Wednesday, July 17, 2019



Homer, Odyssey 7.197-198 (tr. Richmond Lattimore):
He shall endure all that his destiny and the heavy Spinners
spun for him with the thread at his birth, when his mother bore him.

πείσεται, ἅσσα οἱ αἶσα κατὰ κλῶθές τε βαρεῖαι
γιγνομένῳ νήσαντο λίνῳ, ὅτε μιν τέκε μήτηρ.
J.B. Hainsworth ad loc.:
On this metaphor see B.C. Dietrich, 'The Spinning of Fate in Homer', Phoenix xvi (1962), 86-101. The image is an old one and has a folkloric colour; cf. the 'Norns' of Old Norse, the 'Metten' of Anglo-Saxon, and the 'Gaschepfen' of Middle High German, who bestow skills vel sim. by their spinning at the moment of birth. But the Germanic analogues are not true figures of destiny, and the use of spinning as an image of the decrees of fate seems to be a product of the poetic tradition. The gods also issue their decrees by spinning: Il. xxiv 525, Od. i 17, iii 208, viii 579, xi 139, xx 196 (all θεοί), iv 208 (Zeus), xvi 64 (a δαίμων), though like μοῖρα they can work their will without recourse to the symbolic act. Since male gods are said to spin fate, the literal force of the image cannot be strongly felt, for spinning is a strictly feminine occupation in Homer.

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