3.170). Emphasis added.


See Georgy Kantor, “Siculus cum Siculo non Eiusdem Civitatis.” Kantor notes that

“limitation of jurisdictional rules and privileges to a single province was not consistently

applied throughout the Roman dominion,” and thus it would have been quite

possible for Rome to have given special administrative privileges to Sicily based on

her merits.


See Verr. 2.3.12-14. Because of the amicitia and fides shared by Rome and Sicily,

the province was trusted enough to keep her preexisting laws.


See Cicero’s final peroratio in Verr. 2.5. He concludes his final oration with individual

prayers to the gods worshipped by both the Sicilians and the Romans.


“The whole province has been bound by such religious piety, such religious awe

from (Verres’) deed has overtaken the minds of all Sicilians, that whatever happens

disadvantageously, in public and in private, seems to happen on account of this reason:

that of his (Verres’) wickedness” (Verr. 2.4.113). Emphasis added.


See Michael von Albrecht, Cicero’s Style. Albrecht claims that “by insulting the

Sicilian gods, Verres commits a crime against humanity” (Albrecht, 210). Cicero’s

rhetoric certainly presents Verres as having committed such a crime. While this may

be hyperbole, Cicero can at least make the reasonable claim that Verres offended not

only Sicilian gods but also Roman gods, and thus the Romans have a duty to avenge

their gods in order to maintain their own sense of pietas.


Cicero articulates his exasperation at Rome’s prior mistreatment of Sicily in Verr.



See Tan (Power and Public Finance) for a valuable discussion on how governors

used public authorization to maximize private gain. Tan explains how a successfully

abusive governor widens the gap between Rome’s gross tithe profit and net tithe profit

by pocketing large amounts of the tithe. He writes that the result of extreme provincial

profiteering was that Rome “was constantly engaged in raising more money in

the provinces, but saw little of the winnings” (Tan, 89).


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University of California, Los Angeles


Andromeda Vision:

Reading Identity Through

Mythical Heroines

The mythical heroine Andromeda reflects a dissonance between the complexity

of her identity and her homogeneity in classically influenced art. Insight

into her portrayal as white skinned can be found by tracing back to early depictions

of the mythical princess. Andromeda’s close relationship to the fictional character

Chariclea from Heliodorus’ Aethiopica​shapes how she is perceived in reception.

Repeated visual representations of Andromeda cemented her ethnic appearance

from antiquity, to the Renaissance, and throughout modernity. More recent examinations

of Andromeda have revisited her dynamic with shifting identity as a

way to better understand the constantly evolving and highly subjective construct

of ethnic difference. While early depictions of Andromeda in antiquity visibly

characterized her as a foreigner, over time, her appearance became more and more

assimilated with the domestic conventions of the culture representing her. Inspecting

artistic portrayals of Andromeda and Chariclea exposes how the power of the

image is responsible for conveying and perpetuating ideas of racial difference. A

diachronic examination of the heroine Andromeda reveals the overarching shifts

in interpretations concerning identity constructs.

By studying descriptions of Andromeda within early literary works, it is

possible to understand the relationship between myth and art. In the most widely

pervasive version of her myth, Andromeda is the royal daughter of the mythical

Ethiopian King Cepheus and Queen Cassiopeia. 1 In the context of antiquity, Ethiopia

can be understood not as a specific geographical location or a marker of the

twenty-first century country of Ethiopia, but as a nebulous, quasi-mythological

region of Africa that purportedly existed south of Greece but north of the equator. 2

Andromeda’s mother Cassiopeia angers the sea god Poseidon by claiming to be

more beautiful than the Nereids. In this archetypal myth of the gods punishing

mortals for their arrogance, Poseidon punishes Cassiopeia by setting a sea monster

upon their kingdom of Ethiopia. Rivalling versions claim Andromeda was from

Joppa, a seaside Phoenician city. These competing Asiatic and African origins

both confirm Andromeda was not considered Greek. 3 The monster can only be

appeased by the sacrifice of their daughter Andromeda, who is invariably chained

to a rock or grotto, until she is rescued by the Greek hero Perseus. The myth of

Andromeda’s sacrifice and rescue is the subject of many works of art involving

Andromeda, from Attic red figure vase paintings to Roman murals. While the

majority of visual contexts portray Andromeda with light skin, in literary texts and

specific artistic motifs she is explicitly associated with Eastern or African origins.

Αἰθίοπας τοὶ διχθὰ δεδαίαται, ἔσχατοι ἀνδρῶν,

οἱ μὲν δυσομένου Ὑπερίονος οἱ δ᾽ ἀνιόντος, (Od. 1.23-4).

The opening verses of Homer’s Odyssey includes a reference to Ethiopia,

a region so vast it spanned both East and West. The exact location of Ethiopia

according to Homer is ill-defined aside from a reference to the Solymi mountains. 4

All that is certain is that the Ethiopians lived at the “farthest limits of mankind,”

which implies a kingdom distant enough from Greece that anyone from there

would be considered a foreigner. Attempts to reconcile myth and geography proved

troublesome even for ancient historians. The Greek scholar Posidonius argued the

Eastern reach of Ethiopia extended into India, while the Greek geographer Strabo

placed Ethiopia south of the Nile. 5 The competing attempts to overlay Homeric

myth with the emerging geographical discoveries introduced both Eastern and

African theories into the Latin vernacular. The interchangeability of India and

Ethiopia in Latin verse arises from attempts to geographically reconcile Homer’s

division of Ethiopia into Eastern and Western spheres.

Andromedan Perseus nigris portarit ab Indis,

raptaque sit Phrygio Graia puella uiro

tot tibi tamque dabit formosas Roma puellas,

‘haec habe’ ut dicas ‘quicquid in orbe fuit.’ (Ars. 1.53-6).

In his Ars Amatoria, the Roman poet Ovid makes a distinct assertion

of Andromeda’s origins while describing the distances heroes have traversed in

the pursuit of foreign women. The emphasis on her holding a non-Greek identity

is necessary to juxtapose Ovid’s joking declaration that Rome does not need to

import women. Ovid claims Perseus brought Andromeda back from the Indians,

who have been described as dusky, black, and sun-scorched, depending on the

translation. 6 English translator Henry T. Riley interpreted the verse as “the tawny

Indians” and A. S. Kline has rendered the line as “from darkest India.” However,

it can be argued that the emphasis on the place rather than the people does not

fully consider the ablative plural case of “nigris…ab Indis.” American Professor

Julia Dyson Hejduk has recently translated the phrase as “from the black Indians.”

The semantic potential of different translations further obscures Andromeda’s

origins. Although Ovid calls India Andromeda’s birthplace, the historical uncer-



tainty around the boundaries of Ethiopia means her background cannot be firmly

interpreted as exclusively Eastern.

Gentibus innumeris circumque infraque relictis

Aethiopum populos Cepheaque conspicit arva.

Illic inmeritam maternae pendere linguae

Andromedan poenas iniustus iusserat Ammon. (Met. 4.668-71.)

Ovid again comments on the heroine’s foreignness by proclaiming Andromeda’s

Ethiopian heritage in his Metamorphoses. 7 ​Despite the use of Indis in his Ars

Amatoria, Ovid’s deliberate choice to ascribe Cepheus as the ruler of the Ethiopian

people reveals the interchangeability of India and Ethiopia. Building on Cepheus’

ties to Ethiopia, some have used Ovid’s epistles to argue the merit of literary evidence

for Andromeda as a dark-skinned heroine. 8

Candida si non sum placuit Cepheia Perseo

Andromede patriae fusca colore suae

Et variis albae iunguntur saepe columbae,

Et niger a viridi turtur amatur ave. (Ep. Sapph. 15.35-8).

In his epistle from Sappho to Phaon, Ovid speaks of love and beauty through the

yearning voice of Sappho, who reminds her lover that Perseus found Andromeda

beautiful with the dark coloring of her land. 9 In most translations, “candida” is

accepted to mean shining or fair, but the Latin modifier can alternatively mean

“white.” While the latter translation may be too literal for the passage, the following

lines comparing white birds who mate with partners of a different hue holds relevance.

The text could arguably be read as Ovid describing Andromeda as having

a different complexion from the lover she won over. The influence a translator’s

interpretation holds is evident in the subjectivity of a handful of words. Furthermore,

naming Andromeda as Cepheus’ daughter cements her lineage and Ethiopian

background as a paramount aspect of her identity. In the context of the passage, it

serves as another reminder of Andromeda’s distinction from Perseus. The lack of

literary consistency regarding Ethiopia’s geographical bounds prompts speculation,

yet resolutely confirms Andromeda’s identity as a foreign heroine. Investigating

how visual representations of Andromeda’s conflicting mythology shifted during

the course of antiquity reveals changing attitudes towards the figure Andromeda.

Reading Greek vase painting for its interpretations of the myth of Andromeda

allows the viewer to understand how mythology was translated into art

during antiquity. The basis of Greek mythology comes from the tradition of passing

down stories through spoken word. This oral tradition was diverse and malleable,

and thus often created divergent narratives. These differing narratives account for

conflicting identity markers within the canon of Greek vase painting. Classical

scholar Frank Snowden has pointed out the similarities between Andromeda and

Memnon, a Black Ethiopian mythic hero. Both figures have possibly Asiatic or

African origins and share a wide range of visual and literary representations of

their respective identities. 10 For example, an interior of an Attic red figure kylix by

the Douris Painter depicts Memnon with light skin despite his Ethiopian origins.

Similarly, Andromeda is always depicted in red figure painting with light skin.

Early artistic techniques such as black figure vase painting and red figure vase

painting only allowed for binary color schemes, and therefore furthered binary

representations of skin tone.

The binary representations of skin-tone seen in red figure and black figure

painting were viewed in the larger context of visual symbolism and semantic

iconography and did not engender an understanding of ethnicity based on skin-tone

alone. The development of red figure painting in 530 BC allowed for more detail

and dynamic motion to be portrayed. Prior to this artistic evolution, black figure

painting was the dominant technique in Athens during the early to mid 6th century

BCE. In Fig. 1, a black figure amphora from approximately 560 BCE depicts the

Greek Perseus rescuing the bound Andromeda by hurling rocks at the sea monster

summoned by Poseidon. Perseus is painted with solid black while Andromeda is

painted with black outline, leaving the negative space of the red clay as her skin

tone. Upon initial viewing, this vase portrays Perseus with darker skin while Andromeda

is framed as lighter. However, the artist and viewers at the time would

have been well aware that Perseus was a Greek hero and that Andromeda came

from non-Greek origins. On this particular amphora, Perseus, the primary figure,

is depicted in action while Andromeda is depicted with stiff lines. Comprehending

the practical realities of black figure painting and red figure painting demonstrates

Fig. 1. Image from The Archive for Research on Archetypal Symbolism



that a literal reading of Greek vase painting does not correlate with contemporary

depictions of skin-tone as the primary factor in ethnic difference. The Greek vase

trade was tremendously influential in the spread of images across city-states and

across the Mediterranean. In a culture heavily reliant on visual images and the oral

tradition rather than writing, the trading of Greek vases was increasingly responsible

for the transmission of information. The identity of Andromeda was therefore

heavily connected to artistic representations of her in Greek vase painting. With

this understanding of early art in the classical world, it is possible to investigate how

representations of Andromeda became increasingly assimilated with Greek identity.

Andromeda’s depiction on a 6th century Attic red figure vase painting

simultaneously characterizes her as a foreigner and distinguishes her from the other

foreigners. In this specific red figure vase painting, Andromeda is prominently

displayed as the principal figure. One of her hands is bound to a post, which would

have been understood as rock to those in the highly visually literate society of

Athens. Dark-skinned Ethiopian attendants restrain her on behalf of her parents.

The attendants are outlined in red paint with a coat of white paint to represent their

clothing and hair. In contrast to the Ethiopian attendants, Andromeda is depicted

with the solid red color typical of a red figure painting. Andromeda’s distinction as a

princess is important to consider when comparing her to her attendants. This notion

Fig. 2. Image taken from image of the black in western art online archive

of royal hierarchy would have placed her above her nameless attendants and given

the painter further incentive to distinguish her from other Ethiopians. Importantly,

Andromeda wears a long-sleeve outfit and the Phrygian style cap, an iconographic

demarcation which symbolized Easterners. Phrygia was located in Asia Minor,

which is an entire continent removed from the African kingdom of Ethiopia. The

Phrygian cap came to be associated with foreigners, even those not from Phrygia.

Medea, the Amazons, Scythian archers, and other foreign figures from Greek

tragedy were frequently depicted wearing the tight sleeved costume on Attic vase

paintings. 11 The influence of Greek tragedy in the dispersal of cultural attitudes

toward foreigners cannot be understated. Visual representation of the other was

fundamental to the construction of barbarian identity during the 5th century BCE. 12

Figures wearing the Phrygian cap and otherwise Eastern stylized clothing would

have been easily identified as foreigners to the Athenians viewing them because

of the symbolic nature of their visually literate society. 13 By painting Andromeda

in the Eastern dress, the painter shows a grasp of cultural and ethnic differences.

