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TSE  March 2001

TSE March 2001

Subject:

Re: The rewarding classics

From:

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Date:

Wed, 28 Feb 2001 22:54:27 EST

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Jon,

Your posts are great. 

Go now and do whatever you have to do. Take care of yourself and please don't 
eat meat, at least not until this craziness with sick cattle settles down. 

be well, 

pat
===========================================================
In a message dated 2/28/01 9:27:40 PM Eastern Standard Time, 
[log in to unmask] writes:


> Subj:Re: The rewarding classics
> Date:2/28/01 9:27:40 PM Eastern Standard Time
> From:    [log in to unmask] (Jon Rouse)
> Sender:    [log in to unmask]
> Reply-to: <A HREF="mailto:[log in to unmask]">[log in to unmask]</A>
> To:    [log in to unmask]
> 
> 
> 
> 
> >> Please keep going Jon, as I think this is great. 
>> 
>> Oh, Pat, if I had the time, I would ramble on (largely incoherently) about 
>> all this until the list was begging me to stop...I say, get out while you 
>> still can!!
>> 
>> Somebody pointed out that Aeneas comes on stage, in the Aeneid, wishing 
>> that he were dead, and that he's the only epic hero to do so. You're 
>> giving this a further dimension for me by pointing out that the Iliad, 
>> too, opens on a tragic note. 
>>  
>> It must be said that Aeneas is not exactly Mr Cheery about his destiny - 
>> rarely has Shakespeare's epithet about, 'Some men are born great, some 
>> achieve greatness, and *some have greatness thrust upon them*' seemed so 
>> appropriate.  
>>  
>> It's not a motif that's so evident in the Greek literature Virgil drew 
>> upon; even Aeschylus' Orestes, the most obvious parallel, as an innocent 
>> victim of the curse of the House of Atreus, only wavers (tellingly) at the 
>> crucial moment of actually slaughtering his own mother, Clytaemnestra.  
>> But Orestes still accepted the *responsibility* for his fate, which Aeneas 
>> could never accept (remember Aeneas had to be *ordered* by the gods to 
>> stop sleeping with Elissa/Dido and *bloody well get on with his destiny*). 
>>  
>>  
>> Sophocles drove the point home; his characters (most famously Oedipus and 
>> his daughter, Antigone) met their fate not through reluctant 
>> inevitability, but through stubborn, bloody-minded, wilful, human 
>> determination to see it through, no matter what the cost.  Aeneas could 
>> never be accused of such driving ambition.
>>  
>> Virgil was a great, great poet; but the Latin poets and philosophers 
>> seemed to miss the real subtlety of the Greeks; they seemed to view 
>> destiny and inevitability as objective realities; you were a puppet on a 
>> string, and you just had to deal with it.  Aeneas doesn't like what he's 
>> doing; but he does what he's told.  He's a puppet.  
>>  
>> The Greeks were far more questioning; it's not that easy.  Oedipus was the 
>> classic (no pun) Greek puppet of the gods; but *not* because he was doing 
>> what he was told, but almost the reverse; because, by acting as a free 
>> individual, with his own choices, unbeknownst to himself, he was blindly 
>> driving to his allotted fate precisely by exercising free will in 
>> attempting to avoid that fate.  And compare and contrast his daughter 
>> Antigone, who had every opportunity to avoid her fate, but stubbornly 
>> refused to do so; she simply *would not do* what she was told.  Whereas 
>> Aeneas, comparitively spinelessly, simply ultimately did *exactly* what he 
>> was told, and never mind free will, be it blind, or stubborn.  He had 
>> orders, and whether he liked them or not, he carried them out.
>>  
>> I've often stopped to reflect that this philosophical difference speaks 
