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Art and Culture - 03 - Homer and End of Bronze Age


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Third module for GNED 1201 (Aesthetic Experience and Ideas). This one covers how the historical and cultural context of Homer. It begins by examining art and society of the Minoans and then the Mycenaeans. It then examines Homer, the Iliad, and the Odyssey.

This course is a required general education course for all first-year students at Mount Royal University in Calgary, Canada. My version of the course is structured as a kind of Art History and Culture course. Some of the content overlaps with my other Gen Ed course.

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Art and Culture - 03 - Homer and End of Bronze Age

  2. 2. Homer is the attributed author of the epics The Iliad and The Odyssey, the first cultural texts of Greek civilization. Were written in the 8th century BCE (700- 750), soon after the rediscovery of writing in the Greek area. Most scholars believe they are the written culmination of a much older oral compositional tradition. The epics recount events about the Trojan War that occurred about 400 years earlier (traditional date 1184 BCE).
  3. 3. Homer is, in one tradition, blind. Even in antiquity, there were concerns/doubts about Homer. Thus we have the so-called Homeric Questions: Who was Homer? Were the epics written by one or many authors? How were they composed (written or oral)? William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905) - Homer and his Guide (1874).jpg
  4. 4. After studying and recording non-literate oral bards in Yugoslavia in the 1920s, Milman Parry argued pervasively that the two Homeric epics are grounded in oral composition. He demonstrated that within oral cultures, long stories are “chunked” into more manageable and memorizable sections by the use of common, repeated formulaic epithets that are used to fit into a rhythm scheme. (e.g., Achilles is brilliant, godlike, or swift-footed; the Greek’s ships are black, round, hollow, or swift). In this theory, the written stories are just a snapshot in time of the oral tradition.
  5. 5. Today most Classicists agree that, whether or not there was ever a composer named Homer, the poems attributed to him are to some degree dependent on an oral tradition, a generations-old technique that was the collective inheritance of many singer-poets (also called bards)
  6. 6. Bard
  7. 7. The epics recount events about the Trojan War that occurred about 400 years prior to Homer. The Iliad covers a p period of about 14 y days g during the ten-year long siege of Troy. The Odyssey recounts one of the main characters from the Iliad (Odysseus) efforts to return to his home, which takes him an additional ten years. Both epics are reflections on a lost world (the high Bronze Age cultures of the Hittites, Mycenae and Minoa) as well as reflections on a new emerging Greek moral code and way of life.
  8. 8. Historical Context – Bronze Age in the Near East and Mediterranean Area
  9. 9. Bronze age civilizations were tightly connected via trade. The Minoans, based in Crete, played a vital role in this trade system for over a 1000 years (2700 – 1400).
  10. 10. Crete has a stunning diversity of geographical features.
  11. 11. It appears that Minoan economy was based on the creation and trade of luxury goods: fine pots, ornamental bronze jewelry, clothes, dyes, paintings.
  12. 12. The Bronze Age Shipwreck of Uluburun
  13. 13. This shipwreck, discovered off the coast of Turkey, dates from late Bronze Age (1400 BCE) and contained an amazing variety of goods in its cargo. 100s of copper and tin ingots (enough to make 11 tons of bronze) 149 jars, perhaps containing olive oil or wine Turquoise and lavender glass African logs Elephant tusks and hippopotamus teeth Southern African ostrich eggs Amber from baltic region of northern europe Gold, agate, silver, quartz, and other crystals Wide variety of bronze weapons and tools Foods from all over the Mediterranean area
  14. 14. This charmless creature is a Cretan Murex, a mollusk that feeds off decomposing flesh. It has a horrible odor, but from it, the Minoans extracted something known as Purple. It was a dye that was exceedingly rare and expensive, and throughout most of history, purple is the color of royalty, because only they could afford it. Discoveries of these bronze-age murex have these holes, which are evidence that the murex were feeding on each other. That is, the Minoans factory farmed them for their purple. "Twelve thousand snails of murex yield no more than 1.4 g of pure dye, enough to color only the trim of a single garment."
  15. 15.
  16. 16. The British archeologist Arthur Evans uncovered the Palace of Knossos in the early years of the 20th century and then “restored” certain sections.
  17. 17. The palace complex had 1300+ rooms, running fresh water, flush toilets, heated bathtubs, and many beautiful colorful frescos.
  18. 18. It had Europe’s first paved road (several miles long), and was flanked by houses, led from the town to the palace.
  19. 19. Central court – 54m x 27 m – the size of four tennis courts. What was it used for?
  20. 20. McGraw‐Hill ImageVault
  21. 21. The animals in the Minoan frescoes are Aurochs which have been extinct for nearly 400 years. Aurochs were about 25% larger than today’s bulls. It’s hoof-prints were the size of a man’s head
  22. 22. So-called throne room at Knossos. But is it actually a throne? Most of the art in these so-called palaces, unlike palaces everywhere else in the Bronze Age, don’t seem to show or express power, and certainly don’t appear to display kings or queens.
  23. 23. There is no evidence of walls or any other military architecture at any of the ancient Minoan towns and palaces. Similarly, there is little evidence of weapons or military art.
