is it just me?

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Anachronistic Nomenclature

Published June 12, 2015 by Iphis of Scyros

So there’s a couple of names I’m wondering if it’s okay to use in my books.  I’m probably the only person who would care, but…

All right, so the first word is “Hittite.”  It’s originally a Hebrew term used to refer to the people now known to the archaeological community as the Neo-Hittites.  The people now called Hittites by archaeologists were a much earlier, Late Bronze Age empire with their capital in Hattusa (Bogâzkale, modern Turkey), and their empire included Troy, and had clashes with other major empires of the day, including Egypt and Assyria.  They called their kingdom the Land of Hatti, however.  The word “Hittite” is, as I said, Hebrew, and dates to a later period, thus it’s anachronistic for Late Bronze Age peoples at the time of the Trojan War to be using it…

…but it’s really awkward trying to talk about “the people of Hatti” and “the Land of Hatti,” especially since no one will know what I’m talking about.  (If anyone other than me ever reads it, that is.)

The second word is “pharaoh.”  I know, right?  But it, too, is a Biblical name, not what the Egyptians actually called their ruler.  I haven’t the foggiest what they did call their rulers, to be honest, but I know it wasn’t “pharaoh.”  Now, Ilios barely even mentions the Egyptians, and I could easily enough excise the need to use the word “pharaoh” from Memnon’s chapter, which is, I think, the only place it comes up.  But in one of my quasi-Young Adult novels, they actually go to Egypt and meet with Ramses II, so I can’t just avoid the issue there.  And I know it’s wrong to use “pharaoh” and yet I know that if I didn’t use it, everyone would go “what’s wrong with you?  The king of Egypt is called the pharaoh!”  (Again, only if other people saw it.)

I guess my problem here is that I feel like there’s something hypocritical about my behavior regarding these words.  Because I don’t feel like I should be trying to avoid using “pharaoh” even though I know it’s wrong.  And yet I hate myself for even contemplating using “Hittite” in the re-writes of Ilios and the quasi-YA books.  Given that the stem “hatt-” is very similar to “hitt-“, it seems likely that “Hittite” is, in fact, at least partially based on what the Neo-Hittites called themselves, whereas I have no such guarantee for “pharaoh” being in any way related to whatever the Egyptians actually called their kings.  (In fact, from what I’ve seen of Egyptian names, I’d suspect that it decidedly isn’t.)  That being the case…am I just being a colossal moron about this?

Any thoughts?

(BTW, yes, I realize that “nomenclature” wasn’t the right word to use.  But it sounded good.)


Sexism or Incompetence?

Published March 30, 2015 by Iphis of Scyros

So, I had to take my car back to the dealership today.  The door over the gas tank lid had fallen off, and they hadn’t had one in stock, and had had to order one.  (I think I may have said this part before?)  Anyway, the part was in, I made the appointment, I went in to have the part put on the car so that I could finally not drive around looking like a freakin’ moron with my gas tank’s cap exposed like that.  (My car already looks pathetic enough without that.)

And so I get into the office, wait while they pull my car around into the service-receiving-bay (or whatever they call it) and then get helped at the counter by this man who is either a complete misogynist or utterly incompetent.  (I’ll let you judge.)

I give him the card that the dealership sent me to let me know the part was in stock, and he spends a ridiculous amount of time inputting the very tiny amount of data into the computer.  Then he says he’s going to go out and look at the car, and is gone before I can even process the absurdity of that.  Normally, it’s not that odd for the person at the counter to want to look at the situation.  But normally one is not dealing with something so simple, nor is it usually a return visit.  Anyway, he gets to the end of the car, looks at the gas cap, and I can hear him, clear as day, saying “yes, it’s missing.”

The car was in for service like two weeks ago.  I’m sure it said on the file in the computer that there was no door over the gas tank, hence the reason to order one.  Not to mention did he think I had ordered a new one just because I like them?!  Is he just stupid, or does he think that, since I’m a woman, I don’t know enough to realize that the door is open, not missing?

