Cancel Murderers and Tyrants?

Andocides, On the Mysteries 78 (excerpt from a decree read in the speech)

“…For those who have committed massacres or created tyrannies, in addition to everything else, have the council erase their names everywhere, wherever there is some mention of them in public, in accordance with what we have said and any copy of it which the lawmakers or elected officers possess.”

ἢ σφαγεῦσιν ἢ τυράννοις· τὰ δὲ ἄλλα πάντα ἐξαλεῖψαι τοὺς πράκτορας καὶ τὴν βουλὴν κατὰ τὰ εἰρημένα πανταχόθεν, ὅπου τι ἔστιν ἐν τῷ δημοσίῳ, καὶ εἴ <τι> ἀντίγραφόν που ἔστι, παρέχειν τοὺς θεσμοθέτας καὶ τὰς ἄλλας ἀρχάς

Plutarch, Moralia 473f

“Just as in a painting’s colors, we must put the bright and shining matters in the front of the mind and hide and cover the depressing ones away—for it is not possible to erase them or eradicate them completely.”

δεῖ δ᾿ ὥσπερ ἐν πινακίῳ χρωμάτων ἐν τῇ ψυχῇ τῶν πραγμάτων τὰ φαιδρὰ καὶ λαμπρὰ προβάλλοντας, ἀποκρύπτειν τὰ σκυθρωπὰ καὶ πιέζειν· ἐξαλεῖψαι γὰρ οὐκ ἔστι παντάπασιν οὐδ᾿ ἀπαλλαγῆναι.

I have been thinking for some time about the amnesty at the end of the Odyssey, which creates an erasure of the murders of the suitors family so that the Odysseus and his people can escape the cycle of vengeance. There are some echoes of this in the Roman practice of damnatio memoriaeI have thought a lot about Malcolm Gladwell’s application of Mark Grenovetter’s threshold theory to thinking about he sociology of school shootings. I am not sure that erasing events is the solution (nor am I suggesting that Gladwell and Grenovetter think so). What we are really facing in this question is how the stories we tell, how the way we cover events, creates paradigms and narratives that perpetuate themselves.

At the end of the Odyssey, Zeus intervenes and erases the Ithakans’ memory of the murder of the suitors to re-establish peace and stability for Odysseus’ return.

Homer, Odyssey 24.478–486

“My child, why do you inquire or ask me about these things?
Didn’t you contrive this plan yourself, that Odysseus
would exact vengeance on these men after he returned home?
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 oaths.
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.”

τέκνον ἐμόν, τί με ταῦτα διείρεαι ἠδὲ μεταλλᾷς;
οὐ γὰρ δὴ τοῦτον μὲν ἐβούλευσας νόον αὐτή,
ὡς ἦ τοι κείνους ᾿Οδυσεὺς ἀποτείσεται ἐλθών;
ἕρξον ὅπως ἐθέλεις· ἐρέω δέ τοι ὡς ἐπέοικεν.
ἐπεὶ δὴ μνηστῆρας ἐτείσατο δῖος ᾿Οδυσσεύς,
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.

(To be honest, after yet another national tragedy I cannot read Zeus’ words as anything but bitter sarcasm. This is, in all likelihood, an extremely anachronistic interpretation. But I cannot help but wonder if ancient audiences ever heard these lines and were unsettled, if not angered…)

It is clear that Zeus has to do this in order to end the conflict (and end the epic) because both parties are motivated by the cycle of vengeance. When Eupeithes’ speaks to the assembled Ithakans earlier in Book 24, he specifically mentions the fear of becoming an object of shame in a narrative pattern.

Homer, Odyssey 24.432-437

“Let us go. Otherwise we will be ashamed forever.
This will be an object of reproach even for men to come to learn,
if we do not pay back the murders of our relatives and sons.
It cannot be sweet to my mind at least to live like this.
But instead, I would rather perish immediately and dwell with the dead.
But, let’s go so that those men don’t cross to the mainland first.”

