Wednesday, April 23, 2014


A God Dwells Here

Vergil, Aeneid 8.351-352 (tr. H. Rushton Fairclough):
"This grove," he cries, "this hill with its leafy crown,—though we know not what god it is—is yet a god's home..."

"hoc nemus, hunc," inquit, "frondoso vertice collem,
quis deus incertum est, habitat deus..."
Ovid, Fasti 3.295-296 (tr. James George Frazer):
Under the Aventine there lay a grove black with the shade of holm-oaks; at the sight of it, you could say, "There is a spirit here."

lucus Aventino suberat niger ilicis umbra,
    quo posses viso dicere, "numen inest."
Related post: A Grove of Ancient Trees.


Two for One

Pindar, Pythian Odes 3.81-82 (tr. William H. Race):
The immortals apportion to humans a pair of evils
for every good.

ἓν παρ᾽ ἐσλὸν πήματα σύνδυο δαίονται βροτοῖς

Tuesday, April 22, 2014


Earthen Vessels

Anatole France (1844-1924), The Garden of Epicurus, tr. Alfred Allinson (London: John Lane, 1920), p. 83:
Life is an ordeal, a test,—so say the Theologians. I am sure I do not know; at any rate it is not one we submit to voluntarily. The conditions are not laid down with sufficient clearness. In fact, it is not fair and equal for all. How can life be a test, for children who die directly after birth, and idiots, and madmen? Ah! these are objections that have been answered long ago. Yes, they are always being answered, and I am bound to say the answer cannot be very convincing, if it has to be repeated so often. Life does not bear the look, somehow, of an examination-room. It is much more like a vast pottery-works, where they manufacture all sorts of vessels for unknown purposes, a good many of which get broken in the making and are tossed on one side as worthless potsherds, without ever having been used. Others again are only employed for ridiculous or degrading ends. That is the way with us too.
The French, from Le Jardin d'Épicure, 9th ed. (Paris: Calmann Lévy, 1895), pp. 96-97:
Je ne sais si, comme la théologie l'enseigne, la vie est une épreuve; en tout cas, ce n'est pas une épreuve à laquelle nous soyons soumis volontairement. Les conditions n'en sont pas réglées avec une clarté suffisante. Enfin elle n'est point égale pour tous. Qu'est-ce que l'épreuve de la vie pour les enfants qui meurent sitôt nés, pour les idiots et les fous? Voilà des objections auxquelles on a déjà répondu.— On y répond toujours, et il faut que la réponse ne soit pas très bonne, pour qu'on soit obligé de la faire tant de fois. La vie n'a pas l'air d'une salle d'examen. Elle ressemble plutôt à un vaste atelier de poterie où l'on fabrique toutes sortes de vases pour des destinations inconnues et dont plusieurs, rompus dans le moule, sont rejetés comme de vils tessons sans avoir jamais servi. Les autres ne sont employés qu'à des usages absurdes ou dégoûtants. Ces pots, c'est nous.


A Wonderful Thing

Robert Hellenga, The Fall of a Sparrow (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1998; rpt. 1999), p. 91:
It was a truly wonderful thing, he reminded himself, that a man could earn a living talking to young people about Homer and Ovid and Horace.
Nice work if you can get it. I couldn't get it when I tried.

From the same book, a misprint in the Sappho quotation on p. 98:
λέπτον / δ' αὔτικα χπῶι πῦρ ὐπαδεδρόμηκεν.
For χπῶι read χρῶι.



Carmen Lactantius

From the title page of a musical score (click on image to enlarge):

There was never an author named Carmen Lactantius. There was an author named Lactantius (or, to give him his full name, Lucius Caecilius Firmianus Lactantius) who wrote a work with the title Carmen de Ave Phoenice (Poem about the Phoenix Bird).


Hat tip: Ian Jackson.




Gilbert Norwood (1880-1954), Pindar (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1945; rpt. 1974), pp. 6-7 (footnotes omitted):
Classical scholarship, then, so far as concerns the great ancient poets, has finished its task of removing the textual difficulties that prevented us from envisaging them as we envisage the modern. At any rate, we can do no more: we are dissatisfied with our text of Aeschylus, true; but progress has stopped. It is now far more fruitful to study Propertius in the light of Donne or Keats than in the light of Callimachus. In this field a vast amount of attractive study awaits us—attractive, but genuine and strenuous, for this is no affair of dilettantism, of superficial phrase-mongering. A.C. Bradley has said: "Research, though toilsome, is easy; imaginative vision, though delightful, is difficult; and we may be tempted to prefer the first." Tempted, because the old highway of research is so richly provided with maps, filling-stations and a highly trained constabulary. The investigator need fear nothing if he never allows his left hand to quit a Jahrbuch before his right clutches the comforting bulk of an Archiv. Such activity was needed so long as corruptions swarmed in our texts. It is still justified in archaeology, and in other departments of classical learning partly or quite scientific. But in the study of Greek and Latin poetry it is utterly out of date and would not be crawling over those now radiant blooms and gleaming marbles but for the belief that even this study must become a squalid imitation of the applied sciences. We now need classical scholars who are at least as well versed in great modern literature as in Beiträge, who will no longer believe that a first-rate edition of Catullus can be produced by a man whose acquaintance with Burns is limited to the chorus of Auld Lang Syne, if only he scans galliambics undismayed and remembers who proposed num for tum in 1862. We should hope, moreover, for a seemly elegance in our editions and resent it as an outrage if we open a copy of Theocritus only to find a horrible apparatus criticus lurking at the bottom of the page like some open sewer at the end of a gracious promenade, with repellent outcast conjectures wallowing in hideous decay under the sunlight. Let an editor make the best text he can, and then present his Sophocles in tranquil stateliness. If his conscience demands an apparatus, let him banish it to the end of the book: our enjoyment of Greek and Roman poets should no longer be marred by such intruders, wailing from below like Old Hamlet's ghost in the cellarage. Textual criticism exists in order to give us a text; when that has been made, the bye-products should be destroyed or hidden. No one would be more surprised than the old-fashioned scholar if at a college feast he found the high table festooned with kitchen-refuse.
Cf. Eduard Fraenkel (1888-1970), introduction to Friedrich Leo, Ausgewählte kleine Schriften, translated by M.L. West in Textual Criticism and Editorial Technique applicable to Greek and Latin Texts (Stuttgart: B.G. Teubner, 1973), p. 7:
I had by then read the greater part of Aristophanes, and I began to rave about it to Leo, and to wax eloquent on the magic of this poetry, the beauty of the choral odes, and so on and so forth. Leo let me have my say, perhaps ten minutes in all, without showing any sign of disapproval or impatience. When I was finished, he asked, "In which edition do you read Aristophanes?" I thought: has he not been listening? What has his question got to do with what I have been telling him? After a moment's ruffled hesitation I answered: "The Teubner". Leo: "Oh, you read Aristophanes without a critical apparatus." He said it quite calmly, without any sharpness, without a whiff of sarcasm, just sincerely taken aback that it was possible for a tolerably intelligent young man to do such a thing. I looked at the lawn nearby and had a single, overwhelming sensation: νῦν μοι χάνοι εὐρεῖα χθών. Later it seemed to me that in that moment I had understood the meaning of real scholarship.

Monday, April 21, 2014


What Have These Details to do with Poetry?

Gilbert Norwood (1880-1954), Pindar (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1945; rpt. 1974), p. 3, with notes on p. 213:
Too often, after determining to appreciate a poem in itself, we drift off upon themes which, though they have nothing to do with poetry, yet give us a piteous illusion like Ixion's that we embrace the goddess, though in truth we lavish caresses upon a phantom of cloud. Our libraries swarm with the unnatural offspring:5 those disquisitions upon the poet's "attitude" to this or that; those lists of his prepositions and spondees; investigations of the books he may have read and the women he may have loved. The radiance, the potent vitality of great writings dazzle our weak sight and fatigue our puny strength; we stumble away from the shrine to gossip with the sacristan about dates and measurements. This childish, though not ignoble, desire to create some relation, however trivial, between a poet and ourselves has produced numberless "studies" and "aspects" which enlighten us no more, on the only subject about which enlightenment is worth having, than the purchase of Aeschylus' writing-tablet inspired the prince of Syracuse.6 "What have these details to do with poetry?"—that is the test, which, while it condemns much pretentious research, yet approves much humdrum study.

5 The most extreme instance of this mania is a bulky work on Walter Pater, which gives only thirteen pages to his style, but records that his cat died in 1904, at the age of fifteen, and that his Pomeranian had passed away long before, in 1896, only eighteen months after αὐτότατος.

6 Lucian, Adv. Indoct. 15. Τὸ Αἰσχύλου πυξίον, εἰς ὃ ἐκεῖνος ἔγραφε, σὺν πολλῇ σπουδῇ κτησάμενος καὶ αὐτὸς ᾤετο ἔνθεος ἔσεσθαι καὶ κάτοχος ἐκ τοῦ πυξίου, ἀλλ᾽ ὅμως ἐν αὐτῷ ἐκείνῳ μακρῷ γελοιότερα ἔγραφεν.


Out of One, Many, or Out of Many, One?

Thomas Keightley, The Mythology of Ancient Greece and Italy, 2nd ed. (London: Whittaker and Co., 1848), p. 233 (footnote omitted):
Like many other gods who were originally single, Pan was multiplied in course of time, and we meet with Pans in the plural.
Martin P. Nilsson, A History of Greek Religion, 2nd ed., tr. F.J. Fielden (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1964), pp. 111-113 (footnotes omitted):
Nature is full of these daimones: they are innumerable, for every spring, every tree, every natural object has or at least may have its daimon. Hence crowds of Nature daimones of various kinds arise. Within each homogeneous group the individual disappears in the aggregate; the daimon residing in a particular natural object has an extremely limited circle of worshippers; most have no cult but exist only in belief and imagination. In other domains also similar collective groups of spirits or gods appear, such as 'the gentle gods' (θεοὶ μειλίχιοι), 'the boisterous ones' (Μαιμακτῆρες), the goddesses of childbirth (the Ilithyiae), 'the holy goddesses', the Erinyes (σεμναὶ θεαί), and the 'Rulers' (Ἄνακες), the two sons of Zeus, the Dioskouroi.

And these spirits intervene in human life and fortune. Men turn to them for peace, happiness, and prosperity. Just as the harvest-rite could not embrace the entire crop standing upon the field, but a single sheaf was selected as representing the whole, so the cult cannot address itself to the collective group. The attention is fixed upon some particular one from among the host of similar spirits. If they are localized, the nearest is chosen; then a local god arises. If the localization is not made prominent, the singular is simply put for the plural: Pan is invoked instead of the Panes. It is significant that in so late a document as the record of the secular festival of the Emperor Augustus the Ilithyiae are everywhere named in the plural except in the prayer, where we read 'O thou, Ilithyia!' In a cave dedicated to the cult of the nymphs in Attica, in which various inscriptions were carved in the fifth century B.C., the nymphs are as a rule spoken of in the plural, but one dedication reads: 'Archedemos built to the nymph.'

The needs of man created the gods, and the cult is an expression of his need. A god is a daimon which has acquired importance and a fixed form through the cult. From among the crowd of similar beings the cult chooses one as its object, and this becomes a single god. But the belief in the numerous daimones lives on, and if both the single divinity and the group of daimones are present to the mind together, the latter acquire a leader. Thus we have Pan and the Panes, Silenus and the Sileni, but Silenus was reduced to a semi-comic figure when his retinue was absorbed in that of Dionysos. A great goddess who seems to have arisen in this way is Artemis. She is essentially nothing but the most prominent of the wood- and mountain-nymphs. With these she hunts and dances in mountains and forests and amid green meadows. Like them she rules the animals in wild Nature and fosters their young. Like them she extends her sway to men, helps the mother in her hour of need, and protects the rising generation, but she may also deal sudden death with her arrows. This tendency to exalt one among a number of similar beings to a position of supremacy was so ingrained that it has left an example dating from the time of transition to the Christian faith. The Lycian 'wild gods' are represented as twelve similar figures; to them a thirteenth was added as their ruler, and he was placed in the middle and was somewhat larger in size, but was in other respects just like the rest.


Meditation on a Cock Fight

Joseph Hall (1574-1656), Occasionall Meditations, 3rd ed. (London: Printed by M[iles] F[lesher] for Nathaniel Butter, 1633), pp. 59-63 (XXIIII = Vpon sight of a Cocke fight):
How fell these Creatures out? Whence grew this so bloudy combat? Heere was neyther old grudge, nor present injurie. What then is the quarrell? Surely nothing but that which should rather unite, and reconcile them; one common Nature; they are both of one feather. I doe not see eyther of them flye upon Creatures of different kinds; but whiles they have peace with al others, they are at war with themselves; the very sight of each other was sufficient provocation. If this be the offence, why doth not each of them fall out with himselfe, since hee hates, and revenges in another, the being of that same which himselfe is?

Since Mans sin brought Debate into the World, nature is become a great quarreller.

The seeds of discord were scattered in every furrow of the Creation, & came up in a numberlesse variety of antipathies, whereof yet none is more odious, and deplorable, then those which are betwixt creatures of the same kind. What is this but an image of that woeful hostility which is exercised betwixt us reasonables, who are conjoyned in one common humanity, if not Religion?

We fight with, and destroy each other, more then those creatures that want reason to temper their passions; No beast is so cruel to man, as himselfe; where one man is slain by a beast, ten thousand are slaine by man. What is that war which wee study and practise, but the art of killing? What ever Turkes and Pagans may do, O Lord how long shall this brutish fury arme Christians against each other, whiles even divels are not at enmity with themselves, but accord in wickednesse, why do we men so mortally oppose each other in good?

Oh thou, that art the GOD of Peace, compose the unquiet hearts of men to an happy and universal Concord, and at last refresh our Soules with the multitude of Peace.
Related posts:

Sunday, April 20, 2014


I Cling to My Imperfection

Anatole France (1844-1924), The Garden of Epicurus, tr. Alfred Allinson (London: John Lane, 1920), p. 51:
Renan surrendered himself with smiling alacrity to the dream of a scientific morality. He reposed an almost unlimited confidence in Science. He believed it would change the world, because it can tunnel mountains. I do not think with him that it can make us gods. To say the truth, I do not very much want it to. I do not feel I have within me the stuff of a divinity, no matter how petty a one. My feebleness is dear to me. I cling to my imperfection, as the very essence of my being.
The French, from Le Jardin d'Épicure, 9th ed. (Paris: Calmann Lévy, 1895), pp. 56-57:
Renan s'abandonnait volontiers en souriant au rêve d'une morale scientifique. Il avait dans la science une confiance à peu près illimitée. Il croyait qu'elle changerait le monde, parce qu'elle perce les montagnes. Je ne crois pas, comme lui, qu'elle puisse nous diviniser. A vrai dire, je n'en ai guère l'envie. Je ne sens pas en moi l'étoffe d'un dieu, si petit qu'il soit. Ma faiblesse m'est chère. Je tiens à mon imperfection comme à ma raison d'être.


