Get Ready for the #NANAIHB Elite Eight

This is the final day of round 1 of the Non-Atreid, Non-Achilles Iliadic Hero Bracket tournament to once and for all establish the second best of the Achaeans. 

“Achilles would not have had long hair if Thersites had not been bald.”

καὶ οὐκ ἂν ἦν Ἀχιλλεὺς κομήτης εἰ μὴ φαλακρὸς Θερσίτης. #Plutarch

The Achaean camp assembled with a buzz for the best match-up of round 1. Standing in one corner was the Lokrian speedster, a man known for his fast spear and his scatological mouth. In the other? The ugly scourge of leaders and kings, the wild son of Agrios, the sharp-tongued, fast witted Thersites. Bold words, fast feet–who wins?

As the two faced off, all were surprised by Thersites’ silence. The bent-over figure stood with his shield raised and two spears in the ground, his hand on his sword hilt. The Lokrian runner shouted, “Aitolian, bold-of-speech with a sparrow’s heart / where are your taunts now when you said you’d put your sword right into my belly? / I’m hungry for murder and no man or god alive will keep me from you”. As he said his last words he ran forward, releasing one spear, then another.

The first spear hit Thersites’ shield on the left side, drawing him to that side as the second spear landed into his exposed right thigh. As the crowd gasped, Thersites stood motionless and everyone was shocked when they realized Ajax the lesser was sprawled out near Thersites’ feet. He tripped and no one could see how he fell. Their gaze turned quickly to Thersites, calmly lowering his blade into the fallen man’s spine.

Uncharacteristically, Thersites said little as he drew his sword, and turned away with only the shadow of a grin on his face. Only Diomedes noticed Odysseus backing away from the contest ground, obscuring the print of his foot where the Lokrian had lost his way. Gazing at Odysseus, Diomedes said to Thersites, “Be bold and sit down*–you need to rest up to fight me next”

*θαρσέων καθίζευ, a play on Thersites’ name.

 

NANAIHB (10)

Recap the Action!

Day 6: Thersites evades Oilean Ajax

Day 5: Antilokhos defeats Thoas

Day 4: Patroklos annihilates Makhaon

Day 3: Ajax crushes Meriones

Day 2: Idomeneus bruises Sthenelos

Day 1: Teucer silences Tlepolemos

#NANAIHB Day 6: Thersites vs. Oilean Ajax

This is the 6th day of the Non-Atreid, Non-Achilles Iliadic Hero Bracket tournament to once and for all establish the second best of the Achaeans. 

What turned out to be the closest contest of this tournament of favorites drew some strong interest from the crowd. Odysseus gave the Aitolian Thoas some advice as he prepared to face Antilokhos who could not seem to get away from his father Nestor. Indeed, the match itself was almost called off as that old Gerenian horseman could be heard extolling the importance of deep breaths and visualizing success to his youngest son.

AvTh poll

Once he broke away from his father, he rushed straight at Thoas, dodging the first spear only to the second spear break straight through his shield and graze his thigh. The wound was minor, but Antilokhos slipped and fell on the ground, breaking his shield. For a moment, it looked like Antilokhos’ speed was nullified and in the stunned silence you could hear Achilles grumbling about how he should change his name to Antilakhos* since luck wasn’t on his side.

But as Thoas turned, dropped his shield and drew his sword, Antilokhos rolled quickly to his left where Thoas’ first spear had been deflected, and pulled it up just as Andraimon’s son tried to bring his sword down on him. Result? Aitolian with dislocated shoulder, and shredded muscles around the joint.

*lokhos means “ambush”, lakhos means “lot”.

NANAIHB Day 6a

This just might be the juiciest match-up of the first round. Indeed, there’s no way we’ll find another meeting of two potential wrestling heels: Thersites, a man so hated he unites Achilles, Agamemnon and Odysseus, and Ajax, son of Oileus, the Lokrian Homer sees fit to cover in cow-shit.

NANAIHB Day 6a (3)

Thersites, from Aitolia is the son of Agrios who was the brother of Oineus, the king of Aitolia. If you’re keeping track, that makes him a kinsman of sorts with both Thoas and Diomedes. He does not show up in the catalogue of ships and we never actually see him fight. But we do hear a bit about him. Homer doesn’t describe many of the heroes physically, but Thersites gets six lines (2.216-221):

And he was the most shameful man who came to Troy.
He was cross-eyed and crippled in one foot. His shoulders
Were curved, dragged in toward his chest. And on top
His head was misshaped, and the hair on his head was sparse.
He was most hateful to both Achilles and Odysseus
For he was always reproaching them.

