Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Is Dante mocking Hell as well as representing the Trinity with his use of "3?"

It seems to me that not only does Dante use the repeating pattern of three in the Inferno to represent the Trinity but to also mock Satan.  For example, Satan, down in Judecca is stuck in the ice holding the three sinners in each of his three mouths.  However, this is all he can do.  He is stuck from the waist down in the frozen water of Cocytus.  This basically leaves Satan powerless against God and Christianity as a whole.  Could Dante's use of the "three pattern" also represent Satan being subservient to God?  Dante's use of "three" does not give Satan the power that it gives the Trinity.  Satan is just frozen in place punishing the three sinners.  He is powerless against God and the Trinity as a whole.  This could have something to do with Dante's firm ties to Christianity.  What do you think?

Saturday, October 27, 2012

An Odd Description of Cerberus

As I was reading about Cerberus guarding the gluttons in the Inferno, I was surprised at Dante's description of the monster. What i have heard of the monster is that it is a three-headed dog, but in the Inferno it seems as if it is a 3 headed dog-like man. Maybe i am wrong, but i thought that Cerberus seemed like a person.  I had never encountered a description like this and it surprised me. I read up on Cerberus and found that he ate anyone who approached hell, making him a glutton, and therefore he is with the gluttons in hell. I don't know why but the description really stood out to me, andI think it could possibly symbolize something, but I don't know what. Anyone have any insight?

Tearing Oneself Apart

I was reading CNN the other day and an article caught my eye. The article was pretty gruesome: a nanny killed the two kids she was babysitting and when their mother showed up proceeded to stab herself repeatedly in the neck. I said it was gruesome. After reading the article I read about the minotaur in Dante's inferno that ripped itself apart, which made me think: why do violent people often destroy themselves? Hitler ended up committing suicide as well, although that could be pinned as cowardly and not wanting the allies to capture him. But the minotaur and the babysitter seem to destroy themselves because they truly know justice, and have a moral compass that tells them theyve done something wrong and suicide is their way of punishing themselves. Heres the CNN article: http://www.cnn.com/2012/10/26/us/new-york-nanny-deaths/index.html?c=us

Isaiah 65 and Dante

I was reading Isaiah 65 for religion homework the other day, and I noticed a similarity between Isaiah's mention of god creating a new Jerusalem and Dante's notion that the second coming shall not initiate until a new Rome is created. In both cases, both cities were prophesied to become places of joy and delight and idealism.

Just thought it was interesting seeing that similarity. Perhaps that could've been an indirect influence on Dante.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Old Man of Crete...Symbolism

So the Old Man’s body is turned toward Damietta (thanks to some research, I found that Damietta is an old Egyptian seaport) and his face is turned toward Rome (where the Pope lives.) He is off balance, placing more weight on his right terra cotta foot, which isn’t a sturdy material compared the other metals that make up his body.  The image I see, is a dude who’s about to turn around perhaps in the direction of Rome. It may represent the struggle between the old and (relative) new cultures, also paganism verses Christianity.  Any other thoughts on why he’s facing Rome but turned toward Egypt?

Also he is crying on hell, above of hell (on Earth), presumably because of the suffering in the world.  Sinners cause suffering, sorrow and pain in this world and the next.  I say the next, meaning hell, because you’re damned to hell as a sinner and the metaphorical tears that drains down to hell translate into sorrow as it they could be part of your punishment. thoughts?

Snake and Angel

I thought it was interesting how the angel who came to give Virgil and Dante entrance to Dis was compared to a snake. Angels are supposed to be holy beings, while the snake was representative of the devil and tempted Eve into the original sin. So why would Dante use a serpent to represent an angel? I thought it had to do with power. We were discussing what power meant in AP Euro the other day. Richelieu defined power as fear mixed with awe. Dante regards the angel with a sort of terrified amazement.  I think the image of the snake inspires the fear required of power. They both inspire terror - for the snake, it is the fear of the devil, and for the angel, it is the fear of God. 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Calm Down, Dante

It might just be me, but it seems a bit pretentious of Dante to consider himself "worthy" enough to view Hell and get the 411, if you will, on everyone's sins and punishments. His whole journey through Hell reminds me of Milton's statement of purpose in Paradise Lost of "justifying the ways of God to man". Dante doesn't explain why or how he was chosen, but raises himself to the stature of being able to access superior knowledge of life after death. Additionally, Dante compliments his own writing and influence by considering himself to be on the same level as Homer, Ovid, Horace, and Lucan. Plus, Dante continually throws his contemporaries under the bus by putting them in different levels of Hell, letting his personal and political biases affect their punishments. (And although Dante admitted to straying from the righteous path, I'm sure he wasn't as blameless as he made himself out to be.) It also seems like Dante could have been considered a blasphemer due to his claims in The Divine Comedy of having superior knowledge of the afterlife and the inner workings of God's plan, considering himself an intercessor for the divine. Although he wrote Inferno to emphasize the importance of remaining faithful to God and ultimately improve society, it still seems like he would have gotten in some sort of trouble for writing it.

