Saturday, April 08, 2017


Phaeacian Pleasures

M.L. West (1937-2015), The East Face of Helicon: West Asiatic Elements in Greek Poetry and Myth (1997; rpt. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2003), p. 414:
Odysseus' supremacy in the athletics arena leads Alcinous to admit that the Phaeacians are no great boxers or wrestlers, though good runners and sailors. He adds:
αἰεὶ δ᾽ ἡμῖν δαίς τε φίλη κίθαρις τε χοροί τε
εἵματά τ᾽ ἐξημοιβὰ λοετρά τε θερμὰ καὶ εΰναί.

What we always like is feasting, the lyre, dances,
clean clothes, hot baths, and bed.
This manifesto strikingly recalls the values that the alewife recommends to Gilgamesh in the Old Babylonian version of the Akkadian epic, especially as the parallel items come in precisely the same order:
'But you, Gilgamesh, let your belly be full (δαίς);
day and night keep on enjoying yourself.
Every day establish enjoyment:
day and night dance and sport (χοροί),
let your clothes be kept cleaned (εἵματα ἐξημοιβά),
let your head be washed, be you bathed in water (λοετρά).
Take care of the child who holds your hand;
let your wife keep on enjoying herself in your lap (εΰναί).'33
33 Od. 8.26-9 [sic, should be 8.246-9]; Gilg. Meissner fr. iii 6-13; cf. C.R. Beye in H.D. Evjen (ed.), Mnemai. Studies in Memory of K.K. Hulley, Chico 1984, 17.
J.B. Hainsworth on the lines from the Odyssey (8.248-249):
These lines naturally attracted the animadversions of the censorious, e.g. Heracleides Ponticus (ap. schol. Od. xiii 119) συνειδότας γὰρ ἑαυτοῖς φιληδονίαν καὶ ἀπολαυστικὸν τρόπον ..., Hor. Epp. i 2 28-9 'sponsi Penelopae, nebulones, Alcinoique | in cute curanda plus aequo operata iuventus'. But the lines merely summarize the delights of a society at peace...

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