So, anyway, he tells me to have a seat, because the process shouldn’t take long.  (It took, btw, about an hour.  That got me from the tail end of the Peloponnesian War to the build-up to the arrival of Philip II of Macedon.)

I haven’t been waiting all that long, though, when this same guy comes up to me and says “I have good news and bad news.  The good news is, we have it in stock.  The bad news is, it hasn’t been painted.”

What I should have said is “That isn’t news of any sort; it can only be news if I’m not already aware of that.  The part was special ordered for me, and I already showed you the card telling me it had come in, so obviously I already knew that it was in stock.  And they told me at the time it was ordered that it wouldn’t be painted, so that isn’t in any way, shape or form ‘news’ either!”

That, of course, is not what I said.

What I actually said was “That’s all right,” followed by assurances that I could paint it myself if I thought it really needed painting.  He seemed shocked and appalled by the very idea of putting in on the car unpainted.


This car is a domestic, relatively inexpensive, lightweight model.  Which means, of course, that as much of the car as was physically possible is made out of industrial-weight plastic.  So it’s not like the part is going to rust or something.

Furthermore, the car is silver, and the part that came in is pale gray.  Even in bright sunlight, the main difference between the door and the rest of the car is that the door isn’t shiny.  It is about a thousand times less noticeable than the missing door had been.

And yet this guy was astonished that I didn’t want to wait (and pay through the nose) for them to paint the piece before it went on the car.  No doubt because now it doesn’t match; it isn’t properly pretty.  (FYI, this car could not be pretty no matter what you do to it.  It’s functional, not decorative.)

It’s not like I was projecting the image of the average vapid housewife, here.  (If there is, in fact, such a thing as an “average housewife” these days.  I suspect there isn’t, but…the concept lingers on, regardless of the fact that the real thing has deservedly vanished into the ether.)  I was not sitting there chatting on my cell phone, nor was I doing whatever it is that everyone else does while they’re sitting around staring at their “smart” phones for hours at a time.  (I don’t even have one of the fool things.  My phone’s a flip phone, and that’s plenty good enough for me:  it does the one thing I need it to do, in that it makes phone calls.)  I was sitting there reading a book.  Not some flimsy fashion mag, not a parenting-for-dummies handbook, but a history book.  Admittedly, it was a fairly general survey, but there’s no way he could tell that.  (Nor, I suspect, would that have made any impact on his reaction to the book.)

So, really, the question is, was this guy treating me in that condescending manner because I’m female, or does he treat everyone like that?

I don’t have an answer to that question, naturally.  But it seemed worth asking.

Maybe I need my hearing checked?

Published February 22, 2015 by Iphis of Scyros

Here’s the setting:  yesterday, I’m volunteering at the museum instead of working on my research paper (because I refuse to let this class defeat me the way last semester’s class did!) and both the sole employee on the premises and the intern were both off on tours, so I was the only one in the basement office when the phone rang.  Meaning I had to answer it.

Now, I hate answering phones.  I don’t even like to answer my own phone.  Answering the museum’s phone is even more awkward, because there’s a script, which I’m entirely incapable of following, apparently.  I know I’m supposed to start off by saying “Thank you for calling the [name] Museum, this is [my name].  How may I help you?”  But instead is just sort of say the name of the museum, and maybe ask if I can help them.  Maybe.

But I can’t say “Thank you for calling” with a straight face.  I’m just not a good enough actress, not these days.  Because I’m not grateful they called.  If I was being honest, I’d pick up the phone and say something like “What’s the matter with you for calling when there’s no one else down here to answer the phone?  Are you trying to torture me or something?” and then hang up.  Fortunately for everyone involved, I’m neither that honest nor that courageous.

So, back to that particular phone call, I answer it, make my fumbling statement, and then the woman on the other end of the phone says she was calling to see if we were open (they always say that; it’s so annoying!) and what our hours were.  So I tell her that we’re open until 4:00 but no tours can start after 3:30 because they take half an hour to forty-five minutes to complete.  She says she’s already en route (God, I hope she wasn’t the one driving!) and then she asks the question.  The one that’s the reason I’m telling you this story.

