Over at the OUP Blog, Eric Cline has keyboarded an interesting post … here’s a bit in medias res:
[...]According to the Greek literary evidence, there were at least two Trojan Wars (Heracles’ and Agamemnon’s), not simply one; in fact, there were three wars, if one counts Agamemnon’s earlier abortive attack on Teuthrania. Similarly, according to the Hittite literary evidence, there were at least four Trojan Wars, ranging from the Assuwa Rebellion in the late 15th century BCE to the overthrow of Walmu, king of Wilusa in the late 13th century BCE. And, according to the archaeological evidence, Troy/Hisarlik was destroyed twice, if not three times, between 1300 and 1000 BCE. Some of this has long been known; the rest has come to light more recently. Thus, although we cannot definitively point to a specific “Trojan War,” at least not as Homer has described it in the Iliad and the Odyssey, we have instead found several such Trojan wars and several cities at Troy, enough that we can conclude there is a historical kernel of truth — of some sort — underlying all the stories.[...]
- via: The Trojan War: fact or fiction? (OUP Blog)
Dr. Wolf-Dietrich Niemeier, Director of the German Archaeological Institute at Athens, speaks. In 1924, Swiss archaeologist Emil Forrer announced a new discovery relating to the Trojan War. After examining texts found at Hattusa, once the capital of the Hittite empire in Asia Minor, he identified the Hittite words for Troy (Wilusa) and Mycenaean Greece (Ahhiyawa), and concluded that there was evidence for conflict between them. While Forrer’s “Greek Hypothesis” was once widely attacked by other academics, recent research and excavations have confirmed his theory, which offers exciting insights into the historical background of Homer’s Iliad.
Jenny Strauss Clay is famous for her work on Homer, the Homeric Hymns and Hesiod, with a focus on how these archaic Greek hexameter poems maps out an epic cosmos. But today she will talk about a different kind of mapping, based on what has been labelled the “spatial turn” in Classical studies. Her recent book, Homer’s Trojan Theater, exploits digital technology, cognitive mapping and mnemonics to analyse visualization in Homer, especially in relation to the Homeric battlefield.
Tip o’ the pileus to Ian Spoor for alerting me to this one which is coming up on BBC4:
Episode Six of a thirty-part series made in collaboration with the British Library Sound Archive.
In 1933, a young classics scholar called Milman Parry made a journey through the hill villages of the Balkans to record poets and singers. He captured an oral tradition that has all but died out – peasant performers who recited epic tales over days without any form of prompt.
Professor David Hendy of the University of Sussex explains how ancient tales were remembered and passed down, and travels to the ancient Theatre of Epidaurus in Greece to find out what the audience would have made of it all up in the ‘gods’.
Featuring archive extracts of traditional stories from the Balkans, Kyrgyzstan, West Africa, and India.
Audio for this one will be available “soon” … here’s the Noise: A Human History home page.
Tip o’ the pileus to Bret Mulligan for alerting us to this one … the incipit of a piece in Newsworks:
“When he had the bow in his hands, the godlike Odysseus,
Easily did stretch the string, and shoot through the axe-heads:
Then he sprang up on the platform, and poured out the arrows before him…”
Thus did the ancient Greek hero Odysseus arrived in Ithaca to reclaim his home and wife. Having revealed himself as the true Odysseus, he laid waste the layabout suitors vying for his Penelope.
“…as heads were stricken, a dreadful
Groaning arose: and the floor ran deep with the blood of the slaughtered.”
That last image was perhaps too gory for N.C. Wyeth, who, in 1929, was commissioned to paint 16 scenes from “The Odyssey” for publication. He instead chose the first part, “The Trial of the Bow,” to illustrate the scene.
“He worked in so much color — it’s quite iridescent,” said Kathleen Foster, curator American art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. “While he was telling a great story — and “The Odyssey” is a great story — he’s employing all the skills of the artist. He’s a great painter.”
Over the years, that set of 16 “Odyssey” paintings dispersed into the the market; most landed in unknown private collections. Only five could be accounted for, including one at the Brandywine River Museum in Chadds Ford, Pa. This one, which has just been donated to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, makes six.
“We’re still looking for the other 10,” said Foster.