….αἴσχιστος δὲ ἀνὴρ ὑπὸ ῎Ιλιον ἦλθε·
φολκὸς ἔην, χωλὸς δ’ ἕτερον πόδα· τὼ δέ οἱ ὤμω
κυρτὼ ἐπὶ στῆθος συνοχωκότε· αὐτὰρ ὕπερθε
φοξὸς ἔην κεφαλήν, ψεδνὴ δ’ ἐπενήνοθε λάχνη.
ἔχθιστος δ’ ᾿Αχιλῆϊ μάλιστ’ ἦν ἠδ’ ᾿Οδυσῆϊ·
τὼ γὰρ νεικείεσκε·

Modern scholars have written a lot about him too! Just because he’s most shameful does not mean he can’t be the second best too, does it? (The T scholion for this line helpfully notes: “most shameful: this is also said of an ape.” αἴσχιστος: τοῦτο καὶ ἐπὶ πιθήκου). The scholia report that Thersites fell off a cliff running from a boar and so his name—meaning “bold, audacious” might just be a joke. But in the criticisms he makes, another scholion also claims they say that [Thersites] is the poet’s agent, that he appropriates his essence ”Θερσίτης δ’ ἔτι: ἐπίτροπον τοῦ ποιητοῦ φασιν αὐτόν, σφετερισάμενον τὴν οὐσίαν. Because, Thersites may look scarier, but it is more frightening when you speak the Truth.
Ajax, the lesser: The son of Oileus. Also called Lokrian Ajax. Another hero Homer spends time describing physically:

“The fast son of Oileus was leading the Lokrians
Smaller, not in any way as big as Telamonian Ajax
But much smaler. He was small and wore linen armor.
But he surpassed All the Greeks and the Achaeans in spear-play.”

Λοκρῶν δ’ ἡγεμόνευεν ᾿Οϊλῆος ταχὺς Αἴας
μείων, οὔ τι τόσος γε ὅσος Τελαμώνιος Αἴας
ἀλλὰ πολὺ μείων· ὀλίγος μὲν ἔην λινοθώρηξ,
ἐγχείῃ δ’ ἐκέκαστο Πανέλληνας καὶ ᾿Αχαιούς·

So, the narrative takes pains to emphasize his smallness and his swiftness, but his character emerges elsewhere. He participates in the battles well and kills the “most” men at the end of book 13 thanks to his swiftness. But he argues nastily with Idomeneus during the chariot games, receiving in turn the address “Ajax, best at the quarrel, shit-for-brains…” (Αἶαν νεῖκος ἄριστε κακοφραδὲς…23.483.” And when he competes in the footrace, he slips in cow manure and falls in a pile of it (thanks to Athena). Of course, the assembled Greeks look on and laugh as he spits the shit from his mouth (23.780-784). Ajax is, of course, most famous for raping Kassandra on the altar of Athena and helping to derail the homecoming of the Achaeans. So, not a good guy.

So what’s the choice here? A bold-talker with no fighting history or a fast-running, linen-covered, creep-fest? And, to be honest, how much does it matter? The prize for this context is to get crushed by Diomedes.

#NANAIHB Day 5: Antilokhos vs. Thoas

This is the fifth day of the Non-Atreid, Non-Achilles Iliadic Hero Bracket tournament to once and for all establish the second best of the Achaeans. 

PvMpoll

The Achaeans watched with only passing interest as Patroklos and Makhaon began their match. In truth, even the gods found something else to occupy their endless time as Makhaon’s two spears bounced of Patroklos’ (borrowed) shield. Patroklos, too, seemed half invested, quipping weakly, “Makhaon, even in healing you’re second best at the fight” (δεύτερον ἄριστος μάχεσθαι*). Patroklos landed his first javelin into Makhaon’s right shoulder and Asklepios’ son yielded the fight. His brother Podaleirios came over to tend the wound.

*A rather obvious pun since makhesthai (“to fight”) sounds like Makhaon. Achilles later told him that he could have joked about how he was better at using a blade (makhaira) to heal than fight.

NANAIHB Day 5

 

Now we turn to the best match of the tournament so far: Antilochus, Nestor’s son, vs. Thoas the Aitolian

NANAIHB Day 5 (2)

Antilochus, the son of Nestor kills his first man in book four of the Iliad (457), he fights alongside Menelaos (5.577) and is a major part of the Greek offensive throughout books 5 and 13: in book 15 Menelaos marks him out, saying “other Greek is younger than you / is faster on his feet or as brave in battle as you are!” (᾿Αντίλοχον δ’ ὄτρυνε βοὴν ἀγαθὸς Μενέλαος· /᾿Αντίλοχ’ οὔ τις σεῖο νεώτερος ἄλλος ᾿Αχαιῶν, 15.568-569). And his swift feet carry him out of the battle to carry Achilles the news of Patroklos’ death (book 17). He is also memorable for his appearance in the funeral games where he is the audience for his father’s enigmatic instructions about the chariot race (12.305-348). And then part of the drama comes from Menelaos accusing him of cheating (and replaying some of the themes from the argument between Achilles and Agamemnon in Iliad 1). Out side of the Iliad, he is famous from the lost Aethiopis where he dies saving his father from Memnon, inciting Achilles’ rage (leading to Achilles’ death before the walls of Troy).

Antilochus is fast, he’s got the advice of Nestor and the favor of Achilles

Thoas the Aitolian, son of Andraimon, may be the youngest of the council of elders (after Achilles) and one of the Iliad’s best kept secrets (I may have some money on this one). One might imagine him a kind of replacement Diomedes, since he rules in Aitolia (the kingdom Tydeus was expelled from) and has some murky mythographical ties to Odysseus. At a critical moment in the epic, he stands up and is marked out as “best of the Aitolians at the spear / and in close combat but few of the Achaeans / could conquer him in the agora, whenever the young men struggled over speeches” (Αἰτωλῶν ὄχ’ ἄριστος ἐπιστάμενος μὲν ἄκοντι / ἐσθλὸς δ’ ἐν σταδίῃ· ἀγορῇ δέ ἑ παῦροι ᾿Αχαιῶν / νίκων, ὁππότε κοῦροι ἐρίσσειαν περὶ μύθων· 15.281–285).

