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Od 4.95-96

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Od 4.95-96

Postby Paul Derouda » Mon Mar 25, 2013 7:43 pm

[...]μάλα πολλὰ πάθον καὶ ἀπώλεσα οἶκον
εὖ μάλα ναιετάοντα, κεχανδότα πολλὰ καὶ ἐσθλά.

Menelaos is speaking to Telemachus. I always thought οἶκον refers to his own home, i.e. that when he came back from Troy his own house was ruined, although the whole speech is a bit incongruous. All the translations I've seen as well as the Oxford commentary and Ameis-Hentze-Cauer's commentary agree.

But now I find that Oliver Taplin in Homeric Soundings, p. 117 footnote, translates this "I have suffered much and have destroyed a fine dwelling full of good things", that is he thinks οἶκον refers to the sack Troy. No explanation given.

Any thoughts about this interpretation? Can οἶκον mean Troy?
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Re: Od 4.95-96

Postby Qimmik » Tue Mar 26, 2013 3:18 am

ἀπώλεσα can also mean "lost." See LSJ A.II. That seems a more likely interpretation here. Stephanie West interprets it as "lost" in the Oxford Commentary on this passage, citing i 354, ii 46, iv 724, 814, a "lament for by-gone prosperity" in her words. She adds "etc." to her cites, but I didn't find any more examples in Dunbar's Concordance. I can't see Menelaus filled with remorse about Troy.
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Re: Od 4.95-96

Postby Paul Derouda » Tue Mar 26, 2013 11:22 am

Certainly the interpretation ἀπώλεσα "lost" has been much more popular than the other one. I'd never even thought about the other, until I run into this. But I must confess that it seduces me at least a bit. Here's why:

1) We're in the middle of a text that's basically telling us how wealthy Menelaus is, and suddenly we're told that he'd had his home destroyed with his property.
2) I don't think is completely out of Menelaus' character to pity the Trojans; his conflict was foremost with Paris. There's a scene in the Iliad where two Trojans are supplicating to Menelaus, and he's about to spare their lives; then Agamemnon comes and tells him no Trojan should be spared and kills them. (I don't remember where this was). Also, think about how Menelaus took pity of Helen. I'd even think this is psychologically attractive, because in the Iliad Homer really shows us how of all Homer's characters Menelaus is really the "nice guy". I also find this interpretation somehow fits melancholic atmosphere of the whole scene.

Because of reason 1 this passage has also been criticized by analysts. Well, if you call this passage an interpolation, it sort of explains it away.

I'm not settled in any explanation, I'm just wondering...
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Re: Od 4.95-96

Postby Qimmik » Tue Mar 26, 2013 12:54 pm

He seems to be talking about his own losses here. I think that οἶκον refers not so much to the physical dwelling as to material wealth or his entire establishment and estate, as it does in ii 64 and iv 318, cf. vii 314. I think this is a theme running throughout the Odyssey: the focus on the wasting of Odysseus' property or estate during his absence. Here we see how other heroes of the Trojan war have had their fortunes and estates diminished in the aftermath of the war (perhaps a faint echo of the collapse of the Mycenaean palace economies?). Later, against this backdrop of decline elsewhere, and in contrast to the other heroes of the war, Odysseus makes his triumphant return to restore his own οἶκος. And he finds his wife, unlike Agamemnon's (whose fate has just been mentioned in the passage under consideration), and, maybe more to the point, unlike Helen, has been faithful.

I see this entire episode as setting up a contrast between Menelaus' fate and that of his brother and other heroes with the happy outcome of the Odyssey. In that context, I see the words of regret at 95-6 as referring to Menelaus' own situation, not that of Priam or the Trojans. (But, to your point, Menelaus isn't exactly destitute in Sparte when Telemachus comes to visit--he's still phenomenally wealthy--although his wealth doesn't bring him much happiness.)

I think that if this passage were a reference to Priam's οἶκος, it would have been more explicit, and a regret for the destruction at the conclusion of the war would probably have not been framed in terms of a "house" but of the city itself. And, his sympathetic portrayal notwithstanding, in the Iliad at least, Menelaus is quite bitter about his treatment at the hands of the Trojans. XIII 620 ff. The violation of his hospitality was a grievous offense, and after that it's hard to see him regretting what happened to Troy.

But you're right that Menelaus is one of the most sympathetically portrayed characters in the Homeric poems, and it might not be wholly out of character for him to express some measure of sympathy for the other side.
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Re: Od 4.95-96

Postby Scribo » Tue Mar 26, 2013 1:25 pm

Yes I agree.

