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τειχεσιπλήτης – Ares, the ‘wall-approacher’

At Illiad 5.455 the God of War Ares is named by three epithets, βροτολοιγέ “mortal ruin”, μιαιφόνε “the slaughter stained” and τειχεσιπλῆτα “wall approacher”. It is the last of these that interests me, as it comes third, where one might expect the most acute. It is thought to be a simple metonymic phrase meaning something like “sacker of cities”. In the first two we have the miasma of blood which covers the body in war itself, and the notion of war as plague, a destructive force, but there is something to the third which says more. Ares – and the Greek word for excellence areté, is perhaps best seen as etymologically Aresian, the virtue of strength, the capacity to violate boundaries – becomes more evocative when we understand the force as that which comes right up to the wall. Notably, it is not wall destroyer. Ares is that which like a tide comes up-to the wall. The Amazon are considered the daughters of Ares. Ares is not just destruction, or destructive powers, but the nexus of blood-staining sociological forces and a topography of organized boundary, it is the run of blood up-to its limit, it would seem.

 

Related: An Achillean Economy: The Economy of Thymotics and Anger, Sloterdijk

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