ConversesChallenge: Loeb Classical Library

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des. 12, 2014, 1:07pm

I've read the Argonautica before in some ancient browning English-looking paperback. I don't remember much about it, so this is essentially a fresh reading.

Although in prose, which I usually dislike for a translation of a poem, this translation has a nice feel and flow to it. I found the introduction kind of anemic, but there are enough notes to aid reading and not bog one down. So far the most helpful reader's aid in this volume are the maps, at several different scales, which allow you to really trace the progress of the Argo as the adventure unrolls. Very helpful.

des. 12, 2014, 7:22pm

It's nice to know there are maps in a Loeb volume. I look forward to your review, comments, whatever.

des. 16, 2014, 12:12pm

This is a VERY different beast from Homer's works.

For one, it lacks (at least the translation does) the stock phrases -- that isn't the right term but I can't remember the right term -- of Homer, a la "the rosy-fingered dawn," "grey-eyed Athena" and such. One has far more of a sense that the Argonautica was composed in writing, rather than generated via some kind of oral tradition/mechanism. "More academic" isn't right to describe the feeling, but it isn't all wrong either.

For another thing, the geography, which I have already mentioned, seems impressively accurate. You really can follow the Argo along the southern shore of the Black Sea from headland to island and so on. I don't recall such geographic specificity in Homer -- but I also haven't read the Iliad or Odyssey in years. Homer had enough specificity, certainly, to direct Schliemann to the correct place to dig for Troy. :^)

"Literary" is perhaps a better term for the experience of reading the Argonautica, especially in contrast to the works of Homer. Everything -- the interactions with the gods, the descriptions -- feels ... fussier, more self-conscious and involved. The scenes with Hera, Athena and Aphrodite at the beginning of Book 3 (which is about where I am in my reading) are a good example of this.

I just looked at the Wikipedia article on Apollonius of Rhodes. Not much is known about him, but certainly more than is known about Homer (or Homers, if the author known as Homer was more than one person).

des. 16, 2014, 3:25pm

I think the word you are looking for is "epithet." This is fresh on my mind because I read both the Iliad and Odyssey within the last few months.

I was interested to learn that Apollonius lived much later than Homer, which would go a long way in explaining the more literary feel you speak of.

des. 16, 2014, 3:30pm

The stock phrases are called epithets and yeah, there aren't as many in non-Homeric epics because the non-Homeric ones are, as you mention, actually written from the get-go and not based on an oral tradition (the epithets gave the bards who traveled round and recited the epics (from memory!) a couple of seconds of mental breathing space with which to think ahead to the next few lines.
And "fussy" is an excellent way to describe Apollonius' style, which was the trend at the time. Fancier, more flowery language was the Big Thing. Not really to my taste, but I still like the poem.

des. 16, 2014, 4:13pm

>4 Poquette:
>5 scaifea:

Thanks both! Epithet. I can't believe I had forgotten that.

One day I will have to relate my experience taking a course on The Odyssey from W. B. Stanford, who wrote a little book called The Ulysses Theme, and was a reasonably well-known Classical scholar.

Looking at the Wikipedia page on Stanford, I see that when I took the course, he was not far from the end of his time on Earth.

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