Most recent update:4/1/2004; 5:08:28 AM

 Friday, March 26, 2004

CHATTER: Fragment of a Greek Tragedy

Since it's the 145th anniversary of A.E. Housman's natal day, it seems appropriate to reproduce his Fragment of a Greek Tragedy

   CHORUS:  O suitably-attired-in-leather-boots
          Head of a traveller, wherefore seeking whom
          Whence by what way how purposed art thou come
          To this well-nightingaled vicinity?
          My object in inquiring is to know.
          But if you happen to be deaf and dumb
          And do not understand a word I say,
          Then wave your hand, to signify as much.

                ALCMAEON: I journeyed hither a Boetian road.
                CHORUS: Sailing on horseback, or with feet for oars?
                ALCMAEON: Plying with speed my partnership of legs.
                CHORUS: Beneath a shining or a rainy Zeus?
                ALCMAEON: Mud's sister, not himself, adorns my shoes.
                CHORUS: To learn your name would not displease me much.
                ALCMAEON: Not all that men desire do they obtain.
                CHORUS: Might I then hear at what thy presence shoots.
                ALCMAEON: A shepherd's questioned mouth informed me that--
                CHORUS: What? for I know not yet what you will say.
                ALCMAEON: Nor will you ever, if you interrupt.
                CHORUS: Proceed, and I will hold my speechless tongue.
                ALCMAEON: This house was Eriphyle's, no one else's.
                CHORUS: Nor did he shame his throat with shameful lies.
                ALCMAEON: May I then enter, passing through the door?
                CHORUS: Go chase into the house a lucky foot.
                           And, O my son, be, on the one hand, good,
                           And do not, on the other hand, be bad;
                           For that is much the safest plan.
                ALCMAEON: I go into the house with heels and speed.



          In speculation
          I would not willingly acquire a name
                For ill-digested thought;
                But after pondering much
          To this conclusion I at last have come:
                LIFE IS UNCERTAIN.
                This truth I have written deep
                In my reflective midriff
                On tablets not of wax,
          Nor with a pen did I inscribe it there,
          For many reasons:  LIFE, I say, IS NOT
          Not from the flight of omen-yelling fowls
                This fact did I discover,
          Nor did the Delphine tripod bark it out,
                Nor yet Dodona.
          Its native ingunuity sufficed
                My self-taught diaphragm.


                Why should I mention
          The Inachean daughter, loved of Zeus?
                Her whom of old the gods,
                More provident than kind,
          Provided with four hoofs, two horns, one tail,
                A gift not asked for,
                And sent her forth to learn
                The unfamiliar science
                Of how to chew the cud.
          She therefore, all about the Argive fields,
          Went cropping pale green grass and nettle-tops,
                Nor did they disagree with her.
          But yet, howe'er nutritious, such repasts
                I do not hanker after:
          Never may Cypris for her seat select
                My dappled liver!
          Why should I mention Io?  Why indeed?
                I have no notion why.


                But now does my boding heart,
                Unhired, unaccompanied, sing
                A strain not meet for the dance.
                Yes even the palace appears
                To my yoke of circular eyes
                (The right, nor omit I the left)
                Like a slaughterhouse, so to speak,
                Garnished with woolly deaths
                And many sphipwrecks of cows.
          I therefore in a Cissian strain lament:
                And to the rapid
                Loud, linen-tattering thumps upon my chest
                Resounds in concert
          The battering of my unlucky head.

                ERIPHYLE (within): O, I am smitten with a hatchet's jaw;
          And that in deed and not in word alone.
                CHORUS: I thought I heard a sound within the house
          Unlike the voice of one that jumps for joy.
                ERIPHYLE: He splits my skull, not in a friendly way,
          Once more: he purposes to kill me dead.
                CHORUS: I would not be reputed rash, but yet
          I doubt if all be gay within the house.
                ERIPHYLE: O! O! another stroke! that makes the third.
          He stabs me to the heart against my wish.
                CHORUS:  If that be so, thy state of health is poor;
          But thine arithmetic is quite correct.

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ante diem vii kalendas apriles

  • 288 A.D. -- martyrdom of Castulus at Rome
  • c. 304 A.D. -- martyrdom of Quadratus in Anatolia
  • 1859 -- birth of A.E. Houseman (poet and (protorogue)Classicist)

5:46:32 AM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.


I don't think I've mentioned Stoic News before, but it has been around for quite a while. It seems to have as its purpose relating ancient Stoic philosophy to the modern revival of same (which was much in the news a year or so ago). Good links to papers, bibliography, and the like. Worth a look ...

5:30:41 AM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.

