Tuesday, August 23, 2016

TFBT: M.L. West's Translation of Argeiphontes

I need your help in preparing talking points for a symposium (in the Ancient sense) next week.  Hour 25 is hosting a Book Club on Pandora on Tuesday, August 30 at 11 a.m.EDT.   We are all reading Hesiod in translation and the Attican (Greek) Study Group is translating the pertinent passages.  If you don’t know the story of Pandora, she was the Eve of Greek mythology.  You know how Eve had that poisoned apple?  Pandora dowry included a box full of evils, ills and ailments for mankind. 

I was assigned a few lines of her story to translate from Ancient Greek.  They included the pseudonym “᾿Αργεϊφόντης”.

πάντα δέ οἱ χροῒ κόσμον ἐφήρμοσε Παλλὰς ᾿Αθήνη.
ἐν δ' ἄρα οἱ στήθεσσι διάκτορος …..

Easy enough; "Argeiphontes" is a name for  the god Hermes,  universally translated as ‘Argus-slayer’.  Argus was a giant guarding a cow.  Hermes lulled him to sleep and killed him.  Famous story. 

Meanwhile, I am reading M.L. West's translation of Hesiod.  West translates Argeiphontes as "dog-killer".   Okay, I know that is a big difference and a little odd.  Keep in mind that Odysseus named his guard-dog Argus.

I would dismiss this, except for a problem I have with the gifts the gods give Pandora.  

"he (Zeus) ordered Hephaistos, renowned all over, to shape some wet clay as soon as possible, and to put into it a human voice           and strength, and to make it look like the immortal goddesses, with the beautiful and lovely appearance of a virgin. And he ordered Athena to teach her own craft to her, weaving a very intricate web. And he ordered Aphrodite to shed golden charm over her head; also harsh longing, and anxieties that eat away at the limbs.  And he ordered Hermes, the messenger and Argos-killer, to put inside her an intent that is doglike and a temperament that is stealthy."  (Work&Days 60ff trans. by Gregory Nagy)
So here is the problem I see in the above.  The Olympian craftsman Hephaestus makes a woman.  Athena, the goddess of weaving makes her a gown. (Elsewhere the Graces give her, well grace and Peitho, goddess of persuasion, makes her persuasive.)  Aphrodite, goddess of Love gives her the attributes of love.  See the pattern here?  Next the god that guides the dead and slew a giant; gives her doggishness and sly temperate.  How does that fit?   Shouldn't Hermes be giving her the skill to be a travel agent and a giant-killer?   I hate to say this but dog-slayer fits the pattern better.

My solution is this. It’s a pun!  Famously Argus was guarding a cow. So a guard dog, like Odysseus', is an "argus", every guard dog becomes an "argus", hence killing Argus is killing a dog.  So, M.L. West could be be right

Does this makes sense?

Monday, August 22, 2016

TFBT: Part Two of Bill’s Geryoneis

http://www.mlahanas.de/Greeks/Mythology/Geryon.htmlOriginally, I intended to post images found on famous vases and write about them, but as I reviewed the vases and images I wanted to share I realized I was re-inventing the wheel. Please visit the Greek Mythology Website   and Theoi.com  or click on the hyperlinked images.





Wednesday, August 17, 2016

TFBT: Part One of Bill’s Geryoneis

There is a lost epic called the Geryoneis by Stesichorus.  The fragments, testimonies and vases we have relating to the Geryoneis, indicate the story was about a cattle-raid and the hero Geryon.  Stesichorus was a prolific lyric poet (630 – 555 BC[i]).  Most famously he composed a tale critical of Helen of Troy.  As a consequence, Helen the goddess blinded him.  He then retold the tale, as Helen: Palinodes.  In this version Helen never actually went to Troy.  The Achaeans and Trojans fought and died for a phantom.  Helen spent the war in Egypt. Stesichorus as a consequence, regains his eye-sight.  This epic too is lost. [ii]  

