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Archive for Castor and Pollux

Two wedding song fragments of Sappho (heavily emended); Vesper and Lucifer; the eroticism of morning

104a Voigt

Vesper, bringing all that shining dawn has scattered
you bring the sheep and goat, you bring the mother’s child;
far away you bring the child from mother, baneful star.

Ἔϲπερε πάντα φέρων ὄϲα φαίνολιϲ ἐϲκέδαϲ’ Αὔωϲ,
οἶν ϲὺ φέρηιϲ τε καὶ αἶγα, φέρηιϲ ἄπυ μάτερι παῖδα,
<τῆλέ γε παῖδα φέρηις ἀπὺ μάτερος, ὤλιος ἄστηρ.>


114 Voigt

– Maidenhood, maidenhood, where have you gone and left me?
– Not again, by any means, to you, at any time, shall I return from anywhere,
not again shall I return.

παρθενία, παρθενία, ποῖ με λίποιϲ’ ἀποίχηι;
οὐκέτι <πωϲ> πρὸϲ ϲέ <ποτ’> ἤξω <ποθέν,> οὐκέτ’ ἤξω.


Hermes 142 (2014), pp. 225–39.


The relation of Vesper or Hesperos, the Evening Star, to the goddess Aphrodite (Venus), a tacit presence in most of Sappho’s preserved poetry, is an interesting topic. The association of the goddess with the planet Venus is not attested in Greek sources before the fourth century B.C., but in Symbolae Osloenses 86 (2012) we speculated on possible relics in Greek art and literature of the mythological notion of Hesperos and Phosphoros (Lucifer), the Evening and Morning Star, serving as the goddess’s twin charioteers. This might relate them genetically to the winged Aśvin twins of Vedic mythology, who are the charioteers of Sūryasa, Daughter (or wife?) of the Sun. Textual parallels between Sappho 1, the “Hymn” to Aphrodite, describing a chariot voyage of the goddess, and RigVeda 1.118, could support such a relation. As has been suggested, Castor and Pollux, the twin riders of light, brothers of the divine Helen, might constitute another mythological hypostasis derived from the same cosmological foundation: the two opposite aspects of the planet Venus, custodians of the erotically charged light of evening and dawn.


Not only evening but also morning is a time of heightened eroticism, as in RigVeda 1.134.3:

Wake up abundance
Like a lover a sleeping girl,
Make both worlds visible, make the dawns light up

(transl. Karen Thomson)

– and in an hommage to Sappho by Posidippus of Pella addressed to Doricha the courtesan, lover of Sappho’s brother Charaxus (Gow-Page, Hellenistic Epigrams vv. 3143–45; Ath. 13.596c):

…the fragrant gown, which you wrapped around your beloved Charaxus as you, your skin adjacent to his, took hold of the ivy cups of daybreak.

What exactly is here meant by “the ivy cups of daybreak” (ὀρθρινὰ κιϲϲύβια) is uncertain. Gow-Page’s assertion that it refers to “a symposium prolonged past midnight” seems doubtful; for instance one might have expected the imperfect tense of the verb ἄπτομαι (“grasp”, “take hold”), denoting continued or repeated action. The wrapping of a gown around two naked bodies is also awkward in combination with holding cups and drinking, and the procedure is a literary topic associated with coitus in Archil. fr. 196a West (Archilochus molesting a girl) and Hieronymus of Rhodes fr. 35 Wehrli (Sophocles debauching a boy = test. 75 Radt, Ath. 13.604e).


Aphrodite with charioteers