On the idea of dead poets as imagined by T. S. Eliot,…

Envisioning Aphrodite inside the living wood of a myrtle tree

2021.04.10 | By Gregory Nagy §0. The illustration that I have chosen to introduce this essay is inspired by ancient Greek myths about dryads—that is, about nymphs or local goddesses who inhabit the wooden insides of trees, primarily oak trees, thus animating such trees. But my essay is not about dryads or would-be dryads. It is more specifically about the goddess Aphrodite, who could be envisioned as animating myrtle trees… Read more

On ‘connecting the dots’—metonymically—between a shield and a garland presented to Achilles

2021.04.03 | By Gregory Nagy §0. In a book titled Masterpieces of Metonymy (Nagy 2016|2015, hereafter abbreviated as MoM), I showed line drawings of black-figure pictures painted on two vases, both of Athenian manufacture and both dated to the earlier years of the sixth century BCE. In both line drawings, we see a picturing of the hero Achilles, who at this very moment is reaching out to receive his Shield—as… Read more

The Shield of Achilles, by Kevin McGrath

There are two cities on earth Divided by time and kindness And at the centre of their field Is a king who sits in silence About him move the reapers Drawing in the living grain Goodness or the void deceit That human life advances On the edges of this world Just beyond the known blue rim Are mortal doubt and anxiety Glittering with so much disbelief In one city there… Read more

On visualizing heavenly origins for particularized icons in the Greek-speaking world of today

2021.03.27 | By Gregory Nagy §0. I recall here the happy occasion of my most recent viewing, in the year 2014, of the famous ancient Myrtiá (Μυρτιά) or ‘Myrtle Tree’ growing on the hallowed grounds of an old monastery, now a nunnery, in Palianí (Παλιανή), not much more than 20 kilometers southwest of Iráklio (῾Ηράκλειον), the ‘City of Herakles’, on the island of Crete. This enormous old tree, the myriad… Read more

Flow, by Jonathan Galassi

Down the path between the apples through the maple grove of suicides then left at the old wall along the wire fence to the brook- bank where narcissus noses into skunk cabbage and hepatica: Call me Apollo, crashing in the underbrush    with my arrows, my bow saw and clippers    out for your flash of white tail and alert to hack me a path to your lair, to your cult’s den,   … Read more

Pausanias tries to visualize the three ‘Graces’ of Orkhomenos in Boeotia

2021.03.20 | By Gregory Nagy §0. I focus here on a moment in history when the traveler Pausanias, who lived in the second century CE, visited the proud old city of Orkhomenos in the region of Boeotia. As we read in his report of that visit, he took a special interest in the traditional myths and rituals of the city’s inhabitants concerning goddesses worshipped there as the three Kharites or… Read more

MASt@CHS – Winter Seminar 2021 (Friday, February 5): Summaries of Presentations and Discussion

2021.03.17 | By Rachele Pierini and Tom Palaima §0.1. Rachele Pierini opened the Winter 2021 MASt@CHS seminar by welcoming the participants to the session. In addition to the steady members of the MASt@CHS network, new guests joined the meeting: Hariclia Brecoulaki, Morris Silver, Agata Ulanowska, and, also, Zafeirios Adramerinas, Michele Mitrovich, and Jared Petroll, three graduate students from the Program in Aegean Scripts and Prehistory (University of Texas at Austin).… Read more

The Charioteer: two poems by Agathi Dimitrouka

Translated by Natasha Bershadsky Hippolytus and Phaedra To Gregory Nagy narration Hippolytus, young, beautiful and modest, son of Theseus and some Amazon, was devoted to Artemis, scorning Aphrodite. The offended goddess of love inspired in Phaedra, his stepmother, a vehement passion for him: she used to go from Athens to Troezen, hiding herself behind a myrtle tree and peeking at him during his athletic exercises; and as the desire was… Read more

Olympism, Culture, and Society: On Pindar’s poetic lessons about heroic Olympism in myths about Herakles

2021.03.12 | By Gregory Nagy[1] §0. In our modern world—or, as some would think of it, in our postmodern world—we find it difficult to achieve any consensus about the meaning of the term “culture” as featured in the title of this essay. As for the term “society,” even experts in the social sciences cannot seem to agree on a unified definition. Nevertheless, most of us can at least sense, however… Read more

Reading late: Anabasis, three poems by Ishion Hutchinson

The Wanderer Still clear from its very first shout, ‘Thalatta! Thalatta!’ is the clamour every wave brings, 10, 000 voices arched into one, shaking the mountain clouds down to mist, power they sing, spitting salt into flames, to outlast the memory of those who toiled with the mongoose and snake, never to sit like a colossal Memnon as his songs turn into brass croaks, language reentering the guttural cave before… Read more

A working translation of Pindar Olympian 14

2021.03.08 | By Maša Ćulumović 1     Καφιϲίων ὑδάτων        λαχοῖϲαι αἵτε ναίετε καλλίπωλον ἕδραν,        ὦ λιπαρᾶϲ ἀοίδιμοι βαϲίλειαι        Χάριτεϲ Ἐρχομενοῦ, παλαιγόνων Μινυᾶν ἐπίϲκοποι, 5     κλῦτ᾿, ἐπεὶ εὔχομαι· ϲὺν γὰρ ὑμῖν τά ‹τε› τερπνὰ καί        τὰ γλυκέ᾿ ἄνεται πάντα βροτοῖϲ,        εἰ ϲοφόϲ, εἰ καλόϲ, εἴ τιϲ ἀγλαὸϲ ἀνήρ.        οὐδὲ γὰρ θεοὶ ϲεμνᾶν Χαρίτων ἄτερ        κοιρανέοντι χοροὺϲ    … Read more

