The view from my window, with the Lakeshore Limited passing by.
The Terrace of the Lions at Delos was dedicated to Apollo by the people of Naxos before 600 B.C. Of a dozen or so lions, only seven remain in place today. One, removed by the Venetians, is to be found today by the main gate of the Venetian Arsenal. (Illustration froma a postcard.)
Crimea, Scythian gold, and the mythic North
Vladimir Putin's seizure of Crimea from Ukraine and its subsequent annexation by Russia put the Black Sea on the world's radar screen. But this is just the latest chapter in a saga of migrations, conquests, and shifting populations that stretches for millennia across Eurasia. In antiquity large swaths of territory were controlled by the Scythians, of Iranian origin, famed today for the spectacular gold jewelry, silver, and other objects found in locations from Afghanistan and Iran to Crimea and Romania. Their influence may have reached China and Japan. Their western territory, including parts of today's Ukraine and northeastern Balkans, was inhabited by the related Sarmatians. The Roman poet Ovid, lamenting his exile in frozen Tomis on the Black Sea (modern Constanţa, Romania) describes living with Sarmatians, Bessi, and Getae, as well as Greek colonists. In the thirteenth century, the Mongols under Ghengis Khan and his successors ruled an empire that stretched from China across Asia and Russia to eastern Europe. In 1853-1856 Russia lost the Crimean War against an alliance including the Ottoman Empire, France, and Britain, a war immortalised in Tennyson's "The Charge of the Light Brigade." Russia later rebuilt its naval base at Sebastopol.
North of all known tribes, the Greeks believed, lived the Hyperboreans, situated "beyond Boreas, the North Wind", living long lives of bliss where the sun never sets. Every year, the Hyperboreans brought offerings of first fruits to the temple of Apollo on Delos. Perhaps word had arrived of the long summer Arctic days, but there was no awareness that in winter the sun never rises!
The Hyperborean Maidens' mission to Delos
Delos, rocky little island, cult sanctuary since pre-Greek antiquity, was known as the birthplace of Apollo and was sacred to him. It became the center of the Delian League, the confederacy of Greek states formed after the defeat of the Persians. Later, the Delian League morphed into the Athenian Empire, when its headquarters were moved to Athens. Legend had it that the Hyperboreans originally sent offerings of wheat sheaves to Apollo in care of two young women, whom Herodotus names as Hyperoche and Laodice. To protect them, several young men went along. The young people never returned, but died in Delos. So the Hyperboreans changed their method, sending their offerings to Delos by relay, passing them first to the Scythians, thence by stages to Dodona and Euboea, and eventually to Delos, a practice followed in Herodotus' day. To honor the memory of the Hyperboreans, young Delian women, before marriage, as well as young men, offer locks of hair at their tomb before the temple of Artemis. Herodotus also tells a story of two other Hyperborean maidens, Arge and Opis, who came before Hyperoche and Laodice. In this version, the latter pair brought offerings to Eileithuia, goddess of childbirth. Callimachus, from whom we get our Quotation of the Month, tells yet another version.
Callimachus' Hymn to Delos
The Alexandrian poet Callimachus (ca. 310-ca.240 B.C.), in his Hymn to Delos, tells much the same tale as the "Delian" portion of the ancient Homeric Hymn to Apollo. Leto searches for a place to give birth to her son Apollo (and, not emphasized, her daughter Artemis). Leto must escape the wrath of Hera, whose threats and persecution against potential birthing sites are elaborated by Callimachus. He also makes Delos a wandering island, rooted in no place. Only the spunky little island, a wanderer like herself, ignores the threats and accepts Leto. Apollo is born, fixes Delos to the sea bed, and founds a temple to which all cities bring their first fruits and their choral song, including the Hyperboreans, "that long-lived race." He names the Hyperborean maidens as Upis, Loxo, and Hecaerge. Before a wedding, the young girls dedicate a lock of hair to the Hyperborean maidens, and the young men dedicate their first beards to the lost Hyperborean youths.
