Covering Up Our Evils: Reading Euripides’ “Andromache Online”

Euripides, Andromache 368-9 (Full text on Scaife Viewer)

“Understand this well: whatever thing someone happens to desire
That becomes for them a greater thing than taking Troy.”

εὖ δ᾿ ἴσθ᾿, ὅτου τις τυγχάνει χρείαν ἔχων,
τοῦτ᾿ ἔσθ᾿ ἑκάστῳ μεῖζον ἢ Τροίαν ἑλεῖν.

RGTO Andromache

Euripides, Andromache 368-9

“Before, even though I was buried in sorrows
Hope always led me to this child who, if saved
Might provide some kind of defense or aid.
But once my husband married that Spartan Hermione
He has spurned my slave’s bed and I
Have been battered down by her evil tortures.”

καὶ πρὶν μὲν ἐν κακοῖσι κειμένην ὅμως
ἐλπίς μ᾿ ἀεὶ προσῆγε σωθέντος τέκνου
ἀλκήν τιν᾿ εὑρεῖν κἀπικούρησιν κακῶν·
ἐπεὶ δὲ τὴν Λάκαιναν Ἑρμιόνην γαμεῖ
τοὐμὸν παρώσας δεσπότης δοῦλον λέχος,
κακοῖς πρὸς αὐτῆς σχετλίοις ἐλαύνομαι.

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

Each week we select scenes from a play, actors and experts from around the world, and put them all together for 90 minutes or so to see what will happen. This process is therapeutic for us; and it helps us think about how tragedy may have had similar functions in the ancient world as well.

Euripides, Andromache 954-6

“You’ve laid into your kindred with your tongue too much!
Such things are forgivable for you now, but still
Women must work to cover up women’s afflictions!”

ἄγαν ἐφῆκας γλῶσσαν ἐς τὸ σύμφυτον.
συγγνωστὰ μέν νυν σοὶ τάδ᾿, ἀλλ᾿ ὅμως χρεὼν
κοσμεῖν γυναῖκας τὰς γυναικείας νόσους.

This week we turn to Euripides’ Andromache, a play that returns us to the experiences of the enslaved women of Priam’s household, like his Hecuba and Trojan Women. In this play, we witness the dual sufferings of Andromache and Menelaos’ daughter Hermione. The former is the enslaved concubine of Achilles’ son, Neoptolemos and the latter is his wife. Hermione, however, is barren while Andromache has borne a son. This play returns us to themes of child killing revenge, legitimacy and the sufferings of women.

It may also have deep political resonance: This play’s date of performance is unknown, with scholars placing it as early as 428 at the end of the Periklean plague or as late as 417 BCE. Its treatment of women, children, and the offspring of slaves may reflect on the use of Athenian power during its empire and, perhaps, may comment on the Mytilenean revolt: when an Allied city tried to rebel from Athenian power and was voted to have all its men executed and women and children enslaved after its surrender. While this decision was reversed, it bared the nature of Athenian rule and foreshadows the demise of Melos 10 years later.

Euripides, Andromache 263-267

“Ah, you give me a bitter lottery and choice
For my life. Should I win, I am ruined
And if I lose I am unluckier still.”

οἴμοι, πικρὰν κλήρωσιν αἵρεσίν τέ μοι
βίου καθίστης· καὶ λαχοῦσά γ᾿ ἀθλία
καὶ μὴ λαχοῦσα δυστυχὴς καθίσταμαι.

Scenes (from the this translation)

1-55: Andromache

147-273: Andromache, Hermione, Chorus

545-765: Peleus, Menelaus, Andromache, Chorus

891-953: Orestes, Hermione, Chorus

1166-1283: Chorus, Peleus, Thetis

 

Euripides, Andromache 846-850

“Oh, my fate!
Where is fire’s flame dear to me?
Where can I throw myself from rocks
Either into the see or a mountain’s forest,
So I can die and the dead can care for me?”

