Ajax and Electra [Translated] (With Active Table of Contents)

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The foregoing observations about the literary, religious, and cultural setting of On Heroes lead us necessarily to inquire into dating of this work and the purposes for which Philostratus composed it. One piece of evidence for dating[ ] the text is the mention of the athlete Aurelius Helix in Her. The date of Helix's competitions provides an initial terminus post quem. We particularly recognize that this work may have had several purposes and have spoken in a multivalent fashion to various parts of its audience.

Samson Eitrem argues at length that the dialogue is an attempt to encourage belief in heroes among the educated, and to promote worship of them. Caracalla also had a temple built in honor of Apollonius. Given these historical considerations and the relationship between the Life and On Heroes , Eitrem regards On Heroes as a serious effort to promote hero worship which, unlike the official cult of the Olympian gods, still had great popularity among the ordinary populace.

A far less positive evaluation of Philostratus's intentions is made by Graham Anderson. There is, however, what appears to be a sophistic penchant for the archaic and literary, and many details seem related to the repertoire of sophistic literature see above. Without reference to Anderson's book on Philostratus, Hans Dieter Betz, inspired by Eitrem's work, claims that although Philostratus never mentions Christianity, he knew of it.

Betz finds various parallels in early Christian literature—for example, Protesilaos and Jesus both walk over water Her. Betz argues that one of the major themes of On Heroes is the movement from skepticism to belief on the part of the Phoenician merchant. Only at this point then does the vinedresser, on the authority of Protesilaos, begin to relate the characteristics and deeds of the heroes. This reading of the dialogue's rhetoric thus supposes a correspondence between the narrative movement of the dialogue and the position to which the text seeks to persuade its audience. The vinedresser seeks to bring the Phoenician to believe that what the hero says is true and that the heroes really do appear of the heroes.

To be sure, his initial disbelief about the appearances of Protesilaos and other Trojan heroes is overcome, but, according to this perspective, this is simply a narrative device to establish the credibility of the vinedresser and Protesilaos. Resolving this debate depends in part upon how one assesses the rhetorical conventions of the Second Sophistic. Moreover, because we lack any information about the commissioning of the dialogue, it is difficult to be certain of the ends for which it was written.

We are, however, inclined to take On Heroes with some seriousness as seeking to persuade its audience of the value of hero cults. The categories of conversion, belief, and disbelief are, however, not the most precise for un derstanding the dialogue.

Electra and Other Plays , Penguin Classics by Sophocles | | Booktopia

Since Palamedes is presented with characteristics of the true sophist, we may recognize in Palamedes' words an attitude that the dialogue is advocating. The dialogue's emphasis on immediate experience and encounter is in keeping with this attitude. Thus it is possible that Philostratus was not only interested in a revitalization of hero cults, but also in a particular way of approaching the heroes as the basis of a reflective life. Recognizing that the religious and political were inseparably intertwined in the early third century C.

We can do no more than sketch an avenue of approach here. One of Protesilaos's most prominent appearances in Greek literature is at the end of Herodotus's Histories where he defends Greek territory against the outrages of the Persian governor Artayktes. It is important to recognize, however, that Herodotus's account of Protesilaos as revenant against the Persian governor does not convey a simplistic anti-Persian or ethnocentrically pro-Greek message.

Rather the story stands as a warning for Herodotus's own Greek audience against hubris and tyranny. Looking at Philostratus's work in terms of its treatment of foreignness raises a distinct set of questions about its purpose. Throughout the dialogue, as we have seen, a parallelism is drawn between Achilles and Protesilaos, and both appear at times as avenging revenants.

PDF Ajax and Electra [Translated] (With Active Table of Contents)

The dialogue ends with two stories of Achilles' brutal wrath: in the first case upon a young girl, one of the last of Priam's descendants Her. These stories appear, at first reading, to be an abrupt shift from the relatively peaceful descriptions of Protesilaos's and Achilles' current lifestyles, but their position as the climax of the dialogue suggests their importance for its overall purpose. Hektor, to cite another instance, returns as revenant to avenge the insults hurled at him by the offending Assyrian youth Her. It is also worth noting that Achilles' victims are women, a point to which we shall return.

Being a foreigner is also essential to the construction of character in the dialogue: we are introduced at the outset to a Phoenician merchant, from the region of Tyre and Sidon Her. In addition to his skepticism, however, about the heroes of old, from the beginning of the dialogue the Phoenician is associated with the values of luxury and love of money Her.

