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.

Image result for medieval manuscript lion fire
British Library, Royal MS 12 C. xix, Folio 6r. Lion

Expect the Unexpected! Returning to Euripides’ “Ion” Online

Euripides, Ion 1510-1511

“May no one ever believe that anything is unexpected,
thanks to the events that are happening now.”

μηδεὶς δοκείτω μηδὲν ἀνθρώπων ποτὲ
ἄελπτον εἶναι πρὸς τὰ τυγχάνοντα νῦν.

Euripides, Ion 1311

“We will give pain to those who pained us”

λυπήσομέν τιν᾿ ὧν λελυπήμεσθ᾿ ὕπο

Our previous performance from June 17, 2020

This week, we return to Euripides’ Ion, a play which centers around Apollo’s rape of Creusa, her exposure of the child, and the events which bring about the reunion of mother and child outside the Delphic oracle. In and amidst this plot, we witness reflections on divine caprice, a woman’s sufferings, anxiety about foreign nobles and indigenous power, and deep interest in ritual places and the foundation myths of Athens. And, of course, we have politics and power: this play was performed during the Peloponnesian War, after Athens had suffered a terrible setback during the Sicilian Expedition.

 

Euripides, Ion 129-135

“Apollo, my work for you
Is noble as I honor the seat of your prophecy,
Toiling in front of your home.
Oh, to work as a slave for the gods
Not mortals!
I never get tired pushing through
Labor of such good name.”

Φοῖβε, σοὶ πρὸ δόμων λατρεύω,
τιμῶν μαντεῖον ἕδραν·
κλεινὸς δ᾿ ὁ πόνος μοι
θεοῖσιν δούλαν χέρ᾿ ἔχειν
οὐ θνατοῖς ἀλλ᾿ ἀθανάτοις·
εὐφάμους δὲ πόνους
μοχθεῖν οὐκ ἀποκάμνω.

Scenes (Using this script)

236-391 Ion, Creusa, Chorus
429-451 Ion
517-607 Ion, Xuthus, Chorus
1122-1228 Servant
1261-1444 Ion, Creusa, Chorus, Priestess

Euripides, Ion 247-254

“Stranger, your way is not uncultured,
That you come into wonder at my tears.
Now that I look upon this home of Apollo’s
I have recalled some ancient memory.
While I was here, my mind remained someplace else.
Miserable women. Miserable deeds by the gods!
What do I do? To what court of appeal can I turn
When I’m ruined by the injustice of those who rule us?”

ὦ ξένε, τὸ μὲν σὸν οὐκ ἀπαιδεύτως ἔχει
ἐς θαύματ᾿ ἐλθεῖν δακρύων ἐμῶν πέρι·
ἐγὼ δ᾿ ἰδοῦσα τούσδ᾿ Ἀπόλλωνος δόμους
μνήμην παλαιὰν ἀνεμετρησάμην τινά·
ἐκεῖσε τὸν νοῦν ἔσχον ἐνθάδ᾿ οὖσά περ.
ὦ τλήμονες γυναῖκες· ὦ τολμήματα
θεῶν. τί δῆτα; ποῖ δίκην ἀνοίσομεν,
εἰ τῶν κρατούντων ἀδικίαις ὀλούμεθα;

Actors

Hannah Barrie

Paul O’Mahony

Special Guests:  Nancy Felson

Direction: Paul O’Mahony

Posters: John Koelle

Technical, Moral, Administrative Support:  Allie Mabry, Janet Ozsolak, Helene Emeriaud, Sarah Scott, Keith DeStone

Euripides, Ion 1300

“You were trying to kill me because of fear of the future?”

κἄπειτα τοῦ μέλλειν μ᾿ ἀπέκτεινες φόβῳ;

Euripides, Ion 585-594

“Matters don’t have the same appearance
When seen from up close or from a distance.
I welcome this change of events,
Discovering you as my father. But hear me out.
They claim that some of the famous Athenians
Are native born to the soil itself, not immigrants.
I would suffer from two diseases among them,
As the bastard song of a foreign father
Because of this very insult, I would remain weak,
I would be the nothing son of nobodies.”

οὐ ταὐτὸν εἶδος φαίνεται τῶν πραγμάτων
πρόσωθεν ὄντων ἐγγύθεν θ᾿ ὁρωμένων.
ἐγὼ δὲ τὴν μὲν συμφορὰν ἀσπάζομαι,
πατέρα σ᾿ ἀνευρών· ὧν δὲ γιγνώσκω †πέρι†
ἄκουσον. εἶναί φασι τὰς αὐτόχθονας
κλεινὰς Ἀθήνας οὐκ ἐπείσακτον γένος,
ἵν᾿ ἐσπεσοῦμαι δύο νόσω κεκτημένος,
πατρός τ᾿ ἐπακτοῦ καὐτὸς ὢν νοθαγενής.
καὶ τοῦτ᾿ ἔχων τοὔνειδος, ἀσθενὴς μένων
<αὐτὸς τὸ> μηδὲν κοὐδένων κεκλήσομαι.

Euripides, Ion 1522-1527

“Look, mom, could it be that you slipped in that sickness
Which often afflicts maidens into hidden affairs
And then laid the blame on the good?
Did you try to flee my disgrace by saying
That you conceived me with Apollo when it really wasn’t a god?”

ὅρα σύ, μῆτερ, μὴ σφαλεῖσ᾿ ἃ παρθένοις
ἐγγίγνεται νοσήματ᾿ ἐς κρυπτοὺς γάμους
ἔπειτα τῷ θεῷ προστίθης τὴν αἰτίαν,
καὶ τοὐμὸν αἰσχρὸν ἀποφυγεῖν πειρωμένη
Φοίβῳ τεκεῖν με φῄς, τεκοῦσ᾿ οὐκ ἐκ θεοῦ.

Some Help for the Dead: Reading Sophocles’ “Antigone” Online

Sophocles, Antigone 559-60

“My soul died long ago
so I could give  help to the dead.”

ἡ δ᾽ ἐμὴ ψυχὴ πάλαι τέθνηκεν,
ὥστε τοῖς θανοῦσιν ὠφελεῖν.

Wednesday, April 19th, 2022 3:00 EDT

Our first performance of Antigone from 2020

Sophocles, Antigone 332-341

“There are many wonders and none
is more awe-inspiring than humanity.
This thing that crosses the sea
as it whorls under a stormy wind
finding a path on enveloping waves.
It wears down imperishable Earth, too,
the oldest of the gods, a tireless deity,
as the plows trace lives from year to year
drawn by the race of horses….”

?Ο. Πολλὰ τὰ δεινὰ κοὐδὲν ἀν-
θρώπου δεινότερον πέλει·
τοῦτο καὶ πολιοῦ πέραν
πόντου χειμερίῳ νότῳ
χωρεῖ, περιβρυχίοισιν
περῶν ὑπ’ οἴδμασιν, θεῶν
τε τὰν ὑπερτάταν, Γᾶν
ἄφθιτον, ἀκαμάταν, ἀποτρύεται,
ἰλλομένων ἀρότρων ἔτος εἰς ἔτος,
ἱππείῳ γένει πολεύων.

