Saturday, June 30, 2007
λοί[β]ῃ [δ]’ ἐφ’ ἑκάστῃI can't find a translation, so here's my own attempt:
σπένδοντες [λοιμο]ῖο παρ’ ἀθανάτων ἄκος ἐσθλὸν
αἰτέετε, [ὡ]ς τηλουρὸν ἐς ἐχ[θ]ο[δ]α[π]ῶν χθόνα φωτῶν
With each drink-offering, as you pour the libation, request from the immortals a good remedy against plague, that it go forth away from this place to a distant land of foreign men.The inscription is a response by the oracle of Apollo at Claros to a question about how to get rid of a plague.
Friday, June 29, 2007
Smaller Brewer, across the Penobscot River from Bangor, evolved in a much different manner.I contributed my small part to Brewer's reputation for rowdiness. My 2nd grade teacher at Washington Street School, Mrs. Libhart, wrote a note to my mother which said in part:
Like Bangor, Brewer's early years revolved around the lumber industry, namely shipbuilding. Brewer was famous for making bricks and then paper, all of which lent Brewer a reputation as a rowdy mill town.
"Brewer was where the poor people lived," Brewer Economic Development Director D'Arcy Main-Boyington said this week. "The [company] owners lived in Bangor, and the workers lived in Brewer."
Brewer still is working to shake off its blue-collar roots.
Recently I have had to speak to him about rough play and loud shouting both in classroom and outdoors. I'm sure he is being influenced by two or three of the other boys who are very rough and get him started.I'm the tall one in this photograph of local rowdies:
Mewed Up In The Library
Heinsius, the keeper of the library at Leyden in Holland, was mewed up in it all the year long: and that which to thy thinking should have bred a loathing, caused in him a greater liking. I no sooner (saith he) come into the library, but I bolt the door to me, excluding lust, ambition, avarice, and all such vices, whose nurse is idleness, the mother of ignorance, and melancholy herself, and in the very lap of eternity, amongst so many divine souls, I take my seat, with so lofty a spirit and sweet content, that I pity all our great ones, and rich men that know not this happiness.
Thursday, June 28, 2007
- dēmos (δῆμος) = people (cf. Democritus)
- sthenos (σθένος) = strength (cf. Cleisthenes and Eratosthenes)
As a curmudgeon and student of etymology, I was interested to hear what Anatoly Liberman, the Oxford Etymologist, had to say about the etymology of curmudgeon:
Walter W. Skeat compared curmudgeon with Lowland Scots murgeon “mock, grumble” and mudgeon “grimace.” Both words fit the idea of a peevish, disgruntled man well. Not improbably, curmudgeon was first applied to an unpleasant, unsociable person and by extension to someone who stays away from jovial company for fear of being robbed or asked to help the less fortunate. Some light on the origin of mudgeon falls from the history of the verb mooch, which has been attested in numerous variants, including mouch, motch, and modge. It is, naturally, modge that is closest to mudgeon. (The voicing of -ch is the same as in hotchpotch versus hodge-podge and in Greenwich, pronounced greenidge.) The root of mooch and its variants occurs in words of several languages, for instance, in meucheln “murder (treacherously)” (German) and muchier “conceal, lurk” (Old French, still known in some modern dialects). Cognates have been found in Old Irish and Latin. Similar Italian words (mostly regional) appear to have been borrowed from Germanic, and the same may be true of French mouche “to spy” and mouchard “police informer, stoolie.” In English, Hamlet’s miching, the first part of the cryptic phrase miching malicho “sneaking mischief,” belongs with mooch and mouch, and so do, possibly, mug “waylay and rob” and mugger in hugger-mugger. Wherever one of those nouns, adjectives, and verbs turns up, it refers to secret, underhand dealings. There seems to have been a large group of words, part of international slang or underworld cant, designating actions that shirked the light of day.
Cur- in curmudgeon is a reinforcing prefix, widely known in sound imitative words (kerbang, kerbunk, kerplank, kerwallop) and in words like kerfuffle “disorder, flurry.” They occur with numerous spelling variants, the most common of them being ca-, as in kit and caboodle. The original curmudgeon was, it appears, a big “mudgeon,” whatever the exact meaning of mudgeon might be (“someone with an ugly mug”? “a grumbler sitting on his wealth, a penny pincher”?).
I've known for a long time that vermicelli meant "little worms," but I only recently learned that another type of pasta, lasagna, also has somewhat unsavory etymological connections.
The Online Etymology Dictionary s.v. lasagna says:
1760, from It. (pl. is lasagne), from V.L. *lasania, from L. lasanum "a pot," from Gk. lasanon "pot with feet, trivet."But Greek λάσανα (plural) also has another meaning, according to Liddell & Scott:
night-stool, Hp.Fist. 9, Cratin.49 (cj. Mein. for λαχάνοις), Pherecr.88, Eup.224, Ar.Fr. 462: also in sg., like Lat. lasanum, Hp.Superf.8, AP11.74.8 (Nicarch.):—Those who grew up with modern conveniences might not know that a night-stool is a chamber pot, a portable vessel used in a bedroom as a toilet.
hence λᾰσᾰνοφόρος, ὁ, slave who had charge of the night-stool, Plu.2.182c, 360d:—
also λᾰσᾰνίτης [ῑ] δίφρος BGU1116.25 (i B.C.).
Latin lasanum is rarely attested, occurring only at Horace, Satires 1.6.109, and Petronius 41.9. In Petronius it clearly means chamber pot. I have not seen B.L. Ullman, "Horace Serm. I.6.115 and the History of the Word Laganum," Classical Philology 7.4 (Oct. 1912) 442-449.
When I entered in a URL for the past month, my rating got even worse (NC-17) because of these words: death (20x), dead (6x), cum (5x), hell (4x), pain (3x), murder (2x). NC-17 means "no one 17 and under admitted."
I guess I'll have to cut back on those obscene Latin prepositions and subordinate conjunctions. Expect more posts on puppy dogs and teddy bears, too.
More Oedipus Lyrics
From the Bible to the popular song,Related posts:
There's one theme that we find right along;
Of all ideals they hail as good,
The most sublime is motherhood.
There was a man though, who it seems,
Once carried this ideal to extremes.
He loved his mother and she loved him,
And yet his story is rather grim.
There once lived a man named Oedipus Rex,
You may have heard about his odd complex.
His name appears in Freud's index
'Cause he loved his mother.
His rivals used to say quite a bit
That as a monarch he was most unfit.
But still in all they had to admit
That he loved his mother.
Yes, he loved his mother like no other,
His daughter was his sister and his son was his brother.
One thing on which you can depend is,
He sure knew who a boy's best friend is.
When he found what he had done,
He tore his eyes out, one by one.
A tragic end to a loyal son
Who loved his mother.
So be sweet and kind to mother,
Now and then have a chat.
Buy her candy or some flowers,
Or a brand new hat.
But maybe you had better let it go at that.
Or you may find yourself with a quite complex complex
And you may end up like Oedipus.
I'd rather marry a duck-billed platypus
Than end up like old Oedipus Rex.
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Pindar and Pelops
Your recent post with the re-telling of Oedipus' tale led me to dig out a short poem I wrote in my student years when I was struggling to grasp the logic of Pindar's first Olympian. For what it is worth, and since you might enjoy it, here it is:
On First Reading Pindar's First OlympianYours sincerely,
Tantalus, a nasty swine,
Invited all the gods to dine,
And then, that he might test their wits,
Served up his Pelops, chopped to bits.
The gods were wise and did not eat,
Save Ceres, fond of shoulder-meat;
Poor Pelops, short one of his pieces
Received an ivory prosthesis.
Now, Pindar did not like the story
Finding the banquet somewhat gory;
'Twere better if the youth were snatched
By Neptune, fond of pretty chaps.
Let no foul myth the gods demean!
We must re-write the sordid scene!
So Pelops, once by a god digested,
Is better now by a god molested.
Behold! He rises from the pot
With gleaming shoulder newly got.
But whence? The provenance is unclear.
I find the business rather queer.
Rev. Gerard Deighan.
Underbelly (via email) directs my attention to the oratorio Oedipus Tex by P.D.Q. Bach (Peter Schickele). The aria "Howdy There" from the oratorio contains these lines:
I had some trouble coming into town.
There are things a man cannot take lying down.
I was riding through the gulch which ain't too big
When I met some fellas in a double rig.
They said "Step Aside" and I said "How about you?"
Ain't no one tells this cowboy what to do,
So me I wouldn't budge and they just sat
Until I shot 'em all and that was that.
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Poor Little Oedipus Rex
List to the story of Oedipus Rex,
Poor little, misunderstood little Oedipus,
Victim of sad maladjustment of sex,
Poor little Oedipus Rex.
When Oedipus was but a babe,
(So runs the tale historical),
His doting dad betook the lad
(A custom that those ancients had)
To interview the oracle.
Because in Greece,
In Ancient Greece
They'd never start a thing or cease,
Commence a war or make a peace
Unless they asked the oracle.
The pythoness upon the throne
Said sadly and oracular,
"This lad, ha ha! will kill his pa
And after that he'll wed his ma,
A sad life, but spectacular."
When Oedipus's dad heard that,
The Theban King Laïus,
"It's up to me," he said, said he,
"To circumvent that prophecy
And find a way to free us.
"I'm off that oracle for life.