The only mortal-gorgon was called Medusa.  She was Geryon’s paternal grandmother.  After a dalliance with Poseidon, she was beheaded.  At the time she was pregnant with twin sons; Chrysaor and Pegasus.  Somewhat like Athena Chrysaor, fully grown and fully armed, burst forth from their mother’s body with Pegasus.  Their father Poseidon was the god of horses and had sired a few “horses” on unsuspecting goddesses.  So Pegasus was another divine winged horse.  His duty in life would be to carry Zeus’ lightning bolts.  It’s not far-fetched to envision the twins fleeing their mother’s butcherer with Chrysaor astride Pegasus

Chrysaor was a giant in bronze armor.  Or a winged-pig.  Yeah, confusing I know.  But we have conflicting accounts.  Medusa was a Pontide (descendant of Pontus) and piggishness ran in their family.  One famous vase painting resolves the issue by having Geryon carry his father’s shield.  The insignia on the shield is the winged-pig.  We don’t know much about Chrysaor.  To quote Aaron Atsma

“Khrysaor's name means "golden-blade" which could be a sword, tusks, or, as in the case Demeter's title Khrysaoros, a reference to golden blades of wheat.”

Maybe in the abstract he was a “golden” lightning bolt; thrown to earth and then retrieved by his brother and brought back to heaven.  But that’s totally in the abstract.  He married the immortal Oceanide Callirhoe. 

Okay, here’s the big part, Geryon was a giant with three bodies.  Generally, he is represented on vases as three guys in a line standing hip to hip to hip.   With “six hands and six feet and is winged." (Fragment S87) He was non-theomorphic. (He was not made in the gods’ image.) Doesn’t mean he was a monster.  Geryon was not a monster, just a guy who owned crimson-colored, vshambling cattle in water-washed Erytheia.” (Hesiod, Theogony)

Below is my attempt to piece the Geryoneis together.

Geryon lived on “sea-circled Erythea beyond the stream of Okeanos… out in the gloomy meadow beyond fabulous Okeanos.”  He had a two-headed guard-dog named Orthros[iii] and the oxherd called Eurytion (Hesiod, Theogony)

Atsma says “Orthros' name was derived from the Greek word orthros meaning "Twilight".  “He sired deadly Sphinx, the bane of the Thebans.” (Hesiod, Theogony)  Little seems known about Eurytion, except Stesichorus says “of Geryon's herdsman [Eurytion] that he was born' almost opposite famous (island) Erytheia, by the limitless silver-rooted waters of the river Tartessos in the hollow of a rock." [iv] 

The dog (Orthros) smelled (the cattle-raider) there and went after him, but he struck him with his club and when the cowherd Eurytion came to help the dog, he slew him as well.  Menoites (Meneoestes), who was there tending the cattle of Haides, reported these events to Geryon.” [v]  and "Menoetes urges Geryon to think of his parents; ‘Your mother Callirhoe and Chrysaor, dear to Ares.’" [vi] 

Menoetes is urging Geryon to not act rashly and consider his parents. This rather parallels Priam’s words to Achilles in the last book of the Iliad;

But Priam made entreaty, and spake to him, saying: "Remember thy father, O Achilles like to the gods, whose years are even as mine, on the grievous threshold of old age. Him full likely the dwellers that be round about are entreating evilly, neither is there any toward from him ruin and bane. Howbeit, while he heareth of thee as yet alive he hath joy at heart, and therewithal hopeth day by day that he shall see his dear son returning from Troy-land. (Iliad 14.485)

By this we know that Chrysaor, immortal and ageless or not, is still around.   

Answering him the mighty son of immortal Chrysaor and Callirhoe said, ‘Do not with talk of chilling death try to frighten my manly heart, nor beg me… (to avoid the cattle-raider?)…for if I am by birth immortal and ageless, so that I shall share in life on Olympus, then it is better (to endure) the reproaches… (of men?)…and . . . to watch my cattle being driven off far from my stalls; but if, my friend, I must indeed reach hateful old age and spend my life among short-lived mortals far from the blessed gods, then it is much nobler for me to suffer what is fate than to avoid death and shower disgrace on my dear children and all my race hereafter--I am Khrysaor's son. May this not be the wish of the blessed gods . . . concerning my cattle."[vii]     

So, not only is Chrysaor alive, but Geryon assumes his father is immortal.  Immortal father and an Oceanid for a mother: the fact that Geryon is “by birth immortal and ageless” is almost a sure thing.  So, why should he fear death?    Alas, Hesiod says  