A sampling of comments on Pindar Olympian 14: highlighting Thalia as one of the three ‘Graces’

2021.03.06 | By Gregory Nagy §0. The three ‘Graces’ or Khárites, personifications of kháris, a noun often translated in a generalizing way as ‘grace’, are reverently addressed in a victory ode of Pindar, Olympian 14, as presiding goddesses of the city of Orkhomenos in Boeotia, named Erkhomenós (feminine gender) in the local dialect (Ἐρχομενοῦ, line 3). A young man named Asōpikhos (line 17), a native son of this city, is… Read more

Some variations on the theme of a recomposed performer in ancient Greek prose and poetry

2021.02.27 | By Gregory Nagy §0. This essay is inspired by a most admirable comment made in an article by Johanna Hanink (2015) about nostalgic attempts, in the early fourth century BCE, at recovering the charisma associated with the former glory days, as it were, of the Athenian Empire as it once had flourished, during most of the fifth century. At one point in her article, in referring to the… Read more

About Euripides the anthropologist, and how he reads the troubled thoughts of female initiands

2021.02.20 | By Gregory Nagy §0. I have long admired what I would call the anthropological insights of Euripides into aetiologies, that is, into myths referring directly to rituals that frame these myths.  Of course the very idea of linking anthropology with the poetry of Euripides is quite inaccurate in its anachronism, but the actual insights of this poet into the interweavings of myth and ritual—as anthropologists today tend to… Read more

Starting with Anacreon while preparing a compendium of essays on Sappho and her ancient reception

2021.02.06 | By Gregory Nagy §0. In consultation with the editorial team of Classical Inquiries, I am preparing to submit to them, for a hoped-for free-standing online publication, a compendium of my published essays on the topic of Sappho’s ancient reception. In essays I have published more recently on this vast topic, especially in Classical Inquiries, I have tried to track, more thoroughly than in my less recent essays, other topics that… Read more

Death of a Faun, by William Wootten

Hark at the shepherdess! Then note her unbelievable distress On finding how her much loved faun is dead. She listened as the shepherds said Her faun was mostly goat. In her lap, she cradled the cut throat And the horned head. She would have cut the shepherds’ throats instead.                            But now, the shepherds play And sing into the far-too-hot midday. They capture with their shady threnodies The shepherdess upon… Read more

Imagining a sensually self-assertive singing bride—while reading the songs of Sappho

2021.01.29 | By Gregory Nagy §0. This brief essay considers a situation where girls and women are having an all-night party in celebration of a bride who is getting married tomorrow, let us imagine. In previous essays, I have analyzed references, in a wide variety of ancient Greek texts, to such all-night partying, and I tried not to lose track, in these essays, of the facts of life. I am… Read more

Chorus of the Birds, by Paul Muldoon

From The Birds by Aristophanes Image by Duncan Cameron (@brokensharkcage) CHORUS: Dearest one, we love the dun of your coat, your reddish throat, you who are first flute of the forest. Let your voice ring out to Spring that it may be heard over the chorus of birds. Come, you who live in the half-light between the night-going-on-day or day-going-on-night, you poor creatures of clay, you poor spectres, you poor… Read more

Research in France on Homeric εὔχομαι since the publication of Leonard Muellner, The Meaning of Homeric EYXOMAI Through its Formulas, 1976

2021.01.23 | By Leonard Muellner §1. My revised doctoral dissertation (degree awarded in June, 1973) was published under the above title with revisions in January, 1976, and has been available online since 2017. Before it was written in 1972-1973, five detailed studies of the word had appeared, each of them taking and defending a different point of view on the meaning of the word in Homeric poetry and on its… Read more

Imagining a courtesan in the songs of Sappho

2021.01.22 | By Gregory Nagy §0. This essay, about imagining the existence of a courtesan in the songs of Sappho, refers not to various modern theories about references being supposedly made to courtesans by the “I” who speaks in her songs. It is, rather, about the imagined identity of Sappho herself in the ancient world. There existed, already then, various theories about the life and times of Sappho. I say… Read more

When self-praise connects the speaker to the universe: A diachronic view of the word eukhomai (εὔχομαι) in its Homeric contexts

2021.01.20 | By Gregory Nagy Poster for Academy of Athens Seminar 2020-2021. This text, https://classical-inquiries.chs.harvard.edu/when-self-praise-connects-the-speaker-to-the-universe/, is to be read “live” on January 20, 2021, at 5:00 p.m. Athens time, as a contribution to a seminar series organized by the Academy of Athens for 2020–2021, “(Self-)Praise and (Self-) Blame in Ancient Literature” (Κέντρον Ερεύνης της Ελληνικής και Λατινικής Γραμματείας της Ακαδημίας Αθηνών, στο πλαίσιο του μηνιαίου σεμιναρίου του). My special thanks go to… Read more

How the first word in Song 1 of Sappho is relevant to her reception in the ancient world—and to various different ways of thinking…

2021.01.15 | By Gregory Nagy §0. In this essay, extracting what I have learned about the meaning of the first word in Song 1 of Sappho in the overall context of studying, in previous essays, the ancient reception of Sappho, I will concentrate on the erotic power of floral perfumes—a power that is driven by Aphrodite and that is poeticized in Sappho’s songs with reference to two boy-loves of the… Read more

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