Two young heroes. One with ties to Achilles, another linked to Odysseus. Two Achaeans enter, one man leaves. Who will it be?

 

NANAIHB Day 4: Patroklos vs. Makhaon

This is the fourth day of the Non-Atreid, Non-Achilles Iliadic Hero Bracket tournament to once and for all establish the second best of the Achaeans. 

Very few of the Greeks paid much attention to yesterday’s match sending Meriones against the bulwark of the Achaeans, since most assumed that Meriones would be expire in no more than a few words.

The Cretan captain, however, saved his breath and tried to outdance the larger Salaminian. He darted left to right, throwing his spears and having them glance off the massive shield of Telamon’s son.  Ajax stood rather impassively, parrying thrusts and waiting until Meriones ran straight at him before he locked his hands together and swung them directly into the Cretan’s chest. The ax-swing blow launched him into the air. When he hit the ground, his armor rattled around him like dice in a jar.

As he struggled to get up to his elbows, Idomeneus bellowed with a laugh, “Charioteer, my brother, stay down before you get blood on the ground!*”

*A joke: in Greek, Idomeneus said… πρὶν ἐκχεῖν αἵμα ἐπ’ αἶαν, using the word aia-n for “ground” which sounds a lot like Aias, the son of Telamon.

NANAIHB Day 3

Now we turn to a strange match-up: Patroklos son of Menoitios vs. Makhaon the son of Asklepios. Perhaps this is why Apollo dislikes him?

NANAIHB Day 3 (2)

Patroklos: the son of Menoitios who fights alongside his angrier half, Achilles. He is not originally from Phthia, but grew up there in exile from Opos after he killed a child his own age in anger over a game of dice. He appears by Achilles’ side throughout the Iliad until he takes his place in battle and falls at Hektor’s hands (helped by Apollo and Euphorbos). He even patiently listens to Achilles’ singing (Πάτροκλος δέ οἱ οἶος ἐναντίος ἧστο σιωπῇ, / δέγμενος Αἰακίδην ὁπότε λήξειεν ἀείδων, 9.190-191).

Patroklos does everything for Achilles: he gives Briseis back, he makes food, he has a bed made up for Phoinix, he goes to see about Makhaon’s wound, and he leads the Myrmidons to Battle, and dies for him. (But he is not listed as one of the leaders of the Myrmidons in the Catalogue of Ships). In battle he’s a terror: he kills Sarpedon and almost breaks through the walls of Troy themselves. Before he dies he may just be the only one to temper Achilles’ rage: As a scholion states (Schol. BT a Il. 307b) “it is likely that Patroklos goes with Achilles when he is enraged for the purpose of calming his spirit. This is because he is kind, as is clear from the fact that he pities the Acheans” (εἰκότως τῷ ᾿Αχιλλεῖ θυμικῷ ὄντι ἤπιος ὢν Πάτροκλος πάρεστι πρὸς τὸ τὸν θυμὸν αὐτοῦ μαλάσσειν. ὅτι δὲ πρᾷός ἐστι, δῆλον ἐξ ὧν οἰκτείρει τοὺς ᾿Αχαιούς)

Makhaon, a healer and leader of the contingent from Oikhaliê, Trikke and Ithômê (yes, where?) is a son of Asklepios and led 30 ships to Troy. He administered his arts to Menelaos in the middle of battle (book 4) and was enjoying his own aristeia in book 11 until he was shot in the shoulder by Paris. He is so beloved by his companions that when Achilles witnesses his rescue in book 11 he sends Patroklos to inquire about him, setting off the sequence of events that will seal everyone’s fate. Also, Diogenes Laertius lets slip that he just might be Aristotle’s ancestor (Ἀριστοτέλης Νικομάχου καὶ Φαιστίδος Σταγειρίτης. ὁ δὲ Νικόμαχος ἦν ἀπὸ Νικομάχου τοῦ Μαχάονος τοῦ Ἀσκληπιοῦ, καθά φησιν Ἕρμιππος ἐν τῷ Περὶ Ἀριστοτέλους, 5.1).

Let’s be honest. This probably isn’t fair. But it just might come down to how mild a temper Patroklos actually has. Don’t take your feelings out about Aristotle on Makhaon. Diogenes might not trust his sources on this….

NANAIHB Day 3: Meriones vs. Ajax

This is the thirdday of the Non-Atreid, Non-Achilles Iliadic Hero Bracket tournament to once and for all establish the second best of the Achaeans. 

A brief recap from yesterday’s match which pitted the hero-king of Crete, Idomeneus, against one of the Epigonoi, Sthenelos the sacker of Thebes.

Idomeneus stepped away from his corner where Nestor was still giving him instructions he had not heard and stood still, waiting for Sthenelos. Sthenelos, was talking heatedly with Phoinix, and the only words any word heard sound like “father”, “better”, and “destruction of Thebes”. Sthenelos turned around and said, “Hail, descendant of Minos, Lord of Crete,King of one hundred cities, the Son of Capaneus will bring you down like the city of seven-gated Thebes!”

Idomeneus waited. Sthenelos hurled his first spear, and missed. The second lodged in Idomeneus’ shield without piercing it. Sthenelos drew his sword and charged, dropping it after he struck Idomeneus’ shield with all his force. Idomeneus was about to draw his sword when Diomedes caught his eye. The Cretan shrugged, raised his shield, and thwamped Sthenelos on the head. The light left the eyes of the Argive prince as he knelt to the ground. Unconscious, but still breathing.

