Saturday, March 23, 2019


Prayer to Repel Invaders

Homer, Iliad 8.526-527 (Hector speaking; tr. A.T. Murray, rev. William F. Wyatt):
I pray in high hope to Zeus and the other gods to drive out from here these dogs borne by the fates...

εὔχομαι ἐλπόμενος Διί τ᾽ ἄλλοισίν τε θεοῖσιν
ἐξελάαν ἐνθένδε κύνας κηρεσσιφορήτους...

εὔχομαι ἐλπόμενος: ἔλπομαι εὐχόμενος Zenodotus
See Leonard Charles Muellner, The Meaning of Homeric ΕΥΧΟΜΑΙ through its Formulas (Innsbruck: Innsbrucker Beiträge zur Sprachwissenschaft, 1976), pp. 57-62.


Measuring the Merits of a Scholar

Bernard Lewis (1916-2018), Notes on a Century: Reflections of a Middle East Historian (New York: Viking: 2012), p. 273:
Unfortunately, the merits of a scholar are measured by publications, and the merits of these publications are measured by their bulk. This is perhaps inevitable when decisions are made by committees of experts who do not read, or if they read, do not understand, the works of those who come before them for judgment. This development has coincided—I think coincided is the right word—with the neocolonial expansion of the social sciences into whole areas, indeed continents, which were once peacefully cultivated by philologists and historians, and with the increasing use of techniques of research and exposition which are at once extravagant and arcane. This has often meant that works are unread because they are unreadable, uncomprehended because they are incomprehensible. Both qualities are believed to conceal vast learning and great profundity.

Friday, March 22, 2019


Eating and Drinking

Joannes van Deventer, Graduale (Cuijk, Crosier Monastery of St. Agatha, MS M I 001, finished in 1529), fol. 153 verso:


From F.A.W.P. Bull, The Miniature Art of Joannes van Deventer, Crosier of the Monastery of St. Agatha, tr. James Remmerswaal (2011), pp. 12-13.



Homer, Iliad 10.70-71 (tr. Peter Green):
Let's join the hard work ourselves, for this, it would seem,
is the burden of evil that Zeus laid on us at our birth.

ἀλλὰ καὶ αὐτοί περ πονεώμεθα· ὧδέ που ἄμμι
Ζεὺς ἐπὶ γιγνομένοισιν ἵει κακότητα βαρεῖαν.



Abraham Lincoln, Speech in the Illinois Legislature Concerning the State Bank (January 11, 1837):
Mr. Chairman, this movement is exclusively the work of politicians; a set of men who have interests aside from the interests of the people, and who, to say the most of them, are, taken as a mass, at least one long step removed from honest men. I say this with the greater freedom because, being a politician myself, none can regard it as personal.

Thursday, March 21, 2019


Chapel of Bones

Thanks very much to a friend for these photographs of the Chapel of Bones (Capela dos Ossos) in the Church of St. Francis (Igreja de São Francisco), Évora, Portugal.


Dative Singular of a Third Declension Noun

Valerius Maximus, Memorable Doings and Sayings, Vol. I: Books 1-5. Edited and Translated by D. R. Shackleton Bailey (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2000 = Loeb Classical Library, 492), pp. 438-439 (5.1.praef.):
Liberalitatii quas aptiores comites quam humanitatem et clementiam dederim, quoniam idem genus laudis expetunt?

What more suitable companions should I give to liberality than humanity and mercy, since they seek the same kind of praise?
Liberalitatii is a mistake — it should be Liberalitati. The error persists in the Digital Loeb Classical Library.



The Best Job

Julian Jackson, De Gaulle (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2018), pp. 11-12, with notes (expanded by me) on pp. 820-821:
In two careful sentences of his War Memoirs, de Gaulle wrote of his father: 'My father, a man of thought, culture, tradition, was imbued with a sense of the dignity of France. He made me discover its History.'30 Later in life, when asked to name the person who had most influenced him, he would always unhesitatingly mention his father. Henri de Gaulle was remembered by his many pupils as charmingly vieille France, a gentle survivor from another age: distinguished and formal, undemonstrative and erudite. In this family, Gaulle later recalled, 'intellectual work was all that counted.'31 Henri passed on to his son a reverence for writers and the life of the mind. In London during the war de Gaulle ruminated one day on another possible existence:
The most wonderful job in the world would be as a librarian ... in a small provincial town, perhaps a municipal library in Brittany ... What calm! What a wonderful life! ... Suddenly, turning sixty, one begins to write an 80-page monograph entitled: 'Did Madame de Sévigné ever visit Pontivy?' ... One becomes increasingly frenetic, writing stinging letters to the deacon who quibbles about a date.32
30. DGM [i.e. Charles de Gaulle, Mémoires (Gallimard, 2000)] 5.

