Friday, April 29, 2011

Appetitive: Illness and Wine

Since I got sick right after my uncle brought down some very lovely wines, I thought this passage from the Theaetetus was very apt (translation from Perseus. Theaetetus 159b-159e):
Socrates: Well, then, let us take me, or you, or anything else at hand, and apply the same principle—say Socrates in health and Socrates in illness. Shall we say the one is like the other, or unlike?
Theaetetus: When you say “Socrates in illness” do you mean to compare that Socrates as a whole with Socrates in health as a whole?
Socrates: You understand perfectly; that is just what I mean.
Theaetetus: Unlike, I imagine.
Socrates: And therefore other, inasmuch as unlike?
Theaetetus: Necessarily.
Socrates: And you would say the same of Socrates asleep or in any of the other states we enumerated just now?
Theaetetus: Yes.
Socrates: Then each of those elements which by the law of their nature act upon something else, will, when it gets hold of Socrates in health, find me one object to act upon, and when it gets hold of me in illness, another?
Theaetetus: How can it help it?
Socrates: And so, in the two cases, that active element and I, who am the passive element, shall each produce a different object?
Theaetetus: Of course.
Socrates: So, then, when I am in health and drink wine, it seems pleasant and sweet to me?
Theaetetus: Yes.
Socrates: The reason is, in fact, that according to the principles we accepted a while ago, the active and passive elements produce sweetness and perception, both of which are simultaneously moving from one place to another, and the perception, which comes from the passive element, makes the tongue perceptive, and the sweetness, which comes from the wine and pervades it, passes over and makes the wine both to be and to seem sweet to the tongue that is in health.
Theaetetus: Certainly, such are the principles we accepted a while ago.
Socrates: But when it gets hold of me in illness, in the first place, it really doesn't get hold of the same man, does it? For he to whom it comes is certainly unlike.
Theaetetus: True.
Socrates: Therefore the union of the Socrates who is ill and the draught of wine produces other results: in the tongue the sensation or perception of bitterness, and in the wine—a bitterness which is engendered there and passes over into the other; the wine is made, not bitterness, but bitter, and I am made, not perception, but perceptive.
Plato Complete Works 

Friday, April 22, 2011

Appetitive: Greek History Review #10: Lectures on Greek History am still really sick and am confined to activities which require little brainpower and less physical strength. It is a nasty flu. Anyway, one of the few things i have been up to doing is listening to Donald Kagan's lectures on Greek history and reading along with the class assignments in Ancient Greece. I don't, sadly, have access to a copy of the second textbook, Problems in Ancient History, but I've been doing the rest of the reading. It's been fun so far. His lectures are enjoyable and move at a steady pace and they enliven the somewhat dry, textbook approach of Ancient Greece.
Ancient Greece: A Political, Social and Cultural History Problems in Ancient History, Vol. 1: The Ancient Near East and Greece
I am currently listening to lecture number 5, the second of a two-part set on the "Rise of the Polis." A list of the lectures can be found here, or you can read the text of the lectures here. I am posting the current lecture below:


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Reasoning: Donald Kagan's Defense of Studying the Classics

I am approaching the history of Rome in the Berkeley Mediterranean history class, so I decided to look for another Greek history class to which to listen. I obviously need to revisit the history of Rome at some point (I have another Berkeley history course in the cue), but I want to do the enjoyable history (Greece) first. Today, since I am sick and not capable of doing much of anything, I decided to listening to Donald Kagan's Greek history course. Serendipitously, Kagan uses the Pomeroy et al Greek History textbook that my grandfather gave me many years ago and that I decided to use as a basis for my Greek history review. I have decided to start reading the textbook in conjunction with the class as I listen to it. You can find the introduction here, along with the assigned reading, if you want to follow along. You can also subscribe to it on iTunes U.

In the introductory lecture, Kagan provides a defense of studying classical history by demonstrating the influence that the classical Greeks had on the history of the modern era. It's a fun 33 minute lecture, although not nearly as enjoyable as Oliver Taplin's defense which I spoke about previously.


