Erosgenealogies as a proof for a complex and noncultic origin

The great number of different parentages invented for Eros by the lyric poets also have to be interpreted as attempts to mythologize Eros and integrate him into the sphere of the Olympian deities (see Appendix, Fig. 2).135 I suggest that the diverse genealogies are poetic responses to the various influences and constituents which shaped the image of Eros. The different genealogies also reflect the idea of Eros' participation in the cosmogonic process on the one hand, and his identity as a personification representing an aspect of Aphrodite's sphere on the other. As such he came closer to the Olympian divinities and was thus related to the goddess of love (see Plates 6, 7 and 8).136 The contexts in which Eros' various pedigrees are transmitted show that in the Greek world poets and prose writers traditionally invent ad-hoc parentages of a god according to different contexts and genres.137 The variety of genealogies of Eros can be categorized as "no parentage", "cosmic parents" or "Olympian parents", according to the prevailing aspect and role of the god.

Although Aristophanes' statement in Plato's Symposium that there were no cults of Eros in Greece (189c4-8) is confirmed by epigraphical and icono-graphical evidence, Phaedrus' claim (178b2-11) that no prose writer or poet ever referred to any parents of Eros can easily be disputed if we consider literary sources other than Hesiod, Acusilaus and Parmenides, the authorities cited by Phaedrus.138 The reason why Phaedrus refers to them is that all three in fact place Eros among the first non-generated principles in their concepts. These writers, then, give no parents and can thus support Phaedrus' own arguments in his speech that Eros is among the oldest of deities and responsible for the greatest blessings to mankind.139

This, however, seems to conflict with the plethora of parentages given by other authors to Eros, who even point out the difficulty of fixing Eros' genealogy, since there are so many of them. These sources imply that this variety already existed in the Archaic period, and none of them finds anything remarkable in this. Pausanias (9,27,3), after referring to three different parentages, shows that one and the same poet can provide different genealogies of Eros: Sappho (in her poems) sang "many things not in agreement with each other concerning Eros" (Zan^w 5s ^ Asa^ta noWa ts Kai oux o^oXoyouvta aAAr|Aoiq sq "Epwta r|ias).140 Besides, in the Hellenistic period Theocritus utters doubts at the beginning of Idyll 13 about Eros' parents: addressing Nikias he says that not for them alone "did (the god), whichever one it was who had this son, beget Eros" (oux tov "Epwta ^ovoiq £Tsx', wq ¿SoKsu^sq, / NiKia, wtivi touto 9sa>v noKa tskvov sysvTo).141 This motif, implying multiple claims for parentage, is playfully reinterpreted by the poet of a Hellenistic epigram, Meleager (Anth. Pal. 5,177): since Eros is such an exhausting child, nobody wants to be his father.

Sappho's different genealogies of Eros may be reconstructed from the scholium on Argonautica 3,26b (216 Wendel); it refers to a variety of parents of Eros and says that Sappho traces Eros' pedigree back to Gaia and Uranus.142 The scholium on Theocritus Id. 13,1/2 c (258 Wendel), however, claims that the poetess made him the son of Aphrodite and Uranus.143 Two things are remarkable: Sappho seems to have been the first we know of to call Eros explicitly "son of Aphrodite" and thus to relate him genetically to the younger Olympian sphere. On the other hand, the place of Eros in the primordial cosmogonic tradition is echoed by the parenthood of Heaven in both versions and that of Earth in one. Eros' descent from Gaia and Uranus has been linked with the Orphic idea that Eros comes out of the cosmic egg (which is imagined to have been then divided into Heaven and Earth).144 One could, however, also interpret it as a poetic attempt to place Eros among the first concrete and visible primordial entities, without assuming that Sappho had a particular cosmogonic version in mind. But one could not exclude the possibility that this genealogy could also be an ad-hoc invention inspired by the idea of Heaven making love to Earth, as depicted in the Theogony.

