For the Love of…A Goose?

Everyone has heard about Leda and the swan. But have you heard about Amphilokhos and his gift-giving goose?

Aelian, De Natura Animalium 5.29

“In Aigion, in Akhaia, a goose was in love with a handsome boy, an Ôlenian named Amphilokhos. Theophrastus tells this story. The boy was under guard with the Olenian exiles in Aigion—there, the goose used to bring him gifts. In Khios, too, there was an especially beautiful woman named Glaukê, a harp player, and many men lusted after her—which is nothing big. But a ram and a goose loved her too, as I have heard.”

Ἐν Αἰγίῳ τῆς Ἀχαίας ὡραίου παιδός, Ὠλενίου τὸ γένος, ὄνομα Ἀμφιλόχου, ἤρα χήν. Θεόφραστος λέγει τοῦτο. σὺν τοῖς Ὠλενίων δὲ φυγάσιν ἐφρουρεῖτο ἐν Αἰγίῳ ὁ παῖς. οὐκοῦν ὁ χὴν αὐτῷ δῶρα ἔφερε. καὶ ἐν Χίῳ Γλαύκης τῆς κιθαρῳδοῦ ὡραιοτάτης οὔσης εἰ μὲν ἤρων ἄνθρωποι, μέγα οὐδέπω· ἠράσθησαν δὲ καὶ κριὸς καὶ χήν, ὡς ἀκούω, τῆς αὐτῆς.

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Paris’ Weakness and the Glory of Education

Iamblichus, Life of Pythagoras 42

“For when the barbarians and the Greeks were struggling against each other around Troy because of one man’s lack of self-control they endured the most terrible calamities—some in war, some in the return home—and the god assigned a punishment for that single injustice for one thousand and ten years, providing an oracle for the sack of Troy and requesting the journey of maidens from Locris to the temple of Athena in Troy.

[Pythagoras] used to harangue the young men regarding education too, demanding that they consider how strange it would be to judge rational thought the most desirable of all things when one must judge concerning everything else using it, yet people spend no time nor toil in practicing it. And this is when care given to the body is similar to worthless friends in abandoning you quickly; education, however, is like the most good and noble companions who stay by your side right up to death—and, for some, it provides immortal glory after life is over.”

τῶν γὰρ βαρβάρων καὶ τῶν ῾Ελλήνων  περὶ τὴν Τροίαν ἀντιταξαμένων ἑκατέρους δι’ ἑνὸς ἀκρασίαν ταῖς δεινοτάταις περιπεσεῖν συμφοραῖς, τοὺς μὲν ἐν τῷ πολέμῳ, τοὺς δὲ κατὰ τὸν ἀνάπλουν, καὶ μόνης <ταύτης> τῆς ἀδικίας τὸν θεὸν δεκετῆ καὶ χιλιετῆ τάξαι τὴν τιμωρίαν, χρησμῳδήσαντα τήν τε τῆς Τροίας ἅλωσιν καὶ

τὴν τῶν παρθένων ἀποστολὴν παρὰ τῶν Λοκρῶν εἰς τὸ τῆς ᾿Αθηνᾶς τῆς ᾿Ιλιάδος ἱερόν. παρεκάλει δὲ τοὺς νεανίσκους καὶ πρὸς τὴν παιδείαν, ἐνθυμεῖσθαι κελεύων ὡς ἄτοπον ἂν εἴη πάντων μὲν σπουδαιότατον κρίνειν τὴν διάνοιαν καὶ ταύτῃ βουλεύεσθαι περὶ τῶν ἄλλων, εἰς δὲ τὴν ἄσκησιν τὴν ταύτης μηδένα χρόνον μηδὲ πόνον ἀνηλωκέναι, καὶ ταῦτα τῆς μὲν τῶν σωμάτων ἐπιμελείας τοῖς φαύλοις τῶν φίλων ὁμοιουμένης καὶ ταχέως ἀπολειπούσης, τῆς δὲ παιδείας καθάπερ οἱ καλοὶ κἀγαθοὶ τῶν ἀνδρῶν μέχρι θανάτου παραμενούσης, ἐνίοις δὲ καὶ μετὰ τὴν τελευτὴν ἀθάνατον δόξαν περιποιούσης.

