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Le bouvier dans la poésie hellénistique et le roman grec

The Violence of boukolēsis in the Literature of Roman Greece

La violence de la boukolēsis dans la littérature grecque à l’époque romaine
La violenza della boukolēsis nella letteratura della Grecia romana
Tim Whitmarsh

Résumés

Le boukolos ou « bouvier » est une caractéristique familière du paysage de la littérature grecque de fiction, mais si, dans les textes antérieurs, il est une figure fondamentalement douce, le bouvier joue généralement un rôle agressif et menaçant, notamment dans le discours érotique. Dans cet article, je cherche d’abord à étayer cette affirmation et, d’autre part, à proposer quelques explications à ce changement.

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1The boukolos or ‘cowherd’ is a familiar feature on the landscape of Roman Greek imaginative literature, but whereas in earlier texts he is a fundamentally benign figure, in imperial culture he usually plays an aggressive, threatening role, particularly in erotic discourse. In this article I aim first to substantiate that claim and second to propose some explanations for the shift.

  • 1 Cass. Dio 72.4. For recent studies see R. Alston, “The Revolt of the Boukoloi: Geography, History a (...)

2I should stress at the outset that in this chapter I am interested primarily in actual cow-farmers, rather than the thuggish Egyptian bandits known as the Boukoloi who appear in Achilles Tatius and Heliodorus, apparently reflecting real-life outlaws of the Roman Empire.1 Why these gained their name is not at all clear: certainly there is no indication in the sources of association with cows or indeed any kind of pastoral farming. It is surely not irrelevant, however, that these notorious anti-establishment figures were identified with a label that (I argue) rapidly acquired powerfully negative associations in the era. Whether they were so named because the boukolos was now imagined in hostile terms, or whether they negatively influenced the portrayal of the actual cowherd, or whether the reality is more complex and bi-directional, are not questions that our evidence permits us to answer. I shall, however, return to this matter in a limited way presently.

  • 2 Hom. Il. 5.313–15 (Anchises; cf. HHApr. 54–56), 21.448–49 (Apollo); D. Berman, “The Hierarchy of He (...)

3As I say, my interest lies primarily in actual cow-farmers, as represented in Greek fictional or fictionalising literature of the Roman Empire. Why did they acquire such negative connotations? Before we approach this question, we should consider the earlier literary background, which in fact paints a broadly positive picture. The primary reference points are two, Homer and Theocritus. In the Odyssey, the cowherd Philoetius and the swineherd Eumaeus are loyal to their master, while the goatherd Melanthius (a doublet of the disloyal maid Melantho) is not, and is moreover abusive towards the disguised Odysseus. This differentiation, coupled with the fact that in epic it is acceptable for high-status figures (and even gods) to engage, at least temporarily, in cowherding,2 suggests a general moral and social superiority of cowherds at least over goatherds. This loose differentiation is what we might expect, given the different values of the animals, and in particular the status of the cow as the sacrificial animal most prized by the gods.

  • 3 The idea of the bucolic hierarchy is first proposed (for Vergil) in the fifth century CE by Donatus (...)

4In Theocritus, the boukolos is a generally benign figure, albeit prone to love-lorn contemplation. What is important to stress is that, as is now well understood, Theocritean poetry does not enforce a clear status differentiation (the alleged ‘bucolic hierarchy’) between cowherds, shepherds and goatherds, although there are some hints in this direction.3

5Against this backdrop, the revaluation of the cowherd in the imperial period is striking. When we turn to the later texts, the place to begin is with Longus’ pastoral romance, Daphnis and Chloe. The protagonists are, in mythical fashion, members of the urban elite brought up by herdsmen in the countryside: Daphnis by the family of a goatherd (1.2.1) and Chloe by that of a shepherd (1.4.1). At either end of the text, however, we meet sexually aggressive boukoloi, Dorcon and Lampis: each seeks to rape Chloe. Dorcon and Lampis thus function as doublets of each other, just as the erōtodidaskaloi Philetas and Lycaenion do. Dorcon’s claim to Chloe is initially pursued through persuasion; his argument is that he is a more desirable lover on the grounds that he is a boukolos rather than a goatherd:

Ἐγώ, παρθένε, μείζων εἰμὶ Δάφνιδος, καὶ ἐγὼ μὲν βουκόλος, ὁ δ’ αἰπόλος· τοσοῦτον <ἐγὼ> κρείττων ὅσον αἰγῶν βόες.

Maid, I am greater than Daphnis. I am a boukolos, he a goatherd; I am mightier than him in the same proportion that cows are greater than goats (Longus, Daphnis and Chloe 1.16.1).

  • 4 κρείττων/κρείσσων is strictly speaking derived from the adjective κρατύς, which is however extremel (...)

6We should note that Dorcon’s posited superiority is asserted in terms of size and power, not beauty or moral excellence: he is ‘greater’ (meizōn), and even ‘mightier’ (kreittōn, sharing a root with kratos, ‘force’).4 The cowherd asserts his physical vigour, which he implicitly shares with ‘cows’—or, perhaps a better translation would be ‘oxen’ or ‘bulls’, since the male animals are often associated with elemental power in Greek culture. In particular, bulls could be linked mythically with the unwelcome pursuit of females, as in the cases of Europa (abducted by Zeus in the guise of a bull) and Deianeira (whom the river god Achelous approached in the monstrous form of a bull). According to Artemidorus of Daldis, to dream of a bull ‘signifies extraordinary danger, especially if it is threatening or pursuing’ (Oneir. 2.12, trans. White).