Comparing Attic vases and southern Italic vases reveals a shift in Andromeda’s

iconography that had major repercussions on the outward representations

of her identity. Influenced by Attic vase painting, Greek colonists in Southern Italy

established their own vase painting practices. Examining Southern Italic vases

as seen in Fig. 2 clearly shows how Andromeda was no longer depicted with the

Phrygian cap, which defined her as a foreigner in the majority of Attic red figure

paintings. Other foreignizing aspects, such as the long-sleeve garment, occasionally

disappear. In place of its long sleeves, she is depicted with bare arms, a decorative

Eastern dress, and a diadem or crown to signal her status. It is extremely interesting

that these Southern Italic vases put a greater effort towards depicting her as

a royal bride without explicitly acknowledging which kingdom she hails from. A

specific 4th century BC Southern Italic pelike illustrates Andromeda tied between

an arch-like structure meant to convey a grotto. 14 Andromeda’s gaze is cast downward

at Perseus in the lower register. Similar to this vase, Southern Italic vases

place a greater emphasis on Andromeda’s rescue by Perseus. In focusing on her

rescue by Perseus, a Greek hero, Andromeda is assimilated as a Greek heroine.

The separation of foreign motifs and the greater inclusion of Perseus within the

catalogue of Southern Italic vase painting facilitated the homogenous transition

between vase painting and Roman art.

Depictions of Andromeda on Roman murals and reliefs solidified her

de-easternization in art. The mythic princess dramatically increased in popularity

as a subject of Roman artists. While the reasons for the increase in art of Andromeda

are not explicitly known, what is evident is that her visual depictions are far

less Eastern in comparison to earlier art. The lack of foreign attendants nearby

additionally erodes markers of geographic location that indicate where the rescue

is taking place. From surveys of Pompeian murals and mosaics, the recurring myth



Fig. 3. Image taken from the Theoi Project online reserve

of Perseus and Andromeda has been categorized into five basic compositions. 15 Perseus

helping Andromeda down from the grotto has been recognized as a common

archetype speculated to be based on a previous Hellenic piece. 16 In these artworks,

Andromeda is typically depicted wearing loose, often more revealing clothing.

Occasionally one breast is revealed, and in a few specific impressions Andromeda

is depicted completely nude. 17 A Roman stucco relief in Fig. 3 exhibits Andromeda’s

rescue by Perseus with both figures in the nude. This image connects Andromeda

to divine figures and mythological heroines, such as Aphrodite or Ariadne, who

were popularly depicted in the nude in Roman art. By painting Andromeda in

the same style as other mythical heroines with no visible motifs of distinction,

Andromeda’s foreign background is entirely removed from the conversation. Her

Ethiopian background and eastern association are entirely obscured. Contrasting

these later Roman works with her early depictions in the fully covered Phrygian

bodysuit and cap exposes her gradual assimilation through imagery.

A close examination of Andromeda and Perseus within the catalogue of

Roman art reveals a reliance on stock scenes, which continued her assimilation

through visual repetition. The image of Perseus helping Andromeda down from

the rock she is bound to can be found in several different mosaics and reliefs. Two

specific Roman mosaics share an overlap in composition that is too similar to

ignore. 18 In both mosaics, Perseus, nude, stands on the right with an arm extended

toward Andromeda. The position of his body as he grabs her wrist is almost identical

between the two mosaics. Similar to Roman murals, Andromeda is visibly

depicted as Roman rather than Greek or African of Asian. She leans forward with

her right hand clutching her loose fabric as it slips off her body. This stock scene

is very clearly linked to Roman wall paintings of the same subject because of the

compositional resemblance. Further identification of this stock scene of Andromeda’s

rescue can be found in coins, sculptural reliefs, statues, and even lamps. 19

Viewing these pieces of art together reveals an intense similarity between them that

can only be attributed to a shared common source. One explanation of this shared

source is that these works are copies of Greek or Southern Italic originals. Another

explanation is that these pieces were made by a workshop and mass produced for

consumption. Collectively, these works demonstrate the pervasiveness of the image,

which would have been proliferated throughout the expanding Roman empire.

The spread of these images created a larger disconnect between Andromeda and

her African origins until her identity became fully integrated and unquestioned.

Heliodorus’ Aethiopica is a crucial surviving text that provides insight

into the visual representation of Andromeda’s skin tone beyond antiquity. Through

the narrative of Chariclea, the anomalous white-skinned daughter of King Hydaspes

and Queen Persinna of Ethiopia, two visibly dark-skinned mythical African royals,

misunderstandings occur concerning ethnicity and identity. Persinna, afraid her

husband will accuse her of adultery, gives Chariclea away soon after her birth.

Despite her legitimate Ethiopian heritage, Chariclea is raised as a Greek priestess

at Delphi. In the narrative of the Aethiopica, she runs away with her lover and their

adventures lead them back to Ethiopia, where Chariclea is nearly sacrificed by

her own father. Resolution is found in the explanation that Chariclea’s white skin

is due to her mother looking at a portrait of the white Andromeda while she was

conceived. 20 The rediscovery of the text during the Renaissance led to a resurgence

Fig. 4. two later roman mosaics taken from the Theoi project online reserve



in visual depictions of Andromeda and Chariclea among European artists. 21 In

particular, the climactic scene of Hydaspes and Persinna being shown a portrait of

Andromeda and thus recognizing their daughter became a highly popular subject

matter. Certainly, strong themes of identity and ethnic anxiety were at play in

these depictions. Under the influence of the classical Renaissance, depictions of

the characters of Aethiopica are indicative of European frustrations with attempts

to reconcile ethnic differentiation.

Exploration of the Aethiopica by Renaissance artists was met with intrigue

regarding ethnic differences and burgeoning racial identity. It is important

to note that representations of Black bodies in Renaissance art were made by and

large by European artists for European patrons and projected a biased perspective

towards Black identity that sought to position it in relation to European identity. 22

Depictions of the Aethiopica in seventeenth century paintings can be construed as

a visual negotiation between Black and white identity through the racial fluidity

of Chariclea. Amongst a series of small panel paintings by seventeenth-century

French painter Jean Monier, a specific painting captures the moment of Chariclea’s

acknowledgement by her parents. A painting of Andromeda, who is very clearly

white skinned, is shown to Hydaspes and Persinna, who are very clearly Black,

while the light skinned Chariclea is embraced by her mother. In the room the

paintings were made for, another panel of Andromeda was placed above, which

creates a visual conversation between the painting of Andromeda and the painting

Fig. 5. Panel painting by frrench painter jean monier from

image of the black in western art online archive

of the painted Andromeda. 23 Hydaspes, Persinna, and the other Ethiopian staff are

depicted with turbans and dark skin in stark contrast to Chariclea and Andromeda.

While this particular painting depicts the Ethiopian royals as dark-skinned, this

is a defining feature of Monier’s work and was not always the case amongst other

Renaissance artists. It has been proposed that Monier’s artistic choice was motivated

by the intention to visually differentiate and distance the Ethiopian characters as

the exotic other in accordance with contemporary perspectives about binary ethnic

difference at the time. 24 A small painting commissioned for a watch case in Fig.

6 depicts Hydaspes and Persinna with far lighter skin. It has been argued that the

wealthy European female watch owner who saw herself in Chariclea wanted to

distance herself from Chariclea’s African origins. 25 Studying Renaissance art from

a classical focus reveals how interrogation of the mythical past was put in direct

dialogue with contemporary ideals.

A series of paintings based on the Aethiopica by Dutch painter Karel

van Mander III reveals insight into the complex motivations of Renaissance

painters. Several of the paintings from this series prominently feature Black Africans.

Chariclea and Andromeda, however, are always shown with white skin and

Dutch features, which further separates these heroines from their diverse origins.

Van Mander’s Hydaspes and Persina Making Love is a distinct representation of

Andromeda which shows the moment of Chariclea’s conception. Persinna makes

eye contact with Andromeda in the painting, who is nude and chained to a rock.

This depiction of Andromeda clearly captures the essence of the original myth

and shares visual similarities to Andromeda’s earliest depictions while simultaneously

divorcing her of her foreign associations. Within the larger context of the

painting, there is certainly an erotic element found in the couple’s body language.

Hydaspes gazes at his wife and reaches for her breast as she sits on his lap. There

is also an exoticizing element which, when coupled with the sexualized imagery,

leads to questions about the painter’s intention. 26 Furthermore, depicting the royal

couple in European garments could be intended to create an unusual contrast, or

it could be an attempt to visually assimilate them with their Dutch surroundings.

Yet the feathered turban in the background seems to be a visual allusion to their

foreignness, which would have been perceived as exotic in Dutch eyes. The turban

is notably placed adjacent to a crown and scepter, which connects Hydaspes and

Persinna’s royal Ethiopian status to European royalty. The range in skin tones for

Hydaspes and Persinna in contrast to the strict codification of Chariclea and Andromeda

as white-skinned with European features conveys homogenizing biases

in Renaissance receptions of Greek myth. Overall, inconsistency in the depiction

of the royal couple in comparison to Chariclea herself reveals an intense desire to

claim Chariclea, and by extension, Andromeda, as European.

The ethnic anxiety surrounding Chariclea and Andromeda, which peaked

during the Renaissance, has been continually investigated alongside changing



Fig. 6. marriage of chariclea and theagenes, ca. 1650. from image of the black in

western art online archive

conceptions about race, ethnicity, and identity. Despite the prevailing depiction of

Andromeda as a European maiden with alabaster skin, speculation in attempts to

reconcile her Ethiopian heritage have far from disappeared. Moving into modernity,

reevaluations of Andromeda by twentieth-century scholars have attempted

to expose new understandings of ethnic fluidity. Snowden has identified attempts

over the centuries to reconcile both Asiatic and African versions of Andromeda’s

mythology. He cites Roman writer Pliny as stating that King Cepheus had influence

over both parts of Asia and parts of Africa in order to recognize the power of

the kingdom of Ethiopia in the distant past. 27 This account gives dual credence to

both the Eastern elements and the African elements of Andromeda’s mythology.

Attempts such as this to blend elements of her legend have added to the ethnic

ambiguity around Andromeda. African American Studies writer Marla Harris has

examined the figures of Andromeda and Chariclea and argues that their fluidity

resonates with the American mulatto experience. 28 She carefully considers how

Heliodorus crosses racial boundaries in comparison to African American novelist

Pauline Hopkins, who interrogates twentieth century racial categories through

mixed characters. 29 From this comparison, Harris came to the conclusion that

mixed women inhabit a nebulous space that simultaneously alienates them yet

allows for acceptance through passing ambiguity. Harris exposes how the visible

whiteness of Andromeda and mixed women destabilizes the binary categories of

black and white and consequently confirms that race is artificially constructed. 30

These modern evaluations and interpretations of Andromeda force viewers to consider

how ideas of racial identity are highly malleable because they are imposed

constructions rather than inherent biological truths.

Reading Andromeda from a contemporary perspective explores the

ways in which markers of ethnicity are fundamentally subjective and how popular

constructions of race are inherently fluid. Andromeda is unquestionably depicted

as light-skinned, yet conflicting assertions about her lineage and ethnicity force

viewers to confront their own ideas about identity and projected ethnicity regarding

mythological figures. Tracing her appearance in art from antiquity through

the Renaissance period divulges a pattern of reinforced visual assimilation. The

result of this integrated visual similarity aligns Andromeda with the same markers

of ethnic identity as that of the culture of the artist painting her. Over the

varying centuries, this pattern presented Andromeda as light skinned until she

was unequivocally conflated with the contemporary conception of whiteness. The

recent scholarship across different fields surrounding Andromeda have revisited

the question of Andromeda’s ethnicity in order to delve deeper into how identity is

shaped. Investigative analysis of Andromeda in art demonstrates how images have

the power to reinforce or deconstruct assertions of identity and visual belonging.

Fig. 7. hydaspes and persina making love by karl van mander III from image of the

black in western art online archive




1. ​Gilbert, “Falling in Love With Euripides (Andromeda),” ​75-91.

2. Morkot, “Ethiopia.”

3. Snowden, Blacks in Antiquity, 152-153.

4. Homer, Odyssey. 5.281-3

5. Nadeau, “Ethiopians,” 339.

6. Ovid, Ars Amatoria, I.53.

7. Ovid, Metamorphoses, 4.668-671.

8. McGrath, “The Black Andromeda,” 5.

9. Ovid, Heriodes, 15.35-8

10. Snowden, Blacks in Antiquity, 152.

11. Oliver Taplin, Pots and Plays, 114-52.

12. Hall, Inventing the Barbarian, 137.

13. Carpenter, Art and Myth in Ancient Greece.

14. Schauenburg, Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae, Vol. I,


15. von Blanckenhagen, “Daedalus and Icarus on Pompeian Walls,” 106-


16. Phillips, “Perseus and Andromeda,” 5.

17. Brommer, “Die Königstochter und das Ungeheuer.”

18. Schauenburg, 781.

19. Schauenburg, 782-785.

20. Heliodorus, Aethiopica, trans. Nahum Tate and Person of quality (London:

1753), 291.