Actually I've never really thought of /oikon/ here referring to Ilion. Technically it could. Certainly people have argued that the Iliadic poet is rather nice to the Trojans (e.g novelty of formulaic system) and we might think that the Odyssey poet was influenced in that manner.

I definitely take the oikos here to be Menelaus' situation. Not in the physical sense, of course, since he is rich but in the wider semantic sense of /woikos/ being cognate with Latin /vicus/, Sanskrit /vish/ etc, e.g his "house" being his family line and clan. His wife as the cause of war which lost so many Achaeans that they all end up crying. This sort of seems to be a theme...remember Helene's "bitch that I am" line?

Anyway his clan is very much diminished. Agamemnon is dead at the hands of a relative, who is in turn killed by a relative. We've no idea to what extent the audience was aware of the "later" geneaology where the son of Orestes and Hermione, Tisamenos, would be killed by the Herakleidai, but from the pov of an early audience this could have a lot of pathos.

I don't know, I haven't looked at this book for a while so the wider context may refute that since I have very little of the Odyssey memorised.
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Re: Od 4.95-96

Postby Paul Derouda » Tue Mar 26, 2013 3:09 pm

Well, I think I agree with both of you, the usual interpretation is probably the correct one. Taplin's idea that oikos means Troy surprised me, although I couldn't complete dismiss it; I guess I was looking for additional arguments to refute it, which you have given. I think the idea that oikos should be taken here in a very wide sense ("clan", "house") is attractive, and I think the point that it encompasses the Agamemnon and his fate is especially good; Agamemnon and his fate are central in this book.
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Re: Od 4.95-96

Postby Qimmik » Tue Mar 26, 2013 3:53 pm

the idea that oikos should be taken here in a very wide sense ("clan", "house") is attractive,


A note of caution: there don't seem to be any citations to this sense of oikos before Herodotus in LSJ.
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Re: Od 4.95-96

Postby Paul Derouda » Wed Mar 27, 2013 8:19 pm

A good word of caution. Anyway, even if we didn't take oikos with the meaning house/clan, it could still mean Agamemnon in my opinion in this context. Agamemnon was supposed to rule in Mycenae and Menelaos in Sparta, but at least in this book Homer is pretty vague about this. In Menelaus' account of his wanderings, Proteus tells him that in his native land he "might find Aegisthos alive, or Orestes may have already killed him" (4.546-547). But why would either find either Aegisthos or Orestes at Sparta? Seems to me that Homer almost equates Menelaos' and Agamemnon's kingdom here.

Anyway, the whole book is incongrous in many places, and I might accept some kind of analytic or "Westian" scenario here. (For example, the wedding of Menelaos' daughter and son in the beginning of the book is forgotten almost once. And why would Menelaos ever want to go round cap Malea to go from Troy to Sparta?)
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Re: Od 4.95-96

Postby Qimmik » Wed Mar 27, 2013 10:14 pm

why would Menelaos ever want to go round cap Malea to go from Troy to Sparta?)

He would have travelled by sea to Gytheion (modern Gytheio) and then up along the Eurotas River to Sparte. There's an island in the harbor of Gytheio where Paris and Helen are said to have spent their first night together as they fled in the other direction from Sparte.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:SouthernPeloponessus.gif

If he had tried to make the journey by land from, say, the Argolid, he would have had to cross some steep mountains. Imagine what roads over the mountains would have been like in the Mycenaean age (if there was anything other than goat trails), or even in the Archaic period when the Homeric poems were likely put in something like the shape we have them. (I recently took this trip in the other direction, from Sparte to Nafplio (Nauplion), and the roads still leave something to be desired.) People travelled by sea as much as possible back then, just like Telemachus coming from the north-west coast of Greece. He didn't come to Sparte by land.

One more point: while the Homeric poems, particularly the Iliad, seem to reflect quite specific knowledge of the geography of Asia Minor, they aren't as clear about the geography of the southern and western parts of Greece.
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Re: Od 4.95-96

Postby Paul Derouda » Thu Mar 28, 2013 8:26 am

Oops, I got mixed up. Should always check your sources... I'm not too strong with the topography of the Peloponnese either... The problem is rather what Agamemnon was doing around Malea (4.512-). S. West mentions as one possibility that the author might have thought of him ruling jointly with Menelaos at Sparta; that would be sort of relevant to the present discussion, but it doesn't seem to be in line at least with the picture given in the Iliad.

