Homer Encyclopedia

From a Tel Aviv University press release:

Homer, one of the most famous poets of all time, is firmly entrenched in the Western canon as a master of classical literature. His two most renowned works, the Iliad and the Odyssey, are core texts for students and scholars alike. Now, Prof. Margalit Finkelberg of Tel Aviv University’s Department of Classics has created an illuminating new tool, the world’s first Homer Encyclopedia.

Published in three volumes by Wiley-Blackwell last year and more recently in electronic form, the encyclopedia is an invaluable window into Homer’s life and work, elucidating the characters and settings of his work from primary characters to the smallest village mentioned in passing. The volumes also examine the pre-history of Homer and the period in which he lived and wrote, and how the text has been received and transmitted by various cultures and societies throughout history to the present day. One of its groundbreaking areas of research is the reception of Homer in the Jewish and Arabic traditions, a subject that has rarely been explored.

With contributions from 132 scholars worldwide, this three volume work is a universal exploration of all things Homer. “Through this encyclopedia, you can enter Homer’s world and get lost in it,” says Prof. Finkelberg, who was recently awarded the 2012 Rothschild Prize in the Humanities. “It is unique for its comprehensive view — the entire field is seen as vibrant, alive and contemporary. Homer’s work is put in a modern living context, rather than approached as an impenetrable classic monument.”

An avatar of Greek culture

One section of the encyclopedia examines “textual reception” over 2,000 years of history. Its purpose is to examine how Homeric texts were received from the view of different societies and cultures, e.g. Victorian England. Studying the history of the reception of a major text is an emerging field of study, Prof. Finkelberg explains — and profoundly important to the progress of the humanities.

One of the most original features of this work is an in-depth study of Homer in the context of Jewish and Arabic traditions, conducted by leading specialists. Though Homer’s work is foundational to the Western tradition, it has never been central to these Eastern traditions, which put more of an emphasis on “useful” texts, such as those regarding science, medicine, and philosophy.

The findings, she says, are surprising. Because the Hellenic world is little-known in these cultures, Homer is seen as a symbol of Greek culture in its entirety. “Poetry was not translated in these cultures, and because of this, very little was known about the art of the Greeks beyond philosophers like Aristotle. For them, Homer represented everything to do with Greek culture, including paganism,” explains Prof. Finkelberg. Anything “Greek” was essentially “Homeric” and vice versa.

Homeric archaeology

Prof. Finkelberg believes that the publication is a crucial addition to encyclopedias on the work of other poets such as Dante and Virgil. After all, Homer is not just any writer. In the absence of the sacred religious texts that are central to other traditions, such as the Bible to Judeo-Christian traditions, the Iliad and the Odyssey are the formative texts of Greek culture.

Because of this, the fields of Homeric archaeology and Biblical archaeology rest on the same historical axis, suggests Prof. Finkelberg. Homer’s use of history reflects real historical events and has inspired actual archaeological discovery. It was through Homer, for example, that German archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann was to search for the ruins of Troy, the site of the Trojan War in Homer’s works. Previously, the city was believed to be a mere literary invention.

Though Homer cannot be used as a historical text in the modern sense, Prof. Finkelberg says that his literary works are themselves not unlike an archaeological site, where different levels of history can be pieced together to reveal intriguing tale of a world long past.

… it’s pretty pricey, if you were wondering.

Fear and a Bit of Loathing

Plenty of mentions of this … this one comes from the incipit of Oncars:

Italian exotic supercar maker has filed paperwork to trademark the name “Deimos” for a new product. The name “Deimos” comes from ancient Greek mythology, where the god Deimos was the son of Ares – the god of war and terror and Aphrodite – the goddess of love, beauty, pleasure and procreation. [...]

… how the heck can you trademark the name of a Greek god? What legal system would actually allow such a thing? We’ve already seen Volvo get their knickers in a knot over people using the phrase illo modo volvo on a t-shirt … so now what happens with the myriad products out there with Deimos on them? This is silly …

DIG: “Villa of the Antonines” archaeological field school (Lanuvio/Nemi/Genzano, Italy)

Seen on the Classics list:

Undergraduate and graduate students may be interested in Montclair State University’s archaeological field school at the "Villa of the Antonines" in Genzano di Roma, Italy, which is directed by Deborah Chatr Aryamontri and myself and centers around an Antonine-era villa complex once decorated with luxurious marbles and multi-colored mosaics, located in ancient Lanuvium and close to Rome as well as to places in the Alban Hills that traditionally have been of central interest to classicists: The sanctuary of Diana at Aricia, the Museum of the Ships of Caligula at Nemi, and the Alban Lake.