21. Bindman and Gates, The Image of the Black in Western Art, Vol. I, III,


22. Erikson, “Invisibility Speaks,” 34-43.

23. Bindman and Gates, 320.

24. Benton and Chew, “Heliodorus in France,” 308.

25. Benton and Chew, 309.

26. McGrath, “The Black Andromeda,” 2.

27. Snowden, Blacks in Antiquity, 153-154.

28. Harris, “Not Black And/or White,” 375.

29. Harris, 376-377.

30. Harris., 379-380.


Bindman, David and Gates, Henry Jr. Louis. The Image of the Black in

Western Art, Vol. I, III. Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard

University Press, 2010.

Benton, Mark and Chew, Kathryn. “Heliodorus in France: Monier’s Sev

enteenth-century Representations of the Aethiopica.” In Literary

Currents and Romantic Forms: Essays in Memory of Bryan

Reardon, edited by Chew, Kathryn, Morgan. J.R., and Trzasko

ma. Stephen M., 307-324. Groningen: Barkhuis, 2018. Accessed

December 10, 2020.

von Blanckenhagen, Peter. H. “Daedalus and Icarus on Pompeian Walls,”

Römische Mitteilungen 75 (1968): 106-145.

Brommer, Frank. “Die Königstochter und das Ungeheuer.” Marburger

Winckelmann-Programm (1955).

Carpenter, Thomas. Art and Myth in Ancient Greece. London: Thames &

Hudson Ltd, 1991.

Erickson, Peter. “Invisibility Speaks: Servants and Portraits in Early

Modern Visual Culture.” Journal for Early Modern Cultural

Studies 9, no. 1 (2009): 23-61.


Gilbert, John. “Falling in Love With Euripides (“Andromeda”).” Illinois

Classical Studies 24/25 (1999): 75-91. Accessed February 23,


Hall, Edith. Inventing the Barbarian: Greek Self-Definition through Trag

edy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989.

Harris, Marla. “Not Black And/or White: Reading Racial Difference in

Heliodorus’s Ethiopica and Pauline Hopkins’s Of One Blood.”

African American Review 35, no. 3 (2001): 375-90. Accessed

February 28, 2020. doi:10.2307/2903309.

Heliodorus. Aethiopian Adventures: or, The History of Theagenes and

Chariclea. Translated by Nahum Tate and Person of quality

[pseud]. London, 1753.



Homer. Odyssey. Translated by Robert Fagles. New York: Viking Pen

guin, 1996.

McGrath, Elizabeth. “The Black Andromeda.” Journal of the Warburg

and Courtauld Institutes 55 (1992): 1-18. Accessed February 28,

2020. doi:10.2307/751417.

Milne, Marjorie J. “Reviewed Work: Die Königstochter und das Unge

heuer by Frank Brommer.” American Journal of Archaeology 60,

no. 3 (1956): 300-02. doi:10.2307/500167.

Morkot, Robert G. “Ethiopia.” In The Oxford Classical Dictionary.

Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012. https://www.oxfordref .0001/a cref-


Nadeau, J. Y. “Ethiopians.” The Classical Quarterly 20, no. 2 (1970):

339–49. doi:10.1017/S0009838800036338.

Ovid. Ars Amatoria: Book I. Edited by A. S. Hollis. Oxford: Oxford Uni

versity Press, 1977. doi:10.1093/actrade/

Ovid. Ars Amatoria. Translated by Julia Dyson Hejduk. Madison: Univer

sity of Wisconsin Press, 2014.

Ovid. Heroides. Edited by G. P. Goold and translated by Grant Shower

man. Loeb Classical Library 41. Cambridge: Harvard University

Press, 1914.

Ovid. Metamorphoses. Edited by Hugo Magnus. Gotha: Friedr. Andr.

Perthes, 1892.


Ovid. Metamorphoses. Translated by A. D. Melville. Oxford: Oxford

University Press, 1986.

Phillips, Kyle M. “Perseus and Andromeda.” American Journal of Ar

chaeology 72, no. 1 (1968): 1-23. doi:10.2307/501819.

Schauenburg, Konrad. “Andromeda” in Lexicon Iconographicum Mytho

logiae Classicae, Vol. I, pp. 774-790. Switzerland: Artemis Ver

lag Zürich und München, 1992.

Snowden, Frank M. Blacks in Antiquity: Ethiopians in the Greco-Roman

Experience. Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University

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Accessed December 10, 2020. doi:10.2307/750231.



The College of Wooster


Homer’s Song of Sympathy:

Andromache and Her Portrayal in

the Iliad

Andromache, the wife of Hector, is one of the most prominent

women to appear in the Iliad. Homer lavishes her with praise for her virtue

and chastity both as a woman and wife and bequeaths to her a powerful and

meaningful epithet—λευκώλενος (‘white-armed’)—to emphasize her nobility

and excellence of womanly character. This epithet, most often identified with

the goddess queen Hera, is associated with positive feminine virtues and

behaviors. Homer chooses the symbolic title for his heroine and, in doing

so, raises her upon a high pedestal and even compares her to a goddess. This

ennoblement of Andromache’s character makes her enslavement and bitter

circumstances following the death of Hector even more tragic for Homer’s

audience. 1 Homer bestows epithets upon many of his characters in the Iliad,

one of whom is the goddess Hera. 2 Unlike most other characters who receive

one or more epithets, Hera shares her appellation with another individual—

Andromache—whom the poet also refers to as λευκώλενος. 3 The ostensibly

great separation between the lives and statuses of a woman and a god makes

the sharing of this epithet even more unusual and, therefore, telling for the

audience. Hera is a divine queen, whereas Andromache is a woman of noble

birth, but not a queen and certainly not a goddess. Homer’s decision to refer to

both figures with the same epithet is at first glance inappropriate; after all, one

possible interpretation of this is that in doing so, Homer drags Hera down to

the same level as a mere mortal and thus brings great insult to her. Throughout

the epic, however, Homer sings of Hera with nothing but admiration and

respect, both of which are expected and demanded by the divinity. Anything

less would be an insult and—in the eyes of Homer—could invite the wrath

of a spurned goddess. It is far more reasonable then to argue that, rather than

degrading Hera by sharing her epithet, the poet intends to raise Andromache

to the level of the divine queen, a position which he insists that she deserves in

each of her scenes in the Iliad.

The epithet λευκώλενος bestows the traits of feminine excellence

and beauty along with wifely virtues upon Andromache. White skin was

closely connected to ideals of female beauty and behavior, a relationship

reflected in early Greek art wherein figures of women were often painted

white while men were depicted with a dark red. 4 Bridget M. Thomas explains

that women in early Greek literature were often associated with “whiteness,”

even though such a light skin tone would have been unrealistic for natives to

the Mediterranean. This practice, she argues, reflects Greek conventions to

dichotomize men and women based upon skin tone and promotes and upholds

these standards of appearance as ideal. 5

The goddess queen herself is described by Homer as λευκώλενος

twenty-four times in the Iliad. 6 It is important to note, however, that this

epithet is only used to describe Hera when she encourages others to assist the

Achaeans out of pity or is submissive and obedient to the orders of others. Her

other epithet, βοώπις (‘ox-eyed’), which occurs fourteen times in the Iliad, is

contrastingly used when she is either acting rebelliously or being punished for

rebellion. Thomas notes that “Hera is ‘white-armed’ only when she exhibits

positive feminine behavior.” 7 Homer emphasizes the whiteness of Hera’s skin

when she performs what Thomas calls a “positive feminine role,” such as

obedient wife, agreeable mother, or concerned guardian when interacting with

those around her. 8 Even debauched Helen of Troy is described as λευκώλενος

when Iris visits her in her chambers because she is weaving 9 —further proof

that the epithet is connected with the appearance, space, and actions of the

ideally feminine woman.

In granting Andromache Hera’s epithet λευκώλενος, Homer not

only lifts Andromache to the status of goddess and celebrates her great

beauty, but also directly and purposefully associates her with subservience,

positive feminine roles, and the ancient Greek concept of the ideal woman.

As described above, only notable women whom the poet deems worthy of the

epithet are fair-skinned, and even they are ‘white-armed’ only when behaving

in the proper way accorded to their sex. Thus, it is ensured that Andromache

is not tainted by the socially inappropriate actions of the women with whom

she shares this epithet; she is only associated with Hera when the goddess

performs the roles of virtuous woman and wife.

Throughout Books Six and Twenty-Two, Homer lauds Andromache’s

nobility and behavior as a devoted, exemplary wife and proves her worthy of

Hera’s epithet. He calls Andromache the πολύδορος (‘richly endowed’) wife

of Hector to emphasize the importance of her status in Troy. 10 Her dowry was

great when she married Hector, indicating her and her family’s high value to

the royal family of Troy. Hector, likewise, has given Andromache’s family

“countless gifts” to gain her hand in marriage. 11 Homer again underscores

Andromache’s noble lineage when he introduces her family in Book Six. The

audience learns that her father, great-hearted Eetion, lived under Mount Placus

at Thebes and ruled over the Cilicians. Andromache tells Hector when they

meet upon the tower that Achilles himself was too ashamed to dishonor Eetion

and strip the king’s body of its armor as a war prize. 12 Instead, Achilles burned

Eetion’s body after he had slain him and buried the remains, marking the grave

so that the king’s corpse would not be dishonored and ravaged by scavenging

dogs and birds. These acts of mercy and reverence make the king’s prominence



among not only the Trojans but also the Achaeans clear to Homer’s audience.

Homer also refers to Andromache’s mother with great esteem,

calling her πότνια μήτηρ (‘lady mother’), 13 a title which Hector later bestows

upon Andromache herself. 14 Homer’s emphasis on the statuses of both

Andromache’s mother and father ensures that his audience is cognizant of

her distinguished house and noble prominence. Unlike Hecuba of Troy and

Hera on Mount Olympus, Andromache is neither a ruler nor a queen in title.

Nevertheless, Homer reminds listeners of her lineage. His repeated emphasis

upon Andromache’s royal blood indicates that he believes her worthy of

the same epithet as a goddess queen. Granting Hera’s epithet λευκώλενος to

Andromache creates a parallel between woman and goddess; as Hera is queen

of the gods on Olympus, so Andromache is ruler of women on earth.

Andromache is noble not only in blood, but also in character. She

is a model wife and a paragon of virtue, devoted to her husband and to her

obligations as a wife and mother. It is not until the Trojan women’s mourning

for the death of Hector reaches Andromache that she even knows he has

been slain. 15 Before this, she is the perfect wife, weaving a design of lovely

flowers upon the cloak she is crafting deep within her chambers. 16 Judith Lynn

Sebesta explains that the most important skill required by Greek men of their

wives was the ability to prepare and spin wool and to weave cloth, as woolworking

was not only symbolic of the dedication of a woman’s bodily labor to

her husband, but also the commitment of her body’s sexuality. 17 It is there at

her loom that Andromache sits when Homer reintroduces her in Book Twenty-

Two. A paragon of virtue and domesticity, it is no wonder that she merits the

same epithet and praise that Homer gives to the queen of the gods.

The high status of Andromache, both in blood and character, and

the reverence with which Homer treats her, make Hector’s death and her

subsequent enslavement and loss of everything she holds dear even more

tragic. Andromache’s fate is directly tied to that of her husband—Hector’s

death ends her life. Once he has been slain, there is no one left to protect the

city of Troy or her. The Achaeans will quickly overpower the Trojans and seize

the city, taking the women and children as war prizes. Andromache recognizes

that she will become a slave to some triumphant Achaean, and her son,

Astyanax, will suffer much with no father to help him and a widowed mother. 18

As the wife of the greatest Trojan warrior, she is a most valuable “trophy,” and

life as she knows it will be overturned.

Homer lauds Andromache as a paragon of womanly and wifely virtue

and lifts her to the level of a goddess queen. By taking such pains to elevate her

before her fated downfall, Homer evokes the deepest pity from his audience

both for her and for others who share similar fates, revealing a powerful

message of the pain and destruction wrought by war upon women and children.

Men may fight and win or die in glory, he argues through Andromache, but

those left behind once the dust has settled and the bloodshed ceases are the

ones who truly pay war’s price. This post-war devastation is the tragic fate of

the noble woman whom Homer holds to the light of a goddess.

Hector’s death leads directly to the fall of Troy and Andromache’s

enslavement. Once Andromache is distributed to her new captor, she—like

all other slaves who were once free—must endure what Orlando Patterson

describes as a social death, wherein her former identity is destroyed and she

is reinvented as a slave. 19 Patterson argues that the newly enslaved are forced

to recreate their sense of selfdom, for they no longer have autonomy and are

considered little more than chattel. 20 This transition was painful and difficult

for new slaves in antiquity, for they were often transported to unfamiliar lands

with unknown people and customs after seeing their homes destroyed and

their friends and loved ones either killed or enslaved alongside them. Homer

sympathizes with these formerly free people, recognizing the hardships

of their forced upheaval of past and identity.. Through Andromache, he

underlines their suffering and bids his audience to feel this same compassion.