  24. 24.‐content/Minoan_palace_scene_enlarged.jpg
  25. 25.‐2275364354‐image.jpg
  26. 26. M G HillI V lt
  27. 27. McGraw‐Hill ImageVault
  28. 28. The Minoans seemed to love their colors. For instance, the so-called Blue Monkey Throne Room. So how does this compare to the throne/palace rooms of the Minoan’s Bronze Age compatriots?
  29. 29. So were the Minoans just makers of luxury goods and the hosts for the Bronze Age-era spring break parties?
  30. 30. Shrine at Anemospilia (the cave of the winds). In the 1970s a discovery was made here which found a skeleton, wearing expensive rings, that appears to have been crushed by the stone blocks of the walls or ceiling dating from about 1700 BCE.
  31. 31. Under its body was another skeleton, this one of a teenager, lying on an alter, its limbs still bound up. On its chest was a dagger. The priest appears to have been making a sacrifice as the walls came tumbling down. In the modern world we take for granted its stability . But prior to the later 19th century, in almost the entire world, it took just two bad harvests to wipe out the food supply. Much of the religious practices of the far past seemed to have been oriented towards placating gods/spirits of the earth. Minoans seemed quite exposed at times. In 1700s BCE, Crete was ravaged by earthquakes. But worse was yet to come.
  32. 32. Greek island of Santorini (modern name) or Thera (ancient name)
  33. 33. Santorini is built on the remains of a volcano
  34. 34. Around 1530 BCE the island was rocked by severe earthquakes; a few months later the volcano erupted. Ten times stronger than the eruption of Vesuvius that buried Pompeii, and four times stronger than Krakatau (the most powerful volcanic eruption of the past several hundred years and which killed 40,000). 1/3 of the island land mass disappeared. 40 meters deep layer of ash on the remaining part of the island. Crete only 70 miles away and was hit with a gigantic tsunami, that destroyed the Minoan naval fleet. Crete was also buried in ash, which would have caused famine conditions for many years.
  35. 35. Akrotiri (in Santorini / Thera)
  36. 36. A recent discovery dating from a few decades after the eruption found near the palace of Knossos. It contained a jumble of children’s bones found in a cooking pot along with edible snails. The flesh from the bones has been stripped away with a knife. Clear evidence of cannibalism.
  37. 37. Other interesting evidence from the same post-volcano time. Several of these prototypical earth goddess statues, which are extremely common in Minoan sites (perhaps like crucifixes are now) were found purposefully broken, sealed in jars, and then buried. One archeologist called it “paying back the vengeful gods” or “disposing of it as if it was nuclear waste.” When times are tough, even the most pleasure-loving, cosmopolitan, outward-looking, trade-oriented culture can turn in on itself and seemingly self-destruct
  38. 38. Sometime around 1450 BCE, most Minoan cities and palaces appear to have gone up in flames. For instance, at one site, in a room presumably filled with pithoi (large 40 gallon containers holding olive oil), the heat was so intense the stone floor was turned into glass. These fires were not accidents. At one site, the pithoi’s necks have been sawed off, presumably to make the oil burn easier. In other sites, building doors were blocked in before the fire was set. What happened? Invaders? Or religious civil war?
  39. 39. Linear A is the earliest writing on Crete and is still un-deciphered. Linear A appears to be the earlier, lost Minoan language. Linear B, which don’t appear until about 1400-1500 BCE, was deciphered by Michael Ventris in the early 1950s who discovered it was an archaic form of Greek. The Mycenaean Greeks may have conquered the island or perhaps just stepped into a power vacuum
  40. 40. The Mycenaeans appear to have made use of Minoan artists, but there were no blue monkey rooms in the throne rooms of the Mycenaeans …
  41. 41. The Lion’s Gate and the walls of Mycenae
  42. 42. Ruins at Tiryns
  43. 43. 170649%21Mycenae_walls_interior.JPG Ruins at Mycenae showing grave circle
  44. 44. Mycenae‐citadel‐reconstructed.jpg
  45. 45. Who were the Mycenaeans?
  46. 46. Unlike the trade-oriented Minoans, the Mycenaeans were a war-like people. They appear to be focused around the chieftain/king and his retainers/warriors living in heavily-fortified palaces.
  47. 47. Unlike the Minoans, much of the archeological record for the Mycenaeans consists of chariots, spears, bronze armour, swords, and boar tusk helmets.
  48. 48.
  49. 49.
  50. 50. The Mycenaeans appear to have been the Vikings of the Bronze Age. Odysseus, “sacker of cities”: “The wind drove me out of Ilium on to Ismarus, … There I sacked the city, killed the men, but as for the wives and plunder, That rich haul we dragged away from the place” Odyssey, 9.42 Nestor: “we headstrong fighting forces of Achaea—so many raids from shipboard down the foggy sea, cruising for plunder, wherever Achilles led the way” Odyssey, 3.102 y y,
  51. 51. We have many Mycenaean Linear B tablets (which we can read). They are without exception lists: tributes, taxes, military equipment, and booty from raids. There are no diplomatic or personal letters, no poetry, history, prayers, epics. Only lists of possessions.
  52. 52. The Greek forces in the Iliad (actually called Achaeans in the text) were the same people that modern archeologists call Mycenaeans. Agamemnon, the leader of the Greek forces in the Iliad, is the king of Mycenae.
