Saturday, April 12, 2014


The Shepherd's Hand

Pseudo-Diogenes, letter 44, to Metrocles, in Diogenes the Cynic, Sayings and Anecdotes with Other Popular Moralists. Translated with an Introduction and Notes by Robin Hard (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), p. 162, with notes on p. 254:
It is not only bread and water, and a bed of straw, and a rough cloak, that teach temperance and hardiness, but also, if I may use the expression, the shepherd's hand.* If only I had been able to make that known to Paris, who was once a cattle-herd.* So you should adopt that practice too, wherever you are hurrying to, since it accords with our way of life. As for intemperate intercourse with women, which takes up so much free time, you may bid that farewell. For one who is hastening along the short cut to happiness, dalliance with women brings no benefit; and for many ordinary men too, such activity brings its penalty likewise. But you for your part will take your place among those who have learned from Pan* to make use of your hand; and do not draw back even if some call you a dog, or something still worse, for having adopted this way of life.

the shepherd's hand: referring to masturbation, as a practice specially associated with shepherds because they live a solitary life while pasturing their sheep.

Paris ... once a cattle-herd: the Trojan prince was exposed at birth because his mother had a sinister dream foretelling that he would bring disaster to his homeland, but he was rescued by a herdsman, and herded cattle outside the city during his earlier years; he later provoked the Trojan War, and no end of suffering, by abducting the beautiful Helen, hence the wish expressed here.

learned from Pan: the text is corrupt here, but this proposed reading makes excellent sense, the rustic deity Pan being the patron-god of shepherds. In Dio Chrysostom, Speech 6.17-20, Diogenes recounts a little myth in which it is claimed that Hermes taught the practice of masturbation to Pan during the time of his hopeless passion for Echo, and Pan then passed it on to goatherds.
Hard in his bibliography (p. xxxv) lists two modern editions of Pseudo-Diogenes' letters: A.J. Malherbe, The Cynic Epistles (Missoula, 1977) and E. Müseler, Die Kynikerbriefe, 2 vols. (Paderborn, 1994). I think Hard is translating from Müseler's edition, although he doesn't explicitly say so. Neither edition is available to me, although I can see the apparatus for this letter from Müseler's edition via Google Books' "snippet view." The only Greek text I have access to is in Epistolographi Graeci, ed. Rudolph Hercher (Paris: Firmin Didot, 1873), p. 256:
Οὐ μόνον ἄρτος καὶ ὕδωρ καὶ στιβὰς καὶ τρίβων σωφροσύνην καὶ καρτερίαν διδάσκουσιν, ἀλλ' εἰ χρὴ οὕτως φάναι, καὶ ποιμενικὴ χείρ. ὤφελον καὶ τὸν πρὶν ἐκεῖνον βουκόλον ὄντα ἐξεπίστασθαι. ἐπιμέλου οὖν καὶ ταύτης ἔνθα ἂν ἐπείγῃς· ἔστι γὰρ ἐκ τῆς συντάξεως τοῦ ἡμετέρου βίου. τὰς δὲ πρὸς τὰς γυναῖκας ἀκρατεῖς ἐντεύξεις πολλῆς δεομένας σχολῆς ἔα πολλὰ χαίρειν· οὐ γὰρ σχολή τι μόνον πτωχὸν αἰτεῖν κατὰ Πλάτωνα, ἀλλὰ τῷ ἐπ' εὐδαιμονίαν σύντομον ἐπειγομένῳ ἡ πρὸς γυναῖκας ἔντευξις ὄνησιν φέρει ἀνθρώπων δ' ἰδιωτῶν πολλῶν, οἷς ὁμοίως διὰ ταύτην τὴν πρᾶξιν ζημία, περιμαθήσεις παρὰ τοῖς μεμαθηκόσιν ἐκ παντὸς ἐργάσασθαι. σὺ μὴ ἐπιστρέφου, μηδ' εἴ σε διὰ τὸν τοιοῦτον βίον κύνα τινὲς ἢ ἄλλο τι ἀποκαλῶσι χεῖρον.
Here is the apparatus from Müseler's edition:

The Schafstaedt who emended παντὸς to Πανὸς is Heinrich Schafstaedt, De Diogenis Epistulis (diss. Göttingen, 1892), p. 39. Wilamowitz supervised Schafstaedt's dissertation, and his correction of πρὶν to Πάριν also appears on the same page.

Hercher doesn't give a complete Latin translation of this letter, presumably because of its scabrous subject matter.

Related post: A Gift of the Gods.

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