Thursday, August 27, 2015

Beyond crowd sourcing

How do you coordinate contributions from a hundred editors and ensure the quality of the resulting archive?  That's a challenge we face thanks to the success of the past several years of summer seminars at CHS.

The solution we've designed enables scattered teams using virtual machines to work in a collaborative work flow and document their progress in publicly visible github repositories.   The nuts and bolts of the process are increasingly thoroughly documented  (special thanks to project manager Stephanie Lindeborg and the summer 2015 team at Holy Cross for their invaluable contributions).  While this challenge applies to any collaborative digital project,  the HMT approach seems to stand apart from other digital projects, so I've posted a long overview of the technical design of our validation and verification system on the HMT github site.

The important conclusions: while a single book of the Iliad can easily surpass 10,000 words of text in a manuscript like the Venetus A, the HMT project's validation system  ensures that every word can be tracked to a region of interest on an image, and that both text and image are connected to a specific page of the manuscript by a syntactically valid URN that cites an object that really exists in the HMT archive. Every word of every text is tested against rigorous criteria that are specific to the type of the word.  Automated validation and computer-assisted human verification put the HMT archive on a solid foundation.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Resolving a Century-Old Problem of a Scholion’s Lemma

Athena wearing Zeus's aegis, one of the topics of this scholion
This post comes from the team of editors creating the HMT editions of Iliad 15 and Iliad 18 in the Venetus A manuscript during the Holy Cross Summer Research program in the Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences: Brian Clark '15, Claude Hanley '18, Stephanie Neville '17, Charlie Schufreider '17, Alex Simrell '16, and Melody Wauke '17. Their perceptive solution to the problem of this particular scholion and its lemma demonstrates their masterful familiarity with the Venetus A manuscript and the practices of its scribe. — Mary Ebbott

Among the many potentially befuddling characteristics of the Venetus A manuscript, one thing that is usually fairly straightforward is the connection made to the Iliad text by a scholion’s lemma, an excerpted word or phrase from the Iliad text at the beginning of a scholion which cues the reader as to what lines the scholion will be commenting on. While some scholia have no explicit lemma, these scholia usually indicate clearly what Iliad lines are being commented on based on their content. When a scholion’s lemma has no clear connection to the Iliad text, however, editors are thrown for a loop.

We find such a case at the beginning of Iliad 15, after a newly awakened Zeus sends Iris to order Poseidon to stop his assault on the Trojans. Chafing against the assumed supremacy of his brother, Poseidon angrily reminds Iris that, being a son of Kronos, he has equal authority over the actions of the battlefield as Zeus. Still, Poseidon yields and Zeus then orders Apollo to rouse Hector to arms.

The lemma in question begins the third main scholion on folio 194 verso of the Venetus A.

Detail of Venetus A 194v: see zoomable version here
Like other lemmata, it is written in the same semi-uncial lettering different from the rest of the scholion. Additionally it is set apart from the rest of the scholion by some sort of punctuation, in this case a colon. It reads:
Κρόνος χρησμὸν λαβὼν:
This string of words does not appear anywhere on the page. Discrepancy between a lemma and text does happen elsewhere in the Venetus A. Often the differing words in the lemmata actually suggest an apparent multiformity. However, for a lemma to differ so greatly that the discrepancy goes beyond spelling differences or word order is certainly unusual. The Holy Cross team examined the content of the scholion to see if any explanation of multiformity existed, but no such discussion followed:
ὅτι ὀ ΐδιος αὐτὸν τῆς βασιλείας μεταστήσει υἱὸς, τὰ γεννώμενα κατέπινεν Ῥέα δὲ τεκοῦσα Δία, Κρόνῳ μὲν αὐτοῦ λίθον σπαργανώσασα ἔδωκε καταπιεῖν· τὸ δὲ παιδίον εἰς Κρήτην διακομίσασα, ἔδωκε τρέφειν Θέμοδι καὶ Ἀμαλθίᾳ ἡ ἢν αἴξ, ταύτην οἱ Τιτᾶνες ὁποτ ἂν ἐθεάσαντο ἐφοβοῦντο· αὕτη δὲ τοὺς αὑτῆς μαζοὺς ὑπέχουσα ἔτρεφε τὸ παιδίον. αὐξηθεὶς δὲ ὁ Ζεὺς μετέστησε τῆς βασιλείας τὸν πατέρα. πολεμούντων δὲ αὐτὸν τῶν Τιτάνων, Θέμις συνεβούλευσε, τῷ τῆς Ἀμαλθίας δέρματι σκεπαστηρίῳ χρήσασθαι εἶναι γὰρ αὐτὴν ἀεί φόβητρον, πεισθεὶς δὲ ὁ Ζεῦς ἐποίησεν καὶ τοὺς Τιτᾶνας ἐνίκησεν· ἐντεῦθεν αὐτὸν φησὶν αἰγήοχον προσαγορευθῆναι

