Wednesday, November 22, 2006

A Fragment of Archilochos

κηλεῖται δ᾽ ὅτις ἐστιν ἀοιδαῖς

[Whoever exists is enchanted by song]

I've always liked this line. I discovered it some time
ago in the edition of his fragments with commentary by William Harris. He comments on the structure of the line: the two ordinary words on the inside with two syllables each, and the two more colorful tri-syllabic words at the extremities, each with two diphthongs and a circumflex accent.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Hera's Vengeful Plans

At Prometheus Bound 599-601, Io says:
σκιρτημάτων δὲ νήστισιν αἰκείαις
λαβρόσυτος ἦλθον, [Ἥρας]
ἐπικότοισι μήδεσι δαμεῖσα.

[With hunger pains of bounds I came rushing furiously, having been brought low by the vengeful schemes of Hera.]

Of Ἥρας Griffith writes: "two syllables are needed for responsion to 581. From 592 Ἥραι στυγητός, and a scholion to 600 δαμασθεῖσα μήδεσι καὶ βουλεύμασι τῆς Ἥρας, Hermann supplied Ἥρας."

The use of the genitive σκιρτημάτων confuses me. Griffith describes it as "(outrages consisting) of leaps, suggesting the movement of a heifer rather than of a human." I thought perhaps this genitive was one of cause or explanation, based on lines 571-573, where Griffith says of νῆστιν, "she is never allowed to pause to eat":
ἀλλά με τὰν τάλαιναν
ἐξ ἐνέρων περῶν κυνηγετεῖ, πλανᾷ
τε νῆστιν ἀνὰ τὰν παραλίαν ψάμμον.

[But, passing from the dead ones, he hunts me, the wretched one, and drives me hungry along the sands of the shore.]

The sense being that the hunger pains were caused by the constant leaping in fear. But still neither of these readings seem clear to me.

When I looked at the details of μήδεσι (line 601) in the dictionary, I was surprised to see that, in addition to the meaning of schemes, plans, etc., it can also mean genitals. It is interesting that the scholiast mentioned above thought it necessary to gloss this μήδεσι καὶ βουλεύμασι. The word δαμεῖσα is used of being subdued or conquered, or of the gods bringing someone low, and is used of animals, being tamed, brought under the yoke, which is appropriate to Io's situation here as ἡ βούκερως παρθένος. It is also used of being seduced or of a girl becoming subject to a husband. That reminded me of the word ὀπυίειν, which is used in the passive of girls being married, but it also carried a sexual connotation, according to Bain's article. I wonder if any of this would have entered the mind of the audience, contemplating Hera's sexual jealousy, and her domineering reputation.

Monday, November 20, 2006

The Springs of Troy

In the digs of 1997 and 1998 at Troy, Korfmann's team discovered a cave cut deep into the hill, on the western side of the lower town. The main tunnel is the widest, and stretches nearly 43 feet long, but there are three more narrow tunnels branching from it, one of them exceeding 328 feet in length. An underground reservoir was tapped so that the overflow was channeled outside and stored in tanks. When it was discovered, the channel on the left side alone still delivered almost 8 gallons per hour. In May 2002, in the journal Archaeometry, Mangini and Frank, leaders of the radiometry team from Heidelberg Academy of Sciences, concluded that the oldest layers of calcite growth on the walls date to 4350 (+/- 570) years old, and that the tunnels were probably constructed shortly before that, sometime in the 3rd millennium, during the period of Troy I-II. They were also able to determine that the system was used during the period of Troy VI-VII (1700-1150BC), and later as well in the 8th century, and even Romans times.

This discovery wasn't made until after most scholars had come to agree that the city of Wilusa, mentioned by the Hittites, was in fact the same city that we know as Troy. But it was quickly pointed out anyway that the so-called "Alakšandu Treaty" between the Hittite King and Alakšandu of Wilusa, in paragraph 20, invokes the god of the subterranean watercourse [(Dingir)KASKAL.KUR] of the land of Wilusa (Latacz, 2001, English version Troy and Homer, 2004).

Friday, November 17, 2006

Nestor's Cup Revisited

In his article, Grated Cheese Fit for Heroes, JHS, 1998, M.L. West considers the Nestor's Cup inscription, dating from 735-720, in light of the trend to place Homer's Iliad in the eighth century as well. West thinks that this makes it more plausible that the poet of the Nestor's Cup inscription was not echoing Homer directly, but an older common source for the drinking episode involving Nestor. He presents two related elements to the reader: one metrical, and the other archaeological.

