Monday, June 03, 2013


The Wheel of Fortune

Sophocles, fragment 871 (tr. Hugh Lloyd-Jones):
But my fate is always revolving on the fast-moving wheel of the goddessa and changing its nature, just as the appearance of the moon cannot remain for two nights in the same stage, but first emerges from obscurity as new, making its face more beautiful and coming to fullness, and when it is at its loveliest, it dissolves once more and comes to nothing.

a Tyche (Fortune).

ἀλλ᾽ οὑμὸς ἀεὶ πότμος ἐν πυκνῷ θεοῦ
τροχῷ κυκλεῖται καὶ μεταλλάσσει φύσιν,
ὥσπερ σελήνης δ᾽ ὄψις εὐφρόνας δύο
στῆναι δύναιτ᾽ ἂν οὔποτ᾽ ἐν μορφῇ μιᾷ,
ἀλλ᾽ ἐξ ἀδήλου πρῶτον ἔρχεται νέα,
πρόσωπα καλλύνουσα καὶ πληρουμένη,
χὥτανπερ αὑτῆς εὐγενεστάτη φανῇ,
πάλιν διαρρεῖ κἀπὶ μηδὲν ἔρχεται.
This fragment is cited in Renzo Tosi, Dictionnaire des sentences latines et grecques, tr. Rebecca Lenoir (Grenoble: Jérôme Millon, 2010), #30, pp. 65-66, proverb Τροχοῦ περιστείχοντος ἄλλοθ' ἡτέρα / ἁψὶς ὕπερθε γίγνετ' ἄλλοθ' ἡτέρα, i.e. "The wheel goes round, and of the rim now one / And now another part is at the top" (tr. Frank Cole Babbitt).

For a history of the image see David M. Robinson, "The Wheel of Fortune," Classical Philology 41 (1946) 207-216.

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