The Center for Hellenic Studies , the Kosmos Society and Out of Chaos Theatre has been presenting scenes from Greek tragedy on the ‘small screen’ with discussion and interpretation during our time of isolation and social distancing. As Paul O’Mahony, whose idea this whole thing was said in an earlier blog post, Since we are “unable to explore the outside world, we have no option but to explore further the inner one.

In our third season of the series, we are returning to plays we have performed before from different angles. We started a few weeks ago with a live, in-person performance at Harvard.

Sophocles, Antigone 737

“The state which belongs to one man is no state at all.”

πόλις γὰρ οὐκ ἔσθ᾽ ἥτις ἀνδρός ἐσθ᾽ ἑνός.

This week we return to Sophocles’ Antigone, arguably one of the most famous plays from antiquity. Alongside Sophocles’ Oedipus Tyrannos and Euripides’ Bacchae, Antigone is one of the most re-interpreted and translated plays in the last generation. Our performance will be bilingual in Modern Greek and English.

Sophocles, Antigone 1056

“The race of tyrants loves shameful profit.”

τὸ δ᾽ ἐκ τυράννων αἰσχροκέρδειαν φιλεῖ.

Translations

Sophocles, Antigone 141-145

“The seven leaders appointed to their seven gates
dedicated their bronze arms
to Zeus who turns the battle
except for only those two born
of a singer mother and father
who faced each other’s spears
each with a share of victory and death.”

ἑπτὰ λοχαγοὶ γὰρ ἐφ᾽ ἑπτὰ πύλαις
ταχθέντες ἴσοι πρὸς ἴσους ἔλιπον
Ζηνὶ τροπαίῳ πάγχαλκα τέλη,
πλὴν τοῖν στυγεροῖν, ὣ πατρὸς ἑνὸς
μητρός τε μιᾶς φύντε καθ᾽ αὑτοῖν
δικρατεῖς λόγχας στήσαντ᾽ ἔχετον
κοινοῦ θανάτου μέρος ἄμφω.

Performers

Nikos Hatzopoulos – Kreon
Dimitra Vlagopoulou – Antigone
Asimina Anastasopoulou – Ismine, Chorus
Argyris Xafis – Aimon, Messenger(guard), Chorus

Sophocles, Antigone 495-496

“I hate it when someone is caught in the midst of their evil deeds and tries to gloss over them.”

μισῶ γε μέντοι χὤταν ἐν κακοῖσί τις / ἁλοὺς ἔπειτα τοῦτο καλλύνειν θέλῃ.

Sophocles, Antigone 506-507

“But tyranny is a happy state in many ways, and the tyrant has the power to act and speak as they wish.”

ἀλλ᾽ ἡ τυραννὶς πολλά τ᾽ ἄλλ᾽ εὐδαιμονεῖ/  κἄξεστιν αὐτῇ δρᾶν λέγειν θ᾽ ἃ βούλεται.

Special Guests, Paul Woodruff and James Collins

Artistic Director: Paul O’Mahony (Out of Chaos Theatre)
Director of Outreach: Amy Pistone (Gonzaga University)
Executive Producer: Allie Marbry(Center for Hellenic Studies)
Producers: Keith DeStone (Center for Hellenic Studies), Hélène Emeriaud, Janet Ozsolak, and Sarah Scott (Kosmos Society)
Poster Artist: John Koelle
Poster Designer: Allie Marbry (Center for Hellenic Studies)

Sophocles, Antigone 72–77

“It is noble for me to do this and then die.
I will lie with him because I belong to him, with him,
Once I have completed my sacred crimes. There’s more time
When I must please those below than those here,
Since I will lie there forever. You? Go head,
Dishonor what the gods honor if it seems right.”

… καλόν μοι τοῦτο ποιούσῃ θανεῖν.
φίλη μετ᾿ αὐτοῦ κείσομαι, φίλου μέτα,
ὅσια πανουργήσασ᾿· ἐπεὶ πλείων χρόνος
ὃν δεῖ μ᾿ ἀρέσκειν τοῖς κάτω τῶν ἐνθάδε·
ἐκεῖ γὰρ αἰεὶ κείσομαι. σὺ δ᾿ εἰ δοκεῖ
τὰ τῶν θεῶν ἔντιμ᾿ ἀτιμάσασ᾿ ἔχε.

Sophocles, Antigone 280–288

“Stop speaking before you fill me with rage!
And you’re revealed as a fool as well as an old man.

You speak of unendurable things, claiming that the gods
Have some plan for this corpse.
Did they do it to honor him so greatly for his fine work,
Concealing him, the man who came here
To burn their temples and their statutes,
To ruin their land and their laws?
Do you see the gods honoring evil people?”

παῦσαι, πρὶν ὀργῆς καί με μεστῶσαι λέγων,
μὴ ᾿φευρεθῇς ἄνους τε καὶ γέρων ἅμα.
λέγεις γὰρ οὐκ ἀνεκτὰ δαίμονας λέγων
πρόνοιαν ἴσχειν τοῦδε τοῦ νεκροῦ πέρι.
πότερον ὑπερτιμῶντες ὡς εὐεργέτην
ἔκρυπτον αὐτόν, ὅστις ἀμφικίονας
ναοὺς πυρώσων ἦλθε κἀναθήματα
καὶ γῆν ἐκείνων καὶ νόμους διασκεδῶν;
ἢ τοὺς κακοὺς τιμῶντας εἰσορᾷς θεούς;

Memory, Our Guide to the Future

Plutarch, Obsolesence Of Oracles (Moralia 432)

“It is not necessary to feel wonder or disbelieve upon seeing this ability in the mind which is a parallel for prophecy, even if we see nothing else, which we call memory—how great an effort it proves to be to save and preserve the things that have happened before or, really, what is now. For nothing of what has happened exists or persist, but at the very moment everything comes to be it also perishes: deeds, words, emotions, each of them passing away on the stream of time.

But this power of the mind in some way I do not understand apprehends them and endows them with appearance and substance for those who are not here now. The prophecy which was given to the Thessalians was ordering them to consider “the hearing of a deaf man; the sight of the blind.”

And so memory is for us the hearing of affairs we are deaf to and the sight of matters to which we are blind. This is why, as I was saying, it should not be a surprise when it has control over things which no longer are and can anticipate those which have not yet happened. For these matters are much better fit to it and those are similar. Memory approaches and attaches to what will be and it breaks off from what has happened before and reached an end except for the sake of remembering it.”

οὐ δεῖ δὲ θαυμάζειν οὐδ᾿ ἀπιστεῖν ὁρῶντας, εἰ μηδὲν ἄλλο, τῆς ψυχῆς τὴν ἀντίστροφον τῇ μαντικῇ δύναμιν, ἣν μνήμην καλοῦμεν, ἡλίκον ἔργον ἀποδείκνυται τὸ σῴζειν τὰ παρῳχημένα καὶ φυλάττειν, μᾶλλον δὲ ὄντα· τῶν γὰρ γεγονότων οὐδὲν ἔστιν οὐδ᾿ ὑφέστηκεν, ἀλλ᾿ ἅμα γίγνεται πάντα καὶ φθείρεται, καὶ πράξεις καὶ λόγοι καὶ παθήματα, τοῦ χρόνου καθάπερ ῥεύματος ἕκαστα παραφέροντος· αὕτη δὲ τῆς ψυχῆς ἡ δύναμις οὐκ οἶδ᾿ ὅντινα τρόπον ἀντιλαμβανομένη τοῖς μὴ παροῦσι φαντασίαν καὶ οὐσίαν περιτίθησιν. ὁ μὲν γὰρ Θετταλοῖς περὶ Ἄρνης δοθεὶς χρησμὸς ἐκέλευε φράζειν: “κωφοῦ τ᾿ ἀκοὴν τυφλοῖό τε δέρξιν,”

ἡ δὲ μνήμη καὶ κωφῶν πραγμάτων ἀκοὴ καὶ τυφλῶν ὄψις ἡμῖν ἐστιν. ὅθεν, ὡς ἔφην, οὐκ ἔστι θαυμαστόν, εἰ κρατοῦσα τῶν μηκέτ᾿ ὄντων προλαμβάνει πολλὰ τῶν μηδέπω γεγονότων· ταῦτα γὰρ αὐτῇ μᾶλλον προσήκει καὶ τούτοις συμπαθής ἐστι· καὶ γὰρ ἐπιβάλλεται καὶ προστίθεται πρὸς τὰ μέλλοντα καὶ τῶν παρῳχημένων καὶ τέλος ἐχόντων ἀπήλλακται πλὴν τοῦ μνημονεύειν.

Charles Fernyhough, Pieces of Light (2001):

126: Memory’s “greater value”…”might have been its ability to foretell the future”

Mario Mikulincer. Human Learned Helplessness: A Coping Perspective. New York: Plenum Press, 1994.

102: “The hypothesis that the experience with recurrent lack of control generates an expectancy of no control in a new task is based on two assumptions; first, that people tend to anticipate future events congruent with present and/or past events; and second, that they tend to generalize expectancies to new tasks and situations”

Bern Le Hunte and Jan A. Golembiewski. “Stories Have the Power to Save Us: A Neurological Framework for the Imperative to Tell Stories.” Arts and Social Sciences Journal 5.2 (2014) 73-76.

75: “Storytelling, then, is essential to the way we construct our humanity. It’s also vital to our study of the future.”

Mark Turner, The Storytelling Mind 1996, 4-5:  “narrative imagining—story—is the fundamental instrument of thought. Rational capacities depend upon it. It is our chief means of looking into the future, of predicting, of planning, and of explaining. It is a literary capacity indispensable to human cognition generally. This is the first way in which the mind is essentially literary.”

 

Valenciennes, Bibl. mun., ms. 0007, f. 055 (the prophet Isaiah being sawn in half inside a cedar tree). Bible (second quarter of the 16th century?)
Valenciennes, Bibl. mun., ms. 0007, f. 055 (the prophet Isaiah being sawn in half inside a cedar tree).

Something To Make This Place a Home: Reading Greek Tragedy Online, LIVE

Sophokles, Philoktetes 32

“Is there nothing inside to make this a home?”

οὐδ᾿ ἔνδον οἰκοποιός ἐστί τις τροφή;

Sophocles, Philoktetes 234-235

“Loveliest sound, oh, to grasp the voice
of such a man after so long a time.”

ὦ φίλτατον φώνημα· φεῦ τὸ καὶ λαβεῖν
πρόσφθεγμα τοιοῦδ᾿ ἀνδρὸς ἐν χρόνῳ μακρῷ.

Today Reading Greek Tragedy Online returns to Sophocles’ Philoktetes  at 3 PM EDT Online, and LIVE at Harvard University’s Hilles Cinema, sponsored by the Division of Arts and Sciences and Department of the Classics at Harvard University and the School of Arts and Sciences and Department of Classical Studies at Brandeis University. Tune in Live, return for a recording, or, if you can make it, stop by in person and say, “ἆ ἆ ἆ ἆ.”

Sophocles, Philoktetes 971-2 

“You aren’t bad but by learning from wicked men you became used to pursuing wicked things”

οὐκ εἶ κακὸς σύ, πρὸς κακῶν δ᾽ ἀνδρῶν μαθὼν/ ἔοικας ἥκειν αἰσχρά:

RGTO is produced by a partnership of Out of Chaos Theatre, the Center for Hellenic Studies, and the Kosmos Society. This project started at the onset of COVID19 lockdowns in the US and UK and brings together actors and researches to stage scenes from the ancient stage and talk about how they impact us to this day. We have over 50 episodes posted already and will add a few more by the end of the year. In the first year of the Pandemic, we went through every extant Greek tragedy. As we have moved on, we have tried to broaden our scope, expanding the questions we ask of the past and reaching out to bring more people and perspectives into discussion.

Sophocles, Philoktetes 54-55

“You need to bewitch
Philoktetes’ mind with your words.”

τὴν Φιλοκτήτου σε δεῖ
ψυχὴν ὅπως λόγοισιν ἐκκλέψεις λέγων

This performance marks the first time many of us have met in person and the first time some of us have been together since before the start of the pandemic. As we have written about elsewhere, the process of putting on these readings has helped us to rethink Greek Tragedy. For me, it has forced a re-centering of performance and audience experience in creating a play’s meaning. Viewing and reflecting on tragic action together expands our emotional and cognitive grasp, helping us to see each other and ourselves through the characters on stage. In particular, the practice of listening to other peoples’ interpretations and using them as a sounding board for our own gives the moment of performance and its aftermath power that is often impoverished on a simple page.

Cast and Crew

Eunice Roberts
Damian Jermaine Thompson
René Thornton Jr.
Sara Valentine

Directed by Paul O’Mahony, translated by Ian Johnston.

With host Joel Christensen, and special guests, Naomi Weiss and David Elmer

Amazing People
Artistic Director: Paul O’Mahony (Out of Chaos Theatre)
Host and Faculty Consultant: Joel Christensen (Brandeis University)
Executive Producer: Allie Marbry (Center for Hellenic Studies)
Producers: Keith DeStone (Center for Hellenic Studies), Hélène Emeriaud, Janet Ozsolak, and Sarah Scott (Kosmos Society)
Director of Outreach: Amy Pistone (Gonzaga University)
Poster Designer: Allie Marbry (Center for Hellenic Studies)
Poster Illustration Artist: John Koelle

Sophocles, Philoctetes 86-95 (Neoptolemus to Odysseus)

“For my part, son of Laertes, I hate to carry out those plans which pain me to hear. I was not born to do anything from evil contrivance, nor was the one (as they say) who begot me. But I am always up to the task of taking a man by violence and not trickery. With his one foot, Philoctetes will not overwhelm us, who are so many, in a violent contest. Yet, since I was sent as your helpmate, I would rather not be called a traitor; but my lord, I would rather err while acting nobly than prevail while acting basely.”

