On Abusing Homer

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Paul Derouda
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On Abusing Homer

Post by Paul Derouda » Wed Dec 02, 2015 6:26 pm

In my Facebook thread I ran into a theory called "bi-phasic" or "segmented" sleep. According to this theory, before modern times people slept their nights in two segments: a "first sleep" until midnight and a "second sleep" thereafter; in between, people would get up and do all sorts of stuff. This theory is presented by Roger Ekirch in the book At Day's Close: A History of Nighttime. It was pretty well reviewed by many quality newspapers. I have not read the book; however, I got interested enough to read some reviews (one here) and found out that even Homer supposedly knew about "biphasic sleep", and that his old translator Chapman, unlike later ones, supposedly knew as well. According to this Ekirch guy, the Proteus episode in the 4th book of the Odyssey gives evidence for his theory! These are Eidothea's instructions to Menelaos on how to catch the Old Man of the Sea, according to Chapman's translation:

In his first sleep, call up your hardiest cheer,
Vigour and violence, and hold him there,
In spite of all his strivings to be gone.

Lo and behold! "First sleep"! The only problem is that the Old Man is taking a NAP and Homer (and Chapman) says explicitly a couple of lines earlier that it's MIDDAY. It should be obvious that Chapman's "in his first sleep" means "as soon as he's asleep", and the the word "first" is only motivated by the fact that Greek πρῶτα also means "first"; ἐπὴν δὴ πρῶτα here obviously also means "as soon as". I wonder if all the other evidence the author has accumulated is as selective and frankly frivolous as this.

‘τοιγὰρ ἐγώ τοι, ξεῖνε, μάλ᾽ ἀτρεκέως ἀγορεύσω.
ἦμος δ᾽ ἠέλιος μέσον οὐρανὸν ἀμφιβεβήκῃ,
τῆμος ἄρ᾽ ἐξ ἁλὸς εἶσι γέρων ἅλιος νημερτὴς
πνοιῇ ὕπο Ζεφύροιο μελαίνῃ φρικὶ καλυφθείς,
ἐκ δ᾽ ἐλθὼν κοιμᾶται ὑπὸ σπέσσι γλαφυροῖσιν:
ἀμφὶ δέ μιν φῶκαι νέποδες καλῆς ἁλοσύδνης
405ἁθρόαι εὕδουσιν, πολιῆς ἁλὸς ἐξαναδῦσαι,
πικρὸν ἀποπνείουσαι ἁλὸς πολυβενθέος ὀδμήν.
ἔνθα σ᾽ ἐγὼν ἀγαγοῦσα ἅμ᾽ ἠοῖ φαινομένηφιν
εὐνάσω ἑξείης: σὺ δ᾽ ἐὺ κρίνασθαι ἑταίρους
τρεῖς, οἵ τοι παρὰ νηυσὶν ἐυσσέλμοισιν ἄριστοι.
410πάντα δέ τοι ἐρέω ὀλοφώια τοῖο γέροντος.
φώκας μέν τοι πρῶτον ἀριθμήσει καὶ ἔπεισιν:
αὐτὰρ ἐπὴν πάσας πεμπάσσεται ἠδὲ ἴδηται,
λέξεται ἐν μέσσῃσι νομεὺς ὣς πώεσι μήλων.
τὸν μὲν ἐπὴν δὴ πρῶτα κατευνηθέντα ἴδησθε,
415καὶ τότ᾽ ἔπειθ᾽ ὑμῖν μελέτω κάρτος τε βίη τε,
αὖθι δ᾽ ἔχειν μεμαῶτα καὶ ἐσσύμενόν περ ἀλύξαι.

