THE BIRDS CHAT July 12, 2002
with some editing to reduce the size of this document.
Online Chat on The Birds, a comedy by Aristophanes. One of dozens of online chats by members of Ancient Sites studying the Greek classics in translation.

21:35 - Morgana Flavius

Here, help yourself with some Brazilian caipirinha drink. I don't know about you, but it is terribly hot here tonight.
21:35 - Aphrodite

I'm in Houston, we don't *know* what cold is. It's always hot here.
21:36 - Zoe

I thought you had winter now Morgana?
21:36 - Morgana Flavius

I'm in Northern Brazil and it's summer here all year round. However, in July starts what we call our "dry season" (less rain) and it gets hotter than usual
21:36 - Morgana Flavius

Yes, in the south of Brazil it is winter now, Zoe.
21:37 - Zoe

I guess I was thinking of a much more southern place, Australia maybe. I need a map. *g*
21:38 - Morgana Flavius

Belem, the city where I live, is almost on the Equator.
21:38 - Zoe

I understand now, now that I know you're near the equator
21:40 - Morgana Flavius

So, did you all finish your Aristophanes?
21:41 - Zoe

Yep, I've read two versions and lots of side stuff.
21:41 - Aphrodite

"The Birds?" Yeah, I just finished it last night
21:41 - Morgana Flavius

yeah... I read two versions too. Helped me a lot.
21:42 - Aphrodite

Okie...is there the sound of the birds chirping in the chat, or is it just me?
21:43 - Aphrodite

I read one and a half version. I started one translation, but didn't like it so much, so read another one.
21:43 - Zoe

It's not you, it chirps when a new post appears. I kind of like it
21:43 - Morgana Flavius

The notes on the Arrowsmith translations were extremely helpful for me. Thanks to Torrey, I got the book with 4 plays by Aristophanes on time for the chat.
21:43 - Morgana Flavius

Ain't it great hearing the chirps while discussing birds?
21:43 - Zoe

I have that one Morgana and it does have great notes
21:44 - Torrey Philemon

Hi folks, ah how nice you've been conversing. Give me a moment to read what you've written!
21:44 - Zoe

I hadn't thought of that. How appropriate. LOL!
21:44 - Aphrodite

Ah, I can't remember the name of the guy who did my translation; it had a good intro and a few footnotes.
21:45 - Aphrodite

Hi, Torrey
21:45 - Morgana Flavius

Yes. Aristophanes aludes to many people then living in Athens (or elsewhere) and makes fun of them; if you don't know who the heck the guy was, you miss the jokes.
21:46 - Zoe

He's really got it in for Cleon, who shows up in this play and others.
21:46 - Morgana Flavius

Hi Torrey, take your time and please have some Brazilian caipirinha drinks. It's good to cool off.
21:47 - Torrey Philemon

Hmm, nice drink Morgana. It just occurred to me that the chirping noises might also be the Amazonian rain forest in Brazil!
21:47 - Morgana Flavius

Who's Cleon on the Birds? Not Pisthetairos, is he?
21:47 - Zoe

No, he's not in it, just talked about in unflattering ways several times
21:48 - Torrey Philemon

What translations did everybody read?
21:48 - Zoe

He's mentioned as Cleonymus in the Birds
21:48 - Morgana Flavius

Yes, could be the birds in our mighty forest too. By the way, amny of the birds mentioned by Aristophanes I had never heard of before. Had to look 'em up in the encyclopedia!
21:48 - Zoe

I read the Arrowsmith and my Anonymous, edited by O'Neill
21:49 - Zoe

and your comparisons of the 6
21:49 - Morgana Flavius

Same for me: I read both anonymous and Arrowsmith translations
21:49 - Torrey Philemon

I read Arrowsmith and Sommerstein and also the Anonymous though I quoted from more on my translation page.
21:50 - Torrey Philemon

I don't know if Richard will be here and I haven't heard  from ?Tom? since he first expressed interest about the chat. He didn't even email me for registration info here.
21:51 - Morgana Flavius

Reading the two versions was very enlighting for me. I think the anonymous was more literal and it helped me to understand some "creative" Arrowsmith translation, which I didn't understand because it has nothing to do with my cultural background.
21:51 - Zoe

I liked the Anon better. The other seemed too contrived for appreciation by a modern audience
21:52 - Zoe

I also got the gist of whatwas happening better after I'd read the anon, though maybe it was just the 2nd reading that did it
21:52 - Aphrodite

My translation was by G. M. Cookson
21:53 - Torrey Philemon

Never heard of that one, Aphrodite. Where did you get it?
21:53 - Morgana Flavius

I agree with you Zoe, regarding the modern audience targeted by Arrowsmith. But just reading the Anon left me with a lot of gaps, then filled by the second reading of the Birds, by Arrow.
21:53 - Aphrodite

it's a book in a volume called "Greek Books" and it had plays by other ancient greek play writers
21:54 - Aphrodite

great book*
21:54 - Torrey Philemon

I think the Arrowsmith notes were really helpful but like others of you, I was sometimes annoyed by his too modern translation.
21:54 - Zoe

