Circe the Temptress by Charles Hermans, 1881
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Circe the Temptress by Charles Hermans, 1881
A kylix (wine cup) with a representation of Tecmessa covering the body of the dead Ajax, attributed to the Brygos Painter , from Greece, Athens, about 490 B.C. now at the Getty Museum.
Mythology Meme - Six Nymphs/Muses: Calypso [2/6]
"One of Oceanides sea nymphs, Calypso was the daughter of the Titan god Atlas and her mother was Tethys. Her name is related to the Greek word καλύπτω, which means “to conceal” and she symbolized the forces that divert men from their goals. She detained the hero Odysseus for many years during his wanderings after the fall of Troy."
Tecmessa, from Sophocle’s Ajax, (translation: E.F Watling, editor: Betty Radice)
Tecmessa’s reasonable and relatable monologue is backed here by the Chorus.
CHORUS: O Ajax, can you not pity her, as I do? Can you not say she is right?
Take note however, that choruses are almost always a “disempowered” group of people (young women, prisoners of war, the elderly, subjects of heroes). This was done when the chorus should not be physically or morally able by narrative to thwart or aid the tragic heroes in their decisions by ways of physical force or political power.
Tragic heroes have a destiny that is out of place with human moderation and exceeds human scale. Tecmessa here starts with the theme of a grieving family- a very human subject. The little son that will lose the protection of the father, the consort that will face harassment, the parents, whose joy in being survived by their son will be lost.
These are valid reasons for grief within a family in ancient thought and the chorus repeats and expands the theme of Ajax’s grieving family in the next στάσιμο (the choral part). The heroic temper always has grave consequences in the lives of the non-heroes.
Perhaps in Tecmessa’s monologue we can see echoes of the institution of “παλλακεία” (concubinage), which we will discuss at a later point. Tecmessa and Ajax live together as husband and wife, but they are not bound by marriage. Should Ajax die without making arrangements for her and their son’s safety nothing protects them from mistreatment. And there is no one to demand reparations on their part if harm is done to them.
A woman who would agree to become a concubine in ancient Athens, would usually be a free woman with no dowry, a woman with no relatives and no means to support herself. Being a παλλακίς would protect her from harassment by law, but it is safe to assume that should the man who supported her died without making arrangements for her and their family that she would find herself in dire circumstances.
Tecmessa’s last appeal to Ajax is to his impeccable, noble character. And it seems to be the only thing that finally resonates with him.
Athena with her (and my) two favourite heroes in the Trojan War (from the Greek side, of course): Diomedes and Odysseus
I love how badass they are, each one on their own way :P
MYTHIC POETRY series:
It was my love that did us both to death. [“Electra on Azalea Path” — Sylvia Plath]
"The Sirens had the top halves of women and the bottom halves of birds and they were said to sit on their island and sing so beautifully that anybody who heard them would jump overboard and then they would eat these men - they were always men who did this. Ulysses was said to have been the only person who ever actually heard the siren song because he made his sailors stuff their ears with wax and he had them tie him to the mast so he wouldn’t jump overboard. But he never told what it was they actually sang therefore nobody has ever known. So this is what they did really sing." [✿]
Seeing Helen ascend the ramparts, they spoke soft winged words to each other: ‘Small wonder that Trojans and bronze-greaved Greeks have suffered for such a woman, she is so like an immortal goddess.’
Aishwarya Rai as Helen of Troy (for Christa)
Ovule-rimming avon dale,
Winds are wafting; northeast gale.
Salient measures, metric sail,
Sun on masts, as sirens wail.
Hair obsidian, touched with red,
Lips are Clytemnestra-fed,
Bound upon the figurehead,
Gods are conscious; gods are dead.
Strong-born worth an ocean-pass
Drain this blessing, weary lass.
Bail your body, sheathe your sass;
Harpy-chorus — morning mass.
Iphigene, your soul had price:
Dagger-tears on oath-bound eyes.
Tearing timeless, rivers rise,
Breathing stops — tempest dies.