The divine Twins

Scholars were long ago struck by the similarities between the Vedic Asvins, the Greek Dioskouroi, and the 'Sons of God' who often appear in the Lithuanian

71 It is applied to her and Night as sisters at 10. 70. 6, and to Night alone at AV 19. 47. 5. Cf. Schmitt (1967), 169-75.

72 Rhesa (1825), no. 78; G. H. F. Nesselmann, Litauische Volkslieder (Berlin 1853), no. 1; cf. W. Euler in Meid (1987), 44 f.

73 G. E. Dunkel, Die Sprache 34 (1988-90), 8 f. If Dawn could still be called AiFos BvyiiT^p in the Sub-Mycenaean period, this has the interesting implication that Zeus had not yet been firmly redefined as one of the younger gods, the sons of the Titans.

and Latvian songs.74 The common features are clear and the inference obvious. Three separate poetic traditions have preserved in recognizable form a pair of figures from MIE mythology or religion. There is a rare consensus among comparativists on this conclusion.

The Asvins are the subject of more than fifty hymns of the Rigveda. They are always referred to in the dual, Asvina or Asvinau, and do not have individual names. The word asvin- means 'having (to do with) horses', and these gods are notable for their constant travelling in a car drawn by horses that never weary (RV 7. 67. 8). They are also known as the Nasatya (or -au), which may mean 'Saviours', though this is disputed. The appellation goes back to Indo-Iranian times, as the Na-sa-at-ti-yas are among the treaty-gods of Mitanni, and the related form Naghai6ya appears as the name of a demon in the Avesta (Vd. 10. 9, 19. 43).

They are youthful gods (yuvana, RV 1. 117. 14; 3. 58. 7; 6. 62. 4; 7. 67. 10), even the youngest (TS 7. 2. 7. 2). They are Divo napata (1. 117. 12, 182. 1, 184. 1; 4. 44. 2; 10. 61. 4), which turns easily into Latin as Iouis nepotes. Napat- is 'grandson', or more generally 'progeny'; it is used in metaphorical expressions, as when gods are described as the napatah of abstract qualities such as force or strength. So it is not necessary to look for an intermediate generation between Dyaus and the Asvins, even if 'sons' would normally be expressed by snnavah or putrasah. In fact in one passage (1. 181. 4) one of the Asvins is said to be Divo .. . putrah and the other the son of Sumakha-, 'Good Warrior'. It is not clear whether this Sumakha is a god such as Indra, to whom the epithet is sometimes applied, or a mortal king.75

The Greek pair are usually called the Diosko(u)roi, meaning the Sons of Zeus, but sometimes the Tyndaridai, understood to mean 'sons of Tyndareos'. Tyndareos was a mortal king, the husband of Leda. Zeus visited her. According to some, the two boys, Castor and Polydeuces, were both fathered by Zeus, while others say that Polydeuces was Zeus' son and Castor Tyndareos'. They appear to mortals in the form of young men (iuuenes, Cic. De orat. 2. 353, De nat. deorum 2. 6).

Like the Asvins, they are much associated with horses. Castor has the

74 Cf. (among others) F. G. Welcker, Griechische Götterlehre, i (Göttingen 1857), 607; Mannhardt (1875), 309-14; L. Myriantheus, Die Açvins oder arischen Dioskuren (Munich 1876), 4653, 108-14, 118 f., 154, 175-80; von Schroeder (1914-16), ii. 438-58; Güntert (1923), 253-76; Ward (1968); Puhvel (1987), 59, 141-3, 228 f.; S. O'Brien in EIEC 161-5.

75 There are other references to their separate origins. At RV 5. 73. 4 they are said to have been born in different places, and the early Vedic commentator Yaska, Nirukta 12. 2, quotes a verse according to which they had different mothers, one of them being the son of Vasati ('Gloaming'?), the other of Usas. At RV 1. 46. 2 their mother is Sindhu, 'Stream'. On nâpat- cf. L. Renou, Études védiques etpaniniennes 7 (1960), 68; Dumézil (1968-73), iii. 21 n. 1, 23 f., 36.

formulaic epithet innoSapos 'horse-taming', and in the two Homeric Hymns addressed to the Dioskouroi they are rax^wv lm yropes "nnwv 'riders on swift steeds'.76 They 'travel over the broad earth and the whole sea on their swift-footed horses' (Alcaeus fr. 34. 5). Pindar (Ol. 3. 39) uses of them the epithet evinnoi, 'having good horses', which matches the suasva predicated of the Asvins (RV 7. 68. 1, cf. 69. 3). Their horses are always described as white; and the Asvins famously gave a white horse to the hero Pedu, who won ninety-nine victories with it.77 In another place (Pyth. 5. 10) Pindar speaks of 'gold-charioted Castor'. The Asvins' car too is golden (RV 4. 44. 4, 5; 5. 77. 3; 7. 69. 1; 8. 5. 35).

