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Statius, Orpheus, and Callimachus Thebaid 2.269-96.

In this paper I argue that Statius's description of a necklace made by Vulcan in book 2 of the Thebaid alludes at several points to the Orphic Theogony. (1) Drawing on Charles McNelis's (2007, 11-2, 75) suggestive theory that Statius enacts in the Thebaid a conflict between traditional epic and Callimachean poetics, I postulate that these Orphic allusions allow us to read Vulcan's necklace itself as constituting a 'poem' charged with the language of Callimachean aesthetics and of Orphic-influenced poetics. Epic ekphrases frequently comment upon the narrative of which they are a part by using visual language both to emphasize elements of the main narrative and to allude to other exemplary narratives and discourses. (2) Homer's Shield of Achilles, for instance, may be understood as emphasizing the universal nature of the story of Achilles' anger by depicting visually the entire universe on the shield. (3) On the other hand, Vergil's Temple of Juno in Carthage exemplifies the different ways of interpreting the Homeric past and the Roman future. (4) I intend to show that Statius's necklace description engages in a similar kind of commentary by providing a complex meditation on the aesthetics of genre in general and more specifically on different types of epic narrative.

The context of the necklace description is the impending marriage of Polynices to Argia, daughter of Adrastus, king of Argos and soon to be Polynices' main ally in the war against Thebes. We are told that Polynices gives to his new bride a necklace that had been owned by Polynices' ancestress Harmonia. We are then informed that the necklace was made by Vulcan as a tool of revenge against his adulterous wife Venus (Harmonia being the offspring of her relationship with Mars):
  Lemnius haec, ut prisca fides, Mavortia longum
  furta dolens, capto postquam nil obstat amori
  poena nee ultrices castigavere catenae,
  Harmoniae dotale decus sub luce iugali
  struxerat. (Theb. 2.269-73)

  Now the Lemnian, as the ancient belief was, for a long time chagrined
  by Mars' intrigue, when punishment proved in no way an obstacle to the
  affair he had detected and the avenging chains did not mend matters,
  had created for Harmonia a lovely wedding-gift against the day of her
  marriage. (Translation Ritchie and Hall)


The allusion here to the adultery of Mars and Venus, perhaps to the specific version of the story given in Odyssey 8, (5) serves as an acknowledgment of Vergil's tongue-in-cheek handling of the Venus-Vulcan scene in Aeneid 8. In his remake of Thetis's supplication of Hephaestus in Iliad 18, Vergil portrays Venus as having to seduce her husband Vulcan in order to obtain weapons for her illegitimate son Aeneas. (6) Statius appropriates the workshop scene and (proleptically) depicts Vulcan avenging himself on Venus for her adulteries. Statius then goes on to list the craftsmen involved in the creation of the necklace: the Cyclopes, the Telchines, and Vulcan himself:
  hoc, docti quamquam maiora, laborant
  Cyclopes, notique operum Telchines arnica
  certatim iuvere manu; sed plurimus ipsi
  sudor. (Theb. 2.273-76)

  Over this gift the Cyclopes, though trained to more weighty tasks,
  labor and the Telchines famed for their craftsmanship helped in a
  friendly contest of skill; most effort, though, was expended by
  himself. (Translation Ritchie and Hall)


This is a densely intertextual and metapoetic passage (see below); for now, it suffices to notice the addition of the Telchines to the workshop scene. In Homer and Vergil, Hephaestus/Vulcan works only with the Cyclopes. Statius adds the Telchines, a group of daimones and craftsmen, to the list of workers. (7) Next comes a description of the actual object:
  ibi arcano florentes igne zmaragdos
  cingit et infaustas percussum adamanta figuras
  Gorgoneosque orbes Siculaque incude relictos
  fulminis extremi cineres viridumque draconum
  lucentes a fronte iubas; hie flebile germen
  Hesperidum et dirum Phrixei velleris aurum;
  turn varias pestes raptumque interplicat atro
  Tisiphones de crine ducem, et quae pessima ceston
  vis probat; haec circum spumis lunaribus unguit
  callidus atque hilari perfundit cuncta veneno. (Theb. 2.276-85)

  There he sets smaragdi flowering with mysterious fire, and adamant
  hammered into figures of evil omen, the eyes of the Gorgon, the ashes
  left on his Sicilian anvil from the most recent thunderbolt, and the
  crests that gleam on the brows of green dragons; here he sets the
  doleful fruit of the Hesperides and the fearful gold of Phrixus's
  fleece. Then a variety of curses he interweaves, and the serpent
  leader snatched from Tisiphone's black hair, and the pernicious
  influence which demonstrates the power of the girdle. These things he
  cunningly anoints all around with the moon's foam, steeping everything
  in a lively poison. (Translation Ritchie and Hall, with modifications)


A certain amount of malice goes into the object's creation, and the description reads like a witch's brew of nasty ingredients: (8) Gorgon eyes, green snakes, various diseases, poison, etc. There are also apparently Veal' physical elements: adamant, emeralds (smaragdi), (9) gold, and possibly amber. These physical elements too are described in frightening and threatening terms (note the adjectives infaustus, flebile, and dirum ). Finally we are told of some divinities and personifications that are allowed (or not) to contribute to the creation of the necklace:
  non hoc Pasithea blandarum prima sororum,
  non Decor Idaliusque puer, sed Luctus et Irae
  et Dolor et tota pressit Discordia dextra. (Theb. 2.286-8)

  This necklace neither Pasithea, eldest of the graceful Sisters, nor
  Beauty nor the Idalian boy touched upon, but Grief, Anger, Pain, and
  Discord with heavy hand. (Translation Ritchie and Hall)


The exclusion of the Grace Pasithea, Cupid (Idalius puer), and the abstraction Beauty (Decor) seems appropriate given the fact that Vulcan is revenging himself upon Venus, who would be associated with these entities. The list of abstractions that do contribute to the necklace's power (Luctus, Irae, Dolor, and Discordia) continues the ominous tone of the description of the physical parts of the necklace. (10)

We can see, therefore, that the necklace description falls into four main parts: Vulcan's motivation, the workshop scene, the object itself, and the list of gods and abstractions at the end. Before proceeding to a detailed examination of these elements, I present here three general observations about the description as a whole.

