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Article

Christos Tsagalis

Neoanalysis is a method of interpreting Homeric poetry that aims to discover the sources of the Iliad and the Odyssey. Like the 19th-century analysts, neoanalysts study the genetic aspect of the Homeric poems, but instead of trying to distinguish different layers or versions (Schichtenanalyse), they seek to identify source material from other poems that preceded the received Homeric epics.

The term “neoanalysis,” coined by Kakridis,1 was invented to describe a method of interpreting Homeric epic that responds to the analytical school which dissected the Iliad and Odyssey into smaller epics in order to arrive at the “proto-Iliad” (Urilias) and “proto-Odyssey” (Urodyssee) as the genuine works of Homer. Like the analytical school, neoanalysis locates poetic inconcinnities, gaps, and narrative fissures in the text, but unlike the analytical school it does not explain them as resulting from the work of different poets who added, omitted, and changed entire scenes and episodes. Instead, neoanalysis argues that these supposed problems can be explained by the transfer of motifs (and, to a lesser extent, of phraseology) from pre-Homeric poetry. Whereas, for the analytical school, poetic quality stems solely from Homeric ingenuity, for neoanalysis it results from the highly creative interaction of Homer with earlier epic poetry.

Article

Thomas Kuhn-Treichel

Author of an epic poem about the biblical patriarch Jacob, with special focus on the rape of his daughter Dinah and the conquest of Shechem, as narrated in Genesis 34. There is no external evidence about his life. Some scholars have tried to identify correspondences between his description of Shechem and the archaeological remains, suggesting a date between the late 3rd and the first half of the 2nd century bce;1 others, highlighting possible allusions to historical events, have argued for the last third of the 2nd century bce.2 Jakob Freudenthal has put forward the influential thesis that Theodotus was a Samaritan, as the town of Shechem, located below the Samaritans’ cultic centre on Mount Gerizim, plays a pivotal role in his poem and is in one place called ἱερὸν ἄστυ (“holy city,” Suppl. Hell. 757.7).3 Meanwhile scholars tend to take him for a Jew, arguing that ἱερὸν ἄστυ reflects a Homeric topos rather than a particular affinity to the place.

Article

Thomas Kuhn-Treichel

Philo Epicus was a Jewish-Hellenistic poet. He composed a hexametric poem on Jerusalem that featured both descriptions of the city and references to biblical events relating to the patriarchs. It is not clear whether he is to be identified with a Philo mentioned by Josephus (Ap. 1.218, with the attribute “the Elder”), Clement of Alexandria (Str. 1.141.3), and Eusebius of Caesarea (Hist. eccl. 6.13.7); while Nikolaus Walter argued for a distinction between the poet and a homonymous, otherwise unknown historian, some recent scholars seek to justify the identification.1 As to the date of his work, scholars have adduced literary, historical, and archaeological arguments to support various periods between the end of the 3rd and the first half of the 1st centuries bce.2 The only undisputable terminus ante quem for his work is the death of Alexander (11) Polyhistor (not long after 40bce), who quoted the poem in his treatise Περὶ Ἰουδαίων.

Article

Sumerian-Akkadian mythology reaches back to the earliest lists of gods in the third millennium bce and preoccupied the Mesopotamian intellectuals for more than 2000 years. This overview describes four major moments in the earlier phases of that history, each putting in place a different type of cosmic building block: ontologies, infrastructures, genealogies, and interfaces. These four phases stretch from the first mythological narratives in the mid-third millennium down to the late second and first millennium bce, when Mesopotamian materials are reconfigured and adapted for cuneiform scribal traditions in northern Mesopotamia, Syria and the Levant. Rather than limiting ourselves to late, somewhat heterodox recompilations such as the Enuma Elish or the Baal Epic, this contribution argues that the most important and long-lived features of the mythological tradition in Mesopotamia came into existence between 2500 and 1500bce.Like the poetry of a particular language or the usual turns of phrase in a family, the mythology embedded in a particular culture or civilization provides decisive clues to the central concerns of that society. These clues are indirect hints at most, constrained by the need to transmit specific textual materials (mythologems, proverbs, or narratives), while at the same time producing the local pragmatic effects that they are thought to achieve. Surprisingly, then, mythological materials are also usually quite susceptible to translation, giving the unknowing reader the impression that things were not so very different four thousand years ago in ancient Iraq. If we adopt a definition of myth that limits our quarry to “stories about deities that describe how the basic structures of reality came into existence,” excluding thereby .

Article

Valeria Piano

As one of the most ancient Greek papyri ever found (it dates back to the second half of the 4th century bce), and given the length of its extant part, the Derveni papyrus effectively represents the oldest “book” of Europe. It was found at Derveni, near Thessaloniki, in 1962, close to the rich tomb of a knight belonging to the army of Philip II or Alexander the Great. The volumen had been placed on the funeral pyre along with other offerings, and thanks to the process of semi-carbonisation it underwent, the upper half of the roll was preserved, maintaining a good degree of readability. The papyrus contains a philosophical-religious text, mostly in the form of an allegorical commentary on a theo-cosmogonical poem attributed to Orpheus. The first columns expound a religious and ritual discourse that deals with issues related to sacrifices, souls, daimones, retribution, cosmic justice, and divination. In the commentary (cols. VII–XXVI), the Orphic hexameters are systematically quoted and interpreted in terms of natural philosophy of a Presocratic brand. The mythical narrative of the succession of the gods, as well as of the origin of the cosmos, is thus matched by a cosmological and physical account, which is equally related to the origin and the functioning of the universe, and is sustained by a theologised conception of nature.