The Dioskouroi are celebrated and prayed to as saviours and rescuers from danger, especially at sea and in battle. In an anonymous verse they are invoked as w Zrjvos Kal AySas KaiXXiaroi awrypes, 'O (sons of) Zeus and Leda, finest saviours' (PMG 1027(c); cf. Trag. adesp. 14). The longer of the two Homeric Hymns (33) describes how sailors in a rough sea pray and sacrifice to them, and they come darting through the air on their wings (^ovdyiai nrepvyeaai) and calm the winds and waves. Alcaeus' prayer to them is very similar. Easily they come and rescue men from death, 'leaping from afar in brightness upon the masts of well-thwarted ships, in arduous night bringing light to the dark ship'.78 Legends tell of their appearing on battlefields to assist armies, for example for the Locrians at the river Sagra in the battle against Croton, and for the Romans at Lake Regillus.

The Asvins act in similar fashion. They are bright with fire, didiyagm (RV 1. 15. 11; 8. 57. 2). They bring light to men (1. 92. 17, 182. 3). 'That sustaining light, O Asvins, which brings us across the darkness, grant to us!' (1. 46. 6). They are puruscandra, 'much-gleaming' (8. 5. 32), as is their chariot (7. 72. 1); the attribute has been compared with the name of Polydeuces, interpreted as by dissimilation from noXvXevKys, 'very lucent'.79 They are winged (supama, 4. 43. 3).

They are rescuers (1. 112. 5-8, 116. 3-24, 117. 3-18), most prompt to come against misfortune (3. 58. 3). The hymnists list many legendary instances in which they saved persons from diverse predicaments. They have brought, and can yet bring, help in battle (1. 112. 14, 22; 116. 20 f.; 8. 8. 21, 35. 12). They

76 Hymn. Hom. 17. 5, 33. 18; cf. Alcman PMGF 2, Simon. eleg. 11. 30, Pind. Isth. 1. 17.

77 Pind. Pyth. 1. 66, Eur. Hel. 639, Cic. De nat. deorum 2. 6, Ov. Met. 8. 373; RV 1. 116. 6, 118. 9, 119. 10; 7. 71. 5; 10. 39. 10.

78 Alc. 34. 7-12. Cf. also Eur. El. 992 f., 1241 f., 1347-53, Hel. 1495-1505, 1664 f.; PMG 998 (= Pind. fr. 140c), 1004; Theoc. 22. 6-22, etc.

79 Durante (1976), 164 n. 7. For a different etymology of Polydeuces' name see R. Janko, Glotta 65 (1987), 69-72.

saved Bhujyu from drowning when he was abandoned in the sea at the ends of the earth (1. 116. 3-5, 117. 14 f., 119. 4, 8, 182. 5-7, etc.), and also Rebha, whom evil men had attacked and thrown into water. Their car comes from the ocean (samudrad, literally 'the gathered waters', 4. 43. 5); their horses were born in the waters (1. 184. 3).

The Baltic figures in whom we are interested are referred to as the Sons of God: in Lithuanian Dievo sunéliai, in Latvian Dieva deli. Their similarities to the Asvins and Dioskouroi appear initially in this title, and in the frequent references to their horses. Their number, where specified, fluctuates. They are two in LD 33766 and 34023 (Jonval nos. 413 and 102), but in certain other songs four or five, or only one; in the last case we may suspect the influence of Christianity. And because of Christianity it is not surprising that they do not have a religious but only a mythological status. They do not perform services for mankind or rescue them from perils. There may, however, be an echo of their ancient function in a song where they are urged to save the Daughter of the Sun from sinking in the sea:

La Fille de Saule traversait la mer, on ne voyait que sa couronne. Ramez la barque, Fils de Dieu, sauvez l'âme [var. la vie] de Saule!

They ride every morning to see the Sun (LD 33977, Jonval no. 390). The Asvins too are associated with the dawn: they (and their car) are pratarytlvana, 'early-morning-going' (RV 2. 39. 2; 5. 77. 1; 10. 40. 1, 41. 2), or pmtaryuja, 'early-morning-yoked' (1. 22. 1; 10. 41. 2). They accompany Usas, the Dawn goddess (1. 183. 2; 8. 5. 2); she is their sister (1. 180. 2) or friend (4. 52. 2 f.), born at the yoking of their car (10. 39. 12).

The Dioskouroi have no obvious connection with dawn or sunrise. But we shall see in the next chapter that their sister Helen corresponds in a most interesting way both to the Baltic Daughter of the Sun and to a Vedic Daughter of the Sun with whom the Asvins have much to do. We shall find that these figures are bound together in a mythical complex that confirms the identity of the Asvins, the Dioskouroi, and the Dieva deli beyond peradventure.