  53. 53. The subtext of the Iliad is that the world of the Mycenaeans collapsed (as did those of other near east bronze age cultures) soon after the sack of Troy. That is, there is a recognition in Homer that the “glory” of the Greek victory came at a tremendously high price.
  54. 54.
  55. 55. Different theories about the collapse of Mycenaean civilization (and other nearby bronze-age cultures): • foreign invaders armed with iron •• slave revolts, • plague, • environmental crises, • general systems collapse.
  56. 56. All over the bronze age world, we see evidence of 2000 long years of bronze age cultures being replaced by a layer of ash. There are also interesting written records talking of a nameless threat from the sea. “The enemy advances against us and they are unlimited in number.”
  57. 57. Other bronze age cultures collapsed or suffered burn events at same time (1250-1150): Hittites, Phoenicia, Palestine, Egypt, northern Mesopotamia. Egyptian and Hittite sources talk not just of warriors but also of women and children, i.e., mass migrations.
  58. 58. “Altogether the end of the Bronze Age was arguably the worst disaster in ancient history, even more calamitous than the collapse of the western Roman Empire.”
  59. 59. During this time, Mycenaean culture disappears, most of its population centers are destroyed, and the few remnants (like pottery) are found at the very top of remote mountains. No ecstatic bull jumpers, topless maidens, laughing monkeys, or even grand bronze weapons, just some crude huts with a few treasured items, and plenty of time to watch the fog, the vultures circling, and scanning for whatever it is they are trying to flee from. It is over a hundred years before we see evidence that these people returned to lower-lying areas. In many areas, writing disappears, agricultural production plummets, population declines radically, art and pottery becomes very crude.
  60. 60. What follows is referred to as the Greek Dark Ages (1200 – 800 BCE). Compare the simplicity of the art work (above) after the collapse to the lavish beauty of the earlier Minoan Bronze Age frescoes (at left). The Iliad is written as Greece is emerging “out” of this “dark ages” period.
  61. 61. The world of the Illiad
  62. 62. Troy’s location was the key to its wealth. Due to the strong sea currents of the Dardanelles, if the winds were blowing in the wrong direction, Black Sea bound ships would stop at Troy and wait for the winds to change. While the reason for the war in the Iliad is the recovery of Helen, it doesn’t take a great deal of political imagination to recognize that the Trojan War was all about the booty-oriented Mycenaeans’ desire to seize and control a lucrative centre of trade.
  63. 63. Archeologists have discovered the site has hosted a variety of settlements from 3000 BCE up to 100 BCE, and have given the various settlements names Troy I, Troy II, etc The Troy of the Iliad is identified with Troy 7a, in which there is evidence of widespread destruction (though we can’t tell whether it is from earthquake or from a violent sacking). No “Achilles Was Here” graffiti has been found …
  64. 64. Re-Discovery of Troy A Brief Digression Until its re-discovery in the late 19th century, almost everyone assumed Troy was just a legend or a story. The surprise and world attention that greeted its rediscovery would perhaps be analogous to what would happen today if an archeologist announced that he or she had discovered Hogwarts or Bilbo’s Hobbit Home.
  65. 65. Heinrich Schliemann was a successful international businessman with a love of languages (he was fluent in 13 and wrote his daily diary and letters in the language of the country he was visiting). He became rich by opening a bank in California during the California Gold Rush of 1849, sold it, moved to Russia, married a Russian princess, cornered the entire indigo (blue) market, and then just before the Crimean war, monopolized the markets in salt peter and sulphur (necessary for gunpowder). He retired in 1858 at age 36 wealthy enough to pursue his archaeological dream to find Troy.
  66. 66. In 1868-9, his great year, he: 1. Wrote a popular book in German about Troy. 2. Wrote his PhD in Greek about Troy. 3. Became a temporary citizen of Indiana so he could 4. Legally divorce his wife. 5. Moved to Greece. 6. Advertised in Greek paper for a Greek wife. 7. Got married to 17 year old Sophia. 8. Started searching for Troy.
  67. 67. Sophia was his collaborator throughout his excavations at Troy, which began in 1871. He was in such a hurry to find treasure that his excavations ended up destroying most of Troy’s walls. In 1873, Schliemann saw gold glinting in the dirt, so he sent his workers home for the day, and he and Sophia secretly excavated what he called “Priam’s Treasure” and then snuck out of the country with the loot. The Ottoman Empire demanded the return of the treasure and banned him from returning.
  68. 68. Sophia Schliemann: Priam’s Treasure
  69. 69. Most of Priam’s Treasure was eventually sold to the Imperial Museum of Berlin, where it was displayed until WW2, when it was moved to a protective bunker under the zoo. The treasure disappeared from public knowledge until 1994, when thanks to investigations by two Russian journalists, it was revealed that: The treasure was taken by Red Army soldiers in 1945 and then secretly moved to the Pushkin Museum in Moscow.
  70. 70. When this news was revealed, the German government demanded their return, as did the government of Turkey and the descendants of the Schliemann family. In October 2009, the items moved to the brand new Neues Museum in Berlin.
  71. 71. Remains of the walls of Troy
  72. 72. Iliad Plot Summary On blackboard in class
  73. 73. The Iliad A celebration of warrior culture?
