Wednesday, September 28, 2016

TFTB: Learning Ancient Greek

I am frustrated with learning Ancient Greek.  You know what really frustrates me?  I really want to learn Ancient Greek!  This has been a life long ambition to read the Iliad out loud in the original tongue, and here I am failing at it!   There just doesn't seem to be enough time for study. 

I prayed on this.   The conclusion I came to, is I was looking at it all wrong.  The point is not to study harder, but rather to succeed.  My new approach is five-fold.   

1) I cheat.   My wife likes me to watch TV with her.  So, while she is watching television I copy and paste each word from the sentence we are translating into Perseus’ Greek Work Study Tool.  I copy and paste the explanation on to my homework page and the add the definition.  As one of the dear members in my study group constantly warns me Perseus is wrong sometimes or there are various possibilities or no result.  I leave those problems aside and throw down all the words. Later when I have alone time, I straighten out the mess with all the spreadsheets, text books and cheat sheets that we have accumulated.  So my notes look like this;  

χρήματα ἐκείνοις τοῖς κακοῖς ῥήτορσι λιπών, ἔπειτα τὸν στρατὸν ἤγαγον εἰς τὴν χώρᾱν τὴν τῶν Ἑλλήνων τῶν οὐχ ὑπὸ στρατιωτῶν φυλαττομένων.

Having left behind money to those evil speakers, then he/I led the army into the land, the one of the Hellenes {who are} not being protected by the soldiers.
 
χρήματα
noun plural neuter nominative;  wealth
κακοῖς
adj plural neuter dative;  Bad
ῥήτορσι
noun plural masc dative. Orators
λιπών
participle singular aorist Active masculine nomitive. Leave 
στρατόν
noun sg masc acc. Army 
ἤγαγον
verb 1st sg aor ind act attic epic ionic redupl. Lead 
στρατιωτῶν
noun pl masc gen. Soldiers
φυλαττομένων
part pl pres mp neut gen attic
 

2)  I quiz myself on all the spread sheets, textbooks and cheat sheets our study group has accumulated.  I found time over the weekend and it really makes me more confident by re-familiarizing myself purposefully. 

3)  I signed up for a tutor.  This is still an experiment for me. I asked questions I thought I knew the answers to, so that I would understand the response when he told me what I did wrong.  This approach really did help this morning, plus he picked out a translation that he thought would help me with the extra time at the end of the session.  

4)  Pray more about this.  If my dream is going to come true I have to concentrate and think on this more.  Gotta make it a higher priority.   

5)  Give up Jeopardy   I love watching Jeopardy after dinner.  I love Homer more, so I gave up Jeopardy for more study time in the early evening when I do best at translating.   

I don't know if any of my readers wanted my unasked for advice or if it is helpful.  But is sure helped me writing it all down.  It sort of means I've committed to all this in front of you all.  Thanks

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

VftSW: Sarpedon Fell

Over at Hour 25 we were duscussing Homeric similes in preparation for Thursday's guest scholar.  I thought comparing the death of Sarpedon to the falling odf a pine on a mountaintop needed a little fleshing out.  So I wrote, I wanted to discuss a simile mentioned in the recent tblog-post.
Sarpedon] fell, as when an oak goes down or a white poplar,
or like a towering pine tree which in the mountains the carpenters
have hewn down
Maybe Homer never dropped a towering pine, but I have. I was sawyer on a firefighting crew. There is a moment,a terrible, awesome moment announced by a loud snap. That loud snap is as earthshaking as a thunderbolt. Sawyer and swamper hold their collective breathes. The tree might shatter its length and explode. It might kick back and swat away the sawyerr and his therapon like a mother swatting a fly away. It might hesitate and wobble, the trunk heading downhill while hurling the top like an ashen spear back at th saw team. If it falls the way it should, the sawyer and his swamper quietly follow their escape away and then stop. As first there is no sound, as the pine falls towards the valley below. Then the rush of the wind in the branches begins to roar like the winds thru the forest. Then it slams into the slope below and shakes the earth, loosening boulders and shaking “widowmakers” out of the neighboring trees. The moment ends with the tinkling of loose rocks below and the crash echoing from the opposite hill. That’s how Sarpedon fell.

