- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Future Greeks

“Four years ago, Brad Pitt starred in a little movie called ‘Troy,’ which was based on Homer’s Iliad. As I recall, my friend Magnus and I were not all that impressed by Pitt’s performance as Achilles, but we did like Sean Bean’s portrayal of Odysseus, and we kind of hoped that someone would make a sequel, based on Homer’s Odyssey, in which Bean could reprise the role.

“So imagine my surprise when I read tonight that Pitt himself is thinking of starring in an adaptation of The Odyssey. And imagine my further surprise when I read that this adaptation might take place not in the distant past, but rather, in the distant future.

“Reports Variety: ‘After turning Homer’s epic poem “The Iliad” into the 2004 film ‘Troy,’ Warner Bros. and Brad Pitt are teaming with George Miller to adapt the Greek poet’s other masterwork, ‘The Odyssey.’ Their intention is to transfer the tale to a futuristic setting in outer space.’ The mind boggles.”

- Peter Chattaway, writing on “Brad Pitt: a Space Odysseus” on Oct. 16 at the Film Chat site (filmchatblog.blogspot.com)

Clean Greeks

“Good grooming was an increasingly important sign of status. Egypt was the first capital of cleanliness deluxe, and its practices of mummifying and making up the dead are with us still.

“As anyone who’s seen ‘Troy’ or ‘Ben-Hur’ knows, ancient Greeks and Romans enjoyed being clean and getting that way. In ‘The Dirt on Clean,’ Toronto-based journalist Katherine Ashenburg begins her chatty history with ablutions in the Odyssey. The Greeks not only brought us hygiene, which made cleanliness part of healthfulness, but also their sociable public baths. Taking this concept and running with it, the Romans created baths where, says Ashenburg, you could have ‘sex, a medical treatment, and a haircut’ in one convenient stop.

“With the fall of Rome and the spread of Christianity, baptism was in, and bathing - both public and private - was out. Like its founder, the early Christian church prized spiritual purity over physical cleanliness, which facilitated ‘sins of the flesh.’ Thus, a Christian ascetic who crawled with vermin and reeked of body odor was venerated as a paragon of virtue.”

- Winifred Gallagher, writing on “Bath and Body Works” in the winter issue of the Wilson Quarterly

Pop Greeks

“Nearly 3,000 years after the death of the Greek poet Homer, his epic tales of the war for Troy and its aftermath remain deeply woven into the fabric of our culture. These stories of pride and rage, massacre and homecoming have been translated and republished over millennia. Even people who have never read a word of ‘The Iliad’ or ‘The Odyssey’ know the phrases they have bequeathed to us - the Trojan horse, the Achilles’ heel, the face that launched a thousand ships.

“Today we still turn to Homer’s epics not only as sources of ancient wisdom and wrenchingly powerful poetry, but also as genuinely popular entertainments. Recent translations of ‘The Iliad’ and ‘Odyssey’ have shared the best-seller lists with [John] Grisham and [Stephen] King. ‘The Odyssey’ has inspired works from James Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’ to a George Clooney movie, and an adaptation of ‘The Iliad’ recently earned more than $100 million in the form of Wolfgang Petersen’s ‘Troy’ - a summer blockbuster starring Brad Pitt as an improbable Achilles.”

- Jonathan Gottschall, writing on “Hidden Histories” in the Sept. 28 edition of the Boston Globe

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