Thursday, February 28, 2008

Using Your Head

If you ever need to spark revolution among your allies, but don't want to pay the text-messaging fees on your cell phone, or don't feel like using a computer, and you have lots of patience and a few weeks, you could opt for the method of Histiaios, as explained at 5.35 in Herodotus:

ὁ γὰρ Ἱστιαῖος βουλόμενος τῷ Ἀρισταγόρῃ σημῆναι ἀποστῆναι ἄλλως μὲν οὐδαμῶς εἶχε ἀσφαλέως σημῆναι ὥστε φυλασσομένων τῶν ὁδῶν, ὁ δὲ τῶν δούλων τὸν πιστότατον ἀποξυρήσας τὴν κεφαλὴν ἔστιξε καὶ ἀνέμεινε ἀναφῦναι τὰς τρίχας, ὡς δὲ ἀνέφυσαν τάχιστα, ἀπέπεμπε ἐς Μίλητον ἐντειλάμενος αὐτῷ ἄλλο μὲν οὐδέν, ἐπεὰν δὲ ἀπίκηται ἐς Μίλητον, κελεύειν Ἀρισταγόρην ξυρήσαντά μιν τὰς τρίχας κατιδέσθαι ἐς τὴν κεφαλήν.

[For Histiaios, wishing to signal to Aristagoras to revolt, had no other safe way to signal, since the roads were guarded, but, having shaved his most trustworthy of slaves, he marked his head and waited for the hair to grow out, and as soon as it grew out, he sent him to Miletos, having ordered nothing else to him, but that when he should arrive in Miletos, to tell Aristagoras, after shaving his hair, to look at his head.]

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Gildersleeve on Jebb

I'm reading selected letters of Basil Lanneau Gildersleeve, whom I consider one of America's foremost Hellenists, and who was one of Pindar's most sensitive readers. In 1880 he made a trip to Europe to make the enterprise of Johns Hopkins University known among the scholarly community, and to recruit for the university's chair of Latin, and for contributions to the American Journal of Philology. There are all kinds of interesting tidbits, but I pass along this description of G.'s meeting with Richard Claverhouse Jebb:

To: Daniel Coit Gilman
[President of Johns Hopkins]
Oxford, June 1, 1880

In Oxford I have met several men whom I wanted to see for various reasons. Jebb I found at last. He is an excessively nervous man and all the time he is lecturing tries to make a double spiral twist out of his legs and casts from side to side an agonized stare at his auditors. His voice is highpitched, fashionable English style, though not so disagreeable as most readers of that persuasion make it. And his utterance is broken every few minutes by a distressing hysteric cough. When he translates poetry, he lets his voice fall into the lower ranges, which are not unpleasant, only you wonder which is his own voice. Of course the language is elegance itself and the literary judgment in the main sound. I had a very pleasant talk with him after his lecture and while his manner is nervous, he was by no means the shrinking creature I had heard him described. He urged me very much to spend some days with him in Cambridge before my departure and actually volunteered to write for the Journal, a favor which, in my modesty, I should hardly have dreamed of asking. As Jebb is one of the most prominent Greek scholars in England, I was especially interested in him and so have been betrayed into a bit of description, though, of course, he is out of our range.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Apollo & Son

In the first book of the Iliad, at line 37, the slighted priest Chryses calls upon Apollo to avenge him:
κλῦθι μευ, ἀργυρότοξ᾽, ὃς Χρύσην ἀμφιβέβηκας
Κίλλαν τε ζαθέην Τενέδοιό τε ἶφι ἀνάσσεις,
Σμινθεῦ, εἴ ποτέ τοι χαρίεντ᾽ ἐπὶ νηὸν ἔρεψα,
ἢ εἰ δή ποτέ τοι κατὰ πίονα μηρί᾽ ἔκηα
ταύρων ἠδ᾽ αἰγῶν, τόδε μοι κρήηνον ἐέλδωρ·
τίσειαν Δαναοὶ ἐμὰ δάκρυα σοῖσι βέλεσσιν.

The vocative Σμινθεῦ is thought to derive from σμίνθος, meaning mouse. Some people have conjectured that, as a healing god who also spreads plague, Apollo is called Σμινθεῦ because rodents spread disease, but this is only speculation. Strabo (13.1.48) describes a temple in Chrysa in the Troad for Apollo Smintheus, where there is an image of Apollo with his foot upon a mouse. This might at first glance suggest that Apollo is crushing a mouse, but there are other instances of gods and heroes resting their feet upon animals without a sense of violence, so it is not certain.

