Meanwhile In Sparta…

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Did you know Helen and Menelaos had a daughter? Not everyone does. Her name was Hermione, and while every one else was off in Troy she was left behind and forgotten. Like. Helen? Menelaos? You definitely lose the parent of the year award. Odysseos faked MADNESS in order to try and stay and raise his son. Helen and Menelaos are so wrapped up in their nonsense it’s like Hermione Doesn’t Even Exist.

Supposedly she was engaged to Orestes. Orestes was the son of angry-faced Agamemnon and take-control Klytemnestra. BUT after the war she was married off to Achilles’ son Neoptolemos. This didn’t last, however, because Neoptolemos was an idiot (more on that some other day). Once Neoptolemos was dead Hermione was then free to marry Orestes. Or. Well. At least according to some versions of the story.

BUT WHO CARES ABOUT THAT. What I want to know is what was she doing BEFORE she was married off to Neoptolemos The Idiot? She was alone in Sparta ABANDONED and being raised by some nursemaid APPARENTLY, unless her grandmother Leda was still alive. WHAT I LIKE TO THINK is that she grieved and was angry and ultimately: got over it and moved on with her life. I want more of this woman and we do not get enough of her AT ALL. One day I will probably write a short story for her, because come on. She survived being surrounded by idiots. She reminds me a lot of Gorgo, who is this Spartan princess Herodotos tells us about who, also, was surrounded by idiots. I like to think they are related and that Hermione would be proud of her.


Want more bad-ass Greek Ladies?

Click HERE for Penelope.

Click HERE for Klytemnestra.

Come back next week for Aegiale.

Meanwhile In Mykenae…

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Klytemnestra is the wife of angry-face Agamemnon who, right before he left for Troy, killed their daughter Iphegenia. She, understandably, did not forgive him for this. The story goes that she took as lover Aegisthos, who was Agamemnon’s cousin (I think? Their family tree is super messed up, considering Aegisthos was the son of Thyestes and Thyestes own daughter Pelopia, It gets really complicated really fast).

ANYWAY. When Agamemnon came home (with a lady in tow, I might add) she welcomed him AND THEN MURDERED HIM, with the help of her lover-lad. This is, of course, just another way we see Greek men’s fear of women’s sexuality exposed. HOW DARE SHE take a lover. LOOK HOW DANGEROUS is it when women make these decisions. DEATH and MURDER and MORE DEATH.  *ahem* Not that I’m biased. At all.

I love Klytemnestra (at least the one portrayed by Aeschylos) because she is such a good villain. You understand she is motivated by grief at the death of her daughter and outrage at her husband’s infidelity. She took her life, her love life, and her desire for vengeance in her own hands, asked for no apologies, and regretted nothing.


Want more bad-ass ladies? Last week was all about Penelope and next week is about Hermione. See you then!

Meanwhile In Ithaka…

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While Odysseos was off traveling and fighting (and getting lost, pff, men) Penelope had to stay at home, raise a child, take care of a city, fend of suitors, take care of civic and religious responsibilities, all without offending anyone and maintaining relationships with any allies she could gather. She is known for her loyalty and, most importantly for Greek men, for not jumping into bed with a man who was not Odysseos. Greek men were really terrified of women’s sexuality and did everything they could to control it. *major eye roll* ANYWAY. What I, personally, love about Penelope is how bad-ass she is. She is able to juggle a lot of responsibilities and has to be majorly smart to outwit all of the idiots that surround her. I also love her loyalty, but really, I love how smart she is.


I don’t, alas, have time to do full Iliad posts – yet. BUT, I  miss this and I want to be able to post SOMETHING for you all, so I have a couple of “Meanwhile In…” posts for you. Because the Iliad is super MANLY MEN I thought it would be fun to think about what is happening at home with the lady-folk who got left behind.

Next week we’ll check in with Klytemnestra!

Book 4, Part 2.1: Agamemnon and His Troops

To Start from the Beginning, Click HERE.

To Read the Previous Post, Click HERE.

For Recaps of Book 2 & 3, Click HERE and HERE.


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This second perusal of the troops is one of the reasons why people think The Iliad was written by more than one author. It was not that long ago where we were introduced to all of the generals. Also, it’s a little awkward. I mean. Paris and Menelaus were just fighting. Agamemnon calls for war. And meanwhile, all of the Trojans are just STANDING there, twiddling their thumbs, waiting. HOWEVER, one could argue that we’re just about to plunge into battle, it’s a good idea to remind your audience of some of the Most Valuable Players, especially considering this was originally a tale that was being told outloud from memory to a crowd that may not be consistent. Repetition is important to remind people of what is going on and who is going on

Also, Nestor does not speak consistently at all, and while normally I am all about having consistent dialogue I have come to accept that Nestor just does what he likes and really doesn’t care what I think.