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Flammable Bones and Renewable Eyes: Some Amazing Animal Facts

Paradoxographus Vaticanus, 4-8

4 “Aristotle says in his work On Animals that all land animals have respiration—as many as have lungs—except for the wasp and bee which do not breathe. However many animals have a bladder also have bowels. But not all animals who have bowels also have a bladder.”

᾿Αριστοτέλης φησὶν ἐν τοῖς περὶ ζῴων τὰ χερσαῖα πάντα ἀναπνεῖν, ὅσα πνεύμονας ἔχει, σφῆκαν δὲ καὶ μέλισσαν οὐκ ἀναπνεῖν. ὅσα τε κύστιν ἔχει, πάντα καὶ κοιλίαν· οὐχ ὅσα δὲ κοιλίαν καὶ κύστιν.

5 “Many of the animals are bloodless, and and, in general they are animals who have more than four feet.”

῎Αναιμα πολλὰ τῶν ζῴων, καθόλου δὲ ὅσα πλείους πόδας ἔχουσι τῶν τεσσάρων.

6 “Fish do not have a throat[?]. For this reason, if a smaller fish is pursued by a bigger one, it pushes the stomach under the mouth [?]”

Οἱ ἰχθύες οὐκ ἔχουσι στόμαχον· διό, ἐὰν διώκηται ὁ ἐλάττων ὑπὸ μείζονος, ἄγει τὴν κοιλίαν ὑπὸ τὸ στόμα.

7 “Snakes have thirty ribs, and their eyes, if anyone strikes them, grow back again. The swallow’s qualities are similar.”

Οἱ ὄφεις πλευρὰς ἔχουσι τριάκοντα. καὶ τὰ ὄμματα αὐτῶν, ἐάν τις ἐκκεντήσῃ, πάλιν γίνονται, καθὰ καὶ τὰ τῶν χελιδόνων.

8 “The bones of a lion are so stiff that when they are struck often they burst into fire.”

Τοῦ λέοντος τὰ ὀστᾶ οὕτως εἰσὶ στερεά, ὥστε πολλάκις κοπτόμενα πῦρ ἐκλάμπειν.

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British Library, Royal MS 12 C. xix, Folio 6r. Lion

A Downtrodden Man Writes To His Sister

Personal Letters, 4th Century CE Hermias (162)

“Hermias greets his sister. For the rest of it, I don’t know what I should write to you about—for I have talked myself to exhaustion again and again to you and you do not listen. It is right, when a man notices that he is in rough times, to retreat and not merely fight against what has been allotted him. Even though we are by birth from modest and ill-starred folk, should we not still yield and give some space to ourselves?

At this point, nothing has happened. Even so, if it is sweet to you, have someone come to me, either Gounthos or Ammonios who may remain until I know how my affairs are. Should I be slowed down or even cut off until God should pity us?”

Τῇ ἀδελφῇ Ἑρμείας χαίρειν. λοιπὸν τί σοι γράψω οὐκ οἶδα, ἀπαίκα-{κα}μον γάρ σοι αἵκαστον λέγων καὶ οὐκ αἰνακούεις. χρὴ γάρ τινα ὁρῶντα αἱαυτὸν ἐν δυστυχίᾳ κἂν ἀναχωρῖν καὶ μὴ ἁπλῶς μάχαισθαι τῷ δεδογμένῳ. μετρίων γὰρ καὶ δυστυχῶν γένεσιν αἴχοντες οὐδὲ οὕτω αἱαυτοῖς προσαίχομεν; τέως μὲν οὖν οὐδὲν οὐδέπω παίπρακται. κἂν ὥς, εἴπερ μέλι σοι, ἀπόστιλόν μοί τινα ἢ Γοῦνθον ἢ Ἀμμώνιον παραμένοντά μοι ἄχρις ἂν γνῶ πῶς τὰ κατ᾿ αἰμαὶ ἀποτίθαιται. μὴ ἄρα παρέλκομαι ἢ καὶ εἴργομαι ἔστ᾿ ἂν ὁ θεὸς ἡμᾶς αἰλαιήσῃ;

 

Fantastic Friday: Festivals for Women and Different Marriage Customs

Paradoxographus Vaticanus, 25-28, 45

25 “Among the Iberians there is a tribe [and] and in a certain festival they honor women with gifts, however so many demonstrate at that time that they can weave the most numerous and beautiful cloaks.”

