Agamemnon

All posts tagged Agamemnon

MLM No “I” Repost – “The Party”

Published January 23, 2017 by Iphis of Scyros

“The Party”

The megaron* at Mycenae sets the scene.
Agamemnon offers couches to the guests,
So many couches; no need to share.
But the red-headed son of Peleus objects:
“There’s one place too few!”
Patroclos mutters that he should go,
Of too small note for such great company.
“No way! You can’t leave!”
Patroclos’ dearest comrade demands.
“Normally, the couches are shared,”
Odysseus tells them,
A wry form upon the mouth.
“Then you’ll share my couch,”
Peleus’ son asserts, as he takes Patroclos’ hands.
Reluctant, the young man takes a seat,
Upon the couch of the pretty boy.
The son of Telamon laughs, and takes up a cup.
“Not yet!” Agamemnon remonstrances.
“We must pour for the gods.”
Drops are poured out neat,
And the gods assuaged.
Then the party can truly start.
“Many thanks to you all,”
Menelaos tells them, at a frown,
“For your help to restore my Helen.”
“Thank the oath,” the son of Telamon grumbles.
“But any honest man who fears Zeus,
And would see decency overcome rude cruelty,
Would gladly come to your help,
Even unbound by such an oath,”
Odysseus oozed, smarmy.
“Just as young Ach–”
“Hadda restore my name, after you shamed me,
Back on Scyros,” the boy growls.
“How much have you already had?”
Patroclos asks, and pulls the empty cup away.
“Your father would rebuke me
For such a drunken state!”
“Let the boy have all he wants,”
Laughed the son of Tydeus.
“All too soon we cross the sea for Troy,
And leave all joy at our backs.
For now, let the boy enjoy what we have.”
“Such enjoyment forms the core of the event,”
Agreed old Nestor, and nodded that gray head.
“Let us all enjoy each other’s good company,
As long as lovely Selene travels the sky.”
Toasts were drunk to Nestor’s plan,
And all cheered as the party got underway.


*Megaron = throne room/great hall.


MLM icon init bonus points MLM I


Made one small change from 1st post on 1/25/16.  (Whoa, almost exactly a year!)

Subtitle Oopsy

Published September 6, 2016 by Iphis of Scyros

I think I just won the “stupidest title for a blog post ever” award.

If there is such an award.

(I’m not sure if I’d actually want there to be one or not.)

Anyway, I just wanted to post about something stupid that actually tied in to my somewhat estranged “Greek mythology” theme.

So, I’m sorry to say that my birthday was last month, and as usual I couldn’t convince my family to pretend it wasn’t happening.  But at least they had the decency to only give me one present.  In this case, it was the Blu-Ray of the movie Iphigenia, based on the Euripides play Iphigenia at Aulis.  (But without the dea ex machina ending that scholars have been arguing about for centuries.)

I saw the movie years ago in a class, and I’d been trying to get my hands on it for a couple of years to see it again, but the DVD was long out of print, and apparently someone stole the Netflix lending copy.  (Seriously, it’s been on my brother’s queue for years.)  But it was finally released on Blu-ray recently by Olive Films (at least, I think that’s what the logo said) so I was finally able to see it again.

I hadn’t read the play yet when I first saw the movie, so I was surprised at just how much material there was before the start of the play.  (Must have been at least ten to fifteen minutes.)

The point of this post, though, is to tell you about a little goof they made in the subtitles.  (And yes, I only just got around to watching it yesterday.  On account of I have a slight problem with my television, and currently have to take Blu-rays to my brother’s place to watch them.)  For those who don’t know the story of the play, the only pertinent detail you need for my anecdote is that Agamemnon sent a letter back to Mycenae, asking that his eldest daughter, Iphigenia, be sent alone to Aulis, in order to marry Achilles.  Of course, his wife, Clytemnestra, wasn’t about to let her daughter go off alone, so she’s come to Aulis with her.  And when she’s talking to Agamemnon about the proposed marriage, she’s asking about what kind of man Achilles is.

And Agamemnon tells her that he’s “descended from Aesop.”

And I’m sitting here going “Um, what?”

Because I know that’s not what it said in Euripides.  Because while Aesop is one of those writers that — like Homer — has a partially (or entirely) mythologized life story, he’s still a real person.  (Probably.)  And lived in historical times.  And was a slave.

