All in the Head: The Cyclops is Part of Odysseus

From Porphyry’s essay, On the Cave of the Nymphs 35

“In Plato, the water, the sea and the storm are material matter. For this reason, I think, Homer named the harbor “Phorkus’” (“and this is the harbor of Phorkus”) after the sea-god whose daughter, Thoôsa, he genealogized in the first book of the Odyssey. The Kyklôps is her son whose eye Odysseus blinded. [Homer named the harbor thus] so that right before his home [Odysseus] would receive a reminder of his mistakes. For this reason, the location under the olive tree is also fitting for Odysseus as a suppliant of the god who might win over his native deity through suppliancy.

For it would not be easy for one who has blinded [the spirit] and rushed to quell his energy to escape this life of the senses; no, the rage of the sea and the material gods pursues anyone who has dared these things. It is right first to appease these gods with sacrifices, the labors of a beggar, and endurance followed by battling through sufferings, deploying spells and enchantments and changing oneself through them in every way in order that, once he has been stripped of the rags he might restore everything. And thus one may not escape from his toils, but when he has emerged from the sea altogether that his thoughts are so untouched of the sea and material matters, that he believes that an oar is a winnowing fan because of his total inexperience of the tools and affairs of the sea.”

πόντος δὲ καὶ θάλασσα καὶ κλύδων καὶ παρὰ Πλάτωνι ἡ ὑλικὴ σύστασις. διὰ τοῦτ’, οἶμαι, καὶ τοῦ Φόρκυνος ἐπωνόμασε τὸν λιμένα·

                    ‘Φόρκυνος δέ τίς ἐστι λιμήν,’

ἐναλίου θεοῦ, οὗ δὴ καὶ θυγατέρα ἐν ἀρχῇ τῆς ᾿Οδυσσείας τὴν Θόωσαν ἐγενεαλόγησεν, ἀφ’ ἧς ὁ Κύκλωψ, ὃν ὀφθαλμοῦ ᾿Οδυσσεὺς ἀλάωσεν, ἵνα καὶ ἄχρι τῆς πατρίδος ὑπῇ τι τῶν ἁμαρτημάτων μνημόσυνον. ἔνθεν αὐτῷ καὶ ἡ ὑπὸ τὴν ἐλαίαν καθέδρα οἰκεία ὡς ἱκέτῃ τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ ὑπὸ τὴν ἱκετηρίαν ἀπομειλισσομένῳ τὸν γενέθλιον δαίμονα. οὐ γὰρ ἦν ἁπλῶς τῆς αἰσθητικῆς ταύτης ἀπαλλαγῆναι ζωῆς τυφλώσαντα αὐτὴν καὶ καταργῆσαι συντόμως σπουδάσαντα, ἀλλ’ εἵπετο τῷ

ταῦτα τολμήσαντι μῆνις ἁλίων καὶ ὑλικῶν θεῶν, οὓς χρὴ πρότερον ἀπομειλίξασθαι θυσίαις τε καὶ πτωχοῦ πόνοις καὶ καρτερίαις, ποτὲ μὲν διαμαχόμενον τοῖς πάθεσι, ποτὲ δὲ γοητεύοντα καὶ ἀπατῶντα καὶ παντοίως πρὸς αὐτὰ μεταβαλλόμενον, ἵνα γυμνωθεὶς τῶν ῥακέων καθέλῃ πάντα καὶ οὐδ’ οὕτως ἀπαλλαγῇ τῶν πόνων, ἀλλ’ ὅταν παντελῶς ἔξαλος γένηται καὶ ἐν ψυχαῖς ἀπείροις θαλασσίων καὶ ἐνύλων ἔργων, ὡς πτύον εἶναι ἡγεῖσθαι τὴν κώπην διὰ τὴν τῶν ἐναλίων ὀργάνων καὶ ἔργων παντελῆ ἀπειρίαν.

