Madness and Ecstasy: Reading the Bacchae

Reading Euripides’ Bacchae 

Over the past few weeks we have presented readings of Euripides’ Helen and Sophocles’ Philoktetes, Euripides’ Herakles (in partnership with the Center for Hellenic Studies and the Kosmos Society and Out of Chaos Theatre). Our basic approach is to have actors in isolation read parts with each other online, interspersed with commentary and discussion from ‘experts’ and the actors. This week, we turn to the Bacchae (text to be used here).

Eur. Bacchae 196

“We alone are right-minded; everyone else is wrong.”

μόνοι γὰρ εὖ φρονοῦμεν, οἱ δ᾽ ἄλλοι κακῶς.

Scenes to be Read

1-64
170-329
460-518
775-1024
1167-end

 

Euripides, Bacchae 386–401

The fate for unbridled mouths
And lawless foolishness
Is misfortune.
The life of peace
And prudence
Is unshaken and cements together
Human homes. For even though
They live far off in the sky
The gods gaze at human affairs.
Wisdom is not wit;
Nor is thinking thoughts which belong not to mortals.

Life is brief. And because of this
Whoever seeks out great accomplishments
May not grasp the things at hand.
These are the ways of madmen
And wicked fools, I think.

ἀχαλίνων στομάτων
ἀνόμου τ’ ἀφροσύνας
τὸ τέλος δυστυχία·
ὁ δὲ τᾶς ἡσυχίας
βίοτος καὶ τὸ φρονεῖν
ἀσάλευτόν τε μένει καὶ
ξυνέχει δώματα· πόρσω
γὰρ ὅμως αἰθέρα ναίον-
τες ὁρῶσιν τὰ βροτῶν οὐρανίδαι.
τὸ σοφὸν δ’ οὐ σοφία,
τό τε μὴ θνατὰ φρονεῖν
βραχὺς αἰών· ἐπὶ τούτωι
δὲ τίς ἂν μεγάλα διώκων
τὰ παρόντ’ οὐχὶ φέροι; μαι

νομένων οἵδε τρόποι καὶ
κακοβούλων παρ’ ἔμοιγε φωτῶν.

Actors
Dionysus – Tony Jayawardena
Agaue – Janet Spencer-Turner
Pentheus – Richard Neale
Kadmos – Vince Brimble
Tiresias – Paul O’Mahony
Chorus – Nichole Bird and Sarah Finigan

Euripides Bacchae, Fourth Chorus (862-912)

“Will I ever lift my white foot
As I dance along
In the all night chorus—
Shaking my head at the dewy sky
Like the fawn who plays
In a meadow’s pale pleasures
When she has fled the frightful hunt
Beyond the well-woven nets of the guard—
With a holler, the hunter
Recalls the rush of his hounds
And she leaps
With the swift-raced lust of the winds
Across the riverbounded plain,
Taking pleasure in the places free
Of mortals and in the tender shoots
Of the shadow grove?

What’s cleverness for? Is there any nobler prize
Mortals can receive from the gods
Than to hold your hand over the heads
Of your enemies?
Whatever is noble is always dear.

Scarcely, but still surely,
The divine moves its strength
It brings mortals low
When they honor foolishness
And do not worship the gods
Because of some insane belief
They skillfully hide
The long step of time
As they hunt down the irreverent.
For it is never right
To think or practice stronger
Than the laws.
For it is a light price
To believe that these have strength—
Whatever the divine force truly is
And whatever has been customary for so long,
This will always be, by nature.

What’s cleverness for? Is there any nobler prize
Mortals can receive from the gods
Than to hold your hand over the heads
Of your enemies?
Whatever is noble is always dear.

Fortunate is the one who flees
The swell of the sea and returns to harbor.
Fortunate is the one who survives through troubles
One is greater than another in different things,
He surpasses in fortune and power—
But in numberless hearts still
Are numberless hopes: some result
In good fortune, but other mortal dreams
Just disappear.

Whoever has a happy life to-day,
I consider fortunate.

