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‘Her Unhallowed Marriage Bed’
The Aeneid of Virgil, Book 1, Part 21
Aeneas in a fatherly way
Sent Achates for Ascanius his son
To come with precious gifts
Snatched from the ruins of Troy
A gossamer robe stiff with golden wire
An upper vest once Helen's rich attire
From Argos by the adulteress brought
With golden flowers and foliage wrought
Her mother’s gift when she came
To ruin Troy light the war flame
The scepter Priam's eldest daughter bore
Her necklace and the crown she wore
Of double texture, glorious to behold
One set with gems and one with gold
The wise Achates goes
In his diligence his duty he knows
End 21
Notes
It may seem, and at first thought it felt, frivolous to cut out this litany of treasures for discussion. For the reader and the writer are investigating the morality, actionism and fate of our extreme cultural ancestors. This break in the text was made originally to separate the following supernatural interlude from the sober business of migratory peace-making.
Then it occurred, when reshaping the text, that the possible cause behind the masculine obsession with the glittering attire of great ladies, queens and princesses may have a nomadic origin.
They number five and are:
-1. A robe worn by a captive princess
Helen has variously been described as a captive or a whore, ancients debating whether she was sexually taken by Paris before or after her abduction and even if it was an abduction. Based on the account that she was reunited with her husband Menaleus, and gave good council to the exiled son of Odysseus, this reader is inclined to agree with the author of her apologies, that she was taken, as indicated and she arrives in Troy with only the clothes on her back.
-2. A vest worn by a captive princess
-3. A scepter held by the host princess
-4. A necklace worn by the host princess
-5. A crown worn by the host princess
Helen in exile arrives with the clothes on her back, as a prize. Her sister-in-law, daughter of the king, actually holds and wears the two symbols of power. Aside from the utility of parading beautiful young women of the power structure in finery—all of it implicitly mobile—the idea of a princess wielding the implements of state argues for a nomadic origin for this cultural diaspora. Just as heathen chieftains would wear bands of silver and gold wrapped about their arm to apportion as mobile wealth, the use of high status women as walking treasuries and symbols of power and alliance appears most practical in a nomadic light.
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