Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Apology of Socrates Part II

Socrates now proceeds to cross examine his formal accuser, Meletus. He uses his classic method of examination, the elenchus, which is concerned with two points: the first with regard to Meletus’ lack of concern for the upbringing of young men, and the second with regard to his accusation that Socrates doesn’t believe in any gods.

Concerning the first point, Socrates makes two arguments against Meletus. The first is from analogy. He first makes Meletus admit that everyone in the city has a refining effect upon young men and it is only Socrates that has a perverse impact. This, however, seems counterintuitive to Socrates. The analogy of raising horses is used; it is not the case that the whole of mankind has an improving effect upon horses and only one person has a negative effect on them, for only a select few individuals are able to raise horses properly and the rest of the population presumably has a somewhat negative effect on them, not knowing how to raise them properly. Thus, from analogy, it would be strange if only one person had a negative effect on young men (i.e. Socrates) and the rest of the population had a good effect on them. According to Socrates, this proves that Meletus has little knowledge of the upbringing of the young, which is one of the issues Meletus raised against Socrates. In essence, Socrates is arguing that Meletus had no idea what he was talking about when he charged Socrates with corrupting the youth.

The second argument isn’t laid out terribly well in the dialogue; one has to do a bit of work to bring it out. Socrates first establishes, through his elenchus method, a rather obvious point: that wicked people harm those with whom they are in close contact. Then, Socrates has Meletus state that he (Meletus) is charging Socrates with corrupting the youth intentionally. It is this point that the argument hinges on. It makes no sense, from Socrates’ point of view, to intentionally corrupt those around him for, by premise one, these people would then have a negative effect on him. Socrates states that, “am I so hopelessly ignorant as not even to realize that by spoiling the character of one of my companions I shall run the risk of getting some harm from him?” In other words, since Socrates isn’t stupid, he wouldn’t intentionally harm people because he could possibly incur some negative effects from them. Thus, if he did corrupt some youths, he must have done so unintentionally, in which case the proper course of action is not to bring him to court, but to “take him aside privately for instruction and reproof....”

Socrates now moves to the second point: the charge that he doesn’t believe in any gods. This argument, in my view, is rather dubious; I think the terms shift from the formal indictment that Socrates reads to the actual charge he argues against.

Meletus is made to say that Socrates “[disbelieves] in the gods altogether”. This can mean two things: (1) That Socrates doesn’t believe in any gods at all (i.e. he’s a complete atheist); and (2) That Socrates doesn’t believe in the gods sanctioned by the state (i.e. he believes in gods other than the ones in the Greek pantheon). If we go back to the “formal indictment” that Socrates read (see 24c), it states that he is charged with ‘believing in supernatural things of his own invention instead of the gods recognized by the state”. Thus, by Socrates’ own admission, he is charged with the second of the two meanings. However, Meletus then admits that Socrates is being charged with atheism, not just with believing in gods other than those sanctioned by the state (see 26b-26d). The charge, it seems, has switched from the second meaning to the first!

Thus, Socrates’ argument supposes that he is being charged under the first meaning, namely that he is a complete atheist, even though he read out that he was charged under the second meaning. Socrates once again argues from analogy. He begins by stating the fact that it is not the case that one can believe in musicians but not musical matters, or horses, but not believe in equine matters. By analogy, it doesn’t make sense to say that one can believe in supernatural matters but not in supernatural beings. Since Meletus then agrees that supernatural beings are either the gods or children of the gods, Socrates then must believe in the gods.

I think there is certainly something a bit shifty going on here: which meaning of the charge is Socrates being indicted under? One possibility is that there is actually something shifty going on that Plato hopes we don’t notice. A second is that the two meanings, in some sense, collapse into each other. It could be the case that atheism, for the Greeks, entails believing in gods other than those sanctioned by the state. I’m not sure how to call this; a rather pantheon-o-centric view, perhaps. This, however, could not be it, for two reasons. First, Socrates blatantly separates the two meanings in 26c, and Meletus chooses complete atheism as the one Socrates is charged under. Moreover, from a historical standpoint, the Greeks recognized other civilizations as being “religious” even though they didn’t believe in the gods of the Greek pantheon. A third possibility is that Socrates initially read out the charge wrong, and then, through questioning of Meletus, received further clarification as to the real nature of the charge. This is perhaps the most sympathetic reading. In my view, it is either the third or the first possibilities that make the most sense. I’m not entirely sure which is right.

