2018.02.14 (formally presented 2018.02.11) | By Gregory Nagy
This posting of 2018.02.14, on Valentine’s Day, marks the third anniversary of Classical Inquiries, which began with a posting that dates from 2015.02.14, Valentine’s Day three years ago. The author of the present posting has received permission from Niloofar Fotouhi, editor-in-chief of TheHollyfest.org, to replicate his contribution to that online publication celebrating the 66th birthday of Olga M. Davidson. The title of that contribution, “What GN owes OMD,” works perfectly for the present context as well, since “GN” owes a Valentine’s Day card to “OMD.” This posting, it is hoped, can serve as such a card, just as the same posting had served as a loving birthday card three days earlier.
2018.02.08 | By Gregory Nagy
Inscribed on the surface of the stele that is pictured here is the wording of the so-called Oath of the Ephebes. This oath, it is argued here, connects the ideals of democracy with the ideals of environmentalism as it was understood in the ancient Greek world. Such an understanding, it can also be argued, needs to be studied for its relevance to the environmental crises confronting the world today.
2018.02.04 | By Roger D. Woodard
Opinions have varied and swayed regarding the interpretation of the Linear B term po-re-na. Whatever meaning is assigned, many would draw the forms po-re-si and po-re-no- into their interpretation of po-re-na, and vice versa. In this investigation I begin with the interpretation of po-re-na that appears most probable and reconsider po-re-si and po-re-no- on the basis of both internal and comparative evidence.
2018.02.01 | By Gregory Nagy
I continue from where I left off in Classical Inquiries 2018.01.25. I focus here on another Athenian myth, as mentioned by Pausanias at 1.20.3, about the abandonment of Ariadne by her lover Theseus and about her seduction or—in terms of the mention made by Pausanias—her abduction by the god Dionysus. Pausanias at 1.20.3 mentions the myth as he sees it represented on a wall painting located inside the sacred precinct of the god Dionysus. According to the myth, Ariadne had slept with Theseus and is still asleep as Theseus quietly leaves her and sails off to Athens. Now Dionysus approaches from afar, preparing to seduce or abduct Ariadne. In the close-up from a modern painting of this myth, we see Ariadne asleep in the foreground, while Theseus is already sailing off in the background.
2018.01.25 | By Gregory Nagy
I continue from where I left off in Classical Inquiries 2018.01.18. I focus here on an Athenian myth, as narrated by Pausanias at 1.18.2, about the baby Erikhthonios and the young daughters of Kekrops, king of Athens. These girls had been chosen by the goddess Athena to take good care of Erikhthonios—and not to open the box in which the baby was hidden. But two of the girls went ahead and opened the box—and they were instantly driven mad by what they saw. Then, in their madness, they killed themselves by leaping off the steepest part of the Acropolis. In the narrative of Pausanias, the holy mystery of what the girls really saw is left untold. In the narrative that we read in Ovid’s Metamorphoses 2.560–561, on the other hand, the secret is half-revealed: what you see from the poet’s wording, at the same time, is a baby and a snake. Some illustrators of this vision, as we see in the close-up picture on the cover here, press for a full revelation: the baby is really half human, half snake.
2018.01.18 | By Gregory Nagy
I continue from where I left off in Classical Inquiries 2018.01.11. I focus here on the details given by Pausanias at 1.17.3 describing a monumental wall painting in the sanctuary of Theseus. Depicted on this wall painting is the hero Theseus, who has just emerged from a deep-dive to the bottom of the sea. He is triumphantly holding in one hand the Ring of Minos and, in the other, the Garland of the sea-goddess Amphitrite, bride of Poseidon. The ring had been thrown into the sea by Minos, who challenged Theseus to recover it, while the garland was given to Theseus by Amphitrite, who had saved the hero from drowning and had thus made it possible for him to recover the ring. For the cover illustration, I have chosen a comparable mythological scene that was carved into a gem. It is a modern work of art. At the center is the hero Theseus, who is being carried along the sea-waves on the back of a dolphin and who is holding triumphantly a ring in one hand and a garland in the other—a garland of stars, it seems. This miniaturized scene as carved into a gem is comparable to the monumentalized scene that Pausanias saw painted on a wall in the sanctuary of Theseus.