Neither Cowards nor Nobodies: A Rant on Classics and Politics

Il. 1.294-5 (Achilles to Agamemnon)

“Really, may I be called both a coward and a nobody
If I yield every fact to you, whatever thing you ask”

ἦ γάρ κεν δειλός τε καὶ οὐτιδανὸς καλεοίμην
εἰ δὴ σοὶ πᾶν ἔργον ὑπείξομαι ὅττί κεν εἴπῃς·

Etymologicum Magnum

Outidanos: Worthy of no account, the least.”
Οὐτιδανός: Οὐδενὸς λόγου ἄξιος, ἐλάχιστος.

Od. 9.516-517 (Polyphemos, again)

“But now, even though he is small, and a worthless puny man,
He blinded my eye once he subdued me with wine!”

νῦν δέ μ’ ἐὼν ὀλίγος τε καὶ οὐτιδανὸς καὶ ἄκικυς
ὀφθαλμοῦ ἀλάωσεν, ἐπεί μ’ ἐδαμάσσατο οἴνῳ.

A Rant on What This Account is For From Twitter:

Lately a large percentage of this account’s followers espouse beliefs—or at least retweet ideas—that align with alt-right or extremely conservative viewpoints. At several points over the last year, some followers have complained about the political content of this account

There is an erroneous and pernicious view that material from Greece and Rome is somehow devoid of political or ideological content. This is a political and ideological view itself.

We welcome followers of all backgrounds, but we will not be cowed from expressing, implying, or amplifying viewpoints that come from the modern world.

The past is not an ideological blank slate innocent of political ramifications in the present. Our current identities are always being written and rewritten in dialogue with the past.

This dialogue necessarily entails re-appropriation and re-interpretation of the past. The very act of excerpting a quotation and transferring it from one context to another is a reappropriation.

This account is run by human beings who exist in the world and time and have political viewpoints about the world and its ‘progress’ based on our own education and experience.

These human beings are also educators who believe that the past is misused to justify and perpetuate harmful ideas about the past in order to shape the present.

This account’s purpose is (1) to educate and entertain, (2) to offer real quotations with original text and information for context, and (3) to perform outreach to show how Classics still pertains to the modern world.

But it is also (4) to combat insidious use of Classical texts and (5) to act as a force of good in the world.

We do not idealize Greece and Rome. We study the past as a means to better understand our origins, our mistakes, the course and patterns of history, and what it means to be a human being. We do not want to replicate the past. We want to provide access to it.

If you think that the texts, history and culture of the ancient world provide justification or support for denying the personhood or citizenship of anyone based on gender, gender identification, sexuality, religion, age, ethnicity, language, ability, race, or nationality, then you might disagree with us.

If you disagree and find this painful, you are welcome to unfollow. We make no money for this account. We do it as labor of love for ourselves and as a service for those few who might find it useful. We also aim to create a community.

You cannot create a community with those who believe that your friends, families, and colleagues are not fully human.

We would rather have zero followers than mistakenly give comfort to Nazis, White Supremacists, Misogynists or anyone who wants to deny life and liberty and full personhood to others.

[Erik also penned a nice companion essay]

14 responses

  1. Oops – I saw this on Twitter, but I didn’t know that you had posted it here when I wrote my piece. Didn’t mean to steal your Olympian thunder!

  2. Perhaps it’s been more than a week since I last expressed my gratitude to you and your friends- so let me say it again- I am grateful to you for many reasons- for the humor, the wit, and the thought filled passages you share. Hope you don’t mind me quoting you in “Musings”.

    Musings LXII from 99’s (draft)

    “I’m a human: I don’t consider any human’s affairs as not concerning me.”
    Terence, trans. by Sententiae Antiquae

    I

    An ultra sound, a heart beat on the screen,
    her rhythm first, before her form was seen.
    Her face turned down, we only see her head,
    a vivid spine suspends her in her sea.
    She will not turn, the bone around her mind,
    the rounded shape, an ancient memory.
    We look and laugh, amazed, and saying “Yes”,
    and then we see, below her head, a hand,
    the leg bone, straight and white, and tiny feet,
    the child that makes the child in us complete-
    her perfect sleep our joy- our happiness.

