Keep Your Hands Clean With this One Easy trick!

Fragments of Old Comedy, 1146

“You need to start washing and you need to do it to music”

καταλαβεῖν σε τὴν πλύσιν δεῖ, δεῖ δὲ μὴ ’κτὸς μουσικοῦ

Aelian, Varia Historia 8

“…Some people with unclean hands were sailing with them…”

συμπλεόντων τινῶν οὐ καθαρῶν τὰς χεῖρας #Aelian

Aeschylus, Libation-Bearers 378

“Their leaders’ unclean hands…”

τῶν δὲ κρατούντων χέρες οὐχ ὅσιαι

Euripides, Hippolytus 1458

“Would you leave me with unwashed hands?”

ἦ τὴν ἐμὴν ἄναγνον ἐκλιπὼν χέρα;

Hand washing instructions accompanied by the opening lines of the Iliad in Greek
Created by Ryan Baumann

 

Betrayed by Men; Saved By Dolphins–The Story of Arion

Herodotus 1.35

“Periander was ruling Korinth as a tyrant. For the Korinthians claim (and the Lesbians agree with them) that the most wonderful thing happened in his life: Arion of Methymna was carried to Tainaron on a dolphin. He was a kithara player second to none at that time and the first man we know of who composed, named and taught the dithyramb at Corinth.

They say that this Arion spent much time at Periander’s palace but desired to sail to Italy and Sicily. After he made a lot of money there, he wanted to return to Korinth again. He left from Tarentum and hired a ship of Korinthian men because he trusted no one more than Korinthians. But once on the sea, they conspired to throw Arion out to keep his money. After he learned this, he was begging, offering money to them, trying to bargain for his life. But he was not able to persuade him—the sailors commanded him either to do himself in, so that he might have a burial on ground, or to leap into the sea as soon as possible.

When Arion realized he was at the end, he asked, since it might seem right to them, that he appear in full dress standing on the benches singing. And he promised to kill himself after singing. This came as a delight to them if they could hear the best mortal singer at work. They retreated to the middle of the ship from the stern and he donned all his equipment and took up the kithara. While standing on the benches he sang the entire Orthian nome. When he was done with it, he threw himself into the sea in full costume.

They sailed back to Korinth but people claim a dolphin picked him up and took him to Tainaros. Once he got to land, he went to Koronth with all his stuff and when he got there told the whole story. Since Periander distrusted him, he held Arion under guard, separated from everyone. He waited for the sailors. When they were present, they were asked if they could say anything about Arion. When they were claiming that they left him safe somewhere in Italy and he was doing well in Tarentum, he appeared to them looking just like he did when he leaped out of the boat. The sailors were shocked and were not able to deny it since they had been completely refuted. The Korinthians and Lesbians say these things. And there is a bronze dedication of Arion in Tarentum, not very large: a man riding a dolphin.”

ἐτυράννευε δὲ ὁ Περίανδρος Κορίνθου· τῷ δὴ λέγουσι Κορίνθιοι (ὁμολογέουσι δέ σφι Λέσβιοι) ἐν τῷ βίῳ θῶμα μέγιστον παραστῆναι, Ἀρίονα τὸν Μηθυμναῖον ἐπὶ δελφῖνος ἐξενειχθέντα ἐπὶ Ταίναρον, ἐόντα κιθαρῳδὸν τῶν τότε ἐόντων οὐδενὸς δεύτερον, καὶ διθύραμβον πρῶτον ἀνθρώπων τῶν ἡμεῖς ἴδμεν ποιήσαντά τε καὶ ὀνομάσαντα καὶ διδάξαντα ἐν Κορίνθῳ. τοῦτον τὸν Ἀρίονα λέγουσι, τὸν πολλὸν τοῦ χρόνου διατρίβοντα παρὰ Περιάνδρῳ, ἐπιθυμῆσαι πλῶσαι ἐς Ἰταλίην τε καὶ Σικελίην, ἐργασάμενον δὲ χρήματα μεγάλα θελῆσαι ὀπίσω ἐς Κόρινθον ἀπικέσθαι. ὁρμᾶσθαι μέν νυν ἐκ Τάραντος, πιστεύοντα δὲ οὐδαμοῖσι μᾶλλον ἢ Κορινθίοισι μισθώσασθαι πλοῖον ἀνδρῶν Κορινθίων· τοὺς δὲ ἐν τῷ πελάγει ἐπιβουλεύειν τὸν Ἀρίονα ἐκβαλόντας ἔχειν τὰ χρήματα· τὸν δὲ συνέντα τοῦτο λίσσεσθαι, χρήματα μέν σφι προϊέντα, ψυχὴν δὲ παραιτεόμενον. οὐκ ὦν δὴ πείθειν αὐτὸν τούτοισι, ἀλλὰ κελεύειν τοὺς πορθμέας ἢ αὐτὸν διαχρᾶσθαί μιν, ὡς ἂν ταφῆς ἐν γῇ τύχῃ, ἢ ἐκπηδᾶν ἐς τὴν θάλασσαν τὴν ταχίστην. ἀπειληθέντα δὲ τὸν Ἀρίονα ἐς ἀπορίην παραιτήσασθαι, ἐπειδή σφι οὕτω δοκέοι, περιιδεῖν αὐτὸν ἐν τῇ σκευῇ πάσῃ στάντα ἐν τοῖσι ἑδωλίοισι ἀεῖσαι· ἀείσας δὲ ὑπεδέκετο ἑωυτὸν κατεργάσεσθαι. καὶ τοῖσι ἐσελθεῖν γὰρ ἡδονὴν εἰ μέλλοιεν ἀκούσεσθαι τοῦ ἀρίστου ἀνθρώπων ἀοιδοῦ, ἀναχωρῆσαι ἐκ τῆς πρύμνης ἐς μέσην νέα. τὸν δὲ ἐνδύντα τε πᾶσαν τὴν σκευὴν καὶ λαβόντα τὴν κιθάρην, στάντα ἐν τοῖσι ἑδωλίοισι διεξελθεῖν νόμον τὸν ὄρθιον, τελευτῶντος δὲ τοῦ νόμου ῥῖψαί μιν ἐς τὴν θάλασσαν ἑωυτὸν ὡς εἶχε σὺν τῇ σκευῇ πάσῃ. καὶ τοὺς μὲν ἀποπλέειν ἐς Κόρινθον, τὸν δὲ δελφῖνα λέγουσι ὑπολαβόντα ἐξενεῖκαι ἐπὶ Ταίναρον. ἀποβάντα δὲ αὐτὸν χωρέειν ἐς Κόρινθον σὺν τῇ σκευῇ καὶ ἀπικόμενον ἀπηγέεσθαι πᾶν τὸ γεγονός. Περίανδρον δὲ ὑπὸ ἀπιστίης Ἀρίονα μὲν ἐν φυλακῇ ἔχειν οὐδαμῇ μετιέντα, ἀνακῶς δὲ ἔχειν τῶν πορθμέων· ὡς δὲ ἄρα παρεῖναι αὐτούς, κληθέντας ἱστορέεσθαι εἴ τι λέγοιεν περὶ Ἀρίονος. φαμένων δὲ ἐκείνων ὡς εἴη τε σῶς περὶ Ἰταλίην καί μιν εὖ πρήσσοντα λίποιεν ἐν Τάραντι, ἐπιφανῆναί σφι τὸν Ἀρίονα ὥσπερ ἔχων ἐξεπήδησε· καὶ τοὺς ἐκπλαγέντας οὐκ ἔχειν ἔτι ἐλεγχομένους ἀρνέεσθαι. ταῦτα μέν νυν Κορίνθιοί τε καὶ Λέσβιοι λέγουσι, καὶ Ἀρίονος ἔστι ἀνάθημα χάλκεον οὐ μέγα ἐπὶ Ταινάρῳ, ἐπὶ δελφῖνος ἐπεὼν ἄνθρωπος.

