Friday, September 26, 2014

Girard and Scapegoating

What ideas were behind Costak's motives. Why Costak must be filmed without a dialogue. Only actions and moments without a word.

Origin of language

According to Girard, the origin of language is also related to scapegoating. After the first victim, after the murder of the first scapegoat, there were the first prohibitions and rituals, but these came into being before representation and language, hence before culture. And that means that "people" (perhaps not human beings) "will not start fighting again". Girard says:
If mimetic disruption comes back, our instinct will tell us to do again what the sacred has done to save us, which is to kill the scapegoat. Therefore it would be the force of substitution of immolating another victim instead of the first. But the relationship of this process with representation is not one that can be defined in a clear-cut way. This process would be one that moves towards representation of the sacred, towards definition of the ritual as ritual and prohibition as prohibition. But this process would already begin prior the representation, you see, because it is directly produced by the experience of the misunderstood scapegoat.
According to Girard, the substitution of an immolated victim for the first, is "the very first symbolic sign created by the hominids".

Girard also says this is the first time that one thing represents another thing, standing in the place of this (absent) one. This substitution is the beginning of representation and language, but also the beginning of sacrifice and ritual. The genesis of language and ritual is very slow and we must imagine that there are also kinds of rituals among the animals: "It is the originary scapegoating which prolongs itself in a process which can be infinitely long in moving from, how should I say, from instinctive ritualization, instinctive prohibition, instinctive separation of the antagonists, which you already find to a certain extent in animals, towards representation."

Unlike Eric Gans, Girard does not think that there is an original scene during which there is "a sudden shift from non-representation to representation", or a sudden shift from animality to humanity. According to the French sociologist Camille Tarot, it is hard to understand how the process of representation (symbolicity, language...) actually occurs and he has called this a black box in Girard's theory.

Girard also says:
One great characteristic of man is what they [the authors of the modern theory of evolution] call neoteny, the fact that the human infant is born premature, with an open skull, no hair and a total inability to fend for himself. To keep it alive, therefore, there must be some form of cultural protection, because in the world of mammals, such infants would not survive, they would be destroyed. Therefore there is a reason to believe that in the later stages of human evolution, culture and nature are in constant interaction. The first stages of this interaction must occur prior to language, but they must include forms of sacrifice and prohibition that create a space of non-violence around the mother and the children which make it possible to reach still higher stages of human development. You can postulate as many such stages as are needed. Thus, you can have a transition between ethology and anthropology which removes, I think, all philosophical postulates. The discontinuities would never be of such a nature as to demand some kind of sudden intellectual illumination.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Article | A Corner of the Landscape: The Kefalonia Project

A Corner of the Landscape: The Kefalonia Project 2001-02. A Preliminary Account | Christina Souyoudzoglou-Haywood
University College, Dublin

Introduction: The Livatho Valley

The valley of Livatho in the north west of Kephalonia, the largest of the Ionian Islands (Fig. 1.a below), was the scene of human activity from at least the Late Neolithic period onwards.  Middle and particularly Late Bronze Age occupation in the area has been known for a long time, through the excavation of numerous tombs.  In Classical antiquity the valley was the territory of the city-state of Krane, mentioned by Thucydides (2.30.2-3; 1.27.2) as one of the cities of the tetrapolis.  The imposing walls of its acropolis at the edge of the bay of Argostoli have been the subject of exploration by archaeologists for many years.  For more recent times, the Medieval and Venetian castle of Saint George, from which the whole island was administered until the mid 18th century, stands witness to the importance of the valley and the harbour facilities of the deep bay of Argostoli.  The valley itself has maintained a distinctly rural character throughout its history.  Today, above ground, among the modern fields and villages, the only remains are from the recent past: demolished Venetian watch-towers, disused lime-kilns, abandoned agricultural terraces, ruined rural chapels and houses, victims for the most part of the violent earthquake of 1953.  It is clear that our understanding of the prehistoric periods depends entirely on what archaeological exploration can recover and explain, but even the historical periods are badly served, on the whole, by the historical sources.  Ancient authors such as Thucydides, Strabo, Polybius and Cassius Dio give us but a brief glimpse of the island's fortunes.  With few exceptions no specific reference to the city-state of Krane is made, and there is certainly no direct reference to the lives, as opposed to the actions, of the communities which lived in the valley.  The only specific historical references to Krane are of a military nature: Thucydides mentions that it sided with the Athenians in 431BCE, when it defeated the Corinthians and Acarnanian forces which had landed on its territory, in contrast to the city-state of Pale to the north, which aligned itself with the Corinthians to the extent of even copying the Pegasus and koppa on their coins.  During the Roman period Krane was presumably subjected to the tough regime which the rest of the island was made to endure.  Used for a while as a private estate by Gaius Antonius, uncle of Marcus Antonius, it was given to the Athenians by Hadrian (Strabo, Geography 10.2.13; Cassius Dio, Roman History69.16.2).

It is not until the periods of the Frankish and Norman occupation in the 13th to the 15th centuries, and thanks to the characteristic feudal land system, perpetuated, with a number of changes, by the Venetians from the 16th to the 18th centuries, that the sources begin to provide us with some useful information about the rural landscape.  Archaeological study therefore has a hugely important role to play both for period-specific and for diachronic interpretations of the valley with regard to ancient settlement, land use, economy, resources, communications and the changes in the course of history.
The project and the site
My involvement in the area dates from the 1980s, when I was working on a synthesis of the archaeology of the Ionian Islands (3000-800 BCE) for my PhD thesis (The Ionian Islands in the Bronze Age and Early Iron Age, Liverpool University Press: Liverpool, 1999).  At the time I criss-crossed the valley on foot while studying the excavated prehistoric tombs, also casting a critical eye at the rest of the landscape.  It was the realization of how inadequate my perambulations had been at the time, particularly when trying to draw conclusions about settlement during the periods under study, which led me back to the area in 2001.  In the meantime the foundation of the Irish Institute of Hellenic Studies at Athens (IIHSA), the most recent foreign school to be set up in Greece, made it possible for me to return to the island, since it is only through such institutions that permits to carry out fieldwork in Greece can be obtained.  It was thanks to the efforts of its Director, Dr. Pat Cronin, that the first fieldwork permit of the IISHA was issued as a collaborative project between the IIHSA and the 6th Eforeia of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities based in the Greek Ministry of Culture.  The site chosen for our investigations is a low triangular plateau at the locality called Kokolata-Mylones (Fig. 2).  It is the first prominence at the southern edge of the Argostoli plain, on the main road, four kilometers SE of the town of Argostoli and 2 kilometers W of the castle of Saint George.  There, in the mid 1980s, I had identified some prehistoric, Greek, Roman and Byzantine/Medieval pottery.  The site was investigated in 2001, with a short supplementary season in 2002.  The fieldwork was conducted by a team of four students from University College Dublin led by me and joined, in the first season, by Mr. Andreas Soteriou and his team on behalf of the 6th Eforeia of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities.  Joe Fenwick of the NUI, Galway carried out the topographical survey using a Total Station.  We are extremely grateful to the Institute of Aegean Prehistory (INSTAP) which funded the project, and our warmest thanks also go to Mr Dionysios Basileiades for his permission to carry out investigations on his land.

For the first season an area of 100x70m at the top of the plateau was defined as the project area.  It was systematically explored through the collection of surface artefacts from sixteen 10x10m quadrants.  Five trial trenches were also excavated, two at the top of the plateau (cuttings 1 and 2) and three at walls 3, 4 and 7 (cuttings 3, 4 and 7 respectively).  The foundations of the walls, which were badly preserved, had mostly been constructed in a similar, irregular way, using "orthostats" on either side, and a fill of smaller stones.  Other portions of destroyed walls were identified in other parts of, and outside of, the project area, and they appeared to predate the abandoned terrace walls on the site.  The agricultural terraces, or pezoules in modern Greek, are a feature of the whole of the Greek countryside, some dating even as far back as the Bronze Age, but on this site it appears that they were built at the time of the Venetians when the plateau, like most of the valley, was given over to the cultivation of the raisin, a product traded intensively by the Venetians particularly from the 16th to the 17th centuries.  The pottery was very fragmentary and scoured with plough marks.  The diagnostic sherds, both from the survey and the trenches, consisted of amphorae and jars or jugs of "combed ware" and cooking pots of handmade and wheelmade coarse and semi-coarse wares, as well as fragments of tiles, one, from cutting 2, with the beginning of a graffito letter.  Most of the diagnostic pottery was provisionally classed as late Byzantine or Medieval, with very little prehistoric coarseware and black glazed pottery (Fig. 3).

During the second season excavation was continued at wall 4, where remains of human arm bones had been found in the previous season.  An incomplete fossilized skeleton was revealed beneath the wall.  The enlargement of the survey area led to the identification of more remains of wall foundations.  Moreover, a series of parts of retaining and terrace walls were recorded on the side of the main road, and in one place they formed a sort of narrow opening like a gate (Fig. 1.b), comparable to an opening between the spurs of walls on the SW side of the plateau.  The Venetian activity has, we believe, led to the destruction of the older walls, which we presume to be field boundary walls and provisionally dated to the late Byzantine or Medieval period (11th-14th century).  At that time the site was also partly surrounded by walls, possibly for safety reasons, as the period is known to have been plagued by unrest and piracy.  A structure connected with agricultural activities may have existed at the NW corner of the plateau, judging from the larger concentration of pottery, stone-piles and part of an olive or wine press in the vicinity of the ruined pre-earthquake property.  The project did not identify structures from the prehistoric and Greek periods: the pottery scatters from these periods most likely belong either to "off-site" or to short-term activities on the site, further evidence for which may have been destroyed by subsequent human activity, particularly deep ploughing.  On the other hand, our investigations revealed a hitherto little known model of rural land use for the more recent historical periods which may prove to repeat itself in the wider region.

