Friday, April 29, 2016


The Land of the Cyclopes

Homer, Odyssey 106-115 (tr. A.T. Murray, rev. George E. Dimock):
We came to the land of the Cyclopes, an insolent and lawless folk,
who, trusting in the immortal gods,
plant nothing with their hands, nor plow;
but all these things spring up for them without sowing or plowing,
wheat, and barley, and vines, which bear        110
the rich clusters of wine, and Zeus's rain makes these grow for them.
Neither assemblies for council have they, nor appointed laws,
but they dwell on the peaks of mountains
in hollow caves, and each one is lawgiver
to his children and his wives, and they have no regard for one another.        115

Κυκλώπων δ᾿ ἐς γαῖαν ὑπερφιάλων ἀθεμίστων
ἱκόμεθ᾿, οἵ ῥα θεοῖσι πεποιθότες ἀθανάτοισιν
οὔτε φυτεύουσιν χερσὶν φυτὸν οὔτ᾿ ἀρόωσιν,
ἀλλὰ τά γ᾿ ἄσπαρτα καὶ ἀνήροτα πάντα φύονται,
πυροὶ καὶ κριθαὶ ἠδ᾿ ἄμπελοι, αἵ τε φέρουσιν        110
οἶνον ἐριστάφυλον, καί σφιν Διὸς ὄμβρος ἀέξει.
τοῖσιν δ᾿ οὔτ᾿ ἀγοραὶ βουληφόροι οὔτε θέμιστες,
ἀλλ᾿ οἵ γ᾿ ὑψηλῶν ὀρέων ναίουσι κάρηνα
ἐν σπέσσι γλαφυροῖσι, θεμιστεύει δὲ ἕκαστος
παίδων ἠδ᾿ ἀλόχων, οὐδ᾿ ἀλλήλων ἀλέγουσιν.        115
In line 113, ὑψηλῶν (high, lofty, modifying mountains) doesn't appear in the translation.

Alfred Heubeck ad loc.:
The sociological implications are clear: the poet has painted a picture of a people on the lowest cultural level, devoid of all that gives human life its distinctive quality. The Cyclopes know nothing of life in a community ordered by laws and decrees, of piety and morality, or of nature made to serve man by 'ratio' and τέχνη (agriculture, building, and seafaring). They are a negation of human values, and a negative counterpart to the Phaeacians who enjoy all the benefits of civilization; they are the embodiment of the non-human.

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