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Posts from the ‘Greek/Roman Classics’ Category

1
Feb

#Classic: The Twelve Caesars (Suetonius)

 

Quickscan:      List of Roman Emperors

 

Notes:

  1. This is not a book that I would choose to snuggle up with
  2. on a cold winter day. Thus I decided to listen to the audio book.
  3. I could keep doing my chores….etc and still absorb the
  4. tidbits of history that I did not know!
  5. 50 % of the book is about the first 3 Caesars:
  6. Julius, Augustus, Tiberius  chapters 1-18
  7. Audio book 40 chapters (20 min per chapter)
  8. Roman emperor was a risky job:  only 3 died of natural causes
  9. …the rest were assassinated or committed suicide!

 

Julius Caesar  (reigned 5 years)

  1. He wore laurel crowns as often as possible.
  2. The wreath suited Caesar especially well with
  3. the green leaves hiding his balding head.
  4. It was good to be reminded that Servilia (b.104 BC, d. 42 BC)
  5. was just a wicked as Livia was
  6. during her relationship with Augustus Caesar.
  7. Livia remains in my memory in TV series I, Claudius.
  8. Servilla came be seen in TV series Rome.
  9. The series I, Claudius NEVER showed
  10. …the audience the sadistic cruelty of Tiberius!
  11. You have to read about it to believe it!

 

Augustus Caesar (reigned 40 years)

  1. Father: Gaius Otavius (politician) but he died when AC was 4 years old.
  2. Adopted father: Julius Caesar.
  3. Wives: each of these marriages lasted 2 yr Clodia, Scribonia
  4. Livia was here to stay.
  5. She was a shrewd woman,  23 yr marriage, no children, 1 miscarriage.
  6. Augustus also divided city regions and districts,
  7. …appointed nightly watch against fires (sort of fire brigade).
  8. Calendar: Augustus was  born in September named 8th month August
  9. because in this month he received his first council ship.
  10. Lists: These pages about Augustus Caesar is a long list of achievements:
  11. circus games, gladiators, laws, allocating corn
  12. exhibiting curiosities: rhino, tiger and extremely long snake!
  13. Lists: of omens Augustus Caesar believed to foreshadow trouble (2 crows attack an eagle!)
  14. As soon as Livia comes on the scene
  15. ….the narrative becomes more interesting.
  16. After watching the TV series I, Claudius
  17. I could apply a face (actor, actress) to many names!
  18. Julia: Daughter is banished for 5 years for her lewd behavior.
  19. Strong point: personal habits were described
  20. …negligent in dress, took afternoon naps with his shoes always on!
  21. Augustus  slept in the same chamber on Palatine Hill for 40 years.
  22. His private room where he was NOT to be
  23. disturbed (top floor Palatine Hill home) called “Syracuse”.

 

Tiberius pg 104 (reigned 22 years)

  1. He was emperor Augustus Caesar’s successor.
  2. Augustus  adopted Tiberius (his mother was Livia AC’s 2nd wife)
  3. Tiberius was a reluctant emperor!
  4. Livia (mother) demanded equal share of power.
  5. Mother and son parted on bad terms.
  6. When she died Tiberius annulled her will and did not grieve his loss!
  7. Daughter-in-law Agrippina the Elder
  8. claimed Tiberius had her husband Germanicus murdered.
  9. Germanicus was Tiberius’ nephew AND adopted son.
  10. Tiberius banished her to the island of Pandateria.
  11. …and ordered a centurion to beat out one of her eyes!
  12. Tiberius was not finished yet….
  13. He starved his 2 (adoptive) grandsons to death.
  14. Tiberius was sadist…deriving pleasure from cruelty.
  15. In one day 20 people (men, women and boys) were killed flung down
  16. the Gemonian Stairs (steps located in the ancient city of Rome)
  17. …and then dragged into the Tiber River.
  18. He put a centurion to death for stealing a peacock out of his orchard!
  19. #Ouch

 

 

Conclusion:

  1. I took notes about the first 3 Caesars.
  2. You can discover the other rulers yourself!
  3. This was an excellent overview of these emperors
  4. The book solidified my understanding of the
  5. Julio-Claudian (27 BC-68 AD)
  6. Flavian dynasties (68-96 AD)
  7. Audio book narrator:  Charles Griffin (excellent).
  8. The writing is clear, simple and easy to understand.
  9. Strong point:
  10. Insights into the social and political order of the times
  11. …and the psychology of these powerful yet flawed individuals.
  12. I loved the music played between chapters….imperial!

 

Last thoughts:

  1. Roman emperors are not known as being compassionate
  2. …but Emperor Vespasian was the exception!
  3. If you like historial fiction perhaps you would like Lindsey Davis’
  4. The Course of Honour.
  5. The love story of Vespasian and his mistress
  6. …the freed slave woman Antonia Caenis.
  7. This book recreates Ancient Rome’s most turbulent period.

 

24
Jan

#Classic: The Symposium

 

What is The Symposium?