ὅτι [Because] his own son will remove him [Kronos] from his dominion, he [Kronos] gulped down his begotten children. But Rhea, after giving birth to Zeus, wrapped a stone in swaddling clothes and then gave it to Kronos to devour. As for the child, she sent him to Crete to be raised by Themis and Amalthia, who was a goat and one whom, whenever the Titans laid eyes on her, was feared. Nursing him at her breast Amalthia raised the child, and once he had grown Zeus stripped his father of his kingdom. But when the Titans were making war with him, Themis advised him to make use of Amalthia’s hide as a shield. For she advised that Amalthia was always terrifying. Persuaded Zeus did so and conquered the Titans. For this reason he says that he was addressed as “aegis-bearing.”
So not only does the scholion concerning Zeus’s upbringing shed no light on the multiformity of the text, but the scholion’s first word, ὅτι, only confuses matters further. ὅτι is typically used at the beginning of scholia to correlate with Aristarchean critical marks, such that they mean, “[the critical mark was placed there] because.” So not only does the lemma not exist, but the scholion supposedly corresponds with some Aristarchean critical mark that also does not exist, and the content is not typical of the kind of editorial comments Aristarchus makes, either.

Our team at Holy Cross was not the first editorial team to struggle with this scholion. Both Erbse and Dindorf recognized the peculiarity of the scholion, and having analyzed the content, concluded that the scribe had made a mistake in placing this scholion here and decided that he meant to comment on line 229 of book 15:
ἀλλὰ σύ γ᾽ ἐν χείρεσσι λάβ᾽ αἰγίδα θυσσανόεσσαν, (15.229)
On the one hand this conclusion makes some sense. That line contains mention of the aegis, it contains some form of the word λαμβάνω, a word from the lemma, and the name Kronos, another word in the lemma, appears just four lines above. While it would still be a stretch, it is perhaps understandable how there might exist some multiform which included our given lemma in the around this part of the text. The problem with this interpretation is that line 15.229 appears on folio 195v, two folios later from where the scholion actually appears. Such a “mistake” seems extremely unlikely for the scribe of the Venetus A who, on every other account, scrupulously connects scholia with their textual counterparts on the same physical page.

Assuming that the scribe did not make that egregious error, some other explanation is required. Our Holy Cross team decided to look at the surrounding scholia to look for positioning clues. The main scholia are ordered sequentially with the line they comment on. So a scholion on line 2 will succeed a scholion on line 1 while immediately preceding a scholion on line 3. In this case, our scholion of interest is sandwiched by two grammatical scholia on line 15.187. Since a single line can have multiple scholia, it is only logical that our scholion in question must also comment on the line. An examination of the line 15.187 reveals that such a conclusion is not too far-fetched:
τρεῖς γάρ τ᾽ ἐκ Κρόνου εἰμὲν ἀδελφεοὶ οὓς τέκετο Ῥέα (15.187)
While the text and lemma do not match, the poetic line is connected to the scholion’s content: namely, it is about one child of Kronos and Rhea. It seems safe to say that the scholion is simply providing an expanded mythological background to the story of Kronos’s children.

How then must we take this ghost lemma? It has every indication of being a lemma in that it is written in the same lettering that is used for lemmata and is set apart from the rest of the scholion by a colon. The solution then is to concede that the scribe did make a mistake or, at least, that some scribe at some point in the manuscript tradition made a mistake. One must concede that Κρόνος χρησμὸν λαβὼν is not a lemma after all, but merely the beginning of the scholion mistakenly written as a lemma. If one removes the colon after λαβὼν, first sentence of the scholion reads:
Κρόνος χρησμὸν λαβὼν ὅτι ὀ ΐδιος αὐτὸν τῆς βασιλείας μεταστήσει υἱὸς, τὰ γεννώμενα κατέπινεν

Kronos, having received an oracle that his own son will remove him from his dominion, gulped down his begotten children.
No longer does one have to infer from context who the father is whose dominion is being stripped away, nor does one have to supply a subject for κατέπινεν. Both cases are elucidated by the clearly nominative form Κρόνος. Most importantly the ὅτι which likely threw off Erbse and Dindorf given its usual formulaic structure in the scholia serves instead here as just a marker of indirect speech, “that,” rather than an indicator of critical marks. And with that conclusion our diplomatic edition was able to not only keep true to the manuscript’s layout, unlike Erbse and Dindorf, but also make sense of something that had baffled some of the brightest Homeric scholars.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Dingbats and Doohickeys in the Venetus A

This post was written by Brian Clark (Holy Cross '15) and Alex Simrell (Holy Cross '16). In it they observe the practices of the Venetus A scribe when he has too much material for his usual layout of certain types of scholia on the same page, and they draw some preliminary conclusions from those observations. Their work was accomplished during the Holy Cross Summer Research program in the Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences and was supported by the Center for Hellenic Studies. — Mary Ebbott

During our work on Iliad 18 this summer, our team found evidence that supports the theory that the scribe of the Venetus A intentionally wrote certain types of comments into specific predetermined regions on the folio. Certain folios still bear the marks that divide up the page into these different areas. Generally, a folio has the text of the poem, surrounded by five categories of scholia: main, intermarginal, interior, interlinear, and exterior. We do not yet fully understand the function of each different group, but we now know that the placement of these groups matter. Perhaps the position on the folio indicates something about the source material for the comment.

