Are Peace and Wealth Enough? Ending the Odyssey #OdysseyRTW

Odyssey 24.192-202

“Blessed child of Laertes, much-devising Odysseus,
You really secured a wife with magnificent virtue!
That’s how good the brains are for blameless Penelope,
Ikarios’ daughter, how well she remembered Odysseus,
Her wedded husband. The fame of her virtue will never perish,
And the gods will craft a pleasing song
Of mindful Penelope for mortals over the earth.
This is not the way for Tyndareos’ daughter.
She devised wicked deeds and since she killed
Her wedded husband, a hateful song
Will be hers among men, she will attract harsh rumor
To the race of women, even for those who are good.”

“ὄλβιε Λαέρταο πάϊ, πολυμήχαν’ ᾿Οδυσσεῦ,
ἦ ἄρα σὺν μεγάλῃ ἀρετῇ ἐκτήσω ἄκοιτιν·
ὡς ἀγαθαὶ φρένες ἦσαν ἀμύμονι Πηνελοπείῃ,
κούρῃ ᾿Ικαρίου, ὡς εὖ μέμνητ’ ᾿Οδυσῆος,
ἀνδρὸς κουριδίου. τῶ οἱ κλέος οὔ ποτ’ ὀλεῖται
ἧς ἀρετῆς, τεύξουσι δ’ ἐπιχθονίοισιν ἀοιδὴν
ἀθάνατοι χαρίεσσαν ἐχέφρονι Πηνελοπείῃ,
οὐχ ὡς Τυνδαρέου κούρη κακὰ μήσατο ἔργα,
κουρίδιον κτείνασα πόσιν, στυγερὴ δέ τ’ ἀοιδὴ
ἔσσετ’ ἐπ’ ἀνθρώπους, χαλεπὴν δέ τε φῆμιν ὀπάσσει
θηλυτέρῃσι γυναιξί, καὶ ἥ κ’ εὐεργὸς ἔῃσιν.”

Odyssey 19.203

“He was like someone speaking many lies similar to the truth.”

ἴσκε ψεύδεα πολλὰ λέγων ἐτύμοισιν ὁμοῖα·

Odyssey, 23. 293-296

τοῖσιν δ’ Εὐρυνόμη θαλαμηπόλος ἡγεμόνευεν
ἐρχομένοισι λέχοσδε δάος μετὰ χερσὶν ἔχουσα·
ἐς θάλαμον δ’ ἀγαγοῦσα πάλιν κίεν. οἱ μὲν ἔπειτα
ἀσπάσιοι λέκτροιο παλαιοῦ θεσμὸν ἵκοντο·

“Then Eurynomê the bed-maid led them
As they went to bed, holding a torch in her hands.
She left again once she led them into the bed chamber;
Then they happily entered the rite of the ancient bed.”

Comments from the Scholia:

ἀσπάσιοι λέκτροιο] “They happily and enthusiastically remembered the ancient practice of intercourse”

Aristophanes and Aristarchus believed that this was the end (peras) of the Odyssey

Aristophanes and Aristarchus claim this as the end (telos) of the Odyssey

ἀσπάσιοι λέκτροιο] ἀσπαστῶς καὶ ἐπιθυμητικῶς ὑπεμνήσθησαν τοῦ πάλαι τῆς συνουσίας νόμου.

M.V. Vind. 133: ᾿Αριστοφάνης δὲ καὶ ᾿Αρίσταρχος πέρας τῆς ᾿Οδυσσείας τοῦτο ποιοῦνται.

H.M.Q.: τοῦτο τέλος τῆς ᾿Οδυσσείας φησὶν ᾿Αρίσταρχος καὶ ᾿Αριστοφάνης.

In the last hour of our Odyssey ‘Round the World, we bring you a dramatic reading of the epic’s final book. Since the Hellenistic period there have been debates about the 24th book of the Odyssey, since it contains more than a few perplexing moments: a second trip to the underworld, a cruel testing of the elderly Laertes, and the split assembly of the suitors’ families as they contemplate the deaths of their loved ones. To top it all off, the epic ends when Athena declares an eklesis, a forgetting of troubles and the reinstatement of Odysseus as king.

If this sudden dea ex machina is not enough, we know from Teiresias’ prophecy that Odysseus’ story is far from over: he is destined to travel again after the end of this poem. Far from being a good reason to dismiss this book, however, these are challenges to the audience to reconsider the tale they have received and any preconceptions about what it was meant to teach them.

Eustathius, Commentary on the Odyssey, II.308

“We should note that according to the very old accounts, Aristarchus and Aristophanes, the best of the ancient commentators, made this line (23.296) the end of the Odyssey, because they were suspicious of what remained to the end of the book. But these scholars are cutting off many critical things, which they claim to oppose, for example the immediately following rhetorical recapitulation of that has happened and then, in a way, a summary of the whole Odyssey and then, in the next book, the recognition scene between Odysseus and Laertes, and the many marvelous things that happen there.”

᾿Ιστέον δὲ ὅτι κατὰ τὴν τῶν παλαιῶν ἱστορίαν ᾿Αρίσταρχος καὶ᾿Αριστοφάνης, οἱ κορυφαῖοι τῶν τότε γραμματικῶν, εἰς τὸ, ὡς ἐῤῥέθη, ἀσπάσιοι λέκτροιο παλαιοῦ θεσμὸν ἵκοντο, περατοῦσι τὴν ᾿Οδύσσειαν, τὰ ἐφεξῆς ἕως τέλους τοῦ βιβλίου νοθεύοντες. οἱ δὲ τοιοῦτοι πολλὰ τῶν καιριωτάτων περικόπτουσιν, ὥς φασιν οἱ αὐτοῖς ἀντιπίπτοντες, οἷον τὴν εὐθὺς ἐφεξῆς τῶν φθασάντων ῥητορικὴνἀνακεφαλαίωσιν καὶ τὴν τῆς ὅλης ὡς εἰπεῖν ᾿Οδυσσείας ἐπιτομὴν, εἶτα καὶ τὸν ὕστερον ἀναγνωρισμὸν ᾿Οδυσσέως τὸν πρὸς τὸν Λαέρτην καὶ τὰ ἐκεῖ θαυμασίως πλαττόμενα καὶ ἄλλα οὐκ ὀλίγα.

Translations: Stanley Lombardo

Odyssey 23.230-242

“So she spoke, and his longing for mourning swelled within him—
He wept holding the wife fit to his heart, a woman who knew careful thoughts.

As when the land appears welcome to men as the swim
Whose well-made ship Poseidon has dashed apart on the sea,
As it is driven by the wind and a striking wave.
Then few men flee from the grey sea to the shore
As they swim and the bodies are covered with brine on their skin,
They happily climb on the shore, escaping evil.

So welcome a sight was her husband to her as she looked upon him
And she would not pull her white arms away from his neck.”

ὣς φάτο, τῷ δ’ ἔτι μᾶλλον ὑφ’ ἵμερον ὦρσε γόοιο·
κλαῖε δ’ ἔχων ἄλοχον θυμαρέα, κεδνὰ ἰδυῖαν.
ὡς δ’ ὅτ’ ἂν ἀσπάσιος γῆ νηχομένοισι φανήῃ,
ὧν τε Ποσειδάων εὐεργέα νῆ’ ἐνὶ πόντῳ
ῥαίσῃ, ἐπειγομένην ἀνέμῳ καὶ κύματι πηγῷ·
παῦροι δ’ ἐξέφυγον πολιῆς ἁλὸς ἤπειρόνδε
νηχόμενοι, πολλὴ δὲ περὶ χροῒ τέτροφεν ἅλμη,
ἀσπάσιοι δ’ ἐπέβαν γαίης, κακότητα φυγόντες·
ὣς ἄρα τῇ ἀσπαστὸς ἔην πόσις εἰσοροώσῃ,
δειρῆς δ’ οὔ πω πάμπαν ἀφίετο πήχεε λευκώ.

Performers

Carlos Bellato
Danai Epithymiadi
Tabatha Gayle
Bettina Joy de Guzman
Evelyn Miller
Rhys Rusbatch
Nektarios Theodorou
Sara Valentine 
Argyris Xafis
 
Special Guests: Leonard Muellner, Gregory Nagy, Sheila Murnaghan, Suzanne Lye
 

Homer, Odyssey 21.407-409

“Just as a man who knows both lyre and song
easily stretches a string on a new peg
as he attaches the twisted sheep-gut to both sides
just so, without haste, Odysseus strung the great bow”

ὡς ὅτ’ ἀνὴρ φόρμιγγος ἐπιστάμενος καὶ ἀοιδῆς
ῥηϊδίως ἐτάνυσσε νέῳ περὶ κόλλοπι χορδήν,
ἅψας ἀμφοτέρωθεν ἐϋστρεφὲς ἔντερον οἰός,
ὣς ἄρ’ ἄτερ σπουδῆς τάνυσεν μέγα τόξον ᾿Οδυσσεύς.

Cast And Crew

Artistic Director: Paul O’Mahony (Out of Chaos Theatre)
Director of Outreach: Amy Pistone (Gonzaga University)
Dramaturg: Emma Pauly
Executive Producer: Lanah Koelle (Center for Hellenic Studies); help from Madeleine Cahn

Producers: Keith DeStone (Center for Hellenic Studies), Hélène Emeriaud, Janet Ozsolak, and Sarah Scott (Kosmos Society)
Poster Artist: John Koelle
Poster Designer: Allie Marbry (Center for Hellenic Studies)

Odyssey 24.478–486

“Do whatever you want—but I will say what is fitting.

Since Odysseus has paid back the suitors,

let him be king again for good and take sacred others.

Let us force a forgetting of that slaughter of children and relatives.

Let all the people be friendly towards each other

as before. Let there be abundant wealth and peace.”

ἔρξον ὅπως ἐθέλεις: ἐρέω τέ τοι ὡς ἐπέοικεν.
ἐπεὶ δὴ μνηστῆρας ἐτίσατο δῖος Ὀδυσσεύς,
ὅρκια πιστὰ ταμόντες ὁ μὲν βασιλευέτω αἰεί,
ἡμεῖς δ᾽ αὖ παίδων τε κασιγνήτων τε φόνοιο
ἔκλησιν θέωμεν: τοὶ δ᾽ ἀλλήλους φιλεόντων
ὡς τὸ πάρος, πλοῦτος δὲ καὶ εἰρήνη ἅλις ἔστω.

