Thursday, July 02, 2015


De Natura Deorum

Diogenes Laertius 9.4 (on Melissus; tr. R.D. Hicks):
Moreover he said that we ought not to make any statements about the gods, for it was impossible to have knowledge of them.

ἀλλὰ καὶ περὶ θεῶν ἔλεγε μὴ δεῖν ἀποφαίνεσθαι· μὴ γὰρ εἶναι γνῶσιν αὐτῶν.
Id. 9.51 (on Protagoras):
In another work he began thus: "As to the gods, I have no means of knowing either that they exist or that they do not exist. For many are the obstacles that impede knowledge, both the obscurity of the question and the shortness of human life."

περὶ μὲν θεῶν οὐκ ἔχω εἰδέναι οὔθ᾿ ὡς εἰσίν, οὔθ᾿ ὡς οὐκ εἰσίν·1 πολλὰ γὰρ τὰ κωλύοντα εἰδέναι, ἥ τ᾿ ἀδηλότης καὶ βραχὺς ὢν ὁ βίος τοῦ ἀνθρώπου.”

1 οὐθ᾿ ὁποῖοί τινες ἰδέαν
Diels ex Euseb. P.E. xiv.3.7.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015


Sophocles, Ajax, Again

These are some more nit-picking comments on the translation of Ajax in Sophocles, Ajax, Electra, Oedipus Tyrannus. Edited and Translated by Hugh Lloyd-Jones (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1994), a volume in the Loeb Classical Library series. My previous comments are here.

182-184 (pp. 48-49):
οὔποτε γὰρ φρενόθεν γ᾿ ἐπ᾿ ἀριστερά,
παῖ Τελαμῶνος, ἔβας
τόσσον ἐν ποίμναις πίτνων.

Never were you in your right mind when you went so far astray as to fall upon the flocks!
Ll-J didn't translate the vocative παῖ Τελαμῶνος (son of Telamon) in line 183.

208-213 (pp. 50-51):
τί δ᾿ ἐνήλλακται τῆς ἡμερίας
νὺξ ἥδε βάρος;
λέγ᾿, ἐπεί σε λέχος δουριάλωτον
στέρξας ἀνέχει θούριος Αἴας·
ὥστ᾿ οὐκ ἂν ἄιδρις ὑπείποις.

And what is the grievous change from the fortune of the day brought by this night? Child of Phrygian Teleutas, tell us; for valiant Ajax has embraced you and maintains you as his spear-won bride, so that you would not answer without knowledge.
In the 1994 edition, line 210 (παῖ τοῦ Φρυγίου Τελεύταντος = Child of Phrygian Teleutas) is missing from the Greek. It does appear in the digital Loeb Classical Library edition, although with the spelling Τελλεύταντος (found in some manuscripts).

394-398 (pp. 68-69):
σκότος, ἐμὸν φάος,
ἔρεβος ὦ φαεννότατον, ὡς ἐμοί,
ἕλεσθ᾿ ἕλεσθέ μ᾿ οἰκήτορα,
ἕλεσθέ μ᾿·

Ah, darkness that is my light, gloom that is most bright for me, take me, take me to dwell in you!
The imperative ἕλεσθέ occurs three times in the Greek, but is only translated twice.

460-461 (pp. 74-75):
πότερα πρὸς οἴκους, ναυλόχους λιπὼν ἕδρας
μόνους τ᾿ Ἀτρείδας, πέλαγος Αἰγαῖον περῶ;

Shall I cross the Aegean sea, leaving behind the station of the ships and the sons of Atreus, and go home?
Ll-J didn't translate μόνους in line 461. Cf. Jebb:
Shall I forsake the station of the ships, and leave the Atreidae forlorn, and go homeward across the Aegean?
Jebb's note on μόνους:
leaving them bereft of my aid.
574-576 (pp. 84-85):
ἀλλ᾿ αὐτό μοι σύ, παῖ, λαβὼν τοὐπώνυμον,
Εὐρύσακες, ἴσχε διὰ πολυρράφου στρέφων
πόρπακος ἑπτάβοιον ἄρρηκτον σάκος·

but do you, boy, take the thing from which you take your name and carry it, wielding it by means of its well-sewn thong, my shield unbreakable, made of seven hides.
Ll-Jones omitted the name, Eurysaces, from the translation in the 1994 edition, although it does appear in the digital Loeb Classical Library edition. A note might be helpful: the name Eurysaces comes from εὐρύς (broad) and σάκος (shield).

702-705 (pp. 94-95):
Ἰκαρίων δ᾿ ὑπὲρ κελεύθων
μολὼν ἄναξ Ἀπόλλων
ὁ Δάλιος εὔγνωστος
ἐμοὶ ξυνείη διὰ παντὸς εὔφρων.

And may Apollo, lord of Delos, come over the Icarian sea and be with me, forever kindly!
Ll-J didn't translate εὔγνωστος in line 704 (Liddell-Scott-Jones: "easy to discern," Jebb: "in presence manifest," with his note: "'easily recognised,' i.e. in a visible shape").

800 (pp. 104-105):
οἴμοι τάλαινα, τοῦ ποτ᾿ ἀνθρώπων μαθών;

Ah me, from what man did he learn this?
Ll-J didn't translate τάλαινα (suffering, wretched). Likewise at 838 (pp. 106-107) and 902 (pp. 112-113) he didn't translate τάλας.

955-960 (pp. 118-119):
ἦ ῥα κελαινώπᾳ θυμῷ ἐφυβρίζει
πολύτλας ἀνήρ,
γελᾷ δὲ τοῖσδε μαινομένοις ἄχεσιν
πολὺν γέλωτα, φεῦ φεῦ,
ξύν τε διπλοῖ βασιλῆς
κλύοντες Ἀτρεῖδαι.

In truth the much-enduring man exults over us in his dark mind, and laughs loudly at our frenzied sorrows, and with him will laugh, when they hear the news, the two sons of Atreus.
At line 958 Ll-J didn't translate φεῦ φεῦ (alas, alas).

977-978 (pp. 120-121):
ὦ φίλτατ᾿ Αἴας, ὦ ξύναιμον ὄμμ᾿ ἐμοί,
ἆρ᾿ ἠμπόληκας ὥσπερ ἡ φάτις κρατεῖ;

O dearest Ajax, O brother who gave me comfort, have you in truth fared as the rumour said?
I don't see "who gave me comfort" in the Greek: ὦ ξύναιμον ὄμμ᾿ ἐμοί literally means "o face kindred to me."

990-991 (pp. 122-123):
καὶ μὴν ἔτι ζῶν, Τεῦκρε, τοῦδέ σοι μέλειν
ἐφίεθ᾿ ἁνὴρ κεῖνος, ὥσπερ οὖν μέλει.

Why, that man while he still lived asked that you should take care of him, as you are now doing.
Ll-J didn't translate the vocative Τεῦκρε in line 990.

1231-1234 (pp. 144-145):
ὅτ᾿ οὐδὲν ὢν τοῦ μηδὲν ἀντέστης ὕπερ,
κοὔτε στρατηγοὺς οὔτε ναυάρχους μολεῖν
ἡμᾶς Ἀχαιῶν οὔτε σοῦ διωμόσω,
ἀλλ᾿ αὐτὸς ἄρχων, ὡς σὺ φής, Αἴας ἔπλει.

since you who are nothing have championed him who is also nothing, and have declared on oath that we did not come as commanders nor as leaders of the fleet of the Achaeans, but that Ajax sailed—so you say—as his own chief.
In the 1994 edition, Ll-J didn't translate οὔτε σοῦ in line 1233, although the words are translated ("over the Achaeans or over you") in the digital Loeb Classical Library edition.

1283-1287 (pp. 148-149):
χὤτ᾿ αὖθις αὐτὸς Ἕκτορος μόνος μόνου,
λαχών τε κἀκέλευστος, ἦλθεν ἀντίος,
οὐ δραπέτην τὸν κλῆρον ἐς μέσον καθείς,
ὑγρᾶς ἀρούρας βῶλον, ἀλλ᾿ ὃς εὐλόφου
κυνῆς ἔμελλε πρῶτος ἅλμα κουφιεῖν;

And again when he came against Hector, man to man, by lot and without orders, having thrown in a token that was no runaway, no lump of wet earth, but one that was bound to leap first out of the helmet?
In the 1994 edition, Ll-J didn't translate εὐλόφου (well-plumed) in line 1286, although the word is translated ("crested helmet") in the digital Loeb Classical Library edition.

1334-1335 (pp. 152-153):
μηδ᾿ ἡ βία σε μηδαμῶς νικησάτω
τοσόνδε μισεῖν ὥστε τὴν δίκην πατεῖν.

Violence must not so prevail on you that you trample justice under foot!
Ll-J didn't translate τοσόνδε μισεῖν in line 1335. Jebb:
and in no wise let violence prevail with thee to hate so utterly that thou shouldest trample justice under foot.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015



Silius Italicus 4.26-32 (tr. J.D. Duff):
Fear, an active taskmaster, speeds all the work; and terror is rife in the deserted fields. Men leave their homes; panic-stricken, they carry ailing mothers upon their shoulders and drag along old men whose span of life is almost ended; they drive their wives with dishevelled hair in front of them; behind them come the little children with shorter steps, clinging to their father's right hand and left. Thus the people flee, handing on their fear to one another; and no man asks the origin of the reports.

haud segnis cuncta magister
praecipitat timor, ac vastis trepidatur in agris.
deseruere larem; portant cervicibus aegras
attoniti matres ducentesque ultima fila
grandaevos rapuere senes; tum crine soluto
ante agitur coniux, dextra laevaque trahuntur        30
parvi, non aequo comitantes ordine, nati.
sic vulgus; traduntque metus, nec poscitur auctor.

Monday, June 29, 2015


Thinking about Horace

Desmond MacCarthy (1877-1952), "Horace," Portraits (1931; rpt. New York: Oxford University Press, 1955), pp. 130-134 (at 132-133):
I like thinking about Horace. He was a true Epicurean and gave to friendship the prominent place it ought to occupy in a life regulated by that philosophy. I never could regard Lucretius as an Epicurean, though his work is an exposition in verse of that doctrine; partly because among the good things of life which the philosophy of Epicurus leaves intact—perhaps, indeed, throws into brighter relief—which Lucretius dilates upon, he does not celebrate friendship; and partly because the spirit of his work is too tragic, cosmic, momentous, and filled also with a proselytising ardour almost as sombre as the fears it is the poet's object to destroy. Cosmic vision is not for the Epicurean. He should neither love nor hate Nature, nor trouble much to understand her; but like Horace himself enjoy her when he can, and supplement her pleasures or run away from her when they fail him. He cannot run away from death and old age, of course, and the butt-end of the Epicurean life may be seedy, and even rather ridiculous—if its hey-day has been expressively buoyant and chirpy.

Saturday, June 27, 2015


Vernacchio in Petronius' Satyricon?

Andrea de Jorio (1769-1851), Gesture in Naples and Gesture in Classical Antiquity, tr. Adam Kendon (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2000), pp. 118-119:
10. Vernacchio.111 The mouth is inflated with air and held tightly closed; the hand, open, with palm facing downwards, is brought to the upper lip so that it is enclosed between the index finger and the thumb. With the fingers thus arranged on the upper lip, the mouth, already completely full of air, is compressed by a series of repeated blows. This forces the air out of the mouth with a series of noises which are given the name Vernacchio.

In particular, this gesture is used to make fun of those who sing, or who hold forth in some loud discourse of self interest or seriousness, or who talk boastfully, threatening now one, now the other (see Plate IV). Such behaviour is so insulting that it is scarcely used in Naples except by those who belong to the lowest classes of the population.

