Monday, December 17, 2018

Agamemnon seen glancingly through Hesiod's readers

The Catalogue of Women was a rich epic treatment of famous and heroic women of antiquity. Attributed to Hesiod, only fragments have come down to us, mainly via mentions by a slew of ancient writers. The book was apparently known at least through the Hellenistic age and even in Byzantine times.

Clytaemnestra and Iphigeneia
Louis Billotey
Among the fragments one finds tantalizing tidbits that offer some background and depth to the story of Tyndareus, how he brokered the marriage of Helen, who among the great Greeks of the day sought to woo her, why Achilles was not the obvious choice (he was too young at the time), why Menelaos won out, and why Tyndareus's daughters both betrayed their husbands. 

Whether actually by Hesiod or no, the fragments have the flavor of learned epic gossip, rich in lore, serving to satisfy those who love all the ancient tales and are full of questions. For those curious about the tale of Helen, the poet has answers. Ovid clearly was in his debt.

For the Helen story, see fragments 67-70.

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