I really hated the Miss Universe bit
21:54 - Torrey Philemon

It's great to have different translations, different perspectives.
21:54 - Morgana Flavius

Specially that "Miss Universe" for Basileia. What an unfortunate choice!
21:55 - Torrey Philemon

Me too, Zoe. Arrowsmith was way out of line with Miss Universe!
21:55 - Aphrodite

Mine translated it as "Miss Sovereignty"
21:55 - Zoe

Though with the Arrowsmith, the plays were really like that, only in the Athenian context. He was just showing us maybe.
21:55 - Morgana Flavius

How about your translation, Aphrodite? How did Cookson called Basileia?
21:56 - Torrey Philemon

One note I read said that the Greek word Basileia did not have the suffix used in an abstraction so that it was meant to express a real goddess and not an abstract concept. But I haven't found any info about her real existence.
21:56 - Zoe

Did ya'll get my email on Basileia? Or shall I put in here? It's short
21:56 - Torrey Philemon

Miss Sovereignty sounds ok, though a bit weighty. By guess is that Arrowsmith was trying to make the word sound more colloquial, everyday speech, as it was probably meant to sound.
21:57 - Morgana Flavius

But Miss Universe, as it was pointed out in one of the e-mails, is not exactly what Pistherairos was looking for. He was looking for power or royalty or divinity, not beauty.
21:57 - Torrey Philemon

Yes Zoe I remember you did make reference to her being a godddess worshipped somewhere. Where?
21:57 - Zoe

She was a cult figure in Athens and Attica
21:58 - Aphrodite

But I suppose, beauty can be translated into Power in a woman...especially in those times.
21:58 - Torrey Philemon

Good point, Morgana. The marriage to Basileia (the Greek word, which is sovereignty) was a way of marrying into the power of Zeus.
21:58 - Morgana Flavius

I guess Richard solved the mystery with his e-mail, telling that Basileia is the feminine for Basileus, which is king in Greek.
21:58 - Torrey Philemon

Where did you find that info on her being a cult figure, Zoe?
21:58 - Zoe

I see your point Aphrodite, beauty has had power over the centuries
21:59 - Torrey Philemon

Gee, I didn't get the email from Richard. When did he send that?
21:59 - Zoe

Oxford Classical Dictionary, she was also known as Basile
21:59 - Aphrodite

I didn't get an e-mail from him either.
21:59 - Zoe

Me neither. Oh well
21:59 - Torrey Philemon

I wonder if Aristophanes made up the connection with Zeus and his thunderbolts or that was part of the cult figure.
22:00 - Morgana Flavius

I think that in Ancient Greece (and other states), beauty was not synonimous for power. If the girl was beautiful, but her dad had no money or power, she wouldn't be much sought for...
22:00 - Morgana Flavius

Oh, maybe he just sent the e-mail for me?
22:00 - Zoe

The Oxford said there was nothing known of her mythology except that her name meant Sovereignty
22:01 - Morgana Flavius

Here's what Richard wrote: "Minor point -- Basileia is just the feminine form of Basileos, the Greek word for king."
22:01 - Torrey Philemon

Could be Morgana. A little tete a tete behind the scenes <-:
22:01 - Zoe

I found it interesting that Pisthetairos had to get his power from a woman.
22:01 - Morgana Flavius

*blush*
22:01 - Zoe

Ah Morgana, holding out on us? *grin*
22:01 - Aphrodite

Is it possible that Aristophanes made her up?
22:02 - Torrey Philemon

In my myth class this week,someone brought up that women in classical greek society had little power, but the goddesses had considerably more power in relation to the gods than women did in relation to men.
22:02 - Morgana Flavius

During the time of the kings, it seems that for a man to be king, he had to marry the daughter of a king. Remember Helen (daughter of king Tindareus) and Menelaus and all her suitors?
22:02 - Torrey Philemon

One set of notes I read suggested that he made her up, Aphrodite.
22:03 - Zoe

I think He simply embroidered on the what he knew of Baslieia, which was obviously more than has come down to us. His audience would have known her - perhaps her cult was the object of ridicule
22:03 - Torrey Philemon

True, Morgana. Basiliea in a way had little power in her own right - it was to be a "political marriage."
22:03 - Morgana Flavius

Arist says in the Birds, that Basileia made Zeus's bolts. But wasn't Volcano the one who performed that duty?
22:04 - Zoe

Speaking of our friend Helen, there was a fine reference to her when Heracles asked if they'd be going to war over a woman when Pisthetairos was bargaining for the hand of Basileia
22:04 - Torrey Philemon

Speaking of ridicule - I find it hard to believe that Aristophanes could believe in the gods and yet be so irreverent/satirical in regard to them. (Imagine religious people today writing a satire about the God of the Old Testament. WOuldn't happen!)
22:04 - Aphrodite