As Idomeneus hefted his shield again, Epeios chuckled to Eurypulos, “ἴδε οἱ μένος!*

*ide hoi menos: “look at his strength!” a play on the name Idomeneus

NANAIHB Day 2

Today’s contest pits the Cretan Charioteer, Meriones, against the Salaminian Tower of Strength, Ajax. The winner will face Idomeneus in the next round, which will be super awkward if it is Meriones.

NANAIHB Day 2 (2)

Meriones: In the first version of this bracket, Meriones had slipped out. But there was a roar from justice as people clamored to have him back in. So, who is he? He is the half-brother of Idomeneus, often called his charioteer and he has at least seven kills in the Iliad, where he is first named as “equal to man-slaying Enyalios” (Μηριόνης τ’ ἀτάλαντος ᾿Ενυαλίῳ ἀνδρειφόντῃ, 2.651). In book 7, he is one of the 9 who stands to face Hektor in a dual and he volunteers to join Diomedes on his night raid in book 10. In each case he is second only to the more famous Ajax and Odysseus. Perhaps his most humorous moment is when he rushes out of the battle in book 13 and meets Idomeneus, saying “I am going to see if there are any spears left / in our dwellings for I have just now broken the one I was holding / when I threw it at the spear of that super-manly Deiphobos” (ἔρχομαι εἴ τί τοι ἔγχος ἐνὶ κλισίῃσι λέλειπται / οἰσόμενος· τό νυ γὰρ κατεάξαμεν ὃ πρὶν ἔχεσκον / ἀσπίδα Δηϊφόβοιο βαλὼν ὑπερηνορέοντος, 13.256-258). He stands with Idomeneus in book 13 to rally again the Trojan attack. He’s fast, he’s good with the bow too.

Ajax: What is there to say about Ajax? Outside the Iliad he is most famous for losing to Odysseus in the judgment of Achilles’ arms. He is a son of Telamon, which by most accounts makes him Achilles’ cousin (Peleus and Telamon were brothers). He came to Troy from Salamis with 12 ships and was central in later traditions for arguing the ‘ownership’ of Salamis. He is by far the best man after Achilles and Helen describes him as the “monstrous tower of the Achaeans” (οὗτος δ’ Αἴας ἐστὶ πελώριος ἕρκος ᾿Αχαιῶν, 3.229) since both he and Idomeneus standout from afar. He tears battle lines apart singlehandedly! He carries a shield as large as a tower (Αἴας δ’ ἐγγύθεν ἦλθε φέρων σάκος ἠΰτε πύργον, 7.219). When he runs out of spears, well he’s hero enough to toss boulders at people. He duels Hektor (and then later Odysseus) to a draw. But for all these he seems pretty even-headed. IN book 9, he’s the one who breaks Achilles down a bit (Iliad 9.632-638):

“You are relentless: someone might even accept payment
for the murder of a brother or the death of his own child.
and after making great restitution, the killer remains in his country,
and though bereft, the other restrains his heart and mighty anger
once he has accepted the price. But the gods put an untouchable
and wicked rage in your heart over only a girl…”

νηλής· καὶ μέν τίς τε κασιγνήτοιο φονῆος
ποινὴν ἢ οὗ παιδὸς ἐδέξατο τεθνηῶτος·
καί ῥ’ ὃ μὲν ἐν δήμῳ μένει αὐτοῦ πόλλ’ ἀποτίσας,
τοῦ δέ τ’ ἐρητύεται κραδίη καὶ θυμὸς ἀγήνωρ
ποινὴν δεξαμένῳ· σοὶ δ’ ἄληκτόν τε κακόν τε
θυμὸν ἐνὶ στήθεσσι θεοὶ θέσαν εἵνεκα κούρης
οἴης…

NANAIHB Day 2: Idomeneus vs. Sthenelos

This is the second day of the Non-Atreid, Non-Achilles Iliadic Hero Bracket tournament to once and for all establish the second best of the Achaeans. 

Before we get to today’s match, here’s a brief recap from yesterday’s inaugural competition which saw the Pseudo-Rhodian Tlepolemos face off against the other son of Telamon, the Archer Teucer. Nestor stood as the corner man for the son of Herakles and Phoinix stood beside Telamon’s son.

Teucer 1 Tweet

Tlepolemos started out the contest by brandishing two spears in his massive right hand and mocking Teucer, saying “Bastard son of Telamon, smallest of the Achaeans, coward who hides behind brother’s shields! How do you expect to beat me, standing here alone, a lesser son of a lesser man against the massive scion of Herakles? I am going to….”

Tlepolemos was cut off mid-threat by an arrow piercing his throat. Teucer had turned and walked into the watching crowd before the arrow  landed, muttering without a hint of a smile, “οὐ δὴ τλῆ τὸν πόλεμον”*

*ou dê tlê ton polemon: “he didn’t endure this war”. A play on Tle-polemos’ name.

NANAIHBDay1

Today’s contest pits the Hero-King of Crete, Idomeneus against Sthenelos, Sacker of Thebes.

