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17 October 2007


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China Hand

I studied Homer's greek, too. I was never as diligent a student as this man, though.

Even so, it seems that the lessons this man learned so painfully were easier for me.

Sometimes, I think that the written word is a curse. Sometimes, I think it's a blessing.

I'm not sure on which side I would set this man's words -- blessing or curse -- I can only say that I regret this constantly recurrng theme, and wish it would end.

I pray that he has cleansed himself into happiness; but my recent time is given mostly to prayers for those who suffer now. I hope they might find peace; barring that, I hope that we can absorb their fears and stave off more violence.

I have seen cracked and shattered bones, blood-strewn streets, gunsoht wounds and severed limbs. I do not know if I can help, but I will try.

I am sure this man will try, too.

And in the meantime, I pray.

frank durkee


bob mcmanus

Thank you


Just a word...Excellent.

Mad Dogs

Mighty fine thoughts.

Sidney O. Smith III

This essay is literary art. Symphonic. Thanks for sharing it with us.


I just got "Caravan", why did you bring this up? lol

ralph r. emmers



now i'm suddenly way less impressed with myself for having read the lattimore translation in jr. high - and way more disappointed in myself for not learning it in the original greek at st. john's like i ought to have.


Excellent essay!

I read all those books but was never so taken by them as this writer.

I always sided with the Trojans anyways:

"Paris, you handsome, woman-mad deceiver,
you shouldn't have been born, or killed unmarried.
I wish you had-it would have been far better
Than having you our shame, whom all suspect,
Or having the long-haired Acheans laugh
When you appear as champion-champion beauty-
But have no strength, nor character, nor courage."

Hmmm, how could men who have never had the strength, the character or the courage to fight in a war be so willing to send others to war?


Thank you for sharing this gem with us, Col. Lang.

Absolutely superb, Gen. Farrell.

Cold War Zoomie

How am I supposed to keep alive my stereotypical vision of the Army being full of Neanderthal rejects scorned by the other branches if you "grunts" keep proving it wrong?

Now dumb it down, will ya!?


makes all us new guys realize what we missed not getting a classical education.

i started Latin in the seventh grade but it got canceled after one week. I tried to make up for it by taking a year of Latin in college. I remember all the cases, genitive, ablative and that Julius Caeser is really pronounced Yulius Kaisaar. And of course the "Persicos" for Persians which I freely use in this forum. The school offered New Testament Greek but I had to take 20 hours just to get the Latin in. But I ofter read blueletterbible.com which has an interlinear hebrew greek english bible. hebrew is very close to Arabic and it surprising how much Greek we already know.

An interesting take on the Iliad is that of psychologist Julian Jaynes. The Bicameral Mind. Look it up on Wikipedia. He says consciousness is not as old as you think and relates it to Schizophrenia. the conversations of the Iliad and Old Testament is used to make his case. It's all about gods or God speaking to men. one part of the brain speaking to the other, he says as in schizophrenia, his theory. The Iliad is all about Athena or Apollo speaking to Achilles. The Odyssey is more of a self-actualized modern man, the emergence of self consciousness.


Wonderful story. I'll quibble with one little bit of it, though:

It had not been an act of faith, though, and I was a little ashamed that I had made him prove it to me. I had challenged him, lumpishly and brutally, to come up with proof.

Skepticism isn't brutal - it's the natural state of a thinking human mind.

Duncan Kinder


  • Nausikaa was not a nymph. She was a Phaiakian princess who rescued him after he had been washed up on her island.
  • Homer did not necessarily have firsthand knowledge of "burbling marrow." His poetry was composed orally; he did not write it down. It was part of a long bardic tradition, part of which entailed use of stock epithets such as "wine dark sea," "rosy-fingered dawn," and many others. "Burbling marrow was one of these and could have been invented by another bard one hundred years before Homer was born.
  • This use of epithet was discovered by Milman Parry in the 1920's - one of the great achievements of 20th century classical studies. His disciple, Albert Lord, concisely presented Parry's views in The Singer of Tales
  • "amumonos Aigisthoio," therefore, is not forgetfulness or some profound insight into the effect of passion on otherwise good men. It merely is the epithet formula dictates one must use for Aegisthos in the genitive at the end of a line.


"The exercise, of course, is to see the beauty, retrieve the passion, uncover and correct the error, but not discount the power of the work for its inaccuracy."