First, the necklace description refers both to physical elements of the necklace (gold, emeralds, etc.) and to stories and characters from myth (the Golden Fleece, the Hesperides, etc.). At the very least this juxtaposition of descriptive and allusive elements foregrounds the relationship between the visual and intertextual interpretations of the necklace. In other words, we are invited to consider how Statius has integrated the act of seeing and the acts of reading and remembering. This interpretive ambiguity is reinforced by the fact that the metals and stones mentioned here were usually considered beneficent in popular belief. (11) The fact that in our passage they are supposed to do harm is strange and therefore demands explanation.

Second, the passage is highly allusive and metapoetic. (12) The context of Vulcan's workshop was a standard epic topos by Statius's time, and the Cyclopes who help create the necklace are characterized as docti maiora, a fairly clear metapoetical allusion to the large-scale epic descriptions in Homer, Vergil, and others. (13) Here Statius engages in a bit of tongue-in-cheek comparison between his 'small' necklace and the monumental shields and other objects typical of epic discourse. Likewise, the characterization of Vulcan's labor as "sweat" (sudor, 276) is a metapoetic metaphor. In the proem to the Achilleid, Statius describes the act of writing as "sweating in the dust" while later on Achilles himself uses the same metaphor to describe his musical and poetic training under Chiron. (14) Furthermore, the inclusion of the Telchines among the creators of the necklace is, as McNelis (2007) and others have pointed out, a clear allusion to Callimachean poetics as articulated in the famous Aitia prologue. (15) There Callimachus responds to his critics, whom he calls Telchines after a group of mythical craftsmen and daimones. (16)

My third (and broader) observation points in a rather different direction. Two elements of the description stand out in this regard. First is the cestos mentioned in line 283, and second is the (negative) reference to the Grace Pasithea in line 286. Together these references constitute an allusion to the story of Hera's seduction of Zeus in Iliad 14. In that story Hera borrows Aphrodite's cestos (itself a mysterious implement--is it a girdle? a charm? (17) ) as a part of her seduction scheme (Il. 14.214-5). She also persuades the god Sleep to anesthetize Zeus by promising him the Grace Pasithea in marriage (Il. 14.264-76). (18)

Why should Statius allude to this story? One remarkable element in the Iliad 14 scene is the cosmological lie that Hera tells Aphrodite (and later Zeus) regarding her motives. That lie involves Hera going off to reconcile the marital difficulties between Oceanus and Tethys, whom she characterizes as the primeval couple:
  [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Il.14.200-1)

  For I am faring to visit the limits of the all-nurturing earth, and
  Oceanus, from whom the gods are sprung, and mother Tethys ...
  (Translation Murray)


I would argue that Statius is inviting us to think of this part of the Iliad passage by establishing a theogonic tone in the necklace description. For one thing, Statius's allusion to Pasithea perhaps does double duty: Hesiod (Op. 73-4) tells us that the Charites gave Pandora her necklace (and we should remember that Statius emphasizes that Pasithea is prima sororum, that is, of the Charites). The double allusion would then suggest, first of all, that the necklace is associated with a theogonic story (Pandora) and this, in turn, would emphasize the theogonic elements of the Iliad allusion. Recall also Statius's reference to "the ashes left on [Vulcan's] Sicilian anvil from the most recent thunderbolt" (Siculaque incude relictos I filminis extremi cineres, Theb. 2.278-9). Metapoetically speaking, this reference, by alluding to Vulcan's unfinished thunderbolts in Aeneid 8, (19) constitutes a statement of succession within the epic tradition: the Thebaid follows and does homage to the Aeneid within the tradition. Mythologically speaking, however, the thunderbolt reference is more generally theogonic, since the creation of the thunderbolt by the Cylcopes is an integral part of the divine succession story. (20)

What is the significance of the theogonic allusion? The cosmological primacy of the Oceanus-Tethys pair in Hera's story seems to be at variance with the canonical Hesiodic version in which Ouranus and Gaia are the primeval couple. Some scholars have therefore posited an Orphic origin for the story, based largely on a passage in Plato that quotes an Orphic Theogony according to which Oceanus and Tethys are the primeval pair: (21)
  [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]

  Compare the line in which Homer, and, as I believe, Hesiod also, tells
  of "Oceanus, the origin of the gods, and mother Tethys." And again,
  Orpheus says that

  The fair river of Oceanus was the first to marry, and he espoused his
  sister Tethys, who was his mother's daughter. (Translation Jowett)


We may add to this Apollonius's description of Orpheus's theogonic song in book 1 of the Argonautica (I .496-51 1 = OF 67 = OF 29 Kern). (22) In it Orpheus portrays the Titan Ophion and the Oceanid Eurynome as the first rulers of Olympus. (23) This is clearly some distance from Hera's (and Plato's) story, but it nevertheless attributes to 'Orpheus' an alternative cosmogony that lays stress on the first primeval couple. Hera's Theogony' in the Iliad may not truly have been Orphic in origin, but it would have seemed 'Orphic' in a general (or perhaps popular) sense as it appears to have seemed to Plato. (24)

Now if Statius is indeed alluding to Orphic theogonic material, the question then arises, What is the relationship between this allusion and the metapoetic allusions to Callimachus? One answer is to look to the practice of Augustan poets, for whom Callimachean aesthetics were often paired with the figure of Orpheus and Orphic-inspired cosmology. Vergil's sixth Eclogue alludes to Callimachus's Aitia prologue and the Callimachean aesthetic of small-scale poetry, and later provides a cosmology based on Apollonius's Orphic cosmology (see below). (25) Ovid also acknowledges the combination of Callimachean and Orphic concerns by alluding to Callimachus in the proem to the Metamorphoses and, of course, by providing an extended Orphic song in book 10. (26) Statius appears to be working in this tradition on the basis of his allusions to both Callimacheanism and to Orphic material.

