previous next

τοῖος, introducing the reason; O. C. 947 n.

ἐτάθη, lit. ‘was made intense,’ here suggesting both loud sound and keen strife. Cp. Il. 12.436ἐπὶ ἶσα μάχη τέτατο πτόλεμός τε”: 23. 375 “ἵπποισι τάθη δρόμος”: Aesch. Pers. 574τεῖνε δὲ δυσβάϋκτον βοᾶτιν τάλαιναν αὐδάν.

πάταγος, clatter of arms (a word expressive of the sound), as distinguished from “βοή”, a human cry; cp. Her. 7.211οἱ δὲ βάρβαροι ὁρέοντες φεύγοντας βοῇ τε καὶ πατάγῳ ἐπήϊσαν”. The Argives began to retreat in the night: at dawn, the Thebans made a sally in pursuit of them, and turned the retreat into a rout.

ἀντιπάλῳ δυσχείρωμα δράκοντος, a thing hard to vanquish for him who was struggling against the (Theban) dragon, —i.e. for the Argive eagle. The two readings between which the MSS. fluctuate, viz., ἀντιπάλῳ ... δράκοντι and ἀντιπάλουδράκοντος, arose, I feel sure, from ἀντιπάλῳδράκοντος (V has “ἀντιπάλω...δράκοντος”). For the gen. after this adj., cp. Pind. O. 8. 94μένος γήραος ἀντίπαλον”, a spirit that wrestles with old age: Eur. Alc. 922ὑμεναίων γόος ἀντίπαλος”, wails contending with marriagesongs.

The interpretation of the passage turns primarily on two points.

(1) The δράκων certainly means the Thebans,—the “σπαρτοί” (O. C. 1534) sprung from the dragon's teeth sown by Cadmus, and thence called “δρακοντογενεῖς” (schol.), Ovid's “anguigenae” ( Met. 3. 531): cp. 1125ἐπὶ σπορᾷ δράκοντος”. Poetry often represented a struggle between an eagle and a dragon or snake (“δράκων” could mean either, the ‘dragon’ being conceived as a sort of huge python); as Il. 12.201, Od. 4.4. 11.

(2) The δυς in δυσχείρωμα must refer to difficulty experienced by the vanquished Argives, not by the victorious Thebans. The word must mean, then, ‘a thing hard to overcome,’ not, ‘a victory won with difficulty.’ So “δυσχείρωτος” is ‘hard to subdue’ (Her. 7.9), as “ἀχείρωτος” is ‘unsubdued’ (Thuc. 6.10), and “εὐχείρωτος” ‘easy to subdue’ (Xen. Hellen. 5.3.4). Cp. “δυσπάλαιστος, δυσπάλαμος, δύσμαχος”, etc., used with poetical irony to express the irresistible. In O. T. 560θανάσιμον χείρωμα” is a deed of deadly violence: in Aesch. Th. 1022τυμβοχόα χειρώματα” are works of the hand in mound-making. In itself, “δυσχείρωμα” might mean ‘a thing achieved with difficulty’; but here the irony is clearly pointed against the routed Argives: the poet does not mean that the Thebans won with difficulty. Thus “δυσχείρωμα” is here the opposite of what Aesch. calls “εὐμαρὲς χείρωμα”, a thing easily subdued: Aesch. Ag. 1326δούλης θανούσης, εὐμαροῦς χειρώματος”. The Theban “πάταγος Ἄρεος” was a thing which the Argives could not overcome.

Those who read ἀντιπάλῳδράκοντι explain either (a) ‘a hard-won victory for the dragon foe’: but this gives a wrong sense to “δυσχείρωμα”: or (b) join the dat. with ὲτάθη: ‘a din was raised by the dragon foe (cp. Il. 22.55Ἀχιλῆϊ δαμασθείς”), a thing hard (for the Argive) to subdue.’ But “δυσχείρωμα”, placed as it is, cannot be thus dissociated from the dat. “ἀντιπ. δράκοντι” and mentally referred to another dat. which is left to be understood.

Those who read ἀντιπάλουδράκοντος understand (a) a thing on the part of the dragon foe which was hard (for the Argive) to overcome; i.e. ‘an irresistible onset of the dragon foe.’ But such a construction of “δυσχείρωμα” with the gen. seems impossible, esp. when there is no dat. to help it out. Or (b) ‘a hard-won victory of the dragon foe’; which gives a wrong sense to “δυσχείρωμα”.—The form of the word is in one respect unique. Every similar neuter noun compounded with “δυς” is from a verb so compounded: as “δυσέργημα, δυσημέρημα, δυσπράγημα, δυσσέβημα, δυστύχημα, δυσφήμημα, δυσχέρασμα, δυσχρήστημα, δυσώπημα”. But there is no such verb as “δυσχειρόω”, ‘to subdue with difficulty.’ The noun has been boldly coined to express “δυσχείρωτον πρᾶγμα”.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide References (18 total)
  • Commentary references from this page (18):
    • Aeschylus, Persians, 574
    • Aeschylus, Seven Against Thebes, 1022
    • Euripides, Alcestis, 922
    • Herodotus, Histories, 7.211
    • Herodotus, Histories, 7.9
    • Homer, Odyssey, 4.4
    • Pindar, Olympian, 8
    • Sophocles, Antigone, 1125
    • Sophocles, Oedipus at Colonus, 1534
    • Sophocles, Oedipus at Colonus, 947
    • Sophocles, Oedipus Tyrannus, 560
    • Thucydides, Histories, 6.10
    • Xenophon, Hellenica, 5.3.4
    • Homer, Iliad, 12.201
    • Homer, Iliad, 12.436
    • Homer, Iliad, 22.55
    • Aeschylus, Agamemnon, 1326
    • Ovid, Metamorphoses, 3.531
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: