LECTURE 5: Heroes and the spirits of the ancestors

1. Patroklos = Patrokleês 'he who has the kleos of the ancestors [= pateres]'.

2. Patroklos is the therapôn of Achilles, XVI 165: see Lecture 4#21.

  • 2a. Should we interpret therapôn in this context as (a) 'attendant' or (b) 'ritual substitute'? (Review the definitions of therapôn in the Glossary.)

    2b. Review: Lecture 4#22 (where Patroklos is îsos Arêi 'equal to Ares' at XI 604) and #23 (where Patroklos is daimoni îsos 'equal to a daimôn' at XVI 705 and 786)

    2c. A generic warrior is called a therapôn of Ares (see Lecture 4#20). Generically, the hero as warrior dies for Ares. Specifically, the hero as warrior dies for his divine antagonist.

    2d. Generically, Achilles would be a therapôn of Ares; specifically, however, we can say that he is a therapôn of Apollo, because it is Apollo who will directly kill him (see Sourcebook I p. 375 for the plot summary of the Aithiopis epic).

    2e. While the therapôn of Apollo must be Achilles, the therapôn of Achilles, to repeat, is Patroklos.

    2f. Patroklos must die for Achilles, who must die for Apollo.

    2g. The death of Patroklos is via Ares generically but also via Apollo personally.

  • 3. At the moment when Patroklos dies, he is called 'equal to a daimôn' at XVI 786, and at this precise moment he is in sacred space. Since war is ritual, the battleground is for the warrior a sacred space. Patroklos is doomed for death, and that is why he is 'equal to a daimôn'. In the case of warriors, being godlike is to have martial fury, warp spasm. To be beside oneself, "berserk" (Old Norse concept). To be possessed. Remember: Ares is not the god of war per se, but the god of martial fury.

    4. Ritual background of the word therapôn: borrowed from Anatolian languages (Hittite, Luwian) sometime in the 2nd millennium B.C. The corresponding word in these languages means: 'ritual substitute': someone who is very close to the king must die in place of the king, on a seasonally recurring basis.

    5. The concept of transfert du mal: evil must be passed on, to a sacrificial victim.

    6. In Greek art, Patroklos is represented as a sacrificial ram, with with throat slit open (to be shown in the slide lecture = Lecture 7).

    7. A word related to therapôn is therapeuô 'heal, cure' (compare the English borrowings "therapy," "therapeutic," etc.).

    8. The Greek word pharmakon means 'drug-cure, drug-medicine' (compare the English borrowings "pharmacy," "pharmacology," etc.); there is also a related word, pharmakos, which designates a special kind of person. I asked in the lecture: can you guess what kind of a person a pharmakos would be? Answer: 'scapegoat'.

    9. Simone Weil was a philosopher who reflected about le transfert du mal. In "Void and Compensation," she defines evil this way: "the wish to see others suffer exactly what we are suffering."

    10. More from Weil:

    A) From "Void and Compensation": "The tendency to spread evil beyond oneself: I still have it! Beings and things are not sacred enough to me. May I never sully anything, even though I be utterly transformed into mud. To sully nothing, even in thought. Even in my worst moments I would not destroy a Greek statue or a fresco by Giotto. Why anything else then? Why, for example, a moment in the life of a human being who could have been happy for that moment."

    B) From the same work: "The wish to see others suffer exactly what we are suffering. It is because of this that, except in periods of social instability, the spite of those in misfortune is directed against their fellows. That is a factor making for social stability."

    C) From the same work: "The tendency to spread the suffering beyond ourselves. If through excessive weakness we can neither call forth pity nor do harm to others, we attack what the universe itself represents for us. Then every good or beautiful thing is like an insult."

    D) From "Human Personality": "When harm is done to a man, real evil enters into him; not merely pain and suffering, but the actual horror of evil. Just as men have the power of transmitting good to one another, so they have the power to transmit evil." {Here is the essence of le transfert du mal. -GN}

    E) From "Evil": "The innocent victim who suffers knows the truth about his executioner, the executioner does not know it."

    F) From the same work: "A hurtful act is the transference to others of the degradation which we bear in ourselves. That is why we are inclined to commit such acts as a way of deliverance."

