June 10, 2009

Bastions of wealth

The Murder of Agamemnon, painting by Pierre-Narcisse Guérin. Image courtesy of wikipedia.

Bastions of wealth
are no defence for the man
who treads the grand altar of Justice
down and out of sight.--Spoken by the chorus in Aeschylus' Agamemnon.

Goat Rope’s ongoing series on Greek tragedy continues. You’ll also find links and comments about current events below. Right now we’re on Aeschylus Orestes trilogy. If you like this kind of thing, please click on earlier posts.

According to Paul Roche,

“The Oresteia is the story of an aristocratic house in the process of destroying itself under a hereditary curse, which is both a destiny and a free expression of love and hate. The blood feud can end only by total self-destruction, or by giving way to a divinely established justice which is itself evolving—evolving from primitive concepts of retribution into a higher order of compassion, enlightenment, and peace."

Agamemnon, leader of the Greek expedition to Troy, gives the title to the first part of the trilogy. He was a prominent character in Homer’s Iliad (where he always seemed like a jerk to me) and his ghost appears in the Odyssey.

In the Odyssey, an epic of homecoming, Agamemnon’s return contrasts with that of Odysseus. Like all the Greeks who committed outrages and excesses in their sack of Troy, they are destined to suffer. But while Odysseus lives and is reconciled with the virtuous Penelope after many sorrows and a long and dangerous journey, Agamemnon is murdered by his wife Clytemnestra in revenge for sacrificing their daughter Iphigenia for fair winds to Troy ten years earlier at the command of the goddess Artemis.

In Homer, Penelope is the archetypal good wife while Clytemnestra is the archetypal bad wife (although I always thought Agamemnon had it coming).

While Greek tragic writers almost always used mythic themes, they were free to adapt them to current circumstances. Aeschylus went way beyond Homer in his version of the story, even carving out a special place for his hometown of Athens in its resolution.

More tomorrow.

SPEAKING OF BASTIONS OF WEALTH BEING NO DEFENSE, here's a NY Times editorial about the recent US Supreme Court decision regarding hijinks on the WV Supreme Court.

A PLUG FOR PAINE. This item suggests that Thomas Paine is a founder worth another look today.

PLAIN ENGLISH. The language is projected to add its millionth word today. I recommend "glarnox." No definition yet, though some of our best people are working on it.


No comments: