When speaking between themselves and during times of reflection, the protagonists in Tiresias often use Classical references as a form of intimate shorthand. Brief explanations for many of those references are provided below.
Chapter 1 - Ivy
- Martin Buber —
An Existentialist philosopher known for the distinction between the I-Thou and I-It (Ich-Du and Ich-Es) relationships.
Aegean and Attic —
Aegean numerals were used by the ancient Minoan and Mycenaean civilizations in Linear A and B, while Attic numerals were later used in anceint Greece. [see Minoan Chapter 5 below]
Golden ratio —
A specific ratio for the length to width of rectangles and denoted by the Greek letter Φ, the golden ratio was named by the ancient Greeks and influenced much of their architecture.
two vipers entwined —
The staff of Hermes in Greek mythology is commonly known as the caduceus which is commonly incorrectly used as a symbol for medical services. It consists of two snakes inter-entwined around a rod, often superimposed upon a pair of wings.
Asclepius was the son of Apollo and a mortal woman who became a proficient healer who could bring the dead back to life. He carried a rod wrapped with a snake (a Greek syble of wisdom, healing and resurrection).
Iaso and Aceso —
[See Hygeia and Panacea below.]
Orion ... Libra ... Scales of Babylonia —
In Babylonian astrology the constellation of Orion is depicted as a shepherd guiding with a staff in contrast to the Greek and Roman hunter with club. In Babylonian astrology the scales of Libra represented the judgment of souls and also a scorpion's claws. In Greek mythology Orion was killed by a giant scorpion sent by Gaia. In Greek and Roman astrology the scorpion is depicted by the constellation Scorpio.
A purposely disordered dance or farce that took place before and between the more important scenes of a sixteenth-century court entertainment in Italy.
John Keats' epitaph: Here lies one whose name was writ in water.
The Platonic, non-physical, essence of a form.
The Ancient Greek God of trickery.
Hygieia and Panacea —
Two of Asclepius' five daughters (Hygieia - cleanliness, Panacea - remedy, Iaso - recuperation, Aceso - healng, and Aegle - health).
Sibyls are female oracles from Greek and Roman mythology.
In Greek mythology, a spirit who inhabits a forest or tree.
A town in southern Greece where an oracle resided.
In Greek mythology, Erato is a dryad and oracle for the god Pan located in a cave in Megalopolis [see Dryad above].
Chapter 2 - Chiaroscuro
- Selene —
In Greek mythology Selene is the goddess of the moon, and each night she drives her chariot across the heavens.
- Phobos and Deimos —
The two moons of Mars are named for twin brothers. In Ancient Greek Phobos translates as fear and Deimos as terror. Their father is the god of War, Ares in Latin, Mars in Greek. Phobos was also the name of one of the four immortal horses that pulled Mars' war chariot.
- déjà vécu —
French translated as "already lived through" as contrasted with déjà vu "already seen."
- pawl —
A curved bar that keeps a cogwheel from spinning out of control.
- prairie —
French, translates as meadow.
- L'esprit de l'escalier —
French, literally translates as "staircase wit" but is used in English to describe when an appropriate response is thought of only after the thinker is removed from the relevant situation.
Chapter 3 - Salmonella
- sixteenth-century Tuscan surname custom —
Mid-sixteenth century Tuscan parents commonly named their first-born sons after their own surname.
- hic, haec, hoc. mstery, mystery, misstery —
Latin partial declension, correctly stated as hic, haec, hoc. huius, huius, huius.
- toss a ripe, red apple —
A declaration of love in Ancient Greece called for a male suitor to throw the fruit that was sacred to Aphrodite to a woman. If the woman accepted the apple it indicated that she agreed to the marriage proposal.
- banns —
A medieval tradition to publicly announce a couples' intention to marry.
- Filostrato —
Il Filostrato is a poem written by Giovanni Boccaccio in the fourteenth century and is the pre-cursor for Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde, and therefore Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida.
- Leucippus —
A Greek philosopher who proposed that matter is composed of imperishable elements.
- Olympus Twelve —
The twelve major deities of the ancient Greek pantheon: Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Demeter, Athena, Apollo, Artemis, Ares, Aphrodite, Hephaestus, Hermes and Dionysus. Corresponding Roman names are: Jupiter, Juno, Neptune, Ceres, Minverva, Apollo, Diana, Mars, Venus, Vulcan, Mercury and Bacchus.
Chapter 4 - Ex Vivo
- Termini —
Name derived from the Termini district of Rome, itself named for the ancient thermal baths of Diocletian that existed there (Latin, thermae).
- Via dei Condotti —
An ancient Roman street named for the conduits that caried water to the Baths of Agrippa. In present day the street is the center for alta moda shopping in Rome.
