Concealed Greatness of Achilles (试发表)

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Exekias. Achilles killing Penthesilea. Attic black-figure Amphora. c. 675 B.C. British Mus
Exekias. Achilles killing Penthesilea. Attic black-figure Amphora. c. 675 B.C. British Mus
Concealed Greatness of Achilles Achilles is shown in the Iliad as an impetuous, fierce and hard hero, or ‘the archetype of this kind of heroic figures’, as Rosati puts it (Rosati 1994, pp. 1-2.). However, the Iliad only emphasizes one part of the legendary figure that came from a very ancient time. As the myth of the Trojan War was in the course of being fully developed, the figure had also taken more and more facets to be completely constructed. Apart from the account reported in the Iliad, in the extant fragments of the Epic Cycle we also have that the ruthlessness is the most important characteristic of Achilles: although we have very few fragments, the argument of the Trajan Cycle of Proclus records that many victories of the hero are narrated in the Cypria and the Aethiopis. We may deduce from these accounts that the whole ancient tradition of the hero’s main characteristic accords with that is emphasized by the Iliad. This was also what was passed to the Roman poets. However, when the legend had been passed to Statius at last, he decided to write an epic of the full life of Achilles instead of only the wars in which the hero had taken part. In order to do this, Statius had to give a full account of the hero with many more aspects other than mere fierceness. Thus, in the Achilleid we have Achilles’ childhood, education, love story and a very deep portrayal of the inner world of the hero. Although we have the intriguing details and various depictions of a youth in his tender years, we must not be misguided, since the essential part of the hero is still the one which the Iliad had emphasized. Indeed, there is no doubt that the Achilles in the Achilleid is very different from that of the Iliad, but the core is still his ruthlessness and the cruelty in battles. Although hidden by Thetis in Scyros, Achilles’ eager for war and his heroic quality keep jutting out. Therefore, I will try to demonstrate in this paper that the extant part of the Achilleid is mainly to serve to illustrate this essential characteristic of Achilles, which is Statius’ main goal. Athough in the cover of a girl, Achilles’ being the greatest hero is still the chief topic for Statius to discuss. 1. The Training of Achilles (a Reading of the Achilleid 2. 96-167) We don’t have much detailed depiction of the early life of the hero in the Iliad and the Epic Cycle. All that we know from Homer is that Achilles was reared and taught by Phoenix (Il. 9. 485-7) while Cheiron taught him only the art of healing (Il. 11. 832). This account is very different from that of the Achilleid. In the Achilleid, Cheiron is the only teacher and rearer of Achilles. In lines 96-167, Achilles tells about the four stages of his education: upbringing from infancy, hunting, fighting, healing art and justice. All in all, there are two stages, one is the skill to fight on the battlefield (upbringing, hunting and fighting), the second one is the means to manage people. Therefore, these stages of training or education serve to achieve goals subsequently. The first one is to make him physically powerful, including his unusual food and all kinds of physical training; the second one is to make him swift and accurate in pursuing his victims; the third one is to make him more powerful than and overpower people who are powerful; the last one is to make him be able to manage people. These stages tell us that the goal of his education is to let him attain power: the first was his physical power (96-103, 107-19), and then mental power (104-5, nec ... trepidare), including the love of warfare (106-7, iam tunc arma manu, iam tunc cervice pharetrae, et ferri properatus amor), namely power over himself; the second was the power over hard natural circumstances and beasts (120-8), which is the power over nature and those who are inferior than himself; the third was his power over warriors like himself (129-56); the fourth was his power over a great number of people (159-67), presumably those whom he has overcome, first physically (159-61, the healing art), then psychologically and socially (161-65, giving legal and moral laws). The first three stages of the education of Achilles are a typical Spartan one. The fourth stage’s goal is to train a leader and ruler. We should take note that this stage is initiated by training in musical and poetic skills, whose purpose is to gain harmony in his own mind before giving laws and harmony to his people. Furthermore, Achilles thinks these training as the greatest toil of all (156-7, nec maior in istis sudor). We may deduce that this is because Achilles, as the greatest hero, cannot only be the best fighter, but also the greatest leader. Here I want to compare Achilles’ education with that of Heracles reported in the Library of pseudo-Apollodorus (Pseudo-Apollodorus, 2. 4. 