ἐγὼ μὲν οὓς ἂν τῶν λόγων ἀλγῶ κλύων,
Λαερτίου παῖ, τούσδε καὶ πράσσειν στυγῶ:
ἔφυν γὰρ οὐδὲν ἐκ τέχνης πράσσειν κακῆς,
οὔτ᾽ αὐτὸς οὔθ᾽, ὥς φασιν, οὑκφύσας ἐμέ.
ἀλλ᾽ εἴμ᾽ ἑτοῖμος πρὸς βίαν τὸν ἄνδρ᾽ ἄγειν
καὶ μὴ δόλοισιν: οὐ γὰρ ἐξ ἑνὸς ποδὸς
ἡμᾶς τοσούσδε πρὸς βίαν χειρώσεται.
πεμφθείς γε μέντοι σοὶ ξυνεργάτης ὀκνῶ
προδότης καλεῖσθαι: βούλομαι δ᾽, ἄναξ, καλῶς
δρῶν ἐξαμαρτεῖν μᾶλλον ἢ νικᾶν κακῶς.

We first visited Philoktetes on the island of Lemnos in 2020 with special guest Norman Sandridge. At the beginning of the pandemic it was impossible not to see Philoktetes’ isolation and dehumanization as a way to think about the impact of COVID19 on our lives.

Sophocles, Philoktetes 446-452

“He would survive, since nothing rotten ever dies,
but the gods take good care of these things
and they love turning the wicked back from hell
even as they are always damning the just and good.
How can we make sense of this, can we praise it
when look close at their work and realize the gods are evil?”

ἔμελλ᾿· ἐπεὶ οὐδέν πω κακόν γ᾿ ἀπώλετο,
ἀλλ᾿ εὖ περιστέλλουσιν αὐτὰ δαίμονες,
καί πως τὰ μὲν πανοῦργα καὶ παλιντριβῆ
χαίρουσ᾿ ἀναστρέφοντες ἐξ Ἅιδου, τὰ δὲ
δίκαια καὶ τὰ χρήστ᾿ ἀποστέλλουσ᾿ ἀεί.
ποῦ χρὴ τίθεσθαι ταῦτα, ποῦ δ᾿ αἰνεῖν, ὅταν
τὰ θεῖ᾿ ἐπαθρῶν τοὺς θεοὺς εὕρω κακούς;

Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics 1. 6-9

“We use ‘self-sufficient’ not to mean a person alone—someone living in isolation—but to include one’s parents, children, spouse, friends, and even fellow citizens, since a human being is a social creature by nature. Now, some limit needs to be observed in these ties—for it will go on endlessly if you extend it to someone’s ancestors and descendants.  But that’s a problem for another time.

We posit that self-sufficiency is something which in itself makes life attractive and lacks nothing and for this reason we think it is happiness, since we imagine that happiness is the most preferable of all things when it is not counted with others. It is clear that it is desirable even with the least of the goods—the addition of goods increases the total, since the greater good is always desirable.”

τὸ δ᾿ αὔταρκες λέγομεν οὐκ αὐτῷ μόνῳ, τῷ ζῶντι βίον μονώτην, ἀλλὰ καὶ γονεῦσι καὶ τέκνοις καὶ γυναικὶ καὶ ὅλως τοῖς φίλοις καὶ πολίταις, ἐπειδὴ φύσει πολιτικὸν ὁ ἄνθρωπος. τούτων δὲ ληπτέος ὅρος τις· ἐπεκτείνοντι γὰρ ἐπὶ τοὺς γονεῖς καὶ τοὺς ἀπογόνους καὶ τῶν φίλων τοὺς φίλους εἰς ἄπειρον πρόεισιν. ἀλλὰ τοῦτο μὲν εἰσαῦθις ἐπισκεπτέον, τὸ δ᾿ αὔταρκες τίθεμεν ὃ μονούμενον αίπετὸν ποιεῖ τὸν βίον καὶ μηδενὸς ἐνδεᾶ· τοιοῦτον δὲ τὴν εὐδαιμονίαν οἰόμεθα εἶναι. ἔτι δὲ πάντων αἱρετωτάτην μὴ συναριθμουμένην—συναριθμουμένην γὰρ δῆλον ὡς αἱρετωτέραν μετὰ τοῦ ἐλαχίστου τῶν ἀγαθῶν, ὑπεροχὴ γὰρ ἀγαθῶν γίνεται τὸ προστιθέμενον, ἀγαθῶν δὲ τὸ μεῖζον αἱρετώτερον

John Donne, Meditation 17

No man is an Iland, intire of itselfe; every man
is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine;
if a Clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe
is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, as
well as if a Manor of thy friends or of thine
owne were; any mans death diminishes me,
because I am involved in Mankinde;
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.

A Reminder: Medical and Philosophical Traditions Consider Women Not Fully Human

Aristotle, Generation of Animals Book 2, 737a

“That [female] substance, even though it possesses all segments of the body in potential, actually exhibits none of them. For it contains those kinds of elements in potential by which the female is distinguished from the male. For just as it happens that at times deformed children come from deformed parents and at times they do not, so too in the same way sometimes female offspring come from females and sometimes they don’t, but males do instead. For the female is like a deformity of the male and menstrual discharge is like semen, but unclean.”

καὶ γὰρ ἐκεῖνο περίττωμα, καὶ πάντα τὰ μόρια ἔχει δυνάμει, ἐνεργείᾳ δ᾿ οὐθέν. καὶ γὰρ τὰ τοιαῦτ᾿ ἔχει μόρια δυνάμει, ᾗ διαφέρει τὸ θῆλυ τοῦ ἄρρενος. ὥσπερ γὰρ καὶ ἐκ πεπηρωμένων ὁτὲ μὲν γίνεται πεπηρωμένα ὁτὲ δ᾿οὔ, οὕτω καὶ ἐκ θήλεος ὁτὲ μὲν θῆλυ ὁτὲ δ᾿ οὔ, ἀλλ᾿ ἄρρεν. τὸ γὰρ θῆλυ ὥσπερ ἄρρεν ἐστὶ πεπηρωμένον, καὶ τὰ καταμήνια σπέρμα, οὐ καθαρὸν δέ

Generation of Animals, Book 4, 767b

“These causes are also of the same. Some [offspring] are born similar to their parents while others are not. Some are similar to their father; others are like their mother, applying both to the body as a whole and to each part. Offspring are more like their parents than their ancestors and more like their ancestors than passersby.

Males are more similar to their father and females are more similar to their mother. But some are not like any of their relatives, but are still akin to human beings while others are like not at all like humans in their appearance, but rather like some monster. For whoever is not like his parents is in some way a monster because nature has in these cases wandered in some way from the essential character. The first beginning of this is when a female was born instead of a male.

