The Fleming Foundation Cultural Commentary

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Sophocles’ Antigone 5

Antigone VII: Episode II The bodyguard had vowed never to return to Creon’s presence, but finding Antigone, he changes his mind.  “Afterthought (epinoia) gives the lie to/renders false an opinion.”  This thought may already have been a proverb, which was later rendered by John Dryden as “Second thoughts, they say, are the best.”   Who are the “they” that Dryden had in mind?  Perhaps Cicero and Euripides.  However, when Euripides’ Phaedra makes this observation, she refutes the statement—her second thought is to seduce her stepson.  Bishop Butler is probably closer to the mind of Euripides and Sophocles in saying, “The...

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Properties of Blood: Preface

Praefatio Praefationis Many decent men and women feel instinctively that their world has gone wrong and is going still wronger every day.  Whether the subject is marriage laws, immigration, crime, moral and aesthetic standards in the arts, or even decisions of war and peace, discussions are reduced to an exchange of slogans and sound bites crafted, cobbled, and propagated by opposing political factions.  Conservatives and liberals with common sense, when they are confronted with the ideas and projects of the revolutionary left, are so confused that they concede point after point to their opponents, and, before too long, they have...

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ISIS Punks and USA Vandals

When the Islamic State blows up the Temple of Bel in Palmyra, the UNESCO (the cultural arm of the United Nations) condemns the act as a war crime.  UNESCO’s director-general declared that in destroying ancient monuments, IS was “seeking to deprive the Syrian people of its knowledge, its identity and history.” In America, when political activists and legislators call for the removal of Confederate flags and symbols from public places, the destruction of Confederate monuments, and the desecration of the graves of Confederate officers, we do not hear a peep out of UNESCO.  Indeed, the entire world of right-thinking men...

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Triumph or Trompe l’Oeil?

  Triumph or Trompe l’Oeil? By Thomas Fleming This article is, for a limited time, being offered gratis to readers of this website. “What’s in a name?”  When Juliet Montague famously asked this question, she concluded that the mere fact of Romeo having the last name of Capulet could make no difference to her future happiness.  Her mistake would prove to be fatal. In normal societies, names are meaningful, either because they convey the essence of the person or because they are an identity badge that tells others where he fits into the society.    American Indians often acquired their...

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Sophocles’ Antigone 4

The Parodos The Parodos of the Antigone begins with a lyric ode and concludes with a brief anapaestic passage (a meter for marching and walking, not singing and dancing) that serves as a transition to the first episode. The chorus celebrate the sun that rises on the flight of the Argive army and the defeat of Polynices, the source (they say in punning) of strifes.  They draw a moral lesson from the Argive hero Capaneus, who had mounted the walls, boasting that not even Zeus could prevent him from torching the city. “For Zeus detests the boasts of a proud...

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Trump and the Gentlemen of the Press

The campaign season has hardly begun, but the press is already prowling the world looking for Republicans to destroy.  Their first intended victim is Donald Trump, whose first mortal sin  was a casual allusion to the number of illegal aliens who have rewarded America’s careless generosity by committing major felonies against its citizens.  He went on to impugn the valor of John McCain, and, most recently, to lash back at Megyn Kelly for her malicious and unprofessional style at the first GOP debate. Trump’s allegations are either true or false, and it should be the job of the press to...

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Sophocles’ Antigone 3

Autodidact:  Sophocles’  Antigone III Thomas Fleming The Structure of Tragedy First, a few words about the nature and structure of tragedy.  The origins of Greek tragedy lie in a long-standing tradition of choral lyric poetry.  In primitive tragedy, we can imagine a chorus of 12 male citizens chanting a processional introduction and singing formal odes on the exploits and, usually, death of a hero.  Later the number was increased to 15. At some point a hypokrites or interpreter was added.  Presumably this actor, as we call him, could both interpret the choral lyrics by introducing them and responding to them and...

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Annals of Trebizond, Part II

The Annals of Trebizond, Part II Thomas Fleming The history of Trebizond is compounded in equal parts of Byzantine exotic history, American soap opera, and the political morality of the English television show, House of Cards.  (Parenthetically, I had a conversation with a TV-watcher so dumb he actually preferred the Kevin Bacon series to Sir Ian Richardson!) Much of the charm of Trapezuntine history lies precisely in how much, comparing great things with small, our own institutionalized culture of pettiness and betrayal. When “Emperor” Alexios I died at the age of 40, the throne passed not to his son but...

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Humanities—R.I.P.

Humanities — R.I.P. Frank Brownlow I have a lingering affection for the University of Western Ontario because I taught there many years ago, and enjoyed the experience. The students were good, and my colleagues were not only congenial but remarkably tolerant of my inexperience. They had an excellent curriculum and a well-trained faculty. Any Western student in those days who paid attention and did the required work emerged with a degree that meant something. Things, apparently, have changed. There is trouble at Western. The humanities there, as everywhere, are in a death-spiral, and someone called Dr. Ross Bullen, Teaching–Intensive Stream...

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Sophocles’ Antigone II

Sophocles’ Antigone II Sophocles was a known “conservative” in Athens, by which I mean that he generally supported leaders who advocated a balanced constitution and opposed the campaign to impose radical democracy.  He was born probably before 495, and died at the end of 405 or the beginning of 406. He was fortunate in his family, which was wealthy and respected.  Unlike Aeschylus he probably did not descend from the highest level of the ancient aristocracy.  He was noted for his good looks and affable disposition, a gentleman of the old school. It is not unlikely that, Sophocles like his...