Monday, July 1, 2013

TFBT:Hour Nineteen Studies for the Ancient Greek Hero

I enjoy participating in "The Ancient Greek Hero" an on-line course from Harvard through edX.  I also regularly flunk the bi- weekly quizzes.  I went through my quizzes. Here is what I should have learned.  
In Oedipus at Colonus the messenger was vague about how Oedipus died.  You know Oedipus! Killed his father, married his mother.  His mother's people threw him out of Thebes because he was cursed.  Tthe people of Athens finally offered to  give him a decent burial. "The Athenians in the historical present of the performance of the drama knew the story of what happened to Oedipus, once they were initiated into the mystery."  If I was pious Athenian watching the play back in the day I would have know the answer to this one.
"analysis of the word olbos in showed that this word refers to true blessedness only in contexts where someone is already dead and is eligible for immortalization by way of hero cult or ancestor worship." I would have gotten this one right if I recalled Solon's famous quote "Call no man lucky until his end"
Oedipus takes a long time to recognize the long running tragedy of his life and is really slow at figuring it out at the end.  You'd think he'd be a whole lot brighter having outwitted the man-eating Sphinx of the famous riddle "four legs-two legs-three legs".  The correct answer was; "since the scene dramatizes at once the unseasonal ignorance and intelligence of Oedipus. The notion of a tragic hero's flawed character is out of place, since it his not his character that is at stake, but what he knows and what he does not know at that point in the story"  Sure Oedipus has flaws  but as the tragic hero argues in Colonus he didn't know it was his father he was killing in a bit of road rage over a disputed right of way in a remote intersection.  Nor did he know his mother was the prize for defeating the Sphinx plaguing Ancient Thebes.
"there is no chorus inside the epic commenting on the justice and injustice of the deeds and characters in the drama...the heroes are behaving in ways that are both just and unjust, as they did in epic."  I keep forgetting that the ancient heroes in Greek mythology were larger than life characters, often demigods, whom Homer does not judge, but the playwrights do.
"Pausanias and Philostratus refer to these Panhellenic Heroes as theoi more loosely because by then the secret initiatory practices associated with Hero cult are beginning to lose their secrecy." I did not know this.
"there is no example of dikē meaning absolute justice in the scene on Achilles's shield" They are discussing the price a murderer must pay to the brothr of the deceased.  It is Homeric; no judgement.
"Justice or dikē is rarely opposed to hubris 'unregulated behavior' within the time and space frame of the heroes of the Iliad and the Odyssey, but they are ubiquitously contrasted in the Works & Days"  That is because Hesiod is a whiner.
Top of Form
"the world of the living Homeric heroes is "pre-moral" in such a way that they are exploring still blurry distinctions that are no longer so for the "contemporary" audience of the poet " I am starting to get this.
Bottom of Form
"In the ainos 'fable' of the hawk and the nightingale, the moral is:the application of overwhelming, corrupt power is the moral equivalent of cannibalism." I thought it was about the nightingale (poet) being subject to his vicious patron.  But knowing Greek myth I should have thought all they way down to this ugly truth.
“The people of Odysseus consider it a blessing that their king died in Ithaca,” you would come closest to the essence of the mystical prophecy of Teiresias. If Odysseus dies in Ithaca and not somewhere else, his death guarantees that his hero cult will be based in Ithaca and not somewhere else, and so it is the population of Ithaca, not some other population, that would be blessed with the fertility and the prosperity that the cult hero grants to those who are ritually correct and therefore morally just (that, as we have seen, is the mentality of hero cult)."  Once again not too nice, but the same logic that Oedipus used with Athens.
Eumaios the swineherd; Philoitios, the cowherd; and Telemachus were the three that helped Odysseus slay the suitors.
"Odysseus destabilizes his own intelligence by calling himself outis or ‘no one’... outis, sounds like another word, mētis, which refers to the ‘craft’ or ‘craftiness’ of the hero - that is, to his intelligence. So, by canceling his own identity when he calls himself outis / mētis, meaning ‘no one’, Odysseus destabilizes his own intelligence, his own mētis."  Odysseus sort of cursed himself.  I should have seen that!
"think about the motive of the master Narrator: when the audience hears something sad, they should feel sad whether or not they have experienced the same sufferings that the characters in the story have experienced... if the members of the audience became emotionally involved with the story. This formulation leaves room for imagining an audience that is not only composed of the heroes who are listening to the story told by Helen but also to the audience-at-large who are listening to the story told by the master Narrator." That means us too.  Keep in mind the Master Narrator could be Homer entertaining us or Cronion creating the drama at Troy to entertain the gods.
"Achilles will go to Hādēs, just as Patroklos will go to Hādēs. That is what the ghost of Patroklos is quoted as saying in Iliad XXIII. But the text of the Iliad, together with the pictures we saw in the vase paintings, indicates a state of permanent afterlife for Achilles." I knew this!
