In this post we present and analyze excerpts from Aeschylus‘ tragedy “Suppliant Maidens” (or “Suppliant Women“).
Important note: This post is a necessary forerunner of a coming presentation on the “Cataclysmic Myths” from the island of Rhodes that Diodorus Siculus describes in detail in his “Library of History“. We decided to split this research in parts for our reader’s convenience.
(Source for the Ancient Greek text. Source for the English translation)
(Chorus = the suppliant maidens = Danaides = daughters of Danaus = a company of maidens, who have fled from Egypt and just landed on the shores of Argos)
Ancient Greek: Ζεὺς μὲν ἀφίκτωρ ἐπίδοι προφρόνως στόλον ἡμέτερον νάιον ἀρθέντ᾽ ἀπὸ προστομίων λεπτοψαμάθων Νείλου. Δίαν δὲ λιποῦσαι χθόνα σύγχορτον Συρίᾳ φεύγομεν, οὔτιν᾽ ἐφ᾽ αἵματι δημηλασίαν ψήφῳ πόλεως γνωσθεῖσαν, ἀλλ᾽ αὐτογενεῖ φυξανορίᾳ γάμον Αἰγύπτου παίδων ἀσεβῆ Δαναὸς δὲ πατὴρ καὶ βούλαρχος καὶ στασίαρχος τάδε πεσσονομῶν κύδιστ᾽ ἀχέων ἐπέκρανε, φεύγειν ἀνέδην διὰ κῦμ᾽ ἅλιον, κέλσαι δ᾽ Ἄργους γαῖαν, ὅθεν δὴ γένος ἡμέτερον τῆς οἰστροδόνου βοὸς ἐξ ἐπαφῆς κἀξ ἐπιπνοίας Διὸς εὐχόμενον τετέλεσται. τίν᾽ ἂν οὖν χώραν εὔφρονα μᾶλλον τῆσδ᾽ ἀφικοίμεθα σὺν τοῖσδ᾽ ἱκετῶν ἐγχειριδίοις ἐριοστέπτοισι κλάδοισιν;
English: (CHORUS) May Zeus who guards suppliants look graciously upon our company, which boarded a ship and put to sea from the outlets of the fine sand of the Nile. For we have fled Zeus’ land whose pastures border Syria, and are fugitives, not because of some public decree pronounced against blood crime, but because of our own act to escape the suit of man, since we abhor as impious all marriage with the sons of Egyptus. It was Danaus, our father, adviser and leader, who, considering well our course, decided, as the best of all possible evils, that we flee with all speed over the waves of the sea and find a haven on Argos’ shore. For from there descends our race, sprung from the caress and breath of Zeus on the gnat-tormented heifer. To what kinder land than this could we come with these wool-wreathed branches in our hands, sole weapons of the suppliant?
NovoScriptorium: “Zeus’ land” is a completely wrong translation of the word “δῖα“. Read its appropriate meaning here.
From its very beginning, the text informs us that Aegean populations were inhabiting Egypt during those times.
The Danaides claim to be descendants of people from Argos (i.e., from the Peloponnese). Moreover, they claim to be descendants of Zeus and of the “gnat-tormented heifer”. This translation of the phrase “οἰστροδόνου βοὸς” is slightly deceiving, even though not wrong. The word οἰστρόδονος = οἰστροδίνητος means “spinning frantically” because of “οἶστρος”. But “οἶστρος”, even though literally means “gnat”, it was widely used (and it is still used in modern Greek) to denote “any strong or frantic desire”. Moreover, by “heifer” (“βοῦς“) the female mythical figure of Ιo (Ἰώ) is meant. The other name for “βοῦς” is “δάμαλις” or “δαμάλη”. It is very interesting that “δαμάλης” means “tamer / queller”. According to some researchers the word “δαμάλης” possibly derives from the verb “δαμάζω” (“I tame”) and the word “ἅλς” (which means “sea”) and it means also the “tamer / queller of the sea”, i.e. someone who is very capable with the sea (as a navigator, as a sailor, etc).
Now, these Aegean populations appear to have been divided in two -something which is going to be clearer while we proceed in the analysis- subsets: a) the one that despite having lived many years away from the Aegean had kept the memory of their original homeland and some of its traditions, while the other one b) had so much mingled with the locals and their customs that hardly anything “Aegean”, except some genes, was left in them.
Note that the Danaides call their relatives, the sons of Egyptus (or, better, “Aegyptus”), “impious”. It is also clear from the narration that their seafaring capabilities, during the time under discussion, should have been quite adequate for a deep-sea journey like the one from Egypt to the Aegean is (and was).
Ancient Greek: ἀρσενοπληθῆ δ᾽ ἑσμὸν ὑβριστὴν Αἰγυπτογενῆ, πρὶν πόδα χέρσῳ τῆ δ᾽ ἐν ἀσώδει θεῖναι, ξὺν ὄχῳ ταχυήρει πέμψατε πόντονδ᾽: ἔνθα δὲ λαίλαπι χειμωνοτύπῳ, βροντῇ στεροπῇ τ᾽ὀμβροφόροισίν τ᾽ ἀνέμοις ἀγρίας ἁλὸς ἀντήσαντες, ὄλοιντο, πρίν ποτε λέκτρων, ὧν θέμις εἴργει, σφετεριξάμενοι πατραδέλφειαν τήνδ᾽ ἀεκόντων ἐπιβῆναι. νῦν δ᾽ ἐπικεκλομένα Δῖον πόρτιν ὑπερπόντιον τιμάορ᾽, ἶνίν τ᾽ ἀνθονομούσας προγόνου βοὸς ἐξ ἐπιπνοίας Ζηνὸς ἔφαψιν: ἐπωνυμίᾳ δ᾽ ἐπεκραίνετο μόρσιμος αἰὼν εὐλόγως, Ἔπαφόν τ᾽ ἐγέννασεν:
English: But the thronging swarm of violent men born of Egyptus, should they set foot upon this marshy land, drive them seaward — and with them their swift ship — and there may they encounter a cruel sea with thunder, lightning, and rain-charged winds, and perish by the tempest’s buffeting blasts, if they ever lay their hands on us, their cousins, and mount unwilling beds from which Right holds them aloof. And now I invoke, as our champion from beyond the sea, the calf born of Zeus, the offspring of the flower-grazing cow, our ancestress, the caress of Zeus’ breath. The appointed period confirmed itself in a name suited to the event — Epaphus, to whom she gave birth.
NovoScriptorium: We read that the “sons of Aegyptus” were “ἑσμός ὑβριστής”. The translation as “violent men” is not accurate. Read the appropriate meaning of the word “ὑβριστής” here. Simply, “hubristes” is anyone who commits “Hubris“. The translation of “θέμις” as “Right” is also not really accurate. Read the appropriate meaning of the word here. The proper translation helps us realize that the problem of the Danaides and their relatives (“cousins”) was a deeply Cultural one; their relatives had clearly abandoned their “Common Tradition/Customs”, all that was considered as “θέμις” among the descendants of “Zeus and Io“. Danaus and his daughters are adamant to remain “Traditional” and so they flee from Egypt to avoid breaking their ancestral laws. According to the Myth, Epaphus, born of Zeus and Io, is the “code-name” of the first Aegean who had been born (or migrated) in Egypt. The name Epaphus (Ἔπαφος) derives from the word “ἐπαφή“. Or, else, Epaphus is the code-name of the first “contact” between Aegeans and the land of Egypt.
Ancient Greek: τᾶσδε φυγᾶς Ἀερίας ἀπὸ γᾶς
English: our band which has fled from the haze-shrouded land
NovoScriptorium: “Ἀερία“ or “Ἠερίη“ (Ionian) had been an older name for the land of Egypt. It does mean “haze-shrouded land“. So, it seems that during the time of Danaus and his daughters the name used for the land had been “Ἀερία” instead of “Egypt“.
Ancient Greek: ἱλεοῦμαι μὲν Ἀπίαν βοῦνιν, καρβᾶνα δ᾽ αὐδὰν εὖ, γᾶ, κοννεῖς. πολλάκι δ᾽ ἐμπίτνω ξὺν λακίδι λινοσινεῖ Σιδονία καλύπτρᾳ.
English: I invoke Apia’s hilly land — for well, O land, you understand my barbarous speech -, and many times I lay my hands upon my Sidonian veil and tear its linen fabric to shreds.
NovoScriptorium: “Ἀπία” had been an old name of the Peloponnese, given to her by the old king “Ἄπις” (Apis), son of Phoroneus and brother of Niobe. Remember here the Myth (recorded from Apollodorus in his “Library” or “Bibliotheca“) which says that Niobe gave birth to Argos and Pelasgos. Therefore, the name “Apia” is older than the name “Argos” and certainly older than the name “Pelasgia” and, of course, the name “Peloponnese“. The Peloponnese had always been a “hilly“, a “mountainous” land.
