To Notes as of October 2, 1995
XII. And now we need know to a little history, but you will find that we
just can't rid of Homer:
A. In the year 338, Philip II of Macedonia defeated the combined
armies of Athens and Thebes at the battle of Chaeronea.
1. About the only thing the Greek states ever had been able to
agree upon was Homer and the Panhellenic Games
2. SOME of them had barely stayed cohesive enough to win the
great war against the Persian invasion of 480.
3. The major allies of THAT war, Sparta and Athens, proceeded
to eviscerate each other in an exciting exercise called the
Peloponnesian War, 431-404 while the Persians thoughtfully
poured on Kerosene whenever the flames looked likely to go
4. Contrary to what many would have you believe (And don't
blame Thucydides) the fun didn't stop there.
5. Sparta tried to rule Greece with Persian support, which got
everybody angry enough to rally around Thebes, which put
Sparta down in the great battle of Leucta.
6. With Sparta gone, the various cities of the Peloponnese
proceded to turn each other into chutney at regular intervals.
7. Thebes tried to conquer Phocis, and the Phocians proceeded to
grab Delphi and use the riches there to hire mercenaries in the
340's in a horror called the 2nd Sacred War.
8. So all Greek aspirations, culture, and thought boiled down to
the Macedonians ending up with the pie--except that...
B. Philip's family had always valued Greek culture
1. Philip's grandfather Archelaus had taken in the great
Athenian tragic playwright Eurpides (died c. 406)
2. Philip's family went so far as to claim descent from Achilles, as
one of Philip's precocious heir Alexander's tutors hammered
home by calling Alexander "Achilles" and he himself
3. Alexander's last and most famous tutor was Aristotle, who took
charge of him was he was 13 in 343. Would it terribly surprise
you to know that Alexander considered his most valuable
possession a copy of the Iliad that Aristotle had worked over
4. Philip was assassinated under mysterious circumstances and
Alexander proceeded to show that he was a better man than
ever his father was...
C. How do you write about superheroes when somebody's made
Achilles look sick?
1. Just to give you an idea of how great was Homer's influence on
Alexander, when Alexander launched his great campaign
against the Persians, he
a) Arrived at Troy, got off the boat, and sacrificed to
b) Then went with his best bud Hephaestion to sacrifice to the
tombs of Achilles and Patroclus
c) And THEN sacrficed to Priam by way of apoligizing for his
ancestor Pyrrhus/Neoptolemus having done him in.
2. Alexander proceeded after that, with periodic single combats,
sulks in his tent, and terrible angers, to conquer the Persian
Empire and a good chunk of Afghanistan and India in the
years between 336 and his death in 323. Oh, and when
Hephaestion died in 324, Alexander exterminated the entire
tribe of the Sacae as, he said, a funeral sacrifice to
Hephaestion, for whom he conducted the Mother of All
3. Unfortunately, the one way Alexander had NOT emulated
Achilles was in forgetting to leave an heir of an age to KEEP all
Alexander had conquered for him: Alexander IV d. c. 310 and
the empire hopelessly fragmented.
XIII. And NOW we get into the world that created Apollonius of Rhodes
and the Argonautica: The Hellenistic Age, 323-31 (politically, at
A. Alexander's generals killed each other and large numbers of
other people off in what we call the Wars of the Diadochi in
between 322 (death of Perdiccas) and 281 (Corupedion).
B. The old Greek city states banded together into leagues that
spent most of their time voting as a group to which of the
general-kings they were going to toady.
C. Admittedly, the city-state of Rhodes had sent one of the most
dangerous of these men packing in 305, with a dangerous
combination of strong walls, the finest navy the world had
(has?) ever seen, and a shocking willingness to die in order to
remain free. Tyrranies have a hard time coping with that sort
D. The Gauls had the bad luck to invade around 281, when the
assorted general kings paused from trying to kill each other to
turn the troops and war machines on them. That was
something of a vindication of Greek culture and science, as
they saw it. It certainly didn't lead to another dark age, as it
might have and would.
XIV. End as of 10/27/95
A. After a great deal of bloodshed and waste, the Eastern
Mediterranean basically divided itself into thirds:
1. The original kingdom of Macedonia, under Demetrius's
descendants, that spent its time trying to get back into Greece,
fighting the Ptolemies over the Aegean islands, and quarreling
with the Seluecids over Asia.
2. The Seleucids were in charge of the central section of
Alexander's empire, as far as Indian, and spent two centuries
watching pieces of it break off while they fought with the
Ptolemies over lower Syria and tried to keep Pergamon down
and the Antigonids out.
