O Calamity, awful for people to see!
By far the most awful I’ve come upon yet!
Hapless man, what madness visited you?
What god has leapt farther than the farthest bound
Onto your jinxed life?
Alas, alas, disaster of a man!
I haven’t the strength to look at you,
Though there’s much I want to ask and hear.
I gawk instead–you make me shudder so.
Freud. The ‘Uncanny.’
The uncanny: “It undoubtedly belongs to all that is terrible–to all that arouses dread and creeping horror.”
“Everything is uncanny that ought to have remained hidden and secret, and yet comes to light.”
. . . As far as heaven is from earth
Just as far is earth from gloomy Tartarus.
Bronze space junk would tumble through the sky
Nine nights and days, reaching earth on the tenth;
And so a bronze anvil tumbling from earth would fall
Nine nights and days, reaching Tartarus on the tenth.
A bronze wall was thrown up around Tartarus.
Triple-layered night was poured around its neck,
And the roots of earth and barren sea grew above it.
It’s there the Titan gods were locked away
—the will of Zeus, cloud gatherer—
In gloomy darkness, damp musty place
At the vast earth’s distant end.
They cannot leave.
Poseidon set bronze doors in place,
And a wall encircled the whole.
There Gyes and Cottus established themselves,
And great-hearted Obriareus did too,
Trusted watchmen for aegis-bearing Zeus.
The source and limit of everything
Line up there: that of dark earth,
Gloomy Tartarus, the barren sea,
And the star-studded sky.
Horrid damp musty—even the gods detest it.
A huge pit, this: you couldn’t reach bottom
in a year, assuming you got within its gates.
No, bruising squall after squall would carry you
This way and that. A Terrible monstrosity,
Even to the deathless gods.
Phaedo to Echecrates regarding the death of Socrates:
“It was strange to be at his side. A dear friend was dying, and I felt no pity. Instead, Echecrates, he appeared blessed. Judging from his manner and his words, he was coming to the end of his life without fear and with nobility.
It seemed to me he was inspired–he was not going to Hades without a divine appointment. He arrived there happy, if in fact anyone of any stripe ever has. This is actually why I felt no pity, though the present circumstance would appear to warrant pity.
It was an uncanny experience. There was a mixture of pleasure and pain, simultaneously, when I reflected that he was to die shortly. Everyone on hand was similarly disposed, laughing from time to time, and every so often crying . . .”
“In brief, since some other creatures also dream, things seen in sleep might not come from god . . . Dreams, to be sure, have a divine element, but that is because nature has a divine element without being divine itself.
The evidence [that prophetic dreams do not come from god]: since people of little worth foresee things [in sleep] and dream vividly, things seen in sleep cannot come from god.”
Karl Marx. Capital. I. Part I. Chapter 1. Section 3.3.
What Aristotle could not see because of his belief in inequality:
“When expressed in commodity form, all labor is equal human labor and therefore of equal quality.
Aristotle could not discern this in the value form because Greek society rested on slave labor, and therefore the inequality of persons and their labor power formed its natural foundation.
The secret of this way of expressing value–i.e., equality and the equal validity of all labor, simply because it is human labor–can only be deciphered when the concept of human equality already has the strength of a popular prejudice.”
Daß aber in der Form der Warenwerte Alle Arbeiten als gleiche menschliche Arbeit und daher als gleich ausgedrückt sind geltend konnte Aristoteles nicht aus der Wertform selbst herauslesen, weil die griechische Gesellschaft auf der Sklavenarbeit beruhte, daher die Ungleichheit der Menschen und ihrer Arbeitskräfte zur Naturbasis hatte. Das Geheimnis des Wertausdrucks, die Gleichheit und gleiche Gültigkeit aller Arbeiten, weil und insofern sie menschliche Arbeit überhaupt sind, kann nur entziffert werden, sobald der Begriff der menschlichen Gleichheit bereits die Festigkeit eines Volksvorurteils besitzt.
They found Odysseus, dear to Zeus, swarmed
by Trojans, like when light-brown mountain jackals
crowd round an antlered deer a man’s struck
with an arrow. The deer bolted from him,
scooting while its blood was warm and knees limber.
But when the fast arrow does the deer in,
flesh-eating jackals snarf it down in a glade’s
shade. But a god leads a lion against them,
a hungry one: jackals scurry, lion sups.
Just so, round wise and deft Odysseus
many able Trojans swarmed, but the hero,
flashing his spear, saw off the cruel day.