December 16 Cyclops, Euripides
with Carl Shaw (New College of Florida)

December 23 Series Finale: Frogs, Aristophanes

Odyssey 11.126–129 (Teiresias’ prophecy)

I will speak to you an obvious sign [sêma] and it will not escape you.
Whenever some other traveler meets you and asks
Why you have a winnowing fan on your fine shoulder,
At that very point drive the well-shaped oar into the ground

σῆμα δέ τοι ἐρέω μάλ’ ἀριφραδές, οὐδέ σε λήσει·
ὁππότε κεν δή τοι ξυμβλήμενος ἄλλος ὁδίτης
φήῃ ἀθηρηλοιγὸν ἔχειν ἀνὰ φαιδίμῳ ὤμῳ,
καὶ τότε δὴ γαίῃ πήξας εὐῆρες ἐρετμόν

Römische Statuette des Odysseus aus der zweiten Hälfte des 2. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Odysseus_(Rom).jpg

“Lies That Sound Like the Truth”: 24 Hours of the Odyssey #OdysseyRTW

Aristotle, Rhetoric

“Alcidamas called the Odyssey a ‘fine mirror of human life’ ”

καλὸν ἀνθρωπίνου βίου κάτοπτρον

Odyssey 19.203

“He was like someone speaking many lies similar to the truth.”

ἴσκε ψεύδεα πολλὰ λέγων ἐτύμοισιν ὁμοῖα·

Homer, Odyssey 15.398–401

“Let us take pleasure in calling to mind each other’s terrible pains
while we drink and dine in my home.
For someone may even find pleasure among pains
when they have suffered many and gone through much.”

νῶϊ δ’ ἐνὶ κλισίῃ πίνοντέ τε δαινυμένω τε
κήδεσιν ἀλλήλων τερπώμεθα λευγαλέοισι
μνωομένω· μετὰ γάρ τε καὶ ἄλγεσι τέρπεται ἀνήρ,
ὅς τις δὴ μάλα πολλὰ πάθῃ καὶ πόλλ’ ἐπαληθῇ

Now that we have finished all of the extant Greek tragedies, we are turning to a truly epic day: 24 hours of performances of the Odyssey around the world. We will start at 4 pm EST (9 PM UK) today (December 8th) with book 1 and each book will be performed by a different group around the world, culminating  in a dramatic reading of book 24 at our usual time, 3 pm EST on Wednesday. December 9th. Check out the list of participants.

We know less about the performance of Homeric epic than we’d like to. The evidence of singers in the poems and references in works like Plato’s Ion imply that episodes of each epic were performed independently. Similar evidence supports the idea of competitive, monumental performances of the Iliad and the Odyssey at festivals like the Panathenaia. While good evidence supports a performance of the poems in a festival contest with rhapsodes working in sequence, many have also argued for a three-part performance of the Iliad, with breaks happening at thematically significant moments.

Whatever the context and length, the most salient thing of Homeric epic in performance was the presence of the audience, of people enjoying these narratives together. We can’t gather for a symposium or crowd into an amphitheater for a festival, but even remotely we can share the same words at the same time. So, for one day we invite you to escape your isolation into a worldwide community, taking the Odyssey on a global tour.

Homer, Odyssey 6.205-210

“We live at a great distance from others amid the much-sounding sea,
Far away, and no other mortals visit us.
But this man who has wandered here, who is so ill-starred,
It is right to care for him now. For all are from Zeus,
The strangers and the beggars, and our gift is small but dear to them.
Come, handmaidens, give the stranger food and drink;
Bathe him in the river, where there is shelter from the wind.”

οἰκέομεν δ’ ἀπάνευθε πολυκλύστῳ ἐνὶ πόντῳ,
ἔσχατοι, οὐδέ τις ἄμμι βροτῶν ἐπιμίσγεται ἄλλος.
ἀλλ’ ὅδε τις δύστηνος ἀλώμενος ἐνθάδ’ ἱκάνει,
τὸν νῦν χρὴ κομέειν· πρὸς γὰρ Διός εἰσιν ἅπαντες
ξεῖνοί τε πτωχοί τε, δόσις δ’ ὀλίγη τε φίλη τε.
ἀλλὰ δότ’, ἀμφίπολοι, ξείνῳ βρῶσίν τε πόσιν τε,
λούσατέ τ’ ἐν ποταμῷ, ὅθ’ ἐπὶ σκέπας ἔστ’ ἀνέμοιο.”

Translations: Will vary based on group

Odyssey 23.230-242

“So she spoke, and his longing for mourning swelled within him—
He wept holding the wife fit to his heart, a woman who knew careful thoughts.

As when the land appears welcome to men as the swim
Whose well-made ship Poseidon has dashed apart on the sea,
As it is driven by the wind and a striking wave.
Then few men flee from the grey sea to the shore
As they swim and the bodies are covered with brine on their skin,
They happily climb on the shore, escaping evil.

So welcome a sight was her husband to her as she looked upon him
And she would not pull her white arms away from his neck.”

ὣς φάτο, τῷ δ’ ἔτι μᾶλλον ὑφ’ ἵμερον ὦρσε γόοιο·
κλαῖε δ’ ἔχων ἄλοχον θυμαρέα, κεδνὰ ἰδυῖαν.
ὡς δ’ ὅτ’ ἂν ἀσπάσιος γῆ νηχομένοισι φανήῃ,
ὧν τε Ποσειδάων εὐεργέα νῆ’ ἐνὶ πόντῳ
ῥαίσῃ, ἐπειγομένην ἀνέμῳ καὶ κύματι πηγῷ·
παῦροι δ’ ἐξέφυγον πολιῆς ἁλὸς ἤπειρόνδε
νηχόμενοι, πολλὴ δὲ περὶ χροῒ τέτροφεν ἅλμη,
ἀσπάσιοι δ’ ἐπέβαν γαίης, κακότητα φυγόντες·
ὣς ἄρα τῇ ἀσπαστὸς ἔην πόσις εἰσοροώσῃ,
δειρῆς δ’ οὔ πω πάμπαν ἀφίετο πήχεε λευκώ.

Performers

 

Homer, Odyssey 21.407-409

“Just as a man who knows both lyre and song
easily stretches a string on a new peg
as he attaches the twisted sheep-gut to both sides
just so, without haste, Odysseus strung the great bow”

ὡς ὅτ’ ἀνὴρ φόρμιγγος ἐπιστάμενος καὶ ἀοιδῆς
ῥηϊδίως ἐτάνυσσε νέῳ περὶ κόλλοπι χορδήν,
ἅψας ἀμφοτέρωθεν ἐϋστρεφὲς ἔντερον οἰός,
ὣς ἄρ’ ἄτερ σπουδῆς τάνυσεν μέγα τόξον ᾿Οδυσσεύς.

Cast And Crew

Artistic Director: Paul O’Mahony (Out of Chaos Theatre)
Director of Outreach: Amy Pistone (Gonzaga University)
Dramaturg: Emma Pauly
Executive Producer: Lanah Koelle (Center for Hellenic Studies); help from Madeleine Cahn

Producers: Keith DeStone (Center for Hellenic Studies), Hélène Emeriaud, Janet Ozsolak, and Sarah Scott (Kosmos Society)
Poster Artist: John Koelle
Poster Designer: Allie Marbry (Center for Hellenic Studies)

Odyssey 5.488-493

“Just as when someone hides a firebrand in black ash
On the farthest edge of the wilderness where there are no neighbors
And saves the seed of fire when there is no other way to kindle it,
Just so Odysseus covered himself in leaves. Then Athena
Poured sleep over his eyes so he might immediately rest
From his exhausting toil, once she closed his dear lashes.”

ὡς δ’ ὅτε τις δαλὸν σποδιῇ ἐνέκρυψε μελαίνῃ
ἀγροῦ ἐπ’ ἐσχατιῆς, ᾧ μὴ πάρα γείτονες ἄλλοι,
σπέρμα πυρὸς σῴζων, ἵνα μή ποθεν ἄλλοθεν αὕοι,
ὣς ᾿Οδυσεὺς φύλλοισι καλύψατο. τῷ δ’ ἄρ’ ᾿Αθήνη
ὕπνον ἐπ’ ὄμμασι χεῦ’, ἵνα μιν παύσειε τάχιστα
δυσπονέος καμάτοιο, φίλα βλέφαρ’ ἀμφικαλύψας.

Upcoming Episodes (Go to CHS Project Page for more information)

December 9 Performing Epic: The Odyssey
with Suzanne Lye (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill), Leonard Muellner (Brandeis University), Sheila Murnaghan (University of Pennsylvania), and Greg Nagy (Harvard University); translation by Stanley Lombardo, courtesy of Hackett Publishing Company

December 16 Cyclops, Euripides
with Carl Shaw (New College of Florida)

December 23 Series Finale: Frogs, Aristophanes

Odyssey 11.126–129 (Teiresias’ prophecy)

I will speak to you an obvious sign [sêma] and it will not escape you.
Whenever some other traveler meets you and asks
Why you have a winnowing fan on your fine shoulder,
At that very point drive the well-shaped oar into the ground

σῆμα δέ τοι ἐρέω μάλ’ ἀριφραδές, οὐδέ σε λήσει·
ὁππότε κεν δή τοι ξυμβλήμενος ἄλλος ὁδίτης
φήῃ ἀθηρηλοιγὸν ἔχειν ἀνὰ φαιδίμῳ ὤμῳ,
καὶ τότε δὴ γαίῃ πήξας εὐῆρες ἐρετμόν

Römische Statuette des Odysseus aus der zweiten Hälfte des 2. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Odysseus_(Rom).jpg

Wealth, A Guide for Wickedness

Euripides, Elektra 369-376 (Full text on the Scaife Viewer)

“I have known a man of a noble father who turns out
To be nothing while powerful men can rise from the low.
I have seen emptiness in a rich man’s thought
And great judgement in a poor person’s frame.

How can anyone take these things on and judge them?
Wealth? Whoever uses that uses wickedness as a guide.
Or those who have nothing? Poverty has a sickness:
it teaches a person to be cruel because of need.”

ἤδη γὰρ εἶδον ἄνδρα γενναίου πατρὸς
τὸ μηδὲν ὄντα, χρηστά τ᾿ ἐκ κακῶν τέκνα,
λιμόν τ᾿ ἐν ἀνδρὸς πλουσίου φρονήματι,
γνώμην δὲ μεγάλην ἐν πένητι σώματι.
πῶς οὖν τις αὐτὰ διαλαβὼν ὀρθῶς κρινεῖ;
πλούτῳ; πονηρῷ τἄρα χρήσεται κριτῇ.
ἢ τοῖς ἔχουσι μηδέν; ἀλλ᾿ ἔχει νόσον
πενία, διδάσκει δ᾿ ἄνδρα τῇ χρείᾳ κακόν.

938-945

“What deceived you the most, what you misunderstood,
Is that someone can be strong because of money.
Money can only stay with us for a brief time.
Character is strength, not money.

Character always stands at our sides and bears our troubles.
Wealth shacks up with fools unjustly and then disappears
Leaving their houses after it bloomed for a little while.”

ὃ δ᾿ ἠπάτα σε πλεῖστον οὐκ ἐγνωκότα,
ηὔχεις τις εἶναι τοῖσι χρήμασι σθένων·
τὰ δ᾿ οὐδὲν εἰ μὴ βραχὺν ὁμιλῆσαι χρόνον.
ἡ γὰρ φύσις βέβαιος, οὐ τὰ χρήματα.
ἡ μὲν γὰρ αἰεὶ παραμένουσ᾿ αἴρει κακά·
ὁ δ᾿ ὄλβος ἀδίκως καὶ μετὰ σκαιῶν ξυνὼν
ἐξέπτατ᾿ οἴκων, σμικρὸν ἀνθήσας χρόνον.

Orestes, Electra and Hermes at the tomb of Agamemnonlucanian red-figure pelikec. 380–370 BC, Louvre (K 544)

Check out scenes from this play and more in the CHS and Out of Chaos Theatre series Reading Greek Tragedy Online

Ignoring the Cause, Assailing the Symptoms

Euripides, Andromache 170-180 (Hermione speaking) (Full text on the Scaife Viewer)

“You are so far into ignorance, you pitiful woman,
That you dare to sleep with the man who killed
Your husband and to rear a child from a family that killed yours.
This is completely the barbarian way—
A father has sex with a daughter, a child with his mother,
A daughter with her brother and the dearest of relatives
Turn on each other in murder and no law restrains them!
Don’t bring those laws here. It is also not noble
For a man to have two women in his reins.
Everyone who desires to live apart from evil
Is happy to look to a single bed for sex.”

ἐς τοῦτο δ᾿ ἥκεις ἀμαθίας, δύστηνε σύ,
ἣ παιδὶ πατρὸς ὃς σὸν ὤλεσεν πόσιν
τολμᾷς ξυνεύδειν καὶ τέκν᾿ αὐθεντῶν πάρα
τίκτειν. τοιοῦτον πᾶν τὸ βάρβαρον γένος·
πατήρ τε θυγατρὶ παῖς τε μητρὶ μείγνυται
κόρη τ᾿ ἀδελφῷ, διὰ φόνου δ᾿ οἱ φίλτατοι
χωροῦσι, καὶ τῶνδ᾿ οὐδὲν ἐξείργει νόμος.
ἃ μὴ παρ᾿ ἡμᾶς ἔσφερ᾿· οὐδὲ γὰρ καλὸν
δυοῖν γυναικοῖν ἄνδρ᾿ ἕν᾿ ἡνίας ἔχειν,
ἀλλ᾿ ἐς μίαν βλέποντες εὐναίαν Κύπριν
στέργουσιν, ὅστις μὴ κακῶς οἰκεῖν θέλῃ.

387-393 (Andromache speaking)

“You do huge things for minor reasons—
Listen to me! Why are you hurting me? What’s the reason
What city did I betray? Which child of yours did I kill?
What home did I burn down? I was forced to bed
With my master. You’ll kill me and not him
When he is the cause of these things? You’ll ignore
The cause and just keep pounding on the symptom?”

ὦ μεγάλα πράσσων αἰτίας σμικρᾶς πέρι,
πιθοῦ· τί καίνεις μ᾿; ἀντὶ τοῦ; ποίαν πόλιν
προύδωκα; τίνα σῶν ἔκτανον παίδων ἐγώ;
ποῖον δ᾿ ἔπρησα δῶμ᾿; ἐκοιμήθην βίᾳ
σὺν δεσπόταισι· κᾆτ᾿ ἔμ᾿, οὐ κεῖνον κτενεῖς,
τὸν αἴτιον τῶνδ᾿, ἀλλὰ τὴν ἀρχὴν ἀφεὶς
πρὸς τὴν τελευτὴν ὑστέραν οὖσαν φέρῃ;

Go here for a reading of the play and a discussion of its themes (and here for the Reading Greek Tragedy Online Series):

More Good In Life than Evil

Euripides, Suppliants 196-204

“Indeed, I did debate other people once, arguing
This: Once someone said that humans have
A greater share of worse things than better.
I hold a belief in opposition to these,
That mortals have more good than evil.
If this were not the case, we would not live in the light.
I praise whoever of the gods balanced our lives
Away from the beasts and the wilds.
First, he put understanding within us, and then
Gave us a tongue as a marshal of words, to understand speeches.”

ἄλλοισι δὴ ’πόνησ’νησ᾿ ἁμιλληθεὶς λόγῳ
τοιῷδ᾿. ἔλεξε γάρ τις ὡς τὰ χείρονα
πλείω βροτοῖσίν ἐστι τῶν ἀμεινόνων.
ἐγὼ δὲ τούτοις ἀντίαν γνώμην ἔχω,
πλείω τὰ χρηστὰ τῶν κακῶν εἶναι βροτοῖς.
εἰ μὴ γὰρ ἦν τόδ᾿, οὐκ ἂν ἦμεν ἐν φάει.
αἰνῶ δ᾿ ὃς ἡμῖν βίοτον ἐκ πεφυρμένου
καὶ θηριώδους θεῶν διεσταθμήσατο,
πρῶτον μὲν ἐνθεὶς σύνεσιν, εἶτα δ᾿ ἄγγελον
γλῶσσαν λόγων δούς, ὥστε γιγνώσκειν ὄπα

506-510

“The wise should love their children first,
Then their parents, and then their country
Which they should improve not ruin.
A bold leader makes mistakes like a young sailor.
Wise is the one at peace at the right time: bravery, for me, is forethought.”

