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LECTURE 7: Slide presentation, featuring Black Figure paintings, with focus
on the hero's other self.
1. psukhê, pl. psukhai: essence of life while one is alive; conveyor of
identity while one is dead
1a. Review from Lecture 6: sêma, pl. sêmata 'sign, signal, symbol; tomb,
tomb of a hero'; sêmainô (verb) 'indicate, use a sêma'
2. hydria (note the spelling: not "hydra"!): a vessel used for libations (=
ritual pourings, on occasions that include the worship of ancestors and the
worship of heroes). There will be two main hydrias shown in the slide
3. Münster Hydria (around 520 or 510 B.C.E.)
4. Boston Hydria (around 510 B.C.E.)
5. Note that the Münster Hydria depicts an athletic event.
6. The picture mixes the ritual of an athlete's ordeal with the myth of a
hero's ordeal. For working definitions of "ritual" and "myth," see Lecture
7. You see an athlete engaging in a chariot contest and you see Achilles
honoring Patroklos.
8. So the picture shows ritual and myth together, just as poetry shows
ritual and myth together in the chariot race described at Iliad XXIII.
9. Emily Vermeule on the "window effect" of the picture frame of the Boston
Hydria: "The technique gives the impression that the myth is circling around
in another world, outside the window frame through which the spectator views
it, in endless motion which is somehow always arrested at the same place
whenever we return to the window."
10. Nagy's question to students: are you looking in from the outside or are
you looking out from the inside?
11. The figure runs around a turning point (terma), a point of
concentration. (Note what Nestor tells Antilokhos in XXIII, as discussed in
Lecture 6: : "concentrate on the sêma." The medium of the tomb (sêma) of the
hero (or ancestor) is the message of the hero (or ancestor).
12. Things to look for as you compare the picture of the Münster Hydria (=M)
with that of the Boston Hydria (=B):
a. The axis of vision centers on the sêma in M, while the sêma is off-center
in B.
b. The chariot is also off-center in B. Study question: what is centered in
B, and why?
c. The homunculus (= smaller-than-life-size body-double) has no wings in M;
it does have wings in B.
d. The homunculus is labeled as psukhê in M, as Patroklos in B. Question:
whose psukhê is the homunculus in M? Of Achilles? Of Patroklos? Of both?
e. Note the picture on the shield of the homunculus in both M and B.
f. The Greek word for 'picture on a shield' is sêma.
g. The sêma on the shield of a hero is supposed to symbolize his identity.
h. A running leg (or foot: the Greek language does not make the same
distinctions between 'leg' and 'foot' that the English language does) is
symbolic of which hero in the Iliad?
i. When there are three running legs spinning around a center (the technical
Greek word for this visual device: triskeles = 'three-legs'), the idea of
superhuman running speed is implied.
j. The "winged lady" is still in the process of landing in B; on the other
hand, she has already landed in M.
k. In B, The "winged lady" makes a gesture toward the portico on your far
right. The old couple in the portico repeat the gesture. Achilles is making
eye-contact with the gesture. Notice that he is not making eye-contact with
the sêma, nor with the psukhê of Patroklos. Is he getting on the chariot or
getting off?
l. Consider the council of the gods on the upper part of M. Zeus and Hermes
(with his caduceus = his magic wand) at center left and center right. Athena
at right. Dionysus at extreme left. Note the goddess, making a gesture,
between Dionysus and Zeus. Study question: how does this council of the gods
compare with the council of the gods at the beginning of Iliad XXIV?
m. How does the action of "the winged lady" in M and B compare with the
action of a certain character in Iliad XXIV?
13. Things to look for as you compare the pictures of M and B with other
pictures in the slide-lecture.
a. Note each image (sêma) on each hero's shield. Compare with the pictures
of animals guarding the tomb (sêma) of the hero.
b. Note details that convey an epic event (by "epic" we mean the kind of
macro-narrative represented by the Iliad) and details that convey an
athletic event. Where are epic / athletic details distinct and where are
they not? Compare the epic / athletic events of the Funeral Games of
Patroklos in Iliad XXIII. Compare Pindar's Pythian 8. Where are epic /
athletic details distinct and where are they not?