Mindful of their young chief's precept—“πειρῶτὸπαρὸνθεραπεύειν” (149)—the Chorus seize this moment in order to deepen the impression left on the mind of Philoctetes. It was in the land of the Trojans—often called ‘Phrygians’ —that Neoptolemus was wronged by the Atreidae. ‘Then and there’—say the Chorus—‘we invoked the most awful deity of the land, the great Earth Mother, the Phrygian Cybele—to punish our prince's wrong.’ The interposition of the Chorus is admirably effective for the purpose of making their master's indignation appear genuine.
This strophe, to which vv. 507—518 form the antistrophe, is a “ὑπόρχημα”, or ‘dance-song’ ( O. T. 1086 n.). The dochmiacs of which it is mainly composed (see Metrical Analysis) are accompanied by animated movement, expressive of the lively resentment which these memories suggest.
From a mythological point of view the verses are of singular interest. The attributes given to the goddess belong to three groups. (1) “παμβῶτιΓᾶ” recognises her in the primary character of an Elemental power. (2) “μᾶτερ...Διός” identifies her with Rhea. (3) “ὀρεστέρα, λεόντωνἔφεδρε”, and the mention of the Pactolus, present her as the specially Phrygian Cybele. But these three characters are completely fused in the unity of the “μάτηρπότνια”.
Sophocles: The Plays and Fragments, with critical notes, commentary, and translation in English prose. Part IV: The Philoctetes. Sir Richard C. Jebb. Cambridge. Cambridge University Press. 1932.
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