But this is necessary by nature since a race of things divided by male and female must be preserved and since the male may at times not be in control because of age or youth or some other reason, it is necessary for species to have female offspring. Monstrosity is not necessary for any reason or specific ends, but it is necessary by probability of accident—since its origin must be considered as residing here.”

Αἱ δ᾿ αὐταὶ αἰτίαι καὶ τοῦ τὰ μὲν ἐοικότα γίνεσθαι τοῖς τεκνώσασι τὰ δὲ μὴ ἐοικότα, καὶ τὰ μὲν πατρὶ τὰ δὲ μητρί, κατά τε ὅλον τὸ σῶμα καὶ κατὰ μόριον ἕκαστον, καὶ μᾶλλον αὐτοῖς ἢ τοῖς προγόνοις, καὶ τούτοις ἢ τοῖς τυχοῦσι, καὶ τὰ μὲν ἄρρενα μᾶλλον τῷ πατρὶ τὰ δὲ θήλεα τῇ μητρί, τὰ δ᾿ οὐδενὶ τῶν συγγενῶν, ὅμως δ᾿ ἀνθρώπῳ γέ τινι, τὰ δ᾿ οὐδ᾿ ἀνθρώπῳ τὴν ἰδέαν ἀλλ᾿ ἤδη τέρατι. καὶ γὰρ ὁ μὴ ἐοικὼς τοῖς γονεῦσιν ἤδη τρόπον τινὰ τέρας ἐστίν· παρεκβέβηκε γὰρ ἡ φύσις ἐν τούτοις ἐκ τοῦ γένους τρόπον τινά. ἀρχὴ δὲ πρώτη τὸ θῆλυ γίνεσθαι καὶ μὴ ἄρρεν. ἀλλ᾿ αὕτη μὲν ἀναγκαία τῇ φύσει, δεῖ γὰρ σώζεσθαι τὸ γένος τῶν κεχωρισμένων κατὰ τὸ θῆλυ καὶ τὸ ἄρρεν· ἐνδεχομένου δὲ μὴ κρατεῖν ποτὲ τὸ ἄρρεν ἢ διὰ νεότητα ἢ γῆρας ἢ δι᾿ ἄλλην τινὰ αἰτίαν τοιαύτην, ἀνάγκη γίνεσθαι θηλυτοκίαν ἐν τοῖς ζῴοις. τὸ δὲ τέρας οὐκ ἀναγκαῖον πρὸς τὴν ἕνεκά του καὶ τὴν τοῦ τέλους αἰτίαν, ἀλλὰ κατὰ συμβεβηκὸς ἀναγκαῖον, ἐπεὶ τήν γ᾿ ἀρχὴν ἐντεῦθεν δεῖ λαμβάνειν.

τέρας: can mean ‘monster’ (as translated here) or divine sign/omen. In cognates and parallel forms it is also associated with magic and the unnatural.

πηρόω (πεπηρωμένον) is a denominative verb from the noun πηρός, which means “infirm, invalid” (hence: “blind or lame”)

Thomson, Rosemarie Garland. 1997. Extraordinary Bodies: Figuring Physical Disability in American Culture and Literature. New York.

19: “Perhaps the founding association of femaleness with disability occurs in the fourth book of Generation of Animals, Aristotle’s discourse of the normal and the abnormal, in which he refines the Platonic concept of antinomies so that bodily variety translates into hierarchies of the typical and aberrant.”

20: “What this passage makes clearest, however, is that without the monstrous body to demarcate the borders of the generic, without the female body to distinguish the shape of the male, and without the pathological to give form to the normal, the taxonomies of bodily value that underlie political, social and economic arrangements would collapse.”

20: “This persistent intertwining of disability with femaleness in Western discourse provides a starting point for exploring the relationship of social identity to the body. As Aristotle’s pronouncement suggests, the social category of disability rests on the significance accorded bodily functioning and configuration.”

Image result for ancient greek women
Ivory Sculpture from the MET

 

On Leaving

I can remember almost exactly when I decided to stop pursuing a University job. It was sometime around 8am on a nondescript Thursday in February 2018 – and I was in the back of an ambulance. I didn’t know at the time, but the impact of a van driving into me while I was cycling to the station an hour earlier had broken my pelvis in several places, and was about to mean 10 days in hospital and another 3 months on crutches. It also made me realise that even thinking about turning down the full-time, well-paid, likely-to-go-permanent, school teaching job put on a plate in front of me just a few days earlier was sheer madness. 

All this sounds very melodramatic – but it is absolutely true. For all the brilliant things about the still very new job which I was commuting to when the accident happened, I really did think it might have been in my best interests not to stick with it, but to take an enormous gamble on a lectureship coming up for the following September. How had it taken something as serious as hospitalisation to make me realise I’d had a genuinely very good deal already land in my lap, and that it was OK to stop pursuing the Elusive Permanent Academic Job which everyone kept telling me was within my grasp eight years after being awarded my PhD? 

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 7.8

Τὰ μέλλοντα μὴ ταρασσέτω· ἥξεις γὰρ ἐπ᾿ αὐτά, ἐὰν δεήσῃ, φέρων τὸν αὐτὸν λόγον, ᾧ νῦν πρὸς τὰ παρόντα χρᾷ.

Don’t let the future disturb you. You will meet it, if you have to, with the same weapons of reason which today arm you against the present.

Just one more application, one more term, one more year…  I spent the next couple of days (it might have been more, or less – blame the morphine or oxycodone) idly following the UCU strike on Twitter and pondering my life choices. Maybe all this was a sign.  I don’t want these reflections to be another sad tale of the woes of academia. There are enough of those, and many far sadder and more upsetting than mine. I’m not after pity in writing this. Instead this is a cathartic warts-and-all tale about my experiences of finding a life outside the Ivory Tower, a life that can be just as fulfilling intellectually – if you want it to be. 

On paper I’d had a pretty good run: in 2010 from the September straight after the PhD three years at one place (actually a succession of three one-year jobs, because the Faceless Uni will commit as little long-term cash as possible), then a prestigious post-doc for three years, then a single semester job that then gave me another semester part time. This last job was actually in the city where I had been building a life with my partner for the previous 10 years or so: prior to this a lengthy weekly commute had been the norm. 

Apart from getting a book out – that’s a whole other tale of woe, tardy reviewers, crying, and email-management ineptitude at an Unnamed Publisher – I felt like I’d done everything right. I was now getting shortlisted for the permanent posts I was applying for, but never quite making first choice. And by September 2017 I had had enough. I wasn’t about to apply for a(nother) temporary job 400 miles from home. I felt by this point I was worth more than this. As a former Head of School once said to me, ‘it’s a war of attrition’, before regaling me with tales of his back-to-back postdocs. And in this war my nameless enemies were starting to win. 