οἴμοι πότμου.
ποῦ μοι πυρὸς φίλα φλόξ
ποῦ δ᾿ ἐκ πέτρας ἀερθῶ,
<ἢ> κατὰ πόντον ἢ καθ᾿ ὕλαν ὀρέων,
ἵνα θανοῦσα νερτέροισιν μέλω;

Cast and Crew

Andromache – Tamieka Chavis

Peleus – Michael Lumsden

Hermione – Evelyn Miller

Menelaus – Brian Nelson Jr

Orestes – Paul O’Mahony

Chorus – Sara Valentine

Thetis – Noree Victoria

Special Guest:Katerina Ladianou

Dramaturgical assistance: Emma Pauly

Direction: Paul O’Mahony

Posters: John Koelle

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

Upcoming Readings (Go here for the project page)

Aristophanes, Clouds, July 15

Euripides, Alcestis, July 22

The Chorus, July 29th [Special 10 AM time]

Euripides, Andromache 413-420

“Child, I who bore you go to Hades now
So that you may not die. If you outrun this fate,
Remember your mother, all I suffered and how I died.

Go to your father and through kisses
Tell him what I died while shedding tears
And throwing your arms around him.

Children are the soul of all humankind—
Whoever has no children mocks them and
While they may feel less pain, feel sadder happiness too.”

ὦ τέκνον, ἡ τεκοῦσά σ᾿, ὡς σὺ μὴ θάνῃς,
στείχω πρὸς Ἅιδην· ἢν δ᾿ ὑπεκδράμῃς μόρον,
μέμνησο μητρός, οἷα τλᾶσ᾿ ἀπωλόμην,
καὶ πατρὶ τῷ σῷ διὰ φιλημάτων ἰὼν
δάκρυά τε λείβων καὶ περιπτύσσων χέρας
λέγ᾿ οἷ᾿ ἔπραξα. πᾶσι δ᾿ ἀνθρώποις ἄρ᾿ ἦν
ψυχὴ τέκν᾿· ὅστις δ᾿ αὔτ᾿ ἄπειρος ὢν ψέγει,
ἧσσον μὲν ἀλγεῖ, δυστυχῶν δ᾿ εὐδαιμονεῖ.

Videos of Earlier Sessions (Go here for the project page)
Euripides’ Helen, March 25th
Sophocles’ Philoktetes, April 1st
Euripides’ Herakles, April 8th
Euripides’ Bacchae, April 15th
Euripides’ Iphigenia , April 22nd
Sophocles, Trachinian Women, April 29th
Euripides, Orestes May 6th
Aeschylus, Persians, May 13th
Euripides, Trojan Women May 20th
Sophocles’ Ajax, May 27th
Sophocles, Oedipus Tyrannos, June 10th

Euripides, Ion,  June 17th

Euripides, Hecuba June 24th

Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound June 30th

Euripides, Andromache 744-746

“I just let your words roll off of me:
You’re just a walking shadow who has a voice,
Incapable of doing anything other than speaking alone.”

τοὺς σοὺς δὲ μύθους ῥᾳδίως ἐγὼ φέρω·
σκιὰ γὰρ ἀντίστοιχος ὣς φωνὴν ἔχεις,
ἀδύνατος οὐδὲν ἄλλο πλὴν λέγειν μόνον.

Only Zeus is Free: Reading Aeschylus’ “Prometheus Bound” Online

 

Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound 609-612 (Full text on Scaife Viewer)

“I will tell you everything clearly that you need to learn,
Without interweaving riddles, in a direct speech,
The right way to open one’s mouth to friends.
You see Prometheus, the one who gave mortals fire.”

λέξω τορῶς σοι πᾶν ὅπερ χρήζεις μαθεῖν,
οὐκ ἐμπλέκων αἰνίγματ᾿, ἀλλ᾿ ἁπλῷ λόγῳ,
ὥσπερ δίκαιον πρὸς φίλους οἴγειν στόμα.
πυρὸς βροτοῖς δοτῆρ᾿ ὁρᾷς Προμηθέα.

RGTO.Prometheus.poster-01-1

Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound 144-151

“I see you, Prometheus. Fear falls like a mist
Over my eyes full of tears
As I witness you bound to this rock
By these unbreakable offensive chains.
There are new leaders ruling Olympos,
Zeus rules without sense over new-cut laws.
He renders unknown what stood out before.”

