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THE MYTH OF ARIADNE FROM HOMER TO CATULLUS

By T. B. L. WEBSTER ^^IREEK myths are so vivid that we think of the figures in them as vJTreal people and argue about their characters and what made them do what they did. We forget not only that the people never existed (or if some of them did, they were certainly very different from the refined and sophisticated representations of them about which we argue), but also that what we have is a number of often incompatible versions in literature and art dating over a period of a thousand years or more, whereas what we argue about is either a single late version or a very late amalgam of a number of versions made in a handbook of mythology. Even the classification into myth, saga, and mdrchen adopted by H. J. Rose seems unsatisfactory when a single story like that of Theseus and Ariadne belongs to all three categories. Rose defines myth in the technical sense as 'the result of the working of naive imagination upon the facts of experience' and if the sleeping Ariadne is a vegetation goddess she certainly belongs here; saga deals with historical events, and it is difficult to deny that the story of Theseus and Ariadne has something to do with relations between Crete and Athens in the Bronze Age; mdrchen are fairy stories told to amuse, and the ball of thread which Ariadne gave to Theseus to guide him out of the labyrinth clearly qualifies for this classification. But myth also has a non-technical sense, a story about gods and heroes which a later writer may handle as he pleases for his particular purpose: in this sense the Theseus and Ariadne story is myth for Euripides and Catullus, and has survived for many later writers, artists, and musicians to mould to their needs. The purpose of this article is merely to present some of the various versions in literature and art and to note what interpretations writers and artists put upon the story. The earliest versions in Homer and Hesiod already show wild discrepancies. In the Iliad (xviii. 590) the dance on the shield of Achilles is compared to the choros which once Daidalos arranged in honour of fair-tressed Ariadne in broad Knossos. The interpretation has been discussed in ancient and modern times. But at least the passage connects Ariadne, dance, and Knossos. I suspect that Kallimachos (fr. 67. 13) so understood it when he speaks of the Naxian girl Kydippe setting her delicate foot in the dance of sleeping

MYTH OF ARIADNE FROM HOMER TO CATULLUS 23 Ariede (Ariede was the form of the name which Kallimachos' rather older contemporary Zenodotos preferred to Ariadne in the Iliad passage). In Naxos the dance is to wake a sleeping goddess, surely to wake her from her winter sleep in the spring. It is very tempting to suppose that the Naxian dance was a descendant of the Cretan dances which we know from Minoan and Mycenaean art.1 Now Professor Caskey's excavations in the island of Keos have made such a link plausible.2 He has discovered a fifteenth-century shrine with terracotta figures, some over life size, of Minoan dancing ladies, one of which was preserved into classical times when the shrine became a holy place of Dionysos; Bacchylides in the fifth century remembered that an early king of Keos was Euxantios, son of Minos, the father of Ariadne; and, interestingly but probably irrelevantly, Kallimachos' Kydippe of Naxos had a lover, Akontios of Keos, who traced his descent back to Euxantios. No god could better awake a sleeping vegetation goddess than the fertility god Dionysos. The myth (in the technical sense) of this ritual is given in its simplest form by Hesiod in the Theogony (947): 'gold-haired Dionysos made fair Ariadne, daughter of Minos, his fertile wife, and Zeus made her immortal and unageing for him'. Minoan and Mycenaean art also have representations of a goddess or a goddess and a god sailing in a boat, probably sailing away for the winter rather than arriving for the spring. Such representations could be interpreted by the Greeks, particularly if they had forgotten or did not know the original meaning, as Theseus sailing away with Ariadne, daughter of Minos, after killing the Minotaur. In some such way a myth (in Rose's sense)perhaps originally Ariadne sailed away with Dionysos to the Islands of the Blestwas attached to the Theseus saga, which preserved the memory of a successful Athenian struggle with Crete in the Bronze Age. In the Odyssey (xi. 321) the poet has one version of this story: 'fair Ariadne, daughter of cruel-hearted Minos, whom once Theseus was bringing from Crete to Athens and did not have his joy, but before that Artemis killed her in seagirt Dia on the testimony of Dionysos'. 'Cruelhearted Minos' is clearly an allusion to the Minotaur story; Dia has been identified with Naxos. But here Ariadne is a mortal who has deserted the god Dionysos for the mortal Theseus and suffers death as her punishment. This was presumably the version told by Nestor in the Cypria when he comforted the deserted Menelaos with stories of
Cf. my From Mycenae to Homer (London, 1958), 50 ff. J. L. Caskey, Hesperia, 31 (1962), 263 ff.; 32 (1963), 3i4ff. Bacchylides, i. H I ff.; Pindar, Paean, iv. 3 5 ff.
