Most recent update:6/1/2004; 5:08:36 AM

 Tuesday, May 04, 2004


ante diem iv nonas maias

5:41:23 AM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.

CHATTER: On Reading the Iliad for the First Time?

This just popped up on one of those PR newswire sites:

Brad Pitt is Achilles, and Orlando Bloom is Paris. What’s not to like? At least one author thinks the new movie “Troy” will spark renewed interest in “The Iliad”, “The Odyssey” and other Greek legends. But are modern American audiences ready to tackle the original action adventure story?

"Maybe, but there are some things they should know going in- ”, says Wayne Turmel, author of “A Philistine’s Journal-an Average Guy Tackles the Classics” (2003, New Leaf Books, ISBN # 1-930076-13-4). “Like Achilles dressed as a girl til he was 15 for starters. Does Jennifer Anniston know about this?”

Turmel, a writer from Chicago decided to read the Iliad as part of his research for the book, and was surprised by what he discovered. “The story is such a part of our culture,” he says, “but there were lots of things I didn’t expect. For one thing, it’s so violent it makes ‘Kill Bill’ look like an Olsen Twins movie.”

Besides the body count and cross-dressing action heroes, here are some other things newcomers to the Greeks should be ready for:

o   Find a copy in modern prose, with good footnotes and annotations so you don’t lose your way
o   Don’t try to read it out loud, you can hurt yourself on those names…
o   Zeus could have stopped the war, but was too afraid of his wife, Hera, who was still mad about his affair with Achilles’ mother. And you thought Clinton bombed Kosovo as a distraction over Monica…
o   Trojans is the worst possible name for a condom. “Think about it,” says Turmel, “there was this thing outside the city, soon as it got inside, people came pouring out of it…isn’t that what these things are supposed to prevent?”

The Iliad is only one of the classics that appear in the book. “A Philistine’s Journal-an Average Guy Tackles the classics” tells the story of what happens when an average 40-year old schmo from the suburbs decides to read all the classics he should have read in college and didn’t.  [more]

It's never too late ...

5:16:54 AM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.

CHATTER: Were the Greeks Just Like Us?

No ... according to Victor Davis Hanson in a lengthy article in the New Criterion. Here's the incipit:

The classical Greeks were really nothing like us—at least that now seems the prevailing dogma of classical scholars of the last half-century. Perhaps due to the rise of cultural anthropology or, more recently, to a variety of postmodern schools of social construction, it is now often accepted that the lives of Socrates, Euripides, and Pericles were not similar to our own, but so far different as to be almost unfathomable. Shelley’s truism that “We are all Greeks” has now become, as we say, “inoperative.”

M. I. Finley, the great historian of the ancient economy, spent a lifetime to prove his questionable thesis that the Greeks—who imported grain from southern Russia, calibrated the cost of the Parthenon to the drachma, and left us a plethora of mortgage stones, financial inventories, and complicated estate exchanges—were to be understood as economically unsophisticated and irrational, more as tribal barterers than calculating capitalists without much abstract appreciation of interest, supply, demand, or any of the other practices associated with the complex market. Historians of gender more recently have sought to show that the Greeks were without real sexual identity, their sexual mores not understandable through innate natural proclivities, much less fathomable by analogy to common social customs across time and space. With whom and how one had sex was instead “constructed” and thus explicable only through understanding of Foucauldian power relationships of submission and dominance.

By the same manner, ancient Hellenic childhood is supposedly equally enigmatic to us. Art historians have pointed out that Greek kids were not customarily sculpted and painted as real children, but most often portrayed through convention (or is it due to artistic incapacity?) as veritable shrunken adults—mature frowns and puzzled expressions slapped on tiny faces. The proverbially rich Greek language, we are often reminded further, lacks the variety of English’s clearly defined and evolving hierarchy of childhood nomenclature: “baby,” “toddler,” “kid,” “teenager,” “adolescent,” “young adult.” The chronological inexactness of Greek’s numerous generic terms for youth—pais, kouros, neanias—is offered as further proof of the great divide that separates attitudes toward coming of age in both ancient Greece and modern America.

And yet the sophisticated maritime loans in the Attic orators, or the scurrilous attacks on promiscuity, sodomy, and effeminate men in Aristophanes’ comedies, or the prevalence of love among married couples in ancient Athens makes us wonder whether the Greeks really were all that different from us in their likes, dislikes, prejudices, and habits. Purportedly locked away in their northern European Victorian studies so far from the dust and stones of Greece, so ignorant of the new Cambridge anthropology, were our nineteenth-century classicists all that far off in thinking that the founders of Western civilization were familiar and approachable to us precisely because we as Westerners were their spiritual and intellectual successors? This feeling of a shared and common human experience is exactly what we receive from a wonderful new exhibition of classical Greek art depicting children and adolescents through gravestones, red- and black-figure vases, and terracotta miniature sculptures. [more]

5:10:57 AM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.


Argyri G. Karanasiou, Die Rezeption der lyrischen Partien der attischen Tragodie in der griechischen Literatur.

Kim J. Hartswick, The Gardens of Sallust. A Changing Landscape.

Jean-Claude Cheynet, Claudia Sode (edd.), Studies in Byzantine Sigillography, 8.

5:08:30 AM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.

CHATTER: Crowd Size

Father Jim over at Dappled Things alerted to me to a bit of ClassCon (thanks!) ... a piece in the Washington Post on the subject of estimating protestor crowds sizes begins thusly:

When Xerxes set out on his ill-fated attempt to conquer Greece in the 5th century B.C., he counted his army by gathering 10,000 men tightly into a circle, drawing a line around them, and building a corral around the space. Then he marched the rest of his men into the corral, group by group, until he arrived at the figure of 1.7 million, according to Herodotus (not always the most reliable historian). Counting crowds, in ancient Persia at least, was easy.
Not so in Washington, where the legions of protesters who descend on the National Mall each spring not only paralyze city traffic, but have defeated the most basic efforts at human accounting. The Mall is a stage for political dissent, and the political force of that dissent, for lack of better metrics, is measured by the size of the crowd. This number, it seems, is absolutely crucial to placing protests in the larger context of American political life. And yet what Xerxes did so simply eludes us today.

Take last Sunday's March for Women's Lives. Marches are a dime a dozen this time of year, but this one was different. It was clearly huge, but how huge? [more]

5:05:28 AM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.

AWOTV: On TV Today

5.00 p.m. |DCIVC| Ancient Warriors: The Spartans

DCIVC = Discovery Civilization (Canada)

4:58:48 AM    Click here to send an email to the editor of this weblog.

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