Sunday, February 27, 2011

Appetitive: Classical Encomia

Encomium of Helen (BCP Greek Texts) (English and Greek Edition)
I have recently started reading Gorgias' Encomium of Helen with Propertius II. This encomium comes from a long tradition of encomia and exemplifies many of the characteristics of sophistic encomia. An encomium is an often-formal speech of praise and the term comes from the Greek ἐν+κῶμος (in+merry-making) [1]. Encomia were typically written praising gods and noble men. In order to demonstrate their rhetorical skill, the sophists turned the encomium on it's head and wrote encomia to insignificant things like mice and salt and to ignoble things. Gorgias' Encomium of Helen praises a Helen, a character commonly reviled in the Greek world. Isocrates, in response, wrote his own "Encomium of Helen."

I first learned about encomia in my class on Plato's Phaedrus. At the beginning of the Phaedrus, Phaedrus delivers Lysias' encomium of the unsmitten pederast and Socrates responds with two encomia of his own: one on the same subject and one on the value of love tempered by philosophy. One of the general theories on the strange form of the Phaedrus, an oddly organize text on rhetorical strategy, is that it provides a proof to the sophists that Plato's philosophy can beat them at their won game before going on to analyze rhetorical strategy [2]. At the end of the text, it makes fun of Isocrates, who ran a school that was the main rival of the Academy and taught rhetoric.

Gorgias' encomium uses a lot of the same tropes one might expect from a sophist: careful word choice, puns, meta-discourse on speech, and simple but manipulative language. Although the text we have is somewhat corrupt, the reader can sense the precision of his repetition and the strategy behind the work. The characterization of sophists in Plato seems very accurate.

  1. This etymology comes from Merriam Webster's Online Dictionary. Interestingly enough, ὁ κομμός is a lamentation. 
  2. All of this information comes from my memory of this class. If my professor happens to read this, I hope he forgives any mistakes I might make in my representation.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Appetitive: One of the Good Stories

Unfortunately, the public loses access to many archaeological marvels every year when they are looted and sold on the black market to private collectors. A combination of tomb-raiding and vandalism has marred many of the vestiges of the ancient world. In a previous blogpost, I mentioned that the Getty has created a prototype computer system with satellite imaging (MEGA) to help monitor monuments and share archaeological information in Jordan. Even in Greek and Roman times, people vandalized and raided tombs for rich grave goods. The Phaedrus on whom Plato's Phaedrus is based could not have been in Athens during the dramatic date of the conversation because he had been exiled for vandalizing religious statues. In my favorite Horace poem, 2.13, Horace describes the man who planted the evil tree as having "sacreliga manu" or profane hands. However, the word does not just mean "profane;" the first defintion of sacreligus,-a,-um (adj) is one "that steals sacred things, that robs a temple" (see the Lewis & Short entry on Perseus). And certainly since antiquity civilizations have  been robbing the monuments of their forefathers for valuable materials in for building and making money or war.

The story I read this morning, however, has a happy ending. According to Egyptology News, a group of security forces and archaeologists apprehended a some thieves trying to steal the King Ramses II Colossus. I can see now a whole new generational of children wanting to become crime-fighting archaeologists.

Reasoning: TLG does LSJ

The Liddell, Scott, and Jones (LSJ for short) is the standard dictionary of classical Greek. I have had my intermediate LSJ (Middle Liddell) since high school. I love it, even though I often use the faster version of the big LSJ (Great Scott) on the Perseus Project.
Liddell and Scott Greek English Lexicon - 9th ed. w 1996 Revised Supplement An Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon: Founded upon the Seventh Edition of Liddell and Scott's Greek-English Lexicon An Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon (text only) 7th (Seventh) edition by H. G. Liddell,R. Scott
The Thesaurus Linguae Graecae (TLG), according to AWOL, has now put out a digital version of the 9th edition (revised and with supplements). This version will be searchable in both English and Greek (an invaluable tool for anyone taking a Greek composition class) and sounds fabulous.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Appetitive: Horace and Poison

Propertius II and I finally finished our Horace allotment! Our last poem was Horace Epode 17, which was an odd way for Horace to end his final book of poems. This is one of many steps that make me feel better about applying for graduate school.

This last poem depicted a conversation between Horace and a witch named Candidia, a character in many of the Epodes. The poem, and many others in the Epodes including the one about garlic, mention or deal with poison. The Latin word for poison is venenum (n). It is the equivalent of the Greek word το φαρμακόν [1], which not only means poison, drug, medicine, tincture, dye, etc. It is a complicated term with many meanings.