>> volumes about why our legal system is so rooted in Latinate dictates, and 
>> why our arts are still so dominated by 'eleutheria' - the Greek notion of 
>> personal freedom.  The Romans were great at making rules and laws; but the 
>> Greeks had the philosophical depth.  In a thousand years of the Roman 
>> Empire, they didn't throw up a single innovative, original philosopher.  
>> But they were great at *telling you what to do*, at the pragmatics of 
>> life, and our statutes today are testimony to that.
>>  
>> I'm sorry, to Pat particularly, since she asked for a response, and I 
>> suspect this is too rushed, and makes little sense to anyone not steeped 
>> in classics (indeed, it probably makes little sense to anyone that isn't 
>> me!); I apologise for the incomprehensibility, but I thought Pat's mail 
>> deserved a response, and I wish I had more time to post a coherent reply, 
>> rather than this probably rather esoteric mail, which I suspect will 
>> simply provoke more questions than it answers...
>>  
>> atropos
>>  
>> 
>> ================================================ 
>> In a message dated 2/26/01 7:49:20 PM Eastern Standard Time, 
>> [log in to unmask] writes: 
>> 
>> 
>> 
>> >>> Subj:Re: The rewarding classics 
>>> Date:2/26/01 7:49:20 PM Eastern Standard Time 
>>> From:    [log in to unmask] (Jon Rouse) 
>>> Sender:    [log in to unmask] 
>>> Reply-to: <A HREF="mailto:[log in to unmask]">[log in to unmask]</A> 
>>> To:    [log in to unmask] 
>>> 
>>> 
>>> 
>>> 
>>> > "Sing, O goddess, the anger of Achilles, son of Peleus 
>>> > That brought countless ills upon the Achaeans." 
>>> > 
>>> > I don't know the source. Is it a glorification of male rage or a 
>>> denunciation 
>>> > of male rage? 
>>> > 
>>> > It's a denunciation, since balance was the ideal of the Greeks. 
>>> 
>>> I'm not sure that I would personally agree with that reading.  Achilles 
>>> was 
>>> one of the greatest heroes of all to the Greeks, and indeed is the 
>>> central 
>>> figure of the Iliad (and compare Odysseus, who in the later poets, such 
>>> as 
>>> Euripides, gets savaged as a personality - Achilles is never treated with 
>>> the contempt that gets piled on Odysseus in later works).  I personally 
>>> wouldn't subscribe to a view of Homer denouncing his hero in the opening 
>>> lines.  Apart from anything else, I think the Greek notion of measure and 
>>> balance was a far later philosophical development, long after Homer.  I 
>>> think Homer admires Achilles for standing up to Agamemnon, when the Greek 
>>> Overlord steals Briseis, Achilles' hard-won prize of battle, away from 
>>> him. 
>>> And it's Achilles who turns the tide of the war by entering the fray in 
>>> complete blood-lust, enraged by Patroclus' death (no obvious notion of 
>>> balance there); Achilles who kills Hector, and then drags his corpse 
>>> round 
>>> and round the city of Troy (again, doesn't strike me as particularly the 
>>> act 
>>> of a balanced individual). 
>>> 
>>> If anything, I'd be inclined to suggest that Homer's opening lines sow 
>>> the 
>>> seeds of the tragic poets that followed; those that, to quote Aeschylus, 
>>> took slices from the banquet of Homer.  I don't think Homer intends to 
>>> criticise Achilles in the opening lines, but he recognises the tragic 
>>> consequences of Achilles' anger at Agamemnon, and the heavy price it cost 
>>> the Greeks in the war.  I wouldn't say he *exonerates* him either; the 
>>> cost 
>>> is so heavy, and Homer knows that, and states as much right there in the 
>>> second line of his work.  My reading is he admires Achilles as a great 
>>> hero, 
>>> while stating, quite openly, up front, the tragic cost of his 
>>> psychological 