Painting missing longer than Odysseus in epic tale
“The Trial of the Bow” was thought missing for 30 years until it was recently discovered in the Philadelphia headquarters of GlaxoSmithKline, a pharmaceutical company, just a few blocks from the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Since the late 1980s, it had been in a hallway just outside an executive office. Few employees had any idea it was something special.
“We knew we had a Wyeth,” said Ray Milora of GlaxoSmithKline. “I think the importance of it was less known.”
Milora does not know how or why the company acquired an original Wyeth canvas. The company became aware that the painting was part of a set of missing Wyeths when GSK prepared to move to new headquarters in Philadelphia’s Navy Yard. [...]
… the original article has a bit of a slideshow of the one piece mentioned above, of course, and I’m sure some folks will recall seeing one or more of this series. Palmer’s translation of the Odyssey (whence comes the painting) is available at archive.org and various other places, but I can’t find an edition with the paintings in them.
This series is actually OUP hyping a new translation of the Iliad, but there’s a pretty good intro to Homer etc in these segments. The official intro:
Barbara Graziosi and Anthony Verity introduce their Oxford World’s Classics edition of Homer’s ‘The Iliad’. In this first part, they discuss the text itself.
The Digital Classicist people are definitely in the forefront of putting conferences online … over the next few days we’ll post their latest efforts (the conference was in December 2012), beginning with this one, which includes the abstract to the talk, a video of the talk, and video of the discussion afterwards:
I seem to have missed this UPenn video last week:
Was there a Trojan War? Assessing the Evidence from Recent Excavations at Troy
In the course of the latest campaign of excavations at Troy, in northwestern Turkey, archaeologists have uncovered a wealth of evidence that enables us to situate the site within the political and military history of the late Bronze Age (14th/13th centuries BCE). Dr. C. Brian Rose, Curator, Mediterranean Section, Penn Museum, speaks at this “Great Battles: Moments in Time that Changed History” series lecture program.
Douglas Frame talks about assorted Homerica and his book Hippota Nestor over at the Center for Hellenic Studies site:
This one’s getting quite a bit of press coverage in various venues … the Telegraph piece has been brought to my attention by myriad readers, so myriad tips o’ the pileus accrue:
Richard Whitaker, the Emeritus Professor of Classics at the University of Cape Town, said he wanted to celebrate South African English, a patois that takes in words from Afrikaans and the country’s 10 other official African languages, while helping his students to gain a clearer understanding of the polemic poem.
The 3,000-year-old text has been translated into virtually every language in the world, and there are more than 70 English versions, tackled by Greek scholars, poets and even British Conservative Prime Minister, Edward Smith-Stanley, the 14th Earl of Derby.
But Oxford and St Andrews-educated Prof Whitaker said that aspects in common between the traditional Greek and African societies was lost in European-centric translations.
“There are traditions that resonate far more for South Africans,” he said.
“The references to a bride price, where brides were sold for cattle, for example, is much more understandable to an African audience than a European elite.” The resulting translation took him 10 years to produce and sees European concepts such as kings, princes and palaces replaced with “amakhosi” (the Zulu and Xhosa word for chiefs and headmen), “kgotla” (the Tswana word for community councils), and “kraals” (Afrikaans for homestead).
Achilles, armed with his “assegai” (traditional spear), vanquishes many Trojan “impis” (the Zulu word for regiments), before he and his men celebrate with a feast of grilled meat which South Africans of all races refer to as a “braai”.
It took 61-year-old Prof Whitaker ten years to produce his South African version and, given the cold shoulder by the country’s university presses, he has published 300 copies of the 528-page text himself in the hope that it will be of interest both to scholars and ordinary South Africans.
He has already had some success: the respected Rhodes University in Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape has put it on the curriculum for the next academic year, along with the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal in Durban and Prof Whitaker’s own University of Cape Town.
Prof Whitaker now has his eyes set on a similar translation of Homer’s Odyssey. He hopes others will follow his lead in celebrating South Africa’s melting pot of languages, like all other aspects of race so fiercely kept apart previously by the apartheid government.
“It’s important for postcolonial countries to make their own connections with the classics – they belong to all of us,” he said.
