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527 pages, Paperback
First published January 1, 701
“The son of Cronus spoke and took his wife in his arms; and the divine earth sent up spring flowers beneath them, dewy clover and crocuses and a soft and crowded bed of hyacinths, to lift them off the ground. In this they lay, covered by a beautiful golden cloud, from which a rain of glistening dewdrops fell.”
‘δᾶερ ἐμεῖο κυνὸς κακομηχάνου ὀκρυοέσσης,Translated literally, word-for-word, that gives us:
husband’s brother | I myself | dog | trouble-causing | horribleHelen is addressing Hektor in this scene; she calls him δαήρ, “husband’s brother” or “brother-in-law,” and goes on to express her deep and suffocating guilt over what she was forced to do (i.e., when Paris kidnapped and raped her). Here is how E.V. Rieu translated this line:
My brother-in-law, what a cold, evil-minded slut I am!Well then.
My dear brother, dear to me, bitch that I am, vicious, scheming—I suppose “bitch” is slightly better than “slut.” God, the height of the bar.
“He was my brother-in-law once, slut that I am—unless all that was a dream.”
“My brother-in-law, what a cold, evil-minded slut I am!”
“No one in Troy bears a greater burden of responsibility for the fighting than you—and all because of me, slut that I am, and Paris’s blind folly.”What does this signify about Helen? What connotations are evoked? How does Helen’s calling herself a slut convey meaningful information about her, her relationship with others, or her place in the text? I’d argue that nothing of substance is presented in this word choice; rather, it’s artifically blaming Helen by assigning to her an agency she simply did not have.
“But you have gone too far, you barefaced bitch, if you really dare to brandish that awe-inspiring spear of yours at Zeus.”Zeus to Hera:
“Get even that far in your wanderings, and your resentment will still leave me unmoved. No one is more of a bitch than you.”Hephaistos about Hera:
“Thetis here? The very goddess whom I revere and honour for saving me in my hour of distress when my mother, the bitch, wanted to get rid of me because I was a cripple and threw me out of the skies into the sea!”Hera to Artemis:
“Shameless bitch, how do you now propose, then, to stand up to me? Even though you have got your bow, and Zeus set you as a lioness against females, allowing you to destroy women at your discretion, you would still find me a very dangerous opponent.”I find myself tiring of this lack of creativity. Of course, as I mentioned, this word (and others) can be translated as “slut” or “bitch,” but that conveys nothing of the relationships between the characters, and in fact will often tie them to modern societal associations with bitches and sluts. And far be it from me to point out a problem without a solution, so here’s my proposed alternative for the one line (“δᾶερ ἐμεῖο κυνὸς κακομηχάνου ὀκρυοέσσης”):
Brother of my husband, trouble-bringing, foreboding wretch that I am—In her speech to Hektor Helen is acknowledging that, although her presence has brought untold problems to Troy, her now-husband’s brother has always been kind to her. There is no blame inherently implied in the last two words of this line, hence why I translated them as “trouble-bringing” and “foreboding.”