Readings for reflection

Anonymous, The Contest Between Hesiod and Homer Fragment 1
The local feast of Ariadne was being held.

Apollodoros, Library E1. 7-1.9
Ariadne gave Theseus a ball of thread as he entered. He fastened this to the door and let it trail behind him as he went in. He came across the Minotaur in the furthest section of the labyrinth, killed him with jabs of his fist, and then made his way out again by pulling himself along the thread.

Diodoros Sikeliotes, Library of History 5.51.3
So the Thracians dwelt there for more than two hundred years but were driven out of the island as a result of droughts. After this the Karians emigrated from the place now called Latmia and settled on the island. Their king was Naxos son of Polemon and he called the island Naxos after himself in place of Dia. Naxos was a good and distinguished man, and he left behind a son named Leukippos whose son Smerdios became king of the island. (51.4) And during his reign Theseus, sailing from Krete with Ariadne, was treated as a guest-friend by those living on the island. And seeing Dionysos in a dream threatening him if he did not leave Ariadne there, in fear he left her behind and sailed off, and Dionysos led Ariadne off at night to the mountain called Drios; and first the god disappeared, and after this Ariadne also disappeared.

Elizabeth Freund, Companion to Shakespeare
In Book VI of The Metamorphoses Ovid tells the story of Arachne, a subtle weaver of Lydia, too skillful for her own good. She dares to rival Pallas Athene with her superior artistry at the loom. Mortal and goddess engaged in a competition in which each wove splendid scene into her tapestry. Athene represented the Immortals (including herself) as all-powerful figures of authority, while Arachne chose to weave tales of divine erotica into her web. When the work was done not even Athene’s envy could deny the superior quality of Arachne’s art. In her jealous rage the goddess struck through Arachne’s loom and tore the tapestry. The girl, ashamed and humiliated, hung herself, but the goddess restored her to life as a spider.

Arachne makes a single, abbreviated appearance in the Shakespearean canon, and even then her provenance is doubtful. Her tale of ill-fated rivalry with divine artistic power is curtailed to a rather obscure simile in V.ii of Troilus and Cressida.

Troilus: Within my soul there doth conduce a fight
Of this strange nature that a thing inseparate
Divides more wider than the sky and earth;
And yet the spacious breadth of this division
Admits no orifex for a point as subtle
As Ariachne’s broken woof to enter.
(V.ii 146-51)

By what devious detours of the imagination does this apocryphal “Ariachne” find her way into the texture of Troilus and Cressida? How subtle is “a point as subtle as Ariachne’s broken woof?” What are we to make of this pointed figure, sharp enough to penetrate the impenetrable, yet obscured by breakage and division? How Ariadne, who provided Theseus with the clue of a thread to guide him out of the Cretan maze, came to be enmeshed in Arachne’s web, whether by a printer’s carelessness or in an author’s slip of the pen or daring of the imagination, is probably beyond conclusive recovery. “Ariachne” may be an “original,” a felicitous neologism spun spider-fashion out of the creator’s own gut; or she may be no more than the accidental issue of a typesetter’s clumsy fingers. In either event she is a new creation who also carries incontestable traces of prior origins.

The conflation or confusion of this marginal figure of “Ariachne,” who is and is not Arachne, is and is not Ariadne, points the way into the major labyrinth of citation and the travesty of citation which is the “stuff” out of which Troilus and Cressida “makes paradoxes” (I. iii. 184). Yet this fragmentary clue proves also the very obstacle which thwarts the expectation of a safe conduct through the maze.

Hesiod, Theogony 947
And golden-haired Dionysos made blonde-haired Ariadne, the daughter of Minos, his buxom wife: and the son of Kronos made her deathless and unageing for him.

Homer, Odyssey 11.321
And Phaedra and Prokris I saw, and fair Ariadne, the daughter of Minos of baneful mind, whom once Theseus was fain to bear from Crete to the hill of sacred Athens; but he had no joy of her, for ere that Artemis slew her in sea-girt Dia because of the witness of Dionysos.