- via: Homer’s The Iliad translated into South African English (Telegraph)
Also Seen: Donum natalicium digitaliter confectum Gregorio Nagy septuagenario a discipulis collegis familiaribus oblatum
A different approach (i.e. online) to a Festschrift over at the Center for Hellenic Studies:
- Donum natalicium digitaliter confectum Gregorio Nagy septuagenario a discipulis collegis familiaribus oblatum
… a pile of Homer-related articles, as one might suspect
Owen Cramer mentioned this article in UChicago Magazine yesterday on the Classics list … here’s the incipit:
For Mark Eleveld, MLA’10, and Ron Maruszak, MLA’10, the realization was inescapable: Homer, the blind bard, ancient Greece’s greatest poet, whose epics on the Trojan War and its aftermath founded the Western canon and influenced 3,000 years of literature, was, basically, a slam poet. What else to call a man—a showman and writer—who made his living turning poetry into entertainment, who traveled from town to town performing memorized verses before crowds of listeners? “I imagine that if Homer was alive today, and he had to go hang with a crew, he’s either going to the playwrights or to the performance poets,” says Eleveld. “In my head, it’s the performance poets. They take a hit in academic circles, but they’re closer to Homer than people realize.”
That’s the argument running through a documentary by Eleveld and Maruszak, Poets and Profs: Looking at the “Iliad,” in which ivory tower luminaries like Robert Pinsky and Nicholas Rudall, Herman Sinaiko, AB’47, PhD’61 (who died in October 2011), and James Redfield, U-High’50, AB’54, PhD’61, share the screen with leading lights from the slam poetry world: Taylor Mali, Bob Holman, Regie Gibson, Marc Smith. West Point English professor Elizabeth Samet provides some of the film’s most stirring moments, discussing the Iliad’s lessons—literary, military, and moral—for future soldiers. [...]
- via: Iliad out loud (University of Chicago Magazine)
A trailer for the doc came out last year:
… and the comments to the UChicago piece link to a marathon reading primarly by the younger set in Louisville:
You’ve heard Keep Louisville Weird, how about Keeping Louisville Classical?
A local group of students are trying to keep the past alive and well.
At the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft on West Main Street– a trip back in time.
Dr. John Hale from the University of Louisville is reading book two of the Iliad by Homer and it is all complete with musical accompaniment.
He’s one of 100 featured readers who will finish the epic 24 book poem about the Trojan War by Saturday.
The poem is complex, but the point is simple, Keep Louisville Classical; all in thanks to students from the Louisville Classical Academy.
Students are reciting part of it in English and in Greek.
These students take both Latin and Greek – it’s part of the curriculum here at the school near U.S. 42 and Prospect, Ky. It opened just a few years ago.
The Iliad is the earliest surviving written work from ancient Greece.
It’s this book that changed the course of life for the school’s founder Marcia Cassidy.
The former attorney read it in her mid forties and thought what if for a classical school.
Seventy-five children grades three through 12 are now enrolled at Louisville Classical Academy. They learn the basics and the classics and they love it.
They say all roads lead back to the Iliad — from literature, to language to culture.
They say it’s hip to be classical, and it’s hip to read Homer.
… it includes a video news report which is quite good …
About a year ago we mentioned a contest sponsored by the Simon and Schuster folks wherein contestants were asked to translate a chunk of the Iliad and Stephen Mitchell would judge which was best (Iliad Translation Contest ~ Stephen Mitchell as Judge). A winner has been announced and Layne Evans’ version can be read here:
… even better, LE is a rogueclassicism reader! Congratulations!
The Center for Hellenic Studies is marking the centennial of Albert Lord’s birth with a collection of online resources related to his work. Here’s the introductory blurb from Gregory Nagy:
As one of Albert Lord’s former students, it gives me great pleasure to mark the 100th anniversary of his birth on Sept. 15, 1912. As a pioneering scholar in the study of oral traditions, Lord had a profound impact on our understanding of oral epic traditions, including the tradition represented by the Iliad and Odyssey. His book The Singer of Tales introduced thousands of readers to the richness of the oral poet’s art. As a teacher, he inspired generations of students to continue the line of inquiry begun by his own teacher, Milman Parry. The Center for Hellenic Studies proudly commemorates the birth of this path-finding scholar.
