Lost In Venice
| A conspiracy of venetians|
| A conspiracy of venetians|
|Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo. Detail of the external stairs.|
His sudden appearance startled me. He was huge; six foot three or four, and dressed in white monk’s robes. He had close-cropped pale hair and his skin was white. White as snow. I felt slightly stunned, paralyzed; it was like a dream, like I could see right through him. “Maybe he’s an albino”, I found myself thinking.
He sat down at my table uninvited. “I’ve been looking for you”, he said.
He got right to the point. “I’ve been having a lot of trouble with this writer Dan Brown”, he said in sulky tones. “The guy’s writing all kinds of terrible things about me. He’s making me sound like a monster. My lawyers won’t do anything. You’re a fellow writer. Help me. Talk to this Brown character. Make him understand.”
“Look”, I said. “We’ve been all through this. I can’t do anything for you . You don’t actually think Dan Brown would talk to a lowly travel writer like me do you?”
“I dunno”, he said. “But, well, you have a blog. You can at least help me get my story out! If people just knew the real me. I’m a really sensitive and caring individual. I love flowers and kittens. I actually have a pet Corgi and how wimpy is that?” He paused for a sip of wine – my wine. “But he didn’t talk about any of that in his book. Oh no! He made me out to be a freak and that’s not who I am, you know?”
He realized that he’d gotten off to an awkward start and he held out his hand. “I’ve told you before, call me Silas … or Si,” he said in a forced jovial tone.
I took his hand cautiously.
He turned sulky again. “But I come off in his book like a ghoul and it’s upsetting. All that Latin stuff!” He frowned. “I don’t speak Latin; didn’t like it when I was in school. Just a couple words, see?” It was obvious that he’d been drinking before he came in; he was going from sulky to pugnacious.
I felt intimidated by his size. I wondered if I could just discreetly alert the two Carabinieri.
“And another thing!” He was getting louder and drawing stares from the other patrons. “All that nonsense about the self-torture. It’s just a couple of glancing blows now and again. It’s more for form’s sake than anything. And it’s nothing, nothing! I’ve hurt myself worse by getting my finger caught in the car door.”
“But what about all that stuff about the nun and Saint Sulpice?” I tried gingerly. But this was the wrong thing to say. He started shouting.
“Cheap lies! Exaggerations!”
He jerked drunkenly to his feet. “Numquam eram in Lutetiae! NUMQUAM!!“(1)
He raised a giant arm and I covered my face with my hands. But no blow fell. I peeked out between my fingers. He had vanished. Everyone in the café was looking at me. I slowly lowered my hands.
It was hot.
I took another sip of wine. Tourists sauntered down the street towards Saint Mark’s Square as though nothing had happened. I glanced across the street again. The Carabinieri had left but the African purse-sellers were still there.
I wondered whether S. would like a purse.
(1) “I was never in Paris! Never!”
Ano Tithorea (hereinafter Tithorea) is a town in Phocis which sits under the foot of the north face of Parnassos. In the Mycenaean Atlas it is defined as C5152 and it is located at 38.583985° N, 22.668176° E. It has always been a small town of shepherds and farmers and of no particular importance although in Pausanias' time it was the location of the most significant Isis temple in Greece. Nor does it seem to have been of any great antiquity. It was thought to have been founded after the Trojan war but the finds exhibited in the town don't go further back than the Archaic. In modern times it bore the name of Velitza until 1926. More recently it has been eclipsed in significance by the growth of Kato Tithorea which is about 4.5 km. to the NE on the right bank of the Cephissos River.
"We glorify Abraham, but how? We recite the whole story in clichés: "The great thing was that he loved God in such a way that he was willing to offer him the best." This is very true but 'the best' is a vague term."
In my last post I briefly mentioned a hill (C7112) in northern Leros which may or may not have been the site of a temple to Artemis. This temple was supposed to have been the home of some Guinea hens and it had a declared connection to the story of Meleager and his sisters. I wanted to use this post to go over the old myth again. Before I continue I made a lage spreadsheet with the mythemes and sources for this complex tale. My readers should download that spreadsheet before continuing. You can get it safely from Google Drive here. Where Google says 'Open with' just click on that dropdown and select 'Google Sheets'.
Meleager's father was King Oeneus of Calydon in Aetolia and his mother was Althaea. She was from a clan called the Kyretes. Right away we have a snapshot of a patriarchal society with, probably, exogamy requirements, and virilocal/patrilocal residence. In other words, Althaea came from her clan, the Kyretes, to live with her husband among the Aetolians/Calydonians - her husband's clan. Her son, Meleager, was a member of his father's clan but with maternal connections to the clan of his uncles, Althaea's brothers, among the Kyretes. In this way the rules of exogamy and virilocality establish a connection across clans between uncles and nephew. This can often provide a path for recruiting people for some special purpose, as we're about to see.
