Posthomerica

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The Posthomerica (Greek: τὰ μεθ᾿ Ὅμηρον) is an epic poem by Quintus of Smyrna, probably written in the latter half of the 4th century, and telling the story of the Trojan War, between the death of Hector and the fall of Ilium.

The first four books, covering the same ground as the Coming of Memnon of Arctinus of Miletus, describe the doughty deeds and deaths of Penthesileia the Amazon, of Memnon, son of the Morning, and of Achilles; and the funeral games in honour of Achilles.

Books five through twelve, covering the same ground as the Little Iliad of Lesches, span from the contest between Ajax and Odysseus for the arms of Achilles, the death of Aias of suicide after his loss, the exploits of Neoptolemus, Eurypylus and Deiphobus, the deaths of Paris and Oenone, to the building of the wooden horse.

The remaining books, covering the same ground as Arctinus' Destruction of Troy, relate the capture of Troy by means of the wooden horse, the sacrifice of Polyxena at the grave of Achilles, the departure of the Greeks, and their dispersal by the storm.

Summary[edit]

Penthesileia, a daughter of Ares, arrives at Troy with a group of Amazon warriors. They arrive from the Thermedon River. She has come to share the hardships of war and to escape her people after accidentally killing her sister; she was aiming for a stag. Priam thinks she will save Troy and kill Achilles. Andromache doesn't think Penthesileia is capable. Priam prayed to Zeus to let Penthesileia return, but he sees an eagle holding a dove, a sign that she will die. Ajax and Achilles are in the city resting. Hippoclameia tries to convince the Trojan women to fight, but Theano convinces them it is a suicidal idea. Penthesileia kills Podarces in battle. Ajax convinces Achilles that it is time to fight: Achilles kills Penthesileia by impaling her and her horse, but Achilles notices her beauty and realizes that he should have made her his wife. Thersites tells Achilles not to worry about women, Achilles eventually kills him and upsets Diomedes.

Thymoites tells Troy if they are to stay in the city, they will die, therefore everyone should leave. Priam and Paris say that fighting is the answer and Memnon, son of Dawn, and the Aithiopian army will be here soon. Polydamas says that Aithiopian will lose. Zeus thinks that tomorrow's battle will be ugly and full of death. Memnon kills Nestor’s son Antilochos in battle. Eventually, after a long and difficult struggle; Achilles kills Memnon. Dawn will not let the sun rise because she is so upset and retreats to Hades until Zeus convinces her to leave. Apollo tries to shoot Achilles after Achilles tells Apollo to quit interfering in the battle, wounding his ankle. Zeus is furious with Apollo as he is not supposed to interfere in the mortal world.

The Trojans are still scared to fight the injured Achilles. Achilles dies and Paris attempts to remove his corpse. Ajax defends the body, killing Glaukos, who falls on top of Achilles. Ajax also injures Aeneas. Odysseus helps Ajax defend Achilles’ body. Ajax stuns Paris by hitting him with a rock, forcing Paris to give up his attempt to take the corpse. The Greeks successfully drive the Trojans off and rescue Achilles’ body, bringing it back to the Greek camp. Ajax is the first to eulogize Achilles, then Phoinix, Agamemnon, Briseis, and Thetis, Achilles mother. Kalliope tells Thetis that her son will always be remembered. The Greeks then compete in the funeral games: Teukros and Ajax competed for 10 cows, Diomedes and Ajax won wrestling, Nobody will wrestle Idomenlus, Epeios and Akanas box, Teukros wins the archery competition.

There is a heated argument between Odysseus and Ajax over which one of them is most deserving of receiving Achilles armor. The Trojan prisoners are asked to decide which one of them was the better warrior during the defense of Achilles’ body. The hero that fought most bravely and valiantly will be awarded the armor. It is decided that Odysseus will receive the armor. Similar to the Sophoclean play "Ajax", this leads to Ajax's suicide, and Odysseus speaks his regret at the funeral. He is cremated at sea.

At this point, the gods give Eurypylos to the Trojans. Eurypylos is able to kill many Argive soldiers and drives the Argives to despair. They draw near to the ships, but Neoptolemos arrives to fight the Trojans back. Ares demoralizes the Argives, but Neoptolemos holds his ground and slays Eurypylos. He continues to kill Trojans, such that the author expresses surprise at his body count. Deiphobos challenges him, but Apollo saves the Trojans from Neoptolemos. Apollo tries to kill Neoptolemos, but Zeus threatens to destroy Ilion if he does.