9). In the ancient stages of the development of the Heracles myth, the hero was depicted as a leader and a ruler of people, whereas Heracles became a lonely wandering hero after the legend had been developed into its classical form: the account recorded in the Library is the most representative one. In the report of the Library, Heracles has every skill of warfare taught by the best ones of each skill (Amphitryon of chariot, Autolycus of wrestling, Eurytus of shooting, Castor of fencing). The first three stages are completed in a most successful manner, however, the course of the education of Heracles stops suddenly with the musical and poetic training. (“... and to play the lyre by Linus. This Linus was a brother of Orpheus; he came to Thebes and became a Theban, but was killed by Hercules with a blow of the lyre; for being struck by him, Hercules flew into a rage and slew him.” (translated by Sir James George Frazer)) Therefore, the fourth stage is not completed, thus we have now the classical feature of Heracles that he is a lonely wanderer performing tasks and completing deeds on his own, unlike Achilles, who leads soldiers as a leader and manages people as a ruler. From Achilles’ report (2. 96-167) of his education, we see the seed of his own glory (laudum semina), his utter glory. This is because we know from this passage that the hero had already gained the greatest power before he had gone to the island of Lycomedes. (One little point that does not relate to my topic: we may compare the life of old Cheiron to that of Achilles, if he had lived to an old age. Just like Heracles, Achilles’ fighting skills were taught by the best, except that Cheiron was the best one of all those skills, including ruling people. However, Cheiron, in his old age, lives a peaceful and lonely life. Would that be the same to Achilles if he had lived that long?) The great hero has already completed the best preparation for his future glory and we may even expect an even greater hero than that in the Iliad in the latter part of the Achilleid. 2. Achilles’ Imaginative Father There is a figure missing in the Achilleid, who is in the Apollonius bit of the story, Chariclo, the wife of Cheiron. I think this is important for the upbringing and education of Achilles: the missing of a mother figure (who doesn’t leave her child in their early years) plays an important role in the Achilleid. In this way, before he had reached the Scyros Island, Achilles met no female apart from his mother, and even his mother, we may tell from the text, he only meets very occasionally. As I have demonstrated in the former part, Achilles had already been well developed as a great hero and the ideals he has do not include living a soft life with women. The life with his beloved Deidamia does not suffice to keep him living in peace forever; at most, she could only detain him for a little while. The missing of a mother figure in the upbringing of Achilles also emphasizes the importance of his father figures. Although he has many father figures in his early life (Peleus, Chiron, Lycomedes and Zeus, in his imagination), there is no doubt that the most important one in the hero’s mind is Zeus. This is clearly the invention of Statius: As Heslin demonstrates, Statius invented a novel scenario to combine the Homeric and the Apollonian versions of Achilles’ upbringing, in which he made Thetis responsible for Achilles and Cheiron bring him up from infancy. This scenario puts Peleus far away from Achilles childhood, thus we can understand better the role of “father Zeus” which is in Achilles’ mind. Achilles’ ambition is to become the greatest and thus he regrets very much that he is not the son of Zeus himself. Thetis knows this thought of Achilles very much, therefore when she was trying to persuade him to take a hide in the Scyros Island, she picked up this point that because of the mortality of his father, he should just give in (1. 256-7). However, Achilles could never accept that he is not the son of Zeus. We can see this in Achilles speech both to Deidamia and to Lycomedes. In the speech to Deidamia (1. 651-56), Achilles promises her grandchildren who has a bloodline directly from the heaven. While in his speech to Lycomedes (1. 892-910), although he does not mention Zeus, Achilles takes a really strong position in front of the old king and even gives direct command to him (1. 908, iam socer es, etc.). We must note that Achilles is addressing to a king here, he would have to be no less than a god to give orders to a king like Lycomedes dependent to no other mortal. This can be the case only when Achilles really thinks that he is the son of Zeus himself. We may deduce that in the Achilleid, Statius is trying to explain the anger of Achilles by his ambition to surpass every mortal. This kind of ambition can be therefore explained by his imagination that Zeus is his father. This ambition can never be suppressed in Scyros. 3. The Hero in His Puberty Achilles’ attitude towards Thetis is another interesting topic. After Thetis had unilaterally broken up with Peleus and did not bring Achilles up herself, as what a mother should do, (Though Homer knows nothing of it (in Homer, Achilles was brought up by Peleus and Thetis, who might be a better mother, Il. XVIII 86, 332, 441), some says that Peleus observed Thetis at night while she held the infant Achilles over a fire or in a cauldron of boiling water, in order to destroy in him the mortal parts. Struck by terror, Peleus screamed and thus Thetis was prevented from completing her work. She therefore quitted his house, and returned to the Nereides. (Apollon. Rhod. Argo. I 553-558, IV 865-879). The classical version of the story is that then Peleus took the infant Achilles to Cheiron, who brought him up. (Apollon. Rhod. Argo. 1. 