Patroclos

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MLM No “P” Repost – “The Best of the Achaians”

Published March 13, 2017 by Iphis of Scyros

“The Best of the Achaians”

What quality makes a man great?

Strength of arms?
No, not that alone.
Any demi-god has that…
…and look how they turn out!
(Only Mycenae’s founder remained
A good man and true.
The rest died horrible deaths,
And Theseus abducted a child for his new bride!
And he died a horrible death to boot!)

Wisdom beyond measure?
If that was the case,
There would be few great men.
Maybe none at all.

Kindness, and a gentle heart,
Dedication to his friends?
Yes, yes, indeed!
A great man has devotion
And love in his heart,
Ready to lay down his life
To save those he cares for.

In truth, there is but one
Who sailed to Troy
With the strength and heart
To call himself the best.
Though he would never so call himself:
He would award the title
To the one he loves the most,
Friend, comrade, and so much more.

But his kind heart outshines
His selfish, fair-faced friend.
While Achilles sulked,
He shed tears of grief
For the deaths of the Danaan warriors.

His might in battle
Was ne’er so lauded
As that of his fickle friend,
But he killed so many Trojans
In his final stand
That they were maddened for revenge.

His death, too, was greater
Than the humiliation of Achilles.
(An arrow in the ankle?  Laughable!)
For the son of the Nereid,
Leto’s son needed but one mortal’s aid,
A tool to unleash the arrow.
But for he who was truly
The best of the Achaians,
The far-darter required the aid of two mortals,
A coward to stab from behind,
And lamentable Hector
To stab from the front.
Dishonorable though the kill was
— what honor could there be
In killing a naked, unarmed man? —
Hector was filled with hubris
To have brought down such a mighty foe.

The son of Menoitios
By his blameless life
Brought honor to his obscure father,
As his name suggests.
By his death he brought down
Hector, and all dreams of Troy’s survival.

In a golden urn
His bones were sheltered
While the son of Thetis cried and groaned
In an anguish more overwrought
Than any widow on the stage,
Though he knew his own bones
Would soon join with his lost comrade’s,
And they would be united in death,
Forever together.

Where is that urn now?
Is it hidden from view in the ground
Near Hisarlik?
Or was it stolen away,
In the ancient days of antiquity?
Which “tomb” covered those bones
When Alexander and his lover
Made their offerings at two tomb-shrines,
And ran their naked race on the sands?

Where now is the best of the Achaians?
The White Island is deserted,
The shrines of antiquity lost to time.
Who now wails for the hero that was lost?


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(I shall ever remain his fan-girl!)

(But I still suck at endings.  *sigh*)

Originally went up 9/14/15

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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.


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

April A-to-Z and Sources

Published May 6, 2016 by Iphis of Scyros

So, if you read all my April A-to-Z posts — or even just most of them — you may have noticed that from time to time I complained about having had to pick a new topic at the last minute, and other such complaints.  Well, there was a good reason for that, and I’d like to share it with you…in the form of a lengthy section of text originally intended to be part of the A-to-Z Reflections post, but I decided that since it didn’t actually have much to do with the experience of A-to-Z itself, I should probably put it elsewhere, so I made it into its own post.  Which would be this.  And now I’m stalling by writing nonsense because I don’t want to go back to reading the letters exchanged between Princess Elisabeth and Descartes, because argh.

*ahem*

Yes, I’ll just get on with the actual post now…

The comparative world mythology theme did drive something home for me:  the world needs a really good mythology reference resource.  My plan, when I decided to do this theme, was to look through a few “mythology encyclopedias” I had, jot down information about the candidates that sounded good, and then research them properly.  Well, the one that had the gall to call itself the “ultimate world mythology” encyclopedia only covered Eurasia, and some of what I found in the one on the Americas failed to come up in any other source I found, and almost everything in the book on African mythology failed to come up anywhere else.  I got several books from my university’s library to cover Oceanic myths, and another book on African myths, but then I discovered that the university library gave me access to two online encyclopedias, and I made the mistake of relying on them more heavily than I should have.  (It didn’t help that it turned out I didn’t have as much time as I would have liked to dedicate to this project, because on top of class work, my volunteer work turned into employed work, starting with a time-intensive project.)