Yes, he was...he made all the weapons
22:04 - Aphrodite

In my translation, it said that she was in charge of keeping Zeus' wealth...
22:05 - Aphrodite

and it said that she kept his bolts, nothing about her making it.
22:05 - Zoe

He may have thought the the immense set of rituals were too much and was making fun of those
22:05 - Torrey Philemon

Vulcan was the Roman name for Hephaestus, and yes he did make the thunderbolts. (Sounds like Basililea was more of a secretary/chief office assistant/treasurer)
22:06 - Aphrodite

Did a treasurer/secretary have a lot of power at that time?
22:07 - Morgana Flavius

Ah, right Torrey! I just went over that part of Prometheus conversation with Pisthetairos and he actually said that Basileia kept the keys to Zeus' thunderbolts.
22:07 - Zoe

From what I've read of Greek religion, it wasn't so full of doom and proscriptions as our modern ones. The gods made things work - or not.
22:07 - Zoe

One might could have believed in some or all of it and still taken pokes at it
22:07 - Torrey Philemon

The woman as a key to wealth and power.....
22:08 - Aphrodite

I'm still not seeing the connection :(
22:08 - Morgana Flavius

On the side texts I read about Greek comedies at Aristo's time, playwriters had a LOT of freedom to write what they pleased. Including make fun of the official religion.

22:08 - Aphrodite
If he wanted *power*, why not marry one of the higher goddesses?
22:08 - Torrey Philemon

One set of notes I read, Zoe, said that at some of the festivals like the Greater Dionysia and the Lenaea (the main festival for comedy), it was ok to poke fun at anybody, including all the gods. It was kind of mardi gras spirit and one could be sacrilegious then.

22:09 - Morgana Flavius
Maybe the higher goddesses were not available, Aphrodite?
 
22:09 - Zoe

In the Anon, Prometheus claims she makes the lightning for Zeus
22:09 - Torrey Philemon

Aphrodite, I think that what Aristophanes was getting at with Basilea is that by marrying her Pisthetairos could get the keys to Zeus' treasury and perhaps also learn some of his secrets.
22:10 - Morgana Flavius

I remember Pisthetairos saying that Zeus could keep Hera to himself, for instance. Maybe because she was too authoritary?
22:10 - Zoe

But in all of this, he was setting up the birds as gods, now he's going to be the god. Rude of him.
22:10 - Torrey Philemon

Perhaps it was funnier for his audience for Aristophanes to refer to Basilea rather than Hera.
22:11 - Aphrodite

Hera? From what I've read of her, she sounds pretty meek.
22:11 - Torrey Philemon

About him setting up the birds as gods but acting like one himself - do you all think that was intentional? I mean was P deliberately deceiving them in a bid for power, or was it unconscious?
22:12 - Morgana Flavius

Yes, sometimes Hera was meek (to Zeus maybe). But her rage towards Zeus' lovers... yuck, she was MEAN!
22:12 - Aphrodite

That makes sense, Torrey. Money and secrets can definitely equal power
22:12 - Torrey Philemon

Hera was always playing tricks on Zeus -- she reacted to him but she rarely submitted. She reminds me of Lucy on the I love Lucy show (except for when she's being revengeful)
22:12 - Morgana Flavius

I think it was not intentional that P ended up as a god
22:13 - Aphrodite

I think it was a little of both. I don't think he intended to go so far with the power trip thing
22:14 - Torrey Philemon

You think he meant it when he claimed he was going to help the Birds gain a lot of power for themselves? (And his cosmogony of the Birds and creation - was that obvious bullshit and deception or not?)
22:14 - Morgana Flavius

It is my impression that in the beginning, P was only trying to save his own skin from the birds iminent attack, by suggesting that he knew how to make them turn into gods.
22:14 - Torrey Philemon

In a way it's more interesting that Pisthetairos isn't totally a one-dimensional stereotype. Like he exploits the Birds, but he also kicks out some of the exploiters too.
22:15 - Zoe

I think he just fell into it. He was looking for a peaceful place and he just got tempted by the possibilities
22:15 - Aphrodite

But didn't he suggest that even before the threat of the attack?
22:15 - Morgana Flavius

And maybe P got carried away with his own clever speach about the birds cosmogony and ended up by liking it as much as the birds did
22:16 - Zoe

And whatever happened to Euelpides toward the end? He and P went into this together - why didn't he go for king/godhood?
22:16 - Morgana Flavius

Hum... good question Aphrodite. I think he suggested it to the Hoopoe, before the attack, yes
22:16 - Torrey Philemon

Since I'm studying Greek now, I'm paying attention to the language and translation issues. CloudCuckooland isn't as correct a translation as CloudCuckooCity. He was seeking to be free of the legal entanglements of Athens but he wasn't looking for a country retreat.
22:16 - Torrey Philemon

Yes, Euelpides disappears. I think he goes off to help build the walls and never comes back. (Bad playwriting <-: )
 22:17 - Morgana Flavius
 Zoe, that was exactly what I was asking myself! What ever happened to Euelpides?!
22:17 - Aphrodite

I was wondering about him too; he never reappeared.


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