Poisoning is an equally fascinating topic in the Ancient World. The Greeks did not have a lot poisoning and it was often considered a womanly and foreign art. Paul Cartledge mentions in a recent article that the Greeks were much less into poisoning than the Romans. The Romans had a fascinating attitude toward poison. As they lacked modern forensic techniques, it was difficult for Romans to tell the difference between poisoning and other forms of death because some poisons left similar marks on the surface.

Poison was also a bit of a toxic topic in the ancient world. Women were considered to be those who brewed and administered poisons, often accused little no proof. One of the most interesting things (to me) about the trial speeches in Cicero's Pro Caelio is the way that the speech manoeuvrings around the poisoning accusation.

  1. For a long discussion of the complexities of  in the Phaedrus, see Derrida's Dissemination.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Appetitive: Egyptology News

I am not much of an Egyptology person, but I find it interesting as a non-scholarly observer. When I was looking for some information on Egyptology recently I happened across a prolific blog called Egyptology News that posts updates on everything Egyptology related. Recently, the site has posted pictures of the Ptolomaic Temple, as well as a lot of information on the looting that took place in Egypt during the recent protests.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Reasoning: Scholia

For those of you who do not know, "scholia" (singluar scholium) are the marginal commentary notes  on classical texts (and possibly stretched to include some of the ancient scholars works in their own right). Until last weekend, I knew next to nothing about ancient scholarship. Now I know a little bit. Last Saturday, while proctoring an exam, I read the kindle free sample of Eleanor Dickey's Ancient Greek Scholarship: A Guide to Finding, Reading, and Understanding Scholia, Commentaries, Lexica, and Grammatical Treatises: From Their Beginnings to the Byzantine Period, which first discusses the scope and format of ancient scholarship in general, and then about the bodies of scholia on texts (such as scholia on the Iliad or Euripides' works). The second half of the book is essentially a textbook on how to read ancient scholarship. It sounds great, but I have so many other things to read that I have not bought the full version yet.
Ancient Greek Scholarship: A Guide to Finding, Reading, and Understanding Scholia, Commentaries, Lexica, and Grammatical Treatises: From Their Beginnings to the Byzantine Period
Recently, the Homer Multitext ran a post about a particular book with scholia on the Iliad. The post discussed an individual text of the Iliad (and a specific folio within that text) and the unique summery in the scholia of the particular manuscript. It then compared this text with other texts of various time periods. The article was very interesting and I recommend it.

Appetitive/Reasoning: Encomia (?) of Helen

Encomium of Helen (BCP Greek Texts) (English and Greek Edition) 
Propertius II and I are almost done with Horace! It's been a long journey. We are reading the last of the 24 poems in our set (Epode 17) this week. Although the plan is to read Iliad Book 14, Propertius II is not done with Book 13 yet (he has been reading through the entire Iliad in Greek of the last two years (although he was interrupted by classes and having to write a thesis). So, in the meantime, we are planning to read Gorgias' "Encomium of Helen." We may also read Isocrates' "Encomium of Helen."

I have had a very busy week. Back to regular posting soon.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Appetitive: Learning Sanskrit

A Sanskrit Grammar: Including Both the Classical Language, and the Older Dialects, of Veda and Brahmana Sanskrit Grammar (Including Both the Classical Language, and the Older Dialects, of Veda and Brahmana)
I have talked a lot about learning Sanskrit in previous blogposts (#1, #2). I actually started training myself in the language Tuesday in preparation for my first meeting with my friend Catullus II Wednesday morning. It's really hard! We read and discussed the first chapter of William Dwight Whitney's Sanskrit Grammar (concerning the alphabet) and attempted to puzzle through pronunciation and how to approach a primarily syllabic alphabet. It should be a fun challenge. Our second meeting is this Wednesday and we will be looking at the second chapter (pronunciation).

Learning a new language is always difficult. Sanskrit is the fourth language I am currently actively studying (alongside French, Latin, and Greek) and I will hopefully be adding German to the list sometime in the next few weeks. Tips for learning Sanskrit or (especially) book recommendations would be very welcome.