  74. 74. There are certainly indications that in antiquity, many readers valued the Iliad’s seeming celebration of heroic warfare.
  75. 75. Scene from Iliad Greek vase, 4th century BCE Scene from Iliad Roman sarcophagus, 1st century CE
  76. 76. Indeed, one can find up to this day ample evidence of the Iliad’s continuing allure to those attracted to the idea of heroic warfare.
  77. 77. Late 19th century engraving of Achilles after the death of Hector
  78. 78. Early 20th century children’s book idealizing Achilles. Notice that Hector has evidently died from a bad scrap on his knee… http://www.heritage‐
  79. 79. Howard David Johnson, “Achilles Triumphant” 2006 Evidently there are people who buy this modern-day oil painting/reproduction and display it in their living rooms.
  80. 80. MARK CHURMS, “ACHILLES VERSUS HECTOR” 2007 And this one as well.
  81. 81. Achilles in Hyde Park Achilles in Texas Hyde Park Achilles statue built in 1822 to honour Wellington after the Peninsular Wars against the French. Money raised entirely by patriotic British ladies during the war; fig leaf added just before unveiling!
  82. 82. Patriotic statues of warriors, fictional or real, continue to be a popular way of expressing admiration for supposed heroic ideals.
  83. 83. WW2 Memorial Kiev
  84. 84. Tiananmen Square
  85. 85. Is this the only reason for the enduring attraction to the violence in the Iliad?
  86. 86. Or can there be beauty in the depiction of violence?
  87. 87. What are the Trojan warriors fighting for? They are clearly fighting to protect their city and their families
  88. 88. What are the Homeric Greek warriors fighting for? Honour (timê) Glory/Fame (kleos)
  89. 89. Glory/Fame (kleos) What others say about you.
  90. 90. Glory (kleos) is the only immortality available to a Homeric warrior. It is won through what one accomplishes. Those accomplishments are manifested by the prizes (geras) you win. Agamemnon not only dishonors Achilles by taking away his prize (Briseis), he is in a way affecting his immortality (i.e., his fame).
  91. 91. So now the heart of Sarpedon stalwart as a god impelled him to charge the wall and break it down. He quickly called Hoppolochus’’s son: ““Glaucus, why do they hold us both in honor, first by far with pride of place, choice meats and brimming cups, in Lycia where all our people look on us like gods? Why make us lords of estates along the Xanthus’ banks Sarpedon (a Trojan) asks his fellow prince why do they have wealth and comfortable lives as banks, rich in vineyards and plowland rolling wheat? So that now the duty’s ours – we are the ones to head our Lycian front, brace and fling ourselves in the blaze of war aristocrats The answer, he says, is because they are at forefront of any fighting war, so a comrade strapped in combat gear may say, ‘Not without fame, the men who rule in Lycia, these kings of ours who eat fat cuts of lamb and drink sweet wine have And by being leaders in war, their wine, the finest stock we have. But they owe it all to their own fighting strength, our great men of war, they lead our way in battle!’ my friend y g , retainers will think that they deserve their easier lives. Ah friend, if you and I could escape this fray and live forever, never a trace of age, immortal, I would never fight on the front lines again or command you to the field where men win fame. But now as it is us If they were gods who could live forever, then there would be no need to fight. now, is, the fates of death await us, thousands poised to strike, and not a man alive can flee them or escape – so in we go for attack! Give our enemy glory or win it for ourselves!” But because we can die, then we must fight. (That is, the only immortality available is glory gained from heroic feats on the battlefield) Glaucus did not turn back or shun that call – on they charged, leading the Lycians’ main mass.
  92. 92. Ah my friend, if you and I could escape this fray and live forever, never a trace of age, immortal, I would never fight on the front lines again or command you to the field where men win fame. B i i h f f d h i Thus, because the gods lack human vulnerabilities ( death, aging, injuries, grief) they lack any But now, as it is, the fates of death await us, thousands poised to strike, and not a man alive can flee them or escape – so in we go for attack! Give our enemy glory or win it for ourselves! , g g, j ,g ) y y capacity for nobility (courage, bravery, sacrifice, glory, honor). For these Homeric warriors, the gods are akin to being eternally stuck playing a video game with an invulnerability cheat turned on. The gods know that no harm can ever come to them and are thus endlessly bored. They envy humans for their vulnerability and the achievements that that vulnerability makes possible.
  93. 93. Gods in the Iliad They are not good, evil, just, merciful, omniscient, omnipotent, nor is their relationship with humans based on mutual love. The gods in Homer’s works personify forces of nature but are anthropomorphic. p p And Hera the Queen [of the gods], her eyes wide, answered, “Excellent! The three cities that I love best of all are Argos and Sparta, Mycenae with streets as broad as Troy’s. Raze them – whenever they stir the hatred in your [Zeus’] heart. My cities … I will never rise in their defense Iliad, Book 4, lines 59-62 Then Zeus, looking down from Mount Ida, intensified the slaughter, and the two sides kept killing each other. Iliad, Book 11, lines 317-19
  94. 94. The human characters in the Iliad are, by and large, reverent and respectful towards the gods in their speeches because the gods are dangerous and unpredictable forces to the humans. But Homer, when he is speaking as the narrator, tends to portray the gods as being petty, childish, or figures of comic relief. For instance, see Book 14, lines 375-412
  95. 95. Death in the Iliad The Iliad has been called the poem of death for good reason. The deaths of some 250 warriors are recorded. These fall into two categories: • death of “significant” heroes • death of “common” warriors
  96. 96. Death of Heroes Major heroes in the Iliad will only die to another, greater or equal hero. These battles between equals are more like ritualized duels. Before they fight, the heroes tell each other about their background, heroic deeds, and important ancestors (see battle between Diomedes and Glaucus, Book 6, lines 120-217). Diomedes and Glaucus in fact do not fight but exchange gifts because their parents were xenos (guest-friends).
