To Miletos

I will sing of the great hero Miletos,
slayer of monsters and founder of glorious cities
far from the red earth of Crete that nursed him.
He was born of golden Apollon the archer God
who sends and drives away plague, and Akakallis the dancer,
who wears daffodil crowns on her lovely head
with hair like the tamarisk tree, daughter of Minos
whose naval fleet made him undisputed ruler of the seas,
and cow-eyed Pasiphaë the Queen, and daughter of the Sun.
Zeus’ offspring visited her one night while Akakallis was sleeping
in the temple of Paiëon the Physician of the Gods, desperate to see
if she could dream up a cure to the scorpion curse
laid upon her father for his unfortunate infidelities;
but instead all that she saw was the Lord of the Tripod disrobing
and all resistance melted away. Nine months later she fled
through the woods carrying Apollon’s newborn son,
terrified of the baying hounds of Minos who pursued her,
when Akakallis spotted some rugged oak beneath which
she could stash the threshing-basket in which her precious child slept,
and then flee in the other direction to draw the murderous hounds away
from her miraculous boy. He might have died of hunger there,
or succumbed to a chill breeze had not a pair of wolves happened by
and taken him in as if he were one of their pups, even going so far
as to nurse the half human, half God with their own milk.
Though he grew up swift and strong among the wolves,
one day he was discovered by some herdsmen
who stole him away, fed him on milk of their cows
and raised Miletos according to the ways of their people.
With manhood came discontent, and a desire to see
what existed off this island he’d spent his whole life on.
Just when it was becoming unbearable Miletos was attacked
as he led his herd to a watering hole by a band of cattle-thieves,
unlucky brigands. Armed only with his walking stick
and a prayer to Apollon Alexikakos upon his lips
(though he did not yet know that it was his own father he petitioned)
Miletos charged his would-be attackers
like some wild, roaring bull causing them to scatter.
But they did not escape him, or his murderous frenzy.
Later, when he showed the pious herdsmen what remained
of the bandits’ corpses they were horrified,
and banished him from their community; self-defense was one thing,
but that level of brutality was utterly inhuman
and had no place among this peaceful, forest-dwelling people.
Miletos left his home in the shade of Mount Dikte
and made the journey to the Pythian oracle on the slopes
of Mount Parnassos, where the Korykian Nymphs hold their dances
and the Thyiades carry torches during their nocturnal revels
in winter when Bakcheios rules Delphoi and Apollon is off
visiting the mysterious people who live beyond the North Wind.
But when Miletos came to see the prophetic maiden
(for this was before the sacred law was changed,
and only venerable matrons were permitted to serve the God
in that capacity) the voice of Apollon sounded from her dove-like throat,
causing the underground chamber to shake and the Holy Ones
who normally interpreted the mantic utterances of the girl
began to shriek and run for cover. Clearly Loxias spoke,
first acknowledging Miletos as his son, and revealing
the man’s true name, for up until that point he’d simply
gone by what the herdsmen called him, Tauros,
on account of his superhuman strength.
Next far-seeing Apollon who expounds the will of Zeus
to mankind told Miletos to go beyond the bounds
of the Greek world, into the country inhabited by
fair-haired Lydians, savage Lykians, numerous tribes
of Thracian and Kimmerian and Persian horsemen, Skythians
who love gold and walk in smoke, and the descendents
of those Amazon women who were chased here from the steppes
by mad-making Dionysos, Savage and Carnivorous,
who would have annihilated them utterly had Artemis
of the crossroads, Mistress of the Ephesian Letters, not intervened.
Go! The God who shows the way proclaimed. Go to this distant country
where you can create a home for your wives and many fine children,
after overcoming numerous obstacles and hardships that would
grind down lesser men. The city you establish will become
the greatest city among the Greeks of Asia, itself going on to found
many far-famed cities and colonies of its own, all of which
will honor you foremost among their civic heroes,
and me for guiding and protecting you during your travels.
Three women will you marry, son of mine, and the last will be
the dark-eyed daughter of the river Maíandros that twists and turns
like Minos’ own labyrinth, and she will bear you a son, Kaunos,
who will lead a massive army uniting the disparate Lykian peoples
into a mighty and terrifying nation, and Byblis a daughter whose beauty
will be beyond compare, but who will shun every suitor that comes her way,
loving only her long-haired brother, who will flee your city
to escape the madness and destruction that lies in her fair arms.
The Moirai have spun this fate out for you already; would that I
could tell you different events will befall your family line
but when I am seated upon the tripod I am incapable of lying,
even to one whom I love dearly, such as yourself. So spoke Apollon,
and so the hero Miletos accepted what his father told him,
and gathered to him a troop of Cretans dissatisfied with the rule of Minos,
and they sailed off into the unknown, eager to make their fortunes
in that strange, far-off place – and Miletos never spoke of the tragic events
which Apollon foretold that day, even as he watched each one come to pass.

7 thoughts on “To Miletos

    1. That’s a really good question, and the answer depends on where certain boundaries are drawn. I begin the writing process by getting into a particular altered state through a combination of prayer, meditation and the consumption of marijuana (and less frequently alcohol or other entheogens.) Then I go through my list and see if I can connect with any of the names on it. If things click then I start writing, which can take anywhere from 30 mins to 4 hours depending on how clearly things are coming through, how well I know them, if I need to do supplementary research, etc. (Though the research – if they aren’t a deity I have prior history with – is usually done before the writing process itself starts, and consists of familiarizing myself with their history and myths, epithets and symbolism, cult practices and regional expressions, as well as their relationships with other divinities and similar details that help me flesh things out.) If I can’t get into the right state, or don’t click with the deity I don’t write because I don’t think things like hymns should be forced, and because the writing itself often has a collaborative element, where I check in and see if what I’ve got works for them or if I need to include different epithets, allusions or even if the structure of the hymn itself needs to be changed. If I can’t feel these things out I either resort to divination or set the piece aside for another time when I can.

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      1. That’s what I do in my writing except for the mind=altering stuff. I get enough with my brain injury and a brain that has no sense of time or space.


    1. That’s precisely what I was aiming for, a variation on the Hellenistic epyllion. Specifically I wanted to focus on the role that Apollon played in Miletos’ life, rather than an extensive account of his fabulous encounters and heroic deeds.

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