Pythagorean Self-Invention

Scholion to Sophocles Electra 62.2

“Pythagoras shut himself in a hole in the ground and told his mother to tell people that he was dead. After that, once he reappeared again later, he was telling fantastic tales of reincarnation and the people Hades, explaining to the living about the matters of the dead. From these stories, he created that kind of repute for himself that, before the Trojan War, he was Aithalidês the son of Hermes and then Euphorbos, and then Hermotimos of Samos, then Delian Pythios and after all of them, Pythagoras.”

…Πυθαγόρας καθείρξας ἑαυτὸν ἐν ὑπογείῳ λογοποιεῖν ἐκέλευσε τὴν μητέρα, ὡς ἄρα τεθνηκὼς εἴη. καὶ μετὰ ταῦτα ἐπιφανεὶς περὶ παλιγγενεσίας καὶ τῶν καθ’ ᾅδου τινὰ ἐτερατεύετο, διηγούμενος πρὸς τοὺς ζῶντας περὶ τῶν οἰκείων, οἷς ἐν ᾅδου συντετυχηκέναι ἔλεγεν. ἐξ ὧν τοιαύτην ἑαυτῷ δόξαν περιέθηκεν, ὡς πρὸ μὲν τῶν Τρωϊκῶν Αἰθαλίδης ὢν ὁ Ἑρμοῦ, εἶτα Εὔφορβος, εἶτα Ἑρμότιμος Σάμιος, εἶτα Πύθιος Δήλιος, εἶτα ἐπὶ πᾶσι Πυθαγόρας.Monday

A Farewell to the Birds

After Utopia: The Birds, at Sadberk Hanim Museum, 2022. Photo: Ivan Erofeev

During the pandemic lockdowns back in 2020, Turkish artist Felekșan Onar and myself got together to conspire over what would seem like a simple project: To present in Istanbul an earlier project of hers, “Perched”, which I chronicled in a post on Sententiae Antiquae almost three years ago, a series of wingless glass-blown swallows, referencing the plight of Syrian migrants in the streets of Istanbul during the previous decades, and inspired by a 2004 novel of Louis de Bernières, “Birds Without Wings”, set in a fictional village on the southwestern Aegean at the turn of the century and chronicling the population exchange between Turkey and Greece, and the rise of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, therefore seamlessly weaving together two waves of refugees, separated by generations. 

But the birds of “Perched” were not just any wingless creatures. They had traveled far and wide: From an atelier in Berlin to the Aleppo Room in the Pergamon Museum and the Damascus Room at the Dresden Museum for Ethnology, two of the most exquisite preserved oriental interiors, highlighting the tension between cultural heritage that can easily travel travel through extraction and the lives of peoples perched behind borders. The search for a suitable location included Byzantine palaces, churches, abandoned houses and cultural institutions–it had to be at least as loaded as those encyclopedic museums where the birds had been, now that they would be returning home. My first intuition, as a curator, was to turn to the Classics for inspiration, as I had been invested in reading Homer against the background of contemporary art narratives.

Aristophanes’ comedy Birds would register immediately as a possible context, not necessarily because I was thinking about the birds as such, but because it dealt with themes such as democratic order, utopia and the foundations of politics, something that felt almost redemptive in a time of great uncertainty. But new, stricter pandemic restrictions meant that the project would be halted indefinitely. So we went back home and began a research project, on the longue dureé of Anatolia’s Hellenic past, without knowing where it would land us. The discovery of literature in Karamanlidika, a dialect of Ottoman Turkish but written in the Greek alphabet, would open a window into a present, haunted by different time arrows, coming from the most remote depths of archaeology, but also from very palpable yet opaque moments in political memory.

Composed in Karamanlidika, the Ballad of Kostas Tzekmezoglou, printed in the 1930s, and the songs of Jean Haralamboglou, known as Omiros, discovered in Euboea during expeditions to the refugee camps, would tell us a little known story from the era of population exchanges between Greece and Turkey: The exile of the Karamanlides, a Turkish-speaking Greek Orthodox people native to the Karaman and Cappadocia regions of Central Anatolia.  During the negotiations leading up to the exchanges, the Turkish government considered exempting Turkish-speaking Christians, but in the end it was decided that religion would be the only factor. The tale of their arrival in a hostile Greece –they didn’t share the same linguistic and cultural affinities as the Greek Orthodox from the Western Aegean, are recounted in detail in these poems. 

Felekşan Onar’s “Perched” at the Aleppo Room, Pergamon Museum, 2018, photo: David von Becker.

The humorous shadow plays (Hacivat & Karagoz in Turkish or Karagiozis in Greek) published in the Karamanli refugee newspaper “Muhacir Sevdası”, highlighting their plight, drove us to seek an element of performance in a then still formless artistic project, and brought us back to Aristophanes’ Birds: My reception play “After Utopia: The Birds”, is a short drama that takes place after the end of the ancient comedy, weaving Karamanlidika poetry into the ancient context, but retaining the undefined Aristophanic temporality. After the play was completed, Onar set out to create new birds for the characters, and the Sadberk Hanım Museum in Istanbul, home to an archaeological collection spanning eight millennia of Anatolian antiquities opened its doors to our idea. 

We had the opportunity of working on its archaeological collection, selecting a number of artifacts that could help us tell this particular story of displacement, on a variety of timescales: A 3rd millennium Kilia idol that has a complicated relationship to Cycladic art, a pair of terracotta birds from the Greek classical period, or an inscribed clay nail from a temple in Mesopotamia of the 2nd millennium, among others. “After Utopia: The Birds” opened in September 2022, as an exhibition, play, film, monograph and archaeological display, and in the intervening ten months, this conversation on the longue dureé between art and archaeology, has witnessed the final stages in the steep transformation of a country that resembles the destroyed bird city–autarchy, economic collapse, a devastating earthquake that displaced hundreds of thousands.

