Down through the gaping hole - and up the fig tree.
--Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
As the Odyssey's Circe turns from treacherous witch to helpful advisor and takes it upon herself to warn Odysseus against, first, the Sirens, and, second, the twin dangers that are Scylla and Charybdis, she curiously does not immediately proceed to discuss the latter pair. In her preamble, Circe begins by claiming that Odysseus's path is a matter of choice: one leads to the Clashing Rocks or Planctae, the other to Scylla and Charybdis (Od. 12.56-8). It quickly emerges, however, that Odysseus does not, in fact, have a choice: the Planctae, which spare not even the doves carrying ambrosia to Zeus, have only once been successfully crossed, and even so, only thanks to Hera's direct intervention (Od. 12.69-72). How formidable these rocks are can be glimpsed in the fact that the Planctae are known only by a name the gods have given them. In only one other instance does the Odyssey refer to this divine taxonomy--what scholars have called the "language of the gods"; it is when Hermes introduces the molu plant to Odysseus and discusses what makes it unique: (1) [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (2) (And the gods call it "molu"; for mortal men / It is hard to dig up; the gods, however, are capable of everything, Od. 10.305-6). Like steering a ship through the treacherous Planctae, to find and dig up the molu is a simple matter for the gods; for mortals, the same task is not so easy. It is implicit in Odysseus's subsequent questions to Circe about how best to tackle Scylla that he does not for a moment consider the Planctae to be a real alternative. (3) Odysseus thus gives up beforehand on a trajectory that is doomed to failure as it leaves no room for him, as a mortal, as a hero without the direct divine protection enjoyed by the likes of Jason, to exercise his famed resourcefulness. There is a strong suggestion here that the Clashing Rocks may belong to a heroic past that cannot be revisited by Odysseus.
Circe's introduction is thus significant, for it frames the hero's encounter with Scylla and her counterpart as, unlike the Planctae, a challenge that is not beyond remedy--provided he follows her advice to steer clear of Charybdis and thus stay closer to Scylla. And not only did Odysseus follow the advice, so have most commentators. The pair has been the object of many fruitful studies, but common to these treatments is a stress on Scylla, often to the neglect of Charybdis. Both monsters are, scholars agree, female, engulfing mouths, but Homer's own tendency to humanize Scylla while leaving Charybdis as landscape rather than fully gendered creature has slanted the traditional reading, favoring an interpretive close-up of Scylla. (4) Scholarly discourse, at its most fleshed-out, interprets the whirlpool as an extreme example of the anthropophagous, one of the Odyssey's main structuring themes, and largely leaves it at that. Yet, equally central to the description of Charybdis as a voracious mouth is the tall fig tree perched atop the lower crag that lies in the middle of the vortex. I argue in this paper that a close analysis of Charybdis, and of her unique combination of whirlpool, rock, and fig tree is essential for making sense, first, of the pair of which she is part, and, second, of the role that these two interconnected monsters play in shaping Odysseus as a distinctive kind of epic hero. (5) I suggest that Charybdis's importance lies not merely in being a danger of greater magnitude than Scylla, but in embodying a new type of monster. Charybdis is the threatening (although not absolutely fatal) landscape that Greek navigators must contend with in the real world, the world Odysseus seeks to return to. Scylla, by contrast, represents the old, perhaps even obsolete, model of the nightmarish monster, the kind encountered in the Theogony s catalogue of monsters, and the kind that Odysseus leaves behind, as he left behind Polyphemus in his shattered Golden Age. (6)
I begin by reading Scylla as a monster of old, whose ruthlessness, rapacity, and association with the world of death bring her close to the Theogony's Echidna. Yet this comparison also reveals difference: Scylla is, in fact, not quite as formidable as the famous serpent-nymph. Scylla's limitation--the fact that to escape from her is possible--already suggests that she is not exactly of the same mold as the Hesiodic monster. This is because Scylla is part of a pair; one can escape Scylla by steering closer to her neighbor. When circumstances, much to his horror, conspire to pull him back to Charybdis, Odysseus learns that, despite her appearance as nothing but all-engulfing void, Charybdis is, like nature, destructive but also giving. He discovers that Charybdis is not, after all, a fatal monster, a creature a la Scylla, spying stealthily from the darkness of her rock and scanning round for soon-to-be-doomed sailors. Most plainly, Charybdis marks the confluence of contrary tides; she is a force that is part of a larger world, one that includes trees, like the one that flourishes at her center. I explore in this paper the narrative's framing of Odysseus's 'fateful' return to Charybdis, and what may be implicated in his being compelled--despite all his efforts to avoid her--to confront the swallowing eddy. Behind the semblance of 'fate' may well lie a vision of a new kind of hero, one who grapples with the variegated dangers of the natural world, here that of the sea. After Scylla, gone is for Odysseus all the vain swashbuckling against monsters too improbable to face head on. Odysseus is brought back to Charybdis because that is the new reality that lies ahead of him, not fantastic monsters but the humbling vast ocean, heaving with hidden forces.
I. As Hard as Rock
[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. (Od. 12.108-10) But very quickly, draw near Scylla's cliff And ride your ship past it, since it is better by far To mourn six companions on the ship than all at once.
Recent study has brought to the fore the point that Scylla's inhumanity is reflected in her abode. The monster lives not only in a rocky cave, inside a rock-hard cliff; she is described by the very adjective "rocky" ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]). (7) It is significant that the term is used by Odysseus as he is peering over the surface of her rock, having just girded himself in his full warrior's armor and readied himself for an Iliadic battle (Od. 12.226-33):
[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. And then Circe's grievous command, When she bade me not to arm myself, escaped me. Instead, I slipped on my famed gear, seized Two long spears in my hands, and walked to the front Of the ship. From there, I reckoned that rocky Scylla, Who brought disaster upon my companions, would first appear. But I could not spot her anywhere, and my eyes grew weary Of looking for her on every side of the misty rock.
Odysseus's despondent observation of his own incapacity before the incommensurable cliff blends together the dweller of the rock with the rock itself: Scylla not only inhabits the rock, but she herself is the impregnable cliff. This close intermingling of female monster with rock brings Scylla close to another unapproachable monster, namely, the Theogony's Echidna.
Hesiod's use of personal pronouns is notoriously opaque in the section of the Theogony's catalogue of monsters where Echidna is described. My argument builds on the scholarly consensus that the referent of the pronoun rj, that is, the female creature who gives birth to Echidna, is Ceto. (8) "Whale" was earlier said to have mated with Phorcys (Seal) and produced the two sets of sisters that are the two Graiai and the three Gorgons. (9) These two female sets of siblings balance each other but also what I propose to be their third sibling, Echidna. Through their beautiful cheeks (270) and greyness (271), the Graiai blend youth and old age (cf. Vernant 1991a, 123). Their premature aging belies the youthful beauty of their cheeks; their rosy cheeks, a preternatural greyness. In other words, the indeterminate, self-contradictory age of the Graiai keeps them both from being straightforwardly subject to the passing of time and from being truly immortal: they are neither. The paradox of this relation with time, and therefore with immortality, is further explored in the Gorgons. Medusa's decapitation, and therefore mortality, is balanced by her two sisters' immortality (1.276-8): 'kill' one, but two others will always remain. (10)
The uncertain relation to mortality of the two Graiai and the partial (im)mortality of the three Gorgons would seemingly find a 'resolution' in the one immortal Echidna (Theog. 295-305): (11)
[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. And in a smooth cave she bore another irresistible monster, Nothing like mortals nor the immortal gods, The strong-hearted, divine Echidna, Half nymph with glancing eyes and beautiful cheeks, And half monstrous serpent, daunting and huge, Writhing, eating raw flesh under the depths of the sacred earth. And there is her cave down below, under a hollow rock, Far away from the immortal gods and mortal men; There, the gods have apportioned her a glorious abode. Among the Arimoi under the earth, baneful Echidna keeps guard, A nymph immortal and ageless for all days.
This compact description of Echidna ends with a double insistence that she is free from the impact of time. The emphasis draws attention to the fact that she is the only one of the three female sets to be completely immortal. Like the Graiai, she has lovely cheeks, but she lacks the vulnerability to the passage of time that is implied in their greyness; she also seems to be free of the mortal element that keeps the three Gorgons from being completely invulnerable. Echidna, however, is like Scylla: both live in a cave that is enclosed in a rock, (12) and within this rock they both are absolutely unassailable, (13) while they themselves chomp on raw flesh. The association between devouring live prey and sexual aggressivity has been convincingly established by Marianne Hopman's recent (2012) monograph on Scylla. In the case of Echidna, this collocation of anthropophagy and sexual agressivity is crystallized in her very physical description: she is half serpent--the animal crowning the head of the archetypal man-eater and her sibling, Medusa--and half nymph. Jennifer Larson's (2001) study of nymphs has demonstrated that this appellation was used to designate a sexual being. In the cases of both Scylla and Echidna, the predatory female (14) is closely associated with a deep rocky cave; her invincibility is reflected in, and emphasized by, the hard rocky material. The impervious surface echoes the unfeeling creature that lives deep beneath its layers. As the rock will not respond to being climbed or to arrow shots (Od. 12.77-84), as it is impregnable, so is the creature that makes its lair within it. The rock, as we are told, is turned toward Erebos and is wrapped in a permanent cloud (Od. 12.73-81):
[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. But there are two cliffs: one reaches to the broad heaven With its sharp peak, and a dark cloud that never leaves Is wrapped around it; nor ever does the clear sky Embrace that peak--neither in summer nor at harvest time. And in the middle of the cliff is a misty-dark cave Turned toward Erebos.
Hopman (2012, 31-2) has pointed out references to the underworld in the description of Scylla's abode. 1 propose here broadening this referential field to include the description of the location where Odysseus sails to perform his evocation of the dead souls from Erebos (Od. 11.13-9):
[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. But it [Odysseus's ship] came to the ends of the deep-flowing ocean. And there is the home and city of the Cimmerians Wrapped in mist and cloud: not ever does the shining Sun look upon them with his beams, Neither whenever he goes to the starry heaven Nor when he turns from heaven back to the earth, But upon wretched men baneful night stretches itself.
Oceanus marks the limits of the known world; for the living, it serves as a threshold beyond which the beloved sunlight does not reach. The country where the Cimmerians live--at the edge of the known--already sounds like the eternally dark and misty world of the dead. The dense cloud that will not ever dissipate, that enshrouds them like a funeral robe, is of the same nature as that which forever hovers round Scylla's cliff. It is the cloud of eternal gloom and doom. (15)
Both Scylla and Echidna subvert the usual association between nymphs and the landscape. (16) Hopman (2012, chap. 7) has shown that the figuring of Scylla as an untamed parthenos is expressed through the conjoined notions of the dog and the sea as undomesticated, one as a companion who can at times become rebellious and hostile to his human master, the other as treacherous to sailors. The two environments that are usual home for the nymphs, namely, the spring and the mountain (Larson 2001, 8-9), become, in the case of these two atypical nymphs, inverted versions of the norm. Scylla lives in the middle of the salty sea, while Echidna lives under a dry rock. Second, the 'mountain' they occupy is merely a crag, but one made to their measure. Their 'mountain' is not so much a feature of the landscape, as it is first and foremost the home of a predator, her own private lair. The typical locus amoenus is thus here reconfigured as a place of terror; the place of welcoming, rest, and tranquil leisure has given way to a site of nightmares.
II. The Monster as [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]
It comes as no surprise that both Scylla and Echidna are devourers of raw, live flesh. One lives holed up in a cliff that evokes the misty darkness of the underworld; the other lives under a rock, at subterranean depths that easily evoke the world of the dead as imagined in Homeric epic. The adjective [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (eating raw flesh), used to characterize Echidna's eating habits, is applied to her son by Typhon, the underworld's guardian, Cerberus (Hesiod, Theog. 311). In addition to both being eaters of raw flesh, mother and son are also alike in being designated as [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. (17) In his study of the concept of [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] in early Greek poetry, Richard Martin (1983, 29) has shown that the noun, denoting the notion of helplessness, occurs only once in Homer and is applied to the companions of Odysseus as they realize their own powerlessness in the face of Polyphemus's inhumanity (Od. 9.294-5). The noun is just as rare in Hesiod, where the lone occurrence helps describe the desperation that a harsh winter induces in the farmer (Op. 495-7). Like winter's inclement weather, the Cyclops's grotesque reversal of the norms of xenia creates a situation that mortals feel is beyond their ability to overcome. The two examples of the noun [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] in Homer and Hesiod thus point to the context as the prima causa of the feeling of helplessness. Among the 21 examples of the adjective [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] in Homeric and Hesiodic poetry, one refers as well to a situation rather than to an agent. This is the chilling moment when Typhon displays the full range of his trademark cacophonous sounds, and threatens therefore to drown the young cosmos with jarring acoustics (Theog. 836-8):
[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] And now, on that day, a deed past remedy would have occurred, And he would have reigned over both mortals and immortals, If the father of men and gods had not been quick to perceive it.