Scholiast on Homer’s Odyssey 11.322
Theseus son of Aigeus, assigned by lot with the youths, sailed to Crete to be supplied to the Minotaur for destruction. But when he arrived, Minos’s daughter Ariadne fell in love with him and gave him a ball of thread that she took from Daidalos the builder. She instructed him, when he entered, to bind the beginning of the ball around the crossbar above the door and to go along unrolling it until he entered the innermost place, and if he overtook him while he was sleeping (text missing) that having vanquished (him) to sacrifice to Poseidon from the hairs on his head, and to return back by rolling up the ball of thread. And Theseus took Ariadne and embarked on his ship with both the youths and maidens not yet served up to be killed by the Minotaur. And when he had done these things, he sailed out in the middle of the night. And when he anchored at the island of Dia, he disembarked to sleep on the shore. And Athena stood beside him and ordered that he abandon Ariadne and come to Athens. He did this and departed immediately. But when Ariadne bewailed her lot, Aphrodite appeared and advised her to be strong, for she would be Dionysos’s wife and become famous. Whence the god appeared and mated with her, and gave her a golden crown that moreover the gods placed among the stars by the grace of Dionysos. And they say that she suffered death at the hands of Artemis for throwing away her virginity. The story is in Pherekydes.

Hyginus, Astronomica 2.5
This is thought to be Ariadne’s crown, placed by Father Liber among the constellations. For they say that when Ariadne wed Liber on the island of Dia, and all the gods gave her wedding gifts, she first received this crown as a gift from Venus and the Hours. But, as the author of the Cretica says, at the time when Liber came to Minos with the hope of lying with Ariadne, he gave her this crown as a present. Delighted with it, she did not refuse the terms. It is said, too, to have been made of gold and Indian gems, and by its aid Theseus is thought to have come from the gloom of the labyrinth to the day, for the gold and gems made a glow of light in the darkness.

Nonnos, Dionysiaka 47.434
He shed the blood of the halfbull man whose den was the earthdug labyrinth, but you know your thread was his savior for the man of Athens with his club would never have found victory in that contest without a rosy-red girl to help him.

Nonnos, Dionysiaka 47.665 ff
Perseus shook in his hand the deadly face of Medousa, and turned armed Ariadne into stone. Bakchos was even more furious when he saw his bride all stone … Hermes descended upon the battlefield and spoke to Dionysos these words, ‘She has died in battle, a glorious fate, and you ought to think Ariadne happy in her death, because she found one so great to slay her … Come now, lay down your thyrsos, let the winds blow battle away, and fix the selfmade image of mortal Ariadne where the image of heavenly Hera stands.’

Ovid, Fasti 3
Theseus’ crime deified her. She gave that ingrate the winding thread and gladly swapped her perjured husband for Bacchus. Pleased with her marital fate, she asked: ‘Why did I sob like a country girl? His lies were my gain.’ Liber meanwhile conquered the coiffured Indians and returned rich from the Orient world. Among the captive girls of surpassing beauty was a princess whom Bacchus liked too much. His loving wife wept and, as she paced the curving beach, delivered words like these, dishevelled: ‘Come, waves, listen again to identical sobs. Come, sand, absorb again my weeping. I recall my cry, “Perjured, perfidious Theseus!” He left me. Bacchus incurs the same charge. Now again I cry, “No woman should trust a man!” My case is the same, the man’s name altered. I wish my fate had proceeded as it started, and at the present time I was nothing. Why did you save me, Liber, as I faced my death on lonely sands? I could have stopped my pain. Love-light Bacchus and lighter than the leaves hugging your brow, Bacchus known only for my tears, have you the gall to parade a whore before me and ruin our harmonious bed? O, where is your vow? Where are your many oaths? Pity me, how often must I say this? You sued to blame Theseus and call him false. That indictment makes your sin fouler. No one should know this. I burn with silent pain lest someone think I earned such deception. I especially want it kept from Theseus to prevent his delight in sharing guilt. I suppose you prefer a dark whore to my fairness. May my enemies have that complexion. But what’s the point? You like her more for that blemish. What are you doing? She defiles your embrace. Bacchus, remain faithful and prefer no woman to a wife’s love. I love a man forever. The horns of a handsome bull captured my mother, and your horns me. My love flatters, hers shames. My loving should not hurt. You were not hurt, Bacchus, when you admitted your flames for me. It’s no miracle you burn me. You were born in fire, it’s said, ripped from flames by your father’s hand. I’m the woman to whom you kept promising heaven. Ah, what gifts are mine in place of heaven!’ She spoke. Liber had long been listening to her words of complaint, as he followed behind her. He embraces her and mops her tears with kisses, and says: ‘Let us seek heaven’s heights together. You have shared my bed and you will share my name. You will be named Libera, when transformed. I will create a monument of you and your crown, which Volcanus gave Venus and she gave you.’ He does what he said, and turns its nine gems to fires, and the golden crown glitters with nine stars.

