Saturday, March 17, 2018

TFBT: more Notes on Troy

It is noteworthy that there should be no mention whatever of the Amazons at this point of the Cata- logue. They are known to Homer as invaders of Phrygia in Priam's young days (iZ. iii. 189). The VI THE ALLIES AND THE WAR 293 omission is, however, entirely consonant with the consistent avoidance of anything mythical in the whole Catalogue ; the poet seems to have set himself to give nothing but dry facts and names, with a studious avoidance of the marvellous and legendary.  (Footnote; At all events they were women soldiers and therefore mythical to Homer.). Walter Leaf Troy. No centaurs or Colchians.   
It is in this that the significance of the Iliad and the Odyssey alike is to be found. Greece was destined to spread not only to the east, but to the west. The conditions of advance in the two directions were different, but both have been recorded in the two poems. (Troy, Walter Troy)

Chryses appeals to Apollo “god of the silver bow , that standest over Chryse and holy Killa and rulest Tenedos” (Iliad 1.37-8)   Leaf suggests this represents a region “a welcome and defensible haven to the dispossed and disinherited “. Adding “In classical times this would beyond a doubt be held to indicate an “amphictyonic” confederacy for political purposes. “ Walter Leaf, Troy

You got to read about the The Great Foray in Troy by Walter Leaf pages 243-252. 

Sent from my iPad

TFBT: Lunt

The Heroic Athlete in Ancient Greece, DAVID J. LUNT†
Departments of History and Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies The Pennsylvania State University

Lunt sees an effort by historic champions to attain heroic honors.

“Plutarch, in his Life of Thesesus, speculated that Theseus’ era had produced a race of beings that far surpassed normal human athletic abilities such as bodily strength and swiftness of foot.”

“Kurke has argued that victory, especially prominent victory in a major festival or contest, brought kudos to the victor. This word, often translated as “praise” or “renown,” carried additional meaning for the ancient Greeks. As understood traditionally, the pos- sessor of kudos enjoyed “special power bestowed by a god that makes a hero invincible.”

“The kudos of victory elevated human athletes to a liminal status between mortals and gods, “

“Nearly two hundred years later, during the fourth-century B.C. campaigns of Alexander of Macedon, an Athenian athlete named Dioxippos defeated a fully armed Macedonian soldier in single combat. The Macedonian, named Koragos, must have had a little too much to drink at the raucous banquet where he challenged Dioxippos, a renowned athlete and a boxing champion in one of the Crown Games.27 On the day of the duel, Koragos arrived decked out in fine armor and weapons. Dioxippos, on the other hand, came naked, his body oiled, wearing a garland, and carrying only a club. Appearing as a victo- rious athlete and armed as Herakles, Dioxippos easily defeated the well-armed Macedonian. The Olympic champion relied on his athleticism, avoiding Koragos’ javelin throw, shat- tering his lance with a blow from the club, and wrestling him to the ground as the Macedonian reached for his sword. In accordance with the myths surrounding Herakles and his manifold duels and contests, Dioxippos treated this encounter as a contest in which he, the Heraklean athlete, vanquished the better armed (and not entirely Greek) enemy.”  I am reminded of the 10,000 singing the Paean (The Victory Song) as they entered battles i the Persian Civil War.  In each case the Persian forces opposing them ran!

“Polydamas, a pankratiast, won a crown at the Olympic games of 408 B.C. His ex- ploits, surely exaggerated, reportedly included pulling the hoof from a struggling bull and stopping a moving chariot by grabbing on and digging his heels into the ground. Further- more, in some sort of agonistic duel, he simultaneously fought and defeated three mem- bers of the elite bodyguard of the Persian King in the court of Darius II. Without exagger- ating the connections to mythic precedent, this one-against-three battle certainly evokes echoes of Herakles’ combat with the triple-bodied Geryon. Both the Persians and the monstrous Geryon represented fantastic, non-Greek forces, and the triplicate enemy sug- gests a convenient parallel.”

“Out of ambitious envy of Achilles,” 

“many respects, the use of poetic meter represented the language of the gods. The Greeks delivered divine communications, such as pronouncements from the Delphic oracle, in dactylic hexam- eter. According to Plato, the Muses spoke to poets in verse, and the poets acted merely as vehicles for conveying the divine words.”

