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Monday, 21 February 2011

The Bibliotheca.

Sir James George Frazer [of Golden Bough fame] translated The Bibliotheca into English, and it was published in 1921.

The Bibliotheca was originally believed to have been an ancient Greek text ( second century BC) and to have been written by Apollodorus of Alexandria, a Greek scholar who probably did indeed write out a compendium of myths...but unfortunately these have gone missing.

The texts written by the Apollodorus whose texts we do have -the Pseudo Apollodorus- were a compendium of myth sourced from old Greek epic and the plays of the Tragedians.

The work is generally believed to be a second century A.D. compilation, probably Roman.

In hunting down the history of Greek myth, as I try desperately to work out exactly how and when Greek myth became a part of British culture, Wiki tells me this:
The first mention of the work, ignored as a popularised handbook by Classical authors, is by Photios I Patriarch of Constantinople from AD 858 to 867 and from 877 to 886.
Why I wonder are Classical authors looking down on The Bibliotheca? Is it because, compared say to the Homeric Hymns, the style of prose is lacking in art? The Bibliotheca (Frazer's version) is a lot like modern books on myth; dictionary style entries that strip the stories of their narrative and reduce them to a list of who went where and did what with whom. On the other hand, the original work may not have been the first of many distilled versions, the original may have told the stories in full?
The work was almost lost in the thirteenth century, surviving in one now-incomplete manuscript, which was copied for Cardinal Bessarion [Basilios (or Basilius) Bessarion (in Greek Βασίλειος Βησσαρίων) (January 2, 1403 – November 18, 1472), a Roman Catholic Cardinal Bishop and the titular Latin Patriarch of Constantinople).

The first printed edition of "Apollodorus" was published in Rome in 1555, edited by Benedetto Egio (Benedictus Aegius) of Spoleto, who divided the text in three books, but made many unwarranted emendations in his very corrupted text. Hieronymus Commelinus published an improved text at Heidelberg, 1559. The first text based on comparative manuscripts was that of Christian Gottlob Heyne, Göttingen, 1782-83.

Unfortunately the Bibliotheca has not come down to us complete. It is undivided in the manuscripts but conventionally divided in three books. Part of the third book, which breaks off abruptly in the story of Theseus, has been lost. The Patriarch Photius had the full work before him, as he mentions in his "account of books read" that it contained stories of the heroes of the Trojan War and the nostoi, missing in surviving manuscripts. On the other hand, we have an epitome that was made by James George Frazer, who conflated two manuscript summaries of the text, also including the lost part, leaving us a good summary of its contents.
So, what does The Bibliotheca say about Persephone?

From Frazer:
Now Zeus wedded Hera and begat Hebe, Ilithyia, and Ares, but he had intercourse with any women, both mortals and immortals. By Themis, daughter of Sky, he had daughters, the seasons, to wit, Peace, Order, and Justice; also the Fates, to wit, Clotho, Lachesis, and  Atropus; by Dione he had Aphrodite; by Eurynome, daughter of Ocean, he had the Graces, to wit, glaia, Euphrosyne, and Thalia; by Styx he had Persephone; and by Memory (Mnemosyne) he had the Muses, first Calliope, then Clio, Melpomene, Euterpe, Erato, Terpsichore, Urania, Thalia, and Polymnia.

Pluto fell in love with Persephone and with the help of Zeus carried her off secretly. But Demeter went about seeking her all over the earth with torches by night and day, and learning from the people of Hermion that Pluto had carried her off, she was wroth with the gods and quitted heaven, and came in the likeness of a woman to Eleusis. And first she sat down on the rock which has been named Laughless after her, beside what is called the Well of the Fair Dances; thereupon she made her way to Celeus, who at that time reigned over the Eleusinians. Some women were in the house, and when they bade her sit down beside them, a certain old crone, Iambe, joked the goddess and made her smile. For that reason they say that the women break jests at the Thesmophoria.

But Metanira, wife of Celeus, had a child and Demeter received it to nurse, and wishing to make
it  immortal she set the babe of nights on the fire and stripped off its mortal flesh.
But as Demophon -- for that was the child's name -- grew marvelously by day, Praxithea watched, and discovering him buried in the fire she cried out; wherefore the babe was consumed by the fire and the goddess revealed herself.

But for Triptolemus, the elder of Metanira's children, she made a chariot of winged dragons, and gave him wheat, with which, wafted through the sky, he sowed the whole inhabited earth. But  Panyasis affirms that Triptolemus was a son of Eleusis, for he says that Demeter came to him. Pherecydes, however, says that he was a son of Ocean and Earth.

But when Zeus ordered Pluto to send up the Maid, Pluto gave her a seed of a pomegranate to eat, in order that she might not tarry long with her mother. Not foreseeing the consequence, she swallowed it; and because Ascalaphus, son of Acheron and Gorgyra, bore witness against her, Demeter laid a heavy rock on him in Hades. But Persephone was compelled to remain a third of every year with Pluto and the rest of the time with the gods.
So, Demeter goes to Hermion (rather than volcanic Sicily with its links to Titans).

Pausanius says:
The object most worthy of mention is a sanctuary of Demeter on Pron. This sanctuary is said by the Hermionians to have been founded by Clymenus, son of Phoroneus, and Chthonia, sister of Clymenus. But the Argive account is that when Demeter came to Argolis, while Atheras and Mysius afforded hospitality to the goddess, Colontas neither received her into his home nor paid her any other mark of respect. His daughter Chthoia disapproved of this conduct. They say that Colontas was punished by being burnt up along with his house, while Chthonia was brought to Hermion by Demeter, and made the sanctuary for the Hermionians.

[2.35.5] At any rate, the goddess herself is called Chthonia, and Chthonia is the name of the festival they hold in the summer of every year. The manner of it is this. The procession is headed by the priests of the gods and by all those who hold the annual magistracies; these are followed by both men and women. It is now a custom that some who are still children should honor the goddess in the procession. These are dressed in white, and wear wreaths upon their heads. Their wreaths are woven of the flower called by the natives cosmosandalon, which, from its size and color, seems to me to be an iris; it even has inscribed upon it the same letters of mourning.74

[2.35.6] Those who form the procession are followed by men leading from the herd a full-grown cow, fastened with ropes, and still untamed and frisky. Having driven the cow to the temple, some loose her from the ropes that she may rush into the sanctuary, others, who hitherto have been holding the doors open, when they see the cow within the temple, close the doors.

[2.35.7] Four old women, left behind inside, are they who dispatch the cow. Whichever gets the chance cuts the throat of the cow with a sickle. Afterwards the doors are opened, and those who are appointed drive up a second cow, and a third after that, and yet a fourth. All are dispatched in the same way by the old women, and the sacrifice has yet another strange feature. On whichever of her sides the first cow falls, all the others must fall on the same.

[2.35.8] Such is the manner in which the sacrifice is performed by the Hermionians. Before the temple stand a few statues of the women who have served Demeter as her priestess, and on passing inside you see seats on which the old women wait for the cows to be driven in one by one, and images, of no great age, of Athena and Demeter. But the thing itself that they worship more than all else, I never saw, nor yet has any other man, whether stranger or Hermionian. The old women may keep their knowledge of its nature to themselves.

[2.35.9] There is also another temple, all round which stand statues. This temple is right opposite that of Chthonia, and is called that of Clymenus, and they sacrifice to Clymenus here. I do not believe that Clymenus was an Argive who came to Hermion “Clymenus” is the surname of the god, whoever legend says is king in the underworld.

[2.35.10] Beside this temple is another; it is of Ares, and has an image of the god, while to the right of the sanctuary of Chthonia is a portico, called by the natives the Portico of Echo. It is such that if a man speaks it reverberates at least three times. Behind the temple of Chthonia are three places which the Hermionians call that of Clymenus, that of Pluto, and the Acherusian Lake. All are surrounded by fences of stones, while in the place of Clymenus there is also a chasm in the earth. Through this, according to the legend of the Hermionians, Heracles brought up the Hound of Hell.

[2.35.11] At the gate through which there is a straight road leading to Mases, there is a sanctuary of Eileithyia within the wall. Every day, both with sacrifices and with incense, they magnificently propitiate the goddess, and, moreover, there is a vast number of votive gifts offered to Eileithyia. But the image no one may see, except, perhaps, the priestesses.
So...where is this place?
Hermione is a small town and a popular tourist resort in the Peloponnes, facing Hydra (or SDRA, NIDRA, IDERO, Hydrea) whish is an island of Greece, lying about 4 M. off the S.E. coast of Argolis in the Peloponnesus, and forming along with the neighbouring island of Dokos (Dhoko) or so Google tells me.

Asking more I find:
Hydra Greece is a beautiful island lying in the archipelago called the Argo-Saronic. It is situated in the Greek Islands calles Saronic and lies between the islands of Poros and Spetses, near the coast of the eastern foot of the Peloponnese. It is very popular island because of its extremely picturesque capital, full of red-tiled houses and stone-paved narrow alleys. It used to be the destination of fashionable artists during the sixties and has kept a highly cosmopolitan character. Hydra in Mythology was a nine-headed monster, sister of Medusa.

This section of Hydra Island provides pictures, map, villages, history, museums, architecture and a large range of hotels.

Welcome to Hydra Island, Greece, Saronic
OK, well Hydra is the island opposite, but the photographs are beautiful.

As far as I can make out, a monastery was built over the temple to Demeter: The church of Agioi Taxiarchoi.

The area used to be volcanic and so I find another link with Titans insomuch as Hydra is a many headed monster is not unlike the Titans. Also, the land thereabouts is subject to earthquakes -the subterranean rumblings of large things imprisoned underground!

When I first started thinking about the Persephone myth, I saw two kinds of story: the first narrative is about sacrifice and the second kind concerns fertility: so Ereshkigal is sacrificed to the Kur, her descent is accidental, or a purposeful abduction, but she represents the truth that girls go missing, 'lost' to marriage or childbirth and old age. Inanna's descent is purposeful and contains no self-sacrifice at all (Inanna knew the risk and made sure that someone would get her out) Damuzi is sacrificed (the awful stories of him trying to hide, praying to the sun to make the demons see him as a deer) and Geshtinanna chooses her own descent as a true sacrifice to restore her brother for at least part of the year.

The fertility aspect is Demeter refusing to let crops grow, and giving Triptolemos the wheat seeds to spread all over the earth, it is also a part of the sacrifice story -the illicit pleasure in imagining Persephone's loss of innocence (the dark version of fertility, sex and onwards into BDSM and kink in general) the light version the joyful loss of the daughter to marriage and the hope of children, tainted with the fear of death. Persephone and Geshtinanna and Damuzi are the green force...
The force that through the green fuse drives the flower
Drives my green age; that blasts the roots of trees
Is my destroyer.
And I am dumb to tell the crooked rose
"My youth is bent by the same wintry fever.

And yet a third aspect of the Persephone myth keeps on appearing; the link between Persephone and oracles of the dead, and how they are sited in border lands. Lands imagined to be between the land of the living and the land of the dead; volcanic ground. The links with a cthonic god of rot and decay the black-sun Apollo:
The "dark, consuming fire" of the material sun leads to its being called the "Dark" or "Black Sun."
going all the way back to Akkadian stories of how Nergal became god of the underworld...

Well either way and what ever!
I look forwards to visiting Hydra or Ermioni.

one day...