 

3rd Century Mosaic from Tunisia, Getty

Maybe Music Can Stop the Plague?

Plutarch, On Music (Moralia 1146c-d)

“The degree to which the best governed states have dedicated themselves to fine music finds ample testimony, especially in the case of Terpander who brought an end to the civil strife that was ruining the Spartans.

There’s also Thaletas of Crete who people say listened to the Delphic oracle and went Sparta and returned people to health with music, saving Sparta from the Pandemic that was gripping the land, as Pratinas claims.

Homer too says that the Greeks stopped a plague with music, for he says that “sons of the Achaeans propitiated the god with song and dance all day long / singing the noble paean and praising the / far-shooter who took pleasure in hearing the song.”

I’ll leave those verses as the final words in my argument about music, good teacher, since you started this discussion by quoting them to us. In truth, music’s first and finest labor is to give thanks back to the gods, and after that comes a cleansing of the soul, sure tone, and sustained harmony.”

Ὅτι δὲ καὶ ταῖς εὐνομωτάταις τῶν πόλεων ἐπιμελὲς γεγένηται φροντίδα ποιεῖσθαι τῆς γενναίας μουσικῆς πολλὰ μὲν καὶ ἄλλα μαρτύρια παραθέσθαι ἐστίν, Τέρπανδρον δ᾿ ἄν τις παραλάβοι τὸν τὴν γενομένην ποτὲ παρὰ Λακεδαιμονίοις στάσιν καταλύσαντα, καὶ Θαλήταν6 τὸν Κρῆτα, ὅν φασι κατά τι πυθόχρηστον Λακεδαιμονίους παραγενόμενον διὰ μουσικῆς ἰάσασθαι ἀπαλλάξαι τε τοῦ κατασχόντος λοιμοῦ τὴν Σπάρτην, καθάπερ φησὶν Πρατίνας. ἀλλὰ γὰρ καὶ Ὅμηρος τὸν κατασχόντα λοιμὸν τοὺς Ἕλληνας παύσασθαι λέγει διὰ μουσικῆς· ἔφη γοῦν οἱ δὲ πανημέριοι μολπῇ θεὸν ἱλάσκοντο / καλὸν ἀείδοντες παιήονα, κοῦροι Ἀχαιῶν / μέλποντες ἑκάεργον· ὁ δὲ φρένα τέρπετ᾿ ἀκούων.

τούτους τοὺς στίχους, ἀγαθὲ διδάσκαλε, κολοφῶνα τῶν περὶ τῆς μουσικῆς λόγων πεποίημαι, ἐπεὶ φθάσας σὺ τὴν μουσικὴν δύναμιν διὰ τούτων προαπέφηνας ἡμῖν· τῷ γὰρ ὄντι τὸ πρῶτον αὐτῆς καὶ κάλλιστον ἔργον ἡ εἰς τοὺς θεοὺς εὐχάριστός ἐστιν ἀμοιβή, ἑπόμενον δὲ τούτῳ καὶ δεύτερον τὸ τῆς ψυχῆς καθάρσιον καὶ ἐμμελὲς καὶ ἐναρμόνιον σύστημα.”

The oldest picture of the Pied Piper copied from the glass window of the Market Church in Hameln/Hamelin Germany (c.1300-1633)

Music Heals the Suffering of the Soul

Apollonius Paradoxographus, Historiae Mirabiles 49

“These things are worth knowing. Theophrastos has explained them in is work On Enthusiasm. For he says that music heals when suffering afflicts the soul and the body such as desperation, phobias, and the madnesses of belief which are more serious. For instrumental flute music, he continues, heals both hip pain and epilepsy.

Similarly is the power attributed to Aristoxenos the musician when he came—for he was getting a prophecy from the prophet of his sister Pasiphilê—for resuscitated a person in Thebes who was bewitched by the sound of a trumpet. For when he heard it he yelled out so much that he behaved indecently. If someone at any point even in war should blow the trumpet, then he should suffer much worse in his madness. So, he exposed him bit by bit to the flute—and, as one might say, he used this as an introduction for him to endure the trumpet as well.

The flute heals even if some part of the body is in pain. When the body is subject to flute music, let the instrumental music persist for five days at least. The toil will be surprisingly less on the first day and the second. This application of the flute treatment is common even elsewhere, but especially so in Thebes up to this day.”