Παρὰ τοῖς ῎Ιβηρσιν ἔθνος ἐστὶ ἐν ἑορτῇ τινι τὰς γυναῖκας τιμῶν δώροις, ὅσαι ἂν πλεῖστα καὶ κάλλιστα ἱμάτια ὑφήνασαι τότε ἐπιδείξωσιν.

26 “Among the Krobuzoi it is the custom to mourn when an infant is born and consider the one who dies lucky”

Παρὰ Κροβύζοις ἔθος ἐστὶ τὸ μὲν γεννώμενον βρέφος θρηνεῖν, τὸν δὲ θανόντα εὐδαιμονίζειν.

27 “Among the Nasamoi in Libya it is the custom that on the first day a woman is married that she has sex with everyone who is present and then take gifts from them. After that, she has sex only with the one who marries her.”

Παρὰ Νασαμῶσι τοῖς ἐν Λιβύῃ νόμος ἐστὶ τὴν γαμουμένην τῇ πρώτῃ ἡμέρᾳ συγγίνεσθαι πᾶσι τοῖς παροῦσι καὶ παρ’ αὐτῶν δῶρα λαμβάνειν καὶ μετὰ τοῦτο τῷ γήμαντι μόνῳ μίγνυσθαι.

28 “The women of the Sauromatoi do not get married unless they kill an enemy man.”

Αἱ τῶν Σαυροματῶν γυναῖκες οὐ πρότερον γαμοῦνται, ἂν μὴ ἄνδρα κτάνωσι πολέμιον.

45 “The Liburnians have shared wives and they raise their children in common for five years. When they make it to the eighth year, they compare the children for their similarity to the men and they distribute to each one who is similar. And that one keeps him as a son.”

Λιβύρνιοι κοινὰς τὰς γυναῖκας ἔχουσι καὶ τὰ τέκνα ἐν κοινῷ τρέφουσι μέχρι ἐτῶν πέντε· εἶτα τῷ ἔκτῳ συνενέγκαντες ἅπαντα τὰ παιδία τὰς ὁμοιότητας πρὸς τοὺς ἄνδρας εἰκάζουσι, καὶ ἑκάστῳ τὸν ὅμοιον ἀποδιδόασι, καὶ λοιπὸν ἐκεῖνος ὡς υἱὸν ἔχει.

51 “The Assyrians sell their daughters in the marketplace to whoever wants to settle down with them. First the most well-born and most beautiful and then the rest in order. Whenever they get to the least attractive, they announce how much someone is willing to take to live with them and they add this consolation price from the fee charged for the desirable girls to these [last ones].”

᾿Ασσύριοι τὰς παρθένους ἐν ἀγορᾷ πωλοῦσι τοῖς θέλουσι συνοικεῖν, πρῶτον μὲν τὰς εὐγενεστάτας καὶ καλλίστας, εἶτα τὰς λοιπὰς ἐφεξῆς· ὅταν δὲ ἔλθωσι ἐπὶ τὰς φαυλοτάτας, κηρύττουσι πόσον τις θέλει προσλαβὼν ταύταις συνοικεῖν, καὶ τὸ συναχθὲν ἐκ τῆς τῶν εὐπρεπῶν τιμῆς ταύταις προστίθενται [ταῖς παρθένοις].

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The Revival of Greek in Italy

Paolo Giovio, 

Elogia Doctorum Virorum: Chrysoloras

“Emanuel Chrysoloras, who first brought Greek literature back to Italy seven hundred years after it had been driven out by various barbarian invasions, was endowed with such humanity of liberal intellect in his teaching, that his famous image seems worthy of being placed first among the images of Greeks of exceptional merit, although no monuments of his weighty learning remain except some rules on the art of grammar. He was an indefatigable teacher, but he is open to the charge of having been lazy in writing, since the other part of the glory which we have chosen was sought by his useful profession.

