Reading Thucydides 2014

Here you can discuss all things Ancient Greek. Use this board to ask questions about grammar, discuss learning strategies, get help with a difficult passage of Greek, and more.
Post Reply
User avatar
pster
Textkit Zealot
Posts: 1071
Joined: Wed Oct 07, 2009 3:05 am

Re: Thinking about Thucydides 2012

Post by pster » Tue Jan 24, 2012 9:58 am

So I checked out the NASA pages briefly. There was an eclipse in 424. The path was north of Greece.

See the big path over Scandanavia on this map:

http://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/SEatlas/SE ... s-0439.GIF

And if you look at this pdf for more detail, it was visible over Greece:

http://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/SEhistory/ ... Mar21A.pdf

NASA dates it in March. Thucydides says that it happened at the beginning of the summer.

Furthermore, see the paper:

The Eclipses Recorded by Thucydides
F. Richard Stephenson and Louay J. Fatoohi
Historia: Zeitschrift für Alte Geschichte
Bd. 50, H. 2 (2nd Qtr., 2001), pp. 245-253

http://www.jstor.org/pss/4436614

They present a table:

"Table 1: Solar eclipses visible at Athens around the time of the Peloponnesian War
Date (B.C.) Magnitude Time Altitude
433 Mar 30 0.55 14:15 43
431 Aug 3 0.88 17:30 18
426 Nov 4 0.32 14:05 30
424 Mar 21 0.71 08:30 27
418Junl 1 0.12 11:40 74
411 Jan 27 0.35 10:20 28
409 Jun 1 0.47 12:00 73
405 Mar 20 0.38 17:45 0
404 Sep 3 0.73 08:35 36
402 Jan 1 1.04 09:00 17" (p.247)

And they write:

"The second solar eclipse noted by Thucydides (4.52.1) occurred "at the very beginning of
summer", seven years after the previous eclipse. From Table 1, it is evident that the eclipse of
B.C. 424 Mar 21 must be referred to here.
This event took place at the appropriate time of year and would be quite significant: magnitude 0.71 at Athens and much the same throughout the Aegean (for instance 0.74 at Thrace) at about 8:30 a.m." (p. 248)

It is a fun paper and has lots of nice pictures. Highly recommended.

Bob Manske
Textkit Neophyte
Posts: 39
Joined: Fri Nov 02, 2007 7:37 am

Re: Thinking about Thucydides 2012

Post by Bob Manske » Tue Jan 24, 2012 5:14 pm

I know about that eclipse and referenced it in one of my earlier posts. The descriptions you reference are modern interpretations of what an eclipse looks like. They rely on predictive techniques and instrumentation not available to the ancients. I've seen solar eclipses from even closer than the distance from Scandinavia to Greece and I'll tell you right now at that distance, you have to know that an eclipse was taking place. A 71% diminution in the Sun's light seems like a lot, and it is, but even then Sun is still so very brilliant that it's blinding. You can't look directly at it even when it's even 99% covered. The light shining through what are called "Bailey's Beads" on the edge of the Moon is intense. And that is more than 99% coverage. Believe me.

I observed a partial from Madison just a few years ago. It was near Christmas. It got up to something in the area of 50% coverage. If you didn't know the eclipse was on, you would never have noticed the diminution of light. It made no impression at all on the community.

So I repeat, I don't think this eclipse is a candidate. I would like it to be. But it doesn't seem like it is. You have to be much closer to the center line to notice it casually.

But I'm glad you're looking this stuff up on your own. That's what I'm trying to generate.

User avatar
Paul Derouda
Global Moderator
Posts: 1958
Joined: Fri Nov 05, 2010 9:39 pm

Re: Thinking about Thucydides 2012

Post by Paul Derouda » Tue Jan 24, 2012 5:38 pm

pster wrote:Very basic question. This is one of the reasons I find Attic so hard. 1.23.1:

τῶν δὲ πρότερον ἔργων μέγιστον ἐπράχθη τὸ Μηδικόν, καὶ τοῦτο ὅμως δυοῖν ναυμαχίαιν καὶ πεζομαχίαιν ταχεῖαν τὴν κρίσιν ἔσχεν.

What is the subject of ἐπράχθη? And what is the object? Is there an article missing? Is there a supressed "to be"? What steps do you follow in understanding the structure of this?
I suppose what's misleading you is πρότερον, which is an adverb here (or something), and does not go with the other neuters. τὸ Μηδικόν [ἔργον] is subject and μέγιστον is predicative.

Bob, about the longitude problem: The reason they were trying to chart the movements of the moon or the satellites of Jupiter was precisely that they didn't have any reliable watch set to standard time, as any watch before John Harrison's chronometre was next to useless on the sea for this purpose. They thought they could observe the moon or Jupiter's satellites, compare their observations to pre-made charts and establish standard time like that, and this standard time compared to the local solar time would permit to establish longitude. Just imagine how difficult it would have been, peeking at Jupiter's moons and trying to make out their relative positions on some shaky little ship!

Bob Manske
Textkit Neophyte
Posts: 39
Joined: Fri Nov 02, 2007 7:37 am

Re: Thinking about Thucydides 2012

Post by Bob Manske » Tue Jan 24, 2012 7:33 pm

Paul Derouda wrote: Bob, about the longitude problem: The reason they were trying to chart the movements of the moon or the satellites of Jupiter was precisely that they didn't have any reliable watch set to standard time, as any watch before John Harrison's chronometre was next to useless on the sea for this purpose. They thought they could observe the moon or Jupiter's satellites, compare their observations to pre-made charts and establish standard time like that, and this standard time compared to the local solar time would permit to establish longitude. Just imagine how difficult it would have been, peeking at Jupiter's moons and trying to make out their relative positions on some shaky little ship!
Well, sea-borne observations are very difficult, yes. As for the rest, yes, I think that's what I said, or tried to at any rate. Regardless, the system still required sea-borne observations but now, for the first time, they had a reliable base-line to compare them with. So I am in full agreement with you on this. Absolutely.

Different issue, eclipses, nothing to do with the above: Might as well get this all done in one post:

As for the eclipse of -0423 (=424 BCE): Here's how it works. Astronomy uses a magnitude scale derived from work originally performed by an ancient Greek, Hipparkhos. Hipparkhos started with the brightest stars in the sky, which he called "first magnitude" and then went on down through "second", "third", etc., until he got to "sixth" which was as faint as he could see. OK. So we have a difference of five magnitudes between the bright ones and the faint ones. Well enough.

There is where matters stood until the 19th century when technology allowed astronomers to actually measure, as opposed to estimate, stellar brightnesses. Taking representative first and sixth magnitude stars, they discovered the sixth magnitude stars are actually about 100 time fainter than first magnitude stars. In other words, the human (and presumably this is true for other animals as well) visual system is skewed to prevent the bright objects from swamping the faint ones. Fainter objects appear much brighter to us in relation to brighter objects than they really are. Further investigation revealed that representative stars of any given magnitude were about 2.5 times brighter or fainter than stars of neighboring magnitudes. So the astronomers institutionalized it. They defined a difference of one magnitude as being a difference of the fifth root of 100 times in brightness (= approx. 2.5).

A rough idea of how this works, based on a first magnitude star, is:
first = 1 brightness
second = 1/2.5 brightness
third = 1/6 brightness
fourth = 1/16 brightness
fifth = 1/40 brightness
sixth = 1/100 brightness

For reference, all the stars in the Big Dipper are second magnitude stars except the one where the handle joins the bowl. That guy is a third magnitude star. Polaris is also a second magnitude star.

So, to get the actual difference in brightness between two objects, using the difference in magnitudes between them as an exponent you get 2.5 ^ difference (where "^" means use the following number as an exponent). A difference of five magnitudes is then 2.5 to the fifth power which is: 100.

Once the measured magnitude scale was defined, astronomers could talk about an extended range of magnitudes - and they did. Let's take some everyday examples. On this extended magnitude scale they placed the Sun and the Moon. The Sun is very nearly at -27 magnitude (very, very bright as the negative sign indicates). The Full Moon is about -13 (very, very bright). Those numbers look very close, don't they? 27/13 is just a bit more than 2. So the Sun isn't all that much brighter than the Full Moon, right?

