Tuesday, June 30, 2015

TFBT: Proverbs from Medea

Hour 25, Harvard’s classical studies club is reading “Medea by Euripides.  We are reading the translation by Ian Johnston, he’s got a great site;  https://records.viu.ca/~johnstoi/ 

In preparation for our July 17,  discussion I’ve now read the play three times.  Here are some proverbs or at least statements that sound like proverbs.        

Medea “Love with too much passion brings with it no fine reputation, brings nothing virtuous to men.”        Medea 627- 629            

 "if Aphrodite comes in smaller doses no other god is so desirable."  Medea   630-31  

"Goddess, I pray you never strike me with one of those poisoned arrows shot from that golden bow of yours." Medea 632-4  

 “ moderation, the gods' most beautiful gift”  Medea 635-6  

 “For there's no affliction worse than losing one's own country.“ Medea 650-51  

“Even the gods, they claim, are won by gifts. And among mortal men,       gold works more wonders than a thousand words.”  Medea 964-5    

We mortals must bear our bad times patiently. “  Medea 1018  

 “What mortals need  is some other way to get our children.  There should be no female sex. With that, men would be rid of all their troubles.”  Medea 572-575  

 “Gifts from a worthless man are without value.” Medea 618  

 Creon to Medea “by feeling pity I've been hurt before”  Medea 348

  “Passionate people, women as well as men,   are easier to protect oneself against,          than someone clever who keeps silent.” Medea 319-321   

   “ Alas,  love's a miserable thing for mortal men.”   Medea 330

 “A guest of the city must comply, of course,”  Medea  222

 “ How stupid they are! I'd rather stand there  three times in battle holding up my  shield  than give birth once.”  

“No man with any sense  should ever educate his children  to know anything beyond what's normal.” Medea 292-294

“For I'm a knowledgeable woman. I make   some people envious.”  Medea 304-5

“Death comes soon enough  and brings and end to everything.       You should not pray for it.”     Medea  154-55   

   “ Old devotions fade,       pushed aside by new relationships.” Medea  76 
    “The pride of rulers is something to fear  they often order men, but seldom listen.”    Medea    120  
“She will soon put lightning to that cloud of her tears.” Medea  106 

“This passion of hers moves to some greatness.” Medea 183

“Those who live quietly as I do get a bad reputation”  Medea 217-8   

“Don't you know yet all men love themselves more than their neighbors. And some are right to do that “ Medea  110  

  “That's when life is most secure and safe, when woman and her husband stand as one.”  Medea  19-20
 “Young minds don't like to dwell on pain.”  Medea 61
 “when a master's lot falls out badly, that's bad for faithful servants, too”  Medea 68
“Jason the worst man in the world.” Medea 452. 

“lack of shame the greatest of all human sicknesses.” Medea  471-472

“Passionate people, women as well as men, are easier to protect oneself against, than someone clever who keeps silent.”  Medea 319

“I know her and fear her.” Medea 39 



Monday, June 8, 2015

TFBT: The Trojan King of London

Beneath the walls of Troy some hairy-chested hyper-moron[i] tried to kill Aeneas before his time.  Consequently, the gods snatched up the Trojan prince and took him to safety (Iliad XX 336) in accordance with a prophecy made to Aeneas’ father;
“And you will have a dear son, who will be king among the Trojans.  And following him will be generations after generations for all time to come” 
                 Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite 196-197

The ultimate fulfillment of that prophecy was founding of London by Aeneas’ great-grandson King Brutus.  Following Milton’s “History of England”; Brutus was the son of Silvius and he of Ascanius, the son of Aeneas who famously fled from Troy and settled his people in Italy.  Like Oedipus before him, [ii]  Brutus accidently killed his father.  It happen this way according to Milton, at age of fifteen Brutus accidently shot and killed his father with an arrow while out hunting.  Like Peleus (Apollod. iii. 12. § 2)  and Patroclus (Hom. Il. xxiii. 85)  Brutus was banished by his kindred and he went in search of purification.  He headed east and ended up according to Milton as the leader of a group of Trojan refugees enslaved by a local king in Greece. Brutus withdrew into the wilderness with his countrymen and King Pandrasus pursued.  The forces met on the banks of the river Achelous.  Brutus conquered and captured Pandrasus.  The concessions demanded were the freedom of the Trojans, a massive fleet for their departure and the hand of the king’s daughter Innogen. 

