Son of Iris asks:

I know this blog is about Pokemon, but due to your recent chain on twitter about a Percy Jackson TV series, how would you rate & rank each of Riordan’s books, at least the ones you have read in full.

honestly, dude, I’ve had so many classics questions coming in lately I don’t actually know what this blog is anymore

I’m not going to do a whole rank-and-rate numbered list thing, because… frankly there’s a lot of them.  That just sounds like more work than I want to do, especially since it’s been a while since I read most of them; like, the original Percy Jackson and the Olympians books came out when I was a teenager and I don’t think I’ve reread any of them in full since then; I also haven’t read book 4 of Trials of Apollo yet.  I think the Magnus Chase books are probably my favourites in the Percy Jackson ‘verse, which is not entirely because of Alex Fierro but honestly that’s a pretty significant factor.  I think those books are also a really good example of how minority representation in fiction is good, not just for people who don’t often get to see characters like them in media, but because working with diverse perspectives can actually make a story just flat-out more interesting.  Riordan’s whole schtick is reinventing mythology as a presence in the modern world, and that just works better with the widest possible range of character backgrounds.

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Nothronychus asks:

What’s your favorite hellenistic Greek City-State and why?

So, even as a classicist it has never really occurred to me to have a favourite Hellenistic Greek city-state (because… why?).  Maybe this makes me a bad classicist.  But it really seems like a weird thing to have, because we usually think of the Hellenistic period as the era when the city states don’t particularly matter anymore; it’s all about empires and god-kings.  So I had this hour-long discussion with Jim the Editor about what possible valid answers this question could even have, because what still counts as a city-state in the Archaic-to-Classical Greek sense?  He doesn’t think anything that’s part of one of the big kingdoms counts, because city-states are supposed to have political autonomy – so we can’t pick the really big centres like Alexandria or Antioch, and Jim thinks Pergamon does still count, whereas I don’t think you can count Pergamon if you’re not also willing to count Alexandria (and anyway, can’t you be both a city state and the capital of an empire?  I mean… Athens and the Delian League, for fµ¢£’s sake).  And then what even counts as Greek, because all this stuff is, like… Greco-Macedonian(-Persian?) koine that doesn’t closely resemble classical Greece in its politics, society or culture; the only ones that you could reasonably argue aren’t a little Macedonian by this point are the western colonies (Syracuse, Neapolis, Tarentum, Massilia, etc.) and Sparta (and no one, at all, in the world cares about Hellenistic Sparta).  Or you can swing wildly in the other direction and argue with equal merit that everything is Greek, because I have definitely heard people suggest, only a little bit ironically, that Rome is in practice a Greek city-state up until basically the Punic Wars (especially if you buy into Dionysius’ “the Romans are totally Greek, guys!” bull$#!t).

So yeah, I dunno.  My actual favourite is probably Cyrene but they only barely make it into the Hellenistic period with their independence so maybe that’s not in the spirit of the thing.  Rhodes is cool.  Colossus of Helios, obviously.  Lots of good glasswork done on Rhodes in the Hellenistic period too, and I am nothing if not a glass nerd.  Syracuse has Archimedes’ giant death laser (I want to believe, okay???).  Hellenistic Athens is really interesting, actually; like, we all fixate on the Classical stuff in Athens but they get up to just as much Game of Thrones bull$#!t as any Hellenistic monarch in trying to preserve their independence and democratic traditions.  They also have this fascinating position as, like, the ex-cultural capital of the Greek world that they continue to leverage for political gain well into the time of the Roman Empire.  These are certainly some opinions that I have.

Rane and Alleen ask:

Who was right, Aegon or Rhaenyra?

So, I didn’t know the deep lore of A Song of Ice and Fire well enough to remember on  my own exactly who Aegon and Rhaenyra are or what there was for either of them to be right about, so take this with a grain of salt… but I talked to Jim the Editor about this and read part of a wiki article, and it seems pretty clear-cut that Rhaenyra was the rightful heir and got fµ¢£ed over?  I mean… it’s A Song of Ice and Fire so obviously the whole story is ridiculously complicated and I assume everyone involved was absolutely awful in one way or another, but the actual inciting dispute of the civil war feels to me like an open-and-shut case.

Dosidicus Giygas asks:

Can you recommend any good resources for learning about Aegean depictions of cephalopods?

That’s a… concerningly specific request

and this is coming from a guy whose thesis is on Roman window glass

So, uh… I mean, there’s nothing off the top of my head that isn’t ludicrously dry and technical; like, if you have JSTOR access or similar you could search for some of Penelope Mountjoy’s articles on the Late Minoan IB “Marine Style” but they’re, um… not exactly page-turners.  They probably won’t make a lot of sense without a fairly thorough grounding in Minoan archaeology, and honestly I’m not even sure they’ll tell you what you want to know, if you’re interested in, like, the accuracy of anatomical details.  Is the Marine Style what you mean?  Because that’s where my mind instantly goes on hearing “Aegean depictions of cephalopods,” but without context that phrasing is… kinda broad.  There’s a bunch of Attic black and red figure pots with octopuses(-pi/-podes) on them that you can find by searching the Beazley Archive database (type “octopus” into the “decoration description” field and hit “list” at the bottom of the page); I dunno if anyone’s ever written anything about them and at a glance it looks like a lot of them just have the octopus as a shield device or a generic ocean-themed ornament, but… I mean, they’re there if you want ‘em, I guess.

