Monday, March 10, 2008

Artemis Comparisons in the Odyssey

A female figure is compared to Artemis in both books 4 and 6 of the Odyssey. The first one makes me chuckle. Here it is (Lattimore's translation):

While he was pondering these things in his heart and his spirit,
Helen came out of her fragrant high-roofed bedchamber,
looking like Artemis of the golden distaff. (4.120-2)

Helen, of all people, is liked to the chaste, virgin Artemis. I can't help but picture Homer snickering as he wrote (or recited?) that.

The second is more appropriate. In 6.99-109, we read:
But when she and her maids had taken their pleasure in eating,
they all threw off their veils for a game of ball, and among them
it was Nausikaa of the white arms who led in the dancing;
and as Artemis, who showers arrows, moves on the mountains
either along Taygetos or on high-towering
Erymanthos, delighting in boars and deer in their running,
and along with her the nymphs, daughters of Zeus of the aegis,
range in the wilds and play, and the heart of Leto is gladdened,
for the head and brows of Artemis are above all the others,
and she is easily marked among them, though all are lovely,
so this one shone among her handmaidens, a virgin unwedded.

1 comment:

Magister K said...

In a moment sillier than the first simile you mention, Venus appears to Aeneas in the first book of the Aeneid, dressed like a huntress. Aeneas sees through the disguise (sort of), and addresses her thus: "O, what shall I call you, maiden? For you have not at all a mortal face, nor does your voice sound mortal: O goddess, surely--sister of Phoebus? or a sibling of the nymphs?" I'm sure there are lots more of these. It reminds me of the perennial high-school pep-rally skit (which the students always seem to think is novel), in which the football team dresses up as cheerleaders, and vice-versa.