Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Hyginus: the fate of Io - the short version.

Gaius Julius Hyginus  64 BC – 17 AD was a freedman and head  the Palatine library. He was an industrious writer, but all of his works are lost.  His work on mythology has been summarized by someone in the second century AD and is now known as the Fabulae, a title probably given by Jacob Mycellus, the first to print work in 1535. The copyist is thought to be a schoolboy, as the Latin shows errors. The text has survived in a single manuscript: many scholars dearly wish that instead of this excerpt some now lost play by one of the Greek tragedians had survived. The original work of Hyginus must have been highly popular as a compendium of mythology, so why did an abstract survive and not the original?  Probably for this simple reason: copying was expensive and copying a mere abstract was cheaper. I guess Hyginus would rather have his mythography not to have survived in this poor abstract.
I am currently reading the Prometheus Vinctus by Aeschylus, in which poor Io is a main character. Io was a nymph turned into a cow by Zeus, in order that his ever jealous wife Hera might not recognize her. Of course she did and by various means she was chasing her all over the world, until Io reached Egypt and got her original beauty back.
The story is brought back to its very bones and many important traits are left unmentioned, like her meeting with the chained Prometheus at mount Caucasus. Io will be the ancestress of Hercules, who will free Prometheus in the far future.
The origin of Io is unclear – as is often the case with Greek mythology, because many pre-Greek gods and goddesses have been assimilated into the Greek Pantheon. Io was connected with the moon and hence her identification with Isis, the Egyptian moon-goddess.

Hyginus, Fabulae, Io

Ex Inacho et Argia Io. Hanc Iuppiter dilectam compressit et in vaccae figuram convertit, ne Iuno eam cognosceret. Id Iuno cum rescivit, Argum, cui undique oculi refulgebant, custodem ei misit; hunc Mercurius Iovis iussu interfecit. At Iuno formidinem ei misit, cuius timore exagitatam coegit eam, ut se in mare praecipitaret, quod mare Ionium est appellatum. Inde in Scythiam tranavit, unde Bosporum fines sunt dictae. Inde in Aegyptum, ubi parit Epaphum. Iovis cum sciret suapte propter opera tot eam aerumnas tulisse, formam suam ei propriam restituit deamque Aegyptiorum eam fecit, quae Isis nuncupatur.

dilectus: loved
comprimo compressi compressum:  to subdue
vacca: cow
rescisco rescivi: to find out
Argus: guardian of Io. He had a100 eyes
undique: from all sides
refulgeo refulsi: to glitter
custos custodis (m. and f.): guard
interficio interfeci interfectum: to kill
formido forminidis (f.):  fear, something bringing fear;  in this case the gadfly sent by Hera
cuius timore exagitatam coegit eam: she (Iuno) forced her, vexed by fear for that (gadfly)
praecipito: to cast down
trano: to swim across
pario peperi partum: to give birth
Epaphus: the father is Zeus
Iovis cum sciret suapte propter opera tot eam aerumnas tulisse: when Zeus (Iovis is here nominative!) got to know that she had suffered that many tribulations because of his very own (sua-pte ) deeds
propius: own
nuncupo : to call (nomen capio)

Io as a heifer & Hermes slaying Argus, Athenian red figure vase C5th B.C., Kunsthistoriche Museum, Vienna

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