2009 04 29
Recently read: The Mycenaean World

Posted by in: Books, Classics, History

John Chadwick. The Mycenaean World

The Mycenaean Greeks flourished on parts of mainland Greece and on Crete and a few surrounding islands from about the sixteenth to the thirteen centuries B.C. We don’t know why their civilization collapsed, one city after another, at the end of this period, but when it did Greece entered a period of decentralized, impoverished chaos. The Iliad and the Odyssey were put together around 800 B.C., as Greece began to emerge from this dark age. Both hearken back over the centuries (often anachronistically, as I’ll point out below) to the dimly remembered golden age of the Mycenaean world.

The Mycenaeans wrote, but mainly on perishable substances, like parchment. Parchment falls apart eventually; as far as I know, not a scrap of parchment with the Mycenaean script on it survives.

Fortunately, the Mycenaeans also wrote on clay tablets, a cheap and easy way of keeping temporary records. These were discovered at several sites, the most important of which were at Knossos, on Crete, and at Pylos, on the Western prong of the Peloponnese. They would certainly have crumbled away long ago, but fortunately (for us) both sites were ravaged by fire for some reason and never rebuilt. The clay tablets baked in the fires, turning the temporary writing surfaces into items sturdy enough to survive to the present.

For many years, the Mycenaeans were known to us only through the efforts of archaeologists, who had only the mute relics of this era to assemble theories about it. We had the tablets, but the Mycenaeans did not use the Greek alphabet that we’ve all come to know and love. Indeed, for some time a firm majority of scholars insisted that whatever the tablets meant exactly, the language employed on them was not Greek. We call the script “Linear B,” and for years it was a tantalizing mystery.

The problem was not cracked by mainstream scholars, most of whom were hooked on the “not Greek” theory. Instead, a brilliant and eccentric British architect named Michael Ventris made the most important breakthrough in 1952, shortly before his untimely death at the age of 34 in a car crash. He was soon joined by the Classicist John Chadwick, who contributed a number of breakthroughs of his own, and then wrote a series of foundational works on the subject. Linear B was Greek after all, though a very archaic form of it.

If you were hoping for great literature, the surviving texts in Linear B are a grave disappointment. But they are not without their uses:

At first sight their contents are deplorably dull: long lists of names, records of livestock, grain and other produce, the account books of anonymous clerks. Here and there a vivid description of an ornate table or a richly decorated chariot breaks the monotony. But for the most part the tablets are drab and lifeless documents. Their one virtue is their utter authenticity, for they contain the actual words and figures noted down by the men and women who created the same civilization that has yielded such splendid treasures to the archaeologist’s spade.

With the decipherment of Linear B, we could finally supplement, modify, and correct many of the aspects of the picture given to us by archaeologists working on the period. Although The Mycenaean World is alive to the archaeological evidence at every step, it’s central mission is integrating this rich trove of written evidence into our view of the Mycenaeans.

The Mycenaean World is a work of consummate scholarship about a fascinating, remote era. I would guess, though, that a nonspecialist would require a fairly strong degree of antecedent interest in the subject to get through it. The book is well-written, but it offers a level of detail that could easily wilt the curiosity of most readers. How much do you want to know about the Mycenaean system of weights and measures? If the answer is, “several pages, at least!” then by all means, this is your book. Otherwise, you might want to stick to Homer for a glimpse of this distant world. On the other hand, you should know that by doing so you’ll be sacrificing authenticity for action. Perhaps the most interesting chapter in The Mycenaean World, “Homer the pseudo-historian,” points out how dimly the period was remembered by the time Greece finally started to climb out of the dark ages that separated the Mycenaeans era from the vibrant renaissance that began several centuries later.

Howls of outrage (4)

2009 04 18
Recently read: The Epic of Gilgamesh

Posted by in: Books, Classics, History

Andrew George (translator and editor). The Epic of Gilgamesh: A New Translation

About 2800 B.C., long before Moses led the Israelites from Egypt, long before the walls of Homer’s Troy went up*, there lived a man named Gilgamesh, the king of Uruk, a Sumerian city in the South of what is now Iraq. After Gilgamesh died he slipped into legend. A tradition of oral poetry grew up around his life, and then a body of written poetry in both Sumerian and Akkadian. Around 1100 B.C., this tradition of written and oral poetry was brought together into a version of Gilgamesh’s life that is now referred to as the “standard version.”