Note: It's been a hectic week. Normal posting should resume soon.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Spirited: Horace Epode III

Bennett titles this epode "Oh that Guilty Garlic." As it had such an amusing title, Propertius and I decided to read it and I mentioned that I would translate it in a recent blogpost. Here it is.
Parentis olim siquis impia manu
   Senile guttur fregerit,
Edit cicutis allium nocentius.
   Oh dura messorum ilia!
Num viperinus his cruor
   Incoctus herbis me fefellit? an malas
Canidia tractavit dapes?
   Ut Argonautas praeter omnis candidum
Medea Mirata est ducem,
   Ignota tauris inligaturum iuga
Perunxit hoc Iasonem;
   Serpente fugit alite.
Nec tantus umquam siderum insedit vapor
   Siticulosae Apuliae,
Nec munus umeris efficacis Herculis
   Inarsit aestuosius
At siquit umquam tale concupiveris,
   Iocos Maecenas, precor,
Manum puella savio opponat tuo,
   Extrema et in sponda cubet.
If ever any man breaks
the old neck of his father,let him eat garlic, 
which induces more injury than hemlock.
O tough intestines of harvesters!
What poison rages furiously in my heart?
Surely no viper's blood has been boiled
with these herbs to decieve me? Or did
Canidia serve bad dishes?
When Medea was amazed at the leader,
shining beyond the other Argonauts,
she anointed Jason, going to bind the bulls\
with unknown yokes, with [garlic];
Having steeped the gifts in [garlic]
for his concubine, she flees in her dragon chariot.
And not at any time so great a heat
of the stars sat over arid Apulia,
nor did such a glowing gift burn
the shoulders of powerful Hercules.
But if anyone ever will have desired
such a thing, jocular Maecenas, oh heart,
may your girl place a hand opposite your kiss
and may she lie on the far-side of the bed.

I used Bennett's commentary and text and discussed the text with Propertius II. I took some liberties-- especially with tense-- to attempt to make this into decent English.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Appetitive: Books-- a Valentine's Day Tradition

The summer before my junior year in college, I almost entirely stopped eating chocolate. When Valentine's Day came, a package arrived for me. Inside the package was a box-- which looked very much like a chocolate box-- wrapped in white paper with a pink ribbon. I opened it, thinking I would have to figure out which of my friends I could convince to eat it. To my great pleasant surprise, it was a copy of the hardcover copy of Being and Time which I later used to start my Heidegger study group. The books-wrapped-like-chocolate have now become a tradition, and they are usually dense texts. This year my parents got me Hans-Georg Gadamer's Dialogue and Dialectic: Eight Hermeneutical Studies on Plato and a study of Dionysus by Richard Seaford titled DIONYSOS. I am quite excited to read both of them. Being by far the lighter of the two, I read the introduction to DIONYSOS earlier today and it looks great. Richard Seaford is brilliant; I read on of his essays from Reciprocity and Ritual: Homer and Tragedy in the Developing City-State in a Greek class I took on tragedy and the Oresteia.
Dialogue and Dialectic: Eight Hermeneutical Studies on Plato DIONYSOS
Happy Valentine's Day!

Spirited: The Horace to Come

Properitus II and I are finally finishing up our stint of Horace poems. Since we finished the list of typical odes plus a few that we picked out, we decided to move on to the epodes. The first epode we read (Epode III) was quite funny; it was much in the style of Ode 2.13. The second one was...well not what I was expecting. Although Bennett, the editor, failed to write a commentary due to Epode VIII's "crude" subject matter, I figured this was simple 19th century prudishness. I was mistaken. The ode was rather revolting. I don't suggest it and I shall not put up a translation. I will, tomorrow, put up the "Garlic" ode which was charming and silly.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Appetitive: Sexual Orientation of Alexander the Great

I found a fabulous piece on Rogue Classicism today. Apparently, Paul Cartledge, a scholar I greatly admire, and James Romm, the translator of The Landmark Arrian, did an interview on the sexual orientation of Alexander the Great. It is a brief, but fairly nuanced look at the topic. I recommend it.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Spirtited: Horace 2.13

I decided provide my translation of another Horace poem. Horace's ode 13 in his second book is not an ode that is traditionally translated. I picked it because I saw that it mentioned Alceus and Sappho. It turned out to be quite funny and I really enjoyed it.

Ille et nefasto te posuit die
Quicumque primum, et sacrilega manu
Produxit, arbos, in nepotum
Perniciem opprobriumque pagi;

Illum et parentis crediderim sui
Fregisse cervicem et penetralia
Sparsisse nocturno cruore
Hospitis; ille venena Colcha

Et quidquid usquam concipitur nefas
Tractavit, agro qui statuit meo
Te, triste lignum, te, caducum
In domini caput inmerentis

Quid quisque vitet, numquam homini satis
Cautum est in horas: navita Bosporum
Poenus perhorrescit neque ultra
Caeca timet aliunde fata,

Miles sagittas et celerem fugam
Parthi, catenas Parthus et Italum
Robur; sed inprovisa leti
Vis rapuit rapietque gentis.

