Issue 09, July 2008
homepage > Dramatic reading of passages from Thucydides in Washington, DC
Dramatic reading of passages from Thucydides
in Washington, DC
From the dramatic reading of passages from Thucydides, directed by David Muse in Washington, DC

On 17 March 2008, a dramatic reading of selected passages from Thucydides' ‘History of the Peloponnesian War,' organised by the affiliated Onassis Foundation (USA), was presented on the stage of the Shakespeare Theatre Co. in Washington, DC. The event started with the celebrated discussion at the Agora of Sparta, between an Athenian, who ‘happened' to be there, the Ambassador of Corinth and the King of Sparta. This was followed by passages from Pericles' ‘Funeral Oration' and the ‘Melian Dialogue', and closed with extracts from the ‘Sicilian Expedition'. The passages' selection by Professor Josiah Ober, who composed and explained the plot to the audience, was really exceptional. Indeed, the selected texts were so timeless, that they seemed to be absolutely appropriate to the place and time of the event.

By our Special Correspondent
 
 
From the dramatic reading of passages from Thucydides, directed by David Muse in Washington, DC
From the dramatic reading of passages from Thucydides, directed by David Muse in Washington, DC

The Washington event can be said to offer to the audience of the dramatic reading of passages from Homer's Iliad, recently held at the Pergamon Museum in Berlin, a beautiful dialectical synthesis of the Ancient Greek spirit. To begin with, there was an antithesis in formal terms. In Washington, the actors stood in front of a reading desk, against a background of symbolical ancient images. In Berlin, there was a spectacular ‘setting' consisting of the Museum's ancient marbles, amongst which the actors performed. As the stage was the Pergamon Altar's set of steps, the actors moved at a higher level than the audience. In Washington, there was a typical theatrical stage, with the audience seated slightly higher than the actors.

The executive director of the affiliated Onassis Foundation (USA) Lucas Tsilas, the Greek ambassador in the USA Alexandros Mallias, Mr. Anthony Papadimitriou, and the Professor of Classics and Political Science at Stanford University, Dr. Josiah Ober
The executive director of the affiliated Onassis Foundation (USA) Lucas Tsilas, the Greek ambassador in the USA Alexandros Mallias, Mr. Anthony Papadimitriou, and the Professor of Classics and Political Science at Stanford University, Dr. Josiah Ober

However, even more important and striking was the antithesis ―and therefore, at a second level, the synthesis― of the texts themselves. In the first case, the text is poetic, epic, teeming with death and wrath. In the second case, the text is prosaic ― an almost objective description of History by a neutral observer. Yet, in both cases, one could easily sense the underlying unity of the works. The comparison of these two readings of Homer and Thucydides does in fact highlight ―as was clearly shown during the two events, despite their apparent contrasting points― their underlying common elements. In formal terms, what is common between them is that both Homer and Thucydides composed perfect monologues, even when there are two characters speaking. Other common elements include war, human passions, and the effort to explain the absurdity of the human predicament and overcome the inevitable. Finally, it can be said that the common ground between the two texts is Logos; the attempt of the human being to arrange his/her life through the quest for truth: ‘to rightly dispense the word of (Thy) truth.'

 
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