λεύσσω, Προμηθεῦ· φοβερὰ δ᾿ ἐμοῖσιν ὄσσοις
ὀμίχλα προσῇξε πλήρης
δακρύων σὸν δέμας εἰσιδούσᾳ
πέτρᾳ προσαυαινόμενον
ταῖσδ᾿ ἀδαμαντοδέτοισι λύμαις.
νέοι γὰρ οἰακονόμοι κρατοῦσ᾿ Ὀλύμπου,
νεοχμοῖς δὲ δὴ νόμοις Ζεὺς ἀθέτως κρατύνει·
τὰ πρὶν δὲ πελώρια νῦν ἀϊστοῖ.

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

Each week we select scenes from a play, actors and experts from around the world, and put them all together for 90 minutes or so to see what will happen. This process is therapeutic for us; and it helps us think about how tragedy may have had similar functions in the ancient world as well.

Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound 178-187

“…you are bold and bowing
To nothing despite these terrible pains—
And you are too free with your mouth!
A sharp fear pricks at my thoughts
And I worry over your fate,
Where will you ever go to find and end to these toils?
For Kronos’ son has unchangeable ways
And a heart never to be persuaded.”

σὺ μὲν θρασύς τε καὶ πικραῖς
δύαισιν οὐδὲν ἐπιχαλᾷς,
ἄγαν δ᾿ ἐλευθεροστομεῖς.
ἐμᾶς δὲ φρένας ἠρέθισε διάτορος φόβος,
δέδια δ᾿ ἀμφὶ σαῖς τύχαις,
ποῖ ποτε τῶνδε πόνων χρή σε τέρμα κέλσαντ᾿
ἐσιδεῖν· ἀκίχητα γὰρ ἤθεα καὶ κέαρ
ἀπαράμυθον ἔχει Κρόνου παῖς.

This week we turn to Aeschylus Prometheus Bound, a play said to have been part of a trilogy which included the now lost Prometheus Unbound and Prometheus Fire-Bearer. The play as been long attributed to Aeschylus as either late or early in his life based on its style, while for the past two centuries there have been questions based on the content (is this play too hard on Zeus?) and the form (based on uses of meter and language). The play has been attributed to Aeschylus’ son Euphorion and has been dated as early as the 480s and as late as 430.

The play’s use of myth and its exploration of justice and rather problematic Zeus makes it difficult to contextualize in Athens whether it is by Aeschylus or another. The Zeus of Prometheus is a tyrant and its eponymous character his apostate: the play’s tension comes from the interplay between his knowledge and the audience’s and the way his motivations are revealed through his conversations with characters like Okeanos, Io, and Hermes. Indeed, there is so much unclear about this play, that any given performance can radically change what we think about it. And this play hinges on our changing responses to Prometheus and his cherished knowledge.

Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound 263-267

“It is simple when someone is out of trouble’s way
To advise and criticize someone who is doing badly.
I knew all of these things. All of them.
I willingly, willfully, made my mistake—I will not deny it.
By helping people I created troubles for myself.”

λαφρόν, ὅστις πημάτων ἔξω πόδα
ἔχει, παραινεῖν νουθετεῖν τε τὸν κακῶς
πράσσοντ᾿. ἐγὼ δὲ ταῦθ᾿ ἅπαντ᾿ ἠπιστάμην.
ἑκὼν ἑκὼν ἥμαρτον, οὐκ ἀρνήσομαι·
θνητοῖς ἀρήγων αὐτὸς ηὑρόμην πόνους.

Scenes (from the Elizabeth Barrett Browning translation)

Scene 1 – Strength and Hephaestus
Scene 2 – Io, Chorus, Prometheus
Scene 3 – Prometheus, Hermes, Chorus

 

Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound 447-450

“At first, though they looked, they saw nothing,
While they listened, they did not hear, but they lived
Mixing everything up, like people in dreams…”

οἳ πρῶτα μὲν βλέποντες ἔβλεπον μάτην,
κλύοντες οὐκ ἤκουον, ἀλλ᾿ ὀνειράτων
ἀλίγκιοι μορφαῖσι τὸν μακρὸν βίον
ἔφυρον εἰκῇ πάντα…

Actors

Kareem Badr
Sarah-Marie Curry
Tim Delap
Ronan Melomo
Evelyn Miller
Paul O’Mahony

Special Guest: Joshua Billings

Dramaturgical assistance: Emma Pauly

Direction: Paul O’Mahony

Posters: John Koelle

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

Upcoming Readings (Go here for the project page)

Euripides, Andromache, July 8

Aristophanes, Clouds, July 15

Euripides, Alcestis, July 22

472-475

“Because you have suffered incurable pain, you’re
Going out of your mind, like a poor doctor fallen ill
you are depressed and you have no way to uncover
Any kind of medicine to use as a cure.”