So the brute Brutus took the maiden Innogen[iii] wife and the Trojan fleet departed.  One the third day they land on a deserted island and discover a temple to Artemis.  After performing the proper rituals, Brutus falls asleep in the temple and dreams of the goddess; 
“Brutus!  There lies beyond the Gallic bounds an island which the western sea surrounds by giants once possessed, now few remain to bar they entrance or obstruct thy reign.  To reach that happy shore thy sails employ.  There fate decrees to raise a second Troy and found an empire in thy royal line, which time shall ne’er destroy, nor bounds confine.” [iv]

I am reminded of the famous quote in reference to the British Empire "this vast empire on which the sun never sets, and whose bounds nature has not yet ascertained."[v]  But at the same time this sure sounds familiar; an unnamed island across an unnamed sea, occupied by giants?  Polyphemus, the cyclops-son of Poseidon and Odysseus’ enemy certainly comes to mind. (Homer, Odyssey 9. 110)

But here is the story of the sea-girt island that Artemis now directs Brutus’ fleet towards.  Like the Danaides[vi] and the women of Lemnos,[vii] thirty Grecian princesses conspired to kill their grooms.  Their plot was betrayed and they were set adrift, landed on the island that was to become the home of Brutus realm.  The eldest princess Albina was the first to step ashore and the island was named in her honor Albion.  They women mated with spirits birthed a race of giants.  But by the time of Brutus’ arrival only 24 of the race survived due to fraternal conflict.[viii]

Upon arrival in England Brutus and company hold a feast of thanksgiving when two score of the giants descend on the Trojans.  A great slaughter ensues.  Victorious Brutus erects his capital upon the banks of Father Thames and names it New Troy (in Latin Troia Nova.) According to Monmouth the name is corrupted into Trinovantum and later London.  Brutus reigns with Innogen for twenty-four years.  His three sons divide up his kingdom; Locrinus claims England, Albanactus takes Scotland, leaving Wales for Camber.



[i] Sorry couldn’t resist a classicist joke; “Within the convention of epic composition, an incident that is untraditional would be huper-morian; beyond destiny.”  Gregory nagy, The Best of the Achaeans, The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999, page 40
[ii] Apollodorus. The Library. Translated by Sir James George Frazer. Loeb Classical Library Volumes 121 & 122. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1921  3.5.7-8
[iii]  Per the Wikipedia article of the same name; “Innogen is a female given name. The name comes from Old Irish and means "maiden" or "daughter". The much more common name “Imogen” originated as a misspelling of, or variation on, the older name Innogen.
[iv] Geoffrey of Monmouth, History of the Kings of Britian, trans. Aaron Thompson and JA Gills, Medieval Latin Series, Cambridge, Ontario 1999, page 14
[v] Macartney, George (1773). An Account of Ireland in 1773 by a Late Chief Secretary of that Kingdom. p. 55. ; cited in Kenny, Kevin (2006). Ireland and the British Empire. Oxford University Press. p. 72,
[vi]   Apollodorus. The Library. Translated by Sir James George Frazer. Loeb Classical Library Volumes 121 & 122. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1921  [2.1.5]
[vii] The Myths of Hyginus, translated and edited by Mary Grant. University of Kansas Publications in Humanistic Studies, no. 34. Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 1960.  Chapter 15
[viii] Richard Barber ed, The Giants of the Island of Albion, Myths & Legends of the British Isles, Boydell Press, based on 14th century manuscript; Des Grantz Geanz and its variants