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Reasoning: Mimetic Prose

Propertius II recommended a wonderful article to me by Leslie Kurke. "Plato, Aesop, and the Beginnings of Mimetic Prose" (JSTOR) discusses mimetic proses-- or prose that imitates speech and conversation. Kurke makes a number of interesting points which I will discuss in a future blogpost. Essentially, she traces Plato's philosophical prose back to Aesop as a precursor, including the famous Socratic elenchus.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Reasoning: Constructs of Ethnic Identity in the Ancient World

Instead of what I was supposed to be doing today (reading Medea), I spent a lovely cool spring day on the porch reading the Landmark Herodotus and the Iliad (which I do have to read in preparation for reading book 14 in Greek with Propertius II). Much of Herodotus, in my mind, is a combination of political science and a quest to understanding ethnic identity. The way that the Greeks defined themselves and others is a fascinating question int he ancient world and one i would like ot expore more thoroughly.

In the last few days, both AWOL and Egyptology News have recommended a new open-access journal and magazine called Egyptological. I decided to browse around and read an article on Ancient Egyptian perceptions of Ethnic identities that sounded intriguing. The article was a comparison between two different books on ethnic identity in ancient Egypt which each take a different anthropological view of the way that Egyptians perceived foreigners.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Appetitive: Astronomy and the Panathenaic Festival

I found a great piece on Rogue Classicism about ancient astronomy. According to Heritage News, Professor Efrosyni Boutsikas traced changing celestial coordinates and realized that the constellation Draco marked the beginning of the Panathenaia each year. Pretty cool.

Appetitive: Greek History Review #9: Reading Herodotus

I have been enjoying the Berekeley podcasts I have been listening to so much that I started reading Herodotus. Professor Pafford discusses Herodotus often, and I became so excited about Herodotus that I decided to read it in, at least at the moment, in lieu of my other Greek History studying.
The Landmark Herodotus: The Histories
I am reading the Landmark Herodotus, edited by Robert Strassler. Cerinthus gave me this absolutely stunning a thorough volume for Christmas a few years ago. I read the introduction this morning out on the porch in between a desperate (and successful) attempt to salvage some badly-mangled pizza dough and an attempt to talk to Propertius II about Isocrates (sadly unsuccessful due to technical difficulties with skype). The introduction is written by Rosalind Thomas, and is a delightful and meandering introduction (divided into sections for easy reference by the text itself) and it goes through some of the big issues in Herodotus, such as his accuracy, in a way that provides new information to either a layman or someone with an undergraduate degree in classics. Her writing style is warm and accessible. More reviews on the volume as I continue.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Appetitive/Reasoning: Greek History Review #8: The Invasion of the Safety Pins

I mentioned in "Greek History Review #7" that I was listening to Berkeley's 2007 History 4A, which is a basic survey history of the Mediterranean world from Mesopotamia to late antiquity. The course is obviously brief, but it was a nice survey of Egypt for me, having little previous experience with Egyptian history. It was not until the moment where she spoke about the end of the Mycenean age that I decided that I really liked (now Professor, then doctoral student) Isabelle Pafford.
Ancient Greece: A Political, Social and Cultural History  The Landmark Thucydides: A Comprehensive Guide to the Peloponnesian War
I find Mycenean archaeology pretty fascinating, although I know little about it. Until this summer when I started my Greek history review, I had always assumed that the Dorian invasion was a myth made up by the Greeks. It was not until I read an ancient Greek history textbook my grandfather gave to me and (if I remember correctly) Early Greece, proposed the possibility of a possible historical Dorian invasion. Pomoroy et al say that this is problematic because "the only material signs of the Dorians are now dated much later than the destruction period, to around 1000 BC or later" (Pomeroy et al 39). What the book does not say is exactly what constitutes that material evidence. Pafford tells her audience it is a total of 48 non-Mycenean safety pins. Seriously. Safety pins. That just cracked me up. I really enjoy the humor of classical historians.

Apparently, according to Lecture 11, the "safety pins" may correspond to a section in Herodotus that talks about the women with the Heracedae who wore distinctive long pins in their manner of dress. Still, safety pins as the material evidence amuses me.