When heaven's supremest height the sun doth skall,
The old Sea-tell-truth leaves the deeps, and hides
Amidst a black storm, when the West Wind chides,
In caves still sleeping. Round about him sleep
(With short feet swimming forth the foamy deep)
The sea-calves, lovely Halosydnes call'd,
From whom a noisome odour is exhaled,
Got from the whirl-pools, on whose earth they lie.
Here, when the morn illustrates all the sky,
I'll guide, and seat thee in the fittest place
For the performance thou hast now in chace.
In mean time, reach thy fleet, and choose out three
Of best exploit, to go as aids to thee.
But now I'll show thee all the old God's sleights:
He first will number, and take all the sights
Of those his guard, that on the shore arrives.
When having view'd, and told them forth by fives,
He takes place in their midst, and there doth sleep,
Like to a shepherd midst his flock of sheep.
In his first sleep, call up your hardiest cheer,
Vigour and violence, and hold him there,
In spite of all his strivings to be gone.

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Re: On Abusing Homer

Post by mwh » Fri Dec 04, 2015 3:34 am

Yes it’s a very irresponsible reading, but there’s nothing new about that. If only these people would take the trouble to consult us first! But classicists themselves can be as bad.

Eidothea’s speech is instructively structured, don’t you think? At first it looks as if Proteus settles down to sleep among his flock as soon as he comes out of the water: εκ δ’ ελθων κοιμαται ... (403-5). Only when she comes to the details of her cunning plan does it emerge that he’ll do a head-count first (411-4), necessitating the stinky skins. And as she anticipates her scheme in operation she switches from present to future. The presents of 403-406 serve as summary backdrop to the upcoming action. Chapman scores over Lattimore here (the only translation I have to hand): Lattimore uses futures throughout, flattening and confusing the narrative (as if his translation weren’t flat enough already).

Perhaps I should spend more time on the Odyssey. It really is quite interesting. But now to bed—but for how long?

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Re: On Abusing Homer

Post by jeidsath » Fri Dec 04, 2015 5:10 am

In Finland, the sun doesn't go down until midnight anyway, so I don't accept this as a valid objection.

I've come across this in other literature. In the Arabian Nights we have "tell me a tale to pass the waking part of the night...". And there are a few lines of Gilgamesh that are suggestive. I can't read the originals though, so maybe I'm off-base.
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Re: On Abusing Homer

Post by Ahab » Fri Dec 04, 2015 12:48 pm

I would put Jaynes' Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind on that abuser's list. Along with Snell's The Discovery of the Mind.
Why, he's at worst your poet who sings how Greeks
That never were, in Troy which never was,
Did this or the other impossible great thing!
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Re: On Abusing Homer

Post by Bart » Fri Dec 04, 2015 1:13 pm

This biphasic sleep thing has all the hallmarks of a too good to be true theory. Luckily enough it seeems open to verification (or falsification) by sending an anthropologist to some distant tribe to study their sleeping habits. This has -of course- already been done (for example http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?script= ... 0000200005) and the results don't seem to match with the theory at all.

Oh, and I asked my colleague (a specialist in sleeping disorders) and she just laughed and mumbled 'nonsense'. I admit, not really a scientific refutation but still.

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Re: On Abusing Homer

Post by Paul Derouda » Fri Dec 04, 2015 4:09 pm

I haven't looked up any other example given by the author, but I'm not sure I'll give him another chance, given how outrageous this one is. Of course, it's possible in theory that the author is right even if his book is bad and his use of evidence selective. I doubt it though... It takes usually much too much effort to properly refute a theory like this or like those given by Ahab, when on the other you know by common sense at once that they just can't be true.

Joel: The sun went down at 15.17 pm today. :( In winter, this is the land of the Cimmerians... The translations of the Arabian Nights are notoriously inexact, except one: Husain Haddawy's; I don't know where you found that bit.

Bart: I'll ask another specialist in sleeping disorders! That'll make n = 2, if her reaction is the same as your colleague's (as I suspect). Will that constitute a scientific refutation? :)

As for translations of Homer, I'm not much of a judge for English, but I don't like Lattimore too much. It's probably because he tried to achieve everything at once: he wanted it to be exact, but also to a meter while keeping to the original line numbering. But it's exact only at a verbal level, in the sense that it translates very closely word for word; in my opinion, he often doesn't get what Homer really wants to say. In Finnish we say that someone doesn't see the forest because of the trees. My favorite English translation is (I exclude poetic ones, such as Fagles, because I'm no judge) Walter Shewring, and if I want a very close crib, I read the new Loeb.