Anyway, it's an important point that the author of the Odyssey isn't very knowledgeable about the Peloponnese. The clearest example is Telemachos' and Peisistratos' journey from Pylos to Sparta, which seems to ignore the fact that Mt Taygetos was on the way.
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Re: Od 4.95-96

Postby Qimmik » Tue Jun 25, 2013 3:55 pm

the wedding of Menelaos' daughter and son in the beginning of the book is forgotten almost once.


S. West points out the slight anomaly. This is the sort of thing that served as fodder for the analyst critics of the 19th century. But would the audience have noticed?

The "Telemachiad" is concerned with the fates of the Greek veterans in the post-war era, and in particular, their households, their families and their children. Of course, the disarray in Ithake and Telemakhos' uncertain situation are paramount, but we also see the rather comfortable household of Nestor and his sons, particularly Peisistratos, and his wife Eurydike, we hear about the violence in the household of Agamemnon, and the vengeance exacted by his son Orestes on Aigistheus and Klytaimestre (the unfaithful wife, setting up a contrast with Penelope), and we also visit the opulent yet not entirely cheerful household of Menelaos, who has come to a somewhat uneasy accommodation with his unfaithful wife Helen. All of these set up points of comparison and contrast with the situation in Ithake, in addition to carrying the story forward from the war. (We don't learn much about Diomedes, however.)

The wedding allows the Odyssey to work in the marriage of Menelaos' daughter Hermione to Akhilleus' son Neoptolemos (along with the marriage of Menelaos' less prominent son Megapenthes -- a "speaking name" --by a concubine), rounding out the survey of the offspring of major heroes of the war.
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Re: Od 4.95-96

Postby Paul Derouda » Wed Jun 26, 2013 9:16 am

I agree in about everything you're saying there. I think plot inconsistensies like the instantly forgotten marriages of Menelaus' children mean something, but what? They could be evidence of interpolation, or of the author editing a text he's himself written previously (West's model); they could mean that the author was an oral poet who had told the story many times in slightly different versions, and is now combining two versions without being careful enough. Or maybe he noticed it, but just didn't think it was important.

I think grammatical and stylistic anomalies are much stronger evidendence for an analytical scenario, or West's scenario. Plot inconsistensies can be used as additional evidence, but they are much more subjective and lead easily to "anything goes". Story substance anomalies are maybe mid-way (horseback riding in Homer 10 etc.)
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Re: Od 4.95-96

Postby Qimmik » Wed Jun 26, 2013 12:07 pm

grammatical and stylistic anomalies are much stronger evidence for an analytical scenario, or West's scenario.


We don't know enough about the early history of the texts to do much more than speculate about these things.

Story substance anomalies are maybe mid-way (horseback riding in Homer 10 etc.)


The Homeric poems conflate realia from a range of historical eras, and that isn't evidence for much more than the fact that the poems are in some way or other the product of an oral tradition extending back possibly as far as the Mycenaean era and maybe even beyond, which vacuumed up bits and pieces of material culture from a millenium or so of history.

the instantly forgotten marriages of Menelaus' children mean something, but what?


I'm suggesting that the marriages serve as a way to work in one more son of a major war hero--Neoptolemos (actually, two, if you count Megapenthes, but Neoptolemos is the one who really matters)--just as the elaborate sacrifice in Book 3 enables the Odyssey to spotlight the sons of Nestor. This is a point that S. West, along with the analyst critics, misses, I think. We are given an overview of the post-war generation--we see the sons of Nestor, Menelaos, Akhilleus and Agamemnon, all matured and at least two having distinguished themselves in one way or other. Telemakhos, in contrast, is still finding his way to maturity.

In addition, the orderly marriage feast in Book 4 serves to complete the series of contrasting public feasts, the first being the disorderly riot in Ithake (the animals are simply slaughtered without proper sacrificial rites), and the second, the decorous sacrificial feast in Pulos.

So in my view, even if the marriage feast in Book 4 seems somewhat intrusive, it actually extends and completes the patterns that prevail in the first four books.
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Re: Od 4.95-96

Postby Paul Derouda » Wed Jun 26, 2013 4:59 pm

Qimmik wrote:
grammatical and stylistic anomalies are much stronger evidence for an analytical scenario, or West's scenario.


We don't know enough about the early history of the texts to do much more than speculate about these things.