Perhaps I am an idealist, but I like the idea of an historical Dorian invasion. I am sure that if I ever study the safety pins and any other potential evidence I will be as much of a skeptic as anyone else. I guess I'll see.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Appetitive/Reasoning: Greek History Review #7: A Brief History of the Mediterranean

Although I have been working on improving my Greek and Latin reading, some of my attempt to review my history has fallen by the wayside. I have, however, been listening to various lectures while I do chores. I decided that I should listen to history in my own field (what a concept!) while I cook and do the various chores I have to do anyway. I am currently listening to Berkeley's History 4A which is a basic history of the Mediterranean. It can be found on Berkeley's Webcast Site or on iTunes U (the lectures are in reverse order on iTunes). The professor's voice is a little grating and she has a lazy way of speaking, but she is informative and reasonably engaging in her content. I am on the second lecture that is available, which is on Egypt. The lectures will move into Greece soon. I recommend the lectures thus far.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Appetitive: Oliver Taplin's Defense of Classics

I listened to a great podcast this morning. It was an interview with Oliver Taplin about the classics department at Oxford and his own personal history. I cannot figure out exactly how to link to this (try here), but it's on the iTunes U class under "Oxford Classics."I listened to an interview with Frank McGuinness, and Irish poet who has adapted a number of Greek tragedies. It was interesting, if a little long.

Another podcast that looks pretty interesting is "New Books in Classics" which is a podcast on iTunes.
New Books in Classics

I am currently working on my statement of purpose so it may be a few days before I resume more in-depth posting.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Appetitive: A Follow -Up on the Linear B Tablet

Servia sent me this latest piece (New York Times) on the new discovery of the Linear B tablet in Iklaina which I mentioned in two previous blogposts (#1, #2). The peice shows not only an image of the tablet, but a sketch that allows a clearer view of the writing.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Reasoning: Sports and War Review

The most recent lecture on Marathon 2500 was Thomas Scanlon's lecture "Sports and War." You can listen to the lecture by clicking on the link at the bottom of that post or you can download the lecture by right clicking on the link and (if you have firefox) clicking "Save Link As" and then saving the file.

I have to admit, I was not particularly excited about this lecture. Although my thesis adviser, Messalla, did most of his work in sports, my interested only extended to the odes of Pindar and references to sports in Plato's discussion of education. I decided I would listen to the lecture anyway and I was pleasantly surprised with the lecture and enjoyed the Q&A thoroughly.

The lecture spoke much about the different races from which the Phidippides/Philippides might have originated. That was pretty interesting. He also mentions that athletic training for war is highly overstated (with the exception of training in Sparta), which was something that I did not know and certainly goes against the ideas transmitted in Plato [1].

My favorite moments were a few tidbits I didn't know in the Q&A. First, I had no idea that there were races that included women. Scanlon revealed in the Q&A that there was a race for Hera that happened directly before the Olympics that was specifically for women. I also had no idea that, as there were small dramatic competitions which happened all year and offered cash to actors to come and perform, there were also small sports competitions all year that offered cash prizes. This is a striking contrast to the Olympics which only offered a laurel crown, although, as Scanlon pointed out, the home city of the winning athlete would often give him lifetime room and board for free. The lecture is good, but the Q&A has some really fabulous kernels of information and Scalon provides a short bibliography for future reading.

  1. Plato obviously models some of his political philosophy on Sparta, although I think the case is overstated by many scholars.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Reasoning/Spirited: Publishing and the Internet

I found this article on Twitter. I thought it was especially interesting for classicists/grad students. Apparently some publishers get really jumpy about publishing books from dissertations that appear online in digital form. Others seem to feel that this means that there is already a market for the product. I wonder whether publishers will end up moving digital information backward by forcing students not to share their work if they want to be considered publishable.

Euripides: Medea (Cambridge Greek and Latin Classics)
I read over 80 lines of Μήδεια today and I am exhausted (how will I ever survive grad school?) so I am not going to finish my addendum to the comments on "Μήδεια and Rhetoric" tonight. However, they should appear in a semi-coherent form in the next few days along with some addenda to "Μήδεια and the 'Royal We'," some thoughts on Isocrates, Parmenides, and a review of the most recent Marathon 2500 talk.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Appetitive: Follow-up on Tablets Near Pylos

I wanted to post a follow-up for my previous post "Appetitive: Tablets Near Pylos." Apparently, an archaeologist working on the project wrote a note on the contents of the tablet, which was posted on Rogue Classicism. As I suspected, it is a list, and probably a personnel list (according to the article).