He was sent from Byzantium by the emperor John to seek aid for Greece, which was on the verge of collapse, by pleading with all of the kings of Europe. He completed this task with such diligent traveling that he finally stopped in Italy when Greece was liberated from fear, since Tamerlane – the terror of the East – had captured alive near Mount Stella the Ottoman sultan Bayezid I (who had received the epithet of “Lightning” from the incredible swiftness of his movements). And so Chrysoloras, delighted that Greece had been freed from such an awful enemy, first in Venice, then in Florence, Rome, and finally in Pavia, which was under the rule of Giangaleazzo Visconti, managed to excite such a zeal for Greek literature that there sprang from his school minds worthy of the highest honor which on that account will never perish. Among these were Leonardo Bruni, Francesco Barbaro, Francesco Filelfo, Guarino Veronese, and Poggio Bracciolini. Later, when the synod which was called for resolving the controversy surrounding the pseudo-pontificate roused with desire to see such a spectacle, when Baldassare Cossa was deposed. Chrysoloras died in Constance. Poggio Bracciolini decorated his tomb with these lines:

‘Here lies Manuel Chrysoloras, the ornament of the Attic tongue, who came here to seek help for his afflicted country. Italy, this was a fortunate event for you, for he restored to you the grace of the Greek language, so long hidden. This was a fortunate event for you, Emanuel, for you found on Italian soil the honor which Greece never gave you – Greece, ruined in war.'”

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A cyclops neighbor writes a poem

I Tried to Leave a Note….

I have eaten
The Achaeans
That were locked
In your cave

And which
You were probably
Saving
For a hangover breakfast

Forgive me
you could no longer see them
like puppies
And still warm

Polyphemos is cast as a monstrous giant in the Odyssey where he smashes the heads of Odysseus’ men “as if they were puppies“, but he receives a much more sympathetic treatment in Latin literature (as Erik has written about elegantly). But this critical reception goes back further to Theocritus’ Idyll 11, which, like Ovid’s treatment in the Metamorphoses (13.898-968) casts the cyclops as a rustic lover longing for the nymph Galatea. Even before this, there is Euripides’  Satyr play Cyclops which makes Polyphemos more a bumbling fool than an evil opponent.

(And, just in case this does not make sense, “This is just to say“)

Mirror of History (speculus majus), Ghent, Flanders, c. 1475

Mirror of History (speculus majus), Ghent, Flanders, c. 1475

And while we are doing Odyssey-themed versions of William Carlos Williams, there’s this:

So much depends
Upon

A winnowing fan
Stuck

In the dark
Furrows

Dusted with white
Dried salt

How Many Eyes Did The Cyclops Have? (The Answer Might Surprise You)

Erik has a beautiful post about the Cyclops Polyphemos. The scholia present some debates about what exactly a Cyclops looks like. 

Schol. ad Od. 9.106

“Aristotle examines how the Cyclops Polyphemos came to be a cyclops when neither his father nor his mother was a cyclops. He resolved the issue with a different myth. For, he asserted, horses came from Boreas but Pegasos was born from Poseidon and Medousa. Why, then, would it be strange that this wild beast be born from Poseidon? Similarly, other wild beasts were born from him in the sea, as well as marvels and unusual things.

Hesiod laughably etymologizes [the Kyklopes], saying “They were given the nickname Kyklopes / because they have one single circle eye in the middle of their forehead.” But Homer clearly describes  their nature.

For, if it was of that sort, just as he described the other particular features of the Cyclops, like his size, his cruelty, he would have also described his eye! Philoxenos says that he diverged from Hesiod in that the fact he could not see because he was blinded in one eye. For Homer does not say this about all the other Cyclopes. It is likely that Polyphemos lost his other eye for some other reason before Odysseus’ arrival.

