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POxy XXX 2513: Iphigenia in the Corinthiaca of Eumelus

What follows is the text of the presentation I gave on the occasion of the CHS Research Symposium (April 28, 2012). I am glad to post it here, since I find it representative of the type of research on Eumelus I could conduct in this very special and conducive environment. A more detailed discussion on this topic will appear soon in a scholarly journal.

I take advantage of this post to thank the entire Staff of the CHS as well as my fellow Fellows for their support, assistance and friendship.

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In a 2003 essay, I argued for an early date of the epic fragment preserved in POxy LIII 3698 (2nd century) [1]. Its Argonautic subject features both Orpheus and Mopsus: the former plays the lyre [2] the latter delivers a prophetic speech concerning the wedding between Medea and Jason. This fits very well the Corinthiaca of Eumelus. Moreover, the fragment closely parallels some of Eumelus’ fragments as well as a passage from Apollonius’ Argonautica that is clearly shaped on the Corinthiaca.

The appearance and the paleographic features of POxy LIII 3698 bring to mind POxy XXX 2513, which likewise preserves the remnants of some hexameter lines redolent of Homer. As the editor of POxy LIII 3698 [3] pointed out, the papyrus proves to be “written in the same hand as 2513 and apparently from the same manuscript… the physical appearance of the two fragments is so similar as to leave little doubt that they are parts of one and the same manuscript, one would guess from the same vicinity”.

POxy XXX 2513 has been investigated by R. Janko, who tentatively traced it back to the Cypria [4]. Given that the lines from POxy LIII 3698 are likely to belong to the Corinthiaca, POxy XXX 2513 should also be ascribed to Eumelus. A fresh analysis of POxy XXX 2513 can provide additional evidence.

We can partially read the central section of some 37 hexameters verses straddling the median caesura. As was suggested by E. Lobel [5], the first editor of the papyrus, Iphigenia (Iphige]neia) stands out in l. 14. She is referred to as e]upl[ok]amos in 15 and is connected with an an]ax andrō[n in 16. In all likelihood, the anax andrōn is her father Agamemnon, given that in the Homeric poems the phrase refers to him no fewer than 48 times (as against five instances where it qualifies other heroes).

From this vantage point, Janko managed to discern some hints pointing to the sacrifice of Iphigenia in the remaining lines, and he supplemented them accordingly: his tentative text is found in the handout [item #1].

To be sure, the Aulis episode is not Homeric: we know from Proclus that it belonged to the Cypria [6], whence Janko’s attribution. However, Iphigenia’s famous trials did not belong exclusively to the Cypria: the episode was narrated, or at least hinted at, in a number of archaic poems, including those of Hesiod and Eumelus.

Eumelus’ “Corynthian Epic Cycle” [7] encompasses numerous mythical topics within an organic structure, and it may well have mentioned Iphigenia. The Eumelian corpus appropriates and reinterprets all of the major sagas, in a Corinthian (mainly Bacchiad) perspective, something that is especially conspicuous in the Corinthiaca [8].

The case of Glaucus, son of the ruler of Corinth Sisyphus, is remarkable both from a general viewpoint and for my specific argument, in that it helps shed light on POxy XXX 2513. We know from Schol. ad Apoll. Rhod. 1.146-149a [handout item #2] that “Eumelus in the Corinthiaca says that Leda’s father was Glaucus the son of Sisyphus and her mother Panteidyia: he records that when his horses were missing Glaucus went to Lacedaemon, and there made love to Panteidyia, who they say [variant: he says] subsequently married Thestius <and bore Leda>, so that she was biologically the child of Glaucus, though officially of Thestius” [9] (tr. M.L. West). In this way, Leda and her Spartan offspring could trace their origin back to the royal Corinthian lineage.

Eumelus mentioned the Tyndarids, since we know that the Dioscouroi (Castor and Polydeuces) were members of the Argonautic expedition [handout item #3] [10]. Similarly, Clytaemestra and Helen must have received some attention by a poet who, according to G.L. Huxley, “followed the Spartan royal line down at least as far as the Trojan war” [11]: Eumelus recorded the extramarital affair between Helen’s husband Menelaus and the nymph Cnossia, who bore him Xenodamus [12] [handout item #4a], and “it is a reasonable guess that the amorous encounter occurred on the fatal occasion when Menelaus went to Crete for the funeral of his maternal grandfather Catreus, leaving Helen to look after the house-guest Paris” [handout item #4b] [13].

