The Status of Arete in the Phaeacian Episode of the Odyssey | Helène Whittaker - victoryawards.us
it is said that Arete and Alcinous, her husband, were born of the a common and approved connection, but the marriage of brother with sister was regarded as. Accordingly, the queen Arete rather than the king Alcinous is presented as the .. When Alcinous later mentions the relationship between the Phaeacians and. some direct connection between Phaeacian hostility and their ships to the slhips: he is Alcinous' grandfather and Arete's great-grandfather. What is more, hie.
Alcinous - Wikipedia
Is it true that the Phaeacian queen reflects Athena Polias, the city goddess of Athens? If so, what became of this goddess in the post-Homeric era? These are complex questions, and they have far-reaching implications.
Arete is the wife of Alcinous and the mother of his children. There has long been a debate about the nature of Athena Polias and her relationship to Erechtheus. The dominant view is that of Martin Nilsson, who rejected the idea of a marriage bond between Erechtheus and Athena Polias, and instead imagined a Mycenaean war goddess living on the Acropolis in the palace of a representative Mycenaean king, namely Erechtheus.
Delphi had specified that the images be made from olive wood, and the Epidaurians had turned to Athens as having the most sacred or perhaps the only olive trees at that time.
The Athenians agreed to this request on the condition that the Epidaurians would thereafter bring yearly sacrifices to Athena Polias and Erechtheus. She is also herself, the queen of the Phaeacians, just as Alcinous is also himself, the king of the Phaeacians.
At the end of the story Arete can only be herself, for the Phaeacians, as we have seen, are left to an uncertain future, and Athena can have no part in that. In his farewell speech to Arete, as he leaves the palace for the waiting Phaeacian ship, Odysseus explicitly recognizes that the Phaeacian queen is indeed a mortal Odyssey May you fare well always, O queen, until old age and death come, which are the condition of men.
I will return home; but in this house may you rejoice in your children and people and in Alcinous the king. The scene is electric with anticipation, and it is nothing short of stunning that Arete makes no response. We have already noted that Alcinous also makes no immediate response, and we have found good reason for that in an inherited tension that has to do with an old quarrel between Odysseus and Nestor. But Alcinous was not appealed to directly by Odysseus, and, prodded by the aged retainer Ekheneos, he also reacts to Odysseus's presence well before Arete does.
Arete eventually breaks her silence and when she does the illusion that she is Athena Polias has already begun to dissipate. Her identification with Athena Polias is never as strong again once she speaks.
This idea has implications for what the ancient image of Athena Polias, which is nowhere described for us, actually was.
For at the moment of supplication Arete is represented as sitting at the hearth, holding the distaff, and spinning. Nausicaa has already told Odysseus that this is how he will find her Odyssey 6. Arete is described in exactly these terms at her first appearance in the poem as well: She sat at the hearth with her serving women, spinning sea-purple wool from a distaff. Thus the scene has already been set twice before Odysseus enters the Phaeacian palace, and there is no need to describe it a third time.
We already have in mind the figure whose knees Odysseus grasps when he makes his supplication. He only repeated what was commonly said about it, that it fell from heaven. The image itself was doubtless much older, but how old we do not know.
Arete (mythology) - Wikipedia
It played a central part in traditions about the Cylonian conspiracy of about BC: Iliad 6 offers a parallel for such a full-size seated image of Athena Polias in the Homeric era: Taking the robe fair-cheeked Theano placed it on the knees of beautiful-haired Athena. One thing is clear: It was very likely of a different order from other images, including those of Athena Polias in Troy and other cities. The question of what this image was should be approached with an open mind.
The fourth-century inventories reveal one very important thing about the image itself: This means that its right hand was extended. In representations of women spinning, the right hand is extended to spin wool drawn from a distaff, which is held at a higher level by the left hand; the pose is seen in this example: Perpetual fire is the essential element here, and from a Greek standpoint perpetual fire could be provided by either a hearth or a lamp.
The hearth probably became a lamp when the aegis and gorgoneion were added to the image itself, perhaps as early as the early sixth century. In front of them Pallas Athena held a golden lamp and made a beautiful light. Right then Telemachus quickly addressed his father: Surely some god is within, one of those inhabiting the wide sky.
When Odysseus finishes his appeal to Arete and the rest of the Phaeacians, he sits in the ashes next to the hearth and the fire Odyssey 7.