- Ruina. Ruinae. Ruinae. Ruinis. Ruinas. Ruinis. —
First declension Latin for catastrophe. Ruinas is Plural, Accusative.
- Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi —
The Fountain of the Four Rivers by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, 1651, depicts four marble river gods who represent a major river on each continent in which Catholocism had spread (Nile, Danube, Ganges and Rio de la Plata). The statues support an ancient Egyptian obelisk.
- four rivers is better than five —
In Greek mythology there are five main rivers in Hades: Acheron (sorrow), Cocytus (lamentation), Phlegethon (fire), Lethe (oblivion) and Styx (hate).
- lacrimae rerum —
Latin, literally "tears of/for things" from a passage in the Aeneid where Aeneas is moved to tears after viewing a mural that depicts the deaths of his friends in the Trojan War and says "sunt lacrimae rerum et mentem mortalia tangunt." (There are tears for things and mortal things touch the mind.)
- Orion's jeweled belt —
Three stars, Alnitak, Alnilam and Mintaka, in the constellation Orion.
- Coward/Kipling —
Mad Dogs and Englishmen by Noël Coward, 1931 with possibility that the song's lyrics were born of a quote from Rudyard Kipling's Kim, 1900-1901 (serial) where he wrote "Only the devils and the English walk to and fro without reason, ...and we walk as though we were mad - or English."
- Orion's leading his shimmering dogs —
The constellation Orion represents a hunter. When he is depicted chasing after a hare (constellation Lepus) he is trailed by two hunting dogs (the constellations Canis Major and Canis Minor).
- Lucifer ... morning —
In ancient Greek lucifer translates as "bringer of dawn" and in Latin as "the morning star."
- petrichor —
The scent produced when rain falls on dry soil, a combination of the Greek word for stone (petra) and the ancient Greek mythological term for the fluid that flows in the veins of the gods (ichor).
- stola —
The primary garment worn by women in Ancient Rome. Equivalent to the Toga worn by men. Courtesans and women who were divorced for adultery were forbidden to wear a stola.
- tunica intima —
The undergarment worn beneath a stola, similar to a modern slip.
- Ol' swollen foot himself —
The Greek name Oedipus translates literally as "swollen foot." The modern word edema is from the shared root.
Chapter 5 - Rome
- rondoni and rondini —
Italian, translated respectively as swifts and swallows.
- Heracles and Hercules —
The respective Greek and Roman names for the mythological hero.
- Philomela or Procne —
In Greek mythology, the two daughters of the King of Athens, Pandion I. Procne's husband, Tereus raped and imprisoned her younger sister and cut off her tongue when she refused to be silent. She used her skills as a weaver to tell her story to Procne who killed Itys, her son by Tereus, and served him as a meal to her husband. When he became aware of the deed he attempted to kill the sisters who fled and were turned into birds to facilitate their escape. Procne became a swallow and Philomela, a nightingale. In earliest Greek mythology Philomela becomes a swallow because it was believed to have no song, and Procne becomes a nightingale because its song is beautiful but remorseful. In later Greek and in all Roman accounts Philomela becomes the nightingale and Procne becomes a swallow.
- no agones tonight —
In ancient Rome the area of the Piazza was known as the Circus Agonalis (competition arena) for the gladiator agones (games). The church that faces onto the Piazza Navona maintains the name Sant'Agnese in Agone marking the site where the early Christian Saint Agnes was martyred in the ancient Stadium of Domitian.
- gemitibus gaudet —
Latin, translates as sighs of happiness.
- fletu —
Latin, translates as tears.
- Heraclitus —
Heraclitus of Ephesus was a Greek pre-Socratic philosopher noted for his difficult-to-understand sayings. His primary focus on the commonality of the logos is particularly vague because of the many meanings of that Greek word. Most modern interpretation defines it to mean "word." His panta rhei aphorism is literally translated as "everything flows" and is often used as a parallel to the concept that one can never step into the same river twice. His hodos ano kato is literally translated as "the upward-downward path" and is commonly extrapolated to encompass the concept that rather than end, all things must transform into something else.
- Aristotle's Epigenesis —
Epigenesis is the process by which life develops from a seed, spore or egg via a sequence of steps involving cell differentiation and organ formation. Aristotle first published the theory in his book On the Generation of Animals describing the means by which animals reproduce. Creationist theories of the origin of life discounted his theory until its belated acceptance among biologists in the late 18th century A.D when the embryologist Caspar Friedrich Wolff refuted preformationism.
- pensione —
An Italian Bed and Breakfast or guest house.
- contrapposto —
Italian, literally translated as counterpose. Developed in Greece, it presents the human figure standing with most of its weight on one foot so that the shoulders twist off-axis fro, the hips. The technique allows the sculptor to express a psychological disposition ranging from calm to anguished. The technique was copied by ancient Roman sculptors and much later was revived in Italy where the rediscovery of contrapposto is considered a major achievement of the Italian Renaissance.
