Name that Ancient Greek Writing Convention
February 24, 2009 2:34 PM   Subscribe

Name that Ancient Greek writing convention: The "Gearing Up" scene.

Back when I was reading The Iliad for a college course my teacher mentioned that there was a specific Greek term for the trope wherein a character is gearing up; each piece of armor and weaponry is described as it is equipped, and its provenance and significance is given.

Anybody here remember what the term is?
posted by lekvar to Media & Arts (13 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I recall this being called an "epic catalogue," and it's not unique to Greek literature—Beowulf has them too. It's not specific to gearing-up, obviously.
posted by adamrice at 3:22 PM on February 24, 2009

Wikipedia references a paper called "The Arming Motif in the Iliad." "Arming scene" also seems quite popular. Its more recent descendent is the Lock And Load Montage.
posted by Electric Dragon at 3:24 PM on February 24, 2009

I could swear I've seen such a term, but all I can find googling around is descriptions like "the epic topos of the arming of the hero." Here's an article (pdf) by Mark W. Edwards, "Homer and Oral Tradition: The Type-Scene," that discusses arming scenes among many others but doesn't use a Greek term—however, he does have a huge bibliography that may be helpful.
posted by languagehat at 3:58 PM on February 24, 2009

Best answer: You wouldn't be thinking of ekphrasis, would you, as in the detailed depiction of a piece of art, e.g. Book XVIII of the Iliad and the extended description of Achilles' shield?
posted by Bromius at 4:41 PM on February 24, 2009

Like languagehat I'm convinced I've heard that term. I vaguely remember it as being literally translated as "girding of armour", or as you put it "gearing up" in more modern idiom. But it has been 15 years since I studied Homer and I can't for the life of me remember it...

Arming scene seems to be the most popular term in the scholarly literature.
posted by greycap at 4:49 PM on February 24, 2009

It would help if you had any idea what the word sounded like, especially if we could then figure out the root.

Though I've not heard the term, and definitely can't find anything other then 'arming (type-)scene/motif' in the articles, I'll stab wildly in the dark, and say that the word you're looking for is hoplisis.
posted by Sova at 5:00 PM on February 24, 2009

Best answer: This, from Plutarch's life of Alexander, is described as a hoplisis in the literature:

After sending this message to Parmenio, he put on his helmet, but the rest of his armour he had on as he came from his tent, namely, a vest of Sicilian make girt about him, and over this a breastplate of two-ply linen from the spoils taken at Issus. His helmet was of iron, but gleamed like polished silver, a work of Theophilus; and there was fitted to this a gorget, likewise of iron, set with precious stones. He had a sword, too, of astonishing temper and lightness, a gift from the king of the Citieans, and he had trained himself to use a sword for the most part in his battles. He wore a belt also, which was too elaborate for the rest of his armour; for it was a work of Helicon the ancient, and a mark of honour from the city of Rhodes, which had given it to him; this also he was wont to wear in his battles.
posted by Sova at 5:37 PM on February 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

In Hollywood, it's called the "click scene," because the one arming themselves in preparation for battle is buckling and snapping all the pieces together, with a sequence of clicks.
posted by StickyCarpet at 11:06 PM on February 24, 2009

Best answer: Are you thinking of an aristeia?
posted by flexiblefine at 8:05 AM on February 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Aristeia and hoplisis seem the closest to what I'm looking for, but I have a sneaking suspicion that I completely misconstrued what my prof. was saying. For some reason ekphrasis is striking a chord; the context is correct and it "sounds" like the word she used. I probably misunderstood what she was saying at the time.
posted by lekvar at 12:18 PM on February 25, 2009

Along the lines of hoplisis, these are some actual greek words, but I have no idea if any are used as literary terms:

(from L&H)

perithesis -- placing around or putting on (clothing or adornment)

periballein -- lit. 'to throw around' but can mean to 'array' or 'deck out' someone/thing or for someone to put something (like an article of clothing) on. 'teuxea periballomenoi -- putting on their arms.'

perizonnumi -- to gird around, or fasten one's belt/armor (peri +zonnumai [sic?]) 'tou-ton ton andra periezosato' -- put him on as a defense, periezosthai ten phobeian' -- to have their halter girded around them.

('perizonnumesis?' heh, I like it.)
posted by snuffleupagus at 12:38 PM on February 25, 2009

Why not email or call the professor? I'm slightly curious myself at this point.
posted by Busoni at 2:10 PM on February 26, 2009

Response by poster: Sadly, this was a long time ago and I've forgotten her name.
posted by lekvar at 12:47 PM on March 3, 2009

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