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Classical Thought & Thinking : Notification No. 10

March 19, 2012

 

I have held back from new Notifications since I began a serialization of the Mythical Saga of Perseus & Andromeda. It appears in reverse of the serialization upon my Blog, which can be found at http://swbardot.authrosxpress.com. Now that I'm almost finished the synthesis of the Saga's prehistorical bases I can at least be brief by this latest contributions to Newsletter section of this website.

Greek Homosexuality from Antiquity :
From the Greek Dark Age to Modern Times, 1190 BC to Present

Most scholars at classical studies are satisfied with the consensus that overt homosexual relations were highly tolerated within the bounds of discretion and least abusive sexual acts between partners. They also agree that stereotyping Greeks by all their ages of prehistory and history grossly exaggerates that tolerance of an entire people to what we would call the phases of life wherein mostly innocent homosexuality equates mostly to strongest friendship and brief experimentation before lapse of the proclivity by adulthood.

The evidence is ample of overt homosexuality, even after admitting that sexual relations are as much by inference as by stated remarks to a surviving form of their documentation. The Spartans sequestered their youth by the sexes through their eating clubs, a commissary fraternity practiced within the elite citizenship criteria that the Spartan constitution based upon oligarchy. Men well into their manhood partnered with young members within the commissary, and enduring homosexual relations are inferred in the imposed long period of bachelorhood imposed upon those young men. When the men finally married by arrangement of  husband and bride by elite parentage, the custom was to crop the bride's hair styling to very short tonsure, while also dressing her in tunic and dress that was clearly asexual or outright male. Even so, men once of marriageable age had little problems at adjustment to heterosexual relationships of man and wife, and the years of overt sex with another man had none afterwards by way of reprise. Homosexual companionship within the aristocratic orders of Athens had much the same king of youth orientation, such as is notably inferred by the strongest friendship which Socrates enjoyed with Alcibiades as wise old man to dashing charismatic youth, respectively. For last example we have the same clearly overt sexuality by Sappho's poems, as between the highly mature female poet (of masculine gender name) and her younger paramours, the obviously female subjects of her metrical flights into erotic rhapsody. Even so, the usual outcome for all examples cited was lapse of the homosexual propensity for both partners as they neared an age where paternity or maternity of children became the paramount pre-occupation of life stage. Greeks of both sexes were doting parents, even if mother was at lead over childhood while father was more dominant while teenage girls and lads passed through puberty. Sappho, the modern Lesbian Islanders protest in defiance of "Lesbianism," actually died over the rejection of a man with whom she was deeply and passionately infatuated. I side with the Lesbians that they feel tainted with the abusive tag line of "Home of the Dikes." Today they have to chase off true modern females who would segregate the Island's few good beaches for openly naked consortship and frolic by their seashore.

Strong disagreement about the implied tolerance take several tenets: (1) the existential rationale(s) for open and tolerated homosexuality, (2) how and when it might have become prevalent for the Greeks more than for any other majority ethnicities of comparable venerability, and (3), but hardly finally, the degree of the overt practices between partners. What follows, nonetheless, is a very strong caution about overly assuming the tolerance even for the classical period cultures of the Greeks during the 1st millennium BC. Be mindful, moreover, that I do admit to subjectivity of my own that I'll put forth incisively.

As I see the existential reasons or reasoning, they began within the Greek Dark Age as concomitant the final incursions of two ethnic "races" that completed the final pan-Hellenic ethnicity that we call the Ancient Greek. The first diffusion came down the Denaric Alps, a massif along the Adriatic Sea pointing SSW to elision with the greater Pindus Range. It melded with the obscure highland culture of the Dorians by a small tribal brotherhood, perhaps only a phratry, of Doris at just above Mount Parnassos of Central Greece. Over the two generation after the fall of Troy, a pan-Hellenic event that I range within circa 1250-34 BC, the ancient regimes of autocratic Wanakes (chiefs over chiefs or Great King over petty kings) brought the regions of their supremacy to halt and subsequent exposure to easy invasion. The meld of transient foreigners out of ancient Illyris was that of rude primitives and prudish highlanders of great sophistication. The resulting hybrid culture proved loathing of goddesses, any religious tradition expressive of the Great Earth Mother, Goddess Creatrix and of Renewal, by whom a multiplicity of female aspects of a sidereal, meteorological, geomorphologic and abstract names. This culture took two centuries to elevate the Olympian Pantheon of six goddesses and six gods as primary deities. Another century of dark age, a single one of renaissance and a first century of the Archaic Age (800 ff, at the earliest) rendered their "religion" as orthodox polytheism, with a transition from three male gods based upon Zeus, Poseidon and Hades[originally Dyaos, Don and Dis] to Zeus alone, as by far the most powerful monarchic deity over his fellowship of Olympians.

The other ethnic infusion was the Achaiwoi whom most scholars know best as the Achaeans. Their origins were central Asiatic, from modern Armenia and Azerbaijan, an exceptionally competent last wave of equestrian culture by both nomadic life and forays of adventurous young men. Ever constant that rode over the Aeolidans, Aeolians and Minyans, but not until the middle of the 11th century BC. They did not begin the Greek Dark Age but they definitely repressed the resurgence of the still early  Greeks, driving them to crossings in flight to the Anatol instead of to renaissance by staying put.

Between the Illyrians/Dorians at meld and the Achaiwoi it's hard to define whom of them both was the most misogynist. I opt for the Achaiwoi as particularly misanthropic towards the female sex while pervasively and overtly homosexual within their nomadic ranks. unlike the Dorians, who had a traditional tolerance of women, howsoever reluctantly, the Achaiwoi seemed to have purged matriarchy wherever they trammeled new ground by hooves of their horses. But there's no certainty to my assertions and I have to admit so. Allow, however, that this Achaean culture never went further than melding with the precursor waves of their own equestrian caste by Near Asia. I believe that the legendary Aiakos conquered the Minyans to reestablish the ethnic Aeolidans and Aeolians, before they melded by common speech of the Aeolic dialect. Scholars call the Minyans Achaeans, but I think their consensus is premature if not outright wrong. Most definitely the Minyans would have defined the upbringing of Achilles, since Homer's name for them was Myrmidons. Even  so, he was saved from that upbringing by the rupture of his mother and father's marriage, whereby his sire Peleus consigned his education first to the Cheiron, a high chief of Magnesia, and later to a royal retainer known from Homer as Phoenix.

The Minyans were overt homosexuals of a first order by promiscuous sexual relations. I think they are the only such of that ilk that can be found in the Late Bronze Age of the earliest Greeks known, whereas the pre-Hellenes who preceded them, by many precursor ethnicities, were rarely overtly homosexual at all, except within persons of either sex who took calling to religious service as priests or priestesses. So I have always taken with great circumspection that Achilles and Patroklos were lovers since their young manhoods, when it's so obvious otherwise that they were greatest friends of passions mutual towards warfare rather than towards each other. Yes, I respect admirable persons who believe otherwise, particularly Eric Shanoyer who had taken his acculturation to the Bronze Age Greek from the pre-Classical Tradition, which is mostly about literary interpretation of ancient writ and epic and least about prehistory in any robust sense of cultural norms and values. Recently, there are books to his persuasion about the homosexual love of Achilles and Patroklos after the former's consortship with Deidamaia daughter-of-Lykomedes of Skiros Island, by which the son Pyrrhus who became of the heroic name Neoptolemos.

I would advise lay persons in classical studies to doubt their sexual relations. Believe instead the inordinate capacity of the Greeks to make fast and firm friends of a mutually supportive bents towards each other’s wives, children and prospering families. What might have been the peccadilloes of youth did not ordinarily last. Of the historic periods that attest to overt homosexuality, keep the accent on youth, and not on old age.

Finally, with respect to priestesses of the Late Bronze Age, allow that women became novitiates in late girlhood and became postulants to a specific deity before they became nubile, which was also very early for most girls. Once nubile maidens within a sororal order they could leave their college to resume a secular life of consortship or marriage. If they stayed they were allowed consorts by brief terms of wedlock for the sake of bearing a child, the actualization of which was a major pre-occupation of all women. They might re-enter a life of religious devotions as they "transfigured" from maiden to matron to crone. Sororal colleges, or orders, were good training for rural governance of any plantation agronomy. Maidens graduated from postulant to secular rural matron out of want of a man, or out of disappointment that they found themselves depraved of their goddess’ grace, or wanting at their cult devotion. They might return to orders after they had finished their years at maternity, finding their loveless marriages to husbands to unbearable to continue. They might return because they discovered themselves more rapturous for women than for men. I think many widows returned to orders to nurture young girls and early maidens to the ways of religious orders. they became respected elders for their good culture and wisdom tradition by early life. They set girls mostly straight on to heterosexual love, but also assisted openly homosexual women at finding their happiness in the child or children of their maternity, through such things as religious festival tryst and assignation.

Priests, a profession or calling that's even older than prostitution, have been of homosexual proclivities since they first formed orders of each other. Unlike their secular counterparts, they were unlikely to mature in to heterosexual relationships. A priesthood was a good resort to cling to for men who were genetically disposed to their needs to be a woman as a matter of sexual relations. Others were into homosexuality for the power of abuse and opportunity to be deviant, rather than the opportunity by a calling to nurture young men who were graced or particularly attractive for their zest for lie. Then, alas, we have a prehistory alike to all of history, or as the French say, the more things change, the more some things stay the same.


Classical Thought & Thinking : Notification No. 9

February 8th, 2012

 

When does Life Begin?

We are troubled and polarized by the harsh extremes of either held conviction, about the pro-life versus the pro-choice opinion on abortions. There seems to be no middle ground to either, and that proves  for good reasons. How can there be a middle ground when it’s so totally evident which is the absolutely right stance to take! If life is a sperm and an egg as melded, at  the instance of absorption of the former into the latter, any time to abort afterwards is a high crime’s occasion. That is hard science: it must compel all our universal answers to when life begins.

But then there are among us the hardheaded thinkers that until life is viable because wnated there is no life by mere congress of sperm and egg. Viable means wanted life, supposedly by the parents awareness of its coming event for themselves. But if not to their want, then wanted can mean for burgeon and increase of society by contribution of new life as an inalterable blessing. If the parents of a fetus in the female womb would have it ejected, then they do not want the child by it, even to detesting the thought of nurturing the birn chuld after the conception. As transformed by pregnancy into viable, stand-alone life by the sixth month to term, however, the decision to end life still doews not achieve mounting, until insupportable reasoning against termination by abortion. That reasoning does occur, and it has legally ended fetuses completely ready for the parturition from their wombs.

To remove that reasining legally, as a last trimester of pregnancy decision, we most often hold for an broadly alleged crime of pre-meditated murder. The pro-choice stance still says then that a fetus can be ejected at anytime on grounds that it’s still unwanted, still incapable of receiving the irrevocable love of either parent. To bring a child into a cruel world unaided by that irrevocable love, of either parent so posited, is a cardinal transgression. That tenet also holds that every religion should hold that paramount value judgment, thus become pre-eminent and licit over any other in contention, that there’s no soul of a fetus. No soul, then the life can’t be killed, because it does not have “existence” yet. Accordingly, a charge of murder can’t be made while fetal life and fetal soul can’t be the same thing in any existential sense.

To which, of course, the pro-life position remains, that any end-of-life decision has nothing to do with some reasoning in proof of existentiality. Or is no longer true that a rigorous scientific justification must trans cend any morality of ending life, for any appropriate reason or faith, because the life so ended has been viable as soon as sperm's insemination of egg.

I have deliberately rendered to extreme the stance by either the pro-life or pro-choice decision that’s embodied within all of us. So deliberately difficult, so deliberately difficult, too, of any compromise unto a middle ground position. For the leading fact will likely always remain, that we can’t or won’t agree upon any such middle position as universally acceptable. That’s why I speculate further upon the matter of such polarized thinking by considering how Greeks born to the 8th century BC might have thought and adjudged ours and theirs about terminating unwanted life.  

Farthest back then, I can say with confidence, Greeks had evolved their value-in-fetus decision to a belief that some child lives must be subject to terminations on good grounds. By the century cited Greeks everywhere had achieved a highly conditioned panoply of values and beliefs about both the dignity and viability of life. That century is also the middle point in their race’s ethnic evolution where some kind of middle position might have become possible to the satisfaction of both extreme positions. Earliest Greeks ever, no longer pre-Hellenes, would have been almost universally pro-life, even as they too exposed maimed babies after conception, as supposedly unviable of any existence that did not command undue burden or distress upon their parents or their communities. Not long before that 8th century BC, however, most all Greeks suffered the deep economic distress of their underpopulated regions. Their lands’ occupants could not meet the potential of its resource for the insufficiency of labor to cultivate them or bring them to adequate yields. What little land they could manage just didn’t support community beyond a bare subsistence level. Often the oxen that enabled the plowing, tillage and seeding commanded most or too much of what was fostered by cultivation to have themselves fed. Insufficiency of yield was by definition the inadequacy of gain by human stoop labor or animal toil together in order to bring land to adequate surplus. So to for husbandry by the raising of livestock for steady state cull and meat consumption of the old or yearling bred livestock species. The only solution was more life, for as much life as could be born. To terminate life before a child could grow into useful labor was more than murder; rather, it was as though a termination of meaningful social existence.

       As I fathom the further evolution of the Greeks, as they grew in populace whereby to adequately bring all arable land into good use and production, more farmers and more livestock herders allowed considerable adequacy of labor to meet greater and greater land productivity. At just the right time in the prehistory of those Greeks, too: For the diversity of human preoccupation attended that adequacy of population to yield at best produce or cull from a whole community agronomy. They assumed as a blessing taken as granted that young children served some chore or function at either tilth or husbandry. We know of matriarchal times, by the ages of so-called primordia, that labor was communal by the cooperation of the lowliest with the most ennobled, the youngest with the oldest, at plantation yields to surplus. Labor was still in shortage because so many pregnancies of women failed to come to term as healthy babies, or to survival of the mothers at the dire process of delivery. Thus the ingrained belief of cultures longest living ago was that life was invaluable at the reckoning, because always wanted, thus rejected only for incapacity to become viable through the normal aging process beyond infancy.

            We have, furthermore, in the Greek language some suggestion of when they deemed life fully viable in keeping with such tenets of matriarchy. Blatantly put, it was at the first anniversary – what we call the first birthday – of a baby. The Greek word for a fetus was an embryo(n), which is to say a neuter living thing. Once a baby delivered from womb, the then born child was a paidion or an uion, which is likewise to say a child thing because also a neuter life as so worded by declension.

This should not have us wondering. The “life” of a fetus and a baby was highly vulnerable, even constantly imperiled during those times of least scientific and technological remedy to child inflictions. So greatly wanted, so greatly grieved for the loss of baby, by miscarriage or by infant malady respectively, language reflected some forbearance of direst hurt. To bear that suffering, best to consider that life hovered just barely within some neutral existence of a single year’s duration. Accordingly, once the first birthday, or the first anniversary of the neuter life still under divine probation, a true child was born and recognized! No longer an embruo(n),the baby became a paidion/paidia or a uion/uia, a baby boy or baby girl by the gender of those words for either. I’m sure that good contemporary psychology, howsoever anachronistic as we’d deem any most ancient psychoanalysis, held greatest celebration for the viable life attained at first birthday. And for any failure of an infant to achieve that anniversary, so, concomitantly, the least suffering of “its” loss.

            Just as our times present us the dilemma over when first life or viable life occurs, so did the oldest times of the Oldest Greeks. The difference, quite obviously, was back then that the Oldest Greeks could not celebrate the unborn or new born as children under one year of age. That, however, was their own confirmed science, much more than a belief by faith of simpletons, but also much less scientific than what biological science now dictates to our own times.

Humanity loves life on practical terms more or less. Greek humanity required that new life be nurtured until useful. That nurture very often failed, and for no lack of “trying.” A mother could accept that lower expectancy of the born child from her womb while nurturing “it” to a first birthday celebration. All the more celebrated that life became affirmed, then, because no longer endangered by whatever unhappy destiny could cause too sudden an end of infancy “as divinely fated.”

For some of us, this Notification shall offer some discipline, perhaps some gratification too,  to their own position at the pro-life or pro-choice extreme. I end by saying that a child by the Mordern Greek still takes the neuter gender of paidi. But for that I have no explanation or any existential argument. That neuter gender so enduring simply commands of us more room for diverse belief in whatever an aborted life. Whether a pre-meditated crime or a reasonable societal expediency, as either there's a decision of most passionate conviction that the primordial Greeks can guide us to.


Classical Thought & Thinking : Notification No. 8

January 31st, 2012

 

Homer’s Real Name and Place in the 8th Century BC

Being a prehistorian and not an expert in literary analysis, I still can be grateful for the occasional breakthrough exposition about how literature was created through the evolution of earliest writ. The literary journal of Boston University, Arion, offers an outstanding book review of a tome by M. L. West, a paramount Homeric Scholar and the author of the work cited below my closing initials. The reviewer is Professor Emeritus Norman Austin of the University of Arizona. I am going to quote from him liberally, to the point of gross plagiarizing, but that’s because West’s book is likely to prove scriptural among our advanced academic communities, at least those that I follow assiduously.

 

      The book has two sections, Disquisition and Analytical Commentary, from the first of which Professor Austin extracts the book author’s “coruscating brilliance.” He leads with the generality, “ We do not know who Homer was and when he lived, if indeed he was a person at all or a confederacy of singers.” Still, we’re  informed later in the review that an early Lyric Age Greek of Anatolia, born to either Smyrna or Chios, lived most of his life far  west of of both maritime city-states, at somewhere between the ancient named Hermos and Kaÿster Rivers. He likely lived amidst refugees from the Greek Peninsula. Those congregations of highly cultured expatriates/emigres by the Dark Age were beginning  returns to the homelands of their Bronze Age forbears, by emigration back and across the Aegean Sea. They were also the Greek intellectuals who led a brief renaissance that began in Anatolia. Its tide reached summit high as the Lyric Age, from 800  to 600 BC. His name comes down as Melisigenes, born 700 BC, floruit 680-40 BC. He was most definitely the accomplished poet and writer behind the first ever material writ of The Iliad, whereby he consolidated a culmination of magnificent recitations in epic verse, as earlier rendered by bards called rhapsodes. They in turn had evolved from a confederacy of their ilk, ancestral bards so to speak, who had composed in full all the subsidiary epics behind The Iliad. They were “the school” just before the masterpiece consolidation of all those epics by a supposedly illiterate genius. His name comes down to us as Homeros, Homer, but it must be stressed that he could not have been the epic poet of the epic work without the skills of writer/composer by alphabet, which  Homeros  most likely was not. Even so, her serves glory for his masterful consolidation of Trojan War saga, and no wonder, accordingly, that disciples of his stylization became known as the Homeridai.

       West further postulates about Melesigenes as follows, as I again plagiarize off Professor Austin:

  1. The Iliad is (almost entirely) the work of one poet.
  2. M. was the Poet of The Iliad but not of The Odyssey.
  3. The Poet of The Iliad was not called Homer (as above explained)
  4. The Poet composed that single epic masterpiece with the aid of writing over a long period.
  5. The Poet did not produce it in one continuous progression from Books A to W.

Accordingly, there’s the open question about whom was truly the poet of The Odyssey. Appositely, the school of epic poets called the Homeridae should have cited Melisigenes, in so far as he was the master guide of epic by the content of the final masterpiece. They should also have cited the rhapsodes as the forbears who brought rendition about the Trojan War from the copious writ of its remembrance by syllabary, by  Linear B Greek or Oldest Greek.

 

[Allow me briefly here an edifying expansion upon the Professor’s remarks so far upon West’s Disquisition.

 

As matters went further, through the throes of joint collaborations, between Phoenicians and Dark Age Greeks, scribes respective to each forged the two separate and yet kindred alphabets just after the 8th century BC had begun. I shall defer to a later Notification the forensic and decryptic sciences that allows us understanding of that further evolution. It served the 1st millennium Greeks the oldest remembrances in verse until the rhapsodes. It took most of the Greek Dark Age (1200 to 800 BC) for revisionist masterful recitations off the whole copious Trojan War lore to allow transcription from writ off syllabary(ies) into standardized alphabetic compositions.  That evolutionary process enabled the very last rhapsodes to pass on their composed masterpieces. Howsoever proven to have been subsidiary works of comparable length to The Iliad, they did not survive in full beyond the legendary Homeros’ lifetime. By redaction of those penultimate epic recitals, nonetheless, the diligent Melisigenes modeled most painstakingly, and understandably haltingly, a first manuscript of  The Iliad.]  

To keep the limelight on our good book reviewer, allow in gist an evolution of the masterpieces from “illiterate singers,” early Dark Age of lifetimes, to early rhapsodes who were mnemonic adepts, to last scribes at writ by syllabaries, and thus to first scribes ever at transcription of all former opera to alphabetic writ. West collapses those agencies into one: The final epic poet was trained in oldest techniques of pre-literate song while a writer who personally fixed his own songs and made them a written text. For the matter he may had had an amanuensis for the actual writing by instrument to physical media. That would lessen the glory in attribution of the finally composed, first ever manuscript to Melisigenes. “Homer” is, and remains, the last of the pre-literate singers, a genius rhapsode of inordinate publishing talent considering that he couldn’t put down text by his own hand.

       Professor Austin goes on to discuss the controversy that becomes inevitably from pat exposition that ends a longstanding quandary now resolved. I don’t want to go into citing scholars and endless litanies of pro and com arguments. Just be assured that a fuller study is enabled you through what I cite below my initials. 

 

SWB

  1. Arion, a Journal of Humanities and the Classics, Fall, 2011, Boston University Press
  2. The Making of the “Iliad” : Disquisition and Analytical Commentary, 2011 Oxford University Press, 441 pages - $160.00

 

Classical Thought & Thinking : Notification No. 7

January 23rd, 2010

 

Charis [Χαρις], A Highest Virtue of the Oldest Greeks Known:

While it has taken the Bardot Group whole decades to discern the etymology of this earliest Greek word for a highest deemed virtue of character and personality, it should interest modern readers that we’ve hit upon a final finding. I’d like to use the heroines Alkestis and Penelope by way of illustrating the virtue’s embodiment on woman, before breifly discussing the virtue as adaptive to earliest hero cults that survived into the historical periods of the Greeks.

     Charis means a person possessed of “selflessness,” someone without any expectation of return upon generosity or even to gratitude for unselfish acts. It also connotes self-sacrifice in an ultimate sense, even to forfeit of life; but usually the self-sacrifice is that which attends deliberate loss of place, wealth or endearment from others for the sake of the common good, or for some other goal that transcends human self-interest (which, may I add, was not a bad thing or necessarily ungenerous of any person).

     First a little bit of etymology to get at some further subtleties. Charis was not the root word for charity but it may serve some basis to what the word “character” evolved into, in English, my precursor sense of “the graced whole person,” as embodying the virtues of  integrity, courage, fortitude, honesty, and loyalty. But there was no Latin counterpart as, say,charitas that took such a meaning by the semantic gestalt. Rather, the Latin preserved the plural of the word as the Charites, for the Three Graces Aglaia, Euphrosynë and Thalia, supposed attendants at the birth/genesis of Aphroditë. Latin’s closest word to the quality of person that charis imputes wasdignitas, but with a slightly different shading. To the Romans, any person of uncommon generosity, whose acts were selfless to the common good, built for himself what we now understand as personal self-dignity. The selflessness has to be there, and the person who projects it must not have any vanity as a do-gooder. Dignitas reached to especially high acclaim if the unselfish person was spoken aloud for all his good deeds and generosity of personality. What counted was that any and all acclaimmust be said by others, thus without bribe or inducement.


The most perfect woman of charis has to be Alkestis in the context of a myth about her husband Admetos, whose theme or morale renders about the unnatural contentiousness between matriarchy and patriarchy. As the story goes, Admetos was granted the favor of Apollo for a year’s service by the god at his duly  performed penance to Zeus. He was also a very good friend of Herakles from the superhero’s young days in Thebes, where his father Amphtitryon was regent.

     The boon of god and superhero went to Admetos' head, even to his expecting them to win the trials-at-bridal of Alkestis, a most sought after maiden for a marriage. Besides her beauty and allure she would bring her husband exaltation as a high king over all the confederated petty realms (and Kings) of Aeoleis, a region upon the north mainland of the Greek Peninsula. Asking Apollo for favors to win her, the God complied; but the sacrifices of thanksgiving attendant the marriage rituals themselves were insufficiently generous, in proof that the upstart Admetos did not qualify on virtue for the prize of a high kingdom. Herakles came forward to assist Admetos, however, interceding the divine wrath through appropriate gifts and promises of good conduct. Apollo and his sister Artemis were so satisfied that they together gave Admetos a final boon before acquitting the year of commanded service. As it went, should Admetos be faced with too early a death, he could avoid it through the expedient of having a substitute volunteer to go to Hades for him.

          To explain, the cardinal virtue of the selfless sovereign was his willing self-sacrifice and utter selflessness by possessed charis to die in defense of home, hearth and realm, each as supposed in fealty to himself. Admetos did not have that quality but he did have the formidable strengths of a warlord when called upon to prosecute defensive hostilities against a formidable invader. Such did the Minyans prove to become by mass incursion of the realm of Pherai through the lowland terrain of the North Plains (later Thessaly). Admetos admitted himself willing to undertake the peril of defeating the Minyans, as duly aided by Herakles over the Highlanders of the Pindus Mountains. He asked his parents to forfeit their lives should he be so grievously wounded as nigh to dying for sure. He asked his aged parents to comply, but they refused. Alkestis then willingly afforded her life at forfeit for the cause of her husband’s salvation.

       The Pharaians went into full revolt over the issue, however. Traditional at their faith in highest womanhood of her manifest sacral grace, and utterly grateful for all the generosity that Alkestis had always bestowed upon the common orders, they refused all support of Admetos unless he promised outright to fight to the death, as was becoming to a proper patriarch at his deserved autocratic war powers over Aeoleis.

          Still Admetos refused. Alkestis drank a poisonous potion to sacrifice herself in advance of the necessary warfare, whereupon Admetos, Herakles and the alliance of Pharaians to Highlanders threw back the Minyans until they must sue for an enduring peace.

Akestis dying of a potion for her husband Admetos' sake

      Alkestis was received in Hades by Persophonë, who became utterly enraged that Alkestis had forfeited her life for her husband’s sake. She shrieked how greatly lacking in virtue he was! But Alkestis refused to state that the reason for her self-inflicted sacrifice of herself. She claimed that somebody of highest royalty had to die under the hallowed tradition of an offering, a high royal sacrificial victim, in propitiation of Goddess Eris Strife for victory by irrevocable warfare. She had neither a son nor a daughter to perform such a divine mandate of propitiation. Persephonë, a goddess become of excellent judgment since abducted to the afterworld by Hades, discerned that Alkestis was fibbing; and, moreover, that she had lied about her circumstance most graciously. Accordingly, she summoned Zeus to send his son Herakles down to Hades, by way of escorting Alkestis away from the underworld and back to the upper ethers.

     Alkestis refused to comply even at that juncture. Plucking a pomegranate off its tree, she threatened to eat it should any divine redress be imposed upon Admetos for his openly declared refusal to fight to the death in repulse of the Minyans. For all Greeks, earliest to last, knew that a bite into the core of a pomegranate rendered a living person a soul forever dead. Persephonë and Hades himself made the grant of intercession against any penance imposed. Herakles led the virtuous wife back to her husband that they might have children together while regnant over the high kingdom of Aeoleis.


Alternatively, I cite why Penelopë became lauded for her own conduct as graced bycharis. For her virtue was not that alone of her twenty-years of fidelity to Odysseus, while his ten years at warfare in Troy and ten years afterwards of constantly opposed return to Ithaca. Nor did that virtue lie in the fact and understood assumption that her Odysseus would screw away in dalliance and frolic with all the women of great strength that would take him to bed both during and after the Trojan War. Penelopë knew her husband for his attractiveness to both mortal women of formidable powers and to goddesses who sought their sexual gratification in so rare an exquisite mortal man as Odysseus stood at manhood.

Penelope at her loom

     No, what made her paramount by good conduct, as inwardly compelled by her charis, was her refusal to remarry. The fathers of the suitors, who would vie to win her in marriage, decreed her a widow who must remarry. It was from them that she exacted the condition that she would complyafter she had fully loomed the burial shroud of her father-in-law Laërtes.  While plying the loom by day and unraveling it at night, he also explained to her son Telemachus, who thought his father dead after twenty-years away, that Odysseus was fated to return as told by his childhood chum, the prophet Haliatherses; and, too, that the way to his re-ascension must be preserved by her own wealth kept intact by Lakonia, as once had been forfeited each year both before and after the Trojan War, even as equity through acquitted debts repaid to her father Ikarios since that war’s end. For all such returns of tilth and husbandry had gone to the war effort in support of the restoration of stolen Helen to her husband Menelaos. As Odysseus had duly obeyed the pledge to uphold that marriage, so must she ease his return to her as an unmarried woman. For the last of the two terms (durations) of their marriage compact had expired after 200 solar months had elapsed.

        Further, and besides that complicated explanation, Penelopë knew, and thus said, that all their subjects of Ithaca and other Isles that composed Cephallenia would damn her for outrage of adultery for her infidelity to spoken Fates by breach of troth, even considering that she was deemed unmarried, even if not yet a widow for sure, after seventeen years of nonrenewal of the marriage vows.

        And so when Odysseus returned to find her unmarried and awaiting him rapturously, those vows were retaken with reinvigorated life and perfect memory of first youthful marriage term together. And so famous was she for her virtue, as solely by the acclaim of others to vouch for it, that all Greeks, even those who later detested her homeland of Lakonia become Sparta, had to acknowledge her a paragon over all women ever born to Greece. More to that fact, the Goddess Athena saw that Penelopë was asleep while Odysseus slew all the suitors for her remarriage, even to having everybody clean up the bloody mess and corpse residue before causing the good wife to awaken again!  

       Odysseus’ reward of her as most faithful wife was his own selfless conduct over twenty years by fighting for others, even to restoring them to their realms after the Fall of Troy. Too, he had gone away to Troy as Penelopë’s consort home protector; had served to Helen’s cause as a foremost Trojan hero beholden to her; and, finally, had performed penance for all the banes brought upon their royal House by curses against him by unhappily incurred enemies—for which acts of redress his seemingly endless years at futile return to Ithaca. That he had dallied boisterously with a consort mistress while the war years, been a consort to a demi-goddess, and then to a minor goddess, a surrogate for the Goddess Athena herself, was taken matter-of-factly as venal sin readily forgiven.

         Future Notifications shall address what a consort home protector was, in more robust fashion, by way of a precursor status to the typical hero of the Greek Heroic Age.


 

Classical Thought & Thinking : Notification No. 6

December 30th, 2011

Graybeard and silver haired classical studies aficionados have their social get-togethers. Often their conversations move into and beyond the largely inductive thinking that climate change study often inspirits. It’s always seemed to all us buffs that the Eastern Mediterranean in general, or the Greek Peninsula in particular, was pleasantly cool in dry seasons, long, snowy and wintery by the brief wet seasons. I’ve found, however, that there’s also a rough consensus  of climatologists (sic) about a duration, from 2500 BC to 600 AD, wherein a single relatively brief chill-to-chill duration of climate cycle occurred within two very long and salubrious warming periods.

Consider next the following hard dates from third party climate study.