From now," he said, "all bets off.
She thinks she's slick; I know a trick
To make that Delphic dame look sick.
I'll show her where she gets off."
And so he called a servant in,
A faithful old attendant.
"I hesitate to flirt with fate,
So please," he said, "assassinate
My helpless young descendant."
The servant had a tender heart,
Considering his station.
"Although, oh, King, it's hard to bring
Myself," he said, "to do this thing,
I'll murder your relation."
Instead he took the babe away,
A puny undergrown child,
And gave him to a shepherd who
Exclaimed, "I'll take that brat from you
And rear him as my own child."
So Oedipus to man's estate
Grew up, a rustic peasant.
No thought of care intruded there,
For, of his future unaware,
His life was gay and pleasant.
One day while strolling down a road,
An unfrequented byway,
An unknown guy came driving by
Who socked our hero in the eye
And shoved him off the highway.
He straightway raised his staff and smote
The man who'd rudely kicked him,
Quite unaware that then and there
Upon that public thoroughfare
His father was his victim.
Nearby his home there dwelt a sphinx
Who filled the land with terror;
Half girl half bird who put absurd
Conundrums to the passing herd,
And ate them when in error.
When Oedipus, a puzzle fan,
Was told the tale distressing
He said, "Methinks I'll put a jinx
Upon that riddle-asking sphinx.
I'm very good at guessing."
So to the sphinx he went and said,
"I'm fit as any fiddle.
Go do your stuff. However tough
I'll solve the question quick enough
Come on! Let's hear your riddle!"
The sphinx then gave a sphinx-like leer
And murmured "Here's my query-"
Without a fuss Young Oedipus
Replied, "The answer's thus and thus.
That ought to hold you, dearie."
The monster gave a shriek and died
'Mid widespread jubilation.
"The sphinx is dead!" the people said,
"Let's make this bright young lad the head
Of this here Theban nation."
And thus he rose to royal rank,
And wed the consort regal,
But cruel fate, I hate to state,
Had made the lad his mother's mate,
A marriage quite illegal.
Now came a dire and dreadful plague
With devastating quickness,
And all in Thebes, both Greeks and Heebs
Were smitten with the Heebie-jeebs,
A most appalling sickness.
The oracle exclaimed, "Ha, ha!
I'm sorry for to scold you,
This plague is sent for punishment.
You're harboring a guilty gent.
Don't say I never told you."
And so at last the truth's revealed.
The luckless monarch cries out,
"Though Doctor Freud be overjoyed
I must confess I'm quite annoyed."
With that he puts his eyes out.
Thus ends the story of Oedipus Rex,
Poor little, misunderstood little Oedipus,
Victim of sad maladjustment of sex,
Poor little Oedipus Rex.
Monday, June 25, 2007
To be at leisure without books is another Hell, and to be buried alive.Related posts:
Phil O. Vance does some detective work and writes in an email:
Schopenhauer quoted Seneca as follows: otium sine litteris mors est et hominis vivi sepultura (Leisure without literature is death and, for man, like being buried alive). Robert Burton must have borrowed it almost verbatim from Seneca, unacknowledged. Seneca's words are in Epistulae, 82. Schopenhauer's quote is in Parerga and Paralipomena, Vol. I, "Aphorisms on the Wisdom of Life," Ch. II, "What a Man Is," (Oxford University Press page 339).
The constitution of classical Athens made provision for special circumstances in which there could be a so-called nomos ep' andri: see Andocides 1.87 and Demosthenes 24.59. (Demosth. 23.86 and 46.12 give truncated versions that miss this point.) For modern comment see M.H. Hansen, The Athenian Assembly (1987) 87: 'A law (nomos) was in principle a rule binding on all Athenians. Occasionally, however, the Athenians might resort to ad hominem legislation and allow the nomothetai to pass a nomos relating to a named individual (nomos ep' andri). But then the people's decision to appoint a panel of nomothetai had to be ratified by a quorum of 6,000 voting by ballot.' As far as I am aware, however, there are no clearcut examples of this in the record.Here are the first two passages cited.
Andocides 1.87 (tr. K.J. Maidment):
"No law shall be directed against an individual without applying to all citizens alike, unless an Assembly of six thousand so resolve by secret ballot."Demosthenes 24.59 (tr. J.H. Vince):
μηδὲ ἐπ' ἀνδρὶ νόμον ἐξεῖναι θεῖναι, ἐὰν μὴ τὸν αὐτὸν ἐπὶ πᾶσιν Ἀθηναίοις, ἐὰν μὴ ἑξακισχιλίοις δόξῃ κρύβδην ψηφιζομένοις.
"Nor shall it be lawful to propose a law applying to a particular man, unless the same be applicable to all Athenian citizens, except by the votes of not less than six thousand citizens voting in the affirmative by ballot."For some reason Vince neglected to translate κρύβδην (secretly) in the last part of the first sentence.
It forbids the introduction of any law that does not affect all citizens alike,--an injunction conceived in the true spirit of democracy. As every man has an equal share in the constitution generally, so this statute asserts his equal share in the laws.
μηδὲ νόμον ἐξεῖναι ἐπ' ἀνδρὶ θεῖναι, ἐὰν μὴ τὸν αὐτὸν ἐπὶ πᾶσιν Ἀθηναίοις τιθῇ ἐὰν μὴ ψηφισαμένων μὴ ἔλαττον ἑξακισχιλίων οἷς ἂν δόξῃ κρύβδην ψηφιζομένοις.
οὐκ ἐᾷ νόμον ἀλλ' ἢ τὸν αὐτὸν τιθέναι κατὰ τῶν πολιτῶν πάντων, καλῶς καὶ δημοτικῶς λέγων. ὥσπερ γὰρ τῆς ἄλλης πολιτείας ἴσον μέτεστιν ἑκάστῳ, οὕτω καὶ τούτων ἴσον μετέχειν ἕκαστον ἀξιοῖ.
Sunday, June 24, 2007
A Plentiful Lack
He has a hump like an ape on his back;
He has of money a plentiful lack;
And but for a gay coat of double his girth
There is not a plainer thing on the earth
This fine May morning.
But the huxter has a bottle of beer;
He drives a cart and his wife sits near
Who does not heed his lack or his hump;
And they laugh as down the lane they bump
This fine May morning.
Saturday, June 23, 2007
Refuge in Sanctuaries and Special Laws
Arellano said she and her son, Saul, will stay in hiding for as long as necessary, that God is on their side.By coincidence this week I read Ulrich Sinn, "Greek Sanctuaries as Places of Refuge," originally published in Nanno Marinatos and Robin Hägg, edd. Greek Sanctuaries: New Approaches (London: Routledge, 1993), and reprinted in Richard Buxton, ed. Oxford Readings in Greek Religion (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), pp. 155-179 (tr. Judith Binder).
Sinn's very interesting survey covers a number of topics, including the difference between asylum in general and protection in sanctuaries in particular; the temporary nature of the protection; the obligation of representatives of the holy space to act as intermediaries in resolving whatever problem caused the suppliant to seek refuge in the first place; the rite of supplication; the role of the priests; the consequences of violation of sacred immunity by political authorities; the prominence of protection in sanctuaries in literature, especially tragedy; and how and where suppliants were housed.
Despite the general acceptance of the practice in ancient Greece, there were dissenting voices, one of which is heard in Euripides, Ion 1312-1319 (tr. David Kovacs):
Ah, it is monstrous how bad and unintelligent are the laws the god has made for mortals! He ought not to let the wicked sit at his altar but drive them away. It is not right for an evil hand to touch the gods but only a righteous one. Those who are wronged should be given a seat: just and unjust should not come to the same place and receive the same treatment from the gods.
δεινόν γε, θνητοῖς τοὺς νόμους ὡς οὐ καλῶς
ἔθηκεν ὁ θεὸς οὐδ' ἀπὸ γνώμης σοφῆς:
τοὺς μὲν γὰρ ἀδίκους βωμὸν οὐχ ἵζειν ἐχρῆν,
ἀλλ' ἐξελαύνειν: οὐδὲ γὰρ ψαύειν καλὸν
θεῶν πονηρὰν χεῖρα: τοῖσι δ' ἐνδίκοις --
ἱερὰ καθίζειν, ὅστις ἠδικεῖτ', ἐχρῆν:
καὶ μὴ 'πὶ ταὐτὸ τοῦτ' ἰόντ' ἔχειν ἴσον
τόν τ' ἐσθλὸν ὄντα τόν τε μὴ θεῶν πάρα.
On March 15, 2007 in the United States House of Representatives Luis Gutiérrez introduced a bill "for the relief of Elvira Arellano" (H.R. 1557), which provides in pertinent part that "Elvira Arellano shall be eligible for issuance of an immigrant visa or for adjustment of status to that of an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence."
The United States Constitution apparently does not bar special laws enacted to benefit individuals, but some state constitutions do, for example Minnesota's Constitution, Article XII, Section 1, which states that "The legislature shall pass no local or special law ... granting to any private corporation, association, or individual any special or exclusive privilege, immunity or franchise whatever ...."
