Iphigenia’s heroic moment

κλέος γὰρ οὔ σε μὴ λίπῃIphigenia at Aulis, line 1505 When we read anthologized exploits of ancient Greek heroes, the stories typically revolve around male warriors, such that the concept of “heroic exchange” seems to be defined primarily, if not exclusively, in terms of physical skill. Heroes are often portrayed as warriors who excel onContinue reading “Iphigenia’s heroic moment”

Why do we remember?

“For Mnemosyne, who rules over the hillsof Eleutherai, bore the Muses, in Pieria, after sleeping with the sonof Kronos, to be a respite from evil and a cessation of sorrow.”—Theogony by Hesiod, translated by Barry Powell I love this conceptualization of memory’s children as a balm for human sorrows, the idea that memory can inspireContinue reading “Why do we remember?”

Fate and Choice in the Theban Plays

“Apollo, friends, Apollo—he ordained my agonies—these, my pains on pains!But the hand that struck my eyes was mine,mine alone—no one else—I did it all myself!” —Oedipus Tyrannus 1467-71, trans. Robert Fagles Who (if any) is your favorite ancient playwright? I’ve tended to favor Euripides and overlook Sophocles, possibly because of a traumatic elementary school memoryContinue reading “Fate and Choice in the Theban Plays”

The hero’s body in Sophocles

“I come with a gift for you,my own shattered body…no feast for the eyes,but the gains it holds are greater than great beauty.”Oedipus at Colonus 649-651, trans. by Robert Fagles “If he is really dear to you, and your heart mourns for him, allow him to be beaten down in the harsh crush of battleContinue reading “The hero’s body in Sophocles”

The hero in Aeschylus’ Oresteia

Gregory Nagy writes about how examining the hero’s importance and role in the ancient world can shed light on the meaning of ancient texts. His analysis of Aeschylus’ Oresteia inspired me to see these plays in a fresh way. It relies, in part, on accepting two thing: a) heroes are not morally perfect; their larger-than-lifeContinue reading “The hero in Aeschylus’ Oresteia”

The Aeneid and a new kind of hero

“Wars and a man I sing—an exile driven on by Fate,he was the first to flee the coast of Troy,destined to reach Lavinia shores and Italian soil,yet many blows he took on land and sea from the gods above—thanks to cruel Juno’s relentless rage—and many losseshe bore in battle too, before he could found aContinue reading “The Aeneid and a new kind of hero”

5 favorite books about the ancient world

Today I’m sharing a few works of Homeric scholarship that have transformed my understanding of the poems. When I was thinking about them, I visualized the rosebuds on my desk that have been slowly opening up. The Ancient Greek Hero in 24 Hours by Gregory Nagy. Nagy approaches the poems through significant ancient Greek words,Continue reading “5 favorite books about the ancient world”

A visit to Delphi

“Then you raced up a mountain ridgeand came to Krisa beneath the snows of Parnassos,where the shoulder of the mountain turnstowards the west, with a rockhanging over from aboveand a hollow rugged glade running underneath.There the lord Phoebus Apollodecided to make his lovely temple.” Hymn to Pythian Apollo, trans. by Jules Cashford One of myContinue reading “A visit to Delphi”