The metrical issue involves these lines, Iliad 11.638-640:
ἐν τῷ ῥά σφι κύκησε γυνὴ εἰκυῖα θεῆισιν
οἴνῳ Πραμνείῳ, ἐπὶ δ᾽ αἴγειον κνῆ τυρόν
κνήστι χαλκείῃ, ἐπὶ δ᾽ ἄλφιτα λευκὰ πάλυνε.

[In it the woman, like the goddesses, mixed Pramnian wine for them, and over it she grated goat cheese with a bronze grater, and sprinkled white barley on it.]

The word κνῆ in line 639 is extremely unusual, according to West, being a long monosyllable in the biceps position of the fifth foot. Around 100AD, Heraclides of Miletus reports the variant κνέε, which he says was found in "some of the Aristarchean texts" (τινὲς τῶν Ἀρισταρχείων ἐκδόσεων). Despite the fact that West thinks this reading was a conjecture designed to eliminate the unusual metrical situation, and probably not genuine, he does suspect that κνῆ is a contraction of two short syllables. To the point, West suggests that when this hemistich was first used, the verb was *κνάε instead, and that it would have been contracted to *κνᾶ. He thinks our reading, κνῆ, was an Atticism in transmission, based on the spoken Attic ἔκνη. Therefore, the description of the cheese grating must have been introduced before the contraction of αε to ᾱ, which, according to West, would put it at least as far back as the first half of the 8th century, and "very probably" the ninth.

This is where archaeology enters the picture. Euboea played an important part in the development of the epic between 950 and 750, and David Ridgway has discovered bronze cheese graters, along with weapons, in warrior graves of 9th century Lefkandi. Ridgway says: "I submit that bronze cheese-graters at Lefkandi make perfectly good sense as part of a warriors' personal property. A grater could have been regarded as essential to both the preparation of an effective pain-killer and to the kind of serious non-medicinal drinking that is not uncommon in military circles" (Nestor's cup and the Etruscans, Oxford Journal of Archaeology, 1997). West points out that a grater would also be useful for grating hard cheese into dough or over meat, and not simply for drinking. He theorizes that the Nestor's Cup tradition goes back to Mycenaean poetry, but that an epic poet of 9th century Euboea was the first to introduce the grated cheese, following a custom that he knew in his own time. He thinks too that the function of the cup had changed, from a large personal cup that only Nestor could lift, to a mixing bowl, with the underlying suggestion that "heroes from the past drank from cups as large as mixing-bowls are now."

Thursday, November 09, 2006

A Bit of Pindar: Pythian 3.80-83

εἰ δὲ λόγων συνέμεν κορυφάν, Ἱέρων, ὀρθὰν ἐπίστᾳ, μανθάνων οἶσθα προτέρων:
“ ἓν παρ᾽ ἐσλὸν πήματα σύνδυο δαίονται βροτοῖς
ἀθάνατοι.” τὰ μὲν ὦν οὐ δύνανται νήπιοι κόσμῳ φέρειν,
ἀλλ᾽ ἀγαθοί, τὰ καλὰ τρέψαντες ἔξω.

[If you know the true peak of learning, Hieron, you have known the old saying: "along with one good the immortals distribute two woes to mortals." Fools are not able to endure calmly what happens, but the noble turn the good outward.]

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Pindar and Simonides on Style

This comes by way of Bowra's Pindar (1964), pages 193-194. He gives us a fragment of Simonides (fr. 602/97 P.), which he explains as praise for a traditional style:
ἐξελέγχει νέος οἶνος οὔπω
τὸ πέρυσι δῶρον ἀμπέλου·
κούρων δ᾽ ὅδε μῦθος κενεόφρων.

[The fresh wine doesn't yet outdo the previous year's gift of the vine: this is the empty-minded claim of youths.]

Bowra compares Pindar's Olympian 9, lines 48-49:
αἴνει δὲ παλαιὸν μὲν οἶνον, ἄνθεα δ᾽ ὕμνων

[Praise an aged wine, but the blossoms of fresher songs.]

He suspects that Pindar is deliberately responding to his older contemporary, and boasting of his innovative style.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

ἰπούμενος and the Authorship of Prometheus Bound

Prometheus Bound 363-365:
καὶ νῦν ἀχρεῖον καὶ παράορον δέμας
κεῖται στενωποῦ πλησίον θαλασσίου
ἰπούμενος ῥίζαισιν Αἰτναίαις ὕπο.

[And now a helpless and sprawling form, he lies near the straights of the sea, being crushed by the foundations of Aetna.]