I would suggest, however, that Statius also has his own specific metapoetic concerns in establishing a connection between Callimacheanism and Orphic 'poetics.' In what follows I examine the Orphic intertexts activated by the necklace description and relate this material to Statius's metapoetic concerns. I look in particular at four parts of the necklace: (1) the adamant (277); (2) the smaragdi (276-7); (3) the "Gorgon eyes" (278); and (4) the reference to the Hesperides (280-1). Two other elements of the description--the references to the thunderbolt ash and to the Golden Fleece will also figure into my discussion. I connect these elements of the necklace description with the Orphic emphasis on the role of the Curetes during Zeus's infancy, and then contrast Vulcan's use of this story with Callimachus's own theogonic views.

Statius states that the necklace is composed in part of adamant: infaustas percussum adamanta figuras (adamant hammered into figures of evil omen, Theb. 2.277). According to Hill's apparatus, Heinsius suggested that the word adamas is a reference to the story of "Celmis-iniron." (27) This connection may vaguely be seen in Ovid where the daimon Celmis is addressed as follows:
  te quoque, nunc adamas, quondam fidissime parvo,
  Celmi, Iovi largoque satos Curetas ab imbri
  et Crocon in parvos versum cum Smilace flores
  praetereo dulcique animos novitate tenebo. (Ovid, Met. 4.281-4)

  How you also, Celmis, now adamant, were once the most faithful friend
  of little Jove; how the Curetes sprang from copious showers; how
  Crocus and his beloved Smilax were changed into tiny flowers. All
  these stories I will pass by and will charm your minds with a tale
  that is pleasing because new. (Translation Miller)


Here we see the daimon Celmis and his metamorphosis into adamas and, interestingly, his association with the infant Jupiter. On the surface of it there is not much of an allusion here: adamas becomes (intertextually) in Statius a metonymy for Celmis. We can bolster the allusion, however, by observing that in Statius's use of the adjective percussum (hammered) there could be an oblique reference to Celmis's Dactyl brother Damnameneus, whose name means "Hammerer." Indeed, the traditional triad of Dactyls could be completed by the reference in the next line to the "Sicilian anvil" (Siculaque incude, 278): the third Dactyl brother was often named Acmon or "Anvil." (28) All this provides some lexical basis for a more generally accessible mythological intertext. Statius's allusion to Celmis can be seen more clearly in the thematic connections between the context of the necklace description and the myths associated with Celmis.

The story of Celmis is more fully explained by Zenobius in the second century C.E., who cites as his source a lost play of Sophocles:
  [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Zenobius 4.80)

  < Kelmis in iron: > This is a charge brought against those who hold an
  excessively high opinion of themselves: that they are powerful and
  hard to subdue. Kelmis, one of the Idaian Daktyloi, insulted his
  mother Rhea, and did not receive * graciously by his brothers on Ida.
  Unbending iron became of him. Sophocles recounts this story in his
  Satyrs.


Celmis-in-iron was, then, a phrase used of anyone of a highly inflexible and stubborn nature. Zenobius says that Celmis, one of the Idaean Dactyls (a group of daimonic craftsmen), somehow outraged his mother Rhea (the text is corrupt here) and was therefore changed to iron. (29) Hence we have a suitably negative story to associate with the adamas in Vulcan's necklace. Moreover, the story of Celmis told here is basically a story of binding, quite appropriate given Statius's allusion to Vulcan's earlier attempt at binding Venus and Mars (Theb. 2.269-73, examined above). Indeed Statius's use of the verb cingit in the same line as his reference to adamas (277) could also evoke the theme of binding.

Now Zenobius/Sophocles claims that Celmis was a Dactyl, while Ovid juxtaposes Celmis and the Curetes in his text and gives Celmis the very Curetic-looking role of being a friend to the young Jove. This diversity of group affiliation reflects a general confusion in antiquity regarding the several groups of daimones. (30) Strabo tells us that the Curetes, Corybantes, Cabiri, Dactyls, and Telchines were frequently conflated. (31) Another particularly interesting conflation of daimones occurs in Nonnus (14.36-40) who refers to a Scelmis as one of the Telchines. Scelmis is a different name for Celmis: Nonnus pairs him with Damnameneus, Celmis's Dactyl brother in older texts. (32) Statius himself is guilty of this kind of confusion when elsewhere he (apparently) conflates the Curetes and the Cabiri. (33) Moreover, in a passage similar to ours, Statius refers to the Telchines in a way that suggests conflation with the Dactyls and Curetes: (34)
  tale nec Idaeis quicquam Telchines in antris
  nec stolidus Brontes nec, qui polit arma deorum,
  Lemnius exigua potuisset ludere massa. (Silv. 4.6.47-9)

  No such work from so tiny a lump could the Telchines in Ida's caverns
  or stolid Brontes or the Lemnian who furbishes weapons of the gods
  have wrought for sport. (Translation Shackleton-Bailey)


The Telchines, who are usually associated with Rhodes, are here said to work in "Idaean caves," a locale normally reserved for the Dactyls and Curetes. (35) Hence it seems likely that Statius has conflated the Telchines, Dactyls, and Curetes.

