Monday, March 27, 2006



A good way to get your daily dose of ancient Greek is to mosey on over to Curculio, who has been printing epigrams by Palladas and others from the Palatine Anthology, with original texts and English translations. If people (myself included) took 10.98 (tr. W.R. Paton) to heart, there wouldn't be many blogs around:
Every uneducated man is wisest if he remains silent, hiding his speech like a disgraceful disease.
10.85 is sure to cheer you up:
We all are tended and fed for death, like a herd of pigs slaughtered at random.
There is a clear echo of Epicurus in 15.20 (tr. W.R. Paton):
Pass by this miserable life in silence, imitating by your silence Time himself. Live likewise unnoticed [λαθὼν δὲ καὶ βίωσον]; or if not, you will be so in death.
Cf. Epicurus, fragment 551 Usener (λάθε βιώσας = live unknown). For other parallels to this saying by Epicurus see here.

In his selection of translations from the Greek Anthology, J.W. Mackail has this to say about Palladas:
PALLADAS of Alexandria is the author of one hundred and fifty-one epigrams (besides twenty-three more doubtful) in the Anthology. His somber and melancholy figure is one of the last of the purely pagan world in its losing battle against Christianity. One of the epigrams attributed to him on the authority of Planudes is an eulogy on the celebrated Hypatia, daughter of Theon of Alexandria, whose tragic death took place A.D. 415 in the reign of Theodosius the Second. Another was, according to a scholium in the Palatine MS., written in the reign of Valentinian and Valens, joint-emperors, 364-375 A.D. The epigram on the destruction of Berytus, ix. 27 in this selection, gives no certain argument of date. Palladas was a grammarian by profession. An anonymous epigram (Anth. Pal. ix. 380) speaks of him as of high poetical reputation; and, indeed, in those dark ages the harsh and bitter force that underlies his crude thought and half-barbarous language is enough to give him a place of note. Casaubon dismisses him in two contemptuous words as "versificator insulsissimus"; this is true of a great part of his work, and would perhaps be true of it all but for the saeva indignatio which kindles the verse, not into the flame of poetry, but as it were to a dull red heat. There is little direct allusion in his epigrams to the struggle against the new religion. One epigram speaks obscurely of the destruction of the idols of Alexandria by the Christian populace in the archiepiscopate of Theophilus, A.D. 389; another in even more enigmatic language (Anth. Pal. x. 90) seems to be a bitter attack on the doctrine of the Resurrection; and a scornful couplet against the swarms of Egyptian monks might have been written by a Reformer of the sixteenth century. For the most part his sympathy with the losing side is only betrayed in his despondency over all things. But it is in his criticism of life that the power of Palladas lies; with a remorselessness like that of Swift he tears the coverings from human frailty and holds it up in its meanness and misery. The lines on the Descent of Man (Anth. Pal. x.45), which unfortunately cannot be included in this selection, fall as heavily on the Neo-Platonic martyr as on the Christian persecutor, and remain even now among the most mordant and crushing sarcasms ever passed upon mankind.
I hope that we can look forward to more Palladas at Curculio, especially the lines on the Descent of Man.

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