Herodatus quote
November 7, 2004 9:11 PM   Subscribe

"Men of Greece, this is the place for you to settle, for here there is a hole in the sky"' (Herodotus 4.150-8).

I have no idea what this means. google has been useless. Anyone want to help?
posted by thatwhichfalls to Writing & Language (7 answers total)
The colony did not prosper, and after further prompting from Delphi they moved to the mainland. Finally they were guided by local inhabitants to the site of Cyrene: 'the Libyans led them out starting in the evening, so timing the hours of daylight that they passed the best piece of country (called Irasa) at night, so that the Greeks would not see it. Finally they brought them to the fountain called Apollo's Fountain, and said: "Men of Greece, this is the place for you to settle, for here there is a hole in the sky"' (Herodotus 4.150-8).

One phrase in the account of the foundation is strange: the expression 'there is a hole in the sky' is obviously a proverbial saying; but it is not Greek, and has been paralleled only in Semitic areas (Malachi 3.10; compare Jacob's ladder in Genesis 28)--there are other signs that the Libyan tribes had been influenced by Phoenician contacts. But these local variations serve only to emphasize the extent to which Cyrene can be seen to be typical of even the earlier stages of colonization.

From here. Are you looking for meaning beyond this?
posted by loquax at 9:29 PM on November 7, 2004

The relevant footnote to the Penguin Classics edition I have says:

"The story probably refers to the great amount of rainfall (rare in North Africa) in Cyrene."

Which pretty well sucks the poetry and mystery out of it. I'm not sure it's the best explanation, but it's one of 'em.
posted by furiousthought at 9:55 PM on November 7, 2004

Hah. According to Spike Milligan:

There are holes in the sky
Where the rain comes in
The holes are small
That's why the rain is thin.
posted by carter at 10:27 AM on November 8, 2004

Maybe it means the gods look down directly on it?
posted by luser at 12:04 PM on November 8, 2004

Hah again!

luser reminds me that the Pole Star was/is known in a number of cosmologies as 'the hole in the sky' [Google]. That is, it is the point in the celestial sphere about which all the other stars revolve - it is the centre of the heavens. In a number of cosmologies, a terrestial correspondence with the Pole Star here on Earth likewise denotes the centre of the world - a common orientation about the cosmological axis. Such concepts are of great importance in founding myths.

Interestingly, at this time the Pole Star may have been auspicious for the Greeks but bad luck for the Arabs (see near bottom here). So it *may* have been another way for the Libyans to say - "This place is the centre of the cosmos" - and pass off a 'bad luck' place onto the Greeks as auspicious (note other sneaky Libyan behaviour referred to in the text quoted by loquax).

In the case of 'Pole Star = good luck,' many other places would also be designated by those living in them as "the centre of the cosmos." This is why it would be important for you also to have your own founding myth, and also to make it one of good pedigree.
posted by carter at 1:14 PM on November 8, 2004

Thank you all!
posted by thatwhichfalls at 6:03 PM on November 8, 2004

Yes man made the waterfall over the dam
To temper his tantrum with magic
Now you can't be sure of that tent of azure
Since he punched a hole in the fabric

--Elvis Costello, "Poor Fractured Atlas"
posted by Vidiot at 9:10 PM on November 8, 2004

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