Leo M. R. asks:

Did the concept of cousinhood exist in Ancient Greece? I JUST learned that Jason and Odysseus were cousins on their mothers’ sides (side note: their grandfather was a master thief?!), and I was wondering if this ever translated into the concept of kinship to the Greeks back then, and if it ever influenced why the two of them had notable similarities (like being known for legendary naval journeys and having flings with powerful sorceresses).

So, on the specifics of Jason and Odysseus: a lot of minor characters in Greek mythology have very different family trees depending on who you ask, and the mothers of Odysseus and Jason are very minor characters.  Our main source for Odysseus is, of course, Homer, and Homer says that Odysseus’ mother Anticleia is the daughter of the legendary thief king Autolycus.  Now, Homer was probably alive in the 8th or 7th century BC (side note: Homer isn’t real, Google “the Homeric Question” some time; it’s wild, but this is 100% not the time to litigate that $#!tstorm).  Our main source for Jason, on the other hand, is Apollonius Rhodius’ Argonautica, which was written in the 3rd century BC, centuries after Homer was dead in the ground (if he was real, which he wasn’t), and Apollonius says that Jason’s mother was Alcimede, the daughter of Clymene, who was herself the daughter of Minyas, the legendary king of Orchomenos – no mention of Autolycus.  In addition, though, we have the scholia to Apollonius, which are basically the margin notes made on the text by scholars in the Early Byzantine period (like, 5th to 8th centuries AD), and they are the ones who, quoting other texts now lost to us, give her name as either Polypheme or Theognete and claim she was the daughter of Autolycus.  I think the only primary text we actually have that backs this up is a 2nd century BC encyclopaedia of myth attributed to Apollodorus, but he gives yet another name for the mother, Polymede, and he probably got that from Hesiod, who gives that name in his Catalogue of Women but doesn’t explain who she is (at least not in the bits we have, because there is no complete text of the Catalogue of Women and we have to rely on quotations in other authors; are you beginning to appreciate the scope of the insanity we have to deal with here?) (side note: Catalogue of Women is an awful, awful title in the 21st century; it sounds like what a pickup artist calls his diary).

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Quarantine Playtime

Soooooo, a week into pandemic lockdown, my laptop broke down, and getting it fixed is taking a bit longer than it otherwise might, so I haven’t been able to work properly for the last few days (notwithstanding the Q-and-A posts I had already written and queued). Courtesy of this disruption to my normal workflow, you’re getting a short (and for once I actually mean that, I’m drafting this entirely on my phone) review/discussion of a Nintendo Switch game I bought to amuse myself while my laptop is out of commission: Octopath Traveler.

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jeffthelinguist asks:

So, as an archaeologist, can you answer the age old question of how much time needs to pass before grave robbing becomes archaeology? What’s the appropriate time period for looting the dead to become acceptable?

I’m assuming you’ve seen the screenshot of an archaeologist commenting, in answer to this question, that this is actually a super awkward and uncomfortable question?  I’m fortunate enough to work in an area where it doesn’t really come up much – we’re all pretty sure that two thousand years is comfortably in the safe zone.  Even then, though… it would be a mistake to think that archaeology can be a pure science, that our study of the past can remain detached from the present. It’s all grave robbing, in a way. The only difference is in how pure your motives are… which is a matter of perspective.

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Herald of Opera asks:

Do you like penguins? (Same question goes for Jim the Editor; I always ask this whenever an opportunity for an unbounded question arises, including careless wording.) (Also, whenever speaking up in favor of Sword & Shield’s National Dex removal, I make sure to mention the absurdly slim chances of Piplup getting in as proof that it hurts me more than it probably hurts them)

Penguins are fµ¢£ing great (and this is our shared opinion, by the way).  They’re birds, but instead of flying they swim!  And on land they’re so waddly and dumb and cute, but in the water they’re so… so… M A J E S T I C.  Piplup remains to this day my favourite Water-type starter, for reasons that I’m not even going to pretend are based entirely in sober design analysis.  And there are gay penguin couples who adopt eggs and chicks, acting as aspirational figures for the LGBT community and filling the hearts of the entire world with warmth and fuzziness.  As long as we’re on penguins, I’m going to direct readers to the Instagram account of the National Aquarium of New Zealand in Napier, home of a colony of New Zealand’s native little blue penguins (scientifically proven to be the smollest and most adorable of all penguins), one of whom each month is designated “good penguin” or “naughty penguin of the month.”  And, of course, I would be doing you all a great disservice if I didn’t tell you that New Zealand is also where several of the oldest species of fossil penguins come from, some of them gigantic fossil penguins as tall as humans, like the new species Crossvallia waiparensis described just a few weeks ago from fossils found in Canterbury.

…so I guess what I’m saying is the answer to your question is “yes.”