A variation on the theme of Athena: The Palladium, as viewed by…

Pausanias at Sounion: why no mention of Poseidon?

2020.06.12 | By Gregory Nagy §0. At the very beginning of the Description of Greece as narrated by Pausanias (1.1.1), when the ship carrying our traveler approaches the east side of the akrā or ‘headland’ of Sounion, he must have been struck by the view of a magnificent temple situated at the highest point of the headland—a temple that archaeologists have identified as sacred to the god Poseidon, lord of… Read more

More about Minoan-Mycenaean signatures observed by Pausanias at sacred spaces dominated by Athena

2020.05.22, rewritten 2020.05.23 | By Gregory Nagy §0. In the previous posting, Classical Inquiries 2020.05.15, I highlighted details that I described as signatures of a Minoan-Mycenaean phase in the evolution of the figure known in classical and post-classical times as Athena. In that posting, I concentrated on the ancient acropolis of a city by the name of Phrixa(i) in the region of Triphylia in the Peloponnesus. When Pausanias, who lived… Read more

Minoan-Mycenaean signatures observed by Pausanias at a sacred space dominated by Athena

2020.05.15 | By Gregory Nagy §0. In the previous posting, Classical Inquiries 2020.05.08, I noted the obvious fact that the acropolis of Athens was not at all the only such place that was sacred to the goddess Athena, and that the traveler Pausanias, who lived in the second century CE, visited a wide variety of other places that were likewise sacred, each in its own way, to goddesses likewise named… Read more

Questions while viewing Greek myths and rituals through the lens of Pausanias, IV: Is Athena, viewed theologically, a person?

2020.05.08 | By Gregory Nagy §0. In the previous posting, Classical Inquiries 2020.05.01, I asked this question: is “Athena” the name of a person or of a place? And my answer was: “Athena” is the name of a place that we know as Athens. I backed up that answer by arguing against the assumption that the city of Athens was named after a goddess who was already named “Athena”. Rather,… Read more

Questions while viewing Greek myths and rituals through the lens of Pausanias, III: Is “Athena” the name of a person or of a place?

2020.05.01 | By Gregory Nagy §0. In asking myself whether the Greek proper noun Athḗnē is the name of a person, that is, the goddess known to us as Athena, or the name of a place, that is, the city known to us as Athens, I venture into a way of thinking about the goddess and her city that has never occurred to me before. In all my research till… Read more

Questions while viewing Greek myths and rituals through the lens of Pausanias, II: In Mycenaean times, was Athena a goddess who was worshipped only…

2020.04.24 | By Gregory Nagy §0. In classical Athenian visual art, we find representations of the goddess Athena in the act of conveying the hero Hēraklēs to Olympus in her chariot, as we see in the illustration that I have chosen as the cover for this essay. At first sight, it seems as if such an Athenian visualization of the hero’s apotheosis derives from an exclusively Athenian myth: after all,… Read more

Questions while viewing Greek myths and rituals through the lens of Pausanias, I: Did Athena, goddess of Athens, belong only to the Athenians?

2020.04.17, rewritten 2020.04.23 | By Gregory Nagy §0. In conversations about the ancient world, my sorely-missed friend Emily Vermeule was fond of asking this rhetorical question: in Mycenaean times, was Athena a goddess who was worshipped only in Athens? And there can be variations on such a theme. For example, I have an underlying question, formulated from a diachronic point of view. That is to say, I have a question… Read more

About Greek goddesses as mothers or would-be mothers

2020.04.10 | By Gregory Nagy §0. My essay here concentrates on myths about two Greek goddesses and on their roles as mothers or would-be mothers: (A) The first goddess is Hērā in her role as mother or would-be mother of a serpentine Titan by the name of Typhon, alternatively called Typhoeus, who is destined to become a most dangerous threat to the sovereignty of Zeus. (B) The second goddess is… 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

Thinking comparatively about Greek mythology X, A Homeric lens for viewing Hēraklēs

2019.09.27 | By Gregory Nagy §0. This essay, for which I give the abbreviated title TC X, connects in a special way with nine previous essays posted in Classical Inquiries, TC I through IX, which are all interconnected in their focusing on myths about the Labors and sub-Labors of the ancient Greek hero Hēraklēs. Also connected are two previous essays, published earlier in Classical Inquiries 2019.07.12 and 2019.07.19, about the… Read more

