25 April 2011

On Vacation: Hoopoe

In this entry, the hoopoe with the lovely gawkiness of a young teenage girl: a 17th-century Turkish plate, the hoopoe that was my neighbor in Athens, and an early 15th-century drawing by Pisanello.

21 April 2011

Waiting for Easter

 Lenten Altar
Thompson Chapel, St. Mark's Episcopal Cathedral, Seattle  

Where do you live?

What do you want with us?  

Who is my neighbor?  

 Why does he speak this way?

Why does he eat with them?

What should we do?

Do you intend for us to feed all these people?

Don't you care that we are perishing?

Is it I?

* * * * * * 

Why have you gone on ahead of me?

15 April 2011

On Vacation: Eave Painting

From a house on Plapoutsas, the only surviving eave paintings from newly-independent Nauplion. I discussed one of the paintings here some time ago.  A few other houses continue the tradition of stencils, quite garish in contrast to these that evoke Roman fresco.   They all derive from Turkish styles of house decoration.  I hope the archaeological authorities of Nauplion will make some effort to stabilize and conserve these lovely paintings. 

Later: That was obviously wishful thinking. I am adding photographs made in November 2010 sent by Brigitte Eckert who has been responsible for the Bettina Schinas translation.  Mine were taken in early 2009.  Notice the amount of deterioration in less than two years, particularly at the corner.

08 April 2011

The Marathon Stone

There is no image for the Marathon stone because photography was forbidden on the occasion when we saw it, and we have not been able to find any photographs. When one becomes available, it will go here.  

Later: Amelia Brown, a classicist at the University of Queensland in Australia, has sent us an article from HOROS [17-21 (2004-2009) 679-692] by G. Steinhauer with these pictures of the stone.  (Go here for a color photograph of the stone.)
* * * * * *

Nearly two years ago, I wrote of a missing Acropolis marble and the Marathon stone. Recently, thanks to the Times Literary Supplement of March 18 (p10) we saw a partial English translation, indicating that the text of the inscription has been published.

This entry continues with Pierre MacKay as author:

The first two lines “Fame, as it reaches the furthest limits of the sunlit earth, / Shall learn the valour of these men: how they died” which turn out to be an immense improvement on the original publication, still involve translation of a line of Greek that could not possibly have been written even in the 7
th century AD, let alone the 5th century B.C.

We first saw the stone as members of a small group that was grudgingly permitted to make a hurried dash through a damp, poorly lit basement under the long-closed museum of the town of Astros, near the villa of the Athenian billionaire Herodes Atticus. Even rushed along, as we were, we could recognize from letter-forms, orthography and the rather odd format that this was part of an unpublished casualty list of the Athenians who fell at the battle of Marathon in 490 B.C.

From the research blog for the Center for Hellenic Studies, we have a citation in Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum, the internationally acknowledged authority for discussions and new discoveries in Greek epigraphy LVI, #430.

The editors of SEG LVI, #430 have recorded, with understandable distaste, the Greek text as it was available to them, remarking that the excavator, G. T. Spyropoulos “has made minimal use of IG, no use of SEG, and his texts contain inaccuracies and faulty accents, which we do not repeat here.”

Ἐ          ρ          ε          χ          θ          ε          ΐ          [ς]
Φêμις ἄρ᾽ | hος κιχ[άν]<ει> αἰεὶ εὐφαõς hέσσχατα γαί[ες]
τõνδ᾽ ἀνδρõν ἀρετὲν πεύσεται hος ἔθανον
[μ]αρνάμενοι Μέδοισι καὶ ἐσστεφάνοσαν Ἀθένας
[π]αυρότεροι πολλõν δεχσάμενοι πόλεμον

[- - - - - - - -]

Two stone fragments have bits of names:

A blog from Wabash College -- essential parallel reading for this post-- gives a translation:
Good report indeed, as it reaches always the furthest ends of
well-lit earth, will report the aretê of these men, how
they died fighting against Medes and crowned
Athens, a few having awaited the attack of many.
But it seems even better for Fame to learn from this monument, rather than to report it.