At the end of this journey, one looks back at the form of the initial question regarding the obscurity of the past, and the relation between different waves of migration and displacement through Anatolia across the generations: What is exactly the accumulated knowledge of the past and what can be done with it? This afterthought is an opportunity to reconsider what archaeology can mean in a context such as this, so loaded with a violent history and with the ghost of European colonial archaeology–the global plunder of the 19th century still forms the core of museum collections anywhere. Is there then a relationship between archaeology and displacement that can help us make sense of the colonial present? A simple answer would be that archaeological artifacts are themselves displaced and convey unto us a sense of the disruption that characterizes our time.

But that answer requires some further categorization: Archaeological violence can be classified into two different types: The violence of accumulation and the violence of temporality. The grand century of Western archaeological excavations might have come to an end with the Princeton Committee for the Excavation of Antioch-on-the-Orontes that abruptly ended in 1939 with the outbreak of World War II and never resumed, but the excavation fever had already become a default of archaeological practice, bringing us to the problem of the relationship between memory and archives. In multiyear excavations, the publication of results is very slow, while material remains are confined to storage for decades, where they can be easily misplaced, damaged or lost beyond repair, before they can even be studied. The same is true of storage in museums. 

After Utopia: The Birds, at Sadberk Hanim Museum, 2022. Photo:Ivan Erofeev.

The problem is not that we don’t have enough remains of the past, and therefore, a physical record of memory, but that the archives overwhelm us and we can’t or don’t know how to read them. The never ending, purposeless accumulation of material, is the first manifestation of archaeological violence. Extractive archaeology is informed by the idea of infinity–of sources, of truth, of deposits. With this accumulation of materials, comes the destruction of contexts (particularly prior to WWII but far beyond in the illicit market), so that most artifacts in museums are already homeless, and their pasts cannot be reconstructed except comparatively or through relative dating. But because the arrow of time in the archaeological record is not unilinear, our chronologies are arbitrary and indifferent to the polychronic ensembles that make up the past.

The bias of the archaeologist goes in hand with the destruction: Archaeologists find (or not) what they think they’re looking for, while blasting their way to materials that they’re either indifferent to or unaware of. This endless accumulation is also reflected in the archaeological violence of collections: Museum collections worldwide have been formed at the whim of collectors, often without much regard for provenance. But the birth of Turkish archaeology is indeed intimately connected to colonialism: The Ottoman Imperial Museum was born in the same generation as the Louvre and the British Museum; an institution presenting the Western-looking face of a nervous state, and focused on collecting Classical and Near Eastern art. 

It was also a museum of plunder: The magnificent sarcophagi of Sidon were extracted out of Lebanon by Osman Hamdi Bey, who’s reputed for regarding local labor in the Levant with the same condescendence as Western archaeologists. Europeans were permitted to excavate in the empire, as long as most of the finds went directly to the imperial museum, but this rule of course was violated more often than not. Later, republican archaeology is beset with even more paradoxes: On the one hand, the emphasis on Hittite archaeology would create a mythical story for the prehistoric presence of Turks in Anatolia, obviously fabricated but still popular today. Advances in Near Eastern archaeology today in Turkey, however, still rival the most important centers of learning in the world while local scholarship is often disregarded or ignored. 

Yet the history of local classical archaeology is a double-bind riddled with gaps, conspiracies, and inaccuracies. A level of rejection or partially wrong interpretation of the classical past has to do with the hostility towards the Greek past in the early republic and was translated into academic Hellenophobia (being right in their critique of the Greek miracle, for the wrong reasons and arguments), while on the other hand, the Roman heritage was reappropriated from a different angle in order to claim legitimacy among the democratic nations of the West, and their shared classical heritage. This resulted in the neglect and destruction of many sites and artifacts, particularly through botched restorations. This tension never completely disappeared until the rise of Islamism and its focus on Islamic heritage. Heritage is never a stable concept. 

After Utopia: The Birds at Sadberk Hanim Museum, photograph: Ivan Erofeev

But returning to the political present, and the relationship between archaeology and displacement surrounding “After Utopia: The Birds”, we confront yet the most aggressive form of archaeological violence which is not quantitative (extraction and accumulation) but qualitative–the violence of time. When artifacts do not conform to a synchronous, coherent account of history, and for example, they might located too far off in the past, or too remote geographically, and cannot be assimilated into one of the grand narratives (Greece and Rome, the Bible, Empires, city-states, etc), they’re not immediately discarded, but placed in a time different than our time, causally connected to the past. This allochrony is a time of otherness, which is either a-historical, or takes place before or besides history. 

This isn’t however the prehistory of art, where historiography sees moments of genesis in the Venus of Willendorf, the waterbird of Hohle Fels, or the Spedos culture of the Cycladic islands (these phylogenies are entirely fabricated), but a different outside-of-history that can happen in any period. The Kilia idol is a fascinating example because of its vague relation to Cycladic art (I have suggested elsewhere the thesis that the Cycladization of Kilia idols is partly responsible for their plunder), it stands neither in the outside-of-history nor in the prehistory of art–it lives on as a ghost, without occupying any specific time. Archaeologists Dan Hicks and Alfredo Gonzalez-Ruibal coined terms for this atemporality: the Chronocene and Chronocidal practices. Once an object has been expelled from historical time, physical destruction already took place.

Because objects, without regard for their artistic value, are part of the lives of communities, the excision from time is not just something that happens to things, but a gesture that provides archaeological templates for conquest and domination that will follow on peoples and landscapes. Those who control time, control history, and the bodies within. In that sense, Hicks establishes a relationship between the museum and the refugee camp: They’re both a function of temporality–they decide who is in and out of time, and therefore, of causality, and by extension, of a place in the discourse of the past and the present. Objects, however, do not speak to us, they might contain time but they do not have a past once they’ve been exiled from the landscape, so that all the chronologies are in fact anthropocentric narratives around modern concepts. 

