Latin Memes

Just came across this while doing a bit of community service/outreach in various Reddit fora:

… not sure if it’s still active (and there’s one there which you probably can’t share with a class of high schoolers), but you might like some of them …

Watching Football with the Rogueclassicist

Other than Classics, one of my obsessions is football of the North American variety (and increasingly the Australian variety as well, when I figure out when it is on TV here), in connection with which I have a separate twitter account (@mistermeadows) which I use to tweet during games (along with piles of other fans) and keep that chatter separate from my Classics chatter (@rogueclassicist). Still, I can’t always prevent the rogueclassicist from clawing his way through my mistermeadows persona, as can be seen in the following bit from this weekend’s game between the Hamilton Ticats and Montreal Alouettes. We’ll start with the play that brought the rogueclassicist out:

Chris Williams is an amazingly talented guy (and will probably end up in the NFL in the next few years, alas), but his early celebration prompted this tweet:

… and that tweet was made after he was ruled down on the one yard line. So where does Nemesis come in? Well just before the half:

… and he did it on national television, up close! So Nemesis came and forced him to put on a show he wouldn’t be so happy for everyone to see. I’m kind of surprised a video of it hasn’t showed up on Youtube yet … but I wasn’t finished:

… pardon the typo; I generally am typing with my left hand on my mobile while watching games. Sadly, none of the CFL Twitterati seem to have known what I was talking about …

CJ Online Review: Lane, Eco-Republic

posted with permission:

Melissa Lane, Eco-Republic: What the Ancients Can Teach Us About Ethics, Virtues, and Sustainable Living. Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2012. Pp. ix + 245. $29.95. ISBN 978-0-691-15124-3.

Reviewed by Susan A. Curry, University of New Hampshire

Melissa Lane’s Eco-Republic is a very good example of what I hope is a burgeoning trend in classical scholarship: the application of ancient thought to contemporary environmental problems. By using Platonic images to conceptualize contemporary obstacles to the creation of a sustainable society and unraveling forgotten connections between city and soul in Plato’s writings, Eco-Republic offers a powerful corrective to those who devalue the role of the individual in favor of a top-down, policy-oriented approach to problems like climate change. For classicists, Lane’s work shows how the insights garnered from the close reading of ancient texts can and should be applied to today’s global challenges.

Using Plato’s ideal city as a model, Lane effectively demonstrates the crucial role the individual plays in reshaping his/her community’s ethos and acting towards the creation of a sustainable society. A sustainable society “will be one which its members themselves recognize as thriving in a way which can be continued into the future, in relation to the interactive life-support systems of the earth” (p. 19) and, over time, “will be ever more able to realize and instantiate the good” (p. 20). Citizens of bureaucratic societies have lost sight of the way individual ethics and behaviors are intertwined with a city’s values and policies. As a result, many individuals have come to feel that what they could do would make no measurable difference and so do not act at all. Similarly, when one’s government fails to take action, as when the U.S. government refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, many of its citizens do not believe that they ought to act either. In Plato, Lane finds ways of understanding why individuals fail to act and of imagining a society in which the individual participates in creating a vision of and implementing a society oriented towards, the good.

In the first part of Eco-Republic, “Inertia,” Lane analyzes three factors (inertia, greed, and negligibility) interfering with individual action. In the first chapter, “Introduction: Inertia as Failure of the Political Imagination,” Lane uses Plato’s myth of the Cave to discuss just how difficult it is for an individual to change his or her habits. While in Chapter two, “From Greed to Glory: Ancient to Modern Ethics—and Back Again?,” Lane traces the values of modern Western societies back to their origins in ancient Greece, but suggests that we no longer employ certain Greek terms and values, which now may prove vital to reinvigorating the contemporary political imagination and channeling it towards a more sustainable way of life. Toward that end, Lane discusses the importance of individual participation and virtue, and the dangers of pleonexia, “grasping-for-more,” and hubris.

The third chapter, “Underpinning Inertia: The Idea of Negligibility,” is the most provocative. Using Plato’s tale of the ring of Gyges, which renders its wearer invisible, Lane grapples with the problem of negligibility, the idea that whatever action an individual takes would make so little difference that that action is not worth taking, even when s/he believes it to be “right.” Lane convincingly argues, however, that one never knows what indirect effects an individual action may have. For example, installing solar panels on one’s roof may not save one enough money in the long-run to warrant their installation and certainly will not, by itself, radically alter the pace of climate change, but if one person in a community installs them anyway, his/her neighbors, too, may wish to be, or be seen to be, “green” and install solar panels themselves. Having solar panels may become a factor in one’s social identity; and, together, all of these solar panels will begin to make a measurable difference.