Beyond this example, all other occurrences of the adjective are applied to an individual. When characterizing Hera or mortals (Nestor, Agamemnon, Hector, and Achilles), the adjective seems to point to the person's harmful obstinacy. (18) In contrast, when applied to 'monsters,' the adjective cannot merely mean "stubborn"; the designation takes on a more absolute sense, as the monster thus referred to is [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], not as part of a specific context (as Hera is, for instance, in the Iliad), but by nature. When a monster is in Hesiod (Homer does not apply the term to monsters) designated as such, the implication is that there are no solutions possible when facing such a creature, now and ever.
What exactly, then, makes Echidna and her son, Cerberus, 'impossible'? Interestingly, in Hesiod the term [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] is also used to designate Pandora when she first appears to both gods and mortals: [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (And wonder seized both the deathless gods and mortal men / When they beheld the sheer trap, a creature impossible to manage for mankind, Theog. 588--9). Jean-Pierre Vernant and Marcel Detienne, in their seminal work (1974) on [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], have already discussed some of the cognitive range encompassed by the term [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] as part of a larger explanation of the ancient Greek notion of resourcefulness. (19) My reading of the term's application to Pandora locates her in the category that Hesiod implicitly draws in applying the term directly to only three creatures. Pandora was designed as a scourge for humankind, against which there is no remedy. We saw above that while Typhon himself is not designated as [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (since Zeus famously defeats him), he creates a threat that would have turned into an intractable situation had Zeus not intervened in time. Typhon also happens to be the father of Cerberus, according to the genealogy laid out by Hesiod (Theog. 310-1). The intractability of Typhon's nature is passed on to the son in his function as merciless hound: Cerberus is for mortals the inescapable menace that his father was for the whole of creation. (20)
The common designation as [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] would suggest, therefore, that Echidna belongs to a category that includes Cerberus, Pandora, and, with some qualifications, Typhon, all of whom are monsters beyond remedy, unfeeling creatures whose whole existence is predicated on the destruction and ruin of others. Like them, Echidna's savagery lies in her ruthlessness, her unconcern for her victims; but she also shares with these monsters the common trait that they all represent a seemingly inescapable doom. Although defeated by Zeus and confined to Tartarus, (21) from Typhon's maimed and smoldering body still comes [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (the wet might of blowing winds) (Theog. 872-80):
[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. But the other gusts of wind blow upon the sea recklessly; Indeed, they fall upon the misty depths, A great scourge for mankind, they rage with their evil swirl. At some other time, they blow upon and scatter ships And destroy sailors; and there is no defense For men who encounter them on the sea. But others, in turn, upon the boundless, blooming earth Destroy the lovely fields of earthborn men Filling them with dust and troubling racket.
For all that he is now physically confined and removed from the world of mortals, Typhon's vanquished body and sputtering breath still have the capacity to cause enormous damage. Such damage, we should quickly note, nevertheless affects only humanity--the gods remain untouched by his continued blustering. Similarly, his son Cerberus's fifty heads and voice of bronze (Theog. 311-2), which evoke the Bronze Age of indomitable warriors, those who have a strong heart of adamantine ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], Theog. 147), are not a matter of choice for humankind; indeed, Cerberus's monstrosity, his dreadful nature, is even [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (unspeakable, Theog 310). (22)
Like this father and son pair, the scourge given the name of Pandora, the ancestress of all mortal women, is an evil, but an unavoidable one, as woman is indispensable to man; (23) she is a bane, whose absence nevertheless spells doom for the man wishing to preserve his ancestral lineage and the integrity of his property (Theog. 603-12):
[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. And whoever, fleeing marriage and the baneful concerns brought on by women, Does not wish to marry, he reaches baleful old age Lacking someone to care for him; and while he lives Not lacking in resources, once dead, his kinsfolk Take their share of his possessions. But, in turn, for him upon whom the lot of marriage comes And who takes a decent wife suited to his character, Abiding evil contends with good all his life. And whoever gets a baneful family, He lives having unabating grief in his chest, Spirit, and heart--and this evil is incurable.
From Typhon, scourge for mortals at sea and on the dry earth, to Cerberus, the bane of the newly dead, to Pandora, scourge for the race of men, the term [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] would seem to suggest a notion of inescapable evil. Among these creatures of forceful doom, Echidna's membership to this category may seem less easy to explain. (24) As mentioned earlier, within the framework of her immediate family and of her two sets of sisters, Echidna appears to symbolize the successful female predator. Within herself, she embodies a vision of the female aggressor that remains unsuccessfully negotiated in her siblings, the Gorgons and Graiai. Medusa is mortal, and the Graiai's greyness leaves them paradoxically unbound by time, but her fatal glance easily one-ups the fragile exchange of the one eye between them. Similarly, the poisonous bites of her glare and of the snakes in her hair contrast with the Graiai's sharing of one tooth. And so while the two sets of sisters, the two Graiai and the three Gorgons, explore among them permutations of the dangerous female with various degrees of success, the lone Echidna emerges as the one successful experiment: she has the Gorgons' reptile aggressiveness and rapacity, and the Graiai's distinguishing beautiful cheeks--the kind that not even time, as denoted in their grey hair, can affect. (25) The successful female predator that Echidna represents offers a counterpoint to Pandora's power as married woman. Echidna achieves as a 'single' female what Pandora does within a marital framework (cf. Walcot 1984).
III. Not One without Two
The deadly power of the 'single female' is, in the Odyssey, intricately articulated in the twin dangers of Scylla and Charybdis. But despite the semiotic closeness between the two, Scylla, unlike Echidna, is not [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]; she is never thus described in Homer. The point is borne out by the fact that unlike Echidna and her Hesiodic kind--monsters against whom there is no remedy--Scylla is not completely invincible. The reason is that she is part of a pair; her complementary half is Charybdis. As Scylla inhabits a tall cliff, so Charybdis lurks beneath and around the outside of a lower rock. Circe's description of Charybdis is strictly comparative and in reference to Scylla: [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (And the other crag is lower to the ground, you will see, Odysseus. / They are close to each other--an arrow shot distance, Od. 12.101-2). The visual counterpoint offered by the contrast of their rocks' height, combined with their physical proximity to each other, first brings them together pictorially: as the eyes draw them into the same space, the mind instantly configures them as a pair. Circe's emphasis on seeing [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] brings focus on the initially visual basis of the two's togetherness: the visual recognition lays the foundation for a deeper cognitive connection between these two contrasting and complementary forces. Before launching into a description of Charybdis that clearly sets her as different from Scylla, Circe adds the brief but significant mention that only an arrow shot separates them; the two are not only close, but mortals can easily go from one to the other. We will see that this geographical closeness implies far more than simply ready passage between them; as I will show, their closeness suggests as well that they are semiotically implicated one in the other--that what is impossible with one will be available through the other.
