Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Summer Books in my Beach Bag



Many thanks to Nancy who tactfully reminded me that summer is quickly approaching and it is in my best interests to have some books lined-up to maintain a focus that has been disturbingly absent so far this year.  So with a new resolution in mind to be more organized, here are some of my possible reads for a summer that in my part of the world, looks like it's going to pass us by.





Shadow of the Moon

Cirtnecce suggested a read-along of this wonderful M.M. Kaye book and how could I resist?  I haven't read any of Kaye's novels in ages and summer is just the right time.






The Gormenghast Trilogy

I suggested a read-along of The Gormenghast Trilogy to Cirtnecce ages ago, as I know it's on one of her book lists.  Will she join me?  We shall see.






The Fountain Pit

I really need to read some more novels for my rather pitiful Russian Challenge.  This one has intrigued me for a couple of years.  I can't wait to read it.







Plutarch’s Lives

I know this book is part of my The Well-Educated Mind History Project, but I want to get a start on it because I plan to go more in-depth and hopefully post a little on each figure. At least, I think I do.






An Infamous Army

Lately, I've been trying to target some books on my Guardians 1000 List.  Why?  I have no idea.  Perhaps an impulsive scramble to look like I'm accomplishing something.  I quite like Georgette Heyer, so this one is a good choice.






Precious Bane

Honestly, this one is a capricious addition.  I have no idea whether I'll read it, but it's always intrigued me.  And summer is an excellent time to be capricious, wouldn't you say?






One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

Another addition for my Russian Challenge.  I've heard good things about this novella and I'm looking forward to it.






The Game of Kings

Has anyone ever thought that I'm delusional?  Well, this is proof.  I'm sure I will NEVER get to this book before summer has ended, but I still dream that I might ......




And here ends perhaps hopefully my possible, potentially unplanned but feasible reads for the summer of 2017.  Dare I look back at the end to see what I accomplished?  Might I get someone to do it for me?  Maybe ............  Ha ha!

Happy summer reading everyone!




Friday, 5 May 2017

Cyrus the Persian by Sherman A. Nagel

"The city of Babylon, 'the beauty of the Chaldees' excellency,' 'the lady of kingdoms,' lay quiet under the silvery splendor of an oriental moon."

I just finished reading Herodotus' The Histories, where the story of Cyrus figures prominently, so when Amanda at Simpler Pastimes Children's Classic Literature Event appeared for April, I thought what better time to read a children's book about the same historical figure?

Nagel sets the story of Cyrus in the time of the Jews captivity in Babylon, and their story runs parallel to that of Cyrus before the two intersect.  One hundred years before Cyrus' birth, the prophet Isaiah named him as the man who would permit the Jews of Babylon to return to their homeland to rebuild Jerusalem and the story allows us to be a part of events leading up to the fulfillment of this prophecy.

King Astyages sending Harpagus to kill young Cyrus
Jean Charles Nicaise Perrin
source Wikipedia
The grandfather of Cyrus, Astyages king of the Medes, is visited by a disturbing dream and his magi tell him that he must destroy the child of his daughter, Mandane, if the child she bears is a boy.  At Mandane's marriage to the Persian king, Cambyses, Astyages extracts a promise that she will return to him before she gives birth to her firstborn and the promise is fulfilled as Cyrus is born in the kingdom of the Medes.  In fact, so crafty is Astyages that he persuades the parents of Cyrus to leave him with his grandfather, and then sends for his trusted servant Harpagus, commanding him to kill the child.  At the notification of the baby's death, his parents are grief-stricken but unknown to them and Astyages as well, as Harpagus gives the child over to his chief shepherd, Mitradates, to dispose of the will of God is stronger than all. Upon returning home, Mitradates is distressed to learn of the death of his own child and, on a whim, his wife and he substitute the corpse for Cyrus and pass off his death without a hitch.  Raised as a shepherd boy until, through unexpected circumstances, he comes to the palace an adolescent, he is ultimately recognized as a possible heir to the throne.  With Cyrus back in Persia and Astyages becoming more nervous of his grandson's power, a force is gathered by Astyages to invade Persia but Harpagus turns loyal to Cyrus based on the king's cruelty and arranges with Darius, Cyrus' uncle, that half the army will fight for Cyrus.  At the completion of the battle, Cyrus is victorious. Eventually he will become king of both the Persians and Medes.