The second and third parts of Eco-Republic, “Imagination” and “Initiative,” further rely on Plato’s writings to describe the psychosocial relationship souls have with their cities and to illuminate ways individuals can positively influence the societies in which they live. In Chapters four through seven, “Meet Plato’s Republic,” “The City and the Soul,” “The Idea of the Good,” and “Initiative and Individuals: A (Partly) Platonic Political Project,” Lane summarizes the Republic, defends the values of virtue and health, and provides a cogent argument for ecological sustainability as “an indispensible part of the common good” (p. 137).

Of these, chapter six, “The Idea of the Good,” makes the best use of Plato’s Republic. In discussing the concept of the Good, Lane stresses the Platonic idea that self-destructive actions are in themselves unsustainable. Since what is of highest value must be both intelligible and a source of growth, the pursuit of goals that are self-undermining is the pursuit of that which cannot generate indefinite growth and is not sustainable. Sustainability, Lane concludes, “is best understood as a condition on goodness” (p. 136).

Lane does not purport to offer practical solutions to the myriad ecological challenges we face in the 21st century, which can frustrate the reader hoping for more direct applications of ancient theory to modern practices. Some Plato specialists will also find fault with the particular way Lane interprets and then applies Platonic ideas to the problems of sustainability. However, Lane’s is an original book that brings ancient psychology, political theory, and ethics to bear on the issues of sustainability. Ultimately, Eco-Republic admirably shows that students and scholars of the ancient world have unique contributions to make to discussions concerning the creation of a more sustainable society. We should take our place at the table.

London 2012 Olympic Ode!

This one’s been percolating in various papers for the past couple of days, but the Telegraph takes it that extra step by providing the text (which I’ve been waiting for):

Mr Johnson, who studied classics at Oxford, will recite the poem that he commissioned for the Games in both Greek and English.

The ode was created by Oxford academic Armand D’Angour who wrote the poem in ancient Greek with modern lyrics and then translated the six verses into rhyming couplets.

The English version includes puns on athletes names such a “lightning bolt” which is a reference to world record holder Usain Bolt. The poem also includes notes to London 2012 chairman Lord Coe, diver Tom Daley and volleyball captain Ben Pipes.

The Mayor said: ‘I am delighted to have the opportunity to declaim Dr D’Angour’s glorious Olympic Ode at the Opening Gala, a work that breathes new life into the ancient custom of celebrating the greatness of the Games through poetry.

“I have no doubt that the members of the International Olympic Committee are fully versed in ancient Greek, but to ensure the elaborate puns can be fully appreciated I shall have the pleasure of vocalising the Ode twice, once in Greek and then again in English.

“I shall try to resist the temptation to regale the attendees a further time in Latin, though I cannot make any promises.”

The ode will be engraved on a bronze plaque that will have a permanent home in the Olympic Park

This is the second time that Dr D’Angour has created an Olympic ode – he wrote a Pindaric Ode for the Athens Games in 2004.

The Oxford academic, who created the poem in the style of Pindar, said: “I hope that these Odes will help to raise the profile of the Classics, which is an endlessly fascinating and inspiring subject.

“It will certainly be fun to hear the Ode read by the Mayor in his inimitable style, and I hope people will enjoy seeing the plaque when visiting the area in years to come.

“Writing an Ode for the Games revives a musical and poetic tradition from ancient Greece, where Odes were commissioned to celebrate athletic winners at the Games. Pindar was the greatest poet of his time, and sponsors paid a great deal of money for athletic victors to be honoured with an Ode by him.

“I have aimed to be faithful to ancient style and form, and used alcaic metre. Of course the puns may make people groan, but Pindar’s audiences may have done so too!”

The full Pindaric Ode for the London 2012 Olympics:

The new Olympic flame behold,
that once burned bright in Greece of old;
with happy hearts receive once more
these Games revived on London’s shore.

Praise rival teams, in sport allied,
as athletes stream from far and wide;
the poet too must take the road
conveying praise to victory owed.

Millions of watchers will embrace
the passion of each close-run race,
The efforts of the rowing teams
and gymnasts on balancing beams.

The will observe with rapt delight
the archer draw his bowstring tight,
the skilful rider guide her horse,
and lightning bolt around the course.

The pipes will play, the drum resound,
as medallists are daily crowned;
the crowd’s hurrah will reach the skies
when victors hoist the golden prize.

Now welcome to this seagirt land,
with London’s Mayor and co. at hand
good luck to all who strive to win:
applaud and let the Games begin!

Even better, the Telegraph includes the Greek (as an image):

via the Telegraph

via: London 2012 Olympics: Boris Johnson to recite Olympic Ode in ancient Greek (Telegraph)

Long-time readers of rogueclassicism will recall that this story actually broke last October (!): Primus a Boris (more useful links there).