Saturday, January 13, 2018

TFBT: Pausanias 1.16.1+


Greg Nagy presented great insights into “A sampling of comments on Pausanias: 1.16.1–1.17.2 “  Part of the article was about “the marble metopes of the Parthenon.” He adds some socio-political interpretation to them.   

I would like to give an additional layer of allegorical significance to the metopes.  

The Centauromachy, the battle of the Lapiths and Centaurs, is displayed on the south side.  It is the riot that broke out at the wedding of Hippodamia.  The Lapiths were a Greek tribe; the Centaurs were half-men/ half-horse.  Almost universally the symbolic interpretation of the Centauromachy it the victory of man’s higher self over our beastly nature. Sort of like Plato’s two horses.

The Gigantomachy was the Battle of the Gods and Giants.  Shown on the east side.  The gods in question were the Olympians, Athena’s clan.  The Giants  were the Earth-born sons of Gaea (Earth ) sired by the split blood of the sky-god Uranus.  The people of Athens considered  themselves autochthonous, that is born of the earth;  the local soil.  It is hard to imagine them cheering on the destruction of their earthly brothers unless the symbolism  of  the Gigantomachy is the victory of Order over Chaos

On the North side is the Trojan War, which is the kick off point for the great “East is East and West is West “ divide.  (Plus the Athenians were the only ones not accused of atrocities the night Troy fell.  Theseus’ sons were busy looking for their grandmother Aethra. )

Finally, on the North the battle between the Athenians and the Amazons. The Amazons were warrior women from the far edge of the Black Sea.  If the significance of the Amazonomachy was men over women, it would be Greek women.  I would suggest that in addition to Greg’s proposal that a different level of symbolism sees this as the defeat of the “Other”. Here the forces of Chaos are represented by  barbarians who are women, is there any possible group full of such otherness for the Athenians

The Titanomachy, was not represented on the Parthenon. It was the war between the Olympians and another divine clan called the Titans.  I don’t know what the allegorical significance would be. Suggestions?

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

TFBT: Choruses of Young Women in Ancient Greece

I am looking forward to reading this book. from Claude Calame: Choruses of Young Women in Ancient Greece   (Currently I am reading "The Cambridge Companion to Greek Mythology." Calame has a piece in the collection I really enjoyed, "Greek Myth & Greek Religion". )
Choruses” has a rather jam-packed technical introduction.  I hope to follow up with the text where maybe some of the topics in the introduction at followed up on.  Specifically:  

  • "Aotis as a very hypothetical goddess of the Dawn sometimes identified with Artemis or with Aphrodite" This is an interesting idea.   I read some papers on the Eos/Aphrodite connection ages ago.  It adds some insight to their sons(s) Memnon's and Aeneas' adventures at Troy. Upon further research “very hypothetical” is accurate.  Apparently the theory that there was proto-IE goddess of the dawn name Hausus or Heusos, hasn’t worked out to anyone’s satisfaction.  
  • I have never read about a Spartan cult of Aphrodite-Hera?
    • “An old wooden image they call that of Aphrodite Hera. A mother is wont to sacrifice to the goddess when a daughter is married.” (Pausanias 3.13.9) 
  • 1.1.5 homosexual - Sappho at Lesbos - Alcman’s chorus of young girls.  I wonder if Sappho doesn’t have way to much influence on what we think about teenage girls in Ancient Greece?  
  • What is Marxist criticism?  I assume this is some sort of literary criticism  
    • “Marxist literary criticism is a loose term describing literary criticism based on socialist and dialectic theories. Marxist criticism views literary works as reflections of the social institutions from which they originate.”  (Wikipedia)
  • "Archaic "literature" is never gratuitous, nor does it have the critical dimension of Alexandrian or modern poetry; it is always subject to the demands of the civic community for which it exists; it has to be understood as a social act."  Really?  Ever story in the Iliad reflects an associated ritual?  
  • "But since Spartan history has been so idealized and deformed"   What?  
  • “Ethnological and anthropological research offers the philologist a very precious instrument to interpret”. But shouldn't we be careful about this tool for literary criticism and close readings?

 In Chapter 2 Calame actually talks about choruses and points out that most chorus of young girls represent Artemis’ troop of Oreads.  She also acknowledges, Apollo’s Muses, the Nereids and the Oceanides the accompanied Persephone.  (I got to thinking that some of them were the naiad daughters of Achelous who were turned into the sirens who accompanied her in Hades.)  A couple of her examples caught my eye.