Sometimes, when dealing with a very dense page, the scribe was forced to break his rules about the placement of scholia. For example, folio 248v, which covers Iliad 18.480–18.504, is highly packed with comments about the astrological bodies found on the shield of Achilles.

Folio 248v of the Venetus A manuscript: view it in detail in the Homer Mulitext manuscript browser
In the exterior margin, there are three scholia which are not written in the usual hand of the exterior scholia (you can see a typical exterior scholion above these three). Additionally, these scholia have distinctive connecting signs that connect the scholia to the interior margin.

Exterior margin detail of 248v: see zoomable version here
The presence of these connecting signs—dingbats or doohickeys, if you will—are common in other manuscripts, such as the Venetus B, and are similar to the numbered footnotes in the Upsilon 1.1 [see this earlier post for more on how the Venertus B and Upsilon 1.1. link their scholia to the poetry]. 248v is not the first instance of these connecting signs in the Venetus A, but it is just now that we are able to draw conclusions based on our observations over the years.

Detail of interior margin of 248v: see zoomable version here
The use of these signs supports the claim that the scribe intentionally laid out this manuscript with a desire to place certain scholia in specific regions of the folio. By adding these signs, the scribe is guiding the reader not to take these three scholia as exteriors, but rather to read them as part of the interior scholia. On this crowded folio, there is not enough room in the interior margin for the scribe to write all of the interior scholia where they belong. As a result, he was forced to write these three scholia outside of their intended location.

Detail of 248v showing both exterior and interior margins of 248v: see zoomable version here
The first two connecting signs are clearly in the interior margin, and you can see how filling that space with those two comments would have made the margin far too crowded. The last one, however, is written in the interlinear position, above the word ἀρωγοί. Still, we feel that this last scholion is meant to be an interior scholion. The space where the scribe would have placed this connecting sign is taken up by another scholion, thereby forcing him to move the sign to the interlinear position. One could theorize that he trusts his reader to recognize this scholion as an interior, rather than as an interlinear, due to the length and content of the comment.

Another argument for these seemingly exterior scholia to be taken as interior scholia is the nature of their comments. In addition to the different scribal hand used for the exterior scholia, these comments generally lack any introductory or explanatory material. Typical exteriors are comprised of just a few words, while these three scholia offer a more complete explanation of the comment.

Further, the signs do not link the scholia to a specific word in the Iliad line. For example the second scholion, which comments on Iliad 18.499 (ἀνδρὸς ἀποφθιμένου· ὃ μὲν εὔχετο πάντ᾽ ἀποδοῦναι), reads
παρα Ζηνοδότῳ "αποκταμενου" καὶ ἐν ταῖς πλείσταις καὶ ἔστιν οὐκ απιθανος ἡ γραφή ⁑

Zenodotus writes the word "αποκταμενου" [instead of the word "ἀποφθιμένου"] and this is the reading in most editions. This is not an untrustworthy reading
As you can see, this comment is not about the word directly next to the connecting sign (that is, ἀποδοῦναι), but instead it provides a multiform for the second word of the line, ἀποφθιμένου.

Not only does a folio like this help us better understand the practices of a medieval scribe, but it also is another example of the benefits of a diplomatic digital edition that is linked to citable evidence. A printed edition can say that these scholia are “out of place,” but cannot accurately show the function of these connecting signs. Our editions preserve the original placement of these scholia while assigning them intelligent labels based on the evidence of the scribe’s normal practices.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Good men are always exceedingly prone to tears

In this morning's Homer Multitext seminar we began exploring the scholia that accompany Iliad 19 in the Venetus A manuscript. In my previous post, I wrote about the poetics of the captive woman's lament in Homer, and the ways in which a traditional audience might understand Achilles' mourning for Patroklos as it is described in 19.4-6. In that post I was concerned to show how Achilles may have conjured for a traditional audience the image of the lamenting and soon to be captive woman who has fallen over the body of her husband slain in battle, as in the simile of Odyssey 8.521-531, in which Odysseus, weeping in response to the third song of Demodokos, is compared to just such a woman (see also here and here). As I have written about in my 2006 book, The Captive Woman's Lament in Greek Tragedy, the sorrow of both Achilles and Odysseus is compared to that of captive women, their own victims in war, in both the Iliad and the Odyssey. I was very intrigued therefore to find that the scholia of the Venetus A discuss Achilles' crying in this passage. Here is what the A scholia have to say at Iliad 19.4:
κλαίοντα λιγέως  πάντας τοὺς ἥρωας ἁπλότητος χάριν εὐχερῶς ἐπὶ δάκρυα ἄγει. Ἀγαμέμνονα· Πάτροκλον Ὀδυσσέα ἐφ' οὗ καὶ τὴν παραβολὴν τῆς χήρας ἔλαβεν. ἀεὶ δὲ ἀριδάκρυες ἀνέρες ἐσθλοί· 
"lamenting with piercing cries"  [Homer] leads all the heroes, because of their sincerity, to tears easily: Agamemnon, Patroklos, Odysseus, to whom he makes the comparison of the widow. And good men are always exceedingly prone to tears.
The comment refers explicitly to the simile of Odyssey 8, giving further support to the idea that the kind of weeping being attributed to Achilles at the beginning of book 19 is like that of generic captive woman of Odyssey 8, or of Briseis, whose lamentation for Patroklos later in Iliad 19 is described with similar formulaic language that explicitly invokes the death of her husband.