At Meleager's birth the three fates (the Parcae) appeared and predicted what sort of man he would be. But the last of the fates predicted that Meleager's life would be no longer than a brand that was just then burning in the fire place. Meleager's mother, Althaea, rushed to pull the brand out of the fire and extinguish it in some water. She then placed it in a chest and hid it.
Now one day King Oeneus was sacrificing to Bacchus and to other gods and goddesses; this was presumably during a harvest festival. However he omitted to remember Artemis among his sacrifices. The goddess was angered and sent a giant boar to ravage the land of Calydon. In response Meleager organized a hunting party to kill the boar and, among the members of this party, Atalanta (the girl from Arcadia and sometime hunting companion of Artemis), his uncles, and many others. The uncles were undoubtedly following recruitment rules and were bound to receive a prize of honor when successful.
Ultimately the boar was cornered and Atalanta was first to wound it with an arrow. In the end, though, Meleager killed the boar with his spear. The head and skin of the boar was awarded to Meleager; the custom being to award the skin to the one who killed the animal. But Meleager was in love with Atalanta and gave her the skin in turn as being the first to draw blood. Meleager's uncles were outraged by this breach of traditional hunting rules (although various reasons are given for their ire; it's clear that even our oldest sources don't really understand what's going on). The resentment arose either from the fact that she was not the one to kill the boar or that it was against custom to award the prize (and prize it was) to a woman. Now, before I continue, I draw the reader's attention to the remarks of Celoria that this squabble is "a feature of systematic procedures in hunting cultures where the strictest rules are followed in dividing a slain animal." 
Meleager was outraged that his uncles tried to thwart his decision and so he slew them on the spot. When his mother, Althaea, learned about the death of her brothers she took the brand from the chest where it had been preserved for so many years and threw it into the fire - in this way causing Meleager's death. The conflicting duties that Althaea owes both to her brothers and to her children are dramatized by Ovid in one of his more baroque passages. Her conflicting impulses would have been real enough. Meleager's murder of his uncles immediately ignites a war between the Kyretes and the Kalydonians. And, in an alternative version of the death of Meleager, he actually falls fighting in the war against the Kyretes when the city is burned and the brand is destroyed (if I understand that correctly). At his death, however it occurred, his sisters (known collectively as the Meleagrides) made such a clamor that Artemis converted them into Guinea hens. It was exactly in Leros, at Partheni, that this form of the cult was observed.
Now let's take a look at the original sources and see each author deals with the story elements.
The tale falls into two fundamental types. Type 1 concentrates on the Calydonian Boar Hunt and the death of Meleager through his mother's burning of the magic brand. Type II concentrates on the discord between the Kyretes and the Aetolians and how it arose. This variant also ends in the death of Meleager either through his mother burning the brand, or the destruction of the city by burning, or by direct action on the part of Apollo.
The earliest version of Tale Type I (that I find) is in Bacchylides because even though Homer gives a fine sketch of the Calydonian Boar Hunt and its origin he is really more interested in the inter-clan strife between the Kyretes and the Kalydonians. The point Homer is trying to make is the baleful consequences of a great warrior withdrawing from battle. Bacchylides, on the other hand, is more interested in the magical aspects of the story.
The great fifth-century tragedians, both of whom refer to the Type I version, are Aeschylus  and Euripides . Type I appears in its canonical form in Hyginus' Fabulae both 171 and 174. Hyginus has no interest in the civil strife between the Kyretes and the Kalydonians. Hyginus' version is the earliest I know of to mention the sisters of Meleager being transformed into Guinea fowl. Ovid appears to take his cue from Hyginus with a full-blown treatment of the Type I version including the metamorphosis of the sisters into Guinea fowl along with the reason for that transformation (omitted by Hyginus), namely, their crying and shrieking for the death of their brother.
Statius' Thebaid mentions the story in passing. His interest is only the topos of the anger of women and its terrible consequences. For Dio Chrysostom  it is also just a topos. In this case that of the mutability of external opinion and the folly of resting one's understanding of oneself on some external factor. Meleager's life resting on the integrity of a burning brand under the control of someone else is his example.
Both versions of the tale are laid out in Ps. Apollodorus . This is the only one of our sources to do so. He starts with the birth of Meleager and ends with the metamorphosis of the Meleagrides.
Pausanias lays out a few fragments of the story mentioning the Parcae and the burning brand. He skips the Calydonian Boar Hunt (at least in this connection) and briefly mentions Althaea's causing her son's death through the burning of the brand. In Antoninus Liberalis the story is told in chunks. The death of Meleager is overdetermined, being borrowed from both types 1 and 2.
