previous next

[267] As to the question of the genuineness of this Lay of the Net of Hephaestus, repugnance to the low morality of the Lay would influence ancient critics and scholiasts to reject it as an interpolation. Yet we may infer that Aristarchus, Rhianus, and Herodian accepted it, from their having commented on it, as we know by their interpretations and readings of 288, 299, 307, 352, and 355, while no mention has been made of their rejecting it. And Apion , as we know from the reference in the Schol. on Aristoph. Pax788, maintained it “πρὸς τοὺς ἀθετοῦντας”. (He was contemporary with Tiberius and Claudius.) Ancient criticism then on the whole acknowledges the genuineness of the Lay. In the next place it cannot be denied that, the theme once taken for granted, the manner in which the tale is told is worthy of Homer. As Mr. Gladstone says, ‘The general character of the colouring, diction, and incident is Homeric enough.’ And (as he argues at length) the low morality of the tale is owing to the fact that the heroes of it are gods and not men. Indelicacy in Homer is reserved for legends of the gods, in agreement with ‘the tendency which the Pagan religion already powerfully showed, to become itself the primitive corrupter of morality, or, to speak perhaps more accurately, to afford the medium through which the forces of evil and the downward inclination would principally act for the purpose of depraving it.’ In support of this, ‘in the Iliad there appear to be but two passages which can fairly be termed indelicate. One is the account of the proceeding of Juno, with the accompanying speech of Jupiter, Il.14. 312-328 and 346-353. . . The other passage is that which in a few words contains the sensual advice given by Thetis, as a mother, to her son Achilles, in his grief, by way of comfort, Il. 24.130.Homer would have put no such language as this into the mouth of one of his matrons.’ In addition, the affinity of the lay to Homeric mythology is strengthened by the ‘undesigned coincidence,’ that it gives point to the otherwise unexplained trait mentioned Il.21. 416τὸν δ᾽ [Ἄρηα] ἄγε χειρὸς ἑλοῦσα Διὸς θυγάτηρ Ἀφροδίτη”. Lastly, the lay fits perfectly into the place in which it stands. It occasions no interruption nor discord. It is appreciably in harmony with Phaeacian light-heartedness. The more serious contests have already been relieved by the skilled grace of the dancers, and the minstrel who sang the grave lay of Odysseus' variance with Achilles must tune his lyre to a merrier theme. And whereas thrice that day his art comes into requisition, of his serious lays—the first and last—we are satisfied merely to be told the subject; but in that vein which is most characteristic of the Phaeacians, we crave and we are gratified with an actual specimen of his minstrelsy. What is to be said on the other side? It is true, in the first place, that the minstrel has been fetched for the purpose of playing to the dancers; just as in the “χορός” on the shield of Achilles, Il.18. 590-606 “μετὰ δέ σφιν ἐμέλπετο θεῖος ἀοιδὸς

φορμίζων”, Od.1. 421οἱ δ᾽ εἰς ὀρχηστύν τε καὶ ἱμερό-” “εσσαν ἀοιδὴν
τρεψάμενοι τέρποντο”, Eur. Herc.280-282 “οἱ δ᾽ ὑπὸ φορμίγγων ἄναγον χορὸν ἱμερόεντα”.
ἔνθεν δ᾽ αὖθ᾽ ἑτέρωθε νέοι κώμαζον ὑπ᾽ αὐλοῦ”,
τοίγε μὲν αὖ παίζοντες ὑπ᾽ ὀρχηθμῷ καὶ ἀοιδῇ κ. τ. λ.”; and this lay is a voluntary and superadded contribution to the hilarity of the day. Eur. Itis true also that as to the mythology, ‘there is something rather more marked in the personal agency of the Sun than the poems elsewhere present; and undoubtedly Apollo is made to assume a tone wholly singular and unsupported by what is told of him in the rest of the poems (335). Eur. Itis true too that Odysseus, in inviting Demodocus to his third lay, passes over all this in silence, whilst he alludes to the first and previous one (489);—for the reason, no doubt, that the first was kindred in subject to the one which he wished to elicit. This is all that can be said against the lay, and it is not much. Arguments from verbal peculiarities can be raised here; but so they can upon any book of the Odyssey, and they have no real weight: such are (267) the rarity of “ἀμφί” with the genitive; the similarity of the beginning to the opening of the Hymn to Dionysus: the title “Ἥλιος” (271) for the sun, appearing elsewhere in the form “Ἠέλιος”: the use of the uncommon word “μιγάζεσθαι”, and lastly, the designation of the gods (325Eur. It, 335) as “δωτῆρες ἑάων” (cp. Il.24. 528). When all has been said we must submit to be ruled by the consideration that the lay as a whole, and in the place in which it stands, is neither unworthy of Homer nor unlike him. (Several of the above remarks have been taken from Gladstone, Homer and the Homeric Age, vol. 2. pp. 461464, and Welcker's Kleine Schriften, vol. 2. p. 32.)
ἀμφί only here and in Il.16. 825 joined with the genitive; but compare “τοῦ δ᾽ ἀμφιτρομέω Od.4. 820.

Ἀφροδίτη. Cp. Schol. H. Q. T. “ὅλως δὲ Ὅμηρος οὐκ οἶδεν Ἥφαιστον Ἀφροδίτῃ συνοικεῖν, Χάριτι δὲ αὐτὸν συμβιοῦντα Δημόδοκος δὲ τῇ ἰδίᾳ μυθοποιίᾳ”. This Charis ( Il.18. 382) is by Hesiod ( Hesiod Theog.945) called Aglaia; and we must frankly acknowledge the existence of separate myths about the partner of Hephaestus. This difference is one upon which the Chorizontes establish an argument as to the long period which separates the composition of the Odyssey from that of the Iliad. But Nitzsch remarks, very pertinently, that the same idea lies at the bottom of both forms of the legend, viz. the union of a goddess of grace with the god who was the representative of the highest development of art.

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 (13 total)
  • Commentary references from this page (13):
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: