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L’épopée posthomérique tardive : Nonnos de Panopolis

Αἰῶνος λιταί (Nonn. Dion. 7.1-109)

Αἰῶνος λιταί (Nonn. Dion. 7.1-109)
Αἰῶνος λιταί (Nonn. Dion. 7.1-109)
Konstantinos Spanoudakis

Résumés

La supplication qu’Aion adresse à Zeus pour qu’il sauve l’humanité (Dionysiaques 7, 1-109) est une mosaïque de traditions relatives au salut. Cet article explore ces traditions à partir de concepts philosophiques et religieux partagés par différents dogmes. Il en met en lumière les caractéristiques hésiodiques, probablement utilisées à travers la Théogonie rhapsodique de la tradition orphique. Il examine les indications linguistiques et conceptuelles qui suggèrent que la supplication d’Aion pourrait être redevable de l’appel de Zeus à Cronos dans la Théogonie rhapsodique pour qu’il sauvegarde le genre humain. Cet article introduit également la notion d’allusion « négative », et l’emploi de ce concept vise à mettre en évidence des associations non explicites avec son évolution historique (c’est-à-dire chrétienne). Il est en outre montré que la joie, le vin, Prométhée comme créateur de l’homme et figure messianique avortée, la vaine consolation de l’homme que prodigue Pandora en introduisant les plaisirs de l’amour, le sacrifice et même l’apothéose de Dionysos à la fin du poème sont impliqués dans un dialogue caché avec des notions chrétiennes parfois controversées qui forment le monde spirituel de Nonnos et animent son poème non par une pédanterie d’antiquaire, mais par une création historiquement significative.

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  • 1 L. F. Sherry, “The Paraphrase of St John attributed to Nonnus”, Byzantion 66, 1996, p.  (...)
  • 2 R. Keydell, Hermes 42, 1927, p. 393; id. AC 1, 1932, p. 202; id. RE XVII.1, 1936, p. 914-916, (...)
  • 3 G. W. Bowersock, Hellenism in Late Antiquity, Ann Arbor, 1990, p. 63.

1It had to take some time until Nonnian scholarship came to terms1 with the fact that it was the hand of the very same man who wrote the Dionysiaca, the opus immane which shows much interest in magic, theurgy and Neoplatonism, and the Paraphrasis, the knowledgeable rendition in hexameters of the Gospel according to St John. To account for common authorship, seen as a necessary evil, Rudolf Keydell, the leading Nonnusforscher of the last century, espoused the conversion theory: after a pagan Nonnus had written the Dionysiaca, he converted to Christianity, whence his interests took a dramatic shift.2 R. Keydell was apparently misled by what a modern critic described as “the old and unworkable notion of a struggle to the death between paganism and Christianity”.3 So in the episode of the healing of a man born blind by sprinkling his face with drops from the Hydaspes river now flowing curing wine of Dionysus, R. Keydell (RE XVII.1, 1936, p. 919) saw no syncretism but antagonistic polemic: “[D]ie Behandlung der Geschichte vom Blindgeborenen IX 1-9. 30-34, die die Blindenheilung Dion. 25.281ff. übertrumpft, zeigt dass Christus nun als der mächtigere gegenüber Dionysos dargestellt werden soll”. In a similar fashion, a verse such as 48.834 οὐκ ἴδον, οὐ πιθόμην ὅτι παρθένος υἷα λοχεύει, was not seen as a non blasphemous play upon a paradox and a point of interaction between the two poems, but as anti-Christian polemic: “eine versteckte Polemik gegen das Christentum” (ibid. p. 915).

  • 4 M. Nilsson, Geschichte der griechischen Religion, II, Munich, 19743, p. 729. On Nonnus (...)
  • 5 J. Golega, Studien über die Evengeliendichtung des Nonnos, op. cit., p. 68-79 (“prezioso, anche se (...)
  • 6 F. Tissoni, Nonno di Panopoli, I canti di Penteo…, op. cit., p. 79.
  • 7 E. Livrea, Nonno di Panopoli. Parafrasi del Vangelo di S. Giovanni, canto B, Bologna, 2000, (...)
  • 8 See, in general, M. Herrero de Jáuregui, Orphism and Christianity in Late Antiquity, Berlin a (...)

2But as far as religious attitudes are concerned, already M. Nilsson had concluded that “[e]s gab schliesslich viele Leute, die nach dem Grundsatz lebten, dem Christengott das seinige and den alten Göttern das ihrige zu geben”4 and recent scholarship, with good reason, expresses itself in terms of synthesis rather than antithesis. In his seminal study J. Golega listed passages from the Dionysiaca in which the suggestion of New Testament influence looks irresistible.5 Synthesis was the hallmark of Nonnus’ era. In principle, this removes much disturbance from the notion of common authorship. Indeed F. Tissoni6 goes as far as to suggest that either of Nonnus’ poems functioned as an in-between: the Paraphrasis aims at making Christian literature and principles more familiar to a literate pagan readership, whereas the Dionysiaca offer a more friendly and more familiar image of “paganism” to a Christian audience or readership. In similar fashion, E. Livrea7 raised the possibility of the Dionysiaca being a rough prefiguration of Christianity through a god of salvation. Critical to this approach is the image of Dionysus as figura Christi, although it may be more pertinent to talk of a prefiguration rather than a figura proper. Nonnus is fully aware of the Gospel of John as a precedent associating Dionysus and Christ in interactive symbiosis.8

3The present paper was written upon the belief that although it is important to trace the origins and distribution of individual philosophical or theological terms, in reading Nonnus it is by far more expedient to think in terms of concepts contemporarily shared by different schools of thought and in the end becoming a common possession of late antique educated circles. The paideia of the time, even if in its institutionalised form served the aim of propagating this or that dogma, predominantly expressed itself with shared philosophical concepts. So the present paper aims at construing a syncretistic reading of Aeon’s appeal to Zeus. It attempts to show its background of Hesiodic concepts emerging through the mystic filter of the Orphic Rhapsodic Theogony, to which the passage is strongly indebted. Within these parameters this paper also introduces the notion of “negative” allusions, a projection of salvation concepts into their historical (i.e. Christian) future (see [[[UNTRANSLATED text:bookmark-refThe Christian Perspective]]] ), thereby revealing the covert dialogue of Aeon’s appeal with Christian concerns which were topical and sometimes controversial in Nonnus’ own time.

Aeon’s Supplication: Hesiod and “Orpheus”

  • 9 Some of these features were noted by P. Chuvin, Nonnos de Panopolis. Les Dionysiaques, tome III, ch (...)

4Aeon’s supplication to Zeus is fundamental for the civilising character of Dionysus’ earthly curriculum, but also one in which different traditions of salvation cross paths, a mosaic of thoughts and concepts. Dionysus is born to deliver mortals from suffering through the gift of wine. This is not merely the old perception of Dionysus as “joy for mortals” (Il. 14.325), the πολυγηθής god (Hes. Theog. 941). Here Dionysus is specifically on a mission to procure consolation to an afflicted mankind. The verbal umbrella of such a synthesis presents striking Hesiodic features.9 In 7.7-13 Aeon brings to Zeus’ attention the ἀνίη of the mortals:

Ἀλλὰ βίον μερόπων ἑτερότροπος εἶχεν ἀνίη
ἀρχόμενον καμάτοιο καὶ οὐ λήγοντα μερίμνης.
καὶ Διὶ παμμεδέοντι δυηπαθέων γένος ἀνδρῶν
ἄμμορον εὐφροσύνης ἐπεδείκνυε σύντροφος Αἰών·
οὔ πω γὰρ τοκετοῖο λεχώια νήματα λύσας
Βάκχον ἀνηκόντιζε πατὴρ ἐγκύμονι μηρῷ,
ἀνδρομέης ἄμπαυμα μεληδόνος.

But sorrow in many forms possessed the life of men, which begins with labour and never sees the end of care: and Aeon his everlasting companion showed to almighty Zeus mankind, afflicted with suffering and having no portion in happiness of heart. For Father had not yet cut the threads of child-birth and shot forth Bacchos from his pregnant thigh, to give mankind rest from their tribulations.

5Verse 8 in particular recalls Hesiod’s description of the iron generation in WD 176-178:

οὐδέ ποτ’ ἦμαρ
παύσονται καμάτου καὶ ὀιζύος οὐδέ τι νύκτωρ
τειρόμενοι· χαλεπὰς δὲ θεοὶ δώσουσι μερίμνας.

And they will not cease from toil and distress by day, nor from being worn out by suffering at night, and the gods will give them grievous cares.

  • 10 OF = A. Bernabé, Poetae epici graeci, pars II: Orphicorum et Orphicis similium testimonia (...)

6In 13 one may also envisage a reminiscence of the utility of the Muses in Theog. 55 ἄμπαυμά τε μερμηράων /. Further on the factors of affliction are recounted. These are the massively lethal war (30 Ἐνυώ) on top of old age (41 γῆρας) and death (45 πότμος) in its most ugly and counter-productive (in literary sense) form, the death of a newly wedded man. War is the cause of destruction of the bronzen race (WD 152-155) as well as of the heroic race, WD 160-165, 161 πόλεμός τε κακὸς καὶ φύλοπις αἰνή /. The woes of mankind seem to be an inversion of the privileges enjoyed by the golden race “living like gods” in Hes. WD 113-6 νόσφιν ἄτερ τε πόνου καὶ ὀιζύος· οὐδὲ τι δειλόν / γῆρας ἐπῆν, αἰεὶ δὲ πόδας καὶ χεῖρας ὁμοῖοι / τέρποντ’ ἐν θαλίῃσι κακῶν ἔκτοσθεν ἁπάντων· / θνῆσκον δ’ ὥστ’ ὕπνῳ δεδμημένοι: “entirely apart from toil and distress. Worthless old age did not oppress them, but they were always the same in their feet and hands, and delighted in festivities, lacking in all evils; and they died as if overpowered by sleep”. A Pindaric fragment of Orphic colour keeps up these notions and further suggests that blissful life beyond disease, old age and death was a particular concern in Orphic literature, fr. 143 (OF 10 446V; gods) κεῖνοι γάρ τ’ ἄνοσοι καὶ ἀγήραοι / πόνων τ’ ἄπειροι, βαρυβόαν / πορθμὸν πεφευγότες Ἀχέροντος: “for they without sickness or old age and unacquainted with toils, having escaped the deep-roaring passage of Acheron” (transl. W. H. Race).

  • 11 See D. Gigli Piccardi, Nonno di Panopoli, Le Dionisiache, vol. I (Canti I-XII), Milan, 2003 (...)

7Αt the same time the issues raised by Aeon preemptively fit Dionysus at least as much as they fit Zeus. Dionysus relieves, and releases from old age, cf. Pl. Leg. 666b5 καὶ δὴ καὶ Διόνυσον παρακαλεῖν εἰς τὴν τῶν πρεσβυτέρων τελετὴν ἅμα καὶ παιδιάν, ἣν τοῖς ἀνθρώποις ἐπίκουρον τῆς τοῦ γήρως αὐστηρότητος ἐδωρήσατο τὸν οἶνον φάρμακον, ὥστε ἀνηβᾶν ἡμᾶς, καὶ δυσθυμίας λήθῃ γίγνεσθαι μαλακώτερον ἐκ σκληροτέρου τὸ τῆς ψυχῆς ἦθος: “and especially invite Dionysus to the rite and recreation of the elders which he granted to humanity as a medicine against the grimness of old age so that we mortals may renew our youth and, through oblivion of care, the temper of our souls may lose its stiffness and become softer”, cf. Eur. Bac. 187-190, Ael. Arist. Dionysus, Or. 41.7. The death of an ἄωρος, often appearing on sarcophagi along with Dionysiac representations, is a Dionysiac theme too.11 Verses 7.43-44 περισσοπόδεσσι πορείαις / γηροκόμῳ (...) ἐρείδεται ἠθάδι βάκτρῳ, also produce a Bacchic image of old age’s impotency, cf. Cadmus leaning on his thyrsus in Eur. Bac. 187-190 and the γέρων Σιληνός in Dion. 14.100-102, but again γηροκόμῳ (Dion. 4x) is picked up from Theog. 605 about the old age of those not marrying, one among the evils initiated by Pandora. The second part of Aeon’s supplication is balanced by repetition, 41 ἄρκιον ~ 45 ἄρκιος, 52 ἀλλὰ καὶ αὐτός 52 ἀλλά ~ 58 ἀλλὰ καὶ αὐτός 64 ἀλλά, which stresses the multiple sources contributing to the affliction of mankind.

8Strife, old age and death are at the same time the immediate repercussions of the Christian primal sin: the eviction of Adam and Eve from Eden caused loss of immortality, established the need for human toil and the inevitability of death (see [[[UNTRANSLATED text:bookmark-refThe Christian Perspective]]] ). This simultaneously mystic (Hesiodic/Orphic), Dionysiac and indirectly Christian texture in Aeon’s appeal to Zeus should come as no surprise to current Nonnian scholarship.

9As a follow up, Aeon’s supplication to Zeus culminates with an explicit reference to Pandora opening the jar and to Prometheus stealing fire from Zeus (Hes. Theog. 551-552, WD 50 f.) as a failed attempt to relieve mankind from suffering, 55-63:

οὐράνιον γάρ
οὐκ ὄφελέν ποτε κεῖνο πίθου κρήδεμνον ἀνοῖξαι
ἀνδράσι Πανδώρη γλυκερὸν κακόν. Ἀλλὰ καὶ αὐτός
ἀνδρομέης κακότητος ἐπαίτιός ἐστι Προμηθεύς,
ὃς μογερῶν μερόπων ἐπικήδεται· ἀρχεκάκου γάρ
ἀντὶ πυρὸς γλυκὺ νέκταρ ὅ περ μακάρων φρένα τέρπει
κλέψαι μᾶλλον ὄφελλε καὶ ἀνδράσι δῶρον ὀπάσσαι,
ὄφρα τεῷ σκεδάσειε ποτῷ μελεδήματα κόσμου.

Would that Pandora had never opened the heavenly cover of that jar – she the sweet bane of mankind! No, Prometheus himself is the cause of man’s misery – Prometheus who cares for poor mortals! Instead of fire which is the beggining of all evil he ought rather to have stolen sweet nectar, which rejoices the heart of the gods, and given that to men, that he might have scattered the sorrows of the world with your own drink.

  • 12 An exploration of such paraphrastic techniques in the Dion. would be most welcome.

10The second hemistich of 57 is remindful of WD 94 πίθου μέγα πῶμ’ ἀφελοῦσα /, supplanting πῶμα with κρήδεμνον, used of the stopper of a wine jar in Od. 3.392 where Scholia g1, 2 Pontanti (who adduces further evidence) gloss κρήδεμνον as τὸ πῶμα τοῦ πίθου.12 Verse 58 specifically reproduces Zeus’ oxymoron in his description of Pandora in Theog. 585 καλὸν κακὸν ἀντ’ ἀγαθοῖο /, cf. WD 57-58 κακόν, ᾧ κεν ἅπαντες / τέρπωνται (...) ἑὸν κακὸν ἀμφαγαπῶντες. Such imitations clearly indicate the context which Nonnus has in mind. But Prometheus’ failed choice in 61 (fire instead of nectar) glances at Prometheus’ dilemma in Pl. Prot. 321c7 ἀπορίᾳ οὖν σχόμενος ὁ Προμηθεὺς ἥντινα σωτηρίαν τῷ ἀνθρώπῳ εὕροι, κλέπτει (...) καὶ (...) δωρεῖται ἀνθρώπῳ, “corrected” in Nonnus’ wording in 62 κλέψαι (...) καὶ ἀνδράσι δῶρον ὀπάσσαι /. The re-evaluation of Hesiodic motifs entails wider implications. The Hesiodic subtext is not merely a literary model on which Nonnus’ renegade worldview is moulded; it is rather the vehicle upon which the impasse of the old world is articulated and the preamble defining in oppositione the parameters of the new state of affairs.

11In sheer contrast to the old Hesiodic Zeus stealing βίος away from humanity in reprisal for Prometheus’ theft of fire, and contriving to send Pandora to punish mortals, Nonnus’ Zeus plans in a markedly different fashion: after long thoughtful silence he decides to procreate and send his unigenus son to put an end to human affliction, 78-79 ἀρχέγονος δέ / ἄχνυται εἰσέτι κόσμος, ἕως ἕνα παῖδα λοχεύσω. But as Zeus “invents” Dionysus, the reader comes to realise that he is not all that new. As a result of gods’ compassion Dionysus, through his presence at feasts in honour of gods, is said to relieve the human ἐπίπονον γένος already in Pl. Leg. 653c10 θεοὶ δὲ οἰκτίραντες τὸ τῶν ἀνθρώπων ἐπίπονον γένος, ἀναπαύλας τε αὐτοῖς τῶν πόνων ἐτάξαντο τὰς τῶν ἑορτῶν ἀμοιβὰς τοῖς θεοῖς, καὶ Μούσας Ἀπόλλωνά τε μουσηγέτην καὶ Διόνυσον συνεορταστὰς ἔδοσαν: “as the gods took pity of the suffering human race, they ordained the feasts of thanksgiving as a respite from their pains and have granted them the Muses, their leader Apollo and Dionysus as feast-companions” (whence Julian In Sol. 152c) and in Eur. Bac. 280-281 παύει τοὺς ταλαιπώρους βροτοὺς / λύπης, 284 οὐδ’ ἔστ’ ἄλλο φάρμακο πόνων. With Dionysus curing ἀνία (7.7, al.) cf. Soph. Dionysiscos fr. 172 Radt; granting εὐφροσύνη (7.10, 90) cf. OF 413F.7 Διόνυσος ἐυφροσύνην πόρε θνητοῖς (A. Bernabé, OF, ad loc. for its many imitations in Nonnus); healing μέριμναι (7.64) cf. Pind. fr. 128 (λύων) μεριμνᾶν.

12Indeed, with Zeus’ plan the ἀρχέγονος... κόσμος (78-79) will enter a new phase. But it won’t be that easy. The new godhead will have to go through a string of travails on earth to qualify for ascension to the sky, 7.97-105:

“τοῦτον ἀεθλεύσαντα μετὰ χθόνα σύνδρομον ἄστρων,
Γηγενέων μετὰ δῆριν, ὁμοῦ μετὰ φύλοπιν Ἰνδῶν                                 98
Ζηνὶ συναστράπτοντα δεδέξεται αἰόλος αἰθήρ.
[...]
καὶ μακάρων ὁμότιμος ἐπώνυμος ἀνδράσιν ἔσται
ἀμπελόεις Διόνυσος, ἅτε χρυσόρραπις Ἑρμῆς,
χάλκεος ὥς περ Ἄρης, ἑκατηβόλος ὥς περ Ἀπόλλων. ”                      105

This my son after struggles on earth, after the battle with the Giants, after the Indian war, will be received by the bright heaven to shine beside Zeus and to share the courses of the stars. [...] He shall have equal honour with the gods, and among men he shall be named Dionysos of the vine, as Hermes is called goldenrod, Ares brazen, Apollo farshooter.

13The notion of ordained toil before reward (97 ἀεθλεύσαντα) is again Hesiodic and in late antiquity evolved to become a profoundly mystic concept. As far as Dionysus is concerned, other than this passage, it comes up at crucial points in the Dionysiaca such as in 13.22-23 and in 20.94-97, in all three cases in “Hesiodic” context. In a message of Zeus delivered to Dionysus by Iris, Dion. 13.22-23 Διὸς ἄμβροτος αὐλή / οὔ σε πόνων ἀπάνευθε δεδέξεται, recalls Hes. WD 113 of the golden race “living like gods” ἄτερ τε πόνου (: πόνων v.l.). Iris’ message orders the campaign against δίκης ἀδίδακτον (...) γένος Ἰνδῶν / (13.3) and is soon followed by a comprehensive reference to Hesiod vates in 13.75-6 δυσπέμφελον Ἄσκρην [~ WD 640], / πατρίδα δαφνήεσσαν [~ Theog. 30] ἀσιγήτοιο νομῆος. Dionysus’ mission in 13.6 (ὄφρα) ἔθνεα πάντα διδάξῃ recalls, however, the mission of the apostles in Mt 28.19 (πορευθέντες οὖν) μαθητεύσατε πάντα τὰ ἔθνη, cf. Lk 24.47.

14In 20.94-97, in an outspoken passage, Eris appears to Dionysus in his sleep to tell him that diverse, hard toils lie ahead before he is admitted among the Olympians:

νόσφι πόνων οὐκ ἔστιν ἀνέμβατον αἰθέρα ναίειν· οὐ πέλε ῥηιδίη μακάρων ὁδός· ἐξ ἀρετῆς δέ ἀτραπὸς Οὐλύμποιο θεόσσυτος εἰς πόλον ἕλκει. τέτλαθι καὶ σὺ πόνους πολυειδέας.

But without hard work it is not possible to dwell in the inaccessible heavens. The road to the blessed is not easy; noble deeds give the only path to the firmament of heaven by God’s decree. You too then, endure hardship of every kind.

  • 13 Cf. G. Braden, “Nonnos’ Typhoon: Dionysiaca Books I and II”, p. 853-854, Texas Stud.in Lit. (...)

15Again the wording here specifically varies Hesiod’s warning to his brother in WD 289-29213:

τῆς δ’ ἀρετῆς ἱδρῶτα θεοὶ προπάροιθεν ἔθηκαν ἀθάνατοι· μακρὸς δὲ καὶ ὄρθιος οἶμος ἐς αὐτὴν καὶ τρηχὺς τὸ πρῶτον· ἐπὴν δ’ εἰς ἄκρον ἵκηται,
ῥηιδίη δἤπειτα πέλει, χαλεπή περ ἐοῦσα.

But in front of excellence the immortal gods have set sweat, and the path to her is long and steep, and rough at first – yet when one arrives at the top, then it becomes easy, difficult though it still is.

  • 14 Cf. M. L. West, The Orphic Poems, Oxford, 1983, p. 251-258; A. Bernabé, OF, op. cit., I, 97
  • 15 Cf. references to Chaos followed by references to Eros in Ar. Av. 691-696 (OF 64V), (...)
  • 16 As noted by P. Chuvin, Nonnos de Panopolis. Les Dionysiaques, tome III, chants VI-VIII, op. (...)
  • 17 By Nonnus’ time Orphic elements were brought in association with Christian thinking. The br (...)

16It would be conceivable that the Hesiodic echoes are corroborated in Nonnus through an Orphic theogony, in which case the 24-books-long Rhapsodic Theogony, an immensely influential poem not least in late antiquity,14 and one which is known to have made extensive use of Hesiodic data and motifs, would be an obvious candidate. The very idea of Zeus, rather than tackling the issue himself, procreating Dionysus to whom he assigns the relief of mankind is essentially indebted to the Orphic Zeus relegating the salvation of humanity to Dionysus and Core, OF 348F οἷς ἐπέταξεν / κύκλου τε λῆξαι καὶ ἀναψῦξαι κακότητος “to whom he commended to release [man] from the cycle [of anguish] and to grant respite in misfortune”. To such a hypothesis might also point the presence of individual “Orphic” elements. After the supplication scene there comes up a unique reference to Chaos in Dion. 7.111 πρωτογόνου Χάεος, preceded by a reference to primordial Eros in 110. This seems to glance at Hes. Theog. 116 πρώτιστα Χάος γένετ’, followed by a reference to Eros in 120, but it may well be mediated through Orphic cosmogony.15 The figure of Aeon in Dion. 7 is widely acknowledged to be “Orphic” too.16 The “Orphic” man carries the guilt of the primal crime of the Titans (the dismemberment of the first Dionysus) and seeks salvation through purification.17 Dionysus was an important god of salvation in Orphic theogonic literature, and in the Rhapsodic Theogony OF 350F, where probably Zeus addresses Dionysus, the latter releases man from hardship and frenzy much more effectively than any rite or sacrifice: ἄνθρωποι δὲ τεληέσσας ἑκατόμβας / πέμψουσιν (...) / ὄργια τ’ ἐκτελέσουσι λύσιν προγόνων ἀθεμίστων / μαιόμενοι· σὺ δὲ τοῖσιν ἔχων κράτος, οὕς κ’ ἐθέλῃσθα, / λύσεις ἔκ τε πόνων χαλεπῶν καὶ ἀπείρονος οἴστρου “men will send [advantageous] hecatombs (...) / and perform the rites, seeking release from their forefathers’ / unrighteousness; and you in power over them / will free those you wish from toils and endless frenzy” (transl. M. L. West).

  • 18 E. Livrea, Review of P. Chuvin’s edition of Dion. 6-8, op. cit., p. 140.

17In 36-38 οὐρανίους οἴηκας ἀναίνομαι· οὐκέτι κόσμου / πεῖσμα κυβερνήσω. Μακάρων δέ τις ἄλλος (...) / πηδάλιον βιότοιο (...) δεχέσθω: “I renounce the divine helm at their fate, I will no longer handle the world’s cable. Let some other of the blessed (...) receive the rudder of life”. E. Livrea18 postulated an Orphic model for the comparison of the world to a ship with a steer governed by Aeon, adducing the “pythagorising” Cercidas fr. 2.6 f. Livrea (5.7 f. Powell) and Procl. In Tim. II.130.23 (Hecate) τοῦ μὲν παντὸς ἔχουσα τοὺς οἴακας. One might also think of Linus OF 81.1 ὣς (...) συνάπαντα κυβερνᾶται, or the akin image of the charioteer of the world (Pl. Phdr. 264e, OF 378F.27 ἡνιοχεῖ), but critical is here Pl. Pol. 272e and its Neoplatonic interpretation, Procl. In Crat. 30.12 Pasquali ὁ δημιουργὸς (...) ποδηγετεῖ τὸν κόσμον, οἷον κυβερνήτης (...) πηδαλίων καὶ οἴακος ἐφαπτόμενος. τὰ τοίνυν πηδάλια ταῦτα (...) σύμβολα τῆς ὅλης δημιουργίας, ἡμῖν μὲν δύσληπτα, τοῖς δὲ θεοῖς αὐτοῖς γνώριμα καὶ καταφανῆ: “the creator guides the world like a steersman (...) handling rudder and helm. This rudder is then a symbol of the whole creation, difficult for us to perceive but well-known and obvious to the gods themselves”.

  • 19 W. Nestle, “Ein pessimistischer Zug im Prometheusmythus”, AfR 34, 1937, p. 378-381, (...)

18The theft of fire by Prometheus was apparently also narrated in the Rhapsodic Theogony OF 352F. In Proclus’ report (In Remp. II.53.2 = OF 352F.I) Ὀρφεὺς καὶ Ἡσίοδος διὰ τῆς κλοπῆς τοῦ πυρός etc., Orpheus and Hesiod are mentioned in the same breath, which suggests, to no surprise, that the Orphic version made good use of the Hesiodic one (but apparently the other way round for Proclus, who dated “Orpheus” earlier than Hesiod). Furthermore, there may be some indication that in an Orphic poem the plight of humanity was blamed on Prometheus since his creation of man. In Themist. Or. 32.359d τὸν γὰρ πηλὸν (...) ὁ Προμηθεύς, ἀφ’ οὗ τὸν ἄνθρωπον διεπλάσατο, οὐκ ἐφύρασεν ὕδατι, ἀλλὰ δακρύοις: “for (...) Prometheus did not mix the clay out of which he fashioned man with water, but with tears” (transl. R. J. Penella), a trait of the myth attributed to “Aesop” (Fab. gr. 430 Perry, cf. Sent. 27 P.), appears an image of Prometheus far from the martyred benefactor of humanity, along with a specific correctio of Hephaestus’ proceedings in the creation of Pandora in Hes. WD 61 γαῖαν ὕδει φύρειν. W. Nestle19 tentatively traced the origins of this reference to an early Orphic poem, relying upon, and “correcting”, Hesiod’s version. He cited Hymn. in Bacch. Sol. (?) OF 545F.1 δάκρυα μὲν σέθεν ἐστὶ πολυτλήτων γένος ἀνδρῶν /, the creation of man from the tears of the creator (and of gods from his smile) which is the only exact parallel to Dion. 7.40 (οἰκτείρων ἐμόγησα) πολυτλήτων γένος ἀνδρῶν /. But there may be more traces of “Orphic” vocabulary possibly drawn from Zeus’ commandment of mankind’s salvation to Dionysus. Verse 7.8 οὐ λήγοντα μερίμνης, the affinity of which with Hes. WD 176-178 was noted above, employs an Orphic cliché, cf. OF 348F.2 κύκλου τε λῆξαι, Pl. Leg. 701c (OF 37V.I; “Titanic” life) χαλεπὸν αἰῶνα διάγοντας μὴ λῆξαί ποτε κακῶν. So may be doing 30 γαῖαν ὅλην οἴστρησεν Ἐνυώ / (cf. Dion. 26.6 οἶστρον Ἐνυοῦς /), see A. Bernabé on OF 350F.5 (Dionysus) λύσεις ἐκ (...) ἀπείρονος οἴστρου /, Orph. Arg. 47 δήιος οἶστρος /.

19The Orphic perspective yields interesting fruits and there is a further possibility that has been ignored so far: a more fundamental impact on Aeon’s supplication to Zeus might be surmised to have been exercised by Zeus’ supplication to Cronus in the Rhapsodic Theogony. Zeus, the new ruler of the world, after entering the shrine of Night for inspiration, appeals for guidance to defeated Cronus, and receives detailed instruction of the formation of the new world, cf. Pap. Derv. XIII.1 (OF 7) Ζεὺς μὲν ἐπεὶ δὴ̣ π̣ατρ̣ὸς ἑοῦ πάρα̣ [θ]έ̣σφατ’ ἀκούσα[ς] (with A. Bernabé, OF, ad loc.), which best illuminates Dion. 7.72 (Zeus) ὑπέρτερα θέσφατα φαίνων /. Just a single line survives from Zeus’ appeal, OF 239F ὄρθου δ’ ἡμετέρην γενεήν, ἀριδείκετε δαῖμον “Raise up our race, glorious divine spirit” (transl. D. T. Runia), which is much in the spirit of Aeon’s appeal to Zeus. Proclus In Tim. I.207.1 (OF 239F.II) discusses this as a primal example of supplication in an excursus on prayer. As Proclus l.l. I.207.15 suggests, it was a long and spirited appeal, καὶ διὰ πάντων τῶν ἐχομένων τὴν τοῦ πατρὸς εὐμένειαν προκαλούμενος. It is conceivable that Zeus’ appeal included a “Hesiodic” description of the misery of the third “Titanic” generation.

The Christian Perspective

  • 20 K. Spanoudakis, “Icarius Jesus Christ. Dionysiac Passion and Biblical Narrative in Nonnus’ (...)

20In an earlier article on the “ passion” of Icarius in Dion. 47.1-264,20 I tried to show that the narrative, in detached light spirit, is modelled on the passion of Jesus alluding inter alia to criticism raised in anti-Christian literature. As the question of Christian influence in the Dionysiaca is largely unexplored, it was then stated that an eventual study “other than detecting passages, would have to explore the mechanisms of reception” (op. cit. p. 83). It may be now worth introducing such a mechanism which one might call “negative” allusions, as against “positive” allusions, allusions that is which overtly and unequivocally make use of a Christian motif (cf. n.  5 ). The notion of “negative” allusion is closely associated with Nonnus’ coeval audience or readership’s cultural background and expectations: it is the projection of a concept into its historical evolution, an extension of what is said into what is unsaid and yet easily deductible by Nonnus’ audience or readership. The notion of “negative” allusion implies a fundamental substratum of Christian thought in the poem. A caveat is, however, advisable so as not to fall into the old trap of direct or indirect comparison between older and new Gods in terms of inferiority or superiority, but to rather envisage a natural progress in world and human affairs consonant with the historical consciousness of the poem.

  • 21 Op. cit., p. 134.
  • 22 P. Chuvin, Nonnos de Panopolis. Les Dionysiaques, tome III, chants VI-VIII, op. cit (...)
  • 23 E. Livrea, Review of P. Chuvin’s edition of Dion. 6-8, op. cit., p. 142.

21In his review of P. Chuvin’s edition of Dion. 6-8, E. Livrea21 variously expressed his admiration but also noted P. Chuvin’s lack of attention to the Christian perspective, although P. Chuvin’s conclusion22 that Nonnus draws on a common cultural resource shared by both Christians and pagans is likely to win approval by most Nonnian scholars today. Among others in 7.80-81 τίκτω ἐγὼ γενέτης, καὶ τλήσομαι ἄρσενι μηρῷ / θηλυτέρας ὠδῖνας, ὅπως ὠδῖνα σαώσω, E. Livrea23 drew attention to the topos of Christ πατήρ and μήτηρ in patristic literature, which is an entirely possible allusion, but one that crosses paths with an older feature of the kinship of Zeus and Dionysus, the former said to be at once a father and a mother to Dionysus in the proem of the poem, D. 1.7 (Zeus) πατὴρ καὶ πότνια μήτηρ / and before that in the “Orphic” Ael. Arist. Dionysus, Or. 41.3 (OF 328F.I) ὁ Ζεὺς (...) ἀμφότερα αὐτὸς τῷ Διονύσῳ (...) πατήρ τε καὶ μήτηρ (...) Διόνυσος διχόθεν προσήκων τῷ πατρί. This seems to be again a feature of the Orphic Dionysus in particular, and the reference makes use of the Orphic motif of androgynous fatherhood, cf. Theog. Rhaps. OF 134F (Ericepaeus) θῆλυς καὶ γενήτωρ, A. Bernabé on OF 31F.4 (= 243F.3) Ζεὺς ἄρσεν (...) Ζεὺς (...) νύμφη /.

  • 24 Noted by C. De Stefani, Nonno di Panopoli. Parafrasi del Vangelo di S. Giovanni, Canto I, B (...)

22On the other hand, verbal reminiscences which are not part of the late antique epic koine such as 99 (Dionysus) Ζηνὶ συναστράπτοντα δεδέξεται (...) αἰθήρ / and Par. 13.3-4 ὄφρα κεν (...) αἰθέρα δύνων / (...) ὑψιμέδοντι συναστράψειε τοκῆι24 further contribute to the impression that this kind of mystic spirituality touches upon Christ. Also Zeus’ declaration in 88-90 καὶ αἰνήσεις με δοκεύων / ἄμπελον (...) / ἐυφροσύνης κήρυκα has a conceptual affinity to Ps. 49.14-15 θῦσον τῷ θεῷ θυσίαν αἰνέσεως / (...) / καὶ ἐπικάλεσαί με ἐν ἡμέρᾳ θλίψεως, / καὶ ἐξελοῦμαι σε, καὶ δοξάσεις με. Even more eminently, the fact that Zeus sends Dionysus to mankind because he cares for it is part of the Orphic version of the “salvation” of the world, but also looks similar to the rationale set out by Jesus in John 3.16 (~ Par. 3.81-86) Οὕτως γὰρ ἠγάπησεν ὁ θεὸς τὸν κόσμον, ὥστε τὸν υἱὸν τὸν μονογενῆ ἔδωκεν, ἵνα πᾶς ὁ πιστεύων εἰς αὐτὸν μὴ ἀπόληται ἀλλ’ ἔχῃ ζωὴν αἰώνιον, 1 Jn 4.9 τὸν υἱὸν αὐτοῦ τὸν μονογενῆ ἀπέσταλκεν ὁ θεὸς εἰς τὸν κόσμον ἵνα ζήσωμεν δι’ αὐτοῦ. As a general rule, themes, motifs and expressions occurring in the Dionysiaca in “mystic” context which overlap with Christian parallels in the Paraphrasis are particularly important, even beyond the purely literary context, not only from the author’s point of view but also from a potential audience’s point of view, as sections of both poems may have been interchangeably read to the same audience.

  • 25 70 ἐγκεφάλου γονόεντος: see D. Gigli Piccardi, Nonno di Panopoli, Le Dionisiache, vol. I (C (...)
  • 26 The point is made by P. Chuvin, Nonnos de Panopolis. Les Dionysiaques, tome III, chants VI- (...)

23When Zeus, the demiurgic nous,25 ponders his options in pregnant silence (67-72, cf. Procl. Hy. 7.14 = OF 327II), he knows in full what the future holds for humanity. As for Dionysus, from his very conception he is a god with a mission: in the broader context of his earthly life he will do as his father has decreed. Zeus decides to offer consolation (76 ἄλκαρ ἀνίης), but stops short of granting redemption.26 In 7.96 ἀλεξητῆρα γενέθλης is a qualification never used of Christ in the Paraphrasis. Moreover, Zeus, through deification, pledges to grant immortalisation only to Dionysus, not to his followers. So Dionysus can not be and, as any reader or hearer would by then know, was not the “final” stage in the redemptive process of humanity. This is consonant with Nonnus’ deterministic perception of the history of humanity and the redemptive process. This perspective covertly and tacitly looks forwards to the Christian Redeemer: he too will save mankind from sorrow but he will also grant eternal life not only to himself but to all his followers. It seems to be the case that here not only the explicit similarities but also the implicit lacunae in Dionysus’ program of salvation point to Christ (“positive” and “negative” allusions).

  • 27 On Christ saving humanity from her hereditary tristitia, see E. Livrea, Review of P. Chuvin’s (...)
  • 28 See E. Livrea, Nonno di Panopoli. Parafrasi del Vangelo di S. Giovanni, canto B, op. cit., (...)

24The sorrow (7 ἀνίη 55, 76 (cf. 19.23), 10 ἄμμορον εὐφροσύνης) is the state of affairs that Dionysus is going to cure, but also the state of the unredeemed man before the hope of salvation and the joy of his actual redemption in Christian faith.27 Sorrow is the sentiment that befalls the first created after their fall, Eve in Gen. 3.16 πληθύνων πληθυνῶ τὰς λύπας σου καὶ τὸν στεναγμόν σου, Adam in Gen. 3.17 ἐν λύπαις φάγῃ αὐτὴν [sc. τὴν γῆν] πάσας τὰς ἡμέρας τῆς ζωῆς σου. The theme of helpless sorrow (Par. 2.14-16 στυγνοὶ (...) / οἰνοχόοι δρηστῆρες ἀβακχεύτοιο τραπέζης / (...) μάτην ἥπτοντο κυπέλλων) turned into joy through Christ’s superior wine (Par. 2.53-54 ὑπέρτερον (...) / οἶνον) at the “thirsty” wedding at Cana (30 / διψάδος εἰλαπίνης, 59 / διψαλέην παρὰ δαῖτα) features prominently in Par. 2, which presents a grid of notional and verbal affinities with our passage.28 Christ is invited Par. 2.8 εἰς εἰλαπίνην (cf. 2.30, 41, 48) which recalls the Orphic notion of Dionysus εἰλαπιναστής, OF 413F.8 πάσῃσί τ’ ἐπ’ εἰλαπίνῃσι πάρεστι, 299F.3 εἰλαπιναστῇ. With Dion. 7.18 ἡμιτελὴς... χάρις of dance in a wineless wedding, cf. Par. 2.17 ἡμιτελῆ δὲ γάμοιο μέθην.

  • 29 For the notion of eternal continuation of life through procréation, cf. Pl. Symp. 207d, Leg(...)

25Wine, on the strength of its mood-conditioning and life-preserving quality, is made to contribute to the success of a wedding, the human institution for legitimising the procreation process. The locus of the death of a husband (or wife) is drawn from the dialectics about marriage, cf. Aphth. Prog. 13.14-15 (Εἰ γαμητέον), later adopted by Christians in its most extreme form (death of a newly wedded) to defend virginity, cf. Greg. Naz. Carm. 1.2.1.631-634 ἀλλὰ βαρεῖα / πολλάκι [~ 45] καὶ νεόνυμφον [~ 46 νυμφίον ἀρτιχόρευτον] ἐπὶ ζυγὸν ἤλυθε μοίρη. / Νυμφίος, εἶτα νέκυς· θάλαμος, τάφος· ἄμμιγα τερπνοῖς / ἄλγεα· μικρὸν ἄεισμα, παροίτερον ἐσθλὸν ἀνιγροῦ [~ 48-51, 54] “but often a heavy fate befalls even a newly wedded man. A bridegroom, then a dead man; his wedding chamber a grave; afflicition hand in hand with happiness; a short song, a joy followed suit by a lament”, Greg. Nyss. De virg. 3.7 (εἶτα ζόφος ἀντὶ τῆς ἐν παστάδι λαμπρότητος). The fact that Gregory and Nonnus employ the same themes and motifs suggests that both make use of the same rhetorical topoi. Even the reaction of Eros in 53 νυμφιδίην ἀχόρευτος (...) ἀπεσείσατο πεύκην recalls the typical reaction of the widowed bride in Greg. Naz. Carm. 1.2.1.640-641 κόσμον τ’ ἀπὸ τῆλε βαλοῦσα / νυμφίδιον. But above all it is the unio mystica that fascinates Nonnus’ mind, a child-bearing process in which two bodies unite to procreate a single new entity. The wedding is thus viewed as a precious mystic rite safeguarding the continuation of life ever regenerating itself, man’s only means to overcome death, 47 / συζυγίης ἀλύτοιο φερέσβια (“carrying life on”) πείσματα λύσας, a concept recalling the wedding at Cana, Par. 2.4 παιδοτόκου γάμος (...) βίου πρωτοσπόρος ἀρχή /.29 It is as a violent interruption (47 ἀλύτοιο (...) λύσας) of this fundamental process that the death of a newly wedded young man and the sorrowful wineless wedding (7.54 τερπωλῆς χατέοντας (...) ὑμεναίους: a paradox in need of correction) are mentioned in 7.45-54. Such a wedding is wholly spiritualised.

  • 30 Cf. E. Lanker-Euler, Philosophische Deutung von Sündenfall und Prometheus-Mythos, Heidelber (...)

26The figure of Prometheus as the first “sinner” according to which fire, instead of the origin of all arts and a symbol of intelligence, is the origin of mankind’s misery, is also highly significant in this respect. Prometheus is another messianic figure: he works clandestinely to benefit mankind by stealing fire from a merciless Zeus. His attempt fails and because of this humanity is punished by Zeus to remain in sorrow. Dionysus will partly undo, by consoling and rejoicing humanity, the consequences of his crime, like Christ properly redeems humanity as the “new” Adam.30 Besides, with the reference to Prometheus a rudiment of “creation” is completed consisting of the re-emergence of earth after the deluge (6.371-387), the re-creation of man (7.1-6) and a recollection of a “fall” causing mankind’s sorrow.

  • 31 On Prometheus in the Dionysiaca see F. Vian, Nonnos de Panopolis, Les Dionysiaques, chants (...)

