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Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 April 2013

Emily Kearns
St Hilda's College, Oxford


Among the most characteristic motifs in Greek mythology is the sexual union of a god with a mortal woman and the resultant birth of a hero. The existence of hexameter poetry listing the women thus favoured – the famous women in the underworld in the eleventh book of the Odyssey, and above all the Eoiai – is evidence of an interest in the women involved, not only in their heroic sons, and suggests that already at an early date the theme was the object not merely of passive reception but of an active consciousness. The Eoiai, indeed, saw such unions as an integral part of an earlier and better age, when mortals and immortals were closer:

      ξυναὶ γὰρ τότε δαῖτες ἔσαν, ξυνοὶ δὲ θόωκοι
      ἀθανάτων τε θεῶν καταθνητοῖς τ' ἀνθρώπων
    (fr. 1 Μ–W)
But it was not to be supposed that such a potentially rich theme would receive a unitary treatment. Already in their first appearances – at least, the first appearances for us – many individual stories are clearly distinguished by their different circumstances. A common variable is the existence, the kind and the degree of difficulty experienced by the woman as a result of the encounter. Polymele, for instance, mother of Eudorus by Hermes at Iliad 16.179–92, has seemingly no difficulty in leaving her child to be brought up by her father while she goes on to marry a mortal husband. But suffering of some sort is perhaps more usual, and famous sufferers include Cassandra, punished for spurning Apollo's advances; Danae, first imprisoned by her father in a brazen tower to prevent her pregnancy, and then locked in a chest with her baby and set afloat on the waves; and Semele, destroyed when her lover Zeus appeared to her in his true form. Such different experiences could suggest further multiple versions of the same general theme, diverging especially in the consequences of the union (or attempted union) for the mortal partner. Even the same characters could potentially undergo quite different variants of the story; the chief constant is the unfailing popularity of the mythical motif.

Research Article
Copyright © The Classical Association 2013

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1 As he states for instance at Ol. 1.52–3 and Ol. 9.35–41. This is, of course, a rhetorical strategy of the poet's persona: see e.g. Köhnken, A., ‘Pindar as innovator: Poseidon Hippios and the relevance of the Pelops story in Olympian 1’, CQ 24 (1974), 199206CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Gerber, D.E., Pindar's Olympian One: A Commentary (Toronto, 1982), 89Google Scholar.

2 On the connexion between Cyrene and Telesicrates, see for instance Carson, A., ‘Wedding at noon in Pindar's Ninth Pythian’, GRBS 23 (1982), 121–8Google Scholar.

3 The following account of the Cyrene–Apollo narrative makes no claims to originality or completeness, and is offered primarily to clarify the ensuing discussion.

4 The primary meaning of ἀγροτέρα in this context is ‘huntress’, but the word must retain some of its etymological force.

5 Thus plausibly Hornblower, S., Thucydides and Pindar (Oxford, 2004), 101CrossRefGoogle Scholar; cf. B. Gentili on the whole scene, in Gentili, et al. , Pindaro: Le Pitiche (Rome and Milan, 1995), 235Google Scholar (‘di intonazione serio-comica’).

6 On Apollo in the ode, see Woodbury, L., ‘Apollo's first love: Pindar, Pythian 9.26ff’, TAPhA 103 (1972), 561–73Google Scholar, and Cyrene and the τελευτά of marriage in Pindar's ninth Pythian ode’, TAPhA 112 (1982), 245–58Google Scholar (= Woodbury, L.F., Collected Writings, ed. Brown, C.G., Fowler, R.L., Robbins, E.I and Wallace Matheson, P.M. [Atlanta, 1991], 233–43, 396–409Google Scholar respectively). On Chiron, note the variant in Apollonius Rhodius (2.509–10) that Aristaeus, child of Cyrene and Apollo, was brought up by him, and see further Robbins, E., ‘Cyrene and Cheiron: the myth of Pindar's ninth Pythian’, Phoenix 32 (1978), 91104CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

7 Cf. esp. Carey, C., A Commentary on Five Odes of Pindar (New York, 1991), 6970Google Scholar, pointing out also the connexion with the Alexidamus story in the last part of the poem. On ὁσία see P. Giannini, in Gentili et al. (n. 5), 597.