Now sing the company of goddesses… even those deathless one who lay with mortal men and bare children like unto gods.    And the daughter of Ocean, Callirhoe was joined in the love of rich Aphrodite with stout hearted Chrysaor and bare a son who was the strongest of all men, Geryones[viii]  

The mortal Geryon seems more concerned with his descendants than forbearers.  I found one; Norax was a son of Erytheia, the daughter of Geryones, with Hermes for his father.” Pausanias 10.17.5

So in fragments S12&S13,   Callirhoe sees the cattle-raider approaching and addresses her son with words like “Obey me, my child." “I, unhappy woman, miserable in the child I bore, miserable in my sufferings… if ever I offered you my breast…”   and then presumably throws open “her fragrant robe."  Sounds kind of odd to us, a mother flashing her son, but they did that sort of thing back then.  According to evidence on vases, that’s how Helen saved herself when her vengeful husband Menelaus finally caught up with his cheating wife; opened her fragrant robe and his sword fell to the ground.  A better example is Queen Hecuba trying to save her son Hector. 

“the mother (Hecuba) in her turn wailed and shed tears,  loosening the folds of her robe, while with the other hand she showed her breast, and amid shedding of tears she spake unto him winged words: "Hector, my child, have thou respect unto this and pity me, if ever I gave thee the breast to lull thy pain." Iliad 22. [77]

Fragment S14 tells us “then grey-eyed Athene spoke eloquently to her stout-hearted uncle, driver of horses [Poseidon]: ‘Come now, remember the promise you gave and (do not wish to save) Geryon from death.’"  In case you don’t know the story Athena is backing the cattle-raider.  In vase paintings, Athena is on the left literally backing up the cattle-raider, Geryon on the right with his mother Callirhoe behind him.  Poseidon is Geryon’s grandfather, hence is interest.  Why can’t help his mortal grandson Geryon is explained in the Iliad 16 426-458.  Zeus says to "Ah, woe is me, for that it is fated that Sarpedon, dearest of men to me, be slain by Patroclus  The father of men and gods then admits he is pondering whether to snatch him up and carrying him home to Lycia.  Queenly Hera answered him: "Most dread son of Cronos, what a word hast thou said! A man that is mortal, doomed long since by fate,” She tells him to “Do as thou wilt; but be sure that we other gods assent not”… (and) some other god also be minded to send his own dear son away from the fierce conflict; In other words, Zeus can’t save Sarpedon and Poseidon can’t save Geryon because if the gods start saving every demi-god and favorite from harsh death the social structure of the universe starts to unravel.

Fragment S15 doesn’t end well for Geryon.  The cattle-raider nails him in the head with a rock, Geryon loses “helmet with its horse-hair plume” and his foe follows up with an arrow dipped in the Hydra’s[ix] venom.  It silently…by divine dispensation…flies straight to the crown of his head…Geryon drooped his neck to one side, like a poppy which spoiling its tender beauty suddenly sheds its petals." 


Part One of Bill’s Geryoneis, ends here.

Part Two will look at the evidence from vases more closely. 

Part Three will discuss the more esoteric interpretation of all this.  (In part three we will discuss how Hera nursed the Hydra with her poisoned left breast.  The goddess’ breast was poinsoned by one of the cattle-raiders arrows.  The cattle-raiders’ arrows had been dipped in the dying Hydra’s bile.  Hey what a minute!  Ha ha!

[i] Wikipedia
[ii] Hilda Doolittle wrote an inspired poem based on the few remaining lines of the Palinodes; Helen in Egypt.
[iii] The dog was actually his nephew! Hesiod. Theog. 295 
[iv] Stesichorus, Geryoneis Fragment S7 (from Strabo, Geography)
[v] Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 2.106-8
[vi] Stesichorus, Geryoneis Frag S10
[vii] Stesichorus, Geryoneis Fragment S11 (from Papyri):  This fragment has a lot of gaps in it, called “lacuna” in classical circles. I filled it just enough to have it make sense.
[viii] Hesiod, Theogony 966 & 979
[ix] The Hydra is brother to Geryon’s fallen dog Orthrus.  Go figure!