Future prospects

The 2001-02 project has opened up for us a "window" on the landscape of the region and has prompted us to engage with the valley as a whole.  We hope that, starting in 2003, we may be able to conduct a four-year long diachronic survey of the whole valley, an area of approximately 30 sq. km stretching from the gulf of Argostoli in the north-west to the Lourdas Bay in the south.  Fieldwalking and the study of collected artifacts will be combined with disciplines such as geomorphology, geology and soil studies.  We are also planning to avail of the assistance of scientific techniques such as geochemical analysis, and possibly Geographical Information Systems and geophysics.  These new methods and techniques have helped archaeology to review its approaches to surveying, and to expand the range of interpretations that can be reached through fieldwalking surveys.  Thus our aims will not simply be to identify settlement trajectories and other land use patterns in our project area over a period of some 4,000 years, but also to identify the reasons and motivations behind such patterns and the changes observed over time.

Article | The Semiology of Rape

The Semiology of Rape: The Meeting of Odysseus and Nausikaa in Book 6 of the Odyssey.*

E. D. Karakantza

Hellenic Open University, 

Various interpretations have so far been given of the meeting between Nausikaa and Odysseus in book 6 of the Odyssey. These have ranged from sentimental musings about the princess’ innocence to the potentially fatal influence she may have exerted over the physically and psychologically exhausted Odysseus. Most of the approaches have rightly noted the pronounced marital framework of the meeting and some of them, the sexual overtones that might be detected in the encounter.[i] Our approach, however, will not scrutinize the intentions and wishes of the parties involved; instead it will attempt to unravel the cultural ideology governing the male-female relationship and its deconstruction, achieving this by pursuing our reading of the meeting onto a second level. This reading explores the devices of the poetic discourse through which this ideology is made evident in the minds of the ancient audience and the modern reader. Not only will the polysemous poetic language be taken into account but also the complex system of cross-references between signs of diverse systems, in order to construct a picture of the latent meaning that lurks beneath the literal one. There is a continual process of slippage from one of these systems to the other and these slippages, intentional or unintentional, expose the dominant ideology underpinning archaic and classical society. Thus Odysseus addresses Nausikaa as a suppliant but Homer compares him to a savage lion - the scourge of unprotected flocks; Nausikaa controls their meeting but the metaphorical poetic language describes her as the leader of a chorus of young girls, who – as it is well known from other mythic accounts[ii] - can fall easy prey to the lustful appetites of gods. The literal or prevalent meaning of the narrative is constantly deconstructed, and points to other parallel cultural realities present in this brief encounter.

The Meeting and its semiological (de)construction

The meeting carries its own literal meaning. Odysseus having been washed ashore on Scheria spends a perilous night in a heap of leaves under the meagre protective foliage of two small trees. While the famished Odysseus lies deep in exhausted slumber, a company of young maidens arrives in a nearby locality to wash clothes. The company comprises the young, pretty, and as yet unmarried, daughter of king Alkinoos leading a party of young maidens.[iii] The cries of the girls wake a frightened Odysseus; the hero approaches, covering his genitalia with a branch,[iv] and addresses his supplications from afar; Odysseus’ request is for a piece of clothing with which to cover himself and an introduction to the city of this unknown land. The meeting goes well, with the help of Athena, who inspires the young maiden with courage. Odysseus, despite his dishevelled and frightening appearance, succeeds in enjoying the bounty of a proper philoxenia; also, a sophisticated plan is devised by Nausikaa to engineer their entrance to the city. The meeting brings together two dissimilar people: on the one hand, a pretty young maiden, the well brought-up daughter of the king of the land, on the verge of getting married, and washing her trousseau for the happy event. She controls the meeting from beginning to the end, accepting the supplication, instructing the other maidens, devising the plan of return and giving clear instructions as to how Odysseus should extract a promise to be sent home. In introducing herself to him (6.186-197), moreover, she reaffirms her status as the daughter of greathearted Alkinoos, from whom the Phaiakians derive their power and dominion. Odysseus, on the other hand, is a beggar in the utmost need. The words uttered by Nausikaa confirm this picture. The little speech on morality to her companions puts the hero in the same category as beggars, although he is clearly a stranger, and suggests that anything, however little, is welcome to beggars like him (6.207-8). Odysseus is a faint shadow of the image of the mighty Iliadic hero, as he is entirely dependent on the charity of local royalty.[v] The politics of power have been clearly established here in a strange reversal of the societal code, that puts the man in an inferior position and the maiden in self-confident control. 

However, there are textual and iconographical signs that shake the conviction in the empowerment of the female that is exhibited here. Alongside the civilized and, at times, even sentimentally romantic atmosphere that marks the Phaiakian episode there is another, more threatening, reality that lurks beneath the surface ready to manifest itself through the fractures in the poetic discourse and the iconographical connotations that are implied by the text; another image, that of a menacing god, emerges threatening the maiden Nausikaa with abduction and rape;[vi] this image marks the existence of another more sinister world, omnipresent if not always in the foreground.

Let us begin with the physical appearance of Odysseus. After twenty days adrift on a raft, followed by three fighting for his life in the sea, his appearance is terrifying, a body swollen by sea water, a skin encrusted with brine (5.455-6); he has slept the night on a bed of leaves (5.482-7) and his unkempt hair is probably matted (6.226) with leaves and brine. Physically, he can be compared to a menacing god rising from the waters of the sea; his total nakedness, with only a branch to cover his genitalia,[vii] points to one of those lustful creatures of the wild who endanger young girls. Upon seeing him the young girls, with the exception of Nausikaa, flee in terror. This is a classic topos of scenes of rape in iconography and literature.[viii] Moreover, verdant places – like the locality of the girls’ expedition – are the traditional setting in which acts of sexual violence take place; in these places young maidens often find themselves in hazardous situations. The menace comes from these places being perceived as deeply erotic and sexually charged since they are populated with lustful creatures and often used as the nuptial beds of gods;[ix] nearly all narratives of divine rapes have taken place in similar localities where young maidens escape temporarily the protection of a civic place. These localities and the female universe are closely associated, for they are literally identified with mother-earth, the primordial female, and metaphorically with female genitalia (aidoion gynaikeion);[x] in our narrative the place is said to be covered with sweet clover or grass (agro¯stin melie¯dea, 6. 90) on which the mules of the cart are let graze. In addition, places near water - seashores, riverbanks, fresh water springs - are again fraught with sexual danger for they are localities beyond the limits of the ordered city. The river mouth where the maidens wash clothes had received, a few hours earlier, Odysseus, who now emerges, a weird apparition: a xenos (stranger) arrived from the sea. Communication with the open sea allows foreigners to come who eventually might take home, as a trophy, a beautiful woman of the land.[xi] After all this was the fate of Helen of Sparta, the cause of the Trojan War, the aftermath of which is the backdrop for the Odyssey.

The washing expedition may seem trivial but there are textual indications which point to a chorus of supernatural maidens. The first thought that crosses Odysseus’ mind is that the cries may come from the nymphs who belong to mountains, springs and meadows (6.122-4). And indeed Nausikaa is compared to Artemis, who delights in pursuing wild animals across mountainsides, and who is always accompanied by a chorus of young nymphs (6.101-5, 151-2). The Greeks could not gaze on a meadow in bloom without thinking of a chorus of young girls playing and dancing, disporting themselves among the flowers. In our passage there is no explicit dancing but there is the playing of ball (6.100, 115). This can be seen in a strongly ritualistic context, since ‘to play’ (paizo¯) is intimately linked with dancing and singing, - as is molpe¯ referred to a line later.[xii] Moreover, playing ball also refers to the brothers of Nausikaa, who excelled in a highly ritualistic dance with it (Od. 8.370-80).[xiii] It also refers to the young Athenian arrhephoroi who were prepared for such a game on the slopes of the Acropolis, accompanied perhaps by the flute of the god Pan; it seems that this game may have functioned as part of the institutionalized education of young girls.[xiv] In such a context, Nausikaa initiates the singing and the dancing of the chorus of the maidens of which she is the leader (archeto¯ molpe¯s, 6.101).[xv] Odysseus pictured Nausikaa in a similar manner when he described the joy of her parents at seeing her lead a dance of young maidens (6.156-7). Female rituals offer a secluded privacy to women and young girls; [xvi] this privacy, however, attracts male intruders who threaten their femaleness and virginity. This very virginity is a controversial issue in Greek mentality;[xvii] the premarital state of young girls is a sign of purity but also of wildness; and thus maidens who are seen participating in rituals are also considered as animals in the wild, not yet tamed.[xviii]

