aleator classicus

Reading at Random in Classical Literature

Anonymous, Greek Anthology 9.475

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One of a group of epigrams imagining the words of mythological characters. This one has the title

τίνας ἂν εἴποι λόγους Ἑλένη ὁρῶσα τὸν Μενέλαον καὶ τὸν Πάριδα μονομαχοῦντας.

What words Helen would say when she saw Menelaus and Paris fighting the duel,

referring to the duel at Iliad 3.324ff.

Εὐρώπης Ἀσίης τε δορισθενέες βασιλῆες,
ὑμῖν ἀμφοτέροισιν ἐπὶ ξυροῦ ἵσταται ἄκμῆς,
τίς κεν ἐμὲ τλήθυμος ἕλοι δύστηνον ἀκοίτης·
Ζεὺς δὲ πατὴρ δικάσειεν, ἄνευθε δὲ Κυπρογενείης,
μὴ πάλιν ἄλλος ἕλῃ με γαμοκλόπος, αἶσχος Ἀχαιοῖς.

You kings, mighty with the spear, of Europe and Asia, for both of you it stands on a razor’s edge which of you staunch-hearted men will take wretched me in marriage. Let Father Zeus decide, but without the Cyprus-born one [=Aphrodite], lest another marriage-thief take me, a disgrace to the Achaeans.

Because αἶσχος ‘disgrace’ is neuter, it’s actually ambiguous whether the word is nominative (referring to the ‘marriage-thief’) or accusative (referring to Helen), and I’ve kept that ambiguity in the translation. Presumably Helen is referring to herself, just as she uses derogatory words about herself in the Iliad. Note too the near-anagram in the final two words, which is not, I think, accidental.

Written by aleatorclassicus

November 16, 2013 at 12:00 PM

Posted in anonymi

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