“Deathless”: Classical Literature, Music, and Education

Erik and I have been talking about various ways in which we can use our site to amplify good work going on in classics related fields and to feature the remarkable efforts of the thousands of teachers working with the over 200k students who study Latin and the ancient world at the primary and secondary level. In part, we are inspired and called to task by the words of Dani Bostick.  Our field faces many difficult challenges, but one thing that separates us from other disciplines is that we have a long-standing tradition of collaboration and respect between those who teach at the University level and those who meet and inspire students from kindergarten through 12th grade. Indeed, some of our professional organizations like ACL and CAMWS do a good job of supporting this structurally.

So, if you have student projects you want to tell the world about, remarkable classrooms you’d like to share, or efforts you’d like some help and support with from our platform, please email us. We have day jobs, so we can’t always promise we will respond as fast as we should, but we are committed to doing what we can to help build relationships and share our ideas with one another.

Over the past few months, I have followed the twitter feed of Bettina Joy de Guzman and I have been just overwhelmed by her kindness, her enthusiasm for the ancient world, and her talent. She released most recent album Athanatos recently and is donating a percentage directly to students.

Below are excerpts from an email she sent me about it (reproduced with her permission). If you can, purchase the album. If you can’t, post something about it on social media.

[italics are my additions; non-Italic text is her own]

What can people expect from this album?

Homer. Sappho. Vergil. Ovid. Sumerian poetry. Myths. When goddesses wove heartbreak, hope, and life. Ancient lyre, voice, and drum evoke forgotten worlds, transporting back you to primal dreams of gods and mortals. (Performed and composed by Bettina Joy de Guzman. Featuring: Michael Levy, Nikos Xanthoulis, Thanasis Kleopas, Peter Hanna, and Roberto Catalano. Lyres by Luthieros Music Instruments.)

Tell me more!

17 songs in Ancient Greek, Latin, Sumerian.

Why?

1) epics and hymns were meant to be sung. 2) I want people to enjoy ancient poetry, explore ancient world with music. 3) Muses/music come to me, unsolicited. 4) I am sharing something different and unique. 5) undying, immortal MYTH.

The following are a Q and A she gave me

Q: Why not in Tagalog?

A: Ancient Greek and Latin texts are more accessible because ancient Tagalog texts and script were essentially wiped out by colonists. Only in recent decades had there been opportunity to unearth, decipher, and piece them together. I do sing Tagalog songs, and those will be sung with proper Ancient Tagalog stringed instruments.

Q: Do you play those?

A: I have requested several relatives to ship them to me. I keep getting promises, but no delivery. Hopefully, I can connect with Filipino academics or musicologists who can help me out.

Q: I thought you were Hawaiian?

A: I sing Hawaiian songs, play Polynesian instruments, perform Polynesian dances, walked Hawaii’s hikes and swam its beaches since childhood. I am more culturally Hawaiian than Filipina. But I do not feel comfortable releasing Hawaiian songs— Hawaiians are rightfully protective of their culture.

Q: How do the Greeks feel about your singing their songs?

A: Greeks are amazing, warm, welcoming people. They greeted me with open arms and said it was an honor that I wished to learn their culture and songs.

Q: You call yourself a writer, as well?

A: I write poetry, mythology. I am working on a mythology book now. It’s written— and I am working with a fabulous illustrator! It’s exciting! I’m also compiling my poetry and trying to find a good fit for its illustrations.

 

What about the musicians you work with?

These artists are phenomenal. They can be found on all the major music platforms. And you can find their websites easily. I am honored to be working with such caliber.

 

What are you donating the proceeds for?

I’m donating $2 per album to our Classics scholarship fund— to our chapter of JCL, Junior Classical League, National Latin Honors Society. No student should have to pay for buses if they cannot afford it, and every student should have the opportunity to go to museums, competitions, and see guest speakers, and shows that enrich their experience. We dream of traveling to Greece and Rome someday!

