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By Emily Vermeule

The traditional Greeks committed a good portion in their poetic and inventive power to exploring subject matters of loss of life. Vermeule examines the evidence and fictions of Greek loss of life, together with burial and mourning, visions of the underworld, souls and ghosts, the worth of heroic demise in conflict, the search for immortality, the associated powers of dying, sleep, and love, and extra.

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Extra info for Aspects of Death in Early Greek Art and Poetry

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37 Creativity was a magic drug, a pharmakon against death and against being for· gotten. hat rivers, flowers, sun, moon and waves were immeasurably stronger than human creation because they were divine. It was idiocy to "set the st rength of a stele against the flame of the sun and the gold moon and the whirling sea .. tarmaka against d eath are still potent. 'eativity we re tlte rnore painful to the Greeks because they seemed marked by failu re of intelligence. u Semonides of Amorgos stressed this Oaw: .

An expand as the Greek view o f the neighboring world expanded. The distant Mycenaean l'oyal couple in their walJed kingdom of the dead, like their subjects, change with the social changes in Greece. In the archaic period Hades and Persephone may take on che role of archons, magistrates or judges, wa tching to see that Sisyphos really does roll his rock as decreed; or seated with a sheaf of wheat, marking the stable and benevolent overseers of law. I n the fifth century the old warrior Hades, thundering out in his chariot to rape Persephone, has increasingly given way to the new Plouton figure of agricultural wealth, son-in-law of Demeter merging into son with the increasing inAuence of the cult at Eleusis, holding his cornucopia of riches co match Persephone's grain.

Rf)p l-rl-rawE 1"~av-ra. Tot<>. as Zeus setS the keres of death in the gold scale-pans to affirm externally the identity of die one who will die. Tbe ambiguous kms have shapes and weights; thanatos itself cannot be weighed. s, end, not malicious but un· arguable; or color, the black cloud of thailaws; or the wicked ker of blac k thari(IIOJ. Toto. •? ·hich "purpled enormously'• at the sight of AchiJies advancing; and cloth, the cloth of battles and death that Helen wove, or the cloth of Bowers Andromache wove for Hektor's go ld coffin.

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