27Hesiod establishes that Prometheus cheated on Zeus and as a corollary Zeus punished humanity, cf. Theog. 565 ἀλλά μιν ἐξαπάτησεν κτλ., WD 47-49 ἀλλὰ Ζεὺς ἔκρυψεν [sc. βίον ἀνθρώποισιν] (...) / ὅττι μιν ἐξαπάτησε Προμηθεὺς ἀγκυλομήτης. / τοὔνεκ’ ἄρ’ ἀνθρώποισι ἐμής ατο κήδεα λυγρά “but Zeus concealed it [i.e. the means of life] (...) because crooked-counseled Prometheus had deceived him. For that reason he devised baneful evils for human beings”. Zeus’ punishment causes the concealment of the means of life (WD 42) and establishes the need for human toil, Procl. ap. Schol. WD 47 (fr. 43 Marzillo) τὸν βίον (...) δυσπόριστον ποιῆσαι τοῖς ἀνθρώποις καὶ μόλις ἀνυστὸν διὰ πολλῶν πόνων καὶ τληπαθείας, Schol. WD 47a ἔκρυψεν (...) τὸν πλοῦτον, ἵνα πονοῦντες οἱ ἄνθρωποι τοῦτον κτῶνται. Later Hesiodic exegesis also deemed that Prometheus’ intention was to make human souls partake of the blessedness of divine life, cf. Procl. ap. Schol. WD 48 (fr. 44 Marzillo with comment on p. 315) αἱ δὲ ἀπάται τοῦ Προμηθέως αἱ κατὰ τοῦ Διὸς δηλοῦσιν ὅτι παρεσκεύαζε καὶ τῶν διίων ψυχῶν μετέχειν τὰ θνητὰ ὁ Προμηθεύς, Schol. Theog. 565.53 = Procl. (?) ap. Schol. WD 48-62 (fr. *56.49 Marzillo) ἠθέλησεν ὁ Προμηθεὺς μεταθεῖναι τὴν καλὴν ἐκείνην ζωὴν καὶ διαγωγὴν ἐπὶ τὰ σαρκικὰ καὶ φθαρτά. Such concepts would remind a Christian reader of the false promise of the ὄφις to the first created to become “like gods” and “to know”, Gen. 3.5-6 ἐν ᾗ ἡμέρᾳ φάγητε ἀπ’ αὐτοῦ, διανοιχθήσονται ὑμῶν οἱ ὀφθαλμοὶ καὶ ἔσεσθε ὡς θεοὶ γινώσκοντες καλὸν καὶ πονηρόν. However, the true lifting of man to divine status, the ὁμοίωσις θεῷ, was not destined to be achieved through Prometheus or Dionysus, the latter offering only a sip of immortality, nor through the snake of Eden, but only through Christ. Like the deceitful ὄφις of Gen. 3.1 is φρονιμώτατος πάντων τῶν θηρίων τῶν ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς, so Prometheus is variously qualified by Hesiod as cunning, and his description in Zeus’ mocking address to defeated Typhoeus in Dion. 2.576 δολόμητις Προμηθεύς immediately echoes Hes. Theog. 510-511 Προμηθέα / (...) αἰολόμητιν.31 The angry address of Zeus to Prometheus after the latter’s crime in WD 53-58 “But the cloud-gatherer Zeus spoke to him in anger: “Son of Iapetus, you who know counsels beyond all others, you are pleased that you have stolen fire and beguiled my mind – a great grief for you yourself and for men to come. To them I shall give in exchange for fire an evil in which they may all take pleasure in their spirit, embracing their own evil”, which involves notions of immediate punishment (in bonds!) and hereditary guilt (56), could be thought to recall the dialogue between God and Adam after the primal sin in Gen. 3.8-20. A possibly ancient scholium interprets the Hesiodic story as one of sin, punishment and hereditary guilt, Schol. WD 48f ἀπατηθεὶς ὁ Ζεὺς ἀντὶ ἐπιτιμίου τὴν γυναῖκα ἔδωκε· καὶ βλάβη τῷ Προμηθεῖ ἐγένετο ὅτι ἀνεσκολοπίσθη· τοῖς <δὲ> μετὰ ταῦτα ἀνθρώποις τὸ μετὰ κόπου καὶ μόχθου ζῆν. Quite characteristically in Dion. 7.60 ἀρχεκάκου ἀντὶ πυρός “instead of fire originating crime”, the adjective employed is a Homeric hapax of the Trojan fleet of Paris which turned out to be an affliction to all Trojans, Il. 5.62-63 νῆας (...) / ἀρχεκάκους, αἳ πᾶσι κακὸν Τρώεσσι γένοντο; it became in patristic literature an established qualification of the original sin, the serpent or the devil, cf. Par. 17.55 δαίμονος ἀρχεκάκοιο, of devil’s agents, the Jews in Par. 11.213, 18.13, Cyr. In Jo. I.623.7 Pusey, al. τὴν ἀρχέκακον ἁμαρτίαν, ΙΙ.96.21 ἐκεῖνος ὁ ἀρχέκακος, τουτέστιν ὁ Σατανᾶς, G. W. Lampe (op. cit.) s.v.

  • 32 Cf. also Tzetzes on WD 42. The passage is splendidly illuminated by P. Marzillo, Der Kommen (...)
  • 33 As observed by M. L. West, Hesiod, Works and Days, Oxford, 1978, p. 155 n. 1. On Pandora an (...)

28In the same context Pandora constitutes a failed attempt to console humans by introducing the pleasures of love. Like the evils released by her are contained in a πίθος (58, cf. Hes. WD 97, 98), so their remedy wine is contained in a jar (πίθος, cf. Dion. 20.132-135). In Porphyry’s allegoric interpretation in Antr. 30 (πίθος) ὃν λύει ἡδονὴ καὶ εἰς πάντα διασκεδάννυσι μόνης ἐλπίδας μενούσης Pandora’s opening of the jar is motivated by ἡδονή.32 Thus Pandora looks like another Eve. In fact, the two are directly associated in Clem. Strom. 5.100, Orig. C. Cels. 4.36-38 and Greg. Naz. Adv. mul. se nimis orn. 115-134. Like Pandora’s, so Eve’s sin brings about a κρύψις βίου in Gen. 3.17.33 And like Eve, so Pandora in Hes. Theog. 590 is the first woman, the one from which all other women stem.

  • 34 See, e.g., W. Kraus, RE XXIII.1, 1957, p. 695.
  • 35 M. Caprara, “Nonno e gli Ebrei”, p. 195-215, SIFC 92, 1999, p. 207-214, with a discussion on the (...)

29When Aeon concludes his appeal by asking Zeus in 65-66 ἦ ῥά σε θέλγει / ἀσπόνδων θυέων ἀνεμώλιος ἀτμὸς ἀλήτης; Prometheus is still there, because as a mediator of fire to the human race, he is also the inventor of sacrifice.34 Implicitly, wineless sacrifices are still a trait of the decadent, bankrupt “Promethean” era. In tracing the history of sacrifice Porphyry De abst. 2.20.3 (from Theophr. De piet.) notes that ancient sacrifices were νηφάλια and only later evolved to become οἰνόσπονδα. So this evolution represents a “real” phase in the development of sacrificial procedures. But the objection to wineless sacrifices looks forward to a topical issue at Nonnus’ times, the termination of bloody sacrifices once practised by the Jews and at Nonnus’ times still practised by pagans, which produce a worthless smoke and a disgusting odour from burning fat. A Christian reader would be particularly reminded, in a contrasting fashion, of John 4.23 ἀλλὰ ἔρχεται ἡ ὥρα καὶ νῦν ἐστιν, ὅτε οἱ ἀληθινοὶ προσκυνηταὶ προσκυνήσουσιν τῷ πατρὶ ἐν πνεύματι καὶ ἀληθείᾳ· καὶ γὰρ ὁ πατὴρ τοιούτους ζητεῖ τοὺς προσκυνοῦντας αὐτόν. The question of sacrifice is given strong emphasis in Nonnus’ amplified rendition in Par. 4.88-121 which clearly glances at his coeval debate. M. Caprara35 convincingly showed this as well as that Nonnus’ anti-Jewish aversion to bloody sacrifices chimes with Cyril’s aversion, spelled out in his reply to Julian’s defence of bloody sacrifices (C. Gal. 70-72 Masaracchia), Cyr. C. Jul. PG 76.977a φέρε γὰρ κἀκεῖνο κατασκεψώμεθα, ἐπὶ τίσιν ἂν ἡσθείη Θεός (...) πότερα δὴ μόσχος ὀκλάσας εἰς σφαγὴν (...) καὶ λιβανωτοῦ καπνοὶ τῆς ἐσχάρας ἐξελιττόμενοι, ἢ πολυειδέσιν ἀρεταῖς ἐμπρέπουσα ψυχή; “let us then consider this, with what would God be happy (...) with a calf sinking down for slaughter (...) and smoke of incest winding off from the hearth or a soul standing out with virtues of every kind?”, cf. further on the coeval debate Orig. C. Cels. 4.32 (τῶν ἐπὶ γῆς δαιμόνων) λιβανωτῷ καὶ αἵματι καὶ ταῖς ἀπὸ τῆς κνίσης ἀναθυμιάσεσι χαιρόντων, Theodoret. Cur. 7.15 (pagan gods) οὕτως αὐτοῖς ἥδιστος ἦν ὁ καπνὸς καὶ τῆς κνίσης ἡ δυσοσμία. It is significant that Christ or a Saint are often said to disperse the loathsome odour of an altar as part of a pious (Christian) purification, cf. Greg. Naz. Carm. 2.2.7.74-79 (δαίμονες) σαρκοχαρεῖς, κνίσσῃσι γεγηθότες (...) / οὓς Χριστὸς (...) / (...) ὦσεν ὀπίσσω, / (...) αἵματι σεμνῷ / αἵματα λῦσεν ἀλιτρά, νόου δ’ ἀνέδειξεν θυηλήν / τὴν κρυπτὴν τοπάροιθε “(demons) rejoicing in flesh and the smell of sacrifice (...) / whom Christ (...) / (...) pushed back / (...) with solemn blood / he abolished sinful blood, and exhibited a noeric sacrifice / unknown before him”, Greg. Nyss. V. Greg. Thaum. PG 46.916a ὑπελθὼν δὲ τὸ ἱερὸν (...) τῷ (…) τύπῳ τοῦ σταυροῦ τὸν μεμολυσμένον ταῖς κνίσαις ἀέρα καθαγνίσας, διήγαγεν τὴν νύκτα πᾶσαν ἐν προσευχαῖς τε καὶ ὑμνῳδίαις διαγρυπνήσας, ὥστε μετασκευασθῆναι εἰς προσευχῆς οἶκον, τὸν ἐβδελυγμένον τῷ τε ἐπιβωμίῳ λύθρῳ καὶ τοῖς ἀφιδρύμασιν “entering the shrine with the sign of the cross he purified the air polluted with sacrificial smell, he spent the whole night wakeful in prayer and hymning, so that a house loathsome for its blooded altar and images may be turned into a house of prayer”.