The idea of mockery, of offense, or rather of insult that is attached to it, derives from the similarity that the noises produced by this movement have with that which nature causes in expelling air closed in our viscera.(a) Since this sound has always been an affront, even if it is not directed to anyone, it is not surprising that a simple imitation of it, produced on purpose, is understood by anybody as an insult.

Was not this the Curtis Judaeis oppedere of Horace? 1.Sat.9.v.70.112 This rude gesture also has a diminutive form. This is done by simply placing the upper lip between the index and the thumb in the manner described, but without producing any noise with the mouth, even if it is full of air. With somewhat more difficulty and diligence, the same gesture in its complete form can be done in the following way.

11. Palm of the hand placed under the armpit of the opposite arm (see Plate IV). The hand is arranged so that, when compressed with violent blows given to it by the arm, because the air trapped them is pushed out by the force of the blows, it produces the same sound as that obtained by the mouth, but even more stridently. More emphasis is given to this gesture by lifting a little the leg corresponding to the arm that presses the hand. Even if just the first phase of this gesture is performed, it has the same meaning. This may be done simply by bringing a hand under the opposite armpit, and lifting the corresponding leg a little and adding, further, an ironic expression on the face. We have proof that the ancients knew of the present gesture (the original form is understood) in Petronius [Satyricon]. c. 117. Nec contentus maledictis (Encolpius), tollebat subinde altius pedem, et strepitu obscoeno simul atque odore viam implebat. (Not content with cursing, every so often he [Encolpius] lifted his right leg up and filled the road with obscene sounds and smells.' Trans. Sullivan 1986: 128).

111 Or 'Pernacchio' (D'Ascoli 1990).

(a) Vernacchio: sound that is made with the mouth similar to breaking wind in order to insult someone. Vocabolario Napoletano [Galiani 1789b, Tomo II, p. 184].

112 Vin tu curtis Iudais oppedere? "Would you affront the circumcised Jews?' (Fairclough 1926: 111). This is said by Aristius Fuscus, a friend who Horace happens to meet while he, Horace, is in the company of someone he wishes to be rid of. He hopes that Fuscus will save him by saying he has some private business with him. Fuscus says he does have something to tell him in private, but will not do it today, for it is the "thirtieth sabbath."
Plate IV, from the original La mimica degli antichi investigata nel gestire napoletano (Napoli: Dalla Stamperia e Cartiera del Fibreno, 1832):

De Jorio's comment on Plate IV (in Adam Kendon's translation, p. 418):
Two rash youths of the class of those who are often known as lazzaroni, wishing to make fun of the clothes of the two country people, old-fashioned to their way of thinking, make use of their usual rather indecent means of doing so, which they call vernacchio (see Beffegiare 'Joking, teasing' n. 10).

Both accompany the said insult with lifting a leg. This serves to make a closer imitation of the action that commonly is associated with the Vernacchio, and it is a sign of what, in the natural case, is discharged through the usual channel.
De Jorio's interpretation of the passage from Petronius is accepted by M.L. Wagner, "Über die Unterlagen der romanischen Phraseologie (im Anschluss an des Petronius' Satyricon)," Volkstum und Kultur der Romanen 6 (1933) 1-26 (at 7-8), and by Leo Spitzer, "Neapolitan pernacchia," Language 14.4 (October-December, 1938) 289 (where "Andrea de Torio" should be corrected to "Andrea de Jorio").

But I would raise two points in connection with the passage from Petronius. First (a minor point), Corax, not Encolpius, is the subject of the sentence "Nec contentus maledictis tollebat subinde altius pedem, et strepitu obscoeno simul atque odore viam implebat." Second, the words "atque odore" make it clear that Petronius is describing not an imitation of farting (the vernacchio), but actual farting. On the other hand, Giton's reaction to Corax's farting may in fact be an example of vernacchio:
ridebat contumaciam Giton et singulos crepitus eius pari clamore prosequebatur.
In Michael Heseltine's translation:
Giton laughed at his impudence and matched every noise he made.
The phrase "pari clamore" indicates that Giton, with his mouth, is imitating the actual farts of Corax.

