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Article

Andrew Brown

Achilles (Ἀχιλλεύς), son of *Peleus and *Thetis; greatest of the Greek heroes in the Trojan War; central character of *Homer's Iliad.

His name may be of Mycenaean Greek origin, meaning ‘a grief to the army’. If so, the destructive Wrath of Achilles, which forms the subject of the Iliad, must have been central to his mythical existence from the first.

In Homer he is king of Phthia, or ‘Hellas and Phthia’, in southern Thessaly (see phthiotis), and his people are the Myrmidons. As described at Il. 2. 681–5 the size of his kingdom, and of his contingent in the Trojan expedition (50 ships), is not outstanding. But in terms of martial prowess, which is the measure of excellence for a Homeric hero, Achilles' status as ‘best of the Achaeans’ is unquestioned. We are reminded of his absolute supremacy throughout the poem, even during those long stretches for which he is absent from the battlefield.

Article

Ken Dowden

Alcestis, in mythology, daughter of *Pelias, wife of Admetus king of *Pherae (Thessaly), who is prepared to die in his place.Pelias promised Alcestis to whoever could yoke a lion and boar to a chariot (Apollod. 1. 9. 15). Admetus was assisted in this feat by his lover (Soph. fr. 851 Radt) Apollo (cf. *Poseidon, *Pelops, and *Hippodamia), who had been punished by serfdom to Admetus for killing the *Cyclopes (Hes. Catalogus mulierum frs. 51–7 M–W) or the Pythian snake. But at his marriage Admetus forgets to sacrifice to *Artemis and finds the bridal chamber full of snakes. On *Apollo's advice he appeases Artemis and obtains from the Fates the concession that someone may die in his place. In the event, only Alcestis will, but Kore (*Persephone) sends her back from death or (in tragedy) *Heracles rescues her by wrestling with Death (*Thanatos).

Article

Hanne Eisenfeld

Seer and warrior, member of royal family of Argos, descended from Melampus. Son of Oecles, husband of Eriphyle, father of Alcmaeon (1) and Amphilochus. Unwilling participant in the expedition of the Seven against Thebes, whence he did not return. Consulted as an oracle and, from the later 5th centurybce, as a healer, on the model of Asclepius.Amphiaraus opposed the expedition against Thebes, knowing through his mantic foresight that it was doomed to failure. He was nonetheless forced to participate through the intervention of his wife, Eriphyle, who was also the sister of Adrastus (1). During an earlier quarrel between her husband and her brother, she had been empowered to decide disputes between them (Ap. Bib. 3.6.2; Diod. Sic. 4.65.6). Polynices, the Theban prince who was seeking Argive support for the attack against Thebes, knew of this arrangement and offered her a golden necklace in exchange for exercising her influence and forcing her husband to take part in the expedition (some variation on this is already alluded to at Od.

Article

Andrew Brown

Antigone (1), daughter of *Oedipus and Iocasta, sister of *Eteocles, Polynices and Ismene.

*Sophocles (1)'s Antigone deals with events after the Theban War, in which Eteocles and Polynices killed one another (see seven against thebes). Antigone's uncle *Creon (1), the new king of Thebes (1), has issued an edict forbidding anyone to bury the body of the traitor Polynices. Antigone, despite efforts at dissuasion by Ismene, insists on defying the edict. She is arrested and brought before Creon, and proudly defends her action. He decrees that she should be imprisoned in a tomb and left to die, although she is engaged to his son *Haemon (3). Creon is left unmoved by Haemon's arguments against such punishment, but is finally made to change his mind by the prophet *Tiresias, who reveals that the gods are angry at the exposure of Polynices and the burial of Antigone. He buries Polynices but arrives at Antigone's tomb too late: she has hanged herself, and Haemon, who has broken into the tomb, kills himself in front of his father. Creon's wife Eurydice also commits suicide, leaving Creon a broken man.

Article

Antinous (1), son of Eupeithes (Od. 1. 383), ringleader of *Penelope's suitors, and first to be killed by *Odysseus, whose kingship he is said to have wished to usurp (Od. 22. 8–53).

Article

Richard Hunter

Apollonius (1) Rhodius, a major literary figure of 3rd-century bce*Alexandria (1), and poet of the Argonautica, the only extant Greek hexameter *epic written between *Homer and the Roman imperial period.Our main sources are: POxy. 1241, a 2nd-cent. ce list of the librarians of the Royal Library at *Alexandria; two Lives transmitted with the manuscripts of Argonautica which probably contain material deriving from the late 1st century bce; and an entry in the Suda. All four state that Apollonius was from Alexandria itself, though two 2nd-century ce notices point rather to *Naucratis. The most likely explanation for the title “Rhodian” is thus that Apollonius spent a period of his life there, which would accord well with what we know of his works, though it remains possible that he or his family came from *Rhodes. Apollonius served as librarian and royal tutor before .

