Wednesday, July 31, 2013

TFBT: Excerpts from Sexuality in Greek and Roman Culture

Honestly, I only read a sample chapter, but Marilyn B. Skinner produces some great insights.  Here are a few excerpts that caught my attention from Sexuality in Greek and Roman Culture

“Pandora stands for something more than just “Woman.” In creating her, Zeus causes two sexes to exist where there was only one. This means that sexual intercourse has now become an inescapable part of human existence. Pandora is therefore a doublet of Aphrodite, whose emergence from the sea, after the forced separation of the primal parents Sky and Earth, introduces duality of the sexes into the cosmic order.” 

“Helen is to some degree a personification of epic values: she self-consciously voices the heroic perspective of the poet. When Iris, messenger of the gods, summons her to attend the single combat between Paris and Menelaus, Helen is weaving a great double-folded cloth on which are figured “the many contests the horse-taming Trojans and bronze-corseleted Achaeans had endured for her sake” (Il. 3.125–8). In this weaving project Homer has mirrored himself composing the plot of his song

“Aphrodite is portrayed as older than the other Olympian gods, for she emerges as a stimulus to union in the previous generation, immediately after the sky and the earth are forcibly separated. Her placement outside the genea- logical scheme of the Theogony indicates that she is not altogether subject to the same rules as the Olympians.”  

 “Anchises was foolish enough to let the truth slip (he’d been drinking). Zeus’ retaliatory thunderbolt disabled him for life. Long before Freud, ancient mythmakers represented castration as lameness.” 

“… in a “fallen world,” where an original harmony has been disrupted and the techniques of Aphrodite must come into play because men and women are naturally estranged from one another. We will understand why the sexes are forever alienated after we have studied Hesiod’s myth.”

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

TFBT: Random Notes from Hour 24

"And if the word is alive, the hero will live on." The Ancient Greek Hero in 24 Hours by Gregory Nagy

"The absence of any reference to the death of the Amazon queen, the murder of Thersites, the duel between Achilles and Memnon, the judgement of the weapons, the theft of the Palladion and the wooden horse does not mean that Homer was ignoring the poetic traditions preserved in the summaries and scattered fragments of the Cycle poems. The research done by the Neo-Analysts has, besides, drawn attention to the passages in the Iliad which seem to echo or imitate scenes from the lost epics. But it should instead be concluded that this deliberate silence, which the bards’ public was meant to understand, was intended directly to connect the fall of Troy with Hector’s death.  The Plot of Zeus by Philippe Rousseau

"The Iliad essentially only retains future events whose entire impact has to do with the actions it recounts, and keeps silent on the episodes and characteristic themes belonging to other songs ".  Plot of Zeus by Philippe Rousseau

"As if men could control the disputes caused by the gods amongst themselves, and escape the misfortune to which they are doomed by destiny! " The Plot of Zeus by Philippe Rousseau

Page 135, the Plot of Zeus by Philippe Rousseau suggests that the scenes immediately following the duel between Menelaus and Paris are in parallel, that is; the battle resume and "meanwhile back in Troy" Paris and helen make love.  It as if, their loved making caused the war.  Peace was declared for the duel, the only way war can breakout again is if the fugitive couple, couple again. 

 "If fire is the metonymic symbol of the ruin of Troy, then submersion in water figures for the disappearance of the conquerors during the return journey. " Pg 142  The Plot of Zeus by Philippe Rousseau

"the consequences are clearly not the same for mortals and immortals. The latter play, lose and recover unharmed in the full radiance oftheir condition. The former suffer and die, " pg 149 The  Plot of Zeus by Philippe Rousseau

"The sovereign god is made manifest in two forms, whose deep connection remains briefly elusive: that of “father of men and gods”, on the one hand, and that of “son of Cronos” on the other. The first is the Olympian, keen to maintain the order which he himself set in place. The other has worrying – despotic – features;  " page 151 The Plot of Zeus by Philippe Rousseau

Iris’ visit to Helen (III.121-138) adheres to an often misunderstood requirement. The veil which the Argive princess weaves in Paris’ bedroom can only be adorned with feats of war, which the weaver does not reproduce, as scholars generally say, but rather produces. When peace seems on the verge of being reestablished, even though the chances of its being so are entirely illusory, the weaving inevitably stops. It matters little that it is only for a short time" The Plot of Zeus by Philippe Rousseau Footnote 32