We can now turn to Nausikaa’s association with Artemis, which is far from being fortuitous. Artemis is a dedicated parthenos and as such she protects all parthenoi. However, abductions of young maidens from sanctuaries or choruses dedicated to her are a common mythological motif,[xix] because the goddess, in the Attic cult, stands for ‘the preparation for marriage and transition to womanhood’.[xx] The iconographic sign for the presence of an Artemis sanctuary, secluded but also fraught with danger for maidens, is the depiction of an altar with a palm tree in scenes of erotic pursuit leading to sexual consummation: this encapsulates the notion of a ‘girl being taken away from a place…where parthenoi belong’.[xxi] The presence of Artemis is established in the simile of the poet and the words of Odysseus, but it is surprising to realize that even the palm tree and the altar exist in the polysemous language of the poetic discourse, since Nausikaa is likened to a young palm tree that Odysseus once saw by the altar of Apollo[xxii] on the sacred island of Delos. The meaning of the simile could have been interpreted solely as an expression of admiration, respect and moderation by Odysseus, inspired by the beauty of the maiden. However, the signs of the images suggest the deconstruction of the romantic address of Odysseus, ‘for meanings are inscribed and read into the images through signs…’.[xxiii] Thus a whole imagery opens up and indicates what was a familiar cultural reality for the ancient Greeks; a young maiden, normally accompanied by her friends, crosses the boundaries of the city to visit a meadow to perform ritual or private duties, and thus fall easy prey to the lustful appetites of gods and heroes. Euphemistically, in iconography rape is depicted as erotic pursuit/abduction.[xxiv] The pictures speak eloquently not only of the sentiments of the parties involved but also about the conventions that govern the depiction of the action. An older god or an ephebe pursues a maiden, who in desperation raises her hands either to plead to be spared or to seek aid from her fleeing companions; sometimes she is even raised from the ground, a sign that the pursuer will soon overpower her. The girl turns at times to her abductor and holds a sustained gaze into his eyes,[xxv] a hidden sign perhaps of incipient consent. Occasionally a paternal figure stands composedly aside,[xxvi] which indicates that he might finally accept the formerly forbidden union, once regularized as a proper marriage. This is a puzzling inclination towards consent and marriage in the mythic narratives where sexual violence is also present. A plausible reason is that in Greek mythic accounts, marriage, seduction and rape are barely distinguishable, and metaphorically the acculturated form of marriage is consummated through the pursuit, capture and taming of a young girl, who then becomes a woman proper, a gyne¯.[xxvii] Thus the marital framework in which the meeting of Nausikaa with Odysseus takes place does not contradict the suggested latent sexual violence that lurks beneath the surface of the poetic discourse but, on the contrary, it seems to be a suitable supplement to the picture of the young maiden on the brink of passing over the threshold of sexual maturity.

The theme of sexual violence, which is established thus far with such a subtle and intricate network of signs, textual and pictorial, signifies its presence again by means of a powerful textual device: a lion simile. Homeric similes are in themselves a system of interconnected signs, which by their placement in the narrative opens up an entire intertextual network of oppositional or relational affinities; a simile in the Odyssey is bound to be read in conjunction with its fellows in both the Iliad and the Odyssey.[xxviii] Similes, however, have an ambiguous relationship to the narrative; some similes seem oddly or clumsily incorporated into the text, others seem to be employed to add pathos to the narrated event, yet others even to overturn and suppress the reality on which they comment. Surely with the simile there is a vivid textual image introduced, which is one option among others that the poet has for commenting on the action; as an illustrative image it maintains its independence from the narrative – which is momentarily suppressed - and it carries with it its own characters, actions, sounds, setting and tones, which are in congruence with the tone rather than the details of the narrative.[xxix]

The Odyssean lion simile is but one member of the large family of lion similes, explored and developed mainly in the heroic context of the Iliad, and among which the marauding lion is the strongest simile.[xxx] In book 6 of the Odyssey the hero is likened to a lion as he creeps out of the bushes and approaches the company of young maidens (6. 130-6):

Then he advanced on them like a mountain lion who sallies out, defying wind and rain in the pride of his power, with fire in his eyes, to hunt down the oxen or sheep or to pursue the wild deer. Forced by hunger, he will even attack flocks in a well-protected fold. So Odysseus, naked as he was, made a move towards these girls with their braided hair; necessity compelled him.[xxxi]

The closest parallel to this simile,[xxxii] even in wording, is the simile describing the hero Sarpedon, when urged by Zeus to attack the Achaian wall (Il. 12.299-306). Lion similes in the Iliad describe fighting warriors; the animal is chosen for all the warlike traits it stands for, ferocity, prowess, a sense of nobility which is preserved even when it retreats or is wounded; it delights in battle, in killing and the sight and taste of blood. In such gory detail is Odysseus described after the killing of the suitors: the hero is like a lion smeared with blood and gore as if he had just devoured an ox, and his face and chest is dripping with blood just as Automedon in the Iliad (17.541) is dripping with blood as if he had devoured a bull.

The interplay with the Iliadic text is continual and it is inevitable to think of the rich semantic connotations emerging from the parallel readings. Sarpedon, Achilles, Diomedes, Agamemnon, and Menelaos are heroes who fight a war; and so is Odysseus after the mne¯ste¯rophonia. But what is the connection between the hungry lion – which, compelled by pressing need, contemplates raiding a flock of young maidens – and an Iliadic hero? Is there anything heroic about this? The lion simile in book 6 has been seen by most critics as unique in the context in which it is found. An interesting deviation from the Iliadic prototype, a touch of textual irony with which the poet of the Odyssey smiles playfully at his predecessor. The reference to the needs of his belly makes the passage unheroic, and contributes to the ‘anti-charismatic’ quality of the scene;[xxxiii] even more, it is a ‘bemused’ comment of the poet on the naked appearance of Odysseus which, if not seen in this ironic mode, could have been turned into an ‘embarrassingly elegiac situation’.[xxxiv] Odysseus does not jump over a fence but the social mores of his culture. The fear of the maidens is attributed to a humorous misconception,[xxxv] which impels their flight, because what they see (i.e. a terrifying lion) is not what we see – a relic of a hero. This is not entirely false but we should not be content with this remark of misconception, which stops short of explaining what is the nature of this fear. The girls have reason to fear that is so pervasive in the narrative that the intervention of Athena is needed to get Nausikaa – despite her instinctual impulse to flee – to stand her ground; in the girls’ eyes there is nothing humorous about Odysseus’ appearance. So, as a narrative device this simile might not just be an ironic comment on the prowess of an Iliadic hero but an attempt to incorporate him into the family of Iliadic warriors to which, by any reckoning, he belongs. If he is likened to a marauding lion, the emerging textual picture of the hero is that of a marauding lion. All lion similes are attributed to warriors except for the simile which describes Penelope as a beleaguered lion (4.791-3),[xxxvi] who however deserves every praise for the prowess and nobility she shows in the absence of Odysseus. In the context of male prowess, Diomedes - just before starting a serial killing of some of the flower of the Trojan youth - is likened to a lion raging upon sheep (Il. 5.136-143) terrified in their helplessness (ta d’ ere¯ma phobeitai, 140); and while deep in his murderous rage he is again likened to a lion that kills oxen or cow (161-2). What may disturb the reader are, perhaps, the base motives of Odysseus’ action: basic needs, among which hunger is the prime motivation. But Sarpedon also, in the very similar simile, is motivated by hunger because, although he is driven by his thymos (keletai de he thymos age¯no¯r, Il. 12.300), the poet explicitly says that the mountain lion to which Sarpedon is likened has been starving for long time (epideue¯s/ de¯ron ee¯i kreio¯n, Il. 12.299-300); similarly Menelaos, when he rejoices upon seeing Paris, is likened to a hungry lion (peinao¯n) that contently feasts on the flesh of a kill (Il. 3.23-6; cf. kreio¯n eratizo¯n, Il. 11.551, 17.660). The formula that describes the compelling force that drives the lion – to which Odysseus is likened – is even more explicit and substitutes the thymos, found in the Sarpedon simile, with gaste¯r (keletai de he gaste¯r, Od. 6.133). But the gaste¯r of a lion is not the compelling human necessity for food as expressed by Odysseus in Phaiakeia, in Eumaios the swineherd, and in the episode with the beggar Irus; the hunger of the lion in similes is for blood and entrails and bones, egkata panta aima (sometimes sarka) kai osta myeloenta, which are found in corresponding similes (Il. 11.176, 17.64, Od. 9.293),[xxxvii] and which are also implied in the lion simile describing Odysseus after the mne¯ste¯rophonia, dripping with blood as though he had feasted upon the flesh of an ox. And this blood-thirsty and flesh-hungry lion is brought among an unprotected flock of young girls. The girls are in the countryside, away from the reassuring boundaries of the polis, and, more significantly, they have removed their headgear before playing. This highly symbolic removal of chastity[xxxviii] makes the girls as vulnerable to sexual violence as are the Iliadic warriors who have lost their armour in battle; both can fall prey to the thirst for blood of their adversary. Significantly enough the language used for rape very often borrows from the language of war: phtheiro¯ and diaphtheiro¯ are some of the verbs describing the act of rape; they mean destroy, ravage, despoil in a clearly martial context and the male is always the active agent when sexual intercourse is concerned.[xxxix] All girls are threatened with phthora, destruction. There is nothing passive, then, about the lion of the simile[xl] which, with determination driven by desperation, is likely to ravage (or perhaps ravish) any livestock it encounters.

