Corydon on December 13, 2008, 08:21:14 pm
Thing is, there is no canon for ancient mythology.  There are just different (and often contradictory) versions of myths.  In some of those versions, mythical figures come off smelling like roses; in other versions, they smell like... well, less good.

Take Odysseus: in Homer, he's ruthless, killing sleeping enemies, hanging the faithless servant women in his palace, etc.  But he only goes out of his way to mock one person: Polyphemus.  And he pays a pretty heavy price for that: so when he's back on Ithaca, he's learned not to insult the suitors, even as he kills them.  (After all, he'll have to live with their families afterwards.)

In tragedy, Odysseus is a mixed bag.  To take two examples, in Sophocles' Philoctetes, he's a scheming, amoral politician who's willing to sacrifice others to achieve his goal.  But in Sophocles' Ajax, he's a sympathetic character, who's able to recognize others' humanity and suffering.  And in Euripides' Cyclops, he's a classic straight man to the buffoonish satyrs.

And one more example, the Aeneid.  There he's cruel and heartless... but that's a story told from the perspective of a Trojan!  Even though Aeneas hates Odysseus, it's clear Vergil doesn't; he loves Homer, and he loves his creation.

tl;dr- there's no "real" Odysseus to appeal to.  Each author uses the character to fit his own agenda.  That's what makes myth cool.

Scott on December 13, 2008, 10:21:26 pm
Exactly! And so it is with Steven Grant and his re-telling of the tale.

There is an underlying theme to this story which takes a while to become clear. We get the first hint of it with Telemachus' conversation with the un-named Phoenician sailor.

SDGrant on May 11, 2009, 08:06:58 pm
I can't really think of a notable male character in the Illiad (aside from the reportedly blind narrator) who wasn't a serial killer.  (The females mostly just did one-offs).

Hector.  Hector is the epitome of virtue, as warrior, as father, as husband, as son.

The Greeks, though, they're all thugs and sociopaths.  Which makes me wonder why it was such a popular story among the Greeks.

- Grant

wdg3rd on May 12, 2009, 02:02:45 am
I can't really think of a notable male character in the Illiad (aside from the reportedly blind narrator) who wasn't a serial killer.  (The females mostly just did one-offs).

Hector.  Hector is the epitome of virtue, as warrior, as father, as husband, as son.

The Greeks, though, they're all thugs and sociopaths.  Which makes me wonder why it was such a popular story among the Greeks.

- Grant

Well. the assholes who did the greatest damage to the US Constitution are considered the greatest heroes nowadays.  Washington, Lincoln, Wilson, FDR.  The book hasn't been written on those of the last half and some century, but Bush II couldn't have committed the atrocities he did without those shining examples.

It's been over two decades since I read the translated originals allegedly by Homer.  Nor am I likely to bother anytime soon, except excerpts.  If I'm going to reread, I prefer something interesting.  Something that won or was in the running for a Prometheus award or Prometheus hall-of-fame or at least by an author that got one there.  I'm enjoying the current story in large part because I've been rejecting the gods since I was 12 (and I was raised Southron Baptist).
Ward Griffiths        wdg3rd@aol.com

Men will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest.  --  Denis Diderot

Corydon on May 16, 2009, 09:00:59 pm
Hector.  Hector is the epitome of virtue, as warrior, as father, as husband, as son.

The Greeks, though, they're all thugs and sociopaths.  Which makes me wonder why it was such a popular story among the Greeks.

It's a gross oversimplification, even a gross misreading, to call all the Greeks "thugs and sociopaths."  A sociopath doesn't care for anybody other than himself.  But we often see Greek heroes keenly feeling their comrades' suffering: look at Patroclus, or Ajax.  And the reader feels the suffering of both sides, even at the death of minor characters.

Look at Achilles, especially in book 9 (the key book of the epic).  He sees that the life to which he has been born and bred is meaningless.  But he can't escape it- he searches for, and fails to find, an alternate system of values (all revolving around kleos, or "honor").  And he almost succeeds, but he can't do it.  That's his tragedy.

Hector's tragedy is that he fails as a son, husband and father.  Look at his conversation with Andromache in book 6.  He knows that Troy will fall, and that his son will be killed and his wife raped and enslaved.  But he also wants to see his son to grow up to be a better man than his father was.  His heroic background creates a cognitive dissonance that he isn't able to escape.  And unlike Achilles, he doesn't even see that there might be a plausible alternative to life as a hero.

SDGrant on May 17, 2009, 03:27:29 pm
It's a gross oversimplification, even a gross misreading, to call all the Greeks "thugs and sociopaths."  A sociopath doesn't care for anybody other than himself.  But we often see Greek heroes keenly feeling their comrades' suffering: look at Patroclus, or Ajax.  And the reader feels the suffering of both sides, even at the death of minor characters.

Sure, I was grossly oversimplifying.  On the other hand, while technically you're right that a sociopath cares for no one but himself, it's far from unusual for sociopaths to put on a show, frequently an overwrought show, of grief over a lost someone.  While I wasn't especially fond of the show past the first season, THE SOPRANOS did an excellent job of capturing a rarely expressed fact about mobsters: they're ludicrously, but very selectively, sentimental, especially about family.  In fact, on the show they were always going to funerals and waxing on tearfully about terrible losses and wonderful guys, then in the next breath shooting someone or slitting their throats - even people very close to them - without a second thought, and often because it was their duty to "the family."

