The journal of an average reader – Day 1 (Among Pilatus, Agamemnon and a modern psychologist)

Today was the first day of this reading marathon and it started no different than any other day. I took my trilingual Greek-Latin-Catalan New Testament and started with a chill reading in Greek of John 19; the scene where Jesus was condemned, beaten up and then crucified. It’s my first time reading this in Greek and it had a very strong effect that I never felt before. The way the text is built up until the “ἰδοὺ ὁ ἄνθρωπος/ecce homo” moment is brilliant and when Pontius Pilatus says these words it’s like the whole universe stands still, complete silence. That’s the effect these words had inside me too. I also enjoyed a lot Pilatus’ answer when the priests went to him and complained about the fact that on Christ’s cross lied written “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews”: a simple laconic: quod scripsi scripsi. After finishing the chapter I realized how much I wouldn’t have liked to be in Pilatus’ place.

Next, I took the Spanish edition of the L.D. Reynolds’ classic Scribes and Scholars. Every single word of this book is gold. I love it. It’s so good. It’s a history of the transmission of Greek and Latin texts from the antiquity to the present day. Today I went through the Hellenistic philologists and ended in the 2nd century AD, with the Romans’ interest in their classics (Ennius, Plautus, etc). I enjoyed very much a passage that talks about how Atticus, a good friend of Cicero, helped him to edit and publish some of his works:

“Atticus would carefully revise a work for him, criticize points of style or content, discuss the advisability of publication or the suitability of a title, hold private readings of the new book, send out complimentary copies, organize its distribution. His standards of execution were of the highest and his name a guarantee of quality”

L.D. Reynolds (1968), p.24

    After all these stories about the earliest philologists, how could I go somewhere else but to the Iliad? I will never get tired of rereading this book. Every time there’s something new to discover. Now it’s the first time I read a Romanian translation of the classic and it’s a very special one. It was translated by Dan Slușanschi, who in my opinion is one of the best classicists that Romania ever had. Why do I say it’s special? Well, it has been translated in Romanian hexameters, a very hard and tricky task to do. That’s also the reason why I read it out loud: to hear the effect it had when the Greeks listened to somebody reciting it. I went through the 11th book today when Agamemnon goes on a killing spree and the coward Paris wounds Diomedes from far away with an arrow. There’s this scene, a bit gore,(pretty mild when we consider other scenes) that I liked when Agamemnon refuses to spare the life of two brothers in exchange for a lot of wealth and remembers that he’s at war. I say I like this because of what it meant for the posteriority. (Both Romanian and English translations).

“Prinși ia-ne, mare Atride, și ia-ți cuvenita răsplată:

Multe-avuții stau acasă, la Antimahos în palaturi,

Aur și-argint, cum și fierul cărunt și lucrat și măiastru!

Dintr acestea-ți va da tata chiar necurpinse odoare,

De va afla că trăim și-am ajuns la Ahei, la corăbii!”

Astel plângeau amândoi, înălțând ruga către măritul

Rege, mai dulce ca mierea, dar vorba de-amar auzit-au:

“Dacă lui Antimahos, socotitul, voi fii dragi îi sunteți –

El, ce, la Troia, în sfat, cu îndemn venea pe Menelaos

Cu Odysseu cel zeiesc, cu solie sosiți în cetate,

Să-i  și ucidă pe dată, și iar la Ahri dă nu-i lase -,

Chiar că plăti-veți acum a părintelui vostru ocară!”

Zise, și-apoi pe Peisandru din car îl zvărli în țărână,

Dându-i cu sulița-n piept: el pe spate, în colb prăvălit fu.

Hippolohos sări jos ca să fugă, dar jos îl ucise,

Mâinile lui retezând și luându-i apoi căpățâna,

Și-apoi îl rostogoli, tăvălug prăvălit, prin mulțime.

“Take us alive, thou son of Atreus, and accept a worthy ransom; treasures full many he stored in the palace of Antimachus, bronze and gold and iron, wrought with toil; thereof would our father grant thee ransom past counting, should he hear that we are alive at the ships of the Achaeans.” So with weeping the twain spake unto the king with gentle words, but all ungentle was the voice they heard: “If ye are verily the sons of wise-hearted Antimachus, who on a time in the gathering of the Trojans, when Menelaus had come on an embassage with godlike Odysseus, bade slay him then and there, neither suffer him to return to the Achaeans, now of a surety shall ye pay the price of your father’s foul outrage.” He spake, and thrust Peisander from his chariot to the ground, smiting him with his spear upon the breast, and backward was he hurled upon the earth. But Hippolochus leaped down, and him he slew upon the ground, and shearing off his arms with the sword, and striking off his head, sent him rolling, like a round stone, amid the throng.”

Iliad, XI, 131-148

    Since not everything has to be ancient world, I decided to finish a book I started some time ago and didn’t have time to read lately: Larry Crabb – Connecting. It’s a book about how to heal ourselves and our relationships in a Christian environment. I happened to start reading this when I went through a harsh time in my life and it was a great guide. In my opinion, every single person who lives in a Christian environment should read it. It’s not only going to benefit yourself but also everybody around you.

“A godly vision lets us ignore lots of problems that a selfish vision requires us to focus on. We need to think vision, not problems. And we need to think godly vision, not selfish vision.”

Crabb (1997), p.162

    That’s how my first reading day ended. It wasn’t as full as I wanted it to be because of some secondary issues, but I hope that the next days I’ll be able to dedicate myself more to it. For tomorrow I already prepared Virgil’s Eclogae and some Greek tragedy. We’ll see how it works.

See you tomorrow,

Denis

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