Others oppose this, claiming that if he had two eyes and Odysseus blinded one, how would he say what is attributed to him, “Cyclops, if any mortal man asks you who is the blinder of your eye…” He does not say eyes. And in return the Cyclops says “My father is able to heal my eye.” For if he had another eye, properly, and Odysseus were speaking to him in this way, how would he not have taken care of the other eye? But he said “the earth-shaker will not heal [my] eye.” For this very reason people argue about his eye being completely pierced, because of what is said here, if he did not take care of the eye when it was first compromised, he would never be able to heal it.”

From the MFA in Boston, taken artfully on my phone.

 

ζητεῖ ᾿Αριστοτέλης πῶς ὁ Κύκλωψ ὁ Πολύφημος μήτε πατρὸς ὢν Κύκλωπος, Ποσειδῶνος γὰρ ἦν, μήτε μητρὸς, Κύκλωψ ἐγένετο. αὐτὸς δὲ ἑτέρῳ μύθῳ ἐπιλύεται. καὶ γὰρ ἐκ Βορέου ἵπποι γίνονται, καὶ ἐκ Ποσειδῶνος καὶ τῆς Μεδούσης ὁ Πήγασος ἵππος. τί δ’ ἄτοπον ἐκ Ποσειδῶνος τὸν ἄγριον τοῦτον γεγονέναι; ὥσπερ καὶ τὰ ἄλλα ἐξ αὐτοῦ ἀναλόγως τῇ θαλάσσῃ ἄγρια γεννᾶται ἢ τερατώδη ἢ παρηλλαγμένα. γελοίως δ’ αὐτοὺς ἐτυμολογεῖ ῾Ησίοδος “Κύκλωπες δ’ ὄνομ’ ἦσαν ἐπώνυμον, οὕνεκ’ ἄρω σφέων κυκλοτερὴς ὀφθαλμὸς ἕεις ἐνέκειτο μετώπῳ.” ὁ δ’ ῞Ομηρος φαίνεται φύσιν αὐτῶν λέγων· εἰ γὰρ ἦν τι τοιοῦτον, ὥσπερ τὰς ἄλλας ἰδιότητας τῶν ὀφθέντων ἔγραψεν ἐπ’ αὐτοῦ Κύκλωπος, τὸ μέγεθος, τὴν ὠμότητα, οὕτω κἂν τὸ περὶ ὀφθαλμοῦ ἔγραψε. φησὶ δὲ ὁ Φιλόξενος ὅτι ἐπλάνησε τὸν ῾Ησίοδον τὸ τὸν ἕνα ὀφθαλμὸν τυφλωθέντα μηκέτι ὁρᾶν. οὔτε δὲ περὶ πάντων τῶν Κυκλώπων εἶπε τοῦτο ῞Ομηρος, εἰκός τε τὸν Πολύφημον κατά τινα ἄλλην αἰτίαν τὸν ἕτερον τῶν ὀφθαλμῶν ἀπολωλεκέναι πρὸ τῆς ᾿Οδυσσέως ἀφίξεως. οἱ δὲ ἀντιλέγοντες τούτῳ φασὶν, εἰ δύο εἶχεν ὀφθαλμοὺς καὶ τὸν ἕνα ᾿Οδυσσεὺς ἐτύφλωσε, πῶς συμφωνήσει τὸ ὑπ’ αὐτοῦ λεγόμενον, “Κύκλωψ, εἰ καί τίς σε καταχθονίων ἀνθρώπων ὀφθαλμοῦ εἴρηται ἀεικελίην ἀλαωτύν” (502.); οὐκ εἶπεν ὀφθαλμῶν. ἔτι δὲ καὶ τὸ προκείμενον παρὰ τοῦ Κύκλωπος, ὅτι δύναταί μου ὁ Ποσειδῶν ἰάσασθαι τὸν ὀφθαλμόν. εἰ γὰρ ἦν ἑτερόφθαλμος ἤδη ὑπάρχων, ἔλεγεν ἂν αὐτῷ ᾿Οδυσσεὺς, καὶ πῶς τὸν ἕτερον οὐκ ἐθεράπευσεν; ἀλλ’ εἶπεν “ὡς οὐκ ὀφθαλμόν γ’ ἰήσεται οὐδ’ ἐνοσίχθων” (525.). δι’ αὐτοῦ δὲ τούτου ἀπολογοῦνται περὶ τοῦ εἶναι αὐτὸν διόφθαλμον, διὰ τοῦ εἰπεῖν, εἰ τὸν πρῶτον πηρωθέντα ὀφθαλμὸν οὐκ ἐθεράπευσεν, οὐδὲ τοῦτον ἰάσεται. H.Q.