 

Visit Bettina’s website for more information

The Cylix of Apollo with the tortoise-shell (chelyslyre, on a 5th-century BC drinking cup (kylix)

 

 

Intersex Births and Superstitious Beliefs

Diodorus Siculus, History 32.12

“Similarly in Naples and many other places there are accounts that sudden changes like this happened—not that male and female were naturally built into a two-bodied type (for that is impossible) but that much to the surprise and mystification of human beings, nature forms some parts of the body deceptively.

This is why we think it is right to describe these kinds of sex changes: not to entertain but so we can help those who are reading this. For there are many people who believe that these kinds of things are signs for the gods and not isolated individuals but even entire communities and cities.  For example, at the beginning of the Marsian war, they say that there was an Italian living near Rome who had married, a hermaphrodite like the one we mentioned earlier and revealed this to his senate. The senate, overwhelmed by superstition and persuaded by the Etruscan interpreters, decided that they should be burned alive. In this case, a person who was like us in nature and was not in truth any monster died unfairly because of the ignorance about their affliction. When there was a similar case near Athens a little while later, they again burned a person alive through ignorance.

People also make up stories about hyenas, that they are female and male at the same time and that they take turns mounting each other annually when this is completely untrue. Each sex has its own kind of nature and they are not mixed up. But there is a time when something deceives when it is presented to someone who is merely glancing. The female has an appendage that looks something like a male feature; and the male has one which corresponds to the female’s.

This is generally the case for all living creatures. Although many monsters of all kinds are born, in truth, they cannot be nourished and are not capable of growing to maturity. Let this be enough said as a redress against superstitious beliefs.”

῾Ομοίως δ’ ἐν τῇ Νεαπόλει καὶ κατ’ ἄλλους τόπους πλείονας ἱστοροῦνται γεγονέναι τοιαῦται περιπέτειαι, οὐκ ἄρρενος καὶ θηλείας φύσεως εἰς δίμορφον τύπον δημιουργηθείσης, ἀδύνατον γὰρ τοῦτο, ἀλλὰ τῆς φύσεως διὰ τῶν τοῦ σώματος μερῶν ψευδογραφούσης εἰς ἔκπληξιν καὶ ἀπάτην τῶν ἀνθρώπων.

διόπερ καὶ ἡμεῖς τὰς περιπετείας ταύτας ἀναγραφῆς ἠξιώσαμεν, οὐ ψυχαγωγίας ἀλλ’ ὠφελείας ἕνεκα τῶν ἀναγινωσκόντων. πολλοὶ γὰρ τέρατα τὰ τοιαῦτα νομίζοντες εἶναι δεισιδαιμονοῦσιν, οὐκ ἰδιῶται μόνον ἀλλὰ καὶ ἔθνη καὶ πόλεις. κατ’ ἀρχὰς γοῦν τοῦ Μαρσικοῦ πολέμου πλησίον τῆς ῾Ρώμης οἰκοῦντά φασιν ᾿Ιταλικόν, γεγαμηκότα  παραπλήσιον τοῖς εἰρημένοις ἀνδρόγυνον, προσαγγεῖλαι τῇ συγκλήτῳ, τὴν δὲ δεισιδαιμονήσασαν καὶ τοῖς ἀπὸ Τυρρηνίας ἱεροσκόποις πεισθεῖσαν ζῶντα προστάξαι καῦσαι. τοῦτον μὲν οὖν ὁμοίας κεκοινωνηκότα φύσεως, ἀλλ’ οὐ πρὸς ἀλήθειαν τέρας γεγενημένον, φασὶν ἀγνοίᾳ τῆς νόσου παρὰ τὸ προσῆκον ἀπολωλέναι. μετ’ ὀλίγον δὲ καὶ παρ’ ᾿Αθηναίοις τοῦ τοιούτου γενομένου διὰ τὴν ἄγνοιαν τοῦ πάθους ζῶντά φασι κατακαῆναι. καὶ γὰρ τὰς λεγομένας ὑαίνας τινὲς μυθολογοῦσιν ἄρρενας ἅμα καὶ θηλείας ὑπάρχειν, καὶ παρ’ ἐνιαυτὸν ἀλλήλας ὀχεύειν, τῆς ἀληθείας οὐχ οὕτως ἐχούσης. ἑκατέρου γὰρ τοῦ γένους ἁπλῆν ἔχοντος καὶ ἀνεπίμικτον τὴν φύσιν, προσώρισται τὸ ψευδογραφοῦν καὶ παρακρουόμενον τοὺς εἰκῇ θεωροῦντας· τῇ μὲν  γὰρ θηλείᾳ πρόσκειταί τι κατὰ τὴν φύσιν παρεμφερὲς ἄρρενι μορίῳ, τῷ δὲ ἄρρενι κατὰ τὸ ἐναντίον ἔμφασις θηλείας φύσεως. ὁ δ’ αὐτὸς λόγος καὶ ἐπὶ πάντων τῶν ζῴων, γινομένων μὲν πρὸς ἀλήθειαν πολλῶν καὶ παντοδαπῶν τεράτων, μὴ τρεφομένων δὲ καὶ εἰς τελείαν αὔξησιν ἐλθεῖν οὐ δυναμένων. ταῦτα μὲν εἰρήσθω πρὸς διόρθωσιν δεισιδαιμονίας.

