Tuesday, July 28, 2015

TFBT: Second Randoms Notes on Argonautica Book 3

The Hour 25 Book Club will host a discussion on Apollonius Rhodius Argonautica Book 3, via Google+ Hangout on Tuesday, August 11 at 11 a.m. 

You can find R.C. Seaton’s translation of the text online for free here, or you can read any other edition you prefer.  Here is my first random notes in preparation for August 11;  

I just thought the followinger were beautiful and dreadful;
 (283) “and he shot at Medea; and speechless amazement seized her soul. But the god himself flashed back again from the high-roofed hall, laughing loud; and the bolt burnt deep down in the maiden's heart like a flame; and ever she kept darting bright glances straight up at Aeson's son, and within her breast her heart panted fast through anguish, all remembrance left”  (297) “Love the destroyer;”…“shone the son of Aeson for beauty and grace; and the maiden looked at him with stealthy glance, holding her bright veil aside, her heart smouldering with pain; and her soul creeping like a dream flitted in his track…” 

Some where I got the impression the sovereignity of Colchis was dependent on ownership of the Golden Fleece, sort of like King Nisus of Megara’s purple lock of hair [HYGINUS, FABULAE 198] .  But I haven’t seen that mentioned yet in the Argonautica.  What I have seen is “the heart of ruthless Aeetes” (492).  Aeetes who would have killed his future son-in-law and bringer of the golden fleece “Phrixus, who surpassed all strangers in gentleness and fear of the gods” (584) if the gods hadn’t stopped him.  Aeetes who had “bitter foes the Sauromatae” on his borders and feared the betrayal of his relatives.    Now admitted this all predisposes King Aeetes to be leary of Jason and the Argonauts, but what if he’d said “Yes, that nasty old goat skin is yours!”  In that case, the neighboring nasty tribe would have been vanquished, his son and heir would have survived making his crown more secure and he would have gotten rid of Medea.  Bad decision little influenced by the gods I think.  [i] 

I keep seeing examples of indecision standing on the threshold or some other liminal spot.  (525)“refrain and abide in your ship a little longer as before, for it is better to forbear than recklessly to choose an evil fate.”  (647). “she desired to go to her sister, and crossed the threshold. And for long she stayed there at the entrance of her chamber,” 

(663) “Thrice she made the attempt and thrice she checked herself, the fourth time she fell on her bed face downward,”  Doesn’t Apollo warn off some warrior three times in The Iliad and on the fourth attempt the guy ends up face down in the dirt?

[i] Do all the kingdoms adjoining the Black Sea kill strangers?  As in the Land of Taurians where Iphigenia sacrificed strangers to Artemis.  HYGINUS, FABULAE 120  and  Hdt. 4.103

Thursday, July 23, 2015

TFBT: Reading Medea

After my shower this morning I donned the club tee-shirt and a navy sports coat, lowered my crown on my brow and prepared for the performance.   We read “Medea” by Euripides.  During preparations Janet asked where I got my crown.  She thought it was wonderful that my wife  had made it for me the night before our reading of “Antigone”.  I played “Creon” there too.  Sarah S. played Medea and did an incredible job!  I always thought Medea was mad and rambling in her early speeches, but Sarah’s chilling performance made it clear that Medea was perfectly sane and plotting out loud.  The death of Glauce and her father is one of the most horrific scenes I’ve ever read, but the silent Medea stole the show cackling and giggling as the messenger recites in horror the princess’ demise.  Jessica as usual did a great job.  She was the messenger.  She said she would have body checked Sarah if they were together for upstaging her.  Paul O’M, a professional actor with classical experience played Jason  and actually made the character convincing.  Medea and Jason’s (Sarah and Paul’s) more intimate scenes were amazing! 

