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)

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