A sampling of comments on Pindar Olympian 14: highlighting Thalia as one…

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

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

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

The theo-eroticism of mythmaking about Aphrodite’s love for boys like Adonis

2021.01.09 | By Gregory Nagy §0. In a previous study, I used the term theo-eroticism as a way of describing a kind of sexuality that gets transformed into something sublime by way of blending eroticism with divinity. In line with terminology used by exegetes of the Bible in their interpretations of some intensely erotic situations pictured in the Song of Songs, I experimented with applying the terms of such biblical exegesis to ancient… Read more

Back and forth from general to special kinds of erotic love, further variations on a theme of love-on-wings in Song 1 of Sappho and…

2020.12.25 | By Gregory Nagy §0.  In Song 1 of Sappho, as our mind’s eye views Aphrodite, goddess of erotic love, at the moment when she starts driving her chariot pulled by birds called strouthoi and travels with the speed of light, in a miraculous instant, all the way down from the bright heavens above, down to the dark soil of our earthly human existence here below, how are we to imagine these… Read more

From the heavenly to the earthy and back, variations on a theme of love-on-wings in Song 1 of Sappho and elsewhere

2020.12.18 | By Gregory Nagy §0. In this essay, I start by considering the word strouthoi, conventionally translated as ‘sparrows’, in Song 1 of Sappho. At line 10, these birds are seen at the moment when they take wing and fly off. They are pulling behind them, as they fly, the chariot of the goddess Aphrodite, conveying their divine mistress from her heavenly home and winging their way, full speed, through… Read more

Some rose-colored visions of the dancing dawn goddess in the painterly art of Sappho and beyond

2020.12.11 | By Gregory Nagy §0. In the “Tithonos Song” of Sappho, the fragmented text of which has of late been supplemented with newly-found additional papyrus fragments (text here), we read how the amorous goddess of the dawn, Eos, abducted the beautiful hero Tithonos to be her youthful lover—but she was unable to prevent him from slowly turning into an old man, deprived of his youth and beauty. This sad story… Read more

A sweet bird for the songs of Sappho

2020.12.04 | By Gregory Nagy §0. In the title of this essay, the wording ‘sweet bird’ echoes what we hear in part of a poem by John Milton, Il Penseroso (1645/1646), later set to music by George Frideric Handel (1740), whose librettist merged the poem with Milton’s symmetrical L’Allegro (1645). So, Milton’s poetry became for Handel an extended song blending the mirth of L’Allegro with the melancholy of Il Penseroso.… Read more

Thinking of further desiderata while tracing the reception of Sappho in the ancient world

2020.11.27 | By Gregory Nagy §0. Following up on my previous essay in Classical Inquiries (Nagy 2020.11.20), I offer here some further thoughts about desiderata that occur to me as I proceed in making plans to write up, as a self-standing monograph to be published by Classical Inquiries both online and as a printed “pamphlet,” the results—to date—of my attempts at tracing the reception of Sappho in the ancient world.… Read more

Some narrowings and some widenings of perspectives for viewing the reception of Sappho in the ancient world

2020.11.13, rewritten 2020.11.15 | By Gregory Nagy §0. For an illustration that is most relevant to what I have to say in this essay, I show a line-drawing of a close-up from a vase painting by the Meidias Painter, whose artistic career, in Athens, can be dated to the late fifth century BCE. In this close-up, we see the picturing of a lady named Eurynoe (ΕΥΡΥΝΟΗ), who is playfully teasing… Read more

On the reception of Sappho as a personal experience to be expressed in pictures: examples from two vase paintings produced in classical Athens, fifth…

2020.11.06 | By Gregory Nagy §0. The two images that I mention in the title of this essay are line drawings of close-ups taken from two separate vase paintings created by an artist known to art historians as the Meidias Painter, whose career as a vase painter in Athens can be dated to the late fifth century BCE. In these close-ups, shown below at the end of my introductory paragraph… Read more

Looking for references to Sappho’s songs in Athenian vase paintings: preliminary comments

2020.10.30, rewritten 2020.11.05–12 | By Gregory Nagy §0. In this essay, I am not looking for references to the text of Sappho’s songs in Athenian vase paintings. Instead, I look merely for traces of pictorial references to the contents of these songs, especially as performed in the city-state of Athens during the classical period, in the fifth century BCE and beyond. In other words, I am looking for aspects of… Read more

Girl, interrupted, and some possibilities for linking the hymeneal songs of Sappho with the etymologies of two Greek words, humḗn (ὑμήν) and húmnos (ὕμνος)

2020.10.23 | By Gregory Nagy §0. Ιn Fragment 114 of Sappho, we read the words of a girl who is lamenting her loss of girlhood: ‘where oh where, my girlhood, my girlhood, have you gone off to, leaving me behind?’ (παρθενία, παρθενία, ποῖ με λίποιc’ ἀποίχῃ). Diana Gibson (1996), in a thesis slated for re-publication online in Classical Inquiries, has convincingly shown that such examples of wistful singing by girls… Read more

Prospects of an Odyssean homecoming for Percy Jackson after his sojourn in Lotus Hotel: 75 minutes of intergenerational conversations with Rick Riordan

2020.10.16 | By Gregory Nagy The minutes that I have written up for this post are a record of 75 real minutes of conversations during “Hour 10” of the Harvard College course “The Ancient Greek Hero,” which took place “live” on October 13, 2020. A video-audio recording is posted here, with permission from the participants. For this “hour” at Harvard, I as the professor-in-charge chose as the main topic for… Read more

Percy Jackson’s visit to Lotus Hotel, viewed through a Homeric lens

2020.10.09 | By Gregory Nagy §0. As I was reading through the first volume of Rick Riordan’s five-volume series, Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Lightning Thief (2005), the story that is told there about a visit to “Lotus Hotel” by Percy and his companions Annabeth and Grover (pages 257–265) made me think of the passage in the Homeric Odyssey, Rhapsody 9 verses 82–104, where Odysseus and his companions visit the… Read more

Thoughts about modulations in color from purple to red and from purple to blue while previewing a seminal work by Morris Silver, with afterthoughts…

2020.10.02 | By Gregory Nagy §0. Over many weeks now I have been previewing, not yet reviewing, a heretofore unpublished work by Morris Silver, The Purpled World: Marketing Haute Couture in the Aegean Bronze Age. This work, by an economist whose vast learning includes an acute understanding of historical and archaeological approaches to the ancient world, has profoundly influenced my thinking about the Aegean Bronze Age, as he refers to… Read more

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