At this time as well, Jewish discontent is fomenting due to their religious persecution and captivity by the Babylonians, which the reader experiences through a raid on Rabbi Hermon's house during a weekly meeting, as the Jews impatiently wait for their prophesied coming deliverer.  We also encounter Jewish history through the activities of Azariah, better known by his Babylonian name of Abednego from Biblical tradition, and his relationship with a Babylonian woman, Iris.  History weaves into story, battles into harmony, and captivity into freedom.  It's an enduring story that Nagel has obviously thoroughly researched with his attention to historical detail and the relationships he so subtly crafts.  Themes of loyalty, betrayal, persecution, love, friendship, death and perseverance, one can hardly put it down.

Cyrus hunting the great Boar
source Wikimedia Commons


Isaiah 45: 1-3

Thus says the Lord to His anointed,
To Cyrus, whose right hand I have held—
To subdue nations before him
And loose the armor of kings,
To open before him the double doors,
So that the gates will not be shut:

I will go before you
And make the crooked places straight;
I will break in pieces the gates of bronze
And cut the bars of iron.

I will give you the treasures of darkness
And hidden riches of secret places,
That you may know that I, the Lord,
Who call you by your name ........



⚚⚚⚚⚚⚚⚚⚚⚚⚚⚚⚚⚚⚚⚚⚚⚚⚚⚚⚚⚚⚚⚚⚚⚚⚚⚚⚚

This book contained a number of wonderful quotes of which I'll share.  There are many but every one is worth reading!

Quotes:

"When one is full of himself, he is empty."

"Love is a very rare quality.  So many emotions are mistaken for love.  Of all the counterfeits, lust has always been love's strongest opponent.  Nothing is so wonderful, so conducive to happiness, so health-producing, as the heart union of two lives, where true love reigns and lust has no power."

"If there is one thing heaven hates in man it is pride.  Not self-respect, but that quality of pride which causes a man to think more highly of himself than he ought."

"Unholy ambition has brought ruin to many a man who has followed her unhallowed footsteps.  Multitudes of the human family have suffered and died because of the ambition of one.  He that loses his conscience has nothing left that is worth keeping."

"How often we doubt because we cannot know all that is going on which we cannot see. Faith is believing in God.  It is taking Him at His word.  It is evidence when there is no evidence in sight.  It is 'the substance of things hoped for.'  Belief is accepting a map; faith is taking the journey."

"Patience is a pearl oft produced by petty irritations.  The human heart cannot be whole until it is broken.  Care becomes its own cure when it drives us to prayer.  To our prayers God gives answers, but in His love, makes ways and times His own.  Their leaders wisely taught the people not to worry about the future, but to be optimistic.  Nature hates to disappoint the man who is always looking for the worst to happen.  We only live a day at a time."

"The average man is like a match; if he gets lit up, he loses his head."

"And Astyages talked boastfully on, like a man who may think he is eloquent when he is only evaporating."

"Those who throw themselves away usually do not like the place where they land."

"Best character is developed amid storm clouds and tempests."

"Conscience is not like a bore; if you snub it a few times, after that it won't bother you."

"When one was asked the secret of his happy life, he replied: 'I have a friend.'  True friends are to be cherished for they are precious.  One should keep a little cemetery in which to bury the failings of one's friends.  The man who never puts in an honest day's work on friendship's railroad, has no reason to expect a sidetrack to his door.  Selfish people may have acquaintances but not friends.  With some people you invest an evening, with others you spend it."

"Cyrus was naturally of a very affectionate disposition.  He had a great deal of sentiment.  No man is worth much without it but to have too much is suicidal."

"God has not promised to do for us that which we can do for ourselves."

"Some of the unhappy folk in our world today are men and women with more money than they know what to do with."

"It has been said that happiness is made of so many pieces that there is always one missing.  Happiness is never found by searching for it.  Like boys chasing butterflies, happiness is always just out of reach.  It does not consist in a fine house, fine furniture, a sixteen-cylinder car or alot of money.  In many places dwell unhappy hearts.  All of the things enumerated may conduce to happiness but the poor man has access to happiness as well as the rich.

Happiness consists in contentment, in having a clear conscience.  It will be found in acting in an unselfish manner towards others.  You cannot pour the perfume of happiness upon others without getting a few drops on yourself.  Victor Hugo has well written: 'The supreme happiness of life is the conviction of being loved for yourself, or more correctly, being loved in spite of yourself.'"






Monday, 1 May 2017

May ~ Rain, Rain, Go Away .....