The first clue I got that there might be something seriously wrong with one of my online sources (the one with far more myths listed, naturally) was when I couldn’t help clicking on the entry for “Patroclus” because the thumbnail text (as it were) made the odd and untenable claim that his father had been king of “Opus” which makes it highly illogical that his father would join him when he was exiled from Opoeis for homicide.  (And yet his shade in the Iliad very clearly states that his family joined him in his exile…)  Anyway, like I said, I clicked on it because I’m such a Patroclos fangirl, and then to my surprise it soon said this:

Achilles, like all children of sea-creatures (his mother was the sea-nymph Thetis), was bisexual, and at Troy took Briseis as his mistress, sleeping with her and with Patroclus on alternate nights.

That was the point I stopped reading, because “um, what?” is the only way to respond to that.  In what text, exactly, did it make the bizarre claim that Achilles’ bisexuality had anything to do with his mother’s aquatic nature?  That was normal in ancient Greece!  There would have been more need to explain it if he had expressly refused ever to enter into relationships with one sex or the other!  (Furthermore, what other child of a “sea-creature” do they have in mind as being expressly bisexual?  Most of the other individuals I can think of who have myths about them pursuing romances with both men and women are decidedly not descended from “sea-creatures”:  Patroclos, Apollo, Heracles, Zeus, possibly Poseidon (who is himself a “sea-creature” of sorts, but isn’t the son of one) and Orpheus, for a handful of easily summoned up examples.  Zephyros is the only one I can think of who is descended from a “sea-creature,” but Pontos was his great-grandfather, not father.)

And what text ever made such precise claims about Achilles’ sexual habits?  The ancient Greeks didn’t actually like to get that specific.  We know that Aischylos portrayed them as lovers, and that Phaedrus in Plato’s Symposium was enthusiastically in favor of that opinion (though he reversed Aischylos’ opinion of which one was “in love” and which was was “loved”), but all surviving texts tended to be pretty vague about such things, and the fact that Phaedrus had to specifically single out Aischylos (several decades out of date by the time of the Symposium‘s events, and even older by the time Plato actually wrote it) indicates that there weren’t that many other texts that talked about the relationship that openly.  (And keep in mind that the Symposium was set in the home of Agathon, the fourth most popular tragic playwright of ancient Athens, who was famous for being in a life-long same sex relationship.  If he never portrayed Achilles and Patroclos as being lovers, then surely it was pretty rare to talk about it!)  Not because no one thought of them that way, but because no one wanted to write about it.  Like religious matters, you just didn’t go there.  It wasn’t done.  And it particularly wouldn’t be done about someone who was both one of the greatest heroes of the ancient world (despite his desperately flawed personality) and was actively being worshiped in several places.

The point where I realized I had a serious problem was actually when I was working on the “U” post, though.  I made the mistake of basing my post on the entry from that same e-book, the Bloomsbury Dictionary of Myth, which said this about Uaica:

Uaica, in the myths of the Juruña people of the Xingu river, was given healing powers by Sinaa the creator, and used them to help his people. He brewed potions, made poultices from herbs and insects, set bones and sang spells to keep mortality at bay. But his powers depended on sexual abstinence, and they waned, first when his people gave him a wife and then when the wife took a lover. Finally the lover tried to kill Uaica, and Uaica disappeared into the ground forever, taking his healing powers with him. Before he went, he offered his people one last chance, if they followed him to the shadow-world; but they refused, and from that day on, human beings have been plagued by disease and death.

Then, late in the post, I realized I’d forgotten to check if it was listed in the other book, the Oxford Dictionary of World Mythology, which had so many fewer entries.  Well, it was listed, and this is what that book had to say about Uaica:

The Asclepius of the Juruna, an Indian tribe living along the Xingu River in Brazil. One day Uaica, out hunting in the forest, noticed a lot of dead animals under a large tree. When he approached the heap of beasts, he felt dizzy, fell down, and went to sleep. In his deep dream he saw Sinaa, the jaguar ancestor of the Juruna, who talked to him. This happened on several occasions till the deity told him to keep away.

Uaica obeyed. He also made a drink from the bark of the tree: from this potent brew he acquired many powers. Uaica became a great medicineman who could take away disease with the touch of his hand. Sinaa would come into his dreams again, and through their conversation all the needs of the people were supplied. Pressed by the Juruna, Uaica consented to marry, but his wife was unfaithful to him. Through this shortcoming and the attempt of her lover on Uaica’s life the Juruna lost the medicine-man. It happened that Uaica, who had eyes in the back of his head, saw the swinging club, and instantly he disappeared into the hole it made on striking the ground. Uaica said: ‘I shall not return. Arrows and clubs will be your lot. I tried to teach what Sinaa wished, but now I go.’ Later the medicine-man is said to have beckoned the Juruna to follow him underground, but they were too baffled and frightened to do so.