So speaking he sat down by the hearth in the ashes near the fire. The scene of a suppliant seated in the ashes was presumably a familiar one in the temple of Athena Polias. But when Alcinous, with sacred power, heard this, he took the hand of wise Odysseus, with inventive mind, and raised him from the hearth and sat him on the shining chair.
The goddess herself in her temple would of course apparently do nothing during such an act, and that is what Arete does, apparently nothing. It is precisely by doing nothing that she becomes the goddess in this tableau.
Being compared to a god is not unique to Arete Alcinous himself is compared to an immortal when he sits next to her and drinks wine, Odyssey 6. There are fifty of them and their tasks include grinding corn, weaving, and spinning Odyssey 7. In his palace are fifty servant women, some of whom grind yellow grain on millstones, and others weave fabric and spin wool, seated like the leaves of a tall poplar; liquid oil runs from the close-woven cloth. The passage continues, saying that just as the Phaeacian men excel at seafaring, the women excel at weaving, for Athena has given them, beyond others, knowledge of beautiful crafts and good wits Odyssey 7.
As much as the Phaeacian men are skillful beyond all others at driving a swift ship on the sea, so the women are skillful at weaving; for Athena granted them beyond others understanding of beautiful works and good wits. But it is really Arete whom they emulate in this domain, as is indicated by the two descriptions of her spinning by firelight, in which the maidservants are very much her extension.
In the end, of course, this comes back to Athena herself if Arete plays the part of Athena Polias. Athena herself, however, is not incidental to this story; she manages the episode from beginning to end. Twice more Athena directs events from behind the scenes: Nausicaa does not want him to go all the way into town with her, fearing the comments of the townspeople. Then at once he prayed to the daughter of great Zeus: Grant that I come dear and pitied to the Phaeacians.
Odysseus does not know what Athena is doing for him even now, because she does not appear to him openly. But this is only part of the story.
Then at once he prayed to the daughter of great Zeus. So much-enduring shining Odysseus prayed there.
This is a complex situation, and it is carefully managed so that the two figures, Athena and Arete, do not interfere with each other. Indeed Athena, as soon as she has told Odysseus about Arete, removes herself from the scene by flying to Athens, leaving center stage to the figure that she has just introduced.
Thus it is not only respect for Poseidon that keeps Athena from appearing openly to Odysseus.
Part 3. Athens
The hidden identity of Arete simply would not work if it had to compete with the presence of Athena in her own persona. Nausicaa has played her part and attention now shifts to Arete. When Odysseus enters the palace and supplicates Arete as he has been twice advised to do, she remains silent; it is Alcinous who welcomes Odysseus and provides for his entertainment, and it is he who promises to convey him home. Arete only speaks when she and Alcinous are alone with Odysseus.
She then questions Odysseus about his identity, homeland, and how he obtained the clothes he is wearing. The fact that a direct enquiry re- garding Odysseus' identity comes from Arete rather than from Alcinous is perhaps significant, and indicative of her exceptional status.
When Arete speaks again, it is after the games when Odysseus has been presented with gifts by the Phaeacians. She then warns him that he should carefully lock the chest in which his new possessions are placed in order to guard against theft viii. Later, when Odysseus pauses in the recital of his adventures, Arete is the first to speak. She praises Odysseus and emphasises that he is her guest, demonstratively, it might seem, asserting her superior authority.
She is, however, immediately contradicted, almost reprimanded, by the Phaeacian elder, Echeneus, who explicitly asserts that Alcinous is of the greatest impor- tance xi. Within the Phaeacian episode, then, the pre-eminence of the queen rather than the king is a motif empha- 3 Graham See also Pomeroy, For a critical discussion of the theory of matriarchy in prehistoric Greece see Georgoudi See also Blundell Garvie95; Finley Consequently, the figure of Arete has often been seen as problematic be- cause Nausicaas and Athena's presentation of her leads to expectations con- cerning her importance and the role she will play in the story of Odysseus' stay in Scherie, which are not met.
Why Arete is given any prominence at all is a question to which the answer is not immediately evident. Finley, for in- stance, suggests that the contradictions regarding Arete may be the result of two conflicting traditions on the Phaeacians, which have been imperfectly amalgamated in the OdysseyJ Hainsworth also considers it likely that the poet inherited Arete and her story, and that Aretes status cannot be ex- plained from the text of the Odyssey.