Χο. ἆρ’ ἐν παννυχίοις χοροῖς
θήσω ποτὲ λευκὸν
πόδ’ ἀναβακχεύουσα, δέραν
αἰθέρ’ ἐς δροσερὸν ῥίπτουσ’,
ὡς νεβρὸς χλοεραῖς ἐμπαί-
ζουσα λείμακος ἡδοναῖς,
ἁνίκ’ ἂν φοβερὰν φύγηι
θήραν ἔξω φυλακᾶς
εὐπλέκτων ὑπὲρ ἀρκύων,
θωύσσων δὲ κυναγέτας
συντείνηι δράμημα κυνῶν,
μόχθοις δ’ ὠκυδρόμοις ἀελ-
λὰς θρώισκηι πεδίον
παραποτάμιον, ἡδομένα
βροτῶν ἐρημίαις σκιαρο-
κόμοιό τ’ ἔρνεσιν ὕλας;
†τί τὸ σοφόν, ἢ τί τὸ κάλλιον†
παρὰ θεῶν γέρας ἐν βροτοῖς
ἢ χεῖρ’ ὑπὲρ κορυφᾶς
τῶν ἐχθρῶν κρείσσω κατέχειν;
ὅτι καλὸν φίλον αἰεί.
ὁρμᾶται μόλις, ἀλλ’ ὅμως
πιστόν <τι> τὸ θεῖον
σθένος· ἀπευθύνει δὲ βροτῶν
τούς τ’ ἀγνωμοσύναν τιμῶν-
τας καὶ μὴ τὰ θεῶν αὔξον-
τας σὺν μαινομέναι δόξαι.
κρυπτεύουσι δὲ ποικίλως
δαρὸν χρόνου πόδα καὶ
θηρῶσιν τὸν ἄσεπτον· οὐ
γὰρ κρεῖσσόν ποτε τῶν νόμων
γιγνώσκειν χρὴ καὶ μελετᾶν.
κούφα γὰρ δαπάνα νομί-
ζειν ἰσχὺν τόδ’ ἔχειν,
ὅτι ποτ’ ἄρα τὸ δαιμόνιον,
τό τ’ ἐν χρόνωι μακρῶι νόμιμον
ἀεὶ φύσει τε πεφυκός.
†τί τὸ σοφόν, ἢ τί τὸ κάλλιον†
παρὰ θεῶν γέρας ἐν βροτοῖς
ἢ χεῖρ’ ὑπὲρ κορυφᾶς
τῶν ἐχθρῶν κρείσσω κατέχειν;
ὅτι καλὸν φίλον αἰεί.
εὐδαίμων μὲν ὃς ἐκ θαλάσσας
ἔφυγε χεῖμα, λιμένα δ’ ἔκιχεν·
εὐδαίμων δ’ ὃς ὕπερθε μόχθων
ἐγένεθ’· ἕτερα δ’ ἕτερος ἕτερον
ὄλβωι καὶ δυνάμει παρῆλθεν.
μυρίαι δ’ ἔτι μυρίοις
εἰσὶν ἐλπίδες· αἱ μὲν
τελευτῶσιν ἐν ὄλβωι
βροτοῖς, αἱ δ’ ἀπέβασαν·
τὸ δὲ κατ’ ἦμαρ ὅτωι βίοτος
εὐδαίμων, μακαρίζω.

Euripides, Bacchae 1388-1392

Many are the forms of divine powers
Many are the acts the gods unexpectedly make.
The very things which seemed likely did not happen
but for the unlikely, some god found a way.
This turned out to be that kind of story.

πολλαὶ μορφαὶ τῶν δαιμονίων,
πολλὰ δ᾿ ἀέλπτως κραίνουσι θεοί·
καὶ τὰ δοκηθέντ᾿ οὐκ ἐτελέσθη,
τῶν δ᾿ ἀδοκήτων πόρον ηὗρε θεός.
τοιόνδ᾿ ἀπέβη τόδε πρᾶγμα.