7Dorcon’s assimilation of himself to a powerful bull, then, is a worrying signal to Chloe, and to the alert reader. This hinted-at physical violence is realised presently, as he dresses up as a wolf so as ‘to attack Chloe violently’:

Δευτέρας δὴ διαμαρτὼν ὁ Δόρκων ἐλπίδος καὶ μάτην τυροὺς ἀγαθοὺς ἀπολέσας ἔγνω διὰ χειρῶν ἐπιθέσθαι τῇ Χλόῃ μόνῃ γενομένῃ.

Dorcon had missed out for a second time, and wasted good cheeses [which he had offered as a love token]. So he decided to attack Chloe violently when she was on her own (1.20.1).

  • 5 See esp. S.J. Epstein, “Longus’ Werewolves,” CPh 90, 1995, p. 59–60. The final theriomorphic elemen (...)
  • 6 λύκου δέρμα μεγάλου . . . ὃν ταῦρός ποτε πρὸ τῶν βοῶν μαχόμενος τοῖς κέρασι διέφθειρε.
  • 7 At least, this seems to be how the text presents the episode; modern sexual ethics would no doubt b (...)
  • 8 In fact bulls are surprisingly rare as positive heroic comparanda in Homer: see Il. 2.480–81, 21.23 (...)

8The bull-rapist has now become a wolf-rapist. The reasons for his choice of a wolf costume are never explained in terms of naturalistic motivation, but the symbolic association between the cowherd and violent, rapacious bestiality, and the general thematic importance to Daphnis and Chloe of the motif of the wolf (as the embodiment of invasive aggression) are evident and have been noted by scholars.5 What is more, the connection between the bull and the wolf is marked within the text: the wolf costume he wears consists of ‘the skin of a big wolf that a bull once gored to death defending his cows’ (1.20.2).6 Dorcon’s attempted rape of Chloe is, in the event, unsuccessful (he is attacked by dogs who mistake him for a real wolf), but the bestial connection does not disappear. He eventually meets his fate when he is attacked by pirates who cut him down, in his own dying words, ‘like a bull fighting for my cows’ (πρὸ τῶν βοῶν μαχόμενον . . . ὡς βοῦν). In death he is brought close to a kind of moral redemption,7 and he pretends even to a heroic status via his simile.8 The taurine violence, however, remains.

9Lampis, meanwhile, is introduced as an agerōkhos boukolos:

Λάμπις τις ἦν ἀγέρωχος βουκόλος. Οὗτος καὶ αὐτὸς ἐμνᾶτο τὴν Χλόην παρὰ τοῦ Δρύαντος καὶ δῶρα ἤδη πολλὰ ἐδεδώκει σπεύδων τὸν γάμον.

There was a certain Lampis who was a boukolos and a hothead. This fellow was beseeching Dryas for Chloe, and had already given lots of presents in the hope that he could expedite the marriage (4.7.1).

  • 9 Trapp et al. 2001 s.v. ἀγερωχέω (“überheblich sein, stolz, hochmutig sein”) .

10It is worth reflecting on the word agerōkhos, which means (I think) something more than John Morgan’s ‘hothead’, reproduced here. In Homer it is in fact largely used in a positive sense, of ‘lordly’ individuals. In later Greek, however, it takes on two additional senses: ‘high-spirited’, and ‘overweening, arrogant’ (the meaning that had won out exclusively in Byzantine times,9 and persists into modern Greek). Longus in fact has the word elsewhere in both senses: the young child Eros (2.4.2) and Philetas’ son Tityrus (2.32.1) are presumably to be taken as ‘high-spirited’, whereas Chloe’s avoidance of the shepherds for fear of the agerōkhia presumably recognises their potential for violent behaviour. That Lampis might be taken in the first instance as ‘overweening’ is suggested by the verb emnato, translated above as ‘beseeching’, but really means that he ‘sought her in marriage’: this carries echoes of the Odyssey’s aggressive, domineering suitors (mnēstēres).

  • 10 C. Calame, The Poetics of Eros in Ancient Greece, trans. J. Lloyd, Princeton, Princeton University, (...)
  • 11 See e.g. Aesch. Suppl. 663, Pind. Pyth. 9.109–10, Anth. Pal. 7.217.3.

11Like Dorcon, he turns to violence when conventional means fail. His first act is a symbolic one, destroying the garden kept by Daphnis’ father by trampling the flowers, a passage with long-recognised echoes of Sappho fragment 105c Voigt (‘like the hyacinth which shepherds tread underfoot in the mountains, and on the ground the purple flower’: note that in Sappho’s poimēn or ‘shepherd’ has been replaced by a boukolos). Like Dorcon, the boukolos Lampis behaves in a bestial way: he tramples the flowers ‘like a boar’ (hōsper sus, 1.7.3)—perhaps specifically like the Iliad’s Calydonian boar that ‘worked much evil, wasting the orchard plot of Oeneus’ (Hom. Il. 9.540). Although the assault is primarily targeted at Daphnis and his father—his calculation is apparently that the blame will fall on them, and once punished they will no longer be in a position to come between him and Chloe—there are obvious intimations of female rape here. Flowery meadows are prime locations for assaults on young women,10 and flower-plucking can metaphorically suggest defloration.11