49 ῎Αξια δ’ ἐστὶν ἐπιστάσεως [τὰ εἰρημένα.] <ἃ> Θεόφραστος ἐν τῷ περὶ ἐνθουσιασμοῦ ἐξεῖπεν. φησὶ γὰρ ἐκεῖνος τὴν μουσικὴν πολλὰ τῶν ἐπὶ ψυχὴν καὶ τὸ σῶμα γιγνομένων παθῶν ἰατρεύειν, καθάπερ λιποθυμίαν, φόβους καὶ τὰἐπὶ μακρὸν γιγνομένας τῆς διανοίας ἐκστάσεις. ἰᾶται γάρ, φησίν, ἡ καταύλησις καὶ ἰσχιάδα καὶ ἐπιληψίαν·

καθάπερ πρὸς ᾿Αριστόξενον τὸν μουσικὸν ἐλθόντα—χρήσασθαι αὐτὸν† τοῦ μαντίου τοῦ τῆς Πασιφίλης δαμωτι ἀδελφῆς † —λέγεται [τὸν μουσικὸν] καταστῆναί τινα ἐξιστάμενον ἐν Θήβαις ὑπὸ τὴν τῆς σάλπιγγος φωνήν· ἐπὶ τοσοῦτον γὰρ ἐβόησεν ἀκούων, ὥστε ἀσχημονεῖν· εἰ δέ ποτε καὶ πολεμικὸν σαλπίσειέ τις, πολὺ χεῖρον πάσχειν μαινόμενον. τοῦτον οὖν κατὰ μικρὸν  τῷ αὐλῷ προσάγειν, καὶ ὡς ἄν τις εἴποι ἐκ προσαγωγῆς ἐποίησεν καὶ τὴν σάλπιγγος φωνὴν ὑπομένειν.

θεραπεύει δὲ ἡ καταύλησις καὶ ἐάν τι μέρος τοῦ σώματος ἐν ἀλγήματι ὑπάρχῃ· καταυλουμένου τοῦ σώματος καταύλησις γιγνέσθω ἡμέρας ε′ ὡς ἐλάχιστα, καὶ εὐθέως τῇ πρώτῃ ἡμέρᾳ ἐλάττων ὁ πόνος γενήσεται καὶ τῇ δευτέρᾳ. τὸ δὲ γιγνόμενον διὰ τῆς καταυλήσεως ἐπιχωριάζει καὶ ἀλλαχῇ, μάλιστα δὲ ἐνΘήβαις μέχρι τῶν νῦν χρόνων.

There are similar accounts from Pythagorean Traditions

Porphyry, On the Life of Pythagoras

30. “[Pythagoras] healed psychic and bodily sufferings with rhythm, songs, and incantations. He adapted these treatments to his companions, while he himself heard the harmony of everything because he could understand the unity of the spheres and the harmonies of the stars moving with them. It is not our nature to hear this in the least.”

30. κατεκήλει δὲ ῥυθμοῖς καὶ μέλεσι καὶ ἐπῳδαῖς τὰ ψυχικὰ πάθη καὶ τὰ σωματικά. καὶ τοῖς μὲν ἑταίροις ἡρμόζετο ταῦτα, αὐτὸς δὲ τῆς τοῦ παντὸς ἁρμονίας ἠκροᾶτο συνιεὶς τῆς καθολικῆς τῶν σφαιρῶν καὶ τῶν κατ’ αὐτὰς κινουμένων ἀστέρων ἁρμονίας, ἧς ἡμᾶς μὴ ἀκούειν διὰ σμικρότητα τῆς φύσεως.

32. “Diogenes says that Pythagoras encouraged all men to avoid ambition and lust for fame, because they especially inculcate envy, and also to stay away from large crowds. He used to convene gatherings at his house at dawn himself, accompanying his singing to the lyre and singing some ancient songs of Thales. And he also sang the songs of Hesiod and Homer, as many as appeared to calm his spirit. He would also dance some dances which he believed brought good mobility and health to the body. He used to take walks himself but not with a crowd, taking only two or three companions to shrines or groves, finding the most peaceful and beautiful places.”

32. Διογένης φησὶν ὡς ἅπασι μὲν παρηγγύα φιλοτιμίαν φεύγειν καὶ φιλοδοξίαν, ὥπερ μάλιστα φθόνον ἐργάζεσθαι, ἐκτρέπεσθαι δὲ τὰς μετὰ τῶν πολλῶν ὁμιλίας. τὰς γοῦν διατριβὰς καὶ αὐτὸς ἕωθεν μὲν ἐπὶ τῆς οἰκίας ἐποιεῖτο, ἁρμοζόμενος πρὸς λύραν τὴν ἑαυτοῦ φωνὴν καὶ ᾄδων παιᾶνας ἀρχαίους τινὰς τῶν Θάλητος. καὶ ἐπῇδε τῶν ῾Ομήρου καὶ ῾Ησιόδου ὅσα καθημεροῦν τὴν ψυχὴν ἐδόξαζε. καὶ ὀρχήσεις δέ τινας ὑπωρχεῖτο ὁπόσας εὐκινησίαν καὶ ὑγείαν τῷ σώματι παρασκευάζειν ᾤετο. τοὺς δὲ περιπάτους οὐδ’ αὐτὸς ἐπιφθόνως μετὰ πολλῶν ἐποιεῖτο, ἀλλὰ δεύτερος ἢ τρίτος ἐν ἱεροῖς ἢ ἄλσεσιν, ἐπιλεγόμενος τῶν χωρίων τὰ ἡσυχαίτατα καὶ περικαλλέστατα.

33. “He loved his friends overmuch and was the first to declare that friends possessions are common and that a friend is another self. When they were healthy, he always talked to them; when they were sick, he took care of their bodies. If they were mentally ill, he consoled them, as we said before, some with incantations and spells, others by music. He had songs and paeans for physical ailments: when he sang them, he relieved fatigue. He also could cause forgetfulness of grief, calming of anger, and redirection of desire.”

33.τοὺς δὲ φίλους ὑπερηγάπα, κοινὰ μὲν τὰ τῶν φίλων εἶναι πρῶτος ἀποφηνάμενος, τὸν δὲ φίλον ἄλλον ἑαυτόν. καὶ ὑγιαίνουσι μὲν αὐτοῖς ἀεὶ συνδιέτριβεν, κάμνοντας δὲ τὰ σώματα ἐθεράπευεν, καὶ τὰς ψυχὰς δὲ νοσοῦντας παρεμυθεῖτο, καθάπερ ἔφαμεν, τοὺς μὲν ἐπῳδαῖς καὶ μαγείαις τοὺς δὲ μουσικῇ. ἦν γὰρ αὐτῷ μέλη καὶ πρὸς νόσους σωμάτων παιώνια, ἃ ἐπᾴδων ἀνίστη τοὺς κάμνοντας. ἦν <δ’> ἃ καὶ λύπης λήθην εἰργάζετο καὶ ὀργὰς ἐπράυνε καὶ ἐπιθυμίας ἀτόπους ἐξῄρει.

