scriba Christina Adams
“Movin’ on up, to the top” [of the polis]
*Polis can mean city OR citadel, a ritualistic center for the city.
*Humans can only reach their full potential though their relationship to the polis.
-- Aristotle says “a human being is an organism of the polis.” (Often mistranslated as “man is a political animal”).
KEY WORD: Time (plural Timai)
‘honor’ also ‘honor paid to otherworldly force by way of cult’
Focus Passage A:
*Eumenides as euphemism
*Intergration of Eumenides into cult life of Athens
In this passage, Athena is talking to the sacred entities that will become the Eumenides (“Furies”). The Eumenides are going to be initiated into culture.
*Erekhtheus: heroic model for cult honors
See footnote 2 on the handout: As with the Iliad, Erekhtheus was mentioned as the cult-hero of Athens.
The divine smith (atrophied legs, adept and overly large arms) that made Achilles’ shield is critical because of his traits. He is a patron of laborers. He chases after Athena in his primordial time. Because of his physical dynamics, he is extremely fertile. The combination of his characteristics and his chasing of Athena cause the proto-Erekhtheus to be conceived by and grow from the earth. (earthborn Erekhtheus -- all Athenian people descend from him).
Athenians pride themselves for being all descended from the proto-hero Erekhteus, who is earth-born. By extension, all Athenians are autochthonous, that is, ‘earthborn’. Pride from self determination (heroic history). See Iliad passage again -- talks about Erekhtheus being born of mother earth, and how Athena breastfed the proto-Erekhtheus. By extension, all Athenians derive from mother earth and has been fed by Athena.
* Oikos: ‘abode of the hero/goddess’
Oikos – Idea that all the gods live together in this acropolis. Giving Athenians the opportunity to do the same. (Oikos comes usually with the connotation ‘home,’ but in this case it is even more divine.)
Oikos -- yields English terms ‘economics,’ ‘ecumenical,’ etc.
Proto-hero and patron goddess are seen as being associated with this Oikos in Greek culture.
Question from Alex:
Is Acropolis a representation of Olympus?
Answer from Professor Nagy:
Great question, but hesitates to make that analogy because it is an issue of Olympian (from Olympus the mountain) versus Local (from acropolis the hill). There could be many examples of the local aspect of this, but notionally only one Olympus.
Focus Passage B:
From the Libation Bearers
*Elektra performs cult honors for dead father/ancestor/hero
Important to realize Elektra is thinking of father in 3 different ways and she is working to create for herself and for her followers a “hero cult.” It is very personal to her, though, because he is her father/ancestor/hero.
*Requires initiation into proper speech of ritual
No clear distinction between ancestor and hero when it comes to pouring libations, so it is ironic because she needs some direction on how to handle it. Typically the chorus needs direction, but in this case they give direction to Elektra on how to handle the pouring of the libations. Comes down to the right way to speak, the “proper formula.”
She is taught that it is important to not only have the right words, but to also have the right frame of mind.
*Relevance of meaning of Eumenides: the ‘right mentality’
***Jim Morrison Clip***
Morrison’s body is buried in a cemetery in Paris.
The film shows Pam asking him if it was worth it to overdose on drugs, and it then goes on to a panning of the cemetery. Inscription on the tombstone: “He followed his own daimon” (decided by Jim’s father).
What happens when someone goes to the grave with unfinished business or anger?
Focus Passage C:
From Libation Bearers
*Invocation of father/daimon
*Instructed by the chorus, Elektra ‘gets it right’: the right mentality, the right ritual words and actions
Elektra is less experienced than the chorus.
Elektra has to “get the hang of it’ to say the right words to Hermes (the god who mediates between gods and humans).
It is also right to pour the right liquids in the right orders. You would be unable to make mental contact with the dead if the libations were not properly poured.
Focus Passages D & E:
From Libation Bearers
*Erinys as personification of anger from ‘unfinished business’
Action is to personify the anger; it is a perpetual error in libation because the pouring of libation (through murder/blood), which is basically what is happening with anger in unfinished business, is not correct. (think back to the image from Kubrick’s film “The Shining”)
This all goes back to the anger and hatred generated by murder and these deeds.
*Murderer as perverted libation
*Cycle of repeated violence: vendetta
Italian word vendetta comes from Latin vindicta, borrowed in English for words like “vindication.”
Verdi – opera composer whose operas feature “vendetta” as an embedded theme; especially in the trilogia popolare, featuring Rigoletto, Il Trovatore (original title: La Vendetta), and La Traviata. In general, Italian operas feature “vendetta” most prominently. Even Mozart’s German operas, like the The Magic Flute.
***Mozart’s Magic Flute Clip*** (filmmaker is Ingmar Bergman)
The aria of the Queen of the Night... Singer/Performer becomes so passionate and angered that at times she looks like a “Fury.”
Queen’s first word is “vengeance” (beginning of song) and last word is “a mother’s oath” (end of song): unintended parallel to what we see in hero culture.
-- 5th Century Song Culture:
The citizens of Athens need to transcend the heroic world, need to go on to a higher order of thinking into the world of civic life (mission of Athenian theater, and the ultimate purpose of the 3 tragedies we read).
Focus Passage F:
*Language of initiation reapplied in civic context.
Last few lines of this passage demonstrate knowledge being imparted so that action can be taken in a particular, specific way. Initiation into the civic using the dialectic of heroes.
Hegel: very interested in these tragedies. (Thesis, Antithesis, Synthesis)
Thesis... What is in heroic world. Antithesis... what is threatening heroic world, how evil/threats are passed on
Synthesis... is the world of the present which must not let go of the world
of the heroes (that dictates vendetta), but must move on up. -- vendetta is
replaced by trial by jury, for example.
New way of thinking about heroes and justice from this model of Synthesis that can now be viewed in this modern context.
Focus Passage G:
*Negative force (sterility) transformed into positive force (fertility)
*Athena’s ‘condominium’ with the Eumenides
*The telos ‘conclusion’ of the drama is the end of the role of the Eumenides.
Ritual telos to conclude argument with Eumenides (no longer called Erinyes, because they are now a positive force)
Focus Passage H:
*Eumenides learn about a song of fertility from Athena
*Recall Elektra’s initiation into proper speech
Overall, these passages serve to embody:
Timeliness, synchronization of nature, world of heroes to world of civic/city state in one organic process.
Orestes trilogy has a lot of transformations. Consider the parallels between transformation of Elektra and transformation of Eumenides.
In sections, there will be more discussion of transformations from the standpoint of the three different choral personifications in the three different tragedies of the trilogy.