The standard version of the Gilgamesh epic opens to reveal a restless, unrestrained young Gilgamesh. He is a tyrannical ruler, relishing his seigneurial rights, forcing the young men of Uruk into ceaseless contests for his amusement. What Gilgamesh lacks is a companion, an equal who can advise him and moderate his conduct. Accordingly, the goddess Aruru fashions a man out of clay and sets him down in the wild. The man is Enkidu, and he will be Gilgamesh’s companion, but not until he is tamed and brought in from the wild. This happens after Enkidu is spotted by a hunter, who reports the sighting to Gilgamesh, who has dreamed of Enkidu already. Gilgamesh dispatches a harlot, Shamhat, to civilize Enkidu. She tracks Enkidu down, and:

For six days and seven nights
Enkidu was erect, as he coupled with Shamhat


She also removes his hair and teaches him to eat and drink in the human way. The animals who had been his companions now flee at his sight. Enkidu also seems to have acquired a human sense of justice at some point. Although they are destined to become friends, Enkidu first comes to Uruk in anger, when he learns about Gilgamesh’s practice of sleeping with the women of Uruk before their husbands. He challenges Gilgamesh, blocking his path, and the two wrestle. The fight breaks off with Enkidu’s acknowledgement of Gilgamesh’s supremacy, but Gilgamesh emerges from the challenge with deep respect for Enkidu. They become inseparable, just as the Gods planned.

Gilgamesh now has a friend to counsel him, but that doesn’t incline him to take all the advice he’s offered. He wants to take cedars from the forests of Lebanon, which are guarded by the fearsome Humbaba. Enkidu urges him not to do this, then accompanies him anyway when it becomes clear that Gilgamesh cannot be dissuaded. Together the two succeed in slaying Humbaba and removing the cedars. Together they also slay the Bull of Heaven, sent by an angry goddess Ishtar, whom Gilgamesh has scorned.**

These two outrages—the theft of the cedars of Lebanon and the defeat of the Bull of Heaven—provoke the Gods, who decide that one of the two friends must now die. They choose Enkidu, who sickens and then dies.

For six days and seven nights, Gilgamesh refuses to surrender Enkidu’s body for burial, only giving it up when it begins to decompose. His grief propels him from society, and he abandons his responsibilities as a King, wandering in the wild wearing the skins of animals. He is mourning his friend, but he is also frankly and unambiguously disturbed at least as much by the revelation, prompted by Enkidu’s death, of his own mortality:

For his friend Enkidu Gilgamesh
did bitterly weep as he wandered the wild:
‘I shall die, and shall I not be as Enkidu?
Sorrow has entered my heart.’

Gilgamesh’s lament alternates between these two sources of grief:

How can I keep silent? How can I stay quiet?
My friend, whom I loved, has turned to clay,
My friend Enkidu, whom I loved, has turned to clay.
Shall I not be like him, and also lie down,
never to rise again, through all eternity?

Gilgamesh sets out to find Uta-napishti, who has received the gift of immortality by the Gods. After much trouble, he succeeds in finding Uta-napishti, who tells him that death is inescapable. Uta-napishti relates the story of how he survived a deluge sent by the Gods, using an ark which he loaded with animals. (This part of the story has many parallels with the story of Noah and his ark, and is clearly a precursor to it.) Uta-napishti challenges Gilgamesh to go without sleep for six days and seven nights. When Gilgamesh fails at this, he sees that death will be impossible for him to conquer if he is even unable to go without sleep.

Uta-napishti’s parting gift to Gilgamesh is to tell him about a sea plant that will restore him to youth. Although Gilgamesh succeeds in harvesting some of this plant, he leaves it on the side of a lake on his way home, where it is discovered and devoured by a snake. It is lost forever. He returns home, and in spite of his failure, exults in the grandeur of his city’s wall.

There are many translations of the Epic of Gilgamesh. This is partly because such a monumental text in the Western canon is bound to draw scholars wanting to take a crack at it. But it’s also because we’re constantly finding new pieces of the text, and so updating our understanding of it. New discoveries aside, there is also simply the fact that the scholarly issues involved in the reconstruction and translation of the texts are tricky enough to leave room for a wide variety of approaches.