© Cleo @ Classical Carousel


Ugh!  I don't know how else to say it.  Most of April was rain and not just regular rain, but capricious rain.  It would pour and then stop, sprinkle a little and then stop, be sunny for not very long and then stop, because mother nature must know how torturous it is to have fleeing views of that warm golden orb before it is snatched away and the rain continues.  I do realize that we live in a rain forest, but seriously, it can become ridiculous!  Fortunately the last week has seen less rain and more fleeing glimpses of the orb so I'm going have a positive outlook for May.  Work with me, okay ...... ;-)

© Cleo @ Classical Carousel


April was not such an exciting month for me as the last couple, I must admit.  I've continued with my yoga classes, which I still enjoy but haven't been going as frequently as I'd like due to time constraints.  I am improving, although with some poses I wonder if I'll ever be able to bend my body completely in such unusual shapes.  I was able to take one long bike ride, which was very exciting because I wasn't tired at all afterwards. Do you know what that means?  Yes!  I'm in shape!  Softball season has begun and I'm starting to search for scorekeepers for the international tournament in July and practicing my skills.  It's nice to be able to be outside more, even though the weather has not been cooperating to make it pleasant.  Dratted rain!

I'm behind on my garden prep work too.  My potatoes from last months farm visits are chitting and I need to get them into the ground now!  It's my plan for this week.  And, of course, I still haven't looked very closely at my seeds to see what I need to plant now and what will wait.  So disorganized!  I'm usually an organized person, honest, but I have so much to do that it becomes not humanly possible to be organized in every task. So I become a little organized in most things, and not so much in others. Anyone have any ideas how to fix me? ;-)

© Cleo @ Classical Carousel

The most dreary part of the year falls in April for me, only because it means taxes, taxes, and more taxes.  Sadly, in spite of my cheery determination to stay on top of my bookkeeping during the year, inevitably other things ---- other more pleasant things ---- tend to monopolize my time and every year I'm scrambling come April to put everything together from square one. No, not a relaxing start to spring.  Of course, this year was no different so I spent much of April, searching and gathering, finding and entering until the completed tax document was finally on hand.  Arduous work, certainly. No wonder I like to put it right out of my mind when it's all over.  Can you blame me?

My reading has still been progressing at what seems like a snail's pace but I did have some highlights in April: I finally finished reading Herodotus' The Histories and put up my final review.  It was such an enjoyable read but I must admit, I'm happy to move on to Thucydides.  My thorough reading of Herodotus has given me a great base for The History of the Peloponnesian War, which I've begun.  Thucydides is certainly drier than Herodotus, but more organized.  I also was able to read four books for Amanda at Simpler Pastimes' Children's Classic Literature Event:  Finn Family Moomintroll, Cyrus the Persian, The Moomins and the Great Flood and Alice in Wonderland, although so far I only have reviews up for the first one.  I was happy with my accomplishment.  My read of Dead Souls has come to a screeching halt as I absolutely hate my Pevear-Volokhonsky translation.  Why do I torture myself with them?  This is the third of their translations that I've read and they somehow manage to kill any life that the stories have.  I don't know how they do it.  Their marketing is superb but their translations are painful.  I've ordered a used copy of the Chistopher English translation, which seems simplified (I'd rather the Bernard Guilbert Guerney translation), but at least the satire is apparent.

© Cleo @ Classical Carousel

My plans for May include gardening (someone needs to show up with a cattle prod to keep me focused), scorekeeping, blogging and exercise.  I'd like to find some days to take a couple of hikes, but we'll see.  I'm leaving for a little scorekeeping get-away mid-May and then at the end of May I was supposed to be off to the island but I might have to cancel.  Very unfortunate, as I would have been able to get lots of reading accomplished.  And speaking of reading, I'll continue with The History of the Peloponnesian War, Dead Souls and my Deal Me In Challenge and Great Ideas project. I have a few temptations that have come my way from a couple of my Goodreads groups: a re-read for me of the Epic of Gilgamesh and Thomas Mann's The Magic Mountain which also would be a re-read.  The latter is pretty long, so I probably won't join but I'd like to.  I'd also like to begin another Russian novel when I finish Dead Souls, perhaps One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich.  AND I'm pondering starting Ulysses and reading it very slowly.  I did not get on well with it the last time I attempted it, but there is a Ulysses aficionado on Goodreads who assures me that he'll help me out. Ulysses or my good common sense?  Who will win?

