In ancient Greek poleis laws and customs varied and so it did the ‘path’ that young people had to make to become a citizen.
If we consider the two most representative models, i.e. the Athenians and the Spartans, we notice that the educational processes were already distinguished in their name: while the Athenian program was universally known as παιδεία (paideia), Spartans rather called it ἀγωγή (agōgē).
The παιδεία consisted of physical, cultural and psychological education aimed at achieving the individual’s harmonious participation to society through the assimilation of the Athenian ethos.
At the centre of παιδεία is the παῖς (pais), who concludes its education with a two-year period of ephebeia, preparing itself for the military tasks of the hoplite: the future citizen must share the ideology of the polis and take on his duties towards the community as a counterpart to those rights he would enjoy.
It is always a pleasure and a great privilege to introduce my students to Archilochus. We have been focusing on the very famous fr. 128 West, written in catalectic trochaic tetrameters: one must face the storms of life and be able to rise again, confronting fiercely the enemies and any hardship that may come our way.
Θυμέ, θύμ’, ἀμηχάνοισι κήδεσιν κυκώμενε,
ἀναδύεο· μένων δ’ ἀλέξεο προσβαλὼν ἐναντίον
στέρνον, ἐνδόκοισιν ἐχθρῶν πλησίον κατασταθεὶς
ἀσϕαλέως· καὶ μήτε νικέων ἀμϕάδην ἀγάλλεο,
μηδὲ νικηθεὶς ἐν οἴκῳ καταπεσὼν ὀδύρεο,
ἀλλὰ χαρτοῖσίν τε χαῖρε καὶ κακοῖσιν ἀσχάλα
μὴ λίην, γίνωσκε δ’ οἷος ῥυσμὸς ἀνθρώπους ἔχει.
Let us try our hand at translating this fascinating text. All translations from Archilochus are loosely based on Douglas E. Gerber’s LOEB translation.
“My heart, my heart, shaken by unrelenting woes”
The apostrophe to the heart reminds us of Odysseus, who, having returned incognito to Ithaca, silently fumes at the sight of his young servants in cahoots with Penelope’s suitors τέτλαθι δὲ κραδίη, καὶ κύντερον ἄλλο ποτ᾽ ἔτλης, “Endure, my heart, you have suffered even more biting torments” (Odissey XX, 18). It is worth noting Archilochus’ use of the verb κυκάω (κυκώμενε “shaken”), which is etymologically linked with κῦμα, the wave of the sea to hint once again at the metaphor of life as a (potentially tempestuous) sea-voyage. (more…)
The album “Musique de la Grèce Antique” has been published some decades ago but still stimulates curiosity and interest. The album results from the pioneering researches of Gregorio Paniaguaand his ensemble, the Atrium Musicae of Madrid. Even if musicological studies have since then progressed, the original spirit of this recording is still worthy of consideration.
While we can admire many extraordinary literary and architectural examples of ancient Greek culture, as for ancient music we have only scattered fragments that miraculously survived on papyrus and later documents.
The album gathers for the first time the rare Greek musical fragments, including the only one that dates back to imperial Rome (four damaged bars belonging to a work of Terence).
The album offers an overview of the music practiced in Greece on the most disparate occasions, being (the music) an essential part of everyone’s daily life. Luckily, musical theory has not suffered the same destiny, for we have received numerous treaties (in Greek, Latin or Arabic).
Greek music used two systems of notation: the instrumental notation, composed of fifteen different signs which probably derived from an archaic alphabet, and the vocal notation, which was formed, by contrast, by the twenty-four letters of the Ionic alphabet. (more…)
‘In ancient Athens, ostracism was the process by which any citizen, including political leaders, could be expelled from the city-state for 10 years.
Once a year, ancient Athenian citizens would nominate people they felt threatened democracy—because of political differences, dishonesty, or just general dislike. Today, although we can vote politicians out of office, we can’t exactly banish them from politics for a decade. Do you think ostracism would work in a democracy today? Would you vote to ostracize someone? Why?’
Check out this National Geographic video:
In his oration Against Leocrates, the fourth century BC Athenian orator Lycurgus accuses his fellow citizen Leocrates of having left the city just before the battle of Chaeronea in order to escape the dangers of war, thus failing his duties towards his country and his fellow citizens.
The passage belongs to the middle of the oration (chh. 84-7), when Lycurgus makes a list of mythical and historical examples which demonstrate the abnegation, the sense of duty, and the heroism of the Athenians of the past in order to emphasise by contrast Leocrates’ pusillanimity.
Domenico Beccafumi: Il sacrificio di re Codro
(Siena, Palazzo Pubblico. Fonte: Wikimedia commons)
The example of the heroic sacrifice of the last mythical Athenian king, Codrus, is interesting. The story is set during a famine, when the Peloponnesians declare war on Athens to conquer its territories and exploit its resources. Before embarking on military operations, the Spartans sent a delegation to Delphiin order to consult Apollo’s oracle on the outcome of the war. According to the tradition, the oracle replied: ‘Dear Spartans, you will overthrow Athensonly if you do not kill his king, Codrus’. The Peloponnesians, then, left the oracle self-confidently and warned their soldiers not to kill king Codrus for any reason. However, a certain Delphian called Cleomantis learned about the response of the oracle and secretly informed the Athenians.
Here is the text of the first part of the passage: (more…)