Robert Lamberton 1986, 131 [Homer the Theologian]: “The bungling, dimwitted, sensual giant of book 9 is, then, a projection into the myth of the life of the senses—specifically Odysseus’ own life in this physical universe. The blinding of Polyphemus is a metaphor for suicide…The cyclops becomes a part of Odysseus—a part he wants desperately to escape—but his ineptitude in handling his escape at that early point in his career involves him in an arduous spiritual journey.”

Image result for odysseus and the cyclops ancient greek

English Seneca By Candlelight

Thomas Nashe, To the Gentlemen Students of Both Universities

But least I might seeme with these night crowes “Nimis curiosus in aliena republica,” I’le turne backe to my first text, of studies of delight, and talke a little in friendship with a few of our triviall translators. It is a common practise now a daies amongst a sort of shifting companions, that runne through every arte and thrive by none, to leave the trade of “Noverint,” whereto they were borne, and busie themselves with the indevors of Art, that could scarcelie latinize their necke-verse if they should have neede; yet English Seneca read by candle light yeeldes manie good sentences, as “Bloud is a begger,” and so foorth: and, if you intreate him faire in a frostie morning, he will affoord you whole Hamlets, I should say handfulls of tragical speaches.

But O griefe! “tempus edax rerum,” what’s that will last alwaies? The sea exhaled by droppes will in continuance be drie, and Seneca let bloud line by line and page by page, at length must needes die to our stage: which makes his famisht followers to imitate the Kidde in Aesop, who, enamored with the Foxes newfangles, forsooke all hopes of life to leape into a new occupation; and these men renowncing all possibilities of credit or estimation, to intermeddle with Italian translations: wherein how poorelie they have plodded (as those that are neither provenzall men nor are able to distinguish of Articles,) let all indifferent Gentlemen that have travailed in that tongue discerne by their twopenie pamphlets: and no mervaile though their home-born mediocritie be such in this matter; for what can be hoped of those, that thrust Elisium into hell, and have not learned so long as they have hued in the spheares, the just measure of the Horizon without an hexameter.

Hexameter Fury and Hissed Barbarism

Thomas Nashe, To the Gentlemen Students of Both Universities

Who ever my private opinion condemneth as faultie, Master Gascoigne is not to bee abridged of his deserved esteeme, who first beate the path to that perfection which our best Poets have aspired too since his departure; whereto he did ascend by comparing the Italian with the English, as Tullie did “Graeca cum Latinis.” Neither was Master Turbervile the worst of his time, although in translating he attributed too much to the necessitie of rime. And in this page of praise, I cannot omit aged Arthur Golding, for his industrious toile in Englishing Ovids Metamorphosis, besides manie other exquisite editions of Divinitie, turned by him out of the French tongue into our own.

Master Phaer likewise is not to be forgot in regard of his famous Virgil, whose heavenly verse had it not bin blemisht by his hautie thoghts England might have long insulted in his wit, and “corrigat qui potest” have been subscribed to his workes. But fortune the Mistres of change with a pitying compassion respecting Master Stanihursts praise, would that Phaer shoulde fall that hee might rise, whose heroicall Poetrie infired, I should say inspired, with an hexameter furie, recalled to life whatever hissed barbarisme hath bin buried this hundred yeare; and revived by his ragged quill such carterlie varietie, as no hodge plowman in a countrie but would have held as the extremitie of clownerie; a patterne whereof, I will propounde to your judgements, as neere as I can, being parte of one of his descriptions of a tempest, which is thus:

Then did he make heavens vault to rebounde, with rounce robble hobble

Of ruffle raffe roaring, with thwick thwack thurlery bouncing.

Which strange language of the firmament never subject before to our common phrase, makes us that are not used to terminate heavens moveings, in the accents of any voice, esteeme of their triobulare interpreter, as of some Thrasonical huffe snuffe, for so terrible was his stile, to all milde eares, as would have affrighted our peaceable Poets, from intermedling hereafter with that quarrelling kinde of verse; had not sweete Master France, by his excellent translation of Master Thomas Watsons sugred Amintas, animated their dulled spirits to such high witted endevors.

