lecture

Woman as symbol: early Rome.

Identifications
— Etruscan women
— Ilia/Rhea Silvia
— Sabine Women
— Lucretia

1. The Etruscans. Map: wikimedia.

 etruscan_civilization_map-wikimedia.png

1a. “Sarcophagus of the Spouses,” 6th c. BCE. Villa Giula (Rome). Terracotta sarcophagus of a husband and wife from Cerveteri, reclining on a couch. Images: italianways.com.

IW-Sarcofago-degli-Sposi-13-665x444.jpg

 

1b. “Sarcophagus of the Spouses,” 6th c. BCE. Louvre, Paris. Painted terracotta sarcophagus of a husband and wife from Cerveteri, reclining on a couch. Image: Louvre.

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1c. Painted Etruscan terracotta sarcophagus (c. 150 BCE) of a woman named Seianti Hanunia Tlesana, holding a mirror. British Museum. The skull and other bones  from the sarcophagus were found to belong to a woman who was probably about 50yo at the time of her death. Images: British Museum.

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2. Attic black-figure amphora (6th c. BCE). Aeneas, carrying his father, Anchises, with his son ahead of him. Escape from Troy. Aphrodite/Venus, Aeneas’ mother, stands behind him. Image: Getty villa.

aeneas.jpg

 

3a. Dionysius of Halicarnassus (1st c. BCE), Roman Antiquities 1.77:

Ilia, going to a grove consecrated to Mars to fetch pure water for use in the sacrifices, was ravished by somebody or other in the sacred precinct…Most writers relate a fabulous story to the effect that it was a spectre of the divinity to whom the place was consecrated [=Mars]; and they add that the event was attended by many supernatural signs, including a sudden disappearance of the sun and a darkness that spread over the sky, and that the appearance of the spectre was far more marvellous than that of a man both in stature and in beauty. And they say that the ravisher, to comfort the maiden (by which it became clear that it was a god), commanded her not to grieve at all at what had happened, since she had been united in marriage to the divinity of the place and as a result of her violation should bear two sons who would far excel all men in valour and warlike achievements. And having said this, he was wrapped in a cloud and, being lifted from the earth, was borne upwards through the air. This is not a proper place to consider what opinion we ought to entertain of such tales…

Ilia = ‘of Troy/Ilium’
Rhea = Greek rheō (ῥέω) ‘to flow’
Silvia = ‘of the forest’

3b. Fragment of Ennius‘ Annals*, 2nd c. BCE.
*transmitted by Cicero, On Divination 1.40 (1st c. BCE).

…when roused terrified from sleep the old woman brought the lamp with trembling limbs, and in tears Ilia told this story. “Daughter of Eurydica, whom our father loved, the force of life is now leaving my whole body. For a handsome man appeared to me and snatched me away through pleasant willows, river banks, and places unknown. So alone, my sister, afterwards I seemed to wander and slowly to track you and to search for you and to be unable to grasp you in my heart. No path kept my feet steady. Then I dreamt my father [=Aeneas] spoke to me with these words: “Daughter, you must first endure miseries, then your fortune will rise from the river.” Once father had said this, my sister, he suddenly disappeared and did not offer himself to view, although I desired it in my heart, although I often stretched my hands to the blue expanses of heaven, tearful, and with pleading voice called to him. Then sleep left me sick at heart.

3c. Jackie Elliott, “The Voices of Ennius’ Annals” (2007: 49):

“Aeneas’ ‘comforting speech’ provokes only tears and a deeper longing and sense of abandonment. The passage thus demonstrates the uselessness of the male and imperialistic perspective to Ilia. Reflecting this, Ilia’s corporeality in the passage contrasts strikingly with the ellipse of Mars and with Aeneas’ elusiveness.”

3d. Roman relief depicting Mars’ “seduction” of Ilia. 1st-3rd c. CE. Vatican Museum. Image: Warburg Institute Iconographical Database.

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3e. Timothy Cornell, The Beginnings of Rome (1995: 58): 

“Controversy centred around such matters as the parentage of the twins [=Romulus + Remus]. In most accounts their father was the god Mars; but other versions had been circulated, the most interesting of which asserted that their mother had been impregnated by a spark from the hearth — a motif which has many parallels in Italic myth.”

4a. Livy, History of Rome (1st c. BCE/CE), 1.4

But neither gods nor men protected the mother herself or her babes from the king’s cruelty; the priestess [= Ilia] he ordered to be manacled and cast into prison, the children to be committed to the river. It happened by singular good fortune that the Tiber having spread beyond its banks into stagnant pools afforded nowhere any access to the regular channel of the river, and the men who brought the twins were led to hope that being infants they might be drowned, no matter how sluggish the stream….In those days this was a wild and uninhabited region. The story persists that when the floating basket in which the children had been exposed was left high and dry by the receding water, a she-wolf (lupa), coming down out of the surrounding hills to slake her thirst, turned her steps towards the cry of the infants, and with her teats gave them suck so gently, that the keeper of the royal flock found her licking them with her tongue. Tradition assigns to this man the name of Faustulus, and adds that he carried the twins to his hut and gave them to his wife Larentia to rear. Some think that Larentia, having been free with her favours, had got the name of “she-wolf” [lupa = “prostitute”, lupanar= “brothel”] among the shepherds, and that this gave rise to this marvellous story.

 

4b. Tomb of the Statilii on the Esquiline, north wall (1st c. BCE). Romulus and Remus are abandoned on the banks of the River Tiber. Image: The Warburg Institute Iconographic Database.

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4c. Drawing of the Bolsena Mirror, an Etruscan mirror from Porsena, c. 340 BCE. Seems to show Romulus and Remus with the she-wolf, suggesting that the legend of the twins was well established by at least the 4th century BCE. Some modern historians, e.g. T. P. Wiseman, think that picture only looks like the Roman twins, but depicts separate Etruscan myth. Image: wikimedia.

bolsena_mirror_roscher_lexikon_p1465.jpg

4d. Mosaic depicting the She-wolf with Romulus and Remus. Aldborough (UK), c. 300-400 CE (Leeds City Museum). Image: Carole Raddato.

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5a. Livy, History of Rome (1st c. BCE/CE) 1.9

Rome was now strong enough to hold her own in war with any of the adjacent states; but owing to the lack of women a single generation was likely to see the end of her size, since she had neither prospect of posterity at home nor the right of intermarriage with her neighbours. So, on the advice of the senate, Romulus sent envoys round among all the neighbouring nations to solicit for the new people an alliance and the privilege of intermarrying. Cities, they argued, as well as all other things, take their rise from the lowliest beginnings. As time goes on, those which are aided by their own manliness [virtus] by the favour of the gods achieve great power and renown. They said they were well assured that Rome’s origin had been blessed with the favour of the gods, and that their manliness [virtus] would not be lacking; their neighbours should not be reluctant to mingle their stock and their blood with the Romans, who were as truly men as they were. Nowhere did the embassy obtain a friendly hearing…

This was a bitter insult to the young Romans, and the matter seemed certain to end in violence. Expressly to afford a fitting time and place for this, Romulus, concealing his resentment, made ready solemn games in honour of the equestrian Neptune, which he called Consualia. He then ordered that the spectacle be announced to the surrounding peoples, and his subjects prepared to celebrate it with all the resources within their knowledge and power, that they might cause the occasion to be noised abroad and eagerly expected. Many people — for they were also eager to see the new city — gathered for the festival, especially those who lived nearest…

The Sabines, too, came with all their people, including their children and wives. They were hospitably entertained in every house, and when they had looked at the site of the city, its walls, and its numerous buildings, they marvelled that Rome had so rapidly grown. When the time came for the show, and people’s thoughts and eyes were busy with it, the preconcerted attack began. At a given signal the young Romans darted this way and that, to seize and carry off the unmarried women [virgines]. In most cases these were taken by the men in whose path they chanced to be. Some, of exceptional beauty, had been marked out for the chief senators, and were carried off to their houses by plebeians to whom the office had been entrusted…

The games broke up in a panic, and the parents of the young women fled sorrowing. They charged the Romans with the crime of violating hospitality, and invoked the gods to whose solemn games they had come, deceived in violation of religion and honour. The stolen girls were no more hopeful of their plight, nor less indignant. But Romulus himself went amongst them and explained that the pride of their parents had caused this deed, when they had refused their neighbours the right to intermarry; nevertheless the daughters should be wedded and become co-partners in all the possessions of the Romans, in their citizenship and, dearest privilege of all to the human race, in their children; only let them moderate their anger, and give their hearts to those to whom fortune had given their persons.

A sense of injury had often given place to affection, and they would find their husbands the kinder for this reason, that every man would earnestly endeavour not only to be a good husband, but also to console his wife for the home and parents she had lost. [1.10] His arguments were seconded by the wooing of the men, who excused their act on the score of passion and love, the most moving of all pleas to a woman’s heart…

[1.13 — after war between the Romans + the Sabines] Then the Sabine women, whose wrong had given rise to the war, with loosened hair and torn garments, their woman’s timidity lost in a sense of their misfortune, dared to go amongst the flying missiles, and rushing in from the side, to part the hostile forces and disarm them of their anger, beseeching their fathers on this side, on that their husbands, that fathers-in-law and sons-in-law should not stain themselves with impious bloodshed, nor pollute with parricide the suppliants’ children, grandsons to one party and sons to the other.

“If you regret,” they continued, “the relationship that unites you, if you regret the marriage-tie, turn your anger against us; we are the cause of war, the cause of wounds, and even death to both our husbands and our parents. It will be better for us to perish than to live, lacking either of you, as widows or as orphans.” It was a touching plea, not only to the rank and file, but to their leaders as well. A stillness fell on them, and a sudden hush. Then the leaders came forward to make a truce, and not only did they agree on peace, but they made one people out of the two. They shared the sovereignty, but all authority was transferred to Rome. In this way the population was doubled, and that some concession might after all be granted the Sabines, the citizens were named Quirites.

VIRTUS = gives us “virtue” but literally meant “manliness”
Latin vir = “man”
VIRtus = MANliness

5b. Pablo Picasso, “Rape of the Sabine Women” 1963. MFA, Boston. Image: MFA. Read this Guardian piece by Rhiannon L Cosslett on how this painting may be read in context of #metoo movement.

 

6a. Stephanie Jed, Chaste Thinking (1989: 45): 

“I intend the expression ‘chaste thinking’ as a figure of thought constituted at the join of two conflicting lexical families of terms, one representing the impulse of touch and the other, the impulse to be cut off from contact. These lexical families include, on the one hand, words related to touching or the absence of touching — tangible, contaminate, contact, integrity, intact, etc., and, on the other hand, words related to cutting — chastity, castigate, caste, and Latin carere (“to be cut off from, to lack.”). The narrative of the rape of Lucretia and the subsequent liberation of Rome from tyranny, I will argue, brings together these two conflicting series into a seemingly necessary relation of consequentiality, which, thus, sustains the figure of chaste thinking.”

6b. Livy, History of Rome (1st c. BCE/CE) 1.57-59:

The royal princes sometimes spent their leisure hours in feasting and entertainments, and at a wine party given by Sextus Tarquinius at which Collatinus, the son of Egerius, was present, the conversation happened to turn upon their wives, and each began to speak of his own in terms of extraordinarily high praise. As the dispute became warm Collatinus said that there was no need of words, it could in a few hours be ascertained how far his Lucretia was superior to all the rest. ‘Why do we not,’ he exclaimed, ‘if we have any youthful vigour about us mount our horses and pay your wives a visit and find out their characters on the spot? What we see of the behaviour, of each on the unexpected arrival of her husband, let that be the surest test.’ They were heated with wine, and all shouted:

‘Good! Come on!’ Setting spur to their horses they galloped off to Rome, where they arrived as darkness was beginning to close in. From there they proceeded to Collatia, where they found Lucretia very differently employed from the king’s daughters-in-law, whom they had seen passing their time in feasting and luxury with their acquaintances. She was sitting at her wool work in the hall, late at night, with her, maids busy round her. The palm in this competition of wifely virtue was awarded to Lucretia. She welcomed the arrival of her husband and the Tarquins, whilst her victorious spouse courteously invited the royal princes to remain as his guests. Sextus Tarquin, inflamed by the beauty and exemplary purity of Lucretia, formed the vile project of effecting her dishonour. After their youthful frolic they returned for the time to camp.

[1.58] A few days afterwards Sextus Tarquin went, unknown to Collatinus, with one companion to Collatia.  He was hospitably received by the household, who suspected nothing, and after supper was conducted to the bedroom set apart for guests. When all around seemed safe and everybody fast asleep, he went in the frenzy of his passion with a naked sword to the sleeping Lucretia, and placing his left hand on her breast, said, ‘Silence, Lucretia! I am Sextus Tarquin, and I have a sword in my hand; if you utter a word, you shall die.’ When the woman, terrified out of her sleep, saw that no help was near, and instant death threatening her, Tarquin began to confess his passion, pleaded, used threats as well as entreaties, and employed every argument likely to influence a female heart.

When he saw that she was inflexible and not moved even by the fear of death, he threatened to disgrace her, declaring that he would lay the naked corpse of the slave by her dead body, so that it might be said that she had been slain in foul adultery. By this awful threat, his lust triumphed over her inflexible chastity, and Tarquin went off exulting in having successfully attacked her honour. Lucretia, overwhelmed with grief at such a frightful outrage, sent a messenger to her father at Rome and to her husband at Ardea, asking them to come to her, each accompanied by one faithful friend; it was necessary to act, and to act promptly; a horrible thing had happened. Spurius Lucretius came with Publius Valerius, the son of Volesus; Collatinus with Lucius Junius Brutus, with whom he happened to be returning to Rome when he was met by his wife’s messenger.

They found Lucretia sitting in her room prostrate with grief. As they entered, she burst into tears, and to her husband’s inquiry whether all was well, replied, ‘No! what can be well with a woman when her honour is lost? The marks of a stranger Collatinus are in your bed. But it is only the body that has been violated the soul is pure; death shall bear witness to that. But pledge me your solemn word that the adulterer shall not go unpunished. It is Sextus Tarquin, who, coming as an enemy instead of a guest forced from me last night by brutal violence a pleasure fatal to me, and, if you are men, fatal to him.’

They all successively pledged their word, and tried to console the distracted woman, by turning the guilt from the victim of the outrage to the perpetrator, and urging that it is the mind that sins not the body, and where there has been no consent there is no guilt ‘It is for you,’ she said, ‘to see that he gets his deserts: although I acquit myself of the sin, I do not free myself from the penalty; no unchaste woman shall henceforth live and plead Lucretia‘s example.’ She had a knife concealed in her dress which she plunged into her, heart, and fell dying on the floor. Her father and husband raised the death-cry.