Well, you're the great Skeptic! Which is great, really. But is there something you are willing to believe on the basis of internal evidence...? I mean there's a difference between saying that Iliad book 10 is an interpolation (this is accepted by most scholars) and saying the Odyssey is the work of poet A and interpolator B (very speculative), or even producing an edition of the Odyssey with massive transpositions like Victor Bérard's Budé. (You don't like West's Iliad text, but it's really nothing compared with Bérard's Odyssey...) With the Doloneia, I think there were some ancient commentators already rejecting it, but the real evidence against it is internal and I think it's very strong. Do you think it's just speculation?

the instantly forgotten marriages of Menelaus' children mean something, but what?


I'm suggesting that the marriages serve as a way to work in one more son of a major war hero--Neoptolemos (actually, two, if you count Megapenthes, but Neoptolemos is the one who really matters)--just as the elaborate sacrifice in Book 3 enables the Odyssey to spotlight the sons of Nestor. This is a point that S. West, along with the analyst critics, misses, I think. We are given an overview of the post-war generation--we see the sons of Nestor, Menelaos, Akhilleus and Agamemnon, all matured and at least two having distinguished themselves in one way or other. Telemakhos, in contrast, is still finding his way to maturity.

In addition, the orderly marriage feast in Book 4 serves to complete the series of contrasting public feasts, the first being the disorderly riot in Ithake (the animals are simply slaughtered without proper sacrificial rites), and the second, the decorous sacrificial feast in Pulos.

So in my view, even if the marriage feast in Book 4 seems somewhat intrusive, it actually extends and completes the patterns that prevail in the first four books.

You're answering the question "why" the poet did it but not "how" he did it. You make some good points and I agree there's a great unity in the Telemachy like in the Odyssey in general. Also note how at Menelaus' place only Peisistratus dares to speak, while Telemachus is timid - but there's a nice psychological note about Peisistratus, the naive young boy crying for the brother he never met, to show he too has seen a thing or two in life. What I meant was that the fact the marriage affair is a bit intrusive might mean that there's a "seam" in the narrative here, but since there's so many ways this "seam" could have come about, it can't really be used as evidence for anything, except perhaps to support other, much stronger evidence (which I'm not pretending I have).
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Re: Od 4.95-96

Postby mwh » Fri Oct 25, 2013 11:38 pm

Could the oikos be Agamemnon's? Men. holds himself responsible for his brother's death (as well he might!) and hence the destruction of his home. He's reproaching himself for all that gallivanting about and booty-collecting and feather-nesting while poor Ag came home to be murdered -- all because of him.
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Re: Od 4.95-96

Postby Paul Derouda » Sat Oct 26, 2013 9:10 am

I think it could, or at least there seems to be some confusion as to which of the brothers (Agamemnon and Menelaos) ruled where. I think S. West is saying that the author of the Odyssey seems to imply a joint kingship of Agamemnon and Menelaos at Sparta. (I didn't look up S. West though)
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Re: Od 4.95-96

Postby mwh » Sat Nov 02, 2013 1:07 am

Thanks for your support, Paul (if that's not putting it too strongly). Seems to me that in this passage at least Men and Ag are envisaged as living in different places - Men. in Lakedaimon (4.1-2), Ag. at Mycenae (as explicitly at 3.304, in the same context). I don't know if the idea that Men is here referring to the oikos of Agamemnon is new - surely it can't be? - but I've always taken it so myself and it seems very much in line with Men's self-flagellation. I wonder what others think of it??
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Re: Od 4.95-96

Postby Paul Derouda » Sat Nov 02, 2013 9:58 am

I'm really not sure what to make out of all of this. Certainly, in many places in the Odyssey Agamemnon is explicitly said to rule at Mycenae and Menelaos at Sparta.

I looked up S. West on 4. 514-520. She thinks "the passage must be an interpolation, based on a version of Agamemnon's homecoming otherwise unknown to us; the reference to C. Malea may imply that its composer envisaged Agamemnon ruling jointly with Menelaus at Sparta, anticipating the double kingship of historical times, but may be the result of carelessness, C. Malea being the regular place for ships to be blown of course."

It seems like for S. West this passage is an anomaly vs. the rest of the Odyssey. But it's not the only place Menelaus' and Agamemnon's homes are mixed up (like S. West seems to imply here). At 4.543 ff. the Old Man of the Sea tells Menelaos he might find Aegisthus at home, if Orestes hasn't killed him yet - as if Mycenae was Menelaus' home. Also, at 3.305-312 it's implied that Menelaos returns to Mycenae, not Sparta. There are probably other places, though they don't come to my mind now.