Dates: July 1-28, 2012. Cost: $3,500 plus tuition (variable according to undergraduate/graduate status and residency inside or outside of New Jersey) plus airfare. Previous field experience not required. Includes introduction to excavation, artifact analysis, basic surveying, and drawing. Weekend field trips to Rome, Ostia, Alban Hills.

We still have a few places left!

Details at: http://chss.montclair.edu/archaeology/chaspdfs/italfs2012.pdf

OR https://montclair.studioabroad.com/index.cfm?FuseAction=Programs.ViewProgram&Program_ID=26632

CJ Online Review: Squire, The Art of the Body

posted with permission:

Michael Squire, The Art of the Body: Antiquity and its Legacy. Ancients and Moderns Series. London: I. B. Tauris / New York: Oxford University Press, 2011. Pp. xv + 240. Paperback, £12.99/$24.95. ISBN 978-1-845-11931-7 / 978-0-19-538081-1.

Reviewed by Michael Broder, University of South Carolina

According to series editor Phiroze Vasunia, the Ancients and Moderns series aims to showcase the best work currently being done in reception studies and to demonstrate the continued relevance of classical antiquity to contemporary debates about culture, politics and society, approaching the categories of “reception” and “tradition” critically and interrogating the very notion of unmediated access to the classical past, thus seeking “to stir up debates about and within reception studies and to complicate some of the standard narratives about the ‘legacy’ of Greece and Rome” (ix). Other volumes in the series consider such topics as race, sex, gender, slavery and war, among others. One broad claim of the series is that classical scholarship “is inextricably connected to what many generations have thought, said, and done about the ancient world” (x).

In the current volume, Michael Squire explores Greco-Roman visual representations of the body, considering the post-classical reception of these representations in the West, and relating this reception history to broader issues regarding the relationship between antiquity and modernity. His three basic premises, set out in the Preface, are (1) that classical antiquity provided the model for all subsequent attempts to understand the human figure; (2) that the post-classical reception of ancient images of the body tend to complicate contemporary understandings of what these images meant in their original context; and (3) that ancient and modern body imagery have a reciprocal relationship, with each affecting how we understand the other. This last claim is perhaps the most striking, suggesting that modern representations of the body actually change the way we see and understand ancient representations; in a sense, the present influences the past no less than the past is generally thought to influence the present. If Shire has a polemical point, it is that contemporary departments of art history on the one hand, and classical archaeology on the other, must break down the institutional and disciplinary barriers that separate them, because “the material creations of the past are always experienced through the lens of the present” (xiv) and vice versa.

The first chapter, “Embodying the Classical,” serves as a kind of introduction, setting forth basic principles as well as sketching out the argument of subsequent chapters. Squire traces the western conception of the body back to the traditional Greek association between beauty (kalos) and goodness (agathos). He discusses the fifth-century Canon of Polyclitus as well as its subsequent refinement by sculptors including Praxiteles, Scopas and Lysippus. This system of mathematical ratios (symmetria) was believed not only to guide the mimetic representation of the human form, but also to correspond to its ideal reality. This ideal achieved renewed influence in the Italian Renaissance, driven by both the scholarly recovery of Vasari and the practical achievements of artists including Botticelli and Michelangelo. Botticelli’s 1486 The Birth of Venus derives from ancient descriptions of Apelles’ lost Aphrodite Anadyomene, as well as ancient adaptations of Praxiteles’ Knidian Aphrodite. Ideas about the body had influenced the architectural concepts of Vitruvius, which in turn influenced Leonardo da Vinci’s thinking about the body. Squire then traces this Renaissance embrace of classical idealism through later centuries of the modern period, including eighteenth-century aestheticism and nineteenth-century Romanticism. In a section charmingly entitled “Body Fascism,” Squire connects the nineteenth-century physical culture movement with the rise of German Nazism and Italian Fascism. Finally, Squire traces the twentieth-century turn away from the classical ideal, beginning with the Futurism of Filippo Tommaso Marinetti in 1909 and continuing through successive art movements including Surrealism, Fauvism, Expressionism, Dadaism, and Cubism. After World War II, the perceived connection of Nazism and Fascism with classical idealism accelerated this turn away from antiquity in the visual arts. As Squire writes, “the past had become passé” (24). And yet, Squire argues, the past hardly lost its potency. For one thing, rejection of Polyclitus’ Canon or Da Vinci’s “Vitruvian man” was accompanied by an embrace of early exemplars including Greek Cycladic figurines of the third-millennium BCE. Postmodernism, moreover, returned to classical imagery, if only as part of an ironic critique.