[1.59] Whilst they were absorbed in grief, Brutus drew the knife from Lucretia‘s wound and holding it, dripping with blood, in front of him, said, ‘By this blood – most pure before the outrage wrought by the king’s son — I swear, and you, oh gods, I call to witness that I will drive hence Lucius Tarquinius Superbus, together with his cursed wife and his whole brood, with fire and sword and every means in my power, and I will not suffer them or any one else to reign in Rome.’

 

6c. The enduring emblem of Lucretia… 

Philippe Bertrand, “Lucretia”, 1704 or earlier. Image: Metropolitan MuseumPhilippe Bertrand, "Lucretia", 1704 or earlier. Met Museum

Johann Peter Pichler, “Tarquin and Lucretia”, 1792. Image: Metropolitan Museum.Johann Peter Pichler, "Tarquin and Lucretia", 1792. Met Museum

Titian, “Tarquin and Lucretia”, 1571. Fitzwilliam Museum. Image: WikimediaTitian, "Tarquin and Lucretia", 1571. Fitzwilliam Museum.

Artemisia Gentileschi, “The Rape of Lucretia”, 1645-1650, Neues Palais, Potsdam. Image: WikimediaArtemisia Gentileschi, "The Rape of Lucretia", 1645-1650, Neues Palais, Potsdam

Rembrandt, “Lucretia”, 1666. Minneapolis Institute of Art. Image: Wikimedia.800px-Rembrandt_van_Rijn_-_Lucretia_-_Google_Art_Project_(nAHoI2KdSaLshA) (1).jpg

Translation of Ennius’ Annales (1.34-50 Skutsch = Cic. Div. 1.40)  David Wardle 2006, with adaptations. For parallel Latin and English trans. see Warmington pp 14-16.

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The Singer. Sappho.

Identifications
— Sappho
— papyrus
— Greek lyric
— textual transmission

1. Attic red-figure vase (kalathos), c. 470 BCE from Sicily, currently in the Munich Staatliche Antikensammlungen. Attributed to Brygos Painter. Two lyric poets of Lesbos: left, Alcaeus (7th c. BCE); right, Sappho (7th c. BCE). Both names inscribed (ΑΛΚΑΙΟΣ; ΣΑΦΟ—sic). Out of Alcaeus’ mouth the letters: Ο Ο Ο Ο Ο, indicating song. Each holds a musical instrument known as the barbiton (similar to a lyre), and each holds a plectrum. The Suda says that Sappho invented the plectrum. Care is given to indicate each figure’s sexual features (Alcaeus’ genitals; Sappho’s breasts). Image: Munich Antikensammlungen. For more, see Nagy 2011.

sappho and alcaeus bayern.jpg

2. Anne Carson, Introduction to If not, winter (2002), p ix:

“Sappho was a musician. Her poetry is lyric, that is, composed to be sung to the lyre. She addresses her lyre in one of her poems (fr. 118) and frequently mentions music, songs, and singing. Ancient vase painters depict her with her instrument. Later writers ascribe to her three musical inventions: that of the plectron, an instrument for picking the lyre (Suda); that of the pektis, a particular kind of lyre (Athenaios Deipnosophistai 14.635b); and the mixolydian mode, an emotional mode also used by tragic poets, who learned it from Sappho (Aristoxenos cited by Plutarch On Music 16.113c). All Sappho’s music is lost.”

3. Sappho fragment 102*, translated by Anne Carson (2002). See Page duBois Sappho is Burning 1995: 11. *transmitted by 2nd c. CE Hephaestion (Ench. 10.5).

sweet mother I cannot work the loom
I am broken with longing for a boy (παῖς) by slender Aphrodite

4a. Sappho fragment 1*, translated by Anne Carson (2002).
*transmitted by Dionysius of Halicarnassus (1st c. BCE) On Literary Composition 23; + a papyrus fragment (P. Oxy. 2288) gives scraps of this poem.

Deathless Aphrodite of the spangled mind,
child (παῖς) of Zeus, who twists lures, I beg you
do not break with hard pains,
O lady, my heart

but come here if ever before
you caught my voice far off
and listening left your father’s
golden house and came,

yoking your car. And fine birds brought you,
quick sparrows over the black earth
whipping their wings down the sky
through midair–

they arrived. But you, O blessed one,
smiled in your deathless face
and asked what (now again) I have suffered and why
(now again) I am calling out

and what I want to happen most of all
in my crazy heart. Whom should I persuade (now again)
to lead you back into her love? Who, O
Sappho, is wronging you?

For if she flees, soon she will pursue.
If she refuses gifts, rather will she give them.
If she does not love, soon she will love
even unwilling.

Come to me now: loose me from hard
care and all my heart longs
to accomplish, accomplish. You
be my ally.

4b. P. Oxy. 2288 = fragmentary papyrus from Oxyrhynchus from 2nd c. CE. Containing parts of lines Sappho fragment 1.

POxy.v0021.n2288.a.01.hires.jpg

5. Sappho fragment 31,* translated by Anne Carson (2002). 
*transmitted by the 1st c. CE On the Sublime 10.1 + P.S.I. 15 1470.

He seems to me equal to the gods that man
whoever he is who opposite you
sits and listens close
to your sweet speaking (φωνείσας)

and lovely laughing (γελαίσας) — oh it
puts the heart in my chest on wings
for when I look at you, even a moment, no speaking
is left in me

no: tongue breaks and thin
fire is racing under skin
and in eyes no sight and drumming
fills ears

and cold sweat holds me and shaking
grips me all, greener than grass
I am and dead — or almost
I seem to me.

But all is to be dared, because even a person of poverty

6. Sappho fragment 5,* translated by Anne Carson (2002).
*transmitted by papyri (P. Oxy. 7 = P. Lond. Lit. 43 + P. Oxy. 2289).

O Kypris and Nereids, undamaged I pray you
grant my brother to arrive here.
And all that in his heart he wants to be,
make it be.

And all the wrong he did before, loose it.
Make him a joy to his friends,
a pain to his enemies and let there exist for us
not one single further sorrow.

May he willingly give his sister
her portion of honor, but sad pain
] grieving for the past
]
] millet seed
] of the citizens
] once again no
]
]
] but you Kypris
] setting aside evil [
]

7. P. Oxy. 7 = P. Lond. Lit. 43. Fragmentary papyrus from Oxyrhynchus from 3rd c. CE. Containing parts of lines Sappho fragment 5.

8. Sappho fragment 16,* translated by Anne Carson (2002).
*transmitted by papyrus (P. Oxy. 1231 + 2166(a) + P.S.I. 123.1-2)

Some men say an army of horse and some men say an army on foot
and some men say an army of ships is the most beautiful thing
on the black earth. But I say it is
what you love.

Easy to make this understood by all.
For she who overcame everyone
in beauty (Helen)
left her fine husband

behind and went sailing to Troy.
Not for her children nor her dear parents
had she a thought, no —
] led her astray

] for
] lightly
] reminded me now of Anaktoria
who is gone.