Politics: Its Role

In Dante's The Divine Comedy, I believe that politics plays a role to educate its readers. The poem is not only a way for Dante to express his opinions on politics, as is seen in is many encounters with political enemies or corrupt politicians, but is also a way for Dante to warn the public and society that if it does not keep a level-head about itself and come to some sort of agreement over political problems, it could cause great dissension, war, and anarchy. This is seen in with the Guelphs and Ghibellines and later when the Guelphs split into the White and Black parties. Through The Divine Comedy and the use of the characters dispersed throughout the many levels of Hell, Dante is able to explore politics as he reasons with some of his arch-enemies and friends and even attacks others. By using both a character form the White Guelphs and one from the Black Guelphs, Dante is able to give his audience an understanding of the viewpoint from both sides of the argument, hopefully shedding light on the fact that society must come to some sort of consensus. 

Dante and Aeneas

I believe the characters Dante and Aeneas can be compared in a similar way. They are both on a quest to find something. Dante searches for the path of Heaven, salvation, and God. Aeneas is also on a quest to find Italy and found Rome. Both quests are somehow destined by the gods. God and the Powers of Above are Dante's guiding light to Heaven and salvation, while the many Greek and Roman gods are the guide for Aeneas's search. Although parallels between these two characters' quests can be drawn, they that each author portrays them is different. Virgil celebrates Aeneas' honor and how he suppresses his individuality by honoring what the gods desired from him. In The Divine Comedy, we see Dante more is more concerned with portraying his individual and spiritual growth and close be becomes to God. These two different writing styles are mainly due to the fact that The Aeneid is a tragedy and The Divine Comedy is a comedy.

How Did Dante Get There?

Is anyone else wondering how Dante got to Hell in the first place? I mean, he's still alive so he hasn't gotten lost on the way to Purgatory after death. I don't know. Maybe Dante the Poet felt that how he got there didn't matter, but rather what he did when he got to Hell. Even then I feel that it would provide better explanation if the reader knew how he got there. The reader would have clearer insight into why Dante was chosen to go on this journey. Did he reach Hell under truly Divine powers or was his arrival more like a coincidence? I don't know, I just kind of wish that went into further detail. Maybe it will later on in the Comedy. Anyone have any theories?/

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Mr. Scrooge in.... THE UNDERWORLD

So, I thought I'd compare "A Christmas Carol" to Dante's "Divine Comedy" with specific attention to the similarities between Dante's inferno and Mr. Scrooge's visions. The first, and most profound similarity between the two pieces is the moral and spiritual growth expected from Mr. Scrooge by Dickens, and moral growth from Dante by Dante when visiting either the ghosts of christmas past or hell. My next comparison is between hell and Mr. Scrooges bed. Not only does Dante fall asleep to enter into the next levels of hell just as Mr. Scrooge falls asleep to progress to the next christmas ghost, but both the ghosts of Mr. Scrooge's visions and the corporeal figures Dante sees are both pitied by the protagonists. The ghosts in Dicken's book show progressively worse sins in the way that the guides in Dante's Inferno show Dante the levels of hell from the "place to be" to "the place not to be". Both are also commentaries on Christianity, and even though Dickens and Dante weren't contemporaries they suggest the same type of sins - gluttony, greed, violence, and in a more general since selfishness itself. //

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Blindness in The Divine Comedy compared to Oedipus the King

We first see the image of blindness in Oedipus the King as the blind prophet Tiresias can see the truth while Oedipus who literally still has his vision cannot see the truth.  His stubbornness to solve who murdered King Laius leads to his downfall as he discovers his prophecy.  Tiresias tried to warn Oedipus, but he was too stubborn.  Today in class, we talked about how St. Lucia was the Patron Saint of the Blind.  This makes perfect sense as to why she was chosen as one of the three women that look after Dante.  Dante is in a sense blinded from the correct path to heaven.  St. Lucia, attempts to help him.  St. Lucia in The Divine Comedy plays the same role as Tiresias in Oedipus the King.  They are both trying to help both Dante and Oedipus respectively find the truth.  Oedipus fails to take Tiresias's advice.  Will it turn out different for Dante?