Andromache is no longer a beloved wife, mother, and revered

noblewoman after Hector’s death. Now, she is merely a prized object, the sole

purpose of which is to serve and bring pleasure to her new master. She must

consign her past to oblivion in order to survive her new circumstances, and

she marks this renunciation of her former life and rebirth as a slave through

symbolic action: the throwing of her veil. 21 Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones rightly

argues that in throwing her veil from her head, Andromache symbolically acts

out the devastating turn her life has taken. 22 She casts her “bonds of marriage”

away from herself, for she is no longer a wife or a noblewoman and so has no

use for the symbolically charged headpiece. 23 In throwing this garment, so

symbolic of a woman’s status, virtue, and sexual protection, the wife of Hector

declares her abandonment of her past life and symbolically dies, gaining the

sympathies of the audience for her tragic plight.

Veiling in ancient Greece was specifically associated with women,

and the veil’s primary use was to preserve a woman’s αἰδώς (‘shame, modesty,

self-respect’), 24 also closely associated with σωφροσύνη (‘dignity’). 25 The veil

emphasized a woman’s femininity because it covered up her imperfections

(pollution, sexual shame, etc.) and indicated that she was chaste and “morally

attentive.” 26 By maintaining her own chastity and honor, evident through the

wearing of her veil, a woman ensured the honor of her male protector(s) and

earned αἰδώς for herself, as men’s honor and reputations were intrinsically

related to the sexual purity of the women in their families. 27 Homer emphasizes

Andromache’s nobility and womanly virtue in the Iliad; her strong sense of

both αἰδώς and σωφροσύνη is undeniable. She of all women is worthy of the

veil and wears it as is expected of her, maintaining the honor of her husband

and thus increasing her own. Homer’s insistence on Andromache’s worthiness

of the veil and adherence to the regulations of society in wearing it makes

her decision to discard her veil even more significant. The act of throwing the



garment is more than simply Andromache’s symbolic rejection of her past and

family. It is also a commentary on her current status as slave, now that her

male protector has perished—it is her acknowledgment that she no longer has

use for the veil.

Llewelyn-Jones asserts that veiling in Homeric epic is specifically

reserved for noblewomen, goddesses, and those genteel or privileged slave

women “who are prominent because of their close physical proximity to their

noble mistresses.” 28 Veiling was not only indicative of a woman’s modesty and

dignity; it was also a symbol of high status in the Homeric Greek world and

the respectability of a noblewoman’s relationships with the men in her life (her

father, husband, brother, or son), which were affirmed by her use of the veil.

A married woman or a woman living under the protection of a male guardian

was granted security and social standing, privileges automatically denied to

unmarried or unprotected women, prostitutes, and slaves. 29 A veil marked

a woman in public as “sexually inviolate” and as belonging to a man whose

honor was increased by her veiling, whereas unveiled women were the “public

sexual property of all men.” 30 Andromache is a veil-wearing noblewoman

accustomed to living under her husband’s protection, but his death brings an

abrupt end to her security. The moment she loses her male protector she—

like all the other women of Troy who have lost their husbands, fathers, and

brothers—is reduced to the status of a lowly female slave and can no longer

avoid the physical and sexual abuses suffered by unveiled women who are

considered to be the shared property of all men.

When Andromache flings her veil and headdress from her hair, she

condenses her agony, fear, and desperation into this single gesture, turning

her back on her former life and accepting her inevitable future enslavement

and social death. She no longer has any need for the veil, for everything it

represents has disappeared from her life. Aἰδώς is useless to her; she has no

husband to honor and as a slave is herself excluded from ideas of honor and

virtue. Sue Blundell notes that “Women who let their hair down are women

who are released from normal constraints, so that like untying a belt the

loosening of a band can signify the opening up of a woman’s body.” 31 In

throwing her veil, Andromache symbolically turns her back on her past life

and undergoes social death, transforming her identity into that of a slave rather

than a woman. However, in doing so she also signifies the opening up of her

body to society and her reluctant acknowledgement that she is now the public

property of all men. She has consigned herself to her tragic fate, allegorically

lamenting her loss of life and body. Homer and his audience lament with her,

bemoaning the cruel fate of such a noble and virtuous woman.

It is through his song that Homer draws in his audience, painting

an image of a beautiful, regal, and obedient wife. The poet transforms

Andromache, who was before a seemingly forgettable woman, into a heroine

and an embodiment of womanly grace and behavior. As a result, her tragic fall

with the death of Hector—underlined by the throwing of her veil—is made

even more painful for the audience. Rather than portraying Andromache as an

unadorned character from the start, Homer raises her upon a pedestal so that

the audience might feel her suffering after the devastation of her world. He

emphasizes all that Andromache has lost (family, home, status, husband, and

freedom) and simultaneously reminds his listeners of all that is at risk of being

destroyed in warfare, not only for those who have waged the war and fought it,

but most of all for those who are not a part of the fighting and who have no say

in its bloodshed.

Women and children of antiquity are excluded from the carnage of

the battlefield yet are still subject to violence and killing. Of all those who

suffer from war, Homer asserts that it is women and children who endure the

most grief through his emphasis on their suffering. When he underscores all

the good in Andromache’s life before the fall of Troy, Homer’s audience not

only sympathizes with her but also feels her loss more sharply. The events

of Homer’s Trojan War may never have happened historically the way in

which Homer sang of them. Nevertheless, there surely was once a woman

like Andromache, one of high social standing who enjoyed security and had

a beloved husband and child. Sometime, somewhere, a woman such as this

lost her whole family to war; her husband was slain, her home razed, and her

infant son brutally murdered. She in turn was led off as prized chattel to a

faraway land where she was forced to spend the rest of her days in servitude to

one of her conquerors. She was voiceless, yet Homer provided this unknown,

unnamed woman with a voice through his own song, through his singing

and ennoblement of Andromache. As can be seen by the poet’s focus and

regard for his heroine, Homer is cognizant of the atrocities of war, especially

for conquered women and children. He says much about the suffering of the

victims of war, and we would do well to heed him and study those whose

voices are not so loud as those of the victorious. After all, even in this modern

age there is still warfare and devastation, and so there are still Andromaches.





All translations are my own. The edition used is Homeri Opera in five

volumes, edited by D. B. Monro and T. W. Allen (Oxford: Oxford University

Press, 1920). I have also referenced Willcock, M.M. A Commentary on

Homer’s Iliad: Books I-VI. (London and Basingstoke: Macmillan; New York:

St. Martin’s Press, 1970).


Hom. Il. 1.55, 1.195 Homer refers to Hera as θεὰ λευκώλενος Ἥρη (‘The

white-armed goddess Hera’).


Hom. Il. 6.371, 6.377.


Bridget M. Thomas, Beate Wagner-Hasel, Douglas L. Cairns, Judith Lynn

Sebesta, and Sue Blundell, Women’s Dress in the Ancient Greek World

(London: The Classical Press of Wales, 2002), 2.


Thomas et al., Women’s Dress in the Ancient Greek World, 2.




Thomas et al., Women’s Dress in the Ancient Greek World, 3.


Thomas et al., Women’s Dress in the Ancient Greek World, 5.




Hom. Il. 6.394.


Hom. Il. 22.471-72.


Hom. Il. 6.414-20.


Hom. Il. 6.413, 6.429.


Hom. Il. 6.471.


Hom. Il. 22.437-40.


Hom. Il. 22.440-41.


Thomas et al., Women’s Dress in the Ancient Greek World, 126.


William L. Westermann, The Slave Systems of Greek and Roman Antiquity,

vol. 40 (Lafayette Street, New York: The American Philosophical Society,

1955), 2. Westermann notes that slaves during the Homeric period were most

often acquired by their defeat and capture in war; it was expected that women

and children in subjugated towns would be spared and enslaved and the men

killed. Young, attractive female captives were used as concubines by Homeric

chieftains during times of war and peace, and captive women were also prized

for their domestic skills and knowledge (e.g., spinning and weaving) once they

had lost their physical beauty.


Orlando Patterson, Slavery and Social Death: A Comparative Study

(Cambridge, Massachusetts, and London, England: Harvard University Press,

1982), 38.


Patterson, Slavery and Social Death: A Comparative Study, 38-39.


Hom. Il. 22.477-83.


Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones, Aphrodite’s Tortoise: The Veiled Woman of Ancient

Greece (Swansea: The Classical Press of Wales, 2003), 130–31.


Patterson, Slavery and Social Death: A Comparative Study, 52. Once a

person in the premodern world experienced social death, it was common for

him or her to engage in what he describes as the “ritual of enslavement,” which

included one or more of the following: “first, the symbolic rejection by the

slave of his past and his former kinsmen; second, a change of name; third, the

imposition of some visible mark of servitude; and last, the assumption of a new

status in the household or economic organization of the master.”


Mireille M. Lee, Body, Dress, and Identity in Ancient Greece (New York,

New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015), 155-57. Lee notes that A proper

Greek woman was expected to preserve her honor and that of her husband by

concealing herself from the gaze of strange men. The veil was also a form of

protection, not only for women, but also for the community, as it protected the

community from the woman’s pollution.


Thomas et al., Women’s Dress in the Ancient Greek World, 158.


Llewellyn-Jones, Aphrodite’s Tortoise: The Veiled Woman of Ancient Greece,



Thomas et al., Women’s Dress in the Ancient Greek World, 157.


Llewellyn-Jones, Aphrodite’s Tortoise: The Veiled Woman of Ancient Greece,



Llewellyn-Jones, Aphrodite’s Tortoise: The Veiled Woman of Ancient Greece,



Llewellyn-Jones, Aphrodite’s Tortoise: The Veiled Woman of Ancient Greece,

122. Homer fails to mention servants’ clothing in the Iliad, but Llewelyn-

Jones makes the compelling case that while there is no explicit evidence that

slaves were unveiled, the actions and perceptions associated with veiling in

his epic are nonetheless taken from real-life practice. She states that “Even

though veil fashions might have changed with time, attitudes to veiling did

not” (Llewellyn-Jones, 123). Slaves are “socially dead” and so are detached

from the noble ideas of honor and shame associated with the veil. Thus, it

is reasonable to assume that Homeric slave women, like the female slaves

of historical reality, are condemned to veil-lessness because of their routine

sexual availability (Llewellyn-Jones, 128).


Thomas et al., Women’s Dress in the Ancient Greek World, 161.


Primary Sources

Homer, edited by D. B. Monro and T. W. Allen. Homeri Opera in five volumes:

Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1920.



Secondary Sources

Abrahams, Ethel, and Lady Evans. Ancient Greek Dress. Edited by Marie

Johnson. Chicago, Illinois: Argonaut, Inc., Publishers, 1964.

Farron, S. “The Portrayal of Women in the Iliad.” Acta Classica 22 (1979):


Joshel, Sandra R., Sheila Murnaghan, Nancy Sorkin-Rabinowitz, Holt Parker,

Ian Morris, and Steve Johstone. Women and Slaves in Greco-Roman

Culture: Differential Equations. Edited by Sandra R. Joshel and Sheila

Murnaghan. London and New York: Routledge, 1998.

Kardulias, Dianna Rhyan. “Odysseus in Ino’s Veil: Feminine Headdress and

the Hero in “Odyssey” 5.” Transactions of the American Philological

Association (1974-) 131 (2001): 23-51. Accessed October 15, 2020.

Lee, Mireille M. Body, Dress, and Identity in Ancient Greece. New York, New

York: Cambridge University Press, 2015.

Llewellyn-Jones, Lloyd. Aphrodite’s Tortoise: The Veiled Woman of Ancient

Greece. Swansea: The Classical Press of Wales, 2003.

Llewellyn-Jones, Lloyd. “House and Veil in Ancient Greece.” British School at

Athens Studies 15 (2007): 251–58.

Lyons, Deborah. Dangerous Gifts: Gender and Exchange in Ancient Greece.

Austin: University of Texas Press, 2012.

Muich, Rebecca. “Focalization and Embedded Speech in Andromache’s Iliadic

Laments.” Illinois Classical Studies, no. 35–36 (2011): 1–24. https://doi.


Patterson, Orlando. Slavery and Social Death: A Comparative Study.

Cambridge, Massachusetts, and London, England: Harvard University

Press, 1982.

Rambo, Eleanor F. “On Homer’s Epithets.” The Classical Journal 28, no. 2

(1932): 128–30.

Roisman, Hanna M. “Helen in the ‘Iliad’ ‘Causa Belli’ and Victim of War:

From Silent Weaver to Public Speaker.” The American Journal of

Philology 127, no. 1 (2006): 1–36.

Segal, Charles. “Andromache’s Anagnorisis: Formulaic Artistry in Iliad

22.437-476.” Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 75 (1971): 33–57.

Thomas, Bridget M., Beate Wagner-Hasel, Douglas L. Cairns, Judith Lynn

Sebesta, and Sue Blundell. Women’s Dress in the Ancient Greek World.

London: The Classical Press of Wales, 2002.

Westermann, William L. The Slave Systems of Greek and Roman Antiquity.

Vol. 40. Lafayette Street, New York: The American Philosophical

Society, 1955.

Willcock, M. M. “Homer: Iliad I-XII.” London, Great Britain: Bristol Classical

Press, 1996




The University of Wisconsin-Madison


The Wolf Who Cried



Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, University of Arkansas

the seven hills’ gods-chosen king straddles his twin’s broken body,

the wolf pup fratricide who killed under the blessing of an augury,

brown feathers stuck between blood-slick teeth,

a howl rushing from his lungs like white rapids: churning.

the victory cry sounds like mourning, a desperate ship’s jetsam

that reaches their greying she-wolf mother where she stands

at the roaring shores of tiberinus’ living waters,

gold-crowned grief capping those aged fangs, glittering.