Idomeneus is a member of the council of elders, a grandson of Minos, and friend to Ajax. Meriones is his second in command. He is listed as one of the leaders Agamemnon might despoil instead of Achilles (along with Odysseus and Ajax) and heralded by the narrator as one of the best of the Pan-Achaeans (γέροντας ἀριστῆας Παναχαιῶν, along with Nestor, both Ajaxes, Odysseus, Diomedes, and Menelaos, 2.404-408). He came to Troy from Crete of 100 cities (2.649; the Odyssey gives him only 90 cities) with 80 ships. (For comparison, Agamemnon led 100 ships and Odysseus brought 12).

Idomeneus is central to the defense of the ships in book 13 and made it out of Troy alive. In the Odyssey, he may still be ruler of Crete (although some traditions have a harsher homecoming). It is not hard to imagine narrative traditions that center this Cretan hero more: he is blamed for unfairly distributed spoils (given as an etiology for “Cretan” meaning a “liar”) and is responsible elsewhere for Odysseus’ successful homecoming. If you were drafting a heroic lineup and you wanted Ajax-level performance for a much lower price, Idomeneus would be your man.

Sthenelos: This son of Kapaneus may not be a household name, but he’s the Robin to Diomedes’ Batman and they go everywhere and destroy everything together. The pair came fro Aros and Tiryns leading 80 ships between them with Euryalos as their third (Il. 2559-568)! Diomedes is so confident with his little buddy by his side that he declares “Run away with your ships to your darling fatherland! / We two–Sthenelos and I–will fight until we find /  the end of Ilion–for we have come here with god on our side!” (φευγόντων σὺν νηυσὶ φίλην ἐς πατρίδα γαῖαν· / νῶϊ δ’ ἐγὼ Σθένελός τε μαχησόμεθ’ εἰς ὅ κε τέκμωρ / ᾿Ιλίου εὕρωμεν· σὺν γὰρ θεῷ εἰλήλουθμεν, 9.47-49). This kind of confidence is infectious. Sthenelos rejects Agamemnon’s attempt to rally them in Iliad 4, declaring (4.404–410):

“Son of Atreus, don’t lie when you know how to speak clearly.
We say we are better than our fathers:
we sacked foundation of seven-gated Thebes
even though we led a smaller army before bigger walls
because we were relying on the signs of the gods and Zeus’ help.
Those men perished because of their own recklessness.
Don’t put our fathers in the same honor.”

“Ἀτρεΐδη, μὴ ψεύδε’ ἐπιστάμενος σάφα εἰπεῖν·
ἡμεῖς τοι πατέρων μέγ’ ἀμείνονες εὐχόμεθ᾿ εἶναι·
ἡμεῖς καὶ Θήβης ἕδος εἵλομεν ἑπταπύλοιο
παυρότερον λαὸν ἀγαγόνθ’ ὑπὸ τεῖχος ἄρειον,
πειθόμενοι τεράεσσι θεῶν καὶ Ζηνὸς ἀρωγῇ·
κεῖνοι δὲ σφετέρῃσιν ἀτασθαλίῃσιν ὄλοντο·
τὼ μή μοι πατέρας ποθ’ ὁμοίῃ ἔνθεο τιμῇ.”

His name means strength. He’s got a big voice and a bigger resume.

Argive vs. Cretan. Captain vs. Lieutenant. Who’s it gonna be?

NANAIHBDay1 (2)

Alexis, What is Love?

Alexis (fr.386k from his Phaedrus; found at Athenaeus 13.13)

“As I was walking from the Peiraios beset
By troubles and despair, philosophy came over me.
And all the painters now seem to me to be ignorant
About love, and, to put it simply, so is everyone else
Who fashions images of him as a god.

For he is neither female nor male, and again,
He is not a god or mortal; nor is he foolish
Or wise, but he is drawn together from everywhere
And carries many shapes in one form.

For he has a man’s boldness with a woman’s restraint;
he has the senselessness of madness
But the reason of a thinker; he has a beast’s ferocity,
The toil of the unbreakable, and the avarice of a god.

Indeed, by Athena and the gods, I do not understand
What love is, but still it is the type of thing
I have said only without this name.”

πορευομένῳ δ᾽ ἐκ Πειραιῶς ὑπὸ τῶν κακῶν
καὶ τῆς ἀπορίας φιλοσοφεῖν ἐπῆλθέ μοι.
καί μοι δοκοῦσιν ἀγνοεῖν οἱ ζωγράφοι
τὸν Ἔρωτα, συντομώτατον δ᾽ εἰπεῖν, ὅσοι
τοῦ δαίμονος τούτου ποιοῦσιν εἰκόνας.
ἐστὶν γὰρ οὔτε θῆλυς οὔτ᾽ ἄρσην, πάλιν
οὔτε θεὸς οὔτ᾽ ἄνθρωπος, οὔτ᾽ ἀβέλτερος
οὔτ᾽ αὖθις ἔμφρων, ἀλλὰ συνενηνεγμένος
πανταχόθεν ἑνὶ τύπῳ <τε> πόλλ᾽ εἴδη φέρων.
ἡ τόλμα μὲν γὰρ ἀνδρός, ἡ <δὲ> δειλία
γυναικός, ἡ δ᾽ ἄνοια μανίας, ὁ δὲ λόγος
φρονοῦντος, ἡ σφοδρότης δὲ θηρός, ὁ δὲ πόνος
ἀδάμαντος, ἡ φιλοτιμία δὲ δαίμονος.
καὶ ταῦτ᾽ ἐγώ, μὰ τὴν Ἀθηνᾶν καὶ θεούς,
οὐκ οἶδ᾽ ὅ τι ἐστίν, ἀλλ᾽ ὅμως ἔχει γέ τι
τοιοῦτον, ἐγγύς τ᾽ εἰμὶ τοὐνόματος.