Chapter 2, “Figuring What Comes Naturally? Writing the ‘Art History’ of the Body,” considers the impact of ancient Greek naturalism on conventional modern narratives of artistic development. That is to say, Squire’s concern here is “historiographical rather than simply historical” (32); he is less concerned with the emergence of Greek naturalism than he is with its historical and scholarly reception. Beginning with Winckelmann, art historians have tended to treat naturalism as something inevitable, the discovery of which by the classical Greeks may be seen as a token of their civilization and as a watershed in an ongoing story of human progress towards complete knowledge of the world and its truth. Squire chooses to focus on Ernst Gombrich’s Story of Art, first published in 1950, as an emblematic case study of this aspect of classical reception. Along the way, the reader gets a satisfying introduction to Greek monumental sculpture and the development of the kouros from its Egyptian origins through its Orientalizing Archaic phase to the “Revolution” or “Greek Miracle” represented by the development of contrapposto stance and other features of classical Greek naturalism.

In Chapter 3, “The Ancient ‘Female Nude’ (And Other Modern Fictions),” Squire argues that the western conception of the ideal female body derives from ancient artistic conventions, particularly Praxiteles’ fourth-century Knidian Aphrodite, highly influential through numerous ancient copies and descriptions. This modern ideal, however, is a product of classical reception, filtered first through a Christian ideology that viewed Mary as the ideal woman (by turns Christianizing the classical ideal and classicizing the Christian), and later through an evolving series of secular assumptions about sexuality and gender.[[1]] This entire history of the female body, Squire argues, emerges under the penetrating glare of the male gaze. The very conception of art in the West, Squire claims, assumes an active male subjectivity and a passive female objectivity. Into this sweeping historical context, Squire places the feminist resistance to male objectification, from Mary Richardson’s 1914 mutilation of Velázquez’s Rokeby Venus in London’s National Gallery, to John Berger’s politically inflected distinction between “nakedness” and “nudity” in his 1972 monograph Ways of Seeing, to the Guerrilla Girls’ 1989 political poster that asked, “Do women have to be naked to get into the Met[ropolitan] Museum?” Squire explores both continuities and discontinuities between ancient and modern ways of seeing. The male gaze may be a legacy of classical antiquity, but issues of religious scruple lent the contemplation of ancient female nudes, often images of goddesses, an aesthetic and moral complexity not readily apparent in the story of the modern female nude.

Chapter 4, “Stripping Down and Undressing Up,” considers similarities and differences between Greek and Roman culture in relation to political portraiture. Squire compares Roman appropriations of the Greek body with those of modern political leaders (e.g., Canova’s 1802-6 Napoleon as Mars the Peacemaker, Greenough’s 1841 statue of George Washington, and Gori’s representation of Mussolini in his 1937 Genius of Fascism) to explore the complexities of the classical legacy. By way of this analysis, Squire pinpoints what is specific to Roman figurations of the body, and distinguishes these from earlier Greek and later modern forms of bodily imagination. The Roman art of the body, Squire argues, oscillated uneasily “between figurative and non-figurative modes” (153). The Roman portrait did not simply mirror reality, but worked rather through a complex vocabulary of social, cultural, and historical symbolism, “as a series of amalgamated parts that together added up to more than the whole” (152).

The final chapter, “On Gods Made Men Made Images,” explores images of the divine by way of the Christian reception of the pagan past. Squire argues that the idealized and idolized body of the Greco-Roman god was alternately paradigmatic and problematic for Judeo-Christian theology. Like the Greco-Roman gods, the Christian god took human form; and like images of the Greco-Roman gods, images of the Christian god were modeled on the human body. In both the Greco-Roman and Judeo-Christian contexts, however, the ideas of divine anthropomorphism and mimetic representation of the divine were controversial. Moreover, the ongoing effort to reconcile Christian iconography with classical may be seen as a driving force throughout the entire history of western art right up to our own day, regardless of one’s theological convictions or conscious engagement with the classical tradition. Squire takes pains to counter the common conception that Byzantine and Medieval art are disconnected from Greco-Roman antecedents, and that classical antiquity only becomes relevant during the Renaissance. Nevertheless, the Renaissance embrace of classical models did occasion important changes in theological imagery. In the fifteenth century, Squire argues, “God became increasingly embodied and present, and decreasingly spiritual and removed” (192). The Reformation to a great extent banished mimetic representations of God from the Church, thus paving the way for the secular conception of “art” with which we are most familiar today. The legacy of antiquity, however, remains relevant: “Modern secular notions of the image descend from the theological upheavals of the Reformation, which themselves descend from the ancient legacy of embodying and figuring the divine” (195). Squire concludes by acknowledging his argument’s debt to Hegel’s Lectures on Aesthetics, first delivered in the 1820s. Hegel, Squire writes, “understood that everything we see and think about ‘art’ derives from the delicate negotiation of each successive present from each successive past: only by thinking about the modern alongside the ancient can we conceptualise either—or indeed both” (201).

