Notes for

Ovid, Heroides I


Achaean: Literally, the inhabitants of the Greek region of Achaea. "Achaeans" was used by Homer and other writers as a general name for the Greeks at Troy.

Achilles: Greek hero, son of the sea-nymph Thetis and the mortal Peleus (and grandson of Aaeacus, King of Aegina). Achilles was the greatest hero of the Trojan War. He withdrew from the fighting after a quarrel with the Greek commander-in-chief, Agamemnon, and the Greek troops suffered badly, being forced to retreat all the way back to their ships. He only returned to the battle after the Trojan hero Hector killed his friend Patroclus. Achilles killed Hector in single combat, but he himself was killed soon thereafter by an arrow from the bow of the Trojan warrior Paris

Aeacus' grandson: See Achilles.

The adulterer: See Paris.

aged nurse: See Eurycleia.

Antilochus: Son of Nestor, King of Pylos. Antilochus was a swift runner and a brave warrior. He was killed defending his father against the Ethiopian king Memnon, who was fighting for the Trojan forces.

Antinous: See Suitors.

Argive: Literally, the inhabitants of the Greek region of Argos. "Argives" was used by Homer and other writers as a general name for the Greeks at Troy.

Dolon: A Trojan scout. When Ulysses and Diomedes crept into the Trojan camp at night (see Rhesus), they encountered Dolon, questioned him, and then killed him.

Dulichium: A large island, part of Ulysses' kingdom in Homer's Odyssey (although not in the Iliad). Its location has not been positively identified.

Eumaeus: The swineherd on Ulysses' estate. Eumaeus remains faithful to Ulysses and Penelope, and offers Ulysses hospitality in his hut when the latter is disguised as a poor wayfarer. He is also one of the four men who help Ulysses kill the suitors near the end of Homer's Odyssey.

Eurycleia: The nurse who cared for Ulysses as a boy. She is an old woman now, still living as a servant in Penelope's household, and has remained faithful to the family despite the disruptive presence of the suitors. She recognizes Ulysses, then in disguise as a poor wayfarer, when she washes his feet and discovers a boyhood scar on his ankle.

Eurymachus: See Suitors.

faithful caretaker of the foul pig-sty: See Eumaeus.

foreign love: According to Homer's Odyssey, Ulysses did have affairs during his voyage home from Troy. The goddess Calypso kept him as her lover on her island for seven years, refusing to let him leave and promising him immortality if he would consent to be her husband. Homer presents Ulysses as staring moodily out to sea, wishing to be free to return to Ithaca and his family, but many readers have reflected that seven years is a long time for a man of Ulysses' resourcefulness to be held entirely against his will--and the circumstances of his captivity were, after all, rather pleasant. After Jupiter intervenes, Calypso consents to help Ulysses continue on his journey. Ulysses also sleeps with the beautiful sorceress/goddess Circe--this time on the advice of the god Mercury, in order to secure assistance for himself and his men. There is an additional mild flirtation with the human adolescent Nausicaa on the island of the Phaeacians.

Hector: Son of Priam (King of Troy) and Hecuba. Hector was the mightiest warrior on the Trojan side, and was regarded with fear by the Greek forces. He could finally be defeated only by the Greek hero Achilles. His body was desecrated after death by Achilles, and was only returned for proper burial following a touching and courageous personal appeal by Priam. Hector was married to Andromache, and he is mentioned as an example of a faithful and steadfast husband by Oenone in Heroides V

Icarius: Father of Penelope. Icarius was the brother of Tyndareus and the uncle of Helen. He originally opposed his daughter's marriage to Ulysses; Tyndareus persuaded him to consent in return for Ulysses' clever advice on how to handle the potentially destructive squabbling among Helen's many powerful suitors. (Ulysses suggested that all the suitors be required to swear an oath that they would defend the marriage rights of whatever suitor was eventually chosen--it was this oath that led to the Trojan War, after Paris adbucted Helen from Menelaus' palace.) Icarius tried to persuade Penelope and Ulysses to remain with him in Lacedaemon, but Penelope chose to follow her new husband to his home in Ithaca. During Ulysses' long absence from home during and after the Trojan War, Icarius also pressured Penelope to remarry.

Ilium: The Greek name for Troy.