Image result for agave pentheus vase

Videos of Earlier Sessions
Euripides’ Helen, March 25th
Sophocles Philoktetes, April 1st
Euripides’ Herakles, April 8th 
Upcoming Readings

 

Euripides, Iphigenia in Aulis, April 22nd

Sophocles, Women of Trachis, April 29th

Euripides, Orestes, May 6th

Aeschylus, The Persians May 13th

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

Vergil, Aeneid 1.748–749

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

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

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

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

Image result for buffy season 6

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

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

Vergil, Aeneid 4. 165-172

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

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

A Brother or a Counterfeit: Theognis on Friendship

Theognis, 93-100

“If someone praises you for as long as you see him
But lashes you with an evil tongue when you are apart,
That kind of man is not a very good friend at all.
He’s the kind who speaks smoothly with his tongue, but harbors different thoughts.

Let me have that kind of friend who knows his companion
And puts up with him when he’s mean or in a rage,
Like a brother. But you, friend, keep these things your heart
And you will remember me in future days.”

ἄν τις ἐπαινήσῃ σε τόσον χρόνον ὅσσον ὁρῴης,
νοσφισθεὶς δ᾿ ἄλλῃ γλῶσσαν ἱῇσι κακήν,
τοιοῦτός τοι ἑταῖρος ἀνὴρ φίλος οὔ τι μάλ᾿ἐσθλός.
ὅς κ᾿ εἴπῃ γλώσσῃ λεῖα, φρονῇ δ᾿ ἕτερα.
ἀλλ᾿ εἴη τοιοῦτος ἐμοὶ φίλος, ὃς τὸν ἑταῖρον
γινώσκων ὀργὴν καὶ βαρὺν ὄντα φέρει
ἀντὶ κασιγνήτου. σὺ δέ μοι, φίλε, ταῦτ᾿ ἐνὶ θυμῷ
φράζεο, καί ποτέ μου μνήσεαι ἐξοπίσω.

117-118

“Nothing is harder than recognizing a counterfeit.
But, Kurnos, there is nothing more urgent than guarding against one.”

κιβδήλου δ᾿ ἀνδρὸς γνῶναι χαλεπώτερον οὐδέν,
Κύρν᾿, οὐδ᾿ εὐλαβίης ἐστὶ περὶ πλέονος.

119-128

“One can survive the ruin from counterfeit silver and gold
Kurnos—and a wise person can easily discover it.
But if a dear friend’s mind is hidden in his chest
When he is false and he has a deceptive heart,
Well this the most counterfeit thing god has made for mortals
And it is the most painful thing of all to recognize.
For you cannot know the mind of a man or a woman
Before you investigate them, like an animal under a yoke—
And you cannot imagine what they are like at the right time
Since the outer image often misleads your judgment.”

Χρυσοῦ κιβδήλοιο καὶ ἀργύρου ἀνσχετὸς ἄτη,
Κύρνε, καὶ ἐξευρεῖν ῥάιδιον ἀνδρὶ σοφῶι.
εἰ δὲ φίλου νόος ἀνδρὸς ἐνὶ στήθεσσι λελήθηι
ψυδρὸς ἐών, δόλιον δ’ ἐν φρεσὶν ἦτορ ἔχηι,
τοῦτο θεὸς κιβδηλότατον ποίησε βροτοῖσιν,
καὶ γνῶναι πάντων τοῦτ’ ἀνιηρότατον.
οὐδὲ γὰρ εἰδείης ἀνδρὸς νόον οὐδὲ γυναικός,
πρὶν πειρηθείης ὥσπερ ὑποζυγίου,
οὐδέ κεν εἰκάσσαις ὥσπερ ποτ’ ἐς ὥριον ἐλθών·
πολλάκι γὰρ γνώμην ἐξαπατῶσ’ ἰδέαι.

1318a-b

“Alas, I am a wretch: because of the terrors I have suffered
I bring pleasure to my enemies and toil to my friends”

῎Ωιμοι ἐγὼ δειλός· καὶ δὴ κατάχαρμα μὲν ἐχθροῖς,
τοῖσι φίλοις δὲ πόνος δεινὰ παθὼν γενόμην.