Pelops’ Charioteer: Killas

“ The young Pelops became a lover of the god Poseidon who provided him with a chariot drawn by swift--some say winged--horses. He later travelled across the sea to Greece to compete for the hand of Hippodameia, daughter of King Oinomaos (Oenomaus) of Pisa. The king would slay his daughter's suitors as he overtook them in a chariot race, so Pelops bribed the charioteer Myrtilos to tamper with the axle. Oinomaos was killed as a result and Pelops seized control of the kingdom. “ Aaron Astma

Pausanias {5.10.7} At the very edge lies Kladeos, the river which, in other ways also, the Eleians honor most after the Alpheios. On the left from Zeus are Pelops, Hippodameia, the charioteer of Pelops, horses, and two men, who are apparently grooms of Pelops. Then the pediment narrows again, and in this part of it is represented the Alpheios. The name of the charioteer of Pelops is, according to the account of the Troizenians, Sphairos, but the guide [ex-hēgētēs] at Olympia called him Killas.

Walter Leaf: Homer mentions Killa only as a site of the worship 
of the Sminthian Apollo, without any definite note of locality. We have, therefore, only Strabo's informa- tion upon which to go. He tells us (xiii. 1. 62) that " it is in the territory of Adramy ttium near Thebe. It still retains the name of Killa, and there is a temple of the Killaean Apollo. The river Killaios flows past it from Ida. All this is in the direction of the terri- tory of Antandros." He fiirther adds (63) that ** near the temple of Apollo is the tomb of Killos, a great tumulus. It is said that Killos was a charioteer of Pelops, and was ruler in the country." * 
Leaf recommends Frazer's comments on Pausanias above, but I can’t find them. If Killa was a colonist you would think Delphi would be olved

Thursday, March 1, 2018

TFBT: Metopes at Thermon, Temple C, with Kathryn R. Topper

 Just participated in a wide-ranging and fascinating presentation at a CHS Online Open House | Metopes at Thermon, Temple C, with Kathryn R. Topper.  She offered lots of insights and things to think about.  You must watch this presentation. Here is the link 

Here are a few random notes. 

Topper suggested a correspondence between men hunting animals and men chasing after women.  The iconic visual representation of that being Peleus wrestling down shape-shifting Thetis.  She also showed parallel images of a man chasing a woman with two spears and guy about to stab (penetrate) a boar with two spears.  Someone asked what does it mean when the boar gashed the man in the thigh? Topper explained that it was rejection of the marriage paradigm.  [It is also a euphemism for castration!]

The temple was decorated with a metope of the sisters Chelidon and Aedon. Their story is essentially the story of sisters Procne and Philomela.  Procne was given in marriage to the Thracian King Tereus.  [You know how they are.]  She bore him a son Itys.   Only to discover that Tereus had raped and mutilated her sister Philomela.  The two sisters get revenge by cooking up the boy and feeding him to his father.  Eventually the gods turn everyone into birds and they fly their separate ways.  Topper commented that this is a ritualized returning to the father’s womb.  I am going to have to rethink the cannibalism of Cronus and Thyestes. 

She suggested that the three naked women on one metope were the daughters of Proitos; the Proetides.  Their myth is about the madness that over came them when they were impious towards Hera and refused to participate in the rite of passage that would have made them eligible for marriage.      Personally, I would have assumed that three naked women would represent a triad of goddesses. 

I thought it odd at this point that there was no connection between the mortals on the metopes and the location of the temple. The temple is located in western Greece, north of the Peloponnesian Peninsula and the Gulf of Patras.   Aedon’s story takes place in Colophon in Lydia, far across the Aegean Sea in Asia Minor.  The Proetides myth takes place far to the south in Tiryns, one of three Mycenaean strongholds in the Argolid,   Generally, the mortals associated with a temple represent some local myth and with a temple of this age a foundation myth for the area.

She reminded us that Medusa was once a beautiful maiden seduce by Poseidon in a field of flowers.  We discussed off camera that her monstrous features came about because of a curse by Athena; a late tradition.  I pointed out a similar “bed of roses” in Hera seduction of Zeus on Mount Ida and that the head of the monstrous Medusa on slide 20 was actually the Aegis.  After Perseus cut off Medusa head and turned several enemies into stone, Athena attached the head to her tasseled breastplate called the Aegis.

Jack asked if Medusa ever got her revenge on Perseus.  Topper answered no.  But, as I thought about, not only did neither of her sons; Chrysaor and Pegasus avenge her, but most of her descendants were actually slain by Perseus’ descendants.  Most famously Heracles slew her grandson Geryon. 