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24 MYTH OF ARIADNE FROM HOMER TO CATULLUS unfortunate husbands including 'Theseus and Ariadne'. Hyginus (Astr. ii. 5) tell us that Dionysos had given Ariadne a luminous wreath, which she lent to Theseus to find his way in the dark labyrinth; later (or according to Aratos after her departure with Theseus) the wreath was put in the stars. An Attic bowl1 of the late eighth century shows a man embarking on a ship leading a woman who holds a large wreath in her hand: they have been interpreted as Theseus and Ariadne leaving Crete, and the interpretation is very attractive as on the chest of Kypselos (575-550 B.C.) Ariadne was shown with a wreath and Theseus with a lyre (in preparation for the dance celebrating the victory over the Minotaur). Earlier than this, in the last third of the seventh century, on an Argive shield band of bronze,2 a warrior with a sword is shown leading off a woman holding a wreath and a spindle. Kunze has interpreted this as Theseus leading Ariadne to his ship. But this artist perhaps did not think of the wreath as luminous: the thread was Theseus' guide out of the labyrinth. The mdrchen of the thread is essential for the labyrinth story. Hesiod, however, connected the two halves of the story in the opposite order. Ariadne was deserted by Theseus in Naxos, because he was in love with Aigle, and she was then taken by Dionysos. This has the advantage of saving Ariadne's character and fitting into the story the Naxian cult of the sleeping Ariadne. All we have is a single line of Hesiod about Theseus' love for Aigle, but Plutarch {Theseus 20) explains that this was his reason for deserting Ariadne in Naxos. This became the canonical version of the story. It is worth remembering that the Naxians had a curious custom by which a boy, who had two parents alive, slept with the bride the night before her marriage, so that the Naxians may have regarded Theseus as taking the place of the boy with Ariadne before her marriage with Dionysos. We have, I think, no picture from Athens in the mid-sixth century of Theseus deserting Ariadne.3 There are pictures of Theseus and the Minotaur, sometimes with Ariadne and her nurse, and pictures of Theseus and Ariadne dancing with the Athenian boys and girls to celebrate Theseus' victory over the Minotaur.4 We also have pictures
British Museum 1899. z-19. 1. Jean M. Davison, YCS 16 (1961), 67 fig. 98. E. Kunze, Olympische Berichte, ii. 75, 170, no. Vb. Two very useful articles are C. Dugas, R.E.G. 56 (1943), 1 ff., and E. Simon, Antike Kunst, 6 (1963), 12 ff. In what follows I refer to their illustrations when possible. J. D. Beazley, Attic Red-Figure Vase-Painters (Oxford, 1963), vol. iii, gives a complete list of illustrations. There are some good pictures in C. Dugas and R. Flaceliere, Thesee: images et r^cits (Paris, 1958). 4 Cf. particularly Munich 2243, Dugas fig. 6, J. D. Beazley, The Development of Attic Black-figure (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1951), 55, cf. also 33, on the Francois vase.