The conventions that regulate admittance into this club of historical time are arbitrary and porous. The absence of the Karamanlides and their body of literature from history has to do with de-temporalization: Although some 500 works of literature had been published in Karamanlidika by the end of the Ottoman Empire, including bilingual translations of Aristotle, and the newspaper Anatoli than ran for over seventy years, there are only few vestiges left of their presence in Anatolia: The many tombstones that they left behind are now in the courtyard of the Zoödochos Pege monastery and a few inscriptions in abandoned houses. I had first been exposed to Karamanlidika almost a decade ago, in a project by Turkish artist Dilek Winchester, where she looks back at the polyglottic and polygraphic nature of Turkey in the early 20th century.

Dilek Winchester, As If Nothing Has Ever Been Said Before Us, 2007-2015. Courtesy of SALT and the artist. Photo: Mustafa Hazneci

Her investigation looks into Karamanlidika and other varieties of Turkish in different scripts, such as Armenian and Hebrew, in which the first novels in modern Turkish were written by minority authors, using their own alphabets but never registered in the official history. Their contributions were forgotten after the aggressive process of homogenization that followed from the language and alphabet reforms in the 1920s and 1930s. But the disappearance of Karamanlidika doesn’t begin with the pressure against minorities in the early Turkish republic; it actually starts with the history of colonial scholarship on Cappadocia: Western travelers arrived in the region in the 18th and 19th centuries, and as they became fascinated with the religious paintings inside cave churches, they showed little interest in anything but the region’s Greek past. 

Their monumental studies of Cappadocian Greek, contemporaneous with the birth of Greek nationalism, went on to prove that Greeks from the region descended from Late Antiquity and overlooked the syncretism of communities where Muslims and Christians spoke both Turkish and Greek. Using the figure of the Karamanlides in exile, the central question in “After Utopia: The Birds”, about whether utopias are possible, remains unanswered, for what it deals with in its subject matter is the destruction of a city that had once been considered one of such utopias, but that now lies buried in the past. A few months after the destroyed bird utopia with its ancient time travelers asked this question, the city of Antioch was actually destroyed by one of the largest earthquakes in the history of the region (perhaps only the earthquake in 526 CE was stronger).

We wondered then, stupefied as we were, and equally displaced as the birds, whether there was something from the deep time of archaeology that we could learn about the resilience with which the city always rebuilt itself and adapted to change and reinserted its history into the flow of time. But the truth is that persistence in archaeology is unexplained. However, as entropy increases and time becomes more and more chaotic and disjointed, while the tendency is for information to be lost over time, there’s always a measure of complexity that is retained even against this general decay, and leaves physical traces in the present. While none of the grand reconstruction projects of Caligula and Justinian, following deadly earthquakes, have been set in motion this time, Antiochians continue to imagine what a new life in their city might look like. 

Deep time is a strange object which is not created from nothing, but emerges from the lives of people and things in their interactions, so that the future still remains open, even in times of tyranny. We don’t want to overestimate the value of what contemporary art and culture can do in a museum of antiquities, the latter always being more powerful in their patina, but if anything, interventions like “After Utopia: The Birds” function like a subtle indication that archaeology doesn’t have to be always invasive or cumulative. Many types of chronologies and narratives can be formed from existing archaeological collections, and the study of the past shouldn’t be limited to the classification and publication of objects. A plurality of relations outside historical context is possible simply because those objects already don’t have a context to begin with. 

Kilia idol returned from the White/Levy collection, 2023 (photo: Ministry of Culture)

The narratives that we associate with these artifacts can change as much as the stories we tell about ourselves change across generations. There are objects in the collection, which although centered on Anatolian antiquities, are decidedly not Anatolian, such as the clay nail from the temple of Gudea in Lagash (Mesopotamia) or the colored terracotta ladies from Tanagra and Myrina (mainland Greece) found at Sagalassos. It means that these objects traveled already in antiquity, in the same way that Kilia idols traveled from the southwestern Aegean to places as distant as Karain near Antalya or Lesbos. Their stories traveled as well, in the same way that Tzekmezoglou and Omiros did, and with these displacements, the objects themselves changed as well. 

In the three years since the journey of the birds began, two Kilia idols have returned to Turkey after lengthy battles in American courts (until then, Sadberk Hanım had the only complete idol left in Turkey), including one of the most important known ones, exhibited for years at the Met on loan from the White and Levy collection, surface surveys of the site of Kulaksızlar has further strengthened the idea of a single point of origin, a thesis which should merit a thorough critical review, and a few unpublished unprovenanced fragments have been located in European museums. Their past is always changing, just like ours. Every gesture of counterfactuality against erasure makes the archaeological present deeper, for it enlarges its surface. For the time being, the birds, as the end of the play suggests, are getting ready to fly away once again.

Their destination is unknown as is uncertain the future of the lands that inspired their ancient-modern story. But I would like to think of these birds as ghosts, for the position of the ghost–neither in prehistory nor on the outside-of-history, neither alive nor dead, can be advantageous for those who seek that persistence which comes exactly at the moment when history is being lost to chaos, for the ghost is always a guest. As Lebanese artists Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige remarked over a decade ago: “Being here, today, is accepting to live with our ghosts, to long for them, to feed them.” In their ghostly existence, these archaeological objects, situations and narratives outmaneuver the guard at the border of time: They resist museography by occupying multiple positions, redrawing the borders, hiding their secrets and changing their own stories. 

Although both art and archaeology reside mostly in the past, they contain elements of futurity that do not appear as miracle, do not promise salvation or certainty and do not come through divination but in the form of what Gonzalez-Ruibal articulates as the possibility of an archaeology that is not solely about digging our way down into the abyss, and that he calls the archaeological time of hope:  “Archaeologists, like Jews, are prohibited from investigating the future. We are both, instead, instructed in remembrance. While this, says Benjamin, strips the future of the magic promised by soothsayers, it does not turn into a homogenous empty time. For in the material remnants of the past, we find an interrupted promise: a hope that things could have been different; that there’s still room to make History.”

Our reality might be collapsing, our cities might be destroyed and we might at the mercy of King Pisthetaerus, as in the play, but we know it’s not the only possibility, others before us came out and saw the stars.

Gravestones in Karamanlidika dialect, Zoödochos Pege monastery, Istanbul, 2021. Photo: the author.