And the oh-so-elusive food blog?  It's coming ...... very slowly.  I've been prepping recipes and cooking ...... when I started this blog with my partner, neither of us realized the logistical incompatibility.  I cook the recipe and then have to somehow get it to my partner to test it.  With two busy people, we've been using drop-and-run/grab and go tactics.  Perhaps we should find a hollowed-out log somewhere where I can drop it and he can pick it up later.  Ha ha!  And we still have to write up our bios in order to get the blog launched, which we've been promising to do for over a month but obviously are rather uninspired.  What does one say about oneself?  Anything that would appear interesting to others, seems boring to oneself.  Sigh.  We'll just have to take up the gauntlet ---- or the pen ---- and get writing!  But to give you a little foretaste, I'll leave you with a photo of one of our/my creations.  Here's to a great May filled with food, books and friends!


© Cleo @ Classical Carousel



Friday, 28 April 2017

The Histories by Herodotus

"Herodotus of Halicarnassus here presents his research so that human events do not fade with time."

Herodotus was born in Halicarnassus in 484 B.C., a city that is now Bodrum, Turkey.  Very little is known about the man or his life, but it is surmised that he was exiled by the tyrant, Lygdamis, and moved to the island of Samos. Later in life, he appears to have migrated to Thurii, Italy, but it is uncertain where he met his death.

Seen as the first historical writing showing cause and effect, The Histories was written by Herodotus in approximately 440 B.C.  The initial words of Herodotus set up the purpose of his narrative:

"Herodotus of Halicarnassus her presents his research so that human events do not fade with time.  May the great and wonderful deeds ---- some brought forth by the Hellenes, others by the barbarians --- not go unsung, as well as the causes that led them to make war on each other."

Known as the first "father of history", treating it as an investigation or "inquiry," Herodotus begins his account from the rise of the Persian Empire, following the leaders Cyrus the Great, Cambyses, his son, Darius the Great and Xerxes I which comprise books one to six of his narrative.  Books seven to nine account for the Greco-Persian wars in exacting detail, from Xerxes' initial aggression to the victory of the Hellenes.

Through Herodotus' lively accounts the reader becomes acquainted with the Lydians and Croesus, the Medes, the Persians, Egyptian customs and geography, Persian conquests, the tyrants vs. the democracy of Athens, the Ionian Revolt, the Battle of Marathon, the alliance of Athens and Sparta, the battle of Thermopylae, the battle at Artemesium, the victory at Salamis, the victory at Plataea and Mycale, and the end of the war, with Xerxes in an embarrassing retreat.

Clio, Euterpe and Thalia (1652-55)
Eustache Le Sueur
source Wikipedia


Reviewing book by book gave me an invaluable anchoring in these ancient times and a more concentrated view of these bygone adversaries and battles.  The links to the books, which are charmingly named after the Greek Muses, are as follows:

Book I - Clio ~ muse of history
Book II - Euterpe ~ muse of music, song & lyric poetry
Book III - Thalia ~ muse of comedy
Book IV - Melpomene ~ muse of tragedy
Book V - Terpsichore ~ muse of dance
Book VI - Erato ~ muse of love poetry
Book VII - Polymnia ~ muse of sacred hymns and poetry
Book VIII - Urania ~ muse of astronomy
Book IX - Calliope ~ muse of epic poetry

Apollo and the Nine Muses (1856)
Gustave Moreau
source Wikiart

Told with a lively and personal tone, Herodotus' stories range from the practical to the bizarre, causing scholars to disbelieve some of his tales, yet modern findings have tended to support his accounts.  For example, Herodotus recounted a story of fox-size ants that would spread gold while digging their mounds.  Sounds completely ridiculous, doesn't it?  Except for the fact that in 1984, a French explorer discovered the existence of a fox-sized marmot in the Himalayas that did indeed spread gold dust and of which there was a tradition of it that extended back into antiquity.  Not only that, but the Persian word for "mountain ant" is apparently close to their word for "marmot" so it may have been a translation error instead of a factual one.  Score one for Herodotus! Personally, as I read The Histories I could tangibly feel Herodotus' strong desire to recount his findings in an entirely truthful way, and if some of his veracity is in doubt, it would only be through honest error and not by intentional fanciful tales or deliberate deceit.

I'm so happy to have finally read The Histories and hope to revisit them again one day. Now on to Thucydides', The History of Peloponnesian War in which Thucydides follows up Herodotus' account of the Greco-Persian wars with his own account of the Peloponnesian War which occurred approximately 20 years later.  More wars but more fascinating Greeks.  What could be better?



Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Finn Family Moomintroll by Tove Jansson

"One grey morning the first snow began to fall in the Valley of the Moomins."

While this book is numbered three in the Moomin series, it's the first Moomin book I read when I was around nine years old, and the Moomin family has lived in my imagination ever since.  Portrayed as cuddly white hippo-like creatures, they are actually a type of troll, but sweet trolls with a lazy relaxed demeanour in spite of their penchant for finding themselves embroiled in adventures.  With the creature, Sniff, adopted into their family, the traveller Snufkin, the Snork Maiden and her brother the Snork, the Hemulen and the gruff philosopher Muskrat, Jansson created a world that has been rivalled by few others.

In Finn Family Moomintroll, when the Moomin family arise after a long winter's hibernation, they look forward to the awakening of spring.  But Moomintroll, Sniff and Snufkin find a lone black tophat on the peak of a hill, which appears to be the catalyst to a number of strange happenings: fluffy white clouds that can be ridden like horses chase each other, a jungle grows in Moominhouse and there is a terrifying transformation of the Muskrat's dentures.  Meanwhile, the Hemulen is sad that his stamp collection is complete and at the behest of the Snork, takes up botany.  A sailing trip to an island brings a rather startling encounter with the Hattifatteners, whose ghostly bodies and deaf and dumb demeanor is rather disturbing as they live only to journey.  Thingumy and Bob arrive with their unique spoonerisms and unknowingly bring the cold and chilling atmosphere of the Groke to Moominvalley, as she searches for her missing treasure.  Nothing appears quite as it seems and the Moomins, with their natural aplomb and pragmatism, manage to extricate themselves from exploits and dangers, while at the same time welcoming the adventures as they come, enjoying the undulations of life in their Moomin-world.



It's rare that I recommend a book without reserve, but honestly, if you die without reading this book your life in this world will have been a little less rich.  But I warn you that once you visit the Moomins and their friends, you might never want to leave their vibrant and delightfully unpredictable world where you never really know what is going to happen next.  However, one can always be assured that if it gets too intense, Moominmamma will pat you on the head, sit you down and give some tea and cookies to soothe your nerves.  In this Moomin-world, life is always an adventure and one must be prepared!

This is my second book read for Amanda at Simpler Pastimes Children's Classic Literature Event.  Now if only I can get my review up for the first one!



This book also counts for my Deal Me In Challenge:

Week 10 - Deal Me In Challenge - Five of Hearts









Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Herodotus' The Histories ~ Book IX



Book IX (Calliope)


"When Alexandros returned and conveyed to Mardonios the response of the Athenians, Mardonios set out from Thessaly and swiftly led his army toward Athens."

This is the last book in The Histories, and my goodness, I'm glad!  I've loved this read, but these posts are taking longer and longer to compile.  I'm not quite sure why.  Is Herodotus' storytelling getting less compact?  Is there just more action happening?  Or is my brain beginning an Herodotus-overload?

Public Domain

Upon receiving word from Alexandros, Mardonios begins his march.  The Thessalians gladly allow him to pass through their land but the Thebans try to dissuade his advance, counselling him to bribe the Hellene leaders rather than engage a force that he cannot defeat.  Overcome with a raging desire to subdue Athens, Mardonios stubbornly refuses to listen.  He moves forward but finds Attica devoid of Athenians because they are all still at Salamis.  Sending a messenger to Salamis, Mardonios offers them goodwill and land for their willing subjugation.  When an Hellene council member, Lykidas, supports the offer, he is stoned to death by his indignant kinsmen, and their wives, too, stone the wife and children of Lykidas.  The puzzle of the Athenians still being in Salamis becomes clear when we learn that they had been waiting for the Lacedaemonian army to come to their aid, but the Lacedaemonians are celebrating festivals and building their wall, delaying their departure.  In spite of the Athenians sending a terse message to their compatriots to come to their assistance, the Spartans delay for another ten days and Herodotus is puzzled by their conduct.  Are they no longer worried about Persian aggression because their wall is nearly complete? Who knows?  Finally Chileos declares that if they do not help the Athenians, they will be in great danger and a Spartan army of 5,000 is launched, led by Pausanias.  And so Mardonios' plan failed, as he was hoping the Athenians would accept his offer, but with the Spartans on the move, he demolishes what is left of Athens and burns it, for it is not a good place for battle, being hostile to calvary with only one small route for retreat.  Instead he heads to Thebes.  Upon hearing that the Spartan army are in Megara, he turns his troops that way, hoping to demolish them.  But receiving word that they have united with the Hellenes, he withdraws to Boeotia, beginning to build a fortification there.  A story is told of a banquet in Thebes and a Persian who reveals his belief that few of them will remain alive after this campaign and begins to weep.  They cannot reveal their grief because they must follow orders.  "The most painful anguish that mortals suffer is to understand a great deal but to have no power at all."