HHS to Dionysius  "the steersman took note right away, and he called out to his comrades and said to them: "What kind of daimōn has possessed you all! What kind of god is this that you have seized and tried to tie up, as he is? Why, he is too much for the well-built ship to make room for. You see, he must be either Zeus or Apollo, the one with the silver quiver, or Poseidon. I tell you, he is not like mortal humans, he is not like  them at all. Rather, he is like the gods who have their dwellings in Olympus. So come on, we should let him go, leaving him on the dark earth of the mainland. Let us do it right away. Do not manhandle him. What if he gets angry and stirs up winds that will make hardship, and a huge whirlwind?” That is how the steersman spoke. But the leader of the men reviled him, speaking with hateful words;"No, you are the one who is possessed by some kind of [daimōn..."   At which point things started getting weird and then terrifying. ".The men, terrified, were fleeing toward the stern of the ship, crowding around the steersman, the one who had a heart  that is moderate...As for the steersman,  (Dionysus] took pity on him, holding him back [from leaping overboard]. ( Dionysus] caused it to happen that (the steersman] became  the most (olbios) blessed  of all men." I note all the steersman had to do to save himself was object to injustice.  The consequent olbios that befell made his buddies supplicant him for on safety. How did he recognize the god?  Did the helmsman have the second sight?  Was he pious and therefore more in tune with the presence of the divine?  As an experience batsman could he feel the extraordinary weight associated with gods?  Was he just more enlightened and caring then his buddies? 
"And so, Glaukon, myth was saved, and it could save us in turn, if we trust it." Plato Republic 10.621b-c 

Saturday, July 20, 2013

TFBT: Random Notes during Hour 23

“In the character of wailers the operation of the Sirens is conceived as altogether kindly and consoling. As denizens of Hades, they approached the newly arrived shades of the departed, proclaimed to them the laws of the dusky realm, and by their soothing songs they steeped the soul in a sweet oblivion of past cares and sorrows, and filled it with the knowledge and the love of the divine and the immortal.”  THE SIRENS IN ANCIENT LITERATURE AND ART,  W C Perry

“Pausanias relates that when Sophocles— the purest and noblest of writers—died, the god Dionysos ordered the Athenians to worship him 'as a new Siren ;' and that, in a dream about Sophocles, a Siren was seen with the poet's compositions in her hand”  THE SIRENS IN ANCIENT LITERATURE AND ART,  WCPerry

" I happened to be seated close to him, at his right hand. I was sitting on a kind of stool, while he was lying on a couch that was quite a bit higher than where I was. So then he stroked my head and fondled the locks of hair along my neck - he had this way of playing with my hair whenever he had a chance." (Phaedo 89 by Plato)  This is the Socrates’ disciple Phaedo speaking of himself and his master.  Sound kind of like “the disciple whom Christ loved the best” and his Lord.

“I keep seeing Achilles stepping off that chariot drawn by four galloping horses at vertiginous speed, hitting the ground running in the midst of all these other chariots and horses, the ear-shattering noise, the dust, and he's running for life and death, à la vie à la mort. You'd have to be young to do that.”  Dcaillat in Hour 23 of The Ancient Greek Hero.

“I  don't really know, but I feel like (The Iliad) it is all for the choices we are called to make in life, the risks, the friendships, the battles, the losses, the ones who die, the ones who survive, love, anger, life. Achilles is the innocent arrogance of youth that forges its existence in the premature battle with death, thus the unknown. I fail to see revenge in their actions, I see the archetypal fear of disconnection.” AngelinaPateli in Hour 23 of The Ancient Greek Hero course.

“What´s really expected of us "Greek ancient hero" students? Or... what gain will you have? Or.. what´s really going on? My answers:

1. You will read better. You will never read a book like you used to read. Specially, you will take care to not "read into" the texts you´ll be presented to.

 2. You will reflect on concepts - klea andron, hora, and so on -, that shaped a very complex, advanced and original society, the Ancient Greece. And understand how these concepts have a great role in the ideas of our own society.