A Starting-Post

John Keats, letter to John Hamilton Reynolds (February 19, 1818):
I had an idea that a Man might pass a very pleasant life in this manner—let him on a certain day read a certain Page of full Poesy or distilled Prose, and let him wander with it, and muse upon it, and reflect upon it, and bring home to it, and prophesy upon it, and dream upon it, until it becomes stale—but when will it do so? Never. When Man has arrived at a certain ripeness in intellect any one grand and spiritual passage serves him as a starting-post towards all "the two-and-thirty Palaces." How happy is such a voyage of conception, what delicious diligent Indolence!
What are "the two-and-thirty Palaces"?

A New General Collection of Voyages and Travels: Consisting Of the most Esteemed Relations, which have been hitherto published in any Language: Comprehending every Thing remarkable in its Kind, in Europe, Asia, Africa and America..., Vol. IV (London: Thomas Astley, 1747), p. 5 (from "A Description of China," Book I, emphasis added):
They reckon three hundred and thirty-one remarkable Bridges, one thousand one hundred and fifty-nine Towers and triumphal Arches, erected to Kings, and eminent Persons; famous Libraries, two-hundred and seventy-two; seven hundred and nine Halls, built in Memory of Ancestors, or worthy Men; Sepulchres, remarkable for their Architecture, six hundred and eighty-eight; thirty-two Palaces of the Regulos; thirteen thousand six hundred and forty-seven Palaces of the Magistrates.
Id., p. 102 (emphasis added):
Among the public Buildings may be reckoned the Halls erected in Honour of Ancestors, the Libraries, and the Palaces of the Princes and Mandarins. Of the first, there are seven hundred and nine, considerable for their Largeness and Beauty. Of the second, two hundred and seventy-two, built at a vast Expence, finely ornamented, and stored with Books. Thirty-two Palaces of the Regulos, built after the Model of the Emperor's at Pe-king, and thirteen thousand six hundred and forty-seven of the Quan.
A regulo is, I assume, a regulus, a petty king. I don't know whether Keats ever read this book.

Joel Eidsath writes:
There are 32 points to the traditional wind compass. It's a poetic way of referring to all directions. "Two-and-thirty" is the sonorous KJV way of saying "32."

Keats was apparently inspired by Coleridge's Biographia Literaria, which uses the phrase "all the two and thirty winds," and had just been published in 1817.

Saturday, April 19, 2014


An Enduring and Harmless Pleasure

Anatole France (1844-1924), The Garden of Epicurus, tr. Alfred Allinson (London: John Lane, 1920), pp. 109-110:
The love of books is really a commendable taste. Bibliophiles are often made fun of, and perhaps, after all, they do lend themselves to raillery. But we should rather envy them, I think, for having successfully filled their lives with an enduring and harmless pleasure. Detractors think to confound them by declaring they never read their books. But one of them had his answer pat: "And you, do you eat off your old china?" What more innocent hobby can a man pursue than sorting away books in a press? True, it is very like the game the children play at when they build sand castles on the seashore. They are mighty busy, but nothing comes of it; whatever they build will be thrown down in a very short time. No doubt it is the same with collections of books and pictures. But it is only the vicissitudes of existence and the shortness of human life that must be blamed. The tide sweeps away the sand castles, the auctioneer disperses the hoarded treasures. And yet, what better can we do than build sand castles at ten years old, and form collections at sixty? Nothing will remain in any case of all our work, and the love of old books is not more foolish than any other love.
The French, from Le Jardin d'Épicure, 9th ed. (Paris: Calmann Lévy, 1895), pp. 124-126 (some misprints corrected):
Le goût des livres est vraiment un goût louable. On a raillé les bibliophiles, et peut-être, après tout, prêtent-ils à la raillerie; c'est le cas de tous les amoureux. Mais il faudrait plutôt les envier puisqu'ils ont ornés leur vie d'une longue et paisible volupté. On croit les confondre en disant qu'ils ne lisent point leurs livres. Mais l'un d'eux a répondu sans embarras: «Et vous, mangez-vous dans votre vieille faïence?» Que peut-on faire de plus honnête que de mettre des livres dans une armoire? Cela rappelle beaucoup, à la vérité, la tâche que se donnent les enfants, quand ils font des tas de sable au bord de la mer. Ils travaillent en vain, et tout ce qu'ils élèvent sera bientôt renversé. Sans doute, il en est ainsi des collections de livres et de tableaux. Mais il n'en faut accuser que les vicissitudes de l'existence et la brièveté de la vie. La mer emporte les tas de sable, le commissaire-priseur disperse les collections. Et pourtant on n'a rien de mieux à faire que des tas de sable à dix ans et des collections à soixante. Rien ne restera de tout ce que nous élevons, et l'amour des bibelots n'est pas plus vain que tous les autres amours.