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Re: On Abusing Homer

Post by Hylander » Fri Dec 04, 2015 11:35 pm

Abuse of Homer is nothing new--it began in the 6th century BCE, when Theagenes of Rhegium offered allegorical interpretations of scandalous passages concerning Zeus.

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Re: On Abusing Homer

Post by Timothée » Mon Dec 21, 2015 7:30 pm

To Joel and Paul: Enno Littmann's translation Erzählungen aus den Tausendundein Nächten is really dependable. If you think you caught an error in Littmann, you are most likely wrong and he is right.

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Re: On Abusing Homer

Post by Paul Derouda » Mon Dec 21, 2015 9:01 pm

Husain Haddawy's translation is based on a quite recent critical edition by Muhsin Mahdi. But if we say accurate or dependable, we must first define what we're talking about. I wasn't thinking so much about the quality of the translation as about the quality of the text that is being translated. (Although apparently earlier English and French translations were notoriously inaccurate, for example typically either overtly prudish or, in Burton's case, quite the opposite and excessively so.)

When we think about the "Arabian Nights", some of the best known stories are not "authentic", i.e. they are later additions that are not to be found in earlier Arabic editions – stories like Sindbad, Ali Baba and Aladdin. Ali Baba and Aladdin were even apparently originally written in French (sic) and were only afterwards translated "back" into Arabic. Of course, I suppose it's possible that the French versions were based on earlier oral versions of the stories that were circulating, but the Arabic texts that remain today are hoaxes.

The translations that have fascinated people in the West for two centuries and which made the Arabian Nights a classic here were not based on critical editions, but precisely on those "inferior" texts – I'm talking about the translations by men like Antoine Gallant, Edward Lane, and Captain Sir Richard Burton. Those texts are classics in their own right. I don't know where Enno Littmann stands in all this, and anyway I don't know enough about this stuff anyway. What I'm writing here I have more or less gotten from Hussain Haddawy's preface to his translations, and it's possible that things are not as simple as he's claiming there.

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Re: On Abusing Homer

Post by Timothée » Mon Dec 21, 2015 11:26 pm

Yes, the first "complete" edition of Arabian Nights was indeed that of Antoine Galland. But no: the Sindbād cycle is from the 10th century Baghdad. It was only attached to Arabian Nights in the 17th century, either in Egypt or in Turkey. Therefrom Galland got it. And Sindbād's story is surely partly based upon Homer (reminiscences of Πολύφημος and Κίρκη; Sindbād himself is much like Ὀδυσσεύς)—dare I surmise this is why you are interested in it?—but it is fiendishly difficult to say much conclusively. It can, however, be shown (Fihrist by Ibn an-Nadīm) that something was transferred from Byzantine stories to Arabia—this might be the best route for influence, but more study on the matter must be done.

ʿAlī Bābā could be pre-Galland although it is indeed first met in Galland. Either Galland combined two stories into one or so did the writer of Arabic text which Galland translated—we cannot be sure. (In the famous "Open, Sesame!", by the way, Sesame is actually a proper noun, i.e. the name of the genie whom ʿAlī Bābā commands.)

And yes, Muḥsin Mahdī's edition (1984) is the first one based on MS Galland (from ca. 1460), whereas Littmann's is obviously based on ZER (Zotenberg Egyptian Recension), the first "complete" Arabic version. Mahdī claims that some stories from Gallands Les mille et une nuits were translated back to ZER, but my teacher, prof. Hämeen-Anttila says this is nonsense. We must also remind ourselves of the possibly obvious fact: the age of the manuscript does not always correspond with the age of the story. A 15th century manuscript may contain stories from the 15th century, an 18th century manuscript stories from the 13th century, for instance.

Of English translations, Lyons's (2008) is probably the best, but not infallible. As I said, Littmann's translation is nonpareil—but obviously it is in German, which could impede its usage.