Article

Argonauts, one of the earliest (cf. Hom. Od. 12. 69–72) and most important Greek sagas, set in the generation before the Trojan War and involving heroes particularly associated with *Thessaly, central Greece, and the *Peloponnese. The main Greek literary sources are *Pindar's Fourth Pythian, the Argonautica of *Apollonius (1), and *Apollodorus (6) 1. 9. 16–26 (largely based on *Pherecydes (2) and Apollonius); certain incidents were treated by *Callimachus (3) in the Aitia.King *Pelias of Iolcus sought to rid himself of the threat to his kingship posed by the legitimate heir, *Jason (1), by sending the young man off to recover the fleece of a golden ram upon which Phrixus had fled to the fabulous kingdom of the sun, Aia, ruled over by King Aeëtes. At least as early as the *Epic Cycle Aia was identified with the kingdom of *Colchis at the eastern end of the Black Sea.

Article

Carolina López-Ruiz

Early Greek cosmogonies and theogonies are mainly preserved in the form of hexametric poetry, rarely in systematic accounts, such as Hesiod’s, but more often within texts of broader mythical scope, as in Homer’s Iliad and the Homeric Hymns. The differing assumptions about the origins of and relations among the gods in these poems demonstrate the wide variety of cosmogonic traditions available in the Greek world and the poetic freedom to express or emphasize aspects of them. This is also evident in other sources for Greek theogony/cosmogony, such as the longer of the Homeric Hymns, which focus on specific gods, sometimes including their birth stories and framing their familial relations with other gods and with humans. The strand known as “Orphic” cosmogony or theogony runs parallel to the mainstream epic tradition (not without intersections), and underscores the connection between cosmogonic ideas and spiritual and philosophical movements. These alternative cosmogonies also served as a narrative and theological framework for mystery cults, which revolved around the figures of Demeter, Persephone, and Dionysus (e.

Article

Ken Dowden

Demodocus, in *Homer's Odyssey (8. 44–5, 62–4), a blind and respected first-class bard at *Alcinous (1)'s court—an image offered by Homer of his own role. He sings of the adultery of *Ares and *Aphrodite (8. 266–366), a comic pendant to the contrasts in Iliad 5, and sings of the (tragic) Trojan War so realistically that Odysseus weeps (8.

Article

Valeria Piano

As one of the most ancient Greek papyri ever found (it dates back to the second half of the 4th century bce), and given the length of its extant part, the Derveni papyrus effectively represents the oldest “book” of Europe. It was found at Derveni, near Thessaloniki, in 1962, close to the rich tomb of a knight belonging to the army of Philip II or Alexander the Great. The volumen had been placed on the funeral pyre along with other offerings, and thanks to the process of semi-carbonisation it underwent, the upper half of the roll was preserved, maintaining a good degree of readability. The papyrus contains a philosophical-religious text, mostly in the form of an allegorical commentary on a theo-cosmogonical poem attributed to Orpheus. The first columns expound a religious and ritual discourse that deals with issues related to sacrifices, souls, daimones, retribution, cosmic justice, and divination. In the commentary (cols. VII–XXVI), the Orphic hexameters are systematically quoted and interpreted in terms of natural philosophy of a Presocratic brand. The mythical narrative of the succession of the gods, as well as of the origin of the cosmos, is thus matched by a cosmological and physical account, which is equally related to the origin and the functioning of the universe, and is sustained by a theologised conception of nature.

Article

Richard Seaford

Many festivals of *Dionysus had special names, e.g. the *Anthesteria, the *Lenaea, etc. This article concerns those Attic festivals known as (a) τὰ κατ᾽ ἀγροὺς Διονύσια, the Rural Dionysia, and (b) τὰ ἐν ἄστει or τὰ μεγάλα Διονύσια, the City or Great Dionysia. Festivals of Dionysus were widespread throughout the Greek world, but we know most about the *Attic ones, for which almost all surviving Greek drama was written.(a) The Rural Dionysia were celebrated, on various days by the different *demes, in the month of Posideon (roughly December). They provided an opportunity for the locality to reproduce elements of the City Dionysia, and we hear of performances of *tragedy, *comedy, and *dithyramb. There survive various inscriptions concerning the proceedings, notably from the *Piraeus, *Eleusis, Icarion, and Aixone. In *Aristophanes (1)'s Acharnians Dicaeopolis goes home to celebrate the festival: he draws up a little sacrificial procession in which his daughter is kanephoros (‘basket-bearer’), two slaves carry the *phallus, Dicaeopolis himself sings an obscene song to Phales, and his wife watches from the roof (241–79; cf.

