Ancient Science Fiction and U2 (?) @ Trinity!

Illustration from a 1647 Dutch edition of A True Story showing the people of the Moon and the people of the Sun at war for the right to colonize the Morning Star, their aerial battle taking place on an enormous battlefield woven by giant spiders – Source (NB: not openly licensed, copyright British Library)

This semester, spring 2019, Prof. Tomasso taught a intermediate/advanced ancient Greek course about the ancient novel A True Story (GREK 332) and its relationship to modern science fiction.

On a sunny, warm afternoon in April, Prof. Tomasso and his students held class outside. ‘Neath the shady elms, they discussed Book 1 section 13 in which the narrator describes a decidedly odd contingent of the Moon King Endymion’s military forces: the Ἀνεμοδρόμοι.

What exactly were these beings? Lucian’s narrator describes them as light-armed infantry who wore chitons down to their feet and flew by letting the wind fill these chitons (χιτῶνας ποδήρεις ὑπεζωσμένοι κολπώσαντες αὐτοὺς τῷ ἀνέμῳ καθάπερ ἱστία φέρονται ὥσπερ τὰ σκάφη). We discussed various translations of Ἀνεμοδρόμοι, including the suggestion of the editors of our textbook, Evan Hayes and Stephen Nimis, “Wind Walkers”, and the translation by A. M. Harmon in his 1913 Loeb translation, “Volplaneurs.”

“Volplaneurs” is French for “Wind Walkers,” but why did Harmon choose to use French here? Perhaps this was intended to be a nod to the great French science-fiction writer of the nineteenth century, Jules Verne!

This sparked a comment by student George Adams about how Bono, the lead singer of the band U2, played a concert at Trinity in 1983 before the band was a household name. Bono climbed to the top of the Life Sciences Building and ziplined down. This is featured in an edition of Trinity Tripod article (below). Bono must have been what Lucian had in mind when he came up with the Ἀνεμοδρόμοι!

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