Idomeneus is not a character that we have seen much of in this epic, but I guess I can understand how someone may rather focus on a select group of characters rather than going into detail about a few random ones, especially when you have such gems as Diomedes and Odysseus.
Anyway, as I mentioned previously, I’m reading through book 13 which provides is with a lot of Idomeneus action. And it’s good action. But as I was reading through, I came across the descriptor, “grizzly gray,” and for some reason this made me wonder about him as a man. Was he old? Or was he just gray from nine years of an intense stale-mate of a battle? I looked him up, but could really only get snippets here and there about what happens to him, and sadly it doesn’t seem to end well.
Now, Book 3 of the Odyssey will tell us that he returns home after the battle none the worse for wear, but somewhere in the fourth and seventeenth centuries the story changes for some reason. Maurus Servius Honoratus, who was a 4th century Italian grammarian, and Francois Fenelon, a 17th century French archbishop of many trades (including poetry) finish Idomeneus’s story differently. Rather than returning home safely, Idomeneus’s ship is overtaken by a storm. He pleads with Poseidon, vowing to sacrifice the first living thing he lays eyes upon when he returns home to the god. Sadly, the first thing he sees is his own son. He does as he promised the god, and kills his son, but the other gods are angered by this and set a plague upon Crete (his home). He is exiled to Calbria, and then to Colophon where he later dies. In an opera written by Mozart, Poseidon spares Idomeneus’s son on the condition that the son gives up the throne.
Now, not that I was looking terribly hard, but I had a tough time finding anything quickly on Honoratus. I suspect I would probably have to actually sit down for that purpose to and find a book or two on him. On the other hand, there is just a treasure trove of information regarding Fenelon on the internet which I skimmed over to find his relation to this story. The information I found led me to Les aventures de Telemaque (The Adventures of Telemachus), which seems to be a relatively short telling of the travels of Telemachus and his tutor, Mentor. I’ve never read Fenelon’s work, but surely Idomeneus’s story is mentioned in there somewhere. I can’t imagine where else it might be. I would love to read a paper or source of some kind that explains why these two thought to alter the story, especially so long after it had already been written. Just what was the notion that entered each of their minds to expend any amount of authorial thought on this character, little as it may have been.
I can’t exactly say why this became so important to me all of a sudden, only that perhaps it is because, while the poet is willing to give us small glimpses into the lives of the already dead characters, he does exactly the same for the main characters: gives us glimpses. Who these people are interests me and even he internet seemingly infinite in its collection of information can only seem to turn out the same paragraph long entry regarding this man, which seems weird. Even some websites dedicated entirely to Greek mythology only mention him in passing. In an age where today’s stars can’t so much as take a step out their front door without someone tweeting about it and putting it up on a wikipedia page, where are the obsessive fans for history, I wonder?
Well, I’ll be fair, they’re probably worrying themselves with the actual history of the Trojan War.