Article

A mythic king of the Trojans, son of Dardanus and Batea, and father of Troos. Little is known about the Trojan Erichthonius, apart from what is related in Homer—he was the grandson of Zeus, son of Dardanus and the father of Troos, the progenitor of the Trojans (Iliad20.215-234).1Later elaborations add that his wife is named either Callirrhoe (Dion. Hal. Ant. Rom. 1.62.2) Astyoche, and that his siblings alternatively include Ilus (Apollod. 3.12.2) or Zacynthus (Dionys. Ant. Rom. 1.50.3), along with a sister named Idaea (Diod. Sic. 4.43).Fabulously wealthy, he had a beautiful herd of horses with which Boreas mated, producing a line of supernatural horses that could run on the water (Iliad20.215-234, possibly Hesiod, fr. 177, lin. 14 =P. Oxy. 1359 fr. 2, ed. Grenfell–Hun, Oppian Cynegetica 1.225)—and are probably a mythic variant for the supernatural horses that Troos receives from Zeus in exchange for Ganymedes (Apollod.

Article

Herbert Jennings Rose and Simon Hornblower

Euhemerus (Εὐήμερος), of *Messene, perhaps wrote while in the service of *Cassander (311–298 bce), but was perhaps active as late as 280 bce. He wrote a *novel of travel which was influential in the Hellenistic world. The substance of the novel is known from fragments, especially in *Diodorus (3) Siculus, see below, and from an epitome by *Eusebius. Euhemerus described an imaginary voyage to a group of *islands in the uncharted waters of the Indian Ocean and the way of life on its chief island, Panchaea. The central monument of the island, a golden column on which the deeds of *Uranus, *Cronus, and *Zeus were recorded, gave the novel its title Ἱερὰ ἀναγραφή, ‘Sacred Scripture’. From this monument Euhemerus learnt that Uranus, Cronus, and Zeus had been great kings in their day and that they were worshipped as gods by the grateful people. Earlier authors had written of imaginary utopias but the utopia of Euhemerus was particularly relevant to the position of those Hellenistic rulers who claimed to serve their subjects and on that account to receive worship for their services (see ruler-cult, greek).

Article

William Hansen

Folktales are traditional fictional stories. Unlike works of original literary fiction, they are normally anonymous narratives that have been transmitted from one teller to another over an uncertain period of time, and have been shaped by multiple narrators into the form and style that are characteristic of oral narratives. The transmission of traditional tales is predominantly oral, but in literate societies such as Greece and Rome, transmission also takes place via written works.

“Folktale” is an umbrella term for a number of subgenres: the wonder tale (commonly known as the fairytale), the religious tale, the novella, the humorous tale (with its subforms the joke and the tall tale), the animal tale, and the fable. Since there was no ancient notion of folktales as such, no compilation of folktales exists from antiquity—only compilations of particular genres of folktales such as the fable and the joke.

Unlike myths and legends, folktales are narrative fictions, make no serious claim to historicity, and are not ordinarily accorded credence. They differ from myths and especially from legends in their handling of the supernatural.

Article

Roy D. Kotansky

The “Getty Hexameters” represent a “cluster” of verse incantations written on a small, folded piece of lead epigraphically and historically dateable to the end of the 5th century. Found in clandestine operations most probably at Selinous (Σελινοῦς, modern Selinunte), in Sicily, the fragmentary text came to the J. Paul Getty Museum (Malibu, California) in 1981 as the gift of Dr. Max Gerchik, along with four other lead pieces of certain Selinuntine provenance, including the large Lex Sacra from Selinous (= SEG XLIII.630, c. 475–450 bce) and three early defixiones, or curse tablets (Kotansky and Curbera, 2004).After the lead fragments were joined and restored by Mark B. Kotansky in 1981, Roy D. Kotansky independently transcribed and deciphered the text at that time and eventually published a preliminary edition in 2011 with David R. Jordan, an expert on lead defixiones, who provided his own supplements, notes, and translation (Jordan and Kotansky, 2011).