Burton was indeed very interested in matters erotic, composing the first noteworthy English Kāmasūtra translation, and also translating the Perfumed Garden. He famously said that the best way to learn a language is to obtain a lover who speaks that language, adding that he knows thirty languages. An example of Burton's habit of eroticising is translating "a black slave" for no reason as "a well-endowed black slave" (I dare not use the n-word).

I cannot in this message open more comprehensively the history and prehistory of Arabian Nights. It is very intriguing, that's for sure! Maybe later.

(A few years ago I took a course on the history of One Thousand and One Nights, and it is nice to refresh one's memory [I should do it more thoroughly!]—and skim over one's old notes. So here I do rely muchly on Hämeen-Anttila's lectures.)

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Re: On Abusing Homer

Post by Paul Derouda » Tue Dec 22, 2015 9:58 am

Well, I guess it's more complicated than I said then. The manuscript tradition of the Arabian Nights is apparently much more complicated than the transmission of the Homeric texts, where Nagy et al. see multiformity where there is none. I don't know enough about the Arabian Nights, so it's better that I say nothing more... Except that I'll repeat that Haddawy's translation is good, and it's very nicely presented in Everyman's Library.

I've read maybe 1/3 of Burton's translation (it's like 3000 pages, so you'll understand that I didn't finish it, plus there's also Supplemental Nights, with another zillion pages, including the story The Lady With Two Coyntes – believe me I have not read it, I'd gotten my fill of Burton by that time, but the title shows that Burton wanted to include every story he could dig up anywhere, especially if it had shock value.). I would say that it's mostly worth reading because of what it tells about the translator himself and his own culture. Especially telling are the notes to his translation. Here's what one note to the 1st night says:
Debauched women prefer negroes on account of the size of their parts. I measured one man in Somali-land who, when quiescent, numbered nearly six inches. This is a characteristic of the negro race and of African animals; e.g. the horse; whereas the pure Arab, man and beast, is below the average of Europe; one of the best proofs by the by, that the Egyptian is not an Asiatic, but a negro partially white-washed.[...]
What titillating rubbish! And it goes on and on and on. I also remember he had a weird theory about the prevalence of homosexuality in different cultures, that it was more prevalent in southern countries (a sort of "homosexual belt") than in his prudish Victorian England.

I'm not sure Sindbad was necessarily based on Homer. The Polyphemus-like ogre is much older than the Odyssey, and Sindbad may very well be independent of Homer, their common source going even further back in time.

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Re: On Abusing Homer

Post by jeidsath » Wed Dec 23, 2015 3:11 am

So I discovered a complete edition of Burton's Arabian Nights at the local library when I was 5 or 6 and devoured it -- but didn't discover the footnotes until college. They were luckily presented only as endnotes in the library edition that I read as a kid. They are an education. His Terminal Essay on Pederasty (suppressed in some editions) is a fine read. His Sotadic Zone theory is presented there, I believe.

Burton is sometimes very perceptive and at other times worse than naive. He picked up the worst form of anti-Semitism possible while in Turkey, though his full book on that only exists in manuscript. I am sure that it would destroy his reputation if ever made public, and would have done so even in his own day. It is bizarre that an educated Victorian man could believed that sort of thing. The real child sacrifice, literal blood libel stuff. His widow suppressed the manuscript to protect him, though it somehow missed being burned, and I forget the exact story.

That said, I remember the exact footnote that you reference. I have no doubt that Burton did stand there and use a measuring tape on the man. He is perhaps correct on human sizes (D.I. Templar has some data, and there are some other larger studies out there), I have no idea about horses, and he is incorrect about the Egyptian population, which while intermediate between sub-Saharan and Middle Eastern ancestry, seems to be mostly Middle Eastern -- no matter what the Black Athena folk say.

I keep meaning to write up a Kenneth Dover post, but I don't suppose it's something that's possible on a public forum.
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Re: On Abusing Homer

Post by elle » Sun Jul 24, 2016 9:12 am

I look at this translation by Chapman and see a punctuation problem.
Perhaps consider:
He takes place in their midst, and there doth sleep,
Like to a shepherd midst his flock of sheep
In his first sleep. Call up your hardiest cheer,
Vigour and violence, and hold him there,
In spite of all his strivings to be gone.

