Thursday, April 9, 2015

‘Invitation’ that has a tendency to vanish from my website

After publishing the ‘Celebration with Homer – an invitation’ on my blog, I sent a Czech version of it to Czech classicists and philosophers. One of them was amazed that in my reading of Homer I read the iota subscript. I wanted to direct him/her to my website, for in my ‘Invitation to Olympian Odes of Pindar’ I explain that beginning with my reading of The 4th Pythian Ode I decided to read the iota subscript as recommended by W. S. Allen in his Vox Greca. To my surprise, the ‘Invitation’ disappeared from my website. Even worse, it disappeared from my computer as well. It was not for the first time that this happened. When it happened the first time, in 2012, my wife found it on the back-up of files she had luckily made, and so I could restore it on my website.

This time I did not want to bother my wife; I found it on the website statistics for March among files visited on that month, clicked on it, and it miraculously appeared on my screen, so that I could restore it on my website. May I recommend it to your attention?

The text is based on my correspondence with classicists at universities around the world. It began with my letter to Oxford classicists, concerning which I wrote to the Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University in 2012:

‘In January I wrote to Members of the Faculty of Classics at Oxford University: 'Allow me to inform you that I have put on my website my reading of Pindar’s First Olympian Ode in the original. Would you accept this as a challenge, in this Olympic year, to record in the original all of Pindar’s Olympian Odes? It would be great if a special website could be opened for this purpose under the auspices of Oxford University. It should be open to a competition of all the willing, the best recordings should be crowned by publication on the website.'

In the meantime I have informed Oxford classicists that I put on my website all fourteen of Pindar’s Olympian Odes and I reiterated my challenge. To date I have received no reply. The Olympic games are approaching, and I begin to fear that a great opportunity to promote an active interaction with Pindar’s poetry will be missed. I hope you will agree with me that the experience of reading Pindar’ Odes aloud, recording them, and listening to the recordings in the original is a cultural, aesthetic, and intellectual experience that should be open to every student of Ancient Greek. I therefore hope that you will encourage Oxford classicists to accept my challenge.’

My letter to the Vice-Chancellor was of no avail, the opportunity had been missed.

From the ‘Invitation’ I quote:

“Contributors to the website of the ‘Society for the oral Reading of Greek and Latin Literature’ ( have restored in their readings the iota subscript, read ‘zd’ for ‘Zeta’, and adopted labial reading of ‘Phi’. Inspired by them, in my reading and recording of The 4th Pythian Ode I read the iota subscript and the labial ‘Phi’; see my website I have not adopted ‘zd’ for ‘Zeta’, for Plato prevents me from doing so. I reproduce the relevant passage in Jowett’s translation:

‘By the letter i (Iota) he [the giver of names] expresses the subtle elements which pass through all things. This is why he uses the letter i (Iota) as imitative of motion, i0e/nai (ienai), i3esqai (hiesthai). And there is another class of letters, f (Phi), y (Psi), s (Sigma) and c (Xi), of which the pronunciation is accompanied by great expenditure of breath; these are used in the imitation of such notions as yuxro/n (psuchron ‘shivering’), ce/on (xeon ‘seething’), sei/esqai (seiesthai ‘to be shaken’), seismo/j (seismos ‘shock’), and are always introduced by the giver of names when he wants to imitate what is fusw~dej (phusôdes ‘windy). He seems to have thought that the closing and the pressure of the tongue in the utterance of d and t was expressive of binding and rest in place.’ Cratylos (426e-427a)

What has this passage to do with the reading of Zeta? It does not even mention Zeta.

Jowett misrepresents the original. Jowett’s ‘And there is another class of letters, f (Phi), y (Psi), s (Sigma) and c (Xi)’ stands for w#sper ge dia\ tou= fei= kai\ tou= yei= kai\ tou= si=gma kai\ tou= zh=ta (hôsper ge dia tou phei kai tou psei kai tou sigma kai tou dzêta) Jowett’s ‘such notions as yuxro/n (psuchron ‘shivering’), ce/on (xeon ‘seething’)’ stands for oi[on to\ yuxro/nkai\ to\ ze/on” (hoion to “psuchron” kai to “dzeon). Jowett’s ‘He seems to have thought that the closing and the pressure of the tongue in the utterance of d and t was expressive of binding and rest in place’ stands for th=j dau] tou= de/lta sumpie/sewj kai\ tou= tau] kai\ a0perei/sewj th=j glw&tthj th\n du/namin xrh/simon fai/nesqai h9gh/sasqai pro\j th\n mi/mhsin tou= desmou=kai\ th=j sta/sewj.” (tês d’ au tou delta sumpieseôs kai tou tau kai apereiseôs tês glôttês tên dunamin chrêsimon phainesthai hêgêsasthai pros tên mimêsin tou “desmou” kai tês “staseôs.”)”

Another curious case of vanishing? This time the vanishing of dzêta from Jowett’s translation of the relevant passage in Plato’s Cratylus?

“Note that Jowett’s ‘rest in place’ for Plato’s “staseôs” covers up the fact that the pronunciation of z (zeta) is viewed by Plato as directly opposite to the ‘st’ sound, that is the sound that ends with d (d) or t (t). Furthermore, note that although Jowett replaced “ze/on” with “ce/on”, in line with his omission of z, he translated his ce/on ‘seething’, i.e. he translated the original “ze/on”. For ce/on means ‘shaving (timber)’, ‘whittling’, ‘scraping’, which, as he obviously realized, would not suit the context.”

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