Apollo's son Asklepios is also known as a healer. It has been suggested that his name too derives from the name of a rodent. There is a word ἀσπάλαξ (also σπάλαξ) which means mole, or blind-rat, as the LSJ would have it. There exists another variant on this word by metathesis: σκάλοψ. By comparing the cognate Latin word scalpo, meaning, I scratch (think of a mole scratching in the earth), we can see that the variant σκάλοψ is older, and this has led some to suppose an earlier form *ἀσκάλοψ.

An interesting parallel can be found in the Indian tradition. There is a warrior god, Rudra, whose weapon is a bow (Rig Veda 2.33.14) and who is associated with disease and healing (Rig Veda 22.33.2, 4); and he has a son named Ganesha. Although their names do not reveal any relationship with rodents, the characters themselves are so related: Ganesha with the rat, and Rudra with the mole. While it is not clear exactly why a warrior god, who fights with a bow, and who also heals, is associated with rodents, it does seem likely that such a figure, with a son in a similar line of work, was part of Proto-Indo-European mythology.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Temple of Olympian Zeus

After sitting in the agora, as the day was coming to an end, I made up my mind to walk to the opposite side of the Acropolis to see the Temple of Olympian Zeus. I didn't have much time to get there before the site would be closed, but it was my last evening in Greece, and I wanted to squeeze in one more adventure before leaving Athens. If I had fully comprehended the scale and the grandeur of the remains, I would have left no chance of missing it. The Temple was begun at the end of the sixth century by Hippias and Hipparchos, the sons of Pisistratus, but it was not completed for more than six more centuries, in the Roman period. In one of these photos you can use the people to get a feel for the size, but, as always, the magnitude cannot be felt except by standing beside it.




I arrived at the site when the gate was half-closed, and the guards very nicely informed me that I had only 15 minutes before closure. I made my way quickly toward the remains of the temple, and walked the full perimeter, taking pictures from all angles. Then I stood underneath what towering columns still remain and let it flow over me like waves from the past. I cannot even fathom what it would have looked like in its completed form, or even half completed for that matter.



I stayed until the guards informed that it was time to leave, and then I very nicely thanked them, and just remained where I was. You can actually hear a woman in the video tell me it was time to leave. I was very grateful that they allowed me to stay longer without becoming too irritated, but I had to absorb as much as I could.


video

On my way out, heading back toward the Acropolis, I turned and gazed at it again for ten more minutes, thinking about my entire trip to Greece culminating in this last sight. I will certainly go back to Greece one day, but I doubt that it can ever be as inspiring and overwhelming as my first whirlwind tour, which took me through an extraordinary number of places and landscapes. It was a perfect time to make the visit too, just before entering upon graduate work in classics, and the experience has been beneficial both in broad terms of understanding the setting for my studies, but also in specific ways, like providing photos and knowledge for several presentations.

My trip to Paris was a great transition to returning home to New York. It offered something different and exciting, and some time to see new sights, in a slightly more relaxed mode. I spent several days exploring the restaurants and back streets of the city. I also managed to see the Louvre and the Musée Rodin, as well as the Sorbonne, and nearly twenty of the bookstores in the surrounding neighborhoods. I bought a copy of Herodotos at Pnin, and searched desperately for a copy of Chantraine's Homeric grammar, without any luck.

This tour of Greece took me much longer to complete than I had supposed when first starting on the project, but now I hope to return to some of the interesting notes that I've discovered in my reading, including some updates on my Latin education, and my exploration of the Sanskrit language.

Temple of Hephaistos

After all the raving I've done about these landmarks and landscapes of Greece, my praise will undoubtedly be worth less when I say that the Temple of Hephaistos is one of the truly spectacular sights of Greece. There are several factors which contribute to that estimate. In the first place, I'm particularly fond of Hephaistos as a character in Greek literature; this, of course, has little bearing on the temple. The temple is a perfect example of the simple complexity and mastery of form that Greek architecture displays. I know that this will sound like something straight from a textbook on Greek art and architecture, but I'm not sure how to describe it otherwise. It dominates its site with grace. It is far and away the most exciting thing to see in the agora, and it is enhanced by its station just slightly above the rest of the gathering place, on a small hill, and also with the Acropolis looming in the background on an even higher plane. But most of all, it is the completeness of its preservation which makes it one of the best ways to enjoy Greek architecture.




I visited the site on my first trip through Athens, before heading to Thera and Crete, and knew that I would have to come back before leaving. There was a further reason as well: just after I took the first picture on the first visit, my camera informed me that I was out of memory. I searched through the photos, seeking for something to delete, but I knew that I would have to buy more memory anyway, so I planned to photograph it on my next visit. When I returned for a second time, and snapped one more photo, my camera now informed that my batteries were almost dead. I could hardly believe it. I walked through the agora, hoping, on the one hand, to find somewhere to buy batteries, but relieved, on the other hand, when I realized that there was no commerce in the area. But there was a woman who over heard me asking a guard about buying batteries, and she very generously informed me that she was leaving on the following morning, and that I could have her extra batteries. I doubt that she will ever come across this blog, but I am eternally grateful to her.