But the movie was going on, and I forgot about the line until after the movie was over.

Then I was suddenly like “Oh, duh!”

What the line actually said was that Achilles was descended from Asopos, not Aesop.  Asopos, of course, being a river god and the father of Aegina, who was kidnapped/ravished/impregnated by Zeus, giving birth to Aiakos, who was the father of Peleus, father of Achilles.

Now, it still strikes me as weird to pick Asopos rather than Zeus in order to talk about Achilles’ divine lineage (not to mention what about his mother, Thetis, the most powerful of the Nereids?) but presumably that was either because pretty much everyone in the mythic nobility is descended from Zeus, or — more likely — for metrical reasons.

But writing Aesop instead of Asopos…

…it’s hard to find rhyme or reason for that one.

Missing Letter Mondays – No “I”

Published January 25, 2016 by Iphis of Scyros

“The Party”

The megaron* at Mycenae sets the scene.
Agamemnon offers couches to the guests,
So many couches; no need to share.
But the red-headed son of Peleus objects:
“There’s one place too few!”
Patroclos mutters that he should go,
Of too small note for such great company.
“No way! You can’t leave!”
Patroclos’ dearest comrade demands.
“Normally, the couches are shared,”
Odysseus tells them,
A wry form upon the mouth.
“Then you’ll share my couch,”
Peleus’ son asserts, as he takes Patroclos’ hands.
Reluctant, the young man takes a seat,
Upon the couch of the pretty boy.
The son of Telamon laughs, and takes up a cup.
“Not yet!” Agamemnon remonstrances.
“We must pour for the gods.”
Drops are poured out neat,
And the gods assuaged.
Then the party can truly start.
“Many thanks to you all,”
Menelaos tells them, at a frown,
“For your help to restore my Helen.”
“Thank the oath,” the son of Telamon grumbles.
“But any honest man who fears Zeus,
And would see decency overcome rude cruelty,
Would gladly come to your help,
Even unbound by such an oath,”
Odysseus oozed, smarmy.
“Just as young Ach–”
“Hadda restore my name, after you shamed me,
Back on Scyros,” the boy growls.
“How much have you already had?”
Patroclos asks, and pulls the empty cup away.
“Your father would rebuke me
For such a drunken state!”
“Let the boy have all the drops he wants,”
Laughed the son of Tydeus.
“All too soon we cross the sea for Troy,
And leave all joy at our backs.
For now, let the boy enjoy what we have.”
“Such enjoyment forms the core of the event,”
Agreed old Nestor, and nodded that gray head.
“Let us all enjoy each other’s good company,
As long as lovely Selene travels the sky.”
Toasts were drunk to Nestor’s plan,
And all cheered as the party got underway.


*Megaron = throne room/great hall.


 

 

MLM icon init bonus points MLM I


Oh.  My.  God.  So.  Much.  Harder.  Than.  Expected!

 

Pyrrha: A Play, Scenes 5 and 6

Published August 9, 2015 by Iphis of Scyros

For the earlier scenes, consult the links on this page.  Scene 5 is where the play really picks up, because it’s when Patroclos and Aias arrive.  Yay!  (Yes, I’m biased.  So what’s your point?)


Scene: Megaron of Lycomedes (Day)

The throne is empty. Aias and Patroclos enter.  Aias is an enormous man, but Patroclos is of a more normal size.  Both wear armor and carry a sword, but only Patroclos has a shield.  {Shields, as I forgot to mention in discussing Bronze Age armor, tended to be gigantic in the Bronze Age, and warriors literally had to have guards on the backs of their ankles to protect them from chafing from their shields.  (Seriously, there’s mention of those guards in the Iliad, in talking about Hector’s shield.)  Aias does not have his shield with him because his was larger than most, and carrying it outside of battle is impractical.}

Aias: Hoh? No one at home?

Patroclos: Is it just me, or does this feel like a trap?

Aias laughs.

Aias: It’s just you.

Patroclos: “They will be welcomed as royally as they deserve.” That didn’t sound suspicious to you?

Aias: It’s just flowery court talk.

Patroclos grimaces.

Patroclos: I don’t know why they sent me on this mission, anyway. What do I know about courts and kings?