As Circe begins to enumerate the defining features of Charybdis, it becomes immediately clear that the other 'monster' is quite unlike Scylla: [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (On top of it [the lower crag] is a great fig tree, luxuriant with leaves; / Beneath it, divine Charybdis swallows the black water, back and again, Od. 12.103-4). Charybdis appears at first to be a phenomenon even stealthier than Scylla: though the latter hides in her cave, she could at least be located as residing and operating within that space. Charybdis, however, can only be surmised through her gulping action. Her 'mouth' does not even get described. When the water is engulfed, where does it all go? (26) Circe's account only specifies that as the water goes 'in,' so out it goes: [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Three times a day, she sends it up; three times she swallows it back, Od. 12.105). Two points are worth noting. First, while the name 'Charybdis' denotes a swallowing action, the narrative gives no account of a point of entry into and out of which the water disappears. Put differently, the text does not offer a comparandum for Scylla's six heads, each fitted with three rows of teeth, as well as--perhaps most grotesquely--twelve misshapen feet (Od. 12.90-1). (27) What is it that swallows the water? What exactly is Charybdis? Second, we are told explicitly that the water swallowed is spat out again; implicitly, nothing gets lost--things do get restored. In what follows, I show that these two points are interconnected and help explain one another.
IV. One Fig Tree out at Sea
While Charybdis is famous for the whirlpool that is associated with her, the first striking element in Circe's description is not the action of the churning waters, but the incongruous fig tree perched atop the crag that is Charybdis's implied center. A lush, exuberantly thriving fig tree growing on a bare rock out in the middle of the sea is striking enough as an idea; the fact that it has drawn as little scholarly curiosity, and therefore exegesis, as it has, is perhaps equally remarkable. (28) Although Alfred Heubeck and Arie Hoekstra note, in their commentary on Book 12, the correspondence between Scylla's rock and Charybdis's fig tree, (29) there has been no extensive attempt to locate the tree within a larger reading of the relationship between Scylla and Charybdis. (30) In her narratological commentary, Irene De Jong points out only that the fig tree is a "seed," looking forward to a later point in the narrative when Odysseus will use the tree as a means for salvation. (31) There is thus a general recognition on the part of commentators that the fig tree serves as an essential plot element for the later rescue of Odysseus, but no real attempt has been made to explore the precise reason for the choice of this plant in particular and as a motif. (32)
At the core of any explanation of the fig tree's presence in the narrative must be its role as the means by which Odysseus ensures his safety in a situation well near beyond recourse. But one of the audience's discoveries in the subsequent narrative is that recourse does in fact exist against the odds of being swallowed down Charybdis's watery void. The tree provides the one and only anchor amid crashing waves and undercurrent swirls. When Odysseus, as the lone survivor of Zeus's vengeful thunderbolt's strike, is brought right back to the whirlpool he had tried to avoid at the cost of six men, the encounter with Charybdis--courtesy of the south wind rushing in with perfect timing (Od. 12.427)--takes on an air of inevitability. As with the Sirens, there is no choosing whether to encounter the female or not--here, whether to steer close to Charybdis or stay at a safe distance; the encounter will take place, and all Odysseus as doomed sailor may do is prepare for it as best he can manage. The choice of losing six men to Scylla to escape Charybdis has only brought Odysseus right back to the deep vortex, and down her gaping hole.
As Odysseus is engulfed alive, the only source of salvation is the lone, improbable fig tree (Od. 12.431-6):
[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. She again sucked down the briny water of the sea; But I, having raised myself to the top of the tall fig tree, Clinging to it 1 held it close like a bat. For there was nowhere to place my feet nor to climb up As its roots reached far out, and its branches were high aloft, Long and tall, they overshadowed Charybdis.
The fig tree is scaled to a size to dwarf mortals, its branches and roots extending far beyond the reach of human hands and feet. Like the whirlpool raging below it, this fig tree belongs to a natural world over which mortals are not masters. And yet this dwarfing product of nature emerges as Odysseus's only hope in a wholly hostile seascape. The hero's transformation into a bat, if only as a temporary remedy, is suggestive of a forced surrender to powers beyond his. His earlier attempt to fight Scylla in all his warrior's regalia, which Circe had already flatly discouraged, and which had highlighted the incongruousness of his warrior impulse against an unconquerable monster, seems, if anything, even more improbable now, against an enemy that is not even there, whose body, to the extent that one may be posited, is part and parcel of the landscape itself, part of natural processes that obey a cycle outside of human reach. The six maws of Scylla are here replaced by the indifferent gulping of tidal forces.
Charybdis, however, is not only a whirlpool; she is a vortex that comes with a rock and a fig tree growing at its top. Unlike her neighbor Scylla, Charybdis is thus not solely engulfing mouth and cold rock; she encompasses as well the green and lush fig tree (cf. Hopman 2012, 68). Charybdis swallows, but she can also offer hope, even if only threadbare. And although the tree's branches turn out to be too high and the roots too low to be of use to Odysseus (Od. 12.433-6), clinging to the trunk can yet save him.
V. Waiting for the Work Day's End
The patient and sober reckoning of Charybdis's cyclical processes marks a return to what Odysseus does best: endure and wait for the right moment (Od. 12. 437-9). Despite the dire nature of his current circumstances, Odysseus is able to muster enough composure and self-discipline to maintain his bat-like pose the entire length of a day. (33) The simile that Odysseus, as the narrator of the scene, deploys to recount his ordeal sets a drastic contrast between the dire reality of his wait and the orderly picture from daily life as experienced in the now remote civilized world (Od. 12.439-44):
[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. And at the time of the evening meal, when a man deciding the many quarrels of Those vigorously seeking judgment, rises from the assembly, At that time indeed, the planks reappeared out of Charybdis. And I let go of feet and hands from above, Fell in the middle of the sea ahead of the long timber, And, sitting on these, I rowed with my hands.