31. Guy, En écoutant [i.e. Claude Guy, En écoutant de Gaulle. Journal 1946-1949 (Grasset, 1996)], 168.

32. François Coulet, Vertu des temps difficiles (Plon, 1967), 165-6.
The quotation in French:
Le plus beau métier, voyez-vous, c'est d'être bibliothécaire ... Je ne veux pas parler d'une grande bibliothèque, mais d'un poste de petit bibliothécaire, dans une petite ville de province, en Bretagne, une bibliothèque municipale ... Quel calme! Quelle belle vie! ... Et puis, brusquement, quand arrive la soixantaine, on se met à écrire une monographie de quatre-vingt pages: Mme de Sévigné est-elle passée par Pontivy? Alors, on devient frénétique, on envoie des lettres cinglantes au chanoine qui chicane sur une date, on persécute tout le monde, on n'arrête pas ... Oui, croyez-moi, bibliothécaire, c'est le plus beau des métiers.
Hat tip: Joel Eidsath.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019


The Typical Greek Farmer

Victor Davis Hanson, The Other Greeks: The Family Farm and the Agrarian Roots of Western Civilization (New York: The Free Press, 1995), pp. 5-6:
Twenty-four centuries ago, Theophrastus, the urban philosopher, portrayed this "other" Greek as an oaf and a clod who "will sit down with his cloak hitched above his knees, exposing his private parts. He is neither surprised nor frightened by anything he sees on the street, but let him catch sight of an ox or a donkey or a billy-goat, and he will stand and gaze at it" (Char. 4.8). The typical Greek farmer was a man who cared little for dress, shunned the palestra and gymnasium, was rarely portrayed on Greek pots, and never appeared in a Platonic dialogue. He owned no mounts, better to be seen soiled among pigs and goats, his mongrel hound snapping at his side. But the other Greek also has no boss, stands firm in battle "squarely upon his legs" with "no swagger in his lovelocks," a man who "does not cleanshave beneath his chin" (Archil. 114), who judges the sophist in the assembly by the same yardstick he prunes vines and picks olives, and so cannot be fooled, a man who knows that his land "never plays tricks, but reveals clearly and truthfully what it can and cannot do," that it "conceals nothing from our knowledge and understanding and so becomes the best tester of good and bad men" (Oec. 20.13-14). Aristophanes described this other Greek "covered with dust, fond of garlic pickle, with a facial expression like sour vinegar" (Ar. Eccl. 289-92). He has no belly for the prancing aristocrat and even less for the mob on the dole. He idealizes his ten acres—not much more, rarely less—and he wants others like him to have about the same. He walks rarely into town, and then mostly just to vote and go home, disgusted at the noise, the squalor, and the endless race for pelf and power. And because he suffers no master, he speaks his due, fights his own battles, and leaves an imprint of self-reliance and nonconformity, a legacy of independence that is the backbone of Western society.
Theophrastus, Characters 4.7-8 (tr. Jeffrey Rusten):
He sits down with his cloak hitched up above his knee, thereby revealing his nakedness. He doesn't enjoy or gawk at anything else on the street—yet stands in rapt attention at the sight of a cow, an ass, or a goat.

καὶ ἀναβεβλημένος ἄνω τοῦ γόνατος καθιζάνειν ὥστε τὰ γυμνὰ αὐτοῦ φαίνεσθαι. καὶ ἐπ᾿ ἄλλῳ μὲν μηδενὶ μήτε εὐφραίνεσθαι μήτε ἐκπλήττεσθαι ἐν ταῖς ὁδοῖς, ὅταν δὲ ἴδῃ βοῦν ἢ ὄνον ἢ τράγον, ἑστηκὼς θεωρεῖν.
Archilochus, fragment 114 (tr. Douglas E. Gerber):
I have no liking for a general who is tall, walks with a swaggering gait, takes pride in his curls, and is partly shaven. Let mine be one who is short, has a bent look about the shins, stands firmly on his feet, and is full of courage.

οὐ φιλέω μέγαν στρατηγὸν οὐδὲ διαπεπλιγμένον
οὐδὲ βοστρύχοισι γαῦρον οὐδ᾿ ὑπεξυρημένον,
ἀλλά μοι σμικρός τις εἴη καὶ περὶ κνήμας ἰδεῖν
ῥοικός, ἀσφαλέως βεβηκὼς ποσσί, καρδίης πλέως.
Xenophon, Oeconomicus 20.13-14 (tr. E.C. Marchant):
For the land makes no deceptive displays but reveals frankly and truthfully what she can and cannot do. Because she conceals nothing from our knowledge and understanding, the land is the surest tester of bad and lazy men.

οὐ γὰρ ἔστιν ὅ τι ἐπὶ ἀπάτῃ δείκνυσιν, ἀλλ᾿ ἁπλῶς ἅ τε δύναται καὶ ἃ μὴ σαφηνίζει τε καὶ ἀληθεύει. δοκεῖ δέ μοι ἡ γῆ καὶ τοὺς κακούς τε καὶ ἀργοὺς τῷ εὔγνωστα καὶ εὐμαθῆ πάντα παρέχειν ἄριστα ἐξετάζειν.
Aristophanes, Assemblywomen 289-292 (tr. Jeffrey Henderson):
It's off to the Assembly, gentlemen! The magistrate
has sounded his warning:
anyone who isn't there bright and early,
covered with dust,
happy with garlic soup for breakfast,
with a salsa look in his eye,
will not get his three-obol pay.

χωρῶμεν εἰς ἐκκλησίαν ὦνδρες· ἠπείλησε γὰρ
ὁ θεσμοθέτης, ὃς ἂν
μὴ πρῲ πάνυ τοῦ κνέφους
ἥκῃ κεκονιμένος,
στέργων σκοροδάλμῃ,
βλέπων ὑπότριμμα, μὴ
δώσειν τὸ τριώβολον.



M.F.K. Fisher (1908-1992), "G Is for Gluttony," An Alphabet for Gourmets:
It is a curious fact that no man likes to call himself a glutton, and yet each of us has in him a trace of gluttony, potential or actual. I cannot believe that there exists a single coherent human being who will not confess, at least to himself, that once or twice he has stuffed himself to the bursting point, on anything from quail financière to flapjacks, for no other reason than the beastlike satisfaction of his belly. In fact I pity anyone who has not permitted himself this sensual experience, if only to determine what his own private limitations are, and where, for himself alone, gourmandism ends and gluttony begins.

It is different for each of us, and the size of a man's paunch has little to do with the kind of appetite which fills it. Diamond Jim Brady, for instance, is more often than not called "the greatest glutton in American history," and so on, simply because he had a really enormous capacity for food. To my mind he was not gluttonous but rather monstrous, in that his stomach was about six times normal size. That he ate at least six times as much as a normal man did not make him a glutton. He was, instead, Gargantuan, in the classical sense. His taste was keen and sure to the time of his death, and that he ate nine portions of sole Marguéry the night George Rector brought the recipe back to New York from Paris especially for him does not mean that he gorged himself upon it but simply that he had room for it.

I myself would like to be able to eat that much of something I really delight in, and I can recognize overtones of envy in the way lesser mortals so easily damned Brady as a glutton, even in the days of excess when he flourished. Probably this country will never again see so many fat, rich men as were prevalent at the end of the last century, copper kings and railroad millionaires and suchlike literally stuffing themselves to death in imitation of Diamond Jim, whose abnormally large stomach coincided so miraculously with the period. He ate a hundred men like "Betcha-Million" Gates into their oversized coffins simply because he was a historical accident, and it is interesting to speculate on what his influence would be today, when most of the robber barons have gastric ulcers and lunch off crackers and milk at their desks. Certainly it is now unfashionable to overeat in public, and the few real trenchermen left are careful to practice their gastronomical excesses in the name of various honorable and respected food-and-wine societies.


