Death of an Amazon

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

Black Bile, Yellow Bile: An Essay on Warrior Dysfunctionality and the Prehistory of Greek Medicine

2020.05.28 | By Roger D. Woodard Bellerophon falling from Pegaus (anonymous, ca. 1575–1599). Rijksmuseum BK-NM-12026. Image via the Rijksmuseum.   §1. In Problemata physica 30, a work attributed to Aristotle, though typically judged to be a Peripatetic compilation,[1] the composer(s) (to whom I will refer in what follows as “Aristotle” or “the author”) addresses the mental state of dysfunctional warriors. These remarks form a part of the discussion about those… 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, 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 7, finding a cure for the anger of Hērā

2020.04.03 | By Gregory Nagy §0. In a previous essay, Classical Inquiries 2020.03.20, I highlighted some ancient artwork picturing the hero Hēraklēs being breast-fed by the goddess Hērā after he was brought back to life after death. In the present essay, I will analyze the mythological background, showing that the ultimate benevolence of Hērā toward Hēraklēs, as manifested in the act of breast-feeding, had to be preceded by the malevolence… Read more

Comments on comparative mythology 6, trifunctionality and the goddess Hērā

2020.03.20 | By Gregory Nagy §0. In Classical Inquiries 2020.03.13, where I was testing the idea of trifunctionality in the Homeric retelling of the Judgment of Paris, I analyzed aspects of the goddess Hērā that point to her third function, which is fertility, to be distinguished from her first function, which is sovereignty. Here in Classical Inquiries 2020.03.20, I will analyze further such aspects pointing to the third function of… 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

Comments on comparative mythology 2, about an Indo-European background for ancient Greek myths about Hēraklēs, son of Zeus

2020.02.21 | By Gregory Nagy §0. In the previous posting, Classical Inquiries 2020.02.14, I started to reckon with a view expressed by the linguist Georges Dumézil in a book with the title Apollon sonore, which he published in 1982, toward the end of an extraordinarily productive life. He makes it clear in this book that he views the ancient Greek myths about the god Apollo and the hero Achilles, prime… Read more

Thinking comparatively about Greek mythology XIX, a post-Mycenaean view of Hēraklēs as a performer of his Labors

2019.12.20 | By Gregory Nagy §0. For my brief essay here, TC XIX in Classical Inquiries, I return to an analysis, started at §4 of TC V, 2019.08.22, centering on a myth that tells how the hero Hēraklēs succeeded in clearing the stables of Augeias, king of Elis. These stables had been clogged with vast accumulations of manure produced by the king’s countless cattle. But now the hero single-handedly diverts… Read more

Thinking comparatively about Greek mythology XVIII, a post-Mycenaean view of Hēraklēs as founder of the Olympics

2019.11.27 | By Gregory Nagy §0. For my brief essay here, TC XVIII in Classical Inquiries, I return to a point I made in an earlier essay, TC V §§4–10, where I highlighted a remarkable sequence of events narrated in the Library of “Apollodorus,” dated to the second century CE, in the course of an overall narrative about the life and times of the hero Hēraklēs. According to this narrative… Read more

Thinking comparatively about Greek mythology XVII, with placeholders that stem from a conversation with Tom Palaima, starting with this question: was Hēraklēs a Dorian?

2019.11.15 | By Gregory Nagy §0. On a most memorable day, 2019.11.08, a special event took place at the Center for Hellenic Studies in Washington, DC. The event, organized by Rachele Pierini, a current Fellow at the Center, was a far-ranging informal conversation about any and all things Mycenaean. The participants, besides the organizer, included a genial guest who was visiting the Center, Thomas G. Palaima; also participating were Roger… Read more

Thinking comparatively about Greek mythology XVI, with a focus on Dorians led by kingly ‘sons’ of Hēraklēs the kingmaker

2019.11.08 | By Gregory Nagy §0. In the logic of ancient Greek myths centering on the hero Hēraklēs, as we have seen cumulatively in the series of essays bearing the title “Thinking comparatively about Greek Mythology” (“TC” I through XVI so far), this hero is always pictured as a kingmaker, never as a king. But what about the sons of Hēraklēs? I ask such a question in view of the… Read more

Thinking comparatively about Greek mythology XV, with a focus on Hēraklēs of Tiryns as military leader of the Mycenaean Empire

2019.10.31 | By Gregory Nagy §0. While analyzing comparatively the myths about Hēraklēs as a leader of people in general and of military expeditions in particular, I have outlined in the essay TC XII, 2019.10.11, the special relevance of Tiryns, a strategically vital stronghold of the Mycenaean Empire, as the designated place where this Strong Man is stationed in the course of performing his services for Eurystheus, king of Mycenae… Read more

Thinking comparatively about Greek mythology XIV, with a focus on the role of Hēraklēs as a leader of fighting men

2019.10.25 | By Gregory Nagy §0. In my essay for 2019.10.18, I argued that the role of Hēraklēs as a leader of fighting men is interchangeable in Greek myth with his wider role as a leader of people in general. And then, toward the end of that same essay, at §14, I indicated that a parallel argument can be made in the case of the Germanic hero named Starkaðr/Starcatherus as… Read more

Thinking comparatively about Greek mythology XIII, with a focus on the role of Hēraklēs as kingmaker

2019.10.18 | By Gregory Nagy §0. In my essay for 2019.10.11, “Hēraklēs at his station in Mycenaean Tiryns,” I focused on references in Greek myth to the stationing of Hēraklēs at the Cyclopean stronghold of Tiryns in the context of the Labors that this hero performs for the king Eurystheus, who rules from his own Cyclopean stronghold of Mycenae, nerve center of the Mycenaean Empire. I argued that that spatial… Read more

Thinking comparatively about Greek mythology XII, Hēraklēs at his station in Mycenaean Tiryns

2019.10.11 | By Gregory Nagy §0. The glory days of Tiryns, a stronghold that once controlled access to Mycenae from the sea, came to an end toward the end of the second millennium BCE, that is, around the same time that marked the collapse of the Mycenaean Empire. But the splendidly massive stone walls of the “palace” at Tiryns endured well after that time, throughout the first millennium BCE and… Read more

Thinking comparatively about Greek mythology XI, Homeric marginalizations of Hēraklēs as an epic hero

2019.10.04 | By Gregory Nagy §0. This essay, dated 2019.10.04, for which I give the abbreviated title TC XI, continues from the essay TC X, dated 2019.09.27, the subtitle for which was “A Homeric lens for viewing Hēraklēs.” In the subtitle for TC XI here, “Homeric marginalizations of Hēraklēs as an epic hero,” I view the term “Homeric” more narrowly than the term “epic.” To put it more accurately, I… 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

Thinking comparatively about Greek mythology IX, Further rough patches for Hēraklēs

2019.09.20 | By Gregory Nagy The text of this essay was written in honor of Thomas J. Figueira. I did a public reading of this text, “live,” on the same day of the posting here, 2019.09.20. The occasion, which took place at Rutgers University, was a most happy one, organized by a dedicated group of Tom’s colleagues and students and friends to celebrate the completion—so far—of forty years of service… Read more

Thinking comparatively about Greek mythology VIII, Some rough patches along the way toward a prototyping of Hēraklēs

2019.09.13 | By Gregory Nagy Previously, at TC VII §7, I observed that the leveling-out and the smoothing-over of differences in the various different roles of Hēraklēs in various different tellings of ancient myths about this hero could lead not only to a sense of uniqueness but even to a kind of certainty about absolute uniqueness. And this kind of certainty, I went on to observe, could in turn lead… Read more

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