Just as intriguing to me is the comment that comes next: "And good men are always exceedingly prone to tears." Though it is not marked off in any special way in the Venetus A, the sentence clearly comes from a tradition of proverbs, as we find for example in the work of the Roman sophist Zenobius (1.14) and quite a few other authors:
Ἀγαθοὶ δ' ἀριδάκρυες ἄνδρες: ἐπὶ τῶν σφόδρα πρὸς ἔλεον ῥεπόντων. 
Good men are exceedingly prone to tears: [used] in reference to those exceedingly inclined towards pity.
The A scholion is slightly different from what we find in the authors of the proverb tradition; there we find the more Homeric sounding ἀνέρες ἐσθλοί in place of Ἀγαθοὶ... ἄνδρες.

This same proverb is also adduced in the B scholia at Iliad 1.349, which similarly discusses the propensity of heroes to cry. (The note in B is considerably longer than the one in A, but they overlap in many respects.) In Iliad 1.349 Achilles weeps after the two heralds of Agamemnon take away Briseis:
ἣ δ᾽ ἀέκουσ᾽ ἅμα τοῖσι γυνὴ κίεν: αὐτὰρ Ἀχιλλεὺς
δακρύσας ἑτάρων ἄφαρ ἕζετο νόσφι λιασθεί 
The woman [= Briseis] went together with them, unwilling. Meanwhile Achilles
wept and straightaway sat apart from his companions, withdrawn
In the Venetus B scholion on this passage, the passage from Odyssey 8 is actually quoted, and the phrase ἀεὶ δ' ἀριδάκρυες ἀνέρες ἐσθλοί (with the same wording as in A) is explicitly called a παροιμία, a proverb:
ἕτοιμον τὸ ἡρωϊκὸν πρὸς δάκρυα· καὶ Ὀδυσσεὺς· ὡς δὲ γυνὴ κλαίῃσι [= Odyssey 8.523]· καὶ ἡ παροιμία· ἀεὶ δ’ ἀριδάκρυες ἀνέρες ἐσθλοί· ἄλλως τε καὶ φιλότιμος ὢν ἀνιᾶται τῇ ὕβρει· παλαιᾶς τε γὰρ συνηθείας στέρεται· καὶ τοῦ γυναίου ἀκουσίως ἀπαλλάττεται· ἄκρως δὲ ἐρῶντα χαρακτηρίζει· οὗτοι γὰρ ταῖς ἐρημίαις ἥδονται, ἵνα τῷ πάθει σχολάζωσι· τὸ δὲ νόσφι, ὅπως μὴ γνώριμον τοῖς ἑτέροις ᾖ τὸ πρὸς τὴν μητέρα ἐντύχημα. τὸ δὲ ἄφαρ δηλοῖ καὶ τὸ ἔπειτα :~ 
The heroic nature is prone to tears. [For example,] Odysseus: “As when a woman weeps” [= Odyssey 8.523]. And [there is] the proverb: “Good men are always exceedingly prone to tears.” And otherwise being a lover of honor he is grieved by the hubris [i.e. of Agamemnon] and also he is deprived of his former intimacy [i.e., with Briseis]. And he is removed from the woman unwillingly. And [Homer] characterizes him as desiring her passionately. For these take pleasure in solitary places, in order that they have a respite from suffering. And the “νόσφι” [= “apart’], in order that the meeting with his mother not be known to his companions. And the “ἄφαρ” means “ἔπειτα.”
Variations on this same scholion can also be found here in the Townley manuscript (Burney 86), the Υ.1.1, and the Ω.1.12. The Townley scholion reads as follows:
δακρύσας ἑτάρων· ἕτοιμον τὸ ἡρωϊκὸν πρὸς δάκρυα· καὶ Ὀδυσσεὺς· ὡς δὲ γυνὴ κλαίῃσι [= Odyssey 8.523]· καὶ ἡ παροιμία·· ἀεὶ δ’ ἀριδάκρυες ἀνέρες ἐσθλοί· Ἀγαμέμνων· ἥτε κατ' αἰγίλιπος πέτρης [= Iliad 9.15]· ἄλλως τε καὶ φιλότιμος ὢν· ἀνιᾶται τῇ ὕβρει· παλαιᾶς τε συνηθείας στέρεται· ἴσως δὲ καὶ τὸ γύναιον ἀκουσίως ἀπαλλαττόμενον ἐλεεῖ· ἄκρως δὲ ἐρῶντα χαρακτηρίζει· οὗτοι γὰρ ταῖς ἐρημίαις ἥδονται, ἵν' οὕτω τῷ πάθει σχολάζωσιν· ὑπὸ μηδενὸς ὀχλούμενοι :~
δακρύσας ἑτάρων The heroic nature is prone to tears. [For example,] Odysseus: “As when a woman weeps” [= Odyssey 8.523]. And [there is] the proverb: “Good men are always exceedingly prone to tears.” Agamemnon: “which down from a steep rock” [= Iliad 9.15]. And otherwise being a lover of honor he is grieved by the hubris [i.e. of Agamemnon] and also he is deprived of his former intimacy [i.e., with Briseis]. And perhaps he feels pity for the woman being removed unwillingly. And [Homer] characterizes him as desiring her passionately. For these take pleasure in solitary places, in order that they have a respite from suffering in this way, being disturbed by no one.
This version of the note contains an additional example (Agamemnon, who is also listed in the Venetus A scholion) and an additional citation of the text to go with it (Iliad 9.15) as well as other variations of syntax and an additional clause at the end not found in B. It also lacks the comment on νόσφι found at the end of the B scholion.