3. Learning these old, complex, intrincated - and beautiful! - ways of seeing life and the world, death and poetry, love and justice, can be useful to help you to reflect what´s most important to yourself.”  Adboson in Hour 23
Even to this very day the songs of Homer have the power, at least for a few moments to free us from the fearful burden of the knowledge, experience and speculations, which thousands of years have loaded on our weary shoulders…and to let us sip the dew of the early morn of creation.”  “The Women of Homer”  WC Perry

Her name (Artemis) is probably derived from artemhs (untouched).    “The Women of Homer”  WC Perry

“…nymphs, we see them acting as messengers of the greater deities, as mediators between them and mortal men, generally as compassionate, loving and beneficent friends of the help and distressed. “  “The Women of Homer”  WC Perry

 “…from the scenes embroidered on this web (the one of purple web of double woof weaved by Helen) the divine Homer took the greater part of his history.” “The Women of Homer”  WC Perry

Saturday, July 13, 2013

TFBT: Random Notes from Hour 22

At 22:28 in The Ancient Greek Heroin 24 Hours”, Professor Nagy discusses how Socrates’ hetairos  Chaerephon went to Delphi and got an enigmatic answer which sent Socrates on a wandering quest which resulted in strife in his community and the death of Socrates.  Didn’t this happy to Oedipus?  Go to Delphi and ask a question, get a weird answer, so go on a journey and end up bringing plague and civil war to your community,  followed by death.  What was it by fellow student Aristeagr said of Hour 21?  "So this tragic death of in a beautiful way what tragedy is all about. There is a negative hero Pentheus, a god antagonist to the hero, the hubris of the hero and finally his punishment that will lead to his kleos."  The meaning of hubris is "excessive pride"; usually a mortal not knowing his place.  In this comparison; Socrates is the negative hero based on the vote, Apollo is the trouble maker rather than Dionysius, Socrates hubris is when he goes around bragging about being the smartest man in the world, his punishment leads to his death and Plato provides his kleos.

“…something related to the gods… a voice, which comes to me ... This thing I have had ever since I was a child: it is a voice which comes to me and always forbids me to do something which I am going to do, but never commands me to do anything”  Plato Socrates Apology 31d 

 Socrates final argument; dirt nap vs. paradise, is the first time in this course we have dealt with secular vs. pious arguments.


Friday, July 12, 2013

TFBT: The Mountain Gods and Musical Contests

It is odd, that a culture that personifies every river, creek, lake, spring, meadow, vale, city, region, and sea with a deity shows so little knowledge of the gods of the mountain peaks.  Hesiod (Theogony) lists none of the mountains by name and expends only 1 line of poetry.  He names forty-one of the three thousand Oceanides in thirty-six lines.  Searching the literature I can only find five mountains called “god”.  These are Helicon & Cithaeron both of Dorian Boeotia, Olympus of Phrygia, Oreios of Mount Othrys and Tmolos a mountain of Lydia. 
·        Othrys was the stronghold of the Titans in their contest with the Olympians. 
·        The Phrygian Olympus (not the mount of Zeus) was the father of the satyr Marsyas, who will be involved in one of musical contests under discussion here.
Only three of these gods have distinctive myths or personalities; Helicon,  Cithaeron and Tmolos.  All three are the sites of musical contests.   Cithaeron and Tmolos are associated with Dionysius.  Helicon more famously with Apollo and the Muses.   These three will be surveyed here in an attempt to determine why they were the sites of musical contests.


Wide-spread, tawny Helicon[i] stands in western Boeotia near Phocis.  Helicon is one of the mountains of Greece with the most fertile soil and the greatest number of cultivated trees. The wild-strawberry bushes supply to the goats sweeter fruit than that growing anywhere else[ii]...  between Lake Copais and the Gulf of Corinth. He appears to be childless and is the dancing ground of the Muses (along with Apollo, the Graces and their mother Mnemosyne, who reigns over the hills of Eleutheria.

He was also the site of a singing contest between the Muses and Pierides judged by the local nymphs called the Libethrides.  The Pierides were the nine mortal daughters of Pierus, King of Emathia.  The Muses were the nine divine daughters of Zeus representing the arts and sciences.  The Pierides bet the Muses they were better singers, the challenge was accepted, the local nymphs selected as judges, who took the oath by their own streams, and sat on benches shaped form living stone.”[iii]  The leader of the Pierides chorus “sang of the great war in heaven, ascribing spurious prowess to the Giants, belittling all the exploits of the gods : how Typhon, issuing from earth's lowest depths, struck terror in those heavenly hearts, and they (the Olympians) all turned their backs and fled”  (Ovid Metamorphoses).  Zoe Stamatopoulou[iv]  points out that the Pierides pick a song belittling the gods in an attempt to bridge the distance between gods and men, thus attaining divine honors for themselves.  From my readings in  this appears to be a “shame “song in a shame/praise culture.  (See The Best of the Achaeans by Gregory Nagy (Chpter 14)  I’ve written elsewhere about the hubris, folly and possibility of challenging the gods.  As usual it didn’t work out too well for the mortals.