I sat for a long time in front of the temple, as the last remaining people wandered away, and read from my copy of Homer, occasionally looking out across the most famous of all Greek meeting places, trying to imagine the momentous events that took place there, as well as the everyday affairs of the anonymous citizens. What debates had raged there among philosophers? What orations had been delivered which would change the tide of Greek, and therefore European, history? How many people had felt that timeless thrill of finding a great book in the market at a terrific price? How many had argued with the vendor over the cost of an over-priced book?


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Divine Bronze

When I rounded the corner in the museum, and saw the grandeur of this famous bronze in a majestic pose, it took my breath. I've always been fond of this piece; it is wonderfully crafted, and wonderfully preserved, but it is also a remarkable work of art. I do not know enough about sculpture to even begin to explain how it produces its effect, but it gives me that same feeling that I get when appreciating some of my favorite works. There is much debate about whether it is meant to represent Zeus or Poseidon, which would be solved instantly if we knew what instrument he was about to throw with his right arm: a thunderbolt or a trident. I've included a photo of the statue's posterior, which I don't think I've ever seen before in a book; I hope you appreciate it. I'm sure that I had some more close up photos, of feet, hands, etc., but I'm not able to find them at the moment. I've also included a short video clip (of poor quality); I think that it offers an unusual three-dimensional view of a work that demands it.






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Nestor's Cup, again

I thought that these images of what Schliemann called "Nestor's Cup" deserved its own post on this blog. It was a real treat to see it in person, after studying all of its manifestations in literature and archaeology. Like some of the other pictures, it was difficult to get a good image through the glass casing.

National Archaeological Museum

The National Archaeological Museum in Athens was a delightful way to spend the morning in Athens while we waited for our hotel room to be prepared. We toured the entire thing slowly, and were able to reflect on the landscape and the locations for many of the exhibits. By an interesting stroke of luck, there was a special exhibit devoted to Thera, which we had visited just days before. Here are just a few select images from the museum.









Crete: Chania

Now we aimed to reach the north coast again, this time heading across central Crete in a north-westerly direction, on much smaller, winding roads. The map we had wasn't very accurate, and the road signs were more confusing than helpful. We came to a decisive junction, at which one sign pointed us to go right, and a sign just a little further suggested we go left. We stopped the car and looked closely at the map, and finally decided to take the route to the left, which seemed to make the most sense. Whether or not it was the quickest route, I cannot imagine that the other would have been nearly so lovely. As we moved into the center of the island, we curved around rocky mountain tops, including Mt. Kedros, with small farmsteads here and there around the bases, and flocks of goats wandering about, and neatly planted patches of olive trees.

We came to the north coast of the island at Rethymno, and began searching for a certain restaurant, Avli, which had been highly recommended. After parking near the port, we walked through a maze of Venetian style streets, and finally came upon our destination. We walked through a dimly lit interior, and came to a central courtyard with full trees, and lush plants, and took one of the few seats in the shade. There was only one other table occupied, which made for a lovely lunch: we enjoyed tapanade and bread until our salads arrived, and then I had a delicious duck plate with orange and tangerine sauce, and a glass of local rosé. The food was as good as we expected, and the atmosphere was even nicer than we could have hoped for, so it made a wonderful little break after driving across the island. We wandered through the streets again, looking at interesting shops, including one bookstore, although I didn't find anything particularly interesting.

Next we headed to Chania, which would be our ultimate destination on Crete. Our room at Casa Delfino was right on the ancient port, and the maps didn't indicate that it was impossible to drive very close, so it took some ingenuity in order to find a place where we could park for several days. The ancient port area is a beautiful circular walkway, and wonderful buildings grown up around it, with circuitous walkways all throughout. We spent about two days just enjoying the lively atmosphere and the food, and the fact that we could walk through this little section of the city completely shaded from the blistering sun of the heat-wave.

After this respite, we boarded an overnight ferry back to Athens. We watched Crete fade into the distance until the sun had nearly laid down over the horizon, and then we ate a nice dinner at a restaurant aboard the ferry, and went to sleep in our cabin. Over the next few days in Athens we saw the National Archaeological museum, returned to the Acropolis and the Agora, and made our way to see the Temple of Olympian Zeus, which was a breathtaking way to end the trip before flying to Prague and Paris.