So in November 2017 I went for, and got, a temporary, part-time school teaching job a short commute from home. And after a very short time, this place really felt like home. Maybe part of it is down to size: there are some 100-ish teaching staff, and I know most of them by name. I know who Senior Leadership are, the people actually making the decisions which affect me and my life. They speak to the staff – their colleagues – at least once a week. I have even spoken to them socially. At all of my other institutions I wouldn’t have been able to pick those running the University out of a line up. There is also as much free tea and coffee as you can drink, in actual pottery mugs rather than immediate landfill, and in the halcyon pre-COVID days, free cake and cheese straws: this was all far better than a sad brew in a paper cup from a soulless, expensively-branded University outlet – and you didn’t have to pay £1.50 a pop for it out of your own pocket.  This job made me realise how utterly expendable I had been to my employers for most of the last decade. This school made enormous efforts to get me back after the accident when I was ready, rather than simply replacing me to suit their own needs because it would have been easier. That is not to say that my immediate colleagues in Uni Land had never fought tooth and nail to keep me at the end of my six separate contracts – I’m certain some of them really did – but in the end there is only so much academic departments can do in the face of The System, and the Giant Balance Sheet which must exist in all Higher Education Establishments.  I’d simply been a faceless figure in the expenditure column. Here, I was Dr Coker, valued and respected Teacher of Classics, the one who keeps introducing herself by accident to students with her first name because old habits die hard. 

And it’s not that I hadn’t felt good at my job before, but I was good at this job, and I enjoyed it. I even started to dare to have fun at work, discovering that there is almost nothing 15 year olds won’t do for a Party Ring (= type of cheap UK biscuit), and that there can be immense joy in teaching younger students. Nothing gives you more instant feedback than a room of teenagers, and nothing also says appreciation like a hand-made card with a drawing of a pelvis on it with a pink heart, seven weeks after you start your new job. Weird, absolutely, but also peculiarly endearing. It’s not that students of 18+ are incapable of such displays of affection – nor indeed those University staff who teach them  – but there is a genuine sense of community at my workplace which I had not realised I had been missing. I’m not in need of constant praise, but more positivity in the previous decade would have been nice.  I think of myself as mostly pretty emotionally robust, but my experience of academia is that it is fundamentally set up to make you feel like a failure, regardless of your status. Got a PhD? Well done, but you need to publish it.  Got a your first temp job? Great, but, you know, it finishes in 10 months so get writing that postdoc application, sort your publications out, and then get applying again. Finished that article and sent it off? Good news! If you are really lucky, you’ll get some feedback within a year, and Reviewer B won’t question the entirety of your knowledge base with his (and I think the pronoun is more likely correct there than not) anonymous acerbic vitriol. 

Four years on and for all the positive things about the now not-new job, the truth is I’ve only recently stopped feeling like a failure because I’m not in The Club any more. This change in status has been the hardest part of the transition, such is the way in which academia wraps up your own personal identity with that of your intellectual achievements.  I’m still invited to give papers or public talks from time to time, and do various kinds of reviewing for well-known journals which definitely helps me prove to myself I have what it would have taken. I submit the odd conference abstract, and am beavering away when time allows on various publications including The Thesis Book (a.k.a. The Millstone Round My Neck). I’m doing this now because I want to, because there is a reason I went back to Uni to do an MA, and then a PhD, which was because the Real Jobs I had in between my studies were boring and unfulfilling. 

But what am I now, what label do I put on myself? I have an Honorary Research Fellowship at my nearest University, which keeps me an academic email, unfettered library access and perhaps some small amount of kudos. ‘Independent Scholar’ sounds like I am deliberately claiming some kind of maverick autonomy which I’m not sure I am. ‘Gentleman Scholar’ of course is even worse, not least because I don’t define myself as a man, gentle or otherwise. I take heart from the acknowledgements which fill the early pages of LSJ (the big lexicon of ancient Greek) to all the ‘non-professional Classicists’ in non-University settings whose own expertise was invaluable to this monolith of scholarship. I’ll just have to be me, and pick my own way through this identity crisis. We’re beyond labels now, right…?

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations  8.16

Μέμνησο, ὅτι καὶ τὸ μετατίθεσθαι καὶ ἕπεσθαι τῷ διορθοῦντι ὁμοίως ἐλεύθερόν ἐστιν. σὴ γὰρ ἐνέργεια κατὰ τὴν σὴν ὁρμὴν καὶ κρίσιν καὶ δὴ καὶ κατὰ νοῦν τὸν σὸν περαινομένη.

Remember that to change your mind and to follow a new direction is not to sacrifice your independence. It’s your own action which brings this about, through your own impulse and judgement, and your own mind.

Most importantly, and this shouldn’t be unsurprising but somehow I feel I need to say it, loudly enough that those those who are thinking about jumping ship and doing something beyond academia can hear: I Am Ok. I haven’t lost all my intelligence and experience.  I still have Dr in front of my name, which perhaps ironically is used far more now I’ve left HE than when I was in it. My publications still count – though just for me and some higher ideal of the search for knowledge, not for any bureaucratic exercise (UK-based folks will know all about REF) or because I need them for a promotion.

My friends and family still love me, and am proud of me, even my friends who still work in the sector (of course!). Some of them are actually more proud of me now for having had the confidence of my convictions to decide to follow a different route than one which is, let’s face it, not always what it is cracked up to be.  What’s really empowering is that once you’ve escaped the Ivory Tower, you may well be invited back in from time time, but you don’t have to say yes unless you want to. Leaving academia teaches you that it’s ok to say no – and incidentally makes you realise how much of the academic discipline operates through good will and favours beyond formal contracts of employment. 

Four years on, do I regret any of my time in academia? Absolutely not. Do I think it’s a ‘waste’ not having ended up in Uni-world? No, no education or experience is a waste. And, I mean, it’s not like I didn’t try my best. If it is a waste, then that’s not on me. At the very least, those jobs all paid the rent ,then the mortgage, and led me to see places I would never otherwise have been. I’ve also picked up some wonderful people along the way, whom with any luck I will keep by my side for the rest of my life. 

But let’s not pretend academia is peopled entirely with the great and good, since we all know absolutely that it is not. There are plenty of low-level miscreants alongside the infamous headline cases. I’ve met some people who should never be in charge of anything, yet somehow are running the show, and regardless of this a few of these people will probably end up with buildings named after them.  I’ve sat in front of interviewers who were on their phones under the table (I’m pretty sure this guy does now have a building named after him, or at least moved on with a massive promotion), and others who genuinely nodded off during interviews.

I’m sorry, I’m really not that boring: if you have so much work to do that you can’t stay awake in my interview – and by the way, I’m sure that work didn’t involve reading the course materials you requested I painstakingly prepare for this interview which you clearly haven’t even bothered to open – then the system really is broken. And also, by the way, as someone in charge of that system or at the very least complicit in it, maybe you should try leading from the top and enacting change? Earn your massive salary by thinking about those who might need you to represent them for once. Has academia has left me bitter? Yes, and disappointed that my experience of working in it was not what I had hoped it would be. 

I still occasionally look at adverts for positions when they come round, but with an odd mixture of masochistic voyeurism and relief. The job market has only got worse in the last four years, compounded now of course by the uncertainties of Brexit and COVID-19, which in all honesty makes me realise that my decision in the back of that ambulance four years ago was undeniably the right one. Never say never, but at the moment I’m glad to be out of it all. 