The Danaides claim that they speak a “barbarous idiom” of the same language that was used in “Apia“; this is understood from the phrase “καρβᾶνα δ᾽ αὐδὰν εὖ, γᾶ, κοννεῖς” / “for well, O land, you understand my barbarous speech“. This clearly suggests that “barbarization” of the language occurred naturally, depending on the distance from the original cultural centre (the Aegean) and the special conditions that the Aegean populations faced wherever they migrated. For instance, if 100 people migrate to a place where 100,000 locals exist, it is more than certain that in no more than a few generations no one will be left to speak the original language, or if they do, it will not be pronounced in the original way, neither with the same vocabulary, etc. We believe that here we’ve got exactly such a description, i.e. of the process of “barbarization” of the Aegean populations that had migrated to Egypt several generations earlier than the events described by Aeschylus. Not only in terms of language (and “θέμις” which we examined earlier), but also in terms of other habits, too (e.g. clothing; see “Sidonian veil“).
Ancient Greek: εἰ δὲ μή, μελανθὲς ἡλιόκτυπον γένος τὸν γάιον, τὸν πολυξενώτατον Ζῆνα τῶν κεκμηκότων ἱξόμεθα σὺν κλάδοις ἀρτάναις θανοῦσαι, μὴ τυχοῦσαι θεῶν Ὀλυμπίων.
English: Yet, if she will not, we, a dark, sun-burned race, with suppliant boughs will invoke the underworld Zeus, Zeus the great host of the dead; for if the gods of Olympus hear us not, we will hang ourselves.
NovoScriptorium: A more accurate translation of “μελανθὲς ἡλιόκτυπον γένος” is needed. “μελανθὲς” derives from “μέλας” and “ἄνθος” and means “that has blossomed being dark in colour“. “ηλιόκτυπος” derives from “ἥλιος” and “κτυπώ” and means “hit by the sun“, while “γένος” means “genus“. Therefore, what the Danaides say here is that their genus has a dark skin, and that this colour is closely linked to the Sun and how strongly it hits their bodies. There is hardly any doubt that Aeschylus here suggests a direct link between skin colour and climatic conditions. We know nowadays that this is true.
Ancient Greek: καὶ τότ᾽ οὐ δικαίοις Ζεὺς ἐνέξεται λόγοις, τὸν τᾶς βοὸς παῖδ᾽ ἀτιμάσας, τὸν αὐτός ποτ᾽ ἔκτισεν γόνῳ, νῦν ἔχων παλίντροπον ὄψιν ἐν λιταῖσιν;
English: And Zeus shall then be liable to the charge of injustice that he hates the child of the heifer, the child whom he himself begat long ago, his very own, and now he holds his face averted from our prayers.
NovoScriptorium: Once more, we are informed that the genus of the Danaides descends from Zeus himself and the “heifer”, Io. The translation “long ago” could be misleading. The exact translation would be “somewhere in time“. Clearly, this denotes that the author (or the author’s sources) is in ignorance of the exact time of the events; he only knew that all this happened “somewhere in time” and he also knew of a few characteristic things about this unknown epoch, which he attempts to share with us. What we understand is that the “genus of the Danaides” (the Aegeans) were not inhabitants of Egypt for a couple of generations only; they must have been descendants of Aegeans who migrated to Egypt many generations before. Remember the skin colour we discussed previously. In order that a group of white people acquires a permanent darker skin, a couple of generations under a “stronger than their homeland” Sun are not sufficient. It would take many more. We cannot know though how many with any short of accuracy in this case. If there had been no mingling with the locals of Egypt/Aeria at all, then Contemporary Science suggests that for the skin colour to change, about 100 generations are needed. If the local inhabitants of Egypt were already dark-skinned, a possible mingling with the Aegean migrants would result in an admixed population where the darker phenotype should prevail in much less time than 100 generations. But as we already said, there can be only hypotheses here and no accuracy with the info we’ve got in hand.
Ancient Greek: πάτερ, φρονούντως πρὸς φρονοῦντας ἐννέπεις. φυλάξομαι δὲ τάσδε μεμνῆσθαι σέθεν κεδνὰς ἐφετμάς. Ζεὺς δὲ γεννήτωρ ἴδοι:
English: (Chorus to Danaus): Father, your words are prudent, and they fall on prudent ears. I will take heed of your wise words, and hold them in memory. May Zeus, the author of our race, behold us!
NovoScriptorium: Here we’ve got a repetition of the info that Zeus had been the author/father/originator of the genus (a word more accurate than “race“) where the Danaides belong to.
Ancient Greek: ποδαπὸν ὅμιλον τόνδ᾽ ἀνελληνόστολον πέπλοισι βαρβάροισι καὶ πυκνώμασι χλίοντα προσφωνοῦμεν; οὐ γὰρ Ἀργολὶς ἐσθὴς γυναικῶν οὐδ᾽ ἀφ᾽ Ἑλλάδος τόπων. Ὅπως δὲ χώραν οὔτε κηρύκων ὕπο, ἀπρόξενοί τε, νόσφιν ἡγητῶν, μολεῖν ἔτλητ᾽ ἀτρέστως, τοῦτο θαυμαστὸν πέλει. Κλάδοι γε μὲν δὴ κατὰ νόμους ἀφικτόρων κεῖνται παρ᾽ ὑμῖν πρὸς θεοῖς ἀγωνίοις: μόνον τόδ᾽ Ἑλλὰς χθὼν συνοίσεται στόχῳ.
English: (King of Argos speaks) From where comes this band we address, clothed in foreign attire and luxuriating in closely-woven and barbaric robes? For your apparel is not that of the women of Argos, nor yet of any part of Hellas. How you have gained courage thus fearlessly to come to this land, unheralded and friendless and without guides, this makes me wonder. And yet, truly, I see that branches usually carried by suppliants are laid by your side before the gods assembled here — as to this alone can Hellas guess with confidence.
NovoScriptorium: Here we learn that the external appearance of the Danaides and the material culture they represent is clearly foreign to the Aegean/Greek customes. But, still, they know how to ask for the mercy of the locals in the name of the -local- gods. The translation we use omits the word “ἀγωνίοις” which characterizes the gods. You may read about the meaning of this word here.
Ancient Greek: πρὸς ταῦτ᾽ ἀμείβου καὶ λέγ᾽ εὐθαρσὴς ἐμοί. Τοῦ γηγενοῦς γάρ εἰμ᾽ ἐγὼ Παλαίχθονος ἶνις Πελασγός, τῆσδε γῆς ἀρχηγέτης. ἐμοῦ δ᾽ ἄνακτος εὐλόγως ἐπώνυμον γένος Πελασγῶν τήνδε καρποῦται χθόνα. καὶ πᾶσαν αἶαν, ἧς δι᾽ ἁγνὸς ἔρχεται Στρυμών, τὸ πρὸς δύνοντος ἡλίου, κρατῶ. Ὁρίζομαι δὲ τήν τε Περραίβων χθόνα, Πίνδου τε τἀπέκεινα, Παιόνων πέλας, ὄρη τε Δωδωναῖα. συντέμνει δ᾽ ὅρος ὑγρᾶς θαλάσσης: τῶνδε τἀπὶ τάδε κρατῶ. αὐτῆς δὲ χώρας Ἀπίας πέδον τόδε πάλαι κέκληται φωτὸς ἰατροῦ χάριν. Ἆπις γὰρ ἐλθὼν ἐκ πέρας Ναυπακτίας ἰατρόμαντις παῖς Ἀπόλλωνος χθόνα τήνδ᾽ ἐκκαθαίρει κνωδάλων βροτοφθόρων, τὰ δὴ παλαιῶν αἱμάτων μιάσμασιν χρανθεῖσ᾽ ἀνῆκε γαῖα μηνιταῖ᾽ ἄχη δρακονθόμιλον δυσμενῆ ξυνοικίαν. τούτων ἄκη τομαῖα καὶ λυτήρια πράξας ἀμέμπτως Ἆπις Ἀργείᾳ χθονὶ μνήμην ποτ᾽ ἀντίμισθον ηὕρετ᾽ ἐν λιταῖς.
English: (King of Argos speaks) As for that, answer and speak to me with confidence. For I am Pelasgus, offspring of Palaechthon, whom the earth brought forth, and lord of this land; and after me, their king, is rightly named the race of the Pelasgi, who harvest the land. Of all the region through which the pure Strymon flows, on the side toward the setting sun, I am the lord. There lies within the limits of my rule the land of the Perrhaebi, the parts beyond Pindus close to the Paeonians, and the mountain ridge of Dodona; the edge of the watery sea borders my kingdom. I rule up to these boundaries. The ground where we stand is Apian land itself, and has borne that name since antiquity in honor of a healer. For Apis, seer and healer, the son of Apollo, came from Naupactus on the farther shore and purified this land of monsters deadly to man, which Earth, defiled by the pollution of bloody deeds of old, caused to spring up — plagues charged with wrath, an ominous colony of swarming serpents. Of these plagues Apis worked the cure by sorcery and spells to the content of the Argive land, and for reward thereafter earned for himself remembrance in prayers.