Article

ghosts  

Esther Eidinow

Identifying a ghost in Greek literature and distinguishing it from what we might call a delusion or a supernatural entity can sometimes pose difficulties: *Homer tends to use the term psyche to describe his spirits, but we also find skia. In later writers, eidolon is used (Hdt. 5.92.η and Pl. Leg. 959b of the corpse), which can also mean a phantom of the mind, or even just a likeness. Later still, *daimōn, alone, or combined with other words to evoke particular forms of demon (see below) appears. Other terms (which will appear throughout the entry) evoked the particular ways in which individuals died and became ghosts. This entry will focus on appearances in the mortal realm of spirits connected to a death, indicating where there are any ambiguities of spectral terminology. As the move from psyche to daimōn might suggest, there seems to be a gradual development in the strength, substance and presence of ghosts in the ancient world; while living mortals seem, in turn, to find increasingly sophisticated ways to manipulate their spectral visitors and their needs for their own ends.

Article

Hesiod  

Jenny Strauss Clay

Hesiod, epic poet from Ascra in Boeotia, usually considered later than Homer, is author of the Theogony and the Works and Days (Erga); other works attributed to him in antiquity include the Catalogue of Women and the Shield of Heracles (Aspis). The Theogony recounts the origins of the cosmos and the genealogy of the gods from the beginning to the establishment of the Olympian order; it is prefaced by a lengthy proem that recounts Hesiod’s meeting with the Muses and a hymn to the goddesses. The genealogical catalogues are interrupted by narratives of the Succession Myth, with antecedents from the Near East. The Works and Days, which also has Near Eastern parallels, is addressed to Hesiod’s brother Perses and advises him how to live in the world Zeus has established for human beings by pursuing justice and practicing agriculture; it also includes advice on sailing, social behavior, and lucky and unlucky days. Famous and influential passages include Hesiod’s encounter with the Muses, the Prometheus-Pandora story, and the Myth of the Five Races.

Article

hubris  

N. R. E. Fisher

Hubris, intentionally dishonouring behaviour, was a powerful term of moral condemnation in ancient Greece; and in Athens, and perhaps elsewhere, it was also treated as a serious crime. The common use of hubris in English to suggest pride, over-confidence, or alternatively any behaviour which offends divine powers, rests, it is now generally held, on misunderstanding of ancient texts, and concomitant and over-simplified views of Greek attitudes to the gods have lent support to many doubtful, and often over-Christianizing, interpretations, above all of Greek tragedy.The best ancient discussion of hubris is found in *Aristotle's Rhetoric: his definition is that hubris is ‘doing and saying things at which the victim incurs shame, not in order that one may achieve anything other than what is done, but simply to get pleasure from it. For those who act in return for something do not commit hubris, they avenge themselves. The cause of the pleasure for those committing hubris is that by harming people, they think themselves superior; that is why the young and the rich are hubristic, as they think they are superior when they commit hubris’ (Rh.

Article

Jocasta  

Andrew Brown

Daughter of *Menoeceus (1), sister of *Creon (1), wife of *Laius, mother and later wife of *Oedipus. She is called Epicaste (’Επικάστη) by *Homer, Iocaste (’Ιοκάστη, Lat. Iocasta, Eng. Jocasta) by the tragedians. In tragedy she is the mother, by Oedipus, of *Eteocles, Polynices, *Antigone, and Ismene, though an alternative tradition in the Oidipodeia (see epic cycle) and elsewhere said that these were the children of Oedipus by a second wife, Euryganeia.A late passage at Od. 11. 271–80 includes Epicaste among the women whom *Odysseus saw in the underworld. She had unwittingly married her son Oedipus, but the gods had soon made this known and she had hanged herself, leaving Oedipus to be pursued by her *Erinyes. *Sophocles (1) follows this account for the manner of Jocasta’s death (OT1263–4, Ant.53–4), though not for the timing of events or for the Erinyes. In *Euripides' Phoenissae, however, where she has a leading role, she survives up to the war between Eteocles and Polynices, tries to prevent their deaths, and kills herself with a sword (1455–9) when she has failed to do so.

Article

Nicholas J. Richardson

Laestrygones, cannibal giants encountered by *Odysseus (Od. 10. 80–132), and perhaps derived from a pre-Homeric poem about the *Argonauts (A. Heubeck, Comm. on Homer's Odyssey ii (1989), 47–8 on Od. 10. 80–132). They inhabit ‘the lofty city of Lamus’, ruled by King Antiphates, who eats two of Odysseus' men. The nights are so short there that one can earn a double wage, which suggests the distant north (Crates in schol. Od. 10. 86). Greek tradition located them in *Sicily (Hes. fr. 150. 26 MW, Thuc. 6. 2. 1, etc. ), especially *Leontini (Theopompus, FGrH 115 F 225, etc. ), but the Romans placed them at *Formiae in *Campania (Cic. Att. 2. 13. 2, etc. ). *Horace playfully connects Lamus with the family of the Aelii Lamiae (Carm. 3. 17).