8 On the meaning of this phrase, and the significance of αἰδώς in the two works here compared, see below, p. 61.

9 Such as, notably, that of Burnett, A.P., conversely blaming Creusa (Catastrophe Survived: Euripides' Plays of Mixed Reversal [Oxford, 1971], 101–29Google Scholar, esp. 127–9, and more extremely, ‘Human resistance and divine persuasion in Euripides’ Ion', CPh 57 [1962], 89–103), but also, from a feminist perspective, Rabinowitz, N.S., Anxiety Veiled: Euripides and the Traffic in Women (Ithaca and London, 1993), 195201Google Scholar. One does not have to condemn Apollo completely to find such approaches wrong-headed. See the more nuanced accounts of e.g. Conacher, D.S., Euripidean Drama (Toronto, 1967), 267–85Google Scholar, K.H. Lee, Euripides: Ion (Warminster, 1997), 33Google Scholar, and Zacharia, K., Converging Truths: Euripides' Ion and the Athenian Quest for Self-definition, Mnemosyne Suppl. 242 (Leiden, 2003), 102–49CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

10 Despite Rabinowitz (n. 9), 197–8.

11 Zacharia (n. 9), 94–5 suggests that in having Creusa complain of Apollo's ἀναιδεία Euripides was thinking of Chiron's opening words at Pyth. 9.39–41, with αἰδέοντ' at 41. But as can be seen from the table above, there is also an αἰδώς/ἀναιδεία parallel relating to an earlier part of Pindar's poem. Woodbury (n. 6 [1972]), 566 n. 22 takes Creusa's monody as contrasting with Pyth. 9; Swift, L., The Hidden Chorus: Echoes of Genre in Tragic Lyric (Oxford, 2010), 96 n. 93CrossRefGoogle Scholar picks out Pyth. 9 as an example of contrast with Creusa's monody, but neither goes even as far as Zacharia.

12 ἀκερσεκόμης: Hymn. Hom. Ap. 134, where the young Apollo claims his attributes and hence establishes his personality; Il. 20.39, Pind. Pae. 9 (A1 Rutherford) 45, etc. χρυσοκόμας: Pind. Ol. 6.41, Ol. 7.32; χρυσοχαίτας however at Pyth. 2.16.

13 On gold, see Steiner, D., The Crown of Song (London, 1986), 126–7Google Scholar; on ‘gold, light and colours’, Duchemin, J., Pindare: poète et prophète (Paris, 1956), 194228Google Scholar; on colour, from which sphere he excludes gold, Fogelmark, S., Studies in Pindar with particular reference to Paean VI and Nemean VII (Lund, 1972), 1548Google Scholar.

14 But also Io in Aesch. Supp. 44, 539, with similar effect.

15 Cf also Woodbury (n. 6 [1972]), taking the opening of Chiron's speech (39–41) as a ‘commentary’ on this line.

16 Wilamowitz in his commentary (Euripides: Ion [Berlin, 1926], 127) thought that ‘in Κύπρις wird die Göttin kaum gefühlt’, and indeed the primary reference of the word in context should presumably be to Apollo's sexual satisfaction; but the phrase as a whole suggests a personal form of Cypris also. Compare Hermes ‘doing a favour’ for Apollo in the prologue, 36–7, by whisking Ion away to Delphi; immortals help each other out but neglect mortals (how much trouble could have been spared if only Creusa had been made aware that her child had been saved). On the present phrase, see also LaRue, J., ‘Creusa's monody: Ion 859–922’, TAPhA 94 (1963), 126–36, at 132–3Google Scholar.

17 Hom. Hymn Dem. 6–16, with Richardson's comment ad loc. (p. 153).

18 In my view the contrast, and the risk of confusion if an earlier use of the word were to have a different reference, makes this much the more plausible meaning of ϕρίκᾳ ματρός. There would be no reason to get rid of the baby in the cave ‘with a mother's fear’, rather the opposite. Lee's argument against this, ad loc., quoting Huys, M., The Tale of the Hero who was Exposed at Birth in Euripidean Tragedy: A Study of Motifs (Louvain, 1995), 95–6Google Scholar, is not to my mind conclusive.

19 Implied at 61–2, 289–93, 813–14.

20 The only female speakers in Pindar's epinicians are Medea (Pyth. 4.13–56) and Themis (Isthm. 8.36–45), both giving prophecies and speaking from a position of authority.

21 On voice in lyric (specifically choral) narrative, see the suggestive remarks in Rutherford, R.B., ‘Why should I mention Io? Aspects of choral narration in Greek tragedy’, CCJ (=PCPhS) 53 (2007), 139Google Scholar, esp. 16–18.