  • 36 See, further, O. Michel, RAC VIII, 1972, p.411-412 s.v. Freude.

30The programmatic quality of wine as the human equivalent of divine nectar in 77-78 γλυκὺν οἶνον ἐοικότα νέκταρι δώσω, / ἄλλο ποτὸν μερόπεσσιν ἐφάρμενον can also be seen within this context. Because of its superior pedigree the joy generated by wine is itself an earthly antitype of the joy generated by nectar to the blessed gods (61 νέκταρ, ὅ περ μακάρων φρένα τέρπει /), therefore not the folly of an earthly joy but a healing joy, a pre-taste on earth of the eternal, divine joy on heaven. This is a facet of Nonnian wine which recalls the dualism of the notion of joy in the fathers of the church, Greg. Nyss. De beat. PG 44.1232a Δύο δὲ ὄντων βίων (...) ὡσαύτως δὲ καὶ εὐφροσύνης διπλῆς· τῆς μὲν ἐν τῷ βίῳ τούτῳ, τῆς δὲ ἐν τῷ κατ’ ἐλπίδας ἡμῖν προκειμένῳ; Christ’s joy protects man from the tribulations of the pain and sorrow of life in flesh in Basil. Caes. Hom. de grat. act. PG 31.222b.36

31In the end of the poem Dionysus will be rewarded with the highest of honours: he will take his legitimate place by the side of Zeus at his table, equal to his “brothers” Apollo and Hermes, who are also adulterous offspring of Zeus, 48.974-978:

Καὶ θεὸς ἀμπελόεις πατρώιον αἰθέρα βαίνων
πατρὶ σὺν εὐώδινι μιῆς ἔψαυσε τραπέζης,
καὶ βροτέην μετὰ δαῖτα, μετὰ προτέρην χύσιν οἴνου
οὐράνιον πίε νέκταρ ἀρειοτέροισι κυπέλλοις,
σύνθρονος Ἀπόλλωνι, συνέστιος υἱέι Μαίης.

Then the vinegod ascended into his father’s heaven, and touched one table with the father who had brought him to birth; after the banquets of mortals, after the wine once poured out, he quaffed heavenly nectar from nobler goblets, on a throne beside Apollo, at the hearth beside Maia’s son.

  • 37 D. Gigli Piccardi, Nonno di Panopoli, Le Dionisiache, vol. I (Canti I-XII), op. cit., p. 10 (...)

32Ascent to heaven after earthly toils is valid for Christ too (in His case a “return”), cf. Cyr. In Jo. II.619.29 P. τετελεσμένον οὖν ἄρα τῶν ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς, τὸ ἐλλελοιπὸς ἔδει πληροῦν, τουτέστι τὸ ἀναβῆναι πρὸς τὸν Πατέρα. Christ’s martyrs follow His example, cf. Orig. C. Cels. 6.20 ἡμεῖς μετὰ τοὺς ἐνταῦθα πόνους καὶ τοὺς ἀγῶνας ἐλπίζομεν πρὸς ἄκροις γενέσθαι τοῖς οὐρανοῖς (in bold type Celsus’ words from Pl. Phdr. 247b). The occurrence of such a notion about Dionysus’ final status in Nonnus would perhaps be less significant, but the fact that it comes up at the end of the poem may suggest a special link with the final status of Christ at the end of the Gospel of Mark, 16.19 ὁ μὲν οὖν κύριος Ἰησοῦς μετὰ τὸ λαλῆσαι αὐτοῖς ἀνελήμφθη εἰς τὸν οὐρανὸν καὶ ἐκάθισεν ἐκ δεξιῶν τοῦ θεοῦ. Nonnus himself employs this image of Christ in Par. 7.153 Χριστὸς ἄναξ γενέταο φανεὶς ἀγχίθρονος ἕδρης to render John 7.39 Ἰησοῦς [οὔπω] ἐδοξάσθη. But the conceptual background for such an approach shows limpidly in the neglected testimony of Justin the Martyr in a passage discussing similarities between Christian and “pagan” beliefs and directly comparing Christ’s ascent to that of the offspring of Zeus, 1 Apol. 21.1-2 τῷ δὲ καὶ τὸν λόγον (...) Ἰησοῦν Χριστὸν τὸν διδάσκαλον ἡμῶν, καὶ τοσοῦτον σταυρωθέντα καὶ ἀποθανόντα καὶ ἀναστάντα ἀνεληλυθέναι εἰς τὸν οὐρανόν, οὐ παρὰ τοὺς παρ’ ὑμῖν λεγομένους υἱοὺς τῷ Διὶ καινόν τι φέρομεν (...) Ἑρμῆν (...) Ἀσκληπιὸν (...) κεραυνωθέντα ἀνεληλυθέναι εἰς οὐρανόν, Διόνυσον δὲ διασπαραχθέντα “when we say (...) Jesus Christ, our teacher, was crucified and died, and rose again, and ascended into heaven, we propose nothing different from what you believe about those whom you consider sons of Zeus (...) Hermes (...) Asclepius (...) was fulminated and ascended into heaven, and Dionysus after he was torn to pieces”. It would seem that like the proem of the Dionysiaca presents Christian underpinnings,37 so Nonnus brings his immense epic to a multi-referential conclusion.

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Notes

1 L. F. Sherry, “The Paraphrase of St John attributed to Nonnus”, Byzantion 66, 1996, p. 409-430, never did.

2 R. Keydell, Hermes 42, 1927, p. 393; id. AC 1, 1932, p. 202; id. RE XVII.1, 1936, p. 914-916, cf. A. Cameron, Historia 14, 1965, p. 476.

3 G. W. Bowersock, Hellenism in Late Antiquity, Ann Arbor, 1990, p. 63.

4 M. Nilsson, Geschichte der griechischen Religion, II, Munich, 19743, p. 729. On Nonnus illuminating are J. Golega, Studien über die Evengeliendichtung des Nonnos, Breslau, 1930, p. 79-88, and P. Chuvin, “Nonnos de Panopolis entre paganisme et christianisme”, BAGB, 1986, p. 387-396. Cf. also F. Vian, Nonnos de Panopolis, Les Dionysiaques, chants I-II, Paris, 1976, xiv f.; G. W. Bowersock, Hellenism in Late Antiquity, op. cit., p. 43 f., 53; F. Tissoni, Nonno di Panopoli, I canti di Penteo (Dionisiache 44-46), Florence, 1998, p. 73 f.

5 J. Golega, Studien über die Evengeliendichtung des Nonnos, op. cit., p. 68-79 (“prezioso, anche se alquanto acritico”, E. Livrea, “Il Poeta ed il Vescovo. La ‘Questione Nonniana’ e la storia”, in Studia Hellenistica, II, Florence, p. 439-461 [= Prometheus 13, 1987, p. 97-123], p. 443 n. 12). Cf. also G. D’ Ippolito, “Intertesto evangelico nei Dionysiaca di Nonno”, in L. Belloni et al. (ed.), Mélanges G. Tarditi, I. Milan, p. 215-228.

