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My Notes on Massive Open Online Course:
Greeks at War: Homer at Troy
Homer's account of the Trojan War in the Iliad explores the effects of warfare upon Greeks and Trojans alike. It illustrates not only the challenges that the combatants faced, but also the plight of innocent victims– women, children, and the elderly. Though the Iliad is often regarded as a kind of Greek national epic, Homer is remarkably even-handed in his treatment of the two sides, even seeming to favor the Trojans over the Greeks at times. He repeatedly emphasizes the horrors of war and his varied descriptions of deaths on the battlefield are unparalleled in both intensity and, paradoxically, poetic charm. The primary objective of warfare in the imaginary time period depicted by Homer is to attain personal glory through acts of individual prowess, with the good of the community seen as a secondary goal.
Notes on 7 Lectures I Watched in This Course:
Background of the Trojan War
Was the Trojan War a Historical Event?
How Was the Iliad Poem Born?
The Homeric Question and the Trojan War
The Structure of the Iliad
Homer, the Heroic Code, and the Wastage of War
The Warrior's Experience of War
3 People I Have Learned About in this Course:
Wilfred Owen (1893-1918)
English poet and soldier and one of the leading poets of the First World War who wrote shocking, realistic war poetry on the horrors of trenches and gas warfare
  • in October 1915, he enlisted in the Artists' Rifles Officers' Training Corps
  • he held his troops in contempt for their loutish behaviour, and in a letter to his mother described his company as "expressionless lumps"
  • in battle, he was blown into the air by a trench mortar, and spent several days lying out next to what he thought was the remains of a fellow officer
  • in the hospital, he met Siegfried Sassoon, an encounter that was to transform Owen's life
  • in July 1918, Owen returned to active service in France
  • at the end of August 1918, Owen returned to the front line
  • Owen was killed in action on 4 November 1918 during the crossing of the Sambre–Oise Canal, exactly one week before the signing of the Armistice
  • he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant the day after his death and was awarded the Military Cross for courage and leadership in battle
  • among his best-known works are "Dulce et Decorum est", "Insensibility", "Anthem for Doomed Youth", "Futility" and "Strange Meeting"
Heinrich Schliemann (1822-1890)
German businessman, who, after making his fortune in America, became an archaeological excavator of Hisarlik, now presumed to be the site of Troy who promoted the belief that the Iliad was based on history
  • an incurable romantic and a hard-headed businessman
  • he had colossal energy and a phenomenal memory
  • he made his first fortune in Sacramento during the California Gold Rush and eventually acquired United States citizenship
  • he spoke and wrote in over a dozen languages, using them as in his career as a businessman in the importing trade
  • he claimed that it took him six weeks to learn a language and wrote his diary in the language of whatever country he happened to be in
  • by the end of his life, he could converse in English, French, Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese, Swedish, Polish, Italian, Greek, Latin, Russian, Arabic, and Turkish as well as German
  • but he was also a first-rate fantasist, he couldn't stop making things up which includes the accounts of his excavations
  • he became utterly obsessed by Homer's legends and determined to prove that the Trojan War actually happened
  • he lived the dream and even divorced his first wife to marry a Greek girl Sophia with whom he had two children whom he named Agamemnon and Andromache
  • he used his amassed fortune to finance archeological digs at a time when archeology was in its infancy
  • he became, in effect, the father of the study of prehistoric Greece
  • today, regarding our historical knowledge of the Trojan War, we are still in the grip of Schliemann's obsessive and fanatical vision, someone who who both made important discoveries as well as misinterpreted much his data, and in the view of many scholars, did so deliberately
Giorgos Seferis (1900-1971)
[Γεώργιος Σεφεριάδης]
  • a Greek poet-diplomat, one of the most important Greek poets of the 20th century, and a Nobel laureate
  • he was a career diplomat in the Greek Foreign Service, culminating in his appointment as Ambassador to the UK, a post which he held from 1957 to 1962
  • his father was a staunch Venizelist and a supporter of the demotic [δημοτική] Greek language over katharevousa [Καθαρεύουσα], the formal, official language
  • 1914 family moved to Athens, 1918 to 1925, studied law at the Sorbonne
  • in 1922, his home town, Smyrna in Asia Minor, was taken by the Turkish Army after a two-year Greek military campaign on Anatolian soil, after which many Greeks, including Seferis' family, fled from Asia Minor, the sense of being an exile from his childhood home would inform much of Seferis' poetry, showing itself particularly in his interest in the story of Odysseus
  • in 1967, when the repressive nationalist, right-wing Regime of the Colonels took power in Greece, followed by two years marked by widespread censorship, political detentions and torture, Seferis took a stand against the regime by making a public statement that "This anomaly must end"
  • Seferis did not live to see the end of the junta, but he become a popular hero for his resistance to the regime
4 Vocabulary Words I Learned in this Course:
berserker, n. A crazed Norse warrior who fought in a highly destructively and frenetically violent way. In the Norse/Viking tradition a Berserker was a warrior of great strength and courage, who fought with wild ferocity. The word is believed to be derived from "bear sark", i.e a bear coat. That berserker fighting tradition, in which the warriors took on the spirit or even in their belief, the shape, of bears whilst foaming at the mouth and gnawing the edges of their shields, is the source of the Vikings' fierce reputation. It dates back to the first millennium but had died out by the 1100s and thereafter the word berserker didn't feature widely in the English language until the 19th century.  "Homer was the first person to put in writing the psychological fact of warfare that things happen on the battlefield that cause rational men to go berserk."
course, n. a continuous layer of building material, such as brick or tile, on a wall or roof of a building  "The circuit wall of Troy which enclosed the houses was built of masonry four to five meters thick and more than six meters high, the top part which was probably another three meters in height, was built of mud brick, that was the way the Ancients built circuit walls, stone at the lower courses, mud brick on the upper."
scholion, n. [σχόλιον] grammatical, critical, or explanatory comments which are inserted on the margin of the manuscript of an ancient author  "A Byzantine scholion to the play Andromache suggests that its first production was staged outside of Athens, though modern scholarship regards this claim as dubious."
venizelism, n. [Βενιζέλος] one of the major political movements in Greece from the 1900s until the mid-1970s, named after Eleftherios Venizelos (1864-1936), its key characteristics were opposition to the monarchy, alliance with western democratic countries, support of Greek nationalism, and emphasis on political, social and economical modernization, mixed economic policies, and an open economy  "Giorgos Seferis' father was a staunch Venizelist and a supporter of the demotic Greek language over the formal, official language (katharevousa)."