I heard so many things differently this time.  I heard things I’d not seen while reading;
o   At Hour 25, we had a discussion in the forums about the Iliad’s Sheer Cliff and Gray Sea Metaphor.  So this morning we heard of Medea “as if she were a stone, or the ocean swell, (28)   I will have to look at the Odyssey when Odysseus approaches the cliffs of Pheaecia. 
o    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, Euripides (571)  Maya M and I have been studying the Five Ages of Man; no women and no troubles is the Golden Age. 
o   “Aegeus; A man called Pittheus, king of Troezen.  Medea; He's Pelops' son. They say he's a very holy man.” (683-3) Who says, Pittheus is a very holy man?  He “died” in the hubristic attempt to kidnap the goddess of death and prostituted his daughter to King Aegeus.  It’s like; “Peleus the most chaste of men,[i] blameless Peleus, [ii] Peleus, one dear to the hearts of the immortals[iii]  Peleus was a double murderer!  The things that make Pittheus and Peleus precious to the gods, I don’t understand.
o   “I'll turn three of my enemies to corpses—father, daughter, and my husband.” (375)  And yet, for all her unearthly viciousness she doesn’t kill Jason. Is Eros’ terrible staff still stuck in her heart?  Is Jason alive because Medea still loves him?

Great session this morning.

[i] Plato, Republic 391c
[ii] Homer, Iliad 20. 207
[iii] Homer, Iliad 24. 59

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

TFBT: First Random Notes on Argonautica

The Hour 25 Book Club will host a discussion on Apollonius Rhodius Argonautica Book 3, via Google+ Hangout on Tuesday, August 11 at 11 a.m.

You can find R.C. Seaton’s translation of the text online for free here, or you can read any other edition you prefer.  Here is my first random notes in preparation for August 11;

3.1. 1 “Come now, Erato, stand by my side, and say next…”  Erato?  What?  The Muse of Love Poetry?  Not Epic?  We’ve studied so hard on the standards of epic and heroes who battle for unwilting glory.  Are their new standards and paradigms we must learn for what I heard Nagy call Jason yesterday; “A Love-Hero”? 

3.1. 37) “Cypris, which her husband, the halt-footed god,  So Hephaestus netted his wife and Ares sometime between the beginning of the Argonautica and well before the end of the Iliad when he was then married to Aglaia. 

3.1. 60 “Him will I deliver, though he sail even to Hades to free Ixion below from his brazen chains,”  Why would Hera use an example suggesting the freedom of a mortal that attempted raping her?

Zeus had a blooming fruitful orchard on Olympus.  3.1. 113-4 & 158  Wonder what he was raising?   “ 

3.1.201. "willows and osiers, on whose topmost branches hang corpses bound with cords. For even now it is an abomination with the Colchians to burn dead men with fire; nor is it lawful to place them in the earth and raise a mound above, but to wrap them in untanned oxhides and suspend them from trees far from the city. And so earth has an equal portion with air, seeing that they bury the women; for that is the custom of their land.”  Intersting.  Are there any Bronze Age cultures that actually did this? 

Cytaean Aeetes  Cytae was the town where Aeetes’ daughter Medea was born (Culture In Pieces: Essays on Ancient Texts in Honour of Peter Parsons  By Dirk Obbink) 

Eidyia his wedded wife, the youngest daughter of Tethys and Oceanus.”  Interesting.   That makes her the last of the Oceanides.  Was Styx the first? 

3.1. 275-298; “ Meantime Eros passed unseen through the grey mist, causing confusion, as when against grazing heifers rises the gadfly, which oxherds call the breese. And quickly beneath the lintel in the porch he strung his bow”  Interesting that a god uses the lintel to transition from the divine plan to the mundane.




Sunday, July 19, 2015

TFBT:Why the Gods Created Man

Apollodorus 1.6.1,  trans J. G. Frazer


Maya M. asked why the gods of Ancient Greek myth created man?  I asked more specifically why Cronus was the first to attempt this grand experiment that took 5 attempts under two different divine regimes? 


This is a sketchy proposal, but it might possible be one answer or part of the answer; “Now the gods had an oracle that none of the giants could perish at the hand of gods, but that with the help of a mortal they would be made an end of.” Apollodorus does not say which “gods”.  But the metopes of several ancient temples include virtual all the gods not just the Olympians in the Gigantomachy and in contrast to to the Titanomachy, almost all the goddess too.   Gaea seemed to be familiar with this prophecy, too..  What if all the gods knew the prophecy? Image the look on the Titans’ faces as they pondered the oracle, saying “What’s a giant?”  “More importantly what is a mortal?” 