Cf. the philosopher Haddaway

And Foreigner’s desperate plea:

 

 

Pace the rejoinder from Turner 1984:

Related image
From here

Alexis, “I want to Know What Love Is”

Alexis (fr.386k from his Phaedrus; found at Athenaeus 13.13)

“As I was walking from the Peiraios beset
By troubles and despair, philosophy came over me.
And all the painters now seem to me to be ignorant
About love, and, to put it simply, so is everyone else
Who fashions images of him as a god.

For he is neither female nor male, and again,
He is not a god or mortal; nor is he foolish
Or wise, but he is drawn together from everywhere
And carries many shapes in one form.

For he has a man’s boldness with a woman’s restraint;
he has the senselessness of madness
But the reason of a thinker; he has a beast’s ferocity,
The toil of the unbreakable, and the avarice of a god.

Indeed, by Athena and the gods, I do not understand
What love is, but still it is the type of thing
I have said only without this name.”

πορευομένῳ δ᾽ ἐκ Πειραιῶς ὑπὸ τῶν κακῶν
καὶ τῆς ἀπορίας φιλοσοφεῖν ἐπῆλθέ μοι.
καί μοι δοκοῦσιν ἀγνοεῖν οἱ ζωγράφοι
τὸν Ἔρωτα, συντομώτατον δ᾽ εἰπεῖν, ὅσοι
τοῦ δαίμονος τούτου ποιοῦσιν εἰκόνας.
ἐστὶν γὰρ οὔτε θῆλυς οὔτ᾽ ἄρσην, πάλιν
οὔτε θεὸς οὔτ᾽ ἄνθρωπος, οὔτ᾽ ἀβέλτερος
οὔτ᾽ αὖθις ἔμφρων, ἀλλὰ συνενηνεγμένος
πανταχόθεν ἑνὶ τύπῳ <τε> πόλλ᾽ εἴδη φέρων.
ἡ τόλμα μὲν γὰρ ἀνδρός, ἡ <δὲ> δειλία
γυναικός, ἡ δ᾽ ἄνοια μανίας, ὁ δὲ λόγος
φρονοῦντος, ἡ σφοδρότης δὲ θηρός, ὁ δὲ πόνος
ἀδάμαντος, ἡ φιλοτιμία δὲ δαίμονος.
καὶ ταῦτ᾽ ἐγώ, μὰ τὴν Ἀθηνᾶν καὶ θεούς,
οὐκ οἶδ᾽ ὅ τι ἐστίν, ἀλλ᾽ ὅμως ἔχει γέ τι
τοιοῦτον, ἐγγύς τ᾽ εἰμὶ τοὐνόματος.

Cf. the philosopher Haddaway

And Foreigner’s desperate plea:

 

 

Pace the rejoinder from Turner 1984:

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Life and the Great Game: Some Ancient Passages on Spectacles

Homer, Odyssey 8.147-8

“For as long as he lives, a man has no greater glory
than that which he wins with his own hands and feet”

οὐ μὲν γὰρ μεῖζον κλέος ἀνέρος, ὄφρα κεν ᾖσιν,
ἢ ὅ τι ποσσίν τε ῥέξῃ καὶ χερσὶν ἑῇσιν.

Diogenes Laertius, Life of Pythagoras 8.1

“Sosikrates in his Successions writes that when Pythagoras was asked by Leon the Tyrant of Plius what he was, he said “A philosopher”. And he was in the custom of comparing life to the Great Games because while some go there to compete, others go there to make money, even as some of the best go to watch. In the same way, in life, some grow up in servile positions, Pythagoras used to say, hunting for fame and profit while the philosopher hunts for the truth. That’s enough of that.”

Σωσικράτης δ᾿ ἐν Διαδοχαῖς φησιν αὐτὸν ἐρωτηθέντα ὑπὸ Λέοντος τοῦ Φλιασίων τυράννου τίς εἴη, φιλόσοφος, εἰπεῖν. καὶ τὸν βίον ἐοικέναι πανηγύρει· ὡς οὖν εἰς ταύτην οἱ μὲν ἀγωνιούμενοι, οἱ δὲ κατ᾿ ἐμπορίαν, οἱ δέ γε βέλτιστοι ἔρχονται θεαταί, οὕτως ἐν τῷ βίῳ οἱ μὲν ἀνδραποδώδεις, ἔφη, φύονται δόξης καὶ πλεονεξίας θηραταί, οἱ δὲ φιλόσοφοι τῆς ἀληθείας. καὶ τάδε μὲν ὧδε.

Tertullian, De Spectaculis

“This will be enough regarding the stained origin of games in idolatry”
Sed haec satis erunt ad originis de idololatria reatum.

102v
“How many ways have we shown that nothing which has to do with these games pleases god!”

Quot adhuc modis probavimus, nihil ex his quae spectaculis deputantur placitum deo esse!

Plutarch, Progress in Virtue 79F

Once when Aeschylus was watching a boxing match at the Isthmian games, one of the men was hit and the audience screamed out. He elbowed Ion of Chios and said, “Do you see what training is like? The man who was hit stays silent and the spectators yell!”

