Numinous Elegy: A Translation of Iliad 14.214-225

Hapax Legomenon

Numinous Elegy: A Translation of Iliad 14.214-225

Andrew Herrmann, '08

When one thinks of the Iliad, immediately what comes to mind is war, bloody battle, shining heroes, etc. However, in Book 14 the grave war epic takes a lighter turn when the reader comes across the episode of Hera's seduction of Zeus. This section quite clearly sticks out from the rest of the poem, since the raging violence is traded in for love, bras, and seduction. Therefore, the subject matter no longer seems appropriate for epic hexameters, but more suited to the elegiac couplet, used for Latin love elegy. While having a woman, Hera, play the role of the spurned elegist conspiring to seduce their victim is unconventional, the story is still the same and works as a precursor to the Latin genre of love elegy.
Thus this translation of the Greek epic into Latin elegy was born. The original Greek and Lattimore's English translation have been included for the reader's enjoyment. I have chosen to focus on the scene where Hera visits Aphrodite to borrow her enchanted girdle to win over Zeus. This part caught my interest both because invocations to Aphrodite for aid were common in elegy and because I found the stark contrast between warriors and weapons and goddesses and girdles rather striking. While it certainly does not reach a broad audience, I hope that classicists, both young and old, will appreciate my melding of the seemingly opposite genres of epic and elegy. But then again, as Ovid says, "
Militat omnis amans, et habet sua castra Cupido" (Am. 1.9.1).

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dicens mammilla lorum ornatum bene solvit
fucatum in quo texta omnia de illecebris
hic intra est amor et desiderium atque ita sermo
dilectorum fallitque virorum animos
hoc ponens manibus dum appellans dixit ei nunc
accipe nunc hoc lorum et pone pectore sic
fucatum quod cuncta haec fert iuroque ita te non
nec patrantem quodcumque abituram animo est
sic dixit risitque oculis bovis aetheria Iuno
et ridens albo in pectore fert bene id iam
ergo ivit ad sedem Iovis filia tunc Venus illim
atque Iuno statim Olympi abfuit ex apice iam

She spoke, and from her breasts unbound the elaborate, pattern-pieced
zone, and on it are figured all beguilements, and loveliness
is figured upon it, and passion of sex is there, and the whispered
endearment that steals the heart away even from the thoughtful.
She put this in Hera's hands, and called her by name and spoke to her:
'Take this zone, and hide it away in the fold of your bosom.
It is elaborate, all things are figured therein. And I think
whatever is your heart's desire shall not go unaccomplished.'
So she spoke, and the ox-eyed lady Hera smiled on her
and smiling hid the zone away in the fold of her bosom.
So Aphrodite went back into the house, Zeus' daughter,
while Hera in a flash of speed left the horn of Olympos