>>> make-up.  One could possibly argue that the opening two lines of the 
>>> Iliad 
>>> prefigure all the great tragic characters that strode across the Greek 
>>> stage. 
>>> 
>>> Good heavens, I'm having a head-rush.  I have no idea where I'm dragging 
>>> this all up from... 
>>> 
>>> atropos 
>>> 
>>> 
>>> 
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>>> From: "Jon Rouse" <[log in to unmask]> 
>>> To: <[log in to unmask]> 
>>> Subject: Re: The rewarding classics 
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>>> 
>>> 
>> 
>> 
> 
> 
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> Subject: Re: The rewarding classics
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<HTML><FONT FACE=arial,helvetica><FONT  SIZE=3 FAMILY="SANSSERIF" FACE="Arial Narrow" LANG="0"><B>Jon,
<BR>
<BR>Your posts are great. 
<BR>
<BR>Go now and do whatever you have to do. Take care of yourself and please don't 
<BR>eat meat, at least not until this craziness with sick cattle settles down. 
<BR>
<BR>be well, 
<BR>
<BR>pat
<BR>===========================================================
<BR>In a message dated 2/28/01 9:27:40 PM Eastern Standard Time, 
<BR>[log in to unmask] writes:
<BR>
<BR></FONT><FONT  COLOR="#000000" SIZE=2 FAMILY="SANSSERIF" FACE="Arial" LANG="0"></B>
<BR><BLOCKQUOTE TYPE=CITE style="BORDER-LEFT: #0000ff 2px solid; MARGIN-LEFT: 5px; MARGIN-RIGHT: 0px; PADDING-LEFT: 5px">Subj:<B>Re: The rewarding classics</B>
<BR>Date:2/28/01 9:27:40 PM Eastern Standard Time
<BR>From: &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;[log in to unmask] (Jon Rouse)
<BR>Sender: &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;[log in to unmask]
<BR>Reply-to: <A HREF="mailto:[log in to unmask]">[log in to unmask]</A>
<BR>To: &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;[log in to unmask]
<BR>
<BR>
<BR>
<BR>
<BR></FONT><FONT  COLOR="#000000" SIZE=3 FAMILY="SANSSERIF" FACE="Arial Narrow" LANG="0"><BLOCKQUOTE TYPE=CITE style="BORDER-LEFT: #0000ff 2px solid; MARGIN-LEFT: 5px; MARGIN-RIGHT: 0px; PADDING-LEFT: 5px"><B>Please keep going Jon, as I think this is great. 
<BR></B>
<BR></FONT><FONT  COLOR="#000000" SIZE=2 FAMILY="SANSSERIF" FACE="Arial" LANG="0">Oh, Pat, if I had the time, I would ramble on (largely incoherently) about 
<BR>all this until the list was begging me to stop...I say, get out while you 
<BR>still can!!</FONT><FONT  COLOR="#000000" SIZE=3 FAMILY="SANSSERIF" FACE="Arial" LANG="0">
<BR></FONT><FONT  COLOR="#000000" SIZE=3 FAMILY="SANSSERIF" FACE="Arial Narrow" LANG="0">
<BR><B>Somebody pointed out that Aeneas comes on stage, in the Aeneid, wishing 
<BR>that he were dead, and that he's the only epic hero to do so. You're 
<BR>giving this a further dimension for me by pointing out that the Iliad, 
<BR>too, opens on a tragic note. </B>
<BR> 
<BR></FONT><FONT  COLOR="#000000" SIZE=2 FAMILY="SANSSERIF" FACE="Arial" LANG="0">It must be said that Aeneas is not exactly Mr Cheery about his destiny - 
<BR>rarely has Shakespeare's epithet about, 'Some men are born great, some 
<BR>achieve greatness, and *some have greatness thrust upon them*' seemed so 
<BR>appropriate. &nbsp;</FONT><FONT  COLOR="#000000" SIZE=3 FAMILY="SANSSERIF" FACE="Arial" LANG="0">
<BR> 
<BR></FONT><FONT  COLOR="#000000" SIZE=2 FAMILY="SANSSERIF" FACE="Arial" LANG="0">It's not a motif that's so evident in the Greek literature Virgil drew 
<BR>upon; even Aeschylus' Orestes, the most obvious parallel, as an innocent 
<BR>victim of the curse of the House of Atreus, only wavers (tellingly) at the 
<BR>crucial moment of actually slaughtering his own mother, Clytaemnestra. &nbsp;
<BR>But Orestes still accepted the *responsibility* for his fate, which Aeneas 
<BR>could never accept (remember Aeneas had to be *ordered* by the gods to 
