All posts tagged Briseis

My Dream TV Show

Published December 16, 2014 by Iphis of Scyros

I keep wishing that I was a good enough writer to make this happen — or at least had the money, power and connections to make it happen as a producer or something.

I would love to see a deep, powerful, exciting television (well, premium cable anyway) show of the Trojan War.  One that was totally accurate to the myths, made the characters as deep and insightful as they are in the Iliad, and where the visual design was entirely accurate to archaeological knowledge of the Late Bronze Age.  All the names would, of course, be thoroughly accurate to the Greek ones, correctly pronounced and everything.  With one major exception –I think everyone, me included, would rather have Achilles than Achilleus — and some minor ones.  (So, you know, Ganymede instead of Ganymedes, Bellerophon instead of Bellerophontes, that kind of thing.  Names that are little changed, and don’t come up much.)  Most importantly (on the name front), it would feature Aias not “Ajax”.  And preferably the pretty yet cowardly prince of Troy would be called Alexandros (or Alexander, I’d allow that much) more often than Paris.  Oh, and one that allowed the gods their proper, Homeric role in the story.  Involved, but not so as the humans are usually aware of their presence.

I see it as starting around year five of the war, and then running for five seasons, one per remaining year of the war.  (Or possibly two seasons for the tenth year, as that’s where most of the pre-existing story is.)  There would only be two or three major pitched battles per year, with the rest of the year being taken up by funerary truces and minor raids by both sides.  The Achaian forces would resolutely be hounding all the supply lines into Troy, trying to keep the city from replenishing its food stores — and at the same time thus bolstering their own — and the Trojans would be going to extreme lengths to find new, safer routes for food to enter the city, not to mention more allies!  There could be exciting chase sequences where a Trojan messenger is trying to ride to Hattusa to request aid from the Hittites, and the Achaians are chasing him down to stop him…which would lead to considerable soul-searching and anguish if they end up killing him, because heralds are sacred to the gods, and it’s forbidden to harm them.

And, of course, there would also be lots of sex, because outside of raids, they wouldn’t have any other physical outlet during the periods of truce.  (Hence the reason it would need to be on a premium cable channel.)  In addition to having time to invent appropriate characters for the concubines of the other kings and princes (I bet the ones belonging to Diomedes and Odysseus didn’t complain of their masters’ attentions (‘specially not in Odysseus’ case, given the way Circe and Calypso didn’t want to let him go) but what about the lesser Aias?  I bet his concubine was miserable!) we would also have a long time to see the warm, tender relations between Aias and Tecmessa, giving his death even more sense of tragedy.  As to Achilles, well…that would be where it would get complicated.  Because, obviously, he would definitely have sex scenes with Briseis.  (And possibly other slave girls, like Diomede.)  And if I was involved in the making of such a program, it would never ignore the love between Achilles and Patroclos!  But there’s a lot of different levels that love could explore.  Were they actively lovers while Achilles was at the eromenos age, but dutifully stopped when society told them they should, even though they would have preferred to remain lovers?  Or maybe Patroclos lost interest after Achilles’s chin was first roughened by a beard, and now it’s only friendship on his end, even though Achilles is still in love?  Or are they still actively having sex, despite that it might no longer be acceptable to their comrades? (It’s unclear just how frowned upon that really was in ancient times (conflicting evidence and scholarship on the subject) and no one knows how it was viewed in the Bronze Age, not among the Mycenaeans.)  Or maybe they’re still in love, but restrict their affection to kisses and occasional fondling?  Obviously, a show that was going to depict hot-n-steamy sex between a man and a woman is unlikely to also show hot-n-steam sex between two men, so even if they were still actively lovers, the show wouldn’t go as far in showing it.  But there’d be a lot of potential for genuine, heartfelt drama (rather than canned angstodrama) no matter which route it took, if the writer was skilled.  (Also, I would want to show Patroclos’ tender relationship with his own not-quite-concubine Iphis.  Because Patroclos is my favorite of the Achaians, and I want him to get a lot of love.  In every possible sense.)  Hey, and I didn’t even mention the sex in the city, did I?  After all, you’ve got Hector and Andromache (Astyanax has to get fathered, after all!), and since Paris prefers Helen’s bed to the battlefield, there’s obviously a lot going on in that bedchamber as well.  And it could even go dark and grim late in the final season, with Deiphobos forcing Helen to accept her new role as “his” wife.