Another thing, though I'm not sure if it means anything. Nowhere in books 3 or 4 of the Odyssey is it explicitly stated that Telemachus goes or arrives to Sparta - it's said that he arrives to Lacedaimon, but that's not exactly the same thing. The plan of going to Sparta is mentioned in books 1 and 2, but the only explicit mention that Telemachus actually is at Sparta is 13.412, where Athene says she'll fetch him for there. This probably doesn't mean anything, but it adds to the vagueness where talking about. Probably this could be used to support some analytic scenario too.

It's difficult to interprete all this. I think the likeliest reason is simply that the poet didn't know the topography of Peloponnesos well enough. That's why Telemachus and Peisistratus can travel so easily from Pylos to Sparta on a wagon, despite Mt Taygetos being in the way. Probably the poet thought Sparta and Mycenae were closer to each other than they really were and thus forming a single kingdom. Also, some editing of the text after it was first written down (either by the poet himself, like M. L. West thinks for the Iliad, or at a later instance like the "Pisistratean recension") could have added to the confusion.

I guess everything we're talking about has been dissected in books written in German in the 19th century...
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Re: Od 4.95-96

Postby Paul Derouda » Sat Nov 02, 2013 10:06 am

So yes, I think your interpretation is possible, but it seems to me that Menelaos is equating his brother's oikos with his own at least to some degree.
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Re: Od 4.95-96

Postby Scribo » Sat Nov 02, 2013 10:10 am

I don't think it's an interpolation, look at my post above regarding the joint oikos, Tissamenos etc. This basically reflects Lakedaimonian epichoric variants...so it's either the version of the mytheme the poet preferred or just some performance variant.

The only problem I have with this is the Lakedaimonians treated Helene as a sun goddess so I'm not sure....but "local variant" to me seems much more likely than interpolations all the time.
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Re: Od 4.95-96

Postby Paul Derouda » Sat Nov 02, 2013 12:59 pm

Scribo, I'm not sure I understand what you mean. Do you mean that the poet is trying to reconciliate two different, contradictory versions of the story, one of which is a local Laconian one? And what do you mean with performance variant?

I think scholars used to judge passages interpolations much too easily. I prefer M. L. West's idea of one oral poet reworking his own text. But in the case of the Odyssey, and especially the Telemachiad, I'm not sure if there really wasn't quite a lot of reworking by someone else. For me, one big difficulty is Pisistratus' name: how else could he have the same name as the Athenian tyrant, unless we assume an absurdly late date for the whole of the Odyssey? Also, I have a recollection that Pisistratus isn't mentioned in a Hesiodic catalogue of Nestor's sons.
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Re: Od 4.95-96

Postby Scribo » Sat Nov 02, 2013 1:50 pm

Paul Derouda wrote:Scribo, I'm not sure I understand what you mean. Do you mean that the poet is trying to reconciliate two different, contradictory versions of the story, one of which is a local Laconian one? And what do you mean with performance variant?

I think scholars used to judge passages interpolations much too easily. I prefer M. L. West's idea of one oral poet reworking his own text. But in the case of the Odyssey, and especially the Telemachiad, I'm not sure if there really wasn't quite a lot of reworking by someone else. For me, one big difficulty is Pisistratus' name: how else could he have the same name as the Athenian tyrant, unless we assume an absurdly late date for the whole of the Odyssey? Also, I have a recollection that Pisistratus isn't mentioned in a Hesiodic catalogue of Nestor's sons.


I don't necessarily mean he was trying to reconcile two variations, as much as maybe that was the version he went with in performance, maybe it was the only one he knew, god knows.

I can't remember whether or Peisistratos was mentioned in the catalogue off the top of my head, it IS interesting since he claimed Neleid ancestry and I've always thought of tampering or Attic patronage or something myself for that reason. On the other hand it's quite a commonish high class name...so...Interestingly see s20 of Plutarch's Theseus for him apparently tampering with the catalogue.
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Re: Od 4.95-96

Postby Paul Derouda » Sat Nov 02, 2013 5:10 pm

I'm still not sure I understand what you mean by "performance", how performance would affect our written text and how that explains this incongruity. Do you perhaps mean something like this: that we have a dictated text, and while dictating the Odyssey, the poet dictated these passages in question the way he had usually recited them in performance, without properly adapting them to the larger whole?