ἴομεν· ἢ καὶ ἔπειτα κατηφέες ἐσσόμεθ’ αἰεί.
λώβη γὰρ τάδε γ’ ἐστὶ καὶ ἐσσομένοισι πυθέσθαι,
εἰ δὴ μὴ παίδων τε κασιγνήτων τε φονῆας
τεισόμεθ’· οὐκ ἂν ἐμοί γε μετὰ φρεσὶν ἡδὺ γένοιτο
ζωέμεν, ἀλλὰ τάχιστα θανὼν φθιμένοισι μετείην.
ἀλλ’ ἴομεν, μὴ φθέωσι περαιωθέντες ἐκεῖνοι.”

Eupeithes–and Odysseus for most of the epic–act according to patterns they have received, embedded cultural expectations about how to behave in certain situations. The Odyssey‘s sudden end–its resolution through an act of erasure that challenges the very nature of the genre of memory itself–should prompt us to understand that the conflict has no resolution according to conventional paradigms. Rather than being a simple, closed end, this ending should incite us to realize that the stories themselves have been a problem.

 

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“The Cyclops Polyphemus ,”by Annibale Carracci

(I have written about some of this the Routledge Handbook of Classics and Cognitive Theory)

The Wings of Daedalus’ Ship

Servius Danielis, Commentary ad Aeneid, 6, 14

“Phandicus, in his Deliakon says that Daedalus embarked on a ship in flight for the reasons I mentioned earlier and when those who were following got close, he spread out a large cloth to get the winds to help them and escaped in this way. When his pursuers returned, they announced that “he escaped with wings”.

Phanodicos Deliacon Daedalum propter supradictas causas fugientem navem conscendisse et, cum imminerent qui eum sequebantur, intendisse pallium ad adiuvandum ventos et sic evasisse: illos vero qui insequebantur reversos nuntiasse pinnis illum evasisse.

Pottery: black-figured kylix (drinking cup) with scenes of a merchant vessel being chased and attacked by pirates.
Kylix from the British Museum, Attic 520 BCE (1867,0508.963)

“Phoenician Letters”: Greeks on Where Writing Game From

Photios, Lexikon s.v. Φοινικήια γράμματα Ν.

“The Lydians and Ionans [report] that letters came from Phoinix the son of Agênor who invented them. But the Cretans report differently that they were developed from writing on the leaves of palm trees [phoinikes].

Skamôn, in the second book of his Inventions, says that they were named for Aktaion’s daughter Phoinikê. The story goes that he had no male children, but that he had daughters Aglauros, Ersê, and Pandrosos. Phoinikê died still a virgin. For this reason, Aktaion named the letters “Phoenician” for her, because he wished to give some honor to his daughter.”

Λυδοὶ καὶ ῎Ιωνες τὰ γράμματα ἀπὸ Φοίνικος τοῦ ᾽Λγήνορος τοῦ εὑρόντος· τούτοις δὲ ἀντιλέγουσι Κρῆτες, ὡς εὑρέθη ἀπὸ τοῦ γράφειν ἐν φοινίκων πετάλοις. Σκάμων δ᾽ ἐν τῆι δευτέραι τῶν Εὑρημάτων ἀπὸ Φοινίκης τῆς ᾽Ακταίωνος ὀνομασθῆναι. μυθεύεται δὲ οὗτος ἀρσένων μὲν παίδων ἄπαις, γενέσθαι δὲ αὐτῶι θυγατέρας ῎Αγλαυρον, ῎Ερσην, Πάνδροσον· τὴν δὲ Φοινίκην ἔτι παρθένον οὖσαν τελευτῆσαι· διὸ καὶ Φοινικήια τὰ γράμματα τὸν ᾽Ακταίωνα, βουλόμενόν τινος τιμῆς ἀπονεῖμαι τῆι θυγατρί.

Suda, s.v grammata

“Letters: Know that Phoenicians were the first to invent letters. For this reason, letters are also called Phoinikeia. People also say that Kadmos first brought them to Greece. And Apis, the Egyptian, brought medicine. Asklepios improved the art itself. Look also in the entry on Phoenician Letters.” [reference is the same as reported in Photios’ Lexicon.]

Γράμματα: ὅτι τὰ γράμματα Φοίνικες ἐφεῦρον πρῶτοι. ἔνθεν καὶ Φοινίκεια ἐκλήθησαν. καὶ τὸν Κάδμον φασὶ πρῶτον ἐς τὴν ῾Ελλάδα κομίσαι· ἰατρικὴν δὲ ὁ ῎Απις ὁ Αἰγύπτιος· ὁ δὲ ᾿Ασκληπιὸς ηὔξησε τὴν τέχνην. καὶ ζήτει ἐν τῷ Φοινικήϊα γράμματα.

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8th Century BCE Nora Stone (from biblicalarchaeology.org)

The Curriculum Vitae of Telephos of Pergamon

Suda, s.v. Τήλεφος

Telephos the Pergamêne, a scholar. He also wrote […] in which he specifies all the things a scholar needs to know. In addition: On Homeric Figures of Speech (two books); On Attic Syntax (five books); On Rhetoric in Homer; On Agreement of Homer and Plato; On A Varied Love of Knowledge; The Lives of Tragic and Comic Poets; On Expert Knowledge of Books, three books in which he lists the books which are worth having. Only Homer of the Ancient Poets Speaks Greek, A Description of Pergamon; On the Sebasteion in Pergamon (two books); On the Courts of Athens; On Athenian Laws and Customs; On the Kings of Pergamon (five books); Concerning the Names or Use of Clothing and Other Items which We Use (an alphabetical catalogue); On the Wandering of Odysseus; Swift-Born (a collection of epithets prepared for use in the same situation as a treasure-trove for description), ten books.”

Περγαμηνός, γραμματικός. ἔγραψε καὶ αὐτὸς ** ἐν οἷς παρατίθεται πόσα χρὴ εἰδέναι τὸν γραμματικόν· Περὶ τῶν παρ᾽ ῾Ομήρωι σχημάτων ῥητορικῶν βιβλία β̄· Περὶ συντάξεως λόγου᾽Αττικοῦ βιβλία ε̄· Περὶ τῆς καθ᾽ ῞Ομηρον ῥητορικῆς· Περὶ τῆς ῾Ομήρου καὶ Πλάτωνος συμφωνίας· Ποικίλης φιλομαθείας βιβλία β̄· βίους τραγικῶν καὶ κωμικῶν· βιβλιακῆς ἐμπειρίας βιβλία γ̄, ἐν οἷς διδάσκει τὰ κτήσεως ἄξια βιβλία· ῞Οτι μόνος ῞Ομηρος τῶν ἀρχαίων ἑλληνίζει· Περιήγησιν Περγάμου· Περὶ τοῦ ἐν Περγάμωι Σεβαστίου βιβλία β̄· Περὶ τῶν᾽Αθήνησι δικαστηρίων· Περὶ τῶν᾽Αθήνησι νόμων καὶ ἐθῶν· Περὶ τῶν Περγάμου Βασιλέων βιβλία ε̄· Περὶ χρήσεως ἤτοι ὀνομάτων ἐσθῆτος καὶ τῶν ἄλλων οἷς χρώμεθα (ἔστι δὲ κατὰ στοιχεῖον)· Περὶ τῆς᾽Οδυσσέως πλάνης· ᾽Ωκυτόκιον (ἔστι δὲ συναγωγὴ ἐπιθέτων εἰς τὸ αὐτὸ πρᾶγμα ἁρμοζόντων πρὸς ἕτοιμον εὐπορίαν φράσεως) βιβλία ῑ.

byzantium libraries
From Medievalists.net

Editing the Enneads

Porphyry, Life of Plotinus 24

“This is, therefore, our story of Plotinus’ life. When he assigned to me the arrangement and editing of his publications, I promised him when he was still alive and I also guaranteed our other friends to do that. So, first, I did not think it just to allow his books to be out of order from the time they were published but have imitated Apollodoros the Athenian and the peripatetic Andronicus. They first gathered the works of Epikharmos the comedic poet into ten collections and the second ordered the works of Aristotle and Theophrastos by subject matter, collecting into the same place similar theoretical discussions.