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MYTH OF ARIADNE FROM HOMER TO CATULLUS 25 1 of Dionysos and Ariadne: sometimes he arrives with his satyrs and maenads and greets Ariadne in her bridal veil; sometimes he reclines with her on a couch and is entertained by satyrs, maenads, or komasts. Once at any rate she has an enormous wreath. We cannot prove that he is meeting Ariadne in Naxos rather than earlier in Crete. But the whole conception of these scenes is that the meeting was joyous, and there is no hint of a disastrous future; if those painters were in fact concerned with anything beyond the blissful conception of the god and his bride, they surely thought of this happiness as permanent and put the scene in Naxos. On several black-figure vases Dionysos, sometimes with Hermes and a single satyr, meets a woman with either one or two children on her arms.2 She has been interpreted as Aphrodite with Himeros and Eros because she appears with inscriptions on fragments from the Acropolis. But in the scene where Dionysos greets a woman, Ariadne with the children Oinopion and Staphylos seems a more likely subject. Normally Dionysos was regarded as their father, but in the fifth century Ion of Chios for patriotic reasons called Oinopion the son of Theseus. This may have been an isolated reference, and Oinopion may, like Theseus himself and Herakles, have been given both a human and a divine father. There are moral difficulties in both stories for a serious-minded generation like the generation which fought the Persian wars. In the first version Ariadne deserted a god for a mortal and used the divine gift of the wreath to help the mortal; in the second version Theseus deserted a woman who had saved him and was to become the bride of a god. The wreath was not essential to the Minotaur story because it was only an extra convenience if Theseus was provided with the thread. So in one version the wreath becomes a present from Theseus to Ariadne. Theseus is said to have been given the wreath by Amphitrite when on the voyage to Crete he plunged into the sea to prove that Poseidon was his father by retrieving Minos' ring. The lovely red-figure cup3 painted soon after 500 by Onesimos shows Theseus carried under the sea by a dolphin to receive the wreath from Amphitrite. Later Bacchylides retold the story in his choral ode (xvn) written for the Keians to sing at Delos. At about the same time the scene under the sea was painted by Mikon in a building to protect the bones of Theseus which Kimon brought back from Skyros about 475 B.C. This story
Cf. the two cups illustrated by Beazley, op, cit. 56, pi. 24. Ariadne and Dionysos entertained, e.g. Florence 70995, A. Rumpf, Sakonides, pi. 3. 1 Discussed by Simon, op. cit. 13 with n. 45 and pi. 4, 1. ' Louvre G 104. A.R.V.2 318; G. M. A. Richter, Handbook of Greek Art (London, I959)>fig-4431

26 MYTH OF ARIADNE FROM HOMER TO CATULLUS brings the wreath into what we have called the canonical version, and, according to Hyginus, Dionysos put it into the stars after Ariadne's death. Yet another variant was to make Dionysos give her the wreath on Naxos. Either way Ariadne was saved from misusing a divine gift. The line in which Hesiod made Theseus desert Ariadne because of his love for Aigle was struck out of the poem by Peisistratos. So clearly at a time when Theseus was becoming more and more important as their national hero the Athenians were offended by his desertion of Ariadne. The solution is shown on a number of red-figure vases: Theseus deserted Ariadne because it was his duty to return to Athens and her destiny to become the bride of Dionysos. The earliest is a cup probably by the Foundry painter.1 Hermes leads Theseus away from the sleeping Ariadne over whom a winged boy hovers. If the winged boy is Eros rather than Hypnos, Eros is preparing the bride for Dionysos. On a lekythos near the Pan painter2 it is Athena who comes quietly to rouse the reluctant Theseus, while a tiny Sleep squats on Ariadne's head. Two vases, a skyphos by the Lewis painter3 and a hydria by the Syleus painter/ show Athena sternly driving Theseus off against his will. On the hydria Athena drives Theseus off to the left, Dionysos leads Ariadne off to the right. Theseus looks across to Ariadne, Ariadne looks back to Theseus. This is the cruellest picture. Perhaps the artist has put together two scenes into one, and we should think of an intervening scene with Ariadne deserted and asleep. As it stands, the two gods ruthlessly disrupt mortal happiness. These vases bring the story down to about 470. For Theseus the essential conception is that, prompted by Athena, he pursued his heroic career and abandoned Ariadne, as Aeneas abandoned Dido. Such a Theseus must be the subject, if not also the speaker, of some lines preserved from Euripides' Theseus (fr. 388N2): 'But there is another love among men, the love of a just, temperate, and brave soul. This ought to be the rule for men, that the temperate should love the pious and say good-bye to Kypris, the daughter of Zeus.' The lines recall Bellerophon's prayer for a similar sober love in the Stheneboea (fr. 672N2) and even Hippolytos' attitude to love. Hyginus (fab. 43) says that Theseus thought Ariadne would be a disgrace to him if he brought her back to Athens, and Apollodorus (Epitome i. 710) says that Ariadne had promised to help Theseus if he would take her to Athens as his bride.