I don't know the origin of such prohibitions against special laws, but I recently read something that suggests that the idea goes back a long way, in Pseudo-Heraclitus, Epistles 7 (to Hermodorus, tr. David R. Worley) = Abraham J. Malherbe, The Cynic Epistles: A Study Edition (Missoula: Scholars Press, 1977), pp. 200-201:
I hear that the Ephesians are about to introduce a most illegal law against me; for no law is directed against an individual--only a legal judgment is.I might translate ἐφ᾽ ἑνός as "at an individual," that is, in reference to an individual, without implying that the law is for or against, rather than "against an individual." Of course κατ᾽ ἐμου is clearly "against me," in this particular instance.
Πυνθάνομαι Ἐφεσίους μέλλειν εἰσηγεῖσθαι νόμον κατ᾽ ἐμου ἀνομώτατον· οὐδεὶς γὰρ νόμος ἐφ᾽ ἑνός, ἀλλὰ κρίσις.
Friday, June 22, 2007
Like a Rock
Be like the promontory against which the waves continually break, but it stands firm and tames the fury of the water around it.
Ὅμοιον εἶναι τῇ ἄκρᾳ, ᾗ διηνεκῶς τὰ κύματα προσρήσσεται· ἡ δὲ ἕστηκε καὶ περὶ αὐτὴν κοιμίζεται τὰ φλεγμήναντα τοῦ ὕδατος.
Add -- unless you are discounting comedy? -- Dionysos' counterpoint to the frogs' chorus in Frogs 209-67, at 237ff.This is a reference to Aristophanes' play Frogs, in which the god Dionysus goes to Hades to retrieve his favorite tragic playwright, the recently deceased Euripides. On his way to Hades, Dionysus crosses a lake inhabited by frogs. The frogs and Dionysus engage in a singing contest.
In his commentary on Aristophanes' Frogs (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993), Kenneth Dover notes (p. 223):
Wills 313-15, in the light of 221-3, suggests that he vanquishes the frogs by farting (special sound-effects offstage) more loudly than they can sing.Wills is Garry Wills, "Why are the Frogs in the Frogs?" Hermes 97 (1969) 306-317.
The entire chorus is too long to quote, but here is a snippet (236-239, tr. Jeffrey Henderson):
DIONYSUSWhen I read passages like this, I'm reminded of the words of Bruno Snell in his The Discovery of the Mind (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1960), p. 41 (tr. T.G. Rosenmeyer):
But I've got blisters,
and my arsehole's been seeping,
and pretty soon it'll poke out and say --
Brekekekex koax koax!
ἐγὼ δὲ φλυκταίνας γ' ἔχω,
χὠ πρωκτὸς ἰδίει πάλαι,
κᾆτ' αὐτίκ' ἐκκύψας ἐρεῖ--
βρεκεκεκὲξ κοὰξ κοάξ.
We find it difficult to understand how the gods of one's faith could be subjected to Aristophanic jests. But laughter is part of the meaning, the fruitfulness, the positive side of life, and it is therefore, in the eyes of the Greeks, more godlike than the sour solemnity which we associate with piety.See also Hugh Lloyd-Jones, The Justice of Zeus, 2nd edition (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983), p. 133:
The occasional fun poked at the gods in comedy is no evidence against the religious conservatism of the common man; it is when religion is sure of itself that such amusement is permitted.
From Joshua T. Katz, "Homeric Hymn to Hermes 296: τλήμονα γαστρὸς ἔριθον," Classical Quarterly n.s. 49.1 (1999) 315-319 (at p. 316, n. 3), I glean another possible reference to supernatural flatulence, at Aristophanes, Wasps 1176-1177 (tr. Jeffrey Henderson):
I've got lots of stories. First of all, how Lamia farted when captured.See William Smith, Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, s.v. Lamia:
πολλοὺς πάνυ. / πρῶτον μὲν ὡς ἡ Λάμι' ἁλοῦσ' ἐπέρδετο.
A female phantom, by which children were frightened. According to tradition, she was originally a Libyan queen, of great beauty, and a daughter of Belus. She was beloved by Zeus, and Hera in her jealousy robbed her of her children. Lamia, from revenge and despair, robbed others of their children, and murdered them; and the savage cruelty in which she now indulged rendered her ugly, and her face became fearfully distorted. Zeus gave her the power of taking her eyes out of her head, and putting them in again. (Diod. xx. 41; Suidas, s.v. ; Plut. de Curios. 2; Schol. ad Aristoph. Pac. 757; Strab. i. p. 19.) Some ancients called her the mother of Scylla. (Eustath. ad Hom. p. 1714; Arist. de Mor. vii. 5.) In later times Lamiae were conceived as handsome ghostly women, who by voluptuous artifices attracted young men, in order to enjoy their fresh, youthful, and pure flesh and blood. They were thus in ancient times what the vampires are in modern legends. (Philostr. Vit. Apollon. iv. 25; Horat. de Art. Poet. 340; Isidor. Orig. viii. 11; Apulei. Met. i. p. 57; comp. Spanheim, ad Callim. Hymn. in Dian. 67; Empusa and Mormolyce.)
I borrowed the punning title of this blog post from chapter 19 (Myths, Legends, and Holy Ordures) of Ralph A. Lewin, Merde: Excursions in Scientific, Cultural, and Sociohistorical Coprology (New York: Random House, 1999).
Thursday, June 21, 2007
In ancient Greek, words for ear (οὖς, ὠτάριον, ὠτίον) all have the secondary meaning "handle of a jug." See also δίωτος (two-eared) of a two-handled jug.
I can't find anything similar in Latin, although Horace borrows diota from δίωτος.
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
Noctes Scatologicae: Divine Flatulence
But if cattle and horses or lions had hands, or were able to draw with their hands and do the works that men can do, horses would draw the forms of the gods like horses, and cattle like cattle, and they would make their bodies such as they each had themselves.Even pious Greeks such as Pindar recognized the affinity between men and gods (Nemean Odes 6.1-7, tr. C.M. Bowra):
ἀλλ᾽ εἰ χεῖρας ἔχον βόες <ἵπποι> τ᾽ ἠὲ λέοντες
ἢ γράψαι χείρεσσι καὶ ἔργα τελεῖν ἅπερ ἄνδρες
ἵπποι μέν θ᾽ ἵπποισι βόες δέ τε βουσὶν ὁμοίας
καί <κε> θεῶν ἰδέα ἔγραφον καὶ σώματ᾽ ἐποίουν
τοαῦθ᾽ οἷόν περ αὐτοὶ δέμας εἶχον <ἕκαστοι>.
Single is the race, singleHuman beings expel 2-3 liters of gas per day on average from their intestines, according to Ralph A. Lewin, Merde: Excursions in Scientific, Cultural, and Sociohistorical Coprology (New York: Random House, 1999), p. 43. If the gods are like humans except larger and more powerful, presumably that amount would be proportionally greater. But I can recall only two passages from ancient Greek and Latin literature in which gods break wind.
Of men and of gods;
From a single mother we both draw breath.
But a difference of power in everything
Keeps us apart;
For one is as nothing, but the brazen sky
Stays a fixt habitation for ever.
Yet we can in greatness of mind
Or of body be like the Immortals,
Though we know not to what goal
By day or in the nights
Fate has written that we shall run.
ἓν ἀνδρῶν, ἓν θεῶν γένος: ἐκ μιᾶς δὲ πνέομεν
ματρὸς ἀμφότεροι: διείργει δὲ πᾶσα κεκριμένα
δύναμις, ὡς τὸ μὲν οὐδέν, ὁ δὲ
χάλκεος ἀσφαλὲς αἰὲν ἕδος
μένει οὐρανός. ἀλλά τι προσφέρομεν ἔμπαν ἢ μέγαν
νόον ἤτοι φύσιν ἀθανάτοις,
καίπερ ἐφαμερίαν οὐκ
εἰδότες οὐδὲ μετὰ νύκτας
οἵαν τιν' ἔγραψε δραμεῖν ποτὶ στάθμαν.
The first is the Homeric Hymn to Hermes 293-298 (tr. Hugh G. Evelyn-White):
So said Phoebus Apollo, and took the child [Hermes] and began to carry him. But at that moment the strong Slayer of Argus had his plan, and, while Apollo held him in his hands, sent forth an omen, a hard-worked belly-serf, a rude messenger, and sneezed directly after. And when Apollo heard it, he dropped glorious Hermes out of his hands on the ground.For a detailed discussion of "hard-worked belly-serf" see Joshua T. Katz, "Homeric Hymn to Hermes 296: τλήμονα γαστρὸς ἔριθον," Classical Quarterly n.s. 49.1 (1999) 315-319.
ὣς ἄρ' ἔφη καὶ παῖδα λαβὼν φέρε Φοῖβος Ἀπόλλων.
σὺν δ' ἄρα φρασσάμενος τότε δὴ κρατὺς Ἀργειφόντης
οἰωνὸν προέηκεν ἀειρόμενος μετὰ χερσί,
τλήμονα γαστρὸς ἔριθον, ἀτάσθαλον ἀγγελιώτην.
ἐσσυμένως δὲ μετ' αὐτὸν ἐπέπταρε: τοῖο δ' Ἀπόλλων
ἔκλυεν, ἐκ χειρῶν δὲ χαμαὶ βάλε κύδιμον Ἑρμῆν.
