[an error occurred while processing this directive]Wounded?

This is a relatively trivial matter. There is in the Iliad (Bk V ) an episode of battle in which Diomedes1 distinguishes himself, challenging and defeating Trojan heroes one after another, first Astynous and Hyperion, then Abas and Polvidos, next Xanthos and Thoon, and then the sons of Priam, Echemmon and Chromios. Then he killed with a spear toss Pandaros, who had earlier wounded him with an arrow. Pandaros had fallen from the chariot of Æneas2, and Æneas leapt down over the fallen body to prevent the Greeks from despoiling it. But Diomedes, no longer armed, seized a great boulder, such as two ordinary men could not lift, and hurled it at Æneas, striking him on the thigh, crushing the hip and stripping away the flesh until the shattered bone was visible. This would normally have been a mortal wound, but, as Æneas slumped over the body of his companion, bracing himself on one knee and hand, his mother Aphrodite swept him up in her arms, enveloped him in her peplos, and carried him away from the battle toward Troy.

Diomedes, angry that he had been thus deprived of the spoils of his victory, jumped in his chariot and pursued Aphrodite through the Trojan army, overtaking her. Then, taunting the goddess, whom he knew to be meek and averse to combat, he thrust out with his spear, piercing her cloak and stabbing her in the hand near the wrist. Aphrodite, unused to such an affront, screamed in pain, dropped Æneas and fled weeping. Diomedes sprang down upon Æneas to kill him where he lay though Apollo himself stood between Diomedes and the fallen Trojan. And the god beat him back. Three times Diomedes hurled himself at the god and three times was he beaten back. Finally, as he made to throw himself yet again at Apollo, the god shouted out to him a warning not to match himself against the immortal, and Diomedes was again deprived of his victory as Apollo spirited Æneas away to Pergamos where he was healed of his wound by Leto and Artemis. For it was fated that Æneas must found the new colony in Italy which would produce Rome.

Incidental to this, the question arose, on which hand had Aphrodite been wounded? The text says only that Diomedes' spear thrust pierced her cloak, which had been woven by the Graces themselves, and entered her flesh on the hand at the extremity above the palm, causing the ichor, which flows in the veins of the gods rather than blood, to run from the wound. This description is not entirely unambiguous in itself. The terms used by Homer might be translated as the "further hand" or the "higher hand" and the words could mean the back of the hand, which is above the palm when the hand is palm down, or near the wrist if the palm were up.

However, in imagining the scene, one pictures Aphrodite swooping down and lifting Æneas so that his head lay in the hollow between her right breast and shoulder and that her left hand was beneath his knees. Thus, when she carried him from the battlefield, Diomedes in pursuit, the right hand of the goddess would have been beneath Æneas, supporting him at the waist, or, because he had been wounded at the hip, lower down, cradling him under his thigh, Her right hand, then, would have been separated from Diomedes by both her own body and by that of her son, impossible for the Greek hero to have reached. Her left hand, however, would have been under the knees of the Æneas, palm up, and a spear thrust from behind, penetrating first her cloak, could have struck her left hand near the thumb, or, if her elbow were slightly pushed away from her side, the spear passing between her arm and her torso, at the base of the hand on the opposing edge, below the little finger. Since the latter posture is the more uncomfortable and unnatural one with which to support a dead weight, it seems likely that the former is more likely, with the wound being taken on her left hand near the base of the thumb.

Does this image agree with the description in Homer? If Aphrodite's right hand were under Æneas as he slumped in her arms, then her left hand could have been described as the "higher" hand, most of his weight being borne by the goddess' right thorax and arm.

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Aphrodite (Foam-Born), goddess of Love, fertility, beauty, said to have been created when the severed genitals of Cronos fell into the ocean near Cythera. She is often depicted as arising from the sea, wringing the salt water from her hair (Image 24K). The most famous of her statues, the nude Aphrodite of Praxiteles in her shrine at Cnidus, said to have been modelled after Phryne, has been lost except for the head, which, although disfigured, has been identified by Dr. Iris Love. The Aphrodite of Melos, now in the Louvre, despite being reduced to a trademark, is admirable. Aphrodite was married to Hephaistos (Roman Vulcan), the ugliest of the Twelve Olympians, but took human lovers, among them Adonis and Anchises. Identified with Venus, Astarte, Hathor, and others. Regarded as the progenetrix of the Romans. The Julian clan, of which Caius Julius Cæsar was a scion, were said to have descended directly from her through Æneas' son Iulus. Back to Text.

1 Diomedes, son of Tydeus, suitor for Helen, was from Argos. His life was curiously intertwined with that of Æneas. Like the Trojan, he was harried by a wrathful goddess, in his case Athene, for the sacrilege he had committed against her in her temple at Troy when he had dragged Cassandra from the sanctuary still clinging to Athene's statue. He did not return to Argos, but settlled in Italy where he founded a city. The warning from Apollo seemed to leave a lasting impression, for, when asked to send troops to resist the establishment of Æneas's colony, he demurred. Back to Text.

2 Æneas, son of Anchises and Aphrodite, was the legendary Trojan captain who fathered the Roman nation. Back to Text.


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