NovoScriptorium: Let’s see what very interesting things we learn here. (Bear in mind that Pelasgos = Pelasgus)
1) Pelasgus, the king of Argos, is the offspring of Palaecthon. Palaecthon is characterized as “γηγενής“, i.e. “earthborn“. The name itself derives from “παλαιόω” and “χθών“, and it means “Old earth“. This is an obvious way to tell us that the land under discussion and its people are very old and they are actually descendants of the land’s very first inhabitants. The genus (γένος) of the Pelasgi is named after their king, Pelasgus. I.e. Aeschylus tells us here that the Pelasgi are an indigenous, authochtonous population of the Aegean/Greek Peninsula, descendants of the very first inhabitants of the same land.
2) The phrase “γένος Πελασγῶν τήνδε καρποῦται χθόνα” (“the race of the Pelasgi, who harvest the land“) needs a more careful examination. The verb “καρποῦμαι” has an equal meaning to the verb “καρπίζω“. As it is easily realized, the verb is associated with human intervention on the land and it implies the existence of such a system of intervention. In other words, the Pelasgians were people who had domesticated seeds at their disposal.
3) Then we read “Of all the region through which the pure Strymon flows, on the side toward the setting sun, I am the lord. There lies within the limits of my rule the land of the Perrhaebi, the parts beyond Pindus close to the Paeonians, and the mountain ridge of Dodona; the edge of the watery sea borders my kingdom. I rule up to these boundaries.”
At the time when Danaus and his daughters visited the Peloponnese:
a) the river Strymon had been the natural Eastern border of the Pelasgian kingdom
b) all the land western of the river Strymon, up to “the edge of the watery sea” also belonged to them. It is possible that the phrase “συντέμνει δ᾽ ὅρος ὑγρᾶς θαλάσσης” is used for some other reason, too. In Greek, both the words “θάλασσα” and “ὑγρή” mean “sea” (as in the Homeric phrase “πουλὺν ἐφ’ ὑγρὴν ἤλυθον ἐς Τροίην“, Iliad, K 27). The sea is “watery” ( the other meaning of the word “ὑγρή”) anyway, it doesn’t really need such an adjective to describe the self-evident. The use of the two words for the sea may want to denote the existence of two different sea-areas in the region, that is, the Adriatic Sea and the Ionian Sea.
c) This must be the case, because the borders of the Pelasgian kingdom extended in the North “beyond Pindus close to the Paeonians“, i.e. where the modern state of Albania is. We know from other ancient sources that the Paeonians inhabited the lands where the modern state of FYROM roughly is.
d) the Pelasgian kingdom included Thessaly (“There lies within the limits of my rule the land of the Perrhaebi”) and Epirus (“the mountain ridge of Dodona”)
Then other very interesting things appear in the text.
The Peloponnese had once been given the name “Apia” (“Ἀπία“). This was in honour of Apis, a son of Apollo, who came from Naupactus. Apis is labelled as “ἰατρός“, but also as “ἰατρόμαντις“. This reference could be literal; that Apis had been indeed “son of Apollo“. That is if the Myth refers to the man and king Apollo. But for this Apollo we will dedicate a separate post in the future. We are informed that the Peloponnese, at the time when Apis visited it, had been a very dangerous place for humans to live in, as it was full of beasts who had been killing Men (“κνωδάλων βροτοφθόρων“). Moreover, these beasts are labelled as “δρακονθόμιλος“. Therefore this must had been a case of over-population of snakes in the Peloponnese. In the way it is written, we are lead to think that this must had been some short of “divine punishment”, because the Myth informs us of “μίασμα“.
The translation of “τούτων ἄκη τομαῖα καὶ λυτήρια πράξας ἀμέμπτως” as “Of these plagues Apis worked the cure by sorcery and spells” is seriously wrong. “λυτήρια” means “pain relievers” while “τομαῖα” simply means “in pieces“. Apis used his knowledge “ἀμέμπτως“, i.e. “faultlessly“. “ἀκή” means “therapy, healing“. So, what the text actually describes is someone who used his good practical knowledge to relieve the land and its people and not …”sorcery and spells” (!!!).
The very ancient practice of honouring people after death because of their great deeds and benefactions clearly appears in these verses.
Ancient Greek: Ἀργεῖαι γένος ἐξευχόμεσθα, σπέρματ᾽ εὐτέκνου βοός: καὶ ταῦτ᾽ ἀληθῆ πάντα προσφύσω λόγῳ.
English: (Chorus speaks) Argives we claim to be by birth, offspring of a cow blest in its children. And the truth of this I shall confirm in full.
NovoScriptorium: The correct translation of “Ἀργεῖαι γένος” is “Argives in the genus” (or “of Argive genus”), while “σπέρματ᾽ εὐτέκνου βοός” means “descent of the heifer, who had many and good children“.
Ancient Greek: ἄπιστα μυθεῖσθ᾽, ὦ ξέναι, κλύειν ἐμοί, ὅπως τόδ᾽ ὑμῖν ἐστιν Ἀργεῖον γένος. Λιβυστικαῖς γὰρ μᾶλλον ἐμφερέστεραι γυναιξίν ἐστε κοὐδαμῶς ἐγχωρίαις. Καὶ Νεῖλος ἂν θρέψειε τοιοῦτον φυτόν
English: (King of Argos speaks) Foreign maidens, your tale is beyond my belief — how your race can be from Argos. For you are more similar to the women of Libya and in no way similar to those native to our land. The Nile, too, might foster such a stock
NovoScriptorium: Pelasgus shows great disbelief that the Danaides belonged to the Argive genus. That is because externally (i.e. colour of skin, clothing) they look not at all of Aegean descent. He suggests that their origin, according to their looks, should be from North Africa (“Libya”) or, even more specifically, from Egypt (“The Nile…”).
Ancient Greek: Χορός: κλῃδοῦχον Ἥρας φασὶ δωμάτων ποτὲ Ἰὼ γενέσθαι τῇ δ᾽ ἐν Ἀργείᾳ χθονί;
Βασιλεύς: ἦν ὡς μάλιστα, καὶ φάτις πολλὴ κρατεῖ.
Χορός: μὴ καὶ λόγος τις Ζῆνα μειχθῆναι βροτῷ;
Βασιλεύς: κἄκρυπτά γ᾽ Ἥρας ταῦτα τἀμπαλάγματα.
Χορός: πῶς οὖν τελευτᾷ βασιλέων νείκη τάδε;
Βασιλεύς: βοῦν τὴν γυναῖκ᾽ ἔθηκεν Ἀργεία θεός.
Χορός: οὔκουν πελάζει Ζεὺς ἐπ᾽ εὐκραίρῳ βοΐ;
Βασιλεύς: φασίν, πρέποντα βουθόρῳ ταύρῳ δέμας.
Χορός: τί δῆτα πρὸς ταῦτ᾽ ἄλοχος ἰσχυρὰ Διός;
Βασιλεύς: τὸν πάνθ᾽ ὁρῶντα φύλακ᾽ ἐπέστησεν βοΐ.
Χορός: ποῖον πανόπτην οἰοβουκόλον λέγεις;
Βασιλεύς: Ἄργον, τὸν Ἑρμῆς παῖδα γῆς κατέκτανεν.
Χορός: τί οὖν ἔτευξεν ἄλλο δυσπότμῳ βοΐ;
Βασιλεύς: βοηλάτην μύωπα κινητήριον.
Χορός: οἶστρον καλοῦσιν αὐτὸν οἱ Νείλου πέλας.
Βασιλεύς: τοιγάρ νιν ἐκ γῆς ἤλασεν μακρῷ δρόμῳ.
Χορός: καὶ ταῦτ᾽ ἔλεξας πάντα συγκόλλως ἐμοί.
Βασιλεύς: καὶ μὴν Κάνωβον κἀπὶ Μέμφιν ἵκετο.
Χορός: καὶ Ζεύς γ᾽ ἐφάπτωρ χειρὶ φιτύει γόνον.
Βασιλεύς: τίς οὖν ὁ Δῖος πόρτις εὔχεται βοός;
Χορός: Ἔπαφος ἀληθῶς ῥυσίων ἐπώνυμος.
Χορός: Λιβύη, μέγιστον γῆς πέδον καρπουμένη.
Βασιλεύς: τίν᾽ οὖν ἔτ᾽ ἄλλον τῆσδε βλαστημὸν λέγεις;
Χορός: Βῆλον δίπαιδα πατέρα τοῦδ᾽ ἐμοῦ πατρός.
Βασιλεύς: τὸ πάνσοφον νῦν ὄνομα τοῦτό μοι φράσον.
Χορός: Δαναός, ἀδελφὸς δ᾽ ἐστὶ πεντηκοντάπαις.
Βασιλεύς: καὶ τοῦδ᾽ ἄνοιγε τοὔνομ᾽ ἀφθόνῳ λόγῳ.
Χορός: Αἴγυπτος. εἰδὼς δ᾽ ἁμὸν ἀρχαῖον γένος πράσσοις ἂν ὡς Ἀργεῖον ἀνστήσῃς στόλον.
