Monday, June 20, 2005

On Medea and female homosexuality in antiquity (quite unrelated)

You asked for a rant, so it seems you shall receive one. Reading this article from the Savannah Morning News, which I found from rogueclassicism, I was struck by this line: In the story of Jason and the Argonauts, you realize for the first time that Jason was really a cad. Who was he to think that Medea, the woman who not only loved him but saved his life, would be OK with his marrying another woman?

Now, I don't know about you, but even when my knowledge of mythology was only cursory, I was quite aware that Jason was a cad. My first realisation of that was the first time I was even aware of Jason's existence! That, of course, is my own bias, but it shocks me every time someone implies that Jason could be anything but a cad. I'm also not sure about others, but I know we read Euripides' Medea in our intro-mythology course. How anyone can consider Jason anything but a cad after reading that is beyond my powers of interpretation.

On a different note, I thought I'd share with you, dear readers, a picture I took at the Louvre in Paris last month (I'd be happy to e-mail a larger version if anyone is interested):

Relief of two women, from the Louvre

My biggest regret is that I didn't have time to take a picture of the information with it or write it down, so I can't track this particular piece, other than to say that it is from the Louvre (and located near the statuette of Euripides that is in my icon). I do remember that the subject of the relief, as far as the Louvre or my professor knew, is uncertain. The usual speculation would be that it depicts Demeter and Persephone, but there is nothing explicit in this image to indicate that. In fact, having just written a paper on female homosexual relationships in antiquity (which, sadly, did not include analysis of visual images) this past semester, it seems to me that this possibility should, at the very least, be entertained. Particularly noting the gestures of the woman on the left and the look of the woman on the right, I am personally convinced that it depicts female homosexuality. However, my "expertise" lies more in the analysis of literature than it does in visual art. Thus, if anyone has anything more to contribute, I would certainly be interested in hearing from them.

Most useful, of course, would be some sort of date for this piece and of what it is a part. There are certain periods when female homosexuality was more acceptable than it was in others.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

People run under the assumption that Jason should not be a cad because he is a 'hero.' Heroes, by definition, are not supposed to be cads.

4:22 PM  
Anonymous inspectorpenguin said...

I read that blurb about the books and Jason being a cad earlier this week and immediately thought of you. So seeing you post this is too appropriate.
And Jason *is* a cad. Many of these heroes we are supposed to revere, are often not nice people, at least my our modern standards. I wonder if that's because it's harder to accomplish things (granted this is all fictional) when you lack a certain force of character that sometimes translates into cad-ness (hey, new word) or if standards of 'niceness' have simply changed from what they were in antiquity.

6:45 PM  
Anonymous inspectorpenguin said...

Also, about the picture you posted. This is sort of random and certainly doesn't prove that it is a depiction of female homosexuality, but I too posted that picture on my photo page and a woman I know, who has a serious relationship with a girlfriend, commented on how lovely it was and was considering making it into an icon. Food for thought, at least.

6:51 PM  
Blogger Glaukôpis said...

re: inspectorpenguin

On Jason--I think it's because the ancient definition for being an hero was entirely different anyway. Just look at Theseus, Achilles, and Hercules. You weren't supposed to like these guys as people. They were just people (often demi-gods with great powers) favoured by the gods who accomplished great deeds. Somehow, they were beyond the rest of society, which might even account for *why* they couldn't act within the normal standards of "polite" society in other areas of their lives.

On the picture--I want to see your copy of that picture, by the way! And that is certainly good to know that I'm not the only one who thinks they seriously *look* like a lesbian couple by their body language.

7:02 PM  
Blogger Glaukôpis said...

Re: anonymous

Well, by modern definition anyway. ;-)

But yes, that's certainly why this happens. I just find it unsettling that the notion has to be debunked by someone else putting the story into perspective for people. Again, that's just my bias. Even without Euripides, I would never be comfortable with a story about a "hero" who leaves the woman who helps him. This is also why I periodically call Theseus a bastard too. ;-)

7:39 PM  

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