“His own girl … murdered … for a wind.” See Post #2, Iphigenia.
lacuna/ LA-COO-NAH. The Laocoon Priests. When The trojans first came out to examine the great wooden horse, they didn’t know what to make of it, or what to do with it. As Odysseus’ plan unfolded, and they argued about what to do, Laocoon, a Trojan priest, was making sacrifices to the gods, assisted by his two sons. The three priests approached the crowd and urged the Trojans not to bring the horse into the city. Laocoon hurled a lance into the body of the horse. Giant sea serpents came out of the water and devoured Laocoon and his two sons. The Trojans took this as a sign to disregard Laocoon’s warning and take the horse into the city.
The Old Man/Graybeard. One of Xeno’s quirks is that he has two nicknames for Odysseus, and uses them interchangeably. “Old Man” is somewhat deferential, alluding to Odysseus’ experience and wisdom. “Graybeard” is sometimes pejorative, alluding to Odysseus being past his prime.
“See-inon, uh … owv Bayluze.” Sinnon of Belus. Part of Odysseus’ plan was to have Sinnon of Belus wander into the crowd of Trojans gathered about the horse. He claimed to have been abandoned by the departing Greeks because he got on the wrong side of Odysseus, and “revealed” to the Trojans that Odysseus’ insisted on making the horse too big for them to bring it through the gates of Troy. It had the desired effect; the Trojans decided to disassemble the gates so they could bring the horse inside the walls. This, of course, allowed the hidden Greek army to rush through the disassembled gates when the celebrating Trojans fell asleep.
Ajax went mad and killed himself. When Achilles withdrew the Achaeans from the war, things went poorly for the Greeks. Eventually, Achilles’ best friend, Patroclus, wore Achilles armor into combat, to scare the Trojans into thinking Achilles was back. It worked for a while, but Patroclus was killed, and there was a furious skirmish over Patroclus’ body and Achilles’ armor. Odysseus and Ajax both had a hand in retrieving the body and the armor, and they both laid claim to the armor. It was decided that they would compete for the armor in contests of combative skills. Ajax was known for his strength and ferocity in combat, and as noted above, Odysseus was past his prime. Most observers believed that Ajax had won the contests, but the judges awarded the armor to Odysseus, who had interceded with the judges before the contests even began. Ajax went into a rage, and eventually killed himself. In the Odyssey, Odysseus visits Ajax in Hades, but Ajax, still angry in death, refuses to speak to him.
Cassandra, Priam’s witch-daughter. Cassandra was one of Priam’s daughters, sister to Hector and Paris. She’d been given the gift of prophesy (she prophesied the fall of Troy), but was simultaneously cursed; no one would believe her. Some say it drove her mad. It was certainly a strain on her, and her behavior was often anguished. Her special powers, odd behavior, and the strangeness of Troy’s non-western, theocratic religion, lead Greeks to see her as a witch.
“We got ‘im.” “We got ‘im” was how the capture of Saddam Hussein was announced at an American press conference in Iraq.
“a thousand scattered points of light.” “A thousand points of light” is a phrase lifted from a speech by President George Bush 41, President during the 1991 Gulf War. It was intended as inspirational imagery. I use a play on that phrase to show how the truth about the war was too harsh for Xeno’s eyes.
Scamander. The Scamander river, a river in the Troad that runs from Mt.Ida out to the mouth of the Dardanelles.
across the Styx. The Styx was a mythical river separating the world of the living from Hades, the world of the dead. Dead souls would find their way to the banks of the river and be ferried across by Charon.
“transfer operations” “the depression.” Modern military jargon often uses euphemisms to conceal the terrible reality of war. “Collateral damage,” the unintended killing of innocents bystanders, is a classic example. I use this kind of jargon to remind the reader that I’m telling two parallel stories at the same time, and ancient story and a contemporary one.
Propontis. The ancient name for the Sea of Marmara. On a modern map, the Dardanelles are at the northwest corner of the Anatolian peninsula, modern-day Turkey. The Sea of Marmara (The Propontis) connects the Dardanelles and the Bosporus Straits, to the northeast. Passing through the Bosporus Straits leads one to the Black Sea.
Glowing two-headed monster. In the beginning of the Aeneid, as Troy was being sacked , Aeneas was glowing in a state of divine grace as he received word from the gods that he would be the progenitor of a great civilization in Italy. He needed to carry his father out of Troy, but his father wasn’t in a state of grace and couldn’t touch him. Aeneas draped a lion skin over himself so he could carry his father, and led his wife out of Troy with his father on his back. In the chaos, he looked like a two-headed monster, but at some point, he realized his wife was no longer with him. She was lost in the fog of war, so he left Troy without her. Thus, some thought there was a woman with the two-headed monster, others thought there wasn’t.
Kephallenian Dolphin, Spartan Lambda. The symbols of Ithaca and Sparta, respectively. The Spartan Lambda stood for Laconia, the spartan home territory. The Kephallenian Dolphin is less certain. Kephallenia, or Cephallenia, is a Greek Island in the Ionian Sea, that some believe was Odysseus’ ancient kingdom of Ithaca. this view is not universally accepted.
