Classical Texts Library >> Dictys Cretensis >> Book 6








Antehomerica & The Iliad


The Iliad






The Returns


[1] When the Greeks had loaded the ships with all the booty they had gained, and gone aboard themselves, they weighed anchor and set sail. Blessed with a favorable wind from the stern quarter, within a few days they reached the Aegean Sea. But then, as fate would have it, a furious storm arose, a sea of troubles for all of our men, and scattered our ships.

Shattering lightning bolts, which terrified the sailors and caused them to lose all control, completely destroyed the fleet of the Locrians, commanded by Ajax. Ajax and some of the others who, having escaped the wreckage, kept afloat by clinging to boards and flotsam, were dashed to death against the Choeradian crags of Euboea. The night had kept them from seeing; and Nauplius, knowing their plight and desiring to avenge the death of his son Palamedes, had raised a torch, to lure them there, as if to a harbour.

[2] At the same time Oeax, who was the son of Nauplius and the brother of Palamedes, on learning that the Greeks were returning home, went to Argos and reported, falsely, to Clytemnestra and Aegiale that Agamemnon and Diomedes were bringing back women they preferred to their wives; and he added those things by which their womanly hearts, by nature easily persuaded, might be the more incensed against their husbands. Thus they were prompted to arm themselves against their husbands’ arrivals. Accordingly, Aegiale, with the help of the citizens, prevented Diomedes from entering the city; and Clytemnestra had Aegisthus, with whom she was living in adultery, snare Agamemnon and slay him. Soon thereafter the adulterous pair were married, and Clytemnestra gave birth to a daughter, Erigone.

Meanwhile Talthybius saved Orestes, Agamemnon’s son, from the hands of Aegisthus, and turned him over to Idomeneus.

Idomeneus was then a resident of Corinth; to which city Diomedes and Teucer also came when driven away from their homes. Teucer had been prohibited from landing on Salamis by Telamon, his father, because, no doubt, he had not prevented his brother Ajax’ ignominious death.

Meanwhile the Athenians welcomed Menestheus along with Aethra, the daughter of Pittheus, and her daughter Clymene. Demophoon and Acamas, however, remained outside the city.

Most of those who had escaped death from dangers at sea or plots at home came to Corinth and there made plans to recover their kingdoms. They should, they thought, combine their forces and attack their kingdoms one at a time. This action, however, was vetoed by Nestor, who said that they should try persuasion first and not tear Greece apart with civil wars.

Soon after this, Diomedes learned that his grandfather, Oeneus, was being afflicted in every way by those who had gained control of Aetolia during his absence. Accordingly, he went to that region and killed the guilty usurpers. Those who favored his cause easily welcomed him back, for all Aetolia feared him.

When news of Diomedes’ success spread, all of the Greeks reinstated their kings, thinking that no one could match bravery or strength of those who had battled at Troy. And so we Cretans and our king Idomeneus returned to our native soil and were joyfully received by our people.

[3] When Orestes had grown to maturity, he begged Idomeneus to give him as many men as he could and let him sail from Crete to Athens. His request was granted, having gathered a number of those he thought sufficient, he went off to Athens and there invoked the aid of the Athenians against Aegisthus.

Then, having gone to the oracle, he received the response that he was destined to kill his mother and Aegisthus, and thus to recover his father’s kingdom.

Armed with this prophecy, he and his band went on to Strophius, the Phocian. Strophius willingly offered his aid, for he passionately hated Aegisthus. (Aegisthus had first married Strophius’ daughter, but then had rejected her and married Clytemnestra; and he had treacherously slain Agamemnon, the great king.)

Thus Orestes, having assembled a large army, marched on Mycenae. Clytemnestra was immediately slain, along with many others who dared to resist. Aegisthus was absent. But when news of his arrival was brought, he was ambushed and killed. Throughout Argos the people were forced to take sides and tried to choose where best their interest lay.

During the same time Menelaus landed on Crete and learned how Agamemnon had died and what was happening in Argos.

[4] When the Cretans heard of Helen’s arrival, many men and women from all over the island came together, desiring to see her for whose sake almost all of the world had gone to war.

Menelaus told his adventures. He had learned that Teucer, who had been banished from home, had founded a city on Cyprus called Salamis. He also reported the many wonders of Egypt. The serpents there, he said, had killed his pilot, Canopus; for whom he had built a magnificent tomb.

When the time seemed right, Menelaus sailed to Mycenae. There he laid many plots against Orestes, but the people prevented him from carrying out these plans. Orestes, it was decided unanimously, should go to Athens and there stand trial before the court of Areopagus. Thus Orestes plead his case, and the Areopagus acquitted him; this court was reputedly the most severe in all Greece.

