All posts tagged Diomedes

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.]

Repost: Brain fail

Published September 11, 2014 by Iphis of Scyros

Original URL: http://39years.blog.com/2014/09/01/brain-fail/

Sep 1: Brail fail

Trying to get my reading done is really killing me. It’ll be better in later weeks; this week is “the history of history”, so it’s rather dry and dull. Once we get into things like macro and micro history, it’ll be a little more interesting. (A little too 18th century for my tastes, but…still more interesting than what we’ve got right now.)

In other news, I gotta say, it’s sometimes hard to reconcile two wildly different eras when dealing with literary works.

See, I tried to read Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida. I got up to Cressida’s first appearance on stage with her confusingly-named servant, Alexander. (My question there is: did he know the name Alexander was connected to Troy and didn’t know how, or did he just need a Greek name and picked that one at random?) So during the scene, they’re discussing the war, and out comes the bombshell that Shakespeare (or rather the chain of earlier writers through whom he had gotten the story of the Trojan War in the first place) had conflated Aias and his brother Teukros. And mistaken Hesione for Priam’s daughter instead of his sister. The generational thing doesn’t bother me so much as combining such different characters as Aias and Teukros, though. For cryin’ out loud, that makes Aias, the number two bad-ass among the Greek army, a half-blood bastard! It’s one thing for his brother to be half-Trojan, but for Aias himself to be half-Trojan? That’s seriously messed up. (Admittedly, in the Iliad, there’s no information about the identity or origin of Teukros’ mother, but given his name she still pretty much had to be Trojan. What with Teukros also being the name of the legendary founder of Troy and all.)

Now, admittedly, I knew going in that it was going to be messed up. I knew from the dramatis personae at the beginning that he was using all the Roman names (Ajax, Ulysses…) and that he had bizarrely conflated Calchas and Chryses. (And of course the title made it obvious that he was going with the alternate Cressida over the traditional Chryseis.) But this bit with Aias and Teukros….man, it’s gonna take me a while to get over that one!

But I have to eventually, ’cause I do want to finish reading the play. Though it’ll probably make me mad for its massive and horrifying inaccuracies. But I want to see what he did with the various characters. I want to see how the Elizabethan condemnation of Helen’s loose morals will compare to the Athenian one. I want to see if his Achilles is as flawed as the original, and if he’s flawed in the same ways. I want to see if his Odysseus is as evil as the Athenian one. And I’m curious as to what his Thersites will be like. It’s astonishing to me that Thersites is even in it. As far as anyone can tell, Thersites was invented for the Iliad, and that’s why the poet goes out of his way to describe who Thersites is and what he looks like, even though most characters are merely described with standard epithets, and visual details are rare and only to fit the meter of the line. (For example, at one point Achilles’ hair is described as being ξανθος (variously translated as yellow, tawny or auburn) but normally his appearance is taken for granted as already known.) In fact, a number of major characters (including Patroclos and Agamemnon) are first mentioned only by their patronymic! (A fact I might not have noticed if it wasn’t pointed out in Troy and Homer by Joachim Latacz, I feel obliged to admit.) Given that Shakespeare got the story from Chaucer, who got it from some French and Italian authors, who presumably got to it largely via Dictys, Dares and Virgil…the fact that Thersites is present is really surprising. I know for a fact he wasn’t in the Aeneid, and I’m pretty sure he’s not in Dictys or Dares, either. (Neither of those was written by anyone the least bit familiar with Homer. That’s clear.) Hmm, maybe the Medieval authors also had Ovid at their disposal? The Italian ones surely would have…and I’m pretty sure Chaucer knew at least some of Ovid’s works, as well. (In fact, didn’t he translate something of Ovid’s into the English of his day? Or am I totally losing my mind?) Thersites might have been mentioned in the Metamorphoses…though I’m not sure…which is alarming, considering how recently I read the sections of that that pertained to the Trojan War.

Maybe my brain has been more fried by this reading assignment than I thought. That does not bode well for the paper I have to write. I wanted to get the reading done in enough time to get at least a start on the rough draft tonight, but…that’s totally not going to happen, since I still have seven or eight pages left. As long as I can get the first draft written tomorrow morning, I should probably be okay. I hope. It’s gonna be rough, though. Especially because I feel like there’s extra pressure on for this first paper to be writing “at the graduate level,” because otherwise I feel like the professor’s going to pull me aside and say “what are you doing in this class?” and…yeah, I’m just freaking out a bit about it. Can’t help it. Hopefully, I’ll feel less freaked out after I’ve got a draft or two hammered out.

Anyway, getting back to Shakespeare, it occurs to me that he had another possible source for a few of the characters: Dante. Several of the names come up in the Inferno, which has Odysseus and Diomedes being unjustly punished for having won the war through strategy instead of just brawn. I’ve only read that small section of the Divine Comedy, admittedly, but it was totally messed up. And completely contradicted about 90% of the Odyssey. And, rather amusingly, one of the major laments that Dante insisted that the two of them had as they were being punished was for failing to guard the north gate, thus allowing the ancestors of the Latin people to escape from the conflagration. And why is that amusing, you might ask? Two reasons, actually. The first reason is that even in context, that doesn’t make sense, because there’s no inherent reason that they should want to prevent the Latin people from existing. (Especially in Odysseus’ case. Diomedes eventually settled down in Apulia, so he could have had later reasons for wishing Aeneas had died at Troy, but Odysseus has no reason to wish for the non-existence of the Romans.) The only plausible reason they could have for wanting to prevent Rome from rising is if Dante is actually saying that they wouldn’t be thus experiencing punishment without Christianity, and that Christianity wouldn’t exist without the Roman Empire. (Historically, there’s a certain amount of logic to that thought, but it seems a bit blasphemous for a thought being expressed around 1300.) The other reason is the one that’s really funny, though. And that one is that in the Greek versions, Aeneas was not the ancestor of the Latin people. Odysseus was. He fathered a son named Latinos on Circe, and that son went to Italy, and became the ancestor of the Latini. In fact, in one of the Greek versions, Aeneas himself was captured and enslaved, and awarded to Neoptolemus as part of his spoils. (Presumably, he was spared for his filial piety. Or because they were afraid of pissing off Aphrodite by killing her son.) I think I’ll probably be able to guess if Shakespeare was influenced by Dante based on how he represents Diomedes. If he seems like little more than a copycat follower of Odysseus, then he’s probably gotten that from Dante.

In any case, there’s one other thing I both want and fear to see in Troilus and Cressida, and that’s how Shakespeare portrays Patroclos. He’s probably my favorite character in the entire Trojan War cycle, so I want to see if Shakespeare got him right, but I’m going to be horrified if he’s portrayed negatively. (Especially because I like Shakespeare as a writer, so if he mutilates characters I love, it almost feels like a personal betrayal. Even though I know that’s a totally absurd statement.) It all depends on his sources. I don’t think Dictys or Dares dealt with the romantic side of the relationship between Achilles and Patroclos, so that should at least prevent any homophobic stereotypes from entering into the portrayal. (I’ve read both Dictys and Dares, but it’s been a while. Well, no, that’s not true. I actually re-read Dares pretty recently, but it’s very short. Dictys is much longer, so I’ve only re-read part of it. Because it’s not very good and frustratingly wrong. That’s the one that confused Atreus and Catreus. I mean, yeah, their names are similar, but for cryin’ out loud!)

I feel like I had more to say on the subject, but….I need to stop putting it off and get back to my homework. Bleh. I can’t wait to get this book over and done with.

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