The second example of divine flatulence in classical literature comes from Horace, Satires 1.8.40-50. The setting of this satire is the Esquiline in Rome, which used to be a cemetery, but now was the site of beautiful gardens. Witches still frequented the Esquiline under cover of darkness, to excavate bones for use in their magical rites. A wooden statue of the god Priapus tells how he scared the witches Sagana and Canidia away (tr. H. Ruston Fairclough):
Why tell each detail--how in converse with Sagana the shades made echoes sad and shrill, how the two stealthily buried in the ground a wolf's beard and the tooth of a spotted snake, how the fire blazed higher from the image of wax, and how as a witness I shuddered at the words and deeds of the two Furies--though not unavenged? For as loud as the noise of a bursting bladder was the crack when my fig-wood buttock split. Away they ran into town. Then amid great laughter and mirth you might see Canidia's teeth and Sagana's high wig come tumbling down, and from their arms the herbs and enchanted love-knots.Priapus broke wind, as the Latin (pepedi) makes clear.
singula quid memorem, quo pacto alterna loquentes
umbrae cum Sagana resonarint triste et acutum
utque lupi barbam variae cum dente colubrae
abdiderint furtim terris et imagine cerea
largior arserit ignis et ut non testis inultus
horruerim voces furiarum et facta duarum?
nam, displosa sonat quantum vesica, pepedi
diffissa nate ficus; at illae currere in urbem.
Canidiae dentis, altum Saganae caliendrum
excidere atque herbas atque incantata lacertis
vincula cum magno risuque iocoque videres.
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
Ogden Nash in Latin
At first I thought it was a Father's Day present, but my children insist they know nothing about it. I can only conclude that it is a gift from some generous reader of this blog, to whom I say "Thank you!"
Here is a somewhat uncharacteristic sample, not exactly in Nash's lightest vein:
People expect old men to die,
They do not really mourn old men.
Old men are different. People look
At them with eyes that wonder when...
People watch with unshocked eyes;
But the old men know when an old man dies.
Homines expectant morituros senes,
None vere lugent senes illi.
Senes diversi. Homines spectant
Oculis mirantibus quando ei...
Impercussis oculis observant homines;
Sed senem mori sciunt senes.
Crossing the Rubicon
We opened our books at Iliad, Book 1. Without a word of introduction Knock read aloud the first twenty lines or so in the "new" pronunciation, which I had never heard before....He then translated, with a few, a very few explanations, about a hundred lines. I had never seen a classical author taken in such large gulps before. When he had finished he handed me over Crusius' Lexicon and, having told me to go through again as much as he had done, left the room. It seems an odd method of teaching, but it worked. At first I could travel only a very short way along the trail he had blazed, but every day I could travel further. Presently I could travel the whole way. Then I could go a line or two beyond his furthest North. Then it became a kind of game to see how far beyond. He appeared at this stage to value speed more than absolute accuracy. The great gain was that I very soon became able to understand a great deal without (even mentally) translating it; I was beginning to think in Greek. That is the great Rubicon to cross in learning any language. Those in whom the Greek word lives only while they are hunting for it in the lexicon, and who then substitute the English word for it, are not reading the Greek at all; they are only solving a puzzle. The very formula, "Naus means a ship," is wrong. Naus and ship both mean a thing, they do not mean one another. Behind Naus, as behind navis or naca, we want to have a picture of a dark, slender mass with sail or oars, climbing the ridges, with no officious English word intruding.Related post: Portrait of a Greek Teacher.
Monday, June 18, 2007
On Healing Oneself
But the Athenians, when they philosophize your way, resemble those who propose to cure others of what they haven't been able to cure themselves.Related posts:
οἱ Ἀθηναῖοι δὲ καθ᾽ ὑμᾶς φιλοσοφήσαντες ἐοίκασι τοῖς ἐπαγγελλομένοις ἄλλους ἰατρεύειν, ἃ μὴ αὑτοὺς ἰᾶσθαι δεδύνηται.
On Concealing One's Misfortunes
It is well not to experience undesired things; but whoever has not that good fortune must needs keep his affliction to himself.Related posts:
καλὸν μὲν γὰρ ἀπείραστον εἶναι τῶν ἀβουλήτων, ὅτῳ δὲ οὐχ ὑπάρχει τοῦτο, κρύπτειν τὴν συμφορὰν ἀναγκαῖον.
Update: At Siris there is a collection of links on the poetry of Billy Graham's wife Ruth Bell Graham, who recently died at the age of 87. One of her poems contains these lines:
if you must—
but privately cry.
Sunday, June 17, 2007
A Ghost Word
Radicivores, the naked mole rats feed primarily on very large tubers (weighing as much as 1000 times the body weight of a typical mole rat) that they find deep underground through their mining operations, though they also eat their own feces (homocropophagia).Homocropophagia is a mistake for homocoprophagia, as the citation to Richard Dawkins' The Selfish Gene makes clear. On p. 314 of the 1989 reprint of the 1976 edition, Dawkins writes:
Mole rats are homocoprophagous, which is a polite way of saying that they eat one another's faeces (not exclusively: that would run afoul of the laws of the universe). Perhaps the large individuals perform a valuable role by storing up their faeces in the body when food is plentiful, so that they can act as an emergency larder when food is scarce--a sort of constipated commissariat.Wikipedia s.v. ghost word:
A ghost word is a word that has been published in a dictionary, or has been adopted as genuine, as the result of misinterpretation or a typographical error.Perhaps someone (not I) will correct the Wikipedia entry for Naked Mole Rat. But homocropophagia (and cropophagia) are found on other web pages as well. These words will doubtless continue their ghostly existence among the bits and bytes of cyberspace for many years to come.
So far as I can tell, this blog post contains the first occurrence of homocoprophagia (and homocoprophagy) on the Internet.
Averters of Evil
- ἀλεξήτωρ (alexētōr)
- ἀλεξίκακος (alexikakos)
- ἀλεξητήριος (alexētērios)
- ἀπαλεξίκακος (apalexikakos)
- ἀποτρόπαιος (apotropaios)
- ἀπωσίκακος (apōsikakos)
Saturday, June 16, 2007
An Unfortified City
Against all else it is possible to provide security, but as against death all of us mortals alike dwell in an unfortified city.
Πρὸς μὲν τἆλλα δυνατὸν ἀσφάλειαν πορίσασθαι, χάριν δὲ θανάτου πάντες ἄνθρωποι πόλιν ἀτείχιστον οἰκοῦμεν.
When I was young I always knew
The meretricious from the true.
I was alert to call a halt
On other people's every fault.
My creed left no more chance for doubt
Than station doors marked IN and OUT.
A prophet with righteousness elated,
Dogmatic and opinionated,
Once self-convinced, I would not budge;
I was indeed a hanging judge.
I admitted, in either joy or sorrow,
No yesterday and no tomorrow.
My summary of life was reckoned
By what went on that very second.
I scoffed when kindly uncles and aunts
Said age would teach me tolerance,
For tolerance implies a doubt
That IN is IN and OUT is OUT.
But now that I am forty-nine
I'm tolerant, and like it fine.
Since the faults of others I condone,
I can be tolerant of my own.
I realize the sky won't fall
If I don't pay my bills at all.
The King of Sweden it will not irk
To hear that I neglect my work,
And tombfuls of historic dead
Care not how late I lie abed.
Oh, tolerance is the state of grace
Where everything falls into place,
So now I tolerantly think
I could tolerate a little drink.
Friday, June 15, 2007
On Isaiah 33.13:
Monies are not heaped up for one man except with loss and damage to another man.Tractate on Psalm 8.24:
nisi cum alterius damno et malo, pecuniae alteri non coacervantur.
For whoever is rich, cannot be rich unless he has robbed a poor man.Letters 120.1:
quicumque enim dives est, nisi pauperem exspoliaverit, dives esse non potest.
For all wealth is derived from wickedness, and unless one man has lost, another cannot find.There is a curiously similar belief that the amount of evil in the world is constant. You can't destroy evil altogether. The best you can achieve is to move it somewhere else. See, for example, the prayers in Livy 5.18.12 that invoke destruction on Rome's arch enemy, the Etruscan city Veii:
omnes enim divitiae de iniquitate descendunt, et nisi alter perdiderit, alter non potest invenire.
Supplications were made in the temples, and with prayers the gods were asked to ward off destruction from Rome's houses, temples, and walls and to turn that panic against Veii.Similarly, in Appian, Civil Wars 5.10.96 (tr. Horace White), bad omens must fall on someone or something. The best that can be hoped for is that they don't fall on our side (emphasis added):
obsecrationes in templis factae, precibusque ab dis petitum ut exitium ab urbis tectis templisque ac moenibus Romanis arcerent Veiosque eum averterent terrorem.
When the fleet was ready, Octavius performed a lustration for it in the following manner. Altars were erected on the margin of the sea, and the multitude were ranged around them in ships, observing the most profound silence. The priests who performed the ceremony offered the sacrifice while standing at the water's edge, and carried the expiatory offerings in skiffs three times around the fleet, the general sailing with them, beseeching the gods to turn the bad omens against the victims instead of the fleet. Then, dividing the entrails, they cast a part of them into the sea, and put the remainder on the altars and burned them, while the multitude chanted in unison. In this way the Romans perform lustrations of the fleet.There is a lot of talk about eliminating world hunger. From an etymological point of view, when something is eliminated, it is not destroyed. Rather it is just moved elsewhere, thrust out of doors, from ex (out of, away from) plus limen (threshold). An inscription from Termessos (Tituli Asiae Minoris iii.103) commemorates a certain Honoratus "because he chased hunger into the sea" (δίωξε γὰρ εἰς / ἅλα λιμόν, lines 6-7).