12What is particularly striking is the reaction of Lamon, Daphnis’ father:

Λάμων δὲ τῆς ἐπιούσης παρελθὼν εἰς τὸν κῆπον ἔμελλεν ὕδωρ αὐτοῖς ἐκ τῆς πηγῆς ἐπάξειν. Ἰδὼν δὲ πᾶν τὸ χωρίον δεδῃωμένον καὶ ἔργον οἷον ἐχθρός, οὐ λῃστής, ἐργάσαιτο, κατερρήξατο μὲν εὐθὺς τὸν χιτωνίσκον, βοῇ δὲ μεγάλῃ θεοὺς ἀνεκάλει…

Next morning Lamon went to the park, and was going to irrigate the flowers from the spring. But the moment he saw the whole place devastated, more like the work of an enemy than a bandit, he tore his shirt, and called to the gods with a great cry . . . (4.7.4–5).

13Focalising Lamon’s reaction, the narrator describes the garden as ‘laid waste to’ (dedēiōmenon), the work of an enemy (ekhthros), not a bandit (lēistēs). The primary meaning is clear—the levels of destruction wrought are high—but this is very curious phrasing. The train of thought seems to be that Lampis is in fact a bandit, but he has acted (or is perceived to have acted) more like a military enemy. But Lampis is not a bandit; he is a cowherd. Has Longus assimilated the pastoral boukolos Lampis to the piratical Nile-delta boukoloi that we find in Achilles Tatius and Heliodorus?

14This hint is developed in the following section. Again like Dorcon, Lampis turns to violence after his initial plans fail. In due course, believing that Chloe has been abandoned by Daphnis, he abducts her:

Τοιαῦτα λέγουσαν, ταῦτα ἐννοοῦσαν ὁ Λάμπις ὁ βουκόλος μετὰ χειρὸς γεωργικῆς ἐπιστὰς ἥρπασεν αὐτήν, ὡς οὔτε Δάφνιδος ἔτι γαμήσοντος καὶ Δρύαντος ἐκεῖνον ἀγαπήσοντος.

  • 12 χείρ is a “number, band, body of men” (LSJ s.v. V)—but also suggests the physical force that accomp (...)

While she was saying this kind of thing and thinking this, Lampis the boukolos attacked with a rustic gang,12 and abducted her, thinking that Daphnis was no longer going to marry her and that Dryas liked him (4.28.1).

15It is particularly striking that Lampis is explicitly marked as a boukolos at this point, as if there were a naturalised connection between cowherding the abduction of women. In fact, the abduction of Chloe here is presented in not dissimilar terms to those used for the abduction of Leucippe by the Nile-Delta boukoloi in Achilles Tatius:

οἱ δὲ ἐπὶ τὴν Λευκίππην εὐθὺς τρέπονται, ἡ δὲ εἴχετό μου καὶ ἐξεκρέματο βοῶσα. τῶν δὲ λῃστῶν οἱ μὲν ἀπέσπων, οἱ δὲ ἔτυπτον· ἀπέσπων μὲν τὴν Λευκίππην, ἔτυπτον δὲ ἐμέ. ἀράμενοι οὖν αὐτὴν μετέωρον ἀπάγουσιν, ἡμᾶς δὲ κατὰ σχολὴν ἦγον δεδεμένους.

They immediately rushed at Leucippe. She clung to me and hung onto me screaming, but some of the robbers pulled (they pulled her) and others beat (they beat me). They lifted her up and carried her off; us they took, tied up, at a slower pace (Achilles Tatius 3.12.2).

16Lampis’ behaviour does, then, appear to evoke that of the Egyptian boukoloi. Whether we take Longus to be alluding directly to Achilles Tatius or not raises the logically prior question of when we date Longus: in our current state of evidence, there is no way of telling whether he predates or postdates Achilles (who belongs in the early-to-mid second century CE). It seems likely, however, that Longus had boukoloi of this kind in mind when he composed the Lampis episode. One final piece of evidence comes when Gnathon rescues Chloe, and seeks to capture Lampis:

Ἐσπούδαζε δὲ καὶ τὸν Λάμπιν δήσας ἄγειν ὡς αἰχμάλωτον ἐκ πολέμου τινός, εἰ μὴ φθάσας ἀπέδρα.

He was keen to tie up Lampis and arrest him like a prisoner of war—but he ran away first (4.29.3).

  • 13 Ath. Deipn. 560b (cf. Duris FGrH 76 F2).
  • 14 N. 1 above.

17The simile is instructive: Lampis is imagined as a military enemy subdued in battle. In part, Longus much be invoking the familiar Greek idea that ‘the greatest wars came about thanks to women,’13 and particularly their abduction. If we take Longus to have written after the revolt of the Egyptian Boukoloi in 172–73 CE, however, we may also hear echoes of Gaius Avidius Cassius’ military campaign to subdue them.14

18When we broaden out into wider imperial Greek culture, we can see a similar pattern. Let me take another example, from Plutarch’s Greek Questions, a version of the ‘Potiphar’s wife’ story: a young woman of Tanagra called Ochne (‘hesitant’?) falls in love with a man called Eunostus; when scorned, she denounces him to her cousins, who do away with him. It is the names of the cousins that interest me:

