Hydna and Scyllis

This poem was inspired by Pausanias’ report of (Description of Greece 10.19.1) Hydna and her father, Scyllis, who volunteered to assist Greek forces by vandalizing the nearby Persian naval fleet (480 BCE).

by Darrin Sunstrum

As dreams unfold and manifest
Their glittering visions before us
I awoke anew into a time before this day
I awoke in the midst of a fateful night whose heroes
were daughter and father

A fearful moonlight danced above the Scione port
now swollen with the vessels of the enemy.
Hydna drew the veil from her head in the darkness
as a cool rain began to dampen her bared skin.
Scyllis crouched, through sheets of rain and wind
he surveyed the anchored jostling fleet below.

The empty beach was a vast trembling expanse
that flared in the fitful moonlight and pallid stars.
Arching across his vision, a sandy bulwark between safety
and danger, his worlds only fortification.

The winds offshore began to quicken and rise,
and before long Hydna and Scyllis
flowed from the headland to the waters dangerous edge.
Called by the noble and heroic spirit of
their own storm swept ancestors

Poseidon raised his briny trident and heaved the waters,
Tritons blast whipped the enemy decks
and the midnight sea began to rise and roll.
As Olympian powers stirred to defend
the lofty realm of Zeus.

A father and daughter slipped into the black waters.
They plumbed the familiar depths this night
not for shell or sponge, but in this time of challenge
their diving required a bitter harvest
from this sea of night.

With knives in their hands they sought
the connecting hawsers and lines.
They would sever these umbilicuses,
they would let the enemy ships be birthed unto the sea.
Deadly midwives of storm and rock

The clouds obscured  Selene’s bright face
as they swam amongst the Xerxian host,
they dove below and as ships began to pull
on anchor lines that were no longer taught
they pitched toward the rocks and disaster at sea.

The knives of Hydna and Scyllis cut loose
the lines of many vessels that trying night.
Cut free to a clashing disaster amid the rocks
of Hellas.

They drew themselves from fateful waters,
as the winds died and the rain ceased.
Their evenings work accomplished,
for now to be taken up again another day,
by the bright sons of Themistocles,
and the wooden walls of Athens.


Episode 23: Homeric Hymn to Apollo Part 3 (Conclusion)


We pick up the pace of our analysis and finish off the Homeric Hymn to Apollo in part 3, covering the second, or Pythian, half of the hymn. Here we learn about Apollo’s connection with Delphi and how he establishes power in a way similar to Zeus.



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Source Passages

Homeric Hymn to Apollo

Translation Sources

Homeric Hymn to Apollo. Translated by Susan C. Shelmerdine. Focus Publishing: 1995.

Selected Sources

William J. Broad. The Oracle: Ancient Delphi and the Science Behind its Lost Secrets. Penguin. 2006.


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This week’s theme music: “Super Hero” by King Louie’s Missing Monuments from the album “Live at WFMU” (2011). Used under Creative Commons license. Music used under Creative Commons license and available from Free Music Archive.

Parallel Worlds: Superheroes, Cosmogony and the Homeric ‘ethos’.

When thinking further on the hero and the worlds they inhabit, I was struck by the fact that for much of our experience of narrative, not only are we naturally expected to integrate with characters and their characterization, but much of what we do as the audience and/or readers of narrative is dependant upon our capacity to understand and recognize setting. Where the story takes place.

Places create stories? What an absurd concept.

Not really – if characters are given this privilege, why not the worlds that they inhabit? For many this may be included in their descriptions of genre but this lies outside of the scope of this exploration of heroes and their parallel lives. We are expected to handle narrative worlds as easily as our own.

MCU / DCEU (Marvel Comics Universe / DC Comics Extended Universe)

As Classicists and Historians we are trained, almost by default, with the capacity to inhabit the ‘mind-scapes’ and environments of the ancient world (Diskin, 2008). The heroes, gods and monsters of the ancient mythological mind-scape become for us a familiar or accustomed place, an ‘ethos’. It is the ‘homeworld’ of the heroic or from the narratological perspective the protagonist’s setting.

Whether we are reading the Archaic and Classical poems of Hesiod, Homer, Pindar or Plutarch we have accepted a construct of mediated reality, a framework that allows us to negotiate meaning. Like any good cosmogony (the birth of a universe), this one being mythical, fantastic and ancient, we populate it with figures; characters. Characters that are archetypal, universal or ideal is some way and name them heroes.

This process is no different from what is occurring in todays ‘heroic narrative’. The medium of popular heroic narrative has changed, but there is much that is familiar. The realm of the MCU (Marvel Comics Universe) and the DCEU (D.C. Extended Universe) are examples that have exploded across our television sets, our movies screens and streaming services. (Netflix / Amazon Prime / ShowMe / Sony Pictures / Hulu…) *Detect a trend here?*

It seems that wherever there exists a medium for communication and entertainment our ‘heroes’ are the pioneers. The pathfinders that are willing, ready and able to rush forth and make their world and our own familiar.

If we were continuing with Classical themes and what is called ‘Divine Myth’ we would almost certainly move into populating our world with the heroes, gods and monsters mentioned earlier. This ‘theogony’ (the birth of gods) places our ‘heroes’ (narrative functions) in a larger universe (cosmos). Like in the epic poems of Archaic Greece, today’s heroes (Superheroes) themselves materialize and coalesce inside a created world.

The modern pop-hero narratives–comic book hero, Superhero, call it what you will– manifest themselves in a created cosmos. Their worlds are like our own but enhanced in certain ways. Their worlds resonate with qualities that connect them with their principle players – the very heroes that live there.

Common examples of these uncanny yet ‘accustomed places’ (ethos) include the ‘gothic’ Gotham city, home to the vigilante hero Batman; the hidden Themiskyra of Wonder Woman; the Metropolis of Superman; the fictive and mythological undersea realm of Atlantis for Aquaman; and The African kingdom of Wakanda, home of the Black Panther. The Asgard & Midgard of Thor and even the oscillation that occurs between eras of time and place as evidenced in the popular hero Captain America are also examples.

It’s not enough to simply categorized heroes as Vladimir Propp has done as merely ‘dramatis personae’, as plot elements no more or less important than the magic ring, the dark forest, the guardian, the ruined castle and the dozens of other functions outlined in his groundbreaking “Morphology of a Folktale”.

This dispassionate and dismissive analysis of the hero overlooks his/her narratological function. Heroes are epistemological figures, they are ’thinking points’ – they are ’thinking portals’ that allow us access into their worlds.

As audiences (both poetic and literary) engage with them they/we are locked into a deepening cycle of exchange and self-definition. These epistemological figures and the worlds they inhabit allow us to negotiate new layers of meaning in our own world. They provide models for emulation, revulsion, elation, expectation – the list is endless.