Chilling from1600 BC to 1125 BC, an apogee of cold

Warming from 1125 BC to 750 BC, an apogee of warmth

Chilling from 750 BC to 200 BC, another apogee of cold

Warming from 200 BC to 600 AD, a second warming period’s finality

 

The previous warming cycle took until 1600 BC for it’s apogee. Its period probably exceeded 1,500 years, a mean reckoning of cyclical duration by the single source data that shall prove important by my later discussion.  The ensuing chill apogee at 1125 BC attests a relatively short duration cycle of 975 years to achieve another chill apogee of 200 BC. A next warming cycle began to culminate toward the Roman Warming Period that lasted until 600 AD, by itself another relatively brief duration of 1,150 years. Admittedly, spot dates of chill and warm cycles by their durations are hard dates by pure intuition, even as well reasoned from literary description. Every one of the numbers cited, moreover, can be off by a whole half-century, or 50 years.

          Before describing the how and why of that intuition, about how smart it is and improved it can be, let’s consider the more general domains of climate change science.

Our modern discussion of climate change is mostly about whether  or not humankind is centrally at fault for the freak meteorological consequences of too much methane and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The back and forth has slanted so much to insistency upon man-made consequences that discussion has become mired in rebuttals. Such detraction, often justifiable, challenges the young science of climate change as a hoax.  So great is the resistance to pinning predominant fault upon humankind, and so frequent the meteorological contradictions to the mentioned insistency, that the  media flaks to the “global warming” and “greenhouse effect” crises (as though they’re  twofold, accordingly, thus “different”) have even stopped using those buzz words.

Too often neglected in the contretemps about man-made causes and effects, climate change by itself has become verifiable and well-reinforced by copious data. What’s getting in the way of universal conviction on the matter of what’s precisely called interglacial climate cyclicality  are flawed monitoring studies before, but especially ever since, a major statistical finding in 1984. The religionist and radical environmental movement has gone nuts over it, but it remains steadfast, nonetheless, because of numerous after-studies commissioned throughout the globe.

The essential thesis has two parts, the first a bold assertion, the second a muffler upon that first statement. The first goes, “Interglacial climate change clearly meets the null hypothesis that it isn’t due to chance; and its period mean is 1,500 years.” Such parlance is very strong to theory, as though by scientific law, and so for why its peculiar phrasing which too many of us find objectionable.

The second thesis goes, as attendant to the statistical sampling itself, ”the 1,500 median period is subject to a 500 year standard deviation.” 

That twofold statement of thesis is derided by the man-made warming mavens because that standard deviation is one-third of the mean period estimate. That attests, alas, that they’re mostly inclined to the fallacious scientists. Mostly grant study addicts, that seek to contradict the data upon which the many sound data analyses are based. That’s also to say that they don’t know their statistics, and, therefore, they’re not proving intellectually honest by abiding within the bounds of the respected discipline’s mathematics.

The thesis devolves from two data sources. The first is glacial ice core boring and ring sampling that goes far back beyond 12000 BC,  about when the last glacial period ended. The method is definitive for chilling and warming cycles within the most recent domain of 5,000 years duration, as by artic spot dating of cycle parameters. Further indicative of sustained chilling and warming cycles have been petrified wood tree rings that corroborate the ice core findings of mean period duration. That means that the two different methods of dating the chilling and warming periods reinforce each other within that more finite domain of 5,000 years. That infers, moreover, that ice core sampling that goes far back beyond 12000 BC produces useful data, even as subject to the same large standard deviation rendered by the rigorous 5000 year domain of median assessment.

This brief discussion of very important data analysis is owing to the 1984 breakthrough publication of Willi Dansgaard of Denmark and Hans Oeschager of Switzerland. It was their analysis of the  oxygen isotopes in the first ice cores extracted from Greenland that has proved a repository of the oldest ice still existing, thus definitive of “climactic oscillations” that can be attributed to global phenomenology. Received as highly dubious when assimilated, numerous after studies have been supportive. S. F. Singer and D. T, Avery have published an excellent book in discussion of the 1500 year mean of duration by interglacial warming cycles. I recommend their Unstoppable Global Warming for its highlighting of arguments pro and con, notwithstanding that their main case, that global warming has (1) begun anew since 1850, (2) has us only one-third of the way until its apogee warmth, and (3) man-made contribution to the warming cycle is mostly incomnsequential. Admittedly inordinate methane and carbon dioxide atomospheric increasesare negative externalities of interglacial climate cycles. Man made contribution is serious but not critical to planet atmospheric health. Atomistic air and water clean-up remains the second best solution to conservation of carbon fuels in general – all of them! That means that town, county, regions of counties, states, and interstate entities are far better as an hierarchal clean-up squad than the Feds by all nations can be. That’s also to say that centralized super power shall prove ineffectual compared to the atomistic entities.

None of  that polemic stuff has anything to do with Classical Thought & Thinking, except, that is, for the irony of a constant Nemesis to the doomsday superpower mavens. As it is, and is likely to go through the next two-thirds of warming increase in global temperatures, the more the press to dictate to us of dimwitted humankind about the deleterious effects of man-made climate change, the more benign, even beneficial the present warming cycle is inclined to be. Understand of the Goddess Nemesis that she was never regarded by the Greeks as an evil deity. She was good to dash the presumptuous vaunters of pwer regularly, less that ilk of bully mentality go too far beyond the bounds of intellectual modesty and commit utter outrage, hubris.

          What I think we classical study buffs have to speculate about soundly, and yet put forth with sound intuition at least immodesty possible, is a Coming-of-the Greeks from warm and salubrious climates everywhere far north of the Mediterranean Sea. From 2200 to 1600 BC the draw of advanced civilizations under the boon of sunshine days and cool nights explained southerly migration. Some migrants even went north, such as Danaos, to find cooler temperate climes. The chilling period from 1600 BC  took 400 years to become plainly manifest by the consequence of overrun the Greek Peninsula by equestrian cultures from the near east of Asia, mostly from off the north rim of the Black Sea. The long period prior of warmth had engendered civilization that could absorb the migrant horse-tamers from increasingly unpleasant north temperate pasturelands. So warmth was by pull of peoples distressed by prolonged frosts and killing weather by their homelands.

The absorption throughout the marine south was benign to most all peoples except for the genocides of primitives who could not, or would not work with the competition of higher human population density, which of itself was a most necessary inducement to further advanced civilization throughout the Late Bronze Age. By the 13th century BC, pull of new migrants by a more aggravating chilling period upon agronomies pushed of all northern peoples down and upon the Greek Peninsula and Anatolia. The push was twofold by vectors, (1) down the Denaric Alps, by overruns of the Balkan Peninsula denizens; and (2) off central Europe by displacements of  the Achaean Horse Plains at far above the Aegean Sea. The latter had a domino effect of refugee movements by later waves of overly frosted peoples. The last wave of incursion manifest as the Sea People’s of the 12th century BC, until, that is, the Iron Age surged up and throughout the Greek Dark Age as a very chill period in outset. The lag effect of the gradual warming period that ensued could have caused the brief Greek and Anatolian renaissances within the 8th century BC.

          By follow up into the subsequent historical ages, per se, it took until the 4th century BC to have literary commentary in fullest proof of the cool Classical and salubrious Hellenistic Age Mediterranean, so that the Roman Warming Period could bask an empire in benign climate change for 800  years.

          Classical buffs have their highly individual ways of citing examples of the mostly benign durations, which this Notification seeks to invoke. The Last pre-Hellenes and the Ancient Greeks lived semi-tropical forests or below the escarpments of their low mountains. For the most part alpine wilderness was snow-capped in late winters and earliest springs. Both seasons lasted five months of wet season before the whole summer and autumn dry seasons. Even so, there was sufficient rainfall by the latter to nurture large autumn harvests followed by a late seeding season, to bring bumper crops to every summer solstice’s peak harvesting.

          Singer and Avery should eventually convince us of just how beneficial and assured such warm climate change was and stands to become again. Comparably, I posit, there once was a chill period cycle by the Greek Dark Age that severely depopulated the Greek Peninsula.  It drove so many of the Helladic Period Greeks to Anatolia or offshore mid-sea isles of the Aegean Sea. Those migratory spanned the harshest years ever, by whole decades of duration within too brief pleasant year respites. Single harvest reaping predominated over the former agronomy that assumed two harvests. An agronomy that had fed so many people into salubrious health and well-being became depleted by starvation or bloody invasions, either as full wipe-outs. The suffering of livestock was likely comparable even if beggaring any description of the chill period effects upon the husbandry of their cull.