1079-80

“I’ll fault no enemy when he is noble,
nor will I praise a friend when he is wrong”

Οὐδένα τῶν ἐχθρῶν μωμήσομαι ἐσθλὸν ἐόντα,
οὐδὲ μὲν αἰνήσω δειλὸν ἐόντα φίλον.

1151–52

“Never dismiss a present friend and seek another
Because you are persuaded by the words of cowardly people.”

μήποτε τὸν παρεόντα μεθεὶς φίλον ἄλλον ἐρεύνα
δειλῶν ἀνθρώπων ῥήμασι πειθόμενος.

 595-598

“Dude, let’s be friends with each other at a distance.
With the exception of wealth, there’s too much of any good thing.
But we can be friends for a long time, just spend time with different men
Who have a better grasp of your mind.”

ἄνθρωπ᾿, ἀλλήλοισιν ἀπόπροθεν ὦμεν ἑταῖροι·
πλὴν πλούτου παντὸς χρήματός ἐστι κόρος.
δὴν δὴ καὶ φίλοι ὦμεν· ἀτάρ τ᾿ ἄλλοισιν ὁμίλει
ἀνδράσιν, οἳ τὸν σὸν μᾶλλον ἴσασι νόον.

1219-1220

“It is difficult for an enemy to deceive
But it is easy for a friend to fool a friend.”

᾿Εχθρὸν μὲν χαλεπὸν καὶ δυσμενεῖ ἐξαπατῆσαι,
Κύρνε· φίλον δὲ φίλωι ῥάιδιον ἐξαπατᾶν.

Friendship
Royal 19 C II  f. 59v

F*** Off Friday: Hipponax’s Curse for a Former Friend

Hipponax fr. 115 (P. Argent. 3 fr. 1.16, ed. Reitzenstein)

“Once he is struck by the wave,
And [comes] naked to a kind reception at Salmydessos
Where the top-knotted Thracians
Grab him—where he will suffer many evils
Eating the bread of slavery
He will shiver struck by the cold. When he emerges from the foam
May he puke up much seaweed
And let his teeth chatter, as he lies on his face
Like a dog in his weakness
At the farthest end of the sea…
I want him to see all of these things
Because he wronged me and broke his oath,
Even though he was once my friend before.”

κύμ[ατι] πλα[ζόμ]ενος̣·
κἀν Σαλμυδ[ησσ]ῶ̣ι̣ γυμνὸν εὐφρονε̣.[
Θρήϊκες ἀκρό[κ]ομοι
λάβοιεν—ἔνθα πόλλ’ ἀναπλήσαι κακὰ
δούλιον ἄρτον ἔδων—
ῥίγει πεπηγότ’ αὐτόν· ἐκ δὲ τοῦ χνόου
φυκία πόλλ’ ἐπέ̣χοι,
κροτέοι δ’ ὀδόντας, ὡς [κ]ύ̣ων ἐπὶ στόμα
κείμενος ἀκρασίηι
ἄκρον παρὰ ῥηγμῖνα κυμα….δ̣ο̣υ̣·
ταῦτ’ ἐθέλοιμ’ ἂ̣ν ἰδεῖ̣ν,
ὅς μ’ ἠδίκησε, λ̣[ὰ]ξ δ’ ἐπ’ ὁρκίοις ἔβη,
τὸ πρὶν ἑταῖρος [ἐ]ών.

I have placed in bold just a few of the fragments that remind me of Odyssean language. Although the phrase δούλιον ἄρτον does not appear in Homer, it does recall for me the phrase “day of slavery” (δούλιον ἦμαρ).

Image result for ancient greek curse
A curse tablet featuring Hekate from the Museo Archeologico Civico di Bologna

 

More Aeneid Through Buffy GIFs: Aeneas’ Perplexing Shield

Vergil, Aeneid 8.729-731

“Such images he wondered at on Vulcan’s shield, a parent’s present,
and he delights in the picture, although ignorant of the affairs
as he lifts upon his shoulder, the fame and fate of his descendants.”

