GYGES IN THE HOMERIC EPICS

The clarification of the importance of the figure of the Nymph Gygaia in relation to the right to the throne in Maionia and in Lydia allows us to throw a very decisive light on the problem of the date of the Homeric poems. It can be shown that the Iliad and the Odyssey contain clear references to the events of the early reign of Gyges of Lydia and coincide with the striking of the first coins in Ionia and the adoption by the Greeks of the Oriental system of weights.

Emile Mireaux1 has pointed out that the many and often forced references to Aigisthos' usurpation of Agamemnon's throne in the Odyssey are references to Gyges' usurpation of the Maionian throne. As we have seen, the Greeks were not so much impressed by Gyges' treachery against his former master as they were outraged by his marriage with the widowed queen, a step which not only was not immoral according to the customs of Lydia, but was necessary in order to make Gyges a king. It was natural therefore that the Greek mind should associate the action of Gyges with such stories as that of Klytemnaistra and Aigisthos or Penelope and the Suitors. These stories stressed the values of the patriarchal family organization in which it is no longer legitimate to kill the husband in order to succeed in his position. Since nobody has yet proved systematically that patriarchal institutions were a rather recent institution in Greece in the seventh century, many scholars will not accept Mireaux' contention that the myth of Klytemnaistra and Aigisthos has to do with the shift from matriarchal to patriarchal practices and that the stress put on this myth in the Odyssey was intended as a condemnation of Gyges' behavior. However, quite independently of Mireaux, I have found in the Iliad a much more direct reference to Gyges which reflects the same feeling of hostility in the poet. When Achilles enters the battlefield, the first person he slays is a warrior recognizable as Gyges (XX. 382-92):

First he slew Iphition, the son of Otrynteos, the valiant leader of a great host, whom a Naiad nymph bare to Otrynteos, sacker of cities, below snowy Tmolos and the rich land of Hyde. . . . And he fell with a thud and good Achilles exulted over him: Low thou liest, son of Otrynteos, of all men the most dread; here is thy death, though thy birth was by the Gygaian swamp where there is the precinct of your ancestors, beside fish-giving Hyllos and eddying Hermos.

Walter Leaf, who belongs to the analytic school of Homeric criticism, has declared without any hesitation this passage to be a later addition because of the exceptional richness of geographical details and because of the unusual hatred expressed against an unknown warrior. But the exact geographical references are to be expected if the passage was intended to be recognized as referring to a specific historical person. Achilles' unsportly outburst of hatred against Iphition is explainable if Iphition was actually "the most dread of all men" for Homer and his public. The linking of Iphition with the Gygaian Nymph and with the royal tombs of the Gygaian swamp makes clear that it can only be either a member of the Mermnad Dynasty or possibly of the preceding dynasty of the Herakleidai. The name Iphition, "Violent Avenger," well applies to Gyges who, as we have seen, killed one of the two brother kings of Maionia in order to avenge his father Daskylos. The father of Iphition is called "the valiant leader of a great host, sacker of cities," and Daskylos, as we have seen, had become famous as successful commander of the Maionian army and had distinguished himself in the capture of the city then called Daskyleion in his honor. The stress of the name of Otrynteos, mentioned three times in ten lines -- a fact that Leaf considered cause for suspicion -- must be understood as a reference to the title of .us tyrannos that became first known to the Greeks through Gyges. Prellwitz has explained the word turanno|s as derived from otrunw. I do not think that this is the correct etymology for a reason that I shall explain later, but since the Greeks understood the word .us tyrannos to mean a ruler whose power was based on the command of hoplite forces, it could well be associated by the Greeks with the word otrunw|, "to lead, to urge to battle." It is a verb very frequently used by Homer, even though rare in later Greek, and particularly used in the phrase.

Another reference to the Mermnad family is contained in the Catalogue of the Trojans (Iliad II 865-66): the Maionian army is listed as being led by two sons of Pulaimenes, or Talaimenes (the manuscript tradition is uncertain). In a passage of Nikolaos (fr. 18), in which the names have been badly mangled by historical and manuscript tradition, it is said that Tumenaios had two sons, Tantalos and Askalos. As Alexander has pointed out2 Askalos is a corruption of the name of Daskylos, Gyges' father. It is possible therefore that the two leaders of the Maionian army in the Catalogue are Gyges' father and uncle, the sons of Tumenaios. This would indicate that the Catalogue was written at an earlier date when the Maionian army was led by Daskylos and his brother. Scholars usually agree on the point that the Catalogue of the Trojans is an intrusion in the text of the Iliad. What has just been said would support the contention of Leaf that it was composed of older materials.