There’s no easy answer regarding how to present such a text to a popular audience. I first encountered the epic when I was about 16 in a different translation (I think it may have been David Ferry’s version, but I don’t have it handy to confirm this), and was surprised later to learn just how much the translator had smoothed over. The text of Gilgamesh, unfortunately, is fragmentary and broken in many places. Even well-preserved tablets have rough patches where words need to be conjectured or filled in using the many clues left by the text’s frequent repetition of clusters of lines. Behind the standard edition too, as I mentioned above, stands a long, equally fragmentary textual tradition in several languages that, however imperfect, allows us to supplement the gaps in the standard edition.

Andrew George’s edition of the epic strikes a very nice balance between giving the non-specialist an accessible and readable story and allowing her to appreciate the actual scholarly foundation on which the translation rests. This is accomplished in a variety of ways: Gaps in the standard version are filled in using supplementary evidence so that the reader can follow as smooth a narrative as possible, but the supplements are also clearly marked so that the reader isn’t misled about the nature of the evidence. Conjectures and reconstructions are also clearly but unobtrusively marked (as they are not in the quotations above), with the difference between firm and uncertain conjectures also indicated. A helpful appendix, “From Tablet to Translation,” aims to give the reader a sense of the various challenges involved in putting together the edition. And finally, the edition includes a number of other fragments (not nearly as gripping as the standard edition, but interesting nonetheless) about Gilgamesh, including much older Sumerian and Babylonian texts, to round out the evidence. Although I’m obviously not in a position to say anything about the quality of the scholarship, I can say that George’s presentation of the epic appeals to my own taste much more than a version that conceals too many difficulties from the reader in an attempt to be accessible.

Even if the actual story of Gilgamesh were boring, it would be an object of real interest simply on account of its great antiquity. But, as it happens, it isn’t boring at all. The outline I’ve given above is only a lean summary of the 100 pages it takes to set out the standard version in my edition of the text, and so omits many of the twists and turns in the tale, as well as most of its rough poetry. For all the talk of Gods and monsters, at its core the story is about a man who loses a friend and, for a time, simply can’t deal—either with the original loss, or with its implications for himself—and who then, after a long struggle, learns to accept, and to take pleasure in this world again. It may be among the oldest stories, but in this respect it could have happened yesterday.

* The Troy of the Illiad is only one of a number of successive settlements on the same site, the earliest of which predates even the historical Gilgamesh.

** Gilgamesh points out that Ishtar’s previous lovers have not ended up having a good time. Unfortunately, refusing Ishtar’s advances hardly improved your chances of survival either. After Ishtar approached one Ishallanu with what I assume is a standard pickup line for a Goddess—”let us taste your vigour: Put out your ‘hand’ and stroke my quim***!”—and he turned her down, she turned him into a dwarf.

*** Such are the perils of a British translator.

Howls of outrage (2)

2008 02 01
Bleg, or, phleg: Aristotle, catharsis, porn

It’s a philosophy-bleg!

My colleague is teaching Aristotle on catharsis this afternoon. The cartoon view of catharsis is that drama (or just? mainly? tragedy) is useful because it allows us to purge our harmful emotions by getting emotionally wrought over a fictional situation. My colleague is wondering whether Aristotle could say pornography is useful for purging the bad emotion (or, excess emotion?) of lust, or whether Aristotle would be required to say that porn is bad because it forms bad habits. So, Aristotle: for or against porn?

I told him I knew the man for this job, and then I thought other people might be interested too so I’m posting this rather than emailing you, CY.

Howls of outrage (9)

2008 01 26
Fragments discovered at Herculaneum…

…reveal a tiny window onto the oddity of the ancient world. Or maybe, the perpetual oddity of the human world. (I found this linked from Metafilter, more tidbits there on the recovered stuff.)

Nada (0)

2007 08 14
Romney and sons

I came across this the other day:

So now his spirit drove on godlike Sarpedon
to make a rush at the wall and break apart the battlements.
And now he spoke in address to Glaukos, son of Hippolochos:
‘Glaukos, why it is you and I are honoured before others
with pride of place, the choice of meats and the filled wine cups
in Lykia, and all men look on us as if we were immortals,
and we are appointed a great piece of land by the banks of Xanthos,
good land, orchard and vineyard, and ploughland for the planting of wheat?
Therefore it is our duty in the forefront of the Lykians
to take our stand, and bear our part of the blazing battle,
so that a man of the close-armoured Lykians may say of us:
“Indeed, these are no ignoble men who are lords of Lykia,
these kinds of ours, who feed upon the fat sheep appointed
and drink the exquisite sweet wine, since indeed there is strength
of valour in them, since they fight in the forefront of the Lykians.”
. . .’