Some other related resources:

A collection of intersex tales from Ancient Greece and Rome

Aelian’s account of the Hyena’s alternating Gender

Hilary Ilkay’s essay on “Ovid’s Mythological Hermaphrodite

Cassie Garrison’s Essay on “Gender and Sexuality in Antiquity: The Trial and Consciousness of Callon

A terrible story of an intersex child as an Omen

The Philosopher Favorinus

Image result for hermaphroditus
Marble statue of Hermaphroditus

Gender, Smell and Lemnos: More Misogyny from Greek Myth

A proverb from the Suda

“By a Lemnian Hand: [meaning] cruelly and lawlessly. This is from a story: for they say that the women in Lemnos allegedly killed their husbands because they weren’t having sex with them”

Λημνίᾳ χειρί: ὠμῇ καὶ παρανόμῳ. ἀπὸ τῆς ἱστορίας· φασὶ γὰρ τὰς ἐν Λήμνῳ γυναῖκας τοὺς ἄνδρας αὐτῶν ἀνελεῖν αἰτιωμένας, ὅτι αὐταῖς οὐκ ἐμίγνυντο.

A few years ago I was looking up some odd word or another in the work of the lexicographer Hesychius (ok, to be honest, I was looking up words for feces and was looking at κοκκιλόνδις· παιδὸς ἀφόδευμα; kokkilondis: “a child’s excrement”). I found the following words which are pretty much absent from all modern lexica.

Kikkasos: the sweat flowing from between the thighs

κίκκασος· ὁ ἐκ τῶν παραμηρίων ἱδρὼς ῥέων.

Kikkê: Sex. Or the bad smell [that comes] from genitals

κίκκη· συνουσία. ἡ ἀπὸ τῶν αἰδοίων δυσοσμία

Obviously, the specificity of these two lexical items is amusing. But their very existence perplexed me a bit. Where did they come from? How were they used? (They don’t actually appear anywhere but in Hesychius.) After some contemplation and a little restraint, I can only conclude that the words emerge from a generally misogynistic context which also considered sex in some way unclean.

The story that I kept thinking of was that of the Lemnian women—it is one of the few connections I could make between sex and bad smells. It is also one of my least favorite myths because it echoes modern misogynistic taboos which marginalize and alienate female bodies. So, I almost didn’t write this post. But I do think that it is worth making these connections, however uncomfortable they are.

Here are two versions of the Lemnian women tale.

Apollodorus, 1.114

“Jason was the captain of the ship as they disembarked and neared Lemnos. The island then happened to be bereft of men and was ruled by Hypsipyle, Thoas’ daughter, for the following reason. The Lemnian women used not to honor Aphrodite. She cast a terrible smell upon them and, for this reason, their husbands acquired spear-won women from Thrace and slept with them.