9. Sappho fragment 44,* translated by Anne Carson (2002).
*transmitted by papyrus (P. Oxy. 1232 + 2076). 

Kypros
herald came
Idaos     swift messenger
]
and of the rest of Asia      imperishable fame.
Hektor and his men are bringing a glancing girl
from holy Thebe and from onflowing Plakia
delicate Andromache on ships over the salt
sea. And many gold bracelets and purple
perfumed clothes, painted toys,
and silver cups innumerable and ivory.
So he spoke. And at once the dear father rose up.
And news went through the wide town to friends.
Then sons of Ilos led mules beneath
fine-running carts and up climbed a whole crowd
of women and maidens with tapering ankles,
but separately the daughters of Priam        [
And young men led horses under chariots  [
] in great style
] charioteers
]
] like to gods
] holy all together
set out                for Ilios
and sweetflowing flute and kithara were mingled
with the clip of castanets and piercingly then the maidens
sang a holy song and straight up the air went
amazing sound                       [
and everywhere in the roads was [
bowls and cups                      [
myrrh and cassia and frankincense were mingled.
And all the elder women shouted aloud
and all the men cried out a lovely song
calling on Paon farshooting god of the lyre,
and they were singing a hymn for Hektor and Andromache
like to gods.

Quotations of or allusions to Homer in this poem underlined: Idaos = herald in Troy (Il. 3.248), “swift messenger” (Od. 15.526), “glancing girl” (Il. 1.98), “from holy Thebe” (Il. 3.66), Plakia (Il. 6.395), “salt sea” (Od. 4.551), “the wide town” (Od. 24.468), “horses under chariots” (Il. 24.279), “straight up the air went” (Il. 13.837).

10. Sappho fragment 48,* translated by Anne Carson (2002).
*transmitted by 4th c. CE Julian ‘the Apostate’ (Letter 77).

you came and I was crazy for you
and you cooled my mind that burned with longing

11.  Sappho fragment 49,* translated by Anne Carson (2002).
* line 1 transmitted by 2nd c. CE Hephaestion (Ench. 7.7); line 2 by 1st/2nd c. CE Plutarch (Amat. 5). A third source (2nd/3rd c. CE Terentianus Maurus) quotes them together, “suggesting that the lines are consecutive, however unlikely that my seem” (Campbell 1990: 95).

I loved you, Atthis, once long ago

a little child (παῖς) you seemed to me and graceless

–> Plutarch (Amat. 5): “Addressing a girl who was still too young for marriage, Sappho says: ‘You seemed to me a small, graceless child.'”

12. Sappho fragment 96*, translated by Anne Carson (2002).
* transmitted by a 6th c. CE parchment (P. Berol. 9722).

] Sardis
often turning her thoughts here

]
you like a goddess
and in your song most of all she rejoiced.

But now she is conspicuous among Lydian women
as sometimes at sunset
the rosyfingered moon

surpasses all the stars. And her light
stretches over salt sea
equally and flowerdeep fields.

And the beautiful dew is poured out
and roses bloom and frail
chervil and flowering sweetclover.

But she goes back and forth remembering
gentle Atthis and in longing
she bites her tender mind

But to go there
]much
talks [

Not easy for us
to equal goddesses in lovely form

]

]

]desire
and [                  ] Aphrodite

] nectar poured from
gold
] with hands of Persuasion

]
]
]

] into the Geraistion
] beloveds
] of none

] into desire I shall come

13. Sappho fragments 177 and 179, translated by Anne Carson (2002).

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Mothers and daughters. Persephone and Demeter.

Identifications
— korē
Persephone
— Demeter

1a. Nikandre Korē, 7th c. BCE. National Archaeological Museum, Athens.

1b. Inscription on the Nikandre Korē. Image: beazley.ox.ac.uk. The inscription is written in boustrophedon, meaning ‘ox-turning’, like a plough in a field (left to right, then right to left etc.).

Inscription on Nikandre kore oxford

Nikandre dedicated me to the far-shooter of arrows,
the excellent daughter of Deinodikes of Naxos,
sister of Deinomenes, wife of Phraxos

2. Women in the Classical World p29:

“It has been suggested that the statues represent these young women in a specific situation known to us from Archaic literary sources, their appearance in religious sanctuaries on the occasion of public festivals…These were virtually the only times when a girl of marriageable age might appear in public, and the most behavior expected of her is echoed in the demure downward gaze of many korai. Yet at the same time, paradoxically, she might call attention to herself with her elegant clothes, elaborately styled hair, expensive jewelry, makeup, and even a gesture of pulling her garment tight, emphasizing breasts, legs, and buttocks. Her beauty makes her an adornment to her family, to be appraised by prospective husbands; yet she should not call attention to herself, lest she invite unwanted admirers.”

3. Homeric Hymn to Demeter, 7th/6th c. BCE. Translated by Gregory Nagy. 1-46

I begin to sing of Demeter, the holy goddess with the beautiful hair. And her daughter [Persephone] too. The one with the delicate ankles, whom Hades seized. She was given away by Zeus, the loud-thunderer, the one who sees far and wide. Demeter did not take part in this, she of the golden double-axe, she who glories in the harvest. [5] She [Persephone] was having a good time, along with the daughters of Okeanos, who wear their girdles slung low. She was picking flowers: roses, crocus, and beautiful violets. Up and down the soft meadow. Iris blossoms too she picked, and hyacinth. And the narcissus, which was grown as a lure for the flower-faced girl by Gaia [Earth]. All according to the plans of Zeus. She [= Gaia] was doing a favor for the one who receives many guests [= Hades]. [10] It [the narcissus] was a wondrous thing in its splendor. To look at it gives a sense of holy awe to the immortal gods as well as mortal humans. It has a hundred heads growing from the root up. Its sweet fragrance spread over the wide skies up above. And the earth below smiled back in all its radiance. So too the churning mass of the salty sea.

[15] She [Persephone] was filled with a sense of wonder, and she reached out with both hands to take hold of the pretty plaything. And the earth, full of roads leading every which way, opened up under her. It happened on the Plain of Nysa. There it was that the Lord who receives many guests[= Hades] made his lunge. He was riding on a chariot drawn by immortal horses. The son of Kronos. The one known by many names. He seized her against her will, put her on his golden chariot, [20] And drove away as she wept. She cried with a piercing voice, calling upon her father [Zeus], the son of Kronos, the highest and the best. But not one of the immortal ones, or of human mortals, heard her voice. Not even the olive trees which bear their splendid harvest. Except for the daughter of Persaios, the one who keeps in mind the vigor of nature. [25] She heard it from her cave. She is Hekate, with the splendid headband. And the Lord Helios [Sun] heard it too, the magnificent son of Hyperion. They heard the daughter calling upon her father [Zeus], the son of Kronos. But he, all by himself, was seated far apart from the gods, inside a temple, the precinct of many prayers. He was receiving beautiful sacrificial rites from mortal humans.

[30] She was being taken, against her will, at the behest of Zeus, by her father’s brother, the one who makes many signs, the one who receives many guests, the son of Kronos, the one with many names. On the chariot drawn by immortal horses. So long as the earth and the star-filled sky were still within the goddess’s [Persephone’s] view, as also the fish-swarming sea, with its strong currents, [35] as also the rays of the sun, she still had hope that she would yet see her dear mother and that special group, the immortal gods. For that long a time her great mind was soothed by hope, distressed as she was. The peaks of mountains resounded, as did the depths of the sea, with her immortal voice. And the Lady Mother [Demeter] heard her.[40] And a sharp pain seized her heart. The headband on her hair she tore off with her own immortal hands and threw a dark cloak over her shoulders. She sped off like a bird, soaring over land and sea, looking and looking. But no one was willing to tell her the truth [45], not one of the gods, not one of the mortal humans, not one of the birds, messengers of the truth.