Monday, September 26, 2016

TFBT: Ferry, Three, Four and Half-way through Five


This reflects further reading in “The Wisdom of the Myths”, Luc Ferry. 
 
Continuing his primary message 

“Heroism – the quest for great deeds that might earn eternal glory for those who accomplish them – occupies a central place in the mental universe of the Greeks.    

“…the temptation of hubris, the tendency to immoderation and pride that makes us all believe that we can elevate ourselves to the ranks of the gods with out in any deserving it.  And as we shall see in a moment, in the world of the Greeks, this flaw is never forgiven.”  Christian authors of an earlier age called this temptation to hubris the goddess Ate.  

Know Thyself…At is origin, in Archaic Greek culture, this injunction possessed an obvious significance, even for the humblest citizens; we must stay in our allotted place, not get above ourselves.”  But, what is my alloted place?  Menelaus was promised the Isle of Blest in the Odyssey.  In the Iliad , Achilles' mother offered him two options.   

The human individual is thus defined, above all else as he who can go too far…And it is also this freedom that exposes man to the risk of defying the gods, to the point of even threatening the entire cosmic settlement….hubris always risks overturning the beautiful and just order of things established so painfully by Zeus in his war against the forces of chaos….gods punish hubris: quite simply, they are trying to preserve universal harmony against the madness of men.      The implication here is that we (Heroic Age and Iron Age humanity) are capable of over-throwing the universe.  
 
Random observations

“They suddenly understand the reason for the tameness of the lions and wolves who crossed their path earlier: these, too, were clearly humans whom Circe has transformed into animals” Ferry fails to mention that Odysseus ate one such fellow disguised as a stag.   

Nausicaä had him (Odysseus) washed, decently clothed and anointed with olive oil, all of which makes him recognizably human…” Hmm, not too long before, in their own way, Ino and Calypso did the same thing.   

“Everyone obeys Hermes, because everyone know that he is the personal messenger of Zeus and speaks in his name.”  Hmm.  I will have to keep this in mind.  In the Iliad Poseidon back talks Iris when she serves as Zeus messenger.  (She invokes the Erinyes and that’s the end of the argument.) 

Ferry, points out that Persephone in eating the pomegranate seeds, ate “something” other than nectar and ambrosia.  So that she like us eaters of bread is “linked irrevocably and forever after to the underworld.”  

“Achelous possesses, moreover, a strange characteristic, no doubt deriving from his fluidity: he is able to metamorphose into different beings.”  Hence the nephele (cloud-nymphs) could take on the shape of Hera and Helen. 

Ferry quotes Hesiod in regards to the birth of Heracles, “The father of men and gods was forming another scheme in his heart: to beget one who would defend against destruction both gods and men.”  He goes on to explain this quote in terms of Heracles destruction of the brood of Echidna.  Most mythologist would explain it in terms of his assistance with the Gigantomachy.  Ferry does not discuss this at all.  He credits the gods giving Heracles bow, quiver, arrows breastplate and cloak to prepare him for his adventures.  In fact is was the self-acquired hide of the Nemean Lion, olive branch club and arrows dipped in the Hydra’s blood that prepared him for his labors and battles with the monsters.  Ferry plays down the place of the gods in nourishing these monsters. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday, September 24, 2016

TFBT: Random Notes from Sarpedon's Death


In preparation for a CHS Open House: The Beauty of Homeric Similes, with Deborah Beck  I recent re-read the death of Sarpedon in Book 16 of the Iliad.  In my random notes I will just be discussing things I hadn’t thought about before.

 I wanted to discuss a simile mentioned in the recent blog-post hyperlinked aboe. 

