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CLA160H1 Lecture Notes - James George Frazer, Iobates, Hippie

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Stories Within Stories
There are several instances where Homers characters recount “myths” are several key points in
the Iliad and the Odyssey at key points
These episodes of “story within the story” she light on Homers view of the context and function
of myth-telling
Book 6
The first of these occurs in Book 6 of the iliad. Homer shows an exchange of stories marking a
pause in the relentless warfare on the battlefield outside Troy
Interrupting the aristeia (display of valor) by the Greek warrior Diomedes
He encounter Glaucus and asks who he is about to kill
This leads to an exchange of stories that are a pause in the violence
Myth vs. Action
And the content of these “myths” seem designed to encourage peaceful conflict resolution
Do they serve a didactic function?
Diomedes says that he will harm anyone, so long as they are not immortal
He continues with a story of Dionysus and Lycurgus as a reason for why he does not want to
fight against the gods
Diomedes internalized the story in a way that makes him respect the gods: Kill everyone except
the gods
Glucose tells the long story of his grandfather, the hero Bellerophon
King Proetus wife Anteia spurned by Bellerophon accuses him of attempted rape and incites her
husband to murder him
But Proetus shrinks from direct violence against his suppliant and guest (protected by xenia)
So he dispatches Bellerophon to his (Proetus’) father-in-law Iobates
With a sealed tabled containing written instructions to kill the bearer
But Bellerophon is entertained as a guest for nine days before he sees the message
Bellerophon is a bit of a hot-potato
Iobates sends him on a series of fantastic, suicidal missions (E.g., Chimera)
Bellerophon succeeds in them all, and Iobates recognizes his worth and gives his daughter in
marriage as an alliance
This validates Glaucus’ own worth as his descendant
And many Greek myths were created and told in an effort to justify the descendants
Glucose story leads Diomedes to recognize a relationship of hereditary guest-friendship between
himself and his antagonist through Glaucus’ grandfather Bellerophon and Diomedes grandfather
The story also reinforces the importance of honoring the ties of hospitality, imposing an end to
violence through negotiation
Diomedes responds by offering a pact of friendship, they exchange their armor
The exchange is similar to Iobates and Bellerophon: negotiation is part of myth
Book 9
Achilles withdraws when Agamemnon insults him by stealing his prize
An embassy is sent to Achilles in order to reconcile
Lecture 2 - Homer the Hippie
Thursday, Jan. 17/2013
Three “ambassadors” make speeches to Achilles, urging him to reconcile with Agamemnon,
accept the princely gifts and return to the fight
Odysseus, Phoenix, Ajax
Phoenix is an old mentor who is meant to guide Achilles
That teaching takes form in part of a myth from the distant past
In addition to an allegory about personified Prayers and Blindness
The story of a war between the Curetes and the Aeolians, with an obvious moral for Achilles
The goal is conflict resolution
The warrior Meleager stopped fighting in defense of the Aeolians in a fit of pique
Withdrew to sulk like achilles has done
His people begged him to return and offered him gifts and honors
In the end things get so bad that it seems like the city will wall
He is driven by the extremity of the situation and fights, but doesn’t get the gifts
Basically, achilles should accept gifts now and join, because later he’ll probably feel compelled
to fight
You want to get the gifts/honors
Myth vs Allegory
The story Phoenix tells can be seen as an allegory for Achilles:
Artemis = Apollo
Aeolians = Greeks
Curetes = Trojans
Meleager = Achilles
Meleagers mother = Agamemnon
Aeolian elders = embassy to Achilles
Gifts = gifts
Failure of the Moral
According to Phoenix interoperation of his story is that Achilles wants honor
But Achilles is sick of honor
It’s all for a prize, which can be taken away so easily (as Briseis was) with no one to intervene
What is the point of honor if it is a fickle thing?
If all he stands to lose by persisting his sulk is honor and trinkets why come back?
What is missed is that Achilles does have something to lose
His companion Patroclus
That is what brings him back
It’s Achilles sulk that brings about Patroclus death
In the story Phoenix tells there is an element of affection causing honor
Meleager comes back because his wife begged him
Achilles does because of Patroclus death
Meleager comes back for fear of losing his wife, not honor, which Phoenix and Achilles do not
pick up on
Contrasting Outcomes
Phoenix myth fails, Glaucus myth succeeds
Paradigm Shift
Lecture 2 - Homer the Hippie
Thursday, Jan. 17/2013
Glaucus story lifts his hearers imagination out of the parameters of the current bloody conflict,
to a world of scheming, nymphomaniacs, exotic quests and complex binding social protocols
He takes him out to a wider world
Allows Diomedes to conceive of himself not just as a warrior but within the network of xenia
Dangers of Myth-Interpretation
Phoenix story also has (a limited) potential to lift Achilles out of his current obsession with his
wounded pride, with an emotional appeal instead to his affection for his comrades and loved
ones (Patroclus)
But Phoenix interpretation reduces his myth to a simple allegory about honor denied vs honor
So no paradigm shift can occur for Achilles
Achilles rages on
Can the Iliad be used to Greeks to reconcile and reach happier conclusions?
Sir James George Frazer
Magic, Myth, and Ritual in the Golden Bough
In the 1880s he discovered the world of comparative anthropology
Realized that the customs, beliefs and myth of “primitive” people could be used to shed light on
the customs, beliefs and myths of the Greeks and Romans
Greece and Rome were not unique
Mere Humanity
Belief system was primitive and could not have been purely Greek - they were too rational to
come up with this
Must be a contamination from the east
He challenges the belief that it was a contamination
He says it is the effect of similar causes acting alike on the similar constitution of the human
mind in different countries
The Greek ha don need to journey into far countries to learn things about the world
He regards the idea of decay and rebirth as a universal experience
He challenges the fundamental divide of the turn of the century
Greco-Roman customs comparable to and explicable through Near Eastern customs
But also comparable to and explicable through the customs of all pre-modern peoples around the
But he is comparing the “primitive people” to an ancient
We all as individuals basically want/need the same things and pass through the same stages in
effort to obtain them
Frazers association of related rituals and myths from all the cultures of the world, in the effort to
elucidate biarre customs
Frazers identification of the association of related objects/individuals as crucial to primitive
magic, ritual and myth (sympathetic magic)
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
Self-actualizing - morality, creativity, spontaneity, problem solving, lack of prejudice and
acceptance of facts
Lecture 2 - Homer the Hippie
Thursday, Jan. 17/2013