- gods on my side —
With the exception of Earth, all of the planets in our solar system are named for Roman gods.
- Minoan ... Linear B ... Vulcan ... Crete —
Sometimes considered the first Europeans, the Minoans were a Bronze Age civilization on the island of Crete. The Minoan language is largely unknown with Cretan hieroglyphs and Linear A only partly deciphered. Linear B was used to scribe the Mycenaeans form of Greek which succeeded the Minoan as an adapated script from Linear A. The origin of the name Vulcan may be from the Cretan Minoan fire god Velchanos by way of the Etruscan Velchans.
- Crete, if not concrete. —
The word concrete is dervied from the Latin concretus meaning condensed. The Romans pioneered the large-scale use of concrete as a building material over the span of 700 years.
- equal opportunity exploiters —
The word angel derives from the Late Greek ángelos and the word demon derives from the Ancient Greek daimon.
- Ptolemy —
In the second century A.D., the Greek astronomer Ptolemy rationalized the present-day zodiac from its Babylonian roots.
- Castor and Pollux/Romulus and Remus —
In Greek mythology Castor and Pollux were twin brothers with different fathers. Castor was mortal and Pollux was divine (the son of Zeus). When Castor was killed, Pollux asked his father to let him share his own immortality with his twin so they were transformed into the consetllation Gemini (the latin word for twins). In Roman mythology Romulus and Remus were twin brothers. Sons of a vestal virgin who was the daughter of the king, they were conceived when she was visited by the god Mars. Her father perceived them as a threat to his rule and they were abandoned by the Tiber River where they were saved by the god Tiberinus (Father of the River). Remus was killed by Romulus after a dispute regarding where to settle a city, and Romulus then founded the city of Rome.
- Giordano Bruno ... Inquisitive —
An Italian Dominican friar who was burned at the stake on Ash Wednesday, 1600 in Rome's Campo de Fiori, sentenced for heresey during the Inquisition as a result of his "radical" cosmology.
- outcome of every goat's song ... tragic —
Etymology of the word tragedy is a portmanteau word from the Clasical Greek words tragos (he-goat) and aeidein (to sing) or literally "goat song."
- Mithras ... bull —
Mithraism was an Ancient Roman adaptation of a Persian/Phrygian religion with worship characterized by images of the god Mithras as a bull slayer.
- Sol Invictus —
Sol Invictus was the official sun god of the late Roman Empire. It has been surmised that the near-soltice date of December 25th was selected for the birth of Christ in part because it was the date of the Roman festival of Dies Natlis Solis Invicti (Birthday of the Unconquered Sun).
- tobacchi —
Small Italian shops that sell stamps, public transportation tickets, and other sundries and well as tobacco supplies.
- necropolitan —
An inhabitant of a city of the dead.
- Luke 19:40 —
Bible verse, "I tell you," he replied, "if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out."
- Magna Graecia —
Latin, translates as "Great Greece." The name given by the Romans to the coastal areas of Southern Italy that were populated by Greek settlers beginning at the time of the Trojan War and continuing for several centuries.
- Diodorus Siculus —
A first centruy BC Greek historian born in Sicily who wrote the the Bibliotheca Historica, which in three volumes presents mythic history up to the destruction of Troy (Volume I), the Trojan War to the death of Alexander the Great (Volume II) and the remaining period until 60 BC (Volume III).
- Rediculus —
A protector-god of ancient Rome, known as the god of the return.
Chapter 6 - Fuori le Mure
- Dies Irae —
Latin, translates as "Day of Wrath" is a thirteenth century Latin hymn still used in the Roman Catholic funeral Mass.
- Teste David cum Sibylla —
Latin, translates as "David being witness along with the Sibyl."
- alites and oscines —
Augury is the ancient Roman religious practice of interpreting omens from the flight of birds. Bird auspices were divided into two groups: Alites who gave auspices via how they flew, and oscines who gave auspices via their singing.
- golden bough and three dog biscuits —
In Virgil's Aeneid the Cumaean Sibyl shows a golden bough to Charon in order to be allowed to board his boat and cross the river to Hades. To placate the beast, she throws a drugged cake to Cerberus the three-headed watchdog that guards the Underworld in Greek mythology.
- hale and strapping —
On the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel Michelangelo portrays the Cumaean Sibyl with the body of a man in a representation that overshadows the other sibyls.
- Tartarus —
In Greek mythology Tartarus is the abyss used as a dungeon of torment for the wicked.
- Elysium —
In Greek mythology Elysium is the location for the souls of the righteous and heroic; similar to paradise.
