I’ve been up for a large portion of this calendar day–I didn’t sleep very well or very much, and before I got out of bed this morning (literally), I wrote my poem for Polydeukion for the day, which I’ll say more about below (and will actually give below as well!). You can read about Polydeukion in general from last year here.
As much as I like many of the photos I’ve used over and over again in the last year’s worth of Polydeukion-related posts, I thought I’d start this entry today with one I don’t think I’ve used before, that gives as close as we have to a full-figure depiction of him (outside the relief sculpture). But, of course, since we’re so spoiled with options for Polydeukion, I would like to give several further ones as well during the course of the present entry. So, be prepared!
The photo shown here is a detail of a statue found in Athens at one of Herodes Attikos’ installations, which many have said depicts Antinous in his typical Egyptian guise–but I think it is fairly obvious that the face is entirely wrong for Antinous, and that it is fairly likely that this is Polydeukion (or, perhaps, Achilles). We can see just how influenced by Hadrian’s template for the cultus of Antinous Herodes’ hero-cultus to Polydeukion was, therefore.
I mentioned in my entry this year on Achilles how Polydeukion and his relationship to Dionysos (as a devotee, in the one inscription by Polydeukion that survives) is rather essential to the Serpent Path, and how it proved true for Memnon’s connection to Apollon (via Artemis) and Achilles’ connection to Hermes. The Dionysian connections and character of Polydeukion are what I explore in my poem below. Again, it is conjectural–we have no idea of the manner of death of Polydeukion, only that he did die. I incorporated the other deities that are mentioned in inscriptions to him that survive (Nemesis and Poseidon), as well as incorporating both the Orphic and Eleusinian Mysteries into the picture–Herodes, as a prominent Athenian, was very tied to Eleusis, and the relief (shown below) is said to connect to Orphic Mystery practices as well. So, I hope you like that one!
Polydeukion, Lover of Dionysos
Roman knight, descendant of the Dioskouroi,
Spartan citizen, survivor of the krypteia
who ranged across the mountains of Arcadia
and into the precincts of Athena’s city;
on horseback indomitable, and in oratory
unmatched among his peers, in philosophy
as keen and as deep as equally
as any bearded declaimer four times his age;
when you went to Eleusis, you were the first
of the ephebes to reach the bridge,
the first to laugh at himself when he heard
the insults of the waiting women;
when he passed through the fires in success,
the shout of “Iakkhos!” was loudest
when it sounded in his mouth from his throat–
a true child of Deo’s Daughter;
and where Dionysos was concerned,
no one, be they man or woman, was more pious
when honoring him, when drinking his bounty–
a male maenad was he, dancing with serpents;
he danced before the hero-shrine of Antinous,
the god of the dance, the god who appeared,
the new god Dionysos borne out of Egypt
under the reign of Hadrian, the New Dionysos;
and though he honored Nemesis, mother of Polydeukes
and his well-favored brother, saviors of sailors,
it did not avert the ill fate that came to him
on the shores of Corinth, Poseidon’s city;
Herodes had felt his accomplishments were naught
because he never cut the isthmus at Corinth,
though he wished it all the more when the current
took Vibullius Polydeukion to Poseidon’s company;
therefore, sing today of the hero taken,
the boy torn apart by Poseidon, like Palaimon–
kinsman of Dionysos–and Zagreus’ lover,
child of Gaia and of starry Ouranos.
Praise to Polydeukion! Praise to Dionysos, Nemesis, and Poseidon! Praise to Antinous! Praise to all the Trophimoi!