Tarquinia RC 5291. A.R.V.* 405; C.V., pi. 18. Taranto. A.R.V.2 560; Jahreshefte, 41 (1954), 78. Here fig. I, by kind permission of Soprintendenza alle Antichita della Puglia. 3 Vienna 1773. A.R.V.1 952; Simon, op. cit., pi. 4, 5. * Berlin 2179. A.R.V.2 252; Dugas, op. cit., fig. 9; Simon, op. cit., pi. 4, 2.
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MYTH OF ARIADNE FROM HOMER TO CATULLUS 27 These themes (which recur, as we shall see, in Catullus' Peleus and Thetis) may have come from Euripides' play, and a line from it (fr. 387N2) 'and yet I will tell a tale which is worthy of blame' may be ascribed to Ariadne. It looks as if Euripides saw Ariadne as a girl who was prepared to be a traitor for love, and Theseus, a little like Jason in the Medea, as prepared to sacrifice her for his career. The scene was laid in Crete; the chorus were the boys and girls who were to be sacrificed to the Minotaur (frr. 385-6N2). The fragment (382N2) in which the unlettered herdsman describes the letters in Theseus' name may come from the prologue and be a report to Minos of Theseus' arrival, if his name was written on his ship. Theseus' encounter with the Minotaur must have been told in a messenger speech to which fr. 1001N2, 'he took a ball of thread and carried it with him', should belong. If P. Oxy. 2452 belongs to this play rather than to an unknown play of Sophokles on the same theme, we can add fr. 2, someone describes a strange astronomical phenomenon to another (was the appearance of the wreath in the stars reported to Minos in the prologue?); frr. 4-5, lyric dialogue between Ariadne and Eriboia, in which Ariadne responds to the Athenian girl's appeal for pity; fr. 3, Theseus describes his earlier labours to a sympathizer; fr. 1, Theseus goes off to the Minotaur's den; fr. 6, description of action by a xenos, i.e. of Theseus by a Cretan. The play must have ended with the departure of Theseus with the liberated captives and presumably also with Ariadne. But it would be in Euripides' manner to have rounded off the story by a prophecy from a deux ex machina, probably Athena, of the Naxian sequel.1 An illustration inspired by the supposed epilogue has been seen on a kalyx-krater by the Kadmos painter, probably 430/20 B.C.2 Again pj'fl majestic gods dispose of mortals as on the earlier hydria by the Syleus (J painter, but the violence and the resistance have vanished. Theseus looks back in wonder rather than in anguish as he goes off to his ship, which the young Athenians are already boarding; Athena places a wreath on his head; his divine father Poseidon surveys the scene from
The limits of dating are given by the eta in the herdsman's description of Theseus' name and by the quotations (frr. 385-6) in the Wasps, 422 B.C.; eta appears first in Attic inscriptions about 450 B.C. (Schwyzer, Gr. Gramm. i. 447) which suggests 440 B.C. as a top date, and the absence of resolutions in the fragments suggests 427 B.C. as a bottom date. Within those limits 438 and 431 are excluded, and the play cannot have been produced in the same year as the Kretes, Aigeus, Hippolytos I, or Hippolytos II, because Euripides did not produce trilogies with connected plays until 415 B.C. and afterwards. Phaidra in Hippolytos II (339) thinks of Ariadne's love as parallel to hers and Pasiphae's: the love of a traitress, even if she later became the wife of Dionysos (pace Mr. Barrett, Euripides does not allude to the Odyssey story here but perhaps to his own play). 2 Syracuse 17427. A.R.V.2 1184; Dugas, op. cit., fig. 13; Simon, op. cit., pi. 5, 2. Here fig. 2, by kind permission of Soprintendenza alle Antichita, Siracusa.