CHATTER: Classicolor

Okay ... a couple of folks have sent this to me and the first time I shuddered and thought ... no. But it keeps popping up in various fora, so we might as well get it over with. At the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek in Cophenhagen, there is an exhibition called "Classicolor", which presents copies of assorted Classical pieces painted as they would have been originally. Someone has put a page of photos up. Shudder redux. Not sure about the accuracy of the colours, but they're probably not too far ... they all seem to have Anime/Manga style eyes (especially the Caligula) ...

5:16:59 AM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.

NUNTII: Olympic Flame Lit

As folks are no doubt aware, yesterday the Olympic Flame was lit. Although there has been a pile of press coverage, the best for our purposes seems to be the official IOC site, which includes this nice photo of activities at the Temple of Hera (at Olympia, of course):

5:09:04 AM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.

REVIEW: Electra

Generally favourable, despite the (somewhat common) spelling mistake:

Ever wanted to just kill your family? Euripedes' "Electra" echoes that very sentiment, chronicling the story of a pair of siblings who attempt to avenge their father's unjust murder. Directed by Emma Hellman-Mass '04, "Electra" is an eerie portrayal of the gravity of human action and the mercurial nature of justice that accurately captures the sweeping grandeur of Euripedes' tragic tale.

With a simple set comprised of a wooden shack, some lone trees and a strategically placed water trough, Hellman-Mass emphasizes the character Electra's (Jessie Gusberg '06) peasant existence. Unlike standard productions, the Chorus is no longer silent but is made up of a trio of musicians (Meara Palmer-Young '06, Sarah Tomita '06, and Daniel Jordan '06) and the Trojan Maidens are almost god-like voices that resonate from above, resulting in an added layer of chilling commentary. Hellman-Mass utilizes the musical elements of the play well, segueing easily from one section of the play to the next. For a Greek tragedy, the pace is surprisingly swift and balanced, with no section dragging down the action of the show.

Electra herself is introduced to the audience through her husband, the Farmer (Jacob Brogan '05). Brogan plays the role as a surprisingly earnest and sincere character, immediately drawing the audience in to the somewhat tawdry history that is Electra's life. Her mother, Clytaemnestra (Julia Holleman '05) killed Electra's father, Agamemnon, and immediately remarried Aegisthus. Aegisthus, fearing Electra's sons would one day avenge their mother's throne, married Electra to a lonely peasant in hopes that she would produce weak offspring. Electra's brother Orestes (Tommy Hobson '04) was sent off to far away lands by a faithful servant so that he would not be killed. The Farmer, unwilling to violate such a noble woman as Electra, has thus kept their marriage chaste. [more from the Yaily Daily News]

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REVIEW: The Truth of Troy

The Scotsman seems to have mixed feelings about this BBC documentary:

This coming May, the blockbuster Troy will roll through the doors of your local omniplex. Brad Pitt will prance in a leather skirt and little else. The BBC, which has been accused of dumbing down, was busy pre-empting this forthcoming schlockfest last night - regilding its recently tarnished reputation as a seeker after the truth by promoting its own well-researched mini-buster - a touch more Cricklewood than Hollywood - the alliteratively titled The Truth of Troy.

Therefore, properly undistracted by sweat-stained, cosmetically handsome blokes in Armani leather, the makers directed us to history, and to Homerís original blueprint for the movie, viz: Helen, the wife of Agamemnon, King of Greece, is spirited off to the golden citadel of Troy by the fetching good looks and wooing ways of the princeling Paris. The king gives chase, lays siege to Troy, and breaks the cityís stoic resistance by building a giant wooden horse - leaving the beast outside the walls as a curiosity the Trojans will not be able to resist. The horse is packed with the Greek SAS.

"Was it ever more," asked the programmeís makers, "than just a myth?" With 50 minutes to answer the question, you knew they would waffle their way round the evidence, the handsomest thing on offer being the regulation dose of computer imagery - Troy architecturally magnificent, with every building agleam in simultaneous, perfectly carved-out splendour - just as it never was in history. But, it looked good, and more importantly, convincing.

The computer images sprang from research. They didnít have Brad, and they werenít as rugged or as cacophonous as the Hollywood recreation (we saw a clip in the opening seconds).  
Was the Trojan Horse ever more than just myth?
But what they had was Manfred Korfmann, an archaeologist, dressed inexplicably in a muffler and bunched leather jacket under the scorching Aegean sun, recalling his triumph when, having followed Homerís Iliad, he discovered the cityís remains in north-eastern Turkey, and was baffled at first by the fact that Troy was so small, and didnít have gates, and so couldnít have kept the Greeks out in any case.

