Saturday, December 14, 2019

Bending Gender Roles: Achilles on Skyros, Statius, Ach.I.349-359

Knowing that her son was destined to die at Troy, the sea goddess Thetis disguised Achilles as a girl and sent him to live among King Lycomedes' daughters on the island of Skyros. The myth of Achilles on Skyros was widely popular in both Greco-Roman art and literature; this particular version highlights gender roles of epic poetry.

Protinus aggreditur regem atque ibi testibus aris
"Hanc tibi," ait, "nostri germanam, rector, Achillis
(nonne vides ut torva genas aequandaque fratri?)
tradimus. Arma umeris arcumque animosa petebat
ferre et Amazonio conubia pellere ritu.
Sed mihi curarum satis est pro stirpe virili;
haec calathos et sacra ferat, tu frange regendo
indocilem sexuque tene, dum nubilis aetas
solvendusque pudor; neve exercere protervas
gymnadas aut lustris nemorum concede vagari.
Intus ale et similes inter seclude puellas.

--Statius, Achilleid I.349 - 359

Immediately Thetis approached King Lycomedes and said, "With the gods as my witness, o King, I entrust to you this girl: she is the sister of my Achilles (Don't you see her fierce and serious brow; doesn't she look exactly like her brother?). This li'l spitfire is going through an "Amazon phase;" she's trying to play with manly weapons, shooting arrows with her little bow, even speaking out against marriage.

I have enough to worry about with her brother, so let this sweet li'l princess weave and practice sacred rites. Tame this tomboy with harsh discipline, and keep her only doing "girly things" [sexuque tene] until she's ripe for marriage and it's time for her to give up her virginity to her husband.

Don't let her do sports, or train with those muscly girls, and don't let her wander the forest alone. Keep her inside with all of the other good girls."

Name:  Publius Papinius Statius
Date:  45 – 96 CE
Works:  Achilleid

Region 1: Peninsular Italy; Region 2: Western Europe; Region 3: Western Coast of Africa; Region 4: Egypt and Eastern Mediterranean; Region 5: Greece and the Balkans

One of the most influential epic poets of the Silver Age, Statius spent most of his life in Naples, Italy. His most famous work, the Thebaid, is an epic poem that describes the civil war between the descendants of Oedipus; he also wrote the Achilleid, a short epic on the boyhood of Achilles.
Early Roman Lit: through 2nd c BCE: Republican Rome: through 1st c. BCE; Golden Age: 70 BCE to 18 CE; Silver Age: 18 CE to 150 CE; Age of Conflict: 150 CE - 410 CE; Byzantine and Late Latin: after 410 CE