Poetry at the Post: “Discretions of Alcibiades” by Robert Pinsky, or Prepping for The Peloponnesian War

“Discretions of Alcibiades’
by Robert Pinsky

First frost is weeks off, but the prudent man
With house plants on his front porch marks the season,
And moves the potted ficus back indoors

Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824–1904): Socrates seeking Alcibiades in the House of Aspasia, 1861
Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824–1904): Socrates seeking Alcibiades in the House of Aspasia, 1861

Friend and foe of both Athens and Sparta, Alcibiades was a game changer during the long and ugly war that dominated the last half of 5th century BCE Greece.

A powerful orator and statesman with a strategic military mind, Alcibiades had his enemies. Accused by his opponents of mutilating the hermai, or the heads of the god Hermes, Alcibiades fled his native Athens for Sparta, and when the opportunity arose, flipped back to Athens. He knew when to “move his plant indoors.”

Hermes with his mother Maia. Detail of the side B of an Attic red-figure belly-amphora, c. 500 BC.
Hermes with his mother Maia. Detail of the side B of an Attic red-figure belly-amphora, c. 500 BC.
Oh what a duplicitous traitor! — or perhaps, what a clever survivor, a prudent man!

This is just one of the many, many intriguing stories woven throughout Thucydides’s contemporaneous account of the Peloponnesian War.

Move over Homer! as we’ll be tackling this engaging story of power and justice in the Global Reading Group*, a virtual literary salon. Yes, I won’t deny it. This is a long and, at times. tedious read but believe me, it is vale la pena. Come join us as we read and discuss The History of the Peloponnesian War.
We begin March 25, 2015.

640px-Uranometria_orion
The stars are similar: “The wheeling Bear

One white eye on the Pleiads, rolls another
At glowering Orion…

Lost Pleiad (1884) by William-Adolphe Bouguereau.
Lost Pleiad (1884) by William-Adolphe Bouguereau.

*The Global Reading Group is a virtual literary salon that follows Horace’s
definition of the aims of poetry, “either to please or to educate” (“aut delectare aut prodesse est”.) Free and open to interested readers worldwide. We read one classic book of literature every month. Send a note to alicecatherinej at gmail.com to join

Poetry at the Post, Day 15: Onward to Greece! —and a poem by Katerina Iliopouolou

On weakened legs I walked around the town the whole day. I took photographs” by Katerina Iliopoulou, as translated by John O’Kane

Ia Santorini-2009- Photo courtesy of Simm 1CC BY-SA 3.0
Ia Santorini-2009-
Photo courtesy of Simm 1CC BY-SA 3.0
#onwardtogreece2014


The Hungarian photographer André Kertész with his walking (during thirty years) wore out the network of streets of at least three cities. Eighty-five now, confined (by grief) to his apartment…

Katerina Iliopoulou is a poet, artist and translator, who lives and works in Athens.

What I like this poem is the convergence of so many places that have personal meaning. The stream of images leading to an unexpected ending is quite wonderful too.

In Paris he photographed himself double closing his eyes and a crumpled half-opened white door reflecting in the mirror.

You can read more about Iliopoulou and the entire poem here: http://iliopoulou.wordpress.com/bio/

Andre Kertesz (1894 - 1985)  Circus, Budapest, 19 May 1920 Denver Art Museum #lateantiquitystudiesbudapest2014
Andre Kertesz (1894 – 1985)
Circus, Budapest, 19 May 1920
Denver Art Museum
#lateantiquitystudiesbudapest2014