“The Corinthians, forbidden to take the suppliants from the temple by force, tried to wear them down by starvation; but the Samians lifted the Corinthians' siege by instituting a festival in which choruses of maidens and ephebes carried sesame cakes and honey to the goddess; the children from Corcyra hid the food and ate it and were thus saved. This ritual was performed regularly thereafter.”

“After having danced and sung (παιδιὰν καὶ τέρψιν), they wanted to honor the goddess with an offering in place of a meal, and they offered her salt. The following year, the offering was not repeated, and the young people suffered a visitation of cosmic anger (μῆνις) and an epidemic (λοιμός) sent by Artemis. Since then, the offering of a meal was regularly made.”

Both these ritual represent a phenomena I call Once and for Always.   Jenny Strauss-Clay (The Politics of Olympus, 1989) concludes that the opening scene of the HH to Apollo “portrays both the first epiphany of the new god on the threshold of Olympus and his eternally repeated entrance into this father’s house…as he did the first time and as he will forever.” Particularly in the salt ceremony above, what men saw as temporary, the gods saw as eternal.  And what a difference perspective made in this case.

I was trying to think of other chorus, but most do seem dedicated to Artemis.  I found this one;
"Maidens, one Nymph of old in Thebes did Athanaia (Athena) love much, yea beyond all her companions, even the mother of Tiresias, and was never apart from her. But when she drave her steeds …often did the goddess set the Nymph upon her car and there was no dalliance of Nymphs nor sweet ordering of the dance, where Chariclo did not lead.  (Callimachus, Hymn 5 Bath of Pallas 56 ff)


Monday, January 8, 2018

VftSW: Lympias

Writing about Julie C the other day got me thinking about “lympias”; Pilipino eggrolls. I made some at the party Julie and I attended.

My brother and I use to cook them up as hors d'oeuvre at parties. (Eventually, we discovered we could cook them ahead of time and warm them up in the oven.  As in the picture.)  It was so frustrating.  It took hours and hours to make and they were gone in seconds.  Once the first batch was ready, we would scoop them out of the grease, load them into the bowl and send some little cutie off to the buffet table with them.  She never got, literally never took a step, just turned around and they were gone.  Towards the end of the second batch people would start snatching them out of the boiling grease with their bare fingers!

Usually we’d cook them up about an hour into the party.  So at that party I attended with Julie C, I was thinking it was about time to cook them up.  I wandered into the kitchen and found three really stoned guys.  “Wow, man.  I don’t know what these are but they are really good.”  “Well, if you like ‘em now just waiting until I cook them.”  I don’t know if you’ve made lympias, but eggroll skinned that have been wrapped around raw hamburger and stored in the refrigerator for a couple of hours do not look appealing.  I’ve seen wood maggots on the fireline that looked more appetizing!


VftSW: Last Summer

Walking Derby this morning I recalled something that happen last summer.  Whenever we go out for a walk there is never anything interesting within the 7ft radius defined by the length of my arm and her leash.  No!  She always wants to investigate something just beyond the end of her leash.  And in the process tries to drag me into the ditch.

So last summer we went for a stroll.  We stopped at a wide spot in the road, an intersection actually.  This is where she usually does her business.  As usual she couldn’t find the perfect spot.  The ditch was over-grown with berry bushes.  So in addition to trying to drag me into the ditch I was getting pulled into the thorny bushes.  As we played tug-a-war, I heard a car pull up behind me and a door open.  As I turned to look, Derby poked her head out of the bushes to see what was happening.  “Oh, I didn’t see the dog.”  She explained.  She thought I was having a seizure.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

TFBT: Thucydides on the Trojan War

The Kosmos Society is welcome again Jeffrey Rusten of Cornell University, Department of Classics, for a CHS Online Open House on Thucydides on Early Greece and the Trojan War.  The event will be streamed live on Thursday, January 11, at 11 a.m. EST, and will be recorded.  You can view the event on the CHS YouTube channel.

For the Open House Professor Rusten invites us to think about and discuss the following questions:
·      How does Thucydides approach the Iliad and think it has historical value?
·      Is his analysis flawed in any way?
·      Is it anachronistic?
·      Is it in any way modern or “scientific”?