He suggests that the emphasis on Aretes status can be partially derived from the importance of die bride's mother in the folktale. Reece also argues that Odysseus' return to Ithaca is derived from the same folktale motif, and that the Phaeacian episode is to a certain extent modelled on the Ithacan episode, so that Aretes status can also be seen to reflect the importance of Penelope. Cook ar- gues in great detail that Scherie should be related to or identified with Elysium.
He further maintains that the description of Scherie contains ele- ments of Hades, and that it is in the association of Scherie with the death realm that the prominence of Arete can be most fully understood, as she can then be seen as a reflection of Persephone. The importance of this scene is further enhanced by the time lapse between Odysseus' appeal to Arete and her question to him.
Arete shows herself as the only Phaeacian who fits Athena's description of them as unfriendly to strangers; her question represents a challenge to Odysseus. Odysseus must gain Arete's approval and his further fate depends on how he is able to answer her.
Arete thus lives up to the expectations con- cerning her role, and her importance is realised. Since Odysseus replies bril- liantly and Arete is won over, after this scene, the motif of Aretes influence is no longer important and her later interventions are of no significance.
Rose argues that Odysseus does not win Arete s acceptance until after he has proved himself as a storyteller, when she proclaims her acceptance by calling him "my guest".
She believes that the elaborate in- troduction of Arete by Athena magnifies her position and adds weight to her intervention when she praises Odysseus' storytelling in the interlude during his recital of his visit to the Underworld.
Doherty compares Arete to Penelope and sees them as being presented as the ideal or model female lis- teners for the tale of Odysseus' adventures. It will here be suggested that at 11 Garvie22, 25, Earlier versions may have been the poet's own rather than inherited from the tradition. See also Stanford See also Doherty, In the Odyssey, Homer very clearly distinguishes between the real world and the fairy tale world through which Odysseus passes on his return home from Troy.
The real world can be defined as correspond- ing to the world of the past as imagined by the poet and the epic tradition.
It is geographically precise and consists of well-known places. After his raid on the Cicones, Odysseus and his men are blown off course and enter a fairy tale world. Characteristic of the places visited by Odysseus is their isolation, in- wardness and lack of social context. These features are moreover emphasised by geography, as most of these places are islands which lie outside normal sea routes. The connections to the outside are with gods and monsters and not with men or human society.
As has been recognised, the land of the Phaeacians is to be interpreted as an intermediate area, a borderland between the real world and the fairy tale world. Scherie is linked to the world of Odysseus' adventures in that it repre- sents the last temptation which Odysseus must overcome before he can re- turn to the real world, and it is only after the narration of his adventures to the Phaeacians that Odysseus can at last exit from the fairy tale world and re- turn home.
Furthermore, in Scherie, Odysseus again encounters civilised hu- man society, and it can be said that his stay there is a preparation for his re- turn to normal life.
Scherie is said to be located far out to sea, at the extremes of the earth, and the Phaeacians are said to have no contact with other people vi. Isolation, inwardness, and lack of social context are dierefore characteristics 18 which Scherie shares with the fairy tale world. Scherie is like Ogygie or Circes island: Their world contains elements which link them both to the divine world and to the fairy tale world of Odysseus' travels. Magical features, such as ships which sail without steersmen viii.
The Phaeacians' particular relationship with the divine world is most ob- vious in the shared meals with the gods vii. Furthermore, they live in a permanent state of luxury and blessedness characterised by lack of strife. Alcinous and Arete are closely related, which may reflect the marital relation- ships of the gods. The royal palace shimmers with gold, silver, and bronze, and Alcinous' garden bears fruit in all seasons vii. Features which connect Scherie with the real world and places such as Pylos or Sparta are evident.
The Phaeacian town has a harbour and is surrounded by city walls. There is an agora and temples to the gods. The Phaeacians excel in their navigational skills, but they are also farmers. The description of Scherie has often been seen as that of a model Greek colony. See also Rose See Stanford; Garvie; Hainsworth It will here be argued that her position is to be interpreted as an element which associates Scherie with the fairy tale world rather than as a feature of the real world of the Odyssey.
Although this view of the profoundly misogynist nature of the Homeric poems may be exaggerated, it is clear that male and female roles were sharply defined and clearly distinguished, and that social and political power was part of the male sphere of activity. The abnormality of her position is particularly evident in the fact that she is even said to settle disputes among men.
In the Odyssey, female power is associated only with goddesses or non-hu- man beings such as Calypso, Circe and the Sirens.