Check it out on the CHS main page …
At the Center for Hellenic Studies:
The Center for Hellenic Studies has an interview with Classicist (and jazz musician) Graeme Bird on his work with Homeric papyri and the connections it has with jazz (amongst other things). Here’s a (very brief) excerpt:
CHS: In addition to being an active member of the faculty at multiple schools, you are an accomplished and active jazz musician. How does this inform your work on the Homeric corpus and on the concept of composition in performance?
G.D.B.: For some time I have been exploring possible connections between techniques of jazz improvisation (for the piano in particular) and oral formulaic poetic techniques. Years ago I met a graduate student writing his PhD music thesis on this very topic, looking at the improvisational style of the jazz pianist Bill Evans (sadly deceased at a young age), and comparing it with the Parry-Lord theory of oral formulaic poetry. I decided that since I can both read Homeric Greek and play improvised jazz piano (but by no means in the league of Bill Evans!), I would explore this idea further, and also try to demonstrate it in actual performance. I would say that I am at the beginning of what I hope will become something more valuable and more profound. I have given a couple of live “performances” in which I consider some lines of Homeric text – both in Greek and in English, as my audience generally are not all familiar with Greek – and then play some jazz piano, including improvised material. I seek to show by analyzing the improvised piano lines that these lines tend to follow patterns not unlike those illustrated by Lord in his book Singer of Tales. In fact I set out both sets of material (Homeric and jazz) in very similar ways to enhance the similarities. But of course I remind my audience that there are significant differences between Homer and jazz, and that these should not be overlooked in a simplistic hunt for superficial parallels.
I would say that I have two goals in this (at least two): to show that Homeric formulaic composition is compatible with true creativity (i.e. not just sticking formulas together in some artless fashion) – that the system does not exclude the creativity; that jazz improvisation is similarly compatible – in this case that the creativity does not rule out the system; and finally that the two share elements of both system and of creativity – that two seemingly unrelated art forms have more in common than might be apparent at first glance (or hearing). Along these lines, I seek to clarify what true “improvisation” is: the OED definition (“improvise”: To compose (verse, music, etc.) on the spur of the moment; to utter or perform extempore.) is woefully inadequate, and many, if not most people seem to have misconceptions of what its true nature is. As a practicing musician who tries to practice at least an hour a day (which is barely sufficient to keep one’s “chops” in shape), I am acutely aware of how much work it takes to become an even average improviser. True improvisation has nothing really to do with “making stuff up on the spot”; rather it is the creative and inspired weaving together of previously rehearsed material (“formulas,” if you like, which include fragments of scales and arpeggios, things which musicians are constantly practicing) in a way that allows the performer to perform a given song (one of my favorites is Cole Porter’s “Night and Day”) before an audience in such a way that they both recognize the song being played, and are inspired by the way it is being performed. To me this applies in a very real way to how I imagine a passage of Homer would have been performed. And the concepts of “multitextuality” and “intertextuality” seem to apply in jazz just as they do in Homer. [...]
Check out the whole thing at:
From the official announcement of the Center for Hellenic Studies:
The Center for Hellenic Studies is pleased to announce that the online edition of Laura Slatkin’s The Power of Thetis and Selected Essays is now available on the CHS website (chs.harvard.edu). This influential and widely admired book explores the superficially minor role of Thetis in the Iliad. Slatkin uncovers alternative traditions about the power of Thetis and shows how an awareness of those myths brings a far greater understanding of Thetis’s place in the thematic structure of the Iliad. This second edition also includes six additional essays, which cover a broad range of topics in the study of the Greek Epic. [...]
We’ll be generous and ignore the Olympic Games connection in this one, but if you’re looking for something to show the kids when dealing with the funeral games of Anchises, ecce:
The Center for Hellenic Studies has an interview with Stephanie Lindeborg, who is doing some interesting undergraduate research with the folks at the Homer Multitext project:
- Thinking Like a Revolutionary: Interview with HMT Researcher Stephanie Lindeborg, College of the Holy Cross, ’13
The Homer Multitext Project blog has also showcased some of her work:
Another tip o’ the pileus to Ellen Bauerle for pointing us to this iPad retelling of Odysseus’ voyage; first, check out the video:
Looks like it’s geared towards the younger set, but I’m sure some rogueclassicism readers would get a kick out of it. I haven’t had a chance to download and play with it, but it’s five bucks in the app store.