ᾀκὲς πεπονθὼς πῆμ᾿ ἀποσφαλεὶς φρενῶν
πλανᾷ· κακὸς δ᾿ ἰατρὸς ὥς τις εἰς νόσον
πεσὼν ἀθυμεῖς καὶ σεαυτὸν οὐκ ἔχεις
εὑρεῖν ὁποίοις φαρμάκοις ἰάσιμος.

 

Videos of Earlier Sessions (Go here for the project page)
Euripides’ Helen, March 25th
Sophocles’ Philoktetes, April 1st
Euripides’ Herakles, April 8th
Euripides’ Bacchae, April 15th
Euripides’ Iphigenia , April 22nd
Sophocles, Trachinian Women, April 29th
Euripides, Orestes May 6th
Aeschylus, Persians, May 13th
Euripides, Trojan Women May 20th
Sophocles’ Ajax, May 27th
Sophocles, Oedipus Tyrannos, June 10th

 

Euripides, Ion,  June 17th

Euripides, Hecuba June 24th

391

“Prometheus, your sufferings are my teacher”

ἡ σή, Προμηθεῦ, ξυμφορὰ διδάσκαλος.

Debt, Asylum, Slavery, and Freedom

Plutarch, On Borrowing 828 e

“But because we are perhaps ashamed to be self-sufficient, we make loans and mortgages our masters even though we should stick only to what is necessary and sustain ourselves by selling what is useless and excessive and establish a temple of freedom for our selves, our children, and our wives.

Artemis in Ephesus gives asylum to debtors when they flee into her temple and provides shelter from their debts. For the asylum and refuge of restraint is open to wise people everywhere and it provides them a pleasant and honorable vastness of great leisure.”

ἡμεῖς δὲ τὴν αὐτάρκειαν αἰσχυνόμενοι καταδουλοῦμεν ἑαυτοὺς ὑποθήκαις καὶ συμβολαίοις, δέον εἰς αὐτὰ τὰ χρήσιμα συσταλέντας καὶ συσπειραθέντας ἐκ τῶν ἀχρήστων καὶ περιττῶν κατακοπέντων ἢ πραθέντων ἐλευθερίας αὑτοῖς ἱερὸν ἱδρύσασθαι καὶ τέκνοις καὶ γυναιξίν. ἡ μὲν γὰρ Ἄρτεμις ἡ ἐν Ἐφέσῳ τοῖς χρεώσταις, ὅταν καταφύγωσιν εἰς τὸ ἱερὸν αὐτῆς, ἀσυλίαν παρέχει καὶ ἄδειαν ἀπὸ τῶν δανείων· τὸ δὲ τῆς εὐτελείας καὶ ἄσυλον καὶ ἄβατον πανταχοῦ τοῖς σώφροσιν ἀναπέπταται, πολλῆς σχολῆς εὐρυχωρίαν παρέχον ἱλαρὰν καὶ ἐπίτιμον.

Demosthenes, Exordia 4

“Perhaps it is fated for these people to never think clearly when they’re doing well. It is nevertheless proper for you, because of who you are and because of what has been done by the state, to be eager to show to all people that we choose to pursue just acts now and always as we did before, while others accuse their fellow citizens before us because they want to enslave them.”

οὐ μὴν ἀλλ᾿ ἴσως τούτοις μὲν εἵμαρται μηδέποτ᾿ εὖ πράττουσιν εὖ φρονῆσαι· ἡμῖν δὲ προσήκει καὶ δι᾿ ἡμᾶς αὐτοὺς καὶ διὰ τἆλλ᾿ ἃ πέπρακται τῇ πόλει, σπουδάσαι δεῖξαι πᾶσιν ἀνθρώποις ὅτι καὶ πρότερον καὶ νῦν καὶ ἀεὶ ἡμεῖς τὰ δίκαια προαιρούμεθα πράττειν, ἕτεροι δέ τινες καταδουλοῦσθαι βουλόμενοι τοὺς αὑτῶν πολίτας διαβάλλουσι πρὸς ἡμᾶς.