In fact, Eumelus’ Corinthian Cycle could hardly neglect events and myths connected with the Trojan war: the role of Corinth in the conflict must have been emphasized, especially considered how marginal it is in the Homeric poems.

In Olympian 13 for Xenophon of Corinth, Pindar draws several motifs and figures from Eumelus [14]: interestingly enough, at ll. 50-60 [handout item #5] Corinth is praised for the metis and heroic excellence of its ancestors: the Argonautic and the Trojan sagas are juxtaposed, where Sisyphus and Medea are mentioned as well as the Corinthians who fought at Troy on both sides.

From Eumelus’ perspective, the Trojan war becomes a “family affair”: based on the line of descent Glaucus–Leda–Helen, the Corinthians brought help to Agamemnon and Menelaus in order to recover the grand-daughter of Sisyphus’ son [15].

The figure of Iphigenia, the daughter of Agamemnon and Clytaemestra, fits very well in this genealogical frame: on her mother’ side, Leda is her grandmother and Glaucus her great-grandfather [handout genealogical table]. Possibly, it is not accidental that the sacrifice of Agamemnon’s daughter, called Iphimede, is found in the Hesiodic Catalogue of Women [16], a major influence on Eumelus’ Corinthiaca [17].

The traditional setting of the sacrifice at Aulis, on the Boeotian shore opposite Euboea, provides both a geographical and a mythical frame to Hesiod [18] and Eumelus [19]. The setting is of course traditional, and yet in some major sources the story does not end in Aulis: rather, Artemis rescues Iphigenia and takes her to the land of the Tauroi in Crimea. This version is followed by the author of the Cypria (where the girl becomes an immortal) [20] as well as by Euripides.

The plot of the Iphigenia in Tauris is especially informative: Iphigenia becomes a (mortal) priestess, whose task is to sacrifice strangers to Artemis; in the course of time, her brother Orestes arrives among the Tauroi together with Pylades: the two friends need Artemis’ statue to seek purification from the recent murder of Clytaemestra; as Iphigenia recognizes Orestes and Pylades, who have been captured and brought before her as prospective victims, she devises a plan to rescue them. Eventually, she follows them to Greece, where a cult in Artemis’ honor is established.

The narrative core of the story refers to ancestral rituals and thus seems to be early. That everything here is Euripides’ invention [21] is questionable: it is far more likely that he also draws from some archaic material. Eumelian influences on Euripides’ plays are frequent and significant [22].

Like Aulis, the Pontic land of the Tauroi is a highly suitable setting for Eumelus’ own version of the story. Iphigenia and Orestes, both descendants of Sisiphus, succeeded Medea in the sovereignty on Corinth; by following Jason, Medea moved to Greece from the Colchian land in the Black Sea, where her father Aietes had previously settled after leaving Ephyra (i.e. Corinth) [23].

Eumelus’ mentioning of the Colchian land [handout item #6] [24], of Sinope [handout item #7] [25], of the river Borysthenis (i.e. Dniepr) [handout item #8] [26], as well as the linking of Aietes, Medea and the Argonauts with the Pontic background, is hardly coincidental. In the archaic period, the Greeks visited this region at a relatively early date, and this is reflected in Eumelus’ epics [27]. That Orestes’ venture into the Black Sea featured in Eumelus’ poem, moreover, is a very likely possibility, in that his enterprise closely parallels Jason’s: they both venture into the same region, and they both bring to Greece a heroine – Iphigeneia and Medea respectively.

In the Corinthiaca, Medea is represented as a benign sorcerer who successfully performs some ancestral rituals of rejuvenation: Medea’s boiling cauldron is a recurrent image in Eumelus [28]. Two passages from Lycophron (Alex. 196-199) [handout item #9] and Nonnus (Dion. 13.116-119) [handout item #10] provide an intriguing parallel: this time it is Iphigenia who uses a cauldron to boil her sacrificial victims in the land of Tauroi. In both texts the facts of Aulis inextricably cross and entangle with those of Tauris. A similar pattern must have occurred in Eumelus too and it can be detected in P      Oxy XXX 2513 as well.

Lycophron and Nonnus may well be echoing the Iphigenia episode as told in the Corinthiaca: first, Lycophron’s tendency to draw motifs and rare details from archaic epic is well-known [29]; second, we know that Nonnus does occasionally follow Eumelus: although his narration is arguably based on Lycophron’s for this specific passage [30], Eumelus’ influence cannot be ruled out either [31].