4. Hades abducts Persephone. Fresco from royal tomb at Vergina (ancient Aigai), Macedonia, c. 336 BCE. Vergina Archaeological Museum, in situ. Image: Wikimedia.

1920px-Hades_abducting_Persephone.jpg

5. Homeric Hymn to Demeter, 7th/6th c. BCE. Translated by Gregory Nagy. 93-117.

She went away, visiting the cities of humans, with all their fertile landholdings, shading over her appearance, for a long time. And not one of men, [95] looking at her, could recognize her. Not one of women, either, who are accustomed to wear their girdles low-slung. Until, one day, she came to the house of bright-minded Keleos, who was at that time ruler of Eleusis, fragrant with incense. She sat down near the road, sad in her dear heart, at the well called Parthenion [= the Virgin’s Place], where the people of the polis used to draw water. [100] She sat in the shade, under the thick growth of an olive tree, looking like an old woman who had lived through many years and who is deprived of giving childbirth and of the gifts of Aphrodite, lover of garlands in the hair. She was like those nursemaids who belong to kings, administrators of divine ordinances, and who are guardians of children in echoing palaces.

[105] She was seen by the daughters of Keleos, son of Eleusinos, who were coming to get water, easy to draw [from the well], in order to carry it in bronze water-jars to the dear home of their father. There were four of them, looking like goddesses with their bloom of adolescence: Kallidike, Kleisidike, and lovely Demo. [110] And then there was Kallithoe, who was the eldest of them all. They did not recognize her [= Demeter]. Gods are hard for mortals to see. They [= the daughters] stood near her and spoke these winged words: “Who are you, and where are you from, old woman, old among old humans? Why has your path taken you far away from the city? Why have you not drawn near to the palace? [115] There, throughout the shaded chambers, are women who are as old as you are, and younger ones too, who would welcome you in word and in deed.”

6. Homeric Hymn to Demeter, 7th/6th c. BCE. Translated by Gregory Nagy. 184-204.

Straightaway they came to the palace of sky-nurtured Keleos. [185]. They went through the hall, heading for the place where their mistress, their mother, was sitting near the threshold of a well-built chamber, holding in her lap her son, a young seedling. And they ran over to her side. She [= Demeter] in the meantime went over to the threshold and stood on it, with feet firmly planted, and her head reached all the way to the ceiling. And she filled the whole indoors with a divine light. [190] She [= Metaneira] was seized by a sense of respect, by a holy wonder, by a blanching fear. She [= Metaneira] yielded to her [= Demeter] the chair on which she was sitting, and she told her to sit down. But Demeter, the bringer of seasons [horai], the giver of splendid gifts, refused to sit down on the splendid chair, but she stood there silent, with her beautiful eyes downcast, [195] until Iambe, the one who knows what is worth caring about  and what is not, set down for her a well-built stool, on top of which she threw a splendid fleece.

On this she [= Demeter] sat down, holding with her hands a veil before her face. For a long time she sat on the stool, without uttering a sound, in her sadness. And she made no approach, either by word or by gesture, to anyone. [200] Unsmiling, not partaking of food or drink, she sat there, wasting away with yearning for her daughter with the low-slung girdle, until Iambe, the one who knows what is dear and what is not, started making fun. Making many jokes, she turned the Holy Lady’s disposition in another direction, making her smile and laugh and have a merry heart.

7. Homeric Hymn to Demeter, 7th/6th c. BCE. Translated by Gregory Nagy. 302-315.

But blond-haired Demeter sat down and stayed there [= in the temple], shunning the company of all the blessed ones [= the gods]. She was wasting away with yearning for her daughter with the low-slung girdle. [305] She made that year the most terrible one for mortals, all over the Earth, the nurturer of many. It was so terrible, it makes you think of the Hound of Hades. The Earth did not send up any seed. Demeter, she with the beautiful garlands in her hair, kept them [= the seeds] covered underground. Many a curved plough was dragged along the fields by many an ox – all in vain. Many a bright grain of wheat fell into the earth – all for naught.

[310] At this moment, she [= Demeter] could have destroyed the entire race of mortal humans with harsh hunger, thus depriving of their time the dwellers of the Olympian abodes – [the time of] sacrificial portions of meat for eating or for burning, if Zeus had not noticed with his mind, taking note in his heart. First, he sent Iris, with the golden wings, to summon [315] Demeter with the splendid hair, with a beauty that is much loved.

8. Homeric Hymn to Demeter, 7th/6th c. BCE. Translated by Gregory Nagy. 334-345.

But when the loud-thunderer, the one who sees far and wide, heard this, [335] he sent to Erebos [= Hades] the one with the golden wand, the Argos-killer [= Hermes], so that he may persuade Hades, with gentle words, that he allow holy Persephone to leave the misty realms of darkness and be brought up to the light in order to join the daimones [here = the gods in Olympus], so that her mother may see her with her own eyes and then let go of her anger. [340] Hermes did not disobey, but straightaway he headed down beneath the depths of the earth, rushing full speed, leaving behind the abode of Olympus. And he found the Lord inside his palace, seated on a funeral couch, along with his duly acquired bedmate, the one who was much under duress, yearning for her mother, and suffering from the unbearable things [345] inflicted on her by the will of the blessed ones [= the gods].

9. Attic red-figure vase (kylix), c. 430 BCE. Interior of cup) shows Persephone, holding something small (pomegranate seed?), sitting and Hades, holding a cornucopia (right) and a phialē (centre), reclining on a couch. Image: British Museum.

Persephone and Hades.jpg

10. Homeric Hymn to Demeter, 7th/6th c. BCE. Translated by Gregory Nagy. 370-384.

[370] And high-minded Persephone rejoiced. Swiftly she set out, with joy. But he [= Hades] gave her, stealthily, the honey-sweet berry of the pomegranate to eat, peering around him. He did not want her to stay for all time over there, at the side of her honorable mother, the one with the dark robe [375] The immortal horses were harnessed to the golden chariot by Hades, the one who makes many signs. She got up on the chariot, and next to her was the powerful Argos-killer, who took reins and whip into his dear hands and shot out of the palace [of Hades]. And the horses sped away eagerly. [380] Swiftly they made their way along the long journey. Neither the sea nor the water of the rivers nor the grassy valleys nor the mountain peaks could hold up the onrush of the immortal horses.

11. Apulian (South Italian) red-figure vase (volute krater), c. 370-350 BCE. Hermes left, accompanies Hades and Persephone in a chariot, with Hekate right. Image: British Museum.

persephone british museum.jpg

Standard
lecture

Female body as nature, as object.

Identifications
— hieros gamos
— autochthony
— vase/body analogy

1. Plutarch (1st/2nd c. CE), Advice to Bride and Groom 42 = Moralia 144b.

The Athenians observe three sacred ploughings: the first at Scirum in commemoration of the most ancient of sowings; the second in Raria, and the third near the base of the Acropolis, the so‑called Buzygius (the ‘ox-yoking’). But most sacred of all such sowings is the marital sowing and ploughing for the procreation of children. It is a beautiful epithet which Sophocles [5th c. BCE] applied to Aphrodite when he called her “bountiful-bearing Cytherea.” Therefore man and wife ought especially to indulge in this with circumspection, keeping themselves pure from all unholy and unlawful intercourse with others, and not sowing seed from which they are unwilling to have any offspring, and from which if any issue does result, they are ashamed of it, and try to conceal it.

2. Page duBoisSowing the Body (1988: 39):

“Yet [Plutarch’s] emphasis on this metaphor, on the analogy between the field and a woman’s body, gives voice to a persistent connection in Greek thinking about the body, about sexual difference, about intercourse. He reiterates the traditional view, appropriate to an agricultural economy, that agriculture and human reproduction are similar activities, that, like the fields of the earth, women must be cultivated, ploughed by their husbands, to ensure a new crop of children, which is like the crops of the fields…This metaphor, associating the woman’s body and the earth, which establishes a metaphorical connection between the field and her sexual organs, is a traditional analogy, as Plutarch demonstrates; it expresses a relationship that is not merely stereotypical but is so deeply felt by the culture that it appears everywhere.”

3. Homer, Iliad (8th c. BCE), 14.346-349:

With that the son of Cronus caught his wife in his arms
and under them now the holy earth burst with fresh green grass,
crocus and hyacinth, clover soaked with dew, so thick and soft
it lifted their bodies off the hard packed ground…
Folded deep in that bed they lay and round them wrapped
a marvelous cloud of gold, and glistening showers of dew
rained down around them both.

4. Oxford Classical Dictionary: “marriage, sacred” 

“Ἱερὸς γάμος [hieros gamos] was a name given to a festival in Athens, but in modern times the phrase has been given a much wider meaning, and is often used to denote the presentation—conceptual, mythical, or ritual—of a solemn sexual union involving at least one divine partner. The clearest case of a sacred marriage is that of Zeus and Hera, marriage indeed being central to Hera’s ‘meaning’. Rituals which re-enact or allude in some way to this marriage seem to be attested in several parts of Greece: in Athens (the Theogamia or ἱερὸς γάμος), at Cnossus, and possibly at Plataea in the curious festival called Daedala, which is explained as the fake marriage, interrupted by Hera, of Zeus with a log dressed as a bride and called Plataea… Although the description of Zeus and Hera’s union in The Iliad (14.347–51), where the event is marked by rainfall and the growth of lush vegetation, has led scholars to interpret the scene as a marriage of Sky and Earth resulting in the fruitfulness of nature, it is likely that on the ritual level the divine marriage was concerned not so much with fertility as with the social aspects of human marriage, forming a legitimating model for the institution. It is possible that the myth of the abduction of Kore and its related rituals should also be understood as a sacred marriage, one dramatizing the darker side of the bride’s experience.”

5. Page duBoisSowing the Body (1988: 58):

“Each of these models for analogizing the female body to the earth — the preagricultural, the artisanal, and the agricultural — has concomitant dangers associated with it; the ambivalence of the earliest Greek thinkers towards the earth, who might withhold her bounty, is also expressed toward the female body analogically.”

6. Homer, Iliad (8th c. BCE), 6.146-150: Glaucos speaking to Diomedes:

“High-hearted son of Tydeus, why ask about my birth?
Like the generations of leaves, the lives of mortal men.
Now the wind scatters the old leaves across the earth,
now the living timber bursts with the new buds
and spring comes round again. And so with men:
as one generation comes to life, another dies away.”

7. Hesiod, Works and Days (8th c. BCE), 143-147: 

Zeus the father made another race of speech-endowed human beings, a third one, of bronze, not similar to the silver one at all, out of ash trees—terrible and strong they were, and they cared only for the painful works of Ares and for acts of violence. They did not eat bread, but had a strong-hearted spirit of adamant.

8. Page duBois, Sowing the Body (1988: 42-43):

“The forest in book 6 of the Iliad is [p43] indiscriminate; trees grow to be cut down by human effort for human use. But the produce of one’s own fields must be one’s property, just as one’s offspring are. Human beings have the unfortunate necessity of planting seed in discrete earths, particular bodies; women’s promiscuity thus is intolerable, since the nourished product of the planting must be identifiable as the offspring of a particular seed.”

9. “Apollodorus”Library (1st/2nd c. CE) 1.46-48:

Prometheus had a son, Deucalion. He was king of the area around Phthia and married Pyrrha, the daughter of Epimetheus and Pandora, whom the gods made as the first woman. [47] When Zeus wished to wipe out the bronze race, Deucalion built an ark at Prometheus’ direction. He put into it supplies and boarded it with Pyrrha. Zeus poured a great rain from heaven and flooded most of Hellas so that all the people were destroyed except a few who escaped to the nearby high mountains. At that time the mountains in Thessaly split, and everything outside of the Isthmos and the Peloponnesos was flooded. [48] Deucalion was carried in the ark across the sea for nine days and an equal number of nights and landed on Mount Parnassos. There, when the rains stopped, he disembarked and sacrificed to Zeus Phyxios [=God of Escape]. Zeus sent Hermes to him and bade him choose whatever he wanted. Deucalion chose to have people. At Zeus’ direction he picked up rocks and threw them over his head; the ones Deucalion threw became men and the ones Pyrrha threw became women. From this they were also metaphorically called laoi “people” from the word laas “stone.”

10. “Apollodorus”Library (1st/2nd c. CE) 3.188:

Athena went to Hephaistos wanting to have some armor made. He had been jilted by Aphrodite, so he was gripped by lust for Athena and began to chase after her, but she fled. When he came near her after a great deal of trouble (he was lame), he tried to have sex with her. But, being an abstinent virgin, she did not let him, and he spilled his seed on the goddess’ leg. Disgusted, she wiped off his semen with some wool and threw it onto the ground. Although she got away and the semen fell on the ground, Erichthonios was born.

11. Page duBois, Sowing the Body (1988: 45-46): go back and read wk 1 on Pandora

“The misogyny of Hesiod’s account is unmistakable. Pandora has a kuneon te noon kai epiklopon ēthos, “a shameless [canine] mind, and a deceitful [thieving] nature.” Pandora removes the lid of a great jar and brings terrible doom on men:

Earlier, human tribes [anthrōpōn] lived on this earth
without suffering and toilsome hardship
and without painful illnesses that bring death to men [andrasi] —
a wretched life ages men before their time —
but the woman with her hands removed the great lid of the jar [pithou mega pōm‘]
and scattered its contents, bringing grief and cares to men [anthrōpoisi].
Works and Days 90-95

Only in the Works and Days does the account of Pandora’s dispersion of evils occur. In the Theogony, it is she herself who is the evil. Hesiod says “From her the fair sex / yes, wicked womenfolk are her descendants [=genos gunaikōn]. / They live among mortal men as a nagging burden / and are no good sharers of abject want but only of wealth” (589-90). His text continues in misogynist complaint. I am not so much interested in the well-known misogyny of Hesiod as in the analogy his text establishes between the ceramic vase and the body of the woman.”

12. Terracotta storage jar (pithos). 1450 BCE-1375 BCE, Crete. Decorated with four bands of incised wavy lines with the appearance of rope. Horizontal relief lines between with diagonal patterning. Height: 114.3cm/45 inches, Diameter: 69.85 cm/27.5 inches. Image: British Museum.

pithos

13. Geometric terracotta wine jug (oinochoe) with raised mastoi (breasts). Attic, 725-700 BCE. Rows of meanders, chevrons, triangles, and checkerboard designs often covered the entire surface of decorated vases. Image: Getty Museum, Los Angeles.

oinochoe

English translations: Homer’s Iliad, Robert Fagles (1990); Hesiod’s Works and Days, Glenn Most (2007); “Apollodorus”, Smith-Trzaskoma (2007).