Plain of Plataea
William Miller
source Wikimedia Commons


The Spartans and other Peloponnesians set out from the isthmus and arrive at Eleusis where they are joined by the Athenians who have crossed from Salamis.  Taking position in the foothills of Mount Cithaeron, they refuse to come down to the plain and Mardonios sends his forces, led by Masistios (called by the Hellenes, Makistios) to engage them.  The Hellenes are able to fend off the attack and Masistios is thrown from his horse and killed.  Fighting ensues over the corpse but the Hellenes prevail and emboldened by their victory, move from Erythrai down to Plataea for a better position and better access to water.  An argument develops between the Tegeans and Athenians as to who should lead the left wing: the Athenians win because of their graceful argument that they should be the leaders, however they will fight to their utmost wherever they are placed.  Now Herodotus describes the deployment of the troops, the Hellenes having 110,000 men, the Persians (barbarians) 300,000.  More and more Hellenes join their brothers each day and not much happens as each side is hesitant to begin the conflict because of the oracles they had received at the time of their sacrifices, if either side should initiate battle.  Finally, Mardonios becomes impatient and, ignoring the advice of Artabazos and the oracles, prepares his army for battle.  Late that night, Alexandros of Macedon rides to the Athenians and tells them of the Persian plans, asking for liberation of Macedon if they succeed in victory. The Hellenes line up their armies with the Persians and after some maneuvering, Mardonios insults the Spartans calling them cowardly and when no response is given, he spoils the water source for the whole Greek army.  The Hellenes plan to move their army to an island off Plataea, but after a day of fighting, most of the army goes to Plataea to the sanctuary of Hera.  A Spartan commander refuses to budge though, and Pausanias must stay behind to convince him. Finally, Pausanias takes the Spartan army off through the hills while the Athenians turn to march towards the plain.  The stubborn Spartan commander, when he sees the army moving away, relinquishes his plan and follows.

When Mardonios sees the deserted camp of the Hellenes, he disparages the Spartan bravery, calling them cowards.  Quickly he marches off after who he thinks are fleeing Athenians, but is really the moving Spartan army.  So eager is he to stop their retreat that his army flies off without any organization.  Pausanias quickly identifies the pursuit and sends a message to the Athenians to come to their aid, but they are delayed by Greek allies of the Persian king and they are unable to reach the Spartans.  At first, the battle seems to swing in favour of the Persians, but soon the sacrifices prove favourable, and lacking the tactical skill, the Persians army begins to fail.  Mardonios is killed along with 1000 of his special contingent, the Persians flee and with Artabazos now in control, he takes his forces towards the Hellespont.  When other Hellenes hear of the rout, they charge after the barbarians in disorder but many are killed and the rest disperse.  The Spartans fight the Persians at their walled camp but as soon as the Athenians arrive, they are overcome and slaughtered.  Out of a force of 300,000, a mere 3,000 survive.  Herodotus lists the heroes on each side.  A concubine woman of a Persian arrives and clasps the knees of Pausanias as a suppliant; he promises protection to her.  The Mantineians arrive and are so upset that they missed the battle they return to their homeland and banish their military leader; so too, the Eleans.

Battle of Plataea (1854)
John Russell
source Wikimedia Commons


In Plataea, a man named Lampon of Aegina advises Pausanias to win great renown by imitating the Persians' treatment of Leonidas, by cutting off Mardonios' head and suspending it from a stake.  Pausanias' response, while polite and diplomatic, echoes of scorn and distaste:

"My friend from Aegina, I commend and appreciate that you mean well and are trying to look out for my future interests, but this idea of yours falls short of good judgment.  After you have raised me up on high, together with exalting my homeland and my achievement, you cast me down to nothing by encouraging me to abuse a corpse, claiming that if I did so, I would have a better reputation.  But this is a deed more appropriate to barbarians than to Hellenes, though we resent them for it all the same.  In any case, because of this, I could hardly please the Aeginetans or anyone else who approves of such deeds as this.  It is quite enough for me to appease the Spartans by committing no sacrilege and by speaking with respect for what is lawful and sacred.  As for Leonidas, whom you urge me to avenge, I tell you that he and the others who met their ends at Thermopylae have already achieved great vengeance by the countless souls of those who lie here dead.  As for you, do not ever again approach me with such a suggestion or try to advise me, and be thankful to leave here without suffering harm."