Αἰσχύλος μὲν γὰρ Ἰσθμοῖ θεώμενος ἀγῶνα πυκτῶν, ἐπεὶ πληγέντος τοῦ ἑτέρου τὸ θέατρον ἐξέκραγε, νύξας Ἴωνα τὸν Χῖον “ὁρᾷς,” ἔφη, “οἷον ἡ ἄσκησίς ἐστιν; ὁ πεπληγὼς σιωπᾷ, οἱ δὲ θεώμενοι βοῶσιν.”

Pindar, Nem. 4.6

“The story of deeds lives longer than deeds themselves”

ῥῆμα δ’ ἐργμάτων χρονιώτερον βιοτεύει

Cicero, De Senectute 58

“Let others have weapons, horses, spears, fencing-foils, ball games, swimming competitions, races, and leave to the old men dice and knucklebones for games. Or let that go too since old age can be happy without it.”

Sibi habeant igitur arma, sibi equos, sibi hastas, sibi clavam et pilam, sibi natationes1 atque cursus; nobis senibus ex lusionibus multis talos relinquant et tesseras; id ipsum ut2 lubebit, quoniam sine eis beata esse senectus potest.

Lucretius, De Rerum Natura 4.973-984

“And whenever people for many days in a row
Have given endless attention to games, we see that many
Have stopped actually absorbing these things with their senses
Even though there are paths still open in the mind
By which the representations of things may enter.
For many days in this way the same things are seen
Before their eyes and they stay awake so that they might seem
To see dancers moving their gentle limps
Or brush with their ears the liquid song of the lyre
And the talking chords, and to sense again that same concord
And the wild spectacular with its bright scene.”

Et quicumque dies multos ex ordine ludis
adsiduas dederunt operas, plerumque videmus,
cum iam destiterunt ea sensibus usurpare,
relicuas tamen esse vias in mente patentis,
qua possint eadem rerum simulacra venire.
per multos itaque illa dies eadem obversantur
ante oculos, etiam vigilantes ut videantur
cernere saltantis et mollia membra moventis,
et citharae liquidum carmen chordasque loquentis
auribus accipere, et consessum cernere eundem
scenaique simul varios splendere decores.

Horace, Epistles 1.19.48-9

“Sport tends to give rise to heated strife and anger, anger in turns brings savage feuds and war to the death”.

ludus enim genuit trepidum certamen et iram, ira truces inimicitias et funebre bellum.

Xenophanes, Fragment 2. 16-19

“Swiftness of feet—the thing honored most in all of man’s acts of strength in the contest—could never make a city governed well.”

οὐδὲ μὲν εἰ ταχυτῆτι ποδῶν, τόπερ ἐστὶ πρότιμον,
ῥώμης ὅσσ’ ἀνδρῶν ἔργ’ ἐν ἀγῶνι πέλει,
τούνεκεν ἂν δὴ μᾶλλον ἐν εὐνομίηι πόλις εἴη·

Image result for Ancient Greek athletic competitions

“Can’t Hold [This] Back Anymore”: “Let it Go” in Ancient Greek, Part 1

The last few weeks–indeed, the last 18 months or so–have been generally stressful. So why not distract ourselves with a spirited debate about how to put “Let it Go” from Disney’s Frozen into Ancient Greek? This has been done before, but I find the translation generally uninspiring even if the performance is superb.

The following is the result of discussions at the end of a prose composition course. I considered trying t put it in meter, but unlike our friends in the UK, we don’t get much practice in this in the US. In fact, we don’t do much composition at all. (My sole experience was in a graduate composition course with the wonderful Hardy Hansen). The following is a work in progress. Please, post your responses, suggestions, complaints. But, please, consult the translation commentary first. Then, ἐρρέτω.

 ἡ μὲν χιὼν τῇδε νυκτ᾽ ἐπ᾽ ὄρει λευκῶς λαμπρύνεται·
ἐστ᾽ ἔτ᾽οὐδὲν ἴχνος τὸ φανερόν.
ἐν τῇ δὲ τῆς ἐρημίας ἀρχῇ
ἐμ᾿ ἄρα ποτνί᾽ εἶναι δοκεῖ.

ὁ δ᾿ ἄνεμος ὥσπερ ὅδε χείμων ἔνδον ἀναστρέφων ὀλολύζει 5
[τὸνδε] οὐχ οἵη τ᾽ εἰμι κατέχειν,
νὴ τοὺς Θεοὺς, ἱέμενή περ·

μὴ εἰσελθόντων·
μὴ ἰδόντων
ἴσθι ἐκείνη καλὴ κόρη ἣ ἀεὶ δεῖ σοι εἶναι.     10
κρύψασα τι μὴ ἔχε,
καὶ μὴ μαθόντων–
εἴεν νῦν μανθάνουσιν.