What we have tried to show in the course of the present study is that the topography of the scene, the terrifying appearance of Odysseus, his likeness to a god and a lion, the chorus of the young maidens, the association of Nausikaa with Artemis and her domain, all point to scenes of rape when an older god abducts and impregnates a maiden. The threat of sexual violence that is present in the process of the transformation of a virgin into a sexually mature gyne¯ has been shown in studies that confirm the conflation of terminology and imagery related to rape (from which seduction and abduction are hardly distinguished) and marriage. In a sense, even in the institutionalized form of the acculturation of a maiden – i.e. the wedding ritual – a parthenos needs to face sexual violence, either because this conforms with the cultural behaviour expected of a male or because a maiden sees this transition as terrifying. What the Odyssean text offers in the reading of these traditional cultural assumptions is a novel and subversive approach that – although it accepts the possibility of rape in a context that seems to invite it – establishes a reality with terms of its own. In this, the male protagonist finds himself not in the traditionally dominant position – which is stressed by the many allusions to a possible rape that would normally have occurred in other cases – but in the humble position of a supplicant in which his ability to exert power is neutralised by a maiden’s intricate schemes to find a way through all the threats that surround her and lead the whole party to safety. The opening up of the text to unravel the correspondences with the contemporary cultural megatext helps us to appreciate better the many Odyssean subversions of the prevalent established cultural system that – although powerful – can nonetheless be proven fragile and prone to deconstruction.

Title Note: I would like to thank both anonymous readers for Classics Ireland who offered their useful suggestions on an earlier version of the present paper.

[i] The following works are but a selection from a rich literature concerning the familiar episode: Vallille, G. (1955), ‘The Nausikaa Episode’, Phoenix 9: 175-179; Butterworth, E. A. S. (1966), ‘Penelope’s Weaving and the Wedding of Nausicaa’ in Some Traces of the Pre-Olympian World in Greek Literature and Myth, Berlin: 98-134; Woodhouse, W. J. (1930¹, repr. 1969), ‘Nausikaa’s Romance’ in The Composition of Homer’s Odyssey, Oxford: 54-65; Lattimore, R. (1969), ‘Nausikaa’s Suitors’ in Classical Studies Presented to B. E. Perry, Urbana: 88-102; for amatory expectations addressed to Odysseus by Nausikaa see Gross, N. P. (1976), ‘Nausicaa: A Feminine Threat’, Classical World 69.5: 311-317; Forsyth, N. (1979), ‘The Allurement Scene: A Typical Pattern in Greek Oral Epic’, Californian Studies in Classical Antiquity 12: 107-120; Austin, N. (1991),  ‘The Wedding Text in Homer’s Odyssey’, Arion III 1.2: 227-243.

[ii] Girls in ritual choruses fall easy prey to the lust of a god or hero; such are the abductions of Helen by Theseus (Plutarch Theseus 31.2), Polymele by Hermes (Hom. Il. 16.180-6), Aphrodite (as a mortal girl) by Hermes (Hymn Hom. Aphr. 117-8); Poseidon’s desire was also aroused by dancing Amphitrete (Eust. on Od. 3.91); see also n. 18.   

[iii] The identity of the followers of Nausikaa is intriguing. In the text the maidens are referred to as amphipoloi and dmo¯es both translated as ‘servants’ and ‘slaves’. However, I think that an inference as to their civic status can be based upon several indications: 1. Athena urges Nausikaa to the washing expedition in which she herself – in the likening to the daughter of Dymas – will join and help (6.31-3) 2. Nausikaa among the girls is likened to Artemis and her nymphs, the status of whom can hardly be said to be merely servile; they are inferior compared to Artemis but of high status and some of these had been of aristocratic descent before being turned into nymphs 3. their headdresses (kre¯demna, 6.100) and 4. their activity after the washing, strongly reminiscent of a company of young maidens of civic status that participate in ritualistic singing and playing, as is confirmed by Calame, Brelich (see infra nn.11, 13).

[iv] The ‘unhomeric delicacy’ of the passage made F. Marx delete ls. 129, 136, 221-2. This caused a ‘lively controversy’: cf. Heubeck, A., West, S., Hainsworth, J. B. (1988), A Commentary on Homer’s Odyssey, vol. 1, Oxford, ad loc.

[v] Rose, G. P. (1969), ‘The Unfriendly Phaeacians’, Transcactions of the American Philological Association 100: 387-406.

[vi] Critics [Van Nortwick, T. (1979), ‘Penelope and Nausicaa’, TAPA 109: 269-276; Shapiro, H. A. (1995), ‘Coming of Age in Phaiakia: The Meeting of Odysseus and Nausikaa’, B. Cohen (ed.), The Distaff Side; Representing the Female in Homer’s Odyssey, NY: 155-164] have noted the potential danger embodied by Odysseus and the vulnerability of the playing maidens; see also Hainsworth, (n. 4), ad loc.  

[vii] See the theory that the branch does not cover but protects his genitalia: Gutglueck, J. (1987), ‘A Detestable Encounter in Odyssey VI’ Classical Journal 83.1: 97-102; this is the way that Odysseus feels about his encounter with Kirke [Karakantza, E. D. (2001), ‘The Sexual Servitude of Odysseus; An Interpretive Approach to Kirke and Kalypso episodes in the Odyssey’, Proceedings of the XIth International Congress of the FIEC, Athens: 468-481] and Anchises with Aphrodite [Stauss Clay, J. (1989), The Politics Of Olympus; Form and Meaning in the Major Homeric Hymns, Princeton: 182-183].

[viii] S. Deacy & K. F. Pierce, Rape in Antiquity (London 1997); F. Zeitlin, ‘Configurations of Rape in Greek Myth’ in S. Tomaselli & R. Porter (eds), Rape (Oxford 1986), 122-151; A. Scafuro ‘Discourse of Sexual Violation in Mythic Accounts and Dramatic Versions of the “Girls’ Tragedy’, Differences 2.1 (1990), 126-159; M. Lefkowitz, ‘Seduction and Rape in Greek Myth’, in A. E. Laiou (ed.), Consent and Coercion to Sex and Marriage in Ancient and Medieval Societies (Washington D. C. 1993), 17-37; A. Stewart, ‘Rape?’ in E. D. Reeder (ed), Pandora. Women in Classical Greece (Princeton 1995), 74-90; A. Cohen ‘Portrayals of Abduction on Greek Art: Rape or Metaphor?’ in N. Kampen (ed), Sexuality in Ancient Art: Near East, Egypt, Greece, and Italy (Cambridge 1996), 117-135; R. Omitowoju, The Language and Politics of Rape: Forensic and Dramatic Perspectives in Classical Athens, Ph. D. (Cambridge 1996); A. Heap, ‘Rape and Young Manhood in Athenian Comedy’, in L. Foxhall & J. Salmon (eds), Thinking Men: Masculinity and its Self-Representation in the Classical Tradition (London 1998), 100-114.

[ix] A. Motte, Prairies et Jardins dans la Grèce Antique; De la religion à la Philosophie (Brussels 1973), 208; J. M. Bremer, ‘The Meadow of Love and two Passages in Euripides’ Hippolytus’, Mnemosyne 28 (1975), 268-280; B. E. Goff, The Noose of Words; Readings of Desire, Violence and Language in Euripides’ Hippolytos (Cambridge 1990), 58; C. Calame, ‘Prairies et Jardins de Légende’, ‘Prairies et Jardins de Poètes’ in L’ Éros dans la Grèce Antique  (Paris 1996), 173-197.  

[x] Motte: 83; Bremer: 273 (n. 9). In Archilochus’ fragment (Pap. Col. 7511 = SLG 478 published by R. Merkelbach & M. L. West ZPE 14 (1974), 97-113), where the seduction of the youngest daughter of Lycambē is going to take place, the lines 15-16 sche¯so¯ gar es poe¯[phorous] [k]e¯pous have been taken by the editors as a metaphor for the female organ (other parallels are also given. 106). For female genitalia described as leimo¯n, ke¯pos, pedion (meadow, garden, plain) see J. Henderson, The Maculate Muse; Obscene Language in Attic Comedy (New Haven 1975), 135; J. Taillarbat, Les Images d’ Aristophane, Études de Langue et de Style (Paris, 1962), § 119, §§ 171-178.

[xi] Cf. the stories retold by Herodotus of young maidens abducted by pirates (Hist. I, 1-4) as the cause for the Persian Wars.

[xii] Calame, C. (1977), Les Choeurs de Jeunes Filles en Grèce Archaique, I Morphologie, Fonction Religieuse et Sociale. Rome: 165; Calame classifies the ‘expedition’ of Nausikaa and the other maidens under the title ‘Autres performances chorales’ (ch. 2.4.7, 162ff).

[xiii] I thank James Andrews who directed my attention to the similar activity of Nausikaa’s brothers.

[xiv] Brelich, A. (1981), Paides e Parthenoi, Rome: 122, 126, 154; Calame, 1977: 166; W. B. Stanford explains it ‘as a rhythmical ball-play controlled by a tune’ and Athenaeus talks about orche¯seis dia te¯s sphairas (both quoted by Hainsworth (n. 4), ad loc). 

[xv] Molpo¯ clearly denotes both the dancing and the singing of a chorus of young girls, cf. Calame,1977: 164; Liddell-Scott-Jones s. v. melpo¯; see however Hainsworth (n. 4), ad loc, where the ambivalence of the term is shown.

[xvi] J. Gould, J. (1980), ‘Law, Custom and Myth: Aspects of the Social Position of Women in Classical Athens’, Journal of Hellenistic Studies 100: 52.

[xvii] Sissa, G. (1990), Greek Virginity, Harvard: 87.

[xviii] Cf. Anakreon’s poem (335 P, 88 D, 75 B): Thracian filly…let me tell you, I could neatly put the bridle on you and with the reins in my hand wheel you round the turnpost of the racecourse; instead, you graze in the meadows and frisk and frolic lightly, since you have no skilled horseman to ride you. transl. D. A. Campbell, Loeb 1988.

[xix] Sourvinou-Inwood, C. (1987), ‘A Series of Erotic Pursuits: Images and Meanings’, JHS 107: 145, and ns. 93, 94; Calame, 1977: 176: ‘La plupart de ces scènes   en effet se situent dans le cadre d’ un chœur d’ adolescentes consacré à Artémis’. 

[xx] Sourvinou-Inwood, ibid.

[xxi] Ibid, 141, 145; see also Sourvinou-Inwood, C. (1985), ‘Altars with Palm-Trees, Palm-Trees and Parthenoi’, Bulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies 32: 125-146, where the iconographical element ‘altar+palm tree’ is strongly and irrevocably linked with the realm of Artemis and the erotic pursuit/abduction of parthenoi from her sanctuaries.

[xxii] The substitution of Artemis’ altar by Apollo’s seems normal from the mouth of Odysseus for whom it would have sounded awkward if he had recollections from an altar dedicated to Artemis, a realm normally reserved for young females; moreover, the affinity of the two sibling deities on Delos may have encouraged their conflation in the poetic discourse. Lastly, as a narrative device it might indicate again the reversal of gender roles which is evident throughout the meeting.

[xxiii] Sourvinou-Inwood, 1985: 132.

[xxiv] A. Cohen (n. 8), 117. The scenes of erotic pursuit/abduction begun ca. 550 BCE and proliferated between 500-450 BCE. Relating to the historically documented increase in Athenian dominance, the choice for this particular subject-matter may represent ‘the projection of Athenian male desire first upon the heroic world, and then upon the divine one – or, to put it another way, they mobilize these worlds to promote the Athenian masculine self-assertion’, Stewart (n. 8), 86.

[xxv] Reeder (n. 8), Section One: Representing Women; Lefkowitz (n. 8), 22, n. 16; J. Elsner, ‘Naturalism and the Erotics of the Gaze’ in Kampen (n. 8), 247-261; F. Frontisi-Ducroux, ‘Eros, Desire and the Gaze’, in Kampen (n. 8), 81-100.

[xxvi] Kaempf-Dimitriadou, S. (1979), Die Liebe der Götter in der Attischen Kunst des 5. Jahruhunderts v. Chr., Bern; see illustrations nos 213, 233, 236, 294, 338, 342, 381, 364, 389, 393, where a respectable paternal figure complements the scene.

[xxvii] Stewart (n. 8), 76, 78; Sourvinou-Inwood, 1985: 143.

[xxviii] A. J. Podlecki, ‘Some Odyssean Similes’, Greece & Rome 18 (1971), 81-90; C. Moulton, ‘Similes in the Iliad’, Hermes 102 (1974), 381-397, and Similes in the Homeric Poems (Göttingen 1977); W. C. Scott, The Oral Nature of the Homeric Simile (Leiden 1974); R. Friedrich, ‘On the Compositional Use of Similes in the Odyssey’ American Journal of Philology 102 (1981) 120-137; W. T. Magrath, ‘Progression of the Lion Simile’, Classical Journal 77.3 (1982), 205-212; P. Pucci, ‘The Heart (Thumos) of the Iliadic Lion and the Belly (Gaste¯r) of the Odyssean Lion’, in Odysseus Polytropos; Intertextual Readings in the Odyssey and the Iliad (Ithaca 1987), 157-164; S. H. Lonsdale, Creatures of Speech: Lion, Herding, and Hunting Similes in the Iliad (Stuttgart 1990).

[xxix] Scott (n. 28), 57, 164; Moulton (n. 28), 1977, 12.

[xxx] Scott (n. 28), 60.

[xxxi] Translated by E. V. Rieu, revised by D. C. H. Rieu, Penguin 1991.

[xxxii] Other parallel similes, Diomedes (5.136), Menelaos (17.61), and a total of twenty-two lion similes in which the lion preys on cattle, see Lonsdale (n. 28), 121, n. 35.

[xxxiii] Magrath (n. 28), 208.

[xxxiv] Pucci (n. 28), 159, n.5.

[xxxv] Moulton (n. 28), 1977: 140; Podlecki (n. 28), 83.

[xxxvi] In the Odyssey the simile of the mountain lion is also attributed to Polyphemos who – with exceptional savagery – feasts on the flesh and bones of Odysseus’ companions (9.292-3).

[xxxvii] Lonsdale (n. 28), 139.

[xxxviii] Since kre¯demnon is a symbol of virtue and modesty [Hainsworth ad loc; D. L. Cairns, D. L. (1993), Aidos, Oxford, 121-3; Forsyth (n. 1), passim; Van Nortwick (n. 6), 221; Nagler, M. (1974), Spontaneity and Tradition, Berkeley, 10-1, 45-59, 62-72] its removal signals a symbolic, temporary removal of chastity. Compare how Penelope every time she appears to the company of the suitors wears her headdress to stress symbolically her chastity, and thus her inapproachability (Od. 1.334; 18.210; 21,65).

[xxxix] Scafuro (n. 8), 126; furthermore, the word proper for marriage, gameo¯, applies to men while the verb in the middle voice, gamoumai, is used only when women and parents – who give their daughter to marriage – are concerned; the order is reversed in selected contexts where the passivity of some males is ironically stressed (LSJ s. v.).

[xl] Friedrich (n. 28), 123.

Book Review | Being Greek under Rome: Cultural Identity, the Second Sophistic and the Development of Empire

Simon GOLDHILL (ed.), Being Greek under Rome: Cultural Identity, the Second Sophistic and the Development of Empire. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001. Pp. viii + 395. Hb ISBN 0-521-66317-2.

Review by Theresa Urbainczyk

University College

When I edited this journal, I was once threatened with dismemberment by an angry author.  My crime was to have included a review which contained a sentence mildly critical of my would-be assailant.  This rather changed my attitude to reviewing and I would like to quote immediately the volume’s own dust jacket that this book ‘presents a series of brilliant insights’.

However as an ex-editor I cannot ignore my own strictures that I should write with the interested lay reader rather than the specialist in mind.  Consequently, I have to say that the book makes no allowances for those without at least one degree in classics. 

The combination of highly specialised academic vocabulary with gestures towards popular culture is uniquely alienating.  For instance Henderson writes in note 5 ‘Hence – pow! – hair-raising difficulty in apprehending Polybius’ own shock-horror within the formulaic/generic frissons of his editorial voice, his narratorial persona, and his cast of characters.’  (p. 31). Goldhill not only introduces his article on the erotic eye by quoting Mick Jagger’s ‘sex and sex and sex and sex and look at me’ (p.154), but also can write: ‘The Hellenic commentator on the world of impressions becomes intertwined with and erotically stained by the lovers’ play.  Not only is looking the height of erotic stimulation, but even (the) theory itself is pretty sexy stuff’  (p.170).  All I can say is, it does nothing for me.

The cast list is studded with stars.  Apart from Henderson on Polybius and Goldhill on the arousing gaze, there is Maud Gleason on Josephus, Rebecca Preston on Plutarch, Jás Elsner on Pseudo (?) Lucian, Froma Zeitlin on Homer, Tim Whitmarsh on exile in the Second Sophistic, Onno van Niif on athletics and Seth Schwartz with the best title ‘The Rabbi in Aphrodite’s bath’.

The volume will be of interest to those working on any of the above authors and generally on Greece under Roman rule, but the non-specialist reader will, I fear, not progress much beyond the first page.  If however they reach page 157 they will read ‘During the Hellenistic period, in particular in Alexandria with the foundation of the Museum and the Art Gallery as spaces for viewing, and with the concomitant growth of the discourse of art theory, there developed the image of the sophos as viewer, an ideal of the articulate and witty analyst of imagery, uncovering hidden means and displaying his – and it is, of course, normatively ‘his’ – sophia as a sign of an elite and cultivated response.’  The unattentive reader may think they are reading reflections on the activities of the contributors. 

The blurb promises ‘a fascinating and new understanding of the long history of imperialism and cultural conflict’.  Personally I think the reader of Classics Ireland would learn more on this subject, and would certainly have more fun, by reading Plutarch’s Parallel Lives.

Article | Myth under construction

Myth under construction

by Carmel McCallum-Barry

University College Cork

'Myth establishes people, places and identifies them and gives them some sort of conceptual place. Indeed the whole of Greek Mythology may be viewed as an enormous text in dialogue with that other text, the world in which we live.'[1]

The 19th century saw the growth (or even invention) of national identities all over Europe and liberated peoples looked for a common cultural tradition to express their new sense of community. The mechanism by which this was most frequently achieved, `Invented Tradition'[2], drew heavily on myth.

I propose to examine the Prometheus myth within this context to show how it fulfils the function of myth as definition of identity both for a national group, and on an interlinked level, for individuals. It is especially significant for the individual creative artist (in this paper that is Victor Hugo) as a way of identifying his place in the world at large.

The myth of Prometheus as it appears in our earliest sources, Hesiod and Aeschylus (with which I am chiefly concerned), defines human identity. It associates mankind with a rebellious Titan who steals fire from the gods and is punished for his theft by the ruling deity; it also establishes man in his place (i.e. on earth), where he must struggle to survive. Prometheus' gift of fire is part of the conceptual framework of the progress of mankind, enabling technology, learning and everything that `civilisation' implies.

The myth was constantly reworked throughout antiquity and after, it proved extremely flexible and adaptable due to its inherently ambiguous content, apparent in the Hesiod and Aeschylus versions.[3] In Hesiod Prometheus is especially associated with the Fall of man, which means the loss of divine society, submission to the divine by the necessity for sacrifice, and a life which entails mortality, work, pain and family.(!) In Aeschylus' play the emphasis is on different consequences of Prometheus' actions, namely his own punishment, nailed to the rocks of the Caucasus, and the fact that through him man obtains all the benefits of civilisation. (These two aspects had of course a very powerful resonance in later interpretations, one didn't have to be a church father to read a Christian meaning into Prometheus' suffering for mankind.)

So we have apparently contradictory elements contained in the one myth, to be emphasised or ignored according to the poetic agenda, for the paradoxical hero is on the one hand clearly responsible for man's loss of the Golden Age and association with god, and on the other is regarded as the benefactor of mankind, since the potential for human progress is due to his gifts. This very ambiguity is, I believe, the reason for the constant appeal of the story through the centuries.

The function of myth and of mythmaking is essentially the same at any time, and we continue today in the tradition of constructing myths for ourselves, whether we call them propaganda, advertising or historiography. With this in mind I would like to examine how the myth of Prometheus was used in 19th century France as a means of defining identity both for the nation as a whole and for individuals whose Promethean essence encapsulated the spirit of the time.

For this discussion one further aspect of the myth, that of Prometheus as a creator, either of mankind or of Pandora, must be taken into consideration Although this feature does not appear until the end of the 4th century[4] it became an integral part of the postclassical tradition and of the reception of the myth by artists and thinkers of the Romantic Movement. As the political innovators sought release from tyranny in government, so the creative artist sought release from the tyranny of literary form, both kinds of revolutionary being equally Promethean. So the myth continued to fulfil its function of self-definition for man, charting his place in the world, his aspirations and the obstacles in the way of his attaining perfection.

The theme of Prometheus with its combination of creativeness and revolt was the natural expression of the Romantic ego, but though many literary works dealt with the myth, only one contemporary figure, Napoleon, was perceived as Prometheus. In his case the equation became a commonplace, since he satisfied the first condition of an epic hero, containing in himself a whole generation.[5] The myth or legend of Napoleon was and continues to be one of the most striking symbols of French national and individual identity, and Napoleon too was regarded with ambivalence. Under the Empire he was the son of the Revolution, carrying the revolutionary principles beyond the frontiers of France to all mankind; when defeated he became the homme fatal who had brought misfortune to himself and to his people. His double edged contribution to the nation underlines the parallel with Prometheus.

Napoleon's aesthetic mistake was to make himself Emperor and thereby betray the Revolution. This made him more of an oppressor than a benefactor of mankind; symptoms of the general disappointment are evident in the Romantic poets, Beethoven even rededicated the Eroica 'To the memory of a great man'. Not until his exile and death on St. Helena, did this fallen Titan once more become Prometheus in a way much more acceptable to the Romantic imagination. Wordsworth and Heine saw him expiating his offences in exile, Byron was sympathetic, and in France his longstanding opponent Chateaubriand admitted 'Napoleon has made his peace with me on St. Helena'.
After Waterloo Frenchmen had an urgent need to reinstate the Napoleonic myth and redefine their national identity. Though they had been defeated and humiliated they could at least look back with pride at the glorious victories of their armies in the past, and Napoleon could be remembered as being responsible for the civilising of France into the modern world. But now their Prometheus was fettered to a rock on the wild outer edges of the world, while the vulture (identified with England of course) gnawed at his entrails. This persona of the suffering hero was a much more satisfactory one and Napoleon, by being exiled, again became respectable for the liberal consciousness.

So although the Promethean ethos and its symbols were pervasive in Romantic thinking throughout Europe, in France it is clear that they were mediated principally by the person of Napoleon. A survey of epic poems produced in France from 1800-1850[6] shows firstly how imperative was the search for national identity by way of myth (out of over 200 titles more than half are concerned with victorious national heroes such as Clovis, Charlemagne, Joan of Arc); it shows secondly that Napoleon more than any other suited French ideas about themselves, as he tops the list with 15 mentions, beating Joan of Arc by one point.

The fallen emperor was therefore commonly perceived as representative of France herself and simultaneously as Prometheus; this conjunction was further explored and elaborated in the poetry of Victor Hugo because the myth clearly struck some deep chord within him. He was born in 1802, and so grew up with an awareness of Napoleon's campaigns, not least because his father was a general in the revolutionary armies. He was not at first a partisan of Napoleon, and in the earliest poems we see the Promethean imagery centred on the poet himself as a creative artist Soon however his handling of the Prometheus myth became inseparable from his handling of the variant Napoleon = Prometheus, for the events of the preceding years, once written about or otherwise interpreted had themselves become another myth. By the middle of the century these three sublime egos had become one.

Hugo is primarily a poet, despite the vast tomes of prose works, and his most serious ideas find their expression in poetry. His complex view of the Prometheus myth is, as mentioned above, closely linked to his perception of himself as a creative artist. Four aspects of the myth are of particular significance in his work and except for the notion of Prometheus as a creator these are the features that are familiar from the works of Hesiod and Aeschylus:

Prometheus as the benefactor of mankind, which for Romantic thought means stress on his role as a creator and initiator in the cultural sphere.
His resistance to tyranny.
His punishment and suffering for this resistance, nailed to a rock on the lonely edge of the world.
His intellectual gifts: Prometheus has a special knowledge, which enables him to continue his defiance of the tyrant.
Hugo's perception of the poet as a Promethean figure is already evident in his earliest collection of poems, Odes et Ballades, published in 1828, with composition dates of individual poems given by the author. The earliest, entitled Genius is dedicated to his boyhood hero Chateaubriand who had been in exile under the Empire; in it key words and ideas both reflect the ancient versions of the myth, and make clear that right from the start of his literary life Hugo imagines a divine flame immanent in genius, and associates this (creative) genius with persecution. 'Unhappiness for the child of earth who carries a gleam of the divine spirit in his solitary soul....envy battens on his noble life, like the eternal vulture...and punishes this new Prometheus for having stolen fire from heaven' (Le Génie, O.B. IV, 6. 1820)[7].

In the following year he applies the same ideas to himself in The Poet in the Revolutions (O.B.I, 1. 1821). Significantly placed at the beginning of the collection it sets out his vision of the poet's role in phrases which will be echoed later in poems with more specifically Promethean subject matter. 'The poet, faithful to the oppressed, celebrates, imitates the heroes...I aspire to glory...the eagle the child of the storm, can only reach the sun through the clouds.' Clearly Hugo is convinced that the poet can benefit his fellow men, and this feeling is reinforced a few years later by the final poem in Book III, which he presents as an apologia for his work so far. 'I leafed through the pages of the history of an entire people, opened the foul chasm of revolutions,....for one who wishes to make a world first needs a chaos. Genius needs a people that its flame (can) animate and illuminate' (O.B. III, 8. 1828). The young Hugo is preoccupied, even obsessed, with his identity and his mission as a poet, and he sees both in strongly Promethean terms

At the same time however events on the world stage focused his attention on the Promethean figure of the times, by now a fallen Titan. At the outset Hugo shares the general disapproval of Napoleon, using him as an example of the results of excessive pride and thirst for war. In a poem dated 1822 called Buonaparte, the very spelling of the name at once signals his rejection of the outsider, the non-French Corsican, and by dwelling on the chaos and bloodshed for which the despot was responsible Hugo also rejects Napoleon as a hero, he is in fact a 'false god'. Though the attitude is hostile, nevertheless the Corsican's fate does suggest to him some features familiar from the Prometheus myth. 'They threw this supreme prisoner/ out on a rock, himself the debris/ of some ancient world overwhelmed.' (O.B. I, 11.)

Though Hugo did not significantly change his attitude to Napoleon for several years, the imagery connected with him still exerted a powerful pull. Like many others with ambivalent feelings he was strongly affected by an account of the emperor's last years on St. Helena written by one of his companions there.[8] In The Two Islands (Les Deux Iles, O.B. III, 6.) Hugo reflects on the twofold nature of Napoleon's career and bases his poem on this very feature. The two islands are Corsica and St. Helena; 'their giant heads, bare rocks with volcanic rumblings below, dominate the waves in two different where Bonaparte was born, the other where Napoleon died.' The antitheses proliferate; he was a dreamer as a youth, pensive at the end of his life; he reached above the skies to the regions where no storms reach, only to fall, struck by thunderbolts. (The language here recalls that of The Poet in the Revolutions mentioned above where the poet sees himself as the child of the storm who rises above the clouds) The kings who defeated Napoleon punished their tyrant, 'They exposed him, alive, on a solitary rock/And the captive giant was brought to earth'. The poem continues to emphasise the ambiguous nature of this phenomenon; 'see what a double aspect his life offers to different ages...his name demands two stories...awakens a double echo at the ends of the world.' Through this somewhat forced antithetical reading of Napoleon's life Hugo also underlines for his audience and for himself the basic contradictions of the Prometheus myth itself.

The poem ends with a startling image describing the giant's fall which is like a bomb tracing its arc in the sky before falling to destroy the city streets; long after its fall one can still see the smoking mouth of the crater where it broke up and died 'spewing up death from its entrails'. It is interesting that this description is evocative of the closing scene of the Prometheus Bound (1080-93), and that Hugo, like Aeschylus was strongly criticised for his strange use of language and grotesque imagery (one member of the Académie Française called him the `Attila of the French language').[9] I hope to show in the next part of this paper how Hugo, starting off with innate Promethean leanings, gradually in his poetic treatment took over the national Prometheus for himself; here perhaps we can see him on his way, taking over the role of Aeschylus as a preliminary move.