For the first time since Odysseus chose the dangers of Scylla and Charybdis over the Planctae, the man 'of many ways' is once again able to deploy his trademark self-reliance. De Jong has suggested that the distant image evoked by Odysseus shows another example of his using culture to save himself from nature's overwhelming grip. (34) The motif of the opposition between nature and culture, which has been shown not only to run deep throughout the Odyssey but also to structure Odysseus's journey, is expressed here in these treacherous straits to a new level. (35) Odysseus can save himself, extricate himself from this impossible situation, only by falling into, by surrendering to, the sea. Fleubeck and Hoekstra's commentary to line 443 draws attention to what may be two significant lexical choices. The first is the use of the verb Soutteco to describe Odysseus's diving in, which, in the Iliad, is applied to soldiers falling. (36) Are we perhaps encouraged to relate Odysseus's plunging into the sea to the image of Iliadic warriors falling on the battlefield? Alex Purves (2006) has shown how the concept of falling in the Iliad is closely associated with mortal death and the mortal experience of time. Might Odysseus's fall--here his choosing to fall--suggest that he sees salvation in these circumstances as entailing surrender? Are we being asked to consider this fall into the sea--an act that was meant to save--as at once saving gesture and acknowledgement of defeat? Heubeck and Hoekstra's second remark on that line would seem to lend support to this view. They note that the adjective [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] is curiously lacking a noun. (37) One would, in this context, expect a variation on the noun "sea" or "water." But the syntax may be unresolved here because the water that is signified is also a female creature. The syntax thus leaves undecided exactly what it is that Odysseus falls into: Is it the whirlpool as female, or the female as whirlpool? The line's syntactical aporia may here reflect the poet's deeper conceptual impasse. Yet again, the configuration of the monstrously hostile female as monstrously hostile landscape may also suggest a new typology of the hero, as one who must, willy-nilly, confront untamed nature, figured as the female Other.
VI. The Unyielding Landscape as Intractable Female
The indeterminate identity of Charybdis as either female creature or watery void brings together two strands that have structured Odysseus's journey through the hostile seascape of Homer's Mediterranean world: the sea as the Great Unknown (38) and the female as a bottomless void. (39) The two signifies, sea and female, collapse together here in the baffling description of Odysseus's most dreaded adversary yet. The churning action of Charybdis's ever-raging waters is both visual metaphor for, and the actualization of, the female coalescing into engulfing vortex. Here again, the world of Hesiod can help unfold and illuminate Homer's dense configuration by reading it within the larger framework of archaic epic. (40) The blending of female with sea foam is most famously and dramatically explored through the Theogony's description of Aphrodite's birth (Theog. 188-93):
[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]
[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. And when he first, having cut off the male parts with the unconquerable metal, Threw them from the dry earth into the churning sea, So they were carried for a long time over the sea, and round about, White foam arose from the immortal skin; and in it, A young girl was born, and she first drew near holy Cytherea, And from there, afterwards, she reached sea-girt Cyprus.
The foam that is produced and gathers together round the fallen male genitalia is commonly explained as referring to the semen, either of Ouranos himself (41) or of the male in general. (42) One important related point, but one gone unnoticed, is how this foam connects and repeats the description of the sea, into which Cronos throws his father's parts, as "churning" [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. The frothy sea in which more froth is created around Ouranos's genitals, this foamy exuberance, is the medium in which Aphrodite, the embodiment of female erotic powers, is born, and out of which she emerges into the world. Aphrodite is here revealed through the foam as much as, we might say, Charybdis is hidden in the substance of the frothy currents that she embodies. In each instance, however, the foam of the sea is the female. This confusing, topsy-turvy merging of the signifier and the signified--the foaming sea as female, and vice-versa--is what makes Charybdis a profound puzzle, why she cannot be located, why she eludes any search to dissect her 'parts.' Most tellingly, when Odysseus first chooses to steer closer to Scylla to avoid her close companion, his description of Charybdis runs thus (Od. 12.235-43):
[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. There was Scylla; on the other side, divine Charybdis Sucked down the briny water of the sea, in a dreadful manner. Truly, whenever she vomited it, like a cauldron over a great fire, She roared, all stirred up, and from high up the spray Fell on top of both rocks; But whenever she sucked down the briny water of the sea, She appeared all stirred up inside, and around her rock She bellowed dreadfully, and underneath, the earth appeared Black with sand; and green fear seized my companions.
Charybdis's normal state of being seems to consist chiefly in a never-ending churning and bellowing action. And to the question of what constitutes her--what it is that the foam and the spray and the belching forth hide--the answer is ... nothing. What the receding waters, swallowed into some unknown, unspecified channel, reveal is simply bare earth, bare and unyielding as the rock that sits in the middle of the whirlpool, or as the neighboring crag where Scylla lurks and hides. Beneath the surface turmoil and the resounding noise of crashing waves is indifferent bedrock, nothing but a forlorn, hard surface smeared over with black sand. Deep down the gaping hole of the vortex, Odysseus encounters the same unreflective rock that makes up Scylla's lair and is confounded with her.
When the tattered remains of what was his ship get washed back to the dreaded pass between Scylla and Charybdis, Odysseus, this time, does not have a choice of whether to steer closer to Scylla: he arrives precisely when Charybdis is swallowing. Previously, this would have been viewed as assured death. Previously, this would not have been an option. But the time for options is well over for Odysseus; circumstances have led him into a situation where he must make do with whatever nature will give him--if not branches or roots, then a trunk will do. The improbable fig tree, which casts its large shadow over the whirlpool, is itself a lesson in survival against all odds. Like the stubborn, self-driven vegetation that colonizes the most unlikely, the most hostile of environments, the fig tree displays the triumph of the principle of fecundity over that of barrenness, of life over death. The engulfing threat that Charybdis represents, which is solidified in the defiant (if smaller) crag, is balanced out by the offer of hope in the fig tree's resilient trunk. Odysseus thus discovers, albeit under duress, that Charybdis provides one element not available through Scylla: a chance (thin, remote, but possible) to escape alive.