  1. This masterpiece of philosophy is
  2. …a dramatic dialogue set at a
  3. dinner party in ancient Athens.
  4. The guests agree not to drink because
  5. …they have over indulged on the previous night.
  6. The men discuss the nature of Love.

 

Why did Plato write The Symposium?

  1. Socrates was interested in the symposium
  2. as en educational form where erotic
  3. relationships took place.
  4. But the symposium was also place of great
  5. fun, merriment and entertainment.

 

Who was influenced by The Symposium?

  1. Plotinus: 3rd C  philosopher An Essay on the Beautiful.
  2. Ficino, M.  translated the Platonic dialogues into latin in the Renaissance
  3. Freud, S.  read and studied The Symposium

 

Most important metaphor?

  1. This topic is long and complicated.
  2. I added this link if you are interested.
  3. Ladder of Love (Wikipedia)

 

What is the significance of a drinking party?

  1. This was a ‘gentleman’s club’.
  2. There was a bawdy side but
  3. ..the most important aspect was
  4. the establishment of
  5. older male-younger male relationships.
  6. The older male (the lover)
  7. would guide the younger male (beloved)
  8. into Athenian social and political life
  9. in return for sexual favors.

 

Who are the important guests?

  1. Aristophanes – one of the greatest Athenian poets
  2. Phaerdus – associate of Socrates
  3. Eryximachus – doctor
  4. Aristodemus – narrator
  5. Aristophanes – poet, playwright
  6. Pausanias – lover of Agathon
  7. Agathon –  tragic poet who is the host of the party
  8. Socrates – Athens’ most famous philosopher
  9. Alcibiades – important politician, rich, influential, womanizer

 

What are the major themes?

  1. Major: passionate love, desire, nature of knowledge
  2. Minor: virtue, happiness

 

What is characteristic of the speeches?

  1. In each of the speeches the nature of virtue is presented:
  2. Phaerdus – heroic deeds on the battlefield are important
  3. Agathon – poetic expertise is important
  4. Socrates – intellectual virtue is important
  5. Each speech is designed to praise Eros.
  6. Speeches explain how desires can be shaped
  7. to help us lead a better and happier life.
  8. Central is all the speeches is the concept of happiness.

 

How  do speakers describe physical desire (Eros)?

 

Phaerdus  (young student of rhetoric and poetry)
Romantic love (male/female and male/male) is praiseworthy.
If we’ve sacrificed our life for our beloved
…the gods will reward us after death.
This type of romantic love sounds admirable
…but there is also a lot of ‘dying young’!

 

Pausanias (legal expert)
The quality of erotic depends on the object of your love
…and the manner of your love.
He divides love into heavenly and common love.
Heavenly: lover (older) – beloved (younger) focuses on
the younger males spiritual development.
Common: physical love for either male or female

 

Eryximachus (doctor)
He divides erotic love in good and bad.
The doctor broadens erotic love to a cosmic force
..in medicine, music, climate, farming.
Good attraction of love = harmony and health
Bad attraction of love = disease and illness

 

Aristophanes (one of the greatest Athenian poets)
His speech is iconic.
This is a quirky almost absurd description how humans evolved.
Must read  to appreciate Aristophanes imagination!
Love will make us find our other half.

 

Agathon (tragic poet who is the host of the party)
He gives a dazzling speech and receives the most applause.
The other speakers praise the benefits that eros (desire) brings
(heroic deeds on the battlefield…harmony and health)
But Agathon says…you can’t give another what you don’t have yourself!
Lovers are thus honorable, beautiful, wise and just.

 

Socrates (most famous Greek philosopher)
He tells a story that Diotima taught him!
She is a fictional priestess. She provides the
question and answer template possible
… that Socrates loves to use!
Diotima says what Socrates wants to say
…and Socrates is now the willing pupil.

 

Drunken Alcibiades…disrupts the party!
He give a moving passionate speech about the joy and
pain of loving Socrates.
Poor Alcibiades….he loves the right man in the wrong way.
I thought this was the most memorable speech! (shocker)

 

Conclusion:

  1. 5 speeches (Phaedrus, Eryximachus, Aristophanes, Pausanias, Agathon)
  2. 1 cross-questioning and speech about the truth of Love (Socrates)
  3. 1 dicey speech by Alcibiades
  4. …that is a ‘tell-all’ about his affair with ex-lover Socrates!
  5. After all the guest give their speeches
  6. …of course Socrates will be the last to speak.
  7. He dazzles and confuses me with his ‘typical questions”
  8. (conversation with priestess Diotima)
  9. This is the part of Socrates….I dread reading
  10. …he makes me think!
  11. You have to have at least a good 10 hrs sleep
  12. ..and be sharp of mind if you intend
  13. …to read anything involving Socrates!
  14. Reading time:
  15. It took me the entire day to read + notes  (131 pages)
  16. I hope this review can help you and don’t hesitate
  17. …to try this  #Classic for the die-hards!
8
Dec

#Classic: Eusebius

 

Who was Eusebius (260-340), Bishop of Caesarea?

