Friday, December 2, 2011

The Greek, The Latin, and the Ugly

Last night, after completing my sermon outline and realizing that Becky would not be home until midnight, I began a five-hour writing odyssey among the Greeks and Romans, bringing out some of my heavy-artillery missals and my Latin grammars, to whip out three essays on the Greek gods, the Greek philosopher Plutarch, and the minor-Roman poet and fabulist, Avianus.

Why?  This is the same question that Becky asked me at midnight when she inquired about my stack of books and the open laptop.

I read her some portions:

Unlike many of his contemporaries, Plutarch was remarkably prolific in his own right.  He saw himself as standing at the crossroads of the waning Greek culture and the rise of Roman influence. His Parallel Lives--perhaps his greatest literary achievement--contains biographies of Greek and Roman luminaries, including Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar.  Plutarch was a Renaissance man before the Renaissance--and he wrote philosophy, literary criticism, religious texts, and even compiled myths, practical handbooks for the commonwealth, and served as a priest and reformer of the classical Greek religion at Delphi.


Toward the end of the 4th century A.D., a young Roman poet named Avianus began compiling some of the older Aesop's fables into verse form--many of them rounded into rhyming hexameter couplets and shot through with the poet's wit and humor.  As such, the fables took on a new role, and became a staple for teachers of ethics and philosophy (even the Christian religion, though Avianus was a pagan) during the Middle Ages.

Naturally, when I read my evening's essays to my wife (each of which rambles on for another thousand words or so) she was not impressed.  "Who's going to buy that crap?" she wondered.  

I showed her my translation of a Latin Avianus poem (not a bad poem in its own right if I say so myself) and also the parody of a Mount Olympus meeting of the gods that I'd already written and whipped out to a certain Manhattan magazine--a piece replete with Zeus, Aphrodite, Hermes, Ares, Hades, and Heracles . . . humor among the gods.

"I'm going to bed," she said.

Ah, yes. The snub.  For some reason, because I was writing about the Greeks, she considered me a Geek.  I guess I'm a Greek Geek.  I tried pointing out that I'd also written two incredible love poems (in English) and I'd be happy to regale her with romance.  

But once a man turns into a Geek and the woman drops her slipper after the stroke of midnight . . . all hope is lost.

Thank you, Plutarch and Avianus . . . .  Hey, were you guys married?   

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