Mortality is Hard to Wrestle With: Metis, Bie and Ananke in Euripides’ Alcestis
Emily Kratzer, University of California-Los Angeles
In the Alcestis the powers that control mortals’ destinies constitute a formidable wrestling team, both literally and figuratively: Tyche is “hard to wrestle” (δυσπάλαιστος, 889); the weeping of grief is a powerful opponent of the marriage hymn (γόος αντίπαλος, 922); and Herakles wrestles Death himself to win back the deceased Alcestis (843ff.). Herakles is a hero destined to become a god; thus his defeat of Death is often seen as an allegorical precursor to his deification (cf. Burkert 1979: 78-98, Shapiro 1983: 7-12). But further, as a proficient wrestler in the mythological tradition, Herakles is uniquely suited to do battle with the forces of mortality in the Alcestis.
Chief among these forces is Ananke, Necessity personified as a goddess, who is the strongest of all (965-966), possesses unmatched force (βία, 981) and has an inescapable grip (984). Ananke’s special power over mortals, here as elsewhere in Greek literature, is the constraining bond (cf. Schreckenberg 1964): in the Chorus’ “Ode to Necessity,” Ananke is imagined holding Admetus tight “in the inescapable bonds of her hands” (984). Ananke is undefeatable, I argue, because she employs both bie, “force,” and metis, “cunning,” as represented by the bond (cf. Detienne and Vernant 1978: 20-21). Metis and bie are usually seen as opposed concepts, employed in combination by Zeus alone (Detienne and Vernant 1987: 90-91); yet Herakles as a wrestler is a master of both. When Herakles fights Death, he uses the very power of ananke, the constraining bonds of his hands, to defeat him (847-848).
Euripides associates Herakles’ superhuman nature with his athletic prowess; indeed, through his abilities as a wrestler—his use of both metis and bie—Herakles proves himself truly his father’s son. Zeus’ power to compel other gods (ηνάγκασεν, 7) has its closest match in Herakles’ wielding of ananke over the forces of mortality.
Plautus’ palaistra: the vocabulary of intrigue in the slave dialogues of Plautus’ Miles Gloriosus.
Madhlozi Moyo, University of Zimbabwe
The present article exposes the competitive nature of Plautine comedy by arguing that the trickery of characters on stage is, by and large, represented in the form of an agwn, as the servus callidus (Palaestrio) strives to bamboozle fellow characters and emerges victorious in the end. The victory of the wily slave belonging to the wild atmosphere of the ludi Romani, Megalenses, Apollinares, and Plebei, lends the play its characteristic motif of wholesome strife. The wily slave’s conquest of fellow characters on stage presumes competition and rivalry, the only difference being that this time the characters fight it out with wits. The victory of Palaestrio concludes the intrigue and, in the reversal of roles, gives a didactic motive to the play (i.e denouncing the adultery of Pyrgopolinices), which is the objective of most world literature today- providing enjoyment through a complete plot and a relevant lesson. The tricky Plautine slave uses words like sycophantiam (Mil. 767), simulare (Mil. 908), ludificarier (Mil. 1161), etc with a vis which results in a special type of humour that operates hand- in- glove with the deception of characters on stage. Much of the vocabulary of cheating in the Miles is spoken by Palaestrio and, to a lesser extent, Sceledrus and Lucrio. The disputes usually pit as rivals, the slave against fellow slave, or the slave against his master, etc. The unity of the play is rooted firmly on these contests- take these away and there is nothing left of the play. These intrigues and deceptions can be represented as a separate jargon.