Βασιλεύς: δοκεῖτε δή μοι τῆσδε κοινωνεῖν χθονὸς τἀρχαῖον. Ἀλλὰ πῶς πατρῷα δώματα λιπεῖν ἔτλητε; τίς κατέσκηψεν τύχη;
Χορός: ἄναξ Πελασγῶν, αἰόλ᾽ ἀνθρώπων κακά. Πόνου δ᾽ ἴδοις ἂν οὐδαμοῦ ταὐτὸν πτερόν: ἐπεὶ τίς ηὔχει τήνδ᾽ ἀνέλπιστον φυγὴν κέλσειν ἐς Ἄργος κῆδος ἐγγενὲς τὸ πρίν, ἔχθει μεταπτοιοῦσαν εὐναίων γάμων;
Βασιλεύς: τί φὴς ἱκνεῖσθαι τῶνδ᾽ ἀγωνίων θεῶν, λευκοστεφεῖς ἔχουσα νεοδρέπτους κλάδους;
Χορός: ὡς μὴ γένωμαι δμωὶς Αἰγύπτου γένει.
Βασιλεύς: πότερα κατ᾽ ἔχθραν, ἢ τὸ μὴ θέμις λέγεις;
Χορός: τίς δ᾽ ἂν φίλους ὠνοῖτο τοὺς κεκτημένους;
Βασιλεύς: σθένος μὲν οὕτως μεῖζον αὔξεται βροτοῖς.
Χορός: καὶ δυστυχούντων γ᾽ εὐμαρὴς ἀπαλλαγή.
Βασιλεύς: πῶς οὖν πρὸς ὑμᾶς εὐσεβὴς ἐγὼ πέλω;
Χορός: αἰτοῦσι μὴ ‘κδοὺς παισὶν Αἰγύπτου πάλιν.
English: CHORUS: Is there a report that once in this land of Argos Io was ward of Hera’s house?
KING: Certainly she was; the tradition prevails far and wide.
CHORUS: And is there some story, too, that Zeus was joined in love with a mortal?
KING: This entanglement was not secret from Hera.
CHORUS: What then was the result of this royal strife?
KING: The goddess of Argos transformed the woman into a cow.
CHORUS: And while she was a horned cow, did not Zeus approach her?
KING: So they say, making his form that of a bull lusting for a mate.
CHORUS: What answer then did Zeus’ stubborn consort give?
KING: She placed the all-seeing one to stand watch over the cow.
CHORUS: What manner of all-seeing herdsman with a single duty do you mean?
KING: Argus, a son of Earth, whom Hermes slew.
CHORUS: What else did she contrive against the unfortunate cow?
KING: A sting, torment of cattle, constantly driving her on.
CHORUS: They call it a gadfly, those who dwell by the Nile.
KING: Well then, it drove her by a long course out of the land.
CHORUS: Your account agrees with mine in all respects.
KING: So she came to Canobus and to Memphis.
CHORUS: And Zeus begot a son by the touching of his hand.
KING: Who is it then that claims to be the cow’s Zeus-begotten calf?
CHORUS: Epaphus, and truly named from laying on of hands.
CHORUS: Libya, who reaps the fruit of the largest portion of the earth.
KING: What offspring, then, did Libya have?
CHORUS: Belus, who had two sons and was father of my father here.
KING: Now tell me his wisely-given name.
CHORUS: Danaus: and he has a brother with fifty sons.
KING: Reveal his name ungrudgingly.
CHORUS: Egyptus; and now that you know my ancient lineage, I pray you to help a band that is Argive by descent.
KING: I think you indeed have some share in this land from old. But how did you bring yourselves to leave the home of your fathers? What stroke of fortune befell you?
CHORUS: Lord of the Pelasgians, of varying color are the ills of mankind, and nowhere can you find trouble of the same plume. For who dreamed that a kindred race, sprung of old, would thus in unexpected flight find haven at Argos, fleeing in terror through loathing of the marriage-bed?
KING: Why have you come as suppliants of these gods congregated here, holding in your hands those white-wreathed, fresh-plucked boughs?
CHORUS: So as not to be made slave to Egyptus’ race.
KING: By reason of hatred? Or do you speak of unlawfulness?
CHORUS: Who would purchase their lords from among their kin?
KING: In this way families have enhanced their power.
CHORUS: And it is easy then, if things go ill, to separate from a wife.
KING: How then am I to deal with you in accordance with my sacred duty?
CHORUS: By not surrendering us at the demand of Egyptus’ sons.
NovoScriptorium: The translation “Io was ward of Hera’s house” is a bit misleading. What the phrase “κλῃδοῦχον Ἥρας φασὶ δωμάτων ποτὲ Ἰὼ γενέσθαι” actually says is that “they say that, somewhere in time, Io had been priestess of Hera“.
While in Greek there is no difference, in the English translation we see that the land is named Argos and the man Argus. This can be misleading and confusing. Please bear in mind that Argos = Argus. We also remind you that the word ‘argos’ means ‘white’, ‘ablaze’, ‘resplendent’.
From the following “τὸν πάνθ᾽ ὁρῶντα φύλακ᾽ ἐπέστησεν βοΐ” = “πανόπτην οἰοβουκόλον” = “Ἄργον” = “παῖδα γῆς” we learn that:
a) Argos was “son of the earth = born of the earth“, i.e. he was a native (indigenous, autochtonous) of the Peloponnese.
b) Argos had been appointed the duty to guard Io (“the heifer/the cow”), as the word “οἰοβουκόλος” suggests (meaning “herder of one heifer/cow“)
c) to denote that Argos had been an excellent herder, the Myth refers to him as “πάνθ᾽ ὁρῶντα φύλακ᾽” (meaning “the guard who watches everything” and “πανόπτην” (meaning “he who watches everything“)
By orders of Zeus, Hermes killed Argos. Then, the heifer suffers from the sting of a “fly that drives cattle”. As we discussed earlier above: “οἶστρος”, even though literally means “gnat”, it was widely used (and it is still used in modern Greek) to denote “any strong or frantic desire”. “οἶστρος” “drove her (the heifer) by a long course out of the land“, i.e. out of Argos (the Peloponnese).
Hence, what the Myth really suggests in its core is that Aegeans from the Peloponnese, at some unknown time in the Past, due to their “strong desire” (to explore the World, to acquire wealth, to expand, etc) travelled, visited and colonized other lands, far away from their original homeland. The murder of Argos by Hermes, by order of Zeus, could also be an indication of some social disturbance among the Aegeans at the time of the Myth.
Both parts (Pelasgos and the Danaides) agree that Io (i.e. the Aegeans) moved to Egypt (Canobus and Memphis). They also agree that Epaphus (offspring of Zeus and Io) had been born in Egypt.
We also learn that Libya “reaps the fruit of the largest portion of the earth“. It is very well known how important the fertile North African lands had been in History (e.g. Roman Empire).
Libya gave birth to Belus, the father of Danaus and Aegyptus (or Egyptus). We believe that the use of the name “Libya” is not at all coincidental. It is used on the purpose to denote that the Danaides were the offspring of an admixed population between locals (“Libyans“) and Aegeans. This would explain why the colour of the Danaides’ skin is no longer white but darker (Please note that the text does not refer to “black“); and this confirms the assumption we’ve made earlier above that the Danaides must have been descendants of an admixed population between indigenous North Africans/Egyptians and Aegeans. Of course, the reference to a chronical distance of only a few generations between the first Aegean migrants and the Danaides cannot be accurate. The rest of the Aegeans would have known very well of such a migration and wouldn’t appear to be in awe, like Pelasgus appears in the text. Hence, in our opinion, such a migration may have taken place before an event (or a series of events) that would disturb societies in the Eastern Mediterranean, and more specifically the Aegean. Do we know of any such events? Indeed we do. Please read here to convince yourselves (1, 2). The occurrence of such events would easily explain the knowledge gap the Pelasgians appear to have had.
King Pelasgus aknowledges that the Danaides indeed had been of Argive descent. Once he is convinced about this, he accepts the supplication of the Danaides to the gods of the Argive land. This story reveals to us many interesting things:
a) Supplication had been a custom among the Aegeans/Pelasgians/Greeks and for them only; it was not meant to include foreign people
b) Once someone could convincingly prove that he is of Aegean/Pelasgian/Greek descent, then he immediately became eligible for any custom such as supplication
c) It is clearly suggested that skin color is not the determining factor of one’s origin, but instead this determining factor is the genus. As we nowadays know very well, this is accurate. The genes (i.e. the blood, the DNA, the genus) are those that determine where any individual belongs.