Just from that short summary, I can tell the latter version is more accurate, because of the natural, folkloric structure of the story.  More importantly — for my A-to-Z post — it was totally different in the key areas, especially in that in the accurate version, he was never commanded to abstain from sexual relations, so my post was completely screwed up, but it was late enough that I didn’t want to fix it, so I had to post it with the disclaimer that it was wrong.

hated having to do that.

But if I’d fixed it, I’d have lost the comparisons I’d prepared, and would have had to spend time I didn’t have searching out new ones.

Anyway, the frustration made me realize that I really want to see a proper, accurate, and comprehensive encyclopedia out there.  Maybe there already is one, but if there’s one online, I don’t know about it, and if it’s a book, it’s not in my university’s library system.  More importantly, even those online encyclopedias I was consulting — flawed as they were — were only accessible within an academic server (I seriously had to put in my password every single time I wanted to look at the texts) and thus only to a limited few, but a resource like the one I’m describing should be open and available to everyone, because there’s a lot of misinformation floating around out there.  (Especially on movie screens…)

So I plan on working on one myself.

I’m going to go through every primary text available in English (and in other languages once I learn other languages), and I’m going to write entries summarizing each text, and summing up who each character is, and I’m going to do theme-based entries, too.  The characters and themes will start out as just notes, getting fleshed out as I go along, obviously.  All entries — the fleshed out ones, I mean — will have notes explaining where each point comes from, so people can check them out for themselves.  I’m going to do it on LeanPub, so that once there’s enough to be worth others’ time, I can make it available (for free, obviously!) but can keep updating it as I go.  (Then if it’s ever actually completed, it can be moved to more popular places like Amazon.  But still for free, or it would negate the purpose of the project.)  This is one of the projects I’m going to work on over the summer break, as I talked about earlier.  (If anyone would like to help with this, btw, please let me know!  It’s going to be a crazy-slow process, so if anyone wants to tackle primary texts other than the ones I’m starting with (the Iliad, of course, and the Argonautica of Apollonius of Rhodes) then that would be heavenly.)

I know this sounds like a crazy amount of work — and it’s going to be — and it may look like a waste of time, “because there’s Wikipedia.”  But the thing about Wikipedia is that anyone can go in and change things.  (Though admittedly most of the less well-known mythological figures probably don’t get the types who would maliciously/ignorantly enter false data even visiting them, much less bothering to change them.)  And information can go up without being checked, and without any citations.  And there’s just plain a lot of stuff not present there.  (Though I’m ashamed to admit that I consulted it as well during April…)

More importantly, I want to make a resource that could actually be cited academically if need be.  No college would ever accept a paper that cited Wikipedia (I hope!), but I’d like to make a resource that could be cited in a paper without the student losing credit.

It may be crazy, and maybe I’ll never even get it one tenth done, but…I really want to do this project, and I want to do it right.

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.


 

 

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

 

Words Crush Wednesday – Embracing the Dead

Published October 21, 2015 by Iphis of Scyros

So this week’s Words Crush Wednesday is continuing last week’s trend of Halloween-appropriate epic quotes.  Last week we saw the dead, but this week we embrace them…

Once again, we’re starting with the epic of Gilgamesh, translated by Stephanie Dalley, from the book Myths from Mesopotamia:  Creation, The Flood, Gilgamesh and Others, and our quote is again from Tablet XII:

And the spirit of Enkidu came out of the Earth like a gust of wind.
They hugged and kissed (?),
They discussed, they agonized.

And from there it goes right into the quote from last week.  The other half of the “they,” of course, is Gilgamesh himself.  This is one of several passages in the epic of Gilgamesh that are routinely compared to passages in the Iliad

Specifically, it’s compared to this passage:

In sleep came to him the soul of unhappy Patroclos, his very image in stature and wearing clothes like his, with his voice and those lovely eyes.  The vision stood by his head and spoke:

“You sleep, Achilles, and you have forgotten me!  When I lived you were not careless of me, but now that I am dead!

[Skipping Patroclos’ speech, in which, among other thing, he gives extensive instructions about how he wants to be buried.]

Achilles said in answer:

“Why have you come here, beloved one, with all these charges of this and that?  Of course I will do as you tell me every bit.  But come nearer; for one short moment let us lay our arms about each other and console ourselves with lamentation!”

He stretched out his arms as he spoke, but he could not touch, for the soul was gone like smoke into the earth, twittering.