If we allow that Statius is alluding to the daimon Celmis, we can see certain themes emerging that fit in well with the Orphic concerns of the necklace description as a whole. While the references to the Telchines would obviously have Callimachean resonances, the references to the Curetes and Dactyls are, in my opinion, Orphic in nature. Diodorus tells us a story (citing Ephorus as his source) that Orpheus was a student of the Dactyls. (36) Apollonius (Arg. 1.1123-39) has Orpheus leading a dance of men in armor clashing their weapons together (obviously a highly Curetic/Corybantic dance!) in honor of the Idaean Dactyls. (37) Moreover, we know that the story of the Curetes and the concealment of the infant Zeus on Crete (an obviously theogonic story apparently unknown to Hesiod) was an important part of the Orphic theogonies, appearing in many of the various versions of the Orphic myth. Indeed, according to West (1984, 127), the Curetes-Zeus story may even be Orphic in origin. Furthermore, according to the Suda, among the works attributed to Orpheus were a Korybantikon and a Thronismoi metroioi (works on stories that include noisy dancing and therefore exhibit significant overlap with the Curetes story). (38) If we recall that the Corybants and the Curetes were often confused, we can see again an overall 'Orphic' concern for all these daimones. If we accept Heinsius's theory that the word adamas in line 277 of our description refers to Celmis the Dactyl, then Statius, relying the various popular associations of the daimones, appears to have united his Callimachean-Telchinic concerns with Orphic theogonic stories regarding the Greek daimones.

The second Orphic reference may be seen, I contend, in the necklace's green stones (smaragdi): ibi arcano florentes igne zmaragds/cingit (There he sets smaragdi flashing with mysterious fire, Theb. 2.276-7). Keeping in mind the connections between the Greek daimones and the Orphic theogonies, I suggest the reference to smaragdi here point to another Dactylic story. Porphyry in his Life of Pythagoras tells the following tale: (39)
  [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. (Porphyry, VP 17)

  Going to Crete, Pythagoras besought initiation from the priests of
  Morgos, one of the Idaean Dactyli, by whom he was purified with the
  keraunia lithos. In the morning he lay stretched upon his face by the
  seaside; at night, he lay beside a river, crowned with a black lamb's
  woolen wreath. Descending into the Idaean cave, wrapped in black wool,
  he stayed there twenty-seven days, according to custom; he sacrificed
  to Zeus, and saw the throne which there is yearly made for him. On
  Zeus's tomb, Pythagoras inscribed an epigram, "Pythagoras to Zeus,"
  which begins: "Zan deceased here lies, whom men call Zeus."
  (Translation Guthrie, with modifications)


The obvious connection here is the keraunia lithos mentioned as a stone sacred to Zeus. Before getting into the details of the story, let me establish the connection between this text and Statius's smaragdi. In the ancient tradition of lapidary poetry, we have a late Latin prose translation of a Greek poem by someone named Evax or Damigeron (hard to date, possibly as early as the fourth century B.C.E.). (40) In section 12 of the Latin translation we are told that the ceraunius stone is called by the Egyptians smaragdus. (41) Herodotus (2.81.2) tells us that there was confusion between Orphic, Pythagorean, Egyptian, and Phoenician rites. (42) Thus Statius's smaragdi could allude to the Pythagorean/Egyptian/Orphic thunderstone. (43) Indeed the reference to the stones as "flowering ... with fire" iflorentes igne) perhaps reflects the ancient iconography of the thunderbolt as a flower. (44) Moreover, Statius describes the fire here as "mysterious" (arcano), a word that suggests religious mysteries and further supports the Pythagorean/Orphic connection.

Now the story itself is interesting for several reasons. First, we have once again one of the Dactyls, this time a fellow named Morgos about whom little is known. At the very least this establishes that Statius is presenting a consistent pattern of allusion to the daimones. Second, we have an explicit connection between the Dactyls and the story of Zeus on Crete, and in particular a version of the story in which Zeus actually dies! As was the case with the adamas reference, we see here Statius using visual description to point to the Orphic Cretan tale.

The third Orphic reference is Gorgoneosque orbes (Gorgon eyes, Theb. 2.278). Although the meaning of this phrase is difficult to recover, I would interpret it as continuing the pattern of allusion to the Orphic Curetes story. Orbes does not necessarily mean 'eyes' but could also be a metonymy for 'stones,' and so it is worth considering what kind of stone the Gorgoneos orbes could be. The best guess is coral, which Pliny calls gor-gonia. (45) This appellation in turn may be explained with reference to the Orphic Lithica, a poem that begins with a rather long introduction in praise of Hermes and then continues in various narrative voices with a description of some twenty-nine stones. (46) Most of the descriptions dwell briefly on the physical features and beneficent properties of the stones, a very few of which, among them coral, are given mythological etiologies. In the case of coral, we get the story of Perseus and the Gorgon: coral arises from sea plants that have been hardened through contact with the Gorgon's blood (Orph. Lith. 539-77). (47) Athena (figured as Perseus's half-sibling) figures very prominently in this etiology, and in the description of the stone's beneficent properties that follows, it is Athena who gives coral its power:
  [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Orpl. Lith. 572-8)

  So coral obtained its red color from blood, and speechlessness
  overtook the swift hero [Perseus] as he suddenly perceived the great
  miracle. Quickly coming close the wise Zeus-sprung daughter of a
  mighty father [Athena] was amazed. And, so that her brother's
  [Perseus's] glory might be everlasting, she established that coral
  always changes its prior form. The Despoiler [Athena] gave it
  boundless power ...


This passage is the bridge between the narration of the stone's etiology (the Perseus story) and the enumeration of its beneficial properties. Note that Athena acts as the pivot: she assists Perseus, marvels with him at the metamorphosis of coral, and provides the divine source of the stone's power. Hence Statius's Gorgoneos orbes evoke a stone that (in lapidary lore) seems to be Athena's peculiar stone.