Standard
lecture

A different kind of translation.

Identifications
— women who translate
— classicists vs. writers (novelists/poets)
— dmōē

1. A page from a notebook Emily Wilson kept while translating the Odyssey (Geordie Wood for The New York Times Nov. 2. 2017).

Screen Shot 2018-09-20 at 6.55.35 AM.png

2. Emily Wilson, (2018) introduction to Homer’s Odyssey, p88-89:

“To translate a domestic female slave, called in the original a dmōē [δμωή] (“female-house-slave”), as a “maid” or “domestic servant” would imply that she was free. I have often used “slave,” although it is less specific than many of the many terms for types of slaves in the original. The need to acknowledge the fact and the horror of slavery, and to mark the fact that the idealized society depicted in the poem is one of slavery is shockingly taken for granted, seems to me [p89] to outweigh the need to specify, in every instance, the type of slave. I have also used the terms “house girl” and “house boy.” The analogy with a slave-owning plantation in the antebellum American South is certainly not exact, but it is at least a little closer than the alternative analogies — of a Victorian stately home or a modern nightclub. I try to avoid importing contemporary types of sexism into this ancient poem, instead shining a clear light on the particular forms of sexism and patriarchy that do exist in the text, which are partly familiar from our world. For instance, in the scene where Telemachus oversees the hanging of the slaves who have been sleeping with the suitors, most translations introduce derogatory language (“sluts” or “whores”), suggesting that these women are being punished for a genuinely objectionable pattern of behavior, as if their sexual history actually justified their deaths. The original Greek does not label these slaves with any derogatory language.”

3. Yung In Chae, “Women Who Weave.” Eidolon. Nov. 16 2017.

“Much fuss has also been made about Wilson’s translation of κυνώπις [kynōpis], which means ‘dog-faced’ but in a fairly capacious way. Helen uses it in reference to herself in Book 4 [Ody. 4.145], when Telemachus stops by Sparta while searching for news of his father. Robert Fagles makes Helen call herself a ‘shameless whore.’ Richard Lattimore and Walter Shewring both opt for ‘shameless me.’ Martin Hammond goes simple with just ‘whore’ and Anthony Verity settles on the more colorful ‘shameless bitch.’ This is Wilson’s version of the passage:

I never saw two people so alike
as this boy and Telemachus, the son
of spirited Odysseus, the child
he left behind, a little newborn baby,
the day the Greeks marched off to Troy, their minds
fixated on the war and violence.
They made my face the cause that hounded them.

By choosing ‘hounded’  — an English idiom — Wilson is essentially claiming that the ‘dog’ aspect is more important than the precise pitch of the Greek, and, in the introduction, she draws a connection between the ‘dog’ aspect and the ‘woman’ aspect. ‘The idea that women or goddesses, especially desirable ones who sleep with men outside marriage, are like dogs, or have doglike faces, recurs at several moments in the poem: Hephaestus uses the same term of his unfaithful, divinely beautiful wife, Aphrodite; the dead Agamemnon calls his murderous wife a ‘she-dog’; and the pretty slave girl Melantho is called a ‘dog’ by both Penelope and Odysseus,’ she points out [2018: 43].

Granted — as Wilson herself acknowledges — κυνώπις is not exclusively reserved for women; in that sense, it is not the exact equivalent of “bitch,” which she says “would be a misleading translation.” But the association nevertheless persists: “Women, more than men, are like dogs, because they are put low on the social hierarchy, and because they might be scarily capable of seeing through social conventions, and might refuse to stay in their place,” Wilson argues. “But the idea that it is not the woman or goddess herself, but her face, that is like a dog suggests that it might be male perceptions of women, rather than female desires themselves, that threaten the social fabric.” [2018: 44] (For those interested, Cristiana Franco has a book on this subject [available online via Mugar].)”

4. Yung In Chae, “Women Who Weave.” Eidolon. Nov. 16 2017.

“Wilson’s choice of ‘girls’ is glass but not mirror: it shows us the sexism of the times without implicating us too. Could a man have written The Penelopiad? Or have done what Wilson did in her translation? Maybe. But men had a monopoly on Homer translations for a long time, so they’ve had plenty of chances. And it hasn’t happened so far…As Wilson says in her New York Times profile, “all translations are interpretations.” To translate is not to dig for the One Rendering buried under the crusty layers of the original language. It is to peer at a cloth made during the day, unravel the fabric, then discover a way to weave it back together under a different light.

5. Emily Wilson, interviewed (with Sarah Ruden) by David Kern in Forma Journal. March 3 2018.

“We also need to factor in all the other social factors that often make it hard to be successful and productive while being female. It’s still the case that women, including highly educated and successful women, and even those with partners or husbands, tend to spend a lot more hours per week on childcare, eldercare, and housework than their male peers. I’m the single mother of three wonderful and time-consuming daughters; unlike many of the successful male classical translators, I have never had a wife who could pick up the kids and make dinner.”

6. Emily Wilson, interviewed (with Sarah Ruden) by David Kern in Forma Journal. March 3 2018.

“The task of translation has now become its own kind of obsession—the question of how exactly to create a coherent, readable English text/poem/play that has its own kind of magic, and that responds responsibly to the original, without trying to inhabit an intermediate ground between Greek or Latin and English, but makes sense in its own terms. It’s a very difficult and very interesting kind of work, and I learn a great deal not only about the originals I translate, but also about the English language.”

7. Emily Wilson, interviewed (with Sarah Ruden) by David Kern in Forma Journal. March 3 2018.

“You create a binary between love and fear, which doesn’t entirely make sense to me. There’s a great essay by Stanley Cavell on the avoidance of love in King Lear. Cavell argues that in that play, and also in life, love itself is very often what we’re most afraid of. Instead of love, which involves being able to meet the eyes of another person, and recognize and be recognized by them, we hide behind false love or false words or shame or narcissism. Cordelia’s sisters express false love with their rhetorical excesses, and Lear chooses that false love, because he is scared of the intimacy of telling the truth.

For me, translation is definitely an act of love, both for the English language and for the original language and original text. Part of what that love means is being willing to be unashamed about what I can’t say or do in English.”

8. Dan Chiasson, “The Classics Scholar Redefining What Twitter Can Do.” The New Yorker. March 19 2018.

“On March 8th, International Women’s Day, when McDonald’s flipped its arches and Vladimir Putin expressed “our enchantment” with women’s “beauty and tenderness,” Emily Wilson, the classics scholar and translator of Homer, spent part of the day on Twitter. In sentences whose measured clauses stood out in the cascade of blurted takes, she wrote:

In the ensuing tweetstorm, Wilson discussed one of the most casually brutal passages in Homer, when Telemachus, Odysseus’ son, acting at his father’s command, executes twelve slave women who slept with the suitors vying to marry Penelope, the queen, during Odysseus’ long absence. Wilson has not been shy about calling out prior translators of the poem, dead and alive.”

9. Dan Chiasson, “The Classics Scholar Redefining What Twitter Can Do.” The New Yorker. March 19 2018.

“Regardless, Wilson’s presence on Twitter is quietly revolutionary, a new kind of experience for readers, poets, translators, and really anyone who likes to watch knowledge take shape in an open format, its seams exposed. Like-minded people sharing their obsessions were the soil in which the larger Internet once grew; those transactions, commercialized and monetized, remade the world, with infinite ramifications downstream, some miraculous, some horrible.”