- fight both men and gods to keep it —
Between 474 and 588 AD Ischia was battled for between Syracusans, Cumaeans, Etruscans, Neapolitans, Romans, barbarians, Heruli and Ostrogoths. During that time period occupiers were also forced to flee the island due to volcanic eruptions, particularly in 470 BC.
- Rosalia Lombardo —
The name of the preserved body of an Italian child who died of pneumonia in 1920, encased in a glass covered coffin in a catacomb chapel in Palermo, Sicily.
- Arethusa's spring —
In Greek mythology Arethusa was a nymph who fled her home in Arcadia and came up as a fresh water spring on the island of Ortygia in Syracuse, Sicily providing a subterranean, and undersea, fresh-water connection between Sicily and the Peloponnese peninsula.
- Tyche —
Greek goddess of Chance, Roman name is Fortuna.
- giro —
Italian translated as tour, a common end-of-year class trip taken by school students.
- haruspex —
In the ancient Roman religion a haruspex was trained to divine the future from animal entrails.
- Sword of Damocles —
Damocles was a fourth-century BC courtier of Dionysius II of Syracuse and attempted to flatter the king by expressing how fortunate a man he was. The king offered to switch places with Damocles and hung a huge sword above the throne held by a single hair of a horse's tail to demonstrate that people with great power and wealth live in contant fear.
- southern Ehrenbreitstein —
Similar topographically to Orvieto, Ehrenbreitstein Fortress in Koblenz, Germany is set high above shear cliffs and accessed by an inclined lift. During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries it housed the relic of the Holy Tunic.
- plugh —
A magic word from the early computer game Adventure, used when inside a cave system.
- Canon a 2, per tonos —
Also known as the "endlessly rising canon."
- The Circe Game —
Circe was an enchantress in Greek mythology who transformd her enemies into animals. In Homer's Odyssey Circe turned many of Odysseus' crew into swine.
- Polaris, are you Sirius? —
Polaris is commonly known as the North Star and is the brightest star in Ursa Minor. Sirius is commonly known as the Dog Star and is the brightest star in the Earth's night sky. Named from the Greek word for glowing.
- Canopus ... Egypt —
Canopus is the brightest star in the constellation of Carina, and the second brightest star in the Earth's night sky. It is named for the character of Canopus in Greek mythology who was a navigator for Menelaus, the king of Sparta. While visiting the Egyptian coast, Canopus was bitten by a serpent and died and the town of Canopus was later developed by the mouth of the Nile River.
Chapter 7 - Adoption
- Lupercalia —
One of the most ancient Roman festivals. Observed on February 15 it served as a spring cleansing of evil spirits and was intended to release health and fertility.
- slap them with a soft rope —
According to Plutarch, as a part of the Lupercalia celebration pregnant women of high social rank presented their hands to be lightly struck with shaggy thongs to help with delivery, while barren women did the same in the hope of becoming pregnant.
- Lykaia ... Pan —
Lykaia was the ancient Greek February holiday that later became Lupercalia in Rome. It occurred on Mount Lykaion where there was also a sanctuary of Pan.
- Trajan/Hadrian —
Trajan never officially adopted Hadrian and some evidence shows his intent to adopt his servant Phaedimus. However Trajan's wife Plotina, signed the adoption document, most likely after Trajan's death.
- ombra v. umbra —
Ombra is Italian for shadow. Umbra is Latin for shadow and in English is the fully-shaded inner region of a shadow.
- Penumbra —
The region of a shadow where only a portion of the light source is obscured by the occluding body. (The umbra is within the penumbra.)
- Umbria —
A geographic region in central Italy, north of Rome.
- Kierkegaardian Leap —
Attributed to the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard the leap is not a "leap of faith" but a "leap to faith." In his Concluding Unscientific Postscript he writes of stopping "thinking's self-reflection" which he believed could lead to skepticism. For Kierkegaard the leap is the decision, a performative action in itself.
- Boccaccio ... eyes —
The medieval tradition of courtly love indicated that a glimpse of a woman's eyes was the source of a dart of love to the heart. In Il Filostrato Giovanni Boccaccio describes the combination of love at first sight, eye darts, and Cupid's arrow: "Nor did he... perceive that Love with his darts dwelt within the rays of those lovely eyes... nor notice the arrow that sped to his heart."
- story of Phaethon —
In Greek mythology Phaethon sought to end the taunting of his playmates and requested that his mother prove to him that his father was the sun god Helios. His father promised to grant him whatever he wanted, so he requested to drive the chariot that pulls the sun for one day. However he was unable to control the horses and began to scorch the Earth so Zeus was forced to strike the chariot with a thunderbolt and kill Phaethon. The French name for Phaeton is Phaéton which is a type of carriage.