 

Iamblichus, Life of Pythagoras 111–112

“Pythagoras believed that music produced great benefits for health, should someone apply it in the appropriate manner. For he was known to use this kind of cleansing and not carelessly. And he also called the healing from music that very thing, a purification. And he used a melody as follows during the spring season. He sat in the middle someone who could play the lyre and settled around him in a circle people who could sing. They would sing certain paeans as he played and through this they seemed to become happy, unified, and directed.

At another time they used music in the place of medicine, and there were certain songs composed against sufferings of the mind, especially despair and bitterness—songs which were created as the greatest aids. He also composed others against rage, desires, and every type of wandering of the soul. There was also another kind of performance he discovered for troubles: he also used dancing.

He used the lyre as an instrument since he considered flutes to induce arrogance as a dramatic sound which had no type of freeing resonance. He also used selected words from Homer and Hesiod for the correction of the soul.”

     ῾Υπελάμβανε δὲ καὶ τὴν μουσικὴν μεγάλα συμβάλλεσθαι πρὸς ὑγείαν, ἄν τις αὐτῇ χρῆται κατὰ τοὺς προσήκοντας τρόπους. εἰώθει γὰρ οὐ παρέργως τῇ τοιαύτῃ χρῆσθαι καθάρσει· τοῦτο γὰρ δὴ καὶ προσηγόρευε τὴν διὰ τῆς μουσικῆς ἰατρείαν. ἥπτετο δὲ περὶ τὴν ἐαρινὴν ὥραν τῆς  τοιαύτης μελῳδίας· ἐκάθιζε γὰρ ἐν μέσῳ τινὰ λύρας ἐφαπτόμενον, καὶ κύκλῳ ἐκαθέζοντο οἱ μελῳδεῖν δυνατοί, καὶ οὕτως ἐκείνου κρούοντος συνῇδον παιῶνάς τινας, δι’ ὧν εὐφραίνεσθαι καὶ ἐμμελεῖς καὶ ἔνρυθμοι γίνεσθαι ἐδόκουν. χρῆσθαι δ’ αὐτοὺς καὶ κατὰ τὸν ἄλλον χρόνον τῇ μουσικῇ ἐν ἰατρείας τάξει, καὶ εἶναί τινα μέλη πρὸς τὰ ψυχῆς πεποιημένα πάθη, πρός τε ἀθυμίας καὶ δηγμούς, ἃ δὴ βοηθητικώτατα ἐπινενόητο, καὶ πάλιν αὖ ἕτερα πρός τε τὰς ὀργὰς καὶ πρὸς τοὺς θυμοὺς καὶ πρὸς πᾶσαν παραλλαγὴν τῆς τοιαύτης ψυχῆς, εἶναι δὲ καὶ πρὸς τὰς ἐπιθυμίας ἄλλο γένος μελοποιίας ἐξευρημένον. χρῆσθαι δὲ καὶ ὀρχήσεσιν. ὀργάνῳ δὲ χρῆσθαι λύρᾳ· τοὺς γὰρ αὐλοὺς ὑπε-λάμβανεν ὑβριστικόν τε καὶ πανηγυρικὸν καὶ οὐδαμῶς ἐλευθέριον τὸν ἦχον ἔχειν. χρῆσθαι δὲ καὶ ῾Ομήρου καὶ ῾Ησιόδου λέξεσιν ἐξειλεγμέναις πρὸς ἐπανόρθωσιν ψυχῆς.

Image result for medieval manuscript music healing
Cat playing a bagpipe in a Book of Hours, Paris, c. 1460

 

 

Taming the Elephant’s Heart

Aelian, N. A. 12.44 (= Megasthenes fr. 37)

“In India, if an adult elephant is caught it is difficult to tame—it gets murderous from longing for freedom. If you bind it in chains too, it gets even more agitated and will not tolerate its master. But Indians try to pacify it with food and to soften it with a variety of pleasing items, making an effort to fill its stomach and delight its heart. But it remains angry with them and ignores them. What then do they devise and do? They encourage it with their native music and sing to a certain instrument they use. It is called a skindapsos. The instrument strikes the ears and enchants the animal—his anger softens and his spirit yields and bit by bit it pays attention to its food. At this point it is released from its chains and it waits, enthralled by the music, and it eats eagerly, like a guest in love with a banquet. The elephant will no longer leave because of his love of music.”

elephant_dish

Aelianus N. A. XII, 44: ᾿Εν ᾿Ινδοῖς ἂν ἁλῷ τέλειος ἐλέφας, ἡμερωθῆναι χαλεπός ἐστι, καὶ τὴν ἐλευθερίαν ποθῶν φονᾷ· ἐὰν δὲ αὐτὸν καὶ δεσμοῖς διαλάβῃς, ἔτι καὶ μᾶλλον ἐς τὸν θυμὸν ἐξάπτεται, καὶ δεσπότην οὐχ ὑπονέμει. ᾿Αλλ’ οἱ ᾿Ινδοὶ καὶ ταῖς τροφαῖς κολακεύουσιν αὐτὸν, καὶ ποικίλοις καὶ ἐφολκοῖς δελέασι πραΰνειν πειρῶνται, παρατιθέντες, ὡς πληροῦν τὴν γαστέρα καὶ θέλγειν τὸν θυμόν· ὁ δὲ ἄχθεται αὐτοῖς, καὶ ὑπερορᾷ· Τί οὖν ἐκεῖνοι κατασοφίζονται καὶ δρῶσι; Μοῦσαν αὐτοῖς προσάγουσιν ἐπιχώριον, καὶ κατᾴδουσιν αὐτοὺς ὀργάνῳ τινὶ καὶ τούτῳ συνήθει· καλεῖται δὲ σκινδαψὸς τὸ ὄργανον· ὁ δὲ ὑπέχει τὰ ὦτα καὶ θέλγεται, καὶ ἡ μὲν ὀργὴ πραΰνεται, ὁ δὲ θυμὸς ὑποστέλλεταί τε καὶ θόρνυται, κατὰ μικρὰ δὲ καὶ ἐς τὴν τροφὴν ὁρᾷ· εἶτα ἀφεῖται μὲν τῶν δεσμῶν, μένει δὲ τῇ μούσῃ δεδεμένος, καὶ δειπνεῖ προθύμως ἁβρὸς δαιτυμὼν καταδεδεμένος· πόθῳ γὰρ τοῦ μέλους οὐκ ἂν ἔτι ἀποσταίη.