  • Balta, E. ed. (2018). Karamanlidika Legacies, The Isis Press.
  • Çelik, Z. (2016). About Antiquities: Politics of Archaeology in the Ottoman Empire, University of Texas Press.
  • De Giorgi, A. & Eger A. (2021). Antioch: A History, Cities of the Ancient World, Routledge.
  • Gonzalez-Ruibal, A. (2014). Returning to where we have never been, in Ruin Memories: Materialities, Aesthetics and the Archaeology of the Recent Past, eds. Olsen, B. and Pettursdottir, Ꝥ., Routledge.
  • Gonzalez-Ruibal, A. (2019). An Archaeology of the Contemporary Era, Routledge.
  • Hicks, D. & Mallet, S. (2019). Lande: The Calais ‘Jungle’ and Beyond, Bristol University Press.
  • Hicks, D. (2020). The Brutish Museum: The Benin Bronzes, Colonial Violence and Cultural Restitution, Pluto Press.
  • Kalas, V. (2004). Early Explorations of Cappadocia and the monastic myth, in Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies, 28.
  • Kersel, M. (2015). Storage Wars: Solving the Archaeological Curation Crisis? in Journal of Eastern Mediterranean Archaeology and Heritage, Penn State University Press, Vol. 3, No. 1
  • Lucas, G., Crossland, Z., Meirion, A., Karlsson, H., Olivier, L., and Yarrow, T.   (2017). Archaeology and Contemporaneity, in Archaeological Dialogues, Vol. 22, No. 1.
  • Lucas, G.(2021). Making Time: The Archaeology of Time Revisited, Routledge.
  • Matthews, R. (2011). A history of the pre-classical archaeology in Turkey, in Steadman, S. R. and McMahon, G. (eds.) The Oxford Handbook of Ancient Anatolia. Oxford Handbooks in Archaeology . Oxford University Press.
  • Meskell, L. ed. (1999). Archaeology under Fire: Nationalism, Politics and Heritage in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East, Routledge.
  • Serres, M. (1995). Genesis, trans. Geneviève James and James Nielson, University of Michigan Press.
  • Sharpe, K.B. (2018). Hellenism without Greeks: The Use and Abuse of Classical Antiquity in Turkish Nationalist Literature, in Journal of the Ottoman and Turkish Studies Association.
  • Stavrinaki, M. (2022). Transfixed by Prehistory: An Inquiry Into Modern Art and Time, trans. Jane Marie Todd, Zone Books.
  • Takaoğlu, T. (2021). Kulaksızlar Revisited: Excavating the Contexts of a Chalcolithic Marble Workshop, in The Archaeology of Anatolia, Volume IV: Recent Discoveries (2018–2020), eds. Steadman, S. and McMahon, G., Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

Arie Amaya-Akkermans is a writer and art critic based in Izmir. He’s also tweeting about classics, archaeology, heritage, contemporary art and Turkey/Greece. Follow Arie on twitter (@byzantinologue) for updates and new articles as they come out. He was the curator of “After Utopia: The Birds”, at Sadberk Hanim Museum, on view September 10, 2022 – July 30, 2023. A screening of the film is available online, as a part of a conversation hosted by the Center for Hellenic Studies at Harvard

Commonplace vs. Common Sense

Henry Felton, A Dissertation on the Classics (1710):

The first is, that your lordship should never be persuaded into what they call Common-Places, which is a Way of taking an Author to Pieces, and ranging him under proper Heads, that You may readily find what he hath said upon any Point, by consulting an Alphabet. This practice is of no Use but in Circumstantials of Time and Place, Custom, and Antiquity, and in such Instances where Facts are to be remembered, not where the Brain is to be exercised. In these Cases it is of great Use: It Helpeth the Memory, and serveth to keep those Things in a Sort of Order and Succession.

But, my Lord, Common-Placing the Sense of an Author, is such a stupid Undertaking, that, if I may be indulged in saying it they want Common Sense that practice it. What Heaps of this Rubbish have I seen! O the Pains and Labour to record what other People have said, that is taken by those, who have Nothing to say themselves! Your Lordship may depend upon it, the Writings of these Men are never worth the Reading; the Fancy is cramp’d, the Invention spoiled, their Thoughts on every Thing are prevented, if they think at all; but ‘tis the peculiar Happiness of these Collectors of Sense, that they can write without Thinking.

I do most readily agree, that all the bright sparkling Thoughts of the Ancients; their finest Expressions, and noblest Sentiments, are to be met with in these Transcribers: But how wretchedly are they brought in, how miserably put together! Indeed, my Lord, I can compare such Productions to nothing but rich Pieces of Patchwork, sewed together with Packthread.

Writer - Wikipedia


Hymning the Praises of Women and Men: A Lost Singer in the Odyssey

Homer Odyssey 3. 265-72

“Shining Klytemnestra was resisting the shameful deed
Previously, for she had use of some good advice for her mind.
See, a man was there beside her, a singer whom Agamemnon
Ordered much to safeguard his wife when he went to Troy.
But when the fate of the gods was bound to overcome him,
Then [he*] packed off the singer to some lonely island
And left him there as food and booty for the birds
And he, willingly, took her willing to his own home”

ἡ δ’ ἦ τοι τὸ πρὶν μὲν ἀναίνετο ἔργον ἀεικές,
δῖα Κλυταιμνήστρη· φρεσὶ γὰρ κέχρητ’ ἀγαθῇσι·
πὰρ δ’ ἄρ’ ἔην καὶ ἀοιδὸς ἀνήρ, ᾧ πόλλ’ ἐπέτελλεν
᾿Ατρεΐδης Τροίηνδε κιὼν εἴρυσθαι ἄκοιτιν.
ἀλλ’ ὅτε δή μιν μοῖρα θεῶν ἐπέδησε δαμῆναι,
δὴ τότε τὸν μὲν ἀοιδὸν ἄγων ἐς νῆσον ἐρήμην
κάλλιπεν οἰωνοῖσιν ἕλωρ καὶ κύρμα γενέσθαι,
τὴν δ’ ἐθέλων ἐθέλουσαν ἀνήγαγεν ὅνδε δόμονδε.