Striving for Anonymity:
Exemplarity in Polybios’ Roman Army
Jeremy LaBuff, University of Pennsylvania
This paper explores Polybios’ depiction in his sixth book of the Roman military system of reward for extraordinary action in battle (VI. 39.1-11). Noting the similarity between this passage and the accounts of the imagines and Horatius Cocles in the same book, I argue for the prominent functioning of exemplarity as an impetus for competition parallel to these latter, more famously analysed, examples (see Flower 1996 & Roller 2004, respectively). Not only did rewarded behavior reinforce and reproduce ethical norms of valor within (and beyond) the Roman army, but it focused future rivalry and emulation on brave deeds as defined by the institution itself, rather than as determined by the individuals who acted bravely. This depersonalized commemoration of action ensured the control of what counted as praiseworthy by the instituting authority, namely the Roman state. So, it is not the memory of brave individuals that inspired soldiers to act courageously in the future, but the shared--and thus elided--“braveness” of all past rewarded behavior. On the other hand, to explain the prominence of exemplarity in Polybios’ description of this system, I observe the tendency throughout his history to link exempla and valorous action. Although, or perhaps because these associations are usually made in the context of the aristocracy, Polybios applies exemplarity to the common soldier in a way that confirms the importance of the elite and leaves the commemorated anonymous. It is through controlled competition, then, which gives real credit to the army’s leaders, that Polybios can involve all Roman soldiers in Book 6’s project of explaining Rome’s military resilience in the face of the most trying adversity: the defeat at Cannae.
Competition and Rivalry in Death: Etruscan Funerary Buildings and Decoration
Katherine Polywkan, University of British Columbia
Competition is an integral part of all civilizations throughout history, but it does not end with death. One’s desire to continue after death through remembrance has influenced many large funerary monuments of the ancient world. The Etruscans were no exception. During the Orientalizing period (720-575 B.C.), aristocratic Etruscans displayed their wealth and status by creating large tumuli, influenced from the monumental mounds of western Anatolia. After the tumuli cease to be created in the Archaic period (575-480 B.C.), a demonstration of competitive scenes in tomb art suggest that competition may have become an integral part of the funerary procession, possibly as the origin of the later Roman gladiatorial bouts. A wrestling scene can be found in the Tomb of the Augurs, which also contains an interesting scene of the masked Phersu (possibly an actor) holding on to a tied up victim who is being attacked by a dog. This tomb may be showing the funerary games of the Etruscans during the Archaic period. Scenes such as this, which depict violent competition, have been cited as evidence (both in antiquity and today) for Etruscan amoral behaviour, but it should be noted that these scenes are prevalent as Etruscan society is being thrown into rivalries with other Mediterranean cultures. The prevalence of war may have influenced a transition from friendly to deadly competition for the Etruscans. But as the Etruscans may have some of the more gruesome funerary depictions, they also have the most affectionate. Sarcophagi depicting couples embracing (from the fifth and fourth centuries B.C.) greatly contrast with the competitive tomb paintings, demonstrating a complex society plagued by war, yet striving for domestic peace.
The Roman Provincial Monument as Medium and Mediator
Àlvaro Ibarra, University of Texas-Austin
This lecture will address the brutal violence pictured upon the Trajanic trophy monument in Adamklissi, Romania (erected AD 109). In particular, twenty-one of the fifty-four known metope friezes upon the façade are active depictions of battle. (Fig. 1&2) These are not passive scenes of marching, building, or even the romanticized fighting found upon the Column of Trajan. Warfare on the Tropaeum Traiani is an intimate and immediate affair. Each of these metopes shows two or three warriors committing violent acts, freezing the action in the midst of a stabbing, trampling, or beheading.
Because the Roman soldier is the winner of every bloody exchange, many scholars dismissed the narrative as little else than a proclamation of glorious Roman triumph. Indeed, the emperor Trajan commissioned the trophy in commemoration of his victory over the Dacians in the Dacian Wars. However, this is only the story of the monument from an elite Roman perspective. A viewership for the producers and viewers of the trophy, a population composed of Romanized soldiers and pacified Dacians, is currently under debate.
This talk specifically addresses the violent scenes upon the Tropaeum Traiani in reference to the realities of the Dacian campaigns and through stylistic and narrative comparanda found in Dacian and Roman legionary art. Moreover, I extend examples to include the visual traditions of XI Claudia, the Germanic legion most likely to be the primary patron of the monument.