That was from Book XXIII of the Iliad, W.H.D. Rouse translation.  (And I’ve actually quoted that passage before, so if you want to read Patroclos’ speech, you can do that here.)

And moving on, now, to the Odyssey, Book XI, also W.H.D. Rouse translation:

“Then came the soul of my dead mother, Anticlea daughter of the brave Autolycos; she was alive when I left Ithaca on my voyage to sacred Ilion.  My tears fell when I saw her, and I was moved with pity; but all the same, I would not let her come near the blood before I had asked my questions of Teiresias.

[Skipping the dialog with Teiresias]

“I stayed where I was until my mother came near and drank the red blood.  At once she knew me, and made her meaning clear with lamentable words:

” ‘My love, how did you come down to the cloudy gloom, and you alive?

[Skipping most of the conversation here.  Odysseus is very long-winded, and apparently he gets that from his mother…or he’s making all this up on the fly to trick the Phaiacians…]

” ‘And this is how I sickened and died.  The Archeress did not shoot me in my own house with those gentle shafts that never miss; it was no disease that made me pine away:  but I missed you so much, and your clever wit and your gay merry ways, and life was sweet no longer, so I died.’

“When I heard this, I longed to throw my arms round her neck.  Three times I tried to embrace the ghost, three times it slipt through my hands like a shadow or a dream.  A sharp pang pierced my heart, and I cried out straight from my heart to hers:

” ‘Mother dear!  Why don’t you stay with me when I long to embrace you?  Let us relieve our hearts, and have a good cry in each other’s arms.  Are you only a phantom which awful Persephoneia has sent to make me more unhappy than ever?’

My dear mother answered:

” ‘Alas, alas, my child, most luckless creature on the face of the earth!  Persephoneia is not deceiving you, she is the daughter of Zeus; but this is only what happens to mortals when one of us dies.  As soon as the spirit leaves the white bones, the sinews no longer hold flesh and bones together — the blazing fire consumes them all; but the soul flits away fluttering like a dream.

So we can add one more innocent person’s death to Odysseus’ tally, his own mother. (And yet I doubt there were any ancient Greeks who believed he’d been sent to Tartaros or anything.  In fact, I’m sure they all believed he ended up in the Elysian Fields/Island of the Blessed/White Island.  (Though you’d think he’d be unwelcome on the White Island, given his feud with Aias, and the fact that Aias is cousin and one of the best buddies of the dead demi-god running the place…))  BTW, as I was checking which (of the ten zillion) post-it notes I could remove from my copy of the Odyssey to re-use for this semester’s reading, I noticed something interesting:  in the Odyssey, Autolycos is merely favored by Hermes, not his son.  I wonder if his twin brother is still the son of Apollo in the Odyssey‘s version?

And, of course, since Odysseus has such an encounter, you know Aeneas does, too!  (Actually, he doubly has to have encounters with the dead, since Achilles has one also.  Must be hard work for poor Aeneas, trying to be two Greeks, one after the other!)  Anyway, this is from Book VI of the Aeneid, Robert Fitzgerald translation:

                                   Aeneas said:
“Your ghost,
Your sad ghost, father, often before my mind,
Impelled me to the threshold of this place.
My ships ride anchored in the Tuscan sea.
But let me have your hand, let me embrace you,
Do not draw back.”
At this his tears brimmed over
And down his cheeks.  And there he tried three times
To throw his arms around his father’s neck,
Three times the shade untouched slipped through his hands,
Weightless as wind and fugitive as dream.

[Apologies, but for some reason it won’t let me do the indentation on the quote above.  The second line should line up roughly with the end of the first line, and”At this his tears brimmed over” should line up with the end of the line before.  But for some reason it’s ignoring all the spaces I added in front of them to position them.]

Actually, I’m surprised I don’t have two Aeneid passages for you; I guess because of the compressed time (or because he hadn’t finished the poem when he died) Virgil didn’t have time for Pallas’ ghost to show up before Aeneas.  Or maybe Dido’s shade in the Underworld section is supposed to take the place of Patroclos’, but it’s more like Aias’ shade, considering how she treats him.  (There’s certainly no attempted embrace there.)