Wrong.

It's 2.5 to the 14th power times brighter than the Full Moon. I'll do the math for you. That's about 400,000 times brighter. I kid you not. It is extremely bright.

Now a 70% obscured Sun, in the eclipse you're talking about, shines about 30% brighter than normal. In other words, it's only about 1/3 as bright as before. How does this compare to a Full Moon? You can do this one in your head. 1/3 of 400,000 is about 130,000. A 70% obscured Sun is about 130,000 times brighter than a Full Moon! Next time you see a Full Moon, imagine something about 130,000 times brighter and you have a Sun as it was visible from Athens during the eclipse of -0423. Now tell me about how noticeable the diminution of sunlight would be to you.

That's also an example of how skewed the human visual system really is. And it's an evolutionary plus, an advantage to the user. That's why things in nature happen that way.

The annular eclipse of 1994 that passed over central Illinois was, in Madison, more than a .9 magnitude eclipse (here's where I don't like the way astronomers use the term - it means something different here, it means diminution from full brightness). More than .9, not .7 as the eclipse of -0323 was in Athens. More than .9. And it didn't even stop traffic in Wisconsin, except for those who actually knew there was an eclipse taking place.

Madison is a lot closer to the center line of the 1994 eclipse than Athens was to the center line of the -0323 eclipse. A lot closer. Moral, you have to be very close to the center line. Not hundreds of miles away. In 1954 a total eclipse passed just north of Denmark (about the same as the -0323 eclipse) and then passed over Lithuania. This eclipse was observed in Austria - only by those who knew it was taking place. I know. I was there. Austria was a lot closer to the center line of this eclipse than Athens was to the eclipse of -0323. We had a .79 (not a .72, a .79) eclipse. Spectacular to people who write papers, yet nothing out of the ordinary was visible to the casual observer. Most of the people on Textkit have probably been in that position relative to a solar eclipse, yet wouldn't have noticed (even if they did) without being told about it. I would dearly love for that eclipse of -0323 to be the one Thoukydides was talking about, but I just can't vouch for it.

User avatar
pster
Textkit Zealot
Posts: 1071
Joined: Wed Oct 07, 2009 3:05 am

Re: Thinking about Thucydides 2012

Post by pster » Tue Jan 24, 2012 7:49 pm

Bob, if a .71 eclipse happened at a baseball game with 20,000 people in the stands, how many people would notice?

User avatar
pster
Textkit Zealot
Posts: 1071
Joined: Wed Oct 07, 2009 3:05 am

Re: Thinking about Thucydides 2012

Post by pster » Tue Jan 24, 2012 7:56 pm

Paul Derouda wrote:
I suppose what's misleading you is πρότερον, which is an adverb here (or something), and does not go with the other neuters. τὸ Μηδικόν [ἔργον] is subject and μέγιστον is predicative.
OK, that's what I figured, but I don't know what the verb would be. Can you give me a good translation of the verb as used here? And, and a translation of the correlated active version? I'm probably just being dense, but I couldn't come up with a suitable English translation that makes any sense and works both passively and actively. Seems like the translators have difficulty with it also and thus typically opt for the copula.

Thanks in advance.

C. S. Bartholomew
Textkit Zealot
Posts: 1247
Joined: Mon Sep 19, 2011 10:03 pm

Re: Thinking about Thucydides 2012

Post by C. S. Bartholomew » Tue Jan 24, 2012 9:24 pm

pster wrote:Very basic question. This is one of the reasons I find Attic so hard. 1.23.1:

τῶν δὲ πρότερον ἔργων μέγιστον ἐπράχθη τὸ Μηδικόν, καὶ τοῦτο ὅμως δυοῖν ναυμαχίαιν καὶ πεζομαχίαιν ταχεῖαν τὴν κρίσιν ἔσχεν.