3. And then there's Egypt and the Ptolemies:
a) Ptolemy I, Alexander's cavalry commander, had beaten it to
Egypt early (in 323) and was able to hold it since he only
had to defend the Sinai frontier and make sure he had a
b) Demetrius scared the hell out of him (and hence, his support
of Rhodes), and, as I mentioned, he'd founded the Museum
at his capital of Alexandria as a weapons laboratory.
c) He took his powerful fleet and tried to fight his way back
into Greece and the Aegean Islands
d) Another thing he did was to hire a Rhodian named
Timosthenes to make a detailed survey of the Mediterranean
coast, and outside through Gibraltar and up the Atlantic
coast. Timosthenes voyage and the account of his voyage
were as well known as they were useful to Ptolemy's fleet
4. One damn useful weapon in this period was propaganda. All
of the rulers of the three super-powers (and Pergamon) spent a
great deal of time trying to appear more Greek than the others,
and so Ptolemy and his heirs did not object to the philology
soon taking place at his weapons laboratory. In fact, Ptolemy
became one of the most famous book grabbers who ever lived...
5. Now, one of the people who ended up running his library was a
fellow named Callimachus
a) Born in Cyrene, migrated to Alexandria, where he wrote an
annotated catalogue (the pinakes) that still lets us know
how much we've lost.
b) Became enamored of a style of poetry we call pastoral or
idyllic, which emphasizes the beauty and intricacy of nature,
character, and plot, every word carefully chosen, scenes and
emotions carefully and fully described.
c) Would it surprise you to learn that a fellow named
Apollonius was one of his prize students? Keep that in
mind when you're reading the Argonautica.
d) Now, possibly because Callimachus' own longer poems, the
Aetia and the Hecale did not do well, Callimachus came to
believe, and to convince others, that a short and intricately
crafted poem was superior to a long poem, such as Homer's
(1) Do you suppose this was because Homer had left no room
for a rival?
(2) How is someone going to be the best at what he does if
somebody else has done it so well previously?
e) Callimachus could describe a beautiful scene in beautiful and
intricate words, and he also had a real genius for epigram.
6. Apollonius, however, still thought that Homer could be rivaled.
a) He has started work on the Argonautica early, but it had not
been well received.
b) Legends after the fact also say that he was promoted higher
in the Library than Callimachus was--and I can tell you from
experience that libraries can be pretty tense places!
c) It led to open warfare, and "experience and guile defeated
youth and inexperience," as the saying went--Callimachus
won. One of his shots survives: <1MEGA BIBLI/ON,
d) An assortment of hymns to Ptolemy II and his sister/wife
Arsinoe (the Philadelphia story!!) seems to suggest that
Callimachus had influence at court and so...
e) Apollonius lost so badly that he had to get out of town!
XV. End as of 10/30/95
1. Now, Rhodes (as I know better than anyone else) was at almost
exactly that time both culturally and physically at daggers
drawn with Alexandria. Signs of the war with Rhodes:
a) Callimachus's hymn saying that Ptolemy II (283-246) would
rule "the sea and the lands that are on the sea" was the
equivalent of a red light to Rhodes.
b) Ptolemy II constructed and controlled the most powerful
fleet ever to sail the ancient Mediterranean, and conquered a
great deal of the Asian coast and many of the Aegean
c) War of Ephesus, 240's--Rhodes strikes back, and wins!
d) Claim that Ptolemy II's Rhodian physician had tried to
poison him, spies, hostility. Apollonius had a place to go!
e) At that very time, because of their hostility, Rhodes was
reopening new trade routes into the Pontus/Euxine sea, in
order to have an alternate source of grain than Ptolemy II's
f) Alexander hadn't done a lot up there--still strange territory,
which gives an author room to work.
g) Timosthenes the Rhodian had just made an epoch-making
h) Tyrant kings--large rivers--people fleeing--Ta Da!
2. Signs of the war with Callimachus
a) Four long books instead of eight shorter ones
b) Integration of the idyllic/bucolic elements of Callimachus's
style of poetry into the Argonautica--Read some of the
other stuff for samples.
(1) Description of the coast and voyage in Bk I.
(2) Medea in Bk III.
(3) Incredible range of the Argo's voyage
c) King bids sailor go: Timosthenes again
Evil king in strange land full of sorcery: Aeetes/Ptolemy, Colchis/Egypt