[EDIT — I so totally fail.  There are two Aeneid passages, it’s just that the one with Anchises was actually the second, not the first.  The first was way back in Book II:

Time after time I groaned and called Creusa,
Frantic, in endless quest from door to door.
Then to my vision her sad wraith appeared —
Creusa’s ghost, larger than life, before me.
Chilled to the marrow, I could feel the hair
On my head rise, the voice clot in my throat;
But she spoke out to ease me of my fear:

‘What’s to be gained by giving way to grief
So madly, my sweet husband?  Nothing here
Has come to pass except as heaven willed.
You may not take Creusa with you now;
It was not so ordained, nor does the lord
Of high Olympus give you leave.

[skipping a fair chunk of her speech here]

No: the great mother of the gods detains me
Here on these shores.  Farewell now; cherish still
Your son and mine.’

With this she left me weeping,
And faded on the tenuous air.  Three times
I tried to put my arms around her neck,
Three times enfolded nothing, as the wraith
Slipped through my fingers, bodiless as wind,
Or like a flitting dream.

Obviously, that, too, was the Robert Fitzgerald translation.  I’m able to add this in now because I’m researching a paper on the Aeneid, and one of the pieces I read happened to mention that Aeneas’ attempts to embrace both the ghost of his wife and of his father used exactly the same lines.  Funny thing, though:  the scholar in question did not mention that said lines were essentially ripped wholesale out of the Odyssey.  (Virgilian scholars always seem to overlook the places where Virgil basically just translated Homer into Latin and ran with it…)  You’ll notice the quotes are not identical, though; presumably that means Fitzgerald changed things up a bit to make it more interesting to the reader.  (Sadly, as the semester has grown more intense, I’ve fallen behind in re-learning Latin, so I can’t go to the original to look for myself at how similar they are.  Though obviously they have a certain amount of difference:  the one in Book II is in the first person, and the one in Book VI is in the third person.)

So, Aeneas does get to have two failed attempts at embracing a ghost, one for each of his Greek antecedents.  It’s telling of how Virgil interpreted the Iliad that the one to parallel Achilles is not with the innocent young boy Pallas that Aeneas is briefly enamored of, but rather with his wife.  (I guess Virgil agreed with Aischylos on that score…)  Okay, end edit.]

Anyway, next week is going to be the most Halloweeny of all!  (Technically, this week and last week have been more Day of the Dead than Halloween, really…)

wcw

Book Report: “The Death and Afterlife of Achilles”

Published September 27, 2015 by Iphis of Scyros

This one’s long overdue.  My report on The Death and Afterlife of Achilles by Jonathan S. Burgess.

This was one of those books that I saw listed in the bibliography of another book, and excitedly tried to track down through the university’s library only to find out that I couldn’t get my hands on it.  Rather, only to find out that the university had no access to it.  But I could buy it used from Amazon.

Which is what I did, after some deliberation.  (There’s another book I’m eyeing right now that’s just the same way.  Only it’s even more expensive than this one was.  It’s more than $30, and this one was more in the $20-25 range.  But it’s pretty much guaranteed to be useful — possibly indispensable — to my thesis.)

Now, due to the fact that this is a pretty niche scholarly book, there wasn’t all that much on Amazon to tell me exactly what the contents of the book actually were.  So, given the title, I was expecting — eagerly! — that at least half the book would be about cult of Achilles from the later parts of antiquity.  Hero worship is one of the topics that really interests me — and I don’t mean the tame idolization you get now, but the building of actual temples and offering up of sacrifices to dead mortals — so I really wanted to see what the book had to say on the subject, since all I’ve been able to find on the worship of Achilles so far is a single journal article.   (Said topic will likely be useful for my Master’s Thesis, so this isn’t just sheer curiosity.  Though I’d be lying if I said there was no portion of curiosity in it.)

Unfortunately, the book only dedicates about a chapter to the cultic practices.  Not even a particularly long chapter.

Most of the book, somewhat to my surprise, was actually analyzing the Iliad in minute detail, showing how it was constantly implying and foreshadowing Achilles’ death, despite how infrequently his death was outright mentioned.

Very interesting stuff, but it wasn’t what I’d been hoping for, so I was (understandably) a little disappointed.

There was also a lot of material on the way his afterlife was described — particularly contrasting the Odyssey with other works of various levels of antiquity — and how the ancient Greeks perceived life after death in the first place.

Anyway, there’s definitely some good stuff in here.  I want to quote a whole paragraph, in fact, because I was just so pleased by it.

