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Aristotle on Perceiving Objects

How can one explain the structure of experience?  What is it that we perceive?  How is it that we perceive objects and not disjoint arrays of properties?  By which sense or senses do we perceive objects?  Does this type of perception require a further sense over and above the five senses? Aristotle was the first to investigate these questions to a depth that makes his account fruitful even for contemporary… Read more

Domination and Legitimacy in Hellenistic Monarchy: some remarks, part 2

Antiochus I rose to the throne in the east from a relatively established position; in fact, he had been co-ruler since 292, eleven years before the assassination of his father. This was an innovation in the light of experience (Shipley 2000: 287), an intelligent strategy to avoid the division of the kingdom because of lack of legitimacy. In Egypt, Ptolemy II, who may have been inciting a revolt involving parts… Read more

Deep into the Meaning: Tectogrammatical annotation of Ancient Greek

Fig. 1: A modern representation of the Agamemnon, Siracusa (Italy). Copyright E. Schembri At line 1100 of Aeschylus’ Agamemnon, after Cassandra’s visions have begun to unfold progressively, the murderous plot that is about to be accomplished against the king is hinted at for the first time. The captive seer cries in anguish: ἰὼ πόποι, τί ποτε μήδεται; Cassandra’s question is thus translated by Sommerstein (2008, which I have consulted for… Read more

The Hadron Collider Quest in Antiquity

What is there at the bedrock of reality? What are the ultimate building blocks out of which everything else is constituted? Are they things (objects, particles), or are they activities of some sort? Or is there something else, even more fundamental than they are?  These questions fascinated and challenged the ancients as much as they challenge and fascinate us. Yet, there is evidence that the ancients conceived of the building… Read more

Aeschylean Tragedy, Thackeray, and Hugo

William Makepeace Thackeray incorporates three types of reference to the Trojan War in Vanity Fair.[1]  The first presents the elements of the story included in Aeschylus’ Agamemnon: the sacrifice of Iphigeneia sculpted and surmounting “a great French clock”  (Ch. 13, 129);[2] the fighting of the war itself encapsulated in the reflection that “from the story of Troy down to to-day, poetry has always chosen a soldier for a hero” as… Read more

On Sublimating the Emotions: Fear in Aeschylus’ Eumenides

In my first post, I discussed Thucydides’ vision for cultivating sensitive reason and sensible emotion in order to equip the dêmos for competent collective action. Here I turn to Aeschylus’ Eumenides that famously dramatizes the foundation of the Areopagus as the first criminal court in Athens and examine the role of emotions in the new system of criminal justice. The foundation of the Areopagus and the eventual reconciliation of the… Read more

"Insignificant", "superfluous" and "useless": legal antiquities for export?

“…our dispositions [toward antiquities, archaeology and the past] have been shaped by the relevant laws…to such an extent that we are likely to forget that those laws are human institutions–products of history, that is–and treat them instead as if they draw their authority from a timeless universal sense of right or wrong. Our relationship with antiquities…is now mediated by a quasi-naturalised legal frame.”[1] In a subject that deals with the… Read more

Do the fragments lie too? Heteric Sappho or Sappho Schoolmistress

The aim of this post is to be a little provocative, with regard to interpretations of Sappho’s poetry, including my own. Over the last 20 years, some American scholars – especially Parker (1993) and Stehle (1996) – have challenged what had been the commonly held belief, that Sappho was a sort of teacher of young women. Parker and Stehle proposed that Sappho was a member of a group of coetaneous… Read more

Is the scepter of Agamemnon a cult object?

For the last post I have chosen a subject – the question of the scepter of Agamemnon as a cult object – that arose during the conversation I had at the CHS symposium on November 30. Statues representing gods and other cult recipients are usually classified as “cult objects,” an assumption which I shall question in this post. As far as I know, the scepter of Agamemnon, although a non-statuary… Read more

Odysseus and the Cult of Apollo at Delos

The Hellenistic keraton at Delos. Photo by Steven Lowenstam. For my final post, I would like to explore how the audiences for whom early Greek epics were composed and performed might have responded to representations of the cult of Apollo on Delos in epic poetry. This site, along with Delphi, was one of the god’s major Panhellenic sanctuaries—ones frequented by worshippers from many parts of the Greek world. As a… Read more

Who will win the race between the chorus and the Pleiades?

The race of the Pleiades in Alcm. PMGF 1   In my previous post (The Rise of the Pleiades in Alcm. PMGF 1), I have suggested that ll. 60 ff. of Alcm. PMFG 1 hints at an astronomical phenomenon, i.e. the heliacal rising of Sirius. However, these lines involve several other problems, one of which is the meaning of μάχονται of l. 63.   ταὶ Πεληάδες γὰρ ἇμιν Ὀρθρίᾳ φᾶρος… Read more

Minimizing the Distance? On Pity and Emotional Detachment

The danger of getting lost in translation – whether from one language to another or one culture to another – is a truism that points to recurrent challenges that classicists, among others, have to face.  This is no less the case with emotion-terms.  The debate about whether certain emotions are “basic”, hard-wired, and thus (more or less) easily translatable across cultures has a long history and continues today.[1]  Following the… Read more

Domination and Legitimacy in Hellenistic Monarchy: Some Remarks, Part 1

To think about types of legitimate domination in Hellenistic monarchy implies distinctions between the “probability that certain specific commands (or all commands) will be obeyed by a given group of persons” and the basis for the continuance of this domination (or how such commands rely on a belief in legitimacy to keep working). In other words, it is crucial to understand both the differences and associations between the concepts of… Read more

To Serve and to Source: a Trading Consul at the Service of the British Museum

On 15 December 1864, a sub-committee on antiquities at the British Museum (BM) approved a text containing instructions for the consuls in Her Britannic Majesty’s service. Instigated by the BM’s Trustees and drafted by Charles Newton, former consul and Keeper of the museum’s Greek and Roman antiquities (1861-1885), the directive was circulated via the Foreign Office to the consular service. It asked consuls and vice-consuls to identify, source and collect ancient… Read more

Names, shapes and functions of ancient Greek objects: a changing relationship

Current names of vases There is a long history in the typology of ancient Greek vases. Typological studies group ceramics according to their physical characteristics, such as material and shape. Each group is then assigned to a specific time period, which is often used to date archaeological contexts and vice versa. Attribution studies have gone a step further by identifying the hands of potters, artists, and production centers. In this… Read more

Coastalness and Inlandness: the Case of Attica

Scholarship has in the past few years dealt more systematically with networks of interaction in the Greek world, especially within the framework of coastalness and inlandness. According to Polybius (30.9.16.), the inhabitants of the Lycian city of Kybira were not able to send Polyaratus of Rhodes to Rome because they were μεσόγαιοι τελέως, “totally inland people”. I assume that the historian expresses here a sharp opposition between coastalness and inlandness… Read more

Reading Images and Seeing Epigrams: Image and Text in Attic Dedications

In the previous post I argued that some Archaic and Classical dedicatory epigrams deliberately selected non standard and non formulaic features to communicate with their audience. Those features concerned the material and immaterial elements of the dedicatory epigrams, that can be described by the three semantic systems of art and archaeology, epigraphy and literature. Of the two components of a dedicatory epigram — the material and the immaterial — the… Read more

Treebanking in the "World of Thucydides"

What contribution can digital textual collections make to research in Ancient History? As Arnaldo Momigliano (1980: 14) wrote: the domain of work for a historian is determined by the existence of documents and information about the past, which must be combined and interpreted to understand what happened. His problems are determined by the relation between what the sources are and what he wants to learn. Our daily experience as users… Read more

Of Grave Hunters & Earth Contractors: A Look at the "Private Archaeology" of Greece.

“I have already given orders to all the tomb robbers of Athens, who dig up old tombs all over Attica for the vases found in them, that whenever they find an intact skull or indeed any bones they should bring them to me in exchange for a good price, and they do so.”  Professor Athanasios Rhousopoulos to Professor George Rolleston (18/30 August 1871)   So far I have tried to… Read more

Pylos before Pylos, and then again another Pylos

My interest, as discussed in my first post, is in how audiences responded to descriptions of communities in the early Greek epics. On such response, albeit a late one, comes from the Roman-period geographer Strabo. In a discussion of the western Peloponnesos, Strabo observes that a number of communities there claimed to be the original home of the Homeric hero Nestor: βιάζονται δ᾽ ἔνιοι μνηστευόμενοι τὴν Νέστορος δόξαν καὶ τὴν… Read more

Visualizing Greek Epigrams on Stone

The visual medium has always been a powerful way to communicate; this is probably one of the reasons why visual arts are often used to convey a political message. It is usually agreed «that architecture is the most political of all visual arts […]; public buildings represent the polis’ most permanent and official statements».[1] Several ancient examples can be recalled and someone who is writing about this topic at the… Read more

The Rise of the Pleiades in Alcm. PMGF 1

The so-called First Parthenion of Alcman (PMGF 1) is one of the most important findings in the ‘era of the papyri’: in fact, it is one of the most extended fragments of archaic Greek poetry. Since its first publication by Egger, the First Parthenion has attracted the attention of several scholars. The seminal work on poem is the interpretation of Calame. According to Calame, the poem possibly describes a step… Read more

Feeling Together: Collective Emotion and its Discontents

Alma Tadema, “A Pyrrhic Dance” “We should beware of the tendency to reinforce the opposition between reason and emotion by rendering emotion as primitive as possible and then glorifying reason in an uncritical way.  To pack all of the reasonable solutions and their mode of deliberation into one set of categories (reason) and only the most unreasonable, vindictive, and ill-considered emotional responses into another (emotion) is to render reason insensitive… Read more

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