Argos and Achilles and Ajax and Agamemnon (and that's just a few of the As) have helped get a lot of us through a great deal of ephemeral manure.

"As they were talking, a dog that had been lying asleep raised his head and pricked up his ears. This was Argos, whom Odysseus had bred before setting out for Troy, but he had never had any enjoyment from him. In the old days he used to be taken out by the young men when they went hunting wild goats, or deer, or hares, but now that his master was gone he was lying neglected on the heaps of mule and cow dung that lay in front of the stable doors till the men should come and draw it away to manure the great close; and he was full of fleas.

"As soon as he saw Odysseus standing there, he dropped his ears and wagged his tail, but he could not get close up to his master.

"When Odysseus saw the dog on the other side of the yard, he dashed a tear from his eyes without Eumaeus seeing it, and said:

"Eumaeus, what a noble hound that is over yonder on the manure heap: his build is splendid; is he as fine a fellow as he looks, or is he only one of those dogs that come begging about a table, and are kept merely for show?'

"This hound,' answered Eumaeus, 'belonged to him who has died in a far country. If he were what he was when Odysseus left for Troy, he would soon show you what he could do.

"There was not a wild beast in the forest that could get away from him when he was once on its tracks.

"But now he has fallen on evil times, for his master is dead and gone, and the women take no care of him. Servants never do their work when their master's hand is no longer over them, for Zeus takes half the goodness out of a man when he makes a slave of him.'

"So saying he entered the well-built mansion, and made straight for the riotous pretenders in the hall.

"But Argos passed into the darkness of death, now that he had seen his master once more after twenty years."


(The modern sequel by Katzantzakis shows that he just did not get it -- but Homer did -- and reinforces what we who "did" classical and modern Greek whispered -- that the ancient Greeks were extinct and modern Greeks were Turks -- even if Homer was born in wonderful Izmir. Disappointing but not as much as wise, modest Thucydides being staked out by Donald Kagan of all people -- if I were Thucydides, I'd be calling my agent).

There is a line in the Chinese film "The King of Masks" (which I may be misremembering) -- "True feeling is rare but it can be found" -- http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0115669/

Thank you -- especially Alan Farrell and Pat Lang -- for an unexpected epiphany in the misty Blue Mountains of New South Wales, Australia.

We are doggy folk and dropped ears mean something here.

Keep them epiphanies coming, boys.

And death to the "riotous pretenders"!


That was superb, thanks.

W. Patrick Lang



The use of the deathshead as a military symbol is several centuries old. pl

W. Patrick Lang


I remember you now.


OK. What unit is that? Exactly?

By the way, what was the demonstration area at Bragg named for? The first one? pl

Alex Brush

Thanks for sharing this with me...Really profound. Feel kinda inspired to look a bit more closely into Homer's work. If only I knew Greek...seems French is enough of a chore to learn though.


A technical point: "spinal marrow" was the medical term employed in English until the late 19th-early 20th C. to refer specifically to the spinal cord. An equivalent term "moelle epiniere", is still used in French. I believe related terms were used much further back into Renaissance, medieval and ancient periods. I think that in the example cited, Homer most likely was referring to the spinal cord, or whatever remained of the contents of the spinal canal after it had been hacked open.Whether "burbling" is the most apt verb to describe what happens in this situation, I cannot say from my own experience. Brooks burble, I think. Spinal marrow/cord probably oozes.
My particular quibble notwithstanding, it is heartening to read a testament to the sustaining power of great literature.


I have almost no Latin, less Greek, but a smattering of anatomy.

Spinal marrow I automatically processed as a kenning for spinal cord, which looks like cooked long bone marrow.

Spinal cord and brain are fairly fluid. They do seep/ooze and spread out after the meninges are severed. They don't appear to burble, but might begin to after they had been left out in the sun a while.

What I know is based on "harvesting" a goodly number of baby mice brains to culture neuroblasts. Could be a matter of scale and controlled (limitedly violent) conditions, though.

BUT, BUT, BUT what is the verb that conveys "burble" here:

muelos aute sphonduliôn ekpalth', ho d' epi chthoni keito tanustheis.

T Brush

It is even more clear to me now having read your piece on Homer and the brutal truth of war, why your work leaves your students so deeply affected and infected with the bug for learning. Our son has been and continues to be inspired by you the man and your work. Thank You!

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