The blog by Nikolaos Papazarkadas (writing from the Center for Hellenic Studies) asks how “the alleged crux of L. 2 (first verse of the first hexameter)”:
                      Φε̃μις ἄρ᾽ | hος κιχ[άν]<ει> αἰεὶ εὐφαõς hέσσχατα γαί[ες]
can be solved. As it is, the line is clumsily restored, (presumably by Spyropoulos) with a quite unnecessary extra syllable <ει> inserted to spoil the meter, and another, the õς of εὐφαõς, lengthened so that it makes the situation even worse.

I hope regular readers will forgive a very short technical excursus here.

The Greek alphabet as used by Athenians in 490 B.C. did not contain an ETA or an OMEGA, and did not use accents. (When these Athenians wrote H, they meant the sound we mean by “h”.)

Athenians wrote E for both epsilon and eta, and O for both omicron and omega, and on inscriptions they wrote in all caps. It was up to the reader to know which sound was appropriate in context. Spyropoulos found two instances of O in this line and he got both of them wrong. He seems to have seen ( I do not have access to a photograph):

and to have decided, inexplicably, that the fragment of the verb, κιχ-, should be filled out as a present tense, κιχ[άν]〈ει〉. The generalizing (gnomic) aorist is far more likely in this context, and the line can quite easily be interpreted (I shall use post-403 B.C. Athenian conventions for the vowels, to make it clearer.)
This produces a slightly different translation from the ones given above, in that it is Fame that is brilliant, rather than the ends of the earth.

Fame, ever brilliant as she seeks out the ends of the earth,
Shall learn the valour of these men: how they died
Fighting the Medes, and and placed a crown on Athens
A few, accepting battle against many.

εὔφαος, incidentally, is not found in the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae database, but it is a perfectly reasonable formation, and would agree with the feminine noun Φῆμις.

* * * * * * * * *

Of at least as much interest as these epigraphical quibbles, however, is the fact that the first general access to this extraordinary inscription is in translation, in a review in the Times Literary Supplement. It seems to have been around for several years. The editors of SEG speak well of an article, G. Steinhauer. Horos 17-21 (2004—09) 679-92, but I could not expect to see a copy of this in fewer than three weeks, so I cannot evaluate the reasons which may have led Steinhauer to stick with Spyropoulos’s present tense here, where the unaugmented gnomic aorist would seem very much preferable on all counts.

If we ask how the inscription got to the villa in the Peloponnesos, the answer is likely to be that it was taken there by a self-indulgent plutocrat whose wishes could not well be ignored. Until now, I had regarded the quaintly archaic accusation of “Aiming at Tyranny” that was more than once directed against Herodes Atticus as a sort of petty vendetta, but this fragment, effectively looted from Attica has led me to reconsider the charge. Herodes may have forced or bribed a subservient Athenian administration to permit the looting, but it was still looting, rather like Lord Elgin’s arrangement with the Ottoman authorities to take away marbles surrounding the Parthenon which were otherwise destined for the lime-kiln, or the repairs to the lower courses of the Acropolis wall.

There is some irony in the preservation of this fragment and the Elgin marbles because they were looted, but there is the difference that the Elgin marbles have been on public exhibit for more than a century, and there is no indication that this Marathon fragment, or its fellow artefacts, have been set free from their damp tomb. The Horos article cited above informs us that G. Spyropoulos uncovered this stone between 1980 and 2001.  We might recall, that when the German Archaeological Society discovered the glorious inscribed bronze Persian helmet from Marathon (ΑΘΕΝΑΙΟΙ ΜΕΔΟΝ ΛΑΒΟΝΤΕΣ) in the excavations at Olympia, they exhibited photographs of it in the very same year.