Now in Orphic lore, according to Proclus, Athena is "the leader of the Curetes" and is involved in their dance: (48)
  [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Pro clus ad Plato, Crat. 406D = OF
  185 Kern)

  Here, then, Socrates celebrates the guardian power with the name of
  Pallas, and the perfective with that of Athena. She thus reveals
  rhythmic dance by the motion which she also shares first of all with
  the Curetic order, but secondly with the other gods as well. For by
  this power, says Orpheus, Athena is leader of the Curetes.
  (Translation Duvick)


Here we see an Orphic concern for Athena's association with the Curetes, and in particular with their dance. Ancient references to Athena as a dancer, particularly as an armed dancer, are often connected with her various achievements such as her role in the victory over the Titans. (49)E. Kerr Borthwick (1970) has argued that in antiquity a connection was also made between Athena's dancing and her victory over the Gorgon. A papyrus (P Oxy. 2738) cites the Old Comic poet Cratinus as referring to Athena as [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] in a context that apparently describes goddess's dancing. (50)If we are meant at the outset of the description to view elements of the necklace with an Orphic eye, it follows that we may connect Statius's Gorgon reference with the Orphic conception of the dancing Athena. Also, given Statius's allusions to other daimones, it is likely that the "Gorgon eyes" refer to Athena in her role as the leader of the Curetes and hence, once again, to the Cretan story

The necklace's final Orphic gesture may be seen in the reference to the Apples of the Hesperides: hic flebile germen / Hesperidum (here the doleful fruit of the Hesperides, Theb. 2.280-1). The most recent text of the Thebaid actually emends Hesperidum to Heliadum based on the argument of J. B. Poynton (1963, 259) who says that amber is clearly meant here (sinceJlebilis could indicate tears). I suggest that germe Hesperidum more naturally refers to the apples of the Hesperides (51) and, in the Orphic context I have been developing, could refer to a specifically Orphic story. Clement of Alexandria tells us the following Orphic tale regarding the death of Dionysus: (52)
  [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]
  (Protr. 2.17.2-18.1 = OF 306 = OF 34 Kern)

  The mysteries of Dionysus are of a perfectly savage character. He was
  yet a child, and the Curetes were dancing around him with warlike
  movement, when the Titans stealthily drew near. First they beguiled
  him with childish toys, and they--these very Titans--tore him to
  pieces, though he was but an infant. Orpheus of Thrace, the poet of
  the Initiation, speaks of the

  Top, wheel and jointed dolls, and beauteous fruit
  of gold from the clear-voiced Hesperides.
  And it is worth while to quote the worthless symbols of this rite of
  yours in order to excite condemnation: the knuckle-bone, the ball, the
  spinning-top, apples, wheel, mirror, fleece! (Translation Butterworth)


The key here, of course, is the use by the Titans of the Apples of the Hesperides to lure Dionysus away from the protection of the Curetes. (53) According to Sarah Johnston (Graf and Johnston 2007, 67), this is a uniquely Orphic variant of the Dionysus myth, and is referred to several times in the fragments. (54) Both Johnston and Martin West point out that Dionysus here is clearly a doublet of Zeus on Crete (55) in both stories we have the Curetes protecting an infant god who is threatened by the Titans (Zeus was threatened by Cronus) and who ultimately dies. Statius himself seems to equate the death of Dionysus and the death of Zeus on Crete in two ways. First, he juxtaposes the Hesperides allusion (death of Dionysus) with the Morgas/smaragdi allusion (death of Zeus). Second, the reference to Athena by alluding to the Gorgon eyes allusion serves to connect the two stories. Diodorus (3.70.2) tells us that Zeus (Ammon) sent Athena to protect the infant Dionysus. In this story the doublet is actualized, with Athena assuming her Curetic role in the protection of an actual god.

Let me summarize my argument up to this point. In his description of the parts of Harmonia's necklace Statius refers to the following Orphic/theogonic elements: (1) Morgus the Dactyl (and the story of the death of Zeus on Crete) via the smaragdi; (2) Celmis the Dactyl via the reference to adamas; (3) Athena and the Curetes via the "Gorgon eyes"; (4) the story of the Titanomachy and/or Gigantomachy via the "thunderbolt ash"; (5) the story of Dionysus's death at the hands of the Titans via the Apples of the Hesperides; (56) and (6) the Argonautica tale via the reference to the Golden Fleece (this story vaguely fits the hypothesis because, as mentioned above, both Orpheus and the Dactyls/Curetes figure in it). Taken together these allusions serve to enact within the necklace description a kind of theogony that is largely Orphic in nature. Now all this goes to answering one of my initial questions: Why does Statius refer to Hera's 'Orphic' theogony through the references to the cestos and to Pasithea? The answer, of course, is that Statius is urging us to look at the details of the necklace with an Orphic eye. But is there a more specific reason for all these allusions? I think we should look to Vulcan's (and Statius's) attitude toward Callimacheanism, that is, Statius portrays Callimachean aesthetics ambiguously, exploiting the Augustan tradition of juxtaposing Callimachus and Orpheus and injecting into his own narrative an element of poetic ambivalence.

On one level, we might interpret Statius's incorporation of Orphic themes within the necklace description as an anti-Callimachean gesture. We have seen how the general confusion in antiquity regarding the various daimones could lead to the assimilation of the Telchines, Dactyls, and Curetes. In the context of the necklace description this is a convenient fact since Statius explicitly mentions the Telchines as participants in the creation of the object--hence the allusions to the Cretan tale are an extension of this daemonic theme. But we can take this a step further: the Telchines are, metapoetically speaking, anti-Callimachean. But what about all this insistence on the Cretan story of Zeus/Dionysus and the Curetes? I think Callimachus's hymn to Zeus provides one answer to this question: (57)
  [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Hymn 1.4-9)

  How shall we sing of him--as lord of Dicte or of Lycaeum? My soul is
  all in doubt, since debated is his birth. O Zeus, some say that thou
  wert born on the hills of Ida; others, O Zeus, say in Arcadia; did
  these or those, O Father, lie? "Cretans are ever liars." Yea, a tomb,
  O Lord, for thee the Cretans builded; but thou didst not die, for thou
  art forever. (Translation Mair)