Ovid, Metamorphoses 8.150 ff
The structure was designed by Daedalus, that famous architect. Appearances were all confused; he led the eye astray by a mazy multitude of winding ways … Daedalus in countless corridors built bafflement, and hardly could himself make his way out, so puzzling was the maze. Within this labyrinth Minos shut fast the beast, half bull, half man, and fed him twice on Attic blood, lot-chosen each nine years, until the third choice mastered him. The door, so difficult, which none of those before could find again, by Ariadne’s aid was found.

Pausanias, Description of Greece 2.23.7-8
The Argives have other things worth seeing in their town; for instance … the temple of Cretan Dionysos. For they say that the god, having made war on Perseus, afterwards laid aside his enmity and received great honors at the hands of the Argives, including this precinct set specially apart for himself. It was afterwards called the precinct of the Cretan god, because when Ariadne died Dionysos buried her here. Lykeas says that when the temple was being rebuilt an earthenware coffin was found and that it was Ariadne’s. He also said that both himself and his fellow Argives have seen it.

Pausanias, Description of Greece 9.40.3-4
At Delos, too, there is a small wooden image of Aphrodite, its right hand defaced by time, and with a square base instead of feet. I am of opinion that Ariadne got this image from Daidalos, and when she followed Theseus, took it with her from home. Bereft of Ariadne, say the Delians, Theseus dedicated the wooden image of the goddess to the Delian Apollo, lest by taking it home he should be dragged into remembering Ariadne, and so find the grief for his love ever renewed. I know of no other works of Daidalos still in existence. For the images dedicated by the Argives in the Heraeum and those brought from Omphace to Gela in Sicily have disappeared in course of time.

Philostratos the Younger, Imagines 10
Behold the troup of dancers, like the chorus which Daidalos is said to have invented for Ariadne, daughter of Minos; young men and maidens with hands clasped and going about in a circle.

Plutarch, Life of Theseus 20.1-5
There are many other stories about these matters, and also about Ariadne, but they do not agree at all. Some say that she hung herself because she was abandoned by Theseus; others that she was conveyed to Naxos by sailors and there lived with Oinaros the priest of Dionysos, and that she was abandoned by Theseus because he loved another woman. […] A very peculiar account of these matters is published by Paion the Amathusian. He says that Theseus, driven out of his course by a storm to Kypros, and having with him Ariadne, who was big with child and in sore sickness and distress from the tossing of the sea, set her on shore alone, but that he himself, while trying to succour the ship, was borne out to sea again. The women of the island, accordingly, took Ariadne into their care, and tried to comfort her in the discouragement caused by her loneliness, brought her forged letters purporting to have been written to her by Theseus, ministered to her aid during the pangs of travail, and gave her burial when she died before her child was born. Paion says further that Theseus came back, and was greatly afflicted, and left a sum of money with the people of the island, enjoining them to sacrifice to Ariadne, and caused two little statuettes to be set up in her honor, one of silver, and one of bronze. He says also that at the sacrifice in her honor on the second day of the month Gorpiaeus, one of their young men lies down and imitates the cries and gestures of women in travail; and that they call the grove in which they show her tomb, the grove of Ariadne Aphrodite. Some of the Naxians also have a story of their own, that there were two Minoses and two Ariadnes, one of whom, they say, was married to Dionysos in Naxos and bore him Staphylos and his brother, and the other, of a later time, having been carried off by Theseus and then abandoned by him, came to Naxos, accompanied by a nurse named Korkyne, whose tomb they show; and that this Ariadne also died there, and has honors paid her unlike those of the former, for the festival of the first Ariadne is celebrated with mirth and revels, but the sacrifices performed in honor of the second are attended with sorrow and mourning.

