Wednesday, January 25, 2017

TFBT: Painful Wisdom

I wondered if the word kerdos (crafty) was used in conjunction with the mighty Aphrodite.  I thought I recalled the word crafty in The Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite.  Instead I found it in these two text; Orphic Hymn 55 and the Rape of Helen. Firstly;

Heav'nly, illustrious, laughter-loving queen,
Sea-born, night-loving, of an awful mien;
Crafty, from whom necessity first came,

Οὐρανία, πολύυμνε, φιλομμειδὴς Ἀφροδίτη,
ποντογενής, γενέτειρα θεά, φιλοπάννυχε, σεμνή,
νυκτερία ζεύκτειρα, δολοπλόκε μῆτερ Ἀνάγκης

The above from Orphic Hymn 55 to Aphrodite translated by Thomas Taylor, 1792-1824.[i] No kerdos here, but rather “crafty” is a translation of; δολοπλόκε  (δολο-πλόκος , ον  “weaving wiles”.   Perseus found five other attestations by various late authors.  Secondly,

"Kypris of crafty counsels unfolded her snood and undid the fragrant clasp of her hair and wreathed with gold her locks, with gold her flowing tresses."

Κύπρις μὲν δολόμητις ἀναπτύξασα καλύπτρην
λαὶ περόνην θυόεντα  διαστήσασα κομάων
χρυσῷ μὲν πλοκάμους, χρυσῷ δ᾽ ἐστέψατο χαίτην.

The above from Colluthus’ Rape of Helen,   A. W. Mair, Ed. [ii]   The reference to “crafty” here is δολόμητις  (δολο-μήτης , ου, ,) crafty of counsel, wily. Ten attestations in Perseus, mostly by Homer, mostly referring to Aegisthus.  (That’s not good!)[iii]

So, rather than kerdos we have δολο-πλόκος ; weaving wiles and δολο-μήτης; crafty of counsel.  I wondered about the prefix “δολο”.  Being familiar with the English word, “dolor”; pain.  I wondered if “δολοπλόκος” was also braiding your step-daughter so tight she cried.  So I looked it up in Liddell and Scott.[iv]  They list doloeis as the root of the prefix, meaning subtle, wily.  Wisdom is a common translation for μήτης. Which leaves πλόκος meaning lock of hair.

[iii] (Hom. Il. 1.531; meeting of Thetis and Zeus; Hom. Od. 1.300,  Od. 3.198, 3.250, 3.308 Aegisthus;  Od. 11.442  either Cassandra or Clymnestra:  HH 4 405, Hermes)
[iv] Yes, I actually got out my ancient hardcopy and a magnifying glass.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

TFBT: Random Notes on Metamorphesis, Chapters 12-13.

The Monthly Book Club at the Kosmos Society  is reading Ovid’s Metamorphosis, Chapters 12-13.  I haven’t read the book in years except when looking up references.   But I know enough of it that I’ve come  across confusing “errors” constantly.  My friend Helene suggests that Ovid follows different traditions that Homer.  Rather I see sloppy plagiarism and typos.

The Dark Green Snake
At Aulis the heart-broken Achaeans in route to Troy  were trapped by adverse winds.  In reading Ovid’s description of what happen next, it sounded a lot like Homer’s. 
First Ovid;  “The Greeks saw a dark-green snake sliding into a plane tree that stood near to where they had begun the sacrifice.   There was a nest with eight young birds in the crown of the tree, and these the serpent seized and swallowed in its eager jaws, together with the mother bird, who circled her doomed fledglings.   They looked at it wonderingly, but Calchas, the seer, son of Thestor, interpreted the truth, saying: ‘We will conquer, Greeks, rejoice! Troy will fall, though our efforts will be of long duration,’ and he divined nine years of war from the nine birds.  The snake, was turned to stone,  (Ovid Chapter 12)”
Now look at Homer; “Then we saw a sign; for Zeus sent a fearful serpent out of the ground, with blood-red stains upon its back, [310] and it darted from under the altar on to the plane-tree. Now there was a brood of young sparrows, quite small, upon the topmost bough, peeping out from under the leaves, eight in all, and their mother that hatched them made nine. The serpent ate the poor cheeping things, [315] while the old bird flew about lamenting her little ones; but the serpent threw his coils about her and caught her by the wing as she was screaming. Then, when he had eaten both the sparrow and her young, the god who had sent him made him become a sign; for the son of scheming Kronos turned him into stone,  we stood there wondering at that which had come to pass. Seeing, then, that such a fearful portent had broken in upon our hecatombs, Kalkhas right away declared to us the divine oracles. ‘Why, flowing-haired Achaeans,’ said he, ‘are you thus speechless? Zeus has sent us this sign, [325] long in coming, and long before it be fulfilled, though its fame [kleos] shall last forever. As the serpent ate the eight fledglings and the sparrow that hatched them, which makes nine, so shall we fight nine years at Troy, but in the tenth shall take the town” Iliad 1.135
Not exactly plagiarism; but the keys elements and where they appear in the tale makes me a little suspicious that Ovid didn’t have a copy of the Iliad in hand as he wrote his version

Next Ovid was bad mouthing the famously kind Nereus, which made me think he knew less  about Greek Mythology than I thought. “Nereus continued to be boisterous on the Aonian waters,”.  Ovid Book 12 Most mythologist over the millennia have followed Hesiod who says

  “Pontus,  the great sea, was father of truthful Nereus who tells no lies, eldest of his sons. They call him the Old Gentleman (Gerôn) because he is trustworthy, and gentle, and never forgetful of what is right, but the thoughts of his mind are mild and righteous.  Hesiod, Theogony 233 ff  

Plus let’s keep in mind that it is the winds that make the sea Boisterous not the sea-gods as mentioned by Virgil in the famous “Quo ego” scene at Aeneid 1:135

Achilles famous Pelion spears
Another error struck me with Ovid’s description of Achilles famous Pelion spears. “Achilles examined the spear to see if the iron point had not been dislodged.”  Shouldn’t that be bronze?

