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Zeus and Mount Ida in Homer’s Iliad

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  13 November 2015

C.J. Mackie
La Trobe University
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This article explores the part played by Mount Ida in the Iliad. It begins with some consideration of Ida in the early ‘history’ of Troy – the stories of Dardanus and the early line of Trojan kings. The city of Troy (Ilios) has its origins on Mount Ida, and the mountain remains very dear to the Trojans in many different ways. The rivers at Troy have their source on the mountain, and the Trojans acquire their water and wood from there. Moreover, the mountain is a central part of Trojan religious life, including the peak at Gargarus, where Zeus resides for a significant part of the poem. This article considers the two journeys of Zeus to Mount Ida from Olympus in the Iliad, and the ways that these are dealt with in the text. It raises questions about the rationale for and the effect of his visits there. It is argued that the poet uses Zeus’s absence from Olympus to ‘open up’ the cosmos, and permit new kinds of divine conduct and intervention. The article concludes with some consideration of the fact that the text offers no reference to the return of Zeus from Ida to Olympus prior to the council of the gods and Theomachy in Book 20.

Research Article
Copyright © Australasian Society for Classical Studies 2014

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1 We learn that Zeus loved this son more than any other child born to him from a mortal woman (20.304-5). Homer is not forthcoming about the girl’s name, nor her provenance, but the references suggest that Dardanus was conceived on Ida. This, at least, would help to explain why it was on this mountain that Troy had its origins, not somewhere else.

2 G.S. Kirk seems to think, although with no real evidence to support his view, that Assaracus and his descendants must have stayed on at Dardania, : ‘probably a rural area or group of villages rather than a town. . . . Thus the Dardanioi of 2.819 are from the foothills of Ida where indeed Aeneas was herding cattle when he was nearly caught by Akhilleus in the course of his raids on Lurnessos and Pedasos at 20.89-92’: The Iliad: A Commentary, vol. 1 (Cambridge 1985) 252-3Google Scholar. See also Edwards, M.W., The Iliad: A Commentary, vol. 5 (Cambridge 1991) 316CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

3 See also 10.415; 11.166 and 371-2. Dardanus is therefore the common ancestor of both houses, and the epithet ‘son of Dardanus’ (Δαρδανίδης) is used of Priam throughout the poem. The city also has ‘Dardanian’ gates.

4 For the wildlife on Ida (that is, the modern Kaz Dag), see Cook, J.M., The Troad: An Archaeological and Topographical Study (Oxford 1973) 306Google Scholar.

5 On this subject, see Griffin, J., ‘Theocritus, the Iliad, and the East’, AJP 113 (1992) 189211Google Scholar, who argues (esp. 201) that the motif of pastoral sexual encounters informs the Asiatic aspect of Trojan identity that does not happen in the case of the Achaeans.

6 For the niadic references to Ganymede, see 5.266 and 20.232-5. The Little Iliad offers a very different genealogy, with Ganymede being the son of Laomedon (Homer OCT vol. 5 [Allen], 131, fr. VI. 4.). The Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite offers the same genealogy as the Iliad (see Edwards, M.W, The Iliad: A Commentary, vol. 5 [Cambridge 1991] 319CrossRefGoogle Scholar). In Vergil’s Aeneid (5.252-7) Ganymede is seen by Zeus when he was hunting on Mount Ida and taken up from there by Zeus’s eagle.

7 Bremmer, J., ‘An Enigmatic Indo-European Rite: PederastyArethusa 13 (1980) 286Google Scholar.

8 For the Iliadic references, 2.819-20; 5.312-3; 20.208-9.

9 For the debate on the ‘Judgement’ in the Iliad, see K. Reinhardt, Das Parisurteil (1938), reprinted in Tradition und Geist (Göttingen 1960) 16-36; Davies, M., ‘The Judgement of Paris and Iliad 24’, JHS 101 (1981) 5662CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Mackie, C.J., ‘Iliad 24 and the Judgement of Paris’, CQ 63.1 (2013) 116CrossRefGoogle Scholar. For the Cypria references, Homer OCT vol. 5, 102.16-17; cf. 120, fr. V.5. For the date of the Cypria, West, M.L., Greek Epic Fragments (Cambridge MA 2003) 13Google Scholar.