The Danaides explain that they fled from Egypt “So as not to be made slave to Egyptus’ race“. In our opinion, this is a suggestion of a societal and cultural conflict in Egypt of those times, possibly between descendants of natives-only vs the admixed population of natives-and-Aegeans. The translation of “τίς δ᾽ ἂν φίλους ὠνοῖτο τοὺς κεκτημένους;” as “Who would purchase their lords from among their kin?” is not accurate. What the text actually says is “who feels friendly/has affection for those who take him as a slave?“. Also, the phrase “σθένος μὲν οὕτως μεῖζον αὔξεται βροτοῖς” is not properly translated as “In this way families have enhanced their power“. The correct translation would be “but this is how the might/strength among mortals increases“. Also, the phrase “καὶ δυστυχούντων γ᾽ εὐμαρὴς ἀπαλλαγή” is not properly translated as “And it is easy then, if things go ill, to separate from a wife“. The correct translation would be “and then it is easy to get rid of the unfortunate ones“. The phrase “πῶς οὖν πρὸς ὑμᾶς εὐσεβὴς ἐγὼ πέλω” is not properly translated as “How then am I to deal with you in accordance with my sacred duty?“. The correct translation would be “how then should I act in order to appear pious towards you?“. The Danaides ask him not to surrender them to the sons of Aegyptus (Egyptus).
We believe that the above strengthen our suspicions that there had been some “societal and cultural conflict in Egypt of those times, possibly between descendants of natives-only vs the admixed population of natives-and-Aegeans”. We also notice with great interest the will of Pelasgus to appear “pious“.
Ancient Greek: ὁρῶ κλάδοισι νεοδρόποις κατάσκιον νεύονθ᾽ ὅμιλον τόνδ᾽ ἀγωνίων θεῶν. εἴη δ᾽ ἄνατον πρᾶγμα τοῦτ᾽ ἀστοξένων. μηδ᾽ ἐξ ἀέλπτων κἀπρομηθήτων πόλει νεῖκος γένηται: τῶν γὰρ οὐ δεῖται πόλις.
English: KING: I see a company of assembled gods assenting beneath the shade of fresh-plucked boughs. Nevertheless may this affair of claimants to the friendship of our city bring no mischief in its wake! And let no feud come upon the state from causes unforeseen and unforestalled; for the state has no need of such trouble.
NovoScriptorium: The translation of the word “ἀστόξενος” is not the appropriate one here. Instead of “claimants to the friendship of our city” the translation should be “a blood-relation, though a foreigner by birth“, which is exactly what is discussed everywhere in this Aeschylean tragedy.
Ancient Greek: ἀμφοτέρους ὁμαίμων τάδ᾽ ἐπισκοπεῖ Ζεὺς ἑτερορρεπής, νέμων εἰκότως ἄδικα μὲν κακοῖς, ὅσια δ᾽ ἐννόμοις.
English: CHORUS: Kindred to both in blood, Zeus surveys both sides alike in this dispute with an impartial scale, apportioning, as is due, to the wicked their wrongdoing and to the godly their works of righteousness.
NovoScriptorium: Again, the translation is not accurate. The translation of “ἀμφοτέρους ὁμαίμων τάδ᾽ ἐπισκοπεῖ Ζεὺς ἑτερορρεπής” should be “Zeus -who makes one side preponderate and then the other- observes both of us, who share the same blood“. Again, we have here a declaration of a relation by blood between the Aegeans and the Danaides from Egypt.
Ancient Greek: μορφῆς δ᾽ οὐχ ὁμόστολος φύσις. Νεῖλος γὰρ οὐχ ὅμοιον Ἰνάχῳ γένος τρέφει.
English: (Danaus speaks) My shape is unlike yours, for Nile and Inachus rear a different race.
NovoScriptorium: This is yet another declaration that the genus which was bred in Egypt does not look the same with the genus of Inachus.
Titus Flavius Clemens, also known as Clement of Alexandria wrote: «In the times of Phoroneus, who was after Inachus, the Cataclysm of Ogygos is placed in Hellas and so is the beginning of Kingship in Sikyon with Aigialeus as first king, Europos as second and Telchin as third. At the same era the reign of Cretas in Crete began. Because Acousilaos claims that Phoroneus was the first human to be [“πρώτον άνθρωπον ( or Εuseb. “ανθρώπων”) γενέσθαι”]»
As the reader can see, the Aegean Myths are adamant that the Aegeans of the “historical era” had been direct descendants of the pre-Cataclysmic inhabitants of the same region. According to several ancient sources, Inachus was considered to be the oldest and first king of Argos. Sikyon was situated in the northern Peloponnesus between Corinth and Achaea. Please notice the name of its third king: “Telchin“. We will reveal how important this is in the main, forthcoming post dedicated to the “Cataclysmic Myths” from the island of Rhodes that Diodorus Siculus describes in detail in his “Library of History“.
Ancient Greek: τὸ πρὸς γυναικῶν δ᾽ ἐπιδὼν παλαίφατον ἁμέτερον γένος φιλίας προγόνου γυναικὸς νέωσον εὔφρον᾽ αἶνον, γενοῦ πολυμνάστωρ, ἔφαπτορ Ἰοῦς: Δῖαί τοι γένος εὐχόμεθ᾽ εἶναι γᾶς ἀπὸ τᾶσδ᾽ ἔνοικοι. παλαιὸν, δ᾽ εἰς ἴχνος μετέσταν ματέρος ἀνθονόμους ἐπωπάς, λειμῶνα βούχιλον, ἔνθεν Ἰὼ οἴστρῳ ἐρεθομένα φεύγει ἁμαρτίνοος, πολλὰ βροτῶν διαμειβομένα φῦλα, διχῇ δ᾽ ἀντίπορον γαῖαν ἐν αἴσᾳ διατέμνουσα πόρον κυματίαν ὁρίζει: ἰάπτει δ᾽ Ἀσίδος δι᾽ αἴας μηλοβότου Φρυγίας διαμπάξ. περᾷ δὲ Τεύθραντος ἄστυ Μυσῶν, Λύδιά τε γύαλα, καὶ δι᾽ ὀρῶν Κιλίκων Παμφύλων τε γένη διορνυμένα καί ποταμοὺς ἀενάους καὶ βαθύπλουτον χθόνα καὶ τὰν Ἀφροδίτας πολύπυρον αἶαν. ἱκνεῖται δὴ σινουμένα βέλει βουκόλου πτερόεντος Δῖον πάμβοτον ἄλσος, λειμῶνα χιονόβοσκον, ὅντ᾽ ἐπέρχεται Τυφῶ μένος, ὕδωρ τε Νείλου νόσοις ἄθικτον, μαινομένα πόνοις ἀτίμοις ὀδύναις τε κεντροδαλήτισι, θυιὰς Ἥρας. βροτοὶ δ᾽, οἳ γᾶς τότ᾽ ἦσαν ἔννομοι χλωρῷ δείματι θυμὸν πάλλοντ᾽ ὄψιν ἀήθη, βοτὸν ἐσορῶντες δυσχερὲς μειξόμβροτον, τὰν μὲν βοός, τὰν δ᾽ αὖ γυναικός: τέρας δ᾽ ἐθάμβουν. καὶ τότε δὴ τίς ἦν ὁ θέλξας πολύπλαγκτον ἀθλίαν οἰστροδόνητον Ἰώ; δι᾽ αἰῶνος κρέων ἀπαύστου Ζεὺς …Διὸς δ᾽ ἀπημάντῳ σθένει καὶ θείαις ἐπιπνοίαις παύεται, δακρύων δ᾽ ἀποστάζει πένθιμον αἰδῶ. λαβοῦσα δ᾽ ἕρμα Δῖον ἀψευδεῖ λόγῳ γείνατο παῖδ᾽ ἀμεμφῆ, δι᾽ αἰῶνος μακροῦ πάνολβον: ἔνθεν πᾶσα βοᾷ χθών, ‘φυσιζόου γένος τόδε Ζηνός ἐστιν ἀληθῶς: τίς γὰρ ἂν κατέπαυσεν Ἥρας νόσους ἐπιβούλους;’ Διὸς τόδ᾽ ἔργον καὶ τόδ᾽ ἂν γένος λέγων ἐξ Ἐπάφου κυρήσαις.
English: (Chorus) Look benignly upon the women’s cause, look upon our race ancient in story, and recall the happy tale of our ancestress, the woman of your love. Show that you remember all, you who laid your hand upon Io. It is from Zeus that we claim descent, and it is from this, our homeland, that we went forth. I have come here to the prints of ancient feet, my mother’s, even to the region where she was watched while she browsed among the flowers — into that pasture, from which Io, tormented by the gad-fly’s sting, fled in frenzy, traversing many tribes of men, and according to fate, cut in two the surging strait, marking off the land upon the farther shore. And through the land of Asia she gallops, straight through sheep-pasturing Phrygia, and she passes the city of Teuthras among the Mysians, and the hollow vales of Lydia, across the mountains of the Cilicians and the Pamphylians, speeding over ever-flowing rivers and earth deep and rich, and the land of Aphrodite that teems with wheat. Harassed by the sting of the winged herdsman she gains at last the fertile groves sacred to Zeus, that snow-fed pasture assailed by Typho’s fury, and the water of the Nile that no disease may touch — maddened by her ignominious toils and frenzied with the pain of Hera’s torturing goad. And mortals, who in those days dwelled in the land, shook with pallid terror at the terrible sight as they beheld a being fearsome, half-human, part cow and part of woman; and they were astonished at the monstrous thing. And then, at last, who was it who calmed the far-wandering, the wretched, the sting-tormented Io? Zeus, it was, through endless time, the lord, . . . and by the unharming might of his hand, and by his divine breath, she gained rest, and let fall the sorrowing shame of tears. And, taking Zeus as her support, according to a true story, she bore a blameless son — Throughout long ages blessed. All the earth cries aloud, This is in very truth the offspring of life-giving Zeus; for who else could have endured the suffering plotted by Hera? Call this the work of Zeus and this his race sprung from Epaphus and you will hit the truth.