ἐρρέτω, ἐρρέτω
οὐκέτι οἵη τ᾽ εἰμι κατέχειν                                 15
ἐρρέτω, ἐρρέτω
ἀποτρεψαμένη μὲν πάκτου τὴν θύρα,
οὐ δὲ φροντίς μοι
τὰ [ύπὸ ἐκείνων] λεχθησόμενα
μαινέσθω ὁ χείμων,
ὁ ῥὰ ψύχος οὐδέπω μοι μέλει.                           20

The snow glows white on the mountain tonight
Not a footprint to be seen,
A kingdom of isolation,
and it looks like I’m the Queen.
The wind is howling like this swirling storm inside 5
Couldn’t keep it in;
Heaven knows I’ve tried
Don’t let them in,
don’t let them see
Be the good girl you always have to be 10
Conceal, don’t feel,
don’t let them know
Well now they know
Let it go, let it go
Can’t hold it back anymore 15
Let it go, let it go
Turn away and slam the door
I don’t care
what they’re going to say
Let the storm rage on.
The cold never bothered me anyway 20

[There is another verse and a bridge. So, some day, maybe I will post it…]

Some Notes

1. We considered ἡ νῦν/μὲν/ῥᾶ for the opening and καίει/λάμπει for the verb. There was division about the comparatively rare adverbial λευκῶς vs a predicative λευκή. Adverbial neuters were also on the table.

2. I suggested a genitive absolute here and am not completely convinced by the combination ἐστ᾽ ἔτ᾽ οὐδὲν ἴχνος τὸ φανερόν.

3. Originally students went with what I guess is a nominative absolute (ἡ δὲ τῆς ἐρημίας ἀρχὴ), but I was uncomfortable with the lack of syntactic connection, so I modified it. The adjective should probably be dative, but I guess we went for a genitive of description like the English.

4. We debated using φαίνομαι for the verb and βασιλὶς for the noun, but ποτνία carries a much stronger resonance with semi-divine power in the wilderness. Originally I had ἐγ᾿ ἄρα ποτνί᾽ εἶναι δοκῶ, but the elision is pretty severe. I took the current line from a friend on Twitter.

5. I was thinking about using κυλίνδων instead of ἀναστρέφων to recall Alcaeus fr. 326 (ἀσυννέτημμι τὼν ἀνέμων στάσιν/ τὸ μὲν γὰρ ἔνθεν κῦμα κυλίνδεται). But I like the use of the latter at Euripides Helen 1557 for a rolling eye (ἀλλ’ ἐξεβρυχᾶτ’ ὄμμ’ ἀναστρέφων κύκλωι).

6. There are many ways to do this. One clever suggestion altered the meaning a bit with ἄν μὴ κρύπτοιμι (but maintained the sense of Elsa as a dangerous goddess, cf. Calypso). Various impersonal constructions were considered.

7. This phrase was a little difficult. The student consensus was something likeοἱ θεοὶ εἴδονται μ᾽ ἐπιχειρεῖν, which might be better. But I wanted a concessive participle clause with an oath. “Heaven knows” is an English idiom which we just leveled out to “by the gods”. This might not be the best choice. We considered ἐπιχειρησαμένη/πειρασαμένη for the participle and both are probably better, but on a whim I went with ἱέμενή περ to echo Odyssey 1.6 (ἀλλ’ οὐδ’ ὧς ἑτάρους ἐρρύσατο, ἱέμενός περ·)

8-9. After considering other options, I went for the third person imperatives because they echo the Lord’s Prayer. I am conflicted about putting a subject in for the “they”. I chose not to.

10. We considered the imperative and infinitive: ἴσθι/εἶναι. I am not convinced that ἣ ἀεὶ χρῆ σοι εἶναι is the best way to do it. We considered ἀεὶ ἐσομένη and δεῖ.

14. I have thought this was the best way to translate “Let it go” for a while for a few reasons. For one, I think Elsa is really saying “fuck it” and that Archilochus’ shield poem best echoes this (5.4: ἐρρέτω· ἐξαῦτις κτήσομαι οὐ κακίω). Cf. Il. 20.349; Od. 5.139.

15-16. There are probably many better options for this.

17. οὐ δὲ φροντίς μοι: This is all about Hippocleides not caring. The δέ is not absolutely necessarily, but I didn’t want that previous μέν to be all solitary.

18. I went back and forth about this line, but if we are going to use οὐ δὲ φροντίς μοι in the previous, then, strictly speak, “what they are going to say” is a subject. I considered keeping it singular, ὅ τι ἐκείνοι λέγωσιν with the subjunctive for the indefinite clause.

19. I was distracted by what “let the storm rage on” means here. A student suggested θυμούτω, but I wanted something that was more externally destructive and out of control. So, I chose Μαινέσθω based on Il. 14.605-606 (μαίνετο δ’ ὡς ὅτ’ ῎Αρης ἐγχέσπαλος ἢ ὀλοὸν πῦρ / οὔρεσι μαίνηται βαθέης ἐν τάρφεσιν ὕλης·) For this form, see John Chrystostom: α′. Πολλὰ τὰ κύματα καὶ χαλεπὸν τὸ κλυδώνιον· ἀλλ’ οὐ δεδοίκαμεν, μὴ καταποντισθῶμεν· ἐπὶ γὰρ τῆς πέτρας ἑστήκαμεν. Μαινέσθω ἡ θάλασσα, πέτραν διαλῦσαι οὐ δύναται· ἐγειρέσθω τὰ κύματα, τοῦ ᾿Ιη-

20 For this, students suggested οὔ ἀμελῶς μοι φροντις περὶ τοῦ ψύχους. I don’t hate it. But I wanted something punchier.

There is a scholar in the UK who translates Disney songs into Latin and Greek much more competently:

Image result for Disney's frozen in Greek movie poster