Polysymphony: Interpreting and Translating Homer

A few weeks ago, I wrote about Orchards and Trees, using them as a metaphor to think about he development of Homeric poetry and its promulgation. Metaphors, of course, are not the things themselves! While one comparison can help us see a truth of a thing, several can help us get a better understanding of the things day-to-day language and thinking have trouble grasping.

The metaphor of the tree is at its core, a visual one. It may call to mind things and how we use them (ships and wood) or roots and branches, as in the stemmata of textual traditions. Homeric poems developed in a song culture, an aural landscape. Aural memory and oral performance inspire different qualia. And it is difficult–if not mistaken–to try to transfer an aural understanding to a visual one. As Epicurus observes, our senses do not translate from one domain to another. What does it mean to feel a smell?

Venetus A - Wikipedia

So, try this one now.  Imagine a supremely complex symphony: as you listen, melodies rise and fall over time, movements come and go and they return again, sometimes changed, sometimes syncopated, sometimes just an echo of what they once were. But some three or four note sequences are more insistent than othersthey press through the sound and are emphasized first by this instrument and then by those.

Early 16th-century manuscript in mensural notation, containing a Kyrie by J. Barbireau. I have always been jealous of the talented musicians who can ‘see’ songs

The problem is that there are many of these sequences and some repeat intensely only to be lost and never to return, while others burst back through the rising wall of music to take over when they are least expected.

The music is beautiful but terrifyingly hard to follow: when you pause, however briefly, you realize you’ve been listening to one line of song when there were three or four others going on at the same time.  It is hard to start again because you don’t want to lose track of the one you just heard. But you are already thinking about that brief gasp of song that escaped you.

The 16 thousand lines of the Iliad and 12 thousand lines of the Odyssey are like 24 and 20 hours of polyphonic music, played by musicians in separate rooms who can’t really hear each other but are somehow working in concert. The audience stands someplace apart. If we relax and let the composition fall over us, we can get some idea of the whole. But when we listen closely, we can get lost in the depth of each passing strain. 

This is how I explain why it is so hard to translate epic or even to interpret it well. Each line has melodies full of resonant meaning that echo differently based on who you are and what you’ve heard before. When someone tells you the Iliad is about this or the Odyssey is about that they are following one repeated series of notes for their movement and resolution, and necessarily leaving others aside.

The total density of the soundscape of the poems and the generations of meaning’s potential within them makes them impossible to understand or explain in ‘real time’. When I hear someone talking about what epic means, sometimes it is like hearing a different poem talked about altogether. I have been listening to other movements, contemplating different themes.

The individual lines of Homer break into three units—segments scholars from Milman Parry and Albert Lord to John Miles Foley and Egbert Bakker have seen as units of composition (intonation units) or what we might even think of as ‘measures’. The ‘formulae’ are repeated patterns in a bounded soundscape. They are not simple building blocks, they are merely the observable repetitions of a system with clear limits: words and rhythm are part of the form of expression, not something imposed upon it.

We make meaning differently based on our sensory inputs and our cultures of performance and reception. There’s a strange prejudice Walter Ong identifies (explored more by Foley too) that visual cultures and literary productions are in some way more sophisticated and elaborate in both creation and reception than others. This ‘primitive’ pose is an outcropping of colonialism, yes, but it is also a simple observer bias. Even literary Greeks like Aristotle saw ‘writers’ in Homer where he should have found song.

Oral-formulaic theory helps break down our own cultural prejudices by revealing what is instrumentally possible for composition in performance. This is on the side of production; theories like J. M. Foley’s “traditional referentialtiy” or Barbara Graziosi’s and Johannes Haubold’s “resonance”. Each in part also draws on reader response theory, centering how audiences hear and respond to poems. If we try, we can intellectually grasp how intricate songs emerge in performance and how audiences dynamically receive them.

From Song to Translations

All this leaves aside how the epics moved from living song to the fossils we piece together on the page. This runs through the problems of performance, text, and reperformance. I emphasize song and aurality here because Homeric epic developed and flourished outside the constraints of a page. When a translator or interpreter tries to make sense of what they see on the page, it is like a conductor looking at a score for a symphony written in a different system of notation with many sections unclear.

The role of some instruments is left undesignated; some sounds cannot be made anymore; and some sequences just don’t make sense to a modern ear. As Casey Dué notes, Greg Nagy proposes a movement from performance, to transcript, to script, to scripture in the stabilization of the narrative: a translator has to move backward through these stages, yet abandon none

Because of the polyphony of Greek epic it is charged with meaning: the lines of song exist through time and carry many meanings at once. A translator listens to the whole song as it echoes and picks the melodies that ring strongest now.

Each of us is to an extent a translator of Homer and those of us who read the Greek but teach in another language are constantly moving from one domain to another. If Homer is a langue each of us has our own Homeric parole. In my first semester teaching as a professor, I gave a full lecture on the mythic, even Iliadic “plan of Zeus” (Dios d’eteleieto boulê), going so far as to have the students recite the line in the Greek. At the end of the class, a kind and forgiving student came up to me and said, “that was really cool, but there’s no plan of Zeus in my Iliad.”

I had assigned Stanley Lombardo’s fine translation. He writes about “Zeus’ Will” (as many others do). I hadn’t checked the translation and sounded as if I were speaking of a poem none of the students had read.

The way we each create our own Homer is in part why I have such trouble reading any version other than the Greek. This is why for even the best translations the fairest reaction is to crib from Richard Bentley’s response to Pope’s Iliad:  “a pretty poem, Mr. Pope, but you must not call it Homer.” Here’s another quick example of this danger from Emily Wilson’s successful Odyssey translation.