Monday, October 22, 2012

Are the Greeks the original victims of Plagiarism?

It seems that yet again, Dante's The Divine Comedy is ripping ideas off of the original Greek work, The Odyssey.  We first saw the Greeks being copied when the Romans copied off of them as Virgil wrote the Aeneid.  Virgil was asked by Augustus to write the Aeneid to make Roman society seem sophisticated like Greek society was.  Now again, it seems that Dante is plagiarizing many ideas off of both The Aeneid and Odyssey as he takes a "journey through Hell."  It is interesting that works such as the Aeneid and The Divine Comedy are so famous when they repeat many of the same ideas from previous literary works.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Marie de France

I was researching Marie de France, and I found out that she did much more than write a bunch of Lays. She was also the first to translate Aesop's Fables from Middle English to Anglo-Norman French, and she wrote many other literary works such as Legend of the Purgatory of St. Patrick and The Life of Saint Audrey. Not only was she one of the first successful female writers in the western world, but her Lays also changed the literature of the time. She was one of the first people to start the romantic subject in stories, and almost all of her Lays involved some sort of love triangle or love complex. She attributed many of her poems to the minstrels, saying that she copied them down. This also shows the importance of music in courtly life. I just thought it was interesting how a somewhat unknown noblewoman could have such an impact in a male dominated world.

Just Some Universal Themes...

I've noticed some very similar underlying themes within  ancient Islamic, Roman, Indian, and Chinese cultures. The first one that I'll adress is the division between custom and law. Confucius' Analects, The Ramayana, and to some extent One Thousand and One nights all adress this theme. Law is the action on custom, custom is physically manifested in law. Confucius argues that this is harmful, claiming that law could be abused, but custom, if intricately tied to a region's culture, makes law almost unnecessary. For instance, if my cultural upbringing placed a huge emphasis on not killing, then would there need to be a law for me not to kill? The Ramayana adresses the division between law and custom when Sita is held above the fire. This is a crude form of justice to uphold the Indian custom of chastity. Finally, One Thousand and One Nights show that the enactment of custom into law can be detrimental. The idea of one's wife not being chaste leads the king to kill many women through law. The arguement would be made by Confucius that the King's wife's upbringing was the cause of her cheating, but the greater arguement that the custom within Sharazad's world was skewed towards men. Well, I said themes, but that's about all I got.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Private Entertainment

Just putting this out there for everyone else, but there is a similarity between the Roman and later periods in Europe regarding private entertainment, in that both involved poetry and song, as is usually the norm with other cultures, but here we can see how Roman remnants haven't quite yet vanished. In Rome, the wealthier families usually held lavish banquets, where performers sang lines and lyrics. Likewise, later in Europe, Jangleurs, or jugglers, who reflected a similar attribute to Roman private entertainers of being multi-talented, would sing lyrics for the court families and nobility.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Margot and "La Mole"

The movie "Queen Margot" is a french film about the St. Bartholomew Day massacre that incorporates many historical aspects into an entertaining film. One of the more controversial historical figures in the movie is "La Mole" Queen Margot's Huguenot lover who is not her husband- her husband is King Henry Navarre. Queen Margot finds peace in her "true love" with "La Mole" but not with her husband. When Queen Margot is with La Mole she feels truly happy. There is another parralel in the movie between King Charles IX and his lover "Marie". Charles says he is truly happy only when he is with his love. Does this sound familiar to Marie de France's Lanval? There are two similarities. First, Lanval is only truly happy when he is with his maiden, but the more significant comparison is between Queen Margot and the Queen in Marie de France's lay- both look for realy love over their forced arrangement with their husbands.

French Karma?

In Marie de France's lays' good people tend to have good happen to them, even if it takes a while, and bad people tend to have bad things happen. The best example of "French Karma" is in Lanval, were Lanval, who is generous, kind, and loyal, receives love from a beautiful women for his good deeds. The queen, for her evil deeds, gets humiliated by having her lie exposed.