I’ll skip over 28a to 30b rather arbitrarily. Basically Socrates is saying that he’s not afraid to die and that he is fully conscious of his ignorance, as opposed to others than claim to know things but it turns out, on the basis of Socrates’ questioning, that they really do not. Also, he puts his obligation to Apollo ahead of his supposed obligation to the city to stop philosophizing. I suppose he’s trying to buttress his claim that he’s not an atheist.

Starting in 30c, Socrates gives a rather egotistical argument: he should not be found guilty because he is a benefaction to the city; he states “if you put me to death, you will not easily find anyone to take my place”. He goes on to claim that it was God who “assigned” him to the city of Athens, which, like a horse “needs the stimulation of some stinging fly.” Socrates was sent by God to perform the function of the fly. Socrates, I think, is assuming a great deal here. First, I doubt horses like the “stimulation” of flies; getting a chunk of flesh taken out of you by a horse fly, while it certainly would be stimulating, would not be the most pleasant or the most beneficial experience to have. The only thing it would teach you is that flies should be avoided or done away with. Socrates could perhaps have found a better analogy.

“I am subject to a divine or supernatural experience....It began in my early childhood--a sort of voice which comes to me; and when it comes it always dissuades me from what I am proposing to do, and never urges me on. It is this that debars me from entering public life...” Was Socrates a schizophrenic? At any rate, this is his argument for never engaging in public affairs to any great degree. I wouldn’t want someone with a voice in their head telling them things having a hand in ruling the city either. His next point would have also made him unpopular with the judges; he states, “the true champion of justice...must necessarily confine himself to private life and leave politics alone”. In a rather democratic court, in which the judges are probably politicians, this would be an unpopular position. He goes on to make a better point with regard to the only office he ever held, the Council, in which he voted against a measure that was later found to be illegal. At the time of voting, it was presumably a popular one, as Socrates relates that there was much opposition to his vote. However, in the interest of justice, he voted against the illegal measure. Here he’s trying to show that he’s a good citizen and, consequently, would not and could not corrupt the youth: he’s a just man.

Skipping over 33a to 34b, and moving on to 34c, Socrates starts condemning the procedures of the Athenian courts. Remember at the beginning how Socrates stated that he wasn’t a good speaker? This is why. It’s generally not a good plan to rile against the court practices in which you are defending your right to live. He states that he shall forgo the usual practice of making a sob story to the judges, and does so on three grounds: it would be dishonorable, it would be inviting justice, and it would be impious. His basic position is that “it is [not] just for a man to appeal to the jury or to get himself acquitted by doing so; he ought to inform them of the facts and convince them by argument.” This, I think, is a fair point: the judges ought to stick to the facts when rendering a decision. Though, one could not say the same for Socrates: he has a habit of rambling and speaking of things that don’t directly relate to the matters at hand.

I'll deal with the "guilty" verdict in a third post.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Apology of Socrates, Part I

The Apology of Socrates (apologia Sokratous), from a “historical” standpoint, centers around the accusations brought against Socrates; it is his defense speech at his trial on charges of corrupting the youth. In this post I shall attempt to sketch out some of the relevant points of interpretation.

First, a brief note on the title. Socrates is not profusely apologizing the dialogue; the Greek word “apologia” has a slightly different sense. It means ‘defense’ or ‘a speech in defense of...’ This point should be obvious if one has read the dialogue.

Interestingly, this is the only Platonic dialogue that contains the name “Socrates” in its title. This, among other things, points to the central issue that the dialogue entertains: Who is Socrates? (John Sallis makes something of this point) Socrates has been called an atheist and a corrupter of the youth of Athens; it is his job to show that he is not. The dialogue centers on the being of Socrates—who he is, or, perhaps, who he should be. This issue is hinted at right at the beginning of the dialogue, when Socrates says “[he] nearly forgot who [he] was, they [his accusers] spoke so persuasively”. His identity has been questioned; he himself perhaps questioned his identity. Implicitly, he is drawing attention to himself and who he is. However, he points out “there was not a word of truth in what they said”. Socrates didn’t forget himself at all: he knows who he is and his accusers have attempted to cover it over in their speeches against him.