  97. 97. The heroes in the Iliad compete endlessly, not only with the enemy, but with other heroes fighting on the same side. They compete to prove their arete (excellence). Different heroes claim that they are the best in strength, skill, cleverness, fleetness of foot, cunning, strategy, ambushes, archery, spear throwing, weight lifting, chariot driving, etc. No surprise that it was the Greeks that created the Olympic Games in 776 BCE about the same time as Homer was writing the Iliad.
  98. 98. When heroes do fight each other, one will usually die. But before the hero dies, he has his “moment in the sun,” his aresteia, a period in which he displays his fighting prowess. For some heroes, this will only be for a few paragraphs. For others, their aresteia lasts for dozens of pages. Though Achilles does not die in the Iliad, his aresteia is terrifying, long (Books 19-22), and almost inhuman and revolting.
  99. 99. Death of Commoners And Meriones killed Phereclus, Harmonides' son-- the father a craftsman whose hands were skilled in creating all kinds of beatuiful things, since Athena loved him. ... Meriones ran him down, and as he drew close he hit him in the right buttock, and the bronze spear point pushed up under the pubic bone into his bladder and he fell to his knees, screaming, and death embraced him. And Meges cut down Pedaeus, Antenor's son-- a bastard son, but Theano had brought him up as one of her own, so much did she love her husband. Meges' spear hit the back of his neck, then cut right through his jaw, and sliced off his tongue at the root. He fell in the dirt, and his teeth closed around the cold bronze.
  100. 100. Is the Iliad the 800 BCE version of this?
  101. 101. Death is narrated by Homer graphically and realistically. Violence is a permanent factor in human life. It is unsentimental to pretend violence is not ugly but also that it has a strange and compelling fatal beauty.
  102. 102. Yet Homer does something special with the deaths of the commoners/non-heroes. They are not red shirts or mooks …
  103. 103. So which of these four isn’t going to return to the spaceship? calls these types of “good” characters the Red Shirt. Their purpose is almost exclusively to give the writers someone to kill who isn't a main character. They are used to show how the monster or villain works, and demonstrate that it is indeed a deadly menace, without having to lose anyone important. Expect someone to say ““He's dead, Jim”” and then promptly forget him.
  104. 104. The Bad Guy equivalent are Mooks: faceless, nameless cannon fodder for The Hero. “Nameless, faceless, horribly awful shots, incompetent, unwilling to retreat, and completely disposable: they provide a chance for the characters to show off their flashy fighting skills and can be shot without guilt. The hero might find it in his heart to Save the Villain, but the guys whose only crime is not finding a better employer will be shown no mercy.” “They may be called the Palace Guard, the City Guard, or the patrol. Whatever the name, their purpose in any work of heroic fantasy is identical: it is, round about Chapter Three (or ten minutes into the film) to rush into the room, attack the hero one at a time, and be slaughtered. No one ever asks them if they wanted to.” Terry Pratchett, Guards! Guards!
  105. 105. And Meriones killed Phereclus, Harmonides' son-- the father a craftsman whose hands were skilled By describing the civic and/or family life of the in creating all kinds of beautiful things ... warrior falling to the hero, the audience/reader’s The two good sons of Merops, who had refused to let his two boys march to war, this man-killing emotional attention is diverted to the fallen foe. It war, but the young ones fought him all the way … ensures that each death in the Iliad is perceived perceived, if only fleetingly, as regrettable. and Diomedes destroyed them both. ... Diomedes cut down Axylos, Teuthras’ son, who had been a dweller in strong-founded Arisbe, a man rich in substance and a friend to all humanity s u a ty since in his house by the wayside he entertained all comers. “in the Iliad glory is usurped by sympathy for the human being, possessed of a family and life story, who has been extinguished.” Caroline Alexander, The War That Killed Achilles
  106. 106. “This remarkable point is worth emphasizing: subtly, but with unflagging consistency, the Iliad ensures that the enemy is humanized and that the deaths of enemy Trojans are depicted as lamentable.” Caroline Alexander, The War That Killed Achilles
  107. 107. “the Iliad is ever mindful that war is about men killing or men killed. In the entire epic, no warrior, whether hero or obscure man of the ranks, dies happily or well. No reward awaits the soldier’s valor; no heaven will receive him. The Iliad’s words and phrases for the process of death make it clear that this is something baneful. … Again and again, relentlessly, the Iliad hammers this fact: … death is tragic and full of horror.” Caroline Alexander, The War That Killed Achilles
  108. 108. In Book 11 of the Odyssey, Odysseus visits Hades, the land of the dead, a place of total baneful unpleasantness. “I [Odysseus] reassured the ghost, but he [Achilles] broke out, protesting, ‘No winning words about death to me, shining Odysseus! By god, I’d rather slave on earth for another man — some dirt-poor farmer who scrapes to keep alive — than rule down here over all the breathless dead.’”