I would remind the reader that the Ancient Greeks thought of The Iliad as history.  It was used in court cases.  Thucydides seems to step back and forth across the line of it being fiction or not.  Some of his analysis conforms to similar discussions and his style and analysis is very similar to what I have seen modern scholars do.  He also makes the mistake occasionally of judging bronze age warriors and their civilization by “modern” standards. Specifics below.

 (1.1.2) “And (the Peloponnesian War) was in fact the largest mobilization by Greeks as well as a considerable number of non-Greeks, extending over virtually the entire population. (1.1.3) Preceding ones, including those of the more distant past, although impossible to determine clearly after so much time, were probably not important either as wars or anything else.” Weren’t the Persian Wars (499 – 449 BC) before the Peloponnesian War (431–404 BC)?

1.2.5) “Attica on the other hand, because of its barrenness remained free from factions since the most distant past, and had a stable, unchanging population.”  Didn’t Athenians brag of being the only autochthonic population in Greece?

(1.3.1) “I think Greece’s past weakness is demonstrated especially by the fact that, prior to the Trojan War, Greece probably did not unite in any common venture.”  Theban Wars?

(1.8.1) “The island populations were pirates as well, evidently Carians and Phoenicians, because these had settled most of the islands. There is proof: when Delos was purified by the Athenians during this war and all the graves of the dead on the island were removed, more than half were revealed to be Carians  Interesting, have to learn more about the Carians.

1.9.1) “Agamemnon collected his expedition not so much as the leader of suitors constrained by oaths to Tyndareus in my opinion, but as the preeminently powerful man in Greece at that time;”  I thought that was what everyone thought.

(1.10.4) “He has written that out of 1200 ships those of the Boeotians had 120 men each, those of Philoctetes 50. In my opinion, he is showing the largest and smallest crews, since there is no mention in the Catalogue of Ships of the size of any other ships…(1.10.5) If one contemplates an average between the largest and the small ships it becomes clear that those who went were not many,  1200 x (120+50/2) = 102,000.  Hundred thousand plus fighting men seems like “many”.

(1.11.1) “The reason was not so much a lack of manpower as a lack of money. Because of inadequate provisioning they not only led too small a force to live off the land while fighting, but even when they had won a victory after landing (because otherwise they would not have built the fortification for their camp) they obviously were unable to use their full fighting strength, but took up farming in the Chersonnese and piracy…”  Well this is all wrong. Piracy is mentioned off-handedly throughout the epic and I don’t’ recall anything about farming.  Plus they were only three days from home.  T.’s statement is a famous problem for scholars, since In Iliad 7.382-482 this fortification was built only in the tenth year of the war, as the result not of a victory but a military setback.

(1.11.2) “they would easily have taken the city by winning an open battle … or else by blockading it with a siege they could have conquered Troy with even less time and trouble.”  Well there is a little armchair quarterbacking about the open battle strategy.  As to the blockade idea, this  is an example of the present judging the past by current standards, because it appears from the text of  The Iliad that siege-craft hadn’t been invented yet or that the Greeks had no experience with it.


Wednesday, January 3, 2018

VftSW: God Bless Julie C

Back in the college days I had a good friend named Patty.  She and I shared a birthday. It was like double the gifts, double the parties, double the dinners, a week of “non-stop wine, women and cootchie cootchie coo!”  Time passed. I graduated and went on my way. 

Years later I am back in town for our birthday week.  Of course, like me, all my friends had graduated and moved away.  Patty on the other hand had been a working-girl as were most of her friends, so they were still all there.  They were all really nice people most of whom I knew from the good old days, but after a while I tired of telling the same introductory stories over and over again.  I went and sat down next to Julie a great friend to me and Patty. 

Julie was sorting thru the pile of record albums on her lap figuring out what to play next.  (Record albums at a party!  How old am I?)  We picked one out.  She vacated her seat and squatted to place the record on the turn table at the end of the couch.  As she did someone plopped down into her spot next to me; an acquaintance of Patty’s.

“So, Bill I noticed that pretty much everyone here at your birthday party is a friend of Patty’s and not friends with you.”

I did not know what to say to that.  Julie did.  She’d risen from the record player to find someone in her seat and belittling the birthday-boy.  Towering over the seated guy she says, “Well, you know how Patty is, she likes everybody.  Me and Bill not so much.  The people we like: we like a lot.  Everybody else, we just spit on.”   

God bless Julie C.