This foreigner, moreover, ends up being a listener devoted to Protesilaos, prepared to abide by the hero's reluctance to speak of certain matters, and ready to pour a libation to Protesilaos Her. It is perhaps not going too far to say that this foreigner, unlike Artayktes and Xeinis.

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The composition of On Heroes in the early third century C. Religious practices were redefined, not only by a new wave of syncretism, but also by the introduction into Rome of the Syrian sun god and Elagabalus's installation of the Black Rock of Emesa on the Palatine. It is therefore striking that the Phoenician merchant in this text is, like Julia Domna and her family, a Syrian,[ ] and that the Phoenician swears by Helios—a solar deity Her. It is perhaps not coincidental that in the stories of Achilles' wrath the victims were women who broke the taboos of the sanctuary.

As we have seen, the dialogue develops a contrast between two opposing stances toward the heroes of Hellenic culture, that is, between proper honor, as exemplified by the attitude of the Phoenician Syrian merchant by the end of the dialogue, and the extremes of dishonor exemplified by the quintessential foreigners—the Amazons, the Trojan girl, Xeinis, and the Assyrian youth.

Translated by Ellen Bradshaw Aitken and Jennifer K. Berenson Maclean

On Heroes may thus demonstrate the Hellenic piety of the emperor Alexander Severus and his highly influential mother, Julia Mamaea. In order to understand the particular valence Protesilaos may have had in this political situation, it is instructive to recall Herodotus's use of Protesilaos as the protector of Greece against the Persians. On Heroes may then have been written around the time of Alexander Severus's Persian campaign in order to promote Greek and hence Roman identity and piety, by recalling not only the memory of the preeminent heroes of the Trojan War but most notably that of Protesilaos.

In the fifth century B. Achilles' destruction of the Amazons, like their defeat by Theseus, would then communicate the certainty of Roman success against the Sassanids, so long as the heroes receive due honor. Given this interpretation, On Heroes exhibits a strong anti-Persian perspective, which coheres well with Alexander Severus's campaign against the Sassanids. The difficulty is that we know nothing about imperial patronage for Philostratus in the period after the death of Julia Domna and during the reign of Alexander Severus. Nevertheless, the heroes' reaction to foreign threats in this dialogue means that questions of cultural identity in historical and political context must be set alongside discussion of religious and literary dimensions.

To the modern reader On Heroes may appear relies upon a detailed body of assumed knowledge and experience. In the first place, the reader is expected to be intimately conversant with the poems of Homer and the numerous other traditions about the Homeric heroes. The references to Homer's poems are seldom made through direct quotation, but rather by allusion to an episode, use of a key phrase, or inclusion of a recognizable epithet.

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Homer is referred to here not only as one who recounts stories of the Hellenic and Trojan heroes at Troy, but also as a source of practical information, such as the best way to plant trees Her. On Heroes thus demonstrates a number of the uses to which the epic traditions were put. The dialogue assumes, in addition to such familiarity with the Iliad and Odyssey , that the audience has further knowledge about the heroic age.

The heroes' ancestry and birth, the exploits of their fathers, their deeds before the Trojan War, as well as stories of their fate at the end of the war, their death and burial or their return to their homeland — all these are drawn into the dialogue, rendering it a rich resource for traditions about the heroes. Many of these traditions are attested elsewhere, in the summaries of the lost poems of the Homeric cycle, such as the Aithiopis or the Cypria , or in allusions in Pindar and Pausanias, chief among the Greek authors, frequently include information about the heroes found in On Heroes.

Moreover, it is not only the heroes of the Trojan War with which the dialogue is concerned but also others, such as Herakles and the Seven Against Thebes, inasmuch as their exploits impinged upon the history of the warriors at Troy. The dialogue displays a special concern with heroes' tombs and sanctuaries; here the reader is expected to be familiar with the burial of the heroes, the rites appropriate in each sanctuary, and the particular interests each hero has. In what way has a hero been offended, either in life or in death, that he or she might seek vengeance upon the living? In this respect, the knowledge that the audience has or acquires from the dialogue has important consequences.

It is vital to know the right story about each hero, not least so that one does not offend or do violence to their memory.


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The consequences of ignorance and offense are great, from the perspective of the dialogue, since each hero is a revenant , still possessing the capacity to avenge injustice. The consequences of proper knowledge about the heroes and their ways are also great, with blessing and prosperity bestowed by the heroes upon those who maintain a right relationship with them. On Heroes thus assumes a certain inculturation into the basic patterns of hero cult.

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On Heroes also refers at times to pieces of Greek literature other than the poems of Homer, most notably the poems of Hesiod and the dialogues of Plato. Consideration of Hesiod is included chiefly through comparison with Homer's compositional technique and skill, with the introduction of the motif of the contest between Homer and Hesiod known as the Certamen.

