Chapter 17, The Return from Troy
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♠ Sextus Empiricus, Pros Mathematikous (Adversus Mathematicos, Against the scholars) 1.276
♠ Aristotle, Poetics 14.1453b
But we must state more clearly what is meant by “skilful.” The action may happen in the way in which the old dramatists made their characters act—consciously and knowing the facts, as Euripides also made his Medea kill her children. Or they may do the deed but without realizing the horror of it and then discover the relationship afterwards, like Oedipus in Sophocles. That indeed lies outside the play, but an example of this in the tragedy itself is the Alcmaeon of Astydamas or Telegonus in the Wounded Odysseus. Greek Text
♠ Pacuvius, Niptra – Tragicorum Romanorum Fragmenta, pp. 107-10, ed. O. Ribbeck. Scaenicae Romanorum Poesis fragmenta 1. Leipzig 1987.
♠ Diktys Cretensis, Ephemeris Belli Troiani 6.14-15
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:
A form, half human and half divine, 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.
 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. Latin Text
♠ Hyginus, Fabulae 127
TELEGONUS: Telegonus, son of Ulysses and Circe, sent by his mother to find his father, by a storm was carried to Ithaca, and there, driven by hunger, began to lay waste the fields. Ulysses and Telemachus, not knowing who he was, took up arms against him. Ulysses was killed by his son Telegonus; it had been told him by an oracle to beware of death at his son’s hands. Telegonus on discovering who he was, with Telemachus and Penelope returned to his home on the island of Aeaea by Minerva’s instructions. They brought the body of Ulysses to Circe, and buried it there. By the advice of Minerva again, Telegonus married Penelope, and Telemachus married Circe. From Circe and Telemachus Latinus was born, who gave his name to the Latin language; from Penelope and Telegonus Italus was born, who called the country Italy from his own name. Latin Text
♠ Lykophron, Alexandra 807-11
when, as he breathes out his life, he shall bewail the fate of his son and his wife, whom her husband shall slay and himself next pass to Hades, his throat cut by the hands of his sister, the own cousin of Glaucon and Apsyrtus. Greek Text
♠ Scholia at Lykophron, Alexandra 808 – Lykophronis Alexandra, vol. 2, p. 255, ed E. Scheer. Berlin 1908.
♠ Scholia at Lykophron, Alexandra 805 – Lykophronis Alexandra, vol. 2, pp. 253-55, ed E. Scheer. Berlin 1908.
Edited by Elena Bianchelli, Retired Senior Lecturer of Classical Languages and Culture, Univ. of Georgia, April 2023
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