Wednesday, December 14, 2016


The Throne of Artemis

Sophocles, Oedipus Rex 159-164 (tr. Hugh Lloyd-Jones):
On you first I call, daughter of Zeus, immortal Athena, and I implore your sister who protects the land, Artemis, seated on her round throne, far-famed, in the market-place, and Phoebus the far-darter; appear to me, all three, to ward off doom!

πρῶτα σὲ κεκλόμενος, θύγατερ Διός, ἄμβροτ᾿ Ἀθάνα,
γαιάοχόν τ᾿ ἀδελφεὰν        160
Ἄρτεμιν, ἃ κυκλόεντ᾿ ἀγορᾶς θρόνον εὐκλέα θάσσει
καὶ Φοῖβον ἑκαβόλον, ἰώ,
τρισσοὶ ἀλεξίμοροι προφάνητέ μοι.
One doesn't expect to find humor in a commentary on this dark play, but I was amused by a note on line 161 in Sophocles, Oedipus Rex. Edited by R.D. Dawe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982), p. 108:
161 ἀγορᾶς one manuscript has ἀγοραῖς, which will fit θάσσει 'sit on a round throne in the market-place' just as ἀγοραῖσι suits θακεῖ at 20. If the genitive ἀγορᾶς is read, as editors prefer, the meaning is 'belonging to the market-place'. In spite of Eur. Or. 919 ἀγορᾶς (-αῖς; three MSS!) κύκλον 'the round market-place' it is inconceivable that the genitive here could be constituent, i.e. the throne consisting of the market-place, as if the throne and the market-place were one and the same thing. Such an interpretation is uncomplimentary to the physique of the divine huntress.
In other words, Artemis is not "broad in the beam," as we might say, or, to use a word of Greek origin, she is not steatopygous. Unfortunately (in my opinion) Dawe removed the last sentence in his revised edition of the play (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), p. 88, and replaced it with:
Archaeology has yet to discover any such thing as a round market-place from the classical period.

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