*note how carefully the Homeric text leaves the subject of the action in doubt until the final line.

Schol. EM ad Od. 3.267

“In olden days, singers used to hold the position of philosopher, everyone used to consider them wise and they entrusted their kind to them to be educated. When gathering in festivals and to rest for many days, they used to listen to them if any famous or noble deed had happened. So, the singer who was left with Klytemnestra was trying to hinder wicked thoughts from happening by narrating the virtues of men and women. And she was acting prudently as long as that singer was present. Some people say that the singer did not have genitals, wrongly. Some named him Khariades, others call him Demodokos, others Glaukos.”

τὸ ἀρχαῖον οἱ ἀοιδοὶ φιλοσόφου τάξιν ἐπέσχον καὶ πάντες αὐτοῖς προσεῖχον ὡς σοφοῖς, καὶ παιδευθῆναι τούτοις παρεδίδοσαν τοὺς ἀναγκαίους· ἔν τε ταῖς ἑορταῖς ἔν τε ταῖς ἀναπαύσεσιν ἐπὶ πολλὰς ἡμέρας συλλεγόμενοι τούτων ἤκουον εἴ που γέγονεν ἐπιφανὲς ἢ καλὸν ἔργον. καὶ ὁ καταλειφθεὶς οὖν παρὰ τῇ Κλυταιμνήστρᾳ ᾠδὸς πονηρὰς ἐπινοίας ἐγγίνεσθαι ἐκώλυε, διηγούμενος ἀνδρῶν καὶ γυναικῶν ἀρετάς. καὶ ἕως τούτου ἐσωφρόνει ἕως αὐτῇ παρῆν οὗτος. τινὲς ἀοιδὸν τὸν μὴ αἰδοῖα ἔχοντα, κακῶς. τοῦτόν τινες Χαριάδην, οἱ δὲ Δημόδοκον καλοῦσιν, οἱ δὲ Γλαῦκον.

Woodcut illustration of Clytemnestra and Aegisthus murdering Agamemnon and their subsequent deaths at the hand of Orestes

Schol MQV 3.267

“A singer was stationed with her too. For in ancient times, singers used to have the position of philosophers. Some people who know things badly report that he was a Eunuch”

συμπαρῆν γὰρ αὐτῇ καὶ ᾠδός. τὸ γὰρ ἀρχαῖον οἱ ᾠδοὶ φιλοσόφων τάξιν ἐπεῖχον. τινὲς δὲ κακῶς νοήσαντες τὸν εὐνοῦχον ἀπέδοσαν.

Schol. M. ad Od. 3.367

“There some people report he was a Eunuch from the alpha privative morios and aidoios for singer, that his genitals were removed.”

ἐνταῦθα δέ τινες ἀοιδὸν τὸν εὐνοῦον νοοῦσιν ἐκ τοῦ α στερητικοῦ μορίου καὶ τοῦ αἰδοίου, τὸν ἐστερη-μένον τῶν αἰδοίων.

Schol P. ad Od. 3.367

“Some say that the singers were tragedians. For the ancients treated these people with honor. And others say that the singer he mentions was a eunuch”

ἀοιδὸς] οἱ μὲν ἀοιδοὺς λέγουσι τοὺς τραγῳδούς. διὰ τιμῆς γὰρ οἱ παλαιοὶ τούτους ἦγον· οἱ δὲ …. φασὶν εἶναι εὐνοῦχον λέγοντα τὸν ἀοιδὸν εἶναι τῆς Κλυταιμνήστρας.

Schol. EHMQR Ad Od. 3.267

“Demetrius of Phalerum has as follows: “Menelaos, when he went with Odysseus to Delphi asked about the expedition which was about to happen against Troy. At that time, in fact, Kreon was running the nine-year contest of the Pythian games. The Spartan Demodokos won, a student of Automedon of Mycenae who was the first who composted the Battle of Amphritryon against the Teleboans and the Conflict of Kithairon and Helikon for whom the mountains in Boiotia are named. He was also a student of Perimedes the Argive who taught the Mycenean Automedes himself along with Likymnios the Bouprasian and Sinis along with Dôrieus, the Laconian Pharides and the Spartan Probolos.

At that time, Menelaos dedicated the expedition for Helen to Athena thanks to forethought. Agamemnon led Demodokos to Mycenae and ordered him to watch over Klytemnestra.

People used to honor singers excessively as teachers of the gods and other ancient acts of good men and they used to delight in the lyre beyond the other instruments. Klytemnestra clearly honored him—she didn’t have him murdered but instead ordered him to be exiled. Timolaus suggest that he was the brother of Phemios who accompanied Penelope to Ithaca to keep a watch over her. He sang for the suitors under compulsion.”

