A land, a city and mighty men

Ida, still the mother of wild beasts, with all her springs, with timbered ridges, full of leaf-crowned oaks, and above fresh green grass, crocus and hyacinth, clover soaked with dew, with her peak, Gargaron, where the god of greatness, god of glory let’s loose his thunder from his throne on the mountaintop.

Join him there and see a world away to the land of Thracian horsemen or beyond, to the summit of timbered Samos, where Poseidon stares back at the entire Ida ridge … the city of Priam clear and the warships of Achaea.

All those rivers still flow from the crests of Ida down to breaking surf, the Rhesus and the Heptaporus, Caresus and the Rhodius, Grenicus and Aesepus … and Simois’ tides. And most of all the shining god Scamander, the fair-flowing silver-eddying river, attended by elms … willows and tamarisks … and the lotus … and the galingale … reeds and rushes. You see eels in there. She’s turbulent so the gods called her Xanthus, yellow. Her banks are high - once men cowered below those overhangs, sprawled in … (all that) sand. Once to please her, rearing stallions (were) drowned alive in its eddies.

The plains of Troy where the two rivers flow, where Simois and Scamander rush together. Still wheat fields. The clay, rich, large clods. The Hellespont, still strong flowing and broad, still swarming with fish. Stand at her entrance. See what faced Achilles - the endless miles to home, in between shadowy mountain ranges, seas that surge and thunder.

Still huge flocks on flocks of winging birds, geese or cranes or swans with their long lancing necks - circling …, wheeling in all directions, glorying in their wings- keep on landing, advancing, wave on shrieking wave and the tidal flats resound. They flee from winter’s grim ungodly storms, shrieking south. Still those swarms of flies seething over the shepherd’s stalls in the first spring days when the buckets flood with milk. You see the black eagle, the wind-swift messanger of Zeus.

When the air falls to a sudden, windless calm, the stars in the night-sky glitter(ing) round the moon’s brilliance blaze in all their glory … all the lookout peaks stand out and the jutting cliffs and the steep ravines and down from the high heavens bursts the boundless bright air and all the stars shine clear and the shepherd’s heart exults.

Do you want to steer an oar-swept ship across the wine-dark sea?

Still Homer’s land except … where is the well-walled, mighty city and the race of men who seemed half god, half mortal?

40 Responses to “A land, a city and mighty men”

  1. Roger Pearse Says:

    Very lyrical. Let us by all means appreciate the legacy of the ancients, in imagination.

    Nice website, by the way. I do appreciate the posts composed of ancient evidence. Links to the sources would be good, and more explicit references.

    One other query; how are you doing your searches for data?

  2. conor Says:

    Thx Roger.

    On links to sources - absolutely, context is king for quotes. As a text goes into the library, the site links its quotes. I’ll be adding the Troy texts in the next days and so their quotes will be linked.

    Search for data - right now, I read a lot of victorians. Their footnotes are crammed with references to originals (unlike modern tomes which tend to be indirect). Now, when religion is involved, their indignation can border on the comical but they are scrupulous about sourcing.

  3. Roger Pearse Says:

    Thank you for the information. Yes, I’ve seen some Victorian editions with unbelieveable quantities of references, which is useful.

    Mind you, they do have the unfortunate habit of abbreviating them! I once had someone write to me about a supposed Tertullian reference (”Ter.”) which was actually Terence (”Ter.”).

    Modern texts are not unwilling to express indignation. Sadly their certainty is usually in the political correctness invented in the 80’s, rather than in the religion of their forefathers. I’m not sure that this is progress.

  4. conor Says:

    Irrespective of type, correctness is the bane of insight. One thing to be said for the Victorians is that they still quoted originals at length. Their gloss was in footnotes or introductions. They were Theodorets slamming the Arians but quoting their letters. This approach makes it easy to judge the quoted and the quoter. Today, you most often get declaration that references some other modern source which … on and on. It’s all too easy for “received wisdom” to take over.

  5. Roger Pearse Says:

    I’m with you on this one. I want to see good footnotes. I find that French scholars seem to do this better than Anglophone ones. I recently saw a US PhD dissertation (passed!) which was unbelievably wretched in this respect, compared it to one from a Swiss university, and felt somewhat embarassed!

  6. conor Says:

    I think, bit by bit, the web will move academia. It makes linking to sources so easy - and so not doing so must become unacceptable. While now, it’s a boon for truisms, this unwieldy beast will become an easy-to-link-to library of everything. We’ll still debate but in the light of original words.

    BTW, Chronology of 354 (only on your site I think). It’s such a unique artifact and surely much more than a curiosity. Do you know of dissertations? I read one (turned into a book) but would like to see others, particularly any that focus on the fate of traditional festivals, on how much of the calendar’s content was nostalgia and how much reflected current practice.

  7. Roger Pearse Says:

    I’m sure that you are right. We’re in a transitional phase; we must be. There are quite a lot of people who don’t “get” the internet. The EU is among them; I today saw the hilarious sight of books2ebooks, which is EU sponsored, as a collection of… ways to pay libraries to make you a PDF photocopy of an out of copyright book, for your exclusive use. Hmm.

    The Chronography stuff on my site is all out of copyright. I wish other people would mirror it. That’s why I make my stuff public domain — to encourage people to copy and post.

    I don’t know of studies of the Chronography, outside of Michelle Salzman’s book which was really good on the illustrations, but less so on the rest. I think the text has been so hard to access — split over so many rare publications — that this may have been a factor. But yes, isn’t it a fascinating text! Raw data about antiquity, undigested and available straight. Marvellous! It’s a bit dry, but none the worse for that.

  8. conor Says:

    Thx Roger for posting the calendar. A good while back, I found a reference to it and only you showed it. I got Michelle Salzman’s book but agree with you - good illustration and line by line description but little overview. The calendar raises so many questions. You see all the emperors and no Diocletian. I wonder when Constantine had him dropped. Goddess celebration - nostalgia or still ongoing? … You could build a great museum exhibit around it, better than the one for Hadrian your British Museum just had. You know people in there?

  9. Roger Pearse Says:

    I thought it was interesting too. I couldn’t think of any way of getting hold of colour photographs of the illustrations which could be made public domain, tho. So I had to use the old b/w ones, which were at least out of copyright.

    I don’t know anyone at the BM, sadly - yes, you’re right, it *would* make a great exhibition centrepiece. Borrow a few of the manuscripts, illustrate each section with artefacts…

  10. conor Says:

    Everything has its time. I think this eclectic beast should get much more celebration. Perhaps soon, in some way. Thx again for posting it up.

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