Image result for artemis in ephesus
Statue of the type of the Artemis of Ephesus

Martin Luther King Jr. and Socrates

There have been several articles over the years (both in print, the fine piece by T. E. Strunk and online: a website and a editorial) about Martin Luther King’s engagement with the Classics–specifically the figure of Socrates and Plato’s Apology–and its influence on his thought and his rhetoric. I think those who want to ‘correct’ his response and reception of Classical models should just be ignored; those who note, however, that such reception must also be understood from a particular theological perspective put their efforts to far better work.

On this day in his honor, I do think it is worthwhile for us to reflect on the process of reception and how MLK made his own Socrates in a way that enriched his life and those of his interlocutors–both the addressees of his Letter from Birmingham Jail and the generations of cultural respondents who have followed him. MLK refers to Socrates three times in that letter:

“Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half-truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, so must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood.”

“In your statement you assert that our actions, even though peaceful, must be condemned because they precipitate violence. But is this a logical assertion? Isn’t this like condemning a robbed man because his possession of money precipitated the evil act of robbery? Isn’t this like condemning Socrates because his unswerving commitment to truth and his philosophical inquiries precipitated the act by the misguided populace in which they made him drink hemlock? Isn’t this like condemning Jesus because his unique God-consciousness and never-ceasing devotion to God’s will precipitated the evil act of crucifixion?”

“To a degree, academic freedom is a reality today because Socrates practiced civil disobedience. In our own nation, the Boston Tea Party represented a massive act of civil disobedience.”

While a classical Platonist might quibble, what I see here is the creation of a personal Socrates from multiple texts. In the first passage, Socrates has a revelatory power not dissimilar to Jesus’–this is the Socrates of the parable of the Cave (from the Republic, the philosopher who dabbled in the idea of the ideal forms. This Socrates promises that the world we experience isn’t the real world but that with practice and grace we may be able to see through the fallacies that surround us. The second and third passages model a different kind of Socrates, one that is particularly Christian, but also one who models a positive and constructive apostasy close to MLK’s own heart and life.

Apology 30e

“Now, Athenians, I am considerably lacking in defending myself, as one might expect, but instead I do it for you, so that you don’t make a mistake against a god’s gift to you by convicting me. For, if you kill me, you will not easily find another like me—simply put—even if it is rather ridiculous to say—you will lose someone dedicated to the city thanks to the god just as to a great and noble horse who has become sluggish because of its size and needs to be roused from its languor by some gadfly. This seems to be the way the god has attached me to the city.

 I am the kind of person who wakes you up, persuades you and reproaches you and I do not stop assailing each one of you everywhere and all day long. No other like this will arise for you easily, men, but if you listen to me, you will spare me. Perhaps, however, because you are annoyed just like drowsy people suddenly awakened, and you listen to Anytos you could easily kill me and then spend the rest of your life sleeping if the god fails to send anyone else to you because he cares about you.

That I really happen to be the sort of person who is sent to the city by the god you might recognize from this: It don’t seem to care about my own affairs and to worry about my household being neglected for this many years in the manner that is normal for people. Instead, I am always laboring on your behalf, going to each person in private as a father or older brother would, trying to persuade you to care for what is most important.”