Aias: Ask Odysseus.

Patroclos: I’d rather not.

Aias laughs.

Aias: How long are we going to be made to wait?

He looks around.

Aias: (shouting) Is the palace deserted?

Patroclos: Don’t shout like that!

Lycomedes, Polyphonos and others enter.

Lycomedes: My pardon, guests! I was preparing for your arrival.

Aias: And yet you missed it.

Patroclos: (sotto) A-Aias! That’s rude!

Lycomedes turns to his servants.

Lycomedes: Fetch some wine immediately! Have the feast made ready at once!

Several servants bow, and run from the room.

Aias: We can talk business while we wait.

Lycomedes: I should not like to be so rude as to ask my guests’ business before they’ve supped.

Aias: You’re not asking. I’m offering.

Lycomedes coughs uncomfortably. Patroclos is stifling laughter.

Polyphonos: I’m sure it won’t offend the gods, sire.

Lycomedes sighs, and takes a seat on his throne.

Lycomedes: Very well, then. The herald said he worked for Aias, son of Telamon. No other man could have such godlike proportions, so you must be he.

Aias: (laughing) Godlike?

Patroclos: Yes, he is Aias, sire.
Read the rest of this entry →

Words Crush Wednesday – The Homeric Version

Published May 20, 2015 by Iphis of Scyros

Since this week’s myth is finally going to be the rest of the Theban cycle (or, more likely, just the first half of it, or possibly even only a third), so I thought for this week’s Words Crush Wednesday I’d post some of the oldest text about the conflict at Thebes.  From Book IV of the Iliad, W.H.D. Rouse translation, what we have here is Agamemnon taunting Diomedes to get him riled up for the fight.  (And oh boy does he succeed!  Diomedes is about to kick all kinds of ass!)

“What pity to find you skulking here, goggling your eyes at the battlefield!  what would your noble father have said!  It was not your father’s way to skulk.  He used to be first at the enemy by a long way, as they say who never saw him about the business.  I never met him myself, never saw him, but they say he had no equal.  Once indeed he came to Mycene, not in war–he came as a guest with Prince Polyneices to enlist men; for they were besieging the sacred walls of Thebes.  They begged hard for volunteers, and the people were ready to go, but Zeus changed their minds by showing unfavorable signs.  So the envoys went away and got as far as the river Asopos.  There they waited in the reeds and grass while Tydeus went on a parley to Thebes.  He found a party of the Cadmeians feasting in the house of Eteocles.  There was Tydeus alone among a host of Cadmeians, a stranger; but he feared nothing, he challenged them to trials of strength and beat them all easily by the help of Athena.  Then the Cadmeians were enraged, and laid an ambush for him on his way home, forty lads with two leaders, Maion Haimon’s son and Polyphontes the son of Autophonos.  Tydeus made an end of these also; he killed them all but one, whom he sent back.  Maion was the man, and he let him go in obedience to omens from heaven.  Such a man was Aitolian Tydeus; but his son is not so good on the battlefield, although he is a better talker.”

Next week, I’ll post the response; it’s really good.  (Okay, I didn’t need to say that latter part, did I?)

wcw

Still have writer’s block

Published January 16, 2015 by Iphis of Scyros

I just can’t figure out how to continue book 2 of the trilogy I started with this year’s NaNo novel.  I mean, I know what needs to happen in the scene, and the following scenes, and I’m looking forward to much of what’s to come later on, particularly the scenes between Sondra and Eddie (aka Cassandra and Odysseus), but somehow I just can’t find the way to get that one scene moving.

I think there are two reasons I can’t get it to move:

1) I don’t really know the characters very well.  Their mythological counterparts (Agamemnon and Iphigenia) haven’t really played much of a role in any of my directly myth-based fiction.  (Well, technically they have, but indirectly in Agamemnon’s case, and in Iphigenia’s case…she was a very different character then.)

2) The type of scene–behind the scenes power play as a minor battle is taking place on the front lines–is one that I’m particularly alien to, not only in my writing, but even in reading and watching.

There’s not much I can do about reason two, but I think maybe if I work on reason one, I can jump-start the process.