  1. Eusebius lived and wrote in one of Rome’s provincial capitals,
  2. Caesarea (aka Sharon on the coastal plain of Israel.)
  3. He lived under direct Roman imperial power.
  4. He witnessed the persecution of Christians in Caesarea
  5. …under the governors Flavianus, Urbanus, and Firmilianus.
  6. Eusebius figures prominently in all
  7. …histories of late-ancient theology and philosophy

 

Why is Eusebius important?

  1. Eusebius worked at the library in Caesarea Palestina
  2. founded by the scholar Origen (ca. 185–ca. 254)
  3. He had access to numerous works of antiquity which have not survived.

 

Structure:

  1. Books 1-7  – the reign of Herod and birth of Jesus (book 1)
  2. then we read the events before Diocletian’s persecutions (14-311 AD)
  3. Books 8-9  – narration of recent persecutions (253-305 AD)
  4. Book 10 – reign of Emperor Constantine (306 – 312)

 

Genre: Greek-Roman history writing…with a whiff of an apology
Edition: Eusebius Penguin Classic ISBN 9780140445350
Theme: was celebration of the success of Christianity in the Roman world.
Significance of Eusebius: important source for historians, classicists and theologians
POV: Eusebius, a orthodox Christian
Intended audience: with a knowledge of Christian texts and accepts their sacred status

 

Title: History of the Church: Eusebius describes a group of bishops, martyrs,
and scholars. Eusebius excludes heretics as outsiders to the church.
Setting: Eusebius uses the Roman Empire as the borders of the Christian Church
Narrative: gives the readers a past about the church. It profiles of key individuals
that carry across several chapters Apostle John, Irenaeus, Origen, and Dionysius of Alexandria
Style: Eusebius has a roller-coaster reputation for both veracity and style.

 

What does Eusebius NOT do?

  1. He does not discuss of doctrine because he assumes reader knows it
  2. …and has a positive opinion of Christianity.

 

Strong point:

  1. After reading this book I feel I’m better prepared to
  2. participate in Jeopardy or University Challenge shows!
  3. I learned more about some heresies of the times.
  4. After reading this book it will be easier to read another classic (TBR)
  5. The Twelve Caesars by Suetonius!

 

Weak point:

  1. There are small items that consume reading time
  2. skimming may be necessary!
  3. How Appolonius suffered Martyrdom at Rome
  4. …Roman senator who stuck to his beliefs.
  5. Blastus On Schism   Who?
  6. Many lists of bishops of Jerusalem and Rome (skim)
  7. Date of Easter…lots of commotion!
  8. The Elegant Works of Irenæus
  9. …this is a whole other study…skim Wikipedia page Irenaeus!
  10. Heresy of Artemon
  11. …it seems Eusebius is the only historian who mentions this!.

 

Conclusion:

  1. There are just too many heretics,
  2. ..martyrs, saints, theologians to mention.
  3. This book is readable but I needed to extend my reading to
  4. Wikipedia and follow the footnotes closely
  5. …if I wanted to make heads or tails of Eusebius.
  6. This is a classic…I can say I read it.
  7. But…I’m not sure if it will be on many reading lists!
  8. This is definitely a book
  9. …for a dedicated reader of the classics!

 

Last thoughts: 

  1. Glossary….This is very handy!
  2. Excellent “Who’s Who in Eusebius” + Latin terms  (pg 339-427)
  3. Quick scan of emperors of Rome and
  4. bishops in Antioch – Jerusalem – Alexandria  (pg 428-434)
  5. Tip: I did some extra ‘skimming’ of the Wikepedia page
  6. …of the emperor mentioned
  7. This gave me a bit more historical background.
  8. It made the reading of Eusebius much easier knowing more
  9. about the politics/rulers.
  10. #Classic or the die hards!

 

2
Dec

#Classic Satires Horace

Horace, Virgil en Varius   by Charles François Jalabert

 

 

Introduction:

  1. Hoace’s satires
  2. These are very short poems….easy on the eye
  3. …and they enrich the mind!

 

Quickscan:

  1. Horace was a Roman poet of the 1st C B.C.
  2. Caesar Augustus knew with only a powerful army he
  3. …could not hold power.
  4. He needed  poets to
  5. ….win the ‘hearts and minds’ of the people.
  6. Like Virgil, Horace proclaims the glory of Caesar Augustus.

 

Satires:

  1. Horace was also a straight talking man
  2. …trying to teach some life lessons:

 

  • keep your head down
  • don’t think the grass is greener on the other side
  • avoid stress
  • the advantages of a frugal life and plain living (Satire 2.2)
  • don’t dabble in politics…and become a prisoner of  ambition
  • nothing compares with the pleasure of friendship
  • it makes no difference what kind of parent you had
  • ….if only you are a gentleman (Horace was a freedman’s (slave) son)
  • … when an annoying person won’t leave despite hints! (Satire 1.9…funny!)
  • Horace writes many…stories about eating an drinking!
  • Moral? only way to a man’s heart is thru his stomach!