That we can attest to such extreme severity lies in Bronze Age Greeks who enjoyed high protein meat diets relative to Iron Age Greeks, whose diet was extremely deprived of roasted and spitted butchery of their livestock.  It also took many centuries of returns to pervasive  colonization westward,  from west coastal Anatolia to far past Greece and unto Magna Graeca. By such transient movements the Greeks achieved the foundations to their new apogees of advanced civilization. We might also reflect, nonetheless, upon how long it took for them to exceed their forbears  by the long light age previous. Or appreciate anew how compelling of advancementthe very gradual chill by the 2nd millennium BC had been.

          My own conclusion about the Eastern Mediterranean and Aegean Seas remains as follows: That the warming period of the Bronze Age was good even if at its best while the cooling off of warmth for so many years until the chill. The ensuing chill was made worse than very bad because it drew flights of interlopers from northern isolated wastes by near arctic existences.

As always I invite comments reflective of alternative impressions. Put together coherently, we might even achieve a consensus about Climate Cyclical Antiquity that lends it to Classical Thought & Thinking.


Classical Thoughts & Thinking : Notification No. 5

December 18th, 2011

 

What can be irking about archaeologists and their ways of managing their 150 year old legacy is how open-ended they tend to be about a tradition that should have been expunged - expurgated? - long ago. My peeve just now stems from a reading in the American Journal of Archaeology about the range and scope of Mycenaean Civilization. It renders ubiquitous a special race of Mycenaeans when there never was any such people of imperial legacy or precise imperial ethnicity as the AIA seems to insist upon upholding.

        Heinrich Schliemann discovered the great Argive Fortress of Mikenos (which became from Latinized Greek ortho-graphy Mycenae, since 1864). That was almost four years after his more famous find of City Troy by Troias and the Trojans. I have no doubt that Mikenos was an impressive palace and the supposed capital seat of Argolis while the Perseid and Pelopid Dynasties, or from circa 1624 to the end of the 13th century BC. If the fortress populace was called anything, however, it was Argives, or possibly Danaans, for a race that took Danaos' name by way of his imprimatur upon the agrarian natives and indigenes that settled the Inachus River Plain at about 1700 BC +/- 25 years. Those plain dwellers were an old and venerable people identified strictly with the south mainland of the Greek Peninsula or the Peloponnese.

       Less my readers think me some kind of pedant or trivialist as a know-it-all, I would have our archaeologists recall that Mentor used both those names for the Greeks that fought at Troy, along with another verifiable nation race called the Achaeans (or the Achaiwoi as her literally nominated them). But he would have spat the name Mycenaean out as a most bitter taste off his tongue.

      Those nasty dubs as apt about me would have some force vituperative were it not for the AIA's offensive article making a highly theoretical, very long winded case that goes muchy too far beyond the nuclear setting of the Argive Plain (Danaans) or imperial Argolis (Argives). The Mycenaeans become defined, accordingly, as the earliest Ionic Greeks, earliest Boeotians and the master race overlords to Aeolic speaking Greeks. Sorry, there's no "blinders-on" approach like that that works for any pre-Hellenes of the Late Helladic Period as they became the first truly ethnic Greeks ever known, or before the Doric and Achaeic ethnicities melded into them during the Greek Dark Age or Early Aegean Iron Age.

       There are also other important ethnicities that are entirely overlooked by the AiA article. Paramount would be the Leleges or Lelegans, sometimes called Lelegians. Their great maritime diffusion off the Greek Peninsula began as their precursor name, the Hyperboreans, who settled Crete (aeto-Cretans thereby newly named) and littoral Karia and Lycia of the Anatol. They became the Lelegans aftyer a reverse diffusion from Karia and through the Greek Archipelago, thus back to Crete again, wherefrom, finally, the settlers of Lakonia under an eponymous patriarchal emigre called Lelex.

       Yes, there's appropriate scholarly tradition to have a Mycenaean Age follow a Minoan Age of the imperial Cretans. I also can't object to a mixed ethnicity called Creto-Mycenaean, whose greatest populace was by Tiryns and the Argolid Peninsula. Still, why not call them Tirines or Tiroyns, or Late Argives by that feudatory to Argolis?

       I'll never get what I'd really like, which is to drop the moniker Minoans from imperial Cretans and Mycenaeans from imperial Argives. But it will continue to miff me that the AIA will likely never admit to what's also directly under the nose of archaeologists, to wit, that the north mainland Greeks by the Great House of Aiakos shall never be called the Aiakans by their imperial meld into the Great Kingdom of Aeoleis and Minya.

      But my readers will always know what's right and what's wrong, now that the great fiction that the Mycenaeans have become by our ethnologists has been brought to enlightenment.

 

SWB


Classical Thoughts & Thinking : Notification No. 4

by S W Bardot, December 6th, 2011

 

While Homer never postured himself as a moralist, and whereas Hesiod spent most of his misanthropic propensities upon driving the Greeks of his own  Lyric Age to tight-ass beleifs in the orthodox polytheism of the Olympian Pantheon, their was once before them both a Greek Ethical Code in a most general sense. It was also by prelude to what the Classical Age Greeks had to say about their own after great rumination upon a past that they never understood adequately.

        We are taught to think that one of their cardinal sins was hubris, a fatal flaw of the human condition in general and of sovereign persons in particular. So, when Niobe boasted that she was far more fecund than Leto, who had conceived off Zeus the last but two of the Olympian Pantheon, it was her committed "horrendous outrage" by the boast of bearing many mortal children that Leto had produced only Apollo and Artemis. No wonder, then, that the two immortal children zapped all of Niobe's brood as a single act of retribution. It was a comparable outrage that Kassiopeia committed in boast of her beauty and prowess as a queen, for which vaunt the announced expiation of her own cardinal sin was that her daughter Andromeda be posted to a vast rock off which the monstrous Kraken fed upon victims alike her.

      Another cardinal sin, closely akin to hubris because deemed capable of utter outrage, was anaidos or immodesty, as a form of sovereign comportment capable of achieving its worst committed transgression. A comparable great virtue was aidos, modesty, for which the great heroine of western literature, Penelope, is cited as a paramount exemplar. Homer has Agamemnon so obdurately a vaunter of his sovereign perogatives that he stole Achilles' woman because the prophet Kalchas demanded his own spoils prize be given back to her holy father in expiation of a plague upon the Greek shore encampments at Ilion of Troias.

     Tch Tch. Boy did he pay for the rupture that ensued!  Suffering divine disgrace, a plague upon the troops and a total rebellion of his mortal following into a ten year war, the men who finally saved him from himself were modest kings. They could have told Agamemnon what was right and proper expiation without Kalchas. They were Odysseus, Big Ajax, brother Menelaos, Diomedes and Phoenix. They later became member delegates to a mission of embassy to resecure Achilles' Mymiradons to the battle arrays against the Trojans. Agamemnon remained the cardinal sinner he was, by a close cardinal sin committed before during the second mobilization at Aulis, because he would not admit of his sin, or ask its expiation, in a ritual manner of proper atonement. He only confessed that he'd been delusional, hideously mistaken, a victim by visitiation in dream and while awake of Atai. I translate her as the Black Fate, the kind of clairvoyance that deliberately seeks to fool her victims - righteous persons as much as unrighteous ones - and it can't be helped if a man or woman sins on account of her spell upon them.

    Modesty's paramount exemplar occurred when Odysseus finally won a long bout of contention with her father Ikarios, that he be allowed, or not,  to have Penelope live in his homeland of royal birthright, Cephallenia of the Ionian Isles. Her leave-taking of her homeland Lakonia had her father Ikarios declare without presumption and in fullest humility, his strongest belief that the absence of her sacral majesty from Lakonia would ruin their homeland, begrieve the commoner orders and greatly impair his sovereign dependancy upon her. She was riding a chariot with her bewed Odysseus beside her, she even holding the reins, when that declaration of her apostasy was uttered. Odysseus stared straight ahead upon the road of departure as Penelope said somewhat as follows, "Do not speak nonsense that mean nothing but trouble for all of us that I am so exalted above all our loving people, transgressive of Lakonia's best fortune in royal House as I may represent it and I'm suddenly at forfeiture of all your best abilities as sovereign. There can be no aspersion upon us that I leave thee instead to go to a new land, my husband's land, where a great people to adopt me, love me and enjoy a loving princess of their new House." Upon saying so, Penelope dropped her veil over her face, looked down, while Odysseus helped to steer their team forward to their port of embarkation at Laas upon the Lakonian Gulf. ikarios was right, though. Not long afterwards, her first cousins Kastor and Pollux died, her first cousin Klytaimnestra lost her husband to Ageamemnon whom she;d eventually marry, her two favorite first cousins were abducted away - Helen - and wedded to an impotent husband - Timandra.

        Finally to comment, my own judgement has the worst cardinal trangression of the oldest Greeks as atasthalia, which translates as Presumptuous Sin. In many ways holistic with the other two cardinal transgressions, there still was nothing worst considered than the assumed divine favor upon any mortal, even a demigod, or otherwise a most worthy human being in just deserts of such favors. So, for best example, I take off the earliest construed myth of Oedipus before his tragically conceived  character by Sophokles for his masterpiece dramatic trilogy.

       Oedipus's father had been a very sinful man, and the consequence of his actions was a doom prophesied that he would die by his son's hand. He had cast away forthwith the child by a sexual union of his youth, maimed him (Oedipus means idiomatically "halting foot" for that consequence) and put men in charge to have him exposed to raptor birds or wild predators. His sin was the presumption that he could avoid the spoken fate as a just retribution upon him. One sin led to another, his son's the very last. For Oedipus survived the exposure and was adopted like Moses into a royal household suffering a desperate hope to have a royal heir, even if a foundling child. At his age of manhood Oedipus was granted mantic counsel that he was under a bane, and that he should seeks from the Delphic Oracle just what the divine curse upon him was. As he ascended to alpine Delphi he met his father on the same road ahead, by a track of confluence of their separate ways. The father saw his halting gate and attacked him as a hated assailant. Oedipus killed his father in self-defense and destroyed the entire royal entourage except for one man, a survivor to tell of the slaying by an unidentified assailant of great martial prowess.

       The father's bride was Iokaste  - she was not Oedipus' mother in accordance with Sophocles and Classical Greek Mythology. She immediately sought a man eligible for her to remarry. Her bridal would lift a plague that could only be lifted through her remarriage. A child maiden  bride of greatest matrilineage, she'd been closeted in seraglio until become a still maiden widow. The tests that vetted her aspirants for her bridal hit early upon Oedipus, but officiating elders rejected him as maimed. So, accordingly, many rivals underwent the gamut of severe tests that led up to the so-called Riddle of the Sphinx, the correct answer of which would lead to accession of that rival as the royal husband but whose failed response would cause his immediate death by dispatch of the Sphinx' sacral retainers. The riddle became allegorical of all the very useful dispatch of formidable rivals to Oedipus, so that he could accede without any strong challenge to himself afterwards his correct answer to the riddle and become the life long husband of Iokaste.

      Her remarriage duly lifted the plague that the lost discovery of her husband's slayer had caused.

       After a nearly twenty-five year long marriage that bore four children, another plague befell the realm. Prophecy commanded that the slayer "of the old king" must be found, at last, and brought to severest justice. Had it not been for Oedipus obstinate sleuthing out of the truths determining the slayer, whereby a perfect murder came to light in all its details, there would never have been a finding that he was Oedipus himself! Until that fated outcome Oedipus had been a nearly perfect husband and protector, a greatest father, and most active contrubutor to the broad prosperity shared by all of Iokaste's and his own neighboring sovereigns. And yet it was atasthalia that had propelled Oedipus down the track to utter ruin, upon his own presumption that he could discover what nobody else possibly could or would of an outrageous crime without his own knowledge to complete the criminal recollection. Throw into the mix, as well, his immodesty of means to that final end of a full discovery, wherefrom his most accidental yet outrageous regicide and patricide of his father.

      This  small piece of ethical elucidation will lead to a follow-up about Greek Venal Sins. Most of them we of modern time would regard most serious sins of propensity indeed. Until that Notification, however, I am, for now,.....

                SWB


Classical Thoughts & Thinking : Notification No. 3

by Saltonstall Weld Bardot on Sunday, November 13, 2011 at 1:13pm


During the Late Aegean Bronze Age of the Greek Peninsula (Central & Southern Greece below Ancient Macedonia) there were two distinct calendars. There was the solar calendar with which Hesiod accorded himself for his Works & Days. Composed of twelve months, each of thirty days, it governed the agricultural year from winter solstice to the end of the next 360 days.

The new Solar Year then began five of six days afterwards, beyond what were called the Intercalaries, which were solemnized days celebrated not so differently from what we're used to as Holiday Week between Christmas and New Years Day. Without the whole gamut of our football bowl games, that is: Festival feastiing made those last days of the solar year a celebration in Thanksgiving, even in years when the harvests off tilth and culls of livestock husbandry were deeply disappointing. Knowing how despondent the Goddess Demeter was at winter solstice time, they thanked her anyway, thereby to lift the gloom she felt for the perennial loss of her daughter Kore [KORE-AYE] to her husband the God Hades over (under?) the Afterworld of the Dead.

Kore is better known as Persephone, which means, idiomatically, "Destroyer of [Winter's] Blight." For with the springtime that's just what Kore did, sending Old Man Winter into evanescence. Although I was very good at Latin, once, I really don't know what her name in Roman Classical Mythology means as Proserpina, although I guess that she had something to do with the constellation Drako, who kind of slithers around Polaris in the heavens over the northern hemisphere. Perhaps some reader can elucidate on this point as I cannot.

The second calendar was the Lunar Year for landsmen and the Naval Year for seafarers. It composed of thirteen months of 28 days each, or two fortnights each month by the wax of the moon over fourteen days, followed by the wane of the moon for another 14 days. The sum of the months and days came to 364 days, leaving a day or two left over before the next New Year Day. It was celebrated as "Last Feast," though, because there was no uniformity to just when the Lunar of Naval Year began, or even to whether they weren't separate years as celebrated in that particular fashion. For landsmen would use their Lunar Year as concurrent with Solar Year, ending both at the winter solstice as nearest as they could get to it. Most mariners began their Lunar New Year with the spring equinox, which came at either the mid-month of the third or mid-month of the fourth lunar month. The Messenians, we think, closed their Naval Year with the autumn equinox, which occurred at the opening day of the ninth lunar month. The reasoning goes that that was when all their compacts and agreements "settled up," whereby all obligations were fulfilled, or acquitted or entered into defaults by breaches of promise. When we of modern times say, "the day when all our ships come home," the Messenians thought, instead, "the day when our ships better come home or else we're going to have a lot of embarrassed merchant magnates on our hands." For if they didn't come home, someone was getting screwed, which is what Messenian matrons and maidens did with transient seafarers while they were away until their husbands' and mates' ships finally did come home.

But let's not bog down on such minutiae as the middle paragraph or with prurient thoughts such as that just completed might compel.

Even mariners accepted the Solar Year as important for various reckonings. Highly ennobled and royal marriages were set for a term of 100 solar months or 8 1/4 years. It may interest some readers that the taking of vows on a particular day of a particular solar month usually accorded with a new moon's rising. But the term of wedlock would end in divorce or renewal on the same day and same month, but with the full moon aloft the midnight sky. You had to double the duration to have the anniversary of the original vows taken befall the same day, same month and same moon aspect. The reason for terms of marriage was the same reason as that for consortships of only one or two years' duration. The sacrament was a contract of the man with the woman that he sire her children. If he proved impotent he had to divorce, leaving his betrothal gifts to her parents for her lifetime security. If he happily proved potent as her kept man, renewal of vows might follow, but often he had to take challenge from suitors if that particular wife was especially desirous and desirable for whatever her great endowments bestowed to her remarriage. An impotent husband, moreover, would often find a surrogate of appeal to his wife if that arranged "lover" was proven of potency as a sire of babes (both kinds!). So much for earliest manage a trois, pardon my French.