The supposition that the Catalogue is older than the rest of the Iliad is confirmed by the fact that Miletos is described in it as a Karian city. The fact that at the Dydumaion of Miletos there have not been found remains that can be dated earlier than the seventh century may indicate that it was not a Greek city before that century. According to Diodoros the period of Karian thalassocracy extended from 732 to 671 B.C., and it is quite likely that the Karians controlled Miletos in the period of their maritime expansion. The reported dates for the earliest Milesian colonies are 676/5 B.C. for Kyzikos and 670 B.C. for Abydos, and hence it is conceivable that Miletos became a Greek city not much earlier. The Catalogue lists Abydos as a Trojan city (II 836). This fact further supports the contention that it was written a few years before the rest of the .us Iliad. Arnaldo Momegliano has argued that the mention of the twelve sons of Neleios in the Iliad (XI. 692) must be understood as a reference to the twelve Greek cities of the Ionian league, of which Miletos was one. This indicates that at the time of the writing of the Iliad Miletos had become a Greek city and had joined the Ionian league.

The hostility of Homer against Gyges is expressed also in ignoring the oracle of Delphoi, so friendly towards Gyges. Similarly the city of Ephesos, which was closely linked with Gyges, is ignored by the poet, even though he knows and mentions the valley of Kaystros (Iliad II. 461) in which the city was located. The reasons for the hostility of Homer against Gyges are easy to find. First of all, as Mireaux points out, at the time of Homer an actual Trojan War was being fought between Lydia and the Aeolian cities in the Propontis.

The kings of Ionia and those of Phrygia had reasons for fearing Gyges. Not only had he done away with the kingdom of Maionia, a vassal of Phrygia, but he established, in a territory formerly loosely controlled in a feudal manner by the Herakleidai, a centralized state based on aggressive military power. The data I have collected about Daskylos and his conquest of Daskyleion indicate that the Mermnadai had started this war when they were still generals of the Herakleidai of Maionia. The political and military power of the Mermnadai was based on their skill in the use of mercenary hoplites; we shall see how this military technique was the foundation of that new form of rule called tyranny. For this reason the military and political practices of the Mermnadai threatened at its very roots the way of life and the power of the aristocratic social class for whom Homer speaks.

There are also more specific reasons for Homer's hostility against Gyges. Mireaux stresses the friendship between the poet and Kolophon which is indicated by the great role assigned in the poems to Nestor of Pylos. It is a fact that the Thespiodes of the sanctuary of Klarion at Kolophon intermarried with the dynasty of the Herakleidai that Gyges had overthrown; it is also a fact that Klarion was in competition with the Artemision of pro-Lydian Ephesos. Gyges had a particularly strong bond with Ephesos, which became the main center of Lydian economic activities on the coast. Radet suggests the possibility that Melas the Elder, lord of Ephesos, advanced to Gyges the money necessary to hire the mercenaries for his coup against Kandaules. Herodotos reports that as soon as Gyges came to power he unsuccessfully attacked Miletos, Kolophon, and Kyme; this campaign may have been his way of showing his thankfulness to Ephesos.

But the best explanation of the hatred against Gyges is to be found in Homer's link with Kyme. Aristotle states that possibly the first coins were struck by Demodike of Kyme who had married Midas, king of Phrygia, and had by him a son named Agamemnon. According to Eusebios, this Midas died in 696 B.C. The pseudo-Herodotean Life of Homer states that Homer when in Kyme wrote an epitaph for Midas. This indicates that Homer was believed to have been in Kyme at the time of Midas' death and to have had through Kyme a link with the royal family of Phrygia. Agamemnon was one of the names used in this family, and it must be in their honor that Homer calls the leader of the Greeks at Troy Agamemnon. This suggests that the namesake of the Agamemnon of the Iliad was either the son of Demodike, or possibly his grandfather, who could have had the same name.

The lords of Kyme who intermarried with the royal family of Maionia had reasons to be hostile to the Lydian usurper. This would explain why the brother of the king slain by Gyges fled to Kyme and was expected from there to work for an Herakleid restoration.