Olenos changed over to Aitolia. Olenos didn’t send a contingent in its own right, because it had been conquered by Aitolia in a pre-Trojan war internal battle. the contingent of Olenos thus fought under the Aitolian standard.
Isthmus of Naupactus. A part of the nautical route between Ithaca and Thebes, in Boiotia.
Tiryns’ walls were cyclops built. The walls around the city of Tiryns were made of such large stones that it was said only cyclopses could have lifted them to build the walls.
Bellerophon. The rider of the winged horse Pegasus.
Briseis. A concubine of Achilles. In the beginning of the Iliad, Agamemnon is forced to give up a concubine, and pulls rank to replace her by taking Briseis from Achilles. This prompts Achilles to withdraw from the war.
piss clams. A slang term for shell-fish that burrow under the sand’s surface at the water line. When someone walks near where they’re hidden,they squirt a small jet of water above the sand’s surface.
“Mission accomplished.” When the invasion phase of our war in Iraq was militarily successful (or seemed to be), President Bush (43) landed on an aircraft carrier and posed with military personnel under a banner that read “Mission Accomplished.” That image was often invoked by opponents of the war as it became apparent that the post-invasion occupation was coming apart.
“bodies smoldering … bloodstains festering in the city … conditions in Aulis.” When the fleet gathered in Aulis, a staging area before setting sail for Troy, the weather kept the fleet in the harbor interminably. Disease spread among the soldiers stranded in the harbor of Aulis.(See Post #2)
blessed by Athena. Athena, goddess of wisdom, blessed Odysseus with intelligence and cunning.
“These Hittites here … they’re not like us in how they fight.” Odysseus describes how the Asian civilization, invaded by a western coalition, resorted to asymmetric warfare, much like the Iraqis did during our invasion and occupation.
“They will welcome us as liberators.” During the pre-war buildup, there was disagreement as to how big the post-invasion occupation force would have to be, and how long it would have to stay in Iraq. Neocons in the Bush (43) administration, wanting to make the war palatable to the American public, maintained that the post-war occupation force could be small, and wouldn’t have to remain in Iraq for a longtime. Their slogan was that the Iraqi people would “welcome us as liberators,” and quickly organize themselves into a self-sufficient democracy. However, General Eric Shinseki, Army Chief of Staff, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee testified that a large occupation force would be needed. This brought him into public conflict with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Assistant Secretary Paul Wolfowitz. As a result of this public clash,General Shinseki lost influence among the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and, some say, was forced into early retirement. In a joint appearance on Meet The Press, Wolfowitz and Vice President Dick Cheney both repeated the ‘welcome us as liberators” mantra to host Tim Russert.
“major combat operations in this region are now over.” At the aircraft carrier ceremony under the “Mission Accomplished” banner, supra, President Bush made the same declaration as to combat in Iraq.
“the daring of her rescue.” During the invasion, a female soldier, Jessica Lynch, was wounded and captured by the Iraqis. It was reported that a Special Forces unit had rescued her from brutal captors, and that she’d been captured while engaging the enemy in combat. She became a national media figure for her daring and perseverance. Later, however, it was revealed that none of this was true. She had not fired her weapon, her Iraqi captors treated her well, the force that rescued her had encountered no resistance.
“Woman of Mortal Divine is not here … she never was here … “ Just look at the italicized letters.
“The face that launched a thousand ships.” The line is attributed to Christopher Marlow in his work, Doctor Faustus, and I don’t seriously contend that Odysseus was the original source.
Talthybius. A character in Euripides’ The Trojan Women, a play that takes place outside of Agamemnon’s tent immediately after the fall of Troy. Xeno is seeing a reenactment, or, more accurately, a pre enactment of that play, though he doesn’t understand what’s being said, and can’t know about the play itself, which won’t be written for centuries. >The old woman is Hecuba, Priam’s wife, mother of Hector and Cassandra. She’ll be given to Odysseus as a slave. >The dark-haired woman with the wild eyes is Cassandra, Priam’s prophetess daughter. Agamemnon will take her as a concubine. As a seer, she foresees her fate and knows that she and Agamemnon will be murdered by Agamemnon’s wife, Clytemnestra (See Post #4). The killing will render Agamemnon’s family asunder. Already half mad because of her own cursed life, she sees this as an opportunity to take revenge on Agamemnon for leading the destruction of Troy. Hecuba doesn’t share her upbeat attitude, and Xeno thinks she must be crazy. Xeno doesn’t realize that he’s looking at the real Cassandra, Priam’s “witch daughter.” >One of the women holding babies is Andromache, Hector’s wife, who holds their son, Astyanax. The Iliad describes how Achilles killed Hector on the plains of Troy. Andromache’s daughter was sacrificed at Achilles’ tomb, and she is to be made a concubine of Achilles’ son. Odysseus has persuaded the Greek high command that baby Astyanax is a future danger, because he comes from such a heroic bloodline, and might one day seek to avenge his father’s death and the destruction of Troy. As Andromache is led away to be the concubine of Achilles’ son, Astyanax is taken from her, to be thrown off the Trojan battlements, to his death.
helots. Helots are slaves in Spartan society, believed by some to have been native Laconians when ethnic Spartans overran Laconia. Helots did work that supported the Spartan economy, freeing Spartan males to pursue military duties.
