Posts Tagged ‘Classical Greek’

Greeks party like it’s 193 CE

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THE LEARNED BANQUETERS BKS I-III.106e (Vol. 1)

This fun little volume is a catalog of the party habits of the ancient Greeks – probably around the first two hundred years of the Common Era.  It’s the single source of “over 10,000 lines of verse” and quotes from around 1000 authors – some familiar: Aristotle, Aristophanes, Euripides, Sophocles, and Homer.*  So many unfamiliar names are quoted or mentioned with lip-smacking, teeth-cracking abundance:

  • Astydamas
  • Theopompus
  • Hellanica
  • Agatharchides
  • Philomides
  • Xenophon
  • Cratinus
  • Thucydides
  • Philippedes
  • Mnesithius
  • Hermippus
  • Dichaearchus
  • Democritus

How funny that my spell-check only recognizes Xenophon, Democritus, and Thucydides out of this list.

The structure of the volume is similar to the Platonic dialogues.  Party guests represent different areas of knowledge or schools of thought.  Musicians talk about music.  Physicians talk about medicine.  Everybody talks gossip and WINE!  There’s wisecracks and sarcasm enough for a Friar’s Club roast.  Some guests represent social classes and some are real people.

Mundane and profane, chatty and catty, cynical and clinical. TLB is painfully detailed (or do I mean painstaking?).  Can you imagine a party where the host is entertaining experts in “every field of knowledge” at his pimped-out crib (to use a pimply adolescent hyperbole)!

From page 18 to about page 39, it’s like an episode of “Bizarre Foods—Ancient Greece.”  The early part of the book also details party protocols. How to entertain soldiers.  How to entertain politicians.  How to prepare seafood.  The temperaments of cooks.  There’s even ancient Greek charcuterie and canapes and bizarre cocktails.  For example, a guest named Nestor prepares some wine for another guest – Machaon – who’s been wounded.  Nestor sprinkles some cheese on the wine and drops an onion in it.  Just like those martinis that have a pearl onion! The cheese? Who can say. Nestor was trying to get him drunk.  Cheese coats your stomach and you can stomach more alcohol that way. Jus’ conjecture here.

At one of Homer’s parties, the women of the house have to bathe the guests.  Ugh! Was that a reality or just wishful thinking on Homer’s part?  (He’s a genius, not an angel.)

P. 63 shows us the words for meals according to Philemon and corroborated by Aeschylus in general terms:

  1. akratisma: early meals; breakfast
  2. ariston: evening meal
  3. hesperisma
  4. deipnon:  second course

Another Aeschylus-related version shows arista as breakfast, deipna as dinners, dorpa as suppers (a third course).

Homer calls the fourth meal deilinon, and it comes between ariston and deipnon.

There’s a bit more, but you can see how nitpicky the telling gets.  The book even goes into who eats sitting down, who eats reclining. nicknames for people who do particular tasks, like carving the meat and serving drinks.

Speaking of drinks! Oh Em Gee the catalogue of wines! How would you like to see a wine list with the type of wine, the region it comes from and it’s health effects. Whether it’s sweet or sour, pure or mixed with water.  Imagine seeing the word “diuretic” with ridiculous regularity when reading the wine list.  The exhaustive catalog even tells you which wines get you drunk fast, and which ones are good for your health.  It’s a looooooong section!  Again —  the word “diuretic” is mentioned A LOT!

I kid you not – a section on almonds and other assorted nuts. Their health benefits, roasted or green, disputed names for nuts; whose nuts are better; different ways of serving and eating nuts.

Water:  where the best water comes from; health benefits of water; water mixed with wine. The word “diuretic” is not mentioned as much as in the wine section.

Fruits and vegetables: where do the best fruits come from; disputed names of fruits; ideal cooking methods for fruits and veg; health benefits.

The last section of Book I (Proton Biblion) covers sea food.  I’m not to that part yet, but if it’s like the other sections, there will be a lot of quotes and nitpicky details.

When it comes to discussing a particular item, like almonds or water, several quotes about the item are reported, so you get a cocktail party perspective on whatever the Alpha-foodies are talking about.  Basically, ancient Greeks making small talk about food and drink, making wisecracks and good-natured insults.  There’s always a know-it-all and a smart-ass.  Everyone tossing in their two cents.  So even though it the text is fragmented, it still flows logically.  It seamlessly flows from one topic to another.  Before you know it, you’ve gone from hosting soldiers in your home to what to do with olive mash once you’ve extracted all the oil.

Now that I’ve got the gist of it, I don’t think I’m going to shell out for the other two volumes.  At the end of the day, it’s an entertaining read. It shows the ancient Greeks were very much like us when we gather over food and drink.

Other posts that mention Loeb Classics:

Nyah-Nyah  Bizarre Foods in Greece

*I am not hyperlinking these names because all you need to do is Google them and you get like a gazillion hits.

 

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Back to Nature–Books Whirlybinge

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My last post was in September.  I had just started graduate school, and since then, it’s been a “mad coupla months”!  Reading and writing for every book, for quizzes and tests. Abstracts, research papers, annotations. I love it!  Writing for school is kinda chill.  It satisfies a hunger that can’t be fed by anything material.  All the reading and writing works like Slick50 in my brain.  New words and ideas are firing sparks, making new connections – synapses snapping all day long in a jazzy funk rhythm that knows no time and no boundaries.  My mind is so active and firing on all pistons…

But it’s Christmas holidays now – what some people call “winter” break.  Qoi?  Brutha, pleez!  Down in South Texas, the kindest thing I can say is that it’s NOT 100 degrees F. 

So what’s my point? Where, even?  Well, I was writing an informal essay for every novel, interpreting Middle English, analyzing, synthesizing, assessing – the whole Bloom’s.  Writing for the blog seemed redundant.  Also, I wondered whether writing about the same book here and for class might create a conflict.  I knew in my heart, there would be a significant slip differential between how the work was represented for academic purposes and how I felt about it personally.  Case in point: PATTERN RECOGNITION by William Gibson.  The protagonist Cayce is ridiculously hip and cool in her anti-logo fetish, but the novel itself is well-boring. Snail’s pace. Grim, gray other-world that’s a cross between Graham Greene and Ray Bradbury, except not interesting.  But through academic eyes, it’s a disturbingly visionary story.  Cayce talks about people she doesn’t ever see, chats online with people she never sees but once or twice. Her life has almost nothing to do with human interaction and a lot to do with cyber-communication.  Are we headed there or are we already there?  Geddit?

So I let the blog go for the time-being.  But now that it’s the hols, let the variety begin!

BOOKS BOUGHT

Saturnalia, Volume I: Books 1-2 (Loeb Classical Library)[1] Lucian, Vol. 7: Dialogues of the Dead / Dialogues of the Sea-Gods / Dialogues of the Gods / Dialogues of the Courtesans (Loeb Classical Library, No. 4[2] Genealogy of the Pagan Gods, Volume 1: Books I-V (I Tatti Renaissance Library)[3]
Juvenal and Persius (Loeb Classical Library)[4] Boccaccio, Beauvau and Chaucer: Troilus and Criseyde : Four Perspectives on Influence[5] Days of Reading (Penguin Great Ideas)[6]
One Continuous Mistake : Four Noble Truths for Writers[7] How to Give Effective Feedback to Your Students[8] The Consolation of Philosophy (Norton Critical Editions)[9]

 

[1]  I really enjoyed Somnium Scipionis which led me to pick up this SATURNALIA of Macrobius.   LINK to good online overview of this work.  I also have this Loeb by Cicero – De Officiis (Walter Miller, trans.).  LINK to online overview.

[2]  Effing Cool, Irresistible titles!

Product Details[3]  Again – Effing Cool Title. It’s early days but it’s sounding like a crosMs between Bullfinch’sMythology and Ovid’s Metamorpheses.  Loving it! (LINK to online version)  (Who the hell needs Effing SparkNotes for Bullfinch’s Mythology???)

 

[4]  My Medieval Lit prof talked about these satires and I had a Pavlovian reaction to the word “satire”.  That being, ears perk up, blood flows a little faster, I start thinking of clever wordplay, double-entendres, taking the piss, etc.  I shan’t rule out a touch of salivating. (UofMichigan Collection)  I finished reading the six Juvenal satires and, while there was a strong odor of whingeing, the translation was accomplished with a good ear for standup comedy.  Very Lewis Black in nature.

image[5]  4 Perspectives on Troilus and Criseyde.  Pure intellectual spelunking. Highbrow fun.  It reads like the author’s doctoral dissertation, though. What a wonderful advantage to be able to do research in more than one language.  For all that English is wonderfully comprehensive, I now feel incomplete that I can’t read German or Italian well enough (yet) to do more thorough research in Medieval literature. (LINK to online version) My favorite version of T&C is George Phillip Krapp’s rendition in verse.  It’s out of print, but I managed to find a copy through www.ebay.com

[6]   Ahhh, Proust. You most nerdy of nerds. Is there a French word for “nerd”?  Do the French even need one?  You might think not, but then again, Franck Ribery.  C’est une tare’.  Une grosse dinde. 

Product Details[7]  I actually ordered this book in 2009 on the recommendation of my student teacher that semester.  I lent it to a friend because I started reading the other book that ordered with it.  Haven’t seen it since but it’s cool.  That’s a good sign, I think. Beautiful cover design. Very easy to read. It’s kind of like A Writing Life by Annie Dillard.  It just has that kind of “become one with the pencil” kind of vibe.  It’s actually a great apologia for writing, as is Dillard’s book.

[8]  Not here yet

[9] Not here yet.

BOOKS READ

A Writing Life (Annie Dillard)

One Continuous Mistake

Satires of Juvenal and Persius

Navarro’s Promise  (Lora Leigh)

Geneology of The Pagan Gods

Pattern Recognition (William Gibson)

“Simulacra and Simulations” by Jean Baudrillard (Chapter 7 of Baudrillard’s Selected Writings, Mark Poster, ed.)

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