The battle is halted by Calchas, who declares that the battle is not fated to end until Philoktetes joins the Argives. Philoktetes had been left on the island of Lemnos due to receiving a bite on the foot from a poisonous water snake that became infected and repulsive to the other Greeks. This scenario is also derivative of Sophocles. This time, the play in question is "Philoctetes". Philoktetes is rescued from his cave. They tell him that his wound can be healed by the surgeon Podaleninos if he agrees to come with them to Troy. Although Philoktetes considers Odysseus at fault for leaving him on the island, he forgives Odysseus.

Aeneas attempts to convince the Trojans to stay within the city walls, without success. Panic, Fear and Strife arrive at the day’s battle. Philoktetes shoots Paris with his poisoned arrows, grazing him on the hand and striking him in the groin. Paris, mortally wounded, tries to get help from his first wife, Oinone, who spurns him because of his affair with Helen. Paris passes away. Priam laments that he was his second best son, and Helen curses the position he put her in. Oinone, regrets her actions and commits suicide by jumping on Paris' funeral pyre. They are buried next to one another, their headstones facing opposite ways.

The battle evens out for both sides. Apollo pushes Aeneas and Eurymachos to fight like madmen against the Greeks, pushing them back until they are rallied by Neoptolemos. The Greeks surge forwards and Aeneas manages to rally the Trojans and check the Greek advance. A dust storm settles over the battle. The next morning, the Argives hide under their shields to get to the gates of Troy, led by Odysseus. Ares gives Aeneas the strength to retaliate by throwing huge rocks. Aeneas exhorts the Trojans to leave the city, but the battle continues around the gates. Philoktetes shoots at Aeneas, but his shield protects him, allowing the arrow to hit Mimas instead.

The seer Calchas sees an omen of a hawk and dove, suggests that the Greeks try a new strategy to take Troy. Odysseus comes up with a plan to create the Trojan Horse. He gets Epeios to construct the horse. Neoptolemos and Philoktetes do not like the plan, because they prefer a more direct battle. Epeios prays to Athena. The horse causes the gods to break out in a brief fight until Zeus ends it. Neoptolemos, Menelaos, Odysseus, Sthenalos, Diomedes and Philoktetes are among those that board the horse. Agamemnon and Nestor stay behind. The Argives leave the horse and Sinon at Troy and pretend to flee. Sinon is heavily disfigured and left as a messenger. He says that the horse is a tribute to Tritogeneia, but Laokoon sees through the deception. He tries to urge the Trojans to burn the horse, but he is struck with blindness by Athena. He and his children are killed by two serpents. The Trojans attempt to sacrifice to the gods, but the sacrifices refuse to catch fire. Statues begin to weep and temples are stained with blood, but the Trojans are not impressed by these negative omens. Cassandra also knows the truth about the horse, but is cursed so that nobody believes her. She attempts to burn the horse but is prevented from doing so.

The Trojans celebrate their victory, but are left unprepared for the Argives as they exit the horse and kill the Trojans. Priam is killed by Neoptolemos. Menelaos kills Deiphobos, who has married Helen after Paris' death. Troy is burned to the ground. The women of Troy are given to the heroes of the Argives. Much of the events here are similar to the events in Euripides' "The Trojan Women". Ajax the Lesser rapes Cassandra in Athena's shrine, so he is killed by the gods.

The major characters[edit]

  • Warriors other than those that dwell in Troy are brought in to fight as well.

Relationship to previous epics[edit]

Its style has been criticized by many scholars as subpar to Homer, but it is valuable as the earliest surviving account of this period in the Trojan War. The Iliad ends with "Such was the funeral of Hector, tamer of horses"; later poets changed this to however it might fit their needs. Quintus used it as an opening line: "Such was the funeral of Hector. And now there came an Amazon..."

The purpose of the story seems to be to complete the Iliad and give the characters a sense of closure. Many of the characters who had hated an ally in prior works, such as Philoctetes to Odysseus in Sophocles' play, now easily overcome the anger to create harmony.

Critical editions[edit]

  • A. Zimmermann, Quinti Smyrnaei Posthomericorum libri XIV, Leipzig 1891 (reprinted Stuttgart 1969).
  • F. Vian, La suite d'Homère. Texte établi et traduit par Francis Vian, I-III, Paris 1963-9.
  • G. Pompella, Quinti Smyrnaei Posthomerica. Olms-Weidmann, Hildesheim & New York 2002.

External links[edit]