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<   No. 676   2004-12-02   >

Comic #676

1 {scene: on board a small ship cutting across the Aegean, bound for Santorini}
1 Monty: You know dad, we should hold some sort of memorial for grandad.
2 Monty: What with escaping the Nazis in Berlin and racing to Santorini to thwart their evil plans, we haven't had time to mourn.
3 Prof. Jones: Yes. Perhaps we should make some sort of offering to the wine-dark sea.
3 Monty: Good idea.
4 Monty: I know! Pour some of your whisky overboard, dad.
4 Prof. Jones: What?!

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Okay, okay, that's a river barge, and in no way an open-sea-worthy vessel. I really didn't have time to build something more convincing as an ocean-going ship, I'm afraid.

Homer uses the poetic description "the wine-dark sea" in his epics, the Iliad and the Odyssey, to describe the Aegean.


2013-12-26 Rerun commentary: Here's an interesting article on Homer's "wine-dark sea", discussing various possibilities as to why Homer would use such an odd metaphor, when the sea clearly is not the same colour as wine. These range from wild speculation about weird weather patterns in the ancient Aegean, to the possibility that most of the Ancient Greeks were colour blind and simply couldn't recognise that the ocean was actually greeny-blue. The colours used by Homer to describe things throughout the Iliad and Odyssey taken as a whole, are even stranger - he describes sheep as wine-coloured, honey as green, and the sky as bronze. No word for "blue" appears in either work.

The article goes on to discuss various bits of linguistics and neuroscience to try to find an answer.

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