Iphigenia’s metamorphosis into a malign witch is no doubt the result of Lycophron’s influence [32]: here Nonnus surely imitates the Alexandra [33]. Still, the ritual tearing apart and the boiling cauldron are peculiar to Eumelus. In Nonn. Dion. 13.119 Orestes seems to receive such a treatment from Iphigenia, who saves him and brings him back to life soon afterward [34]: this closely recalls Medea’s sorceries in the Corinthiaca.

All in all, a number of passages from Lycophron and Nonnus, as well as Euripides’ Iphigenia in Aulis and Iphigenia in Tauris, may help shed light on POxy XXX 2513. A new scenario emerges, whereby Iphigenia is both a sacrificial victim and a sacrificing priestess, in Aulis and Tauris respectively. While resulting in a different attribution, this interpretation does not affect Janko’s textual reconstruction as a whole. Rather, it can reinforce it and provide a solution to a number of thorny problems (cf. Janko’s remark: “There are difficulties in reconciling all of it with Proclus’ summary”).

Time does not allow for a detailed analysis of the single lines. I shall confine myself to a few selected remarks.

At l. 3: kher]niba(s?), the holy water used before sacrifices, has been restored by Janko, based on a passage of the Iph. Aul. (1568-1569). But we can also compare some passages from the Iph. Taur 622 and 644-5 and Lycophr. Alex. 196, where Iphigenia is sacrificing among the Tauroi.

At l. 4: Pēlē]iadē[(s?) Janko (tentatively) since “]iadē[ will admit numerous supplements” and Pēlēiadēs is always genitive in Homer. Cf. the pivotal motif of the wedding between Achilles and Helen in Eur. Iph. Aul. and Iph. Taur.; Nonn. Dion. 13.110-112. Cf. esp. Lycophr. Alex. 186-194 and 200-201: wanderings of Achilles searching in vain Helen through Scythia and the Black Sea.

At l. 8: Thrē<i>kō[n  Winds from Thrace? So Janko (thinking of the sacrifice of Iphigenia at Aulis). But cf. also the wider meaning of Thrace/Thracian = Scythian, Pontic. Cf. Lycophr. Alex. 186-187.

At l. 11: demelainan[ “ought to contain part of melaina, but whether this refers to black fate or black sea is uncertain” (Janko). But cf. also Alex. Lycophr. Alex. 198: Iphigenia (sacrificing) is melaina; 325: Iphigenia (sacrificing) is kelainē. Cf. the archaic assimilation of Iphigenia with Hecate: Hes. fr. 23b M.-W.; Stesich. PMG fr. 215 Page = PMGF p. 209 Davies.

At l. 22 dy[s]kheimerō[i (Lobel) is interesting: dyskheimerōs is the land of the Scythians/Tauroi in Herod. 4.28.

At l. 25 we have probably kasig]nētoi (Lobel). For Janko “there seems no place for these brothers in the apotheosis of Iphigeneia”. Still, if our text belongs to the Corinthiaca, the apotheosis of Iphigenia (mentioned in the Cypria) is no longer a requirement. In such a context the kasignētoi may be either Iphigenia and Orestes (brother and sister) or Orestes and Pylades: kasignētos may mean “cousin” in more general sense [35].

At l. 29 kephalēn is likely the head of the victim. We might compare the description of Taurian sacrificial rituals in Herod. 4.103.1-2, according to which the Tauroi “strike the victim’s head with a club… they impale the head”. Interestingly enough in Lycophr. Alex. 187 Iphigenia is Hellados karatomos.

Finally I would like to attract attention to the image of the wind (pnoiē) shared by both POxy LIII 3698 l. 8 and POxy XXX 2513 l. 26. In the Argonautic fragment, which includes Mopsus’ prophetic speech concerning the wedding between Medea and Jason, this possibly refers to adverse winds preventing Argos from sailing (cf. POxy LIII 3698 l. 25 and 30); as such, it provides a compelling parallel to the Iphigenia episode, especially if Mopsus reveals the measures necessary to achieve a cessation [36], as he does in Apoll. Rhod. 1.1092 ff. (drawing likely from Eumelus).

Mopsus’s counterpart is Calchas. The wedding motif underlies both fragments: in one case the marriage is that of Medea and Jason; in the other, the wedding couple is Iphigenia and Achilles, although the marriage is of course an excuse. POxy LIII 3698 foreshadows the Colchians’ expedition to recover Medea. In Hyginus fab. 261 [handout item #11] Orestes’ expedition in the Black Sea is described as a mission in Colchis (Iphigenia… cognovit fratrem Orestem, qui… cum amico Pylade Colchos petierat). That Hyginus may have drawn from the Corinthiaca is hardly surprising, considered that elsewhere he knows Eumelus demonstrably well [37].