<BR>stop sleeping with Elissa/Dido and *bloody well get on with his destiny*). 
<BR>&nbsp;</FONT><FONT  COLOR="#000000" SIZE=3 FAMILY="SANSSERIF" FACE="Arial" LANG="0">
<BR> 
<BR></FONT><FONT  COLOR="#000000" SIZE=2 FAMILY="SANSSERIF" FACE="Arial" LANG="0">Sophocles drove the point home; his characters (most famously Oedipus and 
<BR>his daughter, Antigone) met their fate not through reluctant 
<BR>inevitability, but through stubborn, bloody-minded, wilful, human 
<BR>determination to see it through, no matter what the cost. &nbsp;Aeneas could 
<BR>never be accused of such driving ambition.</FONT><FONT  COLOR="#000000" SIZE=3 FAMILY="SANSSERIF" FACE="Arial" LANG="0">
<BR> 
<BR></FONT><FONT  COLOR="#000000" SIZE=2 FAMILY="SANSSERIF" FACE="Arial" LANG="0">Virgil was a great, great poet; but the Latin poets and philosophers 
<BR>seemed to miss the real subtlety of the Greeks; they seemed to view 
<BR>destiny and inevitability as objective realities; you were a puppet on a 
<BR>string, and you just had to deal with it. &nbsp;Aeneas doesn't like what he's 
<BR>doing; but he does what he's told. &nbsp;He's a puppet. &nbsp;</FONT><FONT  COLOR="#000000" SIZE=3 FAMILY="SANSSERIF" FACE="Arial" LANG="0">
<BR> 
<BR></FONT><FONT  COLOR="#000000" SIZE=2 FAMILY="SANSSERIF" FACE="Arial" LANG="0">The Greeks were far more questioning; it's not that easy. &nbsp;Oedipus was the 
<BR>classic (no pun) Greek puppet of the gods; but *not* because he was doing 
<BR>what he was told, but almost the reverse; because, by acting as a free 
<BR>individual, with his own choices, unbeknownst to himself, he was blindly 
<BR>driving to his allotted fate precisely by exercising free will in 
<BR>attempting to avoid that fate. &nbsp;And compare and contrast his daughter 
<BR>Antigone, who had every opportunity to avoid her fate, but stubbornly 
<BR>refused to do so; she simply *would not do* what she was told. &nbsp;Whereas 
<BR>Aeneas, comparitively spinelessly, simply ultimately did *exactly* what he 
<BR>was told, and never mind free will, be it blind, or stubborn. &nbsp;He had 
<BR>orders, and whether he liked them or not, he carried them out.</FONT><FONT  COLOR="#000000" SIZE=3 FAMILY="SANSSERIF" FACE="Arial" LANG="0">
<BR> 
<BR></FONT><FONT  COLOR="#000000" SIZE=2 FAMILY="SANSSERIF" FACE="Arial" LANG="0">I've often stopped to reflect that this philosophical difference speaks 
<BR>volumes about why our legal system is so rooted in Latinate dictates, and 
<BR>why our arts are still so dominated by 'eleutheria' - the Greek notion of 
<BR>personal freedom. &nbsp;The Romans were great at making rules and laws; but the 
<BR>Greeks had the philosophical depth. &nbsp;In a thousand years of the Roman 
<BR>Empire, they didn't throw up a single innovative, original philosopher. &nbsp;
<BR>But they were great at *telling you what to do*, at the pragmatics of 
<BR>life, and our statutes today are testimony to that.</FONT><FONT  COLOR="#000000" SIZE=3 FAMILY="SANSSERIF" FACE="Arial" LANG="0">
<BR> 
<BR></FONT><FONT  COLOR="#000000" SIZE=2 FAMILY="SANSSERIF" FACE="Arial" LANG="0">I'm sorry, to Pat particularly, since she asked for a response, and I 
<BR>suspect this is too rushed, and makes little sense to anyone not steeped 
<BR>in classics (indeed, it probably makes little sense to anyone that isn't 
<BR>me!); I apologise for the incomprehensibility, but I thought Pat's mail 
<BR>deserved a response, and I wish I had more time to post a coherent reply, 
<BR>rather than this probably rather esoteric mail, which I suspect will 
<BR>simply provoke more questions than it answers...</FONT><FONT  COLOR="#000000" SIZE=3 FAMILY="SANSSERIF" FACE="Arial" LANG="0">
<BR> 
