“The building of temples relies on symmetry and architects need to most carefully understand the reason for this. It comes from proposition, which was called “analogy” in Greek. Proportion derives from fixed segments of the parts of the building and the whole—and the balance of symmetry is achieved through this. For no building can have an order in its design without symmetry and proportion, unless it has something like the precise design of a well-figured human body. For nature has so composed the human body that the face from the chin to the top of the brow and the roots of the hair is one tenth of the whole and the palm of the hand from the wrist to the end of the middle finger is the same.
The head from the chin to the top is one eighth and the top of the chest where it meets the neck to the hair’s roots is a sixth. From the middle of the chest to the crown is one quarter of the whole. The third part of the length of the face extends from the bottom of the chin to the base of the nostrils. The nose from the nostril base to the space between the brows is the same. From that line to hair forms the forehead, a third part. The foot comprises a sixth of the body’s height and the chest is a quarter. The other limbs all have appropriate measures too. And ancient painters earned great praise by observing all these measures.
In the same way, the limbs of temples should have proportions of their various parts responding appropriately to the general size of the whole construction. Consider that the navel is the natural center of the body. For, if a person should lie on the ground with hands and feet spread wide and a circle has the navel as the center, fingers and toes will touch the line of the circumference. In addition, a square can be traced within the figure in the same way. For, if we take the measure from the sole to the top of the head and compare to measure to the distance from one hand to another, the lengths will be found equal, just like foundations squared with a rule. For this reason, if nature designed the body so that the parts correspond in their dimension to the whole design, then ancient people seem to have decided with good reason that they should keep in their works the exact proportions of the separate components to the design of the whole. Therefore, they have handed down orders in all of their works, especially in temples to the gods, the kinds of accomplishments whose excellence and weakness persist for generations.”
1Aedium compositio constat ex symmetria, cuius rationem diligentissime architecti tenere debent. Ea autem paritur a proportione, quae graece analogia dicitur. Proportio est ratae partis membrorum in omni opere totiusque commodulatio, ex qua ratio efficitur symmetriarum. Namque non potest aedis ulla sine symmetria atque proportione rationem habere compositionis, nisi uti ad hominis bene figurati membrorum habuerit exactam rationem. 2Corpus enim hominis ita natura composuit, uti os capitis a mento ad frontem summam et radices imas capilli esset decimae partis, item manus palma ab articulo ad extremum medium digitum tantundem, caput a mento ad summum verticem octavae, cum cervicibus imis ab summo pectore ad imas radices capillorum sextae, <a medio pectore ad summum verticem quartae. Ipsius autem oris altitudinis tertia est pars ab imo mento ad imas nares, nasum ab imis naribus ad finem medium superciliorum tantundem, ab ea fine ad imas radices capilli frons efficitur item tertiae partis. Pes vero altitudinis corporis sextae, cubitum quartae, pectus item quartae. Reliqua quoque membra suas habent commensus proportiones, quibus etiam antiqui laudes sunt adsecuti.
Similiter vero sacrarum aedium membra ad universam totius magnitudinis summam ex partibus singulis convenientissimum debent habere commensus responsum. Item corporis centrum medium naturaliter est umbilicus. Namque si homo conlocatus fuerit supinus manibus et pedibus pansis circinique conlocatum centrum in umbilico eius, circumagendo rotundationem utrarumque manuum et pedum digiti linea tangentur. Non minus quemadmodum schema rotundationis in corpore efficitur, item quadrata designatio in eo invenietur. Nam si a pedibus imis ad summum caput mensum erit eaque mensura relata fuerit ad manus pansas, invenietur eadem latitudo uti altitudo, quemadmodum areae quae ad normam sunt quadratae. 4Ergo si ita natura conposuit corpus hominis, uti proportionibus membra ad summam figurationem eius respondeant, cum causa constituisse videntur antiqui, ut etiam in operum perfectionibus singulorum membrorum ad universam figurae speciem habeant commensus exactionem. Igitur cum in omnibus operibus ordines traderent, maxime in aedibus deorum, operum et laudes et culpae aeternae solent permanere.
Wednesday, November 2nd: A Reading from Nikos Kazantzakis’ verse play “Odysseus” at 3pm EDT. Online and archived forever
The stories surrounding Odysseus stretch far beyond the bounds of Homer’s Odyssey.. Ancient narratives like the lost Telegony imagine what happened to the hero outside the sacking of Troy and tragedies like Sophocles’ Philoctetes or Ajax fill in the stories not told in the Iliad and Odyssey.
At the beginning of the 20th century, Nikos Kazantzakis composed among other works The Odyssey: A Modern Sequel, a poem that stretches out to twice the length of the Homeric Odyssey. He also wrote a verse play that has not been widely available in English until the publication of Kostas Myrsiades’ translation This play functions as a kind of ‘prequel to Kazantzakis’ epic, but it also advances some of the themes surrounding the story of Odyssey outside of his homecoming.
Rene Thornton, Jr.
Director: Paul O’Mahony
Special Guest: Maria G. Xanthou
Artistic Director: Paul O’Mahony (Out of Chaos Theatre) Host and Faculty Consultant: Joel Christensen (Brandeis University) Executive Producer: Allie Marbry (Center for Hellenic Studies) Producers: Keith DeStone (Center for Hellenic Studies), Hélène Emeriaud, Janet Ozsolak, and Sarah Scott (Kosmos Society) Director of Outreach: Amy Pistone (Gonzaga University) Poster Designer: Allie Marbry (Center for Hellenic Studies) Poster Illustration Artist: John Koelle
This play could be seen as an alternate version of the Odyssey or a modern reception. It engages both with variations in ancient myth and a tradition of literary responses. We have a summary of some of those tales in Apollodorus.
Apollodorus, (Ep. 7.38-39)
“Some say that Penelope was corrupted by Antinoos and that Odysseus sent her back to her father Ikarios. When she came to Mantinea in Arcadia she had Pan with Hermes. Others allege that she was killed by Odysseus because of Amphinomos, who seduced her. There are also those who say that Odysseus was charged by the relatives of those he had killed who took Neoptolemos as judge, then king of the islands near Epirus. He handed down a judgment of exile and Odysseus went to Thoas the son of Andraimôn who married him to his daughter. When he died from old age, he left a son Leontophonos.
Rather than being just a record of later responses to Homer, this passage likely echoes traditions that were extant during the performance and composition of the Odyssey we have. Pausanias provides a record of cult traditions around Penelope in the Peloponnese:
Penelope’s Grave, Pausanias 8.12.5
“In addition to the roads discussed, there are two others to Orkhomenos. On one we find what is called the Ladan Stade where Ladas practiced running and near there a temple of Artemis. On the right side of the road, there is a high mound. People say that this is the burial place of Penelope, although in this they don’t agree with the story about her in the poem called the Thesprotis.
In that poem, Penelope has the child Ptoloporthês with Odysseus after he comes home from Troy. But the story of the Mantineans says that she was accused by Odysseus of bringing lovers into his home and then he kicked her out. They say she returned to Lakedaimon but later moved from Sparta to Mantineia where she met the end of her life.”
The question of Penelope’s fidelity was a popular motif, and may be part of the uncertainty of her depiction in the Odyssey. Lykophron in his Alexandra takes the view that Penelope was not faithful (768-773)
“For he will come, he will come to the harbor shelter of Reithron
And the cliffs of Nêritos. And he will see
His whole house upturned from its foundations
By wife-stealing adulterers. And that vixen
Will hollow out his home with shameless whoring,
Pouring out the wretch’s fortune feast by feast”.
Lykophron is positively chaste compared to the account provided in the Scholia:
“And Douris writes in his work on the lewdness of Agathokleos that Penelope had sex with all of the suitors and then gave birth to the goat-shaped Pan whom they took up to be one of the gods. He is talking nonsense about Pan, for Pan is the child of Hermes and a different Penelope. Another story is that Pan is the child of Zeus and Hubris.”
The Odyssey is clear that the hero’s story continues on. Odysseus hears Teiresias’ prophecy in book 11 and then communicates it:
Homer, Odyssey 23.248–253
“Wife, we have not yet come to the end of our struggles
But toil without measure is still in front of us,
Great and hard toil, all the things which I have to complete.
For the spirit of Teiresias prophesied this to me
On that day when I went to the home of Hades
To inquire about my companions’ homecoming and my own.”
For someone who has suffered so much in this epic with not knowing the outcome of events, with the paralysis that comes from grief that is unresolved, Penelope is compelled to ask Odysseus to tell her (256-262) ending with a gnomic plea that “it is not at all worse to know right away” (πεύσομαι, αὐτίκα δ’ ἐστὶ δαήμεναι οὔ τι χέρειον). Odysseus winds up his story and prepares to recite the prophecy, but he begins differently.
“But I will tell you and I will not hide it.
My heart will not take pleasure in it. For I take no joy
Since he ordered me to go again through many cities of men
Holding a well-shaped oar in my hands…”
After building up the suffering and forestalling any clarification, he seems almost to protest too much that he will not enjoy what the future brings. His curse, he claims, is that he is ordered to go through many cities of men. The absence of this line in the original narration alone would be telling, but it is even more marked because it recalls the third line of the epic’s proem: πολλῶν δ’ ἀνθρώπων ἴδεν ἄστεα καὶ νόον ἔγνω (“he knew the cities and the mind of many people”. This traveling through many cities for which Odysseus is famous enough to be marked at the beginning of the poem does not really happen in our epic.
Note as well, that Odysseus’ tale of the future undoes much of what the Homeric Odyssey accomplishes. His future toils are his alone: there is no room for the lives of his son, elderly father, or wife. So, even though Odysseus is home and reunited with his family, this new revelation is enough to imply, perhaps, that when this story is over, Odysseus returns to himself, the one before the Odyssey brought him home again.
This is, I think, the inspiration behind many later authors’ engagement with the Odyssey. Consider Cavafy’s startling poem on the topic.
C. P. Cavafy, Second Odyssey [Walter Kaiser, trans.]
A great second Odyssey,
Greater even than the first perhaps,
But alas, without Homer, without hexameters.
Small was his ancestral home,
Small was his ancestral city,
And the whole of his Ithaca was small.
The affection of Telemachus, the loyalty
Of Penelope, his father’s aging years,
His old friends, the love
Of his devoted subjects,
The happy repose of his home,
Penetrated like rays of joy
The heart of the seafarer.
And like rays they faded.
For the sea rose up with him.
He hated the air of the dry land.
At night, spectres of Hesperia
Came to trouble his sleep.
He was seized with nostalgia
For voyages, for the morning arrivals
At harbors you sail into,
With such happiness, for the first time.
The affection of Telemachus, the loyalty
Of Penelope, his father’s aging years,
His old friends, the love
Of his devoted subjects,
The peace and repose of his home
And so he left.
As the shores of Ithaca gradually
Faded away behind him
And he sailed swiftly westward
Toward Iberia and the Pillars of Hercules,
Far from every Achaean sea,
He felt he was alive once more,
Freed from the oppressive bonds
Of familiar, domestic things.
And his adventurous heart rejoiced
Coldly, devoid of love.
Another reception of Odysseus that echoes some of these themes is Tennyson’s “Ulysses”. The poem begins with frustration, the complaint that it is useless for a king to sit and rule men less than he with an aging wife, a crowd that cannot understand him (1–5). Tennyson’s Odysseus has retreated into an interior life, rejecting the dismal repetition of his life at home, and imaging him self as he once was. For this hero, a life at home is a life of wasted opportunities. The poem’s Ulysses confesses “I cannot rest from travel: I will drink / Life to the lees…” (6–7). This Ulysses understands his coming transformation: “…I am become a name” (11) and this name is made up of his travels, his suffering, and his joys (11–20). The narrator continues (20–30):
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnish’d, not to shine in use!
As tho’ to breathe were life! Life piled on life
Were all too little, and of one to me
Little remains: but every hour is saved
From that eternal silence, something more,
A bringer of new things; and vile it were
For some three suns to store and hoard myself,
And this gray spirit yearning in desire
To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.
Although in the next portion of the poem, Ulysses looks briefly back at the world he leaves to his son (31–42), this passage homes in on the Odyssey’s hero in a different light. Odysseus is looking forward to the boundary of death and although he concedes it is closer than ever before, he seems determined to inhabit it and atomize it, turning what remains of life to something like Zeno’s paradox, as if by filling every portion of it, he may always have another portion to fill. As will become clear from the prophecy itself, boundaries and limits are at the very core of his worry.
Tennyson’s Ulysses returns to the sea just as the Odyssey’s protagonist promises. He narrates a journey through the space of the sea that is also a straining against the bounds of time. This final battle, personal if epic still, culminates in Tennyson’s final, grasping boast: “To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”
Nikos Kazantzakis’ play–and epic–enter into this tradition and Myrsiades’ translation provides us with a new opportunity to think about how lives extend beyond the boundaries of a tale.
I am going to take a break and take a seat right here
And talk through how I will tell them things they believe, even the smarter ones.
“You seem wholly right and righteous to pray to the gods
But if you will only consider in what way
I risked so many things going where you ordered
How I took on sufferings away from this safety
And faced danger after danger to earn divine kleos,
Entering the enemy’s camp to learn clearly and well
To return unharmed to report back all the secrets
to the glorious Achaeans And the dear son of Atreus…”
“The rational part of the soul, which is established in the head, [Plato] made the charioteer of the whole, when he says this (Tim. 90a2-5):
Concerning the most lordly part of our soul, we should concern of its form like this: God has granted to each of us that very spirit which we say lives among us at the highest part of our body, to raise us from the earth closer to our relative, heaven, since we are not an earth-bound growth but a heavenly creature.
Plato sprinkles these things into his own dialogues from the Homeric epics as if drawing from a spring.”
“In these halls, I [Andromache] produced this male child / after sleeping with Achilles’ son, my master]:
One source says that she bore only one son to Neoptolemos while others say that there were three: Pyrrhos, Molossos, Aiakos and a daughter named Troas. Lysimachus, in the second volume of his On Homecomings, writes that Proxenos and Nikomedes the Akanthian report in Macedonian Matters that Andromache gave birth to those who were just mentioned, and from Leonassa, Kleodaios’ daughter, [he fathered?] Argos, Pergamos, Pandaros, Dorieus, Genyos, Danae and Eurylockus. They also say that Pyrrhos received the kingdom from his father and that the country was named Mossia to give honor to Molossos.”
“…Ill-fated Elpenor, the one Kirke’s home stole away–
Like Antiphanes and man-eating Polyphemos–
Of the immortal [ ] [stories like that] I will tell you..
…and the trials of Penelope.
Don’t disbelieve that Odysseus has returned home,
When you see the scar that not even Penelope has seen.
Quit the stable, Philoitios. I will relieve you
Of trembling before the suitors to wander with your cattle.
I will make your household free for you. But in turn
All of you take up arms by my side against Eurymakhos and the rest
Of the suitors. You are well versed in their evil
Just as Telemachus and prudent Penelope are.
Cowherd, pledge yourself…
I wrote a whole book about the Odyssey and just found out about this fragment. It is dated to the 3rd/4th century CE by Roberts in Catalogue of the Greek Papyri in the John Rylands Library. The hexameter is clearly later than Homer, but the story it tells is interesting: the bulk of the fragment seems to have Odysseus trying to convince the cow-herd Philoitios to join him in the fight against the suitors in exchange for a promise of manumission. This concept is really alien to the Homeric Odyssey
Philoitios is something of a silent double for Eumaios in the Odyssey as one of the “good” enslaved people. He closes the door on the suitors in book 21 (240) but speaks rarely. When He does, in book 20, he asks Eumaios who this stranger is, and confirms that he looks like a kingly man. He expresses sympathy with the stranger and tells Odysseus in disguise how much he misses his former master. Odysseus tells him that Odysseus will soon come home.
“Not too far off from Menoeceus’ grave is where people claim that Oedipus’ sons fought each other in single combat and died at each other’s hands. The battle is commemorated by a pillar on top of which is a stone shield. They also mark out the place where the Thebans claim Hera was tricked by Zeus into nursing Herakles as a child.
The whole area is called Antigone’s Drag. When she realized that she did not have the strength to carry her brother’s body, even though she wanted to, she came up with the back-up plan of dragging him. So she hauled him right up to Eteokles’ burning pure and pushed him on top.”
“Have the ancestors’ statues wear the prizes from your voice.
Put on your long Thyestes outfit in front of Domitius’ feet
Or maybe the mask of Antigone or Melanippe
And hang your lyre from a marble colossus.”
maiorum effigies habeant insignia vocis,
ante pedes Domiti longum tu pone Thyestae
syrma vel Antigones aut personam Melanippes,
et de marmoreo citharam suspende colosso.
Greek Anthology, 8.37.5-8
“You have obtained a blessed station! What about the mask
Of the girl in your hand, what play is she from?
Call her Antigone if you want or Electra–you’re not wrong either way
For both are at the peak of the playwright’s achievement.”
‘There’s some conflict in the stories about the heroine Antigone and her sister Ismene. For example, Ion claims in his dithyrambs that both sisters were burned to death in the temple of Hera by Laodamas, Eteocles’ son. Mimnermus, however, insists that Ismene was killed by Tydeus at Athena’s direction as she had sex with Periklymenos. These are the strange stories recorded about the heroines.”
“But I think that we old men might listen happily to someone reciting the Iliad and the Odyssey well and quickly declare that they were completely victorious! Who, then, would rightly be the winner—that’s the next issue, right?”
“Homer didn’t think it right to tell where he came from, who his parents were, no even what he should be called. Nope—instead, he’s happy if we don’t know the name of whoever composed the Iliad and the Odyssey.”
“After he left from Circe’s island, Odysseus arrived at another island, tossed up on it by struggling winds. Calypso, Circe’s sister welcomed him there and considered him worthy of a great deal of help. She had sex with him almost as if in marriage.
He went from there to a massive lake near the sea which was called the Nekyopompos. The people who live around that lake are prophets and they told him everything that had happened to him and what would happen in the future. When he left there, he was thrown from the sea when a great storm arose onto “the Sirens,” rocks which have that name from the peculiar sound that comes from waves crashing around them. Once he freed himself from there, he arrived at the place called “Charybdis,” a wild and desolate territory. He lost all his ships and his army here.
Then Odysseus was carried alone on a ship’s plank in the sea, waiting for a death from violence. But some Phoenician sailors passing by saw him swimming in the water and saved him in their pity. They took him to the island Crete to Idomeneus, a leader of the Greeks. When he saw Odysseus naked and impoverished, he sympathetically gave him a great pile of gifts because he had been a general with him at Troy, along with two ships and people to guard him safely home. He sent him back to Ithaka like this. Wise Dictys wrote these details down after he heard them from Odysseus.”
“Theognis, the Megarian, from the Megarians in Sicily, lived around the time of the 59th Olympiad (544-541 BCE). He composed an elegy for those who were saved in the siege of the Syracusans and an additional collection of 2800 elegiac lines. Some were advice and traditional wisdom addressed to Kyrnos, his lover. All his work was in epic language. Note that Theognis composed useful advice, but mixed in with this are disgusting and pederastic love poems and other topics that a virtuous life turns away from.”
“Here is something from Xenophon’s work on Theognis. “These are the verses of Theognis of Megara. That poet composed about nothing other than human virtue and vice. His poetry is a theory about people, just as if some equestrian were to compose a work about horses. The first principle of his poetry is correct. For he begins by talking about good breeding, since he believed that no person nor any other creature could be good if its parents were not good.
It seemed best to him to use other animals as an example, not those who survive in nature, but those who are tended with skill by humans, to get a view of how creatures turn out best. He is very clear in his poems about this. His lines say that people don’t know how to breed properly with one another and because of this the human race is always deteriorating because the better lines are constantly mixed with the worse. But many other people think that in these verse, the poet is accusing and railing against people who use money to excuse low-breeding and bad behavior. He seems to me to be indicating their ignorance about their own lives.”
“We search for well-bred rams, horses, and donkeys, Kyrnos
And everyone wants to climb atop females from good stock
But an aristocrat doesn’t think twice about the wicked daughter
Of a bad man if her father gives him a load of cash,
Just as a woman won’t refuse a common man as a husband
If he’s rich—no, she wants wealth over nobility.
They worship money. A nobleman marries a commoner’s daughter
And a lowborn child comes from on high. Wealth has ruined class.
So don’t be amazed at how the stock of your citizens degrades
Polypaides—our finer things are all mixed up with the poor.”