Let’s start with my simple translations and the Greek. In the Odyssey’s proem, the narrator says of Odysseus:

“But he didn’t save his companions even though he wanted to.
They perished because of their own recklessness”
The fools! They ate up the cattle of Hyperion’s son Helios
And he deprived them of their homecoming day.”

ἀλλ’ οὐδ’ ὧς ἑτάρους ἐρρύσατο, ἱέμενός περ·
αὐτῶν γὰρ σφετέρῃσιν ἀτασθαλίῃσιν ὄλοντο,
νήπιοι, οἳ κατὰ βοῦς ῾Υπερίονος ᾿Ηελίοιο
ἤσθιον· αὐτὰρ ὁ τοῖσιν ἀφείλετο νόστιμον ἦμαρ.

The line σφετέρῃσιν ἀτασθαλίῃσιν (their own recklessness/stupidity) echoes through the poem as a theme that connects Odysseus’ companions, the suitors, and the hero too.

It comes again a mere 20 lines later as Zeus complains

“Friends, how mortals are always blaming the gods!
They say that evils come from us. But they themselves
Have pain beyond their fate because of their own recklessness.
So now Aigisthus too [suffered] beyond his fate…”

“ὢ πόποι, οἷον δή νυ θεοὺς βροτοὶ αἰτιόωνται.
ἐξ ἡμέων γάρ φασι κάκ’ ἔμμεναι· οἱ δὲ καὶ αὐτοὶ
σφῇσιν ἀτασθαλίῃσιν ὑπὲρ μόρον ἄλγε’ ἔχουσιν,
ὡς καὶ νῦν Αἴγισθος ὑπὲρ μόρον ᾿Ατρεΐδαο

This is one of those four-note sequences, a melody earlier scholars would have called a formula that follows, indexes and guides the interpretation of the poem. When I read/teach the Odyssey I point to these passages as inviting us to see the world and its actors in a particular frame

In Wilson’s translation, σφετέρῃσιν ἀτασθαλίῃσιν disappears from the proem altogether, yielding the following.

“…He failed to keep them safe; poor fools,
They ate the Sun God’s Cattle, and the god
Kept them from home…”

And soon after, σφετέρῃσιν ἀτασθαλίῃσιν is rendered simply as “By folly.”

“This is absurd,
That mortals blame the gods They say we cause
Their suffering, but they themselves increase it
By folly. So Aegisthus overstepped:”

These choices limit the repetition and play down the theme of responsibility and recklessness that is central to the poem (from my reading). “Folly’ also disambiguates the complexity of atasthalia, which evokes foolishness, rashness, arrogance, and blindness. Of course, this is not an oversight Wilson commits alone: Lombardo translates the first example as “recklessness” and the second as “witlessness”

To be clear, Wilson and Lombardo have to make some choices; no language conveys the same semantic ambiguities of another. Translators perform hermeneutic magic, moving things from one realm to another.  Some moments dazzle, others are imperfect illusions.

This takes us  back to the symphony played in separate rooms heard only in parts. When people ask me why Homer is different, I sputter about its bigness and depth and land on the layers and power. Like translation itself, analogy and metaphor only take us so far.

 

There are several works cited above, but for the atasthalia theme see my recent Many Minded Man or these better books:

Erwin Cook, The Odyssey in Athens. 1995. passim.

Egbert Bakker The Meaning of Meat. 2013. 96–119

A Menis on the Screen: Playing a Bard During a Plague Part II

Homer, Iliad 18.22

“So he spoke, and a dark cloud of grief covered Achilles.”

 ῝Ως φάτο, τὸν δ’ ἄχεος νεφέλη ἐκάλυψε μέλαινα·

I don’t know why I’m surprised that I find it hard to write about the Iliad. Or rather, why I find it so much harder to write about the Iliad than I do to write about the Odyssey.

Everything around the Iliad has always been harder and heavier for me as a classicist and a modern bard. And as a human being. 

From the first time I read it as an undergrad studying Classics at UW-Madison, I’ve felt that the Iliad punishes the reader in a way that the Odyssey (which to be sure, itself has plenty of punishment) doesn’t. 

So… I shouldn’t have been surprised when this piece, ostensibly a follow up to my post entitled “A Penis on the Screen: Playing a Bard During a Plague,” felt as heavy and unwieldy as Ajax’s towering shield. 

To be sure, the context in which I’m writing about performing my Homer-inspired musical works has changed. “A Penis on the Screen” was written at the beginning of the first full escalation of the pandemic, more than nine months and three hundred thousand US deaths ago.  

It was also written after only a single virtual performance of my one-man musical Odyssey, and before any virtual performances of my one-man musical Iliad, “The Blues of Achilles. Since that initial phallus-inscribed voyage I have completed fourteen virtual Odysseys and eleven virtual Blues of Achilles shows.

In a way these two blogs mirror how the creation of my two epic works unfolded. I wrote “Joe’s Odyssey” in the naive afterglow of my undergraduate studies when I didn’t know any better, when I was too young to understand how audacious it was to create a thirty-five minute non-narrative modern folk opera telling of the Odyssey, let alone to ask folks to sit still for it. That actually worked in my favor, as youthful ignorance sometimes does. I wrote a prompt in my songwriting book that read “create a one-man 24 song folk opera retelling of Homer’s Odyssey” and three months later I premiered it in my parents’ living room, with a full performance for a group of students less than two months after that.

Black-figure pottery - Wikipedia
Heracles and Geryon on an Attic black-figured amphora with a thick layer of transparent gloss, c. 540 BC, now in the Munich State Collection of Antiquities.

By contrast, sixteen years later when I decided to take on the Iliad, I spent almost a full year reading, researching, even interviewing veterans, before I wrote a single song. Once I composed the songs that comprise “The Blues of Achilles,” I played small samplings of them in modest workshop scenarios for another year before I finally debuted the full cycle in San Francisco in early March just as the pandemic took hold (a selection of songs from that performance can be viewed here on YouTube).

All of this is to say that these two pieces came from and were in two wildly different places in March as I started to consider how I would continue to perform them in a streaming environment: on the one hand, I had 300 plus Odyssey shows under my belt, on the other I had the Blues of Achilles with… one single show (and one in which I performed with an ensemble). 