Though my analysis is grounded on the previous work of neoanalysts, I disagree with their view that Patroklos reflects Antilochos.  This assumption lies at the heart of what I have called the “vengeance theory.”  In the vengeance theory, Achilles’ revenge on Hektor for his slaying of Patroklos is thought to be modeled on Achilles’ supposed vengeance on Memnon for the slaying of Antilochos.  Yet there is little evidence that Antilochos was central to myth about Achilles and Memnon, or that Patroklos is modeled on Antilochos.  It is true that the death of Antilochos was commonly part of myth about Memnon, as was indicated in chapter 2 (motif B).  But the focus of the episode seems to have been on Antilochos’s rescue of his father Nestor from Memnon.  It is for this reason that Antilochos’s death became renowned in antiquity; there is no evidence that it was the motivation for Achilles to fight Memnon, or that Achilles had previously avoided the Aithiopian king.  Several passages in the Iliad indicate that Achilles is fond of Antilochos, but there is no suggestion that Antilochos is the model for Patroklos.

It goes on like that for a while, but the important part — to me, as a Patroclos fan — is that here’s a very deep analysis of the texts by a scholar who’s obviously done an enormous amount of research, and it’s very calmly, very clearly establishing that Patroclos is not just subbing in for Antilochos for the sake of a single poem, which is kind of what some of the neoanalysts say.

Hmm.

You know, if I’d gotten around to writing this sooner after finishing the book — instead of like three months later — I’m pretty sure I’d have more to say than this.

Oh well.  If I remember anything else I wanted to say later, I can always tack it onto the end here, right?

Words Crush Wednesday – Still the Homeric Version

Published September 16, 2015 by Iphis of Scyros

I promise, though, after I finish quoting this section of the Iliad, I have something non-Homeric in mind for Words Crush Wednesday.  But first I want to show how Patroclos reacted to Nestor’s speech from last week.

So, diving right into Book XI of the Iliad, W.H.D. Rouse translation.

This touched the heart of Patroclos, and he set off at a run.  But as he was passing the ships of Odysseus, close to the place of public meeting and the altars, he met Eurypylos limping out of the battle with the arrow in his thigh.  Sweat poured over his head and shoulders, and the blood still ran from his cruel wound, but he was undaunted.  Patroclos was very sorry to see this, and he spoke out his feelings plainly:

“Oh, you poor captains and princes!  So you were to die far from home, your white fat to be gorged by the dogs of Troy!–But my dear man Eurypylos, tell me–will they keep off this fiend Hector, or will he make an end of us all?”

The wounded man answered:

“Nothing can save us now, Patroclos.  They will soon be upon our ships.  All our best men are laid up here already, some shot with arrows, some stabbed with spears:  the enemy just grows stronger and stronger.  But you can save my life–just help me to my ship, and cut out this arrow, wash the blood off with warm water, put on a soothing plaster, that good stuff you learnt about from Achilles, which he got from Cheiron the Centaur, bless him! he was a gentleman.  You know our surgeons, Podaleirios and Machaon–one is in camp, I think, wounded, and wants a good surgeon himself; the other is on the battlefield!”

Patroclos said:

“What will come of it?  What are we do to do, my dear man?  I am in a hurry to give Achilles a message from Gerenian Nestor, but I can’t help that, I will not desert you in this dreadful state.”

He put his arm around Eurypylos and led him to his quarters.  His man saw them coming, and made a bed of hides on the ground.  There Patroclos laid the wounded man; he cut out the arrow, and washed the place with warm water, and crumbled a bitter root between his fingers, letting the shreds drop into the wound.  This was a bitter root which cures all pain, and it took away all his pain; the blood was staunched and the wound dried.

And that’s the end of the book.  (I wonder if that root would work on my arm?)  When it says “led him to his quarters” there, it means Eurypylos’ quarters, of course; Patroclos shares with Achilles.  (Seriously, even when they’re both sleeping with slave girls, they’re still in the same hut.)

Anyway, I just wanted to keep the quote going to show how Patroclos couldn’t bear to leave a wounded companion untreated.  Also I thought it was pretty cool that he’d learned medicine in second-hand lessons that originated with Cheiron.  (In Statius’ Achilleid, Patroclus is also being trained by Chiron.  But Statius was probably following the tradition that held Menoitios and Peleus to be brothers.  Can’t be sure, though; he didn’t get very far before dying.)  I need to check different translations (or re-learn Greek enough to check the text directly) though, because that “he was a gentleman” line’s past tense implies that Cheiron is dead.  (But the question is, was the past tense a translation thing, or was it always in the past tense?)  Cheiron, of course, is immortal, but there are versions where he had to give up his immortality, handing it over to someone else, usually the dying Heracles, but strangely there’s also a version where he gives it up to save Prometheus from his torment, which doesn’t actually make much sense.  Of course, in either of those instances, he would then be dead before Achilles was even born, which is just a wee bit awkward in this context!