I keep hearing about Radiolab’s stuff of late, and here’s one that is largely within our purview … the
What is the color of honey, and “faces pale with fear”? If you’re Homer–one of the most influential poets in human history–that color is green. And the sea is “wine-dark,” just like oxen…though sheep are violet. Which all sounds…well, really off. Producer Tim Howard introduces us to linguist Guy Deutscher, and the story of William Gladstone (a British Prime Minister back in the 1800s, and a huge Homer-ophile). Gladstone conducted an exhaustive study of every color reference in The Odyssey and The Iliad. And he found something startling: No blue! Tim pays a visit to the New York Public Library, where a book of German philosophy from the late 19th Century helps reveal a pattern: across all cultures, words for colors appear in stages. And blue always comes last. Jules Davidoff, professor of neuropsychology at the University of London, helps us make sense of the way different people see different colors in the same place. Then Guy Deutscher tells us how he experimented on his daughter Alma when she was just starting to learn the colors of the world around, and above, her.
via: Why Isn’t the Sky Blue? (Radiolab … go there for the very interesting podcast)
If you want to read Gladstone’s chapter, click here (move the slider to page 479 in the digital version (457 in real life).
… by the way there’s a pile of advertising in the first minute or so of the podcast, then it gets down to business.
… so cool, in fact, that I made it my facebook cover page yesterday. Here’s the beginning of Art Daily’s coverage:
A masterpiece by Swiss artist Arnold Böcklin depicting a dramatic retelling of a story from Homer’s ‘Odyssey’ is to headline Sotheby’s sale of European Paintings in London on Monday, 11 June 2012. Odysseus and Polyphemus, painted in 1896, is redolent of the fin-de-siècle spirit that enveloped Europe as a new century dawned. Estimated at £800,000-1,200,000 (€970,000-1,460,000), the oil on panel comes to the market from a European Private Collection and is being offered for sale at auction for the first time. The provenance of the work can be traced back directly to the artist, and the painting has featured in numerous exhibitions and monographs on Böcklin.
Odysseus and Polyphemus depicts the climax of the story of Odysseus and Polyphemus as recounted by Homer in Book 9 of his ‘Odyssey’, when Odysseus and his men flee the enraged Cyclops they have just blinded. Böcklin’s composition creates great movement and tension between the oarsmen who put all their strength against the swell in the sea that threatens to return them within the Cyclops reach, and the towering figure of the Cyclops himself, his face deliberately obscured so as not to distract the viewer’s attention from the struggle at hand. The story had fascinated artists through the centuries, from Antiquity to the Renaissance and beyond, making Böcklin’s work part of the canon of epic renditions that vividly illustrate tales associated with the eponymous Greek hero. [...]
… and, of course, the
photo (painting) itself:
This one’s been lurking in my box for a while … the Center for Hellenic Studies have put up a copy of Milman Parry’s doctoral dissertation (?) … here’s their description:
In this foundational and still critically important work, Parry offers a detailed and thorough analysis of proper name and epithet formulae. This analysis brought Parry to a stunning conclusion: the poems could not be the work of an individual poet but must be the product of a tradition. Parry’s lucid argumentation and persuasive methodology deserve and repay careful attention by all interested in Homer, ancient Greek poetics, and oral traditions.
Read it here (it opens to the preface; use the drop-down menu to get to chapters):
As usual, the day I’m away from my laptop some major news manages to accumulate in mailboxes, twitterfeeds, and on Facebook. At this point, the ‘best’ coverage (note the scare quotes) of this story comes from the Telegraph; skipping the intro bit:
Nearly 3,000 years after Odysseus returned from his journey, the team from the University of Ioannina said they found the remains of an extensive three-storey building, with steps carved out of rock and fragments of pottery. The complex also features and a well from the 8th century BC, roughly the period in which Odysseus is believed to have been king of Ithaca.
The location “fits like a glove” with Homer’s description of the view from the fabled palace, the archaeologists claim.
The layout of the complex, where Professor Thanassis Papadopoulos and his team have been digging for 16 years, is very similar to palaces discovered at Mycenae, Pylos and other ancient sites.
The claim will be greeted with scepticism by the many scholars who believe that Odysseus, along with other key characters from the Homer’s epic such as Hector and Achilles, were purely fictional.
“Whether this find has a connection with Ulysses or not is interesting up to a certain point, but more important is the discovery of the royal palace,” said Adriano La Regina, an Italian archaeologist.
Further complicating the identification of the site is the doubt over whether the ancient kingdom of Ithaca was located on its modern day namesake, Ithaki.
A British researcher, Robert Bittlestone, has said Homer’s descriptions bear little resemblance to the island and that ancient Ithaca was in fact located on the Paliki peninsula, on the island of Cephalonia.
He believes that Paliki was once an island, separated from the rest of Cephalonia by a marine channel that has since been filled in by rock falls triggered by earthquakes.
The Telegraph also presents the stupidest headline of all the coverage:
In any event, the Telegraph coverage has to be supplemented with some details from ANA, which expand and also confuse the issue:
To date, the dig has uncovered remains of a three-storey building with an interior staircase cut into the side of sheer rock. Remnants of Mycenaean-era pottery were also found, along with a fountain dated to the 13 century BC. Similar fountains have been unearthed at the related sites of the acropolis of Mycenae and Tiryns , in southeast mainland Greece , and specifically in the Argolida plain in the NE Peloponnese.
Slightly different again, is Ria Novosti, inter alia:
Thanasis Papadopulos, who has been carrying out excavations on the Greek hero’s home island for 16 years, said he had discovered the remains of a three-storey palace and a well, which date back to the 13th century BC, which is when the Trojan war, described in Homer’s Iliad, is believed to have taken place.
Similar wells have been unearthed in Mycenae, 90 kilometers southwest of Athens, and in Tiryns on the Peloponnese Peninsula, the two centers of the Mycenaean civilization, which flourished between 1600 BC and 1100 BC.
A final interesting detail from the coverage by something called Island Crisis, inter alia:
Thanasis Papadopulos, the lead archaeologist of the group, said that he knew the right place of the remains since 2006. The team found the ruins of a three-level palace with a staircase carved into the rock. A well dating back to the 13th century BC (around the Trojan War era) was also found at the site.
It was also announced that after the discovery, the Greek ministry of Culture provided more funding to the continuity of the Ithaca excavation project.
I don’t think I’ve ever had to look at so many variations in coverage to get close to the ‘full story’. The Telegraph report seems to have dropped the ball in regards to the date, confusing the time of the probable composition of the Odyssey with the dating of the remains. With that out of the way, we seem to be dealing with some probably important Mycenean remains on Ithaka that appear to include a palatial structure. That in itself is significant, as Adriano La Regina, has suggested. Obviously it doesn’t ‘prove’ the existence of Odysseus, but I suppose if you want to attach a name to a palace, that would be the one to attach if you want to attract tourists and government funding.
Now for the backstory: the Telegraph piece does sort of hint at the ‘politics’ lurking behind this discovery, though. Back in 2005 or so, Robert Bittlestone came out with his book Odysseus Unbound, which suggested that the geography of Kephalonia included a bit called Paliki (which was theorized to once have been an island) that ‘fit’ Homer’s description better than long-standing belief that Ithaka was on Ithaki. The book was hyped a bit, and it was clear that Bittlestone was yet another ‘outsider’ taking on the archaeological establishment. The book was panned by Mary Beard. Interestingly, coinciding with these early reports, there was a passing report that the tomb of Odysseus had been found on Kephalonia as well. Nonetheless, about a year later, the BBC was hyping the theory, because of plans to use geology to add weight to theory. The geological testing appeared to confirm the detail that the Paliki peninsula on Kephalonia had, in fact, once been an island although the dating of when it ceased to be an island is somewhat confusing (5000 B.C.? … there was some badmouthing of the study prior to its official release). Two years ago (today!) we began to hear of digs on Ithaka to ‘reclaim’ Odysseus, and complaints about funding …
I think that brings everyone up to speed; it does seem that potential tourism is driving the archaeology on this one, while an ‘outsider’s challenge’ is being kept alive for ‘nationalistic’ reasons (I suspect). Clearly this will soon be a documentary of some sort, if it isn’t already.