In reading my initial impressions of performing virtually as detailed in the Penis on the Screen blog, I have to give myself a little credit: almost all of what I wrote there about the Zoom performance environment bore itself out as correct over the course of repeated performances of my Odyssey

(NB: I am so infrequently right about things I have to make a big deal of times when I am. For instance, as she will vouch for, I saw where the pandemic was going early on and told my wife to stock up on canned goods and alcohol for quarantine in early-February.  I also correctly predicted that Dwyane Wade would be an NBA Hall-of-Famer after watching the 2003 NCAA tournament. Take that, Calchas).

But while my routines around my virtual Odyssey shows were immediately informed by the hundreds of previous live shows and discussions, The Blues of Achilles was a blank slate. Would I perform all the songs without stopping? Would I work in spoken narrative passages as I did in the public debut in San Francisco? Would I talk about all the works that informed my songs ahead of the performance, or let the audience lead me to such considerations in a discussion? 

My Odyssey performance had years and years to develop organically along with my abilities, going from a living room to high school classrooms to university settings over the course of more than a decade. In contrast, The Blues of Achilles had immediate opportunities with very high level college audiences.

Luckily, I had the songs I wrote for the characters we know most intimately from Homer’s Iliad: a number of songs for Achilles of course, but also songs sung by Chryseis, Bryseis, Agamemnon, Hector, Hecuba, Priam, Helen, Andromache, Patroklus, and Thetis. Songs sung by the bard (me in this case) telling the story as well as other more impartial observers to the human suffering portrayed in the poem. 

I had these songs that I loved very deeply and I felt said something interesting, deep and most importantly true about the characters and story, something that modern audiences might have a harder time accessing when considering them in millenia old translated texts. 

And these songs I wrote about warriors and war were mostly love songs, a fact with which I was uncomfortable until, after I’d written them, I read Simone Weil’s influential 1940 essay The Iliad or The Poem of Force in which she writes “there is hardly any form of pure love known to humanity of which the Iliad does not treat…”  

(There should be a word for when you read a sentiment similar to one which you’ve arrived at entirely independently, especially when it is confirmed by a lauded source. Joel suggested “serendipity” which is true and good but doesn’t quite capture the validation and confidence boost such an occurrence can confer upon an artist or intellectual.)

If excavating love from the grief of the Iliad was good enough for Simone Weil, it was certainly good enough for me. I thought perhaps this relationship between love and grief was the heaviness that had created such apprehension in me about considering the Iliad

It was actually several months into these pandemic performances of The Blues of Achilles that I fully realized why adapting the Iliad scared me more and was so much harder for me than adapting the Odyssey

In April, the songwriter John Prine died of Covid complications. In a beautiful New York Times tribute to this amazing artist, Jason Isbell (a brilliant songwriter in his own right) wrote about the genius of Prine’s writing in general but in particular the song “Angel From Montgomery,” which opens with Prine singing “I am an old woman/named after my mother.” Isbell has this epiphany:  “songwriting allows you to be anybody you want to be, so long as you get the details right.” 

John Prine, One of America's Greatest Songwriters, Dead at 73 - Rolling Stone

When it came to the Iliad, my anxiety was (and is) rooted in the fear that I couldn’t get the details right. And I knew that for these characters deep inside the machine of war and their legacies, the details were a matter of life and death. This was why I spent a year reading any war literature I could get my hands on from All Quiet on the Western Front to Catch-22 to Slaughterhouse Five. I read Achilles in Vietnam and The Things They Carried and Letters Home from Vietnam and Dispatches.  I interviewed veterans who served in the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Operation Enduring Freedom. I interviewed a Gold Star father who lost his son in Operation Iraqi Freedom. I found myself by chance in a hazy whiskey-fueled late night conversation with a veteran military journalist who turned me on to the album Soldier’s Heart, a set of songs by Jacob George, a veteran of OEF who wrote and recorded this album of the truest war stories I’ve ever heard before he died by suicide in 2014. 

And with these details and a new vocabulary, I went back to the text and as is the case over and over with Homeric epic I found truths hovering in the spaces around the words, waiting for me. I thought about some of the other Iliad adaptations I read: Memorial by Alice Oswald, The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker, The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller, the play An Iliad by Denis O’Hare and Lisa Peterson. Casey Dué’s Achilles Unbound helped me recognize the multiplicity inherent in oral tradition and gave me even more confidence to find my own Achilles.

And out of me in less than 30 days in early 2019 came tumbling my 17 love songs. If Homer’s Iliad tells of the Anger of Achilles, my Blues of Achilles makes its focus the Grief that is prominent in the first syllable of Achilles’ name and the Love that is so inextricably connected to Grief (for more “serendipity,” see Emily Austin’s work in particular the forthcoming Grief and the Hero.)

Frank Zappa purportedly said “writing about music is like dancing about architecture,” and whether or not he actually did, the sentiment is correct. I write songs to capture something that other types of writing cannot convey so I won’t try to describe what my online Blues of Achilles shows are like in detail other than to say they are heavy, connected, and beautiful. I break the songs up to allow for audiences to ask questions and contribute to the meaning as we go rather than waiting until the end for them to participate and engage. Pandemic audiences seem particularly attuned to the less central characters to whom I try to give voice, to the characters who have been pulled into the grievous orbit of the principle tragic figures of the story. 

I’ll be doing these shows (both Odyssey and Blues of Achilles) online for at least the first half of 2021: while I’m hoping that later in the year conditions might allow for safe travel and gatherings, it might be even into 2022 before that’s possible. But I know that eventually I’ll be able to bring The Blues of Achilles (and my Odyssey) to audiences in-person.

Joe's Odyssey

Whereas my online Odyssey shows were informed by live in-person performances, my live in-person Blues of Achilles shows (when they happen) will be informed by my online performances and I’m interested to see how this inversion impacts the futures of both pieces.

I return to one of my first impressions of performing online which is that these stories are so durable and rich and full of possibility that they can thrive in any sort of performance environment. Maybe better put: making the change from in-person to virtual is no big deal when a story has survived the transition from oral performance to written text and the thousands of years since. 

