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

An Iliadic Odyssey as a song of the Sirens

2020.09.18 | By Gregory Nagy §0. This short essay about the Odyssey of “Homer” is a playful experiment. But it is based on an even shorter essay that is quite serious in intent. That essay (Nagy 2020) appears in World Epics, an on-line site edited by Jo Ann Cavallo, whose own work on comparative epic I very much admire. She had asked me to submit a brief essay on the… Read more

An Epic Sanskrit parallel for the representation of Patroklos as a sacrificed ram

2020.09.11 | By Riccardo Ginevra §0. The cover image of this post is a late 16th-century Mughal illustration of the Razmnameh ‘Book of Wars’, a Persian translation of the great Sanskrit epic Mahābhārata, depicting two opposed battalions led by the two heroes Arjuna and Bhishma (the warriors on the chariots) rushing into battle against each other. Arjuna and Bhishma in their war chariots. Painting; detached album leaf (1598). Image via… Read more

A draft of an essay-in-progress about heroic beauty

2020.09.11 | By Gregory Nagy §0. I am putting together here a draft of some thoughts I have had lately about heroic beauty as expressed in the visual arts of ancient Greek material culture. My aim is to turn these thoughts, informal as they are for now, into a formal essay that I am preparing at the request of two dear colleagues who are organizing an art exhibit titled “Heroic… Read more

Death at sunset for Sappho

2020.09.04 | By Gregory Nagy §0. In a painting that goes by the title Safo, by Miguel Carbonel Selva, dated 1880, we see the figure of Sappho at the moment when she is about to leap to her death, plunging into the sea from the heights of Leukas. Her death is timed to happen at sunset, and the timing is the same in other renditions as well. A most striking… Read more

Crying at sunset on the eve of the Olympics

2020.08.28 | By Gregory Nagy §0. What we see here in the photograph I show for the cover of Classical Inquiries 2020.08.28 is a sunset at Olympia, site of the ancient Olympics. Backgrounded by the sunset and facing the camera stand three of a group of travelers who had accompanied me on a travel study program in March 2018, extensively documented in Classical Inquiries. I still remember, with fondness, the… Read more

Death of a ram, Part 2

2020.08.21 | By Gregory Nagy §0. I show here a picture of a ram being sacrificed. His throat is being slit. This picture, a close-up of a painting on a fragmentary vase now housed at the Getty Museum in Malibu, was noted by Gloria Ferrari Pinney in a brief essay that she wrote in response to an essay of mine. Both essays are posted in Classical Inquiries 2020.07.31. My new… Read more

Death of an Amazon

2020.08.14 | By Gregory Nagy §0. The picture I show for the lead illustration of this essay is a close-up of the face of a dying Amazon. She is Penthesileia, daughter of the war-god Ares. The close-up comes from an ancient Athenian vase painting that pictures this Amazon at the moment of her death, killed by the hero Achilles, with whom she is engaged in mortal combat, one-on-one. And, at… Read more

About a perfect start for a world-wide web of song

2020.08.07 | By Gregory Nagy §0. Homeric poetry, at a pivotal moment where it represents the making of Homeric poetry itself, pictures a blind singer of tales in the act of starting his song. The singer is shown in the act of ‘starting from a thread [oimē] that had at that time a fame [kleos] reaching all the way up to the wide sky’. That is how I translate line… Read more

MASt @ CHS – Friday, June 26, 2020: Summaries of Presentations and Discussion

2020.08.07 | By Rachele Pierini and Tom Palaima Summaries of Presentations and Discussion by Elizabeth Barber, Thomas Palaima, Rachele Pierini, and Brent Vine §0. Rachele Pierini began the June seminar meeting of MASt @ CHS (the fifth in the series, begun November 8, 2019 and continued December 12, January 24, and April 27) by welcoming participants to the talk. As an example of the kinds of topics we have discussed in… Read more

Ongoing comments on a Pausanias reader in progress

Gregory Nagy Editors: Angelia Hanhardt and Keith DeStone Web producer: Noel Spencer Consultant for images: Jill Curry Robbins The comments collected here represent Gregory Nagy’s ongoing commentary on Pausanias and will be continually updated with further comments. These comments are also to be found in A Pausanias Commentary in Progress = APCIP, co-authored by Gregory Nagy together with Greta Hawes and Carolyn Higbie. Each comment by each of these three co-authors has… Read more