Finally, we also find the proverb in the Genavensis 44 scholia at 1.349, according to the edition of Nicole, in two forms, both of which are closer to the version of Zenobius than they are to what we find in other manuscripts of the Iliad:
ἔστι γὰρ παροιμία ἣ λέγει· «ἀγαθοὶ δ' ἀριδάκρυες ἄνδρες,» ἤτοι· «οἱ ἀγαθοὶ ἄνδρες οὐκ ἀδάκρυες. 
For there is a proverb which says "Good men are exceedingly prone to tears" or "The good men are not without tears."
It is fascinating to find the proverb and the larger comment in which it is embedded in all six of the oldest manuscripts of the Iliad with scholia, and to note that the comment varies considerably in wording and length from manuscript to manuscript. Even the proverb - the type of saying that might be expected to resist change - is seemingly multiform. As Neel Smith observed in our seminar session today, it is clear that our scholia in the various manuscripts do not go back to a single source that was faithfully excerpted, but have been drawn from a variety of scholarly reference works from which the scribes made selections, expanding and compressing as they had space and inclination. In other posts on this blog Mary Ebbott and I have argued that we should be thinking of these scribes as editors, not copyists, and this one note provides a perfect example of why we should see them this way.

The content of the scholion is fascinating as well. Greek heroes lament like captive women and they are ἐσθλοί. They cause suffering and they experience suffering, and it is their suffering that unites them with their female victims. For more on the weeping of Achilles, I highly recommend the work of H. Monsacré, Les larmes d'Achille. Le héros, la femme et la souffrance dans la poésie d'Homère (1984).

Friday, June 26, 2015

Achilles and the captive woman's lament in Iliad 19

This year at the Homer Multitext Summer Seminar the student-faculty teams are creating an edition of book 19 of the Iliad in the Venetus A, as well exploring the poetics of this particular book, which happens to feature a lament by Achilles' concubine Briseis, the only words she speaks in the poem. In one of our sessions Mary Ebbott and I spoke with the students about lament as a traditional genre of song, primarily performed in Ancient Greece by women, that has been incorporated into and infuses the epic poetry of the Iliad. We wanted to show the students how oral traditional poetry not only works differently, but also is received differently by its audience. We began by exploring two passages. The first comes immediately after the third song of Demodokos in Odyssey 8, in which Demodokos sings about Odysseus raging through the streets like Ares during the sack of Troy:

ταῦτ’ ἄρ’ ἀοιδὸς ἄειδε περικλυτός· αὐτὰρ Ὀδυσσεὺς
τήκετο, δάκρυ δ’ ἔδευεν ὑπὸ βλεφάροισι παρειάς.
ὡς δὲ γυνὴ κλαίῃσι φίλον πόσιν ἀμφιπεσοῦσα,
ὅς τε ἑῆς πρόσθεν πόλιος λαῶν τε πέσῃσιν,
ἄστεϊ καὶ τεκέεσσιν ἀμύνων νηλεὲς ἦμαρ·
ἡ μὲν τὸν θνῄσκοντα καὶ ἀσπαίροντα ἰδοῦσα
ἀμφ' αὐτᾠ χυμένη λίγα κωκύει· οἱ δέ τ’ ὄπισθε
κόπτοντες δούρεσσι μετάφρενον ἠδὲ καὶ ὤμους
εἴρερον εἰσανάγουσι, πόνον τ’ ἐχέμεν καὶ ὀϊζύν·
τῆς δ’ ἐλεεινοτάτῳ ἄχεϊ φθινύθουσι παρειαί·
ὣς Ὀδυσεὺς ἐλεεινὸν ὑπ' ὀφρύσι δάκρυον εἶβεν.

The renowned singer sang these things. But Odysseus
melted, and wet the cheeks below his eyelids with a tear.
As when a woman laments, falling over the body of her dear husband
who fell before his city and people,
attempting to ward off the pitiless day for his city and children,
and she, seeing him dying and gasping,
falling around him wails with piercing cries, but men from behind
beating her back and shoulders with their spears
force her to be a slave and have toil and misery,
and with the most pitiful grief her cheeks waste away,
So Odysseus shed a pitiful tear beneath his brows. (Odyssey 8.521-531)

The simile is so striking because the generic woman of the simile, who has fallen over the body of her husband slain in battle, and who will soon be captive slave, could easily be one of Odysseus’ own victims in the Trojan War. Although the woman does not actually speak, the formulaic language of the simile has powerful associations with the lamentation of captive women elsewhere in epic, with the result that the listener can easily conjure her song.