Your rising scale of affection should be based on how closely you are related by blood to someone, but Homer also allows for a spouse or good friend to occupy the top spot in your hert.
"The dramatic days on the battlefield of the lesser hero Diomedes that are the narrative focus of Scrolls 4 and 5...are a dress rehearsal and foil for the themes of ritual substituton (see daimoni īsos or 'equal to Arēs', V 438 and 459) and transgression (attacking the god Ares himself) that are central to the story of Achilles' therapōn, Patroclus"
"A bridegroom at an ancient Greek wedding would be ‘equal’ to Arēs just as that same man as a warrior at war would be ‘equal’ to Arēs"
"Achilles gift giving at Patrolcus funeral is showing what could have happened if the greatest warrior had also been the person in charge of the community of fighting men and the distribution of wealth among them "
"When Hector finally reckons with the fact that he failed to heed Polydamas' good advice and now must stand up to the fact that he has to face Achilles, and he begins to run very fast, we see him As a hero who is striving to rise to the level of his arch-enemy, is embodying the war god Ares in his prowess, but who will ultimately lose to a greater hero who exceeds him in prowess and in understanding of the human condition, Achilles."Top of Form
"Unwilting: Eternal and perpetual in human culture, though once green and vegetative," because the word aphthiton means 'not withering' and is applied to objects like sceptres and the kleos 'glory realized in epic song' which flourish in the human domain, not in the natural world."
"Kleopatra’s second name is Alcyone because — the penthos or ‘grief’ of the songbird known as the halcyon resembles both the grief of Kleopatra’s mother when she was abducted by Apollo and the grief of Kleopatra herself when she felt a premonition that the city of Calydon might be destroyed."
"the private performance of Achilles  singing and playing the lyre in the tentb is reported by Homeric poetry, it is automatically a public act and cannot be a private act. Homeric poetry, as a performance medium in its own right, is a public act. Anything reported by Homeric performance becomes public, because Homeric performance is by nature public. So it is a better answer to say that Achilles performs klea andrōn “publicly, as a way to divert his attention from his sorrow.” The public format of the hero’s singing is also indicated by the participation of Patroklos. Patroklos is intently listening to Achilles and “waiting for his own turn to sing, ready to start at whatever point Achilles leaves off singing. As Patroklos gets ready to continue the song sung by Achilles, the song of Achilles is getting ready to become the song of Patroklos.” So, this hero whose name conveys the very idea of klea andrōn, ‘glories of men (who are heroes)’, is figured here as the personal embodiment of the klea andrōn.  Achilles and Patroklos are actually performing in relay, and that relay performance is typical of the Homeric tradition as a public medium."  I missed this one because I keep forgetting that the Iliad is a play within a play and that everything has a greater meaning
In possibly one of the best scenes in the Iliad, the hero Hector says goodbye to his wife and son for the last time. His wife "Andromache already feels grief for Hector, as we see from the fact that she expresses her grief by way of lamenting, and the lament is the grief just as the grief is the lament. So the best answer is “she feels the same grief for Hector that she feels for her father, mother, and brothers.” Andromache is expressing all this grief at once, irrespective of the past or the future. "
Achilles looses some booty to the bullying lead of the Greek expedition against Troy; "Homeric poetry seldom spells out directly the moral injustice or justice of any action by any human. But the best answer is “feeling grief because you lost something that means a lot to you.” What means a lot to Achilles is his honor, and he not only does not get honor in Iliad I but he also loses the honor he already has when Agamemnon insults him. That honor has to be restored in Iliad XIX, ...shows that Agamemnon finally had to compensate Achilles for the honor that this superior hero had lost. Similarly in the Homeric Hymn to Demeter, the goddess Demeter experiences akhos or ‘grief’ when she loses her daughter Persephone, who is abducted from her by the god Hādēs. Demeter then gets angry after experiencing her akhos, just as Achilles gets angry after experiencing his akhos, and then the goddess punishes the cosmos by stopping all vegetation. Eventually, the whole world is forced to compensate Demeter for the loss of her daughter."
Pious interpretation, not secular!
"The correct answer is “to cause the Iliad.” Zeus’ will encompasses the whole of the poem through to its end or finish."
Achilles sulked in his tent most of the Iliad because “a goddess advised him to do so,” because Athena grabbed Achilles by the hair and told him to respond to Agamemnon with words and not to kill him."
Philos: "someone with whom the hero identifies more than anyone else because it taps into the idea of the hero’s self, which is in play throughout the inner story."


  1. I think that the hawk represents the divine justice, and the nightingale - the rulers who refuse Hesiod the justice he wants.
    Anyway, it is difficult to understand because of Hesiod's vague and bizarre ethical views. (And about the disputed piece of property, I would definitely want to hear the version of Hesiod's brother.)

  2. Perses' view! That's great!