Plutarch, Life of Theseus 21.1-2
On his voyage from Crete Theseus put in at Delos, and having sacrificed to the god and dedicated in his temple the image of Aphrodite which he had received from Ariadne, he danced with his youths a dance which they say is still performed by the Delians, being an imitation of the circling passages in the labyrinth, and consisting of certain rhythmic involutions and evolutions. This kind of dance, as Dikaiarchos tells us, is called by the Delians The Crane, and Theseus danced it round the altar called Keraton, which is constructed of horns taken entirely from the left side of the head.

Plutarch, Life of Theseus 23.2
It was Theseus who instituted also the Athenian festival of the Oschophoria. For it is said that he did not take away with him all the maidens on whom the lot fell at that time, but picked out two young men of his acquaintance who had fresh and girlish faces, but eager and manly spirits, and changed their outward appearance almost entirely by giving them warn baths and keeping them out of the sun, by arranging their hair, and by smoothing their skin and beautifying their complexions with unguents; he also taught them to imitate maidens as closely as possible in their speech, their dress, and their gait, and to leave no difference that could be observed, and then enrolled them among the maidens who were going to Crete, and was undiscovered by any. And when he was come back, he himself and these two young men headed a procession, arrayed as those are now arrayed who carry the vine-branches. They carry these in honor of Dionysos and Ariadne, and because of their part in the story; or rather, because they came back home at the time of the vintage. And the women called Deipnophoroi, or supper-carriers, take part in the procession and share in the sacrifice, in imitation of the mothers of the young men and maidens on whom the lot fell, for these kept coming with bread and meat for their children. And tales are told at this festival, because these mothers, for the sake of comforting and encouraging their children, spun out tales for them. At any rate, these details are to be found in the history of Damon.

Theophilos, To Autolykos 2.7
And the demes take their appellations from this too: Ariadnis from the daughter of Minos and wife of Dionysos—a child who was fond of her father and who united with Dionysos in the form of a steersman.

Xenophon, The Symposion 9.1-7
Autolykos got up to go out for a walk (it being now his usual time) and his father Lykon, as he was departing to accompany him, turned back and said “So help me Hera, Sokrates; if ever any one deserved the appellation beautiful and good, you are that man!”

After he had withdrawn the Syracusan came in and announced, “Gentlemen, Ariadne will soon enter the chamber set apart for her and Dionysos; after that, Dionysos — a little flushed with wine drunk at a banquet of the gods — will come to join her, and then they shall play!”

He had scarce concluded when Ariadne entered, attired like a bride. She crossed the stage and sat herself upon the throne. Meanwhile, before the god himself appeared a sound of flutes was heard; the cadence of the Bacchic air proclaimed his coming. At this point the company broke forth in admiration of the master of the dance. For no sooner did the sound of music strike upon the ear of Ariadne than something in her action revealed to all the pleasure which it caused her. She did not step forward to meet her lover, she did not rise even from her seat; but the flutter of her unrest was plain to see.

When Dionysos presently caught sight of his beloved, lightly he danced towards her, and with show of tenderest passion gently reclined upon her knees; his arms entwined about her lovingly, and upon her lips he sealed a kiss;–she the while with most sweet bashfulness was fain to wind responsive arms about her lover; then the banqueters, who had been eagerly watching the whole while clapped their hands and cried “Encore!” Dionysos rose to his feet and lifted Ariadne to her full height and the action of those lovers as they kissed and caressed one another was a thing to contemplate. As to the spectators, they could see that Dionysos was indeed most beautiful, and Ariadne like some lovely blossom; nor were those mocking gestures, but real kisses sealed on loving lips; and so, with hearts aflame, they gazed expectantly. For they overheard Dionysos asking her if she loved him, and heard her vowing that she did, so earnestly that not only Dionysos but all the bystanders as well would have taken their oaths in confirmation that the youth and the maid surely felt a mutual affection. For theirs was the appearance not of actors who had been taught their poses but of persons now permitted to satisfy their long-cherished desires.

At last, the banqueters, seeing them in each other’s embrace and obviously leaving for the bridal couch, those who were unmarried swore on the spot that they would wed and those who were wed mounted their horses and galloped off to join their wives, eager for the joys of marriage.

As for Sokrates and the others who had lingered behind, they went out with Kallias to join Lykon and his son in their walk. So broke up the banquet held that evening.