The Pear Tree

In Augustine’s Confessions, one of the sections is titled The Pear Tree. I believe that this invocation to nature is very similar to Rumi and his poetry. In a lot of Rumi’s poems he writes about questions that he has to God or ways in which he can get closer to God. Although Augustine’s Confessions are not poetry, he does have a lyrical feel about his writing, at least in my opinion. Through his Confessions, Augustine constantly deals with his rejection of women’s promiscuity and the fact that he should not be focusing on lust, but rather becoming one with God. Rumi speaks to this belief in his poem, “An Empty Garlic”. Does anyone else feel that The Pear Tree might portray a similar message as Rumi’s writings?


Misogyny implies the hatred and denunciation of women. This term is brought up in this context because Augustine blames every encounter he has with women as a reason for his downfall. He is also driven by lust to them. However, there is one woman that stands out in his redemption, his mother Monica. There is a very strong idea/suggestion of Monica acting in the way that Marry did, as she was considered to be an intercessor (spiritual helper) for Christians. There is not much in between these two extremes. It is weird though that he blames women for his downfall because he also puts a lot of his blame on himself. So, he obviously doesn’t think all women are like this. In order to stop his lust he tries to get married, but in the end he renounces it all because he cannot get close enough to God with those distractions (family life and marriage distractions). What do you all think?

Women in Islamic Society

Compared to the many other societies we have studied this year, the women in the Islamic societies seem to have the most freedom ability to do what they want and not necessarily just stay at home all day or be used solely for reproduction. In some stories, as seen in One Thousand and One Nights, the king’s wife decides to cheat on him. In other societies, women would not have dared do this, however, in this Islamic society, the queen thought she had the right to do so.  Later in the story, the woman Sharazad takes it upon herself to prevent the king from sleeping with more women and ultimately killing more women. She decides to be the hero, or rather the heroine. In other societies a woman would never think of doing such a thing. Doing heroic deeds was reserved for men. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Ongoing theme of people not being with who they love and an emphasis on role of women in Marie de France's Lanval

Throughout Marie de France's lays, I have noticed an on going theme of people not being with who they love.  For example in Laustic, the man and woman look out of the window at each other as the Nightingale sings but never actually get to be together.  In the Lay of the Honeysuckle, although Tristan is successful in having an affair with Queen Isoude, they do not get to be together ultimately because she is already married to King Mark.  Both the woman who looks out the window in Laustic and Queen Isoude in the Lay of the Honeysuckle are already married.  For this reason, they should not be interested in another partner as this would be adultery.  However, as one reads the lays it is easy to forget about adultery and have sympathy for the people trapped in relationships in which they are not happy.  Women are not seen as deceitful in Marie de France's lays as they are in earlier works we have read.  Marie de France writes in a way that we can sympathize with them.

She also gives women considerable power in her lays that we do not see in works by different authors.  For example in the lay, Lanval, Lanval's partner seems to take control over him by first rescuing him from court where the king has accused him of a crime and then taking him off on a horse.  It is no surprise that Marie de France gives women more power in her lays as she was believed to be the first woman French writer.

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Fickle Fury in the Face of Fascination

Whew... took me about 5 minutes to come up with that one.

Anyway, as I was reading the Thousand and One Nights, or even the supplemental footnotes provided before, which talked about the plot line of the frame story, I noticed something between the characters of Shahrayar, the serial murderer of the women he marries as a king,  and Shahrazad, the daughter of Shahrayar's vizier, that may be reflective of the human condition, namely in how anger can be quelled with curiosity. Notice how, the king refrains from continuing his bloody wrath upon her because she intentionally tells stories but continually leaves cliffhangers to paralyze any incentive to kill her due to the fact that he wishes to hear the end of the story. Ultimately his curiosity prevents him from continuing his furious habit of murder, something which is plainly obvious to all of you, however, giving it some more thought, I can recall on many occasions when my mother, grandmother and great grandmother managed to quell my screams of anger as a child by either telling me a story and capturing my curiosity, or giving me something to occupy myself with, something which I found fascinating enough to stop crying and become peaceful. Maybe we could even expand this further to how preoccupation in general can quell anger or displeasure. An infant will more likely than not refrain from crying if given a pacifier, and these days, someone like me might not grow mad from boredom if I had something interesting to do. I see a similar situation in the prologue, where the king is kept preoccupied,  and as a result, his notions for and of violence and malcontent with women seemingly disappears.

I guess people never do change after all. At least not in this respect.