After Pausanias, and in the wake of the collapse of traditional Greek religion, interest in the story falls off.
The Suda knows the story; at least it gives a definition of the Meleagrides [P]
Why were the Melegrides turned into Guinea Hens? I'll look at that element of the story next time.
 The concept of 'the external soul'. In Thompson  this is theme no. E765.1.2, 'Life bound up with burning brand (torch)'. Also Hartland  205 for the story of Olger (Ogier) the Dane. Theme E765.1.2 is listed on this page.
 Celoria  112, n. 33. Such rules are quite common: see Flannery and Marcus  25 for meat sharing among the Netsilik and, p. 32, among the !Kung. The list could be extended indefinitely. Celoria also reminds us of the story of Mac da Tho's pig from The Book of Leinster. For meat division among the Samoans see Peter Buck  119 ff.
In the scholiast on Oedipus at Colonnus (1375) we read that the sons of Oedipus, Polyneices and Eteocles, sent their father a haunch of a sacrificed animal instead of the shoulder. It is suggested in, e.g. Graves , 12 that this was an 'inferior' part of the animal. More likely (but this is pure supposition) the haunch was a brother's portion rather than a father's portion. If that were true then it would have been a deadly insult; an unwelcome reminder to Oedipus of his actual relationship to Eteocles and Polyneices. And see Huxley  42; also Robert Buck  49.
It is not impossible that these formalized divisions of meat underlie the earliest forms of prestation between subordinate and dominant clans. Meleager's uncles were not outraged over nothing. I discuss such matters in more detail here.
 Ode 5. Online here.
 Il. ix, 527-605. Online here.
 In The Libation Bearers, ll. 602-611. Online here.
 Fragment 520. I cannot find the text of this and what little I know is taken from the OCD, s.v. 'Meleager' which refers to the taking of the prize from Atalanta: " ... when, after he had given the hide of the boar to Atalanta with whom he was in love, they took it away from her ( ...; ultimately from Euripides' Meleager? ... "
 The Thebaid II:410-481. Online here.
 Discourse 67, 'On Popular Opinion'. Online here.
 In the Bibliotheke 1.8.2-3 which is online here.
 Section 10.31.3-4. Online here.
 Antoninus Liberalis, The Metamorphoses, 2, 'The Meleagrides'. Online here. Ant. Lib. epitomized Nicander of Colophon (OCD, s.v. 'Nicander').
 "Meleagri/des.", Suda On Line. Tr. David Whitehead. 9 April 2008. Online here.
Buck  : Buck, Peter H. (Te Rangi Hiroa), 'Samoan Material Culture', Bulletin of the Bernice P. Bishop Museum, no. 75. 1930. It can be read here.
Buck  : Buck, Robert. A History of Boeotia. University of Alberta Press. 1979.
Celoria  : Celoria, Francis, The Metamorphoses of Antoninus Liberalis; A Translation with Commentary. Routledge, 1992. ISBN: 9780415068963. Online here.
The island of Leros, in the Dodecanese, lies between Patmos and Kalymnos.
|Leros is situated between Patmos and Kalymnos|
Simpson and Dickinson tell of an early Bronze Age site discovered on the edge of Partheni Bay which is in the north of Leros as shown on the next map.
|Partheni Bay on Leros|
Simpson and Dickinson characterize the site like this:
"The easternmost of three promontories (collectively named "Ta Poundaria") on the S shore of Partheni Bay in the N of the island was an EB settlement. The site is only 80 m. NNW-SSE by 40 m., but may have been partly eroded by the sea. The sherds found are from jars and pithoi of EB I type. ... "
Where exactly is this site?
|Partheni Bay on Leros with ta Poundaria labelled.|
|Ta Poundaria 1 with a circle sized to approximately the dimensions of the site.|
As for the platform itself there is another user-contributed photo that shows it up close and looking W. You can find that photo here: https://media-cdn.tripadvisor.com/media/photo-m/1280/18/7c/ac/ae/view-of-temple-of-artemis.jpg
Here is a reproduction of that photo. Here the viewer is looking directly W along the apse end of the nave (center). The platform is to the S (on the left) under the shade of a tree.
The temple that was thought to be here was famous in antiquity as sacred to Artemis. The priests kept Guinea hens here which they advertised as Meleager's sisters, the Meleagrides.
In my next post I will devote more space to the myth of Meleager.
|The island of Kephalonia|
|The house at Metsiphi. But which direction are we facing?|
|Floor plan of Metsiphi house from Reber  46, Abb. 3.|