In a similar way, in fact, since I had 54 works of Plotinus, I separated the books into six groups of nine volumes each, chancing upon the final number six along with nines quite happily. Once I assembled similar topics into each Ennead, I gave the first place to the more tractable problems.”

Τοιοῦτος μὲν οὖν ὁ Πλωτίνου ἡμῖν ἱστόρηται βίος. Ἐπεὶ δὲ αὐτὸς τὴν διάταξιν καὶ τὴν διόρθωσιν τῶν βιβλίων ποιεῖσθαι ἡμῖν ἐπέτρεψεν, ἐγὼ δὲ κἀκείνῳ ζῶντι ὑπεσχόμην καὶ τοῖς ἄλλοις ἑταίροις ἐπηγγειλάμην ποιῆσαι τοῦτο, πρῶτον μὲν τὰ βιβλία οὐ κατὰ χρόνους ἐᾶσαι φύρδην ἐκδεδομένα ἐδικαίωσα, μιμησάμενος δ᾿ Ἀπολλόδωρον τὸν Ἀθηναῖον καὶ Ἀνδρόνικον τὸν Περιπατητικόν, ὧν ὁ μὲν Ἐπίχαρμον τὸν κωμῳδιογράφον εἰς δέκα τόμους φέρων συνήγαγεν, ὁ δὲ τὰ Ἀριστοτέλους καὶ Θεοφράστου εἰς πραγματείας διεῖλε τὰς οἰκείας ὑποθέσεις εἰς ταὐτὸν συναγαγών· οὕτω δὴ καὶ ἐγὼ νδ ὄντα ἔχων τὰ τοῦ Πλωτίνου βιβλία διεῖλον μὲν εἰς ἓξ ἐννεάδας τῇ τελειότητι τοῦ ἓξ ἀριθμοῦ καὶ ταῖς ἐννεάσιν ἀσμένως ἐπιτυχών, ἑκάστῃ δὲ ἐννεάδι τὰ οἰκεῖα φέρων συνεφόρησα δοὺς καὶ τάξιν πρώτην τοῖς ἐλαφροτέροις προβλήμασιν. Ἡ μὲν γὰρ πρώτη ἐννεὰς ἔχει τὰ ἠθικώτερα τάδε·

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Plotinus

How Many Angels on the Head of a Pin? How Many Oarsmen on Achilles’ Ships?

Scholia T ad Homer Iliad 16.170

“Achilles, dear to Zeus, had fifty ships which he led to Troy. In each of the ships there were fifty companions at the benches.” How, people ask, is it that the Poet who typically augments Achilles elsewhere, diminishes him in this passage? Is it because there is no excellence in numbers?

Aristarchus, however, says that there are fifty rowers [only] because of the phrase “on the benches”, meaning sailors as support crew. Dionysus, still, claims that the greatest number of rowers possible was 120 and that most ships had between these two numbers, so that the average amount was 86 men.”