Quam paene furvae regna Proserpinae
Et iudicantem vidimus Aeacum
Sedesque discriptas piorum et
Aeoliis fidibus querentem

Sappho puellis de popularibus
Et te sonantem plenius aureo,
Alcaee, plectro dura navis,
Dura fugae mala, dura belli.

Utrumque sacro digna silentio
Mirantur umbrae dicere, sed magis
Pugnas et exactos tyrannos
Densum umeris bibit aure volgus.

Quid mirum, ubi illis carminibus stupens
Demittit atras belua centiceps
Auris et intorti capillis
Eumenidum recreantur angues?

Quin et Prometheus et Pelopis parens
Dulci laborem decipitur sono
Nec curat Orion leones
Aut timidos agitare lyncas.
He planted you on an inauspicious day, 
whichever [day you were] originally [planted],
and by a profane hand, Tree, lead forth into destruction
of future generations and the scandal of the neighborhood.

I would also believe he crushed 
the neck of his father and by night 
scattered the blood of guests
on the hearthstone; he has handled Colchian drugs

and [has engaged in] whatsoever evil
is conceived of in any place, he who planted
you on my farm, Wretched Stump, you,
destined to fall on the head of the innocent master.

Why does one shun everything, a man is never
aware enough from hour to hour: a Punic sailor
dreads the Bosphorus but does not fear
blind fate from other placed beyond.

A soldier dreads arrows and the quick flight
of the Parthians, and a Parthian fears
Italian captivity and military might.But the unforeseen 
power of death has seized and will seize [both] races.

How nearly did I see the realm 
of dark Proserpina and Aecian judgemnts 
and the seats assigned for the righteous 
and with her Aeolic lyre,

Sappho, grieving concerning the women
of her village and you, Aleceus, singing
loudly with a golden instrument of the hardships
of ships, the hardships of exile, the hardships of war.

And it is a wonder that both  speak
in sacred silence worthy of shades; but to a greater extent
the crowd, shoulder to shoulder, drinks in
with their ears the expulsions of tyrants and battles.

What wonder [is it] when the hundred-headed 
monster, beguiled by the songs, lets his black 
ears droop and the writhing snakes in the hair
of the Eumenides refresh themselves?

And also Prometheus and Pelops' father
are lured from their labor by the sweet sound
and Orion does not care to agitate
the lions and the wary lynxes.

I used some help from the commentary come's from Bennett's edition of Horace as well as from translating with Propertius II. I took a few liberties with the literalism in order to try to capture the spirit of the utterance in English-- or at least how I interpreted that spirit. I would be happy for people to comment on my translation and offer suggestions.

On the subject of trees, BBC News recently posted an article about how scientific data on tree growth is applied to history to help explain certain migratory patterns. I found this article through a post on The Campvs, which encourages scientists to apply the tree data to more specific periods such as changes in climate during the years of the Social War.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Spirited: Horace 3.30

It has been a long day so I will not post a translation of 2.13 until tomorrow.  Here is my translation of 3.30:

Exegi monumentum aere perennius
Regalique situ pyramidum altius,
Quod non imber edax, non Aquilo impotens
Possit diruere aut innumberabilis
Annorum series et fuga temporum.
Non omnis moriar multaque pars mei
Vitabit Libitinam: usque ego postera
Crescam laude recens. Dum Capitolium
Scandet cum tacita virgine pontifex,
Dicar, qua violens obstrepit Aufidus
Et qua pauper aquae Daunus agrestium
Regnavit populorum, ex humili potens
Princeps Aeolium carmen ad Italos
Deduxisse modos. Sume superbiam
Quaestiam meritis et mihi Delphica
Lauro cinge volens, Melopomene, comam.
I have completed a monument more durable than bronze
and higher than the majestic place of the pyramids,
because no consuming rain, nor powerless North Wind
can destroy [it] or the innumerable succession of years
and the flight of the seasons.
Not entirely shall I die and parts of me
will evade Death: on and on I will increase
in new praise. While the pontifex
mounts the Capitol with a silent virgin
I will be celebrated, where the furious Aufidus
makes a clamor and Danus, poor in water, once ruled
over rustic people, powerful from humble [origins]
the Aeolian song transferred into Italian poetry.
Take the proud honor sought by the meritorious and
graciously wreath my hair with Delphic laurel.