οὕτω Δημήτριος ὁ Φαληρεύς· Μενέλαος ἅμα τῷ ᾿Οδυσσεῖ ἐλθὼν εἰς Δελφοὺς τὸν θεὸν ἤρετο περὶ τῆς μελλούσης ἔσεσθαι εἰς ῎Ιλιον στρατείας. τότε δὴ καὶ τὸν ἐνναετηρικὸν τῶν Πυθίων ἀγῶνα ἀγωνοθετεῖ Κρέων, ἐνίκα δὲ Δημόδοκος Λάκων μαθητὴς Αὐτομήδους τοῦ Μυκηναίου, ὃς ἦν πρῶτος δι’ ἐπῶν γράψας τὴν ᾿Αμφιτρύωνος πρὸς Τηλεβόας μάχην καὶ τὴν ἔριν Κιθαιρῶνός τε καὶ ῾Ελικῶνος, ἀφ’ ὧν δὴ καὶ τὰ ἐν Βοιωτίᾳ ὄρη προσαγορεύεται· ἦν δὲ καὶ αὐτὸς μαθητὴς Περιμήδους ᾿Αργείου, ὃς ἐδίδαξεν αὐτόν τε τὸν Μυκηναῖον Αὐτομήδην, καὶ Λικύμνιον τὸν Βουπράσιον καὶ Σίνιν, καὶ τὸν Δωριέα, καὶ Φαρίδαν τὸν Λάκωνα, καὶ Πρόβολον τὸν Σπαρτιάτην. τότε δὴ Μενέλαος τῇ προνοίᾳ τῆς ῾Ελένης ἀνέθηκεν ὅρμον ᾿Αθηνᾷ. τὸν δὲ Δημόδοκον εἰς Μυκήνας λαβὼν ᾿Αγαμέμνων ἔταξε τὴν Κλυταιμνήστραν τηρεῖν. ἐτίμων δὲ λίαν τοὺς ᾠδοὺς ὡς διδασκάλους τῶν τε θείων καὶ παλαιῶν ἀνδραγαθημάτων, καὶ τῶν ἄλλων ὀργάνων πλέον τὴν λύραν ἠγάπων. δηλοῖ δὲ καὶ Κλυταιμνήστρα τὴν εἰς αὐτὸν τιμήν· οὐ γὰρ φονεύειν, ἀλλ’ ἀφορίζειν αὐτὸν ἐκέλευσε. Τιμόλαος δὲ ἀδελφὸν αὐτόν φησιν εἶναι Φημίου, ὃν ἀκολουθῆσαι τῇ Πηνελόπῃ εἰς ᾿Ιθάκην πρὸς παραφυλακὴν αὐτῆς· διὸ καὶ βίᾳ τοῖς μνηστῆρσιν ᾄδει.

Schol. EQ ad. Od. 3.367

“The music of rhapsodes applied so much to political matters that people report that the city of Sparta used it especially to encourage like-mindedness and preservation of the customs. They also say that once the Pythia, when a disturbance developed, told people to listen a Lesbian song and stop their rivalry.”

τοσοῦτον δὲ καὶ πρὸς τὰ πολιτικὰ διέτεινεν ἡ τῶν κιθαρῳδῶν μουσικὴ ὡς τῶν Σπαρτιατῶν τὴν πόλιν ὠφελεῖσθαι λέγουσιν ὑπὸ τούτων τῶν ἀνδρῶν τὰ μέγιστα καὶ πρὸς ὁμόνοιαν καὶ πρὸς τὴν τῶν νόμων φυλακήν. ὡς καὶ τὴν Πυθὼ, αὐτόθι φυομένης ταραχῆς, εἰπεῖν, τὸν Λέσβιον ᾠδὸν ἀκούειν καὶ παύσασθαι τῆς φιλονεικίας. ὃ καὶ γέγονεν. E.Q.

How We Spend Our Days–Do Nothing Rather Than Something Useless

Pliny, Letters 9 To Minucius Fundanus

“It is amazing how the schedule is or seems on individual days in the city when they all blend together. If you ask anyone “what did you do today?” He may say, “I went to a toga-ceremony, an engagement, or a marriage. I was the witness at a will-signing, or at court as a witness or supporter.” These things which you do seem necessary on the day that you do them but empty if you remember that you have done the same kind of things every day and they seem even sillier if you consider them when you are away.

Then the realization comes over you: “How many days have I wasted in trivial pursuits!” This occurs to me whenever I am reading or writing or taking some time to exercise, to keep my mind fit for my work, at my Laurentum. I hear nothing and I say nothing which later on it hurts me that I said or heard. No one troubles me with evil rumors. I find no one to blame but myself when I write with too little ease. I am troubled by no hope, no fear; I am disrupted by no gossip. I speak only with myself and my little books.

What a fine and sincere life! What sweet and honest leisure, finer than nearly any business at all. The sea, the beach, my own true and private museum—how much you discover for me, how much you have told me!

Take the first chance you can to leave that noise, the empty conversation, and so many useless tasks and dedicate yourself to studies or relaxing. For our friend Atilius put it most elegantly and intelligently when he said “it is better to do engage in leisure than to do nothing.”

Plinius Minicio Fundano Suo S.

1Mirum est quam singulis diebus in urbe ratio aut constet aut constare videatur, pluribus iunctisque

Nam si quem interroges “Hodie quid egisti?,” respondeat: “Officio togae virilis interfui, sponsalia aut nuptias frequentavi, ille me ad signandum testamentum, ille in advocationem, ille in 3 consilium rogavit.” Haec quo die feceris, necessaria, eadem, si cotidie fecisse te reputes, inania videntur, multo magis cum secesseris. Tunc enim subit recordatio: “Quot dies quam frigidis rebus absumpsi!” 4 Quod evenit mihi, postquam in Laurentino meo aut lego aliquid aut scribo aut etiam corpori vaco, cuius fulturis animus sustinetur. Nihil audio quod audisse, nihil dico quod dixisse paeniteat; nemo apud me quemquam sinistris sermonibus carpit, neminem ipse reprehendo, nisi tamen me cum parum commode scribo; nulla spe nullo timore sollicitor, nullis rumoribus inquietor: mecum tantum et cum libellis loquor. O rectam sinceramque vitam! O dulce otium honestumque ac paene omni negotio pulchrius! O mare, o litus, verum secretumque μουσεῖον, quam multa invenitis, quam multa dictatis! 7 Proinde tu quoque strepitum istum inanemque discursum et multum ineptos labores, ut primum fuerit occasio, relinque teque studiis vel otio trade. 8 Satius est enim, ut Atilius noster eruditissime simul et facetissime dixit, otiosum esse quam nihil agere. Vale.

How Many Cities in Crete?

Schol. A. ad Il. 2.649

“Others have instead “those who occupy hundred-citied Crete” in response to those Separatists because they say that it is “hundred-citied Crete” here but “ninety-citied” in the Odyssey. Certainly we have “hundred-citied” instead of many cities, or he has a similar and close count now, but in the Odyssey lists it more precisely as is clear in Sophocles. Some claim that the Lakedaimonian founded ten cities.”

