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Semblances of Pandora: Imitation and Identity Author(s): Jean-Pierre Vernant and Froma Zeitlin Source: Critical Inquiry, Vol.

37, No. 3 (Spring 2011), pp. 404-418 Published by: The University of Chicago Press Stable URL: . Accessed: 02/09/2011 22:25
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Semblances of Pandora: Imitation and Identity

Jean-Pierre Vernant
Translated by Froma Zeitlin

Who is Pandora? A being fashioned out of clay moistened with water by Hephaistos at the request of Zeus and, in accordance with his instructions, designed to be offered to humans as a giftas a counterpart to re, which Prometheus had stolen and given to them. As long as the gods and humans still mingled with one another, there was no need for women; the world did not yet include them. It is in fact from this Pandora, devised by Zeus at the time of his quarrel with Prometheus, that the entire race of women descends. What then does the articiality of this rst human female creature signify? What does it mean that she was fabricated like a statue or a mannequin instead of either being born from the earth or having emerged, when her turn came, in the line of descent from Gaia? In the account of the genealogical development that is narrated in the Theogony, Pandora constitutes an exception. She is regarded as a supplement. No other being was created as she was by a technical procedureand on the initiative of Zeus. This innovation does not only concern, by way of Pandora, the entire tribe of women, whose nature she will stamp as secondary,
This essay was originally published as Les Semblances de Pandora, in Le Metier du mythe: Lectures dHesiode, ed. F. Blaise, P. Judet de La Combe, and P. Rousseau (Villeneuve dAscq, 1996), pp. 38193. Although Vernant was not present at the conference in 1989 that gave rise to this volume, he was asked to contribute his remarks after the fact. In particular, he responds to two texts, one by Daniel Saintillan, Du festin a lechange: Les Graces de Pandore (hereafter ` abbreviated F), and the other by Pierre Judet de la Combe, La Derniere Ruse: Pandore dans ` la Theogonie, both published in that volume, pp. 315 48 and pp. 263300, respectively. This version is the one reprinted (without its preamble) in Entre mythe et politique (Paris, 1996), pp. 396 413. Many thanks to Richard Neer for his persistence in publishing this piece in memory of Jean-Pierre Vernant.
Critical Inquiry 37 (Spring 2011) English translation 2011 by The University of Chicago. 0093-1896/11/3703-0010$10.00. All rights reserved.


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supplementary, and false, in contrast to males. Rather, she institutes the status of the human creature in general. Once the feminine race was created, all humans, whatever their sex, experienced a new form of coming into the world. Henceforth, to be born implies that, by means of his seed, a male has deposited in a womans belly (as a sculptor impresses a mark in the clay) the form that characterizes him and that he himself derives from his parents. From the moment that woman is produced, humans must reproduce in order to exist. They are no longer simply there; no longer, like the gods, do they enjoy a self-sufcient existence as before. For such a creature, whose access to existence, instead of being direct, operates necessarily by means of reproduction, to come into the world and to leave the world are linked as two inseparable faces of the same mortal life. The gure or form of such creatures, who are born and liable to perish (the way in which their appearing is made evident to the eyes of all in the light of the sun), does not belong to them exclusively; it is inherited, dependent on the ones who preceded them and from whom they are born. Neither can that form be preserved in the passage of time in the same individual as something stable and identical to itself, as is the case with the gods. In order not to disappear, it must be transmitted by means of a woman to a descendant who, when the time comes to succeed his genitor, will reactualize that gure in himself. When children are born, their identity does not depend on the singularity of their individual natures. Rather it is dened by their common resemblance to their fathers. For Hesiod, the sons to whom wives give birth resemble their fathers (see Works and Days, l. 235). To imagine that this similarity comes to an end, to imagine that a father no longer
The late J E A N - P I E R R E V E R N A N T (1914 2007) held the chair of the Comparative Study of Religion at the College de France. His work ranged across the entire eld of ` ancient Greek religion, philosophy, art, politics, and literature, joining exact philological scholarship to exciting and innovative theoretical paradigms. Acknowledged as one of the most formidable and inuential Hellenists of the twentieth century, he radically revised our traditional notions of ancient Greece in a prolic body of work, especially with regard to its categories of thought, cultural outlook, and social structures. The majority of his books are available in English translation. F R O M A Z E I T L I N is Ewing Professor of Greek Language and Literature and Professor of Comparative Literature, Emerita, Princeton University. She has written extensively about Greek literature, from the epic to the novel, ranging from the archaic age to the Greco-Roman period, with a special focus on myth, religion, visuality, and gender. She is particularly known for her work on Greek tragedy.