VII. What's in a Fig Tree?
In contrast to the sterile hardness of the rock on which it grows, the fig tree easily evokes luxuriance, fertility, and nature as giving and as assistance. In the wilds of a boiling vortex, the presence of a wild fig tree would seem to provide unexpected relief and comfort, if only as merely bark/wall to hang onto. This is not a tree that is the product of human cultivation, nor even a tree sacred to a divinity; this is a tree that is as wild and untamed as the frothing eddy over which it seems, however incongruously, to preside. This is nature outside the world of men and of gods--nature left to fend for itself and grow where it may outside of Zeus's dispensation, an orderly kosmos where mortals and divinities have a place, a function, roles to play, and duties to fulfill in relation to each other. (43) The wild fig tree is like nature unaccounted for, unreckoned, leftover from the time Zeus took over after his defeat of Typhon (Said 1977), a time marked by chaos yielding to organization and mutual, beneficial interdependence. But as witnessed, for instance, by the Hesiodic Chimaira, or the Homeric Python, the kosmos of Zeus is far from free of monstrous remains. Here and there, across Zeus's vast realm, pockets abide where his influence is well-near nonexistent. Quite apart from the production of monstrous creatures, and less conspicuously, though with just as much determination, the earth yields trees, chasms, and eddies that do well enough in the absence of human caretaking. Out in the broad sea, in particular, out in the unknowable [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], the pairing of the wild fig tree and the rock of Charybdis figured as the center of the female maelstrom crystallizes the vision of a world that the Olympians have yet to master completely. (44) If Scylla symbolizes the untamed and sexually aggressive nymph, Charybdis can be conceived as an expansive version of the untethered female. And like many nymphs, she is so closely associated with a tree that her identity and that of the tree coalesce to form one being, one natural phenomenon (Larson 2001, 10-1). But just as Charybdis is unique among female figures, so is the tree to which she is linked and that forms part of her.
The fig tree occurs nowhere else in the Odyssey, but is mentioned in the Iliad, where one specimen is located at the foot of the Trojan wall. In Book 6, Andromache implores Hector to direct his Trojan men to stay by the fig tree, which is here figured as a site where Troy is particularly vulnerable to foreign attack (II. 6.431-7): (45)
[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. But come now, take pity and remain here on the wall, Lest you make your child an orphan and your wife a widow. As for your army, station it by the wild fig tree, where the city Is particularly easy to enter and the wall scaled. For three times at this location the best warriors came and made an attempt In the company of the two Ajaxes, the glorious Idomeneus, The sons of Atreus, and the brave son of Tydeus.
The fig tree marks an easy point of entry for the enemy, for it presumably can be made to function as a ladder of sorts. (46) This wild plant, growing freely without the help and care of human hands, right outside of the Trojan walls, is indifferent to the usage to which it is put. In two other Iliadic passages, the fig tree reappears as a landmark on the Trojan plain: in Book 11.167-9, and again, most ominously, in Book 22, as background to Achilles' climactic pursuit of the doomed Hector (Il. 22.143-8):
[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. So he [Achilles] flew eagerly straight on, while Hector fled away in terror Underneath the wall of the Trojans, and plied his swift knees. And they, past the look-out place and wind-swept fig tree, Ever out from under the wall down the wagon path, sped And reached the fair flowing fountains; there, the two Springs of eddying Scamander well up.
The indifferent landmark stands here like a silent witness to the unfolding tragedy. Nicolaus Richardson in his commentary notes that the fig tree seems to be linked to the fate of Hector. (47) M. L. West, in his more recent commentary, draws attention to the fact that the fig tree mentioned in 11.167 is not close to the city but out in the plain. (48) Neither cared for by Trojans, nor sacred to the Greeks, the fig tree is both removed from the action and deeply anchored in its midst. It marks the physical boundary beyond which, the audience begins to feel, Hector will not return. The space that the tree occupies and helps define is not the locus amoenus that is the nymphs' habitat but a neutral landscape that has served as backdrop to gory chases, fallen bodies from both sides, and now backdrop to the fall of Troy's greatest gatekeeper.
The Iliadic fig tree, whose silhouette instantly reveals the harsh growing conditions out on the Trojan plain, makes it a useful point of comparison when considering the specimen perched atop the crag of Charybdis. If anything, the narrow strait, which one easily imagines as open to gale-force winds, would be expected to have constrained the growth and development of a fig tree whose roots have nowhere to cling to but onto the barren surface of a salt-encrusted rock. The lushness of Charybdis's fig tree should thus take us by surprise. The fertility of this crag evokes the generative drive--birth at all costs--which animates Gaia in the Theogony and is the motive for her unrelenting plotting to overthrow the current ruler, whoever he may be. (49) Whether facing winds on a plain or the challenges of growing on a sea-girt crag, the wild fig tree is like an expression of Gaia's primordial force, the tendency to develop and grow under any circumstances, her limitless drive for limitless reproduction.
VIII. Out of (Olympian) Reach
Like the fig tree, the vortex that rages below it operates independently of human or even divine (that is to say, Olympian) action. Circe makes it clear to Odysseus that not even Poseidon has the power to save sailors from Charybdis's rhythmical swallowing (Od. 12.105-7):
[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII].
For three times a day, she spews it up, and three times, she swallows it back-- A dreadful thing. May you not chance to be there when she sucks it down, For no one could save you from evil, not even the Earth-shaker.
The untamed power of Charybdis as watery vortex offers a new glimpse into Gaia as uncontrolled growth and land(/sea)scape. Within what should be the domain of Poseidon, Gaia qua nature still finds a way to express herself in ways that may sometimes disrupt or challenge the hegemony of the Olympians. Whether it be the haphazard, though harmless (and certainly, for Odysseus, felicitous) fecundity of the fig tree, or the unchecked and threatening expression of the whirlpool, the world of Zeus remains dotted with pockets where nature still reigns supreme and where it flourishes as it wills. This state of affairs holds particularly true in the broad ocean, (50) whose concentrated force, here in the expression of a whirlpool, gets declined in the feminine. That is because woman, like the sea and its hidden dangers, is now a fact of life. The Golden Age, when the female element did not exist, is over. The succession of female snares dotting Odysseus's journey home only reinforces this message, repeats it like a stubborn refrain, and varies it only to prove the larger point (Nagler 1996). With the advent of Pandora, nature has ceased to be friendly and accommodating. (51)
The threatening landscape is female because woman, through Pandora, caused man's world to become hostile to him. Thus, like Scylla, Charybdis is female. But, unlike her close neighbor, the vortex is not frightening because she resembles a creature of nightmares, because she evokes the underworld, because her mouth has rows of teeth eager to chomp on live flesh. Charybdis is not a monster on the Hesiodic model. Nothing in her is reptilian, predatory, or malicious; she is merely the meeting point of contrary currents, an objective concentration of forces under no one's particular command.
IX. A New World for a New Hero
When Circe essentially dictated to Odysseus what was to be his choice of path--not the Planctae, but Scylla and Charybdis (cf. Hopman 2012, 26-7)--she was implicitly suggesting that these moving rocks belong to a bygone and fantastic era, an age when safety at sea could be ensured entirely by the gods, as Hera did for Jason (Od. 12.69-72). This is no longer the world of Odysseus. As he inches closer to Ithaca, closer to his real identity as ruler of a sea-girt kingdom, the danger he must reckon with is the untamable sea, not the untamable nightmares and the [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] monster that Scylla was modeled upon. Zeus's gesture to turn Scylla's gaze away from Odysseus as he tries to swim his way out of Charybdis and from the deadly strait is perhaps an implicit recognition that Scylla is now, at this point in the narrative of the hero's journey, an outmoded paradigm: [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (And no longer did the father of men and gods allow Scylla / To see me; for I would not have escaped sheer destruction, Od. 12.445-6; cf. Buchan 2004b, 46). Scylla, like the self-moving Planctae, ceases to be a working model for the new force Odysseus must contend with. In contrast to the heroes of old--Heracles, for instance, or his great-grandfather Perseus--Odysseus does not 'conquer' monsters in the Hesiodic mold, monsters like the fantastical hundred-headed Hydra, who have more affinity with nightmares than with hard reality; instead, the new hero is a survivor. Whether becoming a bat so as to avoid certain death, or falling into the churning depths of a whirlpool, Odysseus learns that the new hero is one who adapts to circumstances. This may mean that, at times, the hero must himself become nature, as he himself becomes the bat. Against ever-resourceful, exuberant, and inventive environmental forces, the man of many ways emerges as the new hero-type, no longer battling external and implausible enemies, but blending in, mimicking, or falling into the Other. This is because the 'new monster' is nature left untamed; the new monster is the risk of being swallowed by the sea, the force of currents, or the movement of tides. Like farming, navigation, too, has emerged as man's new technique for survival. (52) Like woman and marriage, facing the dangers of the sea has become the new reality for the Greek male venturing outside the comfort of his community.
When Odysseus clings for dear life to the trunk of a lonely fig tree lost at sea, his situation is markedly different from when he was clutching the underbelly of the Cyclops's ram. His position is no longer that of a victorious trickster who has just played his enemy a good turn. That is because the 'enemy' is not lurking out there, ready to pounce if the wrong move is made; the 'enemy' is simply the challenge posed by a sometimes intractable environment, natural forces that dwarf and overwhelm mortals but also give them opportunities to practice their [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], the ability to adapt, learn, and evolve. While it is true that Odysseus's earlier defeat of Polyphemus had been compared--in Odysseus's own words, no less--to the work of a shipwright (Od. 9.382-6), what is emphasized here in his experience with Charybdis, coming on the heels of his ordeal with Scylla, is not technical know-how and precision; rather, it is resourcefulness as resilience--the kind that the fig tree itself models. And although Odysseus no doubt remains mismatched to the vastness and raw power of the vortex, the decisions and choices he makes are now able to affect his fate. From Scylla to Charybdis, the dangerous female is transmuted from sexual, predatory being to nature as all-devouring but also bountiful and giving.
Odysseus, we might say, comes to experience and embody the end of a heroic era. This era, to which Jason, Heracles, and Perseus belong, has yielded, in the Odyssey's vision, to a time when heroes, men like Odysseus, use their chief skill, in this instance, [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], not as supreme conquerors, but to survive against overwhelming odds and untamed, untamable nature. And somewhere, amid swirling waters and hardened rock, the new hero may find an unexpected ally in lushness unaccounted for.
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(1) On the language of the gods, see Giintert 1921; Kretschmer 1947, 13-26; Heubeck 1949-1950.
(2) For the Odyssey, I use Alfred Heubeck's text (Milan, 1983); translations are my own.
(3) Heubeck (1989, ad Od. 12.55-72) suggests that the poet of the Odyssey may be trying to outdo an older Argonautic epic featuring the Clashing Rocks by including here an alternative path through Scylla and Charybdis. For a similar interpretation, see Dimock 1989, 167.
(4) See esp. Buchan 2004a and Hoprnan 2012, 52-68; cf. Louden 2011, 167-70.
(5) For a radically different view from the one proposed in this paper, see Danek 2002, who argues against the fundamental binary integrity of Scylla and Charybdis as presented in the received version of the Odyssey, in his view, the one does not imply the other.
(6) On the correlation between Polyphemus's loss of his precious one eye and the loss of his Golden Age insouciance, see Buchan 2004b.
(7) Cf. Louden 2011, 168 and Hopman 2012, 57.
(8) Wilamowitz 1895, Abramowicz 1940-1946, West 1966, Lemke 1968, Siegmann 1969, Bonnafe 1984, Hamilton 1989. Both Welcker (1865) and Schwabl (1969) view the referent as Callirhoe; cf. Clay 2003, 150-61. In Pherecydes 3 F 7, Phorcys is said to be Echidna's father.
(9) Both Goettling (1843) and Muetzell (1833) have suggested that the text may have mentioned a third sister to the two Graiai. I concur with Usener 1903 and West 1966 that sets, where two sisters become three, are sufficiently well-attested and so there is no overwhelming need here to favor reading three Graiai in place of the two. Harrison (1908, 286-9) adduces the examples of the Charites, Semnai, Moirai, and the daughters of Cecrops; she adds, moreover, the useful observation that "The women-trinities rose out of dualities, but not every duality became a trinity.... Where personification had become complete, as in the case of Demeter and Kore ... no third figure could lightly be added" (287). West (1966, ad Theog. 273) suggests adding the Harpies to the list.
(10) Cf. Goettling 1843; Vernant 1991a; Clay 2003, 153-4.
(11) For the Theogony, I use the text of Solmsen's 1990 Oxford, third edition; translations are my own.
(12) Cf. Strauss 2003, 156 where the subterranean location of Echidna is interpreted as equivalent to the location of other monsters at extreme boundaries. My contention here is that the subterranean sphere occupied by Echidna is meant to evoke the underworld specifically.
(13) For the association of the female body with the cave, see Pollock 2008.
(14) In a chapter presenting Hesiodic monsters as mixed beings that haphazardly combine features from normally distinct creatures, Clay (2003, esp. 155 note 16) suggests that Hesiod may be impressing Echidna with some male element in referring to her by the masculine ocpn; when the option of the feminine [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (cf. Hymn. Horn. Ap. 300) was available within his archaic epic diction.
(15) On the association of mist, night, and the clouded with death, see esp. Vernant 1991a, 121-2.
(16) The deep-rooted connection in ancient Greek myth and cult is discussed in Larson 2001, 8-1 1.