Also, I don’t really care about the Ajax’s (at least, not in The Iliad. Sophocle’s play is another story).

Also, also, Idomeneus finally gets to speak. Hooray for him!

Join us next time for Book 4, Part 2.2: Agamemnon is Annoying and Eris Awaits.

Potentials for Miscommunication & Problems of Author Bias

Last time we talked about Homer and whether or not he really existed. HOWEVER, whether or he was real or merely a legend, we are left with the same problem when viewing the text. In fact, everything in this post will be applicable for pretty much any of the Greek or Roman texts that I will reference in the future, so this post is not only relevant for The Iliad, but for other ancient texts as well.

These texts have a very different bias than we do (or, at least, it most likely does, unless you are a rare and mysterious individual) and therefore there are some major Potentials For Miscommunication. Some of these PFM’s are listed below:

  1. Time. These epics were created and written down many, many years before I was born, and therefore, many, many year before you were born (unless you are a time-traveling doctor or a girl named Julianna, who is secretly thousands of years old). The way people lived back then was very different from how we live now (especially to us living in the modern Western world). Even how we view the concept of time may be different. Consider, for example, the Mesoamericans and their quadripartite concept of time — very few people will even know what that means, but for a pre-conquest Mesoamerican it was just a part of life. So too might the Greeks or Romans view time conceptually different than however you do.
  2. Place. None of us are living in Ancient Greece or on the Ionian Coast. Most of you are not even living in Greece or Turkey. (If you are: while this PFM is not as terrible for you, the landscape has still changed quite a bit since the Stone/Bronze/Iron Age.) The Mediterranean world is different geographically from, say, the Hudson or Wyoming Valleys. Therefore, the land you are looking at and living in is not the same land Agamemnon would have looked at or lived in. [A person’s Sense of Place and the Significance of Place is something I will probably go into more detail later.]
  3. Language. These were written in an old form of Greek (or Latin) that no one actively speaks anymore. You will most likely be reading a translated text. Every time you translate something, you re-make it. Every translator is going to bring their own views and vocabulary to the text. It’s impossible not to. So even if you are reading the original text it is still a translation, because YOU are translating it. You are not an ancient Greek, and therefore no matter what you do you will have to translate this text and in the translating of it, re-make it.
  4. Poetic Language. Not only is The Iliad written in old time Greek , but the text uses poetic devices all over the place. It uses a whole lot of symbolism, metaphor, epic simile, and more. It talks about pastoral images a lot (like leaves and fields and leopards), which seems really weird when you read it the first time. The poem has a specific rhythm and meter and all that (which I will NOT explain because poetic forms is not my forte). It repeats a lot of phrases, because this is what poets used to help them remember what came next in the poem. That’s why Athena is often spoken of as “grey-eyed” and the sea is “wine-dark.” These phrases not only fit the meter of the poem, BUT also helped the poet remember where he was in the poem when he was dramatically reciting to the masses.
  5. Repetition. Because Homer’s poems were recited out loud to crowds there is a WHOLE lot of repetition, just in case someone wanders around the campfire/into the crowd and doesn’t know what happened yet; or in case someone dozed off; or in case some poor child was fighting desperately to focus but, really?, couldn’t. Also, #becausepoetry. (That is the only explanation you’re going to get out of me, because I am that bad at poetic vocabulary/definitions.)
  6. Values, Ethics, and Moral Ideals. Some of the ancient Greek/Roman values and ethics will overlap with our modern ones; some of them definitely won’t. Don’t be quick to judge, but try to think of the world through their eyes. They don’t have phones or fancy magic devices, they barely have swords. They don’t have burger fast food places, they have fields of barley and a whole lot of drought. No cars, but difficult seas that sometimes stranded you for three months because of the currents and the weather. Their world is going to be different than ours, so their values are going to reflect that. Also, they live in a different time period, in a different land, with a different religious outlook (unless you are a Hellenic Reconstructionist of some sort, in which case, the differences religiously won’t be as bad). Even if they didn’t live in such a different time/place, remember: your values, ethics, and moral ideals could be different from your next-door neighbors values, ethics, and moral ideals, so it’s important to be able to understand and be aware of this PFM in particular, because it is something that will show up in your day to day life.

