Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Hera's Vengeful Plans

At Prometheus Bound 599-601, Io says:
σκιρτημάτων δὲ νήστισιν αἰκείαις
λαβρόσυτος ἦλθον, [Ἥρας]
ἐπικότοισι μήδεσι δαμεῖσα.

[With hunger pains of bounds I came rushing furiously, having been brought low by the vengeful schemes of Hera.]

Of Ἥρας Griffith writes: "two syllables are needed for responsion to 581. From 592 Ἥραι στυγητός, and a scholion to 600 δαμασθεῖσα μήδεσι καὶ βουλεύμασι τῆς Ἥρας, Hermann supplied Ἥρας."

The use of the genitive σκιρτημάτων confuses me. Griffith describes it as "(outrages consisting) of leaps, suggesting the movement of a heifer rather than of a human." I thought perhaps this genitive was one of cause or explanation, based on lines 571-573, where Griffith says of νῆστιν, "she is never allowed to pause to eat":
ἀλλά με τὰν τάλαιναν
ἐξ ἐνέρων περῶν κυνηγετεῖ, πλανᾷ
τε νῆστιν ἀνὰ τὰν παραλίαν ψάμμον.

[But, passing from the dead ones, he hunts me, the wretched one, and drives me hungry along the sands of the shore.]

The sense being that the hunger pains were caused by the constant leaping in fear. But still neither of these readings seem clear to me.

When I looked at the details of μήδεσι (line 601) in the dictionary, I was surprised to see that, in addition to the meaning of schemes, plans, etc., it can also mean genitals. It is interesting that the scholiast mentioned above thought it necessary to gloss this μήδεσι καὶ βουλεύμασι. The word δαμεῖσα is used of being subdued or conquered, or of the gods bringing someone low, and is used of animals, being tamed, brought under the yoke, which is appropriate to Io's situation here as ἡ βούκερως παρθένος. It is also used of being seduced or of a girl becoming subject to a husband. That reminded me of the word ὀπυίειν, which is used in the passive of girls being married, but it also carried a sexual connotation, according to Bain's article. I wonder if any of this would have entered the mind of the audience, contemplating Hera's sexual jealousy, and her domineering reputation.


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