José Gutiérrez Solana, El Bibliófilo



Anatole France (1844-1924), The Aspirations of Jean Servien, tr. Alfred Allinson (London: John Lane, 1912), p. 79 (chapter XI; ellipsis in original):
"You are all the same. You work and sweat and wear yourselves out to make your sons bachelors of arts, and you think the day after the examination the fine fellows will be posted Ambassadors. For God's sake! no more graduates, if you please! We can't tell what to do with 'em....Graduates indeed! Why, they block the road; they are cabdrivers, they distribute handbills in the streets."
The French, from Les Désirs de Jean Servien (Paris: Alphonse Lemerre, 1882), pp. 79-80:
«Vous êtes tous les mêmes. Vous travaillez, vous suez, vous vous épuisez pour faire de vos fils des bacheliers et vous croyez que le lendemain de l'examen ces gaillards-là seront nommés ambassadeurs. Pour Dieu! ne nous donnez plus de bacheliers. Nous ne savons qu'en faire...Les bacheliers! ils encombrent le pavé; ils sont cochers de fiacre, ils distribuent des prospectus dans les rues.»

Friday, April 18, 2014


Breakfast and Supper

Anatole France (1844-1924), The Aspirations of Jean Servien, tr. Alfred Allinson (London: John Lane, 1912), p. 18 (chapter III):
"Here is your son, is it not so? He is like you"—and laying his hand on Jean's head, who clung to his father's coat-tails in wonder at the red waistcoat and the sing-song voice, he asked if the child learned his lessons well, if he was growing up to be a clever man, if he would not soon be beginning Latin.

"That noble language," he added, "whose inimitable monuments have often made me forget my misfortunes.

"Yes, sir, I have often breakfasted on a page of Tacitus and supped on a satire of Juvenal."
The French, from Les Désirs de Jean Servien (Paris: Alphonse Lemerre, 1882), pp. 12-13:
«Voici votre fils, n'est-il pas vrai? Il vous ressemble.»

Et posant la main sur la tête de Jean, qui, pendu à la veste de son père, s'étonnait de ce gilet rouge et de ce parler chantant, il demanda si l'enfant apprenait bien ses leçons, s'il devenait un savant, s'il n'étudierait pas bientôt la langue latine.

—«Cette noble langue, ajouta-t-il, dont les monuments inimitables m'ont fait si souvent oublier mes infortunes.

«Oui, monsieur, j'ai souvent déjeuné d'une page de Tacite et soupé d'une satire de Juvénal.»