As for Hesiod, the passage in question is fr 35 in Merkelbach-West, in the Gynaikwn Katalogos. It doesn't have Peisistratos, but the problem is that it seems to be very fragmentary and largely supplemented from somewhere else (the Odyssey I guess?). So unless there's some other fragment out there, I don't think this amounts to much proof. I remember seeing it taken as evidence somewhere about Peisistratos not originally being among Nestor's sons, though - but since I don't remember where, saying this doesn't lead anywhere...
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Re: Od 4.95-96

Postby Scribo » Wed Nov 06, 2013 11:14 am

Hi, sorry, performance can essentially affect the text in several ways. It could be original, it could be via dictation, it could be a later accretion in this instance.

As for Peisikins that is interesting, I haven't spent as much work memorising the GK fragments yet so I hadn't caught that. VERY interesting, I'm tempted towards the same conclusions...but I fee something, as usual, pulling at my collar telling me not to be too hasty.
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Re: Od 4.95-96

Postby Paul Derouda » Thu Nov 07, 2013 8:20 pm

I haven't formed any clear conclusions myself, I'm just expressing to what direction the evidence seems to be pointing in my opinion. I guess it's reasonable to refrain from hasty conclusions... I haven't found any clear conclusion in scholars like S. West either, and I guess it's for a reason...

I don't like the word performance very much in this sort of context, because it's too ambiguous as to how the words ended up on paper. As far I understand anything, I think the oralist school are much too optimistic about what our transmitted text can tell about performance.

An off-topic interlude: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vn29DvMITu4 :)
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Re: Od 4.95-96

Postby Qimmik » Tue Nov 12, 2013 9:10 pm

For me, one big difficulty is Pisistratus' name: how else could he have the same name as the Athenian tyrant, unless we assume an absurdly late date for the whole of the Odyssey? Also, I have a recollection that Pisistratus isn't mentioned in a Hesiodic catalogue of Nestor's sons.


My guess, unsupported by the slightest shred of evidence: the author of the Odyssey made up the character and the name (like so many names in the Odyssey, Eumaeus, Alcinous, Arete, Nausicaa, Euycleia, Mentor, the various suitors and, who knows? maybe even Telemachus; the poet of the Odyssey was very inventive in this sphere); and the parents of the Athenian Pisistratus gave him the name of Nestor's son--by that time the most famous and beloved of Nestor's sons in the wake of the Odyssey's wild success throughout the Greek-speaking world--to advertise their purported Neleid connections.
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Re: Od 4.95-96

Postby Paul Derouda » Wed Nov 13, 2013 3:14 pm

Qimmik, that's a possible explanation. I mean on first hearing it sounds a bit strained to have the Athenian tyrant named after a character in the Odyssey, but stranger things have happened. I wonder what onomastics have to say about that. In general the Odyssey fits best in the 7th century or before, on linguistic and other grounds, or so I have understood. I don't know enough Greek to have an opinion as to whether there are "linguistically newer layers", like some say, especially for book 24.
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Re: Od 4.95-96

Postby Paul Derouda » Thu Dec 12, 2013 8:19 pm

According to Stephen Mitchell's preface to his Odyssey translation (p. xl), there's a "Making of the Odyssey" in the making by Martin West. He will certainly know, or think thank he knows, an answer to all of these questions! I'm getting impatient already.
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Re: Od 4.95-96

Postby Qimmik » Sat Dec 14, 2013 5:04 am

The Making of the Odyssey: A Disquisition and a Commentary will only cost 250 -- take your pick, euros, dollars or pounds -- for a 73 page book. I won't be able to resist buying it, of course, but fortunately I do something else for a living.

I actually feel more strongly than in the case of the Iliad that the Odyssey was the product of a single individual with access somehow to writing, and I agree with West that the author of the Odyssey couldn't possibly have been the same person who wrote the Iliad. But we'll never know for sure.
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Re: Od 4.95-96

Postby Paul Derouda » Fri Feb 21, 2014 11:40 pm

Here's what I found:

The Making of the Odyssey is actually going to published. But estimated publication date is only October 2014. You can't do this to me! There's no way I can wait that long.
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Re: Od 4.95-96

Postby Qimmik » Sat Feb 22, 2014 12:53 am

From the publisher:

The poet of the Odyssey was a seriously flawed genius. . . . a slapdash artist, often copying verses from the Iliad or from himself without close attention to their suitability. . . . he creates a narrative marked by constant inconsistency of detail. . . . his deployment of the epic language is often inept and sometimes simply unintelligible.


This is going to be somewhat controversial, I think.
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Re: Od 4.95-96

Postby Paul Derouda » Sat Feb 22, 2014 1:18 am

Qimmik wrote:From the publisher:

The poet of the Odyssey was a seriously flawed genius. . . . a slapdash artist, often copying verses from the Iliad or from himself without close attention to their suitability. . . . he creates a narrative marked by constant inconsistency of detail. . . . his deployment of the epic language is often inept and sometimes simply unintelligible.