“(Sarpedon] fell, as when an oak goes down or a white poplar,
or like a towering pine tree which in the mountains the carpenters
have hewn down”
  (Homer Iliad 16.482-92)

Maybe Homer never dropped a towering pine, but I have. I was sawyer on a firefighting crew. There is a moment,a terrible, awesome moment announced by a loud snap. That loud snap is as earthshaking as a thunderbolt. Sawyer and swamper hold their collective breathes. The tree might shatter its length and explode. It might kick back and swat away the sawyer and his therapon like a mother swatting a fly away. It might hesitate and wobble, the trunk heading downhill while hurling the top like an ashen spear back at the saw team. If it falls the way it should, the sawyer and his swamper quietly follow their escape away and then stop. As first there is no sound, as the pine falls towards the valley below. Then the rush of the wind in the branches begins to roar like the winds rushing through the forest. Then it slams into the slope below and shakes the earth, loosening boulders and shaking “widowmakers” out of the neighboring trees. The moment ends with the tinkling of loose rocks below and the crash echoing from the opposite hill. That’s how Sarpedon fell.

“(Sarpedon) spake, and leapt in his armour from his chariot to the ground. And Patroclus, over against him, when he beheld him, sprang from his chariot. “ 16.426

 Can you imagine leaping from a chariot dressed in full armor and racing at your opponent?  This is the apothrathic (spelling)  moment.  It is a big thing in the interpretation of myths.  It’s that moment between sky and earth, now and then, it is a momentary sacred spot. 

"I (Zeus) shall snatch him up (Sarpedon) while yet he liveth and set him afar from the tearful war in the rich land of Lycia."  Hera as Queen and leader of the more conservative faction on Olympus seriously objects and a big scene ensues.  Zeus is forced by political considerations to allow Sarpedon to die.  He wept dark tears of blood at this realization.  Hm, Apollo snatched up Aeaneas and Agenor without Hera objecting, what’s the difference? 

"horse shrieked aloud as he gasped forth his life, and down he fell in the dust with a moan, and his spirit flew from him"   Horses have souls? 

"Patroclus, of the shaggy heart"; Patrocus is hairy-chested like his cousin  Achilles as is Hephaestus apparently.  Not the way they are usually portrayed in films, paintings and sculpture.  

Then the mighty monster hobbled off from his anvil, his thin legs plying lustily under him. He set the bellows away from the fire, and gathered his tools into a silver chest. Then he took a sponge and washed his face and hands, his shaggy chest and brawny neck; he donned his chiton, (18.410]

 

 

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

TFBT: Homeric Conversation II

On Tuesday, September 27 at 11 a.m. EDT. Hour 25, will be discussing with Deborah Beck Homeric Conversation. 

Members of the Best On-line Community for Hellenic Studies took specific chapter so read and report while all read the introduction.  I have a slight advantage over my fellows, in having read the book before.  At the time I’d just presented a paper on how to initiate a proper one-on-one Homeric conversation.  So many of my notes from the first reading reflect on thinking at the time and what was happening in my life.  At least the notes below for the “Introduction” 

Random notes on the Introduction  

We may understand the verb (ἀμειβ-) as meaning take one’s turn by speaking,  rather than reply in turn, as it is often translated: a reply is a turn,”  I thought immediately of Nestor’s famous turning post, envisioning a conversation racing back and forth across the plain before the doomed city of Troy.  

“if no one speaks for any extended period of time, this may be … as some kind of mistake or problem in the conversation that needs to be rectified or otherwise addressed…and if one speaker interrupts another or no one responds after someone has finished speaking, that is cause for surprise or even chagrin.”  We still follow these rules today!

“Hera is giving Athena a command (couched as a hortatory subjunctive: ἀλλ’ ἄγε δὴ καὶ νῶι μεδώμεθα θούριδος ἀλκῆς [Come then, let us rather think of our own stark courage], 5.718)…At the end of Hera’s speech, the narrator says, ὣς ἔφατ’, οὐδ’ ἀπίθησε θεὰ γλαυκῶπις Ἀθήνη (So she spoke, nor did the goddess grey-eyed Athene disobey her, 719). This full-verse formula frequently occurs in the Homeric poems and it generally indicates that a particular speech will not receive a reply, whether the speech itself is a single speech or the last one in a conversation.”  I guess I never figured out that “hortatory” speeches “Come on gang! Let’s…” are rhetorical and that my boss doesn’t want to hear my opinion on the topic.  

“Initial speeches can only be distinguished retroactively from single speeches.”   

Then Beck presents the various conversational and speech formulas.  I really like her style here.  Her formulae are so clear and concise as to appear mathematic.  Finally in Speech Conclusions she points out; “separate verses that say something like, thus s/he spoke and something else happened next, generally occur at the end of a conversation or after a single speech.  They are almost never found during one-on-one conversations.” 

Random Notes on Chapter 3. One-on-one Conversations (Iliad) 

Hector and Andromache: Book 6. The conversation is so emotional and moving that I never I never noticed it was actually a speech and a lament. 

Priam and Achilles: Book 24.  Another incredibly moving scene in the Iliad.  As a writer I appreciate Beck’s technical details explaining how the Poet made the story so moving.

Hera and the Seduction of Zeus: Book 14.  Beck explains that δολοφρονέουσα means “being tricky-minded,”;   

"The point that this word makes is not that Hera is δολοφρονέουσα by nature, but that she is so in this particular context. Not only that, but the speeches introduced by the δολοφρονέουσα verse have a common thread: they are all actively deceptive utterances. As we will see, when Hera tells the truth during this episode, the “tricky” verse does not appear."   

My question for Deborah Beck; is this sort of thing true of polymetis Odysseus in his epic?  Or clever Zeus, Cronus and Prometheus in Hesiod?

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

TFBT: Part III of Bill’s Geryoneis, The More Esoteric Interpretation of All This



Gee!  Where to start?  In the Ancient Greek world, the Great River Oceanus, a fresh-water stream, surrounded the known world.  Beyond it lay several mythical lands.  Examples include Helios’ palaces.  One in the east where he rose in the morning and one in the west where his work-day is done. Another mythical place is the realm of Hades and dread Persephone on the western edge of the universe.  Hence Odysseus could sail into the underworld


Pylos

Originally the western edge of the known world was Pylos.  Lord Apollo, son of Zeus, kept his own shambling oxen in goodly Pylos. (HH to Hermes 214)   Above, sandy Pylos Heracles bested Ares. (Hesiod, Shield of Herakles 357) Likewise, “It is said that, when Herakles was leading an expedition against Pylos in Elis, Athena was one of his allies. Now among those who came to fight on the side of the Pylians was Hades, who was the foe of Herakles but worshipped at Pylos…And among them huge Hades suffered a wound from a swift arrow, when the same man, the son of aegis-bearing Zeus, hit him in Pylos among the dead, and gave him over to pains.  (Pausanias, Description of Greece 6.25.2)  In the Iliad Hera appears as an enemy of Heracles possibly at Pylos “So suffered Hera, when the mighty son of Amphitryon smote her on the right breast with a three-barbed arrow; then upon her too came pain that might in no wise be assuaged. And so suffered monstrous Hades even as the rest a bitter arrow, when this same man, the son of Zeus that beareth the aegis, smote him in Pylos.  (v. 392, xviii. 118) East of Pylos is a mountain named after the nymph Minthe.  “Minthe, men say was once a maid beneath the earth, a nymph (daughter) of the Cocytus River, a river of the underworld.  (Oppian, Halieutica 3.485)    She became the lover of Hades. Persephone transformed her into garden-mint.  The mountain   a precinct sacred to Hades.  North of Plyos flows the Acheron.   (Strabo, Geography 8.3.14–15).   The Acheron is one of the five rivers of Hades.   "Circe addresses Odysseus ‘Beach the vessel beside deep-eddying Oceanus and pass on foot to the dank domains of Hades. At the entrance there, the stream of Acheron” (Homer, Odyssey 10. 513) All this to illustrate the belief that Pylos and Acheron were at the entrance of the underworld;   In ancient geography there occur several rivers of this name, all of which were, at least at one time, believed to be connected with the lower world. The river first looked upon in this light was the Acheron in Thesprotia, in Epirus, a country which appeared to the earliest Greeks as the end of the world in the west, and the locality of the river led them to the belief that it was the entrance into the lower world.” [i]

Ellis

“While Homer speaks only of the gates of Helios in the west, later writers assign to him a second palace in the west, and describe his horses as feeding upon herbs growing in the islands of the blessed”. (Nonn. Dionys. xii. 1, &c.; Athen. vii. 296; Stat. Theb. iii. 407.)  Source: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology.

Pylos where this world and the underworld seem to merge is in the region of Greece called Ellis.    Other people became involved in the war discussed above during the reign of Augeias, King of the Epeians in Elis.  Douglas Frame in “Hippota Nestor” proposes an interesting correspondence between Helios and this Augeias. 

“The Epeian king Augeias, “the shining one” and his daughter Agamede, a specialist in drugs, look like local forms of Helios, the sun god and his granddaughter Medeia, likewise a specialist in drugs.  Augeias and his daughter do not play a prominent role in Nestor’s story,   (Heracles put Nestor on the throne of Pylos after the war.)  but, they are still there in the background.  In post-Homeric tradition Augeias himself was famous for his cattle.  As in the myth of the cleaning of his stables by Heracles, and this further connects him with Helios and his cattle….The name Augeias is from auge, “bright light, radiance”, as in the frequent Homeric formula hup’ augas eelioio, “under the rays of the sun”.  In post-Homeric tradition Augeias is called the son of Helios; this make Agamede, like Medeia, a granddaughter of Helios… (And finally,) The cattle of Augeias are closely equated with the cattle of Helios I Theocritus 25.118-121, 129-131”

In summary, there is correspondence between Pylos and the Western entrance to Hades and correspondence between Ellis in general and the Western Home, the Sunset Home of the sun-god Helios.

The Cattle of Helios

Some scholars said that the herds of Helios were tinged golden because Helios as the sun, lit up the clouds as he rose and set.”  [ii]   Clouds” like the Vedic god Indra won. 

“Indra shatters Vrtra with his bolt. He cleaves the mountain, making the streams flow or taking the cows, even with the sound of his bolt. He releases the streams which are like imprisoned cows or which, like lowing cows, flow to the ocean. He won the cows and Soma and made the seven rivers to flow.”  AA MacDonell [iii]
MacDonell’s “many-horned swiftly moving cows” are what Cox calls “golden tinted clouds or herds of Helios”. [iv]  Helios cows were white with gold horns3[v]  as were Apollo’s.  [vi] Geryon’s kine grazing in the far west were red. [vii]    Hades’ grazing nearby were black. [viii]  And finally Hera had a cow named Io which changed in color from white to black to violet.  [ix]
 
Italy

Moving further west in our mundane world we find another locale merging this world and the underworld;

"Near Cumae in Italy is Cape Misenon, and between them is Lake Akherousia, a kind of shoal-water estuary of the sea . . . also Gulf Aornos [Avernus] . . . The people prior to my time were wont to make Aornos the setting of the fabulous story of the Homeric
Nykeia   and, what is more, writers tell us that there actually was an Oracle of the Dead… here and that Odysseus visited it . . . … And the natives used to add the further fable that all birds that fly over it fall down into the  being killed by the vapours that rise from it, …At any rate, only those who had sacrificed beforehand and propitiated the  Underworld Gods  could sail into Aornos, and priests who held the locality on lease were there to give directions in all such matters; and there is a fountain of potable water at this place, on the sea, but people used to abstain from it because they regarded it as the water of the Styx; and the Oracle, too, is situated somewhere near it; and further, the hot springs nearby and Lake Akherousia betokened the River Pyriphlegethon; the underworld river of fire].   Strabo, Geography 5. 4. 5 ff

In summary Strabo discusses another place on the western edge of the universe confounded with the world below.  Lycophron seems to confirm Strabo in Alexandra 681-738, but with the rantings of Cassandra, who can tell for sure. 

