A historical Cato caught in the vortex of an ancient biography

2015.08.05 | By Gregory Nagy Renaissance Opera is notorious for taking liberties with the facts in its portrayal of historical characters. Vivaldi’s Cato in Utica is no exception. My presentation explores here some strikingly comparable situations in ancient biographies, which value the integrity of plot and character—seemingly at the expense of historical facts. A case in point is Plutarch’s Cato the Younger, which gives us the initial impression that it… Read more

East of the Achaeans: Making up for a missed opportunity while reading Hittite texts

2015.07.22 | By Gregory Nagy In this posting, I focus on the Greek form Akhaioí, a name translated as ‘Achaeans’. Together with the names Argeîoi and Danaoí, translated respectively as ‘Argives’ and ‘Danaans’, this name Akhaioí refers in Homeric poetry to Greek warriors who lived and died in the epic world of a heroic age. But what does Akhaioí really mean? Or, to put the question in another way, what… Read more

Herodotus and a courtesan from Naucratis

2015.07.01 | By Gregory Nagy In the History of Herodotus, at 2.134–135, we read about a beautiful hetaira or ‘courtesan’ named Rhodōpis. This woman, according to the reportage of ‘some Greeks’ as opposed to others (metexeteroi . . . Hellēnōn), commissioned the building of the third and smallest of the three pyramids at the site now known as Giza. Herodotus says that this reportage is incorrect. Read more

A pseudo-Homer gets exposed by Homer

2015.06.24 | By Gregory Nagy My point of departure here is a detailed study by Jonathan Ready concerning a theory that is meant to explain how Homeric poetry was made: supposedly, this poetry was first written down by way of dictation, and the text that resulted from the dictation became the archetype for the Homeric Iliad and Odyssey as we know them. Read more