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

 

Barigazzi 1966: A. Barigazzi, “Nuovi frammenti dei Corinthiaca di Eumelo”, RFIC 94, 1966, 129-148.

Bernabé 2008: A. Bernabé, “Viajes de Orfeo”, in Orfeo y la tradición órfica. Un reencuentro, eds. A. Bernabé and F. Casadesús, Madrid 2008, 59-74.

Bernabé 2010: A. Bernabé, BMCR 2010.5.38 (review of La favola di Orfeo: letteratura, immagine, performance, eds. A. M. Andrisano and P. Fabri, Ferrara 2009) [http://bmcr.brynmawr.edu/2010/2010-05-38.html].

Braund 2005: D. Braund, “Reflections on Eumelus’ Black Sea Region”, in Proceedings of the Conference Pont-Euxin et Polis. Polis Hellenis et Polis Barbaron. Hommage à O. Lordkipanidzé et P. Lévêque (Vani 2002), eds. D. Kacharava, M. Faudot, É. Geny, Besançon 2005, 99-113.

Chuvin 1991: P. Chuvin, Mythologie et géographie dionysiaques. Recherches sur l’oeuvre de Nonnos de Panopolis, Clermont-Ferrand 1991.

Corsano 1992: M. Corsano, Glaukos. Miti greci di personaggi omonimi, Roma 1992.

Debiasi 2003: A. Debiasi, “POxy LIII 3698: Eumeli Corinthii fragmentum novum?”, ZPE 143, 2003, 1-5.

Debiasi 2004: A. Debiasi, L’epica perduta. Eumelo, il Ciclo, l’occidente, Roma 2004.

Debiasi 2005: A. Debiasi, “Eumeli Corinthii fragmenta neglecta?”, ZPE 153, 2005, 43-58.

Debiasi 2008: A. Debiasi, Esiodo e l’occidente, Roma 2008.

Debiasi, forthcoming [a]: A. Debiasi, “Dioniso e i cani di Atteone in Eumelo di Corinto (Una nuova ipotesi su POxy. XXX 2509 e Apollod. 3.4.4)”, in the Proceedings of the Conference Redefinir Dioniso / Redefining Dionysus (Madrid 2010), editor A. Bernabé, Berlin-New York.

Debiasi, forthcoming [b]: A. Debiasi, “Riflessi di epos corinzio (Eumelo) nelle Dionisiache di Nonno di Panopoli”, in the Proceedings of the Conference Corinto: luogo di azione e luogo di racconto (Urbino 2009), ed. P. Angeli Bernardini, Roma.

Debiasi, forthcoming [c]: A. Debiasi, “Trame euboiche (arcaiche ed ellenistiche) nelle Dionisiache di Nonno di Panopoli: Eumelo ed Euforione”, in Hespería. Studi sulla grecità di occidente (Studi miscellanei per Lorenzo Braccesi), Roma.

de Fidio 1991: P. de Fidio, “Un modello di mythistoríe. Asopia ed Efirea nei Korinthiaká di Eumelo”, in Geografia storica della Grecia antica, a cura di F. Prontera, Roma-Bari 1991, 233-263.

Gigante Lanzara 1995: V. Gigante Lanzara, “I vaticini di Cassandra e l’interpretazione trasgressiva del mito”, SCO 45, 1995, 85-98.

Gigante Lanzara 2000: V. Gigante Lanzara, Licofrone. Alessandra, Milano 2000.

Gonnelli 2003: F. Gonnelli, Nonno di Panopoli. Le Dionisiache, II. (Canti XIII-XXIV), Milano 2003.

Haslam 1986: M. W. Haslam, The Oxyrhynchus Papyri, LIII, London 1986.

Hurst – Kolde 2008: A. Hurst – A. Kolde, Lycophron. Alexandra, Paris 2008.

Huxley 1969: G. L. Huxley, Greek Epic Poetry from Eumelos to Panyassis, London 1969.

Janko 1982: R. Janko, “P. Oxy. 2513: Hexameters on the Sacrifice of Iphigeneia?”, ZPE 49, 1982, 25-29.

Janko 1992: R. Janko, The Iliad. A Commentary, IV. (Books XIII-XVI), Cambridge 1992.

Kyriakou 2006: P. Kyriakou, A Commentary on Euripides’ Iphigenia in Tauris, Berlin-New York 2006.

Lobel 1964: E. Lobel, The Oxyrhynchus Papyri, XXX, London 1964.