Spain

Which brings us back to Geryon. He possessed a fabulous herd of cattle whose coats were stained red by the light of the sunset.”[x]Hesiod “Theogony 293) said that Heracles stole the cattle and “killed Orthos and the oxherd Eurytion out in the gloomy meadow beyond the fabulous Oceanus.”  However at Apollodorus Bibliotheca 2.108 we find “When he, Heracles reached Erytheaia he camped on Mount Abas.  The dog (Orthros) smelled him there and went after him, but he struck it with his club and when the cowherd Eurtyion came to help the dog, he slew him as well.  Menoites was there tending the cattle of Hades reports these events to Geryon” Which makes Geryon’s domain sound a little bit more mundane.  Finally,

 "The mountain in which the river Baetis is said to rise [in southern Iberia (Spain)] is called ‘Silver Mountain’ on account of the silver-mines that are in it . . . The ancients seem to have called the Baetis River [of Hispania] ‘Tartessos’; and to have called Gades and the adjoining islands ‘Erytheia’; and this is supposed to be the reason why Stesikhoros spoke as he did about [Eurytion] the neat-herd of Geryon, namely, that he was born ‘about opposite famous Erytheia, beside the unlimited, silver-rooted springs of the river Tartessos (Tartessus), in a cavern of a cliff.’ Since the river had two mouths, a city was planted on the intervening territory in former times, it is said,--a city which was called ‘Tartessos,’ after the name of the river . . . Further Eratosthenes says that the country adjoining Kalpe (Calpe) is called ‘Tartessis,’ and that Erytheia is called ‘Blest Island’ (Nesos Eudaimos)."  Strabo, Geography 3. 2. 11

Diodorus Siculus, [xi] seems to agree with the confounding of Hades with Tartessi.  In Summary, in Spain or upon its coast we have a pair of god-like beings with multi-headed dogs raising cattle in the same area, both of whom Hades and Geryon get shot by Heracles in a cattle raid. 

Summary,

In short what we have here is the ultimate solar myth.  The sun god spend the day herding his cattle (clouds) to the upper pastures of the sky and then brings them down to the western banks of the Great River Ocean for the night.  (Hence their changing colors; white on a sunny day, dark with moisture, scarlet at sunset.  There he defeats the Death god with a few well placed arrows and the slaughtering of his multi-headed dog and watchman. The End, until the next day.

 



[i] (Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology.  See Pausanias, Description of Greece 1. 17. 4 on this topic. )
[ii] (Tamra Andrews “Dictionary of Nature Myths: Legends of the Earth, Sea and Sky ).
[iii] VEDIC MYTHOLOGY  BY  A. A. MACDONELL. ATMOSPHERIC GODS. 22. INDRA. 59 
[iv] Chapter 38 MYTHOLOGY OF THE ARYAN NATIONS.
[v] Apollonius Rhodius Argonautica 4.965
[vi] Homeric Hymn to Hermes  and Philostratus Eder 1.16-31
[vii] Apollodorus, The Library 2.106-108
[viii] Apollodorus Bibliotheca 2.125
[ix] Suida Isis
[x] (Aaron Atsma) 
[xi] Library of History 4. 18. 2 :

Monday, September 12, 2016

TFBT: Blood-Spawned

I got to thinking about Medusa the other day and consequently Uranus. Hesiod mentions that after the castration of Uranus that;
"And not vainly did they fall from his hand; for all the bloody drops that gushed forth Gaia received, and as the seasons moved round she bare the strong Erinyes  and the great Giants)with gleaming armour, holding long spears in their hands and the (ash) nymphs whom they Meliae all over the boundless earth. And so soon as he had cut off the members with flint and cast them from the land into the surging sea, they were swept away over the main a long time: and a white foam spread around them from the immortal flesh, and in it there grew a maiden [Aphrodite] "
Similarly of Medusa (the sole mortal Gorgon) Hesiod, says, "When Perseus had cut off the head of Medusa there sprang from her blood great Chrysaor and the horse Pegasus)so named from the springs (pegai) of Oceanus, where she was born." Plus Ovid (Metamorphoses 4. 770 ) credits Libya's sands giving birth to vipers after being splattered by the blood-drops from the Gorgon's Head dripped down and (4. 740) her head placed on a cushion of sea-weed creating coral.

Any connection here between the mortal Pontide and the primordial sky? Many heroes are honored with flowers formed from their blood but Medusa and Uranus' blood spawned intelligent and divine beings. What's up with that? Any other examples?

 (PS  This is a re-post from a comment in the forums at Hour 25.  I post it here to make it easier for Maya M and I to discuss.)