These are, of course, the types of investigations for which Seneca would have the most disdain:

Seneca, De Brevitate Vitae 13

“It would be annoying to list all the people who spent their lives pursuing board games, ball games, or sunbathing. Men whose pleasures are so busy are not at leisure. For example, no one will be surprised that those occupied by useless literary studies work strenuously—and there is great band of these in Rome now too. This sickness used to just afflict the Greeks, to discover the number of oars Odysseus possessed, whether the Iliad was written before the Odyssey, whether the poems belong to the same author, and other matters like this which, if you keep them to yourself, cannot please your private mind; but if you publish them, you seem less learned than annoying.”

Persequi singulos longum est, quorum aut latrunculi aut pila aut excoquendi in sole corporis cura consumpsere vitam. Non sunt otiosi, quorum voluptates multum negotii habent. Nam de illis nemo dubitabit, quin operose nihil agant, qui litterarum inutilium studiis detinentur, quae iam apud Romanos quoque magna manus est. Graecorum iste morbus fuit quaerere, quem numerum Ulixes remigum habuisset, prior scripta esset Ilias an Odyssia, praeterea an eiusdem essent auctoris, alia deinceps huius notae, quae sive contineas, nihil tacitam conscientiam iuvant sive proferas, non doctior videaris sed molestior.

Mocking the quibbles of scholars is where the pejorative use of the term ‘academic’ comes. This is an ancient tradition!

Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae 1.22

“You know that somewhere Timo the Philasian calls the Museum a birdcage as he mocks the scholars who are supported there because they were fed like the priciest birds in a big cage:

Many are fed in many-peopled Egypt,
The paper-pushers closed up waging endless war
in the bird-cage of the Muses.

ὅτι τὸ Μουσεῖον ὁ Φιλιάσιος Τίμων ὁ σιλλογράφος (fr. 60 W) τάλαρόν πού φησιν ἐπισκώπτων τοὺς ἐν αὐτῷ τρεφομένους φιλοσόφους, ὅτι ὥσπερ ἐν  πανάγρῳ τινὶ σιτοῦνται καθάπερ οἱ πολυτιμότατοι ὄρνιθες·

πολλοὶ μὲν βόσκονται ἐν Αἰγύπτῳ πολυφύλῳ
βιβλιακοὶ χαρακῖται ἀπείριτα δηριόωντες
Μουσέων ἐν ταλάρῳ.

Wednesday’s Wondrous Waters: Rivers from the Paradoxographus Vaticanus

Paradoxographus Vaticanus, 18-22

18 “There is a river Perinthos in Thrace where the city Perinthos is too. If anyone drinks from it, their internal organs swell [or develop tumors?]. The reason for this is that the drops from the Gorgon’s head flowed into it after it was carried off by Perseus.”

 ποταμὸς ἐν Θρᾴκῃ, ὅθεν καὶ Πέρινθος ἡ πόλις· ἐκ τούτου εἰ πίοι τις, τὰ σπλάγχνα ἐξογκοῦται. ῾Η δ’ αἰτία, ὅτι σταγόνες ἐκ τῆς κεφαλῆς Γοργόνος ἐν τούτῳ ἐρρύησαν βασταζομένης ὑπὸ Περσέως.

19 “Among the Kelainai of Phrygia there is a river Marsyas. When that one somehow hears an aulos, it crashes greatly; if it is a kithara, it flows in silence, since the the aulos-player Marsyas drowned in it.”

᾿Εν Κελαιναῖς τῆς Φρυγίας ποταμός ἐστι Μαρσύας· οὗτος ἔν πως αὐλοῦ ἀκούσῃ, βομβεῖ μέγα, ἢν δὲ κιθάρας, μετὰ σιγῆς ῥεῖ, ἀποπνιγέντος ἐν αὐτῷ Μαρσύου τοῦ αὐλητοῦ.

