Sunday, November 20, 2016

TFBT: Review of Thucydides

At the Kosmos Society 1 the Attica Greek study-group is translating excerpts of Xenophon’s 
Anabasis .2  The book is about the campaign of Cyrus the Younger, to wrestle the Persian throne from his brother Artaxerxes II.  Meanwhile the Book Club this month is Thucydides, The History of the Peloponnesian War. Both books cover the same historical period and often the same characters.  Thucydides loses by this comparison.

Thucydides briefly describe the fifty years between the end of the Persian Wars and Peloponnesian War. As I am reading his rapid description of who attacked whom when, I thought, “Are these people crazy?” But then I recalled Nestor’s speechs about the war at Pylos and with the Amazons. Thucydides people sound like and behave like Thucydides. Of course Nestor is a better story teller.

The whole war started with a civil strife in the community of Potidaea.  It was sort of the Archduke Ferdinand of the Peloponnesian War. Talk about self-fulfilling prophecy with the Athenians and Potidaea.  Worried that the Potidaeans might revolt, the Athenians demanded they tear down their walls, so the Potidaeans had to revolt and ask Sparta for help.

The Spartans visit Delphi and ask about attacking Athens. The god says yes, and that he will be with them. Pericles gives an incredibly vain and arrogant eulogy.  Apparently he did know about hubris or knew about the opening of the Iliad and anger   Apollo. The Spartans enter Attica and Apollo’s bow starts shooting shafts of plague into the city.  Within the year of Pericles famous speech he, all his family and a large portion of the Athenians were dead by Apollo's shafts. 


  • “Spartan feeling was at that time very friendly towards Athens on account of the patriotism which she had displayed in the struggle with the Mede.”  What's Patriotism mean here?
  • General Pausanias, Sparta Governor of Byzantium and brutal liberator of the Ionians was charged with many things.  “The charge of Medism formed one of the principal, and to all appearance one of the best founded articles against him."  So what does Medism mean?

Interesting tid-bits:

  • So, according to Xenophon, 80 years after the fall of Troy the Dorians and Heraclides became masters of Peloponnesia
  • There were no navies of any account in Hellas until the expedition of Xerxes
  • Sparta had the same government for 400 years
  • The statue of Athena in the Parthenon contained forty talents of pure gold in her jewelry and it was all removable.”

Our Book Club is studying the first two books of Thucydides history.  I won’t be reading any further.


  1.  Formerly Hour 25, but still an online community for classical studies
  2. From  John William White's  First Greek Book) 


Friday, November 18, 2016

TFBT: The Gods of Manhattan

My wife took me to Le Relais de Venise, a French, all-you-can-eat steakhouse to celebrate my birthday a week early.  As we walked around New York City I realized the old gods still abound.  Here is who I saw;


Pallas Athena reigning over the Great Dionysia where all the famous Ancient Greek tragedies were performed. More specifically in this case the Radio City Music Hall and its Christmas Spectacular.  Here is the line to get in to see the Rockettes perform. 


Hermes, god of commerce presiding over the Grand Central Terminal.  And some of the commerce within that my wife was particularly interested in.



The Nymph Daphne was honored at this Greek restaurant. Greek food is very similar to the Lebanese food I grew up on.  I had stuffed grape leaves and my loved the baklava.  The tavern claims on its website;Apollo's first love was the nymph Dafni.  As he pursued her, she called upon the gods to help her escape him and was immediately transformed into a laurel tree.  Still in love with her, Apollo vowed to always wear a crown of laurel.  As the originator of the Pythian Games, and as the god of poetry, he swore to crown all victors, heroes and poets with wreaths woven of laurel leaves.”  I saw the crowns of laurel on the wall!

Athena Parthenos recently took command of the lobby at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  This is a life-size (if you are a god) Roman copy of the lost statue at the Parthenon.  Knowing you will find a surprise in hand if you check out the rear of Farnese Hercules, I checked out Athena from behind and spotted her hair braided back in to a pony-tail.  A detail too high up to notice when I visited the Parthenon in Nashville.


Prometheus Bound a little differently at Rockefeller Center than tradition says; no eagle, no mountain, no exposed entrails.  Ends up the friend of the human race and giver of fire was just being protected during the decorating of the Christmas tree.  


 Meanwhile his brother Atlas stands nearby upholding the cosmos while gazing upon the house of another god; that is St. Patrick’s Cathedral.


 Nike, goddess of Victory is honored in the southeast corner of Central Park, where our carriage ride ended. Of course maybe she was there to honor General W.T. Sherman.


         And yes, it was a spectacular and divine way to celebrate by b-day! 


Wednesday, November 9, 2016

TFBT: The Daemons Lykos and Chimaireus

Do you know about Lykos and Chimaireus, the sons of Prometheus?  Neither did I and I have a reputation  for an “encyclopaedic knowledge” of Greek Mythology.  (My friends say the nicest things to me!)  Apparently, Cassandra, otherwise known a Princess Alexandra of Troy knew about them.  She rants about them in the book named for her.   (Lykophr. 132, with scholia and Tzetzes)   

They were the sons of Prometheus and his niece Celaeno, daughter of Atlas.    This is a rarely known fact to those of us in the habit of just using Hesiod’s Theogony as a genealogical resource.  However, marrying his niece, (a common practice in Greek myths) relieves us of the problem of Hesiod’s "Clymene".  The poet marries off this Oceanid first to Iapetus, Prometheus’ father, then to Prometheus (Yuck!) and finally to the Titan of the Sun, Helios.     

Regardless of their titanic ancestry, it appears that Lykos and Chimaireus, were mortal.  Menelaus was sent to Troy to propitiate the brothers and enquired after their tombs.  A plague raged in Sparta and with the usual ambiguity the Oracle at Delphi sent Helen’s husband to the Troas to perform rituals in the honor of the sons of Prometheus.   

Of course this state-visit is what prompts the Trojans to visit Sparta, and consequently Helen’s abduction and the first great war in the western world and then the reduction of the weight of the tribes of men upon the shaggy earth.   

Nothing more is known about Lykos and Chimaireus.   

Of course Robert Graves “Paris and Helen; q” told this story better than I in  The Greek Myths  and Samson Eitrem has some interesting asides and speculation in

“Lykos and Chimaireus.” The Classical Review, vol. 34, no. 5/6, 1920, pp. 87–89.