So aware of the doom laying before the divine community; generation after generation of gods perfected the race that would save them.  First the golden age of man; a failed experiment without fire or women[i].  The Silver Age added then Motherhood.  Next the Bronze Age and our benefactor Prometheus; in pages 106-107  of “Hesiod’s Cosmos” Clay argues that Prometheus’ affection for humanity was more mercenary than philanthropic.  The Titan adds  fire and Pandoric wives to the blood line.  As the final moments of the Gigantomachy approach, a dash of ichor in human veins and Zeus spend three days and nights in the siring of Heracles.[ii] 

Tierasias at Heracles birth calls him the hero of the Gigantomachy to come.[iii]  According to the metopes several other demi-gods join him.  The gods win, the giants loss.  At Thebes and Troy the heroes and demi-gods battle to the death.  The gods pull the veil and are done with improving their creation.[iv]  

[i] Page 87 “Hesiod’s Cosmos” Jenny Strauss Clay
[ii] The Preparation for the Gospel, Eusenius, page 54
[iii] Pindar  Nemean 1.67-72
[iv] This timeline follows page 63, Emma Stafford, “Herakles”

Thursday, July 16, 2015

TBFT; Still Fruitful After All These Years

Maya M, asked if I thought that after the veil was pulled; “do gods retain any ability to reproduce?”  She's  asking a rather unknowable and abstract question.  But I have a few insights to share.   

In reading “Awakening Osiris” by Normandi Ellis, I somehow got the impression that when Hathor kicked in the blue door of Heaven, he met a lot of “unknown” gods.  That is to say gods with no cult or worship that are only referenced in the Egyptian Book of the Dead.  That notion transferred into my studies of Greek myth.  Let introduce you to a few “unknown” gods in Olympus
·      Alexiares and Anicetus, the twin sons of Heracles & Hebe.[i]
·      Diomedes given nectar and immortality by Athena.[ii]
·      Dionysus’ mother Thyone and wife Ariadne[iii]
The point being;  here are a bunch of gods that we know about occupying Olympus, just imagine how many more there could be that we don’t know about.   

That said, the suggestion that Zeus of all people could no longer father sons, is a violation of Jenny Strauss-Clay’s Law of Once and For Always  and as  Deborah Lyons points out in Gender and Immortality, “The beds of the gods are always fruitful.   These two laws in place it might seem odd that Zeus and Hera only had three children.  I once asked Prof. Seemee Ali, (from Carthage College)  what child was born of their coupling on Mt. Ida during the Trojan War (Iliad, Book 14)  Her response was that what was born that day was a new dispensation established between Hera and Zeus that smoothed the way towards the war’s foretold conclusion.  Abstractions like that can occupy a lot of rooms in Olympus above and Hades below. 
So I see plenty of evidence the divine kept reproducing like rabbits even after they quite joining with the daughters of men.  

[i] "Herakles achieved immortality, and when Hera's enmity changed to friendship, he married her daughter Hebe, who bore him sons Alexiares and Anicetus."  Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 2. 158 
[ii] According to the post Homeric stories, Diomedes was given immortality by Athena, which she had not given to his father. Pindar mentions the hero's deification in Nemean X, where he says "the golden-haired, gray-eyed goddess made Diomedes an immortal god." In order to attain immortality, a scholiast for Nemean X (J.B. Bury, Pindar: Nemean Odes) says Diomedes married Hermione, the only daughter of Menelaus and Helen, and lives with the Dioscuri as an immortal god while also enjoying honours in Metapontum and Thurii.
[iii]  After her death, Semele was led by her son out of the lower world, and carried up to Olympus as “Thyone” (Pind. Ol. ii. 44, Pyth. xi 1; Paus. ii. 31. § 2, 37. § 5; Apollod. iii. 5.)  "And golden-haired Dionysos made blonde-haired Ariadne, the daughter of Minos, his buxom wife: and the son of Kronos made her deathless and unageing for him." (Hesiod, Theogony 947)

