Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Ides of March on SCTV/CCCP1

SCTV: Battle of the PBS Stars

Circa 1982 or so. Howard Cosell and, the 'sententious' Dick Cavett cover the red/blue football game. Team Captains: Blue - William F. Buckley, Red, Carl Sagan.

Money quote:

Cosell: "Scramble Carl, scramble! Oh. There goes Sagan. He's up in the cosmos, where he always wanted to be."

SCTV at its best:

Herodotus’ “Histories” of the Persian Wars (very liberally ‘translaparaphrased’): Book I sections 67 - 68

How the Spartans eventually got the better of the Tegeans,


Dem Bones, dem bones, Orestes Sparta and Tegea..


In this earlier conflict with Tegea the Spartans always had the worst of the contests, but by the time of Croesus, coincident with the reigns of Anaxandrides and Ariston, they had begun to get the better of things. This is the story of their success:

After a long series of setbacks in the war they sent emissary to Delphi asking from which of the Gods they should seek favor in order to assure victory against Tegea. The Pythia declared that it was necessary for them to recover the bones of Orestes, son of Agamemnon. Failing to find the tomb of Orestes, they sent yet again to the oracle asking, this time, where the remains lay. The Pythia’s answer to this question was this:

In Arcadia, in its level plain, is a place, Tegea,
Where, under strong necessity, two winds blow
Clash answered by repulse, and anguish with anguish
In this place, the son of Agamemnon is held by life nourishing earth
Ye shall prevail over Tegea when you return him hence.

Now, having heard this oracle, the Lacedaemonians came no nearer to finding the remains, even though they made thorough search. All was in vain until Lichas, one of the Spartans called ‘men of good service,’ discovered it. These men of good service are five in number, men who are retired from the Spartan cavalry annually, who are sworn to spend the next year in swift completion of whatever tasks the state may require of them.


Lichas was one of these men. By a combination of cleverness and luck, he located the tomb, at a time when there was more free interaction between the two cities. Taking advantage of this relative amity, he entered Tegea, and observed the workings of an ironworks. He marveled. The smith, seeing his reaction, paused from his work and said, ‘Friend Laconian, you are astonished at what you see, but I assure you that this is nothing compared to what you would feel if you saw what I saw in this very courtyard. For, I was digging a well, and unearthed a gigantic coffin, ten feet long. I could not believe that men used to be much larger in stature than they are today, so naturally, I opened it. There it was. The corpse was indeed as long as the coffin! I measured it, and then re-interred the body.

Lichas considered what he had heard, and came to the conclusion that the oracle had predicted this, and that he had found Orestes. The two winds, he surmised were in fact the smith’s bellows, the ‘clash and repulse’ were in fact the blows of his hammer upon anvil, and the anguish referred to was in fact the hot iron being shaped, Lichas inferring that iron had indeed introduced anguish to man. After having reasoned things out in this fashion, he returned to Sparta and relayed the story. They next made show of pressing charges against this man, in order to give plausibility to exile. Upon this banishment, he made his way back to Tegea and the smith. He told him of his misfortune. The smith leased the courtyard to the Spartan, having first refused an outright purchase. He also managed to persuade the smith to allow him to live on the premises. After that, he recovered the bones, and made his way back to Sparta. Since that day, any time the Spartans contested the Tegeans, they have come out the better. Additionally they had already subdued the greater part of the Peloponnese.