In the movie L'Oro di Napoli, there is an amusing scene that features the vernacchio:
Thanks very much to Ian Jackson (and his wife Ann) for help with this post.


Friday, June 26, 2015


Rather Useless Individuals

George Santayana, letter to Henry Ward Abbot (August 16, 1886):
But there are always a few men whose main interest is to note the aspects of things in an artistic or philosophical way. They are rather useless individuals, but as I happen to belong to the class, I think them much superior to the rest of mankind.


A Sort of Intemperance

Seneca, Letters to Lucilius 88.36-37 (tr. Richard M. Gummere):
This desire to know more than is sufficient is a sort of intemperance. Why? Because this unseemly pursuit of the liberal arts makes men troublesome, wordy, tactless, self-satisfied bores, who fail to learn the essentials just because they have learned the non-essentials. Didymus the scholar wrote four thousand books. I should feel pity for him if he had only read the same number of superfluous volumes. In these books he investigates Homer's birthplace, who was really the mother of Aeneas, whether Anacreon was more of a rake or more of a drunkard, whether Sappho was a bad lot, and other problems the answers to which, if found, were forthwith to be forgotten. Come now, do not tell me that life is long!

Plus scire velle quam sit satis, intemperantiae genus est. Quid? Quod ista liberalium artium consectatio molestos, verbosos, intempestivos, sibi placentes facit et ideo non discentes necessaria, quia supervacua didicerunt. Quattuor milia librorum Didymus grammaticus scripsit. Misererer si tam multa supervacua legisset. In his libris de patria Homeri quaeritur, in his de Aeneae matre vera, in his libidinosior Anacreon an ebriosior vixerit, in his an Sappho publica fuerit, et alia quae erant dediscenda, si scires. I nunc et longam esse vitam nega!
Hat tip: Eric Thomson.

Thursday, June 25, 2015



Sophocles, Ajax 668-677 (tr. Hugh Lloyd-Jones):
They are commanders, so that we must bow to them, how else? Why, the most formidable and the most powerful of things bow to office; winter's snowy storms make way before summer with its fruits, and night's dread circle moves aside for day drawn by white horses to make her lights blaze; and the blast of fearful winds lulls to rest the groaning sea, and all-powerful Sleep releases those whom he has bound, nor does he hold his prisoners forever. And how shall we not come to know how to be sensible?
The same, tr. R.C. Jebb:
They are rulers, so we must submit. How else? Dread things and things most potent bow to office; thus it is that snow-strewn winter gives place to fruitful summer; and thus night's weary round makes room for day with her white steeds to kindle light; and the breath of dreadful winds can allow the groaning sea to slumber; and, like the rest, almighty Sleep looses whom he has bound, nor holds with a perpetual grasp. And we—must we not learn discretion?
The Greek:
ἄρχοντές εἰσιν, ὥσθ᾿ ὑπεικτέον. τί μήν;
καὶ γὰρ τὰ δεινὰ καὶ τὰ καρτερώτατα
τιμαῖς ὑπείκει· τοῦτο μὲν νιφοστιβεῖς        670
χειμῶνες ἐκχωροῦσιν εὐκάρπῳ θέρει·
ἐξίσταται δὲ νυκτὸς αἰανὴς κύκλος
τῇ λευκοπώλῳ φέγγος ἡμέρᾳ φλέγειν·
δεινῶν δ᾿ ἄημα πνευμάτων ἐκοίμισε
στένοντα πόντον· ἐν δ᾿ ὁ παγκρατὴς Ὕπνος        675
λύει πεδήσας, οὐδ᾿ ἀεὶ λαβὼν ἔχει·
ἡμεῖς δὲ πῶς οὐ γνωσόμεσθα σωφρονεῖν;


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