August 23, 2013
What I find interesting is how the later tragic poets turned on Odysseus, whereas Homer showed him in a brilliant light, upstanding and virtuous and beautiful in body and soul. But that’s what history does to heroes. Sophocles and Euripides judged him with later mores, and at the time they wrote that the gods of Olympus had lost some of their godliness. In The Trojan Women, Euripides shows the cruelty of the Greek victors when they divided the aristocratic Trojan women among them as slaves. Lucky Greeks. Andromache, Hector’s beautiful wife, was given to Neoptolemus, son of Achilles. Hecuba, wife of King Priam, goes to Odysseus—not a great prize in my opinion, as she’s already old. Polyxena, another daughter of Priam, is sacrificed on the tomb of Achilles, a great waste according to another tragic poet, Taki. Agamemnon got Cassandra, but a lot of good it did him. Menelaus got Helen back, but a cuckold is a cuckold and the King of Sparta is the greatest cuckold of them all. (If, as Homer tells us, she was the world’s most beautiful woman, I’d have taken her back in a jiffy also, and to hell with the horns on my head.)
And so it goes while I sail on. We Greeks are down and out right now, but there are still a few seconds left before the referee counts to ten. When in trouble, think and dream about the past. Back then we were number one in everything. There were no gruesome, soulless, untalented hustlers like Jay-Z, no punk rockers, no TV vulgarians like Jonathan Ross. Sure, we were a bit tough on people who were born on the wrong side of the tracks, but no one’s perfect, as Socrates should have told us. My great hero was a real person, not a mythological one—Kimon, son of Miltiades, victor of the battle of Marathon. Kimon had his cake and also ate it. He was a real stud who serviced everyone and was madly loved by his wife. He, too, ended up in exile like his old man. Greeks have a tendency to do that sort of thing—get rid of what’s good and keep what’s rotten and corrupt. Themistocles won the battle of Salamis and was shown the door. Since 1974 the same two parties have shared power and have stolen the country blind. The king, who was the first to move against the colonels, was also shown the door and his property stolen from him by the state. Go figure, as Homer never said.