The word “truth” here is essential. The Greek word is aletheia, which, if one breaks down into its semantic and grammatical components, is a-letheia: unconcealment. Differing greatly from the commonplace concept of truth, which is correspondence; this is a more primordial concept which even underlies the everyday conception of it: something must be uncovered in order to be corresponded to something else. Heidegger makes a great deal out of this etymological deconstruction (see The Essence of Truth (the lecture course, not the essay) for a great discussion of this notion in relation to the Allegory of the Cave in the Republic, also see his lecture course Parmenides). There is no truth in the accuser’s speeches, that is, they covered up the identity of Socrates which Socrates now has to bring to light; he has to unconceal himself for all to see. This is, ultimately, the project of the Apology: Socrates unconvering himself for the jury in order to give a response to the question “Who is Socrates?”, a question that the prosecution has answered “falsely”. He goes on to say that, “you [the judges] shall hear from me the whole truth.” That is, he will attempt uncover himself completely from the untruth that has been hoisted upon him by his accusers.

I can’t say I know the ultimate significance of Socrates addressing the judges as “men of Athens” (o andres athenaioi) instead of the more standard “judges” (o andres dikastai). Perhaps because these men don’t know the entire picture he doesn’t think of them as proper “judges”—they don’t know the truth and cannot make a decent claim regarding his guilt or innocence. A classic Platonic point is that one is not a proper judge of things (or a proper philosopher for that matter) unless one knows the truth (Re. whatever is in question has been unconcealed). At this point in the dialogue nothing has been truly unconcealed for the judges and, consequently, they cannot claim the privileged position of judgment. I cannot say for sure.

Socrates, also at the beginning of his speech, states that “he doesn’t have great skill as a speaker--unless by a skillful speaker they mean one who speaks the truth...” There are two things going on here. First, it’s obviously a jab at his prosecutors, who he claimed right from the start to have spoken falsely about him; he goes on to say that he would agree with this point and would be an orator, and that he would be well out of their league when it came to speaking the truth. Second, it foreshadows some of the errors Socrates makes in his defense speech from the standpoint of classical rhetoric and, in some instances, common sense.

The first thing Socrates does after his introduction is introduce more charges against himself and proceed to defend himself against them. Why anyone in court would give the judges more crimes to brood over is rather strange, at least from a pragmatic point of view. However, Socrates was never much of a pragmatic man: he was always in search of the truth, and he has stated to the judges he will provide the whole truth. Providing the whole truth presumably entails doing away with the entire veil of lies that has settled over Socrates in his long life as a philosopher. This is why he treats charges that were never formally brought to bear upon him by the prosecution. “It is impossible for me [Socrates] to even know and tell you [the judges] their names...” , for there are too many of them; they are the invisible rumor-mongers. Socrates calls them his “dangerous accusers”, due to the fact they believe that anyone who inquires into the nature of things, that is, seeks a physical explanation for things, cannot believe in the gods. I think Socrates would call them dangerous due to their supposed ignorance: they don’t see (as Socrates does) that inquiry into “the heavens” or “things below the earth” does not necessarily entail atheism. For Socrates (Plato), ignorance is evil; knowledge, provided by truth (re. unconcealment) is everything. Inquiry, which provides such unconcealment, is thus in the service of truth and knowledge and, consequently, should not be stopped. The upshot of all this is that his critics fall into two camps: his immediate accusers, and “the earlier ones”, who propagated the rumors that probably played a large role in him being summoned to trial.

Socrates then begins to formally treat the charges brought upon him by the rumor-mongers. He states them as follows: (1) he inquires into things below the earth and in the sky; (2) he makes the weaker argument defeat the stronger (i.e. he’s just a sophist); (3) he teaches others to follow his example (that is, he convinces people that (1) and (2) are good things to do). His ultimate aim, as I have said above, is to provide an answer to the question “Who is Socrates”, and to end up with a totally unconcealed picture of himself for the judges. In order to do this, he must do away with all of the lies that concealed his true nature.

Socrates first denies that he is a professional teacher. By professional teachers he means sophists who would take young Greek men under their tutelage and charge a fee for teaching them rhetorical tricks and flourishes. Presumably Socrates is trying to do some work against charge (2); he doesn’t want to be lumped into the sophist camp right off the bat. Since sophists have a habit of charging for their teaching activities, and since Socrates works to establish that he doesn’t charge anything, it’s harder to put him in with the sophists.

He then states rhetorically, “Surely all this talk and gossip about you would never have arisen if you had confined yourself to ordinary activities, but only if your behaviour was abnormal...”. That is, one could object that the rumors about him would not arise for no reason at all: there must have been something that provoked them. He again reassures the judges that he will provide the “whole truth”; a common theme in the dialogue. A reason for his incessant questioning is now provided. Apparently his friend, Carephon, went to the oracle at Delphi and asked whether there was anyone wiser than Socrates. The answer of the oracle was no, there was not. Socrates then proceeded to test this claim by questioning people who apparently were thought to be wise and who were thought to know what they were talking about when they spoke of certain things. If you have read any other Socratic dialogues, where Socrates usually elenchuses the hell out of his interlocutors and gets them to admit they have no idea what they are saying, you can probably guess what Socrates will say next. He says that these so called “wise men” he talked to really had no idea what they were saying. His ultimate aim in doing this was to see if there was any hidden meaning in the god’s message; he says he “felt compelled to but the god’s business first” and that he “pursued [his] investigation at the god’s command...” Here he’s trying to do two things. First, he’s attempting to refute the claim that he’s an atheist by appealing to his “duty” to the gods and to his need to follow his command. Secondly, he’s providing an explanation for his “abnormal behaviour”; he went around questioning everybody because of the command of the god to pursue the meaning behind the oracular pronouncement.

The charge of corrupting the youth and inciting them to follow his ways comes last. In essence, he claims that those who charge him in this manner once again don’t really know what they’re talking about; if asked what Socrates teaches that has this negative effect, they say they don’t know and “fall back on the stock charges against any seeker after wisdom”. This, to me, seems a rather weak argument that sets up a rather nice red herring. The issue isn’t whether the accusers know what Socrates has taught, the issue is whether what he taught corrupted the youth--whether people know exactly what he teaches is a moot point which isn’t needed to establish corruption of the youth.

I’ll present the further defense of Socrates against the charges brought by his prosecution and the conclusion in another post.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Some Thoughts on Euripides

Euripides, I believe, is the most underrated and underappreciated tragedian out of the three great ancient playwrights. This partly stems from the biographical information that has been handed down through the tradition and partly from his record in the City Dionysia, the festival in which tragedies were performed. Justina Gregory places the biographical details into three categories: (1) the comedies of Aristophanes. Aristophanes tells us that Euripides’ mother was a herb seller and repeats the joke no less than five times in his plays (Acharnians, Knights, twice in Women at the Thesmophoria, and in the Frogs). (2) those from the tragedies of Euripides himself. Euripides’ wives have been reported to be unfaithful; this probably stems from his heroine Phaedra. The details were again brought to the fore through Aristophanes (cf. Frogs 1043-44). (3) anecdotes regarding the “lore” of the three tragedians. Euripides is said to have been born on the day of the Battle of Salamis, Sophocles danced in a boy’s chorus to celebrate the victory, and Aeschylus apparently fought in the battle itself. From this, the tradition has it that the “torch of tragedy” passed from Aeschylus to Sophocles, to Euripides.