We’ll die in crystalline Petropolis, by Osip Mandelshtam

Translated by Carol Rumens   We’ll die in crystalline Petropolis Whose ruling deity is Proserpina. We swallow deadly air with every breath, And every hour becomes a year of death. Goddess of oceans, terrible Afina, Resign your helmet’s stone magnificence. We’ll die in crystalline Petropolis Which is not ruled by you, but Proserpina.   From Carol Rumens, The Greening of the Snow Beach,  Bloodaxe, 1988.     The Russian National… Read more

Death of a ram, death of Patroklos

2020.07.31 | By Gregory Nagy §0. A picture is worth a thousand words. That popular adage fits, to my mind, the picture I have chosen for the cover of my essay here—the word-count for which even exceeds a thousand, though not by much. The picture is a line drawing of an ancient vase-painting. The camera of the mind’s eye is zooming in—on a sheep’s head. It is the head of… 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

About a scene pictured on the Bronze Doors of the Supreme Court, already pictured once upon a time on the Shield of Achilles

2020.07.24 | By Gregory Nagy §0. At the very beginning of my Introduction to The Ancient Greek Hero in 24 Hours, at 00§1, where I talk about the “great books” of Greek literature that I will be analyzing, I say that I will also be showing pictures, taken mostly from ancient Greek vase paintings. As I now look back at the pictures in that book, first published online in 2013,… Read more

For anyone tempted to read the Homeric Iliad, all of it, in translation: some words about a book that can help with getting started

2020.07.17 | By Gregory Nagy §0. In this brief essay, I talk about a book that can help get you started if you wish to make a personal commitment to read the Homeric Iliad, all of it, in translation. It is a book of mine that was first published in 2013 by The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press under the title The Ancient Greek Hero in 24 Hours. Thanks… Read more

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

Insomnia, Homer, taut sails, by Osip Mandelshtam

Translated by Philip Nikolayev   Insomnia, Homer, taut sails: my lips have lisped Down to the middle the detailed list of ships, That long brood and angular train of cranes That rose above Hellas once on wings of waves. A wedge of cranes into far foreign lands – Divine white froth forming upon kings’ heads – Where have you hoist sail to? If it were not for Helen What would… Read more

Plato’s Rhapsody and Homer’s Music: The Poetics of the Panathenaic Festival in Classical Athens

Second Edition online 2020, launched July 3, as a special issue in Classical Inquiries By Gregory Nagy Jump to Chapter 1 Jump to Chapter 2 Jump to Chapter 3 Jump to the Bibliography A note, by the author, about the Second Edition The first edition of this book, a printed version, was published in 2002 by the Center for Hellenic Studies; that printed version has been replaced by a corrected… Read more

Revisiting Plato’s Rhapsody: A contribution to a colloquium about Poetic (Mis)quotations in Plato

2020.06.26 | By Gregory Nagy §0. The text of this essay, as posted here in Classical Inquiries 2020.06.26, is a pre-edited version of my contribution to an online colloquium, Poetic (Mis)quotations in Plato, the collected essays for which will reside in a special issue of Classics@; the guest-editor of that issue is the organizer of the colloquium, Gwenda-lin Grewal. My essay here, presented for inclusion in that colloquium, is intended… 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

The Circle of Fame: Apollo, the Corps de Ballet, and the Song of the Muses at Delphi

2020.06.11[1] | By Domenico Giuseppe Muscianisi Harvard University, Center for Hellenic Studies / IULM University, Milan §0. The Pythian movement of the Homeric Hymn to Apollo opens with a great scene of song-and-dance on Olympus (verses 182–206), where certain deities perform together. I will argue that choral melic poetry plays a prime role in this section of the Hymn: in fact, these verses share many features in diction and imagery… Read more

The Library as a garden of the Muses

2020.06.05 | By Gregory Nagy §0. In the Candide of Voltaire, first published in 1759, the last words famously read: mais il faut cultiver notre jardin ‘but we must cultivate our garden’. Following such a mandate, I return here to cultivate a garden of my own delights—the idea of the ancient Library of Alexandria as a garden of the Muses. The occasion for my return is a feast day of… Read more

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