φιλεῖν μὲν οὖν χρὴ τοὺς σοφοὺς πρῶτον τέκνα,
ἔπειτα τοκέας πατρίδα θ᾿, ἣν αὔξειν χρεὼν
καὶ μὴ κατᾶξαι. σφαλερὸν ἡγεμὼν θρασὺς
νέος τε ναύτης· ἥσυχος καιρῷ σοφός.
καὶ τοῦτό μοι τἀνδρεῖον, ἡ προμηθία.

cient Greek gravestones now at the Kerameikos Archaeological Museum (Athens). Picture by Giovanni Dall’Orto, November 12 2009.

If you missed our performance of Euripides’ Suppliants, check it out (along with the rest of the soon to be 40 episodes)

Ignoring the Cause, Assailing the Symptoms

Euripides, Andromache 26-31

“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.

387-393

“You do huge things for minor reasons—
Listen to me! Why are you hurting me? What’s the reason
What city did I betray? Which child of yours did I kill?
What home did I burn down? I was forced to bed
With my master. You’ll kill me and not him
When he is the cause of these things? You’ll ignore
The cause and just keep pounding on the symptom?”

ὦ μεγάλα πράσσων αἰτίας σμικρᾶς πέρι,
πιθοῦ· τί καίνεις μ᾿; ἀντὶ τοῦ; ποίαν πόλιν
προύδωκα; τίνα σῶν ἔκτανον παίδων ἐγώ;
ποῖον δ᾿ ἔπρησα δῶμ᾿; ἐκοιμήθην βίᾳ
σὺν δεσπόταισι· κᾆτ᾿ ἔμ᾿, οὐ κεῖνον κτενεῖς,
τὸν αἴτιον τῶνδ᾿, ἀλλὰ τὴν ἀρχὴν ἀφεὶς
πρὸς τὴν τελευτὴν ὑστέραν οὖσαν φέρῃ;

Colin Morison (1732-1810) – Andromache Offering Sacrifice to Hector’s Shade

413-420

“Child, I who bore you go to Hades now
So 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.

Check out Tamieka Chavis’ fabulous reading as Andromache

 

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.

Reading Euripides’ “Herakles”

Euripides, Herakles 1256-1257

“I will convince you of this: my life’s not worth living now or even before.”

…ἀναπτύξω δέ σοι
ἀβίωτον ἡμῖν νῦν τε καὶ πάροιθεν ὄν.

Over the past few weeks we have presented readings of Euripides’ Helen and Sophocles’ Philoktetes (in partnership with  the Center for Hellenic Studies and the Kosmos Society and Out of Chaos Theatre). This week we turn to Euripides’ Herakles, a play which contemplates just how much one person should be alone and the cruel machinations of divine will. So, uplifting reading for everyone!

Euripides, Herakles 772-780

“The [gods] heed the unjust and
Hear the pious too.
Gold and good luck
Drive mortals out of their minds,
And pull unjust power together.
No one dares to glance back at time:
They pass by law to honor lawlessness
And break the dark chariot of wealth.”

τῶν ἀδίκων μέλουσι καὶ
τῶν ὁσίων ἐπάιειν.
ὁ χρυσὸς ἅ τ’ εὐτυχία
φρενῶν βροτοὺς ἐξάγεται
δύνασιν ἄδικον ἐφέλκων.
†χρόνου γὰρ οὔτις ἔτλα τὸ πάλιν εἰσορᾶν†·
νόμον παρέμενος ἀνομίαι χάριν διδοὺς
ἔθραυσεν ὄλβου κελαινὸν ἅρμα.

The text used will be the freely available translation on the Kosmos Society Website (Euripides Herakles, trans. By R. Potter with adaptations from M. Ebbot and C. Dué). The livestream will start at 3 PM.

Scenes to be performed

80-169 – Megara, Amphitryon, Chorus, Lykos
252-347 – Megara, Amphitryon, Chorus, Lykos
514-636 – Herakles, Megara, Amphitryon, Chorus
822-873 – Iris, Lyssa
1089-1254 – Herakles, Amphitryon, Chorus, Theseus
1394-1428 – Theseus, Herakles, Amphitryon, Chorus

Today’s Actors

Tim Delap – Tim has performed several times in leading roles at the National Theatre and in the West End. He recently played Rochester in the critically-acclaimed Jane Eyre
Evelyn Miller – just finished playing Bianca in The Taming of the Shrew at Shakespeare’s Globe. Other recent credits include leading roles at the National Theatre and RSC. Evvy is an associate director of Actors From The London Stage.
Richard Neale  – associate director of Actor From The London Stage with whom he has toured the US playing leading roles in The Tempest, King Lear and Othello. A director and teacher, Richard has almost 20 years’ experience of performing in the UK.
Paul O’Mahony – artistic director of Out of Chaos with whom he created the award winning Unmythable. He recently toured the US in their production of Macbeth and is currently working on two productions inspired by ancient culture. He has twice been a visiting artist at the CHS.

Euripides, Herakles 1425-1426

“Whoever wishes to have honor or strength instead of
Good friends reckons badly.”

ὅστις δὲ πλοῦτον ἢ σθένος μᾶλλον φίλων
ἀγαθῶν πεπᾶσθαι βούλεται κακῶς φρονεῖ.