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Look at Achilles, especially in book 9 (the key book of the epic).  He sees that the life to which he has been born and bred is meaningless.  But he can't escape it- he searches for, and fails to find, an alternate system of values (all revolving around kleos, or "honor").  And he almost succeeds, but he can't do it.  That's his tragedy.

As I recall, Achilles is given the opportunity to escape the whole thing and live an obscure life but chooses to live fast, die young and leave a good looking legend.  He opts for glory.  It's not that he can't escape his fate, he just doesn't.  He wants a life of A, B & C without D, but that can't happen, but he won't abandon A, B & C to jump to E.

Y'know, that might make an interesting parallel story: the story of Achilles were he to have taken the way out and never gone to Troy.

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Hector's tragedy is that he fails as a son, husband and father.

Hector's tragedy is that he makes the same mistake as Achilles, in different fashion.  Both try to have it all, when the components of "all" are inherently contradictory.  Hector fails as husband and father (to protect and preserve his family) because he also desires to succeed as son and champion.  He's trapped into an inherent contradiction he can only escape by abandoning selected roles placed on him, but this would also mean abandoning honor and accepting shame (as with Achilles).  The difference being that Hector's obligation to fight is thrust on him by his role by birth in Trojan society.  Unlike Odysseus, Achilles is under no special compulsion to go off to war, though refusing certainly wouldn't ingratiate him with Agamemnon and Meneleus, but he sees war as a path to glory and fame, to being eternally remembered.  (And given that we're talking about him now, who's to say it was the wrong choice?)

In Irish mythology, this is called a "geis," the duty - the hero's strength is often tied to it - to uphold specific, usually contradictory obligations, and failing to do so will bring shame and divine retribution.  CuChullain, the "Irish Achilles," is the exemplar of ths: he has two geis to follow - he cannot refuse a meal offered and he cannot eat his namesake (the flesh of a dog, "CuChullain" meaning "The Hound Of Chulainn."  On his way to his greatest battle, he passes the campfire of a hermit who offers him a bowl of stew, but the stew's made with dog meat, so he's forced to break one geis or the other, and is crippled as a result.  He still goes to battle with his strength halved, and still manages to single-handedly fight off an enemy army, but dies in the doing.  This is obviously a more extreme and arguably less poetic example than the Achilles story, but it basically says the same thing.  Achilles goes to war because he wants glory, but glory means he dies.  He wants glory, he wants life, and he can't have them both.  But he tries to and fails.

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Look at his conversation with Andromache in book 6.  He knows that Troy will fall, and that his son will be killed and his wife raped and enslaved.  But he also wants to see his son to grow up to be a better man than his father was.  His heroic background creates a cognitive dissonance that he isn't able to escape.  And unlike Achilles, he doesn't even see that there might be a plausible alternative to life as a hero.

I would suggest that as the heir to the Trojan throne (Hector's the oldest son, right?) and as a prince of the realm, he really doesn't have an alternative.  Any move away from the role socially thrust on him is treason.  He can save his family through an act of treason, but that's effectively subjecting them to lives as outcasts, if they're not all put to death anyway.  Like I said, Hector feels the need to fulfill the duties he has taken on, whether entirely of his own choosing or not, and those duties become contradictory.

So would you say Agamemnon's motivation is to avenge the insult to him and his brother, since Agamemnon arranged the marriage of Helen & Meneleus and the theft of Helen is also a challenge to his authority as high king, or is Agamemnon really more interested in the wealth of Troy, with the theft a convenient justification, when he opts for war?

- Grant

Frank Bieser on May 18, 2009, 10:42:46 am
Y'know, that might make an interesting parallel story: the story of Achilles were he to have taken the way out and never gone to Troy.

You could title it, "The Last Temptation of Achilles".  ;D

SDGrant on May 18, 2009, 06:01:10 pm
You could title it, "The Last Temptation of Achilles".  ;D

Naaaaaaah.  I already did that with Kolchak The Night Stalker once...

- Grant

Sean Roach on October 25, 2009, 08:27:15 pm
I think it's time to tighten the spam filter and apply CAPCHA's.

This is the second non-sequitor, and I'm wondering if it's a spam test run.

Edit.  Make that the second non-sequitor I'm aware of.

Edit again.  Also the same user.  Two posts, and both were entirely outside the track of the conversation.
« Last Edit: October 25, 2009, 08:29:50 pm by Sean Roach »

Rocketman on October 26, 2009, 11:30:51 am
I noticed the same thing.  I originally thought that he was going to start "flaming" but it didn't happen.  I think it's just best to ignore him or her.   ???

Scott on October 30, 2009, 01:24:56 pm
I have banned the user ThiftyTuh73 as a likely spammer.

Rocketman on October 30, 2009, 07:29:34 pm
Here's a question that I'm throwing out for discussion.  What would be the greatest attribute that any hero of the time of Odysseus would want to have more of?  I'm not talking about archery, or sword skills.  Is it compassion, honesty, honor, bravery or something else entirely?   ???

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And they're gone again.  Damn spammers.