Nature.com reports that several researchers have combined astronomical data with events in Homer’s Odyssey to pinpoint the exact date on which a returning Odysseus executed his wife’s suitors.
Marcelo Magnasco and Constantino Baikouzis identified four astronomical events in the epic poem and calculated dates within 100 years of the fall of Troy that would fit in with the events described around Odysseus’s return home and the ensuing slaughter of men propositioning his wife.
According to the researchers, the date was April 16, 1178 BCE. That’s also the day after Tax Day, though I’m pretty sure the IRS didn’t exist back then.
(Abstract and paper here; press release here).
Why use a chunk from Shakespeare’s first sonnet as my first posting?
Quick answer #1: Because he wrote so much more beautifully than I ever will.
Quick answer #2: Because I wanted a placeholder.
Not-so-quick answer #3: When working on the blog’s design, I wanted something — anything — to serve as a placeholder. Shakespeare seemed like a good idea: because I’m interested in the technical, policy, and legal problems of preserving information, Shakespeare’s works seemed a textbook example of what should be preserved.
So I found a Shakespeare website and gleefully exercised my right to copy, clip, and paste from the public domain. Sidebar: it would have been even more interesting if I had clipped from a DRM’d CD-ROM of Shakespeare’s works, but that’s another post and another day . . . .
And an admission: Although I was an english & philosophy major in my undergraduate days, it’s been a very, very long time since I thought about Shakespeare. (Notwithstanding Shakespeare in Love, which was great). Having absolutely no idea what might be relevant or useful, I simply looked at the the first thing I found, Shakespeare’s first sonnet.
But serendipity is a funny thing. Considering that I’m currently writing about digital preservation, and further considering that so much of what we electronically preserve is forgettable noise and infoglut — or digital garbage! — I thought Shakespeare’s language was a keeper. Which, of course, it is.
FROM fairest creatures we desire increase,
That thereby beauty’s rose might never die,
But as the riper should by time decease,
His tender heir might bear his memory:
But thou, contracted to thine own bright eyes,
Feed’st thy light’st flame with self-substantial fuel,
Making a famine where abundance lies . . . .
Shakespeare, excerpt from Sonnet #1.