The comparison reveals a case of two local populations (one co-opted and the other recently subjugated) speaking to one another through a Roman monument. The trophy acted as a medium for nuanced communication for locals, so long as the overt statement was that of glorious victory for Trajan and Rome. The trophy served as a mediator, a site that actively negotiated seemingly distinct cultures of Rome and Dacia.
Victory on Fifth Century Roman Coins: Personification or God's Angel?
Amber Latimer, University of Alberta
One of the greatest contests to occur in the 4th century was in the religious sphere between Christianity and paganism. Literary sources are not the only way to examine this religious struggle. Coins also provide an important source of historical information for the rise of Christianity and its eventual domination over paganism. By examining imperial coinage, the archaeologist is given a different means of viewing the rise of Christianity. Coins, often used by emperors as a type of propaganda, allow scholars to see which aspect of their rule emperor’s were intent of promoting.
The personification of Victory, often used as a symbol of the emperor’s triumph over enemies, appears frequently on Roman imperial coinage before the advent of Christianity. Even with the rise of Christianity, Victory continued to appear on coins throughout the 4th and 5th centuries. In fact, after other pagan deities and personifications disappeared from the coinage, most of which ceased to appear under Constantine I, images of Victory rose to take their place. She even came to be associated with Christian symbols, often appearing with chi-rhos and crosses. It may be for this reason that many scholars believe that in the 4th century Victory had become ‘God’s angel’.
Had Victory really become ‘God’s angel’? More importantly, did the Romans view her in this way? The fact that Victory is even found on the coins of Gratian and Theodosius I, two of the more anti-pagan emperors, suggests that towards the end of the 4th century Victory was no longer viewed as a pagan image as such. Nevertheless, she may not have been viewed by the Romans as an angel yet either. Was Victory still a pagan personification, or had she become a Christian image? I will address this question in my paper along with Victory’s close association with Christian symbols.
Playing for Power: The Use of Magic in the Roman Circus
Elizabeth Lubbers, University of British Columbia
The great passion Romans had for their circus games has long been known. The heightened levels of enthusiasm and craze that swept over the crowd as fanatical fans sided with their favorite colors is a scene that can be paralleled in our modern society as a new generation of sport fanaticism has taken root. Literary and archaeological evidence testify to the vast popularity of chariot racing, leading scholars to a better understanding of the inner workings of how the circus buildings functioned, the people present in the stands, and the organization of the four primary factions.
Underlying this institution of chariot racing however, was an additional competition that was once considered a necessary component to any chariot race. Throughout the Empire there was a competition of magical power between magic workshops and their clients, aiming to create and purchase the most powerful magical package to ensure victory in the influential circus arena. The circus was a place where the stakes were high; it was where charioteers could gain fame and fortune, a magistrate popularity, and where a betting fan may win or lose his life’s savings. To these people who had so much pending on the outcome of the race, simply letting it run its course was not an option, and they took matters into their own hands by hiring a magician to perform both defensive and aggressive magic through protective amulets and buried curse tablets. Literary and archaeological evidence will be employed to show that this type of magic was a strong force in the public consciousness and thus elevated the role of the local magic man to that of a lucrative business man, able to sell his craft and engage in magical battles between opposing teams employing their own magician. Although it was illegal, magic was an incredibly real experience in the Roman circus, and those in control of its use had both much to gain and much to lose from its exploitation.
External Reflections of Internal Conflicts: Josephus and his works
Jon Holtgrefe, University of Oregon
The Jewish historian Flavius Josephus (AD37-c.100) was, if one were to go by the theme of his works, an avid proponent and defender of the Jewish people and religion. However, if one were to look at the actual life history of Josephus one discovers that he wrote his works in Rome under the patronage of the Flavian emperors. This, in and of itself, is not an unusual occurrence but what is puzzling about Josephus is how he came to be a client to the Roman emperors. He defected to the Roman side in the Jewish Civil War (66-70) after being defeated in battle. This means that this advocate for the Jewish people was a traitor to those very people, at least from their point of view.