This acquittal so grieved Orestes’ half-sister, Erigone, who was the daughter of Aegisthus, that she hanged herself. After the verdict and after Orestes had been purified by every means, according to the ancient ritual in use for parricides, Menestheus sent him home to Mycenae. And thereupon the people made him king.

Later Orestes and then Menelaus came to Crete at the invitation of Idomeneus. Orestes bitterly charged his uncle with plotting against him at a time when his positioned was already endangered by public strife. Finally, however, they were reconciled with each other by the intercession of Idomeneus and so departed to Lacedaemon. And then Menelaus, just as he had agreed to do, promised Hermione in marriage to Orestes.

[5] During the same time Ulysses, with two ships he had hired from the Phoenicians, landed on Crete.1 He had lost his fleet along with his comrades and all of his booty and had barely escaped with his life by using his wits. This disaster had been due to the power of Telamon, who no doubt hated Ulysses for being the cause of Ajax’ death.

When Idomeneus asked Ulysses how he had met such misfortunes, he told the story of his wanderings from the beginning. First they had landed at Ismaros, where they had fought, and gained much booty.

Then they had sailed to the country of the Lotus-Eaters, where they had met with a cruel fate.

Then they had gone to the island of Sicily, where the brothers Cyclops and Laestrygon had treated them with every indignity and where Polyphemus and Antiphates, who were the sons of the former, had killed many of them. Finally, however, Polyphemus – he was the king – had taken pity upon them and agreed to a truce. But then they had tried to carry off Polyphemus’ daughter Arene, who had fallen desperately in love with their comrade Alphenor. Polyphemus, however, had discovered their plans.

Thus, having been forcibly deprived of the girl, they were driven away – out through the island of Aeolus, on to the island of Circe, and then to the island of Calypso. It was well known how these queens, by using certain charms, enticed their guests to love them. Nevertheless, Ulysses escaped.

Then they had gone to that place where, having performed the requisite rites, they learned of the future from the shades of the dead. Then on past the rocks of the Sirens, whom he had cleverly eluded. And then, finally, he had lost most of his ships and men to Scylla and Charybdis, that savage, whirling pool that sucks down everything within its reach.

Then he and the survivors had come into the hands of Phoenician pirates, and these had mercifully saved them.

Thereupon our king Idomeneus did as Ulysses wished and gave him two ships and much booty and sent him off to Alcinous, the king of the Phaeacians.

[6] There they already knew of his fame and entertained him many days. Also they told him that Penelope was being wooed by thirty handsome suitors who had come from different regions – from Zacynthus, the Echidnades, Leucas, and Ithaca. Thereupon he prevailed upon Alcinous to sail with him, to avenge this insult to his marriage.

When they had come to Ithaca, Ulysses stayed concealed for a little while, until they could inform Telemachus of what they were planning. Then they proceeded to the palace and slew the suitors, who had been wined and dined to the full. When the people knew that Ulysses had come, they welcomed him back and showed that they favored his cause; and from them he learned everything that had happened at home. Ulysses repaid the faithful with gifts, the unfaithful with punishments. As for Penelope, her reputation for virtue is famous.

Soon afterwards, in answer to Ulysses’ hopes and prayers, Nausicaa, the daughter of Alcinous, was married to Telemachus. This was also the time when our leader Idomeneus died in Crete; and, according to the right of succession, the kingdom passed to Meriones. Laertes, three years after his son had returned, ended his life. Nausicaa and Telemachus had a son, to whom Ulysses gave the name Ptoliporthus (Sacker of Cities).

[7] While these things were happening on Ithaca, Neoptolemus was among the Molossians repairing his ships, which had been wrecked in a storm. There he had learned that Acastus had driven Peleus out of his kingdom in Thessaly. Accordingly, as he desired to avenge this wrong to his grandfather, he sent Chrysippus and Aratus to explore the situation; they were very reliable men, and no one in Thessaly knew them.

These learned from Assandrus, a follower of Peleus, everything that had happened and how Acastus had treacherously attacked Peleus. This Assandrus had eluded the tyranny of Acastus and sided with Peleus, with whom he ahd become so intimate that he was able to tell, among other things, about Peleus’ marriage with Thetis, Chiron’s daughter.

At that time many kings had been invited from everywhere to the wedding, which was at Chiron’s home. During the banquet they had praised the bride and offered her toasts as if to a goddess, saying that she was a Nereid and that Chiron was Nereus. In the same way they had called any of their number who excelled in dancing or singing Apollo or Bacchus, and had given the names of Muses to many of the women. Accordingly, from that time on, this banquet was known as “a banquet of the gods.”

[8] When Chrysippus and Aratus had learned what they wanted to know, they returned to Neoptolemus and made a full report.