Tomorrow, or maybe later tonight, I’ll try writing a short story about these two characters, not the original myth versions, but these new versions.  Something before the book started, to delve into their relationship with each other, and with the other characters in the book.  Maybe once I know them better, I’ll have less trouble with the scene.

Hmm, not much of a post, is it?

Well, I’ll go ahead and say a little about the book I’m working on, since I’m not sure how much I’ve said in previous posts that touch on the subject.  Originally, the book was going to be called “Helen of Space,” but that was before I realized it was merely part one of three.  That title is probably going to be the title of the third book, but I’m not sure what to call the first two now.  The series title is something like “The Ganymede War,” since it takes place on the moon of Ganymede.   Well, with some of the first book being on space stations in orbit around Jupiter, and probably at least half of the third book being in space around Ganymede and/or Jupiter in one way or another.

It’s very anime-inspired, particularly by shows like Gundam and Macross, so it involves–among other things–giant robots, though they’ve played a surprisingly small role so far, and will be all but absent from book two entirely, due to the structure of the story.  But most importantly, it’s not actually a re-telling of the Trojan War in space, though the original title might make you think so.  The characters are in fact the reincarnations of the various figures from the Trojan War, and over the five thousand years since the original war, they’ve been reincarnated repeatedly, and each time the war has played out essentially the same way over and over again.  Minor variations due to events outside the characters’ control (like the eruption of Vesuvius) and of course massive changes due to different historical circumstances, weapons technology, cultural conventions, et ceterea.  But always it’s started because Alexander/Paris seduces/abducts Helen, and the same people always die at the hands of the same foes.  (With a few variations.)  This time, however, Alexander/Paris is killed before he can meet Helen, so it looks like the war is off, until it’s stirred up for other reasons.

Naturally, no one remembers their past lives.  Except Cassandra.  But she’s still treated as insane, in part because she sometimes slips into other languages when she’s talking.

At first, I had hoped to make it unclear as to whether Sondra was really insane or not, to make it a point of mystery about whether or not the whole reincarnation thing was really going on, but as I started writing, I realized that there was no way of making Sondra seem insane to the reader.  One of the ways she sounds crazy to other people in her world is that she’s always referencing their past lives, things that are long forgotten two thousand(ish) years from now, but well known to us.  (For example, Sarpedon and Glaucos are named Sullivan and Gilbert this time around…so when Sondra meets up with both of them together, she starts cracking jokes about The Pirates of Penzance.  Modern people get that, but those around her don’t…and that makes it clear to the reader that she’s not actually insane.)

I’m not sure if I want to go ahead and ever get inside her head, though.  Well, okay, technically I’ve done that already; I wrote a short story that started out with the 20th century go-round of the war (where it was much smaller, needless to say, just a blood feud) and then had her waking up later in book 2 than I’ve gotten.  I could work it into the book itself, but…I dunno.  Doesn’t feel right.  It’s more about the relationship of that version of Patroclos and Achilles anyway.  (I’d come up with their story–more tragic than the usual Achilles-gets-his-friend/lover-killed-via-his-own-selfish-actions version–and wanted an excuse to write down at least part of it.)

The real question that I don’t have an answer for is whether or not Helen remembers.  Her name is always Helen, even when they’ve lived in places where that’s an impossibly weird name (Japan, China, Inca Peru), and Cassandra is so convinced that Helen remembers that for centuries she was sure that Helen was actually immortal, and kept re-starting the war intentionally.  She probably doesn’t fully remember, but has glimmers and glimpses of her previous lives.  Probably.

That’s something I can worry about later.

Right now I gotta find a way to get the story moving again.  This time last year I was writing up a storm.  It’s annoying that I’ve been spending far more time gaming and customizing dolls lately than I have spent writing.

In lieu of the assignment…

Published January 14, 2015 by Iphis of Scyros

Since I was feeling unsociable last night and didn’t do the “comment on five other blogs” assignment, I can’t really do today’s Blogging 101 assignment to build a post around one of those comments.  Instead, I’m going to do my own mucked-up version of the Daily Prompt (or whatever it was called) that suggested taking “the nearest book” and writing a post involving the third full sentence on page 82.