Because they were dishonored, the Lemnian women slaughtered their fathers and husbands. Hypsipyle alone spared her father Thoas by hiding him. After they landed on the women-controlled island, they slept with the women. Hypsipyle gave birth to sons after sleeping with Jason: Eunêos and Nebrophonos.”

οὗτοι ναυαρχοῦντος ᾿Ιάσονος ἀναχθέντες προσίσχουσι Λήμνῳ. ἔτυχε δὲ ἡ Λῆμνος ἀνδρῶν τότε οὖσα ἔρημος, βασιλευομένη δὲ ὑπὸ ῾Υψιπύλης τῆς Θόαντος
δι’ αἰτίαν τήνδε. αἱ Λήμνιαι τὴν ᾿Αφροδίτην οὐκ ἐτίμων· ἡ δὲ αὐταῖς ἐμβάλλει δυσοσμίαν, καὶ διὰ τοῦτο οἱ γήμαντες αὐτὰς ἐκ τῆς πλησίον Θρᾴκης λαβόντες
αἰχμαλωτίδας συνευνάζοντο αὐταῖς. ἀτιμαζόμεναι δὲ αἱ Λήμνιαι τούς τε πατέρας καὶ τοὺς ἄνδρας φονεύουσι· μόνη δὲ ἔσωσεν ῾Υψιπύλη τὸν ἑαυτῆς πατέρα κρύψασα
Θόαντα. προσσχόντες οὖν τότε γυναικοκρατουμένῃ τῇ Λήμνῳ μίσγονται ταῖς γυναιξίν. ῾Υψιπύλη δὲ ᾿Ιάσονι συνευνάζεται, καὶ γεννᾷ παῖδας Εὔνηον καὶ Νεβρο-φόνον.

Image result for Jason argonauts greek vase

Schol ad. Pind. P4 88b

“The story goes like this: Because the Lemnian women had carried out the honors for Aphrodite improperly, the goddess inflicted a bad smell upon them: for this reason, men turned them away. They all worked together and killed their husbands in a plot. Then the Argonauts, as they were travelling to Skythia, arrived in in Lemnos; when they found that the island was bereft of men, they slept with the women and then left. The sons who were born from them went to Sparta in search of their fathers and, once they were accepted among the Lakonians, they became citizens there and settled in Sparta.

ἱστορία τοιαύτη· ταῖς Λημνίαις γυναιξὶν ἀσεβῶς διακειμέναις περὶ τὰς τῆς ᾿Αφροδίτης τιμὰς ἡ θεὸς δυσοσμίαν προσέπεμψε, καὶ οὕτως αὐτὰς οἱ ἄνδρες ἀπεστράφησαν· αἱ δὲ συνθέμεναι πρὸς ἑαυτὰς ἐξ ἐπιβουλῆς τοὺς ἄνδρας ἀνεῖλον. τηνικαῦτα δὲ οἱ ᾿Αργοναῦται τὸν εἰς Σκυθίαν στελλόμενοι πλοῦν προσωρμίσθησαν τῇ Λήμνῳ, καὶ εὑρόντες ἔρημον ἀρσένων τὴν νῆσον συνελθόντες ταῖς γυναιξὶν ἀπηλλάγησαν. οἱ δὲ φύντες ἐξ αὐτῶν ἦλθον εἰς Λακεδαίμονα κατὰ ζήτησιν τῶν πατέρων, καὶ προσδεχθέντες παρὰ Λάκωσι καὶ πολιτευσάμενοι συνέθεντο ἐπιθέσθαι τῇ Σπάρτῃ…

This tale seems to combine with a larger treatment of Lemnos as clear from the proverb above and this one:

A proverb from Zenobius (4.91)

“A Lemnian evil”: A proverb which they say comes from the lawless acts committed against husbands by the women of Lemnos. Or it derives from the story of the women who were abducted from Attica by the Pelasgians and settled in Lemnos. Once they gave birth, they taught their sons the ways and the language of the Athenians. They honored each other and ruled over those who descended from Thracians. Then the Pelasgians, because they were angry over this, killed them and their mothers. Or the proverb derives from the bad smell of the Lemnian women.”