It’s Thebe with No “S”!
Then Achilles said,  “when I caused Tenedos and Thebes, the city of Eetion…"  Really?  Confounding King Eetion’s city of Thebe with “Thebes” is common but I expected better Ovid.   Eeetion is the King of Placian Thebe in Cilicia and father of Hector’s wife Andromache.  (Homer Iliad 6.396 & 417)

Finally, we read that Nestor is over two hundred years old.  Really? Nestor speaking “have lived for two centuries and now am living in my third.”  (Ovid, Meta. Chapter 12) Homer accurately, universally acknowledged and more logical is Homer’s statement. Two generations of men born and bred in sandy Pylos had passed away under his rule, and he was now reigning over the third (Iliad 1.250] This is clearly plagiarism of the worst sort, sloppy!
Nice lines
  • “Tell on, old man, eloquent wisdom of our age,.
  • “they drew out the night in talk, and valour was the theme of their conversation. Of battles was their talk, the “enemy's and their own, and 'twas joy to tell over and over again in turn the perils they had encountered and endured 




Thursday, January 12, 2017

TFBT: Review of Dona F. Wilson

 I read “Ransom, Revenge and Heroic Identity in the Iliad” by Dona F. Wilson.  Not being a linguist and having little faith in Indo-European etymologies it is a hard read for me.  Very much a close reading.  And very worthwhile. 

True Love

I ran across something at lunch yesterday that darkened my romantic image of Achilles. 

“Wealth in Homeric society appears to be organized into four spheres; subsistence goods, prestige goods, persons and cultural wealth… They (women) are located in the sphere of persons when they are figured as belonging to a kinship and marriage group, but when viewed relation to their captors they are located in the sphere of prestige goods…redefining a (slave) woman in terms of familial relationships as - Agamemnon and Achilles shall be seen to do in the quarrel - locates her in the spheres of persons and augments the compensation on my demand for her loss.” 

So all that stuff about Agamemnon preferring the daughter of Chrysies to Clytemnestra, his wedded wife and Achilles comparing his relationship to Briseis to that of the Atreides and their wives; “Are the only mortal men in the world who love their wives the sons of Atreus?” (Iliad 9.341) All that was so much posturing for greater compensation (and honor).  True love takes another hit!  Darn! 

Institutional Misrecognition of Compensation

 Wilson’s book is very much about revenge, ransom, the economic system of compensation that underlies them and the elite warriors that use the system.  Wilson also demonstrates that that there is an “institutionally organized failure” to recognize how the system truly works. The heroes think “compensation, as in gift exchange…the system is primarily symbolic as opposed to economic.”  

Wilson divides wealth in Homeric society into four categories; materials wealth, prestige goods, persons and cultural wealth; 
·      Prestige wealth is…confined to elite intercourse; as gift exchange, distribution of honorific prizes, raiding, and purchase from foreign traders.”

·      Examples of cultural wealth are might in battle, skill as an orator, priesthood, a god for a parent and a gold studded “scepter handed down from Zeus.” 

·      Material wealth is represented by gold, slaves, cows, tripods, etc.

But the institutionalized misrepresentation of the economic system means that aristocrats fail to recognize the connection between material wealth and prestige.  They think they have great herds back home because they are great kings not vice versa.  So kings like
Nestor (Iliad 1.277-79) speaks from a perspective that there exists a natural, divinely legitimized relation between Agamemnon’s cultural wealth, specifically the scepter and the (prestige) privileged status he enjoys as commander-in-chief of the armies gathered at Troy. We may say therefore that Nestor misrecognized the relation between Agamemnon’s scepter and his status. “  
Glaucus and Diomedes were family friends because their grandfathers had eaten together and housed one another.  Meeting on the battle field and discovering their relationship; they exchanged gifts.   Glaucus seeing no connection between material wealth (his gold armor) and prestige happily exchanges his armor for the armor of the famous Diomedes conqueror of Thebes (prestige wealth).  Meanwhile, Homer not being a Mycenaean prince, but rather someone who literally sings for his dinner, doesn’t understand the exchange by Glaucus and Diomedes. (Iliad 6.199ff)


The narrative of Lykaon and Achilleus illustrates the ideology of reciprocity claiming implicitly that because they had eat together when Achilles captured him (the first time) their commensality makes rejecting is plea (that his father pay ransom for him) impossible.”  Achilles slew the Trojan prince at his knees begging for his life.  Clearly Achilles did not consider Lycaon a family-friend (xenos) and maybe not even an elite warrior, plus his famous wrath was in full-swing.  However, “the single most important factor in the success of an offer of ransom (is) whether the offer is made/in the time of the primary fabula, between Chryses’ arrive in the Achaean camp in Book 1 and Priams’ in Book 24…All offers of ransom in the time between Chryses’ and Priam’s offers fail.” (pg 31)

 Other Interesting Thoughts

·      The Iliad aligns accepting material settlements including ransom and limited revenge with the male and culture and denying material settlements and/or limits on revenge with the female and nature.”

·      “All relations between men are reducible to their honor and consequently (following his abuse by Agamemnon)…Chryses’ anguish (over loss of honor) is more important than his daughter.”

·      “Life and honor are not the property of the individual only, but also of his or her family.”