By this time (1825) Napoleon had regained much of his lost ground in the popular imagination as the restored monarchy, inglorious and ineffective, had done little to improve conditions that for many were worse than before the Revolution. Napoleon therefore became a focus for social discontent and was regarded by the populace as a kind of revolutionary Messiah.[10] In The Two Islands Hugo does not commit himself, but he eventually aligned himself with supporters of the dead Emperor in 1827 with what Robb calls 'a giant leap to the left'.[11] Over the next fifteen years or so Hugo fought the good fight artistically and politically, becoming a national figure as popular as Napoleon himself.

The association of the two was sealed in 1840 with a group of poems on Napoleon which includes a celebration of the return of his ashes from St. Helena.[12] The first part of the poem contains an imaginative, even visionary look at the Emperor himself, whom the poet addresses directly as 'holy like Charlemagne, great like Caesar'(p. 590). After the great battle, when the giants were crushed, Paris collapsed in the noise and the smoke, and Napoleon saw in his dreams the spectre of a far off rock. Hugo then deals with rock of exile itself, the parallels with the Prometheus myth are quite precise. 'England sets about devouring this great man in full daylight;/And the world sees again this homeric spectacle;/The chain, the rock, the Titan and the vulture!'(p.590). We can compare Hesiod Works and Days 522-525; 'He bound the wily Prometheus with inescapable fetters..sent a winged eagle at him, it ate his immortal liver which grew again each night', and also Aeschylus Prometheus Bound 1021-25; 'The winged hound of Zeus, coming to feast all day, without invitation.' The rather anomalous `homeric spectacle' can be explained by the fact that it fits metrically into Hugo's poetic line whereas `Aeschylean' would not .

Such correspondences between the fate of Napoleon and the fate of Prometheus were now fixed in Hugo's imaginative lexicon, as was that between creative artist and creative Titan. He has not yet explored the other two aspects of the myth mentioned earlier, Prometheus' resistance to tyranny and his special knowledge, for in 1840 these ingredients necessary to complete Hugo's Prometheus, were not yet available. In the 1840's he was busy in public life and politics, being made a member of the Académie Française, and acting as a People's Representative in the Revolution of 1848, which ended with the election of Louis-Napoleon as President. Hugo had many social contacts in common with Louis-Napoleon, in the previous year he had even asked for him to be recalled from exile, so he felt that he had helped to bring him to power. Like the Prometheus of Aeschylus he was disappointed in his ruler (Prometheus Bound 204-233).

The régime introduced more and more repressive measures, which Hugo and his circle consistently opposed. His son and son-in-law were jailed for publishing material denouncing Louis-Napoleon in their newspaper, while Hugo himself enjoyed his finest hour as an orator. 'Does Augustus have to be followed by Augustulus? Just because we have had Napoleon le Grand must we have Napoleon le Petit?' Many thought he had gone completely mad, but according to his biographer 'he had in fact reached the last stages of a `conversion'...shedding the final layer of royalist prejudice.'[13] The coup d'état of 1851 which made the President into the Emperor Napoleon III forced Hugo first into hiding and then into exile. He settled in Jersey in 1852 and three years later in Guernsey.

Robb calls the exile a 'rebirth in writing'[14] but in fact as far as this paper is concerned it completes Hugo's life in myth, for in the poetry which he published during the following decade it is clear that Hugo regarded himself as playing a Promethean role. He had resisted the tyrant (Napoleon III being at hand to take part of Zeus), and had been punished, fastened to a lonely rock; there is no doubt that he saw his exile in such terms. 'I am on a rock that dark waters surround/ ...solitude around me'[15] In 1853 Hugo published a series of vituperative poems against the ruler, aimed at the cowed populace, actually doing a service to his fellow Frenchmen by showing that the tyrant could be castigated. His estimation of his services was not misplaced; Les Châtiments had the distinction of being the most popular forbidden poetry book in France alongside Baudelaire's Les Fleurs du Mal.

Our poet is now established in his own mind as a benefactor to mankind and a resister of tyranny, outlawed on a lonely rock, but his special knowledge remains still to be demonstrated. In 1853 a friend introduced him to the occult and spirit world and he started to hold séances and table turning sessions in his house on Jersey. The messages from beyond were very satisfactory and suited the direction in which his mind was already moving, in fact the basis of the poems of exile is a much more visionary view of both man and the poet.

Book VI of Les Contemplations (1856, see n. 14 below) is entitled `On the Edge of the Infinite', a title significant in the light of his spiritual interests at the time. The second poem, `Ibo', is glossed as a reference to Job xxxviii where God says to the waters `et non ibis amplius'. Hugo was constantly inspired by his biblical reading, most of all by the Books of the Prophets and Revelations, his `Ibo' is a consciously defiant challenge to (divine) authority; 'I will go...I am a bird that soars, my flight is sure....I wish to know'(pp.279-80). His advice for mankind is that 'Man, in these troubled times must act like Prometheus and like Adam, he must steal the eternal fire from heaven and rob god (voler dieu)'. The stanzas which follow emphasise that the battleground for the poet, as for the Prometheus of Hesiod and Aeschylus, is that of knowledge. 'Man needs a law to be his light and his virtue. Everywhere is ignorance and misery!..The people must wrench themselves from the harsh decree, and in time the great martyr must learn the great secret!'(pp.280-1). It is quite clear from this belligerent manifesto that Hugo considers himself to be the new Prometheus, ready to do battle in order to pass on the celestial knowledge to mankind. 'I will go through the flames and the waves, I will go to read the great Bible... if the thunder barks, I will roar'(p.282).

The issue of knowledge and the poet/Prometheus as the means of mankind's enlightenment figure largely in the last two poems I shall consider. They form part of La Légende des Siècles, a vast series of poems calling up the history of the human sprit in a kind of visionary patchwork, in which Hugo's view of himself as Prometheus is both obvious and important.[16] The final section of the work, Dieu, is bizarre in its conception; the poet appears to be cruising in the ether, surveying the Universe, where he is addressed by eight birds which represent different views of the divine. Hugo's ideas on the tyranny of organised religion of whatever type, and on the mission of the poet to bring hope and light to oppressed humanity are contained in Le Vautour (The Vulture, with a subtitle, `Paganism'). The bird tells the poet that he was the one who ate Prometheus, but was enchanted by Orpheus, and so Prometheus was freed. The fact that a poet, not Hercules the muscleman, releases Prometheus is Hugo's own myth, for him the poets, prophets, artists and visionaries are the true benefactors and freedom fighters for mankind. Prometheus then taught the Vulture about the way that the Universe is organised. Venus, Hecate and Fate dominate men, titans and gods.[17] The gods of Olympus laugh at the miseries of created things; Jupiter is a tyrant, Venus a courtesan, the others are characterised as murderers, assassins and killers of varying kinds, and man lives in a dark, hopeless world[18]

Prometheus had wanted to release man from this darkness, 'to work, to teach, to civilise and to make of this world a living, radiant sphere to set man on his way to the sky'. Prometheus was punished, his efforts annulled, but there is some hope, for the Vulture has learned from Orpheus that the flame, once taken from heaven, is present somewhere on earth for man to discover.[19] Just as Hesiod's account of human life on earth, man must work and struggle to find it and make progress in civilisation.

The last poem to be considered, Le Satyre, also contains significant issues of Hugo's philosophy of the world of men and gods which find expression in terms of the Prometheus myth. An old satyr has been causing disturbances in the forest, molesting water nymphs (he is also a thief!), so Hercules is sent to drag him before Jupiter. The scene is set in a bright Olympus which has a powerful, dark side to it, for in a corner are the bones of the defeated Titans, 'There lived Force and Violence'.[20] The satyr sings for the gods of how the world came into being, eventually he mentions man, for whom his sympathy is clear, 'He begins in wisdom and finishes in madness,....give him back his golden age!'. He turns aside from the gods to exhort and encourage wretched mortals; ' Man, made for the holy revolt, who knows if one day will see you steal light from the sublime Unknown..... will see the worm of earth (earthworm?) open his wings in heaven!'[21]

I have reproduced here these extraordinary phrases with their wild metaphors because this disturbing vision contains ideas that pervade the Prometheus myth from its earliest appearances. I mean in particular the feeling that what remains of man's former association with the gods, his only share in the divine, is intelligence and the hard won knowledge that it may bring. This notion is implicit in Hesiod (and in Genesis), obvious in Aeschylus and Plato, all of whom might agree with Victor Hugo that the work of the great leader of humanity is to elicit and nurture knowledge. Hugo's handling of the Prometheus theme shows that it is useless to impose chronology on myth, for him, myth has only one time - the present as he is living it. 'There comes a time when a man feels himself too small to speak in his own name. He then creates a figure in which he personifies himself'[22]

Hugo has been in the process of constructing a new myth, a new Prometheus, he has made the mythemes or plot units of the well known story `match' first the legend of the national hero, Napoleon, and then his own life in a national context. A phrase intended to sum up deconstructionist theories on literature[23] can be fitly adapted (deconstructed?) to describe the process we witness in his poetry:

The poet makes the myth
and the myth makes the poet.