6 F. Tissoni, Nonno di Panopoli, I canti di Penteo…, op. cit., p. 79.

7 E. Livrea, Nonno di Panopoli. Parafrasi del Vangelo di S. Giovanni, canto B, Bologna, 2000, p.72-76.

8 See, in general, M. Herrero de Jáuregui, Orphism and Christianity in Late Antiquity, Berlin and New York, 2010, p. 329-335 (“The Savior Gods”), where also a discussion of the Acts’ debt to Eur. Bacchae.

9 Some of these features were noted by P. Chuvin, Nonnos de Panopolis. Les Dionysiaques, tome III, chants VI-VIII, Paris, 1992, p. 65.

10 OF = A. Bernabé, Poetae epici graeci, pars II: Orphicorum et Orphicis similium testimonia et fragmenta. Fasc. 1-2 Munich and Leipzig / Fasc. 3 Berlin and New York, 2004-2007.

11 See D. Gigli Piccardi, Nonno di Panopoli, Le Dionisiache, vol. I (Canti I-XII), Milan, 2003, p. 531-532.

12 An exploration of such paraphrastic techniques in the Dion. would be most welcome.

13 Cf. G. Braden, “Nonnos’ Typhoon: Dionysiaca Books I and II”, p. 853-854, Texas Stud.in Lit. and Lang. 15, 1974, p. 851-879. Commentators adduce Quint. Smyrn. 2.76-77, Orph. Lith. 63-65, 87 f.

14 Cf. M. L. West, The Orphic Poems, Oxford, 1983, p. 251-258; A. Bernabé, OF, op. cit., I, 97.

15 Cf. references to Chaos followed by references to Eros in Ar. Av. 691-696 (OF 64V), Orph. Arg. 12-14, 421-424 (OF 99T and 100T respectively). See also F. Vian, “Préludes cosmiques dans les Dionysiaques de Nonnos de Panopolis”, p. 49, Prometheus 19, 1993, p. 39-52 [= L’épopée posthomérique. Recueil d’études, p. 493, Alessandria, 2005, p. 483-496].

16 As noted by P. Chuvin, Nonnos de Panopolis. Les Dionysiaques, tome III, chants VI-VIII, op. cit., p. 173, with whom E. Livrea (Review of P. Chuvin’s edition of Dion. 6-8, in Da Callimaco a Nonno. Dieci studi di poesia ellenistica, Messina and Florence, 1995, p. 13-48 [= Gnomon 68, 1996, p. 396-402]) agrees. Aeon is described with identical features in the Dion. and the Par., see J. Golega, Studien über die Evengeliendichtung des Nonnos, op. cit., p. 63-65, comparing Dion. 7.22 λευκάδα χαίτην with Par. 6.178 πολιῇσιν κόμην λευκαίνεται. On Aeon in Dion. 7 in particular, see F. Vian, “Préludes cosmiques dans les Dionysiaques de Nonnos de Panopolis”, op. cit., p. 46-51 = L’épopée posthomérique, op. cit., p. 490-494.

17 By Nonnus’ time Orphic elements were brought in association with Christian thinking. The broader issue of Orphism and Christianity in late antiquity is now explored in depth by M. Herrero de Jáuregui, Orphism and Christianity in Late Antiquity, op. cit., here 335 f.

18 E. Livrea, Review of P. Chuvin’s edition of Dion. 6-8, op. cit., p. 140.

19 W. Nestle, “Ein pessimistischer Zug im Prometheusmythus”, AfR 34, 1937, p. 378-381, following C. A. Lobeck, Aglaophamus, sive de theologiae mysticae graecorum causis, II, Königsberg, 1829, p. 887 f., 891.

20 K. Spanoudakis, “Icarius Jesus Christ. Dionysiac Passion and Biblical Narrative in Nonnus’ Icarius Episode”, WSt 120, 2007, p. 35-92.

21 Op. cit., p. 134.

22 P. Chuvin, Nonnos de Panopolis. Les Dionysiaques, tome III, chants VI-VIII, op. cit., p. 71.

23 E. Livrea, Review of P. Chuvin’s edition of Dion. 6-8, op. cit., p. 142.

24 Noted by C. De Stefani, Nonno di Panopoli. Parafrasi del Vangelo di S. Giovanni, Canto I, Bologna, 2002, p. 10 n. 24.

25 70 ἐγκεφάλου γονόεντος: see D. Gigli Piccardi, Nonno di Panopoli, Le Dionisiache, vol. I (Canti I-XII), op. cit., p. 535.

26 The point is made by P. Chuvin, Nonnos de Panopolis. Les Dionysiaques, tome III, chants VI-VIII, op. cit., p. 64. It is interesting that a formulation about Dionysus in D. Gigli Piccardi, Metafora e poetica in Nonno di Panopoli, Florence, 1985, p. 217: “un dio che nasce per lenire il dolore umano”, later became: “nasce per redimere il peccato originale” (ead., Nonno di Panopoli, Le Dionisiache, vol. I (Canti I-XII), Milan, 2003, p. 515).

27 On Christ saving humanity from her hereditary tristitia, see E. Livrea, Review of P. Chuvin’s edition of Dion. 6-8, op. cit., p. 132; see also G. W. H. Lampe, A Patristic Greek Lexicon, Oxford, 1961, s.v. λύπη 1.

28 See E. Livrea, Nonno di Panopoli. Parafrasi del Vangelo di S. Giovanni, canto B, op. cit., p. 174-176, on the sorrow at the wedding at Cana, and on Christ removing sorrow. Among others E. Livrea shows that the banquet can be an image of life. On Dionysus and Jesus at Cana see also D. Gigli Piccardi, Nonno di Panopoli, Le Dionisiache, vol. I (Canti I-XII), op. cit., p. 515.

29 For the notion of eternal continuation of life through procréation, cf. Pl. Symp. 207d, Leg. 721c, Nonn. Dion. 32.54-55. For Christians this symbolises man’s reduction after his fall and his loss of immortality, Greg. Nyss. De virg. 12.4, Greg. Naz. Carm. 1.2.1.124 καὶ γάμος, ἀνδρομέης γενεῆς φύσις, ἄλκαρ ὀλέθρου /.

30 Cf. E. Lanker-Euler, Philosophische Deutung von Sündenfall und Prometheus-Mythos, Heidelberg, 1933. For another point of contact between Prometheus and Christ in Nonnus cf. D. Accorinti, E. Livrea, “Nonno e la Crocifissione”, p. 266, SIFC 81, 1988, p. 262-278 [= E. Livrea, ΚΡΕCCΟΝΑΒΑCΚΑΝΙΗC. Quindici studi di poesia ellenistica, p. 207, Florence, 1993, p. 201-224], on their respective “passions”.

31 On Prometheus in the Dionysiaca see F. Vian, Nonnos de Panopolis, Les Dionysiaques, chants I-II, op. cit., p. 178, on 2.300. Out of four references he is only here associated with the plight of mankind.

32 Cf. also Tzetzes on WD 42. The passage is splendidly illuminated by P. Marzillo, Der Kommentar des Proklos zu Hesiods “Werken und Tagen”, Tübingen, 2010, xxxvii-xxxviii; for other allegorical interpretations of Pandora see, e.g., I. Musäus, Der Pandora Mythos bei Hesiod und seine Rezeption bis Erasmus von Rotterdam, Göttingen, 2004, p. 142 f.; P. Marzillo, Der Kommentar des Proklos zu Hesiods “Werken und Tagen”, op. cit., xxxv-xl.

33 As observed by M. L. West, Hesiod, Works and Days, Oxford, 1978, p. 155 n. 1. On Pandora and Eve cf. I. Musäus, Der Pandora Mythos bei Hesiod und seine Rezeption bis Erasmus von Rotterdam, op. cit., p. 137-142 including a reference to Zosim. Comm. litt. ω 12 Πανδώραν, ἣν οἱ Ἑβραῖοι καλοῦσιν Εὖαν.

34 See, e.g., W. Kraus, RE XXIII.1, 1957, p. 695.

35 M. Caprara, “Nonno e gli Ebrei”, p. 195-215, SIFC 92, 1999, p. 207-214, with a discussion on the coeval debate in patristic literature. The question of bloody sacrifices is discussed in P. Chuvin, Chronique des derniers païens. La disparition du paganisme dans l’Empire romain, du règne du Constantin à celui de Justinien, Paris, 1990, p. 237-244.

36 See, further, O. Michel, RAC VIII, 1972, p.411-412 s.v. Freude.

37 D. Gigli Piccardi, Nonno di Panopoli, Le Dionisiache, vol. I (Canti I-XII), op. cit., p. 108-109, 116 f.

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Konstantinos Spanoudakis, « Αἰῶνος λιταί (Nonn. Dion. 7.1-109) », Aitia [En ligne], 2 | 2012, mis en ligne le 11 juillet 2012, consulté le 28 juillet 2014. URL : http://aitia.revues.org/505 ; DOI : 10.4000/aitia.505

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Konstantinos Spanoudakis

University of Crete

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