Maybe the guy having the first sleep is the shepherd. This would then make the claim to first and second sleeps reference valid. And maybe not the most restful one if he is in the middle of baaing and bleeting. So maybe calling up the hardiest cheer is to sound like sheep! So in spite of his (the shepherd's) strivings to be gone (sound asleep) its kind of noisy and holding him there (in waking mode, whether he wants to be awake or not). Just how I read it. Who cares if it is day or night, some people try to catch zzzz's when and where they can!

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Re: On Abusing Homer

Post by Paul Derouda » Sun Jul 24, 2016 1:35 pm

Although you can ingeniously change the punctuation of the English translation, it's just impossible with the Greek – the guy having the first sleep can't be the shepherd, it must be the Old Man of the sea. νομεὺς ὣς means "like a shepherd", and there's no way τὸν μὲν ἐπὴν doesn't begin a new sentence. τὸν μὲν ἐπὴν δὴ πρῶτα κατευνηθέντα ἴδησθε means "the first [moment] you see him fallen asleep", "as soon as you see him fallen asleep". The reason why Chapman chose the translation "in his first sleep" (as I've said above) is that the Greek word πρῶτα is an adjective whose primary meaning is "first", but here it is used as adverb, and the phrase means something like "the first moment when", "as soon as". So sorry, this theory of "first sleep" and "second sleep" has not yet convinced me.

αὐτὰρ ἐπὴν πάσας πεμπάσσεται ἠδὲ ἴδηται,
λέξεται ἐν μέσσῃσι νομεὺς ὣς πώεσι μήλων.
τὸν μὲν ἐπὴν δὴ πρῶτα κατευνηθέντα ἴδησθε,
415καὶ τότ᾽ ἔπειθ᾽ ὑμῖν μελέτω κάρτος τε βίη τε,
αὖθι δ᾽ ἔχειν μεμαῶτα καὶ ἐσσύμενόν περ ἀλύξαι.

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Re: On Abusing Homer

Post by elle » Mon Jul 25, 2016 6:33 am

see what you mean. Hmmm. In meantime, have question about this passage and you might see it better as you read the greek way better than me. I notice it mentions that it is counting by numbers, or going through the numbers, then says what is fifth, fourth and then, this whole crux of your arguement, falling asleep is the first. I am sure this is some sort of play on words and in the countdown, where is second(twice) and third? And if the entire countdown from 5 to 1 is there is it in sequence. Is it? Could this passage suggest what others have argued for yonks that Homer also was translating/interpretting the story from a more ancient source, one where the countdown of 1 through five has some significance (say proto-celtic who used 1-5 numbering like the ancient Egyptians). And this then could be the awkwardness of syntax and grammer when then it has to go from whatever protoceltic/pre-hittite language was before into the greek and then into the english? Maybe? Your thoughts?

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Re: On Abusing Homer

Post by Paul Derouda » Mon Jul 25, 2016 3:54 pm

Sorry, I'm not sure I understand. I'm not very familiar with the author's argument, I haven't read the book, only the gist of the argument from a couple of reviews. The only thing I know is there's no sign whatsoever of a "first sleep" or a "second sleep" in Homer, and as far as Homer is concerned, the author is creating evidence out of thin air to support his theory.

To re-iterate: I think that even in English it's possible to say "When first he falls asleep", meaning "as soon as he falls asleep", and that's in what sense the word πρῶτα "first" is used in this passage of Homer. Homer doesn't say "In his first sleep", and there's no sign of a "second sleep" anywhere; and if Chapman chose to use the word "first", I think he did it only because πρῶτα in other contexts means "first", and that made him use (perhaps unconsciously) the expression "in his first sleep" to mean "as soon as he has fallen asleep".

I don't know what to think about this theory of "first sleep" and "second sleep", but the way the evidence is handled in this one case makes me very skeptical.