The spoils are gathered and one-tenth are given to the god at Delphi.  Pausanias is awed by Xerxes' tent which was left to Mardonios.  The corpse of Mardonios disappeared and was presumed buried by an unknown person and Artontes, his son, gave rewards for the treatment.  The Hellenes now march against the Thebans who allied with the Persians, asking for them to hand over the conspirators.  The Thebans refuse and battle ensues.  Finally the leaders are given over, but instead of a trial, Pausanias sends them to Corinth to be executed.

The Serpent Column commemorating
the Greek victory
moved from Delphi to Constantinople
source Wikipedia


Fleeing Plataea, Artabazos attempts to conceal the truth of the defeat of Mardonios from the Thessalians, in fear for his life.  He eventually reaches Asia.  Herodotus begins the story of the battle of Mycale in Ionia:  Samian envoys approach the Greeks to encourage them to attack the Persians to commence an Ionian revolt.  The Greek fleet sets sail, but the Persians retreat, beaching their ships to meet with their land forces leaving the Hellenes to land and prepare for battle.  Miracluously, even  though the battle of Mycale and the battle of Plataea took place on the same day, the former in the afternnoon and the latter in the morning, news of the victory at Plataea was able to reach the men at Mycale and inspire them.  The battle is fierce and the Hellenes put the Persians to flight. The Hellenes counter the plan of the Spartans to evacuate the Ionians to Hellas and the islanders are left as allies of the Hellenes.  The Greek fleet then sails to the Hellespont.

While Xerxes is stationed at Sardis, he becomes infatuated with his brother, Masistes' wife.  Unable to find a way to possess her, he marries her daughter to his son and then becomes enamoured of the daughter.  When he gives the daughter, Artaynte, a robe woven for him by his wife, the game is up and his wife mutilates the mother.  In anger, Masistes leaves to raise a revolt against Xerxes in Baktria, but Xerxes' forces pursue and kill him.

When the Greek forces find the bridges already broken at the Hellespont, the Spartans return home but the Athenians stay to make trouble for the Chersonese.  When the people in the region who were allies of the Persians hear the Athenians are about, they flee to Sestos and the siege of it by the Athenians is arduous until they finally win victory. The Athenians return home with the spoils.

The history ends with a telling of Cyrus who reprimanded Persians who wished to move to another country for the riches.  He said:
"because soft places tend to produce soft men, for the same land cannot yield both wonderful crops and men who are noble and courageous in war."
❊❊❊❊❊❊❊❊❊❊❊❊❊❊❊❊❊❊❊❊❊❊❊❊❊❊❊❊❊❊❊❊

Wow!  I can't believe that I actually finished!  While this book took some concentration to get all the factions and states straight, I'll always be indebted to Herodotus for giving me a much, much better understanding of the Persian Wars.  Now on to Thucydides who, I've read, starts where Herodotus left off.  Already it's a much drier read but nevertheless, fascinating.



Book VIII (Urania)                                                                         


Monday, 17 April 2017

Doodles in the Dictionary by Aldous Huxley

Henri Toulouse-Lautrec
source Wikimedia Commons

Ah, my first essay by Aldous Huxley and I didn't know what style to expect.  He first begins by lamenting the insufferable boredom experienced by having to learn Greek and Latin in school.  Even the mention of these subjects he still finds tedious and can only find one benefit of having been forced through hours of searching for words in his Lexicon:
"I hate to think of all that wasted time.  And yet, in view of the fact that most human beings are destined to pass most of their lives at jobs in which it is impossible for them to take the slightest interest, this old-fashioned training with the dictionary may have been extremely salutary.  At least it taught one to know and expect the worst of life.  Whereas the pupil in a progressive school, where everything is made to seem entertaining and significant, lives in a fool's paradise." 
When his bookseller friend requested his presence to view an item that he was extremely thrilled to purchase, Huxley was dismayed to find that it was a Latin dictionary. However, when he found it wasn't just any Latin dictionary, but the one owned by the famous painter, Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, his interest was piqued.

source Wikipedia

Toulouse-Lautrec created these "doodles in the dictionary" when he was sixteen years old, a mere two years after two accidents which would change his life forever.  First, he broke one leg, and then the other, and neither leg grew again, therefore upon adulthood, he had the legs of a fourteen year old and the body of a man.  Having to live as a "dwarfish monster", Lautrec immersed himself in his drawing and painting.