A statue who shakes her head no

2019.06.05 | By Manon Brouillet §1. In 1966 the popular French singer Michel Polnareff reached his first audience with the song La Poupée qui fait non. A big success, the song has been translated into Italian (“Una bambolina che fa no, no, no”), Spanish (“Muñeca que hace no”), and German (“Meine Puppe sagt non”). This doll, who has never learnt to say yes, keeps shaking her head from side to… Read more

Toward a more extensive commentary, on Pausanias 1.27.4–1.29.1

2018.04.26 | By Gregory Nagy This posting for 2018.04.26, on Pausanias 1.27.4–1.29.1, is a continuation of the posting for 2018.04.05, on Pausanias 1.24.8–1.27.3, but the format will now change. Besides the more focused comments that have characterized the postings on Pausanias so far, I will start to add some abridged comments that are more tentative, in need of more precision. A case in point, as we will see, is an… Read more

A sampling of comments on Pausanias: 1.24.8–1.27.3

2018.04.05 | By Gregory Nagy I continue from where I left off in Classical Inquiries 2018.03.01. I will highlight here a ritual noted by Pausanias at 1.27.3 involving two Athenian girls who are selected annually to serve the goddess Athena. The word that refers to these girls in their overall role as servants of Athena is arrhēphoroi, hereafter transcribed as Arrhephoroi. After the annual service of the two Arrhephoroi is… Read more

A sampling of comments on Pausanias: 1.21.4—1.24.7

2018.03.01 | By Gregory Nagy I continue from where I left off in Classical Inquiries 2018.02.21. I picture here a modern version of the face of the goddess of Athens, Athena Parthenos, whose statue was seen by Pausanias, as he says at 1.24.7. This picturing of the statue surely cannot do justice to the “real thing” as seen by Pausanias. The experience of seeing a colossal gold-and-ivory statue of a… Read more

A sampling of comments on Pausanias: 1.16.1–1.17.2

2018.01.12 | By Gregory Nagy I continue from where I left off in Classical Inquiries 2018.01.04. I focus here on a passing mention made by Pausanias at 1.17.2 about the picturing of a famous mythological scene: it is the Battle of the Athenians and Amazons, known in other ancient sources as the Amazonomakhiā ‘Amazonomachy’. I have already commented on previous references made by Pausanias, at 1.2.1 and at 1.15.2, to… Read more

A sampling of comments on Pausanias: 1.14.1–9

2017.12.28 | By Gregory Nagy I continue from where I left off in Classical Inquiries 2017.12.21. Here on the cover page, I focus on what Pausanias says at 1.14.6 about the mystical birth of Erikhthonios. I show a painting that represents this birth as visualized in the fifth century BCE. Pictured here is the moment when the goddess Gē/Gaia, or Earth, who is the mother of Erikhthonios, is lifting her… Read more

A sampling of comments on Pausanias: 1.1.1, the first two sentences

2017.10.10 (revised 2017.10.14) | By Gregory Nagy My set of comments on the first two sentences in the text of Pausanias 1.1.1 is divided into seven paragraphs, §§1–7. Among the many points of interest noted by Pausanias in these two sentences is his mention of a temple of the goddess Athena at the headland of Sounion—a mention that seems to anticipate what he will say at a later point about… Read more

Things noted during five days of travel-study in Greece, 2016.03.13–18

2016.03.24 | By Gregory Nagy Closeup of the “Charioteer of Delphi.” Greek bronze, ca. 470s BCE.Image by Helen Simonsson (own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons. §0. Introduction During the five full days of contact time for myself and the participants of the 2016 Harvard Spring Break travel-study program (who are all listed at the conclusion of my posting for 2016.03.16), I tried each day to focus on three… Read more

From Athens to Crete and back

2015.09.10 | By Gregory Nagy Introduction §0.1. In my posting for 2015.08.26, I spoke of a “Minoan-Mycenaean civilization,” not saying “Minoan” and “Mycenaean” separately. That is because, as we saw in the postings for both 2015.08.26 and 2015.09.03, some of the myths that we encounter about Minoan civilization as centered on the island of Crete are infused with elements that are distinctly Mycenaean as well as Minoan. And such an… Read more

A Roll of the Dice for Ajax

2015.03.13 | By Gregory Nagy Background §0.1. In the Homeric Iliad, the hero Ajax is second best in comparison with Achilles; in the Homeric Odyssey, he is second best in comparison with Odysseus. In the Iliad, it is made explicit that Achilles is ‘the best of the Achaeans’, while Ajax is only the second best. In Chapter 2 of my book The Best of the Achaeans (1979; 2nd ed. 1989),… Read more

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