Thus, set against the backdrop of the wider conflict between the Jewish people and the Roman Empire, which saw the destruction of the 2nd Temple in Jerusalem, this paper will look at the internal competition between competing ideologies within the mind of Flavius Josephus. Going off of Josephus’s own work, in which he never makes entirely clear why he defected, rather than commit suicide one can see this conflict play out. In addition to what information may be gleaned from his works about how such internal turmoil affected him, this work will also discuss some of the ways in which it might have affected Josephus’s writing, specifically his choice of topic. It may well be that it was guilt over his own defection to the Romans that drove Josephus to exert his scholarly efforts towards defending his people’s religion and culture before a hostile Roman audience.
Spartan Wife-Stealing: An illusion of the Spartan Mirage or traditional marriage agon?
Justin Humphreys, New School for Social Research - New York
Both Herodotus’s Histories and Plutarch’s biography of Lycurgus mention the phenomenon of wife-stealing or wife seizing (arpazai) in ancient Sparta. Was this an invention of ancient historians or a real phenomenon? On the one hand, the theme fits neatly into the image of Sparta – or the Spartan mirage – common in both ancient and modern times. The struggle or competition among suitors for a desirable bride is a theme that goes back to Homer and that fits particularly well into the structure of Herodotus’ Histories. For example, Herodotus attributes the origin Trojan War to a series of abductions of Kings’ daughters by both Greeks and barbarians. On the other hand, wife-stealing as a ritualistic or symbolic practice fits well with the deeply agonistic culture of Sparta. This paper examines the question of whether or not the practice was invented through a close reading of the ancient sources as well as a consideration of the ideological biases of Herodotus and Plutarch. Finally, we examine some of the social and economic factors that contributed to agonistic culture of Sparta, and particularly to the purported marriage agon. We conclude that it was highly probable that there was a practice of wife-seizing in archaic and early classical Sparta though by the time of Plutarch, it had most likely become merely a symbol of the traditional agon of Spartan culture.
A Textual Study of Cyprian’s De Ecclasiae Catholicae Unitate:
Informing multiple views of the third century Roman episcopacy
Reverend C. Pierson Shaw, Jr., University of St. Michael’s College - Toronto
Theological disagreements in the Christian Church have often evolved into moments of ecclesiological crisis. Such crises may present an opportunity for resolution resulting in stronger ecclesiological bonds or they can spiral, resulting in fractures within the Church, leading to unhealthy levels of competition. In the mid-third century, the Roman Emperor Decius Trajan ordered that sacrifices be offered to the Roman gods. Those refusing the order faced torture and execution. In the aftermath of the persecution, bishops faced the dilemma of how or even if, apostates should be received back into the Church. The circumstances and to what degree one fell into apostacy became relevant. Amid the crisis, Cyprian of Carthage wrote Ecclasiae Catholicae Unitate arguing that legitimate baptism could only take place in the Church, presided over by bishops free of the taint of apostasy. By the sixteenth century, English Reformers, Calvinists, Lutherans, and Anabaptists used Cyprian’s treatise to debate with Rome amid the Reformation Crisis. Using one section of the standard edition of Cyprian’s tome, the Reformers argued against an unbridled authority of the papacy. In 1563 another edition of Cyprian’s book was published, this time containing a vastly different section from the one used to such effect by the Reformers. In fact, the section in the 1563 edition seemed to argue for Papal Primacy. Many of the Reformers cried foul and declared the new edition a fraud. Yet, based on careful textual work, arguments can be made that both editions are authentically the work of Cyprian, albeit editions which were written at different times. Thus Cyprian’s work, far from being a divisive, may in its multiple editions offer a chance to reexamine how it has been used previously. As a result, new ways may be found to reform the modern Papacy offering renewed ecclesial bonds among western Christians.