Another note that has tarnished the reputation of Euripides is his record at the Dionysia. He only won first prize at the festival four times, though he competed twenty two or twenty three times. Compare this with Sophocles, who won eighteen times in roughly thirty attempts. This would seem to support the notion that Euripides was somehow at odds with his viewing public. However, I find this last point rather dubious. Attaining third prize did not always entail a lack of appreciation and retention by the public. The fact that Aristophanes could parody Euripides’ Telephys thirteen years after its production seems to require that the audience have some knowledge of the play in order to get the jokes. It makes no sense to parody a play that wasn’t popular in some regard and that the audience had no recollection of. P.T. Stevens has also made the case that the measure of the success of a play or playwright was not winning first prize at the festival, but being allowed to compete at the festival in the first place by the archon—the “financer” and backer of the festival. Moreover, when orators such as Demosthenes or Aeschines wanted a dramatic excerpt to illustrate a point, they most often drew on Sophoclean or Euripidean tragedy. I think these three points serve to delegitimize the claim that Euripides was not a successful playwright.

Nietzsche, to some extent, also played a role in propagating the downplaying of Euripides in favor of Aeschylus or Sophocles. This is evidenced not only in The Birth of Tragedy, but also in his lecture courses he delivered as a Classics Professor. He only taught one course on Euripides, which focused exclusively on the Bacchae. This, however, was an anomaly: Euripides was never made the subject of seminars or more extensive lecture courses; he chose instead to focus on the other two tragedians when the subject of tragedy was treated. His ultimate position was presented in the Birth of Tragedy, the first of his books. The argument, in my view, seems to hinge on the inclusion or exclusion of the chorus in tragedy. Tragedy, in its “proto” form, was a dithyramb that celebrated Dionysus and was characterized by singing and dancing. Slowly, actors were introduced, and the original function of the dithyrambic dancers was supplanted by the chorus. Nietzsche, while recognizing that “the tragic” was made up of both Apollonian and Dionysian elements, clearly favors the Dionysian: his rantings against Socrates and Euripides attest to this. In Euripides, the chorus doesn’t play as large a role in the play as it does in the other tragedians, especially Aeschylus. Thus, the Dionysian element that is so essential to the construction of tragedy is being done away with: there is no longer the “communal” experience that the total work of art (re. proper tragedy which involves singing, dancing, music, and acting) brings.

On the surface this seems to be a more or less convincing position. I would agree with Nietzsche’s distinction between the Apollonian and the Dionysian, though I would disagree with how these distinctions are cashed out by Nietzsche. There is, in my view, more to the Dionysian element than just the chorus. The action in the play can also have such an element. Take Euripides’ Bacchae, for example. This is one of the most savage and grotesque of the Greek tragedies; people are ripped to pieces by stark raving mad women, and the head of the unfortunate Theban king is brought on stage for all to see. The subject material, in fact, involved Dionysus himself: it is he who pushing the women of Thebes into the Bacchic frenzy that they are enraptured in throughout most of the play. While the chorus is not a large player in the play (which, is bad according to Nietzsche: no longer is there music, et al, which is central to the Dionysian element), the events in the play are wild, savage, and certainly un-Apollonian. The Apollonian element is the acting; events are being represented by the actors. The Dionysian, along with the chorus, is the events the actors portray: this leads to the tragic. The Dionysian element, I would agree, is somewhat lost by the minimizing of the chorus, though, since this is not all there is to it, the minimizing does not spell the complete death of tragedy or the tragic: it’s merely sick. Euripides didn’t kill tragedy, “metaphysically” or historically: tragic plays continued to be produced after his death, albeit in a decidedly Euripidean guise.

I hope I have given some credence to an underrated and under appreciated figure who only in the last 75 years or so has started to be celebrated once more.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Grunewald's Crucifixion

The German painter Matthias Grunewald's take on the crucifixion scene is interesting, given the time period in which he was painting (early 1500's or so). Here is the painting (which is, in fact part of a much larger work):

Now what, you may ask, is so different about this work when compared with others. First off, Grunwald does not idealize Christ: he's skinny, though muscular, he doesn't have that heavenly glow that pervades so many religious depictions, in short, he looks like someone who was arrested and abused by the Romans, dragged a cross for a couple of miles, then was nailed to it. It is one of the most human depictions of Christ I have ever seen. Here's a closeup of his face:

The color here is actually more accurate than the fuller sized reproduction above. His lips are blue (presumably from lack of oxygen), his face has a greenish tinge to it, and the blood is visible on his face. This, I believe, is a more powerful representation of Christ than some "idealized" counterparts. It explicitly draws attention to the suffering of Christ and reminds the viewer of what he went through for our sake. Idealizing the figure of Christ, which is a more 'orthodox' route to take, no doubt emphasizes the divine aspect of him. However, while this is important, it downplays what truly makes him a great figure that all people--religious or otherwise--can draw inspiration from, namely taking pain like a man (and preaching a moral code that can be appreciated by everyone who is sane). Here's a close up of Christ's body:

Note how it's not idealized in the least. One can see thorns in his chest and sides, blood from the deep gash in his right side, and dirt. In its horror, though, lies its power.