10 Cf. 1.221-2, where Athena goes from the council of the Greeks directly back to Olympus to join the other gods, a passage which Kirk (n.2) 76 calls ‘a mild oral inconsistency’.

11 It is worth comparing the same twelve-day period, which Achilles himself arranges with Priam for the mourning of Hector (24.656-67).

12 On this aspect, Scodel, R., ‘The Gods’ Visit to the Ethiopians in Iliad 1’, HSCP 103 (2007) 8398Google Scholar.

13 See J. Latacz, ‘Zeus’ Reise zu den Aithiopen (zu Il. 1, 304-495)’, in Kurz, G., Müller, D. and Nicolai, W. (eds), Gnomosyne: Menschliches Denken und Handeln in der frühgriechischen Literatur (Munich 1981) 5380Google Scholar.

14 West, , ‘Eumelos: A Corinthian Epic Cycle?’, JHS 122 (2002) 109-33CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

15 Richard Buxton has some good things to say about mountains in Greek mythology, in Imaginary Greece: The Contexts of Greek Mythology (Cambridge 1994) esp. 81-96.

16 Notwithstanding 1.396-400, as above, where Zeus has to rely on the gentle Thetis to keep his hegemony in place.

17 Note that Laogonus, son of Onetor, a priest of Idaean Zeus among the Trojan ranks, is killed by Meriones at 16.603-7.

18 On Homer’s account of Gargarus and the physical setting of the actual peak of the mountain (Kaz Dag), see Kirk, , The Iliad: A Commentary, vol. 2 (Cambridge 1990) 302Google Scholar. The thrust of J.V. Luce’s book, Celebrating Homer’s Landscapes: Troy and Ithaca Revisited (London 1998)Google Scholar, among other publications that have emerged on this topic, is that we can identify Homer’s descriptions in the physical geography of the landscape (or vice versa).

19 On this general subject, Griffin, , Homer on Life and Death (Oxford 1980)Google Scholar esp. chap. 6, ‘The Divine Audience and the Religion of the Iliad’; and Clay, J.S., Homer’s Trojan Theater (New York 2011) 36, 63CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

20 For a contrary view, that 11.82-3 are problematic, and are better taken as Zeus sitting on Ida, see Hainsworth, B., The Iliad: A Commentary, vol. 3 (Cambridge 1993) 229-30CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

21 Cf. the conversation between Zeus (seemingly on Ida) and Hera (seemingly on Olympus) over Sarpedon’s fate (16.431-61; cf. 18.356-67 and 19.340-51).

22 Cf. the role of Scamander at 21.238-9, who tries to protect the Trojans in his flow from the rampant Achilles.

23 Kirk (n. 18) 319 notes that, by sending a positive omen to the Greeks at 8.245-6, ‘Zeus reacts immediately and sympathetically, in accordance with his tendency to volte-face in this Book.’ Zeus also responds to Aias’s prayer at 17.648 (= 8.245). Kirk also notes (n. 18) 319-20 that, ‘Zeus’s acquiescence goes against his intention of helping the Trojans; yet neither he nor the poet (let alone the whole epic tradition and the audience) can allow the Achaeans to be wiped out.’

24 On this ‘short aristeia of Hektor’, see Hainsworth (n. 20) 259.

25 On this simile, see Janko, R., The Iliad: A Commentary, vol. 4 (Cambridge 1994) 237Google Scholar.

26 The fact that the ship is owned by a deceased warrior goes some way to highlighting the hollowness of the Trojan victory in burning a ship at all. On this point, see Taplin, O., Homeric Soundings (Oxford 1992) 173 n. 34Google Scholar.

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