I call it a mucked-up version because I use the back of my sofa (on which I’m sitting right now) as an impromptu bookshelf.  Trying to determine which of the books on my sofa is “nearest” is next to impossible.  So instead I’m going to copy down the third sentence on page 82 from all of the books (apart from the language-learning textbooks (one for German, two for Homeric Greek), the German/English dictionary and the character-name guidebook…oh, and the game art books, which don’t have much in the way of, you know, text) and then see if I can build anything out of that.  Ooh, except one of them doesn’t have a page 82, as it starts on page 467.  (For the paperback, it was divided into two volumes, but kept the original hardback page notations.)  So I guess I’ll put the third sentence from page 549 for volume two, in addition to the one from page 82 of volume one.  Also having to use page 83 on a few books, ’cause their even numbered pages are in other languages.


 

“Other ancient peoples  thought of the earth as female and the sky as male, but the Egyptians, as the Greek historian Herodotus remarked, “did everything backwards.””

“In that event, two children would constitute the Aischylean meal.”

“This ceremony is almost like what the Christians do when they are confirmed.”

“He was killed by Deiphontes.”

“He was discovered and torn to pieces by his mother, who in her frenzy believed him to be a wild beast (Apollod. 3.5.2, Ov. Met. 3.725).”

“But the lunar cycles do not dovetail with a yearly rhythm.”

“No–if our generous Argives will give me a prize, a match for my desires, equal to what I’ve lost, well and good.”

“I hate you more than any other god alive.”

“Do not attach power wholly to the people, nor on the other hand degrade them by privileging wealth.”

“In Aristophanes’ comedy (422 B.C.) the Greek words make a trochaic tetrameter.”

“It was usually ornamented with the “leaf-and-dart” pattern, in the simpler forms of which the “leaf” is a pendent shape rather like a heraldic shield, i.e. a triangle with bulging curved sides and its apex at the bottom.”

Parthenius, Love Romances 3 summarizes the plot.”

“A single wand lay on a faded purple cushion in the dusty window.”

“Try to prevent the monster from getting close to Genis, so that his casting is not interrupted.”

“On none of these occasions is her parentage mentioned, so we cannot be sure whether the poet of the Iliad would have agreed with Hesiod on that point.”

“On a few Attic and Apulian red-figure vases he sometimes plays for Thracians [140] or later is himself shown in Thracian dress.”

“There is my father’s park, and the orchard, full of fruit, as far from the city as a man’s voice will carry.”


 

I think what I’m going to do with all that is present it as a “game.”  Below is the list of source books, alphabetized by author.  So the “game” is to guess which quote came from which book.  (One hint, the quote from the Rouse translation of the Iliad is one of my all-time favorite lines from that epic.  As a further hint(?), I’ve tagged this post with the names of the speakers of the lines from the Iliad and the Odyssey.)  Some of them are a lot easier to get than others.  (Or rather, there’s one that most people probably got without even seeing the list below, and a few others that can be reasonably easily guessed.  The rest would probably require you to own copies of the book in question…)

Aeschylus, Fragments (In all fairness, I should admit that in this case, the third full sentence ended up coming from one of the translator’s notes, rather than from one of the fragments.)

Robert E. Bell, Place-Names in Classical Mythology: Greece

Dan Birlew, Tales of Symphonia Official Strategy Guide (In my own defense, I’m not the one who bought this guide, and I don’t usually play with strategy guides.  I was just using its map so I could find the conversation points spread out on the world map.  I really need to get back to playing that eventually.  The seiyuu all sounded really familiar, so I want to see the end credits and find out who they are.  (The re-mastered PS3 version included the original Japanese voices.))

T.H. Carpenter, Art and Myth in Ancient Greece

James Davidson, The Greeks and Greek Love

Euripides, Fragments Aegeus-Meleager  (As with the Aeschylus, this one, too, came from notes, not an actual fragment.)

