In this philosophy classic, which was first published in 1951, E. R. Dodds takes on the traditional view of Greek culture as a triumph of rationalism. Using the analytical tools of modern anthropology and psychology, Dodds asks, "Why should we attribute to the ancient Greeks an immunity from 'primitive' modes of thought which we do not find in any society open to our direct observation?" Praised by reviewers as "an event in modern Greek scholarship" and "a book which it would (...) be difficult to over-praise," _The Greeks and the Irrational _was Volume 25 of the Sather Classical Lectures series. (shrink)
So far as I am aware, the commentators on the above passageall say that it is imitated from Euripides, Bacchae 492 sqq., and the commentators on Euripides, loc. cit., agree. It seems to me, however, that there is reason to suppose them all wrong; not of course that there is no connexion between the two passages, for there most obviously is, but that Horace is not imitating the Greek directly, but an imitation or adaptation of it by Pacuvius.
This ancient tale has naturally been recognized by modern scholars for what it is—a story of the Great Mother and her paramour; but several features appear to me to have been given less examination than they deserve, in view of their own peculiarity and the obvious antiquity of the myth. That it is pre-Greek is fairly clear from the names of the principal actors. Anchises yields no tolerable meaning in Greek, and we do not know to what speech it belongs—possibly (...) Phrygian. Aphrodite is, of course, no Greek goddess at all. The tale was known to Greek saga-men about the tenth century B.C., and is fully told for the first time, so far as our surviving records go, in a document possibly of the seventh century—the Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite. Connected as it is, though loosely, with the Troy-saga, it may quite possibly go back to Minoan-Mycenaean times, as that does. The features which I think worthy of further investigation are the fate of Anchises after his enjoyment of the goddess' favours, and in particular the effect upon him of the thunderbolt with which he was smitten. (shrink)
The notes of W. S. Maguinness on the Corpus Tibullianum contain several things which strike me as either true or at least highly plausible. In the above passage, however, I think both he and Postgate have missed the point of the first word. Tibullus has been telling the story of how Apollo turned herdsman for love's sake. He insists several times over that it is a story, not a thing he can vouch for. The infinitives in 14 a-c make it (...) sufficiently evident that the lost pentameter began with fertur or dicitur; in 18, Artemis dicitur to have blushed for her brother's unseemly occupation; in 29, fertur that the gods used to serve Venus openly. The same line reminds us that these stories refer to old days, olim. Now comes the couplet in question. (shrink)
It is no longer the fashion to imagine Herodotos a liar when he tells marvellous stories, for some of his most extraordinary statements have long since been shown to contain at least a substantial measure of truth. It is perhaps not sufficiently realized, however, that on occasion he misleads his readers and himself by too much critical unbelief in his materials and consequent application of the crude methods of mythological investigation then current. In other words, he often rationalizes in the (...) only way then possible, superficially altering the story so as to rid himself of the incredible details, or at all events, as I think, attributing to the actors motives which a somewhat drily rational mind could understand and approve or condemn. It is of course well known that at least the former method was a commonplace of the sophists, whose influence on Herodotos is manifest and widespread; it has been said, indeed, that it is much older than they and characteristically Ionic. L. Radermacher finds traces of it in the Odyssey itself and adds that, although we can sometimes catch the rationalizer at work, we cannot be sure of always doing so and ‘müssen annehmen, dass der Glaube an die Geschichtlichkeit ihrer Sage manche griechischen Autoren früh verführt hat, sie geschichtlicher zu erzählen als eigentlich erlaubt war’. This is a true and useful statement. Modern criticism has long learned to set aside ancient allegorizations of myths, about which I need say nothing, for the subject has been repeatedly and well handled by my colleague, Dr. J. Tate; it has often, however, confused ancient interpretation of myth with ancient criticism of saga. Euhemerism indeed is usually recognized for what it is, although even this is not always so; but uixere inepti ante Euhemerum multi, and their efforts are by no means always distinguished either from allegorizing or from real sagas. For an example of the former confusion I may refer to Stallbaum's note on Plato, Phaedrus, 29 C-D, where the reader is referred to the account given by Lobeck of the rise and growth of allegorization. But Plato says nothing at all of allegories in this passage. He quotes, with ironical admiration of its ‘wisdom’, a version of the story of Boreas and Oreithyia according to which she. was knocked off the Areiopagos, or some other place, by a strong north wind, and so was killed and consequently said to have been carried away by Boreas. He adds that it would be a laborious and dismal business to go through all the tales of wonder in that way, rationalizing the Hippocentaurs, Gorgons, Chimaira, Pegasos, and the rest out of existence; a wise saying which was uttered in vain for Palaiphatos and his kind. However, most moderns know a myth from a saga and an allegory from a crude rationalization which accepts the story as true except for the incredibilities and is quite ready to believe, for instance, in Romulus if we will but postulate that he was not snatched up to heaven but murdered and his body hidden. There is a much more subtle snare, consisting of a story which, although rationalized, is well told, and Herodotos in this respect can be a notable offender, for he never tells a story ill. (shrink)