But I knowe not how, their over timerous cowardise, hath stoode in awe of envie, that no man since him durst imitate any of the worste, of those Romane wonders in english, which makes me thinke that either the lovers of medocritie are verie many, or that the number of good Poets, are very small: and in trueth, (Master Watson except, whom I mentioned before) I knowe not almost any of late dayes that hath shewed himselfe singular in any speciall Latin Poem, whose Amintas, and translated Antigone may march in equipage of honour with any of our ancient Poets.

A crudely printed, full-length picture of a standing man. He is in Elizabethan-style clothing and chains are around his ankles

Knowing When to Stop

[The following passage is cited in John Barsby’s Commentary on Ovid’s Amores I as evidence of the claim, “According to Seneca the poets reckoned him among the rhetoricians, though the rhetoricians reckoned him among the poets.” It is difficult to see how one could read this passage from Seneca in that way unless one simply took the phrase “inter oratores Ovidium” entirely out of context.]

Seneca, Controversiae 9.5.17:

“Montanus has this fault: he ruins his sentences by repetition. Not being content to say one thing well once, he brings it about that he does not say it well. And on this account and for other reasons by which an orator may seem similar to a poet, Scaurus used to call Montanus ‘an Ovid among orators.’ For Ovid too did not know to leave off something which had ended well. Not to bring up too many examples, I will be content with this one instance of what Scaurus called Montaniana: when Polyxena had been abducted so that she could be sacrificed at the tomb of Achilles, Hecuba said,

The buried man’s ashes themselves fight against our race.

Montanus could have been content with this, but he added,

We feel the enemy even in the grave.

Not content with this, he added,

I was fertile for Achilles.

Scaurus had it right: it is no less an important virtue to know how to speak than to know when to stop.”

Image result for ovid amores woodcut

habet hoc Montanus vitium: sententias suas repetendo corrumpit. dum non est contentus unam rem semel bene dicere, efficit, ne bene dixerit. et propter hoc et propter alia, quibus orator potest poetae similis videri, solebat Scaurus Montanum ‘inter oratores Ovidium’ vocare; nam et Ovidius nescit quod bene cessit relinquere. ne multa referam, quae ‘Montaniana’ Scaurus vocabat, uno hoc contentus ero: cum Polyxene esset abducta, ut ad tumulum Achillis immolaretur, Hecuba dicit:

cinis ipse sepulti in genus hoc pugnat.

poterat hoc contentus esse; adiecit:

tumulo quoque sensimus hostem.

nec hoc contentus esse; adiecit:

Aeacidae fecunda fui.

aiebat autem Scaurus rem veram: non minus magnam virtutem esse scire dicere quam scire desinere.

The Tragedy of the Aeneid’s Dido As Told Through Buffy GIFs

Vergil, Aeneid 1.748–749

“Nor did unhappy Dido fail to drag out the night
With all kinds of talk as she was drinking deep of love.”

nec non et vario noctem sermone trahebat
infelix Dido longumque bibebat amorem,

Last year, Christian Lehmann (@buffyantiqua) told the story of Aeneas and Dido from Vergil’s Aeneid through GIFs from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Here it is again, because, well, this is what we need.

This is not only genius which the world needs to witness for its own sake, but it also combines a few things I love: Homeric reception/myth and Buffy. (I tried to write about this once and partially failed.)

Image result for buffy season 6

I loved this so much that I wanted to share it with those who don’t use Twitter and Christian was kind enough to give his consent (see his work on “The 100 and Classical (Under)Worlds” too). This is a lively and fascinating retelling–it forces reconsiderations, I think, of both the Aeneid and BVTS. Also, Buffy and Spike > Buffy and Riley.

[below is my contribution: I learned this passage in high school where it was obligatory to understand that Dido was not dutiful enough and gave into passion, whereas Aeneas was oh so very pius.]