553-558, Apollod. 3. 13. § 6.) According to Homer, Achilles was reared by Phoenix (Il. 9. 485-7) while Cheiron taught him only the art of healing. (Il. 9. 832).) and according to the story of Achilles’ infancy told in some other sources, she nearly kills him. (Later writers state that before Achilles, Thetis had already destroyed six children, of whom she was the mother by Peleus, and that as she attempted the same with Achilles, her seventh child, she was prevented by Peleus. (Lycophron Alexandra 178 with the scholium of Tzetzes)) Having this in mind, we may be able to explain why Achilles was “a little hesitant, or rather constrained” (ambiguus paulum pripiorque coacto) and did not answer one of the questions of Diomedes, which is about Achilles’ beginning of his first nature (elementaque primae | indolis). Achilles’ affection to his mother is also very questionable: the last words of the whole work are meaningful (scit cetera mater “my mother knows the rest”). This phrase can be explained by many passages in the first book, such as what we can tell from 1. 195-7 (cf. 1. 660), although he hugs his mother when he saw her (1. 171-2), he doesn’t wish to be near to his mother while they were sleeping in the cave of Cheiron. So Statius may be implicitly explaining the fierce and angry aspect of the character which is the most important one because his choosing Cheiron rather than Thetis (and we can detect some trace of it in the coercive manner of Achilles’ speech to Lycomedes), while on the other hand, Statius is demonstrate a very delicate state of mind of Achilles in his puberty. In the part of the Achilleid which we have, Achilles is in his tender years, right between childhood and adulthood, namely his puberty. Therefore his opposing attitude to his mother may not be the definite one, since Achilles is on very intimate terms with his mother in the Iliad, quite different from what is reported by Statius. Statius must have had respect to the Homeric tradition enough to at least keep the main plot of the Iliad and we should at least have Achilles emploring his mother to seek revenge for him from Zeus due to the humiliation of Agamemnon. Besides, we also need Thetis to be the connection between Achilles and Zeus, while Achilles is the connection between the mortals and the immortals. (Achilles’ parents are symbolic: Peleus, the king of the Myrmidons, symbolizes the land; Thetis symbolizes the sea. Therefore, Achilles, as the greatest hero of the Greeks, symbolizes a course of conquering both the land and the sea, and therefore symbolizes the Trojan War itself. Cf. Burgess 2009, pp. 144-8.) Here we would have to deny the idea that Achilles hates his mother, and say that this is just the negative mental attitudes typical of puberty. Therefore, we may say that his eager to go in to the battlefield in Troy is partly due to this psychological state of Achilles. 4. Brief Conclusion From the information we have in the Epic Cycle, the story of Achilles in Scyros is completely different from that of the Achilleid. In the argument of the Cypria by Proclus, Achilles lands on Scyros and marries Deidamea the daughter of Lycomedes by chance after he joined the Greek army and has won many victories in real combats. Why would Statius want to make this adaption to the old tradition? I think the best way to give prominence to masculinity is by means of putting femininity around it, and the best way to give prominence to warlike qualities is by means of putting a peaceful atmosphere over it. In the Iliad, we have Achilles being fierce and angry for a good twenty four books. However, in a latter period of the development of the myth, people started to realize that Achilles, a great hero though he is, was not all the fierceness and anger. People tend to label the great mythical heroes and Achilles is labeled as ‘the raging Titan’. Charm, for example, is not one of the attributes usually associates with Achilles, nor are his other qualities. And yet, he is the greatest hero of all, so people must want from him more than fierceness and anger: they want to make him more perfect. However, although we are dealing with Achilles’ soul that has become cosmic in Statius, we have to keep the warlike quality of Achilles in our mind as the most important one, since that is the foundation of all the ancient mythical tradition. Statius knew this very much and that’s why he made this quality of Achilles jutting out constantly from the cover of a girl, chiefly in the three sides that I have demonstrated above. Bibliography Burgess, J. S., The Death and Afterlife of Achilles, Johns Hopkins 2009. Dilke, O.A.W., ed. Statius: Achilleid Cambridge 1954. Fantham, Elaine, ‘Chironis exemplum: on teachers and surrogate fathers in Achilleid and Silvae’ Hermathena 167(1999) pp. 59-70. Heslin, Peter J., The Transvestite Achilles: Gender and Genre in Statius’ Achilleid Chapter 4 157-175 Cambridge 2005. Rosati, Gianpiero (ed.), Stazio, Achilleide intro. pp. 1-3, Milan 1994. West, M. L., Greek Epic Fragments, Harvard 2003.
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最后更新 2012-06-09 08:36:27