Tuesday, February 21, 2017


A Dedication to Artemis

Dedication to Artemis Proseoia (dawn-facing Artemis), in the Artemisium district of Euboea, preserved by Plutarch, Life of Themistocles 8.3 (my translation):
Sons of the Athenians, having once in this part of the sea overpowered in a battle of ships races of all sorts of men from the country of Asia, set up these tokens for Maid Artemis after the host of the Medes perished.

παντοδαπῶν ἀνδρῶν γενεὰς Ἀσίας ἀπὸ χώρας
    παῖδες Ἀθηναίων τῷδέ ποτ᾿ ἐν πελάγει
ναυμαχίῃ δαμάσαντες, ἐπεὶ στρατὸς ὤλετο Μήδων
    σήματα ταῦτ᾿ ἔθεσαν παρθένῳ Ἀρτέμιδι.
Commentary in D.L. Page, Further Greek Epigrams (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981), pp. 236-238, who remarks (at 236-237):
The contents are remarkable. The Athenian fleet at Artemisium was indeed almost as large as that of all the other allies together (Hdt. 8.1; 127 ships out of 267), and the Athenians greatly distinguished themselves both in the first battle (Hdt. 8.11.2, an Athenian won the prize of valour, τὸ ἀριστήιον) and in the second (8.17, the Athenians ἠρίστευσαν); but it is remarkable that they should have claimed all the credit, to the exclusion of nine allied states, in a public inscription in an Euboean temple. Moreover the phrase ναυμαχίαι exaggerates greatly. The outcome of the two sea-battles at Artemisium was indecisive (Hdt. 8.11 and 16), and though it is understandable that the Greeks should claim to have had the better of either or both, the verb is much too strong, even if it takes account of the fortuitous destruction of two hundred Persian ships in a storm off south-west Euboea (Hdt. 8.13-14), remote from the fighting.

The editors appear to impute a vastly greater exaggeration by putting a comma after ἐπεὶ στρατὸς ὤλετο Μήδων, as if this clause referred backwards; but to say that 'the Persian host perished' at Artemisium would be a ridiculous untruth, hollow gasconade of a type alien to early inscriptions. The clause looks forward, 'they made these dedications after the destruction of the Persian army', i.e. after the final expulsion of the Persians from Hellas.

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