Tuesday, April 24, 2018


Divine Vanity

Homer, Iliad 17.567-568 (tr. A.T. Murray, rev. William F. Wyatt):
So he spoke, and the goddess, flashing-eyed Athene, rejoiced,
since to her first of all the gods he made his prayer.

ὣς φάτο, γήθησεν δὲ θεὰ γλαυκῶπις Ἀθήνη,
ὅττί ῥά οἱ πάμπρωτα θεῶν ἠρήσατο πάντων.
W.E. Gladstone, Studies on Homer and the Homeric Age, Vol. II: Olympus: or, The Religion of the Homeric Age (Oxford: At the University Press, 1858), p. 177:
This sentiment may be accounted for in two ways. It may be due to the vulgar vanity of a merely mythological divinity scuffling for precedence. It may be a remnant of the tradition of a wisdom that knew no superior. The former cause would be scarcely suitable even to the deities of invention in Homer. The latter seems wholly in keeping with the character and position of his Minerva.
To my mind, the plain meaning (the former cause) is preferable to Gladstone's allegorizing (the latter cause). See Mark W. Edwards ad loc.:
The comparison editors make to the sentiment of Od. 3.52-3 means little, since there Athene is warmed by Peisistratos' courtesy to the old man she is pretending to be, a different thing from her appreciation here of Menelaos' choice of her godhead to turn to for help in his trouble. The scholia (bT) with more relevance quote Euripides: ἔνεστι γὰρ δὴ κἀν θεῶν γένει τόδε· | τιμώμενοι χαίρουσιν ἀνθρώπων ὕπο (Hipp. 7-8).
W.S. Barrett on Euripides, Hippolytus 7-8:
'The gods too [as well as men] have this trait: they take delight in honour from men.' Similarly Ba. 321 κἀκεῖνοϲ (sc. Dionysos), οἶμαι, τέρπεται τιμώμενοϲ, Al. 53 (Death speaking) τιμαῖϲ κἀμὲ τέρπεϲθαι δόκει.

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