Monday, July 13, 2015

TFBT: Medea and Ino

Over at Hour 25, we are discussing “Medea” by Euripidies.    Kimie, commented “What amazes me about her is her seeming immunity from divine punishment. In the background story told by Nurse, Medea kills her blood-kin brother and engineers to have king Pelias killed by his daughters (another shedding blood of blood relative). She fears Medea will then kills her own children (though not of blood-kin, according to Apollo in Aeschylus). Medea does exactly what the nurse fears, but she gets away with it—no Furies hover over her head screaming revenge”  This question has always disturbed me about the play too.  Who gets away with this sort of behavior?
The answer to my version of Kimie’s question popped into my head last night; Ino!  
Ino and Medea both seem to be immunity from divine retribution. They do terrible things and get away with it. Here is Ino’s story if you don’t know it, I follow Graves here for convenience, but can find references for all his stories.
I am following Graves here for convenience; Athamas ruled over Boeotia. He had three wives.  The cloud-nymph Nephele was his ex-wife, She bore Athamas two sons: Phrixus and Leucon, and a daughter, Helle. He also fell  in love with Ino, daughter of Cadmus, granddaughter of Ares and Aphrodite brought her secretly to his palace installing her as a maid, where he begot Learchus and Melicertes on her. Athamas also married Themisto who, a year later, bore him twin sons.
Ino, persuaded the local women  to parch the seed-corn. When no sprouts appeared, Athamas asked the Oracle at Delphi what was wrong,. The reply was, that the land would regain its fertility only if Nephele’s son Phrixus was sacrificed to Zeus.  Just as Phrixus was to be sacrificed a winged golden ram, flew to the rescue   Phrixus climbed on its back as did his sister Helle .  The ram flew eastward.  Helle lost her hold;  fell into the Hellespont and became the Nereid of the place. Phrixus reached Colchis  sacrificed the ram and married the younger daughter of King Aeetes’,  Chalciope consequently becoming Medea’s brother-in-law.   Aeetes was the son of Helios.
Themisto jealous of Ino’s children instructed the "maid" to dress her twin boys in white and Ino’s children in black garments.  The following day, Themisto ordered her guards to break into the royal nursery and kill the children who were dressed in black, but spare the other two. Ino, however, had put white garments for her own sons, and black garments for her rival’s. Thus Themisto murdered her own  twins
At this point Athamas and Ino went mad.  Athamas stalked and slew his elder son Learkhos thinking him a deer, meanwhile Ino threw Melicertes into a boiling cauldron. (Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 3. 28)  Then, carrying the corpse of the boy, she jumped to the bottom of the sea  and became immortal.  She as the Goddess Leucothea and  her son Melicertes as the God Palaemon,
Ino and Medea’s stories have several things in common, the involvement of Helios, both heroines were grand-daughters of important gods, sacrifice of children, tricking someone into killing a family member, someone tossed into a boiling cauldron, miraculous escapes and no retribution from the gods. 
 PS.  I studied  The Genealogy of Greek Mythology by Vanessa James in order to get Ino and Medea’s family relationship right;  Ino’s step-son was Medea’s brother-in-law.  In the process of researching  I noted Ariadne.  Like Medea she was the grand-daughter of an important god who betrayed her father and country for the love of foreign prince.  Like Medea she aided in the death of her half-brother and then sailed away.  In Ariadne’s case the consequences were she took a short nap, was awoken by Dionysus and taken to Olympus to be his immortal wife. 

With Kimie’s encouraging words I kept thinking about ancient Greek girls who betray their nearest and dearest.  I vaguely recall Nisus the King of Megara’s daughter, the lover of Minos betraying her father.  Her name was Scylla.  Her story didn’t end well.  To quote Wikipidea’s article (and www.maicar.com),   “Scylla's story is a close parallel to that of Comaetho, daughter of Pterelaus. (She was princess of the Taphians and lover of the Theban Amphitryon.)  Similar stories were told of Pisidice (princess of Methymna and lover of Achilles) and of Leucophrye.”  She was daughter of Mandrolytus and the lover of the invading colonist Leucippus, son of Xanthius from Pherae.     All four betrayed their fathers and fatherland  and their stories “all of which ended tragically for the heroines.”   None of the four are grand-daughters of the gods. 