Ἐπεὶ δ' ἕτοιμος ἦν ὁ στόλος, ἐκάθαιρεν αὐτὸν ὁ Καῖσαρ ὧδε. οἱ μὲν βωμοὶ ψαύουσι τῆς θαλάσσης, καὶ ἡ πληθὺς αὐτοὺς περιέστηκε κατὰ ναῦν μετὰ σιωπῆς βαθυτάτης: οἱ δὲ ἱερουργοὶ θύουσι μὲν ἑστῶτες ἐπὶ τῇ θαλάσσῃ καὶ τρὶς ἐπὶ σκαφῶν περιφέρουσιν ἀνὰ τὸν στόλον τὰ καθάρσια, συμπεριπλεόντων αὐτοῖς τῶν στρατηγῶν καὶ ἐπαρωμένων ἐς τάδε τὰ καθάρσια, ἀντὶ τοῦ στόλου, τὰ ἀπαίσια τραπῆναι. νείμαντες δὲ αὐτά, μέρος ἐς τὴν θάλασσαν ἀπορρίπτουσι καὶ μέρος ἐς τοὺς βωμοὺς ἐπιθέντες ἅπτουσι, καὶ ὁ λεὼς ἐπευφημεῖ. οὕτω μὲν Ῥωμαῖοι τὰ ναυτικὰ καθαίρουσιν.
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
Something To Try
To stop talking about what the good man is like, and just be one.
Μηκέθ᾽ ὅλως περὶ τοῦ οἷόν τινα εἶναι τὸν ἀγαθὸν ἄνδρα διαλέγεσθαι, ἀλλὰ εἶναι τοιοῦτον.
Doctor Death Again
sleep till death
this life disease
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
Country walks can bring startling reductions in depression and raise self-esteem, according to research published today.I'm not sure a study by university researchers was necessary to reach this conclusion. Thoreau in his Journal often said much the same thing, e.g. on June 17, 1857:
The mental health charity Mind said the findings suggest ecotherapy should be prescribed by doctors to help treat mental health problems
The charity's study, Ecotherapy: the Green Agenda for Mental Health, is the first to look at how "green" exercise affects those suffering from depression.
The study by the University of Essex compared the benefits of a 30-minute walk in a country park with a walk in an indoor shopping centre on a group of 20 members of local Mind associations.
After the country walk, 71% reported decreased levels of depression and said they felt less tense while 90% reported increased self-esteem.
This was in contrast to only 45% who experienced a decrease in depression after the shopping centre walk, after which 22% said they actually felt more depressed. Some 50% also felt more tense and 44% said their self-esteem had dropped after window-shopping at the centre.
I go along the settled road, where the houses are interspersed with woods, in an unaccountably desponding mood, but when I come out upon a bare and solitary heath am at once exhilarated. This is a common experience in my travelling. I plod along, thinking what a miserable world this is and what miserable fellows we that inhabit it, wondering what it is tempts men to live in it: but anon I leave the towns behind and am lost in some boundless heath, and life gradually becomes more tolerable, if not even glorious.October 31, 1857:
If you are afflicted with melancholy at this season, go to the swamp and see the brave spears of skunk-cabbage buds already advanced toward a new year. Their gravestones are not bespoken yet. Who shall be sexton to them? Is it the winter of their discontent? Do they seem to have lain down to die, despairing of skunk-cabbagedom? "Up and at 'em," "Give it to 'em," "Excelsior," "Put it through," — these are their mottoes. Mortal human creatures must take a little respite in this fall of the year; their spirits do flag a little. There is a little questioning of destiny, and thinking to go like cowards to where the "weary shall be at rest." But not so with the skunk-cabbage. Its withered leaves fall and are transfixed by a rising bud. Winter and death are ignored; the circle of life is complete. Are these false prophets? Is it a lie or a vain boast underneath the skunk-cabbage bud, pushing it upward and lifting the dead leaves with it? They rest with spears advanced; they rest to shoot!November 9, 1857:
I say it is good for me to be here, slumping in the mud, a trap covered with withered leaves. See those green cabbage buds lifting the dry leaves in that watery and muddy place. There is no can't nor cant to them. They see over the brow of winter's hill. They see another summer ahead.
See the sun rise or set if possible each day. Let that be your pill.January 6, 1858:
Very little evidence of God or man did I see just then, and life not as rich and inviting an enterprise as it should be, when my attention was caught by a snowflake on my coat-sleeve. It was one of those perfect, crystalline, star-shaped ones, six-rayed, like a flat wheel with six spokes, only the spokes were perfect little pine trees in shape, arranged around a central spangle. This little object, which, with many of its fellows, rested unmelting on my coat, so perfect and beautiful, reminded me that Nature had not lost her pristine vigor yet, and why should man lose heart?
Light Verse in an Earnest Age
Do people still read Marquis? My sense is that the American humorists of the 20th century, the ones I grew up reading – Marquis, Thurber, Benchley, Perelman, Ogden Nash -- have evaporated from respectable consciousness. As writers they were funny, not portentous or subversive (though humor, to those with an ear for it, is always subversive), so they are of little interest to an earnest age.Thanks to a recommendation by Gail Hapke at Scribal Terror, I've recently become acquainted with the light verse of a 21st century American humorist, Scott Emmons.
Emmons has a Ph.D. in Classics, and his light verse has much to interest students of Greek and Latin literature. His FLAK: An Ongoing Rant takes its motto from Juvenal's "Difficile est saturam non scribere" ("It's difficult not to write satire") and contains these lines:
When psychopaths, losers, and substance-abusers
Get famous by schmoozing with Springer,
When the infamous Jacko insists he's not wacko,
When Britney can pass for a singer,
When Enron execs get phenomenal checks
While the grunts get a song and a dance,
When bin Laden has flown, when Raelians clone,
It's impossible NOT to write rants!!!
Out flew every foul affliction:
War and famine, drug addiction,
Not to mention static cling
and weak domestic beers,
Paper cuts and pigeon droppings,
"Fun and different" pizza toppings,
Ragweed pollen, freezer burn,
and songs by Britney Spears.
Monday, June 11, 2007
I never desired to please the crowd. For the things which pleased them, I did not learn; and the things which I knew, were far from their perception.Seneca, Letters to Lucilius 29.10, renders this as follows:
οὐδέποτε ὠρέχθην τοῖς πολλοῖς ἀρέσκειν. ἅ μέν γάρ ἐκείνοις ἤρεσκεν, οὐκ ἔμαθον· ἅ δ᾿ ᾔδειν ἐγώ, μακράν ἦν τῆς ἐκείνων αἰσθήσεως.
I never wanted to please the crowd; for the things which I know, the crowd does not approve, and the things which the crowd approves, I do not know.
numquam volui populo placere; nam quae ego scio non probat populus, quae probat populus ego nescio.
Sunday, June 10, 2007
In the Twinkling of an Eye
Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.The noun ῥιπή comes from the verb ῥίπτω, meaning "throw, cast, hurl." I don't have a commentary on 1 Corinthians, but the accepted explanation of ἐν ῥιπῇ ὀφθαλμοῦ seems to be that the "casting of a glance takes an extremely short time." So Bauer-Arndt-Gingrich-Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, s.v. ῥιπή.
ἰδοὺ μυστήριον ὑμῖν λέγω· πάντες οὐ κοιμηθησόμεθα, πάντες δὲ ἀλλαγησόμεθα, ἐν ἀτόμῳ, ἐν ῥιπῇ ὀφθαλμοῦ, ἐν τῇ ἐσχάτῃ σάλπιγγι· σαλπίσει γάρ, καὶ οἱ νεκροὶ ἐγερθήσονται ἄφθαρτοι, καὶ ἡμεῖς ἀλλαγησόμεθα.
Instead of ῥιπῇ, some papyri have the interesting variant ῥοπῇ. The noun ῥοπή comes from the verb ῥέπω, meaning "sink, fall." Curiously, the King James Version's twinkling is closer to ῥοπή (falling) than to ῥιπή (throwing). Twinkling means in the time it takes to wink, and wink means either quickly shut the eyes (Shakespeare, Venus and Adonis 122: "And I will wink; so shall the day seem night") or quickly shut and reopen them.
Perhaps the variant ῥοπῇ arose because its parent verb ῥέπω was sometimes used in connection with the eyes. One of the definitions of ῥέπω in Liddell & Scott is "falls, of a young girl's eye, A.Fr.242; ὕπνος ἐπὶ γλεφάροις ῥέπων sleep falling upon the eyes, Pi.P.9.25."
There are also passages from Greek literature suggesting that the shutting (or winking or blinking) of the eyes is a very rapid motion. One of these is Euripides, Bacchae 746-747 (tr. Moses Hadas and John McLean):
Quicker were their coverings of flesh torn asunder than you could close the lids of your royal eyes.Another is Philostratus, Heroicus p. 291 Kayser:
θᾶσσον δὲ διεφοροῦντο σαρκὸς ἐνδυτὰ
ἢ σὲ ξυνάψαι βλέφαρα βασιλείοις κόραις.
Faster than shutting the eyes.I owe these passages from Euripides and Philostratus to A.S.F. Gow's note on Theocritus 29.27-28. Theocritus uses a different expression for something happening quickly:
θᾶττον ἢ καταμύσαι.