νῦν οὖν, ὦ ἄνδρες Ἀθηναῖοι, πολλοῦ δέω ἐγὼ ὑπὲρ ἐμαυτοῦ ἀπολογεῖσθαι, ὥς τις ἂν οἴοιτο, ἀλλὰ ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν, μή τι ἐξαμάρτητε περὶ τὴν τοῦ θεοῦ δόσιν ὑμῖν ἐμοῦ καταψηφισάμενοι. ἐὰν γάρ με ἀποκτείνητε, οὐ ῥᾳδίως ἄλλον τοιοῦτον εὑρήσετε, ἀτεχνῶς, εἰ καὶ γελοιότερον εἰπεῖν, προσκείμενον τῇ πόλει ὑπὸ τοῦ θεοῦ ὥσπερ ἵππῳ μεγάλῳ μὲν καὶ γενναίῳ, | ὑπὸ μεγέθους δὲ νωθεστέρῳ καὶ δεομένῳ ἐγείρεσθαι ὑπὸ μύωπός τινος· οἷον δή μοι δοκεῖ ὁ θεὸς ἐμὲ τῇ πόλει προστεθηκέναι—τοιοῦτόν τινα ὃς ὑμᾶς ἐγείρων καὶ πείθων καὶ ὀνειδίζων ἕνα ἕκαστον οὐδὲν παύομαι τὴν ἡμέραν ὅλην πανταχοῦ προσκαθίζων. τοιοῦτος οὖν ἄλλος οὐ ῥᾳδίως ὑμῖν γενήσεται, ὦ ἄνδρες, ἀλλ’ ἐὰν ἐμοὶ πείθησθε, φείσεσθέ μου· ὑμεῖς δ’ ἴσως τάχ’ ἂν ἀχθόμενοι, ὥσπερ οἱ νυστάζοντες ἐγειρόμενοι, | κρούσαντες ἄν με, πειθόμενοι Ἀνύτῳ, ῥᾳδίως ἂν ἀποκτείναιτε, εἶτα τὸν λοιπὸν βίον καθεύδοντες διατελοῖτε ἄν, εἰ μή τινα ἄλλον ὁ θεὸς ὑμῖν ἐπιπέμψειεν κηδόμενος ὑμῶν. ὅτι δ’ ἐγὼ τυγχάνω ὢν τοιοῦτος οἷος ὑπὸ τοῦ θεοῦ τῇ πόλει δεδόσθαι, ἐνθένδε ἂν κατανοήσαιτε· οὐ γὰρ ἀνθρωπίνῳ ἔοικε τὸ ἐμὲ τῶν μὲν ἐμαυτοῦ πάντων ἠμεληκέναι καὶ ἀνέχεσθαι τῶν οἰκείων ἀμελουμένων τοσαῦτα ἤδη ἔτη, τὸ δὲ ὑμέτερον πράττειν ἀεί, ἰδίᾳ ἑκάστῳ προσιόντα ὥσπερ πατέρα ἢ ἀδελφὸν πρεσβύτερον πείθοντα ἐπιμελεῖσθαι ἀρετῆς.

This gadfly Socrates stands as the model for the conscientious objector, the social activist, the cultural warrior who agitates for the improvement of her or his state to the point of the sacrifice of self for the greater good.

The reason I wish to dismiss many of those who critique MLK’s use of Socrates as in some way inauthentic is that I believe their policing of his reception has cultural authoritarianism at its core. Even from the beginning of the 4th century BCE the figure of Socrates has been one of the apostate in construction and reception. Xenophon’s Socrates and Plato’s are different. Hell, Plato’s Socrates is rarely the same from one dialogue to the next. His lessons and values shift not just among his students but over time.

MLK’s amalgamation of Socrates is not just a stage in the religio-historical reception of Socrates and, therefore, a vital and important version, but it is also a model of the reception of Socrates as a model by a member of a marginalized group. We can learn from MLK’s Socrates and our responses to his identification with the Platonic figure. And, I dare say, we can learn more from the importance of such a figure from MLK than from standard academic responses.

Here is a passage I have been mulling over the past few days:

“An attempt, termed ‘feminist standpoint theory’ was made by Harstock (1983) to theorize the value of drawing on particular perspectives. The underlying assumption within this theory is that structural privilege precludes clarity of thought because there is no impetus to theorize ‘the norm’. By contrast, structural marginalization increases clarity of thought because such persons not only have access to dominant understandings but also have access to ‘abnormal’ or subjugated perspectives.”

Sam Warner. “Disrupting Identity Through Visible Therapy: A Feminist Post-Structuralist Approach to Working with Women Who have Experienced Child Sexual Abuse.” Feminist Review 68 (2001) 115-139.

As many of us who have taught literature, art, and language in diverse classrooms know intuitively, students who have been marginalized by race, language, gender, sexual identification, or ability, can ‘read’ and ‘understand’ the experiences of individuals of privilege and structural advantages with far more success than the other way around. MLK’s reading of what Socrates means from a broader cultural perspective thus does not teach us merely about what he found valuable in the figure, but it also teaches us about the broader cultural valences.

When Socrates stands up for his beliefs and dedicates himself to the betterment of the state, he sacrifices his own personal good for the good of the state. To this day, activists from all walks of life–but especially those from the margins–risk their own health, wealth, and future success to make the world better for others. For MLK, Socrates was a source of strength, and I suspect, comfort.