Grinnell College


Heroic arete in Euripides’

Iphigenia at Aulis

At the core of Greek values and ethic, there is the notion of

aretē. Hotly contested and vaguely defined, it is the essence of excellence,

distinction, and success within man. But therein lies the rub: although the

concept of aretē possesses no inherent variance in meaning between men

and women, the clearly defined gender roles within ancient Greek literature,

starting in Homeric epic, have led scholars—both ancient and modern—to

interpret aretē primarily in gendered terms. The ‘masculine’ is a celebration

of military prowess and self-sufficiency; the ‘feminine,’ an abiding respect

for temperance, craftsmanship, and sustaining the oikos. More bluntly, the

masculine aretē is the success of a warrior; the feminine, of a wife. However,

when such a formulation of aretē is applied to heroic figures, both in Homeric

epic and tragedy, the results of their actions are undercut and instead an undue

emphasis is placed on the means by which they achieved these results. This

argument is adequately advanced by Wendy Helleman 1 in the case of Penelope;

however, as I will show in this paper, Euripides mirrors Homer’s interest in a

non-gendered aretē by appointing Iphigenia (Iphigenia at Aulis) the aretē of a

savior of Hellas rather than merely the aretē of a wife.

Euripides uses the term aretē for both men and women, 2 as opposed

to the exclusively male appointment of aretē seen in Sophocles’ work 3

and the absolute absence of the term in Aeschylus. While Homer depicted

his heroes’ virtue through the action and narration of twenty-four books,

generic conventions of tragedy, in particular its condensed and largely

dialogic structure, necessitate a different depiction of this concept which is,

nevertheless, still as rich in tragedy as it is in epic. Euripides uses choral ode

and dialogue as narrative mechanisms to define the aspect(s) of aretē present

in each tragedy, then allows his characters to fulfil (or fall short of) these

definitions in the climax of the play’s action. Euripides’ Iphigenia at Aulis

expands the story hinted at by Aeschylus, 4 in which Agamemnon slays an

unwilling Iphigenia to appease Artemis before sailing off to Troy for ten years.

However, Euripides’ account differs in a few ways: 1) it provides a pretense

of marriage to Achilles for Iphigenia to be brought to Aulis, 2) it shows

Agamemnon less resolved to kill his child than was portrayed by Aeschylus, 5

and 3) it makes Iphigenia a willing sacrifice.

In Euripides’ myth, a Chorus of women from Chalcis provide a

definition of aretē in a choral ode: τροφαί θ’ αἱ παιδευόμεναι / μέγα φέρους’ ἐς

τὰν ἀρετάν· / τό τε γὰρ αἰδεῖσθαι σοφία, / †τάν τ’ ἐξαλλάσσουσαν ἔχει / χάριν

ὑπὸ γνώμας ἐσορᾶν† / τὸ δέον, ἔνθα δόξα φέρει / κλέος ἀγήρατον βιοτᾶι.,

“the lessons which upbringing provide greatly lead to aretē; for not only is

modesty wisdom, but it carries the exceptional grace to understand, by sound

judgement, what is right, and thenceforth reputation bears an ageless glory for

life.” 6 This definition is essential to our construction of Iphigenia’s character,

and would not have been surprising to a 5 th -century Athenian audience. 7 But

the Chorus elaborates on this definition by offering gendered notions of virtue:

μέγα τι θηρεύειν ἀρετάν, / γυναιξὶ μὲν κατὰ Κύ- / πριν πρυπτάν, ἀν ἀνδράσι

δ’ αὖ / †κόσμος ἔνδον ὁ μυριοπλη- / θὴς† μείζω πόλιν αὔξει, “It is great

to hunt aretē, in women, through hidden love; in men, an internal order—

immeasurable—which augments a city’s greatness.” 8 With the presence of

Cypris—the metonym for Greek sexual love—this definition juxtaposes a

woman’s moderation in love, erōs, the subject of the Chorus’ previous odes, 9

with a man’s public effect, yet claims that both lead to aretē. Such a gendered

presentation also upholds common 5 th -century notions of aretē. We see this

distinction in Pericles’ funeral oration 10 as well as later in Plato’s Meno. 11

However, as he is apt to do, Euripides takes this culturally accepted perspective

and subverts it. Through the actions of Iphigenia throughout the play, he shows

not only that women can obtain the same aretē and kleos as men, but that they

can achieve it by doing the same things.

Iphigenia’s qualities of modesty are initially attested by her mother.

When supplicating Achilles, Clytemnestra tells him that, if he finds it

necessary, she will have Iphigenia “come [to you], bearing a freely-given

look of modesty” (ἔξεισιν, αἰδοῦς ὄμμ’ ἔχους’ ἐλεύθερον). 12 The modesty

expected by the Chorus and Clytemnestra affirms Iphigenia’s high-born status.

A woman is known to be well-taught (τροφαί θ’ αἱ παιδευόμεναι) 13 and of

significant status if she exhibits those traits which derive from said training

(μέγα φέρους’ ἐς τὰν ἀρετάν). 14 The use of the adjective ἐλεύθερον here, which

I have rendered as “freely-given,” establishes Iphigenia as an independent

agent in her modesty. It is not a trait which she is forced to show but rather

a core aspect of her character. This adjective is meant to remind Achilles of

what he stands to gain should he succeed in saving Iphigenia—a wife reserved

to the core. Her virtues are again emphasized by Clytemnestra, who praises

her “being modest” (σεμνύνεται) as a sign of “dignity” (σεμνά). 15 Even so,

Clytemnestra tries to temper Iphigenia’s reserve during a later encounter

with Achilles, in which Iphigenia is ashamed to face him because of the

“lucklessness of [our] marriage.” 16 Although Iphigenia wishes to abide by her

modesty, Clytemnestra insists that she face Achilles, claiming οὐ σεμνότητος

ἔργον, ἥν ὀνώμεθα, “[this is] no task for modesty, if we may profit.” 17

Clytemnestra’s need for insistence here, and her daughter’s reluctance, prove

again that Iphigenia’s modesty—her virtue as a young girl—is well-established



within her character.

But only Iphigenia’s actions—her heroic acceptance of sacrifice—

bridge the gap between the Chorus’ lyrics (erōs) and the action of the play,

which Helene Foley terms “the ever-increasing lust (erōs) for violence (eris).” 18

Iphigenia exhibits all the definitions of aretē provided—especially the

explicitly male standard—through her accomplishment. When she first hears

of Agamemnon’s true intention to sacrifice her to Artemis so that the army

might have favorable winds for sailing to Troy, Iphigenia is reluctant to accept

her fate. She struggles against her father, reasoning, pleading, and begging

him not to carry out this act. He responds only by telling her that the needs of

the many outweigh the needs of the few—ἐλευθέραν γὰρ δεῖ νιν ὅσον ἐν σοί,

τέκνον, / κἀμοὶ γενέσθαι, “it is necessary to make [Hellas] free, child, as much

as you and I [are able]” 19 —no matter how much they might wish it otherwise.

Initially, his words fall on deaf ears. Clytemnestra, who mourns already for the

loss of her eldest daughter, begins plotting to find another solution by Achilles’

clout in the army. 20 But Iphigenia ruminates upon her fate and interrupts with

a different conclusion: μῆτερ, εἰσακουστέα / τῶν ἐμῶν λόγων· μάτην γάρ σ’

εἰσορῶ θυμουμένην / σῶι πόσει· τὰ δ’ ἀδύναθ’ ἡμῖν καρτερεῖν οὐ ῥάιδιον,

“Mother, listen well to my reasonings [τῶν ἐμῶν λόγων]; for I know [εἰσορῶ]

your wroth for your husband to be folly; although these impossible things are

not easy for us to endure.” 21 This first portion of Iphigenia’s defense invokes

the Chorus’ primary definition of aretē, as having the grace to understand

(ἐσορᾶν) what is right, 22 but it is her delay to realize the justice of her father’s

ruling which distances her from the deferent obedience (κατήκοος) posited

in Plato’s Meno and instead proves her sound judgement (γνώμας), 23 wisdom

(σοφία), 24 and internal order (κόσμος ἔνδον), 25 all of which are put towards

advancing Hellas. 26

These values are corroborated by Achilles once Iphigenia has finished

her defense. He honors her words, saying that “you have spoken well things

worthy of your fatherland,” 27 and praises her judgement “because in avoiding a

fight with the gods, which would prevail you, you have reckoned what is right

[τὰ χρηστά] and what is necessary.” 28 Though he still attempts to persuade

her to denounce her appointed fate and instead allow him to fight against

the Argives on her behalf, Iphigenia is now decided: she will die σῶσαί μ’

Ἑλλάδ’, ἢν δυνώμεθα, “to save Hellas, if I can.” 29 This concluding conditional

statement encapsulates the heroic nature of Iphigenia’s actions: she places the

value of Hellas’ freedom and success above that of her own life. In this claim

and subsequent action, Iphigenia will realize her self-appointed status as a

“public good” (κοινός) 30 who has been raised as a “light to Hellas” (ἐθρέψαθ’

Ἑλλάδι με φάος). 31

But her self-identification of being born a φάος goes beyond

aggrandizement—it represents real expectations of women in Greek society.

Nicole Loraux examines Greek gender dynamics in tragedy, particularly the

social obligations which were “essential to the city—bearing children and

fighting.” 32 For men, the expectation was to protect the city’s interests in war;

for women, to protect its legacy with childbirth. 33 If we consider a metaphorical

meaning of φάος as “deliverance, happiness, victory, glory, etc.,” 34 it can be

understood that a woman’s role in securing the longevity of a city through

childbirth contributes to this sense of “deliverance.” Thus, Iphigenia’s claim

at having been born to be a φάος to Hellas is an accurate encapsulation of her

duties as a Greek woman; it is through accomplishment of this task that the

city is preserved, and a woman proves aretē and earns kleos.

As Chalcian women, the Chorus is well-aware of these womanly

expectations. After Iphigenia’s fate has been revealed, they muse about the

beautiful wedding and parenthood of Thetis and Peleus 35 before lamenting

Iphigenia’s future:

σὲ δ’ ἐπὶ κάραι στέψουσι καλλικόμαν

πλόκαμον Ἀργεῖοι, βαλιὰν

ὥστε πετραίων

ἀπ’ ἄντρων ἐλθοῦσαν ὀρέων

μόσχον ἀκήρατον, βρότειον

αἱμάσσοντες λαιμόν·

οὐ σύριγγι τραφεῖσαν οὐδ’

ἐν ῥοιβδήσεσι βουλόλων,

παρὰ δὲ ματέρι νυμφοκόμον

Ἰωαχίδαις γάμον.

But the Argives will crown upon your head

the most beautiful tresses—

just as a pure, dappled heifer

having come from some rocky mountain

cave—and stain your mortal

throat blood-red;

although [you were] not raised by a

Shepard’s pipe nor whistle, [but] rather,

at the side of your mother [you were]

ripened for a marriage to a son of Inachus. 36

The juxtaposition of Thetis, whose marriage and motherhood of

Achilles are immortalized in song, and Iphigenia, who will lose all chance for

marriage and, consequently, motherhood, is striking. 37 The Chorus does not

mourn, at this moment, for Iphigenia’s death. They mourn for her lost chance

at creating life. It is for this loss that the Chorus continues: “Where does the

face of Modesty [Αἰδοῦς] or Ἀρετή hold any sway, whenever godlessness holds

authority, and Ἀρετή, being cast behind them, is neglected by mortals…” 38



This passage rebukes the Argive men for neglecting Iphigenia’s current virtue

(cf. αἰδοῦς ὄμμ’ ἔχους’ ἐλεύθερον) 39 as well as her potential to contribute to the

city. However, it is through Iphigenia’s disregard for the women’s lamentation

that we find evidence for the third aspect of her heroic aretē: kleos.

Although the Chorus assumes that Iphigenia has lost her chance to

fulfil her obligations to the city, Iphigenia reclaims these accomplishments for

herself through unexpected means. In taking ownership of her woman-born

duty 40 to deliver Hellas by whatever means necessary, 41 taming the “unbridled

eros and eris” of her current situation, 42 Iphigenia assumes the mantle of

motherhood, marriage, and fame—titles which she proclaims for herself:

ταῦτα πάντα κατθανοῦσα ῥύσομαι, καί μου κλέος,

Ἑλλάδ’ ὡς ἠλευθέρωσα, μακάριον γενήσεται.


All these things I will deliver when I die, and my glory,

since I have freed Hellas, will be most blessed.


δίδωμι σῶμα τοὐμὸν Ἑλλάδι.

θύετ’, ἐκπορθεῖτε Τροίαν· ταῦτα γὰρ μνημεῖά μου

διὰ μακροῦ καί παῖδες οὗτοι καὶ γάμοι καὶ δόξ’ ἐμή.

I give my body to Hellas.

