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Hans F. K. Gunther 1929 [Like a Greek God]

Hans F. K. Gunther 1929 [Like a Greek God]

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Published by: Groveboy on Apr 15, 2011
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Translated by Vivian Bird from
Hans F. K. Günther’s
 Lebensgeschichte des hellenischen Volkes
 Fragment of a scene on a Greek red-figure vase depicting (from left to right)Odysseus, Agamemnon and Thersites.
 [Günther (1929) 21]
The Homeric poems describe the gods and goddesses as blond and blue-eyed; theword for bright hair is generally
, into whose definition we will enter later.The
describes Demeter as blonde, Aphrodite as golden-haired; it describesAthena as blue-eyed, and in fact refers to her fifty-
seven times as Zeus’ blue
-eyeddaughter Athena. The world is
, which may be deduced from
meaning “bright, sparkling.” Pindar later described Athena as
,thereby clearly referring to her blue eyes and golden hair-colour.After Homer, the description
becomes more seldom; however, it appears inisolated instances in Sophocles (
Oedipus at Colonus
, 705) and with Aristophanes(
, 317). A conversation between a Greek and a Roman in the
“Attic Nights” of the Roman writer Aulus Gellius, which compares colour meanings
in the two languages, gives information about the colour references of the word
. There (II, 26, 18),
is explained as meaning “grey
 blue” and (II,
26, 19), the description
of the goddess Athena is explained as
, “the
heavenly blue-
eyed.” The
same tradition, going back to Homer, of the blue-eyedness
of Athena, is found in the saga of Byssa and Meropis: there, according to Boios (inAntoninus Liberalis,
Collection of Metamorphoses
, 15) Agron mocks the bright eyesof the goddess and praises his own dark eyes, and even with the Roman poet Hyginus,in the first century AD, Hera and Aphrodite mock the goddess Athena on account of her bright eyes:
quod caesia erat 
. The word
was synonymous with
, “bright
eyed,” in contrast to
, “dark 
eyed.” Thus, in a
commentary to a passage in the
(IV, 147), the Achaean hero Menelaus was
described by the commentator Peisander as “blond
-haired, tall in stature and bright-
eyed,” and thereby he used the word
 xanthokómes, mégas englaukómmatos
describes the god Rhadamanthys as blond, Aphrodite as golden-haired,Athena again and again as blue-eyed. Also, a name like Phoebus Apollo, deducedfrom
, meaning “bright, shining, radiating,” may not only
describe the natureof a Sun-god, but also the bright colour of skin, hair and eyes. The sea-god Poseidon,on the other hand, is described by the
(III, 6), as dark-haired and dark-eyed
a god of the pre-Hellenic Mediterranean world, whose defeat in battle by Athena inAttica, was represented on the gable of the Parthenon, on the Acropolis.The figures of the human world are featured by the Homeric poems as being light-skinned and bright-eyed; thus Achilles, Menelaus and Meleager of the
aredescribed as blond, likewise Briseis and Agamede among the feminine figures; Helen
is (III, 121) called “glittering.” The
in many places describes (WilhelmSieglin has recorded all these places), Menelaus as blond, it describes Penelope asblonde, Hermione as blonde and Aphrodite as golden-haired. The
 mention lily-armed goddesses and princesses, white-armed and silver-footedgoddesses and mortal women.Karl Jax has observed that among Homeric references to mortal girls and women, asalso with the goddesses of the Homeric poems, dark hair is completely lacking, andGeorg Finsler has stressed that the blond hair-colour in Homer is held to be beautifuland striking to such an extent, that the poet, in a moment of carelessness, even callsOdysseus blond, although he was generally accepted as dark-haired.
The description of the physical features of Odysseus, “the rich in cunning,” needs
extensive examination, however. Odysseus diverges from the picture of the otherHomeric heroes. By the
(III, 193/94, 210/11) he is described as a “sitting giant,”
appearing when seated near Agamemnon to be as tall as the latter, but in standing, tobe shorter, but also broader, more thick-set in shoulders and chest. Thus Odysseus isnot, like the other heroes, of tall, slim type. The
describes him (VI, 231) aslight-skinned, and in another place (XIII, 397, 431), his head-hair is called blond(
); however, it calls his beard dark (XVI, 176). According to hair-colour,
Odysseus is also described by the
(VI, 231; XVI, 175; XXIII, 157/58) as
, which previously was mostly translated as “brownish.” This “hyacinthcolour” is, however, as Wilhelm Sieglin has shown, to be described as “reddish,”
because the hyacinth was cultivated in Hellas as a sub-type with reddish blooms.The sturdy, thick-set and dark-bearded Odysseus is not of the same type as the otherAchaean heroes, either in respect to bodily or mental features. The distinction of his
 being “rich in cunning,” as if of a
mixed man, was probably not made consciously bythe poet; rather, must Odysseus be regarded as a saga figure of the pre-Hellenic world,who is equilibrated by the poet as far as possible to the image of the Achaean heroes.That he is a relic of a strange race, closest to a residue of the Hither-Asiatic type,remains distinguishable, however. Odysseus is a figure like Palamedes, a hero of thethe Achaean saga of Troy who, however, only appeared with post-Homeric poets;half-Achaean and half-Levantine, rich in cunning and bold, part Hither-Asiatic, partNordic, in every way different from the open-hearted noblemen such as Achilles,Patrocles, Agamemnon and Menelaus. Count Gobineau has already observed this weftof a strange type with Odysseus. He called him a Greek with Phoenician ancestors.Odysseus could be courageous when necessary, but preferred cunning; his language ismalleable and seductive; lies do not terrify him, treachery does not dismay him,wiliness causes him no trouble. Eloquent, cunning, treacherous, dangerous, heresembles rather a pirate trader from Sidon or a senator from Carthage, while with hisrichness of thought, his imperturbability, his capacity of bridling his passions, with theoccasional moderation and modesty, which in his case always proceeds from rationalcalculation, he is rather of Nordic type. V. Bérard was of the opinion that the
 was indeed written by a Greek, but that its hero, Odysseus, was a Phoenician. Thusthe mental and physical nature of this hero has again and again called forth conjectureabout a pre-Hellenic origin, of which the latest is asserted by Wolfgang Aly. Alyholds Odysseus to be a saga figure from the pre-Hellenic world of the Cretans.
In the figure of Odysseus, “rich in cunning,” we see the after 
-effect of the EastMediterranean lands on the pre-Indo-Germanic world, the weft of Hither-Asiatic race,which was peculiar to this world, this weft being in every case stronger than the weftof the Western (Mediterranean) race; but with this figure the later Hellas also makesits appearance, a Hellas in which through mixture with the immigrating Indo-Germans, together with the descendants of the original population, and throughadditional wanderings from Asia Minor, the weft of Hither-Asiatic race reached outmore and more and penetrated into the upper strata. In the later course of Greek history, more and more Nordic/Hither-Asiatic men like Odysseus must have appearedin the leading strata, becoming more Hither-Asiatic than Nordic, and at length filledwith ever more men of preponderantly Hither-Asiatic race. Dishonesty, treachery,crafty calculation, corruptibility, and betrayal, more and more sully the pages of 

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