ἐρασθῆναι δ’ αὐτοῦ λέγουσιν Ὄχναν, μίαν τῶν Κολωνοῦ θυγατέρων, ἀνεψιὰν οὖσαν. ἐπεὶ δὲ πειρῶσαν ὁ Εὔνοστος ἀπετρέψατο καὶ λοιδορήσας ἀπῆλθεν εἰς τοὺς ἀδελφοὺς κατηγορήσων, ἔφθασεν ἡ παρθένος τοῦτο πράξασα κατ’ ἐκείνου καὶ παρώξυνε τοὺς ἀδελφοὺς Ἔχεμον καὶ Λέοντα καὶ Βουκόλον ἀποκτεῖναι τὸν Εὔνοστον, ὡς πρὸς βίαν αὐτῇ συγγεγενημένον. ἐκεῖνοι μὲν οὖν ἐνεδρεύσαντες ἀπέκτειναν τὸν νεανίσκον.

They say that Ochne, his (Eunostus’) cousin, one of the daughters of Colonus, became enamoured of him; but when Eunostus repulsed her advances and, after upbraiding her, departed to accuse her to her brothers, the maiden forestalled him by doing this very thing against him. She incited her brothers, Echemus, Leon and Bucolus, to kill Eunostus, saying that he had consorted with her by force. They, accordingly, lay in ambush for the young man and slew him (Plutarch, Quaestiones Graecae 300E–F).

  • 15 Hom. Od. 18.85, 18.116, 21.308.

19These malefactors are identified as Echemus, Leon and Bucolos. In fact, the first name is uncertain, appearing in multiple different forms in the manuscripts. (Whatever it was originally, was it perhaps supposed to carry an echo of Echetus, the proverbially savage king referred to on several occasions in the Odyssey?)15 The second and third, however, are unambiguous: Leon (‘Lion’) and Boukolos. The names seem clearly chosen to suggest violence in rural space. What is interesting to me is that the name is apparently expected to carry that hostile resonance on its own, without any kind of contextual framing.

20Where does this idea of boukoloi as men of violence come from? Why this shift away from the Theocritean portrait of the peaceable cowherd grazing his beasts in a mountainous idyll, or the Odyssean moral differentiation of the boukolos and the swineherd from the goatherd? One very likely explanation has already been given. There were real-life bandits who were known as (and perhaps who styled themselves as) boukoloi: this feature of contemporary reality has surely infected fictional representation (that much seemed very clear from our discussion of Longus’ Lampis).

21But there may be more. The cowherd has also come to share some of the properties of the bull, that symbol of violence and threat, as our discussion of Longus’ Dorcon exemplified. Let us consider also the following passage, from Aelian’s On the nature of animals:

Ὑπὸ θυμοῦ τεθηγμένον ταῦρον καὶ ὑβρίζοντα ἐς κέρας καὶ σὺν ὁρμῇ ἀκατασχέτῳ φερόμενον οὐχ ὁ βουκόλος ἐπέχει, οὐ φόβος ἀναστέλλει, οὐκ ἄλλο τοιοῦτον, ἄνθρωπος δὲ ἵστησιν αὐτὸν καὶ παραλύει τῆς ὁρμῆς τὸ δεξιὸν αὑτοῦ γόνυ διασφίγξας ταινίᾳ καὶ ἐντυχὼν αὐτῷ.

Once a bull has been provoked by his anger and is threatening violence with his horns and rushing on with an irresistible charge, the herdsman cannot control him, fear cannot check him, nor anything else: a man can only check him and stop his onrush if he ties a ribbon around his right knee and faces it (Aelian, De Natura Animalium 4.48).

  • 16 M.B. Trapp, “Plato’s Phaedrus in the Second Century,” in D.A. Russell (ed.), Antonine Literature, O (...)

22The role of the boukolos here is not merely to nurture his herd, but to contain and constrain the bull’s monstrous violence and anger. What is particularly interesting is the hint of a form of psychic modelling, whereby the bull actually in a sense embodies the passionate spirit (the thumos) and the herdsman the rational force that attempts to control (note ‘check’, epekhei) it. This dyadic metaphor of the soul as a human agent attempting to control a beast is of a very familiar kind in Greek thought, and of course its most celebrated expression comes in the chariot simile of Plato’s Phaedrus, which was widely imitated in the period under discussion.16 In Aelian’s description, the boukolos is presented as someone with a strikingly precarious control over the feral beast (note the latter’s ‘irresistible charge’, hormēi akataskhetos): only if he happens to know the odd (and hardly plausible to anyone, even in antiquity?) workaround of the ribbon trick can he hope to reassert his dominance.

23So, the influence of Platonic (and hence also Stoic) models of the psyche may have contributed to a reimagining of the boukolos as defined by his unstable relationship with the dangerous beast. This shift, whereby the boukolos took on elements of the bous, was facilitated by pseudetymological reinvention. The -kolos element of the word boukolos actually derives from pelō/pelomai (‘be’, ‘become’), so it is fairly colourless. Bou-kolos is an exactly parallel formation to ai-polos (‘goatherd’, from aix a goat). By imperial times, however, understanding of this simple etymology (disguised by the consonantal shift from p to k) seems to have been lost. The closest parallel for boukolos may have been, for many, the familiar word duskolos, ‘grumpy’ (the title of one of Menander’s best-known plays). This word is formed from the negative prefix dus- and kolon, the colon (i.e. the digestive tract), and hence by metonymy the food processed within it: a duskolos is thus literally a dyspeptic, one suffering from indigestion. In Athenaeus’ Deipnosophists, the character Democritus explicitly (and, of course, erroneously) derives boukolos along with several other words from kolon in this way:

κυρίως δ᾿ ὁ κόλαξ ἐπὶ τούτου κεῖται· κόλον γὰρ ἡ τροφή, ὅθεν καὶ ὁ βουκόλος καὶ ὁ δύσκολος, ὅς ἐστι δυσάρεστος καὶ σικχός, κοιλία τε ἡ τὴν τροφὴν δεχομένη.