Sacrifice it, and undo Troy; for this is my

enduring monument: motherhood and marriage and fame are mine. 43

This declaration seems, at first, impossible to uphold. Indeed, an Argive is

prepared to lead Iphigenia to the altar, though not for marriage. She cannot

physically accomplish either of these two achievements—marriage and

motherhood. But just as φάος takes a metaphorical sense to describe the

duty of a woman, Iphigenia fulfils her obligations to the city metaphorically.

Although her parents claim that she is to be joined with Hades in marriage, 44

Iphigenia chooses her own spouse. 45 Her marriage is represented in this very

passage by the phrase δίδωμι σῶμα τοὐμὸν Ἑλλάδι. 46 Δίδωμι, while a common

verb for exchanges, can carry a connotation of “to hand over in marriage”—

representing the physical and legal transfer of a woman from her father to

her husband. 47 This connotation, along with the partitioning of Iphigenia

from her σῶμα, 48 places Iphigenia in the role of the parent—giving her body

away—and Hellas in the role of the metaphorical husband. 49 However, instead

of giving her body to her husband by consummating their marriage, Iphigenia

surrenders her body to death. To die in service of one’s city, as Loraux notes,

is the surefire way to achieve aretē, 50 but for a woman to die for her country is

unexpected, as “Men give their lives, women give their sons.” 51 Does Iphigenia

sacrifice herself only for lack of a child to offer? Or does her self-sacrifice

move her beyond the female obligation of body and into the male obligation of

death? 52

While one may be tempted to credit the former as true, Iphigenia

can be attributed a moment of motherhood, although it is also metaphorical in

nature. The utility and essentiality of childbirth lies in the fact that it produces

citizens- and soldiers-to-be, and ensures the survival of the city. Thus,

Iphigenia’s metaphorical birth of salvation (ὡς σωτηρίαν / Ἕλλησι δώσουσ’

ἔρχομαι νικηφόρον, “since I [now] come to deliver a salvation to the people of

Hellas, crowned in victory”) 53 satisfies her parental obligation to Hellas. This

sense of population preservation comes through in the use of Ἕλλην, meaning

“of Hellas,” rather than Ἑλλάς, “Hellas,” 54 which implies that the “salvation”

or “security” which Iphigenia provides is for the collective people of Hellas

rather than the land itself. 55 However, within the future participle δώσουσα,

“delivering,” there is a sense of intention— “in order to deliver”—but an

uncertainty of success. We see aretē affirmed in scholarship as a resultdriven

concept; intention alone cannot earn it. 56 Therefore, although Iphigenia

achieves a metaphorical birth and marriage to fulfil her womanly obligations

of the body, her only true accomplishment is a death for the sake of Hellas.

Through the lens of Loraux’s analysis of gender dynamics, which

posits death as something belonging to men and the body as belonging to

women, 57 Iphigenia appears as a perfect coincidence of the male and female

obligation. She strives to accomplish the female duties with which she is

charged but accomplishes them through the male method, creating an image of

a girl with the status of a woman and the accomplishment of a man. But what

of her kleos?

Iphigenia asserts her right to kleos because of what her death enables

for Hellas: passage over the sea, the chance to sack Troy, and prevention of

future “barbarian” raids. 58 She uses the indicative future middle-passive form

of ῥύομαι, 59 which carries both an offensive and defensive connotation—to

draw for oneself (as in a sword) and to protect. Through this middle voice,

Iphigenia delivers these things for the good of Hellas, but also for her own

benefit; for when she dies, she will have kleos…makarion in exchange—”a

most blessed glory.” 60 It is a service, a trade, and an agreement. The Chorus

promises to uphold this agreement in their parting words to Iphigenia: κλέος

γὰρ οὔ σε μὴ λίπηι, “[there is] no fear that glory [κλέος] will ever leave you.” 61

With this exchange, Iphigenia ensures the third and final aspect of her aretē.

She adheres to every definition of aretē provided by the Chorus. She

is wise; shows her judgement; proves her reserve, especially in the face of her

“fiancé”; and positions herself to advance her fatherland however possible. She

satisfies her feminine obligations to her homeland while taking the masculine

measures required under the circumstances. She lives modestly but dies boldly.

Iphigenia’s adherence to these expectations proves her distinction to such an



extent that the Argives, and the audience watching the tragedy, are “amazed at

hearing the good courage and aretē of the young woman” 62 —not the aretē of a

wife, but of a hero of Hellas.


1. See Helleman (1995) for analysis of Penelope’s status as a Homeric hero.

2. E.g., Heracles lines 342 and 697; Heracleidae lines 625ff. and 775;

Andromache line 226.

3. Cf. Ajax lines 617 and 1357; Philoctetes lines 669, 1420 and 1425;

Trachiniae line 645.

4. Cf. Agamemnon lines 184–249. Greek of Aeschylus comes from Page

(1972). All translations are my own.

5. See esp. Agamemnon lines 228–30: λιτὰς δὲ καὶ κληδόνας πατρώιους /

παρ’ οὐδὲν αἰῶνα παρθένειόν τ’ / ἔθεντο φιλόμαχοι βραβῆς,“…but for the

prayers, cries of ‘Father,’ and life of the young girl the war-lusting chiefs

cared nothing.”

6. Euripides Iphigenia at Aulis, lines 561–7. Greek of the Iphigenia at Aulis

comes from Diggle (1994).

7. The question of whether aretē was teachable or innate was a popular

subject in 5th-century thought, and later became a key aspect of Platonic

philosophy (e.g., Republic 492e) (cf. Collard and Morwood, Euripides:

Iphigenia at Aulis, 389ff.).

8. Euripides, Iphigenia at Aulis, lines 568–72.

9. Cf. Iphigenia at Aulis, lines 543–57. See Collard and Morwood 391ff. for

further commentary.

10. Thucydides, Historiae, 2.43–45: Pericles commends soldiers for their

death, and women for their conduct at home. Greek from Thucydides

comes from Jones and Powell (1970 [1942]).

11. Meno 71e: ἀνδρὸς ἀρετή, ἱκανὸν εἶναι τὰ τῆς πόλεως πράττειν, καὶ

πράττοντα τοὺς μὲν φίλους εὖ ποιεῖν, τοὺς δ’ ἐχθροὺς κακῶς, […]

γυναικὸς ἀρετήν, […] κατήκοον οὖσαν τοῦ ἀνδρός, “a man’s aretē is to be

capable to manage the affairs of the city, and these things are managed to

benefit his friends and to harm his enemies, […] the aretē of a woman, […]

[is] being obedient to her husband.” Greek from Plato comes from Burnet

(1968 [1903]).

12. Euripides, Iphigenia at Aulis, line 994.

13. Iphigenia at Aulis, line 561.

14. Iphigenia at Aulis, line 562.



15. Iphigenia at Aulis, line 996.

16. Iphigenia at Aulis, line 1342.

17. Iphigenia at Aulis, line 1344.

18. Foley, Ritual Irony, 67.

19. Euripides, Iphigenia at Aulis, lines 1273–4.

20. Clytemnestra responds to her child’s sacrifice for the city very differently

than Praxithea (Euripides’ Erechtheus), who says “If, in my house, instead

of daughters, a male sapling had grown, […] wouldn’t I, confronting his

death in advance, have given this son a spear to send him into combat?”

(qtd. in Loraux “Bed and War,” 28). In this speech, Praxithea equates a

daughter being sacrificed to a son going to war as a soldier: a civic duty.

21. Euripides, Iphigenia at Aulis, lines 1368–70.

22. Cf. Iphigenia at Aulis, lines 565–6.

23. Iphigenia at Aulis, line 565.

24. Iphigenia at Aulis, line 563.

25. Iphigenia at Aulis, line 571.

26. One may note that Iphigenia is deemed to be of “inconsistent” character

[τοῦ ἀνωμάλου] by Aristotle because of this change in attitude (Poetics

1454a31). See Sansone (1991) and Gibert (1995) on changing minds in


27. Euripides, Iphigenia at Aulis, line 1407.

28. Iphigenia at Aulis, lines 1408–9.

29. Iphigenia at Aulis, line 1420.

30. Iphigenia at Aulis, line 1386.

31. Iphigenia at Aulis, line 1502.

32. Loraux, “Bed and War,” 42.

33. Loraux, 23.

34. LSJ, s.v. “φάος” (esp. II: this significance appears in Euripides’ Iphigenia

in Tauris 849, Heracles 531, as well as in Homer). See Collard and

Morwood 617 for additional commentary.

35. Euripides, Iphigenia at Aulis, lines 1036–79.

36. Iphigenia at Aulis, lines 1080–9.

37. See Oakley (2020), esp. 189-211, for an illustrative overview of the ancient

Greek marriage ceremony, especially the complementary relationship of

wifehood and motherhood. See also Rehm (1994), esp. 11–29.

38. Euripides, Iphigenia at Aulis, lines 1090–4.

39. Iphigenia at Aulis, line 994.

40. Cf. Iphigenia at Aulis, line 1502.

41. Cf. Iphigenia at Aulis, lines 1273–4.

42. Foley, Ritual Irony, 78.

43. Euripides, Iphigenia at Aulis, lines 1383–4 and 1397–9.

44. Cf. Euripides, Iphigenia at Aulis, lines 520 and 1278.

45. Foley (2019) provides an in-depth study of this conflation of marriage

and sacrifice in the Iphigenia at Aulis, as well as of ritual sacrifice in

Phoenissae, Bacchae, and Heracles.

46. Euripides, Iphigenia at Aulis, line 1397.

47. LSJ, s.v. “δίδωμι” (esp. II.2: this use is also seen in Euripides Medea line

288 and Homer Il. 6.192, Od. 15.367).

48. Cf. Euripides, Iphigenia at Aulis, line 1390: ἡ δ’ ἐμὴ ψυχὴ μί’ οὖσα πάντα

κωλύσει τάδε;, “since my one life [ψυχή] can be the prevention of these

things?” (cf. also Euripides, Heracleidae, lines 550–1, “I give my life

[ψυχή] willingly”) See Collard and Morwood, 593.

49. Seaford (1987) and Rehm (1994) both posit that the conflation of marriage

and death was a common aspect of Greek tragedy. While Iphigenia is not

unique in this respect, her insistence on renaming her spouse is.

50. Loraux, “Bed and War,” 24.

51. Loraux, 28.

52. Cf. Loraux, 42–3. See also Papastamati (2017) for further analysis of

coinciding male and female motifs of kalos thanatos, “a beautiful death,”

in Euripides’ Hecuba.

53. Euripides, Iphigenia at Aulis, lines 1472–3. (Cf. Phoenissae lines 1054–59:

“We admire [him], / who goes into [his] death / on behalf of his father



land, […] / but has placed a crown of victory on our seven-towered land.”

Greek comes from Diggle [1984–94].)

54. Cf. Euripides, Iphigenia at Aulis, lines 1397 and 1420.

55. Cf. Pericles’ Funeral Oration, which assigns women the role of childbirth

in preserving both the population (μὴ ἐρημοῦσθαι, “to not be left empty”)

and security (ἀσφαλείᾳ, “freedom from harm”) of the city (Historiae


56. See Helleman “Homer’s Penelope,” esp. 231, and Adkins “Basic Greek

Values in Euripides’ Hecuba and Hercules,” esp. 205–213.

57. Loraux, “Bed and War,” 43.

58. Euripides, Iphigenia at Aulis, lines 1378–82.

59. Iphigenia at Aulis, line 1383.

60. Cf. Heracleidae lines 598–9, in which another virginal sacrifice, named

Makaria, is promised glory in life and death.

61. Euripides, Iphigenia at Aulis, line 1504.

62. Iphigenia at Aulis, lines 1561–2.


Adkins, A. “Basic Greek Values in Euripides’ Hecuba and Hercules.” CQ 16

(1966): 193–219.

Burnet, J. Platonis opera, vol. 3. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1968 [1903].

Collard, C. and J. Morwood. Euripides: Iphigenia at Aulis, vols. 1 & 2.

Liverpool University Press, 2017.

Diggle, J. Euripidis fabulae, vols. 1 & 3. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1984–94.

Foley, H. Ritual Irony. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2019.

Gibert, J. Change of Mind in Greek Tragedy. Göttingen Vandenhoeck und

Ruprecht, 1995.

Helleman, W. E. “Homer’s Penelope: A tale of feminine ἀρετή.” Échos du

monde Classique 39.2 (1995): 227-250.

Jones, H.S. and J.E. Powell. Thucydidis historiae, 2 vols. Oxford: Clarendon

Press, 1970 [1942].

Loraux, N. “Bed and War.” In The Experiences of Tiresias: The Feminine and

the Greek Man, 23–43. Princeton University Press, 1995.

Oakley J. A Guide to Scenes of Daily Life on Athenian Vases. University of

Wisconsin Press, 2020.

Page, D.L. Aeschyli Septem Quae Supersunt Tragoedias. Oxford: Clarendon

Press, 1972.

Papastamati, S. “The Poetics of kalos thanatos in Euripides’ Hecuba:

Masculine and Feminine Motifs in Polyxena’s Death.” Mnemosyne

70.3 (2017): 361–385.

Rehm, R. Marriage to Death: The Conflation of Wedding and Funeral Rituals

in Greek Tragedy. Princeton University Press, 1994.