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28 MYTH OF ARIADNE FROM HOMER TO CATULLUS above. Ariadne sits quietly on her couch; Aphrodite has dressed her as a bride; Eros flies down with a wreath (and it is arguable that this is a present which Dionysos gives her now as in one of Hyginus' versions); Dionysos comes up to her, very stately and very gentle. In spirit this is much more like the earlier black-figure representations of Dionysos greeting the bride Ariadne, but it has been changed into the much more explicit style of the late fifth century. There the way Ariadne holds her veil shows that she is a bride; here we see that Aphrodite has just finished dressing her. A red-figure fragment1 of 450-440 B.C. is similar in spirit although quite different in arrangement: a bearded Dionysos, with a satyr behind him holding cup and wine jug, stands on the left, contemplating Ariadne who sits on a couch, awake but with bowed head; Eros pours a love-charm over her head; Theseus is not represented. We have seen Theseus reluctant, Theseus resistant, and Theseus acquiescent. But there is another version where Theseus retires hastily when he sees the god or even draws his sword to prevent the god attacking him. A South Italian stamnos2 of the very early fourth century shows him retiring to his ship on the left while Ariadne sleeps and Eros stands above her head. On a rather later Apulian kalyx-krater* Theseus retreats with drawn sword to his ship on the right; Dionysos with his maenads and satyrs has come down the hill and assails the sleeping Ariadne from the left. But this is a young naked God whose intentions are clear. It may well be right to see here a reminiscence of the picture described by Pausanias (i. 20. 3): 'Ariadne asleep and Theseus putting to sea and Dionysos arriving to rape Ariadne*. The picture was in the later temple of Dionysos below the theatre; its cult statue was made by Alkamenes, a pupil of Pheidias, who worked at least until the end of the fifth century. From the beginning of the fifth century at least there were two conceptions of Dionysiac ecstasy, dreamy ecstasy and violent ecstasy. Dionysos' approach to Ariadne on the earlier vase shows the one; the assault of the young Dionysos shows the other. From the time of the Parthenon the young Dionysos is much more common than the bearded Dionysos, and his maenads dance with a new violence to the accompaniment of tambourines. The mortal shape which Dionysos adopts in Euripides' Bacchae is that of a youth withflowinghair; I suspect that he
Tubingen 5439. A.R.V.* 1057; Simon, op. cit., pi. 5, 1. Boston 00. 349 (Ariadne painter). A. D. Trendall, Friihitaliotische Vasenmalerei (Leipzig, 1938), pi. 23. Here fig. 3, by kind permission of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. 3 Taranto. A. D. Trendall, Archaeological Reports (1955), 62, pis. 5, 6.
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MYTH OF ARIADNE FROM HOMER TO CATULLUS 29 was bearded when he appeared in majesty at the end of the play. Again as in the sixth century, we have in the late fifth and fourth centuries a concentration on Dionysos to the exclusion of Theseus. Dionysos and Ariadne appear among satyrs and maenads, but now it is the young Dionysos, and Ariadne is dressed like a maenad, except that sometimes she has a lyre, which is not an instrument played by maenads. The young Dionysos may recline on a couch with Ariadne, but now the entertainment is provided by the actors and chorus of a satyr play (Pronomos vase). Ariadne and Dionysos live in divine bliss, an example of the bliss which those who are initiated in the mysteries of Dionysos hope to attain in the after life; in this sense the pictures of Ariadne and Dionysos are religious pictures.1 The symbolic interpretation is justified, to give a single example, by the magnificent bronze krater2 found at Derveni: it dates from the late fourth century and was used to contain the ashes presumably of the Thessalian whose name was inscribed on it. The body is decorated with the young Dionysos approaching Ariadne who is seated on a chair, and the satyrs and maenads swirl in dance round the other side of the vase. Here Theseus does not appear at all, but on a rather earlier Attic r. kalyx krater in Berkeley3 the young Dionysos gazes at Ariadne, who is f"\^ t (l seated on a chair, as on the Derveni krater, and Theseus retires to the Q ' right. This Theseus goes quietly with his right hand raised in farewell. He abandons his claim at the sight of the god. In fact he hardly belongs in this conception of the story, where Ariadne has already been attired as a bride and waits outside the marriage-chamber, the door of which can be seen behind Dionysos. Like Kastor in one version of the Persephone story, his function was to bring the god his bride. He is much less important than the divine pair whose marriage is myth in the technical sense. The bearded Dionysos is also found occasionally in the fourth century, and a marble statue of Ariadne asleep has been dated in the third century. It seems to me possible that in the late second century they were combined either in painting or in relief to make a new sequence with Theseus departing on the left, Ariadne asleep, and then Dionysos with a satyr-boy untying his sandals as he approaches her, followed by
Attic vase pictures of Dionysos and Ariadne in the late fifth and fourth centuries are listed and discussed by H. Metzger, Les representations dans la ceramique attique du IV siecle (Paris, 1951), n o ff. 2 Salonika. Archaeological Reports (1961/2), 15; (1963/4), 19. 3 Berkeley 8/3297. A.R.V.2 1459; Metzger, op. cit., pi. 8, 2; C.V., pi. 54. Here fig. 4, by kind permission of the Robert H. Lowie Museum of Anthropology, University of California, Berkeley.