As to the Perseides killing the brood of Echidna (Medusa’s granddaughter); there is no crime (sin) in killing strangers or monsters.  The Furies would only care if you kill a family member.  Which would suggest that they should have been all over the Procne and Philomela story like they were in the case of Atreus and Thyestes.  It strikes me this is why the gods turn them all into birds.  The gods can’t deny the Furies their prerogatives of retching revenge on the family, but they can turn them into birds before the “Kindly Ones” arrive therebye stopping the cycle of violence the house of Atreus was so famous for.  

Topper also suggested that what started the cycle of violence in the Chelidon and Aedon/ Procne and Philomela story was Procne violating the marriage paradigm by inviting her younger sister to come live with her and her husband.  (Hmm, that sounds like a really bad idea in the first place.)  By violating the marriage paradigm, they become young girls in the chorus of again, animal-like feral women, maenads, the Theban bacchantes on Mt Cithaeron who ribbed their children limb-from-limb..

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

VfthSW: The Brown Paper Bag

Thirty years ago, I lived on the highest street in the village, the house lots behind me and downhill were vacant.  Cross from them on a lonely street lived my best friend and his neighbor.  Whenever Paul’s neighbor let out the dogs, they would poop in the middle of his front lawn.  Paul had spoken to the neighbor to no avail.  

 One Saturday morning, maybe mid-morning, I finally got out of my bed.  Everyone else in our village of 100 had headed “into town” for groceries and shopping.  Either of the closest bigger towns were an hour away and everyone usually made a day of it.    My first chore; scooping dog poop in my back yard.  So, shovel and brown paper bag in hand I went out to doo my dooty.  (Ha ha!)   Not a big job.  When I finished, I looked down on Paul’s front yard.  Even at that distance I could see where the grass had been killed by the neighbor’s dogs. 
I said to myself, “What the hay! I already have a bag of dog poop.” 
So I marched down the hill and shoveled up the poop in Paul’s front yard.    

I swear by God Almighty what happen next was not premediated.  I had the brown paper bag half full of dog poop.  What was I going to do with it?  I walked over and placed it in the middle of the neighbor’s front lawn. 

I don’t know what I was doing when the neighbor came home from shopping.  The Judge was visiting and she saw it all real clear through the window at the kitchen sink.  The neighbor parked on the street.  The dogs jumped out of the truck with him and ran off to Paul’s yard, while he carried in arms full of groceries in brown paper bags.  Apparently the dogs distracted him further when he walked to the truck for the second load.  Returning to the house with his arms full of bags again, he noticed the brown paper bag I’d left and apparently assumed a bag had slipped out of his arms on the first trip.  So after depositing the second load of brown paper bags in the house, he returned to the middle of his front lawn for the one he thought had slipped out of his arms.  The Judge couldn’t tell, but she was pretty sure he didn’t suspect anything when he opened the bag to see if its contents were broken.  Apparently the aroma of dog poop and the visual hit him at the same time.  He slammed the lip of the bag shut.  The Judge had tossed down her dish towel and stepped back into the shadows of the kitchen.  So when the neighbor looked about, he saw no one watching and Paul’s truck still clearly absent.  Embarrassed he hurried around to the side of his house and buried the brown paper bag in his garbage can.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

VftSW: He is Going to Leave his Wife for Me.

Kathy said, "He is going to leave his wife for me."

My grandmother had heard this so often from Kathy, that she just nodded, smiled sweetly and changed the subject.  Kathy didn't appreciate it when my grandmother pointed out that she'd been hearing this for years, that Kathy never spent Christmas with him, Thanksgiving, vacation, Valentine's day and only occasionally did he celebrate Kathy's birthday with her.  I think what really aggravated my grandmother about the whole thing was the number of times that she and Kathy had plans that abruptly got cancelled because he was suddenly available. 

In retrospect, maybe that was the kind of relationship Kathy wanted.  Clearly she wasn't good at making commitments to her friends, maybe she didn't want to have to commit to a man. 

I once referred to Kathy as my grandmother's best friend.

"She's not my best friend. "

"You two spend all sorts of time together.  You probably hit the town twice a week together.  How is she not your best friend.?" 

My grandmother sighed, as though a little disappointed that she had to explain the concept of a "best friend" to her college age grandson.

"So say I have an emergency in the middle of the night and I call Kathy to come over.  It will take her two hours to show up.  Cause first she'll shower, pick out an outfit, fix her hair and put on her make-up." 

I nodded, seeing how that was possible.