    II

    I’m not a man of god, but I hear prophets,
    and Greeks who paid their homage with a gift.
    They entered through the civilizing gates
    with swords and shields, spears and brazen hearts.
    Death spared Aeneas, father of Rome’s fates,
    for when a culture dies, another starts.
    Our vision, that remains a dream, now sleeps
    in craven hands, and gerrymandered states.
    Their votives burn our apathetic shrines,
    forge a golden calf, with their mad-cow minds,
    an unrepentant god, who rapes and reaps.

    III

    Into this world a child of light is freed,
    this lightless world, crazed with lies and greed.
    The Stars begin to sing, the skies to chant,
    the seas reverse their tides, and mountains sink,
    the glaciers melt, the sane begin to rant,
    the universe contracts, the witless think,
    the humane heartless, lost in vanities,
    the mermaids walk, and the snakes enchant,
    the verities are twisted on the tongue,
    Pandora’s pundits preach, the good are hung,
    this deadly climate, heated by decrees.

    IV

    The traitors are the news, their minions sing,
    “lock her up”, empowered by their king,
    inspiring hatred; though the good that was,
    played a lesser role, it too was corrupted,
    by the self-same motives- lived above the laws,
    and raided countries, killed, bilked, disrupted;
    the military mandate, geared up, oiled,
    would drink the blood of earth, the holy ‘cause’;
    “entitlements”, once raided, not repaid,
    the very word the ruling class’s shade,
    the mind control, the atmosphere despoiled.

    V

    The court that sold the law defiled the country.
    The “loophole” was agape- a sea of money
    poured through levies, the “picket fence” destroyed.
    Our General President foretold this war.
    We jailed the blacks for pot, the new slave trade
    imprisoned hope- we festered at the core.
    We let white rapists go- they mock and lie,
    deliver us to evil, while they raid
    our decency, if ever it was ours-
    eugenics haunt our genicidal hours-
    the good that still remains remains to die.

    VI

    Our “intellects” exist in schools of thought;
    exclusive cliques, they too have been bought.
    They pander to nothing of significance-
    a furrow in a field, a death by dust;
    they propagate minutia, self- indulgence;
    these “legislators” of the broken trust
    imply a tribalism, and divide-
    a pseudo-fascist state, a sharpened pretense,
    that through true hearts of poets’ drives a stake;
    with trivial pursuits, they desecrate-
    ephemeral arrogance dies deified.

    VII

    Last night the Nazi chants razed Pensacola,
    a morality play, adjacent Alabama;
    “IT” travels to a home of Civil Rights-
    vain hypocrite, “IT” stokes the KKK.
    O interracial child, those hooded knights,
    who murdered, lynched, are on display today.
    They brutalize the Bible, holier than none.
    Their wizard grants them sacrificial rites,
    to burn the children, rape them, and defile
    the freedoms gained, this Mesmer of the vile;
    seditious fools, “IT’s” anthem is “the gun”.

    VIII

    The humanists, sequestered in high towers,
    write in candlelight of humane powers,
    endure the hail of rocks, and trifling “things”.
    They leave their ports, to walk beneath the birds,
    to listen to the musings that they sing,
    to transcribe ‘truth’, and other selfless words,
    that wake the heartfelt music back to being,
    consider everyone and everything.
    The children, who renew this tainted world,
    don’t paint bright watercolors with a sword,
    but animate it, skipping, twirling, dancing.

    IX

    Aysha lies beside me while you dream,
    and I dream too, that love will be your theme.
    Our hope beats in your heart, but you will know,
    O darling child, that ignorance breeds hate,
    that you will stand, and walk, no status quo
    will keep you servile in a slaver’s state,
    that you will bare your arms, to offer peace,
    but fight the currents that impede your flow,
    nor turn your cheek, but strike back- blow for blow-
    that there are worlds you can not tolerate.

    December 9, 2017
    Miami

  3. Pingback: Annual Atopia: The Non Top Ten Posts We Loved « SENTENTIAE ANTIQUAE

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