Joe Goodkin is a modern bard who performs original music based on epic poetry and other subjects.  He can be seen and heard at http://www.joesodyssey.com http://www.thebluesofachilles.com or http://www.joegoodkin.com and emailed at joegoodkin@gmail.com about bookings or anything else.

On the Cyclops and the Rock

In celebration of Reading Greek Tragedy Online’s presentation of Euripides’ “Cyclops” A Rock Opera Adaptation from The Center for Hellenic Studies and Out of Chaos Theatre Tomorrow, Cyclops Music.

“I tell you how to cyclops rock,
But then you go and turn around and break my heart,
You waste my cyclops time,
And mess up my cyclops mind.” – They Might Be Giants

Because I am an old (and yet aging) nerd, when I hear the words “cyclops” and “rock”, the first thing I think of is this song which, much to my dismay, doesn’t really seem to have anything to do with Cyclopes or Odysseus.

Thankfully, we have the Heavy Metal Classicist, Dr. Jeremy Swist, to bring a little culture to our lonely island. In his blog “The Man of Many Riffs: The Odyssey in Heavy Metal Music” in on the case:

“A search of the Metal Archives database reveals a wide readership of the Odyssey among metal artists. 67 different bands mention either “Odysseus” or “Ulysses” in their lyrics, while the epic is the basis of a total of six concept albums. There is a wealth of material, which precludes an exhaustive analysis here, but I will attempt to distill from a representative sample the key takeaways from heavy metal’s Odyssean reception. “

I won’t copy his efforts here, but I will just say: there is a cyclops, there is plenty of rock, and there’s music and videos too. Check it out.

 

Also, tune in tomorrow at 3 PM EST for Reading Greek Tragedy Satire Online

A Shot in the Gut not the Foot!

Eustathius, Comm. ad Hom. Odyssey, 11.538 1696, 50

“The story is that Paris killed Achilles by shooting him with his bow. Sôstratos records that Alexandros was lusted after by Apollo and was his student in Archery. He was holding an ivory bow he got from Apollo when he shot Achilles in the stomach.”

᾽Αχιλλέα δὲ ὅτι ΙΙάρις ἀνεῖλε τοξεύσας καθωμίληται. Σώστρατος δὲ ἱστορεῖ ᾽Αλέξανδρον ᾽Απόλλωνος ἐρώμενον καὶ μαθητὴν τοξείας, ὑφ᾽ οὗ τόξον ἐλεφάντινον σχόντα τοξεῦσαι ᾽Αχιλλέα κατὰ γαστρός.

From the Decembrists’ “July July”

And I say your uncle was a crooked french Canadian
And he was gut-shot runnin’ gin
And how his guts were all suspended in his fingers
And how he held ’em
How he held ’em held, ’em in

Image result for paris shooting achilles vase

I talk a little bit about the symbolic value of foot wounds in “Diomedes’ Foot-wound and the Homeric Reception of Myth.”

Building a Lyre and Playing Sappho

My name is Mary McLoughlin, and I am the creator of the Playing Sappho project (and of many lyres). Playing Sappho is both the name of my project, and my website where I have a blog and YouTube page dedicated to helping people re-create the music of Sappho, through How-To guides on building lyres, and signing in Ancient Greek, as well as some overall background for Sappho and her context.

I designed this project in fulfillment of my Senior Independent Study at the College of Wooster. I deeply love Sappho’s work, but I did not feel like I could add anything significant to the current scholarly debate surrounding her. So, I thought it would be worthwhile to design a project of public history and accessibility. One of the problems with classics, and the study of Sappho, is that it happens almost exclusively at a level of academic discourse (which is what makes websites like Sententiae Antiquae so cool!).

I wanted to make Sappho’s music more accessible, in its entirety. Which meant also helping people build lyres on the cheap, and figuring out how to sing in ancient Greek. I have greatly enjoyed the opportunity to do this work, and post-graduation intend to keep the project going (and building better lyres). It’s important to understand my re-creation of Sappho’s performance is far from ‘accurate’. Today, not much is known about what her performance would have looked like (though I do agree with scholarship suggesting it was public and choral).

I do the best I can, but I am just one person, now in quarantine, as we all are. When I sing in ancient Greek I am trying to make it sound good to a modern ear, Sappho probably would have thought it sounded ridiculous. This project is a love letter to Sappho, and in a lot of ways I feel as though I’m a little kid putting on a grown woman’s appearance and mimicking her work. I am ‘playing’ at Sappho. I believe the beauty of her work is enough; and I hope to share it with others and encourage them to re-create it themselves.

All that being said, I made my fair share of mistakes. I had a ton of issues making different lyres. Bending wood/ other materials was a consistent problem for me in lyre building, as was my final design shape (my final lyre looks more like a lyra than a barbitos). I had issues sourcing materials, and had to compromise on my final lyre by using a turtle shell, rather than a tortoise shell. This lead to its own issues and challenges. I am by no means a skilled craftsman, and my inexperience lead to a lot of mistakes. I am very lucky I still have all my fingers after building several prototypes and my final lyre. I’m also not a great videographer, which is clear from my many videos of my project and process.

My biggest issue in this whole project is that I would often not refer back to my source material as often as I should have – which resulted in my final lyre being the wrong shape, and essentially looking like a different type of instrument (a good way to conceptualize this is that it’s as if I was trying to build a bass guitar, and I have an instrument that sounds like a bass guitar, but looks more like a really big guitar, rather than a bass one). I made the errors of someone unfamiliar with this sort of research and execution, which I am. Though I am fortune in that I did succeed, I have a final lyre which looks cool, and a functional website to showcase my platform.

I also want to make it clear that whatever success I did have is due to the tremendously skilled people that helped me throughout this entire process. I was really lucky to have amazing people help me (Such as Stefan Hagel, Michael Girbal, the creators of Lyreavlos, Sententiae Antiquae, my advisors, my parents, different technology experts and the wood shop technician at my college, to say nothing of all my friends and family who encouraged me). Overall, I was challenged by my absolute lack of knowledge and experience but I never let that hold me back. That doesn’t mean that I was successful or courageous, I just had a good idea which I felt could back up my lack of know-how. How well I executed that is up to debate, but I’m proud of the work I did. I truly hope other people can enjoy it.8D7E63DA-DC37-448C-BBD6-7DBEEEBB7949