Monday, June 1, 2009

Some quick notes

Glad to see this officially started. I have to admit, I've been struggling to stay awake while reading also, but I think it's because I have yet to pick up the book before midnight. We are less than 2 weeks before our move so this may be it for awhile, but Otepoti and Betty have me thinking . . .

I was happy to see Otepoti's reference to "Carthago delenda est" after we just finished up our Latina Christiana II - I didn't encounter Virgil until college and then it was in a seminar where the point was to read the text, not research it. So just lately the kids and I have been reading "Famous Men of Rome" and they just love the story of Cato the elder ending every speech with "Carthage must be destroyed" and then they love the story of its destruction even more - the more blood the better they enjoy Latin. So I'll miss homeschooling because my education will be cut short. The point of this is that the story in context of when it was written is another story interesting in itself in addition to the story of the fall of Troy and the founding of Latium. Poor lovely Dido. One of things I always found discordant in feminist theory is the fact that there are these strong queens of ancient history - Hatsheput, Dido, Cleopatra, then skip to Elizabeth and Victoria, Catherine the Great... - but the contemporary historians make no great commotion about them being women. Or am I missing something? Is Carthage emasculated by having a female leader? but this is secondary...

As is my second train of thought - I keep thinking about what somebody - Joyce? - calls the anxiety of influence as I'm reading this time around. The kids and I read a kids' version of the Odyssey a couple years ago, so I'm reminded about how history is retold by victors/losers. For some reason these postmodern fractured fairy tales come to mind where the wolf gets a chance to tell his story: his excuse for being wicked. In this case it's the excuse for being so stupid about the Trojan horse. What an unbelievable trick, and yet both the losers and the victors have it in their version of history.

As for the poetry, so far one of the most wrenching scenes for me has been the story of old Priam berating the son of Achilles for his ignoble killing of Priam's young son before his father's eyes. So the old man straps on his armor and dies in battle. Is he foolish, leaving behind his wife and 100 daughters, or noble? There are so few stories of nobility today - and is nobility a Christian virtue? Has it faded as we have grown in humility? How many kids want to be a martyr any more? I'm not sure that I could die for Christ; on the other hand, I was about ready to chase down a car today that came careening around a corner and almost hit my kid, and I spent the next half hour daydreaming about the fist fight that might have ensued if the teenaged driver had gotten really offended by my weak "Slow down!"

And then Aeneas: Like Elizabeth, I find it hard to love a man who is telling a story about the gruesome death of all his comrades and the burning of his town, while he alone survived. And yet, what a pitiful state to be in, and certainly someone has to save the genes. But then, we all want to tell our side. There was a book out not too long ago that I read several reviews of (being in a military town) by a lone surviving SEAL who was involved in a catastrophe in Afghanistan where a military SNAFU left this group underfire and the backup couldn't get them out. I can't remember the details, only the tone of this guy who saw his guys killed because their support got called off or something like that. Aeneas obviously was preserved to fulfill a great destiny, but is his story something of an excuse or an apology?

1 comment:

Betty Duffy said...

I wanted to mention Priam too, but ran out of time: the lines about the man who ruled so many kingdoms, now a headless body on the ground. Just another anonymous victim. It does seem to suggest that his "nobility" was flawed. Or is it saying that nobility is synonymous with humility, as it ends in his anonymity? Just thinking out loud.

I've thought about your feminist point before too. But I've never taken any feminist theory to know how they approach the great women of history.