- stumble ... amber sunset ... Po —
In Greek mythology Eridanos is one of the lesser rivers in Hades and is also mentioned as a river in northern Europe rich in amber. Because of the River Po's location near the end of the Amber Trail, from the North and Baltic Seas to the Mediterranean Sea, it is sometimes associated with Eridanos.
- Gaia concept —
A hypothesis proposing that organisms interact with their inorganic surroundings on Earth to form a self-regulating system to help maintain and perpetuate the conditions for life.
- cerements —
Waxed cloths used for wrapping corpses.
- Biblical puns —
Peter's Pens/Peter's Pence (until 1534 an annual tax of one penny from every English householder with land of a certain value, paid to the Papal See in Rome); Martyred in Syracuse, in Gothic art St. Lucy is represented holding a dish with two eyes on it.
- exile to Pantelleria —
Pantelleria is a small island off the coast of Tunisia that was used as a place of exile during the Roman Empire for the banishment of members of the Imperial family and other prominent people.
- my alibis are somewhere else —
Alibi is Latin for other.
- Sisyphus —
As punishment for portraying himself as more crafty than Zeus, King Sisyphus was condemned to spend eternity rolling a boulder up a hill, only to have him repeatedly lose control of it near the top and have to begin again.
- The Decameron —
Boccaccio titled his work to demonstrate his fondness for Greek philology by combining the Greek words for "ten" and "day."
- story of one weaver —
In both Greek and Roman mythology Arachne is an accomplished weaver who boasts that her skill is greater than Athena's (Minerva's) and was later turned into a spider to weave forever.
- recollection of the other weaver —
Philomela, [see Chapter 4, Philopmela or Procne, above].
- Penelope's deception —
In Homer's Odyssey, Penelope, the wife of Odysseus, delays her suitors for three years by claiming that she will choose one when she finishes weaving a burial shroud for Laertes, but clandestinely undoes a part of the shround each evening. The Greek root for the name Penelope comes from pene which translates as weft.
Chapter 8 - In Vivo
- fontanelle and nasoni —
Public drinking water fountains located throughout Rome.
- Sein und Zeit —
Being and Time, a 1927 book by the German philospher Martin Heidegger that analyzes the concept of abstract being rather than the Ancient Greek analysis of particular beings.
- Sub or supra rosa —
Latin, translates literally as "under the rose" but used in English to denote secrecy. The Latin word supra translates as above.
- Harpocrates —
The Ancient Greek god of silence. The symbol of Harpocrates is the rose, [see Sein und Zeit above].
- cris du chat —
A rare chromosomal genetic disorder often evidenced by distinctive facial features include wide eyes and a small jaw.
- Scaramuccia —
A clownlike character of the Italian commedia dell'arte who plays the role of a sly and conceited individual.
- his heart belonged to Patroclus —
In the Iliad, Homer never explicitly casts Achilles and Patroclus as lovers but describes a deep and meaningful relationship between them. In the works of Aeschylus, Plato and Aeschines the two are portrayed as lovers.
- Sassi —
The Sassi are houses dug into the rock along the slope of a ravine in southeastern Italy. The dwellings originated from a prehistoric troglodyte settlement and remain inhabited to the present day.
- Paolo and Francesca —
Paolo Malatesta and Francesca da Rimini were brother- and sister-in-law who fell in love. When their relationship was revealed they were murdered by Francesca's husband and Paolo's brother. Their adulterous story was told in Dante's Divine Comedy where the two were banished to the second circle of Hell.
Chapter 9 - Ozymandias
- fernet-branca —
A bitter herbal liquer invented in Milan, Italy in 1845 originally promoted for its health benefits.
- Padre Peppe —
A sixteenth century intensely flavored nut liquor attributed to a Capuchin monk. It is purported to have stomach-soothing qualities. The traditional recipe is said to have "magic" influences including: the nuts must be thirteen in number, they must be collected on St. John's day, June 24 (another variant is St. Anthony's day, June 13) and they must remain in the infusion until Christmas.
- Icarus —
In Greek mythology, Icarus was the son of Daedalus who attempted to escape from Crete using wings made of feathers and wax. His hubris lead him to ignore his father's instructions and fly too close to the sun where the wax in his wings melted and he fell into the sea.
- Procrustes —
In Greek mythology, Procrustes was a son of Poseidon who stretched or mutilated people so as to foce them to fit exactly into an iron bed that he built.
- Erysichthon —
In Greek mythology, Erysichton killed a dryad by cutting down an oak tree sacred to Demeter. Demeter's punishment caused him to have insatiable hunger.
- Laocoön —
In Greek and Roman mythology, Laocoön and his sons are killed by serpents sent by an angry Athena after he attempted to expose the ruse of the Trojan Horse.