When, elsewhere, Sappho makes Eros the child of Aphrodite and Uranus, she may also be inspired by Hesiod's Theogony, although this was perhaps not her only source. Hesiod's Eros, when he makes his second appearance, is subordinated to Aphrodite as her attendant, not as her son. The ideas which may have led to this poetic concept are hard to disentangle, but it is this complexity which again reflects that the figure of Eros is embedded and rooted in different contexts. The combination of Uranus, Aphrodite and Eros is significant, since they have in common an ambiguity which is based on different mythic accounts and traditions. With reference to the Theogony, Eros is given a cosmic, non-anthropomorphic father and a mother who is of ambiguous origin. On the one hand, she is conceived of as being a beautiful young woman; after her birth, she approaches the sphere of the Olympian gods (Theogony 191f.). There Aphrodite is depicted as in the Iliad: the daughter of Zeus, anthropomorphic goddess of love. The timai attributed to her later (Theogony 201f.) define her province among the Olympians. But another version of her myth, which is suggested by her birth from the foam of Uranus' testicles in the Hesiodic version—itself probably a reflection of her cult-epithet Oupavia—links her to her Phoenician predecessor Ishtar-Astarte, the Queen of Heaven and spouse of the King of Heaven. Thus the parentage of Uranus and Aphrodite can be interpreted as the Greek version of the Phoenician couple of Heaven. Being personified and related to each other as a pair, they are suited to functioning as parents of a personified Eros. On the other hand, Uranus shares with Eros his ambiguous identity: in cosmogonic accounts they have a traditional place and function as amorphic primordial entities. However, in cosmic accounts other than the Theogony, Eros is also older than Uranus, who usually is of the same generation as Oceanus and/or Gaia.145

The association of Aphrodite and Eros as portrayed by Hesiod can also be interpreted as a reflection of the poetic tendency to subordinate aspects of Olympians as their attendants or children. This last step, however, is carried out by Sappho, who is the first to bring Eros and Aphrodite into a genealogical relationship and makes him at least a half-Olympian. When Eros appears twice in the Theogony at two different chronological stages, this may reflect Hesiod's attempt to combine two diverging facets of Eros.

When mythologizing Eros, Alcaeus too invented a poetic genealogy suggestive of a Near-Eastern idea. The fact that Eros, as a cosmic element, is associated with the winds seems to be reflected in the father. The mother given to Eros here confirms, however, the assumption that poetic fancy has a tendency to relate pre-personified concepts to an already existing, fully developed mythological figure with similar functions and attributes. Alcaeus (fr. 327 V.), in a hymn, makes Eros the son of Iris and Zephyrus:146

SavotaTov 9swv, <tov> YsvvaT' simsSiAoq TIpiq

XpuooKo^ai Zs^upwi ^Lyeim.

This parentage is striking: Homer in the Iliad clearly distinguishes between Ipiq the "rainbow" and TIpiq the messenger-goddess by means of different epithets for each: Ipiq, the "rainbow", is simply "dark red", nop^upsr|.147 The attributes of Tpiq refer either to the swiftness of her movements, when the poet calls her "swiftfooted" (noSr|V£^oq) and "stormfooted" (asAAonoq),148 or they are related not to the swiftness, but the color of her other means of movement, the wings: she is Tpiq xpuCTontspoq, the "golden-winged" Iris.149

Although Iris' wings are not mentioned in the fragment by Alcaeus—for she is simsSiAoq, "well-sandalled"—I would assume that it is this attribute of the golden wings which occurs in epic, that makes the genealogical link between Iris and Eros. The winged image of Iris seems to be a traditional mythical motif because her first documented appearance in iconography is as early as the late 7th century BC. A metope found at Thermos and dated circa 620 BC shows Iris with traces of wings on her shoulders.150 The depiction of Iris as a winged female deity is by far the most conventional. When Eros, too, has golden wings, it could be due to his association with Iris in a similar function, as suggested by the Iliad. Interpreted as an erotic personification, his function and activity can be also seen to be that of a messenger, flying (on golden wings) and thus mediating between the world of the Olympians and the world of men. In this case the golden wings of Eros would be a poetic inheritance from other mythological figures with whom he shares distinctive characteristics: apart from Iris also Hypnos and Thanatos, as we have seen earlier. Another possibility, however, is that Eros was associated with Iris as a consequence of having golden wings. However, we have no evidence for this before Anacreon.151