Euripides, Fragments Oedipus-Chrysippus, Other Fragments

Timothy Gantz, Early Greek Mythology (this is the two volume one)

Michael Grant & John Hazel, Who’s Who in Classical Mythology

Homer, The Iliad, trans. Robert Fagles

Homer, The Iliad, trans. W.H.D. Rouse

Homer, The Odyssey, trans. W.H.D. Rouse

Barry B. Powell, Classical Myth, Fifth Edition

J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (See, I do own works of fiction as well as mythology and history books!  It annoys me that someone decided Americans wouldn’t understand what the Philosopher’s Stone is, though.  Seriously, we’re not all morons.  Wow, though…this has been sitting on the back of the sofa for so long that I’d forgotten how enormous the print was!  And the space between the lines is huge!  They could’ve printed this with half the number of pages if they’d just scaled down the type to a normal size and not double-spaced it…)

Sophocles, Fragments (This one actually comes from page 82-3 as if they were one page, because both pages were plot summaries of lost plays, and the text crossed from page to page in an odd way that necessitated treating them as one page for these purposes.)

Titu Cusi Yupanqui, History of How the Spaniards Arrived in Peru


 

Wow, for something born out of having no inspiration to write and nothing to write about, this was long and time-consuming…and probably pretty boring for anyone looking at it.  Although it does give you an idea just how weird a place my house is.  (Also how weird my head is…)

Starting the year right…

Published January 1, 2015 by Iphis of Scyros

…blog-wise, by going back to my heartland.  That is, by talking about Greek myths.  The Trojan War, of course.  (It’s like a red letter day when it’s anything else, for the past year…well, almost a year.  A year minus two weeks, roughly.)

However, today’s is also different, ’cause today I want to talk about Helen.  Why she goes to Troy with Alexander/Paris is ultimately one of the biggest sticking points of the myth.  And by “sticking points” I more mean “hurdles on the track, which can trip the whole story and leave it flat on its face, unable to finish the race.”  It’s just that “sticking point” is more economical, in terms of number of words.

It seems like a lot of versions–even one of the earliest (technically, merely a reference (by Sappho), rather than a full telling)–insist that Helen went willingly out of love for Alexander/Paris.  That actually makes zero sense.  In fact, it makes negative sense.

Let me explain.  Helen is the Queen of Sparta.  (Actually, of Lacedaemon or Laconia, but Sparta is faster to type, so I’m going with that for this discussion.  And by that logic, I think I’ll start just calling him the later name Paris instead of the Homeric Alexander.)  And when I say she’s the Queen of Sparta, I mean it literally.  Not that she’s the “wife of the king”  but that she, herself, is the queen.  In other words, it’s her birthright to be the queen.  Menelaos only became king by marrying her.  So what the “she’s doing it for love” crowd are claiming is that she left behind the land of her birth, where the throne itself was her birthright, in order to move to a faraway kingdom (where, realistically, she wouldn’t speak the language or worship the same gods (though the myths themselves don’t reflect that)) where her beloved was only second in line to the throne.  So she’s sacrificing her royal birthright to be the foreign “bride” of a prince who has little chance of succeeding to the throne, given that his elder brother is a god among men, while Paris himself is a weakling.

Now let’s stop and look at a few other Greek queens in the same larger myth who decided that they didn’t love their husbands.  Clytemnestra spent years cavorting with Aigisthos until Agamemnon finally returned home, at which time they murdered him and then had their own wedding and settled in to rule Mycenae in peace.  (Until Orestes came home and killed them both, but that’s another story.)  Diomedes’ wife (sorry, I don’t remember her name) decided she didn’t love him, so she hooked up with a man from one of the other ruling families of Argos, and as soon as Diomedes returned home from the war, they drove him out of Argos, then ruled the city as husband and wife.  Clytemnestra’s case is complicated, but Diomedes’ wife’s case is open and shut.  Diomedes gained his throne by marrying her, so when she decided she wanted another husband, he was out of luck, out of wife, and out of home.  In other words, his position is exactly what Menelaos’ would have been if Helen simply fell in love with Paris; they would have driven him out of Sparta on his return from Crete.  Or, if Helen turned out to be more like her sister, they would have murdered him on his return.  Either way, her simply running away from Sparta–leaving behind her daughter as well as her homeland!–makes no sense.  If I had my reference books with me, I could come up with some more obscure cases that would parallel Diomedes’ pretty much exactly.  And probably a few that parallel Agamemnon’s, too.  (Though in most (or all) of those cases it would be the wife’s lover who did the killing, not the wife.  The fact that Clytemnestra herself took part in the murders was what really shocked them about the story.)