 

  1. Horace  was articulate and discrete.
  2. His strong point was knowing when ‘to shut up’!
  3. Satires I (pg 3-32)  Satires II (pg 33-63)
  4. are filled with fables, anecdotes and some dicey moments.

 

What is Horatian satire?

  1. Satire uses humor, exaggeration,
  2. ridicule and criticism to create change in others.
  3. Horatian satire is less harsh and takes a
  4. comical view at human injustices.
  5. Horatian satire is not negative.
  6. Pride and Prejudice is an example
  7. …of a novel showing Horatian satire.
  8. Jane Austen makes fun of
  9. various characters in the story.
  10. Some characters are simply
  11. …interested in the marriage
  12. …but not the relationship.
  13. Here are a few notes….

 

Satire 1.1 –  Lesson learned: No man lives satisfied with his own

  1. What is the point piling ($$)  up more than you need?
  2. If you get sick…is there someone who will care for you?
  3. No one wishes for your recovery
  4. …they’re waiting for your fortune!
  5. So let’s put an end to the race of money.
  6. Greed makes no one satisfied.
  7. Lead a happy live and…when his time is up
  8. quit life like …..a guest who has dined well.

 

Satire 1.2  – Horace wagging finger:  avoid vices…especially women!

  1. Keep your hands off married women
  2. they are  more misery than any real satisfaction
  3. Don’t damage you reputation.

 

Satire 1.3 – A wise man…. does not criticize faults of others…no one is free from faults!

  1. Description of Sardinian Tigellius singer and friend of Julius Caesar  faults.
  2. Description of a lover blind to his girlfriend’s unattractive defects.
  3. Moral: beam in one’s eye – ne should not criticize the faults of someone else before correcting the faults within oneself.
  4. “…examine your own faults with eyes covered in ointment
  5. …in the case of friends’ faults your eyesight (is) sharper than an eagle’s…”
  6. Moral: when dealing with a friend do not show disgust of his defects …this is tactless.
  7. Turn defects upside down: penny-pinching?…no just careful with money!
  8. This attitude binds friends together and keeps their friendship.

 

Favorite quote:

  1. “If I am telling lies may my head
  2. …be spattered with white crow’s droppings…” (Satire 1.8)
  3. #Jick

 

Conclusion:

  1. This was a quick read …3 hrs.
  2. Horace gives us many wise lessons
  3. …be it at times very wordy and misogynistic!
  4. Core message:
  5. live life with integrity
  6. live life free from guilt
  7. have the love of friends.
  8. #MustRead Classic

 

21
Nov

#Classic The Aeneid

 

Conclusion:

  1. Read all  about this epic poem on the Wikipedia page The Aeneid
  2. I am as exhausted as Aeneas in this photo above!
  3. ….too exhausted to ruminate further about the poem.
  4. It has been a long 2 months
  5. no binge reading but slowly just chapter by chapter.
  6. #MustRead.

 

My notes:

September 27, 2018
Ch 1
Shipwrecked, tired and wrapped in a cloud of mist by his mother Venus..Aeneas stumbles into Dido’s palace.
The gods above discuss the hero’s fate: this romance between two star crossed lovers…is doomed.

October 24, 2018
Ch 5
Never a dull moment on Sicily!
Athletic games, slithering snake over burial mound
Goddess Iris throws flaming tourch in the boats
and when we thought we’d seen enough…down comes
the god of sleep and shake dew off a bough.
Poor Palinurus falls asleep at the rudder and drowns….but nobody missed him!

October 26, 2018
Ch 6: Turning point in The Aeneid: From the underworld
Anchises (Aeneas’s father) commands Aeneas goes further and follow his destiny.

November 15, 2018
Ch 7 and 8
Modern readers enjoy ch 1-6 but for Virgil’s original readers the good part of the book begins now…war!
Who would have thought a war in this classic would start b/c somebody shot an arrow at the pet deer of Sylvia.
#AccidentsCanHappen

November 15, 2018
Ch 8  Re-read because I fell asleep with the audio book playing…missed a few things: Aeneid’s dream about a white sow and 30 piglets, Vulcan vomiting flaming fire searching for his stolen bulls and we met important character for the last chapters…Pallas the son of King Evander
#NeverDullMoment with Virgil

November 18, 2018
Ch 10-11
I’ve survived 3 generations: father (Anchieses) hero (Aeneas) child (Ascanius)
jilted lover (Dido) and whirlwind trip to see old friends in Hades
death of a pet deer….war drums…more dreams scenes than I can count!
I must finish this today!

November 19, 2018
Ch 12  grand finale!
Turnus has killed Pallas (…beloved friend of Aeneas)
Turnus is determined to fight Aeneas.
Loved by Turnus but betrothed to Aeneas, Lavina
becomes the prize for which the leaders contend in a bloody tribal war.

Aeneas leaves for the fight departs from his son
…’kisses him through his helmet’. (strange)
The fight begins.
Aeneas attacks Turnus… he is down for the count.
Aeneas hesitates for a moment but seeing the
sword belt of Pallas gleaming on Turnus’ shoulder
….he deals the final blow and kills his opponent.
End of story!

 

16
Nov

#Classic Electra

  • Author: Sophocles
  • Title: Electra
  • Written: 410 BC
  • Revenge  is a dish best served cold.
  • Plot:  read the backround and storyline on Wikipedia.
  • Reading time: 1 hour 15 min

 

Introduction:

  1. This was truly a exceptional play.
  2. One settting…a few characters a
  3. pressure-cooker domestic drama
  4. …that keeps us waiting for the climax!

 

Characters:

  • Electra – princess of Argos
  • King Agamemnon – king of Argos
  • Clytemnestra – queen of Argos (father was the king of Sparta) sister of Helen of Troy
  • Iphigenia – princess of Argos (sacrificed to gods by her father)
  • Orestes – prince of Argos (twin brother Electra)
  • Aegisthus – cousin of King Agamemnon….lover of Clytemnestra
  • Chrysothemis – princess of Argos ( tries to calm Electra down!)
  • Unlike her sister….she does not seek vengeance against her mother.

 

Tragedy:

  1. Pity: Lavinia is killed under false pretenses
  2. Fear: imagining what we would have done if we were in Electra’s shoes
  3. Flaw: Electra fails to balance passion (grief father’s murder) with reason.
  4. Recognition: Orestes pretends to be dead; he returns to Mycenae…is reunited with Electra.
  5. Pathos: Electra evokes our pathos when she
  6. ….says after hearing of the death of her brother
  7. ….there is no one to protect her. (appeals to our emotions…)
  8. “No. There was someone (brother). Here are his ashes.”
  9. Electra uses pathos: When she still believes her brother is dead,
  10. she makes an emotional speech over his urn,
  11. begging to be dead and put into the urn as well.
  12. Here, she is using pathos in an attempt
  13. …to convince a higher power to take her life

 

Conclusion:

  1. Fast moving play filled with dramatic irony
  2. …WE know more than the characters.
  3. That will keep any Greek on the edge of their chair!
  4. Question:
  5. Did Sophocles ever watch TV show Sisters (1991-1996)
  6. Here are my thoughts about that!

 

  1. Major themes: is definitely betrayal, justice and revenge.
  2. Agamemnon betrays is wife Clytemnestra
  3. by to sacrificing his daughter (Lavinia) to the goddess Artemis.
  4. Clytemnestra betrays her husband
  5. ….by her affair with Aegisthus (King’s cousin) while he was at sea.

 

  1. Loyalty: Family loyalty surpasses loyalty to the state.
  2. For Electra vengeance remains necessary.

 

  1. Murders: wife kills husband (avenge her daughter’s death)
  2. With the aid of Electra, Orestes kills both his mother and her lover.
  3. Victims of crimes become criminals themselves.

 

  1. Strong point: Chrysothemis  This character gave the play a modern feeling!
  2. She is a superficial girl.
  3. ..accepts the status quo in the family (remarriage mother)
  4. ..but remains very protective and close to Electra.

 

  1. Strong point: Dialogue:  Chrysothemis speaking to Electra
  2. This sounds like an
  3. …episode of the TV show ‘Sisters’ (1991-1996)

 

  • Now is the time to start being sensible.
  • Don’ ruin your life in sheer stupidity.
  • You won’t listen to reason at all, will you?
  • Don’t throw your life away on plain stupidity.
  • When you are sane you can think for both of us.
  • Let’s just say there are times when justice is too big a risk.
  • Control yourself!

 

Last thoughts:

  1. Greek plays are fun to read and ‘read about’.
  2. I always have to prepare dinner before starting a Greek play.
  3. Once I start reading and researching it…I forget to eat!
  4. But the hardest part is trying to find something new to say
  5. …about a play that has been
  6. …with us since time immemorial.
  7. It is just a…
  8. #MustRead.

 

 

 

 

6
Aug

Classic: Seneca Letters From a Stoic

 

Conclusion:

  1. For more information about Seneca and Stoicism
  2. …I refer you to the links in the header.
  3. This book is perfect bed-time reading.
  4. Tone is casual.
  5. Focus is on practical moral advice.
  6. Your mind can relax after a hectic day and let
  7. Seneca  bring  you back to basic thoughts about:
  8. mercy, anger, kindness, fate, happiness, and peace of mind.
  9. Strong points: writing style is full of brevity and sparkle.
  10. There are so many quotes that have lingered
  11. …too many to sum up.
  12. At the end of the book…the last letter (letter CXXIII)
  13. Seneca left me with these thoughts I use daily:

 

  • Nothing is burdensome if taken lightly
  • …nothing need arouse one’s irritation so long as one
  • …doesn’t make it bigger than it is by getting irritated!

 

  • It is in no man’s power to have whatever he wants
  • …but he has it in his power not to wish
  • …for what he hasn’t got.

 

  1. And as a person who struggles with an aching lower back
  2. Seneca spoke to me with these words:

 

  • I’m deriving immeasurable satisfaction from the way  my
  • …tiredness is becoming reconcile to itself.
  • What was brought on by exertion
  • …rest is taking away.
11
Sep

Oedipus Rex

 

  1. Conflict:  truth vs ignorance
  2. Oedipus insists on knowing the truth.
  3. Jocasta, the priest, Creon, and Tiresias try desperately to hide the truth
  4. Timeline: 1 day
  5. Setting:   Thebes is the  city in which all events take place.
  6. Structure: the play is a series speeches
  7. (priest, Oepidus (several) Tiresias, Creon, Jocasta and 2nd messenger)
  8. mingled with several series of ‘fast paced dialogue between actors.
  9. Oepidus with Creon – Tiresias (prophet) – Jocasta – messenger shepherd
  10. The chorus speaks 7 times ….we could see this as indicating the next scene.
  11. In 4 choric interruptions Oedipus leaves the stage
  12. …..an we have some ‘breathing space’
  13. from the intense narrative action!

 

Basic story line of the myth:

  1. Oedipus is the son of King Laius and Queen Jocasta
  2. The oracle predicts that Queen Jocasta will have a son who will
  3. kill his father and then sleep with his mother.
  4. To prevent this disaster the King and Queen decide to expose the infant
  5. …and leave him out in the countryside to die.
  6. The child is found, rescued and raised by King and Queen of Corinth.
  7. Oedipus returns to his native town, Thebes.
  8. He outsmarts a an half-human half-animal monster  (the Sphinx)
  9. …who is terrorizing the city.
  10. The grateful people make Oedipus  King of Thebes.
  11. Oedipus is also given the
  12. …hand of Jocasta in marriage (….his mother!)
  13. Oedipus and Jocasta have four children
  14. The story follows Oedipus quest to learn the truth about his life.

 

How does Sophocles ‘alter’  basic myth?

  1. Sophocles adds several details that are important for his play.
  2. All these details are brought out in the play in
  3. bits and pieces in non-chronological order.
  4. Oedipus slowly pieces together the truth as to what actually happened
  5. …and who he actually is..

 

Detail nr 1:

  • Jocasta gives infant to trusted slave….a shepherd.
  • The Corinthian royal couple raise Oedipus as a prince.

Detail nr 2:

  • A guest at a banquet taunts Oedipus
  • …that he is not really King Polybus’ son.
  • Oedipus decides to ask the Oracle of Delphi.

Detail nr 3:

  • On the way to Thebes Oedipus met, quarreled with
  • ….and killed an old man at a crossroads.
  • Of course….the man is King Laius (…his father).

 

How does the play open?

  1. Oedipus is approached by a priest and chorus.
  2. They want Oedipus to find out why a plague is destroying their city.
  3. Sophocles does NOT concentrate on the murder of King Laius
  4. does NOT concentrate on the incest with  Queen Jocasta.
  5. He emphasizes  the process by which Oedipus discovers the truth.

 

What does Opedius do?

  1. He sends brother-in-law Creon (Jocasta’s brother)
  2. to Delphi  to ask why Apollo is punishing the city of Thebes?
  3. Oedipus wants to know what Thebes can do to compensate
  4. for the crime they have committed that has caused this plague?
  5. Answer: there is some in Thebes who is ritually unclean living in the city.
  6. In fact this is King Laius’ killer.

 

What does Oedipus do…now?

  1. He pronounces a solemn and  binding curse against the murderer.
  2. He commands all to drive this ‘man’ from their homes.
  3. If with Oedipus’ knowledge he lives at his  own hearth…
  4. he prays that he himself will feel this curse!

 

How does the audience react?

  1. The thing with Greek theater is that
  2. …all the people who were watching the play
  3. ….actually knew the plot, and therefore knew the ending.
  4. After Opedius’ speech the audience  gasps at the irony
  5. he has cursed himself!

 

What is the turning point in the play?

  1. There are many minor turning points.
  2. This is the first one  at the beginning of the play:
  3. Tiresias, a prophet, is summoned to tell Opedius who the murder is.
  4. Tiresias is reluctant.
  5. Because he is  a wise man he knows  perfectly well that Opedius is the murderer.
  6. Tiresias resists and this arouses Oedipus’ anger and suspicion.
  7. Oedipus begins to suspect that Tiresias might have helped plot the murder of Laius.
  8. Tiresias finally explodes:
  9. You are the land’s pollution…you are the man you seek!

 

What is the climax in the play?

  1. When you read the play you will discover
  2. …the the situation that makes the Oedipus arrive at the
  3. inevitable  and unavoidable acceptance of the reality.
  4. 2 witnesses each have a part of the knowledge about Oepdius’ life.
  5. When the Thebean slave and the Corinthian shepherd come together…
  6. …the great king suddenly becomes a tragic, miserable  character.
  7. Count no man happy until he dies…..”
  8. [That man is happy, till vexed by no grievous ill.]

 

Conclusion:

  1. Strong point: strong role for women in the theater –> Jocasta
  2. Strong point:   metaphor of  blindness
  3. ...the sighted do not know the truth
  4. …the blind do know the truth.
  5. Strong point:  full of suspense!
  6. Sophocles  uncovers clues one by one.
  7. We know who killed Laius  (that is written in the myth)
  8. what the reader is waiting for is the ‘moment’ when
  9. Oedipus finally realizes who he is!
  10. We all know this play is…..
  11. #MustRead
  12. LibriVox Free Audio Oepidus Rex
  13. I listened to it…..but the
  14. translation is difficult to follow
  15. …does not correspond with my text and
  16. …the chorus is just awful!
  17. If you really want to enjoy the play reading and listening
  18. Audible.com has the best version!
  19. After the play…there is an interview (35 min) with Nicholas Rudall.
  20. He is the translator and director of the play.
  21. It was excellent!

 

  • This play is a classic but
  • I did need this diagram to help me before I started reading.

7
Sep

Plutarch’s Lives

  • Author: Plutarch
  • Title: Plutarch’s Lives Vol 1
  • Published: beginning of the second century A.D.
  • Genre: social history of the ancient world
  • Style: anecdotal and full of detail
  • Translation: 1683 by John Dryden
  • Revision: 1864 by  Arthur Hugh Clough
  • Ancient Greek and Roman Challenge

 

Introduction:

  1. Lives is a series of biographies of famous Greeks and Romans  by Plutarch.
  2. Structure:
  3. twenty-three paired biographies, one Greek and one Roman
  4. four unpaired  (explores the influence of character on the lives of the subjects)
  5. Goal: Plutarch was most concerned with capturing this issue of character.
  6. Plutarch reveals how their character led  them ultimately to tragedy or victory.

 

My reading strategy: 

  1. I had to limit myself to 100 pages a day because
  2. …my eyes started to glaze over after reading all
  3. the military campaigns and political intrigues.

 

  1. Read wikipedia page before reading Plutarch.
  2. This helped me focus on the important points.
  3. This helped me with dates and places of several battles.

 

  1. Style: Plutarch’s style is rich with details
  2. ….that at times is ‘overdone’ — battles, sieges, ambushes–.
  3. I must let you read a quote …just to
  4. indicate the style you will have to ‘trudge through’ to find some
  5. gems of information…and there gems for those who perservere.

The first two sentences of the life of the Roman Camillus:

Among the many remarkable things that are related of Furius Camillus, it seems singular and strange above all, that he, who continually was in the highest commands, and obtained the greatest successes, was five times chosen dictator, triumphed four times, and was styled a second founder of Rome, yet never was so much as once consul. The reason of which was the state and temper of the commonwealth at that time; for the people, being at dissension with the senate, refused to return consuls, but in their stead elected other magistrates, called military tribunes, who acted, indeed, with full consular power, but were thought to exercise a less obnoxious amount of authority, because it was divided among a larger number; for to have the management of affairs entrusted in the hands of six persons rather than two was some satisfaction to the opponents of oligarchy.

And on it goes…

 

  1. Weak point  I thought I could manage the audio book
  2. ….but my mind could not process all the names and references
  3. without the words in front of me.
  4. So I listened… but finally stopped using the audio book
  5. …and read each chapter on the Kindle.

 

  1. Audio chapters vary from 40 min to
  2. …long ones lasting 1hr 45 min! (Alcibiades and Coriolanus )
  3. I found I could read the chapters in half the time!
  4. I think listening to Plutarch’s Lives will be easier
  5. ….now that I  have read the book.
  6. These long stories filled with clashes in battle are
  7. perfect for …long walks or bike rides!

 

Favorite profiles:

  1. Themistocles  (admiral) – Alcibiades (ultimate ‘bad-boy) and
  2. Pericles (made Athens great and beautiful with new structures)
  3. Fabius: know for the Fabian Strategy
  4. Targeting the enemy’s supply lines
  5. accepting only smaller engagements on favorable ground
  6. rather than risking his entire army on direct confrontation.
  7. He was the father of guerilla warfare.

 

Last thoughts:

  1. The first profiles are probably based on myth (Theseus, Romulus)
  2. The rest are  predominately all
  3. politicians, consuls, generals and admirals.
  4. The balance between true biography and
  5. ..descriptions of battles was 20% – 80 %.

 

  1. Strong point: The comparisons were the best part of the book because
  2. …they  concentrated on the morality and character of the men.
  3. That is the most  interesting.
  4. I will soon forget the battles….but remember this:

  5. Pericles:
  6. He warned the Athenians of the ruin that awaited them for
  7. …grasping more than they could manage.
  8. Pericles was a good prophet of bad success
  9. Fabius:
  10. He warned that Scipio Africanus Fabius would fail with his attack on Carthage
  11. it turned out to be a victory.
  12. Fabius was a bad prophet of success that would be good!

 

  1. Weak point: sometimes Plutarch’s descriptions are so heavy in detail
  2. (who sent an message to whom, what was sacrificed before the battle,
  3. the visits to Delphi Oracle,  how the camp fires burned,
  4. the commander’s insignia on his armor,
  5. muddy battlefields with hail and wind…..)
  6. …that one might question the veracity of his narration.

