Five Studies in Theocritus’ Narrating Techniques
Chapter 4. Nemean 1 and Idyll 24: The Poetics of Heroic Revisionism
| 151 →
· 4 ·
NEMEAN 1 AND IDYLL 24
The Poetics of Heroic Revisionism
Idyll 24, an “epyllion,”1 recounts baby Herakles strangling of two serpents sent by Hera. After Herakles strangles the monsters, the prophet Teiresias is summoned. Teiresias furnishes an extended prophecy that envisions Herakles’ future accomplishments. In contrast to the other mythological Idylls, Theocritus adopts a straightforward, “Homeric” form of narration: an external, disembodied voice recapitulates past actions with a mix of narrative and mimesis. However, this quasi-hymn, which may well have been written for a particular occasion,2 appropriates its story from a lyric model: Pindar’s Nemean 1. Theocritus’ version of the Heracliscus significantly departs both structurally and thematically from that of his literary predecessor. In the course of these revisions, Theocritus creates an elaborate interplay between his story-telling and that of the sources upon which it is based.
Idyll 24 opens with a simple “once upon a time” (“ποχ’” [24.1]). The story of Herakles’ infant prowess ensues. After Alkmene rocks her 10-month-old ← 151 | 152 → twins to sleep in their father’s shield, Hera sends two monstrous serpents to kill the infant hero (24.1–16). Baby Herakles, with the help of “all-knowing” Zeus (Διὸς νοέοντος ἅπαντα [24.21]), is startled awake as Hera’s hissing monsters approach. Miraculously, the babe does not succumb to the serpents’ onslaught, but he rather nonchalantly strangles them (24.17–33). Alkmene first stirs to the screams of baby Iphikles, whose natural terror contrasts starkly with Herakles’ preternatural bravery. Despite...
You are not authenticated to view the full text of this chapter or article.
This site requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books or journals.
Do you have any questions? Contact us.Or login to access all content.