What is the subject of ἐπράχθη? And what is the object? Is there an article missing? Is there a supressed "to be"? What steps do you follow in understanding the structure of this?
I see this has been answered at least twice. I am not certain that πρότερον is adverbial. It could be an adjective used with μέγιστον. There seem to be two clauses here, the passive verb ἐπράχθη PRASSW where the subject is the substantive μέγιστον limited by [πρότερον?] τῶν ἔργων. Either the substantive μέγιστον or the whole ἐπράχθη clause stands against τὸ Μηδικόν where the verb "to be" is not really suppressed, but unnecessary.

The procedure I follow is to isolate the main verb ἐπράχθη and then look for verb "arguments" μέγιστον, τῶν ἔργων, πρότερον. Assign each argument a semantic and a grammatical role, e.g., agent, patient, goal, instrument, subject, object, qualifier.

C. Stirling Bartholomew
C. Stirling Bartholomew

User avatar
pster
Textkit Zealot
Posts: 1071
Joined: Wed Oct 07, 2009 3:05 am

Re: Thinking about Thucydides 2012

Post by pster » Tue Jan 24, 2012 10:54 pm

Thanks CSB, but can you translate the passive PRASSW here and the corresponding active PRASSW.

The Persian war was done greatest of previous (wars).

Is that how you translate it most literally?

User avatar
Paul Derouda
Global Moderator
Posts: 1958
Joined: Fri Nov 05, 2010 9:39 pm

Re: Thinking about Thucydides 2012

Post by Paul Derouda » Tue Jan 24, 2012 11:00 pm

C. S. Bartholomew wrote: I see this has been answered at least twice. I am not certain that πρότερον is adverbial. It could be an adjective used with μέγιστον. There seem to be two clauses here, the passive verb ἐπράχθη PRASSW where the subject is the substantive μέγιστον limited by [πρότερον?] τῶν ἔργων. Either the substantive μέγιστον or the whole ἐπράχθη clause stands against τὸ Μηδικόν where the verb "to be" is not really suppressed, but unnecessary.

The procedure I follow is to isolate the main verb ἐπράχθη and then look for verb "arguments" μέγιστον, τῶν ἔργων, πρότερον. Assign each argument a semantic and a grammatical role, e.g., agent, patient, goal, instrument, subject, object, qualifier.

C. Stirling Bartholomew
I don't know if adverbial was the right word for πρότερον. But don't think it's used with μέγιστον. Rather I think it its defines τῶν ἔργων, and I think it could be replaced by προτέρων without much changing the meaning. LSJ, section A. IV is what I have in mind. http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/mor ... ek#lexicon

I translate: Of earlier wars the biggest [to happen] was the Medic.

C. S. Bartholomew
Textkit Zealot
Posts: 1247
Joined: Mon Sep 19, 2011 10:03 pm

Re: Thinking about Thucydides 2012

Post by C. S. Bartholomew » Tue Jan 24, 2012 11:25 pm

Paul Derouda wrote:
C. S. Bartholomew wrote: I see this has been answered at least twice. I am not certain that πρότερον is adverbial. It could be an adjective used with μέγιστον. There seem to be two clauses here, the passive verb ἐπράχθη PRASSW where the subject is the substantive μέγιστον limited by [πρότερον?] τῶν ἔργων. Either the substantive μέγιστον or the whole ἐπράχθη clause stands against τὸ Μηδικόν where the verb "to be" is not really suppressed, but unnecessary.

The procedure I follow is to isolate the main verb ἐπράχθη and then look for verb "arguments" μέγιστον, τῶν ἔργων, πρότερον. Assign each argument a semantic and a grammatical role, e.g., agent, patient, goal, instrument, subject, object, qualifier.

C. Stirling Bartholomew
I don't know if adverbial was the right word for πρότερον. But don't think it's used with μέγιστον.
I suspect you are right. It could limit the verb ἐπράχθη or the whole clause in either case it would function as an adverb. What I find intriguing about the syntax is the absence of a relative pronoun. The clause with ἐπράχθη is subordinate. Does anyone favor reading τῶν as a relative?

C. Stirling Bartholomew
C. Stirling Bartholomew

Post Reply