Sunday, October 2, 2011

Art, violence, hubris

A few questions implicit in Book 6 (Standard disclaimer: I don't know the answers, though I have some suspicions).

- What is Arachne's main offense - her art, or her attitude toward Athena?
- Does Arachne's image somehow reflect her attitude?

Perhaps a better question:
- When we compare the images woven by Athena and Arachne, how do they differ? Are we able to see different models of art?

Three kinds of certamen (that is, contest - from cerno, to separate, discern) make up the early stories of Book 6: "Athena vs. Arachne;" "Leto, Apollo, Diana vs. Niobe," and "Apollo vs. Marsyas."
- Does the story of Tantalos, king of Lydia, and Pelops, his son, relate to these tales? (Tantalos is the father of Niobe, and Pelops mourns her).

With respect to Phrygia:
The earliest traditions of Greek music derived from Phrygia, transmitted through the Greek colonies in Anatolia, and included the Phrygian mode, which was considered to be the warlike mode in ancient Greek music. Phrygian Midas, the king of the "golden touch", was tutored in music by Orpheus himself, according to the myth. Another musical invention that came from Phrygia was the aulos, a reed instrument with two pipes. Marsyas, the satyr who first formed the instrument using the hollowed antler of a stag, was a Phrygian follower of Cybele. He unwisely competed in music with the Olympian Apollo and inevitably lost, whereupon Apollo flayed Marsyas alive and provocatively hung his skin on Cybele's own sacred tree, a pine.
Marsyas, Amphion (husband of Niobe), Orpheus and Midas are all associated with Phrygia, and are linked via the power of music.
- What do we make of the brutal fate of Marsyas? And his metamorphosis - with the tears of his mourners - into a river?
- Do the differences between cithara and flute say something about what's at issue between Apollo and Marsyas?

- How does the story of Tereus, Procne and Philomela fit into the theme of art as established and anticipated in Book 5 with the story of Athena, Medusa, Pegasus and the Muses?

- What is Ovid saying in this book about the nature of art, of "creation and imitation, god and man, master and pupil," and the powers of image and of music?

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