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[144] This line is a clear case of interpolation of a later myth. The story was that Aithra, daughter of Pittheus, was the mother of Theseus. Theseus having stolen Helen while yet a child, her brothers, the Dioskuri, invaded Attica during his visit to Hades, and recovered Helen, carrying off Aithra to be her slave. At the taking of Troy, the sons of Theseus, Demophon and Akamas, found their grandmother there among Helen's handmaids, and took her back to Athens. The legend was dealt with in the “Ἰλίου πέρσις” ascribed to Lesches (Paus.x. 25. 5), and is at least as old as the Chest of Kypselos, see Paus.v. 19Αἴθρα δὲ Πιτθέως ὑπὸ τῆς Ἑλένης τοῖς ποσὶν εἰς ἔδαφος καταβεβλημένη μέλαιναν ἔχουσά ἐστιν ἐσθῆτα. ἐπίγραμμα δὲ ἐπ᾽ αὐτοῖς ἔπος τε ἑξάμετρον, καὶ ὀνόματός ἐστιν ἑνὸς ἐπὶ τῶι ἑξαμέτρωι προσθήκη:

Τυνδαρίδα Ἑλέναν φέρετον, Αἴθραν δ᾽ ἑλκεῖτον Ἀθάναθεν

The recovery of Aithra was a regular episode of the Iliupersis on Attic vases of the fifth century (Robert Bild u. Lied c. ii), and was painted by Polygnotos in the Lesche at Delphi (Paus. x. 25), where the two handmaids of Helen were named Elektra and Panthalis. But Homer is, of course, ignorant of the Theseus myth in all its branches. The Alexandrine critics were troubled by the chronological difficulty of the age which must be assigned to Aithra: “ἀπιθανὸν γάρ ἐστιν Ἑλένης ἀμφίπολον εἶναι τὴν οὕτως ὑπεραρχαίαν, ἣν οὐκ ἐκποιεῖ” (it is not possible) “ζῆν διὰ τὸ μῆκος τοῦ χρόνου” (Schol. A). That, however, must be put to the account of the myth-maker. More serious indications of interpolation here are the fact that Homer does not name handmaids on similar occasions (Od. 18.182 is the only case), and that the epithet “βοῶπις” belongs to Hera alone, 7.10 and 18.40 being the only exceptions. The latter, at least, is a doubtful passage. The line was evidently composed at a date when the old tradition had died out, if it is true that the epithet originally came from the time when gods were worshipped in animal form, and was no mere epitheton ornans. Cf. on “γλαυκῶπις1.206.

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hide References (7 total)
  • Commentary references from this page (7):
    • Homer, Iliad, 18.40
    • Homer, Iliad, 1.206
    • Homer, Iliad, 7.10
    • Homer, Odyssey, 18.182
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 10.25
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 10.25.5
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 5.19
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