The word kolax (‘flatterer’) is properly used to refer to this behaviour [i.e. attempting to appropriate food]; because food is kolon, whence boukolos and duskolos, which means ‘difficult to please and fastidious,’ while the part of the body that receives food is the koilia (‘stomach, gut’) (Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae 262a).

24The exact workings of the etymology of boukolos are not specified here: is the cowherd perhaps imagined as providing kolon (‘food’) for the bous? It may be, indeed, that the absence of specification (contrast the explanation in the matter of the duskolos) indicates uncertainty, or perhaps a careless lack of thinking through. My wider point, however, relates to the conjunction of boukolos and duskolos, as similar-sounding words. Was the word boukolos reconceived in the imperial period as denoting a biologically-based disposition of character? Was the boukolos imagined as having ‘the constitution of a bous’?

25One other pseudetymology seems to have come into play, from kolazein (‘to chastise’): the role of the boukolos is to punish the bous. Another passage from Aelian depends upon this connection:

Ὁ βοῦς ὁ πρᾶος τοῦ πλήττοντος καὶ κολάζοντος οὐκ ἄν ποτε λήθην λάβοι, ἀλλ’ ἀπομνησθεὶς τιμωρεῖται καὶ διαστήματος ἐγγενομένου. ὢν μὲν γὰρ ὑπὸ ζεύγλην καὶ τρόπον τινὰ καθειργμένος, ἔοικε δεσμώτῃ καὶ ἡσυχάζει· ὅταν δὲ ἀφεθῇ, πολλάκις μὲν τῷ σκέλει παίσας συνέτριψε μέλος τι τοῦ βουκόλου, πολλάκις δὲ καὶ θυμωθεὶς ἐς κέρας εἶτα ἐμπεσὼν ἀπέκτεινεν αὐτόν.

A tame bull never forgets the man who strikes and punishes (kolazontos) it; it remembers and exacts revenge, even when time has elapsed. For when it is under the yoke and in a sense restrained, it resembles a prisoner and keeps its peace; but when it is released, it often kicks out at and breaks one of the boukolos’ limbs, and often even then gores him in anger, and kills him (Aelian, De Natura Animalium 4.35).

26Aelian seems to take for granted here that the boukolos is associated with the ‘punishing’ (kolazein) of the beast. At one level, this is a realist touch: the painstaking process of training oxen for animal husbandry does indeed involve the use of sticks and goads. But it also returns us to the psychic model: the bous is imagined as a violent, disruptive force that human rationality struggles to contain. The figure of the boukolos thus emerges as an important locus for thinking about the relationship between the civilising capacity of human culture and the violence of the bestial.

27As I have been suggesting, these violent forces are not imagined to exist solely outside the human subject, in the realm of the bestial tout court. The boukolos models not just the rationality of the mind but the conjuncture between that rationality and the turbulent passions. This is brought out clearly in a final pair of passages, which associate Eros himself with boukolia.

  • 17 For a recent defence of their Lucianic authorship see J. Jope, “Interpretation and Authenticity of (...)

28The idea of Eros the boukolos seems once again to be linked to the idea of the chastisement of animals. The first of the two passages from the (?pseudo-)17 Lucianic Erotes, where the proponent of gay love, Theomnestus, talks about the recurrent passions to which he has succumbed:

σχεδὸν γὰρ ἐκ τῆς ἀντίπαιδος ἡλικίας εἰς τοὺς ἐφήβους κριθεὶς ἄλλαις ἀπ’ ἄλλων ἐπιθυμίαις βουκολοῦμαι· διάδοχοι ἔρωτες ἀλλήλων καὶ πρὶν ἢ λῆξαι τῶν προτέρων, ἄρχονται δεύτεροι, κάρηνα Λερναῖα τῆς παλιμφυοῦς Ὕδρας πολυπλοκώτερα μηδ’ Ἰόλεων βοηθὸν ἔχειν δυνάμενα· πυρὶ γὰρ οὐ σβέννυται πῦρ. οὕτως τις ὑγρὸς τοῖς ὄμμασιν ἐνοικεῖ μύωψ, ὃς ἅπαν κάλλος εἰς αὑτὸν ἁρπάζων ἐπ’ οὐδενὶ κόρῳ παύεται.

For, almost from the time when I left off being a boy and was accounted a young man, I have been beguiled by one passion after another (allais ep’ allōn epithumiais boukoloumai). One Love as ever succeeded another, and almost before I’ve ended earlier ones, later Loves begin. They are veritable Lernean heads appearing in greater multiplicity than on the self-regenerating Hydra, and no Iolaus can help against them. For one flame is not extinguished by another. There dwells in my eyes so nimble a gadfly that it pounces on any and every beauty as its prey and is never sated enough to stop (Lucian, Amores 2).

