THE WRATH OF ARTEMIS (AND MENIS!) IN AG. 122-159

F. Saayman

Abstract


In the parodos of the Agamemnon of Aeschylus an omen appears in which two eagles kill
and eat a female hare as well as her unborn young. This is seen by the seer Calchas to
symbolize that Agamemnon's fleet wil destroy Troy and all its inhabitants. But the goddess
Artemis is angry at something about this portent, and there is fear that she will demand a
sacrifice of atonement. Opinions have differed widely as to the cause of this anger. Some
scholars (e.g. Page and Lawrence) limit Artemis to the physical portent, while others (e.g.
Peradotto, Lebeck, Whallon) involve her in the imagistic side of the portent. At the end of
Calchas' speech there is an apparently loosely connected and unmotivated reference to a
Menis as also being the cause of such a sacrifice. If the roles of Artemis and this Menis are
not clearly distinguished, the whole problem of the extent of Artemis' reason for the
sacrifice cannot be resolved. Lack of distinction between these two personae is evident in
Whallon's absurd confusion of the roles of Artemis and Menis: "The visitations of her (i.e.
Artemis') wrath produced an endless continuance of teknophagy. For like the Erinyes she
was a deity whose punitive actions became predacious and necessitated further punishment"
(1961 :87). Since Erinyes and the Menis are of the same type, Whallon implies that there is
little difference between Artemis and Menis. The. problem about the extent of Artemis'
anger can be solved if it can be proved that Menis is textually motivated by the imagery,
which will make it unnecessary to involve Artemis in the imagery. Lawrence showed how
the imagery has been applied to Artemis without any reflection on the validity of the
method, but he actually did not prove that it is wrong to make such a link. In his opinion
Artemis is angered by the omen itself and not by its interpretation through the words of the
seer Calchas.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.7445/39-1-526

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