August 08, 2008


The ancient Greek hero Theseus didn't take any bull from anybody. Here he is in a dust up with the minotaur.

Aside from news and links about current events, the theme at Goat Rope lately is Homer's The Odyssey. If this is your first visit, please click earlier posts. The series started Aug. 4.

Odysseus, the eponymous main character of the Odyssey, is one of many classical Greek heroes, although the word meant something different then than now. We tend to think of heroes as morally exemplary people who do good things. Think about the firefighters who died on 9/11.

For the ancient Greeks, a hero was someone who lived larger than life and whose deeds were remembered after their death. Many prominent heroes did as many or more bad things as good one. Oedipus, for example, was a hero. On the positive side, he solved the riddle of the Sphinx. But then there was that whole father killing/mother marrying/plague causing thing...

King Agamemnon in the Iliad was a hero--and a jerk who sacrificed his own daughter, caused a plague of his own, and enraged his best fighter Achilles at great cost to the Achaeans, as the Iliad recounts. Heracles and Theseus were heroes who did some good things, like killing the occasional monster, but some of their other deeds were not so nice.

Being a hero didn't save you from coming to a bad end, either. Jason of Golden Fleece fame had a miserable fate after dumping the witch Medea for a new model. Medea didn't go quietly, to say the least.

Still, Greek cities treasured the tombs of their local heroes and offered them sacrifices in the hopes that they would aid the home team when it needed it. There was a nice legend about the ghost of Theseus appearing at the battle of Marathon to help defend Athens from the Persian invasion.

The thing to remember is that Homer is not trying to prepare Sunday School lessons or political propaganda. He tells a story that shows the characters with warts and all. The message is not so much "be like them" as it is to learn from the story.

OH GOOD. Israel may be preparing to attack Iran. That should make everything just perfect.

GREEN DAY. Businesses are starting to get serious about sustainability, according to Newsweek.


GOT KAFKA? Here's a review of a biography of the world's most realistic writer. And I'm not just saying that because I woke up as a giant bug today.


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