1. Key word for this time: hôra ‘season, seasonality, the right time, the perfect time’. In the context of Philostratus’ On Heroes, hôra is the beauty of the ‘perfect time’. We may compare the Modern Greek derivative, oréos / oréa (from ancient Greek hôra], which means ‘beautiful’. The ‘perfect time’ for the epiphany of Protesilaos is the hôra. We have seen, already at the beginning of the course, that hôra ‘season, seasonality, the right time, the perfect time’ is a basic concept related to the concept of the goddess Hêra, the immortal exponent of seasonality, and to the concept of the human hêrôs ‘hero’ (plural hêrôes), the mortal exponent of seasonality.
In light of this meaning, let us review a passage that we have already examined at an earlier point.
A) review from Philostratus, On Heroes...
How diverse [poikilê] is the beauty [hôra] of your property, and how lush have the clusters of grapes grown! How well-arranged are all the trees, and how divine is the fragrance of the place!
1a. The beauty of the ‘right time’ appeals to all the senses. Here the scent of the thriving vegetation is being highlighted. There is a symbiosis between the cult-hero, whose body resides in the local “mother earth,” and the vegetation that thrives in that earth.
2. The vegetation that is connected to the earth in which the hero’s body resides is “sympathetic” to the hero’s story:
B) review from Philostratus, On Heroes... [The Nymphs] made ... the following decree concerning these trees [on the sacred hill of Protesilaos]: “Those branches turned toward Ilion will blossom early and will then immediately shed their leaves and perish before their season (this was indeed the misfortune of Protesilaos), but a tree on the other side will live and prosper.” All the trees that were not set round the grave, such as these in the grove, have strength in all their branches and flourish according to their particular nature.
2a. As we remember from earlier dialogues, a numphê is either a ‘bride’ at a wedding or a ‘local goddess’ or ‘nymph’. Here we see the Nymphs that are local to the earth that contains the body of Protesilaos, and they set up the rules, as it were, for the sympathy between the cult hero and the surrounding vegetation.
3. As we consider further the relationship between the cult hero and the local community that worships him or her, we need to reconsider the meaning of the word telos. In the passage of Herodotus that we are about to review, that meaning is signaled by the name of the local cult hero who is said to be the most olbios of all, Tellos. This name is derived from the word telos.
C) review from Herodotus I: “Athenian xenos, we have heard much about your wisdom [sophia] and your wanderings, that you have gone all over the world philosophizing, so now I desire to ask you who is the most olbios man you have seen.” Croesus asked this question expecting the answer to be himself, but Solon, instead of flattering him, told it as it was and said, “O King, it is Tellos the Athenian.” Croesus marveled at what he had said and replied sharply, “In what way do you judge [krinô] Tellos to be the most olbios?” Solon said, “Tellos was from a prosperous polis and his children were good and noble [agathoi]. He saw them all have children of their own, and all of these survived. His life was well off by our standards, and his death was most distinguished: when the Athenians were fighting their neighbors in Eleusis, he came to help, routed the enemy, and died most beautifully. The Athenians buried him at public expense on the spot where he fell and gave him much timê.”
3a. To review, this word telos signals ‘initiation’ (into the mysteries). In the Glossary, telos is defined as ‘coming full circle, rounding out, fulfillment, completion, ending, end; successfully passing through an ordeal; ritual, rite’.
3b. The meaning of the name Tellos, as a derivative of telos in the sense of ‘initiation’, is relevant to the usage of the word timê in the passage we have just read. For the uninitiated, the word timê means simply ‘honor’; for the initiated, it means ‘honor given to a cult hero’.
4. The cult epithet of Hera as the patron goddess of initiations is Teleia. This usage is relevant to the continuation of the narrative of Herodotus.
D) From Herodotus I: When Solon had provoked him by saying that the affairs of Tellos were so olbios, Croesus asked who he thought was next, fully expecting to win second prize. Solon answered, “Kleobis and Biton.” They were Argive in genos, they had enough to live on, and on top of this they had great bodily strength. Both were prize-winning athletes [athlophoroi], and this story is told about them: There was a festival of Hera in Argos, and their mother absolutely had to be conveyed to the sacred precinct by a team of oxen. But their oxen had not come back from the fields in time [hôra], so the youths took the yoke upon their own shoulders under constraint of time [hôra]. They drew the wagon, with their mother riding atop it, traveling 45 stadia until they arrived at the sacred precinct. When they had done this and had been seen by the entire gathering, their lives came to the best fulfillment [ariston telos], and in their case the god made clear that for human beings it is better to be dead than to live. The Argive men stood around the youths and congratulated them on their strength; the Argive women congratulated their mother for having such children. She was overjoyed at the feat and at the praise, so she stood before the image and prayed that the goddess might grant the best thing for humanity to her children Kleobis and Biton, who had given great timê to the goddess. After this prayer they sacrificed and feasted. The youths then lay down in the sacred precinct and went to sleep, and they never got up again; they remained in the pose that they had assumed in reaching their telos. The Argives made and dedicated at Delphi statues of them, since they were aristoi.”