  109. 109. Embassy to Achilles (Book 9) After the war turns against the Greeks, Agamemnon relents, and Odysseus (guile and reason), Phoenix (surrogate father) and Ajax (fellow warrior) visit Achilles and try to convince him to rejoin the war. They tell Achilles of Agamemnon’s offer of Briseis, many other gifts, first pickings of loot/prizes after troy is conquered, plus one of his daughters in marriage (i.e., political power).
  110. 110. Achilles brutally rejects (lines 311-441) not only the offer but he rejects all the values of their warrior culture as well. He says: 1. Why should warriors put their lives at risks for a king who gains all the prizes at little danger to himself? 2. What is the point of plunder as marks of honor or fame if they can be taken away? Thus since tîme can be taken away at the leader’s whim, it ultimately has no value. 3. Finally, is plunder really worth dying for?
  111. 111. Of course every warrior knows that dying is a possibility. However, Achilles, is different. His mother, the goddess Thetis, has told him that he has two possible fates: win imperishable glory by dying at Troy, or live a long, happy, but unremarkable life by returning home and living in peace. He tells them that he now intends to choose the latter and sail home.
  112. 112. Hector Unlike, Achilles, who is isolated from his fellow warriors and who is ½ divine, Hector is fully realized human being and integrated completely into his community. He is the only character who is shown in every conceivable human relationship: brother, father, husband, son, general, prince, warrior. He accepts his responsibility as a prince to fight to protect his city, but his own wish is for peace. That is, he fights for the good of his people, not for his own personal glory.
  113. 113. “Yes Andromache, I [Hector] worry about this myself, But my shame before the Trojans and their wives, With their long robes trailing, would be too terrible If I hung back from battle like a coward.” Iliad, Book 6
  114. 114. Death of Hector After Hector kills Achilles’ companion Patroclus, And Roan Beauty the horse with flashing hoofs Achilles Achilles rejoins the war, knowing that it will bring on his own death. spoke up from under the yoke … “Achilles! The day of your death already hovers near … “ But the fiery runner Achilles burst out in anger, “Why Roan Beauty – why prophesy my doom? Don’t waste your breath. I know, well I know I am destined to die here, far from my dear father, far from mother. But all the same I will never stop …”
  115. 115. He leapt like a frenzied god, his heart racing with slaughter, only his sword in hand, whirling in circles, slashing – hideous groans breaking, fighters stabbed by the blade, water flushed with blood. Like shoals of fish darting before a big-bellied dolphin, escaping, cramming the coves of a good deepwater harbor – he Achilles in almost a berserker rage, has a long and harbor, terrified for their lives devours all he catches – so the Trojans down that terrible river’s onrush cowered. Achilles struck his collarbone just beside the neck and the t o edged blade dro e home pl nging terrifying aresteia, in which he kills effortlessly with no mercy, with no Heroic Duel rituals, no two-drove home, plunging background of the people killed to the hilt … Achilles grabbed a foot, slung him into the river, And cried these savage words “… Die, Trojans, die – till I butcher all the way to sacred Troy – killed, and even battles gods. run headlong on, I’ll hack you from behind! Nothing can save you now” He killed in a blur of kills – Thersilochus, Mydon, Astypylus, Mnesus, Thrasius, Aenius and Ophelestes – Still more men Achilles would have killed if the swirling river had not risen, crying out in fury …
  116. 116. ““I just went crazy. I pulled him out into the paddy and carved him up with my knife. When I was done with him, he looked like a rag doll that a dog had been playing with … I lost all my mercy. I felt a drastic change after that … I couldn’t do enough damage … for every one that I killed I felt better … Every time you lost a friend it seemed like a part of you was gone… I got very hard, cold, merciless. I lost all my mercy.” From Achilles in Vietnam
  117. 117. Kiev- 1944 Mai Lai - 1968 Haditha - 2005
  118. 118. Tom Lea “Two-Thousand-Yard Stare”
  119. 119. Hector, not wanting to fight Achilles, nonetheless, leaves the city to face Achilles. Hector, before the fight, tries to convince Achilles to follow the ethic of war (the winner will let the loser’s family bury the fallen), but Achilles refuses.
  120. 120. After killing Hector, Achilles desecrates Hector’s corpse. Achilles finds that his rage and grief does not end with Hector’s death, nor with abusing Hector’s body.
  121. 121. Priam and Achilles Priam and Achilles meet in the twilight of their lives. They both will soon be dead and they appear to know it. They mutually assert non-military, non-competitive moral virtues (hospitality and compassion).
  122. 122. Achilles returns Hector’s body to Priam and agrees to a 12 day truce. All truces are bittersweet: in every truce floats the specter of an opportunity (usually lost) for peace.
  123. 123. 1914 Xmas Day Truce on the Western Front
  124. 124. Ending of the Iliad – Hector’s Burial The epic ends with the sadness of the death of Hector. It is utterly astonishing that ancient Greece’s greatest epic (and which acted as the principle teacher of Greek youths) makes the enemy of the Greek's the true tragic hero of its great national epic.