This book, in keeping with the Ancients and Moderns series, is a popularizing project. In place of the footnotes and bibliography that would accompany a more academic monograph, a Further Reading section provides bibliographical suggestions corresponding to each chapter, focusing on references that are (1) recent and (2) in English. Sixteen pages of beautiful color plates add to the pleasure of the text. On the whole, Squire has written an engaging book that informs the reader about the art of the body in antiquity and its modern legacy in an appealingly original and idiosyncratic manner.


[[1]] For a useful discussion of how the idealized Mother with Child derives from the pagan Roman tradition of portraiture, see Kathrin Schade’s essay, “The Female Body in Late Antiquity: Between Virtue, Taboo and Eroticism,” in Thorsten Fögen, Mireille M. Lee (eds.), Bodies and Boundaries in Graeco-Roman Antiquity. (Berlin/New York: Walter de Gruyter, 2009).

CJ Online Review: Shaw, Sacred Violence

Posted with permission:

Brent D. Shaw, Sacred Violence: African Christians and Sectarian Hatred in the Age of Augustine. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011. Pp. ix + 910. Hardcover, £100.00/$165.00, ISBN 978-0-521-19605-5; paperback, £40.00/$65.00, ISBN 978-0-521-12725-7.

Reviewed by Graeme Clarke, Australian National University

Good history writing brings events of the past to the attention of the present, and whilst Sacred Violence is concerned with the dense particularities of the Christian sectarian conflicts of the long fourth century in North Africa, one cannot help being aware of distressing concerns of the present—suicide bombers achieving the pinnacle of self-sought martyrdom, fighters for political or religious freedom branded as terrorists, violent gangs of mobsters representing themselves as defenders of their religious faith, crowds of legitimate protesters rhetorically turned into “al-Qa’ida” stooges or operatives, local social and political conflicts elevated into holy wars, the unholy violence of sectarian rhetoric between branches of the same religion, and so forth.

Throughout the dense documentation of the period from the second half of the fourth century to the first two decades of the fifth, Shaw shows a sharp eye for slippery propaganda masquerading as historical fact, for the rhetoric of innuendo, for the insidiously misleading use of generalizations, for the manipulation of (selective) historical memory, for acts of downright creative mendacity. Gangs of itinerant seasonal laborers and harvesters (“Circumcellions”) become an intimidating rural insurgency, threatening the general public order—and, with the aid of rhetorical spin, are irretrievably linked by the Catholic faction with their opponents (branded as “Donatists”)—to be distinguished, of course, from the vigorous groups of loyal defenders of Catholic persons and property. And this is all painted against a detailed background of the endemic social (and sometimes ritualized) violence of life throughout the North African towns and villages, as well as the specific legacy of the aftermath of the Great Persecution along with the concept of the inheritance of the satanic pollution of Betrayal incurred during those events. Cyprian has left his ineradicable mark in the thinking of these churches as constituting rather a community of saints than a congregation of sinners, resulting in the spiritual inefficacy of unworthy ministers, heirs of that satanic pollution.

Shaw demonstrates in detail not only actual violence but also the aggressive mass-mobilization of followers through hostile rhetoric, popular songs, ritual chanting and holy slogans. And not only Christian against Christian but Christian mobsters and rioters stirred against pagan sanctuaries, shrines and statues, Christian polemic against proud Jews, with their great betrayer Judas, themes with which Catholics manage rhetorically to entangle the Donatists, eventually to be maneuvered from the category of schism to that of heretic and thence caught up later in the criminalization of heretics, classed as agents of the devil. Shaw is particularly good on the recruitment of clergy and the intense competition in the election of bishops, the (extraordinary) number and (generally poor) quality of those bishops, and the rivalries within the clerical cursus honorum, the poaching of candidates from rival bishoprics, and all the associated rancor, squabbles and verbal violence. Against this competitive background there is also illuminatingly depicted the pervasive legal culture, the litigious relations between clergy and state officials, largely local but also provincial and sometimes imperial, culminating in the great Conference of 411 with all its maneuverings and legal chicanery.

