Posts Tagged ‘Loeb Classics’

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.

 

Read the Printed Word!

A Happy Accident*: Soccer + Books = Bliss

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*The expression “happy accident” originated with Bob Ross.

BOOKS BOUGHT

Product Details Product Details
Facing Unpleasant Facts (Narrative Essays). George Orwell The Highly Engaged Classroom. Marzano & Heflebower
Product Details Product Details
The Moronic Inferno.  Martin Amis The EtymologiconMark Forsyth
Product Details Product Details
Man and His Symbols.  Carl Jung The Portable MFA in Creative Writing. The NY Writers Workshop
Product Details Product Details
You Are Not A Gadget. Jaron Lanier What I Hate from A to Z.  Roz Chast

BOOKS READ

  • Housekeeping vs. The Dirt.  Nick Hornby
  • Shakespeare Wrote for Money.  Nick Hornby
  • The Pleasure of The Text.  Roland Barthes, trans. (badly) by Richard Miller
  • The Learned Banqueters.  Athenaeus
  • What I hate from A to Z.  Roz Chast

Today is UEFA Champions League Final Day!

     Cover your mirrors.

          Turn off your clocks. 

               Don’t answer the phone. 

                    Shut the drapes. 

                         Send the young’uns to their Auntie’s for the afternoon.

Oh, and watch it on a Spanish-language station if you can. They show you all the fun stuff – celebrations and all that. The American stations (FOX, in this instance) cut to commercial or commentary as soon as the players are done with the game itself. (Hey MLS, if you want America to love soccer, show all the prep stuff and celebratory stuff.  It’s so cool!) 

But this post is not about CL.  It’s just a multi-tasking thing.

I returned to my blogging raison d’etre during the last two weeks. As I read the two Hornby books, I was convinced that I had done the right thing by adopting and adapting his critical style. It’s a very human style, very humble. I’m not as self-deprecating as Hornby, though.  I struggled and sacrificed to be as book-learned as I am.  And I come from a culture that looks down on pulling yourself up. (George Lopez has a very good shpiel (sp?) about that.) But the crux of it all is simply that Hornby’s chatty, parabolic style appeals to me and it feels very natural to write that way.  (I don’t know him. I’m not getting paid to to talk him up. He doesn’t know  I exist. ©)

Right off the bat, the READ list and BOUGHT list have little in common.  The Hornby books, as I said, served as refresher courses in writing and book reviewing.  The Pleasure of The Text is going to get the blog treatment soon, so I will just say that it’s been a serious pain the synapses.  Roz Chast’s “Fuck It” List is so not worth the eight bucks and change that it costs!  The book is thinner than “Charlie Sheen’s Guide to Classy Etiquette.”  Thinner than “Kelly Ripa Interprets Shakespeare.”  I’m talking THIN!  It should be saved as a chapter to be included in a larger collection.  And she’s not a writer.  But on the bright side, her prose is refreshingly astringent, like a big glass of strong iced tea. 

The Learned Banqueters, a collection of ancient Greek prose writing about a banquet with the intellectual all-star team of the day, has a useful introduction.  It tells you in plain English what the book is about and how it came to be.  It’s unusual that an introductory piece is any good.  It’s not riveting prose, but it tells you what you need to know, and that’s quite valuable when dealing with this material.  The writing in Banqueters itself is choppy in several spots because the work is pieced together from leftovers.  That’s cool.  We’re lucky to have what we have, I guess.  In the 230s, I found myself engrossed in a treatise on the qualities of water.  WATER!  And it was INTERESTING!  WTF!

Man and His Symbols: Honestly, don’t even bother with buying the ridiculously thick paperback.  The print is too tiny and the illustrations are rendered useless by the trade paperback format with it’s cheap-ass paper and muddy picture quality.  I managed to get hold of a hardcover through www.ebay.com.  That turned out to be an excellent investment because it’s the original printing from the 1960s, and it’s BIG.  The illustrations are faded in that way that forty-year-old books can be, but that’s okay.  They are still better than the paperback.  It’s a better reading experience all around.  But if you need something to read on the fly, the paperback will do, as long as you don’t care about the illustrations being, you know…illustrative.

Etymologicon is based on blog material from The Inky Fool. It’s a great blog. Check it out. 

Here’s last year’s UEFA Champion’s League Final Day post.   UEFA site.

The game has gone to penalties.  Damn you, Chelsea.  I wouldn’t be surprised if you were holding out for that since you all equalized.  Can Schweinsteiger lightning strike twice?

OH MY GOD! OH MY GOD! SCHWEINSTEIGER’S BALL HIT THE POST! IT HIT THE POST! HOLY FUCK! HE’S DYING!

Drogba is up… OH MY GOD!

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