  125. 125. The Greeks after Homer recognized the Iliad as a dark portrayal of the true costs of war and its kleos-culture : • the destruction of community, • rape and slavery, • loss of civilized ethics, • victors brutalized as much as the victims.
  126. 126. The Iliad also seems as well to be a comment and reflection on why the great Bronze Age cultures of the Mediterranean, esp. that of the Mycenaeans (remember that the Greeks in the Iliad are Mycenaeans) eventually collapsed and disappeared.
  127. 127. Homer and the Greek audience of Homer, living some 300-400 years after the dark ages that followed the Mycenaean collapse, seemed to recognize that costly foreign wars, unrestricted warfare, and the geras-winning / kleos-gaining culture of the piratical Mycenaeans is unsustainable, and in the long-run, a cultural dead-end.
  128. 128. The Greeks starting around the time of Homer began to build a culture built around a different ethos, one inspired by Hector and not by Agamemnon or Achilles.
  129. 129. Nonetheless, the Greeks of the later post-Homeric, classic era remained committed to warfare. Interestingly, however, perhaps due to the influence of the Iliad, they ritualized and limited war.
  130. 130. From about the time of Homer (~ 800 BCE) to that of Alexander the Great (~350 BCE), the Greeks managed to make their constant warfare with each other significantly less devastating and total.
  131. 131. Greek warfare during the later post- Homeric time period (800-350) involved the entire male civilian city population of fighting age. Most men were liable to be called up to fight every 2 out 3 summers from about 18 to 60 years of age.
  132. 132. These citizen-soldier of the Ancient Greek city-states were called hoplites. Hoplites were primarily armed as spearmen and fought in a phalanx formation, a rectangular formation of tightly packed armored spearmen protected mainly by shields.
  133. 133. Hoplites Greek panoply (helmet, greaves, armour, shield, weapons) weighed about 70 lbs (average weight of males = 150 lbs)
  134. 134. These wars consisted of a single battle of very short duration (fighting lasted perhaps 30 minutes), involving tight ranks of men of equal numbers (consisting of almost the entire male citizenry of the city) with big shields, with lots of pushing, and those in the front ranks using their spears. Eventually one side would eventually break through and the other side would break away and flee.
  135. 135. The weight of Greek armour and their lack of interest in tactics, cavalry, archery, and movement meant there was no slaughter of the losers and no sacking of the loser’s city (though there are a few exceptions involving the Spartans).
  136. 136. Losing was more a loss of face if anything, since casualties tended to be about the same for both winners and losers of the battle (about 10%), and mainly consisted of the older combatants.
  137. 137. Mardonois (a Greek émigré) talking to the Persian Emperor: “these Greeks are accustomed to wage wars among each other in the most senseless way. For as soon as they declare war on each other, they seek out the fairest and most level ground, and then go there to do battle on it. Consequently even the winners suffer as much as the losers.” He also told the Emperor that the Greeks want to kill “eye-to-eye” without heroics, tactics, or strategy and that the main virtue is “togetherness” not bravery or skill.
  138. 138. The goal of such ritualized combat was “intended to focus a concentrated brutality upon the few in order to spare the many.” The post-Iliad Greeks believed that warfare was a fact of life but that it could be managed ... That is, they developed a form of warfare in which “battle should be a particularly hellish ritual for all soldiers involved … if war was to be excluded from the daily life of their families back home.”
  139. 139. Later cultures sought to bring “science” and “complexity” and “tactics” to warfare, perhaps in order to make it more predictable or humane. Instead, ““all they really accomplished was to allow the killing to intrude into the very lives of the citizens they sought to protect.”
  140. 140. The true greatness of the Iliad resides not only in its beautiful language, its memorable similes, its recognition of the inevitability of violence in human affairs, but also in its criticism of what that violence does to all parties. Its greatness convinced its immediate Greek readers to try and reorganize their society around a totally different ethic, one that celebrated “civilized” virtues and which tried to constrain and limit the scope of organized human violence.
  141. 141. Homer’s other great work, the Odyssey, is a first statement of those other “civilized” virtues.
  142. 142. Odyessy
  143. 143. The Odyssey is an epic of return, an epic that focuses less on warfare and its ethic and more on how a human needs to behave in the everyday world of emerging Greek civilization. Odysseus (and not Achilles) ends up being the cultural hero of the Greeks of the emerging classical age.
  144. 144. Odysseus is renowned for his cunning, for thinking through problems, for knowing how to act, for having both brains and brawn.
  145. 145. Odysseus was seen by later Greek culture to be the epitome of the moral (and aesthetic) ideal of sophrosyne. Sophrosyne seems to have referred to the ideal of living life to its fullest but to do so with moderation, common sense, and in the light of self-knowledge.
  146. 146. The Sophrosyne ideal was latter enshrined at Delphi, the Classic Greek religious centre, in a variety of sayings carved into the temples.