This is going to be somewhat controversial, I think.

I read that and knew instantaneously that I'm going to enjoy that book a lot! :)

I've been reading the Odyssey very closely for quite some time and I think I mostly agree with those statements; I've mentioned several such inconsistensies in these discussions before. I'm very curious about what West has to say about them.

Take geography for instance - I think the problems of geography (such as the exact location of Ithaca, the Sparta/Mykenae problem, or the journey from Pylos to Sparta on a horse wagon over Mt Taygetos) are evidence that the author of the Odyssey was more concerned with telling a good story than exactitude about details.
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Re: Od 4.95-96

Postby Scribo » Sat Feb 22, 2014 1:55 am

Yes it is going to be awesome. I love West's scholarship even where I disagree heavily. I had an interesting debate with him incidentally about such...infelicities. For me, I basically think such things are normative for oral performances. Those mistakes. Rather than seams or what have you. I mean it would take a hyper skilled listener to even notice.

It occurs to me actually that with regards to "tectonic expansion" and what have you I've actually seen a preview of this approach to the Odyssey, from a related talk back in 2011. I think it was to do with book 8 or something. I don't necessarily buy it, but either way it can offer fascinating insights into how poets organise their narrative. It's putative, but then this stuff needs to be.

I like that we're moving towards some more controversial books. Honestly, more of this. Less gender studies fluff please!
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Ok that totally needs to be my signature.

α ed: Given the price I predict the usual will happen. Some rich college libraries will have it. Otherwise people will fight over who gets to access what in the faculty and the Bod and there will be a damn line in order to get to it, after it inevitably comes to the library much much much later than its release date. I'm going to have to go and visit Cambridge's library since a) they'll have it on release since they're not backwards and b) for some reason they seem to dislike West so no one will read it.
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Re: Od 4.95-96

Postby Paul Derouda » Sat Feb 22, 2014 7:49 am

I thought again of a review of West's Making of the Iliad.

Pretty lousy review I think, and not only because I disagree... But it brought to my mind this great Monty Python sketch. ;)

I'd be happy to have another debate about those "infelicities" sometime... Although I do confess I'd need some more studying of oral poetry to have a really definite opinion on the question.
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Re: Od 4.95-96

Postby Scribo » Sat Feb 22, 2014 11:26 am

Pretty much think that's how Austrailians are. One of my favourite lecturers is Australian and now and then he reverts to type, hilarious. Wow I just realise I've only ever met like 3 Australians. Ha.

Sure we can discuss those, I take a very....let's say wet fish not too involved approach. I don't think we can determine what are mistakes and what not in foreign (it is foreign!) narratives and my experience with other forms of oral poetry sort of make me think such things are really, really, common. More importantly, having read R. Scodel's book on audience/poet interaction I think it more important to consider the audience's role here. I mean how many of them would really notice? Only those with a lot of experience etc.

I want to re-read the Odyssey dedicatedly again. But I've only recently finished one re-read and I'm still investigating prose styles even though prose sucks and the more distant stuff is from Homer the less awesome it is. :( I could be having Odysseus hanging faithless maidens and instead I'm reading Aris-loli'msoboringbutChristianandMusliminfluenceinthemiddleagesmakesmeimportant-totle and his ethics.
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Re: Od 4.95-96

Postby Qimmik » Sat Feb 22, 2014 3:05 pm

I think the problems of geography (such as the exact location of Ithaca, the Sparta/Mykenae problem, or the journey from Pylos to Sparta on a horse wagon over Mt Taygetos) are evidence that the author of the Odyssey was more concerned with telling a good story than exactitude about details.


Or else, living in Asia Minor, s/he just didn't have a very good grasp of the geography of mainland Greece.
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Re: Od 4.95-96

Postby Scribo » Sat Feb 22, 2014 3:46 pm

See I've thought of that too, but how likely is it? I mean if anything the Odyssey seems to have a Euboian bent rather than a Mikrasiatic one. Also, poets by their nature were highly mobile so I don't doubt that p.Od would have travelled a lot. There were more than enough competitions and aristocratic households in the mainland to make it worth while. I think it dangerous to infer that the poet didn't know. I'd rather see it as a stylistic quirk or something. Especially since early Greek geography seemed to be a) who speaks what where and b) where are cult sites, as opposed to our more...well geographic tendencies.
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Re: Od 4.95-96

Postby Paul Derouda » Sat Feb 22, 2014 6:12 pm

Scribo wrote:Sure we can discuss those, I take a very....let's say wet fish not too involved approach. I don't think we can determine what are mistakes and what not in foreign (it is foreign!) narratives and my experience with other forms of oral poetry sort of make me think such things are really, really, common. More importantly, having read R. Scodel's book on audience/poet interaction I think it more important to consider the audience's role here. I mean how many of them would really notice? Only those with a lot of experience etc.