Here, in Greek and English, is Callimachus' telling of the legend of the relay of gifts from the Hyperboreans to Delos. Delos is addressed directly in the poem. Enyo is the goddess of war, companion of Ares, god of war. The "never-silent cauldron" in the temple at Dodona may have been a resonant bowl, used as a gong. The Arimaspians, another legendary people, seem to be used interchangeably with the Hyperboreans.
Note: The Greek text may look a little odd; it is taken from an edition by H.W. Tytler of 1793, with its quaint old-fashioned ligatures: Omicron + upsilon is printed as a single character, with the "u" above the "o"; sigma + tau is likewise represented as one character, like a flat-topped sigma; the letter pi often looks like a Roman "w" with a flat top; beta unravels into two stacked loops; "kai" ("and") is abbreviated to a kappa with an affixed squiggle. ("The Works of Callimachus, translated into English verse, the Hymns and Epigrams from the Greek, with the Coma Berenices from the Latin of Catullus, with the original text, and notes carefully selected from former commentators, and additional observations," by H.W. Tytler, M.D.)
Tower of the Winds in Athens, 1st century B.C. Representations of the Winds, including Boreas, the North Wind, encircle the tower. This structure, once surmounted by a figure of Triton as a weathervane, also included a water clock and a sundial engraved upon its walls. (Illustration from Seyffert, A Dictionary of Classical Antiquities, 1899.
The Chicago River, from the Michigan Avenue Bridge, January, 2008. (Photo by C.A. Sowa.)
NEW! READ MY 2010 HANDOUT, "BUILD-A-BEAR" RESEARCH PLANNING: CLARIFICATION OF DEFINITIONS AS THE KEY TO CHOOSING OR WRITING PROGRAMS
CHICAGO COLLOQUIA ON DIGITAL HUMANITIES AND COMPUTER SCIENCE
Since their inception in the fall of 2006, I have been attending the Chicago Colloquia on Digital Humanities and Computer Science (DHCS), held at a rotating group of universities around Chicago. These Colloquia now draw participants from all over the world, who present projects covering many fields, including such interests as visual arts, archaeological reconstruction, musical composition, literary criticism, social trends, popular culture, history, and many fields yet to be discovered. Of the projects I have submitted under the name of Minerva Systems, a couple have been presented as poster exhibits. Whether accepted for presentation or not, my ideas find their way into handouts which I circulate (in exchange for handouts that I get from other participants!). Workshops and discussion groups, too, are well worth while.
The seventh DHCS Colloquium will be held on Novermber 17-19 at the University of Chicago at its Hyde Park campus.
For information about the Colloquium, visit the DHCS Web site at "http://chicagocolloquium.org". Information about all previous Colloquia (2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011) can also be accessed from there.
The Reliance Building, at State and Washington Streets in Chicago, January, 2008. (Photo by C.A. Sowa.) The Reliance Building, like the MINERVA System, was built on principles of modularity and extensibility.
Read about it!
My thanks to all those who have reviewed and used my self-study CD course on using computers and quantitative methods in the study of literature, The Loom of Minerva: An Introduction to Computer Projects for the Literary Scholar, and my thanks to those who continue to give me comments.
You can read Chapter 1, "A Guide to the Labyrinth: The Problem and Its Solution" on this Web site. (Note: this chapter now describes a greater variety of ways to structure a project, e.g., top-down, bottom-up, etc. It will continue to be revised.) You can also see images from two demonstrations of the MINERVA System, from 2006 (emphasizing individual applications programs), given at the First Chicago Colloquium on Digital Humanities at the University of Chicago and 2007 (emphasizing new project planning programs) given at the Second Chicago Colloquium on Digital Humanities at the Northwestern University.
