marine biology versus classical mythology

I think Benjamin’s teacher misunderstood what he was saying he had drawn:

a medusa

Une méduse, in French, is a many-tentacled jellyfish. But I’m quite confident that Benjamin didn’t mean une méduse but rather la Méduse — Medusa herself:

the Medusa

Happy Birthday, Ludwig von Mises

the varieties of Gilgamesh

Gilgamesh the KingStephen Mitchell’s translation of Gilgamesh is mesmerizing and moving. As far as I can determine by looking at other translations, it is true to the tablets. But somehow it manages to be hypnotic and beautiful, while the other translations read like homework assignments.

There is a really great audio version of Mitchell’s translation, also.

The Gilgamesh Trilogy by Ludmila Zeman, which I’ve blogged about, is a stunningly illustrated children’s version, but it takes huge liberties with the text. It doesn’t just obscure the naughty bits or soften the violence; it changes the story — changes the point of the story.

Gilgamesh the King by Geraldine McCaughrean is a beautifully written version that will appeal to children and adults, but its illustrations are few and, with a couple of significant exceptions, pretty boring.

I’d love to have McCaughrean’s book illustrated by Zeman.

The Buried BookFinally, there’s The Buried Book by David Damrosch, which is not so much about Gilgamesh or Enkidu, but rather about (as the subtitle puts it) “The Loss and Rediscovery of the Great Epic of Gilgamesh.”

The Buried Book ranges from Saddam Hussein’s Iraq to 19th-century archeology (which is a whole lot more exciting than it might sound) to the 7th-century BC Assyrian King Ashurbanipal (who might have been the first literate king in history) and on back to 4,000 years ago, back to the “original” poem.

The Audible version is also excellent.

triple Hecate

From Asimov’s Guide to Shakespeare, p. 50–51:

Triple HecateA Midsummer Night’s Dream

… the triple Hecate’s team

The play within a play ends with a dance and with its audience amused and ready for bed.

Nothing remains but the final bit of entertainment, supplied by the fairy band. Puck comes on the stage alone to say that with the coming of night once more the fairies are back:

… we fairies, that do run
By the triple Hecate’s team,
From the presence of the sun
Following darkness like a dream,
Now are frolic.

– Act V, scene i, lines 385–89

Hecate was supposed to be one of the Titanesses in Greek mythology, but in the struggle that resulted in their supplanting by Jupiter (Zeus) and the other later gods, Hecate sided with Jupiter and remained in power. She was probably another personification of the moon.

There were three common goddesses of the moon in the later myths: Phoebe, Diana (Artemis), and Hecate. All three might be combined as a "triple Hecate" and Hecate was therefore frequently portrayed with three faces and six arms.

Asimov's Guide to Shakespeare: A Guide to Understanding and Enjoying the Works of ShakespeareLater mythologists also tried to rationalize the difference in names by saying that Phoebe was the moon goddess in the heavens, Diana on earth, and Hecate in the underworld.

This connection with the underworld tended to debase her and make her a goddess of enchantments and magic spells, so that the fairies in following "triple Hecate’s team" were following not only the pale team of horses that guided the moon’s chariot (hence were active at night rather than by day) but also shared her power of enchantment and magic.

Her enchantments and magic made her sink further in Christian times until Hecate finally became a kind of queen of witches, and she appears in this guise in Macbeth

Asimov's guides

Asimov's guides

I’m very unhappy to learn that all three of these books are out of print.

I’ve posted many times about Asimov’s Guide to the Bible.

I’m now very much enjoying Asimov’s Guide to Shakespeare.

I’ve just ordered a used copy of Asimov’s Guide to Science.

It’s starting to seem to me as if I could build much of a classical homeschooling curriculum out of these three books.

I regularly want to give them as gifts.

How can they be out of print?

Gustave Dore

I discovered Gustave Doré through image searches for — looking for images to use with Mises Dailies.

Once I recognized that my favorite Bible illustrations were all by the same artist, I started buying $10 paperbacks of his work.

Then I started reading the books he illustrated.

As of yesterday, I have the big three in hardcover:

  1. Dante’s Divine Comedy
  2. Milton’s Paradise Lost
  3. The King James Version of the Bible

new versions of old stories

My 3yo son recently developed a love for monsters.

He was headed in the Godzilla-movie-monster and Halloween-monster direction (based on the toys he was seeing in the stores), but I succeeded in diverting him in a more ancient-world direction with DK Classics: The Odyssey and Ludmila Zeman’s Gilgamesh Trilogy.

Jury’s still out on DK’s Odyssey — which we’ve been skipping around in, rather than reading from beginning to end — but my son loves the Gilgamesh story and all its Mesopotamian monsters.

These are whitewashed and bowdlerized, but the illustrations are gorgeous and all the main characters and events of the epic are introduced. I started to read the boy Stephen Mitchell’s translation of the original Gilgamesh (which I love), but quickly realized that some of the story was way too adult for him. I was happy to find a version written for children. I think Ludmila Zeman changed more than she had to, but the result is a set of stories compelling to a 3yo boy and his father, both.

Highly recommended, but not unreservedly so.

wayfaring Christian

“I cannot praise a fugitive and cloister’d vertue, unexercis’d & unbreath’d, that never sallies out and sees her adversary, but slinks out of the race, where that immortall garland is to be run for, not without dust and heat.”

– John Milton, “Areopagitica”

Mises silver coin!


“…but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” – Paul, 1 Corinthians 13:11

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