Death of an Amazon

On some mystifying language used by Pausanias in referring to the Eleusinian Mysteries

2020.07.10 | By Gregory Nagy §0. I have run into a problem in trying to come up with an adequate translation of Pausanias when he talks about the Eleusinian Mysteries. Part of the problem, I think, is that Pausanias himself is mystifying in his language about the Mysteries. He seems guarded about giving the impression that he is in any way about to reveal to his readers whatever was periodically… Read more

A variation on the theme of Athena: The Palladium, as viewed by Pausanias on the Acropolis of Athens

2020.06.19 | By Gregory Nagy §0. This excursus is a commentary on a passage in Pausanias, 1.28.9, where our traveler, while visiting the Acropolis of Athens, refers to a statue of the goddess Athena there. He is referring in this case not to Athena Parthénos, that is, to Athena the ‘Virgin’, who was housed in the Parthenon. Nor is he referring here to Athena Poliás, that is, to Athena as… Read more

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

About some kind of an epiphany as pictured in Minoan glyptic art, and about its relevance to a myth as retold by Pausanias

2020.05.29 | By Gregory Nagy §0. In this posting, I start by showing a sketch of a picture carved into a gold signet ring originating from the palace at Knossos in Crete and dating from the Late Minoan era. The sketch, in line with conventions followed nowadays by archaeologists, flips the right-to-left orientation pictured on the signet ring itself, so as to show the picture that the ring would make… 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 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

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 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 IV, Reconstructing Hēraklēs backward in time

2019.08.15 | By Gregory Nagy §0. As I have argued in the posting for 2019.07.26, “Thinking comparatively about Greek mythology I” (hereafter TC I), the myths about the Greek hero Hēraklēs and the Scandinavian hero Starkaðr are cognate, verbalized in cognate languages belonging to a language-family known to linguists as “Indo-European.” Viewed in this light, the term “Indo-European” can be applied not only with reference to cognate language-groupings like Greek… Read more

Thinking comparatively about Greek mythology II, Hēraklēs as an ‘Indo-European’ hero

2019.08.02 | By Gregory Nagy §0. In the posting for 2019.07.26, I argued that the role of the Greek hero Hēraklēs as a boxer was cognate with the role of the Scandinavian hero Starkaðr as, likewise, a boxer. In using the term “cognate,” I was saying, in effect, that the myths about Hēraklēs as transmitted in the Greek language and the myths about Starkaðr / “Starcatherus” as originally transmitted in… Read more

About a defeat of the Centaurs, and how to imagine such an event in Olympia

2019.04.19 | By Gregory Nagy §0.This posting, written 2019.04.19, picks up from where I left off in Classical Inquiries 2019.03.22, rewritten 2019.04.17. In the last paragraph of that posting, I focused on a myth that told about a defeat of the Centaurs, beastly hominoids who were half horse, half man. Such a mythological event is pictured in the sculptures of the west pediment of the temple of Zeus in Olympia,… 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

Pausanias as novelist: a micro-sample

2018.07.20 | By Gregory Nagy §0. In this post, dated 2018.07.20, I have put together a working retranslation of the sad story of Komaithο, priestess in love, as retold by Pausanias at 7.18.8–7.20.2. Some essential parts of this story have already been paraphrased at §1 in the post for 2018.07.13, but now I need to look at the whole story. And, for that, I need to share my working translation,… Read more

The sad story of a priestess in love: a resacralizing of sex in Greek myth and ritual

2018.07.13 | By Gregory Nagy §0. The remarks in this post, dated 2018.07.13, pick up from where I left off toward the end of the posting dated 2018.07.06. There I drew attention to a valuable article by Giampiera Arrigoni (1983), who explores a wide variety of ancient Greek stories about amorous encounters that take place in sacred spaces. The story of one such encounter, noted in her article (pp. 15–16,… Read more

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