Excellent, clear-voiced[v]  white-armed[vi] Calliope who is the chief and eldest of   all the Muses[vii]  arose and “sings the  tale of the abduction of Persephone.  That’s all that Ovid has to say about their performance.  After several damning lines about the Pierides song, he barely gives a line of poetry to Calliope’s.  Following Stamatopoulou’s logic I assume the Muses’ song was one of praise regarding Persephone, but what and why so short?  Something the poet couldn’t expound further on from the Eleusinian Mysteries?  Other authors say more;  Heaven, the stars, the sea and rivers stood still, while Mount Helicon, beguiled by the pleasure of it all, swelled skyward till, by the will of Poseidon, Pegasus checked it by striking the summit with his hoof (Anton. Lib. 9)
Calliope sang; the nymphs unanimously declare the Muses the winners.  The muses are as usual ungracious in victory and turned the mortals in various birds.  (Ovid, Metamorphoses) 

 Cithaeron in the form of a man laments the woes soon to occur on his slopes, and he wears an ivy crown (of Dionysius) aslant on his head--for he accepts the crown most unwillingly” Philostratus the Elder, Imagines 1. 14

Cithaeron is a mountain-god and his mountain range, in central Greece, standing between Boeotia in the north and Attica in the south. It is mainly composed of limestone and rises over four thousand feet above the wine dark sea.   Some authors suggest he is Nysa, the foster father of Dionysius.   He appears to be childless.  His slopes are the site of many of the tragedies befalling the house of Cadmus and visited by the Eriny Tisiphone  The god either presided over the marriage of Zeus and Plataea, nymph of the region and daughter of the river god Asopos (Homer's Epigrams 6) or arranged a mock marriage at which when the jealous Hera arrived and ripped the wedding veil from the bride discovered a wooden image instead of a nymph. [viii]
A fragment by the poetess Corinna describes a musical contest between Mt. Helicon and Mt. Cithaeron.  All we know is the Cithaeron took up the lyre and sang in honor of the goddess Rhea, mother of Zeus.  The Muses called for a voted by all the blessed gods and Hermes declared Cithaeron the victor.  “with wreaths…the blessed gods crowned him and his mind rejoiced.  But filled with harsh grief Helicon (ripped out) a bare rock and…hurled it from on high into myriad stones.”  Although we have not record of what Mt. Helicon  sings, Collins[ix] suggests that “Corinna can be seen cleverly to oppose a local Boeotian variant against a Panhellenic version centered on Ida”  I note that the god Cithaeron sang accompanied by the lyre while the mountain-god Helicon is more famous for choral music.  Maybe by definition citharoedic music is the winner on Cithaeron. 


"The crags of Tmolos, steep and wide and high, gazing across the sea, at one side fall to Sardis, at the other reach their end at small Hypaepae. “  Ovid, Metamorphoses 11. 150 

Some sources describe the god of Mount Tmolos in Lydia as husband of Pluto (or Omphale) and father of the cannibal Tantalus[x].  Mount Tmolos was the site of a musical contest between Apollo on lyre and Pan (or Marsyas son of Olympus) on pipes.  The mountain god is one of the judges and gives the victory to Apollo.[xi]  In the version with Pan, no great tragedy seems to follow, but in the case of Marsyas’ defeat he is skinned alive by the ungracious Loxias[xii]  The fable evidently refers to the struggle between the citharoedic and auloedic styles of music, of which the former was connected with the worship of Apollo among the Dorians, and the latter with the orgiastic rites of Cybele (Rhea) in Phrygia.[xiii] 

I can gain no inspirational  insights from this survey and in finishing can only add a few more details and close with a matrix.
The Ancient Greeks apparently had three different musical modes.  I believe this term has something to do with musical scales and tuning an instrument.  They are; Dorian, Lydian and Phrygian; as in (Helicon & Cithaeron), Tmolos and Olympus. [xiv]   Echo an oread of Cithaeron  has myths set on Helicon.  And the winning lyrics honor a goddess.
Associated with
battle for universal  supremacy

Rhea, Dionysius
Apollo, Muses
lyre and PanHellenic/choral and local
Rhea, Dionysius