Dimmer traces of these Sons of *Dyeus may be recognized elsewhere with varying degrees of probability. In Greek myth, besides the Dioskouroi, who are particularly associated with Laconia, we can find other pairs of twins who have some of the right features. There are the Thebans Amphion and Zethos, who were sons of Zeus, had a local cult as divinities, and are called AevKonœAoi 'white-colt', 'Zeus' white colts', or even 'the white-colt

Dioskouroi'.80 There are also the famous Siamese twins Kteatos and Eurytos, the Molione: they too are XevKinnoi Kopoi, 'white-horse youths', and they were born from an egg, like Helen.81 Their divine father, however, was Poseidon, not Zeus. The same is true of the Apharetidai, Idas and Lynkeus, who appear in legend as rivals of the Tyndaridai and have been dubbed 'the Messenian Dioskouroi'.

Timaeus wrote that the Celts who lived by the Ocean venerated the Dios-kouroi above all other gods, having an ancient tradition of their having visited them from the Ocean.82 This was taken as evidence that the Argonauts (with whom the Dioskouroi sailed) had passed that way. But to us it recalls the Vedic conception of the Asvins' coming from the samudra-. Tacitus (Germ. 43. 3) reports that the Nahanarvali in Silesia had a grove sacred to two gods called the Alcis: they were brothers, and iuuenes, and identified with the Roman Castor and Pollux.83

Jan de Vries drew attention in this context to a number of Germanic legends of migrations and conquests led by pairs of princely brothers (and also to the danger of seeing Dioskouroi in every pair of brothers occurring in saga). One pair stands out among these: Hengist and Horsa, the fabled leaders of the Anglo-Saxon invasion of England, who came over the sea in response to a plea from the beleaguered British king Vortigern.84 They were descendants of Woden. Their names mean Stallion and Horse, and it seems significant that the same names, Hengist and Hors, were given to pairs of horses' heads that used to adorn farmhouse gables in Lower Saxony and SchleswigHolstein, perhaps a relic of pagan cult.

Further echoes of 'Dioskouric' myth have been sought in Irish and Welsh saga. Some of the material is certainly suggestive, but as it can hardly be said to add weight to the argument for the Indo-European myth, I will pass over the details, which the curious may explore elsewhere.85

80 Eur. HF29 f., Antiopefr. 223. 127 f., Phoen. 606; sch. Od. 19. 518 (Pherec. fr. 124 Fowler); cf. Hesych. 8 1929.

81 Ibycus PMGF 285. 1. In late sources the Dioskouroi themselves are born from the egg with Helen: see Gantz (1993), 321.

82 FGrHist 566 F 85 §4; de Vries (1956), ii. 247, thinks that the notice relates to Germans on the North Sea.

83 Tac. Germ. 43. 3. Cf. Grimm (1883-8), 66 f., 366, 1390; Schrader (1909), 39; Güntert (1923), 262 f.; R. Much, 'Wandalische Götter', Mitteilungen der Schlesischen Gesellschaft für Volkskunde 27 (1926), 20-9; id., Die Germania des Tacitus (Heidelberg 1937), 380 f.; de Vries (1956), ii. 247-55; Ward (1968), 42-5; bibliography, ibid. 122 f.

84 Principal sources in Clemen (1928), 40 f. (Bede), 55 (Nennius), 73 f. (William of Malmes-bury); cf. de Vries (1956), ii. 252 f.; Ward (1968), 54-6. For fuller discussion of other Germanic legends see Ward, 50-84; id. in Cardona (1970), 405-20.

85 See especially S. O'Brien, JIES 10 (1982), 117-36; id. in EIEC 161 f.

There are many artistic representations of twinned figures who might be interpreted as Dioskouric. They come from diverse countries and periods. From the third-millennium Cycladic civilization of the Aegean, which has Anatolian affinities, there is a figurine of two males closely conjoined in an embrace that seems mutually supportive, not erotic; they are presumably a significant pair of brothers. From the second and first millennia bce there are rock drawings and decorated bronze objects from Scandinavia, some of which show two figures in association with horses, a ship, and/or the sun.86 Artefacts from Luristan in western Iran from the first half of the first millennium depict the birth of twin deities from a sky- or sun-god.87 Urns from the La Tene period in east Silesia show riders of horses or stags linked in pairs by a crossbar; some have connected this with the ancient Spartan dokana, an arrangement of two parallel wooden beams joined by two crossbars, which represented the Dioskouroi and was supposed to symbolize their indissoluble fraternal love.88 A west Slavonic wooden effigy of the eleventh or twelfth century, from an island on the Tollense-See near Neubrandenburg, shows two conjoined male figures.89 And so forth.

Even without this penumbral evidence we have sufficient grounds for belief in a pair of MIE divine twins, the Sons of *Dyeus, who rode horses through the sky and rescued men from mortal peril in battle and at sea. If it be asked what sea the worshippers of these prehistoric divinities went down to in *nawes and sailed on and foundered in, the likely answer is the northern Black Sea or the Sea of Azov.

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