Irus: A beggar who loiters in Ulysses' palace and takes the side of the suitors. He has a fight with Ulysses while Ulysses is disguised as a poor wayfarer.

keeper of the cattle: See Philoetius.

Lacedaemon: Region of Greece (in the Peloponnesus) ruled by King Menelaus, the original husband of Helen. Its major city, Sparta, was renowned in classical times for its warlike prowess and for the frugal lives of its citizens. 

Laertes: Father of Ulysses. He is an old man by the time Penelope is writing this letter, but he supports her in her resolution to remain faithful to Ulysses. He also helps Ulysses to kill the suitors, and he makes a final heroic demonstration of warlike prowess (with the help of the goddess Athena) when Ulysses must face the enraged relatives of the slain suitors at the end of Homer's Odyssey

Medon: See Suitors.

Melanthius: A goatherd on Ulysses' estate. He insults and kicks Ulysses while the latter is disguised as a poor wayfarer. He sides with the suitors and is mutilated by Telemachus, Eumaios, and Philoitios after the suitors are dead.

Neleus: Son of Tyro and Neptune, father of Nestor and king of Pylos. When Neleus refused to perform rituals of blood-guilt purification for Hercules, Hercules attacked Pylos, killing all of Neleus' sons except Nestor, who eventually succeeded Neleus as king.

Nestor: One of the Greek leaders at Troy; son of Neleus and king of Pylos. Nestor is the oldest of the notable Greeks at the seige of Troy. In Homer's Iliad, Nestor is respected and well liked by the other Greek leaders, but tends to make rather long-winded speeches and likes to tell long stories about his past exploits. Although his son Antilochus is killed, Nestor himself survives the Trojan War and returns home to rule Pylos. There he receives a visit from Ulysses and Penelope's son, Telemachus, who is seeking word of his father; Nestor is not able to give him any definite news.

Paris: Son of King Priam of Troy. Paris was asked to judge which of three Olympian goddesses (Juno, Minerva, and Venus) was the most beautiful. He selected Venus, and was rewarded by being given the love of the most beautiful woman in the world, Helen. Unfortunately, Helen was already married to King Menelaus of Sparta, and all of the other Greek kings had sworn to defend Menelaus's marriage rights. Paris abducted Helen, taking her back to Troy with him. The Trojan War began when the Greek armies beseiged Troy to get Helen back. Paris is the recipient of Heroides V.

Patroclus: A Greek warrior and close friend of Achilles. After Achilles quarreled with Agamemnon and withdrew from the fighting at Troy, the war went badly for the Greeks. Patroclus reentered the fighting wearing Achilles' distinctive armor, and was killed by Hector, who took the armor. Achilles became enraged and reentered the fighting himself in order to avenge his friend's death, eventually killing Hector. 

Penelope: Wife of the Greek hero Ulysses (Greek name: Odysseus), and mother of Telemachus. She lives on the Aegean island of Ithaca. At the time of this poem in the Heroides, Penelope is presumed to have been awaiting her husband's return for twenty years (ten years during the seige of Troy and ten more while he tried to find his way home). During this time, she is under increasing pressure to remarry, and her palace is filled with a group of insolent suitors who refuse to leave. For her clever stratagem to delay them, see the note on her web. Penelope is a main character in Homer's Odyssey, as well as appearing frequently elsewhere in Greek and Roman literature and art. She is often treated as the model of the faithful wife. 

Pergamum: The citadel of Troy. (Also the name of a later Greek city in Asia Minor, which can make matters confusing if you look for "Pergamum" on a map.)

Philoetius: The oxherd on Ulysses' estate. Philoetius remains faithful to Ulysses and Penelope, and is one of the four men who help Ulysses kill the suitors near the end of Homer's Odyssey.

Phoebus' walls: The fortified wall around the city of Troy. According to legend, Troy's walls had been built by the god Apollo (also called "Phoebus Apollo," or "Pheobus") himself.

Phrygian: The Phrygians were inhabitants of the area of Asia Minor in which Troy is found.

Pisander: See Suitors.

Priam: King of Troy, husband of Hecuba and father of Paris and Hector. He was finally killed when the city of Troy was taken by the Greeks at the close of the Trojan War. 

Polybus: See Suitors.