The MINERVA System
The MINERVA System for Study of Literary Texts is a set of tools, some automated, some not automated, for planning and carrying out a project in literary study. Methods of Systems Analysis, borrowed from the scientific and commercial world, are adapted to the study of literature. This methodology emphasizes the use of diagramming techniques and modular design, offering a way to construct a project as a set of units or modules that can be worked on separately and moved around without disturbing the whole. A project is defined as an enterprise that has a goal and an organized way of achieving that goal.
The Loom of Minerva combines the methods of Systems Analysis with the insights of traditional belles-lettres literary criticism. All analysis takes as its point of departure the value of the piece of literature itself to the critic and the reader, as well as the historic, social, or aesthetic qualities attached to it. These alone confer significance on any work of scholarship. Examples grow directly from study of various works of literature, from Vergil to Coleridge to Baudelaire to Victor Hugo to Edna St. Vincent Millay and Gertrude Stein, and works of criticism from Sainte-Beuve to Swinburne to Gertrude Stein (criticizing her own work).
Emphasis is placed on analyzing the language of criticism itself, analyzing exactly what we mean by such terms as "beautiful," "ugly," "pompous," "like a spring garden," etc. By defining our terms with an exactness that can be quantified, we learn to give precision to our thoughts, whether using a computer or not.
What is in The Loom of Minerva
The CD contains both a set of narrative chapters and a set of programs, called the MINERVA System for Study of Literary Texts. The narrative chapters explain and amplify the programs, and the programs illustrate the chapters. The programs are provided in both executable form and source code, to satisfy both non-programmer scholars and programmers who want to play with the code.
MINERVA stands for Model INteractive Engine for Recognizing Verbal Artifice.
Advantages of the MINERVA System
The MINERVA programs do not require the use of data that is in a proprietary format. They use plain ASCII text, such as that downloaded from the Internet. The OwlData programs can be used to put downloaded or scanned text in the correct format for the MINERVA programs. The mathematics and statistics used are fairly elementary, such as can be understood as an introduction to basic concepts of what the computer and quantified methods can do. The programs are open-source, as they are intended to be extensible.
For more information:
If you are interested in finding out more about the Loom of Minerva or the MINERVA System, contact me at email@example.com.
Reconstruction of one of Babbage's engines at the Computer History Museum, Mountain View, California. Click on the picture to watch it in action. (Photo by J.F. Sowa).
Charles Babbage's Difference Engine and Analytical Engine
Charles Babbage, prolific Victorian inventor, is most famous for two of his inventions, the Difference Engine (1812) and the Analytical Engine (1833), which are perhaps the truest forerunners of the modern computer. The Difference Engine, a mechanical device of rotating gears, was designed to automatically generate mathemetical tables. It was called the Difference Engine because it was based on the principle of computing the differences between successive values of an expression, then the difference between the differences. Versions of the Difference Engine were eventually built and used, but Babbage himself dropped work on it to pursue his real dream, the Analytical Engine. The Analytical Engine was, or would have been, the first "real" computer, capable of performing any kind of mathematical operation, and able to be "programmed," that is, to perform a sequence of operations without human intervention, and to choose, when necessary, between alternative paths of action. It was to be powered by steam, and programs were to be entered into the machine by means of punched cards, an idea borrowed from the then-new Jacquard power looms. Babbage, sad to say, was never able to complete the Analytical Engine.
Ada, Lady Lovelace, "the world's first programmer"
Babbage's collaborator on his Engines was one of history's most remarkable women, Ada, Lady Lovelace, daughter of the poet Lord Byron. These lines from Childe Harold's Pilgrimage are thought to be addressed to her:
A gifted mathematician in her own right, Ada worked with Babbage until her untimely death in 1852 at the age of 36. In 1842, the Italian engineer Luigi F. Menabrea published a description, in French, of Babbage's Analytical Engine. Lady Lovelace translated Menabrea's article into English, expanding it with commentary so extensive that her "Notes upon the Memoir" are virtually an original work. She provides detailed directions for using the machine to calculate answers to mathematical problems, leading modern writers to call her "the world's first programmer." Her words relate computing to other artistic endeavors:
We may say most aptly that [Babbage's] Analytical Engine weaves algebraical patterns just as the Jacquard-loom weaves flowers and leaves.