Sansone, D. “Iphigenia Changes her Mind.” ICS 16 (1991): 161–72.

Seaford, R. “The Tragic Wedding.” The Journal of Hellenic Studies, 107

(1987): 106–130.



On the Trials of Love:


College of Arts and Sciences, Oberlin College

Catullus 83

Lesbia mi praesente viro mala plurima dicit:

haec illi fatuo maxima laetitia est.

mule, nihil sentis. si nostri oblita taceret,

sana esset: nunc quod gannit et obloquitur,

non solum meminit, sed, quae multo acrior est res,

irata est: hoc est, uritur et loquitur.

Catullus 70

Nulli se dicit mulier mea nubere malle

quam mihi, non si se Iuppiter ipse petat.

dicit: sed mulier cupido quod dicit amanti

in vento et rapida scribere oportet aqua.

Catullus 60

Num te leaena montibus Libystinis

aut Scylla latrans infima inguinum parte

tam mente dura procreavit ac taetra,

ut supplicis vocem in novissimo casu

contemptam haberes, ah nimis fero corde?

Translator’s Note: With both our selection of poems and our method of translation, we emphasize

a different aspect of Catullus’ approach to the themes of love. The hardships of love as outlined by

Catullus in these poems are often more accessible to modern readers than his singular obsession with

Lesbia (as demonstrated, for example, in his second poem). Through our translation, we attempt to

highlight the contradiction often posed by love’s hardships by underscoring the words which express

the pain and cruelty the speaker feels he suffers at Lesbia’s hands. Furthermore, we present the poems

in an order that differs from their standard arrangement. This arrangement—83, 70, 60—brings out

the narrative thread interwoven between the three poems.

One of the challenges with translating works as popular as those of Catullus is bringing something

new to the text. We do this by maintaining a fairly literal translation of the poems, while also keeping in

Catullus 83, 70, and 60 †

Lesbia speaks endless abuse about me in her husband’s presence:

these words are the greatest source of delight to that fool.

Mule, you know nothing! If she were to remain silent, forgetful of me,

she would be fair-minded: now, because she snarls and interrupts,

she has not only made notice of me, but that which is more to the point,

she is incensed. So it goes; she speaks and so she burns.

There is no one, says my woman, she would rather marry than me, not

even if Jupiter himself desired her! She says this; but what a woman says to

her passionate lover ought to be written on wind and swift water.

Were you begotten by a lioness of the Libyan mountains, or Scylla, howling

from the deepest part of her womb, with a mind so cruel and loathsome

that you hold contempt for the voice of your supplicant, he in utmost ruin?

Oh, you of such a savage heart!

mind the tonal implications of the words. In this way, we have crafted translations that remain faithful

not only to the grammatical and syntactical structures of the originals, but also to the emotions lurking

behind each of them. A particular moment where this proved difficult was with the two words fero corde

in the final line of poem 60. While at first we rendered this as “feral heart,” “feral” for fero ultimately

sterilized the passion too heavily. The challenge then became how to translate the word in a way that

would convey this passion, but also not move away from the implications of wildness that bookend the

poem. Catullus opens with a comparison between Lesbia and Scylla, a notably vicious monster. The

translation of fero needed to reflect this connotation, while not dialing back on the passionate elements

of the poem. In this way, we settled upon “savage heart.”



Cybele Through the

Roman Eye


Harvard University

Cybele, “she who gave towers to the first cities,” from the beginnings of

her tradition was a manifestation of the fertile, giving earth. As Matar, Kuvava, and

Meter Theon, Cybele was a primordial goddess of power and a protector of cities. It

was her patronage that determined and defined ruling powers in Phrygia, Greece,

and eventually Rome. The “great Idaean Mother’’ from her earliest origins was a

goddess intrinsically tied to kingship. As her traditions converged and her worship

spread, she garnered new iconographies as the ways in which she protected states


The purpose of my examination is to establish how pre-existing Roman

religious traditions and moral archetypes changed the identity of this longworshipped

mother goddess. As Matar, she is a goddess of dichotomies: transitional

spaces, the wild and the city, death and birth. In Rome, she is the city’s rightful

ancestor, and yet again a crazed foreign goddess. Her allegiance is necessary for

the success of civilization, but how does this chthonic, wild goddess become so

swiftly redefined and changed into a token of womanly chastity? From the moment

of her arrival in Italy, the traditions of the Vestal Virgins, Bona Dea, and Roman

state myths changed her identity and worship, redefining them by the moral ideal of



As Rome expanded, the ritual of evocatio became more necessary, as

the co-opting of pre-existing deities in soon-to-be conquered territories served

to legitimize the rule of Rome. This ritual consisted of offering a foreign deity

(typically the patron of Rome’s adversary) fine standing in Rome and promising to

dedicate temples and to conduct grander worship than the deity received in their

home state. The idea behind this was that the deity would be lured to Rome

and leave the opposing forces vulnerable. Cybele’s acceptance in Rome is not

the result of a direct evocatio, but it follows this tradition, and later literary

works frame it as such. Ovid tells us that when Attalus resists the request to

bring her to Rome that the image of the goddess herself reacts. Shaking the

earth, Cybele says “Rome is a fitting site for any god.” (dignus Roma locus,

quo deus omnis eat.)” When Rome was in the grips of the Second Punic War,

the Senate turned to the Sibylline Books for guidance, then sought a second

opinion at Delphi, which returned the same prognosis. Retrieving the mother

goddess from Pessinus was necessary if Rome was to win the Punic War. She

came to Rome as an aniconic black meteorite and most notably was welcomed

by the Roman matron Claudia Quinta. The tale of this woman is well attested

in literary sources, and each version concerns itself with the matron’s casta

pudicitia. This word pudicitia and its opposite impudicitia are at the heart of

Roman state mythology and religious institutions. The tutelary goddesses and

religious practices of Rome center on the virtue of women, and civic threats to

the Roman state are often attributed to the impudicitia of a Vestal Virgin or a

senator’s wife.

Figure 1. Small Herculaneum woman, ca. 30-1 BCE. The J. Paul Getty Museum.

The iconography of pudicitia often consists of women with downcast

eyes, a veil (for matrons or brides), and a clenched hand. I refer to the

Herculaneum Women for this brief examination (figures 1 and 2). The small

and younger woman (see figure 1) has a very apprehensive posture, drawing a

fully covered arm across her chest. The large and older woman (see figure 2)

has a more matronly air, veiled, having similar yet distinct arm positioning;

however, her body language is slightly more open and her left hand is more

relaxed. Both women have a downcast glance. Both these women embody

pudicitia at two different stages in the life of a Roman woman, reflecting their

high social class.



Figure 2. Large Herculaneum woman, ca. 50 CE, The J. Paul Getty Museum.

Though young women, like the one in figure 1, have pudicitia, the

word is most closely associated with the archetype of the Roman matron

and wife. “Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion” is a well-known proverb

that stems from the Bona Dea scandal of 62 BCE. Pompeia’s credibility and

reputation as the hostess of this sacred festival was tarnished, calling her

pudicitia into question. Meanwhile, as Caesar’s mother Aurelia stops the rites,

she reaffirms her role as matron. Besides being a sacrilege, Clodius Pulcher’s

presence at the rites was a transgression against the strict female-male spaces

of Roman society. Because pudicitia focuses on the sexual piety of a woman,

it finds its origins in this underlying tension and boundary between men and

women in Roman society. The archetype of the Roman matron is, to borrow

phrasing from Ariadne Staples, “mediated by male status.”

Lucretia is an early example of the casta matrona archetype. She

is defined by her “obstinatam pudicitiam,” and her character serves to teach

Roman women that death is better than sexual impiety. Lucretia’s loss of

pudicitia results in the founding of the Republic. Her virtue as a wife and the

loss of it are both based on the goodness and wretchedness of two men. These

two men represent the Republic and the Monarchy, with Lucretia representing

Rome. The Monarchy rapes the chaste matron, who represents Rome, and by

killing herself she restores both her own honor and that of Rome. Her speech in

Livy is proverbial:

“Not in the least” she said; “For what is well to a woman when her

pudicitia is lost?”

(“Minime” inquit; “quid enim salvi est mulieri amissa pudicitia?)

“Although, I absolve myself of sin, I do not free myself from the

punishment; let no shameless woman hereafter live by the example of


(“ego me etsi peccato absolvo, supplicio non libero; nec ulla deinde

inpudica Lucretiae exemplo vivet.”)

The latter is ridiculously moralizing, summarizing the role Lucretia is meant

to play within Roman societal constructs, “teaching” women that it is better to

die than live unchaste.

While the rape of a Roman matron is cause for overthrowing the

Monarchy, the rape of the Sabine women is viewed as a diplomatic pact and

connection with the Sabines. As Livy attests, the rape of the Sabine women

forms the Roman wedding tradition of stealing the bride. How are these two

founding myths different? According to Livy, the Sabine women are placated

by the entreaties of Romulus, finding places in the homes of their captors. I

argue that the marriage status of these women is what exonerates or condemns

their rapists in the Roman tradition. After all, in Livy the liberi and conjuges

both attend the Consualia, but the daughters are stolen, while their mothers are

left to their husbands.

What makes one acceptable and the other unacceptable is whether the

violence in question achieves a desired effect, to paraphrase Ariadne Staples.

In Rome, sex is defined by violence, and in the marriage ritual, violence

changes the virgo into the coniunx. Cases in which married women are

unchaste or raped are the exertion of violence to an undesirable end.

Figure 3. Vestalis Maxima, ca. 2nd c. CE.



How do the Vestals factor into this tradition? When a Vestal loses

her virginal status she is killed for two reasons: for risking Rome’s safety, and

for impiety as a bride. These two different sides of her incestum correlate to

the conflicting identities of the Vestal as a virgin and as a matron. Firstly, the

physical status of the Vestal’s virginity is the intactness of the Roman state.

Of course, this connection is symbolic from an etic standpoint, but to the

Romans, if a Vestal’s body were not intact, neither were the walls of Rome.

On the other hand, the virginity of the Vestals does not negate their status as

matrons or brides. Their attire, their hair, and their duties make them matrons

of the state. During Augustus’ rule, they are legally given the status of matron.

This depiction of the Vestalis Maxima (figure 3) shows the bridal headdress as

well as the Herculean knot. These sacred parts of their dress would be removed

when a Vestal had committed incestum, stripping her of her bridal status

before she was buried alive.

Claudia Quinta: Repository of Ideals

Figure 4. Relief of Claudia Quinta, ca. 1st c. CE, Centrale Montemartini.

Pudicitia and casta(issima) are the two words that shape the story

of Cybele’s advent in Rome and that of Claudia Quinta, a Roman matron and

the sister of the former consul Appius Claudius. She was chosen to welcome

Cybele to Rome alongside Publius Scipio Nasica. The pair were chosen to be

paragons of Roman virtue as the noblest man and woman in Rome. Claudia

Quinta’s story varies greatly, but the underlying connection between the

different Claudiae Quintae is not just her pudicitia, but its disputed nature.

Livy tersely tells us of her dubia fama, but over time the contrast between her

poor reputation and her restored virtue is greatly exaggerated. As the tradition

continues, the stories become far-fetched, to the point of dressing her as a

Vestal and having her lasso and bring to shore the ship and the goddess. (see

figure 4) Nevertheless, her casta pudicitia is always restored by her service in

welcoming the goddess to Rome.

In Ovid’s rendition, a priest prophesied “when she comes, she must

be accepted by chaste hands” a clever foreshadowing to the chastity of Claudia

Quinta. When the ship arrives at Ostia, women and men line the shores to

greet her, Claudia Quinta among them. Ovid makes her poor reputation clear,

but emphasizes that these accusations are untrue. The ship is stuck and Claudia

steps forward, letting down the hair that spurred the rumors of impiety in line

309. She then prays to the image of the goddess in a compelling speech:

(‘supplicis, alma, tuae, genetrix fecunda deorum,

accipe sub certa condicione preces.

casta negor. si tu damnas, meruisse fatebor;

morte luam poenas iudice victa dea.

sed si crimen abest, tu nostrae pignora vitae

re dabis et castas casta sequere manus.’)

“Kind and fruitful Mother of the Gods, accept

A suppliant’s prayers, on this one condition:

They deny I’m chaste: let me be guilty if you condemn me:

Convicted by a goddess I’ll pay for it with my life.

But if I’m free of guilt, grant a pledge of my innocence

By your action: and, chaste, give way to my chaste hands.”

In this moment, she rests her survival and that of Rome on her virtue.

“Morte luam poenas” (322), the threat of death reminds the reader of Vestals

buried alive for lapses in chastity, emphasizing that Rome is a social climate

dependent on the virtue of its women. Line 324’s “castas casta sequere manus”

is cleverly crafted, fulfilling the prophecy of 260 “cum veniet, casta est

accipienda manu,” while assigning casta to the goddess herself. This passage

is certainly influenced by Augustus’ affinity for the goddess and his use of her

imagery as a sign of pudicitia.

Roman Religion and the Family Unit

Cybele’s worship had to be adapted to fit Roman societal norms.

