الزمن المأساوي في الفكر الإغريقي / Tragic Time in Classical Thought


Ahmed Etman



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ﻋﺘﻤﺎﻥ, ﺃﺣﻤﺪ; Etman, Ahmed

Document Type

Research Article

Publication Title

Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics

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[The Greeks speculated on the question of time in their myths, epics and lyrics. Their concern with time reached its height in their drama and philosophy. A pessimistic note, albeit covered by heroic glory, can be detected in the attitude of Homer towards time ("Very like leaves upon this earth are the generations of men"); while Hesiod's pessimism was explicit when stating that humanity deteriorates to worse and then worst, moving away from the Golden Age. Poets such as Pindar and Theognis described the lamentable brevity of life -- a motif that was echoed by Sophocles through the chorus in Oedipus at Colonus. The Greek philosophers' view of perpetual change and the impossibility of crossing the river twice have their parallels in oral Greek poetry, as in Semonides' fragments where he compares the variable moods of a woman to a sea, calm at one point and rough the next. The idea of change and movement led to the notion of temporal cycle and the wheel of fortune. Thus no pleasure lasts and no joy is permanent. This view -- present in epics and lyrics -- was rendered dramatically as "reversal" in Greek tragedy. It has been said that the theater of Aeschylus is based on the notion of "painful lesson" (pathema mathema), recurrent suffering and inherited doom. His trilogies exhibit the role of time in uncovering the consequences of tragic flaws when the younger generation pays for the older ones. Sophocles, on the other hand, was more concerned with dramatizing "recognition" which is attained too late. His plays, Ajax, Antigone, and Maidens of Trachis attest to the tragic consequences of belated knowledge (opsimathia). This idea was embedded in the consciousness of Classical Greece and was articulated by thinkers and poets from Thales to Xenophon who viewed time as the ultimate unveiler of truth.]

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