And finally we are taken step by step, as Augustine and his peers, in their attempt to deny that their opponents’ altruistic surrender of their lives for their cause could be construed as attaining the high ground of martyrdom, move away from the classical concept of the nobile letum to the far-reaching conclusion that the taking of one’s own life is the ultimate evil, the unforgivable sin of suicide.

Reading these 806 pages (and 8 appendices) is an intellectual delight, engagingly written throughout in clear and supple prose, handsomely presented, richly and painstakingly documented (with original texts helpfully provided in footnotes). A mammoth labor and a truly remarkable scholarly achievement.

CONF: Ancient Lyric Poetry in the City

Seen on the Classicists list:

The Ecole Normale Supérieure (ENS) de Lyon, in collaboration with the

University of Lausanne, is hosting an international conference on « Ancient
Lyric Poetry in the City : Horace’s Odes in the Mirror of Archaic Greek
Lyric Poetry », which will be held in Lyon from June 6th to 8th 2012.

The programme for this conference is as follows :

Colloque international à l’ENS de Lyon, 6–8 juin 2012
« La poésie lyrique dans la cité antique :
les Odes d’Horace au miroir de la lyrique grecque archaïque »

Mercredi 6 juin, après-midi

13h45 Accueil et introduction

14h30 Jenny STRAUSS-CLAY Horace’s Mercury / Alcaeus’ Hermes or Apollo’s
younger brother
15h05 Felix BUDELMANN Greek cult-related choruses in and out of context
15h40 Nadine LE MEUR Prier pour la cité : présence de la communauté civique
dans les péans de Pindare

16h15 Pause

16h35 Christopher CAREY Negotiating the public voice
17h10 Gregson DAVIS Festo quid potius die / Neptuni faciam ? : the
adaptation of Greek symposiastic conventions to a Roman urban festival
setting in Horace : C. 3.28

Jeudi 7 juin, matin

9h00 Virginie HOLLARD La fonction politique du poète dans la cité à l’époque
augustéenne : l’exemple d’Horace
9h35 Michèle LOWRIE Le salut, la sécurité et le corps du chef, de César à Horace
10h10 Stephen HARRISON Horace Odes 2.7 : Greek lyric and burying Roman civil war

10h45 Pause

11h05 Hans-Christian GÜNTHER Horace : poetry and politics
11h40 Giambattista D’ALESSIO Horace’s Carmen saeculare and its Hellenistic

Jeudi 7 juin, après-midi

14h00 Grégory BOUCHAUD Pouvoir et impuissance poétiques : éléments de
comparaison entre Pindare et Horace
14h35 Ettore CINGANO Mythe, rite et espace civique à Cyrène : les Pythiques
4 et 5 de Pindare
15h10 Lucia ATHANASSAKI Greek and Roman civic performance contexts : on
Pindar’s Fourth and Fifth Pythians and Horace’s Odes 4.2

15h45 Pause

16h05 Michel BRIAND Entre spectacle et texte : contextes, instances et
procédures pragmatiques chez Pindare et Horace
16h40 Denis FEENEY Lyric’s engagement with epic, in Horace and his predecessors

Vendredi 8 juin, matin

9h00 Stefano CACIAGLI Lesbos et Athènes entre polis et oikia
9h35 Fabienne BLAISE Solon aux Athéniens : paroles d’un poète-politique
10h10 Jean YVONNEAU La basse cuisine en politique : la charge de Timocréon
contre Thémistocle

10h45 Pause

11h05 Antonio ALONI Komos e città
11h40 Olivier THEVENAZ Actium aux confins de l’iambe et de la lyrique :
modèles et contextes des voix civiques d’Horace

Vendredi 8 juin, après-midi

14h00 Benjamin ACOSTA-HUGHES Intertextualité et pentimento : des traces de
la lyrique grecque perdue chez Horace
14h35 Bénédicte DELIGNON Lyrique érotique et lyrique politique dans les Odes
4.1 et 4.11 d’Horace

15h10 Pause

15h30 Mario CITRONI Orazio e l’accreditamento della lirica come poesia civile
16h05 Alessandro BARCHIESI (sous réserve)

16h40 Conclusion

Please get in touch with one of the organisers to book a place and for
further details.

Bénédicte Delignon, ENS de Lyon
benedicte.delignon AT ens-lyon.fr

Nadine Le Meur, ENS de Lyon
Nadine.Le-Meur AT ens-lyon.fr

Olivier Thévenaz, Université de Lausanne
Olivier.Thevenaz AT unil.ch