A Babbage Engine in London and California
In 1985, the Science Museum in London set out to build a working Difference Engine No. 2, based on Babbage's original designs. It was completed in 2002, and is on public display at the Science Museum. An identical Engine, completed in 2008, is presently on loan to the Computer History Museum, Mountain View, California, where it is on display until May, 2009. Read more about this recreated machine at the Computer History Museum Web site.
Click here or on the picture below to watch the Babbage engine in action, in a video taken by John F. Sowa.
Reconstruction of one of Babbage's engines, detail view. Click on the picture to watch it in action. (Photo by J.F. Sowa).
Read about the 1845 Eureka Machine for Composing Hexameter Latin Verse
Another Victorian machine which could be called an early special-purpose
computer was the Eureka machine designed by John Clark in 1845 for automatically
composing Latin hexameter poetry. It still survives, in a museum in Somerset,
England. Click here to read about it.
Book: Traditional Themes and the Homeric Hymns
The book, out of print for a while, is again available by "on-demand" production. Contact the publisher for information.
New selections are available on this Web site for free reading. You can read Chapters 1 ("Introduction") and 10 ("Conclusion: the Place of the Hymns in the Ancient Greek Oral Tradition"), Appendix I ("Outlines of Themes Identified in the Hymns"). You can also see diagrams of the themes as they appear in the Hymns.
Article: "Thought Clusters in Early Greek Oral Poetry"
An article, by Cora Angier Sowa and John Sowa, describes in detail the quantitative and mathematical methods used on the computer to identify thematic elements in Hesiod and the Homeric Hymns. Material from this study was later integrated into into the more comprehensive Traditional Themes and the Homeric Hymns. Click on "Thought Clusters in Early Greek Oral Poetry". A version of the CLUMP cluster analysis program used to identify thematic repetitions is now also being integrated into the MINERVA suite of programs in the self-study CD The Loom of Minerva.
In orally composed poetry like Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, and Hesiod's Theogony and Works and Days, there was no written text (the alphabet being barely known at the time, around 750 B.C.). The bard, like a jazz musician, recomposed his story each time (to a melody now lost to us), using stock phrases or "formulas" and repeated scenes. Since the story was enjoyed not by reading but by hearing it, there were no punctuation marks or chapter headings to tell listeners where they were in the narrative or its episodes. The skilled singer used, instead, repeated words and phrases to serve as "oral punctuation" to articulate the story and provide emphasis for important themes and concepts.
Reissued here is my article Verbal Patterns in Hesiod's Theogony, which explores the use of verbal repetition in Hesiod's tale of the origins of the gods.
We think of computers as being very modern, although calculating machines and computer-like devices have been around for a long time. In particular, we think of using such a machine to do such non-scientific tasks as composing poetry as a modern concept. But in 1845, John Clark built the Eureka Machine for Composing Hexameter Latin Verse. It still exists in a museum in England. Read about the Eureka Machine and read the original description of it from the Illustrated London News of July, 1845.
There is more about early computers and their mechanical ancestors in the self-study CD The Loom of Minerva: An Introduction to Computer Projects for the Literary Scholar, described above.
"Minerva" has long been a popular name for ships. There are cruise ships named "Minerva," including Greek vessels whose owners chose that name as a synonym for their own city patroness Athena. Warships named "Minerva" have graced the navies of Europe from the time of Nelson and Napoleon to the present, whether British "Minerva" or French "Minerve."
It is an interesting choice, considering that Athena, with her gift of the olive, defeated Poseidon, lord of the sea, with his gift of the horse, in the contest to be patron deity of Athens. (See the depiction of Athena and Poseidon below.)
