Who was Alcibiades? (2)

Hermes, I see you and Demeter. Nothing gets by me, you Winged Time Traveller.

by cheri block

I am trying to ready myself to board a plane and fly away, far from my pastoral field.

But something or someone is in the air.

Instead of anticipating my trip to Athens tomorrow with the heft it deserves, I have been restless, wandering around my house, gathering things up.

I have collected all the food in my refrigerator that might spoil in two weeks’ time and composted it. Outside, I have watered my pansies and succulents, trimmed my roses, and scraped the dead leaf duff away from the base of the old oak trees, observing that spring and her flirty fertility has finally arrived with panache.

It is as if Demeter herself, Greek Goddess of the Harvest, were here with me, bringing to fruition all of my desires. Oh, to reap the rewards of planting, tilling, and harvesting not only seeds, but also knowledge.

Someone else has been whirling around the house and property. As I fed the cat Bobb and loaded the bird feeder with seed, the boundaries of my mind expanded, from judgment to acceptance, from skepticism to openness. Like H.C. Wells’ Time Traveller, I seem to be erasing the limitations of time and place in a winged chariot.


Well. On to the subject of my flight.

Enough of this rhapsodizing about time travel, composting, Demeter, and Bobb.

In Athens on Wednesday afternoon, our first session will open at 4:30pm. At that time, in two separate rooms, about 15 seminarians per room will gather with books and notes in hand and sit in a circle. Two tutors (professors from St. John’s College) will sit opposite one another. One will ask an opening question. Silence will preside for many minutes until one of the participants answers. In a Socratic manner, one question will yield an answer, which in turn, may beg another question.

The subject at hand is Alcibiades.

Who was Alcibiades? you might be asking.

That’s why I am going to Athens.

To find out.

About Cheri

Writer, artist, cable television host, grandmother to four!
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14 Responses to Who was Alcibiades? (2)

  1. andreaskluth says:

    Very interesting, to do in the Socratic method. Technically, you should be ambling.

    I assume you’re breaking the group into two because 30 would not interrogate 2 as effectively as 15 would interrogate 1. Presumably the two classes will then compare notes?

    You’ve built up great suspense. Clearly, the premise is that Alcibiades has been misunderstood and that we will get to know him better. Can’t wait.

  2. Cheri says:

    Yes. That’s the premise, which makes the process more fun.

    Au revoir!

  3. Man of Roma says:

    I’ll hurl a few ideas on Alcibiade in case they may help. I am a dilettante, so pls don’t take my words as gold but as wind. I’ll write the names of the people in Italian, so I can write quicker. A presto.

  4. Man of Roma says:

    Alcibiade is to me – but not only to me – the golden dude of classical Greece, loved (and hated) by the Athenians immensely, a figure that shows both the splendour and the weakness of Athens in its golden time, the 5th century. The Athenians, who were teaching the world to use reason, knew their were also capable of the greatest folly, and were laughing at that while watching the comedies of Aristofane.

    This whole thing, the fall of Athens, smells in fact of tragedy, of irrationality. The facts are know if you have read Tucidide. It pains me that one of the most brilliant pupils of Socrates, like the most beautiful flower in the most beautiful garden, proved poisonous.

    In this the Greeks remind the Germans a bit. Both terribly deep, and rational and irrational at the same time. And in fact Nietzsche figured Greek irrationality out not by chance, and, again not by chance, in the years of the fall of Athens (hope I’m not wrong) the Bacchae by Euripides was on stage .

  5. Man of Roma says:

    Alcibiade was gifted in everything (even as an athlete in Olympia), but, while meeting a teacher on the street and asking him if he had some works by Homer, and having the teacher said “No, I haven’t”, he had punched him on the nose and knocked him down.This was Alcibiade. Charming and crazy. Demetra can say if it is true he desecrated the Eleusisian Mysteries, or Hermes if he really mutilated the Hermai.

    There are many characters in this tragedy of folly, the fall of Athens (where the extreme quarrelsomeness and disunity of the Greeks, within and without their poleis, stands out so much, even in the moments of extreme danger; which reminds Latin American states a bit: or modern Italy and modern Greece)

  6. Man of Roma says:

    This tragedy – the quasi annihilation of ‘classical’ Greece – has many characters. Among them:
    Sparta, Athens, Socrates, Nicia, Siracusa, Alcibiade, Sofocle, Euripide etc. etc.