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resembles, is no longer like (homoios) his sons or sons their father (Works and Days, l. 182) means to open up the perspective of a topsy-turvy world, where all rules and all norms are abolished and where there is nothing left for Zeus to do but to destroy the human species. On this point, Aristotle does not see matters any differently. Parents love their children, he says, because they recognize themselves in their offspring; by the fact of their birth, ones offspring are in some sense a second self, but they are other, too, because of their separate existence. . . . Brothers too love one another because they derive their origin from the same beings: the identity of their relations to that source identies them with one another, which is why we speak of being of the same blood or of the same stock or the like. Brothers are therefore in a way the same being, though embodied in separate persons (Nichomachean Ethics 1161 b 2730). Transmitted by a father to his children and constitutive of their identity, this likeness, this semblance does not derive from the simulation of external appearance. It is not a counterfeit artice in the manner that Plato argues mimetic operations are. Rather, the term expresses the notion of an actualization, an incarnation, of the same form in each of the offspring. It has the value of a norm, making them all, in a single stroke, by reason of their similarity to their father, like one another, and each one like itself. To better grasp the implications, both proximate and remote, of this type of resemblance or likeness (homoios, ikelos, and, more generally, the vocabulary attached to eoika), let us examine in more detail the articiality of this gure of Pandora in following the analyses of Pierre Judet de la Combe and Daniel Saintillan. In the Theogony (ll. 51314), the story that Hesiod is about to tell can be summarized as follows. Epimetheus was the rst to receive as a wife [gunaika] the virgin made by Zeus [plastn parthenon]. In lines 57172, the text species further: Hephaistos modeled out of earth [sumplasse], a creature resembling a chaste maiden [partheni aidoii ikelon]. The same formula recurs in Works and Days (ll. 7071): Hephaistos models out of clay a being resembling a chaste maiden ek gais plasse . . . partheni aidoii ikelon. But in lines 60 and following, the instructions Zeus gives for creating this lovable evil, the one he is going to offer men in time to come to their greatest sorrow, are a little different. He commands Hephaistos to mix water and earth (gaian hudei phurein), to bestow upon it the voice and strength (audn kai sthenos) of a human, and to craft from it the beautiful desirable form of a maiden (partheniks kalon eido sepraton), who in her countenance (the face you see when you gaze upon her) resembles an immortal goddess (athanatis theis de eis pa eiskein). Pandora is fashioned to resemble a human maiden who does not yet

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exist and whose exact prototype she will be. Her manufacture, her mise en oeuvre, combines different elements; the process also is subject to several delays. The feminine form must rst be incarnated in a youthful body, which establishes the model of a parthenos by likening her to it. In her appearance the parthenos created by Zeus in Theogony (l. 513) is presented in the likeness of a parthenos (Theogony, l. 571; Works and Days, l. 70). The identity of Pandora, the rst gure of a young maiden among humans, is established by and through her resemblance to what she must be in order to be herself. But this is not sufcient. To stop here would make Pandora equivalent to an eidolon: a double, wholly resembling a real being, but one that is empty, inconstant, ungraspable, and lacking in presence even as are the ghosts of the dead, in exile in the world beyond. The parthenos who is actualized in Pandora, however, must be endowed with a full, total presence in this world, in the light of the sun. Zeus therefore advises Hephaistos to animate the gure he has fashioned, to put in it the voice and force of a human being (anthrpou audn kai sthenos; Works and Days, l. 61). Hermes takes over and implants an impudent mind (kuneon noon), a deceitful character (epiklopon thos; Works and Days, l. 67), and a voice (phonn; Works and Days, l. 79). Constructed as a human being inside, Pandora is alive. She thinks, she moves, she utters sounds. She is not the double of a living human being; she is that being itself as woman. When she comes into the world, this woman, the origin of all women, is a parthenos, every bit a maiden in the ower of her age. Her gurewhat one sees of her, her appearanceis beautiful and desirable. All the positive qualities, all the vital values that clothe a human body with beauty in this world nd their source and model elsewhere, among the gods. For creatures born to perish, subject to old age as to death, these features are not original to them but are derivative and borrowed. Their brilliance only shines on humans as a weak, obscured, and ephemeral reection of that splendor that permanently illuminates the immortals. Beautiful and desirable, Pandora was modeled, in her gure itself of a parthenos, in the image of the immortal goddesses. This resemblance, for those who gaze at her, whether immortal gods or mortal men (Theogony, l. 588), makes her a thauma, a marvel, whose force of attraction stuns the spectator. It is always this term, thauma, observes Daniel Saintillan, which is used by the Greeks to express the way in which charis is seen and how it can be recognized (F, p. 337). Pandora is suffused with charis, with grace. Through the effect of charis that irradiates her person, one cannot look at her without being seized at once by a stupeed admiration and a rush of erotic desire.