References to Plato are more complex and less foundational to the worldview of the text.


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On Heroes contains no explicit references to Plato and yet by its genre draws upon the tradition of philosophical dialogue begun by Plato see above. Philostratus also alludes to Platonic discussions about education, the acquisition of knowledge, the relation of the body and soul, and the role of sense perception e. A thorough analysis of the relation of On Heroes to Platonic ideas and writings is not possible here, but a preliminary examination suggests that the dialogue is critical of certain Platonic perspectives e.


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  4. References to contemporary events and figures are also found throughout the dialogue. The deeds of certain Olympic athletes and various events in Roman fiscal policies, although obscure and tantalizing to the modern historian, are cited in a way that assumes the ancient audience was quite familiar with them. In order to understand, for example, the full impact of Achilles' avenging wrath upon the Thessalians when they were overly casual about their sacrifices, it is necessary to be acquainted with the imperial monopoly on extraction of purple dye and the sanctions placed upon the Thessalians in the reign of Alexander Severus for their violation of the monopoly.

    Such references to imperial edicts suggest an interest in complimenting the imperial family, whose policies thus fulfill the wishes of the heroes; combined with discussion of contemporary athletes they render a dialogue that is otherwise about events of long ago quite up-to-date. As one might expect in a dialogue in which a major characters is a Phoenician merchant who sails the Aegean and the Black Sea, On Heroes is replete with geographical references.

    Like the merchant, the audience is expected to recognize the names of cities, regions, islands, mountains, and rivers associated with the heroes, their sanctuaries, or where supernatural marvels are to be found. The majority of these are in the northern Aegean, the Hellespont, and the Troad, but the world circumscribed by the dialogue extends from India to Spain and from Ethiopia to the banks of the Danube the ancient Istros.

    The dialogue conveys a strong sense of place, emphasized by the present-day appearance of the heroes in particular localities and especially the appearance of Protesilaos in his sanctuary at the tip of the Thracian Chersonesus. An underlying message of the dialogue is that part of obtaining true knowledge entails being in the right place. Moreover, as we have observed above, the role of Protesilaos on the western coast of the Hellespont, at the ancient gateway between Europe and Asia. Thus the geographic dimension of the dialogue cannot be ignored, and in many cases geography holds the key to the significance of an episode.

    These observations about the knowledge that On Heroes assumes on the part of its audience locate the dialogue in an intertextual web of stories, traditions, and practices. We have already explored the relation between this dialogue and the epic traditions; here it is sufficient to say that this web should not be limited to what the audience could have obtained from written sources.

    suankarnchang.com/images/spiare-messaggi/euronics-offerte-cellulari-iphone-6.php Rather, as we consider how to read this text, we may suppose as a starting point that numerous stories about the heroes continued to be told alongside the poems of Homer. These stories may have been told in connection with the legends about the foundations of cities and about cult sanctuaries; they may have enjoyed local prestige, even as they contradicted or complemented the panhellenic epics of the Iliad and Odyssey. Inasmuch as these stories surface in Greek and Roman literature and art, the modern reader gains some access to them.

    We should emphasize, however, that references in On Heroes to such traditions need not be thought of as resulting solely from literary dependence. The same may be said of the references to cultic practice.

    Part 93 What is Ajax and why should we use it

    Although descriptions of cultic activity cannot be taken simplistically as eyewitness reports, we may suppose that Philostratus was well informed about certain ritual practices and crafted them in ways that suited his aims. In other words, we suggest that On Heroes is read best if it is seen as situated within a world of performance, that is, the performances, including those in written form, of stories and ritual practices associated with the heroes of the epic traditions.

    On Heroes demands a certain expertise on the part of its audience. Thus, in producing the following translation,[ ] we have tried to provide the reader with what is needed to understand the text. We have, above all, attempted to produce a translation that is fairly transparent to the Greek idiom, with a minimum of paraphrase; the translation is also sensitive to word-play and aware of the technical vocabulary of Greek poetics, rhetoric, and cultic practice. Second, we have supplemented the translation with notes, an extensive glossary, and maps.

    The notes do not pretend to provide a full commentary on the text; they are limited to elucidating obscure points, clarifying matters of translation, and supplying references to the Iliad , the Odyssey , and other ancient literature. A few notes contain a fuller discussion of phenomena or practices mentioned in the text. We have avoided extensive citation of secondary literature in the notes, reserving discussion of scholarship on Philostratus and On Heroes for the Introduction.

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