Monday, November 19, 2012

A contest of fact and interpretation

The old saying goes: "To the victor belong the spoils," but what if there are two victors? After the battle of weapons comes the war of words, wits, and rhetorical skill.

The debate between Ajax and Odysseus for the armor of Achilles is a case study in contested facts, insinuated opinions, and skillful use of emphasis, tone, and manipulative deviance from the truth.

If Nestor exemplified the motivations of a speaker of history, the contestations manifest in the debate of the two Greek heroes are a catalog of interpretive strategies the day after an event has occurred. (See, for example, the imaginative tales told by each side after the recent US presidential election.)

A detailed analysis of the speeches is beyond the scope of this entry. But given the claims made by each party as to his relative merits as the cause of the fall of Troy, just note that a while back, we talked about some of the conditions needing to be met for Troy to fall.

It turns out our list was not complete -- thanks to the comic Roman playwright Plautus, we've found more elements, and they've now added to the post. Eventually we'll get them all.

Debate of Odysseus and Ajax

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