Aristide Bruant on His Bicycle (1892)
Henri Toulouse-Lautrec
source Wikiart

Huxley muses that up to the age of ten, the muse of genius is within every child, but with instruction that muse disintegrates until only one in four thousand people have any talent for art.  He calls this fact an "unsolved riddle" and hopes one day to learn the answer, whereupon education will be able to be transformed into a "social and individual reconstruction".  Hmmm .......  who would decide what needed to be reconstructed and why?  Who would be doing the reconstructing and under what premise?  It's all very vague and rather disturbing.

Artilleryman Saddling His Horse (1879)
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
source Wikiart

In any case, early on it was evident that Toulouse-Lautrec had rare talent for drawing and he was also proficient in Latin, earning prizes for translation and composition.  While his drawings at sixteen showed a maturity and flair that was unsurpassed for his age, his first master Bonnat was lukewarm with his praise.  In a letter to his Uncle Charles, Toulouse-Lautrec communicated his teacher's comments:  "Your painting isn't bad; it's clever, but still it isn't bad.  But your drawing is simply atrocious."  Judging from a comment from another student, Huxley believes Toulouse-Lautrec had a propensity to exaggerate his subjects, to "prettify" them in a way that was perhaps not pleasing.  Yet Huxley believes that facts are perhaps not so immutable as we perceive them, and that everyone can view each reality differently.  And facts can also cover a variety of disciplines: for example, he says, the H-bomb can at once be involved in physics, chemistry, physiology, medicine, genetics, psychology, politics, economics, ethics and even be an aesthetic fact, as the cloud it makes is quite beautiful.  Toulouse-Lautrec simply chose to communicate in his art the aspects that preoccupied him and "found no incompatibility between truth to nature and distortion." His exaggeration perhaps brought life to his art, which would align with Hsieh Ho, the fourth dynasty Chinese artist who stated that the First Principle of Chinese Painting ".... is that, through a vitalizing spirit, a painting should possess the movement of life," and the sinologist, Osvald Siren agreed, "that the First Principle refers to something beyond the material form, call it character, soul, or expression. It depends on the operation of the spirit, or the myserious breath of life, by which the figures may become as though they were moving or breathing."

Fishing Boat (1880)
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
source Wikiart

Huxley brings the subject of the horse into his essay, lamenting its passing into the history of transport and surmising that it was heading towards extinction.  It embodied the expression of life from its splendid grace, from the thoroughbred down to the old hack; in modern times we are only left with man who is a graceless uninteresting creature.  The advent of the automobile, and in fact all technology, detracts from life and therefore from our enjoyment of it.  Lautrec's father had advocated for the health of the outdoors but sadly, Lautrec was not destined for such a life because of his accident and became, instead, fascinated by the race-track, Montmartre known for its public dancing and cabarets, alcohol and prostitutes.

"The drunks and tarts, the lecherous gentlemen in top hats, the sensation-hunting ladies in feather boas, the stable boys, the lesbians, the bearded surgeons performing operations with a horrifying disregard of the first principles of asepsis ....... these became the subject matter of most of Lautrec's pictures, the environment in which he liked to live.  He portrayed them simply as curiosities, passing no moral judgment, but simply rendering the intrinsic oddity of what he saw around him."

His interest in the theatre grew, of which sketches can be seen in the dictionary of jesters, actors and actresses.  He did not portray women in a sexual way nor with any discrimination, only executing them as he would any other subject, "from memory and with appropriate distortions, rendered their life-movement, now graceful, now grotesque, and the underlying rhythm of the mysterious spirit that manifests itself within that movement."

And so concludes an essay that I thought would be an educational treatise and ended up being about the creation of art, and secondary the sad demise of a creative talent. Huxley did not reveal that Lautrec died from the effects of alcoholism and syphilis at the age of 36 years old.

Next up is classic children's book, The Finn Family Moomintroll.  I absolutely love this book; it is tied for my all-time favourite children's classic.  I can't wait to read it again and share some unique Moomintroll adventures!

Week 9 - Deal Me In Challenge - Two of Spades