So, why did she go to Troy?  Well, that’s the big thing that every version has to decide on, isn’t it?  It’s easiest if you’re going to accept interference by the gods.  Then the gods made her go, in one way or another, for one reason or another.  That’s really the standard explanation, when one’s specifically given, in ancient times.  (There are exceptions, of course.  The Trojan Women of Euripides established that she went for reasons of lust and greed, and Sappho said she went for love, just to name two.)  The Iliad didn’t make a big deal of it, but it did have one small mention that did point out that Aphrodite’s gift to Paris made Helen unable to refuse him, thus explaining why she left with him, and moving the blame from Helen to Aphrodite.  The Cypria apparently told the story more fully, and made it even more clear that it was divine will that she go.

But how about if one wants to tell the story without the gods, or at least without allowing them much agency to interfere directly in the actions of humans?  Then, if you want it to make sense, there are only a few good explanations, and two of them specifically turn one side into the “good guys” and the other into the “bad guys.”

1)  This is one of the “taking sides” explanations.  Helen could have left with Paris if the Greeks specifically wanted an excuse to invade Troy.  In other words, Menelaos could have told her to elope with Paris as soon as his back was turned, in order to give him and Agamemnon an excuse to invade.  This is incompatible with Menelaos’ portrayal in most ancient works, of course, but that’s not really the point here; I’m just trying to outline the possible reasons a modern author could give Helen for her departure to Troy.  Of course, it wouldn’t necessarily have to be Menelaos who gave her the order to elope:  it could have been Agamemnon, or Tyndareos could see Paris’ flirting with her as an opportunity for his sons-in-law to gain even more power and prestige, or it could even be Odysseus’ suggestion (via his wife, Penelope, perhaps, since she’s Helen’s cousin) or whoever.  Point is, one could make the Trojans out to be essentially blameless by making Helen a knowing tool literally out to cause a war.

2)  To take the other side, Paris could abduct her by force (in many tellings, Aineias goes with him to Sparta, and he’s actually a powerful warrior, unlike his cousin Paris), not so much for reasons of sexual desire, but for political or financial reasons.  Since Helen is the rightful queen, her husband is automatically King of Sparta.  He could attempt to seduce her in order to gain Menelaos’ throne, and when that doesn’t work, steal her by force, intending to coerce her into the union at his leisure, only to find that her husband isn’t willing to wait for Paris’ plan to work.  Or he could steal her for some other political scheme hatched by himself, one of his brothers, one of the Trojan elders, or even by the High King in Hattusa.  (The real Troy was, after all, a Hittite vassal state.)  As a way to make the Greeks out to be blameless, this is a version unlikely to be used by any modern author.  (Except maybe if they’re Greek?)

3)  Helen could go with Paris specifically because she alone wants to foment war between the Greeks and the Trojans.  In most versions–though not all, as there’s no indication in Homer of the story–Helen was abducted by a horny, widowed Theseus when she was a young girl, and her brothers Castor and Polydeuces chased after them with the entire Spartan army, conquering Attica to get her back.  (This is why the King of Athens during the Trojan War is Menestheus rather than Theseus or one of his sons.  The Dioscuri put Menestheus, a friend of theirs as well as a member of a branch of the Athenian royal family, on the throne while they were at it.)  Having once before caused a war by being abducted, Helen would know that her departure to Troy would lead to another war over her, so that could be her real motivation, though exactly why she would want to cause a war would depend on the modern writer’s goals.  (Credit where credit’s due, this one isn’t my idea.  My professor was the one who suggested it, but it makes perfect sense.  It’s heartless, yes, but at least the logic of it is sound, unlike the “she’s doing it for love” version.)

4)  Helen runs off with Paris not because she wants to be married to him, but because she wants to reach Troy for other reasons.  For example, maybe she’s decided that she actually hates men, and wants to be an Amazon.  Troy is much closer to Scythia (where the historical women who inspired the tales of Amazons came from) so she could hope to escape from Troy and join the Amazons.  Or maybe she has some other reason for needing to be in Anatolia:  a prophecy to fulfill, a treasure to seek, a cure for some mystical plague, foretellings of doom if she remains in Greece, there are countless possibilities for whatever the modern storyteller might want.  This version can make not only the Greeks and Trojans out to be essentially blameless as instigators of the war, but can also salvage Helen’s own reputation, if her reasons are right, so it ought to be a modern writer’s go-to logic for Helen’s departure, and yet I doubt it’s seen much (if any) use.