Thereupon Neoptolemus, though the sea was rough and there were reasons enough to stay where he was, equipped his fleet and set sail. Having been much harassed on sea by a savage storm and having been driven to the shore of the Sepiades (so called because of their dangerous rocks), he lost almost all of his ships; he himself and those who were sailing with him barely escaped. There he found his grandfather, Peleus, who was hiding in a dark, secluded cave. The old man, while avoiding the treacherous plots of Acastus, was keeping a lookout for all who happened to sail there, hoping his grandson would come.

When Peleus had told Neoptolemus all that had befallen his house, the latter was beginning to decide on a plan of attack when by chance he learned that the sons of Acastus, Menalippus and Plisthenes, were coming to hunt near Peleus’ cave. Accordinly, he changed into the clothes of that region; and then, pretending to be an Iolchian, he presented himself to the sons of Acastus and asked permission to join in their sport. This being granted, soon afterwards he came upon Menalippus and Plisthenes – they were close together but separated some distance from the rest of their party – and slew them. Then he captured and slew their faithful slave, Cinyras, who had come in search of his masters; but not before he had learned that Acasus also was coming.

[9] Thereupon Neoptolemus changed into Phrygian clothes, so as to look like Mestor, the son of Priam, whom he had brought along as a captive.2 When, dressed in this guise, he met with Acastus, he claimed to be Mestor and said that Neoptolemus was wearied from sailing and was sleeping there in the cave.

Since Acastus desired to trap this most hated of enemies, he went straight to the cave. But Thetis was there and kept him from entering. (She, having learned what was happening, had come to be with Peleus.) She roundly berated Acastus for his crimes against the house of Achilles and against the laws of the gods. But then she used her influence to save him from Neoptolemus’ power, for she urged her grandson to refrain from further vengeance and slaughter.

Acastus, being grateful for his unexpected escape, willingly, right then and there, gave Neoptolemus complete control of the kingdom.

Then Neoptolemus, having gained control of the kingdom, went to the city with his grandfather, Peleus, and his grandmother, Thetis, and those of his men who had survived the voyage. All the citizens and all the people round about who were under his power welcomed him joyously and with a devotion which, as he was soon to pove, was not misplaced.

[10] Neoptolemus told me everything which I have written about him, when I attended his marriage to Hermione, the daughter of Menelaus. I also learned from him about the burial of Memnon’s remains.

Memnon’s bones came into the hands of those of his men who had stayed on Paphos. They had slain Pallas,3 under whose leadership they were sailing to Troy, and had taken the booty for themselves.

Then his sister Himera, or Hemera as some call her after her mother,4 came to Paphos, looking for the body of her brother. When she found the remains and learned what had happened to the booty, she wanted to recover both. Thereupon, through the influence of the Phoenicians, who composed a majority of Memnon’s soldiers there, she was given a choice: she could have either the booty of the bones, but not both. Accordingly, yielding to sisterly affection, she chose the latter; she took the urn and, setting sail, carried it off to Phoenicia.

When she had come to the part of the country called Phalliotis, she buried the urn. Then she suddenly vanished from sight. There were three explanations for her disappearance: either she had vanished at sunset along with her mother, Himera; or she had killed herself, overwhelmed with grieving over her brother; or the inhabitants of Phalliotis had killed her, desiring to steal whatever she had.

Neoptolemus is my source for what I have told about Memnon and his sister.

[11] The year after I returned to Crete, I went to the oracle of Apollo as a public representative, along with two others, in order to seek relief from a plague. For no apparent reason and all unexpectedly, a great horde of locusts had attacked our island and was destroying all of the crops in the fields. The response of the oracle, in answer to our many prayers and supplications, was that living creatures must die, divinely slain, before the crops of our island would grow and abound.

The people at Delphi prohibited us from sailing home at this time; the weather, they said, was unfavorable and dangerous. Nevertheless, Lycophron and Ixaeus – they were the two who had come along with me – refused to obey this injunction. Thus they sailed. When, however, they were half way to Crete, a bolt of lightning struck them dead. And then, just as the god had predicted, with the same bolt of lightning, the locusts departed, swallowed up by the sea, and the crops of our island began to increase.

[12] During the same time Neoptolemus, having consummated his marriage with Hermione, went to Delphi. He wanted to give thanks to Apollo for the fact that Alexander, who had murdered his father, had paid for his crime. Andromache was left behind at home, along with Laodamas, her only surviving son by Hector.5

Now Hermione, after the departure of her husband, was tortured by the thought of her captive rival, and summoned her father, Menelaus. Then, bitterly complaining about her poor treatment – how Neoptolemus preferred a captive woman to her – she urged Menelaus to kill Hector’s son. Andromache, however, having learned of this plot, saved her son and escaped with the aid of the people, who pitied her fate; furthermore, these heaped abuses upon Menelaus, and were barely prevented from killing him.