20 “The river Tauromenios is in Sicily near the city of the same name. When that river hears thunder, it is frightened and retreats into the earth; but when the thunder stops, it rushes back from the earth again like a spring.”

Ταυρομένιος ποταμός ἐστιν ἐν Σικελίᾳ παρὰ τὴν ὁμώνυμον πόλιν· οὗτος βροντῆς ἀκούων φοβεῖται καὶ καταδύεται εἰς τὴν γῆν, ἢν δὲ παύσηται ἡ βροντή, πάλιν ἄνεισιν ἐκ τῆς γῆς καθάπερ πηγή.

21 “A cold river named Akis flows through Sicily. It has muddy water during the summer, but during the winter it is fine and clear.”

Ποταμὸς ψυχρὸς ὄνομα <῎Ακις> διὰ τῆς Σικελίας ῥεῖ· οὗτος τοῦ μὲν θέρους ἰλυῶδες ἔχει ὕδωρ, τοῦ δὲ χειμῶνος καλόν τε καὶ διαυγές.

22 “Among the Lungkêsktai there is a spring. If anyone drinks from it, they get drunk.”

᾿Εν Λυγκήσταις κρήνη ἐστίν, ἀφ’ ἧς ἐάν τις πίῃ, μεθύσκεται.

 

Homeric Fantasy (Baseball)

In honor of the all-star game, I am re-posting this with minor changes. Thanks to everyone who played along the last time

I don’t want to attract the enmity of one part of the world even for the potential devotion of the other, but I have been a Red Sox fan as long as I can remember. In fact, I really can split my life up into four basic periods: before 1986, from 1986-2003; 2003-2007; and post 2007. And I am on the cusp of a fifth: now my children watch games with me. While they drift in and out of attention, they come back for every Mookie Betts at-bat.

But, beyond a particularly pathological obsession with a single team, I really love do baseball. One of my greatest regrets for my life is that I was not blessed with a good eye and fast hands: I did not record a single hit in my entire little league career.

During the spring, the author Guy Gavriel Kay (who hassles me before for loving the Red Sox and has suggested the authorities be notified of my brainwashing of children) was discussing the highs and lows of fantasy baseball on Twitter. I cannot play fantasy baseball because I can’t handle the stress. Somehow, our brief discussion turned into a contemplation of Homeric heroes as baseball players.

This conversation combines two things I love (Homer and baseball). It also comes close to an activity I wanted to run a few years back in a leadership course. My idea was that we would have students play basketball together in teams but in the personae of Homeric heroes. (The activity name was “Hero-Ball”.) Some ‘refs’ were going to randomly impose rules (gods); there would be fans, etc. The reasoning behind this lark was that we too often fail to think about how who we think we are shapes the way we engage with others.

(The activity was vetoed by my department chair at the time as exposing the university to too much liability. I have similarly considered a D&D style role playing game).

So, I spent all day trying to do other work and thinking about this absurd topic. Here’s what I have. First, if we try to select the best heroes from each side and give them positions somewhat akin to their ‘skills’, the Achaeans are clearly ‘stacked’. I made Odysseus a starting pitcher, but I am open to changing him out. The Achaeans have a DH, because they come from a wealthier, younger league.

This is an especially appropriate thought experiment for an All-Star Game because each side of the war is like a roster of All-Stars gathered from the best ‘teams’ all over Greece and Asia. Indeed, for ancient audiences the setting of the Trojan War was like a mythical All-Star game bringing together local heroes in one fantastic spectacle. Think of the catalogue of ships in the Iliad as an elaborate line-up announcement.

[N.B. For baseball haters or agnostics: one could play this game with any sport!]