Schmidt 1991: M. Schmidt, s.v. kasignētos, in LfgrE XIV 1991, 1340-1344.

Schulze 1973: J. F. Schulze, “Die Iphigenie-Geschichte bei Nonnos”, ZAnt 23, 1973, 23-27.

Vian 1995: F. Vian, Nonnos de Panopolis. Les Dionysiaques, V. (Chants XI-XIII), Paris 1995.

West 2002 : M. L. West, “‘Eumelos’: a Corinthian Epic Cycle?”, JHS 122, 2002, 109-133.

West 2003: M. L. West, Greek Epic Fragments. From the Seventh to the Fifth Centuries BC, Cambridge (Mass.)-London 2003.


[1] Debiasi 2003. For a further attribution to Eumelus of an epic fragment transmitted by an Oxyrhynchus Papyrus, cf. Debiasi, forthcoming [a].

[2] Orph. test. 1005a (I) Bernabé. The ascription to Eumelus is accepted by Bernabé 2008, 63; Bernabé 2010.

[3] Haslam 1986, 10-15.

[4] Janko 1982.

[5] Lobel 1964, 13-15.

[6] Cypr. arg. ll. 42-49 Bernabé = arg. ll. 55-63 Davies = arg. 8 West. Cf. Cypr. fr. 24 Bernabé = fr. 17 Davies = fr. 20 West.

[7] As it has been aptly defined by West 2002.

[8] West 2002; Debiasi 2004, 19-107.

[9] Eum. fr. 7 Bernabé = Cor. fr. 8 Davies = fr. 25 West.

[10] Eum. fr. 8 Bernabé = Cor. fr. 12 Davies = fr. 22* West.

[11] Huxley 1969, 74.

[12] Eum. fr. 9 Bernabé = Cor. fr. 9 Davies = fr. 33 West (incertae sedis).

[13] West 2002, 127. Cf. Apollod. epit. 3, 3.

[14] Barigazzi 1966, 138-140; Debiasi 2004, 78.

[15] Corsano 1992, 80.

[16] Hes. fr. 23a M.-W.

[17] Cf. de Fidio 1991, 253; Debiasi 2004, 22 and passim.

[18] Debiasi 2008, 17-37 (chap. 1: “Esiodo tra Beozia ed Eubea”) and passim.

[19] Debiasi 2004, 19-107 and passim.

[20] See above, n. 6. In the Catalogue of Women (see above, n. 16) – or rather, what it is possibly an interpolation in it – there is the same notion of apotheosis but no mention of the Tauroi.

[21] Cf. e.g., recently, Kyriakou 2006, 21.

[22] Debiasi 2004, 88; 92.

[23] Eum. frr. 3; 5 Bernabé = Cor. frr. 2; 3A Davies = frr. 17-18; 20; 23 West.

[24] Eum. fr. 3 Bernabé = Cor. fr. 2 Davies = fr. 17 West.

[25] Eum. fr. 10 Bernabé = Cor. fr. 7 Davies = fr. 29 West. Cf. Debiasi 2004, 28-29 con n. 67.

[26] Eum. fr. 17 Bernabé = fr. dub. 2 Davies = fr. 35 West. Cf. Debiasi 2004, 29 con n. 68, 59-62.

[27] Debiasi 2004, 28-31; Braund 2005.

[28] On Medea rejuvenating Jason, Aison, and the nurses of Dionysus in the Eumelian epics, see  Debiasi 2004, 34-37.

[29] Cf. Debiasi 2004, passim.

[30] Schulze 1973, 25-26.

[31] Debiasi, forthcoming [b] and [c].

[32] Gigante Lanzara 1995, 94-98; cf. Gigante Lanzara 2000, 221-226.

[33] Schulze 1973, 25-26; Gonnelli 2003, 76.

[34] See (pace Vian 1995, 219), Chuvin 1991, 39; Gonnelli 2003, 77.

[35] Schmidt 1991; Janko 1992, 289 (ad Il. 15.545-546).

[36] Haslam 1986.

[37] Hyg. fab. 183 = Titan. fr. 7 (II) Bernabé = fr. 4B Davies = Eum. fr. 11 West; fab. 275.6 = Eum. fr. 1 (II) Bernabé; cf. also fab. 150, on which, see West 2002, 113; and fab. 273.10-11, on which, see Debiasi 2005, 54-55. Diod. 4.44.7 and Arg. Orph. 1076-1077 are also worth noting, where they both mention the episode of Iphigenia within an Argonautic context.

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