The name "Minerva" for a British warship belongs in the splendid tradition of naming vessels after names from Classical history and mythology. Along with names like "Invincible," "Audacious," "Irresistible," "Insolent," "Victory," and "Dreadnought," we find "Gorgon," "Phoenix," "Achilles," "Apollo," "Dryad," "Endymion," "Hector," "Helicon," "Medusa," "Meleager," and, famously, "Arethusa." The most famous ship named for the Sicilian nymph Arethusa was known for her victory over the French "Belle Poulle" in 1778. Training ships for over a century inherited the name, one after the other.
A frigate "Minerva" participated in the Battle of Cape St. Vincent against the navy of Napoleon on February 14, 1797. The marine painter Thomas Buttersworth (the elder) painted a portrait of "Minerva" in 1810, and the "Minerva" Pub in Hull, England (built in 1831) uses the frigate's symbol, the owl, on its sign. Of course, some ships have been named "Athena" and "Poseidon," too; there was a movie about such a ship called The Poseidon Adventure.
There is a further connection between ships and this Minerva Systems site. In the self-study CD The Loom of Minerva (described above), an analysis of Coleridge's The Rime of the Ancient Mariner is used as a case study to demonstrate methods of Systems Analysis and computer techniques.
A feminist note on the gender of ships: Because of the living qualities of ships, I like to refer to a ship as "she" rather than "it." While some may compare a vessel to a woman because of the supposedly capricious nature of both (although there seems nothing wrong with an occasional playful moment), I think that this view overlooks other qualities. Ships, like women, are beautiful, swift, intelligent, and powerful. I am glad to acclaim them as my sisters!
Signed vase painting by the Athenian potter/painter Amasis (6th cent.
B.C.), depicting Athena and Poseidon. The two figures are labeled
ATHENAIA and POSEIDON. The inscription down the middle reads
AMASIS MEPOIESEN ("Amasis made me"). Amasis may well have been
African. (Illustration from a lithograph by Kaeppelin et Cie., ca. 1840.
The actual vase is in the Cabinet des Médailles, Bibliothèque
Nationale de France, Paris.)
Essays and reviews on building and architecture
Among the selections on this site is the previously published "Holy Places", a study of myths of landmarks. In addition, there is an epilogue to that essay, on "The World Trade Center as a Mythic Place". This piece continues the author's interest in relating ancient ideas to things that we care about in the modern world.
Cora Angier Sowa has combined humanities and technology for many years. She has a BA in Latin and an MA in Classics from the University of California, Los Angeles, and a PhD in Classical Philology from Harvard University. She spent a year studying archaeology at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens. She taught Greek and Roman literature and history at Mt. Holyoke, Vassar, and Brooklyn Colleges. For a number of years, she was a programmer/analyst at Chemical (now Chase) Bank in New York. She has taught classes in computers and humanities at the College of Staten Island and at St. John's University in Queens, New York. She served twice on the Committee on Computer Activities of the American Philological Association, once as chairperson of the committee. She was the recipient of a Fulbright Scholarship (for study in Greece) and of a grant from the American Council of Learned Societies (for work on computers and ancient Greek literature).
In addition to the book Traditional Themes and the Homeric Hymns (described above), Dr. Sowa has published articles and reviews on Classics and on the mythology of architecture and motion pictures. A harp player, she is also on the board of trustees of the International Percy Grainger Society , an organization dedicated to preserving the home and archives in White Plains, New York of Percy Grainger -- composer, piano virtuoso, collector of folk songs, and inventor of an early mechanical music synthesizer. Dr. Sowa is Webmaster for the Grainger web site. Dr. Sowa now lives in Croton-on-Hudson NY, and in New York City, with her husband, Dr. John F. Sowa, an expert in Artificial Intelligence and computer design, and several cats.
All selections on this site, unless otherwise identified, are copyright by Cora Angier Sowa.
Send e-mail to Cora Angier Sowa.
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