“Do you have any problems with theft in your parking lot?”

First off, astonishingly rude thing to ask.  Yes, we’re in a downtown locale, but no, the locale is not in a bad neighborhood as such.  I wouldn’t recommend camping out in the museum’s backyard, but there are bars and restaurants all up and down the street, and a major tourist attraction just a block away.  And, of course, if the parking lot was dangerous, then the museum would be at fault for any damages caused in the parking lot, in that if there were repeated break-ins to locked cars, then we would seem criminally irresponsible for not taking security measures.  So, yeah, major points against this woman for asking such a tactless and rude question.

The problem is that I didn’t hear “theft.”  I heard “death.”  I’m sitting here thinking “is she asking me if we have many murders in the parking lot?”  Amusing as that concept was (the concept of the question, not the concept of murders in the parking lot) I had a feeling that that couldn’t possibly be what she was asking.

I had to ask her to repeat it several times before I got it.  Then I was so flummoxed that I couldn’t come up with any better answer than “no, we don’t.”  I should have said something like “I’ve been here for four years, and haven’t heard of any.”  Or something a little more concrete and, you know, sentient.  Unfortunately, I just can’t connect my mouth and my brain anymore.  I can only express my thoughts through my fingers.

Which sounds a little dirty when I put it like that.  (Or perhaps I just have a dirty mind?)

Aaaaaaaanyway, I have to read at least two more 25-30 page articles tonight so I can start writing my paper first thing tomorrow, so I better just sign off.

Thursday’s myth–whatever it ends up being–is likely to be a very short one.  Especially in that I may have to write it after I get back from class.  Depends on how the writing goes tomorrow.

I can’t get away with it, can I?

Published December 14, 2014 by Iphis of Scyros

I can’t say “take it up the ass” in an academic paper, can I?

Some context.  My final paper is about, well, a lot of things, but let’s make it simpler than it is and say that it’s just looking at the way in which Achilles’ sexuality is represented in re-tellings and depictions of the Trojan War myth over time, and how that is symbolic of and caused by the era’s ideas of masculinity.  (Really, that’s only one section of the paper, but…)  So I finally got to the 21st century, and had to address the subject of the movie Troy, much as I’m loathe to do so.  (Worse still, if this paper really does grow into my Master’s Thesis as I intend, then at some point in the future, I’ll have to re-watch the terrible thing.)

So I get to the attitudes of the people making the movie (I don’t address whether the people in question are studio execs or what, ’cause how would I know?) and how even if they didn’t like it, they were aware of the whole pederastic relationship between Patroclos and Achilles, and how they changed Patroclos from an older man to a young boy so that no one in the audience could think their movie’s (nominal) hero took it up the ass.

I totally can’t get away with that, can I?

I mean, I know I can’t, but it’s just such a fun way to phrase it!  Plus you know that’s how Hollywood sees it.  (Obviously, real pederastic relationships in ancient Greece were considerably more complex than mere sexual intercourse, but there’s no way Hollywood as a whole knows or cares about that.)

Worse still, I have no one I can talk to about all this.  I mean, I can kinda-sorta talk to my brother about it, but he gets very uncomfortable about it, and I can only talk about the most tame elements with him.  I need a sister, dangit!

The absolute worst part is that I made the mistake of showing my mother the picture I was borrowing my dad’s scanner to scan in.  (I know, that sounds like a terrible violation of copyright laws, but it’s a picture of a 5th century Athenian vase, and I need to use it for my paper, and it’s not like I’m going to be distributing it other than to my professor, and then it’ll be fully credited as to its source.)  Actually, first let me tell about the scanning!  I had to let my dad do it, because he doesn’t let anyone else touch his toys, not even to type in file names, and when he asks me what I want to call the file, I tell him “Name Vase of the Achilles Painter” and he just looks at me, like there’s something wrong with me.  Then mutters something about how he hopes that all stays there.  Right, like file names are still limited to eight characters the way they were twenty years ago.  Ugh.  Anyway, so afterwards I was showing the picture to my mother, wondering what the little skirty-thing underneath the armor is called, and laughing about how it’s translucent so you can see his equipment.  And she immediately says that no, that’s surely just some kind of amulet.  Right.  Of course.  An amulet shaped like testicles and a penis, worn at the base of the armor.  Yeah, that makes sense.  And when I said that no, of course that’s not what it is, she starts saying how she’s just trying to give it a more “dignified” explanation, and then says something about “drawing a veil” over the whole subject since it’s so “sordid” and “unpleasant.”  And I’m sitting here going “Mom, that’s half my thesis you’re talking about there.”  I wanted to show her the Sosias Cup to really shock her, but it wasn’t in that book, unfortunately.

Why me?

Published December 7, 2014 by Iphis of Scyros

I’m constantly plagued by little things.  The worst part about that is it makes me feel shallow and selfish for complaining, but it doesn’t make it any less annoying having to put up with it all.

Today, during my bath, my space heater packed it in.  I only got it last month.  (Or was it October?  Well, close enough, either way.)  And because the store didn’t have price tags on the shelf, I ended up paying a lot for it, about twice what I had expected to.  (But I couldn’t bring myself to tell the cashier that I hadn’t realized it was that expensive and wanted to put it back.)  So unless it miraculously starts working again, I’ll have to take it back tomorrow.  (It has a year’s warranty on it, thank goodness.)

But it’s not like I can do without a space heater in the bathroom.  It’s on the back of the house, and it’s got one of those windows with thick glass bricks around an openable window with a screen.  The glass bricks probably do a pretty good job of keeping out the cold, but the central part that can be opened is just a thin bit of plate glass, and it lets in a lot of cold air in the winter.  Fortunately, the glass doors to the shower/tub keep the worst of that out of the toilet area, but if I didn’t have a space heater, taking a bath would be frigid, no matter how hot the water.

Sigh.  Like I said, constant plague of little things.

Repost: Brain fail

Published September 11, 2014 by Iphis of Scyros

Original URL:

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.

Repost: Am I weird?

Published September 11, 2014 by Iphis of Scyros

Aug 26: Am I weird?
Or is it everyone else?

I went out to lunch today at a fast food place. (Which one doesn’t matter.) It was a bit past prime lunch hour, so there weren’t too many other patrons in the place. There was a guy using his laptop computer, an old man just eating, and two men sharing a table and talking to each other. (Yes, I was the only woman in there other than the one behind the counter. That, too, seems a bit odd, but isn’t my point right now.) So what was I doing? I was reading the Aeneid, Fitzgerald translation. Not reading it online, or on my Kindle or my iPad, either. I was reading a good, old-fashioned, paperback book.

So, am I the one who was being strange?

I mean, I know it would have been weirder if I was reading my hardback copy, the one that’s in the original Latin. (But I haven’t tried reading any Latin in about 15 years, so I don’t think I’d understand much of it other than “Timeo Danaos et dona ferens.“)

I’m not sure if it was the fact that I was reading a book at all that made me feel like there was something fundamentally different about me compared to everyone else in the joint, or if it was because I was reading Virgil. (Though, truth be told, I’d much rather read Homer.)

I felt like the staff were giving me weird looks. Not like “is she going to draw a gun and rob the place?” kind of looks, but more the “she’s walking around with a fishbowl on her head” looks, even though I was not wearing a fishbowl on my head, nor was there anything else odd about my outfit. As far as I know. But no one at the vet’s office was looking at me like that, and the other patrons at the fast food place didn’t so much as glance at me, so I don’t think it was anything about the way I was dressed.

I don’t really have any point about all of this. Just wondering if I’m crazy, or if it’s the rest of the world.

Also, I would like to comment that I’m very sick of it being this hot.

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