Another Analysis of "An Empty Garlic"

I agree with the analysis we went through in class of the poem "An Empty Garlic", but I had another idea regarding its meaning that occurred to me. Maybe the poem is talking about promiscuity and how men should avoid women with those characteristics. Rumi writes that the tasteless fig turns out to be as empty as dry-rotten garlic. To me, this screams infertility. If a women is as empty as dry-rotten garlic, then she cannot have children and it is past her time to reproduce. One of the beliefs I gathered from Islam was that humans should not indulge in sex. Therefore, if this old, crone of a woman cannot have children anymore, then she should not be promiscuous with many men because that is not a good goal to have and a decent path to follow. On the other hand, the man this poem is referring to should not allow himself to fall victim to a woman like the poem is describing. So, I believe this poem talks to both sexes regarding sexual promiscuity.

Sunday, October 14, 2012


"The Thousand and One Nights" became one of the most well known stories in the Arab world, which sort of bothers me given the fact that is was looked down upon by the Koran. The Koran looked down upon fiction considering it "lies" and therefore "The Thousand and One Nights" never really came to be considered as a classical Arabian literature, and was even banned by Arab governments due to the fact that it was considered "immoral". So given all this, how did "The Thousand and One Nights" become so well renowned among the Arabian population? One would intuitively figure that the work ceased circulation early on.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

A Thousand and One Nights

I do not know about you guys but I really enjoyed reading the stories from A Thousand and One Nights. Some of the stories, like The Merchant and the Ox and the Merchant and the Demon, remind me of stories I read when I was little. I particularly remember reading a lot of Aesop's Fables, many of which are the same stories as A Thousand and One Nights. They all have some moral value they want to portray and emphasize. For instance, in The Merchant and the Ox, it is to not be lazy and to do your job (the donkey convinces the ox to not do his job, and they donkey is then punished by doing to ox's job). I guess all of those stories just gave me a nice memory of my childhood and the stories our parents told us and that we would read whose moral stories affected how we turned out as we are today.

Rumi poems and interpretations?

One Rumi poem I liked was #25 on page 1045. It's short but it expresses the state of faith and wonderment, that many people struggle with. He calls God "Friend" and states their relationship: "anywhere you put your foot, feel me in firmness under you." this seems to be strongly related to the translation of "Muslim" which is one that submits to Allah. He faithfully and humbly and lovingly recognizes  Allah. Then he asks "how is it with this love, I see the world and not you?" the rest of his poems try to answer that question or make sense of it. They inspire others to look beyond materials and the physical world around them to connect fully with the spiritual essence of the world.  Sufism and other religions search to find god or the spirit and ask that same question. Other poems and interpretations?

The Take of the Merchant and His Wife

At first, I was really shocked when I heard the Tale of the Merchant and His Wife. The excerpt that we read from The Thousand and One Nights mostly taught the reader some moral. Like the Tale of the Ox and the Donkey taught not to be deceitful, the Story of the Merchant and the Demon taught not to be too harsh in punishments. But the lesson in the Tale of the Merchant and His Wife teaches that men should beat their wives to control them. Now, perhaps beating women was acceptable at the time when The Thousand and One Nights was written, but it was still shocking to me when I read it. But then, the lesson of the tale was completely ignored by Shahrazad. Her father tells her the story to get her to obey him, but Shahrazad says she will not listen and her father doesn't beat her, but lets her do as she wants. So perhaps the lesson in the story is the opposite of what the story presents. In the context of the story by itself, men can beat women to force obedience, but in the larger context of The Thousand and One Nights, the lesson is that women will not listen even if beaten. I don't know. What do you think?

Rumi and Plato

I've noticed a huge similarity between Rumi's poems and Plato's Allegory of a Cave. The idea that truth cannot be gathered from the objects around us, which are worldly and can only be understood by the five senses. Rumi emphasizes the idea in his poems that we do not see truth because we are too distracted by worldly things and ideas, that we must empty our souls of all distractions and look within ourselves to find truth and God. Likewise, Plato states that what we perceive through the five senses is false and that truth can only be reached through one's intellect, which is also only reserved to the individual and not his or her surroundings. Using one's intellect in this sense therefore implies that one has discarded all other considerations and utilized what's inside, whether it be the reason of intellect or the tranquility of the soul, to arrive at truth.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Sufism vs. the Bhagavad Gita

I believe that the poems that stem from the teachings of Sufism have a few similarities to the way the Bhagavad Gita is written. Like the Bhagavad Gita, Rumi's poems have a didactic feel. They both attempt to teach their readers something about how to live their lives. Whether it is through respect for one's elders, discipline in the face of temptations, or kindness that needs to be exhibited towards others, both Rumi and the author of the Bhagavad Gita offer a path for its disciples to follow throughout life. Also, when reading the two works, they both sometimes have a lyrical and rhythmic feel to them. I realize Rumi intended this when writing his poetry, but whether or not it was a goal in the composition of the Bhagavad Gita I do not know. Does anyone have the same feeling?

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

What’s up with self-deprivation?

I've seen it everywhere, and I know that you have too. It’s this notion that one needs to refrain from anything good in order to reach enlightenment, nirvana, the way, heaven, or whatever other extremely sought after destination (usually associated with religion). Some people seem to think that it is necessary to relinquish all of your earthly values and submit yourself to solidarity if you want to achieve happiness. But why? I can understand the argument that you should use everything in moderation and be wary of the overly extravagant, and I happen to agree with them for the most part. I am talking about the extremists who exile and starve themselves. I just can’t see why so many people preach that earthly pleasures are a one way ticket to hell. I’m not trying to be hedonistic here, but what’s wrong with letting go every once in a while and enjoying yourself. Discipline and self-control have their place, so why don’t frivolity and disinhibition? (this very well may not be a word, but I found it on the internet, so it must be legit.) I am in no way trying to denounce anyone’s opinions here; I've just never been able to wrap my head around the thought of avoiding happiness, for happiness. Maybe it’s one of those things ill “figure out when I am older,” cause I am a little uncomfortable disagreeing with those who have spent their whole life trying to figure out the afterlife, while I’m just some teenager looking forward to the weekend. (2 more days)

Similarity between Shahrayar in A Thousand One Nights and Oedipus

The actions of Shahrayar in A Thousand One Nights remind me a lot of how Oedipus acted in Oedipus the King.  Oedipus refused to give in when the prophet Tiresias did not want to tell him who killed King Laius. The reason for this was that Tiresias was trying to protect him from finding out the truth that Oedipus was really the killer and had fulfilled his awful prophecy.  In A Thousand One Nights, King Shahzaman comes to visit King Shahrayar and is depressed due to his wife cheating on him.  King Shahrayar does not understand at first why Shahzaman is upset until he tells him after he is feeling better.  The reason Shahzaman feels better is that he witnesses his brother's wife cheating on Shahrayar while he is hunting.  Shahzaman realizes that he is not the only man of high authority who is taken advantage of.  Shahrayar demands that Shahzaman tell him how he has recovered from his depression so fast.  Shahzaman tries to protect Shahrayar from the painful truth in order to try and protect him just as Tiresias does to Oedipus.

Repetition and Discipline (Bhagavad Gita)

The Bhagavad Gita mentioned core fundementals such as devotion and discipline. Though the words themselves provide most of what they generally mean: using reason before acting or training one's mind to do so, I found that the rhetorical repetition of words and ideas between two stanzas reflects an association we can also make with devotion and discipline, that it does not come easy and must be practiced over and over and continuously until a desirable habitual behavior is established. Reading those lines, I could almost picture someone lecturing me. Repeating a certain point in different ways so that it becomes ingrained into my mind. Just thought it was kind of interesting.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Similarity Between Rama's rule in Yuddha 131 in the Indian Section of the Norton and Augustus's rule of Rome

While reading the the Norton pages for India, I noticed that there are similarities between Rama's rule of the world after rescuing Sita from Ravana and Augustus's rule of Rome.  On page 761 in the Norton, it says "During the period of Rama's reign, there was no poverty, no crime, no fear, and no unrighteousness in the kingdom."  Romans also claimed this about Augustus.  They believed that as soon as Augustus gained power in Rome that suffering and fighting would come to an end.  It turned out to be true as Augustus established the time known as the Pax Romana in Roman history which was a time of peace and prosperity for the Roman people.  I found it interesting that although from completely different societies, both Rama and Augustus were very popular figures that brought times of peace with their ruling.

Unity in Ancient China

 Early Chinese history began rocky as it was composed of multiple city states
united by small factors such as a common language, however the main factor that 
united them was their belief in divine rule in which a government being 
overthrown was justified by the gods not seeing it fit for the current ruler to 
retain his power. I find it interesting that the early Chinese were able to stay 
unified as disruptions such as these would ruin a modern day country

Saturday, October 6, 2012

The Gentleman

I found, from reading the Analects that Confucianism focuses largely on becoming a “gentleman”. According to one of the sayings, the man was supposed to combine the qualities of saint, scholar, and gentleman. They were supposed to act as moral guides to the people and lead others on their way to becoming one. Gentlemen were obliged to cultivate themselves morally, show filial piety and loyalty where these are due, and cultivate humanity, or benevolence. I also noticed a lot of talk about “good” and “bad” men. From what I understand, the good men are the ones who are gentlemen or at least on their way to becoming gentlemen, and the bad men are those who abandon the Confucian values. Confucius wanted to eliminate the presence of the bad men by getting everyone to follow the Way and be a gentleman.

Greek Philosophy and Confucian Philosophy

To me the Greek concept of syphroceny (everything in moderation) is similar to the Way (following the natural and moral order of the world).  Like Grant points out, ideal relationships are balanced, whether it be relationships between people (husband to wife, friend to friend, ect.) or between objects (jewel for a fruit are not equal in economic value but they both send the same message of love). Confucius warns his students to revere the gods and keep distance from them at the same time. Also, I read in a book called Classic Asian Philosophy, that says that Confucius, Plato and Aristotle shared an emphasis on “inner satisfaction with one’s own virtue.”  Also another connection the  book makes between Plato, Aristotle and Confucius, is that they believe that a genuinely virtuous person will rise above temptation and do the right thing in an ethical dilemma, no matter how difficult it is.  Did these philosophies develop COMPLETELY independently of each other? What’s up with the similarities? 

Ancient Chinese Values: Social inclusiveness

I found it surprising that literature and literacy was highly valued in Ancient shinese culture and was not limited to the rich aristocrats, royal people, government officials, or an intellectual class.  During the Chou Dynasty (1000-600 BCE), reading and writing was for everyone, for example Classic of Poetry had several authors: kings, aristocrats, peasants, soldiers, men…and even women! Whoa! Also, according to Norton (pg 684) arguing people (possibly diplomats) would use lines from poems as zingers.  The 100 schools of thought, spreading their brand of morality and ideologies,  were cropping up as well, as a result, I think, of the cultural emphasis on literacy and education and for all walks of life in ancient Chinese society.  Basically, I think because education was such an integral part of society, they valued creativity, freedom of expression, and morality.  I understand that there is a thousand year or so time gap between this period and now, but it’s interesting that now China has a lot of censorship, and the Cultural Revolution, lead by Mao was against the intellectuals.      

Friday, October 5, 2012

Confucian Values

Ok, so I'm just going to cut to the chase and say that the poems we read for China did reflect many of the confucian ideals. But the one I saw most dominant in the poems was the idea of repicrocation between two people, namely those involved in a marriage, but in other ways as well. The reprocation reflects mainly the idea that one must serve another in order to recieve from that person, or basically contribute in a way the maintain a relationship. We see in Quince that there is a reciprocation, even if unequal, between two who love each other. And although the main point of the poem is that love is a powerful force, it is also the force which drives that same balance and harmony of their relationship. In contrast, in the Willows by the Eastern Gate, we observe a failure of reciprocation between one person and another. The two have agreed to meet at a certain destination, however, only one shows. This sort of stand up reflects the absentee's failure to uphold an agreement or obligation between himself and the other person. In She Bore the Folk, Lord Millet sacrifices himself so that he might feed others, and in return, they sear the crops so that he may grow back again and be resurrected. Ultimately, the idea of reciprocation seems pretty big in Chinese culture, as these poems and our class discussion can attest.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Does Juno's attempt to hurt the Trojans actually benefit them in the end while at the same time hurt Carthage?

Throughout the epic, Juno makes her displeasure for the Trojans clear.  From the beginning, she hates them as it is prophesied that they will lead to the downfall of Carthage.  Juno tries to make Dido and Aeneus fall in love in order to protect Carthage from being destroyed by the Trojans or Dido's brother Pygmalion.  In the end, this only leads to Carthage experiencing tragedy as their leader, Dido's heart is broken by Aeneus and she kills herself.  Aeneus, at the same time, goes on to eventually establish Rome.  Juno's attempt to protect Carthage and hold back Aeneus fails.  At the end of the epic, Juno again tries to hurt the Trojans (Aeneus specifically) as she turns King Latinus against him in his fight against Turnus.  King Latinus was originally Aeneus's friend who's daughter he was going to marry, but in the end Juno makes him his enemy.  However, Aeneus still pulls off a victory against Turnus which leads to yet another one of Juno's attempts on causing the Trojans' failure unsuccessful.

Roman/Greek Monsters in Harry Potter

Was it just me or did anyone else see the similarities between Harry Potter's monsters and the Aeneid's? It was really awesome to see that the three headed dog within Harry Potter was based off Cerberus. The three headed dog in Harry Potter guards the elixir of life (which could let one live for eternity), in direct correlation with Cerberus's guarding of Hades' eternity. Moreover their are harpie like creature in Harry Potter which are identical to the mythical Greel creatures in all but name (they are called pixies in Harry Potter). The Chimaera can be found in the book "Magical Creatures and Where to Find Them" which lists creatures within Harry Potter and describes their habits, allot like a Discovery Kids book for magical creatures. Those are the creatures I can think of that are the same. J.K Rowling is awesome, buy her new book (it's not about magic though).    :( If you're interested in seeing the comparison's of creatures here's a Wikipedia article on them: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magical_creatures_in_Harry_Potter

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Siebel and Aphrodite

        We talked a lot about how Aeneas is not very good at keeping his priorities straight and seems to constantly need reminding. Well I think I have stumbled upon a genius discovery. This discovery being is that the Siebel acts as a mother figure for Aeneas because his current mother, Aphrodite, is never present and only shows up at random times. The Siebel helps Aeneas to keep going through the Underworld and prevent him from becoming distracted. The Underworld is one of the most pivotal times in the story in terms of the outcome of the future of Rome and the Siebel is partly responsible for this since she helped Aeneas so much.
        So, could we now say that Rome was founded, somewhat, by divinity and that the gods must have wanted Rome to be founded or else the Siebel, a divine figure, would not have helped Aeneas through the Underworld? This aspect of divinity would also add on to the idea that Octavian was a descendant of a god and therefore the city would have been divine under him alone, but now there is another aspect of divinity thrown into the picture. Was Rome the divine city? the promised city under the gods?


Could epicureanism have been the start of the modern day rationalism? I say this due to the fact that Epicureanism held the belief in "atomness". When someone says atomness, it triggers a scientific chord in my mind. Now maybe the Romans did not mean for atomness to refer to science but I sure think they did. They were an advancing society and who knows what those philosophers and thinkers were conjuring up after sitting in the libraries, immersed in their studies. Another reason I think epicureanism might be a precursor to rationalism is due to the fact that they thought people had their own free will. This idea of free will does not seem to be very prominent in ancient cultures and even some cultures after the BC, but the epicureans were an example of a culture based on free will. This idea seems very modern because a lot of people nowadays believe in the idea of free will. I believe epicureanism laid the foundation to modern day rationalism, and even if it didn't it certainly seems like a very modern set beliefs held by the Romans.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Epicureanism in the Aeneid

I'm just spitballing here, but did anyone else notice some semblances of Epicureanism present in the Aeneid now that we've learned what Epicureanism is? I took careful notice of how Aeneas seems to reflect both the ideals of lessening one's ambitions and enjoying the pleasures of life when in Carthage with Dido. Firstly, he should be listening to his mother, not just because of the impulse we all have to listen to our mothers, but because he has been given a divine mission to found a new city. Yet he's wasting his time and not fulfilling that ambition. Secondly, he enjoys his love life with Dido, and that I think can be considered a pleasure of life. (Even if it all ended horribly wrong...but hey, better to have loved than to have not loved at all.)

Another ideal I found similar not to the Aeneid per se in its diction but with its implications and depictions of God's being indifferent to human endeavor and suffering, which we also get from those poems we read about Helen and Leda. The gods are indifferent, which sort of implies that we should not therefore concern ourselves with the gods because they are distant and remote. Of course the second part of the ideal in Epicureanism doesn't hold true at all in the Aeneid, that the gods have no influence on human life, but let's not dwell too much on that

Monday, October 1, 2012

Copycat Romana

It seems like Rome is just the youngest sibling who has all these great relatives to look up to and he/she tries so hard to be like them but they won't accept his/her imitation as flattery. Of course Rome is not just a hand-me-down nation, and it has had various successes and periods of prosperity, but it keeps taking elements from other cultures. So far the major one we talked about is the Roman copying of Greece. I believe Mr. Williams said that Latin was basically Greek, but they "took out the awesomeness." There was also the Aenead which borrows many elements from its epic poetry predecessors such as the Iliad and the Odyssey. And now I am reading about how rome "absorbed" much of the Etruscan culture and many arts and ideas from the "entire Mediterranean world", they are like a huge super-being that feeds of the powers and successes of other cultures to create one great nation. Im sure there is more evidence of mimicry but I'll let you guys have a chance to post some in the comments.