10. Dan Chiasson, “The Classics Scholar Redefining What Twitter Can Do.” The New Yorker. March 19 2018.

“Translation is a little different: the range of choices is narrowed, the criteria for choice more transparent. Any time we see a phrase next to the alternatives that it beat out, we learn something, not merely about literature but about the normally veiled process of selection by which literature, word for word, is constituted. This makes the art especially suited to having its mechanism unmasked. Wilson is the most prominent translator I know of to have exposed her choices to something like public scrutiny: her prominence, in this instance, really matters, since in Twitter terms it gives her more followers, more potential interlocutors.”

11. Mary Beard, Women and Power (2017: 8):

“My aim here is to take a long view, a very long view, on the culturally awkward relationship between the voice of women and the public sphere of speech-making, debate and comment: politics in its widest sense, from office committees to the floor of the House. I am hoping that the long view will help us get beyond the simple diagnosis of ‘misogyny’ that we tend a bit lazily to fall back on. To be sure, ‘misogyny’ is one way of describing what’s going on. (If you go on a television programme and then receive a load of tweets comparing your genitalia to a variety of unpleasantly rotting vegetables, it’s hard to find a more apt word.) But if we want to understand – and do something about – the fact that women, even when they are not silenced, still have to pay a very high price for being heard, we need to recognise that it is a bit more complicated and that there is a long back-story.”

Standard
lecture

The women of epic. Nausicaa. Circe.

Identifications
— female space vs. male space
— sexual fidelity
— Nausicaa
— Arete

1. Emily Wilson, (2018) introduction to Homer’s Odyssey, p38:

The Odyssey allows us to imagine a far more varied array of possible female lives. Its various settings — in multiple different islands, homes, and palaces, in peacetime rather than war — are mostly places where women or goddesses have a defined position and a voice. Some scholars have tried to find buried memories in The Odyssey of an ancient, pre-Greek matriarchal society — for example, in the peculiarly high status of Queen Arete in Phaeacia, who sometimes, confusingly, seems more important than her husband, or in Penelope’s power in Ithaca over even the male members of her household, most prominently Telemachus. But these elements in the poem probably tell us more about male fears and fantasies, both ancient and modern, than about the historical realities of archaic or pre-archaic women’s lives.

Samuel Butler [1835-1902] famously suggested in the nineteenth century that the Odyssey must have been written by a woman, because it has so many interesting and sympathetically portrayed female characters: ‘People always write by preference what they know best, and they know best what they most are, and have most to do with.'”

2. Emily Wilson, (2018) introduction to Homer’s Odyssey, p40:

“The poem circles around the question of whether an elite woman’s worth depends entirely on sexual fidelity. Odysseus has affairs with Calypso and Circe in the course of his wanderings, as well as a carefully calibrated flirtation with young Nausicaa. These episodes are not presented as a sign of disloyalty to his wife or a blot on his character…”

3. Attic red-figure small box (pyxis), c. 420 BCE in the Boston MFA. The pyxis was used for storing trinkets, ointments, cosmetics, and is therefore generally associated with women. This “vase” shape was regularly decorated with scenes of female activity. This pyxis shows a naked Odysseus encountering Nausicaa, a scene from the Odyssey Book 6.

Odyssey pyxis 1.jpg

odyssey pyxis 2 .jpg

4Homer, Odyssey (8th c. BCE), 6.119-146:

“What is this country I have come to now?
Are all the people wild and violent,
or good, hospitable, and god-fearing?
I heard the sound of female voices. Is it
nymphs, who frequent the craggy mountaintops,
and river streams and meadows lush with grass?
Or could this noise I hear be human voices?
I have to try to find out who they are.”

Odysseus jumped up from our the bushes.
Grasping a leafy branch he broke it off
to cover up his manly private parts.
Just as a mountain lion trusts its strength,
and beaten by the rain and wind, its eyes
burn bright as it attacks the cows or sheep,
or wild deer, and hunger drives it on
to try the sturdy pens of sheep — so need
impelled Odysseus to come upon
the girls with pretty hair, though he was naked.
All caked with salt, he looked a dreadful sight.
They ran along the shore quite terrified,
some here, some there. But Nausicaa stayed still.
Athena made her legs stop trembling
and gave her courage in her heart. She stood there.
He wondered, should he touch her knees, or keep
some distance and use charming words, to beg
the pretty girl to show him to the town,
and give him clothes. At last he thought it best
to keep some distance and use words to beg her.

5. Sarah PomeroyGoddesses, Whores, Wives, and Slaves (1975: 18): 

“Heroic Greek society demanded that all mature women be married, and destined all young women for that end. In the Odyssey, upon meeting the princess Nausicaa, who is of marriageable age, Odysseus almost immediately [6.180-185] expresses the polite wish that she find a husband and enjoy a harmonious marriage.”

6a. Homer, Odyssey (8th c. BCE), 6.302-308:

Go through the courtyard, in the house and on
straight to the Great Hall. You will find my mother
sitting beside the hearth by firelight,
and spinning her amazing purple wool.
She leans against a pillar, slaves behind her.
My father has a throne right next to hers;
he sits and sips his wine, just like a god.

6b. Homer, Odyssey (8th c. BCE), 7.104-112:

The King had fifty slave girls in his house;
some ground the yellow grain upon the millstone,
others wove cloth and sat there spinning yarn,
with fingers quick as rustling poplar leaves,
and oil was dripping from the woven fabric.
Just as Phaeacian men have special talent
for launching ships to sea, the women there
are expert weavers, since Athena gave them
find minds and skill to make most lovely things.

6c. Homer, Odyssey (8th c. BCE), 7.232-239:

The dishes from the feast
were cleaned up by the slaves. White-armed Arete
had noticed his fine clothes, the cloak and shirt
she wove herself, with help from her slave girls.
Her words flew out to him as if on wings.
“Stranger, let me be first to speak to you.
Where are you from? And who gave you those clothes?
I thought you said you drifted here by sea?”

7. Attic black-figure drinking cup (kylix), c. 560-525 BCE in the Boston MFA. Circe stands in the centre of this scene, stirring and offering a cup to one of Odysseus’ companions, in the middle of transforming: his head is a boar, his hands are still human. Depicts Odyssey 10.228-251, with some differences.

odyseey bk 1o.jpg

odyseey bk 10.jpg

8. Homer, Odyssey (8th c. BCE), 10.229-244:

They shouted to her. She came at once,
opened the shining doors, and asked them in.
So thinking nothing of it, in they went.
Eurylochus alone remained outside,
suspecting trickery. She led them in,
sat them on chairs, and blended them a potion
of barley, cheese, and golden honey, mixed
with Pramnian wine. She added potent drugs
to make them totally forget their home.
They took and drank the mixture. Then she struck them,
using her magic wand, and penned them in
the pigsty. They were turned to pigs in body
and voice and hair; their minds remained the same.
They squealed at their imprisonment, and Circe
thew them some mast and cornel cherries — food
that pigs like rooting for in muddy ground.

9. Homer, Odyssey (8th c. BCE), 10.301-309:

The bright mercurial god
pulled from the ground a plant and showed me how
its root is black, its flower white as milk.
The gods call this plant Moly [=μῶλυ]. It is hard
for mortal men to dig it up, but gods
are able to do everything. Then Hermes
flew through the wooded island, back towards
high Mount Olympus. I went in the house
of Circe. My heart pounded as I walked.

English translations: Homer’s Odyssey, Emily Wilson (2018).

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