Despite all these versions that would actually work, I have a feeling that if I did a survey of all Trojan War novels, movies and so forth of the last hundred years, I suspect that all (or almost all) of the versions that avoid or reject the intervention of the Greek gods in mortal affairs would go with some variation on the “love” version that doesn’t actually make a lick of sense.  I hope I’m wrong about that, but I fear I’m not.

(Admittedly, my own novel, Ilios, does not do anything groundbreaking in that regard, either.  But that’s because I wanted to follow the myths, so I had Aphrodite send Eros to blind her with one of his arrows.  It still doesn’t make sense, but at least she’s literally out of her head, so it doesn’t need to make sense.  Or not as much sense, anyway.)

So what’s my point?  Mostly, my point is “c’mon, guys, let’s see some creativity here!”  If you’ve gotta muck about with the myths, at least do it in a manner that’s gonna be interesting and make at least some sense.

Hectic amounts of nothing.

Published October 30, 2014 by Iphis of Scyros

Considering that nothing is really going on for me, it all feels quite breathlessly rushed.  It doesn’t help that the trash and recycling go out tomorrow, of course, or that I was flustered with impatience to get Ilios updated before NaNo starts.  (New version is generating now!  Yay!  That’s one less thing on my “need to do it yesterday already” list!)  I had to rush home after class to feed the cats, and then rush back out again to get them more food (now that I’m mixing the regular canned food with the prescription stuff, I ran out of the regular stuff again) and then I had to rush back here to get the new update online.  Plus I need to take a bath.  And, of course, I want to get as much of next week’s reading done before midnight tomorrow night so that I won’t have it hanging over my head during the first week of NaNo.  (Since it’s economic history, though, I doubt I’ll get very much of it read, though.  Yecch.)

And, of course, I’m worried about the fact that I still don’t have a good name for one of the major characters for my NaNo novel.  Everyone else has a good name, but I’m totally stumped about what to call the reincarnation of Menelaos.  I want it to be a decent match, linguistically, for what I’m calling the reincarnation of Agamemnon (since they’re brothers and all) but his is this rather odd-sounding name that I can’t even remember what language-group it came from.  Possibly Welsh or Celtic.  It shares a lot of consonant-sounds with Agamemnon, and starts with an A, but it’s also a distinctly different name, so people will have a reason to think there’s something wrong with Sondra when she calls him Agamemnon instead of his real name.  (Or she might call him Atreides.  Or “that lecherous beast whose psychotic wife chopped me up with an axe.”  She’s got a lot of choices…)

On the plus side, I felt slightly less stupid than usual in class today.  Of course, I also ended up feeling like a horrible pervert, too.  You see, I have a tendency to doodle in the margins of my notebook in that class.  I can’t help it.  The professor spends a lot of the class just talking to us.  Now, most of what he says is interesting, and he gets very caught up in what he’s saying, which makes it very engaging.  But it’s not usually anything I need to write down.  Because this isn’t a class with a final exam, or even a comprehensive final paper, so there’s not really much need to take notes.  But sometimes my mind starts wandering and I end up doodling to try and use up a little of my aimless lack of focus in order to keep the rest of my mind on track.  (That doesn’t make sense when I say it, but it makes sense at the time.  If that makes any sense.)  So today, as I was doodling, I was suddenly horrified to realize that I had doodled a very clear drawing of a penis, in the pointy ancient Greek style.

I had to take my watch off and put it down over the doodle to keep anyone else from seeing it.  I can’t believe I drew something like that.  Especially not in the middle of class!

Maybe I was thinking about my intended thesis topic.  We’re all supposed to make new appointments to see him to talk about what we want to do for our thesis (if we know) so we can figure out what our final paper for the class is going to be.  I am absolutely doing “The Love Life of Achilles” for my thesis topic (unless no professors will get behind it) so maybe I was thinking about that?  Only I think I did that doodle before he mentioned that we all needed to make new appointments to talk to him again.  (Though apparently some of the people in class still haven’t gone in to talk to him a first time.)

Oh boy…I must be really tired if I’m laughing this hard at one of my own tags….

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