Team Achaeans

SP Agamemnon
SP Odysseus

Closer Teucer

1B Diomedes
2B Thoas
SS Oilean Ajax
3B Ajax
RF Sthenelos
LF Patroclus
CF Achilles
DH Idomeneus

Catcher: Menelaos
Bullpen: Thersites
Disabled List: Protesilaus, Philoctetes

Bench: The Myrmidons; Epeios (PH), Antilochus (INF/OF)

Coach: Nestor; Pitching Coach: Calchas

Some details and justifications: I generally made those famed for missiles (archery or spears) into pitchers. Odysseus, as I tweeted, reminds me of a wily veteran who leans on junk and the knuckleball but can bend your knees and break your back when he wants to. Agamemnon, on the other hand, is a player coach who throws only garbage but thinks he’s got both power and finesse. The archer Teucer is, obviously, their best option for closer. Thersites is in the bullpen as a crazy specialist.

The hitters are as follows: Achilles, Idomeneus, Ajax, and Diomedes all have obvious power and are distributed according to strength and speed. Patroclus might not be a natural left-fielder, but he’s not standing any where but near Achilles. Sthenelos is a poor man’s Patroclus and Oilean Ajax is sneaky, nasty, and fast, so an obvious shortstop. Menelaos? Well, he is in the middle of everything, thinks he’s in charge, and is the only person the other Atreid will pitch to.

The Trojans have some heavy hitters and one high-priced free agent (Sarpedon), but their team is overwhelmingly stocked with sons and relatives of Priam.

Team Trojans

SP Paris
Closer Teucer

1B Hektor
2B Deiphobus
SS Dolon
3B Sarpedon
RF Glaukos
LF Polydamas
CF Aeneas

Catcher: Helenos

Manager: Priam
Bullpen: Asius, Lykaon, Pandaros

Bench: Sons and Sons-in-Law of Priam

Pitching Coach: Antenor

Disabled List: Troilus, Rhesus, Rhesus’ men

Batboys: Astyanax, Ascanius, Polites

The Trojans have some power with Hektor at 1B (after a shift from Center field to prolong his career), Sarpedon at 3B, and Aeneas in Center. Glaukos and Polydamas are good players, but I don’t see them making the HOF. Dolon, like his Achaean counterpart, is fast and smart. When he goes down with a ‘collision’ injury after facing Diomedes in the basepaths, the Trojans are going to have to put some random son of Priam in there. This won’t work out so well: Deiphobus is already second, but that was Helen’s decision. At Catcher we find Helenos–he sees everything on the field and calls it like it is (often spending the time on the bench talking over signs with his sister Kassandra).

The real Trojan weakness is pitching. Paris “The Prince of Troy” Alexandros throws the prettiest curve ball this side of the Skamander. His fastball is there too–but he can’t seem to keep his focus on the field. He also really kills team morale, and sometimes he disappears in between innings. Their bullpen is strong, but just wait until Achilles gets a chance to face Lykaon with the bases loaded. I am going to call that shot for him.

Lineups: (This is an issue of contention: Achilles wants to bat 3rd followed by Ajax. He also thinks Patroclus should bat 5th, but they have to keep the Cretan contingent happy. Agamemnon has different ideas: he wants to put Achilles in his proper place for his speed.) Note: The Achaeans use a DH because they have a younger league and more men.

Agamemnon, SP

Achilles (CF)
Diomedes (1B)
Menelaos (C)
Ajax (3B)
Idomeneus (DH)
Oilean Ajax (SS)
Thoas (2B)
Sthenelos (RF)
Patroclus (LF)

Bench: Ajax

Team Trojan

The Trojans just don’t have the late game flexibility of their opponents. They top the lineup with some shifty speed, followed by an unknown quantity, and then a trio of power who would intimidate anyone smarter than Agamemnon. The problem with their power-trio is that it is really hard to keep them on the field at the same time. Sarpedon and Hektor get injured; Aeneas’ mother keeps pulling him out of games.

Paris, SP

Dolon (SS)
Deiphobos (2B)
Aeneas (CF)
Hektor (1B)
Sarpedon (3B)
Glaukos (RF)
Polydamas (LF)
Helenos (Catcher)

Now who would like to give me a box score for this game?

Some tweets

The Achaean lineup in Linear B, Courtesy of .@e_pe_me_ri on Twitter

Thanks to everyone playing along on twitter with #HomericBaseball. I am sorry I did not include all of your contributions. @ Me and I will add you!

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