Topless towers burnt down

Sophia_schliemann_treasure

Was this the face that launched a thousand ships and burnt the topless towers of Ilium? asked Christopher Marlowe in Dr Faustus.

Ilium, the city of Troy, canvas of heroes.  On the fields of Troy Homer introduced us to Ajax, Agamemnon, Menelaus, Priam, Hector, Paris and a cast of thousands.  Achilles the almost invincible and his lover Patroclus.  Cassandra who saw the future but was cursed never to be believed.  The wily Odysseus, AKA Ulysses and his 20 year journey home.  The seeds planted in Troy have germinated and multiplied to inspire a wealth of literature from ancient to modern times.

The Julii Caesares, who gave us Caesar and Augustus, claimed descent from the hero Aeneas who fled from burning Troy with his bride, a daughter of Priam.  Virgil made a career of that tale in the court of the First Emperor of Rome.

It was ostensibly on this day, April 24th in the year 1184 BC that Troy was sacked and burned by the Greeks.  For many that was as far as the myth went.  Then Heinrich Schliemann, a German Businessman, decided that there was no smoke without fire.  So he read Homer as a travel guide instead of as a legend.  He followed the clues and lo and behold he found the ancient city.  Burned, exactly as described.

He bedecked his wife in the jewelry he found there and put her on display for high society to see.  Then he followed more clues and found the tomb of Agamemnon at Mycenae.  A new form of archaeology was born and led to many discoveries all over the world.  Today the science has evolved to the point where Satellite images from earth orbit are being used to search for ancient sites.

 

No Second Troy; by William Butler Yeats

Why should I blame her that she filled my days
with misery, or that she would of late
have taught to ignorant men most violent ways,
or hurled the little streets upon the great,
had they but courage equal to desire?
What could have made her peaceful with a mind
that nobleness made simple as a fire,
with beauty like a tightened bow, a kind
that is not natural in an age like this,
being high and solitary and most stern?
Why, what could she have done, being what she is?
Was there another Troy for her to burn?

Choices

In our lives we face many choices.  Some we get right, some we get wrong.  What defines us is how we deal with the negative outcomes.  Do I play victim, or do I accept responsibility for my choice, embrace it and move on?

There are many types of choices.  Some of them we claim are not a choice at all.  This is especially useful if you want to play victim in your life.  “I had no real choice” is a great excuse.

Hobsons Choice

Thomas Hobson (1544-1631)was the operator of a livery stable in Cambridge, England. When asked for a horse to hire, Hobson would bring the customer a single option, the next horse in his rotation. The customer’s “choice” was then essentially “to take it or leave it,” in other words no choice at all.  Or was it?  Hobson’s Choice is still a choice.  In “The Godfather” Hobsons Choice is represented by the statment “The Don made him an offer he couldn’t refuse.”

Achilles Choice

In Homer’s Iliad, the Greek hero Achilles tells the embassy that wants him to return to the battle against the Trojans that he has been given an important choice in his life.

“My mother, the goddess Thetis of the silver feet, has told me that
a dual-fate carries me until the day of my death.
If I remain here and wage war against the city of Troy,
I will never survive to go home, but my fame will be immortal.
Yet if I leave here to return to my dear homeland,
I shall have no noble fame, but my life will be long
and the end of death will not reach me quickly.” (Iliad 9.410-416)

Achilles choice is a great dinner party ice breaker.  Which would you choose, a long, content but unremarkable life, or to go out in a blaze of glory and be remembered forever?

Sophie’s Choice

Another choice we face might be termed as “the lesser of two evils”.  In the Odyssey the hero must choose to travel nearer Scylla or Charybdis, each a potential killer.  In the movie “Sophie’s Choice” the heroine must choose to keep either her son or her daughter as she enters Auschwitz camp.  Failure to choose results in both being taken away.  So she chooses, and let’s face it, it is not a choice that you can NOT regret.  We often call such a situation being “between a rock and a hard place” or being “between the devil and the deep blue sea.”

The latter, I believe is from sailing lore.  The “devil” is the longest seam on a wooden ship.  If it needed to be caulked when underway the caulker was suspended in a very difficult position!

Mortons Fork

A specious piece of reasoning where contradictory arguments lead to the same (unpleasant) conclusion. It is said to originate with the collecting of taxes by John Morton, Archbishop of Canterbury in the late 15th century.  He visited lords with his entourage, and they could either plead poverty, and entertain him modestly, or they could try to win him over with their generosity and hospitality.  He held that a man living modestly must be saving money and could therefore afford taxes, whereas if he was living extravagantly then he was obviously rich and could still afford them.  We might also call this choice “being on the horns of a dilemma.”

Lawyers often try to impale a witness or defendant on a Mortons Fork.  My favourite is a question phrased such as “Stop evading the question, answer the court with a Yes or a NO, do you still beat your wife?”

So we face some difficult choices in life, and ultimately the real choice we face is how to deal with the aftermath.  Do you moan and wail or do you shrug your shoulders, brush off the dirt and get back on the horse?

One Art; by Elizabeth Bishop

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant to travel.
None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

–Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.