Anyway, next week I’ll actually be quoting something (gasp) Roman…though it’s still Trojan War related.  (Well, what else did you expect?)

wcw

Missing Letter Monday – No “P”

Published September 14, 2015 by Iphis of Scyros

“The Best of the Achaians”

What quality makes a man great?

Strength of arms?
No, not that alone.
Any demi-god has that…
…and look how they turn out!
(Only Mycenae’s founder remained
A good man and true.
The rest died horrible deaths,
And Theseus abducted a child for his new bride!
And he died a horrible death to boot!)

Wisdom beyond measure?
If that was the case,
There would be few great men.
Maybe none at all.

Kindness, and a gentle heart,
Dedication to his friends?
Yes, yes, indeed!
A great man has devotion
And love in his heart,
Ready to lay down his life
To save those he cares for.

In truth, there is but one
Who sailed to Troy
With the strength and heart
To call himself the best.
Though he would never so call himself:
He would award the title
To the one he loves the most,
Friend, comrade, and so much more.

But his kind heart outshines
His selfish, fair-faced friend.
While Achilles sulked,
He shed tears of grief
For the deaths of the Danaan warriors.

His might in battle
Was ne’er so lauded
As that of his fickle friend,
But he killed so many Trojans
In his final stand
That they were maddened for revenge.

His death, too, was greater
Than the humiliation of Achilles.
(An arrow in the ankle?  Laughable!)
For the son of the Nereid,
Leto’s son needed but one mortal’s aid,
A tool to unleash the arrow.
But for he who was truly
The best of the Achaians,
The far-darter required the aid of two mortals,
A coward to stab from behind,
And lamentable Hector
To stab from the front.
Dishonorable though the kill was
— what honor could there be
In killing a naked, unarmed man? —
Hector was filled with hubris
To have brought down such a mighty foe.

The son of Menoitios
By his blameless life
Brought honor to his obscure father,
As his name suggests.
By his death he brought down
Hector, and all dreams of Troy’s survival.

In a golden urn
His bones were sheltered
While the son of Thetis cried and groaned
In an anguish more overwrought
Than any widow on the stage,
Though he knew his own bones
Would soon join with his lost comrade’s,
And they would be united in death,
Forever together.

Where is that urn now?
Is it hidden from view in the ground
Near Hisarlik?
Or was it stolen away,
In the ancient days of antiquity?
Which “tomb” covered those bones
When Alexander and his lover
Made their offerings at two tomb-shrines,
And ran their naked race on the sands?

Where now is the best of the Achaians?
The White Island is deserted,
The shrines of antiquity lost to time.
Who now wails for the hero that was lost?


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Did you think I’d write about anyone else this week?  Very naive if you did!  (I am a fan-girl, after all!)

I suck at endings, though.  *sigh*

 

Words Crush Wednesday – The Homeric Version

Published September 9, 2015 by Iphis of Scyros

Today’s Words Crush Wednesday is continuing from last week‘s, but I’ll be skipping most of Nestor’s lengthy, lengthy speech.  Because that old guy can talk your ear off, even on paper.  I guess since he hasn’t got any strength to use on the field of battle, he gets to talk three times as much as everyone else?

Anyway, from Book XI of the Iliad, W.H.D. Rouse translation:

You see Heracles had come in former years and done a great deal of damage, when our best men were killed; for Neleus had twelve sons, and all perished but me alone.

That part was explaining why Elis had gotten cocky and made raids against Pylos, causing Nestor to lead reprisals by stealing the city’s cattle.  (I actually quoted this part for reasons that won’t become apparent until I’m done with this section of Iliad quoting…)

Anyway, Nestor spends a long time talking about that raid on Elis, to prove that he was once young, strong and a powerful warrior.  (Or something.)  When he finally finishes his lengthy digression, he resumes actually talking to Patroclos, instead of at him:

“Such was I, a man with men, as truly as I live.  But the valour of Achilles will profit Achilles alone–profit! no, repentance will be his lot, when our people are all destroyed.  And you, laggard!  What did Menoitios say to you, when he sent you from Phthia to Agamemnon?  We were there in the house, I and Odysseus, and heard all he said.

And then he spends a paragraph setting the scene.  Because apparently he thinks Patroclos doesn’t remember.  (Well, okay, it’s just poetic.  But…yeah, not typing all that.  It’s got some cool cultural details, but…that’s not the point right now.)