  • 18 LSJ s.v. II. Compare e.g. Alciphron 3.2.3 (ἐλπίσιν ἀπατηλαῖς βουκολούμενοι).

29My interest in this passage lies only in part in the baroque metaphor epithumiais boukoloumai in the second line. The Loeb translation, reproduced here, suggests ‘deceive’ or ‘beguile’, a meaning as old as Aeschylus, which seems to derive from the idea of food provision: the cowherd in effect seduces or bewitches his cows by providing them with free food.18 But the effects of erōs in our passage are more violent than that: they are compared to burning and stinging. Particularly striking is the comparison of erotic stimulation to a gadfly (muōps), an insect that attacks cattle, and of course carries an allusion to the mythical figure of Io, transformed into a cow, who was pursued across the world by a gadfly. Here, then, we seem to have three interrelated levels of thought: the ox that is trained for work by beating; the erōtikos human being, who is subjected to boukolia (in the sense of violent stinging) by his desires; and the mythical Io, who was punished by Hera, jealous of Zeus’ passion for her, with a stinging gadfly. All levels are united by the idea of the cow that is attacked by violent beatings. In other words, the mythical story of Io is being retrospectively rewritten as a tale about boukolia as boun kolazein.

  • 19 H. Frangoulis, Du roman à l’épopée : influence du roman grec sur les Dionysiaques de Nonnos de Pano (...)

30My final passage comes from the opening of Nonnus’ Dionysiaca, and his account there of Europa on the bull. This passage is heavily indebted to the ecphrasis on the same theme that opens Achilles Tatius.19 In Achilles, an unnamed narrator claims to describe a painting of the episode he has seen in Sidon. Because it is a visual-artistic representation (however fictional) that is at issue, Achilles (or his narrator) is compelled to recount the elements in the picture in their two-dimensional relation to each other. The role of Eros within the picture is thus specified, and it is an allegorical one, tangential to the ‘real’ narrative being played out between the maiden and the bull. Eros is depicted as an anthropomorphic deity, a flying child (‘Eros himself led the bull—Eros, a tiny boy, his wings stretched out, wearing his quiver, his lighted torch in his hands . . .,’ 1.1.13). One can certainly imagine an erotic-psychological reading of the central figures too, Europa and the bull: the violence of the bull’s plashing limbs (‘a billow rose like a mountain where his leg was bent in swimming,’ 1.1.9) might be contrasted with the maiden’s attempts to pilot him (‘with her left hand she clung to his horn, like a charioteer holding the reins, and the bull inclined a little in that direction, guided by the pressure of her hand,’ 1.1.10). The bull might thus be taken as figurative of the welling power of Eros within the young girl, and her attempts to ‘herd’ it through philosophical discipline. Nothing in the text, however, points explicitly in that direction, and it remains but a suggestive hint, a single thread within the complex literary weft.

31In Nonnus, by contrast, Eros is specifically described as a boukolos:

            τιταινομένοιο δὲ ταύρου
βουκόλος αὐχένα δοῦλον Ἔρως ἐπεμάστιε κεστῷ
καὶ νομίην ἅτε ῥάβδον ἐπωμίδι τόξον ἀείρων
Κυπριδίῃ ποίμαινε καλαύροπι νυμφίον Ἥρης
εἰς νομὸν ὑγρὸν ἄγων Ποσιδήιον.

While the bull stretched, his boukolos Eros beat his servile neck with his kestos, and lifting his bow onto his shoulder like a rural staff he herded Hera’s husband with Aphrodite’s crook, driving him to Poseidon’s watery pasture (Nonnus, Dionysiaca 1.79–83).

  • 20 For Eros whipping the bull, Nonno di Panopoli, Le dionisiache, I, Canti I-XII, introd., trad. e com (...)
  • 21 See in general B. Harries, “The Pastoral Mode in the Dionysiaca,” in N. Hopkinson (ed.), Studies in (...)
  • 22 ἐπεμάστιε is from ἐπιμαστί[ζ]ω, which has μάστιξ (‘scourge’) at its root. Note too the ἐπι‑ prefix, (...)
  • 23 Nonn. Dion. 4.67, 166; 5.190; 7.204 etc.
  • 24 F. Hadjittofi, “Major Themes and Motifs in the Dionysiaca,” in D. Accorinti, (ed.), Brill’s Compani (...)