Article

thymos  

Douglas Cairns

Thymos (or thumos), cognate with Indo-European words meaning “smoke,” is one of a number of terms in Greek which associate psychological activity with air and breath. In the Homeric poems, thymos is one of a family of terms associated with internal psychological process of thought, emotion, volition, and motivation. Though the range of the term’s applications in Homer is wide, that in itself gives us a sense of the unity of cognitive, affective, and desiderative processes in Homeric psychology. No post-Homeric author can rival that range, but something of the richness of the Homeric conception of thymos as an interrelated set of motivations re-emerges in Plato’s conception of the tripartite soul in the Republic and the Phaedrus. Plato’s thymos represents a pared-down model of human agency typified by one central desire or aim in life but also exhibiting whatever further capacities of persons are necessary to enable it to pursue that aim in interaction with the other elements of the personality. As in Homer, the metaphorical agency of Plato’s thymos does not detract from the notion of the individual as the real centre of agency.

Article

Feminism does not refer to one coherent theory, doctrine, or political movement. The range of movements and ideologies that thrive under the term feminism, however, are all committed to political and social change. Feminism recognises that we live in a patriarchal world, that is to say a world in which women are, and have historically been, oppressed by and unequal to men. It opposes this, and strives to change existing power structures so that people of all genders and races have control over their own bodies, have equal opportunities and value, can participate fully in community life, and are allowed to live with dignity and freedom.

What has this to do with ancient literature? There are several significant ways in which feminism and ancient literature interact. Ancient literature, particularly ancient Greek tragedy and myth, has played a formative role in shaping feminist theory. Feminism encourages scholars to uncover and reevaluate a tradition of women’s writing. Feminism has provided the tools for us better to understand how ancient literature functioned to promote, and sometimes to challenge, the misogynist practices of ancient Greek and Roman societies. Scholars have detected feminism, or proto-feminism, in ancient writing. Queer theory and feminism join forces to mine ancient literature for alternatives to hetero, cisgender, and gender binary models of identity. Feminism has changed the field of ancient literary studies by valuing authors and genres that are sensitive to the perspectives of women of all ethnicities and statuses. Finally, ancient literature is used to serve contemporary activism: Greek and Latin texts are used by modern feminist authors who rewrite and creatively adapt ancient literature, and classicists resist the use of ancient literature to promote misogyny and white supremacy.

Article

Marilyn B. Skinner

The basic dominance-submission model of sexual relations, involving a hierarchical distinction between the active and passive roles, was the same in Greek and Roman cultures and remained unchanged throughout classical antiquity. However, we find subtle modifications reflected in the literary tradition from the Homeric age to imperial Rome. In Homer and Hesiod, heterosexual relations are the only recognized form of sexual congress, and consensual sex is mutually pleasurable. Forced sex, in the form of abduction and rape, also occurs in epic narrative. Pederasty became a literary theme in Greek lyric poetry of the archaic age. In classical Athens, discourses of sexuality were tied to political ideology, because self-control was a civic virtue enabling the free adult male householder to manage his estate correctly and serve the city-state in war and peace. Tragedy illustrates the dire impact of unbridled erōs, while comedy mocks those who trespass against moderation or violate gender norms, and forensic oratory seeks to disqualify such offenders from participating in government. Philosophical schools disagreed over the proper place of erōs in a virtuous life.

Article

Sebastian Matzner

The term metonymy denotes a literary trope, that is, a specific form of defamiliarized expression, which indirectly refers to what is at issue. Metonymy achieves this by way of exploiting an already existing association between the term (or terms) used metonymically—the metonym—and the term (or terms) implicitly at issue. Metonymy thus differs from metaphor, among other things, in that it does not invoke an underlying analogy or similarity between what is said and what is at issue. In both ancient and modern criticism, metaphor received significantly more attention than metonymy (partly owed to the fact that the poetic effects of metaphor tend to eclipse those of metonymy, partly because of the stronger appeal of the logical dimension at the heart of metaphor). As a result, metonymy—though widely used—is often ill-defined as a critical concept. Today, it features in literary-aesthetic, diachronic-etymological, (post-)structuralist, and cognitive criticism. Ancient literature, both Greek and Latin, is rich in metonymic usages, albeit with varying degrees of poetic intensity; the pattern is one of relatively few intense outcomes, and relatively many less intense ones. Prominent among the general literary-aesthetic effects of metonymy’s semantic shifts are the creation of a poignantly condensed impression of what is at issue; a change in focalization by zooming out onto a higher plane or zooming in on newly foregrounded micro-level aspects; and movement between the concrete-material and the abstract-conceptual dimensions of what is at issue.

Article

Lisa Irene Hau

Tragic history is a phrase coined in the late 19th century to describe a certain type of Hellenistic history writing, which was thought to have Peripatetic underpinnings, and whose main proponents were Duris of Samos and Phylarchus (of Athens or Naucratis). The expression gained currency quickly and is still widely used to designate un-Polybian, sensationalist, and emotionally involved historiography from the Hellenistic period (the works of which have all been lost), in spite of the current communis opinio among specialists that there was no real “school” of tragic history.Tragic history is a phrase coined in the late 19th century to describe a certain type of Hellenistic history writing, which was thought to have Peripatetic underpinnings, and whose main proponents were Duris of Samos and Phylarchus (of Athens or Naucratis). The expression gained currency quickly and is still widely used to designate un-Polybian, sensationalist, and emotionally involved historiography from the Hellenistic period (the works of which have all been lost), in spite of the current .