- Virginia Woolf —
Virginia Woolf's epitaph: Against you I will fling myself, unvanquished and unyielding, O Death!
- somesthesia —
The perception of sensations using all of the faculties of the body. More commonly, "A gut feeling." Greek, literally "body sense."
- Zuzu —
George Bailey's youngest daughter in the film It's A Wonderful Life.
- palla —
An ancient Roman mantle worn by women in addition to a stola.
- pallium —
A Catholic religious vestment worn by the Pope and other high-ranking church offcials.
- pall —
The cloth that covers a casket at a funeral. Root of the more common term: pallbearer for one who helps carry a casket at a funeral.
- Palio —
A horse race in Sienna, Italy where the winner is awarded a painted silk banner called a palio.
- Pallas —
In Greek mythology, Pallas was a Giant who was killed by Athena during the battle between the Giants and the gods. She flayed him and uses his skin as a shield.
- uraeus —
A serpent headress (usually a rearing cobra) worn by Egyptian royalty and deities.
- ouroboros —
Egyptian symbol of a serpent swallowing its own tail.
- auto-da-fé —
A ritual public penance performed during the Inquisition. Burning at the stake was the most severe penance.
- medieval dumbshow —
Dramatic mime presentations that served to supplement the main action in a play in pre-Shakespearean theater.
- Ozymandias —
The title of sonnets, written by Percy Bysshe Shelley and Horace Smith, in response to a contest based on a passage from Diodorus Siculus [see Chapter 4, Diodorus Siculus, above] in which he described a massive Egyptian statue lost in a desert.
- pareidolia —
A psychological phenomenon where the mind perceives patterns where none exist.
- eidos —
The eidos is entral to Plato's theory of Forms. It represents the ideal state of any particular object.
- apophenia —
The perception of meaninful patterns within random data. Pareidolia [see pareidolia above] is a subset of apophenia involving images and sounds.
- Looking into the heart of light, the silence. —
In T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land Tiresias says:
"You gave me hyacinths first a year ago;
The last line translates as "Desolate and empty the sea," the response a shepherd gives to the dying Tristan when he is asked to look for the return of Isolde's ship so that she can heal him in Richard Wagner's opera Tristan und Isolde.
"They called me the hyacinth girl."
- Yet when we came back, late, from the Hyacinth garden,
Your arms full, and your hair wet, I could not
Speak, and my eyes failed, I was neither
Living nor dead, and I knew nothing,
Looking into the heart of light, the silence.
Oed' und leer das Meer.
- Ch' ancor di quinci non veggiam mutarla —
Italian, "That I do not want to change it." From Giovanni Boccaccio's, Il Filostrato [see Chapter 2, Filostrato, above]. In context may be loosely compared to "Absence makes the heart grow fonder."
- Il nuovo amor sempre caccia l'antico —
Italian, "New love always drives out the old." From Giovanni Boccaccio's, Il Filostrato [see Chapter 2, Filostrato, above].
Chapter 10 - Sole
- Pygmalion —
In Greek mythology, from Ovid's Metamorphoses, the story of a sculptor who falls in love with a statue that he carved.
- Daedalus and quicksilver Aphrodite —
In Greek mythology, Deadalus was an expert craftsman who used mercury to give statues the power of speech.
- Hephaestus and his automata —
In Greek mythology, the god Hephaestus (Roman god, Vulcan) built metal robots to do work for him.
- Talos on Crete —
In Greek mythology, a giant robot made of bronze charged with protecting Europa, the mother of the Cretan King Minos, from pirates and other invaders. Talos is said to have been made by Hephaestus [see Hephaestus and his automata above]. Talos was killed by the sorceress Medea who drugged him and tormented him with keres causing him to dislodge the bronze nail in his ankle that capped his one vein allowing his ichor [see Chapter 3, petrichor, above] to flow out of him.
- panenmorphism —
A combination of Panentheism (Wherein the Divine pervades every part of the universe extending beyond time.) and Polymorphism (The occurrence of different forms among a population.).
- panta rhei —
[see Chapter 4, Heraclitus, above]
- hodos ano kato —
[see Chapter 4, Heraclitus, above]
- gender roles of the nightingales —
Only unpaired males sing at night.
- haftara —
Selections from the Hebrew Bible that are publicly read in a synagogue.
- Niobe —
In Greek mythology, Niobe is a woman who boasted about her fourteen children to Leto who only had two children. As punishment for her hubris the gods killed all of her children and turned her into a stone that weeps without end.
- Achlys —
In Greek mythology, Achylys is the Mist of Death that appears before a dying person's eyes and precedes actual death.
- Keres —
In Greek mythology, the Keres are female death spirits who hover over battlefields searching for dying and wounded men.