Λήμνιον κακόν: παροιμία, ἣν διαδοθῆναι φασὶν ἀπὸ τῶν παρανομηθέντων εἰς τοὺς ἄνδρας ἐν Λήμνῳ ὑπὸ τῶν γυναικῶν. ῍Η διὰ τὸ τὰς ἁρπαγείσας ὑπὸ Πελασγῶν ἐκ τῆς ᾿Αττικῆς γυναῖκας εἰς Λῆμνον ἀπαχθῆναι· ἃς ἀποτεκούσας τρόπους τε τῶν ᾿Αθηναίων διδάξαι τοὺς παῖδας καὶ γλῶτταν· τούτους δὲ τιμωρεῖν ἀλλήλοις καὶ τῶν ἐκ τῶν Θρᾳσσῶν γεγενημένων ἐπικρατεῖν· τοὺς δὲ Πελασγοὺς ἐπὶ τούτῳ ἀχθομένους κτεῖναι αὐτοὺς καὶ τὰς μητέρας αὐτῶν. ῍Η διὰ τὴν δυσωδίαν τῶν Λημνιάδων γυναικῶν τὴν παροιμίαν διαδοθῆναι.

The story of the Lemnian crimes (Lêmnia Erga) is told by Herodotus (6.137-138): the Pelasgians were driven out of Attic and took Lemnos; then they got their revenge by abducting Athenian women during a festival. When the sons of these women grew up, they frightened the native Pelasgians and they were all killed.

In the major tales, it is clear that the women are not completely at fault, but they are the ones who seem to suffer the most. Within the broader narrative of the Argonaut tale, especially, we can see how women are defined by their bodies as loci of sexual interest or disinterest, the ability to produce children, and anxiety that they might not remain subordinate to male desire. The casual detail of the Pelasgian tale is especially harrowing.

Women’s History Month, Week 2

For the first week of posts, go here.

 

Women Authors

Telesilla, Argive Warrior-Poet

Theano, Philosopher

 

Documentary Evidence

Hades’ Newest Bride: An Epitaph

“If it is a girl…” A Letter on (female) child exposure

Inscriptions for Women Doctors from the Roman Empire

Septicia’s Marriage: Legal Testament and Marriage from ValMax

Roman Epitaphs for Wives

 

Philosophy

Plato on Gendered Differences and Love

 

Cultural Material

Boccacio on Flora, a “dishonorable” woman, Part 1 and Part 2

Plutarch on Women Causing Earthquakes

Sex, Slaves, and Sin in the Odyssey

What Did Helen Look Like?

Gellius on the Original Virgin Suicides

ValMax on Indian and Phoenician Women

First Wives: Paris’ Oenone and her Son

Helen’s Serving Girl and the First Sex Manual

Woman with mirror, Louvre CA587
Woman with mirror, Louvre CA587

Women’s History Month, Week 1

A Round-up of our first week of posts for Women’s History Month

Women Authors:

The Fragments of Hedyle

The Fragments of Phintys the Pythagorean: Part 1 and Part 2

Cleobulina’s Riddles

Poems by Nossis: Part 1 and Part 2

Two Poems by Erinna

The Poems of Anyte of Tegea

The First Hexameter Song and the Fragments of Boio

The Poems of Moero

A List of Women Authors from the Ancient World

 

Cultural Issues:

A Funerary Inscription for the 12 Year old Girl

Odysseus’ Sister and Names for In-laws

A Physician’s Notes on the Lives and Deaths of Women

The Names of the Fates and their Domains

The Phrasikleia Inscription: A Tomb Instead of a Marriage

Moirai