The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom. - Wm. Blake

Friday, October 14, 2005

This is a relief

So the other night I was engaged in my annual television watching and flipping between innings, of course, when I came across this great show about Helen of Troy. Since I was in third grade, I've been fascinated by the Homeric world, especially the underlying truth behind the myths (while simultaneously having misgivings about those who would deconstruct myths to nothingness). NBC's Odysseus miniseries a few years back was disappointing in some ways, but I loved that it portrayed a gritty, not glittering, world closer to Mycenean civilization than the Greece of Pericles.

So I'm instantly drawn in by this sort of documentary that travels from Argos & Sparta to Troy, Istanbul, and the ancient capital of the Hittites (the Trojans' neighbors), tracking what the historical reality of a woman like Helen would have been. As it turns out, women in the Mycenean Age retained significant power, including the right to property and other aspects of autonomy that would have allowed a royal like Helen to have autonomy. Great, interesting stuff, but I'll admit that part of my interest in the show was the instant crush that I developed on the hostess, an attractive - in a womanly, intelligent way - woman who's handling artifacts, citing Linear B records, and reading Homer in the original. My dream woman, in other words, complete with a sexy English accent. So I'm awaiting the closing credits, and she's listed as merely "Bettany Hughes, Presenter." Which, on British TV at least, makes her more like Katie Couric than Elaine Fantham. So was she faking it all?

Thankfully, no. The credits were thin enough that they failed to reveal that the show was tied to a book that Hughes has written, Helen of Troy, Goddess, Princess, Whore, which I think goes on my Christmas list.


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