In the second passage, Achilles makes the connection between heroic kleos and the grief of women explicit:

νῦν δὲ κλέος ἐσθλὸν ἀροίμην,
καί τινα Τρωϊάδων καὶ Δαρδανίδων βαθυκόλπων
ἀμφοτέρῃσιν χερσὶ παρειάων ἁπαλάων
δάκρυ’ ὀμορξαμένην ἁδινὸν στοναχῆσαι ἐφείην,
γνοῖεν δ’ ὡς δὴ δηρὸν ἐγὼ πολέμοιο πέπαυμαι·

But now may I win good kleos,
and may I cause some one of the deep-girdled Trojan and Dardanian women
to wipe the tears from their delicate cheeks with both hands
and lament unceasingly.
And they may know that too long I have held back from battle. (Iliad 18.121-125)

Some of the most beautiful passages of the Iliad are not generic, however, but feature the first person laments of such figures as Andromache, Hecuba, Helen, and Briseis. John Foley has shown, for example, that Andromache's speech to Hektor in Iliad 6 conforms in every way to the structure and content of women's laments for the dead in the Greek tradition (Foley 1999: 188–98; see Dué 2002, chapter 4 and my earlier blog post).  Briseis' lament for Patroklos in Iliad 19 echoes many of the same structure and themes and even particular phrases that we find in Andromache's speech:

Βρισηῒς δ' ἄρ' ἔπειτ' ἰκέλη χρυσέῃ Ἀφροδίτῃ
ὡς ἴδε Πάτροκλον δεδαϊγμένον ὀξέϊ χαλκᾠ,
ἀμφ' αὐτᾠ χυμένη λίγ' ἐκώκυε, χερσὶ δ' ἄμυσσε
στήθεά τ' ἠδ' ἁπαλὴν δειρὴν ἰδὲ καλὰ πρόσωπα.
εἶπε δ' ἄρα κλαίουσα γυνὴ ἐϊκυῖα θεῇσι·

(I) Πάτροκλέ μοι δειλῇ πλεῖστον κεχαρισμένε θυμᾠ
ζωὸν μέν σε ἔλειπον ἐγὼ κλισίηθεν ἰοῦσα,
νῦν δέ σε τεθνηῶτα κιχάνομαι ὄρχαμε λαῶν
ἂψ ἀνιοῦσ'· 

(II) ὥς μοι δέχεται κακὸν ἐκ κακοῦ αἰεί.
ἄνδρα μὲν ᾧ ἔδοσάν με πατὴρ καὶ πότνια μήτηρ
εἶδον πρὸ πτόλιος δεδαϊγμένον ὀξέϊ χαλκᾠ,
τρεῖς τε κασιγνήτους, τούς μοι μία γείνατο μήτηρ,
κηδείους, οἳ πάντες ὀλέθριον ἦμαρ ἐπέσπον.
οὐδὲ μὲν οὐδέ μ' ἔασκες, ὅτ' ἄνδρ' ἐμὸν ὠκὺς Ἀχιλλεὺς
ἔκτεινεν, πέρσεν δὲ πόλιν θείοιο Μύνητος,
κλαίειν, ἀλλά μ' ἔφασκες Ἀχιλλῆος θείοιο
κουριδίην ἄλοχον θήσειν, ἄξειν τ' ἐνὶ νηυσὶν
ἐς Φθίην, δαίσειν δὲ γάμον μετὰ Μυρμιδόνεσσι.

(III) τώ σ' ἄμοτον κλαίω τεθνηότα μείλιχον αἰεί.

ὣς ἔφατο κλαίουσ', ἐπὶ δὲ στενάχοντο γυναῖκες
Πάτροκλον πρόφασιν, σφῶν δ' αὐτῶν κήδε' ἑκάστη. 

Then Briseis like golden Aphrodite,
when she saw Patroklos torn by the sharp bronze,
wailed with piercing cries, falling around him. And with her hands she struck
her breast and tender neck and beautiful face.
And then lamenting she spoke, a woman like the goddesses:

(I) “Patroklos, most pleasing to my wretched heart,
I left you alive when I went from the hut.
But now returning home I find you dead, O leader of the people.

(II) So evil begets evil for me forever.
The husband to whom my father and mistress mother gave me
I saw torn by the sharp bronze before the city,
and my three brothers, whom one mother bore together with me,
beloved ones, all of whom met their day of destruction.
Nor did you allow me, when swift Achilles killed my husband,
and sacked the city of god-like Mynes,
to weep, but you claimed that you would make me the
wedded wife of god-like Achilles and that you would bring me in 
the ships 
to Phthia, and give me a wedding feast among the Myrmidons.

(III) Therefore I weep for you now that you are dead ceaselessly, 
you who were kind always.”

(Refrain) So she spoke lamenting, and the women wailed in response,
with Patroklos as their pretext, but each woman for her own cares. (Iliad 19. 282-302)

In terms of narrative, Briseis’ widowed and captive status is quite personal. Lament is a powerful form of speech in which women can narrate their own life experiences, and this is the only place in the Iliad where we learn about Briseis’ life prior to her capture. But her lament gains a great deal of power from the fact that Briseis’ grief foreshadows the grief of every Trojan wife. When Briseis throws herself down on the body of Patroklos, she is already a captive woman—something that Andromache only imagines herself to be in Iliad 6.