    11. Achilles considers Patroklos to be the most philos of them all.

    12. Review from Lecture 3: ascending scale of affection in the Meleager narrative (compressed equivalent of expanded Achilles narrative) = klea andrôn hêrôôn 'glories [= kleos plural] of men, heroes [hêrôes]' (IX 524-5), which is told in the midst of philoi (IX 528) {that is, the narrative is told to an audience who are presumed to be philoi}

    13. Review: philos and the ascending scale of affection: elders, priests, father, sisters, mother, companions [hetairoi], {wife}

    14. Meleager's wife is Cleopatra = Kleopatra

    15. Patroklês or Patrokleês

    16. What is at stake for Achilles? kleos aphthiton (IX 413)

    17. Review from Lecture 4: Sappho 44 (= no. 28 in Sourcebook I, p. 458) features Andromache and Hektor as bride and bridegroom; they are theoeikeloi 'equal to the gods' at their wedding.

    18. In Sappho's songs, the "godlike" bridegroom is generically likened to Achilles (see Sourcebook I p. 457 #26).

    19. Sappho 31 (translation by Nagy; for a more poetic rendition, see the version of Julia Dubnoff in Sourcebook I p. 453). Who is the "godlike" bridegroom?

    Note that the female speaker is attracted to both the bridegroom and the bride.

    Sappho 31 (translation by Nagy)

    phaínetaí moi kênos îsos théoisin    He appears to me, that one, equal to the gods,
    émmen' ô´nêr ottis enántiós toi      the man who, facing you,
    isdánei kai plâ´sion âdu phôneí-     is seated and, up close, that sweet voice of yours
    sâs upakoúei                         he listens to
    kai gelaísâs îmeróen tó m' ê mân     and how you laugh your charming laugh. Why, it
    kardían en stê´thesin eptóaisen      makes my heart flutter within my breast,
    ôs gár és s' ídô brókhe' ôs me 
                           phô´nai-      'cause the moment I look at you, right then, for me
    s' oud' en ét' eíkei                 to make any sound at all won't work any more.
    allà kam men glôssa éâge lépton      My tongue has a breakdown and a delicate
    d' aútika khrôi pûr upadédromâken    - all of a sudden - fire rushes under my skin.
    oppátessi d' oud' en órêmm' epirróm- With my eyes I see not a thing, and there is a roar
    beisi d' ákouai                      that my ears make.
    kad dé m' ídrôs kakkhéetai trómos de Sweat pours down me and a trembling
    paîsan ágrei khlôrotéra de poías     seizes all of me; paler than grass
    émmi tethnákên d' olígô 'pideúês     am I, and a little short of death
    phaínom' em' aút[âi                  do I appear to me.

    20. Video: "I Sing My Heart Out"

    Dante, Il chant - Verso il cielo

    O voi che siete in piccioletta barga,

    desiderosi d'ascoltar, seguiti

    dietro al mio legno che cantando varca,

    Non vi mettete in pelago, che' forse,

    perdendo me, rimarreste smarriti.

    L'acque ch'io prendo già mai non si corse;

    Minerva spira e conducemi Appollo,

    e nove Muse mi dimostram l'Orse.


    O you out there, inside your tiny little barge,

    eager to listen, following behind

    my ship that, singing, crosses to deep seas,

    Don't set out into the deep, for fear that, perhaps,

    losing sight of me, you be left adrift.

    The waters that I sail were never crossed before

    Athena inspires me, Apollo is my helmsman.

    And the nine Muses show me the Bear Star.


    Giustizia mosse il mio alto fattore

    fecemi la divina podestate

    la somma sapienza e'l primo amore


    Justice it was that set in motion the high artisan

    who made me. It was the divine power,

    the highest wisdom, and primal love.

    21. Dio Chrysostomos 12.60: "Through their longing for the divine all people have a powerful urge to worship and serve the deity from nearby. Like children that have been taken away from their father and mother, they are filled with a strange longing and often in their dreams reach out their hands to their parents who are not there, so too do people in their love for the gods seek--and properly so because of their benefits and affinity--in all possible ways to be with them and in their company."