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

TFBT: *Updated* The Ten Greatest Mythologists of our Age

“Mythologist” is sort of an old fashion word. These researchers of the Iliad and Greek Mythology might be called Philologists, Classicists, Latinists or professors, scholars, researchers or lecturers of Classical Studies. And yes, this is only my uncredentialed opinion.
1) Aaron J. Atsma 

Aaron J Atsma of Auckland, New Zealand is the creator and web-master of http://www.theoi.com/  This is a magnificent site I visit all the time. It is well written and well organized. All articles include the source material in common translation. As the name implies, Atsma’s research centers on the Greek divinities. His interpretation of myths, particularly in correspondences is often lacking a classical reference, but they induce that intuitive “Aha!” that helps make so much sense of the topic at hand.
2) Jenny Strauss-Clay 

Jenny Strauss-Clay is the William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Classics at the University of Virginia she received degrees from Reed College, the University of Chicago and the University of Washington I find her writing clear, concise and thought provoking. I revisit her works constantly. Her works includ; Hesiod's Cosmos Cambridge University Press, 2003. Which I refer to constantly and think is a requirement for anyone wanting to understand one of the foundation documents of Classical Studies. · The Wrath of Athena: Gods and Men in the Odyssey. Princeton University Press, 1983. Reprint, Rowman and Littlefield, 1996. · The Politics of Olympus: Form and Meaning in the Major Homeric Hymns. Princeton University Press. 1989. Her articles include; The Dais of Death Transactions of the American Philological Association (1974-), Vol. 124, (1994), pp. 35-40 · The Generation of Monsters in Hesiod Classical Philology, Vol. 88, No. 2 (Apr., 1993), pp. 105-116 She has a website at http://classics.virginia.edu/people/profile/jsc2t

3) NS Gill 

N.S. Gill blogs on tangents to Ancient History, Latin, and Mythology at https://ancthisttangents.wordpress.com/   . N.S. Gill has a B.A. in Latin and an M.A. in linguistics at the University of Minnesota.  Her site is well linked and covers a broad range of classical topics.  

4) Ian C. Johnston 

Ian Johnston is a retired instructor (now a Research Associate) at Vancouver Island University (the new name for Malaspina College), Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada. He received a BS from McGills in Geology and Chemistry, BA from Bristols in English and Greek and MA from Toronto in Engineering. Johnston has written about almost everything and translated books on the rest of everything. His books include The Ironies of War: An introduction to Homer’s Iliad University Press of America (1988) His articles include as brilliant series of essays on Homer’s Iliad · Essay 1: Homer's War · Essay 2: Homer's Similes: Nature as Conflict
· Essay 3: The Gods
· Essay 4: The Heroic Code
· Essay 5: Arms and the Men
· Essay 6: Hector and Achilles
· Essay 7: Homer and the Modern Imagination
· Essay 8: On Modern English Translations of the Iliad

Ian Johnston’s website is at http://records.viu.ca/~johnstoi/ It is designed to provide curricular material for various courses in literature and Liberal Studies. Johnston writes on myriad topics in addition to classical studies and all the articles at his website are thought provoking and professional.
5) Deborah Lyons 

Deborah Lyons is an Associate Professor in the Department of Classics Miami University, her education was at Princeton University -- M.A. 1983; Ph.D. 1989. Her books include · Gender and Immortality: Heroines in Ancient Greek Myth and Cult. Princeton University Press (1997). She covers a wide range of topics and is thought provoking. Her articles include;
The Sexual Life of Satyrs by F. Lissarrague and “One, Two, Three...Eros” by J.-P. Vernant in Before Sexuality, Princeton University Press, 1990. Her website is http://miamioh.edu/cas/academics/departments/classics/about/faculty-staff/lyons/index.html