So, if it is the common attribute of the golden wings which inspired Alcaeus to bring Iris and Eros into genealogical relationship, what could relate Eros to Zephyrus and Zephyrus to Iris? It has been argued above that the Near-Eastern idea of cosmic desire being associated with the winds had repercussions on the Greek image of Eros. One of the winds is therefore predestined to become the mythical father of Eros. Like Iris, Zephyrus (and the other winds Notus and Boreas) is already personified in the Iliad and the Theogony, as he has parents and offspring.152 In the Theogony (378f.) he is the son of Astraios and Eos and brother of Notus and Boreas; in the Iliad (16,149ff.) Zephyrus together with the Harpy Podagre engenders Achilleus' horses Xanthus and Balius. In Hymn. Hom. VI,1-4. Zephyrus is related to the love-deity Aphrodite. He is imagined as having brought Aphrodite in her soft foam to Cyprus. It is probably by virtue of his being a warm and humid wind that he is related to deities of reproduc-tion.153 In addition Zephyrus' association with light might have led Alcaeus to see him as an ideal father and husband of golden winged creatures.154

It becomes clear that Alcaeus also tries to make Iris and Zephyrus appear as mythological figures and as concrete and personified as possible by emphasizing physical details: Iris is wearing beautiful sandals and Zephyrus is "golden-haired". When Zephyrus is called xpuaoKo^n? in the Alcaeus fragment, he is close to being an anthropomorphic Olympian. xpuaoK6|r|? is a common epithet for male gods in erotic contexts.155 Dionysus is xpuaoK6|r|? when he makes Ariadne his wife (see Hes. Theog. 947), and in Pindar it is a frequent epithet of Apollo.156 In Alcaeus, "golden-haired" is an appropriate epithet for Zephyrus too, because the West wind is associated with light and he is the lover or husband of a goddess whose brightness is indicated by her golden wings. However, since xpuaoK6|r|? is such a common epithet for male gods, Anacreon need not have had Alcaeus' genealogy in mind when he made Eros xpuaoK6|r|? too (358 PMG), depicting him as a ball-playing youth:157

a^aipr|i Sr|ut£ nop^up^i PaXXwv xpuooKo^n? "Epwq.

A. Broger rightly states that the association of Iris and Zephyrus is a poetic invention, a "Dichtereinfall". However, considering the developments which created this poetic genealogy, it seems unlikely that Alcaeus was simply inspired by a "Wettererlebnis" during which the rain appeared golden in the sunshine—the combination which creates ipiq, the rainbow.158 It has been shown that the background is far more complex than this facile meteorological allegory. Moreover, although it explains the match between Iris and Zephyrus, it is not at all clear why the personifications of two weather phenomena should have become parents of Eros. To make this comprehensible, one has to see Iris first of all as a winged messenger goddess.

Simonides, a hundred years later, makes Eros the son of Ares and Aphrodite (575 PMG).159 He is then the "wicked child" of "wily Aphrodite and Ares", who is "contriving wiles":

CTxstXis nai SoAo^Ssoq A^poSitaq, tov 'Apr|i t8o\o^nx^VWL tsksv.

1 5o\o|ir|5£oq Rickmann (Diss. Rostoch. 1884 p. 36) : 5o\6|ir|S£c; cod. L.

2 5o\o|nx®vwl codd. : KaKo|iax&v«i Bergk : 9paau|iax&v«i Wilamowitz : 5o\o|ixavov Davies

The two lines have been considered corrupt for several reasons.160 There can be, however, no doubt that this is a poetic genealogy different in type from the one created by Alcaeus. Whereas he makes Eros' parents reminiscent of the latter's origins as a cosmic element and relates him to a goddess similar in looks and functions, Simonides simply makes him the result of a well-known mythical love story of which the Odyssey (8,266-366.) gives a humorous account: the affair between Ares and Aphrodite, who is unfaithful to her husband Hephaestus.161 When Eros is the son of Aphrodite and Ares, he is somehow a romantic result, a poetic instalment of a traditional mythical love story. By relating Eros genetically to Aphrodite and Ares, Simonides at the same time makes him (although illegitimate by birth) a legitimate member of the Olympian family. The possibility cannot be excluded that a similar poetic attempt had been made earlier by Ibycus. The scholium on Argonautica 3,26b (216 Wendel) seems also to have mentioned a genealogy by Ibycus (fr. 324 PMGF). As the text is unfortunately badly preserved, we do not learn who the parents were there.162 It is suggested by other fragments (286 and 287 PMGF) that Ibycus probably made Aphrodite Eros' mother. However, whether U. v. Wilamowitz' widely accepted conjecture in which he makes Hephaestus Eros' father ("I^uko^ <5s A^poSitn? Kai 'H^aiCTtou>) is correct or not, cannot be proved. In Archaic lyric poetry there is definitely already an overt tendency to mythologize Eros as an Olympian god by relating him to Aphrodite (see Plate 7).

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