Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Spectator on the Parthenon Marbles

Remember three days ago, when I told you a team of international lawyers is consulting Greece on how to go about regaining ownership of the Parthenon Marbles? One of the lawyers is Amal Alamuddin, a London-based British-Lebanese lawyer, activist, and author. She is a barrister at Doughty Street Chambers, specialising in international law, criminal law, human rights, and extradition. She often works for big name clientele like Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, and the former prime minister of Ukraine, Yulia Tymoshenko. She has been legally involved in many plights, including how to protect children and women in warzones, and ending sexual violence as a whole. She is a respected lawyer, who has a very successful career spanning nearly fifteen years. Since about a month, she is also George Clooney's wife, and that, it seems, has now become her defining feature. Excuse me a moment while I rant at you.

(Photo: Pierre Teyssot/AFP/Getty)
(Photo: Pierre Teyssot/AFP/Getty)
The Spectator, a weekly British conservative magazine, decided to publish one of the most offensive pieces of journalism I have read in a very long time, entitled: 'Tell you what Mrs Clooney. If Greece repays its $240 billion EU loan, we’ll return the Marbles'. Oh, where do I begin... how about at the fact that no person, but especially not a professional, working, woman, should ever be defined by the person she has married? How about at the fact that personal attacks are never justifiable? How about at the fact that it doesn't matter a single bit who this woman is married to in the first place?! And moving on from that topic... whoever wrote this needs a healthy reality check and long overdue history lesson. I'm going to quote from the article a moment:
"Hollywood has a reputation for creating trite storylines in which either a lawyer is cast as the hero or England as the villain. Its latest epic has both, and this one is reality. Little more than a week after her marriage to George Clooney, the world’s most photographed barrister, Amal Alamuddin -Clooney, has flown off to advise the Greek government on how to force the removal of the Elgin Marbles from the British Museum.

Given the rioting, economic meltdown and general chaos of recent years, it would be easy to think that Greece had more immediate worries than the whereabouts of a set of decorative stones rescued in the early 19th century — with permission from authorities in Athens — to save them from being chiselled away by peasants for -quicklime. But that misses the point. What would Greek politicians do if the marbles were returned? No longer would they have a patriotic issue to beat their chests about in order to distract from their failures.

In the name of European harmony, we would like to propose a compromise: we will return the Elgin Marbles once Greece has repaid the €240 billion of emergency loans made by EU states during the crisis, and honoured all its government bonds. Until then, we suggest Greece recognises the role Lord Elgin played in rescuing its deteriorating heritage and accepts that the British Museum has done an excellent job in preserving the marbles and displaying them to scholars and the public alike. To have a little bit of the glory of ancient Athens in London hardly seems out of line with the spirit of shared European culture."

First if all, how dare you? Second of all? What are you even trying to say? That Greece is overreacting? That they should just accept the theft of their cultural heritage and leave it at that? That Greece is an unstable, corrupt country that needs help from the big and bright Britain? Because none of those things are even remotely true or anywhere near okay to say. And, again, dragging Clooney-Alamuddin's marital status into this is just a low blow. There are three people on the team of lawyers, all uniquely qualified to traverse this minefield, and neither Clooney-Alamuddin's marital status or her looks have anything to do with that.

This article shows such a terrible disregard for not only the lawyers involved--Clooney-Alamuddin especially, who has been bombarded by paparazzi while in Greece--but also the marbles and Greece as a country. Statements like 'a set of decorative stones rescued in the early 19th century' show such ignorance and disdain that it makes my blood boil. Usually I don't let these things get to me, but sometimes something slips past my misogyny and entitlement-shield and I just... go off.

This issue won't be resolved any time soon, so we might as well gear up for the long haul, but if this is the level of 'journalism' that will cover it, I might end up hiding under a rock until it's over. Sometimes I just can't stand humanity.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Constellation Sagittarius: the archer

It's been a while since we have tackled a constellation, so let's look at the next one today: Sagittarius, the archer. It was named 'Toxotes' (Τοξότης) in Greek, and is one of the 48 constellations listed by the 2nd-century astronomer Ptolemy and remains one of the 88 modern constellations. It lies between Scorpius and Ophiuchus to the west and Capricornus to the east.

In Hellenic mythology, Sagittarius is usually identified as a centaur: half human, half horse. Who, exactly, Sagittarius is, exactly, is unclear. Kheiron (Chiron, Χείρων), the wise and educated Centaur who taught heroes like Achilles, Theseus, Iásōn, and Hēraklēs, is a very good candidate, mostly because he died a very tragic death.

Hēraklēs' fourth labour is to capture the Erymanthian Boar, which got his name from the mountainside and swamp it roamed on. It is a difficult task; a boar is a ferocious animal, and even modern day hunters take care when hunting boar. This labour became even harder to complete for Hēraklēs when he met the centaurs on his way to the boar. Our hero went the long way to visit Phontus, a kéntaur who dwelt in a cave on Mount Pholoe, who was the son of Seilenus and the nymph Melia.

Having heard of Hēraklēs, Phontus entertained him in his cave, and provided him with food. Hēraklēs, thirsty from the savory meat dish, asked for wine, but Phontus said he only had the wine that was communal to all the kéntauroi, and he did not dare touch it. Hēraklēs convinced him to do so, regardless, and the kéntauroi came galloping to the cave. Hēraklēs fought them, and many died. Phontus, inspecting one of Hēraklēs' arrows dipped in hydra poison, which the hero had used to kill one of the kéntauros, dropped it onto his foot and he died of the poison as well. Hēraklēs, grieving for the death of Phontus, buried him near his cave. Hyginus, in his 'Astronomica' writes:

"He is said to be Chiron, son of Saturn and Philyra, who surpassed not only the other Centauris but also men in justice, and is thought to have reared Aesculapius and Achilles. By his conscientiousness and diligence, therefore, he won inclusion among the stars. When Hercules was once visiting Chiron, and while sitting with him was examining his arrows, one of them is said to have fallen on the foot of Chiron, and thus brought about his death. Others say that when the Centaur wondered at his being able to kill such huge creatures as Centauri with such slight arrows, he himself tried to draw the bow, and the arrow, slipping from his hand, fell on his foot. For this reason Jupiter, pitying him, put him among the constellations with a victim which he seems to hold above the altar for sacrifice. Others have said that he is Pholus the Centaurus, who was more skilled in augury that the rest. Consequently, by the will of Jove, he was represented coming to the altar with a victim." [II.38]

It is important to note, though, that this could also relate to the constellation Centaurus--Hyginus seems to think so, although he also wonders if it's a Centaur at all...

"Many have called this sign the Centaurus; others deny the name, for the reason that no Centaurus makes use of arrows. The question is raised, too why he is formed with horse flanks but a Satyr’s tail." [II.27]

A competing mythological tradition, as espoused by Eratosthenes, identified the Archer not as a centaur but as the satyr Krotos (Κροτος), son of Pan, who the ancient Hellenes credited with the invention of archery. According to myth, Krotos often went hunting on horseback and lived among the Muses, who requested that Zeus place him in the sky, where he is seen demonstrating archery. Hyginus again, in his 'Fabulae' on mortals who were made immortal mentions Krotos:

"Crotos, son of Pan and Eupheme, foster-brother of the Muses, put into the constellation Sagittarius" [224]

The arrow of this constellation points towards the star Antares, the 'heart of the scorpion', and Sagittarius stands poised to attack should Scorpius ever attack the nearby Hēraklēs, or to avenge Scorpius' slaying of Orion. The constellation Sagittarius is visible at latitudes between +55° and −90°, and best visible at 21:00 (9 p.m.) during the month of August.

Friday, October 17, 2014

The 'Hellenic Alphabet Oracle'

I like the art of divination. While divination by individuals is always a little suspect to me, I do dabble in it myself on very rare occasion. Divination played a fairly large role in Hellenic every day life. Oracles given directly, like at Delphi, were rare and called chesmomancy. All other forms of divination practiced in ancient Hellas were performed by seers, not oracles. Seer staples were divination through the spotting of birds (ornithomancy and augury), dream interpretation (oneiromancy) and animal sacrifice (hieromancy, haruspicy, empyromancy and extispicy), but other forms of divination were definitely used, including cledonomancy (listening to words spoken by a crowd), oneiromancy (divination through the reading of birthmarks) and phyllorhodomancy, the reading of the sound rose petals make when slapping them together with your hands. The biggest difference between oracles and seers was that oracles gave long answers which usually needed some for of interpretation while seers usually answered yes-or-no questions.

I am currently investigating another type of divination: the 'Hellenic Alphabet Oracle'. I haven't been able to find much on it save a few websites, but the University of Tennessee Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science website has a version of it up for inspection. Please turn to that link for the full explanation, but let me give you the start:

The oracle works as follows: each letter of the alphabet has a corresponding oracle, and the first word of the oracle (in Greek) begins with that letter. There are at least three methods of consulting the alphabet oracle, according tot he article.

The first uses a set of twenty-four stones or potsherds, each inscribed or painted with a letter of the alphabet. When you want to consult the oracle, pick a stone without looking. According tot he article, one ancient method was to shake the stones in a bowl or frame drum until one jumped out. Stones used in this way would be called psêphoi in Ancient Greek.

A second method is to use, five knuckle bones, called astragaloi. Cast all five at once or one five times. Knucklebones have four 'sides', traditionally given the values 1 (Monas), 3 (Trias), 4 (Tetras), and 6 (Hexas), according tot he article. There are 24 possible total values from five knucklebones: 5 to 30, excepting 6 and 29, which are impossible. The highest cast would be associated with Alpha and the lowest with Omega (so Alpha = 30, Beta = 28, Gamma = 27, …, Psi = 7, Omega = 5). Say you throw 3, 6, 6, 4, and 1, your number is 20, which links to the letter 'K', Kappa.

In the third way, five dice (cuboi, tesserae) are cast. Like with the knuckle bones, there are twenty-six possible total values, 5 through 30, which are associated in decreasing order with the Greek letters, including the archaic Digamma (Wau) and Qoppa. There are no oracles for Digamma and Qoppa, however, and so these need to be recast. The sum is the same as with the knuckle bones as well, add the results of all dice together and you will get the corresponding letter.

The website goes on to list a chart with the number, the numerical value by knuckle bones or dice, and the oracular message that corresponds with the letter, as taken from an inscription allegedly in Olympos. They read anywhere from 'Gaia will give you the ripe fruit of your labors', to 'You will have a parting from the {Tôn} companions now around you', and 'You will have a difficult {Ômos} harvest season, not a useful one'.

Now, I am still researching this myself, but I like the idea of this. I'll probably get to back to this at a later date, once I get to confirm or disprove some of these points. If anyone has more information, I would love to hear of it. Personal experience with this system is also something I would love to hear about. Thank you in advance.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

International lawyers consult Greece on the Parthenon Marbles

In the never-ending saga entitled the 'Parthenon Marbles', I have another update for you as posted by the Archaeological News Network: international lawyers have been consulted by the Greek government on the issue. I've already talked quite a lot about the Parthenon Marbles on this blog. You can find posts on them here, here, and here. To recap, though, the Parthenon Marbles, also known as the Elgin Marbles, is a collection of classical Greek marble sculptures, inscriptions and architectural members that originally were part of the Parthenon and other buildings on the Acropolis of Athens.

International lawyers consulted by Greek government on Parthenon Marbles issue
The Parthenon Sculptures as seen on display at the British Museum
in London on June 5, 2000 [Credit: Reuters]
As the president of the International Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures, David Hill has seen years of talks between the Brittain and Greece end fruitlessly, despite the tries of large international bodies like UNESCO. He was asked by Prime Minister Samaras to assemble a group of prominent international lawyers to advise the government of what its legal claim might be, resuming a plan Greece had in the works for years. He has been in Greece for the past three weeks getting ready to meet with Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, while working to assemble three famous international lawyers, Geoffrey Robertson, Amal Alamuddin and Professor Norman Palmer to work on a legal case to get the marbles back home.

The meeting scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday will be the first time Greece will consider its legal options. Greece has been reluctant in the past to start legal proceedings fearing it will look confrontational, but after 15 years of the same response from the British and trying everything in its arsenal to get them to the negotiating table, the government is out of patience. After so many years, the British approach to the matter hasn't changed despite the growing international chorus of disapproval. In the meetings, Mr Hall and the contingent will also meet with Greece's deputy prime minster Evangelos Venizelos, the culture minister Konstantinos Tasoulas and director of the Acropolis Museum Dimitrios Pandermalis. It's hoped the government can decide on its next steps to tackling the issue before it becomes too late.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

On 'Kore' versus 'Persephone'

A reader question today before I rush off to work, asked on Tumblr:

"Does the term "maiden name" come from the myth surrounding Kore being abducted by Hades? Because Kore becomes Persephone, so I guess you can say Kore is her maiden name? Is anything more said about this change of name?"

I love the theory, but no, it doesn't as far as I am aware. A maiden name is the last name used by a woman before changing her name upon marriage. Some people prefer to use the term 'birth name'.  As a general rule, a woman's maiden name is her father's last name, reflecting the patrilineal system of descent which dominates many cultures.

The ancient Hellenes didn't make use of surnames, but during some periods, formal identification commonly included place of origin. At other times clan names and patronymics ('son of') were also common. In none of these cases, though, were these names considered essential parts of the person's name, nor were they explicitly inherited in the manner which is common in many cultures today. So, while given names have been used from the most distant times to identify individuals, the advent of surnames is a relatively recent phenomenon. In Britain, hereditary surnames were adopted in the 13th and 14th centuries, initially by the aristocracy but eventually by everyone. In Japan, family names were uncommon except among the aristocracy until the 19th century.

The term 'maiden' has its roots in the Old English. It comes from 'mægden', or 'mæden', meaning a (virgin) girl, a maid, or servant, and/or Proto-Germanic 'magadinom', meaning 'young womanhood', or 'sexually inexperienced female'. The first recorded use of the term 'maiden name' comes from the 1680's, and it was applied to the myth of Persephone long after the myth was first recorded in Greek.

'Korê' (Κορη), or 'Kourê' (Κουρη), is a title (or epithet), literally meaning 'maiden' or 'girl' that was applied to Persephone as a Goddess of spring's beauty. Once She married Hades--kidnapped or not--She became the infernal Queen of the Underworld. An epithet is an attachment to the name of a God or Goddess, used to indicate either a specific domain of the Deity, a specific origin myth or region from which the Deity came, or an entirely different entity, through either domain or origin.

'Korê'  remained in use throughout ancient Hellenic history, especially connected to the Eleusinian Mysteries and some of the Eleusinian Festivals. Other cult titles included Khthonia (Χθονια, Of the Earth), Karpophoros (Καρποφοροσ, Bringer of Fruit), Sôteira (Σωτειρα, Saviour), and Praxidikê (Πραξιδικη, Bringer of Justice). In the Latin, Persephone gained another title: 'Juno Inferna', literally translated as 'Infernal Queen', likening her to Juno (Hera) as Her husband was likened to Zeus.

It's important to note that Perrsephone does not become Korê, or the other way around. Persephone's name is 'Persephone' (Περσεφονη) or a variation thereof, depending on author (Persephoneia, Persephoneiê, Persephassa, Phersephassa, Phersephatta, Pherrephatta). Her titles include 'Korê', and because she was well known as such, it was often used as a replacement of her name.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Geography and early Hellas

Two nights of three hours of sleep and a very long day at work and driving around and I am completely fried. I'm writing this Monday evening because I have to leave early tomorrow. Would you guy be dears and accept a video today so I can go to bed?

I am a big fan of instructional videos made for children. The information given is compact, informational, but not too dense. It's a great way to glimpse at a subject and get some clues about further research. This video is of that variety. It's about the geography and the early Hellenic civilization(s). The creator, Jeremy Corwin, also discusses the Minoans and Mycenaeans and recounts the story of the Minotaur.  'Mr. Corwin', as he's called, teaches World History and Leadership to middle school children and his YouTube videos are all much fun and very informative. Enjoy!

Monday, October 13, 2014

The first finds from the Antikythera wreck are in

A few weeks ago, archeologists associated with the project announced the Antikythera dive was sure to pay off--and it has. In the ongoing saga of the new dive down to the Antikythera wreck, the first finds are in, and they are very promising.

Stunning news finds from Antikythera
WHOI Diving Safety Officer Edward O'Brien "spacewalks" in the Exosuit, suspended
from the Hellenic Navy vessel THETIS during the 2014 Return to Antikythera project
[Credit: Brett Seymour, Copyright: Return to Antikythera 2014]

During the first excavation season, from September 15 to October 7, 2014, the researchers have created a high-resolution, 3D map of the site using stereo cameras mounted on an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV). Divers then recovered a series of finds which prove that much of the ship's cargo is indeed still preserved beneath the sediment.

Components of the ship, including multiple lead anchors over a metre long and a bronze rigging ring with fragments of wood still attached, prove that much of the ship survives. The finds are also scattered over a much larger area than the sponge divers realized, covering 300 meters of the seafloor. This together with the huge size of the anchors and recovered hull planks proves that the Antikythera ship was much larger than previously thought, perhaps up to 50 meters long. Brendan Foley of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution:

"The evidence shows this is the largest ancient shipwreck ever discovered. It's the Titanic of the ancient world."

The archaeologists also recovered a beautiful intact table jug, part of an ornate bed leg, and most impressive of all, a 2-meter-long bronze spear buried just beneath the surface of the sand. Too large and heavy to have been used as a weapon, it must have belonged to a giant statue, perhaps a warrior or the goddess Athena, says Foley. In 1901, four giant marble horses were discovered on the wreck by the sponge divers, so these could have formed part of a complex of statues involving a warrior in a chariot that was pulled by the four horses.

The archaeologists plan to return next year to excavate the site further and recover more of the ship's precious cargo. The finds, particularly the bronze spear, are very promising, according to the researchers, and they are sure there are still many secrets to uncover.