Thatís when Manfred had his little eureka flash! He suddenly realised he had merely unearthed a fragment of the original. The actual outer walls, being longer, more sprawling, complete with gate-posts, were buried some distance away. Manfred found them, along with tunnels, and written evidence on stone tablets, and, in the shards of wounded skeletons, there lay proof that indeed a battle of manic proportions had raged, that a siege had taken place. At that point, a rival of Korfmannís, somewhere in America, appeared to say that this breakthrough was indeed "wonderful". But his eyes were filled with the pain of anotherís triumph.

They should have ended the programme there - a moment to parallel Agamemnonís sheer despair when Paris seduced his much-prized Helen. But, no, they rambled into the myth of the thing, poo-pooing the Helen dimension, missing the fact that human nature (and therefore history) keeps on repeating itself - which was easily The Truth of Troyís most incontrovertible truth. The rest was just stones.

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CHATTER: I, Claudio

A columnist in the Telegraph writes about the continuing saga of the Chelsea football club's woes and in so doing, employs the longest sustained Classical (sort of) metaphor I've seen in sports writing:

I don't know about you but I just can't wait for the next episode of I Claudio.

Just as the nation once gathered around its television sets to enjoy Derek Jacobi's weekly jousts with conspiracy and treachery in I, Claudius, so Claudio Ranieri's entertaining reflections on life in the new 'Roman' empire have become addictive, essential viewing. Never mind the action from Chelsea versus Wolves tomorrow night, Des. Let's get straight to the best bit, the manager's interview.

Ranieri began the week eulogising about "gladiators" and "blood", and no wonder. Come this time of the year the big games take on epic proportions. There is room in them only for conquering heroes. Chelsea and Arsenal slugged it out like Maximus and Commodus on Wednesday.

The fond French smiles exchanged in the players' tunnel soon turned to the dogfight snarls of breathless Premiership conflict. These were our champions, our warriors scrapping tooth and nail for our pleasure and delectation. Colosseum sport.

Ranieri's gladiatorial analogy was particularly apt. The Chelsea manager seems to have accepted that he is now merely dodging the spears. There is no anger or bitterness with his sense of fate, but no tame surrender either. He has players, counterparts and supporters fighting his fight. His disarming wit and engaging dignity remain his best defence. They will earn him gainful employment elsewhere the moment the Emperor's thumbs point down.

He may even take his revenge one day. Funnier things have happened on the way to the Forum. [more]

4:47:48 AM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.

AWOTV: On TV Today

7.00 p.m. |HINT| Augustus: First of the Emperors
Story of the bloodthirsty leader who was also one of the most able
statesmen in world history. His rule launched the "Pax Romana" (Roman
Peace) that marked the high point of the empire.

8.00 p.m. |HINT| The Great Empire: Rome: The Republic of Rome
A sweeping chronicle of one of history's most dynamic empires. Part
1 features the city's fabled founding by Romulus and Remus; overthrow
of the Etruscan monarchy; and the republic's formation and ultimate
undoing with the rise of Imperial Rome. Host Joe Mantegna introduces
Rome's great faces--Pompey, Cicero, Caesar, Antony, and Cleopatra.

8.00 p.m. |DCIVC| Moments in Time: Antony & Cleopatra: Battle at

10.00 p.m.|DTC| Lost City of Pompeii: Secrets of the Dead
Journey to the playground of the Roman aristocracy, Herculaneum.
Buried by the same volcanic eruption that leveled Pompeii, this city
of luxurious villas, magnificent arcades and extensive library
collections holds clues to the Roman's riches.

9.00 p.m. |HINT| The Great Empire: Rome: Age of Emperors
After Caesar's murder, his great-nephew Augustus was victorious in
the civil wars that followed, becoming the first emperor. Host Joe
Mantegna explores this sensational, scandalous age when the
proliferation of palace plots, hostile takeovers, and imperial family
intrigues became humdrum. Features Augustus, Caligula, Claudius, and
Nero, among others.

10.00 p.m. |HINT|The Great Empire: Rome: Building an Empire
Host Joe Mantegna visits the vast territories conquered by the
imperial army--by the 2nd century AD, the empire spanned three
continents. The over-4,000 Roman cities were cultural melting pots,
where diverse customs and beliefs blended. Features life in Pompeii,
the flamboyant Emperor Hadrian, and religious revolts in Judea.

11.00 p.m. |HINT| The Great Empire: Rome: The Enduring Legacy
The final episode reveals the birth of Christianity and how this
religion that the emperors initially tried to destroy ultimately
passed on the empire's legacy. Highlights include: the crucifixion of
Jesus; religious persecutions; rise of Constantine, the first emperor
to embrace Christianity; and Justinian, Rome's last emperor.

11.00 p.m. |DCIVC| The Greatest Journeys: Greece: Journeys to the Gods

Channel Guide

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Click for Athens, Greece Forecast

Click for Rome, Italy Forecast

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