[1] Ken Dowden, The uses of Greek Mythology (London 1992) p. 74.
[2] T. Ranger and E. Hobsbawm edd. The Invention of Tradition (Cambridge 1983) pp. 263-307.
[3] Hesiod, Theogony 507-617, Works & Days, 47-105. Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound, passim. 
[4] Erinna, Greek Anth. VI, Ep.352. Menander Frag.535K
[5] Edgar Quinet, Preface to Promethée (Paris 1835)
[6] H.J. Hunt, The Epic in Nineteenth-Century France (Oxford 1941) pp.408-419.
[7] Victor Hugo, Odes et Ballades (Paris 1880) p.165. In the absence of an English translation of the poems, I have translated the relevant passages as accurately as possible,
[8] Comte de Las Cases, Le Mémorial de Sainte-Hélène (Paris 1957)
[9] Graham Robb, Victor Hugo. (London 1997), p.225 `....guilty of inelegant metaphors, odd word combinations, repetition, ambiguity, peculiar expressions'. Compare Aristophanes, Frogs, 836-9,922-944.
[10] Robb, p.125-6.
[11] Robb p. 125.
[12] Victor Hugo, La Légende des Siècles. (Paris 1967) XLVIII The Return of the Emperor.
[13] Robb, p. 290ff.
[14] Robb, p. 318.
[15] Victor Hugo, Contemplations. (Paris 1995) V, 3.p.236.
[16] Victor Hugo, La Légende des Siècles (Paris 1950)
[17] La Légende des Siècles, p1039.
[18] La Légende des Siècles, pp.1042-44.
[19] La Légende des Siècles, pp.1046-7.
[20] La Légende des Siècles, p.114. Cf Aeschylus Prometheus Bound ll 1-87.
[21] La Légende des Siècles, pp.426-7.
[22] Victor Hugo, Actes et Paroles (Paris 1875) I, 1516-7.
[23] ``The reader makes the text and the text makes the reader''. A. Bennett, N. Royle, Literature, Criticism and Theory.(London 1995) p.16.

Book Review | Oedipus Ubiquitous

Oedipus Ubiquitous: The Family Complex in World Folk Literature

by Allen W. Johnson and Douglass Price-Williams, Stanford CA: Stanford University Press, 1996. Pp. 342. Hb ISBN: 0 8047 2576 4, pb ISBN: 0 8047 2577 2

reviewed by Douglas Cairns

University of Leeds

Despite its title, this book is not an examination of the Oedipus legend and its analogues in world folk literature (for which see L. Edmunds, Oedipus [Baltimore, 1985]), but a collection and analysis of 'family complex' tales of which the classical Oedipus story of incest and parricide is only one type. Its appeal to a classical audience will be limited to those who have a general interest in anthropology, mythology, or psychoanalysis, for although it does include classical sources in its collection of 'tales' in Part 2 (two passages from Hesiod's Theogony, Robert Graves' synthetic reconstruction of the Oedipus myth, and a version of the birth, slaughter, and rebirth of Dionysus culled from the Orphic poems)[1] and the opinions of a few classical scholars are canvassed in the review of 'Non-Psychoanalytic Perspectives from Folklore and Anthropology' in Chapter 2 of Part 1, the authors offer no detailed discussion of the classical myth or of classical sources.
The authors concede that Oedipal tales of the classical type are rare (pp. 52-3; cf. Edmunds viii), but justify their inclusion of tales which do not conform to this type in two ways: first, although not all variants of tales which the authors would regard as Oedipal involve both parricide and incest, absence or mitigation of one of these motifs is to be attributed to the tales' status as allomorphs of types in which the motifs do occur, as well as to cultural variation in the degree of 'repression' which such elements undergo in different societies (pp. 40-4). This may sound like a hermeneutic blank cheque (see below), but the procedure can be reasonable in practice (cf. Edmunds 19-20 for the same phenomenon). The authors' focus is also broadened by their general interest in the sum total of the potential for forbidden erotic and hostile relations within the family. Having mapped out the possible permutations, however, they conclude that not all are realised, the most typical being (a) father-son antipathy, mother-son intimacy on the Oedipal model; (b) father-daughter intimacy (father the initiator, mother generally supportive of the daughter, occasionally compliant); and (c) brother-sister intimacy (brother generally the initiator, parents - if mentioned - generally hostile). These patterns being found in all kinds of society, stratified and non-stratified, in all parts of the world, the authors conclude that these forms of the family complex are universal, and that while the widespread occurrence of tales of father-son conflict and mother-son intimacy confirms the universality of the male Oedipus complex, tales of father-daughter intimacy provide little support for its female equivalent, but rather support feminist criticism thereof. The folktales reflect the universality of the male Oedipus complex because they encode and present to the unconscious of the audience repressed aspects of mental experience which quotidian society cannot address.

The first problem with the book is the presentation of the tales themselves. A cursory examination reveals their utter heterogeneity: some are verbatim records of the words of traditional storytellers, while others are summaries or paraphrases (sometimes abstracted and conflated from several versions, sometimes including elements of interpretative comment); in some the elements of the 'family complex' are salient, in others much less so; and, as noted above, the criteria for inclusion are somewhat elastic - it is one thing to accept that a mother's aiding of her son in a conflict with the father may represent a mitigation of the incest motif, another to accept the notion of the 'splitting of the mother' (p. 50) in tales which recount a son's intercourse with his father's concubine (see below). In addition, no real attention is paid to any distinction between the tales in the circumstances of their performance or their status and function as cultural artefacts. One often has a strong suspicion that the primary meaning of a tale in its context will lie in its reference to particular institutions of the society from which it comes. The authors themselves accept the possibility of other, more immediate meanings (pp. 46, 99-100), yet maintain that the inclusion of elements of the family complex is sufficient for their purposes. But surely the salience of the family complex in the tale, the particulars of its presentation, and the cultural significance of the tale itself make a difference?

The real difficulties that the book is likely to present for all but the most convinced Freudian, however, lie in its relatively uncritical acceptance of psychoanalytic orthodoxy concerning the phenomenon of repression and the existence of the Oedipus complex. The authors' only real concession to criticism of these theories is to accept psychoanalytic modifications of Freud's assumption that the Oedipus complex is an spontaneous biogenetic development; accordingly, they argue for a role for the actual behaviour of parents towards their infant sons in activating Oedipal tendencies (p. 101). Such a limited concession to empiricism sits uneasily with their rejection of an analogue to the Oedipus complex in females; for if the folktales of six continents confirm the objections of feminists that there is no universal complex of repressed incestuous fantasies in females, the reason presumably lies in the empirical fact that females in real incestuous relationships are typically the objects and victims of male sexual aggression. Thus we do not need speculative theories of the repression of infantile sexual fantasies to explain the occurrence of male-initiated brother-sister and father-daughter incest in world folklore. Should we not, therefore, seek a similar empirical basis for tales of mother-son incest and father-son rivalry?

Moreover, despite accommodating a limited degree of criticism of the radical interiorisation of experience inherent in strict Freudianism, the authors still seek to retain something of Freud's conviction that his model of human development is rooted in biology, in so far as they speculate about a possible evolutionary explanation, if not for the Oedipus complex itself, then at least for Oedipal capacities (pp. 94-7). But Freud cannot be so easily Darwinised. Such plausibility as the Oedipus complex possesses in evolutionary terms derives from the fact that it seems to account for empirically verifiable phenomena which do make evolutionary sense: there can be a quasi-sexual aspect to the relationship between mother and infant son, on both sides; this can (but need not) be occasion for guilt on the mother's part and for jealousy on the father's, and it is also very likely that this aspect of the relationship has significant effects on the psychology of the developing child; but there is no evidence for the more specific Freudian hypothesis of repressed fantasies of coitus with the mother in male children in the supposed 'phallic' stage of their development (i.e. between the ages of 2 and 5). It is also true that male infants vie with their fathers for the attention of their mothers; equally that adult males in some societies may compete or behave as if competing with their fathers over sexual partners; but in the former case the father-son rivalry is not sexual, and in the second it is not for the attentions of the biological mother.[2]  This is why tales in which the son has sex with his father's concubine (as in Phoenix's autobiography in Iliad 9. 447-63) need to be taken at face value, and not regarded Oedipal tales in which 'splitting of the mother' has occurred. The robustness of Freud's theories is largely due to their having been designed to be independent of any empirical verification; attempts retrospectively to endow them with some empirical basis fail to take account of their entirely speculative origins.[3]

In short, if you believe in Freud, there is a chance that you will find this book credible, but the authors have failed to convince me that it is reasonable to do either.

[1] The authors confuse fragment numbers from Kern, Orphicorum Fragmenta (Berlin, 1922) with page numbers in their references for this tale (p. 113), and these references are anyhow inadequate as sources for the mixture of paraphrase and reconstruction which they quote from J. Campbell, The Masks of God (New York, 1959), 101. See rather M. L. West, The Orphic Poems (Oxford, 1983), 74.
[2]See M. Daly and M. Wilson, 'Is Parent-Offspring Conflict Sex-Linked? Freudian and Darwinian Models', Journal of Personality 58 (1990), 163-89. See also R. L. Trivers, 'Parent-Offspring Conflict', American Zoologist 14 (1974), 249-64. Cf. R. Wright, The Moral Animal (London, 1995), 166-70, 313-26; S. Pinker, How the Mind Works (London, 1998), 440-60. On the (erroneous) biological orientation of Freud's theories, see F. Sulloway, Freud, Biologist of the Mind (London, 1979).

[3] For a devastating exposition of the origins and development of psychoanalytic theory (though perhaps a little too critical of Freud's 'intellectual dishonesty'), see R. Webster, Why Freud Was Wrong: Sin, Science, and Psychoanalysis (London, 1995). For a more charitable assessment, see Sulloway, op. cit., 499-500.