The helpless form is Typhos, whose imprisonment beneath Mt. Aetna by Zeus was supposed to explain the volcano's eruptions. In the 470s an eruption destroyed the city of Catana in Sicily, which was rebuilt and renamed after the volcano by Hieron, the leader of Syracuse. He threw a large celebration for the new city late in the decade, where Pindar's Pythian 1 was performed (and maybe the Persians of Aeschylus, according to Griffith). This passage of Prometheus Bound (363-372) has often been thought to echo Pindar's song, which describes the eruption.

Griffith also draws our attention to Pindar's Olympian 4, lines 7-8:
ἀλλ᾽, ὦ Κρόνου παῖ, ὃς Αἴτναν ἔχεις,
ἶπον ἀνεμόεσσαν ἑκατογκεφάλα Τυφῶνος ὀβρίμου,

[But, O son of Kronos, you who hold Aetna, the windy weight on the mighty, hundred-headed Typhos...]

In addition to the subject matter, he points out the word ἶπον, which refers to the piece of wood in a mousetrap that falls to catch the mouse, and so of a crushing weight, such as a fruit press (Griffith). Recall line 365 of Prometheus Bound above, where the derived ἰπούμενος is used of the same weight confining Typhos. The word is rare enough, says Griffith, that one of the passages probably depends on the other. If we claim that the Prometheus poet is following Pindar's Olympian 4 here (as is suspected about Pythian 1), and not the other way around, then this would support the case against Aeschylean authorship of Prometheus Bound, since that poet's death is usually placed in the year 456, while, by Bowra's chronology (1964), Olympian 4 was composed in 452.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Shining and Laughing

These are the first words P. speaks in Prometheus Bound (88-92):
ὦ δῖος αἰθὴρ καὶ ταχύπτεροι πνοαί,
ποταμῶν τε πηγαί ποντίων τε κυμάτων
ἀνήριθμον γέλασμα, παμμῆτόρ τε γῆ,
καὶ τὸν πανόπτην κύκλον ἡλίου καλῶ·
ἴδεσθέ μ᾽ οἷα πρὸς θεῶν πάσχω θεός.

[O heavenly sky and swift-winged winds, and fresh-water streams and the boundless laughter of the waves of the sea, and earth, the mother of all, and the all-seeing circle of the sun, I call to you: see what I, a god myself, suffer at the hands of the gods.]

Griffith references C.H. Kahn's book, Anaximander and the origins of Greek cosmology (1960), where there is a discussion of αἰθήρ, which, for the the Presocratics at least, seems sometimes to mean fire as well as air (the root αἰθ- implies both, Griffith). He describes the impression that a blazing sun can give on a clear day, where the sky itself seems to be ablaze when looking in the sun's general direction.

The final words of Prometheus are also the final words of the play, and they comprise a similar invocation: not only do we find the words αἰθήρ and πάσχω again, but also images of the mother, and the sun:
ὦ μητρὸς ἐμῆς σέβας, ὦ πάντων
αἰθὴρ κοινὸν φάος εἱλίσσων,
ἐσορᾷς μ᾽ ὡς ἔκδικα πάσχω.

[O majesty of my mother (i.e. herself), O sky, turning the common light of all, you see me as I suffer unjustly.]

But returning to line 90, where we read of the "laughter" of the ocean's waves. The glittering of the sun on the surface of the sea is regularly described as laughter, and, according to Griffith, the sense of "shine" in the root γ(ε)λα-, as in ἀγλαός, may even be older than "laugh." He compares Iliad 19.362, and the Hymn to Apollo 118, and even a line from Milton's Paradise Lost, 4.165: Cheard with the grateful smell old Ocean smiles.

I was reminded of lines 12-14 from the Hymn to Demeter, where it is not only the "salty swell of the sea" that laughs, but also the earth and heaven:
τοῦ καὶ ἀπὸ ῥίζης ἑκατὸν κάρα ἐξεπεφύκει,
κὦζ᾽ ἥδιστ᾽ ὀδμή, πᾶς δ᾽ οὐρανὸς εὐρὺς ὕπερθε
γαῖά τε πᾶσ᾽ ἐγέλασσε καὶ ἁλμυρὸν οἶδμα θαλάσσης.

[And from its (i.e. the narcissus) root a hundred blossoms had grown out, and its scent smelled most sweetly, and the whole vast heaven above and the entire earth laughed, and the salty swell of the sea.]

It's curious that Milton's Ocean smiles being cheard with the grateful smell, while the three realms in the Hymn to Demeter laugh because ὤζ᾽ ἥδιστ᾽ ὀδμή.