That’s Book XII (lines 307-321) of the Iliad. Soon after in Book XVI Sarpedon bites it after Patroklos downs him with two well-placed spear throws.

As a peace-loving democratic egalitarian, I’m bound to take a dim view of the warlike aristocratic ideal articulated here, and an even more pessimistic view of how commonly that ideal was ever honoured in practice. Still, there is something to what Sarpedon says: Hey, we get a great deal, and this is what it costs us.

At any rate, a frankly aristocratic ideal at least opens up a conceptual space for the notion that the aristocrats owe something back. These days, we have a quasi-aristocratic class, but because its public face, and to a certain extent its self-conception, is democratic, we have perhaps less in the way of corresponding obligations:

Romney’s gaffe occurred on August 8, while at an “Ask Mitt Anything” Town Hall meeting in Bettendorf, Iowa. That’s where Rachel Griffiths got up and asked Romney if any of his five sons were serving in the military, and if not, how did they plan to support the war against terrorism? “The good news is that we have a volunteer Army and that’s the way we’re going to keep it,” Romney told the crowd, adding, “[O]ne of the ways my sons are showing support for our nation is helping to get me elected, because they think I’d be a great president.”

Romney later apologized for comparing military service to helping your Dad get elected.

Nada (0)

2007 07 24
Let me guess, the plan to protect the Green Zone is codenamed “Stalingrad”

A review of a recent book on Xenophon’s Anabasis passes on a little tidbit about the Iraq War that I hadn’t heard before: “Early plans for the current administration’s invasion of Iraq included a program of infiltration with the code name ‘Anabasis.’” (( The author’s footnote reads: “Michael Isikoff and David Corn, Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War (New York: Crown Publishers, 2006), p. 6. I am grateful to Page Dubois for calling my attention to this instance of classical reception.” ))

That’s actually pretty funny, in a dark way.

Howls of outrage (2)

2007 05 14
Missed by inches

Posted by in: Anecdotal, Classics

It’s hard to deny that Meriones has a good point here:

But Aineias threw his bronze spear at Meriones, hoping
to hit him as he came forward under his shield’s covering,
but Meriones with his eyes straight on him avoided the bronze spear.
For he bent forward, and behind his back the long spearshaft
was driven into the ground so that the butt end was shaken
on the spear. . .
But Aineias was angered in his spirit, and called out to him:
‘Meriones, though you are a dancer my spear might have stopped you
now and for all time, if only I could have hit you.’
Then in turn Meriones the spear-famed answered him:
‘Aineias, strong fighter though you are, it would be hard for you
to quench the strength of every man who might come against you
and defend himself, since you also are made as a mortal.
But if I could throw and hit you with the sharp bronze in the middle,
then strong as you are and confident in your hands’ work, you might
give glory to me, and your soul to Hades of the horses.’
(The Iliad, Book XVI, lines 608-625 (Lattimore’s translation))

Right. It seems a basic violation of trash talking to complain after you missed someone that if you had hit them, well, then they’d have been in trouble. Coulda, shoulda, woulda, and all that.

I was washing the dishes when this little bit from Homer came up randomly on my mp3 player. The lame trash talking got me thinking about lame comebacks. As it happens, I’m responsible for one of the worst comebacks I’ve ever encountered. When I was a kid, another kid said something like “I’ll bet your penis is 2 centimeters long!” And I shot back, without thinking, “TRY INCHES!!!” Later, I made the unfortunate mistake of relating this to evil mystery commenter Kegri, who for years after would interrupt our arguments at random moments to shout “TRY INCHES!!!”

Howls of outrage (5)

2006 10 16
What do you want me to prove next?

Posted by in: Books, Classics, History

There is simply not enough Herodotus blogging in the world, so let’s make our own modest attempt to remedy that, shall we?

I just love the batshit crazy way that Cambyses tries to refute the Persian claim that he was nuts. Here he is speaking to Prexaspes:

“I’ll soon show you if the Persians speak the truth, or if what they say is not a sign of their own madness rather than mine. You see your son standing there by the door? If I shoot him through the middle of the heart, I shall have proved the Persians’ words empty and meaningless; if I miss, then say, if you will, that the Persians are right, and my wits are gone.”

