Imagining a courtesan in the songs of Sappho

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

How Homeric poetry may help us achieve a keener appreciation of Sappho’s wedding songs

2020.09.25 | By Gregory Nagy §0. Back in the year 2013, which was the original publication date for my book The Ancient Greek Hero in 24 Hours (hereafter H24H), I took the risk of drastically expanding one of the 24 “Hours,” making it twice as long as the other 23 “Hours”. What made that one hour—Hour 5—really more like two hours in length is that I added to the part… Read more

Apollonius of Rhodes and Homeric Anger

2020.07.24 | By Stan Burgess §0. There have been many recent studies of various aspects of anger in Greek culture, from Homer through the Hellenistic period, and beyond. However few have examined the role anger plays in the Argonautica. There right away a striking curiosity concerning anger stands out. Apollonius of Rhodes avoids the most common term of his day for anger, ὀργή. Through the Classical period and into the… Read more

Comments on comparative mythology 5, an afterthought of Georges Dumézil about trifunctionality and the Judgment of Paris

2020.03.13, rewritten 2020.03.18 | By Gregory Nagy §0. In the previous two posts, Classical Inquiries 2020.02.28 and 2020.03.06, I analyzed the idea of trifunctionality in the myth about the Judgment of Paris, especially with reference to the version of this myth as retold in Homeric poetry, at Iliad 24.25–30. In my analysis, I followed the formulation of Georges Dumézil in his book Mythe et épopee I (originally published in 1968),… Read more

Comments on comparative mythology 3, about trifunctionality and the Judgment of Paris

2020.02.28 | By Gregory Nagy §0. In the previous post, Classical Inquiries 2020.02.21, at §9, I introduced the idea of “trifunctionality,” applied by the linguist Georges Dumézil in his analysis of myths about three kinds of “sins” committed by the hero Hēraklēs in the course of performing his otherwise exemplary heroic exploits. In terms of this idea, Hēraklēs committed his three “sins” by violating the three social “functions” of (1)… Read more

A scenario for exchanges of comments on a planned monograph about the ancient reception of Sappho

2019.03.08 | By Gregory Nagy “Sappho” (modeled 1862, carved 1867), by William Wetmore Story (1819–1895). Image via Flickr, under a CC BY 2.0 license. §0. As the title of this posting for 2019.03.08 indicates, I am planning to produce a monograph about the ancient reception of Sappho, and part of the plan is to organize a system for exchanging comments about this monograph, the text of which is I think… Read more

Musings about a scene pictured by the Achilles Painter

2019.02.14 | By Gregory Nagy §0. On the cover of an earlier posting of mine for Classical Inquiries, Nagy 2019.01.31, we see a facsimile of a picture painted on an Attic white-ground lekythos, dated somewhere around 440–430 BCE, by an artist who is known to art historians as the Achilles Painter. In that posting, which was all about Sappho, I never explained why I chose that picture for the cover.… Read more

More on the love story of Phaedra and Hippolytus: comparing the references in Pausanias and Euripides

2018.08.03 | By Gregory Nagy In the posting for 2018.06.21, I highlighted a painterly vision in the narrative of Pausanias about the erotic passion felt by Phaedra for Hippolytus. In that vision, Phaedra is viewing Hippolytus exercising naked. And the agent of the vision is the goddess Aphrodite. In the present posting, for 2018.08.03, I compare another painterly vision—this time, in the poetry of Euripides. In this vision, Phaedra is… Read more

A placeholder for the love story of Phaedra and Hippolytus: What’s love got to do with it?

2018.06.21 | By Gregory Nagy §0. When Phaedra sees Hippolytus for the very first time, she is already falling in love with him. That is what Pausanias seems to be saying as he retells the myth. The ancient Greek word that he uses in this context is erasthēnai, which is conventionally translated as ‘fall in love with’. I think, however, that this translation can be misleading—unless the relevant contexts are… Read more

Helen’s mixed feelings for Alexander in Iliad 3: the cognitive, pragmatic, and emotional significance of third-person pronouns

2016.05.02 | By Anna Bonifazi Aphrodite (left) and Helen (right). Detail of an Attic red-figure crater, ca. 450–440 BCE, found in Gnathia (now Egnazia, Italy). In Bonifazi 2012:34–38 I discuss Helen’s speech to Aphrodite in Iliad 3 (399–412), with a particular focus on how Helen recalls Alexander. Aphrodite has just rescued Alexander in a duel against Menelaos, and places him in his bedroom (380–382). Then the goddess restores him to… Read more

Once again this time in Song 1 of Sappho

2015.11.05 | By Gregory Nagy §1. In the posting for 2015.10.22, “Diachronic Sappho,” I argued at §3C that the occasion for each of the songs attributed to Sappho was determined by the historical circumstances that shaped the traditions of performing the songs. Such occasions were in some cases seasonally recurrent, as in the context of festivals, and I argue here in this posting for 2015.11.05 that the expression dēute (δηὖτε)… Read more

God-Hero Antagonism in the Hippolytus of Euripides

2015.02.14 | By Gregory Nagy §1. In Hour 20 of The Ancient Greek Hero in 24 Hours (H24H), I wrote about the hero as a mirror of men’s and women’s experiences in the Hippolytus of Euripides with a focus on the key word telos, ‘end, ending, final moment; goal, completion, fulfillment; coming full circle, rounding out; successfully passing through an ordeal; initiation; ritual, rite’. “Phèdre” (1880). Alexandre Cabanel (French, 1823–1889).… Read more

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