The Cost of Freedom

Martial 2.53 (tr. Walter C.A. Ker):
Do you wish to become free? You lie, Maximus; you don't wish. But if you do wish, in this way you can become so. You will be free, Maximus, if you refuse to dine abroad, if Veii's grape quells your thirst, if you can laugh at the gold-inlaid dishes of the wretched Cinna, if you can content yourself with a toga such as mine, if your plebeian amours are handfasted at the price of twopence, if you can endure to stoop as you enter your dwelling. If this is your strength of mind, if such its power over itself, you can live more free than a Parthian king.
A verse translation (by Henry Killigrew?), in Select Epigrams of Martial Englished (London: Printed by Edward Jones, for Samuel Lowndes, 1689), p. 40:
Thou but feign'st, Maximus, thou'dst not be Free:
Or if thou wouldst, by these means thou may'st be.
Thou shalt be Free; if thou at Home can'st Dine;
If thou canst quench thy Thirst with common Wine;
If Rich Men thou can'st Miserable deem,
And such a thread-bare Coat, as mine, esteem;
If in a cheap and vulgar Form delight,
A Room, in which thou scarce can'st stand upright.
If thy Desires, to this Lure, thou can'st bring,
Thou may'st live Freer than the Parthian King.
Another verse translation, by A.E. Street:
You would be free? Nay, Maximus, you lie,
But, if't be true, herein lies liberty;
If you refuse henceforth abroad to dine;
And quench your thirst with little Tuscan wine,
If abject Cinna's plate move your contempt,
If you will go, like me, threadbare, unkempt,
Buy humble amours with a thrifty hand,
Live in a cot where you must stoop to stand;
If you are strong, and will these things to be,
No Parthian king will e'er have been so free.
The Latin:
Vis liber fieri? mentiris, Maxime, non vis:
    sed fieri si vis, hac ratione potes.
liber eris, cenare foris si, Maxime, nolis,
    Veientana tuam si domat uva sitim,
si ridere potes miseri chrysendeta Cinnae,        5
    contentus nostra si potes esse toga,
si plebeia Venus gemino tibi iungitur asse,
    si tua non rectus tecta subire potes.
haec tibi si vis est, si mentis tanta potestas,
    liberior Partho vivere rege potes.        10

7 iungitur Heinsius: vincitur codd.


Mageiros and Magic?

Michael Pollan, Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation (New York: The Penguin Press, 2013), p. 4:
Most of us have happy memories of watching our mothers in the kitchen, performing feats that sometimes looked very much like sorcery and typically resulted in something tasty to eat. In ancient Greece, the word for "cook," "butcher," and "priest" was the same—mageiros—and the word shares an etymological root with "magic." I would watch, rapt, when my mother conjured her most magical dishes, like the tightly wrapped packages of fried chicken Kiev that, when cut open with a sharp knife, liberated a pool of melted butter and an aromatic gust of herbs. But watching an everyday pan of eggs get scrambled was nearly as riveting a spectacle, as the slimy yellow goop suddenly leapt into the form of savory gold nuggets. Even the most ordinary dish follows a satisfying arc of transformation, magically becoming more than the sum of its ordinary parts.
Does mageiros really share an etymological root with magic?

According to Hans Dohm, Mageiros: Die Rolle des Kochs in der griechisch-römischen Komödie (Munich: C.H. Beck, 1964), pp. 72-74, Greek μάγειρος (mágeiros = cook) is related to μάχαιρα (máchaira = knife). Dohm gives credit for this etymology to Vittore Pisani, "Una parola greca di probabile origine macedone: μάγειρος," Revue internationale des études balkaniques 1 (1934) 255-259 (non vidi).

But cf. Pierre Chantraine, Dictionnaire étymologique de la langue grecque, III (Paris: Klincksieck, 1974), s.v. μάγειρος, p. 656, who concludes, "Pas d'étymologie établie." Chantraine is also agnostic about μάχαιρα (p. 673): "Mais il n'y a pas d'étymologie: le rapprochement avec μάχομαι n'est pas plausible." Robert Beekes, Etymological Dictionary of Greek, 2 vols. (Leiden: Brill, 2009), is unavailable to me (Brill advertises it as "A must-have research tool that should be on every classicist's desk"—it costs only $575).