  7. Man of Roma says:

    It pains me that Alcibiade was a pupil of Socrate, which makes the whole thing even more tragic in my view. The end of all caused indirectly by Socrate, a sacred individual. Uch Didaskalos or Magister had always tried to bring to purity of reason and to measure a totally unprincipled, self-centered and often going off the rails pupil, not totally deprived of talent and imagination though.

    According to Tucidide and Plutarco, Alcibiade had conceived unimaginable plan of conquering Siracusa first, in Sicily, and later Carthago, Libia and Greek Italy, and afterwards, with the immense resources thus accumulated, get back to Greece and crush the Spartans.

  8. Man of Roma says:

    Siracusa was as powerful as Athens and possibly bigger, the biggest Greek city of the whole Mediterranean.

    It is to be noted that Greek Italy – I’m certainly not saying this because I am Italian – was considered by mainland Greece as America has always been considered by Europeans: a myth, a land of promise, of unlimited resources. Greece was smaller and much less fertile. So all the Athenians, young and old, were day dreaming together with their golden boy, they were day dreaming about a marvellous and more prosperous future. Kind of an Alexander’s (one century earlier) dream of going westwards, instead of eastwards.

  9. Man of Roma says:

    Before the departure for Sicily, the Troiane by Euripide was first performed in 415 BCE. In this work the prophetess Cassandra condemns the Greeks for going to war against Troy. We can perceive behind this Euripide’s disgust by vis-à-vis the Athenian hubris of the moment. Also Tucidide considers the Sicilian expedition as an act of arrogance and as an example of a folk, the Athenians, misguided by their emotions.

    It has to be considered that the sublime Parthenon that you people are admiring now, was also considered by many Athenians an act of arrogance or hubris. Many much preferred the old temple of Athena at the Acropolis – the one I show in my last post – a much simpler and more sober shrine. Of course the Parthenon is fantastic. But the mixed emotions of the Athenians during their greatest century is very interesting.

    We know of the plague that hit Athens. Tucidide considered it as a metaphor of the ruin that will destroy the wonderful culture created by Pericle and those around him.

    [Mind you people: many of the things I’m saying you probably know better. I am just throwing in what comes to my minds in case it is of any help]

    This terrible Peloponnesian war and the changes it provoked are well expressed by the ‘Oedipus the King’ by Sofocles, first performed in 429. A great king, optimist, intoxicated by his success plus capable of solving riddles ends us a blind, desperate wretch who has too late understood the nature of the horrible forces he cannot control.

  10. Man of Roma says:

    Nicias, one of Alcibiade’s rivals, was a general and owner of a big portion of the silver mines around Attica’s Mt. Laurium, a sort of slave lager and one of the chief sources of revenue for Athens.

    Sparta disliked all that Athens represented. Sparta was the winner and Athens the loser. The Spartans were very admired in antiquity but have not left anything of value in my view (but we must recognize they voted against the total erasure of Athens). Athens left us a wonderful culture and a model for future democracies, Sparta was instead a model for all future regimes based on racism and eugenics (like the Nazi).

    The Spartans were a minority of war lords brutally ruling a totally enslaved majority of Helots.

    But they were rational and prudent. And had charm too. It is known they combed their long hair for quite a time before engaging in battle. When their enemies saw they starting to comb, it was time for quaking.

  11. Cheri says:

    Dear Man of Roma,
    Thank you!! Your summaries of Alcibiades and the histories/tragedies/literary look at this man add greatly to our analysis of him.

    I can’t thank you enough for spending the time here on my blog to comment.

    My time is short with the classes (etc). Today will be interrupted because a planned demonstration will begin in 3 hours across from our hotel. Our itinerary has changed from going to the University of Athens for classes to small meeting rooms in the hotel. Plus, the power company may turn off the power, so I got up early to do my hair ( in the spirit of Alcibiades and ego…)


    • Man of Roma says:

      Nah nah Cheri, don’t get fooled by an Italian, never. You’re so wonderfully pure, Andreas is right. The reason I’m doing this is sheer vanity and, in spring time especially, you are irresistible with that hat on – Mary Jane is right – (and I guess without a hat as well). Which doesn’t mean I won’t respect such a lady as you are. Or your Judge, who seems a wonderful person – and judges are judges, one never knows :mrgreen:

      I might need some Mary Jane Hurley Brant’s counseling one day or another btw 😯

  12. Pingback: Over at Cheri’s. Alcibiades, the Golden Dude of Classical Greece « Man of Roma

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