“wind that made Troy rich by blowing the wrong way out of the Hellespont.” Troy became rich and powerful because its location enabled it to control access to the Black Sea from the Mediterranean (see Propontis, supra). Prevailing winds blew from the Bosporus Straits towards the Hellespont, against ships seeking to go from the Hellespont to the Black Sea. Currents went in the same direction, making it almost impossible to tack (sail against the wind) from the Hellespont to the Black Sea. Ships trying to access the Black Sea would have to pull into the harbor at Troy and wait for rare favorable winds. Troy took advantage of its captive “guests” to charge exorbitant prices for docking fees, supplies,and the like. Land travel along either side of the Sea of Marmara was dangerous without Trojan protection, which, of course, was correspondingly expensive.
“winning their hearts and minds.” A phrase originating in the Viet Nam war, another war where a western power invaded a small asian nation and got bogged down for a decade. The phrase referred to a strategy designed to gain the loyalty and confidence of the Vietnamese people, many of whom sympathized with (or feared) the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong. >Interestingly enough, many believe that U.S. involvement in the Viet Nam was accelerated by the C.I.A.’s misinterpretation, or deliberate distortion, of information arising from an incident in the Gulf of Tonkin. To the extent that this is true (I take no position), this would be another war based on a false premise, where the american occupation bogged down for a decade.
“though managing the withdrawal was pivotal, they’d left us blind.” The key to withdrawing the Greek coalition armies lay in establishing the garrison occupation force so that it could hold Troy and keep the area safe for the return of the new coalition armies. The Greek kings left the undersized garrison with no instructions on how to do this, because the kings themselves had no idea. 3,200 years later, the American led coalition stormed into Baghdad with no realistic plan for occupying and administering what they conquered. (See Post #6)
wind blowing across the top of the walls. Bernoulli’s principle, oversimplified, tells us that an increase in the speed of a gas flowing over a surface causes a decrease in the pressure exerted by that gas. It’s why an airfoil keeps a plane aloft, and why a gust of wind over the chimney makes the fire in the fireplace flare up. Strong winds blowing over the top of Troy’s walls reduce pressure at the top, and draw fires up toward the reduced pressure area.
Carians … coarse speech. Carians were Trojan allies, believed to have once migrated from Crete to the southwestern coast of the Anatolian peninsula. In the Iliad, in the section that enumerates the forces defending Troy (immediately following the Catalog of Ships) they are described as men of coarse speech.
tribes used to skirmish before the war. Before Saddam seized power in Iraq, the country was rife with ethnic, tribal, and religious conflict. Saddam suppressed these conflicts and consolidated power in his central government. When Saddam was toppled, these conflicts re-erupted, and continue as of this writing.
“Yes, the river knows.” Jim Morrison and The Doors had a song with that refrain in it, and it may have been the title as well. The song was on an album that came out in the 60s, so I doubt I owe royalties to anyone, but I want to at least acknowledge the source.
“one foot in Charon’s boat.” See “across the Styx” supra.
Ahhiyawa. The Ahhiyawa were described as a tribe that migrated to the Dardanelles from across the sea. These descriptions led some scholars to believe that Ahhiyawa, or Ahhiytruwi, was the name Trojans gave to the invading Greeks. This has not been proven conclusively. The history of scholarly thought about Troy shows that ideas that were once accepted often come to be rejected in light of new theories,many of which suffer the same cyclical fate.
Astyadji. Hector’s son was named Astyanax.
anemoi. Greek wind gods, each designated by the direction from which they came.
Aegyptos. The Greek name for Egypt. An obscure ancillary myth says that Menalaous and Helen were blown off course from their return to Greece and came ashore far to the south, in Egypt. This was supposed to be their punishment for violating the code of Xenia as to Paris. Paris, however, was welcomed as a guest until he misbehaved by (a) abducting Helen, or (b) seducing her away from Menalaous. This ancillary myth is, therefore, illogical as well as obscure, which is why I treated it as I did.
new normal/ “what the f- … “/ diehards. I used 21st. century slang terms to remind the reader that I was telling two parallel stories simultaneously. They are not anachronisms.
bireme. An ancient Greek sailing vessel with two banks of oars, one on top of the other. Ships with three banks of oars are called triremes.
Thrax. Thrace, an ancient territory, most of which was across the Sea of Marmara from Troy, in what is now Bulgaria and eastern Macedonia. Phrygians migrated from Thrace to the northwestern corner of the Anatolian peninsula and, according to the Iliad, allied themselves with Troy. Sometime after the fall of Troy, approximately 1200 B.C.E., the Hittite speaking civilization that had dominated Troy and its environs declined, and a Phrygian speaking civilization rose to prominence.