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χάλκασπις ἀνὴρ, Heracles. The epithet has an archaeological interest. In the Homeric poems, when reference is made to the exploits of Heracles, his weapon is the bow ( Il. 5. 395: Od. 8. 224, Od. 11. 607). Some ancient writers, however, expressly say that the equipment of Heracles with bow, club, and lion's skin was a comparatively late invention of the poets, and that in the oldest works of art he was represented with the armour of the ordinary Homeric warrior. According to Strabo (15. 688), the innovation could be traced back to the epic “Ἡράκλεια”, ascribed to Peisander (circ. 650 B.C.): “καὶ τοῦ Ἡρακλέους δὲ στολὴ τοιαύτη πολὺ νεωτέρα τῆς Τρωικῆς μνήμης ἐστί, πλάσμα τῶν τὴν Ἠράκλειαν ποιησάντων, εἴτε Πείσανδρος ἦν, εἴτ᾽ ἄλλος τις: τὰ δ᾽ ἀρχαῖα ζόανα οὐχ οὕτω διεσκεύασται” (implying that he had seen old images or statues in which Heracles had armour). Athenaeus (12. 512 F) quotes Megacleides (who wrote “περὶ Ὁμήρου”, prob. in the 4th cent. B.C.), as referring the invention to Stesichorus (c. 620 B.C.), and adding that Xanthus, an earlier lyric poet, had clad Heracles in the Homeric armour:—“ταῦτα πλάσαι πρῶτον Στησίχορον τὸν Ἱμεραῖον. καὶ Ξάνθος δ᾽ μελοποιός, πρεσβύτερος ὢν Στησιχόρου,...οὐ ταύτην αὐτῷ περιτίθησι τὴν στολήν, ἀλλὰ τὴν Ὁμηρικήν”. Strabo and Megacleides, then, agree thus far,— that the invention was not older than the 7th cent. B.C.

In this play Heracles figures especially as the former possessor of the invincible bow. Why, then, has Soph. here chosen an epithet, χάλκασπις, which suggests the hoplite type of Heracles? The answer seems to turn on two points. (1) A compromise between the hoplite and the archer type of Heracles can sometimes be traced in ancient art. Thus a statue belonging to the east pediment of the Aeginetan temple gives Heracles a helmet (or bonnet) of lion's skin, a bow, and a “θώραξ” (Baumeister, Denkm. p. 335: cp. ib. p. 652 a). Sophocles himself makes a similar compromise when in Tr. 510 ff. he arms Heracles with bow, club, and two spears. (2) The Heracles of this play is associated with the legends of Oeta and Trachis. In them, as in those of Boeotia, Heracles was preeminently the warrior, who sacked Oechalia ‘with the spear’ ( Tr. 478), and for whom Hephaestus had wrought the “ἀσπίς” described in the Hesiodic poem.

hide References (5 total)
  • Commentary references from this page (5):
    • Homer, Iliad, 5.395
    • Homer, Odyssey, 11.607
    • Homer, Odyssey, 8.224
    • Sophocles, Trachiniae, 478
    • Sophocles, Trachiniae, 510
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