I, for one, am not religious. However, I can appreciate the power of this work and of the figure it represents precisely because of its more "human" elements. While he was divine, Christ was also a human being; he probably ate, slept, worked, sweated, and took shats like the rest of us. (I'm speaking not of the "historical" Jesus, who, since I'm not religious I don't believe could be divine, but of Jesus as presented in the Gospels) And, because of this, his suffering is made that much more powerful: if Christ were purely divine his suffering and subsequent crucifixion would have less of an impact because he would be wholly Other. On the other hand, if he were like us (maybe he got the runs once in a while from eating too many figs), at least in some respects, we can relate to him, to his cause, and to his pain.

Some may accuse me of trivializing this eminent and divine figure, particularly by saying he perhaps got the runs on occasion. I would disagree, for the reasons stated above; it is precisely this human element which makes Christ all that more powerful. He should not be revered because he's the son of God. He should be revered because he suffered like us and died like us in the name of goodness for mankind. Grunwald's work brings this element to the fore, which is why it is probably my favorite crucifixion scene ever painted.

For a comparison, here's a work by Signorelli, which was painted c. 1500:

The differences are clear. In this fresco, Christ is somewhat more divine and idealized: there are no thorns sticking out of his sides and no dirt on his body. His only article of clothing looks slightly more "regal" than in Grunewald's work and the general atmosphere of the Italian representation of the crucifixion is less brooding and dark on account of the brighter and more colorful pallate. In Signorelli's work, Christ is looking pretty good for having gone through all that he has. And, there is nothing inherently wrong with this. In my view, however, it lacks the power and force of Grunewald's: it portrays Christ the Divine and not Christ the sufferer.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Zizek and the Ecological Crisis

In the midst of slightly misrepresenting Heidegger, Zizek brings up an interesting point, which he then critiques. I shall offer a critique as well. This is from his book The Ticklish Subject; I'll quote the passage here in full:

"...the moment we reduce it [the ecological crisis] to disturbances provoked by our excessive technological exploitation of nature, we silently already surmise that the solution is to rely again on technological innovations: new 'green' technology, more efficient and global in its control of natural processes and human resources.... Every concrete ecological concern and project to change technology in order to improve the state of our natural surroundings is thus devalued as relying on the very source of the trouble" (The Ticklish Subject, pp.11-12)

Alberta, the province in which I live, is rife with oil and, consequently, carbon spewing, forest destroying oilsands development; the problem Zizek addresses here is quite pertinent to my place of residence. I think there is both an element of truth and falsity in this claim. Zizek is right that most of us think the solution to a greener world is through cleaner technology; this is the main line that governments, etc are pushing to combat 'climate change' (Incidentally, I like how the rhetoric has changed from 'global warming' to 'climate change'). Greenpeace et al, presumably push a harder line; in Alberta, for example, they are pushing to cease oilsands development altogether.

I would take issue with the notion that the project of moving towards greener technology is (or rather, should be) devalued merely because it makes use of the (prior) instruments of destruction. I think the Greenpeacers would perhaps engage in this sort of argument. Technology is neither good or bad, only our relation to it and use of it is good or bad. Zizek moves down a Heideggerian path (though, perhaps ultimately to critique it given this is part of the project of the book) in the critique of the devaluation of technology. What should be at issue, which the devaluers pass over, is not technology itself, but man's relation to it: this is the decisive space where technology becomes 'good' or 'bad'. The ontological relation underlies the ontic manifestation of technological endeavors; they are shaped based upon the ontological 'mould' they are cast in. Thus, it should be the underlying stratum that is critiqued: it is this that is decisive.