32Because this is not an ecphrasis of an artwork, Nonnus is not compelled to visualise his Eros within a two-dimensional scheme. How Eros is to be imagined is up to the reader. There are certainly visual aspects to the scene, as so often in Nonnus:20 Eros appears whipping a bull occasionally in art, and the simile communicates something about his aspect (Eros raises his bow ‘like a rural staff’). But none of this helps us to understand why he resembles a boukolos, and why the wider bucolic imagery is being used. To understand that, we need to explore subtler literary dynamics that go beyond the visual. Other boukoloi appear in the poem, and bucolic themes are particularly important in the first, pre-military part of the Dionysiaca.21 Eros’ bucolic identity in the programmatic opening scene, then, is part of a complex of pastoral themes that belong to the early parts of the text, but will in time be superseded and absorbed. But Nonnus’ bucolic Eros is not simply an Alexandrian nomeus, an embodiment of rustic peace and yearning: he violently flogs22 the beast, now described as ‘servile’, with his kestos. In the Dionysiaca the kestos is usually the familiar seductive breast-band known to the Homeric tradition,23 but here it seems to be imagined in more aggressive terms, playing the role of a goad. No doubt, however, we should be thinking not literally of a different implement—kestos is unattested elsewhere to my knowledge as ‘goad’—but of a paradoxically violent interpretation given to the effects of seduction. We find similar passages elsewhere in Nonnus, where the kestos substitutes for weapons and such like: the narrator refers to the war undertaken by Minos as involving ‘the kestos not the shield-strap’ (25.149), and elsewhere it is said to be superior to the weapons of Aphrodite (33.135, 241). Particularly important parallels for our passage are the reminiscence of Aphrodite, smitten with lust for Anchises, driving his cattle using the kestos (Dion. 15.210–12), and Poseidon ‘flogged’ (himasseto, 42.491; cf. 438) by it when smitten by desire for Beroe. In other words, Nonnus conceives of Eros as uniting two aspects, the seductive and the violent. In our passage, the deployment of the kestos as a bucolic goad marks the subjection of the king of the gods to a humiliating servitude—paradoxically through the sweet sensations of desire.24 This paradoxical servitude is what Plato named when he coined the word ethelodouleia, ‘willing-slavery’.

33In Longus, the gentle cowherd of Theocritean pastoral becomes a violent rapist (twice over)—and this despite the authority of Homer, who presented the cowherd as morally superior to the goatherd. In Nonnus, even Eros himself has become a violent boukolos, a drover who beats his herd. At one level, this is just an allegorical depiction of the urgent force, at the psychological level, of sexual allure. But there is more to it than that. Eros also personifies the aggressive lust of the rapist Zeus, whose rape of Europa and (in the Lucian passage) Io is imagined as a form of beating, goading and sting. In the case of Io, the woman actually becomes a cow, pursued by the god and his microphallic substitute the gadfly; Europa by contrast remains a woman, while Zeus and Eros become bull and boukolos in tandem, a rapist hendiadys.

  • 25 R. Alston, art. cit., p. 129–53, in particular emphasizes the combination of fact and salacious fan (...)

34I conclude, then, that imperial Greek literature saw a transformation in the figure of the boukolos. What motivated this transformation? Awareness of the Nile-Delta bandits known as the boukoloi certainly played its part.25 The re-etymologisation of the word also helped, but that was surely an effect rather than a cause. For the real driver of change we must look elsewhere. The advent of the Roman Empire saw increased urbanisation and hence separation of the elite—the producers of literature—from the peasants, the producers of food. The fact that some 80% of the total population of the empire was involved in the latter can only have sharpened the sense of a gulf between the two. The class divisions engendered by the social organisation of the Empire, in particular the distinction between those who had Roman citizenship and those who did not, must have meant that when most educated Romans experienced cowherding (and other forms of labour) they did with the mixture of superior contempt and fascination that the urbanites in Daphnis and Chloe betray.

  • 26 M. Bloomer, The School of Rome: Latin Studies and the Origins of Liberal Education, Berkeley, Unive (...)
  • 27 See esp. W. Fitzgerald, Slavery and the Roman Literary Imagination, Cambridge, 2000.
  • 28 In particular Emily Kneebone’s forthcoming work on Oppian’s Halieutica is keenly awaited.

35The idea of the bous as subject to the violence of the boukolos points to the same kind of moral world as that of the fables taught to young children, where hierarchical violence between humans and animals, and between animals, is presented as a normal and inevitable fact of life.26 It is also the world of the various Ass narratives, including Apuleius’ Metamorphoses, where humans’ chastisement of animals is seen as a metaphor for the aggressive dominance that inheres in the Roman class structure.27 As is becoming increasingly clear,28 the Roman Greek world was one in which animals were not just good to think with, as the Lévi-Straussian cliché puts it in the absolute; they also became good to think about power with, both the power that individuals exert over each other and that which they exert over themselves.

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Notes

1 Cass. Dio 72.4. For recent studies see R. Alston, “The Revolt of the Boukoloi: Geography, History and Myth,” in K. Hopwood (ed.), Organised Crime in the Ancient World, Duckworth, Classical Press of Wales, 1999; T. Polanski, “Boukoloi Banditry: Greek Perspectives of Native Resistance,” GB 25, 2006, p. 229–48; A. Baldini, “La rivolta dei ‘Boukoloi’: riconsiderazioni tra storia e letteratura,” MediterrAnt 12, 2009, p. 45–53; K. Blouin, “La révolte des Boukoloi (delta du Nil, Égypte, ca 166-172 de notre ère) : regard socio-environnemental sur la violence,” Phoenix 64, 2010, p. 386–422. I. Rutherford, “The Genealogy of the Boukoloi: How Greek Literature Appropriated an Egyptian Narrative-Motif,” JHS 120, 2000, p. 106–21, meanwhile, derives the characterisation of the novelistic boukoloi from Egyptian fiction.

2 Hom. Il. 5.313–15 (Anchises; cf. HHApr. 54–56), 21.448–49 (Apollo); D. Berman, “The Hierarchy of Herdsmen, Goatherding, and Genre in Theocritean Bucolic,” Phoenix 59, 2005, p. 232–36. The story of Paris’ early years spent herding on Mount Ida was probably told in the epic Cypria; by the time that Euripides wrote Alexander, at any rate, he was reckoned to have been brought up by a boukolos (fr. 3.iii.12–14 TGrF).