And, naturally, let us not forget the planning, plotting, scheming and power-struggles, both within the Achaian camp and within the city.  There are factions inside both groups whose desires would lead to all kinds of back-biting and other nastiness, and a writer would have a fairly free hand, since there’s so much left untold about what happened in the ten years of the war.

Of course, most of the cast would have to be gorgeous, and in excellent physical shape.  (They didn’t wear as much clothing back then, after all.  And Mycenaean men often went around in kilt-like breechcloths, rather than the tunics and chitons that one usually thinks of the classical Greeks as wearing.)  But the show wouldn’t ignore the dirty, grimy reality that would plague a camp like that one; there would be dirt, mud and offal from the flocks, and people and clothing would sometimes be splattered with blood from some unexplained source.

As to the gods, I imagine that the show would open with narration from Zeus, talking about the quarrel between the goddesses that has led to this conflict.  During this narration, a single shot of a golden apple arcing through the air would be interspersed with various scenes (most of them flashbacks) that would be shown throughout the course of the season.  And in the very first episode, at the end of the narration, the camera would pull back from the conflict on the fields of Troy to show Zeus and the other gods sitting on the slopes of Mt. Ida to watch the battle.  In my imagination, Zeus is being played by Sir Anthony Hopkins, because who else could it be?  (That’s the beauty of imagining a show:  I can cast whoever I want, regardless of the fact that if this was really being made, no way the show’s budget would allow it to spring for someone that big-league, even if the character was only going to show up one or two times a season.)

[EDIT:  despite how many plans I had for the character’s role on the show, when I wrote this, I left out Penthesileia, the Queen of the Amazons.  So I had to write a follow-up post to share that part.  Click here to read it.]

Getting worried now.

Published October 22, 2014 by Iphis of Scyros

It seems like every paper I write for this class is worse than the one before it.  That wouldn’t necessarily bother me if I had any idea what we’re doing for the final paper.  I mean, I know it’s supposed to have something to do with what we want to do our eventual Master’s Thesis on, but…honestly, I’m not sure he was prepared for students who already know precisely what they want to study.

Thing is, at this point, I know exactly what I want to write my thesis on.  I even know half of the title.  It’s going to be tracing the changes in the perception of the Trojan War myth as society has changed over the millennia.  It’ll be called “The Love Life of Achilles” with a subtitle that will clarify the subject matter.  (The subtitle is the half I don’t know yet.)  Obviously, it’ll especially focus on the changes during the early portion of history–say up until the fall of Rome–but it’ll also describe how the perception has changed since then, how changing attitudes towards homosexuality either repressed the idea of a romantic/sexual relationship between Achilles and Patroclos or turned it into something vile or to be mocked.  And whenever his relationship with Patroclos was robbed of its pederastic side, then one of Achilles’ female lovers rose to prominence, usually Briseis, but sometimes Deidameia.

That may not sound like a particularly deep thesis–and it probably isn’t–but books have been written on similar subjects (I’m currently reading one about Helen, and I’ve gotten another one out of the library about Orpheus) so I shouldn’t have any trouble making it long enough for a thesis.  (Not that I actually know how long a Master’s Thesis is, mind you, but I could easily make that topic last several hundred pages.  I could probably get a good thirty or forty just out of classical antiquity, to say nothing of the Medieval and Renaissance changes.)

More importantly, it’s a snappy title, so it’ll catch the attention of admissions people for PhD programs, and/or prospective employers if I try to get work at a community college or something.  And it covers a wide range of subjects.  It’s literary, it’s classical antiquity, and because of the LGBT elements, it has a topicality as well.  Plus it’s really interesting, so spending years working on it won’t be a problem.

However, all the planning in the world doesn’t help if I can’t make it through this class to reach the thesis part of the program.

And I’m starting to worry that if my final paper isn’t awesome enough, I’ll flunk this class.  The final paper is a third of the grade, with the other two thirds being class participation (I’m probably at least mostly okay on that score, as I’ve never missed a class and I always manage to add something to the discussion, even if that something isn’t terribly intelligent) and the weekly papers.  So even if I get full marks on the class participation, if I get lousy marks on the weekly papers, I’ll need to get full points for the final paper even to pass, let alone get a good grade.