“Peleus told his son to be first and foremost in the field, and this is what Menoitios said to you:

” ‘My son, Achilles is above you in rank, and he is stronger than you, but you are the elder.  You must give him good advice and tell him what to do; he will obey you for his own good.’

“That was your father’s bidding, and you have forgotten it.  Yet even now you should remind Achilles of this and see if he will listen.  Who knows whether you may have the good luck to move him by your persuasions?  The persuasion of a friend is a blessing in the end.  If there is some oracle from Zeus he is shy of, something his gracious mother has told him, well then, let him send you out with the Myrmidons, and you may show us light in the darkness.  Let him lend you his armour to wear, and then the Trojans may take you for him; they may leave us alone to have a breathing-space from the battle.  Hardly time to take your breath in the face of sudden death!  But your men are all fresh, and they could easily beat a weary enemy back to the city!”

Worst.  Advice.  Ever.

Okay, maybe not, but…following it was a terrible mistake for poor Patroclos!  (Though at least he went out in a blaze of glory, unlike his precious Achilles.)

BTW, Nestor was wrong about one thing:  Achilles would not have felt any repentance (or sorrow or anything else) if all the other Achaians were killed, so long as he and Patroclos were both fine.  In fact, a little bit later in the poem, he actually wishes for that to happen!  And yet he was considered a great hero, and actually worshiped.  Kinda scary, huh?

wcw

Words Crush Wednesday – The Homeric Version

Published September 2, 2015 by Iphis of Scyros

(I know, it’s the first Wednesday of the month.  But…yeah, I’ve done too little writing lately to even have anything to say for IWSG.  So I’m just not bothering this month.)  So for Words Crush Wednesday lately, we’ve been following Patroclos as he finally gets to actually do something:  going to visit Nestor in his hut, and see if the wounded man he was bringing back from the battle was indeed Machaon, son of Asclepios.  (Yep, it was.  Because for some reason the Achaians didn’t stop to say “gee, maybe we shouldn’t send our healers out onto the battlefield.”)

Anyway, last week, Patroclos had only just gotten to Nestor’s hut, and wouldn’t sit down to accept Nestor’s hospitality, complaining that if he did, he might fall prey to Achilles’ bad temper.  (Silly of him; he’s the only person in the world Achilles would never get angry at!)  Now we’ll pick up from there, and see how Nestor responds.

From Book XI of the Iliad, W.H.D. Rouse translation:

Nestor answered:

“Indeed?  Why is Achilles crying about a wounded man?  Doesn’t he know the trouble that has come upon the whole army?  The best men are lying here in camp, wounded and stricken!  Diomedes Tydeides is shot, Odysseus has a spear-thrust, and so has Agamemnon; and here is this man I have just brought from the field, shot with an arrow from the bowstring.  But Achilles, brave man, cares nothing and pities none.  Is he waiting until all the ships along the shore are well warmed by a general conflagration, and we ourselves are killed in a row?

“Ah, my strength is not what it was when my limbs were supple.  If I were only young and strong now, as I was when that quarrel came up between Elis and our people over cattle-lifting, when I killed that brave man Itymoneus Hypeirochos’ son, who lived in Elis!

“I was driving away our reprisals; he was defending his flocks from seizure, and I struck him with my spear–

I’m going to cut Nestor off mid-sentence there because he keeps talking for three or four pages.  (And, actually, this seems a better abrupt stopping place than most of the sentence ends, if that makes any sense.)  Um, not all on that one story, mind you, but man!  I mean, I knew Nestor was the wordiest of the lot, even in a group who all like to make long speeches, but until I was trying to type out some of his dialog I hadn’t realized just how much more talkative the old man really was.

Anyway, notice that he is here proudly bragging about having raided cattle.  Yep.  That was honorable business in Nestor’s day.  Elis made Pylos mad, so the Pylians raided the Elis of its cattle.  Yeah, that makes sense.  The grim part there, of course, is that the manner in which it’s presented is so casual, so “naturally this is how the world works” that it probably is how the world worked, either at the time of the poem’s composition or some time not too long before that.

Much as I enjoy the myths, I wouldn’t want to go live in those times.  Yikes.

wcw

Anyway, when I pick up the story again next week, I’ll skip over the less necessary bits of Nestor’s massive, massive speech, and only present the parts that actually, you know, matter.  Because this whole sequence of quotes is supposed to be about Patroclos!  (*ahem*)  Okay, that’s not quite what I meant to say there….

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