NovoScriptorium: We learn many interesting things from these words.
1) The genus of the Danaides is called “παλαίφατον ἁμέτερον γένος“. They claim to belong to a very ancient genus and, moreover, to be descendants of Zeus (and Io).
2) The phrase “Δῖαί τοι γένος εὐχόμεθ᾽ εἶναι γᾶς ἀπὸ τᾶσδ᾽ ἔνοικοι” further suggests that the original genous, from which the Danaides descent, came from the Aegean and more specifically from the Peloponnese. Their ancestors had been inhabitants of the Peloponnese.
3) Then, by using the name of Io and a poetic description with double meaning [Please remember here what we explained earlier above: “by “heifer” (“βοῦς“) the female mythical figure of Ιo (Ἰώ) is meant. The other name for “βοῦς” is “δάμαλις” or “δαμάλη”. It is very interesting that “δαμάλης” means “tamer / queller”. According to some researchers the word “δαμάλης” possibly derives from the verb “δαμάζω” (“I tame”) and the word “ἅλς” (which means “sea”) and it means also the “tamer / queller of the sea”, i.e. someone who is very capable with the sea (as a navigator, as a sailor, etc).], Aeschylus provides us with some amazing information about an expedition from the Aegean towards nearly all the Eastern Mediterranean, during the -unknown, so far- time of the Myth.
4) Let us now examine the places referred to in the text.
a) “Ἀσίδος δι᾽ αἴας” – First, they moved to the -various- lands of “Asia“. With “Asia” here is not meant the Continent we nowadays call by the same name, but, instead, the various lands of Asia Minor / Anatolia.
b) They crossed right through (“διαμπάξ“) the “various lands of Asia” and “μηλοβότου Φρυγίας“. This is becoming really interesting, as it is clear that the region of Phrygia appears in the Myth to be closely linked with intense pastoral activities. Such a description of Phrygia wouldn’t really impress anyone during the Bronze Age or the Classical era. But, for us, it is certain that Aeschylus wants us to notice the description in relevance to the events of the Myth. I.e., when the Aegeans started their expeditions, Phrygia had been a very distinct place for an activity -obviously- not very common or even unknown to the Aegeans of the time. This could very well be an indication that these expeditions commenced during the Aegean Mesolithic / Early Neolithic Age, when it is widely accepted from Contemporary Science and Archaeology that organized pastoral activities (Animal Domestication) commenced in Phrygia / Anatolia.
c) Then we learn that they “visited” the following lands:
-Mysia (a region in the northwest of ancient Asia Minor), alternatively named “Teuthrania” in Greek mythology, as it was previously ruled by King Teuthras (“Τεύθραντος ἄστυ“).
–Lydia. In Aeschylus’ time, by this name almost all the Western Anatolian lands were meant, except Mysia, Caria, Phrygia and coastal Ionia. The phrase “Λύδιά τε γύαλα” helps us understand that the referrence is about a “hollow country, with plains, valleys and gorges“. It is obvious that Aeschylus uses the names used in his time so that his contemporary reader may understand of which places he actually speaks of.
–Cilicia and Pamphylia. Pamphylia was a region in the south of Asia Minor, between Lycia and Cilicia, extending from the Mediterranean to Mount Taurus. Cilicia is a region in southern Anatolia, extending inland from the northeastern coasts of the Mediterranean Sea. Cilicia extended along the Mediterranean coast east from Pamphylia, to the Nur Mountains, which separated it from Syria. North and east of Cilicia lie the rugged Taurus Mountains that separate it from the high central plateau of Anatolia, which are pierced by a narrow gorge, called in antiquity the Cilician Gates. The phrase “ὀρῶν Κιλίκων Παμφύλων τε γένη διορνυμένα καί ποταμοὺς ἀενάους καὶ βαθύπλουτον χθόνα” is quite an accurate description of these lands: mountainous, with many rivers and a very rich soil.
-“the land of Aphrodite that teems with wheat” (“τὰν Ἀφροδίτας πολύπυρον αἶαν“). The first thought would be to identify this land with the island of Cyprus, the mythical birthplace of the goddess Aphrodite. But is it only this or we may learn more if we dig a bit deeper? Let’s see what else we know from Antiquity.
i) From the Orphic Hymn to Aphrodite we read:
“καὶ εὐλιβάνου Συρίης ἕδος ἀμφιπολεύεις … Αἰγύπτου κατέχεις ἱερῆς γονιμώδεα λουτρά“, which is translated as “…and the seat of Syria, with the abundant frankincense, you take care of … you own the baths of fruitful Egypt, which is under divine protection“.
ii) Titus Flavius Clemens, also known as Clement of Alexandria (in his “Stromata“) wrote ” ‘Ἀφροδίτην‘ τε τὸν καιρὸν καθ’ ὃν δεῖ σπείρειν, λέγεσθαι παρὰ τῷ θεολόγῳ“, which is translated as “the time/season when one should seed, had been named ‘Aphrodite’ by the theologian“. The “theologian” to whom he refers to is Orpheus.
As we notice, ‘Aphrodite’ is intentionally linked with two of the most fertile lands on Earth, and certainly in the Eastern Mediterranean. Therefore, we may not exclude the possibility that Aeschylus here indirectly refers to Cyprus and Syria together, using the symbol of ‘Aphrodite’. But, in case we are wrong in the above, let us focus on Cyprus only.
First, let us recall an older post that was dedicated to the discovery of the oldest farming village in the Mediterranean islands, in Klimonas, Cyprus.
From the paper titled “Crop introduction and accelerated island evolution: archaeobotanical evidence from ‘Ais Yiorkis and Pre-Pottery Neolithic Cyprus“, by Leilani Lucas et al. (2011), we read: “(Abstract) Charred plant remains from the Cypriot Pre-Pottery Neolithic site of Krittou Marottou ‘Ais Yiorkis, situated in the foothills of the Troödos Mountains and dated to ca. 7500 cal. B.C., demonstrate the early introduction of two-grained einkorn (Triticum monococcum sensu lato). Grain measurements of two-grained einkorn from ‘Ais Yiorkis are compared to those from Aceramic and early Neolithic sites elsewhere in Cyprus, in northern Syria and central Europe. The grains appear to be larger than domestic grains of a later date from the Levantine mainland. Recent work by Purugganan and Fuller (Evolution 65:171–183, 2011) demonstrates a slow evolutionary rate in increasing grain size relative to the rates of evolution in wild species subject to natural selection. When the measurements of two-grained einkorn wheat from ‘Ais Yiorkis are compared with these same allochronic data the results indicate an accelerated rate in attaining larger grain size on Cyprus than on the mainland. The possibility of a domestication ‘event’ or rapid fixation of larger grain size characteristic of domesticated cereal crops in the context of an initially small island population is suggested by the colonisation by farmers of Cyprus in the Cypro-Pre-Pottery Neolithic.”
After the above, it should be obvious that there is hardly any doubt that during the Aegean Mesolithic / Early Neolithic, Cyprus had already been full of domesticated seeds -and animals, of course. So, the description of the island as “πολύπυρον αἶαν” would be quite fitting. As we suggested earlier above (for Phrygia, now for Cyprus) “such a description of Cyprus wouldn’t really impress anyone during the Bronze Age or the Classical era. But, for us, it is certain that Aeschylus wants us to notice the description in relevance to the events of the Myth. I.e., when the Aegeans started their expeditions, Cyprus had been a very distinct place for an activity -obviously- not very common or even unknown to the Aegeans of the time.”
-Now, about the place where “snow-fed pasture assailed by Typho’s fury” (“λειμῶνα χιονόβοσκον, ὅντ᾽ ἐπέρχεται Τυφῶ μένος“), which is clearly a place linked with the “fall of Typhoeus” by Zeus, let’s examine what we know:
i) Homer describes a place he calls the “couch [or bed] of Typhoeus”, which he locates in the land of the Arimoi (“εἰν Ἀρίμοις“), where Zeus lashes the land about Typhoeus with his thunderbolts. Presumably this is the same land where, according to Hesiod, Typhon’s mate Echidna keeps guard “in Arima” (“εἰν Ἀρίμοισιν“).
ii) Strabo discusses the question in some detail. Several locales, Cilicia, Syria, Lydia, and the island of Ischia, all places associated with Typhon, are given by Strabo as possible locations for Homer’s “Arimoi”.
iii) Pindar has his Cilician Typhon slain by Zeus “among the Arimoi”, and the historian Callisthenes (4th century BC), located the Arimoi and the Arima mountains in Cilicia.
iv) Most accounts have the defeated Typhon buried under either Mount Etna in Sicily, or the volcanic island of Ischia, the largest of the Phlegraean Islands off the coast of Naples, with Typhon being the cause of volcanic eruptions and earthquakes.