Without another word he drew his bow and shot the boy, and then ordered his body to be cut open and the wound examined; and when the arrow was found to have pierced the heart, he was delighted, and said with a laugh to the boy’s father: “There’s proof for you, Prexaspes, that I am sane and the Persians mad. Now tell me if you ever saw anyone shoot so straight.”

Prexaspes knew well enough that the king’s mind was unbalanced, so in fear for his own safety he answered: “Master, I do not believe that God himself is a better marksman.” (Book III.35)

Which sidesteps the question of whether the successful shot proved anything. And what a way to sidestep the question! I understand that Prexaspes was afraid, but if you greet the murder of your own son with “Nice shot,” you run the risk of appearing to grovel.

Howls of outrage (9)

2006 08 24
His crib was in Athens, yo

Posted by in: Books, Classics, History

Stealing an idea (by email) from Steve Laniel, I suggest that Thucydides be known henceforth as T’Diddy, at least whenever we wish to consider points of contact between his work and hip-hop.

Nada (0)

2006 07 19

Posted by in: Books, Classics

I was waylaid by a garrulous neighbour yesterday while walking the dog. He held me captive until, after about 5 minutes, I had to just start walking away from him. Without fairly aggressive evasive action I’m sure I would have passed the day away under the sun nodding along to a stream of reflections on the weather, the neighbourhood, and etc. etc. etc.

Anyway, this reminded me of Theophrastus. Theophrastus was a friend and associate of Aristotle’s, and, after Aristotle’s death, his successor as head of the Lyceum, the school that Aristotle founded in Athens. Theophrastus was, like Aristotle, a genius and a polymath, producing works on botany, rhetoric, metaphysics and many other subjects. He also wrote a short work on different character types, which you can read in its entirety here, courtesy of at eudaimonist, a wonderful and elegant little site.

To give you an idea, here is Theophrastus’s Garrulous Man:

The Garrulous Man is one who will sit down beside a person whom he does not know, and first pronounce a panegyric on his own wife; then relate his dream of last night; then go through in detail what he has had for dinner. Then, warming to the work, he will remark that the men of the present day are greatly inferior to the ancients; and how cheap wheat has become in the market; and what a number of foreigners are in town; and that the sea is navigable after the Dionysia; and that, if Zeus would send more rain, the crops would be better; and that he will work his land next year; and how hard it is to live; and that Damippus set up a very large torch at the Mysteries; and How many columns has the Odeum? and that yesterday he was unwell; and What is the day of the month?; and that the Mysteries are in Bodromion, the Apaturia in Pyanepsion, the rural Dionysia in Poseideon. Nor, if he is tolerated, will he ever desist.

And here is the Unseasonable Man (i.e., the man with bad timing):

The Unseasonable Man is one who will go up to a busy person, and open his heart to him. He will serenade his mistress when she has a fever. He will address himself to a man who has been cast in a surety-suit, and request him to become his security. He will come to give evidence when the trial is over. When he is asked to a wedding, he will inveigh against womankind. He will propose a walk to those who have just come off a long journey. He has a knack, also, of bringing a higher bidder to him who has already found his market. He loves to rise and go through a long story to those who have heard it and know it by heart; he is zealous, too, in charging himself with offices which one would rather not have done, but is ashamed to decline. When people are sacrificing and incurring expense, he will come to demand his interest. If he is present at the flogging of a slave, he will relate how a slave of his own was once beaten in the same way � and hanged himself; or, assisting at an arbitration, he will persist in embroiling the parties when they both wish to be reconciled. And, when he is minded to dance, he will seize upon another person who is not yet drunk.

I think what makes these so funny is the strange blend of foreign and familiar. We all know such people – that’s half the pleasure, as it must have been for Theophrastus’s original audience – but we don’t know them with many of these details. Anyone who studies a foreign culture, either temporally or geographically foreign, knows this feeling, but I think it’s especially strong when we read this work because Theophrastus has drawn his characters so well and so concretely.

Theophrastus’s Characters was a real hit. Not only has it been read and appreciated since he wrote it, but it also spawned an entire (sub?)genre of literature. If you’re interested there’s more here, and even more elsewhere if you keep looking – and perhaps even more still waiting to be written.

