Saturday, November 19, 2022


Enough Have Been Admitted

Euripides, Ion 721-724 (tr. David Kovacs):
The city would have good reason to keep off
an incursion of strangers.
Enough have been admitted by our old ruler,
King Erechtheus.

στεγομένα γὰρ ἂν πόλις ἔχοι σκῆψιν
ξενικὸν ἐσβολάν·
ἅλις ἔασεν ὁ πάρος ἀρχαγὸς ὢν
Ἐρεχθεὺς ἄναξ.

721 στεγομένα Grégoire: στενομένα L: πενομένα Hermann: στενομέναν Scheidweiler
722 ἐσβολάν L: εἰσβολᾶν Herwerden
post 722 lac. indic. Badham
723 ἅλις ἔασεν Willink: ἁλίσας L: ἅλις ἅλις Heath: ἅλις δ᾿ ἅλις Jerram: ἀλεύσας Diggle
Gunther Martin ad loc.:
The reconstructions and conjectures that have been made are too optimistic, and their number and diversity discredits them; the thought is still obscure, and the length of the missing section is uncertain. What seems clear is that the chorus explain (γάρ) why they do not want Ion to enter Athens. The previous leader, Erechtheus, features — presumably in a reference to the war against Eumolpus (cf. 277–82n) — together with an arrival of allies (ξενικὸν ἐσβολάν), which makes a suitable parallel with Xuthus and Ion. But both the connection between 721-2 and 723-4 and the way in which the chorus deal with the fact that Xuthus came to the rescue of Athens in the war against Euboea are unclear: Athens’ military situation as described in the play would belie any proud claims of the sufficiency of the autochthonous forces and independence of outside help (cf. the conjecture ἅλις). However, it cannot be excluded that the portrayal of such a delusion was Euripides’ intention.

721 †στενομένα: Any emendation will fail to convince as long as the construction of the sentence is not known. A form of στένω is difficult to fit into the context: the πόλις is probably Athens, but it is not intelligible why she should wail (middle in Ba. 1372) or be wailed for — ἔχοι σκῆψιν suggests that the city has not reached the point where this would be called for. Whitman (1964) 259 suggests ‘a city which groans at a foreign invasion would have it (sc. invasion) as an excuse’ (sc. for killing Ion). This is hardly comprehensible from the Greek and overlooks that the chorus do not think of Athenians as Ion’s murderers yet. The interpretation as στενοχωρουμένη (‘when a city is in dire straits’; so Wilamowitz) lacks parallels, and this is not a fitting description of Ion’s approach. Grégoire’s στεγομένα would be an odd metaphor: the defensive function of ‘covering’ (cf. Aesch. Sept. 216) is hardly suitable for the pre-emptive curse that demands Ion’s death, nor is the word ever used by Euripides in a military sense.

ἔχοι σκῆψιν: ‘might have (as) a reason/excuse’. ξενικὸν ἐσβολάν may be that reason or part of the action taken as a consequence. The order of the word groups may favour the latter, with an infinitive to be added: Crit. TrGF 43 F 7.10–11 σκῆψιν ... ἔχοντα πρὸς πάτρα̣ν̣ μολεῖν; alternatives for the construction of σκῆψιν ἔχω would be a genitive (Dem. 1.6) or a relative clause (Dem. 54.17, 21) of the consequence, but then the accusative is hard to connect.

722 ξενικὸν ἐσβολάν: ξενικός is not attested elsewhere as being of two terminations, nor is this a common feature of adjectives in -ικός. But if we accept it as feminine, the meaning is probably ‘an assault of foreign allies’; this may be a sarcastic description of Xuthus’ attempt to install his family on the Athenian throne, using the military metaphor to characterise the plan of the ξένος Xuthus (293, 813) as a coup d’état. The meaning and use of ξενικός make it unlikely that this an invasion of foreign enemies, in particular an allusion to the Euboeans: cf. a ξεινικὸς στρατός of mercenaries in Hdt. 1.77.4.

723 ἀρχαγὸς: in Euripides mostly for military leaders: cf. Hipp. 151–2 τὸν Ἐρεχθειδᾶν ἀρχαγόν, τὸν εὐπατρίδαν, Tro. 1267, IT 1303. The chorus may evoke Erechtheus for different purposes: as representative of the pure lineage (that makes foreign influx unnecessary) or as the one who saved Athens in the war against Eumolpus (on which cf. Simms (1983)).
Simms (1983) = Robert M. Simms, "Eumolpos and the Wars of Athens," Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies 24 (1983) 197-208. Bob Simms (R.I.P.) was a friend and classmate of mine at the University of Virginia.

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