Now, it wouldn’t really make sense for Aeschylus to transfer us from one side of the map to the other. Hence, we reject the idea that he could suggest an abrupt transfer from the East to lands western of the Aegean (Sicily, Naples, Ischia). We are also lead to reject Cilicia, for the obvious reason that he had already named this land earlier in the text. Hence, the only sensible suggestion we are left with is that he indirectly refers to Syria (or Syro-Palestine, if you prefer). From there, it is indeed a close distance to the land of Egypt, which is the end of the “journey of Io the heifer”. We are lead to admit that the reference to ‘Aphrodite‘ earlier in the text was indeed a reference to the island of Cyprus, but, possibly, with a further intention to underline a close link which it must have had with Syria.
5) The phrase “And mortals, who in those days dwelled in the land” (“βροτοὶ δ᾽, οἳ γᾶς τότ᾽ ἦσαν ἔννομοι“) clearly suggests that at the time of the arrival of the Aegeans in Egypt there had already been indigenous inhabitants of the land.
6) We are also informed that the story of Io is “a true story” (“ἀψευδεῖ λόγῳ“) and that Epaphus, the Danaides’ ancestor, had been a true offspring of Zeus: “Call this the work of Zeus and this his race sprung from Epaphus and you will hit the truth” (“Διὸς τόδ᾽ ἔργον καὶ τόδ᾽ ἂν γένος λέγων ἐξ Ἐπάφου κυρήσαις“).
Ancient Greek: ἔδοξεν Ἀργείοισιν οὐ διχορρόπως, ἀλλ᾽ ὥστ᾽ ἀνηβῆσαί με γηραιᾷ φρενί: πανδημίᾳ γὰρ χερσὶ δεξιωνύμοις ἔφριξεν αἰθὴρ τόνδε κραινόντων λόγον: ἡμᾶς μετοικεῖν τῆσδε γῆς ἐλευθέρους κἀρρυσιάστους ξύν τ᾽ ἀσυλίᾳ βροτῶν: καὶ μήτ᾽ ἐνοίκων μήτ᾽ ἐπηλύδων τινὰ ἄγειν: ἐὰν δὲ προστιθῇ τὸ καρτερόν, τὸν μὴ βοηθήσαντα τῶνδε γαμόρων ἄτιμον εἶναι ξὺν φυγῇ δημηλάτῳ. τοιάνδ᾽ ἔπειθεν ῥῆσιν ἀμφ᾽ ἡμῶν λέγων ἄναξ Πελασγῶν, ἱκεσίου Ζηνὸς κότον μέγαν προφωνῶν μήποτ᾽ εἰσόπιν χρόνου πόλιν παχῦναι, ξενικὸν ἀστικόν θ᾽ ἅμα λέγων διπλοῦν μίασμα πρὸ πόλεως φανὲν ἀμήχανον βόσκημα πημονῆς πέλειν. τοιαῦτ᾽ ἀκούων χερσὶν Ἀργεῖος λεὼς ἔκραν᾽ ἄνευ κλητῆρος ὡς εἶναι τάδε. δημηγόρους δ᾽ ἤκουσεν εὐπιθὴς στροφὰς δῆμος Πελασγῶν: Ζεὺς δ᾽ ἐπέκρανεν τέλος
English: (DANAUS) Action was taken by the Argives, not by any doubtful vote but in such a way as to make my aged heart renew its youth. For the air bristled with right hands held aloft as, in full vote, they ratified this resolution into law: That we are settlers in this land, and are free, subject to no seizure, and secure from robbery of man; that no one, native or alien, lead us captive; but, if they turn to violence, any landholder who refuses to rescue us, should both forfeit his rights and suffer public banishment. Such was the persuasive speech that the king of the Pelasgians delivered on our behalf, uttering the solemn warning that never in the future should the city feed the great wrath of Zeus, protector of the suppliant; and declaring that, should a twofold defilement — from strangers and from natives at once — arise before the city, it would become fodder for distress past all relief. Hearing these words, the Argive people, waiting for no proclamation of crier, voted by uplifted hand that this should be so. It was the Pelasgian people, won readily to assent, who heard the subtle windings of his speech; but it was Zeus who brought the end to pass.
NovoScriptorium: The phrase “from strangers and from natives at once” (“ξενικὸν ἀστικόν θ᾽ ἅμα“) is yet another declaration that Danaus and his daughters even though came from a foreign land, had a blood relation with the locals of Argos.
We are also provided with the equation: “Ἀργεῖος λεὼς” = “δῆμος Πελασγῶν“, which leaves no doubt that Pelasgians = Argives.
Ancient Greek: νῦν ὅτε καί, θεοὶ Διογενεῖς, κλύοιτ᾽ εὐκταῖα γένει χεούσας:
English: (Chorus) Divinely-born gods! Hear now as I pour forth libations for blessings upon our kindred.
NovoScriptorium: The translation of “θεοὶ Διογενεῖς” as “Divinely-born gods” is not correct. The proper translation would be “gods who came to be from the genus of Zeus“. This and similar other expressions denote, depending on the text, two different things: a) literally, that there had been excellent men with great deeds and benefactions that had been descendants of Zeus (obviously, a living, famous person and not a deity), or, b) that there is really only one deity and the rest of the ‘gods’ are not really deities but something else (symbolic names with various usages, depending on the text and the author).
Ancient Greek: ἐξῶλές ἐστι μάργον Αἰγύπτου γένος μάχης τ᾽ ἄπληστον: καὶ λέγω πρὸς εἰδότα.
English: (CHORUS) Abominable is the lustful race of Egyptus and insatiate of battle; and you know that all too well.
NovoScriptorium: We are told here that the “genus of Aegyptus” had been abominable, lustful and insatiate of battle. Once again, it is clear from the text that the conflict between the two parties, “Danaus and Danaides” vs “Aegyptus and sons”, had been a deeply cultural one, while the reference to “battle” signifies some conflict for Power over the land of Egypt.
Ancient Greek: οὐλόφρονες, δὲ καὶ δολιομήτιδες δυσάγνοις φρεσίν, κόρακες ὥστε, βωμῶν ἀλέγοντες οὐδέν.
English: (CHORUS) They are of evil mind, and guileful of purpose, with impure hearts, thinking no more of altars than carrion birds.
NovoScriptorium: The word “οὐλόφρων” does not mean “of evil mind“. The proper translation would be “one who thinks disastrously / of disasters“. The word “δολιόμητις” = “δολιόφρων” and it means “cunning, he who thinks deceit / he who thinks fraudulently“. The word “δύσαγνος” means “unchaste, impure“.
Then, what we are actually told here is, again, that the conflict between the two parties, “Danaus and Danaides” vs “Aegyptus and sons”, had been a deeply cultural one. The “Aegyptus and sons” side are described as cunning, deceitful, with evil thinking, impure and impious. Their aims are always disastrous for the others around them, while they are fraudulent and lustful.
Ancient Greek: περίφρονες δ᾽ ἄγαν ἀνιέρῳ μένει μεμαργωμένοι κυνοθρασεῖς, θεῶν οὐδὲν ἐπαΐοντες.
English: (CHORUS) They are overweening, maddened, with unholy rage, shameless dogs that do not respect the gods.
NovoScriptorium: “περίφρονες δ᾽ ἄγαν” means “too proud, too arrogant“. “ἀνιέρῳ μένει” means with “unholy / sacrilegious mania“. “μεμαργωμένος” means “frantic, dishonouring, insatiate“. “κυνοθρασεῖς” means “with dog audacity“. “θεῶν οὐδὲν ἐπαΐοντες” means “they do not obey the gods at all“.
Again, we are told here of the deeply cultural character of the two parties’ conflict.
Ancient Greek: γένος γὰρ Αἰγύπτειον ὕβριν δύσφορον ἀρσενογενὲς μετά με δρόμοισι διόμενοι φυγάδα μάταισι πολυθρόοις βίαια δίζηνται λαβεῖν.
English: (CHORUS) For the males of the race of Egyptus, intolerable in their wantonness, chase after me, a fugitive, with clamorous lewdness and seek to lay hold of me with violence.
NovoScriptorium: “δύσφορος” means “hard to bear / oppressive“. Such is the “hubris” (“ὕβρις“) of the males of the Egyptian genus. And they want to impose their will (on the Danaides) violently [“hubris” = “insolence” = “lust” = “lewdness” = “wantonness”].