Howls of outrage (9)

2006 07 14

A theme I see pursued occasionally on academic blogs like Crooked Timber or Timothy Burke’s site is openness in research and teaching. I think this page, set up by Monte Johnson to detail his work with D.S. Hutchinson on Aristotle’s Protrepticus, is an model of open and generous scholarship. It assembles quite a lot of useful material on the subject, and includes some transcripts from a seminar they co-taught this summer. Since my dissertation touches on the subject of their research, this has been extremely helpful to me.

Anyway, I loved this bit from Papyrus Fragment POxy 3659, which they translate as follows:

And what about the philosophers themselves? If you confined them in the one house and an equal number of madmen in another house next door, you would get much, much greater howls from the philosophers than from the madmen!

(The fragment is of unknown provenance, and is included in their collection of texts because it might be relevant to Aristotle’s Protrepticus.)

Nada (0)

2006 05 16
Culinary patents

I’m reading through Book XII of Athenaeus’s Deipnosophists, which is devoted to the theme of luxury and pleasure. (In spite of being a very silly book, it preserves some valuable philosophical material on the topic that would be otherwise lost.) Anyway, the author goes on at considerable length about the luxurious habits of the Sybarites, and then this:

Again, if any caterer or cook invented a dish of his own which was especially choice, it was his privilege that no one else but the inventor himself should adopt the use of it before the lapse of a year, in order that the first man to invent a dish might possess the right of manufacture during that period, so as to encourage others to excel in eager competition with similar inventions.

A footnote in the Loeb edition to the work claims – whether correctly or not I have no idea – that this is the earliest known patent-law.

Howls of outrage (2)

2006 05 11
Before blogging . . .

. . . there was just writing it down on a wall:

Other anecdotes emphasize that our actions must be governed by reason rather than the emotions: Archytas refused to punish the serious misdeeds of his slaves, because he had become angry and did not want to act out of anger (A7); he restrained himself from swearing aloud by writing his curses on a wall instead (A11).

A single voice crying in the wilderness (1)

2006 04 28
On the ancient recognition of the problem of beer goggles

Posted by in: Classics, History, Sex

From the pseudo-Aristotelian Problems, Book XXX (on melancholics):

Wine also makes men affectionate; this is proved by the fact that under the influence of wine a man is induced to kiss one whom no one would kiss, if he were sober, either because of their appearance or their age.

Nada (0)

2006 04 22
Aristotle on menstruation and mirrors

Posted by in: Aristotle, Classics

The other day, “A” challenged me to think of one true thing that Aristotle said. She was just being silly, of course. Aristotle said lots of true things! But I’m not sure about this, from Aristotle’s On Dreams:

If a woman chances during her menstrual period to look into a highly polished mirror, the surface of it will grow cloudy with a blood-coloured haze. It is very hard to remove this stain from a new mirror, but easier to remove from an older mirror. As we have said before, the cause of this lies in the fact that in the act of sight there occurs not only a passion in the sense organ acted on by the polished surface, but the organ, as an agent, also produces an action, as is proper to a brilliant object. For sight is the property of an organ possessing brilliance and colour. The eyes, therefore, have their proper action as have other parts of the body. Because it is natural to the eye to be filled with blood-vessels, a woman’s eyes, during the period of menstrual flux and inflammation, will undergo a change, although her husband will not note this since his seed is of the same nature as that of his wife. The surrounding atmosphere, through which operates the action of sight, and which surrounds the mirror also, will undergo a change of the same sort that occurred shortly before in the woman’s eyes, and hence the surface of the mirror is likewise affected. And as in the case of a garment, the cleaner it is the more quickly it is soiled, so the same holds true in the case of the mirror. For anything that is clean will show quite clearly a stain that it chances to receive, and the cleanest object shows up even the slightest stain. A bronze mirror, because of its shininess, is especially sensitive to any sort of contact (the movement of the surrounding air acts upon it like a rubbing or pressing or wiping); on that account, therefore, what is clean will show up clearly the slightest touch on its surface. It is hard to cleanse smudges off new mirrors because the stain penetrates deeply and is suffused to all parts; it penetrates deeply because the mirror is not a dense medium, and is suffused widely because of the smoothness of the object. On the other hand, in the case of old mirrors, stains do not remain because they do not penetrate deeply, but only smudge the surface.

A single voice crying in the wilderness (1)