CLAS220 - Lecture Notes for January 24, 2012

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  • 1. Introduction to Classical Mythology Dr. Michael Broder University of South Carolina January 23, 2012
  • 2. Daily Write
    • How do you think Aphrodite feels about her relationship with Anchises, and why?
    Please do your best to answer this question in one (nice, juicy) sentence.
  • 3. Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite : Identification
    • Author = Anonymous / Unknown
      • Greek
      • Uncertain; probably c. 650 BCE
    • Title = Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite
    • Genre = Epic poem, Hymn
  • 4. Background to the Homeric Hymns
    • NOT COMPOSED BY HOMER
    • Called “Homeric” because of the language and rhythm (dactylic hexameter)
    • The word hymn derives from Greek hymnos , “song of praise” (to a god or goddess)
    • Written from the 7th to 5th centuries BCE by a variety of anonymous authors
    • Their genre is epic , based on their use of epic meter, although hymn is also a genre term
  • 5. Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite
    • Likely the oldest of the Hymns since it is closest to Homer’s language and because of it’s connection to Homer’s Iliad
    • Tells the story of Aphrodite’s affair with Anchises
    • Celebrates the birth of their child, Aineias
  • 6. Aphrodite & Anchises in the Iliad
    • Poseidon foretells the destiny of Aineias when he faces Achilles during the Trojan War
      • “ For it is destined that Aineias escape
      • And the line of Dardanos not be destroyed
      • And disappear without seed—Dardanos,
      • Whom Zeus loved more than any of the sons
      • born from his union with mortal women.
      • The son of Cronos has come to hate Priam’s line,
      • And now Aineias will rule the Trojans with might,
      • And the sons born to his sons in the future.”
      • Homer, Iliad , Book 20, lines 302-308
      • Translated by Stanley Lombardo
  • 7. Ancestry of Aineias Zeus + Electra (daughter of Atlas) Dardanos Erichthonios Tros Assaracos Capys Anchises + Aphrodite Aineias
  • 8. Aphrodite…
    • Rouses sweet desire
    • Subdues men, birds, beasts, and fish
    • Persuades
    • Beguiles
    • Conquers
    • Why does the Homeric Hymn make it sound like Aphrodite some kind of athlete or warrior?
  • 9. Because in the epic view of the world… Love Is a Battlefield
  • 10. Aphrodite’s Power Has Limits
    • Aphrodite cannot subdue the 3 virgin goddesses
      • Athena – goddess of war, wisdom, and womanly arts
      • Artemis – goddess of wild animals and hunting
      • Hestia – goddess of the home and hearth
    • Note that no male gods are virgins
    • Why not? Why are there no virgin gods, only virgin goddesses?
  • 11. “ What the fudge is Dr. Broder talking about?”
    • When I ask you a question like…
      • Why are there no virgin gods, only virgin goddesses?
      • … what kind of question am I asking you?
      • A factual question ( what )
        • to which you can cite an answer in the text?
      • A conceptual question ( how/why )
        • that requires you to interpret the text for yourself ?
  • 12. The epic imagination is factual, not conceptual
    • So when I ask you a conceptual question like…
      • Why are there no virgin gods, only virgin goddesses?
    • Don’t look down at the epic text expecting to find an answer
    • Look into your conceptual mind and see what you can find there
  • 13. Why are there no virgin gods, only virgin goddesses?
  • 14. Earth and Seed, Woman and Man
    • Woman is the earth where the seed grows
    • A virgin, or maiden, is a young woman in whom no seed has been planted
    • Man produces the seeds and plants the seeds in the earth/woman
    • For the Greeks, virgin means unplanted soil
    • Since man is not the soil, there is no way a man can be a virgin
    • This, of course, is different from the way we think of virginity in the United States in 2012
  • 15. Aphrodite vs Zeus
    • Aphrodite is the goddess of love , beauty , and sexual reproduction
    • In the epic imagination, love is an irrational desire
    • Zeus is the god of wisdom and reason
    • The hymn represents the power of Aphrodite over Zeus as a triumph of irrational desire over rational wisdom
      • “ Even his wise wit she has beguiled at her will, and easily she united him with mortal women, without Hera being aware of it….”
  • 16. Then Zeus gets pissed off at Aphrodite’s shenanigans and causes her to have a Total Eclipse of the Heart
  • 17. Doesn’t it make sense that Aphrodite should be a wife and mother?
    • As a goddess of sexual reproduction , it seems reasonable that Aphrodite should be maternal , not virginal
    • But note that it is Zeus who causes Aphrodite to experience desire for a mortal man
    • In the end, then, Zeus the god of rational wisdom , triumphs over Aphrodite, the goddess of irrational desire
  • 18. Questions for Discusson
    • Why does the epic imagination want woman to be the earth?
    • Why does the epic imagination want man to be the seed?
    • Why does the epic imagination want wisdom (Zeus) to triumph over desire (Aphrodite)?
    • Why is Aphrodite ashamed of her desire?
    • Why is Anchises terrified when he finds out that the beautiful virgin he has just deflowered is Aphrodite?
  • 19. For Next Time
    • Homer, Odyssey , Books 1-3, pp. 77-123
  • 20. Introduction to Classical Mythology Dr. Michael Broder University of South Carolina January 23, 2012