I am a poor figure of a glutton today in comparison with that frank adolescent cramming. In fact I can think of nothing quite like it in my present make-up. It is true that I overeat at times, through carelessness or a deliberate prolonging of my pleasure in a certain taste, but I do not do it with the voracity of youth. I am probably incapable, really, of such lust. I rather regret it: one more admission of my dwindling powers!


Local Museums

D.H. Lawrence (1885-1930), Sketches of Etruscan Places, II ("Tarquinia"):
The museum is exceedingly interesting and delightful, to anyone who is even a bit aware of the Etruscans. It contains a great number of things found at Tarquinia, and only things found at Tarquinia: at least, so the guide said.

Which is exactly as should he. It is a great mistake to rape everything away from its setting, and huddle it together in the "great centres." It is all very well to say, the public can then see the things. The public is a hundred-headed ass, and can see nothing. A few intelligent individuals do wander through the splendid etruscan museum in Florence, struggling with the abstraction of many fascinating things from all parts of Etruria confusing the sensitive soul. But the public, if it straggles in, straggles out again in utter boredom. When shall we learn that it is no use approaching the still-vital creations of dead men as if they were so many machine-parts which, fitted together, would make a "civilisation"! Oh, the weary, asinine stupidity of man's desire to "see the thing as a whole." There is no whole—the wholeness no more exists than the equator exists. It is the dreariest of abstractions.


It only we would realise it, and not tear things from their settings. Museums anyhow are wrong. But if one must have museums, let them be small, and above all, let them be local. Splendid as the etruscan museum is in Florence, how much happier one is in the museum at Tarquinia, where all the things are Tarquinian, and at least have some association with one another, and form some sort of organic whole.
Id., VI ("Volterra"):
Museums, museums, museums, object-lessons rigged out to illustrate the unsound theories of archaeologists, crazy attempts to coordinate and get into a fixed order that which has no fixed order and will not be coordinated! It is sickening! Why must all experience be systematized? Why must even the vanished Etruscans be reduced to a system? They never will be. You break all the eggs, and produce an omelette which is neither Etruscan nor Roman not Italic nor Hittite, nor anything else, but just a systematized mess. Why can't incompatible things be left incompatible? If you make an omelette out of a hen's egg, a plover's, and an ostrich's, you won't have a grand amalgam or unification of hen and plover and ostrich into something we may call "oviparity." You'll have that formless object, an omelette.

So it is here. If you try to make a grand amalgam of Cerveteri and Tarquinia, Vulci, Vetulonia, Volterra, Chiusi, Veii, then you won't get the essential Etruscan as a result, but a cooked-up mess which has no life-meaning at all. A museum is not a first-hand contact: it is an illustrated lecture. And what one wants is the actual vital touch. I don't want to be "instructed"; nor do many other people.

They could take the more homeless objects for the museums, and still leave those that have a place in their own place: the Inghirami Tomb here at Volterra.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019


In the Beginning

D.H. Lawrence (1885-1930), Sketches of Etruscan Places, II ("Tarquinia"):
And before Buddha or Jesus spoke the nightingale sang, and long after the words of Jesus and Buddha are gone into oblivion the nightingale still will sing. Because it is neither preaching nor teaching nor commanding nor urging. It is just singing. And in the beginning was not a Word, but a chirrup.


Marriage Proposal

Charles Dickens (1812-1870), Nicholas Nickleby, chapter LXIII (Tim Linkinwater to Miss La Creevy):
'Come,' said Tim. 'Let's be a comfortable couple. We shall live in the old house here, where I have been for four-and-forty year; we shall go to the old church, where I've been, every Sunday morning, all through that time; we shall have all my old friends about us — Dick, the archway, the pump, the flower-pots, and Mr. Frank's children, and Mr. Nickleby's children that we shall seem like grandfather and grandmother to. Let's be a comfortable couple, and take care of each other! And if we should get deaf, or lame, or blind, or bed-ridden, how glad we shall be that we have somebody we are fond of, always to talk to and sit with! Let's be a comfortable couple. Now, do, my dear!'