Ariston. ἄλλοι θ’ οἳ Κρήτην <ἑκατόμπολιν ἀμφενέμοντο>: πρὸς τοὺς Χωρίζοντας (fr. 2 K.), ὅτι νῦν μὲν ἑκατόμπολιν τὴν Κρήτην, ἐν ᾿Οδυσσείᾳ (cf. τ 174) δὲ ἐνενηκοντάπολιν. ἤτοι οὖν ἑκατόμπολιν ἀντὶ τοῦ πολύπολιν, ἢ ἐπὶ τὸν σύνεγγυς καὶ ἀπαρτίζοντα ἀριθμὸν κατενήνεκται νῦν, ἐν ᾿Οδυσσείᾳ δὲ τὸ ἀκριβὲς ἐξενήνοχεν, ὡς παρὰ Σοφοκλεῖ (fr. 813 N.2 = 899 P. = 899 R.). τινὲς δέ †φασι πυλαιμένη† τὸν Λακεδαιμόνιον δεκάπολιν κτίσαι.

Strabo, 10.15

“Because the poet sometimes calls Krete “hundred-citied” but at others, “ninety-cited”, Ephorus says that ten cities were founded after the battles at Troy by the Dorians who were following Althaimenes the Argive. But he also says that Odysseus names it “ninety-cities” This argument is persuasive. But others say that ten cities were destroyed by Idomeneus’ enemies. But the poet does not claim that Krete is “hundred-citied” during the Trojan War but in his time—for he speaks in his own language even if it is the speech of those who existed then, just as in the Odyssey when he calls Crete “ninety-citied”, it would be fine to understand it in this way. But if we were to accept that, the argument would not be saved. For it is not likely that the cities were destroyed by Idomeneus’ enemies when he was at war or came home from there, since the poet says that “Idomeneus led to Crete all his companions who survived the war and the sea killed none of them.

He would have mentioned that disaster. For Odysseus certainly would not have known of the destruction of the cities because he had not encountered any of the Greeks either during his wandering or after. And one who accompanied Idomeneus against Troy and returned with him would not have known what happened at home either during the expedition or the return from there. If Idomeneus was preserved with all his companions, he would have come back strong enough they his enemies were not going to be able to deprive him of ten cities. That’s my overview of the land of the Kretans.”

Τοῦ δὲ ποιητοῦ τὸ μὲν ἑκατόμπολιν λέγοντος τὴν Κρήτην, τὸ δὲ ἐνενηκοντάπολιν, Ἔφορος μὲν ὕστερον ἐπικτισθῆναι τὰς δέκα φησὶ μετὰ τὰ Τρωικὰ ὑπὸ τῶν Ἀλθαιμένει τῷ Ἀργείῳ συνακολουθησάντων Δωριέων· τὸν μὲν οὖν Ὀδυσσέα λέγει ἐνενηκοντάπολιν ὀνομάσαι· οὗτος μὲν οὖν πιθανός ἐστιν ὁ λόγος· ἄλλοι δ᾿ ὑπὸ τῶν Ἰδομενέως ἐχθρῶν κατασκαφῆναί φασι τὰς δέκα. ἀλλ᾿ οὔτε κατὰ τὰ Τρωικά φησιν ὁ ποιητὴς εκατοντάπολιν ὑπάρξαι τὴν Κρήτην, ἀλλὰ μᾶλλον κατ᾿ αὐτόν (ἐκ γὰρ τοῦ ἰδίου προσώπου λέγει· εἰ δ᾿ ἐκ τῶν τότε ὄντων τινὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος, καθάπερ ἐν τῇ Ὀδυσσείᾳ, ἡνίκα ἐνενηκοντάπολιν φράζει, καλῶς εἶχεν ἂν οὕτω δέχεσθαι), οὔτ᾿ εἰ συγχωρήσαιμεν τοῦτό γε, ὁ ἑξῆς λόγος σώζοιτ᾿ ἄν. οὔτε γὰρ κατὰ τὴν στρατείαν οὔτε μετὰ τὴν ἐπάνοδον τὴν ἐκεῖθεν τοῦ Ἰδομενέως εἰκός ἐστιν ὑπὸ τῶν ἐχθρῶν αὐτοῦ τὰς πόλεις ἠφανίσθαι ταύτας· ὁ γὰρ ποιητὴς φήσας, πάντας δ᾿ Ἰδομενεὺς Κρήτην εἰσήγαγ᾿ ἑταίρους, οἳ φύγον ἐκ πολέμου, πόντος δέ οἱ οὔτιν᾿ἀπηύρα·

καὶ τούτου τοῦ πάθους ἐμέμνητ᾿ ἄν· οὐ γὰρ δήπου Ὀδυσσεὺς μὲν ἔγνω τὸν ἀφανισμὸν τῶν πόλεων ὁ μηδενὶ συμμίξας τῶν Ἑλλήνων μήτε κατὰ τὴν πλάνην μήθ᾿ ὕστερον. ὁ δὲ καὶ συστρατεύσας τῷ Ἰδομενεῖ καὶ συνανασωθεὶς οὐκ ἔγνω τὰ συμβάντα οἴκοι αὐτῷ οὔτε κατὰ τὴν στρατείαν οὔτε τὴν ἐπάνοδον τὴν ἐκεῖθεν· ἀλλὰ μὴν οὐδὲ μετὰ τὴν ἐπάνοδον· εἰ γὰρ μετὰ πάντων ἐσώθη τῶν ἑταίρων, ἰσχυρὸς ἐπανῆλθεν, ὥστ᾿ οὐκ ἔμελλον ἰσχύσειν οἱ ἐχθροὶ τοσοῦτον, ὅσον δέκα ἀφαιρεῖσθαι πόλεις αὐτόν. τῆς μὲν οὖν χώρας τῶν Κρητῶν τοιαύτη τις ἡ περιοδεία.

File:Map Minoan Crete-fi.svg
There are not one hundred cities here.

