Monday, March 27, 2023


The Destruction of Troy

Aeschylus, Agamemnon 524-528 (tr. Herbert Weir Smyth):
Oh give him goodly greeting, as is meet and right, since he hath uprooted Troy with the mattock of Zeus, the Avenger, wherewith her soil has been uptorn. Demolished are the altars and the shrines of her gods; and the seed of her whole land hath been wasted utterly.

ἀλλ' εὖ νιν ἀσπάσασθε, καὶ γὰρ οὖν πρέπει,
Τροίαν κατασκάψαντα τοῦ δικηφόρου        525
Διὸς μακέλλῃ, τῇ κατείργασται πέδον.
βωμοὶ δ' ἄιστοι καὶ θεῶν ἱδρύματα,
καὶ σπέρμα πάσης ἐξαπόλλυται χθονός.

527 del. Wilhelm Gotthilf Salzmann, Observationum in Aeschyli Agamemnonem Specimen (Berlin: G. Reimer, 1823), pp. 10-11
John Dewar Denniston and Denys Page on line 527:
Some have rejected this line as an interpolation, on the grounds that (1) it interrupts the metaphor begun in 526 and continued in 528 (σπέρμα); (2) it resembles a line found elsewhere in Aeschylus (Pers. 811 βωμοὶ δ' ἄιστοι δαιμόνων θ' ἱδρύματα; (3) the Herald ought not to boast of an action so shocking to the religious feelings of the Hellenes: 'to the poet and his contemporaries the destruction of holy places by the enemy seemed an unparalleled atrocity' (Fraenkel). Of these arguments the third alone seems considerable. It must, however, be observed that Clytemnestra made it clear (338 ff.) that there was reason to fear that the army might commit just this kind of sacrilege : and here we are told that they did commit it. Without this line, the question raised by 338 ff. would be nowhere answered. Moreover it seems unlikely that the poet would allow his Herald to exaggerate so grossly as to say that the land was utterly devastated, reduced to a ploughed field, no seed left in the soil, without referring to the fact (if it was one) that the temples, altars, shrines, and the like were left intact. If nothing whatever is said about the holy places, the strength of the Herald's language is such that the Chorus is bound to infer (and so are we, who have wanted an answer to the question raised in 338 ff.) that they are included in the tale of total ruin.
Cf. Exodus 34:13 (KJV):
But ye shall destroy their altars, break their images, and cut down their groves.
Related post: The Buttock of Zeus.

Hat tip: Eric Thomson.

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