Not only does Callimachus deny the truth of the story of Zeus's birth on Crete, he specifically denies the story that Zeus died there.58 Statius is well aware of the conflicting stories of Jupiter's birth. He has Juno allude to the lying Cretans and their claims that Jupiter met an early death on their island (Theb. 1.277-9) and, in the catalogue of Argive champions, he depicts the Peloponnesian city of Olenos vying with Crete to be regarded as the birthplace of Jupiter (Theb. 4.104-5). As for the necklace, recall that Statius alludes directly to the story of Zeus's death on Crete in his allusion to Morgus, and indirectly in his allusion to the death of Dionysus. Statius's allusions to the Cretan story, then, are likely intended as an anti-Callimachean gesture, as was his reference to the Telchines at the outset of the description. The Orphic intertext provides Statius/Vulcan with actual anti-Callimachean narrative material (a 'poem' is now supplied to go with the anti-Callimachean daemonic 'poets'), material based in alternative cosmologies. I suggest that this observation could lead to a refinement of McNelis's thesis since it helps us more specifically to define the category "anti-Callimachean." McNelis (2007, 8-10) argues that Statius is portraying throughout the Thebaid a conflict between "traditional epic" poetics and "Callimachean" poetics. According to the intertext I have explicated here, the category 'Callimachean' seems in itself to imply 'canonical' narratives (e.g., stories in which Zeus does not die), whereas the poetics Vulcan proposes are the more fringy and arcane (i.e., Orphic). This could open up a metapoetic Bloomian reading of Vulcan's attempt to determine the poem's outcome, that is, to revenge himself upon Harmonia's offspring.59 On this view Vulcan, who according to McNelis (2007, 120-3) is largely successful in causing the civil war to happen,60 comes under metapoetic scrutiny. Vul-can's extracanonical means of achieving his ends constitute a kind of 'strong' move on his part to escape the influence of the literary tradition by erasing it. Since Vulcan-as-poet is himself subject to metapoetic critique by the primary narrator ('Statius'), (61) it follows that there is an ironic strain in the presentation of Vulcan's 'strong' poetics. In other words, Statius portrays Vulcan as hijacking the poem from its normative generic matrix in a way that is not entirely aesthetically or generically appropriate.

This reading is not without problems, however. The idea that Statius is deploying a strict dichotomy between Callimachean poetics on the one hand, and more traditional epic poetics on the other, may be seen as fraught with ambiguity First, we are told that the Cyclopes and the Telchines work on the necklace "in a friendly contest of skill" (amica/cer-tatim, 274-5). If we wish to interpret the necklace in strictly anti-Callimachean terms, then we must lay stress on the word arnica, since we have to understand the Telchines (the quintessential critics of Callimachus) as assisting the traditional Cyclopes (traditional because they appear in earler epic shield descriptions). Yet it also

seems possible to put the stress on the adverb certatim and to understand the Telchines as working not in full concert with the Cyclopes but in rivalry with them, however friendly that rivalry may be. On this reading the metapoetic metaphor here reflects the presence of two different poetics (or poetic aesthetics) at work in the creation of the object. In that case a certain amount of ambiguity exists in Vulcan's own 'poetic' project. Indeed, observe the intertext activated by the necklace description within the epic tradition. As I mentioned above, Statius alludes to the epic shields of Homer and Vergil through his inclusion of a scene set in Vulcan's workshop. These allusions would seem to invite the reader to expect a conventional epic description to follow, yet instead we get a description of a small piece of jewelry, not a monumental shield. Even though the Cyclopes and (anti-Callimachean) Telchines work on this object, the result is perhaps more in keeping with Callimachus's aesthetic of the slender Muse. In other words, from the very beginning there is a marked metapoetic ambivalence in the description about what kind of aesthetics is being described. If we understand the Callimachean necklace ekphrasis as a synecdoche for the encompassing narrative, then this ambivalence becomes all the more significant since the diversity of aesthetics would then be applicable to the poem as a whole.

Such ambivalence seems quite appropriate given the Augustan tradition Statius has inherited. We have seen how Orphic poetics play a large role in Augustan Callimacheanism, and indeed Ovid's evocation of Callimachean and Orphic poetics displays an ambivalence similar to that seen in Statius. Scholars (e.g., Knox 1986, 10) have noted that Ovid's description of the Metamorphoses as a "continuous song" (carmen ... per-petuum, Met. 1.4) recalls the Telchines' accusation against Callimachus that he does not write "one continuous song" ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] 1.3 Pfeiffer). Set against this apparent anti-Callimachean aesthetic is the fact that Ovid's poem is in some ways not a carmen perpetuum at all, particularly when compared to traditional epic narratives with Aristotelian beginnings, middles, and ends. Ovid also seems to be enacting Vergil's Callimachean aesthetics by imitating Silenus's song in Eclogue 6 from the very beginning of the Metamorphoses. Ovid, like Silenus, presents cosmology followed by love stories within a context of Callimachean aesthetics. Placed within this tradition, Statius's juxtaposition of the Cyclopes and the Telchines is not as straightforwardly anti-Callimachean as it may have seemed at first glance.

We have, then, an alternative reading of Statius's evocation of Calli-machean and Orphic poetics in the necklace description. The allusions to the various daimones and to the Cretan story of Jupiter's death do not constitute straightforward anti-Callimacheanism, but rather indicate a profound uncertainty (or extreme playfulness) regarding the definition of various forms of poetics and aesthetics evoked by these allusions. McNelis has argued that there is a clash of poetics within the Thebaid, and that the necklace description constitutes an articulation of the traditional epic mode of narrative. I would take this a step further and argue for poetic conflict and play within the description itself. Orphic cosmology coupled with allusions to Callimachus and his critics, forms the basis of a tradition of questioning genre, style, and the aesthetics of poetry Statius has intertextually integrated this questioning of poetics into one of the standard topoi of ancient epic--the creation of a physical object by Hephaestus/Vulcan. in so doing Statius has moved the discussion from a consideration of the nature of narrative (as in Vergil and Ovid) to a consideration of the role of description, in a sense rendering description into a paradigmatic aspect of genre. (62)

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Notes

(1.) For treatments of this passage see Vessey 1973, 138-9; Feeney 1991, 363-4; Lovatt 2002, 84-5; McNelis 2007, 52-75.