 

  1. Strong point: the text is relatively accessible
  2. …but you will have to get used to the long, long sentences.
  3. I preferred reading about important battles in Histories by Herodotus.
  4. The Landmark Herodotus is an excellent book with many maps
  5. You can easily follow the strategy of the battles.

 

MAPS  I found on Google to help me follow the narrative:

 

 

 

 

 

2
Jun

Medea

 

Introduction:

Colchis on the Black Sea

  1. This is back round information not in the play:
  2. Medea is a woman in Greek mythology.
  3. She was the daughter of the king of Colchis,
  4. granddaughter of Heilios the sun god and later 
  5. …wife of the hero Jason.
  6. They had two children Mermeros and Pheres.
  7. Janson leaves Medea when Creon the king of Corinth
  8. …offers him his daughter Glauce.
  9. The play tells of a insanely jealous Medea
  10. …who gets her revenge on her husband for his betrayal.

Characters:

Medea, the princess of Colchis
Jason, Medea’s husband, a great hero
Glauce, Jason’s new wife, the princess of Corinth
Creon, Glauce’s father, the king of Corinth
Aegeus, the king of Athens
Medea’s nurse, who delivers the prologue of the play
Jason’s sons

 

  1. Theme:  revenge
  2. Timeline: 1 day
  3. Setting:   431 BC,  Corinth Greece

Structure:

  1. The play is short (31 pages) with no specific division into acts or scenes.
  2. Medea laments the cause of her grief and
  3. …shares her plot for revenge which foreshadows her actions.
  4. Prologue:  Nurse:  speaks  to the audience with backround information and
  5. …the central problem of the play.
  6. Parodos: enter of the chorus (sing, dance)
  7. Episodes: action of the drama alternated with spoken passages by the chorus (odes)
  8. Exodus:  at the end of the play, the chorus gives some piece of final wisdom.

The play begins…

  1. Medea and Jason settle in Corinth.
  2. They have lived together for some years and have 2 sons.
  3. The play starts
  4. ….the nurse and tutor whisper the gossip…
  5. Jason is  leaving his wife to marry Glauce.
  6. Medea wails with grief and hates the sight of her children!

Core of the play:

  1. Medea’s reaction to news of Jason’s marriage.
  2. — the terrible revenge she decides to take against Jason.
  3.  — the difficulties of women in ancient Greece.

Main focus of the play:

  1. Euripides stresses the horrifying details
  2. ….as Medea plans  to kill her two sons with her own hands.
    — her decision to kill the children
    — her following through on it
    — the result this has on Jason

Highlights of the play:

  1. Medea is portrayed as a ‘wronged wife’, a victim.
  2. Marriage is inevitable:
  3. — we women are among the most unfortunate creatures
  4. …to take for our bodies a master for not to take one is even worse.
  5. Women have an easy life:
  6. — how wrong they (men) are,
  7. I would very much rather stand three times in the
  8. …front of battle than bear one child.”

We must not forget Jason:

  1. In the great scene of confrontation
  2. Medea reminds Jason she saved him
  3. and now he has betrayed her.
  4. Jason says:
  5. yes she saved him but he…brought her to Greece, a civilized country.
  6. Jason says:
  7. he decided to marry Glauce …also to benefit Medea and their children.
  8. They would have had a ‘connection’
  9. …to the royal household and a protection for them.

Conclusion:

  1. Medea is a character without a home.
  2. She is cut off from her father by marrying Jason without permission.
  3. Then gets herself banished from Corinth by vowing revenge on Jason.
  4. With no home and no husband Medea’s life  in Greek society
  5. would be little better than that of a slave.
  6. There is a very thin line between love and hate in this play.
  7. Medea is a desperate woman pushed over the edge.
  8. She is even driven to kill her own children.
  9. Medea lives the rest of her days in an unhappy exile
  10. grieving for her murdered young boys.
  11. I read Medea on the Kindle
  12. …while listening to the audio book.
  13. Narrated by:  Judith Anderson and A. Quayle .
  14. Length: 1 hr and 8 mins 
  15. I choose the abridged audio book because the
  16. unabridged was awful to listen to.
  17. Always sample before you buy!
  18. The difference between both versions was 20 minutes.
  19. I compensated this by reading the play while listening.
  20. Once and a while a small bit of  ‘quick dialouge’ was omitted.

Last thoughts:

  1. This was one of the most depressing plays I’ve ever read.
  2. But this play is an iconic role for women!
  3. I wanted to see the play on DVD.
  4. Olivia Sutherland (2016) that has gotten rave reviews in Medea.
  5. I’ve seen a small 4 min clip on  You Tube.
  6. Unfortunately the actress is very young and did not have
  7. the gravitas for such an evil woman.
  8. I think if I could ever find the video ….
  9. Diana Rigg would be the best version.
  10. Broadway, Longacre Theater  appearance in Medea in 1994. (these 2 pictures)
  11. She won  1994 Tony Award for Best Performance for a leading actress.

1993 production of Medea at the Wyndham’s Theatre, London