Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Gilgamesh revisited

I read the Epic of Gilgamesh last year and noted at that time, without any great leap of insight mind you, that it foreshadowed a number of later epics, Arguably this story is the father of literature.

Today in Salon magazine Laura Miller reviews "The Buried Book" by David Damrosch, the story of the rediscovery of the Gilgamesh epic.

I found this review especially insightful because Ms. Miller made some of the same points about Gilgamesh's influence that I did, although she does it a lot better.

Anyway I will have to pick this book up and add it to my stack of books to be read.

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Friday, April 13, 2007

Saddest Blog Ever

I was just looking at sitemeter, man this is the saddest blog ever.

I know that I am not the most scintilating blogger out there, but I do try to have something relevant to say. I guess I am just not hitting a cord with anyone. Maybe after I move out of the classical greek stuff into some more modern works interest will pick up.

Tech Tags:

Thursday, April 12, 2007

List Deviation - Oedipus at Colonus

References: Sophocles Wikipedia Entry, Oedipus at Colonus Wikipedia Entry, Theban Plays Wikipedia Entry

Sources: Free at


Discussion: I am barely into this play so far and as pointed out in the references above there are some continuity differences. The two that I have noticed are the fact that Oedipus is now talking about a blessing to the land in which he is dwelling when he dies and a curse on the city which exiled him:
"shalt thou round thy weary life,
A blessing to the land wherein thou dwell'st,
But to the land that cast thee forth, a curse."

But, in Oedipus Rex he begged to be exiled so he would no longer be a curse on Thebes. Secondly in Oedipus Rex he left his children in Creon's care so they would not be burdened by his curse but now his daughters are traveling with him. (I guess they may have hunted him down out of love.) Relatively small points I guess certainly no worse than the continuity issues between any two episodes of Star Trek.

Update: I completed this play last week. To me it seemed rather incomplete, not really a story in itself but more of a way to tie the other two plays (Oedipus Rex and Antigone) together.

Beyond the discontinuities I note above there were a couple other things I noticed. First off Oedipus was essentially the Grandpa Simpson of his day. Alternately crotchety and demanding, and scared of the world and needing reassurance and protection. Second the role of the chorus is really diminished here. In the Oresteia they went on and on for pages of boring back and forth dialogue. In Oedipus at Colonus it's a couple statement maybe a poem and boom back to the story.

I didn't really think much of the story. Others say that it shows Oedipus's acceptance of his own portion of responsibility for his fate, and his reconciliation with the gods. I say crap. If his fate was preordained he had no responsibility for it so why should he accept any. If however his fate was a result of his own pride then he doesn't take near enough.

Anyway that's that and I am on to Antigone.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

New site in the Links section

Solarvoid. The guy is reading the same books I am and has some interesting tech posts.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Selection 10 - Oedipus Rex

References - Sophocles Wikipedia entry, Theban plays Wikipedia entry

Selections - Free at or available at

Discussion - So far I am only about 10 pages into the play but I can already spot some differences from the Oresteia. There isn't as much action with the chorus and in my mind the flow of everything seems smoother because of it. Or maybe the chorus just isn't as long winded and boring?

Updated 3/11/07 - I finished the play this evening. It may only be the translation but it was so much easier to read than any of the Oresteia trilogy. I'm not real sure of what the underlying message of the play was though.

As near as I can tell Oedipus did nothing personally to offend the God's. He just seems to be condemned to his fate for some non-specific reason and nothing he does will change his fate. This may be a statement regarding the folly of relying on the God's to provide. I can't decide.

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Sunday, April 01, 2007

Selection 9 - Oresteia - The Eumenides (The Furies)

Definitely the easiest of the 3 plays to read. Also the most interesting to my mind.

As with the Libation Bearers I knew the story but hadn't read the play; so I knew that most people consider it as marking a turning from a society based on tribal rules and a kind of might makes right philosophy to a society based on law and impartial justice.

There also seem to be a couple of political messages contained in the play.

Specifically starting at line 976 there is a warning against civil war, stating it should never come and blacken the city with blood lust and revenge. I am not precisely familiar with the internal political situation in Athens in 458 BC, when the Oresteia was first presented, but I am betting there was some sort of political strife. (Looking it up on wikipedia it appears that there was some significant political activity going on, specifically the expansion of the rights of the lower classes and changes to the archonship)

Externally the First Peloponnesian War was underway. This would explain the reference, starting on line 754, to the city of Argos always standing with Athens.

I don't know I may be way off base here and maybe I am reading too much into those lines but they seem to topical to be an accident.