in the iliad helen speaks the last lament for hector. the only man in troy who showed her kindness is slain—and now, helen says, πάντες δέ με πεφρίκασιν, all men shudder at me. she doesn't speak in the iliad again. homer isn’t cruel to helen; her story is cruel enough.[more inside]
That Homer used the epithet "wine-dark" to describe the sea in the Iliad and Odyssey so puzzled 19th Century English Prime Minister William Gladstone that he thought the Ancient Greeks must have been colorblind. Since then many other solutions have been proposed. Scientists have argued that Ancient Greek wine was blue and some scholars have put forward the case that Homer was describing the sea at sunset. Radiolab devoted a segment to the exploration of this issue, saying that Gladstone was partly right. Another interpretation is that the Ancient Greeks focused on different aspects of color from us. Classicist William Harris' short essay about purple in Homer and Iliad translator Caroline Alexander's longer essay The Wine-like Sea make the case for this interpretation.
Humanities and the Liberal Arts is the personal website of former Middlebury classics professor William Harris who passed away in 2009. In his retirement he crafted a wonderful site full of essays, music, sculpture, poetry and his thoughts on anything from education to technology. But the heart of the website for me is, unsurprisingly, his essays on ancient Latin and Greek literature some of whom are book-length works. Here are a few examples: Purple color in Homer, complete fragments of Heraclitus, how to read Homer and Vergil, a discussion of a recently unearthed poem by Sappho, Plato and mathematics, Propertius' war poems, and finally, especially close to my heart, his commentaries on the poetry of Catullus, for example on Ipsithilla, Odi et amo, Attis poem as dramatic dance performance and a couple of very dirty poems (even by Catullus' standard). That's just a taste of the riches found on Harris' site, which has been around nearly as long as the world wide web has existed.
Sing in me, Muse, and through me tell the story of how the language of Odysseus and his people found a home on the web. Of how the newest mass medium came to house a library of Ancient Greek literature. Of how the sounds of a dead language could find a new life online.
Love that can't be withstood, Love that scatters fortunes, Love like a green fern shading The cheek of a sleeping girl. Seamus Heaney's search for the soul of Antigone. (more inside, with Christopher Logue)