And ere a man can spit we grow old and wrinkled.Gow ad loc. also cites two comic authors for the "faster than spitting" comparison: Menander, Perikeiromene 202 and Epicrates, fragment 3.20 (Kock, Comicorum Atticorum Fragmenta, vol. 2, p. 283).
κὤτι γηράλεοι πέλομεν πρὶν ἀπύπτυσαι / καὶ ῥύσσοι.
Saturday, June 09, 2007
Blaming It on the Dog
Let shame then be defined as a kind of pain or uneasiness in respect of misdeeds, past, present, or future, which seem to tend to bring dishonor; and shamelessness as contempt and indifference in regard to these same things.The ancient school of philosophy known as Cynicism elevated the vice of shamelessness (ἀναισχυντία or ἀναίδεια) almost to the status of a virtue.
ἔστω δὴ αἰσχύνη λύπη τις ἢ ταραχὴ περὶ τὰ εἰς ἀδοξίαν φαινόμενα φέρειν τῶν κακῶν, ἢ παρόντων ἢ γεγονότων ἢ μελλόντων, ἡ δ' ἀναισχυντία ὀλιγωρία τις καὶ ἀπάθεια περὶ τὰ αὐτὰ ταῦτα.
The name Cynic (κυνικός) was popularly derived from the Greek word for dog (κύων, kyōn, genitive kynos). Dogs had a reputation for shamelessness. Aelian, Varia Historia 7.19, notes:
Shameless and not easily removed are flies and dogs.John Chrysostom, Homilies on the Statues 12.2 (tr. anon.), draws moral lessons from the characters of various animals:
ἀναιδῆ δὲ καὶ μὴ ῥᾳδίως ὑποστελλόμενα μυῖαι καὶ κύνες.
From these animals, and such as these, learn to achieve virtue, and be instructed to avoid wickedness by the contrary ones. For as the bee follows good, so the asp is destructive. Therefore shun wickedness, lest you hear it said, "The poison of asps is under their lips." Again, the dog is devoid of shame [ἀναίσχυντον πάλιν ὁ κύων]. Hate, therefore, this kind of wickedness.One way in which a dog demonstrates shamelessness is its nonchalant way of performing bodily functions, such as urination and defecation, out in the open. An anecdote about Diogenes the Cynic, reported by Diogenes Laerius, Lives of the Philosophers 6.46 (tr. R.D. Hicks), points out the similarities between Cynic and canine behavior:
At a feast certain people kept throwing all the bones to him as they would have done to a dog. Thereupon he played a dog's trick and drenched them.What Hicks translates as "drenched" here is actually "urinated on".
ἐν δείπνῳ προσερρίπτουν αὐτῷ τινες ὀστάρια ὡς κυνί· καὶ ὃς ἀπαλλαττόμενος προσούρησεν αὐτοῖς ὡς κύων.
Dio Chrysostom, Orations 8.36 (tr. J.W. Cohoon), tells an anecdote about Diogenes the Cynic defecating in public:
While Diogenes thus spoke, many stood about and listened to his words with great pleasure. Then, possibly with this thought of Heracles in his mind, he ceased speaking and, squatting on the ground, performed an indecent act, whereat the crowd straightway scorned him and called him crazy, and again the sophists raised their din, like frogs in a pond when they do not see the water-snake.This time the euphemism "performed an indecent act" is in the original Greek, although "squatting" makes it clear that Diogenes defecated.
Ταῦτα δὲ λέγοντος τοῦ Διογένυς, περιίσταντο πολλοὶ καὶ πάνυ ἡδέως ἠκροῶντο τῶν λόγων. ἐννοήσας δὲ οἶμαι τὸ τοῦ Ἡρακλέους, τοὺς μὲν λόγους ἀφῆκε, χαμαὶ δὲ καθεζόμενος ἐποίει τι τῶν ἀδόξων. εὐθυς οὖν οἱ πολλοὶ κατεφρόνουν αὐτοῦ καὶ μαίνεσθαι ἔφασαν, καὶ πάλιν ἐθορύβουν σοφισταί, καθάπρ ἐν τέλματι βάτραχοι τὸν ὕδρον οὐχ ὁρῶντες.
Breaking wind in public is less of a breach of decorum than defecating, although most people are still mortified when they break wind inadvertently in a social setting. Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Philosophers 6.94 (tr. R.D. Hicks), tells the story of Metrocles' discomfiture:
Metrocles of Maroneia was the brother of Hipparchia. He had been formerly a pupil of Theophrastus the Peripatetic, and had been so far corrupted by weakness that, when he made a breach of good manners in the course of rehearsing a speech, it drove him to despair, and he shut himself up at home, intending to starve himself to death. On learning this Crates came to visit him as he had been asked to do, and after advisedly making a meal of lupins, he tried to persuade him by argument as well that he had committed no crime, for a prodigy would have happened if he had not taken the natural means of relieving himself. At last by reproducing the action he succeeded in lifting him from his dejection, using for his consolation the likeness of the occurrences. From that time forward Metrocles was his pupil, and became proficient in philosophy.Euphemisms in Hicks' translation once again obscure somewhat the point of this story. "When he made a breach of good manners" and "by reproducing the action" are both the same word in the original Greek, ἀποπαρδών, aorist participle of ἀποπέρδομαι, break wind.
Μητροκλῆς, ἀδελφὸς Ἱππαρχίας, ὃς πρότερον ἀκούων Θεοφράστου τοῦ περιπατητικοῦ τοσοῦτον διέφθαρτο ὥστε ποτὲ μελετῶν καὶ μεταξύ πως ἀποπαρδὼν ὑπ' ἀθυμίας οἴκοι κατάκλειστος ἦν, ἀποκαρτερεῖν βουλόμενος. μαθὼν δὴ ὁ Κράτης εἰσῆλθε πρὸς αὐτὸν παρακληθεὶς καὶ θέρμους ἐπίτηδες βεβρωκὼς ἔπειθε μὲν αὐτὸν καὶ διὰ τῶν λόγων μηδὲν φαῦλον πεποιηκέναι· τέρας γὰρ ἂν γεγονέναι εἰ μὴ καὶ τὰ πνεύματα κατὰ φύσιν ἀπεκρίνετο· τέλος δὲ καὶ ἀποπαρδὼν ἀνέρρωσεν αὐτόν, ἀφ' ὁμοιότητος τῶν ἔργων παραμυθησάμενος. τοὐντεῦθεν ἤκουεν αὐτοῦ καὶ ἐγένετο ἀνὴρ ἱκανὸς ἐν φιλοσοφίᾳ.
Crates was an adherent of the Cynic school of philosophy, and this anecdote is a conversion tale, which tells how Metrocles was converted from the Peripatetic to the Cynic school by Crates.
According to Epictetus 3.22.80 (tr. W.A. Oldfather), public wind breaking was characteristic of the Cynics:
Can it be that we do not perceive the greatness of Diogenes, and have no adequate conception of his character, but have in mind the present-day representatives of his profession, these "dogs of the table, guards of the gate," who follow the masters not at all, except it be in breaking wind in public, forsooth, but in nothing else?Julian, Orations 6.202b-c (tr. Wilmer Cave Wright), also refers to Diogenes the Cynic's habit of breaking wind in public:
μήποτε οὐκ αἰσθανόμεθα τοῦ μεγέθους αὐτοῦ οὐδὲ φανταζόμεθα κατ' ἀξίαν τὸν χαρακτῆρα τὸν Διογένους, ἀλλ' εἰς τοὺς νῦν ἀποβλέπομεν, τοὺς τραπεζῆας πυλαωρούς, οἳ οὐδὲν μιμοῦνται ἐκείνους ἢ εἴ τι ἄρα πόρδωνες γίνονται, ἄλλο δ' οὐδέν;
On the other hand, when Diogenes made unseemly noises or obeyed the call of nature or did anything else of that sort in the market-place, as they say he did, he did so because he was trying to trample on the conceit of the men I have just mentioned, and to teach them that their practices were far more sordid and insupportable than his own. For what he did was in accordance with the nature of all of us, but theirs accorded with no man's real nature, one may say, but were all due to moral depravity.I owe many of these references to Derek Krueger, Symeon the Holy Fool: Leontius' Life and the Late Antique City (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996), chapter 6 (Symeon and the Cynics).
Ἐπεὶ καὶ Διογένης εἴτε ἀπέπαρδεν εἴτε ἀπεπάτησεν εἴτε ἄλλο τι τοιοῦτον ἔπραξεν, ὥσπερ οὖν λέγουσινοἱ πολλοί, ἐν ἀγορᾷ, τὸν ἐκείνων πατῶν τῦφον ἐποίει, διδάσκων αὐτοὺς ὅτι πολλῷ φαυλότερα καὶ χαλεπώτερα τούτων ἐπιτηδεύουσι, τὰ μὲν γάρ ἐστιν ἡμῖν πᾶσι κατὰ φύσιν, τὰ δέ, ὡς ἔπος εἰπεῖν, οὐθενί, πάντα δὲ ἐκ διαστροφῆς ἐπιτηδεύεται.