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30 MYTH OF ARIADNE FROM HOMER TO CATULLUS his satyrs and maenads. This is a typical late Hellenistic composition combining earlier types into a pleasing new whole. Here no issues are raised, moral or religious.1 This tripartite scheme is clearly envisaged for the textile which Catullus, whether, as has been suggested,2 he is translating the Greek poet Euphorion or not, describes in the Peleus and Thetis (54). Theseus is escaping over sea, Ariadne is awake and has called for vengeance; 'at parte ex aliaflorensvolitabat Iacchus cum thiaso Satyrorum et Nysigenis Silenis, te quaerens, Axiadna, tuoque incensus amore'. This is surely the young Dionysos with his satyrs and maenads. But Dionysos and Theseus are merely the frame within which the detailed picture of the deserted Ariadne is set. Theseus has forgotten her while she is asleep and put to sea; when her misery has been sufficiently demonstrated Dionysos 'flies up'. The Hellenistic poet is primarily interested in the distress of Ariadne. This is a purely human story: she had fallen hopelessly in love with Theseus as soon as he arrived in Crete (71), as hopelessly as Apollonios Rhodios' Medea fell in love with Jason. She had feared as desperately his defeat and prayed for his success. She claims that he had promised her marriage in Athens (140), and for this she saved him and abandoned her brother (the Minotaur, but again Medea and her murder of Apsyrtos is in the poet's mind). If Theseus did not want to marry her because he was afraid of the cruel orders of his strict father (this suggestion and the promise of marriage may come from Euripides' Theseus), she could have been happy with him as his slave; here she has borrowed from the Euripidean Andromeda, who begged Perseus to take her as handmaiden, wife, or slave (fr. 133N2). Finally she prays for vengeance, and the story of Theseus forgetting to hoist the white sail and of Aigeus' suicide is told as the vengeance which Jupiter granted her. But meanwhile 'parte ex alia florens volitabat Iacchus'. We may end with this highly sophisticated version of the story. It has no religious or moral significance but is not therefore the worse as poetry. Whether it is a translation in the strict sense or not, it is a brilliant adaptation of Hellenistic Greek metrical technique to the Latin language. The form of the narrative is taken over directly or indirectly from the Hellenistic short epic. To appreciate this portrait of a lady in distress the reader must know not only the literary genre and its technical
Cf. my Hellenistic Poetry and Art (London, 1964) where I argue that the so-called 'Visit to Ikarios' derives from an original which had a sleeping Ariadne, like the Vatican Ariadne (Richter, op. cit., 157, fig. 226), on the left and beyond her a departing Theseus or a representation of Theseus' ship. 2 Cf. A. Barigazzi, Studi Rostagni, 450 ff.
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MYTH OF ARIADNE FROM HOMER TO CATULLUS 31 canons; he must also feel the allusions to Euripides and Apollonios Rhodios. The ancient reader would, of course, also know the artistic tradition, as the walls of Pompeii show. This is myth in the modern sense, a story about gods and heroes used by the poet for his own aesthetic purposes.