4a. The stylized death of these two young men is a dramatization of the perfect heroic moment. Significantly these young men are sons of the priestess of Hera herself, who is the goddess of that perfect moment.
5. When a hero dies, the cult of his body compensates for that death. A case in point is the passage we are about to see, where a baby named Demophon dies and becomes a cult hero, thanks to the power of his “baby-sitter,” the Earth Mother Demeter.
E) from the Homeric Hymn to Demeter:
immortal and ageless for all days
would I have made your philos little boy, and I would have given him an honor [timê] that is imperishable [a-phthi-tos].
But now there is no way for him to avoid death and doom.
Still, he will have an honor [timê] that is imperishable [a-phthi-tos], for all time, because he had once sat
on my knees and slept in my arms.
265 At the right timely season [hôra], every year,
the sons of the Eleusinians will have a war, a terrible battle
among each other. They will do so for all days to come.
I am Demeter, the holder of honors [timai]. I am the greatest
boon and joy for immortals and mortals alike.
5a. In this case, the hero cult involves a seasonally-recurring athletic festival. The actual athletic event is a stylized ‘battle’ that is staged every year at Eleusis, which became the central place of initiation for citizens of the Athenian city-state. This athletic event was known as the Ballêtus, which was officially held on a seasonally-recurring basis to compensate for the death of the baby cult-hero Demophon. This mock-battle seems to have been the ritual kernel of a whole complex of events known as the Eleusinian Games. Parallels: the Nemean and the Isthmian Games, pan-Hellenic athletic events, were held on a seasonally-recurring basis to compensate for the deaths of the baby cult-heroes Arkhemoros and Melikertes respectively.
6. Once the hero is dead, he or she can become “psychic” in the context of his or her hero-cult. In the passage that follows, we see that the cult-hero Protesilaos is thought to be such a “psychic”: he ‘sees through’ all things, because he is now directly connected with Nature. Before death, in his human life, his consciousness was disconnected from Nature. But now, in death, he sees things that even “Homer” didn’t know:
F) from Philostratus On Heroes: At any rate, among those who critically examine Homer’s poems, who will you say reads [anagignôskô] and has insight [di-horaô] into them as Protesilaos does? Indeed, my guest, before Priam and Troy there was no epic recitation [rhapsôidia], nor had anyone sung of events that had not yet taken place. There was poetry about prophetic matters and about Herakles, son of Alkmênê, recently arranged but not yet developed fully, but Homer had not yet sung. Some say that it was when Troy was captured, others say it was a few or even eight generations later that he applied himself to poetic composition. Nevertheless, Protesilaos knows everything of Homer and sings of many Trojan events that took place after his own lifetime, and also of many Hellenic and Median events.
7. Before death, the hero needs to be inspired by the Muse, just as “Homer” needed to be inspired by the Muse:
F) from Philostratus, Heroikos...
(Describing Achilles) When he became a youth, a brightness radiated from his face, and his body was beyond natural size, since he grew more easily than do trees near springs. He was celebrated much at symposia and much in serious endeavors. When he appeared to yield to anger, Kheirôn taught him music. Music was enough to tame the readiness and rising of his disposition. Without exertion, he thoroughly learned the musical modes, and he sang to a lyre. He used to sing of the ancient comrades, Hyacinthus and Narcissus, and something about Adonis. And the lamentations for Hyllas and Abdêros being fresh - since, when both were youths, the one was carried into a spring until he disappeared, and upon the other the horses of Diomedes feasted, not without tears did he sing of these matters.
I also heard these things: that he sacrificed to Calliope asking for musical skill and mastery of poetic composition, and that the goddess appeared to him in his sleep and said, “Child, I give you enough musical and poetic skill that you might make banquets more pleasant and lay sufferings to rest. But since it seems both to me and to Athena that you are skilled in war and powerful even in dangerous situations, the Fates command thus: practice those skills and desire them as well. There will be a poet in the future whom I shall send forth to sing your deeds.” This was prophesied to him about Homer.
7a. After death, however, the hero will not need the Muse. He will be able to see through all things himself.
8. After death, the hero will be missed by the community. There is a physical yearning for the missing hero:
G) from Philostratus, On Heroes...
This hill, my guest, which you see standing in line with the headland, the Achaeans erected when they came together at the time when Achilles was mingled with Patroklos in the tomb and bequeathed to himself and that man the loveliest shroud. For this reason they who praise the marks of friendship sing of him. He was buried most spectacularly of mortals with all that Hellas offered to him. The Hellenes no longer considered it proper after Achilles’ death to wear their hair long, and they piled up in mass on a funeral pyre their gold and whatever each of them had, whether he had brought it to Troy or had taken it as booty, both right then and when Neoptolemos came to Troy. For Achilles obtained glorious gifts again from both his child and the Achaeans, who were trying to show in return their gratitude to him, and even those who made the voyage from Troy fell upon the tomb and believed that they were embracing Achilles.