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Seventeenth Annual Graduate Student Colloquium, Charlottesville, Virginia, Saturday, March 23, 2011.

Light My Fire: And Overview, Typology, and Analysis of Erotic Roman Lamps | Dreaming of Amor: Ovid's Error in Epistulae ex Ponto 3.3 | Can you hear me now? Rome's Nocturnal Soundscape | Dueling Dreamers: Divine Dreams as Propaganda During the Second Punic War | A Light in the Dark: Redefining the Function of the Lighthouses in the Adriatic Sea During the Roman Age, in Light of the Archaeological Research | Counteracting Night's Song: Image, Sound, and Theology in Iliad 5 |

Counteracting Night's Song: Image, Sound, and Theology in Iliad 5

Matthew Newman, Department of Classical Studies, University of Michigan
 

     Book 5 of the Iliad resounds with theological crisis: Aphrodite is wounded by Diomedes and bleeds; and Dione, who is scantly attested elsewhere, consoles her by telling stories of other gods who have suffered at the hands of mortals, including Ares, who would have perished altogether had Hermes not saved him. Yet scholars have largely overlooked the poetic richness and the extent of the theological quandary involved in Aphrodite's rescue of Aeneas, her son by Anchises.
      Although gods save select mortals in others episodes in the poem, I propose that Aphrodite's rescue of Aeneas is unique, and uniquely problematic. I demonstrate that the rescue technique she employs not only imagistically but also musically counteracts Aeneas' seemingly mortal wound, and thereby upsets the expectations of the Dichtersprache. In particular, Aphrodite neutralizes the 'veil-of-night' formulaic complex, as I have come to call it, the representative of which is found at 5.310. I argue that this formulaic complex provides an index of death everywhere else in the poem: thus, we might say that Aphrodite does not just rescue Aeneas, but reanimates him. Given Zeus' ultimate unwillingness to save his son Sarpedon in Book 16, Aphrodite's actions here might constitute a theological transgression.
    I argue then that Diomedes' subsequent wounding of the goddess responds to this transgression and transfers, in part, the experience of death and night to the goddess. Finally, I suggest that this scene is driven in part by Aphrodite's Near Eastern affiliations, particularly her connections to Sumerian Inanna, who also transgresses against the powers of night and suffers for it. While scholars have recognized some of the 'Orientalizing' features of Aphrodite in the Iliad, I propose that in Book 5 we can actually observe the poet manipulating theologically problematic mythic material from the broader Mediterranean.