I leave this Notification at that. Again, it will appear in my Facebook Notes until the next, No. 4, has been composed. This Notification will then be archived on my website, www.bardotbooks.com, under the Homer Page menu category of Newsletters.

SWB


Classical Thoughts & Thinking: Notification No. 2

by Saltonstall Weld Bardot on Saturday, October 29, 2011 at 3:58pm

Isthmus of Ephyraia, 1315 BC

Whenever the Bardot Group gets a bit cocky about all the prehisotrical know-how its scholars have developed on Bronze Age civilizations of the Eastern Mediterranean, it only takes mention of Corinth [AG, Korinth(os)] for us to contemplate devouring humble pie anew. The Ancient Corinthians of the 1st millennium BC left us almost no prehistory, and they don't seem to have liked whatever they had -mostly small stuff of obviously poor retention, either oral or written. What we do know, therefore, derives from clues about what those Greeks most detested about their forbears. After tracking through what can be known, then working from there, we think modern Corinthians would be pleased to know that their most expunged and obfuscated personages lived illustrious lives that hardly to be ashamed of.

First know, accordingly, that the Isthmus was since 1600 BC at least a major destination of maritime commerce, when then began the impressive ascendancy of pre-Hellenes by their Late Helladic Period (aka, the Late Aegean Bronze Age of the Greek Peninsula). That meant burgeoning traffics mostly to and from the east, although the high city AcroKorinth over its rural vicinity and port city precincts pioneered and sponsored important trade outposts abroad, even to enabling earliest colonies as the first ever conceivable. Further, know that she likely was the embarkation point for an overland caravan commerce web, by export products drawn from herself or by both mainland divisions of the Greek Peninsula. These last rovijng emporia channeled their surpluses via re-exports off "manufactories" originating from within the entire length of the Isthmus. For important as a seat of commerce that the AcroKorinth was, Corinth and neighboring Megara [AG, Megaris] shared the Isthmus equally by the geographic definition of the LHP which my illustration renders. Together contiguous, they enjoined to the Isthmus major mainland footings at both north and south, by borders upon Eleusis and Sikyon respectively.

The lead map show the Isthmus as it was before Medeia's lifetime. The tiny picture below gives some idea of how the Isthmus, or the region of Epyrea [AG, Ephyraia], configured from 1600 to 1200 BC. Notice how the greater region of Ephyrea nested betrween two imperia, of Argolis by the Peloponnesus and of Kadmeis in the north as a precursor to Thebes.

The Venerable Great Powers of the Late Helladic Period Greece

By digging under the roots of Classical Greek Mythology and constructing the lifetime dating of illustrious heroines such as Medeia, Pleione and the Pleiades, and native son heroes such as Sisyphus and Bellerophon(tes), the Isthmus proved the least belligerent yet doughtiest region at defense of all majot powers by the end of the 14th Century BC. That's because its Supreme Sister, Medeia as a matriarch of ten years duration, managed to repulse inroads intended by Kadmeis via subversion of her faithless husband Jason. She took exile in Attica by escape from the atrocities committed in defense of Ephyrea, finding suppliance in Aigeus, who made her his consort mistress before marrying her for happiness and love. Her child by Aigeus, Medeius, was supplanted by Theseus, the legitimate son of Aigeus and Aithra by sacral marriage (hierogamy), despite that he'd been born and raised at Troezen, a realm upon the Saronic Gulf by the piedmont divide of the Argolid Peninsula.

Classical Greek Mythology claims that the successor to a ruined Jason was the matriarchal appointee Sisyphus, a supposed son of Aeolus [AG, Aiolos]. Not so. To believe so wouild mean that Sisyphus lived from 1374 BC to 1260 BC. Such longevity suggests him a composite hero, and hardly a son of the eponymous Aeolus, whom we take as apocryphal by invented genealogy long afterwards the LHP/LABA. We take him instead as an Aeolian by ethnicity for sure, by a grandfather who was a refugee to Greater Ephyrea, a plantation dominion by shoreline upon, and setback of the Gulf of Corinth. That location was better known as "the Lands of Pleione" (the mother of the Pleiades according to CGM) and situated on the west side of the piedmont divide of the northern Isthmus. Pleione, incidentally, means "greater" by the Ancient Greek lexicon.

Sisyphus' imputed father was named Aeolides I the Elder, because Sisyphus himself was named for that sire and lived by the name Aeolides II (the Younger) far into his youth and prime years of manhood. There was also an intermediary name change, of Orion, that slipped between his first and his final name, Sisyphus, which has connotation of titanic force (modern Greeks think a sisyphus is a tidal wave or tsunami).

This Notification is daring in asserting that Aeolides the Elder and Younger became the Keepers or Phylakes over Isthmian Ephyrea from 1382 to 1260 BC, the latter becoming Sisyphus by appointment of the AcroKorinth from 1340 BC onward. While regarded the illicit sire of Odysseus, by laying with Anticleia in cuckold of Laertes, he was a greatest friend of the western Greek House of Cephalos (i.e., of Arceisius per Homer), and by boon friendship with Arceisius he became a guardian of Laertes and tantamount to a godfather for Odysseus. As such until the end of his life, Sisyphus died in the late winter before the first mobilization at Aulis for the Trojan War.

Obviously there's more to be said by expansion of what's been put forth above. So be patient..............

SWB


CLASSICAL THOUGHTS Notification No.1

10/23/11

 

The earliest of Ancient Greeks, before their final ethnicity, were called pre-Hellenes. Until the Dorians and Achaeans arrived to the Greek Peninsula in the 12th century BC they were mostly under matriarchal governance. Later Greeks, by the 1st millennnium BC city-states, looked back upon that legacy as monstrous, both figuratively and literally. But from them came women to dream of.

A matriarch took the name, sometimes name/title of Meda, Medusa, Metiadusa, Medeia and many like variants. Their tradition was grounded in Crete by the Mother Island's several Minoan Periods. As Crete suffered invasion during her declining centuries beyond 1450 BC, her sovereignty became hybrid as the co-regent matriarch, of "sacral matrilineage," with a patriarch of royal or majestic patrilineage.

The Greek Peninsula, or Helladic Period pre-Hellenes, followed this odd governance variously. The most important co-regencies would prove Kadmos & Harmonia over Kadmeia (later Thebes); Aiakos & Endeis over Aioleis & Minya (later Phthiotis and Thessaly, respectively) and Perseus & Andromeda and Pelops & Hippodamaia. Those last ruled imperially over the Argives of the 17th to 15th century and 15th to 13th centuries, again respectively.

Finally, the patriarchs took name/titles by echo of those for matriarchs - Medon, Memnon, etc. In art and mythical expression the earliest ever patriarchs usually took allegorical forms, such as drakes, ganders, dragons and,or monsters from the depths. The dragonmen, however, were mostly benign proxies of exalted sovereign masculinity, renown for their effectiveness at formidable defense of their matriarch, or through devastating pre-emptive repulses against perceived enemy advances upon the co-regent realm. For the dragon of the Greeks lay his serpentine tail in the den or cavern, rooting himself as coiled while awaiting the approach of vile foemen adversaries, or while sometimes leaping aloft to descend with utter devastation upon an enemy lurking upon his soulmate's borders. Alternatively, he was a Triton, a River God or a Monster of the Deep, wherein the essential manhood was that of the formidable defender, a Medon or "High Chief" and "Martial-at-Field." These mortals were the precursor of the hero, but only after the greatest matriarchs, such as Medeia of Ephyraia (Korinth and Megaris as once united region upon the Isthmus), had proven the first ever heroines in life - without any literary connotation whatsoever!

This Notification will be posted on the Wall until the next one supercedes it. I invite comment and challenge to its generalities.

SWB

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