It’s really worrisome.

Repost: Achilles is a slut.

Published September 11, 2014 by Iphis of Scyros

Pre-repost comment:  I actually grabbed the URL on the original for this one:

Aug 31: Achilles is a slut.

No, seriously, he is! Er, was? Would have been?

Well, whatever the proper conjugation of “to be” is for such a statement about a mythological figure, it remains a true statement none the less.

Think about it, just within the firmly established mythic corpus. He has his one, true, abiding, life-long passion, which is either friendship or love depending on what you’re reading, and that is, of course, for Patroclos. But then he also has Deidamia, Iphigenia, Briseis, Diomede, Penthesileia and Polyxena. (Though admittedly he only actually managed to sleep with three of those women, but that’s somewhat immaterial.) Plus there were versions (now lost) in which he secretly met–and had sex with–Helen during the war. (And those versions were well-known enough that according to one of the ancient writers who went to his temple on the Euxene, the statue of him there depicted him in the process of making love to Helen. Although I rather doubt that was really the case, the sheer fact that someone was willing to claim it at a time when anyone with the time and money could go there and see for themselves is impressive!) And let us not forget that some of the later versions of the death of Troilos had Achilles fall in love with him, too. Plus in The Fall of Troy, during the funeral games, Quintus Smyrnaeus implied that Achilles had slept with all the female slaves being offered as prizes. Oh, and two authors–including Apollodorus–said that following his death he married Medea in the Elysian Fields.

If the man wore pants, he would have been unable to keep it in them.

And all that, of course, is on top of the fact that he also apparently had (free) women throwing themselves at him all the time. You know all those towns he sacked during the ten years of the Trojan War? For at least two of them, there are myths about a girl of the town–in both cases, the daughter of the king, I think–falling in love with him from a distance and therefore betraying her people for his sake. (Though in at least one of those cases, he had the girl killed afterwards, so perhaps it’s not the best of examples.) In any case, according to the Iliad, he was the most attractive man among the Greek forces in addition to being the strongest and most skillful warrior, so it’s hardly to be considered surprising if he was popular with the ladies.

Moving beyond that, I’m sure that plenty of non-classical sources have given him additional ladies (and/or men) to play with. (Even I’m guilty on that score: for my semi-Young Adult series, I not only gave him two more (in order to father new bastard children) but also had one of his former Myrmidons assume a completely different (yet still non-mythically accurate) mother for one of them.) Of course, for non-classical sources, that’s more or less just going with the pre-established character we’ve inherited, right?

But just looking at all the things that were written about him during the classical period, you have to wonder. Was he the original male wish-fulfillment fantasy character? Did the ancient Greek men read about all his women (and/or men/boys) and imagine what it would be like to be him? Was that the point? Were those snakes on the worship disks worshiper code for “send me some of your luck with the ladies!”? (Okay, yes, I realize that last one is ridiculous.) But as to the rest of it, I’m totally serious. If he didn’t have so many glaring character flaws, I’d wonder if he was the original “Gary Stu”. (Although the ancients didn’t seem to see his character flaws as being nearly as bad as we see them, they did still see them as flaws. I think.)

Admittedly, a lot of this argument would seem to hold true for Heracles as well. In fact, most of it does. The one thing that doesn’t, though, is the idea of the ancients imagining themselves wanting to be him. Because although Heracles was worshiped even more extensively than any other hero, he was also a figure of fun, almost of mockery. On the Athenian stage, Heracles was treated so comedically that some scholars have suggested that the Alcestis of Euripides was actually performed in lieu of a satyr play. Not only does no work survive that treated Achilles in such a light-hearted fashion, there isn’t even a hint of such a treatment of him among fragments, summaries and references in surviving works. The closest would be Iphigenia at Aulis, also by Euripides, but while he’s not treated as reverentially as usual, he still comes off a lot better than any other man in the play.

I don’t really have any particular reason to be saying all this, mind you. I just thought of it and wanted to get it off my chest. Or whatever.

Gave me something to write about, right?

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