πεντήκοντ᾽ ἦσαν νῆες θοαί, ἧισιν ᾽Αχιλλεὺς ἐς Τροίην ἡγεῖτο διίφιλος· ἐν δὲ ἑκάστηι πεντήκοντ᾽ ἔσαν ἄνδρες ἐπὶ κληῖσιν ἑταῖροι] πῶς, φασίν, ἐν ἅπασιν αὔξων ᾽Αχιλλέα τούτωι μειοῖ; τινὲς μὲν οὖν, ὅτι οὐκ ἐν πλήθει ἡ ἀρετή … ᾽Αρίσταρχος δέ φησιν ν̄ ἐρέτας εἶναι διὰ τὸ ῾ἐπὶ κληῖσιν᾽ ἢ ναύτας πρὸς ὑπηρεσίαν. Διονύσιος δὲ τὸν μέγιστον ἀριθμὸν ρ̄κ̄ τιμᾶι, τὸ δὲ λοιπὸν ἐν τῶι μεταξὺ τούτων ἄγεσθαι, ὡς φθάνειν πάσας ἀπὸ π̄ε̄ ἀνδρῶν.

Ah, another case study of that “morbus Graecorum”

Seneca, De Brevitate Vitae 13

“It would be annoying to list all the people who spent their lives pursuing board games, ball games, or sunbathing. Men whose pleasures are so busy are not at leisure. For example, no one will be surprised that those occupied by useless literary studies work strenuously—and there is great band of these in Rome now too.

This sickness used to just afflict the Greeks, to discover the number of oarsmen Odysseus possessed, whether the Iliad was written before the Odyssey, whether the poems belong to the same author, and other matters like this which, if you keep them to yourself, cannot please your private mind; but if you publish them, you seem less learned than annoying.”

Persequi singulos longum est, quorum aut latrunculi aut pila aut excoquendi in sole corporis cura consumpsere vitam. Non sunt otiosi, quorum voluptates multum negotii habent. Nam de illis nemo dubitabit, quin operose nihil agant, qui litterarum inutilium studiis detinentur, quae iam apud Romanos quoque magna manus est. Graecorum iste morbus fuit quaerere, quem numerum Ulixes remigum habuisset, prior scripta esset Ilias an Odyssia, praeterea an eiusdem essent auctoris, alia deinceps huius notae, quae sive contineas, nihil tacitam conscientiam iuvant sive proferas, non doctior videaris sed molestior.

Lenormant Relief, c. 410 BCE

Scholarship and Superfluous Detail

Ah, pedantry. I may have had some thoughts about it….

Artemon of Pergamon (New Jacoby: BNJ 569 F 3 [=Schol. on Pind., Pyth. 1, inscr. a])

“Golden Lyre”: The poem has been written for Hieron; Pindar allegedly said this according to the historian Artemon because Hieron promised him a golden lyre. But these kinds of things are full of superfluous detail”

Χρυσέα φόρμιγξ] γέγραπται μὲν ὁ ἐπίνικος ῾Ιέρωνι, λέγεται δὲ ὁ Πίνδαρος οὕτως ἐπιβεβλῆσθαι κατὰ ᾽Αρτέμωνα τὸν ἱστορικόν, ὅτι δὴ αὐτῶι ὁ ῾Ιέρων χρυσῆν ὑπέσχετο κιθάραν . τὰ δὲ τοιαῦτα περιεργίας πεπλήρωται.

From LSJ 1902

περιεργαζόμαι, “to take more pains than enough about a thing, to waste one’s labor” 2. “to be a busybody”

περιεργία: “over-exactness” II. “officiousness” III. “curious arts”

περίεργος: “careful overmuch” II. “done with especial care”; “overwrought, too elaborate, superfluous”

περιεργοπένητες: “poor scholars”

Suda, Kappa 504

Kataglôttismata: “tonguing-down”: all sorts of kisses. Fabrications. All kinds of massages with sweet oils. Also, superfluous words. Or the “tonguing-down” is a rather excessive kiss. Or, it is flattery”

Καταγλωττίσματα: περίεργα φιλήματα. καταπλάσματα, παντοῖαι μυραλοιφίαι, ἢ περιλαλήματα. ἢ εἶδος φιλήματος περιεργότερον τὸ καταγλώττισμα: ἢ κολάκευμα.

Breviary of Renaud de Bar, France, 1302-1303: http://www.lazerhorse.org/2015/05/17/medieval-art-weird-manuscript/