Chapter 11 - Undefined
- the Cogito —
I think, therefore I am. Cogito ergo sum.
- fallacia non causae ut causae —
A fallacy identified by German philospher Arthur Schopenhauer that describes an instance when a correct conclusion is made from an invalid argument.
- anacoluthon —
From the Greek for "not following" an anacoluthon is a rhetorical technique of combining two discontinuous ideas within one sentence so that the logicial incoherence of thought causes a different associative thought. Similar to the Latin non sequitor which also translates as "not following."
Chapter 12 - Guglielmo
- practicum —
A graduate level course designed to give students a practical application of studied theory.
- prelapsarian —
From Latin for "before the fall," it refers to the period of innocence that existed in the Garden of Eden prior to Adam and Eve's explusion.
- Ipse dixit —
The fallacy of asserting an opinion without proof. It is often used as an appeal to the authority of the speaker.
Chapter 13 - Alone
- tabula rasa —
Translated from Latin as "blank slate," the reference is to the philosophical concept of the Ancient Greek Stoic school which emphasized that the mind begins wtihout knowledge and acquires it from the outside world.
- dies ater —
July 18, the "black day" that marks the defeat of the Romans by the Gauls at the Battle of the Allia in 390 BC which was followed by the sacking of Rome.
- rabies —
Latin, for "rage" or "madness."
Chapter 14 - Rinascimento
- passeggiata —
A leisurely evening stroll taken in an Italian town's central plaza.
- An Ontology of Eudaimonia —
Ontology is the branch of metaphysics that focuses on the nature of being and eudaimonia is a Greek word that translates as happiness.
- Lo Strabismo di Venere —
Italian, specifically representing the slight strabismus displayed in Sandro Botticelli's The Birth of Venus. The phrase is now used to represent any minor imperfection, particularly a squint, that renders the subject more beautiful than perfection itself.
- Chrysippus' cure —
Chrysippus of Soli was a Greek Stoic philosopher who ingested the natural purgative hellebore to cure himself of "madness" as embodied in passion.
- Sit tibi terra levis —
Latin, translates as "May the earth rest lightly on you," a common inscription used on funerary items by ancient Romans.
- 'Stranger, go tell the Spartans... —
Simonides' epitaph for the three hundred Greek soldiers who died fighting Persian invaders at Thermopylae: "Go tell the Spartans, stranger passing by, that here, obedient to the laws, we lie."
- aporia —
In Greek philosophy, an aporia is an unsolvable puzzle arising from equally plausible but inconsistent premises. Aporia is used in rhetoric by feigning doubt about a position with the aim of discrediting an opponent. Ancient Greek, translates as impasse.
- Lazarus —
In the Gospel of John, four days after Lazarus of Bethany's death he is resurrected by Jesus.
Chapter 15 - Conjugation
- Cartesian Moses on the Mount —
I am, who am contrasted with René Descartes' Je pense, donc je suis.
- Tetragrammaton —
The four Hebrew letters for the name of God, commonly transliterated into the Latin letters YHWH or JHVH.
- I am. Amo. —
I am contrasted with Latin amo translated as I love.
- 'sum' it up. —
Latin Present Indicatve first-person singular, ego sum translated as I am.
- The dies been cast ... your Romans —
Latin, as iacta alea est, said by Julius Caesar upon the crossing of the Rubicon river. According to Plutarch, Caesar declared it in a loud voice in Greek.
- Clarence tells George —
Two characters from the film It's a Wonderful Life.
- dysphoria —
A state of unease or profound dissatisfaction with life.
- ubi sunt —
Latin, translates as "where are." It is used priimarily in poetry as a motif to begin a meditation on mortality and the transience of life by asking "where are" those who came before.
- Carpe heri. —
Latin, translates as "Seize yesterday."
- calling the old me a cow —
In Greek mythology, Europa is often depicted with a bull, the animal that Zeus became to seduce her.
- open minded translation —
In Greek, Europa translates literally as "wide face."
Chapter 16 - Famiglie
- Primum non nocere. —
Latin, translates as "First, do no harm."
- Honi soit qui mal y pense. —
Old French, translates as "Shame be to him who thinks evil of it." It is the motto of the British chivalric Order of the Garter.
- Stormé DeLarverie —
A Drag King who is known as the "Rosa Parks of the gay community" for her actions during the Stonewall riots in New York City.
- depositio barbae —
The ancient Roman ritual surrounding the first time a boy shaves his beard.
- ex nihilo nihil fit —
A philosophical formulation which means, "Out of nothing, comes nothing."
- old Billy Preston songs —
A 1974 chart-topping song named "Nothing from Nothing."
- Parmenides —
Parmenides was a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher who argued that motion and change are impossible and inadmissible conceptions.
- Chronos —
In pre-Socratic philosophy Chronos was depicted as an old man who governed linear time.
- Free us ex machina —
A pun on Deus ex machina, Latin, translated as "god from the machine," a plot device in Ancient Greek tragedy.
- endocytosis —
The method by which a cell engulfs molecules.
- Nisus and Euryalus, Hylas and Hercules, Ganymede and Jupiter, Hyacinth and Apollo —
Each examples of homosexual couples in Greek mythology.
- Ars Amatoria —
Ars Amatoria is an instructional series by the ancient Roman poet Ovid that teaches men and women relationship skills and provides advice on love.
- Elagabalus —
A Roman emperor who married five women and one man. Cassius Dio reported that Elagabalus sometimes painted his eyes, depilated his body hair and wore wigs before prostituting himself in taverns, brothels, and the imperial palace.
- adelphopoiesis —
Literally "brother-making" is a ceremony practiced historically in Christian tradition to unite together two people of the same sex (normally men) in a church-recognized relationship analogous to siblinghood.
- claustri —
Genitive singular of the Latin claustrum translated as stronghold. Claustri exist uniquely in the modern Italian city of Altamura, each with only one entrance serving as public squares and traps for enemies who could become easily imprisoned in them.
- Hæcceity —
A philosophical term for the aspect of something that makes it a particular thing.
- chiasmus —
A rhetorical devise from the Greek word for crossing used in ancient Greek and Latin to balance related clauses. Modern example: "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country."
Chapter 17 - Binary
- charivari and headache —
A European custom from the Middle Ages where a community censures a socially unacceptable marriage through the use of discordant noise. An echo of the tradition remains today in the honking of car horns when a wedding party passes. Origin is from the Latin word caribaria translated as headache derived from the Greek karēbaria translated as a heavy head.
- Faustischen Müttern —
Hermann Hesse's proposal that the downfall of European culture would lead to a return to Asian values and an ultimate rennaisance catalyzed by a different culture, possibly influenced by Buddhism. The German "Faustian mother" term is likely born from the concept of Faust's abandonment of the comfort of contemporary values so as to allow his pursuit of knowledge.
- memento mori —
Latin, translates as "Remember you must die." In art and practice a memento mori is any symbol that causes its viewer to reflect on their own mortality. Classical examples include skulls, hour glasses and scythes.
- danse macabre —
French for "dance of death" is a medieval artistic genre employed to remind the viewer of the universality of death.
- in sæcula sæculorum —
Latin expression to signify eternity, literally "in an age of ages" or "forever and ever."
- metempsychosis —
Greek philosophical term for reincarnation or the transmigration of the soul.
- Utnapishtim —
A character from the Epic of Gilgamesh who is told by the Sumerian god Enki to leave all of his possessions and to create an enormous ship named The Preserver of Life. He is instructed to load it with his family, village craftsman, baby animals and various grains to avoid a flood that will destroy all animals and humans not on the ship. After nineteen days he sends out three birds in search of land: a dove, a swallow and a raven. The raven did not return because it found a place to land.
- aphasia —
An inability to understand and formulate language. Latin and Greek for speechlessness.
- Myth of Er —
A tale from Plato that tells the story of the death and reincarnation of the Greek soldier Er. Twelve days after his death in battle he revives on his funeral pyre and tells of his travels with other souls to a judgment where they were either sent via a rainbow to new life, or climbed down a hole to an underground torment.
- Mnemosyne's lake —
While the common souls in Hades drank from the Lethe to erase all memory, the pool of Mnemosyne is where the initiates of the Mysteries drank instead, and gained omniscience.
A blind prophet in Greek mythology who was transformed into a woman for seven years. In one telling he was blinded by Athena after seeing her bathing. In response to his mother's pleas she then gave him the ability to understand birdsong, and therefore the gift of augury. In another telling he was asked to settle a dispute between Hera and Zeus regarding whether men or women have more pleasure in sex. An angry Hera blinded him for his reply, so Zeus gave him the gift of foresight. Tiresias was previously turned into a woman by Hera who was angry after he struck a pair of copulating snakes with a stick. As a woman he married, had children and became a renowned prostitute. The symbol of the caduceus may, in part, be inspired by Tiresias' story.
- Cartaphilus —
In Medieval legend the name of a Jewish shoemaker who was fated to be immortal and never rest. In modern reference: The Wandering Jew.
- ethos anthropoi daimon —
Heraclitus's statement in Greek that "character is destiny" implying that one creates one's own reality.
- tortured begging of the Sibyl —
In the epigraph of The Waste Land T.S. Eliot offers a translation of Gaius Petronius' Satyricon in which the Cumaean Sibyl pleads, "άηο ϴανεΐν ϴέλω" translated as "I want to die."