"Now if I call Marjorie, (Another friend she spoke of fondly and often, but not someone she hit the bars with.) Marjorie will show up in five minutes; wearing her robe and slippers, hair in curlers and shotgun in hand."

So,  who is your best friend?

VftSW: Free Beer

Thirty years ago someone in the front of the hotshot bus yells out, "Does that say Free Beer?"

He was referring to one of those big signs on the big hotels as you enter town.  We were coming back at the end of the day from working on a Forest Service trail over-looking Santa Diego Pueblo.  Sure enough is said, "Free Beer, Thursday 5-7".  It was Thursday and we got off at five.

We thought about car-pooling, because there would be no place to park, right?   The parking lot at the hotel had plenty of cars but not so many we could not find places to park.  There were a lot of people in the hotel-bar, but the typical number for a week-day afternoon where people were stopping for a cold one after work.  We crowded into an empty booth.  What there wasn't plenty of, was waitresses.  So being the take charge kind of guy I am.  I stomped down the steps in my dusty boots and dirty work clothes and ordered, "A vodka Collins with a double twist and seven free beers."

Barkeep said, "Coming right up."

There were three people sitting in the bar and they said in this order, "They have free beer here?", "Yeah." and "It's Schlitz." 

The last speaker didn't say it in disgust, but in was in a judgmental enough tone of voice that the other two nodded in understanding and agreement.

They weren't big glasses, but they were a cup (literally; small transparent plastic cup) of ice-cold,  free beer.  We went back to the bartender for round after round of free beer until was time to go home or time to go eat dinner.   The hotel never did it again as far as we could tell.

Here's my thought after all these years.  My boss drank a Vodka Collins with a double twist?  And he did it so often I still remember his drink after all these years?  Back then people drank Tom Collins!  And a double twist?  

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

TFBT; "Troy" by Walter Leaf

I recently purchased a copy of “Troy: A Study in Homeric Geography” by Walter Leaf.  (Ends up I did not get a real book, rather one of the Xeroxed copies where you see a person’s hand occasionally and badly bound in a hard cover.  The pages are already coming out of the binding.)  I find Leaf’s writing beautiful and his concepts way ahead of their time.  (Although I skipped the flat-out archeology bits.) He was writing about stuff in 1912, that I thought hadn’t been worked out until recently.  A few great quotes.  More to come. 


The summit of Ida is a shapeless plateau, strewn with stones, and in itself most unlovely. But as the pasture of the plains below begins to die out in the heat of early summer, the fresh grass grows on the heights, and offers food to countless flocks and herds. And all round the fields of melting snow there springs up in May a glory of colour which those who have seen it are not likely to forget — crocus and hyacinth carpeting the slopes with brilliant orange and blue, mingled in thick beds worthy for the couch of gods.”


It would seem to follow that there existed from the first some sort of a metrical narrative of the [Trojan] war... gradually transformed, by the natural growth of centuries, from a narrative into a poem, each generation taking up the tradition, and gradually moulding it by expansion and omission, to be handed on to the next for fresh development, till it reached its final form in the Iliad as we now have it.”


Leaf speaking of the Iliad, “the story which, of all that have ever been set down, has most affected the imagination of succeeding generations”


Careful investigations by Virchow and others have failed to produce any sign of marine deposits in the plain, and it may be taken as certain that the coast-line did not in the Mycenaean age materially differ from that which now exists. Hissarlik [Troy] was as far from the sea then as it is now.”


Skamandros, and Simoeis, where many cowhide-shields and helmets fell in the dust—as also a generation of demigods.”  (Iliad 12:22-23)


One thing at least has passed for me beyond all doubt: that the poet who wrote those lines either knew the scene himself, or was following in careful detail a predecessor who had put into living words a tradition founded on real fighting in this very place.”


Referring to Achilles chasing Hector; “The triple course round the city is easy even now: it must have been still easier when the neck to the south-east of the fortress was materially lower than it is to-day. That it should be done in full accoutrement after a morning of hard fighting with river gods as well as men raises it to the level of a truly heroic performance.”



Sunday, February 18, 2018

TFBT: The Epigoni

The Attican Study Group at the Kosmos Society is translating the text pertaining to Pausanias’ visit to Delphi during the second century AD.  This is the second of two articles on the statutes dedicated by the Argives; the first set of statutes being the Seven Against Thebes and this set the Epigoni.     My friend Helene asked me to write a little something up and here is the first draft.