On the theory of an etymological connection between μάγειρος and μάγος, see Rüdiger Schmitt, "'Méconnaissance' altiranischen Sprachgutes im Griechischen," Glotta 49 (1971) 95-110 (at 107):
Durch nichts begründet ist Hemmerdingers anschließende lapidare Feststellung: „Sur μάγος sont formés des mots qui ont trait à la boucherie ou la cuisine (μαγειρεῖον, etc.).“
The quotation comes from Bertrand Hemmerdinger, "158 noms communs grecs d'origine iranienne, d'Eschyle au grec moderne," Byzantinoslavica 30 (1969) 18-41 (at 19), which I haven't seen. Other than Hemmerdinger, whose theory Schmitt calls unfounded, I'm not aware of any scholar who connects mageiros with magic.

Hat tip: Jim K.

Thanks very much to Aurelian Isaïcq for transcriptions of Beekes, s.v. μάγειρος:
The word looks non-IE, because of the alternations ει/ī and (if μάχαιρα belongs here) γ/χ. Is it Pre-Greek, deriving from *mak-ary-? Aeol. μάγοιρος, mentioned by LSJ s.v., is only attested in Greg. Cor., which is not a trustworthy source.
and s.v. μάχαιρα:
I compare μάγειρος 'cook', and on account of the interchange γ/χ conclude that it is a Pre-Greek word.

On p. 457 of Pollan's book read "Euripides" for "Euripedes".


Thursday, April 17, 2014


Ovid in Pontus

C.H. Sisson (1914-2003), "Ovid in Pontus," Collected Poems (Manchester: Carcanet, 1998), p. 158:
I am an old man whose death is foreseen,
Bystanders admire my longevity.
I see them eat every word I mean,
Yes, and excrete pity.
Di maris et coeli, what if the air
Is empty enough to receive prayer?
Do I have to pray? Because Pontic cold
Is under my cloak now I am old?
It is under my skin, fashionable tears.
A suitable place to die, or to make amends;
Failure makes enemies as success friends.
Hat tip: Eric Thomson.


A Liking for Savages

John Stuart Blackie (1809-1895), Altavona: Fact and Fiction from My Life in the Highlands (Edinburgh: David Douglas, 1882), pp. 207-208:
FL.—Nevertheless, I must confess, my sympathies in such cases instinctively go with the conquered. If I look forth with wonder on the adventurous admirals of Agricola, drawing with the keels, so to speak, of their long ships a boundary line which should make the limits of the Roman empire to the West identical with the limits of the then known world, my heart is at the same time stirred in sisterly pity towards the blue barbarians, painted with woad—the Epidians, Selgovians, and Novantes, destined to receive civilisation, not without the "delinimenta vitiorum," which, as Tacitus says, the corrupt Romans of those days always brought with them. Generally, I must confess that I have a liking for savages; they may be rude and sometimes cruel, but they are at least natural.

CH.—It is this contrast, no doubt, between the artificial vices of an over-refined civilisation and the natural virtues of unsophisticated semi-savages, which furnishes the key-note to the admirable little tract, De moribus Germanorum, with which every schoolboy is familiar. At the same time, I apprehend it is distance at bottom that, in the case of cerulean savages, as of blue mountains, lends enchantment to the view. Catch a dragon-fly, and your close inspection will annihilate all its play of colour. Live with a savage with stone hatchets and bone necklaces for a week or a day, and you will straightway begin to sigh for saloons and sofas, and silver forks at dinner.

MAC.—Yes, sentimental worshippers of pure nature, and aesthetical worshippers of the middle ages, are capable of any kind of self-deceit. They live in an atmosphere of elegant lies, and the stuff which they find in some moonshiny novel to feed their weak digestion, is as far removed from healthy nature as the phosphorescence of putrid herring in the dark is from the light of day.


Pan and Priapus

Statue of Pan in the Museo Arqueológico Nacional (Madrid):

Statue of Priapus in the same museum:

Thanks to a friend for sending me these photographs.


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