Such resonances and interconnections are made possible by the traditional diction and formulaic language in which the Iliad and Odyssey have been composed. The audience's familiarity with such language likewise allows them to receive these passages on a deeper level than would an audience hearing this passage for the first time. When Briseis falls over the body of Patroklos and and begins lamenting with piercing cries, a traditional audience can not only think of the generic husband of Odyssey 8, but also Briseis' first husband, whom she has already lamented, and look ahead to the death of her current would be husband, Achilles, whom she mourns here just as much as she does Patroklos. (See again my earlier blog post for Briseis' lament for Achilles in the Posthomerica of Quintus of Smyrna as well as the Introduction to Dué 2002.)

We concluded this exploration of the poetics that underlie Iliad 19 by looking at the opening lines of the book, in which Thetis brings Achilles his new set of armor to wear into battle, where she and he know he will soon die. She finds him like this (Iliad 19.4-6):

εὗρε δὲ Πατρόκλῳ περικείμενον ὃν φίλον υἱὸν
κλαίοντα λιγέως: πολέες δ᾽ ἀμφ᾽ αὐτὸν ἑταῖροι

She found her dear son fallen about [the body] of Patroklos,
lamenting with piercing cries. And his many companions around him
were weeping

We asked the students to consider how they might understand the passage differently in light of the poetics of the captive woman's lament that we had been exploring. In Odyssey 8, Odysseus' tears and grief are compared to those of a captive woman. Here in Iliad 19 Achilles physically embodies the actions, tears, and lamentation of such a woman while mourning his comrade. And just as the women antiphonally respond to Briseis as she concludes her lament (cf. the women of Andromache's household in Iliad 6.499 and the women of Troy at Iliad 22.515 and 24.746), so too do Achilles' comrades respond to him. In fact the A scholia on these lines gloss μύροντο (19.6) as ἐθρήνουν. When viewed in this way, the grief of Achilles reverberates with the grief of the many women whose husbands he has killed (and the husband he has yet to kill, Hektor), and we realize that Achilles' kleos comes at the cost of not only the unceasing lamentation of the women of Troy, but also his own never ending sorrow. 

Nikolai Ge, Achilles Lamenting the Death of Patroclus (1855)

Works Cited

Dué, C. Homeric Variations on a Lament by Briseis. Lanham, MD, 2002.
Foley, J. M. Homer’s Traditional Art. University Park, 1999.

For more on the poetics of lament that underlie the Iliad and Odyssey and the unnamed woman of Odyssey 8 see G. Nagy, "An unnamed woman’s lament as a signal of epic sorrow."

Thursday, June 4, 2015

First Week of Summer Research and First Presentation of Summer Research

It is an exciting week here at the College of the Holy Cross, where students are beginning their first week of summer research working on Book 18 of Venetus A. Joining us this summer is a team of seven composed of Holy Cross alums, Brian Clark '15 and Stephanie Lindeborg '13, and current students, Claude Hanley '18, Stephanie Neville '17, Charlie Schufreider '17, Alex Simrell '16, and Melody Wauke '17.

Already the students have formally presented on their current and past work, when this morning, they were visited by representatives from Loyola Chicago's John Felice Rome Center, where Holy Cross sends their Classics study abroad students. Claude and Stephanie led off the presentation discussing some of their past work on the Chronicle of Jerome. Charlie and Melody shared their work on the HMT, talking first about their work on Iliad 14 and then looking forward to their upcoming work on Iliad 18. Brian wrapped up the presentation by presenting on aspects of his senior thesis with the HMT and reflecting on how his study abroad experience related to his ability to conduct this research.

Left to right: Stephanie Neville, Melody Wauke, Brian Clark,
Claude Hanley, and Charlie Schufreider

We're looking forward to seeing what else this summer has in store for the HMT. Keep an eye out for future work from these great researchers and stay tuned for our upcoming summer seminar at the Center for Hellenic Studies!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Variations on Briseis: Special Homeric Poetics Edition

In June the Center for Hellenic Studies will once again host the Homer Multitext Summer Seminar. Each year the seminar introduces a new generation of student researchers to the principles that underly the Homer Multitext project via a particular book of the Iliad. By the end of the seminar the students will not only have created their own edition of the text and scholia for that book as represented in the Venetus A manuscript of the Iliad, they will also know a great deal about how the Iliad was composed and the poetics of a work that was composed in performance.