οὗτοι μὲν δὴ Ὑπατοδώρου καὶ Ἀριστογείτονός εἰσινἔργακαὶ ἐποίησαν σφᾶςὡς αὐτοὶ Ἀργεῖοι λέγουσινἀπὸ τῆς νίκης ἥντινα ἐν Οἰνόῃ τῇ Ἀργείᾳ αὐτοί τε καὶἈθηναίων ἐπίκουροι Λακεδαιμονίους ἐνίκησανἀπὸ δὲτοῦ αὐτοῦ ἐμοὶ δοκεῖν ἔργου καὶ τοὺς Ἐπιγόνους ὑπὸἙλλήνων καλουμένους ἀνέθεσαν οἱ Ἀργεῖοικεῖνταιγὰρ δὴ εἰκόνες καὶ τούτωνΣθένελος καὶ Ἀλκμαίωνκατὰ ἡλικίαν ἐμοὶ δοκεῖν πρὸ Ἀμφιλόχου τετιμημένοςἐπὶ δὲ αὐτοῖς Πρόμαχος καὶ Θέρσανδρος καὶ Αἰγιαλεύςτε καὶ Διομήδηςἐν μέσῳ δὲ Διομήδους καὶ τοῦΑἰγιαλέως ἐστὶν Εὐρύαλος.” 10.10.4

“These are works of Hypatodorus and Aristogeiton, who made them, as the Argives themselves say, from the spoils of the victory which they and their Athenian allies won over the Lacedaemonians at Oenoe in Argive territory. From spoils of the same action, it seems to me, the Argives set up statues of those whom the Greeks call the Epigoni. For there stand statues of these also, Sthenelus, Alcmaeon, who I think was honored before Amphilochus on account of his age, Promachus also, Thersander, Aegialeus and Diomedes. Between Diomedes and Aegialeus is Euryalus.”


These are the sons of the Seven Against Thebes discussed previously.  They succeeded in conquering Thebes whereas their fathers did not.  Sthenelus was the son of the hubristic Capaneus, Alcmaeon and his brother Amphilochus were sons of Amphiaraus;   when they discovered their mother had knowingly forced their father to participate in the doomed expedition of the Seven Against Thebes, the advice from the Oracle was for them to kill her.  (Same advice Apollo gave Orestes a generation later with the same pleasant consequences.) Diomedes, son of Tydeus. And so on.  Most of these went on to battle beneath the walls of Troy in the Iliad.


If we are wondering why the Argives and Athenians erected these statues of the Epigoni in honor of the victory over Sparta, the answer might be found in the Iliad.
There is a tradition in many cultures that in the good old days, men were braver and stronger, and women were smarter and more beautiful.   For example, in 469 BC a skeleton of large man was found by Cimon and brought to Athens. It was believed to be that of Theseus. 1   Homer probably explained this folk-belief best;


“Aeneas seized a great stone, so huge that two men, as men now are, would be unable to lift it, but Aeneas wielded it quite easily. “ Iliad 20.286


In answer to a similar charge of weakness and smallness in the current generation by Agamemnon against Sthenelus and his buddy Diomedes, Sthenelus replied,  


We boast to be much better than our fathers.  We even captured the foundations of seven-gated Thebes,   having mustered a smaller army against a stronger fortress and having heeded the signs of the gods and the help of Zeus. But they perished, by their own wantonness.   So do not bestow on our fathers an honor [tīmē] that is like ours.” Iliad 4.405-10


So by erecting statues of the Epigoni in honor of the victory at Oeone, the Argives are pointing out that they too are better than their mythological forefathers, and accomplished something they never had, they defeated the Spartans.  








1 A Dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology William Smith, Ed.


Saturday, February 10, 2018

TFBT: The Seven Against Thebes

Over at the Kosmos Society one of the study groups was translating  Pausanias 10.10.3.  I did a little research on it.

 Near the horse are also other votive offerings of the Argives, likenesses of the captains of those who with Polyneices made war on Thebes: Adrastus, the son of Talaus, Tydeus, son of Oeneus, the descendants of Proteus, namely, Capaneus, son of Hipponous, and Eteoclus, son of Iphis, Polyneices, and Hippomedon, son of the sister of Adrastus. Near is represented the chariot of Amphiaraus, and in it stands Baton, a relative of Amphiaraus who served as his charioteer. The last of them is Alitherses.