Planned Future Plays

Euripides’ Bacchae (15th April) and  Iphigenia in Aulis (22nd April)

Earlier Readings

Euripides’ Helen, March 25th

Sophocles Philoktetes, April 1st

A Penis on the Screen: Playing a Bard During a Plague

Homer, Odyssey 11.333-334

“So he spoke and they were all completely silent:
they were in the grip of a spell in their shadowy rooms”

ὣς ἔφαθ’, οἱ δ’ ἄρα πάντες ἀκὴν ἐγένοντο σιωπῇ,
κηληθμῷ δ’ ἔσχοντο κατὰ μέγαρα σκιόεντα.

Aristophanes, Peace 870

“Everything else is complete—but we need a penis.”

καὶ τἄλλ᾿ ἁπαξάπαντα· τοῦ πέους δὲ δεῖ.

 

Halfway through my 306th performance of my one-man folk opera retelling of Homer’s Odyssey in song, something happened that had never happened in the previous 305 performances. 

An audience member drew a penis on the screen.

That’s right. An audience member drew a penis on the screen and that penis was visible to the 75 other people who had logged in to Zoom to watch my very first ever virtual Odyssey performance.

Perhaps I should backtrack a bit and contextualize this particular penis because there is a clear hazard in leaving an uncontextualized penis out there.

A (not so) quick summary of how we got here: I graduated from University of Wisconsin-Madison in the late 90’s with a Bachelor’s Degree in Classics. Not long after I graduated I composed a 35 minute continuous one-man musical folk opera retelling of Homer’s Odyssey consisting of 24 first-person songs inspired by the characters and events of the epic poem.  

After years of development and long periods of hiatus, I built the program up to where by the mid-2010’s I was performing it at high schools and universities across the country.  In 2016, I wrote about my experiences as a “modern bard” for Eidolon.

Since writing that article, my reputation and calendar have grown and earlier this year I celebrated my 300th performance (which occurred in Arlington, Texas, at UTA) and performances in my 40th (Hawaii) and 41st (Wyoming) states. 

Some places to read and hear about my Odyssey performances are here, here, here, and here, and you can find a studio recording of the entire piece on YouTube.

2020 was supposed to be a banner year for me and my Classics-related music. By working really hard on booking, I started the year within shouting distance of getting shows scheduled in the remaining 9 states I needed to complete my goal of performing in all 50 states.  A month-long Odyssey tour of Europe in October and November was confirmed with dates in the UK, Ireland, Sweden, The Netherlands, Italy, and Greece.

And there was also new Classics-related music to start sharing in addition to my Odyssey.

The first week of March, just before the full-on coronavirus crisis began manifesting, I premiered a new cycle of songs called “The Blues of Achilles”, a reframing of Homer’s Iliad, as part of a wonderful program called Conversations with Homer at San Francisco State University.  Samples of this performance can be viewed here, here, and here.

The rest of the spring was to include three weeks of shows in Ohio, New York, Vermont, New Jersey, Michigan, Maryland, and Illinois, some Odyssey shows, some Blues of Achilles shows, an artist-in-residence opportunity, and a chance to perform Blues of Achilles songs as part of a program that brings classics to the incarcerated population. 

But of course by the second week of March I could see none of these shows were going to happen.  Campuses began to shut down and move online, travel became unwise, and by the third week of March my entire spring schedule, some 20 gigs, was gone, and the rest of my year’s touring (including Europe) was in doubt. 

I should interject here that I feel extremely lucky that I do not rely entirely upon performing music for my living.  These cancellations have resulted in a sizable loss of income, but I also have a guitar teaching practice (not to mention a partner with a job) to fall back on, so while these losses hurt (many of which I do hope to reschedule and all of which were done with compassion and understanding by understandably freaked and stressed out teachers and administrators), the pain was more from a standpoint of planning and momentum than the dire financial situation that many performing musicians have suddenly found themselves in.

Then last week something interesting happened: I got a DM on Twitter from a high school Latin teacher in Pennsylvania who wondered if I might try performing my Odyssey online through Zoom for some of her students. The sudden shift to online learning had left teachers scrambling to find activities and material with which to engage students. This teacher had seen me perform at the PAJCL convention in 2017 and thought my program would make for a good online event.  

I initially recoiled: so much of what I love about my Odyssey performances is wrapped up in the magic of the interaction between me and an in-person audience.  How would this online thing work? How could I truly encounter my audience if they were hundreds of miles away watching not me but 1s and 0s that represent me, listening not to my actual voice but to my voice as compressed through their computer speakers or earbuds, taking it in not as a group in the same room but in separate isolated spaces? 

But as I gave it more thought, I saw reasons to give it a shot. 

Some were practical, as in “this is the way the world is working now so you might as well try to adapt if you want gigs” and “if this format does work what kind of additional markets and opportunities might it open up for you.”

Some were artistic and intellectual as in “can I make these songs work in a new medium?” and “what might it illuminate for me as a classicist/Homerist about oral performance?” 

So I decided to go forward with it.  My contact and I had a conference call with a very patient and generous tech support guru from her district and we settled on using Zoom as the best platform to both accommodate both my performance needs and also comply with some of the privacy issues associated with educational institutions. 

We gave Zoom a trial run with a couple of students and teachers and it seemed to work well. We could mute all the cameras and microphones of the attendees and I could share my screen which would contain a powerpoint of the lyrics of my songs so the audience could follow along as I sang (I do this in every in-person show as well). 