Moreover, the pragmatic implications are hard to overlook. It seems the alternative to a shift towards greener technology is being a Luddite. In this case the best way to overcome the problem is from within, the same way Heidegger or Nietzsche purported to overcome metaphysics. This is also perhaps a quasi Derridian move; there is no outside system, thus, we are always forced to work within it for there can be no other way. In order to escape it we must work within it, and, in doing so, we never escape it. Technology shall never be transcended by us; the ecological crisis shall never be overcome without technology.

I'll perhaps expand on my ramblings later.

The Last Days of Ugarit

The last days of Ugarit are difficult to reconstruct in full. Michael Astour has written a brilliant article on the subject, and most of the information presented here is drawn from his paper. (Astour, M. New Evidence on the Last Days of Ugarit. American Journal of Archaeology, Vol. 69 No. 3. 1965. pp. 253-258) Ugarit was destroyed by the Peoples of the Sea, as the Egyptian called them. They wreaked havoc all over the Mediterranean in roughly 1200 BCE; the Hittites, Mycenean Greeks, Ugaritians, and many more states were destroyed by the forces of the Sea Peoples. The Egyptians managed to weather the storm. There was no social, political, or economic decay that preceded the fall of Ugarit, so the invasion must have been swift and brutal. Ammurapi’s letter to the king of Alashia perhaps records the first stages of the invasion:

My father, behold, the enemy ships came (here); my cities (?) were burned, and they did evil things to my country. Does not my father know that all my troops and chariots (?) are in the Hittite country, and all my ships are in the land of Lycia?...Thus the country is abandoned to itself. May my father know it: the seven ships of the enemy that came here inflicted much damage upon us

On the basis of this letter, Astour supposes that the enemy forces are still in the Aegean, but, the intentions of the enemy seem to be well known: the fleet of Ammurapi has sailed west to Lycia to block their passage into the Mediterranean. The Syrian rulers also seem to have started to hastily hammer out mutual assistance treaties such as this:

…when they servant delivered (?) (thy) word to me. Whatever is thy desire Which thou lackest—I will Provide for my brother, And I too, whatever I l[a]ck—my brother Will load it there. And let my brother not Squander it.

Another letter written by Ammurapi attests to the increasing flood of enemy forces, and appeals to the Hittite king for assistance:

The enemy [advances] against us And there is no number […] Our number is pure (?) Whatever is available, look for it And send it to me.

However, it was of no avail. The armies of Ugarit and Hatti were forced to retreat all the way to the Syrian border from Anatolia, all of which was lost almost up to Amanus. A letter from Ewir-Sharruma to the mother of the Ugaritic king provides us with a poignant human element to the invasion:

(27) And behold, the enemies oppress me (28) But I shall not leave my wife (and) (29) My children…before the enemy.

One can imagine the terror the average citizen (and the royalty as well) must have felt in facing the incoming tide of the Sea Peoples; their swiftness of movement is astounding. At this point, the enemy has probably crossed the Amanus and is in Mukish—just north of Ugarit. Ammurapi, writing to his mother, seems to hope that the Hittites will send more reinforcements to check the torrent of the invaders:

“(16) And if the Hittites Mount, I will send a message To thee, and if They do not mount, I will certainly send A message…

Presumably he feels that the arrival of Hittite reinforcements will strengthen his precarious position; the Sea Peoples now being just north of the city. Ugarit, however, could not withstand the invasion and the city was destroyed c. 1190/1185 BCE. A letter to a certain Zrdn states,

Our food in the threshing floors Is sacked (or: burned). And also the vineyards are destroyed. Our city is destroyed And mayest thou know it.

On account of the invasion, the people of Ugarit were either killed or, if they managed to escape in time, fled inland or down the coast in an effort to escape the destruction. It is in this state that the once grand city of Ugarit was discovered nearly 3000 years later, in 1928, by a farmer and his plough.

Mayan Glyphs are Insane

That is all.

More on the insanity of Mayan glyphs later. Kudos to anyone who can read them; I don't even know where to start learning how on earth to do so.