Talaus had a son Adrastus.  Adrastus got some strange prophecy from Delphi telling him to wed his daughters to a lion and a boar.  Admetus had to deal with something similar  ( Apollodorus Bibl. 1.19.3,  Fabulae 50)  Adrastus found two guests fighting on the doorstep; one carrying a Theban shield ( think bottom half of the Sphinx) and the other a Calydonian shield (as in the Boar Hunt)  So he wed his daughters to them

  • Argria to Polyneices banished co-king of Thebes and
  • Deiphyle to Tydeus, father of Diomedes

Talaus had a daughter Eriphyle wed to Amphiaraus the seer.   With the help of Iphis’ advice, family politics and poisoned jewelry Amphiaraus  was forced to participate in the doomed expedition against Thebes.  His charioteer Baton and their chariot are mentioned by Pausanias because of what happens later.  (See below.)

Talaus had a daughter Metice, mother of  Hippomedon.  He has various parentages.

Iphis had;

  • a daughter Evadne married to Capaneus and
  • a son Eteoclus (Polyneices brother is named Eteocles, just to confuse us.)

Various lists can be found naming the Seven Against Thebes; none of them include the unknown Alithereses. 

For those that don’t recall; after Oedipus cursed his sons Polyneices and Eteocles, civil war broke out.  Polyneices raised an Argive army to insure his right to the throne.  After much epic battling and the death of several of the heroes  (See Thebaid) the brothers decided to settle it man-to-man.  They ended up slaying one another simultaneously in front of the gathered armies.  The Argives fled.  Adrastus was the only Argive captain to survive because he was on the divine horse Arion.  Amphiaraus,  Baton and their chariot were swallowed up whole by the earth.  The site became an underground oracle and both men received heroic honors.

 Part II is The Epigoni


Tuesday, February 6, 2018

VftSW: Don’t Bring Your Girlfriend Home

Long ago I worked with this guy Blake and his brother, fighting forest fires. They were young and still living at home.  I stopped by the house once for a beer and noticed the lack of a woman’s touch, definitely a bachelor household.  I made some comment about that to Blake.

“Oh, mom ran off ages ago.” He said matter-of-factly.  “Dad raised us pretty much by himself.”

That set me back a bit.  Blake’s dad and I had friends in common.  I had never heard this story.  Not knowing what to say, I said, “That must have been hard on your dad.”

“Ya, especially because she ran off with my grandad.” came the matter-of-fact reply.

Okay, I never heard that bit of gossip before either.  Again not knowing what to say, I said, “That must have been hard on your grandmother.”

“Nay, she’d already run off with my grandad’s father.” 

“Blake!” I said, “Let me see if I have this right.  Your great-grandad ran off with your grandad’s wife?”

“Uh-huh” he nodded

Then I said, “And your grandfather ran off with your dad’s wife?”

“Uh-huh.” he nodded.

Then I thought, “So your dad is going to steal your wife?”

And without me asking the question out-loud, Blake responded with a nod and an “Uh-huh.”


Saturday, February 3, 2018

TFBT: Sema and Anagnorisis

I just finished reading "An Odyssey: A Father, A Son and An Epic" by Daniel Mendelsohn.  As I mentioned before I fine it well-written, insightful and thought-provoking.

Chapter Sema,

Of course the last chapter deals with the end of the Odyssey (and of the father).  The ritual that ends Odysseus’ career as Destroyer of Cities and start of his role as King of Ithaca as predicted by the seer Tiresias mimics the rites involved in the burial of Odysseus’ sailor.  In never occurred to me that the burial of Achilles is foreshadowed by the burial Patroclus and all mixed up the prophecy of Thetis. 

None of the characters above experienced the long lingering death of the elderly, which the father succumbed to and so feared. As we all do. 

Chapter Anagnorisis

The son and father seem to have so little in common.  (I wonder if the son knew the story that Laertes is NOT the father of Odysseus, but rather Sisyphus (Scholium to Sophocles’ Ajax 190).  Just saying, the son’s mother, father’s wife was a beautiful woman. )  The son seems so clueless about the father, as though the elder man had been gone twenty years.  But siblings and relatives alike knew all sorts of stories, had all sorts of insights that the son didn’t share. 

 This chapter, actually the next to last and I think the most pertinent, is primarily about the son interviewing relatives about the father. (Probably symbolic of the author gathering material for the book.)  While talking to Aunt Barbara and Uncle Nino this happens;

“Barbara looked at me and said, slowly, Oh, I know what you’re doing I know why you interview your uncle.  I know why you’re here.

I looked at her and said, what am I doing?  Why am  here?