<BR></FONT><FONT  COLOR="#000000" SIZE=2 FAMILY="SANSSERIF" FACE="Arial" LANG="0">atropos</FONT><FONT  COLOR="#000000" SIZE=3 FAMILY="SANSSERIF" FACE="Arial" LANG="0">
<BR></FONT><FONT  COLOR="#000000" SIZE=3 FAMILY="SANSSERIF" FACE="Arial Narrow" LANG="0"> 
<BR><B>
<BR>================================================ 
<BR>In a message dated 2/26/01 7:49:20 PM Eastern Standard Time, 
<BR>[log in to unmask] writes: 
<BR>
<BR></FONT><FONT  COLOR="#000000" SIZE=2 FAMILY="SANSSERIF" FACE="Arial" LANG="0"></B>
<BR>
<BR><BLOCKQUOTE TYPE=CITE style="BORDER-LEFT: #0000ff 2px solid; MARGIN-LEFT: 5px; MARGIN-RIGHT: 0px; PADDING-LEFT: 5px">Subj:<B>Re: The rewarding classics</B> 
<BR>Date:2/26/01 7:49:20 PM Eastern Standard Time 
<BR>From: &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;[log in to unmask] (Jon Rouse) 
<BR>Sender: &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;[log in to unmask] 
<BR>Reply-to: <A HREF="mailto:[log in to unmask]">[log in to unmask]</A> 
<BR>To: &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;[log in to unmask] 
<BR>
<BR>
<BR>
<BR>
<BR>&gt; "Sing, O goddess, the anger of Achilles, son of Peleus 
<BR>&gt; That brought countless ills upon the Achaeans." 
<BR>&gt; 
<BR>&gt; I don't know the source. Is it a glorification of male rage or a 
<BR>denunciation 
<BR>&gt; of male rage? 
<BR>&gt; 
<BR>&gt; It's a denunciation, since balance was the ideal of the Greeks. 
<BR>
<BR>I'm not sure that I would personally agree with that reading. &nbsp;Achilles 
<BR>was 
<BR>one of the greatest heroes of all to the Greeks, and indeed is the 
<BR>central 
<BR>figure of the Iliad (and compare Odysseus, who in the later poets, such 
<BR>as 
<BR>Euripides, gets savaged as a personality - Achilles is never treated with 
<BR>the contempt that gets piled on Odysseus in later works). &nbsp;I personally 
<BR>wouldn't subscribe to a view of Homer denouncing his hero in the opening 
<BR>lines. &nbsp;Apart from anything else, I think the Greek notion of measure and 
<BR>balance was a far later philosophical development, long after Homer. &nbsp;I 
<BR>think Homer admires Achilles for standing up to Agamemnon, when the Greek 
<BR>Overlord steals Briseis, Achilles' hard-won prize of battle, away from 
<BR>him. 
<BR>And it's Achilles who turns the tide of the war by entering the fray in 
<BR>complete blood-lust, enraged by Patroclus' death (no obvious notion of 
<BR>balance there); Achilles who kills Hector, and then drags his corpse 
<BR>round 
<BR>and round the city of Troy (again, doesn't strike me as particularly the 
<BR>act 
<BR>of a balanced individual). 
<BR>
<BR>If anything, I'd be inclined to suggest that Homer's opening lines sow 
<BR>the 
<BR>seeds of the tragic poets that followed; those that, to quote Aeschylus, 
<BR>took slices from the banquet of Homer. &nbsp;I don't think Homer intends to 
<BR>criticise Achilles in the opening lines, but he recognises the tragic 
<BR>consequences of Achilles' anger at Agamemnon, and the heavy price it cost 
<BR>the Greeks in the war. &nbsp;I wouldn't say he *exonerates* him either; the 
<BR>cost 
<BR>is so heavy, and Homer knows that, and states as much right there in the 
<BR>second line of his work. &nbsp;My reading is he admires Achilles as a great 
<BR>hero, 
<BR>while stating, quite openly, up front, the tragic cost of his 
<BR>psychological 
<BR>make-up. &nbsp;One could possibly argue that the opening two lines of the 
<BR>Iliad 
<BR>prefigure all the great tragic characters that strode across the Greek 
<BR>stage. 
<BR>
<BR>Good heavens, I'm having a head-rush. &nbsp;I have no idea where I'm dragging 
<BR>this all up from... 
<BR>
<BR>atropos 
<BR>
<BR></FONT><FONT  COLOR="#0f0f0f" SIZE=2 FAMILY="SANSSERIF" FACE="Arial" LANG="0">
<BR>
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