Thursday, December 4, 2014

Theseus - A Redhead?

I continued my searching for ancient red hair references today and came across a wealth of information on the Perseus Digital Library website. The following come from the Greek poet Bacchylides.

This first quote comes from Ode 18 (Dithyramb 4). A dithyramb was an ancient Greek hymn sung in honour of the god Dionysus. This one concerns the arrival of Theseus, the mythical founder-king of Athens. He's described thusly;
The herald says that only two men accompany him, and that he has a sword slung over his bright shoulders ... and two polished javelins in his hands, and a well-made Laconian hat on his head with its fire-red hair. A purple tunic covers his chest, and a woolen Thessalian cloak. Bright red Lemnian fire flashes from his eyes. He is a boy in the prime of youth, intent on the playthings of Ares: war and battles of clashing bronze. He is on his way to splendor-loving Athens.
I really like the poetic style of this guy (: I really like his coloured use of language. The following two passages come from Ode 17 (Dithyramb 3). They don't quite refer to red hair, but they're close enough in theme that I can share them.
It may be that the dear lovely-named daughter of Phoenix went to the bed of Zeus beneath the brow of Ida and bore you, greatest of mortals, but I too was borne by the daughter of rich Pittheus, who coupled with the sea-god Poseidon, and the violet-haired Nereids gave her a golden veil.
Father Zeus, great in strength, hear me! If indeed the white-armed Phoenician girl bore me to you, now send forth from the sky a fire-haired lightning bolt, a conspicuous sign.
Bacchylides I salute you.

[Incidentally, in ancient times girls who were about to be married offered locks of their hair to Hippolytus, son of Theseus, as a sign of their virginity.]

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