Ajax with his tower-like shield came
and stood before him. The Trojans scurried pell-mell.
475. crowded round an antlered deer: Odysseus is likened to a deer, but he is not pathetic. The demonstrable force of the comparison is not that; rather, it is their similar suffering. It [the simile] likens him to the dying deer in order to emphasize the danger [he, Odysseus, is in].
Spear-famed Odysseus was alone. Not one Argive
was at his side, as fear had gripped them all.
So, his mood raw, he spoke to his own proud heart:
“Ay, what happens next? It’s wrong to cut and run
Scared of the throng, yet worse to be taken alone.
(Zeus has sent the other Danaans scrambling.)
But why is my dear heart debating with me?
I already know cowards steer clear of war
but the best fighter must absolutely
stand firm, whether he’s struck or strikes another.”
Does your pure eye not see wrong? Can’t it see suffering? Why do you look on the deceitful and stay silent while the ungodly devour the righteous?
You’ve made humans like the fish of the sea, and like beasts without a master.
He [the enemy] pulls up the lot of them with his fish-hook, hauls them out with his net, and collects them in his seine. This makes him glad; his heart rejoices.
And so he makes offerings to his seine, and he burns incense to his net. For after all, thanks to them he has bettered his portion and his victuals are excellent.
Philo. On the Creation. XXI. 65-66.
Of the forms of life, the most undeveloped and least formed is the race of fish, and the most complete and the best in all respects is the race of humans . . .
Of living things, God created fish first. Their essence, however, is more that of a body than a living thing. In a way they are alive and not alive. They are capable of movement yet lacking in life. The principle of life is scattered in them as if by chance and solely for the preservation of their bodies–just as they say salt is put on meat to prevent it easily spoiling.
. . . [Diomedes] hurled his long-shadowed spear
at Hector’s head and did not miss: he hit
his helmet’s tip. But bronze deflected bronze
from fair skin: the spear failed on Hector’s headpiece
(three layers, cone shaped, Phoebus Apollo’s gift).
Hector scurried back and blended with the pack,
fell to his knee and stayed there, thick hand bracing
the ground. Black night blanketed his eyes.
But while Tydeus’s son tracked his spear’s woosh
to where it fell far beyond the first fighters,
Hector revived, scuttered into his car,
and off he drove, into the crush of men.
He’d given black fate the slip.
11.355-356. “[F]ell to his knee and stayed there . . . Black night blanketed his eyes” (στῆ δὲ γνὺξ ἐριπὼν . . . ἀμφὶ δὲ ὄσσε κελαινὴ νὺξ ἐκάλυψεν):
The controversy in the scholia:
One scholiast says of Homer and these verses:
“The blind one is fond of lies, and he is the perfect liar. For first, Hector was not wounded, as he himself says, and then there’s the scurrying [ἀνέδραμε] of a man who has his strength (11.354). Isn’t an account of why he fell to his knees and died of something insignificant missing?
This scholiast and others, as well as the poem’s ancient editors, were vexed by the formular indication of Hector’s death (“black night blanketed his eyes”) when Hector obviously survived Diomedes’ spear.
The scholia explains the seemingly inappropriate use of the formula in 11.355-356 by offering that it was improperly transferred from the 5.309-310 account of Aeneas (Schol. A. 356a. and T. 356c).
An alternative theory:
In Book 5, Apollo’s actions saved Aeneas following a boulder’s blow to the warrior’s hip (5.343-346).
In Book 11, Apollo’s action saved Hector from a spear’s assault: he had gifted Hector a spear-stopping helmet.
The Cambridge Commentary says that the ascription of the helmet to Apollo is only an idiom for the gear’s strength and good construction.
I’m not sure that’s right. It seems to me the helmet is in fact a metonym for Apollo’s intervention. That is to say, it is through the helmet that Apollo saved Hector. I’m building on what an insightful scholiast says:
“He [Hector] would have died, were it not for the divinity of the helmet” ( . . . άπέθανεν αν, εί μή διά την θειότητα τοϋ so κράνους [Schol. T. 353b]).
It is divinity itself, not good metalworking, which saved Hector. The divinity is an emanation from Apollo.
In both the Aeneas and Hector episodes, (1) it is Diomedes who attempts a kill, (2) he only just fails, and that’s thanks to (3) Apollo’s intervention. Perhaps we can say that the formular verses “[he] fell to his knee and stayed there . . . black night blanketed his eyes” belong to a larger formula whose elements are Diomedes, a warrior’s near death at his hand, and Apollo’s saving intervention.