3 The idea of the bucolic hierarchy is first proposed (for Vergil) in the fifth century CE by Donatus in the preface to his commentary on the Eclogues. D. Berman, art. cit., ably dismisses the idea of a secure status division in Theocritus.

4 κρείττων/κρείσσων is strictly speaking derived from the adjective κρατύς, which is however extremely rare.

5 See esp. S.J. Epstein, “Longus’ Werewolves,” CPh 90, 1995, p. 59–60. The final theriomorphic element attaching to Dorcon is the deer (δόρκων = δορκάς).

6 λύκου δέρμα μεγάλου . . . ὃν ταῦρός ποτε πρὸ τῶν βοῶν μαχόμενος τοῖς κέρασι διέφθειρε.

7 At least, this seems to be how the text presents the episode; modern sexual ethics would no doubt be less clement towards his attempted rape.

8 In fact bulls are surprisingly rare as positive heroic comparanda in Homer: see Il. 2.480–81, 21.237. More typically, cows are the victims of the heroic lion (Il. 5.161–62, 5.554–60, 11.172–74, etc.)

9 Trapp et al. 2001 s.v. ἀγερωχέω (“überheblich sein, stolz, hochmutig sein”) .

10 C. Calame, The Poetics of Eros in Ancient Greece, trans. J. Lloyd, Princeton, Princeton University, 1999, p. 154–7.

11 See e.g. Aesch. Suppl. 663, Pind. Pyth. 9.109–10, Anth. Pal. 7.217.3.

12 χείρ is a “number, band, body of men” (LSJ s.v. V)—but also suggests the physical force that accompanies their laying hands on Chloe.

13 Ath. Deipn. 560b (cf. Duris FGrH 76 F2).

14 N. 1 above.

15 Hom. Od. 18.85, 18.116, 21.308.

16 M.B. Trapp, “Plato’s Phaedrus in the Second Century,” in D.A. Russell (ed.), Antonine Literature, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1990, p. 141–73.

17 For a recent defence of their Lucianic authorship see J. Jope, “Interpretation and Authenticity of the Lucianic Erotes,” Helios 38, 2011, p. 103–20.

18 LSJ s.v. II. Compare e.g. Alciphron 3.2.3 (ἐλπίσιν ἀπατηλαῖς βουκολούμενοι).

19 H. Frangoulis, Du roman à l’épopée : influence du roman grec sur les Dionysiaques de Nonnos de Panopolis, Besançon, Presses universitaires de Franche-Comté, 2014, p. 169–78.

20 For Eros whipping the bull, Nonno di Panopoli, Le dionisiache, I, Canti I-XII, introd., trad. e commento di D. Gigli Piccardi, Milan, Biblioteca Universale Rizzoli, BUR. Classici Greci e Latini, 2003, p. 132 cites the Cassiopeia mosaic from Nea Paphos (W.A. Daszewski, Dionysos der Erlöser: griechische Mythen im spätantiken Cypern, Mainz, P. von Zabern, 1985, tables 10–11). More generally on visuality in Nonnus see G. Agosti, “Contextualizing Nonnus’ Visual World,” in K. Spanoudakis (ed.), Nonnus of Panopolis in Context: Poetry and Cultural Milieu in Late Antiquity, Berlin, De Gruyter, Trends in Classics. Suppl. vol. 24, 2014, p. 141–74.

21 See in general B. Harries, “The Pastoral Mode in the Dionysiaca,” in N. Hopkinson (ed.), Studies in the Dionysiaca of Nonnus, Cambridge, Cambridge Philological Society, 1994, p. 63–85. Other significant boukoloi are Cadmus (1.444, 460, 478; 2.9; see further B. Harries, art. cit., p. 66) and Hymnus (15.213, 308, 361; B. Harries, art. cit., p. 73–74).

22 ἐπεμάστιε is from ἐπιμαστί[ζ]ω, which has μάστιξ (‘scourge’) at its root. Note too the ἐπι‑ prefix, suggesting forceful urgency.

23 Nonn. Dion. 4.67, 166; 5.190; 7.204 etc.

24 F. Hadjittofi, “Major Themes and Motifs in the Dionysiaca,” in D. Accorinti, (ed.), Brill’s Companion to Nonnus of Panopolis, Leiden, Brill, Brill’s Companions in Classical Studies, 2016, p. 125–51: p. 146 n. 86 takes Eros’ violent enslavement of Zeus in Nonnus as an ‘intensification’ of his gentle mockery in Achilles Tatius (1.1.13).

25 R. Alston, art. cit., p. 129–53, in particular emphasizes the combination of fact and salacious fantasy in the popular reception of the Egyptian boukoloi.

26 M. Bloomer, The School of Rome: Latin Studies and the Origins of Liberal Education, Berkeley, University of California Press, 2011.

27 See esp. W. Fitzgerald, Slavery and the Roman Literary Imagination, Cambridge, 2000.

28 In particular Emily Kneebone’s forthcoming work on Oppian’s Halieutica is keenly awaited.

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Tim Whitmarsh, « The Violence of boukolēsis in the Literature of Roman Greece », Aitia [En ligne], 9.1 | 2019, mis en ligne le 31 janvier 2020, consulté le 04 juin 2020. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/aitia/3700 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/aitia.3700

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Tim Whitmarsh

University of Cambridge

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