[13] Meanwhile Orestes arrived and learned all that was happening. Thereupon he urged Menelaus to carry out the plot, for he himself was planning to kill Neoptolemus when he returned. He hated Neoptolemus for having married Hermione; she had been promised to him. Accordingly, the first thing he did was to send some trusted scouts to Delphi to find out when Neoptolemus would come.

Menelaus, being thus apprised of Orestes’ plans, returned to Sparta, for he wanted no part in such a crime.

Then the scouts who had been sent to Delphi reported that Neoptolemus was not to be found in that place. And thus Orestes was forced to set out in search of his man.

When he returned – but not on the same day he had left – everyone believed that he had accomplished his purpose. Within a short time the popular story was that Neoptolemus was dead and that Orestes had treacherously slain him.

Then Orestes returned to Mycenae, taking Hermione with him. She had been promised to him.

Meanwhile Peleus and Thetis, having heard of their grandson’s death, set out to learn for themselves exactly how he had died. They discovered that he had been buried at Delphi (where then they performed his funeral rites according to custom), but that he had died in a place where Orestes had never been seen. This, however, the people refused to believe, so strong was their presumption of Orestes’ treachery.

Furthermore, Thetis, seeing that Hermione and Orestes were married, sent Andromache off to the Molossians. Andromache was pregnant by Neoptolemus, and Thetis feared that Orestes and Hermione might try to kill the baby.

[14] During the same time Ulysses had been frightened by frequent omens and nightmares. Accordingly, he summoned all those in his area who were skilled in interpreting dreams, and told them everything, but especially this dream he frequently had:6

A form, half human and half divine,7 and beautiful to behold, suddenly arose form the same place. As he passionately reached out his arms and tried to embrace it, he received a rebuke, in a human voice: such a union was wicked, a union between those of the same flesh and blood, one of whom was destined to die at the hands of the other. And while he pondered and wondered how this could be, a shaft, hurled by the apparition’s command, appeared to arise from the sea and, coming between them, caused them to part.

Everyone who was there interpreted this vision as fatal to him; and, furthermore, they begged him to beware of the treacherous acts of his son. Accordingly, Telemachus, because of his father’s suspicions, was sent to the island of Cephalenia, there to farm where trusted guards could watch him. Furthermore, Ulysses, by withdrawing into a region that was hidden and remote, strove to avoid what his dream had foretold.

[15] Meanwhile, however, Telegonus, whom Circe had borne to Ulysses and raised on the island of Aeaea, having grown to manhood, came to Ithaca in search of his father. He was carrying a spear, whose point was the bone of a sea bird, the turtle-dove, which was the symbol of Aeaea, where he was born. When he learned where Ulysses was living off in the country, he went to that place; but the guards there prohibited him entry. Persisting but always being resisted, he began to shout that this was disgraceful, a crime, to prevent a song from embracing his father. But the guards, not knowing that Ulysses had fathered a second son and believing that this was Telemachus who had come to murder the king, resisted ever more fiercely. And thus Telegonus, becoming more and more angry because of this increasingly vehement opposition, ended by killing or wounding many of the guards.

Ulysses, having learned what was happening, thought that this was a young man whom Telemachus had sent to harm him. Accordingly, he entered the fray and let fly with his spear, which he always carried for protection. Telegonus, however, parried the blow; and then, aiming to make a mortal wound and letting fly with his own remarkable weapon, he hit his father.

Ulysses, as he fell, was thankful for this sort of fate. It was all for the best, he thought; by dying at he hands of a foreigner he would prevent Telemachus, whom he dearly loved, from being guilty of parricide. Still breathing, he asked the young man who he was and where he was from and how he had dared to kill Ulysses, the son of Laertes, a man famous for virtues in war and peace.

And then Telegonus realized that this was his father whom he had slain. He wept in a very pitiable way and pulled his hair with both his hands, being terribly tortured because he had caused his father’s death. Then, as Ulysses had asked, he told him his name and the name of his mother and the name of the island where he was born; and he shoed him the point of the spear.

And so Ulysses knew that his recurring dream had been correctly interpreted; he had been fatally struck by one whom he had never suspected. And thus, within three days, he died, a man advanced in years, whose strength, however, was as yet unimpaired.

1. Sections 5 and 6 cover the events of the Odyssey.
2. According to Dictys 2.43 (end), Mestor was slain at Troy.
3. Compare Dictys 4.4, where Memnon’s forces slay their leader Phalas (not Pallas) and choose to stay on Rhodes (not Paphos).
4. Aurora (Dawn) is the mother of Himera (Longing)-Hemera (Day).
5. Compare Dictys 5.16, where Neoptolemus gives the sons of Hector to Helenus.
6. Compare the prophecy of Tiresias in Odyssey 11.134-137: “Death will come to you out of the sea. . . .”
7. Telegonus is the son of the mortal Ulysses and the immortal Circe.