Pylos: Kingdom of the Greek leader Nestor. In Homer's Odyssey, Ulysses' son, Telemachus, sails first to Pylos to consult Nestor and then to Sparta to consult Menelaus, seeking information about his father. 

Rhesus: Leader of the Thracians and an ally of the Trojans. Rhesus had a set of magnificent horses (the "horses of Ismarus"); later classical sources say that if these horses had been pastured in Troy and had drunk of the river Scamander, then Troy could not have been taken. Soon after Rhesus' arrival at Troy, however, Ulysses and Diomedes moved under cover of darkness into the Trojan camp, killed Rhesus and twelve of his men while they slept, and stole the horses.

Samos: A large island (later called Kephallenia) near Ithaca, part of Ulysses' kingdom. 

Sigeian land: The land around Sigeum, a promontory and port near Troy. It was the traditional site of the grave of Achilles.

Simois: A river near Troy. It was a tributary of the main river on the plain of Troy, the Scamander.

son of Menoetius: See Patroclus.

Sparta: Principal city of Lacedaemon; home of Menelaus, who was one of the Greek leaders in the Trojan War and was the original husband of Helen. In Homer's Odyssey, Ulysses' son, Telemachus, sails first to Pylos to consult Nestor and then to Sparta to consult Menelaus, seeking information about his father. At Sparta, his hostess is Helen herself, who has been happily reunited with her original husband. 

Suitors (Pisander, Polybus, Medon, Eurymachus, and Antinous): During Ulysses' long absence, Penelope is beseiged by a horde of insolent suitors who want to marry her and take control of Ulysses' wealth and throne; the suitors stay in Ulysses' palace, where they treat themselves lavishly to food and drink, insulting all the members of the household and refusing to leave until Penelope decides to marry one of them. (For a strategem by which Penelope delays her decision, see the note on her web.) Five of these suitors are mentioned by name in Heroides I: Pisander, Polybus, Medon, Eurymachus, and Antinous. After Ulysses returns home in disguise, he kills all of them with the help of four companions: his father, Laertes; his son, Telemachus; the faithful swineherd, Eumaios; and the oxherd, Philoitios.

Telemachus: Son of Ulysses and Penelope. Telemachus is a young man at the time of Homer's Odyssey (and of this poem in the Heroides); he should be just over twenty years old--legend has it that he was an infant at the time of Ulysses' departure for Troy. In the Odyssey, he tries to stand up to Antinous and the other suitors who are disrupting his home; his efforts are admirable but ineffectual. Shortly thereafter, he sails to visit first Nestor at Pylos, then Menelaus in Lacedaemon, seeking word of his father's fate; on the way home from this trip, the goddess Minerva (Greek: Athena) helps him avoid an ambush planned by the suitors. He also is one of the four men who help Ulysses kill the suitors near the end of the Odyssey

Tlepolemus: Greek warrior, son of Hercules and leader of troops from Rhodes in the Trojan War. Tlepolemus was killed by Sarpedon, who was king of the Lycians and one of the mightiest warriors on the Trojan side. 

Troy: City in Asia Minor (part of modern-day Turkey), ruled by King Priam. After Priam's son, Paris, abducted Helen, the wife of the Greek King Menelaus, Greek armies beseiged Troy for ten years in what became known as the Trojan War. They finally conquered and destroyed the city in the tenth year, thanks in part to Ulysses' strategem of the Trojan horse. 

Ulysses: (Greek name: Odysseus) Greek hero, son of Laertes and king of Ithaca; one of the leaders of the Greek troops at the ten-year seige of Troy. Odysseus is the hero of Homer's Odyssey, which tells the story of his ten-year wanderings on the way home from Troy. He is a favorite subject in Greek and Roman literature and art. He was renowned for his eloquence and his often unscrupulous cleverness. 

web: The cloth that Penelope is weaving. During Ulysses' long absence from home, Penelope is beseiged by suitors, who want to marry her and take control of Ulysses' wealth and throne. To delay a decision on remarriage, she says that she cannot marry until she has finished weaving a shroud for her aged father-in-law, Laertes. She weaves during the day and then unravels her work at night, stretching the production of the shroud out over three years before she is caught. 

Zachynthos: A large island not far from Ithaca, part of Ulysses' kingdom.

 

 

 

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Last updated 06/22/2013