03 April 2011

The lovely mighty waves will carry her away

Bettina as a young woman
Bettina was engaged to her S -- Konstantinos Dimitrios Schinas -- for ten years before they were finally able to marry.  She traveled by carriage with her family from Munich to Ancona, where S met them for the wedding.  This first letter, from Bettina and her brother Franz, to their aunt Meline Brentano von Guaita, is in Franz's handwriting:
* * * * *
My dear and precious little aunt,

We reached the aim of our journey . . . maybe you don’t know about dear Bettina’s desolate incertitude, staying without news . . . but it showed her character so much the greater!

We did not leave Munich until September 27, travelling to Verona in 5 days, not without some fears for father which turned into as many hold-ups: here we found a pile of letters: Schinas, having passed the quarantine in Ancona, expected us with utmost impatience; Bettina in extreme excitement could not be delayed any longer: father needed a day of rest; so I alone accompanied mother and sister the very next morning to the destination of tearful happiness.

. . . For 10 years my sister has lived only for him and loves him till death! - more I cannot say! He knows it, he feels it,  yes, surely: he responds to it - God will judge if all of us there were right to give our blessings in glad sacrifice. Father arrived two days later and so we could rejoice in the happy ending, after more than once doubting it  and suffering many a anxiety.

October 9 at 11 in the morning we saw our sister at the altar! a beautiful bridal crown on her head! O, what a sight!  It’s the obsequies of vestal life, of the child in the fold of the family, but also of 9 years of consuming heartache. Now she has peace, happy satisfaction, the good girl! . . . She has dropped out of our family, yet a few days and the lovely mighty waves which are washing ashore at our house will carry her away, all the way! We too will be traveling home, our group will be smaller, it will be very boring at home! we have had her such a long time.

The Greek celebration was extremely beautiful; we had gathered calmly in the Greek consul’s Dorutti house, an excellent man who had prepared an altar in a pretty friendly room. I will never forget the sight of them both standing there in front of the altar holding hands and each a burning candle in the other one and on their heads each a wonderful crown according to Greek orthodox custom; a very beautiful veil, attached to the crowns, fell down behind them as a joint cover: so they stood united as the priest made the sign of the cross three times holding the rings to fronts and chests of them and spoke the blessings over the bonded names! We cried very much, but no bitter tears.

You would not believe how easily she moves into wedlock, like she has been born to it. The tender love of both of them is our full joy, and the fate that was meant for her and us could not come true more untroubled and perfect. . .

Yours devotedly, Franz


Corfu, Oct. 24th 1834
Bettina and Konstantinos Schinas to Mr. and Ms. von Savigny,
(hand of Bettina)

Right now Schinas comes telling me a boat will leave for Triest in half an hour. I am using this opportunity to inform you in a hurry that we happily arrived here yesterday evening 8 o’clock. A long and detailed letter will be dispatched from here via Otranto in a few days.

All the people on the boat except the sailors, Count Lunzi an me were awfully sick so we were engaged in nursing. I was in such a mood I wanted to laugh all the time about everything going on around me. Be glad with me I was keeping up so robustly. I also wasn’t afraid for one moment, not even in the night during a thunderstorm. Christiane (her maid) wanted to die at my feet. Schinas was lying on his couch, Stephano (family servant) under it, both sick.
(hand of Schinas)
The Austrian cargo boat is leaving today (to be specific at 12) but we slept late and finished our toilets only at 11 -- a real shame -- neither Bettina nor her lazy husband can write much. For today it is enough to tell that we arrived yesterday evening at 8 at Corfu after a rather happy passage, were received very kindly and caringly by Mr. Faber (Greek consul) and will leave Sunday at 5 in the morning for Patras with the English steamer which we fortunately found here.

Bettina attracted the admiration of all passengers because of her vivacity and for being almost the only person who did not get sick once.

 * * * * * *

Constantinos and Bettina Schinas made their home in Nauplion for several months.