I HATE how much I procrastinate. I have a 4-5 page paper due tomorrow as well as another 2 page one. The 2 pager isn’t even started and this load of crap is the 4-5 page one (which is currently just over one page):
Since the beginning of time, human beings have tried to understand the complexities of the world around them. In particular, the ancient Greeks took an interest in explaining their origins, seeking answers both in the divine and in rational thought. They used the term κóσμος as their attempt to characterize the order of the known universe, but the term itself is ambiguous since it can mean both “order” and “universe.” Only a select few became famous enough to influence others after vocalizing their theories about the κóσμος, and the ways in which they reached their audience varied. In his Theogeny, the poet Hesiod (fl. 730-700) used his belief in the divine to illustrate the κóσμος through the succession of gods; in their more scholarly writings, the philosophers Anaximander (c. 570) and Anaximenes (c. 550) of Miletos argued that the gods had very little to do with the κóσμος as they knew it and that the foundation of the universe was more elemental than anything else. It is in these contrasting ideas where the modern day scholar can see the world through classical eyes and better understand the different points of view present in ancient Greek society.
“From the Muses of Helicon let us begin our singing,” wrote Hesiod in the opening line of Theogeny, wasting no time in calling the existence of the divine to attention. Just as with Homer before him, it was his duty as the poet to acknowledge that his words were not his own; instead, he was merely the conduit through which the Muses could sing their story. Because he could attribute as abstract an idea as inspiration to a higher power, the Muses, it is unsurprising that he could explain the rest of the world around him as the work of the gods. In fact, the intent of Theogeny was to do just that; its purpose was, indeed, to shed light upon the creation of κóσμος, but it was, more importantly, a means to establish and reinforce the existence of a sovereign divinity—Zeus. In establishing a sovereign deity and chronicling His triumphs over the Titans, Hesiod was able to explain the state of the world in which he and his contemporaries inhabited. He and all subsequent generations belonged to the iron race, unlike the generation of Homer, which belonged to the heroic race (Kirk 226-7). Each race was its own order, its own state of κóσμος, Hesiod explained in Works and Days. Zeus’s rise to sovereignty marked the beginning of cosmic degradation…………
… FML. Oh, that nifty Greek-looking stuff means “kósmos.” And that means…cosmos.
All right. I’m trying not to put my essay for The World Through Classical Eyes off any longer. However, there are two angles that I want to take…and I need help deciding which one to choose!
Here’s the prompt:
Select one of the ancient texts we have read and discuss it in terms of such attempts to understand the world. What approaches to the process of understanding do you see in your text? What is the nature of that text, and what effect do its form and purpose have on what is presented? How can the modern reader make sense of it?
And here are the two topics I’m thinking about exploring:
1. In Homer’s Odyssey, Odysseus and his crew encounter the cyclops Polyphemos and are shocked by his brutish ways. I’m thinking about using this part of the epic to help explain how the Greeks had an “us vs. them” mentality, and how Polyphemos represents “them.”
2. In Hesiod’s Theogeny, the succession myth of the gods explains the origins of the world by using the gods and their struggles for power against each other. How is this power struggle similar to the Greeks’ situation at the time?
2a. However, the Pre-Socratic philosophers completely disregarded Hesiod’s Theogony as impossible and found their own ways to explain the world around them. This is where I’m thinking of a compare/contrast angle.
Please help me choose. Which one would you prefer to read if you were given the choice? I’m about to go to dinner, so I’d like a few responses by the time I get back. ;)