Wednesday, April 04, 2007


Aristothonos was one of the first Greek potters to put his name on his work. This must be one of the earliest signed pieces of art in the world, dating to around 680 BCE.

The men are drawn in silhouettes with outlined faces. Their geometric arrangement successfully integrates with the other patterns around the bowl, introducing lively, diagonal rhythms. Their butts seems especially well developed...from all that rowing?

Does the checkerboard pattern below suggest gaming? Do the arrows and sharply pointed triangles below them suggest violence?

[371] As he spoke he reeled, and fell sprawling face upwards on the ground. His great neck hung heavily backwards and a deep sleep took hold upon him. Presently he turned sick, and threw up both wine and the gobbets of human flesh on which he had been gorging, for he was very drunk. Then I thrust the beam of wood far into the embers to heat it, and encouraged my men lest any of them should turn faint-hearted. When the wood, green though it was, was about to blaze, I drew it out of the fire glowing with heat, and my men gathered round me, for a daimôn had filled their hearts with courage. We drove the sharp end of the beam into the monster’s eye, and bearing upon it with all my weight I kept turning it round and round as though I were boring a hole in a ship’s plank with an auger, which two men with a wheel and strap can keep on turning as long as they choose. Even thus did we bore the red hot beam into his eye, till the boiling blood bubbled all over it as we worked it round and round, so that the steam from the burning eyeball scalded his eyelids and eyebrows, and the roots of the eye sputtered in the fire. As a blacksmith plunges an axe or hatchet into cold water to temper it - for it is this that gives strength to the iron - and it makes a great hiss as he does so, even thus did the Cyclops’ eye hiss round the beam of olive wood, and his hideous yells made the cave ring again. We ran away in a fright, but he plucked the beam all besmirched with gore from his eye, and hurled it from him in a frenzy of rage and pain, shouting as he did so to the other Cyclopes who lived on the bleak headlands near him; so they gathered from all quarters round his cave when they heard him crying, and asked what was the matter with him.

[403] "‘What ails you, Polyphemus,’ said they, ‘that you make such a noise, breaking the stillness of the night, and preventing us from being able to sleep? Surely no man is carrying off your sheep? Surely no man is trying to kill you either by fraud or by force [biê]?

[407] "But Polyphemus shouted to them from inside the cave, ‘Noman is killing me by fraud! Noman is killing me by force [biê]!’

[409] "‘Then,’ said they, ‘if no man is attacking you, you must be ill; when Zeus makes people ill, there is no help for it, and you had better pray to your father Poseidon.’ (Tr. Samuel Butler, rev. by Timothy Power and Gregory Nagy)