(2.) Of the very large bibliography on the role of ekphrasis in epic, see for brief introduction: Quint 1993, 19-31; Putnam 1998, 2-3. On Statius's necklace as a synecdoche for the narrative as a whole, wSee McNelis 2007, 11-2. On Statius's engagement with the shield of Aeneas and its literary predecessor see Fccncy 1991, 363-4; Lovatt 2002, 84-6; McNelis 2007, 50-75. Ovid's 'reading' of the Shield of Achilles in Met. 13 is perhaps the most famous instance of the codification of epic ekphrasis; see Hardie 1985, 16-7.

(3.) On the interpretation of the Shield of Achilles, see, e.g., Hardie 1985 and Becker 1995.

(4.) Sec Putnam 1998, 23-54.

(5.) McNelis 2007, 62.

(6.) On Vergil's appropriation of Homer, see Hardie 1986, 336.

(7.) Feeney 1991, 364 note 164; McNelis 2007, 61-75.

(8.) Cf. Ovid, Met. 7.262-74 (Medea's potion that brings Aeson back to life); Lucan 6.668-84 (Erictho's potion that reanimates a corpse); Seneca, Med. 675-736 (Medea's brew again).

(9.) Smaragdus does not have to mean 'emerald' but can refer to any green stone. Pliny (HN 37.65-75) lists many different stones called smaragdi; cf. Meadows 1945.

(10.) Vessey 1973, 139.

(11.) For example, the Orphic Lithica (on which more below) is largely concerned with enumerating the beneficial properties of the twenty-nine stones it describes. The "Evax-Damigeron" text is a Latin prose translation of an earlier Greek work (possibly as early as the fourth century B.C.E.) that also lists positive magical properties of stones. On ancient lapidary literature see Halleux and Schamp 1985, xiii-xxxiv.

(12.) Vessey 1973, 138 with note 4.

(13.) Cf. Feeney 1991, 364. Doctus is a programmatic word of Roman poetics; see, e.g., Van Dam 1984, 264. The comparative maior (as well as other comparatives and superlatives) are characteristic of self-characterization in epic narrative. Recall Vergil's programmatic statement: maior rerum mihi nascitur ordo, I mains opus moueo (Aen. 7.44-5). On the programmatic use of comparatives and superlatives in Roman epic, see Hardie 1993, 4-5.

(14.) Achil. 1.14-9, 2.154-8.

(15.) The passage is frequently targeted in Roman poetry; see Hopkinson 1988, 98-101 for some examples. Hunter (2006, 2 note 2) remarks that the list of allusions to the Aitia prologue is still growing; cf. Silv. 4.6.47-9, examined below. On Callimachus's influence on Roman poetry generally, see Hunter 2006.

(16.) See Cameron 1995, 185-232 and Spanoudakis 2001, 433-7 on the poets whom Callimachus could have been targeting in his reference to the Telchines. On the Aitia prologue generally, see Acosta-Hughes and Stephens 2002, 240-6 and Fantuzzi and Hunter 2004, 66-76.

(17.) See Faraone 1990, 220-9 on Aphrodite's cestos.

(18.) The Homeric manuscripts have Hera offering to give Pasithea in marriage to Sleep at line 269. Most scholars think this line is interpolated from line 276 where Sleep asks Hera to give him Pasithea as a bride.

(19.) Aen. 8.426-8: his informatum manibus iam parte polita / fulmen erat ... / ... pars imperfecta manebat; cf. McNelis 2007, 54.

(20.) Hesiod, Theog. 139-40.

(21.) See Kirk et al. 1983, 15-7; Janko 1985, 180-1; West 1984, 116-21.

(22.) On the cosmology of this passage see Kirk et al. 1983, 66-8, who argue (68 note 1) that this passage is not necessarily Orphic in the strict sense of the word and (43 note 2) that Apollonius has put the most "primitive-sounding" story possible in Orpheus's mouth.

(23.) Martin West (1984, 127) suggests that Ophion might even be a stand-in for Oceanus.

(24.) On the difficulty of defining what constitutes Orphic ritual, myth, and literature, see Guthrie 1952, 6-11; Burkert 1982 and 1985, 296; Kirk et al. 1983, 21-2; West 1984, 1-3. Edmunds (1999) explodes the longstanding scholarly tradition of attributing to Orphic thought particular interpretations of the myth of 'Zagreus.'

(25.) See Clausen 1994, 174-7 and Ross 2008, 190-1, 198-200. Vergil quotes the Callimachean aphorism that sheep ought to be fat but poetry slim at Ecl. 6.4-5 (~ Callimachus, Ait. 1 frr. 23-4). The Apollonius connection: Ecl 6.31-4 (~ Apollonius of Rhodes 1.496-511).

(26.) Knox 1986, 9-10, 48-50, 61-2. As Knox points out, Ovid specifically alludes to the discussion of poetics in Eclogue 6 in two ways. First, the very structure of the Metamorphoses resembles Silenus's song in Vergil: both poems begin with cosmology, then move on to erotic themes (Knox 1986, 9-10). Also, Orpheus's 'proem' to Metamorphoses 10 states that his topic will not be the Gigantomachy but rather homoerotic stories (Met. 10.148-54). As Knox (1986, 50) observes, the refusal to narrate the Gigantomachy is a typically Callimachean move: the salient text is Propertius 2.1.39-40, where the Gigantomachy is explicitly contrasted with Callimachean-style poetry.