It's indeed difficult if not impossible to always say what is a mistake and what not in a poem whose origin is in an oral tradition. But committing a 12000 or 15000 thousand verse poem to writing in 7th or 8th century BC must have been a difficult enterprise, just technically speaking. I simply don't understand how that could have happened without the writing process having an effect on the result. With the crude writing equipment they had, I find it really difficult to accept that these massive poems could be a sort of live transcript of actual live performance. So for that reason I'm sceptical of applying the idea of audience/poet interraction on these epics; of course they were performed, and of course the way the poet performed them and the different audiences he performed them to affected how the poem evolved in the poet's mind during the his career. But I more and more firmly believe that when the poet was dictating or (maybe more likely) writing his poem, he didn't have an audience.

So when I apply the Occam's razor principle to this question, just looking at the poems and how great they are, despite some little inconsistensies - what is more likely? An off-hand dictation of a couple of days or weeks, or a slow process that took probably several years? (I'm leaving Nagy's hypothesis out, since it seems even more absurd to me). And once we accept that the writing process is not self-evident but must have left some trace, we can start look for these traces. That's what West has set out to do. I don't think we have to swallow his theories whole, as many of his claimed transpositions are very hypothetical; actually I think once we get past the idea that we have "tape record transcripts" of Homer, I don't see that West's ideas and Oralist's ideas actually rule each other out. Actually, I would say that many of the so called "infelicities" in Homer might have been accepted in the text precisely for the reason that they would have been accepted in a performance as well - in many cases it must be very difficult to draw the line between an "infelicity" caused by "oral poetry" and one caused by the act of committing to writing; maybe West is too eager to assign everything to the latter.

Re: geography. Of course not knowing the Peloponnese and Ithaca is evidence that the poet was not from these parts; but still, they weren't on the other side of the world, he could well made the effort to get those facts right; only he chose not to. I think that says something.
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Re: Od 4.95-96

Postby Paul Derouda » Sat Feb 22, 2014 8:24 pm

Scribo, you mentioned the hanging of faithless maiden servants. I think that's the single most repulsive episode in Homer by far from our own moral perspective. Much worse than the killing of the nicer suitors, or the human sacrifices on Patroclus' pyre (which P. Il. clearly saw as an excess), or anything else. Perhaps it's because such "honour killings" still exist, and for us (whether truthfully or not) they are a sort of embodiment of everything that is bad those other cultures (the "Other" from our perspective) that (apparently) condone it.
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Re: Od 4.95-96

Postby Scribo » Sat Feb 22, 2014 11:12 pm

That's why I chose that example. Straight up, stark, brutal. The Greeks are the other and the sooner realise that and adopt a more...anthropological mindset to it the better. Its odd, Qimmik in another thread mentioned the breakthrough in Homeric studies in the '30s. It's not at all a coincidence that this was a great time for Classicists getting their hands dirty elsewhere. Milman Parry's doctoral advisor? Antoine Meillet, a scarily good Sanskritist and Indo-Europeanist. Parry and Lord themselves obviously immersed themselves in South Slavic material. The best work on Greek culture in general comes from this comparative bent, look at West and Burkert et al. I like examples like this, I like smacking the more...literary aesthetic fluffiness with some hard realism now and then. Nothing like reminding your fellow students that Sokrates a) helped educate a tyrant and b) would have had his feet covered in faeces etc to stop them prevaricated. As you've said before I believe, the point isn't to condone or censure but to simply...acknowledge and recognise. There's no fundamental difference between Odysseus hanging his maids and Akhilleus' lament on the phorminx.

I agree with your other post too, once something is textualised then it is open to the same level of variation as everything else (though occasionally Homeric papyri seem to reflect contact with a living tradition, no?) and this why Nagy's evolutionary model fundamentally fails. Textual criticism at times is like a much needed enema for Classicists I swear lol.

Basically I'm not saying that we can't detect problems and so on. I think we can, just that I'm very much on the wary side. Despite being a fan of West - which does kind of see oxymoronic doesn't it?
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