Spirited: More on Μήδεια

I have gotten really behind on pretty much everything I am trying to do right now. Trying to catch up, I have been reading a lot of Μήδεια so there will be a lot of focus on this play in my posts right now. I recently wrote a long post in comments on yesterday's blog about translating Jason's speech and I have an addendum that I will finish and post when I am more awake and coherent. There is a lot of fascinating word choice in the Μήδεια and I love people weighing in on the discussion. I am also planning on doing a post on the rhetoric of enemies in the Μήδεια. It makes me wish I had been able to fit an additional class into my schedule second semester so I could have taken the Μήδεια with my alma mater's wonderful ancient rhetoric and oratory professor. Days just need more hours in them...
Euripides: Medea (Cambridge Greek and Latin Classics)

Monday, April 4, 2011

Spirited: Μήδεια and Rhetoric

By next week, Herodotus II and I will be half way through Μήδεια. Last night both of us were remarking how different the Μήδεια looks when read very slowly in Greek. One of the things that we noticed, which I certainly did not notice reading it in English, is Jason's rhetorical skill. The verbal duel that rages between Medea and Jason from 364-625 demonstrates not only Medea's intense persuasive power, but Jason's ability to employ the rhetorical tools of the sophists (obviously anachronistic).

Jason begins his second speech by reinforcing the necessity of winning the verbal battle almost instead of being correct in his actions: "δεῖ μ', ὡς ἔοικε, μὴ κακὸν φῦναι λέγειν" (It is necessary that I, as it seems, to prove myself to speak not badly [1])" (Μήδεια 522). Later, he refers to his argument with Medea as an "ἅμιλλαν...λογῶν (contest of words)" (Μήδεια 546), the same phrase Gorgias uses to describe the rhetorical battles of the sophists on various topics. These meta-phrases and Jason's rhetorical strategy of numbering causes and disproving Μήδεια point-by-point (also a tactic that Gorgias uses to demonstrate the innocence of Helen), and most particularly his argument that it was not Medea that helped him, but rather Aphrodite, who compelled her to help (one of Gorgias's arguments), shows that Jason is not taking the content of the argument seriously. This would not seem so striking-- after all the Athenians certainly liked rhetoric-- except that Medea is passionately arguing for her own life and those of her children. Going into exile meant not only leaving her homeland but that they would effectively be wandering as beggars ("πτωχοὺς ἀλᾶσθαι παῖδας ἥ τ'ἔσωσά σε" line 517), vulnerable to thieves and murderers and with not guarantee of safe passage or a place to go. This makes Jason seem more horrible than he already does and it actually sounds worse in the Greek than I remember in English.

One thing that Herodotus II pointed out is that although Jason seems awful, the rhetorical skills he displays also make him seem intelligent. He is not doing this because he is stupid; he is doing it because he has no conscience. This is fascinating because Jason was one of the men of the heroic age who traveled on the Argo. From what I remember of my tragedy class, Medea acts like a Sophoclean hero (as described by Bernard Knox). The Sophoclean hero, as Knox describes him [2] is a relic of the heroic ages who still obeys by the old codes and cannot function in a rapidly modernizing world where the values of honor and oaths no longer hold the same power. This certainly seems to be true of Medea. The odd thing is that Jason, the Argonaut, demonstrates none of these heroic tenancies; he is thoroughly a "modern man" placing the value of conspicuousness [3] (ἐπίσημος) rather than everlasting κλέος (glory won in the traditional heroic fashion).

Euripides: Medea (Cambridge Greek and Latin Classics) Encomium of Helen (BCP Greek Texts) (English and Greek Edition)
  1. In this translation, I take the neuter adjective to be functioning as an adverb. It could also function (as Mastronarde suggests) as an alternative phrasing for δεινὸς λέγειν (skilled at speaking) (Mastronarde258).
  2. I use the male pronoun even though Antigone also demonstrates the pattern of the Sophoclean hero. I remember this from reading Bernard Knox' article "The Ajax of Sophocles" (JSTOR) but I am sure it can also be found in The Heroic Temper.
  3. This is "notableness" but in the sense of something being remarkable in a worldly way. The word's primary meaning is the mark that is stamped on coinage.(see LSJ entry).

Friday, April 1, 2011

Appetitive: Tablets Near Pylos

According to Rogue Classicism, the oldest writing in Europe has been found. The small Linear B tablet has been found in Iklaina, which is a site about 5 miles from Pylos. The tablet was inscribed, according to the article, in 1450-1350 BCE, which is the oldest instance of Linear B. In general, Linear B tablets were not meant to be preserved. The tablets exist because they were unintentionally fired. This should be an interesting find, although Linear B tablets tend to be (content-wise) boring lists.

Thoughts on Isocrates coming tomorrow.