Pythagorean Self-Invention

Scholion to Sophocles Electra 62.2

“Pythagoras shut himself in a hole in the ground and told his mother to tell people that he was dead. After that, once he reappeared again later, he was telling fantastic tales of reincarnation and the people of Hades, explaining to the living about the matters of the dead. From these stories, he created that kind of repute for himself that, before the Trojan War, he was Aithalidês the son of Hermes and then Euphorbos, and then Hermotimos of Samos, then Delian Pythios and after all of them, Pythagoras.”

…Πυθαγόρας καθείρξας ἑαυτὸν ἐν ὑπογείῳ λογοποιεῖν ἐκέλευσε τὴν μητέρα, ὡς ἄρα τεθνηκὼς εἴη. καὶ μετὰ ταῦτα ἐπιφανεὶς περὶ παλιγγενεσίας καὶ τῶν καθ’ ᾅδου τινὰ ἐτερατεύετο, διηγούμενος πρὸς τοὺς ζῶντας περὶ τῶν οἰκείων, οἷς ἐν ᾅδου συντετυχηκέναι ἔλεγεν. ἐξ ὧν τοιαύτην ἑαυτῷ δόξαν περιέθηκεν, ὡς πρὸ μὲν τῶν Τρωϊκῶν Αἰθαλίδης ὢν ὁ Ἑρμοῦ, εἶτα Εὔφορβος, εἶτα Ἑρμότιμος Σάμιος, εἶτα Πύθιος Δήλιος, εἶτα ἐπὶ πᾶσι Πυθαγόρας.A picture of a cave with the text over it saying: “Pythagoras shut himself in a hole in the ground and told his mother to tell people that he was dead. " This is a quotation from a scholion to Sophocles.

Greek Poetry Every Day

Gilbert Murray, A History of Ancient Literature (Preface):

To read and re-read the scanty remains now left to us of the Literature of Ancient Greece, is a pleasant and not a laborious task; nor is that task greatly increased by the inclusion of the ‘Scholia’ or ancient commentaries. But modern scholarship has been prolific in the making of books; and as regards this department of my subject, I must frankly accept the verdict passed by a German critic upon a historian of vastly wider erudition than mine,and confess that I ‘stand helpless before the mass of my material.’ To be more precise, I believe that in the domain of Epic, Lyric, and Tragic Poetry, I am fairly familiar with the researches of recent years; and I have endeavoured to read the more celebrated books on Prose and Comic Poetry. Periodical literature is notoriously hard to control; but I hope that comparatively few articles of importance in the last twenty volumes of the Hermes, the Rheinisches Museum, the Philologus, and the English Classical Journals, have escaped my consideration. More than this I have but rarely attempted.

If under these circumstances I have nevertheless sat down to write a History of Greek Literature, and have even ventured to address myself to scholars as well as to the general public, my reason is that, after all, such knowledge of Greek literature as I possess has been of enormous value and interest to me; that for the last ten years at least, hardly a day has passed on which Greek poetry has not occupied a large part of my thoughts, hardly one deep or valuable emotion has come into my life which has not been either caused, or interpreted, or bettered by Greek poetry. This is doubtless part of the ordinary narrowing of the specialist, the one-sided sensitiveness in which he finds at, once his sacrifice and his reward; but it is usually, perhaps, the thing that justifies a man in writing.

Reading Your Way to Ignorance

Joseph Scaliger, Letter to Isaac Casaubon:

“When I want to relax my mind, I take into my hands the writings of that man, who recently published Martial’s Amphitheatrum and Persius. I never laugh more sweetly than when I see something published by that Tuscan. I often marvel that he read so many books that he no longer knew anything. How often he raves! Yet, he has his admirers. Let them have them, but let them be Parisians.”

Image result for joseph scaliger

Quum animum remittere volo, assumo in manus scripta illius, qui Amphitheatrum Martialis et Persium nuper κατακέχοδεν. Nam nunquam suavius rideo, quam cum aliquid ejus lucumonis video. Saepe mirari soleo illum tantum scriptorum legisse, ideo ut nihil sciret. Quam saepe delirat! Et tamen habet admiratores. Habeat igitur, sed Parisienses.

Editing the Classics

J.E.B. Mayor, Preface to Thirteen Satires of Juvenal:

“I often think that much of the labour spent on editing the classics is wasted; at least the same amount of time might be invested to far greater profit. For example, if one of the recent editors of Persius had devoted but three weeks to the preparation of a Lexicon Persianum, he would have produced a κτῆμα ἐς ἀεί, a permanent addition to classical learning. We sorely need lexicons e.g. to Cicero (except his speeches), Varro, Livy, the two Senecas, Quintilian’s declamations, Valerius Flaccus, Silius, the Latin anthology, Macrobius, Tertullian, Augustine, Jerome; to technical authors in general, e.g. agricultural, grammatical, mathematical, medical, military, musical, rhetorical: in Greek to the early Christian literature, Diogenes Laertius, Josephus, Philo, Galen, Stobaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Origon, Chrysostom, Cyril. If every editor would choose, in addition to his author and to the books commonly read in college, one ancient author and one modern critic, as his specialty, commentaries would be far more original than they are. The universities might issue variorum editions, not on the Dutch plan, not like Halm’s Latin editions of Cicero, or Dindorf’s of Greek authors, but more concise and more comprehensive at the same time. Two or three might combine, say, to edit the commentaries on an author, as Livy, Petronius, Suetonius, or Apuleius. A commentary which takes rank as ‘classical’, e.g. Casaubon’s on Suetonius, Persius, Athenaeus, Strabo, should be given almost entire, and form the nucleus, other notes being carefully sifted, and repetitions cleared away. One colleague might he responsible for all editions of the author; while two others ransacked periodical and occasional literature, variae lectiones, adversaria cet. Madvig says, one is ashamed to be called a philologer, when one looks at the obsolete medley brought together by Moser on the Tusculans; in far narrower compass all that is valuable there, and much that is omitted, might be stored for all time. By such a process books like Rader’s Martial, now no doubt, as Prof. Friedlander says, for most of us, ‘völlig veraltet,’ would once more yield their treasures to the ordinary student; Marcile too and Harault would no longer be mere names”