(17) Strauss (2003, 155-6) interprets the similar epithets, including [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], applied to mother and son, as part of a general, and somewhat predictable, structuring move, namely, to ascribe features of the parents to the children. She does not, however, assign any particular weight to the concept inherent in the term [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], which, as I propose here, is part of a tight semantic network.
(18) Cf. Martin 1983, 11-23 for a complete list of the occurrences of the adjective, along with an analysis in which he foregrounds the role of the person thus designated in the crisis at hand.
(19) Detienne and Vernant 1974, esp. Chap. 10, "Le cercle et le lien." For a connection between Hera and Nestor's designation as [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] and their alleged [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], see Martin 1983, 12-7.
(20) Cf. Strauss 2003, 156 where she points to Cerberus's new role in Tartarus but does not explicitly, as I do here, connect this new function that is invested in the hound to his designation as [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. Martin (1983, 20-1) interprets Echidna and Cerberus as "multiforms" of Typhon, and further connects the multiplicity that is characteristic of father and son to what he views as their possessing [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. If the link between multiplicity and [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] is correct here, its absence in Echidna, despite her being called [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], remains to be explained.
(21) Blaise (1992) argues convincingly that Gaia produces Typhon in conjunction with Tartarus to oppose Zeus as he jeopardizes the principle that she represents, namely, limitless reproduction.
(22) Cf. Hamilton 1989, 30 who views Typhon's children chiefly as diminished versions of him.
(23) For the paradox of Pandora as both "giver of all gifts" and "gift given to men by all the gods," see Pucci 1977, 96-101.
(24) Aristophanes in Ran. 477 locates Echidna in the underworld, along with Cerberus and the Gorgons. Vernant (1991a) views these creatures as symbolizing the "alterity of the world of the dead."
(25) Cf. Clay 1993, 106: "The catalogue as a whole subverts the process of individuation and articulation which underlies the Hesiodic project." Part of my argument here rests on the idea that the production and genealogy of monsters in Hesiod's catalogue are not a haphazard process but a specific experiment, and that while monsters may be seen as threatening the teleology that is expressed in the reign of Zeus, they do so as part of an equally motivated program, namely, the exploration of the unheimlich within the heimlich that is Zeus's orderly world. Recent Monster Theory suggests that monsters can be usefully thought of as psychological ventures from within the very walls erected by culture against those perceived as enemies to its order. See, for instance, Beal 2001, 4-5: "If heimlich refers to that which belongs within the four walls of the house, inspiring feelings of restfulness and security, then unheimlich refers to that which threatens one's sense of 'at-home-ness,' not from the outside but from within the house.... Monsters are personifications of the unheimlich. They stand for what endangers one's sense of at-homeness, that is, one's sense of security, stability, integrity, wellbeing, health and meaning. They make one feel not at home. They are figures of chaos and disorientation within order and orientation, revealing deep insecurities in one's faith in oneself, one's society and one's world."
(26) Cf. Hopman 2012, 68: "Elements that tend to assimilate her to a natural phenomenon include the omission of bodily features (an absence made all the more striking in comparison to Circe's emphasis on Scylla's body)."
(27) For the astute suggestion that the twelve feet may be not so much Scylla's own (for her body is ever concealed from the waist down) as those of her victims, which she snatches six at a time, see Buchan 2004a, 32-41.
(28) Brief notes on Charybdis's role and that of her fig tree can be found in Reinhardt 1996, 102-4.
(29) Heubeck 1989, ad Od. 12.101-10.
(30) Danek 2002, 20-1, following Reinhardt 1996, 91 note 12, reads the fig tree as "the relic of a version in which Odysseus, together with ship and companions, gets caught in Charybdis."
(31) Jong 2001, ad Od. 12.55-126.
(32) See also, e.g., Hexter 1993 on Fitzgerald's translation of Od. 12.121.
(33) Heubeck 1989, ad Od. 12.439-41.
(34) De Jong 2001, ad Od. 12.438-41.
(35) See esp. Dougherty 2001 who frames the journey in terms of bringing lessons learned from the "New World" back to the "Old World."
(36) Heubeck 1989, ad Od. 12.443.
(37) Heubeck 1989, ad Od. 12.443.
(38) For 7t:6vto<; as "l'inconnu du large" and an equivalent for mortals of a "Tartare brumeux," see Vernant 1974, chap. 5. A further elaboration along similar lines can be found in Hopman 2012, esp. 80-3.
(39) For Pandora as a bottomless gaster, see Vernant 1974 and 2001 and Loreaux 2007; for a recent exploration of the dialogics in Pandora's exterior and interior, see Kenaan 2008, 86-90.
(40) For the coherence of early Greek 'theology' as expressed in archaic epos, see esp. Clay 2003.
(41) See, e.g., Mazon 2002, 39 note 1 (referring to Theog. 191).
(42) Caldwell 1987, ad Theog. 188-99.
(43) On the interconnectedness of mortals and the gods, see esp. Vernant 1965.
(44) This idea is perhaps implicit in the fact, observed by Bonnafe 1984, 148-9, that a spontaneous feeling of thambos, reverence for the sacred in nature (when not already dedicated to a divinity), is absent in the Odyssey: "La nature n'est pas pour les personnages le lieu privilege de la communication avec les dieux.... Dans la vie quotidienne des personnages, le sentiment du sacre eveille par le spectacle de la nature parait fermement canalise et institutionnalise. Il s'exprime par l'intermediaire de rites bien definis, sacrifices et invocations a forme fixe. II se manifeste uniquement dans des lieux determines, dont le caractere sacre est reconnu de tous."
(45) For the Iliad, I use the text of M. L. West's 1998 Teubner; translations are my own.
(46) Cf. Kirk 1990, ad Il. 6.433.
(47) Richardson 1993, ad Il. 22.145.
(48) West 2011, ad Il. 6.433.
(49) Clay 2003, chap. I. Clay's discussion of Gaia's role in the Theogony offers a fitting framework for coming to grips with the place of the fig tree that has flourished against all odds, 17: "Gaia will always be on the side of birth."
(50) For the sea as "etendue abyssale, chaotique, veuve de routes," see Vernant 1974, 270-85. For the sea as representation of a "nature dechainee," see Bonnafe 1984, 139-48.
(51) Vernant 1960; Pucci 1977, 82-126; Kenaan 2007.
(52) Dougherty (2001, 89-92) shows that the beginning of human navigation is one of the markers for the end of the Golden Age.
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|Title Annotation:||Scylla and Charybdis in the 'Odyssey'|
|Date:||Sep 22, 2015|
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