[i] Homer's Epigrams 6
[ii] Pausanias 9.28.1
[iii] Ovid, Metamorphoses 5. 662
[iv] Hesiodic Muses and Anti-Hesiodic Pierides in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Zoe Stamatopoulou
[v] Stesichorus, Fragment 240& 275
[vi] Bacchylides, Fragment 5
[vii] Hesiod, Theogony 75 
[viii]Pausanias, Description of Greece 9. 3. 1)
[ix] Derek Collins Corinna and Mythological Innovation
[x] Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology
[xi] Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae
[xii] Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1. 24
[xiii] Dic. Of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology
[xiv] Pythagoras added an 8th string to his 7-stringed Kithara, thus completing the octave. In these times, players had a single Mode on their Aulos or their Kithara. An aulete or Kithara player from Athens would have the Dorian Mode on his instrument, one from Phrygia, the Phrygian Mode, and a third from the province of Lydia, the Lydian Mode. At the Pythian Games the various players and singers would assemble, and perhaps the Kitharists might envy one another’s scales and would like to play them also. Thus more strings were gradually added to their Kithara, so that this might come about. THE MODES OF ANCIENT GREECE by Elsie Hamilton 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

TFBT: Random Notes on Hour 21

"The gifts of the gods are not to be rejected, as you no doubt know, since you have heard it from one of the devotees Calliope [epic poets]." Philostratus the Younger, Imagines 13

"as you say, filled with wine in a scene of wine-cups and tunes played on the pipe, and not at all hunting to find Aphrodite" (Bacchae 687-688)  This description reminds me of images of a symposium in Euripides’ time. 

Nagy argues that the first tragedy performed at Athens was Pentheus by Thespis and further that the shepherds in the Bacchae gathered at the foot of Cithaeron watching the maenads represents the first audience watching the first tragedy unfold. (I note the audience and actors stand at the wrong places in this primordial amphitheater.)  To add to the symbolism, apparently the Bacchae is one of the last tragedies we know of. 

" the one who is most terrifying, but, for humans, also most gentle." (Bacchae 861) Yeah, that accurately describes the effects of wine. 

Isn't the death of Pentheus the promised result to all the uninitiated who violate the mysteries?

About Euripides Bacchae 912-976;    I hate to be the one suggesting this but was Euripides going for laughs in this part of the tragedy?  This is the scene where Dionysius dresses up Pentheus as a girl so his cousin can spy on the revels of the Theban chicks gone wild.  People are terrible.  I can easily imagine the audience heckling the doomed antagonist.  If the actor played up the lewd aspect of the scene, Dionysius needing to readjust his "waistband" and the discussion of how to thrust with the phallic thyrsus could take on a titillating meaning. Plus, the dialogue is full of double meanings and inside jokes that are ironic if not even laughable.  An actor playing Pentheus as a vain, lewd fool could be quite amusing.  

“Bacchus, raising high the fiery flame from the pine torch, bursts forth from the stalk [narthex],” (Bacchae, Euripides 146-147) If Dionysius is akin to the  gift that Prometheus smuggled out of heaven in a fennel stalk, then Dionysius returning Hephaestus to Olympus is akin to fire being returned to the gods.  Which means it was stolen from Hephaestus' forge rather than Helios’ chariot. 

“equilibrium in ritual is matched by disequilibrium in myth, and this disequilibrium leads to catastrophe.”  Nagy in Hour 21 of The Ancient Greek Hero in 24 Hours.

As those who are involved in the mysteries say, Many are the carriers of the Bacchic wand but few are the bakkhoi . (Plato Phaedo 69c-d.)  Comparable is the aphorism of Jesus in the New Testament:  Many are called but few are chosen. (Matthew 22:14)”  Nagy in Hour 21 of The Ancient Greek Hero in 24 Hours.  

 “As a divine activator, Dionysus literally ignites the singing and the dancing as he leaps out, in an elemental burst of flame, from inside the fennel stalk or narthex of the sacred wand used for Bacchic worship. The picturing of such a flaming emergence from inside a stalk or a reed is a traditional idea that can be traced back, I argue, to Indo-European”  Nagy in Hour 21 of The Ancient Greek Hero in 24 Hours.   I find it interesting that Aeschylus says Prometheus stole divine fire for mortals in a fennel stalk. 

“The story of Euripides death has tragic overtones. Euripides was returning from dinner with King Archelaus of Macedon, when he was torn to pieces by dogs set on him by some jealous rival. In the Bacchae, one of the plays in Euripides’s final trilogy, Pentheus is torn apart by his female kinsfolk”. J.C. McKeown  Professor of Classics at the University of Wisconsin Madison and author of A Cabinet of Greek Curiosities

"So this tragic death of in a beautiful way what tragedy is all about. There is a negative hero Pentheus, a god antagonist to the hero, the hubris of the hero and finally his punishment that will lead to his kleos." Aristeagr in Hour 21