Observing this is important not just for us to appreciate the cultural position of both figures–but also for educators and the continuing discussion of how relevant Classics remains and how the reception of Socrates provides encouragement and direction for those who wish to make our world a better place.

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Escape Yourself! Study the Nature of Things

Lucretius, De Rerum Natura 3.1053-1075

“When people seem to feel that there is a weight
On their minds, which wears them out with its pressure–
If they were able to understand where it comes from and what causes
So great a burden of misery to press upon their chests,
They would hardly live their lives as we now see most do:
Each person does not know what he wants and always seeks
To change his place as if he could possibly slough of the burden.

Often this man departs from the doors of his great home,
When he has tired of being there, only to return suddenly
When he comes to believe that he is no better off outside.
He rushes out driving his ponies heedlessly to his villa
As if he were bringing crucial help to a burning home.
Yet when he arrives and crosses the threshold of the house,
He either falls into a deep sleep or pursues oblivion,
Or he even rushes to visit the city again,
This is the way each man flees from himself, but it is his self
That it is impossible to escape, so he clings to it thanklessly and hates.

He does this because he is a sick man who is ignorant of the cause.
If he knew the cause, he would abandon all these things
And begin his first study of the nature of things,
Since the problem is not that of a single hour but of eternal time—
In what state we must understand that all time will pass
For mortal man after the death that awaits all of us.”

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Si possent homines, proinde ac sentire videntur
pondus inesse animo, quod se gravitate fatiget,
e quibus id fiat causis quoque noscere et unde
tanta mali tam quam moles in pectore constet,
haut ita vitam agerent, ut nunc plerumque videmus
quid sibi quisque velit nescire et quaerere semper,
commutare locum, quasi onus deponere possit.
exit saepe foras magnis ex aedibus ille,
esse domi quem pertaesumst, subitoque [revertit>,
quippe foris nihilo melius qui sentiat esse.
currit agens mannos ad villam praecipitanter
auxilium tectis quasi ferre ardentibus instans;
oscitat extemplo, tetigit cum limina villae,
aut abit in somnum gravis atque oblivia quaerit,
aut etiam properans urbem petit atque revisit.
hoc se quisque modo fugit, at quem scilicet, ut fit,
effugere haut potis est: ingratius haeret et odit
propterea, morbi quia causam non tenet aeger;
quam bene si videat, iam rebus quisque relictis
naturam primum studeat cognoscere rerum,
temporis aeterni quoniam, non unius horae,
ambigitur status, in quo sit mortalibus omnis
aetas, post mortem quae restat cumque manendo.

“The Day of Freedom”

ἐλευθερία: “freedom” Chantraine: sens “libre”, par opposition à δοῦλος

αὐτονομία: “independence”

παρρησία: “freedom of speech”

 

Iliad 6.450-455 (Hektor to Andromakhe)

“But no grief over the Trojans weighs as heavy on me,
Not even for Hekabê herself or lord Priam or
Any of my brothers who have died in their great, fine numbers
In the dust at the hands of wicked men,
As my grief for you, when one of the bronze-dressed Akhaians
Will lead you off and steal away your day of freedom.”

ἀλλ’ οὔ μοι Τρώων τόσσον μέλει ἄλγος ὀπίσσω,
οὔτ’ αὐτῆς ῾Εκάβης οὔτε Πριάμοιο ἄνακτος
οὔτε κασιγνήτων, οἵ κεν πολέες τε καὶ ἐσθλοὶ
ἐν κονίῃσι πέσοιεν ὑπ’ ἀνδράσι δυσμενέεσσιν,
ὅσσον σεῦ, ὅτε κέν τις ᾿Αχαιῶν χαλκοχιτώνων
δακρυόεσσαν ἄγηται ἐλεύθερον ἦμαρ ἀπούρας·

vase

Gnomologica Vat.

“Wise Periander, when asked what freedom is, said “a good conscience”.

Περίανδρος ὁ σοφὸς ἐρωτηθεὶς τί ἂν εἴη ἐλευθερία εἶπεν· „ἀγαθὴ συνείδησις”.

