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This chapter uses the figure of Arion, the lyric poet from Methymna whose story is told early in Herodotus’s Histories, to explore the adoption of Herodotus, in the long nineteenth century, as the ‘Romantic poet-sage of History’. This is the title bestowed upon him by the Anglican priest and hymn-writer John Ernest Bode, who in 1853 (following in the fashion set by Walter Scott’s Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border and Macaulay’s Lays of Ancient Rome) adapted tales from Herodotus into old English and Scottish ballad forms. Herodotus was seen as the prose avatar of poets – of medieval balladeers, lyric singers, epic bards and even authors of verse drama. These configurations of Herodotus are cast into sharp relief by comparing them with his previous incarnation, in the Early Modern and earlier eighteenth century, as a writer who most strongly resembled a novelist. Isaac Littlebury, Herodotus’s 1709 translator, was attracted to the historian for the simple reason that in 1700 he had enjoyed success with a previous translation. But the earlier work was certainly not a translation of an ancient historian. Littlebury had translated Fénelon’s Télémaque, a work of fantasy fiction derived ultimately from the Posthomerica, perhaps better described as a novel combining a rites-of-passage theme with an exciting travelogue.
‘You need powers of divination if you arrive amongst new customs and laws you have not been taught at home in order to deal best with your husband’, says Medea to a group of indigenous Corinthian wives with no equivalent problem (Medea 238–40). Unlike them, she is ‘alone, stateless and abused by a husband’ after being ‘carried off as plunder’ from a ‘barbarian’ land (255–6). Her mistake, she now knows, was to leave her father’s house in Colchis, ‘persuaded by the words of a Greek’ (801–2). Jason reminds her that she is from what he perceives to be the wrong side of the frontier he believes separates Greeks from barbarian, and that she should be grateful that she now lives in a land where justice and the rule of law prevail (536–8). Once his children are dead, he can only assume that when he brought her ‘to Greece from a barbarian homeland’ he had not been of sound mind (1329–31), for ‘no Greek woman’ would have been capable of filicide (1339–40). The conceptual and rhetorical polarisation of Greek and barbarian – validated and ironically subverted by turns – is a fundamental structuring principle of this mixed-race marriage and indeed of the entirety of the tragedy, as of several others by this author. But there is little equivalent to the vivid ethnographic colour which tinges earlier tragedies involving non-Greeks, Aeschylus’ Persians and Suppliants in particular, through vocabulary, vowel sounds, political attitudes, discussion of physical appearance, customs, gait, gestures and indicated costumes. Medea is from Colchis on the River Phasis which flows into the far eastern corner of the Black Sea. But in what sense, if any, is she identifiably Colchian?
The Black Sea is the focus of a text by Lucian of Samosata, Toxaris: A Dialogue of Friendship, written in the second century AD. A Greek named Mnesippus converses with a Scythian named Toxaris (‘Archer’). Toxaris claims that the Scythians are better than Greeks at admiring exemplary heroes, and cites as illustration the Oresteion, a temple in Scythia to Orestes and Pylades. They are counted as honorary Scythians because of their unparalleled mutual loyalty (5–6). Their deeds are engraved on a bronze pillar, and they are honoured with sacrifices. Moreover, children in Toxaris’ country are obliged to commit the list of deeds (first dramatised in Euripides’ IT) to memory, and see the exploits of the Greeks in their country in ‘pictures by the artists of old’ hanging in the temple corridor (6).
Our understanding of the theatre and performance culture of the Greeks living around the Black Sea in antiquity has long suffered on account of the uneven and lacunose nature of the evidence. The great Greek cities of the southern coast, situated along what is now the northern coast of Turkey, are no exception. Although it is impossible to believe that there was no theatrical culture in these communities, the archaeological evidence is very limited before the Roman period. This chapter therefore collects and assesses the not insubstantial literary testimony for two of these cities, Sinope and Heraclea Pontica, which enjoyed lively cultural contacts with Athens and are associated by Greek authors from as early as the fifth century BC with comedy and tragedy respectively.
This is the first study of ancient theatre and performance around the coasts of the Black Sea. It brings together key specialists around the region with well-established international scholars on theatre and the Black Sea, from a wide range of disciplines, especially archaeology, drama and history. In that way the wealth of material found around these great coasts is brought together with the best methodology in all fields of study. This landmark book broadens the whole concept and range of theatre outside Athens. It shows ways in which the colonial world of the Black Sea may be compared importantly with Southern Italy and Sicily in terms of theatre and performance. At the same time, it shows too how the Black Sea world itself can be better understood through a focus on the development of theatre and performance there, both among Greeks and among their local neighbours.
The ‘Advocating Classics Education’ (ACE) project is an initiative led by Professor Edith Hall and Dr Arlene Holmes-Henderson, based at King's College London. The project seeks to extend the availability of Classical Civilisation and Ancient History (CC/AH) qualifications to learners in non-fee-paying schools across the United Kingdom. To do so, Professor Hall has been awarded a Leadership Fellowship of £250,000 from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). The project's full title is ‘Studying Classical Civilisation in Britain: recording the past and fostering the future’ and it runs from 1st May 2017 to 31st August 2018.