I was nervous as I sat in my office with my wife sitting just out of the webcam shot to advance the powerpoint. I could see the online audience grow to 75 and after an introduction from the teacher, I was off and singing.  

It began well enough. My voice felt good and the teacher was texting my wife some feedback on the sound which seemed to be coming through fine.  I was just starting to settle in when suddenly some lines started popping up on my screen. Scribbled lines as if someone was able to draw on his or her iPad. 

Clearly we hadn’t quite gotten the settings right and the audience members had the capability to write things on the shared screen for all to see.

It was a little distracting to me and (I assumed) the audience but I pushed on.  I was on song 6 of my 24 when the scribbling became written words. I stopped singing and announced that if the scribbling continued, I’d have to stop the performance.  

This seemed to work for another 6 songs but just as I finished singing the song in which Odysseus finally lands on Ithaka in book 13, there is was:

That hastily drawn penis on the screen right next to my lyrics.

Image result for ancient greek phallus

Some quick observations: First, though in the moment I was not particularly thrilled with the phantom penis, it should be noted that the Greeks and Romans loved penises and were happy to have them in their art and theatre. One need look no further than the #phallusthursday hashtag on Twitter for ample evidence of this.

Second, I feel fairly confident that this penis was drawn by an adolescent male and the reason I feel fairly confident in this conclusion is that I myself was once (and sometimes still am) an adolescent male in whose life and psyche penis-related jokes and pranks figured prominently. To wit (and I believe the statute of limitations on this crime has expired), my senior year of high school the entire bass and tenor sections of our choir conspired to, in our performance of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”, replace the word “truth” with the word “penis.” 

How disruptive could this be? you ask. Well, at one point in the arrangement the basses and tenors sing the phrase “truth is marching” over and over, something like 12 times in a row.  Perhaps now you can imagine our confused choir director searching around the room for why things didn’t sound quite right (sorry Mr. Hayes) as a group of 15 adolescent males melodically chanted the phrase “penis is marching” over and over.

So as I promised I would, I stopped the performance.  The teacher had determined the only way to fix the problem was by ending the Zoom session, creating a new one with the correct (non-screen writing) settings, and letting everyone log back in.

So that’s what we did: for the first time in 306 performances, I took an intermission.  Almost everyone came back online to the new session and I finished the performance without further incident, singing the remaining 12 songs that chronicle Odysseus’ reintegration into his home on Ithaka. 

Afterwards, I read and responded to audience questions from a Google docs as well as questions texted to me by the teacher. And then it was over.

Very suddenly, it was over.

In a regular performance, I’m used to a much more gradual ending.  Members of the audience often make their way to the stage to chat with me while I pack up my guitar. Faculty introduce themselves. There’s almost always a meal or a drink with a host or a group to get feedback and continue discussion.

But with my virtual performance, none of that.

Until I looked at my phone and saw social media messages and emails from some of the audience members.  Videos and pictures showing students glued to their computer screens watching me perform. Notes from teachers thanking me for giving them and their students something to break up the days stuck at home. 

Suddenly the penis didn’t matter so much and I saw a number of truths about this unique moment both in history and for me as a modern bard. 

First, everyone is trying really hard to do their best in a tough situation. Teachers are trying to teach, parents are trying to parent, students are trying to be students, all in a largely new environment. There are going to be bumps and difficult moments and it’s going to take some time to figure out what works and what doesn’t but in general folks are trying so hard and succeeding.

Second, this quick change to fully virtual learning is putting incredible forced stress on the people involved but from incredible forced stress sometimes comes innovation.  I would never have even attempted a virtual performance without these extenuating circumstances and outside pressures, but now because I have I am excited to develop it as a complement to what I do with in person performances and ultimately as a chance to reach more people with my music and the experience of hearing Odysseus’ story sung by a bard. I’m thinking in particular of places and schools that don’t have the budget to bring me in for an in-person performance but might be able to facilitate an online performance.  

Third, for all my preciousness about my in-person Odyssey performances and how they recreate the original oral environment, this virtual performance embodies all the same concepts I detailed in my Eidolon article with some unique and beautiful twists.  I’m always fascinated with how performance space impacts audience perception and therefore meaning, and in this case there were actually 75 different performance spaces, all acting upon the listeners and resulting in different experiences and meanings. The teacher who initially reached out to me said that while she enjoyed my performance at PAJCL (which was for an audience of 400), she liked the online performance even more because it felt like I was singing directly to her.  For all my misgivings about the technological distance, there was actually something more intimate about my online performance.

Fourth, my online performance is yet another example of how enduring, adaptable, and resilient myths and oral tradition are.  For as different as my performance looked from Phemios’ in book 1 or Demodokos’ in book 8, it was essentially the same as what bards have been doing for three millennia or more: singing stories to groups of people.  My guess is that if you offered a Homeric bard the chance to do a performance from the comfort of his home, he would have jumped at it before you finished telling him he might have to endure interruption by phantom penis drawing. 

As Joel added in the comments when he so graciously edited this piece: “Antinoos would totally have drawn a penis on his screen if he had a screen.”

In the end, perhaps it’s best to think that my virtual performance relates to my in-person performances in the way that the text we have today relates to a Homeric performance. They are related, connected at some point, but ultimately different ways to communicate and pass on stories.  It’s not a choice of either but rather an embrace of both, and this embrace ensures that the names and stories will continue to echo through history for new audiences in new times.

You might even say that “time is marching” but that is dangerously close to the phrase “truth is marching” and… well, you remember where that road leads.

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

 

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