Friday, June 08, 2007
Mihi et Musis
Yet thus much I will say of myself, and that I hope without all suspicion of pride, or self-conceit, I have lived a silent, sedentary, solitary, private life, mihi et musis [for myself and the Muses] in the University, as long almost as Xenocrates in Athens, ad senectam fere [nearly to old age] to learn wisdom as he did, penned up most part in my study.Julian the Apostate, Misopogon (Beard-Hater) 338 A (tr. Wilmer Cave Wright):
For I think it is always the case that inferior musicians, though they annoy their audiences, give very great pleasure to themselves. And with this in mind I often say to myself, like Ismenias--for though my talents are not equal to his, I have as I persuade myself a similar independence of soul--"I sing for the Muses and myself" [ταῖς μούσαις ᾄδω καὶ ἐμαυτῷ].
Find the Good
Find the good in a thing at once. 'Tis the advantage of good taste. The bee goes to the honey for her comb, the serpent to the gall for its venom. So with taste: some seek the good, others the ill. There is nothing that has no good in it, especially in books, as giving food for thought. But many have such a scent that amid a thousand excellences they fix upon a single defect, and single it out for blame as if they were scavengers of men's minds and hearts. So they draw up a balance sheet of defects which does more credit to their bad taste than to their intelligence. They lead a sad life, nourishing themselves on bitters and battening on garbage. They have the luckier taste who midst a thousand defects seize upon a single beauty they may have hit upon by chance.
Topar luego con lo bueno en cada cosa. Es dicha del buen gusto. Va luego la aveja a la dulçura para el panal, y la vívora a la amargura para el veneno. Assí los gustos, unos a lo mejor y otros a lo peor. No ai cosa que no tenga algo bueno, y más si es libro, por lo pensado. Es, pues, tan desgraciado el genio de algunos, que entre mil perfecciones toparán con solo un defecto que huviere, y esse lo censuran y lo celebran: recogedores de las inmundicias de voluntades y de entendimientos, cargando de notas, de defectos, que es más castigo de su mal delecto que empleo de su sutileza. Passan mala vida, pues siempre se zeban de amarguras y hazen pasto de imperfecciones. Más feliz es el gusto de otros que, entre mil defectos, toparán luego con una sola perfección que se le cayó a la ventura.
Wednesday, June 06, 2007
Did Christ Ever Laugh?
John Chrysostom (d. 407) taught (PG, LVII, 69) that Christ had never laughed (cf. Egbert's Fecunda ratis (ed. Voigt), p. 155).The Chrysostom reference is to a passage in one of his Homilies on Matthew (6.6 in the Patrologia Graeca numbering, 6.7 in the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers translation by George Prevost):
If thou also weep thus, thou art become a follower of thy Lord. Yea, for He also wept, both over Lazarus, and over the city; and touching Judas He was greatly troubled. And this indeed one may often see him do, but nowhere laugh, nay, nor smile but a little; no one at least of the evangelists hath mentioned this.See also Chrysostom, Homilies on Hebrews 15.8 (tr. Frederic Gardiner):
And do you, a solitary, laugh at all and relax your countenance? thou that art crucified? thou that art a mourner? tell me, do you laugh? Where do you hear of Christ doing this? Nowhere: but that He was sad indeed oftentimes. For even when He looked on Jerusalem, He wept; and when He thought on the Traitor He was troubled; and when He was about to raise Lazarus, He wept; and do you laugh?Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose (tr. William Weaver), alludes to this idea:
"And this goes for the marginalia we were discussing today," Jorge could not keep from commenting in a low voice. "John Chrysostom said that Christ never laughed."
"Nothing in human nature forbade it," William remarked, "because laughter, as the theologians teach, is proper to man."
"The son of man could laugh, but it is not written that he did so," Jorge said sharply, quoting Petrus Cantor.
David Doster via email adds this:
From Samuel Beckett’s MOLLOY.
(In Part II, Jacques Moran, having missed Mass earlier in the day, has just received the sacrament from Father Ambrose in the presbytery. Moran continues:)
... I rose and thanked him warmly. Pah! he said, it’s nothing. Now we can talk.
I had nothing else to say to him. All I wanted was to return home as quickly as possible and stuff myself with stew. My soul appeased, I was ravenous. But being slightly in advance of my schedule I resigned myself to allowing him eight minutes. They seemed endless. He informed me that Mrs Clement, the chemist’s wife and herself a highly qualified chemist, had fallen, in her laboratory, from the top of a ladder, and broken the neck--. The neck! I cried. Of her femur, he said, can’t you let me finish. He added that it was bound to happen. And I, not to be outdone, told him how worried I was about my hens, particularly my grey hen, which would neither brood nor lay and for the past month and more had done nothing but sit with her arse in the dust, from morning to night. Like Job, haha, he said. I too said haha. What a joy it is to laugh, from time to time, he said. Is it not? I said. It is peculiar to man, he said. So I have noticed, I said. A brief silence ensued. What do you feed her on? he said. Corn chiefly, I said. Cooked or raw? he said. Both, I said. I added that she ate nothing any more. Nothing! he cried. Next to nothing, I said. Animals never laugh, he said. It takes us to find that funny, I said. What? he said. It takes us to find that funny, I said loudly. He mused. Christ never laughed either, he said, so far as we know. He looked at me. Can you wonder? I said. There it is, he said. He smiled sadly.
Tuesday, June 05, 2007
A jury found Dr. Kevorkian guilty of second-degree homicide in Youk's death, and he was sent to prison. Last Friday he was released on parole. Dr. Kervorkian suffers from Hepatitis C and will probably die within a year.
For some unfortunate souls, pain and suffering grow so intense that life itself seems like a disease and death the only cure.
Adolf Erman, ed. The Ancient Egyptians: A Sourcebook of Their Writings, tr. Aylward M. Blackman (1927; rpt. New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1966), p. 91:
Death is before me to-dayErman (p. 86, n. 1) gives the source as "A Berlin papyrus of the Middle Kingdom ... edited by me in Abh. der Berliner Akademie in 1896."
As when a sick man becometh whole,
As when one walketh abroad after sickness.
Aeschylus, fragment 255 Nauck (tr. Herbert Weir Smyth):
O death, the healer, reject me not, but come! For thou alone art the mediciner of ills incurable, and no pain layeth hold on the dead.Sophocles, Women of Trachis 1206-1209 (tr. Hugh Lloyd-Jones):
ὦ θάνατε παιάν, μή μ᾽ ἀτιμάσῃς μολεῖν·
μόνος γὰρ εἶ σὺ τῶν ἀνηκέστων κακῶν
ἰατρός, ἄλγος δ᾽ οὐδὲν ἅπτεται νεκροῦ.
HYLLUSSophocles, fragment 698 (tr. Hugh Lloyd-Jones):
Alas once more, what a demand you are making of me, father, to have the guilt of your murder on my hands!
Not I, but to be the healer and only curer of the ills from which I suffer!
οἴμοι μάλ᾽ αὖθις, οἷά μ᾽ ἐκκαλεῖ, πάτερ,
φονέα γενέσθαι καὶ παλαμναῖον σέθεν.
οὐ δῆτ᾽ ἔγωγ᾽, ἀλλ᾽ ὧν ἔχω παιώνιον
καὶ μοῦνον ἰατῆρα τῶν ἐμῶν κακῶν.
But death is the last healer of sicknesses.Euripides, Children of Heracles 595-596:
ἀλλ᾽ ἔσθ᾽ ὁ θάνατος λοῖσθος ἰατρὸς νόσων.
For death is thought to be the greatest cure of evils.Euripides, Hippolytus 1373:
τὸ γὰρ θανεῖν / κακῶν μέγιστον φάρμακον νομίζεται.
And may death the healer come to me.Lucian, Dialogues of the Dead 27.9 (tr. H.W. and F.G. Fowler):
καί μοι θάνατος παιὰν ἔλθοι.
Well, we need wonder no more at youth, when age is still in love with life; one would have thought it should court death as the cure for its proper ills.Robert Burton, Anatomy of Melancholy, Part. 2, Sec. 3, Memb. 5:
τί οὖν ἄν τις ἔτι λέγοι περὶ τῶν νέων͵ ὁπότε οἱ τηλικοῦτοι φιλόζωοί εἰσιν͵ οὓς ἐχρῆν διώκειν τὸν θάνατον ὡς τῶν ἐν τῷ γήρᾳ κακῶν φάρμακον.
But a happy death will make an end of all our woes and miseries; omnibus una meis certa medela malis [it is the one sure remedy for all my troubles].Thomas Browne, Religio Medici, Part 2, § 9:
I boast nothing, but plainly say, we all labour against our own cure; for death is the cure of all diseases.Sebastien-Roch Nicolas de Chamfort, Products of the Perfected Civilization. Selected Writings, tr. W.S. Merwin (New York: Macmillan, 1969), p. 128:
Living is an ailment which is relieved every sixteen hours by sleep. A palliative. Death is the cure.Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, John Endicott, Act III:
Vivre est une maladie dont le sommeil nous soulage toutes les seize heures; c'est un palliatif: la mort est le remède.
When Death, the Healer, shall have touched our eyes
With the moist clay of the grave, then shall we see
The truth as we have never beheld it.
Monday, June 04, 2007
How To Pick Up Girls
Avoid being vulgar. Excitable bouts of windbreaking will not endear you to a girl, just to pick one example.Related posts:
Portrait of a Greek Teacher
I have found out from later experience that it requires a rare blend of qualities for a man or a woman to teach Greek well: he must have a real taste for Greek (which seems rarer than a taste for Latin), a real feeling for its luminosity and subtlety, its nobility and naiveté, a lively imaginative picture of the civilization behind it; and he must, at the same time, be capable of insisting on the high degree of intellectual discipline that is needed to keep the class up to the effort demanded by the difficulties of the subject--difficulties which do not consist merely of the more or less automatic application of formulas one has learned, but involve, along with accurate memory, a certain precision of feeling, in which one can be trained by an adept but which cannot be learned by rote. Mr. Rolfe was the perfect Hellenist. He made you get everything exactly right, and this meant a good deal of drudgery. But one was also always made to feel that there was something worth having there behind the numbered paragraphs and paradigms of Goodwin's Greek grammar, the grim backs and fatiguing notes of the Ginn texts 'for the use of schools'--something exhilarating in the air of the classroom, human, heroic and shining. The prospect of knowing this marvellous thing lent the details excitement--and so it did the daily contest between Mr. Rolfe and you, which eventually became quite jolly. You felt that he was not unkind, that he merely wanted people to learn Greek, that teaching people Greek was an exalted aim to which he had devoted his life, and that he only became really unpleasant with students who did not want to learn it.
Sunday, June 03, 2007
Impulse from a Vernal Wood
O broad valleys, O hills, O beautiful green forest, you pensive refuge of my joys and sorrows! Outside there, ever deluded, the busy world rushes; raise your arches round me once more, you green tent!
(O Täler weit, o Höhen,
O schöner, grüner Wald,
Du meiner Lust und Wehen
Da draußen, stets betrogen,
Saust die geschäft'ge Welt,
Schlag noch einmal die Bogen
Um mich, du grünes Zelt!)
When the day begins to break, the earth steams and gleams, the birds sing so merrily that your heart sings in answer. Then let dismal earthly sorrows vanish and blow away, you shall rise again in youthful splendour!
(Wenn es beginnt zu tagen,
Die Erde dampft und blinkt,
Die Vögel lustig schlagen,
Daß dir dein Herz erklingt:
Da mag vergehn, verwehen
Das trübe Erdenleid,
Da sollst du auferstehen
In junger Herrlichkeit!)
A quiet impressive statement is written in the forest of how to live and love aright, and what man's treasure is. I have read these simple and true words carefully and what they say became ineffably clear to me throughout my whole being.
(Da steht im Wald geschrieben
Ein stilles, ernstes Wort
Von rechtem Tun und Lieben,
Und was des Menschen Hort.
Ich habe treu gelesen
Die Worte, schlicht und wahr,
Und durch mein ganzes Wesen
Wards unaussprechlich klar.)
Soon I shall have to leave you and go a stranger in strange places, and watch the pageant of life on gay and populous streets. And in the middle of that life the power of your authority will exalt me in my solitude, and so my heart will not grow old.
(Bald werd ich dich verlassen,
Fremd in der Fremde gehn,
Auf buntbewegten Gassen
Des Lebens Schauspiel sehn;
Und mitten in dem Leben
Wird deines Ernsts Gewalt
Mich Einsamen erheben,
So wird mein Herz nicht alt.)
Saturday, June 02, 2007
The Worship of Disgraceful Noises
Why should I further recount the multitude of animals worshipped by the Egyptians, both reptiles, and cattle, and wild beasts, and birds and river-fishes; and even wash-pots and disgraceful noises?Minucius Felix, Octavius 28.10 (tr. R.E. Wallis):
Τί μοι λοιπὸν καταλέγειν τὸ πλῆθος ὧν σέβονται ζώων Αἰγύπτιοι, ἑρπετῶν τε καὶ κτηνῶν καὶ θηρίων καὶ πετεινῶν καὶ ἐνύδρων νηκτῶν, ἔτι δὲ καὶ ποδόνιπτρα καὶ ἤχους αἰσχύνης;
These same Egyptians, together with very many of you, are not more afraid of Isis than they are of the pungency of onions, nor of Serapis more than they tremble at the basest noises produced by the foulness of their bodies.Pseudo-Clement, Homilies 10.16.2 (tr. M.B. Riddle):
Idem Aegyptii cum plerisque vobis non magis Isidem quam ceparum acrimonias metuunt, nec Serapidem magis quam strepitus per pudenda corporis expressos contremescunt.
For some of them taught the worship of an ox called Apis, some that of a he-goat, some of a cat, some of a serpent; yea, even of a fish, and of onions, and rumblings in the stomach, and common sewers, and members of irrational animals, and to myriads of other base abominations they gave the name of god.Pseudo-Clement, Recognitions 5.20.3 (tr. Thomas Smith):
οἱ μὲν γὰρ αὐτῶν παρέδοσαν βοῦν τὸν λεγόμενον Ἄπιν σέβειν, οἱ δὲ τράγον, οἱ δὲ αἴλουρον, οἱ δὲ ὄφιν, ἀλλὰ καὶ ἰχθὺν καὶ κρόμμυα καὶ γαστρῶν πνεύματα καὶ ὀχετοὺς καὶ ἀλόγων ζῴων μέλη <σὺν> καὶ ἄλλοις μυρίοις πάνυ αἰσχροῖς ἀτοπήμασιν.
For some taught that their ox, which is called Apis, ought to be worshipped; others taught that the he-goat, others that cats, the ibis, a fish also, a serpent, onions, drains, crepitus ventris [farts], ought to be regarded as deities, and innumerable other things, which I am ashamed even to mention.St. Jerome, Commentary on Isaiah 13.46:
nam alii eorum bovem, qui Apis dicitur, colendum tradidere, alii hircum, alii cattas, nonnulli ibim, quidam serpentem, piscem quoque et caepas et cloacas, crepitus ventris pro numinibus habendos esse docuerunt et alia innumerabilia quae pudet etiam nominare.
For also several of their cities take their names from wild beasts and livestock, Kynopolis from the dog, Leontopolis from the lion, Thmouis from the goat in the Egyptian language, Lykopolis from the wolf, not to mention the dreadful and terrible onion and the noise of a swollen belly, which is an object of veneration in Pelusium.Related posts:
nam et pleraque oppida eorum ex bestiis et iumentis habent nomina, κυνῶν a cane, λέων a leone, lingua Aegyptia θμοῦϊς ab hirco, λύκων a lupo, ut taceam de formidoloso et horribili coepe, et crepitu ventris inflati, quae Pelusiaca religio est.
Friday, June 01, 2007
An Old Saying
At dinner that night he was quite unusually silent.Thomas Browne, Pseudodoxia Epidemica 3.8, discusses the superstition and explains it thus:
'Where's your voice gone to?' said his aunt. 'One would think that you had seen a wolf.'
Van Cheele, who was not familiar with the old saying, thought the remark rather foolish; if he had seen a wolf on his property his tongue would have been extraordinarily busy with the subject.
The ground or occasional original hereof, was probably the amazement and sudden silence the unexpected appearance of Wolves do often put upon Travellers; not by a supposed vapour, or venomous emanation, but a vehement fear which naturally produceth obmutescence; and sometimes irrecoverable silence.The earliest explicit reference to this superstition seems to be Theocritus 14.22 (tr. A.S.F. Gow):
Can't you speak? Have you seen a wolf?But Plato, Republic 1.336D (tr. Paul Shorey), alludes to the belief even before Theocritus:
οὐ φθλεγξῇ; λύκον εἶδες;
And I, when I heard him [Thrasymachus], was dismayed, and looking upon him was filled with fear, and I believe that if I had not looked at him before he did at me I should have lost my voice.Earlier in the Republic, Thrasymachus was described as a wild beast.
καὶ ἐγὼ ἀκούσας ἐξεπλάγην καὶ προσβλέπων αὐτὸν ἐφοβούμην, καί μοι δοκῶ, εἰ μὴ πρότερος ἑωράκη αὐτὸν ἢ ἐκεῖνος ἐμέ, ἄφωνος ἂν γενέσθαι.
Geoponica 15.1.8 (p. 432 Beckh) refers to this passage from Plato and also states the superstition in its most complete form:
If the wolf sees the man first, the wolf makes the man weaker and speechless, as Plato says in his Republic; but if the wolf is seen first, it becomes weaker.In Latin, see Vergil, Eclogues 9.53-54 (tr. H. Rushton Fairclough):
ὁ λύκος προορῶν τὸν ἄνθρωπον ἀσθενέστερον αὐτὸν καὶ ἄφωνον ποιεῖ, ὡς ὁ Πλάτων ἐν ταῖς πολιτείαις αὐτοῦ φησιν· ὀφθεὶς ὁ λύκος αὐτὸς ἀσθενέστερος γίνεται.
Even voice itself now fails Moeris; wolves have seen Moeris first.According to Pliny, Natural History 8.80 (tr. John Bostock and H.T. Riley):
vox quoque Moerim / iam fugit ipsa; lupi Moerim videre priores.
In Italy also it is believed that there is a noxious influence in the eye of a wolf; it is supposed that it will instantly take away the voice of a man, if it is the first to see him.I owe the classical references to Gow's commentary on Theocritus, who cites other ancient texts as well.
sed in Italia quoque creditur luporum visus esse noxius vocemque homini, quem priores contemplentur, adimere ad praesens.
I have not seen Richard Preston Eckels, Greek Wolf-Lore (Philadelphia, 1937).