The Eagle Portent in the Agamemnon an Ornithological Footnote

Classical Quarterly 29 (01):7- (1979)
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Professor Martin West's paper, titled ‘The Parodos of the Agamemnon’’, argues with characteristic learning and insight that Archilochus’’ fable of the fox and the eagle was a major source for Aeschylus’’ description of the portent of the eagles and the pregnant hare in the parodos of the Agamemnon . The portent is vividly described by the chorus: two eagles, one black and one white behind feed upon a pregnant hare. Poetry is not real life, and Aeschylus’’ picture is not a naturalist's field-report. At the same time, an image's power increases in proportion to its precision, and I have no doubt that at some stage behind Aeschylus’’ description there was a personal sighting of a parallel incident by Aeschylus himself perhaps, or by Archilochus, or by an unknown figure who passed on his report. Fraenkel's commentary avers that ‘precise zoological identification of the species of eagle named by Aeschylus must not be attempted.’’ This is a fair warning, but not for the reason advanced by Fraenkel here: the plumage variation among different birds of the same species, which makes the identification of large raptors in the wilds of Greece today a problem for even the most expert ornithologists. There are two better reasons. One will emerge in the course of this note. The other is that no ancient writer using the Greek language came at all near to the modern classification of eagle species native to Greece



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The Parodos of the Agamemnon.M. L. West - 1979 - Classical Quarterly 29 (01):1-.
The Parodos of the Agamemnon.M. L. West - 1979 - Classical Quarterly 29 (1):1-6.
Two Notes.S. Benton - 1960 - Classical Quarterly 10 (1-2):110-.
Two Notes.S. Benton - 1960 - Classical Quarterly 10 (1-2):110-112.

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