Prof. Joshua Katz on the last books of the Iliad
Achilles attends to the wounded Patroclus. From a kylix by the Sosias Painter, 510-500 BC (Altes Museum, Berlin).
Professor Joshua Katz (Princeton University) will be the invited speaker at the next Classics seminar. His topic will be "Dice in Iliad 24: Geometry, Fate, and Sex". The talk is open to the public.
The abstract follows.
"In this talk, I suggest a new reading of the beginning of the final book of the Iliad, connecting it to the passage in Book 23 in which Patroclus tells Achilles in a dream how his life was utterly changed as a result of an argument over a game of dice (ἀμφ’ ἀστραγάλοισι χολωθείϛ, 88). If this interpretation is accepted, what we have in Homer is our earliest—but hitherto unseen—evidence for Greek dicing terminology. And this in turn leads to at least three potentially interesting topics for discussion: (i) it allows us to consider the use of mathematics, especially geometry, in Archaic literature; (ii) it gives us new insights into ancient conceptions of chance and fate, specifically the intertwined fortunes of Achilles and Patroclus; and (iii) it helps us answer a question to which scholars have devoted thousands of pages since antiquity, namely whether already Homer depicts these two men as lovers."