But the people of Kyme had a more immediate and personal reason to dislike Gyges since, according to Radet and Picard, he caused the terminus of the Royal Road leading from Mesopotamia to the Aegean Coast through Sardis to shift to Ephesos, whereas before it had ended at Kyme, which is its most natural outlet according to geography. This deviation of the road from Kyme to Ephesos indicates also what was the geographical factor in a conflict between Lydia and Kyme, since Kyme blocked the outlet to the sea of the Hermos valley, which was the very center of Lydia. The loss of the trade of the Royal Road must have been a terrific blow to the prosperity of Kyme and of Phrygia. That this contention by two distinguished scholars of the history of the area is correct is indicated by the fact, noticed by Glotz, that at the time of Gyges Kyme ceased to be a thriving maritime center and sank into the state of an agricultural center. The sudden stunting of the economic life of Kyme may explain why Hesiod's father had to abandon his profession of sea trader in Kyme and try to eke out a living as a farmer in Boiotia.

We have seen how Kyme was the place where the surviving king of Maionia had fled and from where he vainly plotted for the restoration of the Herakleidai. I agree with Mireaux that the lines of the Odyssey (III 196-98), in which Nestor exclaims in referring to Orestes' vengeance of his father: "How good a thing is it that a son be left behind a man at his death, since that son took vengeance on his father's slayer," express Homer's desire that an avenger of the slain Herakleid king be found. But this reference does not lead to Kolophon, but to Kyme, where actually a brother of the slain king of Maionia was living in exile.

The fact that Homer prays for a Heraclid restoration and pins his hopes on the refugee of Kyme indicates that Mireaux is wrong in assuming that Homer wrote after Gyges' death in 652 B.C. That in the Odyssey Homer gloats over Aegisthos' death does not prove that Gyges was dead but only that Homer wished for his death. The same can be said about the slaying of Iphition in the Iliad. Homer would have spoken in different terms if he had seen the Lydian usurper consolidated in power and succeeded by his son after thirty-five years of reign. Mireaux's reason for adopting this lower date for the composition of the Odyssey is that he made some good remarks about the historical background of Odysseos' adventures in Ithaka, but interpreted them hastily and without going to the bottom of the problem.

Mireaux is right in identifying Ithaka with the island of Leukas, but the city of Ithaka is not to be identified with the town of Leukas in which a Korinthian colony was established by Kypselos around 650 B.C. The city Ithaka was located in the Bay of Vasiliki, and was a joint Korinthian and Kerkyrean colony; it was superseded by the Korinthian colony of Leukas after the break between Korinth and her colony of Kerkyra that led to the naval battle of 664 B.C. I shall discuss this material at great length in another work.

Mireaux is also right in pointing out that the plot of the Odyssey is connected with a ceremony in which each year at the festival of Apollo a stranger was thrown into the sea at Cape Leukadas. I shall try to demonstrate that the beggar thrown down from Cape Leukadas was a shipwrecked foreigner who was brought from Kerkyra to Ithaka, conducted in procession from Port Sybota ("the pig farms") to Ithaka, made a king for a night and a day on the last day of the year, and then thrown down from Cape Leukadas. As the ceremony can be reconstructed from the Odyssey, since it is the Kerkyreans, that is, the Phaiakians, that have the task of starting the procession by carrying the scapegoat (pharmakos) to Kerkyra, it follows that the poem was written when Ithaka was still a Kerkyrean colony. The settlers of Ithaka were ejected when Kypselos who became a tyrant of Corinth in 657 B.C. sent a colony to the city of Leukas in the same island. Mireaux contradicts himself when he states that the Odyssey reflects Kypselos' policy of development of the island of Leukas as a substitute for the loss of Kerkyra, on the way to Italy. He has himself pointed out that Homer is a consistent enemy of tyranny and of all the social changes that accompany tyranny.

In conclusion, the Odyssey was written after the accession of Gyges to the throne in 687 B.C. and before the naval battle between Korinth and Kerkyra in 664 B.C. The Iliad too was written after Gyges' usurpation. Perhaps the gap in time can even be further narrowed if one gives importance to the stress put in the Odyssey (III. 305-06) on the fact that Aigisthos was triumphant for seven years but was punished in the eighth year; from this one might draw the conclusion that Homer, who is particularly fond of prophecies, was predicting a similar length of reign for Gyges. In such a case the Odyssey would have been put in its final form within seven years of the accession of Gyges, i.e., ca. 680 B.C.

References

1. Les poemes homeriques et l'histoire grecque (Paris, 1948-49).

2. Op. cit.,p. 47.