Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Youthful Indiscretion

In the third book of the Iliad, Hector goes out between the two armies to announce that Alexander will fight with Menelaos to settle the dispute over Helen. At the end of his response, Menelaos says (3.108-110):
αἰεὶ δ᾽ ὁπλοτέρων ἀνδρῶν φρένες ἠερέθονται:
οἷς δ᾽ ὁ γέρων μετέῃσιν ἅμα πρόσσω καὶ ὀπίσσω
λεύσσει, ὅπως ὄχ᾽ ἄριστα μετ᾽ ἀμφοτέροισι γένηται.

[The minds of young men are always wavering; but in whatever an old man shall undertake he looks both backwards and forwards, so that the very best comes to pass for both sides.]

This is a nice passage on maturity, and I especially like the phrase φρένες ἠερέθονται. Aristarchus removed these lines because, according to Kirk, "they provide a kind of excuse for Priam's sons." It doesn't seem to me to excuse anything. Kirk goes on to say: "Proverbial material is quite often worked into Homeric speeches, not always with complete appropriateness, when a sententious effect seems justified, so that Aristarchus' objection is clearly overdone."

The word ἠερέθονται is developed from ἀείρω, to raise, and means to hang floating or waving in the air, or metaphorically, to be blown about in the wind, to be unsteady, unstable, fickle. The D Scholiast glosses: ἀπαιωροῦνται, κρέμανται, οἷον οὐκ εἰσὶν σταθεραί, αλλ' ἀβέβαιοι.


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