Some other points to remember when considering authorship, particularly with ancient Greek or Roman works, is that the person who created/wrote it was:

  1. Male. (Unless possibly Sappho). It is sad, but true. Until you get to Anna of Byzantium, outside of some poetry, it’s all males all the time, and that bias shows, sometimes like #WHAT.
  2. Educated. You don’t write things down if you aren’t educated. Mostly because you can’t write things down if you don’t know how words or alphabets work. #thisshouldbeobvious
  3. Probably middle/upper class. You don’t get educated if you don’t have monies.
  4. Sexist. Women are poetic devices at best. Some authors are less sexist than others, but yeah. The Greek and Roman world is INCREDIBLY male-centric/phallo-centric, whatever fancy term you want to use to describe it. Sometimes this is painful. I try to be fair, because that is the world they grew up in, but sometimes my own bias will come out in a roar, so be prepared for that.
  5. Polytheist. Whether hardcore, fairly agnostic, meh, or more atheistic, the polytheist view is going to color EVERYTHING in the Greek/Roman world. If you are used to a monotheistic viewpoint, I promise you, some things in these texts just won’t jive and will leave you flummoxed. Do your best.
  6. Ethnicity/Race. Greeks are VERY pro-Greek everyone else is stupid/barbaric/uncivilized/a cannibal. Romans are VERY pro-Roman everyone else is stupid/barbaric/uncivilized/not as good as us. The Greek worldview is very anti-anyone else (part of their hatred of Thrace). The Romans are very We Are The Most Awesome HAHAHAHA, which is why they downplay the importance of Etruria like #WHAT. So whenever a Greek/Roman author is talking about someone/a group that isn’t part of their group, BE AWARE, a bias is happening.

There are other lenses that authors look through that create their bias, of course. These are just some basic things to keep in mind. A future post delving into ancient Greek ethics/values may happen one day, and at that time will be linked to HERE. But not this day.


ALSO: Obviously, I am an author so I have a bias. All of these categories also relate to what I’m writing. While I do try my best to be accurate and fair, sometimes I, like Herodotus, exaggerate/gossip/re-invent because it makes a story, quite simply, better. Keep this in mind and forgive me my re-interpretations of text, as I forgive those who re-interpreted before me.


To Begin By Reading The Prologue Click HERE.

Who the Heck is Homer?

He was a man who may or may not have existed.

The story: he was a blind poet who was freaking awesome and created both The Illiad and The Odyssey and one day some sycophant wrote it all down for him.

The more probable truth: The Illiad and The Odyssey were oral tales told by wandering poets for generations and one day someone or someones decided to write them down for posterity.

Why is this more likely? Two reasons!

  1. Because both of Homer’s epic poems mix references to both The Stone Age and The Bronze Age. They cannot decide where in time they actually are.
  1. This is what happened with the Finnish Kalevala, giving us a historical precedent and all that. The Kalevala was an oral tradition and was later written down by Elias Lönnrot.

Maybe Homer was the Elias Lönnrot of the ancient Greek world, maybe not. HOWEVER: a random blind poet living in a cave is way more amusing, so we’re just going to pretend like he exists.


*EXTRA CREDIT*

Question: Why was Homer a blind poet?

Answer: There are a collection of poems called The Homeric Hymns which were not all written by Homer (and maybe none of them were) but for quite some time people thought they WERE all written by Homer. In one of the poems, “Hymn 3 To Apollon” lines 171-173 to be exact, it says:

“Do tell him in unison that I am he,/a blind man, dwelling on the rocky island of Chios,/whose songs shall all be the best in time to come.”

[I am quoting Apostolos N. Athanassakis’s version, which is the one I own and highly recommend.]

This made people think that Homer is telling his audience that he is this blind man living on an island, which means it must be true, obvs.

*END OF EXTRA CREDIT*


There you have it! Now you know who the heck Homer is. Or. Um. Who he allegedly is. We still don’t know if he… actually… was. AHEM. Next time we will talk about The Problems of Author Bias.

IN THE MEANTIME: Here is a link to a picture of an idealized bust of Homer — which is hilarious to me, but probably isn’t supposed to be.

PLUS: My version of Homer…
IANRHomer

Just chillin’ in his cave, singing about destruction and xenia.*


*Xenia: a Greek concept we’ll learn about more in the future.*

ALSO To Learn About Potentials for Miscommunication and Problems of Author Bias Click HERE.