I used Bennett's edition of Horace (my copy is the first edition) and pieces of may translation amended from his notes. I also discussed the translation with Propertius II, although I did not take particularly good notes so I may have made mistakes that he urged me to correct.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Spirited: Horace

I have spent much of my free time over the last few days translating Horace. I will put up a translation of my favorite recent ode (Horace 3.30) tonight when I get home from work.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Appetitive: Egyptology and Archives

The other day, a friend of the family posted an amazing link on her blog. Apparently, there is an entire internet archive of the materials from Tutankhamen's excavation. The archive, put together by Oxford University, is incredible.

Looking at some of the materials from the excavation, I remembered that one of my early pleasant encounters with non-fiction outside of a classroom was a book on Tutenkhamen. My parents bought me The Murder of Tutankhamen after Bob Brier, or as we called him, the Mummy Guy, came and spoke at my high school. He was a small, skinny man, with a large head and lamp-like blue eyes. Engaging, sweet, and knowledgeable, he quickly captivated his audience and even offered to be pied with whipped cream at the Halloween carnival. His book reads well and I can imagine that I would enjoy reading it again.
The Murder of Tutankhamen
Although I have never been a particularly devotee of Egyptology, I can certainly appreciate the field.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Reasoning: Panel on the Delphic Oracle

After listening to the BBC post on Aristotle's Poetics that I reviewed on yesterday's blogpost, I listened to a BBC piece on the Delphic Oracle. The panel was Paul Cartledge, A G Leventis Professor of Greek Culture at Cambridge University; Edith Hall, Professor of Classics and Drama at Royal Holloway, University of London; and Nick Lowe, Reader in Classical Literature at Royal Holloway, University of London. Since the piece is from In Our Time, the host is once again Melvyn Bragg, but luckily he's a little less arrogant and annoying. Although most of the information of Delphi is pretty basic (especially for anyone who has read Herodotus' Histories), the panel is fabulous.
The Landmark Herodotus: The Histories

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Appetitive/Reasoning: Discussion of the Poetics

At my Alma Mater, one of my favorite professors is teaching a class on Aristotle's Poetics (in Greek). One of the secondary sources that he assigned for the early classes was a BBC's In Our Time program on the Poetic. A friend of mine posted the piece on twitter and I decided to listen to it.

The moderators is Melvyn Bragg, a British radio host, who is quite intelligent but seems to fancy himself as an elite intellectual and does not like to be contradicted. His discussions takes place with
Angie Hobbs, an Associate Professor of Philosophy and Senior Fellow in the Public Understanding of Philosophy at the University of Warwick; Nick Lowe, a Reader in Classical Literature at Royal Holloway, University of London; and Stephen Halliwell, a Professor of Greek at the University of St Andrews.

I enjoyed the podcast and think anyone interested should listen to it. However, I thought that the power dynamics of the discussion almost eclipsed the academic content for being interesting. Bragg seemed to be having a relatively good time until he decided to post his first question to Halliwell. Looking for a black-and-white answer, Bragg asked about the Poetics as a response to Plato's critique of poetry in the Republic. Halliwell spoke cogently and concisely about how to interpret Plato's work in the Republic. Bragg, now annoyed by a complicated answer quickly began to lose his patience with Halliwell and he became increasinly rude and arrogant causing me to mock him in this way to a friend over skypechat (this is a parody, not what they actually say):
Halliwell: "These ideas are really intersting and there is lots of nuance that people miss!"
Bragg: "Nuance! No more nuance! I will now slam my fist of Victorian criticism and crush your nuance."
Halliwell, eventually sort of bows to Bragg's older criticism, possibly because it seems like Bragg will not let him speak again if he does not. Later on in the show, Bragg asks Halliwell about 'catharsis' and Halliwell once again responds in a proper, scholarly manner about the difficulty of interpreting 'catharsis' and how rarely it turns up in Aristotle (once in the Poetics and once in the Politics). Annoyed again, Bragg says something very similar to "aren't you a scholar? Can't you just tell us what it means?" I could not believe it, especially since Halliwell is both a distinguished scholar and was attempting, however fruitlessly, to provide a more reasonable opinion on the texts on which he primarily conducts his research.

As much as I make fun of the discussion, clearly Bragg runs a radio show that discusses complex and interesting issues, so I subscribed to the show. If your interested, the RSS feeds and subscriptions to the podcast can be found here.

Just to spite Bragg, I thought I would include Halliwell's Author Page and some of his books:
Aristotle's Poetics Aristotle:Poetics.; Longinus: On the Sublime; Demetrius: On Style (Loeb Classical Library No. 199)