Again, we are told of how evil and barbarous the “sons of Aegyptus” had been towards “Danaus and the Danaides”.
Ancient Greek: οὗτος, τί ποιεῖς; ἐκ ποίου φρονήματος ἀνδρῶν Πελασγῶν τήνδ᾽ ἀτιμάζεις χθόνα; ἀλλ᾽ ἦ γυναικῶν ἐς πόλιν δοκεῖς μολεῖν; κάρβανος ὢν δ᾽ Ἕλλησιν ἐγχλίεις ἄγαν: καὶ πόλλ᾽ ἁμαρτὼν οὐδὲν ὤρθωσας φρενί.
English: (KING) You there! What are you doing? What kind of arrogance has incited you to do such dishonor to this realm of Pelasgian men? Indeed, do you think you have come to a land of women? For a barbarian dealing with Hellenes, you act insolently. Many are the misses of your wits, and your hits are none.
NovoScriptorium: Pelasgus calls the “sons of Aegyptus” with the name “κάρβανος” , i.e. “barbarians“. What’s also of interest is the equation provided in these lines: “ἄνδρες Πελασγοὶ” = “Ἕλληνες“, i.e. “Pelasgian men” = “Hellenes“. Please recall the other equation we met earlier above: “Ἀργεῖος λεὼς” = “δῆμος Πελασγῶν“, which leaves no doubt that Pelasgians = Argives = “Hellenes“. Aeschylus clearly suggests that the population of the Aegean and the Greek peninsula had been indigenous / authochtonus since the very beginning (whenever such a beginning may be defined) and that, regardless of the various different names used to describe the inhabitants of the same region, they had always remained the same people, the same “genus“.
Ancient Greek: ἀλλ᾽ ἄρσενάς τοι τῆσδε γῆς οἰκήτορας εὑρήσετ᾽ οὐ πίνοντας ἐκ κριθῶν μέθυ. Ὑμεῖς δὲ πᾶσαι σὺν φίλαις ὀπάοσι θράσος λαβοῦσαι στείχετ᾽ εὐερκῆ πόλιν, πύργων βαθείᾳ μηχανῇ κεκλῃμένην. καὶ δώματ᾽ ἐστὶ πολλὰ μὲν τὰ δήμια, δεδωμάτωμαι δ᾽ οὐδ᾽ ἐγὼ σμικρᾷ χερί.
English: (KING) It is men, I believe, you will find in the dwellers of this land; and they are no drinkers of diluted wine. [Exit Herald.] But take courage, all of you, and together with your handmaidens, proceed to our well-fenced town, encircled by sturdy devices of towers. As for places inside to lodge, there are plenty of the public sort. For on no modest scale do I myself live
NovoScriptorium: We are indirectly told here that the “sons of Aegyptus”, as opposed to the “Pelasgian men”, used to drink “ἐκ κριθῶν μέθυ“, i.e. alcoholic drink made from barley (we could describe it as “beer“). Also of interest is the description of the Pelasgian polity which is “εὐερκῆ πόλιν, πύργων βαθείᾳ μηχανῇ κεκλῃμένην. καὶ δώματ᾽ ἐστὶ πολλὰ μὲν τὰ δήμια“, which should be translated as “well fenced city, encircled by towers made with deep foundations; and there are many houses belonging to the people“. It is rather obvious that the description does not refer to a primitive polity, but instead refers to a proper, fortified, urban center. Of course this leads to many other conclusions as to the level of knowledge and skills that these people are presented by Aeschylus to possess, during the time of the Myth.
Ancient Greek: ὦ παῖδες, Ἀργείοισιν εὔχεσθαι χρεών, θύειν τε λείβειν θ᾽, ὡς θεοῖς, Ὀλυμπίοις, σπονδάς, ἐπεὶ σωτῆρες οὐ διχορρόπως. καί μου τὰ μὲν πραχθέντα πρὸς τοὺς ἐγγενεῖς φίλους πικρῶς ἤκουσαν αὐτανεψίοις:
English: (DANAUS) My children, it is right to offer prayers to the Argives and to sacrifice and pour libations to them as to Olympian gods; for they are our saviors in no doubtful manner. They heard from my lips the conduct of your cousins toward their own kinfolk, and were moved to bitterness against them;
NovoScriptorium: A more accurate translation would be “oh children, it is an obligation to pray to the Argives, to sacrifice and pour libations to them as if you would do to the Olympian gods; for they are our saviors in no doubtful manner. And they listened angrily to what I said to them about the conduct of our close relatives, your cousins“.
We can comment here on some very interesting information:
a) praying with gratitude is an “obligation“
b) “praying to the Argives” = “praying to the Olympian gods”. Therefore, this may be an indirect way on behalf of Aeschylus to inform us that the “Olympian gods” had actually been “Argives of the deeper Past“, which is exactly what is suggested by several ancient authors (like Diodorus Siculus for instance).
c) again, we are informed that “the sons of Aegyptus” had been very close relatives to “Danaus and the Danaides”
d) Aeschylus presents the Pelasgians / Argives / Hellenes as “civilized”, “moral”, “pious”, who get “angry” with “barbarous”, “immoral” and “impious” behaviour. Well, such a behaviour is indeed what a philosophical mind would wish for his fellow citizens to have. Most likely this last one is written to please the spectators of the play or make them think how they should be, in order to excel (Homerically speaking).
Let us remember now some important information about this ancient author.
Aeschylus, born in Eleusis, Attica, was one of the initiated into the Eleusinian Mysteries, whose members were sworn, under the penalty of death, not to reveal anything about the Mysteries to non-initiates. Nevertheless, according to Aristotle, Aeschylus was accused of revealing some of the cult’s secrets on stage. Some sources claim that an angry mob tried to kill Aeschylus on the spot, but he fled the scene. Heracleides of Pontus asserts that the audience tried to stone Aeschylus.
The author himself claims that his writings are “crumbs from the great table of Homer”. Our study has shown that this is indeed the case. Aeschylus writes ‘in the way of Homer’. And as Homer (and Hesiod) used organized older sources (i.e. from the “Museums”) to write his works, the same seems to be valid for Aeschylus, too. Moreover, the fact that he belonged to the initiated in the Eleusinian Mysteries, i.e. to a spiritual elite of his era that had access to Knowledge that the common Man didn’t, adds weight to the information we can collect from his works.
Also of importance is the fact that Aeschylus wrote long before the Hellenistic and Graeco-Roman times that were characterised by a vast and widespread syncretism. For instance, if this Myth had been recorded during the Hellenistic age we could easily assume that it was a forgery of History simply used to create “rights” of the Greeks to foreign lands, such as Egypt, etc. But, as anyone can realize, this is not the case at all here. In the era when Aeschylus lived, we cannot find any hidden motive other than his attempt to bring the truth he knew (as an initiated) to light.
Summary of conclusions
We learned that Aegeans, descendants of Zeus, somewhere in the deep Past, went on a wide expedition (on land and in sea) around nearly all the Eastern Mediterranean. We are told that they colonized Egypt. We are also told of their close links with Anatolia and Cyprus. On the other hand, nearly nothing we learn of their possible contact with Syro-Palestine, which is probably an indication that they had a much less intense interaction with the locals of these lands. We only learn that they passed from there, too.
We learned that the inhabitants of the Aegean / Greek peninsula had been an indigenous / autochtonous population since the very beginning (whenever that could be defined). We learn that the Pelasgians, Argives, Hellenes are different names of the same people. We learn that during the “Pelasgian era” the “Pelasgian Cultural Continuum” extended to almost all modern Greece and Albania. We learn that during this same era the descendants of the Aegeans in Egypt had been expelled, possibly because of a conflict for Power, but also because of big cultural differences among “ethnic” groups.
We learned that Aeschylus knew that the climate and the Sun’s radiation have a serious effect on human skin (change in colour). We learned that Aeschylus knew that what defines the anthropological origin of humans is their genes, their genus, and not necessarily the colour of their skin. We learned that supplication had been a custom applicable only among Greeks and could not be provided to non-Greeks.
Now, inevitably, the question arises: “Could there be any truth in all these? Do we have any direct or, at least indirect proof?” While we cannot answer with a simple “yes” or “no”, what we can do is offer you the means to decide for yourselves. It is necessary, for anyone that really wants to seek for such an answer, to read some of our previous, closely related to this one, posts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11.
Our conclusion is that, yes, the whole Myth does contain a historical core. Most likely it does describe an actual series of expeditions from the Aegean towards other places in the Eastern Mediterranean. Especially for Anatolia and Cyprus we could say that we are “certain”, as there is already enough evidence. The events must have taken place during the Aegean Mesolithic / Early Neolithic. The “Egyptian question” is a much tougher one though. And we shall provide an answer in the last part of this Research, at the forthcoming -and main- post dedicated to the “Cataclysmic Myths” from the island of Rhodes that Diodorus Siculus describes in detail in his “Library of History“.
Research-Analysis for NovoScriptorium: Philaretus Homerides, Isidoros Aggelos, P.D.K., Maximus E. Niles