(27.) Hill 1996, ad 2.277.

(28.) On the Dactyl brothers, see Blakely 2006, 1 with note 4.

(29.) For discussion of and bibliography on this passage and the story it refers to, see Blakely 2006, 1 (with note 3), 20-1; see also RE, s.v. Kelmis.

(30.) Nock 1941, 579-80; Blakely 2006, 13-31.

(31.) Strabo 10.3.7: [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] ... (But the variation in these accounts is so small that, whereas some represent the Corybantes, the Cabeiri, the Ideaean Dactyli, and the Telchines as identical with the Curetes, others represent them as all kinsmen of one another and differentiate only certain small matters in which they differ in respect of one another ...; translation Jones, with modifications).

(32.) Scholia ad Apollonius Rhodius 1.1126.

(33.) Achil. 1.831; cf. Nock 1941, 579. The Orphics also confused groups of daimones: see Hymn 38.20. On this see Nock 1941, 580 note 20.

(34.) On this passage see now McNelis 2008, 259-60.

(35.) On the places with which each group of daimones is usually associated, see Blakely 2006, 13-20.

(36.) Ephorus FGrHist 70.194 = Diodorus 5.64.4: [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (But some historians, and Ephorus is one of them, record that the Idaean Dactyli were in fact born on the Mt. Ide which is in Phrygia and passed over to Europe together with Mygdon; and since they were wizards, they practiced charms and initiatory rites and mysteries, and in the course of a sojourn in Samothrace they amazed the natives of that island not a little by their skill in such matters. And it was at this time, we are further told, that Orpheus, who was endowed with an exceptional gift of poesy and song, also became a pupil of theirs, and he was subsequently the first to introduce initiatory rites and mysteries to the Greeks; translation Oldfather).

(37.) [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] ...

Invoking the mother of Dindymum, most venerable, dweller in Phrygia, and Titias and Cyllenus, who alone of many are called dispensers of doom and assessors of the Idaean mother,--the Idaean Dactyls of Crete, ... and at the same time by command of Orpheus the youths trod a measure dancing in full armor, and clashed with their swords on their shields ... (Translation Seaton)

(38.) West 1984, 27; cf. 166-9.

(39.) On this passage generally, see Blakely 2007, 56-69; on its Orphic connections, see West 1984, 167 note 90.

(40.) On the authorship and pedigree of the work, see Halleux 1974 and Halleux and Schamp 1985, 223-8.

(41.) "Evax-Damigeron," De lapid. 12.1 H.-S.: ceraunius est lapis quam Aegyptii smarag-dum vocant. On Porphyry's stone see Blakely 2007, 59-63. Zeus's stone is sometimes thought to be a meteoric stone, though interpretations vary; cf. Davidson 1995, 364-5.

(42.) Cf. also Kirk et al. 1983, 220-2 and West 1984, 7-15.

(43.) Quack (2001, 339-40) argues that in the introduction of "Damigeron-Evax," the ceraunius is described in decidedly Egyptian terms.

(44.) Jacobsthal 1906 (our passage is listed on p. 11 among the literary descriptions of fire and light as flowers); cf. Burkert 1985, 126.

(45.) Pliny, HN 37.164; cf. Orph. Lith. Keryg 20 H.-S.

(46.) Sorel 1995, 15. The poem was associated with Orpheus by Tzetzes in the twelfth century (West 1984, 36). I assume no specifically Orphic content in the poem.

(47.) Cf. Ovid, Met. 4.741-52; "Evax-Damigeron," De lapid. 7.3 U.S.

(48.) Cf. Plato, Leg. 296B, where Athena sanctions armed dancing in a context that also mentions the Curetes; cf. also West 1984, 137-8.

(49.) As in Dionysius of Halicarnassus 7.72.7.

(50.) Borthwick (1970, 321-2) connects certain movements of the dance described in the papyrus to other literary and visual representations of the goddess and her dance, and the connections that these texts have to the Gorgon story.

(51.) Note how the juxtaposition of the Hesperides and the Golden Fleece provides allusions to the extreme West and East of the cosmos.

(52.) On this passage see Levaniouk 2007, 167-9. The article as a whole deals with the Orphic Dionsysus story generally.

(53.) Cf. Arnobius 5.19 and Levaniouk 2007, 168-9.

(54.) See Orphica frr. 34-9; cf. Tierney 1922, 78-80 and Sorel 1995, 64-8. Edmunds (1999) argues against certain aspects of the interpretation of the Orphic Dionysus story, but does not deny its Orphic origins. The Orphic hymn to the Curetes refers to them as [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], a word with distinctly Dionysiac connotations; cf. Morand 2001, 250-2.

(55.) West 1984, 166 and Graf and Johnston 2007, 82-3.

(56.) I have not been able to pin down the intervening reference to the "green serpents" at 279-80: there are so many snakes and snaky figures in theogonic tales that the search may be fruitless.

(57.) On this poem see Hopkinson 1984.

(58.) As Hopkinson (1984, 134) points out, Callimachus engages in a bit of "topographical sleight-of-hand" when he moves from the story of Zeus's birth in Arcadia to his infancy in Crete.

(59.) On using Harold Bloom to read Latin epic, see Hardie 1993, 116-9.

(60.) McNelis 2007, 120-3.

(61.) I am employing the by now fairly well-known narratological distinction between types of narrator. For the use of these distinctions in Latin epic, see, e.g., Fowler 1990.

(62.) An early version of this paper was given at the annual conference of the Classical Association of the Pacific Northwest in 2009. The final version of this article was produced during a faculty exchange visit to Downing College, Cambridge, and I would like to offer my warmest thanks to my hosts there. I would also like to thank Stephen Hinds and the anonymous referee of Helios for their helpful comments and suggestions.
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