Attic  red-figure skyphos (Louvre G 146) showing
the taking of Briseis by Agamemnon
This year's book is Iliad 19, which happens to feature the only words spoken in the poem by Briseis, the woman whose seizure by Agamemnon in book 1 initiates the entire plot of the Iliad. In my 2002 book, Homeric Variations on a Lament by Briseis, I used the character of Briseis as an entry point for discussing the multiformity of the epic tradition and how that affects our understanding of the poetics of the Iliad. Because Briseis only speaks ten verses in the Iliad, one might be tempted to think that she is not a traditional character, or to put it another way, that she does not have her own story. Briseis’ role in the Iliad is indeed enormously compressed from the standpoint of both the Iliad as a whole and the entire tradition of the Epic Cycle. In the Iliad she does not even have a name—her name means simply “daughter of Brises.” Yet elsewhere there are hints that her name was Hippodameia, and that she was part of another story—or other stories.  She is named Hippodameia by the A scholia at 1.392 and in Dictys of Crete. Here is what the Venetus A scholia say about her:
κούρην Βρισῆος: ἐοικεν πατρωνυμικῶς τὰ ὀνόματα αὐτῶν σχηματίζειν ὁ ποιητὴς καὶ οὐ κυρίως ὡς γὰρ ἄλλοι ἀρχαῖοι ἱστοροῦσιν. ἡ μὲν Ἀστυνόμη ἐκαλεῖτο· ἡ δὲ Ἱπποδάμεια. ὁ δὲ τρόπος ἀντωνομασία 
It is likely that the poet forms their names patronymically and not precisely. For as the other arkhaioi [poets] tell it, the one [Chryseis] was called Astynome and the other [Briseis] was called Hippodameia. The trope is antonomasia [i.e., using one name for another]. 
While it is not certain which poets or song traditions are meant by arkhaioi here, the work of Albert Henrichs has shown that the term arkhaioi in the scholia generally refers to Homer and earlier poets in contrast with more recent poets (hoi neôteroi), who include Hesiod, the archaic poets, the tragedians, and Alexandrian poets like Callimachus. The comment suggests then that in some early epic narratives Briseis had a personal name, and by extension, a story to go with it.

It is important to understand that the Iliad is a narrative about the anger of Achilles in the tenth year of the Trojan War. Much earlier as well as much later events are woven into a story that takes place in only a few days’ time. Even though at over 15,000 verses it might take as many as three days to perform, the Iliad is nevertheless a compression of the potentially full extent of epic poetry about Troy—what we might call the ultimate expansion of the Iliad. I suggest that one result of this compression is that the Iliad only gives us a glimpse of the figure of Briseis, whose role in the larger epic tradition must have been much greater.

It seems likely that there were at least two variations on the story of Briseis in antiquity, because of the two-fold pattern she fulfills in the surviving ancient references. In at least one tradition she is very much a young (or at least unmarried) girl, the daughter of King Brises of Pedasos, whom Achilles receives as a prize along with Diomedeia, the daughter of King Phorbas of Lesbos (see Chapter 3 in Dué 2002). But according to Iliad 2.688-694, 19.295-296, and elsewhere she was captured by Achilles in the sack of Lyrnessos, and in her lament for Patroklos (Iliad 19.292-302) Briseis says that she was married, and that Achilles killed her husband, who may have been King Mynes. Our Iliad alludes to multiple variations on these two basic themes.

Briseis is featured in a number of ancient vase paintings, which are similarly multiform in their depiction of Briseis' story. (See Chapter 1 of Dué 2002.) The one included above shows her being taken by Agamemnon from the tent of Achilles (a variation on the Iliad, where two heralds come to take Briseis). This event is narrated in book 1 of the Iliad, where the text says, tantalizingly, that she went “unwillingly.” In Iliad 9 Achilles proclaims that he loves her as a man loves his wife, even though he won her in war (ἐκ θυμοῦ φίλεον δουρικτητήν περ ἐοῦσαν 9.343). In Briseis’ lament for Patroklos in Iliad 19 we learn of her hope to become Achilles’ wedded wife in Phthia. And so we see that compressed but not entirely hidden within the Iliad there is also a love story. (See also Fantuzzi 2012.)

A multitextual approach to the Iliad allows us to appreciate the long history and multiformity of the tradition from which poets and vase painters told their stories. As I write in my 2002 book, Archaic vase-paintings can even make it possible for us to reconstruct variant poetic traditions to which the Iliad alludes (see Muellner 2012 for another example). It is important, however, to make a distinction between the Iliad—the fixed text as we now know it—and Iliadic or Cyclic traditional narratives. n our Iliad Agamemnon sends two heralds to take Briseis, but, according to another way of telling the story, Agamemnon comes in person. The archaic artists knew both variants of the tale, and “told the story” both ways, choosing between them like an epic poet in performance.

Because of the nature of what survives, we have only a narrow window into the larger tradition from which painters and poets composed their narratives. Reconstruction of the larger tradition can be difficult and sometimes impossible, but an examination of the sources that do survive show us that the ancient Greek artistic and epic traditions were at one time very fluid. The Iliad is one way of telling the tale of Troy, but it is by no means the only way, as the example of Briseis makes clear.

Works Cited

Dué, C. 2002. Homeric Variations on a Lament by Briseis. Lanham, MD.

Fantuzzi, M. 2012. Achilles in Love. Oxford.

Henrichs, A. 1993. “Response.” In Images and Ideologies: Self-definition in the Hellenistic World, eds. A. W. Bulloch, E. S. Gruen, A.A. Long, and A. Stewart. Berkeley.

Muellner, L. 2012. "Grieving Achilles." In Homeric Contexts: Neoanalysis and the Interpretation of Oral Poetry, eds. F. Montanari, A. Rengakos, C. Tsagalis, pp.197-220. Berlin.