  147. 147. γνῶῶθθι σεαυτόόν (gnōōthi seautón = "know thyself")
  148. 148. μηδδέέν άάγαν (mēēdén ágan = "nothing in excess")
  149. 149. Cahill, in his 2003 book claimed that this ideal of sophrosyne gave the Greeks insight into the six key areas of human life, which are nicely captured by his chapter titles:
  150. 150. Whenever they’d drink the deep-red mellow vintage, twenty cups of water he’d stir in one of wine and what an aroma wafted from the bowl— what magic, what a godsend— no joy in holding back when that was poured! Homer, The Odyssey 9 l. 231 The peoples of the Mediterranean began to emerge from barbarism when they learned to cultivate the olive and the vine. Thucydides One bowl [of wine] for ruddy health, then one for getting happy. The third brings sleep. … The fourth’s for pride and the fifth for lots of noise, The sixth for mindless f _ _ _ing, and the seventh is followed by black eyes. The eighth brings the police, The ninth’s for throwing up, And the tenth’s for trashing everything before passing out. Eubulus, 4thC BCE Athenian politician
  151. 151. Odyssey Plot Summary On blackboard in class
  152. 152. The Odyssey begins, not with Odysseus, but with his home, with his son and wife, who are beset by ill-behaved suitors hoping to marry Penelope (since Odysseus has been away for 20 years) and presumably become king.
  153. 153. Penelope & the Suitors J. W. Waterhouse
  154. 154. Xenia Is the Greek word for a very complicated concept/ideal that is at the heart of the Odyssey’s moral vision. We don’t really have an English word that corresponds to it. It means guest, stranger, friend, foreigner. Our English word xenophobia (fear of foreigners) comes from this Greek word.
  155. 155. Philoxenia Often translated as hospitality or guest guest-friendship. It proscribed a set of norms that governed how a host should behave to a guest, and how a guest should behave to a host. In a world without inns or hotels, philoxenia was a vital part of surviving when travelling.
  156. 156. At the beginning of the Odyssey, the suitors are not following the guest protocols of philoxenia: by never leaving Telemachus’s house, eating all his food, constantly wooing Penelope, and sleeping with the servants. Calypso is not following the host protocol since she refuses to let Odysseus leave her island.
  157. 157. Telemachus in contrast shows proper philoxenia. Straight to the porch he went, mortified that a guest [xenos] might still be standing at the doors. Pausing beside her there, he clasped her right hand and relieving her at once of her long bronze spear, met her with winged words: “Greetings, stranger! [xenia] Here in our house you’ll find a royal welcome. Have supper first, then tell us what you need.”
  158. 158. Telemachus then goes to visit some other veterans of the Trojan war, looking for word of his father. He too is treated with proper xenia. As soon as they saw the strangers, all came crowding down, waving them on in welcome, urging them to sit. Nestor’s son Pisistratus, first to reach them, grasped their hands and sat them down at the feast. …O Once they’’d put aside desire for food and drink, old Nestor the noble charioteer began, at last: “Now’s the time, now they’ve enjoyed their meal, to probe our guests and find out who they are. Strangers-Friends, who are you?”
  159. 159. Meanwhile, Odysseus, thanks to the gods’ intervention, is freed from Caylpso’s island and is given a raft … which is promptly sunk by a still-angry Poseidon. He washes up on the island of the Phaeacians.
  160. 160. He is meet by Nausicaa, a Phaeacian princess, who is washing clothes on the shore. She clothes him and takes him to met her parents, the king and queen.
  161. 161. The king rose in his place, and said: "This stranger has come to my hall. I do not know who he is, or whence he comes, whether from the east or the west. And he begs us to convey him safely to his home. Now this, as you know, is a thing that we have been used from old time to do for strangers. Go, then, and choose out a ship Let it be new—one that never has been on the sea before. And pick out fifty and two rowers. Let them be the best and strongest that there are in the country. When you have done this, come to my hall and feast. And let the minstrel come also, for the gods have given him the gift of song, and there is nothing better than song to make glad the Odysseus among the Phaeacians g g g hearts of men." So the chiefs of the people went and did as the king commanded. … When the people were ready to begin, there came two servants of the king leading the singer by the hand, for he was blind. They made him sit down in a silver chair in the middle of the hall; they hung his harp on a rail that there was above his head where he could easily reach it. And by his side they put a table, and on the table a basket full of good things, and a cup of wine so that he might drink when he pleased. Then the people began to eat and drink, and when they had had enough, the singer sang.
  162. 162. Odysseus tells of all his adventures after leaving Troy to the Phaeacians.
  163. 163. The Cyclops Polyphemus
  164. 164. The Cyclopedes have no concept of xenia; instead of giving gifts and food, the Cyclopes eats his guests.
  165. 165. After his cunning escape from the Cyclops, Odysseus and his crew sail away and soon find themselves on Aiolia Island, the domain of the wind god Aeolus who provides Odysseus with enough supplies to return home including a bag which contained all the winds except the ones Odysseus needed to return home to Ithaca.
  166. 166. Circe Offering the Cup to Odysseus John William Waterhouse (1891)
  167. 167. Odysseus visits Hades, the land of the dead, in order to get instructions on how to return home.
  168. 168. Ulysses and the Sirens (1891) John William Waterhouse
  169. 169. Scylla and Charybdis‐between‐scylla‐and‐charybdis. html
  170. 170. Thanks to the Phaeacians Odysseus reaches home. But instead of quickly announcing his presence, wily Odysseus disguises himself as a beggar so he can perform reconnaissance and prepare for the inevitable showdown.
  171. 171. Odysseus and Telemachus end up killing all 124 suitors.