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But the charis of Pandora is no more inherent in her or consubstantial with her than was the gift of life. Life was introduced into her from the outside, endowed with strength, mind, temperament, and voice. Over her person, over the surface of her body, charis is shed by Aphrodite, poured from the outside (Works and Days, l. 65). What is at stake here is indeed a particle of divine life, but because she received it from the outside Pandora does not possess it as something she would dispense, originally and by herself but as something of which she is only the vehicle (F, p. 338). Does this secondary, derived attribute of feminine charm, which in order to be revealed must pass through a resemblance to the goddesses does this charm arise exclusively from the articial nature of Pandora, who was fabricated like a work of art, an agalma, a precious object made, like her, to be admired and offered as a gift and when put into circulation to forge alliances? Let us say rather that the introduction of Pandora and, more generally, of the female sex into the midst of males sanctions and seals a form of existence and a way of appearing that all humans share with the parthenos. It is not only over Pandora, Saintillan remarks, that charis is poured from the outside as a reection of that authentic life, which fully shines among the gods. According to epic poetry, when mortals, men or women, are resplendent with charm and beauty it is always through the favor of a divinity who, by shedding charis over them, just as Aphrodite pours it over Pandora (the same words are used), makes them appear at the end of the process like to the gods. The most telling text in this regard is, to be sure, the one from book 6 of the Odyssey. On the shores of Phaeacia, which he has nally reachednot without difcultyOdysseus, unrecognizable, disgured from having spent days immersed in seawater, presents himself rst to the eyes of Nausicaa and her serving maids as a horrible, even monstrous creature, compared to a wild mountain lion. In order to become himself again, in order for his gure to be restored to the plenitude of its values, it is not enough that, having bathed in the rivers current, he has puried his body, head, and face of the impurities that soil his skin. It is not enough that, having rubbed himself with oil, he has concealed his nudity in the beautiful clothing left there beside him. Restoration of his identity requires that a god put a little of its own divinity into him, bestowing upon him a surplus of that grace, that vigor, that beauty that are the gods prerogative. Odysseus now is neat and clean. But in order to present himself as resembling what he is, in order that his appearance conform to his heroic status as a man of valor, Athena must give him a helping hand:

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And here Athena, daughter of great Zeus, making him seem taller for the eye to behold, and fuller, on his head arranged the curling locks that hung down like hyacinth petals. And as when a master craftsman, taught by Hephaistos and Athena in art complete, pours gold over silver [pericheuetai], a masterpiece of grace [charienta erga], so did Athena pour [katecheuei] grace on the head and chest of Odysseus. He was radiant with grace and beauty when he returned to sit by himself on the seashore. [Odyssey, 6.229 36] Upon witnessing this metamorphosis, which transgured Odysseus, ugly when he rst emerged from sleep, and then radiant with grace and beauty, Nausicaa whispered the following in condence to her maidservants: A while ago, he looked aeikelios [unseemly, incongruous] to me. Now theoisi eoike, he even resembles one of the gods, who occupy high heaven (Odyssey, 6.242 43). At rst a gure of nonsimilitude, of unseemliness, a condition that casts someone outside of humanity and reduces him to being a nobody, a nonperson. At the end, a resemblance to the gods that conrms his noble identity in the eyes of all, by making him shine with more than human brilliance. This same work of repair needed to give Odysseus back a likeness of himself, so as to revive an appearance that conforms to his heroic nature, is repeated at several junctures in the poem. The scenario is identical, the terms are the same. In book 8 (ll. 18ff.), before the Phaeacians who are assembled to admire the newcomer, Athena pours over the head and shoulders of the son of Laertes a grace which emanates from the gods (thespesin katecheue charin) and makes him seem taller for the eye to behold, and fuller, so that he might inspire in them both the fear and respect due to his person. In book 16, on the threshold of the lodging where Telemachus resides, Athena, with one tap of her golden wand, restores to the hero, along with ne clothing, his handsome youthfulness and allure. When the hero, coming out of the house, reappears before his son, Telemachus averts his eyes, now full of anxiety and fright, fearing he is seeing a god. Suddenly you have changed, he exclaims, from what you were before. . . . For just now you were an old man in unseemly clothing, but now you resemble one of the gods who occupy wide heaven (Odyssey, 18.181, 199 200). The restoration of Odysseuss gure before Penelope in book 23 (Odyssey, 23.156 63) repeats word for word the formulas used in the episode of his encounter with Nausicaa. Odysseus is home. Eurynome bathes him, rubs him with oil, and dresses him. Athena spreads beauty over his head. She does what the artist does, instructed by Hephaistos and herself, when he pours gold over silver in order to achieve his charieuta


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erga, his masterpieces of grace. In the same way, Athena pours charis over the head and shoulders of Odysseus. When he emerges from the bath, his appearance resembles the gods (athanatoisi homoios; Odyssey, 23.154). Moreover, Odysseus is not the only one concerned. In book 18 (ll. 190 95), it is Penelope over whom Athena spreads her immortal gifts (ambrota dra) in order that she might charm the eyes of the Achaeans, her suitors. While making her appear taller and stronger, the goddess bathes Penelopes beautiful face with that essence of divine beauty used by Aphrodite in person whenever she joins the lovely dance of the Graces, the Charites (Charitn choron himeroenta). Old Laertes too experiences a rejuvenation of his gure, thanks to Athena. His old Sicilian serving woman leads him from the bath, rubs him with oil, and dresses him. Standing close by him, Athena pours over him a renewal of his vigor. She makes him stronger and taller in his appearance. Seeing him now face to face, like to the immortal gods (athanatoisi theois enaligkion), his son is astonished (thaumaze) (Odyssey, 24.36575). What do these texts teach us? They conrm, of course, the exact parallels between the action accomplished by Aphrodite when she sheds grace over Pandora in order that, fashioned to resemble the goddesses, she correspond to her identity as a parthenos, an object of astonishment and desire, and what Athena does, pouring grace, strength, and beauty over different persons, so that, by their similarity to the immortal gods, they might recover the integrity of a gure that corresponds to what they are in order that their appearance might give evidence in the eyes of all of the supremacy of their rank, their preeminent value, their glory, and the honors due them. There is more. The grace and beauty, shed by a god over human beings to restore fully their gures, are likened explicitly to those whose glamor the skilled artisan succeeds in capturing in his charienta erga, the products of all his masterful know-how (techn pantoi). Saintillan is therefore justied in saying that the charis of mortal life bears the same relation to that of immortal life as does the charis of a fabricated object (that thing which is like a living being without being alive) in relation to the quality that is in the living person himself (or herself) (F, p. 341). The interest of this episode about Pandora arises from the story of the parthenos, who is situated in a mediate position between a living human being and an object fabricated in the likeness of a living being. That position emphasizes the continuities, passages, and reversals from one pole to the other. In effect, she can be considered either as a living maiden, the rst one, but one created in the manner of an agalma, a fabricated precious object. Or one can regard her as an agalma, one of the masterpieces of grace

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achieved by the art of the demiurge, but an agalma too into which life has been breathed. As a living creature, she is the ancestor of all women; as a fabricated object, she is close to the golden servants in the workshop of Hephaistos who ank the limping god and support his unsteady gait. Constructed out of brilliant precious metal that never changes, these golden girls are like to living young girls (zoisi nenisi eoikuiai), a formula normally applied to works of art. Pandora, for her part, is not dened in this way. She is altogether like a parthenos, that is, herself. Still, the resemblance of golden servants to living beings goes beyond a simple imitation of external aspect. Like Pandora, they too are endowed with noos, sthenos, and aud in their minds (phrenes) (Iliad, 18.417). The two maidservants too are therefore treasures of Hephaistoss art, two perfected automata, and the equivalent of Pandora among the gods. Gold, with its imperishable gleam, as bets creatures made to mingle with the immortals in heaven, substitutes for the clay mixed with water from which emerges the rst parthenos, destined to undergo decline, old age, and death. We must go still further. We must ask whether for archaic Greek thought, human artistry (weaving, goldsmithing, sculpture, pottery) does not strive to follow the path indicated by the divine know-how of Athena and Hephaistos. The issue would be to succeed in closing up the distance between the appearance of a living being and the appearance of an object fabricated in the likeness of a living being. The nal aim, the ideal to attain, would be to animate inert matter, to make it come alive in the eyes of spectators, as if by conferring on it the gleam of charis one were to breathe strength into it, movement, and voice. One might be all the more tempted to suppose that charis, this radiant power of life, is not only something shed over Pandora by Aphrodite. Charis emanates from the nery that heightens the brilliance of her beauty from the rich vestments that, by enveloping her, put a covering over her skin. The white dress, the belt, the intricately embroidered veil, golden necklaces, and the carved crown that Pandora wears are an integral part of her person. They are extensions of her body, and they work in the same way as she or what can be seen of her doesnamely, to shape her gure as a beautiful and charming parthenos, made in the goddesses image. This panoply of fabricated objects enters into the composition of an appearance and are as marvelous to contemplate as is the charm of those charienta erga worked by Hephaistos and Athena. In order to reinforce the effect, these objects are intimately associated with the essence poured directly by Aphrodite over the girls head. Let us look again at the passage in the Theogony, which directly follows the one that relates the modeling of that creature, the one who resembles


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a chaste maiden. Straightaway Athena ties on her belt, dresses her in a white robe, and spreads an embroidered veil down from her head (kaluptrn daidalen), a wonder to behold (thauma idesthai; Theogony, l. 575). Upon her head she places a crown of gold wrought by Hephaistos. On it are many intricate carvings (daidala polla), a wonder to behold (thauma idesthai; Theogony, l. 583). The god has carved a great number of creatures reared by land and sea, wonderful things (thaumasia), resembling living beings with voices (zoisi eoikota phonesin). And from this object, in its brilliance of gold, the glitter of its carvings, and the animation of its animal decorations, an innite charis shines resplendent (charis dapelampeto poll; Theogony, l. 583). The thauma, the wonder, elicited from the mixed company of gods and men when this rst adolescent appears, decked out from top to toe, suggests that no neat line can be traced between the charis that emanates from the girls body and the charis that blazes on the masterpieces of art she wears. In both cases the quality of radiance that evokes wonder is the same vital brilliance of a beauty that reects a little bit of divine splendor. When a human being is deprived of all charis, he or she no longer resembles anyone; that person is aeikelios (unseemly). When he (or she) glows with it, he (or she) is like the gods (theoisi eoike). The likeness to oneself, which constitutes the identity of each and every one and which is displayed in ones appearance before the eyes of all, is therefore not a constant among mortals, xed once and for all. Rather, it is situated between two opposite poles, between a resemblance to nothing and a resemblance to the gods, and it occupies variable positions according to the level of prestige and celebrity one is enjoying and the fear and respect one is inspiring. In order to convince his son, Telemachusstunned at having seen right under his nose the transformation of a pathetic ragged old fellow into a glorious herothat he is dealing with the very same man, Odysseus declares: It is easy for the gods to glorify any mortal man or to degrade him (kudnai thnton broton de kaksai; Odyssey, 16. 212). Kudos, splendor and glory, on the one hand; and on the other, kakotes, ugliness and baseness. Because they make others see who you are, grace and corporeal beauty give the measure of your time (tim), of your dignity or your infamy. What the gods can easily bring about, men sometimes try to do, in the worst sense, by seeking through an attack upon a corpse to destroy any resemblance of a hated enemy to himself. By mutilating his body, disguring it, tearing off the skin, and dismembering it, and by leaving it to putrefy in the sun or be devoured by wild beasts, the intention is to make every trace of his former gure and beauty disappear. All that remains of him is horror and monstrosity. To maltreatto make

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ugly and dishonor at the same timeis specied by the terms, aeikizein, to make aeikes or aeikelios, that is, unseemly [non semblable]. For a young warrior, even though dead, even though rent by a bronze spear, everything one can see of him, everything about his appearance is comely (panta kala). Everything is seemly, pantepeoiken, says old Priam (Iliad, 22.70 72). The idea that beauty is the attribute on the combatants body in the ower of his age is not difcult to understand. This is what is called a ne or beautiful death (kalos thanatos). But the phrase pantepeoiken, repeated in the same context by the later seventh-century poet Tyrtaeus, is only comprehensible by reference to its contraryepieiks versus aeiks. Once the corpse is bathed, rubbed with oil, and displayed on his ceremonial funerary bier, everything effectively conspires to maintain and even x forever for future generations the likeness of the hero to his previous self, in the image of the gods, as though his exploit had enhanced his beauty. As for the act of outrage, in order to dene its meaning and import, let us listen to Poseidon when he waxes indignant at the treatment Achilles metes out to Hectors corpse. In his fury to dehumanize the body of his enemy, to efface every resemblance to Hectors former self his splendor, his gure, and his beautythe son of Peleus reaches the point nally of abusing a clod of mute earth (kophn gaian; Iliad, 24.54). The ultimate conclusion of this state of nonlikeness, of nonseemliness, which is the aim of aeikia, is this clod of earth without a voice. This is the same clod from which Pandora emerged at the hands of Hephaistos, who conferred on her an identity in the likeness of a parthenos, in the image of the immortal goddesses. To be sure, deterioration of the form and identity of a human being does not always go so far as to turn the person into a formless lump, as did Achilless attempt to wreak revenge on Hectors corpse. But the process consists nonetheless of making that person unseemly [non semblable] in his appearance. With Odysseuss return to Ithaca, Athena reveals her plans to him. In order that the heros identity remain unknown, even to his intimates, he must become unrecognizable. The goddess is therefore obliged to disgure him from head to toe, to transform him into an old miserable beggar, as pitiful in his appearance as the rags that cover him. I am going to shrivel the skin that was on your supple limbs, she says, strip the russet hair from your head, and deck you out in rags youd hate to see some other mortal wear; I will dim those eyes that had been so bright, so that you seem to all those suitors to be of an ugly unseemliness [aeikelios] (Odyssey, 13.398 402, 430 38). Previously, in order to enter Troy incognito and succeed in his spying


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mission, Odysseus had not so long ago performed a similar procedure on his own person: Scarring his own body with disguring blows [plgsin aeikelisi], throwing lthy rags on his back like any slave [oiki eoiks], he crept into the citys broad streets. Disguising himself, he made himself like another [alli dauton phti katakruptn iske], like a beggar, one who was not what he was by the ships of the Achaeans. Looking like this beggar [ti ikelos], he crept into the Trojans city. All were taken in. [Odyssey, 4.24425] Everyone, that is, except Helen, who, as the only one who recognized him in his disguise, reports his fathers exploit to Telemachus at Sparta with admiration. Whether worked by Athena or by the hero himself, this metamorphosis of Odysseus into an old beggar, into a pitiful slave, goes beyond a simple modication of external appearance. It does not consist in concealing him, the person he is in reality. It does not consist in hiding him under a false appearance. It would be just as easy to remove the disguise, the makeup, and the mask as it was to put them on. Odysseus must incorporate an appearance that is wholly other than his own. He must provisionally turn into a slave or beggar from head to toe by degrading his own form to the point that his resemblance to himself is effaced. Through the emanation of charis, that quality of self-likeness immediately reveals to everyones gaze what you are and what you are worth, even in your presence. Of course, Odysseus does not disappear altogether in the provisional nonresemblance that Athena confers on him or that he imposes on himself. But in order to recover his full identity (if not lost, then at least eclipsed in its radiance), in order to become again that Odysseus of Ithaca whose glory ascends to heaven, his gure must be restored in the integrity of its brilliance once he has returned home to reclaim his place and rank among his own and on his land. In other words, Odysseus must retrace in reverse the path he had been compelled to follow towards the status of aeikelios so that his appearance may improve as much as it had earlier deteriorated. He must change back from someone who resembled a nothing or a quasinothing in his role as a beggar or slaveat any rate, from a creature who was nothing like what Odysseus was among his peers when close to the Achaean ships. He must appear again just as he was, like to the gods. As long as appearance constitutes the normal path of access to that being, whose direct manifestation he isin other words, as long as the worlds of Being and Appearances are not yet thought of as two disjoined and opposite spheresno individuals identity can be entirely

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independent of or separated from his reputation, social status, and public evaluationin a word, from the gaze trained on him by others. In this context, imitation (mimesis) essentially plays on the relation between two terms: the one who shows himself, puts himself on display, and the one who sees, who observesthe actor who mimes, the spectators who look at him. It is only with Plato that a third term comes to occupy a central role in any reection on the nature of mimetic activities. As a result, the entire eld of mimesis is modied. Henceforth, mimeisthai refers less to the pair consisting of an actor and a spectator than to the problematic relation between the image, a product of imitation, and the model who is imitated. How and in what sense can the image be said to be like the model? And if, through the effect of this semblance (likeness), the image aims to pass for the thing itself that it imitates, how could it be anything else but a deceitful fauxsemblant that is the result of pure artice? Pierre Judet de la Combe and Daniel Saintillan have both observed that in the episode of Pandora (Hesiod), as in ancient epic (Homer), likeness marks less the mimetic dependence of a double with regard to an original, than, more generally, how one being is viewed in relation to an other.1 Saintillan, for his part, asks whether Pandoras status as a plaste gune (molded woman) means that she herself is of an order of articial reality, a false maiden, who can be likened to a trap, a simulacrum? Not at all, Saintillan replies, but to demonstrate this conclusion would require an extensive analysis of the ways in which the bards of Homers time in general represent the process of manifestation, of display (in relation always to a certain representation of life) (F, p. 343). But let us leave Pandora and epic texts and turn to another text in the Hesiodic corpus. Using an example of description (ekphrasis) of one of the masterpieces fabricated by Hephaistos, let us examine it to see whether we nd there a type of resemblance like the one that the modeling of the rst human female creature seems to have imposed on us. Max Treu has drawn our attention to the numerous formulas designating resemblance that are contained in pseudo-Hesiods Shield (Aspis) in the description of the scenes represented on Heracless shield.2 Treu sees there the rst textual evidence for the expression of a consciousness of the illusionist nature of imagery, due perhaps to the inuence of painting. For the history of resemblance, imitation, and image, this text is important. But one cannot
1. Judet de la Combe, La Derniere Ruse, p. 297. ` 2. See Max Treu, Von Homer zur Lyrik (Munich, 1955).


Jean-Pierre Vernant / Semblances of Pandora

agree with his claim that it represents a turning point. The Shield (Aspis) ts into the line of Hesiods texts we have already mentioned without any signicant rupture. It operates in the same register of likeness that seemed to us to characterize the episode of the modeling of Pandora and the fabrication of her ornamented diadem. Several points should be emphasized in this regard. 1. The long description of the many scenes represented by Hephaistos on the shield opens and closes on the formula that situates the work in the order of thauma idesthai (Shield of Heracles, l. 140, at the beginning; repeated in l. 224), thauma idein (l. 318, at the end), thaumata erga (l. 165), just like Pandora, her embroidered veil, and her sculpted diadem in the Theogony (ll. 575, 581, 584, 588). 2. At no time does the author use the word eidlon(image or double), nor, of course, eikn (a later term for image), nor any term related to mimeisthai. 3. The scenes are not described as images offered to the eyes of a readerspectator. In Mazons French translation, he systematically writes there was seen [la se voyait] where the Greek text merely says there was [la ` ` tait]. To limit myself to the rst represented scene, Mazon translates: in e the middle was seen (se voyait) a serpent, the image of unspeakable terror. But the text says: in the middle was (etait) the unspeakable terror of a serpent, looking behind him with eyes blazing with ames (ll. 144 45). The vocabulary of vision does not concern so much the eye of the spectator as those of the characters represented. They are the ones who look, either sidelong or behind. They are the ones who observe one another, and it is their eyes that ash, eyes that gaze savagely, provoking terror, shooting forth ames (ll. 145, 160, 169, 177, 236, 262). 4. If traced out, the boundary between reality and the effect of the real, aimed at by the text or the image, remains sufciently uid throughout, so that the thauma, the wonder, aroused by the artists talent, should appear at the same time to be linked with the wondrous nature of the object represented. In lines 216 37, Perseus is represented, pursued by the Gorgons. Running as fast as he can, like one who makes haste and shivers in terror, Perseus ies like thought (hs te nom epoptato; l. 222). His feet did not touch the shield and yet were not far from ita great wonder to observe (thauma mega phrassasthai), since he was not supported anywhere; for thus did the famous Lame One fashion him of gold with his skillful hands (ll. 21720). The marvel wrought by the art of Hephaistos consists in inscribing on the surface of the shield the gure of a character whose feet do not touch this surface; as a result, they hang in the air without resting on anything. This feat is a direct extension of what Perseus

Critical Inquiry / Spring 2011


accomplished in person, when he traversed the world by ying through the air without needing to touch the earth. To resemble the legendary hero, the Perseus of the shield must, like him, achieve a state of levitation. In a similar way, the surface of the shield on which Hephaistos had applied white and blue enamel, ivory, electrum, and ery gold is made to sparkle, to reect the play of light. There, where twelve horrible serpents were represented, these wonderful works [thaumata erga] shone brightly (l. 165). But these luminous ashes expertly produced by Hephaistos take their cue from the spots that, dappling the monsters dark skin with light, appear as shining ecks on the bodies of real serpents (l. 166). Matters were no different in the case of the animal gures carved on Pandoras diadem in the image of living creatures that populate the earth and the sea. The charis polle, the innite charm that radiates from the ornament, directly extends the charis that emanates from Pandoras beautiful maiden body. 5. The ekphrasis is not content with describing just what there is to see in the scenes represented, that is, the external appearance of the realities depicted there. It tells of movements and displacements: the ebb and ow of the ghting lines, the breaking waves, the leaping dolphins, the darting sh, Perseus and the Gorgons in swift ight, the chariot in motion, and rapidly running horses. In this way, the ekphrasis mobilizes and animates the gures it describes. But the text is not content with just making you see what it depicts in action. It also makes you hear it, as if you were dealing with, not a picture of a scene, but the scene itself. We hear the grinding teeth, the snapping jaws of Gorgons and serpents (ll. 160, 164), the shrill cries of the women on the walls (l. 243), the wedding song being raised (l. 274), and the screech of the chariots axle (l. 309). The shield rings under the feet of the Gorgons represented on it, sharp and clear with a loud clanging (ll. 23233), as if real feet were striking it. 6. Thanks to the mention of movements, voices, and sounds, the scenes are described not as inert images on a surface but in the manner of tableaux vivants. Because of the stupeed admiration it evokes, because of its beauty, its brilliance, and its radiance, the imagery of the shield produces an analogous effect to what we experience before the spectacle of life. Techne (artistry), of course, is not nature. But in extending it, in substitut ing itself for it, techne becomes naturalized. The image is not reality, but neither is it not a simple imitative artice; it is not a faux-semblant. If an image is that which it ought to be, that is, a thauma idesthai, it is animated and takes on life. We see it move, we hear it sing aloud, just as a living creature would do (l. 206). Let me remind you, in closing, of the most striking formulas in the text for likeness: Centaurs advance, arms ex-


Jean-Pierre Vernant / Semblances of Pandora

tended, as if they were living beings (hs ei zoi per eontes; l. 194). Women who tear their cheeks and utter shrill cries are like to living beings (z isin ikelai) by means of Hephaistoss art. To represent life, art must in some way animate inert material until it produces a thauma idesthai.