22 This is appropriately the experience of Apollo himself, nursed by Thetis with nectar and ambrosia (Hymn. Hom. Ap. 120–5). Euripides plays with the contrast between the birth of Apollo and that of his son; see below, p. 64.

23 The biography in Diod. Sic. 4.81–2 takes Aristaeus to Ceos, where he seems to found a dynasty, and to other unspecified islands. The similarities to Pindar in this account, as in Ap. Rhod. 2.500–27, are probably due to a common source in the Eoiai, which the scholia to Pindar (on line 6a, quoting Hesiod fr. 215 M–W) note as the origin of the story. Servius (on Verg. G. 1.14) attests the identification of Aristaeus with ‘Apollo pastoralis’, that is, νόμιος, in the Eoiai (fr. 216 M–W), which is common to all three extant authors.

24 Though Apollo might well be described in this context as the ‘fruits’ of Zeus, the force of the dative, beside the accusative σε referring to Apollo, is rather obscure.

25 This suggestion appears to have been made independently by Badham, who mentions it in his school edition of the play (Badham, C., The Student's First Greek Play: Euripidis Ion, with Notes for Beginners [London and Edinburgh, 1867 2], 91Google Scholar). I am indebted to Chris Collard for information and advice on textual issues here.

26 Fontenrose, J., ‘The garden of Phoebus’, AJPh 64 (1943), 282–3Google Scholar with some plausibility supposed that it represents a gnome, ‘it's a fortunate man who can harvest the gardens of Zeus’, with no geographical reference.

27 See Barrett's note on Eur. Hipp. 742–51 (p. 303).

28 Pyth. 4.15–16, 56; for gardens, cf also κᾶπος Ἀϕροδίτας of Cyrene at Pyth. 5.24.

29 Hymn. Hom. Ap. 16–18, 117–18, where it is located in a λειμῶνι μαλακῷ. Φοίνικα for ϕοίνια is another emendation, but one beyond doubt. Euripides mentions palm tree and laurel together at Hec. 458–9, adding an olive tree to these two at IT 1099–102.

30 Pherecydes FGrHist 3 F 16, where it is called τὸν τῶν θεῶν κῆπον, ὃς ἦν παρὰ τῷ Ἄτλαντι, and in Latin versions Iunonis hortus. See Barrett (above, n. 27).

31 For a double choral allusion to birth of son and birth of father, one might also compare the parodos of Bacchae, where lines 88–98 narrate the birth of Dionysus and 120–9 allude to the birth of Zeus; but there the effect is one of assimilation through similarities of cult, rather than one of contrast.

32 See Parry, H., ‘The second stasimon of Euripides' Heracles (637–700)’, AJPh 86 (1965), 363–72Google Scholar; Swift (n. 11), 118–72.

33 TrGF 5 T91a, PMG 755, Plut. Alc. 11.3; in Dem. 1.2 he is more sceptical, but acknowledges that the usual view attributes the poem to Euripides. Cf. Ath. 1.3e.

34 See Steiner, D., ‘The immeasures of praise: the epinician celebration of Agamemnon's return’, Hermes 138 (2010), 2237Google Scholar; Carey, C., ‘The victory ode in the theatre’, in Rawles, R., Agócs, P. and Carey, C. (edd.), Receiving the Komos. BICS Suppl. 112 (London, 2012), 17–36Google Scholar. However, the vast majority of such cases, even at a much earlier date than that of the Ion, relate to generalized motifs and not to specific poems.

35 We can certainly assume that an audience would have understood the monody's affinity with hymns and more specifically perhaps with paeans, lyric forms which naturally remained in familiar use. This ironic kinship has often been noted; see LaRue (n. 16); Furley, W.D., ‘Hymns in Euripidean tragedy’, ICS 24 (1999–2000), esp. 189–90Google Scholar; Swift (n. 11), 94–101. Creusa even refers to Apollo himself singing paeans (to his own praise?), while she explicitly states that she will proclaim the god's dispraise.

36 Swift (n. 11), 112–14. See also the discussion of Pindar in late fifth-century Athens in Hornblower (n. 5), 56–8. But widely distributed familiarity with epinician texts would seem likely to be restricted to a relatively small range of poems and parts of poems. We need a context in which such knowledge could have been acquired, and symposiastic settings would probably yield only a small number of popular pieces.

37 Euripides: Ion (Oxford, 1939), xxxGoogle Scholar.

38 I should like to thank Christopher Collard, Richard Rutherford and the anonymous reader for CQ for very helpful comments on earlier drafts of this piece, though they must not, of course, be taken as endorsing everything in it.

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