Her cult had to be made exclusively public when it had been a mystery cult

elsewhere. Iconographically, the loss of mystery rites in her cult is reflected

in the disappearance of torches or torch-bearing maidens. She is also more

frequently depicted in a lion-drawn chariot, reflecting the Roman ritual of

carrying the goddess on a bier. Before, she was worshipped in private rites

while her image remained static, but in Rome she was honored with a public

procession and games.

George Heyman tells us that Rome’s official “anxiety over the exotic

nature of the foreign cults can be seen as an example of the inability of Roman

religious/political discourse to deal with the religious subject as an autonomous



agent.” In the Roman mindset, religion was centered around the gens or “clan,”

and a strange cosmology emerges — the household was a microcosm of the

macrocosm of the state.

This perspective makes clear why Cybele must become the Matron

goddess. Because the story of Cybele and Attis so heavily conflicted with

the Roman polarization of gender, with her eunuch priests transgressing that

omnipresent barrier, Cybele had to be redefined by matronhood to fit into the

Roman framework.

Imperial Patronage

In both Ovid’s Fasti and Virgil’s Aeneid, the Idaean Mother is the

patron of Troy, and in Ovid, she feels pulled to follow Aeneas to Italy. 42 Cybele

is once again invoked as the divine mother of Romans. Ovid tells the story

of Cybele’s mythology, establishes her connection to Aeneas (and thus the

Romans), sails her to Rome, and explains aspects of her worship there. Julius

Caesar had invoked Venus as a direct ancestor to tie himself to Aeneas, and

Augustus calls on Cybele as the mother of the Romans. Her temple sits in the

center of the Palatine Hill, situated by the hut of Romulus and the Scalae Caci.

Augustus’ house faces her temple, which he restored twice.

During Augustus’ reign, it is still taboo to declare oneself a god,

and he is only Divus Augustus after his death. He must achieve semi-godly

status via synnaos and temple sharing; by sharing a space with a deity, a ruler

is symbolically deified. Creating this attachment with Cybele is also a way to

connect to the farther reaches of the empire, serving as a reminder of the span

of his rule.

Figure 5. Sardonyx cameo of Livia, dressed as Cybele with mural

crown, tympanum, poppies, and sheaves of wheat, ca. 14 CE, Wien,

Kunsthistorisches Museum.

In his stead, Livia dons godlike iconography. I offer two examples of

this here: Livia as Cybele and Livia as Ops, figures 5 and 6, respectively. In her

statue as Ops, Livia adopts the sheaves, poppies, and cornucopia, all common

attributes of Roman goddesses attached to prosperity. These communicate her

role as the bountiful mother of the state. In the case of her cameo as Cybele,

in addition to the wheat and poppies, she wears the mural crown with veil, sits

on her throne, and holds a tympanum. By putting herself in eye contact with

the bust of (not yet) divine Augustus, she legitimizes her role as the matron

and mother of Rome and elevates Augustus’ status to the husband of the divine


Figure 6. Statue of Livia as the goddess Ops, ca. 1st c. CE, Louvre Museum.

Upon looking closely at the statue of Livia as Ops, we can see the

hint of an adapted Herculean knot. The Herculean knot is a popular addition to

Roman statues of goddesses and was a traditional part of the Roman marriage

ritual, specifically in the stylized cingulum or “belt” that brides wore. As

Vestals were symbolically brides and matrons, they often wear this belt in

statues (see figure 3.) With its connections to marriage, it is unsurprisingly a

symbol of pudicitia and casta. As Cybele comes to Rome, she begins to wear

the belt, reflecting her transition from mother to matron. (see figures 8 and 10.)



Figure 7. Statue of the goddess Fortuna found at Ostia, ca. 4th c. BCE,

Vatican Museums.

Figure 8. Statue of Cybele found at Formia, ca. 60 BCE, Ny Carlsberg


The use of her imagery by Livia hints at the broader purpose of

Cybele in Rome. She was not simply a goddess of pudicitia, but she became

the manifestation of the pudicitia of Rome (and its women). This symbology

differs from her worship elsewhere, forcing her to become the castissima

goddess of the state, protecting the city by way of her matronly nature. Livia is

not the only woman who uses Cybele’s iconography to emphasize her virtue.

Ambra Spinelli, in The “Getty Cybele”: A Roman Portrait of

Feminine Virtues, dissects the iconography present in the Getty Cybele

(figure 9). She asks and answers the following questions: why these attributes

are used, of whom the portrait may be, and how it speaks to the image of the

Roman matron. This portrait, as Spinelli tells us, does not portray a specific

goddess. It instead conflates the iconography of several Roman goddesses to

convey the virtue or pudicitia of the woman memorialized in this funerary


Here, in this portrait, all these symbols are solidified: because the

safety of the Roman state is so deeply tied to the pudicitia of its women, the

tutelary deities of the city are shorthand for the values in question. Her crown

and lions are taken from Cybele, but she takes her rudder from Fortuna (figure

7), another tutelary goddess of Rome who wore the mural crown. The poppies,

wheat, and cornucopia can all be attributed to Ops or Ceres.

Figure 9. The “Getty Cybele,” ca. 50 CE, Getty Villa.




When I began my research and proposed my topic, I did so under the

assumption that Cybele’s role as a state protectress was greatly diminished

in Rome when compared to her roles in Phrygia, Lydia, or Greece. I had in

my mind the satire and mockery thrown at her priests and the aggressive

foreignizing she suffered in Rome and still suffers in modern scholarship. I

have discovered that my assumption could not have been more false. Yes, the

shape and form of Cybele’s worship in Rome was much different from how she

was venerated in Greece and Lydia, but her power was not diminished.

The Roman constructs of femininity and masculinity are, for the

most part, rigid. They define most things in the life of the average Roman. In

the case of the Roman woman, the concept of pudicitia controls her life. The

constraints in Rome based on the barrier between male and female, between

foreign and domestic, and between chaste and unchaste morphed Cybele into

an entirely different form. She maintained her role as city protectress, but how

she protected the city changed. As she becomes emblematic of pudicitia and

is redefined to be casta, she protects Rome as an exemplar of the virtue of its

women. This way of wielding power, is, of course, built upon the tradition of

the Vestal Virgins and Roman state myths.

I was unable to, in the span of this study, truly digest the ideas

of Ariadne Staples in her chapter on Bona Dea. I hope to further draw the

connection between Cybele and Bona Dea in a later piece.

Cybele is a goddess of dichotomies, boundaries, of testing and

inhabiting the space in between. In each culture that worshipped her, she

represented an aspect of their cosmology. The earth and divine law were seen

as primordial forces in her earlier domains, but for the Romans chastity and

sexual impiety, pudicitia and impudicitia, might as well have been two warring

primordial forces that preserved or damned the state.

I would like to end this paper on a sweet note, and thus present this

statue of Cybele (see figure 10). It was found in Ostia and dates to the 2nd-3rd

century CE. The inscription reads:

“Virius Marcarianus v(ir) c(larissmus) deam Cybeben p(ecunia) s(ua)”

I find it endearing that after hundreds of years as Kybele, Magna Mater, and

Meter Theon, that in Rome she once again is called by her original Lydian



1. Ovid, 4.220.

2. Beard, Religions of Rome, Vol. 1, 34.

3. Ovid, 4.267.

4. Small and Large Herculaneum Women. 2008. The J. Paul Getty Museum.

5. Tuck, 9.

6. Small and Large Herculaneum Women. 2008. The J. Paul Getty Museum.

7. It’s very important to note that unmarried Roman women had much less

mobility as members of the Roman state than married women did. Though

matrons also lived a restricted life, their husbands still provided avenues for

social climbing as well as semi-social engagement.

8. Staples, 42.

9. Staples, 27.

10. Staples, 36.

11. Livy, 1.58.5.

12. Livy, 1.57-1.59.

13. Livy, 1.58.7.

14. Livy, 1.58.10.

15. Livy, 1.9.12.

16. Livy, 1.9.

17. Staples, 28-29.

18. Rabax63, Vestalis Maxima. 2016. Wikimedia Commons.

19. Holt, 568.

20. Beard, Vestal Virgins, 13-15.

21. Beard, 17.

22. Lendering, Jona. Rome, Tiber, Relief of Claudia Quinta. 2020.

23. Vermaseren, 41.

24. Vermaseren, 40.

25. Livy, 29.14.12.

26. Beard, Religions of Rome, Vol. 2, 45.

27. Ovid, 4.260.

28. Ovid, 4.307-311.

29. Ovid, Kline, Fasti, 4.319-324.

30. Ovid, Fasti, 4.260.

31. Summers, 352.

32. Heyman, 24.

33. Vaudoise, 206.

34. Ovid, 4.250-255.

35. Ovid, 4.179-372.

36. Vermaseren, 42.

37. Steuernagel, 241-255.

38. Shurygin, Ilya. Livia with the Bust of the Divus Augustus. 2012.

39. ChrisO. Statue of Livia Drusilla as Ops. 2004. Wikimedia Commons.

40. Rabax63. Statue of Fortuna. 2018. Wikimedia Commons.

41. ChrisO. Statue of Cybele Found at Formia. 2008. Wikimedia Commons.

42. Hill, Dave, and Margie Kleerup. The Getty Cybele. 2010. Wikimedia


43. Prins, Marco. Statue of Cybele Found at Ostia. 2018.




Primary (Literary):

Livy, and Robert Seymour Conway. 1955. Titi Livi Ab Urbe condita. Oxonii:

E Typographeo Clarendoniano.

Naso, Publius Ovidius, Alton, E. H., Wormell, Donald E. and Courtney, Edward.

Fastorum libri sex. Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter, 2013.

Primary (Objects):

Small and Large Herculaneum Women. 2008. The J. Paul Getty Museum.


Rabax63. Vestalis Maxima. 2016. Wikimedia Commons. https://commons.

Lendering, Jona. Rome, Tiber, Relief of Claudia Quinta. 2020.

Shurygin, Ilya. Livia with the Bust of the Divus Augustus. 2012. Ancientrome.


ChrisO. Statue of Livia Drusilla as Ops. 2004. Wikimedia Commons. https://

Rabax63. Statue of Fortuna. 2018. Wikimedia Commons. https://commons.

ChrisO. Statue of Cybele Found at Formia. 2008. Wikimedia Commons.

Hill, Dave, and Margie Kleerup. The Getty Cybele. 2010. Wikimedia


Villa_57. AA.19_n2.jpg.

Prins, Marco. Statue of Cybele Found at Ostia. 2018. https://www.


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New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998.

Beard, Mary. “The Sexual Status of Vestal Virgins.” The Journal of Roman

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Bøgh, Birgitte. “Mother of the Gods: Goddess of Power and Protector of Cities.”

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Heyman, George. The Power of Sacrifice : Roman and Christian Discourses in

Conflict. Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 2007.

Holt N. Parker. “Why Were the Vestals Virgins? Or the Chastity of Women

and the Safety of the Roman State.” American Journal of Philology

125, no. 4 (2004): 563-601.

Kline, A. S. (2004). Ovid: Fasti. Retrieved 2020, from https://www.


Munn, Mark H. The Mother of the Gods, Athens, and the Tyranny of Asia: A

Study of Sovereignty in Ancient Religion. Berkeley: University of

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Heart on Sleeve //



College of Arts and Sciences, Loyola University Chicago

After the Liber Linteus Zagrabiensis and the Liver of Piacenza

Nesi-hensu I know nothing about you, besides that

you died and your husband’s job. Could you have read

that book they rolled around you? If you came to, could you tell

if what it told for the future came true? If it came to pass by now

it’s long since past, but maybe it wasn’t back when you passed away.

And could the sheep, whose liver they modeled in bronze,

have read the diagram? Could it have enunciated the sky

and future that its guts mapped in any other way but

by spilling them—reducing the whole live-r to a liver

separate from the rest of a bleeding, lifeless thing?

And I don’t even speak that tongue. By no wrapping and no organ

have I found any clue. Even putting a heart on a sleeve, honesty

falls fallow in the gap between I mean and the meaning.

Thinking I only read my own mind. Every neuron a haruspex

puzzling over the next neuron over the next neuron over the

next neuron over the next neuron over the next neuron over.

Anything that’s sense is always since and so, it follows, only

ever insincere. What the entrails entail tells a tall tale where

the height in question is horizon to horizon, just line, end pointless.

Look, they had to give Nesi-hensu that book bound outside her skin

to make up for the brains and guts they took from within. Even if it’s all

made up that’s still better. Between the linen and the liver an immense

inarticulable acnestis lies left over: face and skin, heart, tongue. &c.

So you wouldn’t want to strand her there like that without any guide.

Even if either way it’s unintelligible, at least like this it’s just her

lost not everything losing all over itself. So redeem it, admit defeat

and utter insensibility.

Acnina 1 I want that as an implant.

Nesi-hensu I might get that tattooed.


1. When drafting this poem, I was under the impression that “acnina” was the

Etruscan word for sheep. Later on, I learned that the glossary I had consulted

was not a reliable source, and that more trustworthy scholars hazard no such

guess. This progression—of thinking I knew what a word meant, of addressing

a long-dead creature by it, and of then learning that that meaning and naming

were mistaken—corresponded to the themes of the poem serendipitously,

transcendently well, so I preserved the word as a testament to that experience.

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