Talia per clipeum Volcani, dona parentis,
miratur rerumque ignarus imagine gaudet
attollens umero famamque et fata nepotum.

I thought that the wonder left in the world had been exhausted once Christian Lehmann had finished telling the story of Dido and Aeneas through Buffy GIFs. But, lo, what do I know? Zeus can make the day like night at midday, and the Master Christian Lehmann can strike again! Last night, he pounded out the images on Aeneas’ shield. (This is reproduced from twitter with his permission.)

 

Image result for buffy's special slayer scythe
Buffy has her own special weapon too

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

Vergil, Aeneid 1.748–749

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

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

A few days ago Christian Lehmann (@buffyantiqua and a teacher at Bard High School Early College, Cleveland) told the story of Aeneas and Dido from Vergil’s Aeneid through GIFs from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. This is not only genius which the world needs to witness for its own sake, but it also combines a few things I love: Homeric reception/myth and Buffy. (I tried to write about this once and partially failed.)

Image result for buffy season 6

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

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

Vergil, Aeneid 4. 165-172

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

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

Fragmentary Friday: Theognis on Friendship

Theognis, 93-100

“If someone praises you for as long as you see him
But lashes you with an evil tongue when you are apart,
That kind of man is not a very good friend at all.
He’s the kind who speaks smoothly with his tongue, but harbors different thoughts.

Let me have that kind of friend who knows his companion
And puts up with him when he’s mean or in a rage,
Like a brother. But you, friend, keep these things your heart
And you will remember me in future days.”

ἄν τις ἐπαινήσῃ σε τόσον χρόνον ὅσσον ὁρῴης,
νοσφισθεὶς δ᾿ ἄλλῃ γλῶσσαν ἱῇσι κακήν,
τοιοῦτός τοι ἑταῖρος ἀνὴρ φίλος οὔ τι μάλ᾿ἐσθλός.
ὅς κ᾿ εἴπῃ γλώσσῃ λεῖα, φρονῇ δ᾿ ἕτερα.
ἀλλ᾿ εἴη τοιοῦτος ἐμοὶ φίλος, ὃς τὸν ἑταῖρον
γινώσκων ὀργὴν καὶ βαρὺν ὄντα φέρει
ἀντὶ κασιγνήτου. σὺ δέ μοι, φίλε, ταῦτ᾿ ἐνὶ θυμῷ
φράζεο, καί ποτέ μου μνήσεαι ἐξοπίσω.

119-128

“One can survive the ruin from counterfeit silver and gold
Kurnos—and a wise person can easily discover it.
But if a dear friend’s mind is hidden in his chest
When he is false and he has a deceptive heart,
Well this the most counterfeit thing god has made for mortals
And it is the most painful thing of all to recognize.
For you cannot know the mind of a man or a woman
Before you investigate them, like an animal under a yoke—
And you cannot imagine what they are like at the right time
Since the outer image often misleads your judgment.”

Χρυσοῦ κιβδήλοιο καὶ ἀργύρου ἀνσχετὸς ἄτη,
Κύρνε, καὶ ἐξευρεῖν ῥάιδιον ἀνδρὶ σοφῶι.
εἰ δὲ φίλου νόος ἀνδρὸς ἐνὶ στήθεσσι λελήθηι
ψυδρὸς ἐών, δόλιον δ’ ἐν φρεσὶν ἦτορ ἔχηι,
τοῦτο θεὸς κιβδηλότατον ποίησε βροτοῖσιν,
καὶ γνῶναι πάντων τοῦτ’ ἀνιηρότατον.
οὐδὲ γὰρ εἰδείης ἀνδρὸς νόον οὐδὲ γυναικός,
πρὶν πειρηθείης ὥσπερ ὑποζυγίου,
οὐδέ κεν εἰκάσσαις ὥσπερ ποτ’ ἐς ὥριον ἐλθών·
πολλάκι γὰρ γνώμην ἐξαπατῶσ’ ἰδέαι.

 

Friendship
Royal 19 C II  f. 59v