Barbara smiled with slow self-satisfaction, like a student who is convince she has outwitted the teacher.  She said, you’re doing what Telemachus did.“ 

TFBT: Quotes for February

Strictly speaking, then, gods are not anthropomorphic, humans are theomorphic.” William F. Hansen

A flock of owls is a parliament
A flock of crows is a murder
A flock of ravens is an unkindness.  (Tim Piazza)

11] In reply to this Phalinus said: “The King believes that he is victor because he has slain Cyrus. For who is there now who is contending against him for his realm? Further, he believes that you also are his because he has you in the middle of his country, enclosed by impassable rivers, and because he can bring against you a multitude of men so great that you could not slay them even if he were to put them in your hands.” Then Theopompus, an Athenian, said: [12] “Phalinus, at this moment, as you see for yourself, we have no other possession save arms and valour. Now if we keep our arms, we imagine that we can make use of our valour also, but if we give them up, that we shall likewise be deprived of our lives. Do not suppose, therefore, that we shall give up to you the only possessions that we have; rather, with these we shall do battle against you for your possessions as well.” Xen. Anabasis. 2.1.11-12

[20] In reply to this Clearchus said: “Well, that is what you say; but as our answer carry back this word, that in our view if we are to be friends of the King, we should be more valuable friends if we keep our arms than if we give them up to someone else, and if we are to wage war with him, we should wage war better if we keep our arms than if we give them up to someone else.”  Xen. Anabasis. 2.1.20

A suitor like Hippomenes in the Hesiodic Catalogue of Women must compete—to paraphrase Haubold—not only for a wife but also for his life. (Yiannis Petropoulos  is Kleos in a Minor Key: The Homeric Education of a Little Prince

“The Arkeisiads survive at the expense of at least two age-sets. “ Yiannis Petropoulos. In other words two generations of Ithacans  died to insure the throne of Odysseus and Telemachus 

“If the T scholia on Iliad 9.482 are correct in deriving the etymology of τηλύγετος ‘special or favorite [sc. child]’ from the word τέλος ‘end’, the prince is literally, as the above scholia note, ὁ τῆς γονῆς τέλος ἔχων, μεθ’ ὃν ἕτερος οὐ γίγνεται ‘he who finishes or completes the generation, after whom no other is born’ “ Yiannis Petropoulos

Sunday, January 28, 2018

TFBT: Chapter 3; Nostos

This chapter starts with a discussion of Odysseus and Telemachus, father and son, both returning to Ithaca and meeting a the hut of the swineherd Eumaeus.  When the son approaches the hounds “fawn on him, not a growl as he approaches.” In sharp contrast to the reception given Odysseus by this famous dog  Argus, by this younger pack he is almost “torn apart and eaten”. This being a ritualized death generally reserved for Theban princes (and the poet Euripides). 
As I mentioned before, the academic son does not seem to like his Father too much and begins telling us about the alternate father figures he picked in his teenage years.  He calls them mentors. Two different “music” teachers and a clearly gay couple who took them under their arm(s). In this way the classicist compares himself to Telemachus and Eumaios who had “been a father figure to Telemachus his whole life”.   When they meet; 

Eumaios sprang to his feet, and the bowls in which he was mixing wine fell from his hands, as he made towards his master. He kissed his head and both his beautiful eyes, and wept for joy. A father could not be more delighted at the return of an only son, the child of his old age, after ten years’ absence in a foreign country and after having gone through much hardship.  He embraced him, kissed him all over as though he had come back from the dead,” 16:12-21 

Odyssey reveals himself to Telemachus shortly thereafter creating quite a scene.  The son asks the father what he thinks of the scene and the father admires Odysseus ‘ self-restraint.  “It must have been hard for him to have to sit there watching while his own son acted like that other guy was his real father.” The implication being the father was hurt by the son’s fondness for these other men, but maybe it was something else.
Earlier the son shares that his father had some experience with homosexuality and we had just heard, “My parents cultivated this man as a friend , I suspect to make a show of how much they trusted him, since back then it was not necessarily the case that parents would let their adolescent children spend unsupervised days with music teachers who were known to have roommates.”
In my opinion the self restraint the father shows is not watching his son treat other men like a father but rather worrying that some of his son’s “mentors” might have kissed his head, both his beautiful eyes, embraced him and kissed him all over .  (The things parents have to do for their children!)