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Re: On Abusing Homer

Post by Paul Derouda » Mon Jul 25, 2016 4:05 pm

Oh, I see now what you mean by counting: The Old Man of the sea is in the habit of counting his seals (which Chapman calls "sea-calves"); certainly he doesn't count how many times he falls asleep. Chapman's translation is actually quite difficult to read, the original Greek is much more straightforward. If you want a nice, easy to read modern English prose translation you could try Hammond or Shewring, for example.

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Re: On Abusing Homer

Post by daivid » Sun Aug 07, 2016 12:28 pm

Paul Derouda wrote: I don't know what to think about this theory of "first sleep" and "second sleep", but the way the evidence is handled in this one case makes me very skeptical.
As I often have trouble sleeping when I first encountered this theory I was an instant convert and based my sleeping habits around it - going to bed early enough time for me have a second sleep. After several years my sleeping is no more regular than before. When I wake up and have trouble getting back to sleep I don't get het up about it but read until I feel sleepy but I have not slipped into a two sleep pattern and often sleep thru without a break.

The theory is that modern life has got us to attempt an unnatural 8 hour unbroken sleep pattern. Convinced that the two sleep pattern is in our genes, Ekirch has looked for evidence in other periods of history and has found it. But is that really abusing Homer? Bolstering a weak argument with quotes from Homer is how the Ancient Greeks used Homer. Ekirch is merely carrying on the tradition.

But no longer attempting to do an unbroken 8 hours I get better sleep and more usefully use the times I can't sleep so Ekirch has my gratitude even if he is peddling a falsehood.
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Re: On Abusing Homer

Post by Paul Derouda » Sun Aug 07, 2016 9:11 pm

Well, who am I or anyone to contest what works for you? Probably you did something right to your sleeping habits, but I don't think it proves Ekirch's theory either right or wrong.

While I'm anything except an expert on sleep or sleeping disorders, it seems obvious to me that modern sleep must be quite different from what it used to be. If I may guess, I'd say that among the major culprits are 1) exact clocks (as opposed to sundials and cockcrows), 2) electric lights, 3) the TV, the Internet etc. We have clocks to tell us exactly at what times we should go to sleep and get up, instead of doing it according to when it feels right and according to when it gets dark etc. And if in the old times there was close to nothing people could do after dark, nowadays there's no end to the distractions available. So my two cents (and that's just my two cents, nothing more) trying to listen to what your body is telling you might work if you don't sleep well.

But that's a far cry from believing what this Ekirch is telling us. He sees the words "in his first sleep" in a translation of the Odyssey, and without giving a single thought to what the passage in question actually says, he pretends that it's evidence in support of his theory, while actually it's totally, utterly irrelevant. This makes me very skeptical about his methods in general, and perhaps even about his integrity. The only excuse of a defense I can see is that Chapman's translation is very difficult to understand. But still, he could have looked up other translations to see what's going on. Of course, the other evidence he has found (just) might be better, but I at least don't have the interest to look it up and I don't see any reason to give it any credence before someone I can trust has gone through it. And that's exactly where the problem is – this kind of theory is very difficult to falsify, because it involves so many fields. Sleep specialist don't know enough about literature. I know on the other hand know enough about Homer to say that what he says about the Odyssey is absurd, but I don't know anything about, say, medieval literature. And so on. The result is that the writer somehow gets away with it.
daivid wrote:Bolstering a weak argument with quotes from Homer is how the Ancient Greeks used Homer. Ekirch is merely carrying on the tradition.
That's a good point, though! :)

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Re: On Abusing Homer

Post by seneca2008 » Sun Aug 07, 2016 9:57 pm

Has anyone actually read Ekirch's text? I am not sure it's fair to dismiss what he says without actually seeing exactly what he wrote. It would be possible to mount a defence of what he is supposed to have said by arguing that you can take the idea of first sleep back to Chapman and leave the supposed (mis)interpretation with him. If Chapman was familiar with this phenomenon (and how are we to know one way or the other except by making an inference from his translation ?) that is how he may have interpreted the Homeric text. In any event if there is a first sleep presumably that is what happens as "soon as one falls asleep". Thus it is not clear that Chapman or Ekirch has got it as "wrong" as many here wish to assert. The idea that Proteus is taking a nap strikes me as an overly literal reading. Why shouldn't Proteus sleep at midday? He is a god after all.