As I sit here at my desk at home in my very comfortable study pondering the last decade or so, the story of the last decade doesn’t look like failure, even though from time to time the pangs of self-doubt whisper in my ear that it is. Carving your own path is hard, but untrodden ways can come with their own sometimes-unexpected rewards, and be absolutely worth it.

Amy Coker has a PhD in Classics from the University of Manchester, UK. She taught and held research positions in University-land for the best part of a decade after her PhD, before jumping ship to school teaching (11-18 year olds) in 2018. She still manages to find time to think and write about Ancient Greek offensive words, pragmatics, and historical linguistics, and to do what she can to make Classics a better place. She can be found on Twitter at @AECoker.

Singing While the House Burns Down

Aesop, Fab. 54 (Perry=Chambry 172) Boy and Snails

“A farmer’s child was roasting snails. When he heard them trilling as they cooked, he said, “Most pathetic creatures, You are singing as your homes burn?”

This story makes it clear that everything done at the wrong time should be mocked.”

γεωργοῦ παῖς κοχλίας ὤπτει. ἀκούσας δὲ αὐτῶν τριζόντων ἔφη· „ὦ κάκιστα ζῷα, τῶν οἰκιῶν ὑμῶν ἐμπιπραμένων αὐτοὶ ᾄδετε;”

ὁ λόγος δηλοῖ, ὅτι πᾶν τὸ παρὰ καιρὸν δρώμενον ἐπονείδιστον.

This looks like it has jumped to a proverb in Modern Greek which attributes it to Thucydides and changes the person of the verb, rendering it. “you sing while your homes are burning.” [«Των οικιών ημών εμπιπραμένων, ημείς άδομεν»]. I retweeted  thinking it did not sound much like the ancient historian, but just had to check for it.

https://twitter.com/Andreas50805488/status/1161574040554868736?s=20

So, I think this qualifies on my rating scale as Delphian Graffiti Fake: It has antiquity, but has been reassigned for authority in a new context. I mean, really, who wants to cite Aesop and his animals when we have the gravity of Thucydides.  And, let’s be honest, this is a good line for any age, but especially apt for ours.

Kid should have been careful. Snails are dangerous.Brunetto Latini’s Li Livres dou Tresor, c 1315-1325 via British Library

Here’s some singing about burning down a house:

Anonymous, Greek Anthology, 7.704 [=see here for more]

“When I’m dead, the earth can be fucked by fire.
It means nothing to me since I’ll be totally fine.”

Ἐμοῦ θανόντος γαῖα μιχθήτω πυρί·
οὐδὲν μέλει μοι· τἀμὰ γὰρ καλῶς ἔχει.

 

 

Goddess and the Women of the Gods: A Special Episode of Reading Greek Tragedy Online

Euripides, Trojan Women, 95-98

“Any mortal fool enough to sack cites,
Their temples, shrines and the graves of those they killed,
Dies later on in self-made isolation.”

μῶρος δὲ θνητῶν ὅστις ἐκπορθεῖ πόλεις,
ναούς τε τύμβους θ᾽, ἱερὰ τῶν κεκμηκότων,
ἐρημίᾳ δοὺς αὐτὸς ὤλεθ᾽ ὕστερον.

Ah, the world is filled with people of all kinds, yet so many of the stories we tell from the ancient world focus on the lives and experiences of angry men! Some may tell you that this is because we have so little from and about women, but there are authors, texts, and records we overlook in favor of stories of violence, conquest, and rage.

Today Reading Greek Tragedy Online presents a special episode conceived and directed by LeeAnet Noble: Goddess and the Women of Gods. This brings together a series of speeches from ancient literature centering and exploring the experiences and perspectives of women.

Reading Greek Tragedy Online is a series produced in partnership with Out of Chaos Theatre, the Center for Hellenic Studies, and the Kosmos Society. This project started at the onset of COVID19 lockdowns in the US and UK and brings together actors and researches to stage scenes from the ancient stage and talk about how they impact us to this day. We have over 45 episodes posted already and will add a few more by the end of the year. In the first year of the Pandemic, we went through every extant Greek tragedy. As we have moved on, we have tried to broaden our scope, expanding the questions we ask of the past and reaching out to bring more people and perspectives into discussion.

Special Guests
Suzanne Lye
Jackie Murray
Performers and Scenes
LeeAnet Noble, creator and director
Colleen Longshaw: Clytemnestra (Agamemnon)
Ayanda Nghlangothi KaNokwe: Cassandra
Tamieka Chavis: Hecuba
Kim Bey: Clytemnestra (Iphigenia)
Rad Pereira: Homeric Ode to Demeter
Evelyn Miller: Nurse (Hippolytus)
Noree Victoria: Tecmessa
Nikaury Rodriguez: Lysistrata

Sophokles, Ajax 1185-1191

“What is left, what will be the final number
For the years of wandering lost?
This count piling up an endless
Ruin of battle’s toils,
The Greeks’ sorrowful insult,
Wide-wayed Troy.”

τίς ἄρα νέατος, ἐς πότε λή-
ξει πολυπλάγκτων ἐτέων ἀριθμός,
τὰν ἄπαυστον αἰὲν ἐμοὶ δορυσσοήτων
μόχθων ἄταν ἐπάγων
ἂν τὰν εὐρώδη Τροΐαν,
δύστανον ὄνειδος Ἑλλάνων;

 

Crew and Amazing People
Artistic Director: Paul O’Mahony (Out of Chaos Theatre)
Host and Faculty Consultant: Joel Christensen (Brandeis University)
Executive Producer: Lanah Koelle (Center for Hellenic Studies)
Producers: Keith DeStone (Center for Hellenic Studies), Hélène Emeriaud, Janet Ozsolak, and Sarah Scott (Kosmos Society)
Director of Outreach: Amy Pistone (Gonzaga University)
Poster Designer: Allie Marbry (Center for Hellenic Studies)
Poster Illustration Artist: John Koelle

Euripides, Iphigenia at Aulis 559-567

“People have different natures;
They have different ways. But acting rightly
Always stands out.
The preparation of education
points the way to virtue.
For it is a mark of wisdom to feel shame
and it brings the transformative grace
of seeing through its judgment
what is right; it is reputation that grants
an ageless glory to your life.”

διάφοροι δὲ φύσεις βροτῶν,
διάφοροι δὲ τρόποι· τὸ δ’ ὀρ-
θῶς ἐσθλὸν σαφὲς αἰεί·
τροφαί θ’ αἱ παιδευόμεναι
μέγα φέρουσ’ ἐς τὰν ἀρετάν·
τό τε γὰρ αἰδεῖσθαι σοφία,
†τάν τ’ ἐξαλλάσσουσαν ἔχει
χάριν ὑπὸ γνώμας ἐσορᾶν†
τὸ δέον, ἔνθα δόξα φέρει

Future episodes

All start times are 3pm ET unless otherwise noted. Live stream available at chs.harvard.edu and on YouTube.

