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Glenn VirgilsPolyphemus

Glenn VirgilsPolyphemus

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Virgil's PolyphemusAuthor(s): Justin GlennSource:
Greece & Rome,
Second Series, Vol. 19, No. 1 (Apr., 1972), pp. 47-59Published by:
on behalf of
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Accessed: 21/02/2011 02:33
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VIRGIL'S POLYPHEMUS
By
JUSTINGLENN
W
Earetoldbyan ancient life ofVirgilthat thepoethad areadyreplyforthosewho chidedhisextensiveborrowingfrom Homer:'Curnonilliquoqueeadem furtatemptarent?verumintellecturosfaciliusesseHerculi clavamquamHomeroversumsubripere'(VitaDonati,46).TorecaptureaHomericfigure,howeverbriefly,wasindeedademanding challenge,butVirgil'stask wasunusuallydifficultinthe case ofPolyphemus.If he followed his modeltooslavishlytheoutcomewouldundoubtedlybedisappointing.Ingoing beyondHomer,however,he wouldimmediatelyfindhimselfontreacherousground.Thedangerhere wasthattheinterveningcenturiesbetween theOdysseyand the Aeneid had overlaid theCyclops completelywithcomicandpastoralassociations. Most scholars havethoughtofVirgilasgoingbackdirectlytoHomer forhisportraitofPolyphemusat Aen.iii.588ff.,andI havenodoubtthattheyarecorrect.In1959,however,C.S.Floratosattemptedatsomelengthtoestablishthat thePolyphemusofthe Aeneidhas beengreatlyinfluencedbythe Hellenistic treatmentsofthisfigure.'No one hasrepliedto hisarguments,and,infact,K.Quinnrecentlyhas inclinedtowardasimilarposition.zItseems,then,thatthisquestiondeserves closer attention.ToassessaccuratelythedisputedsourcesofthisVirgilianportrait,weobviouslymustbeginwithabriefsurveyof theliteraryfortunesofPolyphemusintheintervalbetweenHomerandVirgil.The firstpost-HomerictreatmentofwhichwehaveanyknowledgewasEpi-charmus'Cyclops.Thereis nowayto date thisproduction, apartfromthe traditionthat thepoet'scareer coincided with thereignsofGelo(485-478)and Hiero(478-467).3Of the threesurviving fragments,tworefer to thegiant's gluttony4and thethird to hisdrunkenness.sBoth ofthese elementsarevery prominentinEuripides' satyr playofthesametitle,andtheyundoubtedlywereexaggeratedandemphaticfeaturesofthe comicPolyphemusevenfromthisearlytime.
I
ZurDarstellung PolyphemsinderAeneis(Athens, 1959).
2
Virgil'sAeneid:ACriticalDescription(Londonand AnnArbor,1968),133.3Thescantyandoftenconfused evidenceforthe lifeofEpicharmusisconvenientlypresentedand discussedbyA.Pickard-Cambridge, Dithyramb,TragedyandComedy
(Oxfordz, 1962), 230-9.4Frgs.81-2
inG.
Kaibel,ComicorumGraecorumFragmenta (Berlin,1899),105.
sIbid.frg. 83.
 
48VIRGIL'SPOLYPHEMUSWe nextencounterthegiantin anAtticsatyrplay(alsoentitledCyclops) byAristias.Again,theprecisedateof thisproductionisunknown,butthere isgeneralagreementinplacingit afterEpicharmusbut beforeCratinus'andEuripides'versions.'Onlyasinglelinesurvives;here,inthe inebriationscene,PolyphemuschidesOdysseusforspoilingthewinebyaddingwater.2zCratinus,whotogetherwithAristophanesandEupolisformed thegreattriumvirateofOldComedy,presentedanothertravestyof thisstoryinhis 'Obvuijm('Odysseusandhiscompanions').Againthe exactdateisunknown,butthereisgeneral agreementthat it fell in theperiod439-437.3Althoughsixteenfragmentssurvive,onlyafewshedanylightonCratinus'characterization ofPolyphemus.4Wedolearn,however,that thepoetfollowedthe mainoutlineof Homer'sstory.Odysseusandhis menhelpthemselves to theCyclops'foodandarethentrappedwhenhe returns(frg.142).UnlikeHomer,however,Cratinusnowdepictsthegiantthreateningto cook theGreeks withallthe skill ofamasterchefandgourmet(frg.143).TheGreeks areterrified-'theyhide underthe bed'(frg. 137)-butOdysseussavestheday bytrickingthegiantwithMaro'swine and the falsename Outis(frgs.
135,
141).
Thefragmentsincludetwostraywords ofexotic foods(147-8),andwemayreasonablysupposethattheywerepartofthepictureofPolyphemusasagluttonousgourmet.sAlthough onlyonefragmentreferstohis drunkenness
(135),
thereisgoodreason tosupposethatthe scene itselfwasexaggeratedconsiderably;as wesee fromEuripides'Cyclops488-589,iteasilyandnaturallylends itself to comicexaggeration.InEuripides'satyrplayCyclopswe have ouronly completeexampleofthatgenreandofthe comicPolyphemus.Itwas almostcertainly
SeeG.R.Holland,LeipzigerStudienzur classischenPhilologievii
(1884),
165;F.Vierlinger,DieGestalt desKyklopenPolyphemosin dergriechischenundr6mischen
Dichtung (Ph.D.diss.;Univ.ofVienna,1939),40-2and43n.I;andF.Peachy,
TheStoryoftheHomericCyclops(Ph.D.diss.;HarvardUniv., 1948).We candate Aristiasonlyverygenerallyasanearlyfigurein Greekdrama,since hecompetedagainstAeschylus' Septem(467)accordingtothehypothesisof theCod. Med.
2
Frg. 4in A.Nauck, TragicorumGraecorumFragmenta (Hildesheim3,
1964),
727.
3
Theseterminaldateswere firstsuggestedbyT.Bergk,whoseargumentis cited
and summarizedbyR.Tanner,TAPAxlvi(1915), 204-5.Bergkhas been followedby
anoverwhelmingconsensus,includingT.Kock,Comicorum AtticorumFragmenta,
i(Leipzig,188o), 55;G.Norwood,GreekComedy(London,193I),129;andJ. Mewaldt,
AAWW
lxxxiii(1946),
272.
4Kock,ibid.56-6o,frgs.
135-50
=J.Edmonds,TheFragmentsofAtticComedy,i
(Leiden,1957),64-71,frgs.
135-50.
For detailed treatmentsofthefragmentssee
Holland, op.cit.158-65;G.Kaibel,Hermes xxx(1895),71-80;Vierlinger,op.cit.28-39;Mewaldt,op.cit.272-7;andG.Brenner,DiePolyphemdichtungendesEuripides,KratinosundPhiloxenosundihrVerhdltniszurOdyssee (Ph.D.diss.;Univ. ofVienna,
1949),
66-83.
5
E.Phillips,G&Rvi(1959),64,takes thealternativeviewthat thesefragmentspertainto thegluttonyofOdysseusandhis men.

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