As to the criticisms of Chapman's translation those seeking a crib obviously won't find it helpful but those looking for a literary experience may well be inspired as Keats was.

I would be interested to know where the Latin quotes come from which are referred to in the review which Paul provided.

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Re: On Abusing Homer

Post by Paul Derouda » Tue Aug 09, 2016 8:41 pm

I have not read the book, as I've said above. I've tried to see if I could find the passage in question with Google books but I couldn't. However, I could find this article by Ekirch himself where he claims that "To judge from textual references as early as Homer’s Odyssey, the prevailing mode of slumber for ages was biphasic". So it's not just Chapman's reading according to Ekirch. The article doesn't say specifically what part of the Odyssey he got it from, I found that from the reviews. Sorry, I'm just not interested enough to go and get the book. I really don't have any opinion on Ekirch's main thesis about sleep. What I have an opinion about is dropping names like "Homer's Odyssey" to support one's claims and just assuming you can get away with it.

http://harpers.org/archive/2013/08/segmented-sleep/
The idea that Proteus is taking a nap strikes me as an overly literal reading. Why shouldn't Proteus sleep at midday? He is a god after all.
He can sleep whenever he likes, and so can everyone else on this thread! :) If going to sleep at noon (ἦμος δ᾽ ἠέλιος μέσον οὐρανὸν ἀμφιβεβήκῃ) isn't called a nap, what is then? Would you say that someone taking a NAP at NOON is evidence for him sleeping his NIGHTS in two phases?

Anyway, I wasn't criticizing Chapman's translation, just saying that it's difficult, at least for me (I assure you that I read it with much more difficulty than the original), and I suppose also to another poster on this thread recently.

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seneca2008
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Re: On Abusing Homer

Post by seneca2008 » Wed Aug 10, 2016 10:46 am

If going to sleep at noon (ἦμος δ᾽ ἠέλιος μέσον οὐρανὸν ἀμφιβεβήκῃ) isn't called a nap, what is then? Would you say that someone taking a NAP at NOON is evidence for him sleeping his NIGHTS in two phases?
As I said in my post, but perhaps not clearly enough, this is a far too literal view. If we wish to read in Homer some evidence of "bi phasic" sleep then it is unlikely that it will be found in a literal reading of the text. If (and I have no idea one way or the other) this was a familiar concept in the ancient world perhaps we might expect to find somewhere some indirect evidence. So perhaps in the present passage which describes an act of going to sleep we might detect behind the text some suggestion of it, even if it is not all very conveniently and obviously laid out for us. So irrespective of when this act of going to sleep happens the general idea of what is involved in a sleep act is preserved. This is assuming that "bi phasic" sleep only happens at night. I have no idea whether that is what people believe or not.

This exchange is degenerating into a parody of Plato's Ion.

I am not really interested in whether any of this "true". I wouldnt think that evidence in Homer or anywhere else in the literary past added much to the scientific argument. I am interested in how Chapman understood Homer (whether "correctly" or not). I think it is also very interesting that Ekirch feels that an appeal to antiquity will bolster his case. It seems like the prestige of classics still shines in some quarters or is it just an appeal to some "new age" wisdom of ancients which if only we could recapture we would all live in sweetness and harmony.

But why should we get upset by any of this? It may encourage someone to read the Odyssey to find where these references are.

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Re: On Abusing Homer

Post by Markos » Wed Aug 10, 2016 4:15 pm

Let's stop this cycle of abuse once and for all.
Pope Alexander wrote:Alike in ignorance, his reason such,
Whether he sleeps too little, or too much:
:D
οὐ μανθάνω γράφειν, ἀλλὰ γράφω τοῦ μαθεῖν.

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