December 1 The Laodamiad by Chas LiBretto

December 15 An Ancient Cabaret

Euripides, Hecuba 864-871

“Ha!
No one who is mortal is free—
We are either the slave of money or chance;
Or the majority of people or the city’s laws
Keep us from living by our own judgment.
Since you feel fear and bend to the masses,
I will make you free of fear:
Understand anything wicked I plan against
My son’s murderer, but don’t help me do it.”

φεῦ.
οὐκ ἔστι θνητῶν ὅστις ἔστ᾿ ἐλεύθερος·
ἢ χρημάτων γὰρ δοῦλός ἐστιν ἢ τύχης
ἢ πλῆθος αὐτὸν πόλεος ἢ νόμων γραφαὶ
εἴργουσι χρῆσθαι μὴ κατὰ γνώμην τρόποις.
ἐπεὶ δὲ ταρβεῖς τῷ τ᾿ ὄχλῳ πλέον νέμεις,
ἐγώ σε θήσω τοῦδ᾿ ἐλεύθερον φόβου.
σύνισθι μὲν γάρ, ἤν τι βουλεύσω κακὸν
τῷ τόνδ᾿ ἀποκτείναντι, συνδράσῃς δὲ μή.

The Omen Before the Wall

Homer, Iliad 12. 195–229

“As long as they were stripping them of their gleaming weapons,
The young men who were the best and the greatest in number were following
Poulydamas and Hektor, they were especially eager to break the wall
And set fire to the ships. They were still struggling standing before the wall
When a bird went over them as they were struggling to cross it,
A high-flying eagle moving its way over the left side of the army
Holding in its talons a huge dark red snake
Still alive, breathing: it had not yet lost its fighting spirit.
For it struck back at the bird who held him in the skin along the chest
As it bent double. And the bird tossed him away to the ground
tortured with pains. It dropped the snake in the middle of the throng
But flew away on the breath of the wind, sounding out in pain.
The Trojans shivered when they saw the winding serpent
Lying there, a sign from Aegis-bearing Zeus.

Then Polydamas stood aside and addressed bold Hektor:
“Hektor, you are always threatening me in the public assemblies for some reason,
Even when I advise well, since it is not ever deemed proper
For some member of the people to advise differently, either in council
Or in war. Instead, we must always increase your strength.
But now I will tell you what seems to me to be best.
Let’s not go to fight the Danaans around their ships.
I think that it will turn out this way, if truly this bird
Came over the Trojans as we struggled to cross the wall,
A high-flying eagle moving its way over the left side of the army
Holding in its talons a huge dark red snake
Still alive. For it dropped it before it could return to its dear home
And did not complete the task of giving it to his children.
In the same way we, if we break through the gates and walls
Of the Achaeans by means of great strength and the Achaeans yield
So too we will not find the same paths in order among the ships.
We will lose many Trojans there as the Achaeans
Strike them down with bronze will defending the ships/
This is how a prophet would interpret, one who clearly understands
In his heart divine signs and one the people obey.”

῎Οφρ’ οἳ τοὺς ἐνάριζον ἀπ’ ἔντεα μαρμαίροντα,
τόφρ’ οἳ Πουλυδάμαντι καὶ ῞Εκτορι κοῦροι ἕποντο,
οἳ πλεῖστοι καὶ ἄριστοι ἔσαν, μέμασαν δὲ μάλιστα
τεῖχός τε ῥήξειν καὶ ἐνιπρήσειν πυρὶ νῆας,
οἵ ῥ’ ἔτι μερμήριζον ἐφεσταότες παρὰ τάφρῳ.
ὄρνις γάρ σφιν ἐπῆλθε περησέμεναι μεμαῶσιν
αἰετὸς ὑψιπέτης ἐπ’ ἀριστερὰ λαὸν ἐέργων
φοινήεντα δράκοντα φέρων ὀνύχεσσι πέλωρον
ζωὸν ἔτ’ ἀσπαίροντα, καὶ οὔ πω λήθετο χάρμης,
κόψε γὰρ αὐτὸν ἔχοντα κατὰ στῆθος παρὰ δειρὴν
ἰδνωθεὶς ὀπίσω· ὃ δ’ ἀπὸ ἕθεν ἧκε χαμᾶζε
ἀλγήσας ὀδύνῃσι, μέσῳ δ’ ἐνὶ κάββαλ’ ὁμίλῳ,
αὐτὸς δὲ κλάγξας πέτετο πνοιῇς ἀνέμοιο.
Τρῶες δ’ ἐρρίγησαν ὅπως ἴδον αἰόλον ὄφιν
κείμενον ἐν μέσσοισι Διὸς τέρας αἰγιόχοιο.
δὴ τότε Πουλυδάμας θρασὺν ῞Εκτορα εἶπε παραστάς·
῞Εκτορ ἀεὶ μέν πώς μοι ἐπιπλήσσεις ἀγορῇσιν
ἐσθλὰ φραζομένῳ, ἐπεὶ οὐδὲ μὲν οὐδὲ ἔοικε
δῆμον ἐόντα παρὲξ ἀγορευέμεν, οὔτ’ ἐνὶ βουλῇ
οὔτέ ποτ’ ἐν πολέμῳ, σὸν δὲ κράτος αἰὲν ἀέξειν·
νῦν αὖτ’ ἐξερέω ὥς μοι δοκεῖ εἶναι ἄριστα.
μὴ ἴομεν Δαναοῖσι μαχησόμενοι περὶ νηῶν.
ὧδε γὰρ ἐκτελέεσθαι ὀΐομαι, εἰ ἐτεόν γε
Τρωσὶν ὅδ’ ὄρνις ἦλθε περησέμεναι μεμαῶσιν
αἰετὸς ὑψιπέτης ἐπ’ ἀριστερὰ λαὸν ἐέργων
φοινήεντα δράκοντα φέρων ὀνύχεσσι πέλωρον
ζωόν· ἄφαρ δ’ ἀφέηκε πάρος φίλα οἰκί’ ἱκέσθαι,
οὐδ’ ἐτέλεσσε φέρων δόμεναι τεκέεσσιν ἑοῖσιν.
ὣς ἡμεῖς, εἴ πέρ τε πύλας καὶ τεῖχος ᾿Αχαιῶν
ῥηξόμεθα σθένεϊ μεγάλῳ, εἴξωσι δ’ ᾿Αχαιοί,
οὐ κόσμῳ παρὰ ναῦφιν ἐλευσόμεθ’ αὐτὰ κέλευθα·
πολλοὺς γὰρ Τρώων καταλείψομεν, οὕς κεν ᾿Αχαιοὶ
χαλκῷ δῃώσωσιν ἀμυνόμενοι περὶ νηῶν.
ὧδέ χ’ ὑποκρίναιτο θεοπρόπος, ὃς σάφα θυμῷ
εἰδείη τεράων καί οἱ πειθοίατο λαοί.

Eagle with Snake from Olympia, c. 5th Century BCE