6) Gregory Nagy  

Gregory Nagy is a professor of Classics at Harvard University, and the director of the Center for Hellenic Studies, a Harvard school in Washington DC. He is the Francis Jones Professor of Classical Greek Literature and Professor of Comparative Literature at Harvard, and continues to teach half-time at the Harvard campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He studied at Indiana University and Harvard receiving his PhD in Classical Philology and Linguistics in 1966. I find Professor Nagy inspiring! The handful of his books I’ve read from the library which is his total writings, are approachable, readable, instructive and full of insights. Nagy’s books include; The Best Of The Achaeans; Concepts Of The Hero In Archaic Greek Poetry Johns Hopkins University Press (1981) This is another book I refer to constantly and found quite enlightening. Greek Mythology and Poetics Cornell University Press (1992) His articles include; · Phaethon, Sappho's Phaon, and the White Rock of Leukas Harvard Studies in Classical Philology, Vol. 77, (1973), pp. 137-177 Homeric Questions Transactions of the American Philological Association (1974-), Vol. 122, (1992), pp. 17-60

Professor Nagy is also the lead instructor of “The Ancient Greek Warrior in 24 Hours” a free massive online open classroom sponsored by Harvard and EdX Other websites include The Center for Hellenic Studies, Harvard's Classics department under faculty profiles  and Hour 25
7) Carlos Parada 

Carlos Parada is a former lecturer in Classics at Lund University in Sweden. His books include Genealogical Guide to Greek Mythology Coronet Books (1993) His website is Greek Mythology Link This is an incredible well organized, heavily linked depository of everything dealing with Greek mythology. The complexity and thoroughness of his efforts are unbelievable and incredibly valuable.
8) Ruth Scodel 

Ruth Scodel is the D. R. Shackleton Bailey Collegiate Professor of Greek and Latin at the University of Michigan. She studied at Harvard University 1973-1978, Ph.D. June 1978 University of California, Berkeley 1969-1973 A.B. June 1973. I’ve found her writing refreshing and offering unique perspectives. Her books include
Listening to Homer University of Michigan Press (2009)
Her articles include; Apollo's Perfidy: Iliad ω 59-63 Harvard Studies in Classical Philology, Vol. 81, (1977), pp. 55-57 · The Gods' Visit to the Ethiopians in "Iliad" 1 Harvard Studies in Classical Philology, Vol. 103, (2007), pp. 83-98 The Suitors' Games The American Journal of Philology, Vol. 122, No. 3 (Autumn, 2001), pp. 307-327 The Word of Achilles Classical Philology, Vol. 84, No. 2 (Apr., 1989), pp. 91-99 The Wits of Glaucus Transactions of the American Philological Association (1974-), Vol. 122, (1992), pp. 73-84 · The Achaean Wall and the Myth of Destruction Harvard Studies in Classical Philology, Vol. 86, (1982), pp. 33-50 Her website can be found at http://www-personal.umich.edu/~rscodel/home.html

9) Laura Slatkin 

Laura Slatkin is a professor at New York University (Gallatin School). She is also currently visiting professor on the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago. She was educated with B.A. Classics, Harvard University, 1968, M.A. Classics, University of Cambridge, 1970, Ph.D. Classical Philology, Harvard University, 1979. I find her writing clear, concise and convincing. Her articles include; Gender and Homer Epic (with Nancy Felson) in the Cambridge Companion to Homer, Robert Fowler editor. I loved that line “men, women, gods and goddesses, working out their very different fortunes in a universe win which kleos (glory) is the highest value." I like how this article takes a different prespective on Homer’s two greatest poems by contrasting the relationships of the genders in each. “Notes on Tragic Visualizing in the Iliad” also. I appreciate your insights into seeing, particularly the thought that the mist that veils the divinities from mortals correlates to the final mist that covers the eyes of us. You really piqued my interest with the discussion on Achilles' sight. . Her books include; The Power of Thetis University of California Press (1995). I simply adore this book and think it gave me a greater understanding of The Iliad and swift-footed Achilles than any other book I read.

10) Vanessa James 

Vanessa James is associate professor and chair of theatre arts at Mount Holyoke College. She was educated at University of Bristol, England, C.I.D and Wimbledon College of Art, Dip. AD James is another author who writes on myriad topics. Her books include; The Genealogy of Greek Mythology: An Illustrated Family Tree of Greek Mythology from the First Gods to the Founders of Rome Penguin Group, USA (2003) This accordion-style book, includes a full genealogy as well as color illustrations and stories about Greek gods. It perfect for those of us who need handy visual and textual materials when studying relationship amongst mythological characters. Of course, I am one of those people who can read a genealogy table. Her website is at http://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/facultyprofiles/vanessa_james.html