Vergil, Aeneid 4. 165-172

To the same cave came Dido and the Trojan captain
Earth first then nuptial Dido gave their sign
The lightning bolts were shining out and the Sky was a witness
to their bridal rites as the Nymphs sounded out on the mount’s highest peak
That day was the first cause of death; the first cause of evils.
For no longer was Dido cautioned by appearances or rumor
And no more was she harboring a secret love.
She calls it a marriage: with this name she cloaks her fault.

speluncam Dido dux et Troianus eandem
deveniunt. prima et Tellus et pronuba Iuno
dant signum; fulsere ignes et conscius Aether
conubiis, summoque ulularunt vertice Nymphae.
ille dies primus leti primusque malorum
causa fuit. neque enim specie famave movetur
nec iam furtivum Dido meditatur amorem;
coniugium vocat; hoc praetexit nomine culpam.

* Peacocks! * Pythagoras! * Homer! * Ennius! * (Featuring the Loser Euphorbus)

Cornutus, Commentary on Persius 6.10:

Thus writes Ennius in the beginning of his Annals, where he says that in a dream he saw Homer claiming that he had once been a peacock, and that his soul had been transferred from there into Ennius according to the doctrine of Pythagoras, who said that human souls, through a process of palingenesis (that is, a repeated birth) are able to enter new bodies as they leave their old ones behind. He used the phrase ‘the fifth’ in accordance with the opinion that the soul of Pythagoras was moved into a peacock, from the peacock to Euphorbius, from Euphorbius to Homer, and from Homer to Ennius. Or, to be sure, he said ‘the fifth’ because Ennius was named Quintus.

A large presence of the peacock in Roman mosaics

sic Ennius in Annalium suorum principio, ubi se dicit vidisse in somnis Homerum dicentem fuisse quondam pavonem et ex eo translatam in se animam esse secundum Pytagorae philosophi definitionem, qui dicit animas humanas per palingenesiam, id est per iteratam generationem, exeuntes de corporibus in alia posse corpora introire. ideo autem, “quintus” dixit propter eam opinionem quae dicit animam Pytagorae in pavonem translatam, de pavone vero ad Euphorbium, de Euphorbio ad Homerum, de Homero autem ad Ennium. vel certe quod cognomento Ennius dicitur.

Following In Their Ink Stains

Angelo Poliziano, Letter to Paolo Cortesi:

I beg you, don’t bind yourself to that superstition which would allow nothing of your own to delight you, and force you never to turn your eyes away from Cicero. But when you have read Cicero and other good authors much and often, and have worn out their pages, learned them, cooked them down, and filled your heart with the knowledge of many things, and now you will prepare to compose something, it is now that I would have you swim without a life preserver (as they say). You should occasionally be your own adviser, and set aside that fretful and anxious solicitude of writing only Cicero – make a trial of your own strength! For those who only contemplate with astonishment those ridiculous things which you all call lineaments are neither able to imitate them well enough (believe me), and at the same time, they slow the action of one’s own intelligence, and as it were stand in the runner’s way and make (to use the expression from Plautus) a delay. But as one cannot run well if they strive only to place their foot in other people’s tracks, so no one can write well if they do not dare to depart from what has been written before. Finally, you should consider that it is the mark of an unlucky intellect to bring nothing forth of its own, but always to imitate others.

Angelo Poliziano

quaeso, ne superstitione ista te alliges, ut nihil delectet quod tuum plane sit, et ut oculos a Cicerone deicias. Sed cum Ciceronem, cum bonos alios multum diuque legeris, contriveris, edidiceris, concoxeris et rerum multarum cognitione pectus impleveris, ac iam componere aliquid ipse parabis, tum demum velim (quod dicitur) sine cortice nates, atque ipse tibi sis aliquando in consilio, sollicitudinemque illam morosam nimis et anxiam deponas effingendi tantummodo Ciceronem tuasque denique vires universas pericliteris. Nam qui tantum ridicula ista quae vocatis liniamenta contemplantur attoniti, nec illa ipsa (mihi crede) satis repraesentant, et impetum quodammodo retardant ingenii sui, currentique velut obstant, et(ut utar Plautino verbo) remoram faciunt. Sed ut bene currere non potest qui pedem ponere studet in alienis tantum vestigiis, ita nec bene scribere qui tamquam de praescripto non audet egredi. Postremo scias infelicis esse ingenii nihil a se promere, semper imitari.