Wednesday, July 8, 2015

TFBT; "Men Die!"

Sarah S at Hour 25 teases me about my tremendous knowledge of Greek mythology. Our friend Jack followed up by offering to help me write the definitive tome on the topic.  I begged off by stating that  I didn’t have some great insight or thread of logic I could trace throughout the hydra-headed corpus of Greek mythology.  But while staining the rough cut paneling of the Summer Study I pondered that whole notion. Maybe I do.    

I can summarize it this way; “Men Die!”  The primordial sky-god Uranus foresaw his sons castrating him.  The Olympian were buried in their father Cronus’ belly.  The Titans were bound in their mother Gaia’s underbelly.  All three incidents sound like death to me, the last in particularly is literally a “dirt nap”.  And the consequence of all this was gods striving against “death”.  Hermes and Geryon didn’t know if they were immortal.  Hermes found out at the end of a shika-bob; which he discovered he couldn’t eat, making him a god.  Geryon at the end of Heracles poinsoned arrows, making him dead and mortal.  (TFBT:The Divine Aversion to Death and Nyctophobia)  

Not only does the fact that “Men Die!” explains the ancient Greek heroes striving for endless glory in epic, but it also explains ever foolish hubristic attempt by mortals to attain godhood, nothing to lose.  (TFBT; Five Reasons for Fighting the Fates) We don’t read about women yearning for children which is a woman’s form of immortality back then; but we know the Greek regretted sending their dear ones to Hades unwed conquently girls like Antigone were laid to rest in their wedding gowns.  (The Bride of Hades 

See also,  “The Impermanence of the Permanent: The Death of the Gods? by Lorenzo F. Garcia, Jr.,   
I need to ponder this “definitive” insight more. 




Tuesday, July 7, 2015

TFBT; Medea as Fury

 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.

Previously, I proposed that we look at Medea as an avenging Fury. We've had similar conversation about Clytemnestra in the past. I promised to follow up when I had a chance to look at the Greek. When Medea asks why she must be exiled. Jason, “You kept making all those bitter curses against the ruling family here. “ Medea “And I'm a curse against your family, too.” (607-9) I was struck instantly by a phrase from the last play of the Orestia, when one of the erinyes addresses Athena “Daughter of Zeus, you will hear it all in brief. We are the eternal children of Night. We are called Curses (ρα) at home beneath the earth.” (Eumenides 415) The Greek from Perseus for Eumenides is;

πεύσ τ πάντα συντόμως, Δις κόρη. 415
μες γάρ σμεν Νυκτς ααν τέκνα.
ρα δ ν οκοις γς πα κεκλήμεθα.

Aaron J. Atsma at www.theoi.com says on the subject of Curses;“In the sense of curse or curses, the word Erinnys or Erinnyes is often used in the Homeric poems (Il. ix. 454, xxi. 412, Od. xi. 280), and Aeschylus (Choeph. 406) calls the Eumenides Arai that is, curses." I would also suggesting visiting his comments at http://www.theoi.com/Daimon/Arai.html

Medea's line about Curses from her play is below in Greek and English from Persues;

Μήδεια; κα σος ραία γ οσα τυγχάνω δόμοις.
Medea; Yes, and I am a curse to your house too. 608

LSJ explains that the word means “prayed against, accursed,”

An additional reference to Medea as a Fury can be found at Perseus; “O light begotten of Zeus, check the cruel and murderous Fury, take her from this house [1260] plagued by spirits of vengeance.1” Footnote 1 per Perseus; “The Chorus see in the murder the work of an Erinys Fury, one of the punishing divinities usually thought of as under the control of Zeus. That human agents may be sometimes regarded as embodying this spirit or serving as its unconscious agent is clear from Aesch. Ag. 749 and Eur. Tro. 457.”