Attention, Young People

Pseudo-Phocylides, Sentences 220-221 (tr. P.W. van der Horst):
Revere those with gray hair on the temples and yield your seat
and all privileges to aged persons.

αἰδεῖσθαι πολιοκροτάφους, εἴκειν δὲ γέρουσιν
ἕδρης καὶ γεράων πάντων.
Related post: Proper Deference to an Old Man.

Monday, March 18, 2019



Homer, Iliad 18.417-420 (tr. Richmond Lattimore):
And in support of their master moved his attendants.
These are golden, and in appearance like living young women.
There is intelligence in their hearts, and there is speech in them
and strength, and from the immortal gods they have learned how to do things.

          ὑπὸ δ᾽ ἀμφίπολοι ῥώοντο ἄνακτι
χρύσειαι ζωῇσι νεήνισιν εἰοικυῖαι.
τῇς ἐν μὲν νόος ἐστὶ μετὰ φρεσίν, ἐν δὲ καὶ αὐδὴ
καὶ σθένος, ἀθανάτων δὲ θεῶν ἄπο ἔργα ἴσασιν.
"Their master" = Hephaestus.



Raymond B. Cowles (1896-1971), Desert Journal (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1977), p. 119:
Since those early experiments the ecological role of the predator as a necessary sanitizing agent has become well known. The capture and quick removal of abnormal individuals within a group of gregarious animals aid in the prevention of the spread of disease, either from illness or infected wounds that could introduce sepsis into scratches on their neighbors. Another plus is the removal from the breeding stock of individuals with obvious genetic impairments. In other words, with the defective phenotypes eliminated, they will not breed and multiply and thus burden their own kind. I believe that no exceptions have been found to the role of predation as a useful influence for the good of the group and successive generations, no matter how harsh it may be to the one removed. To our sentiments of sympathy, even this role of a predator seems brutal and emotionally hard to accept. It is but one example, however, of the fact that the group, and this includes not only the present, but innumerable future members, is far more important than the welfare or security of any single transient individual. This may seem like the antithesis of our present philosophy of the "sanctity of life" and the "dignity and rights of the individual"—and it is.


A Continuance of Life

D.H. Lawrence (1885-1930), Sketches of Etruscan Places, I ("Cerveteri"):
And death, to the Etruscan, was a pleasant continuance of life, with jewels and wine and flutes playing for the dance. It was neither an ecstasy of bliss, a heaven, nor a purgatory of torment. It was just a natural continuance of the fullness of life. Everything was in terms of life, of living.
Id., III ("The Painted Tombs of Tarquinia. 1," on the Tomb of Hunting and Fishing):
The scene is natural as life, and yet it has a heavy archaic fullness of meaning. It is the death-banquet; and at the same time it is the dead man banqueting in the underworld; for the underworld of the Etruscans was a gay place. While the living feasted out of doors, at the tomb of the dead, the dead himself feasted in like manner, with a lady to offer him garlands and slaves to bring him wine, away in the underworld. For the life on earth was so good, the life below could but be a continuance of it.

Sunday, March 17, 2019


Very Thin Protection

D.H. Lawrence (1885-1930), Sea and Sardinia, VIII ("Back"):
And never for a second must one be off one's guard for one's watch and money and even hanky. When I first came to Italy after the war I was robbed twice in three weeks, floating round in the sweet old innocent confidence in mankind. Since then I have never ceased to be on my guard. Somehow or other, waking and sleeping one's spirit must be on its guard nowadays. Which is really what I prefer, now I have learnt it. Confidence in the goodness of mankind is a very thin protection indeed. Integer vitae scelerisque purus will do nothing for you when it comes to humanity, however efficacious it may be with lions and wolves.



Valerius Maximus, Memorable Doings and Sayings 2.1.6 (tr. D.R. Shackleton Bailey):
But whenever some strife arose between husband and wife, they would repair to the chapel of the goddess Viriplaca, which is on the Palatine. There they would say in turn what they wanted to say and go back in harmony, laying aside their contention.

Quotiens vero inter virum et uxorem aliquid iurgii intercesserat, in sacellum deae Viriplacae, quod est in Palatio, veniebant, et ibi invicem locuti quae voluerant, contentione animorum deposita, concordes revertebantur.


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