 

Plato, Rep. 564.a4

“Excessive freedom seems to lead to nothing other than excessive slavery both in private and in public.”
῾Η γὰρ ἄγαν ἐλευθερία ἔοικεν οὐκ εἰς ἄλλο τι ἢ εἰς ἄγαν δουλείαν μεταβάλλειν καὶ ἰδιώτῃ καὶ πόλει.

 

Epicurus (Gnom. Vat. Epic, fr. 77)

“Freedom is the greatest fruit of self-sufficiency”

Τῆς αὐταρκείας καρπὸς μέγιστος ἐλευθερία.

 

Epictetus, Diss 1.12.10

“What, then, is freedom insanity? May it not be so, for freedom and insanity do not overlap!”

τί οὖν; ἀπόνοιά ἐστιν ἡ ἐλευθερία; μὴ γένοιτο. μανία γὰρ καὶ ἐλευθερία εἰς ταὐτὸν οὐκ ἔρχεται

 

Epictetus, Diss. 2.1.22

“What is the profit of these beliefs? The very thing which is the most noble and ennobling for those who are truly educated, tranquility, lack of fear, freedom. For we must not trust the masses who say that it is only possible for the free to be educated. No, we must heed the philosophers who say that only the educated can be free.”

Τίς οὖν τούτων τῶν δογμάτων καρπός; ὅνπερ δεῖ κάλλιστόν τ’ εἶναι καὶ πρεπωδέστατον τοῖς τῷ ὄντι παιδευομένοις, ἀταραξία ἀφοβία ἐλευθερία. οὐ γὰρ τοῖς πολλοῖς περὶ τούτων πιστευτέον, οἳ λέγουσιν μόνοις ἐξεῖναι παιδεύεσθαι τοῖς ἐλευθέροις, ἀλλὰ τοῖς φιλοσόφοις μᾶλλον, οἳ λέγουσι μόνους τοὺς παιδευθέντας ἐλευθέρους εἶναι.

freedom (n.)
Old English freodom “power of self-determination, state of free will; emancipation from slavery, deliverance;” see free (adj.) + -dom. Meaning “exemption from arbitrary or despotic control, civil liberty” is from late 14c. Meaning “possession of particular privileges” is from 1570s. Similar formation in Old Frisian fridom, Dutch vrijdom, Middle Low German vridom. Freedom-rider recorded 1961 in reference to civil rights activists in U.S. trying to integrate bus lines.

“Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose” Kris Kristofferson “Me and My Bobby McGee”

 

 

The More You Have, The More You Want — Aulus Gellius and Favorinus on the Logic of Wealth

Attic Nights, IX, 7

“On the fact that it is necessary that a man who has much requires much and a brief, elegant saying on the subject from the philosopher Favorinus.

Absolutely true is the fact which wise men have recited from both observation and experience, namely that a man who has much has great needs and that these needs come not from an overwhelming poverty but from great abundance—many things are required to maintain the many things you have. Whoever, then, has much and wishes to be on guard or to plan that he may not lose or lack anything, must not acquire more, but must instead possess less so that he may lose less. I remember this line from Favorinus, obscured among a great applause and expressed in these fewest words:

“It is impossible for someone who has fifteen thousand cloaks not to want more. Should I desire more in addition to what I have, once I have lost some of it, I will be satisfied with what I retain.” [Favorinus fr. 104]

Necessum esse, qui multa habeat, multis indigere; deque ea re Favorini philosophi cum brevitate eleganti sententia.

1 Verum est profecto, quod observato rerum usu sapientes viri dixere, multis egere, qui multa habeat, magnamque indigentiam nasci non ex inopia magna, sed ex magna copia: multa enim desiderari ad multa, quae habeas, tuenda. 2 Quisquis igitur multa habens cavere atque prospicere velit, ne quid egeat neve quid desit, iactura opus esse, non quaestu, et minus habendum esse, ut minus desit. 3 Hanc sententiam memini a Favorino inter ingentes omnium clamores detornatam inclusamque verbis his paucissimis: τὸν γὰρ μυρίων καὶ πεντακισχιλίων χλαμύδων δεόμενον οὐκ ἔστι μὴ πλειόνων δεῖσθαι· οἷς γὰρ ἔχω προσδεόμενος, ἀφελὼν ὧν ἔχω, ἀρκοῦμαι οἷς ἔχω.

The sentiment is not identical, but it is not altogether that different either: