Friday, June 30, 2023

Caeneus Tells His Story: Andrea Dugonicius, Argonauticorum book 8

Caeneus and Tiresias were seen as the archetypal trans heroes of Greek myth, and occasionally their stories would be conflated. In this account of Caeneus, the author here is using elements from the myths of both Tiresias [who transforms back into a man after 7 years] and the myth of Iphis & Ianthe [who is transformed into a man on his wedding day]. 

Vix e conspectu Deli discessimus, illico variae cogitationes mortalium animos occuparunt. Non alia potior cogitandi materies, quam edita in Fano oracula. Suam quisque fortunam aut amabat in iis, aut metuebat. Sed Caeneo magis nemo angebatur, quem iterum foeminam futurum Apollo praedixerat. Quid vero est, inquiebam, mi Caeneu, hoc ne ego ignorare adhuc potui, olim te fuisse foeminam? Fui, reposuit ille, foemina, at nunc Neptuni beneficio virum noveris. Cum dein nihil reponeret, ego socium, uti rem aperiat, rogare; tum ille ita recensere historiam:

            "Pater meus Elatus, nescio, quo Deorum responso certior redditus: fore, uti a filia, quam primam sustulisset, necaretur, diu a mulierum societate penitus abstinuit; tandem multis Amicorum suasionibus inductus Antippo genitam in coniugem adlegit, quae cum me in lucem ederet, et puellam videret, eorum, quae Patri responsa erant, non immemor, sexum occultavit, atque adepllavit Caeneum. Post, ubi ad eam aetatem perveni, qua uxor e civibus deligenda erat, ego Matris Hippeae monitu omne coniugium respuere, aversari omnes virgines; cum Iuvenibus libenter conversari, contra urgere coniugium Pater, et, ni voluntati obsequerer, mala comminari omnia. Vicit obstinatam. Despondi unam e magnesiis invita, simulque Neptunum, uti nunc demum miserae succureret, voto precata, et suppliciis. Tam fervens oratio fuit, ut penetrare in maria potuerit. Cum enim ad Aras accederem, virum me esse sensi, quo cum sexu omnia mihi pariter bona contigerunt: mens praestantior, et ratio; sollers cura Reipublicae; fervor in amando purior, et decoctus magis; adhoc arctum cum amicis vinculum; postremo gloriae adpetitus verae, atque solidae. His ego omnibus, si sexum mutavero, orbus, quid agam? quo me vertam socii? Haec de sua sorte Caeneus."

 --Andrea Dugonicius, Argonauticorum, sive de Vellere Aureo  Libri XXIV, Book 8, p. 203 (1778)

We had scarcely left sight of Delos, and were contemplating what we’d learned. I wasn’t the only one who was worried about the prophecies we’d been given in the shrine. Everyone was either really happy or really terrified about it, but nobody was more worried than Caeneus--for Apollo predicted that he would again become a woman.

I told him, “Hey Caeneus, buddy, what’s going on? Fill me in so I’m not still in the dark—you used to be a woman?”

He replied, “I was a woman, but now, thanks to the blessings of Neptune, you know me as a man.”

When he didn’t respond anything else, I asked him, friend-to-friend, to tell me more, and then Caeneus told me everything:

“My dad Elatus got a prophecy from the gods, I guess, that he’d be killed by his firstborn daughter, so he avoided getting married. Finally, a bunch of his friends convinced him to do so, so he married the daughter of Antippus. When she gave birth to me and saw she’d birthed a girl, she ignored my father’s prophecy and hid my gender and called me Caeneus. Later on, when I became old enough to get married, I listened to my mother Hippea’s advice and put off getting married. I kept rejecting all of the girls, and really liked hanging out with guys. My father kept hounding me about getting married, and even threatened me with terrible things if I didn’t obey his will. Well, he finally got his way (even though I didn’t want to). I was betrothed to one of the Magnesian girls, and I kept praying and giving offerings to Neptune to save me.

My prayers were so desperate, that they even found their way underwater. For when I approached the altar on my wedding day, I felt that I had become a man—and that everything got better when I had the body of a man. My mind was now sharper, as well as my reasoning powers; my civic duty was more productive; my romantic love was more purified, and more mellow; my relationships with my friends were stronger, finally, I gained a yearning for true and wholesome glory. If I change back to a girl, if I lose all of this, what will I do? What friends will I have? Where will I turn?”

This was what Caeneus was worried about.

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