The restraint of Odysseus in the recognition scenes is much discussed in this chapter, particularly by the students, whose heart is made of “horn or iron” and his favor inhuman. Thanks inhuman is a good word, it reminds us of the gods, who are not humans and Artemis’ statement in Hippolytus that gods don’t cry.  The notion in the classroom is that Odysseus learned to hold back, he is no less longer the impulsive youth that charged head of his older uncles and got gored in the “thigh”.  I wonder if Monro’s Law does not color Odysseus' passionlessness in the reunion scenes. Monro pointed out that the composer of the Odyssey, knew well the Iliad.  Is this stoicism on Odysseus’ part to contrast him with Achilles famously impulsive behavior and epic passions

Saturday, January 27, 2018

TFBT: The Apologies

I am reading and enjoying, “An Odyssey, A Father, A Son, and an Epic” by Daniel Mendelsohn. Chapter II is “Apologoi” not apologies.  Oops.  The author translates the word from the Greek as Narratives; Books 9-12 of the Odyssey. “A title that underscores Odysseus ‘wondrous way with words, his sly expertise as a raconteur and fabulist”. That’s a nice euphemism!

The boys find themselves adrift on the sea with a boat full of enthusiasts following Odysseus’ travels across the Mediterranean.  The son suddenly realizes that the other guests like his students had come to know his father as this song-singing old gentleman; affable and entertaining.

Mendelsohn continues retelling tales from the Odyssey. He does a remarkable job of explaining the whole incident in Polyphemus’ cave with outis, metis and “My name is Nobody.” (Hey!  I just got that!  Movie of the same name: 1973, Terence Hill and Henry Fonda. One of my favorites as a kid.  Only took 45 years for me to make the connection. )

When debating rather to take the strenuous hike to Circe’s supposed claustrophobic cave, the father says they have to go.  Because it is seven tenths of the story.  (Seven of the ten years homeward were spent here.)  Love that logic.  That’s why I bought the book.  When the younger man admits his extreme claustrophobia his father says “It will be okay, I will hold our hand all the way.”  That night over drinks the cruise’s social director says to the younger man, “So you survived?” referring to the claustrophobia he mentioned to her.  Before he could say anything his father says his son held his hand all the way because at his age he was worried about falling.

The author points out that the “Nekyia”, the journey to Hades, happens halfway through the Odyssey.  “In order to move into the future, we must first reconcile ourselves with our past. “ He compares the rites there to “the best horror movies”, something I might have noticed once in my youth.  Father and son visit the place where Odysseus and company sailed into the underworld at the Phlegraean Fields.  This is the place where the gods, goddesses and demi-gods slaughtered the giants.

Discussing the fall of Icarus;

“Yes, I said, smiling, It’s about hubris, about the foolishness of challenging the gods.”

He gave me an amused look.  “I think it is about the foolishness of challenging your father!”

The father and son have a conversation about homosexuality.  Apparently the son is openly gay and is surprised to find his father “has some experience in this area”; when the father was in high school a gay boy had been fond of him.  No telling yet what this has to do with the Odyssey.

His students note “dark parallels” between the adventures Odysseus relates to the Phaeacians and the early adventures as related by Homer. As if “the stuff he’s telling the Phaeacians is totally made up.”  I personally have been a big supporter of this notion his Kevin McGrath pointed out in a lecture that something like 80% of Odyssey is told by Odysseus.  I like this argument because it explains away Achilles comments in Hades.  Plus Odysseus lies constantly and consistently throughout his adventures; it seems improbable plot-wise and impossible based on his characterization throughout classical literature that he could tell the truth and nothing but the truth for that long a recitation. My hero, Jenny Strauss Clay is also a character in the book, she points out Homer’s comment at 8.447, something about a knot Odysseus learned from Circe.  That seems to kill the students argument that Odysseus made up his adventures with Circe.  All it proves to me is that she taught him a knot. Everything else is still up in the air.

Towards the end of this chapter father and son discussed death. As if Odysseus return is a kind of death, the end of the adventurer Odysseus who is now the old king of a petty realm. The father does not fear death so much but the diminishing that so often precedes it for the elderly: ill-health and dementia.  (Things the reader knows will happen to the father.) I read this discussion this morning, but yesterday, my dance partner and I were the entertainment at long term at the hospital.  A nurse helped a ninety-one year old woman up out of here wheelchair so she could “dance” with me.  Another elderly woman agreed to country swing with one of the nurses and ended up leading! There were people there who had no idea who we were, what we were doing or saying.  But in response they smiled in pleasure at us.  Pleasure and smiles are worth living for.