Tuesday, August 21, 2012



Menander, fragment 223 Kock, from the Theophoroumene (my translation):
If one of the gods were to approach me and say, "Crato,
when you die, you'll exist again from the beginning,
and you'll be whatever you want, dog, sheep, goat,
man, horse; for you must live twice;
this has been decreed; choose whatever you want,"        5
I think I'd say right away, "Make me anything but a man; his luck is unfair
and he alone of all creatures is badly off.
The most excellent horse has more attentive
care than a lesser breed; if a good dog is born,
it's valued much more than a bad dog;
an excellent cock gets special food,        10
an ignoble cock fears his superior.
But if a man is worthy, well-born, exceedingly
noble, this is no advantage in the present day;
the flatterer fares best of all; second
the swindler, and the malicious man plays the third part.        15
To be a donkey would be better than to see those worse
than oneself live with more distinction."

εἴ τις προσελθών μοι θεῶν λέγοι "Κράτων,
ἐπὰν ἀποθάνῃς, αὖθις ἐξ ἀρχῆς ἔσει·
ἔσει δ' ὅ τι ἂν βούλῃ, κύων, πρόβατον, τράγος,
ἄνθρωπος, ἵππος· δὶς βιῶναι γάρ σε δεῖ·
εἱμαρμένον τοῦτ' ἐστίν· ὅ τι βούλει δ' ἑλοῦ"·        5
"ἅπαντα μᾶλλον", εὐθὺς εἰπεῖν ἂν δοκῶ,
"πόει με πλὴν ἄνθρωπον· ἀδίκως εὐτυχεῖ
κακῶς τε πράττει τοῦτο τὸ ζῷον μόνον.
ὁ κράτιστος ἵππος ἐπιμελεστέραν ἔχει
ἑτέρου θεραπείαν· ἀγαθὸς ἂν γένῃ κύων,        10
ἐντιμότερος εἶ τοῦ κακοῦ κυνὸς πολύ·
ἀλεκτρυὼν γενναῖος ἐν ἑτέρᾳ τροφῇ
ἐστιν, ὁ δ' ἀγεννὴς καὶ δέδιε τὸν κρείττονα.
ἄνθρωπος ἂν ᾖ χρηστός, εὐγενής, σφόδρα
γενναῖος, οὐδὲν ὄφελος ἐν ῷ νῦν γένει·        15
πράττει δ' ὁ κόλαξ ἄριστα πάντων, δεύτερα
ὁ συκοφάντης, ὁ κακοήθης τρίτα λέγει.
ὄνον γενέσθαι κρεῖττον ἢ τοὺς χείρονας
ὁρᾶν ἑαυτοῦ ζῶντας ἐπιφανέστερον."
There is a misprint in the Greek text of line 8 in the Loeb edition of Menander by W.G. Arnott, Vol. II (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1996), p. 70, where πάττει is found instead of the correct πράττει.

A parody of the beginning of Menander's fragment can be seen in a witticism of Vespasian, as reported by Suetonius, Vespasian 23.1 (tr. J.C. Rolfe):
Of the freedman Cerylus, who was very rich, and to cheat the privy purse of its dues at his death had begun to give himself out as freeborn, changing his name to Laches:
                "O Laches, Laches,
When you are dead, you'll change your name at once
To Cerylus again."
de Cerylo liberto, qui dives admodum ob subterfugiendum quandoque ius fisci ingenuum se et Lachetem mutato nomine coeperat ferre:
                ὦ Λάχης, Λάχης,
ἐπὰν ἀποθάνῃς, αὖθις ἐξ ἀρχῆς ἔσει
σὺ Κηρύλος.
John F. Moore, "The Originality of Rochester's Satyr against Mankind," Proceedings of the Modern Language Association 58 (1943) 393-401 (at 399-400), sees the influence of Menander's lines on the opening of Rochester's Satyr against Mankind:
Were I, who to my cost already am,
One of those strange, prodigious Creatures Man,
A Spirit free, to chuse for my own share,
What sort of Flesh and Blood I pleas'd to wear,
I'd be a Dog, a Monkey or a Bear,
Or any thing, but that vain Animal,
Who is so proud of being rational.
Related post: Lessons from Animals.

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