Tuesday, December 18, 2007


Archilochus on the Idle Life

Archilochus, fragment [50] Diehl (tr. William Harris):
An idle life is suitable for the aged,
especially if they be simple in their ways,
or babble foolishly or are completely stupid,
as old men are likely to be.

βίος δ᾽ ἀπράγμων τοῖς γέρουσι συμφέρει,
μάλιστα δ᾽ εἰ τύχοιεν ἁπλοῖ τοῖς τρόποις
ἢ μακκοᾶν μέλλοιεν ἢ ληρεῖν ὅλως,
ὅπερ γερόντων ἐστίν.
Idle here is ἀπράγμων, as opposed to πολυπράγμων. The corresponding abstract nouns are ἀπραγμοσύνη and πολυπραγμοσύνη. But K.J. Dover, Greek Popular Morality (1974; rpt. Indianapolis: Hackett, 1994), p. 188, favors φιλοπράγμων (φιλοπραγμοσύνη) as the antonym of ἀπράγμων (ἀπραγμοσύνη). In a note on the same page Dover cites W. Nestle, "Ἀπραγμοσύνη," Philologus 81 (1926) 129-140, and K. Dienelt, "Ἀπραγμοσύνη," Wiener Studien 66 (1953) 94-104, which I haven't looked at yet. Add to Dover's citations Koen Vanhaegendoren, Semantische Studie van het Woordveld ἀπραγμοσύνη - πολυπραγμοσύνη van de Aanvang van de Griekse Letterkunde tot en met Thucydides (Leuven: Garant, 1999).

Thanks to Dave Lull for the following references to books and a web site extolling the virtue of idleness:While I was loafing, lounging, and doing nothing at a secondhand bookstore last Friday night, as befits an idle old man, a slacker, and a bum, I also noticed Wendy Wasserstein, Sloth (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), in the Seven Deadly Sins series.

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