Monday, December 12, 2016


A Pretty Boy, Not a Warrior

In the third book of the Iliad, Paris (or Alexander, as he is also known) puts himself forward as champion of the Trojans. But when on the Greek side Menelaus steps forth to accept the challenge, Paris shrinks back in fright, like a man suddenly encountering a snake. Paris' brother Hector chides him (3.39-57; tr. Peter Green):
Wretched Paris, so handsome, so mad for women, seducer,
I wish you had never been born or had died unmarried!        40
Yes, that I'd prefer: far better than being left with you
as this object of other men's ridicule and contempt.
Oh, they'll snigger aloud, indeed, will the long-haired Achaians,
and say, here's a leading man who gets to be champion
on good looks alone, without strength or courage in his heart.        45
Were you such a one when in your seafaring vessels
you sailed the deep, with the trusty comrades you'd mustered,
consorted with foreigners, brought back a beautiful woman
from a far-off land, the child of warrior spearmen,
a great grief to your father, your city, your whole nation:        50
a delight to our enemies, to yourself a cause of shame?
So will you not, then, confront the warlike Menelaös,
find out the kind of man whose lusty bedmate you've taken?
No help for you from the lyre, or the gifts of Aphrodītē,
or your hair or your good looks, when you're laid low in the dust.        55
The Trojans are arrant cowards: otherwise by now
you'd be wearing a shower of stones for all your evil deeds.

Δύσπαρι, εἶδος ἄριστε, γυναιμανές, ἠπεροπευτά,
αἴθ᾿ ὄφελες ἄγονός τ᾿ ἔμεναι ἄγαμός τ᾿ ἀπολέσθαι.        40
καί κε τὸ βουλοίμην, καί κεν πολὺ κέρδιον ἦεν
ἢ οὕτω λώβην τ᾿ ἔμεναι καὶ ὑπόψιον ἄλλων.
ἦ που καγχαλόωσι κάρη κομόωντες Ἀχαιοί,
φάντες ἀριστῆα πρόμον ἔμμεναι, οὕνεκα καλὸν
εἶδος ἔπ᾿, ἀλλ᾿ οὐκ ἔστι βίη φρεσὶν οὐδέ τις ἀλκή.        45
ἦ τοιόσδε ἐὼν ἐν ποντοπόροισι νέεσσι
πόντον ἐπιπλώσας, ἑτάρους ἐρίηρας ἀγείρας,
μιχθεὶς ἀλλοδαποῖσι γυναῖκ᾿ εὐειδέ᾿ ἀνῆγες
ἐξ ἀπίης γαίης, νυὸν ἀνδρῶν αἰχμητάων,
πατρί τε σῷ μέγα πῆμα πόληί τε παντί τε δήμῳ,        50
δυσμενέσιν μὲν χάρμα, κατηφείην δὲ σοὶ αὐτῷ;
οὐκ ἂν δὴ μείνειας ἀρηίφιλον Μενέλαον;
γνοίης χ᾿ οἵου φωτὸς ἔχεις θαλερὴν παράκοιτιν·
οὐκ ἄν τοι χραίσμῃ κίθαρις τά τε δῶρ᾿ Ἀφροδίτης,
ἥ τε κόμη τό τε εἶδος, ὅτ᾿ ἐν κονίῃσι μιγείης.        55
ἀλλὰ μάλα Τρῶες δειδήμονες. ἦ τέ κεν ἤδη
λάινον ἕσσο χιτῶνα κακῶν ἕνεχ᾿ ὅσσα ἔοργας.
This reminds me of Archilochus, fragment 114 (tr. Douglas E. Gerber):
I have no liking for a general who is tall, walks with a swaggering gait, takes pride in his curls, and is partly shaven. Let mine be one who is short, has a bent look about the shins, stands firmly on his feet, and is full of courage.

οὐ φιλέω μέγαν στρατηγὸν οὐδὲ διαπεπλιγμένον
οὐδὲ βοστρύχοισι γαῦρον οὐδ᾿ ὑπεξυρημένον,
ἀλλά μοι σμικρός τις εἴη καὶ περὶ κνήμας ἰδεῖν
ῥοικός, ἀσφαλέως βεβηκὼς ποσσί, καρδίης πλέως.

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